FORMAT Festival returns for second year featuring Alanis Morissette, LCD Soundsystem, Leon Bridges and more

FORMAT Festival returns for second year featuring Alanis Morissette, LCD Soundsystem, Leon Bridges and more
April Wallace

Alanis Morissette, LCD Soundsystem and Leon Bridges are set to headline the second FORMAT Festival — “For Music + Art + Technology” — Sept. 22-24 at the Momentary contemporary art space in Bentonville.

Approximately 56 musicians will perform and some 18 visual artists’ works will be featured over those three days, according to Sandee Fenton, director of communications for C3 Presents. The lineup includes other big names, such as Modest Mouse, Jamie XX, Digable Planets, Big Wild, Tash Sultana, Green Velvet and more.

So far, Saturday’s general admission tickets are sold out, and the festival has a capacity of 6,000. They’re expecting a nice sized crowd each day.

A partnership among OZ Brands, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art and the Momentary created the unique festival experience which debuted last year with bands, artists and unique experiences from all around the world.

Those first year experiences included performances by Rüfüs Du Sol, Phoenix, Beach House, The Flaming Lips, British electronic music project Jungle and The War on Drugs, just to name a few. Some were coordinated with performing artists in Soundsuits made by Nick Cave and technological elements such as a drone flight that moved in reaction to instrumental music.

The biggest difference from the inaugural year to year two is the change of location. While last year’s event took place at Sugar Creek Airstrip on the far edge of the Bentonville and Bella Vista area, this year’s will be much closer to downtown Bentonville. Much will look familiar, though.

“With moving to a new site, we try and bring stages and venues from last year’s show,” says Elizabeth Edelman, an executive producer for FORMAT Festival. “Our team has done an unbelievable job moving to the new, exciting site we’re on.”

The FORMAT team moved the main stages North of OZ and South of OZ and also plan to make use of the central area outside on the Momentary lawn. Many of the side stages will reappear too, such as the barn transformed by artist Maurizio Cattelan’s Toiletpaper Magazine into a disco madhouse called “Drag Me to the Disco,” while another returning crowd favorite is “Next Door,” created by a couple of New York artists. From the outside it appears to be ordinary portapotties, but once you step inside reveals another universe by way of a planetarium in the center.

The two venues making a shift this time are Smokey’s, previously a stage set back in a hidden forest enclave, and The Cube, previously a venue for 4-D sound and augmented sonic realities that you could see through thanks to its translucent exterior and special light work inside.

“We moved those (stages) inside,” Edelman says. “We’re grateful to have this incredible space at the Momentary for music and art.”

Musically speaking, festival organizers are excited to welcome the headliners with “incredible music at the top” of the list, but the vision of the festival is to introduce world music and less familiar types of music to Northwest Arkansas. This year, as last, they’ve been able to represent lots of different musicians, Edelman says.

Personally she’s proud of bringing Dombrance, Digitalism and Serpentwithfeet. If you’re looking for a great DJ, Edelman recommends Blond:ish, though concertgoers should also look forward to guitar duo Hermanos Gutiérrez, Disc-o-lypso, Playtronica Berlin Station and Little Simz

“The spirit of the festival is that you might come to see a couple names you recognize on the lineup, then walk away really having admiration for one new to you,” Edelman says.

A couple of the art installations from last year are coming back, but JR’s Inside Out Project is one of the new ones Edelman is most excited about. The well known photographer will start on campus at the University of Arkansas. As people go into a truck, they will have their portrait taken and then printed onto life size posters.

JR’s Inside Out Project often produces black and white images of people’s faces and has done so on campuses across the U.S. and other locations where they can easily get people on site. Resulting photographic work of the project has been displayed in Times Square.

Unlike last year’s festival, there is no tent pole moment of visual art in quite the same way that Doug Aitken’s “New Horizon,” a mirrored hot-air balloon provided, Edelman says.

“We were so in awe of Aitken, but because of the way the site is set up this year, you can see really cool art no matter where you are,” she says. There are new visual pieces planned for all sides of the festival grounds.

Guests can expect exciting, experiential activations, a couple of which are visually incredible, Edelman says. Watch out for bigger installations by Atelier Sisu in the center of the field, Esrawe + Cadena’s functional seating area that’s “colorful, exciting and intricate” and beautiful flags by well known artist Istanbul ‘74 Flags for Future, a limited edition made with upcycled plastic waste.

Local artists are a big part of what Edelman believes FORMAT stands for, and this year that will include Danielle Hatch, who previously worked with Crystal Bridges. Hatch’s brightly colored textiles will cover areas of the site, such as tents and other spaces, and will include a performance element with a collaborator.

The festival entrance gate is being created by local artist Zach Springer, who will use the piece to celebrate the biking and cycling community with his creative design.

The festival released a map of the grounds and its venues on Sept. 14, so festivalgoers can start familiarizing themselves with where everything will be.

The Bizarre Bazaar, a maze of curated food vendors and retail, returns this year with some of its old vendors and some new. While FORMAT will have a food court and food trucks, festival organizers are excited to add to the mix the use of the food and beverage options of 8th Street Market right next door.

Just as folks got to the festival site by walking or cycling last year, they can expect a similar entry this year, though organizers hope the central, nearly downtown location might make it a little easier.

“You can get there on foot or use our bike valet, we encourage that as Bentonville is a hub of cycling already,” Edelman says.

FORMAT Festival will provide a number of shuttles from nearby parking lots so ticketholders can park and ride from the J.B. Hunt parking lot in Lowell and Lot 56 at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. The cost of the shuttle ride is sold separately on the FORMAT Festival website under the “Getting there” tab.

A couple of other locations are available as park and walk options, such as the Melvin Ford lot on Southwest Eighth Street and another lot near Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. That one is a 12 minute walk, but people can park their car there and walk or ride in.

“We hope people in Northwest Arkansas embrace this event and concept, so it can be around for many years to come,” Edelman says.



FORMAT Festival

WHEN — Sept. 22-24

WHERE — The Momentary, 507 S.E. “E” St. in Bentonville

COST — $100 & up




FORMAT Festival Passes

Four levels of festival passes are available for the Sept. 22-24 event: GA, GA+, VIP and platinum.

GA+ is a similar yet slightly better experience than general admission that comes with a separate area and bathrooms.

VIP and Platinum are the two higher-end experiences with their own food and beverage sales, bathrooms and separate entrance. VIP has a bar, food and covered places to sit. Platinum ticketholders receive catered food and a luxury experience in the Momentary’s Tower Bar for a more elevated experience and ability to look out at the whole festival site. Some outside private lounges are available.

While Saturday general admission is sold out, three-day passes are not, and they include Saturday access.

Before you go, visit the festival site’s info section for a welcome guide about transportation and for a help section that answers questions about security, bags and entrances.


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