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Ronnie Heart closed out Day 1 of MAF’16. Photo by Vishal Malhotra.

I started to relax a little bit on Saturday night, as Ronnie Heart slinked, popped, and locked across the stage at Shipping & Receiving Bar like that cartoon cat from Paula Abdul’s “Opposites Attract” video. The sprightly funkster closed out Day 1 of our two-day Fort Worth Weekly Music Awards Festival.

Heart’s set was at 8 p.m. on Saturday. My crawl started at 2 p.m. watching Bulls entrance the crowd at The Chat Room Pub with their post-hardcore genius. A few bands and beers later, it was Day 2. The last thing I remember before my chariot (Uber) whisked me away on Sunday evening was running back and forth between Oil Boom on the stage of Lola’s Trailer Park and Pinkish Black inside Lola’s Saloon. Between Bulls and the Pinkish Black/Oil Boom combo, I staggered my way to nine venues and saw parts of more than a dozen bands.

Over the weekend, the 15th iteration of the Weekly’s Music Awards Festival came and went. I was nervous. It was the first time I’ve ever booked anything of this magnitude, and all I could think about was the massive expectations of this city’s music-loving folk and the impossibly high bar set by the past festivals. It’s the first, best, and biggest all-local celebration of our music scene and, for many diehard original music fans, their first introduction to a lot of the great bands in the 817. After months of planning, there was nothing I could do Saturday but watch the bands and try to enjoy myself. And binge drink.

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After Bulls, my plan was to bee-bop over to The Boiled Owl Tavern for a bit of Caliche Burnout and then over to The Live Oak Music Hall to catch a few tunes from Dust Bowl folksters Phantom Sensation. I made it to the Owl but was too transfixed by Caliche’s Supersuckers-ish, liver-destroying twang rock to leave. As the place filled, I stuck around for the first two scorching songs of Mean Motor Scooter’s set. The three-piece’s high-energy churning guitars and hook-driven choruses have a moth-to-flame magnetism. I peaked in on rapper Lyric Le’Velle at the Live Oak and stuck around long enough to gawk in awe of his verbal gymnastics.

Squanto’s set at the Chat was the highlight of the festival for me. If robots had nightmares, Squanto’s glitch-y, droning pops and swells would be the soundtrack. I stuck around at the Chat and watched post-punk gods Tame … Tame and Quiet for a while before walking back to the Owl to see a bit of Animal Spirit, eventually landing at the Live Oak again for the Katsuk dance party.

My first day ended with the aforementioned Heart, but not before The Hendersons’ juicy slabs of sugary pop wowed the biggest crowd of the day. After that, Missing Siblings, the ultimate band’s band, delivered one of the tightest sets of the festival.

My second day of festival-going started at Lola’s. I watched Huffer’s jaw-dropping sludgy, dirge-y, heavy, stoner rock. The three-piece is officially my new fave of ’16. I caught snippets of Hightower’s set outdoors at the Trailer Park. What I heard was charming and groovy. I stuck around Lola’s long enough to catch the first part of Duell. The hard-rocking quintet’s wall of sound could crumble mountains. The very helpful folks at Fellowship Church, whose volunteers were shuttling concertgoers to various ports of call throughout the day, schlepped me over to The Grotto for the last two songs of the excellent, rootsy Cut Throat Finches.

I knew the 6 p.m. hour would be a tough choice when I booked the festival. So I endeavored to catch as many of the acts as I could without the benefit of teleportation technology. Shadows of Jets took the Grotto stage, and Taylor Tatsch’s splashy, bright pop guitar and hooky vocals kept me transfixed for so long, I was able to catch only the last two songs by Jetta in the Ghost Tree at Magnolia Motor Lounge. Even for just a couple of tunes, Jetta’s set was wrought with emotional, epic sweep and intimate catharsis. Thanks again to Fellowship volunteers, I was able to catch the last bits of Kevin Aldridge & The Appraisers at Fred’s. Now performing and writing songs for 20 years, Aldridge seems as fresh and relevant as he’s ever been.

For the 7 p.m. hour, I made it to Lola’s and the Trailer Park to run back and forth between Oh Whitney and Sally Majestic. The inside of Lola’s was packed like a musket, as Sally, a seven-piece that day, ratcheted up the party like they were shooting a beer commercial. Oh Whitney brought a full bag of bubbly grooves and polished melodies for the eager Trailer Park crowd.

You probably noticed the festival was a little different this year. It spanned two days, started earlier, we charged for tickets, we didn’t create any pop-up venues like the one in the parking lot of Studio 80 last year. A few people were miffed that we wanted $10 for two days of music, but everyone seemed OK with the fact that the money went to the bands. I received only positive feedback for including two neighborhoods, but if you don’t think the Near Southside deserved to be a part of this thing, well, you’re probably not connected to the music scene anyway.

Pardon me if I get a little self-indulgent, but planning a music festival with 40 bands at nine venues over two days is a massive undertaking with a ton of moving parts. The Weekly owes a huge thanks to our presenters, Bud Light and Ben E. Keith, and our sponsors, Metro PCS, Tarrant County College, and United Way. We couldn’t have pulled it off without the venues and their staffs, the soundmen and stage managers, the tireless Weekly staff, most of whom volunteered on both days, the generous people at Fellowship Church, the guys at Eagle Audio Recording, who did such an outstanding job churning out our annual compilation album, Frequencies, Vol. 7: Live in Studio, our awards nominating committee, everyone who voted for their favorite band (more than 4,000 of you), the musicians who played the festival and made producing it so easy, the musicians who didn’t play but were nominated, and, of course, every music fan who came out on Saturday and Sunday.

You have a lot to be proud of, Fort Worth. Thanks for letting us be a part of your scene.

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