FORMAT Festival day one brings big musical acts, vibrant art, interesting tech and thousands of visitors

Arguably the most eye-catching visuals for the festival this year are the installations by Atelier Sisu, a Sydney-based design practice that focuses on the intersection of art and architecture and presents spatial experiences around the world. These are placed the edge of the Momentary lawn.

NWA Democrat-Gazette/April Wallace
Arguably the most eye-catching visuals for the festival this year are the installations by Atelier Sisu, a Sydney-based design practice that focuses on the intersection of art and architecture and presents spatial experiences around the world. These are placed the edge of the Momentary lawn. NWA Democrat-Gazette/April Wallace

The second FORMAT Festival -- For Music Art and Technology -- kicked off yesterday on the grounds of the Momentary contemporary art space in downtown Bentonville.

Gates opened at 2 p.m., later than planned, due to rain showers. By early evening, visitors were piling in. Festival organizers expect to see roughly 6,000 visitors daily enjoying the live music, art installations, innovative technology, and food and beverage vendors.

The location is a new one for the burgeoning event. Last year it took place at Sugar Creek Airstrip and while this area is overall smaller, festival-goers moved easily from attraction to attraction.

On Friday they arrived on foot, by shuttle from various parts of Bentonville, Lowell and the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, as well as on bicycle -- a bike valet was provided this year and it filled up quickly as festivities got underway.

But leaving your bicycle behind doesn't mean that's the last you'll see of bikes for the night. Walk through the FORMAT gate created by Zach Springer and you'll find bicycle wheels whirling and clicking in constant motion, all along the arch above you -- a tribute to the cycling community of the area.

Among the quirky art displays is a pink port-a-potty "Confessional," draped in lace and pearls made by the U of A Human-Centered Design Course. Inside the walls are plastered with newspaper headlines from "The Toilet Paper," a pink seat and a toilet seat that drops down from the door. Written above you are the instructions: "Take a seat, grab a sheet, use a pen, confess your sin. Drop it in the box, love you lots." In the space where toilet paper ordinarily hangs is a box full of large cards for writing your deepest, darkest secret.

Arguably the most eye-catching visuals for the festival this year are the installations by Atelier Sisu, a Sydney-based design practice that focuses on the intersection of art and architecture and presents spatial experiences around the world. Three sets of translucent, bubble-like structures glisten with fluorescent colorful sheen and line the edge of the Momentary lawn. Stacked in sets of three and four circular beings, they stand several times taller than most people.

An installation of beautiful, brightly colored textiles by local multidisciplinary artist Danielle Hatch covers areas of and tents within the FORMAT site, including one that is displayed next to a bar on the east side of grounds. Hatch collaborated with others for a performance piece early Friday afternoon.

An advantage to this year's location is its close proximity to 8th Street Market, where festival-goers' options for concessions double. On one side are the local vendors we've come to know and love and on the other side is a long line of food trucks brought in for the occasion, which offer Hibachi, burgers, pizza, bowls, tacos and more.

North of OZ, one of the two main, large stages for the festival is set up in the space ordinarily reserved for live music at the Momentary, where the Live on the Green series takes place. On it, British rapper Little Simz and later LCD Soundsystem entertained enthusiastic crowds with a giant disco ball sparkling above them.

South of OZ is on the west side of festival grounds just past JR's Inside Out photography project that lined the side of the Momentary with poster-sized photos of locals and the Bizarre Bazaar, where handcrafted goods are sold. Last night first Digable Planets then Jamie xx, English musician/DJ/record producer/remixer and member of indie pop band the xx, played to fans delight.

  photo  British rapper Little Simz entertained an enthusiastic crowd on the first night of FORMAT Fest 2023. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/April Wallace)  
  photo  Jamie xx, an English musician/DJ/record producer/remixer and member of indie pop band the xx, played on the South of OZ stage Friday night. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/April Wallace)  
  photo LCD Soundsystem was among the final acts of the first night of FORMAT Fest. They played for an hour and a half with a giant disco ball sparkling above them. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/April Wallace)   
  photo  JR’s Inside Out project lined the side of the Momentary with life sized black and white photographs of people’s faces. The project by French artist JR takes portraits at campuses all across the U.S., including most recently the University of Arkansas. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/April Wallace)  
  photo Walk through the FORMAT gate created by Zach Springer and you’ll find bicycle wheels whirling and clicking in constant motion, all along the arch above you as a tribute to the cycling community of the area. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/April Wallace)   
  photo An advantage to this year’s location is its close proximity to 8th Street Market, where festivalgoers’ options for concessions double. On one side are the local vendors we’ve come to know and love and on the other side is a long line of food trucks brought in for the occasion, which offer Hibachi, burgers, pizza, bowls, tacos and more. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/April Wallace)