Concertgoers at this year's FORMAT Festival were directed to evacuate The Momentary around 9 p.m. Saturday when a storm front began approaching Northwest Arkansas. In a night that will no doubt enter the festival's local lore, shows were reshuffled to earlier time slots. The festival changes were posted on X at 2:03 p.m. Saturday just as the festival gates opened.
Nikki Lane started Saturday's music on the North of OZ stage. Later, '90s rappers The Pharcyde shared their woeful hit "Passing Me By" and other favorites on the South of OZ stage. Tulsa's King Cabbage Brass Band brought the big sounds down south to the Drag Me to the Disco stage, followed by Latin pop-soul singer Lesly Reynaga of Austin, Texas.
Ehule warmed up RØDE House in The Momentary for artist and activist Amy Khoshbin's stage performance before unofficial festival MPV Sudan Archives performed in a packed and sweaty room.
Brittney Denise Parks, who creates music as Sudan Archives, smudged the air with incense and lit two white pillar candles on the left and right side of the stage before ripping into Van Halen-esque violin solos that are technically on par with Laurie Anderson with an Afro-fusion beat and an EDM/bad "girl" rapper style. Parks at first wore a harness that propped her violin up on her left shoulder allowing her arms a full range of motion as she peered directly into the crowd pointing her finger at audience members as she sang. Then she would draw her bow from behind her back, splicing in an unsheathing sound that you'd hear in a Kung Fu movie, before launching into another furious solo.
At high-energy moments she'd wail in staccato tribal war cries and then point her violin toward the crowd like an archer. She jumped off the stage three times and climbed the barricade while security guards held her steady so that she could greet fans between her hits like "Nont For Sale," "Homemaker," "Selfish Soul" and "Come Meh Way," among others. Then she was giddy and grateful, relating that her grandpa was from Conway and giving love to her backup musician who manned the keyboards and an electric guitar.
At one point near the end of her set, she asked, "Irish people, can I play some of your culture?" She told the crowd that it was the first song that she had learned to play while growing up in Ohio. As the crowd clapped in unison, she fiddled out an Irish jig that she morphed into her song, "Chevy S10."
Sudan Archives finished up her set before the sun went down, while crowds dispersed toward other stages. On South of OZ, headliners Modest Mouse treated their longtime fans to deep cuts like "Tiny Cities Made of Ashes, "Dramamine" and closed with a mash-up of "Teeth Like God's Shoeshine" and "Sh!t Luck" from their 1997 album "The Lonesome Crowded West." They also jammed some of their better-known tunes like "Gravity Rides Everything" and "Float On" with the band, playing just a little less furiously than their famed shows around Fayetteville in the early 2000s.
Back at RØDE House, Little Rock-based Yuni Wa enjoyed a warm welcome to the Northwest Arkansas music scene. The electronic musician says he gets way more love out of state -- he nets over 100,000 listeners a month on Spotify, and his songs have millions of hits -- but this festival and the music scene in general has him excited for the future in the corridor.
"I'm super enthusiastic about this region's creative pursuits and entertainment pursuits," he said the next morning. "I think that this region has a lot of potential to do some amazing stuff. So I think FORMAT is a great, amazing first step." He noted that this is the second year for the festival.
Even though his set was cut short by the weather, he says he had a great time.
"Everybody loved it, though. I was really excited. I'm still thankful that I could get almost around 40 minutes in," he said. His evacuation was "super smooth."
Meanwhile, Alanis Morissette closed out the evening on the North of OZ stage just across from the Guerrilla Girls' "Complaints Department" installation.
Morissette came out playing harmonica to "All I Really Want" from "Jagged Little Pill," then "delivered" other favorites from her most well-known album such as "One Hand in My Pocket," "You Learn," "Head Over Feet" and "Mary Jane." She paused between songs to sing "Happy Birthday" to one of her band mates. Later she let the crowd sing the first verse of "Ironic." She did not play "You Outta Know."
Lightning flashed in the distance as she played "Thank U," and people started to evacuate.
Despite the oncoming weather, crowds parted smoothly. Shuttles were already lined up along the streets as crowds walked toward the exits and cyclists were filing out of the bike valet. Rideshare fares went up considerably in the oncoming weather. Meanwhile, the crowds on the Fayetteville and Lowell shuttles were ready for an after-party. (While those of us old enough to remember the early days of Modest Mouse and Alanis Morissette went to bed before the storm hit.)