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Austin Instrumental Fest

What had started off as just trying to book a show for two other bands and his own in Austin, quickly turned into a unique opportunity for Verisimilitude bassist/synth master Dakota Appleaum. Now in its sophomore year, Austin Instrumental Music Festival (AIM Fest) returns this Saturday Feb. 27 at the Empire Control Room.

Dakota, originally from San Antonio, was living in Austin back in 2014 when he wanted to put a show together for his band Versimilitude, My Education and Equals [deceased] to try and get his foot in the door with the Austin music scene.

  “When both bands fell through, I was kind of down to nothing and happened to stumble across the Southwest Rock Post Collective. They’re based out of Austin and they have eight to 12 bands apart of the collective that were all instrumental so when I found that out, I was like ‘Oh my gosh, look how many other instrumental bands there are!’ and that inspired me to book a really big instrumental show…and that’s how it came about, completely unpremeditated. It just kind of all happened and we went from there.” Dakota explained to Sobre Sound.

They were able to book seven bands and turn it into a ‘mini’ festival. This year, one of Dakota’s main focuses was to integrate San Antonio bands and bands from all over such as this year’s headliner, Scale the Summit. 

San Antonio bands included in this festival include: Something Fiction, Nothing Chief, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, Bright Like the Sun, Collective Dreams and Verisimilitude. Some of which have actually altered their sets to be strictly instrumental.

AIM Fest is unique in a sense while yes, there are instrumental festivals such as Jazz festivals; AIM is the only of its kind for rock bands.  The instrumental aspect stems from the passion for genre Dakota has, his band Verisimilitude will reach their 10 year anniversary this year, half of those years were spent as an all instrumental band. Apart from that, Dakota and his brother Zach (who has been in Verisimilitude  since the age of 11) were in Orchestra from 6th grade on where they both played classical instruments.

“I would show up to class and obviously learn the music but also observe with the director does, also see how all the pieces fit together, and the language of music.  I just love the complexity of it and just diving into it,” Applebaum explained. “It’s like, anyone can look at music and interpret it their own ways same with art and any other social study. I just really dive into music, instrumental music especially and just breaking it down and being nerdy about it. I just love it.” 

An adolescent festival of this size doesn’t come without some help though. 2/3 of the bands booked were personal friends and the other 1/3 were found through hard research with the help of  Ty Thompson of Big Mighty Entertainment’s help and guidance along the way, Matt Humble from Time Wheel, and Ezra Hurd from Imagine Books and Records (also planning his own festival) made all of this possible, an hour away from their home turf. Some pretty big sponsors such as TEXAS NORML, Grav Labs helped out as well.

Bright Like the Sun is one of many SA bands that will be performing at AIM Fest this year. - Sobre Sound Archives 

Bright Like the Sun is one of many SA bands that will be performing at AIM Fest this year. - Sobre Sound Archives 

The unique stigma that comes from this festival is more than enough reason to check it out. “You can bring yourself to a higher place without lyrics infiltrating your thought pattern and that’s kind of something I want to let people know,” Dakota explained after noting he has no problem with lyrics in music what’s so ever. “There’s just something about listening to, holding in and indulging in certain vibrations of music. I feel like we could hear in different frequencies and just focusing on that, not some message or a story that someone lyrically sang. Just hearing those notes and vibrations, you can get to a higher level of thinking and meditation. That’s part of the bigger picture as to why I want to push instrumental music.”

Dakota is already in thought process of planning next year’s show and hopes one day to take it on the road as well as make it a two to three day show. All major festivals have to start somewhere right? Look at Austin Levitation fka Psychfest, it was a one day event that started off at the Red Barn. Don’t miss history unfold, you can purchase tickets here