Deep in the heart of Central Arkansas lies a small, but growing, DIY art and music community known as the Flux Family. Through four shows a year, previously five, at Cadron Creek Outfitters in Greenbrier, as well as smaller events in Little Rock along the way, Flux has cultivated one of the strongest grassroots series of festivals in the nation.
It is surely a family effort. The staff is comprised primarily of volunteers, guided by the hands of a small team of industry professionals who do it for the love . The community is built on a few basic, but profound principles (like taking care of the Earth and expressing yourself) which are encompassed on the website and around the venue. The lineups vary greatly from show to show and are comprised mostly of very high quality local and regional acts, with a few national (and occasionally international) artists each time as well. You won’t find many other festivals like these and none that are exactly the same.
This past weekend (March 16-18) was the first Flux of the season, Cosmic Flux. It was the 27th event total in five years. With the highest attendance to date at just over 1,000 faces, it was definitely an action-packed weekend. The strengths of the events grow with each passing one. Everything from the quality of the acts, the art, the production, security, you name it. The weather was blissful, featuring one of the densest fogs I’ve seen Friday night which made for a very visually pleasing environment. Cadron Creek is a beautiful shaded campground filled with tall slender trees and wonderful trails for walking. The camping available puts you up on the hill surrounding the main stage, or along the lazy shady creek at the bottom. There’s not a bad place to hang out anywhere on the property.
A huge part of the Flux environment is the art. From the shiny paint cans dropping shimmering clothes like cascades of wet paint that surrounded the camps and stages, the installations by the creek, to the artist’s tent and live painters row — art is surrounding you everywhere. The community has come up with many fun interactive art installations, such as the giant wooden CatDog Rocker, the illuminated doorways peppering the forests (titled the Doors of Perception), or the Validation Station. There’s much to behold and play with. The roster of live painters and artists showcasing their works rivals some of the largest in the nation thanks to the hard work of curator Nick Sumbles. Artists such as Fluid Druid, Terra Jewell Walker, Stacy Pants, Wanderweird, and the fascinating Ahmed Lindemann Mohammed filled out the stacked roster of visual artists and live painters whose work was on display.
Cosmic Flux 2018’s musical lineup featured as diverse a roster as ever. Friday’s highlights included Molly Adamson, a young up-and-coming singer/songwriter who interweaves classics of all styles and decades with her own written material. I was particularly sold on her cover of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene.” Michael Garfield wowed the crowd with his incredibly psychedelic and atmospheric music built on live looping. He utilizes electronic effects, and live instruments in a way that few can imitate. Headlining the main stage Friday night, Flux staples Deep Sequence put on what was widely talked about as the best show of the weekend. Formed by a group of friends from the Little Rock area, they are quickly exploding. Their instrumental sound is rooted in the progressive, and made up of a concoction of different influences ranging from funk to jazz to metal. They provide a very compelling experience full of peaks and valleys that Flux eats up like candy. As the night progresses, the crowd moves “downstairs” to the Creekside stage, Moonbase Alpha, where the bass pumps until the sunrise. Crowd favorites such as Scott Stanley (who creates Moonbase Alpha’s visual feast), Daniel Kichen, and Bucket had especially large crowds. They each laid down their own unique brands of genre-defying, and often psychedelic, bass music until the sun came up.
Saturday brought warm sunny weather, smiling faces, and a full day of activities and music. In the morning, we were treated to a funky magic show by fluxer Uncle Funk. His psychedelic outfits, warm personality, and mind-blowing magic make for a very fun show and one of the most packed activities hosted in the dome to date. Keep your eyes peeled for him at local events. He is not to be missed! Other activities included bluegrass guitar, fire and flow workshops, discussions of higher powers, essential oils, as well as love and relationships. Not to mention the crowd favorite Video Game Dome that takes over as the night falls, featuring VR gaming and Super Smash Bros tournaments.
The afternoon’s soundtrack was filled with acoustic- and string-based music that was as sunny as the weather. The Crumbs were especially pleasing, sprinkling the afternoon with their fun, loose and more traditional bluegrass set, which featured lots of originals and very tasty covers ranging from Americana standards to well-known classics. Afterward, Travis Bowman, of Little Rock, brought his plucky acoustic stylings. His rhythmic tapping and smooth, soulful licks were undeniably uplifting and the perfect compliment to a nice day. A big surprise came from Youth Pastor whose swimmy ethereal guitars, tasteful vocals, and layered organ brought class and creativity to the early evening.
It was no surprise, however, that local sweethearts Opal Agafia and her band the Sweet Nothings tore the stage up. They’ve appeared at Flux multiple times now, and have been quickly cementing themselves as legends all over the entire state. What started as a string band, focusing on folk and bluegrass, has now evolved into something far more diverse. After adding a drummer to the mix in 2017, and incorporating more and more electric elements, it’s hard to put a finger on what to call their music. And that’s half of the fun. Her jazzy vocals and their diverse instrumentation lead to something that’s a little bit folksy and a little bit rock-n-roll. The set featured most of her crowd favorites, as well as a really wonderful cover of the St. James Infirmary and some wild jam with a few off the wall teases.
The Squarshers brought their punchy brand of Arkansas ‘Groovegrass’ afterward. Improv jams and fast hot plucking were on full display. Hot on their heels was Grandpa’s Cough Medicine who came up from North Carolina carrying their signature blend of rough and tumble storytelling and folksy bluegrass twang. As the string music ended and the night turned wobbly, Memphis-based Scotty B took the stage and threw down a set that moved fluidly between House, Breaks, Drum-and-Bass, and other genres. He was the perfect energy to carry on through to the sultry Forbidden Arts Revue. Emceed by the hilarious Crotchin Flowers (I’m not saying it was Stacy Pants, but have you seen them in the same room?) and her stage kitten Maddie. With performances by the Siam Fox, Jezabell Jaxxx and KateyKat, together they put on a tasteful, humorous and sexy burlesque show to close out the main stage for the weekend. Meanwhile, downstairs, Flux legends Au.Dios.Bass, Flintwick and Zombie Death Squad kept the crowds steeped in drippy, wobbly soundscapes and hard driving bass.
I don’t think anyone would have been able to ask for a better kicking off to the Arkansas Festival season. At a time when it can be hard to find a small, but thriving community of well-supported artists doing something outside the paradigm, Flux stands as a shining example. You’ll not find a higher quality, more intimate and eclectic musical event in Arkansas or many places for that matter. On the backs of people who do it solely for the love of doing it, and the guiding hands of the experienced organizers, bliss is cultivated, and distributed to the hungry hearts and ears of anyone who hears it’s beck and call. If you haven’t experienced a Flux event yet, do yourself a favor.
Cover Artwork by James Mcarthy
Photos by Jamie Seed Photography