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Guinness-winning pizza at a soggy Utopia Music Festival

Addie Broyles
abroyles@statesman.com

Not even rain can spoil Utopia.

The Utopia Music Festival, now in its sixth year, takes place on a ranch deep into the Hill Country, near the small town of Utopia.

The three-day event draws several thousand attendees, almost all of which seemed to be from Austin, for a lineup that this year featured Brownout, Cold War Kids, Dan Deacon, Ruby Jane and Grateful Grass, a Grateful Dead tribute band that features Keller Williams, Jeff Austin of Yonder Mountain String Band and Keith Moseley of the String Cheese Incident.

The festivities kicked off with a pre-show on Thursday night, but just as the crowds started arriving on Friday, so did the (much-needed) rain and cooler weather.

Even though the event has been around for a few years, the check-in process was so chaotic and unstructured that an hour-long line of cars formed at the gate. Cars were getting stuck in the mud, so anyone who arrived after 5 p.m. (in the line, that is, we didn’t get inside until about 6 p.m.) had to park alongside the road and haul their stuff to the primitive camping areas.

But the remote-ness of the festival is also why it’s so special, we soon found out. Little-to-no cell reception meant that I saw fewer phones, including my own, over the two days of the festival than I had in a long, long while. Once the organizers put out hay on Saturday morning, it was much easier to get around in the mud. (Pity the concert-goers on Friday night who were up to their ankles in mud everywhere they went. I listened to those shows from my tent.)

On Saturday, I caught several bands, including Ruby Jane and Cold War Kids, but the highlight was a round of disc golf up on the side of a hill overlooking the festival. The course was constructed by champion throwers Des and Jay Reading, local disc golf leaders who are also founders of a cool program called EDGE, which implements disc golf-based science, math, civics and physical education curriculum in schools. Each of the nine holes took golfers higher up one of those signature Hill Country “mountains,” presenting views of the area you’d never have seen if you stayed in the mud mosh pits.

The food court at the festival featured a number of Austin staples, including Double Trouble BBQ and Cazamance, as well as a booth selling vegan pancakes with fruit ice cream on top. (I sure wish they would have mentioned that vegan part before I bought it. They weren’t terrible, but not exactly what the 7-year-old and I had in mind.)

In the middle of the afternoon on Saturday, a crew from the Hondo-based Dirt Road Cookers made an impressive 8-foot pizza, which last year earned the Guinness World Record title of the world’s largest commercially available pizza.

It seemed as though the rest of the culinary action was confined to the campsites. I was lucky enough to be eating and staying alongside Zane Jarrett, a chef friend of mine and his family. He smoked pork and chicken on Friday night and whipped out a chicken tortilla soup after dark on Saturday that was just the comforting bowl of goodness we needed to push through the last night there. Zane and his wife, Tracy, are also homebrewers, and they had brewed enough to keep our whistles wet all the way through Sunday.

We were lucky enough to camp next to another RV of Austin foodies that included Robert Jones, who served restaurant-quality meals several times a day out of his RV, including grilled peaches with ricotta, porchetta, watermelon tomatillo salad with feta and rosemary potatoes.

It was easily the best grub being served in a 5-mile radius, but at a hippie music festival like this, sometimes, all you really need is a few hot brats to recharge your batteries between music, yoga, disc golf and hoola hooping.