Odyssey Fest

by Faith Duarte

Photos by Madeline Ritter

One particular quote from Bruce Lee came to mind while watching Verisimilitude perform mid-November at Paper Tiger: “You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water into a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle … Become like water.”

The instrumental trio were kicking off their explosive set at Odyssey Fest with the bombastic “Melting Marshmallows” when the unexpected happened: bassist Dakota Appelbaum broke one of his strings mid-performance, bringing any sort of sonic odyssey the audience would traverse to a sudden halt.

The band, infamous for their energetically cathartic stage presence and liquid light shows, left ardent supporters and curious newcomers hanging in the balance while Appelbaum quickly rushed offstage to change it. Brother and fellow guitarist Zach Appelbaum recalled to the audience that this slight inconvenience had also occurred earlier during their rehearsal, and then called upon the good vibrations of those still in attendance.

“You’ve got to fall to come back up,” Zach Appelbaum advised the several-rows-deep crowd. About a minute after, his brother returned, bass strings intact, and their set resumed once again with smooth sailing.

Coincidentally, Zach Appelbaum’s aphorism summed up how this second iteration of a collaboration between local label Timewheel and production company Rhizomorph Productions came to be, because it almost did not occur in the first place.

The multimedia event, previously announced in June, was initially scheduled for launch August 26, falling on the same weekend that Hurricane Harvey devastated the Gulf Coast. The organizers, Dakota Appelbaum and Matt Humble, wavered back and forth about moving forward with the date while Harvey’s impact on this city was still fluid.

With weather forecasts wavering on the severity of its impact on the city, and grocery stores running out of storm essentials, residents hunkered down in their homes with no intention of leaving.

“It was like the city was going on lockdown, even in San Antonio,” Humble says over the phone. “We didn’t want to risk it hitting hard while we had a lot of people.”

After constant monitoring, the organizers decided to “play it safe,” and announced the postponement around 24 hours before the event kick-off, which Humble called “heartbreaking.” The same historic weather event that brought catastrophic damage to Rockport and massive flooding to Houston produced only less than two inches of rain to this city, according to the National Weather Service.

Fortunately, unlike other larger festivals in South Texas whose success lies in precarious weather conditions, almost all of the vendors, bands and most importantly, the headliner were able to reschedule with little issue.

Eager would-be festival goers waited until early October when the organizers announced the rescheduled date, and almost three months after the initial date, the festival proved to be well worth the wait.

With little to no overlap between the two stages, attendees got to experience all 14 artists on the bill, running the gamut from progressive metal, like Remanon; experimental jazz from Expansions of Q; rap, like Reek Savage; and avant garde electro pop from Wayne Holtz. Additionally, the event also featured multimedia workshops in live art, yoga, and reiki, a form of Japanese stress relief.

Among the highlights of the night include the experimental Femina-X, an electronic quintet fronted by Daniela Riojas, that was reminiscent of Aphex Twin and Bjork. Vocalist Riojas juxtaposes her fluttering vocals with synth beats and eclectic soundscapes. The band performed songs from their upcoming second album, slated for release in spring 2018. Riojas dedicated the emotional prayer song “Cura a mi Madre” to her belated mother.

Over on the second stage, after his session with Verisimilitude, Zach Appelbaum pulled double duty moonlighting as Dolphin Dillemma, his electronic project. He closed out the Ancient Stage by illuminating the dance floor with his spastic rhythms, sending dancers into a frenzy.

The headliner, Los Angeles-based MNDSGN (pronounced like “mind design,”) delivered his signature brand of controlled chaos through his stoic stage presence and chilled beats, while quietly looking on into the kinetically lively crowd.

Despite the hiccups, Humble and Dakota Appelbaum presented a high-quality, underground microcosm of the ever-expanding local music scene, featuring a well-curated selection of Timewheel artists and other talent.

What began as a series of Timewheel listening parties inside a local private residence has expanded into an established multimedia showcase at a much larger local music venue. Humble says attendance had more than doubled since the first official festival last year, and though he anticipates Odyssey will continue growing, he somewhat laments the smaller scale events that spurred him to expand in the first place.

“We had kind of a more intimate, more exclusive atmosphere,” he says. “It was kind of more special in that sense, because you felt like you were a part of something that only so many people could witness.

Ultimately, the purpose of the event was to cultivate a sense of community and embrace the many facets of San Antonio culture, Humble says.

“We’ve been collaborating with different artist from the San Antonio and Austin area for about three or four years now,” Humble says. “We’ve made a lot of connections and friendships with a lot of artists in the city, so we wanted to use those connections to bring together a night of music, art, and culture for San Antonio.”

In the end, the organizers were able to become like water and adapt to the wrath of Mother Nature, and ultimately enrich the local musical landscape with their labor of love.

“It was a headache, but magically it all worked out,” Dakota Appelbaum says over the phone. “We walked away lucky.”

More information is available on the label’s website at Timewheel.net and on Odyssey Fest and Timewheel’s Facebook pages.