According to the rest of us, you could say Matt Battaglia’s life started at age 23. While age doesn’t really matter, it does when it comes to extraordinary things, such as founding one of Denton’s most popular music festivals.
Born and raised in Denton, Battaglia spent his time, “doing what Denton kids do: going to house shows and listening to music on people’s porches and backyards, being in bands, scraping my knees, doing the Denton thing.” With an element of nonchalance, Battaglia said he was just like anybody else growing up in Denton.
Before Oaktopia was even a reality, Battaglia shared that he had always wanted to do something with music: “I think like a lot of kids that grew up in our generation, that went to Blink 182 concerts and stuff like that thought, ‘I wanna do that someday,’ but when I realized I didn’t have the talent to do that, I decided to move to the business side of the industry so I could at least do something with music.”
After the first year, Battaglia said he decided to try it again. He got business partners, mostly friends and family, to invest in his idea and came up with a detailed business plan. He felt like: “We have something here, people seem to love it. It was the most fun we’ve ever had, the most stressed, but also one of the most rewarding things we’ve ever done so we decided to take it seriously.”
2016 marks the four-year anniversary and looks a little different than before. Oaktopia Fest will begin on a Thurs. and continue through Sat., unlike the Fri. through Sun. schedule of previous years. The first two days, Campus Theatre will host a variety of film showcases and talent beginning with a special showing of “Purple Rain” and then the Granatum Short Film Showcase, Denton Black Film Showcase and Joketopia on Fri.
When asked why the festival chose to expand in this direction, Battaglia explained: “We’ve always wanted to do this, including art shows and stuff.” It’s just now they have the number of people needed to focus and put effort into pulling these different pieces together. “From the beginning we’ve had this vision,” Battaglia emphasized, “It is really a weekend for all the creators in the city to come together and turn Denton into a living breathing piece of art… And hopefully if they didn’t love Denton already, they do now.”
Maybe it just takes one 20-something-year-old who understands other 20-something-year-olds to make a festival like Oaktopia grow from four shows hosted at a handful of small venues on Oak St. to a whole Square made alive by music and art. “Utopia on Oak St.,” was what Battaglia explained the inspiration for the name of the festival came from. And for a city full of artists, that’s exactly what it has become.