With all the talk of Dfest this year, it's not surprising that many of Tulsa's other more modest festivals are being overshadowed. The monster that Diversafest has grown into over the past two years has all but assured that the majority of attention paid to the summer festival season will be directed toward that last weekend in July, when the Blue Dome district becomes the hosting grounds for national acts like The Roots, The All-American Rejects and Helmet, as well as dozens of local and regional bands.
But, as Gary Hizer pointed out in last week's Soundcheck column (find "Festival Season Arrives" online at urbantulsa.com), there's a slew of festivals taking place in the next four months that are equally deserving of local support and attention.
One such festival is OK Greenfest. On Saturday, May 24, Cain's Ballroom will host the kick-off party for what will become an annual eco-friendly music festival that will, in the years to come, take place at the River Parks.
This year, the event is more of a fundraiser than anything else, a litmus test for possible future sponsors. If all goes well, the festival will become a booming yearly celebration in conjunction with Earth Day, where environmental responsibility will be at the forefront of the proceedings as dozens of bands play on multiple stages.
Like all festivals, this one starts with a humble beginning--five bands set to play one night at the Cain's.
Headlining the event is Dallas modern rock outfit The Vanished, along with local stalwarts My Solstice, Sam & the Stylees, RadioRadio and Cody Clinton.
Behind the event is Barry Durbin, a local video producer who has long been involved with various eco-oriented endeavors.
"I've always had an environmental slant," Durbin said, during an interview. "When I decided to organize a music festival, I automatically thought 'how can I make this environmentally friendly?'"
Durbin, who has an environmental science degree from the University of Tulsa, worked for several years in the environmental consulting and compliance field before going to graduate school where he received an advanced degree in environmental sociology. During grad school, he worked in an area just outside of Knoxville, Tennessee where the first facility built for the Manhattan Project is located.
"(It was built) back in the forties to make the nuclear weapons that we dropped on Japan," he said. "So they've got a lot of people who are sick. Part of my graduate studies was working with communities that were contaminated."
Obviously, these experiences left an indelible impression on Durbin, and organizing a "green" music festival seemed like a logical step in raising awareness. According to the festival's press release, Durbin's mission with Greenfest is to "entertain, educate and inform Oklahomans on ways we call all reduce our carbon footprint." He's promoting it as a carbon neutral event, and he's working with an organization called carbonfund.org to calculate the festival's total carbon emissions in order to find meaningful ways to counterbalance those emissions with responsible reductions.
"We're just going to be serving aluminum cans at the show, and the plastic cups we've replaced with a corn-based eco-friendly cup," Durbin said. "All the paper that I've used is from 100 percent recycled paper, and when I move (the festival) outdoors next year, I will start using bio-diesel generators to get away from electricity."
He's also invited various non-profits and green vendors from around the city to set up shop at the festival.
"This year, everybody's going to be downstairs, next door at Bob's (the Cain's sidestage)," he said. "Of course, next year when we move out to the River Parks we're going to greatly expand that and bring more people in."
Community involvement is a crucial part of green awareness, and in keeping with that spirit, Durbin said that he plans to donate 20 percent of the ticket sales to the non-profit organization Sustainable Tulsa.
The green theme also bled into how Durbin chose the bands playing this year. While he received applications from a number of acts from across the country, he said he tried to focus the search on bands that were green-minded.
"The Vanished is a band that's been involved in a lot of charity work," Durbin said. The Dallas-based five-piece has a good relationship with Z104.5 (one of Greenfest's sponsors) and has been growing in popularity across the Midwest during the last two years. Its dark, theatrical brand of radio-friendly rock has drawn consistent crowds, and its Tulsa fan base should help to assure that Greenfest will be well-attended in its crucial first year.
With the exception of The Vanished, the lineup this year is exclusively local, though Durbin hopes to bring more national acts in future years.
"When I first started this, I got submissions from bands from Seattle, from Dallas, from Austin, from New York... but when it came down to it, the best bands to suit my purpose this year were all from Tulsa," he explained. "These are really, really good bands, and they're my best bet."
"Cody Clinton is very environmentally minded," he continued. "And he's got an album coming out. Of course, Sam & the Stylees are very environmentally conscious."
Add the long-standing local popularity of My Solstice and RadioRadio to the mix and Greenfest has a good shot of drawing the attention and sponsorship that it needs to get off the ground.
"It's going to depend on how many dollars I can bring in," he said, referring to the festival's potential future success. "This year, I had first scheduled it to be at River Parks in April, and I had bands like the Bravery on board and ready to play, but I couldn't pull the financial part of it together."
Despite this setback, Durbin remains optimistic about Greenfest's future.
"My vision is to have at least four stages with 70 or 80 bands," Durbin said. "But that'll be several years down the road."
The kick-off party starts at 7pm when Cody Clinton takes the main stage. Doors are at 6pm. Durbin encourages people to show up early to visit the non-profit booths next door. Tickets are $19 and can be purchased through gettix.net, Starship Records, or the Cain's box office.
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