I don't know about you, but I had one of those "Mastercard Moments" last weekend at Dfest. I looked down and checked the time on my phone and it was 2:04am on Saturday night (or Sunday morning, depending on how you look at it).
Watching an impressive crowd dancing and swaying to the music with the Tulsa skyline in the background while standing stage left, leaning against the subwoofers and giggling yourself silly as The Roots bass and drums reverberate through you from head to toe: Priceless.
You know, some said it couldn't be done. In fact, a lot of people thought the same thing. I have to admit, there were times when even I wondered, but they did it. Dfest organizers actually topped last year's festival and did it in nearly every aspect: organization, production and lineup.
Perhaps I'm biased. If that's the case, so be it. I try not to make an issue of it and try not to let it color my opinion of the festival, but I'm on staff as a volunteer. It's not for the money. After all, I did say it's on a volunteer basis. It's not for status, either; although years down the road, I will have well earned bragging rights that "Yeah, I was a part of that" when my kids and others look back at the defining years and moments of Dfest. I got involved because I believed in Tom and Angie Green's vision and because I genuinely care about the local music scene. Appearances and political correctness be damned. So you'll just have to forgive me or get over it if my opinion is tainted. What I witnessed and experienced during last weekend, however, was an overwhelming success.
Working the Crowd
Personally, Friday was mostly a loss on the music front. Most of my day and evening was devoured by setup and production issues. Never anything devastating, but all the little things that sneak up on you.
As a result, I got to witness very little on the music front. I did, however, cross paths with music writer Josh Kline a number of times and he's got you covered. You'll here his take on the festival next week.
I did get to stop in at Exit 6C in time to settle a buddy in with a beverage and catch the beginning of the First Lady Assassins set.
That worked in my favor, as a few minutes of high energy punk rock (and air conditioning) re-energized me enough to run the rest of the night, whether I was dealing with vendor issues and power outages or running beer from one end of the festival grounds to another.
By the latter part of Friday evening things had settled down enough that I was able to catch a little bit of music to wrap up the day. Because I was at that end of the festival grounds anyway, I stopped in to see what all the fuss about Paramore is about. Granted, the music itself didn't do much for me, but I'll give credit where credit is due. Regardless of whether the music fit my personal preferences or not, the band knew how to work the crowd and had a stage presence that many performers half their age have never shown.
Before the night had wrapped up, I bounced down to the Blank Slate and caught a few minutes of Apples in Stereo's sparkly, low-fi Sgt. Pepper's vibe before narrowly missing the end of Ghostland Observatory's set. By the time midnight rolled around, however, I was ready to chill out and met up with a new friend to settle in at the RUR stage for a couple drinks and a relaxing, yet funky set by Disco Biscuits.
Having missed moe. earlier in the evening, I thought The Biscuits did a great job reconnecting me with my misplaced love of well performed jam rock. Although the band did meander in a few spots, for the most part the guys laid down a tight and engaging groove that made the evening's wrap up particularly pleasant.
Fortunately for me, Saturday proved to be a completely different beast. With most issues having been resolved the night before, I actually had time to catch some tunes and bounce around to enjoy the festival. As a result, I opened my evening in the same location I closed the previous. Once again, Mercy Street proved there's still a promising spark of life in our local hard rock scene. Even more impressive, however, was the realization that the band has already come together this well in what was only the group's third public performance. I'll definitely be keeping my eyes on these guys in the coming months to see how they continue to develop.
Also impressive was Vandevander's performance at Dirty's Tavern. I already love the material on the first EP and have heard a preview of the coming disc, but this weekend's performance was probably the tightest set I've ever seen from the band. Emotionally charged and aggressive, it was just a shame that more people weren't on hand that early in the evening.
From there, I took care of a few points of business and went on to catch part of an impressive set by St. Louis natives Gentleman Auction House presenting their indie-pop with a touch of Madness, a pinch of Guided by Voices and a little Material Issue tossed in for good measure.
By the time I got back to the Halady stage for the evening's headlines, I was ready to settle in for the night. I did manage to tear myself away from the main stage to hear Maxtone 4 finish up its showcase, but returned as quickly as possible to get back to JFJO on the Main Stage.
Now, I've been back in Tulsa for eight years now and have seen Jacob Fred evolve in its music and lineup through a number of iterations, but Saturday night's performance was the most impressive yet. In typical eccentric fashion, JFJO took the stage in long white capes and tore and were on point from the very first note.
My exact words to Brian Haas after the show were "Holy mother of God, where has this band been?!?" One part jazz, one part funk, one part blues and one rock, JFJO put on a burn-the-house-down show in front of a huge, enthusiastic crowd that threatened to steal the show. My only question now is: why hasn't the band been invited to play the main stage at Bonnaroo?
In fact, the Jacob Fred's performance was so impressive that it actually dimmed the light a little on the one performer I was looking most forward to. I vowed that even if I only got to see 15 minutes of music all weekend long, I would do my best to spend it at Zappa Plays Zappa.
Lucky for me, I had already gotten a chance to meet Page Hamilton earlier in the day and pay him his due fan-boy respects, so I camped in front of the main stage and worshipped at the altar of Zappa for a full hour and a half. Although Dweezil didn't bring along the footage of his father for a virtual duet, the band was still dead on when recreating his father's music, whether hitting all the spots on "G Spot Tornado," having fun through an orchestrated spotlight session or jamming out a truncated "Muffin Man" as an encore to the evening's performance.
In fact, the only downside of the evening had nothing to do with the band or its performance. It was the drunk blonde who decided to try and get the audience to chant "You suck" as midnight rolled near. Whoever you were, I'm sure you were anticipating The Roots, but if you can't appreciate what Zappa is doing in expanding his father's legacy that's fine -- just go find the beer tent or look for a shitty cover band elsewhere in town instead of being a nuisance. My money says you couldn't name three Roots songs anyway. And be glad you abandoned your post when you did. I knew I couldn't do it, but I offered to buy my friend a shirt if she'd "accidentally" drop a beer on your head.
By the time Zappa wrapped up and I congregated with another group of friends, I had just enough time to sprint across the festival grounds to catch the end of Ryan Lindsey's set and, although the PA sounded terrible, Lindsey and band were playing spot on and showing why he's such a strong bet to be a breakout artist.
Of course, I hate to be a sheep, but like many Tulsans, I made my way back to see The Roots. I've never gotten the opportunity to see the band live, so this was my chance and I wasn't about to miss it. Of course the crowd was huge and enjoyed every minute of it. Despite the band's high profile status and size of the crowd, however, I have to wonder how many in the audience realize the actual significance of the band.
Yes, The Roots have become one of the most successful and highly respected acts in the rap and hip-hop genres this decade, but that's not what I witnessed this weekend. Regardless of the principle's monikers (Black Thought and ?uestlove), I think when we look back ten years from now, The Roots will be a key marker on the timeline of R&B history as a whole, indelibly linked with acts like The Supremes and Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind & Fire and The Commodores, and even Sugar Hill Gang and Public Enemy in the evolution of rap.
Overall, despite how little I actually got to partake, this year's Dfest proved to be an overwhelming success. And although The Flaming Lips undeniably helped the festival make a name for itself, last year was merely a coming out party. This year was an opportunity to establish itself and Dfest did just that, proving it's more than just "the festival that brought The Lips to Tulsa." Only time will tell, but I think it has already become much more than that. After all, how many people or events in Tulsa can lay claim to being able to create MasterCard Moments?
In light of last week's Dfest extravaganza, this week is looking a bit sparse, but there are still a few shows going on around town, and we've go the highlight for you.
July 31 is the fifth Thursday of the month and as such, you know you can find Cairde na Gael holding down the fort at Arnie's. Just around the corner, however, Bill Frissell will be performing at the Blank Slate at 9pm and tickets are $30.
Friday night's best shows see our local DFest stand-outs kick of the month on August 1 as Ceceda and Black Swan play the Soundpony for the downtown crowd and Vandevander continues to warm up for next week's CD release party with a loose-limbed show for Southsiders at Dirty's on the Riverwalk.
Main Street is busy on Saturday night, August 2, as The Marquee (formerly Mooch & Burn) hosts Unwed Sailor with Recorder and Black Swan for a $7 cover, while Soundpony hosts a free show with Dance!Robots!Dance! and Stephen Speaks and Ben Kilgore take the stage at Bob's with a $12 ticket.
If you're willing to step outside of the downtown shell a little bit, We Stay Gold, Theory of Tomorrow and Standing Ape Count will be rocking the Pinkeye on Saturday evening and Mercury Lounge will be hosting Peaceable Jones.
The Jazz Hall of fame is already well underway with its summer concert series, and hosts J3 Acoustic Jazz & Blues with Jack Wolf, Rick Gill and Doug McGiffie at the Jazz Depot at 5pm this Sunday evening. The most impressive show of the week, however, is Emmylou Harris at the Brady Theater. Having seen Harris just last year in Austin, I can attest to the fact that she's lost nothing over the years. In fact, she seems to have only gotten better and an evening with Ms. Harris promises some interesting stories as well as strong songs and her beautiful voice. Tickets are $35 and $45.
Monday is another Main Street evening with SafetySuit at the Marquee and Reverse X-Rays at Soundpony on August 4 and Wednesday is built for hard rock fans as Apocalyptica plays the Cain's Ballroom and Foundation (formerly Flaw) appears at the Otherside.
This week's short-range road trip candidate, however, is the Tuesday evening, August 5, show at the King of Clubs in Claremore with Ivoryline, There For Tomorrow, Take the Crown and Lives of Famous Men. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door and doors open at 6:30pm, so arrive early if you decide to make the run.
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