As summer comes to an end, the outdoor festival season wraps things up as well. Sure, we've still got a few smaller events headed our way, and the annual drunken free-for-all Oktoberfest will roll around rain or shine. But as Labor Day draws closer, it marks the end of the summer season.
Ironically enough, considering the population and potential talent pool, South Tulsa has never been very fertile ground for live music -- or at least not original live music. Perhaps it's a mindset, the concentration of family living or some other intangible that goes with suburbia; but even though a few clubs have tried in the past, original music hasn't fared well in Southtown.
It comes as a pleasant surprise then, that as the season comes to a close, we get a brief beacon of hope with the South Tulsa Music Festival at Riverwalk Amphitheater this Saturday.
Arriving with the Labor Day weekend, it's an all-day affair, beginning at 2pm with arts and crafts vendors on the Riverwalk and a prelude on the second stage at Dirty's Sports Bar before the main acts take over the amphitheater stage at 4pm and on into the evening.
The afternoon begins with Jamco Industries and Jonathan VanRisseghem at Dirty's. Once the main stage kicks in, the running order is planned as follows: Wink Burcham, Cecada, Vandevander, Paul Benjaman Band, Cody Clinton and the Bishops and finally, to close out the evening, Dead Sea Choir.
All in all, it's a lineup that not only spotlights a handful of tight-knit acts that complement each other, but also a strong corner of our local music community. Add in the fact that it's a free event that brings some exciting local, original music to South Tulsa and Jenks and it's a win/win (at least for those of us who regularly make a weekend drive to mid or downtown for our music fix).
Perhaps the question, however, is where did the idea come from? I queried organizer Mitch Garrison, who has played in a number of bands including Strange Tide.
Essentially, this event is a reaction to the way most venues treat local bands. "The bands are poorly treated and poorly paid, and the guys running these clubs never do what they say they're going to do," he said.
As a result, Garrison set out to hold an event that highlighted local music, treated the artists with respect and paid each of them. And although Garrison did pull in a few key sponsors such as Budweiser, Dirty's and The Edge, he did so on his terms. He retains control of the event and lineup as he wants to see it unfold. As a result, Garrison can confidently and honestly say: "The best part is this is not a corporate event. I did this on a small budget and everyone is getting paid but me."
Granted, he does admit that no one on the bill is earning a huge sum, but they are all being compensated. Plus, he's delivering on every aspect that he promised he would when setting up the show, from planning to promoting to making sure everyone actually does get paid at the end of the day.
Mostly, however, whether he says it directly or not, Garrison is putting forth the effort for the love of music and Tulsa's local scene.
"There's a music movement coming back through Tulsa," he said. "But nobody's paying any attention to it.
There are probably 25 local original bands that are very talented and are doing something cool, but nobody is ever there. There's never any attendance at the shows."
We agreed that the main issue is a lack of promotion, both on the part of the bands and venues. Most bands just don't promote properly and even for those who do, with no promotion by the venues themselves, the show still doesn't stand a chance.
With that in mind, promotion of the South Tulsa Music Festival has been at the forefront of Garrison's mind. Between creating and hanging posters, working the crowds at local shows and working with as many of the media outlets as possible, he's doing his best to get word out for the festival. In turn, he hopes it will be something large enough to give our local bands some serious exposure.
According to Garrison, from his estimation, it appears there are roughly 2,000 people at the Riverwalk on any given weekend and that's without the Midtown crowd. With the proper promotional efforts to draw an audience from all across Tulsa, he hopes to see anywhere from 5,000-7,000 visit the location duringr the course of the day.
Basically, he said, "Someone had to do something and say 'Wake the fuck up!' or we're going to miss out on a new wave of indie music before all the bands leave."
Ideally, Garrison has ideas for a few other cool events to promote local music beginning in the spring, but proceeding any further is largely dependent on the success of this weekend's festival.
"That's why I'm not calling it the 'first annual' anything," he said. "If it goes well, it may move to another location or change into something else, but if nobody shows up, I'm not doing it again."
For the most part, however, Garrison has faith in Tulsa and its local musicians. "I've lived all over the country and people here forget that Tulsa is known for its music. What else do we have to give a shit about besides that?"
For all the talk that has circulated during the last few years of Tulsa becoming the next...whatever (take your pick: Austin, Seattle, Omaha), we still need promoters and bands to take control and make something happen. Garrison is doing his part. Now, it's time to step up and do ours--all it takes is getting off the couch and supporting an event of this size. It's easy and it's free: no admission, no huge commitment, just a little drive and your time. And if you don't dig a band, take a walk and come back in an hour to check out the next one.
The South Tulsa Music Festival is Saturday, September 5, at Riverwalk Crossing in Jenks, beginning at 2pm and running until roughly midnight, culminating in a full show by Dead Sea Choir. For those ready to continue into the night, the after party will extend the festivities with Heady P at Dirty's Sport's Bar until last call. Considering the fact that it's Labor Day weekend, it's a great opportunity to enjoy the weather, hang outdoors and support our local music scene in one fell swoop. I'll see you Saturday.
Considering the fact that Labor Day is upon us, things are fairly quiet this week. If you aren't making your final lake retreat of the season, however, we've got a few good shows.
As has become par for the course, Thursday evening is our jumpstart for the weekend. If you're looking for your comfort, Cairde na Gael fills its standing gig at Arnie's this week to get you started. Elsewhere, rap fans will be excited to see D12 (sans Eminem) with Potluck at The Marquee. Perhaps the highest profile show of the week, however, is the return of Elvis Costello to Cain's Ballroom.
Friday evening, September 4, is fairly tame, with Red Eyed Gravy at Mercury Lounge and Wink Burcham at Arnie's. Those looking for something heavier should head to The Marquee for Emmure with Evergreen Terrace, Stick to Your Guns, For Today and Oceano.
The main event for September 5 is obviously the aforementioned South Tulsa Music Festival. If you're looking for something different or just want to avoid Jenks, however, we've still got plenty more going on around town. Saturday night also sees Turnpike Troubadours play Mercury Lounge for Americana fans, Chris Duarte at Flytrap Music Hall for blues lovers and DanceRobotsDance! at Soundpony for the indie crowd.
The Marquee wraps up the weekend with a trio of shows: Saturday features The Honorary Title with Cory Brennan; Sunday, September 6, sees Alesana, The Bled and Enter Shikari rock the house and Monday wraps up with Fat Lip Promotions' "Summer to Remember" with The Secret Handshake, From First to Last and more. It's a full lineup with 10 acts and the show starts at 3pm.
Finally, don't let Mars Volta slip by without notice with a stealth show at Cain's Ballroom on Labor Day. It might be a Monday night gig, but the band will surely put on the wildest show of the month with a full on sonic assault of the senses. Tickets are still available for $40.
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