Every year we wait with baited breath for summer to arrive and although -- for most of the country -- Memorial Day marks the eve of summer, as pools open and everyone makes their first trek to the lake, we get a glimpse a few weeks early.
Mayfest arrives this weekend. With it comes a glimpse of what we all look forward to in the summer: warm weather (hopefully), the smell of grilled food in the air, and for the music fans out there, tunes flowing freely in the streets.
Now, I know there's more to Mayfest than that. I'm fully aware of all that our annual spring festival entails -- after all, I was a volunteer on staff for a few years. Arts, crafts, public involvement and awareness in the local arts and humanities -- it's all a part. For the casual observer, however, it's also a great street party and reason to look forward to summer.
From a casual viewpoint, most onlookers will see two distinct personalities to Mayfest: during the day and early evening, it's an arts festival. Once the sun goes down and the vendors start packing up, however, it's a small music festival. Hand in hand, the two go together to celebrate the artists, both visual and performing, that are developing in Tulsa and Northeast Oklahoma.
Granted, there are some arguments that Mayfest doesn't necessarily represent all segments of the music community. When considering the budget and demographic that Mayfest is working within as a public, family-oriented festival, however, the organization does a pretty good job of representing the local music scene and giving a few new artists some much needed exposure.
Personally, I know what kind of effort goes on behind the scenes, and just because your favorite band isn't playing Mayfest doesn't mean it wasn't considered. Sometimes outside circumstances and politics come into play.
Overall, however, the festival usually does an admirable job, and I think this year's entertainment lineup is incredibly strong with a mix of old favorites and new up and comers.
If you're looking for a quick sneak peek at what's going on locally, a trip downtown to walk the streets can give you free preview of who you should be watching for the rest of the summer. Variety is the rule, and all you've got to do is walk a few short blocks to get a glimpse of it all.
The festival kicks off Thursday, May 13, and although opening night is usually fairly slow, organizers have stacked the talent enough to make it worth coming out on a weeknight.
The Bartlett Square stage at Fifth and Main offers up a nice mix with blues stalwart Scott Ellison at 5pm, singer/songwriter Ali Harter at 6:30pm, funk band Groovement at 8pm and one of Tulsa's best pop/rock acts in RadioRadio at 9:30pm.
Over on the David Cameron Community Stage at Fourth and Boston, the vibe is a little more relaxed, mixing pop, country, Latin jazz and blues with Steve Lidell Band, Tas Cru, Latin American Rhythm Ensemble and Uptown Blues Band at 5pm, 6:45pm, 8pm and 9:30pm, respectively.
Most of the night's attention will undoubtedly turn to the Williams Green Stage, located in the courtyard between the Performing Arts Center and Crowne Plaza Hotel, and for good reason.
Commonly considered the "Main Stage," this is generally where the evening's biggest acts will play. Thursday night is no exception, as the Green kicks off the festival with a decidedly country and Red Dirt vibe. Tulsa tradition is held in high standing with the country swing of The Round Up Boys opening the evening at 7pm, followed by South 40 at 7:15pm and the return of perennial favorite and Sand Springs native, Brandon Jenkins at 9:30pm.
Friday evening carries a decidedly pop and jazz theme as the Williams Green Stage features Lee Tomas Mason at 7pm, followed by Annie Ellicott and Earl Clark at 8pm and 9:30pm, respectively.
Pop and rock are the rule for Friday night on the other stages as Mayfest turns up the party vibe for the weekend with Alex & the Anders, Admiral Twin, The Lowdown Fancy and Stars Go Dim at Fourth and Boston and Bill Holden, Trust Tree, Philip Zoellner Band and Tulsa Rock Ensemble taking over Bartlett Square. With all of the stages within a short walk, you can easily make a quick circuit of the festival grounds and catch a little of each band without too much effort.
On Saturday evening, May 15, the Bartlett Square stage offers a mix of old favorites and new acts with Susan Herndon at 5pm, followed by the blues and reggae of Sheer Kahn and The Space Case at 6:30pm, Tony Romanello and the Black Jackets at 8:15pm and Bradio at 9:45pm. A walk over to the Community Stage at Fourth and Boston gives a more mellow, country and American vibe with Not Easily Broken, Green Corn Revival and Jack Rowdy at 7pm, 8pm and 9:30pm, respectively. If you're a country and American fan and haven't seen Green Corn Revival yet, you need to make sure and stop by to catch this band. The group hasn't been able to play Tulsa very often, but each time I've come across the band has been an impressive performance, so hopefully this will be the kind of gig that provides the exposure needed to get the band booked here more often.
Finally, Saturday night on the Green is all about diversity, having fun and putting on your dancing shoes. Klondike 5 kicks off the evening with an energetic alt-bluegrass vibe, followed by one of the most impressive group of young musicians you'll likely come across for years in Rockin' Acoustic Circus. When Electric Rag Band hits the stage at 7:30pm, it will be to get the crowd warmed up with a hoppin' roots-rock set that should get everyone fired up for this year's headliners and an evening of high-energy ska and swing with Cherry Poppin' Daddies.
If you're out on Sunday afternoon, you can expect a more relaxed vibe as everything winds down, but you won't want to miss what has become a Mayfest tradition as Gordy and Zoe wrap up the festival with world music and a drum circle on Bartlett Square at 4pm.
Of course, I couldn't hit on everything going on this weekend and music will be playing all day, but those are the highlights. For more details, including a listing of bands and times, you can always look online at tulsamayfest.org and go to the performer's page.
If you don't normally get out, this is a great opportunity to see what Tulsa's music scene has to offer. If you're a regular on the club scene, it's a great warm up before moving on to the clubs to catch your favorite band. Either way, it's a winning combination that puts some of our deserving bands in front of a new audience.
Check Your Soul at the Door
It seems that without fail, whenever Mayfest arrives the good folks over at All Souls Acoustic Coffeehouse have a killer show competing with the free offerings downtown. This year is no exception as Eliza Gilkyson returns to make up a winter show that was postponed because of bad weather. Gilkyson sold out her last All Souls show here, and you can bet it will be a packed house again this year. As if her enchanting Americana/pop/folk songwriting isn't engaging enough, this weekend's show also features K.C. Clifford opening the show.
For those who don't know, Clifford is an Oklahoma City native that doesn't make it our way very often, but she has been building a strong following with shows in OKC and throughout Texas.
This girl is well worth looking up, even without Gilkyson, as she mixes a sweet, southern country voice with excellent pop songwriting. It's too bad this is her only currently planned show with Gilkyson as I'm sure it would only take one string of dates opening for someone like her (or perhaps Norah Jones?) would open a whole new world of listeners for her. Keep an eye out for this girl and get your tickets quick because it will likely sell out.
Just because Mayfest is featuring a great cross-section of bands doesn't mean it's the only game in town. If anything, it's a great warm up act. After all, as the festival winds down at 11pm, most of the clubs are just getting started. If you're looking for more, read on, as we've got the highlights.
Thursday night, May 13 provides a couple of options for local music fans. If you want a sampling of the local rock scene, head over to Flytrap Events Center for the "Local Landmark Showcase" with KRSNA the Scarecrow, The Televised, Color 9, Negra Rosa, Driving Away and Baron Von Swagger. If you'd rather relax, stop by Hunt Club and crash on the patio with Eric and the Adams.
Friday night is busy with shows for everyone scattered about the area. Country swing fans only need to look to Cain's for an always stellar show with Asleep at the Wheel and local openers The Roundup Boys, while blues fans should congregate at Flytrap for Bugs Henderson with Dustin Pittsley and Southern Heat Band opening. Elsewhere, Dante and the Hawks play Hunt Club, Soundpony hosts Kite Flying Robot, and Kinetics and Austin-based rockers Shurman let loose at Mercury Lounge.
Also on May 14, you can't overlook the Fiawna Forte CD release party for Transitus, being held at The Marquee. Bruder and Panda Resistance will open, and tickets are only $5, so it promises to be a great night for indie fans. (Check out more on Forte's release on Page 45.)
Finally, I can't let Friday slip by without mentioning the fact that '80s icon Rick Springfield is nearby with a free show at the Hard Rock Casino.
If you're not partying in the streets of downtown Tulsa, you might as well get your retro '80s vibe on with live versions of "Jessie's Girl," "Don't Talk to Strangers" and "Love Somebody," right?
Saturday night, May 15, the downtown area has a whole host of shows. Probably the biggest one is Conan O'Brien's sold out show at Brady Theater. We all know "sold out" is a relative term, though, right? Good luck with Craigslist and the scalpers if you still need tickets.
Even if you don't score tickets for O'Brien, you've got plenty to celebrate. Johnny Polygon is back from the west coast and holding an all-ages party at Bob's on that night, while Sam and the Stylees play Hunt Club and Moai Broadcast keeps Soundpony busy. Since Red Dirt Rangers somehow didn't end up on the Mayfest bill, they're playing a full night at Mercury Lounge on the May 15 as well.
My best bet of the night, however, is the CD release party for "The 7 Degrees of Stephen Egerton" with special guests John Moreland Band, Drag the River, Scott Reynolds and the Steaming Beast and Slorder. It will be a full night of rock, punk and experimental tunes capped by Stephen Egerton unveiling his new solo disc with a handful of friends flying in to help him out. Tickets are only $10, and you can find out more on Page 49.
After a crazy weekend, things slow down, but if you're looking to get out mid-week, don't overlook Violent SoHo with MySolstice opening at Bob's on Tuesday, May 18 or Dustin & Jesse keep things chill at Hunt Club on Wednesday night.
Share this article: