As spring arrives and summer quickly approaches, festival season is at hand. Although Moai Broadcast quietly opened the season with its Easter Island festival in early April, next weekend's Norman Music Festival signals the opening of the season for many Oklahoma music lovers.
While the April 28-30 Norman Music Festival is one of the best showcases of Oklahoma talent in the state, there's too much talent in Tulsa to not have something special go on here during the season. After Dfest went on hiatus in 2010, Free Tulsa stepped up to fill the gap with a focus on local and regional talent, and provided a festival on smaller scale without the national headliners.
With Norman's festival rapidly approaching, Urban Tulsa Weekly placed some calls to get the latest on Tulsa's festival scene, as no official announcements have yet been made about either festival. What we found out from those calls confirms the rumors: Dfest isn't happening in 2011, but Free Tulsa is back.
The only official statement from Dfest founder Tom Green is that "Dfest is still on hiatus." Although Green declined to discuss it officially, the reasons are clear: with an economic downturn and a festival that has quite a bit of overhead, the money is just not there to support Dfest again this year. Corporate sponsorship, which was essential in helping bring in A-list headliners like Flaming Lips, All-American Rejects, The Roots and Black Crowes in past years, has dried up or gone to different events.
It's readily apparent if you look around: instead of sponsoring a one weekend event, many sponsors are spreading out their investment, with money often going to sporting teams or venues with a longer season and more exposure.
On the bright side, Green has not and will not say that Dfest is dead and gone. For the time being, however, until an economic recovery and overwhelming demand for Dfest accommodates a return, the festival remains on hiatus.
A call to Marc Mathews of Free Tulsa, however, indicated that Free Tulsa is on track to return on an even larger scale in 2011. Once again planned for the last weekend of July, the event will take place on Friday and Saturday, July 29-30.
An official announcement about the festival will be coming shortly, but Mathews indicated that this year's event will include between 150-200 bands on 13 stages in a showcase that spotlights primarily Oklahoma talent and encompass bands from Tulsa, Stillwater, Oklahoma City and Norman for the city's biggest showcase of what our state has to offer.
"Free Tulsa will also have the added benefit of being free this year," Mathews said, indicating that he has found enough local sponsorship to help front the costs needed to showcase the talent on hand.
With more time to plan, Free Tulsa has more planned for 2011, including a more expansive lineup and more surprises, which will be confirmed when official announcements are made in coming weeks.
In addition, Stone River Music Festival, the jam-based camping festival in Chandler organized by Dustin Pittsley and his family will occur again near the end of the season on September 25-26, and rumors are floating about yet another local music festival in Tulsa, tentatively planned for the fall. Details on the last one have not yet surfaced, but we'll keep our ears open and let you know as soon as we hear more.
As for now, we know we've got Free Tulsa to look forward to in July and Norman Music Fest next weekend. We'll take a closer look at who is being showcased in Norman next week with a few highlights that will make it worth the drive for those who are ready to start the season early.
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