Everyone in Oklahoma knows that Stillwater is recognized for its signature Red Dirt and country bands, but that doesn't mean that's the only music coming out of Stillwater. After all, it's still a college town and where the students are, there will always be an affinity for rock. Nevertheless, more often than not, any big shows in Stillwater tend to cater to the country and Red Dirt audiences.
This week, the doors begin to open to the college rock crowd as Tumbleweeds opens its three night College Days music festival with an evening of buzz bands and indie rock. Of course, country and Red Dirt are the focus of the weekend. Saturday night, Aug. 27, features Pat Green headlining with Kyle Park, Rich O'Toole, Drake White and Steve Brack & Stage County playing the amphitheater.
Friday night is the big show that is creating the biggest buzz as The Great Divide finally gets back together for a much anticipated reunion show that is scheduled to be recorded for CD and DVD. The night will be a true tour-de-force for Red Dirt fans with Jason Boland & the Stragglers, Stoney LaRue & the Arsenals, No Justice and Turnpike Troubadours completing the bill and Bo Phillips ending the night on the indoor stage.
College rock gets to open up the weekend's festivities, however, and it's a lineup worth driving for. In fact, Tumbleweeds has an evening lined up that could actually draw music fans from TU and rival OU into the Stillwater circle to come together over the power of rock.
If you think I'm kidding, check out this lineup: Oklahoma bands Taddy Porter, Pretty Black Chains, Colourmusic and Brother Bear are just the beginning. Headliners Givers, Delta Spirit, Cold War Kids and Manchester Orchestra make Stillwater the place to be for any indie and college rock fan in the state this Thursday night. Each of the bands has headlined their own tours, but this show puts them all together on one place -- and for only $30 for the night. (Or if you're already in Stillwater or plan on staying for the duration, you can get a weekend ticket for $50 or VIP ticket, which includes parking, food, beer and front stage access for $100 for the weekend.)
When asking how this all came together, Scott Marsh, who also manages Taddy Porter, told me that he got a call from the guys who own and run Tumbleweeds.
"Basically, they said 'We have the country thing down, but want to do some rock. Is this something you'd be interested in helping us with?'" he said. "I've always wanted to do something in Stillwater because I get tired of driving to Oklahoma City or Norman or Tulsa to see good rock shows, so I jumped on it and helped them put together what I think is a pretty cool lineup. I just thought what do I want to see?"
Cold War Kids, Manchester Orchestra and Delta Spirit have all played headline shows in Tulsa previously and Cold War Kids are due back for a headline show at Cain's in just a few weeks. This festival puts them all together, along with Givers; a band that's already building a huge buzz and was named in Time Magazine's "Ten Acts That Rocked South by Souhtwest" this year, to make it an evening not to miss.
Just last week, I got a chance to catch up with Manchester Orchestra bassist Jonathan Corley as the band wrapped up the last of its dates on the Honda Civic Tour, opening for Blink-182 and My Chemical Romance. Although the tour has put the band in front of a different audience than usual, Corley shared that the run had gone well and been quite enjoyable to date.
The biggest news of the year for Manchester Orchestra fans, however, has been the release of the band's latest album, Simple Math, which was released on May 10. Critically acclaimed as the band's most focused work to date, I asked Corley about the new material, which carries the band in a new direction.
"We spent longer on this record than we ever have in the past," Corley explained for the changes that are apparent on the new CD. "We spent a few weeks just getting the tones right and recording basic tracks, then took them back home to Atlanta and spent months layering them. We just had an opportunity to spend more time on it than we ever have in the past and I think everyone is incredibly happy with the results."
Corley also shared that at the point in the band's career, they felt "it was really important to create something completely different and new. It's still along the same lines as what we've done in the past, but an expansion of that."
When listened to in full, Simple Math is a concept album, with songwriter Andy Hull failures, mistakes, regrets and realizations. Musically, however, it's also the band's most cohesive work to date.
"We're exploring a few different sonic space, but I think 'Simple Math' really does a great job of tying it all together. All of the pieces just add up," Corley said. "It's also the most honest record we've done to date. Any questions about the lyrics are probably better directed and Andy, since he's the one who wrote them, but I know that personally, I was blown away at how honest he is about life and touring and the things we deal with."
"I'm always impressed with the way songs translate differently to different fans," he said. "If you take ten different people, a song might mean ten different things to them. I've found that a lot of the time people have different takes on the imagery and what it means to them, which I find very interesting."
Although this is Manchester Orchestra's first stop in Stillwater, the band has already headlined in Tulsa on a few different occasions. When asked what he enjoys most about the road and touring, Corley shared that his favorite part is the personal relationships that are built on tour. Not only has the band become close friends with Colour Revolt (which include Tulsa native, Paddy Ryan), Oh Brother and Kevin Devine, all of which the band has toured with extensively, but those relationships have also grown into creative ones.
"We spend so much time on the road together that it's inevitable that we start writing together," Corley said.
One of the results of that is Bad Books, which features the entire band playing with Kevin Devine. "It was organic and totally unexpected, which is what made it so cool," he said.
Corley also shared that "I also really enjoy connecting with the fans and different parts of the country. It's cool because we get to visit our favorite cities a couple times a year."
Although the band's slot on the Honda Civic Tour has come to a close, that doesn't mean the band is slowing down any. After a short UK tour in October, the band will turn around and immediately hit the road on its own headline tour of the US. In the meantime, the band gets a little bit of a breather, playing a handful of festival shows, including this week's stop at College Days in Stillwater on Thursday night.
Even if you can't stay for the entire weekend, you should consider making the hour-long drive up to Tumbleweeds on Thursday to help prove Stillwater is just as much a rock town as a Red Dirt and country destination. Doors open at 3pm and the show starts at 4pm, with the evening wrapping up with Happen-Ins on the indoor stage to close out the night. Tickets are still available at all ProTix outlets and more details on the weekend can be found at calffry.com.
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