This week marks the kickoff of some pre-festival activities as musicians and folk music fans from around the country prepare for the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival.
Held annually the weekend closest to Woody Guthrie's July 14 birthday in Okemah, the festival started in 1998 and has done nothing but grow.
This year, now that the Woody Guthrie Center is open here in town, the festival will be stretching it's arms a bit this year, starting things up a little early and a little bit north of Okemah.
"It's sort of a PreWoodyFest," said Deana McCloud, who serves as executive director of the Guthrie Center. She's also the one in charge of booking the musicians for the Okemah shindig, so she looked at the possibility of killing two birds.
"I just routed some of the performers through Tulsa," she said. "They wanted to see the center, and they're top-notch performers and can do a little acoustic show. The acoustics in the theater are amazing, so I don't even know if they'll even plug their guitars in."
This Machine Still Kills Fascists. Multi-instrumentalist and Okie John Fullbright honors the spirit of Woody Guthrie next weekend at the eponymous Folk Festival in Okemah.
COURTESY/ THE BLUE DOOR
The performers include Audrey Auld, Annie Hays Guthrie, Ronny Cox, and Ronny Elliot, and their music starts at noon on Tuesday, July 9, and is a very informal affair.
"We'll just have a few 30-minute acoustic sets and open the door of the theater and people at the center will get that added little bonus to their visit," McCloud said.
However, people like me who can't remember the names of people we've met four separate times but can tell you who played a bit part in an '80s TV movie will get more than a little bonus. You see, Ronny Cox is THE Ronny Cox, who appeared in the Beverly Hills Cop films, Total Recall (the good one from 1990), several episodes of Desperate Housewives, and he's even had a run-in with everybody's favorite serial killer.
"He was in an episode of Dexter a year or so ago, and he said I couldn't watch it because he was playing such a bad guy," McCloud said. "I did watch it, and he was right. He was really bad. I mean, he was a good actor. He's really good at playing the bad guy."
It seems like playing good or bad guys, though, is low on Cox's list of priorities.
"I know he enjoys acting and that's what he's known for mostly, but I think his passion is with the music," McCloud said. "He does it as much as he can. He doesn't take a lot of acting jobs. He's very choosy about those. He's been touring a lot with his music the past few years."
Once the PreWoodyFest wraps, the artists head south to Okemah for the festival proper, which runs Wednesday, July 10 through July 14.
Festival headliner John Fullbright (he played Mayfest this year) has a few reasons to be excited. The Okemah native grew up with this festival, and learned a lot from it.
"If I wanted to be perfectly honest, I learned a lot about playing music with other people primarily at that festival," he said. "There weren't any other musicians in town my age. There were a few, but there was no setting to sit around and play. And so once a year, the damn circus would roll into town with a bunch of hippies and musicians. I'd go park myself in there with my guitar and try to play without getting noticed. Eventually, someone would always notice me there trying to hide and make me play something."
Now he's back, and while this isn't the first time he's played the festival, this is his first go-round as a headliner.
"We're thrilled about that," he said. "Not only do I get to be home for week, but we get to headline the festival I've been going to since I was 16. It's a big deal. None of it's lost on me."
Fullbright also spoke about just what it is that Woody Guthrie means to so many people -- musicians and non-musicians alike.
"To me, Woody stands for the true artist," he said. "The guy that's going to do it whether he gets paid or not. He knows if he can get you to sing what he's singing, it's just going to get better and better. That's the magic of the festival to me."
And that whole people-singing-together thing is what keeps musicians like Fullbright going. And grounded.
"It's kind of a secret festival. It's not a huge festival, but everyone that goes always says the same thing: there's something different about it, and it has to do with that spirit that Woody shined a spotlight on it: if we all do it together, it's better, and things get done," he said. "We forget that in this society we're in. It's an I-me-mine society. I'm as guilty as everyone else. But when I go home to this, I go, 'Oh yeah, something happens when 1,000 people sing the same song,' and you take that along with you when you leave. And sooner or later, I'll start to get full of myself again, and then the festival rolls around again right when I need it."
Fullbright -- along with Ronny Elliott, Red Dirt Rangers, Butch Morgan, Trout Fishing in America, Ellis Paul, and Jimmy LaFave among many, many others -- plays the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival July 10-14 in Okemah. Campgrounds and hotels available. Visit woodyguthrie.com for more information.
A Guy And His Chair
Picasso had his Blue period. Elton John had his I'm-not-writing-with-Bernie-Taupin period (thank God that's over). And Kaylee Huerta, apparently, is in the throes of her own A Figure and Chair period. Because that's not only the title of her July show at the Tulsa Artists' Coalition Gallery at 9 East Brady, it's what she's been painting for the last two years.
A FIGURE AND CHAIR
Courtesy Kaylee Huerta
"They're mostly a figure -- in this case, a male figure -- Larry Sorrles," she said. "The series that I've been working on is basically him nude and posing in different ways with a chair that's in his apartment. So I have him posing with the chair, and he can do anything with it except sit in it in a conventional way. So he sits on the armrests, curls up underneath the chair, things like that."
While one might wonder why on earth someone would paint such a series, Huerta knows exactly what she's exploring.
"It's about the relationship between this figure and the chair," she explained. "Chairs are usually pedestals for people, do you know what I mean? But in this case, I made this into a conversation between what's traditionally the prop and what's traditionally the subject."
Now that she will show perhaps a dozen pieces from the 20-ish-piece collection ("I'm not totally positive on that number," she said), she's not sure what's next for her.
"There does seem to be a certain amount of a feeling of fruition with this show. I still love the figure, and I'm not going to abandon that, and I really don't love the traditional way the figure is always presented," she said. "There's a pretty girl sitting down or a model-y guy sort of propped up. That gets old. So trying to find a new way to do that is what interests me. That's the fun of it."
The Tulsa Artists' Coalition presents A Figure and Chair by Kaylee Huerta, with the exhibition's opening reception being held on Friday, July 5 from 6-9pm as part of the Brady Arts District's First Friday. This exhibit shows through July 27.
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