POSTED ON APRIL 24, 2013:
Leveling the Field
Norman Music Festival brings acts from near and far
How do we know that festival season has arrived? Weather has much to do with it, but with a spring that has been as reliable as a firefighter made of chocolate, that's not the only indicator. Bands are restless, music fans are restless and there's a buzz in the air. More than that: There's music in the air as well.
If you're looking for the starting gun, Easter Island launched us out of the gate a couple of weeks ago with a festival that continues to grow quietly and draw more and more fans from the region, making it more than just a local festival. Sure, there was plenty of local talent, but this year, Easter Island took another step, bringing in a few regional headliners to up the ante. And even though it was perhaps a bit chilly at times, for the most part, it was a great weekend to kick things off.
Here in Tulsa, Mayfest is just a few weeks away, and while it includes music, not many people would say that it really has its finger on the pulse of Tulsa's music scene. At its heart, Mayfest remains an art festival with music brought in to keep the audience happy -- and this year, audiences should be extremely happy with a main stage lineup that includes some pretty impressive talent.
But what if you're a local music fan? Or just a fan of Oklahoma's original music scene? With no word about Free Tulsa returning this year, assumptions that it has seen the end of its run, and details yet to emerge about the Center of the Universe festival, you can't blame local music fans for getting a little anxious for an outlet.
If you're willing to make a drive, however, this weekend will be the perfect opportunity to enjoy the weather and scope out some of the best independent bands in all of Oklahoma as the Norman Music Festival (NMF) returns for its sixth year. Sure, the lineup is heavy on Norman, Edmond and OKC bands, but this year's roster is leveling the playing field quite well and bringing in talent from all over the state. And more importantly, the festival is incorporating more Tulsa bands than ever before and making another step to bridge the gap and hopefully create a partnership between the Norman/OKC and Tulsa music scenes.
Now in its sixth year, Norman Music Festival has already lasted longer than many outside observers expected. More impressively, it has done so with a model that few expected to work so well. Not only is it the most comprehensive showcase of Oklahoma's independent bands, it has continued to grow and thrive while being free to the public, relying on sponsorships and vendor sales to foot the bill.
Adding to the impressiveness of that feat, NMF has grown to include three nights this year, beginning on Thursday evening and ending late Saturday night. In addition, while the festival has included a main stage with some highly impressive indie-rock names as headliners the past couple of years, NMF has raised its own bar yet again with two outdoor stages, a fistful of regional headliners and national headlining act in The Joy Formidable to close out Saturday night. All of that alone should make it worth the drive.
If you head for Norman early, Thursday night includes showcases on nine stages with music beginning at 6pm. Tulsa's Grazzhopper appears at Abner's at 8pm on opening night, but you may also want to check out a Tulsa favorite, Move Trio, on the Tres Patio Stage at 9pm. Amidst bouncing between other acts, be sure to catch Skating Polly at 10pm and Depth & Current at midnight, both on the Blackwatch Stage.
Music begins again Friday at 3pm at Guestroom records, then 6pm for the bulk of the festival with ten stages running throughout the night. This is where the Tulsa talent starts popping up and it's not just the usual indie rock suspects that you might normally associate with the Norman music scene. Wink Burcham is the Tulsa act to jump in the mix at OBS Blues Stage at 6pm. Throughout the night there are more bands than you can keep track of, but make sure to stop in and support a few of our local artists, such as Acoustic Ross, Josh Yarborough, Low Litas, Ithica, Susan Herndon, Saucy Gentlemen's Club, Moai Broadcast and Dead Sea Choir give Tulsa a strong presence as the festival starts to hit its stride.
FILE PHOTO/LANDON SMOTHERS
If you're just heading for Norman for Saturday, you'll still get plenty out of it, but you'll want to make sure to get up and head out early. Music starts at noon and will run until 2am. This is where the Tulsa mix really gets interesting, with a mix of the indie rock bands you'd expect to go over well in Norman with And There Stand Empires, Scales of Motion and Ester Drang; a bit of our more-jam oriented scene with Pidgin, Captain Comfy and Paul Benjaman Band; and a dose of Tulsa's indie hip-hop scene with Algebra and Oilhouse getting in the mix. Beyond that, our Tulsa's rock contingent makes a showing with Tony Romanello & the Black Jackets and The Bourgeois and the spectrum spreads out from there. Josh Yarborough makes another appearance with The Southern Soul Fry, and Jeff Richardson plays the Opolis Indoor Stage, giving us a chance to see what he's up to now. You'll also want to go out of your way to see Ben Kilgore on the Blackwatch Stage for what will likely be his last show in the area for quite a while as he will be relocating to Arizona in the near future.
And if you're in it for the bigger names, the Main Stage opens at noon but really begins heating up at 5:15pm with Mike Dillon, followed by King Kahn's BBQ Show, Big Sam's Funky Nation and The Joy Formidable capping things off at 9:30pm. The Sailor Jerry Stage runs all day as well and picks up with Beau Jennings and the Tigers at 3pm, followed by Samantha Crain, Ramsay Midwood, Jonathan Tyler & the Northern Lights and JD McPherson wrapping it up at 8:15pm.
If you're looking for a great picture of what Oklahoma's independent music scene has to offer, this is your best bet of the year. Yes, there's a drive involved, but the weather is supposed to be beautiful and the weekend will give you a heads-up on who to watch out for the rest of the summer. And best of all, admission is free. Complete schedules and more information can be found online at NormanMusicFestival.com.
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It's another busy weekend in Tulsa, and although many of our local acts have migrated to Norman for the music festival there, we've got plenty of touring and regional acts filling the gaps, with a particularly busy week for Cain's and The Brady. As always, we've got all the highlights, so strap in and let's make a run for all the best stuff playing T-Town this week.
Thursday, April 25
Brady Theater kick-starts its weekend with a country show with Scotty McCreary and opening act Lower 40. Just around the corner, Cain's Ballroom is the place to be for modern rock fans as Awolnation returns for a SOLD OUT show with Air Dubai. And if you're looking for a high energy local music fix, Rude Amps play The Shrine with Dead Shakes and Fabulous Minx.
Friday, April 26
Little Big Town is the big country show of the weekend appearing at The Joint for a SOLD OUT show with David Nail. If you swing back downtown, though, you can catch Matt Costa with Blank Tapes and The Bourgeois opening at Cain's Ballroom or the show that's got a huge buzz, The Joy Formidable with I/O Echo at Vanguard. You'll want to grab your tickets early, though, as this is one could sell out. Meanwhile, down at the corner of 18th & Boston, The Treehouse hosts Higher Education while Whirligig jams out at The Shrine and Chad Sullins & the Last Call Coalition rock Mercury Lounge.
Saturday, April 27
The big news here is the opening of the Woody Guthrie Museum and Archives, and there's an appropriate celebration on the Guthrie Green. The opening concert runs from 1-6pm and includes Desi & Cody, Red Dirt Rangers, Jimmy LaFave, Ramblin' Jack Elliot and Sarah Lee Guthrie with Johnny Irion to honor the national icon and Oklahoma native.
Afterwards, you can wrap your evening with Shawna Russell and Livewire at Vanguard, Organs at The Yeti, The Washers at Mercury Lounge, or Brad James Band at Blue Rose Café.
Sunday, April 28
The Guthrie Green Spring Concert Series continues its celebration with JD McPherson, Samantha Crain, Ramsay Midwood and Ripple Green keeping the Sunday afternoon crowd settled in from 1:30-6:30pm. Meanwhile, over at the Jazz Hall of Fame, Pam Van Dyke Crosby celebrates the release of her new CD with a 5:30pm show and the Brady District rocks well into the night with Papadosio and Montu at Cain's for the jam band crowd and Brit Floyd at Brady Theater for classic rock fans.
Monday, April 29
Need to Breathe returns to Brady Theater with Drew Holcolm and The Neighbors. Fans won't want to miss this one, as they can also pre-order the band's new CD at the show and get a new EP when they order.
Tuesday, May 1
T-Town wraps the week in a big way as Fleetwood Mac returns to the BOK Center and Dale Watson headlines Mercury Lounge at 8pm, followed by Big Sandy & the Fly Right Boys at 11pm.
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