POSTED ON JULY 28, 2010:
Filling the Gap
FreeTulsa! and Oklahoma Black/Gold Music Run step up in place of Dfest
One Side of the Coin. Top to bottom, Freefest! proves to be an impressive ensemble of local and Oklahoma talent, ranging from our own usual suspects to returning hometown heroes such as PDA (above), headliner Johnny Polygon and Aqueduct and even a couple touring acts such as Cavedoll.
FILE PHOTO/JEREMY CHARLES
By now, the repercussive tremors and pain once felt have started to subside. Derailed by the economy, budget and sponsorship issues, Diversafest took a hiatus this year to attempt to regroup and hopefully return to action in 2011. Still, the loss of the annual music festival left a huge gap in the schedule of local music fans.
Within a week of news breaking in our local daily paper, followed by an official press release from the Dfest organization, two different groups announced their intention to hold a local music festival during the same dates. Both have good intentions and will undoubtedly see some level of success. Whether they can successfully coexist and truly fill the void left by Dfest, however, remains to be seen.
Now, don't automatically color me a pessimist. Both events have good intentions and their own positive traits. Both will undoubtedly serve a segment of our local music fan base, and both are taking the opportunity to focus specifically on Oklahoma's strong music scene. Considering the economic climate, it's probably good to scale things back, but we've also now got two festivals with similar focus competing on the exact same dates and even sharing some select artists, so it will be interesting to see how it all shakes out during the weekend.
Ideally, if you're a local music fan, you'll buy tickets to both and find a way to ping-pong across the railroad tracks to take in the best of both festivals.
Realistically, however, one festival alone provides enough to keep a person occupied and trying to find a balance between the two will prove difficult. There is also the added challenge of navigating back and forth, even though it's a relatively short distance.
With that in mind, let's take a look at the two events.
Without taking sides, I'd have to say that FreeTulsa! comes into the weekend promising the most. Nine stages, more than 120 bands and a focus on the hottest local indie rock acts all give it a distinct edge, along with the fact initial planning actually started before the announcement of Dfest's hiatus.
Organized by Rob Robertson (DJ Robbo), Marc Matheos of Crystal Pistol and Jeff Richardson of Hard Work Records, FreeTulsa! might not actually be free, as originally intended, but by showcasing this much talent and keeping costs as low as possible, it does come as close as possible.
Robertson admitted that initial plans were already underway for FreeTulsa!, but the announcement of Dfest's cancellation altered the event's course and plan of action. The original intent was to hold a one-evening event at the Crystal Pistol, probably on Saturday night, to bring a little of the Dfest traffic across the tracks as the festival wound down.
Last year, Robbo performed with his band Recorder on Saturday night after showcasing at Dfest, and the seeds were sown for this year's event. Initially, the intention was to book 10-12 bands between the Crystal Pistol and an outdoor street stage for a free event, perhaps showcasing a few of the bands that didn't get accepted to Dfest, in order to give them an outlet and draw some traffic to the Brady District.
Once the Dfest announcement was made, Robertson purchased the domain name that he had been working under and set up okkle.com. After announcing a website for submissions via Facebook and word of mouth, Robertson quickly received more than 300 applications from bands -- both those looking for an alternative to Dfest and outside bands that were just looking to work the festival circuit.
Expanded from a simple event to a two-night extravaganza with five venues and nine stages, including side-by-side main stages in the Cain's Ballroom parking lot, holding the festival as a free event no longer remained possible as production costs alone made it necessary to charge an admission.
With wristbands that cost only $10 for one night or $15 for both, however, the cost per band is minimal, equating to roughly 12 cents per band being showcased. For those purchasing a two-day wristband, you can also bring your ticket to one of the official merchandise booths to redeem for a selection of official FreeTulsa! merchandise, essentially replacing your ticket with a T-shirt.
Marc Matheos, owner of Crystal Pistol, has his heart invested in the event and is already looking forward to the future, considering the possibility of future events, even if Dfest does return.
For Matheos, the event is not only about promoting local music but also local and independent businesses and the indie culture. Beyond providing nine stage of music along Main Street, a number of local businesses will also be displaying their goods in vendor booths throughout the event.
Most importantly to local music fans, however, is the chance to see more than 120 acts throughout the weekend. Indoor stages at The Marquee, Soundpony, Crystal Pistol and Bob's will be complemented with outdoor stages at The Hunt Club, Crystal Pistol's back patio and the two aforementioned main stages in the Cain's parking lot, one designated as the "Tulsa Live" stage and the other as the "Hard Word Records" stage.
Top to bottom, it proves to be an impressive ensemble of local and Oklahoma talent, ranging from our own usual suspects to returning hometown heroes such as PDA, headliner Johnny Polygon and Aqueduct and even a couple touring acts such as Cavedoll.
As an added feature, FreeTulsa! is also partnering with Lee's Bike Shop and Tulsa Hub to provide a free, secured bicycle valet for those who ride to the event and help alleviate parking.
For those who do drive, however, and potentially enjoy the evening too much, the Scooby Express will be on hand to provide transportation so no one has to drink and drive.
Run Toward the Music
On the south side of the tracks, Donnie Rich from Flytrap Events Center has also stepped up with a scaled back festival, utilizing five stages and more than 80 bands throughout the course of two days.
Going by the title "Oklahoma Black/Gold Music Run," this is the event that many doubted would actually happen.
Starting from a stand put Rich and his crew (including key partners Russell Law and Jeff Martinson) at a disadvantage and after initially announcing the festival to be held at the previous Dfest location of 18th and Boston, the group relocated to 2nd and Greenwood.
Nevertheless, after a slow start and navigating a few hurdles, the man who was one of the original partners in Dfest and now runs Flytrap jumped back into the festival game if only to fill a gap and support a good cause.
After looking at the current news and events, though, Rich found reason enough to get Oklahoma Black Gold Music Run off the ground. One day tickets will be $10 and two-day passes are $15, with $1 from each ticket sold donated to the Edison High School music program.
Thrown as a large block party, the Music Run will consist of five stages: two outdoor "main stages," one in the parking lot across from Flytrap and one along Greenwood; the Flytrap stage and both stages (indoor and outdoor) at Utopia.
In a twist that goes back to Rich's days with the original Dfest format, however, both outdoor main stages will be free to the public and tickets will only be required to enter the venues.
"I know the economy is tough right now, and I don't want to turn people away, so it's kind of like the old days with Dfest," he said. "Even if you're broke, you can still come out and enjoy some music."
Whereas FreeTulsa! adheres to the indie-rock climate over in the Brady District, the selection of bands for Black Gold is a bit more broad, much like the shows Rich books at Flytrap. There is a distinct bend toward hard and modern rock as well as reggae and jam bands, but overall, the lineup is evenly dispersed between a variety of genres.
Amongst Black/Gold highlights are Chris Duarte at Flytrap and Mountain Sprout at Club Utopia both on Friday, July 30.
Saturday evening's spotlight then shines on Crooked X making its Tulsa debut with new lead singer Kevin Currie on the Miller Lite stage and touring reggae act the Rebellion on the Coors Light stage. Amidst those headliners, local bands of every genre work their way on stage, ranging from the pop of Eric and the Adams to the metal attack of Mercy Street and Woebegone to the modern rock of The Televised and Apollo and old favorites such as Tony Romanello, Red Dirt Rangers, Philip Zoellner and Dustin Pittsley. All in all, it's a well rounded line-up that doesn't lean too heavily towards any one genre.
Regardless of which festival you choose to attend, the forecast looks positive for local music fans. Anyone who already had July 30 and 31 marked on their calendar can still follow up with two full days of music and absorb an unbelievable number of local bands to get an accurate picture of what's going on within the local music scene.
Music begins at 4pm on all stages for each festival on both days and will run until the standard closing time of midnight outside and 1:30am indoors.
With the economy in the state that it is, even Dfest was prepared to scale back to make things more manageable this year. Unfortunately, the realities of a tough economy were too hard to recover from -- at least for now. In the interim, I'd recommend music fans of all types head downtown to support the festivals and local artists that are dedicated to keeping Tulsa moving forward.
Elsewhere in UTW, C.M. Rodriguez and myself are including our overview and picks for each festival this weekend, in order to give you a brief guideline of the highlights and help you pick which festival better suits your taste on Page 41.
If you've got it in your budget, however, I'd recommend trying to navigate between the two of them. If you've got a bike, FreeTulsa's bicycle valet might just prove to accommodate the easiest park-and-ride solution between the two locales, separated by just a few blocks and the downtown train tracks.
Either way, you can still find plenty to rejoice about even amidst the absence of Dfest.
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