Oklahoma's annual invasion of Austin's Sixth Street is drawing record crowds, said organizers of the SXSW Buffalo Lounge, a showcase for more than 40 Oklahoma acts at Austin's South By Southwest Film and Music Conference. And according to Jake Morisse, lead singer of Enid's Black Canyon, the three-day Oklahoma music marathon gives thousands of SXSW attendees a chance to experience a wide swath of Oklahoma culture.
“I'm from Oklahoma, a trailer park kid who learned to drive a tractor before I learned how to drive a truck,” Morisse said. “It means a lot to come to this place where a lot of the people coming in are not flashing Oklahoma IDs. They're coming to see Oklahoma bands. And that's really rad, you know?”
The Buffalo Lounge, based for the second year at Friends, 208 E 6 in downtown Austin, is organized by the Oklahoma Film and Music Office in an effort to showcase homegrown musicians and artists.
Showcases included evening events sponsored by CNGNow.com and the Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma.
Performing artists include Stardeath and White Dwarfs, Broncho, Chrome Pony, OK Sweetheart, Deerpeople and Horse Thief.
Ginger Roddick, co-founder and partner in The Idea Collective, helped develop the imagery for The Buffalo Lounge, which includes stylized, postmodern imagery of grazing buffaloes that play in a constant loop behind the musicians. Roddick said the signage and iconography was specifically designed to evoke Oklahoma culture but present it in a new, modern light. She said she sees it as an important tool for presenting the state as a vital place for culture and business.
“Every state faces preconceptions, including Texas,” said Roddick, who relocated from Austin to start The Idea Collective in Oklahoma City.
“We didn't want it (the Buffalo Lounge imagery) to be what everyone else thinks. We decided that this is what is going to help sell us. This is what is going to make people give us a second look.”
On its first night, the Buffalo Lounge drew huge crowds for performances by the Pretty Black Chains, Josh Sallee, Deerpeople and Chrome Pony. The event continues through Thursday night. Abby Kurin, development coordinator for the Oklahoma Film and Music Office, said the first day of the event exceeded all expectations.
“People are coming in with all kinds of South-By badges,” Kurin said. “The Buffalo Lounge is just gaining so much traction here. Tuesday night, I know we hit capacity, which was great, and every event, there's been a steady flow — we're well into the thousands."
Morisse, who performed with Black Canyon Tuesday night, said the Buffalo Lounge mission dovetails with his own personal mission, one he shares with other Oklahoma bands whenever they leave the state. He used the performance by Stillwater's Other Lives, which recently opened for Radiohead in Dallas, as an example of how to spread the word about Oklahoma.
“The Other Lives show, when they opened for Radiohead, Jesse said, ‘We are Other Lives. We're from Oklahoma,'” Morisse said. “Any time we do a show, I say, ‘I am from Oklahoma, the best place in the world.' And I hope everybody else feels that way.”