Norman Music Festival 5 rocks three blocks of Main Street

The 2012 edition of the Norman Music Festival brings 278 acts to 21 different outdoor and indoor venues.
BY GENE TRIPLETT etriplett@opubco.com Published: April 27, 2012
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You might say music festivals are in John Gourley's blood.

You might also say the voice and songwriter of Alaskan neo-psych band Portugal. The Man comes from Woodstock stock. His father was there at the granddaddy of outdoor rock fests back in the summer of '69.

“He went there a day early and left a day late to help set up and help take it all down and clean up,” Gourley said of his dad in a recent phone interview. “He just wanted to be there and help out.”

This weekend, Gourley will be helping out with Norman Music Festival 5 when Portugal. The Man headlines the sprawling event that features 278 musical acts performing on 21 outdoor and indoor stages along the 100, 200 and 300 blocks of Main Street on Friday and Saturday.

Other prominent acts topping the diverse bill include Texas singer-songwriter Hayes Carll, Ohio indie-rockers Red Wanting Blue and Stillwater cinematic rock experimentalists Other Lives, who are making a triumphant return to NMF after touring in support of Radiohead.

“It's been a really inspiring thing for the band,” Other Lives leader Jesse Tabish said during a recent tour stop with Thom Yorke and company in Santa Barbara, Calif.

“To be able to play with Radiohead, a band that we've idolized for such a long time, to see how they put on a show and conduct themselves as a band, it's been a really great lesson for us,” Tabish said. “We've done other tours this past year that continue to kind of make us step up our game a little bit and kind of learn some things about ourselves. So it's been such a positive thing, I can't say enough about it, really.”

But coming back to Norman and their home state is a thrill, as well, for this band whose music on their latest album, “Tamer Animals,” ranges from intimate and autumnal acoustic folk to sweeping prairie symphonies.

“That's one of those shows where we're gonna be able to hang with all our friends and family,” Tabish said. “We've really enjoyed it in the past, and I think it's just gonna be a good old time, you know?”

Checking out Norman

Austin-based country-rocker Carll — who's been compared favorably with no less than Townes Van Zandt — is no stranger to Oklahoma either, having played such Sooner venues as Cain's in Tulsa and the Wormy Dog and Blue Door in Oklahoma City.

“I'm really excited about the Norman festival comin' up,” Carll said recently while on a ferry crossing from Seattle to Bainbridge Island for a gig at the Treehouse Cafe.

“I saw a lot of the bands that are on it. It's a great lineup,” he added. “We just stopped in Norman the other day and had a really good time. ... Last year was the first time I'd heard of it. My guitar player, Travis Linville, lives in Norman, and he told me about it. From all accounts, it's a really cool festival.”

Together 17 years now, alternative pop-rockers Red Wanting Blue will be performing in Oklahoma for the first time when they take to the Main Stage on Saturday night, after being sold on the Norman event by the owner of their label, Fanatic Records.

“We've heard like awesome stuff about it,” lead singer Scott Terry said from Akron, Ohio, where Red Wanting Blue had just played a benefit for the local NPR station.

“I've heard about how rad the town is. Our guy who runs our label, Josh Bloom, is also friends with the guy who runs a record store there (Guestroom Records). ... He said that place is just absolutely awesome, and the whole strip is just really great. It's like a super, super supportive community for original music. ... It's been a big thing, and we're really excited to get out there.”

Portugal. The Man

Meanwhile, NMF5 marks the first time Portugal. The Man — newly signed to Atlantic Records — has headlined any music festival, much less played one in Oklahoma.

“We'll see how everything goes,” Gourley said. “But I feel good about the band. I feel like everybody's worked really hard and always tried to be conscious of what's happening around us. So hopefully we'll take some tips from the bands that we've seen headline festivals, like Black Keys, Flaming Lips, Arcade Fire, all that.”

Listening to the richness and warmth of the orchestral, Brit-pop inspired music from “In the Mountain in the Cloud” — their July 2011 Atlantic debut and sixth full-length album overall — it's remarkable to find that Gourley and co-founding guitarist Zach Carothers came out of the icy rural wilderness around Wasilla, Alaska, a frigid no man's land bearing few signs of musical life whatsoever.



GOING ON

Norman Music Festival 5

When: 4:30 p.m. p.m. to midnight Friday, 11 a.m. Saturday to 1 a.m. Sunday.

Where: 100, 200, 300 blocks E Main, Norman.

Admission: Free.

Artists roster and schedules: normanmusicfestival.com.

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