Alexandra Lawn of Ra Ra Riot performing at Dfest in 2009. Photo by George Lang
Dfest, the popular downtown Tulsa music festival started in 2002 as a showcase for local, regional and national acts will go on hiatus this year. Co-founder Tom Green cited the economic downturn and a decrease in corporate sponsorship as key reasons why the festival, originally scheduled for late July, in now suspended.
“A tough economy, rising production costs and a decline in lower level corporate sponsorships and support have caused us to take pause,” Green said in a prepared statement. ” These factors have made us unable to produce the kind of event we are known for, so we are unable to move forward with the festival this year. At the point we knew that we had exhausted any and all options and head into July 2010 with full steam, we decided to postpone the event on our own terms. The integrity and quality of Dfest is of the utmost importance to us as the creators of the event.”
In recent years, Dfest emerged as a key summer event in Oklahoma, and the past three years saw a progression in the quality of national acts playing the event’s main stage. In 2009, bands such as The Black Crowes and Cake served as headlining bands, with critical favorites such as Gogol Bordello, Ra Ra Riot and Rooney also performing.
But Dfest, which also featured a music conference showcasing industry professionals discussing issues facing rising musicians and strategies for success, was important for Oklahoma musicians — 160 acts performed at the 2009 Dfest, most of whom live, work and perform in Oklahoma.
Kellen McGugan, lead singer of The Pretty Black Chains, performed a set on the first day of last year’s festival. He said the festival, which attracted over 70,000 people in 2009, was valuable for gaining exposure, but also for meeting and seeing bands from other areas of the state and region.
“It just wasn’t a festival. It was our festival,” McGugan said.
Last year, Dfest attracted over 70,000 festivalgoers. Unless organizers are able to revive the event in 2011, the absence of the tw0-day festival will leave a significant cultural and economic void. McGugan said he believes Norman Music Festival, a free event in downtown Norman that expanded to two days in 2010, could fill that void.
“They did so well this year, and I think it’s only going to get bigger,” he said.
McGugan, whose band will release its official debut CD this summer, said that Dfest was going to help the Pretty Black Chains promote and distribute the band to fans and members of the industry. He said that in addition to the rise of Norman Music Festival, he would welcome relocating Dfest to Oklahoma City.
“Why not move it here?” he said. “We have everything they could need.”