Headliners get most of the attention at festivals, but at the sixth-annual Norman Music Festival, where about 90 percent of the 313 acts live and work in Oklahoma, the key for local musicians is to make and hear as much noise as possible, whether it rains or shines.
When he's not on stage playing, Jake Morisse of Black Canyon spends almost every minute of the downtown Norman event listening to other bands and supporting the scene. Hours before Black Canyon's scheduled 11 p.m. set at the Red Brick Bar, Morisse was listening to Shutdown Shutouts and Power Pyramid play behind Guestroom Records.
“I love Norman Music Festival — I like it better than South By Southwest,” said Morisse, who frequently plays the Buffalo Lounge's Oklahoma showcase at that annual music industry event. “I'm a fan of local music, and I think Oklahoma's local music scene is the best. I'll just say it — think we're better than everybody else.”
Morisse said the atmosphere at Norman Music Festival is far less stressful than South By Southwest. But for organizers, there was one source of stress beyond their control — the weather.
Festival co-chair Steven White said they were preparing for a storm to hit late Friday night. White said he hoped the weather would clear in time for crews to start building the massive Main Stage at the corner of Porter Avenue and Main Street, where construction was scheduled to start at 2 a.m. Saturday morning. Guitarist Alex Larrea of Deerpeople said that organizers at the outdoor Blackwatch Stage, where his band was scheduled to play at 11 p.m. Friday, were readying tarps to protect the stage's light rig.
Regardless of weather, Larrea said that Deerpeople chose carefully when and where they played, and for his group, the later, the better. He said Deerpeople had an opportunity to play the Main Stage during the day, but historically, the Stillwater band's gigs always resonate more after dark.
“In the middle of the day on the Main Stage, it's big, it's huge and it sounds great,” said Larrea, who was also planning to play a nearby house party with Deerpeople on Saturday night after headliner The Joy Formidable finishes their set. “But we like to catch people in the middle of their night, right in the swing of it, when everyone's getting riled up.”
Whether or not Norman Music Festival is impacted by storms, Morisse said he will be in the thick of it.
“All weekend is like Christmas — you're going to have fun no matter what,” Morisse said.