TULSA — Between First and Archer in Tulsa, an acoustic phenomena exists. Stand in the approximately eight-foot circle and say something. An echo effect bounces back, creating a distorted and unique sound.
It’s called the Center of the Universe. The famed landmark has become so big in T-town that there now is a music festival named after it.
The Center of the Universe Festival is in its second year and is gaining momentum quickly. Last year, 80,000 fans packed Tulsa’s Brady District to hear the sounds of Neon Trees, OK Go, One Republic and Mutemath, to name a few.
Festival organizer Chris Lieberman said he saw a void in the music festival he wanted to fill.
“Philip Kaiser and I have talked about producing a music festival in Tulsa for a number of years because we thought it would help Tulsa, and the state of Oklahoma, attract and keep young, energetic people and convince other vibrant people to move here, which we see as vital to the long-term growth and success of our state,” Lieberman said.
This isn’t Lieberman’s first time to organize a large event. He is the executive director of the Route 66 Marathon, an annual running event with thousands of participants from across the country. Although it’s a different species of event, he believes the festival is another way to attract visitors to the state.
Lieberman looked at what makes other cities successful, and music was a large component.
“We think that great communities have great music festivals, and we wanted to create this as a way to help the Oklahoma continue to grow and thrive,” he said.
This year’s lineup includes Awolnation, Fitz and the Tantrums, Young the Giant, Capital Cities, Cold War Kids and several Oklahoma acts.
Oklahoma City band Horse Thief is on the local lineup. For them, heading up the turnpike to Tulsa for this festival was an obvious choice. Frontman Cameron Neal said the festival is a great opportunity to interact with the Tulsa community and national artists.
“It’s great to be involved with a growing festival like CoU, as it brings a lot of great attention into not just Tulsa, but Oklahoma in general,” Neal said.
And it’s also an opportunity for local bands to build their resume.
“It draws fans from around the country to our great state, generating significant economic impact while giving our musicians from around the state a chance to be on the same billing as some of the largest acts in the industry,” Lieberman said.
This year’s deadline to play has passed, but bands looking to get on the bill for next year can apply online at the CoU Festival website. It’s $30 for the application, a cost Lieberman said is donated to Tulsa Public Schools music programs.
“We have a committee of seven music industry professionals who spend a lot of time reviewing each band’s electronic press kit. It usually takes about four meetings for them to narrow the field down to the bands that are offered the chance to play at the Center of the Universe Festival,” Lieberman said.
The festival is still in its infancy, and the organizers realize the hard work ahead of them to make this event successful.
“Planning for the Center of the Universe Festival is definitely a year-round process,” Lieberman said. “We will get to work on next year as soon as this year is over. The first thing we will do is consider suggestions and survey results from our fans, the artists, sponsors and other partners.”
Center of the Universe Festival