Kix Brooks isn’t just a big name in country music, he’s a big fan of it.
So, the country music lovers expected flock to downtown Oklahoma City this weekend for the inaugural OKCFest won’t just see the former Brooks & Dunn singer/songwriter “Play Something Country,” they will see him listening to something country, too.
“I’m definitely that guy sitting on the side of the stage,” Brooks said in a recent phone interview. “I just like hearing good music. It’s really fun to see new acts out there catching their wave and riding it.”
About 60,000 fans are expected to hear an impressive lineup of national and regional country acts Friday and Saturday on the OKCFest main stage in the old Ford dealership parking lot.
Plus, a diverse slate of Oklahoma talents playing on an array of free stages in the Myriad Botanical Gardens will take OKCFest beyond country and into rock, folk, bluegrass, gospel, jazz and rock en Espanol.
“People are looking to come to downtown Oklahoma City regardless of what’s going on,” Mayor Mick Cornett told The Oklahoman when OKCFest was announced back in spring. “You put this event in downtown Oklahoma City, and it really complements what our city has to offer.”
Getting Kix with national stars
Along with Brooks, current superstars Dierks Bentley and Lady Antebellum, outlaw legend Merle Haggard and “American Idol” Scotty McCreery will help Oklahoma City go country during the first-time festival.
The high-profile lineup is credited to the collaborative effort of prominent Oklahoma City business and civic leader Fred Hall and Victor Sansone, the respected past chairman of the Country Music Association and former ABC radio executive, who is serving as an entertainment and production consultant to OKCFest. Sansone set up Brooks as host of the “American Country Countdown” back in 2006 and was instrumental in getting the busy star on the OKCFest bill.
“When he (Sansone) said that he was kind of doing this and he’d like me to be a part of it, I jumped right on it, because everything that he’s ever put together has just been really well-run and well-received and a great experience for the fans,” said Brooks, who also hosts the radio show “Kickin’ It With Kix.”
“So, I very much wanted to be a part of this first year. I’m really looking forward to it. I know it’s gonna be great.”
Since he and former Tulsan Ronnie Dunn parted ways in 2010 — after a 22-year run in which they became the top-selling duo in music history — Brooks, 59, has been branching out in several directions, including acting in the Western film “Ambush at Dark Canyon” and producing the soundtrack.
Festivalgoers can expect Saturday’s set to include old Brooks & Dunn favorites, along with cuts from Brooks’ 2012 solo album “New to This Town” and a few fun covers. They also can expect to hear him talking about OKCFest on upcoming episodes of his radio shows.
“I love staying busy, I love what we do, I still really enjoy playing music, and I have a great band. A lot of Brooks & Dunn alumni in my band, so it’s kind of fun for us to, oh, hop out there and still bang it out on the stage together. You know, it’s just a big smile at this point in our lives.”
Randy Rogers represents Texas
Three of the hardest-touring and best-known bands on the Texas country scene — Randy Rogers Band, Casey Donahew Band and Josh Abbott Band — will be featured alongside the mainstream country acts on the OKCFest main stage. Since he and his bandmates have played 200-plus shows a year for more than a decade, singer/songwriter Randy Rogers said OKCFest won’t be the group’s first time to play a first-time festival.
“Many of them have worked, many of them have not worked, you know. It’s fun, uncharted waters,” Rogers said in a recent phone interview from his Texas home.
“Being a veteran — I guess you could say that I’m a veteran, I’ve been doing it 14 years — there’s not much they could throw at me on stage that’s gonna throw me off. A guitar not working, a fiddle going out, feedback, power failure, you know, there’s a million things that could go wrong, and I’ve pretty much seen it all about this point.”
He and his cohorts reaffirmed their reputation as a dynamic live band with the spring release of “Homemade Tamales,” an energy-rush of a concert CD/DVD recorded in front of thousands of screaming fans at the well-known John T. Floore Country Store in Helotes, Texas.
Although Rogers, 35, is used to headlining music festivals, especially around the Southwest, he said he is looking forward to playing in the middle of Saturday’s OKCFest bill.
“I like seeing other bands. I don’t get to go out much, you know. Usually, I’m the one on stage and I’m the one trying to have everybody have a good time, so it’s nice to be able to go check out other bands and kind of walk around the crowd and get the feel for the event,” he said. “There’s usually a lot of camaraderie backstage. We pretty much get along with everybody; it’s just nice to see other guys at work, other girls at work, doing their thing.”
Kaitlin Butts bringing local country
Along with the main stage performers, Oklahoma musicians Wanda Jackson, Byron Berline, John Moreland, Graham Colton, Camille Harp, and Chase Kerby will be among the players on the various free stages that will be set up Friday through Sunday in the Myriad Gardens. Oklahoma City singer/songwriter Kaitlin Butts, 21, will be playing her own brand of local country Saturday afternoon in the Cox Tent.
A recent ACM@UCO graduate, the Tulsa native has been working on her debut album with acclaimed red dirt musician/producer Mike McClure and honing her songwriting and stage presence with the Tequila Songbirds, a local sisterhood of songwriters she met while playing the hallways of Chesapeake Energy Arena during last year’s star-studded Rock for Oklahoma tornado relief show, one of the inspirations for OKCFest.
“I feel just privileged for them to be taking me under their wing — Songbird, wings, so cheesy — but they’ve been really great influences on me, and we just clicked. They give me really good advice whenever I need it — whether it’s with boys, who to use to copy my CDs, what musicians to use for my album. They’re just good people to know and have connections with — and to help me out whenever I need it,” Butts said of the Tequila Songbirds, which includes Harp, Kierston White, Ali Harter and Samantha Crain.
“Every show has led me to new connections and new people to meet and get to know, so I’m just excited for this great opportunity with these huge artists that I’m alongside with.”