NORMAN — An army of ax-slingers armed with an arsenal of guitars and other instruments of mass mesmerization has invaded Main Street and will hold captive the rapt attention of an expected 50,000 fans for the duration of Norman Music Festival 4 Friday night, all day Saturday and well into the wee hours of Sunday morning.
Leading the charge are such internationally known headliners as The Walkmen, Peelander-Z, Ty Segall and Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, with ample support from such homegrown talents as The Non, Colourmusic, BRONCHO, OK SWEETHEART and the reunited Mimsies, just to name a few of the more than 200 acts scheduled to perform on various indoor and outdoor stages along the three blocks of Norman's Downtown Arts District.
They're even throwing in a few comedians, street performers, visual artists and a kid's stage for good measure. And it's all still as free as the Oklahoma wind that will no doubt accompany the festivities.
“Most of our funding is provided through corporate and business sponsorships, individual donations, day-of-event vending income, in-kind donation, and countless hours of volunteer service and love from the community at large,” said Robert Ruiz, festival committee
It also doesn't hurt that an estimated $3.4 million — that's “new dollars” — were spent in Norman and the surrounding metro areas by festivalgoers last year, and this year's crowd is expected to leave nearly $4 million in local tills and artists' pockets, according to an economic report compiled by NMF committee member Quentin Bomgardner.
And the public gets all kinds of musical bang for its buck, with a variety of musical styles from which to choose.
Take the New York City-based quintet The Walkmen, who grew up together in Washington, D.C., garage bands, moved to the Big Apple and turned experimental in such groups as Jonathan Fire*Eater and the Recoys before joining forces under their current moniker to evolve the beautifully spare, sometimes delicate, reverberating-guitar-centered indie sound that distinguishes such modern alternative album classics as “Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone,” “A Hundred Miles Off” and their most recent release, “Lisbon,” which charted at No. 27 on Billboard's hit list — the band's highest debut to date — and drew critical raves from The New York Times, the L.A. Times, NPR, GQ and Pitchfork.
“It's the first time we've ever headlined a festival, I think,” said Walkmen bassist, percussionist and organist Walter Martin in a phone interview from his Brooklyn home. “It's fun playing outside, especially if you're on later. To play at night outside, it's great. If we play like Lollapalooza or something like that, we play during the day, and it's not quite as thrilling. There's not that much energy out there.”
Then out of Austin, Texas, there's Black Joe Lewis & the Honeybears, a seven-piece outfit with a brassy, big-band R&B bent coming through loud and clear on its new sophomore album, “Scandalous,” although vocalist and lead guitarist Lewis won't be labeled that easily.