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Norman Music Festival goes big while facing growing pains

Seventh annual festival attracts crowds to Norman, Oklahoma, while showcasing national and local talent.
by Nathan Poppe Modified: April 26, 2014 at 9:14 pm •  Published: April 27, 2014

The Norman Music Festival is starting to show its age.

The festival celebrated its seventh birthday in downtown Norman this weekend, stretching from its landmark functioning train tracks to the 300 block of East Main Street.

Twenty official stages filled the festival grounds, and they ranged from the patio of a Mexican food restaurant to a towering main stage.

More than 100 bands of local, national and international fame filled the venues and did all that they could to match the noise of the train that barreled through festival grounds on the regular.

But Thursday afternoon, it didn’t look like a music festival was happening at all. Besides the pop-up amusement park and a few road signs, the streets of downtown Norman were bare. Festival organizer Steven White sat in his office and took a break to charge his phone after a couple wandered in to ask for directions.

White said the festival is having growing pains. He’s heard every complaint under the sun about the main stage headliner not being well known enough, struggled with a drastically reduced 2014 budget and yearned to make the festival the best it could be.

White ended his interview with a point and a prediction: the festival is still free and the streets were going to be filled with tens of thousands of people Saturday evening.

Three days into the festival, there’s no shortage of evidence for that case.

After the sun set Thursday, modest crowds started showing up for local bands of all calibers.

Duo Team Nighstand put on a wildly playful shoegaze-inspired set at The Opolis.

Brothels and Brianwasher flexed their own unique psychedelic sounds just a few blocks apart from each other.

Oklahoma City R&B collective Bowlsey was raw and boisterous inside of Tres Cantina. I’d never seen a Mexican restaurant so full without it being a Taco Tuesday.

ACM@UCO student Rachel Brashear played a set inside of the smoky Bluebonnet Bar that was equal parts rocking, brooding and energetic.

Finally, Norman-based band Evangelicals performed a rare set and teased a funkier, more focused rock sound.

Friday’s festival sets only intensified in crowd size, number of stages and general weirdness. If seeing a band performing on the bed of a moving pick up truck doesn’t earn Norman the nickname “little Austin” then I’m not sure what will. Kudos to the band for enclosing the truck in chicken wire for safety’s sake as they drove down Main Street.

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by Nathan Poppe
Entertainment Writer and LOOKatOKC Editor
Entertainment Writer and LOOKatOKC Editor Nathan Poppe, is a documenter of all things entertaining. The Middle of Nowhere is his blog and a depository of everything that makes the Midwest unique. The coasts have a massive amount of influence on...
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