Jarod Evans looked more like a marathon runner than an audio engineer.
That's what happens when your music venue's stage arrives five hours late, and you've spent about six months planning concerts and scheduling bands for the fifth annual Norman Music Festival.
“This is by far the most exhausted I am each year,” Evans said. “It isn't a bad thing because I love every second of it.”
Evans co-owns Blackwatch Studios, which is just one of the venues hosting the 50-plus bands, DJs and comedians that performed during the Norman Music Festival's opening night on Thursday. The free three-day event invites national and local acts to perform throughout downtown Norman. More than 200 acts are scheduled to perform at the festival.
While Evans prepared his stage, Okie singer/songwriter Jacob Abello worked inside of Blackwatch Studios in order to put the finishing touches on the opening track for his performance.
Abello's hot pink, spike-studded shoes sat at his feet as he readied costume changes and elaborate pop ballads for his set. He said he anticipates one of his biggest crowds to date.
Although Thursday's early evening crowd hadn't yet swollen to the size of the 35,000 patrons that attended the closing night of Norman Music Festival last year, the festival was brimming with anticipation for music, comedy, films and all things loud.
Oklahoma City-based band Horse Thief performed a bombastic, theatrical set inside The Opolis, 113 N Crawford Ave. Smoke machines, megaphones and dizzying light displays wowed the crowded venue. Horse Thief frontman Cameron Neal said police ended the band's show last year because a fraternity party was scheduled to start in the middle of its set and he wouldn't stop playing.
Plenty of rowdy rock
This year was a different story as patrons enjoyed a full-length, rowdy rock set. Norman Music Festival is a pit stop on the band's upcoming West Coast and European tours. Neal said the festival's strength is finding bands that make a difference around the world and locally, too.
“I think Norman Music Festival has already grown substantially for only being around for five years,” Neal said. “I think it's only going to get bigger.”
Opolis co-owner Andrew Nunez was not only running sound for Horse Thief's set but also frantically preparing for the dozens of bands set to perform throughout the weekend at his venue. Nunez helped plan acoustic sets, headlining sets and an outdoor stage at The Opolis. His venue will be home to some of the festival's biggest acts and many local bands.
“I always try to help out the bands that play here regularly,” Nunez said. “I expect a lot of music, cheap beer and hopefully a lot of smiles.”
For some musicians, the festival acts as a homecoming. Stillwater's Other Lives have been touring heavily since its performance at Norman Music Festival last year. The band is set to return to the festival's headlining stage 8 p.m. Saturday.
“Being from Oklahoma, we are proud to be part of the Norman Music Festival,” said Josh Onstott, of Other Lives. “We have excellent music here and a lot to be proud of.”