NORMAN — Norman’s rocking three-block party is amping up to be bigger, longer and probably even louder than ever in its third guitar-driven year.
And, adds Norman Music Festival
Chairman Quentin Bomgardner
with a chuckle, it’s "even more free than ever.”
Indeed, what could be a better deal than catching the live performances of Dirty Projectors, Electric Six, Those Darlins, Grupo Fantasma, The Sword, The Gourds, James McMurtry,
Oklahoma’s own Leon Russell
and more than 170 other local, regional and international acts for absolutely no admission fee?
And they’re throwing in a few comedians, street performers, deejays and a kids’ stage for good measure.
"It is now a two-day event with the big day shifting to Sunday,” said Bomgardner, a musician, longtime Norman resident, member of the Norman Arts Council and an engineer with OG&E, the outfit that provides the power to drive all that succulent sound.
"We did that to accommodate some issues with retail,” Bomgardner said. "So we’re going to have the full street closure on Sunday this year instead of Saturday. There’s a few things that kick off in the afternoon (on Saturday), but by nighttime there are roughly a dozen venues, including outdoor music in an alleyway behind Guestroom Records and in the Norman city parking lot where we’re going to have a Latin stage, but no streets closed.
"And I’m guessing around 50 bands or so will play that night. And then the next day we’re doing the full festival. In all, I know we’re gonna have, at minimum, 160 bands over the two days. Last year I think we had about 85.”
The festival, happening Saturday and Sunday east of the railroad tracks at indoor and outdoor sites along three blocks of Norman’s historic downtown Main Street district, features a variety of musical styles that is nothing short of wow.
Take the Detroit sextet Electric Six,
for example, mixing garage, disco, punk, new wave and metal with hilariously outrageous lyrics such as "There’s no such thing as an electric tuba / The Detroit River’s not a good place to scuba.”
The Six’s lead singer, Dick Valentine
(aka Tyler Spencer
), he of the alternating growl and falsetto and constant over-the-topness, said he and his band are looking forward to the festival with great expectations.
"We like Norman,” he said recently from somewhere in a rolling tour van. "We’ve played the Opolis. Those people are friends of ours. They treated us very well.”
And there are Those Darlins
, alternative country-rock’s answer to the Dixie Chicks, although this Murfreesboro, Tenn.-based band considers itself an alt-pop group with a lot of hard-drinking punk attitude, never mind the love of the Carter Family
shared by Kelley Darlin
(vocals, bass), Nikki Darlin
(vocals, baritone ukulele) and Jessi Darlin
(vocals, guitar). It’s all good ol’ rustic rock ’n’ roll party music to them on their self-titled debut album, released last summer.
The Darlins, too, are Opolis veterans, having played there in October.
"We are excited to be in Norman at the height of its freak flying,” Jessi Darlin said in an e-mail interview. "The rumors of the party hit us at the top of the year.”
She said Those Darlins’ show will be "crazy rowdy fun and aerobic. Attendees should be in shoes that they can both dance to and get stepped on in.”
For Southwestern singer-songwriter fans, there’s Texas-bred James McMurtry
, son of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Larry McMurtry
("Lonesome Dove”), who’d rather be considered just a singer in a rock ’n’ roll band, which used to be called the Heartless Bastards.
"We don’t use that name anymore because an Ohio band by the same name got bigger than us,” McMurtry said from his Austin home.