With school back in session at Oklahoma State University, the trailblazing red dirt band The Great Divide is planning its second musical reunion in its members' spiritual hometown of Stillwater.
“We've gone and played in Stephenville (Texas) and that was a big, big thing for us. But nothing really compares to Stillwater as far as just hometown love and acceptance and people just really having a wild time,” said The Great Divide frontman Mike McClure in a recent phone interview from Ada, where he and his family live. “But it was always like that. We were pretty synonymous with Stillwater, and I think The Great Divide kind of helped put Stillwater music on the map.”
On Friday and Saturday, The Great Divide's College Days will showcase up-and-coming Stillwater musicians like Chad Sullins and The Last Call Coalition and Bo Phillips, established red dirt standouts like Stoney LaRue and the Arsenals and the Turnpike Troubadours and Texas country favorites like JB and the Moonshine Band and Aaron Watson at the venerable Tumbleweed Dancehall.
For the second year in a row, The Great Divide will headline the festival they founded back in the late 1990s. The band's Saturday night set comes about 13 months after the original lineup — drummer J.J. Lester, his brother, rhythm guitarist Scotte Lester, bassist Kelley Green and singer/songwriter/guitarist McClure — healed the rift that divided them for about eight years and played the first date of their reunion tour at College Days.
“It's going good. You know, we try to get together once a month and play a show ... and it's cool. Every time we go play one of these, it's just a whole bunch of people (who) come out who are very excited about it because they either grew up listening to the band and never saw us live or used to see us back in the day and they want to kind of go down memory lane. It's been a lot of fun and it's been successful,” McClure said, adding that a concert DVD of the band's first Stillwater reunion show is in the editing phase.
For a decade, The Great Divide not only nurtured its rootsy country-rock sound in the musical hotbed of Stillwater but also took the red dirt beyond Payne County and into the mainstream. As part of that mission, the quartet started College Days and hosted it for about five years until the band's breakup.