Smith Westerns with Evangelicals
9 p.m. Tuesday
113 N. Crawford, Norman
Norman Music Festival 4 is officially in the books. It came, it saw (metaphorically), it conquered (also metaphorically).
It had a lot of new things: a third day, more stages, new locations for old stages, a weird laser-tag thing, a Friday day stage and more. Many of these changes had pros and cons.
The addition of Thursday to the slate gives the fest the ability to grow into a heavy hitter, but this year, it made things spread a little thin on Friday and Saturday. It felt as if some of the bands were stacked toward Thursday to entice people to go to the new thing: Opolis blew it out with tons of talent on the first night, then had an abbreviated day on Saturday.
Still, despite this enticement, Thursday attendance only hit 3,500 (35,000 people attended Saturday, with 9,000 hitting up Friday). This could have been due to the distance between stages, lack of advertising (several people told me they didn't know it was on Thursday) or the fact that people are busy during the week, but only toward the end of the evening at Opolis did the night really feel festival-esque.
Still, I like the move, and I hope that people get adjusted to a Thursday/Friday/Saturday schedule. I think that as the fest grows in prominence, talent will fill out all three days. The same is true of the new stages; as the festival grows, stages will both be able to fill out their schedules and secure only the best of the best. I sincerely hope that there is at some point a cap to stages, however, lest NMF become like SXSW and get far, far too big to maintain quality.
On that note: Laser tag? What the heck?
The new location for the Main and Jägermeister stages was excellent planning. Main Street was much less crowded, which was necessary. Last year felt like human pinball, and it was quite uncomfortable. The new stage locations make a lot of sense and open the festival up. Super high-five for that.
Speaking of location, putting Dust Bowl Market across from Opolis was a neat move. I liked it there. Whether or not it's been there in the past, I have no idea; I've only recently been getting appreciative of crafts.
The one big complaint I have with the fest is that I still have no idea what it wants to be. There was an upsurge of Austin bands this year (Football, etc.; White Denim; Black Joe Lewis), which could have been due to money constraints or a decision to focus on regional and local talent. The Walkmen are from New York City, which doesn't help either theory. Is NMF a local music festival? Is it going to try to be full of national acts, like Austin City Limits? There has always been a huge amount of local acts, and the presence of Montu so late on the Jägermeister stage provides ammunition for the idea that this will be a continuously local thing.
This confusion is partly due to a lack of clarification in their ad campaigns, and partly because it's still being worked out. And really, I don't care which one it is; I'd love to see an all-local festival, and I'd love to see The Mountain Goats, Sufjan, Radiohead and the Pixies all kicking it in Norman. I doubt the fest will swing to either of those extremes, but it would be nice to know which direction it’s heading. This knowledge would make judging its success and growth easier: I tell a person that the local aspect is the big deal instead of the headliner, there will be less expectation placed on national headliners.
If the headliners are the deal, then NMF should take pains to get bands that would not ordinarily come to Oklahoma. If organizers want it to be a festival about exposing Oklahoma to the outside music world, we need to make a splash every year. This year's headliners weren't a splash: if you search "Norman" at Pitchfork.com, a listing of 2010's headliners comes up, but no 2011 lineup. Seeing as we don't really know if the headliners were intended to be a big deal or not, it's hard to judge the effectiveness of this year's fest.
It was a boatload of fun, however. That can't be knocked. I'm looking forward to NMF5. —Stephen Carradini
OKSee took it easy Saturday at ACL, as the crowds turned out in their typical
Saturday droves, making it difficult to get close enough to shoot artists on
stage. But that’s not to say there wasn’t much going on, as Zilker Park was
hopping with Sooner football fans anticipating not just their biggest road test
of the season, but the conflict between their school pride and headlining
I chose to join my friend James Corley, the Oklahoma Daily’s sports editor (and roving ACL reporter) in the TV lounge at 7:00 p.m., which turned out to be a great decision because we got to watch OU beat Florida State in an ugly, gritty fashion soundtracked by My Morning Jacket’s badass Kentucky rock ‘n’ roll.
The morning began with an interview Dale Earnhardt Jr., Jr. an excellent electronic indie rock duo from Detroit who record thoughtful pop music over gorgeous, tinkling textures. The dudes were very friendly and endearing in person, and asked a lot about the Flaming Lips, which is always a plus for me. Expect a writeup from that in my post-coverage.
Once finished, I hurried over to the AMD stage to see The Antlers, who played terrific cuts from their excellent sophomore record “Burst Apart." “Every Night My Teeth Are Falling Out” held the early morning kids in a daze.
I zipped over to the Google Plus stage immediately after to catch another buzzy Brooklyn band (you’ve really gotta use big festivals to catch acts that don’t tour the Midwest so heavy), Twin Shadow. George Lewis, Jr.’s songs were similarly hypnotic and way, way sexier. Shortly after “I Can’t Wait,” he showed off his sense of good humor, laughing at a Waldo in the crowd. “I found you, man! You gotta leave and go to the next page.”
After another visit to the press tent for sustenance from the ubiquitous, muggy South Texas heat, I got up fairly close for Iron & Wine, who no doubt disappointed a few of their more faithful fans with an all full-band set. “The Creek Drank the Cradle,” this was not, but Sam Beam and company slayed a whole bunch of newer songs in a neo-trad fashion, including “Boy with a Coin,” (which was shifted into more of an uptempo funky number) and the wistful, brand-new “Tree by the River.”
According to a few different sources, Christian Bale was at the front of the crowd for the Iron & Wine show, flanked by a working camera crew who appeared to be filming him and some “cute indie chick,” according to a witness. Curious, and very cool!
From there I wandered around a bit, easily able to hear Aussie dance band Cut Copy’s heavy electronic rhythms and high-pitched singing. Be sure to check the Gazette’s advance of their upcoming Tulsa show in the Sept. 28 issue! “Corner of the Sky” and “Take Me Over” have now returned to my heavy rotation.
Okie rockabilly legend Wanda Jackson told stories at the Austin Ventures stage while Cut Copy thundered from the much larger AMD stage nearby. It was mind-boggling to hear her talk about how nobody was recording “rock ‘n’ roll for girls in 1955, ’56.” From there she tore into her classic “Mean Mean Man,” quickly followed by a brief sermon and the gospel standard “I Saw the Light.”
I spent the rest of the night in the TV lounge, stressing out about the OU-FSU game in a den of obnoxious, beer-spattering Longhorns. It was great being able to hear My Morning Jacket (who are hugely loud anyway) from the comfort of my big screen-viewing seat. “Holdin on to Black Metal” stood out, backed by a brass band. I’m just sad they didn’t play “I Will Sing You Songs,” but other than that, it was a remarkable, headliner-worthy performance, full of heavy metal, hair-whipping, and a caped Yim Yames.
Day 2’s in the books, folks. Currently OKSee's Day 3 plans are to catch Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. at 1:30, then proceed to camp out at the Bud Light stage for a good view off the Airborne Toxic Event, Broken Social Scene, Fleet Foxes, and Arcade Fire in succession. It's gonna be a great day.
For more ACL coverage:
Day 1 photos
Day 1 recap
Day 2 photos
Day 3 photos to come
Day 3 recap to come
Interviews with Reptar & Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. to come