Joshua Boydston and Stephen Carradini
Norman Music Festival
Thursday-Saturday, downtown Norman
In previous years, Norman Music Festival has done an incredible job of bringing acts to town that would rarely, if ever, come here. Of Montreal, Dirty Projectors and The Polyphonic Spree are were headliners that sparked an “oh, man, I can’t believe that they got them” excitement.
This year’s main stage doesn’t feature an artist like that. With the exception of Ty Segall, four of the five national touring acts on the main stage have been in the metro before (two of them in Norman!) within the last two years:
• The Walkmen: Meacham Auditorium, October 2009
• Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears: Diamond Ballroom, June 2009
• Peelander-Z: The Conservatory, October 2010, among other concerts
• Foot Patrol: Opolis, May 2010
Here’s the full Saturday main stage schedule, in reverse:
9:30 p.m. — The Walkmen
8 p.m. — Black Joe Lewis & The Honeybears
6:30 p.m. — PeeLander-Z
5 p.m. — Ty Segall
3:30 p.m. — The Fortune Tellers
2:30 p.m. — Foot Patrol
1:40 p.m. — The Non
12:50 p.m. — Penny Hill Party
Headliner letdown aside, I’m relentlessly stoked that The Non finally made it to the main stage, but I’m baffled that they’re opening for The Fortune Tellers on the bill. The Fortune Tellers are an on-again/off-again band based in the metro and, uh, Greece.
I’m also surprised in a good way that Penny Hill is opening the main stage (and a band, I’m assuming, as the “party” bit). Good for her!
Headlining other stages: jam band dude Keller Williams on the Jagermeister Stage, Mississippi indie-rockers Color Revolt (not to be confused with Colourmusic) on Sooner Theater Stage, and Austin indie-pop group White Denim at Opolis.
But the most exciting headliner of the entire festival is on Thursday night at Opolis, as Norman indie-rockers The Neighborhood are re-forming. Philip Rice (now of Visions of Choruses), Matt Duckworth (now of Stardeath and the White Dwarfs), Blake Studdard (also Visions of Choruses) and Eric Mai threw down some of the best rock that the metro has heard in recent years, and it was a shame that it fizzled out a couple years back. And now they’re back for at least one show, and perhaps more. This is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, headline of the festival.
NMF4 is scheduled for April 28-30. The Gazette will be there, tweeting and blogging away, just as at SXSW.
Ryan Lawson's folk/country amalgam is unique for several reasons: he doesn't have much twang (like folk), he strums a lot (like country, and his vocals knob is perpetually set to "holler." He falls in the space between the genres, and his singular vision is always exciting and interesting. His set at Sooner Theatre Stage was no different. He entertained the audience with his excellent tunes and charming stage presence, despite putting up with some unnecessary shuffling of other people's equipment during the front end of his set. It was a joy to just kick back and enjoy some foot-stompin' good tunes.
It was also a joy to see Laura Wiederhoeft and Kyle Reid at Sonder Music. I'll listen to anything Kyle Reid does — so this set was guaranteed on that front — but it was also Wiederhoeft's (Off Boyd Jazz) last Oklahoma set before a move to Wisconsin. This can't-miss set lived up to its promise, as Wiederhoeft (vocals) and Reid (acoustic guitar) trotted out originals by both, jazz standards and even a Reid instrumental on cigar box guitar (his latest venture). The originals were the most riveting, with Reid's instrumental being a jaw-dropping highlight. Wiederhoeft's voice was sultry and inviting as usual, shining brightest on a Reid-penned tune about (what else?) the craziness of being in love. It was a thoroughly calming and enjoyable set. Wiederhoeft will be missed.
Because I knew I was going to miss Penny Hill Party on the main stage, I stopped back in at Opolis to watch Penny Hilary ("I am Penny Hilary, my band is Penny Hill," Pitchlynn said) acoustic. Her loose, meandering songs quite impressed me, exciting me for a 7" record that she said was coming out on Nice People this summer. Although her modus operandi included a flowing, easy pace, her best songs tightened up the formula a bit, allowing for immediately memorable melodies.