The majority of the action was going on upstairs, though. When you walk onto the wooden rooftop, you have two options: turn left for the bar (always a solid maneuver) or right for the music. The downtown setting provided an elegant backdrop, with the iconic Frost Bank Tower literally right across the street.
A total of ten acts performed during the Oklahoma Soundcheck day party, which was free and open to the public. The highlights of the day, for me at least, were a trio of Oklahoma City/Norman acts. IndianGiver, on the heels of its new EP, Understudies, wowed with cavernous guitars, baroque horns and graceful vocal harmonies. The bands new material translated exceedingly well to the live stage, with shades of Grizzly Bear lurking in the foreground.
Skating Polly, meanwhile, plowed through a high-energy set exclusively featuring songs from its new album, Fuzz Steilacoom. Anyone who has seen these two girls play knows what they bring to (and knock off) the table. Oh, and Babes in Toylands Lori Barbero decided to stop by for the set.
Prettyboy the full-band moniker for Normans Jacob Abello dazzled with a set chock full of new material. His unabashedly catchy blend of 80s-fueled synth pop had the crowd in a tizzy. If you werent dancing during his set, you were in the minority.
Later in the evening, the wristband/ badge-exclusive Oklahoma Showcase highlighted some of the more distinguished Oklahoma acts some SXSW veterans, others new to the show. For an event that wasnt free and open to the public, the turnout was jarring. The rooftop can hold well over a hundred patrons, and the place was packed.
That said, the attentiveness of the crowd during Tulsa crooner John Morelands set was commendable. Moreland plays a lonesome, quiet blend of folk, yet the bulky crowd was clinging to every word. At times, you could nearly hear a pin drop and it was lovely.
For Stillwater indie-pop vets Deerpeople, youd think playing SXSW would be old-hat by now (I think theyve played the last five years), but you wouldnt know it by their set. A heavy dose of stage antics, flute and a dizzying array of lights secured their set as the most memorable.
The buzz surrounding Parker Millsaps set was as palpable as the rasp in his voice. The Purcell native has such a strong command of the stage, his audience and his songs that you would think he was twice his age. His crossover appeal from hipsters to 10-gallon-hatwearing good ol boys is both broad and potent, with songs about small-town life and hard-hitting issues alike.
Shortly after I arrived for day two, I saw the members of Bowlsey lugging their organ up a couple flights of stairs.
At the time, I felt
somewhat sorry for them, offering to help life the heavy load, but it
wasnt long into their set before I realized how dedicated they are to
genre-defying mix of hiphop, jazz, pop and lounge music was easily the
days most unique confluence of sounds. Organ, horns, instruments I had
never seen before they were all present during the quaint Oklahoma
City four-pieces set.
Skating Polly put on a lovely acoustic set downstairs, a more intimate
yet still potent rendition of its abrasive, ugly pop than it had
treated us to the day before. Shortly thereafter, electro-crooner Colin
Nance also gave those who came indoors a moody, tone-setting mixture of
atmosphere and balladry.
the variety presented early on, Rachel Brashear put on perhaps the most
intriguing set of the day. The diminutive Academy of Contemporary Music
at the University of Central Oklahoma (ACM@UCO) product proved herself
an ample songwriter who, coupled with some splendid guitar work, echoed
the work of some of the finest post-Patty Smith alt-rockers.
evening ACM@UCO showcase, however, belonged to Tallows. After
witnessing the band play at VZDs a few days prior, I somewhat knew what
I was getting into. But most people in attendance did not. The rising
Oklahoma City band sounded as polished as ever, and it had the
increasingly larger crowd going bonkers on numerous occasions.
subsequent sets by Horse Thief and Jabee were nothing if not rousing,
and Colourmusic closed the night with a defiantly abrasive collection of
noise rock primed for the big stage. It was fitting that an Oklahoma
luminary would close out an Oklahoma showcase, and by the joy on
peoples faces, it was a successful two days.