Cover Story: Beau Jennings returns to NMF and brings the soundtrack to Will Rogers’ life 

37.16 Souncheck update

Beau Jennings and Norman Music Festival (NMF) go together just fine.

“I’ve played it most years,” Jennings said of the three-day event, which runs Thursday through Saturday in downtown Norman.

He also knows most of the organizers and a lot of the bands in this year’s lineup.

“It’s a community effort I enjoy being a part of,” he said.

His band mates include John Calvin Abney, who plays a solo set on Saturday afternoon, and Chase Kerby, who plays a Friday slot with his band, Chase Kerby & The Company.

Jennings brings his band, The Tigers, with him to Saturday’s 3 p.m. performance on the Fowler VW Opolis/Blackwatch outdoor stage.

He also brings with him the elaborate instrumentation and story of The Verdigris, a soundtrack he released in January about the life of Native American and Okie cowboy Will Rogers. He said he will play nearly the entire album live at this gig, with help from acoustic and electric guitars, pedal steel, drums, bass, keyboards, gramophone, harpsichord and even recorded samples.

The movie of same name, made with help from Oklahoma-tied filmmaker Bradley Beesley (Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo, Okie Noodling, and TV series Rollergirls and Paranormal State) is nearly complete and will likely premiere locally sometime this summer. Later this year, Jennings said he will take The Verdigris film and live show on the road with Beesley in a dual-screening tour that includes the filmmaker’s latest short, Calls to Okies, which premiered earlier this year at the South by Southwest festival in Austin.

Jennings first conceived of the album and movie project back in 2007. By 2009, he had filmed the first solo acoustic sets for the movie. By 2011, he had completed a successful Kickstarter campaign to get both funded.

“It’s nice that it actually happened,” he said eight long years later. “Ideas are always the easy part.”

Chronicling the story of Rogers was obvious to Jennings, who grew up near Rogers’ hometown, Oologah.

“It was a matter of geography,” he said. “I was living in Now York City at the time, and I was looking for stuff to write about. The idea ended up bringing me back home.”

Listen to Oklahoma Gazette's Norman Music Festival Mixtape here.

Norman Music Festival

This free festival packs in more than 300 performances Thursday through Saturday along historic Main Street in Norman. National headlining acts include Ra Ra Riot and Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires. However, a festival stay would be rather short and unfulfilling without swinging by at least a few of the 18 stages and venues, which include everything from Americana and punk to blues and hip-hop. This year also features a Thursday lineup of local comedy from Ryan Drake, BradChad Porter, James Nghiem, Andrew Deacon and Cameron Buchholtz inside Sooner Theatre on Main Street. On Saturday, comedians Spencer Hicks, Josh Lathe, Heather King, Shawna Blake, Ryan Green, Brett James and Zach Smith perform on the indoor Opolis/Blackwatch stage. Check out Oklahoma Gazette's NMF playlist, here.

Oklahoma Film & Music Office Panel

This year, NMF features a music panel discussion led by Oklahoma Film & Music Office Director Tava Maloy Sofsky, with Quentin Bomgardner and Joshua Boydston of NMF, Scott Booker of the Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma and manager of the Flaming Lips, Dot Rhine of Chevy Music Showcase, singer-songwriter Beau Jennings and Hanson band member Isaac Hanson.

1 p.m. Saturday

Mainsite Contemporary Art

122 E. Main St., Norman


Ryan Drake (Mark Hancock)

Ryan Drake (Mark Hancock)

We recommend:


Sets run from 5:45 p.m.-1 a.m.

The Easy Lovers

Ryan Drake

Cameron Bucholtz

Locust Avenue


Acoustic Ross

Sex Snobs

The Copperheads

click to enlarge Feel Spectres (Provided)
  • Provided
  • Feel Spectres
click to enlarge Fiawna Forte (Jeremy Charles / Provided)
  • Jeremy Charles / Provided
  • Fiawna Forte
Deerpeople (Provided)

Deerpeople (Provided)


Sets run from 4 p.m.-1 a.m.

Feel Spectres

Fiawna Forte

The Daddyo’s

Chase Kerby & The Company Men


Helen Kelter Skelter

Horse Thief


Dave Broyles

Prettyboy (Benjy Russell/Provided)

Prettyboy (Benjy Russell/Provided)

click to enlarge Deus Eyeslow (
  • Deus Eyeslow
click to enlarge Native Lights (Jeremy Charles / Provided)
  • Jeremy Charles / Provided
  • Native Lights


Sets run from noon-1 a.m.

Beau Jennings & The Tigers


Native Lights


Natalie Prass

Johnny Polygon



John Wayne’s Bitches

Annie Oakley


Warped Frames

Deus Eyeslow

Kyle Reid & The Low Swinging Chariots

The Disposables


Lee Bains III & The Glory Fires

The Octopus Project

On the cover: The statue of Norman-born actor James Garner as Bret Maverick holds watch near the epicenter of the eighth annual NMF on Main Street. (Photo by Mark Hancock / Illustration by Christopher Street)

Print headline: Fest-ive, Singer-songwriter Beau Jennings returns to Norman Music Festival, and this time he brings the soundtrack to Will Rogers’ life.

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