Groovefest planners revamped this year’s music lineup to better represent everyone. 

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A festival celebrating almost three decades of bringing music and human rights awareness to the citizens of Norman is experiencing a bit of a rebirth this year.

Groovefest, a Norman institution since 1986, kicks off Sept. 27 at Andrews Park, 201 W. Daws St., and event coordinator Claire Malone said this year’s festival might feel a little different, at least when it comes to its roster of musicians.

“I feel like in the past, Groovefest had kind of a ‘jam band’ vibe,” said Malone on compiling this year’s list of performers. “That’s really cool, but I think it’s important for this to be a festival that represents all kinds of music and, more importantly, all kinds of people.”

click to enlarge TANYA S MATTEK
  • Tanya S Mattek

Two headliners personify Malone’s commitment to musical diversity. Gregory Jerome, an OKC-based hip-hop artist, performs this year as does hardcore metal band Justice Keeper. Acts like Sun Riah, Brad Fielder and Aquarian Exposition are also booked.

Despite the differences in genres, Malone said there’s a common thread running through each performer: a commitment to human rights.

“We obviously wanted to pull from lots of different styles, but all of the performers actively speak out on human rights in their own unique way,” said Malone. “We want to highlight that this year even more so than we’ve done in the past. All of our musicians have powerful messages to share.”

Those shared messages won’t just be conveyed through music, either. Malone is busy finalizing a list of speakers that will alternate with the musical acts, and the talking points are no festival fluff. Topics such as institutional racism, the Supreme Court ruling on lethal injection, transgender issues, hydraulic fracturing and police brutality are all on the table, and Malone said Groovefest’s commitment to human rights is unwavering.

“I feel that the intensity of focus on human rights issues has been steadily increasing over the past few years in the media and in the public consciousness,” Malone said. “Most Americans realize now that human rights abuses are not just a third-world problem. In our nation, we are dealing with police brutality against minorities, gay rights, prevailing symbols of institutional racism, classism, sexism, the list goes on. Only when confronted do these issues get brought into the light of public debate, and only then do they have a chance to be changed.”

Several Norman civic organizations signed on as well. Groups like Norman Animal Welfare, Cleveland County Democratic Party, Scissortail School of Art, Oklahoma Food Cooperative and Cleveland County for Bernie Sanders will be on hand, and Malone said she’s getting more confirmations every week.

Groovefest isn’t all serious, though. Festivals are fun, after all, and this year’s promises to be no different. Food trucks and local vendors are lining up to participate, and tie-dying and face painting booths are a favorite for those who bring their kiddos. (The event is child-friendly.)

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“At the end of the day, Groovefest is about people,” Malone said. “If it’s the speakers that inspire you, if it’s the music, if it’s just being there with fellow human beings, it doesn’t matter. We’re trying to inspire something. We need people to act, to realize there are organizations they can get involved with to fight the injustices they see in the world.”

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Print headline: Humans, being, Groovefest planners revamped this year’s music lineup to better represent everyone.

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