WestFest expects a larger crowd in its second year 

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WestFest moves up to Labor Day weekend in its second year in the historic Western Avenue shopping and dining district.

The music festival’s inaugural event, held last year in mid-September, brought an estimated 5,000 people to the area along N. Western Avenue between NW 41st and 43rd streets. Organizers hope word of mouth and this year’s diverse lineup — including Austin singer-songwriter David Ramirez, indie rockers Chase Kerby + The Villains, Oklahoma City three-piece KALO, rapper Jabee and others — help grow that crowd by double or more.

The fest was moved up to avoid conflicts with some of the month’s other scheduled events, said Rachael Taylor, Western Avenue Association executive director. This year’s event runs noon-10 p.m. Saturday in the same location.

click to enlarge Rachael Taylor on Western Avenue across from the Will Rogers Theater, Sushi-Neko, and The Barrell, all participating in West Fest, 9-9-15. - MARK HANCOCK
  • Mark Hancock
  • Rachael Taylor on Western Avenue across from the Will Rogers Theater, Sushi-Neko, and The Barrell, all participating in West Fest, 9-9-15.

“There’s a lot of other festivals in September, so we got to looking around at all the other possible dates we could do and noticed that there wasn’t a whole lot else going on Sept. 3,” she said.

A second outdoor stage is being added, and more food trucks and beer options from Anthem Brewing Company will be available, but Taylor said this year’s festival will look and feel similar to the event held in 2015.

“Everything went off without a hitch,” she said. “We had good attendance, and the weather was perfect. The most important thing is we got to see a lot of people who don’t usually hang out on Western Avenue come out and explore.”

The primary stage is outside VZD’s Restaurant & Bar, 4200 N. Western Ave., and neighboring A Date With Iris.

Taylor said last year’s street party boosted area business during the event and in the following months. The fest is also an opportunity for the district to show off its newly completed streetscape.

“With wider sidewalks and better landscaping and everything, we hope people see the district as a really exciting place to hang out and shop around,” Taylor said.

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Friend fest

Kerby was co-chairman of WestFest’s 2015 music committee but pulled himself from the position this year so he could perform in the festival he helped build.

His set on the main stage is 8 p.m. Saturday and precedes headliner Ramirez’s 9 p.m. gig. Kerby said he has been friends with Ramirez for a few years and the folk musician’s name came up last year as organizers considered potential headliners.

Ramirez was passing through Oklahoma City on tour when a mutual friend introduced him to Kerby. After Ramirez played his show at The Blue Door, the three went out for a drink. They became quick friends.

“Several times, [Ramirez] has come through, and I give him a couch to sleep on and a buddy to drink beers with,” Kerby said. “There are times even if he’s just driving through and not playing a show I’ll give him a place to crash and some company.”

The Villains frontman said Ramirez has a strong following in the state. He often tours solo in Oklahoma, but this time, he brings with him a full band.

WestFest marks the first time Kerby and Ramirez will perform a show together.

“This will be really nice,” Kerby said. “It will be really cool to have him here and to play a show together and potentially kick it afterwards.”

Kerby is known by many for competing on the ninth season of NBC’s singing competition The Voice. In some ways, he’s the perfect act for the event. Kerby works with his mother at 42nd Street Candy Co., which has made its home on Western for nearly two decades.

“We loved the business, and I know last year Mom loved all the little kids coming in,” he said. “We really enjoyed it last year, and we’re really looking forward to it this year.”

Kerby said the state’s music community is so vast that WestFest can continue to offer variety in its lineup each year without becoming repetitive.

“There are so many amazing acts in this state, and we didn’t think it needed to be pigeonholed to one specific sound, so we really just kind of wanted to champion diversity in that department,” he said.

Kerby said many artists strive to take part in an event like WestFest. Public festivals can be as advantageous to the artist as they are to the surrounding neighborhoods.

“It puts you in front of people you wouldn’t normally be in front of,” he said. “Sometimes people don’t seek out music like they used to. Sometimes you have to bring the music to them.”

Find the full schedule and learn more at westfestok.com.

Print headline: West friends, WestFest’s second year draws in new guests and reunites drinking buddies.

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