When PiGs Fly 

Wellston’s PiGFest going whole hog on Oklahoma music Sept. 9-11.

click to enlarge Guests partake in the buffet at the 2021 PiGFest.

Photo provided

Guests partake in the buffet at the 2021 PiGFest.

“I may have bitten off a little more than I can chew,” Dylan Swindell says with a laugh, not overlooking the food pun for a second. “I can admit that.”

Swindell is the co-founder and head organizer behind Wellston, Oklahoma’s very own new mid-sized music festival, PiGFest, a weekend-long celebration of homegrown music covering a huge range of styles and scenes.

Oh, and also pork.

“That acronym, PiG, just stands for ‘pig in ground,’” he explains. “My grandpa just always wanted to cook an actual pig in the ground just because he thought it was cool, so it all kind of stemmed from that.”

He’s being modest, of course.

Swindell’s family owns a sprawling, picturesque 160-acre farm in Wellston – about 40 miles outside of OKC on the Turner Turnpike – and Swindell himself actually boasts a degree in commercial music from the Academy of Contemporary Music at the University of Central Oklahoma and co-owns Bison Tail Studios with PiGFest co-founder Aaron Rogers. So trust that there’s a fair bit more background for organizing a music festival than just the desire for some real ground-pit barbecue.

“I come from a very musical family,” Swindell said. “My dad, uncle, and my grandpa are all musicians, and they actually did a music festival in the 80s on this same 160 acres they called Wellstock. It was just a word-of-mouth thing, but the day came and thousands of people showed up. I wouldn’t say it was a disaster, but it was definitely pretty crazy. So I guess it’s taken them decades to work up to doing another festival out here.”

click to enlarge The Swindell’s sprawling ranch in Wellston - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • Photo provided
  • The Swindell’s sprawling ranch in Wellston

The key to convincing Swindell’s grandfather to finally allow another large-scale musical event on the grounds was, it seems, the pig. They decided to build a stage, dig a pit, roast an in-ground hog, and invite some bands and friends out for what was dubbed PiGFest in 2021.

It was a success (both the concert and the barbecue), and with the decades-long barrier now broken, Swindell and Rogers were given the green light to attempt the Okie music festival of their dreams.

The result is PiGFest 2022, a shocking collection of all-Oklahoman artists of all stripes spread over a three-day weekend from Sept. 9 - 11.

This year, instead of a quietly announced, semi-public countryside concert, the bill sports names like Locust Grove, Rainbows are Free, Samantha Crain, Jason Scott and the High Heat, Hosty, Kyle Nix and the 38’s, and even Oklahoma Gazette writer Jarvix (Evan Jarvicks). And that’s all on top of a host of vendors, sponsors, and food trucks all prepping for a full-scale music festival focused on showcasing and celebrating some of the very best acts our state has to offer.

Accounting for such a diverse group of artists, covering everything from gentle folk to indie rock to full-on metal, created another challenge for Swindell, but his intention was always to set the stage appropriately for each act.

“We have two main stages this year,” he said. “One that’s for the bigger, louder bands and one that’s for the mainly acoustic acts, but I also built in a full hour of changeover time on each stage, so when one act ends, you have plenty of time to move between stages and check out different artists. I just want everyone to be comfortable and to be really enjoying themselves.”

While the music is obviously center stage, Swindell makes it clear that his hope is to curate a comfortable, memorable experience for attendees focused on the community of the festival goers and the in-between moments that create it.

“When I go to a festival,” he said, “the best part, or what I remember most, is when I see one or two of my absolute favorite bands, and I'm right there up close, but the rest is sitting way in the back with my friends on the grass and just enjoying the breeze and listening to some cool new band that I haven't heard before. And I kind of just want to maximize that feeling for everyone in the best way I can.”

He can’t yet say if there will be any more PiGFests after this one, just like he can’t yet say for sure if there will actually be any ground-roasted pigs this time around.

For now, the focus is firmly on PiGFest 2022, on Swindell and Rogers proving to themselves, and to everyone, that they can pull it off and create the kind of unforgettable communal experience that only camping, food and great music in the heart of nature can bring.

More than anything, they want to prove that the richness, strength and creativity of Oklahoma’s own homegrown musical culture can’t be ignored or underestimated.

“I really want this to be something that people can cherish and believe in for this moment,” Swindell says, “and booking an all-Oklahoma lineup has really contributed to that. It’s like, ‘Hey, look at what we can do here.’”

For tickets, visit pigfestok.com.

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