We all love music. And most of us love seeing live music. But sometimes, just going to see a band play in a nice air-conditioned venue isn’t enough to prove just how much of a hardcore fan you are. The *real* fans would rather go to some overpriced music festival and become sweaty, miserable alcoholics that will brave any/all elements just to showcase their fanhood: “Oh, you saw Arcade Fire in an arena? That’s cool, but I saw them during a hailstorm from the shelter of an overrun porta-potty while I was on acid.”
The popularity of music festivals has exploded over the course of the last ten years. My theory is that promoters are starting to realize that only a handful of people will come to a show with a terrible band, but a bunch of handfuls of people will come to a show with a bunch of terrible bands! I don’t know about you guys but my favorite part of going to any concert is watching some weird opening act that I have never heard of, so I get pretty stoked at festivals when I get the opportunity to watch six weird opening acts I have never heard of. The $12 water bottles and multiple heat strokes are just an added bonus.
Oklahoma was actually an early adapter during the rise of the festival back when we had D-Fest from 2006-2009 (The Roots 2008 set is still the best live show I have ever seen), but like all good liberal things in this state, it sadly came to an end. Since then, we have experienced a bevvy of wannabe D-Fests that have tried to fill the festival-sized hole in our hearts to no avail.
Fortunately for us, we live in a place where a lot of people apparently don’t have real jobs and can find all the time in the world to put together these musical monstrosities. We have awkward new festivals popping up and then disappearing (sometimes before the festival even starts) every year, and 2014 is no different. This year we will have everything from a redesigned locals-only El Reno camping festival (Schwarzstock), to our flagship springtime festival that appears to be getting lost as it tries to navigate it’s head out of it’s own ass (Norman Music Festival).
There’s also a second-year festival in Tulsa that looks poised to become the closest thing we have to a revived D-Fest (Center Of The Universe), a festival coming up this Friday that’s literally just a hundred college kids and then Moby (ACM Rocks Bricktown), the best festival none of us have ever been to (Bricktown Reggae Fest), and of course the musical herpes sore on the mouth of our fine state (ROCKLAHOMA).
But with all these options, which festival is right for you? Should you go to more than one? Should you go to none of them? I am here to break down the good, the bad, and the ugly of each festival. I was also kind enough to create an Oklahoma Festival Flowchart™ for your squinting pleasure.
The good: The ACM@UCO has spawned a lot of really great bands in OKC, and they will be showcasing their talents throughout various Downtown venues for free this coming Friday.
The bad: “Rocks Bricktown” is an awful name for at least three different reasons.
The ugly: Moby is the one and only act on the bill that’s not from Oklahoma. And at a festival for a school that predominately teaches live instrument music and production, he will of course be performing a DJ set. Because it just sounds better when Moby presses the play button himself.
The good: Norman Music Festival is Norman Music Festival. The organizers could book Hinder next year (I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if they did) and 45,000 people will still show up to downtown Norman (it IS free) and have a great time. NMF is our own little slice of South By Southwest that has become one of the best weekends of the year regardless of who’s playing, which is a good thing because…
The bad: Over the course of the last few years NMF has booked The Walkmen, The Dirty Projectors, Ty Segall, Portugal. The Man, The Joy Formidable, Of Montreal, etc. Really solid, big-named (for college hipsters, at least) bands. And it appeared as if the festival was going to continue getting better and better acts, until this year’s lineup dropped and put an immediate end to that speculation. The Bright Light Social Hour is the 2014 headliner. They are actually a decent live band, and I know this because I saw them when they came through OKC in 2012 and six people showed up to see them at a dive bar. They deserve to be seen, they’re just not the big headlining draw that a lot of NMF fanboys were hoping for.
The ugly: In terms of Twitter followers ONLY, myself and Josh Sallee are the two most popular acts at NMF 2014. That’s not a good sign for any festival.
The good: Doug Schwarz is a local photographer and all-around awesome dude. He just so happens to own a bunch of land out in El Reno and just so happens to love all the best bands in Oklahoma enough to invite them to spend the weekend with him. He also decided to go ahead an open it up to the public to make it less-creepy. He seriously booked a hell of a lineup that includes all the best parts of NMF without all the other stuff.
The bad: It’s an outdoor, overnight camping festival in a field. Go ahead and start preparing yourself mentally for that.
The ugly: This will be the drunkest and druggiest festival Oklahoma has ever seen. I am nearly sure of it.
The good: I like Deftones. And that slutty chick from “Gossip Girl” would probably be worth seeing in person.
The bad: Literally everything else. I just can’t.
The ugly: We live in a world where Staind and Twisted Sister get billed higher than Deftones on the lineup.
The good: Last year Center Of The Universe debuted and shocked a lot of people (myself included) by being a really well produced weekend festival in downtown Tulsa that featured more than just local bands. And this year they have assembled an even better lineup that will feature headlining bands like Cold War Kids, Fitz & The Tantrums, Capital Cities, Young The Giant, and TwentyOnePilots. Local acts should be announced at a later time, but this is the hottest fest happening in Oklahoma right now.
The bad: Last year was free to the public. This year it seems as if there will be actual tickets sold, but even so they are only $35 for the weekend. You would most likely pay $35 to see any one of those bands play at Cain’s Ballroom in a non-festival setting.
The ugly: Attendance was around 100,000 people over the course of the weekend last year. Enjoy trying to get into any bar or restaurant.
The good: You can probably get contact high just by being within a few blocks of the festival itself. And it’s free.
The bad: The marijuana smell can only mask the smell of patchouli and unwashed dreadlocks for so long.
The ugly: I’m pretty sure that the first weekend in August is almost literally the hottest weekend of the year, every year. Leave your Indian headdresses at home.
Now, if this rundown wasn’t helpful enough, I have also created an Oklahoma Music Festival Flowchart™ to help you make the tough decisions. You can attempt to read it here, or you can look at the full-size version by clicking here.
I am pretty sure I forgot a festival or two, so if you want to (angrily) let me know what I may have missed, please tweet your complaints to me: @SpencerLenox
Good luck finding the festival that’s right for you!