Bigger than ever, Norman Music Festival welcomed an estimated 100,000 concertgoers to its wide array of stages, acts, and events over the past weekend. Lovers of music and local festivities alike filled the streets of downtown Norman to enjoy and support the free event’s ninth consecutive year.
NMF9 proved especially favorable to fans of niche music genres. While the festival has traditionally grouped similar-sounding acts together, 2016 boasted the most robust diversity to date. For instance, the outdoor Grey Street stage last year was shared by hip-hop and electronic DJ artists, but this year, the hip-hop stage graduated to Friday’s Depot stage and even had its own major headliner, Milo. Heavy rock had its first shining moment at a major outdoor stage as well, capping off with metal band Power Trip. On a smaller scale, funk and fusion jam bands held an entire stage at Sandalwood & Sage, while experimental and post-rock fans could spend all night with Friday’s Sooner stage lineup, and so on.
Across two dozen stages and three days, Norman Music Fest booked close to 400 acts, including the major headliners of the event, Cloud Nothings, Nikki Lane, and Small Black. Of course, it was impossible to see everything, especially now that the smaller stages no longer peter out to encourage everyone to attend the Main Stage on Saturday night. If anything, this development is a sign that the Oklahoma music scene is swimming in more talent than it can corral.
One of the undisputed highlights of the weekend actually happened duringCloud Nothings’ headlining performance at the Main Stage on Saturday. Local surf pop band Husbands played its first show at the Opolis indoor stage to a packed room. The duo, despite having albums and singles under their belt, had never managed to play together because one of the members was living across the country. This allowed for web-based collaboration, but little else. The band wore its hype well, finally settling years of anticipation with a momentous and memorable performance that resonated long afterward.
On the other side of the spectrum, OKC math rock band The Hitt Boyz played their final show at Red Brick Bar on Friday. Rocking tight, complicated rhythms to a roomful of die-hards, the four-piece delivered a fun show that, like the Husbands show, united fans in a one-of-a-kind communal atmosphere kinetic with movement and spirit. The band has not called it quits per se, but the hiatus is indefinite.
Beginning Thursday, the festival’s kickoff also coincided with the unexpected, upsetting news of Prince’s death. Dedications abounded, but Prettyboy’s closing number, a communal take on “Little Red Corvette,” was the most passionate, meaningful, and put together. He invited over a dozen musicians on stage to pay tribute to one of his major influences, and the performance was both fun and emotionally moving.
“Prettyboy’s Prince cover was perfection. I think it gave closure to a lot of people there who were affected by the news of his passing.” -Evan Jarvicks
As the final night began to wrap, the after-parties kicked into high gear. This was a great opportunity for bands to work in a second show for fans that missed their main NMF gigs. The Deli featured a Jabee-hosted hip-hop showcase; the First Pastafarian Church of Norman closed out its massive weekend run with Sativa Prophets and Bowlsey; and STASH held a great lineup with Norman-rooted, Brooklyn-based scene curators Dojo Zine.
The latter of these closed out with Frequency Jones, who had played the Puebla patio stage earlier on Thursday but really hit its stride at STASH. Jumping across recognizable elements of funk, hip-hop, and electronic music, the band’s live show was a natural for the outdoor stage’s club-influenced presentation, especially as the set carried late into the night. It was a fitting end for such a big, eclectic weekend.
Of course, there were many other top-of-the-line performances from locals like GUM and Chase Kerby + The Villains as well as out-of-state names like Lord Buffalo and Gazzo, the latter of which had perhaps the most energetic crowd experience of any act.
To go through every great set would take a very long time, but that’s a good problem to have. It implies that there’s plenty to choose from, however distinct one’s tastes may be. The fact that so much of the festival’s talents were Oklahoman not only further solidifies the robustness of the local music scene here, but it also reminds that these are talents that can be enjoyed and supported all year—it doesn’t have to end when the confetti settles.
[The photo gallery that belongs to this article has been lost]
This article was originally written for Cellar Door Music Group (cellardoormusicgroup.com). It is archived here with the publisher’s permission.