Amanda Reynolds was among the crowd of 13,000 that stood shoulder-to-shoulder on Main Street last year for the closing performance of the inaugural Norman Music Festival.
Reynolds, 24, said she eagerly joined a carload of her Texas girlfriends to made the three-hour trek to Norman so she could watch her favorite group, Dallas psychedelic-rock choir The Polyphonic Spree.
“It was amazing,” she said. “Down on the street with the buildings all around us and everyone cramming toward the stage. There was just an energy that you don’t get inside a bar or some club. Some bands, especially ones like Polyphonic Spree, seem to really feed off that. The show is so different ” better ” when the audience and band and everything just feeds on itself.”
Reynolds said she’s returning to Norman on Saturday for the second incarnation of the free music festival, but this time, she’s most looking forward to reconnecting with a handful of friends she made among audience members last year: her Okie “music buddies,” as she calls them ” the indie-music-loving cohorts she said generously offered her whole Dallas entourage a couch and floor space at their apartment for the post-concert crash.
“It’ll be so nice, not having to drive back on Saturday,” she said. “We’ve talked and e-mailed, but I haven’t seen them since last year’s concert. It sounds weird, that I’m comfortable staying with them, but it’s not. That’s the great thing about music and really great concerts. You share a connection with people through music and sometimes that’s an actual, real bond.”
More than 90 bands and performers are scheduled to perform on Saturday ” roughly triple the acts that took the stage last year, said the Norman Arts & Humanities Council’s Holly Jones, a festival spokeswoman.
Saturday’s concert headliner, Athens, Ga., indie-pop darlings Of Montreal, will perform at 10:30 p.m. on the festival’s Main Stage, in the 100 block of Main Street.
Three outdoor stages hosted performances last year, Jones said, but Saturday’s event grew to include 12 stages set up outdoors or inside clubs, bars and venues in downtown Norman. Starting at 11 a.m., national and local bands, musicians and comedians will perform throughout the day.
The Norman Arts Council, a nonprofit organization that promotes arts and cultural events, is spending about $160,000 on Saturday’s festival, Jones said. The NAC spent roughly $120,000 for the 2008 event.
A portion of the festival’s funding comes from monies the NAC receives from a hotel/motel tax fund created by the City of Norman in the early 1980s. Jones said roughly $20,000 of the tax money was used for the first festival, and the NAC will use a little more than $40,000 for this year’s event.
The remaining festival funding is “covered by sponsorships from local and national businesses and individuals,” she said.
Jones said organizers expect this year’s festival to attract crowds even larger than the 20,000 they estimated attended the 2008 event.
One day, 12 stages, 90-plus performances ” It’s impossible to see it all, so here’s a short list of Gazette-approved Norman Music Festival highlights that are more than worth your while.
DEAD SEA CHOIR
Opolis stage, 113 n. Crawford
Tulsa’s Dead Sea Choir fills its sails with a moody wind of atmospheric rock ‘n’ roll. Sweeping, morose melodies rise like the tide and drown like an anchor. A beacon of light is found in the voice of frontman Costa Stasinopoulos, whose affected, six-octave range never strains, even amid his emotional flood of lyrics and the band’s crashing sonic wash.
Main stage, 100 block of Main Street
A wonderfully weird Philadelphia outfit known for wild stage antics involving body paint, synthesizers, sousaphones and scads of other instruments, its seven members blow, hit, bow and shake. The band’s upbeat 2008 album, “Rabbit Habits,” was well received by critics and fans who appreciate a little nonsense and a lot of experimentation.
Red Room Stage, 114 W. Main
The reigning king of metro hip-hop, Oklahoma City’s emcee Jabee inks thoughtful songs about life, love and personal struggle. His 2008 album, “Blood is the New Black,” was an organic, gritty and soulful street tale set to choice funk and R&B samples, and his recent “Valentines Day” EP proves the rapper had no problem wearing his witty heart on his sleeve.
Jagermeister Stage, Near Main Street and Porter Avenue
Nashville, Tenn., indie-folk troubadour Todd Snider’s gravely twang perfectly hems the frayed edges of his roughly recorded alt-country. Last year’s “Peace Queer” rose to the top of the Americana charts. Snider’s songs have been re-recorded by Okie red-dirt rockers Cross Canadian Ragweed and he co-wrote “Barbie Doll” with Texas country heavyweight Jack Ingram.
Main Stage, 100 Block of Main Street
The Athens, Ga., indie-pop rockers are no stranger to the metro. Last year’s frantic “Skeletal Lamping” was an out-of-control music vehicle the five-piece drove down dozens of musical directions. Sometimes dark, often humorous and always entertaining, Of Montreal combines experimental electronica with catchy melodies and join-along choruses.