Pony up

Like a lot of local musicians, Steven Battles has grazed the floors of Norman’s Opolis for as long as he can remember. The Pink Pony ringleader has seen countless musicians at the venue, even cutting his teeth as a doorman at one point.

But no matter how vital the place has been in the booking department — from local bands to rising international acts — for Battles, the Opolis has harvested far more than a place to play music.

“It’s the home spot in Norman for me; always has been,” he said. “It was something that influenced me at first and then gave me a place to play. The whole venue, everyone who’s involved, it feels like a family. We all have shared values and we’re all working on our art together.”

Pink Pony — the Oklahoma City electronic-punk duo he commands with girlfriend Christina Fallin — closes this weekend’s Opolis XI festival with a set that will extend into Sunday’s early hours. The free, two-day event marks a homecoming of sorts for Battles, who performed at last year’s gala with Pony Death Bang, a collaborative effort featuring himself, Stardeath and White Dwarfs’ Matt Duckworth and Tommy McKenzie of the now-defunct punk act The Boom Bang.

Both Pink Pony and Pony Death Bang are spin-offs of Battles’ main jam, the popular electro-pop collective known as Chrome Pony. But each offers a different interpretation of his songs, which span the music spectrum’s far-reaching corners when peppered between bands. Pink Pony flirts with more dance-heavy renditions, complete with its own DJ — a role filled by Fallin.

Photo: Mark Hancock

According to Battles, this penchant for the impulsive couldn’t have happened without the blessing of Opolis, whose 11th anniversary the event celebrates.

“I love the Opolis because it’s a venue for experimentation,” he said. “So many great bands have come through that it’s sort of become a launching pad for so many acts. It’s like its own scene within the Oklahoma music scene.”

The venue will embody this microscene spirit both Friday and Saturday night, with a host of acts set to play both indoors and out. It’ll have a heavy local bent, too, with a lineup that almost exclusively features Oklahoma artists.

Given what the venue’s done for the Norman scene — and local acts like Battles’ — this seems appropriate.

“At this point, we’ve all been playing music together for years,” he said.

“These kind of events are celebrations where we get to play and share that part of ourselves with everybody. I’m really excited about it.”

For so many musicians, the place’s kitten-laden walls conjure a sense of gratitude and nostalgia that few area spots can offer. Yet the benefit is mutual, and Opolis XI is the live music hub’s way of returning those thanks.

“It just feels like a family affair. Everyone trades musicians and gets a chance to play something different,” Battles said. “It’s incredible being able to share that with your friends. Being the last band that night, it’s gonna be really, really fun.”

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