Michael Loveland (center) with his bandmates Sean Barker (left) and John Calvin (right) of Poolboy.
Most people who live in Norman―— whether for a transitory four years or a more extended stay — can tell you about Norman Music Festival. The event is often referred to as one of the coolest things about Norman, a valued tradition where, once a year, crowds flock downtown to listen to young musicians play their hearts out.
For Michael Loveland, this year’s fest coincided with personal tragedy. Just as the event was set to take place, Loveland — guitarist and vocalist for local bands Early Beat and Poolboy and resident music expert at Guestroom Records — was diagnosed with Burkitt’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system.
He started treatment almost immediately. At the time I was writing this, he had just gone into the hospital for his second round of chemotherapy, a grueling process of five days in the hospital and then 16 days at home.
Looking for a way to help, his friends in Norman’s tight-knit community of musicians decided to put on a benefit show at the Opolis to help assuage the costs of the mounting medical bills.
Will Muir, lead singer of the now-defunct band Shitty/Awesome and manager at Norman’s Guestroom Records, has known Loveland since before 2009, when Loveland and one of his bands, Early Beat, helped Shitty/ Awesome get its first paying gig. Muir is organizing the benefit show.
“I contacted Andy (Nunez) over at the Opolis and, actually, Sean and Patrick from Early Beat had also contacted him,” Muir said. “The four of us got together and started listing bands that we knew had a connection with Michael or Early Beat.”
Over 10 bands or solo acts are on the bill to play, including Shitty/ Awesome, which has reunited to headline the benefit.
Though it would be hard on anyone, young musicians and artists are especially susceptible to financial hardship when hit by a health tragedy. Even if we value their creative efforts for big events like Norman Music Festival, this rarely results in adequate compensation or necessities like health insurance.
“Not only does it take away what other job you might have had, you are also taken away from being able to perform or do your art and make whatever measly money you were able to make in the first place,” Muir said. “It’s just gone. You don’t have that income coming in, and your expenses have just multiplied a thousand times.”
That is why the community has come together to help, though Muir remained realistic, adding that the proceeds from the benefit will likely be a “drop in the bucket.”
Muir attributes people’s willingness to help to Loveland’s character.
“It really speaks to who Michael is,” Muir said. “He is a genuinely positive, happy person. He would walk in the door for work (at Guestroom) and it just makes my day, and everybody feels that way. It always seems like it hits the nicest people.”
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