Fledgling FreeTulsa music festival blows up in its second year
BY JENNIFER CHANCELLOR World Scene Writer
Thursday, July 28, 2011
7/28/11 at 2:47 AM
In its second year, the fledgling music fest FreeTulsa has gone from a handful of venues to more than a dozen, and from a couple dozen bands to more than 175, said Marc Matheos, the event founder.
Headlining this year are two bands, both helmed by Brian Haas, an innovative music man and lifelong Tulsan. Friday is LoHawk, featuring psychedelic fusion rock with Haas, Aaron Hamby, Matt Edwards and Andrew Bones.
Saturday is a blowout by local jazz legend and international touring quartet Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, fresh off a string of gigs including the esteemed Montreal International Jazz Festival.
"This is a really great opportunity to bring innovative and brand-new music from one of the best music scenes in the country to the people of Tulsa - for free," Haas said of the event.
His quartet will perform the acclaimed "Race Riot Suite" in full, with guest horn players Mark Sutherland and JFJO founding member Matt Leland.
JFJO has jumped to the forefront to endorse Tulsa's newbie fest. For good reason, said member and "The Race Riot Suite" composer Chris Combs.
"This is a step in the right direction for Tulsa. We are really proud to be a part of it. We're honored," Combs said.
This year, the two-day fest spans Friday and Saturday in the historic Blue Dome District.
A change from last year, play times have moved to evening and night, when the temperatures aren't so searing, Matheos said.
Plus, there's a free smartphone app that will give everyone the lowdown: times, venues, bands, links, freebies and more. Also, the majority of the 12-plus stages are indoors. Some 15 venues in the historic district are also participating, Matheos said. Bands are coming in from across Oklahoma, including Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Norman and Stillwater, he said.
'Good for downtown'
"We need to show off downtown's infrastructure and need to have something Tulsans can look forward to every year." In other words, Matheos is in this for the long haul, he said.
Longtime Tulsa musician Neil Dirickson agreed. He's frontman and guitarist for powerpop indie rocker Nude Furniture, as well as skinman in '60s-style garage-rock outfit the Flash Bangs. Both will perform at this year's festival.
"I've been hearing about the crowds building up for this event," Dirickson said. "These are good crowds, fun-lovers. I get to perform for people who may not see us otherwise."
Dirickson said it's good for him and his bands - and for the historic district. "Anything that gets people walking up and down the streets and hearing good local sounds is good for downtown."
Many of the bands feature musicians that work in a cross-section of genres.
Jack-of-all-instruments Hank Hanewinkel III performs in two bands this weekend - garage rock act The Red Alert and hard-edged instrumental rock band And There Stand Empires. Last year, he performed with five local acts.
This year, he's happy to see a more varied musical lineup. He's also manning a vendor booth, where he'll hawk his graphic design wares.
"There will be a ton of foot traffic, more eyes on us, more business for the district, more restaurants for the patrons," Hanewinkel said. "This will put together a lot of people who don't normally get together. It will draw a lot of people who may not normally get out to see this part of town."
'This will be it'
The Blue Dome District is growing. Annual St. Patrick's Day and Mardi Gras celebrations, along with art and film festivals, each bring tens of thousands of people through the area.
Matheos hopes to increase those numbers with FreeTulsa.
"I'd be really happy to see 15,000 people each day. We want to have the best festival in town this year," Matheos said.
Matheos owns the Crystal Pistol bar in downtown Tulsa. He is also a partner in The Marquee club and the Cellar Dweller, also in downtown. He books hundreds of bands a year at the former, then has met them for cold beer at the latter.
The first show he booked was punk act Black Flag as a teenager. "Twenty people showed up, but it was so thrilling just promoting a band and booking a band that I wanted to have that feeling all the time."
So he made a living out of it.
The wooly-bearded businessman also founded Diabolical Productions in the 1980s and helped run and promote the successful ReggaeFest in its heyday. Since the 1990s, he's owned and run several other successful nightclubs in the area.
"So, FreeTulsa. Why did I choose to bite this off?" he asked himself of the challenge.
"Well, Tulsa really needs a premiere festival, and I want all the bands to be in one place, all in 48 hours," he said. "So if people want to do one thing this summer, this will be it."
15 to see
More than 175 bands will perform Friday and Saturday. You're bound to find a favorite. In the meantime, here's our short list of bands to see. View the event schedule at tulsaworld.com/freesked Lineup subject to change without notice.
1. Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey, 11 p.m. Saturday, McNellie's main stage
2. LoHawk, 11 p.m. Friday, McNellie's main stage
3. And There Stand Empires, 10 p.m. Saturday, Fassler Hall
4. The Red Alert, 8 p.m. Friday, McNellie's main stage
5. Nude Furniture, 6 p.m. Friday, Dilly Deli
6. The Flash Bangs, 8 p.m. Saturday, Arnie's Bar
7. The Pretty Black Chains, midnight Friday, Blackwatch Stage
8. Low Litas, 9 p.m. Saturday, McNellie's main stage
9. Chrome Pony, midnight Saturday, Blackwatch Stage
10. Various DJs, 6 p.m.-close Friday and Saturday, Yokozuna
11. Wink Burcham, 8:15 p.m. Friday, Fassler Hall
12. Don't Care Bears, 9 p.m. Saturday, Woody's Corner Bar
13. Various DJs, 6 p.m.-close Friday, The Max Retropub
14. The Pretty Black Chains (acoustic), 7 p.m. Friday, Dwelling Spaces + Joebots Coffee Bar
15. Fiawna Forte, 9 p.m. Saturday, Blackwatch Stage
- McNellie's main stage outdoor stage
- Blackwatch Studios outdoor stage
- The Board Shop skate expo outdoor stage
- Crispy Family Carnival expo outdoor stage
- McNellie's pub stage (409 E. First St.)
- Fassler Hall pub stage (304 S. Elgin Ave.)
- Arnie's Bar pub stage (318 E. Second Street)
- Joe Momma's Pizza inside stage (112 S. Elgin Ave.)
- Woody's Corner Bar inside stage (325 E. Second St.)
- Back Alley Blues & BBQ inside stage (116 S. Elgin Ave.)
- Dilly Deli + Dust Bowl Lanes inside stage (402 E. Second St.)
- The Max Retropub inside stage (114 S. Elgin Ave.)
- El Guapo's Cantina rooftop stage (332 E. First St.)
- Yokozuna inside stage (309 E. Second St.)
- Dwelling Spaces + Joebots indoor stage (119 S. Detroit Ave.)
FreeTulsa is the second in a string of summer festivals planned for downtown Tulsa. Looking to fill the void left by the long-running Dfest music festival, downtown is quickly becoming a music destination.
First, July saw the Hot as Hell Festival, with more than 6,000 ticketed patrons attending the show headlined by Rob Zombie.
Up next, close to double that should be in downtown on Aug. 6 for the Flaming Lips-headlining Brady District Block Party, with special guests Primus, event organizers predict. Brady District Block Party tickets are $39, plus fees, available at Reasor's and Starship Records in Tulsa and Buy For Less locations in Oklahoma City. Charge by phone at 866-977-6849 or online at tulsaworld.com/protix
iTunes app: FreeTulsa
Event schedule: tulsaworld.com/freesked
When: 6 p.m.-1 a.m. Friday and Saturday
Where: Blue Dome District, Second Street and Elgin Ave.
Admission: Free. Get wristbands in advance at tulsaworld.com/ticketstorm" target="_blank">tulsaworld.com/ticketstorm and freetulsa2011.com A limited number of VIP passes are available for $29 per day or $49 for the full festival, also available at tulsaworld.com/ticketstorm" target="_blank">tulsaworld.com/ticketstorm VIP passes include backstage access, free beer, beverages and snacks.
Parking: Street, valet and parking lots available
Original Print Headline: Fest blows up in year 2
Jennifer Chancellor 918-581-8346
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey founder Brian Haas stands in front of Blue Dome District stalwarts Rose Pawn Shop and Arnie's Bar. JFJO is a headliner at this year's FreeTulsa music festival. JAMES GIBBARD / Tulsa World
Marc Matheos stands in the Blue Dome District, home to the FreeTulsa music festival. JAMES GIBBARD / Tulsa World
Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey is just one of the bands that will be featured during FreeTulsa. Courtesy