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Norman Music Festival takes over Norman's downtown Saturday and Sunday with almost 200 bands



The Oklahoma Gazette's Norman Music Festival Picks:

Audra Mae: She's got the Susan Boyle connection.
Burning Hotels: Listen to what the ceiling's saying.
Colourmusic: Literally, color and music.
Edan: Hip-hop in Norman? On the Main Stage?
Electric Six: Don't call them a one-hit wonder.
Gentle Ghost: Veteran rocker succeeds with another project.
Grupo Fantasma: You're a Latin band? And Prince's backing band?
James McMurtry: "Makes it" in the Norman Music Festival.
Octopus Project: Festivals are no sweat.
Odis: Road warriors stop in before recording.
The Orbans: What a long and winding road it's been.
The Red Alert: Watch them grow up on stage!
Sugar Free All-stars: Everyone is the target audience.
The Sword: Classic rock, classic mythology.

Shelsea Turner drives the same route every weekday on her way to and from a Norman doctor's office where she works as a medical biller.

Turner will make the same trek down Main Street Sunday, albeit on foot, and see many faces familiar from her workweek. The setting is exactly the same, but her surroundings will be entirely different.

"All the people that are usually in their white collars and fancy cars are out in the street drinking and partying," Turner, 27, said. "I just love seeing it transformed into a big, giant party"¦ On Monday, it's solemn again. It's back to life and waiting until next year."

More than 200 performers will entertain tens of thousands Saturday and Sunday at the third annual Norman Music Festival, a gathering of well-known bands, musicians and entertainers from around the country, region and state. The acts range from Latin orchestras with Grammy nominations to bands with garage dedication.

Headlining NMF's Main Stage Sunday this year is beloved Brooklyn experimental rock outfit Dirty Projectors, which has released more than 10 albums since forming in 2002 and has a knack for concept albums and eclectic collaborations that have included the likes of Björk and Talking Head David Byrne.

Legendary singer/songwriter and session musician Leon Russell, a Lawton native, will headline the Jägermeister Stage on Sunday with more than a half dozen roots, country and Americana acts slated to open.

More than 25,000 attended NMF last year, said festival chair Quentin Bomgardner. The inaugural event in 2008 brought out roughly 13,000 visitors and included about 30 acts, a count that more than tripled for last year's event.

This year's NMF includes more than twice as many performers as the 2009 festival and organizers made room by adding venues and extending the concert series to include an extra half-day of performances, which starts after 6 p.m. on Saturday across several indoor venues throughout downtown Norman.

The first two NMF events included a daylong Saturday concert, but the massive outdoor component of this year's festival was moved to Sunday, a change Bomgardner said was made to satiate concerns of some downtown business owners whose sales might suffer from large-scale street closures on a Saturday.

For some nearby Norman businesses, particularly those that aren't "restaurants and bars," Bomgardner said a large music festival isn't something that helps business. "It can actually hurt it," he said.

A third of the roughly $168,000 spent on the 2009 festival comes from public funds, some from the Norman Arts Council and monies it receives from a hotel/motel tax fund created by the City of Norman in the early 1980s. Although an exact accounting for the 2010 NMF won't be available until after the event, Bomgardner estimated that $150,000 will be spent this year and said that festival organizers worked to increase private and corporate donations and hoped to reduce public funding by about 5 percent.

Through a survey of 345 attendees at the 2009 NMF, the Norman Convention & Visitor Bureau estimated that more that last year's festival brought more than $2.5 million "new dollars" to the city.

New this year, an "open call" for festival talent attracted more than 350 applications, Bomgardner said. Only 20 openings were promised, but more than 80 bands and musicians were ultimately picked to perform, most of which are up-and-coming Okie artists.

Turner was turned on to psychedelic rock choir Polyphonic Spree at the first NMF and attended last year already excited to see vaudevillian gypsy jazz experiment Man Man, but said she's just as excited for homegrown rock 'n' roll.

"One of the things I love about the festival is that a lot of the local bands play at it, too," said Turner, who's lived in Tuttle, Chickasha and Moore. "You get to see your friends from this little Southern town on stage and later they're mixed in with the crowd."

But for Turner, the best part of NMF is the new view it offers on the center of the city.
"You can actually set your chair in the middle of Main Street and drink beer, she said, "to me that's the coolest thing.""Joe Wertz

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