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Sonic discoveries: Norman Music Festival showcases musical variety

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David Nghiem of the Oklahoma City band The Nghiems sits at his keyboard at the Sooner Theatre during his band's performance Saturday at the 2019 Norman Music Festival.  [Steve Sisney/For The Oklahoman]
David Nghiem of the Oklahoma City band The Nghiems sits at his keyboard at the Sooner Theatre during his band's performance Saturday at the 2019 Norman Music Festival. [Steve Sisney/For The Oklahoman]

NORMAN — Decked out in pink coveralls with cheeky nicknames emblazoned on the back, the seven members of Irrational Consumers paused so family, friends and fans could snap photos of them in their “super suits” before resuming their set with a boisterous cover of Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So.”

“I think we were watching ‘Dirty Jobs’ and saw a bunch of guys in coveralls and were like, ‘What if those were pink and we were wearing them?’ It’s a very fun surprise for the audience,” said singer/guitarist David “DJ” Locke. “Now we’re finally on here, we’ve tried to make the most of it.”

The Norman-based teenage ska band took full advantage of its Norman Music Festival upgrade Saturday afternoon, opening up the Winston West Stage with their raucous originals “I’ll Find a Way” and “Baby Is Stupid.” After playing the back room of Bison Witches Bar & Deli on the opening night of the 2018 event, they were eager to make the most of their first chance at one of the festival’s big outdoor stages.

“I guess that’s the whole point of being the first show (of the day), is to get the energy up,” Locke said. “This is the biggest show we’ve played. It’s very fun.”

The 12th Annual Norman Music Festival showcased nearly nonstop music at more than a dozen downtown Norman venues Saturday, the jam-packed third day of the three-day event. With the sun shining and temperatures climbing into the 80s, organizers were expecting big crowds that would bring the event’s total attendance to an estimated 120,000 festivalgoers.

Tantalizing treats

The free, independent music festival offered a plethora of treats for the ears and eyes. Norman multi-instrumentalist Kyle Reid jazzily played along with Abbigale Dawn & the Makebelieve on the sunny Gray Street Stage and then turned up again a couple hours later outside Benvenuti’s Ristorante, where he zipped through his original tune “Shot of Whiskey” with upright bassist Johnny Carlton.

Magician Joe Coover wowed children and adults by putting on a show right in the middle of Main Street, which was closed off for the event, while the Ferris wheel at the adjacent Lion's Club Carnival was like a revolving beacon for youngsters. Food trucks sold an array of tantalizing treats, from PB&J to barbecue.

“I love Norman. I really love this entire vibe,” said James Nghiem, who with his brother David forms the core of Oklahoma City indie-rock band The Nghiems. “It’s just like corn dogs and families and carnival rides and then all the cool things about like a Coachella or something, with all the cool bands and the shirtless dudes and their fashionable girlfriends all walking around.”

The Nghiems have played Norman Music Festival most years since 2010, last year debuting their latest album, “Soulmatic,” leading up to the event. This year, the alt-pop band with its “lo-fi hip-hop meets folk music” sound premiered the lyric video for the album’s spacey single “Lightspeed” a few days prior to their Saturday afternoon Sooner Theatre set.

“I think it’s gotten better every year,” David Nghiem said of the festival. “I feel like every year they’ve stepped it up and more people come out.”

Along with performing most of “Soulmatic” and a couple of other favorites, the band served up tasty homemade banh mi sandwiches David Nghiem had prepared, enlisting a concertgoer in the front row to toss them into the audience.

“We should have brought a cannon to shoot them into the crowd,” said bandmate Derek Moore. “He makes great sandwiches. If you can get one, get one. … This is now the best show you’ve ever been to at this point.”

Sonic variety

In the dim back room of Bison Witches, Mustang-based musician Yiskah ran her fingers fleetly over her harp while crooning in Hebrew, a surprising sonic treat that literally turned the heads of many passersby.

“I do feel that I have something very unique. There’s not too many harpists in the world, and there’s even less singing harpists. So, it is something very different,” she said after her Saturday set.

“I love different languages, and I’m really happy that I can bring that to people. Some of people have heard Spanish maybe, but they haven’t really heard Hebrew so much.”

Making her Norman Music Festival debut, Yiskah said she hoped the event would help more people discover her music, which Joshua Boydston, who chairs the talent committee of the Norman Music Alliance, said is one of the goals of the event.

"I think discovery and community is fundamental to the DNA of the festival. My hope is that people attending fall in love with a touring band they've never heard before or a local, homegrown talent that they can come away from the festival and start supporting outside of that,” he said. “Variety also helps it feel like a fresh, new experience each year out, too, and as we hit our 12th year and beyond, that evolution in bringing more, different artistic viewpoints is so essential to … keeping this thing exciting for years and years to come."

Back at the Winston West Stage, Locke brought some excitement to Irrational Consumers’ surprising closer, a cover of Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” dedicated “to the middle-school girl in all of us,” by leaping off the stage, hurdling the barrier and dancing with festivalgoers.

“You just gotta have fun with the crowd. I mean, if they’re not happy and not moving with you, then you’re not doing your job as an artist,” he said.

Related Photos
<strong>Mustang-based musician Yiskah performs on the harp Saturday at Bison Witches Bar & Deli during Norman Music Festival 2019.  [Steve Sisney/For The Oklahoman]</strong>

Mustang-based musician Yiskah performs on the harp Saturday at Bison Witches Bar & Deli during Norman Music Festival 2019. [Steve Sisney/For The Oklahoman]

<figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-0cf9f8677f050648d71a54be8ad04383.jpg" alt="Photo - Mustang-based musician Yiskah performs on the harp Saturday at Bison Witches Bar &amp; Deli during Norman Music Festival 2019. [Steve Sisney/For The Oklahoman] " title=" Mustang-based musician Yiskah performs on the harp Saturday at Bison Witches Bar &amp; Deli during Norman Music Festival 2019. [Steve Sisney/For The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Mustang-based musician Yiskah performs on the harp Saturday at Bison Witches Bar &amp; Deli during Norman Music Festival 2019. [Steve Sisney/For The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-1e92ca200d2cfb96430694f37ffa7320.jpg" alt="Photo - Mustang-based musician Yiskah performs on the harp Saturday at Bison Witches Bar &amp; Deli during Norman Music Festival 2019. [Steve Sisney/For The Oklahoman] " title=" Mustang-based musician Yiskah performs on the harp Saturday at Bison Witches Bar &amp; Deli during Norman Music Festival 2019. [Steve Sisney/For The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Mustang-based musician Yiskah performs on the harp Saturday at Bison Witches Bar &amp; Deli during Norman Music Festival 2019. [Steve Sisney/For The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-443e289445780667c274968021e4f0f4.jpg" alt="Photo - Magician Joe Coover performs a magic show in the streets Saturday afternoon during Norman Music Festival 2019. [Steve Sisney/For The Oklahoman] " title=" Magician Joe Coover performs a magic show in the streets Saturday afternoon during Norman Music Festival 2019. [Steve Sisney/For The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Magician Joe Coover performs a magic show in the streets Saturday afternoon during Norman Music Festival 2019. [Steve Sisney/For The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-55802f483b08d188a18b241a3bbc231c.jpg" alt="Photo - Festivalgoers walk along a closed Main Street in downtown Norman Saturday afternoon during Norman Music Festival 2019. [Steve Sisney/For The Oklahoman] " title=" Festivalgoers walk along a closed Main Street in downtown Norman Saturday afternoon during Norman Music Festival 2019. [Steve Sisney/For The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> Festivalgoers walk along a closed Main Street in downtown Norman Saturday afternoon during Norman Music Festival 2019. [Steve Sisney/For The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-24e94cd8f7e8bf1c05f7dd268fb00f1e.jpg" alt="Photo - Big WoRm performs during Norman Music Fest 2019 on April 27, 2019 in Norman, Okla. [Steve Sisney/For The Oklahoman]" title="Big WoRm performs during Norman Music Fest 2019 on April 27, 2019 in Norman, Okla. [Steve Sisney/For The Oklahoman]"><figcaption>Big WoRm performs during Norman Music Fest 2019 on April 27, 2019 in Norman, Okla. [Steve Sisney/For The Oklahoman]</figcaption></figure><figure><img src="//cdn2.newsok.biz/cache/r960-743a7483d705653ee8f4470b65b9c2b0.jpg" alt="Photo - David Nghiem of the Oklahoma City band The Nghiems sits at his keyboard at the Sooner Theatre during his band's performance Saturday at the 2019 Norman Music Festival. [Steve Sisney/For The Oklahoman] " title=" David Nghiem of the Oklahoma City band The Nghiems sits at his keyboard at the Sooner Theatre during his band's performance Saturday at the 2019 Norman Music Festival. [Steve Sisney/For The Oklahoman] "><figcaption> David Nghiem of the Oklahoma City band The Nghiems sits at his keyboard at the Sooner Theatre during his band's performance Saturday at the 2019 Norman Music Festival. [Steve Sisney/For The Oklahoman] </figcaption></figure>
Brandy McDonnell

Brandy McDonnell, also known by her initials BAM, writes stories and reviews on movies, music, the arts and other aspects of entertainment. She is NewsOK’s top blogger: Her 4-year-old entertainment news blog, BAM’s Blog, has notched more than 1... Read more ›

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