Tulsa Roots Music Bash provided an opportunity to relax on the Guthrie Green, listen to some fantastic music, and do some really intense people-watching.
This year marked the 3rd annual Tulsa Roots festival, an event which lasted most of last Saturday. Musical acts and other entertainment took to the stage starting at 2:30 in the afternoon and ending around midnight with a late-night show.
The event featured two stages: a lawn stage and the Green’s main stage. When apprentice editor James Whisenhunt and I arrived, members of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band were setting up on the main stage, and on the lawn stage bellydancers were inviting children to dance with them.
We waited about twenty minutes for the band to begin, listening to the vocalists call out “check check check, one two two two two two check check check” as they tested all the microphones. One of the singers was unimpressed with the quality of the mics — “It needs something more. A little more vibranticity or somethin” he said.
After ten or fifteen minutes of aimless tuning, the Dirty Dozen Brass Band began their set.
I was very impressed by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band — rarely have I encountered music that was so upbeat and infectious. Almost immediately, a crowd of dancers formed on the Green as the Dirty Dozen Brass Band wailed, crooned and bopped their way through a set of classic New Orleans brass.
Notable aspects of the performance included an electric tuba, a truly impressive drum solo (and I don’t think this drummer stopped playing a consistent beat for the entire 45-minute set), and a vocalist who took a quick break to play two trumpets at the same time.
The synchronicity of the band was incredible. They breezed through complicated changes in tempo and beat as though they were a single, collective musician.
If I had to guess based on what I saw of Tulsa Roots, I would say that the Dirty Dozen Brass Band were the stars of the show. However, it seems my experience with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band probably wasn’t even indicative of the festival as a whole. On the online setlist, the band is listed as “classic New Orleans brass,” while other acts encompass a wide variety of genres.
This included Arlene Gould (Israeli urban Afro-Pop), Fishbone (ska-punk-funk-rock fusion), and Count Tutu (funk and world rhythms). Musical acts were interspersed with performances by belly dancers, a youth circus and African drums and dancers.
Honestly, the most fun I had during the festival was watching the people who were there. Not that the music wasn’t good enough to hold my attention, because it was. I’ve found in the past that events on the Green attract a pretty colorful crowd, and this event was no exception. It’s almost always a fun and positive environment.
It was particularly interesting because during the Dirty Dozen Brass Band’s set a lot of people were dancing with varying degrees of skill and enthusiasm. It might have also been that I live on a college campus, so seeing anyone who isn’t between the ages of 18-22 is sort of mind-boggling.
Some notable figures:
A graceful lady with large sunglasses and a giant afro who was dancing very passionately and handing out scarves and giant flowers for kids to dance with
A tiny girl who was dragging an equally tiny dog around on a leash
Several visibly drunk adults holding beers and swaying off-tempo
A man tightly hugging a scared-looking dog that was wearing a sweater with hearts on it
A lady with dreadlocks who was hula-hooping to the music
Several little girls doing cartwheels in front of the stage
A girl who kissed the lead singer smack on the lips when he invited a few people onstage to dance
I had a great time for the hour or so I spent at Tulsa Roots Music Bash. Despite not being familiar with the music, I was entertained and impressed and didn’t find myself bored in the slightest. The atmosphere was great and the music was better, and I’m disappointed that I didn’t get to stay longer.
The festival is a great opportunity to pack up a picnic and hang out on the Green with some friends while listening to a diverse range of talented musicians. Based on the experience I had this week, I’d like to go back next year and do just that.