It was a chilly evening in January when Norman let the good times roll New Orleans-style.
The Mardi Gras Parade fundraiser on Main Street featured Cajun music with a band of local musicians including Victor Rook, Armando Rivera, Sarah Reid and others. That rollicking event helped set the tone for a year with good music somewhere in town every day.
A memorable performing experience for a handful of Norman musicians occurred the next month far from home turf.
Kyle Reid and Ken Pomeroy took their Oklahoma sound on the road to the Folk Alliance International Conference in Kansas City. It was an opportunity for industry insiders from around the world to hear in the Oklahoma Room what we can all the time. And those Folk Alliance showcases have proven to be a two way street.
Norman's Winter Wind and Summer Breeze concert series selection committee were also attending. They listen to musicians from outside the state for likely candidates to perform in Norman. One of those was singer/ songwriter Emily Scott Robinson who played a show at The Depot in March. Her murder ballad about a philandering preacher whose wife poisons him and gets away with it is unintentionally (or maybe not) hilarious. And Robinson's "Magnolia Queen" is a bittersweet song that vividly portrays the enigmas of southern femininity.
Some of the most memorable tunes of 2018 weren't even at a concert, at least not a concert venue. They were the protest songs that Caleb McGee sang April 6, entertaining and inspiring the Oklahoma public school teachers on strike at the State Capitol. It was an unpaid gig demonstrating his support for labor justice and educational opportunity in the state.
That same month Norman Music Festival marked its 11th year. The night of April 26 saw a triple dose of woman-powered rock in Kississippi, Snail Mail and Japanese Breakfast. Most of 2018 NMF's best performances were turned in by woman led bands. Anna Burch and Linkca Elizondo were among those. The final day included Susan Herndon's Bella Counsel and Nashville's Alana Royale. The latter delivered a high energy R&B revue with scorching brass section, sultry female back-up chorus and retro-soul lead vocalist Royale. Her sound was big, sassy and enchanting.
In May the Sooner Theatre sold-out back to back shows for Parker Millsap's triumphant return. Now based in Nashville, the Purcell product is another sterling example of Okie talent going out into the world and making it big. None other than Sir Elton John has extolled Millsap's virtuosity. He showed why that praise is warranted with a pair of energetic and entertaining shows in downtown Norman.
Another of Oklahoma's premier singer/ songwriters performed at Opolis later that month. Samantha Crain opened for New York's Shilpa Ray. Crain's poignant songs are extraordinary for their emotional and intellectual insight. Ray's performance included her "EMT, Police and the Fire Department" number which starts as gentle spoken-word about a Brooklyn venue where she works door. The song ignited into a punk rock Roman candle of sound and fury.
One of Jazz in June's lightly attended gems was at the west side public library. It was blues guitarist Eric Gales' afternoon clinic before his stage show later that evening. Gales told an inspiring life story in which he attributed much of his current success to his spouse. Those sincere words of gratitude made the blues coming from his guitar resound even more powerfully.
At the height of summer, Legacy Park hosted a hip hop revue organized by Oklahoma City rapper Jabee Williams. He brought an entire line-up of protégés and friends for an attractive show of vocal and instrumental talent. Among the solid senders were long-time collaborators Tony "Elteazee" LeSure and Sherman "Worm" Johnson.
On Nov. 4, the University of Oklahoma's Day of the Dead Street Festival presented music headliner Luis Coronel. The vocalist and his band performed to a surging crowd of fervent fans. A genuine star, Coronel received Univision-sponsored Premio Lo Nuestro's Regional Mexican Album of the Year and Regional Mexican Male Artist of the Year awards in 2016.
Throughout the year various galleries and venues presented free live music favoring folk and punk rock during Second Friday Art Walk nights. From marching bands in parades to the drumming at Native American pow wows, Norman had it going on again musically in 2018.