This past Saturday kicked off the 2020 Woody Fest Concert Series shows leading up to this year’s Woody Guthrie Festival in Okemah, OK, July 15th-19th. With all proceeds going towards the Woody Guthrie Coalition and its relevant programs, the concert series is important part of preparing for the festival itself. This performance was held at The Deli in Norman, OK and featured not only an impressive and eclectic line-up and music, but also camaraderie, a silent auction of hand-crafted items, and that feeling of family that seems ever present in all things associated with WoodyFest.
The Deli was the perfect spot for this first WoodyFest event of 2020. Nestled in the shadows of The University of Oklahoma, The Deli is a small, cozy dive bar that originally opened in 1973, and has played host to and supported countless Oklahoma songwriters ever since. The event was organized by local songwriter, Joshua Polaschek, who really did an outstanding job organizing and coordinating the schedule, silent auction items and the performers who all volunteered their time for a cause dear to many of us. The event ran seamlessly from 2pm-9pm (ish), and began with an impassioned poetry reading by Chris Allen of Guthrie’s “All You Fascists” that fired all of us early birds up.
The next two sets of music were done in a song swap format that paired up aspiring and established Oklahoma songwriters, who seemed as equally impressed with each other’s songs as those in the audience. In the first grouping, there was the aforementioned event host/promoter, Joshua Polaschek, WoodyFest standard, Peggy Johnson, Caleb McGee and Tanner Miller. Everyone brought their ‘A’ game, whether it was Johnson’s “Cereal Blues” or “Turtles All The Way Down,” Miller’s “Whiskey Boats” and “Come Back Virginia.” Or, there was Polaschek’s “Live On Until You Die” and “Homeless & Happy,” or McGee’s “Walkin’”and his powerful take on Springsteen’s “Atlantic City.” Each song seemed to encourage the others and provided for a memorable opening set.
The next set, also a song swap featured Susan Herndon, Jared Deck, Derek Paul and Ken Pomeroy.
Herndon started things off with her election year appropriate “20/20 Vision” and later moved us with Guthrie’s “Ain’t Nobody Can Sing Like Me.” It’s not likely that a WoodyFest event isn’t going to provide some stunning versions of Woody’s songs, and Herndon wasn’t the only one contributing one. Ken Pomeroy blew us away with her memorable take on “Deportees” as well as the title track of her 2018 Horton Records release, “Hallways.” Jared Deck manned the keys throughout and his soulful originals, “Karaoke Jesus” and “Sometimes I Miss Being Lonely” commanded attention. Yet, it was Derek Paul’s “Wolves,” “Bleed” and “When I’m With You” that were my personal highlights of the day.
Ever championing diversity and eclecticism, The WoodyFest Concert Series next introduced us to a feature of Hip-Hop artists, starting with D3cade and “Pretty Boy Floyd” and “Doubt Me.” Next was the thoughtful free flow, damn near “beat” poetry of Ta/ZuneFish which was another highlight of the day for me. Closing out the event was the country stylings of the Jacob Tovar Trio, who energized those of us that had been persevering the entire day with a pair of honky-tonk rocking sets. All told, the entire day was really memorable and fun, with huge kudos to Josh Polaschek and everyone involved with the Woody Guthrie Coalition.
There will be two more upcoming Concert series leading up to July’s Festival, with the next event this coming Sunday, March 8th at the Old Church in Perkins, OK, in conjunction with Cimmaron Breeze Concerts. That show will feature another batch of incredibly talented songwriters, with Monica Taylor, Nellie Clay, Carter Sampson, Erik Oftedahl, Jared Tyler, Andy Adams, Travis Fite and Seth Lee Jones.
The third event will be the fabulous Women Of WoodyFest showcase and will be held at the legendary Blue Door in OKC on April 19th.
Everything about WoodyFest is a labor of love and I can’t encourage or recommend everything about it enough. There’s a gazillion festivals out there competing these days, but I seriously doubt you’ll experience any more meaningful or heartwarming as WoodyFest and those supporting it.
Find out more information on the WoodyFest Concert Series here:
And for a direct link to The Woody Guthrie Festival page, click here: https://www.woodyfest.com/