STILLWATER — Thunder wasn’t the only thing rolling last Friday night. Despite the threat of severe weather, more than 1,200 local music enthusiasts crowded onto “The Strip” to hear 40 of the state’s most talented singer-songwriters perform at the second annual Red Bull Gypsy Café. The festival brought together famed musicians representing nearly 30 years of the movement known as Red Dirt Music, in its birthplace—Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Fans of Red Dirt Music were treated to acoustic sets by some of the genre’s most talented artists. Spread throughout four different venues – Eskimo Joe’s, Willie’s, Stonewall Tavern and College Bar – musicians performed in pairs of young and old, new friends and old friends, well-known and up-and-coming. The pairings gave artists the opportunity to musically explore their partner’s style while bringing in their individual style. “He kept throwing great solo’s my way. It kept me on my toes,” Parker Millsap said about his duet with Travis Kidd.
Red Bull Gypsy Café wasn’t just about the public performances shared Friday night. On Thursday night, artists gathered together at the original “Gypsy Café” on “The Farm,” the historic location west of town where many of these musicians learned, played and composed together as they came up in the world of music. Musicians seamlessly fell back to the spirit of collaboration that the Gypsy Café is known for. John Cooper of the Red Dirt Rangers said, “It’s like the party never stopped.” The musical session lasted into the wee hours of the morning. In the immortal words of Bob Childers, the undisputed father of the Red Dirt movement, “it’s a perfect end to a perfect day, when the moon shines down on the Gypsy Café.”
Although the scheduled auction for Oklahoma State art student Katie Hagen’s Bob Childers-inspired guitar had to be canceled due to the weather, Stoney LaRue will add the instrument, depicting of the spirit of Red Dirt music, to his personal collection. All proceeds from the festival and 50 percent from the sale of the guitar benefit the Red Dirt Relief Fund, an organization founded and administrated by Red Dirt musicians in Stillwater to act as a critical safety net for Red Dirt music people.
Singers-songwriters participating in Red Bull Gypsy Café included Stoney LaRue, Brandon Jenkins, Mike McClure, Steve Rice, John Fullbright, Tom Skinner, Randy Crouch, John Cooper, Gene Collier, Chad Sullins, Dustin Pittsley, Monica Taylor, Greg Jacobs, Scott Evans, Jim Paul Blair, Parker Millsap, Sarah Barker, Jesse Aycock, Travis Linville, Brad James, Thomas Trapp, Sam Naifeh, Ben Han, Randy Pease, Don Wood, Brad Piccolo, Chuck Dunlap, Joe Baxter, Travis Kidd, Bo Phillips, Jake Moffat, Rick Reiley, Don Morris, Bob Wiles, Tim Bays, Dustin Welch, Bill Erickson, Susan Herndon. Larry Spears and Brandon Clark.
The Red Dirt scene is characterized by a family feel “it’s like a family reunion. It always is, whenever you’re around the people that have been there when you first started,” said LaRue.
Check out these photos from the event, provided by Red Bull: