Center of the Universe Creates Community

Managing Editor

DOWNTOWN MUSIC: Center of the Universe Festival co-founders Philip Kaiser, left, and Chris Lieberman stand in the Brady Arts District as they discuss the upcoming second annual event.

EMILY RAMSEY for GTR Newspapers

As the Center of the Universe festival prepares to return for its second year July 25-26, with it comes many new additions, from new ticketing technology to increased bands and venues.

As opposed to last year, with music beginning the evening outdoors at the Main Stage, music will start both evenings in eight indoor venues at 5:30 p.m., “which will get people inside on the grounds, not standing outside in the sun like last year,” says co-founder and organizer Philip Kaiser. Indoor venues will showcase a total of 84 bands during the weekend.

The festival will feature an additional third outdoor venue this year: the Oklahoma Stage will sit in the parking lot of Sisserou’s at Main Street and Archer Street and will feature Oklahoma bands, such as Dante and the Hawks, Fiawna Forte, Horse Thief and Taddy Porter. Performances begin at 6 p.m.

Entertainment at the Guthrie Green Stage will start at 6:30 p.m., with Space Capone, Big D & the Kids Table, Clear Plastic Masks, Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band and others.

Main Stage headliners begin at 7 p.m. and include Awolnation, Young the Giant, Fitz and the Tantrums, and Cold War Kids.

On both nights, from 11:40 p.m. to 1:30 a.m., the Main Stage will offer an electronic dance music () After Party. Z-Trip, known for his mash-ups, and nationally-acclaimed DJ Jazzy Jeff will be the performing acts.

“EDM is the fastest growing genre today; we wanted to recognize the genre and expand its role at the festival,” Kaiser says.

While the event does cost, as opposed to last year’s festival, “it’s still a great price to see so many bands,” says Kaiser. The event will feature more than 100 bands, up from 71 last year.

Tickets will not come in the traditional paper form, but, instead, patrons will wear wristbands. This means that attendees can come and leave as they please, gaining re-admittance by rescanning their wristbands. Additional features include the option to link a credit card to the wristband so that individuals won’t have to carry cash, says co-founder and organizer Chris Lieberman, as well as linking the wristband to social media to electronically check in at various venues. “It will make for a better experience,” he adds.

While the announcement of an entrance cost may have been met with groans by some, proceeds will go directly back into the community. Initial proceeds will go toward maintaining the downtown trolley. It currently services the Brady, Blue Dome and Deco districts on Friday and Saturday evenings. “We hope to see it go… to increasing to lunchtime service to get people to visit other districts for lunch,” Kaiser says.

Additional proceeds will go toward attracting artists to the area in the future.

Beyond live music, the festival will include a street market with a variety of local artists and vendors and a long list of food trucks.

Kaiser and Lieberman, executive director and president of the nonprofit organization Tulsanity respectively, founded the Center of the Universe Festival in 2013 as they saw the continued need for a local music festival going unfilled after the demise of D-Fest, which ran from 2002 to 2009 in the Blue Dome District.

As the Brady District continued to blossom with a growing number of businesses and the opening of Guthrie Green, Kaiser and Lieberman became poised to launch their plans.

“We thought last year was the time to step in and create something before a for-profit company stepped in and did something that they put on in 16 other cities,” says Kaiser.

Kaiser and Lieberman also recognized the immense benefit that local businesses gain from such an endeavor.

“Our purpose is to promote the area and give economic impact,” Lieberman says.
The teamwork that occurs between local businesses is what Lieberman says affects him the most when reflecting on the festival. “Seeing groups coming together to make this happen, from the retail and restaurants to the manufacturing companies in the district, they’re all excited and want to be a part of the community wide event,” he says.

That shared interest in the growth of the area was exactly what drew Eben Shillingford to open his restaurant, Sisserou’s, in the Brady District. He originally planned to locate his business in the Blue Dome District, but after meeting with business owners in the Brady District, his opinion changed. “I’ve never been in a situation where people are pulling for each other like they are here (in the Brady District),” says Shillingford.

Sisserou’s will be open during both nights of the festival.

While Kaiser and Lieberman can’t be sure if the festival will bring 80,000 attendees like last year, Kaiser is just looking forward to seeing the community come together for those two nights.

“…looking down Main Street last year and seeing tens of thousands of people gathered,” says Kaiser, “Tulsans are not used to that. We’re used to getting into our cars and driving everywhere. But we’re starting to see more events that bring us together.”

Updated 06-23-2014

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