Many Oaklanders came out this past Saturday to the Uptown District to attend the 2nd annual Oakland Music Festival (OMF). If you were one of the many attendees at OMF, you were treated to rocking out to some amazing artists that graced the stage.
Don’t feel bad if you didn’t know about this shindig until days prior-founder Alfonso Dominguez stepped it up for this year’s event. Anticipating a larger crowd, he expanded OMF’s location, while adding more venues and two additional stages. In addition to promoting local artists, Dominguez also invited to the stage more nationally known artists: SZA, Jesse Boykins III and Dom Kennedy. As a result of this, he’s been getting some flak from critics who say this undermines the premise of OMF. I get that.
Oakland definitely has an abundant amount of artists to showcase, there’s no doubt about that. And depending on who you talk to (like me), Oakland boasts more artists per capita than anywhere else in the U.S. That being said, did you attend last year’s OMF, which catered strictly to showcasing Oakland based artists? And were you drawn to this one, because, like me, you sing Jesse Boykins’ Amorous in the shower, was recently introduced to SZA when you were scrolling through the pages of Vogue, or the tunes of Dom Kennedy motivate you to complete that 3.1 mile run around the lake?
(I’m not going to throw shade like this cute kid)
No throwing shade here. But keep some things in mind before you nod your head in agreement when reading articles that proclaim the lack of headlining locally based artists weren’t in line with OMF’s mission of showcasing the cultural and artistic diversity Tha Town has to offer. Many people who came to this year’s OMF were indeed here to see the more well known artists don the stage. But in the midst of that, they also got a chance to see some pretty awesome local artists perform. Personally, I was introduced to The Love Makers, Queens D. Light and the Latin Soul Brothers (to name a very short few). Yes, I specifically came to see Jesse Boykins III and SZA, but OMF gave me the opportunity to discover new artists within my community. I liked them on Facebook, I followed them on Twitter, I reposted that cool Instagram pic of theirs. And what about the vendors?! The huge turnout of crowds provided more exposure and revenue for vendors and their products (not to mention the local business that thrived from all the music enthusiasts).
Also, bear in mind last year’s OMF festival went largely unnoticed-even with performers like The Coup and J-Boogie’s Dubtronic Science, many local residents didn’t even know about the event’s existence. I’ve lived across the street from the OMF’s uptown location for the past four years, and didn’t even know this was a thing until last month. And then, I had to explain to friends, and friends of friends about OMF (and I’m sure you did too). The large turnout to this year’s OMF can definitely be attributed to the more nationally known names.
And like this article points out, OMF is an alternative to the hipstery music festival that is Outside Lands. With tickets as high as 575.00, OMF’s entry fee of 35.00 (25 for presale) made attending a music festival more accessible, which under other circumstances is exclusive to those with larger budgets. (And did you know a proceed of ticket sales were donated to Hip Hop Therapy, an amazing program which uses rap as an outlet for troubled males in the community?)
Photo Courtesy: Ravneet Vohra, Wear Your Voice Magazine
And about those nationally known artists? Well I had a chance to speak with Jesse Boykins III. Boykins stated the influence Oakland has had on his artistic growth. He wrote six songs while in Oakland for his latest album, Love Apparatus. If you had the chance to see him perform on stage, you noticed the amount of crowd participation he did during his act. When I asked him about that, he stated:
It’s a very spiritual experience when I’m on stage and I’m performing for the people of Oakland. The upbringing is connectivity, it is the culture, and it is the appreciation and about acknowledging appreciation in that moment. That’s what “Schwaza” means, that’s why I kept yelling that the whole time [on stage]. That’s pretty much what I gain from when I’m in the Bay, is that love, especially when you’re expressing yourself.
Boykins also noted the parallels between his home in Brooklyn and Oakland; the inspiration he gained from art culture and diversity in both cities, as a result of the beauty of people coming from different parts of the world in one place to build up a community. (You can check out my full interview with Jesse Boykins on Oakland Local here.)
Alfonso did just what he intended to do when creating OMF- bringing Oakland on a national stage in a positive way. As territorial as we may want to be, Oakland isn’t just our home. It’s a place where artists seek refuge. A city that’s welcoming to new ideas. And whether or not we like, it’s a city that’s constantly reinventing itself.
Monica Cadena is an Oakland based writer. She focuses on community issues pertaining to urban planning and food justice. She also enjoys writing about arts and culture, particularly her love of music. She studied urban planning at San Francisco State University. When she’s not writing, she enjoys conjuring up new recipes in her kitchen, or enjoying all the Town has to offer. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org