Summer Breeze kicks off tonight at Lions Park | Community


The music is blowing through Lions Park this spring and summer, starting today.

An annual tradition since 2000, the Summer Breeze Program’s free eight-concert series is hosted by The Depot from 7:30-9:30 p.m. every other Sunday from mid-May through part of August at 450 S. Flood Ave.

This year’s payout includes the following:

• Chanda Graham, an Edmond jazz and blues singer with gospel roots, will open the series today. His bandmates include Kendrik McKinney on keyboard, Rei Wang-Bowen on bass, Clayton Roffey on guitar, Trevor Galvin on saxophone, and Willie Lee Peterson Jr. on drums. She headlined the Arcadia Blues Festival in 2017, where she serves as the town’s attorney. She also has a private law practice in Oklahoma City. She has been a solo performer for about five years, covering little-known songs from the 1920s and 1930s, funk music from the 1970s, and other works.

• The Contraband, which debuted in Norman in 2016, will perform on May 29. The band delves into rock and roll, country and blues. Their first live album, “Greetings from Norman”, was released in 2017. They should release a new album “Etouffe, Brute?” this summer.

• Heather Mae and Crys Matthews, of Washington, DC, who took part in the virtual “Sing Out” tour in 2020, will perform on June 12. Both full-fledged musicians, the duo perform a mix of Americana, folk, jazz, blues, bluegrass and funk. They performed last year at the Woody Guthrie Folk Festival.

• New Tribe, which reformed in 2016 and are touring regionally, performs June 26. The band offers blues, country and folk music with psychedelic jazz vibes. Band members include Eric Sarmiento, Adam Sarmiento, Chris Gomez, and Wally Tarkington. They recently released the album “Later Days”.

• BettySoo, a folk singer and songwriter based in Austin, Texas, will perform on July 10. Raised in Houston, she achieved national fame and was part of the Nobody’s Girl trio. She will perform with the Normans Louise Goldberg, Mary Catherine Reynolds and Terry Ware.

• Count Tutu, a nine-piece band based in Tulsa, will perform on July 24th. The group offers a big band style of music, blues and jazz fusion, as well as an energetic show.

• Helen Kelter Skelter, a rock band from Norman who started in 2013, will perform on August 7th. Members of the psychedelic rock band include Eli Wimmer on vocals and guitar, Scott Twitchell on drums, Tim Gregory on guitar, Jon Goodell on keyboard and synthesizer, and Cody Clifton on bass. The band, which also features metal and grunge sounds, is very energetic and can feature a video of a liquid light show passed during their set. The band has released one EP, two LPs, is currently finishing an EP and starting a new EP in July. They travel regionally in Oklahoma and surrounding states.

• Local, Vol. III, which features a local house band backing vocals, will wrap up the series on August 21. Created by Ware and Kyle Reid in 2019 at the request of Depot General Manager Shari Jackson, the seven-piece house band will pay tribute to the late Charles Neil Kingsley, who was a member of the Amazing Rhythm Chickens in the 1980s. Homegrown will perform the song Rhythm Chickens signature “Chicken Necks.” Each season, Ware and Reid select the house band and vocalists with the goal of showcasing local talent.

In addition to the music, local businesses Lazy Circles Brewing, Native Spirits Winery, Baked Bear and Beanstalk Coffee & Sno will be in attendance.

Danielle Tipton, a Depot instructor, and Jackson said they were excited about this year’s lineup, and crowds can average 1,000 to 2,000 attendees per concert.

“I’m thrilled that we have the opportunity to bring back regional guests,” Tipton said. “And we are also delighted with our local artists. We’ve got a lot of diversity this year…it’s what we’re known for, so we’re excited about that as well. It’s a very cool environment, where everyone is welcome, where we present these wonderful and talented bands.

Jackson said the goal “is to make sure that no matter what type of music fan you are, you always feel invited to a Summer Breeze, because there’s something for everyone.”

Summer Breeze started a few years before The Depot was founded by the founders of The Depot.

Jackson said the performers are determined by board members following a round of nominations. Members consider the quality of the group, whether it is suitable for a large audience, whether an artist is available, and whether the lineup has a diverse type of music.

Last year, Summer Breeze featured bands and musicians from Oklahoma. In 2020, KGOU Radio partnered with the Depot to present the series live from the Depot, and Jackson hosted the radio show.

Graham, this year’s opener, performed on one of the radio shows. However, this will be her first live Summer Breeze appearance.

Graham described the radio show experience as amazing, including the setup, sound engineering, and ambience.

“We had a great recording that came out of it,” she said.

However, she is excited to perform in front of an audience again.

“There’s nothing quite like having a good audience. I look forward to connecting with the audience,” Graham said, adding that it all takes it up a notch.

It will also be her first major concert since the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Graham said she may perform her 2020 original, “‘Rona Blues,” during the concert. Additionally, she can perform a jazzy version of an Amy Winehouse song and a version of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” composed and arranged by Kangwa Mundende.

Graham said before the pandemic, she intended to advance her music career, start recording and create a residency at a venue. However, the pandemic “brought everything to zero” and discouraged her.

However, music has always been his passion.

“If music paid my bills, I would do it full time,” she said.

Since then, she has worked to rebuild that enthusiasm, passion and stamina.

She thanked Summer Breeze organizers for supporting live musical artists and inviting enthusiastic audiences.

Gregory, member and manager of Helen Kelter Skelter, said this would be his band’s first appearance at Summer Breeze.

“For me, I always hear it on summer Sundays. It’s pretty cool to be part of it. I always wanted to play one,” he said. “I think Summer Breeze tries new bands a little differently than they normally do. They kind of expand their sound into the more rock and roll genre. It’s pretty cool that they let us be part of it too.

He said that outside of performances, the band members are good friends who joke around and get along well.

He said the band will be releasing a lot of songs that fans may not have heard because they play for two hours, as opposed to shorter gigs. Songs may include “Some Tight Rope”, “Carmelita”, “You’ll Get Your Money Back”, “Guud”, “Palamino and “Tracers”.

Ware, one of Homegrown’s organizers, said he and Reid have not yet finalized any players or singers and are in the early stages of development for this year’s group. He and Reid are two constants in the band, respectively on electric guitar and guitar and pedal steel guitar.

He said the group could play any style of music to accompany the selected singers.

Regarding Homegrown’s tribute this year, Ware said he has known Kingsley personally since his college days and described him as kind, easy-going, laid-back and supportive of musicians and artists. Kingsley passed away on June 22, 2020, after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease.

He said Kingsley’s daughter, Sarah, was traveling to the concert from Virginia, and that other friends and possibly a member of Kingsley’s band would be in attendance.

Ware said Kingsley archived local music from the late 1960s until his passing in 2020, and some memorabilia and photography will be included with the show.

With their Summer Breeze performance, Ware said he enjoyed Norman’s musical community sentiment.

“It will be the best singers and songwriters from Norman and Oklahoma supported by the best musicians from Norman,” he said.

For more information, call 307-9320 or visit normandepot.org.

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