Skyline Music Festival's VIP Gospel Brunch Brought the House Down
As I sat down to write about this day, it got to be quite lengthy and I felt like the VIP Brunch really needed to be set apart as its own story, so that’s what I have done. This will be part one of the days events. Special thanks to Phil Clarkin, Sean Payne of Oklahoma Reviews, and Rick Owens who gave me permission to use their photos of the day in my articles. My hope is between my words and their images, we can paint a pretty vivid picture of the day.
On Sunday August 18th I woke up with excited anticipation, much like that of Christmas morning to a young child, because I had been counting down the days until this event. It was the day of the 4th Annual Red Dirt Relief Fund Tom Skinner Skyline Festival, including special VIP Gospel Brunch. I’m proud to say I’ve attended it every year, and it just keeps getting better and better.
I eagerly made the little road trip from Midwest City to Tulsa, all while listening to a playlist of my favorite Red Dirt music. (And on a side note, if you want to know what my playlist of favorite Red Dirt tunes are, you can find it on Spotify here, along with another one I made as an intro to red dirt, and another one that is a much larger and collective bunch of Okie musicians and songs. I’m all about spreading the dirt.)
I pulled into the Mercury Lounge parking lot right at the 12:15 p.m. opening time. I walked across the street to Burn Co BBQ and checked in and hugged some necks, the first of which were Jeremy and Flash Skinner, Katie Dale, and Monica Taylor. Some of my very favorite people that I don’t get to see as often as I’d like, making the spirit in the air much like a family reunion. Which is really what this whole festival is when it comes right down to it.
Now Katie Dale, Executive Director of the Red Dirt Relief Fund, has to be one of the most genuine and kindhearted people I’ve been lucky enough to befriend in this amazing scene. She impresses me continually with all that she juggles, organizes, and coordinates to help make these events happen. Not to mention how diligently she sends out press releases and how easy it is to work with her as a media presence. I have worked closely with her while helping a musician get assistance from Red Dirt Relief, and I have worked with her from a media stand point, and I have to say that she is quite phenomenal in her own right. Cheers to her for her hard work and dedication.
Dale’s lovely daughters were manning the merch booth right inside the door and sold me the official 2019 Skyline Festival T-shirt, which has a rad psychedelic design this year, before I made my way through the already crowded room to find a seat.
People were piling in left and right. Wooden picnic tables were set up to eat on, and additional chairs lined the spaces in front of the stage. Word was that not only did they sell out of the VIP brunch tickets, but they even released additional seats after selling out, so it wasn’t a big surprise that it was a packed house in Burn Co.
The Mental Media guys were kind enough to let me crash their table for a bit. I watched them running around all day filming and I can’t wait to see the finished product. These guys work tirelessly in this scene to bring you the sights and sounds of Okie music and more, and if you haven’t looked them up, you should definitely do so.
All the VIP guests got to help themselves to complimentary Deep Eddy bloody Marys, Broken Arrow Brewing Company beers, White Claw, and Doubleshot Coffee, who were all partners in the Skyline fest. In fact the bloody Mary bar was pretty impressive, offering just about anything and everything you could think of to stick on a skewer and put in your drink, along with various other things to flavor it with. I decided on a thick piece of bacon, several green olives, and a couple of cheese cubes and I have to say I didn’t regret my choices. It was pretty delicious.
Next came the brunch choices, which were filling the air with mouthwatering aromas. There were breakfast burrito fixings, bacon, sausage, pulled pork, pancakes, fruit, biscuits and gravy, fried potatoes and veggies and more. I fixed myself a hearty plate of hot and delectable food, most of which wasn’t a part of my Keto diet, and sat down to enjoy the meal as well as the collective anticipation for the music to begin.
I happily people watch when I am in large crowds, and this was a great crowd to observe. There were people of every age, from little babies to those with graying hair and everyone in between. But each and every one of them seemed to have a smile from ear to ear. People were chatting and catching up, the noise level was at a steady and vibrating hum as great enthusiasm and eagerness filled the air.
I think this enthusiasm was more than just the fact that drinks were flowing, the food was plentiful, and the guys set to come on stage were the amazing John Fullbright and friends. I think in addition to all of that, the fever in the air was partly due to this moment being the launch of the Skyline Festival, a day of music and love. It was a collective warmth of a room full of people who all had a fondness for a man affectionately known as Tiny, who was anything but Tiny when it came to life and music.
Skinner was such a remarkable person who did magnificent things for the music scene and everyone in it, simply just by being himself. He seemed to make it all look so effortless, and I think it really was to him for the most part. He radiated positive light and encouragement, and was especially focused on helping upcoming musicians find their footing in the mix. He inspired so many people, in a way only he could with his playful nature, love of dirty jokes and penchant for Braum’s burgers and milkshakes. Now don’t get me wrong, we all know he had a mischievous glint in his eyes, that he was a big kid at heart, and was probably up to shenanigans at all times. In short, we know he wasn’t a saint, but we also know he was genuine and talented and had a love for the music community that he shined on us all. His Skyline Festival is nothing short of magical, and it’s full of community, love and that positive spirit he was famous for. I think he would be proud to have his name on it.
Not to mention the fact that the whole event raises money for Oklahoma musicians and those working in the music industry who may need a helping hand. The Red Dirt Relief Fund has done some pretty incredible things over the years, and they are able to do these things because of everyone who comes out to these events and gives generously. That in and of itself is enough to fill the air with magic and love, but mix in the fact that it is to honor Skinner and it magnifies it immensely.
Now let’s get back on track. Burn Co got really crowded really quickly for the VIP Gospel Brunch. It was no surprise to me when I slipped outside to get a bit of air right before the music started that I found Jeremy and Flash Skinner, Tom’s son and grandson, on the patio as well.
Jeremy and I have had several conversations in the past few years about how we both like to duck out and step away from the chaos. One of my favorite parts of coming to Tulsa to these events is getting to catch up with them. Both Jeremy and Flash are as unique and eclectic as Tiny was, but in their own distinctive ways. They are quirky and fun, and interested in such a wide range of things that I always have a great time just chatting with them both.
Actually in all honesty, we spent the majority of the brunch on that patio catching up and enjoying the one on one time, close enough to the chaos to hear the music and see the crowd through the windows, but far enough to still be in our bubble of introvert safety. Seriously, it’s a thing.
In fact the amazing Phil Clarkin caught us just sitting out there by ourselves.
As a total side note, those who may not know me very well may not realize that I am an introvert. Granted I am an extroverted introvert, which means most of the time I can fake it long enough for no one to notice. But as much as I absolutely love being in the energy and excitement of festivals and events like this, they also really overwhelm me and that is why you will usually find me on the sidelines, or as a wall flower observing and taking it all in. I had several people who approached me during the event and hugged my neck, including faces I was well familiar with and even a few who I only knew through social media before that day. I have to say that I really love and appreciate when people do that. If you ever see me at an event and I only smile and slip away, just know that it’s my introversion at play, and it’s nothing personal. Feel free to approach me and say hello, I really do enjoy people but will rarely approach on my own while out of my comfort zone.
That being said, I slipped in and out of Burns Co several times to take videos and pictures and see what was going on inside. John Fullbright and Friends, which included Beau Roberson, Jared Tyler, Jesse Aycock, Jacob Tovar, Monica Taylor, Paul Benjaman, Wink Burcham, Travis Fite, Paul Wilkes and Stephen Lee were the featured brunch musicians and they were putting the gospel on for sure. The music ranged from melodic gospel pieces, old school country, Fullbright tunes, Skinner tunes and more.
In fact the energy of the entire event felt like a big church family, full of shared love for the music, the scene, for Tom, for each other. Babies were being bounced and passed around stage, people were dancing wherever they could find a little room, and everyone was singing along to the fantastic selection of old songs performed with heartfelt sentiment, which brought back the feeling of simpler times. Every musician on that stage was putting heart and soul into those tunes, and the variety of instruments gave it all an even greater depth. This wasn’t just some gig, this was Skinner’s church and they offered up the best service to fit the bill. They weren’t just songs, they were the red dirt gospel as we know it, and you could feel them as much as you could hear them.
Paul Benjaman did a fantastic rendition of Nickle’s Worth of Difference that truly warmed my soul. But the most phenomenal part of the event was when Fullbright pulled out Saved to end the show. The music filled the entire room while everyone was singing along and raising their hands in the air. it made my heart swell with emotion and want to burst open just to get to be a part of something so magical and amazing. You could feel the fire and passion in the room, and it was electric. If you missed it, you really missed it.
But the fun definitely didn’t end there. The music livened everyone up and got them ready to see the remaining festival lineup which was full to the brim for the day’s event. When brunch was over and the red dirt church let out, people made their way out of Burn Co. BBQ and across the street to either the Mercury Lounge or the Venue Shrine, both hosting a plethora of talented Okie musicians there for the cause.
And that Ladies and Gentleman, will be in part two of my coverage of this festival. Stay tuned.