What do you do if you’re a British Americana band that gains indie-cred and acclaim, then wins two Grammy’s after obliterating Justin Beiber’s first-week album sales record in 2012? If you thought “buy a bunch of shit you always dreamed of having, be envied by every human for marrying Carey Mulligan, sell out every historic club in Europe, and then do a 34 city tour in the States,” you’d be half right.
Instead of following the beaten path in 2013 by playing as many shows as possiple in large theater venues, Mumford and Sons opted to organize and perform at five international festivals in seemingly random, out of the way places like Guthrie, Oklahoma. If you’re 1 of the 35,000 festival-goers who decided to buy a ticket, then, well, you’ve made a pretty damn good choice.
If you’re not from Oklahoma (yes, I’m talking to you, Austinite and Lawrencian hipsters), you’ve probably never heard of Guthrie. Hell, I’m sure most Okies’ Guthrie knowledge is embarassing, at best. I could bore you with facts about Guthrie’s history as the original state capitol or as an outpost train station called Deer Creek, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll start with the most basic and urgent questions you’re likely to ask:
“Where the hell is Guthrie? Where do I eat? Where do I drink? Which bands other than Mumford and Sons and Alabama Shakes do I want to see?”
Whether you’re a local or a roadie, consider this the official “Guide To: Gentlemen of the Road – Guthrie Stopover”.
These festivals are as much about the music as they are about the culture and history of the host town. Guthrie is no stranger to music festivals. It hosts The Oklahoma International Bluegrass Festival, which draws over 15,000 listeners every year (if you’ve never been, do yourself a favor; it’s a blast). The success of this festival and the efforts and vision of Byron Berline directly influenced Mumford and Sons’ decision to play Guthrie. In all likelihood, the bluegrass festival wasn’t the icing on the cake; it was the flour used to bake the cake.
If a movie is filmed in Oklahoma, it’s virtually a guarantee the film’s location scout will spend time in Guthrie. William H. Macy recently wrapped filming scenes for Rudderless in and around Guthrie, and Guthrie’s late 19th and early 20th century Victorian architecture serves as a backdrop for Twister, Rain Man and Elizabethtown, among many others. If you want a scenic, old-time western downtown, Guthrie is a great place to start.
If you can find downtown Guthrie (it’s 25-ish miles north of Oklahoma City; just stay on I-35, you can’t miss it), you’ve basically found Cottowood Flats as well. This enchanted land serves as the official site of the GOTR festival.
Okay, so I’ll be honest… Cottonwood Flats is a large, open patch of flood plain resting on the bank of Cottonwood Creek not suited for residences or businesses. That said, it’s the perfect place for a music festival.
“Where Should I Eat?”
The Place You’ve Heard of:
Stables Cafe and Guthrie are like peanut butter and jelly. It’s difficult to comprehend Guthrie’s existence pre-Stables. I started to write a quick synopsis of the Stable’s experience when I found this excerpt on their website: “You’ve been hearing about us…here we are! The Stables Cafe has been around for along time (since 1987). It has become a staple in the life of Guthrians. It’s all about great food at a reasonable price, good service by an experienced staff and a nostalgic look back to the past. A feeling you’ll get the moment you walk through the doors. There is a little bit of everything and a lot of a lot of things at the Stables.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. It’s a throwback to a 1950′s small town cafe (but with more Hank Williams than Sam Cooke in the jukebox), and the food is fantastic. Do it right. Order a steak and a baked potato, the open face chicken fried steak and fries, or the hickory jacks pepper bacon burger.
The Place You Probably Haven’t Heard Of, But Should Definitely Know About:
Italian food in Guthrie (maybe Oklahoma, but we can argue about that later) begins and ends with Roma’s Italian Restaurant. Roma’s sits humbly on Division Street, and the ambiance is that of an old school Italian-American restaurant. Try the Bruschetta as an appetizer, the White Pie, Stromboli or the Manicotti Alfredo as an entree, and the Tiramisu or Cheesecake for dessert.
Oh, and you can order a bottle of wine for less than $20, which is practically unheard of. The food is delicious and the service is wonderful. You can’t beat it.
“Where Can I Get A Drink?”
Check out KOSU Radio’s and The Spy FM’s tent for some great music and even better people. There will be plenty of food trucks in and around the Beer Garden, and if you’re unfamiliar with the OKC food truck scene, then you best familiarize.
If you have a food truck phobia, or prefer your alcohol and food to be served out of a more permanent locale, there are plenty of great brick and mortar watering holes in Guthrie. However, you’re only in town a few days, and, well, there’s a ridiculously awesome music festival you’ll be spending most of your time at. When I’m not listening to great music, you’ll find me at Mae’s Westside Tavern. They feature a lot of local beers, and their “pub food” is untraditional, but great. Buy a beer brewed by COOP Ale Works or the Mustang Brewing Company and order the Mountain Meadows Lamb Sandwich.. You’ll be glad you did.
“Where Should I Crash?”
Guthrie boasts itself as being the ‘Bed and Breakfast’ capital of Oklahoma. Every hotel and bed and breakfast is surely sold out, but here’s a few to choose from next time you’re in town.
Angel’s Way Guest Ranch
In need of a tranquil retreat in the beautiful Oklahoma rolling hills and trees? Look no further than this secluded three-story log cabin located about 25 miles southeast of Guthrie.
Take a ride on their trails through the woods, walk in the garden and drink a bottle of wine under the gorgeous Oklahoma sky.
Rosa Bella Guest Rooms
It’s located in the heart of downtown, directly across the street from the historic Pollard Theatre.
Discover downtown Guthrie by foot, take a horse draw carriage ride, then side a show at the Pollard Theatre.
And, yes, there are more: www.guthriebb.com.
There are places to camp as well, but you know already know about them. Just remember, when you’ve strayed too far from the festival grounds and are about to pass out on some old lady’s lawn on Noble Ave., that you are in small-town Oklahoma, and, if that old lady doesn’t have a shotgun of her own, her Logan County Deputy of a son-in-law assuredly does. Oh, and while on the subject of law enforcement: Weed is still illegal in Oklahoma. We live in one of those totally awesome, mandatory prison sentence kind of states… Smoker beware.
“I love Mumford, but I’m not interested in any of the other bands.” Shame. On. You.
We’ll pretend you know and love Alabama Shakes as much as we do. If for some absurd reason you’ve never heard of them, Alabama Shakes is a roots-rock band from Athens, Alabama. No description will do them justice, so just watch the videos.
And We’ll assume you know who Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros are as well.
Surely you’ve heard of The Vaccines.
Justin Townes Earle:
Following in the footsteps of his father Steve Earle, Justin released his first record in 2007. He’s put out five fantastic albums since, and his unique sound is a breath of fresh air in the suffocated lungs of modern country music.
Earle reinvents himself on almost every record, and his root-country sound incorporates Memphis-soul, folk and gospel music. He plays Friday night at 7pm, and it would be in your best interest to be in attendance.
Bear’s Den is sure to be the next big thing, if they aren’t already. Wouldn’t it be cool to finally be punched in the nose for saying, “Oh, I saw them before anyone knew who they were?” Andre Davie, Kev Jones and Joey Haynes are the founding members of this “folk inspired, alternative country referencing trio from London, England,” (Hollie Jones wrote this description, and, well, it’s perfect; thanks Hollie!).
Their sound is dirty, gritty, raw, and it’s beautiful. They play Saturday at 1:45pm. Be there, or be square.
The Sideshow Attractions
In addition to the music on the Flats, there is also a whole selection of official aftershows and events, ranging from bluegrass jams and magic shows to bowling and burlesque. Check out the official site for details on sideshow times, locations, and costs.
The essence of this post is this: Mumford and Sons have gone out of their way to give you, and everyone within a thousand mile radius who wants to see them live, a unique experience in an interesting place.
So, embrace it and soak it in. You may find that Guthrie, Oklahoma isn’t just the sort of place your grandpa talked about when you were growing up, but, also a place that you might make a few memories. And if you’re lucky, one of those memories may result in the birth of a beautiful child. And when that child has a child, you’ll have the GOTR experience to reminisce about.
Enjoy the weird. Support the local.
- Seth & Ben
P.S. If you’re looking for a place to stay, eat, drink or need any other information we didn’t reference in this post, feel free to contact us!