Dreamland Music Festival is a celebration of music, art, and culture in the original city of dreams: Tulsa, Oklahoma. This year's festival and conference September 16th-18th in the Tulsa Arts District is going to be bigger than its previous iterations, including the World Culture Music Festival, and it is only the beginning.
As a sponsor of Spark Summit 2022 — presented byTulsa Creative Engine and part of Dreamland Music Festival — Downtown Tulsa Partnership is sharing a two-part interview series with the founders of TCE and Dreamland.
Here's our recent interview with Steph Simon, musician and Dreamland founder, who shares his vision for this year's Festival, as well as expansion in Tulsa and beyond.
A Grassroots Beginning
"I created a festival in 2014 called Complex Music and Arts Festival. I was just trying something, trying to give me and my friends a platform bigger than what we were used to on a night in Downtown Tulsa's Arts District. I took a year off in 2015. It didn't go very well. Then in 2016, we came back with the World Culture Music Festival, which was a brand that one of my best friend Keenan “Keeng Cut” Lane created. WCMF became a collective of myself and eight other artists in the city, and we were just throwing the shows and rapping together, and kind of becoming a group including Dialtone, Keezy Kuts, Pade, 1st Verse, Bezel 365, and Trak. WCMF became a collective of myself and eight other artists in the city, and we were just throwing the shows and rapping together, and kind of becoming a group. I wanted to put us on a bigger stage. So, I created the Festival. I just booked all the bars on Main Street, as many as I could, and added anybody and everybody I could that had a platform and just involved them, and turned it into one big night where we shared each other's resources.
"It was so big that Downtown's Main Street wanted it to happen again in 2017, and I made it five days long. That next year we got more food trucks and artists involved. We were at The Yeti and Soundpony. It was the whole street. It wasn't blocked off or anything, but there were so many people, you would think it was. There was no permits, no insurance; it was just very grassroots. It wasn't organized. Just grassroots and free flowing."
Joining with Spark Summit
"I met Chris Davis in 2018. I was actually using his and his roommate's house for band practice. Chris was always upstairs, and I started telling him about my Festival, and he said, 'Man, I can help you with that! Marketing and funding is something that I do, and I can help you with that.' I was self-funded, just working a job, and saving enough money to rent a place. As I was getting older and starting a family, it was getting harder to do all of that. And Chris came in with the intention to help raise money for the Festival.
"So, he came around 2018, which was the third annual Festival. At the fourth Festival, we brought a headliner, an underground artist who is pretty big now; his name is Larry (Uncle Larry) June. Then in year five, we did not have a festival during Covid. But we came back in year six with Legacy Fest in 2021, and now we are here. It got a little bigger again this year, and I wanted to rebrand it.
"I am really inspired by Rolling Loud music festival — how they have a festival in four different cities. And I like the ring of Dreamland Tulsa, Dreamland Phoenix maybe, or Dreamland _____, just to take the Festival on the road. I also wanted to rebrand the name because I wanted to rebrand the city as Dreamland. I want people to feel like they are going to Dreamland even when they come to Tulsa or wherever we take the take the festival. It’s Dreamland. The Festival is also very Black Wall Street, Greenwood Ave, in its foundation, and I wanted to keep those roots with whatever I do with the Festival. And Williams Dreamland Theater is a big part of the name change.
"So, all those things we have rebranded, and we've made it bigger. There are more artists and more venues. We have this conference side of it, which is Spark Summit, led by Chris. He developed that, and it is now inside of the Festival, as well. The conference is put on by Tulsa Creative Engine, and I just leave it up to them and just trust their vision with what they want to do. A lot of what I have done over the years is to give people a platform to bring something new to the scene. And it's a starting point and gets a lot of people familiar with their platform when they align it with our Festival, and it comes under our umbrella. That was my intention in including Spark Summit. By putting it under our umbrella, it makes it a household name, and hopefully, that is what our partnership does for Spark Summit and TCE so that they can grow from there, too."
Looking to the Future
"Next year at Dreamland and Spark Summit, we hope to have a film and sports side to the Festival and conference and have a lot more entities. I love shining a light on different entities and elements in town that want to get their name out there, so I am happy to have the power to do something like that. So next year, it will be bigger, and we hope to keep making it bigger every year by adding new elements to it. The concert elements of Dreamland Concert Series we want to take on the road to bring our local talent to those cities and incorporate that city's talent. The local aspect of that city will always be the foundation of the Festival. So, we can get a taste of the local music in that city. I also want to take Dreamland to cities where they don't have a big Hip-Hop scene.
"As long as we add something new and it gets bigger every year, I am happy with that. I never want to make it too big, and then the following year, it stays there. I love progression, and I love to watch things grow. The Festival is bigger than last year, and knowing that I am already working on making it bigger next year also makes me happy. But I am enjoying the moment for this year's Festival to grow so big and for all the pieces to come together like it did. We worked on this all year, but a month ago, we realized we hadn't been promoting it. This is a one-month promoted Festival, and it is already going to be bigger than every year we've been having it combined since we have so many headliners."
Don't Miss Dreamland Music Festival 2022
"It is going to be 918 Weekend. I always felt like Tulsa needed something on that weekend. Tulsa pride is starting to grow as the city grows. But there was nothing really to do, especially Hip-Hop. We will be ending with Hip-Hop 918 at Guthrie Green. If this is your first time at any Hip-Hop event ever, the Festival is Hip-Hop heavy-weighted, but it is not all Hip-Hop. You're really coming to see the culture. If you're interested in seeing culture in Tulsa that doesn't really get put on the forefront, you're going to really enjoy something new that you didn't know Tulsa even had.
You're really going to want to come with your eyes and ears open to experience Tulsa like you've never known before, through art, music, and food. You can come to this Festival and not catch any artists at all and have a good time, just by atmosphere and energy alone."
918 Weekend Schedule:
Friday, September 16th: Spark Summit will be held at the main stage in front of Holberton, and Dreamland Music Festival will take place within The Vanguard, The Hunt Club, and The Soundpony.
Saturday, September 17th: Spark Summit panels are in the morning, and Dreamland will have its local and headlining performances throughout the day.