By Jimmie Tramel Tulsa World
Paul McDonald turned the Hop Jam into a literal hop jam.
McDonald hopped off the stage during the final song of his set and got a little more intimate with his audience.
“I try to move around and try to rile up the audience a little bit and wake them up,” McDonald said.
“Doing an earlier set like this, I’m playing in front of a whole lot of bands that I admire and respect a whole lot, so I was trying to kind of wake (fans) up to get them prepped for Drew (Holcomb) and Manchester Orchestra and all those guys.”
McDonald was among main stage performers Sunday at the Hop Jam, a fifth-year craft beer and music festival that annually attracts crowds to Tulsa’s Arts District. The festival was founded by the brothers in the Tulsa-based pop rock trio Hanson.
“They are brilliant human beings,” McDonald said during a post-set interview in his festival-provided trailer. “They are some of my favorite people. And I think they have used their power in a really amazing way.”
For instance? McDonald said the guys in Hanson want to bring people together, which they did during The Hop Jam.
“I know that the city of Tulsa is a huge deal to them, the fact that they put something on like this, and they are doing their own beer (company in Tulsa),” he said.
“They’ve got all these things going. It’s really, really cool. I have learned a lot from being around those guys and I am constantly inspired by what they are doing with the community and also with their music.”
McDonald said he would like to get his music to a level where he can put on a festival like the Hop Jam in his hometown, Huntsville, Alabama.
By staging the Hop Jam in Tulsa, McDonald said, it’s kind of like Hanson saying “Hey, Tulsa, we are here with you. We are proud to be from here.”
The Hop Jam didn’t “only” bring the Tulsa community together. The festival attracted visitors from all over, like Ashley Otero of Des Moines, Iowa, who emerged from the craft beer section of the festival wearing a shirt that read “beer + music = awesome” on the front and “Hanson Brothers Beer Company” on the back.
“I’m here because of Hanson,” Otero said, adding that she has been a fan of the group since 1997.
“I grew up with them. I have so many memories from them. It’s cool that they are giving us new memories as adults.”
The new memories included face-to-face interaction at The Hop Jam.
“They are awesome to their fans,” Otero said. “We get to hang out with them. They walk around and say ‘hi’ and take pictures with us. Isaac poured beer for me. It was pretty cool.”
Otero, who was accompanied by Ashlee Steinhart of Tennessee and Lauren Sass of Baltimore, said she comes to Tulsa for Hanson Day every year (The 2018 Hanson Day festival was May 17-19) and stays for the Hop Jam. She has been to the craft beer and music festival every year.
“It’s cool how big it has gotten,” Sass said. “We are proud of them.”
Lines were long in front of the craft beer area of the festival. Otero said she could tell there were a lot more people there than in past years.
The music segment of the festival was free for all ages with food trucks handy and music on two stages. Festival guests sprawled out on the lawn at Guthrie Green to watch runners-up in the opening band contest. Inflatables and face-painting were available nearby for guests who brought children.
A Tulsa-based band, The Brothers Moore, won the Tulsa World’s opening band contest and christened the festival on the main stage. Drumsticks and shirts were tossed into the crowd at the end of their set.
McDonald, a late addition to the lineup, came next and was followed by Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, Ra Ra Riot, Nada Surf and Manchester Orchestra.
Because the main stage is immediately west of the Fairfield Inn in the Arts District, faces were pressed against upper-story windows of the hotel as hotel guests watched artists perform.
Meanwhile, those on the festival grounds heard artists talk about exploring the “other” half of the festival.
“I can’t wait to come out there and drink a whole lot of good beer with you all,” McDonald said.
Holcomb apparently sampled craft beer before going on stage.
“It was way too early in the morning for beer,” he told the Hop Jam crowd. “But it tasted great.”