Rock the Cliff

Blue skies and blues were on the bill for North Oak Cliff Music Festival

If a laid-back kind of day is what North Oak Cliff Music Festival organizers had in mind — and, take our word for it, they did — they got what they wished for. The weather, sunny and unseasonably warm even for a Dallas November, actually had the crowd jockeying for shady spots early in the day.

The mood was, in a word, relaxed.

A docile crowd seemed at peace with the nice day, but it didn’t take long for dancing to break out in several spots during the largely blues-based music roster that really delivered one for the underrated neighborhood of North Oak Cliff.


Hunter Hendrickson has won his fair share of local awards, and he soared early in the day at the festival. Besides his own material, a highlight was a cover of The Who’s “Sparks,” which was a drum-solo-heavy instrumental from the Tommy LP. 

Bobby Patterson’s set was potent, with silver-tongued and rhyming between-song banter and crowd sing-alongs. Toward the end, he led the crowd in a chant of “Oak Cliff” to the music. If you like James Brown and Buddy Guy, this Dallas soul legend is a must-see. 

The word around the festival was that Carolyn Wonderland turned in one of her most dynamic and prevailing vocal performances ever. She was on the stage at an ideal time of day, when the heat of the sun started to settle and clouds yielded extra shade.

Wonderland’s merch was very colorful and psychedelic, looking similar to a Jefferson Airplane LP cover. 

Alejandro Escovedo helped break up a bill of largely blues-based acts with their blend of garage and cowpunk.

Jason Roberts of the Better Blocks project with his daughter Andrea, who sported an orange t-shirt from the event.

"They said it was a blues festival, so I painted my face blue," said Ivan Mattson, a wrestling midgets promoter.

The festival offered a VIP ticket option for viewing the show closest to the stage, but by far the most popular — and populated — spot to watch the show was under a couple of large, shade-bearing oak trees between the stage and the food trucks.

North Oak Cliff Music Festival was dog-friendly, natch. The breeds were as diverse as the crowd.

Yells At Eels sent an early-afternoon ozone layer of improv jazz throughout the neighborhood and wrapped the set with some snazzy drum solo work.

Jim Suhler’s brand of roadhouse blues was wedged in a tough spot: between powerhouses Hunter Hendrickson and Bobby Pattterson. But Monkey Beat held their own nicely.

An awful lot of fans at the festival remarked that they were there specifically as fans of the great Joe Ely. But so many showed up much earlier than that to enjoy the similar-genre’d acts on the bill. That said, Ely was clearly the big draw.

Near-perfect daytime weather gave way to ominous and colorful clouds in time for Ely’s headlining set. But the clouds brought only more color to the park, not rain.