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Opolis to celebrate 15th anniversary with special concert series

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The frontside of the Opolis Aug. 31. This weekend is the business' 15th anniversary. 

In a one-room music venue off Crawford Avenue, Marian and Andy Nuñez sat in front of an enormous picture of a cat. Owners of Opolis in downtown Norman, the couple looked at each other with excitement, reminiscing on their 15 years of hosting musical talent.

“Norman has quite a history of bringing in bands,” Marian Nuñez said.

The Opolis, which has hosted bands such as Washed Out, The National, Vampire Weekend and Grizzly Bear, will celebrate its 15th anniversary this weekend with a concert series.

In the '90s, Andy Nuñez remembers shows being held in Norman at venues like Club 90, Jailhouse and Crossroads at the University of Oklahoma’s student union when he was growing up. Club 90, where famous bands such as the Flaming Lips and the Chainsaw Kittens played, was located in Stubbeman Village outside of Couch Dorms. 

“I think in the same way weather happens here, music comes from the north and south and causes a mix up,” Andy Nuñez said. “I feel like there is a DNA to it, for sure.”

On the Road

The journey to Opolis began at OU, where Marian and Andy met. They joined a band called Starlight Mints. Traveling and seeing different music venues inspired them to create their own musical home.

In 2002, the couple decided to open Opolis.

“We learned all that we know through venues," Andy Nuñez said. "We first rented this place as a rehearsal hall, and it slowly became a DIY. During the day, it was a coffee shop and shows happened at night."

Having been traveling musicians themselves, Andy and Marian knew the reality of being in a van for three, eight or 12 hours a day. They created an environment for bands to feel instantly welcome into the Norman music scene.

“When you’re on the other side you want to create an environment that you want to walk into. We understand that when someone shows up we want to make them feel comfortable — get them food and basic hospitality,” Andy Nuñez said.

“Terrified beyond belief”

Opolis’ environment is one of the reasons the Chainsaw Kittens is headlining the anniversary show, even though the band hasn't played in a decade.

“I am terrified beyond belief,” Tyson Todd Meade, guitarist and vocalist of the Chainsaw Kittens, said.

Meade is known as one of the godfathers of indie and alternative music. His first band, Defenestration, was formed in the mid '80s and is mentioned in the book "Road to Nirvana" as one of the bands that influenced Kurt Cobain’s music.

“I have been sober for about 12 years now. When the Kittens started, it was a rock 'n' roll party — I would throw up on stage. It was nuts,” Meade said, sitting on his porch in paint-splattered loafers, drinking tea across from the home of the Flaming Lips' Wayne Coyne.

During the mid '80s and early '90s, The Flaming Lips, Sonic Youth, Minutemen and Red Cross were producing material that was outside of the mainstream. Meade said Defenestration was a band "that was sort of over before it began."

In 1989, after a month of practice, the Chainsaw Kittens made a demo and began talking to record companies. The first record, “Violent Religion,” was made on about $3,000 and told the story of Meade losing his mind over the breakup of Defenestration.

“When we were playing and starting in 1989, the first show we played had 100 people, and the second show, there were 500 people there,” Meade said. 

As the Chainsaw Kittens gained popularity, Butch Vig, who produced Nirvana’s "Nevermind," also produced the Kittens' second album, "Flipped Out," in Singapore. This growth led the Kittens to be signed by Mammoth Atlantic.

Although the band hasn’t played in a decade, Opolis is a special place for them. Meade said the only person he would perform for would be for Andy Nuñez.

“We feel like when we play, it should be a special occasion because we don’t want to be that band that plays all the time,” Meade said.

Home Base

Marian and Andy have made an impact on more than just Meade. Many of the bands that have played at Opolis claim the venue as their "home base."

“Forever ago I remember going there and meeting Marian and Andy. They gave us a map on how to do things,” Tim Gregory, Helen Kelter Skelter's technician, said.

Gregory said he enjoys playing at Opolis because it is a place of experimentation.

“You can do things a bit differently. It gives you the opportunity to do something different than the norm,” Gregory said.

The Show

Breaking the norm, the lineup for Opolis' 15th anniversary show has no hierarchy, Andy and Marian Nuñez said.

“When a band would play here and if we connected with them, we asked them to play,” Andy Nuñez said. 

The couple wants students from OU to realize that they are here with the anniversary show, Marian Nuñez said.

The anniversary concert series will take place Sept. 7-9. Attendees can purchase a three-day pass for $15.

More information about the anniversary can be found on the Opolis' website.

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