Double Decker 2019
Updated: Jun 1, 2019
Written by Michael Newsom | Artwork by Vicki Stevens | Provided by Something Southern
More than 200 art and food vendors and a music line-up featuring Jason Isbell make for a weekend of Double Decker fun.
Over the last 24 years, the Double Decker Arts Festival has grown from using the bed of an old pickup truck for a stage in 1994 to becoming one of Oxford’s most anticipated events each year where families, friends and old college pals gather for food, music and art under April skies.
This year, around 65,000 people will turn out for the April 26-27 event, which is centered around the historic Oxford Courthouse Square.
Hundreds of volunteers help out, but the planning process for the next festival begins right after the last festival ends. The work is hard, but the fruits of that labor can be seen in the growth of Double Decker.
“I think it’s just the reputation of Double Decker that has grown,” Double Decker coordinator Lee Ann Stubbs said. “Artists are talking about it more and I have more calls from people reaching out to apply. It has come from word-of-mouth from artists who are here telling other artists. But it also has been helped by the caliber of music we are getting.”
Big name acts like St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Dr. John, JJ Grey, Cold War Kids and many others have graced the Double Decker stage in recent years. This year will be no exception.
“We’re really excited about this year’s lineup,” Stubbs said. “There are some big-name acts coming to Oxford.”
Americana artist Jason Isbell, a Green Hills, Alabama, native and 2018 Grammy winner for Best Americana Album, headlines the festival with his band, the 400 Unit. The group is expected to draw a large crowd to its Saturday night performance.
The musical action starts at 6 p.m. Friday evening. Blues-rock guitarist Eric Gales takes the stage first, followed by a live recording of Thacker Mountain Radio Hour at 7 p.m. The evening culminates at 8 p.m. with a performance by Nashville-based singer-songwriter Lilly Hiatt.
On Saturday festival-goers can sample the offerings of 200 food and art vendors, and enjoy live music to their heart’s content with a line-up of local musicians as well as major touring bands and performers onstage all day.
The Saturday schedule kicks off with the band Muy Caliente at 10:15 a.m., followed by musician Kate Teague, of Oxford, at 11:30 a.m. Teague is also director and producer of Thacker Mountain Radio Hour.
North Mississippi’s own Cedric Burnside takes the stage at 1 p.m., followed by Emily King at 2:30 p.m.
Durand Jones and the Indications play at 4 p.m. Legendary Memphis indie rockers Lucero go on at 5:30 p.m., setting the stage for Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst, the married couple that make up the folk duo Shovels and Rope at 7 p.m. Isbell and his band hit the stage at 8:30 p.m.
Local artist Vicki Stevens created the official artwork this year, which she said was a huge honor for her as a longtime attendee of the festival. For years, Stevens has painted Double Decker-themed commissioned artwork for home decor retailer Something Southern (some of which is featured on these pages). She said she tried something different this time.
“I typically paint it more realistically,” Stevens said. “I really wanted this piece to be different and unique to the Double Decker festival. I decided to use a limited color palette with a retro feel. I hope that this creates a harmonious, fun piece that sets off the personality of the double decker bus.”
Stevens will have her own booth for the first time this year, where she will be selling her art.
Vivian and Walter Neill, owners of Oxford Treehouse Gallery on Fudgetown Road, have had booths at Double Decker for the last three years. They sell works by the artists they display at their gallery, as well as some of Walter Neill’s blacksmith work. This year, the Neills plan to have art by Laurin Stennis, Paul Fayard, Stephen Threlkeld, Benny Melton, David Rawlinson and others. The works offered at their booth will be portable, Vivian Neill promised.
“The first year we did it, we took so much, and we wanted everybody to be represented,” Neill said. “We are slowly but surely learning how to work the art festival and simplify it a little. We take smaller items, which are easier for people to carry with them.”
Mailennial’s Oxford-themed greeting cards will be sold at a booth across from Cicada. They are the work of Allie Robbins, who will be coming all the way from New York City where she lives now, to sell her goods. Robbins is no stranger to Oxford — she’s a 2016 graduate of Ole Miss, where she played collegiate tennis. Her parents live here, her sister goes to Oxford High School and her brother is a University of Mississippi student. Robbins said some of her favorite memories from her own college days were made at Double Decker.
“There is nothing like a sun-filled Saturday on the Square, and after attending Double Decker for so many years, it is surreal to think that I will be standing in my very own booth this year,” Robbins said.
Each year, Rodney Claxton makes his impressive birdhouses; they among the most popular items sold. Claxton, who participates as a vendor in several shows each month, said one of his chief concerns is whether an event is well-organized. He gives Double Decker the thumbs-up, and said he would recommend it to other artists.
“The staff and volunteers are the very best that I encounter,” Claxton said. “They are eager to help us and are informative and extremely organized. I’ve been so blessed by Double Decker with the loyal customers that come and support us each year. This is the best show I do all year.”