Every once in a while, someone makes such an impact on the community that others feel the need to keep their memory alive and honor the hard work that person put forth to help others. We see it each year with a number of local charities, ranging from the Cancer Sucks! organization to Missy's Keys 4 Cabs.
One of the more engaging stories, however, is that of Sgt. Mike Garner. As a 30 year veteran of Tulsa Police Department, Sgt. Garner co-founded the Oklahoma Buckledown Awards in 1993 and worked tirelessly to champion Oklahoma's seatbelt and child restraint laws, all in the interest of public -- and specifically children's -- safety. Even after retiring in 2002, he continued to remain active in the organizations he helped found while enjoying time with his family.
On August 5, 2008, Sgt. Garner died after a 10-year battle with kidney cancer. The following spring, his children initiated the annual 5K Renal Run, which begins and ends at Cain's Ballroom in Downtown Tulsa.
This year's event carries on the tradition on Saturday, May 28. Race activities begin with registration at 4:30pm and kick off with the one-mile "fun run" at 6:30pm, followed by the 5K race at 7pm. The evening concludes with a concert and awards at Cain's Ballroom that evening.
This year's concert features headlining act Dante & the Hawks with Del Toros opening the show. Bandleader Dante Schmitz said this is the first year his band has been involved with the Renal Run, but said he and the other musicians were honored to participate, knowing that the show is for a good cause and in remembrance of one of our city's esteemed officers.
Plans for the show were initially put in place over the winter, while Schmitz and his band were in the studio recording songs for a new EP. Once the date drew near, however, Schmitz saw that the new disc would be completed and ready in time for the show and decided to take advantage of the opportunity to celebrate its release as well.
Schmitz has an extensive back catalogue of solo material, but formed Dante & the Hawks in 2008, releasing a self-titled EP that summer. Since then, the band has toured regionally and played extensively, developing its chemistry and true identity in the process.
"I feel like this is the first CD I've done that from beginning to end feels like a coherent work instead of just a collection of songs or singles," Schmitz said about Into the Wild. "We made a conscious decision what it would be and say and everyone who has listened to it so far has said it sounds like a true project."
A quick listen proves that to be true in two respects. First, the band has found its identity and sound. Although Schmitz is the primary songwriter, once he turns the tunes over to his band mates they begin to morph and incorporate each of the musicians' strengths. As a band, The Hawks breathe a distinct personality and energy into the songs, taking them beyond simple singer/songwriter fare.
The second factor, which Schmitz is keenly aware of and in tune with, is a coherent theme that ties all of the songs together. According to Schmitz, "I had all of these songs about night and rebirth and new opportunities and possibilities."
When reflecting on each song, Schmitz pointed out that the title track is essentially about rebirth through nature, while "Tonight, Tonight" is about the rebirth of a relationship, "Uncovered" is a spiritual rebirth and "My Greatest" reflects a rebirth through his son or giving life to a child.
"At the end of the day, I think the overriding theme is 'Every day is a new day' and I think each of these songs reflects that in one way or another," Schmitz said.
The new disc came out of recording sessions with Chris McLeod co-producing with Schmitz, which initially spawned the January release of "Tonight, Tonight." According to Schmitz, those sessions and the end result set the tone for the rest of the EP.
"I think, production wise, it's a tasteful blend of Chris McLeod's style and my own," the bandleader said. "We worked really well together and it was the best I experience I've had with a producer yet. The producer's job is really to find your sound, then help that come through in a more honest, polished way and I think he did just that."
When looking at the entire band, which is rounded out with Promo Dave Hays on bass, Matt "Thundersticks" Thomson on drums and guitarist Ted Scott on guitar, Schmitz said "This is definitely our sound as a band. Everybody has input and effects what we do."
More specifically, Schmitz cited the title track, explaining that Scott contributed to the melody of the song.
"Those are my lyrics and my lyrical melody, but he played that guitar riff and it changed and really enhanced the song," he said. "That's how it usually works. All of the songs are written by me, but I bring them to the band and play them with an acoustic guitar and the basic melody, then we work out the rest of the song. It's mainly Ted that helps shape the songs -- he writes comes up with these guitar riffs and melodies and gets it stuck in your head, yet he plays in a way that's very complimentary to the project."
You can definitely hear that when listening to the new EP. Although Schmitz's songwriting is crucial to the core of the song, the new disc truly shines as the band's personality comes out and enhances the songs to give them a different energy than that of the first EP or any of Schmitz solo releases.
When Dante & the Hawks celebrate the release of Into the Wild by headlining the Renal Run concert at Cain's Ballroom this Saturday night, it should only add to the energy and goodwill of the evening. Admission is free with donations accepted at the door and all proceeds going to The Kidney Cancer Association to honor the memory of Sgt. Mike Garner. The new EP will also be available at the show for only $5, revealing just how strong the Hawks has become with a couple years worth of shows under its belt.
Even if you don't participate in either run, still make sure to arrive early for Del Toros opening performance, Schmitz said, "because they've really impressed me as an up-and-coming band and they sound great."
Yes, Memorial Day weekend is here and that means many Tulsans will use the holiday to retreat to the lake and unofficially open the summer season. If you're a music fan, however, there's no reason you can't enjoy some great live tunes at the same time. Now in its fourth year, Backwoods Bash combines both for a music and camping festival on Keystone Lake at Old Walnut State Park.
Advance ticket sales at $25 (what a deal!) are now past, but you can still get in for $40 at the gate, which opens at 2pm. This year's lineup is impressive as Mountain Sprout headlines Friday evening with Flatland Travelers and Coleslaw amongst the evening's opening acts.
After an overnight stay, the music starts early on Saturday and will be highlighted by Moai Broadcast, Joey Farr & the Fuggins Wheat Band, Fatty Lumpkin and Dirtfoot to close out the evening. Sunday's roster takes a decidedly more pop turn with Apollo, Steve Lidell and Stephen Speaks before returning to the jam-band vibe with Panda Resistance, Sam & the Stylees and Paul Benjaman Band before Red Dirt Rangers wrap up the evening. For more details and a full lineup, you can check online at backswoodsbash.musiclovr.com.
The weekend may be dominated by the festivals, but for those of you who prefer to stay in town, there are still enough shows to keep you busy. We've got the best of them amongst our weekend highlight, if you just read on...
• Thursday, May 26 -- Bradio reprises its Mayfest appearance with a free, all-ages show at Utica Square that's heavy on Beatles recreations with a handful of classic covers. Travis Fite has been flying under the radar and settles in for a full night of tunes at Colony. If you're up for weathering the casinos, however, Matt & Randy's Acoustic Experiment should be worth checking out as the duo rolls with a gig at Ricer Spirit Casino's Mystic River Lounge.
• Friday, May 27 -- If you haven't skipped town for Rocklahoma, Backwoods Bash or simply to enjoy the holiday weekend at the lake, Two Tons of Steel brings its raucous brand of "countrybilly" to Mercury Lounge or you can rarely go wrong spending a nice evening on the patio at Hunt Club, especially when Brandon Clark Band is playing. Perhaps the best show of the night, though, is at The Marquee where Jamco Industries and RadioRadio open for 90's alt-rock staple act, Verve Pipe. Doors open at 6:30pm and tickets are only $15.
• Saturday, May 28 -- The aforementioned Renal Run concert with Dante & the Hawks and Del Toros should be a given for Saturday evening, but if you're looking for something different, there's plenty to choose from. Jesse Aycock holds court at The Colony with Charlie Faye and Will Sexton and Jenny Labow keeps the Southside crowd happy with a show at Duke's. If you're just looking for a party, Dan Crossland and Dr. Squealsgood will keep a packed house dancing and happy at Ivey. The most unique show of the weekend, however, will be Carrie Nation & the Speakeasy, bringing a hard to describe blend of bluegrass, blues and jazz to Mercury Lounge.
• Sunday, May 29 -- Brandon Clark's standing Sunday night gig at Mercury Lounge is always a safe bet, but this week Riverwalk Crossing steps up with a free show on the amphitheater stage with Rebecca Ungerman for a night of jazz and classic pop standards.
• Monday, May 30 -- Just because it's Memorial Day and the long weekend comes to a close, doesn't mean you can't rock. Downtown Lounge extends the party one more night with Wilson and Fist of Rage before you have to head back to the day job.
• Tuesday, May 31 -- Do yourself a favor and check out Rattlesnake Blake & the Crosseyed Coyotes at Hunt Club before everyone else catches on the Tulsa's next underground bluegrass buzz band.
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