We all know that Tulsa's musicians are a giving bunch, always willing to step up and donate their time to help those in need. More often than not, however, it's a reactive giving -- not to say that's a bad thing, just that it's stepping up in the wake of a disaster or tragedy. On occasion, though, our artists have a proactive vision, and that's exactly the case with a very special songwriters' circle converging on Rusty Crane this Saturday evening.
Four female songwriters: Erin O'Dowd, Kristen Hemphill, Rachel LaVonne, and Jillian Holzbauer have banded together for a special evening of songs in order to give back to the community and benefit the Children's Literacy Program through the Sand Springs Women's Chamber. Although admission is free, the group will be donating their pay for the evening and any tips that are donated to the organization to promote reading at a young age.
Kristen Hemphill talked about how this event came about.
"Erin O'Dowd (bass player for The Low Litas, who has been shifting into singer/songwriter mode) and I began playing some shows together, and we met one day for coffee," Hemphill said. "We started talking about the idea that when someone is born with gifts or talents, it's important for them to use them appropriately and give something back. While discussing that, we came to the conclusion: Why not do that with one of our shows and give whatever money we make from that show to a charity?"
At that point, the idea was only a concept, and the pair didn't have any preset ideas or causes in mind, only that it was something they would think on until they found they appropriate cause.
Shortly after, Hemphill ran into Ellie Costola of the Sand Springs Women's Chamber, and the two got to talking about the Chamber's Children's Literacy Program initiative, which annually provides new books to third graders attending an elementary school with over 90 percent Free Lunch ratio (a measurement of the income level of the school, as 90 percent or more of the students are on the state's free lunch program). The idea behind the initiative is to provide a new book for each student's personal library, to encourage both reading at home in their free time as well as parents reading to their children. As fate would have it, the Chamber had already picked a recipient, with the program providing books for the third grade class of Garfield Elementary, and was looking for a fundraising effort to support the program.
After discussing the program, Hemphill and O'Dowd, as avid readers and writers, agreed that this seemed the perfect fit and opportunity to give back to the community as they had discussed. A couple of calls later, the event was scheduled. More pieces fell into place as two more friends, Jillian Holzbauer and Rachel LaVonne, stepped up to join the effort, as the initiative is one that strikes close to the heart of each of the ladies as singer/songwriters.
The resulting event will be held this Saturday night, September 28, at The Rusty Crane from 7-9pm. Organized as an "In the Round" songwriters' circle, each of the four ladies will trade songs, stories, and even a few cover tunes before banding together to end the evening as a group. In between, they will also touch on the Children's Literacy Program, and Ellie Costola will be present to speak briefly and share about the initiative's vision and impact.
In addition to the tips and the artists' pay being donated, Sand Spring Women's Chamber will have representatives on hand, accepting any additional donations.
Although I met with Hemphill, she was quick to point out that this has been a combined effort with O'Dowd to make all of the pieces come together. She also said that their real vision, beyond helping this great cause, was to share the message that "if you have a gift or something that you're really good at, no matter what that talent is, you need to give back with that gift."
That's a vision that we should all be able to latch on to, as well as one that can prove to make our community even better for all of us.
Considering the fact that the indie-folk movement is reaching a peak with artists like Mumford & Sons and Lumineers crossing over from indie status to dominating the airwaves, it's easy to write off much of the current crop of indie-folksters as simply riding the wave of what's currently cool. Occasionally, however, you come across one that stands out from the crowd.
There's enough grit and soul to make this week's show by Shovels and Rope one to keep your eye on, but the real surprise of the night promises to not be the headliner, but opening act, Shakey Graves (Alejandro Rose-Garcia). Currently lauded as one of the most engaging performers coming out of the Austin music scene, Graves takes his tunes one step beyond the current indie-folk movement, delivering them as a hypnotizing one-man-band armed with an acoustic guitar and homemade suitcase kick-drum.
Graves' debut CD, Roll the Bones, has sat near the top of Bandcamp's digital "best sellers" chart for nearly two years as Rose-Garcia supported the record with constantly expanded touring. As entrancing as the album is, however, what makes it more intriguing is how the music drives the artist, perhaps as much as the listener.
With over two years under his belt since the release of Roll the Bones, I naturally asked Garcia about plans for a proper follow up when I caught up with him a few weeks ago, and he shared that I had actually caught him on a short break, as he was at the studio and recording for a potential follow up.
"As far as the album goes," he said, "I went into this as a passion project, and it turned into something much bigger than I had imagined. There was a long wait to release my first album, so I don't see any reason to put a timetable on the next one. It all changes over time. What I was doing a year ago was similar, but different from what I'm doing right now."
Admittedly, he has had a busy year, as the Shovels & Ropes tour is the third major outing for Shakey Graves this year, putting him in front of increasingly larger audiences. Even so, Garcia looks at it all as a learning experience as he continues to grow as an artist.
"Touring has been a massive learning experience for me," he shared openly. "I was just at 'Pickathon' in Oregon a few weeks ago, and I played with some of the best musicians I've ever seen. It really encouraged me: I feel re-inspired."
Perhaps the irony of Garcia's career is that he never planned to be a musician. Having grown up as a child actor, with both parents on the production side of the cameras, Rose followed that dream to California.
"I'm just as surprised as anyone that I ended up in music," he shared with a laugh.
"When I was acting, I went to Hollywood and I was stuck in L.A. waiting for the phone to ring, like so many other actors," he explained. "I made an ambitious move that really allowed me to spend that time by myself and I ended up writing almost 300 songs."
Before long, he took those songs out and started playing in clubs and creating a loyal following for his sparse, but entrancing live delivery. Although his early recordings were also sparse and lo-fi, Garcia never saw any boundaries to what he would write or play, defining his unique style in the process.
"I'm the first person to record a song I can't play live," he shared, "but that's part of the fun."
Although it might be easy to lump Shakey Graves into the hipster folk-rock movement, Garcia's vision seems far more unique and honest than just following a trend. Extended touring has only reinforced that vision.
"These recent shows have finally allowed me to just sing and not worry about it," Garcia shared. "There are too many good bands in the world doing what they do. It's kind of a waste of time to try and be cutting edge, so more and more, I find myself not worrying about it and just doing what I do.
"I just try to keep an open mind," he concluded. "My goal is just to have a sonic opinion that people will listen to. That's what I get from the people I most admire, people like Tom Waits. That may not be my jam, but I can appreciate what he's saying, so I'm listening."
Even as Garcia finds his voice and "sonic opinion," the music continues to be the driving force. "I kind of feel like I'm driving the boat as an observer," he admitted. "Sometimes I'm not really sure if I'm the captain or a passenger."
Perhaps because of that dichotomy and letting the music steer the ship, Shakey Graves has been turning heads across the U.S. as he continues to follow his muse. You'll want to be there early to see him open the Shovels & Ropes show at Cain's Ballroom next Wednesday night, October 2.
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Fall is upon us: Football season is in full swing and The Tulsa State Fair is here, but that hasn't cooled off the concert calendar any. You can get all the highlights from the State Fair in our week's rundown of all three stages, but if you're looking for the best at our local venues, we've get what you need to get you pointed out the door right here. It's a mix of touring bands and locals with something for everyone, so get out and get your music fix this week.
Thursday, September 26
The Vanguard has one of the coolest shows of the weekend, kicking things off with next-gen bluegrass disciples The Grascals and special guest Jaida Dreyer opening the night. Meanwhile, down at Cain's Ballroom, Daft Punk Tribute act One More Time returns for another night of dancing while Yeti goes punk with The Shame (who will also be shooting a new video) and Mercury Lounge hosts a night of gritty garage-rock with The Dead Shakes and Johnny Badseed and the Rotten Apples.
Friday, September 27
Dirty River Boys headline Cain's Ballroom with John Moreland and The Roosevelts opening the show, while Sam & the Stylees bring the reggae to Yeti. And if you're at 18th and Boston, Dustin Pittsley Band will rock The Shrine while The Derailers and Hooten Hallers bring the honky-tonk to Mercury Lounge. And if you're in a classic mood, check our Steve Miller Band, still rockin' the hits at The Joint
Saturday, September 28
John D. Hale Band and Brandon Clark Trio split the bill at Mercury Lounge while Brad James Band spreads the jams at The Shrine and The Colony hosts Wild Bill & the Lost Knobs, from Austin. If you wander downtown, David Castro Band takes over the patio at Hunt Club and Vanguard host the "Mutha Funkin Soul Party" with DJ Soulfingaz, Sweet Baby Jayzus, Black Carl and Jack Litman spinning for an all-night dance party.
Sunday, September 29
Tulsa Roots Music continues the Sunday afternoon series at Guthrie Green with Riverfield Children's Chorus opening the day at 2:30pm, followed by Lincoln Durham at 3:30pm and the Jamaican ska of The Skalites at 5pm. Also on Sunday, the Jazz Hall of Fame welcomes Tulsa's own Sarah Maud to the stage as she continues to make a name for herself in local jazz circles.
Monday, September 30
The Vanguard hosts a night of metal as Scar the Martyr (with Joey Jordison of Slipknot) headlines the night with Eyes Set To Kill and local openers Dryvyr and Beneath kicking off the night.
Tuesday, October 1
It's a great night for modern jazz as Earl Harvin and Mike Dillon come together for a special show at Vanguard with Booomclap (featuring Chris Combs and Josh Raymer of JFJO) opening the night.
Wednesday, October 1
The big show of the week for indie rock and indie-folk fans is Shovels & Rope at Cain's Ballroom with Shakey Graves opening the night. This is one you won't want to miss.
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