If you've followed this column for an extended period of time, you'll probably recognize the band name Vito Ninefingers. Funny that a band I almost skipped should grab my attention and stand me on my ear.
My first exposure was during the Dirty Carny Sideshow in the fall of '06. I didn't expect much from the band with the funny name and was consequently talking to a friend near the exit as I was headed for the door. When the band finally took the stage, the ensuing chaos so grabbed my attention that I had to excuse myself to find out just what in the hell was going on.
Once I scrambled my way into the audience, I heard a nearly indescribable mix of rock, rap, punk, and trip-hop that mesmerized the crowd and drew everyone (myself included) into the show. Even technical difficulties couldn't dampen the spirits of the band or the fans as the two fed off each other and built to a frenzy.
Now, some six months later, Vito Ninefingers (V9F) is taking its game to the next level with a recently self-released EP/CD and series of out-of-town shows that are laying the groundwork for a regional touring template. All of this is just the opening salvo for a band that has only begun to develop.
Vito Ninefingers is still best described the same way as I saw them that first time: All raw energy and enthusiasm and prone to miscues, but displaying a flash of brilliance and uniqueness that sets them apart from the crowd.
When asked to help explain the band's sound, guitarist Joe Dufresne and lead vocalist Devo McFarland call it a mix of hip-hop and rock, but are quick to defend the band from most people's first assumption by specifically stating that they sound "nothing like Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park, or Crazytown."
In reality, the band doesn't sound anything like the rap/rock hybrid that clogged the airwaves just a few years ago, instead bringing a punk-rock energy and attitude to the table in place of the metal and "cock rock" image that many of those previous bands tried to incorporate. Instead of citing the typical influences that seem to infiltrate most rap/rock hybrids, V9F draws it's inspiration from bands like Gym Class Heroes, Transplants and RX Bandits.
As Joe explains it, the original goal was to go in a rap/ska direction, but it just didn't come out quite that way; which is understandable, given the band members' histories and influences in punk, experimental rock, screamo, metal, grindcore, and funk.
The thing that makes Vito so intriguing is its energy. The band has already weathered the storms of member changes, long-distance roadtrips with six guys and their equipment piled into the same van, low paying gigs and scrounging for gas money, but hasn't lost any of its passion.
Joe and Devo, along with bassist William Vickers and guitarist Ryan "R.B." Barnett, carry on with an idealism that marks a punk band more than any rap-rock act I've ever come across and the enthusiasm that only youth can bring.
The group regularly works itself into a frenzy and starts jumping in unison on stage, but all insist that nothing is choreographed: everything is spontaneous and taken from the energy of the moment.
According to Joe, "It's more about having fun and enjoying the music than putting on a 'show'. We're just as happy playing in front of three people (which has happened), as long as they get into it, as playing in front of 200."
Although that may initially sound clichéd and naïve, once you spend a little time with the guys you know that they're sincere in their intentions. And while V9F's amalgam of styles makes the band hard to categorize, it also allows them to fit equally well on a variety of line-ups next to anyone: from punk bands to rappers to hardcore acts.
Now, with a six-song EP in hand, Vito is beginning to spread its hybrid sound beyond the confines of The Pinkeye, Hive and other local clubs. The first cut, "Second Suiter", has more or less taken up residence on Sunday night's Homegroan show on The Edge over the past few months and is a perfect introduction to the band's overall vibe.
"Song One" does a better job of marrying ska and reggae beats with rapping, before breaking into an explosive freak-out passage for the chorus.
And just in case the band's punk underpinnings haven't made themselves clear enough already, "Come Back Down From" closes the disc in a two-and-a-half minute frenzy before wrapping up with a trippy coda.
Most of all, Vito Ninefingers is the kind of fresh face that our local rock scene has desperately needed, and the band is still evolving. When asked where they see the band heading, the members uniformly agree that it's headed in a more Hip-Hop direction, citing early Gym Class Heroes and Roots as signposts, perhaps fusing those with heavier hooks.
Devo is the most philosophical about Vito's future, saying: "Where we're going (or would like to go) is probably different for everyone in the band. It's still a mystery. I think it will be more experimental. I'd like to do something to expand the genre -- and our show."
Moreover, Devo speaks for the entire band when he says "We just want to do something different. You know, any band can say 'We want to be different', but can they really do that? We keep trying, but never know what it will sound like."
As a result, V9F is willing to share a bill with anyone, regardless of style or genre. According to Joe, however, the group especially enjoys playing with young new acts that are "having fun and in it for the right reasons".
It's exactly that youthful idealism and naïveté that will either make or break the band. Lesser groups would have already caved by now and there's no guarantee the Vito won't implode somewhere down the road, although I certainly hope not.
Currently, the band plans to continue touring regionally in short spurts throughout the spring, working its way up to three- and four-week runs over the summer months. For now, however, the band continues to write new material and pick up shows wherever and whenever possible.
One of those shows is this Sat., Feb. 10, as Vito Ninefingers holds a featured opening spot at recent UTW cover-star PDA's CD release party. The show is at The Otherside and includes hip-hop artists Unstable Americans, Trauma, Infamous and X-Cal as well as rockers One Night Scam and Optimistic to a Fault.
Tickets are $10 and the doors open at 7pm, with the show starting at 8pm. This will be one of the biggest local shows of the month as PDA draws a cross-pollinated crowd to drop his new disc, Act II: A Different Victim, with a unique performance that will include a live string quartet and special guests CoCo Jones and Phillipian.
Saturday will be the perfect time to catch Vito Ninefingers in action, and a great opportunity to sample a good cross-section of Tulsa's rising acts and one of our brightest emerging artists in PDA. If you want to see who is redefining Tulsa's music climate, you'll be at the show.
Weekly Highlights at a Glance...
The week gets jump-started right out of the gate as the "All For Revenge" tour with Terror, The Warriors, All Shall Perish, War of Ages and Stick To Your Guns stops at The Otherside on Thurs., Feb. 8.
Terror is at the forefront of the current hardcore scene, so if that's your bag, this will probably your best bet for the month. Local rockers Sworn Against will open the show, which starts at 6pm. Tickets are $12 and doors open at 5:30pm.
On Fri., Feb. 9, the Pinkeye hosts the evening's biggest package show with HeartBreakerz Bawl at 7pm. The predominantly rap and hip-hop line-up includes Unstable Americans, Trip C and Crazy P, Sixes, ESP, Lega-C, Circa 360, Trauma and Skril Lo. Tickets are $10 at the door.
Longtime fans of bands like Son Volt and Whiskeytown will want to stop in at Mercury Lounge on Feb. 9 to check out alt-country rocker Austin Collins.
It would be easy to lump Collins into the Texas/Red Dirt genre, but that label doesn't really fit. He channels some serious Jay Farrar and Steve Earle before veering off down his own path, which should make for a cool evening of music.
Also on Friday night, if you're in Broken Arrow and a fan of singer-songwriter stuff, The Blend will host Too Few Forgotten, Danny Berrios and Alisha Lynn. Music starts at 7pm
On Sat., Feb. 10, there are a few good shows going on around town outside of the aforementioned PDA CD release party. The most notable of those are down town downtown as The Continental features Adam Lopez (who has been recording a new album) and Jirrhaff with a $5 cover.
Also downtown on Saturday night, Mooch & Burn hosts the Green Country Roller Girls benefit with Billy Joe Winghead and Math Lab. You know that the night will get crazy with that combination and cover is only $5, so come join the fun.
On Tues., Feb. 13, All Souls Acoustic Coffeehouse kicks off its Winter-Spring '07 concert series with Nashville based singer-songwriter Jeff Black.
Black's songwriting throws hints of Midwestern rockers like Mellencamp, along with east coast practitioners Seger and Springsteen with a touch of Bruce Hornsby, Jackson Browne, and even a little Counting Crows. Tickets are $15 ($13 for students and seniors) and can be purchased in advance by phone (918-743-236) or at the door. The show starts at 7:30pm.
Valentine's Day is Wednesday, so if you're in the mood for a little music while romancing your sweetheart, you need to stop in at Vintage 1740. The cozy atmosphere makes for a great way to wind down the evening with a glass of wine while Sharla Pember performs.
Also on Feb. 14, ABR Productions is back in action and doing a show at the Mooch & Burn. Indie-rockers Hello Stranger will headline the evening with GHOSTS and local alternative hip-hop act Hiphopotamus opening the show. It's an 8pm show tickets are $5 in advance (available at Under the Mooch) or $7 at the door.
Finally, if you were planning on going to the AFI show at The Cain's Ballroom next week but haven't gotten tickets yet, you'd better start scrambling. The Feb. 15 show is sold out, so you can either spend the weekend watching Ebay or try your luck on Main Street the night of the show and hope someone has an extra.
Countdown to Austin...
Speaking of tickets that are hard to find, the countdown is on for this year's SXSW festival in Austin. You don't even have to hock your guitar or sell a kidney to go if you're good with a pen (or word processor). Urban Tulsa Weekly's annual SXSW essay contest is well underway, but you've still got time to submit your entry.
And you have to hurry.
Just tell us why, in 500 words or less, you should be UTW's guest correspondent to the biggest, baddest showcase in the land. Yes, we're sure you can put down a lot of free beer and BBQ, but that's just a start to the biggest week of music you may ever see. Along with your plea for mercy, include your pick of which local band you would send to represent Tulsa at SXSW and why.
The winner will receive two music badges for the festival and conference, held March 14-18 in downtown Austin, and an assignment to report back on the experience when you return.
What more could you want than four sleepless days and nights in the heart of Texas with more than 1,400 bands? Start writing now and get your entry in by Mon., Feb. 19.
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