Early into a conversation with Caroline's Spine, drummer Jason Gilardi makes one thing very clear about the band: "Even to this day, we don't care if it's for 5 or 5,000, we have fun playing with each other. If we didn't still have fun playing with each other, we wouldn't have this new CD, we wouldn't be here; we wouldn't be touring anymore..."
Granted, it has been a while since Caroline's Spine has been active on a regular basis, but despite what some may think, the band never broke up -- it merely took a break.
After a nearly 10 year run of the constant album-tour-album cycle, the band found itself close to burn-out and ready to let things rest for a little while. (And let's not forget, that run included signing with a major label, Hollywood Records, for two albums and being released from contract, and proceeding to release two more albums independently afterwards, without missing a beat.)
Whether consciously or not, the first song on the band's new CD, Captured, addresses its perceived absence right up front, opening with the lines: "Look who's come around your door / Sorry it's been so long, a lot's been going on . . . " For loyal fans of the beloved band it's a welcome return to form and to active duty after five years of sporadic shows and band members devoting time to families and other projects.
The band had been flirting with the idea of putting out a new record, considering a possible b-sides album or a live disc, before the creative juices started flowing. According to bassist Scott Jones, it was the band's performance at the "Taste of Madison" last fall, in front of a crowd of over 5,000, that finally cemented the band's resolve to write a new CD.
"That was basically the moment we were like, 'Let's do a record!'" says Jones. "That was in September and by November we were listening to demos and in pre-production."
The entire band agrees that once the decision was made to write a new record, the entire process went more smoothly than ever before. After starting with a half dozen demos that front man Jimmy Newquist had prepared and a couple of tunes that the band had played live for years but never recorded properly, the group wasn't sure if they'd have enough material for a full album. When everyone sat down together to start writing, however, the music came pouring out.
The resulting record is not only one that longtime Spine fans will cherish, but one that is already winning over a multitude of new fans. All of the classic elements of Caroline's Spine are present: Newquist's signature vocals and slightly sinister lyrics, Mark Haugh's harmonic guitar lines and big hooks, and a huge rhythm section, courtesy of Gilardi and Jones.
Looking back at the band's previous work, and specifically its two major label albums, Gilardi recalls most of the songs for Monsoon being initially written as acoustic pieces with Jimmy and an acoustic guitar, while the songs for the follow-up CD, Attention Please, were more riff oriented and written for the live show.
"But I think the new album has both" says Jason. "It has the old Spine feel, where you can totally hear these songs being played by Jim on an acoustic by a campfire and it also has a couple that sound like they were written live."
The irony of that is the fact that Captured is the first record that the band has ever recorded without road-testing the material first. Nevertheless, it all fits well into the band's catalogue and takes it's appropriate place in Caroline's Spine history.
And don't underestimate the importance of Spine's live show. Although the band was generally panned by critics, it won over a throng of loyal fans by focusing on college and smaller towns that were overlooked by other bands, being personable and greeting their fans at every gig, and trying to re-create the big "rock show" experience with every stop, whether opening an arena show in Detroit with Kiss or a headlining a club show in Iowa.
Along the way, the band not only earned a reputation for its killer live performances, but also became a band that the audience felt connected to.
Caroline's Spine was the exception to the rule during its rise in the '90s (See "The Music Edition: How Did We Get Here?"
Page 18), an era dominated by grunge and shoe-gazer bands that focused more on themselves than the audience.
"That's the thing..." says Gilardi of the band's live show. "We came from a period where every band you went and saw--it didn't matter if it was a club or an arena--put on a show with bombs and lasers and fireworks.
"It was worth however much the ticket was, and then in the '90s you were paying more for a ticket to see a band do less."
"That's what we kept telling people in the '90s" Jason continues. "We're trying to bring back, not necessarily the '80s sound, but the '80s 'Have a good time when you go to a show' vibe."
Mark Haugh says "I always try to think of it as it's just a party--we're a party. Drink some beers, have a good time, make a lot of noise--and these people are there to party with us. We want it to be a show, but we also want it to be like a giant house party--and we're there to be the entertainment."
The house party arrives in all its glory this weekend as Caroline's Spine plays a huge St. Patrick's Day show at C.J. Moloney's in Broken Arrow (91st and 145th E Ave) on Saturday night, March 17.
It's an all-day event with music beginning on the outdoor stage in the early afternoon and a lineup that includes Crooked X and Jenny Labow opening, before Caroline's Spine takes the big stage at 9pm and reminds people why they have remained one of Tulsa's favorite bands.
Riding high off the first leg of a tour that saw the band sell out all of its shows in Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois and Utah, as well as sell out the first pressing of the new CD, Captured, Caroline's Spine is ready to bring the big rock show back to Tulsa.
And never fear: the band is strong as ever. "The bottom line is we still want to be doing this with each other" says Gilardi, with the rest of the band in agreement. "Regardless of how much money we can make or how many fans are still out there, we would not be sitting in this room if it wasn't for the four guys in Caroline's Spine still enjoying making music together."
Of course, all agree that when that is no longer the case, the band will come to an end. For now, however, the almighty Spine has a new CD in hand, is winning over new fans at every stop, and is continuing on its mission to bring the fun back to rock'n'roll. If you're a modern rock fan, don't miss the "giant house party" this Saturday night.
The UTWeekly Highlights...
It should come as no surprise that most of this weekend's biggest shows are tied to St. Patrick's Day parties. Nevertheless, there's plenty going on around town this weekend, so let's get right to the highlights.
Thursday night's biggest show keeps the Irish theme alive as Flogging Molly headlines the Cain's Ballroom with its inimitable blend Irish folk and punk rock. The Street Dogs, Two Point Eight, and Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band open the show and complete the evening's bill. Tickets are $23.25 and doors open at 7pm. Don't overlook this one, because the show is TONIGHT (Thursday, March 15).
On Friday night, March 16, we've got a few things going on as everyone gears up for the big parties. Downtown, The Mooch & Burn hosts The Stagger and The Continental keeps things grooving with Salsa Rhythm Project.
The Secret Is Out
If you're looking for the "Stealth show" of the week, look no further than Vintage 1740 this weekend. I've got good information that Jason Smart is back in town this week to do some writing and recording with Brian Haas and Reed Mathis, and the trio will be sitting in at the wine bar for a couple full-blown Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey shows.
You want to one-up an intimate JFJO show? No problem: both shows are free! That's right, two nights of honest-to-goodness Jacob Fred with no cover. The secret is out and now you know, so don't miss it!
St. Pat's Throwdown
One of Tulsa's oldest taverns with an Irish past, Arnie's Bar, is throwing its biggest party of the year -- and it's a two-day affair that even calls for the bar to be closed on Sunday (the only day of the year that it won't be open).
This is one heck of a party, as Arnie's will have heated tents on the street for the band performances, food provided by Irish for the Weekend Soranno's and Domino's Pizza, plenty of beer flowing and even an on-site ATM for the weekend.
Doors open at noon on Friday, March 16, and the concerts start at 5pm, with music carrying on throughout the evening. Friday night's line-up includes: Dustin Pittsley and Jesse Aycock (5-8pm), Hosty Duo (8-11pm), and Hero Factor (11pm-2am).
On Saturday, March 17, St. Patrick's Day starts early as the bar opens at 10am and the music begins at 2pm, continuing into the wee hours of the morning. It's a full day of Irish music, and the line-up includes: Celtic Cheer (2-4pm), Sibling Harmony (4-6pm) and Four Fiddlers of the Apocalypse (6-7pm), to get the day started. The evening will be completed with Cairde na Gael (see related story, "Bands," page 42) from 7-10pm and Larkin closing out the night from 10pm-2am.
The Rest of the Best
Local metal fans will want to make a trip out to Claremore on Saturday night, to the King of Clubs for the St. Patrick's Day Massacre. The lineup includes Trip C, Woebegone, Down For Five, Doomsday Junky and No Ones Slave, all for only $5 cover.
Looking back to downtown Tulsa, there's more than one street party in town as McNellie's and The Continental join forces for an outdoor St. Pat's bash. Across the tracks, the Mooch & Burn is also planning a Paddy's Day blowout as well, but the lineup was yet to be conformed at press time.
Just down the sidewalk on Main Street, The Soundpony has a great double-bill with Mudville Project and Boondogs, starting at 10pm with no cover charge.
Also on Saturday night, March 17, The Red Alert will be at the Cain's Ballroom for a CD release party (see Sidebar).
On Sunday evening, March 18, The Jazz Hall of Fame's spring concert series continues with the Annie Ellicott Trio.
Ellicott is Tulsa's latest certified jazz siren: she can croon, she can scat, she can tear your heart out with a song. It's no wonder she's got her own night at the HOF. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for seniors and college, and $3 for students and the concert starts at 5pm.
In keeping with the jazz vibe, Brian Haas hosts the open-stage, jazz jam-session on Tuesday night at the Continental. It's a local free-for all, but anyone who sits in doesn't get a free ride. Professor Haas makes sure everyone works hard to find the ultimate groove. Cover is free for anyone who wants to witness the magic.
But by next Wednesday night, March 21, it's time to get your mid-week rock'n'roll fix. First up, the Mooch & Burn hosts Hourly Radio with The Secret Post with a $5 cover. Just down the street at Bob's (The Cain's side-stage) The Effects hold a hometown show with Rocket and one more act TBA. Tickets are $8 and doors open at 7pm.
And the biggest show of the night is in South Tulsa at The Otherside with The Hush Sound, Straylight Run and Pablo Spitalfield as the three bands make their way back north after migrating to SXSW. Tickets are $15 for the show on March 21.
(cutline. Get art and write)
Maturity Matters. Together, the young duo known as The Red Alert marries garage rock and pop-punk intensity with a compositional maturity beyond their years.
The Red Alert returns with Extended Play
Just in case you haven't been keeping track of the progress that sibling act The Red Alert has been making over the past year, let me give you a quick update.
After releasing the debut CD, Put On Your Game Face, in December 2005 as The Red Alert (eschewing their previous, Red Stripes moniker and White Stripes covers in the process), the band went on to make waves on multiple levels. The band not only won the local leg of the John Lennon Education Tour Bus Battle of the Bands, but proceeded as a national Battle of the Bands winner as well.
The summer of '06 included a spot on the Dallas stop of the Warped Tour in July and three St. Louis shows in August, including a local TV appearance. The young Hanewinkels also won the first annual "Debbie Campbell Young Musicians Award" from the Reaching Hands Foundation in 2006 and Christy made an encore appearance in the Tulsa PAC's HOPE Divas benefit concert in October.
This weekend the creative process comes full circle as The Red Alert releases its new six-song CD, the appropriately titled Extended Play. The release party will be held on Saturday night, March 17, at the Cain's Ballroom and this year's Satellite High School Battle of the Bands winner will be opening the show, hot off the heels of last week's battle, which included an appearance by The Red Alert as the previous year's champs.
If you're expecting more guitar lines derivative of The White Stripes, you haven't been keeping up with young Hank's songwriting skills as of late. Extended Play boasts 6 tunes, 3 penned by Hank III and three composed by the pair's production-whiz father, commonly known as Hank Charles. All six tunes are tightly wrapped pop-nuggets that spotlight the band's tight playing and knack for a great hook.
Christy's young voice continues to mature nicely and shines on "Only Want Loving" and "Feather in the Wind" without stealing all of the disc's thunder. Together, the young duo marries garage rock and pop-punk intensity with a compositional maturity beyond their years.
Saturday night's CD release party is the only all-ages St. Patrick's Day party in town and tickets are only $5 at the door. Of course, Extended Play will be available for purchase at the show and will be carried locally at Borders and Starship Records and Tapes
Even if you aren't under 21, you can't beat a good $5 rock show! Not only can you get your rock fix, but there will still be time after the show to roll over to Arnie's to salute the holiday in true Irish fashion. Who has to choose?
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