Last week I had the opportunity to attend a press conference for a "major concert announcement" at the still-in-progress BOK Center. So what was the big announcement? Rascal Flatts with Taylor Swift on September 25 at 7:30pm. You'll have to forgive me if I'm unimpressed; word of that show had already been floating around the UTW office, so it didn't come as any big surprise.
Now, don't get me wrong. BOK is playing it smart with this one. It's really a case of give the people what they want; another country act with Oklahoma ties to talk up the "we're Oklahoma and we're proud" angle. That's all fine and good and I'm sure the concert will sell well enough. Rascal Flatts is arguably one of the biggest bands in the business right now, having recently matched Alabama with its fifth consecutive ACM award for Vocal Group of the Year.
The funny thing is I doubt many people recognize the fact that the opening act, Taylor Swift, may actually be the one to watch. In case you haven't paid attention, this girl signed to an independent label and her album started building momentum, primarily based on internet downloads and online sales. At this point, Swift has scored four Top 10 country singles, reissued the disc in late 2007 with a couple of bonus tracks and crossed the double platinum mark in sales. If you think the independent label movement is limited to rock acts, think again. It's the whole industry that's being affected.
Even so, the real reason I attended the press conference was the opportunity to get a peak at the new arena while it is still under construction. I won't lie. I still think there are a few flaws in the overall arena plan and think it was initiated with a "Field of Dreams" mentality. Nevertheless, construction is well underway and the whole thing will be a reality come September, so we're going to have to get on board and support this thing if we really want to see downtown Tulsa come to life.
After the tour of the facilities, I have to admit that I'm impressed. I still think the overall façade is an eyesore and designers could have created something that fit better with Tulsa's overall art-deco inspired downtown architecture. My bigger concern, however, has been the actual facilities and amenities inside the building. My fears have largely been put to rest.
Scene A Lot
I've been to quite a few arenas and my biggest concern was that we'd end up with something like Oklahoma City's Ford Center. Say and think what you want, but OKC's arena has no character.
It's bland, boring and without any personality. I tend to consider it a smaller, Midwestern version of Los Angeles' Staples Center, which has been called the shoebox that all the other, cooler arenas came in.
That's not the case with the BOK Center. In fact, most of my pet peeves have been addressed as designers have taken the time to consider many of the things that are overlooked or taken for granted in many arenas. The outer concourses actually open up to overlook one another. This gives them a more open feel, avoiding the high school gymnasium syndrome. Extra detailing, like finished, dropped ceilings, a terrazzo finish on the entire first level concourse and carpeting on the suite level, will keep the arena from having a rushed or unfinished feel.
More importantly to me, even though the BOK Center will have an estimated capacity of 18,500, the design has managed to keep a fairly intimate feel on the inside. Provided the acoustics are decent for concerts, there won't be a truly bad seat in the house and you should actually feel closer to the stage and more engaged than shows at the Mabee Center or our current Convention Center arena.
I'm also impressed that we don't have a bogus "club level" in the BOK Center. Don't get me wrong. I love to catch a ball game or concert with club level tickets. Semi-private bathrooms and bar with severely reduced lines are great, especially when paired with premium seats, but the Ford Center's club level offers absolutely no added value for the premium they charge. Instead of getting caught up in the hype, the BOK Center has forgone that issue and stuck with suites and loge boxes (37 and 17 of them, respectively) to keep things clean and simple.
Even concession issues have been addressed, with a lower level food court included in the arena's design and what appears to be an inward facing bar. I'm not sure about that one and could be mistaken, but how cool would it be to not miss anything while waiting in line for an overpriced beer when you're at a concert or ballgame?
Overall, you can color me impressed. I'm actually warming up to our field of dreams. Now, I just need them to start announcing some rock acts to get me excited. What are the chances that Bruce Springsteen might actually play Oklahoma for the first time in I don't know how long--it's been at least 25 years, right? Or maybe Tulsa gets a shot at the Robert Plant/Alison Krause tour?
All I know is I'm starting to warm up to the new arena and they haven't even announced any shows that really appeal to my taste. As I heard DFest's Tom green say recently, "It's good time to be in Tulsa--things are happening." I have to agree. Now, can someone please hook me up with a big rock show? I'm getting tired of driving.
Oh yeah. I almost forgot. Tickets for the September 25 Rascal Flatts concert with Taylor Swift go on sale this Saturday morning, April 12. Tickets are $69.50 and $49.50 and can be purchased at local area Homeland stores, the Tulsa Convention Center Box Office and online at www.livenation.com.
Don't worry. It's not like you have to wait until next week, or even this September to get your music fix. I've just been busy looking into the future. We've got plenty going on in Tulsa this weekend, so make sure you get out and take advantage of our local scene as spring warms things up.
Thursday night always has something going on and this week's prime show is blues guy Watermelon Slim at Plan B. Feel free to kick off your weekend with that show before the rest of the weekend gets busy.
Friday night, April 11 has a stack of shows going on, with most of the best ones taking place downtown. Over at The Continental, Callupsie and Mayola will have the house rocking while GHOSTS and Born a Number play just down the street at Exit 6C. At the same time, Soundpony will be hosting Honky Horn and Bad Mouth.
If you're looking for something a little more rocking or rootsy, Brandon Clark Band play Dirty's on Friday, while Jesse Aycock brings his eclectic blend to Arnie's and Brandon Jenkins brings the Red Dirt and attitude to the Mercury Lounge.
On Saturday night, April 12, The Cain's should be packed out as the KVOO listener appreciation party brings Jack Ingram, Josh Gracin, James Otto and Emily West to the Ballroom for a $9.85 show that starts at 7:30pm.
Elsewhere around town, The Monolith hosts The Truth About Movie Stars, Black Swan, Ceceda and Monophore for $5. Where There's a Will There's a Way and The Company play the Crush Lounge and Vandevander rocks Arnie's.
If you're more of a pop fan, you won't want to miss Admiral Twin and RadioRadio at Exit 6C on Saturday while Rockabilly fans will be more inclined to check out the R.I.P. Tides at Mercury Lounge.
Sunday's best bet is Malamute, Operator Dead Post Abandoned and Only the Bugman at the Monolith and the show is only $5.
The rest of the week is dominated by big shows at the Cain's Ballroom. Monday night, April 14, it's Feist with Hayden ($29) before everything heats up with The Mars Volta on April 15 ($39.75) and Ministry returns on the "CU La-Tour" with Meshuggah and Hemlock. This is supposed to be the final round for the industrial heavyweights, so don't miss it if you're a fan. Tickets are $40.75 in advance or $86 for VIP admission with a special Ministry swag bag.
And just to remind you...Yes, it's April and you should know what that means. NewVo is on its way. This year we've made changes to our annual New Voices concert series and instead of stretching it out over three weekends, we've decided to make it one big party in the Blue Dome district on Sat., April 19. Better yet, there's no cover, so you can roam between clubs and catch a little bit of everything if you want. (Stay tuned until next week for more information about the lineup or see page 49 this issue.)
Take your time, pick wisely, don't miss The Mars Volta and I'll see you at the show!
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