A few words need to be said of Bracken Klar. He's been written about in the pages of Urban Tulsa Weekly before, but the work he's continued to do as the chief promoter of ABR Productions is an invaluable part of bolstering Tulsa's music scene, and the man deserves more than a glancing notice.
Last week, Klar brought the Canadian band Caribou to the Continental, along with the U.K. act Fuck Buttons. Although I regrettably wasn't able to attend, word has it that the show was, by all accounts, a modest success, with 50-plus people in attendance. Considering that it took place on a Tuesday night and included a $10 cover, 50 people at the Continental gathered for a band that most Tulsans have never heard of constitutes a respectable crowd. However, a friend recently pointed out to me that booking Caribou alone costs a grand or two (not to mention the cost of the opening act and the sound guy), so Klar more than likely paid a significant chunk of change out of pocket. This practice is a semi-regular occurrence for Klar, a grad student with a full-time job, and it's only because of his passion and commitment that Tulsa sees a band like Caribou swing through. Simply put, Klar is such a dedicated music fan that he pays large amounts of money, when necessary, to bring his favorite bands to town for others' enjoyment.
The next time you see a poster or a MySpace bulletin listing a show put on by ABR productions, consider Bracken's commitment. You may not necessarily know the band playing, but odds are they're at least worth checking out. If Bracken's paying $500 of his own cash just so you can see them play, they may be worth your $10.
The Legacy Continues
On Thurs., May 8, the Continental continues its winning streak of hosting reputable national acts when Arkansas indie pop band Bear Colony opens for San Francisco's The Casual Lust and Tulsa's own Cecada. As usual, Klar is the man behind the curtain. With each show, he further proves himself an invaluable asset and a big part of why the Continental has successfully transformed itself from a struggling jazz lounge into one of the best and most consistent original music venues in Tulsa.
Bear Colony has been a labor of love during the last several years for frontman Vince Griffin. After being misdiagnosed with Crohn's disease (an intestinal illness that can eventually lead to death), Griffin was inspired to start writing what would eventually become We Came Here to Die. As he traded tracks over the internet with other musicians, a collective effort began to form as Griffin's project took on a life of its own.
Griffin, bedridden for several months, developed the project into a coherent theme-driven album that was steeped in the kind of heavy subject matter expected from someone in such a seemingly dire, life-threatening situation. Songs like "I'm Not Brave" and "Hospital Rooms aren't for Lovers" highlight the peculiar social distress involved with confronting one's own mortality at such a young age. While not exactly a concept album (depending on what your definition of "concept album" is), We Came Here to Die is riddled with these conflicts--innocence and hope and youth posited against loneliness, isolation and despair. The mixture's end result is a thematically bittersweet documentation of two perpetually colliding forces.
As the recording process slowly proceeded, Griffin and company formed Bear Colony, a loose lineup of regional musicians that included members of Lovedrug, Unwed Sailor and Militia Group. Members contributed the parts that Griffin later assembled in his bedroom; guitar work, bass, keyboard and electronic elements slowly compiled to form a backbone that complemented Griffin's sincere, emotive vocal work. The result was a surprisingly upbeat (considering the subject matter), pop-oriented affair that was quickly picked up by Esperanza Plantation, a small indie label that currently includes the growingly popular Mississippi-based rock band The Colour Revolt.
The album was released to largely positive reviews, and Griffin quickly assembled a touring lineup comprised of Brooks Tipton on keys, Pat Ryan on drums, Dave Huff on bass and Andy Haldeman on guitar. Completing the lineup was, of course, Griffin on rhythm guitar and vocals. Together at last in the flesh, Bear Colony began a prolific touring pattern that was put on pause late last year after Haldeman departed the band. The position was quickly filled, and touring is now set to recommence this summer. In addition to the May 8 show, Bear Colony will open for popular dance-rock outfit The Bravery on May 9 in Little Rock. Though no official dates have been named, the summer looks to be a busy time for Bear Colony.
Replacing Haldeman is guitarist Daniel Gimlin. Gimlin, along with Ryan, is a permanent member of Tulsa's Straight Lines. After Haldeman departed, Ryan suggested Gimlin to Griffin, and, although he's only played one show thus far, it sounds as if Gimlin has already cemented his position as touring guitarist.
"It seems like a really good fit," Gimlin said. "The writing is definitely more melodic than Straight Lines, but it's a narrow margin (of difference)."
Gimlin's been a member of Straight Lines since its inception years ago, when Gimlin and frontman Costa Stasinopoulos, while still in high school, began writing together. As creatively fulfilling as Gimlin said his primary band is, it's obvious when comparing the two acts (an apples and oranges comparison) that Bear Colony offers a fulfilling addition to the esoteric, experimental tendencies of Straight Lines.
"Straight Lines is a completely different animal," he said. "I don't really think about one in terms of the other. They're both rewarding in different ways."
Gimlin's especially stoked about the opportunity for touring that Bear Colony affords. Though they will eventually be booking out of town, Straight Lines is, for the time being, immersed in the final stages of preparation for releasing their debut.
"Touring with Bear Colony is an ideal way to get used to being on the road," Gimlin said. "I can't wait. It's going to be a good summer."
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