In my time at Urban Tulsa Weekly, I've steered toward writing about local music that some would categorize as "indie" because that happens to be the music that I'm most excited about--the music I want to plug, the music that I think is most poignant, relevant, and important to Tulsa's artistic future. Mind you, there's a ton of "indie" crap that annoys me to no end, but crap crosses all genres.
The point is, that word, the "indie" word, has become something of an obscenity to many people--a way to, in just two syllables, provoke eye-rolls and dismissal from a myriad of cynics who immediately think of pretentious anti-artists turning their noses up at anything that's remotely polished, enjoyable or otherwise palatable for people besides their equally pretentious friends.
Dictionary.com's definition of the word "indie": ADJ-(of pop groups) not affiliated with a major recording company.
There you have it. By definition, every unsigned band is technically an "indie" band. Of course, the term connotes something more than that simple definition; on the local scale, the word as a descriptor implies that a band has little-to-no interest in achieving a record deal with a major label, which, in turn, assumes three things. First assumption: The band isn't necessarily interested in massive radio play. Second: The band isn't necessarily interested in making large sums of money. And third: The music is, by nature, geared toward a specific niche of listeners.
These bands are important to any well-rounded city. They promote experimentation, creative collaboration, a sense of community, and artistic idealism. It's important that these bands have homes in which to dwell. Like the local gallery (Living Arts), playhouse (Nightingale), and record store (Under the Mooch), the local indie venue is a small yet important component to a city's creative growth.
Tulsa's has a handful of these, but none of them are able to provide the sense of opportunity within unity quite like the Soundpony Lounge.
The Cain's neighbor is a major player in Tulsa's original music scene, but the fact that it maintains a "no cover charge, EVER" policy and frequently showcases young, still-growing local acts that may not necessitate a large guarantee, has led some outsiders to pin the place as a kiddie bar where young hipsters flock to watch noisy, under-developed musicians abuse their barely-functional instruments. The fact that it is one of just a few bars in town devoted exclusively to showcasing the indie underground (both local and national) is of no significance to those who aren't inclined toward that particular facet of Tulsa's sonic landscape.
Understandably, if you don't care for country music, you probably won't find yourself two-stepping at the Caravan every week. If you hate jazz, you most likely have no idea what SoChey is. And if you're turned off by the word "indie," I bet you avoid Soundpony like the plague (and you probably hate me). That's everyone's prerogative, hence that well-worn "beauty and the beholder" platitude.
In actuality, the two year-old bar, owned by Josh Gifford and Mike Wozniak, is providing a safe haven for young, adventurous musicians who have yet to develop a significant local fan base. Equally important, they provide a stage for obscure national acts to earn gas money, perpetuate word-of-mouth buzz and have a good time before heading to Denton or Lawrence or Fayetteville.
The fact that they maintain a "no cover charge, no cover band" policy and are still able to attract national talent speaks highly of the bar's reputation. The formula is simple: the bar pays the headlining act 10 percent of the entire day's sales. The headliner then splits the cash with the opener as it sees fit.
Every band member drinks (beer) for free.
"It works out better than paying each band a flat fee, because it makes them promote the show," Gifford explained. "We make $2,000, you make $200. That's pretty good."
It also allows unproven local acts the platform to earn credibility by showing that they can draw a crowd. They bring in people, they're rewarded. If not, they can still book more shows, because it's not costing the Soundpony a guarantee. They build a fan base, they make more money, and they earn the credibility necessary to play other venues in town.
This protects the Soundpony from a Continental future: they won't guarantee a band a specific number, which means they won't bring in larger acts, but they also won't go out of business when nobody shows up for a band that cost them $800. Gifford and Wozniak have effectively created a self-sustaining venue that has the luxury of being largely impervious to the ebb and flow of local trends. It's where Tulsa's current holy trinity of indie rock (Callupsie, Black Swan, Cecada) first found fans, but it's also a popular bar that people frequent for weekly events like Trivia Night and Guitar Hero Night, as well as the monthly Revolution party, hosted by DJ Moody.
God willing, it should be around for quite some time. It's not just an "indie" bar; along with the Circle Cinema, Under the Mooch, and Living Arts, Soundpony is an important part of Tulsa's developing cultural identity. It's a breeding ground for our city's creative class, and it shouldn't be dismissed.
The Weekly Roundup
Here's a list of the week's top shows.
On Thursday: My Solstice and Laron travel out to CJ Moloney's in Broken Arrow to put on a show for the Edge's ongoing summer concert series. Meanwhile, western swingers Hot Club of Cowtown takes over Bob's sidestage. Bait plays at Fishbonz, while Bag Eyes and Zero Crossing hit Plan B.
Friday: The very un-PC antics of old-timer and cult-favorite David Allen Coe will be on display at the Rose Bowl, while Aranda and RadioRadio play an all-ages show at the Blank Slate. Navigator, PDA, Kawnar and Baby B fill the hip hop void at Claremore's King of Clubs, and the Red Dirt Rangers and South 40 play Bob's. Jackson Taylor Band hits Mercury Lounge.
Saturday: On the indie front, we have Cecada and Cody Clinton opening for the New Frontiers at the Marquee, and the French Horn Rebellion with Ghosts of Monkshood at the Soundpony. Bob's hosts a $2 show of Savage and Colorblind, Exit6C presents Hick-oids and Billy Joe Winghead, and Blank Slate brings Met a Net, Freakshow and Full Flava Kings together. Bloody Ol' Mule bleeds all over Mercury Lounge, and Lega C "doesn't swallow, but spits" (her Myspace quote, not my wording) at Plan B.
The rest of the week is pretty quiet, with nothing noteworthy happening 'til the Aug. 28. We'll be back next week to talk about Black Swan's imminent departure from Tulsa, as well as the very crowded show schedule for the last weekend of August.
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