The summer's been a hard one for Tulsa's music scene. July's Dfest suffered from a possibly fatal underperformance (cross your fingers for next year), The Continental closed shortly thereafter, local fans have gone off to college and many facets of the indie scene in general seem to be at a standstill.
It's all cyclical, to be sure. The last year has been filled with hope, optimism and fresh talent, buoyed by last year's successful Dfest, national press coverage (Spin magazine's "Tulsa Rock City" story) and a slew of exceptional musicians coming into their own. Now, we seem to be struggling to find the next step.
It's not regression so much as momentary stagnation. The Continental may have closed, but The Marquee has quickly stepped up to the plate to provide a more viable alternative. For each setback, there's a step forward, but some setbacks are especially discouraging.
The latest? We're losing one of our more cherished bands to another city.
Black Swan will play its last show as a Tulsa resident tonight (August 29, 10pm) at the Soundpony, 409 N. Main. Next week, they'll be on the road to Portland, Ore., where the entire band is relocating.
Though Portland is a city known for its music scene, the band is not moving there for the sole purpose of pursuing career opportunities, and they want everyone to know that.
"We weren't planning to leave Tulsa," drummer Jon Van Patten explained. "But we had an opportunity handed to us on a silver platter, and we had to take it."
The opportunity in question primarily involved guitarist and lead singer Sam Alexander, who works as a programmer for the locally-based internet security company Vidoop. The company decided to open a Portland office and offered Alexander a chance to relocate. He thought he had to decide between his job and his band, until the company offered to move the band along with Alexander.
"The guys who run the company are younger, cool guys who were aware of our music," Van Patten said. "They made the offer to Sam, and it was like, either we move or we split the band apart, and splitting up wasn't what any of us wanted to do."
Really, it's a natural, healthy decision for a band like Black Swan to make. The fact that they're moving 1,000 miles away just to keep the band together (and not just to naively jump into the brutally competitive Portland scene) shows how committed they are to each other, not only as band mates, but as friends.
Despite the necessary exit, the band remains fiercely loyal to Tulsa, and wants everyone to know that they will not be forgetting their roots anytime soon.
"We love Tulsa, our home is Tulsa, and we are a Tulsa band," Van Patten said. "Everywhere we play, people will know us as a Tulsa band."
The band will be accompanied tonight by their friends Monaphore and Callupsie. The show is free, as always, so there's no excuse.
If you haven't seen Black Swan yet, this may be your last chance for a very long time. They've gotten better with each subsequent performance. They're talented, charismatic fellas with a penchant for dark, down-trodden, post-punk music that simmers in the brain long after the end of a show. They were a worthy component of Tulsa that always received a warm response and helped bolster the downtown music scene with frequent, well-attended shows. It's a shame they're leaving. They'll be missed greatly by friends, family, and fans, but they'll be back eventually.
Until then, let's wish them the best and send them off in style. They deserve it.
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