I'll be perfectly honest. The best part about this job is getting to check out a lot of new music, speaking to people I wouldn't get to otherwise, and getting to choose what to cover. Sometimes, however, there's just too much to cover or it's too hard to pick. November is shaping up to be a month that will provide that problem for a full 30 days. How am I supposed to pick between a raging hot band that understands the original heartbeat of rock and roll and one of the biggest buzz bands on the indie rock circuit? This week I can't, so forgive me for the train wreck and clash of styles. It's too good a week to be a music fan in Tulsa. So let's get to it.
Rock and Roll Heart
While Grace Potter and the Nocturnals aren't new to the music scene, or even to Tulsa, I've never been turned on to the band until just recently. And even though I missed the band's previous appearances at Cain's Ballroom with Gov't Mule and (most recently) The Black Crowes right before DFest this past July, I was fortunate enough to wake up to the band before it arrives for a headline gig at Bob's Saturday night, November 1.
Emerging from Vermont, The Nocturnals have a distinct jam-band pedigree, but sound more like a group soaked in whiskey, blues and soul from the dirty South. Lead singer Grace Potter has one of those rare female voices (in rock, anyway) that can alternatingly melt or rip your heart out, recalling both the sweetness of Bonnie Raitt and the growl of Janis Joplin. And while the band can step out into a furious jam, the band has been hard at work sealing its reputation as a stellar live band.
If the success of the band's last album This Is Somewhere and its recent touring schedule are any indication, the group is finding success. This Is Somewhere was initially received with rave reviews from Relix, Paste and other publications. It shows the band making a huge transition from blues and jam oriented to steel-eyed rock band.
A 2008 schedule loaded with festival and showcase appearances amidst heavy roadwork and a summer run with The Black Crowes, however, has cemented the group's name on the touring circuit.
"The Crowes tour was a good one for us," Potter said. "It got us back to a lot of markets we'd played before and gave us a chance to reconnect with the fans. It was a little inconsistent, though, in that one night we'd be playing in a big arena and the next night, we'd be in a smoky little rock club. The Cain's has a special history, though, and we love it."
Indeed, Potter and the Nocturnals return to the Cain's this Saturday night, but instead of playing the big room, the show is planned for the intimate quarters of Bob's side stage.
Even though the band plays a smaller stage, Potter acknowledged that as part of the growth process for any band. "That's the nature of the game," she said.
"You're trying to build a relationship with the fans and when you see familiar faces when you return, it's really rewarding."
When asked about the transition in sound between albums, Potter shared that they consciously wanted to step up and write good songs for the record. "We wanted it to be really focused and tight," she said.
That focus also comes across in the Nocturnals live show. Even though the band is prone to an occasional flight of fancy and enjoys a good groove, it's not often that the Nocturnals wander off into the ether as too many jam bands often do. And while the band is often (perhaps inappropriately) identified with the jam scene, Potter displayed an understanding of the band's relationship with the crowd that too many bands miss altogether.
"First of all, the goal of any great band should be to create a world that is theirs, for the fans to step into," she said. "People who don't understand that end up being controlled by the crowd, and it effects how they play." That's not helping the people that have come to see them.
"I've seen it with jam bands, where they lose that relationship and kind of disappear into the crowd. We want to it to be a different world, something escapist that that the fans can step into and remember that time and place, where we are identified with that experience."
If you're into smoky, sultry, blues-based, old-school rock and roll, you won't want to miss Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Tickets are $17 at the door for the 9pm show.
It's a crazy week, especially with Halloween this weekend, so take stock, check out these highlights and choose wisely.
If you're an early reader, and pick up your UTW on Wednesday afternoon, stop by Lucky's on Cherry Street and check out Red Dirt Rangers while grabbing dinner.
Thursday night things pick up with Shiny Toy Guns, Jonzetta and The Delta Fiasco at The Marquee or get your classic rock fix with Jackson Browne at Brady Theater.
Friday is Halloween, so you've got plenty of options, including Randy Crouch at Exit 6C, Billy Joe Winghead at Mercury Lounge and La Panther, Wighead and Hiphopotamus at Soundpony. If you're in the party mood, however, you've really got three choices: Swampfox at the Blue Dome Diner with Eye Candy Burlesque; Assimilation Halloween Party; and Freaker's Ball at Cain's with something like 30 bands on four stages. Tickets are $13 at the door.
On Saturday night, if you don't indulge with Grace Potter at Bob's, you can hit Murder by Death at the Marquee, Brandon Clark Band at Mercury Lounge or Dustin Pittsley and Little Chair at Exit 6C.
Big shows later in the week include The Australian Pink Floyd Tribute, performing the entirety of The Wall at The Brady on Monday night, November 3, and Mudvayne with 10 Years at The Cain's Ballroom on Wednesday, November 5. But that's not the best show to close out your week. Read on...
Dance with Wolves
If the week starts strong, it also finishes strong as Montreal-based, indie-darling Wolf Parade brings their party to The Marquee next Wednesday night, November 5.
Although occasionally identified with other Montreal-based bands like Arcade Fire (for whom they coincidentally opened in its first show), Wolf Parade is one of the indie-cool bands that has yet to see a huge breakthrough in the US. Next Wednesday marks the band's first appearance in Tulsa on a tour filled with firsts.
"We've never really played the mid US," keyboardist Hadji Bakara said. "We're not really a big touring band, so we're really looking forward to playing some smaller places and happy to be playing small rooms (like The Marquee). Personally, I think we play better in that setting."
I asked Bakara if he thought the current crop of Canadian bands was a result of any particular movement, timing or a specifically blossoming new music Mecca.
"We were on the cover of Spin magazine's 'Montreal' issue three years ago, and it all seemed to come on us at the same time. All of us were friends and we'd all been writing songs for a long time, so those songs all seemed to come to fruition at the same time. Montreal, and my neighborhood, specifically, does have a high concentration of musicians, though, so I think it was probably a fortunate coincidence -- a little bit of both the scene and the timing."
Perhaps my associate and indie-rock guru Josh Kline would be better at describing the band, but to my ears, the thing that makes Wolf Parade stand out from the rest of the crowd is a sense of tangible tension in the music, hidden underneath the wake of static-y synths and jittery drums, especially on the band's latest release, At Mount Zoomer.
"Wolf Parade is more a collaboration than a band. Everyone has their own bands and other things going on, but Wolf Parade remains as a project for all of us," Bakara said.
As a result, he shared that "making a Wolf Parade record is hard, because everyone doesn't always listen to each other. We have to write our own parts, but I think that's what makes it work. It's always an ephemeral thing. Everyone gets together every couple of years, when we're ready to do something and it just seems to work itself out."
With just a couple weeks left on the current US tour before the band heads to Europe for a short run, now is definitely the time to catch Wolf Parade in action November 5. Tickets are $19.
Share this article: