Now that we are in the heart of the Christmas season, we often find ourselves awash in a sea of traditions: anything from what to wear or eat, to where we go and what we do. And although some of those traditions feel outdated, a few are worth keeping because they keep us tied to our roots.
Even our local music scene has a few traditions, perhaps the most significant being the Red Dirt Christmas concert. In the past, the lineup has shuffled, revolving around the Red Dirt Rangers and rotating in different acts to keep things lively. But, during the last few years, even the lineup has solidified somewhat with local heroes Cross Canadian Ragweed headlining and Stoney LaRue rounding out the bill.
Now in its 13th incarnation and its third with Ragweed and LaRue, the Christmas show has settled into its comfort zone, and that's not a bad thing. You still never know exactly what to expect, other than it will be a great night of music for Red Dirt fans.
When I caught up with guitarist Brad Piccolo last week, we discussed the bill and how it has worked itself out during the past few years. According to Piccolo, "One of the reasons we haven't changed it is because 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.' This lineup has worked so well in the past -- we've got a good chemistry and it's like we're all music soul mates.
"It's also because we're all so busy, it's hard to see each other throughout the year," he continued. "This is a time to get together and everyone see each other -- not just for the bands, but the fans as well. It's like a big family reunion. A lot of times people make a pilgrimage -- or they just happen to be here -- and everyone converges on this show."
This year, however, the Red Dirt Christmas show is more than just another Christmas concert or family reunion of sorts. "My take," Piccolo said, "is that we lost two very important people this year. The first was Uncle Stoney (Jerry Newport), who has been a fixture on the scene for years. Even at the show last year, he was there. It was like he was always a backstage fixture."
Incidentally, and perhaps as a sign of Newport's devotion to the Red Dirt movement, he died in a car accident while on his way to a Red Dirt show in Steamboat, Colorado this past January.
"The second was Bob Childers, the Godfather of Red Dirt as he was often called," he continued with an even heavier heart, "He was there last year as well -- he's been with us the whole time.
"The Red Dirt Rangers have been around for 20 years and Bob was a mentor, a friend and a father figure for us from the very beginning."
When discussing Childers' legacy and how he's impacted the Red Dirt scene, Piccolo agreed, "I couldn't name one band (in the Red Dirt genre) that doesn't play a Childers song."
"Bob was to Red Dirt what Sid Vicious, or maybe Johnny Rotten, was to punk," he explained. "Every movement has a Godfather type figure and Bob was definitely that to our scene.
No matter how big or small you were, he was always there to give you advice or for someone to lean on."
Even in my limited dealings with Childers, he was always the consummate gentleman and ambassador for the Red Dirt genre, always more than willing to talk and share his insight.
"He was just that kind of guy," Piccolo said. "He never made anyone feel ridiculous or inadequate. He was that kind of mentor for anyone in the business, no matter where you were form playing your first chord to having sold hundreds of thousands of records.
"For me, this year is dedicated to Bob Childers and Uncle Stoney," Piccolo said. "It will be like your first Christmas after one of your family passes away. It all kind of brings it home this time of year. It's uplifting, but also reminds us what we've gained and lost and it's like that for us this year, for sure."
If you're a longtime fan or even have a fleeting interest in Red Dirt bands, this is definitely the show to see this time of year. Even though the bill only officially lists Ragweed, The Rangers and LaRue, you never know who may show up and appear onstage. The concert is Saturday night, December 13, at Cain's Ballroom. Tickets are $37 in advance or $42 at the door.
Also of note, once again, a portion of the proceeds for this year's ticket sales will go to Mandy's Ministries, a charity that provides education and car seats for families who can't afford or don't know how to properly use them. The charity is close to the heart of many of the bands as it was founded and named after Ragweed drummer Randy Ragsdale's little sister, who died in a car accident a few years back due to an ill-fitting car seat.
Considering the fact that temperatures are falling and we haven't yet seen the end of the year, it may seem too early to consider the festival season just yet. But in the past few weeks, a number of festivals, both locally and nationally, have announced their plans for 2009.
DFest officially announced dates for next year's event (July 24-25) a couple of weeks ago and artist submissions officially open up this weekend with a kickoff party at the Circle Cinema on Friday evening, December 12, from 6-9pm, allowing bands to mingle and start the submission process.
Mayfest, scheduled for May 14-17, is also planning for 2009 and accepting submissions from bands. This year, applications can be submitted traditionally with the paper forms or online at www.sonicbids.com/mayfest. Further details can be found online at tulsamayfest.org, but deadline is January 12, so local bands need to get their apps in quickly.
Of course, the festival of all festivals, South by Southwest (SXSW), is one that we anticipate all year long. And although the deadline for band submissions has passed, Urban Tulsa once again has a pair of passes to the music conference and festival up for grabs. Now's the time to put on your writing hat and tell us in 500 words or less why you should be our guest correspondent in Austin, March 18-22, as well as which local band you would send and why. Our deadline for submissions is January 16, so get a head start now.
It's another busy weekend for music fans, so if you need a break from shopping, you should be able to find something no matter what style you prefer.
The weekend kicks off early Thursday, December 11 with four impressive shows. Classic Rock fans will be torn between The Moody Blues at the Brady, with tickets starting at $65, and Kansas at the Osage Event Center, touring behind the 30th anniversary and reissue of their classic live album, Two for the Show. Kansas tickets start at $25.
Also on Thursday night, pop fans should be interested in checking out Brendan James at Bob's with Stars Go Dim opening for $14. Meanwhile, The Blank Slate hosts a free Limbeck show with Cody Clinton opening.
Highlights for Friday, December 12, include Reverend Horton Heat with Nashville Pussy and Backyard Tire Fire at Cain's; A Change of Pace, Classic Crime, Jet Lag and Tyler Read at The Marquee; Bloody Ol' Mule at Mercury Lounge and Vandevander with Fires of Atlas at The Colony. Of course, if you're in the mood to dance, you can also slide into the Flytrap Music hall for a free show with The Plumbers and Jenny Labow.
If you're a local indie rock fan, Saturday night's can't miss show is the triple CD release party for last week's cover band Dead Sea Choir, along with The Doldrums and Cecada. Art, music and good vibes in general: what more could you want for a $5 cover?
Other big shows on Saturday night, aside from the aforementioned Red Dirt Christmas show include legendary songwriter John Prine at The Brady with Iris Dement and Eagles of Death Metal with El Paso Hot Button at The Marquee. Of course, you can't go wrong with Attractive & Popular at the Soundpony or the John Moreland and the Black Gold Band at Mercury Lounge, either.
Finally, Flytrap Music Hall wraps up the weekend with Beatles tribute band Yesterday and David Allen Coe on Saturday and Sunday evenings, respectively.
Share this article: