If there was ever a weekend to get wound up about the shows rolling through Tulsa, this is it. If you love down and dirty, blues-based rock and roll, honky-tonk and Americana, you've got reason to rejoice.
We've got a star in the making with Jonathan Tyler, a media darling and unwitting hero with Ryan Adams and honky-tonk favorites The Derailers back-to-back. Not to mention the latest installment of Dirty Carny Sideshow, possibly our easiest one-stop shop to experience the latest from the city's emerging young bands. Whatever your preference, tune in and get ready, because you can't go wrong this weekend.
If you're not familiar with Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights, it's only a matter of time before they'll grab your attention and put you into a sonic half-nelson. Starting with an appearance at last summer's DFest, Tyler has been turning heads in town with his old-school, blues-based rock and roll.
Retro yet modern, Tyler and The Northern Lights take the best parts of early Stones, some fuzzed out Lenny Kravitz and a Texas boy soaked in blues and soul, unleashed in one package. Yes, it's old-school rock, but it's urgent enough to be relevant wherever the band may touch down in 2009.
I caught up with Tyler by phone last week and found him as engaging in conversation as he is onstage. This kid's a rock and roll lifer with a passion that emanates no matter what he's doing. Now on his third pass through Tulsa, Tyler and his band are working the road to build a solid foundation for the future, playing wherever and whenever they can.
"We've just been touring so much -- we're about to go out on another 40 day tour. And this is the hard touring - not making any money, all of us driving around in a van, investing our time and effort touring; but that's okay, because it will all pay back later," said Tyler.
If you haven't seen the band, the show is a package of rock and roll thunder. And once Tyler hits the stage, anything can happen. The band's last Tulsa show, a last minute booking at The Colony in November, turned into a free form jam that ended only when they were told to wrap it up. Tyler explained that the nature of the live show is all about circumstance and what's going on in the moment.
"It's kind of hard to explain," he said. "There's a certain place I get with the crowd and when it's not happening -- the crowds not responding or there's something going on in my head, then I have to change things up."
During our discussion, I found it's obvious that he's got deep emotional ties to music, an inherent artistic quality he would have even if he weren't a musician. He explained what many fans feel but don't know how to express: "Some people just have a sensitive soul and [music] carries more weight in their life. I can't even really be friends with somebody if they're not into music. It's like something shows in that person's character.
Whether they listen to country or rock or whatever -- it doesn't matter -- if that person is into music it's like a sign they are going to be a cool person."
When discussing the urgency of Tyler's latest record, Hot Trottin', and the overall sound of the band, Tyler said that the group had just formed and learned all of the songs the week before going into the studio. As a result, the freshness and energy (as well as the rawness) of the band comes through in the recordings.
"We went in and recorded it in a big room in about a week," Tyler said. "Making a record is like taking a picture. Some people take the picture, Photoshop it and clean it all up. We just took the picture and it is what it is."
Tyler said that the band has been writing, piecing together material for the next album and preparing to record a new disc this spring. "We've been narrowing down who we want to work with as a producer and where we want to record. I'm pretty positive we're going to do it in Nashville, unless something else comes up."
Coming from Lewisville, Texas, Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights sound distinctly more rock n' roll than others on the Texas/Red Dirt circuit, yet they still share the stage with many of them. "We've played with all those Texas country bands and they're great, good people, but sometimes it's difficult to bridge that gap. The things we love are blues, soul and rootsy traditional American music and I think you're going to see a lot of that on the next record, but it will be a lot more modern and cleaner sounding. I think it will push us further away from the Red Dirt scene and more into a White Stripes, Kings of Leon-type sound."
No matter how you label it, Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights connect on an emotional level and churns out a raucous live show. The band returns to the stage Thurs., Feb. 26, with a show at Bob's. Tickets are $16 at the door for a gig that pairs The Northern Lights with Stillwater boys and soul mates Taddy Porter. If you're into blues based rock with a classic vibe, you won't want to miss it.
"Ryan Being Ryan"
Saturday, Feb. 28, Ryan Adams and the Cardinals will be at the Brady, making up the postponed October date when Adams came down with the flu. At the time, I got to speak with Adams' long-time drummer Brad Pemberton about how The Cardinals had given Adams a comfort zone in which he could start to branch out and seemingly find peace. In fact, Adams withdrew his name, preferring to perform simply as The Cardinals and releasing the latest disc, Cardinology, under the band's name.
Oh, how things change in a few short months. Early December saw reports that Adams had already returned to the studio, barely a month after the release of Cardinology, to lay down demos for the next record with the working title Dear Impossible. According to his notes and blog postings, the record was to have similar vibes as Love is War, only with a more pop/melodic tone. Adams already had some simple song structures laid out; and decided to track the demos so that the band would have something when it returned to the studio.
At the beginning of the year, however, Adams announced on the band's Web site that once the current tour finished, he was taking an open-ended hiatus from the band and music in general.
"I am grateful for the time we have had and maybe someday we will have more stories to tell together," he posted. "I am however ready for quieter times as I think it is very evident I am struggling with some balance and hearing issues.
"Know that I am not abandoning anyone, not the Cardinals and not the fans. This is just something I need to do now, and that I loved playing music in the Cardinals. And hell, even before I was in a place to try and learn to be well, music was my life source, and Cardinals was such a heavy crush and a real dream. I honor it too much to have any regrets right now. I am just proud," he wrote.
Even so, Adams has remained in the headlines, with an announcement only a couple of weeks ago that he is now engaged to on-again, off-again (and apparently on-again) girlfriend Mandy Moore. (Can I hear a collective, "Huh?")
Personally, I think it's more of "Ryan being Ryan", building on his eccentric reputation and behavior. Nevertheless, no one truly knows when or if Adams will return to the road, so now is the time to catch an artist that has already created a few masterpieces like Heartbreaker, Love is Hell and Rock and Roll. Tickets are still available for $35 and $45.
Check out the Sideshow
Another highlight is the 10th installment of the Dirty Carny Sideshow. This time the event is held at Flytrap Music Hall, 514 E. 2nd St., during three nights with two stages and more than 30 bands. I always cover or at least mention this show every time it comes together for one simple reason: if you want to know what's going on locally, this is the easiest way to find out.
For the bands, it's a great way to play, get some exposure and network with other's to help land future gigs. For the fans, it's a great way to catch a couple of established bands and check out a variety of styles.
This year's showcase includes Society Society, We Stay Gold, Kasino Kid, Milo's Fare, The Fiascos, The Dawn Armada, Ten Minutes to Midnight, Redheaded Stepchyld, Hollywood Indian and more. Tickets are only $10 for all three nights and more bands than you can keep track of. That's right. One $10 cover gets you in Thursday, Friday and Saturday to find out who the next local stars will be. What a bargain.
I've already hit on the biggest shows of the week with Jonathan Tyler and The Northern Lights and Dirty Carny kicking things off Thurs., Feb. 26. That's not all, however.
Friday, Jan. 27, brings a gathering of the old and new breed of the Tulsa sound with Steve Pryor, Dustin Pittsley, Paul Benjamin, Jesse Aycock, Dave Dayton, David Teegarden and more sharing the Blank Slate stage. Cover is only $8 for what will prove to be a long night of blues jams. Meanwhile, if you're a red dirt and rock fan, Mike McClure Band returns to Mercury Lounge on Friday evening.
Also on the calendar for families and youth groups is Winter Jam 2009 with Toby Mac, Hawk Nelson, Brandon Heath, Francesca Battistelli and Newsong at the Mabee Center, 71st and Lewis, on January 27. Tickets are only $10 and doors open at 6pm.
Saturday night is busy with Ryan Adams and the Cardinals at the Brady; but don't forget to find the best after party; stop at Mercury Lounge to close out your night with The Derailers. One of Austin's best honky-tonk bands is also one of Tulsa's favorites; and the band always puts on a great show when it stops at the Mercury.
If you're into pop, you won't want to miss Tulsa's next big thing: Stars Go Dim; the band wraps up a short tour with its first official Tulsa show of the year. Kawnar, John Henry Band, We Stay Gold and Water Colours open the show and tickets are only $7. Come check out Stars Go Dim as they play a local warm-up gig before heading to South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, next month.
Looking further into the week, Klondike 5 plays the Soundpony on Sun., March 1. Norma Jean stops at The Marquee on Tuesday night. And EOTO returns to Tulsa for an electronic free-form jam session at Flytrap Music Hall Wed., March 4.
Whatever you do, have fun. We've got a lot going on this weekend.
Share this article: