With South by Southwest in Austin at the forefront of my mind, I think it's best to focus this column on the bands attending from our area.
A quick perusal of the SXSW schedule suggests that we've got plenty of artists in a lineup that's sure to impress outsiders.
Unfortunately, I'm not able to attend "The Great Gig in the Sky" (oops, I mean SXSW) this year, and trust me...you don't know how sick that makes me. Nonetheless, I'm sure UTW's cohort consisting of Josh Kline and guest correspondent, Rachael Masterson, will bring us back some fine coverage.
If you're familiar with this music and film celebration in Austin, you know that SXSW isn't the only game, but it's the most important game.
There are eight Oklahoma acts with official SXSW showcases this year; and if you haven't heard of them already, you will in the near future. Here's the rundown:
Stars Go Dim
As a co-sponsor of SXSW, UTW was allowed to send our own band recommendations for this year's festival. Out of the list of four submissions (the max), three were accepted. Stars Go Dim topped the list, however; and is the official UTW-sponsored band at SXSW.
There are a number of reasons these guys should be at SXSW, but the most important is that these guys came out of virtually nowhere with an EP that's ready for radio. If SXSW is still about exposing fresh talent, then by all means, Stars Go Dim should represent Tulsa.
Take two listens to the Stars Go Dim EP -- or better yet, Love Go Mad, when it rolls out later this year and try to deny that this is a fully realized band with great songs. It's not a matter of if, but when this band will be noticed.
Awards are only worth so much, but the band has already won multiple songwriting awards, including the annual Billboard contest. It recently won a slot on John Mayer's spring cruise, along with a sponsorship from Ernie Ball.
These guys from Oklahoma City are already creating a stir and gaining national attention. 2008 saw the band sign with Touch and Go Records' Quarterstick imprint and release its self-titled debut. A national tour, festivals and some dates in Europe followed, and the band continues to build its following with an eclectic blend of indie rock and jam-band sensibilities. The sound is hard to describe, but it wraps itself around your head and won't let go. Trippy, folksy and a little psychedelic, The Uglysuit won't disappoint. They actually scored two showcases, as well as a couple of party shows and will be in town next week as part of a string of shows opening for Umphrey's McGee.
Another Oklahoma City band making waves, Crocodile is making its presence known in Tulsa with shows at Soundpony and The Marquee.
The music? It could be called indie rock in 2009 and, while it still sounds fresh, I'm prone to call it a mix of synth-pop and New Wave that would have been popular in 1984. Crocodile is an appropriate name, because once the band sinks its teeth into you, you can't break free. These songs stick in your head.
The City Lives
I'll admit that this is the band I know the least about; but I've been quickly impressed. The most important element of the band is its strong songwriting, which is evident in spades.
It doesn't hurt to know the right people, and these guys do. Last year, the group signed a deal with Doghouse Records subsidiary, Edmond Records, owned by Mike Kennerty and Tyson Ritter (of All American Rejects). Is it any surprise that they also landed a six-week winter tour opening for the Rejects? When it rains, it pours and these guys soak it up. If you're the betting kind, this is another band I'd put money on.
Harter is officially listed as being from Choctaw and she usually calls Oklahoma City home, but she's no surprise pick for Urban Tulsa. In fact, she was one of our featured performers in our NewVo showcase last April.
I'm not sure what to say about Ali without gushing. Her sultry voice is mesmerizing; and her songs grab you whether they're stripped down to an acoustic guitar or fleshed out with horns and strings (which only add to the elegance, as evidenced on last year's disc, Worry the Bone).
Samantha Crain and the Midnight Shivers
Crain's appearance at SXSW should be a given after last year's debut, The Confiscation EP, on Ramseur Records. She was immediately noticed by Paste Magazine and featured on the magazine's Web site with an "in studio" feature performance. She was also tapped for a string of shows on last year's annual Hotel Café tour.
Since then, things haven't slowed down. Crain has two official slots at SXSW and plays at least three more parties while in town. Austin aside, this young lady has a national tour schedule that's packed through the first week of June and a full length CD, Songs in the Night, due for release April 29.
Our boy Josh Kline was dead-on when he made the call on Samantha more than a year ago. She's a great representation of Oklahoma music, mixing elements of folk, pop and jangly indie-rock. She can croon or rage, and she's not waiting around to be noticed. She's an artist breaking right now, so keep your eye on her.
The Big Guns
I'm not sure much needs to be said about the final two Oklahoma artists. I wouldn't count Shiny Toy Guns or Stardeath and White Dwarfs as acts looking for a break. Instead, they're bands that their labels look to promote. That's all good and well, but not really what I look for while running the streets of Austin. Nevertheless, I'm always down to stop in for a good show, and we already know they'll likely impress anyone who hasn't seen them. And if they add to Oklahoma's musical clout, I'll go ahead and claim them.
I hope Josh and Rachel stop in at the OKFMI (Oklahoma Film and Music Industry) party at The Palm Door on Thursday afternoon. It's sort of a co-sponsor thing in conjunction with DFest and spotlights Stars Go Dim, Uglysuit, Samantha Crain and The Midnight Shivers, Ryan Lindsey and Colourmusic as a representation of the Oklahoma music scene. Free beer and food doesn't hurt either.
Damn, it makes me sick to be missing the action this year, but at least I know UTW's in good hands. It's also comforting to know that Oklahoma artists are being represented even better this year than in years past.
In light of SXSW, this weekend's shows may seem a little anti-climactic, but we've still got plenty from which to choose. I won't go into great detail, but here are a few highlights to get you going:
Thursday night, March 19, sees Anberlin stop through for a show at Flytrap Music Hall, tentatively with First Lady Assassins and Rescue Signals opening the show. Tickets are $18 at the door. If you're looking for something more laid back, you can always stop in for a pint and some drinking songs with Cairde na Gael at Arnie's.
Friday night's premier show is singer/songwriter Greg Trooper at All Souls Coffeehouse. Trooper somehow manages to mix a little blues, folk, soul and country together and come up with something that doesn't sound like a mess. This is pure Americana songwriting influenced equally by Bob Dylan, Otis Redding and Hank Williams. Yes, it will be a mellow evening, but sometimes that's very cool. Dustin Pittsley Band opens the show and tickets are $15
If you're more prone to rock out and revel in our indie scene, you need to head down to the First Street Music Hall. Aimless Never Miss, Callupsie and Dead Sea Choir share the Blank Slate stage while Hiphopotamus plays Exit 6C and Stone Trio settles in at Capella's.
I'm torn Saturday evening between Brandon Clark Band at Mercury Lounge, Philip Zoellner at Arnie's and Paul Benjamin Band at Exit 6C. Perhaps the best solution is to bounce between the three and support all of them.
Looking into next week, (Hed)P.E. stops in at The Marquee on Sunday with Dirtball, Mower and DGAF for the metal crowd, and Turnpike Troubadours bring Americana and hard country to Mercury Lounge on Tuesday, March 24.
Perhaps the best show of the week, however, will be Umphrey's McGee and Uglysuit at Cain's Ballroom on Wednesday, March 25. If you haven't heard Umphrey's latest, you haven't heard its best. Tickets are $25 at the door.
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