I realize it's part of the life cycle for live music venues to close and reopen, but Tulsa's live music scene is currently at a crossroads. Creatively, we are on an upswing with a handful of local acts that seem to be on the cusp of breaking through to the next level and play regularly on a regional basis. There are also a number of hot new, if not particularly young, bands emerging to tweak our local palette even further.
The challenge is: Where can these bands play? If you haven't been paying attention, you need only look around to see that the number of clubs for original music is dwindling. Over the winter, The Continental finally closed its doors to become McNellie's side bar, Plan B shuttered itself after a New Year's Eve show and this spring the Blank Slate Complex went into hibernation as well. A handful of smaller bars, such as The Collective, saw a similar demise in the past six to nine months.
Most recently, two of our coveted all-ages indie/DIY (Do It Yourself) venues have retired: The Pinkeye was sold to an investor who plans to make it a biker bar and The Monolith said farewell last weekend after struggling to stay afloat. Whether fueled by a struggling economy, lack of public interest, mismanagement or some combination thereof, the issue of having venues to support local music is becoming critical.
Granted, not everything is gloom and doom. Flytrap Music Hall opened over the winter and staple bars, such as Mercury Lounge and Soundpony, continue to valiantly support original music in their respective niches and other small clubs have stepped up to try and fill the gap. Although The Marquee is better known for hosting smaller scale national acts, the club has lately been hosting local shows as well. Also the Matthews brother's latest bar, Crystal Pistol Lounge, has started hosting live music on occasion. Additionally, Joe Momma's Pizza (the new downtown location on Elgin Ave.) is also equipped with a small stage and PA and has been hosting new, young bands.
What we really seem to be lacking is a few key go-to clubs to serve as home base for a growing local music scene. To its credit, Soundpony has been just that for a thriving indie-rock scene, but it's only a matter of time before the best of those bands outgrow its limited space.
Yet, all hope is not lost. Plans are in place for what was formerly known as the Blank Slate Complex to reopen under new management this fall, but we've still got a few months to wait. The rooms will definitely be used for a "soft opening" at DFest, but current plans call for the doors to close again for a complete remodel. In fall three clubs will open to be known as Enzos, The IDL Ballroom and Electric Circus (formerly Capella's, Blank Slate and Exit 6C, respectively).
Meanwhile, Jeff Martinson and Dave Teegarden Jr. have been hard at work, redirecting their efforts after departing the Blank Slate/Exit 6C location to renovate and reopen Eclipse, a club that was iconic to Tulsa's rock landscape in the late 80's and early 90's. Located at 6th and Quaker, the recommission of Eclipse has many local music fans excited, but after sitting dormant for over a decade, the room still has much work ahead before it can open--again, hopefully this fall.
Also, note the Pinkeye name has not died yet, even if an investor came in and made an excellent offer on the building. Matt "Lip" Stevens still retains the naming rights and is currently scouting for a new location to transplant the club. Once again, there is no quick fix and relocation takes time.
So what should local music fans do in the interim? Right now, it is most important to continue backing our local bands and the venues that do support them. There's no reason why Soundpony shouldn't be wall-to-wall every weekend or the Crystal Pistol not to be packed when the club brings a band in. If you're into rockabilly and country or southern rock and Red Dirt, Mercury Lounge and Dirty's are safe bets for the respective genres.
Also, follow your favorite bands on MySpace and check them out wherever they play. Mostly, however, continue to dig for great hidden treasures--both in venues and bands.
The Colony generally doesn't post a schedule of bands, but it hosts live music or a DJ nearly every night of the week. In fact, one of the best shows I've seen in the past year was an unadvertised gig there that I heard about through word of mouth. A 5pm text clued me in to a 10pm show, consisting of Taddy Porter and Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights.
Furthermore, smaller clubs, such as Dixie Tavern and Blues City, have live bands every weekend, so don't hesitate to check them out. If the crowds keep growing, any small club could become the next haven for local bands and fans alike--and that's exactly what we need right now.
Most of all: don't give up hope. Keep your ear peeled to the ground and crash all the local establishments, like Arnie's, Lola's and White Owl, to see what's happening on any given night. As music fans, if we become apathetic and don't support the places we've got, it will only become a downward spiral. And as for the bands? Book whatever you can and promote the hell out of it: flyers, MySpace, text blasts--you name it. I know I'm not opposed to a good old house party with live music, and I doubt many of your fans are either.
Yes, it's a challenge, but not one that's unique to our city. With a little perseverance and dedication, we'll come through the other side and prove that Tulsa's music scene is just as strong and unique as we've always claimed it was.
Aside from the aforementioned issue of our local venues, we're headed into July 4th weekend and many will be going out to the lake or on vacation, so the local calendar is rather quiet this weekend. Nevertheless, we've still got a handful of shows worth checking out.
I scour the club listings every week to find the highlights, but there's plenty I miss and many venues that don't post schedules. If you're a band with a coming gig or a club that wants to get word out--let me know in advance at firstname.lastname@example.org. I can't promise you a preview every week, but it will definitely get you considered for recommendation in the weekly highlights.
Now, here's what we've got going on this week:
Thursday night's best bet is Cairde na Gael, bringing her Irish cheer to Arnie's. If you didn't hear, Dustin & Jessie's Higher Education held its final session at McNellie's last week, due to a threatened lawsuit form ASCAP because of all the cover tunes. Here's to hoping our boys find a new home soon.
Friday July 3, is a great night to stop in at Soundpony for The Panda Resistance, The Lava Children and Daniels. Just down the sidewalk, Copeland and Sherwood will play at The Marquee with newcomer Meese opening the show.
Unfortunately, Stephen Christian's latest project, Anchor & Braille, will not be performing as originally advertised because his other band, Anberlin, is headlining the Cornerstone Festival. Still, this will be a great show.
Also on Friday night, The Red Alert will be at the PAC's Charles Norman Theater for "Oklahoma Weather," part of the summer stages concert series. Tickets are $10 and $15.
July 4th is extra quiet to make space for the fireworks. However, you can always chill on the patio at Los Cabos in BA with Brandon Clark or crash at Arnie's with Phillip Zoellner Band. The most rockin' show of the night, however, may well be Rodney Parker and 50 Peso Reward at Mercury Lounge.
Looking into next week, the calendar heats up. Monday July 6, has another Disney-rated show at the BOK with Demi Lovato, American Idol's David Archuleta and a $50 ticket. Meanwhile, Flytrap Music Hall will be rocking with the Scream the Prayer Tour, featuring Haste the Day, The Chariot, Project 86, Oh Sleeper and Gwen Stacy.
Tuesday July 7, sees the action move south to SpiritBank Event Center for a show with Collective Soul, Gavin DeGraw and opener Green River Ordinance. Meanwhile, Wanda Jackson headlines the Woody Guthrie Coalition show at Cain's Ballroom and The Marquee hosts a metal show with Drop Dead Gorgeous, He Is Legend and more.
Finally, Cain's wraps up the week with The Expendables and Hiphopotamus on the Bob's stage, Wednesday night, July 8.
Whatever you do: pick a band, pick a club, whatever it takes to support our local music scene.
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