When looking for a live music fix, we often turn to the same places: our favorite clubs, occasionally one or two that we haven't frequented (if the band suitably piques our interest) or one of several concert halls we have in town such as Cain's Ballroom, Brady Theater or the BOK Center. Occasionally, however, we have a few shows roll through town playing at slightly less traditional venues, which often provide a more intimate feel and interaction with the artist. Granted, you usually have to be in-the-know to get an invite, but a few of the venues are open to the public if you just know when and where to look.
Once of those venues is All Souls Acoustic Coffeehouse, which you've seen mentioned in this column before. It may seem a little odd to find a concert being held in a church, but if you give it a chance, you'll likely find it to be an incredibly pleasing experience.
Granted, I'll admit that it did feel a little bizarre at first to find myself sitting in Emerson Hall (basically a church sanctuary) listening to a band with beer in hand, but once I absorbed the music, that vibe largely passed.
Credit must be given to the crew that runs the annual concert series at All Souls. Among Dennis McGilvray (Chief of Operations), Anitra Lavanhar (founder and "Chief of Inspirations") and Julie Watson (booking agent), this trio--plus a staff of exceptional volunteers--has consistently brought some stellar talent to town and done its best to make the venue genuinely inviting.
As the season wrapped up last spring with a May concert by Boulder Acoustic Society, plans were already under way for this fall's concert season. Even then, anticipation was running high for the arrival of this weekend's performance by Jimmy LaFave.
For those not familiar, LaFave was born in Texas, but spent his formative years in Oklahoma after his family moved and he finished high school in Stillwater. LaFave returned to Austin in 1986, but has been indelibly tied to the Red Dirt music scene with his ties to Oklahoma and inspiration taken from Woody Guthrie and other artists native to our state.
LaFave has a deep catalogue and has long acknowledged his Texas and Oklahoma ties, but his past two albums, Blue Nightfall and Cimarron Manifesto, in particular have been especially captivating, with picturesque lyrics that draw listeners into his world.
Records aside, however, LaFave is a busy man, consistently touring and writing as well as taking on other projects, so it's exciting to see him return to Tulsa in such an intimate venue.
In anticipation of the show, he said that he just returned to the studio two weeks ago, so the wheels are in motion for a new CD to come in the near future. Of course, hopes are for a release before Christmas, but an early 2010 release is likely. Even so, the prospect of a new album not only creates a new anticipation for loyal fans, but also the promise of a possible preview of a few new songs, which LaFave didn't rule out during our conversation.
Since the 2007 release of Cimarron Manifesto and touring, LaFave said, "The last couple of years have been a lot of gigs, but I've also been starting my own record label with a couple of friends, Music Road Records. The idea behind it is that of artists coming together--that there's strength in numbers, especially when you know how to market yourself.
"With what's happening with the major labels today, it's not even a matter of thinking outside the box. There is no box anymore.
During the years, LaFave's songwriting and constant touring have earned him a loyal following and the respect of his peers, something that can be witnessed by the musical company he keeps, whether that be working with an artist like label mate Slaid Cleeves, serving on the Advisory Board and playing at the annual Woody Guthrie Folk Festival, or appearing on stage with Bruce Springsteen as he did during an encore of Woody Guthrie's "Oklahoma Hills" during The Boss's Dallas concert in April 2005.
Even so, LaFave thrives on performing and continues to work the road relentlessly. "I met a guy at a small club in Houston the next weekend who had seen me at that show and he said I was 'obscurely famous.' That's what I like about the Americana scene right now although I really feel like I identify more with the Red Dirt label," LaFave said.
"What I like is that you're able to play all types of venues: from a church like All Souls, one night, to a house concert to a festival to a small club. With all of them, you're able to get involved with the fans."
"I like the idea that the music is going back to the community," he said. "You're going town to town and playing small venues and people are actually able to feel the pulse of the guitar.
"Tulsa is a really soulful place to come back to. It's inspirational for me. I guess I'm still an Okie at heart.
"I just get a sense of all the great music that's come out of Tulsa," he said.
I guess that makes LaFave's concert at All Souls Acoustic Coffeehouse Friday, Sept. 11, a homecoming of sorts. Local Red Dirt staple Don Morris opens the show, but die-hard fans of LaFave and his prolific storytelling won't want to miss this one. With an intimate setting and a limited number of tickets left available for $15, it's likely to sell out, so make sure to get your tickets and arrive early.
As I've mentioned before, as the temperatures cool off, our local concert schedule has slowed down a bit as well, but that doesn't mean there's not plenty going on if you're willing to look.
If you're a honky-tonk and rockabilly fan, Fort Worth natives Two Tons of Steel stop in for a CD release party at Bob's on Thursday, Sept. 10.
The country and honky-tonk theme carries over throughout the weekend with ABoT "Best Country" act nominee Outlaw Country playing CJ Moloney's and Matt Cline Band finding a slot at Mercury Lounge on Friday evening. Or if you're in the mood to drive for a major concert, Sugarland and Billy Currington are at the Zoo Amphitheater in Oklahoma City on September 11. Meanwhile, indie fans know to stop in at Soundpony to catch an evening with Wighead and singer/songwriter fans can catch Susan Herndon at Doe's on Cherry Street.
Saturday night sees Brian Dunning and the Rock & Roll Trio take over Mercury Lounge, while Brandon Clark Band tries to bring Dirty's Tavern to life and DJ Dilation spins at Soundpony on a relatively quiet evening.
Sunday has a pair of cool shows as Dear and the Headlights returns to The Marquee with Kinch and William Joseph Band on the bill and House of Heroes returns to King of clubs in Claremore with The Wedding and Abandon Kansas. Both shows are $10 in advance or $13 at the door.
Monday night, September 14, brings a choice of shows as well. On a smaller scale, John Nolan (of Straylight Run) and Tumbledown (the country side project of Mike Herrera of MXPX) will be at The Marquee with John Moreland and the Black Gold Band opening. If you're in a bigger, louder mood, however, Sammy Hagar's latest "supergroup" Chickenfoot rocks The Brady Theater with Back Door Slam opening.
Finally, Britney Spears brings her tour to the BOK Center on Tue., Sept. 15. Tickets range from $39.50 to $497.
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