While October is shaping up to be a busy month for Cain's Ballroom in October, one show in particular is currently flying under the radar as potentially the best show of the month. Yes, The Black Keys sold out almost instantly and fellow buzz band with indie clout, Band of Horses, follows in Dan Auerbach's shoes a mere two nights later, but even with the hoopla surrounding these two shows, they could very easily be overshadowed by next week's co-headline bill featuring Robert Randolph and the Family Band with Grace Potter and the Nocturnals.
Both bands have put on memorable, if not mind melting performances at Cain's in the recent past -- Randolph as a headliner and Potter as an opener for bands like Gov't Mule and Black Crowes, not to mention a headline gig at Bob's in 2008. With a twist of fate however, management at our beloved Cain's Ballroom managed to secure the only date the two friends and musical peers have played together outside a music festival.
Both bands have been criss-crossing the US this summer and narrowly missing Tulsa, with Randolph opening for Zac Brown Band at the Oklahoma City Zoo Amphitheater a couple of weeks back. Meanwhile, Potter is following up a string of summer dates accompanying My Morning Jacket with a run across the South that has taken her from Georgia to California and back already, ping-ponging between shows with Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings and Avett Brothers, including and Avett show at Bricktown Events Center, just last week.
Now, as both prepare to make an appearance at this weekend's Austin City Limits Festival, an opening in each act's schedule allows them to play their first proper concert together, something that both have discussed but never been able to put together, according to Potter.
Ironically, while both travel in similar circles and are supporting new releases, their respective CD's see them moving in opposite directions with Randolph moving towards a more organic, earthy sound and Potter's band, the Nocturnals, turning out their most polished and radio friendly work to date.
For Robert Randolph and the Family Band, the move toward a more organic, gospel based sound came naturally. After all, Randolph grew up in the House of God church, where he learned to play pedal steel in the tradition of Willie Eason, Maurice beard, Calvin Cooke and Chuck Campbell.
With skyrocketing popularity and acceptance form Jam band audiences, Randolph found a very commercial friendly hybrid over his past few releases. A return to the studio with producer T-Bone Burnett, however, saw Randolph make a conscious return to his roots, mixing new compositions with traditional hymns and classic material, even creating a southern gospel, rootsy reading of Bob Dylan's "Shot of Love" on his latest disc, We Walk This Road.
Grace Potter's latest release with her band, the self-titled Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, took a twist of its own over before arriving on shelves earlier this summer. After touring relentlessly since forming in 2002, the band finally made a change in roster, adding bassist Catherine Pooper and rhythm guitarist Benny Yurco in the summer of 2009. After finishing out the tour cycle for This Is Somewhere, the band went on hiatus and Potter entered the studio to work on a solo album with T-Bone Burnett. Before the album could be released, however, the Nocturnals sprung back to life and turned out a new album's worth of material in just a few short weeks.
The irony of the situation lies in the producers: after working on a solo disc with Burnett, which Randolph just finished his latest records with; the band entered the studio and recorded its latest with Mark Batson, Randolph's previous producer on Colorblind. While the end result is the band's most polished and energetic work to date, it still allows the band to breathe and display the blues-based chops that it has become known for on the live scene.
When discussing the two records with Potter, she spoke of the solo album recorded with Burnett: "The project went beautifully and to this day is one of the coolest recording experiences I've ever had, but the record can wait. It's got a timeless sound and there's no timeline on it right now -- it will sound perfect no matter when it comes out. When the band came back together, though, it just wasn't a good time (to release it)."
"This is about making sure the Nocturnals get their due. I've spent the last eight years playing with them and they are my essence," she continued.
The time spent in the studio with Batson ended up turning out exactly what the band needed at this juncture. More concise and polished than any Nocturnals release to date, it presents the band in a new light, exposing its strengths as a rock band.
"The amount of time that was spent on this record was so short and effortless and beautiful," Potter said. "We really needed something fresh and younger and more upbeat and Mark helped bring that out of us. We wanted to change people's perception of us, especially the people who thought of us as just a cute, bumpkin band from Vermont."
Right out of the gate, the new disc proves any such hipster assumptions wrong, hitting you in the face with the big groove and funky guitar lick of "Paris (Ooh La La)" before moving on with the radio friendly single "Tiny Light" and smoldering blues of "Hot Summer Night."
Potter said that even when the band turns out something more radio friendly, however, it still fights the urge to rock out. "Tiny Light" is a prime example, one of the band's most radio friendly songs, yet still stretching out past the four and a half minute mark.
With two incredible new records in hand, the new material presents plenty of reason to be excited about the pairing of Robert Randolph and the Family Band and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals arriving at Cain's Ballroom this coming Wednesday night, Oct. 6. Those who are truly familiar with the bands, however, know that both acts live and breathe by their live performances, putting studio recordings to shame.
Both bands never fail to put on a stellar show on their own, but when coming together for this one-off pairing of old friend's, Tulsa's show promises to provide a special spark. After being announced quietly, it has flown under the radar of many music lovers, but could easily end up being the show that everyone ends up talking the most about at the end of the month. Don't miss it when old friend come together for a special night and perhaps even a few special surprises.
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