Each week in this column, I try to address a different aspect of the local music scene and touch on each end of the spectrum and everything in between, from big shows at the BOK or Brady to small club shows that might fly under the radar. Regardless of the stature or popularity of an act, every artist is trying to connect with his or her audience on some personal level, to make the listener feel like "Yes, this is my band..."
Often, that connection comes from the lyrics: something introspective or enlightening that the listener can relate to. Other times, the connection comes from a personal experience -- a live show or encounter that endears the artist to fan and links them indelibly. Personally, I'll never forget the first time I saw Bruce Springsteen and how he controlled 15,000 people at once, yet was still able to make the hair an my arms stand on end. Likewise, a small club gig with maybe 125 people in attendance will always be my primary image of songwriters Jeffrey Gaines and Paula Cole, regardless of the latter's later mega-success and Grammy awards.
Occasionally it's the sheer magnitude of an artist's charisma that takes us over, but more often than not it's a personal and intimate experience that wins us over. After all, when we feel like we can get up close and personal with an artist, that's when we feel the most connected.
Granted there are many small venues and clubs in Tulsa in which to experience live music and connect with our favorite artists, but some just feel more personal than others. The All Souls Acoustic Coffeehouse series always sheds a new light on the artists it brings in for an amazing concert experience. Even more so, on the rare occasion that there is a concert at The Church (such as last week's OK SWEETHEART show or Jesse Aycock's CD release), it always proves to be a magical and unforgettable evening.
Perhaps the most intimate of shows occurring in Tulsa, however, are the ones that have up until recently been flying under the radar -- a series of live gigs being organized by Folk Salad co-host Scott Aycock and House Concerts Unlimited. If you're wondering just what "house concerts" are, the term is self-explanatory: Each show is held in a home with a limited number of audience members, for an up close and personal listening experience.
Now entering its third season, the House Concerts Unlimited group has hosted over two dozen concerts, usually focusing on singer-songwriters in the folk, pop and bluegrass genres, although the series is open to music of all styles. Sure, many of the artists involved may be fairly obscure names, but there has rarely been a loser amongst the series as each artist connects with the audience on an incredible personal level as you sit and listen within 25 feet of the musicians at hand.
On occasion, the shows have been big enough to call for moving the show to a slightly larger venue (such as last week's Shotgun Honeymoon show at Café Cubana), but they never lose their personalized feel and connection with the audience. Most of the time, however, shows are held in the Brady heights district, just north of downtown, and provide the opportunity to see some incredible musicians in an almost surreal and personalized manner.
My first experience with the House Concert series came last December -- a pre-Christmas show with The Starlings that instantly won me over with not only the music, but the atmosphere. Imagine yourself surrounded by 25-30 intense music fans, sharing snacks stories and drinks between sets and listening intently as the band plays.
Admittedly, if you're not an extrovert, the scenario is a little intimidating at first. Inevitably, an audience like this is full of incredibly loyal music fans, however, and you soon find yourself making new friends, discussing music, art and life and looking forward to the next show.
The fall concert series just kicked off in earnest last week with the aforementioned Truckstop Honeymoon show at Café Cubana and continues on this weekend with songstress Nora Jane Struthers, accompanied by P.J. George. Struthers recently won the 2010 Telluride Band Competition and also won the "Best New Song" award as part of the 2009 Appalachian String Band Festival in Clifftop, W.V. Armed with an acoustic guitar, an amazing and sweet voice and a handful of entrancing songs, her bluegrass and country leanings can win over pop fans just as easily as country aficionados.
The series continues next weekend with another bigger draw, combining songstress Antje Duvekot with Fayetteville's Three Penny Acre for a double bill that calls for another move to Café Cubana to accommodate an expectedly larger audience. Then, hot on the heels of these two shows, Emily Katz, Carrie Elkin and Danny Schmitz play a songwriters-in-the-round-style show, which should be one of the most engaging of the fall season.
If you're looking for something special and artists that are a bit off the commercially beaten path, the House Concerts Unlimited series could certainly fulfill your music fix. Initially founded by Aycock as an outlet for artists that didn't fit in the local clubs, the series has grown from six or seven shows in its first year, to one a month in the second and an average of two each month in the third season, with the concerts rotating between homes and coffee shops and providing an intimate audience from 25 up to 75 listeners for the larger shows in a smoke free environment of enthusiastic an like minded music fans.
For more details on each show, you can reference houseconcertsunlimited.com, which will also provide contact numbers and email addresses to RSVP to each show and prepay your tickets, if so desired. Suggested donation to pay for the artists usually starts at $12 or $15 per show, but can reach up to $20 or $25 for double bills and bigger named artists, which is still an incredible deal to see these songwriters up close and personal and get to discuss their craft with them after the show. This is definitely worth your time, especially if you're a big fan of the singer/songwriter genre.
Plug It In
Also on the docket this weekend is the return of OK Electric, a full weekend of electronic and dance music hosted by Living Arts. Reaching over two nights, Oct. 15-16, OK Electric not only features live performances, but workshops, video presentations and more to broaden its audiences understanding and bring electronic music to life. Performers this weekend include Recorder, Chrome Pony, Sigmund and Freud, Musim, The Phase, Benjamin Lyman, Bruder, Gear X, Novachild, Systemachine and Montu.
Cover is only $5 each evening with music and festivities beginning at 7pm and continuing until midnight. This is the perfect outlet for anyone who has been wanting to experience more electronic music, especially in a live setting, outside of the DJ scene. To make it even better, Living Arts is making it even more accessible and hands on, to make it a full electronic experience.
Save the Admiral Twin
Yes, we've covered the Admiral Twin elsewhere in this issue (see Page 19) and there have been other fundraisers, but this weekend's benefit concert is worth mentioning again as it is the primary and main outlet to help fund the restoration and rebuilding of a Tulsa icon. The cost of rebuilding the Admiral Twin is daunting, but with over 34,000 people signed on as friends of the Admiral Twin on its Facebook page, if each one donated $10 and attended this Saturday's benefit concert, the reconstruction would be completely funded.
With that in mind, be sure and remember the official "Save the Admiral Twin" benefit concert this Saturday, Oct. 16. The show is being held at the drive-in site with a stage located just feet in front of where the screen used to stand. The damage was so devastating that generators are being brought in and organizers are improvising for water as the water mains were damaged as well, but it only seems appropriate to hold the show on the drive-in property.
Cover is $10 per person for the family friendly show with gates opening at 11:30am and music beginning at noon with The Usual Suspects, followed by Wes Reynolds, Red Dirt Rangers, Grady Nichols with Starr Fisher and Tabras on an hourly basis. The Red Alert then plays a brief set at 4:45pm, followed by Chloe Johns at 5:30pm, Jenny Labow at 6:30 and RadioRadio at 7:30pm. Finally, the evening is completed with Admiral Twin at 8:30pm and headliner Caroline's Spine taking the stage from 9:30 to 11pm. Full schedule and details can be found at savetheadmiraltwindrivein.com.
As if those shows aren't enough to keep you busy this weekend, there is still more going on in Tulsa this week on the live music front. If you're looking for something different, all you have to do is dig around a bit, but we've always got a few pointers to get you headed in the right direction. With that in mind, here are just a few highlights to get you started out the door.
Friday night's coolest show just might be a sold-out Todd Snider gig at All Souls Coffehouse with Susan Herndon opening. I've been mentioning this one for weeks, so I hope you got your tickets early, as it will be an excellent evening of storytelling and songs and the addition of Susan Herndon to the bill only makes it better.
Elsewhere around town on Friday night, Tech N9ne returns to Cain's Ballroom with all the usual culprits on the "Independent Grind" Tour, while Mongo plays Hunt Club and Alex and the Anders start the party at Arnie's.
Saturday, Oct. 16 is already busy with the Admiral Twin benefit, OK Electric and Nora Jane Struthers house concert, but there's even more to get excited about. If you're on south Tulsa, the SpiritBank Event Center comes back to life with the Classical Mystery Tour. If you're floating around the downtown area, however, you can choose between two hot young bands as Apollo plays Joe Momma's Pizza and 2 Steps Back rattles the windows at Woody's with its cranked up country and southern rock. Meanwhile, metal heads will flock to The Marquee for Mushroomhead with Immolation, Vader and more.
Sunday night, Oct. 17, sees Cain's hosts a recreation of Hank Williams' music as Hankerin' 4 Hank holds its CD/DVD release party in the ballroom before newcomer Lee Brice hits Bob's on Tuesday evening with Brandon Clark Band opening.
Finally, the week's big shows wrap up with Maroon 5 at BOK Center on Tuesday, Oct. 19, with One Republic and Ry Cummings opening for a big audience.
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