Yes, the Christmas season is here and it doesn't just affect the traffic, shopping and our stress levels. Sooner or later, the Christmas spirit also shows up in our local music scene although we've already seen a few Christmas shows pop up, it hits a fever pitch this weekend, just before the holiday actually arrives. Two of the biggest go head to head this Saturday night, drawing from separate demographics, making sure there's something for just about everyone who wants to get into the holiday spirit. For the young and pop minded, KHITS annual Jingle Ball arrives at Mabee Center. Those who are more inclined toward classic rock, country or Red Dirt, however, will want to set their sights on Cain's Ballroom for the 15th annual Red Dirt Christmas
Down and Dirty Christmas
Anyone who has attended the Red Dirt Christmas bash in past years knows exactly what to expect: a concert that's more akin to a musical family gathering and a party that could go on well into the night. This is the 15th year for what has become an annual tradition for many in Tulsa, something that no one originally planned.
When speaking with John Cooper of Red Dirt Rangers and asking about the event's annual status, he laughed, "When we started, we definitely hoped we'd be able to do it again, but none of us ever thought it would go on this long." The combination of great music; friendly, family reunion type fee and proceeds going to a good cause certainly have contributed to it becoming one of Tulsa's favorite Christmas events.
Although this is the Red Dirt Rangers' baby and the band has participated every year, the rest of the lineup has rotated over the years, including seminal acts like Medicine Wheel, Whirligig and even Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey in various incarnations. While the lineup has remained fairly static over the past four years with the Rangers and Cross Canadian Ragweed co-headlining the show, this year's bull has rotated yet again as Ragweed has gone on hiatus.
As Cooper told me "We never really intended for it to become a set lineup, but Ragweed wanted to play and we were always grateful to have them. They're not touring or available this year, though, so we've had to change it up a little bit."
There's no need to fear, however, as the Rangers will share the stage with another Red Dirt Christmas alumni as Stoney LaRue returns with an updated band and new material. Turnpike Troubadours are also stepping up to the plate to become part of the party as well, riding on the success of a busy year of touring and the band's latest release, Diamonds and Gasoline. The evening's bill is rounded out with Jesse Aycock, Travis Linville and John Fullbright, with each sitting in with other bands. You can expect Aycock to appear with Red Dirt Rangers, Linville with Larue and Fullbright with the Troubadours, but don't be surprised if the lineups continue to rotate throughout the evening -- after all, that's what a Red Dirt Christmas is really all about: the family vibe that permeates everything.
If you've been to this show in past years, you already know: sooner or later, everyone rotates in and out and ends up sharing the stage together. Just because there is an announced lineup, however, doesn't mean more people won't show up. It's not unheard of to have Brandon Jenkins, Randy Crouch, Don Skinner or any of a number of other players show up, especially over the holidays -- and if they do, they're always welcome on stage as the night usually wraps up in a group jam session.
Even though Cross Canadian isn't appearing this year, it still promises to be a special evening of music and the new stars of the scene move up and take part in the proceedings. Tickets are $25 in advance or $29 at the door and, as in past years, proceeds from the event will be donated to a worth charity.
This year's recipient is The Right Path Riding Academy, a 501(c)3 charity based in Drumright, OK. The Academy provides therapeutic horseback riding and cart driving for special needs children and adults in northeast and central Oklahoma. With the motto "Horses that heal and hearts that care," Right Path Riding Academy has been impacting families and helping kids since 1996 and is a great addition to the Red Dirt family.
Anyone who has attended in the past knows that Red Dirt Christmas is always a special evening and you can never tell just who will show up. Although ticket prices may seem a little steep, it's always worth the price for a great show and the chance to help others during the holiday. Doors open at 7pm this Saturday night, December 18, and the music starts at 8pm
Jingle Ball Rock
Catering to another crowd altogether, KHITS' annual Jingle Ball returns again this year, for a huge showcase at Mabee Center, also this Saturday evening, December 18. Just like the station's "Hot Hits" playlist, the lineup is stacked with heavy hitters that are currently either topping or climbing the pop charts.
So just what does this year's lineup look like? Artists like Mike Posner, Natasha Bedingfield, Far East Movement and local favorites Hanson headline the night while rising stars Shontelle, Kaci Battaglia and two time ABoT music award winner Stars Go Dim open the show. While it may seem a little frustrating at first that this show and Red Dirt Christmas are going head to head, once you think about it, there's no foul here. In all honesty, the two audiences have little in common and the shows are on opposite ends of the city, so there's not even competition for parking -- just an opportunity for most everyone to find something they like and get into the holiday spirit.
The real attraction for me is seeing the more song oriented artists Natasha Bedingfield, Hanson and Stars Go Dim matched up on the same bill. Stars Go Dim, in particular, has much to gain from appearing on this show and getting exposed to a whole new set of listeners to add to an already steadily growing fan base. The band has been plenty busy recently and the pace doesn't look to slow down any time soon.
Although SGD won this year's ABoT music award in the Album of the year category, the band has already been back to the studio, releasing a new single, "Like I Mean It" on iTunes right before Thanksgiving. Just in the past couple of weeks, the band also won a fan-voted contest to open for Goo Goo Dolls and Kris Allen in San Francisco last weekend and has kept busy with writing and promotional shows.
When I spoke with guitarist and songwriter Joey Avalos over the weekend, he revealed that the band already has a small handful of songs in the midst of the recording process and plans are in place to return to the recording studio in January to wrap them up. "We've got three in the cooker currently, so we'll go in and finish them up and whichever one comes out the best, that's the one we'll release," he told me.
Of particular interest is the difference in sound and style on the new single. "Like I Mean It" definitely has a more pop oriented sound and Avalos admits that "It's definitely got a different flavor than our stuff in the past. We're getting away from piano ballads and just being known for love songs."
"In all honesty," he continued, "we're still finding who we are. People have to remember we started out as a side project and this just really took off. Now we're learning who we really are as a band and having to ask ourselves 'Are we defined by what we've already put out or can we evolve beyond that?' The bottom line is we just wrote the best songs we can. If we write it and like it, we'll put it out."
Not only has the band been busy writing, though, it has kept the calendar packed with shows and other promotions. Just before flying out to California for the Goo Goo Dolls show, the band played a promotional show with Subway and Clear Channel Radio (the sponsors of the contest) at the Subway at the Eastgate complex and is following up with a live webcast this Wednesday evening, December 15 at 7pm. The webcast is being broadcast on ustream.com, but you can follow a link to the show via the band's website (www.starsgodim.com) to login in and check things out as the band plays a few tunes, discusses its songs, answers questions and debuts the video for its new single.
The band's week wraps up on a high note, however, as it opens the KHITS Jingle Ball at 7:15pm. Avalos shared with me that the band goes on first, so you'll want to arrive early or you may miss the group's abbreviated set. "We're excited, though, because it's not often we get a chance to play a show like this in our hometown and play at Mabee Center."
Add in the fact that the band will finally be sharing a bill with Hanson and it could prove to be a good connection for both bands in the future. Even though Stars Go Dim plays early, the band will definitely stick around throughout the evening to check out the other bands and to meet its fans. You'll still want to arrive early to get the most out of your $35 ticket and check out a stack of the hottest rising pop stars on the radio right now. Doors open at 6:15pm for a full night of pop.
Although the Christmas shows dominate Saturday's calendar, that's not all we've got this weekend. As always, we've got the highlights, so read on to find out where to best get your music fix this weekend.
Thursday nights are traditionally busy in Tulsa and a great night for music. As promising as the weekend is, perhaps the best and biggest Christmas show of them all hits us Thursday night as Trans Siberian Orchestra plays BOK Center again this year, stopping in Tulsa for 3 years running. If you love Classical music, classic rock and Christmas, this is a can't miss show. Elsewhere around Tulsa on December 16, Cairde na Gael plays its bi-weekly show at Arnie's and The Round Up Boys' annual Christmas Dance at Cain's Ballroom starts at 7pm
Friday night, December 17, sees a full stack of shows with a little bit for everyone around town. Highlights include Need To Breathe, wrapping up the touring cycle for The Outsiders with a show at Cain's Ballroom with The Daylights, Dustin Pittsley at Arnie's, Paul Benjaman Band at Fassler Hall, and Alex and the Anders at Mercury Lounge.
One of the best bets of the weekend, however, is the return of Phil Marshall with To Have Heroes (Andy Skib of MidWest Kings) for two nights, playing both Friday and Saturday nights to open The Treehouse at 18th and Boston.
I've already hit on the two biggest shows on Saturday with both of the Christmas concerts, but you don't want to overlook another official "Save the Admiral Twin" concert, this time at The Marquee on December 18. This time, the lineup includes Mikey Sawyer, Head Over Hills, Zeke Duhon, Milos Fare, Color 9 and The By Products, with all proceeds from the $8 cover ($6 in advance) going towards the reconstruction of the Admiral Twin Drive-In.
Finally, the week's Christmas shows wrap at Cain's Ballroom with Hell Yeah's "Holiday Hangover" show for the metal and hard rock crowd on Sunday evening with Hail The Villain, A New Revolution and the recently revamped Crooked X before Johnny Polygon wraps the week with his annual Christmas show on Wednesday night, December 22, at the Ballroom.
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