It's inarguable that Tulsa has a rich musical heritage to draw from. We've got roots deeply set in country swing, jazz, blues, classic rock and pop. Granted, the style that predominates our scene cycles in and out, but there's always a little bit of everything out there.
Over the past few years, the rock and indie-rock genres have taken the spotlight and as of late we've had a nice handful of solid bands drawing heavily from classic, blues based rock and improvisational, jam influences as part of the crew that were featured in last year's popular "New Tulsa Sound" compilation. While that compilation did drawt from many stylistic corners of the music scene, those bands are far from the only thing happening in town.
Although pop music hasn't been particularly in vogue on the local scene as of late, the tide may be turning as a healthy pocket of bands team up this weekend for a pair of showcases in the Brady District this Saturday night.
The more established acts on our pop scene come together at Bob's for a show that should draw well for local music fans both new and old. Stars Go Dim, Stephen Speaks, Ben Kilgore and Jonathan Van Risseghem all have new material in different stages of development.
Stars Go Dim has been in the spotlight fairly frequently over the past year, winning "Album of the Year" honors at the 2010 ABoT Music Awards and being a featured act on KHITS' Jingle Ball and Summer Splash concerts, putting them in company with major label acts. As recently as 2 weeks ago, however, the band was back in the studio finishing up three new tracks, which should see the light of day in some form this spring. In the meantime, the band's current single, "Like I Mean It," was released digitally via iTunes in December and is being shopped to radio in January and February in an attempt to get the band some airplay and broader exposure.
Even though Stephen Speaks doesn't play frequently, when front man Rockwell Ryan Ripperger does resurface, he always draws a loyal and responsive audience. Admittedly, there is still an air of mystery that remains as Stephen Speaks had a pair of hits in the Philippines, both of which hit #1, back in 2002 as the band's EP, No More Doubt, went on to reach platinum sales status internationally.
Since that time, the band lineup has splintered and changed, but Ripperger has carried on under the Stephen Speaks moniker as he has been at the helm of the writing and vision from the beginning. The 2008 release of Symptoms of Love has kept fervent fans at bay with more material, but 2011 promises to be the year that we finally see Ripperger make longer strides with Stephen Speaks with the pending release of Age of the Underdog, which is currently in post-production and in preparation for release.
Likewise, Jonathan Van Risseghem saw a solid initial response to The Motions when released in 2009 and even found placement with frequent rotation on in-store playlists for national retailers such as Kohl's, Barnes & Noble, Whole Foods and Chipotle. Since then, Jonathan has split performances between solo and band appearances and continued to develop his song craft.
Van Risseghem's sophomore release, Passenger, is currently completed and awaiting release as post-production and distribution channels are being worked out. Initial previews of the material, however, indicate a distinct growth, both in songwriting and production. The positive lyrical bent is still there and while the songs still retain an airy, ethereal quality, the songs themselves are far more focused and direct.
Ben Kilgore's set is another beast altogether. While courting a pending record deal, Kilgore has been busy working up new material here in Tulsa, in Norman with Chad Copelin at Blackwatch Studios, and holed up to write in Amarillo, Texas.
Although Kilgore has remained fairly low profile over the past year and a half, he's been stepping back on stage more frequently, picking up standing gigs at Treehouse and Ivey over the past month. Instead of a mix of covers and old Hero Factor tunes, however, you can rest assured that this show will see him try out some of the new songs he's been working on as fans get an idea of where he's headed musically with his latest project.
Overall, the bill provides a snapshot of some of our most promising established pop acts and a preview of material from each of them that is yet to be released. Tickets are still available for $12 in advance or $15 at the door with a 7:30pm start time.
Just down the street at The Marquee, the next group of up and coming local pop stars team up for a show that may have a lower profile, but no less promise to eventually launch a new pop star from Tulsa. This group is definitely younger in age, but the potential is great for all of the acts involved as Zeke Duhon and Chase Stites step to the front of the class with support from Chasing Eminence; So Far, So Good and Paper Planets.
Zeke Duhon is definitely a name to watch in the coming years. As a sophomore in high school, he's already released a debut EP, Eric's Marine, and been playing frequent all-ages shows to a healthy following of fans and friends.
Just since the beginning of the year he has officially released a couple of singles that are worth more than a fleeting listen. "Need" is a more low-key ballad that sees the young singer start to really find his voice and add some depth to his songwriting. More telling, however, is the video that he's put together with director Ryan Valdez, which was shot here in Tulsa and really draws the storyline together.
On the more upbeat side, "From A to Z" is a great breakup song with a sarcastic smirk and a huge pop hook. Although the production itself could be raised a notch, the energy alone carries the single and the chorus and hook show that Duhon should be radio ready before we know it.
Standing next to Duhon and starting to cast his own shadow is Chase Stites, former lead singer of Restless Ribbon and last year's ABoT winner in the "Best Male Vocal" category.
Last fall, Stites passed me a copy of his first single, "Love Again" and after only a few listens, I was sold: this kid is a star in the making. His second single, "Be My Vice" only confirmed my initial take. Big production, big pop hooks and plenty of energy put his songs in league with Boys Like Girls, Hello Goodbye and The Maine. If he only had a label behind him for a little guidance and an extra push, I have no doubt we'd be hearing him on the radio.
Even as an independent artist, he's making solid moves: taking his time, putting together a solid backing band, continuing to write and even shooting his own videos. A video for "Be My Vice" has already been shot in October and Saturday night's performance will be filmed for at least partial use in video planned for his latest single, "Goodnight."
Chasing Eminence has been working on establishing its name locally, having opened a number of shows for bands like Forever The Sickest Kids, Mayday Parade and Schoolboy Humor. The band has a more rock sheen to it, playing to the pop-punk audience, but "Stay Gold," the latest single with a new singer show the band going in a more focused pop direction.
So Far, So Good and Paper Planets are the wild cards on this bill with So Far, So Good headed in a pop-punk direction similar to All Time Low or Blink-182 and Paper Planets still seemingly finding its direction, toying with elements of pop punk and emo. Even so, it's an indication of what's just coming up through the ranks of the underground and under age music scene. Tickets for this one are $8 at the door with the show starting at 7pm at the Marquee.
Either show provides a great snapshot of what Tulsa has to offer as the next generation of Tulsa's pop stars, whether focusing on more established acts like Stars Go Dim, Stephen Speaks and Ben Kilgore at Bob's or the acts that are just starting to take flight with Zeke Duhon, Chase Stites and Chasing Eminence at The Marquee. If you can float the cash for both tickets, your best bet is to attend both and bounce back and forth all night to give you a great picture of where our pop acts are headed.
Just when I think the local music scene will slow down to catch its breath, it just gets busier. I won't lie: there are more cool shows coming up over the next week than I can keep up with. Fortunately, I've made my cheat sheet and have a few suggestions for anyone who's trying to navigate the concert calendar. These are by no means the only shows worth checking out over the next week, but they stand amongst the highlights and are a good start to get you pointed out the door.
Thursday night kicks the weekend off strong again this week, whether you're looking for an old standby like Travis Kidd at the Warehouse in Brookside or a buzz-worthy visitor like Whiskey Folk Ramblers with Kentucky Knife Fight at Soundpony. No matter which way you go, you may need something to get warmed up for the weekend.
Friday night, Jan. 28, is extra busy as King Cobra makes its debut with The Wolves at The Marquee and a new, more experimental sound for former My Solstice guitarist Dustin Howard and singer Jesse Cochran and Miranda Jackson and the Wildfires open for TJ McFarland (finally returning for a Tulsa show after a two year absence) at Shenanigan's with a $5 cover.
Meanwhile, All Souls Acoustic Coffehouse launches its 2011 concert season with another standout artist, James McMurtry. If you love great songwriting in an intimate setting, I can't recommend pretty much any All Souls show highly enough and this one will live up to the reputation the series has already built. Looking downtown, Randy Rogers Band plays Cain's Ballroom at the same time, bringing a more country tinged representation of the Texas Music scene to Tulsa, in support of the band's latest CD, Burning the Day.
The country theme carries over to Saturday, January 29 as the biggest show in town is Jason Aldean with Eric Church and Jane Dear Girls at BOK Center while both of the aforementioned pop showcases keep Main Street busy in the Brady District. If you're looking for something different, Reverb is starting to kick up some attention by booking a nice variety of bands, including Saturday night's combination of Color9, Kickfight and Driving Avery and Soundpony still reigns as home of indie with Crown Imperial and The Feel Spectres. Meanwhile, Mercury Lounge continues to diversify with punk and garage rock show featuring Broncho, Rude Amps and The Boom Bang.
Sunday offers up the annual "Dog Bowl" fundraiser with music from Woodshed Revival or a number of standing gigs like Sean Al-Jibouri at The Chalkboard before resting on Monday evening, Jan. 31.
February kicks off the month strong, however with two wildly different, yet viable shows on Tuesday night. Flying under the radar is a Christian hard rock one-toe punch with Disciple and Project 86 at The Marquee. The more prominent, which everyone should be aware of, is Ben Folds at Cain's Ballroom. Folds is touring behind his strongest album in years, Lonely Avenue, which he collaborated with author Nick Hornsby on, making it a can't miss show for Ben Folds faithfuls.
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