Let's cut right to the chase, OK? The local music scene in every city -- not just Tulsa -- goes in cycles. Sometimes it's on the upswing, other times it trends downward. It may not be the overall health of the music landscape as a whole, so much as a rotation of what styles and which bands are popular and active at the moment.
Over the past few years, Tulsa's live music scene may have suffered the loss of a few venues and celebrated the rival of a handful of other. Overall, however, it's been a good season for original music in Tulsa. It may not always fit your taste, but with an open mind you can see how and where the scene is growing.
Our previously overabundant crop of indie bands has been on the wane while bands that channel classic rock and jam aesthetic (largely, the "New Tulsa Sound" contingent) have taken the spotlight. It's not that indie rock has disappeared, however. It's more a matter of cycling into a new crop of bands that are headed in a different direction. And there are a few bands that have been taking up the indie mantle and breathing a new life and energy into the scene.
Such is the case with Lizard Police. One part indie, one part hardcore and a whole buncha parts punk, Lizard Police has been the "little band that could" for more than a year.
The group started out raw, but congealed quickly and has a loyal following, playing anywhere from house parties to club shows at Soundpony, The Marquee, Yellow Brick Road and Reverb. Over time, the band has tightened up and the songs that were recorded as a demo and circulated amongst fans have developed into something more: more focused, more visceral, and more identifiable. With the release of Make Muscles, Lizard Police has solidified its identity and place in the local music scene.
When meeting with vocalist/guitarist Mitch Gilliam and rhythm section combo Clay and Nick Flores (bass and drums, respectively), they explained that the band came together after the group of friends made a road trip to Dallas to see Los Campesinos. Gilliam had been kicking around some music with guitarist Austin McAfee and during that trip they decided to add their friends the Flores brothers to the mix and make a band of it.
Granted, Lizard Police doesn't have a lot in common with Los Campesinos in sound, but they do in spirit.
"We had been listening to a lot of Superchunk and Dinosaur Jr," Clay Flores said, "but we had a vision: we wanted to be fun."
"There are a bunch of awesome bands here," Gilliam added, "but they were more poster-rock, more introspective bands. We wanted to bring dangerous rock 'n' roll back to Tulsa.
"We also want to replace crossed arms with high fives," he said, a reference to the indie crowd that often observes an arm's distance from the bands and rarely interacts. "That's our goal: we want people to join into the show."
Playing intimate shows at house parties and in indie havens like Soundpony have started to do just that: draw people out of their shells and get them to interact. And although Lizard Police draws on elements of everything from punk to early '90s alternative rock, it can't be pigeonholed into a strictly punk or hardcore corner. Instead they share shows with friends like Algebra and Snorlaxx, Guardant, La Panther Happens, No Water, Barf Makeout and Bearhug, to name just a few.
As Gilliam explained it, "We're just hardcore kids playing indie rock -- and we've listened to a lot of Pavement and Dinosaur Jr."
With Make Muscles, the band definitely has its feet planted in punk and post-hardcore, but it isn't strictly married to any one style. The guitars swirl in a sea of noise, but great riffs abound, as do some killer hooks and guitar melodies.
Gilliam credits guitarist Austin McAffee, who draws influence from Don Caballero and Algernon Cadwallader, for the standing out in the Lizard Police mix.
Rock Reptile. One part indie, one part hardcore and a whole buncha parts punk, Lizard Police has been the “little band that could” for more than a year. The group
started out raw, but congealed quickly and has a loyal following, playing anywhere from house parties to club shows.
"Austin plays guitar with a very unique style, which gives us a lot of our character," he said.
Initially, those influences may fly by, but when listening, they certainly come through in McAffee's staccato picking style and occasionally scalar guitar lines.
Even if you haven't seen the band live, its energy and unique combination of punk aesthetic and catchy hooks make it obvious why Lizard Police has grown so quickly. As fun as the music is, though, that's not really the story of this band. Yes, fun is elemental, but more than that, the band truly cares about Tulsa and wants to see it thrive in everything from its bands to its small businesses.
"Our song 'Why You Stompin' Around?' really sums up our mentality," Gilliam said. A song ruminating on people who complain and look for something better elsewhere, everything comes into focus with the lines "Why you stompin' around, the soil's fertile here/trade in your old skyline for a new box of glass and stone/why you stompin' around, the fruit is growin' here?"
"We love Tulsa and want to see Tulsa's sense of community start to come out more," Gilliam said. "Non-traditional shows are out forte, and we want to play shows in different places like our favorite Mexican restaurant and cool local businesses."
That starts this weekend, as Lizard Police throws its CD release party at Blue Jackelope, the local grocery and coffee shop at 306 S. Phoenix Ave., this Saturday, Feb. 26. It's a free, all-ages show that begins at 7pm and includes performances by Guardant and Algebra (with special guest Dr. Freeman) before Lizard Police wraps up the night with another, high-energy set that brings the danger and fun back to our indie rock scene while uniting music fans with high fives instead of crossed arms. Check it out and support a local business at the same time.
When it warms up in Tulsa, it really warms up. Thankfully, the snow is gone and the clubs are coming back to life. This week's calendar is packed with hot shows of all styles, so keep reading to get the highlights.
Thursday night is all about diversity this week, so it's all in what you're looking for. If you want a faithful veteran, Mark Bruner plays Blue Rose on February 24, while indie and rockabilly fans will be more interested in Kim Lenz & Her Jaguars at Crystal Pistol. If you're looking for something more classic yet unique, it's not often that you can say you actually got to see The Vienna Boys Choir in Oklahoma, so head to the Broken Arrow PAC to enjoy that show. It's also a great night at The Treehouse as Big Smith returns to Tulsa and takes to one of the coolest new stages in town.
On Friday evening, February 25, Adam Lopez and the Lo-Tops follow their support slot for Kim Lenz with their own gig at The Colony while Unwed Sailor plays Crystal Pistol and Fiawna Forte headlines Eclipse with The Savage Young and Unmarked Cars as that club finally starts to come into its own again.
The two biggest shows of the weekend are both sold out, but everyone knows: where there's a will, there's a way. You'd better know someone or have an extra stash of cash, however if you want to see Ghostland Observatory at Cain's Ballroom on Friday or James Taylor sharing the stage with his son, Ben Taylor, on their first tour together when they appear at The Brady on Saturday evening.
Of course, there are still great shows on both nights. If you can't get in to see J.T., Corey Smith headlines Cain's Ballroom on February 26 with Matt Stillwell opening and Montgomery Gentry plays The Joint for the country crowd. If you're looking for local favorites, Moai Broadcast continues to get better with every show and promises to pack out The Colony on Saturday while Admiral Twin brings Marley's Pizza to life and The Last Slice adds ska to the Tulsa Backwards calendar.
If I were a betting man, however, I'd put all my chips on Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band at Mercury Lounge. Part folk, part blues, part gospel and all-kinds of rowdy; it will be a one of a kind show and perhaps the best club gig of the month.
Sunday night sees Joe Bonamassa play Brady Theater for the blues rock crowd while Jucifer and Midnight Ghost Train give the indie crowd a great show to wrap up the weekend.
Finally, the week comes to a close on Wednesday night, March 2 with Pat Benatar at The Joint, A Skylit Drive at the Marquee and Brother/Ghost with Motive for Movement and Scales of Motion at Soundpony.
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