Under any other circumstances, the announcement of this weekend's Three Days Grace concert at Brady Theater would have likely elicited a response of "OK. That's nice, I guess ..." When two additional factors played into the mix, however, the event moved from an afterthought to a highlight of the week, if not the month -- at least in my mind.
First, the show was announced as KMYZ-FM Z104.5 The Edge's Birthday party/concert. Second, the inclusion of Oklahoma City's Pretty Black Chains made the show far more intriguing. The marriage of local radio and local band (well, close enough for me) promised to make this more than just another showcase for another pair of active rock radio bands that are oversaturating airwaves and the market.
"This is something the station used to do in the '90s and got away from," said KMYZ-FM's promotions director Ryan Giles. "This is The Edge's 16th birthday and we wanted to do something special, so we brought it back because it's an important part of the station's history -- a lot like we did with The Homegroan CD the past couple of years."
Although DCF Concerts initially booked the event, the timing and lineup played perfectly into the station's birthday format, making the presenting sponsorship an easy fit. Featured guest My Darkest Days is the current "hot band" in alternative and active rock radio, working the concert circuit heavily on the back of its hit single "Porn Star Dancing" and growing airplay for current release, "Move Your Body."
Headliner Three Days Grace has been a radio staple for years, beginning with the station's near immediate support of debut single "(I Hate) Everything About You" and consistent airplay over the course of the band's career. This isn't the first time The Edge has worked exclusively with the band, however.
The first partnership between the two dates back to the summer of 2004, when Three Days Grace played a private lunchtime show for a limited number of Edge listeners at Yellow Dog studios, prior to its first gig at Cain's Ballroom. The band has obviously grown, now headlining theaters and being hailed by a number of people as one of the highlights of last year's Rocklahoma festival. Playing the birthday show only makes it all come full circle.
The real x-factor and reason I'll be attending, however, is Pretty Black Chains. Guitarist Derek Knowlton and bassist Jonathan Martin have worked together for years and had a degree of success with their previous band, The Stock Market Crash. Shortly after that group disbanded, Knowlton and Martin dove headlong into Pretty Black Chains and found a near perfect chemistry with drummer Kurt Freudenberger and vocalist Kellen McGugan.
Instead of playing to retro new wave and indie movements, the band settled in and found its rock 'n' roll soul. When I first saw the band open for Smashing Pumpkins at Cain's Ballroom last fall, Knowlton handed me a copy of the band's debut CD, Ceremonies, which was about to be released the following week. He quickly capped it, however, with a three-song demo disc and told me "We didn't play any of the songs on that CD tonight -- we've already moved past it. These are the tunes you need to hear."
Ceremonies was far from weak, but the disc was no indicator of what was about to come. The band was more raw and emotional than Stock Market Crash, but still walking out the forest, if you will. The guitars and production were still a touch jangly and reminiscent of bands like The Alarm and Dandy Warhols while hinting at the classic rock influences that were truly boiling underneath.
Just a few weeks ago, however, Knowlton sent me an advance of Awakening, the just-finished disc that the band recorded in Norman's Bell Lab Studios with Jared Evans and Chad Copelin.
On this latest disc, the band has truly found its muse and capitalized on it. A celebration of classic rock 'n' roll, Knowlton has come to grips with his true influences and embraced them instead of working against them.
Led Zeppelin is the obvious keystone, but listen closely and there's more to it. Elements of The Who and The Doors as well as contemporaries like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Queens of the Stone Age and even Rage Against The Machine ass intermingle into an explosive, groove-oriented sound. The Cult jumps forward as well, based largely on McGugan's vocal style, but a closer listen reveal flourishes of David Bowie, Robert Plant and Jim Morrison as well.
In other words, classic rock is back, but with Pretty Black Chains it doesn't sound dated or like a cheap imitation. Instead, it's a logical progression into modern rock. Knowlton's inspiration manifests itself in the groove and he consciously writes the melodies in counterpoint, to keep things from getting to busy or cluttered. Listen once to the opening track and try not to be enveloped in the fuzzed-out groove and immediately singing back "Let me breathe, Let me in!" It just won't happen.
The band's excitement about the new album is tangible. Each musician bounces with nervous energy and Knowlton gets a wild sparkle in his eye. These guys know they've got something special on their hands and they're absolutely right.
Live, the songs are just as impressive, emitting an energy that both the band and audience feed off of. When opening for Fiawna Forte at Crystal Pistol earlier in the year, the Pretty Black Chains was springing with energy. On a larger stage, like the showcase at SXSW or opening for 311 at the Diamond Ballroom, that energy is only magnified as additional shows with this material have only added to the band's swagger.
If you've yet to experience Pretty Black Chains, make sure to show up early for the show at Brady Theater this Friday night, April 1. Three Days grace may have a track record playing larger shows and theaters, but I'll guarantee that Pretty Black Chains will come out with guns blazing and guitars blaring, with all intentions of stealing the show.
After what's already been a busy spring season, things only get crazier as April rolls up on us. With too much to list here, you can always refer to UTW's events and concert calendar, but here are a few of the highlights to get you started
•Thursday, March 31 -- Big shows dominate the week's kickoff with Hayes Carll and Shovels & Rope at Cain's Ballroom or Chris Tomlin at Mabee Center. If you're looking for a cool club show, however, don't miss Carrie Nation & the Speakeasy at Soundpony.
•Friday, April 1 -- I've already discussed The Edge's Birthday Concert with Three Days Grace, My Darkest Days and Pretty Black Chains, but that's not all we have in town. RadioRadio follows up on last week's CD release party with a smaller show at Hunt Club and Billy Joe Winghead returns to Mercury Lounge.
•Saturday, April 2 -- Stars Go Dim headlines a free show at Osage Events Center with Jonathan Van Risseghem opening and P.D.A. returns from Los Angeles for a hometown gig at Junkie Live with The Del Toros opening while Broncho, The Boom Bang and Copperheads get ready to blow the doors off The Soundpony with a punk rock explosion.
The weekend's real event, however, is the return of Moai Broadcast's Easter Island Festival, this year extended to two nights and encompassing both Friday and Saturday with 19 acts, including headliners Montu, Fatty Lumpkin, Moai Broadcast and Paul Benjaman Band. Get your tickets in advance for $20 at easterislandfestival.com or pay $25 at the gate.
•Sunday, April 3 -- Yonder Mountain String Band returns to Cain's Ballroom
•Monday, April 4 -- Lady Gaga brings her full production to BOK Center for a sold-out show that still has people buzzing in search of tickets.
•Wednesday, April 6 -- Bassnectar proves that Tulsa just can't get enough of their grooves with another sold out show at Cain's Ballroom with opener Eskmo.
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