When you're phone rings and you get a message from John Cooper (of Red Dirt Rangers) that something big is going on in Stillwater, that's generally a call you want to follow up on. I know it is for me. With a vaguely cryptic message, however, Cooper not only left me wondering what he was making reference to, but added an urgency to my need to find out.
After a few rounds of phone tag, Cooper shared his excitement with me over an event in Stillwater this weekend that will be well worth the drive for anyone interested in some good music and a reason to celebrate the history and future of the red-dirt music scene. This is more than just another club show or gathering of the tribe, however. It's a concert event, snapshot of the red-dirt scene and a look both forward and back at the same time.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the weekend isn't even open to the public. On Thursday, April 14, Red Bull will be shooting a mini-documentary on the red-dirt music scene at a private gathering at The Farm, the location where so many of the original red-dirt founders lived and came together for impromptu jam sessions. After the taping, a private party will follow, which will undoubtedly entail more impromptu jam sessions.
The concert portion of the event, held under the moniker "Red Bull Gypsy Café," will take place on Friday night, April 15, and encompass four venues and 17 performances showcasing multiple generations of artists and songs. The energy drink company isn't involved simply as a sponsor throwing its name on a concert, either. Instead, the title sponsor actually initiated the show.
Okie singer-songwriter Kevin Welch is
among the red-dirt greats playing at four venues during
Friday’s Red Bull Gypsy Café event in Stillwater.
According to Cooper, Red Bull actually contacted him through Jim Holland (of Eskimo Joe's) and requested help in planning the event.
"This really is a big deal," Cooper said. "It could have taken place somewhere else and a lot of red-dirt events have taken place outside of Stillwater, but I think this really is something that's overdue because of the weight of the scene and significance of what has gone on here. It's a chance to showcase the songwriters that have come through Stillwater over the years."
Katie Dale of Red Bull said that while she's not from Oklahoma, her friends in Texas have claimed the genre.
"I really learned about it while in Stillwater," she said. "It took me a couple of years to learn, but then I thought 'Why don't more people know about this?'"
As it worked out, Dale and several other associates at Red Bull each suggested working with a unique, roots-oriented style of music that was coming from each of their respective territories. Dale contacted John Cooper to help organize a piece on the red-dirt scene, which will be part of an online documentary series that will explore different genres of music.
Even the title of the concert event has significance, in that Gypsy Café pays homage to the site at "The Farm" where so many jam sessions sprung up over the years, making it part of the education process.
For those just interested in the music, Friday night's concert portion of the event will occupy four venues in Stillwater: The College Bar, Stonewall Tavern, Eskimo Joe's and Outlaws, with each club showcasing at least four pairs of songwriters over the course of the evening.
A full schedule can be found on Facebook by referencing the Red Bull Gypsy Café event page, but highlights include pairing such as Mike McClure with Randy Crouch and Scott Evans with Susan Herndon at Stonewall Tavern, Kevin and Dustin Welch or Stoney LaRue with John Cooper at Eskimo Joe's and Steve Rice with Jake Moffat at The College Bar.
Of special interest will be Cody Canada with newcomer John Parker Milsap at Outlaws at 11:30pm on Friday.
Tickets can be purchased online at protix.com and a limited number of $20 passes will be available allowing you access to each club. Once the full access tickets are gone, tickets are $8 per venue in advance or at the door.
Stillwater is only an hour's drive, but it will be well worth the drive to check out these pairings. After all, it may be a celebration of red-dirt artists, but as Cooper said, "It's always really been about the songs."
Although Tulsa's indie-rock scene hasn't really dwindled, it appears to be on a downward cycle over the past year or so. In reality, it's as healthy as ever -- it's just cycling through with some bands falling away and other rising to the top. One band that seemed to have quietly disappeared, however, is back stronger than ever.
Scales of Motion never went away, mind you, it's just been busy. Brothers Kevin and Chris Skillern have been a band with drummer Craig Maricle for more than 10 years now. What started out as the pop-punk band At All Costs, eventually changed its name to Scales of Motion in 2004 as the group morphed into an indie-rock act that touched on post hardcore and a variety of other influences.
Over the years, the band has ebbed and flowed with the local scene and although it's live appearances have come in spurts over the past year or so, it's all for good reason. Aside from personal issues, including marriages, the band has been hard at work with Hank Charles at Valcour Sound putting together its latest CD, Nocturnes.
Amidst the local indie-rock scene, Scales of Motion has always stood out in my mind as one of the stronger acts, mixing an indie aesthetic with more textured and thoughtful arrangements and lyrics. With the release of Nocturnes, the band has finally captured that in a package that does justice to its live sound, yet expands upon that to take it even further.
Almost two years in the making, the Skillern brothers admit that this is their proudest release to date -- and the one they've spent, by far, the most time and effort on. Fortunately, the effort pays off. Consistent in tone and texture, the band builds upon the nighttime theme as Chris Skillern's lyrics center around faith and the relationship between God and man, making it something of a concept album, even though that was never the intention.
You'll definitely be hearing more from the band as this disc immediately jumps to the front of this year's local indie releases. As of now, however, you can get reacquainted with the band when it plays a CD release show this Friday night, April 15, at Ida Red. Admission is free for the show which features Motive For Movement and The Red Alert as openers with Scales of Motion headlining. Of course, Nocturnes will be available for $10 at the show, so grab it now and let it become a staple in your current playlist.
As the temperatures finally heat up (hopefully for good, this time), our local music scene is turning up the heat as well. There's too much going on to list everything here, but we've got the highlights to get you started. If you don't see what you're looking for, take a minute to scan UTW's live music calendar. Before you skip pages, though, you can begin here.
•Thursday, April 14 -- If you don't have an invite for the private party and filming in Stillwater, you don't need to worry. The Doghouse holds its Grand Opening in a new, stationary location at the old site of Phat Philly's this week and Thursday night the party includes Brandon Clark, Dustin Pittsley, Jesse Aycock, Coleslaw, Moai Broadcast and Ego Culture for a full night of good tunes and tasty treats. If you're more into bluegrass, world class mandolin, guitar and fiddle player Sam Bush performs at the PAC while progressive metal fans won't want to miss Fair to Midland at The Marquee with Periphery and Scale the Summit.
•Friday, April 15 -- You'll be hard pressed to find a better voice or more soulful show in town than Malford Milligan Band at All Souls Acoustic Coffeehouse, with the singer mixing blues, funk and R&B for this special show. Meanwhile, hard-core red-dirt and outlaw country fans that aren't in Stillwater will be gathered at Cain's Ballroom for Jason Boland & the Stragglers with Brandon Jenkins opening. If you've already got your tickets you should also go ahead plan your after-party at Hunt Club with Brandon Clark Band, just a short walk down the street. Meanwhile, mainstream country fans can catch Sawyer Brown at River Spirit Events Center.
•Saturday, April 16 -- Saturday's options are a little trickier and more laid back. If the weather holds out, you best bet is to take advantage of a great patio for some tunes and libations, in which case Steve Liddell can be found at Hunt Club while Travis Kidd kicks it at Los Cabos in Broken Arrow. If you're looking for something more eclectic, you can never go wrong at The Colony, where The Fiddlebacks will be knocking out the tunes.
•Sunday, April 17 -- South 40 doesn't play in Tulsa near often enough, but on Sunday evening you can catch front man Jay Faulkner at Los Cabos' Broken Arrow location for an early evening. Later that night, Sage Flower & friends holds down a weekly residency at Treehouse, but the night's best bet is Penny Hill with Fiawna Forte and Refund Division for a Sunday night hit and run show.
•Tuesday, April 19 -- Normally Tuesday nights are quiet, but this week you can't escape the music, especially in the Brady Arts District. First up, The National headlines Cain's Ballroom with Other Lives opening the show. Over at Brady Theater, however, Stone Sour heads up the Avalanche Tour with Theory of a Deadman, Skillet, Halestorm and Art of Dying rounding out the bill. At the same time, Brian "Head" Welch brings his "Over My Head" tour to The Marquee with Decyfer Down, The Wedding and The Letter Black in tow.
•Wednesday, April 20 -- The biggest show of the evening may be Interpol with School of Seven Bells at Cain's Ballroom, but when 4/20 rolls around, you know there will be plenty of parties going down. Johnny Polygon holds the biggest one with a show at the Marquee, but you can also catch Nugslug at Soundpony, Sam & the Stylees at Hunt Club, Paul Benjaman Band at Colony and Madverb at The Treehouse to wrap up your week.
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