It's no secret that Tulsa is a hotbed of talent. We've got guys playing in town that are amazing that nearly no one has heard of and others that plenty of people know about but have yet to record and release anything for their fans. With this weekend's official release of Pilgrim's new CD, Live at the Colony, you can finally take Beau Roberson out of the latter category.
Of course, getting him to talk about the band and new CD proves to be almost as difficult as getting him to record and release an album. More laid back than bravado, Roberson would rather play than talk about playing; but to those who know him that probably comes as no surprise.
You may initially know him as the face behind the bar at McNellie's or The Colony, but if you come around enough, you eventually see him in his comfort zone -- behind the microphone with an acoustic guitar in hand. Roberson has been playing around town for over eight years, sometimes solo, often with Wink Burcham (billed as "Beau & Wink") and over the past couple years, as the leader of the band Pilgrim.
"I spent Sunday nights playing at The Colony for so long, just trying to get a band together. I'd play acoustic gigs and network to meet people and eventually people worked their way in and out, along with whomever else might come around," Roberson said.
Although the lineup has evolved since Pilgrim officially formed (including a period with Dustin Pittsley playing lead guitar) the group has settled into a more firm lineup that Roberson considers to be the true band. Anchored by drummer Paddy Ryan and bassist Eric Arndt (whom Roberson considers essential to the lineup), the addition of Cody Clinton on guitar and keyboardist Chris Kyle brought the current band to its completion.
"I've been lucky and fortunate to be able to play with so many different people who play so many different styles," Roberson said. "I finally found a group of people who all work well together. The thing is we all get along so well as friends in general, it makes it easy to play music."
Although Pilgrim is playing Roberson's songs, he leaves room for everyone to become a part of the music. As he explains it, there are no set or written parts. Instead, he brings the basic song structure and leaves the rest for the band to work out.
"That's why it's taken so long (to put out a CD)," he said. "People have been finding their own parts that they wanted to play and figuring out what sounded good. It's not like I ever said 'This is how you're supposed to play it,' nothing is set in stone."
It seems only natural, then, that Roberson's debut disc should be Live at the Colony, recorded over one evening in May of 2010 at the bar where he and the band played a long standing residency on Sunday nights.
"I've been in the studio before and it just doesn't feel right," he said. "I've always been a live music person and I feel like we're a live music band. That's why this makes sense -- it just felt good."
Although the disc was recorded live at The Colony, you wouldn't know it upon a cursory listen. Recorded by Chad Copelin and John Schroeder and mixed by Rockwell Ryan Ripperger, the recording is warm and intimate with just enough background noise to know that it's a live recording. At the same time, the sound is clean enough that you can get lost in the band's playing and completely forget about the ambience.
The approach works incredibly well for Pilgrim as it lets the band draw off of the room's live energy to feed the players and the songs themselves. It all plays into the laidback ease of Roberson's songs, whether edging on country swing with "Heartbreak and Guitars" or funky blues with "One Time Lovin' Man."
Ryan's drums and Arndt's bass undeniably anchor the songs, allowing Roberson and Clinton's guitars to play off each other. Kyle's keyboards subtly tie it all together and give the tunes a comfortable familiarity that connects the band to Tulsa's rich music heritage -- obviously making Pilgrim part of what has become known as the "New Tulsa Sound."
"We tried to not hide anything by recording live," Roberson said. "Nobody really cares anyway, so we might as well record it live. Here it is with all its impurities: the great parts, the bad parts and the mediocre parts."
Pilgrim's Live at the Colony has been floating around unofficially for a couple of months now, but now that Paddy Ryan is back in town on a short break from his tour with Colour Revolt, the band is holding an official CD release party this Friday night, August 12, at Fassler Hall. The show begins at 10pm 10pm with Adam Lopez & the Lo-Tops as the opening band. If you miss the Fassler show, be at The Colony for a repeat performance of Pilgrim and special guest Jesse Torrisi at 10pm.
If you've ever seen Roberson -- either solo or with the band -- you already know the songs. Now it's time to finally get the CD as he's fleshed them out to their full potential with Pilgrim. Don't fight it: we'll see you there.
All in the Family
Chances are you're already familiar with 2 Steps Back, especially since the band graced the cover of Urban Tulsa last fall and has continued to take off ever since. What you may not know is that Jake and Kyle Lowrey have a middle brother, Wes, that's just as talented. Although the three initially started playing together, as Wes shared, "Three brothers playing together just doesn't work out."
Credit it to sibling rivalry or just a volatile chemistry, but music history shows that just having two brothers in a band can be explosive: think along the lines of The Kinks, Black Crowes or Oasis.
After five years of playing guitar, however, Wes got tired of playing solo gigs and eventually formed his own band, Radio Hearts. After an initial lineup was formed that included Jake Lowrey on drums and Brett Lamb's brother on bass, Jake stepped out as 2 Steps Back started gaining momentum and the bassist moved to Texas, leaving Wes to regroup.
Eventually he pulled together the right pieces as he met drummer Phillip Stinnett, who then recommended his friend, Chris Segundo on bass. The lineup was completed when Wes convinced Skeeter Long to join the band as lead player.
"He's 46, but he's been playing since he was 6 years old, so he's kind of over the idea of being a star," Lowrey said. "But I told him 'I'm going to get you famous: It's time for you to catch a break.'"
The band spent months rehearsing and finally made its debut this spring at the Coffeyville Fun Fest Battle of the Bands, taking 1st place with its first gig. The band then opened for 2 Steps Back at Woody's in June and has been slowly building ever since.
Wes admits that at this point he's fortunate to be riding on his brothers' coattails a bit to get started as the majority of the band's gigs so far have been opening for 2 Steps Back. Once you listen, though, Radio Hearts can stand on their own -- both as musicians and with their songs.
"I write in a more country style than Kyle," Wes said. "I always say if 2 Steps Back is Ragweed, we're Boland. We play more country and Texas Swing style, more like Turnpike Troubadours or Casey Donahew."
If you haven't seen or heard Radio Hearts yet, you'll have a great opportunity this weekend as the band opens for 2 Steps Back at Cain's Ballroom on Saturday night, August 13. Tickets are only $8 in advance or $12 at the door. Just make sure to get there early, as the show starts at 8pm.
Even though the summer is coming to a close, the temperatures haven't cooled off and neither has the local concert calendar. It's another busy week in Tulsa and we've got the highlights to get you started off on the right foot.
• Thursday, August 11 -- Rook returns with a gig at CJ Maloney's and Chris Lee Becker settles in at The Colony. The big show of the night, however, is the "Under the Skin of Angels" Tour with Filter, Saliva, Anew Revolution and Heart Set Self Destruct at Osage Events Center. It's a full night of modern and hard rock for the 18 and over crowd with a $20 ticket.
• Friday, August 12 -- River Spirit Event Center throws its hat in the casino gig ring with Foghat and Blue Oyster Cult for the classic rock crowd while Shenanigan's plays to the hard rock audience with Aformatic's CD release party with Zero Crossing and Siva Addiction. Meanwhile, Moai Broadcast returns to The Colony and The Del Toros (who cleaned house at the ABoT Music Awards) play The Hunt Club.
• Saturday, August 13 -- I've already mentioned 2 Steps Back finally headlining Cain's Ballroom with Radio Hearts and Jake Clark Band in tow. Elsewhere, Sam & the Stylees take over The Hunt Club patio and Oil Boom returns to Tulsa for a show at Mercury Lounge with Whiskey Folk Ramblers for a guaranteed good time.
• Sunday, August 14 -- Dan Crossland has joined the residency circuit with his bi-weekly songwriter's night at CJ Moloneys. Perhaps the biggest show of the week, however, is Matisyahu at Cain's Ballroom with Trevor Hall.
• Monday, August 15 -- The Men play Soundpony with Lizard Police rounding out the bill.
• Tuesday, August 16 -- Sara Bareilles headlines Cain's Ballroom with Javier Dunn opening the night.
• Wednesday, August 17 -- Tom Skinner's Science Project moves once again, settling in this time at The Colony for a Wednesday night residency.
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