Change is in the air and has been for the past few weeks. Although fall doesn't officially start until the autumn equinox next weekend, all of the telling signs are there: school is back in session, Labor Day has passed, the temperature finally cracked and football season is under way.
Another good signal is the arrival of the autumn festivals, which kick off this weekend. Food, fun and live music are on the agenda as BOK Center and presenting sponsor Rib Crib bring back the annual Rock & Rib Festival for yet another round this Thursday through Sunday, Sept 15-18.
If you're not familiar with the festival, this one's an easy one to get acquainted with: admission is free as a selection of World-Champion BBQ "pitmasters" set up shop for a long weekend to present their specialties and indulge Tulsa in a weekend of killer BBQ and some of the best ribs you'll get a chance to lay your hands on until this time next year (or at least next May, when the Bixby Rotary Club brings its annual BBQ and music festival to Washington Irving Park).
With temperatures finally leveling out and dropping below 80 at night, it's a great opportunity to get out, enjoy the evening, and overindulge to go into a "food coma" over the weekend. This year's Rib Fest brings in seven "pitmasters" from around the U.S., including "The Pigmen" from right here in Tulsa.
Of course, additional vendors will be on hand to round out the evening with everything from beer, wine and soda to more standard festival snacks. If you're going to settle in for the evening, though, you'll need to be entertained and the bands that the festival has picked for this year will make sure that you go home satisfied on that front as well.
Not surprisingly, the music caters to primarily country and Red Dirt fans on Thursday and Friday, which fits well with primarily Texas style BBQ. Joe Giles and the Homewreckers actually kick thing off for the Thursday lunch crowd at 11:30am with its own brand of blues rock, but by the time the evening comes, it's back to business as Philip Zoellner Band (who has a new CD on the way) kicks things off with his alt-country tinged rock at 5pm, we're back to business. Squeezebox mixes things up at 7pm before Red Dirt Rangers headline the night with a 9pm set that should run until nearly 11pm.
Even if you work downtown and catch your lunch with The Charmers on Friday, you'll want to return that evening for a solid night of music. South 40 opens the evening up at 5pm and makes it worth coming out early. The band's sophomore effort, Second Lane, which came out in 2010, is still cruising under most people's radar because the band doesn't play in Tulsa often enough. Hopefully this gig will give them some much deserved exposure and change that, as the latest disc is one of the best local country CD's to come out in the past few years.
Toby McBrooks (starring Clinton Pickens) follows at 6:30pm and leads into Outlaw Son, the country-rock hybrid act that includes Wade Quinton and has been creating a bit of a buzz within country circles as of late. Finally, Friday evening wraps up with a Red Dirt heavy weight that everyone should know. If you haven't seen or heard Mike McClure Band yet, now's the time to do it. Once again, he doesn't play in Tulsa near often enough, but he's one of the best Red Dirt artists to come out of Stillwater and he infuses everything with his own flair and a rock edge.
Saturday becomes a mixed palette of country, pop, rock and covers as the music flows on the outdoor stage form open to close. Brandon Clark Band (BCB) kicks things off at 11:30am with an hour long set that will wake everyone up and stand listeners on their ear. If you haven't seen or heard these guys lately, you're missing out. Don't expect many covers here as BCB has roughly 50 original tunes in its catalog and a new CD that just wrapped production and will be released at the end of the month. Why the band got slotted early, I'll never know -- perhaps it's to draw people in. Whatever the case, these guys will make it worth coming out early and grabbing lunch downtown on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.
Beacon Drive takes over at 1pm, followed by the TWU/American Airlines Poker Run Awards ceremony at 2:30pm, before Voyager (featuring Randy Patton and Darrel Cole) gets the party rocking again at 4pm. Eric Himan ushers in the evening crowd at 6pm with a set that will undoubtedly highlight his latest pop album, Supposed Unknown, before switching back to party mode with Tulsa's most unexplainably popular cover act, Mid Life Crisis Band. If you need a real rock fix before you go, stick around for King Cobra to wrap things up at 10pm and makes sure the beer keeps flowing well into the night.
Finally, The Spectrum Band plays at noon on Sunday as the festival wraps up with a short day to close out the weekend.
Whatever your agenda, there will be something for everyone over the weekend. If you're a hardcore barbeque enthusiast and aspiring pitmaster in the making, you'll want to check out the cooking demonstrations on the culinary stage throughout the weekend, which will touch on everything from picking the right meat to properly applying dry-rub seasoning to making drinks to accompany the barbeque.
Admission is free and it's an all-ages event, so don't hesitate to bring the family. The streets around the BOK Center (Third and Frisco) will be blocked off to accommodate the festival and there's even a kids area with activities and inflatables so no one feels left out.
Best of all, though, it's a great chance to check out some live music and good food while enjoying the weather as fall starts to roll in.
Rock 'Til You Drop
One last big summer show rolls through town -- as Def Leppard and Heart finally make it make it back to Tulsa, stopping at BOK Center on Tuesday, Sept. 20 -- just before autumn officially arrives next weekend.
Originally scheduled for July 19, the Tulsa date (as well as a handful of others) was postponed as Def Leppard front man Joe Elliott return to England to be with family after his father passed away. Over the unscheduled respite, Heart guitarist Nancy Wilson suffered an occult fracture in her left wrist, throwing another small wrench in the works.
Nevertheless, the tour reconvened on July 27 in Cincinnati with Def Leppard returning to form and Heart performing with an additional guitarist until Wilson's wrist healed.
When catching up with Heart's lead vocalist in July, she summed up the concert by calling it a "show of balance."
"With Heart, you get the singing I do and Nancy's guitar and great songs," she said. "Def Leppard brings all of the big spectacle and a slew of hits, most of them electric, but they also do "Pour Some Sugar On Me" stripped down and acoustic, so it's covers all the ground, from authentic and stripped back to showy and spectacular. Just about everything you expect it to be, it is."
Tickets are still available, with prices ranging from $35-$125, for the show that all the 80's kids and retro-rockers have been waiting for. If you had a Union Jack t-shirt or can never shake the opening riff of "Barracuda" from your head, you know you can't miss it.
Week by week, there's always a plethora of live music to choose from around town -- from local to national acts of all styles. We know it can be hard to choose, so here are the highlights to give you a jump start in sorting through the options. It's busy week, though, so hold on tight!
• Thursday, Sept. 15 -- If you love to dance, you can't miss Robotic Thursdays at IDL Ballroom and this Thursday features one of the best DJ's I've heard to date, Designer Drugs, from New York City. When even a die-hard live music fan is impressed, you know it's going to be impressive. Higher Eduction (with Jesse Aycock and Dustin Pittsley) takes over at Hunt Club as well, but the big show for country and Red Dirt fans is the retune of Turnpike Troubadours for an intimate show at Mercury Lounge. All three are great options.
• Friday, Sept. 16 -- If you're a commercial alt-rock fan, then you won't miss the "Carnival of Madness" as Osage Event Center out rocks all the other casinos with a lineup that includes Theory of a Deadman, Alter Bridge, Black Stone Cherry, Adelita's Way and Emphatic. The show starts at 6:30pm and it's standing room only for the 18 and over crowd. Tickets are only $30 but going fast for what may be a sold out show.
If you're more locally and indie-rock inclined, you can't miss The Ruskettes, who are rumored to have recently signed an indie deal with European distribution. These chicks rock and The Oh! Johnny Girls open up at 10pm so don't be late.
• Saturday, Sept. 17 -- This turns out to be the battle of the big guns. Pop superstar Katy Perry headlines BOK Center with Janelle Monae and Skeet Skeet opening the show tracks while indie darlings Fleet Foxes and The Walkmen play a sold out show at Cain's Ballroom for a completely different demographic.
For the more locally minded, alt-rock-funk badasses Freak Juice puts on the party of the weekend at Mercury Lounge and ABoT music award monsters The Del Toros play The Hunt Club patio.
• Sunday, Sept. 18 -- The nearly unclassifiable, but ultimately cool TV on the Radio finally makes it first appearance in Tulsa with a headline gig at Cain's Ballrooms with Sorne opening the show.
• Monday, Sept. 19 -- Queensryche follows up in the Ballroom with Rainbows are Free and Windowpayne as guest support.
• Tuesday, Sept. 20 -- Possibly the only band that could eclipse the aforementioned Def Leppard/Heart show at BOK is Hanson, making a homecoming stop at Cain's with special guest Meiko for a great night of pop songwriting.
• Wednesday, Sept. 21 -- Finally, the week wraps up with Taylor Swift headlining a sold-out show at BOK Center with Need to Breathe and Charlie Worsham opening the night.
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