I'm always on the lookout for new and fresh artists within our music scene. After all, it's no secret that Tulsa has an amazing depth of talent to draw from, but sometimes the emerging artists can get lost in a flood of bands that come and go or overshadowed by those that truly stand out and make a name for themselves.
Occasionally, if you're looking in the right place, you'll stumble across a talent in the raw -- that diamond in the rough, if you will. Back in August, I ran into a young man by the name of Brian Hughes at The Hunt Club, who sat in with Brandon Autry for a couple of songs that displayed that kind of promise.
An initial solo appearance at Arnie's on Aug. 24 was met with an overwhelmingly positive response and after a couple of months of rehearsal, he's now ready to make his official debut this weekend with a band backing him.
More country than rock, Hughes' songwriting straddles a fine line that most people would likely classify as Americana. His songs are story oriented and he's an Oklahoma native, but he doesn't fully fit in the Red Dirt category as he's not from the Stillwater area and he's not quite as folk oriented and those artists tend to be. Even so, his style is complimentary to that niche and over time, he could mesh quite well with a number of artists within the Red Dirt community.
Instead of looking too far ahead, though, local country and Americana fans should be keeping an eye on him this Saturday night. He's the kind of artist that other musicians can get excited about: he's full of optimism and has a fist full of great songs, a hell or high water attitude and a fire in his belly -- just the kind of recipe that normally makes for a great artist in development.
After sitting down with Hughes to discuss this debut, I found that he's not new to music -- he's just been brewing in the background. A few years back, Hughes played open mic nights in Okmulgee with Evan Felker (prior to his days with Turnpike Troubadours).
Back then, Hughes developed a gift for off the cuff, impromptu songwriting -- something that still helps him today. When the evening started to slow down, "Evan would take a break and woo the ladies," he laughed, "but I'd ask 'So, what do you want to hear?' and make it up as I went along."
That impromptu style brought him a bit of a following, but music took a back seat as he started his working career. Hughes never quit playing and writing, however, and while that experience helped him develop his songwriting chops, he also said "I didn't really get good at writing until I lived my life a little."
Hughes shared that he's been writing songs for nearly 15 years and he's played most styles of music, but his current heart-felt style of hard country is probably the best representation of who he is and what he's about.
"Every kind of pain, every kind of hurt, every kind of sadness I've been through, it all feeds my music," he said.
Although it's early in his development and he doesn't have a CD yet, his songs are already coming together and eliciting a strong response from everyone who hears them.
Current stand outs are songs like "Broken Chords," which he wrote while in Columbus, Ohio on a job training trip.
"I played a gig out there and my buddy went home while I was playing, so I was stuck there and got to thinking 'What would life be like if I was just living out of my car and playing gigs?' It's about enjoying life, even the shit that life throws at you."
The current band lineup includes Stephen Lee on lead guitar, Les Hodge on bass and Mike Kindell on drums while Hughes sings and plays acoustic guitar. Mandolin and dobro player Cody Woody is the latest addition to the lineup, giving Hughes songs a gritty, down to earth quality.
Ultimately, Hughes reflected "That's what my life is: It's a song..." That's all starting to come into focus as the pieces come together and he looks a promising career in music squarely in the eye. You can check him out early as The Brian Hughes Band makes its debut at Arnie's this Saturday night, Nov. 5, at 10pm.
Paint Tulsa RED
Believe it or not, it's that time of year again: time for the annual Red Party. Perhaps even more surprising, this marks the 7th year for the dance party that started back in 2004 and this one promises to be special.
Tulsa Red organizer and promoter Chris Sker has disclosed that this will be his final event as he uses it as a retirement party of sorts and steps away from the dance party and promotion game. With a seven year history for Red (and even longer for event promotion in general), Sker will shut things down in high style. Red has long been his signature event and although it has rotated venues over the years, most recently landing in Lola's and Enso, it has always been one of the classiest parties of the year -- 2011 will be no different as the celebration gets even bigger and blows things out at Treehouse this Saturday night, Nov. 5.
Tulsa regulars Roj Mahal and Darku J will represent the local scene, while a pair of top Dallas DJs, Preach and Sean Patryx mix things up and keep it fresh. Stylistically, you can expect a blend of electro-house and current dance mixes, so it should be a night that keeps both casual fans and dance club hardcores happy.
As always, the theme is "Red", so come dressed appropriately to extend the color scheme from top to bottom. The annual "Sexiest Red Dress" contest is back as well, with the winner of the $100 prize to be announced at 11pm. Music begins at 9pm and the party extends to 2am with an extra hour included as the clocks get turned back at midnight.
Cover is only $5 and the event benefits a special needs trust fund for Sker's 12 year old daughter, who developed Juvenile DermoMytosis four years ago and is now wheelchair bound. All of the DJ's are donating their services for the night, so all proceeds from the evening will go into the trust fund to provide for her ongoing medical expenses. All in all, it will be a great evening of dance music and an appropriate final bow far Sker, so you won't want to miss it if you're a regular at Mixtape, Robotic or any of the local dance hot spots.
If you thought that October was busy, you haven't seen anything yet. November is pack full of shows right from the start, with Cain's Ballroom and BOK Center leading the way with the big names and the clubs packing them in with local bands and smaller acts. It's even hard for us to pick, but Urban Tulsa has cut through the fat and narrowed t down to the highlights to get you started out the door. Don't think this is all, however: if you don't see something listed that meets your taste, check out our full calendar of listings or check in at your favorite club to find just what you need to get your music fix. In the meantime, here are your starters:
• Thursday, Nov. 3 -- Perhaps the most fun show in town will be All Time Low at Cain's Ballroom with openers The Ready Set, He Is We and Paradise Fears. On a more locally minded scale, Joe Mack holds his CD release party at the Colony and Robotic continues to bring Tulsa's hottest dance party to IDL Ballroom.
• Friday, Nov. 4 -- You can't live in Oklahoma and overlook our reigning queen of country when she comes to Tulsa. Reba (McEntire no longer needed) headlines BOK Center with The Band Perry, Steel Magnolia and Eden's Edge all in tow for a full night of music to satiate country fans. Meanwhile, Ghostland Observatory kicks off a two-night stand at Cain's Ballroom with tickets still available for each night for $30 or $53 for both evenings combined.
• Saturday, Nov. 5 -- I've already covered Brian Hughes Band at Arnie's and the Red Party at Treehouse, but there's even more going on Saturday night, including part-two of Ghostland Observatory, Steve Pryor at The Colony and Sam & the Stylees at Hunt Club. The Marque hosts a free show that serves as both the CD release party for Rumours in the Atlantic and a live video shoot for Outline in Color. Beyond Our Skies and five other bands open and it's a free show that starts at 6pm. Finally, the best show of the night should be at Mercury Lounge as The Shame makes its last planned appearance of the year with Shaky Deville.
• Sunday, Nov. 6 -- The Soundpony wraps up the weekend with Penny Hill and Low Litas packing the house and Jesse Aycock rounding out the bill for a great local show. The 80's are still alive, though, as Tesla returns to Cain's Ballroom with Built By Stereo.
• Monday, Nov. 7 -- Paul Benjaman Band plays a small and intimate show at Soundpony as the New Tulsa Sound and Colony crowd spreads its wings to reach a new audience. Perhaps the coolest of the week will be Dr. Dog at Cain's Ballroom. This is the groups' first time in Tulsa, but a loyal following is already buzzing about this show after the band built up its fan base while refining its approach to indie-pop.
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