A few weeks ago, we got word of a new venue opening in an old space, and last weekend The Vanguard made its grand opening with a weekend's worth of Oklahoma bands in the space that used to house The Marquee. With new management and a near total remodel, complete with full bar service, those shows were directed to the 18 and over crowd.
This coming Wednesday night, however, the room opens its doors to the all-ages crowd as Dallas-based Forever the Sickest Kids brings the first leg of its "One Direction Tour" through Tulsa and revisits the space where it has played some of its most successful local shows.
When discussing the new venue with lead vocalist Jonathan Cook last week, he echoed the excitement that local bands have expressed about the room as it has a new sound system and management in place with a vision for making it a true music venue. "Man, that's great to hear," he said, "because we've always enjoyed playing Tulsa and we've had some great shows there."
Cook's excitement was only magnified when I shared that his band would effectively be rechristening the room for the all-ages crowd, especially when I shared the room's significance for that audience and the note that was left behind at the Marquee, which is now known as "The Chelsea Letter." The hand-written message that was left behind read:
I went to my very first concert in 9th grade here. It was Stereo Skyline / The Downtown Fiction / Stephen Jerzak. I'm now a senior in High School and I've gone to countless shows here. It absolutely breaks my heart to hear that you guys might be closing. I've had so many great memories. It's been my safe place for years now. It would mean the world to me and so many others if you would stay open.
That only magnifies the significance of this show, which was a hand-picked date by the band when planning its summer "One Direction" tour. Originally planned for the month of July, the response was so overwhelmingly positive, that the band just booked a second leg of dates that will carry them through August and keep them busy through the end of summer.
The significance of the tour's success isn't lost on Cook as the group's previous label, Universal Motown, closed down in late 2011, leaving the band without a contract or label home. Instead of slowing them down, though, Cook indicated the group has found a new freedom and has kept itself busy.
"We've got ten songs done for the new record and hopefully we'll get it done and ready for release early next year," Cook said. "Right now, the plan is to keep writing and go in and finish it in October and November. Instead of pushing to get it out at the end of the year and get lost in all the holiday releases, though, we're going to take our time and look to put it out in February or March of next year. We plan on touring in the meantime."
As far as the band's sound and direction is concerned, Cook shared that it will be a little bit different from the band's previous material but won't stray too far from what has brought the group its success. That's to be expected as the group matures and the lineup continues to evolve. Original members Kent Garrison and Mark Stewart have left the band to pursue other opportunities and get married, respectively, paring the group down to a quartet. With that change, however, the band's sound has gotten tighter without sacrificing the fun of its earlier work.
The year has already been busy for the band, which has not only been writing new material and released a new song, "Shut the Front Door (Too Young)," along with an accompanying video earlier in the year, but also touring steadily.
"We just got back from a UK tour," Cook said, "and we've been to Australia and Japan this year, as well."
Cook also shared plans for a busy fall schedule as the group's summer just filled up with the second leg for the current tour. After that has wrapped up, Forever the Sickest Kids will be touring in Malaysia and the Philippines, taking its music worldwide throughout the year.
"We're super excited about this tour because it's the first tour we've done without a record label, so we've been able to do some things we couldn't have otherwise done without getting someone mad."
When discussing the summer tour, for which the band was still rehearsing and planning the set list, Cook shared that they would not only be playing old favorites, but would also be previewing some of the new material, which a major label wouldn't have approved of.
When speaking with Cook, above all else he shared the excitement he and his band mates have for not only this tour, but also for what lies ahead. Instead of being worried about the lack of a record label, the band has taken advantage of the freedom they have and focused on taking advantage of any opportunity that comes up and moving forward, thus the "One Direction" tour.
Before wrapping up the call, Cook shared one other exciting addition to the group's plans for this summer and fall that had not been officially announced yet. "We just found out we'll be singing the "Star Spangled Banner" at a New England Patriots game this fall, which is incredibly cool," he said. "Just stay tuned to our Twitter and Facebook for more details on that when we get them."
More than anything, however, Cook shared that the band is excited to be out on the road and returning to Tulsa, where it already has some great memories.
I've already seen Forever the Sickest Kids before with my son and know that the band always puts on a high-energy show and makes the crowd a part of the evening. With a new-found freedom and excitement, it promises to be a great evening and perfect christening for the room to welcome back Chelsea and the all-ages audience to an old room with a new vibe and energy.
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