Now that Thanksgiving has arrived, the Christmas season is kicking off in full force. And although we're not looking forward to fighting off an extra ten pounds from all the Christmas parties and family feasts or the added traffic and stress that go with shopping, there are still a few things we can look forward to. Even if you're not excited to join the melee on Black Friday, it can still be a good weekend for music fans.
After all, this weekend not only marks the beginning of shopping insanity, but also a long string of concerts and benefits that have become holiday tradition. We've got the annual Red Dirt Christmas and yet another annual visit from Trans Siberian Orchestra to look forward to in the next few weeks. Before we get there, however, we've got a pair of shows at Cain's Ballroom this weekend that have become an institution for many, even though they each draw distinctly different audiences.
Texas may be claiming Jason Boland as their own as of late, but Tulsa knows he's a native Okie and his Red Dirt roots still run deep and true. Although his multiple night stands at Gruene Hall are heralded south of the Red River, it's a homecoming party when Boland returns to Cain's Ballroom. His shows here are rarely more anticipated than when he stops in the night after Thanksgiving.
This year marks the 7th annual "Leftover Turkey" concert, and it only seems to get bigger each year as college students and old fans alike flock to the Ballroom to catch Boland and his band bring their own firestorm brand of country and Red Dirt home for the holidays. Although Nashville doesn't know what to do with him, Boland's latest work is far more country than most of what Nashville has been producing for years.
Of course, that's no surprise for long time Boland fans. He's always been more about pearl snaps, dance halls, and two-stepping tunes than most of his Red Dirt contemporaries, but that's more than fine. If country music needs anything right now, it's a few more people who remember where it came from and can quote Waylon, Willie and Haggard in more than name alone. With his latest album, Rancho Alto, Boland has taken the country more country with his band, The Stragglers, and still managed to make sure and keep true to his Red Dirt roots.
Although Boland and the Stragglers have always played to their strengths, it's hard to argue that this isn't the group's best album to date. Boland's songwriting has only gotten stronger and storytelling even more vivid. He's also opened up with a couple ballads, including the touching "Mary Ellen's Greenhouse," dedicated to the mother of one of Boland's first band mates, who let them rehearse in her greenhouse.
It's not the only place Boland pays homage to his early days and those who have supported him. He also included a pair of covers on this disc, drawing from Bob Childers on "Woody's Song" and Greg Jacobs for "Farmer's Luck." By keeping those readings true to their original versions, Boland digs in and shows that the dirt on his heels most definitely still runs red.
JASON BOLAND & THE STRAGGLERS
This show is always a highlight of the Thanksgiving weekend and seems to grow bigger each year. This year will be no exception as Boland has invited the Turnpike Troubadours to join in, essentially making this a double-header for the night. The Troubadours' latest disc, Goodbye Normal Street, is their best to date as well, as it finally captures the band's true sound and feel.
If you've never taken in a Boland show, Friday night's "Leftover Turkey" gig is your best bet: an annual party and homecoming show that will undoubtedly run late, keep old fans happy, and make the new ones true believers. Take it in this year and you'll know what your plans are after Thanksgiving for years to come.
The next night, Cancer Sucks! returns to Cain's Ballroom for the organization's 8th annual benefit concert and fundraiser. Instead of leaning into country and Red Dirt, however, Cancer Sucks! heads the opposite direction, taking on a hard rock tone and attitude while raising funds for the fight against cancer.
If you're not familiar with Cancer Sucks! yet, it's an organization worth looking into. Two brothers, Rick Horton and Frank White, founded Cancer Sucks! in 1998 as a living memorial to their mother, Donna White, after losing her to a battle with cancer in '96. The brothers took inspiration from their mother, who donated her body to cancer research at the time of her death, even after a lengthy fight with the disease.
By channeling her dedication and resolve, Horton and White, established Cancer Sucks! with a focus on honoring their mother and paying tribute to her by raising as much money as possible for cancer research and finding a cure. The group has grown steadily since being founded 14 years ago, holding a number of events over the course of the year to raise cancer awareness, raise funds, and help others who are either fighting cancer themselves or have family members who are battling the disease.
Over the past few years, this annual concert has transitioned from being a local music showcase to featuring nationally recognized headline acts with local support. Taddy Porter led the charge in 2010, just as the band's debut album had been released and the group was starting to tour regionally with bigger acts. Taddy Porter's involvement kicked the door open for the organization to draw even larger acts and last year's show featuring up-and-comers Art of Dying for a show that drew an even bigger audience and added even more clout to the Cancer Sucks! name.
This year, the organization has raised the bar yet again. After a busy year of local and regional events and fundraising, this year's concert features headliner Saving Abel with Texas Hippie Coalition and Oklahoma City's Aranda, a group that has been making waves and gaining national attention in modern rock circles.
Of course, Cancer Sucks! still stays true to its Tulsa roots and includes return appearances by Sweatin' Bullets (who have played this event on multiple years) and Firstryke, to make sure the local music scene is still tied in and included in the event.
This is more than just an annual concert though. As always, the event starts early (doors open at 5:45pm, with music starting about 6pm) and not only includes music, but more information about cancer research and a silent auction featuring everything from concert tickets to tickets for sporting events, dinner and hotel packages and a selection of signed memorabilia that Horton and his staff collect over the course of the year.
Sponsored once again by KMOD, Cancer Research Centers of America and Myers-Duren Harley Davidson, this year's show is the biggest yet and a great send-off before Cancer Sucks heads out next week on the 12th annual "Shiprocked!" rock & roll cruise, which has become another key event for the organization's annual calendar.
We can't all afford to take the week off to join the cruise, but we can afford to help fight cancer and enjoy some hard rock on Saturday night, November 24. Texas Hippie Coalition just released its new CD, Peacemaker, in August and Saving Abel's latest, Bringing Down the Giant, was released in July, so both bands have new material and are looking to put on a great show. Best of all, tickets are only $13.50 in advance or $16.50 at the door, so it's a cheap ticket, leaving you extra money for beer or auction bids and you're still doing your part in the fight against cancer.
Regardless of your taste in music, country or hard rock, this weekend's annual gigs at Cain's offer a little something for everyone and a brief respite from the chaos, along with a bit of modern tradition, just as the holiday season shifts into high gear. Breathe deep, get your fix and dive in. We'll see you on the other side!
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