Although we're just finishing January and we've had another unseasonably mild winter thus far, you can't blame bands (and music fans) for looking forward to the summer. After all, what's better than kicking back and enjoying an evening breeze with some great live music.
With SXSW just around the corner, many of us are already thinking about festival season and although we've still got a few months before it all really kicks off, the major festivals are already well under way in planning this year's events.
One of the closest festivals that has developed a strong following and national attention is Wakarusa, now in its 10th year and located at Mulberry Mountain in Ozark, Ark. Each year the lineup seems to get bigger and more impressive, drawing some of the biggest names on the jam band scene. This year is no exception as the recently announced roster includes headliners like Widespread Panic, Black Crowes, Umphrey's McGhee, and Galactic as well as a number of more diverse acts like Mutemath, Grouplove, and Del the Funky Homosapien to keep things interesting.
The Loaded Dice
Even though the festival has grown to draw a wide array of nationally touring acts, it still hasn't lost touch with its roots and continues to seek out the best regional acts to complete its schedule. Part of that quest includes the annual "Waka Winter Classic" tour, a traveling battle for the bands that gives a handful of bands in each city a chance to slug it out for an opportunity to play at Wakarusa.
This Thursday night, Jan. 31, the Waka Winter Classic arrives at Cain's Ballroom and gives five local bands a chance to showcase their talent on the main stage while the audience votes on who should represent Tulsa at this year's festival. The list of invited bands includes Roots of Thought, David Castro Band, Captain Comfy, Center of the Universe, and The Loaded Dice, providing a selection almost as diverse as the festival's main lineup. Let's take a quick look at what we've got, shall we?
Roots of Thought is a young act out of Broken Arrow that delivers a high energy funk rock and a breath of fresh air to Tulsa's local music scene. The band's single, "I Think," was an unexpected highlight of the latest Edge Homegroan compilation, and the band continues to build a local following. Way beyond your typical jam-funk, these guys serve up their tunes with an almost punk-edged garage rock intensity, making them an interesting contender for the Wakarusa bill.
David Castro Band has a deeper history, having formed in Wagoner in 2008 before migrating to Tulsa in 2010. The band has toured extensively and played regularly in Tulsa over the past couple years, giving the group a distinct advantage in recognition factor and stage experience. What sets this group apart is Castro's songwriting. Although the group has an open-ended approach to the tunes, I tend to classify Castro more in the traditional singer/songwriter mold as his tunes tend to be more concise and to the point, and not as jam-oriented as the image the Wakarusa name conjures. Nevertheless, with the diversity that Waka has been integrating, the group could make a nice addition to rounding out the bill.
Captain Comfy may well fit the jam band mold the best of all of this year's bands. Formed in Norman in April 2011, the group has developed quickly and become a favorite at Easter Island and within the regional jam scene. With a professed progressive rock bent, the group leans more into jazz territory and ambient jams, leaving plenty of room for improvisation. If classic jam rock is your thing, you'll dig these guys.
Center of the Universe proves to be the wild card on the bill that could surprise everyone. The electronic duo from Tulsa features Ben Sizemore and Jack Franklin and delves into the bass driven electro-funk territory of bands like STS9 and EOTO. Although they aren't well known yet, the tunes are eminently danceable and trippy, crossing over into hip hop and trance and their sneak attack on the local scene could make them the surprise here.
The Loaded Dice should need no introductions. Sometimes a trio, occasionally a duo, the group started out with a heavy blues groove and a distinct Back Keys vibe and has continued to develop its own sound and style. The key to this group is its high energy delivery and ability to draw the audience in while it performs, so even though the group doesn't delve into the classic jam genre, its ability to interact with the crowd would make the band a welcome addition to a festival lineup.
If you're looking for a glimpse of what the local scene has got going on as well as a possible preview of what this year's Wakarusa should be like, you won't want to miss the Classic this Thursday night. Tickets are only $5 at the door and each ticket gives you a chance to vote on who should play Wakarusa in June. This year is truly up for grabs as the lineup here is as diverse as the roster that the festival announced less than two weeks ago, proving that the jam band audience and festival crowd is open to more than the stereotype might suggest. Check it out for a great night of local music at the Ballroom.
The Edge books a Buzz
If you're looking for a good show next week, you'd better be on your toes. Z104.5, The Edge, has booked a special "Barely Legal Free Ball" at The Vanguard next Thursday night, Feb. 7, with Churchill, Willy Moon and The Lonelys. All three are breaking bands, but you'll probably recognize Willy Moon most quickly, as his single "Yeah, Yeah" has been featured in recent iPod commercials.
This isn't one you can buy a ticket for, though. It's an 18 and over event, but you'll have to listen to The Edge this week to win tickets or hear where to pick yours up -- and since the club holds right around 450 people, this one will be packed out and tickets will be gone quickly.
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It's another busy week as the weather continues to stay mild and the clubs wake up with spring just around the corner. As always, we've got the highlights to get you pointed out the door.
Thursday, January 31
The big gig of the night is the Waka Winter Classic at Cain's Ballroom as five bands face off for a spot at this summer's Wakarusa festival. Tickets are only $5 at the door and let you vote for who you think should represent Tulsa at the festival. Afterwards, you can move next door to The Yeti to see David Castro Band follow up their Waka showcase with a full set to close out the night or roll down to Hunt Club and check out Cody Slane.
Friday, February 1
Bob Schneider finally returns to Cain's Ballroom with a full band and The Vanguard hosts a great night of music with Shannon McNally, Amy Lavere, and Jesse Aycock. Meanwhile, pop fans can chill with Stephen Speaks at Hunt Club while The Shrine rocks the block with Nothing More and Mercury Lounge introduces another new talent in Sarah Gayle Meech.
Saturday, February 2
Mercury Lounge hosts another slam dunk as Family Folk Revival returns and The Shrine hosts a night of Reggae with Local Hero. Perhaps the best gig of the night, however, will be the return of Milkdrive to The Vanguard with The Gumbo Poets and Grazzhopper.
Sunday, February 3
It's Super Bowl night, but The Vanguard will host a watch party and include live music by Fifth of the Floor and Aaron Woods after the game while your old standards never fail: Dan Crossland's songwriter's night at Baker Street, Brandon Clark at Mercury Lounge and Paul Benjaman and Friends at Colony.
The rest of the week is quiet, but you won't want to miss the party when FISHBONE plays The Vanguard on Wednesday, February 6 with The Last Slice and Freakjuice opening.
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