POSTED ON AUGUST 26, 2009:
Two from the Road
Alex and the Anders, Sam and the Stylees CD release parties highlight the week
While some bands thrive in the studio, others show their true colors better on stage. When releasing a CD then, the challenge becomes how to best represent the band both to fans and new listeners. The answer, as simple as it may be, can also become a cliché. Yes, it's true: the live album is as common (or more so) than the greatest hits collection; and in many cases it serves as both.
Fortunately, one of the benefits of being an independent young band is being able to bend or break the implied "rules" of the record business. Do what you want, especially if it serves your greater agenda. This week, we've got a pair of live CD releases, both of which work for slightly different reasons.
If you haven't heard of Alex and the Anders yet, you must not be the partying type, for the gist of this group's show is the party. Describing the band is hard. On one hand, the group shares an irreverent and off-the-cuff attitude with duos like Tenacious D or Flight of the Conchords, but without the bitingly dry wit or psychedelic whimsy. On the other hand, A&A could be the folked up, alcoholic, white trash cousin of Tulsa psych-pop indie darlings, GHOSTS. (Sorry guys. How else am I supposed to classify a band that features a washboard front and center? This certainly isn't bluegrass...)
Classification isn't really important, however. The essential ingredient in Alex and the Anders is fun. Formed roughly two years ago, the group admittedly rarely rehearses, in part because that would take the fun out of the proceedings. The current lineup finally came together in November of 2008 as drummer Blake Jarman and bassist Tucker Carter locked in to complement harmonica/washboardist Tomas Burkhart and guitarist/leader Alex Munsen, and that's when the band really hit its stride.
"We felt like we had some momentum with the band before, but once Tucker and Blake joined, it just took off at 90 miles an hour," said Burkhart.
According to Jarman, the group does its best to draw the audience from the beginning. By the end of the night, if you've participated in the show at all, you'll likely be a part of the collective buzz.
Nevertheless, the band needs an introductory point and it's new EP, LIVE (and under the influence), is a near perfect jumping off point. In all honesty, most of the tunes are novelty and drinking tunes--song titles like "Drunk and Attainable" and "It's Cool to Be F***ed Up" pretty much say it all. Nevertheless, sometimes it's good to not take things so damn seriously, and Alex and the Anders will remind you of just that.
The group holds its release party for LIVE (and under the influence), at Arnie's Fri., Aug. 28. Cover is $5 at the door and the party will undoubtedly shift quickly into high gear. The band will even be debuting its latest brainchild, the "Guitar/Beer Bong," with the audience taking hits as the band plays on. Just trust the band on this one and go with it. The show starts at 10pm and goes 'till they run everyone out.
The argument for a live disc from Sam and the Stylees is another beast altogether. After all, the Stylees have already put out three solid studio discs and are inarguably the region's premier reggae band.
Indeed, Tulsa's "Best None of the Above" band never disappoints live, which is why the group is a perennial favorite around town and a repeat DFest headliner. As such, a live disc from the band seemed like a foregone conclusion to many. Once the group was ready to run with the idea however, it wasn't about to settle for a standard live disc. As such, Sam & the Stylees: LIVE! is the tour de force fans have come to expect, with a twist. Instead of just rolling out all of the band's favorites (which it does), the group also uses the forum to present six new songs and present a picture of not only where the group has been, but where it's headed.
No longer a strictly reggae band, The Stylees haven't forsaken their roots, but they've certainly embraced the rest of their influences. Anchored by Charles Butler's drumming, the group hits heavier than it did in the past and cuts a sharper groove. Hints of funk and pure rock sensibility shine through and show why the band isn't easily stereotyped.
Recorded this past March at CJ Maloney's in Broken Arrow, the group managed to draw an enthusiastic crowd, even on the weekend of a rare, late spring snowstorm. In spite of (or perhaps because of) the weather, the audience adds a palpable energy to the proceedings, even if mixed in subtly. Once again, kudos go to Hank Charles for an excellent recording, this time finding a way to highlight all of the individual performances.
If you only have one Stylees disc in your collection, this is the one to get. Following the tradition of the past three discs, it completes a cycle, opening with the closing track from Long Time to Neptune.
For those in the know, the band had this disc ready and in hand at DFest, but after closing out the night with a packed house on Saturday, the band didn't get a chance to sell it as curfew approached and the clubs were clearing out. You've got another opportunity this week as the band holds a free, all ages CD release party at the Blue Dome Diner Thurs., Aug. 27. Doors open at 7pm and the show starts at 8:30pm with Society Society and HipHopotamus opening.
As you can see already, it's obviously a busy weekend on the local scene, but a couple of CD releases aren't the only highlights. If you're not convinced or are just looking for something different, read on.
On Thurs., Aug. 27, my obvious pick would be the Sam & the Stylees show, wrapping up the summer with a breezy vibe. If you're looking for an underground guitar hero, though, you can't go wrong at Flytrap Music Hall for Monte Montgomery.
In turn, on Friday night, there's more going on than Alex and the Anders at Arnie's. Red Dirt fans have a can't miss opportunity as Red Dirt Rangers celebrate their 20th anniversary with a free show (donations accepted at door with proceeds going to charity) at the Cain's Ballroom on Aug. 28. If the Rangers aren't enough to drag you out, consider this: after Turnpike Troubadours open the show, Medicine Wheel will reunite for a one-off show to celebrate the Ranger's history. This one's sure to turn into Red Dirt all-star jam session.
If that's not enough, modern rockers My Solstice will rock The Marquee with A Good Fight; and Mercury Lounge hosts the return of The Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash for a sure-fire, hell-raisin' show.
Once Saturday night hits, the best bet for indie fans is to hit The Marquee for the annual "Hard Work Summer" show. This year's lineup includes perennial favorites Callupsie and Unwed Sailor along with Dead Sea Choir, but the stars of the show should be Native Lights and Fiawna Forte. It'll be a full night of great music with more artwork by Denny Schmickle and tickets are only $8 at the door.
Elsewhere around town on the 29th, Lee Ann Womack headlines Osage Events Center for the country crowd; Kawnar headlines a free show at Jenks' Riverwalk crossing; and Philip Zoellner Band lets loose at Arnie's.
Even amidst all these great shows, I still think the best of the week could well be a "stealth" show at Cain's Ballroom. Paul Thorn Band headlines, but Seth James opens and just might steal the show. His new disc, That Kind of Man, is an example of all the best elements of the current Texas music scene and he slings a killer axe on the live stage. Tickets are $20 at the door.
Finally, the week wraps up with Tom Skinner's Science Project featuring Pat Cook at the weekly event's current home, Mercury Lounge.
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