POSTED ON DECEMBER 9, 2009:
Party Like It's 1989
Megatron channels '80s rock, and All Souls corners the singer/songwriter angle
Rock On. Finally mastered and packaged, the debut disc is a snapshot of exactly the vibe and feel that Megatron was known for—classic ’80s rock and hair metal.
Although there are many bands out there that are influenced by the '80s, not many of them are willing to display them deliberately on their sleeve. Even more uncommon is the band that's willing to openly and unabashedly declare its allegiance to '80s hair metal acts. When local act Megatron returns from hiatus this weekend to release its debut CD, however, that won't be the case.
Originally formed in early 2005, guitarist Brian Gresh explained that he and singer Melissa Williams originally decided to put a band together that would mine both a classic and '80s rock vibe. Joined by original bassist Blake Jarman and drummer Tyler Hearn, Megatron came together and the group started jamming to find its niche.
"We wanted to do both covers and originals," Gresh said, "but we wanted to do it in the '80s style of music that we loved -- stuff like Van Halen and Pat Benatar and heart because we didn't see any other band playing that kind of stuff at the time."
Once the group got off the ground, it found its place in the local cover scene and was playing a couple nights a week in Tulsa. By mid-2006, Jarman had joined another band and with his time and availability for Megatron limited, he stepped aside, and his role was filled by Mark Stover who had originally been a fan of the group.
By 2007, the group had started to hit its stride, working up its own material and gradually easing those songs into the set list when possible. Drawing a fairly positive response for its own material, the band began to work its way into the original music clubs in 2007 and even found itself in the Urban Tulsa Weekly's NewVo concert series, opening a show at Mooch and Burn (now The Marquee) with The Secret Post and Elliot the Letter Ostrich.
By building off of Gresh's guitar riffs and William's lyrics and poetry, Megatron's original songbook started to grow, which led the group to consider recording its debut CD. According to Gresh, the band's original intentions were to record the album live, but the members quickly realized they wanted a more professional sounding recording, which led them to start the multi-tracking process with Stephen Egerton of Armstrong Studios at the helm.
Unfortunately, the disc never saw the light of day as the group decided in early 2008 to take a break and went on hiatus to work on separate projects.
Williams eventually ended up singing with '80s cover band Phenom (performing as Melissa Fox), and Gresh has been busy splitting his time between two bands, '80s AOR act Jukebox Hero and 2009 ABoT nominee for best Party/Cover Band Smunty Voje.
In mid-2009, however, Gresh's desire to see the Megatron album get the release he felt it deserved got the best of him, and he financed the completion of the project. Finally mastered and packaged, it's a snapshot of exactly the vibe and feel that Megatron was known for--classic '80s rock and hair metal.
It's definitely a niche driven affair: Indie rockers will likely snub their noses, and jam-band fans will be unimpressed by the guitar tones and succinct arrangements. For long-lost '80s children and classic rock fans, however, it's something of a guilty pleasure.
Gresh's guitar work is a puree of '80s hair metal influences, kicked off with a healthy dose of Van Halen. Williams' voice is more than fitting by channeling doses of Pat Benatar, Lita Ford and Nancy Wilson and giving the material a distinctly '80s-style delivery.
Will it knock anyone over? Probably not, but it's still fun and cops the feel-good vibe of the mid to late '80s rock scene to a tee. From the guitar squeals to the backing vocals, you can tell the band was having fun with its music, which is what got largely stripped away in the '90s with the grunge movement.
Gresh, especially, wears his inspirations on his sleeve, which can lead to an interesting discussion of "name that influence" when listening to the album. Eddie Van Halen, Vito Bratta (White Lion), Yngwie Malmsteen, Warren DiMartini (Ratt) and Mick Mars (Motley Crue)? Check. Vocally: Pat Benatar, Janet Gardner (Vixen), Lita Ford, Anne Wilson (Heart) and Stevie Nicks? Yep. It's all here in spades.
In honor of the CD's completion, Megatron is reforming for a CD release party Friday night, Dec. 11, at The Marquee in what will double as a release celebration and band reunion. What will come of it in the future is anyone's guess, but the door is open for reconvening, and the group will feel things out and let reaction dictate how to proceed.
For now, however, the group is back together for a CD release party and to recreate the feel-good '80s vibe that a handful of other local cover bands are now channeling. Instead of filling the night with covers, however, the band will be highlighting the original material showcased on the self-titled debut disc.
Doors open at 6:30pm for a 7pm show, and the $10 cover includes a copy of the CD and a four-band bill. Ransom Jones, Promo Dave and the Haters and Alex & the Anders will all provided support with Megatron wrapping up the night in a blast of '80s guitar riffs and classic hair-metal vibes.
No it's not for everyone, but if you've been missing the have fun vibe of '80s rock, this one is worth checking out. Even if you're just curious, this is a band that built its reputation on both musicianship and its stage show, which makes it worth considering.
If party mentality rock isn't your thing, but intelligent, intimate singer/songwriter fare is, your best bet for the weekend is to head over to the Brookside area on Saturday evening, Dec. 12, for the last show of the year in the All Souls Acoustic Coffeehouse series.
This fall has brought a string of impressive shows, including an awe-striking performance by Jimmy LaFave in September, Jeff and Vida Band, and last month's show by The Greencards, which was by all reported accounts an amazing show.
This Saturday night, the series ups the ante and the intimate atmosphere with a special "Songwriter's Circle" night with Slaid Cleeves, Terri Hendrix and Lloyd Maines. Each of these three artists arrives with a weighty reputation preceding them, but when combined, it should be an amazing night for fans of vivid songwriting and storytelling.
Cleeves is an Austin transplant that has soaked up all of the best parts of the Texas Music scene and distilled it into a blend of rock, alt-country and modern Americana. A living room show last spring left a tiny crowd in awe and a demand for him to return to a larger venue.
Terri Hendrix is a Texan to the bone, but there's no good genre to try and corner her into. Sure, a touch of country is in there, but so is gospel, a little bluegrass and a touch of R&B in her twangy, yet soulful vocals. Starting out as a true independent artist by forming her own label to release Two Dollar Shoes in 1996, she's since become a critical darling within songwriter's circles and she's developed quite the voice of her own.
Those two paired up would be enough to make for a great evening, but it just so happens that one of Hendrix's band members is Lloyd Maines. If the name sounds familiar, it might be because he's a premier studio musician that's played multiple instruments (most notable pedal steel) for artists ranging from Radney Foster and Jimmy Dale Gilmour to Wilco, David Byrne and Joe Ely. He's also a well established country music producer, a member of the now defunct Maines Brothers Band and the father of Dixie Chick Natalie Maines. Adding Maines to the mix only promises to make the evening more special as he adds to the stories and complements the evening with guitar, dobro, mandolin and pedal steel.
Perhaps the only venue that can -- or will -- rival the shows at All Souls is The Church Studio, which will begin its concert series early next year. When the shows are this good, though, there's plenty of room for both. Doors open at 7pm for the 7:30 show and tickets are $15 at the door, in advance at Borders Bookstore on 21st Street or available by phone at (918)743-2363.
Although the holiday chaos is upon us, that doesn't mean the music has slacked off. If anything, it's getting better and giving us a welcome respite from the craziness of work and consumerism. This week we've got a little of everything, so regardless if you're looking to celebrate, blow off some steam or relax, there's something for you.
Thursday has proven to be a good night to kick off the weekend a little early and this week is no different. You can either settle in with old standbys like Dustin & Jesse's Higher Education at Eclipse and Cairde na Gael's traditional Irish fare @ Arnie's or get loud and blow off some steam with Underoath, August Burns Red and Emery at Cain's Ballroom.
Friday, Dec. 11 provides an opportunity for a Christmas spectacle with Trans Siberian Orchestra at BOK Center, blues with Dustin Pittsley at Arnie's or indie rock with Deerpeople and The Non at Soundpony. Meanwhile, Red Dirt Rangers pull a little warm up gig at Mercury Lounge on Friday evening, but the most fun might just come from the Holiday Family Jam at Flytrap Music Hall with Taddy Porter and Whirligig (extending its celebration of 15 years together), with opening sets by Flatland Travelers and Paul Benjaman Band and a late-night dance party to wrap it up with Dinosaur Trio. Tickets are $8 in advance or $12 at the door.
Saturday night provides the hardest decision of the week. If you're not enamored with the aforementioned Slaid Cleeves/Terri Hendrix show at All Souls, you'll likely be struck by Red Dirt Rangers' 14th Annual Christmas show with Cross Canadian Ragweed and Mike McClure Band (see page 48 for details). If you can't choose, you can always start at All Souls and move to the Ballroom after, since you know it will be a long night of music.
If those two shows don't strike your fancy, you might want to check out Travis Linville at Arnie's or Locus at Mercury Lounge. If you're looking to dance the night away, you can split your time between the Assimilation's Pet Shop Boys tribute at Marquee and DanceRobotsDance at Soundpony on December 12.
Monday offers up Science Club at Soundpony and Rookie of the Year with Bradley Hathaway, Poema and Backseat Goodbye at The Marquee on Monday night, Dec. 14. The week isn't complete, however, until BOK Center pulls one more big show out of its hat with Daughtry headlining the arena and Theory of a Deadman opening the show on Tuesday, Dec. 15. Tickets are $31.50 and $41.50.
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