POSTED ON DECEMBER 23, 2009:
Shaping His Career
Johnny Polygon brings his bicoastal hip-hop back to Tulsa for a post-Christmas party
And You’re Invited. Johnny Polygon is home for the holidays and back in Tulsa. While he’s home, he decided to throw a little party at The Marquee Friday night, December 26. Doors open at 8pm and Johnny Polygon headlines backed by The Sounds of Urban Life with direct support from The Royalty.
You know how sometimes something (or someone) just seems to slip through the cracks and you miss out, only to feel like a fool later?
Yeah, that's how I'm feeling right about now about Johnny Polygon. I'll admit I'm not a huge hip-hop fan, but I try to be open-minded and listen to a little of everything. Occasionally, though, (more often than I'd like to admit) I just miss the boat. Fortunately, that boat tends to circle back.
You'll have to forgive me if I cut myself a little bit of slack. Johnny Polygon is definitely a Tulsa product, but he's bi-coastal now, having bolted T-Town in 2004 for the West Coast with only $297 in his pocket. (Yes, he remembers the amount specifically and laughs about it to this day.) He still considers Tulsa home, though, and often references it in his music, despite that he's constantly bouncing between Los Angeles and New York these days.
Because it's Christmas, where better to spend the holidays than home, right? And while he's in town, he might as well throw a party. After all, what better way to celebrate finally making a breakthrough and living your dream than by celebrating with friends?
During the past couple of years, Polygon and I have crossed paths and narrowly missed each other on a number of occasions. Fortunately, we finally connected--and I have to say I'm impressed. In a world where much hip-hop and rap seem to be turning to either formula or shock factor, Polygon's got game--and it's his own.
While most artists look for the big score and a major label, Johnny Polygon built his following from the ground up, caught a few major breaks, and enjoys success on his own terms as an independent artist. From all indications, unless someone wants to step up and offer him a ridiculous amount of money to sign a label deal (and trust me, the labels have been checking him out), he's in the game to stick around and play by his rules. After all, he's doing pretty well so far.
Perhaps I need to back up, however. After experiencing a good degree of success in Tulsa, he got something of a wake-up call in 2004 playing the Vans Warped Tour. "I was playing a super-small side stage, which was more like a tent next to the Hot Topic and Yoo-Hoo stands," he laughed. "In Tulsa, I was playing sold out shows with people to the back of the room, everyone with their hands in the air. As soon as I got out on the Warped Tour, though, I was only playing to four people."
It was an eye-opening experience, to say the least. Polygon's revelation that what he was doing in Tulsa wasn't carrying over to the rest of the country--or even Dallas, Texas--gave him pause.
"The Warped tour is like a traveling circus," he explained, "and hundreds of bands are playing to literally 1,000 to 5,000 kids every day, but I wasn't drawing anyone. That's when I realized: Wow, I've got to start moving and do something to represent Tulsa, instead of just doing it in Tulsa."
Later that year, Polygon did just that and made the trek to Los Angeles. It wasn't easy by any means, but Polygon worked hard, paid his dues and even admits that for a while he was basically homeless.
"Well, not homeless--homeless," he chuckled to himself. "More like 'fancy homeless.' I was like the kids on the scene, crashing at other people's houses."
"I took a real punk-rock approach to the whole thing--or maybe more like and '80s hair band approach," he said. "I was hanging on the Sunset Strip and frequenting Hollywood Boulevard and ended up playing a lot of those venues."
All the hard work began to pay off when DJ Green Lantern saw a video of Polygon on the internet and wanted to work with him. At that point, Lantern flew Polygon out to New York and once Johnny started making the cross-country commute he began seeing success on both coasts.
The pair's partnership has been key to Polygon's success. Once they came together, Polygon scored a couple of major coups, like landing a song in the video game Grand Theft Auto 4, and ending up on the single "Black President" with rapper NAS. That eventually led Polygon to an even larger opportunity, when he got to play at the inauguration and made his first television appearance.
Once he started catching a few breaks, the major labels began calling, but for now, Polygon is happy as an independent artist and being able to keep creative control. His recent EP, Group Hug, has been received with open arms by listeners and even garnered positive reviews from critics for its fresh and open sound. National touring with friends like Kid Cudi and showcases at SXSW and CMJ have added to his following and right now the future looks bright.
In fact, Polygon just shot a video for the single "The Riot Song," which was picked up by both MTV and MTV2, and will debut in late January. In addition, he's scheduled to follow with the release of his full length album, Rebel Without Applause, right around Valentine's Day. In true indie form, however, he plans on dropping it as a free download and build on the foundation he's already begun.
At the moment, Johnny Polygon is home for the holidays and back in Tulsa. While he's home, he decided to throw a little party at The Marquee Friday night, December 26. Doors open at 8pm and Johnny Polygon headlines backed by The Sounds of Urban Life with direct support from The Royalty. In addition, Kawnar, RSun and The MG's open the show and DJ Dilation spins tunes throughout the evening. Cover is $15 at the door (or $12 if you RSVP through Polygon's Facebook page: HYPERLINK "http://www.facebook.com/johnnypolygon"; www.facebook.com/johnnypolygon).
It's a strictly 21 and over event, though, as Polygon said when he's home he wants to throw a crazy party with good music, good vibes and free booze. As such, he'll be providing champagne and jello-shots as part of the party. Mostly, though, it's an opportunity to celebrate at home and enjoy the successes the last year brought.
This is the kind of stuff everyone can enjoy. Sure, his lyrics can be a little risqué at times, but he's got a slightly old-school hip-hop sound, combined with an indie-rock attitude and enough of a blend of rapping and singing to get everyone's head nodding.
Take a portion of Outkast (specifically Andre 3000), a bit of KRS-One and maybe even a dash of Ramones, then blend it and see what you've got. It may not sound exactly like Johnny Polygon, but it'll probably be close. Just trust me. If you haven't heard him yet, give him a shot. I missed him before, but won't make the same mistake again. See you at the show.
Initial Call Outs!
If you're in a band, pay attention and get moving. DFest officially announced its dates for the 2010 festival (July 30-31) and the site is now open for submissions. Go to HYPERLINK "http://www.DFest.com"; www.DFest.com for more details. Submissions are accepted through March, but don't wait and risk forgetting. Do it now and make your bid to be part of the biggest event of the summer. More details will emerge in the next few weeks.
Yes, it's Christmas weekend so everyone's laying low. Even the clubs are in holiday mode and playing quiet, although you know there will be something going on. Saturday night is the only evening that most clubs have firm plans for, at least that they're advertising, but as always, I've got the highlights.
If you don't think DJ Polygon's gonna be your thing, never fear. You can cut loose and dance at Soundpony with DJ Moody's Revolution, hang out with old friend Travis Kidd at Dirty's or get your fill of badass Southern/country-rock with Fiddlebacks at Mercury Lounge.
The most intriguing bill of the weekend, however, has to be the "Family Reunion: Friends Reunite" show at Flytrap Music Hall on December 26. Expect to see Andy Skib, Bryan Jewett, Nick Gibson, Mike Jameson, Josh Center, Ben Hosterman, Mark Haugh, Scott Jones, Steve Lidell, Robbie Merrick, Ben Mosier, Brandon Davis and more show up on stage. It'll surely be a night full of solo and group tunes. Just take a minute to inspect that list again and make your own assumptions about which local reunions are pending... let the rumors begin.
If you're not completely spent by Sunday night--or if you just need to escape the family, stop by Soundpony on December 27 for the "Zoo Party" with Ptiaradactyl, JIRHAFF and Hiphopotamus.
Plan ahead. We've got a separate listing of New Year's Eve options for your, but I can't let it pass without mentioning the return of a living legend. Next Thursday night, December 31, B.B. King and his beloved "Lucille" make and encore visit to T-Town, this time playing at the Mabee Center. This may be your last time to catch him, especially in a venue of this caliber. Mark your calendar, because it's not one to miss.
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