POSTED ON FEBRUARY 17, 2010:
Three local bands roll out new discs and live performances around town
If there were any questions about the health of the local music scene, they can be put to rest. Yes, original music is alive and well in Tulsa, Okla. If you have any question, just take a quick glance back at the number of local CD releases we've seen already, and we're not even two months into the New Year. Panda Resistance, Moai Broadcast, Turnpike Troubadours? Those are just a trio of the most impressive out of the gate, and the beginning of what promises to be a long and fruitful year for Tulsa music.
This weekend, the new music continues to roll out with a pair of CD release parties celebrating three new discs. And depending on your taste in music, ranging from pop to indie-rock to hip-hop, you ought to be able to find something that meets your mood.
If you're willing to take a chance on some new bands, you just might find yourself pleasantly surprised.
Flip Sides of the Same Coin?
Friday night's show at The Marquee (Feb. 19) is a dual CD release party for indie-minded pop/rock band Pop Culture and hip-hop act Algebra.
Indie rockers Lizard Police, which includes former members of Only the Bugman and Black Gold Band, and kinetic/frenetic rockers The Fiascos, who just released their new disc two weeks ago, round out the bill, which has a $7 cover at the door.
While the two opening acts can put on one heck of a show themselves, that isn't the real story of the evening. The surprise of the evening is two-fold, at least for those who aren't familiar.
After opening the shows with a pair of indie-rock minded bands, Algebra simultaneously keeps things fresh and throws a monkey-wrench in the works. Obviously indie-minded, but not indie rock, Nine One Great is Algebra's first full-fledged studio production, but third release since Dan Hahn started performing at a friend's house party in 2007. As a student at NSU, Hahn's performance schedule kept him predominantly in Tahlequah and Oklahoma City until he started playing Tulsa in 2009.
Since his arrival in town, Hahn has performed at a number of local venues but said that his best response has come from mixed bills and indie-rock audiences.
Lyrically, he likes to keep his focus on the local scene and give Tulsa the respect and love he feels it deserves. With poetic lyrics that brush up against spirituality, Algebra balances a semi-abstract lyrical approach with relatable topics without becoming too cut and dry or preachy.
Drawing inspiration from acts ranging from MeWithoutYou to Outkast, Cool Kids and Atmosphere to even more independent acts like Streets and St Francis, it's safe to say Hahn's main focus is lyrically, but that doesn't mean the music has suffered. With beats built by Bob Morgan and assistance from Kevin Skillern, Hahn has built an impressive sonic landscape with Hank Charles at Valcour Sound.
Live, Algebra is a one-man show, backed by DJ Nutter, but the show always engages the crowd. Come ready for a curveball but expect to enjoy the grooves.
The real wild card of the evening is relative new-comer Popular Culture. Fronted by Zach Mobley (formerly of Have Fun Dying) on guitar and vocals and rounded out by Jason Largent on drums and Jeremy Quaid on bass, the group opted to write a fistful of tight and compact songs and get the band tightened up before immersing itself in the local scene. As a result, the band hasn't played in Tulsa but a handful of times and emerges now with a fully realized direction for the group.
With a disc that comes in from left field and no preset expectations, Popular Culture's self-titled debut disc immediately grabbed attention. Mobley never mentioned his previous band, and I didn't make the connection until later. Perhaps that's all the better as this group has little in common with Have Fun Dying.
Yes, there's a little of the old band's aggressiveness in "American Idles," but there's a decidedly indie-pop angle going on here that also mines a little bit of a retro '80s vibe and garage rock. Sound confusing? Maybe so, but trust me: It unexplainably works here.
The jangle and hook of "Kathleen" makes it an immediate stand out, but the driving urgency of "Choose your Own Adventure" and the insistent grind of "Teenagers Trapped in the Bodies of Teenagers" prove the band is tapping more than a single root from the tree of rock and roll, and this debut is likely a mere glimpse of what we have to look forward to.
Every spin through the disc has revealed something different for me: a touch of Nirvana, a hint of Libertines and Fratellis, maybe a little Artic Monkeys and a hidden education in John Hughes soundtracks from the '80s. Also recorded with Hank Charles at Valcour Sound, this is one of the best indie-pop records I've heard come out of the studio.
If the live show measures up at all, this is the band you'll want to keep an eye out for this year. With a steady stream of shows under its belt to build the live chops, Popular Culture could be a powerhouse on the scene and front-runner for Best New Artist in this year's ABoT music awards. Yes, I'm looking ahead already and yes, I'm that impressed. Remember: You heard about them here first.
Spreading the Weirdness
The other big release party this weekend is Wighead's celebration of indie-pop/rock weirdness, William and Edward Frontage. In true, eclectic, indie-snob fashion, however, this isn't really a CD release as the band is putting out the EP on 7-inch vinyl. It's retro, it's pretty, and it's brilliant.
The music? It's the same. OK, calling it brilliant might be a little bit of a stretch, but it's also leaps and bounds from Wighead's previous work.
Not nearly as stripped back and kitschy, this is a more experimental Wighead, admittedly informed by a steady diet of Pet Sounds, Sgt Pepper and Phil Spector.
After becoming inspired to experiment with instrumentation and vocal harmonies, the group added some new sounds via slide whistle, ukulele, banjo and trumpet. Combined with layered vocals and an altered world view, William and Edward Frontage is what front man Chris Rusk might describe as Wighead's version of one of Spector's "pocket symphonies."
Rusk said that while the group started out as a more electronically oriented act, they wanted to do something more organic this time around, and although they toyed with the idea of using synths to create new sounds, they decided to go with the actual instruments to give it a warmer and more authentic feel.
I've always enjoyed Wighead and the band's offbeat sense of humor. This new direction doesn't strip away the sense of humor, but it certainly makes you look at the band in a new light and consider the band as more than just a novelty act.
A bit of the band's love for The Flaming Lips is apparent here as well, but that's openly allowed within indie rocks circles, especially in Oklahoma, right? After all, if it wasn't at least a little weird, it wouldn't be Wighead would it?
The release party for William and Edward Frontage will be held Saturday night, Feb. 20, at Eclipse. GHOSTS, Daniels and Ptiaradactyl open the show, and cover is only $5.
While you're there, you can pick up your copy of the new Wighead EP on 7-inch vinyl, complete with marbled vinyl and artwork by Denny Schmickle. And don't worry: a CD copy will be included in case you don't have a turntable and/or want to rip it to your iTunes. If you miss the show, you'll have to pick the record up at Dwelling Spaces downtown.
Do Unto Others (Again)
A few weeks ago, we announced a Haitian benefit show planned at Living arts on Jan. 29. Unfortunately, the weather didn't cooperate, but there's still a need in Haiti, so the event has been rescheduled.
Friday, Feb. 19, you'll have an opportunity to help the victims in Haiti and have some fun at the same time as Haitian native Marjorie Bontemps and Living Arts of Tulsa hold a benefit show and party at the Living Arts studios from 7pm to midnight.
The beginning of the evening will be a family friendly affair with a steel drum band playing from 7-8:30pm, while the doors are open for music, food and the opportunity to donate shoes, clothes, perishable items and even money for the earthquake victims. A silent auction will also begin at 7pm and run throughout the evening to help raise money for the cause.
At 9pm, the studio transitions for a dance party featuring DJ Pedro Sanduga, spinning Salsa and Caribbean tunes until midnight, while projectors rotate images of the island, along with some of the country's history.
A $10 cover will be charged at the door for the dance party, with all proceeds directed towards shipping donations to Haiti. In addition, a cash bar and food vendors will be on hand, with a portion of those proceeds directed to the cause as well. Whether you're looking to dance and party or just make a donation, it will be well worth your time to visit Living Arts of Tulsa this Friday evening.
Another week has passed and another upon us. As the weather (potentially) warms up for us, so does the local concert schedule. From local bands to returning hometown heroes to touring national acts, we've got more than a fair share of shows to choose from this week and as always, UTW has the highlights.
Thursdays always have a few safe bets in store, like Dustin and Jesse's Higher Education at Eclipse, but if you're out on Feb. 18 this week, you can't go wrong at Flytrap as MidWest Kings return for a homecoming show with Paco Eastrada & One Love, Nothing More and Bryan Jewett opening the show. Tickets are $15 in advance or $18 at the door.
We've already given you the lowdown on Friday's Popular Culture/Algebra dual CD release party at The Marquee with Lizard Police and The Fiascos for $7. If you're looking for something a little different or rowdy, you can choose between Cairde na Gael, playing "The Great Guinness Toast" at Arnie's or Electric Rag Band at Mercury Lounge on Feb. 19.
Meanwhile, blues fans can check out Joe Mack and Bill Erickson at Hunt Club and Indie-rock fans hit the jackpot at Soundpony with Panda Resistance and Dead Sea Choir.
The biggest show in town on Saturday, Feb. 20 is easily George Strait with Reba McEntire and LeAnn Womack. Just how big is it? Big enough for the sell-out to set a new ticket sales record at BOK Center. Although it's "sold out," we all know there will be a few tickets floating around if you know where to look.
Saturday's other options include the aforementioned Wighead release party at Eclipse, Jackson Taylor and the Sinners at Mercury Lounge, Steve Pryor at Arnie's and perhaps the most interesting diversion of the weekend: Slide performing in the John Williams Theater at the PAC.
Sunday night's indie rock gem is easily the return of Mount Righteous to Soundpony with One Wolf and is definitely worth checking out.
The rest of the week is wrapped up with a series of touring shows at Cain's Ballroom: Yonder Mountain String Band on Sunday, Feb. 21, followed by Switchfoot and Paper Tongues on Monday and Killswitch Engage with Devil Wears Prada and Dark Tranquility on Tuesday, Feb. 23.
Whatever you decide to check out, choose wisely and have fun.
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