POSTED ON NOVEMBER 10, 2010:
Paved With Gold
Yellow Brick Road offers intimate venue for local bands
While most of Tulsa is climbing into bed and getting ready for the work week, a couple dozen people pile into a smoky neighborhood bar that's quickly and quietly becoming one of the city's most rewarding places to enjoy original music.
Over the past few months, Sunday nights at Yellow Brick Road (or YBR as the regulars call it) have become a showcase for up-and-coming Tulsa bands.
The bar has always had live music, but until bartender Brandy Iliff got involved, it was mostly background noise from cover bands that offered little to nothing for anyone looking to hear something new.
Iliff said at first, she was just looking for a way to make her own Sunday night shifts more enjoyable.
"Sundays were slow, and I knew lots of people in bands, so I thought it'd be nice to be around my friends and give them a place to play," she said.
That place isn't a typical music venue. There's no stage. No lights. Not even a PA system. Before bands can set up, they first have to move tables and chairs to make a clearing across from the bar.
The result is an extremely intimate setting that finds musicians literally face to face with the audience. The close confines would make some people uncomfortable, but not Blake Swaney. His band, Northside Hotdogs, played its debut show at Yellow Brick Road and has played there several times since. He says YBR is his favorite place to perform.
"We've played at Eclipse, which is great because it's big," he said. "But it's nice to be so close to the people you're playing for."
Swaney's Northside Hotdogs is a four-piece group specializing in heavy instrumental rock -- one of the many genres that make up the musical mélange offered up Sundays at Yellow Brick Road.
On any given Sunday, one might hear the hip-hop grooves of Here Is There, or the punk-influenced but pop-saturated sounds of indie rockers Lizard Police. (My own band, GHOSTS, has played YBR several times and we've always had a blast.)
Brandy Iliff books the bands and said she likes introducing her customers to new groups and artists.
"I like underdogs. I like diversity," she said.
At Yellow Brick Road, diversity thrives in more than just music.
The bar is gay-friendly, but everyone is welcome, including some people who say they're surprisingly comfortable in the sexually diverse crowd.
Iliff says customers -- gay and straight alike -- show up for the same reasons.
"They come for the music ... and the cheap drinks (laughs)."
In addition to pouring drinks and managing music, Iliff also serves up free (and delicious) pizza from next-door neighbor Pie Hole.
The YBR music scene may be expanding in the near future. Owner Kenny Johnston and a partner recently opened the "Warehouse Bar" on Peoria in the spot occupied in the past few years by the "Brookside Bar". The bar has had a couple shows there in the few months it has been open, and Johnston says he plans to have a lot more live music soon.
In the meantime, there's plenty of original music to take in at YBR.
Two fun and upbeat bands -- HipHopotamus and indie rockers Midtown and Down -- are set to play this Sunday, Nov. 14.
So if you're looking for a free show, a good time and some of Tulsa's best original music ... just follow the Yellow Brick Road.
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