POSTED ON NOVEMBER 17, 2010:
Back to Basics
Adam Lopez lets the music set the tone and gets back to his roots
For anyone who is familiar with Adam Lopez only peripherally, the release of his latest disc, Rock & Roll Is My Superpower, and it's decidedly rockabilly backbeats may seem like a departure. If you've really paid attention, however, that's not necessarily the case.
Although many assumed Lopez to be a reggae artist by nature of his dreadlocks and song titles such as "Pholk Souljah," the roots of that disc were truly based in rock, R&B, soul and blues. There were a few reggae undertones and shuffles in the background, but the main Rasta influence was more evident in Lopez's social conscious messages within the songs.
With Rock & Roll Is My Superpower, Lopez lets the music itself stand front and center as he gets back to the roots of the music he grew up with and still listens to most often. When asked about the transition in sound and style, Lopez said he feels "the only real difference is the guitar is more out front."
"Primarily, I just wanted to play guitar more," Lopez said with a chuckle. "Of all the things I do, that's what want to and like to do the most."
By letting the guitars sit front and center, Lopez has released a disc that's more upbeat and danceable and he acknowledges, "It's more accessible. I realized it doesn't have to be super serious. I just want to be accessible to as many people as possible."
Once again, Lopez wrote and recorded the entire disc on his own, playing or programming all the parts and instruments and recording in his own home studio. Instead of overworking the material, however, Lopez keeps things stripped back and simple this time, channeling a distinct '50s and rockabilly groove. Perhaps the best example is "Lorelei", with its shuffling beat and reverb drenched twang, with the guitar sitting right up front in the mix.
This is the kind of stuff that recalls images of sock hops and pompadours, something that Lopez both acknowledges and embraces. In fact, that's just the vibe that Lopez was going for and is looking to recreate with his "Route 66 Rock & Roll Ball", this coming Wednesday, Nov. 24 at the Blue Dome Diner.
The Rock & Roll Ball will be an all-ages show, featuring Adam Lopez and the Lo-Tops, his classic based trio that includes upright bassist Steve Huhn and drummer Rick Reavis. Also on the bill are Brian Parton, Kelli Lynn and the Skillet Lickers and The Dale Lawton Stampede, all of which channel different sides of the rockabilly movement. Doors open at 7pm with a focus on making the show a dance party, with the band encouraging all to dress in '50s era rockabilly clothes and all donations for cover at the door being donated to Northeast Oklahoma Food Bank.
This Friday night, Lopez will be appearing at Ida Red at 7:30pm as part of Kelly Kerr's "Axe Men" exhibit opening, and then the bad will be performing at the Crystal Pistol as the unofficial Revered Horton Heat afterparty as "The Rev" concert at Cain's Ballroom lets out at roughly 11pm.
Of primary importance, however, is the return of Lopez to the local music scene after becoming deathly ill and sitting out for an extended period. Now that Lopez is healthy and back with a new CD, he's ready to get back out and about with his new trio and reestablish himself on the local music scene.
The new tunes have already drawn his some attention, including endorsements by Hahn Guitars and Hawley's -- a barbershop in California that will be dragging him out to the state for a run of shows early next year and even expressed interest in sending him to Australia earlier this fall for the grand opening of a new shop there.
As of right now, however, it's time to get reacquainted with Lopez and push away any preconceived notions of what he or his music may be or represent. Lopez's superpower is front and center on the new disc and it's unfiltered, straight up rock & roll -- straight from the heart and Fender tube amp. If you like it simple and straight forward, you won't be disappointed.
A couple of weeks back, I made reference to Oklahoma City-based Pretty Black Chains, as their single, "Amanda" appears on the current Edge Homegroan CD. The great irony in that song appearing on the disc is that although it was just released on the band's debut CD, Ceremonies, at the end of September, the band already considers the song (as well as all the other material on the new disc) out of date and has moved on to playing new material.
Whereas the songs on Ceremonies still channel a slightly retro '80s vibe that came to the surface in guitarist and principle songwriter Derek Knowlton's previous band, The Stock Market Exchange, the new material veers back to the heavier tones of early grunge acts like Alice in Chains and Soundgarden. In fact, the more groove oriented new material that the band played when opening for Smashing Pumpkins steps back into a vibe that not only reminded me of Southern Death Cult, but scrolled more obviously back to the godfathers of hard rock and blues groove, Led Zeppelin.
When asking Knowlton about his music evolution, he said that with Stock Market Exchange, he was just beginning to find himself and now he's tapping back into the grunge influences of the bands that he grew up listening to.
"Our sound combines '70s rock and grunge with a modern twist," he commented, adding that "Music goes in cycles and trends. Rock in the '70s kind of died with the '80s and the synth movement, then the '90s was kind of a comeback. I feel like that's where we're at now with people listening to band like Black Keys. It's cycling back and people are getting back into real, basic rock and roll again."
Although Pretty Black Chains came together almost two years ago, the band has only played Tulsa a very limited number of times. Now that the band is hitting its groove, however, it's ready to break into the Tulsa market and will be playing a gig at The Colony with Native Lights this Saturday, Nov. 20. We don't get many OKC bands crossing lines to come over to Tulsa, but this is one we need hare and should adopt as our own.
When you check them out, make sure and pick up the five-song demo EP they've got, as it's a better representation of where the band is at now. It's also got more of the raw energy and passion that we need injected into our live scene. My bet is that Saturday nights show will rattle the walls of The Colony like they haven't been rattled since Radio Moscow dropped in a couple of months ago and nearly melted down into the reincarnated Black Sabbath. This one's a must see this weekend.
If you're looking for this week's highlights to get you pointed out the door, you know we're always here for you with the best bets of the week. Of course, I can't list everything, so consider these highlights and if you don't see anything that suits your taste, refer to our events calendar or check in at your favorite club to see what's going on.
On Thursday night, Nov. 18, you can settle in for a pint at Arnie's and a great Celtic vibe with Cairde na Gael or get your indie rock fix with The Eek Bandits at Soundpony. The best bet of the night for hardcore Americana and singer/songwriter fans, however, is The Flatlanders (featuring Joe Ely, Jimmy Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock) at the PAC's Williams Theater with Jimmie Dale's son, Colin Gilmore opening the show. If you're looking to laugh, however, you can't go wrong with Cheech & Chong at the Tulsa Convention Center.
Friday, Nov. 19, continues to ramp up into the weekend with Jesse Aycock at Arnie's, Dante and the Hawks at Hunt Club, and Klondike 5 at Soundpony. The real highlight of the evening, however, is easily Reverend Horton Heat at Cain's Ballroom -- then there's the unofficial after party at Crystal Pistol with Adam Lopez and the Lo-Tops.
For all that we've got leading into the weekend, Saturday night, Nov. 20, is the busiest. Not only does Mercury Lounge bring Bright Giant to town and the Colony hosts Pretty Black Chains with Native Lights and Soundpony blows things out with Algebra, Here Is There and The Mike Dee Experience -- and those are just the small shows.
Stepping things up a bit, Joesf Glaude headlines the annual B.U.S. concert for the Day Center for the Homeless at Church of the Resurrection and The Rocket Summer appears at The Marquee. You want bigger yet? How about Mr. VH1 and "The Apprentice" himself, Bret Michaels pulling some hair metal nostalgia at The Joint at the Hard Rock Casino? The biggest show of the weekend, though, is easily the main event at BOK Center: Brad Paisley with Darius Rucker, both of which have new albums to support which were released within the last few weeks.
Sunday night levels out, but you can still get your music fix with Dave and the Haters at Hunt Club or relax with Brandon Clark at Mercury Lounge.
The week finally wraps up on Wednesday night, heading into Thanksgiving weekend with the aforementioned "Route 66 Rock & Roll Ball" with Adam Lopez, Brian Parton, Kelli Lynn and the Skillet Lickers and Dale Lawton Stampede at Blue Dome Diner.
The young (and young at heart), however, may best find their celebration of the long holiday weekend at Cain's Ballroom on Nov. 24 with Forever the Sickest Kids, I See Stars, Runner Runner and Chasing Eminence.
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