POSTED ON FEBRUARY 29, 2012:
A New Direction
A live music staple, 18th & Boston's Treehouse realigns
Looking back to my earliest days in Tulsa (in the mid-80s), the corner of 18th and Boston has always been an anchor for local, live music. Back then, it was via Hoffbrau, where the food and beer was prominent, but there was always live music flowing on the weekends.
Over the years that location changed ownership, management and identity, transforming into Steamroller Blues and Boston's, where live music was a staple of the room's identity. The neighborhood also blossomed with live music at what also flowed through a number of identities including Maple Ridge Grill, Liquids and The Venue before dissolving into the current dance club Pink. For a few years, that left Mercury Lounge as the sole venue to carry on the live music tradition in the neighborhood.
Roughly a year and a half ago, The Treehouse opened in the location that once housed Hoffbrau, Steamroller and Boston's, and held out hope for the return of a steady stream of live music to that room with a new stage, intelligent lights and one of the best sound systems in town. As fate would have it, though, the room has struggled with finding its identity. Live acts have flowed through the doors, but the room has struggled with deciding what it wanted to be -- at times hosting live acts and a few great original acts and other times catering to the nightclub crowd with DJ's and dancing.
From a strictly business standpoint, it's hard to fault owners for catering to the high-volume dance crowd and the prospect of moving tons of drinks with a booming business. Even so, as a live music fan, the room has been frustrating at best. There have been some nights where live acts had the room packed and business boomed. Other nights haven't been as successful, but that's part of the game.
Perhaps most frustrating has been the lack of focus and seeing live bands rushed off stage around midnight to set up DJs and transition from the live music to the dance crowds. Splitting the difference is a nice idea, but when an artist books the room for a CD release party, then has set times moved and is rushed to finish early, it ends up frustrating not only for the artist, but the fans as well. Even so, the room has so much potential, it's nearly impossible to not want to see it succeed in rediscovering an identity as a true live music venue.
A few weeks ago, I got a message from new general manager Logan Brosky indicating that The Treehouse is headed in a new direction musically and making a concerted effort to establish itself as one of Tulsa's legitimate music venues. Part of that comes from building off of a few weekly gigs that have been established and are starting to take root.
Tuesday nights feature Paul Benjaman with an acoustic gig while Wednesdays have become a staple for Grazzhopper, the acoustic duo that features Cody Brewer and Dylan Angleton and blurs the lines between pop, bluegrass, jam and folk genres. Sunday nights have also become an essential in the weekly Treehouse lineup with the Bramhall Blues Review gig establishing itself as one of Sunday evening's anchor shows for the local music scene.
More important in establishing an identity, though, will be how Treehouse approaches its weekend bookings and Brosky has big things in store. Firm dates are yet to be confirmed and announced, but Brosky has approached bands ranging from Snarky Puppy to Guy Clark Jr., Tea Leaf Green, Missing Cats (a Widespread Panic side-project) and even Mickey Hart Band. In other words, The Treehouse is getting serious about changing its image and direction.
Only time will tell if the plan will work and if audiences will accept the new direction, but I firmly believe that if they book quality acts and get the word out, Tulsa will respond. The room has always had great potential, now it's just a matter of living up to it. As music fans, however, we've got to look at the big picture, not just the big acts, and the transition is already beginning, as can be seen by this Thursday night's gig.
Get Your Dead On
Grazzhopper takes a different tack this Thursday night, March 1, and dives headlong with friends into the most revered jam band of all time with a Grateful Dead tribute night dubbed "American Beauty." Simply a night of Grateful Dead tunes would be a welcome addition on a beautiful Tulsa evening, but this looks to be something special.
Planned guests for the evening include Dylan Layton (Whirligig, Big O Show, Brad James Band), Paul Benjaman, Jordan Holt and Josh Coffman (Moai Broadcast) and Damon Daniels (Ego Culture, Steve Pryor Band), although the possibility is high that we'll see quite a few others show up and join in the celebration. More than just revisiting the classics, however, Cody Brewer indicated that the evening will explore all eras of the Dead's career arc. If that's the case, I'll be looking forward to dipping back into Blues for Allah and In the Dark as well as hearing staples from Workingman's Dead, American Beauty and Terrapin Station. Regardless of the set list, this promises to be a good example of where management would like to see the music go and a great night to see a handful of friends interact within a classic catalog.
Hopefully we'll see more gigs like this and more touring acts utilize The Treehouse stage over the next few months. It's going to be a rough road, however, so long as the club continues to bounce between live acts and DJ's, potentially alienating both crowds. In the meantime, I'll hold out hope that the room can find an identity and win over the live audience once again in one of the rooms that has the most potential in town.
Over in the Pearl District on Friday night, March 2, The Eclipse plays host to a triple bill that includes two acts looking for a fresh start. The Bourgeois and Foreign Home both bring familiar faces to the stage while Wolves round out the evening's lineup.
The Bourgeois still strikes me as Tulsa's curios band with the most potential at this point as Zach Mobely continues to develop as a songwriter. His single, "Perverting the American Dream" was standout on the latest Homegroan compilation CD and he's recently reformed his live band as The Bourgeois, incorporating drummer Jason Largent and bassist Jeremy Quaid from Popular Culture with guitarist Dustin Howard (My Solstice, King Cobra), giving the group a new chemistry.
When discussing the lineup and new songs with Mobely, he shared that Popular Culture broke up for a short period, at which point he went to New York and recorded the aforementioned track, as well as "Opium for the Masses" and "Mi Amour" with Stephen Haigler, who has previously engineered the past three albums for The Pixies. Upon returning, he reformed with his old Popular Culture band mates and added Howard to the fold on guitar.
To date, the new combination has worked out well with the group already beginning to write additional material. As Mobley stated "It clicked pretty quick with Dustin and added another dimension to what we're doing. It's been cool writing, because I write differently than he would and he approached things differently than I would, so it's kind of pushed us both outside of our comfort zones."
Right now, Mobely is focused on growing the band and continuing to write with an eye on possibly releasing a few new songs in April or May. In the meantime, the group continues to put together a few strategic shows like last month's appearance on the Edge's Homegroan showcase and this weekend's gig at Eclipse.
Also worth taking not of on this show is Foreign Home, formerly known as Motive For Movement, as Deric Williams and company refocus and start afresh with a new name and a new EP due this spring. This is one of the band's first gigs under the new moniker and a chance to catch them early as they start off in a new direction. Doors open at 8pm and music starts at 9pm, so make sure and check this one out.
Send all comments and feedback regarding SoundCheck to firstname.lastname@example.org.
URL for this story: http://www.urbantulsa.comhttp://www.urbantulsa.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A47238