POSTED ON MAY 15, 2013:
Rocker gets back to, well, rocking
When I last crossed paths and caught up with Beau Jennings, he was still a man in transition -- an Oklahoma boy living in New York, yet reconnecting with his roots working on an ambitious project to combine music and film with Verdigris: The Search for Will Rogers.
In the spring of 2011, the Verdigris project was just emerging out of the conceptual stages, and Jennings was playing a series of shows to raise funds to bring his vision to fruition.
As such, the plan was for Jennings to travel the country and record songs about Rogers in the locations of significant events in his life: where he was married, where he performed vaudeville, any of a number of events and adventures. Beyond just a series of field recordings, however, the initial idea expanded to become a documentary film about both Will Rogers' life and the process.
Now two years later, the recording is done and the film and album are in production stages nearing release. After so much time focused on writing about Will Rogers and focusing on the Verdigris project, however, Jennings was ready to expand his vision again. Although I'd heard about Beau Jennings and the Tigers and seen dates for performances in Oklahoma City, Norman and Edmond, Jennings hadn't previously migrated back towards Tulsa. That changes this weekend as the group plays Mercury Lounge on Saturday night with John Moreland and the Dustbowl Souls.
When asked how the current band came together, Jennings said, "The short version is, as I was moving back to Oklahoma from New York, my friend Brad Beasley asked if I would play a show. I didn't have a band at the time, so I gathered a group of friends in Norman and said, 'Let's do this.'"
When Jennings first started playing with the Tigers, it was a larger band with two keyboards and additional players, but the group has settled into a tighter configuration, at least when playing with Jennings. All of the members of the group have their own projects as well, with Chase Kirby (on keyboards, guitar and backing vocals) and bassist Michael Tripanye also anchoring Defining Times, drummer Eric Nauni playing with Student Film and Jeff Richardson performing as Brother Gruesome in Norman. All of them come together and shift their focus a bit, however, as The Tigers, playing as a more straight ahead, tightly focused rock band akin to what The Heartbreakers are to Tom Petty or Crazy Horse is to Neil Young.
After playing shows together for roughly a year, the collaboration released a debut EP, Sweet Action, as Beau Jennings & the Tigers in February. The five songs present not only the band, but Jennings in a different light than you've heard any of them previously. One part Tom Petty, one part Steve Earle and one part Killers, the disc retains Jennings' distinct lyrical signature and sensibilities, yet delivers them in a crisp, concise package that mixes rock with a slight tinge of country.
As Jennings explained the writing process, "It's similar to what I've done in the past: I have a skeleton, and the band brings in their ideas and helps flesh it out. Most of my songs are more lyrically forward, so that's in place first and foremost. My thought is that the main musical idea can be applied once the lyrics are in place," he said.
After a long wait to see this group finally make its way to Tulsa, fans should be fulfilled this Saturday night as the group shares the bill with John Moreland & the Dustbowl Souls.
Moreland has always been an incredible songwriter, but after his previous group, The Black Gold Band, splintered, he sat out of the live scene for a bit. Just because he was playing live didn't mean he wasn't writing, and Moreland churned out a series of releases, including the albums Things I Can't Control, Earthbound Blues and Everything the Hard Way as well as the Hope Springs Ephemeral and Tear Me Back Apart/Blues & Kudzu EP's, all since 2010.
Over the past year and a half, however, Moreland has finally emerged from the shadows and started performing more regularly again, first in acoustic shows (both solo and with Mike Williams) and more recently with his current band, The Dustbowl Souls. In fact, Moreland recently did a short tour at the end of April that took him through Colorado and out to the West coast and his summer schedule is filling up with a mix of solo and band shows.
When paired with Jennings, this promises to be a great show as Moreland's writing blurs the lines between rock, blues and country and he delivers it with an intensity that comes from his early days playing in punk bands. Springsteen, Mellencamp and Steve Earle all fall into the mix and are delivered with a touch of Mike Ness when Moreland opens up to full roar. When combining that with Jennings' tighter direction with The Tigers, that makes this a show worth going out of your way to check out.
I know it's Mayfest weekend, but you'll either want to duck out a little early on Saturday night, May 18, or head straight down Boston Avenue once the festival is over to catch a pair of great songwriters delivering some of their tightest tunes to date. After all, they'll be playing late and cover is only $5 at Mercury Lounge, 1747 S. Boston.
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Spring is officially here, as witnessed by the arrival of Mayfest and Blue Dome Arts Festival, and while many people will take advantage of the beautiful weather and free concerts downtown, that's not all we've got going on this week. You can check out all the Mayfest highlights in this week's cover story. If you're ready to hit the clubs, though, check these options out and if you don't see something that suits your taste, make sure to scan the events calendar for the full listings.
Thursday, May 16
If you're looking to relax, you can get your jam band fix at Hunt Club with Ego Culture or go a more bluegrass/jam route with Dirty Creek Bandits at The Colony. If you're ready to rock out, however, kick start your weekend at The Yeti with a punk show featuring Brutally Frank and The Dirty Mugs.
Friday, May 17
Jason Boland & the Stragglers return to Cain's Ballroom with Jason Eady opening for the Red Dirt and Texas country crowd. Just down the street, Brian Hughes is back in town and playing Hunt Club for a solid afterparty option. Meanwhile, Vanguard hosts a flock of acts from the OKC scene with Hitt Boyz, Tallows, Indian Giver, Busty Brunettes and The Flood. If you're ready to dance, head out to The Shrine for the ISHI CD release party with DJ Robbo spinning before and after.
Saturday, May 18
Beau Jennings & the Tigers share the Mercury Lounge stage with John Moreland & the Dustbowl Souls and The Shrine hosts a great local rock show with RL Jones, The Bourgeois and Zero Crossing. If you're in a folk or Red Dirt mood, you can catch Samantha Crain at The Colony and Randy Crouch at Hunt Club. Finally, metal heads get their overdue fix at Cain's Ballroom with Opeth and Katatonia.
Sunday, May 19
Guthrie Green continues its Sunday afternoon series, with (Jenks HS senior) Grant Wiscaver, the bluegrass of SpinStreet and GAST Baskapelle playing traditional German music and polkas for an eclectic afternoon. Afterwards, settle in with your old favorites for a night of song swapping with Paul Benjaman & Friends at The Colony or Brandon Clark at Mercury Lounge.
Monnday, May 20
The Vanguard hosts a rock show that makes it worth extending your weekend and being miserable at work the next day as The Virginmarys bring British rock and garage punk energy together for a night you won't want to miss. Well Hung Heart and The Bourgeois open, and tickets are only $10 in advance or $13 at the door for a show that starts at 6:30pm.
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