POSTED ON MAY 29, 2013:
A Little Country, A Little Red Dirt, A Little DancingRed Dirt Dancehall & Saloon brings live country to South Tulsa
It has probably slipped under your radar (don't worry, it seems to have sneaked by most of Tulsa), but last September, South Tulsa got a new country and Red Dirt venue when Fishbonz quietly closed, underwent a few changes, and reopened as Red Dirt Dancehall & Saloon. The location is still under the umbrella of Donnie Gendron's family of clubs (which includes Market Pub, The Buccaneer Bar, Rooster's, CJ Maloney's and Fishbonz Owasso -- I'm sure I'm missing at least one from the growing empire there, but you get the idea), but now sets itself apart from the rest with not only a prime location (right across from In the Raw South at 61st & Sheridan), but a new identity as the only true country bar in town outside of Caravan Cattle Company.
Much like Caravan, Red Dirt Dancehall (RDD) does sport a DJ and plenty of dancing. Beyond that, though, it's stepping out by featuring live country and Red Dirt on Thursday and Friday nights. At the risk of splitting hairs and getting a few people bent, I'm going to go ahead and call RDD the only live country bar in town. Don't get me wrong, everyone should know by now that I love Mercury Lounge, but I've never considered it a country bar. In my mind, it's simply a bar for hearing great music, and although Reggie brings in a great selection of deep country and emergent Texas acts, the bar's forte is gritty Americana and roots rock. And as much as Woody's has tried through changes in ownership and management, live music has never been its identity or forte. That leaves RDD filling a gap as it brings in more commercial-sounding, emerging country and Red Dirt artists.
Nobody Puts Baby In A Corner. But you can still get in some dirty dancing, even in a line.
Playing a key role in the change of identity and turn in business is Chris Caughron (AKA "Critter"), formerly of Cowboy Sharkies, who was brought on last fall as a regional manager to head up a change in focus and identity for the South Tulsa location. Under his direction, the club changed formats, cleaned up, and effectively changed clientele, transforming from established rock club and meat market to country dancehall (and meat market, but to a lesser extent).
The club is open seven nights a week, with ladies nights on Sunday and Wednesday, $1 PBRs and $3 burgers on Mondays, karaoke on Tuesday and "All request dance party" with DJ Cory Burke on Saturday nights. All that's fine and good, but I find myself more interested in live music, and the bar provides just that every Thursday and Friday night.
In case you think it's a new development, think again: The live music format was in place from the bar's reopening, starting that first weekend with Thomas Martinez taking the stage on September 16. The club focused on local and regional acts throughout the fall and winter and started pulling Texas bands in February with Aaron Watson, Bo Phillips band and Mickey & the Motorcars. The tables turned, however, when RDD stepped out on a limb to bring in national act (and American Idol contestant) Casey James on March 21 and pulled in a huge crowd. Since then, the club has put together a healthy mix of local, regional and emerging national acts in a surprisingly welcoming atmosphere in South Tulsa.
When asked about the change in direction, Caughron shared that when he was brought on, Gendron was looking for a change at the location and when asked if he had any ideas, he immediately answered, "Yes, make it a country bar." Among other things, Caughron saw the city's lack of country clubs and live venues. In addition, he shared that "Live music is a huge passion of mine and always has been -- especially Red Dirt."
With RDD, hosting live music was an easy move. With a stage and sound system in place and a prime location in South Tulsa, the move made perfect sense. It also makes for a perfect venue to see rising acts that haven't made their way to Cain's Ballroom yet. As Caughron pointed out, the stage isn't six feet high and there are no barricades separating the audience from the band. On most nights, the bigger bands draw an audience of 200-300 people (with a capacity of roughly 400), and there is plenty of seating with tables and barstools in a room that's cleaned up, non-smoking, and has a new dance floor. In other words, it's a great way to catch emerging artists and rising bands in an intimate venue before moving up to the bigger rooms.
After taking a risk (which paid off, by the way, with the club's biggest audience to date) with Casey James, RDD has branched out to bring in more emerging artists such as J.T. Hodges, Gloriana, Greg Bates and Bart Crow. Now, instead of calling Nashville asking for dates, the booking agents are starting to call Caughron as the room becomes a target venue for emerging acts coming through Tulsa.
The coming month looks to get interesting as the club's live concert schedule includes Curtis Grimes on June 6, Matt Stell, June 7, JB & the Moonshine Band, June 14, John Slaughter, June 27, and Brandon Rhyder, June 28. The summer continues to shape up with a handful of bands still waiting to be confirmed, but a return by Bo Phillips Band is already confirmed for July 12 with Jody Schmidt Band opening -- a young act that Caughron expects to blow up over the next year and should be a regular guest at RDD in the coming months.
Most interesting to me when I've been in the club is the clientele. Yes, as a country bar it's got plenty of country fans, but the location in South Tulsa has been drawing all types, and the move to be a non-smoking room has expanded the draw to include a slightly older crowd that comes out to dance in the earlier part of the evening before giving way to the younger, late-night party crowd. And even though it's in South Tulsa, I've stopped in to see friends play on occasion and the bar is packed out after country shows like Eric Church and Jason Aldean let out at BOK, making it an essential post-concert nightcap. And let's face it: we may not be as forward or crass, but Luke Bryan ain't the only one that likes to watch the country girls (and wannabe country girls) dance.
There is one thing that seems to get overlooked, however, that Caughron admits is still a curiosity he hasn't figured out. I'll admit, I don't think about it when I'm out and you'd never expect it, but RDD has a full kitchen that's open from 4pm until midnight seven nights a week. And this isn't your standard, greasy bar food. With a menu that ranges from $5.95 to $9.95, the club offers everything from burgers ($5.95) to a full steak dinner. A sampling of everything from grilled, bacon-wrapped stuffed jalapenos to the steak -- served with fresh chimichurri sauce, grilled vegetables and garlic mashed potatoes -- makes a stout argument for the best bar food in town. (And with a $10 steak this good, it puts a double meaning on the "meat market" label if you're hanging out to dance and flirt with the ladies.) So if you're planning on going out, you're not gambling to start early at RDD for dinner -- or if you roll in late, don't forget that the full menu is available until midnight for some amazing late night eats.
Mostly, though, Tulsa needs to know it's got a solid country club standing tall out south with cold beer, country music and plenty of those dancing country girls. Do yourself a favor and check it out.
Send all comments and feedback regarding SoundCheck to email@example.com.
Call it what you want and abide by the calendar's date of June 21 for the summer solstice if you must, but Memorial Day has come and gone, and summer is here. If the temperatures don't tell you, the concert calendar will -- and although the holiday weekend festivals have come through, we've still got plenty going on in Tulsa. As always, you can get the full listings in the events section of the paper, but here are this week's highlights to point you out the door.
Thursday, May 30
Sir Paul McCartney wraps up his two night stand at BOK Center, but this time, you can still get tickets from the box office, so this is your chance to mark him off the "bucket list" and see a living rock legend. Meanwhile, The Mowglis spread the love at Vanguard with American Authors, Scott Ellison and Little Joe McClerran throw down some blues at Shrine, Dachshund and Gigantic go indie at Treehouse and John Moreland rocks The Yeti.
Friday, May 31
You can wrap up the month with one of the strongest female voices in country music as Martina McBride plays The Joint or get your guitar rock fix at Shrine with local favorite, Gooding. Also on the agenda, The Last Slice holds a CD release party at Vanguard, sharing the bill with Abandon Kansas, Roots of Thought and The Wafflestompers while Dante & the Hawks play Hunt Club and Sam & the Stylees bring the reggae to The Yeti.
Saturday, June 1
Americana-punk icons Social Distortion return to Cain's Ballroom with Broncho opening the show for the best bet of the night. Afterwards, head over to Mercury Lounge for Jason and the Punknecks for a great after party or take a walk down the street to get funky with James Douglas Show at Vanguard.
Sunday, June 2
Guthrie Green continues its Sunday series with Red Dirt Rangers celebrating the band's 25th anniversary. Later, you can finish your night with Brandon Clark, Dustin Pittsley and Barrelhouse Revelers at Mercury Lounge, but don't plan on resting yet because we've got a full week ahead of us.
Monday June 3
Passion Pit hits Cain's with Cults opening.
Tuesday, June 4
Gogol Bordello finally returns for a highly anticipated show at Cain's Ballroom with Bombino that has had a huge buzz from the time it was announced. The week's stealth show that threatens to slip under the radar, however, is a low-dough, $5 show at Vanguard with The Neighborhood and 1975. The only question right now is which of the two bands is the bigger draw.
Wednesday, June 5
Finally, the week wraps up as The Staves return to Cain's Ballroom with a new full-length album in hand and Musikanto opening the night. Meanwhile, The Vanguard hosts "Comic Relief," a comedy show and benefit for the victims of the tornado in Moore.
That only leads into the big "Tulsa Gives Moore" benefit show being planned for June 7, but we'll have more information on that next week.
URL for this story: http://www.urbantulsa.comhttp://www.urbantulsa.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A60577