Oklahomegrown Getting Bigger and Better
The idea behind the Oklahomegrown Music Showcase started with a simple mission: To help Oklahoma bands grow and thrive while helping raise much needed resources for those in their communities who are suffering. It is an idea conceived by Jason Ford, Steven Davison and Blake Parks, who not only wanted to do some good for their community but wanted to leave a lasting impression on their audience by putting on an amazing performance on a truly great stage. The show has taken place at the Cain's both years, which is an accomplishment because shows there typically don't have local musicians unless they are openers, and has helped raise funds for Red Dirt Relief Fund last year and Cancer Sucks this year. And although this is only the second installment, the Oklahomegrown Music Showcase shows promise of becoming one of the most anticipated shows on the schedule in the coming years.
I arrived early to Cain's Ballroom to meet Jason Ford, one of the artists who made the event possible, out front to receive my press pass. A feeling of euphoria poured over me as I took the backing off and stuck it to my pants. I'd never had full and unabated access to this historic venue and I was more than ready to take full advantage. I came through the doors to see an empty ballroom floor. It is hauntingly beautiful to see the Cain's in a calm state before the masses have congregated on the dance floor. As I made my way to the backstage area to begin scouting my locations out for taking pictures during the show, I start looking over all the signatures of world famous musicians who have walked this backstage hall and played upon the stage on the other. It hits me that people I call my friends and colleagues will soon be playing upon that same stage and I can't help but smile.
After reveling in my childlike joy for around an hour, I positioned myself near the center stage to start getting ready to take pictures of the first band. After an introduction by "Turbo" Gary Webb, NoiseBleedsSound were the ones to get to kick off the evening's festivities. NoiseBleedsSound are an alternative rock band who hails from Oklahoma City but has garnered quite a following in Tulsa and the regional area due to their eclectric sound and outstanding stage presence. This was their first year as part of the Oklahomegrown Music Showcase. Their energy while on stage was absolutely electric and you could feel their excitement flowing through their music. Their power packed set was uptempo and engaging from start to finish and the quality of their sound was just as satisfying as watching their vigorous display. They even included their cover of Cage The Elephant's "Ain't No Rest For The Wicked". With guitarists Parker Rhea and Jack Martin climbing on the drum riser and jumping off, front woman Michelle Demers belting out vocals at an impressive range, and Gabe Martin and Jeff Kirbas holding down the rhythm section on drums and bass (respectively), NoiseBleedsSound set a strong foundation for all the other acts to build on from the get go.
Next to take the stage was Golden Ones. Big hair. Loud Outfits. A larger than life attitude about them while they were on stage. It was like the whole room had been put in a time machine and sent back to the 70s to watch a rock show in its hay day. And they delivered a performance as outlandishly awesome as their outfits! This glam rock group from here in Tulsa is one I'd only heard about but never actually heard and I'm so thankful I got to see them perform. When lead singer Sarah Dickenson wasn't killing it with her powerful vocals or strumming on a guitar, she was out strutting like a rock diva or dancing like no one was watching. Jesse Frick's bass lines were driving and the effects on them complimented their style of rock perfectly. His on stage chemistry with Sarah was exceptional and lead to some memorable moments during their set (note: Sarah and Jesse are engaged and you can tell just by their on stage antics). Lead guitarist Sean Fisher was more reserved than the rest on stage but he let his work on the frets do the talking for him. And Jay Sullivan held his own on the drumkit with an intensity that matched the spirit of the style of music Golden Ones were playing. This was also Golden One's first year as part of this is show but I would expect to see them return in the future.
Following Golden Ones was the highly anticipated act Weston Horn & The Hush. Weston Horn & The Hush has become a tremendously sought after act in Tulsa, opening for some great national acts who've came through town and taking the stage at events like Rocklahoma and, later on this year, the Tulsa State Fair. They have also recorded 3 music videos over the course of the last two years that have done fairly well on social media circuits. Needless to say, grabbing a location anywhere close to center stage for taking photos was nearly impossible as fans stood elbow to elbow waiting for Weston Horn & The Hush to begin.
And man did they ever put on a show. With a full horns section, WH&TH brings the spectacle of a big band to the fans and I've yet to attend a show of theirs where all the musicians involved in the band were not spot on in their delivery of their music. They make what must be frustrating amount of coordination and effort look like a breeze and like a ton of fun. And the crowd reacted accordingly as they were engaged and visibly entertained throughout the whole set. They nearly came unhinged when the song "Shake" was performed. WH&TH provided that mid-show punch of juice to keep the crowd hooked and interested, which is sometimes where these multi-genre shows fall a bit flat.
Filling the fourth spot is a band who's been around the block more once in the Tulsa area, Skytown. Skytown has been on the scene since 2012 and have played at multiple large scale events over the course of the years. But the OklahomeGrown Music Showcase holds a bit of a special place for them as one founders, Jason Ford, plays in this band. Skytown's sound is as unique as it is varied as they have, at any given time, 3 guitars playing. Jason Ford, Tim Burress and John Edens all coordinate efforts with different sounds to their guitars and with different tunings to make their music memorable. It becomes even more impressive whenever Dale Crain is thrown in the mix and adds a fourth guitar to the mix. Throw all this in with the extremely talented rhythm section of David Williams on bass and Eliot Cooper on drums and you have a recipe for success. Skytown's fans showed up and showed out for this show and the performance of the band was Cain's stage worthy. They performed such fan favorites as "Through Circles" and "Letters to Hagrid" and threw in the ever popular drinking song, "Drove Me To Drink". During the latter song, they invited the members of NoiseBleedsSound on stage with them to sing along, much to the pleasure of the audience who were also emphatically singing along (even adding the parts Skytown were editing out on stage). With a set that highlighted their versatility, intelligent songwriting and truly unique sound, Skytown showed why they are a heavy hitter within the Tulsa music community.
Up after that was the another Tulsa based band, Good Villains. I must admit that I haven't seen these guys since last year's OklahomeGrown Music Showcase and I feel as though I've missed out on a big thing by not seeing them within this time. While all of the other acts had their own fantastic sense of pageantry to it, Good Villains went above and beyond to immerse the audience into a different world during their set. Good Villains take the Doom Pop genre and turn the intensity of the creepiness up to 11 and rip off the knob (excuse the cliche, but it was pretty indescribable). They even had an extremely all monster who roamed on stage and amongst the crowd. From the intro to the last note, they held an atmosphere of doom and gloom while enrapturing the crowd with their musical prowess. Caleigh Trotter's beautiful crooning vocals sound comparable to best female singers of the 30s era. Keeping some odd timing, but fitting and well played, on the drums was one of the founders of the event, Steven Davison. Todd Shaver's work on the bass was exceptional and Tedd Scott had a very distinctive sound on his guitar that added to the ambiance of the performance. Good Villains again proved that they not only belong on stage beside big acts with their showmanship and musical ability, but should be a headliner in their own right.
The final act to graze the stage was NicNos. NicNos hails from just down the road in OKC. NicNos was a perfect choice to end the night with as they are high energy and hard hitting with their music. And fortunately, a very good portion of the crowd had stayed in waiting to see them perform. And perform they did! Their style of hard rock infused with blues went over well with the crowd. Josh Cox has an infectious voice with a ridiculously good range and the ability to change pitch on an instant. But he also has a good stage presence about him as he swaggers around the stage and engages with his audience. Parker Rhea pulled double duty as he played on stage again, except this time on bass. And he transitions seamlessly from one to the other. He lost none of his childlike stamina even though it was later in the evening and this was his second set. But his mastery of any fretboard was evident on the bass. Nick Sigman's guitar shined through as well as he laid down impressive riffs and solos that perfectly embodied the mixture of hard rock and blues. And a band that plays this style would be nothing if not for the impeccable rhythm and timing of the drummer holding it down, Jerred Bauer. With the fills placed splendidly and the beat on point, he magnificently handled himself behind the kit.
Overall it was a great experience and I'm glad that I not only got to participate as an audience member but as a press member for the event as well. And while there is still room to grow for the fledgling event, the second run through went very well. Bands quickly transitioned on and off stage. People were not complaining about the talent. There were more willing sponsors and the pool of musicians has expanded. Awareness of the show was improved this year through radio advertisement and feet on the ground handing out REAL fliers. This showcase has no where to go but up and I look forward to seeing where it goes in the future.