“I hope all this effort is worth it.”
– Joe Schicke
The struggle is real.
As we enter the second month of shelter in place ordinances in Tulsa, the service industry is reeling. Musicians are among the hardest hit, as most rely heavily on live gigs for their income. While we can still get food from our favorite restaurants by picking up curbside, there’s no curbside pickup option for live music to keep our musicians afloat.
Each month I do my best to tell you about the vibrant local music scene in Tulsa. I’m motivated to do this, well, because I have a deadline, but also because I want to introduce the reader to the beauty of our music scene and all the joy it can bring to your life. In other words, what music can do for you. This month, I’m going to take a cue from JFK and write not about what local music can do for you, but what you can do for local music.
Buy an Album
I had to remind myself this month that Searching for the Sound is about local music, not necessarily live music. There are several outstanding albums available from local artists that will provide you with far better entertainment than whatever is left on your Netflix watch list.
The opening quote of this month’s column is from the song, Effort, which I’m naming the official anthem of 2020. You heard it here first. Written by former Tulsa-based musician Joe Schicke who currently is in Colorado, it’s one of many great songs on the album, Brad James Band at Fellowship Hall, released last August and available at hortonrecords.org. I’ve been a fan of Brad James since his Medicine Show days, so this album was a must have for me the day it came out. If you’re a fan of bands like The Grateful Dead, The Band, The Allman Brothers Band and Little Feat, it’s a must have for you, too.
Also from Horton Records is the latest Tulsa-area compilation album, Vibrations from Tulsa, available May 1. Including a range of genres like garage, psych, rock and metal, this two-LP vinyl features 17 local artists, both established and up and coming, providing a great snapshot of the current local music scene, and an opportunity to discover new artists to go see live once the social distancing restrictions have lifted.
My favorite shred dirt rockers BC and the Big Rig recently released a live album, Tour De Dive Bar, available on all digital platforms and at bcandthebigrig.com. The album features 26 songs recorded at four different shows, including three previously unreleased originals, as well as songs from the band’s three studio albums, and covers of the Beastie Boys “Sabotage,” and the blues standard, “Spoonful.” The highlight of the album for me is Randy’s Song, an ode to the great Randy Crouch, who also has albums for sale on Amazon.com. Do yourself a favor and order a Crouch CD or two as well. You can’t go wrong with any of them.
Facebook. I’ve avoided it like the plague since its inception, so I can appreciate the irony that it has literally taken a plague to open my eyes to the value of the 800-pound social media gorilla.
There’s no denying that Facebook Live has been an invaluable resource for musicians in the age of COVID-19 restrictions, offering the ability to perform virtual live concerts and add a payment donation button. This is the easiest way for musicians to stay in touch with fans, as it requires very little in terms of equipment or investment. Find your favorite local musicians on Facebook Live and click the donate button. And be generous. There’s no cover charge, and you’re getting cheap drinks thanks to the fact that you’re at home and liquor stores are considered essential businesses.
Facebook Live is by no means the only vehicle for live, streaming concerts. YouTube Live offers more complex productions with multiple cameras and locations. Instagram Live, Vimeo, Twitch, and more words that make me wonder if my researcher is playing a prank on me, also offer live platforms suitable for virtual concerts.
Stillwater-based streaming service O’Colly TV is bringing us The Bob Childers Gypsy Café Festival, reimagined, on April 26 at 6 p.m. The annual fundraiser for Red Dirt Relief Fund needs our support more than ever this year. The nonprofit has given out $100,000 in the last month alone to help musicians who have been unable to play live gigs since February.
While it’s objectively sad that we can’t be together in person for Oklahoma’s largest homegrown songwriter festival, the “reimagined” event is a loaded roster of Red Dirt icons that has me pretty excited about the virtual festival. The lineup includes Cody Canada, Jason Boland, Kaitlin Butts, Mike McClure, John Fullbright & Jacob Tovar, Red Dirt Rangers, The Damn Quails, Ragland, Mike Hosty, and more.
The broadcast will also feature the presentation of the Restless Spirit Award to Charlene Ripley on behalf of her husband, Steve Ripley, who passed away in January, 2019. The annual Award is given by the Red Dirt Relief Fund in recognition of a musician who has impacted the Oklahoma music community in a spirit akin to Bob Childers, the godfather of Red Dirt music. It was Ripley’s record label, Red Dirt Records, that gave us the term Red Dirt music. He joins previous honorees Jimmy LaFave (2017), Brandon Jenkins (2018) and Randy Crouch (2019).
You can watch the 2020 Bob Childers Gypsy Café Festival free on Apple TV, ROKU, AmazonPrime, social media, or by downloading the O’Colly TV app. For much-needed donations, go to reddirtrelieffund.org/donate, PayPal.me/RDRF or text “relief” to 202-858-1233.
“We’re committed to giving the fans a unique musical experience,” said Red Dirt Relief Fund Executive Director Katie Dale. “We trust in the healing power of music.”
I trust in that power as well and I appreciate the efforts of all those who are working to bring music to us in unconventional ways. I also trust that we’ll be together again soon, sharing live music experiences and catching up with friends. And when that day comes when our loved ones are safe and healthy and all the quiet venues and empty streets are in the rear view mirror, then yes, the effort will have been worth it.
So hang in there a little longer. Tune in to some live broadcasts, support Red Dirt Relief Fund, order an album or two, wash your hands, and keep searching, keep listening.