Archive for the ‘cain’s ballroom’ category

The Night James McMurtry Came To Town

April 26, 2009

Saturday afternoon I was playing with Braydon, my brilliant, beautiful grandson, anticipating a quiet evening at home, when Scott called wanting to know if we were planning to go to James McMurtry at Cain’s that evening. Oops. Louise, especially, been looking forward to it for months because she has a thing for ‘smart badboys’, but we’d thought it was still weeks away. Yes, yes, yes! we replied. Scott was thrilled that he wouldn’t have to go alone. We called Braydon’s daddy and told him to come get Braydon by 8 o’clock because we had a prior engagement.

There followed no less than six frantic phone calls from Scott over the next two hours. They were sold out. They had only two tickets left, but there were three of us. He was going to pull the “Folk Salad Card”. He was preparing to beg. Begging had worked! He’d be at Sound Pony having a Marshall’s & could we bring him a Big Mac because he, the poor beggar, hadn’t had anything to eat. Louise put her lips on and we left. Soon we were sitting at the bar and Scott and I were having the McDonalds Happy Meal for Adults, which is a quarter pounder with cheese, French fries, and Marshall’s Pilsner. We shared our fries with Aaron the bartender. Louise ordered a tequila. “Do you want the salt and the lime?” “If it comes in a kit, I want the whole kit.” She drank two. Smart badgirl.

On to McMurtry. It was crowded but not to the extent that would alarm a fire inspector. McMurtry took the stage and delivered songs for the next two hours with the unmovable stern countenance of an old testament prophet with bad news for sinners. When the first song began, a woman had a seizure and was carried out through the crowd, neck arched, shoes missing. Let’s hope she was okay. He wore a dark fedora, shoulder length dark curly hair, spectacles, and a long goatee & moustache. Louise thought he looked like a rabbi. Rabbi McMurtry? Oy.

Looking around the room, Scott and I decided, by a logic that even we don’t understand, that the room was filled with the Folk Salad Demographic. These were surely our listeners. One other thing we noticed about the crowd. It was populated with an unusual number of large men. Why? It’s a mystery. What about James McMurtry’s music appeals to large men? Large men who insist on standing shoulder to shoulder between you and the stage? All we could see for most of the first set was a continent of backs grinding against each other like tectonic plates.

Most of his set was songs from his latest “Just Us Kids” which I hadn’t yet listened to. He’s a brilliant lyricist, on a par with Townes Van Zandt. He’s also a first rate guitarist. The music –Two guitars, bass and drums— is very lean, with a powerful, driving, purifying groove. Many of the crowd knew all the words to all the songs. The song everyone was waiting for, of course, was the Oklahoma epic, “Choctaw Bingo”, and when we first heard those opening chords a mighty roar rose up. Large men pumped their fists into the air and high-fived. And the line in that song that everyone was especially waiting for, the line about getting in between his two sexpot cousins with a hard-on like a bodark fencepost that you could hang a gate from, brought the crowd to a fever pitch. Hats were thrown into the air. Women howled. A fight erupted up front when two plates collided, which surprised and amused McMurtry enough to force a quick grin. I’m not making any of this up.

When the set ended, McMurtry thanked the crowd, stepped offstage, the lights came up, and he fended off well-wishers without breaking stride or making eye contact as he strode to the bar, ordered a whiskey, and exited to the greenroom. The band had managed to slip away while all eyes were on him. He enjoyed his drink (we presume) in a leisurely fashion as the crowd chanted his name over the house music. After several minutes, long enough to make us wonder, he re-emerged for his encore. This is how an encore really should be done, don’t you think? Make ‘em wonder.

We left during the encore. It was not quite midnight when we got into bed. “The room is spinning,” Louise said. “Close your eyes,” I replied.


Red Dirt Music in the New York Times

January 25, 2009

Okay, this isn’t exactly news, but it’s news to us. We were browsing on Cross Canadian Ragweed’s website and found a link to a really well done article on the Red Dirt Music scene from the New York Times, November, 2007. Thought we’d share. For some reason, we can’t seem to manage to actually insert the link here, so just copy & paste the following url to read the NYT article:


A Night On The Town

January 11, 2009

Hayes Carll & Corb Lund at Cain’s Ballroom, second stage, Tulsa:

It was standing room only. A loosely disorganized mix of chairs, tables, and floorspace. There was a small no-man’s-land in front of the stage where a few people tried half-heartedly to dance to the background music from time to time. Most of the crowd was there for Hayes Carll, but to my great satisfaction, there was a vocal contingent of Corb Lund fans present as well. He’s never played in Oklahoma before so we all considered it an opportunity. The Lund fans were definitely cowboy-culture types. When Corb first came in the front door wearing a t-shirt which read “WHERE THE FUCK AM I?”, a table of fans waylaid him to shake hands and pose for pictures –profane t-shirt and all. He disappeared in the general direction of the green room and emerged soon after wearing a plain black t and a cowboy hat that seemed to have been recently sat on. For quite a while. Like all the way from Wichita, maybe. Physically, he was different than I expected. He was taller, leaner, and more muscular, to be exact. Square jaw, big button eyes, dimples, biceps. All the women in the room got that look on their faces that women get sometimes without realizing it. A kind of a dazed smile that says they are happy to be there, and open for suggestions. I almost began to hate him. Then he and the boys began to sing and play. You can’t hate the guy. I knew most of the songs, and his between- song patter was just as unassuming, good natured and authentic as the songs themselves. I leaned against the bar and drank two whiskeys, tapping my foot and looking around. ‘Twas fine.

Before too long, I saw Scott, and a little later he saw me. He was there for Hayes Carll. Corb Lund ended his set to a raucous Cain’s Ballroom applause. I went over to shake his hand, and shake him down for cds (for the show, you know), but missed him. I forced Scott to lend me twenty U. S. dollars with which to buy a Corb Lund Cavalry tee shirt. It’s the dumbest t-shirt I’ve ever seen, and the pride of my wardrobe.

While Carll was setting up, Scott and I sat on a bench outside, with the smokers. We struck up a conversation with a Corb Lund fan, and I asked her where she’d even heard of him. “Sattelite Radio,” she explained. I see. It made me think Radio is passing me by on the way to the future.

We heard a roar from the crowd inside. Hayes had taken the stage and everyone was crowded around it whooping and hollering. I stayed for half a song. I could see his face in the harsh spotlight above the bobbing heads. He looked like a man who could use some time off. Might have been the lighting, but I thought he looked really tired. I wrote him a mental prescription: six weeks with no obligations, no booze, no smokes, no dope, a little pocket money, and lots of fresh air –somewhere above 8,000 feet. I bet he’d feel like a new man. Then again, maybe I was the one who was tired, boozed, smoked, doped.

I stepped outside and walked past Corb’s drummer who was standing in the street taking pictures of their van in front of the legendary Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I went home to a quiet house and a sleeping wife, made a pallet on the sofa and called it a night.