This weekend I traveled to Tulsa, OK to see one of my all time favorite bands, The Toadies. I have seen more of their shows in the past 15 years of my life than any other band, and each one has been awesome in their own ways. They are on tour for their new album, Play. Rock. Music. with Helmet (yep, from the ’90s!) and Austin, TX band Ume, and they played at the historic Cain’s Ballroom last night. This was my first visit to Cain’s, and it was a great venue. It was built in 1924 as a giant garage and has since hosted some of music’s biggest names. You can see the stage from wherever you stand, the sound was amazing, and it’s just intimate enough to be able to snag cell phone photos and dance around with the performers as they wander the floor after their sets.
Downtown Tulsa is funny because apparently after 6pm everyone and everything is evacuated from all buildings and streets. We walked from our hotel on one side of town to Cain’s on the other and we encountered maybe three other humans, two of which appeared to be homeless. Then, as we rounded the corner to the block where Cain’s is, we found the entire town’s population tucked into a couple of blocks of bars and restaurants. Cain’s was about half full when we arrived, which was just before Ume went on, and it was about three quarters full at the end of the show. This is a 3,000 person capacity venue, and the enduring Toadies fan in me is baffled that the place wasn’t packed to the gills. I’m not really complaining, however, since that just means more personal space/less other-people’s-sweat for me!
Ume is a hard rock, borderline metal with an ethereal twist, and they were fun to watch. The lead singer/guitarist is a tiny blonde girl with a powerful voice that can part your hair. She rocks out hard, and her band does as well. We had not heard of them before last night, but we bought a cd and quite enjoy it. Helmet is a seasoned metal band that has been around since 1989. I will admit that I am not a big metal fan, but I had a lot of fun watching these guys. During one of their songs, members of The Toadies surprised them by rushing the stage in animal costumes and danced around. Page Hamilton had to step away from the mic to finish laughing. Just as The Toadies took the stage, Page Hamilton walked by where we were standing, on his way to the bar. We got his attention (tackle/tapped him on the shoulder) and he was super cool and let us take a picture with him.
The Toadies took the stage and opened with an old Rubberneck favorite, Happyface. That album got me through high school, and I will never tire of hearing it. In fact, the majority of their setlist last night was their old school hits. They only played three songs from their new album, Summer of the Strange, Sunshine, and Rattler’s Revival, which was the final song in the encore. The new album Play. Rock. Music. is great (despite the creepy dolls on the album cover and bass drum), and I was disappointed that I didn’t get to hear live performances of my favorite tracks. That being said, I cannot argue with a setlist of over two decades of hits taking place twenty feet from my face.
My absolute favorite song of the show was one of the encore songs, and one of my favorites, another Rubberneck track, I Burn. Listening to this song on a cd then hearing it live is like reading your favorite novel then seeing a movie adaptation with your favorite actors where everything looks exactly how you imagined it in the book. (The only time that has come close to happening in real life is with Harry Potter. Otherwise it’s an imperfect comparison.) I love the song on the cd. I love hearing the song performed live, brought to life in front of my eyes. There is a bridge in the song with a drum solo, and last night, members of Ume and Helmet joined The Toadies on stage to perform the drum solo. There were four guest drummers in addition to Mark Reznicek, and each guest had two drums. The rhythm goes Boom, boom pah; boom boom pah. Boom boom pah boom boom pah. It is very dramatic despite my feeble effort to translate drums to text. The moment of that bridge, where three bands stood together beating their souls on the drums, was where I was transported to Rock Show Nirvana. Concerts can be spiritual experiences in the same undefinable way that music and art resonate with our souls. That was the performance that will represent this concert in my memory.
The people-watching opportunities during this show did not disappoint either. The audience included graying long bearded metal heads, hipsters wearing indie band t-shirts and jeans with flip flops, girls that rock out in their heads but stand perfectly still but for a head nod every now and then, someone’s elderly mom, and flocks of “bros” with Ed Hardy gear and ironic sideways caps, all of them with their own 6-pack of Bud Light hanging from their person somewhere. This is a phenomenon I witnessed for the first time at Cain’s. There was one tall man who seemed to follow us around all night then place himself in front of us wherever we settled. Apparently some happy substances were manipulating his brain chemistry that forced him to perform new age interpretive dance at all times instead of standing still. There was also a thin man dressed like he was preparing to snowboard who put his arm around me as I stood on the dance floor. I guess when the music is too loud to say a lame pickup line, you just jump to sudden full body contact. Finally, I saw a good portion of men wearing camo print on purpose. Shorts, pants, cargo pants, over shirts.
I do not support camo print as a fashion statement. Camo is short for camouflage, which means concealing or obscuring yourself as a means to deceive an enemy. You are with your friends at a rock show. There is no enemy. I want you to go home and immediately burn all of your “going out” clothes that have camo print. Do this right now.
Tulsa, Oklahoma was a gracious host to our traveling whims, and is an interesting city. We plan to go back to absorb more of its unique culture. Cain’s Ballroom was a perfect venue for a band that I love, and it hosted a wonderful evening. This show was second to last of the Ume/Helmet/Toadies tour, and it was fun to watch all three groups of artists enjoying themselves and each other. They had an entire fall tour under their belt and decades of success to stand on. Anything you do after all that is just cake. That cake rocked, hard.