A few months ago, Cain’s — a highly respected, mid-sized live music venue in Tulsa — announced that it had booked two of my favorite touring bands, Tame Impala and Local Natives, for shows within a day of each other.
Normally, this news wouldn’t be so eyebrow-raising for me. Tulsa is just a short drive away; Cain’s is a great place to see a show; and I’ve spent a large chunk of my adult life happily chasing live music up that turnpike.
But after spending the last six years becoming closely acquainted with the inner workings of the local music scene through my work with the Norman Music Festival, as well as some other endeavors, I’ve come to this realization: For Oklahoma City to fully realize its live music potential, it needs at least one active venue, year-round, for shows that draw audiences of 750 to 1,500 people.
Some may argue and say we already have venues that size. But
for a variety of reasons, these venues aren’t currently an attractive
option for most A-list, mid-sized tours.
These acts continue to choose Tulsa’s venerated mid-sized venues, where all parties involved at a business level know they’ll receive fair dealings. Bands and audiences know it’s a place where they’ll have an enjoyable, authentic experience.
We need a comparable mid-sized venue capable of becoming iconic.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ll always be happy to travel to see great shows in other cities. But I think Oklahoma Cityans deserve to enjoy groups such as The XX, Local Natives, Tame Impala, Drive-By Truckers, Purity Ring, Odd Future, Alt-J and Punch Brothers at a venue not only worthy of their music but also a little bit closer to home.
Our live music scene is as healthy as it has ever been, and with the growing success of Norman Music Festival and Oklahoma’s Buffalo Lounge, which was hosted by the Oklahoma Film & Music Office at the South by Southwest music festival, our independent musicians are gaining new respect on the national level.
Through these channels, we’re drawing more attention to the seemingly endless local talent base that should be the envy of the world.
We already have a thriving small club scene, led by artist-friendly venues like the Opolis and The Conservatory for audiences of up to 250 people.
For shows that draw closer to 500 people, the ACM@UCO Performance Lab in Bricktown is a fantastic new venue that’s growing in popularity, and it also feeds back into building an empowered local-music industry workforce.
Some claim there is a wizard living up in the loft of Cain’s, casting spells on bands to play in Tulsa instead of OKC. True or not, I think we have all the elements here to raise our own version of Cain’s if we act swiftly and engage the support of everyone in the local music industry to act in concert, so to speak.
Fowler is vice president of operations for Fowler Holding Co. and a Norman Music Festival co-founder.
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