Article by Evan Jarvicks
Photos by Sean Carr
Of the three new mid-level venues in Oklahoma City, Tower Theatre has proven to be the most engaged with the local music scene. From an early open house it held for local musicians to its continued use of local openers for big touring acts, the historic Uptown OKC venue has done impressive work to cater to its music community.
With its COOP Showcase series, Tower doubles down on local talent with support from local brewer COOP Ale Works. The series kicked off in late October with major homegrown talents Junebug Spade, Gum, and The So Help Me’s, and it aims to offer similar showcases about once a month.
On November 30th, Cellar Door Music Group’s blog team caught one of these showcases, this time featuring Local Man Ruins Everything, Space4Lease, and Cavern Company.
Opening the night on a high note was Local Man Ruins Everything, a recently formed rock fusion trio consisting only of scene veteran virtuosos. The instrumental band dazzled with technical ability and mind-bending song structures the likes of which one rarely sees outside of metal and jazz music, though those styles do seem to have some part in Local Man’s unique blend.
Slap bass and ride cymbal were peppered throughout as the band jammed with acute precision, ending almost every joint with a surprise, uniform finish. Most noteworthy, perhaps, were the guitar solos, which shredded and had at least one audience member asking, “Are they local??”
Admittedly, an entire set of this can get monotonous to those outside of Local Man Ruins Everything’s niche fanbase. Half of the crowd had devolved into chatter by set’s end. For the rest, though, the band’s repertoire of mood shifts and occasional loop pedals were more than enough to entertain, if not outright blow minds.
The trio expects to release its debut EP soon.
Space4Lease went on second, taking a more introspective and atmospheric turn from Local Man’s all-cylinders bare musicianship.
With its trademark piano keyboard front and center atop an antiquated television set, the now five-piece band played songs from 2016’s debut, Hiraeth, as well as its 2017 single-series-turned-EP, Drifting. The pianist and lead vocalist grounded the presentation as guitars and drums filled the space of the venue.
Appropriately, reverb from the soundboard and smoke from the stage’s fog machines captured the band’s slow-burn, spacey approach to indie rock music, though in this case, more of both would have been welcome.
Of the three acts, Space4Lease seemed to take the greatest advantage of Tower’s fully-equipped stage. All performers were treated with background moving images, taken from a stock reel of some sort. Space4Lease, however, snuck in a photo of the band’s dog wearing a ball cap, an image which hurtled through some particularly cosmic backgrounds. It captured both the quintet’s performance aesthetic while retaining a down-to-earth personality that many young rock bands rely on for relevancy in the social media age.
Space4Lease also had a great light show. Some of its closing numbers featured big musical builds, and the lighting department made use of blackouts, color palettes, and audience lighting to mirror the band’s dynamic material.
Closing out the night was Cavern Company, an alternative rock trio that has been impressively pushing through the ranks of late. With the most decked out wardrobe of the bunch and a big, handcrafted stage prop, the band came to make an impression. Similarly, its members offered the night’s best stage presence. Taking command of the stage’s entire length, the two guitarists showed off and interacted with each other as well as the audience, working up a sweat and growing audibly short of breath between songs but never during.
Cavern Company appeared to maximize its sound with pre-programmed backing tracks, which freed the band from always needing a live bassist and helped fill the sound beyond the three-piece lineup. On a couple of early occasions, this resulted in an unbalanced, slightly abrasive mix, but the sound team with Tower quickly smoothed out the kinks in time for some of the trio’s biggest numbers from its 2017 EP, Tension.
Though the crowd had mostly thinned out by the end of Cavern Company’s set, a dedicated remaining 25 or so people stood enraptured up front and even got a stripped-down solo encore out of the band’s frontman.
The COOP Showcase music series is a way to see local bands like never before. Most venues available to locals are bar stages that don’t get going until many music fans are in bed, so it’s nice to see a primetime, smoke-free showcase giving homegrown talent the setting it deserves. Given the production value that Tower Theatre affords, the $10 admission is a steal as well.
The next COOP Showcase happens again this week with major hitters Annie Oakley, Special Thumbs, and Kyle Reid offering a combined collection of folk and rock tunes. Be sure to show your support for local music this Friday, January 12, at 7:30 pm, and check out the venue if you haven’t already.
This article was originally written for Cellar Door Music Group (cellardoormusicgroup.com). It is archived here with the publisher’s permission.
aka Jarvix, the Chief Executive Weirdo of Make Oklahoma Weirder. His out-of-the-box music coverage has been published by the Oklahoma Gazette, KOSU, and The Oklahoman among others. He also makes DIY music as a solo multi-instrumentalist live looper in his spare time.