Jun 11, 2013

May the Circle be Unbroken

Monday night, May 20th,  in the midst of our central Oklahoma community grasping with the reality of what happened in Moore, I traversed to Norman for what was supposed to be an interview with those Damn Quail boys for a regional internet radio station. Unfortunately, plans fell apart due to unforeseen circumstances, but what transpired that night at the Deli was even more amazing than any first interview with a band.

The Quail’s weekly Monday night gig at The Deli in Norman has been going on for a couple of years now. It is where the band came together into the 6-8 member miracle of which we can’t get enough. The Deli is well known for incubating amazing talent, and has been doing so since local music legend Bob Moore started bringing in live music seven nights a week back in 1988. If you can sing along to Oklahoma Breakdown, in my opinion you can indirectly thank the Deli, where Mike Hosty, writer of that song has been a fixture for years.

This particular Monday, while the band was just beginning to set up, there was a  heaviness in the air due less to the infamous Deli funk and more to people trying to wrap their minds around what had just happened in Moore, swapping stories of what they saw and heard on the news, and of their own personal reactions. The Deli family was eager and relieved to hear that absent band member Gabe Marshall’s family was safe and the usual hugs that I see exchanged between old friends seemed a bit more meaningful this time.

After some chit chat at the bar with Bryon White and sax man Stephen Baker, who has himself been a regular at the Deli since 1992, I was reminded of what sets the Oklahoma music scene apart. Too often I am critical of what often feels like a lack of support for our artists here by venues, radio and fans. Regularly we hear comparisons of the Texas scene to the Oklahoma scene and we banter back and forth in frustration at what can be done to “fix” the problem. This topic was even one of my questions for the interview. Last night it occurred to me that yes, Texas has radio and venues and charts, but Oklahoma has something far more valuable; it has an interwoven, familial bond among all people in the scene. The Oklahoma music scene has a living, breathing, beating heart.

Through the course of the next three hours, what unfolded, while fairly typical at the Deli on any given night, is no less amazing each time it happens, and even more so given the tragic events of the night. Someone speculated aloud about what the turnout would be like, noting it could go either way. It went right. When the guys first started playing there were about 15 people in the bar, typical for the start of their set on Monday nights. It fills up gradually and after a few songs most of the regulars are there. This night was no different and the crowd even seemed a bit more dense than I have seen it in the past. It always amazes me the diversity that you see at the Deli for a Quail show. The Deli is on Campus Corner at OU, but you will see people aged 21 to over 60 hanging out until two in the morning simply to hear the music.

A few songs into the set, Bryon breaks out John Fullbright’s “Moving,” and through the window I see John walk up from out of view, carrying an armful of things to contribute to a collection the band is doing for the tornado victims. Ironic timing that any manager would have loved to have orchestrated. From that moment the musical blessings kept pouring out. The crowd kept growing, items for donation kept arriving, and the best version of musical chairs ensued.

Eventually Bryon beckons Bob Moore up to the stage and hands off his guitar. Moore starts with a great little swing number and after a couple of more tunes finishes up with one about Oklahoma marijuana legalization. Bob really requires an piece all his own, but he is a beloved fixture and father of music at the Deli and the entire crowd sings along to each song.

John Fullbright then takes Jon Knudson’s place at the keys, while Knudson moves over to fiddle and various other of his 15 instrument arsenal. He joined in on some Quail songs, then did his own “Jericho” to the delight of the crowd. No one is overly surprised or or overly excited about Fullbright playing. He is simply family and they are simply glad to see him, but never so simple as to take it for granted.

During this Deli version of musical chairs, Kierston White, Bryon’s sister, hops up next to Biggie for some background vocals and hangs out for a few songs. She is an amazing musician and songwriter on her own and brings the well known vocal depth that only sibling harmonies can produce.

The musician swap continued on when Kyle Reid took over lead and roused the crowd with a some great high energy music. He went into an appropriately moving rendition of  “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” the song from where his band draws its name. It was my first time to actually see him live; it won’t be my last.

Three amazing “extra” musicians on the Quails regular Monday night gig? No. Three incredibly talented family members, joining in the unbreakable circle of the Oklahoma Music Scene. May the circle be unbroken.


Anonymous said...

Great article! I think you captured it in words very well. I wish someone would do some good quality video to be able to share.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Amy, very nice.

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