Video: “on.” episode 19 with People, People

November 21, 2010 by

How can beautiful music like this hide in Stillwater?

Last month I realized the trio known as People, People lived a few blocks away from my apartment.

The band was in the middle of a photo session when I arrived to help out with the madness. People, People bought 120 beers to fuel two dozen of its friends.

The idea behind the shoot was to get everyone dancing. This would make the background of the picture extremely blurry and frantic.

While everyone grooved, People, People stood completely still and with all its willpower tried not to laugh at the obscenities dancers were yelling.

Today, it’s so easy to find music and secure a lot of music. I’m bombarded with new artists every day, but my world slows down when filming sessions go like they did with People, People.

The band enlisted the talents of friends and fellow OSU students to help perform, practiced endlessly and turned an empty ballroom into a concert.

The results are nothing short of magnificent. See for yourself.

  • Interview (From left is Ben Bowlware, Robert Riggs and Derek Moore)

  • Performances

Column: R.I.P albums

October 27, 2010 by
  • Check out this column Stillwater resident and Colourmusic rocker Colin Fleishacker wrote for The O’Colly. It’s a smart reminder of how albums were meant to be enjoyed.

The album as we know it is dying.

Since the inception of the iPod in the early 2000s, music listeners the world over have fallen victim to a hindrance destroying the way music is meant to be enjoyed, compliments of shuffle settings and 160-gigabyte MP3 players: aural ADHD.

There are three fundamental traits an individual with ADHD conveys: distractibility, impulsivity and hyperactivity-according to the Attention Deficit Disorder Association’s website.

Thanks to the evolution of music listening devices, these three traits have become a part of every music fan’s life, including mine.

In 2003, my dad gave me my first iPod on my 20th birthday. I felt more blessed than Israelites receiving manna from heaven above, now owning 20 GB of free space on which to put all of my favorite albums. The possibilities were endless.

After a few months, the newness of my relationship with my pocket-sized partner began to fade a bit. It was no longer enough to simply listen to an album all the way through.

I needed customized playlists and shuffle settings to appease the need for uniqueness. I searched endlessly for the perfect musical moments to encapsulate every second of my life.

Read the rest of this entry »

Video: Broncho performing at an “on.” house show

October 21, 2010 by

Feature: The Pretty Black Chains

October 1, 2010 by

Derek Knowlton, left, and Kellen McGugan practice behind Cain's Ballroom in Tulsa last weekend.

He went from a crowd of 1,600 to an audience of two in a matter of hours.

OSU alumnus and musician Kellen McGugan sat quietly in the passenger seat of his roommate’s dusty white Pontiac Grand Am Saturday. The two left Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa for home in Oklahoma City.

McGugan is the frontman of the Oklahoma City-based band The Pretty Black Chains. Hours earlier, the rock quartet opened for The Smashing Pumpkins on Friday night in front of a sold-out crowd.

McGugan’s music career rang at high note.

It would be cliché to say he was on top of the world, but the song pulsing through the speakers suggested otherwise.

Lyrics to the Nas song “The World is Yours” belched through the stereo and bass rattled seatbelts while McGugan lifted his skinny, 6-foot-tall frame and pushed his hands through the moon roof.

The rush of wind made the car sound like a rollercoaster.

“I sip the Dom P, watchin’ ‘Gandhi’ til I’m charged/Then writin’ in my book of rhymes, all the words pass the margin/To hold the mic I’m throbbin’, ” Nas rapped.

The music and the drive home to Oklahoma City was a quiet celebration for McGugan. His band performs in Stillwater 10 p.m. Friday inside of a garage at 4820 S. Country Club Road.

  • Show business

About a month ago, tickets went on sale for The Smashing Pumpkins show at Cain’s Ballroom.

It sold out in less than a day.

Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan chose one local band to open.

His selection was The Chains, so bandmates Derek Knowlton, Kurt Freudenberger, Jonathan Martin and McGugan performed in front of 1,641 people.

“I think everything I’ve done was a stepping stone to get there,” McGugan said in an interview.

His roommate spun records on two turntables in their apartment as he connected thoughts about the night he opened for a band that has sold millions of records.

“I’m just lucky to play with who I play with,” he said.

McGugan started hanging out with The Chains guitarist Knowlton two years ago, shortly after Knowlton’s now defunct band The Stock Market Crash dissolved. The same night the two surfed the Internet for a leather jacket, they wrote a song together.

“I can’t even remember the name of it,” McGugan said.

His remark reflected the dizzying pace of The Chains’ lifestyle. This summer, the band crafted two albums worth of new material. At Cain’s Ballroom, the quartet didn’t play a single song off “Ceremonies,” the band’s debut album which was released Saturday.

After the Tulsa show, empty plastic cups and aluminum beer bottles littered the Cain’s Ballroom dance floor: evidence of an enjoyable concert. The smell of stale beer lingered in the air as The Chains were bombarded with autograph requests, digital cameras and dozens of new fans.

The soft scratching of brooms against the hardwood dance floor contrasted with the loud, bustling effort the band made in order to arrive for a sound check earlier Friday afternoon.

  • On the Road Again

Jonathan Martin driving to Cain's Ballroom.


Led Zeppelin’s 1969 track “Dazed and Confused” blasted inside The Chains’ tan minivan. The trip from Oklahoma City to Tulsa on Friday was supposed to be a two-car adventure, but nine managed to squeeze into the seven-seat van.

The car lacked air conditioning.

Inside the van, Knowlton stripped to his shorts, the kind everyone’s dad wore in those old basketball photos from the ‘60s.

“I’m used to being hot and uncomfortable,” Knowlton said. “I’m in a band. It’s fun. It’s like family.”

Everyone clutched the top of the car when Martin turned sharply.

McGugan said Martin isn’t the best driver, but he can back up the trailer better than anyone.

The Chains drummer Freudenberger talked to a roadie sitting next to him in the van about the cost of playing two shows in a single weekend. He will lose about $300 in night shifts at Oklahoma City’s Café do Brasil.

“I not about money,” he said. “It’s about playing.”

He wasn’t the only member making a sacrifice last weekend.

The Chains bassist Martin left his fiancé at home. She’s about to have twins.

Knowlton skipped a few shifts at Warpaint Clothing Co., his store in Oklahoma City’s Plaza District.

However, the band arrived in Tulsa well before its sound check, but The Smashing Pumpkins practiced too long and The Chains forfeited a sound check.

“We’ll just have to sound check like we do at The Conservatory,” Freudenberger said.

  • Making and breaking records

On Saturday, the band did just that.

It was a slightly more intimate affair compared to the Cain’s Ballroom show. A couple hundred of the band’s fans crowded into the dilapidated Oklahoma City venue to celebrate the release of the band’s first album.

Knowlton frantically lit candles and hid incense sticks between speakers.

It helped rid the venue of its stagnant odor.

“I told you I’m OCD,” he said. “It’s our show and it’s going to smell like our show.”

Martin’s fiancé sat in the corner of the venue fanning her face and waiting to hear her husband perform.

After the show, a fan confronted McGugan. He held the “Ceremonies” album and said he missed hearing the old songs.

“We do, too,” McGugan said. “There’s just a time and a place for everything.”

As the two parted ways, Conservatory owner Jim Paddack surveyed the crowd and made an announcement.

“If you’re not with one of the bands, get out now,” he said.

That’s something The Pretty Black Chains will hear again.

“on.” Episode 18 – P.S. Conductor

September 27, 2010 by

Check back soon for more updates of the Stillwater band.

Fiawna Forté performing “Boat Song” at Eskimo Joe’s

September 19, 2010 by

Feature: Sherree Chamberlain

September 17, 2010 by

  • If you are over 21, check out the Sherree Chamberlain Band for free Friday night at 9 inside Eskimo Joe’s, 501 W. Elm Ave. Tulsa acts OK Sweetheart and Fiawna Forte are opening. This story ran in the Friday edition of The Daily O’Collegian and The Oklahoman.

It’s frightening how quickly breakfast can turn into bedlam.

On a rainy morning in early July, Oklahoma City-based songwriter Sherree Chamberlain was driving near the Paseo Arts District.

The Oklahoma State University alumna had a full day planned.

Breakfast with a friend. A paid gig in downtown Oklahoma City with Stillwater rockers Taddy Porter and The Flatland Travelers. Dinner with her soon-to-be manager.

While pulling across traffic, a car slammed into her and knocked her head against the driver’s window. Her car was totaled, and she was stuck in the rain with a car full of instruments.

When Chamberlain snapped back to reality, she said she didn’t want a doctor.

She wanted pizza.

Her bandmates, Eric Kiner, Jonathon Mooney and Joey Morris, heard what happened and got a hold of Chamberlain.

“I was like, ‘Are we going to play or not?’” Kiner said in a phone interview.

Chamberlain said she knew the ball was rolling. Her band was getting paid for playing. She needed to start saving cash for a new car.

“It made sense to play,” she said in a phone interview.

After a trip to an emergency room and an OK from a doctor, Chamberlain’s parents drove her to the Wormy Dog Saloon. As neon signs buzzed and beer bottles clinked, the Sherree Chamberlain Band flew through a set of several songs in front of about 300 listeners.

“Sherree’s insane,” Morris said with a laugh over the phone. “When she got that mild concussion, I couldn’t really tell the difference. She’s crazy anyway … It was the perfect show. We didn’t have time for rehearsal, and we played like she had rehearsed for hours.”

Fast forward through the summer to last Sunday.

The rainy afternoon and the allure of bed sheets delayed Chamberlain from an interview, but she quickly apologized for her tardiness and began detailing her active morning.

She worked on music and prepared for the two classes she started teaching at Edmond Santa Fe High School this semester, but she got overwhelmed and hit the hay again.

She said she’s having a “24-year-old meltdown.”

“I’m feeling so old, and I don’t know what’s going on. I’m having anxiety about everything,” Chamberlain said. “I’ve been listening to music I love, lately. I keep going, ‘I wish I could be in this band, or I wish I could be in that band. Why am I not writing music I love to play?’”

She’s balancing a lot, though, teaching classes and preparing for a sophomore album.

Her debut, “Wasp in the Room,” was a gentle folk album that embellished the singer’s talents and her simple, elegant songs.

After a visit to Stillwater on Saturday, she’s taking “a little step away from the cutesy pop singer/songwriter and a little bit more toward being a cohesive band and setting a mood.”

No matter what happens, music is going to be around Chamberlain.

She lets her students at Edmond Santa Fe listen to music while they work. One afternoon a student walked up to Chamberlain and wrapped headphones around her ears. It was her album playing.

Sometimes her students aren’t the biggest fans though.

“I heard one of them the other day go, ‘Miss Chamberlain, I downloaded your stuff off of LimeWire,’” she said.

Another kid asked what she sounded like. He responded with a review saying Chamberlain’s music is weird. Something you’ll either love or hate.

If her student’s review and a car accident won’t stop her from making music, little will.

Feature and video: Electric Beatdown

September 9, 2010 by

This story ran in the Thursday edition of The Daily O’Collegian

  • Meet the Beatdown

Valerie Hill encountered an uninvited guest after stepping onto the dance floor.

Hill, a creative writing senior, wasn’t worried because her boyfriend wasn’t too far away and dozens of dancers surrounded her. The stranger offered his hand to dance and she took it to soften the blow of the bad news.

“I have a boyfriend,” she yelled over the music.

The stranger wasn’t discouraged.

“So do I,” he said.

Hill said she laughed and they went their separate ways.

This is a scene from the Electric Beatdown, a weekly dance party at the Stonewall Tavern, 115 S. Knoblock St. It’s across the street from Oklahoma State University’s Seretean Center Music Hall, but the tunes at the Beatdown are a departure from anything OSU music majors perform.

Every Thursday night, OSU graduate Granger Brown, better known as Danger Granger, and Justin Laughlin, or Beatpunks, exit their day jobs to play music at the Beatdown. They’ve spun weekly since summer 2008.

“It’s one of the biggest parties in the state,” he said. “We will have people come and say there is nothing like this in New York or L.A.”

The Stonewall’s turnout on a Thursday night is huge. Although a crowd-size limit doesn’t exist in the outdoor portion of the bar, bouncers have to stop people at the door when the crowd is too big. The line can stretch to the street, roughly a block in distance.

  • Breaking Hearts and Picnic Tables

Not everyone enjoys the pulsating beats at the dance party.

Ask one of the several picnic tables that have met their demise at the Beatdown.

Dancers cause more damage to the Stonewall than the nastiest termite colony could ever dream of and watching a picnic table shatter is a spectator sport.

It starts with a slight wobble from the legs of the table and the knees of those dancing. Then there’s a noise similar to what you would hear after a lumberjack yells timber. The table snaps, falls and moves on to a better place.

“Have you ever heard the slogan?” Brown asked with a smile. “‘Breaking hearts and picnic tables since 2008.’ We are going to make it onto a shirt.”

He said he has seen this happen more than a few times.

“One night last summer, four broke,” Brown said. “I’m talking, like, break in half.”

He also said sometimes he can’t resist joining people on the tables.

“That’s part of my business,” Brown said. “I’m a hypeman. I like to get there and get people riled up.”

And the picnic tables that don’t break become center stage for some of the most ridiculous Beatdown stories.

Carson Jewell’s first night at the Stonewall ended on a picnic table. At least that’s what he remembered.

The evening started with some assistance from Tom Collins.

“It was the drink special that night,” Jewell said. “It’s great, but terrible.”

He climbed onto a picnic table and began dancing. He closed his eyes and was wearing an orange jump suit when his eyes opened. Everything between was a blur, he said.

He doesn’t remember being put in a holding cell at the Stillwater Police Station, but the police do.

Jewell said he was told  he walked into a moving police car.

  • What goes up must come down

The idea of people falling like dominoes on picnic tables didn’t seem believable until it happened in front of me.

A trio danced on a table and it busted, but the three weren’t fazed. Before the next song lyric left the subwoofers, each person found another table advertising more sturdiness and resumed fist pumping.

“It is funny when you see the people fall and they get on those tables and they break,” Laughlin said. “They get right back up. I guess it’s just the power of the Beatdown, man.”

A bartender walked past the shattered remains of the table. He shouted an obscenity, similar to the way an alarm sounds at a firehouse. Two more bartenders ran toward the mess and started carrying away pieces of the table away like a battalion of wounded soldiers.

“Picnic tables are the biggest causality,” he said. “They have been broken over and over again. When you throw a party that good, everything can’t go right.”

Joe Cervantes, Stonewall’s owner, does everything in his power to keep an eye on the madness and supply enough hammers and nails to repair picnic tables. He makes sure either himself or three bouncers are monitoring dancers. On Thursday nights, his staff balloons from three to about 12 workers.

After two years, the Beatdown continues to surprise Cervantes.

“As long it was above 45 degrees in the winter we’d still have it,” Cervantes said. “People show up in their coats and scarves and still go out there and dance. Just shows how fun a gathering of people it is.”

  • Working overtime

“It is the highlight of my week,” Brown says. “It’s pure energy.

“If I wasn’t doing the DJing, it would be an exotic vacation every week in town. It’s something different that takes you away, but I have to work.”

Laughlin and Brown have to be on their toes while in the crowd.

One night a girl climbed onto the subwoofer sitting next to him.  She jumped from the speaker onto the DJ booth, which is made to hold a turntable and not much else.

Brown said she screamed while Laughlin held the DJ booth steady.

“I don’t see how she didn’t fall,” Brown said.

She jumped from the booth into the crowd and continued dancing.

Brown hesitated before telling anymore crazy stories because of the nudity involved, but he couldn’t resist telling one story.

“I got flashed last (semester),” Brown said. “Not an attractive girl. I was sitting there DJing. And there’s a tap at the DJ booth. I look up and bam.”

As crazy as the Beatdown gets, the origins of the party are completely relaxed compared to DJing on a Thursday night.

Brown used to hangout inside OSU’s Paul Miller Journalism and Broadcasting Building and work on a KXZY radio show with Laughlin. Brown hadn’t used a turntable before the radio show started and did most of the talking while Laughlin spun the turntables.

Brown said he had only touched a turntable twice before the first Beatdown in 2008, but Laughlin was a good teacher.

“He’s an ambitious little guy,” Laughlin said. “Every time I DJ, I’ll show him different tricks. He’s like my protégé for DJing. Now, we’re the perfect pairing to make parties going. That’s what it comes down to.”

Laughlin, an Oklahoma City native, has been a DJ for about a decade. He spun in high school before leaving for California in 2002.

In Los Angeles, Laughlin would record dialogue for film, television and DVDs. If you have wondered who puts the commentary on DVDs and records the foreign language version of “Frasier,” then you should talk to Laughlin because he knows all about it.

Laughlin said the sagging economy lead him to Stillwater in 2006.

Brown asked Laughlin how to spin and the duo started working house shows together.

But they wanted their DJing to get bigger.

“Let’s throw a real party,” Brown said.

They did.

Feature: Orange Peel reels back this year

September 3, 2010 by

This story ran on the front page of the Friday edition of the O’Colly.

  • The day the music died

Jason Aldean’s guitar strumming inside Gallagher-Iba Arena last year might be the final sound heard at an Orange Peel for a while.

The longtime student-run concert series and pep rally is canceled for 2010. Since 1996, the OSU campus event has been canceled once in 2007 because of issues with talent.

Director of Campus Life Kent Sampson said the past 13 Orange Peels have lost roughly $210,000.

“Truthfully, we’ve never been into it to make money,” he said.

Sampson advised students, handled paperwork and helped manage Orange Peel since 1997. He said student volunteers needed to raise $100,000 from sponsors this summer in order to make an Orange Peel in 2010 possible.

“We didn’t make that happen,” Sampson said.

After looking at the amount of money needed and because of the Student Union remodeling, a big effort wasn’t undertaken to collect $100,000, Sampson said.

Profits from food and textbook sales at the Student Union provided the majority of backing for Orange Peel, Sampson said. Ticket sales and corporate sponsorships were the second source of revenue. Although Sampson said Oklahoma City’s Ford Center and Tulsa’s BOK Center made it difficult to attract performers to Stillwater, it was the lowering of ticket prices for concertgoers that became a big issue.

“In terms of trying to give our students a break, we undercut ourselves and hurt our income base,” he said.

Sampson said tickets were about $40 for Orange Peel in 2009, which is roughly $20 less than a show at the Ford Center or the BOK Center. In 2005 and 2006, the Oklahoma Chevy Team Dealer donated $30,000 to Orange Peel, which brought sponsorship amounts to $60,000 for those two years. The loss of Chevy as a donor made an impact, Sampson said.

But he said he doesn’t think Orange Peel will disappear. He named several student organizers throughout the years who made Orange Peel possible and illustrated how the event’s tradition has deep roots.

  • It takes a lot to make an Orange Peel grow

Angela Courtin stood inside Lewis Field (now Boone Pickens Stadium) in 1996, moments after Bill Cosby, Norm McDonald and Dog’s Eye View finished performing at Orange Peel’s debut.

The OSU graduate student sighed and looked to her friends.

“We pulled it off,” she said in a phone interview between meetings in Chicago. “We could walk on air. Was it the most successful show? Probably not, but the fact that we were able to bring it to completion in a way that we could be proud of was an enormous accomplishment.”

Courtin and dozens of student volunteers turned an idea for a pep rally before the football team’s season opener into an event 17,000 patrons attended. Without the assistance of a booking agency or prior knowledge of how to put on a concert, Courtin created big entertainment from scratch at Orange Peel.

“I look back at my career … and it certainly was this catapult to where my career would go,” Courtin said.

Today, she’s the senior vice president of integrated marketing at MTV, and she does almost exactly what she did for Orange Peel. Courtin is producing a live performance that will air during a commercial break of MTV’s 2010 Video Music Awards, which airs on Sept. 12.

Courtin said Orange Peel gave her skills to hustle and the opportunity to throw herself completely into something. She applied classroom lessons to the real world because Orange Peel operated like a tiny business. About 200 OSU students volunteered yearly within Orange Peel’s six committees, which ranged from stage production to marketing.

Since 2003, Orange Peel organizers used a booking agency to gather talent, but this didn’t make things much easier. The 2009 Orange Peel executive director, Kristen Kenaga, said she spent an hour a day for two months talking to Eric Hening Promotions to make sure everything was OK for Orange Peel.

Months of planning couldn’t prepare her for the surprise request of a special brew of Starbucks coffee the morning Aldean’s tour bus arrived. The coffee wasn’t for Aldean. His band had the power to request groceries, so Kenaga went shopping.

The demands of celebrities and their management turn concerts into work for hosts. The 2008 Orange Peel headliner, Sugarland, had a 35-page contract that detailed the brand of water the band drank, the exact number of Clif energy bars needed and the number of hand towels required for dressing rooms.

Erika Curry, Kenaga’s marketing director for 2009’s Orange Peel, spent 40 hours a week during her summer putting together radio ads, press releases and doing everything in her power to spread the word about Orange Peel. Her pace didn’t slow down when classes began. She spent weekends at rodeos and fairs handing out flyers.

“I can’t even put a number on it,” Curry said. “Hundreds if not thousands of hours.”

Sampson said Orange Peel in 2009 lost roughly $75,000. It hadn’t broken even since Bill Engvall and Alan Jackson performed in 2006, but the event did succeed in supporting charities such as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Special Olympics. The past two Orange Peels raised about $16,000 for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

“Whether Orange Peel continues or not, it will always be a great OSU tradition,” Kenaga said.

House Show Video: Depth & Current

September 2, 2010 by


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