Ranatics,1 can you believe it, the fourth of day of Rantmas? To be honest, The Rant expected to find ourselves face down in a puddle of rye and our own tears by now. Yet we’re both sane and sober. Ish.
The Rant has decided to call it: Jimmy Sutton is the coolest human in North America for 2017. Sutton plays bass for the J.D. McPherson Band, and the bass is his spirit animal. Sometimes he plays the bass, and sometimes the bass plays him. Sutton will pause above the strings with a look that says, “What’s that, you’d like me to continue? Well, ok then.” Have we mentioned his hair? Salt and pepper. What James Dean’s hair would have looked like in middle age.
How can you be any cooler? How about building a studio in your attic where McPherson recorded his first solo album, Signs and Signifiers? Please. Of course he did that.
We caught Sutton and the band at the Cain’s Ballroom. Parker Millsap opened and killed. We leaned over to Teen: The Sequel and said, “We would not want to follow that.” McPherson wasn’t concerned. His band has turned into a five-piece party, turning from roots to rockabilly to punk to Black-Keys-vibe riffs. They’re so good you never even question a saxophone showing up. McPherson hails from Tulsa, so he fed off the appreciative audience and pushed the energy to that level you recognize as not just another show. The level you dream of every time you turn out for live music.
The Rant currently inhabits a place music lovers dream of: a vibrant local music scene; venues that cater to every genre; a shed to see headlining acts. We wandered over to the shed, the BOK Center, to catch Green Day early in the year. The band seems determined to play themselves into oblivion each night. Thirty-plus songs delivered at a punk pace that left us gasping just watching.
Billie Jo Armstrong played not only with intensity but something else. An urgency that pushed the crowd to take that energy and send it out into the night to assure the ethos that had made them popular at their beginnings. Bands like Green Day assumed their music and understanding of the world had won, and then Trump happened. They weren’t going to give up without a fight. That mood and sense of imperative permeated many shows we saw this year. The Rant never felt more hopeful than in a crowd singing a chorus and listening to a band offering everything they had as a sacrifice to a brighter, more joyful community. You can have church; we’ll take three chords and the crowd pumping their fists in unison.
We had the privilege of attending a show at the Mercury Lounge in both Tulsa and New York this year. Tulsa provided our best unscripted moment. The Rant had gone to see a band with a standing gig at the Lounge, but they weren’t available and a duo played in their stead. During a cover song, an enormous man in overalls ambled from the back of the bar to the edge of the stage. He listened for a bit, rummaged around in his pocket, pulled out a harmonica, and played an enchanting solo over the bridge. The duo went along for the ride. Overall Man finished and went back to his beer.
We glorify the past/When the future dries up, sang U2. A small cabal of Americans want to return the country to a time that never existed, except in their imaginations. Every night on stages around the nation, bands and performers are singing a different song that’s about tomorrow and not yesterday. Go hear it and sing along, expectant that a harmonica might join you to make the song complete.