Walking into Friday night’s show at The Venue Shrine in Tulsa, I confess, I didn’t know how the night would go. Although The Damn Quails and The Band of Heathens are both bands I’ve heard of and even follow on social media, I’ve never had the opportunity to see them live and didn’t know what to expect. I’m happy to say the night exceeded my expectations and judging from the crowd’s reaction to both bands, they felt the same.
The Venue Shrine is a medium-sized venue in Tulsa that often features bands that have a following larger than the smaller clubs can handle. Past show posters line the walls and the neon lights of the bar draw customers in. It’s a venue suited as a listening room, as most of the room is seated, with dark, intimate corners that are perfect for sitting back and enjoying your favorite band. Starting off the night, was the Oklahoma based band, The Damn Quails. If you’ve followed The Damn Quails at all in the last few years, you already know some of the adversity they’ve gone through regarding their former record label. Watching them perform, you’d never guess they’d endured anything of the sort. Fronted by Gabe Marshall and Bryon White, who also co-founded the group, they are joined by Kevin Foster who plays a variety of instruments within the band, bassist Dillon Sampson and drummer Thomas Young. Minus one slight hiccup at the beginning of a song, their playing was tight, their stage banter was engaging and they came across as a group of talented musicians who just enjoy making music and playing together as friends. The Damn Quails set included “Better Place to Stop”, “Through the Fire”, “Tightrope Walker”, “Iceman” and “California Open Invitation”. I also learned that what I thought was one of my favorite Whitey Morgan songs, “Me and the Whiskey” is actually a cover, originally penned by The Damn Quails. “Me and the Whiskey” was also recently used in the soundtrack for Yellowstone, a hit television series from this past summer.
After a brief break, against a huge backdrop with their name, The Band of Heathens took the stage. The band is made up of Ed Jurdi (guitar, keys and vocals) Gordy Quist (guitar and vocals) Trevor Nealon on keys, Richard Millsap on drums and Jesse Wilson on bass guitar. After taking the stage, I was immediately drawn to the fact the band had a very vintage vibe, not only in their chosen attire, but in their sound. Both their original songs and the covers they choose to do within the set melded together in a distinctive, yet decidedly unique sound and I quickly became a fan after only a few songs. Watching them perform, I was reminded of one of my favorite groups from years past, The Band, and The Band of Heathens, does in fact, list The Band as one of their influences. The setlist was full of songs from a variety of past albums, including “LA County Blues”, “Should Have Known”, my favorite song of the night, “Sugar Queen”, “Look at Miss Ohio” , “ All I’m Asking” and a superb cover of “Abraham, Martin & John”, which is taken from their newest album, A Message from The People Revisited, which is The Band of Heathens personal interpretation of the landmark Ray Charles 1972 recording. At one point in the evening, John Fullbright, a staple in the Tulsa music scene, could be found in the shadows at stage right, quietly takin in the music, before he was invited on stage to perform a couple of songs with the band. Quite possibly the highlight of the night was the collaboration between Fullbright and The Band of Heathens on the Bob Dylan song, “Hard Rain is Going to Fall”. The wailing of the guitars and the finesse of the keyboard, coupled with the dynamic vocals of all that were on stage made for a night I won’t soon forget.
If you haven’t had the opportunity to see either of these bands in person, I highly recommend that you do. Perhaps you’ll be converted to one of their newest fans, as I was. Tour schedules for both bands can be found at the websites below: