Photos by Melissa Payne and Sean Payne
On September 19, 20, and 21 the seventh production of Medicine Stone took place and the lineup was fantastic, except for the notable absence of the Turnpike Troubadours. Jason Boland and the Stragglers headlined Saturday evening with Robert Earl Keen taking the top spot on Friday. Parker McCollum was Thursday evening’s Main Stage closing set. These acts were accompanied over the three-days by Todd Snider, Wade Bowen, William Clark Green, Flatland Cavalry, Shinyribs, Jamie Lin Wilson, Cody Canada and the Departed, American Aquarium, Micky and the Motorcars, Red Shahan, and local favorites, RC and the Ambers and other acts as well.
Overall, here are among the best performances:
1) Vandoliers – Friday, Gravel Bar Stage. After all the great shows on Friday it was difficult to believe that things could get any better. And with most listeners staying for the late shows attending the Jamie Lin Wilson, Courtney Patton, Kaitlin Butts, and Heather Stalling led Dixie Chicks tribute, the Vandoliers had stiff competition for their only set at Medicine Stone. The Texas alt/punk country band met the challenge head on. Opening with “Miles and Miles,” they got things going strong with heads nodding and toes tapping around the crowd. “Rolling Out” continued to build the vibe. And then with Friday fading into Saturday (the last day of Summer), lead singer Joshua Fleming observed the moment as he introduced “Endless Summer.” At that point the crowd really began to feel the energy developing. Called by a hoppin’ song begging one to move, and further instigated by merchandise magnate, ‘PIGS’ and the infamous ‘Red Dirt Randy’ the gravel stage became a dance floor. Fleming noticed the enthusiasm, and instantly encouraged folks to get out of their chairs and come forward. From there on it was an all-out party. After thanking the audience Fleming acknowledged the sacrifice made to attend in lieu of the Dixie Chicks event. He then specifically thanked Wilson for her past encouragement as one of the artists in this scene to reach out to them. And as their set neared an end they dedicated “Wild Flower,” to the late Kylie Ray Harris in a touching moment of family solidarity among the music community.
2) Carter Sampson – Friday, River Stage. Fans were treated to a stellar show by Carter Sampson, who furthered her standing to a title she inadvertently picked up after recording “Queen of Oklahoma.” Leading into it Sampson recounted the story, chuckling along as she adapts to it over time. She then launched into her “Wilder Side” to get things going. The set was full of the fantastic songs from her recent album. Lucky, including the title song, “Lucky,” “Wild Ride,” “Rattlesnake Kate,” and “Ten Penny Nail,” with personal anecdotal introductions to each. What’s most difficult to describe about Carter Sampson until you see her live is just how much of effective stage presence she carries while behaving so humbly. There’s just an air of authenticity to the music, further amplified by seeing her sing in person.
3) Kaitlin Butts – Saturday, River Stage. After appearing as a guest on several sets across the weekend it was time for Kaitlin Butts to take center stage with her band and her songs. Playing “Marfa Lights” with a full band backing really allows her to explore her full vocal range, which is beautifully haunting. She teared up introducing “It Won’t Always Be This Way,” testifying to the authenticity of the stories of past pain within. Later Butts also honored the recently passed Kylie Ray Harris, covering her song “Waited,” and encouraged fans to keep buying her music as the best way to help her family. Closing out the set was “White River,” a powerful tale of abuse and revenge. With continued performances like this one, it won’t be long before Kaitlin Butts starts claiming a higher billing and a presence on the larger stages.
4) Dixie Chicks Tribute – Friday, River Stage. The highly anticipated Dixie Chicks Tribute packed the grass in front of the River Stage late Friday evening after the Main Stage shows finished up. Jamie Lin Wilson, Courtney Patton, Kaitlin Butts, and Heather Stalling (on fiddle) paid homage to the Chicks with an inspired set. Joined by Josh Flowers on upright bass and Jake Lynn on Drums, they kicked off immediately with “There’s Your Trouble.” The crowd got completely engaged and involved with “Wide Open Spaces,” to which the ladies invited everyone to go out and download their friend and original songwriter Susan Gibson’s version of the song. Wade Bowen hopped on stage for a song, adding character and more camaraderie. As a surprise tribute of sorts Kaitlin Butts shifted gears and took them into an inspired cover of The Turnpike Troubadours’ “Gin, Smoke, and Lies” to everyone’s delight.
5) Robert Earl Keen – Friday evening, Main Stage. Invited to fill the gap in the lineup from the absent Turnpike Troubadours, Robert Earl Keen had the heaviest load to carry at Medicine Stone, but he and his band brought their A game, and knocked it out of the park. Opening up the set with “Beats the Devil,” quickly followed by James McMurtry’s “Levelland,” Keen got the crowd engaged early, and then began to banter with them, taking a few shots at some who had already had their share of fun for the day. Pulling from his deep arsenal of songs, Keen delivered “Shades of Gray,” drawing a rousing reaction from the audience observing that the story is set in Oklahoma. Closing his set with “I Gotta Go” as an encore was an effective and appropriate play on the end of the evening that had everyone singing along.
6) Wade Bowen – Friday, Main Stage. Bowen’s entire performance was meticulous and entertaining as usual. Early on he performed fan favorites like “So Long 6th Street,” before taking a special moment aside to acknowledge how much he appreciated the fans, and the family atmosphere that he felt at Medicine Stone, noting specifically how moved he was at the number of fans that travelled from North Carolina and Virginia to attend. Later Bowen invited Kaitlin Butts, Courtney Patton, and Jaime Lin Wilson up on stage to sing along on “Sun Shines on a Dreamer,” for a truly magical experience.
7) Osage County – Friday, Gravel Bar Stage. Osage County, named for the jurisdiction northwest of Tulsa, is fronted by Jordan Cox with Pat Cook on lead guitar. The high energy alt-country/rock band was in fine form Friday afternoon with a tight set showcasing original songwriting from their self-titled EP. The band added Pat’s son, Daniel Cook, as a second guitarist for this set, which provided even more energy and depth to their sound.
8) Red Shahan – Saturday, Main Stage. Just before taking the Main Stage, Red Shahan performed an intimate acoustic meet, greet, and sing along set for VIP members. Seated on hay bales and blankets in a circle, Red crooned a half dozen requests, while chatting informally with guests and admirers. He took the Main Stage with his full band soon after, laying into an electrically charged set including “Revolution,” “303, and “Men and Coyotes,” where he had the audience howling along… like coyotes.
9) Cody Canada and the Departed – Saturday, Main Stage. Always a favorite with the fans, the Departed put in a stellar set, highlighted by Jeremy Plato’s masterful work on the six-string bass. Canada’s lead guitar and vocals were equally precise and passionate, the latter augmented occasionally with a reverb microphone that added depth and character to the performance. “You’re Always 17 in Your Hometown” with William Clark Green stood out as their best of the evening.
10) Jamie Lin Wilson – Friday, Main Stage. It’s easy to get so charmed by Jamie Lin’s smaller stage sets and sit-ins with other artists that you forget that her main stage performances are equally outstanding. Her backing led by Scott Davis on lead guitar was more than equal to the task of open up Friday evening’s big events. The crowd responded most enthusiastically when they were joined on stage by Courtney Patton, Kaitlin Butts, and Jen Hakey on “Oklahoma Stars,” a song Jamie penned a few years ago at Medicine Stone. As dusk rolled in with rain threatening, it combined with the subtle mist and lighting from the stage set to create a powerful atmosphere for “Whistling Past the Graveyard.”
11) Jared Tyler Band – Thursday, Gravel Bar Stage. Tulsa native Jared Tyler kicked off the event Thursday afternoon with an energetic performance of his blend of blues, rock, soul, jazz, and country. Standout numbers were “I put My Britches on One Leg at a Time,” I don’t listen to Country Anymore,” and “Take me Back to Tulsa.”
12) Shinyribs – Friday – Main Stage. Perhaps the most eclectic act of the weekend, Shinyribs and his backing band are known for their live performances, and did not disappoint here. Front man and guitarist, Kevin Russell, has suitcases full of charisma that grabs you as soon as they walk out on stage. Described as “country soul swamp funk,” Shinyribs is just plain fun that gets the most skeptical members in the audience going. Whether it was Allen Toussaint’s “A Certain Girl,” “Bitch Better Have My Money,” or his famous duet with Alice Spencer “I Don’t Give a Shit,” Shinyribs entertained thoroughly.
Best Food Vendor:
1) ChickHoovenSwine BBQ of Spring Hill, Kansas
1) Black shirt with an image of President Reagan wearing an American flag bandana;
2) “Man Up, Shut up;”
3) “Throwback punks and daytime drunks;”
4) “Sunny, Brennan, Courtney, Jamie;”
5) “Drunk Wives Matter;”
6) “Friends Don’t Let Friends Stone Alone;”
7) “Whitey” [Morgan] (with a revolver barrel image as the dot on the “i”)