photos by Melissa Payne
Live music is an essential form of art. Music provides a form of therapy for both the listener as well as the performer. Music has been deep-rooted throughout many cultures and generations as a form of expression, a way to tell stories, and document history. As the world shut down, the venues and the stages across the country went dark, and the final chords had been struck. On Monday night in Tulsa, live music returned with Ragland at the Mercury Lounge.
The Mercury Lounge Tulsa, a dive bar that was born in a garage, opened their doors to concert goers for live music once again. Under strict capacity guidelines for the opening, the bar welcomed around 20 people into the facility for the show and spaced seating to meet both local and state social distancing guidelines. While the look and feel of the show was certainly different, the environment felt very safe and secure. The atmosphere of the bar returned to an even more normal state when full time touring, Oklahoma based band, Ragland took the stage.
The set began when Autumn Ragland stepped up to center stage. Autumn started the set with a solo acoustic version of a brand-new tune written during quarantine titled, “Remember Me.” As the song ended, Autumn was joined on stage by her bandmates, fiddle slayer Lauren Lee and her husband, Sam Cox, on bass and kickdrum. The trio didn’t skip a beat, and jumped right into both unrecorded material and tunes from their most recent release, More Like a Melody. The album was recorded at Boohatch Studios under the mentoring of red dirt legend, Mike McClure. The record was released on Valentine’s day 2020, and featured 20 original songs written from the heart about life, death, love, and being on the road.
Live music is on the way back. The look and the feel are going to be different for a while as venues present a safe, clean, controlled environment. I asked Autumn and Sam to “describe the emotions that they felt standing on stage for the first time in months.” Autumn provided a very real response that I know personally a lot of people are going to have to adjust to both, on and off stage. “I’m not a natural performer by any means. It’s something I’ve always had to work at. And I struggle with social anxiety. It’s much easier to get on stage and feel at ease when I’m doing it every day, or at least on a weekly basis. Getting back on stage after social distancing for 2 months was honestly nauseating. The best part about it was how good it felt to play with my band mates again. That’s always pretty magical.” Sam went on to state that “It was refreshing to see people clapping, and putting money in the bartenders tip jar. Normal things you see at shows. It was a small sense of “normalcy.”
For more on Ragland and their album, More Like a Melody: