The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

April 27, 2013

Sounds of the scene: Growing live music presence puts Enid on the map

By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Enid is known around the state for a number of things, but its growing live music presence is starting to put the city on the map among musicians and music lovers across the state.

Cara Carson, whose husband Scott is a musician, said there is live music most nights in Enid, not just on weekends. Tuesday and Wednesday nights, Q-Spot, 221 W. Cherokee, features live music with local and area musicians. Thursday nights, there is live music at Jack’s Barn, 909 W. Oak and Third Thursday at the Turpin Theatre in the Gaslight Theatre. There also is the monthly First Friday performances at the Turpin, Carson said.

A number of other venues hire local talent, including Rodeo Lounge, Last Honky Tonk, Fugly’s and Club 30. Most clubs in Enid feature some live entertainment on weekends.

Indian Creek Village Winery in Ringwood also presents live entertainment on Sunday afternoons.

Live music has developed over the last three or four years, Carson said. There are even several recording studios in Enid and many of the bands have recordings available.

“There are lots of good cover bands, but there is a big push for original music,” she said.

Scott Carson and guitarist Billy Beck play acoustic, electric and dobro together. They play rhythm and blues, rock, bluegrass and country — all colliding into one, Cara Carson said.

“Enid is on the map, but local people are still learning about it. Enid is a musician’s town,” she said.

Carson said Enid venues generally pay well and the crowds are appreciative.

Multiple venues

Musicians want to come to Enid and play, and there are a number of events that bring them here, including Fling at the Springs and Jazz Stroll. This year, Jazz Stroll will be held Friday during the Tri-State Music Festival and will feature some Tri-State musicians. There will be bands from across the state, Carson said.

The Oklahoma Film & Music office has a list of all the venues in Enid, and Main Street Enid also maintains a list. Main Street Enid was an early supporter of the local music movement, Carson said. The organization got on board early and helped support some of the music events while they were getting started.

Local musicians Riley Jantzen and Jake Morrise have a band called Black Canyon, which performed on a film that was recognized during the deadCENTER Film Festival in Oklahoma City. Carson said Enid has a history of musicians, from Michael Hedges to Kyle Dillingham and Leona Mitchell.

A group of Enid musicians, including Scott and Cara Carson, Sylvan Reynolds, Stacey and Kay Sanders, along with Park Avenue Thrift, are bringing acts into Enid that may not be seen outside Austin, Texas. The annual “Running of the Rats” charity event also has brought known talent to Enid, she said. Enid Farmers Market also features live music.

Down on Main Street

Former Main Street project manager Lindy Chambers was one of the first to recognize local live music and what it could mean for Enid. She began the support of local music through Main Street, which is continued today by program manager Kelly Tompkins.

“Our whole thing at Main Street was to create an atmosphere to create an activity to bring people downtown,” Chambers said.

She worked with Enid City Commission to develop a downtown outside dining ordinance. Then, Chambers and other Main Street supporters realized they needed live music.

“We’re fortunate in Enid to have so much talent. There is a rich underground network who love to play and are very talented,” Chambers said.

She listed Reynolds, Stacey Sanders, Scott Carson, Billy Beck, George Davis and Dale Gillham. The local musicians were interested in having an outlet for music, she said.

Enid has been home to many performers. Eric Hoffman is a product of Enid schools until his family moved. He now lives in Stillwater and has played in Enid about 70 times. He said the local venues are mostly good.

“I think the fans there are the best and most supportive in the state, on a regular basis,” Hoffman said. “They seem to enjoy getting out and seeing a good band.”

Off the beaten path

Enid sits in a strange spot on the map. People funnel in and not out, he said. All of the local musicians rarely leave town, and they play all the time. When someone like Hoffman comes in from out of town, it seems people are hungry for something a little different. He said he does not mean better, just different.

Hoffman currently plays with a band called Suede Panther, which will play in Enid in the near future. Compared to other venues around the state, Enid’s pay is good, he said.

Enid always has had a reputation for live music, he said. Enid especially was active in the 1970s and 1980s, although it seemed to decline slightly in the 1990s. In the 2000s, the music scene revived, Hoffman said.

“I assume it’s because the children of the ’80s missed having live music in Enid all the time,” Hoffman said.

The scene is not as active as it was in the ’80s, because there are so many thing to do, he said. There are casinos and other types of activities, and people who never leave the Internet, he said.

“That being said, I think Enid has always had a good music scene, really good, in fact,” Hoffman said.

There is some variety to the music scene, too, as players such as Jim Nay, who has been part of Enid’s music scene for many years, still is popular. Steve Harwood and Amy Kelly have a following among people who like blues.

Q marks the spot

The guy who gets much of the credit for an influential live music venue in Enid is David Himes at Q-Spot. The old-fashioned pool hall features “Blues and Ques” on Tuesday, and “Wet Your Whistle” Wednesday. Himes and his wife, Suzy, work on live music nights. Daughter Cassie and stepson Justin are big helpers on music nights, too.

Himes said he got into it by accident. He was looking for a way to increase business on some slow nights.

“I needed the business — and I know all the musicians — so I talked around about it. They have nothing to do on Wednesday and Thursday, and it may get them another gig,” Himes said.

Although he is not a musician, Himes follows the music scene. He said the Tuesday events took off from the first night, but Wednesdays still are not well attended. Himes said there are too many other things to do on Wednesday.

“We’re Enid’s best-kept secret on Wednesday,” Himes said.

He has had musicians from Nashville, Austin, Oklahoma City and Norman perform, as well as a number of Enid area musicians. He does not know how many musicians have played. The live music nights actually began in 1995.

“I just wanted to get a little business and provide a place to have it. I get way too much credit than I deserve,” Himes said.

Today, people have started calling Himes and asking to perform. He always wants to hear them first to see if they do anything Enid audiences want to hear. Himes said there is a lot of local talent that is really good, but starting the live music nights almost was an accident.

“I was just looking for a way to pick up slow nights and kind of fell into it,” Himes said.

The live music activity began to catch on about the time Main Street developed the Jazz Stroll and First Friday. The first events were held on the Garfield County Court House lawn, but they realized they needed a way to get people into downtown businesses, and encouraged businesses to invite musicians into their stores on the First Friday of each month.

“It went over really well, and really quick,” Chambers said.

Some businesses were not set up for live entertainment, but they created a niche in their stores and hired a guitar player. The Oklahoma Main Street organization holds two mandatory training events each year, and scheduled one in Enid because officials heard about the live music scene. Chambers said the meeting was all about developing local music and featured some musicians on a discussion panel.

“There is a disconnect between the public and musicians. There needs to be an education of the public that this is a job,” Chambers said.

First Friday went over well among the musicians who talked to Gaslight Theatre about using the Turpin Theatre as a venue on Third Thursdays. Main Street promoted it and paid rental on the theater those nights, and that event has continued to grow. Third Thursday events have become so popular the theater was packed in March and April, she said.

“It’s success has been the small, intimate room to showcase the musicians, and March was packed. Some want to move to a larger room, but the intimacy is a key,” Chambers said.

Chambers loves music of all types, and Main Street saw the opportunity with Third Thursday and knew it fit the mission statement and lent further definition of the downtown, not just as a shopping area, but as a place to be entertained. Main Street’s slogan became “Shop, Dine, Be Entertained,” she said.

“Everyone loves music. No matter what age you are, whether you are black or white, or young or old, everyone loves music and there is usually a genre for everyone to step into. Enid is truly blessed,” Chambers said.