By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
There's a big underground rock show in town Friday
night, but Flick is not on the bill. It's probably just as
well, because these kids — now with their major-label debut
on shelves — won't be underground for very long.
They'll be playing at the Fur Shop on Friday night, the
band's first Tulsa appearance despite living just up the
turnpike in Stockton, Mo.
That's near Springfield. Don't worry, you're not missing
much, according to the band. It's a
blink-and-you'll-miss-it kind of town, and that's exactly
the environment in which Flick enjoys creating its slow,
serious, patient rock rhapsodies.
"It's a town of about 1,500 people. There's not a lot
going on," said Flick guitarist Oran Thornton of his
hometown during an interview this week. "Trevor and I work
better writing-wise being in someplace really quiet instead
of someplace fast-paced like New York or L.A. It's nice to
work in the middle of the night and walk outside to dead
silence, stars and crickets rather than some busy street."
Giving polish to the American-dream side of the music
business, Flick has reached the big time without straying
too far from its southern Missouri hamlet. Before the four
members — Oran, his lead singer brother Trevor, bassist Eve
Hill and drummer Adam McGrath — had graduated high school,
they had major-label scouts finding their way to Stockton
to hear them play. The band landed a few opening slots for
artists like Duncan Sheik, most of whom went back to their
record companies raving about "the kids in Missouri."
A deal with Columbia Records was a quick rescue from a
struggle to find place to play and an audience to fill it
in a rural area not known as a magnet for modern rock.
"Around here, it's pretty much all country music,"
Thornton said. "I think there are a few bars outside of
town. If they even have live music, it's probably some
country band that doesn't even play good country like Hank
Williams — it's that awful, hip new country."
With his distaste for country's current regime tucked
snugly under his cap, Oran and his bandmates ironically
recorded the bulk of their Columbia debut, "The Perfect
Kellulight," in a studio outside of Nashville.
Nashville turned out to be the perfect place to hone and
record the album — again because of the Thornton brothers'
desire to be away from any hustle and bustle.
"Down in Nashville, we were away from label pressures and
opinions of too many other people," Oran said. "It's
frustrating when too many people get around you while
you're trying to complete a thought. They try to put in
their input when you haven't really gotten your whole
thought out. We were able to finish our thoughts down
there, so the record came out more like we'd envisioned
Not that the members of Flick harbor any resentment
toward Columbia, a major among major labels. The company
has taken its time with Flick. Instead of snatching up the
band of youngsters, flinging an album onto the shelves and
shoving them out on the road, Columbia has given the band
the time and resources to develop, releasing an EP early on
and giving them space to shape the album.
"Making that EP was the learning experience," Oran said.
"At the time, we weren't completely happy with what was
happening. If we didn't go through that process, we
wouldn't have ever learned for sure what we wanted and what
we didn't want. You have to figure that out early on or
else other people will make you into what they want you to
Oran is a sprightly 19 years old. His brother Trevor is
his younger brother, and the other bandmates teeter
similarly around that median age. Somehow in the '90s
(after the '80s, during which most of the chart-toppers
were retooled boomers) we've come to think this is an
awfully young age to be snatched up by the record industry.
"Back in the '60s and '70s, if someone was in a band at
17, 18 or 19, that was normal," he said. "That's what most
rock bands were — young guys. That's why it was cool to want
to be in one. Jimmy Page was 19 when he started. Tommy
Stinson was 14 when he made the first Replacements record
"It's an advantage in some ways because you can relate to
your audience more. It's a disadvantage in others because
of the hype around it. People want to compare us to Hanson
or something, just because we're young — which is all we
have in common with Hanson."
For now, these young'uns will be touring around the
region, casually supporting "The Perfect Kellulight" until
the record is officially released to radio next month.
Then stand back and watch as they shove the Smashing
Pumpkins off the modern rock chart.
Just a prediction.
With Fanzine and the Kickbacks
When: 9 p.m. Friday
Where: The Fur Shop, 320 E. Third St.
Tickets: Cover charge at the door
BY THOMAS CONNER
© Tulsa World
I'll be at a party somewhere in 10 years, and the
discussion inevitably will turn to concerts we've seen.
We'll be swapping takes on Lollas and Liliths, and somehow
I'll mention that I saw Billy Bragg perform his Woody
Guthrie songs in Woody's hometown of Okemah back in the
summer of '98.
The faces around me will tighten — brows raised, cheeks
drawn, lips pursed. There will be a beat of silent,
palpable awe. Someone will say, "Wow, you were there?"
By then, the Woody Guthrie Free Folk Arts Festival in
Okemah will have surpassed the Philadelphia folk festival
as the country's largest celebration of folk music and all
things acoustically American. Each year, tens of thousands
of folkies will invade Okemah — the once peaceful town few
in the nation had heard of — for the four-day festival
featuring the world's biggest names in folk music, from
Arlo Guthrie to Bruce Springsteen. Jewel will be trying to
mount a comeback, begging the festival organizers for a
spot on the prestigious bill. Congress will have replaced
the national anthem with Woody's "This Land Is Your Land."
These are the images that floated through my mind
Tuesday night as I stood outside Okemah's Crystal Theater
after Billy Bragg's historical performance inside. Surely I
had just witnessed the beginning of something big. Surely
something significant had happened tonight.
Whether the momentum of this week's incredible folk
festival in Okemah — featuring Arlo, Tom Paxton, a host of
talented folkies and Billy Bragg — will carry it far enough
to realize my little daydream remains to be seen (a good
bet, though). Still, something significant certainly
happened Tuesday night. After years of hesitation and doubt
from his home state, Woody was finally welcomed home.
The festival hooted and hollered all weekend, but the
defining performance was Bragg's Tuesday night show.
Himself a union-backing troubadour, Bragg was asked by
Woody's daughter, Nora, to write and record music to
several of the thousands of tuneless manuscripts in the
Woody Guthrie Archives. The results of this collaboration
were released this month as an album, "Mermaid Avenue," and
Bragg opted to perform some of these gems in Woody's
hometown — on a vintage stage where Woody himself once
The evening was electric. The faces of the all-ages,
standing-room-only crowd were bright with anticipation and
thrill. Camera crews from the BBC, CNN and various regional
production groups scurried throughout the theater. Woody's
sister was there. Journalists from France were there
(gloating over their nation's World Cup victory . . . on
Bastille Day, no less). Best of all, no one was protesting
Woody's socialist leanings. Everyone was friendly, and the
show was free. But despite the build-up and the hype
preceding this simple folk concert, Bragg wound up
surpassing it. A veteran British rocker with folk
tendencies and punk roots, Bragg emerged on stage as humble
and personable as ever. He plugged in his lone electric
guitar and began serving up songs and stories. He played a
few of his own tunes — opening with the romantic "A New
England" and closing with an encore of his greatest
political song, "Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards" — but
concentrated on the task at hand: reintroducing us to our
nation's most important songwriter.
The album, as I've already huzzahed in these pages, is a
stellar achievement, but Bragg's performance realized every
hopeful anticipation. That these songs communicate just as
effectively through one man and his guitar (rather than the
full band on most of the record) speaks to the already
established simple genius of Guthrie's writing. That Bragg
revived Woody's spirit with such vitality speaks to the
simple genius of his own talent. This evening in Okemah was
not the knee-slapping nostalgia-fest I partly feared it
might become. Instead, Bragg's sincerity, tenderness and
obvious appreciation for the material and the man fluffed,
buffed and wholly restored the memory and image of Guthrie
in the minds of a curious crowd.
It's like finding out something new about someone you've
known for years — this new light shed on the person's
character shatters your preconceived notions and makes
their personality more tangible. Woody not only was an
earnest, guitar-toting activist; he was a lover, a
worshiper, a voter, a dreamer and a father. Bragg made
sure we saw these sides of Woody. His Christian devotion
rang proudly in Bragg's harsh reading of "Christ for
President." His playfulness bounced through "My Flying
Saucer." His amazingly graceful blend of the personal and
political inspired chills in "She Came Along to Me."
"This is the Woody most people haven't seen — the Woody in
the archives," Bragg said on stage, "and it's just as
important as the Woody we already know."
Why is this important? Ask any of the people there
Tuesday night — the grandparents, the tattooed punks, the
grizzled Okies, the dewey-eyed high schoolers, the
well-starched nine-to-fivers. These disparate groups were
all gathered together peacefully to celebrate a few glories
of living, and Woody's words — thanks in no small part to
Bragg's faithful delivery — spoke to every one of them.
Woody's impact effects more people than Will Rogers, Troy
Aikman or even Garth Brooks, and his legacy has only
Welcome home, Woody.
By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
Last fall, British folk singer Billy Bragg was kicking
around Green Country chasing the ghost of Woody Guthrie.
He'll be back this week — and this time he's bringing his
Bragg will be performing a special kind of Guthrie
tribute. In fact, it's less a tribute than a collaboration
with the late Okemah-native and legendary American folk
singer. At the request of Guthrie's daughter Nora, Bragg
wrote music to several dozen Guthrie lyrics — verses whose
music was stored in Woody's head and died with him in 1967.
With the backing of premier American roots band Wilco, the
results of the collaboration were released a couple of
weeks ago on a CD named for the location of Guthrie's New
York City home, "Mermaid Avenue."
His solo show in Okemah this week — kicking off the first
Woody Guthrie Free Folk Arts Festival — brings full circle
his study of Woody's still-struggling legacy. We caught up
with Bragg again last week to talk about the finished
project, and he tore himself from a televised World Cup
game to talk about the album, his crash course in Oklahoma
history and the irony of the continuing struggle of the
country's greatest songwriter to find acceptance in his
Thomas Conner: Before you started working on this album,
how much of America had you seen?
Billy Bragg: I've seen more of America than most
Americans. I've traveled here two or three times a year
since 1984, and I've been through every state except six. I
don't like to fly, either, so I drive it. You see more that
way, you know? If you just fly over it, how do you know
what's different about it? If I hadn't been looking at a
map and driving, for instance, I wouldn't know that the
Texas panhandle is not really a panhandle at all. It's
Oklahoma that's got the real panhandle.
TC: And how much did you know about Woody before
embarking on this project?
BB: We've driven through Oklahoma before but never
stopped there. When we drove down from Pittsburg last fall,
I read Woody's biography on the way. Before that, I knew as
much as anybody, I guess. I knew he influenced Bob Dylan,
he died of a terrible disease and he wrote "This Land Is
Your Land." I'm used to hearing his music performed by other
artists. I first heard "Pretty Boy Floyd" done by the Byrds,
and I heard "Do Re Mi" done by Ry Cooder. This project is
sort of a continuation of that tradition.
TC: Tell me about some of the experiences you had
exploring Oklahoma last fall.
BB: Well, I'd never been to Tulsa before. When we
visited the Cain's Ballroom — that stuck with me. The whole
idea of Bob Wills and the Sex Pistols all wrapped up in one
place — it really speaks to something ...
TC: What does it speak to?
BB: The — what is it? — the melting pot of America. All
that melting stuff of humanity seems to do its mixing in
the center of America, in Oklahoma. The whole state tends
to stand out, whether it wants to or knows it or not.
Oklahoma doesn't fit easily into the categories of Midwest,
Southwest or the South. It's very much a crossroads.
TC: Indeed, much to the dismay of chambers of commerce
and tourist departments that try to find a marketable
identity for the state.
BB: But they've got it. Woody Guthrie is your Mickey
Mouse. Those chambers of commerce have resisted the man who
wrote "This Land Is Your Land." If the person who wrote the
actual national anthem came from Oklahoma, you'd call
yourselves home of the national anthem. Thirty or forty
years ago, you could have called yourselves the home of
TC: No signs like that in Okemah, eh?
BB: We went to Okemah and walked the streets — some still
sort of brick cobble streets — and walked to the ruin of the
Guthrie house, just getting the vibe for it. It's really
rolling hills around there, not flat as everyone pictures
it from images of the Dust Bowl. My preconceptions about
Oklahoma were about as correct as my preconceptions about
We went to Pampa (Texas), too, which is flat as a
pancake. Looking out my hotel room window on the third or
fourth floor, just before the sun came up, in the distance
I could catch the lights from Calgary or Edmondton ...
TC: What did you learn about Woody that really surprised
BB: I learned that if you think of Woody Guthrie as a
character in a world like the movie version of "The Grapes
of Wrath" you're only getting half the picture. He also
belongs as a background character walking onto subways in
Manhattan, in the background of a movie like "On the
TC: I understand you found a few folks around Okemah who
don't think much of their native son because of his
BB: Yeah, we found some people with
rather strong views about Okemah's favorite son. They're
dying off, though. It's very much a generational thing. If
this project leads to a reassessment of Woody's life and
career, the place it needs that most is in Oklahoma. One
day it may come to pass that people there begin to be
unashamed of him as they are.
TC: How did you approach the writing process — putting
music to words already written, and written by someone you
respect so much?
BB: The process was really very simple for me. When I
write songs, I slave over the lyrics, but the music just
flows. I suppose it's some sort of intuitive thing, and I
just sort of tune into it. I just sat down with these
lyrics and in some ways just felt the tunes. You sit down
and feel what you feel. If there's nothing, you turn a few
pages, and maybe the next one gets you somehow.
TC: Was it your idea to work with Wilco, or was that a
record company strategy?
BB: My idea. When Nora approached me, the deal I made
was that I chose the musicians. She was very concerned that
this not sound like a tribute record. Tributes are nice
ideas, but they're often focused on the personalities of
the people who record them. We wanted to focus on the
TC: So why Wilco?
BB: They sound like the ultimate Midwest Americana
red-dirt band. (Wilco leader) Jeff Tweedy is a marvelous
songwriter, too. He really understood what we were
TC: And why did it take a Brit to get such a firm grip
on Woody's ethos?
BB: Well, there are very few people out there performing
today who talk openly about unions. Maybe that's why they
needed me, a foreigner. There's really nothing we have in
common as artists. But even though the political situation
I went through in Britain in the 1980s was different from
what Woody was experiencing in the '30s, the conclusions we
came to are quite similar.
TC: Will you have another go at this kind of
BB: Well, we recorded 40 tracks, so
there might be another disc. I'd like to think others might
go in there and work with Nora, though. Woody wrote for
everyone, and there's plenty of room for interpretation.
By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
Billy Bragg & Wilco
And it takes a night and a girl and a book of this
kind a long, long time to find its way back.
— Woody Guthrie, "Walt Whitman's Niece''
When we write stories about Woody Guthrie — the folk
singer whose guitar had scrawled on it, "This Machine
Kills Fascists'' — we inevitably get a handful of letters
from bunched-up patriots who remind us that Woody was a
"flaming Communist,'' damn us for our "poisonous
propaganda'' and insult that other threatening commie: Jane
Fonda. Such is the sorry state of Woody's legacy in his
ungrateful home state nearly 20 years after his death.
Leave it to a British folk singer — one who votes Labour,
of course — to help right the memory of the man who wrote
"This Land Is Your Land,'' "Union Maid,'' "Dust Storm
Disaster'' and, ironically, "I Ain't Got No Home.''
Guthrie's daughter, Nora, sought out Billy Bragg — a humble,
strong performer with political ideas nearly parallel to
the vocal and union-backing Guthrie — for her father's first
posthumous collaboration. The result undoubtedly will help
to give Guthrie long-overdue recognition on his native
soil, but more than that: this album, "Mermaid Avenue,''
does more to establish Woody in the pantheon of great
American champions than even "Library of Congress
Recordings,'' the ultimate collection of his output.
Guthrie was a prolific composer, but he usually failed
to write down the music or chords to his songs. Thus, when
he died in 1967, the tunes to thousands of unrecorded songs
died with him. The remaining reams of lyrics comprise
today's Woody Guthrie Archives, run by Nora in New York
City. At Nora's request, Bragg sifted through these
orphaned songs and — with the help of Jeff Tweedy and his
pioneering American roots band Wilco — wrote new music for
The album they recorded is a glowing testament to the
enduring power of Guthrie's imagination and conviction. By
turns raucous and witty, touching and insightful, these
songs — some of them a half century old — summon a musical
and social vitality the mainstream hasn't known since the
'60s. (And those "revolutions'' in the '60s were a direct
result of the ideas first publicly circulated by folk
singers like Guthrie.) Anyone remember when popular music
educated without preaching and entertained without
pandering? That music lives — and loves living — on "Mermaid
It's the collaboration with Bragg and Wilco, though,
that's essential to this vitality. Had the Archives simply
come across some lost recordings of Woody himself, the
inevitably tinny mid-century tapes and archaic production
quality would automatically date and distance the
sentiments. The same result would have come if this project
had been led by a Guthrie obsessive; the tunnel vision
would be exclusive — a very un-Woody quality. Even in the
electronic age, the oral traditions (the very basis of folk
music) transmit our culture, and it's the maintenance of
art throughout new generations that verifies the art's
worth as well as shaping the whole society. Bragg came to
Guthrie second-hand — through Dylan and the Byrds and Ry
Cooder — and it's perhaps because of his own distance from
Woody's material that he so easily embraces it, refreshes
it and tunes it up for a few more years of declaration in
the marketplace of ideas.
Bragg and Wilco have crafted an album that reveres
Woody's lean, direct lyrics while at the same time reveling
in the breadth of his character. Woody's oft-forgotten
playful side is brought to life in Tweedy's bouncy ramble
through the children's song "Hoodoo Voodoo,'' and while
the words to "Ingrid Bergman'' may seem on paper to be a
tongue-in-cheek acknowledgment of the actress, but Bragg's
breathtaking, simple delivery reveals more oft-forgotten
human qualities of Woody's: desire, romance, even lust. The
politics are here, too — still relevant in songs like
"Christ for President'' and the Frost-y (as in Robert)
"The Unwelcome Guest'' — but "Mermaid Avenue''
concentrates on love ("She Came Along to Me''), longing
("California Stars'') and beer-drinking sing-alongs
("Walt Whitman's Niece''). It's a fitting approach that
may aid us in the realization that Woody was a man — not
just an easy, dehumanizing label.
Funny, though, that it took a socialist Brit to bring
Woody back home. Even when Bragg — in his fairly thick,
English brogue — interjects spoken bridges into these
easy-going new tunes, the color never drains from the red
dirt on this album. No Oklahoman could listen to this
record and not conjure those heartfelt, enigmatic images of
this territory — the dust, the wheat, the sense of home and
hope, the pervading far-off look in every pair of eyes.
And that's the point. The fact that Woody's songs still
find life in the mouths of singers from every culture and
continent is proof of his lasting legacy — a legacy that
will outlive his detractors by centuries. Dust to dust.
BY THOMAS CONNER
© Tulsa World
If Hanson is the future of teeny-bop, I'm going to start
hunting for the fountain of youth. But, no, this isn't
music that can be easily lumped into that derisive
Hanson shares nothing in common with bands usually
referred to as teeny-bop, bubble gum or sugar pop. No way
did New Kids on the Block put on a show with this much
conviction, and I'll wager a good chunk of my retirement
money that Taylor Hanson could wither every one of the
Backstreet Boys to cinders with his voice alone.
Hanson is much better than that, and the proof was in
the group's eagerly awaited hometown concert Wednesday
night at the Mabee Center.
These three kids from Tulsa, America, have got soul.
They're steeped in it. They drip it all over the stage. I
don't know where they got it, but they've got a firm grip
on it. They were kind enough to set the Mabee Center on
fire with it for nearly two hours Wednesday. It makes
sense — they were raised on '50s and '60s rhythm and blues
and rock 'n' roll. They tried to justify those roots
Wednesday night, too, by opening the show with “Gimme Some
Lovin'' and covering other soulful oldies, like “Doctor,
Doctor'' and “Summertime Blues.''
That's all well and good, and it pacifies the parents
who feel dragged along, but it hardly makes a case to book
three teen- agers into any city's biggest arena.
Hanson, delightfully enough, shines brightest when
they're Hanson, playing their own songs. After a cautious
delivery of “Thinking of You,'' they launched into their
second big hit, “Where's the Love,'' and the house started
This was the moment they themselves seemed to come
alive. This was a song in which they had a personal stake
and one they could back with the impressive — but still
limited — arsenal of life experiences. They can mimic
the great soul pioneers — and Taylor easily does, frequently
throwing in a very James Brown-ish “C'mon!'' But they can
throw down by themselves, too. When they do, it's
Even a completely silly, throw-away song like
“Soldier'' became a dynamic performance live. It's an
absurd little story of a lonely toy soldier, but when
Taylor thwaps his keyboard and sings, “He sank to the
bottom of the rivah,'' this goofy tale suddenly has almost
They played that song during a stripped-down, unplugged
set, complete with armchair and mood lamps. The full-bore
band sets that book-ended this intermission were exciting
and tight, but this acoustic set illustrated just how
durable these three mop-tops will prove to be.
This is how Hanson's talent was sown, just sitting down
and playing. That their songs are strengthened by this kind
of delivery indicates a long life ahead.
The acoustic set ended with Taylor and Zac leaving
eldest brother Isaac alone on stage for a solo number at
the piano. Isaac started off as the trio's lead singer, and
he was shoved aside once the more buxom Taylor's voice came
into its own.
That was unfortunate, because as the latest record,
“Three Car Garage,'' shows, Isaac is a strong singer. He
definitely has an overly romantic streak, but his solo was
surprisingly moving. If Fiona Apple ever experiences a
relationship that doesn't make her feel dirty and cheap,
she and Isaac could make beautiful music together.
The show was sprinkled with moments that appeared to be
special for the Tulsa audience. Other than repeatedly
assuring us how glad they were to be playing at home, the
Hansons played several songs introduced as “a song we
played around here a lot'' or “a song that's only been
played in Tulsa.''
The crowd, of course, loved every minute of it. Of
course, Zac could have sat on the edge of the stage and
clipped his toenails, and the girls still would have
But one day, rest assured, these girls will look back on
these exciting concert moments and listen to “Middle of
Nowhere'' again. They'll cock their heads and realize how
good the music is, how it still holds up, how it still gets
them moving and brings to mind happy times.
BY THOMAS CONNER
© Tulsa World
Boy, the boys are glad to be home.
"Finally, we've figured out what day and month it is, and
where we are. We're home!" said Zac Hanson, youngest of the
fraternal trio Hanson.
The group returned home Wednesday for its first hometown
concert since the group's major- label debut record, "Middle
of Nowhere," hit No. 1 around the world last year.
For the last year and a half, Hanson — that's Isaac,
Taylor and Zac — has been racing a whirlwind schedule of
promotional appearances and brief performances around the
globe. The three boys spoke with the media at a pre-show
press conference and said that this summer's tour is the
most fun they've had yet.
"People always ask us, 'Is being on tour such hard work?'
Actually, being on tour has been less stressful than the
last year and a half," Isaac said.
Each young singer voiced and showed visible relief at
being among familiar surroundings. The group — which usually
travels with both parents and some or all of four other
siblings — return to Tulsa on rare occasions, but the bulk
of their time since "Middle of Nowhere" hit shelves in May
1997 has been spent in hotels and buses from Birmingham to
In fact, there were fans young and old at Wednesday
night's concert who traveled all the way from, well, Buenos
"It's amazing that people would come that far," Isaac
"I wouldn't go that far," Taylor added.
It's amazing that these three Tulsa youths have come
this far, too. Just two years ago, the under-age boys were
still finagling gigs at Tulsa clubs and wondering how they
would ever get their career off the ground.
"Our last gig in Tulsa was just two years ago," Taylor
". . . at the Blue Rose," Isaac added. "I remember it
distinctly. We said to each other, 'This is going to be our
last show. We're going to go to L.A. and make an album.' "
The amazement at their own good fortune seems genuine.
These are three kids who have conquered the world and
matured remarkably but still somehow remained bright-eyed
"We're still just so psyched about getting to play,"
Taylor said. "If it all stopped right now, we'd be totally
psyched to say we have had the greatest year and a half
When asked what they missed most about Tulsa, Zac was
quick to answer, "The food."
Outside the press conference — held in a room at the
Warren Place DoubleTree Hotel — was the usual gaggle of
young girls hoping for a glimpse of the three stars. They
screamed when Hanson entered the room, and they screamed
when the boys left. The Hansons said they've gotten used to
that sort of hysteria and haven't allowed it to hamper
their normal lives too much.
"We still go out — we just go in big groups of friends. We
still do all the things we used to do — we're just more
cautious," Taylor said. "It's cool to just have fans at all."
Pop quiz: Hanson and the media
BY THOMAS CONNER
© Tulsa World
They're just kids.
That's the first thing you notice when you see Hanson in
person. For a year and a half, those of us who pay
attention to the goings-on of these three talented guys
have been conditioned for their Celebrity Status. They must
be bigger than life, right?
Nah. They're just three kids. They laugh. They joke.
They punch each other. And — I was thrilled to see — the
rigors of fame haven't seemed to dull their spirits one
The three boys sat down with the Tulsa and state press a
few hours before their Wednesday concert at the Mabee
Center. The questions came fast and furious, and they
handled them all with impressive aplomb.
For those who simply must know everything, here are the
Q. What do you think of being a role model for so many
Isaac: "If we influence people in a positive way, help
them get inspired to do things they want to do, that's
Taylor: "We're really just psyched about getting to play.
It's cool just to get to make your music."
Q. You added a second show in Detroit. Why no extra show
Isaac: "That was a fluke, really. We had planned
to travel back toward the East Coast, and Detroit happened
to be on the way. The scheduling just won't allow it here
Taylor: "We want to come back and play Tulsa again as
soon as we can. There will be a more extensive tour after
the next record. We'll probably play Oklahoma City, too."
Q. Do you still horse around together as brothers, or
are you sick of each other?
(They each punch each other playfully. Hard, but
Zac: "We actually get hurt more when we're
joking about that."
Taylor: "We were doing a TV show and
Ike nailed me in the face. We were trying to demonstrate
Q. Are you worried about being a flash-in-the-pan?
Taylor: "We can't worry about that. We can just do
exactly what we've always done. It's up to the fans whether
they want to buy the records or not."
Q. Is anyone's voice changing?
Isaac: "People have been asking us that a lot lately.
That was news about a year ago."
Q. Who's the most thrilling person you've met so far?
Taylor: "Probably the president. That was the
highest-ranking one, at least."
Q. How do you keep up with school?
Taylor: "Well, it's summer now. Our parents have always
been our private tutors. We get to do cool things on the
Isaac: "We went to the CDC (Center for Disease Control)
the other day. Seeing all these pictures of people with the
Ebola virus, I was, like, eeeuuwwww! I think I'll wash my
Q. Do you get an allowance?
Taylor: "Well, we're not doing any chores ..."
Q. Is this Tulsa show the highlight of your world tour?
Isaac: "It's hard for it not to be."
Taylor: "We have a lot of friends and family who haven't
seen us live yet."
Q. What do you miss most about Tulsa when you're on the
Zac: "The food. Literally, the food."
Q. Any restaurant in particular?
Isaac: "We'd love to tell you, but if we did everybody
would go there at once."
Q. Anyone got a girlfriend?
By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
To my sister, Lauren,
Couldn't help thinking of you throughout every moment of
Amy Grant's performance Friday night here at Tulsa's Mabee
Center. It's funny — it caught me by such surprise. I'd
forgotten this musical link you and I shared. Many
circumstances and miles have come between us, but as Amy
sang those old songs from our younger, more questioning
years, I remembered everything I've learned and loved about
you. So I thought I'd write and let you know, because I
think these are the kinds of bond-strengthening revelations
that Amy's music is all about.
I may throw today's Tulsa World readers for a loop by
showing my sentimental streak this way. I'm the rascally,
young rock critic down here, and Amy Grant isn't the kind
of show any regular readers might expect me to rave about.
It's not power pop, after all. But even rascally, young
rock critics have weaknesses they keep hidden behind their
biting commentary, and Amy Grant is one of mine. Thanks to
She reminds me so much of you — a strong, active woman
who radiates an astonishingly calm assurance. This is true
on stage more than on record, though the songs from her
newest album, "Behind the Eyes," are clear signs of her
reconciliation with that forum. But even if she begins
relaxing in the studio, her live performances always will
best convey the spirit of her songs. They are songs that,
like you, often make their point so subversively you don't
always realize that her spiritual convictions inform every
lyric. Once you're aware of where she's coming from, the
firmness (not rigidity) of her spiritual confidence is
She played a lot of songs from the new record, which I
hope you've got, starting with the current hit, "Takes a
Little Time." ("It takes a little time sometimes / to get
your feet back on the ground" — you've given me that advice
before, haven't you?) The show got off to a slow start,
though. Her casualness — that astonishing calm — first seemed
like apathy. This was her last show on a 100-day tour; she
was probably exhausted. But singing is obviously more than
just a gift she recognized and seized upon. Perhaps it's a
real calling, because despite that exhaustion, she couldn't
help but get revved up as she worked through her set. She
had to ask the audience to stand up and sway for one song,
but when she played the groove-woven "Curious Thing," we
weren't following orders anymore. I saw you both in her
inevitable revitalization and in that song's golly-gee
wonder at life's unexpected quirks.
Seeing you in the new material was a joyful surprise. I
knew, though, that the old songs would remind me of you. I
remember just as much "El Shaddai" and "My Father's Eyes" as
"Whip It" and "Candy-O" playing in your car on the way to
school 15 years ago, and each had its own set of
inspirations. In fact, she took time out during her second
set Friday to perform a lot of those oldies — from "Thy Word"
to "The Wallet Song" — without the band. Wish you could have
seen this. Everyone else was singing along, and I could
have used your lyrical coaching.
Then she played another one, "Missing You," from her new
album. Oddly enough, she said she wrote this one for her
own sister who had moved away recently after a lifetime of
living nearby. Sound familiar? Can't say I was completely
dry-eyed when she sang, "Missing you is just a part of
living / Missing you feels like a way of life / I'm living
out the life that I've been given / but I still wish you
were mine." Rascally, young rock critics aren't supposed to
tear up in public. Missing you nearly ruined my
But that's what music is supposed to do, right — break
down those emotional barriers? OK, so maybe everyone
doesn't have the opportunity to write about it to entire
cities, but I can't imagine there are many fans reading me
this morning who haven't had similar experiences with Amy's
— or anyone's — music. Songwriters write deeply personal
songs, and they hand them off to us knowing (or at least
hoping) that we'll share their feelings or apply our own.
It's an essential part of human communication, and I don't
think Amy would be embarrassed by my expression here half
as much as you will be when you read it. Next time I write,
I promise I won't print 170,000 copies of it. See you later
this month, I hope.
BY THOMAS CONNER
© Tulsa World
Some Hanson fans love the Tulsa trio sooooooooooo much
that they channel their obsession into their own, um,
artistic expression. Instead of merely daydreaming their
fantasies of hanging out with Taylor, going camping with
Zac or finding a soulmate in Ike, legions of fans are
writing those fantasies into Hanson fan fiction and posting
it on the Internet for all to see.
The web is now thoroughly packed with clearinghouses of
this novice prose. The stories are written mostly by girls
and — yeesh — a few older women, and they cover just what
you'd expect them to: idolizing a Hanson, meeting a Hanson
and eventually smooching a Hanson.
If you ever need justification that young girls harbor
ambitions of becoming the next generation's Harlequin
romance novelists, tune in. A good place to start reading,
if you dare, is through the stories link at the Ultimate
Hanson Links Page.
Hanson fan fiction has it all — sex, violence, drugs and
the dropping of more brand names than a professional
product placement representative could contract in his or
her entire career. It offers a glimpse into the lives of a
segment of American youth that most miss — or ignore — and it
ain't always a pretty picture.
They've never been to Tulsa
You wouldn't believe the number of stories that describe
the Hanson home with a horizon of snow-capped mountains in
the distance. In the notorious "Tulsa 74132," written by
anonymous authors, Juliet and Isaac spend a day in the
fictional Metro Parks, described thusly:
It had huge ponds, trails, swamps and educational
buildings, plus a ton of wildlife took sanction in the
park, making for an always exciting animal spotting
adventure. And now they sat on a bench in Buttermilk Falls,
just enjoying the view. Buttermilk Falls was one of the
most spectacular sights, for it was a trail that led from
one stream of waterfalls to the next. Each bed of water was
crystal clear, showing the hard work the city put into
keeping it a nice area. They have underdeveloped
In one story ("Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow,") Taylor
treats his latest female admirer to dinner at a Tulsa
eatery called Ray's Restaurant:
He picked up a menu, scanned it quickly and reclosed
"I'll take the dill salmon and a large root beer."
They are ready for the realities of marriage
"Tulsa 74132" includes a scene in which Isaac's new lover,
Juliet, pushes him away and retreats into pouting. Isaac
tenderly inquires as to the source of her distress and is
met with this harrangue: "We never go anywhere. All we do is
sneak somewhere and make out. Why don't you take me
They are incredibly defensive about their work
Rare is the piece of Hanson fiction that does not begin
with a disclaimer warning all naysayers to step back,
something like Rachel Munro's statement at the beginning of
her 20-chapter story "Forever Friends": "There is only one
rule I put on my story and that is that only true Hanson
fans are allowed to read it." So there.
The safe-sex messages are getting through
Every story in which fan-Hanson copulation actually
occurs makes explicit mention of using condoms — and not
just rote regurgitation of safe-sex lectures from school.
For instance, in "Near You Always" by Ashley Elizabeth
Farley, Isaac and a young girl named Emma seal their
undying passion after making sure that all the safe-sex
requirements are met — with Isaac singing all the way
through it (yegods).
In "Tulsa 74132," a young temptress named Juliet sidesteps
the typical safe-sex reluctance and insists on being
You go, girl!
Shakespeare is still required study in American
"Tulsa 74132" features a protagonist named Juliet in its
tale of star-crossed love. Some other story titles: the
aforementioned "Parting Is Such Sweet Sorrow," "Where for Art
Thou, Taylor?" and — really — "Methinks They're Sooooooo
Some of them are foul-mouthed little brats
Some Hanson fiction authors use the medium simply to
mouth off. Case in point: "Barbie and Her Three Kens" by
Kitkat, a Dadaist stream of nonsense that turns the Hanson
brothers into offensive little thugs. In Part Two, they
insult every aspect of another girl's appearance — to her
"Toss It Up, Tulsa," by an unidentified author, is loaded
with profanity, vulgar situations and a version of Zac cast
as a salivating sex fiend. Turn on those parental controls
and wash out these modems with soap.
There are plenty of lines that are fun to quote out of
context. Par example: "Suddenly Isaac realized what he
was doing: sitting in a darkened movie theater, looking at
and feeling women's lingerie" (from "Tulsa 74132").
These online "clips" reproduce a self-selection of my journalism (music etc) during the last 20+ years. It's a lotta stuff, but it only scratches the surface. I do not currently possess the time or resources to digitize the whole body of work. These posts are simply a bunch of pretty great days at the office.