By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
Every time the Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey is listed in a
festival bill, it's always followed by “alternative.''
It's a moniker the group can live with, even boast of, and a
truer word was never written. This is a jazz band that has been
known to have mosh pits at its shows, and its members speak
intensely of how its performances “rock.'' These guys don't just
want to blow their horns — they want to blow them in your face.
“We can really freak out sometimes,'' said keyboardist Brian
Haas. “A lot of times it's very chaotic.''
It's true. A Jacob Fred show can be very sweaty. People get
up, shake a leg and holler — no polite applause here. Which is,
after all, what jazz got people doing in the first place.
“After a show, I'm ready to just drop,'' Haas said. “Our
audiences usually are, too. Sometimes we forget that they need a
Haas is the epitome of the Jacob Fred aura: he uses the word
“cats'' a lot when referring to his colleagues, and his finesse on
his Fender Rhodes electric piano defies all preconceived notions
his shaved head and questionable fashion decisions may conjure.
Jacob Fred, that is, starts with the esteemed traditional and
pushes it, sometimes kicking and screaming, into the '90s.
“We're picking up where Miles Davis left off as far as
pushing the music forward,'' Haas said. “Since he died, the
momentum in jazz has kind of slowed down, and we're trying to rev
it up again.''
It's a bold claim from a bunch of University of Tulsa
upstarts with homework to do after the show, but if Fate is good
enough to smile on them, this band could one day stretch out that
legacy and blow people away all over the nation.
“There are so many reissues going on, and no one's doing
anything very exciting,'' said Matt Leland, on trombone. “All Blue
Note (Records) does anymore is cater to the crowd that made it big,
and they're all old now. Someday they'll all die off and what are
the younger ones going to have? It's a prime time to shake things
One listen to Jacob Fred's debut CD will confirm the “shake
things up'' plan. The disc, “Live at the Lincoln Continental,''
was recorded from gigs at Tulsa's Eclipse and Club One and is a
perfect primer to the Jacob Fred ... well ... jazz odyssey.
Featuring material written by four of the band's eight members, the
CD scans the chaos of influences that somehow coalesces into their
“Every single one of us is coming from a totally different
place,'' Haas said. “The more we play together, the less (the
music) becomes an individual thing and the more it becomes a group
dynamic ... We just love playing together, fortunately. A jazz
ensemble like this doesn't happen very often. We're all so very
different, but we say our thing through the same mouthpiece. That's
what makes our shows rock.''
“Live at the Lincoln Continental'' starts off with the quick
funk of “Pimpnotic,'' then moves through the alarming chase-scene
score of “I Love Steve Haas,'' the cool suspicion of “Behind the
Barricades'' and the pinnacle of barely-tamed madness, “Lorna's
Calypso.'' You name the influence; it's in there.
“There are so many schisms within jazz,'' said Leland,
crafter of half the songs on the disc. “We come from a very
traditional base and add something to it. I mean, it's 1995 and we
have each grown up listening to a lot of different music that has
influenced us. What we produce may not sound 'traditional,' but we
approach everything from the traditional and build from there.''
These aren't punks out to throw wrenches into the system,
either. The members of Jacob Fred are not whacking axes and banging
drums because it's fun and obnoxious, and they're certainly not
doing it for the money (every gig's copious compensation must be
split eight ways). Each composition is a carefully wrought idea
forged with a youthful fury and finesse.
“We come from a strong songwriting base,'' Leland said.
“We're most concerned with conveying the idea of the songs, not so
much with how high and fast we can play. The audience gets bored
with fast notes and showing off real quick. You don't have to
dazzle them. They have more fun with the ideas of the songs.''
“If you're up there playing bulls—-, they know it,'' piped
in Kyle Wright, a shy guy but a powerful Gabriel on trumpet.
Such wisdom from men dead set on “taking jazz to the MTV
crowd.'' Oh, the thinks they could think!
The name, incidentally, is derived from Haas' former CB
handle, Jacob Fred. It's also the name he would use in junior high
when he would call a girl and wake up her parents. “Who is this?''
they would demand. “Mr. Fred,'' he would say.
The band is Wright, Leland, Haas, Rod Mackey on saxophones,
Dove McHargue on guitar (check him out on “Lorna's Calypso''!),
Reed Mathis on bass, Sean Layton on drums and Matt Edwards on
percussion. All but two are or were TU students, though the band is
not affiliated in any way with the school.
“Our professors hate us,'' Haas said.
The unique crossover ability of Jacob Fred allows them to
play any kind of gig. Frequent staples of such rock dens as Eclipse
and Club One, they also easily fit into the local jazz festivals.
“We can still get hired for receptions and kick back and
swing,'' Haas said. “We can do it all.''
Check them out this month at a benefit for the A.D.A.M.S.
Theater on Aug. 19, Aug. 29 at Eton Square Shopping Center (in
front of Uno's) and Aug. 31 at Cafe 66 in Norman.
The CD can be found at Starship Records and Tapes, Mohawk
Music, Media Play, Sound Warehouse, Camelot Music in Eastland Mall
and the CD Warehouse.
This post contains my complete running coverage of this annual festival ...
© Tulsa World
Faces in the Crowd
By Thomas Conner 08/04/1995
Sen. Orrin Hatch was introduced by a young man who advised the
audience which over-the-counter pain remedies effectively simulate
a heroin high. The senator — an actor, of course — stepped up to
the third stage and began auctioning off the national parks and the
public school system to indifferent bidders in the crowd. His
ranting was interrupted by protesters from the Elf Liberation Front.
And the simulated high hadn't even kicked in yet.
So you can see that Lollapalooza is more than just a music
festival. Oh, so much more. Lollapalooza is a sampling of
contemporary youth culture, or at least a parade of those masks the
kids are allowed to rent.
The ticket price alone can be earned by just watching the
people go by at one particular sidewalk. You'll see every fashion
mistake since the first World War out there. This is an age group
that grew up parroting Billy Crystal's Fernando Lamas catch phrase,
“It is better to look good than to feel good.'' They mean it; on
July 10 at the Kansas City show, kids trudged through the
near-100-degree swelter in wool stocking caps, flannel shirts and
Other dedicated followers of fashion sport 'do rags, pierced
noses, pierced ears, pierced navels, pierced lips (watch them try
to eat the stir fry), toe rings, Brady Bunch striped T-shirts, jean
jackets with anarchy symbols emblazoned with permanent marker,
T-shirts that say “Kansas Zen Society'' (the oxymoron of the day),
tie-dyed shirts, ballcaps in every direction, Dr. Suess hats, Tommy
Hilfiger Golf Team shirts, postal uniforms, Stars and Stripes
bikinis, every landscape of facial hair one can conceive, and
tattoos tattoos tattoos!
But not everyone in the crowd is a young'un. Fred Coombs, 38,
of Olathe, Kan., stood out like a sore thumb in his button-down
shirt and Dockers shorts at the Kansas City show.
“I'm like that director on the old Dave Letterman show --
the blue shirt, the tan chinos, the brown shoes,'' Coombs said. “I
just discovered that I had too strong a parental instinct to let my
son come to this madness by himself.''
Coombs' 13-year-old son, Jay, said he was having fun despite
having his dad around.
“He's a pretty good sport,'' Jay said.
This conversation took place in the shadow of a giant condom,
mind you. An AIDS awareness group had, er, erected the 12-foot
device over its information table. That was next to the Planned
Parenthood table, where you can get free goodies if you hop on one
leg while saying the Pledge of Allegiance.
Lolla Land: A Self-Help Guide
By Thomas Conner 08/04/1995
Whatever you do, don't forget the tanning lotion. And here are some
other factoids and tips for the Lollapalooza virgin:
— “Lollapalooza'' is an actual word defined in Webster's
College Dictionary as “Slang. an extraordinary
or unusual thing, person, or event; an exceptional example or
— The festival began in 1991 as the farewell tour for Jane's
Addiction, the influential band fronted by the festival organizer,
Perry Farrell. He wanted to do something special to honor the band
on its final go-round, so he hooked up with agents Marc Geiger and
Don Muller, added seven bands to the bill as well as food, vendors
and art displays, and pulled off an extravaganza unlike any
promotion ever attempted before. Still going ...
— Number of people who attended the festival last year:
— Water, water everywhere: Most venues will allow one bottle
of water per ticketholder through the gate. You'll want to ration
it when you see that a cup of ice water costs $3 at the concession
stands, but be sure to get your proper fill of nature's lifeblood.
Number of people treated last year for heat-related illness: 203.
Near some restrooms there will be showerheads for public dousing,
and the festival sets up Rain Rooms for your relief — tents full
of water spray through which you are herded like cattle through a
car wash. Number of gallons used in last year's Rain Rooms: 154,801.
— Plan for the shopping. The cheapest T-shirt for a
main-stage act is $20. A meal from one of the worldwide food
vendors will average around $5. And the vendors!
— Number of pounds of carrots consumed by artists during
last year's festival: 2,365.
— Dollars donated to charity from last year's festival
alone: 856,437. Tour planners hope this year's charity hat will
push the five-year festival total over $2 million.
— Number of kids who crowd-surfed to the front of the main
stage last year: 6,533.
— Number of bottles of Evian consumed backstage during last
year's tour: 25,800.
— The Starplex can be Mosquito Central around dusk. Throw a
bottle of Muskol or some kind of insect repellent in your hip pack.
Sonic Youth - Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon - and Courtney Love's Hole Head a Truly Ensemble Lollaplooza
By Thomas Conner 08/04/1995
Beck bounced off the Lollapalooza stage like Tigger just out of
rehab. He bounded over to two humble Midwestern journalists eager
to interview the artist — about his work, his schemetic aural
creations, his interpretation of the sociopolitical state of modern
rock music — and he grabbed them by the shoulders.
“Yes. No. Maybe. Never. Only after meals, and I refuse to
answer that one on the grounds that it's too damn hot,'' he said in
a frightening, Pee-Wee-on-meth crescendo. He then dropped his water
bottle, cursed, and skipped away to a waiting, air-conditioned bus.
It was that kind of day.
The Tulsa World attended the Kansas City date for
Lollapalooza, July 10, in order to experience the madness and thus
warn those of you making the trek to the Dallas show on Aug. 10.
And for those of you waffling on whether or not to make the
journey, we feel it necessary to — right here, in front of your
boss — testify to your weakening condition, how we have heard that
raspy cough, how pale you've been looking (i.e., call in sick and
hit the road!).
Now ensconced as an annual institution, Lollapalooza lumbers
around the country this summer with its fifth and best bill ever.
The Kansas City show nearly sold out the Sandstone Amphitheater in
the suburb of Bonner Springs, Kan. The Dallas show, at the
Starplex, is expected to sell out, at least by showtime. (The
reserved seating is gone, but early this week Ticket Master still
had general admission available at $31.25 a ticket. Call (212)
373-8000, and expect a lengthy hold.)
This year, the Lollapalooza name may be as big a draw as the
headliners, who get a rare chance to play for a filled arena. The
festival's founding philosophy of showcasing new talent has been
relegated to the second and third stages this year, which actually
is more conducive to the tastes of the most diverse crowd you'll
ever see. Many acts on the main stage have been around for a while
— the main headliner act, Sonic Youth, has a greatest hits
album out, for instance — but this is still a
cutting-edge festival, a chance for an urban and college-town
culture to visit the suburbs and spread the freak power far and
The day on the main stage begins with the Mighty Mighty
Bosstones, a ska-punk act with a social conscience that wound up
stealing some of the day in Kansas City. The first and last slots
on the bill are the worst for bands; everyone's arriving and
getting settled in during the first band, and a lot of goobers pack
up to beat the traffic during the last band. The Bosstones,
however, opened the festival with a roar and wound up reprising
their set on the second stage late in the evening. Frontman Dicky
Barrett sweats all over the stage, leading the band in a frenetic
swing that inevitably catches up the crowd.
Jesus Lizard is next. Here's some advice: Get there early,
drop your stuff, enjoy the Bosstones, then do your settling in
during Jesus Lizard. This band fuses whiny rants onto hard-rock
riffs and has been doing so for six years without making any
impact. Vocalist David Yow announced in Kansas City, “I have sort
of an upset tummy,'' then launched into a song about his urine.
Ex-Scratch Acid guitarist David Wm. Sims wields his axe like an
assault weapon, but this is still a great opportunity to scout
better seats and grab a smoothie.
The bouncy Beck takes the stage in third place. More
appropriate for a sizzling street corner than a sizzling arena,
Beck's Juice-O-Matic approach to music doesn't wilt in the heat.
With a '60s-vintage effects box and vocals that sound like Tom
Waits transmitting from Jupiter, Beck screeches all over the stage
and swings like few blond kids in knit caps can swing.
In Kansas City, his hometown, he played “Pay No Mind''
“heartland style,'' and he previewed two eerie pieces from his
next disc, including a slow grinder called “Black Hole.'' And yes,
he satisfied all the frat boys who were there to see “that guy who
sings `Loser.' '' For that hit, he was joined onstage by the S7Ws,
two men in sailor suits who stood guard at the corners of the stage
like Public Enemy's X Men. “Take it easy,'' he said before
bounding off stage, “and have a good picnic.''
The fourth act in Dallas will be Elastica, a hot new pop
group from the other side of the pond. They take the place of
Sinead O'Connor, who left the lineup because she's pregnant and the
heat was a bit too much. It's a tragic loss; she was the turning
point of the Kansas City show. Her fans were rabid, screaming like
banshees when she came on stage and not stopping until the last
chords of “Fire on Babylon'' were off to the stratosphere. The
pregnancy explains why she was so subdued, walking around the stage
barefoot, looking comfortable and laid back like Michelle Shocked
or Carly Simon.
Elastica started filling clubs in and around London two years
ago. Leader Justine Frischmann left Suede before that band hit it
big. The band's self-titled U.S. debut (another Geffen band on the
bill!) collects 16 short-but-sweet tracks from independently
released EPs. “This is music to be brave to,'' Frischmann has
said. Their sing-song squelch should fit right into the festival.
The coolest new band on the bill is Pavement, a band of
upstarts who offer a refreshing — gasp, even melodic — pop
sensibility amid the dissonant lineup. Bringing its crooked reign
on stage, Pavement prefers to sound as if its songs just fell
together — melodies are there but tentative. Lead goofball Steve
Malkmus shifts between sleepy-eyed cool to yelping exasperation
while wearing silly hats.
The bulk of the Kansas City crowd just didn't quite get
Pavement, though. The band ambled on, coughed, tuned up, joked
among themselves and plowed into herky-jerky numbers like “Father
to a Sister of a Thought'' and pop gems like “Kennel District''
and “Range Life'' while dazed breadbasket babies stared blankly at
the stage and applauded politely. Ah well, gotta pay those dues
before you pay the rent.
When Pavement modestly leaves the stage, the stage managers
go into high gear. For Cypress Hill, they hustle out a giant gong,
a giant bong, DJ posts flanked by towering (simulated, surely)
marijuana plants, and a 20-foot gold Buddha with a pot leaf on his
belly. So begins this one trick pony's act — endless pro-marijuana
They certainly have guts. Before “I Want to Get High,'' lead
rapper B-Real lights a joint on stage for the screaming glee of the
crowd. He slides along with his annoying voice — like Bill Cosby
imitating his children — and rants about the virtues of marijuana
legalization. Despite the thinness of the group's one-topic set and
B-Real's habit of calling everyone in the audience “mother
f—-ers,'' Cypress Hill does get the crowd on its feet — a
surprising hunk of which came especially to see them.
Holding to the festival tradition of foul language and her
own knack for tastelessness, Courtney Love stepped out onto the
Kansas City stage next to sneer, “I'm going to abuse you because
you deserve it, you f—-ing sh—s.'' The widow Cobain then lead her
band, Hole, through some of the tightest and well-built pop of the
day, over which she warbled like a drowsy sheep. Most of the band's
latest album, “Live Through This,'' was covered, with sharp
interpretations of “Gutless'' and “Softer Softest.''
Wearing a stark white dress and made-up like she was bruised
and battered, she picked fights with anyone she could see in the
crowd who wore a Pearl Jam T-shirts. Many of her stage antics are
just a little too difficult to attempt to explain in a wholesome
Finally, Sonic Youth held everyone into the
head-for-the-parking-lot timeslot with the expected confidence of
the only band to transcend the typical underground,
art-or-popularity quandary. Drawing on a history stretching back to
1982, Thurston Moore matter-of-factly introduced the songs, many of
which were unrecorded ones. His lyrics were more audible, which is
a real plus and reflects the heightening of that awareness on the
band's remastered greatest hits package out last spring,
“Screaming Fields of Sonic Love.''
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.