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Being There: One Night at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa

Established in the roaring twenties—1924, to be exact—Cain’s Ballroom is still the best place for any concert in Oklahoma.

From boot-scooting country to full-on punk, this is one outtasite (outta mind) venue that everyone loves to love, no matter your genre.

And yet, in all of Oklahoma pop-culture history…I have never once been!

A few months ago, I scored tickets to the alt-country wizards Wilco. And after trying to break my heart on passively waiting, I finally packed up the car, my good western shirt, and took the whole week off, with the concert gently looming in the static-charged air.

As a cool front blew down from Tulsa on Tuesday night, Cain’s neon-lit sign ruled the Tulsa soundwaves, with music fans lining the outdoor wall, waiting for the doors to open, tickets burning holes inside pants.

As we filed into the venue, we walked past the front entrance to the beer-sign advertising "Ballroom", and what a ballroom it was! Much bigger than I thought it would be, the spider-webbing lights loomed above us. People were buying beers at the bar, and their mementos at the merch table.

I got a tour poster, in case you were wondering…

Meanwhile, after staring at the barbecue stall right next door—and, to be fair, it looked quite tempting—I slipped back to reality and grabbed a few Diet Cokes. We then watched as the immaculate room perpetually filled, bodies accumulating in the showroom as the opening act started to warble.

While my partner and I took a seat in the makeshift handicap section—by the way, it’s a terrible place in that you are handicapped, but what could I do?—but, as the show proper started, Wilco began their set with a couple of acoustic numbers, as the rest of band member took the stage for the electric part.

Wilco has always been passable time for me on independent radio, to the point where I knew some of the songs—but, for my girlfriend, this was her best band. And, seeing how much of it made her smile, I because enthused too, the elemental songs got my foot pounding to the high-voltage beat, rocking out profusely.

By the time the sweat-rattling encore gave us the good-time shivers, I was systemically floored as the heat-infused audience gave it back to me, raving about what a good-time I had.

Afterward, I stood by the buzzing entrance as we waited on an Uber. I felt like an old-time patron of Bob Wills, coming home from a rousing set, my tired body waiting for the extra sleep of a promised tomorrow. As I gave one final glance, the rustic palladium disappeared in my rear-view mirror, determined to come back again soon.



Follow Louis on Twitter at @LouisFowler and Instagram at @louisfowler78.

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