Thumbs Up For Tulsa (With Minor Reservations)

’tulsa,Lyrically and sonically, Pitchfork-approved and Boston-bred Tulsa lead singer Carter Tanton walks a delicate wire bordering Richard Ashcroft and Tom Petty. To his credit, dude even looks like Petty: Skinny frame, sharp features, all flannel and hair letting the sound man know who’s running the show in this neck of the woods. It’s not a stretch, in fact, to postulate that he need but bleach his hair and adhere to a steady diet of sensimilla in order to firmly clasp the “Young Tom Petty” sceptre, but good. Last night I visited le Lounge du Silverlake to witness the band in person, live, and I was not disappointed with the performance. Following the set, though, two questions needed answers. Bigtime. I asked Carter himself to assauge my concerns:

Regarding your Fender Mustang. Is that an original, or a reissue?

It’s a really great story, actually. My brother was a really good student, and he won it in a raffle when he was 12 years old.

So an original, then?

It’s a 1971, yeah.

[N/B: Respect. Author owns one 1968 Fender Mustang, all-original; a gift from a benevolent uncle. No wrong answers; I just needed to know.]

And then you’ve got a humbucker in it.

(enthusiastically) Oh, that humbucker is sick.

Next question. Have any of you actually been to Tulsa?

(grinning) No, man.

Just as I suspected. Having spent my formative years in the state of Oklahoma I can authoritatively say, without reservation, that Tulsa is one hell of a city. Let the maddening trend of bands-who-name-thyselves-after-cities-they-know-not end, please. (And yes, I understand the band name actually comes from a Larry Clark photography book. No excuse. Has Larry Clark been to Tulsa? Where does it end!?) To be sure, my sister lives in Tulsa to this day. As with any other setting, one must but find the right elements to make that setting work. In the same vein of red-state pride, there’s really no need to berate fellow heartland states Wisconsin and Minnesota to a Los Angeles crowd (as Carter did, briefly); looking around the room at a wall of bearded hipsters, I could not help but think that whatever was happening at any given place in Wisconsin (or Tulsa) at the time of this particular set, it was without question a hell of a lot more real than the beguiling, charming, ultimately ugly brute that is Los Angeles.

New material sounds fantastic. Chances I will revisit the band in Austin in a couple of weeks during SXSW ’08: High as Tom Petty on any given Sunday, likely.

» Tulsa (myspace)