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Powerful Pairings

Many music fans have dreamed of sitting down with their favorite artist to share a conversation, a drink, and maybe even a song or two. Vox Pop is making that dream a reality.

Article
G.K. Hizer
Photos
Marc Rains
Posted
March 28, 2019

Music means different things to different people, but what’s undeniable is that it continually makes a personal connection with listeners across all backgrounds, regardless of genre. For many listeners, the live setting makes that connection even more palpable.

Many fans have even dreamed of sitting down with their favorite artist to share a conversation, a drink, and maybe even a song or two. Vox Pop is making that dream a reality as the house-concert series gets ready to stretch into its third year, bringing national and regional artists into a living room setting for a private concert and interactive experience for music fans.

Over the past two years, Vox Pop has brought a variety of nationally known artists to Tulsa for that type of experience. Names like Derek Webb, Griffin House, Kim Richey, Leigh Nash, and Jennifer Knapp populate a broad roster of musicians who have made the Vox Pop calendar one to watch with anticipation. The fact that most of the shows have been held in the home of series founder Chris McCabe in a neighborhood just east of Riverside Drive, at roughly 18th Street and Cheyenne, makes each night even more personal.

Vox Pop started when some of McCabe’s friends saw that Webb posted online that he was looking to book an entire tour of house concerts. With their encouragement (and the blessing of his wife), McCabe visited Webb’s website and filled out an online form. Once his request was approved, the ball was set in motion.

Part of what makes the shows so interesting is that while McCabe books regional or nationally touring headliners, he usually pairs them up with a local artist to open the show, often mixing genres within the show to keep things even more interesting.
Part of what makes the shows so interesting is that while McCabe books regional or nationally touring headliners, he usually pairs them up with a local artist to open the show, often mixing genres within the show to keep things even more interesting.

“That was May 2016 and it was such an amazing experience that my buddies and I wanted to keep it going,” says McCabe. “I’d moved from Pittsburg, Kansas, which had a similar type of house concert program, Olive Street Concert Series, so I was familiar with the format. I just didn’t know how it would work here. Fortunately, I’ve got three really good friends who help out and a great, professional sound engineer, Ken Lewellen, who does it all for free but really makes all the difference. Not once have we held a show without the artists mentioning how great it sounded that night.”

Part of what makes the shows so interesting is that while McCabe books regional or nationally touring headliners, he usually pairs them up with a local artist to open the show, often mixing genres within the show to keep things even more interesting.

“I love to be eclectic, and really enjoy the contrast of putting together two artists you might not normally think would go together,” McCabe says. “I’ve been to so many shows where the acts were so much alike that it felt like an evening where it was all the same. By mixing things up, it keeps things fresh and makes the audience think a little. For example, I paired up Damion Shade with Leigh Nash, which might not work on paper, but made for a great night for everyone.

“What really strikes me after every show is that when I book the local artists, there’s really no gap in quality. The talent level is there and it’s just as high as our headliners. One night, we had Lauren Barth, who’s a beautiful songwriter, but most of her music is darker and has an almost hopeless feeling. We paired her with Annie Oakley, a group that is more upbeat with a more hopeful message, and it worked out wonderfully.”

Another thing that really makes it work is that all of the artists have been great about telling stories about the songs and being more interactive with the audience.

“I think the format and more intimate setting helps with that, but it feels more like an art conversation between the artists and the audience, even when they’re singing,” says McCabe.

A lot of factors are involved when choosing the artists for the shows. Sometimes it starts with a recommendation from friends, other times a recommendation from one of the booking agents he has worked with. Now that the series is wrapping up its second year and building a solid reputation, he’s even receiving requests from touring artists on a weekly basis.

Although he has helped arrange concerts at a couple of other venues, McCabe says that he’s not interested in becoming a concert promoter, instead choosing to focus on house concerts and creating a unique concert experience.

“Because the venue is so intimate, I feel like people are more appreciative of the art of what’s going on. It’s like going to a museum — there are all types of art, but you appreciate it more once you’re there. That’s kind of my vision for Vox Pop, for people to see more in the different types of music,” he says.

LOCATOR
Vox Pop
voxpoptulsa.com

August 2019 Cover