Parker Millsap

Doc Roc Presents

Parker Millsap

Aaron Lee Tasjan

Fri Sep 28

Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pm

Cain's Ballroom

Tulsa, OK

$15.00 - $30.00

This event is all ages


Adv $15

Day of Show $18
Door $18
Mezz 21+ $30

There is a $2 fee that applies to each ticket purchased at the Cain's Box Office.

No re-entry! No smoking! No refunds!

Support acts are subject to change without notice!

Parker Millsap
Parker Millsap
Parker Millsap didn’t know not to sing like this. Listening to old albums as a kid alone in his room, he didn’t realize howling like a Delta blues ghost readying the world for rock-and-roll isn’t a how skinny white boy from Purcell, Oklahoma usually sounds.

“I was listening to records from the 20s and 40s, and the voices that came out were otherworldly,” Millsap says. “I was really attracted to that. At the same time, I grew up doing congregational singing in church––you know, everybody stands up, grabs a hymnal, turns to number 162, and sings ‘I’ll Fly Away’ at the top of their lungs. I learned to sing in that context, where nobody’s listening to you. We are all just singing.”

People not listening to Millsap could only last so long––not just because the arresting power of his voice cuts through any crowd, but also because the 22 year-old is always reaching for something worth saying.

New album The Very Last Day (Okrahoma Records/Thirty Tigers) proves an ideal vehicle for Millsap’s message, delivered via gospel-tinged rock-and-roll poetry. In the midst of a world so fond of condemnation as entertainment, Millsap offers open-armed love of people and their stories. Whether he’s singing about the experience of a gay friend, longing for his evangelical father’s acceptance, or as the King of the Underworld wild with passion, his character-driven songs mine deep wells of joy and despair to create gut-punching narratives that are sometimes hellish, sometimes heavenly, and always human.

The Very Last Day is the anticipated follow-up to his 2014 eponymous record, which netted him high-profile praise from NPR, the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and others, as well as a nomination for Americana Emerging Artist of the Year. Millsap is young, but he isn’t green. He has been playing in bands since junior high and recording since he was 16. “For a long time, we’d go play gigs around Oklahoma and Texas, and there was not a lot of press,” Millsap says, reflecting on recent accolades. “I just thought, ‘I like doing this more than I like working construction.’” He laughs and pauses. “When people started noticing, there was this new, weird pressure.”

Millsap responded to the pressure by assembling a cast of new and old friends and heading to the studio. “We got to go make a record that I didn’t think I’d ever have the opportunity to make,” he says, before adding with characteristic sincerity, “I got to make a really cool album with my friends. And I’m grateful.”

Produced by Gary Paczosa (Alison Krauss, Dixie Chicks, Dolly Parton) and Millsap, and engineered/mixed by Paczosa and Shani Gandhi, The Very Last Day was recorded at Dockside Studio in Maurice, Louisiana. Millsap recently moved to Nashville from Guthrie, Oklahoma, but while recording, he lived at the Louisiana studio with musicians including fiddle player Daniel Foulks, drummer Paddy Ryan, and bassist Mike Rose, the latter of whom has been his best friend and bandmate since middle school.
Millsap wrote all but one of the eleven songs on The Very Last Day. The album demands serious solitary listening even as it begs to be the soundtrack for a weekend roadtrip with friends, and clearly delights in having it both ways. The trio of devilish fiddle, poignant acoustic guitar, and thundering upright bass that originally won audiences over is now joined by a chorus of instruments including percussion, piano, and Millsap himself on growling electric guitar that until this record, he’d only dreamed of incorporating. And of course, Millsap’s haunting voice is on magnificent display: it’s wickedly guttural but can turn on a dime to hypnotically soothe listeners like a songbird.

“Hades Pleads” kicks off the album with heart-racing aplomb. Millsap swoons and pants as he channels the devil in love, inspired by Greek mythology’s Hades and Persephone. A long black train roars through the track, as Millsap puts Death on a different sort of prowl. “Hands Up” is a foot-stomper that tells the story of a convenience store hold-up from the point of view of the robber, before, as Millsap says, “they put a picture of him on the TV as people try to find him because he’s now officially a bad guy. I don’t think he’s all bad.” The smoldering “A Little Fire” mulls over the paradoxical destruction and hope in different kinds of blazes, while “Wherever You Are” hawks the freedom of being you, even in narrow-minded places. “You Gotta Move,” the only song on the record Millsap didn’t write, is a blues-soaked vocal showcase.

The religious imagery and characters so stirring in Millsap’s attention-grabbing last release are here as well, although Millsap does not consider himself religious these days. But like many artists in any medium, Millsap often uses spiritual teachings, imagery and traditions to explore what is quintessentially human. He uses the approach with sublime effectiveness in “Heaven Sent,” a beautiful standout on an album rich in transcendent moments. The song’s tortured young gay protagonist asks his Christian father question after question about the limits of his and Jesus’s love. “You say that it’s a sin, but it’s how I’ve always been / Did you love me when he was just my friend?” Millsap cries, pleading but defiant. He typically writes his songs in the first-person perspective. The result is always intimate, but in “Heaven Sent,” it’s especially compelling. The song is subversive and moving without employing an ounce of hate. Add the knowledge that Millsap, a young straight man, is singing as a young gay man, and the tune also carries a real-life dimension of empathy and solidarity.

The title track starts with a nod to the Louvin Brothers before heralding nuclear apocalypse. It’s another example of Millsap’s penchant for using folkloric music and stories as the framework for modern observations. In “The Very Last Day,” Millsap’s narrator takes the day of reckoning out of God’s hands and places it squarely on the shoulders of men––“Ain’t no sweet chariot is gonna come for to carry everybody home / No instead, it’s gonna be a bomb. And here it comes!” Sauntering and darkly euphoric, it’s Millsap’s favorite of the new tunes to perform live.

“I was living in Guthrie when I wrote a lot of these songs,” Millsap explains. “Oklahoma in the winter looks post-apocalyptic. We don’t have a lot of evergreen trees, and the grass turns brown to the point of colorlessness. Everything just looks like skeletons and grayness.” He was also reading Stephen King’s The Stand and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road while binge watching The Walking Dead. “Some people just want to watch the world burn,” Millsap says. “A lot of the songs I grew up singing in church are about the end of the world, so it wasn’t uncomfortable for me to go there. It’s fun.”

“Tribulation Hymn” closes the album as an unforgettable picture of isolation and regret. The Day of Judgment has come and gone, and Millsap’s protagonist has been left behind. He leaves listeners with the image of a chorus of crows, singing in the rafters above the narrator in an empty church.

As Millsap sings his stories about lonesomeness and longing, the supernatural and the ordinary, even the saddest portraits become loving odes to everyday humanity. “I’ve learned to trust people before I’ve learned to distrust them, which can be dangerous,” he says. “But yeah. I do like people. I think you have to. What else are you going to like?”
Aaron Lee Tasjan
Aaron Lee Tasjan
Most people know Aaron Lee Tasjan as one of the wittiest, most offbeat, brilliant, weed-smokin’ & LSD microdosin’ Americana troubadours writing and singing songs today. And the New York Times, NPR and Rolling Stone will all gladly corroborate. But steel yourselves, folk fans, because he’s about to follow his restless muse straight out from under the weight of everyone’s expectations into the kind of glammy, jingle-jangle power-pop- and- psych-tinged sounds he hasn’t dabbled in since his younger days playing lead guitar for a late-period incarnation of The New York Dolls.

Really, the roots of Tasjan’s new record, Karma for Cheap, stretch even deeper, drinking up the sounds of a Southern California childhood spent listening to The Beatles while riding around with his mom at the wheel of their navy blue Volvo station wagon—back to the very first pre-teen year he picked up a six-string and started figuring out all the pretty little chords in those Lennon-McCartney tunes. Back to the pure, blissful unfiltered innocence of falling in love with music for the first time. But more on that later. First, let’s ponder the brutish realities of the American Swamp.

Aaron Lee Tasjan says he aims to use his music for good, but he’s no protest singer. And Karma for Cheap isn’t some heavy-handed, didactic political record cramming a set of talking points down anyone’s throat. It’s a finely tuned rock & roll seismograph measuring the dark and uncertain vibrations of the time in which it was created. A cracked mirror reflecting back the American zeitgeist in this foul year of Our Lord, Two Thousand and Eighteen.

“When you’re a songwriter,” Tasjan says, you’re dealing in truths and untruths—that’s part of your commerce as a citizen of the world. And anything coming along that’s threatening to blur that line is a threat to your livelihood as a working American.”

Take it from Tasjan and Karma for Cheap, being a songwriter in the post-truth world of Trump’s America ain’t easy. Tasjan valiantly wrestles with this new normal in songs like “Set You Free” (“it’s a smokescreen scene and nobody knows what’s real”—fake news!) and “The Truth Is So Hard to Believe.” What will we do when we can no longer map the line between fact and fiction? When we exist in a world where the truth is unknowable and we’re at the mercy of liars and charlatans? “Hearts in chains and hands are off the wheel,” Tasjan sings in hypnotic staccato, tapping the collective cultural anxiety of all the rattled millions drifting off each night to a new American dream, one in which we’re all in a big red, white and blue camaro fishtailing down some winding tree-lined road in the bible-black dark, white-knuckle-clutching the oh-shit bar, accelerator glued to the floor and not a soul in the driver’s seat.

“The sound of this new record is a little more rough and ready, more raw than anything I’ve done before,” Tasjan says. “Seems like a good time for it. We’re living in a pretty raw feed right now, and a lot of these new songs reflect that. They deal with with being stuck in the deluge of horseshit every day. On social media, you see people suckered into getting all irate over some post that, in the end, turns out to be completely fake. We have to be aware of these mindsets, these traps and emotional pitfalls that send us spinning. Music for me is a comfort thing. And I’m trying to sing about all this to remind myself not to get caught up in the game. There are a lot of people out there carrying the burden of this weird, twisted world we’re living in at the moment on their shoulders. So I tried to write a record that offers some comfort, encouragement and hope to those people, as much as it’s possible to be hopeful right now.”

Karma for Cheap is Tasjan’s third LP and second for his label New West Records, based in his current hometown of Nashville. The record was co-produced by ALT and his friends Jeff Trott (Stevie Nicks, Liz Phair, Meiko, Joshua Radin) and Gregory Lattimer (Albert Hammond Jr.) and features Aaron Lee’s road band—guitarist Brian Wright, bassist Tommy Scifres and drummer Seth Earnest—with whom he’s been touring heavily for the last two years.

While the stylistic shift from Tasjan’s palpably stoned ‘70s-country-channeling 2015 debut, In the Blazes, to his more sophisticated, introspective and lushly produced 2016 follow-up, Silver Tears, was relatively incremental, Karma’s rocked-up Brit-pop-influenced Beatles-Bowie-Badfinger vibes underscore a significant departure. The album boldly reminagines these vintage sounds, pushing the boundary of what can be considered Americana. With Karma, Tasjan establishes himself as an artist who not only evolves over time, but isn’t afraid to risk reinventing himself completely from one record to the next.

“It’s always a goal for me to be able to not listen to the part of my brain that cares what other people think, and just do something really pure and from the heart,” he says. “I needed this album to have a sense of adventure and mystery, to feel a little shaky and dangerous at times—something that wasn’t the obvious choice in terms of what people already like about what I do. I’ve come to realize that I’m a searcher, which means I’m going to be searching forever.” Aaron Lee pauses and laughs at the notion, and what’s in store for the rest of his life—ticket bought, ride in progress. “Yep, this is never going to end,” he says. “No oasis, no safe harbor to stop and say, ‘Well, I’ve gotten here, and now I’m good.’ In some ways it’s a harsh realization—living in that type of headspace can cause a lot of turmoil. But if you can find beauty in the mundane… well, there you go. I’ve definitely been making more of an effort to enjoy the journey.”

For all the album’s wrestling with social and political discord and the stresses of modern life due to the grand experiment of social media and the unforgiving tractor beam of the world-wired-web, Karma for Cheap finds its silver lining in the innocence of a wide-eyed kid’s maiden voyage into the electrifying thrall of rock & roll. The heaviness of the lyrical content is tempered by the joy and wonder of an artist reconnecting with what made him fall in love with playing music in the first place. The sound of it, the way it made him feel when he was 11 years old and it was all still as new as a fresh coat of spray paint from the can of some smug delinquent. That was 1997—the year Tasjan moved from Ohio to California, and scored his first guitar and a stack of iconic CDs by The Beatles, Oasis and Tom Petty.

A huge sonic touchstone for ALT’s new record is The Beatles Anthology, one of his childhood favorites. In songs like “If Not Now When,” “Song Bird” and “The Rest Is Yet to Come,” you can hear echoes of George Harrison’s vibrant guitar riffs and Jeff Lynne’s lavish production on those lo-fi John Lennon demos the surviving Beatles dug up and polished off in the mid ‘90s. “‘Free As A Bird’ and ‘Real Love’—those were my jams when I first started playing guitar,” Tasjan says. “I was learning those and a lot of other Beatles songs. And then Oasis came out with ‘Wonderwall’ and I was like, oh that’s The Beatles for my generation, and I became obsessed with them, too.”

Perhaps the most poignant moment on Karma for Cheap is the anthemic, hypnotic “Heart Slows Down,” a tune rife with musical and lyrical references to the Beatles and Tom Petty, anchored by an unforgettable chorus with a Traveling Wilburys vibe that finds the sweet spot between Tasjan’s two earliest musical heroes. “When I was a kid, my favorite CD to fall asleep to was Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ Greatest Hits, and the last song is a cover of that Thunderclap Newman song ‘Something in the Air.’ From the time I was a little kid to when I was teenager, I used to listen to that song on headphones almost every night—I heard it in that space between wake and sleep so many times. And Tom’s passing—he was a really big hero of mine, so it hit me pretty hard. We were in Seattle playing a show when I heard, and it was a heavy thing to process. But all of those elements are there in ‘Heart Slows Down.’ The chorus, ‘I will always be around,’ is a reminder that all the good you ever got out of listening to this music is still around you. You’ll always have that.”
Venue Information:
Cain's Ballroom
423 N Main St.
Tulsa, OK, 74103
http://www.cainsballroom.com