Oklahoma has a rich music history. It is the birthplace of Western swing, which Tulsa’s Bob Wills popularized earning him the King of Western Swing title. It is also the birthplace of such famous artists as Woody Guthrie and The Flaming Lips, and Tulsa continues to grow its live music scene. Here are five music venues that double as event spaces for meeting planners looking to plan a rockin’ event or simply take their group to see some music.
“Every week, music lovers can catch a show from a nationally recognized touring artist at the BOK Center, the Brady Theater or Cain’s Ballroom,” says Abby Kurin, director of film, music, arts and culture for VisitTulsa. “Plus, you can see a Tulsa-based musician playing every night of the week at one of our several smaller capacity venues.”
The 19,199-seat BOK Center opened its doors in 2008 with the Eagles performing as the venue’s first concert. The venue hosted 184 shows in its first year, and has since hosted such headliners as Garth Brooks, One Republic, Miranda Lambert and Elton John. While the arena is available to meeting planners who want to plan their own massive event, it also features party suites for groups that want to attend, say, a Def Leppard or Ariana Grande concert happening later this year. Each of the four party suites include 20 tickets as well as two guest passes.
The 2,800-seat Brady Theater is a restored 1914 theater that was originally billed as the largest municipal auditorium and convention hall between Kansas City and Houston. Later in 1930, it was renovated into more of a theater-like setting with draperies, seats, vertical wall panels of white plaster and acoustic ceiling tiles painted green, blue white and gold. To this day, five massive green and white pendant fixtures light up the building, which is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The music venue’s history in the city continues to attract artists such as the Smashing Pumpkins, Tears for Fears and Alice in Chains.
Another historic Tulsa music venue is Cain’s Ballroom, established in 1924. The venue has transformed throughout the years from a garage to a dime-a-dance joint to a dancing academy to a performance venue. From 1935 to 1942, the ballroom was known as the home of Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, a group that popularized a new sound for the time called western swing, a combination of country, jazz, boogie, blues, big band swing, rhumba and jitterbug music. One thing that hasn’t changed throughout those transformations is the historic maple dance floor in the center of the ballroom. Cain’s Ballroom has seen such iconic bands as the Sex Pistols and The Ramones, and still hosts bands playing all genres of music. It is considered a “must play” for bands visiting Tulsa, according to Vanesa Masucci, vice president of VisitTulsa.
With its location inside the 454-room Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa, The Joint: Tulsa pulls some big-name acts such as Patti LaBelle, Lynard Skynyrd and Wynonna Judd. The 2,700-seat space features a state-of-the-art light and sound system — ideal for meeting planners to host their own big-name acts or high-tech events.
The 59-seat theater at the Woody Guthrie Center, named after folk singer Woody Guthrie, provides an intimate setting for a musician and his or her audience, says Kurin. The venue hosts smaller performances and is available for rental. Music-loving attendees will want to peruse the Woody Guthrie Archives, located within the center, where Woody’s personal collection is housed as well as the largest collection of Woody Guthrie primary resource materials. In addition to the theater, groups can also rent out the gallery or classroom spaces at the center.