World Class Tour Guide
It’s 3 a.m., and Matt Jim is clicking away at his computer, periodically swigging from a monstrous mug of Double Dog pale ale. He’s trying to solidify the booking for the latest band tentatively scheduled to play at Studio 360, a recently opened underground music venue in Norman, Oklahoma. Using the website byofl.org, or Book Your Own Fucking Life, Jim connects with like-minded folks from all over the world, hatching elaborate plots to unleash the power of metal on an unsuspecting populace.
Jim, 25, has been shredding bass and spewing vocals for local punk/thrash band Snotrokitz since high school. Back then, Snotrokitz had a hard time getting gigs on the standard Norman circuit, so he took matters into his own hands. He started sniffing around for underground venues, booking shows both for Snotrokitz and for friends’ bands around the OKC/Tulsa area.
“I had a friend named Jesse Buttpaper, who was in Septic Tumor from Tulsa,” Jim said. “He was the one who actually got me into booking out-of-town bands.”
It was Buttpaper who introduced Jim to BYOFL, where he eventually made contact with musicians from Germany, Finland, Japan, and all over the US. These bands all had one thing on common: the desire to promote their music sans big business abetment.
Many of these bands are setting foot on Oklahoma soil for the first time.
“[Bands from the US coasts] usually come to Oklahoma and say ‘Wow, I didn’t know you guys had paved roads here,'” Jim said.
They certainly don’t expect to find anything that even passes for a punk or metal scene. Yet despite being apart of the mainstream consciousness, it’s definitely here.
For years, the bands Jim brought to Norman played in residential dwellings: first in the basement of a friend’s place, and then, when police banned them from playing shows there, in Jim’s garage.
Philadelphia rockers Pony Pants made a stop in Norman during the era of garage shows. Singer Emily J.K. said the band contacted Jim during standard pre-tour Internet recon.
“We do almost all our own booking,” she said, “so we do lots of investigation about what’s going on in different scenes.”
Pony Pants rocked the garage until the noise curfew hit, then partied with Jim and his housemates and friends before settling down on couches and floor pallets, sleepover-style.
Jim is known for his “southern hospitality,” often providing food, a place to crash and the opportunity to scrape off the road funk with a steaming hot shower.
“He made us food, bought us booze, introduced us to people, made sure we had a nice place to sleep – everything a band could want,” said Emily J.K. “We played in a garage and people had fun and danced. Then everyone got drunk and many people got naked… a plus.”
Jim has fond memories of the naked shenanigans, himself.
“We got one of the guitar players to get naked and run around with us and act crazy,” he recalls. “There were, like, 15 naked people in the house, just running around.”
As for the music of Pony Pants, Jim said they were a cross between Iron Maiden and Le Tigre.
When Studio 360 opened its doors, Jim saw it as an opportunity to offer touring bands a more traditional venue. It took a while, though, for Studio 360 to warm up to the idea.
“First they were saying they wanted to cater to more metal bands, and heavier stuff,” Jim recalls.
The owner, Vance, didn’t even want Jim and his bandmates to bring their own music there, much less anyone else’s.
“They just took us as a punk rock band, even though we’re pretty much a hybrid, you know, hardcore, punk, and metal,” Jim said. “Once they actually heard us, they accepted us among their metal peers.”
A good thing for Jim, since noise complaints from neighbors had finally put a stop to the garage business.
It wasn’t long before Vance was letting Jim act as a booking agent. Shows at Studio 360 usually feature multiple bands, as many as five or six.
Often, Snotrokitz will take the stage along with groups Jim has booked. One September show featured Snotrokitz, local band Drunk on Sunday, and Lafayette, Louisiana band Toxikon.
So the next time a crazy looking Finn or a rock star Asian is seen around Norman, be sure to thank Matt Jim for bringing a little piece of the world here.