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A Warm Welcome Back

a-warm-welcome-back_wynnwalenta-warm-welcome-back_sherreea-warm-welcome-back_cheyenne-3a-warm-welcome-back_cheyenne-2a-warm-welcome-back_cheyenne-1A Warm Welcome Back

Cheyenne/Sherree Chamberlain/Wynn Walent

The Opolis, Norman, OK

Monday, March 24th, 2008

While Mondays are usually regarded begrudgingly and with disdain by employees and students alike, the Opolis in Norman, Oklahoma challenged this sentiment on March 24th. It was the Monday after spring break – an extra bummer. But by hosting the Norman-native band Cheyenne, I, for one, was cured of Monday-itis.

The show began with a set from Wynn Walent, an acoustic guitar player with a lot of heart. He shyly stepped onstage wearing an inconspicuous sweatshirt, then tuned and strummed his guitar quietly without a glance at the audience. But when he started to play, Wynn captured the concert-goers’ attention and conversation ceased. He played his guitar quietly, but his voice had a powerful range. In between songs, he was very soft-spoken, clearly a modest and humble performer. Calmly, he asserted to the crowd, “Thanks so much for listening, it really feels good.” Wynn was joined by a violin player towards the end of his set, giving his songs a richer quality. Members of Cheyenne joined him for the last few songs. The sudden volume increase that they added was a bit shocking at first, but the fullness showcased Wynn’s clever songwriting in a new way.

Providing a stark contrast to Wynn Walent’s modest and shy performance was the confident Sherree Chamberlin and her accompanying band. Instead of saying nothing at all or quietly making a comment or two between songs, Sherree bantered about goofy things that have happened to her recently. Her anecdotes were unplanned and spontaneous, and always got the crowd laughing. At one point, she told the audience a story about parenting that she observed in a dressing room. Apparently, there was a mother who was swearing at her toddler to shut up, but he just kept talking and bothering her. Then in a fit of anger, Sherree told the crowd that the mother actually said to her son, “Shut up or I’m going to tear your face off!” With a big smile, Sherree dedicated her next song to “the little toddler with the torn-off face.”

Sherree performed most of her songs with a drummer, bassist, and male backup singer. It was actually pretty refreshing to hear a female vocalist with a male backup – the combo is a bit rare. She switched between acoustic guitar and keyboard throughout her set, but I found the songs she performed on keyboard the strongest. Sherree’s lyrics were generally very thoughtful, deep and full of conflict, which wouldn’t be expected after hearing her cheerful introductory chatter between tunes. Sometimes, especially during songs where Sherree sung and played by herself, she could just about tear your heart out, but then as soon as the song came to its conclusion, she would launch into another joke or story.

But then came Cheyenne’s turn to rock the stage. As soon as the group came onstage, they brought an instant energy and dynamism that showed they were completely comfortable and excited about the show. This made even more sense after finding out that the group was originally from Norman, Oklahoma. Fittingly, band member Beau Jennings said that playing at The Opolis felt like home, and that it seemed like he knew everyone in attendance. By interacting with each other onstage and with the crowd, it was obvious that they felt at ease and that many fans were there.

Cheyenne is a four-member group, but added an organ player, who was introduced as “Crazy Kenny,” for their current tour. This gave them a much louder and fuller sound than the opening performers, and even energized the crowd into moving around a little. From what I heard of their music, Cheyenne mixes energetic indie rock with folk and country influences, producing a well-blended sound. The group played many new songs from their recently-released album The Whale.

By keeping the pauses between songs short and by constantly moving around, Cheyenne kept the energy up throughout their set. They also brought back their opener Wynn Walent, who sang a few songs with Cheyenne onstage. When solo performer and member of The Starlight Mints Ryan Lindsey was invited up, he consented and played one song with the group. Elliot Walker, Cheyenne’s new bass player, laughingly shouted the chords to Ryan on keyboard during the song, and by doing so, created an even friendlier atmosphere. It was clear that they were enjoying themselves, and the mood was infectious. When watching a group doing what they love, how could warm feelings not be contagious? The homey environment made me feel gladder than ever to be back in Norman, and even transformed the usually-mundane Monday.

–         Megan Morgan