Groobees – Blue Door (Oklahoma City, OK)
Nobody seems to know what the Blue Door structure was used for when it was built nearly 100 years ago, but the local consensus is that it was a general store. Hidden in the middle of a working-class neighborhood, the humble club hosts great songwriters regularly. Songs and stories are swapped for applause and sometimes laughs. For informality, intimacy, and a sense of community, there’s no better place to be.
As night fell, the Groobees filled the small stage with a variety of instruments. They were aided and abetted by fellow Texan Jeff Plankenhorn, whose pedal steel and dobro exploits were the talk of the night. Six Groobees took the crowded stage. When they began “Let’s Go Out Tonight”, there were fifteen in the audience.
The opener, like much of the two-hour show, came from the band’s new album, Buy One, Get Eleven Free, whose title was repeatedly mangled by the band, to everyone’s amusement. Susan Gibson sang “My Best Feature” with shrugs and facial expressions worthy of Charlie Chaplin. Scott Melott’s “George & Lucille” is the story of his grandparents’ undying love, delivered with little poetry and much emotion: “They met in 1937/They’re holding hands still.”
“Wide Open Spaces” was performed, after Gibson thanked the Dixie Chicks in absentia for making her song a huge hit. Opinion was unanimous that the Groobees do it better, but that the Chicks’ version helps pay the rent.
Much of the Groobees’ appeal is their obvious love for each other and for their nomadic lives. Melott switched from guitar to keyboard to accordion, and suffered a barrage of good-natured abuse from his bandmates. Guitarist Gary Thomason beamed and bounced up and down all night; when he performed one song solo, his fellow Groobees sang along, off stage, off mike, in a touching show of support. Thomason then led the band in a rocking cover of “Sixteen Tons” that owed a sizable debt to “Stray Cat Strut”. Next, the band played two new songs based on personal experiences: “Ballad Of An Opening Band”, and “Cheap Trucker Speed”, the latter a honky-tonk ode to over-the-counter stimulants.
The affability and camaraderie of the Groobees was a perfect fit for the ragged but inviting Blue Door, which doesn’t feature many electric bands. By the end of the show, the crowd had more than doubled, warmed by a band that epitomizes the idea of musical community.