Smaller live music venues give local musicians a platform to thrive. Photos courtesy the Blue Door

The live music experience is one that’s hard to match. Something about the atmosphere, hearing the music being played right in front of you and the sense of community in the crowd gives you goosebumps. Luckily for live-music-lovin’ Okies, there’s a wealth of talented folks in the state – and they could be playing right in your neighborhood. 

Thelma’s Peach, a music venue and bar located in Tulsa’s Kendall-Whittier district, is the brainchild of owner Andrew O’Meilia. Thelma’s aims to please all of the senses, “carrying the living room-style feel,” says O’Meilia. “Really comfortable, good lighting, good sound and good drinks. [Thelma’s Peach] has a multifaceted approach as a bar.” 

Thelma’s – or the first iteration of it, anyway – began as a DIY show space in O’Meilia’s backyard. 

“There’s a shelf life of having shows in one’s backyard,” he says. The current venue, he says, “allows us to build a brand and a business.” 

And although O’Meilia is a music enthusiast, he’s no music snob.

“We have an all-inclusive environment,” he says. “Everyone’s welcome, as long as you’re not acting like a jerk.” 

Ensuring that patrons are not, indeed, acting like jerks is so important to O’Meilia that it’s printed right on the door. Why? Because “[Thelma’s] is a place for everyone to let their hair down and be themselves,” he says.

Another local venue that encourages patrons to just be is the Blue Door out of Oklahoma City. 

“When I started doing this, I wanted to provide a place for songwriters to build their audience and a place for the community to come and find great music that they otherwise would not know about,” explains owner Greg Johnson. “The most important thing is connecting with the audience and developing a space for that to happen.” 

While the Blue Door leans more toward the folk and Americana genres when booking acts, Johnson explains that he’s really just looking for good musicians. 

“All a person has to do is show me their songs, and if I like them, I’ll book them,” he says. “We’ll try to get people to come see [the show]. That’s how you become part of the Blue Door scene – you write good songs.” 

If you plan to head to the Blue Door, or any local music venue, Johnson encourages you to stay open-minded.

“I want to see listeners get curious about music they’ve never heard before,” he says.

Greg Johnson, owner of the Blue Door in OKC

The ‘next Nashville or Austin?’

When attempting to find comparisons for Oklahoma’s burgeoning music scene, many say our major metros are the ‘next Nashville’ or ‘next Austin.’ Both O’Meilia and Johnson have spent some time in those cities, and have unique perspectives on how Oklahoma’s music scene compares.

“The wealth of talent, in Tulsa in particular, is through the roof,” says O’Meilia. “Within our community, I think we can keep the momentum going in the right direction and hopefully elevate a handful of artists that can take us to the next level.” 

As for Greg’s perspective: “There’s so much great music in Oklahoma, I don’t like to split it up between Tulsa and Oklahoma City. If you’re a good player, you can jump into a scene, be known and get your songs heard. That’s where the music community comes in. It doesn’t matter whether [Oklahoma] has publishing houses or record companies, as long as there’s a community of musicians to meet each other, that’s what makes the Oklahoma music scene – in Tulsa and Oklahoma City – cool.”

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