With airfares to Austin approaching four figures, roadtripping was enthusiastically embraced — a choice rewarded with concert kharma at the half-way point. Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa has been on the to-venue list, with a show serendipitously scheduled for Sunday night.

Cain’s is an old honky tonk (1924) nestled under an underpass — think the Sokol, but where four Sokols would fit snuggly inside.  Large photos of country stars of yore (Hanks Thompson and Snow, Kitty Wells, et al) line the walls, and a banner proclaiming Cain’s ‘The Home of Bob Wills’ hangs over the stage.

Oklahoma Joe’s serves up barbecue within, and ‘by request of the artist’, only tap beer was available, with a choice of Bud or Coors Light.  With a cup at just $3, it was a compromise I was happy to make.

Tonight’s act was Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters — sold out, so a thank you to the guardian angel who motioned me away from the scalpers and into a bar to sell me a ticket at face value.

Plant is a cheerleader for American music, with a setlist full of Plant-ified covers of Howlin’ Wolf, Ralph Stanley, Bo Diddley, Charley Patton and the Staple Singers.  Old hits scattered within, reimagined to keep Robert entertained with moments of FM clarity to reward the Zeppelin faithful.   

This is a show that would entertain a crowd at a county fair, and I mean that in a good way — roots music appealing to both kids and grandparents, but with enough teeth to satisfy the most devout Zep-head.  Plant is having a blast, and it’s easy to see why he has no desire to get the old band back together, beating the old hits with a stick within a generic arena or stadium.   

Austin Ho!

Paul Trap is Omaha writer and cartoonist and creator of the syndicated comic strip “Thatababy.”

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