By Joe Mack
“I don’t remember a lot about my first show at Mercury, but I do remember it was hot as hell out,”
laughs Brandon Clark, the leader of Oklahoma’s own ‘shred-dirt’ quintet BC & the Big Rig, and more importantly (for this article), the keeper of Tulsa’s longest active live music residency.
July 2021 will mark Clark’s 16th anniversary of playing Sundays at the Mercury Lounge, which has seen a wide array of start times and special guests over the years.
Josh Martin, original owner/operator of The Mercury Lounge, opened the bar in March of 2005; four
months later Brandon played his first show on a hot July night. Martin couldn’t not bring him onboard to
at least test the waters.
“A bunch of my buddies used to come watch me play at a small bar on Brookside on Sundays, and they
rallied - ‘we’ve gotta get yo
u outta this place’ – and the Merc had recently opened up. They went to Josh
and promised him they’d come watch me play Sunday nights, and that’s basically how it all started,”
In the beginning, the “drunken debauchery” would begin at 10 p.m. As with any new business, The
Mercury was in its golden dawn age of popularity, and the crowds incessant. Competitive, even, to a
“I’ve seen it all – lots of blood, broken bones, head injuries – all over ‘musical chairs’,” Clark recollects.
Patrons would flock to the Sunday night shows to egg Clark into providing the soundtrack for the game
of musical chairs, the winner which received a heralded shot and a beer; for some, a hard price to pay
for the liquid reward (Mercury Lounge shot & beer regular retail price = $5; Emergency room visit, X-ray, treatment for traumatic injury = $1,500-$15,000).
After a handful of years the start time moved up an hour to 9 p.m. As Tulsa’s music scene began its
resurgence the show time moved up ever so slightly with each passing cycle. About three years ago,
Clark and Mercury Lounge management moved the start time to 4 p.m., which has brought back many
familiar faces who helped initiate BC’s first Sunday night shows at the establishment.
“It’s definitely changed, I’ve definitely changed – I think we’ve all definitely changed,” laughs Clark.
“We’re all older now, we have spouses and children and careers. You can catch this 4 o’clock show and still have time for Sunday dinner and feel good come Monday morning.”
That sense of family and responsibility also has prevailed for the Sunday sessions.
“It’s a family atmosphere, and we’re all friends here. We have bikers, hippies, a van club…it doesn’t
matter if you’ve been to every one of these shows or it’s your first, it’s definitely a cool hang.
“They know I’m gonna be here,” Clark says, smiling.
While you’ll often see Clark manning the stage solo during the Sunday matinee set, a handful of familiar
faces have shared in the groove over the years, including John Moreland and Evan Felker. Fans will note in recent years that the first Sunday of the month is “Big Rig Sunday”, where Clark welcomes his four bandmates – drummer James Purdy, bassist Chris Bell, and guitarists Sam Naifeh and Ryan McCall up to serve the shred dirt upon suspecting ears. With a new album on the shelf and shows in short supply, BC and the gang sharpen their sword mostly on new material that was recorded at the notorious Blackbird Studios in Nashville, Tenn.
“We outwork everyone we know,” Clark offers, “we have a van, we have a PA…just point us in the right
direction. We just want to work. We just want to get in front of people.”
Look for BC & the Big Rig to continue to perform often across the region, culminating with a late
summer 2021 album release. In the meantime, find yourself in Tulsa any given Sunday.
“The Mercury is a pretty influential place,” Clark remarks. “Some people get their start here, some even
get their foot in the door on a Sunday afternoon. You couldn’t beat the vibe here 15 years ago, and it’s
still the best.”
“Sounds like you were Sunday Funday-ing when Sunday Funday-ing wasn’t cool?” I asked.
“Pretty much,” Brandon reflects, “and it’s still cool.”
Joe Mack is the former Editor-in-Chief of Currentland Magazine and Northwest Arkansas Entertainment
Magazine, and is currently a multi-media marketing specialist at Tahlequah Daily Press. He resides with
his wife Pam and their domesticated herd of fur babies on five acres in rural Cherokee County in