Oklahoma's own globe-trotting rocker-cum-professor returns home from China with a renewed vigor 

Tyson Meade with Seth McCarroll and Mickey Reece
8 p.m. Friday
The Chouse
717 W. Boyd, Norman

When Tyson Meade fans line up Friday at The Chouse in Norman during his annual pilgrimage of solo shows, it won't be the primal howl from his days with Chainsaw Kittens and Defenstration they'll hear, but more of the eternally youthful and charmingly awkward storyteller that 105.3 "The Spy" listeners grew to love during his reign as a DJ of the station's second of three incarnations.

Meade's has become a proper rock statesman, peppering conversation with obscure references and prone to lengthy asides, and his life's twisting storyline is only further textured by his new role as a teacher in China.

"I stopped drinking five years ago, but I don't know if my brain cells know that yet," Meade said with a laugh. "But you asked me a question that I'm not at all answering, but will sorta answer in a roundabout kind of way."

Meade was trying to explain why he now prefers performing mellow acoustic sets to grand rock spectacles. The answer wound through a string of stories as he recalled students and teachers baffled that he left "the land of milk and honey" to teach in China, where the country's music scene remains underdeveloped.

"For a city of 20 million, the best club is still only about the size of The Conservatory, and you are able to see the kings of China at these fairly small clubs," Meade said. "The really great Chinese rock is like the post-punk stuff from the early-'80s, stuff that reminds me of early Psychedelic Furs and Gang of Four."

For those interested in hearing what China is buzzing about these days, Meade's voice still seeps through the Oklahoma City airwaves via two specialty shows on "The Spy": "Live from Shanghai" airs 7 p.m. Saturdays, exploring China's simmering rock scene, and "Larceny Whipsnake's Music Parlour" airs 9 p.m. Sundays, recalling the pre-punk glam-rockers from his own youth, such as T. Rex, Iggy Pop, New York Dolls and David Bowie.

Although Meade still adores the aura of glam rock and looks back fondly on his days with Chainsaw Kittens, he admitted burning out as a performer. When he put aside his rock persona and shifted into more of a storyteller with a guitar, he said he fell in love with being onstage again.

"I have something different to say than when I was just in the rock 'n' roll lifestyle," he said. "It was so much fun and I loved it, but it tended to be a little vacuous."

So the Kitten has been tamed, to a degree, but he still finds inspiration in the rock clubs full of feral vitality in a country rich in possibility.

"It is booming right now, and I'm excited to see what will happen with the youth," Meade said. "There is this great Chinese rock, and I feel blessed to be witnessing it. I wish I was younger so I had the energy to really appreciate it, but it's also nice to be the old guy sitting in the back of the club listening to Hedgehog and knowing that one day, it's going to explode."

Chouse party

Rock audiences might not be familiar with the former Catholic Church-turned-everyday dwelling of Tom Lee and Mary Katherine Long, but Tyson Meade followers got a chance to witness a pivotal performance there last summer during his stay in the states.

The pseudo-venue is invitation-only as the couple clears out their living room and brings in folding chairs for a house concert. Lee said that living in a church has been a longtime dream of his, since learning about Leon Russell's recording studio inside an old church in Tulsa.

Because of the church's design, the acoustics are suited to live music, but Lee said that they only host a few performances a year. They are more parties for musicians with ties to the Norman area, and all the proceeds from ticket sales go directly to the artist, he said.

"The shows have a different atmosphere, much more laid-back, and the artist appreciates playing close to the audience," Lee said. "When it is a house concert, there is usually a lot of people in the audience that know the musician personally so it makes for a really intimate setting."

Photo/Angela Renai Comer

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