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Gypsy punker, possible fanatical fringe leader Jason Webley putters into town



Oklahoma indie-rock crowd, meet Seattle's wandering gypsy/punk accordion howler Jason Webley. You love spectacle, Webley loves spectacle; you two should hit it off nicely.

His sound finds a middle ground between the battered soul of Tom Waits and the sentimentality of The Decemberists, all while garnering loyal followers with his lively and, at times, bizarre shows. There are even rumors that Webley is the cult leader of a shadowy fan splinter group dubbed the Tomato Scouts.

But can his grandiose efforts compare with what Oklahoma City is used to? Let's examine the evidence: 

Michael Ivins and Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips marched hundreds of skeletons downtown for the past two Halloween seasons. Webley invaded a commuter ferry with 300 fans dressed as pirates for an impromptu show where he staged the death of his stage persona for four consecutive Halloweens. Matthew Alvin Brown wrote a rock opera named "Rainbow Around the Sun," which drew critical comparisons to The Who's "Tommy." Webley produced a four-part series of concept albums that were tied into his aforementioned personas, and he is now in the midst of recording another series of 11 EPs. Stillwater's Colourmusic rarely hits the stage without bizarre props or clothing, and is known to tear up the stage with wild abandon. Webley sometimes dispatches a walking carrot into the crowd.

Like the Lips, Webley's music doesn't hinge on novelty and visuals, but is expansively ambitious and accessible. Emotive tracks like "Ways to Love," off 2008's "The Cost of Living," dig into the soul after just one listen.

He will perform 8 p.m. Sunday with Ghost of Monkshood at The Conservatory.

Webley said the EPs are cathartic, since his full-length albums have become increasingly serious in tone. They also allow him to step back and have more fun with the music in between full-length releases.

His charisma and unusual identity are heavily imprinted on his music both live and recorded, but Webley doesn't think that any of that is lost even when he writes with other musicians. When touring in support of the EPs, or even playing a few one-off shows with the collaborators, he doesn't shift his style or tone down the antics that have endeared him to his loyal followers.

"I don't worry about that. Who you are follows you around despite yourself," he said. "To work hard to consciously preserve some Jason Webley-ness in all these things isn't something I really think about; it just happens." "Charles Martin

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