What do you get when you put 3 guitarists, a bass player, a drummer and a soaring vocalist together? You get a reunited Congress of a Crow.
Founded by Danelle Phillips (vocals) Adam Tichenor (guitar) and Wil Sutherland (guitar) in 2005, it wasn’t without some strategy. Adam Tichenor says, “Danelle moved from Wichita to Tulsa to sing for Fridgebuzz, and Wil and I were in Tulsa band Vastu with our current drummer Lance Reynolds and bassist Justin Shavney. Both bands were nominated for a Tulsa Spotnik Award in 2004. That is where we first heard Danelle sing.” The band was crafting a new sound, in the market for a new singer, and had a plan in mind. “We invited Fridgebuzz to play a show with us at Arnie’s with the intention of showcasing our songs for Danelle” Tichenor says. “We asked her to write fresh and unique music with us and eventually she agreed.”
While the majority of ideas originated with Adam, Will and Danelle, all input was welcome. “Writing for us was very collaborative, but we tried to be careful to craft an original sound.” Adding Todd Shaver (bass) and Ted Scott (guitar) to the band proved to be beneficial. “Todd is about the most creative bass player I’ve ever played with and always took our ideas to the next level. Ted added serious skill and technique to our sound.” Tichenor explains, “we did lots of jamming and improvisation to find just the right textures for each song while leaving room for Danelle’s vocal melodies to shine.” Although a delicate balance that occasionally became volatile, they allowed spontaneous creativity to take over until they were happy with a piece. Trials and tribulations paid off as they recorded their full length album Between Shadows and Sunrise in 2007 at Yellowdog Studios with producer Dave Perceful. An untitled EP was also recorded but never fully released.
The band toured extensively averaging 150 shows a year, and as Adam puts it, “it’s kind of a blur. Our management got us just about every kind of gig there is. We wanted to climb the ladder of success all the way to the top and play music full time for the entire world.” Playing to packed out hole in the wall clubs in Texas, to a single bartender in Nebraska, to a 10,000 attendee Summerfest Festival in Wisconsin, and in the snow at Iowa State, the band relished in the moment. “We were all over the place and were really lucky to play so much.” But, there is no place quite like home. Tichenor remembers, “must of us grew up in Tulsa and had been going to shows at Cain’s Ballroom since childhood. We were offered to open for Candlebox in 2006. Playing to a sold out Cain’s was a dream come true.” Congress of a Crow also played Tulsa’s DFest 3 years running. “We always had a great time. Opening for Paramore and The Roots was amazing.” As they were sitting on top of the world, the bottom fell out.
In 2008, they gained the attention of Atlantic Records and were asked to record a demo for a potential record deal. “We were asked to record a demo, and if they liked the songs, we would get a deal. It was the moment we had all been dreaming about.” However, with the rigorous touring, the replacement of 2 band members, and all of their gear being stolen, it proved to be too great a challenge. Tichenor remembers, “we were showing signs of burnout and fatigue, but had to write the best music of our lives.” Spirits were broken, but they carried on. With borrowed gear and 5 newly recorded songs, Atlantic passed on the opportunity to sign them. They were at a crossroads. “We never agreed again on which direction we should go, or whose songs we should focus on” says Adam. They chose to book a farewell show at Cain’s Ballroom in February 2009. Headlining Z104.5’s local talent show, it sold out. Fondly, Adam says, “It was surreal to end the band like that.”
As the band went their different ways, the relationships never did. “The amazing friendships we made during Congress of a Crow’s duration were forged by the fire of intent creativity and vitriolic passion. We’ve all kept those friendships in tact as much as possible.” Nostalgia was sustained by friends and fans of the band, and on more than one occasion, hints were dropped for a reunion show. Then a fateful call from Danelle in December 2019 would solidify the request. “I believe it was something as simple as, “hey, I’m moving back to Tulsa. Let’s do some shows.” Request granted.
They all agreed the only way a show could happen is if all original members were included. Everyone was in, and rehearsals began, but then, Covid reared it’s ugly head and plans were put on hold. “We had to postpone the official reunion until summer of 2021 for safety. Ely had to back out for family commitments, so we tapped our original drummer Lance Reynolds to save the day. It has been a life changing experience reconnecting with such talented and dedicated people, and we are ecstatic to finally play the music the we’ve been working so hard to bring back to life.”
Congress of a Crow’s future remains uncertain, but one thing’s for sure, their chemistry is still present. Adam summarizes with this, “The band coming back together has the added bonus of allowing us to be friends with each other again. The fires have been re-lit. I can confidently predict that Congress of a Crow could continue on in some fashion if we can manage to balance our priorities and keep the lineup intact. We are going to keep the fire going and see what happens.”
The Congress of a Crow reunion show is scheduled for Saturday, July 17 at the Venue Shrine, with opening acts All’s Fair and The Stylees. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased through stubwire.com