Remember that scene in Ghost Busters where Sigourney Weaver’s neighbor/accountant, Louis Tully played by Rick Moranis, hosts a party over at his apartment as a business write-off? The classic moment comes when Louis’ blonde, pony-tailed girlfriend pouts because no one’s dancing. “Maybe if we dance, everyone will join in,” Louis says, and the two start doing a shag in the middle of living room. There was sort of a reenactment of that scene last night at O’Leaver’s during United State of Electronica’s set. Here’s a band that’s used to having people dance at their shows – their electrified disco demands it. Ah, but U.S.E. has never been to Omaha before, the home of sit-and-stare. About three songs into their set, I was beginning to worry that Omaha was going to live up to its no-dance reputation when the bass player from Aqueduct got up and started wriggling in front of the band in a desperate attempt to get people off their asses. Finally, someone got the bright idea of moving the tables and chairs out of the way, and the fun began. By the end of U.S.E.’s rather short set the entire area up by the band was crowded with sweaty white people trying to groove to the band’s good-time music. It took awhile, but about half the crowd actually loosened up, though there were still plenty of people in the back sitting and nodding to the beat. Hey, I was dancing too… in my head.
Opening band Aqueduct was a pop trio of bass, keyboards and drums playing beat-heavy synthetic rock in sort of a Cars-meets-Ben Folds style. The lead singer/keyboardist has a smooth rock voice that works well with the band’s simple pop arrangements that consist of lots of synths, percussion augmented by electric beats, and bass played by a guy with robot moves straight out of Devo.
I liked Aqueduct’s style, but it was clearly U.S.E. that the packed house came to see. It took a good 20 minutes for the band to get their gear, sound and home-made light rigs set up and arranged on the time tiny “stage.” There’s seven people in the band, including two women backing vocalists, a guy who yelled phrases like “Omaha, we love it!” and “Bright Eyes!” and “Saddle Creek!” to get the crowd energized, and another guy who sang into a vocoder, a sound effect that epitomized the band’s retro-tinged disco vibe. Live, U.S.E. rocks harder than on disc, even throwing in a few guitar solos, but overall they were somewhat rough, with a made-in-my-basement quality — this was, after all, only the third show of their two-month tour. Regardless, it was the bass and drum track (the live drummer was somewhat lacking) that got the crowd moving, eventually. Said a stunned Jeremy the bartender, amazed at the party that erupted in in front of him, “Dude, you should have brought your camera.” Omaha, it seemed, had learned how to dance.
Note to O’Leaver’s: It’s time to replace or fix your sound system. The static throughout both band’s sets would have been distracting if the crowd hadn’t been on their feet shaking their asses.
Tomorrow: The massive Saddle Creek Q&A. As a warm-up, read Part 1 — the 2001 Lazy-i interview with Robb Nansel.
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