Column 34 booze/smoke-free; TSITR tonight; Jim Yoshi Pile-Up

Category: Blog — @ 10:44 am July 21, 2005

This week’s column is a partial rehash of Monday’s blog entry (which was a review of last Saturday’s show), but with some new data added by way of Sandy Aquila, the proprietor of the Omaha Healing Arts Center. Is the venue a realistic outlet for all-ages shows? Not those of the old Cog Factory ilk, considering the room’s rental price and the overall niceness of the facility. I doubt Aquila would be too eager to see a pit forming on her nice oak floors. On the other hand, last night’s Richard Buckner show (which I didn’t attend) might have fit nicely in there. I don’t understand the economics of it all ((rental+guarantee+desired profit)/capacity)), which is probably what’s keeping it from happening. Sure is a nice place, though. Tonight it’s The Show Is the Rainbow‘s punk extravaganza at Sokol Underground. $7, 9 p.m.

Column 34 — Another Shot of Oxygen, Please
You don’t have to be stinkin’ drunk to rock.

While interviewing Omaha musician Dereck Higgins last week, the question of smoke-free, alcohol-free venues came up.

Higgins had played a couple shows earlier this year, including a gig at O’Leaver’s, that were far from stellar. Part of the reason was that Higgins has never felt that his music is conducive to a bar setting “People are there to get drunk and get laid,” he said. “They’re not focusing on the music.”

Fine, but if you’re a rock musician (or in Higgins case, an ambient pop musician with British prog overtones) where else is there to play but in a bar? Ask yourself when was the last time you saw a band (not a cover band, not a blues band) perform outside of a club or festival setting? The under-21s aren’t the only ones with something to complain about — there are very few places to see live, original rock music without being smoked out or boozed on.

Thanks to singer/songwriter/popster Richard Schultz, Higgins found an outlet at the Omaha Healing Arts Center. The venue was hardly new him. He performed there back in June 2003, playing bass alongside one of his personal musical heroes — The Chameleons’ Mark Burgess. Situated in the heart of the Old Market, Healing Arts is a combination health food store, restaurant, yoga gym and massage/physical therapy outlet.

Unlike the usual smoke-hole booze huts I frequent, Healing Arts is a veritable oasis. The converted warehouse-style building sports a main room that feels like a New Age church, with high, beamed ceilings and a skylight that stretches 30 yards or so along the entire room. Sure, everywhere you look are portraits of yogis and other spiritual types, and you can’t deny the distinct “hippy vibe,” but hey, who can argue with such a tranquil setting?

For last Saturday night’s gig, the stage had been set up along a wall halfway down one side of the long room. Schultz had strung Christmas twinkle lights along the rigging, stretching the green plastic chords overhead to the opposite wall. It gave the place a sort of urban, outdoorsy feel.

First up was a band of youngsters called One Mummy Case — youngsters that is, except for Higgins, who played bass in the band. With two teen-aged multi-instrument lead singers, a keyboardist and drummer, One Mummy Case is the next generation of Simon Joyner/Conor Oberst singer-songwriters, sporting styles that are similar to both. The hour-long set was remarkable for a first-ever gig, the band playing to a room filled not only with music fans, but with family (moms and dads) and friends. Talk about pressure. Regardless, you’d think these guys had been performing on stage for, well, months at least, especially considering that a few of them looked no older than 15. Where else but a no-alcohol place like Healing Arts could a band like this perform?

Healing Arts proprietor Sandy Aquila said the 200-capacity room is available for just about any gig, including the typical all-ages rock show. Even punk shows? “I’m interested in working with people who are looking to make things more harmonious or healthier,” Aquila said. “That doesn’t necessarily mean pretty, beautiful music; it can still be raunchy rock and have a positive message.” On the other hand, druggies or “negative people” need not apply.
But despite having approached a number of local promoters, Aquila hasn’t had much luck booking the room, which rents from $400 to $600 a night. The reason: It’s smoke-free and booze-free. “In the end, it all comes down to money,” she said.

A half-hour after One Mummy Case finished its set, Higgins’ own band took the stage. It was quite a contrast from his one-man karaoke bar shows. The band, which included John Friedman on guitar, Bill Eustice on bass and Jeff Tegtmeir on drums, turned Higgins’ usually spacey, keyboard-driven ambient movements into full-out rock songs, showcasing Higgins’ skills on scorching guitar solos. It was a nice night of music and even nicer to be able to go home from a rock show and not have to fumigate my clothes.

***CD Review***

Jim Yoshi Pile-up Picks Us Apart (Absolutely Kosher) — Musically it sports the same bass, guitar, rhythms and textures as New Order, downbeat Smiths and early Cure, laced with Paul Gonzenbach’s nice-guy vox. But the story of Gonzenbach’s struggle with depression in all its forms is a tough sell. Rarely do these types of concept albums come together cohesively. And though there are moments or rise-above and exultation, ultimately you’re left with a rather languid pop record that, taken in parts and snippets can be moving, but taken as a whole is less than appealing (and considering the message, shouldn’t come as a surprise). Gonzenbach doesn’t care. He did this one for himself. Rating: No

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