Live Review: Eagle*Seagull, The Heavenly States

Category: Blog — @ 12:36 pm October 3, 2005

Saturday night’s sparsely attended show at O’Leaver’s could very well make it onto my year-end top-10 “best shows of the year” list, just because the music was that good — two hot bands playing two hot sets for 30 or 40 people.

Jeremy Buckley — boy wonder behind the Lincoln Calling music festival — gave me a head’s up a couple weeks ago about Eagle*Seagull. So excited was he that he e-mailed me a couple of their mp3 files, one of which wasn’t properly mastered and sounded pretty bad. I didn’t hear whatever he was hearing.

Buckley was right, though. Eagle*Seagull – a band whose name is a pain in the ass to type because of the unnecessary asterisk – is a 7-piece ensemble that includes three guitars, a violin and two keyboards. You can imagine how crowded they were on O’Leaver’s “stage.” Their intricate, new wave-esque, and perfectly executed arrangements make them Nebraska’s version of The Arcade Fire – at times they sounded just like them. E*S has only been around a year or so. Lead singer Eli Mardock told me he’s well aware of Arcade’s music. Still, he didn’t list them as a specific influence, instead referencing Leonard Cohen, who they obviously sound nothing like (He said he meant it from a lyrical perspective). At other times, E*S also has an Interpol sheen. Regardless, their songs are at times more tuneful than both those bands, while during quieter moments Mardock reminded me of Jarvis Cocker and during the fast parts, a yelpy James Johnson from The Wilderness. The live set was more upbeat and focused than their new CD, which demands further study. We need to get these guys back on an Omaha stage soon.

They were followed by Oakland’s The Heavenly States, an upbeat 4-piece ensemble that prominently features violin on most songs (I could honestly barely hear E*S’s violin during their set). Unbelievably entertaining. If pushed for comparisons, Spoon or Dismemberment Plan comes to mind, but neither really fits. Leader Ted Nesseth plays a left-handed guitar and sports a wicked phrase (for whatever reason, his vocal phrasing sometimes reminded me of Phil Lynott). His between-song patter is also some of the funniest stuff I’ve ever heard on stage. The motor behind their sound, however, is their rhythm section anchored by Jeremy Gagon on drums, a veritable dynamo that keeps it simple and keeps it moving. Violinist/keyboardist Genevieve Gagon blew me away as well. I picked up a copy of their new CD, Black Comet, and while the songs were just as good, the mix sounded muddy and unfocused — it just didn’t pop from my speakers the way this band popped from the stage.

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