Column 52: A Thanksgiving Prayer; Summer Birds in the Cellar, Civicminded tonight

Category: Blog — @ 1:02 pm November 23, 2005

This column is self-explanatory. The staff at the paper hated it. I don’t blame them.

Column 52 — Be Thankful for Nothing
Omaha’s music scene has no one to thank but itself.
About two weeks ago, the editorial staff at The Reader approached me and the other writers to lend a hand on this issue’s cover story based on the question: “What are you thankful for?” I was given a list of local musicians and important figures from the music scene, which I was assigned to call or e-mail asking them what they’re thankful for during this holiday season.

My reaction: This has got to be the lamest idea I’ve ever heard. Look, I’m not going to pick up the phone and call Simon Joyner or Marc Leibowitz or Tim Kasher and waste their time by first, asking what they’re thankful for and second, explaining why The Reader thinks their comments are relevant to anyone outside of their immediate family, close friends or whatever deity they worship.

Beyond the basics — their health, and the health of their friends and family — what could they possibly say that would be interesting? What curveball could they throw that would be “good reading” to the guy or gal sitting at O’Leaver’s or The Blue Line or your local convenient store or any other place where The Reader is stacked? “Dude, I’m thankful for my sweet, sweet Electro-lux Flying V with duo pick-ups and flaming starburst finish.” Right on.

Yeah I know, I flew off the handle, as per usual. I’m sure the story, which is tucked somewhere inside these pages, is absolutely riveting. And upon reflection, the local music scene and its participants do have a lot to be thankful for. But once you get past thanking the obvious — the venues, the labels, the promoters, the recent national attention, and, of course, their natural talent — there’s not much left to be thankful for.

Our music scene was built on hard work. Not luck, not fortune, not the good will of some omnipotent rock god. The bands that have made a name for themselves did it by busting their asses in the studio, in the clubs, on the road. Beyond that, I can only image what they could be thankful for:

A good van
A better mechanic.
Cheap(er) gas.
Free booze at gigs.
A quiet place to throw up after all that free booze.
Getting away with it.
Getting caught by the right people.
The decision to not press charges.
Staying together, because it makes sense.
Breaking up, because it makes sense.
Just getting rid of fly in the ointment.
Thinking through every possible consequence before saying no to a groupie.
Those times when you said yes.
Catching the flu on off nights.
Being able to fake it when it catches you.
Staying away from the wrong drugs.
Surviving those time(s) when you weren’t smart enough to avoid them.
Making that one last phone call.
Sending that one last e-mail.
Making and sending one more after that.
Listening to the right people.
Ignoring the wrong ones.
Not giving a shit either way.
Being clever enough to come up with the right riffs,
The right fills,
The right lyrics
At the right times.
And most importantly, doing things the right way when tempted time and time and time again to do it the easy way.

This is getting preachy. And trite. And it’s just the kind of thing I wanted to avoid by not participating in that article in the first place. What do the fans and musicians and everyone involved in the Omaha scene have to be thankful for? That there is an Omaha scene at all. And who can they thank? Themselves.

Maybe I should have ended it with “Happy Thanksgiving”? Anyway, in addition to spending my holiday with family, I’ll be spending it in the bar, starting tonight at O’Leaver’s. The headliner is Summer Birds in the Cellar, a Florida-based four-piece that combines keys and guitar and guy-vocals to create a sound that’s more mellow than rock. The stuff I heard online is unremarkable but pretty. More interesting to me is opening band Civicminded, who had a stand-out track on the First National Bank Omaha music compilation. They’ve been playing the West Omaha circuit for months now, so I fear they could draw a large crowd which would likely drive me right out of the bar. Guess I’ll have to get there early and try to grab a seat, as you should, too. $5, 9:30.

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