Sorry for lateness of submission but I have the day off and was busy raking. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’ve been pulling your hair out wondering ‘When is that lazy bastard going to update his blog?’ Especially when you know that I went to Okkervil River last night at Sokol.
The biggest surprise of the evening was the turnout. Last time they came through maybe 60 showed up at O’Leaver’s to hear their set. Last night the number was around 200 — quite a jump. What’s the deal? Has their stuff been played as background music on an episode of The OC or something? Maybe people are just starting to catch on that Okkervil River is one of the best folk/rock/indie bands going these days. They certainly proved it last night, despite a number of setbacks.
But first, Lawrence’s The Minus Story opened (actually, Fizzle Like a Flood opened, too, but I missed their set. Sorry, Doug.). I’ve heard they’re all the rage down in Lawrence. I was told last night that a certain Omaha record label had looked long and hard at them a year or so ago, but missed out to Jagjaguwar. I can see why they’d be interested. To me, The Minus Story sounded like a slightly more indie version of Now It’s Overhead, probably because vocalist Jordan Geiger has the same nasal high-end delivery as Andy LeMaster. Their opening song was a bit of a dud, but they only got better as their set went on. I’m a bit reticent about saying more because I wasn’t really in the mood for their style of dreamy/indie/pseudo-psychedelic rock, or maybe I’m just getting tired of the drone. They’re probably better than I give them credit for (Hey, Jagjaguwar doesn’t sign slouches).
Then came Okkervil River. Frontman Will Robinson Sheff warned everyone before their set that it wouldn’t be typical. The band apparently just returned from a few weeks in Europe, where Sheff lost his voice. He got it back, but then drummer Travis Nelsen broke his hand a few days ago (I’m told he had it iced before the set). To make matters worse, Sheff broke a string on the very first song (an acoustic version of “Happy Hearts”) and proceeded to tell us while he was restringing how his ex-girlfriend, who he had been pining for, told him last night that she never wanted to talk to him again. “Awww!” cried the girls in the audience. Cute. He also said that Omaha was special to the band, recalling how their March 5, 2002, show at The Junction was the first gig they ever played outside of Austin, and what a crappy gig it was (Though I thought they performed well that night. Guess I’m the only guy in Omaha that misses The Junction).
Regardless, Sheff got it together, played his solo song, and then was joined by five other players, including guys on accordion, mandolin, keyboards, trumpet, the whole ball of wax. The drummer’s broken hand supposedly caused them to rewrite their set list and omit a few songs (not the least of which was “Black,” which someone kept yelling for, and which Sheff kept saying he couldn’t play because of the broken hand). I didn’t notice a drop-off in the quality of drumming, I certainly couldn’t tell the guy’s hand was broken. But maybe the set-list was a little more restrained than usual. There were a few more droning, atmospheric numbers than I remember from last spring, but there were still all my favorites, including “Red,” “Black Sheep Boy” “The Latest Toughs,” “Okkervil River Song” (the traditional set closer), and “Kansas City” (part of the two-song encore). Good stuff.
Tonight is the first of two nights of Cursive at Sokol Underground. As you know from reading Wednesday’s feature, it’s sold out and has been for a long time. Even the tickets on eBay are gone. Opening tonight’s show is Back When and The Stay Awake. Tomorrow night it’s Criteria and Race for Titles. It will be a madhouse, as all sold-out shows are at Sokol Underground. Bring your earplugs. If you don’t have a ticket, you might want to check out pop-rockers The Plus Ones with The Hooligans at O’Leaver’s. $5, 9:30 p.m.
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