One of the most enjoyable nights I’ve had at O’Leaver’s in a long time, could you ask for a more diverse bill? Isn’t this what all shows should be like? Probably. Maybe. Definitely.
First up was An Iris Pattern fronted by Omaha’s own man of mystery and intrigue Greg Loftis looking like the spitting image of Jeff Tweedy, surrounding himself with some of the better talent in the city, judging from what I heard. James McMann on bass is no slouch, whether you like GTO or not, you cannot deny that this guy has some amazing chops. I don’t know who the other guys were, but all were solid, especially the band’s lead guitarist, who clearly understands the right way to play an arena-style rock guitar solo. Iris Pattern is just that — an arena-rock band that would have felt right at home at the Civic Auditorium in the ’70s. The guy next to me compared them to Billy Thorpe, and in fact, Loftis’ voice has a similar timbre. Another guy was reminded of early Gram Parsons. I couldn’t put my finger on who they sounded like, but can tell you that live they’re much harder than what can be heard on the recordings posted at their myspace site. The sound mix was uneven and disappointing, mainly because these guys seem engineered for a larger stage (though the headliners, who have a similar trait, sounded perfect). Someone get them down to Sokol Underground.
Though it’s been almost a year since they played live, The Monroes have not lost an ounce of their rural-fied energy. Classic heartland tractor-punk at it’s finest. If you’ve never heard them before, their rural punk sound is driven mercilessly by Lincoln Dickison’s guitar, which sounds like a chainsaw cutting a Hot Rod Lincoln in half. Keeping Dickison from going completely unhinged is the rhythm section of drummer Jesse Render and bassist Mike Tulis. Render’s drums are rat-a-tat-tatty, understated and subtle. I tried to imagine what Render and these guys would sound like behind a big, throaty, hammering drum set and realized it would throw everything out of whack. Translated: leave it alone, it’s just right. Tulis’ role is just as important as it is understated. Listen closely and you realize he’s the guy driving the tractor. Then there’s frontman Gary Dean Davis, who looks exactly like he did more than a decade ago when he was fronting Frontier Trust, the band that The Monroes most resemble. Gary’s hog-calling, atonal yell — barking out lines about Impalas and the hook-and-ladder formation — speaks for the everyman in every Nebraskan whose ever navigated the state’s washboard-ladden dirt roads. Highlight of their set was a new yet-to-be-recorded tune that shows Render at his rat-a-tat-tattiest. If you missed them last night, The Monroes are playing a Speed! Nebraska Records showcase down at Sokol Underground June 30 with Ideal Cleaners and Diplomats of Solid Sound.
Finally, taking the stage in all their theatrical glory were Oklahoma City’s The Stock Market Crash. People who’d seen them before warned me that I should have worn sunglasses because these guys like to shoot flood lights into the crowd a la The Faint and a dozen other dance bands. Frontman Matthew Bacon looked like he just walked out of a late ’80s Duran Duran video with a get-up that included a Russian sailor’s shirt, jacket, Clockwork Orange bowler, tight slacks and eyeliner. The style didn’t stop with the costume, Bacon had all the moves you’d expect from any British pop band that you remember from the early days of MTV’s 120 Minutes (who remember ABC?). The whole thing would be a joke if the band wasn’t so damn good. They were as close to authentic as you’re going to find, emulating bands like Psychedelic Furs and Morrissey, though at the end of the day, Bacon reminded me of an energetic Jarvis Cocker from Pulp channeling Bowie and Julian Cope. Yes, there were flood lights, as well as stage smoke and strobes, lighting up Bacon as he darted into the crowd and leaned into frightened, confused patrons. Fun!
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