Column 90 — Speed! Nebraska update; Cursive in Pitchfork…

Category: Blog — @ 12:31 pm August 24, 2006

While I like the new name of Heidi Ore and Jon Taylor’s band, there could be a few who might consider it an homage to Cursive instead of a reflection of their home life (which it probably isn’t, either). Gary had mentioned the couples’ new band way back when we did the Speed! Nebraska cover story, but nothing was definite, which now it obviously is. Saturday night’s show, part of Duffy’s week of showcases celebrating the tavern’s anniversary, also includes Head of Femur, Ideal Cleaners and The Killigans. Wish I could be there, but I can’t, for reasons that I’ll explain tomorrow.

Column 90: Have Mercy, Will Rule
Doin’ it for the kids
Whilst stumbling around looking for a column idea, I received what could be called a “press release” from Omaha’s other record label, Speed! Nebraska Records, authored by the label’s official wagon master, Gary Dean Davis, lead “vocalist” of The Monroes and center-pivot of such legendary Nebraska bands as Pioneer Disaster and Frontier Trust.

I’ve written at great length about Gary and his label’s efforts, including a June 2006 cover story that played a central role in drawing a whopping 30 people to the Speed! Nebraska showcase a week later. Ah, the power of the press!

Gary’s press release was an announcement of epic proportions, at least for all of us who followed the Omaha/Lincoln music scenes in the late ’90s, when bands like Mousetrap, Ritual Device, Simon Joyner, and Gary’s own bands made a name for themselves outside of the sleepy confines of The Good Life state. Among those bands was a Lincoln-based power trio called Mercy Rule.

One my favorite memories of those golden days gone by was traveling with Mercy Rule guitarist Jon Taylor, bassist Heidi Ore and drummer Ron Albertson on a one-day road trip to Hairy Mary’s in Des Moines, with Caulfield Records label mates Sideshow alongside in a separate van. Before returning home, we all spent some quality time stranded at a truck stop, eating poison spaghetti, puking off the side of the stage and rocking like there was no tomorrow.

For Mercy Rule, there seemed to be nothing but endless golden tomorrows. They had just signed a deal with Relativity Records — a solid label that bordered on being a major — and were about to release their non-Caulfield debut, Providence. But shortly after the 1994 release, Relativity decided the future was in urban music, and Mercy Rule found itself bending in the wind, their hopes and dreams of rock stardom (as meager as they were) dashed. Their penultimate album, Flat Black Chronicles, originally recorded for release on Relativity, found its way back to Caulfield Records, and a few years later, the band went into deep freeze as Jon and Heidi began pursuing another interest — raising a family.

As the story goes, Ron moved to Brooklyn and formed the band Liars with fellow Lincolnite Pat Noecker and two Brooklynites.

My, how we all missed Mercy Rule. Then in April 2005, a glimmer of hope came in the form of a one-off performance by the Ore/Taylor team at The Brothers (It couldn’t be called a Mercy Rule reunion without Ron, of course). Also playing that evening was one-half of Frontier Trust (called Half Trust), all in celebration of the release of a Mercy Rule/Frontier Trust split 7-inch on Speed! Nebraska.

Now comes word that Jon and Heidi are at it again, as boldly announced in all-caps from Gary’s press release: SEE THE DEBUT OF DOMESTICA! THIS SATURDAY AT DUFFY’S TAVERN LINCOLN, NEBR. DOMESTICA! FEATURES JON TAYLOR AND HEIDI ORE OF THE FABULOUS MERCY RULE AND BOZ HICKS OF HER FLYAWAY MANNER, POLECAT, AND A BUNCH OF OTHER BANDS THAT ARE TOO MANY TO LIST.

Not knowing how to reach Jon or Heidi, I called Gary just as he and his family was about to sit down to a dinner of freshly microwaved leftovers. Turns out that Jon and Heidi’s kids are now old enough that they can have band practice without causing them permanent hearing loss (with the help of some earplugs).

“Jon and I talked about how important we feel it is for our kids to know that artwork — whether that’s making art or being in a band — is something everyday people can do, and how important it is to pass it onto the kids,” Gary said.

So, Speed! Nebraska has signed Domestica! sight unseen or heard. “They’re going to record, that’s a definite,” Gary said. “I haven’t heard the band but I’m sure that they’ll be awesome. It’s Jon and Heidi!”

Those lucky enough to be at Duffy’s this Saturday for Domestica’s debut will also likely be treated to a few Mercy Rule songs, Gary said. And if (like me) you can’t make it, don’t worry. Plans are under way to set up a show here in Omaha in the near future.

While I had Gary on the horn, I followed up on a couple other noteworthy Speed! Nebraska items. Brimstone Howl’s “Heat of the Beat” 7-inch is officially the fastest-selling Speed! Nebraska release in the label’s 10-year history. “We need to decide if we’re going to repress it,” Gary said. Released in June, the band has sold 300 copies, thanks to touring. “It tells me that kids are still buying 45s — at least 300 kids have.”

And finally, Gary mentioned The Monroes’ recent performance in front of 2,000 highly tatooed No Coast (Roller) Derby Girls fans last Friday night at the Pershing Auditorium, where the band was part of the between-match festivities. “It was a fistfight,” Gary said. “The whole event was well done. They put us on the JumboTron. A bunch of little kids danced in front of us and people were yelling.”

Bloody girls on roller skates and gnarly punk rock — what more could you ask for?

The long-awaited Pitchfork review of the Cursive’s Happy Hollow went online yesterday here. A 6.7 — not bad, not great. The author draws the distinction between Cursive’s earlier outings and the new one based on Tim Kasher’s annunciation, saying “They’re officially a words band, more interested in meaning than feeling.” Kind of reminds me of how Michael Stipe went from being a full-time mumbler on the early R.E.M. discs to a clearly understood vocalist at around the time Document came out. There were those who didn’t like that, either. I prefer understanding the lyrics vs. unintelligible screaming. But that’s just me. All-in-all, a positive review with a few jabs thrown in for good measure.

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