Live Review: White Whale, Nada Surf; Ladyfinger, Criteria tonight; Jon Crocker Sunday…

Category: Blog — @ 12:26 pm September 22, 2006

I don’t know if it was the rain or the fact that the band hasn’t released an album in a year, but only about 150 showed up last night for Nada Surf at Sokol Underground compared to, what, 500 the last time they came through and played upstairs? There are those who will point to the fact that Rogue Wave opened for them last March, and maybe Rogue Wave was the draw. Who knows? Regardless, I wasn’t the only one expecting a sell out. Maybe if the show had been marketed as part of a “greatest hits” tour, more people would have come out, but more on that in a minute…

White Whale was up first (after The Plus Ones, who I missed), and despite the fact that their new album is kinda interesting in its without-borders approach, the band came off somewhat flat. You knew there was going to be trouble when they took 20 minutes to do their sound check. There was just too much stuff going on, what with three guitarists (two of whom doubled on keyboards) and a mix that was soaking in delay and echo. It sounded like the band was playing inside an empty blimp hanger. All that delay made for a mushy mess, which made it that much harder to find the songs’ already-buried hooks. Their best stuff was saved for the end (vs. the eight or nine-minute “odysseys” that made up the first half of their set). I’d like to hear these guys stripped down to the bare essentials with a more conventional mix and fewer (or no) effects.

Nada Surf came on at around 11:30 and announced that they were going to do their entire set in chronological order, starting with a cover (I can’t remember what it was) and blowing right into their all-time hit “Popular,” a song that I’m told they’ve never played in Omaha before and that they supposedly quit playing live years ago. It was followed a cover of Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” which wasn’t half bad. From then on, the set consisted of songs from their other early albums. “We now go from 1998 to 2002,” said frontman Matthew Caws, who explained that last night’s gig was a fill-in for an open date on their tour with Guster (ironically, that tour is coming to Omaha Oct. 31, without Nada Surf). This gave them plenty of room to stretch out on the set, which I’m sure was a treat for the hardcore Nada Surf fans who braved the elements. I thought the band sounded pretty good, but when I mentioned that to the guy next to me (a big fan), he said they sounded like shit, and that they already blew it on a couple of the older songs. I couldn’t tell because I’ve only heard their last record. By the time midnight rolled around and I had to leave, they were still playing songs from 2002’s Let Go.

Tonight, it’s Ladyfinger and Criteria at Sokol Underground. I beseech anyone who followed the Omaha punk scene in the early to mid-’90s to get to this show early and check out opening band Now Archimedes! (Here’s a review of their last O’Leaver’s gig). I’m told Criteria will be playing with their new drummer (Mike Sweeney apparently left the band a few weeks ago). Expect a sizable turnout for this, the kickoff of Ladyfinger’s first national tour in support of Heavy Hands. I assume copies of the new CD will be available at the show. Pick one up. $8, 9 p.m.

As for the rest of the weekend:

— Saturday night it’s Neva Dinova with No Blood Orphan, Tomato a Day and Drake’s Hotel at Sokol Underground. That’s a lot of music for $8.

— Sunday night brings an interesting show to O’Leaver’s featuring gritty, earthy, folkie singer-songwriter Jon Crocker, on tour supporting his new album, Death.. Also on the fight card are local singer-songwriter Brad Hoshaw and the legendary Dereck Higgins (Digital Sex, The Family Radio). $5, 9:30 p.m.

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