Column 105 — Hanging with the cool kids; Ambulette, Little Brazil, Artsy Golfer tonight…

Category: Blog — @ 12:27 pm December 14, 2006
I had four people read this column before it went to press and got back four different viewpoints on the topic. Most thought Adam was right when he said fashion — or what a performer looks like — plays a central role in who gets “in” and who doesn’t. Where’s all this fashion that everyone’s talking about. Do they mean the high-end fashion as presented by the bands on Saddle Creek Records? You ever see Oberst or Kasher perform? They are the epitome of non-fashion. Oberst always looks like he’s rolled on stage wearing whatever he wore all day — usually a long-sleeved shirt or a hoodie that was picked up at a thrift store. Kasher? Same thing. The Faint, on the other hand, could be construed as a fashion band. But, geeze, any other Creek band consists of a lot of guys that look like they slept in their clothes and haven’t combed their hair before. Do you really think fashion played a role in Creek signing Ladyfinger or Eric Bachmann or Neva Dinova? Does anyone really think that the guys behind One Percent Productions consider how a band looks before booking them? Come on, folks…

Now, does a band have to be a friend of a friend of a friend of the One Percent guys to get their attention? Wouldn’t hurt, but it ultimately doesn’t matter as long as 1) your music is good, and/or 2) you can draw a crowd to your shows. If you have those attributes and you want to play on one of their shows, it’s probably just a matter of time. Quality has a way of floating to the top. If you build it, they will come, so to speak…

Column 105: Hanging with the Cool Kids
Adam Weaver wants in.
This column is the result of a reader who took seriously my prodding to send in column ideas. Musician Adam Weaver wants to know:

“What does it mean to locally ‘make it’ in the Omaha music scene? I’m not talking about a record deal or anything, but at what point can you call a local artist an established and respected local artist? When you play Sokol? When you open for a nationally recognized and respected act? When you play a One Percent (Productions) show? When you’re featured in The Reader?

“And further,” the letter continued, “how does a band here in Omaha get legitimized without the blessing of One Percent, given that they’re pretty much the only show in town? Is it even possible? And if you don’t know any of the indie king-makers in town, and they don’t return your e-mails, what are your options as far as trying to get yourself heard?”

Good questions — questions that lots of bands have thought about over the years, but have never had the cojones to vocalize on the record. Weaver obviously feels like he’s been locked out of a scene with which he personally identifies, whether anyone else does or not.

A native of Gulf Port, Mississippi, Weaver moved to Omaha three-and-a-half years ago to pursue an internship for his graduate degree in psychology. He planned on moving to Nashville after graduation to connect with some music friends there. Instead, he’s still here, trying to land gigs at Sokol Underground and O’Leaver’s, with little luck.

I already know what you’re thinking: “Maybe, Adam, if you were any good you’d get the attention you deserve.” Not this time. After listening to Places We Were, Places We’re Not, the new CD by Weaver and his band, The Ghosts, it’s obvious that quality isn’t the issue. The disc is a collection of well-crafted — if somewhat somber — acoustic singer-songwriter stuff. In fact, it may be a bit too well-crafted. Produced over two sessions in a Nashville studio, the recording is slick, and Weaver’s voice is quite good. He doesn’t have the usual characteristic indie quirks — he doesn’t sing off-key, he doesn’t bray, he doesn’t shriek as if in pain. Weaver’s voice is radio-friendly. In fact, it’s downright mainstream. And that’s always been an unspoken no-no in the indie world.

Yes, you read that right — if your music sounds too well-produced or too “smooth,” it could very well be discounted by the indie set as being commercial, and hence, uncool. But that’s really not what differentiates indie music from what you hear on the radio.

Weaver, who wanted to make perfectly clear his comments aren’t sour grapes, clarified his viewpoint over the phone Sunday afternoon. He believes the line of music legitimacy in Omaha is drawn by Marc Leibowitz and Jim Johnson, the duo who book shows at venues around town under the One Percent Productions moniker.

“You can only go so far without getting them involved,” Weaver said. “I’m sure they didn’t get into this thinking, ‘We’re the guys that can make or break a band in this town.’ They try to promote the music they like. I’m not trying to give them a bad rap, but I can’t pretend that they don’t exist, either.”

Weaver also says that a band’s friends, political views and what they wear helps define them as “one of the cool kids.”

“Music is way down on the list as to how bands in that scene are identified,” he said. “There are bands that aren’t ‘One Percent bands’ that are just as good musically, but don’t get the attention or opportunities that those bands get.”

This is where Weaver and I part ways. I don’t think a dress code or a friendship network defines Omaha’s indie scene — not anymore. And certainly the scene isn’t defined by One Percent Productions, who are just as quick to book a teen-angst screamo-metal goon band as a Creek band if it means putting butts in seats. They are businessmen, after all.

There is, however, an indefinable quality that characterizes our indie music scene. I wish I could tell Adam what it is. All’s I know is I know it when I see it (or hear it). I’m not sure why Weaver feels that he needs to be part of that scene, anyway. We’re living in new times, when an affiliation to Saddle Creek no longer is a prerequisite for local or national success. Just ask Eagle*Seagull or Emphatic or Little Brazil.

“What is indie? Is it a sound or a frame of mind or a business model?” Weaver asked. “To me, a good song writer is a good song writer, whether you’re cool or not. If anything, my band has a hard time identifying if we’re indie or folk or pop or cool. I guess it doesn’t really matter. If you have good songs, you’ll always get your foot in the door.”

Adam, I think you answered your own question.

Tonight at Sokol Underground, Ambulette with Little Brazil and Artsy Golfer. Ambulette is Maura Davis (Pinebender), Stephen Howard (Pinebender), Matt Clark (Pinebender, White/Light, Joan of Arc), and Ryan Rapsys (Euphone, Heroic Doses) sounding like, to me, like Bettie Serveert meets a guitar-driven version of Metric. Little Brazil likely will be unveiling a number of songs from their upcoming album, slated for release on Mt. Fuji early next year. Artsy Golfer looks like a conglomeration of personnel from a ton of Omaha bands. According to their myspace page, the band consists of “Droot, Fox, Lew and Tan.” Come out early tonight and figure out what that means (I’m stuck on Tan). 9 p.m., $8.

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