I probably received more mail for last week’s column than anything I’ve written since last year’s “Fun City” piece. The comments this time were mixed — half disagreed and called me a prickly doomsayer, half said I was on target. Verbal feedback was just as mixed. I should have added to the column the fact that all the club owners that I’ve talked to say attendance is down at shows, especially smaller shows, and that everyone seems a little worried.
Column 130: Wicked Feedback
Lazy-i readers sound off.It’s been a while since I got feedback like the letters received in response to last week’s column, “Omaha’s Farewell Tour,” where yours truly tried to make the point that the problem with the Omaha music scene isn’t getting good bands to perform here, the problem is getting people to go see them.A number of you wrote to say that I didn’t help my argument by pointing to the June 17 Tortoise show at The Waiting Room, which failed to sell out.Among them was Katie Wudel, who wrote The Reader to say that the show was, after all, on a Sunday night “and many of us were a tad hungover and had to go to work or school the next morning” and that Tortoise “surely to be respected for its verve and persistence” creates “sorta boring noise rock more suited for napping or studying than a night out…” and that despite that, “twenty-five whole people below the Waiting Room’s 225-person capacity stayed home that night. Well, looks like things are going down the crapper. Good thing you were there that night, or none of us would’ve noticed that dead horse you’ve been beating since you started this column.”Ouch, Katie. That’s gonna leave a mark. A somewhat less biting response came from Ed Perini, who said, “Just because shows aren’t selling out doesn’t mean that our scene is dying – it just means that some people need to get beyond their comfort zones and be a bit more adventurous. And a sell-out in one of the coastal cities isn’t necessarily going to translate to a sellout in Omaha, no matter how high the band’s score was in Pitchfork, because people here don’t blindly follow trends (not musical ones, in any case).”Ed went on to say Omaha will never be like Chicago or New York or L.A. “But I like it that way – and I think that bands and promoters can sense that we have something special going on in our town, even it if isn’t the ‘new Seattle.'” Ed added that my “doomsday predictions” about the Omaha scene are starting to get tiresome and predictable. And, “You can’t shame people into going to see bands that they don’t want to see.”He’s right. So’s Katie. In fact, one of the show’s promoters, Marc Leibowitz, said that even though Tortoise didn’t sell out, the band had a great time, and will likely return to Omaha, which pretty much shot a hole in the basic premise behind last week’s column.Not everyone, however, thinks I’m full of ca-ca. Annie Dilocker wrote to say that she regretted missing the Tortoise show “but at the same time, the show was not really on my radar. It seems to me that unless people pay a lot of attention to music, or unless they have a friend who tells them which shows to go to, they miss a lot of good shows.”Others pointed out that, despite my comments, there is an indie music resource available on your FM dial. Marc’s brother, David Leibowitz, said that he’s been playing indie music for more than two years as host of New Day Rising, a two-hour radio show that runs Sunday nights at 11 p.m. on 89.7 The River.“I am so tired of hearing commentary from Omaha’s scenester elite (I am not referring to you, but to people I encounter at shows all the time) talking about how there is no place to hear any good music anyplace other than the Internet,” Dave wrote. “I’ll be honest, most of the audience for my show is younger kids who are not part of the hipster class. They are listening to and being exposed to music they have never heard, and music that is not given an outlet anywhere else. I have met plenty of kids who came to a show specifically because they heard the band on NDR. I think this should count for something.”It does Dave, and I beseech anyone who isn’t at a rock show on a Sunday night to tune into The River for those two hours — the only time you’ll likely hear songs by Sonic Youth, LCD Soundsystem, Neva Dinova or Spoon on your FM tuner.That is, of course, unless you’re on the UNO campus. Instead of just complaining about the current state of radio, Matt Beat, music director of Mavradio, UNO’s campus-only radio station, is trying to do something about it. Matt wrote to remind me about Mav Aid — an effort to raise funds and awareness for Mav Radio. The event takes place July 12-14 at venues throughout Benson, including Benson Grind, Mick’s, The Foundry, PS Collective, Barley Street Tavern and The Waiting Room. Money raised will go toward buying new equipment that will allow the station to once again stream its programming at mavradio.org, with the long-term goal of purchasing a new sound board and radio tower to broadcast on the entire campus. A worthy cause indeed.So keep those cards and letters coming — even the ones that call me a “curmudgeon” and a “bitter middle-aged white man” — and I’ll try to mosey this ol’ dead horse back to greener pastures. Giddyup!
(CORRECTED) Tonight at Sokol Underground, The Show Is the Rainbow opens for Japanese noise rock act Melt Banana. This should be one of the last Darren Keen shows around here for awhile, as he says he’s moving to sunny Orlando July 1 (details here). Also on the bill is LWA. $10, 9 p.m. Meanwhile, over at The Waiting Room, laid-back Canadian indie folk-rock band Great Lake Swimmers (Nettwerk) plays with Madison band Southerly (on Greyday) and Omaha’s own Kyle Harvey. $8, 9 p.m.
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