Forgive the lateness of this post as I’m suffering from a lingering head cold. Not good. Don’t catch it.
This past March I went to a show down at Sokol Underground featuring Capgun Coup, Baby Walrus and Whatever Happened to the Dinosaurs? Easily the best band that evening was Baby Walrus (ex-Le Beat). The worst was Capgun Coup (Whatever Happened… bordered on being a Bright Eyes tribute band). My comments from that show: “Finally there was Capgun Coup, who I really came to see. I was told by someone who has heard them before that it wasn’t their finest moment. The set was sloppy and out of sync, and I have to wonder if it wasn’t just an off night. That said, the crowd of around 80 didn’t seem to mind. In fact, the whole evening had a house party feel to it and you could tell that the crowd consisted mostly of friends having a good time.“
Fact was, they were terrible. This was just a few weeks after Conor Oberst had name-checked the band during an interview I conducted with him, focused on Cassadaga. Oberst had said he loved Capgun. After this show, I went back and reread my notes. Surely he couldn’t have been talking about this band. But there it was. Oberst name-checked the band again a few weeks later in a Rolling Stone interview. For better or worse, Capgun was on its way.
Needless to say, I wasn’t expecting much last Friday night when I headed down to Slowdown to check out their new “small” stage. I got there late — they don’t mess around at Slowdown — shows start at 8 p.m. sharp. Owner Robb Nansel even told me that evening that nary a note will be heard from a band in Slowdown past midnight. That’s a harsh timeframe for those of us used to heading to shows after seeing a 7 o’clock screening. By the time I rolled in around 10:30, The Family Radio had long finished their set and David Vandervelde had just left the stage. Last up that evening — Capgun Coup.
First, an update on Slowdown’s service. Remember that blog item where I said it took 24 minutes to get a beer (here)? For whatever reason, it got a lot of attention, judging by the number of people who have come up to me to also complain about Slowdown’s service. Misery loves company, I suppose. Well, bar captain Ryan Palmer seems to have gotten things under control by throwing sheer numbers at the problem. There were at least five people hustling drinks Friday night at what I was told was a capacity show for the “small bar setting” (i.e., when they have the divider in place, blocking off the big stage). I was able to get my Rolling Rock ($3) in less than five minutes. Not bad. I even had a bartender ask me “how ya doing” all night from my roost at the far end of the bar. The real test will be next Wednesday’s Built to Spill show (which, alas, I won’t be in town for).
The small-bar stage located just inside the door is overhung by a set of amps that provide pretty good sound without overpowering the room. Capgun was a good test of this — they sounded frenetic (and loud), but I was still able to talk/yell at people standing next to me. In retrospect, I don’t think the band had “an off night” down at Sokol in March as much as they didn’t know what they were doing on that huge stage. They’ve gotten a helluva lot better, thanks to playing all the time. Their show Friday night certainly came closer to the sound heard on their CD, and Sam Martin’s yelp (at its most ragged) even brought back memories of a young Pat Buchanan. Capgun sounds nothing like Mousetrap though, and though their energy is similar to Desaparecidos, they don’t sound like those guys, either. I guess you’d have to call their sound house-party-punk. The style is ragged and out of control, what you’d expect from a band weaned on uninhibited house shows. Now Capgun is trying to translate the party to a bigger stage, and for the most part, is succeeding, at least in their hometown. Ah, but how will it translate when they hit the road and get away from their hordes of followers?
Rumors of their Nebraskafish debut being reissued on Team Love are true. I’m told promos of the Capgun Coup reissue were available from a T-L rep who was in the house Friday night (I didn’t grab one). That same rep told me that Flowers Forever also will see their debut released on Oberst’s label. Will Capgun and Flowers tour together? Time will tell, but the combination seems like a natural (actually, Capgun would be better suited touring with Tilly and the Wall, a band that shares the same youthful exuberance).
Capgun is part of the “Next Wave” of Omaha bands, a wave that includes The Family Radio, Bear Country, Baby Walrus, Coyote Bones, Sleep Said the Monster, Flowers Forever, Art in Manila, Hyannis, and Drakes Hotel (though Drakes no longer is with us here in Omaha). The bands all seem to be drawn together, either through their style or their social network. Most play the same house parties, and when they perform together on a regular stage, they tend to turn the room into a house party.
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A couple Conor items to pass along from the Interweb… Seems the folks at Shepherds Bush Empire (in bonny ol’ UK. Tut-tut! Cheerio!) got a glimpse of the old Conor during their July 3 show. According to a report in Uncut (here): “Technical hitches at the end of the show, which had been elaborate with live projections of swans, candles and jigsaws in the background, saw front man Oberst snap, with the singer picking up and throwing a stage amplifier half-way across the stage. He also flung fellow Bright Eyes band member Mike Mogis’ guitar in a pique of anger.” I have this vision of Mogis looking down at his hands where he had just held his guitar. Upon reading this, I wondered if the reporter was just misinterpreting the usual end-of-show fracas that takes place nightly during “Road to Joy”?
In other Conor news, Polydor has commissioned five directors to create videos for Cassadaga, according to Digital Arts (here). Each director and video is described in the story, which also includes a link to the videos online. One would think that the videos cost Polydor a shitload of money, and that Saddle Creek will get all the benefit in the U.S.
This week, look for an interview with Doug Martsch of Built to Spill (probably Wednesday morning), and a piece on Drakes Hotel leaving us just after being discovered…
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