Tonight, Derreck Higgins, Whipkey Three; tomorrow, Dario Days, Scott Severin; Sunday, Magnolia Electric Co., Baby Walrus; Column 138: Tributes…

Category: Blog — @ 5:44 pm August 24, 2007

Lots of shows going on this weekend. Here’s what’s on my radar:

Tonight at The Barley St. Tavern in Benson, it’s legendary Omaha bassist/singer/songwriter/guitarist Derreck Higgins (The Family Radio, ex-Digital Sex) with Space Age Polymers. I’ve never been to the Barley St., which is located at 2735 No. 62nd St. (just south of The Waiting Room). 9 p.m., FREE.

Just down the street at Mick’s it’s The Whipkey Three, featuring Matt Whipkey, Sarah Benck and Scott “Zip” Zimmerman. Sarah Benck opens the show, starting a 9 p.m. $5.

Tomorrow’s big event is Dundee Days, specifically the stage located next to The Blue Line, sponsored by Dario’s. The line-up as of right now is Box Elders, Bear Country, Foreign Elfest, Outlaw Con Bandana and The Lepers. The show begins at 5 p.m. and admission will probably run around $3. Expect plenty of Belgian beer available on tap. At around the same time, Dundee Days also will be hosting a long list of bands on a stage across from Trovato’s.

Tomorrow night, Scott Severin and The Milton Burlesque headlines at The Waiting Room with Oliver Future & The Black Squirrels. $7, 9 p.m.

Sunday night is Magnolia Electric Co. at The Waiting Room with Golden Boots and No Blood Orphan. Expect to hear a broad selection of songs from Jason Molina’s career, as well as tracks off the new Sojourner box set. $8, 9 p.m.

Also Sunday night, Baby Walrus is playing at O’Leaver’s with Maps and Atlases, and Nurses. $5, 9 p.m. The new Baby Walrus CD is a real head trip and deserves further study by everyone reading this.

* * *

This week’s column is a rehash of last week’s review of Song Remains the Same at The Waiting Room, along with some commentary regarding cover bands, etc. No idea when these guys are playing again, but I’ll likely be in the audience…

Column 138: Dancing Days
A tribute to covers…
There always has been an overriding disdain for cover bands.

For those who hate them, the reasoning is simple: Cover bands don’t seem to have an original idea in their heads (they argue), they’re merely mimicking the work of other, more creative musicians who had the cojones to put it all on the line with their own music. Fact is, if you really wanted to hear “What I Like About You,” you’d go to a wedding reception or buy a copy of The Romantics debut album.

It’s hard to argue against their points. I’ve heard them recited as recently as the past two weeks by earnest musicians who take their craft a bit too seriously. What they forgot to consider was that maybe, just maybe, the folks who go see cover bands don’t want to have a life-changing experience listening to someone confess their private, personal feelings in front of total strangers. Maybe they just want to have fun and have a few laughs. Does anybody remember laughter?

The ’80s was the era of serious cover bands (see The Ranch Bowl story). Still, cover bands remain with us today, playing at clubs like Chrome, The Ozone and The Arena, bars that hold high the banner of the ’80s-style meat-market (God bless ’em). Look, no one goes to those bars on weekends for the music, just like no one goes to indie rock shows to get laid.

A whole different spin was put on cover bands last week at The Waiting Room, a club that in less than a year has developed a rep as one of the city’s best stages for live, original music. So it was something of a surprise when TWR hosted its first “cover band night.”

First up was The Third Men, a five-piece that features a number of Omaha music legends, including Matt Rutledge (ex-Compost), Mike Tulis (The Monroes), and new drummer Matt Bowen (ex-Magic Kiss (the precursor to Tilly and the Wall, where that tap dancing was first introduced)). The Third Men are renowned locally for original power-pop rock tunes that hover somewhere between Matthew Sweet and The James Gang. Dressed in suits and neckties, they blew through a set of obscure covers by Wings, Richard and Linda Thompson, Bowie, Soft Boys, The Necessaries, Status Quo and The Knack, among others. Yeah, they were covers, but they sounded more like The Third Men playing other people’s music rather than a band trying to emulate another band’s sound. That would come next.

The Song Remains the Same isn’t so much a cover band as a tribute to what arguably was the world’s greatest rock band. I’m not talking about The Beatles or The Stones or The Who or even Bright Eyes (just kidding). I’m talking about Led Zeppelin, a band that I was literally weaned on. Zeppelin and Pink Floyd were the only things I or any of my friends listened to growing up in Fort Calhoun. For any band to try to recreate the power and glory of Zeppelin, well, it’s the height of idiocy. Can’t be done. You go see something like this only to ridicule, to laugh at the geeks on stage tripping over Page and Plant’s effortless miracles.

What I heard instead was a sort of miracle unto itself. Musically, The Song Remains the Same was the next best thing to being there. Consisting of drummer Javier Ochoa (Goodbye, Sunday), bassist Bunny Geist (Dark Town House Band), guitarist Corey Weber (Anonymous American) and singer Jason Pollard, the band was a dead-on sonic replica of Led Zeppelin — in fact, a few people who’ve seen the real Zeppelin said they might sound even better. Sacrilege? Believe me, I’ve heard more than my share of lousy covers of “Rock ‘n’ Roll” over the years. These guys were eerily good, almost too good for their own careers, unless their goal in life is to be in the best Zeppelin tribute band in the world.

They knew every lick of every song, but were smart enough to avoid trying to duplicate them. In other words, they captured the essence of Zeppelin instead of the impossible chore of trying to replicate it. Still, any Zeppelin fan would have marveled at Ochoa’s muscular, Bohnam-esque drumming, or Geist’s bass playing that made me rethink John Paul Jones’ role in the band.

Weber was no Jimmy Page, but there can be only one Jimmy Page, and Weber knows it. These weren’t note-for-note dupes of Jimmy’s solos, instead Weber’s solos worked hard enough to push the songs forward. More importantly, he nailed the Page riffs that defined the band’s sound. Unbelievable guitar tone. Powerful. Accurate. Groovy.

Finally, Pollard. The story I was told was that he was discovered by Geist singing karaoke at Grandmother’s. Pollard is a freak. He even physically resembled Plant (with a little Kenny G thrown in). I marveled at his vocal prowess. He had the full range of a Robert Plant at age 20 and knew every nuance, every vocal riff, every little touch that any Zeppelin fan would recognize.

The tell-tale sign that they were that good: A small group of biker chicks grooved in front of the stage, doing a hippy dance to “The Ocean” and “What Is and What Should Never Be” and all the rest. They were having a good time — as was the band — which is the whole point of cover bands. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.

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1 Comment »

  • I love the Beatles, Stones, Floyd, and the Who, but Led Zeppelin, to me and countless millions, remain far and away the greatest band in rock history.

    Comment by Bobby — August 24, 2007 @ 6:03 pm

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