Weekend recap (Dance Me Pregnant, Cloven Path, Spring Gun, Eagle*Seagull, Two Gallants); Malpais tonight…
I recently quit doing site updates during the weekend, but based on the extreme length of this entry, I might have to start up again. Below is a recap of last weekend’s live shows I attended. Busy, busy, busy…
Pulling into the Sokol lot, it was just like old times. I hadn’t been down there in probably six months, maybe a year. Not with all the other venues going full-bore these days. The Waiting Room has been eating up all the good One Percent shows. And now Slowdown is taking whatever’s left on the plate. (O’Leaver’s has been delegated to being a drunk shack used to house half-crazy alcohol-fueled local shows that go all-but-unheard by an audience numb and deaf after multiple shots of whatever the bartender feels like pouring that evening — further building on its already legendary status).
Sokol Underground has become the prime site for all the crank-fueled metal shows and half-ass Jesus-loves-you Christian rock spectacles — a shadow of what it was just a year ago, but that’s not One Percent’s fault or anyone’s fault for that matter. One Percent has to protect its own, which in this case, is The Waiting Room, a club that, even after the opening of Slowdown, continues to shoulder itself ahead as the main event of Omaha rock clubs.
But I digress…
It’d been a long while since I stepped foot in Sokol — I missed that dark, musty tomb. I pulled right into the parking lot at around 10:30 — a bad sign in the old days that still is. If there’s space in the lot, that means there’s probably no one inside. There was, however, plenty of the usual riff-raff outside enjoying a smoke along with the evening’s weather. While walking toward the entrance, up zoomed Denver Dalley in a chopped dune buggy, the chrome exhaust pipe sticking out the back like a giant shiny erection. Smokers gawked from the doorway. I haven’t seen a dune buggy in years, and figured the DMV had long made them illegal, but Denver said otherwise, and if it wasn’t street legal he’d have been busted long before making it to the Sokol lot.
Anyway… inside Sokol it was business as usual, as if I had just been down there the night before. The crowd of (what looked like) around 70 was mulling around after a set by The Shanks. Next up was Dance Me Pregnant, a gutter punk band that also includes members of The Shanks. Within a few minutes, the band cranked into their first song. Jeff, the hulking frontman (I don’t know his last name, though I’ve talked to him a number of times at O’Leaver’s) was onstage screaming, wrapping himself in microphone chord. Behind the drum kit was super-drummer Corey Broman, who later that evening would be performing at The Waiting Room as part of Art in Manila. But first, he’d have to get through this set, and that wouldn’t be easy.
On stage, Jeff carries himself with the same demented panache as a late-’70s So. Cal punker — guys like The Dickies, The Germs, The Weirdos, maybe even Fear, half-bent dudes who looked like they were about to explode from eating handfuls of amphetamines, snarling at an audience hungry for abuse. Early in the set, Jeff had apparently smashed one of Sokol’s microphones, telling the crowd, “You know who’s paying for that? I am.” He made it through the rest of the set without destroying a second mic, but not without doing himself and someone in the crowd bodily harm.
I don’t know exactly what happened. One moment Jeff was on stage bellowing out another trash-punk song, the next he was on the floor in front of the stage, lost in the crowd, before boomeranging back up on stage again, complaining about being kicked in the nuts.
He focused his attention on one guy — just a shadow with a pony tail from where I stood leaning against one of Sokol’s famous always-in-the-way poles. Then (and I can’t remember if the band was playing or not), Jeff dived from the stage and (apparently) kicked the guy in the chest or face, breaking a bottle and then falling onto the floor. By the time he got back on stage, blood was rolling down his right forearm from elbow-to-wrist. The scuffle continued on the floor before the guy was either ejected or left (though I thought I saw him walking around in the back moments later). The show continued with Jeff reveling in his own blood, a perfect stage prop.
I’ve always thought The Shanks and Dance Me Pregnant could both become this town’s feature spectacle punk bands if they wanted to. With each passing show, they get closer and closer to that level of unrestrained violence, that unpredictable chaos that characterized punk bands in the ’70s, bands that I never got to see in action other than on grainy, poorly lit, porn-quality video tape. For some reason, I have a sense of nostalgia for that time and those bands, and look to Jeff and his band of drunken, angry cronies to bring it all back to life. Someone asked me if the Shanks/DMP spectacle is all premeditated or rehearsed. I think the intent is there, but what happens when these guys take the stage is always unknown to them, and us.
Jeff was back to his lively, happy self afterward, back behind the merch table, where I bought a copy of the new Shanks 7-inch. His face was bruised, and his clothes and skin were still covered in blood, blood that he’d wiped from his gashed forearm and rubbed all over his face while on stage (the gashes and bruises to his forehead, I was told, were self-inflicted and involved crushing a beer can with his face).
Headliner Cloven Path wasn’t going to be outdone in the blood department. Moments after the trio’s second song — after the guitarist had taken off his shirt — the guy standing next to me yelled, “Jesus, look at his chest!” Blood, again, was everywhere, but these cuts were self-inflicted. Cloven Path doesn’t need the theatrics, not with their hot new lead singer dressed in short-shorts and biker boots. It’d been six months since I last saw this band, before they got “SinKat” (according to their Myspace page) to handle the vocals — a much-needed addition if only to have something to look at other than the two bleach-white guys’ naked bellies. Take aways from the performance: 1) SinKat sings like a young Debra Harry, a spooky-sweet, almost atonal voice that’s a good fit for the band’s metal-meets-club-beat sound. 2) It’s time to throttle down on the programming. Their drummer handles himself just fine without electronic embellishments. 3) As much as I like trios, these guys still need a bass player — the programmed bass just doesn’t cut it. Too bad SinKat can’t handle a bass — how sexy would that be? Set highlights included a cover of a Cure song (“The Hanging Garden,” I think) and the over-the-top closer that got the crowd into a frenzy.
Having had my fill of assault-punk at Sokol the night before, I skipped The Shanks at O’Leaver’s and headed over to The Waiting Room for Spring Gun and Eagle*Seagull.
I realize that most bands are in a constant state of evolution, but Spring Gun takes it to the extreme. When I saw them at The Saddle Creek Bar in May, they were a wall-of-sound four-piece heavy on power and light on melody. Saturday night they grew into a 6-piece, sporting three guitars (one guy doubles on keyboards), a bass and two drummers — enormous sound. But even more impressive was how the lead singer has grown into his frontman role, really capturing the essence of the songs’ melodies, belting them out over the din. It left me wondering where I put that copy of their new album, which I didn’t remember sounding this good. The guy next to me — a local music power broker — said if he had a record label, he’d put out these guys’ CD — he called them Nebraska’s version of The Sea and Cake. Not bad, though these guys have an even bigger sound. Somehow, Spring Gun has emerged as one of the more important indie rock bands on the Omaha/Lincoln music landscape. There is an enormous buzz about these guys right now. Check them out when they open for Bishop Allen Wednesday night at Slowdown Jr.
Eagle*Seagull played last and gave their usual superb performance. Their set consisted almost entirely of new material, which I’ve seen them play three or four times now, and which they announced would be coming out early next year as The Year of the How-to Book (though they didn’t say what label was releasing the CD). Two songs always stand out and I don’t know the name of either, though one might be called, “We Came to Dance” and the other, “You’re the Reason Why.” If I had a label I’d put out this record just for its sheer commercial potential, but these days even that doesn’t matter if no one discovers the music in the first place (just ask Little Brazil). Yes, Eagle*Seagull could be the next big thing out of Nebraska, but in this era when there are a thousand indie bands releasing new CDs every week, they’re going to have to find some way to get their music noticed. Touring, it seems, just ain’t enough any more.
Briefly, I rolled down to Slowdown at about 9:45, a few songs into Two Gallants’ set. Nice crowd, though not a sell-out. The band obviously didn’t need to worry how they’d be received opening for Against Me! in Omaha. A large portion of the crowd was clearly there to see them, and the duo didn’t disappoint. I like their electric stuff, though I would have liked to have heard the acoustic stuff from their new EP.
I took off right after they finished, at around 10:15. I would have stayed longer, but I had a deadline the following morning (for a Rentals article, that will be online Wednesday) (Actually, if I didn’t have a deadline, I probably would have high-tailed it over to O’Leaver’s for The 4th of July).
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Tonight at The Waiting Room it’s Malpais (formerly known as An Iris Pattern) featuring Omaha’s own urban legend, Greg Loftis. Malpais opens for The Cliks. $7, 9 p.m.
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