All critics get accused of playing favorites once in a while. Who can blame people for thinking that? But the fact is, there are subtle ways you can tell when a critic is trying to avoid panning a band. Here are a few telltale comments to look for in a review that indicate that the critic is “being nice”:
— “These guys really showed a lot of potential…”
— “The band looked confident on stage…”
— “Their drummer never sounded better…”
— “You’d never know that this was only their eighth gig…”
— “The lead singer really knows how to please a crowd…”
–“They certainly brought their fans tonight…”
The trick is to sidestep any real description of how the music actually sounds — that is, if you don’t want to lie. These days, I avoid all of this simply by not writing about bands that suck, unless they’re national acts, which deserve whatever they get. That said, sometimes it can’t be avoided, and that’s when you piss people off. A band may tell you, “Seriously, I want to know what you think,” right up to the point where you tell them what you really think. When this happens, I usually follow it with something like, ‘Look, it doesn’t matter what I think anyway as long as you’re doing what you want to do’ or ‘I’m really not very knowledgeable about the type of music you guys play’ or ‘Regardless of what I think, I’ve talked to a half-dozen people here who loved it.’ And so on…
I lead with this lengthy preamble because I went to see Honey & Darling last night and I know Sara, the cute little lead singer, from her work with One Percent Productions. Anyone who’s met her will tell you she’s just too sweet to say anything negative about. Well, I’m not “being nice” when I say Sara and her sideman (I don’t know his name) have “it,” whatever “it” is. She’s got a great voice, knows her way around a guitar and writes terrific songs with interesting chord progressions and lyrics that are obviously personal and genuine. I’d compare her to a clean version of Girly Sound-era Liz Phair or early Suzanne Vega. She’s as good or better than most of the stuff I’ve heard on K Records for the past couple years. Keep in mind this was only her second performance in front of a crowd, and there were a few problems (She blew a guitar solo; she could work on her stage presence). The important thing is her songs, which stand on their own, played only with a couple guitars. As the guy standing next to me said, “Imagine how she’d sound with a full band.” That’ll have to wait as Sara continues to search for a drummer and bass player. Stay tuned.
Also playing last night was Alina Simone, the “out of town” performer who played at The Waiting Room just a few months ago. It was typical singer/songwriter stuff, accompanied by a drummer, but with an edge, thanks to her soaring voice and edgy guitarwork (She played a guitar-stick-like device for part of her set that was pretty cool). Unfortunately, there were only 30 or so people on hand to hear it. She’s coming back later this year, opening for McCarthy Trenching, where I’m sure the crowd will be a bit larger.
Tonight in the Old Market, Kite Pilot plays with Satchel Grande and Steve Rabine at a free concert held on 12th St. between Howard and Harney. I’m told Kite Pilot will be performing a cover of a Protoculture song, which by itself makes it worth the hassle of trying to find a place to park. Show starts at 6.
Tomorrow night is the big For Against show at The Waiting Room (read about them here). It’s the first time these guys have played in Omaha for more than a decade. Still no idea who will be playing drums for this gig, but it should be special, as the band will perform both old and new material. Opening the show is Pharmacy Spirits. $7, 9 p.m.
Also tomorrow night, indie pop-masters The Brunettes play at Slowdown Jr. with Ferraby Lionheart. $10, 9 p.m. Over at O’Leaver’s it’s a four-band punk rock bill with Dim Lights (I’m told they have a shoe-gazer appeal), Across Tundras, The Shanks (someone call the cops!) and Mosquito Bandito. $5, 9:30.
Finally, Sunday at Slowdown Jr., it’s the return of David Bazan of Pedro the Lion fame, with The Winston Jazz Routine. I saw Bazan do a set at The Saddle Creek earlier this year and it was spectacular. $10, 8 p.m. Meanwhile, over at The Waiting Room, The Stay Awake and The Lepers open for Qui. $10, 9 p.m.
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