It was crazy madhouse packed at The Waiting Room last night for Okkervil River. So packed, in fact, it was hard to enjoy the show. The band was plenty loud enough, and played a fine collection of songs, but I couldn’t focus on the show. Too many people. In fact, it was too packed to stand in the stage room, though I tried for a short time until someone lifted their girlfriend onto the wall that juts out by the merch table, blocking my view completely. It wasn’t as if I could just move somewhere else, so I escaped to watch the rest of the show from the back of the bar, where two local musicians waved me over and asked what I thought of the band.
Uh, well what do you guys think of the band? They immediately went into a list of descriptions that included words and phrases like “derivative” and “I’ve heard this before” and “I can’t even hear the guitar” and “One Conor is more than enough,” and so on. I said, “Well, I’ve been covering this band for five or six years and they’re one of my all-time favorites. I’m serious.” I think they thought I was kidding. Fact was, neither of them had ever heard of Okkervil River (more solid evidence of Lazy-i’s all-encompassing readership) and didn’t understand what they had that was so special; special enough to sell out The Waiting Room.
Which got me to wondering just how Okkervil River did generate such a large following in Omaha, a town where their music has never been heard broadcast on any radio station or television (They don’t even have videos on Subterranean on MTV2). Sure, they’ve played in Omaha at least four times in the past, but I was at all of those shows, beginning with the 10-person draw at The Junction all the way to the Sokol Underground show last year that drew maybe 150. Yet here was a crowd much larger than that (caution prevents me from giving you an actual crowd estimate), consisting of people actively singing along with most of the songs throughout their hour-long set. There were even a couple frat guys screaming “I love you Will” from the back of the bar. This couldn’t have been the result of being on Conan O’Brien a couple weeks ago. Very strange indeed.
The show itself was hit and miss. The sound was muddy both from in front of the stage and back by the bar (probably hindered by the wall of humanity that acted as a natural sound buffer). Frontman Will Sheff seemed thrilled to be playing to such a large, loving audience, as did the rest of the band. The crowd went ga-ga over the opening chords of “For Real” and “Westfall” and even a couple songs from their new album. Sheff looked out of control at times, presumably lost in the moment, his voice characteristically falling off pitch as he pushed himself above the rest of the band. The best moments were the quieter, more controlled ballads, including a couple he played solo to start off his encore. If this is any indication of how Okkervil River is greeted for the rest of this tour, their days of riding in a van instead of a tour bus are numbered.
A reminder about tonight’s shows…
Over at The Waiting Room it’s the broken beer-bottle rock of The Filter Kings opening for The Mercurys. $7, 9 p.m. Down at Slowdown Jr. its Besnard Lakes (not Besnard Snakes as I accidentally reported yesterday, though my version of their name sounds better) with Starvin’ Hungry and Baby Walrus (get there early to catch these guys). $10, 9 p.m.
Finally, I got an e-mail from Mick at SLAM Omaha telling me that Harrah’s is desperately giving away tickets to tonight’s Kings of Leon/Black Rebel Motorcycle Club show at Stir’s Concert Cove in Council Bluffs. Tickets originally were going for $25. A link to the coupon page is available at slamomaha.com.
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