Column 149 — Secret Social Scene; Georgie James, Kite Pilot tonight…

Category: Blog — @ 1:21 pm November 8, 2007

I already talked about missing the Broken Social Scene show last week. I have no regrets, though it still stings a little.

Column 149: Only the Lucky Ones…
…get to see the “secret shows.”
They call them “secret shows,” but really they’re just last-minute concerts set up on a whim, performed to a lucky few, and remembered as legend. Afterward, most will say they were there, but most are liars. They create feelings of envy and betrayal, these secret shows. The same envy and betrayal people feel when hearing about the “party of the year” the day after — a party in which they weren’t invited.

But with secret shows, it’s not so much that you weren’t invited as you were out of the loop.

One of my favorite secret shows happened in February 2006. Cursive had just finished writing the songs that would become Happy Hollow and wanted to test drive them in front of a crowd. What better place than tiny O’Leaver’s? Word got out the day before, though even the guys at Saddle Creek Records didn’t hear about it until a few hours before it all went down. That night O’Leaver’s was a crush mob, but no one was left outside when the music started. By the end of the evening everyone knew they saw and heard something special, something that they probably would never hear or see again in such intimate confines. We felt lucky, and we were.

Another example: Two weeks ago, while half-dozing on my couch, my phone rang. Who the hell was calling so late? I glanced at the caller ID — Matt Whipkey! Forget it, Matt, I’m not picking up. I went to bed only to wake up the next morning to see the following text message on my iPhone, time stamped 11:51 p.m.: “Bright eyes at barley with friedman.”

It turned out that Bright Eyes drummer Clay Leverett had thrown together an impromptu country band that included Mike Friedman on pedal steel, Josh Dunwoody (Filter Kings) on upright bass, and Dave Rawlings on electric guitar. The band played country classics for about 90 minutes at the Barley Street Tavern — a hole-in-the-wall in downtown Benson. Conor Oberst was in the audience, and after the band wrapped up and most people left, he decided to join in on the fun, playing a set of seven or eight new songs backed by Leverett and Co. Whipkey said only about 20 people were in the crowd. Twenty lucky people.

Why keep these shows secret? Because Cursive and Bright Eyes regularly sell out large venues all over the country. If word got out about these shows in these tiny venues, well, someone might get hurt. Best to keep it on the down low. If you were meant to be there, you’ll be there.

That was the philosophy for what may be one of Omaha’s all-time best secret shows, which happened just last Friday night. Between gigs in Boulder and Chicago, Kevin Drew, Jason Collett and the rest of Broken Social Scene decided to spend their day off in Omaha. Broken Social Scene is one of the hottest indie bands in the country, spawning such acts as Feist (she’s the woman in the iPod Nano commercial) and Stars (who played at Slowdown last Sunday).

Wanting to make up for always missing Omaha on BSS tours, Drew got the idea of doing a “secret show” at the legendary Hotel Frank, an apartment used for house shows located near The Brothers Lounge on 38th and Farnam. By 6:35 that evening, Omahype.com posted the rumor under the headline “Holy Crap Breaking News!” Ian Atwood, who runs Omahype.com with Andrew Bowen, said he heard about the show via an e-mail from Aaron Markley of Slumber Party Records. It could have been one of the best house shows in house-show history.

But eventually Drew decided he needed a venue with a better PA — he didn’t want to shred his voice. That’s where Slowdown came in. Val Nelson, who runs hospitality at Slowdown, said Drew and Collett were hanging out at the bar in the early evening and approached her about doing a last-minute show on Slowdown’s small stage. All their gear was available except for a drum kit. Nelson called Clark Baechle of The Faint, who said he’d be happy to let them use his. With that, the show was on.

I heard the “BSS rumor” well past 11 while drinking a Rolling Rock at O’Leaver’s, waiting for Life After Laserdisque to play its final show. The story seemed far-fetched. I knew I could confirm it with a single phone call, but what was the point? There was no way I was going to miss Laserdisque’s last hurrah.

The only thing worse than missing a great show is hearing how great it was from people who were there. It’s like listening to your co-worker blather on and on about his trip to Hawaii when you’re stuck in Omaha in January. That’s how I felt when Omahype reviewed the show the next day, complete with photos. Val at Slowdown said that if they could have, BSS would have played until 2 a.m., then she twisted the knife by saying Kevin Drew told her it was the best show they’d done on their entire tour.

Diehard Broken Social Scene fans who missed it had to be heart broken. In fact, Val said she heard a few sob stories the next day. But the fact was, if they didn’t have friends “in the know” there’s no way they could have found out about the show except for reading Omahype. And even then, chances are, like me, they could either have been asleep or indisposed and missed it anyway. Sometimes even being lucky isn’t enough.

There’s no secret about tonight’s must-see show: Georgie James with Aqueduct and Kite Pilot at Slowdown Jr. It’s a terrific line-up for only $8.

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