The last few times that I’ve seen Domestica play — whether at O’Leaver’s or The Waiting Room or wherever — I was a tad disappointed in the volume level. Among the things Mercy Rule was known for back in the old days was Jon Taylor’s hugely loud, all-encompassing guitar sound — massive yet tuneful, and never painful (as long as you took the proper precautions, which Slowdown now sells over by the photo booth for 50 cents a pair). Taylor told me during our recent interview that he’d decided to tone the guitar down with this new band, that it wasn’t necessary to prove his guitar might by turning it to 11. So while past Domestica shows have been great, there was always something missing. Well, it wasn’t missing Saturday night at Slowdown. I can’t remember Taylor’s guitar ever sounding that loud. It was freaking crazy LOUD, beautifully LOUD. During the set, a local guitar pro walked up and said, “I’ve never heard anything like this before. It’s loud and I’m wearing earplugs.” Was this insane volume necessary for Domestica to work? No, but it sure was fun.
Heck, you knew the whole night was going to be a fun when at 9 p.m. the Slowdown grunts pulled back the dividers to reveal a stage adorned in checkered flags, a Hot Wheels track and a sign that said, Welcome Racing Fans. The show started at around 9:45 with The Monroes. I’ve never heard a Gary Dean Davis-fronted band on such a large stage with such a large sound system. The result was as expected — big and loud and sonically perfect. You felt every nuanced Lincoln Dickison guitar chord, every Gary Dean grunt and Tulis bass note. The most impressive difference, however, was Jesse Render’s drums. In small rooms like O’Leaver’s, Jesse can get buried and lost. For the first time, I could really feel his drumming and got a new appreciation for just how good he is. It was the best sounding Monroes set I’ve ever heard, but I have to admit that as pristine as it was, I would still prefer to see these guys at O’Leaver’s or The Niner or any other of the city’s smaller stages. It’s a band that deserves a room where the crowd is standing right in front of them rather than seated somewhere beyond the shiny dance floor.
After The Monroes finished their set, the races began — bracketed double-elimination Hot Wheels action. The double-lane track was draped from a table in front of the stage all the way across Slowdown’s dance floor. The heated action was accented by a record played over the sound system consisting of race track noises. Sweet!
Ideal Cleaners took the stage after the first round of heats. Again, the Slowdown sound system allowed you to hear parts of songs that are missed at O’Leaver’s or Sokol Underground. The band blew through a selection of tunes off Muchacho!, their just-released Speed! Nebraska full-length, before leaving the stage and resuming the Hot Wheel races.
Those races were still under way when Domestica began its set. Sound guy Dan Brennan certainly earned his pay Saturday night. With the first song, Taylor’s guitar was absolutely huge, so huge that you couldn’t hear vocalist Heidi Ore’s sweet-angel voice — and that’s a big problem. Brennan, however, was on it, and by the third song, Heidi was brought higher in the mix, her gossamer soprano cutting through Taylor’s low-slung guitar growl. This was how Domestica’s music should always be heard — big, mean, muscular. Here’s to Taylor never turning it down, no matter where he plays.
I was told by Slowdown’s owners that the bar originally wanted the show performed in Slowdown Jr., the small front-room stage, but that the bands insisted on the big stage and were willing to pay for it. In the end, it was the right decision if only to hear this music on such a mighty sound system. The final numbers were 106 paid at $6 a head, which was more than enough to cover facility costs and give the bands some cash to take home.
It’s been a busy November for Speed! Nebraska Records. This Thursday, Speed! band The Third Men will host their CD release show at The Waiting Room for their new full-length, Boost. It’s another must-see show…
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