Work has been crazy lately, which is why there was no update yesterday. Had I updated the blog, I would have told you to go to the Bruces/Mayday/Neva show at TWR or go to the Joe Budenholzer show at PS Collective (with Dereck Higgins opening) or head to Lincoln for Day 1 of two days of new music showcases at Box Awesome.
I definitely would have reviewed the Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship/Paria show that took place at TWR Thursday night. Here’s what I would have said: There’s been a lot of chatter about Noah’s over the past few months. The whole time I’ve been scratching my head, wondering why an instrumental rock band that sounds like Mogwai was garnering all the attention. Then someone pointed out that the Noah’s Ark now performing is nothing like the band I saw over a year ago at Sokol Underground. This version is a trio — with vocals — and now resembles a lot of the pre-grunge post-punk rock bands that I remember from the late-’80s and ’90s, including Sonic Youth, Husker Du, Pavement, Polvo, Blonde Redhead, Archers of Loaf, etc. The difference being a deeper low-end to Noah’s music, in fact, a deeper sound altogether. Vocals range from screaming/yelling to forceful singing. The whole thing was dissonant art rock with a groove. I need to track down a copy of their disc…
I spent most of Thursday night sitting next to one of the city’s music legends who has an encyclopedic knowledge of ’80s-’90s rock. He was the one who originally suggested the Sonic Youth comparison, which I didn’t hear at first, but figured out after I got past all the low end (SY was never that bassy). He wondered how these youngsters knew so much about the ’90s. I said that maybe they thought they were inventing a new sound — not likely. This guy next to me also was a metal expert, which came in handy for Paria. Other than Slayer and Motörhead, I don’t have a lot of experience with metal. Coming off a performance at the OEA showcase a few weeks ago at The Barley Street (which convinced the organizers to put them on stage for next Thursday’s Holland show), Paria has a rather massive buzz going on around town. I’ve talked to people who know nothing about metal and never listen to the genre who told me how great they were — that isn’t necessarily a good thing. Before their set, my metal expert told me that Paria was the real deal. “You can tell good metal from bad metal in about 10 seconds,” he said. “These guys know what they’re doing.”
Just a guitar, bass and drummer, Paria took the stage and launched into one of their explosive, propulsive metal “songs.” To the uninitiated (i.e., me) the music was all about the drums. Huge drums, precise and hyper, they controlled everything happening on stage — the guitar and bass merely played off the drummer’s direction. With no vocals (purely instrumental), the drums became the central focus on proggy, jittery noise concoctions that seemed to change direction every 32 bars or so. Yeah, it sounded complicated, and you had to wonder how the band knew when to start and stop, but after a while, the math equation that underlies the compositions began to show through. It’s pretty hard not to marvel at the musicianship. The guitarist was making some high-level, high-speed noise while the bassist kept it going underneath. But to me, it was all about the big-shouldered drumming. Other than one slower, more melodic number in the middle of the set, most of the songs sounded the same — you could drop in at any point of any one of them and it would sound like the one before it. I mentioned this to the metal expert, who just shook his head.
“You’re not a metal guy so you’re not going to get it,” he said. “There are subtle nuances that differentiate one song from another, and one section of the song from the next. The guys out there in the audience who follow the band know what’s going on and know what to expect. That’s the cool part about this — to the uninitiated it may sound like unstructured noise, but if you listened to this again and again, you’d spot how these songs never differ from night to night. They’re not just improvising noise.”
To really understand Paria, he said, I needed to see them more than once. If I only saw them once, I probably wouldn’t get past the noise (it was hugely loud). He said metal is like country music — if you don’t like country music, it’ll all sound the same to you. But each song is really different. Metal’s the same way. With metal, he said, melody is replaced with rhythm — those beefy drums — and the guitar is the accompaniment, the accoutrement. It all made perfect sense, and before long I felt like I was talking to the Yoda of metal. Maybe I was.
I told Yoda that Paria was going to play at the OEA’s next Thursday. He thought that sounded cool, but not cool enough to attend. It just so happened that I took part in the first OEA awards night earlier that evening at The Scottish Rite. Awards were given in some of the arts, theater and music categories that there isn’t time for next Thursday. WOWT’s Sheila Brummer and I gave out awards for Achievement in Lighting Design and Achievement in Sound Design. There also were a few music awards given that night. The Song Remains the Same won for best cover band. Brent Crampton won for Best DJ/Electronic. And in a moment that recalled last year’s debacle where The Jazzwholes won for best jazz band, Forty Twenty took home the award for Best Bluegrass/Country.
No offense to Forty Twenty — they’re one of the better live bands out there these days — but they’re not a bluegrass band. Forty Twenty plays rock music that twangs (Yoda told me they’ve been known to play heavy metal covers at shows). One could make the argument that they’re a “country” band, I suppose, especially based on their Myspace recordings. But bluegrass, no way. The problem here is the category description — bluegrass/country. The two should never have been grouped together. Bluegrass has a very distinctive style and instrumentation that includes upright bass, fiddle, guitar or mandolin, banjo. Certainly no drums. Forty Twenty isn’t bluegrass, yet there it was in a category called Bluegrass/Country, up against acts like Black Squirrels and the Southpaw Bluegrass Band, and of course they won because they’re more popular than their competition.
Like I said last year when the Jazzwholes took the jazz prize — it’s not they’re fault if the unwashed masses don’t know the difference between rock and jazz. We’ll see more of these inconsistencies next Thursday at the Holland — inconsistencies that we suffered through last year that we were told were going to be prevented this year. Apparently not. It underscores the problem with these kinds of awards programs.
Tonight at The 49’r, it’s Little Brazil and No Action — should be quite a crowd — $5, 9 p.m. The Filter Kings open for The Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash tonight at The Waiting Room — $10, 9 p.m. Meanwhile, down in Lincoln, it’s night two of Jeremy Buckley’s new music showcase at Box Awesome. Last night was UuVvWwZ, Spring Gun, Gold Lion, The Terminals and Aria Falls. Tonight it’s Ideal Cleaners, Domestica, Dean Arm Band, PaperPeople, and Columbia Vs. Challenger. A great line-up that starts at 7 p.m. I’m begging Jeremy to figure out a way to get all these bands to play in Omaha for a couple nights this summer in all the Benson bars — call it Lincoln Invades Omaha.
Hey, don’t forget to enter to win a copy of the coveted Lazy-I Best of 2007 Compilation CD! All you have to do is e-mail me (email@example.com) with your name and mailing address and you’ll be entered into the drawing. Tracks include songs by Stars, Interpol, Rilo Kiley, Wilco, Les Savy Fav, Justice, Baby Walrus, Bright Eyes, The Good Life, The Monroes, The Third Men and many more. Details and track order are right here. Enter today! Deadline’s January 17.
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