Jake Bellows is mighty busy these days. This weekend he’s off to London for a video shoot with Alessi. Then starting on the 23rd, Neva hits the road with Ladyhawk for a tour that runs into June. In the meantime, the band figured out a way to do a last-minute show in support of the release of You May Already Be Dreaming, which dropped yesterday. People were walking around Slowdown Jr. last night with the vinyl version of the album, an impressive sleeve design that includes a dye-cut outer sleeve made to look like a shadow-box stage with the inner sleeve bearing the katydid-in-the-moonlight design. Scattered on the merch table in the back were prescription bottles, each apparently containing a download of the album (Was there a thumb drive in the vial? I didn’t look to see). Those Saddle Creek designers sure know how to do packaging.
Neva opened their set of sweet, downcast folk lullabies at around 11, playing a couple older numbers before rifling into the new album, played in its entirety in track order. This is the first time I’ve seen the full band in a long while. Bellows plays solo all the time; Neva, not so often. Back in the old days, the band could be criticized for having three guitars that all seemingly played the same guitar line, leaving listeners wondering why not just use one guitar and turn it way up. They’ve moved well past that. Performing as a five-piece — bass, drums and three guitars — the songs on You May… are a foundation for the ensemble to push the songs into much denser territory than heard on the album, with each guitar moving in its own distinct direction. The result, on songs like “Apocalypse,” are torrid Crazy Horse-inspired jams that wind in and out of a central chord progression, building to a feedback-bleeding conclusion. Roger Lewis’ drumming style is both narrow and controlled, targeted and intense, laid-back or bombastic depending on the song’s needs. Underlining everything is Bellows’ warm, mewing voice gently coaxing out melodies as if he’s trying to either lull a loved-one to sleep or quietly waken her from a coma. It gets as big as it needs to for the epic rockers, but never leaves its cradle-ready sweet spot. If there’s a criticism about Neva’s music these days it’s that it can have a narcotic-laced quality. Bellows and Co. may be playing modern-day cowboy songs, but this lonely cowpoke is slouched-over half asleep as Old Paint slowly trots across a dusty prairie, a Stetson pulled down over his eyes, eager for the evening’s campfire and a quiet night’s sleep with his boots on, alone under the stars.
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After the set, documentary film director and Slowdown employee Rob Walters passed out slips of paper that said the following:
SAVE ALL AGES SHOWS IN OMAHA. Email the Omaha City Council and sign our petition by Monday, April 14.
Info available at theslowdown.com. Please tell all your friends. Thanks.
Looks like Saddle Creek and Slowdown finally have reached full battle mode with less than a week before the City Council votes on the “music venue” ordinance. I received e-mail from both Val Nelson and Robb Nansel before last night’s show with details about an online petition in support of all-ages shows in Omaha. The details and the petition are available here, along with a boilerplate letter that they’re asking people to cut and paste into an e-mail and send to the council with the subject line I SUPPORT ALL AGES SHOWS IN OMAHA.
In addition to all that, there was discussion as to how to get those impacted by the ordinance — specifically school-age kids — to the City Council meeting next Tuesday afternoon to provide a massive show of force/support. Should a large number of kids skip school to attend the meeting, this whole thing could become national news in sort of a “Footloose” kind of way. Will any of this do any good? It certainly can’t hurt. Take a sec and go to the site and sign the petition, and if you haven’t already, write your councilman.
This week’s column is focused on the ordinance, and will go online tomorrow morning.
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Our esteemed Mayor, Mike Fahey, announced yesterday that Feist will be the headliner for this year’s Memorial Park Concert July 12. This is the fourth year for this so-called “youth-oriented” concert (The old-fogey Bank of the West concert is July 27). It started in 2005 with 311, Bright Eyes in ’06 and Plain White T’s last year. I think the city went with the T’s because someone in the mayor’s office thought that such a commercial-flavored band would attract a huge youth audience. That didn’t work (despite the city’s overblown crowd estimates). This year they’ve gone the complete opposite direction. Feist is well-known by all of us indie music folks. And people who follow Apple computer commercials may recognize her marketing tune (though they probably don’t know who sings it). That’s where any familiarity ends, however. Don’t get me wrong, I think Feist is a huge leap forward, but I’ve got a feeling the crowd will again be somewhat measly. All’s that means is that I’ll be able to get closer to the stage. Start praying for good weather.
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