Live Review: Talkin’ Mountain, Honey & Darling, Grand Ole Party; ‘Music venue’ ordinance trouble; Grand Buffet tonight…

Category: Blog — @ 5:43 pm April 4, 2008

Talkin’ Mountain is a cool indie/slacker-rock trio that’s sort of known for playing shows wearing colorful, furry, Muppet-looking masks. When I got to Slowdown last night, they were onstage doing a sound check without their masks, and I thought maybe they gave them up. But a half-hour later, they were on stage, with their monster masks. Maybe the funniest thing about them is that they obviously annoy the band, and that annoyance is part of the show. One of the lead guys constantly pulled on the mouth-hole, trying to get clearance for his vocals. They must be hotter than hell, but they’re funny. Especially funny when the band chats with the crowd between songs, telling stories about how the brakes went out on their new van (“Looks like I’ve got a weekend project”) or how the bass player burned the roof of his mouth eating a chicken pot pie (“I didn’t know it was going to be that hot.”) Remember, they’re casually saying all this wearing those fucking masks. Funny, funny shit.

But does wearing the masks automatically put the band in the “novelty” category and/or distract from their music? Not really, no (although the vocals were muffled a few times). Talkin’ Mountain plays light-hearted indie pop songs heavy with hooks and attitude — party songs with party beats. It’s the kind of band you’d want to play in your backyard or block party. They’re fun. And their music is good. Their “Abdominal Snowman” song is the best winter surf tune I’ve ever heard. Their new stuff is just as good. I suppose if you had to compare them to someone, it would be Atom and His Package (though these guys actually play instruments). I picked up a copy of their 4-song $3 cassette (with awesome hand-stitched tape-sock) and rocked it in the Tracker all the way home.

Next up was Honey and Darling, featuring a full band. Well, almost a full band. Pint-sized frontwoman/guitarist Sara was joined by another guitarist and a drummer for a set that “electrified” some of the material that I’ve heard performed solo acoustic. The new personnal are a great add, though she could use a bass player — the arrangements were way too bright. And most of the songs — which resemble Girly Sound-era Liz Phair — were too long. The best song of the set was the shortest — a rocker that Sara said was written while the drummer was on a smoke break (“It took two minutes to write and two minutes to play.”). Ironically, the band’s weakest link is Sara’s vocals, which could be somewhat pitchy and flat as she tried to be heard above a full band. Sara’s got a good voice that’ll only get better over time. She’s already got the hard part — writing good songs — covered.

Surprisingly (or not so surprisingly) the least interesting band of the evening was the headliner. Grand Ole Party, a San Diego trio that features vocalist Kristin Gundred on drums (wearing a headset), played a set of simple, mid-tempo garage rock songs that were too neat and tidy to be mistaken for garage rock. Gundred is a good little drummer, but the music was run-of-the-mill backbeat swing rock with simple, repeated guitar lines sung by a Chrissie Hynde voice replicant. I asked a guy sitting nearby who he thought they sounded like — he said Chrissie Hynde fronting Creedance Clearwater Revival (also pointing to the simple guitar riffs). Great band, boring music, especially after six songs played at the exact same tempo. What would these guys sound like if they trashed up their sound a little bit? Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ saving grace is Nick Zinner’s freak-out guitar work that can transform anything into something special. There’s nothing that interesting here, but there could be. Regardless, the nice-sized Slowdown crowd (maybe 60 people) seemed to dig it.

* * *

Speaking of Slowdown crowds, I have it from a very reliable source that the “music venue ordinance” currently in front of the Omaha City Council (that I wrote about Tuesday, here) does not have enough votes to pass, and likely won’t pass in its current “all-ages” format.

The vote on the ordinance is on Tuesday’s City Council agenda (notice the O’Leaver’s beer garden item? Interesting.), but I’m told there’s a good chance that the vote could be held over until next week’s meeting due to the expected absence of one of the council members. Every vote will be necessary to get this passed. The local politics surrounding this ordinance are unfortunate, and not surprising. I plan on writing about it in detail in next week’s column, but the message will be the same — you really need to take five minutes out of your hectic day and write a letter to your councilman urging him to pass the ordinance.

* * *

Tonight, it’s back down to Slowdown Jr., this time for Grand Buffet — a hip-hop duo whose sound borders on good club/dance music, but with trippy, funny rhymes. I dare you to go to their myspace page and listen to “Creamcheese Money” and tell me that this show isn’t worth the $8 cover. Bonus: Talkin’ Mountain has been added as the opener. Starts at 9 p.m.

* * *

The hottest show Saturday night also is at Slowdown Jr.: The Paper Chase with Fromanhole and Shiny Around the Edges. $8, 9 p.m. Also Saturday night, Satchel Grande and Sleep Said the Monster play at Bar Fly. But maybe the best show Saturday is the State Theater Spring Fashion Show in Lincoln featuring The Show Is the Rainbow, Columbia Vs. Challenger, Black Hundreds, Domestica and Strawberry Burns. The show integrates live music performances with a fashion show from downtown Lincoln boutiques. $5, 8 p.m. The State Theater is located at 1415 “O” St.

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