Weekend review; consorting with ‘the enemy’; Half-Handed Cloud tonight…

Category: Blog — @ 5:47 pm April 21, 2008

I didn’t go to any shows on Friday night, while I went to three shows on Saturday, sort of. I dropped by at the Earth Day festivities at Elmwood Park Saturday afternoon and caught part of The Pendrakes’ set. Very nice. The crowd was larger than last year’s, probably because of the fine weather (or maybe it was the addition of a beer garden?).

Saturday night I swung by O’Leaver’s. They had just poured their new beer garden patio earlier that day — not huge but big enough, running along the north side of the building just outside the front door, which now will become a patio exit only. The new front door will be the current exit/entrance to the “pool table room.” That means the doorman no longer will be able to watch the shows (Hey, he’s not getting paid to watch them anyway, right?). So, I arrived just in time to see El Diablos Blancos’ five-minute noise-rhythm set squelchingly played to about 15 people. I guess he wasn’t feeling it.

Since it was only around 11:30, I high-tailed it over to what is widely believed to be a den of pure evil — The Saddle Creek Bar. There, I consorted with The Dark Lord accused of high crimes and misdemeanors to the Omaha music scene, and retrieved my winnings. As I mentioned last week, I had a bet riding on the outcome of last Tuesday’s City Council meeting. I played Randolph Duke to Mike Coldewey’s Mortimer Duke, and he paid up: one dollar.

If there’s a back story to the all-ages music venue issue, it’s the demonization of Coldewey. Fact is, few people who I know in the music scene liked him or his brash, straight-forward approach to begin with. Musicians already were avoiding The Saddle Creek Bar either because of the sound system, the lack of free booze for performers or Coldewey’s abrasive tell-it-like-it-is personality that refuses to suffer fools lightly. The fact that he pushed the all-ages issue to the forefront by asking cops what he can and can’t do all-ages-wise at his bar (and the meaning of an existing ordinance that’s never been enforced) only made him more of a pariah to people who never went to his bar in the first place. Accusations that he had a vendetta against Slowdown or The Waiting Room may or may not be true, either way they’re laughable. SCB has never been (and never will be) a competitive threat to those businesses, and had nothing to gain by seeing them ticketed or lose their all-ages shows. Coldewey did have something to lose, however, if cops had busted him with minors in his bar — a bar that unlike Slowdown or The Waiting Room, is not being lauded by the City of Omaha as a cornerstone of neighborhood development. Considering the police presence in his neighborhood, I have little doubt that Coldewey would have been busted, and we all would have ended up in the City Council chambers discussing a “live music” ordinance anyway. The only difference would have been that he’d have been ticketed and/or lost his license and maybe his business. But who cares, right?

Well, I do, and it has nothing to do with Coldewey. My reasons are purely selfish — the Saddle Creek Bar is only a few blocks from my house. It’s convenient, and the Rolling Rock is cold and cheap. Fact is, I only swing by SCB for shows about once every two or three months. Indie music doesn’t work well there probably because of its weird box-like stage and its step-back-in-time sound system. I’ve suggested to Coldewey to back away from indie music altogether. He’ll never be able to book (or afford) the top-flight touring indie bands handled by One Percent, and the local indie bands all hate his guts.

What works well at The Saddle Creek Bar is heavy metal shows, as evidenced by last Saturday night’s Big Al metal showcase. I got there about halfway through a set by an all-female heavy metal band called The Clincher. It didn’t matter if there was a slight error in sibilance in the back of the room — you could hear the roaring guitars and the roaring vocals just fine. Though I was weaned on heavy metal at good ol’ Fat Jack’s (where anyone could get in regardless of age if they were ballsy enough to show their ID), I’m not a metal expert and rarely listen to the genre. That said, The Clincher did what they did pretty well, and the crowd (consisting of a cross-section of bikers, metal dudes, chicks in halters and guys who wear their baseball caps backwards) loved it. They also loved The Big Al Band and its four-word metal epics (“It’s war, you die,” “Boycott The Wal-Mart” “Oregano” and so on…).

SCB should try to become a modern-day version of Fat Jacks. Gary, their sound guy, is a metal fan and knows how to make it sound great in that room. He also has connections in the metal circuit. But it’s unlikely that they’ll ever go all-metal. Coldewey likes the idea of hosting a wide variety of music styles, from blues and jazz to hard rock, metal and yeah, even indie if it attracts a crowd. For him, it’s all about attracting a crowd so he can sell more booze, and isn’t that what running a bar is all about?

* * *

Tonight at Slowdown Jr. it’s Asthmatic Kitty recording artist Half-Handed Cloud. The project’s singer/songwriter, John Ringhofer, has worked with a number of collaborators from the Asthmatic Kitty stable including Sufjan Stevens, and as a result, his music has the same childlike, whimsy quality. Opening is another Ringhofer collaborator, Lake. $7, 9 p.m.

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