There was talk of something spectacular, something out of the ordinary for Neva Dinova’s last show. Maybe three drummers on stage? But it seemed unlikely. I hadn’t seen original drummer Bo Anderson in the crowd and I doubt that I would have recognized him anyway, since I haven’t seen in him in years. Finding anyone in the crush mob was difficult. Before I leave, I usually just ask someone at the venue’s door what the count was for the evening, but I only know a couple people who work at Slowdown these days, and they weren’t working Saturday night. If I had to venture a guess, I’d say the number was around 400, and for most of the night, all of them seemed to be sandwiched along the bar, making it tough to get a beer. On nights like these, Slowdown needs to open a second counter, maybe just a horse trough filled with PBR. For every guy who ordered a pair of tallboy PBRs, there was someone ordering an obscure, technical cocktail that required the bartender to do a lot of trotting about. After a 10-minute wait, I gave up and decided to come back for my Rolling Rock when things quieted down.
I only caught The ’89 Cubs’ last song. From my spot along the stage-left side of the room I could see Ryan Fox comfortably doing his thing while Dan Brennan feverishly goofed with his pedals and his bass’s tuning pegs for most of the song. The Cubs didn’t sound much different than the last time I saw them, except that Matt Baum wasn’t behind the drum kit. Baum isn’t someone you can replace without severely impacting everything — he’s doesn’t play drums as much as slam them grotesquely, throwing his whole body into it — arms, shoulders, neck — following up by standing between songs and yelling at no one in particular, like a crazy man testifying to his invisible ghosts. New drummer Brad Lauritsen was fine, albeit more restrained.
The outside chatter between sets centered on my pessimistic view of the future of indie bands, and the demise of Mick’s. The argument against my pessimism was that nothing’s really changed. It’s always been an uphill struggle for indie bands, even during the height of Saddle Creek’s national notoriety. We would be in a crisis mode, however, if there were no new bands forming, and there are. Tons of them. And some of them are pretty good. Those bands don’t seem to care that the deck is stacked against them, because they’re artists and artists do what artists do regardless of financial gain. Still, it’d be nice if a songwriter could make a living off his craft and not have to give it all away. The consensus regarding Mick’s was unanimous — the new owners will be hosting live music in six months, whether they want to or not. It’s either that or figure out a way to make the bar work from income generated by two or three drunks per night.
Even though it’d only been a few weeks since I last saw them play, Ladyfinger’s set had changed quite a bit thanks to the addition of Megan Morgan on vocals. I was told that Ladyfinger had a woman in the studio when they recorded their new album; I don’t know who it was. Morgan, who sings in Landing on the Moon, apparently was the fill-in for the night. I figured she’d only go out there for one song, but she stayed on stage for most of the set, adding harmony to Chris Machmuller’s strangled growl-vocals (Why doesn’t Jamie Massey, who sings lead in Race For Titles, provide harmonies?). Will Morgan be a permanent addition to the band when it goes on tour? Unlikely, unless they only tour during school breaks and summers, as Megan is a full-time music teacher.
The only acknowledgement from Jake Bellows that Neva Dinova was quitting for awhile came about four or five songs into the set. “I thought I’d take this moment while things are quieted down to confirm some of the rumors that have showed up in a few of the local rags,” he said (I’m paraphrasing here). “It’s true, Tim Haes is dead.” (Editor’s Note: Others heard it slightly differently.) Bellows looked over at Haes as the crowd laughed. That was it. The rest of the set was the usual, luscious Neva drone folk rock. The band always comes off heavier, less restrained and more dynamic live than on their records. Their stage sound is big; you always feel like you’re at an event when you’re at a Neva show. They closed with a tripped-out version of “Dances Fantastic” from their 2002 debut, and I think everyone thought they’d come out for at least one encore. But it was almost 1, and instead, the lights came up in the bar and that was all. We might have seen the last of Neva for awhile, but I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Bellows, whether it’s solo or with a new band.
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Tomorrow, how you can enter to win the Lazy-i Best of 2008 sampler CD! And Wednesday, look for the Year in Review — just in time for the New Year.
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