Mick’s gets deep sixed, CD Review: Under Water Dream Machine…

Category: Blog — @ 6:34 pm December 17, 2008

Well, if you haven’t already heard, Mick’s Music and Bar is closing at the beginning of the year. The story became official in yesterday’s Omaha World-Herald (right here). Everyone knew this was coming, but the fact that Michael Campbell found a buyer for the club, which has been on the market for quite a long time, became street knowledge last weekend. I heard about it at the Criteria show, but was told that a bank loan was still pending – an iffy proposition in these troubled times. Well, it looks like the loan came through.

Two things I’ve been told about this deal: First, that the new owners intend to make Mick’s a hang-out bar, “similar to O’Leaver’s but nicer.” There will be no live music. The idea here is that people will just go to the “new Mick’s” on any given evening to drink. This idea seems tantamount to madness. I guess the new owners have never been to music venues – or even Mick’s for that matter – on non-music nights. You can shoot a cannon off in them and hit nary a patron.

There was some concern Saturday night on how this new non-music bar will hurt The Barley St. and Burke’s. Barley St. is slowly becoming a go-to destination on any night thanks to its stage, which could become a place where local musicians know they can try out new material – and I mean any local musician, from Brad Hoshaw to Jake Bellows to Conor Oberst. On top of that, Barley St. has Kyle Harvey, who’s an attraction all by himself. The clientele I’ve seen in Burke’s consisted mostly of bent-over locals looking for somewhere to get their nightly booze fix – true regulars in the Paul Westerberg sense. They’re not going anyplace else to get loaded. And both the Barley St. and Burke’s are about half the size (or smaller) than Mick’s. They’re true neighborhood bars.

The other thing I’ve been told is that the new owners intend to keep Mick’s PA intact, just in case. I predict that by the time summer rolls around (or probably much sooner) there will be live music again at the bar formerly known as Mick’s. The new owners will have no choice but to relight that stage.

I rarely went to shows at Mick’s mainly because I’m not a fan of the style of folk / blues that he booked. Mick’s rarely booked indie-style singer/songwriters – that just wasn’t his cup of tea. As a bar, I thought that it was well-designed with good lighting and ambiance, a nice room. But as a music venue – especially one that focused on folk music — it suffered from poor acoustics. Not from the stage, but from the crowd. Musicians always complained that Mick’s crowds talked too much during their set. The fact is, they probably didn’t talk any more than any other crowd – you could just hear them better. A young couple could be calmly taking to each other by the door and their conversation could be heard by the stage. Mick’s was like a whispering arch. When 15 or 20 people quietly talked, the whispers became a roar, forcing them to talk louder and louder and the next thing you know it was like being in a union hall during a political campaign, drowning out the musicians on stage. I spent a good part of one evening drawing diagrams of Mick’s on a napkin with a musician, trying to figure out a way that the room could be adequately partitioned so that music performances would be in one room while chatters could be in another. It couldn’t be done. Well, now it won’t matter as Mick’s stage is going dark for good (supposedly). The move hurts Benson’s efforts to become known as the city’s music district, leaving PS Collective, The Waiting Room and The Barley St. with live music. At least for now…

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Here’s a CD review I wrote for this week’s issue of The Reader:

Under Water Dream Machine, Under Water Dream Machine (Slo-Fidelity) – Singer/songwriter Bret Vovk (the be-all of UWDM) may never have heard a single note written by The Conor or Elliott Smith, but that doesn’t mean he’s not their natural progeny, especially when his echoing voice is emoting all broken-hearted and regretful. Lyrically, he’s not as clever as either of them, but he sings better than both and his melodies have just as many hooks. This is the inevitable lost-my-girlfriend debut with a brief glimpse of what could be after he gets over her (the Dylan-esque opus to over-indulgence “Too Much”). Not bad sounding for a home recording – Vovk knows how to fill out his guitar/vox with dense, layered multi-tracking — but it sure could use a good mastering (so say my headphones). A promising debut by a next-generation Omaha songwriter destined to carry on the tradition. Rating: Yes (Reader rating: 4 stars)

Tomorrow: Oui Bandits…

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