Column 231: Eyes Wide Shut; Dark Town House Band tonight…

Category: Blog — @ 5:33 pm July 30, 2009

Only the top half of this week’s column is new; the bottom half appeared here a week ago. No new updates on the Mousetrap reunion, though I’ve heard from two drummers who said if Craig and Patrick can’t find anyone to handle the drum parts, they’d be honored to step in — they grew up listening to all those Mousetrap albums. As for the top half, I just noticed that tickets for the Oct. 28 Monsters of Folk show at The Holland are nearly $50 and go on sale tomorrow. Wonder how fast it’ll sell out? I also noticed that the first three songs on the Monsters’ upcoming album are now on their Myspace page.

Column 231: Eyes Wide Shut
It’s Bright Eyes, not Oberst, who’s calling it quits.

They’re worried about Bright Eyes in Jakarta.

That’s Jakarta Indonesia for all of us geographic illiterates. Where last Tuesday in the Jakarta Post there was an item in their “Reverb” section about the demise of Bright Eyes. Jakarta. Indonesia.

It was just one of what seemed like 50 online publications that regurgitated a story written by Kevin Coffey of the Omaha World-Herald that was published now almost two weeks ago, where Saddle Creek Records head honcho Robb Nansel repeated what was in Rolling Stone almost a month ago — that Conor Oberst was retiring his Bright Eyes moniker once and for all after a final Bright Eyes release on Saddle Creek sometime in late 2010.

Maybe it was a slow news week, but what was essentially old news got picked up by Pitchfork — the New York Times (or more accurately, The TMZ) of the indie music world — before exploding across the Intergoogle on website after website until it ended up in Jakarta last Tuesday. And the whole time I just shook my head.

Bright Eyes’ demise was being treated as if Oberst himself was retiring from the music business, which is anything but the truth. Have people forgotten that Bright Eyes is really just a name for Oberst and whomever he wants to perform with on any given record? Sure, starting with Cassadaga Oberst declared that Bright Eyes’ core ensemble was a trio consisting of himself, Mike Mogis (who’s been along for the ride since the very beginning) and keyboardist/pal Nate Walcott. But the guy driving the bus — the one writing all the songs — was Oberst, and Oberst ain’t going away.

Does the retirement of the Bright Eyes name mean you’ll never hear “Padraic My Prince” or “Waste of Paint” or “I Must Belong Somewhere” performed live on stage by guy who wrote them? Maybe, but it would make absolutely no sense. Moreso than being Bright Eyes songs, those are Oberst songs, tied more closely to the person who wrote them than the name printed on the record sleeve in which they appeared.

If there’s a loser in this whole “death of Bright Eyes” story, it may be Saddle Creek, who released almost every Bright Eyes album. Conor Oberst’s other identities — The Mystic Valley Band, The Monsters of Folk — are being handled by other record labels. When Oberst said he “wants to lock the door, say goodbye” to Bright Eyes, did he really mean he wants to lock the door on Saddle Creek?

Nansel and business partner Jason Kulbel — who are still licking their wounds from the loss of The Faint last year — continue to control Bright Eyes back catalog, and then there’s the final album. After that, well, that’s the real question, because after the Monsters of Folk go their separate ways and the conclusion of the Bright Eyes Farewell Tour sometime in 2011, Conor Oberst will be left as Conor Oberst, releasing albums simply as Conor Oberst — albums that will sound strangely like Bright Eyes albums.

* * *

Just imagine how big that Bright Eyes reunion tour is going to be. Huge!

Speaking of reunions. A couple years ago at a show at The Slowdown I bumped into Craig Crawford, bass player for one of Omaha’s most important ’90s punk bands, Mousetrap. Craig had mentioned at the time that he’d been in touch with Mousetrap frontman Patrick Buchanan and that there had been talk about a possible band reunion.

This information was a bit surprising based on an interview I had conducted with Buchanan in March 2004 when his band at the time, After Dark, was coming through town for a show at The 49’r. Buchanan said he couldn’t even listen to Mousetrap records because they brought up “too many memories, most of them bad.” He concluded that interview with this: “You might think you made some good records, but you never know if you’re creating anything important. I guess we did. Maybe in 10 or 15 years I’ll be able to listen to them again.”

Now here was Crawford a few years later saying that a reunion was a possibility. I was skeptical. Two years passed and nothing happened and I thought that was the end of it.

Then last week I got a message via Facebook from Crawford that said, once again, a Mousetrap reunion was in the works.

“We are 90% committed at this point,” he said. “Patrick lives in Detroit now, and is planning on commuting into Chicago for practices. He wants to use a drummer from one of his old Chicago bands, and I have no problem with that. I have access to a warehouse and large-scale PA here, so that is good. I also want to document this when it happens. I’ve got cameras and all sorts of shit! This should be fun. Patrick is very excited about this, and I am as well. I would love to see if Scott (Miller, Mousetrap’s original drummer) would want to be involved, but I do not know how to get ahold of him.” Hey, anyone know Scott’s whereabouts these days?

Craig said this landmark show had yet to be booked, but I have to believe that just about any of the major clubs in town would be honored to host a Mousetrap reunion show. How well would it draw? That’s a good question. Among the Saddle Creek Records contingent and Omaha’s dynamic noise-punk scene, Mousetrap is the stuff of legends. But that’s not a terribly large crowd. For many (including myself) this would be a can’t-miss event — that is if this time it actually happens.

According to the Barley Street Tavern online calendar , The Dark Town House Band is scheduled to play on the Barley Street stage tonight. I’ve seen nothing promoting this show anywhere else. Expect an SRO crowd (if it’s true). $5, 9 p.m.

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