Last night’s show at Slowdown Jr. was the first-ever performance by The Mynabirds, though you’d never have known it by the way they played. The band is fronted by Laura Burhenn — half of the late, great Georgie James. Burhenn apparently just moved here from Washington, D.C., so I assume the other four Mynabirds are from around here. In fact, on bass was singer/songwriter Dan McCarthy, and I recognized the guitarist, but can’t for the life of me tell you who he was.
Anyway, Burhenn and her band came on at around 10:30 and played a short set of well-crafted indie rock songs that sounded like a cross between Jenny Lewis (the upbeat, strutting stuff) and Azure Ray (thanks to a terrific harmony vocalist). The band rocked like it’d been around for years — very tight with only one noticeable miscue (To start off their last song, the drummer did a 4/4 count-off. Laura turned around with a “no” look, and da-da-da’d a waltz-time beat that the drummer mimicked to get them started). Burhenn’s voice is indie gold, and I could see any number of labels clamoring to get he band on their books, but I have to believe that she’ll end up at Saddle Creek, where she’d be a perfect fit. Nansel would be a fool to let this one go… (See photo)
When I got to the bar, Jake Bellows had already begun his opening set of solo electric lonely-guy ballads that we’ve all come to love. I’m starting to think he has a million of these lovely, sad songs filed away in the back of his mind, enough to perform a set that would last an entire weekend, and no one would mind. Bellows is a crooner; on stage he looks like an everyday Joe who woke up one day to discover that he had this dreamy, heart-breaker voice, the kind of voice that would have made him a star in the 1950s, bigger than Bobby Darin. Instead, he’s slowly edging his way into the indie foreground, sneaking in under the radar. It’s just a matter of time, and considering that Neva Dinova’s been around since the ’90s, time is something Bellows seems to have plenty of.
The crowd of around 70 was oddly mannered — everyone was seated and no one talked at all. Dead silence between Bellows’ songs, it was awkward. People were afraid to get up and get a beer while he was playing. I felt strange standing up at the edge of the bar, like I was out of place. The odd behavior carried over to the Mynabirds’ set, and toward the end, Burhenn pleaded to the crowd to get up and walk toward the stage, which about a dozen people did.
I didn’t stick around for These United States. Instead, I high-tailed it across town to The Waiting Room where I caught most of the set by Tortoise. The show wasn’t a sell-out, but the crowd was pretty good, maybe 150 (I’m guessing), a majority filling in the main room, staring up at the five-piece as they traded off turns on drums. Tortoise’s instrumental-only music is intensely rhythmic (at times, brutally so) at once hypnotic and groovy and unpredictable in its changes and sounds. It’s like ’50s beatnik jazz-lounge infused with a post-punk attitude and a touch of art/prog. Which makes me wonder why the band appeals so much to the neu-hippie culture. When the band came through a couple years ago, I don’t remember seeing so many white-guy dreads, so much hurdy-gurdy dancing, I expected to find someone back by the pinball machines making tie-dye t-shirts. I bet the only ones more perplexed by the onslaught of hippie nation was the band itself, who looked like a bunch of very cool, aging Chicago artists who grew up listening to really good college music, music from bands like Tortoise. (See photo).
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This Saturday’s Lincoln Calling performance by Sarah Benck and the Robbers will be the last for the band, as they’re breaking up afterward. Benck said the decision to end the band came about quickly, and that she’s disappointed by the situation but realizes that people’s lives change. “My bandmates are all great friends, and I’m sure that will remain. Six years was a great run, and that’s what makes it so bittersweet,” she said.
Moving forward, Benck said she intends to play solo shows until she decides if, when or with whom she’d like to play again. I don’t think she’ll have much trouble pulling together another band. For me, the real question is whether she’ll keep creating music in her current style or use this crossroads as a touchstone for moving in a different direction. Time will tell.
The Benck/Robbers Lincoln Calling show is slated for 10 p.m. at The Zoo Bar. If you want to catch it, you may want to show up early.
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Speaking of Lincoln Calling, festival organizer Jeremy Buckley texted me to say that attendance has been strong for the first few days. Wednesday attendance was 395 while Thursday drew 690. Tonight should be just as strong and Saturday should be crazy, with the Benck/Robbers farewell and the Mercy Rule reunion at Duffy’s.
Here’s tonight’s schedule:
Early — 6-9 p.m.
Women of Music First Friday featuring art and photography from:
Late — 9 p.m., $3 suggested donation, 21+
10-10:45 Sat in What
11-11:45 Flowers Forever
Early — 5 p.m., $5 for 21+
5-7 p.m. Tijuana Gigolos
Late — 9 p.m., $8 for 21+
9-9:45 The Bellflowers
10-10:45 Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies
11-11:45 Frontier Ruckus
12-1245 The Allendales
12th St. Pub — 9 p.m., $3 for 21+, $5 for 18-20
9:45-10:30 Cowboy Dave Band
10:50-11:30 The Filter Kings
11:45-1 The Killigans
Bricktop — 10 p.m., free for 21+
DJs will decide rotation
Bodegas — 9 p.m., $5 for 21+
10-1 Lazer Wolfe
Duggan’s Pub — 9 p.m., $5 for 21+
11-11:40 The Lifeless Design Norfolk
Songwriter Power Ranger — 6 p.m., free for all ages
6:30-7 Das Hoboerotica (Spindle)
6:50-7:20 Adam Jameson (Duffy’s)
7:10-7:40 Jonathan Dell (Spindle)
7:30-8 Saint Christopher (Duffy’s)
Early — 6 p.m., free for 21+
7-9 p.m. Lucas Kellison and the Assembled Soul
Late — 10 p.m., free for 21+
Ol’ Moanin’ Corpse
DJs will decide rotation
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OK, so what’s going on in Omaha tonight?
O’Leaver’s has a nice little post-punk/indie show going on with Ketchup and Mustard Gas, Driftless Pony Club and godshamgod. $5, 9:30 p.m.
Saddle Creek Bar is presenting a much more conventional punk show with Officially Terminated, The Shidiots and Youth and Tear Gas. There’s never a cover charge at the SCB. Show starts around 9 p.m.
The biggest show tonight is The Get Up Kids (read my 2002 interview) with Youth Group and Pretty and Nice. $23, 9 p.m.
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