Pop-Americana is how one guy described Old Canes as we stood outside of Slowdown and listened to the band through the glass overhead doors, leaning against the metal fence that surrounds the beer garden. Old Canes plays a kind of nostalgic indie folk. Not nostalgic in reference to any style of music, but in the sense of a reminder of things you recall from growing up — dusty old houses, kids playing football in an empty field, finding a grocery list from last winter a jacket pocket. It’s Midwestern white-man’s blues with nothing urban at all about their sound, and there isn’t supposed to be.
Frontman Chris Crisci, with his pulled back, thinning hair and bushy going-gray beard, played an acoustic guitar and pumped out his melodies with an honest earnestness. Behind him were three guys playing a variety of instruments, just trying to get a note in edgewise — cello, banjo, bells, melodica, trumpet, a cacophony of hand-held rhythm shakers. Imagine the kind of Christmas music they could pull off. Above it all soundwise was a drummer pounding out an Ozark backbeat from the 1950s, the only country-sounding thing about the band. They (thankfully) do their Pop-Americana without a hint of twang — a hoe-down in tennis shoes and untucked button-down dress shirts. (See photo)
I like it more than Crisci’s other band, Appleseed Cast, and I have a feeling Crisci does, too. Or at least he enjoys playing in it more. How could he not? The performance seemed loose and fun vs. AC’s furrowed-brow rocket-launch party. But I guess he probably views both bands as different sons of different mothers — there are things he loves about both, and he could never turn his back on one for the other, though, in the end, one may emerge stronger and permanent while the other becomes a fond memory.
Saddle Creek was wise to sign them as the label stumbles forward, trying to find the right recipe to fuel their next decade of existence. Though I’m not sure how a band like this ever takes off. Then again, how did Deer Tick break through (and OC is better — certainly more interesting — than Deer Tick)?
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I’ll be doing some driving tonight.
The early show(s) are part of the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards (OEAA) showcase, strung out across five bars in Benson. The earliest set doesn’t start until 8:30 (most begin after 9), which means my exposure will be somewhat limited. The full schedule is here. The bands I suggest you try to catch are at The Waiting Room (all of them), and PS Collective (Filter Kings at 11:45). Your $10 gets you into all the five venues all night.
Across town tonight at Slowdown Jr. Simon Joyner is playing a CD release show for Out Into the Snow (Read my review of the disc here). Opening is Hubble (Reagan Roeder and friends) and Outlaw Con Bandana. $8, 9 p.m.
Ironically, some of the best OEAA nominees are playing Saturday night in Benson rather than tonight. It’s True is headlining a show with Anniversaire at The Waiting Room. Opening is O Giant Man and Family of the Year. $5, 9 p.m.
Meanwhile down the street Saturday night at The Sydney, UUVVWWZ is playing with Midwest Dilemma and Underwater Dream Machine. That show also is a mere $5, and starts at 9 p.m.
Cross town at the fabulous O’Leaver’s, Fromanhole is headlining a show Saturday night with Perry H. Matthews and Engine Orchestra. $5, 9:30 p.m.
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