Live review: Everest, Minus the Bear; The Album Leaf tonight, Fang Island Saturday, Yeasayer Sunday…
by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
It took an associate of mine to remind me that Everest — last night’s opener for Minus the Bear (along with Little Brazil, who I missed) — also was the opener at last year’s Neil Young concert at Qwest. Now here they were, back down on the club circuit. Americana is the new alt country (and has been for a couple years), and the Everest guys looked the part with their untucked western-cut shirts, work boots and hippie beards. Their sound, however, carried a darkness that belies typical alt country. It would be easy to compare them to The Jayhawks or Wilco, especially considering the lead singer Russell Pollard’s vocal resemblance to Tweedy, but they (thankfully) lacked Wilco’s tendency for wonky jam-band noodling. Everest is more… what? Majestic? Grander? Some of their music teetered on the edge of epic (in line with a band like The National), especially when Pollard dropped his guitar and slid behind a second, smaller trap set. Two drummers is almost always a novelty, and almost always fun to watch. Overall, Everest had a great — if not slightly monotonous — sound. It’s one of those bands whose records would require (many) repeated listenings before they grew on you.
The crowd last night at Slowdown was… strange. It was a real “bro” crowd — not frat/preppy, not indie. More like slightly inebriated suburban guys seeking fellowship and a shared experience. A bro crowd. A crowd that wasn’t afraid to get into the music, and by “getting into” I mean raising their fists in the air or stretching over the edge of the stage to tap their PBR tallboys with the drummer. A bro crowd. So why were they there for Minus the Bear?
I guess the band has changed since the last time I saw them back in 2003. They’ve become a pop band. Instead of the typical angular indie rock band that I remembered, Minus the Bear has morphed into some sort of indie grunge band — like if Eddie Vedder fronted Criteria or Cursive but with the Faint’s rhythm section, all smoothed out for FM. I seem to remember their sound relying much more on complicated intricate time sigs. This was downright straightforward bordering on dancey post-punk. So, Pearl Jam with keyboards? A stretch. Steve Winwood goes indie? No. They were at their best when they were letting the weird guitar lines sneak beneath the surface. The weirder the better. Otherwise, yeah, they’ve become an indie Pearl Jam without the pretentious lyrics. There was almost no dynamics, which became monotonous at times — I found myself checking my watch. Regardless, with the smoothed-over edges, they’ve found their niche or their niche has found them. When did they become so big? The show didn’t sell out the big room, but the floor was plenty full. I guess over all these years they’ve managed to generate a nice following, which will only get bigger. (See photo)
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And now, the weekend.
Tonight at The Waiting Room it’s The Album Leaf, who I remember as a layered, ambient instrumental indie band from back in the Sokol Underground days. I don’t think they’ve changed much except now they’re on Sub Pop instead of Tiger Style. Opening is Sea Wolf. $12, 9 p.m.
It’s Night 2 of the Omaha Invasion in Lincoln. Like last night, $6 gets you into all the clubs all night long. Here’s the line-up:
12th St. Pub
09:00 – 09:45 Mitch Gettman
10:00 – 10:45 Matt Cox Band
11:00 – 11:45 Jes Winter Band
12:00 – 12:45 Midwest Dilemma
09:00 – 09:45 Honey & Darling
10:00 – 10:45 Conchance
11:00 – 11:45 Little Brazil
12:00 – 12:45 Capgun Coup
09:00 – 09:45 Talking Mountain
10:00 – 10:45 Noah’s Ark Was A Spaceship
11:00 – 11:45 Honeybee
12:00 – 12:45 Thunder Power
Ultimate Downhill Machines
Also tonight, Whipkey/Zimmerman play for three hours at Stir Lounge at Harrah’s. Three hours. $5. 9 p.m.
Saturday night at Slowdown Jr is an evening where the undercard is as eye-catching as the headliner. First, Los Angeles’ epic, heavy-psych instrumental quintet Red Sparowes has a knack for creating atmosphere on their new album, dramatically titled The Fear is Excruciating, But Therein Lies the Answer. The soundscapes are huge, foreboding climbs up a castle wall surrounded by smoke and darkness and lots of electric guitars. It’s quite a contrast to red hot opening band Fang Island, whose debut on Sargent House Records scored a blistering 8.3 on Pitchfork, which these days has become a launchpad to indie stardom. Judging by the buzz at this year’s SXSW, they have indeed blasted off. Their hyperkinetic rock has been compared to Andrew WK, but their sound isn’t nearly as spazzy and unhinged. Instead, Fang Island’s proggy assault is like a jittery frat party where someone spiked the keg with amphetamines. $10, 9 p.m.
Also Saturday night, three hours of Midwest Dilemma at Stir Lounge at Harrah’s. Three hours. $5, 9 p.m.
Sunday night at The Waiting Room, Brooklyn band Yeasayer takes the stage. Their new album, Odd Blood, has been near the top of the College Music Journal (CMJ) charts since its release this past February on Secretly Canadian Records. When it’s not trying to be weird (creepy opener “The Children”) it’s a playful whirlwind, a throbbing indie-pop gem driven by quirky beats, buoyant synths and frontman Chris Keating’s energetic croon, who on songs like bouncing single “O.N.E.,” becomes Howard Jones for a generation that was wasn’t born when “Things Can Only Get Better” was released. Brooklyn dance-pop duo Sleigh Bells (ex-Poison the Well) open. Too bad it’s SOLD OUT. Starts at 9.
And finally, I’d be remiss not mentioning the Big Al Free Music Festival at The Hideout Friday and Saturday nights. It’s two nights of Al’s favorite bands, capped each evening by a Big Al Band performance. More info here. The fun starts at 8 p.m. and admission is… free, of course.
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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area.
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