by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
The marquee outside The Waiting Room last night said “Eagle Seagull,” but everyone knew better. Maybe it was a marketing ploy. After all, why would anyone know who Beauty In the Beast is, especially seeing as the gig was their stage debut? Regardless, the ruse didn’t work and fewer than 50 people showed up — maybe the Huskers had something to do with the low turnout, or maybe the time is right to stick a fork in E*S…
First up was A Lull, a Chicago five-piece with two primary drummers but where everyone had some piece of percussion equipment to bang on. As you’d expect, the music was all very rthymic, almost tribal, with a guitarist adding distinctively Fripp-ian touches (no chords) while another guitarist sang in a dry, tonal sort of way. When it wasn’t droning it did remind me of latter-day King Crimson, and when all five members were pounding out rhythms, it became a celebration.
Our old friends Cowboy Indian Bear were next, doing their usual thing with the usual panache. It was suggested that the Lawrence band might be over-playing Omaha since they seem to perform almost weekly. Overexposure is never a good thing, but then again, people can’t seem to get enough of CIB.
Then came the debut of Beauty in the Beast — a three-piece featuring Eli Mardock and Carrie Butler, both formerly with Eagle*Seagull, and drummer Andrew Tyler. Mardock played acoustic and electric guitar and bass, switching between the three from song to song, while Butler played synths, and both handled vocals, though Mardock is still clearly the group’s “frontman.” The seven-song set started with an acoustic-powered ballad reminiscent of The Church, while the second song sounded very E*S; then Mardock switched to electric and things began to take off.
Unlike their recordings on their Facebook page, Mardock still has his warble-y, Bowie-esque affectation on stage though it’s much less pronounced on music that is more laid-back, more swinging (in a midnight sort of way) than E*S. I guess the word I’m looking for is “groovy.” Butler took over the lead vocals on the third song, and while her voice is pretty, it’s still not quite strong enough for the stage — that’ll improve over time. She was at her best when she shared vocals with Mardock in tight harmony. On the whole, Beauty’s arrangements are simpler and more straight-forward than E*S’ over-the-top dance explosions, with Tyler stripping the percussion to its bare essentials.
They closed with an upbeat New Wave number featuring Butler’s Gary Numan synths, while the seventh and last song featured Butler (on bass) and Mardock (on electric guitar) playing over a ghostly looped synth march that made for a dramatic Ennio Morricone moment.
As a whole, the set was mesmerizing, modern, and somehow strangely stylish. Beauty… is a big step forward for Mardock and Butler, and a step away from a what-could-have-been past that now seems very old-fashioned. That said, I’m skeptical how well this more contemporary sound will translate to traditional Eagle*Seagull fans, not that it matters…
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Time to plan your weekend…
Tonight at The Waiting Room it’s Syracuse indie pop band Ra Ra Riot (Barsuk). File their music under the same college category as Tokyo Police Club, Vampire Weekend, SSLYBS, the usual suspects. Joining them are Chikita Violenta and We Barbarians. $15, 9 p.m.
Tonight also is the first of a two-night reunion of local heroes The Sons of… Tonight it’s the Sons of The 49’r at, well, The 49’r of course. Joining them are our old friends The Filter Kings. It’s probably $5, and probably starts at 9 p.m. Then tomorrow night, the band magically transforms into The Sons of O’Leaver’s (featuring Mike Jaworski of Cops, Hong Gyn Corp., Hello from Waveland), with special guests Little Brazil. This one will be packed. $5, 9:30 p.m.
Back to tonight’s action… Bear Country and Thunder Power are playing at Stir Lounge in C.B. $5, 9 p.m.
Also tonight, there’s a last-minute show (replacing the canceled Justin Townes Earle show) at Slowdown Jr. featuring Strand Of Oaks, McCarthy Trenching, and Fortnight. 9 p.m. and absolutely free.
Tomorrow night (Saturday) in addition to that gigantic O’Leaver’s show, Rock Paper Dynamite is headlining a gig at The Waiting Room with High Art and SFS. $7, 9 p.m.
Down at Slowdown Jr. Saturday Yep Roc band Jukebox the Ghost is headlining a show with Hooray for Earth and AB & The Sea. $10, 9 p.m.
Finally, Sunday night, seminal ’90s alt-metal band Helmet comes to The Waiting Room with Intronaut & Goes Cube. $15, 9 p.m.
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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. Copyright © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.