Live Review: Con Dios, Mark Mallman; Bright Eyes announces People’s Key; Pine Ridge CD release tonight…
by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
There haven’t been any updates the last couple of days because I’ve been under the weather, but I’m back with some belated live reviews from last weekend. And tomorrow I post a massive 3,600-word interview with Mike and AJ Mogis that covers the brothers’ entire recording history, starting in North Platte up through ARC and into the future. It’s the cover story of this week’s issue of The Reader, which hits the stands today. It’s the annual music issue, which means it also includes the Top-20 (and next 15) bands list scientifically derived by the paper’s music team. And what a list it is. I’ll get into it more in the next couple of days. Needless to say, it was the toughest Top-20 (and next 15) list that any of us have put together.
Back to last weekend… I figured Saturday night’s show at The Slowdown would held be in the Jr. Room since the headliner was little-known (around here) national band The Berg Sans Nipple and a handful of locals, but in fact it was in the Big Room, which made for a nicer evening. And while it didn’t look packed, it didn’t look empty, either. There was a good crowd on hand, at least 100.
The biggest curiosity for me was opening act Con Dios. The local “super group” consists of a lot of familiar faces: Cursive’s Matt Maginn on bass, Dan McCarthy on keyboards, and Ladyfinger’s Pat Oakes on drums. But not so familiar was the guy filling the frontman singer/guitar slot, who I’d only seen wandering around stage before Bright Eyes gigs. It was BE production manager/guitar tech Phil Schaffart, a giant of a man who loomed over the rest of his tiny band like the bearded Brawny lumberjack. I don’t know if Schaffart has any previous performance experience, I assume he didn’t so I was pleasantly surprised by his smooth, rich voice and (not surprising) great acoustic guitar work. As a whole, it would be easy to discount the songs as falling under the same familiar alt-folk/Americana style of indie rock influenced by the likes of Neil Young, Jackson Brown and Wilco. What stood out was the players. It’s hard to beat a Maginn/Oakes rhythm section (on a lot of the songs, Maginn’s bass played the primary role). And then there’s McCarthy’s gorgeous, understated piano that makes any song seem comfortable and familiar. I have no idea what the future is for this band. With Bright Eyes heading out on the road for the next few years, one assumes Schaffart won’t have a lot of time for Con Dios, so catch them while you can.
Despite having seen them three times in the past few months, I never get tired of hearing Conduits, who followed Con Dios Saturday. This was their first time on Slowdown’s big stage, and they took full advantage of it by taking their deep, dark rock groove to a larger level. Bigger will always be better for these guys — you need to be overcome by the density of their throbbing sound. And no matter how thick they lay it on, frontwoman Jenna Morrison always cuts through the layers of sound. As I’ve said before, this a great band with some great songs. So who is going to step up and release their music? Sounds like a job for Saddle Creek (and I haven’t said that about a local band for a long, long time)…
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Though it wasn’t a big surprise, the turnout for Mark Mallman at The Waiting Room Sunday night was disappointing — at the most, 30? But just like the true showman that he is, Mallman brought the goods for one of the better performances I’ve seen this year. Backed by a drummer, pre-recorded samples and his keyboards, Mallman was a man possessed, climbing atop his keyboard rack from the first song on, turning his set into a two-man cabaret. His songs are stories and personal insights on a life lived in a spotlight that he’s created for himself with piano-driven rock reminiscent of Jim Steinman and Meatloaf, and could have just as much commercial appeal if he could only reach an audience outside of Minneapolis (where he’s a star) and the indie circuit. I’d love to one day see Mallman perform to a full house at TWR or Slowdown. It could happen. Opening for Mallman was The Whipkey Three with a new line-up — Black Squirrels’ Travis Sing replacing Sarah Benck on bass. TW3 continues to refine its sound, becoming less twangy and more poppy songwise, with the ever-flamboyant Whipkey bolstering his rep as the perennial showman (though I didn’t see him jump off the drum kit this time).
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Yesterday’s big news was Saddle Creek Record’s announcement that Bright Eyes’ next record, The People’s Key, is slated for release by the label Feb. 15. You can read all the details right here. Only two BE concert dates are listed in the press release, but plans call for more than a year of touring for this album, according to BE member Mike Mogis. I’m sure the first tour details will be posted soon. Will Omaha get a sneak peek before the tour begins? Best keep your ear to the ground, as they say…
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Tonight at The Waiting Room is the CD release and listening party for Christmas for Pine Ridge, Vol. III Live at The Waiting Room. It’s your first chance to get a copy of the disc, which features Brad Thomson, Vago, Mariachi San Juan, Cass 50 & the Family Gram, Dustin Clayton, Kyle Harvey, Brad Hoshaw, All Young Girls Are Machine Guns, Josh Dunwoody, Korey Anderson, Filter Kings, Platte River Rain, Matt Cox Band, Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship, and Son of 76 and the Hundred Miles. All proceeds from CD sales go to purchase more toys and to the heating fund for Pine Ridge. The fun starts at 7, and admission is free.
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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.