Live Review: Slowdown Virginia, Polecat…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 11:02 am December 24, 2010
Slowdown Virginia at Slowdown, Dec. 23, 2010.

Slowdown Virginia at Slowdown, Dec. 23, 2010.

by TIm McMahan,

Time has been kind to these bands. There’s little question that, other than the fact that Slowdown Virginia frontman Tim Kasher can’t hit those insane, adolescent high notes any longer (no one over the age of 17 except a girl could) that the band (despite only having a few days together to practice this material) is obviously better than it was 15 years ago when they last played. And they should be. Kasher, bassist Matt Maginn and guitarist Stephen Pedersen went onto become Cursive (Pedersen’s Cursive career was short-lived, and he went on to form Criteria). The wild card was Casey Caniglia, who went onto become a restauranteer (at the Venice Inn steak house). But you couldn’t tell Casey hadn’t played drums on stage since the ’90s. Behind a kit that Neil Peart would be proud of, Caniglia literally and figuratively didn’t miss a beat. Neither did the rest of the band… except for those vocal nuances I mentioned earlier. I was talking with another musician before the gig and he also wondered if Kasher would be able to screech the dog-whistle notes in “Whipping Stick.” When the time came, Kasher came surprisingly close, dropping his voice down a few dBs to help the cause. It didn’t matter. It still sounded good. And no one in the sold-out crowd was keeping score anyway.

Polecat at Slowdown, Dec. 23, 2010.

Polecat at Slowdown, Dec. 23, 2010.

The evening began with a reunion of Polecat — the trio of Ted Stevens, Boz Hicks and Oli Blaha. This time it was Blaha who was the odd man out (Stevens is in Cursive, and among Hicks’ bands are (were) Domestica and Her Flyaway Manner), and like Caniglia, he handled his instrument (bass) like a seasoned pro. If there was a gripe, it’s that there was too much bass in a mix that was overly muddy. Again, it didn’t matter, as the folks on hand were there to hear the old songs come to life once again, and they did. Of all the Saddle Creek legends, Stevens has the most forlorn voice of the bunch — there’s something lost and lonely about his vocals even when he’s rocking out. It’s that quality that would go on to make Lullaby for the Working Class so hauntingly good.  Adding to the thunderous ennui was a moody video projected behind the band that showed texturized, colorized moving images of people, buildings, things.

The mix was much cleaner for Slowdown Virginia, who came on a little after 11 and played for an hour. This material has aged well indeed, and during our interview, there was a recounting of interest by a certain local record label to remaster and rerelease the material. I also was told that it will never happen, though Maginn did uncover many of the original recordings during a recent dig through the band’s storage area. Those recordings could be made available again, but not necessarily to the general public. And it’s a shame, because there’s a lot of people who would love to hear all that old stuff and dream about what could have been.

The night closed with a two-song encore — a campy, kooky cover of “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” and the song that most of the crowd had been waiting all night to hear — the opening track on Dead Space, “Supernova 75.” Everyone  knew it was coming, and erupted from the opening bass line. It was the kind of moment that makes reunion shows so necessary, so important, and so good.

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I won’t be checking in for a couple days, so here’s hoping you have a safe and happy holiday.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — 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.

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