by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
The Omaha Rollergirls All Stars did something that Pete Yorn could never do — they sold out a 3,200-capacity half-Mac Center arena Saturday night for a match that I almost didn’t get a chance to see.
We showed up at the MAC Center in Council Bluffs at around 7:30, figuring we could walk right up to the ticket window and buy a pair of tickets, and still have time for a couple hotdogs before the roller derby action began. Wrong. The line for tickets snaked from the MAC Center across the walkway and beyond the forest of Kanekos. And though it had been unseasonably warm earlier that day, the north wind had picked up considerably. An army of families with little kids wearing nothing but T-shirts stood shivering as they waited for the snail-paced line to slowly move, powered by only two open ticket windows. By the time we got our tickets, the first match had already begun. Before entering the MAC, I looked back to see that the line had grown twice as long, filled with people destined to be turned away when the match sold out.
Obviously the folks who run the MAC Center hadn’t expected this kind of a turnout.
Once inside, I knew the general admission seating was going to be a hassle, but we lucked out with a pair of fold-out chairs at the top of the first section. Down below, the teams were skating on a taped-off portion of the concrete arena floor — no fancy inclined wooden skate deck for this event, a la “Whip It.” The crowd didn’t care, though, as they watched The Road Warriors — Lincoln’s No Coast Derby Girls B Team — annihilate Omaha’s Rollergirls B-Team in the opening match. When I finally got up to go to the concession stands, I discovered they were out of hot dogs, popcorn, even warm cheese for nachos. Get it together, MAC Center!
Anyway. We hung around for the first half of the main event — The Omaha Rollergirls All Stars vs. The Fox Cityz Foxz. Needless to say, the quality of the action was much higher than the opening match — you could actually follow what was going on, and the hits were massive. Unfortunately, the Foxz weren’t much competition for the Rollergirls, and by half-time Omaha was up by well over 100 points. As cool as it all was, we’d seen enough and headed over to The Horseshoe Casino for Pete Yorn.
If you’ve wondered how Council Bluffs can afford all the public art that seems to dot every open median around town, step inside one of the casinos on a Saturday night. It was a tidal wave of human malaise surrounded by a soundtrack of ear-piercing slot machine twitch-noise and chaos. From the front doors we made our way through the crowd of half-lit weekend amateurs losing their mortgage money at the tables while an army of tit-push costumed waitresses fed them watered-down mixed drinks to keep their wallets well-oiled.
And then there is the smell. If you ever for even a moment reminisced about the “good old days” when smoking was allowed in Omaha bars, well, just step inside The Horseshoe for one night. Though smoking is only allowed on the casino floor, there’s no hiding from the omnipresent stench that you know is permeating your clothes, your hair, your soul. There is no escape.
We got there late enough to avoid the opening band and a Ben Kweller solo set and just in time for Yorn, who took the stage inside the casino’s Whiskey Roadhouse lounge. I had been told that it was a small room, and it indeed seemed that way even with the divider walls pulled out to make room for the sold-out crowd of around 600. Like Harrah’s Stir Lounge, the stage felt like an afterthought to the bar’s design, as if pushed into a vacant corner of the Casino where they couldn’t get any crap tables or slots installed. That said, the sound was OK, and Yorn (wearing a goofy hat) was in a rocking mood, belting out tunes from his new album backed by a three-piece band. I’d like to tell you that I was enthralled, but there was something lackluster — if not flat — about the performance, as if Yorn was phoning it in. We made it through about five songs before heading back over the river.
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Tonight at Slowdown Jr. it’s Barsuk Records band Say Hi (formerly Say Hi to Your Mom), with Blair and Midwest Dilemma. $10, 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 © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.
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