by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
When it comes to the four-band record release show at Slowdown Friday night, instead of dwelling on the one unfortunate negative, let’s instead dwell on the positives. Positives like the big crowd (+200?), the impeccable sound quality and, most of all, the performances.
Touch People started off the evening at the stroke of 9, playing to an empty floor in Slowdown’s big room. On stage, a costumed Darren Keen played a small stack of technology veiled two ways — one, behind a curtain that hid him from view, and two, behind a mask and hood, though everyone knew that only one person in the Nebraska music scene bears his stature. Just as unmistakable is Keen’s sound. Even though this project stands at a distance from his main gig — The Show Is the Rainbow — there were distinctive Keen-isms that dotted a sonic landscape littered with enormously loud bass lines, jittering break beats and trippy synth tones. Touch People is the most experimental of Keen’s projects, and as a result, the most challenging to the listener. The music isn’t so much an attempt to get people dancing as to get them to step into whatever dimension Keen is occupying over the course of the 40-minute set. The music was as entrancing as it was disjointed and, at times, disturbing, which I have believe is just the way Keen wanted it.
It only got trippier with InDreama, In this, their third live performance and perhaps their most ambitious, frontman Nik Fackler and company navigated through a mine field of technical problems to take yet another step forward in crafting their sound and vision. And what a weird vision it’s turning out to be. Fackler is at his best when he’s crafting songs with specific melodies and ideas, such as the track from the single, “Reprogram,” (which he opened with) and the set’s closing two numbers. In between were shades of Jim Morrison and Jim Carroll. Fackler has said that his goal is to create a new persona on stage. At this point, that persona is still only half realized, though no less entertaining.
By the time Icky Blossoms hit the stage at around 11, the crowd had arrived. The floor in front was mostly filled and jumping. Of all of Derek Pressnall’s projects including Tilly and the Wall, this one is the most satisfying and the one with the most promise. I got the feeling that there was nothing stopping the band from hitting the road tomorrow and getting any out-of-town crowd to become fans. Yes, the music is that good — a modern take on straight-up dance rock with an ’80s flair. Of the four bands, Icky Blossoms is easily the most commercially embraceable of the bunch. They’re also the most fun.
Conduits closed the night with grand aplomb — just an absolute wall of sound — thick slabs of droning feedback, subtle synth tones, and throbbing, tribal rhythms a la Slowdive, MBV and all the other shoe-gaze masters that obviously influenced their style and that we all know and love. The beauty of Conduits is its sonic dynamics. The Achilles heel may be its lack of rhythmic variety — one mid-tempo song after another. Frontwoman Jenna Morrison couldn’t be more statuesque in beauty and style. She has amazing tone that cuts through the dense layers of sound. But somewhere in the morass she’s become merely another instrument. I could not understand a word she was singing (how much is the soundman’s fault, I do not know). It’s an advantage Icky Bossoms had over all four bands — you could understand just about every word Pressnall was singing, and that made his songs that much more interesting (and easy to sing along to). With Conduits, all you get is beautiful, beautiful drone. When you think of a band like Low, you can hear every heart-breaking word that comes out of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker’s mouths. Those words are what help make their music that much more memorable. I know there are words underneath Conduits’ music as well, I just need to find out what they are.
And now that one negative I mentioned earlier — one thing was missing that is crucial to the success of any record release show — the records themselves. I don’t know if there was some sort of production problem that kept the delivery from happening, but there was no product on hand to sell. Instead, the band was selling “pre-orders” of the single, with a promise that a member of the band would hand deliver the record when it arrived (you also received a free download). How many people took them up on the offer, I do not know. I do know that they had 200 or so people on hand that wanted to buy a copy and who went home empty handed, myself included. Maybe they should have another record release show, but this time in Lincoln (and with records to sell).
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Things are running a bit long here today. I can’t expect y’all to sit through 3,000 words of copy. So come back tomorrow for my take on Record Store Day and my first “DJ” gig, as well as a look at last night’s Decemberists’ show, which was “all that” and more.
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Nik Freitas is kind of a big thing around these parts. But despite that, he’s the opening act tonight at The Waiting Room for a band that I’ve never heard of — The Submarines. The $12 show starts at 9, so you better get there early.
Also tonight, Dim Light plays with Slow Skate at O’Leaver’s. $5, 9:30 p.m. And Pharmacy Spirits makes a trip from Lincoln to play at Slowdown Jr. tonight with Cat Island, Dangerous Ponies and Shipbuilding Co. $5, 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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