by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
There were those who were disappointed at the turnout for last night’s Grant Hart show at The Waiting Room, me among them. But the crowd of only around 40 wasn’t a huge surprise. There virtually was no press for the show, and Hart’s music — both solo and as a member of Husker Du and Nova Mob — has never had a home on local radio. In fact the number of those who remember Husker Du — and who still go out to shows — is getting smaller and smaller.
The night began with a solo set from Doug Kabourek performing as Fizzle Like A Flood, the name he used for a number of very cool records that came out in late ’90s and early ’00s. Kabourek has performed for the past couple years as At Land, but is revising the old name, presumably because his new music is in the dreamy, sore-hearted Fizzle style. Alone with his acoustic guitar, Kabourek played a split set — half the songs from his new record, the other half golden oldies. And just like that it felt like 1998 all over again, though Kabourek is a much better guitarist and singer than he used to be in the old days. His new songs have that classic Fizzle lilt and heart-on-sleeve appeal. With a high, soaring and sometimes nasal voice, Kabourek is setting himself up as Omaha’s version of John Darnielle a.k.a. The Mountain Goats. I have to wonder if, like on his classic Fizzle albums, he’ll use 20-some tracks to record these new songs. We’ll have to wait and see.
Next up was Bob Thornton’s Students of Crime, a gritty, twanging, punky rock band that was a good fit for a Husker Du night. This is the most straight-ahead band that Thornton has ever been a part of — short, poppy rock songs that lean heavy on the hooks and the band’s rock-solid rhythm section. Thornton has a good voice whether he knows it or not, spending too much time apologizing for it on stage. One of the set’s highlights was a new song just recorded for a 10-inch multi-band compilation being released in support of the Speed! Nebraska Adult Soapbox Derby July 23 at Seymour Smith Park and O’Leaver’s. I don’t know what it was called, but I do know it was about going fast.
Finally, onto an empty stage came Grant Hart with just an electric guitar, an amp and a microphone. I guess I expected a band to back him, I don’t know why. Instead, Hart stood on point and played a 45-minute (or so) set of songs that spanned his solo work, Nova Mob and flecked with Husker Du classics.
The mostly seated crowd stared mesmerized as Hart went from one song to the next without pause. A smattering of applause greeted him when he dived into Husker classic “No Promise I Have Made.” It wasn’t until the end of the set that he started opening up and talking to the audience about Iowa and medical marijuana and missing his cats.
I thought he might end his set and leave, but he was coaxed back on stage for en encore that started with “Flexible Flyer,” before taking requests. Someone yelled out “Diane,” but he said he doesn’t play that one anymore, that it was a bummer trip. Instead, someone yelled “The Girl Who Lives on Heaven Hill,” and off he roared. Next, someone yelled “Evergreen Memorial Drive” and off he went again. Finally he ended the night with “My Regrets,” the closer from his most recent solo album Hot Wax.
Whether you knew his solo material or were just waiting for the next Husker song, you got the feeling that you were watching something special. Will there ever be a Husker Du reunion? Despite being an enormous payday for Hart, Mould and Norton, something tells me if it hasn’t happened already, it probably never will. That being the case, shows like last night’s and Bob Mould’s ongoing book reading acoustic tour (which I wish someone would bring to Omaha) are the closest thing we’ll ever get to hearing those classic Husker songs again.
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If you’ve driven by 60th and Dodge in the past couple of days you’ve seen the enormous stage that has been erected for tonight’s Cheap Trick concert in Memorial Park. How the distraction won’t leave Dodge Street in absolute gridlock is beyond me. Luckily I don’t have to worry about it since I live walking distance to the park.
Remember that contest they held for a local band to open the show? Well, the winner was Take Me to Vegas, a band no one’s ever heard of. Nice job, Bank of the West. Oh well, it’s not entirely their fault. I was told by a couple bands who considered entering the contest that the legal stipulations attached to the show were far too much for what it was worth.
Anyway, the concert in the park kicks off at 6 with the winner, followed by .38 Special and finally Cheap Trick, who probably won’t get on stage until around 8:30, leading up to the after-show fireworks. Expect a mammoth crowd eruption during “Surrender.”
Another classic band, The Meat Puppets, also is playing tonight, this time at The Waiting Room. I saw them play a couple years ago at SXSW and was impressed with the sheer intensity of their set. You (probably) won’t be disappointed. Opening is The Whipkey Three. $14, 9 p.m.
Tomorrow night promises to be another “memorable” show at O’Leaver’s. It’s a warmup for The Fucking Party, who are about to head out on tour. Joining them is Qing Jao (featuring Bob Thornton) and Yuppies. $5, 9:30 p.m.
Have a good 4th…
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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.