by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
Why are there no photos from this show, which took place at Slowdown Jr. Friday night? Because there was (almost) no light on stage. Not pitch black, but too dark for an iPhone, dark enough to be… afraid. Back When playing virtually in the dark seemed appropriate for the band’s rather dark vibe.
I hadn’t seen them before Friday night, not because I was avoiding them, but because one thing or another got in the way. After seeing their latest video, which surfaced last week, a more intense effort was made to not miss their next show.
Earplugs were tempting and almost necessary while waiting in line to get in. Their sound is mammoth — loud and sludgy, some might say bleak. On first blush it reminded me of stoner rock — there were moments that called to mind Kyuss and Sleep, but Back When is more acidic, more metal, more purposely colossal. A colleague at the show compared them to Source Tags & Codes-era Trail of Dead. Maybe, maybe.
With a low wall of amps stacked behind them, they were indeed powerful, but the compressed size of Slowdown Jr.’s stage cramped their sound and the mix lacked separation that could have been attained on the big stage, which would have been a better fit. Additional research into their recorded material is necessary before I can tell you what they were singing about.
By contrast, The Answer Team (which didn’t perform in the dark, but were dimly lit) sounded downright pleasant. The crowd had peaked for Back When, despite the fact that it was Answer Team’s CD release show — but that’s why you invite a band with a solid following to open these kinds of shows. As on their debut full length, O Sad And Future Human, they most often try the classic quiet-slowly-build-then-explode arrangements that are the hallmark of most of their influences. But too often on stage Friday night they started out loud and simply got louder. Dynamics is one of the only things that can fill the void that all instrumental-only indie bands have to overcome without having vocals and lyrics. Another bridge is varied arrangements, and for the most post, The Answer Team delivered, though they still can fall into that rut of repeating the same four or eight bars’ worth of chord changes over and over — another pitfall of instrumental-only bands. Regardless, by the end of their set, they had the crowd wanting more.
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It’s looking pretty quiet show-wise for the next few days. We’ll make up for it, however, come this weekend with three major outdoor events, including a neighborhood brawl that pits Dundee against the 40th and Farnam area. More later…
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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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