by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
It’s been about a month since I last visited O’Leaver’s. I don’t remember it being quite as bright as it was Saturday night. I blame the strings upon strings of white twinkle Christmas lights hung along the ceiling, turning the club into a trailer park wonderland. When I mentioned this to the soundman, he said, “Don’t worry, it won’t be long until half of them are burned out, and it will look like the same ol’ place” yes, but with strings of ugly dead Christmas lights in the ceiling. That’s the O’Leaver’s I remember, friend, that’s the O’Leaver’s I so dearly crave. Other than the Christmas lights, nothing has changed (thankfully). No matter how screwed up your world becomes, you can always depend on O’Leaver’s to bring you right back to 2004 (or whenever it turned into a rock club).
Onstage upon my 11:15 arrival was traveling band The Bears of Blue River, your run-of-the-mill jangly indie folk band with loveable hippie frontman. Pleasant enough. But I came to see Eli Mardock, who I’d been told had grown his live trio into a full-blown 5-piece band. Sure enough, there was Mardock backed by his lovely wife on keyboards, two guitarists/bass players (One of which was Ian Aiello of The Golden Age) and a drummer. You could argue that this was a natural re-evolution of Eagle*Seagull, and you’d be wrong. Mardock as a solo band seems more focused, more rocking than E*S ever was, though there are some obvious similarities in songwriting style.
The biggest change (to me) is Mardock himself. His singing no longer has that lilt, that awkward, alien affectation that had a way of overshadowing everything that E*S was doing. Mardock now sounds like a normal citizen of this country singing rock songs about love and death and art. The first three or four songs featured him on acoustic guitar while the guys handled the bass, but after halftime Mardock switched to bass for numbers with a more definitive swing, while the guys shared rhythm and leads (though, really, it was Mardock that was leading with his bass).
With this band, Mardock finally has gotten past E*S once and for all. His other incarnations — whether it was Beauty in the Beast or his trio — seemed like incremental stages on the way to something else, half-formed with residue from the past and blueprints for the future. Now his sound is fully formed and ready for a next step that is firmly outside (but next to) the shadow of E*S. He’s pushed this band into the top level of Nebraska indie projects, and who knows how far he’ll go from there.
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One more note about O’Leaver’s: While things seem to be slowing down elsewhere, O’Leaver’s looks to be gearing up its bookings. They have nine shows scheduled through March, including this Friday night’s Digital Leather tour kick-off, which should be a surreal experience.Check out O’Leaver’s Facebook events calendar.
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Tonight at Slowdown Jr., Skypiper is hosting what it’s calling a “Mini-apolis invasion” featuring Twin Cities bands Tarlton and Zoo Animal. Opening is Omaha’s I Am the Navigator. It should be a night of Decemberists-style chamber/indie/pop. $7, early 8 p.m. start.
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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 © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.
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