Live Review: Universe Contest, Dim Light; to scoop or not to scoop? (in the column); Koffin Kats tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , — @ 1:16 pm May 10, 2012
Universe Contest at The Waiting Room, May 9, 2012.

Universe Contest at The Waiting Room, May 9, 2012.

by Tim McMahan,

Maybe 40 on hand for last night’s Omaha debut of Universe Contest, which is either evidence of how hard it is to get people out on a Wednesday night or the dominance of this week’s Big Omaha event (though I doubt any of those techno-nerds would have come to this show anyway).

By 10 first opener Ideal Cleaners already had cleaned house. Second opener Dim Light came on next and blazed through a set of minor key tribal rock dirges sung in a style that got my mojo risin’ (Get it?). One of Omaha’s most magnetic (and cool) frontmen, Cooper Moon laid down his vocals with dollops of delay like a 10-foot-tall biker vampire performing an exorcism on an abandoned Stuckey’s. His guitar was bright and bluesy, but it’s the rhythm section of bassman Tom Barrett drum legend Boz Hicks that cannot/will not be ignored.

Next, Universe Contest. The Lincoln five-piece (two guitars, bass, keyboards and drums) has had comparisons to early Modest Mouse hung around their necks thanks to their recordings. The resemblance is hard to ignore, but on stage, the Modest Mouse comparisons don’t wash. UC is more calculated. More backwoods. More proggy. And, yeah, more tuneful.

The Modest Mouse thing comes from the wonky, scratchy vocals a la Isaac Brock, who (regretfully) smoothed it out on MM’s more recent records. Take away the Modest Mouse overhang and they’re harder to pin down. As the name implies, they’re spacey, but not shoegaze spacey or Bowie spacey. Spacey like a group of Midwestern hillbillies who got ahold of a stack of Popular Science magazines and figured out how to build their own spaceship from abandoned grain silos, Case tractors parts and the cockpit from a hollowed-out ’73 Maverick. I can see them now sitting on the launchpad in their overalls, their hippie hair sticking out of their gold-painted football helmets.…

Best moment of the night was the set closer with the almost whispered line “…breaks my heart.” It sounded like a weird, spacey, bluesy combination of Uriah Heep and Soundgarden, and nothing at all like Modest Mouse. They finished their short set by midnight to cries for more. If they can get past the Modest Mouse thing, watch out.

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In this world of instant media; does it really matter who says what first? Who has the scoop? Who tweets it first? Or rather, does it matter who says it better? That’s the essence of this week’s column in The Reader, which you can read online right here. I’ve been trying to find a better name for the column than “Beyond Lazy-i,” which was the publisher’s idea. So I’m trying a different name every week until something sticks. This week it’s called The Moleskin Diaries. Who knows what it’ll be called next week. I’m open to your suggestions.

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Tonight at Slowdown Jr. it’s the psychobilly sounds of Koffin Kats with The Hooten Hallers, The Blacktop Ramblers and Video Ranger. Early 8 p.m. start time. $12.

Also tonight, Skypiper plays at The Waiting Room with Betsy Wells and I Heard a Lion. $7, 9 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — 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.

1 Comment »

  • The turnout was definitely disappointing, I’m told the free Dax show at another venue snatched up some would be attendees, although there was no contest (but the Universe Contest) as to where I was going to be- the show was f@#$king smashing.

    Comment by A.G. — May 11, 2012 @ 11:03 am

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