Live Review: Mynabirds, Jake Bellows & Co., Under Water Dream Machine, Touch People, OEAAs…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:53 pm June 11, 2012
The Mynabirds at The Slowdown, June 8, 2012.

The Mynabirds at The Slowdown, June 8, 2012.

by Tim McMahan,

So maybe you were right giving me shit about my warnings of Mynabirds’ CD release show selling out. It didn’t, though there were at least 400 people there for Friday night’s show. OK, maybe I was hyping. So what. If you were there, you probably had a good time.

Laura Burhenn came out with her signature dead fox head gear, stood on her box and belted out about an hour’s worth of new and old material. I thought I’d hear at least a little political diatribe to coincide with her album’s perceived political themes (more on that later), but instead Burhenn stayed focused on the music, and wishing Slowdown a happy 5th birthday.

And I have to admit, her new record is beginning to grow on me, which is good since I apparently am the only one in America who wasn’t bowled over by it on first listen. The upbeat numbers (like “Body of Work”) are  fun, but it’s the slower, tonal pieces, such as “Mightier Than the Sword,” that are the real show stoppers.

Whereas most of the her backing band are competent-though-faceless musicians, Burhenn is blessed with an amazing drummer. I have no idea who she is, but her big, dynamic, throaty sound stands out above everything (but Burhenn’s vocals, of course).

My only disappointment was with her set structure — it was as if Burhenn figured out the set list about five minutes before the show. Or maybe I’m just hypercritical about these things, but a good set list is like a great DJ set — it rises and falls, each song blending naturally into the other like perfect transitions in a seamless story taking you for a ride that culminates in a big finish. It’s about dynamics. Burhenn instead merely plays the songs, one after another with little interest in transition. Even the set ender and prerequisite leave-the-stage-followed-by-the-encore moment was more awkward than usual.

Jake Bellows & Co. at The Slowdown, June 8, 2012.

Jake Bellows & Co. at The Slowdown, June 8, 2012.

I caught the last half of Jake Bellows and his unnamed band (I call them “Jake Bellows and the Dying Embers”… think about it). Where Jake solo is interesting, it also can be boring. With a band backing him, Jake’s songs are given new life, new dynamics, new muscle. I understand that this particular collaboration of musicians may never play together again, which is a pity. That shouldn’t stop Bellows from surrounding himself with players for future shows.

Under Water Dream Machine at The Sydney, as part of the OEAA Summer Showcase, June 9, 2012.

Under Water Dream Machine at The Sydney, as part of the OEAA Summer Showcase, June 9, 2012.

Saturday night was Day 2 of the Omaha Arts and Entertainment Awards Summer Showcase in Benson, and yes it was fun but scheduling issues also made for disappointments. The first act I saw was 20 minutes late to start. The second act was more than a half-hour late. That meant missing a band that I otherwise would have caught. But I guess those things are to be expected when you’re juggling five venues and around 30 bands.

Touch People at The Barley Street, OEA Summer Showcase, June 9, 2012.

Touch People at The Barley Street, OEA Summer Showcase, June 9, 2012.

Highlights of the evening were Under Water Dream Machine at The Sydney and, of course, Touch People at The Barley Street Tavern. UWDM was backed by two musicians, giving his songs the backing meat they need to work on stage. Bret Vovk has a perfect stage voice on songs that feel like upbeat Simon and Garfunkel pop folk. Keep an eye on him. Touch People a.k.a. Darren Keen’s frenetic electronic music is both throbbing and jittery, chaotic and groovy, with the added attraction of Keen’s unique brand of humor. It’s impossible to not be entertained.

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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.

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