Live Review: Icky Blossoms vs. The Faint; Porsches and Yankees and the a-hole factor (in the column); Eli Mardock EP release show; Outlaw/Bellows tonight…
by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
“The only drag shows I’ve been to have been at Icky Blossoms shows. Are all drag shows like this?”
My answer to the above question, posed Tuesday night at The Waiting Room, was that I did not know; that the only drag performers I’d seen outside of Icky shows were on television. And those performances weren’t anything like what was happening on stage. When I think of drag queens, I think of female impersonators doing Liza, Cher, Marilyn Monroe, Tina Turner, Streisand. Most look like women. The drag queens at the Icky Blossoms record release show looked like guys dressed as women. Was that the intent? The first performer came bounding onto the stage during Depressed Buttons’ set (This night, featuring only Todd Fink, maybe because brother Clark was about to play drums in Icky and DB’s third member, Jacob Thiele, was on Injured Reserve). It was a man in a dress and make-up dancing to the house music. A good dancer indeed, but there was no attempt at illusion, no question that he was a guy. He was followed by two more performers — dancing men in high heels. Nothing campy or erotic; instead it was a proud display of outgoing, cross-dressing men having a good time on stage. And the capacity crowd couldn’t get enough of them.
Then came Icky Blossoms. I’ve seen them at intimate, frenzied club settings, in larger theater-style shows, even on a hot spring day in Elmwood Park. Tuesday night felt altogether different; there was a surreal energy to their performance and a sense that the band was finally complete. It’s hard to not compare them to The Faint — both bands’ music combine dance grooves with edgy rock. But beyond the sonic similarities is the overlap in their stage production. For the first time, Icky was performing with programmed colored floor-level flood lights shifting and changing in perfect sync with the music, not unlike The Faint’s Sokol Underground shows circa ’99 and early 2000s, though IB’s LED lighting technology looked a bit more sophisticated than The Faint’s first stab at floor-light theatrics. The new lights added drama — there were times when guitarist Nik Fackler cast shadows through the bright glow-rays that reminded me of Prince on stage at First Avenue in Purple Rain.
But while this show had a similar musical intensity to a Faint performance, it still hadn’t reached their level. Faint shows are sweaty music orgies with the entire crowd bouncing in rhythm. The crowd Tuesday night at The Waiting Room was more tentative. This audience is still discovering who Icky Blossoms is and what they’re about. But it won’t take long for them to figure it out and for IB to get to The Faint’s level. IB’s debut album — the funnest record Saddle Creek has released in years — stands right up there with Blank Wave Arcade, and some might say has even more catchier material. The Faint didn’t begin to reach its true potential until around Danse Macabre. Just imagine how high Icky Blossoms could go — maybe to levels that The Faint never reached.
But there is still a number of questions in the equation. The Faint were relentless road warriors when they first started out. What are Icky Blossoms’ tour plans? Check out their tour schedule on Saddle Creek’s website. There just ain’t that much there… yet. Now that they’ve hired a high-profile tour booker (The Windish Agency), that could change. Integral to their tour success would be landing an opening slot with a breaking indie rock or EDM act. When asked during our recent interview who would be a good fit, the band mentioned Crystal Castles and KC act SSION. But why not a more mainstream pop band? We all remember how The Faint opened for No Doubt. Imagine Icky Blossoms opening for Neon Trees. Interesting, interesting…
The other looming question is Pitchfork. How will IB’s debut rate? We’ll find out in the next couple weeks (Remember, the album’s street date is July 17). Sadly these days, a high Pitchfork rating is crucial to capture people’s attention, though Pitchfork pooped all over The Faint’s last two albums and it didn’t seem to matter.
Anyway, back to the show. The band did the prerequisite rock star turn of leaving the stage before coming back for a two-song encore that included a gutsy rendition of “Chicas,” the sinister Spanish-language version of “Girls” (which I prefer over the English-language version — it’s campy and dirty, like watching a sordid Telemundo drama). It was the first time they’ve ever played “Chicas” live; something tells me if their agent ever gets them south of the border, it won’t be their last. After that, they rolled out the ultimate show ender, the majestic “Perfect Vision,” bigger and bolder and groovier than ever. Like a rite of passage, Fackler took the opportunity to join the Brotherhood of Guitarists by smashing his axe on stage in a moment of sonic bliss that, despite being a rock ‘n’ roll cliche, seemed perfectly appropriate. I hope Saddle Creek is supplying Nik with a replacement (unlikely).
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In this week’s column in The Reader, some thoughts on visual cues and pre-judging based on motor vehicles and apparel and why I have nothing to complain about. You can read it online right here.
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Tonight at The Waiting Room, it’s the EP release show for Eli Mardock’s NE Sorrow Is Born, released on Mardock’s own Spider and I Records. The EP actually was released June 25, and can be streamed in its entirety on Soundcloud (here) or on Spotify. It’s also for sale in iTunes. Opening is The Seen and Sun Settings. $7, 9 p.m.
Also tonight, an all-star line-up at The Barley Street Tavern with Outlaw Con Bandana, Jake Bellows (Neva Dinova) and Sam Martin (Capgun Coup). $5, 9 p.m.
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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.