by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
Digital Leather frontman Shawn Foree confirmed the band’s line-up change about a week ago. I’d heard about it from someone who knows the guys in the band who e-mailed me simply to say that Todd Fink of The Faint had been practicing with DL in what would likely be a return of synthesizers to an act that had dropped them from their live performances years ago. Foree in the past has explained that his synth-driven recordings are a different animal than DL’s stage performances, which for the last few years has been a guitar-driven power trio.
Anyway, Foree confirmed the rumor, but said he wanted to keep it on the down low at least until this show. Sure enough, last night on stage this new version of Digital Leather was unveiled with Fink behind a keyboard. And the result was, to say the least, satisfying, but not a night-and-day difference from what we’ve been hearing from these guys for the past few years. DL is still fueled by the rhythm section of bassist Johnny Vrendenburg and drummer Jeff Lambelet — the best bass & drum duo in Omaha — as well as Foree’s voice and guitar (and his spleen-bleeding songs), but Fink’s keyboards add that element that’s been missing for a lot of the band’s fans — a sinister, other-worldly quality that underlies the neo-futuristic nature of DL music. They also sound pretty cool. Fink’s backing vocals were an added bonus.
So what’s this addition mean for future Digital Leather set lists? Well, for the most part, last night’s set wasn’t much different from the Nov. 28 set, when DL opened for King Khan at Slowdown. Both included a rousing version of fan favorite “Studs in Love” (well, at least it’s one of my favorites). That said, I don’t remember DL playing “Styrofoam” last November, a song in which the synths take the anthem to a whole ‘nother level.
Will DL now dig back to other early material where synths play a central role? Will we finally get to hear songs like “Modern Castles” and “Gold Hearts” (both from Warm Brother)? I doubt it. It also will be interesting to hear if Fink will add anything to future DL recordings — a process that Foree has always commanded by himself. And what’s the lifespan for this collaboration now that The Faint are back together? Does it matter? Just enjoy it while you can, and that includes March 8, when Digital Leather is slated to return to one of their favorite stomping grounds — fabulous O’Leaver’s.
OK, what about the rest of the show? Opener, Memphis band Ex-Cult (formerly Sex Cult) was bad ass, a five piece that played a refined, aggressive indie garage punk that had a few kids in front of the stage shoving each other.
But the night’s centerpoint was Ty Segall and his band — a well-honed noise machine, easily the loudest thing I’ve heard on a stage in a few years. Playing songs off a number of his albums, including Twins and Slaughterhouse, Segall blazed through one monster rocker after another, leaving a wake of bleeding ears in front of the stacks. I stood on a chair along the wall and watched the crowd writhe in ecstasy to the knuckle-bleeding music.
You got a sense that you were seeing this guy at the height of his power, still flying under the radar, ready to explode. Something tells me in the next few years Segall could blow up to become as big as Jack White. If it happens, we’ll look back at this show and say “I saw him back when he played Sokol Underground.”
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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 © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.
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