by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
Bar hopping was in order last Friday night.
First stop was The Waiting Room where The Delta Spirit was set to play. The band seems to have changed its direction from its early Americana days. When people hear the name Delta Spirit they expect the usual hayseed folk-rock stuff but in fact DS has changed its style, reaching for a more commercial base, as evidenced by its new album, Into the Wide, which has similarities to the last couple U2 albums — huge chiming guitars and full blown anthems sung by a frontman who resembles actor Shia Labeouf but with an arena-quality voice that rings out over everything behind it. In this case, “everything” includes two drummers (one who doubles on keyboards) and the usual bass, drums, guitar combination. It was one of the louder recent shows I’ve seen at TWR.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t a a sell out, even though Delta Spirit has done a good job creating a fan base in Omaha, where they’ve played at least three times including at a past Maha Music Festival, a performance that I either missed or forgot. Still, the fans that showed up (apparently some traveling long distances) pumped their fists in front of the stage where the band glowed from a projected light show beamed on vertical white strips that hung down like prison bars. The video was mostly static splatters, odd psychedelic patterns, nothing that distracted too much from frontman Matthew Vasquez.
You have to hand it to Vasquez. In an era where pick-up truck six-pack pop country is making millions, he could step right into the cowboy-hat set with ease, but instead, he’s taken an indie/alternative route that promises nothing but club gigs unless somehow DS manages to break through to the larger audience. I see no reason why they wouldn’t, all it takes these days is getting your song played on the right TV commercial or show.
After a half-hour of their set, I got a text from someone at O’Leaver’s saying that Simon Joyner was about to go on, so I hoofed it back to my car and drove down the serpentine back of Radial Highway to Saddle Creek Road to Omaha’s favorite music-powered dive bar.
Joyner and his band The Ghosts never sounded better on O’Leaver’s “stage.” More enhancement to the bar’s PA and sound system was part of the reason, but the credit really goes to the new line-up.
Joyner’s music continues to get more detailed, more complex while at the same time, more relaxed. Having a team of talented musicians, each providing their own nuance to the structure, resulted in layers upon layers of sound and melody headed in the same direction, but centered around Joyner’s personal lyrics that read like a poetic document or a painter’s road map of a world we’ve all come to recognize over the course of his 20-plus year career.
Watching them perform, each player looked lost in his or her own personal space, feverishly translating the song into their own voice. Joyner gave them the space to make their parts their own without losing sight of the color of the moment. Riveting stuff, especially when it built to a crescendo, which Joyner effortlessly brought back with a turn of his head.
O’Leaver’s appears to be going through some sort of transition since the last time I visited. New lighting fixtures hung over the booth tables. A glass door had been installed in the far wall that (I’m told) will lead to a second beer garden in the back of the building, a new deck area which could host live music (one assumes of the acoustic variety). No matter what they do to the place, though, it’ll always be the same old O’Leaver’s.
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Saturday I caught Rachel Tomlinson Dick‘s set at the Almost Music / Solid Jackson Books anniversary music festival. It was just Dick and her electric guitar, sort of like listening to a Midwestern version of PJ Harvey’s 4-Track Demos, but with more melody and a Big Star cover thrown in for good measure. Pretty awesome.
BTW, Hers (Tomlinson’s band) just got a feature at Nylon online a couple weeks ago. Check it out.
I picked up a copy of The Smith’s debut album at Almost Music, as well as Bob Mould’s biography and another Hunter S. Thompson collection. You can always find good stuff at Almost Music. If you haven’t been there — and you’re into vinyl (or cassettes) — do yourself a favor.
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The Huge Show of the Week is tonight at The Waiting Room. Dum Dum Girls take the stage. The band is out touring their most recent Sub Pop release, Too True. Opening is Ex Cops (on Manhattan record store Other Music’s label) and Kansas City’s Yes You Are, whose members include Tilly and the Wall vocalist Kianna Alarid. $15, 9 p.m.
Also tonight, the Burkum Boys (from Skypiper) headline at Reverb with The Cactus Blossoms & Mitch Gettman. $5, 9 p.m.
And John Klemmensen and the Party plays tonight at Slowdown Jr. with Phillly fuzz punk band Mumblr and Brisx. $7, 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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.
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