by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
We’ll start with The Rentals because it was one of the best shows I’ve seen this year. Frontman Matt Sharp and his band were transcendent on a number of levels despite fewer than 100 people in the Waiting Room crowd, a testament I suppose of the fact that their hey day was almost 20 years ago and how hard it is to keep your memory alive in the internet age. It certainly isn’t from lack of quality. The Rentals new record, Lost in Alphaville (Polyvinyl, 2014), is as good or better than the rest of their discography. If you were a fan of the band or of good electronic pop rock, you’d love it.
They came out in white lab coats with Sharp dressed in black Nehru chic. The outfits only lasted one song before the band dropped their guises for their usual stage clothes, though there would be more “costumes” later.
You could say the Haden sisters were an integral part of The Rentals’ original sound. They invented those unique tight-pitched cooing harmonies, as anyone familiar with their band (That Dog.) can attest. The fact that current vocalists Lizzi Ellison and Patti King (who also performed in opening band Radiation City) were able to reproduce those harmonies is impressive, let alone bring their own style to this material. The duo are less mechanical, more earthy sounding than the Haden sisters, which lent itself well to the new material along with a couple covers, including a fetching low-key version of Whitney Houston’s “I Want to Dance with Somebody” that was a heart-shaped nod to the ’80s (but that would get eclipsed during the encore).
Sharp is a consummate performer, a theatrical presence constantly moving and reaching out to the rather small audience that surrounded the front of the stage. You’ve heard this one before, but it didn’t matter if there were 60 or 600 in the room, Sharp gave an arena-style performance, as did his band.
For the encore, Sharp, Ellison and King walked onto the floor with a small Casio-type synth and sang the first song surrounded by the tiny crowd before returning to the stage to play the requisite encore song “Friends of P” with the full band. Prior to the end of the tune, however, Sharp exited stage right, leaving the band to finish the song alone. Something wrong? Nope. Out came Sharp onto the floor again, this time dressed as a Ghostbuster holding a marshmallow rifle, followed by someone dressed in a Sta-Puff Marshmallow Man costume. Hilarity ensued, along with a dead-on rendition of the Ghostbusters theme. Why not? Count yourself lucky if you were there to see it.
Earlier in the evening I caught the stage debut of Healer, the new supergroup that features members of Ladyfinger, Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship and UUVVWWZ. Fronted by Dan Brennan, the band specialized in a style of indie that melds traditional rock that leans toward Mother Love Bone grunge. Unlike so many vibe bands in the scene these days, Brennan writes full-on songs with soaring vocal melodies sung over a very tight band. If there’s a quibble it was with Brennan’s uncertain vocals, which wobbled and faded at times. Chock it up to this being their first gig, performed in front of a sizable main-stage Slowdown audience.
And maybe the fact that the band was missing one players, Jim Schroeder, who is out on the road with Simon Joyner. Simon passed along some bad news yesterday via Facebook. Someone broke into the band’s van while they were in Oakland, taking off with some pedals, cymbals and computer equipment. Despite that, Simon said the show — and the tour — will go on…
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Tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s, Kevin Seconds, the lead singer and principal songwriter of legendary American hardcore punk band 7Seconds, headlines a show that also features Ted Stevens (Cursive, Unknown Project) and Aaron Parker (Gordon). Come see a legend up close and personal. $8, 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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.