Live Review: Hop Along; Ernie Chambers at BFF (sort of); the OEAA showcase weekend; Calm Fur tonight…
by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
Hop Along is a fantastic band. Certainly one of the best bands I’ve seen this year (and I’ve seen a lot already) and definitely one of the best bands that Saddle Creek has signed in recent years. If you haven’t heard Painted Shut, their new album on Saddle Creek, do yourself a favor. There’s a link to a stream of the entire album at the bottom of yesterday’s blog entry.
I like the record; specifically I like how it sounds, I like the crunchy guitars, I like the straight-forward indie-rock rhythms, I like the chord changes, but most of all I like Frances Quinlan’s guttural, scratchy, feral-cat growl of a voice. It has become the hallmark of their sound, the one thing people point to when they talk about Hop Along’s music. The only thing I can think of comparing it to is Janis Joplin’s screechy yowl that leads up to the chorus in “Piece of My Heart.” You know, “Come on, Come on, Come on, Come on and TAKE IT…” Quinlan’s voice captures Janis’ yearning energy and somehow stretched out throughout entire songs, entire albums.
Her voice was on display last night at Slowdown Jr. in pure Janis mode throughout their entire set last night. I didn’t think it was possible; I figured no one could sing like that all night, that scratchy screech has to be turning her vocal chords to bloody ribbons. Others around me in the rather large crowd (though not a sell-out) wondered the same thing. “That’s gotta hurt,” they said. But I figure Quinlan must approach singing the same way an opera singer is able to basically scream for two hours straight (because, let’s face it, opera singing is really precisely directed yelling, is it not?). Quinlan knows what she’s doing. She’s been doing it now for years. If she didn’t, she wouldn’t have made it through her first tour.
Her voice is a thing to behold; it is indeed mesmerizing. So is the rest of Hop Along. Drummer Mark Quinlan (Frances’ brother) is hands-down one of the best drummers I’ve ever heard — huge, pounding out the backbone of every song all night, a thing to marvel at. We’re talking ’70s-era arena quality drumming, not paradiddle precision noodling; big, throaty, heavy-sticked wonder. Dare I mention the great Bonham? No, because it’s not that kind of music. But it was deep and thick and luscious.
The rest of the band was pretty good, but the highlights were the Quinlan brood; the drums, that voice, remarkable. Missing from the discussion, of course, are the songs. Hop Along is a great band to listen to live, but I couldn’t tell you what any of the songs were about. I didn’t walk away from the show with any song stuck in my head, which is odd when you consider I’ve been listening to Painted Shut for weeks.
While Quinlan puts it all out there effortlessly climbing octave after octave there rarely if ever was a central melody to hang onto and, dare I say it, sing along to. In that vein it’s kind of like scat singing, or melodies made up after the song’s chord progressions have been determined. But isn’t that a primary attribute of indie rock and what sets it apart from straight-up pop music? Probably, but the best indie rock, the stuff we remember and that resonates for years to come, has a hook. The rest of it is tonal, blues or effect, where lyrics are secondary (ferinstance, I couldn’t tell you a single My Bloody Valentine lyric).
I don’t think that’s the case with Hop Along. That band is so fucking good —she’s so fucking good — that it’s only a matter of time before they write a song that pushes past their current boundaries. That song isn’t on Painted Shut, a good album that lacks a song that strikes a universal chord with a huge audience. They will write that song, the one that gets played to death, the one that will represent a season or year in the life of its listeners, that turns into an instant time machine that will take us back to whatever was happening in our lives back when everyone was playing it. Maybe it’ll be on their next album; hopefully it’ll come out on Saddle Creek, but it hasn’t happened yet. Until then, we’re left to marvel at the sound, if not the songs.
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A quick non-music aside about something important to me.
Tonight is the grand opening of the Little Gallery in Benson, coinciding with Benson First Friday. The proprietor is my wife, Teresa Gleason. The gallery, located at 5917 Maple Street right across the street from The Sydney, doubles as the offices of Polecat Communications, Teresa’s PR/communications firm that specializes in supporting non-profits as well as profits. Teresa and I found the space a few months ago and began tearing it apart shortly there after, transforming it into a sublime gallery space.
The first artist to grace the gallery is none other than Brian Tait. Yes, that Brian Tait, the skateboarding rockstar graffiti-fueled sign painter who also operates Midtown Art Supply. We bought a handful of Taits recently (one of them is staring at me with its angry possum eyes as I type this) and couldn’t think of a better artist for the gallery’s debut.
Want to know more about Tait? Read the brief profile I wrote about him right here. The show’s title is “Without a Chute,” and as part of the tonight’s festivities, which begin at 6 p.m., Tait will be doing a live painting outside the building. It will be a giant portrait of State Senator Ernie Chambers. Upon its completion, the painting will be sold to the highest bidder, whether the bid is $1 or $1,000 or $10,000.
Fun starts at 6. There will be a keg on tap. And food. And maybe even leftover birthday cake from Wednesday’s Big 50 shows. Drop by and say hello.
And for those who have asked, yes, the firm’s name, Polecat, was partially inspired by the classic pre-Saddle Creek band that featured Ted Stevens, Boz Hicks and Oli Blaha. We call that a tip o’ the hat to past greatness…
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One other art show going on I want to mention: Mousetrap’s Patrick Buchanan emailed to tell me that his pop, Sidney Buchanan, is hosting a show at his house at 1202 So. 62nd St., that kicks off tonight at 6 p.m. Buchanan is known for his enormous sculptures (one of which is on UNO’s campus right outside the arts building). This show features new collages and assemblages and runs tonight and Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Go!
All right back to music.
Tonight and tomorrow night is the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Award (OEAA) showcase in Benson. It’s a chance to check out a shitload of new local bands as you stumble from six venues along Maple Street. The schedule follows. Admission is $10 per night or $15 for the entire weekend.
I don’t know most of these bands, which I suppose is the point of an emerging-artist showcase. That said, there are a few that I am familiar with and can recommend which are in bold, if you’re looking for some direction.
FRIDAY, June 5
The Waiting Room – all ages
8:00-8:40 Unscene Patrol
8:55-9:35 Pleiades and the Bear
9:50-10:30 Belles & Whistles
10:45-11:25 All Young Girls Are Machine Guns
8:00-8:40 24 Hour Cardlock
8:55-9:35 Bazile Mills
9:50-10:30 Michael Campbell
12:35-1:05 Like Noise But Louder
Barley Street Tavern
8:00-8:40 Polka Police
9:50-10:30 Aly Peeler
10:45-11:25 Hand Painted Police Car
11:40-12:20 Shivering Flowers
12:35-1:05 The Ronnys
8:00-8:40 Jazz Brown and the Afterthought
8:55-9:35 Naked Sunday
9:50-10:30 Township & Range
10:45-11:25 Sebastian Ghostbachz
11:40-12:20 Pancho & The Contraband
12:35-1:05 Prairie Gators Band
PS Collective – all ages
8:00-8:40 Thumper & Generation One
8:55-9:35 Emily Ward
9:50-10:30 Virginia Tanous
10:45-11:25 Escape From Alcajazz
8:00-8:40 Jessica Errett
8:55-9:35 Kait Berreckman
10:45-11:25 Citizens Band
11:40-12:20 Marcey Yates
12:35-1:05 Latin Threat
SATURDAY, June 6
The Waiting Room – all ages
9:50-10:30 A Wasted Effort
10:45-11:25 The Bishops
11:40-12:20 Low Long Signal
12:35-1:05 Carson City Heat
8:55-9:35 Exit Sanity
10:45-11:25 Stereo Rocket
11:40-12:20 Black Velvet
12:35-1:05 The Clincher
Barley Street Tavern
8:00-8:40 Calling Cody
8:55-9:35 Battling Giants
9:50-10:30 Virgin Mary Pistol Grip
10:45-11:25 Phoenix Rising
11:40-12:20 Uh Oh
12:35-1:05 Two Shakes
8:00-8:40 Steve Byam
8:55-9:35 The Impulsive
9:50-10:30 The Willards Band
10:45-11:25 CJ Mills
11:40-12:20 Swampboy Blues Band
12:35-1:05 ShooK on3
PS Collective – all ages
8:55-9:35 Clark & Company
10:45-11:25 Orion Walsh
11:40-12:20 Baker Explosion
8:00-8:40 The Midways
8:55-9:35 Mitch Gettman
9:50-10:30 Dominique Morgan
10:45-11:25 The Sub-Vectors
11:40-12:20 The Electroliners
12:35-1:05 Lucas Kellison
Schedule subject to change (and probably will).
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OEA’s isn’t the only thing going on this weekend.
Des Moines band Karen Meat and the Computer is headlining tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s. The band includes former members of Talking Mountain. Also on the bill is Calm Fur and Haunted Gauntlet (featuring members of M34N STR33T). Jason Meyer of Calm Fur forwarded me this rather disturbing promo for tonight’s show, which you should watch as risk to your fragile psyche. $5, 9:30 p.m.
Tomorrow afternoon (Saturday) is another Bar Stool Record Swap at The Brothers Lounge. Always tons of good vinyl on hand. Vendors include Almost Music, Basement Treasures, D-Tour Records, Hipstop and Homer’s. It’s a must for record collectors. 4 to 7 p.m. and free.
Saturday night at O’Leaver’s it’s Commander Kilroy with Stories of the Sun, Faded and Jake Simmons. $5, 9:30 p.m.
That’s all I got. If I missed your show, put it in the comments section (of the blog, not my Facebook post!). Have a great weekend and I’ll see you tonight at the Little Gallery.
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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.