Welcome back; live review: Criteria, Ladyfinger, High Up; Screaming Females, Gordon tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:45 pm August 3, 2015
Stephen Pedersen of Criteria in full-rock mode at O'Leaver's Aug. 1, 2015.

Stephen Pedersen of Criteria in full-rock mode at O’Leaver’s Aug. 1, 2015.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

What they say about LA is true. The weather is fantastic. The traffic is horrendous. It’s definitely the land of the rich and beautiful, but even if I was a multi-millionaire I wouldn’t want to live there. Too congested; too expensive. Or maybe I just spent too much time hanging around Beverly Hills and Malibu.

Regardless, I’m back. In fact I’ve been back since last Friday, in time to catch Saturday night’s Live at O’Leaver’s concert featuring Ladyfinger and Criteria, two bands that have been kicking it for at least a decade and have never sounded better. Neither has O’Leaver’s tiny stage, which recently saw a bump in its sound system (again), making it rival soundwise any formal venue in town.

The other notable change to O’Leaver’s is the new patio hidden behind the building that was open Saturday night thanks to the city granting a one-day permit. If you go back there tonight, that door that leads to the patio is bound to be locked shut, which is a shame because that new patio is one of the best outdoor party areas in Omaha. Clocking in at around 2,000 square feet, it feels larger than The Club itself, with multiple built-in benches, an enormous pergola and another bar just ready to be open for business. As one guy told me, the patio has a big-city feel, like something you’d find in Portland.

Ladyfinger at O'Leaver's Aug. 1, 2015.

Ladyfinger at O’Leaver’s Aug. 1, 2015.

It was jammed with people Saturday night, so many that I wondered how they’d all fit back inside the club when the bands began playing. It was wall-to-wall humanity when Ladyfinger lit into their set. They played a handful of songs off their previous albums; no new material that I could tell. You have to wonder what the future holds for these guys. Like I said, they’ve never sounded better, but are they ever going to write and record another album?

Criteria came on at just after 12:30 and gave their usual high-flying performance. Stephen Pedersen can still hit those crazy high notes when he wants to, and the band was as tight as ever. Unlike Ladyfinger, Criteria rolled out a few new songs, including one that bordered on anthem/ballad territory (but aren’t they all anthems?). No doubt they have plans for a new record.

Life has a way of catching up with all of us, and that’s certainly the case with both these bands. Members have lives and commitments and families and jobs that make touring difficult if not impossible. But that doesn’t stop them from wanting to play or having something to say with their music. Why should they stop recording and performing (if only at local gigs), especially at a time when record sales no longer are a game-changer in the life of a band? We might be entering an era of “regional indie bands” that self-release their material and perform only within a few hundred miles of their homes. If you want to see them, you’re going to have to get in your car or hop on a bus to find them. If the music can’t come to you, you’ll have to go to the music. Which makes clubs like O’Leaver’s that much more important.

No doubt these two bands’ performances Saturday night will wind up online at liveatoleavers.com. If you haven’t checked out the website, it’s high time that you do. Current featured artists (among the dozens on the site whose live gigs at O’Leaver’s you can now now enjoy) include J Fernandez, Bob Log III, The Kickback, Worried Mothers, Frontier Ruckus and Manic Pixie Dream Girls. Go, listen.

High Up at Reverb Lounge July 25, 2015.

High Up at Reverb Lounge July 25, 2015.

One other show worth mentioning is High Up at Reverb July 25. I meant to post something about the show before I skipped town but never had the chance. Goddamn, Christine Fink is a major talent. I guess you’d expect nothing less coming from Orenda’s sister, but holy shit, she sings blue-eyed soul like she’s been doing it for a decade.

I tapped out on my iPhone that night at the show, “She’s an indie version of Amy Winehouse, or certainly Omaha’s version.” The attitude, the charisma, the voice, she was born for the stage. Watching her up front with only a microphone, you got a sense that High Up is her band, and what a band it is — pure pro blues/soul/rock, including a small horn section that featured sister Orenda on trumpet. The music is stylish but not too polished, an earthier version of neo-soul that strangely feels grounded in the Midwest. If you had any doubt of their origin, the band threw in a bluesy version of Bright Eyes’ “Make a Plan to Love Me” that they made their own.

So I’m watching Fink up there and wondering what would happen if she went full-on performance diva, you know, with the full costumes/dresses, a real formal approach to her performance? She already owns the stage just the way she is, but what if she kicked up the staging to sophisticated nightclub level? Would she broaden her audience well beyond the clubs she’s been playing? Would she even want that? You start messing with the presentation, you change everything. There’s a certain rebellious thing that’s up there now that I’d hate to see them lose, even if it limits the band to a smaller indie-music world…

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Before I left for LA last week I wrote two stories for The Reader, which should be online this week. One is an interview with The Good Life about their new album, Everybody’s Coming Down, which drops on Saddle Creek Records Aug. 14, just in time for their Maha Music Festival appearance Aug. 15.

The other story (not coincidentally) is an interview with Lauren Schomburg about the current state of Maha and what the board that runs the show has in mind for the festival’s future. Can it get bigger? Should it get bigger?

I’ll let you know when both stories are online, though they should be on newsstands right now.

* * *

Speaking of festivals, I can’t figure out why anyone gives a shit about the fiasco known as the Grassroots Festival. Take a look at the line-up and who’s putting it on. What did you expect? I suppose if there was some sort of “indie” element to it, I’d be enraged, but I can’t imagine any band that I’d want to see being involved in such a snafu. It’s just another reason why you should never take One Percent Productions for granted.

* * *

Fantastic show tonight at Sweatshop Gallery in Bension. Screaming Females headlines with Gordon, Vacation and The Ridgways. $7, 9 p.m. Be prepared to sweat!

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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.

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