Live Review: Zola Jesus; Whispertown, High Up, Mudd Club, Lovely, Still tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:31 pm October 12, 2017

Zola Jesus at The Waiting Room, Oct. 11, 2017.

by Tim McMahan,

A very sparse crowd last night for Zola Jesus at The Waiting Room; which wasn’t surprising. I remember seeing her five years ago at SXSW with a friend (who also was at last night’s show). The SXSW show was packed — shoulder to shoulder. I remember my friend saying Zola Jesus would have a hard time drawing in Omaha, and he was right… five years later.

I got there just in time to see/hear the last 15 minutes of one of the openers, John Wiese. The act was basically this guy sitting in the dark on stage plugging away at a computer that made loud static noises, layered tones and other dramatic sound effects. Some folks said it sounded like the soundtrack to a horror movie. I thought it sounded like someone working on his car. I wanted to yell, “OK, try it again…

Zola Jesus came on at around 9:15. A trio, frontwoman Rosa Danilova was flanked by a guitarist and violinist. No drums, no bass. All of that was handled by programming and pre-recorded tracks, which I assumed were controlled from the sound board.

When I saw Zola Jesus five years ago, the music was entirely ethereal, ambient compositions, very drone-y. By contrast, last night could have been a dance party — dark, pop songs driven by big beats, thick bass and Danilova’s amazing voice that (to me) recalls early Sinead O’Connor. The set was broken up by gorgeous slower numbers, like album highlight “Witness,” which Danilova said was about suicide. Actually, her new album, Okovi (2017, Sacred Bones) dwells on death, though you wouldn’t know it by the beats.

Five years ago I thought Danilova could become the next Gaga. Now I’m thinking she could be a better, more human version of St. Vincent, sans guitar of course. I guess we’ll see in another five years.

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Tonight there’s a slew of events, some of which don’t have a live music component.

Film Streams, for example, is showing a special memorial screening of Nik Fackler’s feature motion picture, Lovely, Still, in honor of Martin Landau, who passed away a few months ago. The program starts at 7 p.m.

Also this evening author Richard Boch, the doorman at the legendary Mudd Club in the early ’80s, is doing a Q&A with our very own Scott Severin, who was a Mudd Club kid back in the day. You’ll be hearing lots of stories about NYC debauchery in a time when kings like Bowie and Lou Reed ruled the Lower East Side. The event is being held at Hi-Fi House and is free and open to the public. Starts at 8 p.m.

And after all this, there’s a great show at fabulous O’Leaver’s tonight. Indie band Whispertown plays with High Up. $7, 9 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — 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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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