Live Review: Cursive at Winchester Bar & Grill; awakebutstillinbed, Pity Party tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:37 pm May 29, 2019

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

O’Leaver’s has become (over the course of, what, a decade?) one of the best places to see live music in Omaha. It’s a stop for national touring indie bands and a welcome stage for the best local original live acts in Omaha. It’s “The Club,” a comfortable place to hang, a great place to drink.

But there’s a problem with O’Leaver’s when it comes to live music. On nights when the band is really packing them in, you’re probably not going to be able to see a damn thing. Because O’Leaver’s doesn’t have a real stage. Bands play on a cleared off space in the back of the room. So when there’s a crowd standing in front of the band, the only thing you’re likely to see is the back of a lot of unwashed heads of hair.

There are a few strategic places in the club that offer a glimpse of the band, if you’ve staked out your spot while they were humping in their gear between sets. If not, you better be standing right on top of the band. That’s the way it’s always been at O’Leaver’s, and because of the physical limitations of the room, that’s the way it’ll always be — there’s no way to build an elevated stage — the ceiling’s too low.

When we first walked into a sold-out and packed Winchester Bar & Grill Saturday night, the venue was reminiscent of O’Leaver’s in a number of ways. It’s a comfortable hole-in-the-wall hang-out that’s probably looked the way it does for a few decades. Like O’Leaver’s, there’s volleyball courts, this time located outside the back of the bar, which opens into an inviting patio with picnic benches and a small bar of its own, no doubt a smoker’s paradise. Unlike O’Leaver’s (for now) Winchester has a kitchen which makes a mighty fine cheeseburger.

But the thing that’s most similar to O’Leaver’s was the sight-line problems. Having been there for lunch when only a few folks were noshing sandwiches sitting in the booths, I thought Winchester had a leg up on O’Leaver’s because it has a fixed stage back in the corner. But as I quickly realized Saturday night, that stage wasn’t elevated enough. The band could be heard but, alas, could not be seen.

When Cursive was on stage I wasn’t even sure the entire band was up there. I could hear Megan Siebe’s cello but couldn’t see it. Where was drummer Pat Oakes? There were moments when frontman Tim Kasher’s head appeared between the spaces of bodies, and bassist Matt Maginn and guitarist Ted Stevens were playing so far off to the sides at times they could be seen, too. But see the whole band at once? Not Saturday night, not unless you got there early and were standing right in front of them.

It’s a problem easy to remedy — just raise the stage a foot, or two. Unlike O’Leaver’s, there’s plenty of head space. No doubt it’s not a problem on karaoke nights or when there’s a cover band playing, but if they ever have another sold-out show like Saturday hight, they’re in trouble.

The venue’s PA/sound system was serviceable. The room’s acoustics are what they are — i.e., this is no Waiting Room/Reverb set-up, but it was all they needed Saturday night. Of note — I could hear the cello throughout the set. I remember back in the old Gretta days when she might as well have been playing a cardboard cello for as much as it could be heard over the rest of the band.

Kasher sounded right at home, because he was at home — he’s an owner of Winchester as part of a consortium of partners that include Stevens and Maginn and host of Omaha rock glitterati. He looked relaxed and having fun, or maybe it was due to the fact it was the last night of a long tour.

The band opened with “Sierra” and played through a set of old favorites (“The Radiator Hums,” “Dorothy at Forty” “From the Hips” among the highlights) as well as songs off Vitriola, their latest release, including rousing versions of “It’s Gonna Hurt” and “Free to Be or Not to Be You and Me.” The crowd hooted and hollered after every song.

It was a sort of break-in performance for Winchester at least from a big show perspective, and despite the challenges of actually seeing the band, was a good time. As great as the music was, the best part for me was hanging out on the patio and catching up with old friends over beers (one drawback — no Rolling Rock. How is that even possible?).

During a recent interview with Kasher, Tim said he’d love to see Winchester evolve into another viable tour stop for original live music, just like O’Leaver’s. I’d love to see that happen, too. The club’s size (capacity has to be around 300?) makes it a great alternative to O’leaver’s when Craig D. has an opportunity to book a band with a larger following. They just need to jack up that stage a couple feet higher…

* * *

Awakebutstillinbed (ABSIB) is singer/guitarist Shannon Taylor and her band playing indie rock that glides between emo and folk but, in the end, is emo. She can scream with the best of them. Reminds me of the ’00s. From San Jose. On Tiny Engines Records. Opening act Pity Party is Oakland emo. Living Conditions is Omaha screamo. All three play tonight at Reverb Lounge. $10, 8 p.m.

* * *

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 © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

No Comments »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Lazy-i