The Men at Slowdown Jr., April 27, 2013.
by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
Here we are, a few days late. Don’t blame me, blame my work. Someone has to pay the bills, and it ain’t you.
Anyway… It’s been a few days since The Men played at Slowdown Jr., but my memory of the performance is still somewhat vivid. Just prior to their set I chatted with one of the venue’s bartenders who also happens to be an accomplished musician. He hadn’t heard the band before and asked me what I thought. I recapped my SXSW story (posted last Friday) and said I wasn’t sure what we were in for. That the new album had shades of Centro-matic about it. He nodded. He likes Centro-matic.
Well, just like in Austin, the band climbed on stage and proceeded to rip into three hard fast rock songs that were more garage or punk than anything with a twang. This even though one of the band members was now playing keyboards. “(The bartender) must think I’m nuts or an idiot or both,” I thought.
It took about a half hour, but eventually The Men began to slow it down and bring up that keyboard along with the twang in the form of dueling guitars that sounded like something off The Allman Brothers Band’s Eat a Peach album. Here was a band that could effortlessly switch between hyper-rock and something vaguely resembling alt-country while always maintaining their speed, power, grace. It was good stuff that in its own way had an epic flair similar to what Titus Andronicus brings, but with a more refined songwriting style.
Somewhere in the middle of the set, between songs, one of the guys said, “Being New Yorkers, we’re not a sentimental bunch, but this next one is a tribute to someone who died yesterday.” With that, the band tore into its own unique rendition of George Jones’ “White Lightning.” A fitting tribute indeed.
By the time the band got to the end of its set — more than an hour after it began — The Men’s sound had transformed again, this time into something resembling psych-rock, but again without losing their signature power and drive. It was an exhausting set that left (most of) the crowd of around 75 satisfied..
Baby Tears at Slowdown Jr., April 27, 2013.
If that set sounds long, Baby Tears made up for it with a short set of only four or five blistering, violent noise-rock tunes. The plan called for playing at least one more long number, but the set was marred by a broken kick-drum pedal which blew out after the first song, leaving all of us wanting more.
Gordon at Slowdown Jr., April 27, 2013.
Starting things off was a rather straight-forward set by Gordon, at least compared to the last time I saw them play at The Side Door this past January. I have no idea what drove that weird, wonderful performance, but compared to that chaos, the band was downright restrained Saturday night, resting entirely on their songs and musicianship. They are easily the best Omaha band you’ve never heard of, and I’m scratching my head wondering why no one has helped them put out a record. One young label owner asked me if their 5-song demo was online anywhere. It is. In fact, you can download the whole thing right here. Get it.
* * *
While I’ve been away (though I’ve been right here the whole time) the folks at the Maha Music Festival announced their big stage line-up for this year’s extravaganza, which takes place Saturday, Aug. 17 at Stinson Park in Aksarben Village.
The full schedule:
12:05 – OEA Winner
12:40 – Millions of Boys
1:20 – Hers w/Omaha Girls Rock!
1:55 – Sons of Fathers
2:45 – Rock Paper Dynamite
3:20 – Thao and the Get Down Stay Down
4:25 – The Millions
5:00 – The Thermals
6:05 – Criteria
6:45 – Bob Mould
7:55 – Digital Leather
8:55 – Matt & Kim
10:15 – The Flaming Lips
Midnight – Show Over
The reaction from most people I’ve talked to about this line-up has been, “Whoa, Flaming Lips.” Even “civilians” who never go to rock shows are impressed. The Lips’ reputation for putting on over-the-top multi-media parties with confetti cannons and giant balloons is well known even with the stay-home suburban set. Will this be a game-changer for Maha? We’ll have to wait and see.
But as excited as the armchair music fans are about the Lips, the hardcore indie fans are over the moon about Bob Mould. Then again… I always assumed everyone knew who Mould is, until I ran into a label guy in his 20s this week who didn’t have the foggiest. I told him that Mould was in Sugar. Nothing. “How about Husker Du? Ever heard of them?” He had, but still wasn’t familiar with their music. Fact is, this guy was in diapers when Zen Arcade came out (if he was alive at all).
My young label geek did know who The Thermals are. I didn’t ask him if he’d heard of Matt & Kim (but he probably has, especially since they just played Slowdown last year). Thao and the Get Down Stay Down is a more obscure choice, and even I had never heard of Sons of Fathers until Maha. Based on their iTunes snippets (They don’t have much of an online presence) I’d classify them as alt country or “roots.” We’ll never know the real story about how Maha found these guys (and why the booked them).
So there you have it, the 2013 Maha Music Festival line-up. Will this one be a record-breaker for Maha, the one that finally pushes them out of Stinson Park and into a larger facility (with campgrounds, as is their dream)? And more importantly, who’s going to pick up all that confetti after the show is over?
* * *
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 © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.