Live Review: Matthew Sweet, Tommy Keene; 2Q’14 reviews roundup (in the column); Brilliant Beast, Filter Kings tonight…

Category: Column,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:39 pm July 31, 2014
Matthew Sweet at fabulous O'Leaver's, July 30, 2014.

Matthew Sweet at fabulous O’Leaver’s, July 30, 2014.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

It was nothing less than a dream come true for Matthew Sweet fans. There he was, literally steps in front of them, surrounded by a top-notch band playing all of his “greatest hits” one after the other in fine voice. As Sweet said, it was like playing a gig in someone’s living room.

Earlier in the day someone apparently hauled more PA equipment to bolster O’Leaver’s modest system. Speaker stacks were balanced on either side of the the club’s staging area. I was told 100 tickets were sold for this show, but the crowd was probably two-thirds that size — I’ve seen it more crowded in there at Digital Leather shows. With the tables taken out, there was plenty of room up and around the band. Sweet seemed to like the proximity to his fans. “I’m used to looking down on you.” Not last night.

Tommy Keene at O'Leaver's, July 30, 2014.

Tommy Keene at O’Leaver’s, July 30, 2014.

Before he kicked into his set, The Lupines warmed up the crowd with a fractured set of Nebraska-style garage rock that I’m sure startled some of the oldsters there to see Sweet. A badly shorting cable marred the set’s opening song, but after some fiddling around the crew got it fixed and the good times rolled.

Next up was surprise “special guest” Tommy Keene, an East Coast-based singer songwriter who Replacecments fans may remember for having played guitar with a touring Paul Westerberg in the late ’90s. I remember him from his handful of solo albums released on Matador earlier in that same decade. Keene was always a first-rate songwriter who despite a sizable push by Cosloy and Co. never took off as everyone had hoped.

With a 12-string and later an electric guitar, Keene played a selection of tunes from his career, closing out the set backed by the band that would back Sweet. And what a band it was. Consisting of two members of Velvet Crush, bassist Paul Chastain and drummer Ric Menck, they were joined by guitar-slinger Dennis Taylor who shared grinding leads with Sweet all evening.

Sweet was all business as he rolled through an hour-plus-long set that included just about every song any fan would want to hear, drawing heavily from his classic ’90s breakthrough album, Girlfriend. We’re talking “Winona,” “Evangeline,” the title track, and on and on, spanning through songs off Altered Beast and 100% Fun and beyond.

It really was a greatest hits show for Sweet fans who will not be disappointed if they make the trek to Lincoln to see him perform again tonight. That show, at the shiny new Vega, will be a completely different and no doubt more detached experience than the reach-out-and-touch-him intimacy of last night’s O’Leaver’s show. I wonder if anyone happened to record it…?

* * *

In this week’s column, the quarterly album reviews round-up (featuring an exciting new rating system!) including thoughts on new ones by Strand of Oaks, Courtney Barnett, Alvvays, Mark Kozelek, Digital Leather, Gold-Bears, Mitch Gettman, The Both, Bob Mould, Orenda Fink and more. It’s in this week’s issue of The Reader or online right here.

* * *

Tonight, it’s back to O’Leaver’s for Minneapolis indie band Brilliant Beast with up-and-coming Omaha band Post Verse. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Also tonight, Omaha’s favorite outlaws The Filter Kings open for Jason Boland and The Stragglers at The Waiting Room. 8 p.m. $15.

Tonight also is the public opening of 1912, the new bar and roof-top deck across the street from The Waiting Room. Drop by and grab a cold one and get a whole new view of Benson.

* * *

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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Little Brazil, Ladyfinger, See Through Dresses, Nightbird; Planes Mistaken for Stars tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:43 pm July 21, 2014
Little Brazil at The Waiting Room, July 19, 2014.

Little Brazil at The Waiting Room, July 19, 2014.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

What a birthday bash for Sara Bertuldo. Something like 150 people (guess-timate) were there to celebrate Sara’s successful journey around the sun and to hear one of the strongest local line-ups in a long time.

See Through Dresses at The Waiting Room, July 19, 2014.

See Through Dresses at The Waiting Room, July 19, 2014.

Sara kicked it off with her band, See Through Dresses. All this talk about a shoegaze revival with bands like Slowdive once again touring. Forget all that and check out this band, which combines the best droning shoe-gaze elements with the tunefulness of Dinosaur Jr. and Pixies. Bertuldo has grown not only in age but in voice, sharing the vocal chores with Matt Carroll, who’s no push-over himself. Post mammoth June tour, they were razor sharp.

As reported, Little Brazil swapped out half its personnel, and the difference was indeed noticeable. Matt Bowen brings a throatier style to the kit, somehow managing to work his way through Oliver Morgan’s intricate lines while adding his own unique voice to the proceedings. Mike Friedman’s lead guitar lines were altogether different not only from what Greg Edds used to contribute to the band, but from what Friedman does as a member of The Lupines. His Lupes’ style is sheer shredding, whereas his ornate touch on LB tunes recalls Layla-era Clapton (Yeah, I said it, I compared him to God). You had to pay attention, though, as Friedman is more musician than showman — playing (at times) with his back toward the audience.

It all came together on the third song of LB’s set, a new tune unlike anything I’ve heard them try before, a hook-laden rocker that separates itself from LB’s standard indie fare thanks to a unique vocal melody and amazing harmony guitars between Landon Hedges and Friedman that recalled the best of Thin Lizzy. This one has “hit” written all over it (too bad there ain’t no such thing as a hit these days). Hedges, btw, was in top vocal form, and bassist Danny Maxwell’s bass continued to be the bedrock it’s all built upon. Where can these guys take this next?

Ladyfinger rounding out the July 19 show at The Waiting Room.

Ladyfinger rounding out the July 19 show at The Waiting Room.

Finally, Ladyfinger framed the evening with its usual bombast. It was a greatest hits set, with no new material (that I recognized, anyway). Here’s yet another band of local legends that has me scratching my head, wondering where they’re headed next.

* * *

Nightbird at The Sydney, July 18, 2014.

Nightbird at The Sydney, July 18, 2014.

Friday night I slipped into The Sydney to catch Nightbird’s debut performance, and it was pretty much as I expected — a set of sludgy, mid-tempo long-form rock songs inspired by your favorite stoner bands. Gerald Lee Meyerpeter howled over his guitar’s feedback as drummer Scott Zimmerman and bassist Jeff Harder provided the foundation. We used to call this “drug music” when I was a kid, and though I don’t do drugs, I can imagine (or maybe I can’t) what it would be like to trip out to this stuff in a smoke-filled bedroom surrounded by black-light posters and halter-tops. Nightbird is all about style rather than songs — if you’re into their kind of dirty sludge, a heavy heaven awaits. PS: Rumor has it they may be adding another guitar, someone from Omaha rock’s not-so-distant past…

* * *

Big show tonight at fabulous O’Leavers — the return of Planes Mistaken for Stars. These guys have been coming through since the late ’90s playing an angular style of post-hardcore punk. Not to be missed. Opening is New Lungs (Little Brazil’s Danny Maxwell in the lead position) and Chicago post-hardcore band All Eyes West. $5, 9 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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Andrew Jackson Jihad a celebration of joyful despair; Bad Suns tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , — @ 1:01 pm July 16, 2014
Andrew Jackson Jihad at The Waiting Room, July 15, 2014.

Andrew Jackson Jihad at The Waiting Room, July 15, 2014.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I was converted at the Church of Andrew Jackson Jihad last night. I came in not knowing much about the band other than what I briefly heard off the interweb. My initial comparisons were pretty straight on, though I missed the band’s biggest resemblance (or influence): The Mountain Goats.

Frontman Sean Bonnette is a desperate, anxious, scared version of John Darnielle singing not about some mythic, drunken aging couple but (presumably) about a loser/loner celebrating a loneliness that the 150+ crowd at The Waiting Room last night could identify with and revel in. It was, indeed, a party atmosphere that (based on the band’s comments from stage) almost got out of hand.

On recordings, AJJ is a lyrically driven acoustic-powered dynamo. They ramp up their sound live with plenty (too much) low end, plus electric guitar and keyboard, turning into something that more closely resembles Decemberists. Unlike Mountain Goats’ galloping 3/4 time shanties, AJJ’s ballads are straight-four rattlers that earn them their folk-punk designation. The wooden-sounding cello gave a handful of songs an earthy flair.

Frontman Bonnette is a friendly muppet confessing to every vice and ill life has thrown at him with a smile and perfect enunciation. This would just be another run-of-the-mill indie folk band if you couldn’t understand every word of his clever, joyful confessions. And it was fun watching a guy standing alone well back from the stage mouth every word to every song.

No doubt these celebrations of despair meant something wholly different to a newer generation. The young-ish crowd on hand last night (I recognized no one except the TWR staff) responded to the dark elegies with an unbridled YOLO-ish spirit. Despair, I spit in your face!  Isolated slam-dancing, crowd-surfing and synchronized crowd sway were the norm.

My reaction as someone old enough to be their father was slightly different. Pained lyrics like, “Love what you can ’til it dies / Then let it lie, let it fly away” hit a little too close to home, and I found myself more bummed and introspective than when I listen to the usual punk-rock fist-pumpers. All I could think of while I was watching the happy spectacle during songs like “Heartilation,” with lines like “Sometimes I get so lonesome I can’t breathe / Sometimes I get so scared I can’t speak,” was Go ahead and laugh, for as HST used to say, it’s later than you think.

Great show, great band.

* * *

Tonight at The Waiting Room LA band Bad Suns (Vagrant) with Colony House (Descendant Records). $10, 9 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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Zepparella; this just in from Nielsen: album sales down, vinyl sales up, and everyone is streaming…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 11:31 am July 9, 2014
Zepparella at The Waiting Room, July 8, 2014.

Zepparella at The Waiting Room, July 8, 2014.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

The problem with any Led Zeppelin tribute performance is that — in the mind of a hardcore fan — every riff, every nuance, every musical cue has been permanently ingrained. I’ve been listening to those Zeppelin records for nearly 30 years. And as such, there are things I’ve come to expect when listening to a band try to perform those songs, no matter how attractive the performers are.

And when the riff, the nuance, the cue is missed, mangled or glossed over, well, it does not go unnoticed. Thus it was last night at Zepparella at The Waiting Room. Four young-ish ladies playing the hits we’ve come to know and love. And while they were fun to watch, they missed the mark musically more than they hit it, whether it was singing verses in the wrong key, mangling a central riff or re-imagining a solo or vocal phrase.

On the plus side was the rhythm section. Lots of people were there to see the drummer, Clementine, who has family here in Omaha and has a personal connection to local legend Tim Moss (Ritual Device, Porn). While her drumming wasn’t as thick and throaty as Bonham’s (and whose is?) she respectfully captured the essence of his style. I’m sure she made her family proud.

Bassist Angeline Saris also was impressive in the John Paul Jones role, sticking tightly with Clementine, keeping the bottom intact during some rather loose moments. Frontwoman Noelle Doughty sounded like Nancy Wilson aping Robert Plant, while Gretchen Menn took the biggest liberties with Page’s work, inventing riffs where recognized standards belonged.

Only the most fearsome Zep nerd would make the above comments, especially considering the crowd of 100+ didn’t seem to mind the skipped notes during the slide guitar part on “In My Time of Dying” or the strange vocal take on “Immigrant Song.” They were too busy grooving, or in the case of the table of fat middle aged guys behind me in Tommy Bahama-wear, too busy yelling not-so-clever one-liners at the band like, “You can squeeze my lemon.” Har-har.

Maybe the rust and the band’s lack of energy had to do with this being only the third date on a tour that runs into August. I made it to “Moby Dick” then hit the road, listening to the remastered Zeppelin II recording in my car on the way home.

* * *

Well, the Nielsen Mid-Year 2014 sales report is out and it continues to look bleak for traditional album sales. For the first six months of the year, album sales were down 14.9 percent vs. the same period last year. Total album sales (CDs, cassettes, LPs, and digital albums) were 120.9 million, vs. 142 million last year through June.

Meanwhile, vinyl sales grew a whopping 40.4 percent to 4 million (vs. 2.9 million through June 2013). Yeah, I know 4 million ain’t squat, but at least the number is growing.

The most disheartening fact in the Nielsen report (other than the top 10) is that on-demand audio streams rose an amazing 50.1 percent in the first six months of 2014 to just over 70 billion songs . Holy Spotify.

For you vinyl fans, here’s the vinyl chart for the first six months of 2014:

— Jack White, Lazaretto, 49,100 units
— Arctic Monkeys, AM, 25,100
— Beck, Morning Phase, 21,300
— Black Keys, Turn Blue, 21,000
— Lana Del Rey, Born to Die, 16,500
— Bob Marley/Wailers, Legend, 13,000
— Beatles, Abbey Road, 12,600
— Lorde, Pure Heroine, 12,400
— Mac Demarco, Salad Days, 11,900
— St. Vincent, St. Vincent, 11,400NCENT 11400

And if you’re still bummed about the music industry’s downward spiral, just read Tayler Swift’s Op Ed in the Wall Street Journal (here). Taylor would like to point out:

“…people are still buying albums, but now they’re buying just a few of them. They are buying only the ones that hit them like an arrow through the heart or have made them feel strong or allowed them to feel like they really aren’t alone in feeling so alone. It isn’t as easy today as it was 20 years ago to have a multiplatinum-selling album, and as artists, that should challenge and motivate us.”

So there. Get challenged, rockers!

* * *

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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: The Everymen; SIRENS tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:11 pm July 7, 2014
The Everymen at O'Leaver's, July 6, 2014.

The Everymen at O’Leaver’s, July 6, 2014.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

O’Leaver’s on a hot Sunday afternoon in July is a surreal experience, like stepping onto the set of Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H. All the usual characters strolled around outside in the “beer garden” with cocktails sweating in the blazing heat while an O’Leaver manned a barbecue grill frying up large greasy kielbasa. Across the parking lot in the sand pit half-naked volleyball players slathered in sunblock slammed PBRs to the sounds of Van Halen’s “Panama.”

Meanwhile, inside the dark cool confines of The Club, The Everymen set up for the afternoon gig. The band featured none other than Catherine Herrick, the former PR wonk at Beggars Group (Matador, XL, etc.) familiar to anyone who’s had to interview, say, Cat Power or a member of Interpol over the past 10 years. I chatted with Catherine after the show, and that interview will be the basis for this week’s Over the Edge column in The Reader. You’ll have to wait for it..

In addition to Herrick, The Everymen consisted of five more members — two guitarists, bassist, drummer and saxophone player. That sax — along with the band leader’s love of all things New Jersey (and The Sopranos) — might give you some ideas what this band sounded, but you’d be wrong.

The Everymen combined elements of garage and indie with doo-wap, metal, even theater rock. Their style was all over the board. One minute you’d think you were listening to something penned by John Steinman (albeit, without keyboards), the next it sounded like an homage to The Scorpions, but with sax thrown on top of the riffs.

That sax player (who switched between bari and alto when he wasn’t adding vocals) defined (or at least shadowed) everything about The Everymen, along with Herrick, who has an intensity that reminded me of Heidi Ore of Mercy Rule/Domestica fame, and frontman/guitarist Mike V, who would have you believe this band is just a group of goombahs in town from the Jersey shore. And while they did have sonic similarities to a certain Jersey dude who also has a sax player in his band, no one would mistake this guttural rock with anything released by The Boss.

Highlight moments came toward the end of the 45+ minute set in the form of a growler I think was called “Motorbike,” and a fist-pumping anthem (again) I think was called “I Held On.” They could be campy (synchronized group arm gestures, finger-snapping), they could be heavy, but most of all they were fun. And labels like Matador or XL could use a little fun in their rosters.

* * *
Tonight at The Sydney it’s a four-artist bill headlined with New Orleans band SIRENS (Community Records). Opening is Mike Schlesinger, Anne McClellan and adamroberthauG. $5, 9 p.m. Not a bad way to kick off the week…

* * *

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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Criteria rocks the CWS; Hear Nebraska launches new website and HN Radio…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:51 pm June 23, 2014
Criteria at The Slowdown, June 21, 2014.

Criteria at The Slowdown, June 21, 2014.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Well, Jason Kulbel was right. I had no problem finding on-street parking when I drove downtown Saturday night to catch Criteria at Slowdown. I spent the evening closely monitoring the College World Series game on TV (which went into extra innings), worrying it might push into the Criteria set time. I didn’t want to get caught in a post-game traffic quagmire. With the last out I headed downtown, avoiding Cuming Street, taking Dodge, and eventually running into crowds and cops navigating 14th St. I found a spot about three blocks away near the UP daycare center. So much for all the whining.

If the chaos that was taking place in Slowdown’s tented parking lot is any indication, we’ll soon be seeing Mr. Kulbel and Mr. Nansel driving ’round in brand new Bentleys. It looked like spring break in Bro-land, a sea of backwards baseball caps carrying Silver Bullets looking for someone to high five. Needless to say, I didn’t spend much time outside.

Inside the climate-controlled trappings of The Slowdown it felt like any other show except for the TV screens showing highlights from the game that just ended and the Slowdown staff decked out in matching “staff” baseball shirts. CWS refugees mixed with the regular crowd, I doubt they knew what they were in for when Criteria rolled on stage launching into a set of indie-rock anthems with their usual panache. Those looking for dance beats and/or “hot action” exited through the back door.

“Sounds like there’s some fat beats going on out there,” said dashing frontman Stephen Pedersen between songs, as you could hear the dull thump through Slowdown’s cinderblock. “We’re more of a treble band.”  Those who hung around — my guestimate: 100-150 — got exactly what they came for.

I’ve been watching Criteria perform live for well over a decade. I’ve never seen a crowd respond to them the way last Saturday night’s crowd did. The floor in front of the stage became an ad hoc mosh pit with rabid fans pounding each other and/or doing some sort of improvised hoe-down dance. Fans leapt onto the stage, but finding the crowd too sparse to jump on top of instead jumped back down to the floor and were carried overhead in a weird ritual that looked more like piggyback riding than crowd-surfing. Needless to say, these fans knew the words to all the hits, which they screamed back at the stage. No doubt Criteria still has a rabid base dying for their return.

And return they shall, with a new album Pedersen said was “almost done” and ready for shopping to a label willing to back an act that hasn’t put out new material in nine years and/or doesn’t do extensive touring. Something tells me they’ll find a taker right here in Omaha (if they want it).

Criteria played at least four songs from that yet-to-be-released album, including a couple they’ve never performed live. One, played toward the very end of the set, was classic Criteria, as good as anything they’ve done in the past. The band continues to age well. Pedersen can still strike hot with his vocal contortions, glancing off the high notes as if he were still in his 20s (though he had to be grateful he doesn’t have to do it every night).

With the last song, the fans began chanting for an encore. They got two more songs for their efforts, including a transcendent version of “Prevent the World” that left them satisfied.

This show plus The Faint last week are evidence that Slowdown is proud of the music that helped put Omaha on the indie music map and wants to share it with the great unwashed masses that attend the CWS. Here’s hoping they continue the tradition at next year’s CWS.

* * *

Drumroll please….

The redesigned hearnebraska.org website finally went live this morning. Go take a look. The cleaner, easier-to-navigate design is fully responsive — that means it looks and behaves as well on your smart phone or tablet as it does on your desktop browser.

But maybe the most important new feature of hearnebraska.org is the launch of HN Radio — that’s the music player located at the top of the homepage. The goal is to provide an online channel that makes available music from local bands. The current playlist includes songs by Once a Pawn, Digital Leather, Dumb Beach and Anna McClellan.

HN Radio also ia premiering Live at O’Leaver’s. For the past few months (year?) O’Leaver’s has been recording live performances at the club, the quality of which is amazing. The current HN Radio playlist includes tracks by Deleted Scenes and Eli Mardock recorded as part of the O’Leaver’s series. My only gripe about HN radio is that the playlist is too short, but methinks this is merely V 1.0. Expect a lot more music — and content — at HN Radio in the very near future.

Congratulations to Andy Norman and the entire Hear Nebraska staff for getting the new design and HN Radio afloat. Check out the site and give them your feedback.

* * *

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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: The Faint at Sokol Auditorium…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , — @ 12:54 pm June 16, 2014
The Faint at Sokol Auditorium June 12, 2014.

From the balcony, The Faint at Sokol Auditorium June 12, 2014.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

When it comes to reviewing Faint shows in Omaha, you have to specify location in the title, especially after this weekend. Three shows, three different venues. The Slowdown’s free Faint show Sunday night was added after Saturday night’s show at The Waiting Room.

Why so many shows? Better question: Why not? From The Slowdown’s perspective, putting on a free Faint show is a great way to coax people to come down and check out the College World Series beer-soaked carnival atmosphere and discover that parking and crowds aren’t as bad as they may think.

From the floor, The Faint at Sokol Auditorium, June 13, 2014.

From the floor, The Faint at Sokol Auditorium, June 13, 2014.

Regardless, I only made it to one Faint production this past weekend, and it was a doozy. The production was so elaborate it provided a completely different experience from the Sokol’s balcony to the floor below.

From the floor, it’s all about the dancing, or more accurately, hopping since no one’s really dancing. They’re bouncing or “humping” to the electro-throb. Those in the middle of the mob become part of the collective body grooving where the Sokol’s oak floor has (apparently) been replaced with a trampoline.

It’s been this way for more than a decade. The usually reserved Omaha audience usually content watching shows with a crossed-arm head nod is given permission to let go at Faint shows. I remember a similar vibe at 311 shows I covered in the ‘90s. If you weren’t part of the dance collective, then get out of the way and stand with the old people and extreme introverts along the wall.

The balcony experience — or the view from anywhere near the furthest reaches of the Sokol floor — was electrifying in a different way. In fact, the technology forces viewing at a distance to take in the full scope. You’ve no doubt seen the photos on your Facebook or Twitter feed — the blinding, sequenced spotlights burned across the auditorium like weapons. And woe is you if you happen to be staring right into the lens.

Augmenting the modern kliegs were large LED panels — like portions of arena scoreboards — placed on stage and under the drum riser that displayed digital illustrations in sync with the beat. Add various colored gel accent lighting and voila! the perfect multi-media presentation. Lord only knows what (or who) was responsible for the programming, but it must have been a monumental effort to create each song’s lighting sequence. The result was an edgy drama that pushed the performance to arena levels as good as anything I’ve seen at the CLink, albeit on a smaller scale.

From the dance floor, the enormity of the light show was marginalized — if you get too close to those LED panels you lose the effect. But if you’re on the dance floor, you’re not watching the lights anyway — you’re sweating your ass off to the beat.

Which brings us to the music.

The Faint sounded pretty much how I remember them sounding a decade or so ago down in Sokol Underground. You’d never know they were missing a (formerly) core member — i.e.,  bass player Joel Peteresen, who left the band after Fasciinatiion was released. So who’s playing bass now? I saw Todd Fink with a bass on one song (“Dropkick the Punks”), but that’s it. I assume the all-encompassing, deep, gut-rattling bass was the product of the keyboards or sampling.

It’s amazing how well songs from the band’s new album, Doom Abuse, seamlessly blended within the band’s hit-laden set. Opener “Animal Needs” was a strong way to kick things off. “Mental Radio” and “Evil Voices” felt like typical Faint songs next to standards like “Desperate Guys” and “I Disappear.” A stand-out moment was the downshift to the funky sway of “Damage Control.”

The show was nearly flawless, right up to the encore that featured two all-time Faint classics “Paranoiattack” and the bomb called “Glass Danse,” which is guaranteed to blow up any dance floor. There appeared to be some sort of technical glitch that took place before lighting the fuse, however, as the LED screens kept flashing numeric panel markers while the band waiting around on stage. What kind of Faint show would it have been without technical difficulties?  It was, indeed, just like old times.

* * *

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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Conor Oberst & Dawes…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , — @ 1:01 pm June 5, 2014
Conor Oberst at Sokol Auditorium, June 4, 2014.

Conor Oberst at Sokol Auditorium, June 4, 2014.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Last night’s performance at Sokol Auditorium was the most relaxed — and happy — version of Conor Oberst I’ve seen on stage.

In his early Bright Eyes days, Conor was a brooding mess, angrily spitting out lines as if he just had a fight with his girlfriend moments before walking out. On top of that, a steady draw of whatever it was he used to keep in the jug next to the drum riser — I assume it was wine — made him edgy and even more belligerent until by the end of the set he was stumbling around like a bitter zombie oblivious to the flock of girls (and shy guys) crying only a few feet in front of him.

The highlight of those early concerts was the inevitable explosion or weird moment — a smashed guitar, storming off stage, a regretful utterance left unexplained — that wrapped the evening with a satisfying bow, leaving the audience content that he “left it all out there.”

But as the years went on, Conor straightened up. The performances — whether as Bright Eyes or one of his other guises — became more professional and straight forward, but often no less brooding. Worse, there were times when he ignored the audience altogether. You got the hits, perfectly played, and maybe a three-song encore along with a “thanks.” It was well done, but boring except for the mid-set political rant used to introduce whatever political-ish song came next.

Rarely did Oberst look as if he was enjoying himself. Oh sure, there was the occasional smile and banter, but it was usually directed to his bandmates, with a nod that said, “We better get back to what we came here for.”

It was different last night. Oberst looked genuinely engaged with his audience. Maybe it was the fact that his backing band was Dawes rather than the usual group of best friends he collects for his tours. Instead of the distraction of amusing his pals, Oberst let the band do its thing while he focused on the crowd… often with a smile. The result was a satisfying night of music, rife with new material and a few Bright Eyes and Mystic Valley staples.

My favorite moment was an inspired version of “I Got the Reason,” a song I didn’t even remember being on the last Mystic Valley album (Outer South). What a gorgeous song that I overlooked, along with the rest of that album. Fueling the energy was Dawes, a masterful four-piece that gave every song heft and soul. The band sounded so much like early Jackson Browne you would have sworn that was David Lindley playing those guitar solos and Craig Doerge tapping out the glowing keyboard fills. The band (along with the setlist) struck a perfect balance between personal ballads and rock anthems.

While there’s little doubt that the collection of talent Oberst draws from locally is top-notch, there might be an advantage to playing with acquaintances rather than soul mates, though you can’t blame him for taking along the folks he grew up with, especially when they’re such a talented crew.

The setlist is online right here. Favorites from the Bright Eyes catalog included “Bowl of Oranges” and “Poison Oak,” one of his more personal early works. Missing among the standards were TV commercial fodder “First Day of My Life” and fan favorite “Lua,” a song that, while one of his all-time best, is beginning to sound adolescent next to his current oeuvre.

Now a happily married man enjoying the next chapter of his career, you have to wonder if Oberst has outgrown songs about late night parties at actor’s west-side lofts. He’s quick to say his songs aren’t autobiographical, but though the characters he sings about may not be him, the sentiment certainly is.

The brooding, angry young man who embodied both his songs — and his stage presence — is fading away, leaving behind a singer/songwriter much more satisfied with his music and his life.

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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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Live Review: First Aid Kit, Willy Mason; Guided By Voices tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 10:35 am June 3, 2014
First Aid Kit at The Waiting Room, June 2, 2014.

First Aid Kit at The Waiting Room, June 2, 2014.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

We thought we’d beat the crowds and get a table for last night’s sold out First Aid Kit show at The Waiting Room, but by the time we got there at around 7:15 all the tables and seating were occupied, mainly by old people (and when I say old, I mean older than me). The crowd ran the spectrum in age, from the X-crossed hands of the under-21s to the elderly. I saw women who must have been pushing 70 in the crowd. But mostly it was women in general. First Aid Kit attracts a large female audience, which I guess isn’t surprising.

The duo has graduated to major-label success with the pending release of Stay Gold, which comes out on Columbia next Tuesday. Powering their popularity is their blend of folk and country, and their tightly intertwined harmonies that recall the better days of a Nashville long gone.

If you think about it, women have taken over pop music. The best and brightest stars — whether in indie or commercial radio — are all women, whether it’s Warpaint and Courtney Barnett, or Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. The biggest arena concert news these days isn’t the return of Pearl Jam, it’s last weekend’s Cher concert or the just-announced Lorde show at Stir Concert Cove.

Anyway, last night’s show kicked off with a solo electric performance by singer/songwriter Willy Mason, who played a tight 40-minute set as people filed into the club. Mason’s brassy voice has deepened dramatically since he emerged a decade ago. As proof, he played the standout track “Oxygen,” from his Team Love debut, the Ritalin-referenced lyrics betraying his lost youth. Last time Mason came through was as a solo artist, too. I’d like to see him with a band.

First Aid Kit took the stage at the stroke of 9. The Swedish duo were backed by a drummer and a guy on lap-steel and other instruments, while the sisters provided the guitar, keyboards and heavenly voices. The crowd stood motionless as they played through a set list that drew from their two previous albums and the upcoming LP.

While I like their last record, The Lion’s Roar, there’s only a few songs that really stand out for me. Among them, “King of the World,” which they played early in their set. And their other “hit,” the country music tribute “Emmylou,” which they saved for the last song of the evening, during their encore. In between the set ebbed and flowed. Whenever it got too boring they spiced it up, at one point walking to the edge of the stage to sing a tune microphone-less, somehow managing to bring the ambient noise in The Waiting Room down to a whisper.

The duo’s new music falls in line with what they’ve released in the past. The standout among the new stuff is the title track, “Stay Gold.” The rest may need time to grow on me. All said and done, the show was over by 10:30, a reasonable time for a Monday evening, and the elderly.

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I have no doubt that tonight’s show, Guided By Voices at The Waiting Room, will go well past 10:30 and into the wee hours of the morning. As of this writing, tickets were still available. If you’ve never seen GBV, you will be well-rewarded in making the $30 per ticket investment. Pollard and Co. leave it all out there on stage. When they played The Black Cat in DC on May 24 they played 48 songs including three encores (see setlist). Good thing this show starts at 8 p.m. with opener Bobby Bare Jr.

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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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Live Review: Morrissey leaves them wanting more…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:22 pm May 20, 2014
Morrissey desperately searched for me in the balcony during last night's performance at The Rococo Theater.

Morrissey desperately searches for me in the balcony during last night’s performance at The Rococo Theater.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

You know the old saying “Leave them wanting more”? That’s exactly what Morrissey did last night at the Rococo Theater in Lincoln.

No one quite knew for sure if Moz was coming out for an encore after he walked off stage during the conclusion of “I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday,” the tune he’d closed his regular set with the night before in Denver. As the band winded down and left the stage, the crowd erupted into applause, and then began a half-assed encore plea.

After just a few moments, on came the stage grips who began tearing down the mics, guitar pedals and drum kit in the dark. A few more minutes passed and then the house lights came up, but fans were still holding out hope as some equipment remained on stage along with Morrissey’s mic. Adding to the confusion — no one turned up the house music. Had the house music come up, as it does at most concerts signalling the end of a show, the fans would have gotten the hint. Instead, security dudes had to shoo away the sad and angry fans  — a frustrating end to a frustrating show.

Morrissey’s portion of the gig lasted a mere hour, beginning with Smiths’ song “Hand and Glove” and winding through a rather low-key selection from his solo material.

Opening the show was long-time Morrissey tourmate Kristeen Young, proof that landing an opening slot for a major recording artist is no guarantee of next-level fame. Young has been touring with Morrissey for years. In fact, she opened his May 2007 show at The Orpheum in Omaha. Still, few people know who she is or have heard her records. While there’s no question she has a strong (though very ’80s-sounding) voice, she hasn’t learned to write a song. Thankfully her set only lasted a half hour.

Between Young’s set and Morrissey, the houselights were dimmed for a selection of music film clips that included performances by Mott the Hoople and obscurities like ’65 UK chart-topper Chris Andrews singing “Yesterday Man,” culminating with the Wiz of Oz midgets’ rendition of “Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead.”

Then at the stroke of 9 on came Morrissey, sounding as good as he did in ’07. At 54, he’s managed to keep his voice in remarkable condition. And his band was outstanding — a five-piece ensemble with keyboards, guitar, bass and drums, they were dressed in matching jeans, sneakers and blue T-shirts with the Hustler logo emblazened across their chests. Campy.

The highlight of the first half was a striking version of “Ganglord,” the B-side to “The Youngest Was the Most Loved.” You can see the entire 15-song setlist from last night’s show here.

The train went off the rails right after “Speedway.” Morrissey began telling a story that went something like, “On our drive yesterday from Denver, looking out the window I saw a sad…” Someone yelled something. I couldn’t tell what it was from my perch in the balcony, but it apparently involved the word “boring.”

Morrissey tried to tell the story again and was interrupted, and then blew a raspberry into the microphone and signaled the band to commence with “Everyday Is Like Sunday,” which he refused to sing, conceivably because he was pissed off. It wasn’t until the chorus that some of the crowd figured out what was going on and began filling in the vocal void in rather sad fashion. Morrissey then began to hand the mic over to audience members standing near the stage, treating us with awkward hellos.

The incident seemed to take the air out of Morrissey, and he walked through the rest of the performance spending time between songs with his back to the audience, studying a set list to decide what to play next. He livened up for vegan mantra “Meat is Murder,” that included a gruesome film of livestock conditions and animal mutilation that Morrissey made a point to stare at during the extended instrumental portion of the song. No doubt the story he was unable to tell earlier probably had to do with all the livestock facilities he passed along the Interstate.

Needless to say, there were a lot of pissed off people walking out of The Rococo after Morrissey refused an encore. While I would have liked to hear a couple more songs, the decision to play is squarely on his shoulders, and if he wasn’t feeling it, that’s the way it goes.

I blame The Rococo for he screw-up with the house music. That was my first time at the theater and it will likely be my last, after getting screwed around during the ticket purchase (We were told moments after tickets went on sale that only general admission balcony seats were available. I would later discover that wasn’t the case). The sound was bad; the sightlines were bad (as you’d expect). It would have been nice to see Morrissey in a better facility for what is likely going to be his final tour through Nebraska. Oh well, at least I still have my memories of that triumphant 2007 Orpheum concert…

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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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

 

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