Lydia Loveless looks like she could kick your ass. A fireplug of a woman, she stood in the digital light with her electric guitar hanging from her shoulders and belted out one song after another last night at Reverb like someone who’s been on the road for 10 years straight. She said prior to her set that last night’s show was the final night of filming for a documentary, presumably about her and/or her tour, though the only cameraman was one guy with a DSLR shooting from a corner of the stage as the the band ripped though its set.
Loveless had the C&W/alt-country tag hung on her early in her career, probably because of her slight twang that can easily slide into pseudo yodel and, in fact, does recall Loretta Lynn. And though she’s been compared to Lynn, Stevie Nicks and Patti Smith, she reminded me more of John Haitt, Tom Petty and Lucinda Williams backed by a second electric guitar, a guy who switched between pedal steel and electric 12-string, a drummer and a giant of a bass player who looked like a monster standing next to her.
Playing a number of songs off her most recent LP, Somewhere Else (Bloodshot, 2014) , this was my first real foray into Loveless. On indie label Bloodshot, there is a distinct commercial edge to her music, which I could imagine playing in the background of your favorite TV show. Listen most closely and you’ll catch elegant lyrics about love and longing that felt defiant on the upbeat rock numbers and humbling and regretful on the slower pieces. There is something about her music that makes me sad no matter how fast it’s played, sort of how I feel when I listen to Neko Case’s music. Like a soldier who’s just come home from battle, Loveless looked and sounded like a survivor telling war stories, and more often than not, it broke my heart.
I got to Reverb just in time to catch the tail end of Kait Berreckman’s solo electric/acoustic set. Her songs are sweet and sensitive and mostly upbeat despite lyrics that lay bare some of her more private moments in a heart-on-the-sleeve sort of way that reminded me of John Klemmensen (though not nearly as angsty). All the songs I heard were uptempo and played at the same speed, which made me yearn for some pace variety (I’d love to hear her play her closing song at half the speed and turn it into a durge-like anthem). Maybe the pacing was due to the solo approach — she says she’s better when she’s playing with her band (her words, spoken on stage). I’ll have to find out for myself.
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Onward to the weekend.
There’s a good chance that I’ll finally check out the new Lookout Lounge at 320 So. 72nd (the old Hideout) tonight, as it’s hosting a free Maha Music Festival showcase. On the bill are Lineman’s Rodeo, New Lungs, Eric in Outespace, The Seen and Conchance. 9 p.m.
Also tonight psych-garage Shreveport band Ghost Foot headlines at fabulous O’Leaver’s with Pro-Magnum, A Great Disturbance and Those Far Out Arrows. $5, 9:30 p.m.
Tomorrow night (Saturday) Sucettes return to Reverb Lounge. Opening is Navy Gangs and High Up (featuring the Fink sisters). $5, 9 p.m.
Meanwhile over at The Waiting Room it’s the return of Dick Dale (he’s becoming a regular feature ’round here). The Sub-Vectors open. $28 today, $30 tomorrow. Starts at 9.
And finally, Hear Nebraska’s Good Living Tour wraps up tonight and tomorrow. Tonight the tour is in Nebraska City at Memorial Way with The So-So Sailors, Kill County and A Summer Better Than Yours. Starts at 8. Tomorrow evening the tour concludes in Grand Island with Icky Blossoms, Simon Joyner & The Ghosts and AZP. No idea on the venue, but the address is 111 E South Front St. This one’s listed with a 5 p.m. start. Both shows are free.
That’s all I got. If I missed your show, put it in the comments section. Have a great weekend.
Sweatfest was indeed sweaty. And messy. I didn’t get there until 6 p.m. Saturday evening where I found Gordon playing outside behind the Sweatshop Gallery in the white-rock parking lot that had been cordoned off with bright orange plastic fencing.
Sweatfest had three stages — one outside, one in the gallery and one in the performance garage — with sets scheduled to overlap. Gordon continues to be one of my favorite local bands, frontman Aaron Parker channeled Jim Morrison and/or Nick Cave on music that is brutal and beautiful and full of dread.
Bloodcow at The Barley Street Tavern, July 18, 2015.
As 7 p.m. rolled around, I escaped the fest momentarily to catch the Bloodcow CD release show at Barley Street Tavern. Interestingly, the Barley doesn’t open ’til 7 p.m. on Saturdays — when the band was scheduled to be on stage. I found them a half-hour earlier standing by the back door with their gear, trying to contact someone who could let them in. By a quarter to, the Bloodcow “party bus” arrived, disembarking holiday revelers onto the sidewalk dressed in colorful Hawaiian shirts and leis.
The doors opened a little after 7 and the band loaded in, but there was no soundguy on the premises. Keep in mind, Bloodcow had a schedule to keep. After their Barley show they were headed to O’Leaver’s for an early gig and then to T’z Lounge in CB for their third show of the night. Band members huddled around the darkened soundboard with their phone flashlights ablaze looking for some way to turn on the equipment, to no avail.
It looked like the first stop of their tour would end in disaster until someone found the power switch. With one microphone working and no stage lights, the band lit into a short set at around 7:45 while their fans threw devil horns from the dance floor. As always, Bloodcow snatched triumph from defeat. Before the set ended, a soundguy showed up and turned on the stage lights, though the band sounded just as good in the dark.
By the time I got back to Sweatfest at around 9, the Sweatshop parking lot looked like a post-apocalyptic beach movie with a few hundred sweaty, stinky people wandering around in the dark as the violent power of Dumb Beach’s music blared through the open overhead garage door.
Sam Martin in the Sweatshop Gallery at Sweatfest, July 15, 2015.
Round 3 of the Spaghetti Wrestling Tournament at Sweatfest, July 18, 2015.
While I was gone someone showed up with the spaghetti and poured it onto a couple old mattresses set out in the parking lot as a makeshift wrestling ring. A masked female wrestler stomped on the wet noodles as if crushing grapes for wine. With an emcee calling the action, opponents (half of them women) were doused with cooking oil and set ablaze (just kidding). Once greased down, they went at it. Best two out of three falls — whoever pushed the opponent out of the “ring” was the winner. Gross, sloppy, decadent fun. By the end of the rounds, limp spaghetti hung from the overhead power lines.
By all accounts, Sweatfest was a success; I’m told bands played into the wee hours. The fest reminded me of the fun, small-venue gigs that take place on the east side of Austin during SXSW, backyard summer shows where people bring their own booze, kick back and enjoy the music. Here’s to Sweatfest 2016.
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As FYI, here’s the new video by Krill. Someone needs to book these guys here.
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Tonight at Pageturners its Super Ghost and Lincoln band Tie These Hands. The free show starts at 9 p.m. What a way to start off your week…
Also tonight, the Good Living Tour continues in Valentine, NE, with The Kris Lager Band, All Young Girls Are Machine Guns and Oketo at Bull Market Beer & Grill. Free and 7 p.m. and all ages.
They don’t call it The Sweatshop Gallery for nothing. Saturday night’s show in the converted garage behind Sweatshop’s art gallery in Benson was easily the most uncomfortable concert experience in memory. If you thought it was hot outside Saturday, you should have stepped foot into that concrete stink oven Saturday night. I felt like a chicken in a rotisserie or a hippie in Southwestern sweat lodge. Within minutes after stepping inside the bunker sweat dripped off my elbows and ran down my legs in salty streams. My shirt, my shorts were drenched, stuck in a layer of warm moisture against my skin, sweat broiling off my forehead and into my eyes. Stifling, suffocating. It was awful, but it was worth it.
Ceremony is a West Coast band that made their nut playing what has been described as “power violence” music, which is a form of hardcore punk. What made them stand out may have been their guitar work or frontman Ross Farrar’s vocal approach, which was a bit more “arty” than the usual hardcore screaming. Anyway, the band started as a hardcore act in ’05. Then slowly eased off and became more post-punk-ish after their album Rohnert Park came out in 2011. Then they signed with Matador and turned their back on hardcore altogether with the release of the somewhat boring Zoo in 2012.
Now comes TheL-Shaped Man, which was released earlier this year on Matador and sounds like an Interpol/Joy Division tribute album. Farrar’s vocals went completely Ian Curtis/Paul Banks on top of music that feels like it was developed in a Joy Division/New Order sound incubator. Pitchfork hated it. I love it because I love that style of music, though at times the record is so derivative it’s chuckle-inducing.
How many of the 70 or so kids jammed into Sweatshop were there to see the old hardcore Ceremony vs. the new post-punk version, I do not know, though it didn’t matter when they launched into their Joy Division-fueled set opener that got the sweat-slick crowd jumping. In the heat and darkness, Farrar was in his element saying before he started that the gig already was the best show he’d played in Omaha, and telling the crowd to step right up, which they did. The band fed off the heat and energy, and the set boiled with a goth-dance-punk intensity that Bauhaus would appreciate.
While there were plenty of Factory Records moments during the set, the band — and Farrar — did something wholly unique live, pulling in abstract elements from their past to create a new sound that melded post-punk with something much darker. The crowd loved it and the room became a pit, with youth hanging from the rafters. If Ceremony could tap into this hybrid sound/energy not heard on their album, they’d be onto something that is entirely their own.
Tony Molina at Sweatshop Gallery, July 11, 2015.
It was a varied night of music at ol’ Sweatshop. North Bay punk band Creative Adult was among the openers playing a heavy, rhythmic punk that was brittle and fun. Then came Tony Molina, another Bay-area guy I’d never heard of but who was nothing less than amazing playing pure power-pop influenced by ’70s icon bands like Thin Lizzy and Cheap Trick, but with more than a nod to J Mascis and Teenage Fanclub. Molina and a second guitarist weaved intricate harmonies that were Thin Lizzy taken to an extreme backed by a solid rhythm section on songs that rarely lasted more than two minutes. As badly as I wanted to get outside for some relief I couldn’t get myself to miss any of it. Utterly exhausting and exhilarating.
Yes, this will be in my top-10 (maybe top 5?) favorite shows of ’15, despite losing at least five pounds in water weight.
Gramps at Barley Street Tavern, July 11, 2015.
Between sets I slipped into the Barley Street for Rolling Rock and AC and to catch Gramps, the new-ish band fronted by Django Greenblatt-Seay of Love Drunk Studio fame. A solid four-piece, Gramps’ style of indie sounds influenced by the local scene, specifically acts like Little Brazil and Criteria, but every song has a twist, whether it’s a unique guitar solo or an unfamiliar time sequence. Django and Co. play with a no-shit attitude that says “come along for the ride if, if you want to.”
Another local act seen for the first time this weekend was Mint Wad Willy. Here’s a band I’ve never made an effort to see because of their name. Mint Wad Willy? Sounds like a cover band or a white-guy blues band. Well I wasn’t going to miss them Saturday morning because they played at The Indie 5K/10K run, which benefitted Benson/Ames, and I must say I dug what I heard. Their style wasn’t straight-up rock as much as mainstream garage a la The Black Keys, though something about their sound also reminded me of heavier Big Star or even Silkworm with some Creedance thrown in. That sounds like a mess, but I can’t put my finger on a key influence.
By the way, the band’s name is an old-school reference to a Mary Jane cigarette (a mint-wad willy). And also BTW, I won my age bracket in the 5K (which isn’t so impressive when you realize I was the only one entered).
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Sun-less Trio is a new project that features Mike Saklar (No Blood Orphan, Ritual Device), Marc Phillips (Carsinogents) and Cricket Kirk (Paper Owls). They’re playing tonight at Pageturners Lounge with A Great Disturbance. 9 p.m. and FREE. Great way to start your week…
Maybe it’s the new record or maybe it’s the time they spent on the road with Of Montreal, but Icky Blossoms is blossoming into a full-on arena-rock band.
Whereas no past performance has been less than fun, there has been a tentativeness to their stage shows, an unsureness that bordered on amateur. All that was gone Friday night on The Slowdown’s big stage in front of what looked to be 300 or so fans eager to cut loose.
Adding to their usual energy was new lighting and stage designs — three giant, gaping, bleeding “flowers” that resembled either poppies or a certain portion of the female anatomy were painted on backdrops hung from the rafters.
Icky Blossoms at The Slowdown, July 3, 2015.
Icky’s music is beginning to fall into three categories — seething acidic rock propelled by Nik Fackler’s screeching guitar (“Silver Tongue,” “Phantasmagoria”), ethereal driftwood stoner shoe-gaze where Derek Pressnall and Sarah Bohling share the vox (“Want You So Bad,” set highlight “Away From You,” which screams to be released as a single) and pure, unadulterated dance tracks (“Living in Fiction,” “In Folds”) that get the crowd moving.
A smart set list that ebbs and flows between those three styles makes the show dynamic and keeps the band from being pigeon-holed as just another dance band. Now blend in the best songs from their debut (“Babes,” crowd-chant-exorcism-humpfest “Sex to the Devil”) and let the party begin.
In fact, Icky Blossoms could become the ultimate party band, taking the helm from The Faint, but to get to that next level they’ve got to reach even further into the crowd to turn their shows into unforgettable, sweat-soaked spectacles. They’re on their way.
One other show note: I was told to pay close attention to opening hip-hop act Both. I saw what was billed as “Both” at the Hear Nebraska Vol. 3 album release show and was less than impressed. That show featured only one member of the duo, who spent that set playing bomb-explosion samples. Well, Friday night I got the full Both treatment and was impressed with their sound, their beats and how they worked the crowd. I’ll wait until I hear their new EP and can check out their lyrics (undecipherable from stage) before I say more…
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The first-half CD/album reviews round-up went online at The Reader this morning, here. I used to do these round-ups quarterly, but now that The Reader is monthly, I’ve pulled back to bi-annual, which is tough in years like this one where there’s so many good new releases. Check it out and see if your favorites made the list.
I had no intention of staying at Reverb last night, certainly not long enough to see Mates of State. But the opening bands pulled me through almost to the end.
How to describe the twin sisters that make up opening band Good Graeff — guitarist vocalist Brooke and cellist Brit Graeff?
Bubbly? Playful? Fun-loving? Giddy? How about precocious? Or fetching? Let’s just settle for “darling,” and “talented.” The duo, along with a bass player and drummer who were mainly in the background, played a set of up-tempo love songs (introduced by Brooke as love songs, though she said she’s never been in love. Pshaw!) that were catchy and cute and hard not to like.
Good Graeff at Reverb Lounge, July 2, 2015.
They count The Pixies and Tegan and Sara among their influences and are at their best when channeling those bands’ more percussive/less linear moments. When they try their hand at modern, streamlined pop they sound like watered-down Sheryl Crow. Fortunately, those moments were few and far between.
As entertaining as their music was their between-song patter. Led mostly by Brooke who, if this music thing doesn’t work out, she could pursue a career in topical stand-up comedy. When Brit joined in the pair sounded like the Sweeney Sisters. Or maybe the Pigeon Sisters. Now I’m reaching. Watch for their new EP, Good Job Go, out July 10.
Hey Marseilles at Reverb Lounge, July 2, 2015.
They were followed by Hey Marseilles, who, for whatever reason, I keep confusing with Hey Mercedes though the bands have nothing in common except the Hey. The six-piece, who I’d never heard before, sounded like a chamber-pop version of Guster, Death Cab or Jeremy Messersmith, featuring pure indie rock songs augmented with viola and cello.
HM frontman Matt Bishop has a crisp, non-affected vocal style that doesn’t outshine the rest of the band. You get the sense he’s just part of the band instead of an irreplaceable centerpiece. Great stuff worth checking out if you’re into indie pop that relies on strong, complex melodies (and who isn’t?). They also have a new album coming out in the near future.
I was planning on leaving halfway through HM and skipping Mates of State altogether since I had to work this morning, but HM kept my attention with the strength of their last three songs, which blended nicely and finished with a crescendo. I figured what the heck, might as well hang ’til 11.
I haven’t seen Mates of State in years. Their early songwriting relied heavily on Kori Gardner’s brash, almost calliope-style keyboards that had a way of grating. Well, that style of keyboards is gone, replaced by more traditional electric keyboard arrangements that emphasize their current straight-forward indie-pop songwriting. It’s pretty stuff that sits well with Gardner’s and husband, drummer Jason Hammel’s, intertwining vocals.
Pitchfork crushed their new Barsuk-release EP, You’re Going to Make It, with a 3.9 rating saying it “makes life sound like one big bouncy castle of fun, and that unquestioned contentment renders Mates of State musically anonymous.” Maybe so, but I doubt the duo were targeting the Pitchfork reader when they wrote the album. Instead, they were targeting people like 100 or so who crowded Reverb, 80 percent of them women. The first three rows of people standing hear the stage were mainly 20-something women pseudo-dancing (i.e., shaking their shoulders) and singing every word. These were happy people, having a happy time, which doesn’t describe the typical glum, too-serious Pitchfork reader.
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The Fourth of July can really be a bust for shows, but it definitely kicks off with a bang tonight.
Tonight Icky Blossoms belatedly celebrates the release of Mask in The Slowdown’s big room. I’ve been told to expect a “new light show, stage props, and some other fun stuff happening.” What do the Icky’s have up their sleeves? Opening is Eric In Outerspace, BOTH and Thick Paint. $10, 9 p.m.
Also tonight LA first-wave punk band The Weirdos headlines at The Lookout Lounge. The band has been blowing shit up since ’75. Opening is Bullet Proof Hearts, Hand Painted Police Car and Omaha punk legends R.A.F. $13, 9 p.m.
And it’s Benson First Friday. If you’re walking around Maple Street tonight, drop into The Little Gallery at Polecat HQ, located right across the street from The Sydney, where we’re featuring the works of Brian Tait — artist, musician, poet, madman.
Tomorrow night is the 4th of July and what better place to toast Ol’ Glory than fabulous O’Leaver’s? The Independence Day Weenie Roast features three All-America bands: the patriots of Pro-Magnum, the warriors of Dumb Beach and the heroes of New Lungs. Will there be fireworks? Oh yes, but only of the rock ‘n’ roll variety. (But yeah, some a-hole probably will shoot roman candles at people in the parking lot. You know how it goes.). Hot dogs and chips are served at 8 p.m.; the rock starts at 9. $5.
Finally on Sunday, Canadian singer/songwriter Calvin Love headlines at Slowdown Jr. Love’s sophomore album, Super Future, was released this year by Arts & Crafts and is rather sublime. Lineman’s Rodeo opens this 8 p.m. show. $8.
And that’s all I got. If I forgot your show, post it in the comments section. Have a fantastic Fourth of July.
O’Leaver’s updated their sound system, again. I don’t know the specifics behind the technology. Sound engineer Ian Aeillo can tell you. What I can tell you is there are now two massive stacks of speakers on either side of O’Leaver’s “stage,” and they sound good and loud (though one stack, on stage left, now blocks my view from one of my favorite leanin’ spots. Oh well…).
This is the third or fourth time O’Leaver’s has upgraded their sound system since the boys from Cursive and Chris Machmuller took over the venue a few years ago, and it just keeps getting better. The only thing they could do to make the place even better would be to take out the ceiling, add a band riser, knock out the partial wall that divides the raised seating from the hallway that leads to the bathroom and, of course, open that second outdoor patio. Or maybe just nuke the building altogether and build a new club, but that would take away all of O’Leaver’s craptacular charm…
The festivities that brought me to The Club Saturday night was the Digital Leather album release show for their new FDH album All Faded, where we got to see DL perform as an 8-piece — that’s like an entire bucket of chicken, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
The Hussy at O’Leaver’s, June 27, 2015.
First up was the The Hussy, the duo of Bobby and Heather Hussy, who were sort of celebrating the release of their own new album, Galore (Southpaw Records), their first release since 2013’s Pagan Hiss. Their one-sheet declares the new record “may be the catchiest and pop-iest record to date.” The record’s range and structure go way beyond your typical “garage rock” album but lacks none of that genre’s attitude. It’s the kind of rock record that Jack White could only dream of making. That said, the album sounds nothing like a White Stripes guitar-and-drum duo sort of record. The tracks are a full-band affair. This is the first Hussy LP with bass guitar added to the entire record, marking it as something of a turning point for the band. You need to hear it.
Anyway, The Hussy performed as a duo Saturday night, losing some of the depth heard on the new record but accentuating Bobby’s crazy-ass guitar gymnastics and Heather’s massive stick work. The duo shared vocals while Bobby bounced high kicks off the monitors and poked out the ceiling tiles with his guitar. Blistering and frantic.
And then came Digital Leather, sporting three keyboard players. Joining Todd Fink and Ben VanHoolandt on keyboards was Greg Elsasser of Capgun Coup. As detailed in this recent Digital Leather feature in The Reader, Elsasser will be replacing Fink for DL’s upcoming tour dates with Desaparecidos. That meant six people (and three keyboard racks) crowding the tiny O’Leaver’s “stage,” made all the more crowded by the 30 or so people who stood right in front of the band.
They opened with “Styrofoam,” played a few songs off All Faded and closed with a very special rendition of “Studs in Love,” that featured Bobby and Heather Hussy, who recorded their own version of the song released on the Digital Leather/The Hussy split LP that came out last year on Southpaw. So, eight people, one massive sound. “Studs in Love” is becoming Digital Leather’s go-to anthem and regular set-closer because, well, there’s nothing quite like it. Will they pull it out when they open for Desa in front of hundreds? I’d love to see how that crowd reacts.
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By the way, I have yet to see a single review of Digital Leather’s All Faded online anywhere (except Hear Nebraska)… What’s up with that?
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Speaking of Todd Fink, after a lengthy hiatus The Faint are back in action again. The band is playing at The Bottom Lounge in Chicago tomorrow night and Summerfest 2015 in Milwaukee Wednesday. Tickets are available at thefaint.com.
For these shows, The Faint will be adding new keyboard player Graham Ulicny from Reptar (and part of the duo Channel Pressure with Todd). Ulicny replaces long-time keyboard player Jacob Thiele, but there’s no word if this is a permanent change to The Faint’s line-up, which includes Fink, drummer Clark Baechle and guitarist Dapose.
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Pageturners Lounge summer series continues tonight with the Burkum Boys. Singer/songwriter Jessica Errett opens. 9 p.m., free.
If this review seems light on the bands that played later in the evening it’s because I only went to The Waiting Room last night to see the opener, Bully — a band that’s getting a bit of a buzz lately — and not co-headliners Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Best Coast.
I knew virtually nothing about UMO; never listened to a single track from the band prior to last night. And yet for a few people I’d talked to, they were the main attraction on the bill. When you go into a show knowing nothing you expect even less, which is what I got from UMO. Though they’re compared to Tame Impala and MGMT, they sounded like a noodling jam band to me with a tip o’ the hat to beachy Jack Johnson. Not my bag, but unless my eyes deceived me, the crowd peaked during their set so they must be doing something right.
After three or four songs I found myself paying more attention to the score of the Cavs/Warriors game on my iPhone than the stage, so I hightailed it down to St. Andrew’s to catch the last five minutes of the 4th quarter (which stretched out to 15 in real time), where I saw a few more show ex-patriots waiting out the UMO set. BTW, who knew that Lebron James and the Cavs were so loathed?
Made it back to The Waiting Room in time for the start of Best Coast. I don’t know if it’s an endorsement of the band or an indictment of SXSW, but Bethany Cosentino and Co. were on point last night, playing way better than when I saw them in Austin in March, where they looked bored as if fulfilling a commitment (which they were). Last night they were into it, ripping through one song after another, Cosentino’s long hair (along with sideman Bobb Bruno’s) floated ethereally alongside her head, blown skyward by electric fans Cosentino said they were trying out for the first time on tour. Whereas I liked Best Coast’s energy, the band did little more than play through their set list, which isn’t enough to keep me engaged, especially since I don’t own any of their albums.
Bully at The Waiting Room, June 9, 2015.
On the other hand, I knew nothing about Bully prior to last night and left a fan (or at least entertained). The band is centered on frontwoman Alicia Bognanno, whose high, sometimes-scratchy vocals border on novelty. In fact, Bognanno’s voice would be perfect for the role of a cute woodland creature in an animated TV show; something tells me she does a spot-on impression of Bart Simpson.
More often when she’s singing, however, Bognanno channels Kurt Cobain on music that is straight out of 1992. Is there a grunge resurgence going on (already)? Bully’s songs, especially during the first half of the set, sounded like they could have been written by Cobain (or Courtney), thanks to their bass/rhythm lines, the loud-quiet-loud dynamics and Bognanno’s howl/screech that was pure Teen Spirit.
Bognanno was at her best when she throttled down the howl and simply sang. Toward the end of the set she introduced a song saying she was “slowing it down” and getting all “romantically.” The tune was pulled back, controlled, but took flight toward the end, and was the best song of the night (by any band). Bully’s debut LP comes out June 23 (a crowded date for releases). Where will they go next?
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Seems like a decade ago that I interviewed Metric, because it was. The band has done nothing but grow since then, winning a handful of Juno Awards, which is sort of the Canadian version of the Grammy’s. Thanks to this success, Metric is now placed as an opener for arena shows, like the Imagine Dragons show tonight at the CenturyLink Center. Needless to say I won’t be attending, but felt compelled to mention it as Metric played at Sokol Underground once upon a time.
A show I’m more apt to attend is Street Eaters tonight at Sweatshop Gallery. Chris Aponick of Perpetual Nerves, the company promoting the show, described them as “a two piece that plays noisy stripped down rock that steers clear of garage rock’s worn out tropes.” Also on the bill are Navy Gangs, CJ Mills and Our Lady of Perpetual Help. $7, 9 p.m.
By the way, they don’t call it “Sweatshop Gallery” for nothing. It will be hotter than hell in there tonight. You may want to show up in your skivvies.
Also, here’s an early head’s up about tomorrow’s Hear Omaha event, which takes place over the lunch hour (noon) at the public space at 13th & Howard streets in the Old Market. This week’s featured artist is Orenda Fink. Come down and check it out. It’s free and there (probably) will be food trucks. Of course it’s brought to you by the fine folks at Hear Nebraska…
The weekend was spent recovering from the week — the birthday show and the opening of the Polecat Little Gallery Friday night. If you missed the gallery opening, you can still check out the show, which features local artist/musician/entrepreneur Brian Tait of Midtown Art Supply. Tait spent Friday evening creating a two-story-tall portrait of State Senator Ernie Chambers on a discarded Spearmint Rhino billboard hung from the outside wall of the gallery. While painting with with spray cans, Tait also performed with turntable, electric guitar, microphone and mixer. It was a surreal experience to say the least. It was fun. Thanks to everyone who stopped by.
Anyway, after multiple nights out we decided to take it easy on Saturday night and catch a movie, Love & Mercy, the Brian Wilson biopic showing at the AMC 24 way out west. It was a solid movie, this from a guy who isn’t the biggest Beach Boys fan in the world. Paul Dano will be mentioned when Oscar time comes rolling ’round, and possibly Paul Giamatti, who plays another in a series of slime balls. John Cusack in the role of Wilson in the ’80s seemed to be channeling Daniel Johnston rather than Wilson.
The best moments of the film were Dano playing Wilson during the making of Pet Sounds in the studio — in control, creative, working with a bunch of unheralded studio musicians as they made what arguably is one of the best albums ever released. I could have watched those sequences all night. The film is definitely worth the drive out west to catch while you can.
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Clay Masters of Iowa Public Radio strikes again with a strong story on the current state of the Omaha music scene that features Conchance, Laura Burhenn and Simon Joyner, who had the best line in the story: “The train stopped here for a minute and moved on…” Indeed it has. We hear why Conchance and Simon still live in Omaha; missing from the story is why Laura moved to Los Angeles over a year ago… I have to believe our brutal winters had something to do with it. The story aired on NPR. Listen below:
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There’s lots going on for a Monday night…
Kansas City indie act The Life & Times headlines at Reverb Lounge. It’s been awhile since these guys came through town. Opening is Little Brazil and nanaHara. $10, 9 p.m.
On the other side of the One Percent Complex (at least that’s what I’m calling it) Canadian indie band Mother Mother (Last Gang Records) headlines at The Waiting Room. Opening is the always entertaining John Klemmensen & the Party. $15, 9 p.m.
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Finally, Pageturners in Dundee is hosting The Derby Birds and All Young Girls Are Machine Guns for a free gig that starts at 9 p.m. It’s part of Pageturners’ summer concert series — which boasts an impressive line-up. The rest of PTL’s summer schedule looks like this:
June 15 – The Felice Brothers
June 17 – Matt Amandus Jazz trio
June 22 – Rig 1
June 29 – The Burkum Boys
July 1 – Mitch Gettman & Pleiades and the Bear
July 6 – Cubby Philips / Michael Frederickson Quartert
July 7 – Carl Miller and the Trillers
July 8 – Sam Martin
July 13 – The Sun-less Trio
July 15 – Sean Pratt & David Kenneth Nance
July 20 – Super Ghost and Tie These Hands
July 22 – Kill County
July 27 – The Burkum Boys
July 29 – The Sunks and Mark Johnson
Aug. 3 – One Eye White
Aug. 4 – Carl Miller and the Trillers
Aug. 5 – Agronomo and the Ascenders
Aug. 10 – Oquoa
Aug. 12 – Simon Joyner and Danny Pound
Aug 17 – Omaha Guitar Trio
Aug. 19 – Luke Polipnick
Aug. 24 – Linemans Rodeo
Aug. 31 – The Burkum Boys
Hop Along is a fantastic band. Certainly one of the best bands I’ve seen this year (and I’ve seen a lot already) and definitely one of the best bands that Saddle Creek has signed in recent years. If you haven’t heard Painted Shut, their new album on Saddle Creek, do yourself a favor. There’s a link to a stream of the entire album at the bottom of yesterday’s blog entry.
I like the record; specifically I like how it sounds, I like the crunchy guitars, I like the straight-forward indie-rock rhythms, I like the chord changes, but most of all I like Frances Quinlan’s guttural, scratchy, feral-cat growl of a voice. It has become the hallmark of their sound, the one thing people point to when they talk about Hop Along’s music. The only thing I can think of comparing it to is Janis Joplin’s screechy yowl that leads up to the chorus in “Piece of My Heart.” You know, “Come on, Come on, Come on, Come on and TAKE IT…” Quinlan’s voice captures Janis’ yearning energy and somehow stretched out throughout entire songs, entire albums.
Her voice was on display last night at Slowdown Jr. in pure Janis mode throughout their entire set last night. I didn’t think it was possible; I figured no one could sing like that all night, that scratchy screech has to be turning her vocal chords to bloody ribbons. Others around me in the rather large crowd (though not a sell-out) wondered the same thing. “That’s gotta hurt,” they said. But I figure Quinlan must approach singing the same way an opera singer is able to basically scream for two hours straight (because, let’s face it, opera singing is really precisely directed yelling, is it not?). Quinlan knows what she’s doing. She’s been doing it now for years. If she didn’t, she wouldn’t have made it through her first tour.
Her voice is a thing to behold; it is indeed mesmerizing. So is the rest of Hop Along. Drummer Mark Quinlan (Frances’ brother) is hands-down one of the best drummers I’ve ever heard — huge, pounding out the backbone of every song all night, a thing to marvel at. We’re talking ’70s-era arena quality drumming, not paradiddle precision noodling; big, throaty, heavy-sticked wonder. Dare I mention the great Bonham? No, because it’s not that kind of music. But it was deep and thick and luscious.
The rest of the band was pretty good, but the highlights were the Quinlan brood; the drums, that voice, remarkable. Missing from the discussion, of course, are the songs. Hop Along is a great band to listen to live, but I couldn’t tell you what any of the songs were about. I didn’t walk away from the show with any song stuck in my head, which is odd when you consider I’ve been listening to Painted Shut for weeks.
While Quinlan puts it all out there effortlessly climbing octave after octave there rarely if ever was a central melody to hang onto and, dare I say it, sing along to. In that vein it’s kind of like scat singing, or melodies made up after the song’s chord progressions have been determined. But isn’t that a primary attribute of indie rock and what sets it apart from straight-up pop music? Probably, but the best indie rock, the stuff we remember and that resonates for years to come, has a hook. The rest of it is tonal, blues or effect, where lyrics are secondary (ferinstance, I couldn’t tell you a single My Bloody Valentine lyric).
I don’t think that’s the case with Hop Along. That band is so fucking good —she’s so fucking good — that it’s only a matter of time before they write a song that pushes past their current boundaries. That song isn’t on Painted Shut, a good album that lacks a song that strikes a universal chord with a huge audience. They will write that song, the one that gets played to death, the one that will represent a season or year in the life of its listeners, that turns into an instant time machine that will take us back to whatever was happening in our lives back when everyone was playing it. Maybe it’ll be on their next album; hopefully it’ll come out on Saddle Creek, but it hasn’t happened yet. Until then, we’re left to marvel at the sound, if not the songs.
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The rabid possum by Brian Tait that stares at me in my office.
A quick non-music aside about something important to me.
Tonight is the grand opening of the Little Gallery in Benson, coinciding with Benson First Friday. The proprietor is my wife, Teresa Gleason. The gallery, located at 5917 Maple Street right across the street from The Sydney, doubles as the offices of Polecat Communications, Teresa’s PR/communications firm that specializes in supporting non-profits as well as profits. Teresa and I found the space a few months ago and began tearing it apart shortly there after, transforming it into a sublime gallery space.
The first artist to grace the gallery is none other than Brian Tait. Yes, that Brian Tait, the skateboarding rockstar graffiti-fueled sign painter who also operates Midtown Art Supply. We bought a handful of Taits recently (one of them is staring at me with its angry possum eyes as I type this) and couldn’t think of a better artist for the gallery’s debut.
Want to know more about Tait? Read the brief profile I wrote about him right here. The show’s title is “Without a Chute,” and as part of the tonight’s festivities, which begin at 6 p.m., Tait will be doing a live painting outside the building. It will be a giant portrait of State Senator Ernie Chambers. Upon its completion, the painting will be sold to the highest bidder, whether the bid is $1 or $1,000 or $10,000.
Fun starts at 6. There will be a keg on tap. And food. And maybe even leftover birthday cake from Wednesday’s Big 50 shows. Drop by and say hello.
And for those who have asked, yes, the firm’s name, Polecat, was partially inspired by the classic pre-Saddle Creek band that featured Ted Stevens, Boz Hicks and Oli Blaha. We call that a tip o’ the hat to past greatness…
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One other art show going on I want to mention: Mousetrap’s Patrick Buchanan emailed to tell me that his pop, Sidney Buchanan, is hosting a show at his house at 1202 So. 62nd St., that kicks off tonight at 6 p.m. Buchanan is known for his enormous sculptures (one of which is on UNO’s campus right outside the arts building). This show features new collages and assemblages and runs tonight and Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Go!
All right back to music.
Tonight and tomorrow night is the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Award (OEAA) showcase in Benson. It’s a chance to check out a shitload of new local bands as you stumble from six venues along Maple Street. The schedule follows. Admission is $10 per night or $15 for the entire weekend.
I don’t know most of these bands, which I suppose is the point of an emerging-artist showcase. That said, there are a few that I am familiar with and can recommend which are in bold, if you’re looking for some direction.
FRIDAY, June 5
The Waiting Room – all ages
8:00-8:40 Unscene Patrol
8:55-9:35 Pleiades and the Bear
9:50-10:30 Belles & Whistles
10:45-11:25 All Young Girls Are Machine Guns
8:00-8:40 24 Hour Cardlock
8:55-9:35 Bazile Mills
9:50-10:30 Michael Campbell
12:35-1:05 Like Noise But Louder
Barley Street Tavern
8:00-8:40 Polka Police
9:50-10:30 Aly Peeler
10:45-11:25 Hand Painted Police Car
11:40-12:20 Shivering Flowers
12:35-1:05 The Ronnys
8:00-8:40 Jazz Brown and the Afterthought
8:55-9:35 Naked Sunday
9:50-10:30 Township & Range
10:45-11:25 Sebastian Ghostbachz
11:40-12:20 Pancho & The Contraband
12:35-1:05 Prairie Gators Band
PS Collective – all ages
8:00-8:40 Thumper & Generation One
8:55-9:35 Emily Ward
9:50-10:30 Virginia Tanous
10:45-11:25 Escape From Alcajazz
8:00-8:40 Jessica Errett
8:55-9:35 Kait Berreckman
10:45-11:25 Citizens Band
11:40-12:20 Marcey Yates
12:35-1:05 Latin Threat
SATURDAY, June 6
The Waiting Room – all ages
9:50-10:30 A Wasted Effort
10:45-11:25 The Bishops
11:40-12:20 Low Long Signal
12:35-1:05 Carson City Heat
8:55-9:35 Exit Sanity
10:45-11:25 Stereo Rocket
11:40-12:20 Black Velvet
12:35-1:05 The Clincher
Barley Street Tavern
8:00-8:40 Calling Cody
8:55-9:35 Battling Giants
9:50-10:30 Virgin Mary Pistol Grip
10:45-11:25 Phoenix Rising
11:40-12:20 Uh Oh
12:35-1:05 Two Shakes
8:00-8:40 Steve Byam
8:55-9:35 The Impulsive
9:50-10:30 The Willards Band
10:45-11:25 CJ Mills
11:40-12:20 Swampboy Blues Band
12:35-1:05 ShooK on3
PS Collective – all ages
8:55-9:35 Clark & Company
10:45-11:25 Orion Walsh
11:40-12:20 Baker Explosion
8:00-8:40 The Midways
8:55-9:35 Mitch Gettman
9:50-10:30 Dominique Morgan
10:45-11:25 The Sub-Vectors
11:40-12:20 The Electroliners
12:35-1:05 Lucas Kellison
Schedule subject to change (and probably will).
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OEA’s isn’t the only thing going on this weekend.
Des Moines band Karen Meat and the Computer is headlining tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s. The band includes former members of Talking Mountain. Also on the bill is Calm Fur and Haunted Gauntlet (featuring members of M34N STR33T). Jason Meyer of Calm Fur forwarded me this rather disturbing promo for tonight’s show, which you should watch as risk to your fragile psyche. $5, 9:30 p.m.
Tomorrow afternoon (Saturday) is another Bar Stool Record Swap at The Brothers Lounge. Always tons of good vinyl on hand. Vendors include Almost Music, Basement Treasures, D-Tour Records, Hipstop and Homer’s. It’s a must for record collectors. 4 to 7 p.m. and free.
Saturday night at O’Leaver’s it’s Commander Kilroy with Stories of the Sun, Faded and Jake Simmons. $5, 9:30 p.m.
That’s all I got. If I missed your show, put it in the comments section (of the blog, not my Facebook post!). Have a great weekend and I’ll see you tonight at the Little Gallery.
Friday night’s crowd at the Beth Israel show at Sweatshop Gallery was the largest I’ve seen in the tiny artspace/garage/performance area. As per usual, as many people were outside enjoying the evening as inside enjoying the music. Sweatshop’s back parking lot felt like an old-school outdoor party. The only thing missing was a bonfire and a keg.
Working Man at Sweatshop Gallery, May 29, 2015.
I caught the last two numbers by Working Man, the noise/jazz/experimental trio anchored by Dereck Higgins on bass and featuring John Evans on drums and Luke Polipnick on guitar. Evans, a 19-year-old from Jamaica, is a percussion major at UNO. Their music reminded me of free jazz with its unbridled improvisation reigned in only by each song’s dynamic ebb and flow. Trippy stuff that bent the edges of structured music.
Then came Beth Israel, an Austin trio whose sound falls somewhere between slacker indie and garage, heavy on rhythms and barebones riffs. The band played an intense, if not short, set that included songs from their Dull Tools debut. Not bad, though I had a hard time getting a handle on their songs whilst pressed into a wee corner of the room.
BTW, Sweatshop is an art space that holds live performances. It’s not a bar and, as such, doesn’t sell beer. The trick to going to shows there (and drinking) is to bring your own. I brought along a couple cans and noticed unmanned six-packs lying about along the ledges. It’s fun, though it felt strange walking around the streets of Benson with a couple beers stashed away in the pockets of my hoodie. It felt like old times…
Saturday night was Mini-Maha at River’s Edge park. Here’s another trick to keep in mind…
We figured we’d do the “smart” thing and park somewhere along the Nebraska side of the river and simply walk over the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge to the park. Bad idea. Traffic was snarled for a half-mile in every direction of the bridge and the Century Link Center parking lots. Remember, Taste of Omaha also was going on at the same time. Nightmare.
Before giving up, I decided to drive over the river and took Exit 0 to the Council Bluffs side where I found plenty of parking just a few hundred yards from the park. Lesson learned.
There were two stages set up Saturday night – a small stage which (I guess) was for Taste of Omaha and featured a band belting out Journey and Boston covers, and a larger Mini-Maha stage. Though they were fairly close together, surprisingly they didn’t “compete” with each other, unless you stepped into the sonic vortex between stages.
Let me take a moment to tell you how much I detest Taste of Omaha. The “food festival” is a con job that sells food-truck quality fare at airport restaurant prices. Payment is handled via tickets, and ultimately is a rip-off when you realize you’re paying $8 for a small plate of cold nachos. No matter what combination you come up with, you’re going to wind up at the end of the evening with a handful of unusable tickets — enough to buy a bag of chips but not enough for a beer. Bad food at bad prices, and yet, huge crowds.
The Dodos at Mini-Maha at River’s Edge Park, May 30, 2015.
We stuck around only for The Dodos, an indie-rock drums-and-guitar duo who records for Frenchkiss and Polyvinyl, among others. Their style is sort of Panda Bear meets Vetiver, and is generally well done though none of their songs were terribly memorable. It wasn’t a huge crowd, but I have a feeling a lot more people showed up later on for Ben Kweller, who has a sizable following ’round these parts. After the sun dropped below the Omaha skyline the winds picked up, and it got colder — my signal to head back to The Good Life side of the river.
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Look for a feature/interview with yours truly, written by the esteemed Jon Taylor of Domestica, dropping sometime today at HearNebraska.com Find out once and for all why I got into this whole, crazy writing business…
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Tonight, Austin-based electronic trio Holiday Mountain headlines at Slowdown Jr. The band compares itself to MIA, Santigold, DEVO, Little Dragon and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Opening is the electronic edge of local hero Stephen Nichols. $8, 9 p.m.
Also tonight, Denver experimental industrial noise trio Echo Beds headlines at fabulous O’Leaver’s. They compare themselves to ’70s-era Suicide. Opening is Minneapolis band Weak Wick, Violator X and Ruby Block. $5, 9:30 p.m.
And lest we forget, the Big 50 concert at Reverb is just two days away!
The 50th Birthday Concert at Reverb, June 3, 2015. A benefit for Hear Nebraska.