by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
Do they still make bands like Head of Femur?
I don’t think so. Son, Ambulance was sort of created in the same image; so was the first iteration of Eagle*Seagull. Beyond those examples there are few bands as big and sprawling and creatively ambitious as Head of Femur either back in the day or right now, seven years after the band escaped into an extended hiatus.
Last night we got the full Head of Femur experience. The band packed itself onto the “stage” space of O’Leaver’s, all eight of them lined up in two rows with the horns and strings in the back, the guitars and keys and vocals up front, led by the inimitable Matt Focht. They sounded as good — maybe even better — than I remember them back in the early 2000s.
They played a lot of their “hits” from the those fantastic early albums, songs you’d immediately recognize if you were a fan. Those dense, high-flying numbers with intricate arrangements, rhythms and lyrics, proggy and fun, celebratory in their execution. The kind of songs that makes you want to cheer after every number. There was an Eno cover in there, as well as a cover of Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel’s “Make Me Smile” that made me smile.
Musically, the comparatives don’t give Head of Femur the justice its due. I typed out on my iPhone during the set: “XTC meets early Joe Jackson meets Imperial Bedroom-era Elvis Costello,” which doesn’t take into account the band’s classic baroque-rock qualities. For that, a guy who’s been following them forever compared them to Mott the Hoople, whereas I’d lean more toward Procol Harum or Left Banke whereas modern fans might point toward Belle and Sebastian. None of that’s right, of course.
Let’s just say they are immensely entertaining. Focht’s voice remains as gorgeous as ever. The band was on point. The vets surrounded themselves with some new blood that represent some of the best talent in the region, but you’d expect nothing less from this band. It was special.
As Andrew Stellman highlighted in this Hear Nebraska story last week, we’ll be getting more of Femur. Focht said the new album will be coming out late this year. But is it possible to keep all that talent together for a support tour? Doubtful. But if you’re kicking yourself for missing last night’s show or last Friday night’s Lincoln Calling gig, put the boot away. Focht said the band will reunite again Dec. 23 at The Waiting Room. Make your plans now.
Also keep your eyes and ears peeled for Head of Femur’s Live at O’Leaver’s session. Sound engineer extraordinaire Ian Aeillo says the recording of last night’s show sounds awesome.
Speaking of awesome (and new records) Dan McCarthy and James Maakestad played a humdinger of an opening set last night before Femur. McCarthy mentioned on stage that he’s wrapped a new album as well. Can not wait…
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The October issue of The Reader is on news stands now. Pick it up, as it’s the very special Music Issue. More about that later. In this month’s Over the Edge column, my take on Trump and why you’re going to miss him when he’s gone (and believe me, he’ll be gone… eventually). Check it out in print or read it online right here.
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It’s a night of doom metal at O’Leaver’s tonight with Seattle sludge/doom trio Serial Hawk. Opening is Super Moon and Processions. $5, 9:30 p.m.
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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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.