Live Reviews: Super Ghost, Blue Bird, Record Store Day (Wagon Blasters), Jake Bellows, Ladyfinger, Soft Moon…
by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
Three nights of music this week. I’m definitely NOT getting too old for this shit.
Andy Norman of Hear Nebraska suggested I check out Super Ghost, who recently played a Hear Nebraska / Urban Outfitters in-store. I’d never heard of the band, but since they were attached to Friday night’s bill at The Barley Street featuring Blue Bird, I figured I might as well stick around.
It’s been maybe two years since I’ve seen Blue Bird. Back then, their sound was folksy Americana, fronted by Marta Fiedler with Carrie Mardock. Carrie’s gone, replaced with Rebecca Smith. So is the band’s original sound. They’ve shifted to poppier, synth-driven music (two keyboards), more modern and more interesting. Fiedler does a fine job with the leads, but the band as a whole lacked energy. The performers got into position and stayed there, motionless the entire set. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though it added a static quality to the proceedings. What are they supposed to do, jump around and high kick like Matt Whipkey? No, but when they stand like statues you can’t help but feel they’re just going through the motions whether they are or not, which is a pity considering the music’s colorful energy.
Then came Super Ghost, four youngsters from Omaha and Minneapolis weened on modern-day emo bands like You Blew It! and mewithoutYou. Super Ghost is an emo throwback, not to first-wave acts like Rites of Spring and Sunny Day Real Estate, but ’90s-era second wave emo acts like California band Knapsack, which they most resemble, and Topeka legends Vitreous Humor, who they’ve never heard of (and in reality, very few people have).
Technically tight, smart compositions with insidious solos and counter melodies, Super Ghost was a pleasant surprise, a remarkable new band whose sound has a shimmering drama and musicality that at times recalled early Pavement and Dinosaur Jr. as much as those emo heroes they no doubt adore. Too bad there were only six people in the room to hear them.
Where they came from and what they’re up to next will all be revealed in this week’s podcast, which features a brief interview with frontman Jake Newbold, along with some samples from Friday night’s set.
Despite mother nature, Homer’s pulled off another big Record Store Day. When I rolled into the store at around 5 p.m., Homer’s GM Mike Fratt said he’d been pleased with the crowds, the excitement, the overall day even though he and his crack team fought through technical mine fields caused by the morning’s thunderstorm. Though late in the afternoon, there was still plenty of RSD stock in the bins, including the 25th Anniversary RSD pressing of Pills, Thrills and Bellyaches that I picked up.
Meanwhile, uptown in Benson, Almost Music’s Brad Smith said it was the first time he had line form outside his door before he opened. Almost Music’s daylong concert, originally slated for the sidewalk out front, was moved inside to the bookstore, where I watched the return of Gary Dean Davis and his band Wagon Blasters.
This was the band’s first performance in a couple years, but you wouldn’t know it by watching Gary Dean bouncing around bookcases like a hopped-up hillbilly in a racing windbreaker. His voice, those songs and this band proved once again that Wagon Blasters are Nebraska punk par excellence.
BTW, I picked up a Factory UK pressing of The Return of Durutti Column and The Grifters’ The Kingdom of Jones 10-inch (Shangri La 025), as well as the newly designed, fetching Almost Music T-shirt. Why can’t RSD be every day?
Saturday night was the big Hear Nebraska Vol. 3 album release show at The Waiting Room. As per usual, Jake Bellows had the crowd eating out of his hand as he ripped through a solo electric set of his greatest hits including a few Neva Dinova songs. Jake has enough charisma to be a cult leader and/or standup comic, whichever you prefer.
The blasting cap we call Ladyfinger closed out the evening. Over the course of a few weeks I’ve seen both musical sides of Chris Machmuller on stage — Mach the troubadour and Mach the rocker, each equally powerful in their own way.
You couldn’t help but wonder as Ladyfinger was belting out songs off their last album — 2013’s Errant Forms — what lies ahead for these guys. Their track “Junk City” off the HN Vol. 3 comp meets and/or exceeds anything they’ve done in the past. Would Saddle Creek roll the dice on another Ladyfinger full-length? And, for that matter, does the band have it in them to write and record a new album? Nebraskans — and the world — await the answers with baited breath.
Finally Sunday night Oakland post-punk band Soft Moon sonically dismembered the Reverb Lounge. The band, which records on the edgy Captured Tracks label, epitomizes the electronic/industrial sound of the early ’90s from such bands as Nine Inch Nails, Throbbing Gristle, Bauhaus, Suicide, you get the drift. The mastermind behind the project is Luis Vasquez, who is marketed as a one-man project, though last night there were three guys on stage pounding on stuff, including Vasquez, who shoved a metal trashcan to the front of the stage which he banged on STOMP style for a couple numbers.
Their basic recipe was guitar, bass, synths and drums and lots of programming, along with Vasquez’s undecipherable, bronzed vocals drenched in echo for that special gothy touch. It was dark dance music for an elite leather club circa 1992; the instrumentals were powerful while the songs with vocals were the most accessible and leaned closely to early Reznor territory. Fantastic stuff.
Opening was one-woman ambient guitarist Noveller providing ethereal, layered sonic compositions that sometimes involved a violin bow adding deep blue tones. A pretty contrast to Soft Moon’s industrial din.
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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.