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.
Tuesday night concerts are a crap shoot no matter who’s playing, especially after a “holiday.” There’s a good chance no one will show up to see a band that might draw a large crowd any other night of the week or weekend. Who knows how may people would have come out to see U.K. band Palma Violets had they played on Friday or Saturday night rather than last night at The Waiting Room? But in reality, the day of the week may not have mattered much despite the fact that Palma Violets are kind of a thing these days, recording on Rough Trade and garnering a rep as a hard-charging party band in the tradition of classic acts like The Clash or even The Doors, thanks to their ballroom anthems that sound like they’d be right at home belted out on a ship’s galley.
So it was no big surprise to see fewer than 50 people in the club when I arrived at about a quarter past nine last night, just in time to see opening band Public Access T.V. do their set to a mostly empty floor. The youthful NYC 4-piece (these guys looked young) ripped right into a set that recalled ’70s-era pop rock by way of The Strokes or, more accurately, Foxygen. Every song had a clever riff and a bouncing rhythm, though I couldn’t tell you what any of the songs were about as lead singer John Eatherly was more intent on getting the dozen or so youngsters in front of the stage hopping. The only line that came through the buzz was “I don’t want to live in California,” and who can blame them?
Before Palma Violets came out, one of the band members (the drummer?) walked to the edge of the stage and recited T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” in its entirety, line by line, read from the screen of his white iPhone — a touching, if not melodramatic, way to start a rock show.
On charged the four-piece playing mostly songs off their new Rough Trade album Danger in the Club to a club crowd now ballooned to just slightly more than 50. But what a 50 it was. The audience jumped in rhythm to nearly every song, and the Violets seemed genuinely grateful for the dancing.
Guitarist/vocalist Samuel Thomas Fryer has a rough British voice tailor-made for barking out the lyrics to these pounding garage-rock songs which are the perfect soundtrack to your next drunken soccer party. Bassist/vocalist Alexander “Chilli” Jesson sojourned off stage into the crowd a number of times, trying to make a personal connection to the bouncing fans, and sometimes succeeding. Adding color was a fifth band member (of sorts) — a giant skulking roadie/stage hand who paced onto the stage to straighten microphone stands or adjust a cymbal, always quick to grab the chord when Jesson traipsed into the crowd, at one time grabbing a tambourine, another time joining in on harmonica only to leave the stage right after his part was over.
Like any great band, Palma Violets gave more than they got from such a small crowd, performing (as the ol’ cliche goes) as if they were playing in front of an SRO arena rather than a clutch of fans and empty tables. It’s not the size of the crowd that matters as much as how it reacts, and the band couldn’t ask for anything more, pulling off a rather fantastic set that closed with a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Death Is Not the End” (made just as famous by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds) before coming back to belt out three more.
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The 50th Birthday Concert at Reverb, June 3, 2015. A benefit for Hear Nebraska.
The big 50 Birthday show at Reverb Lounge is exactly one week away, Wednesday June 3. If you haven’t already now is the time to start making plans — call your sitter, gdt time off from work the next day. Check out this Facebook Event / Calendar listing and RSVP…
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Tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s it’s Massachusetts band Palehound (Exploding In Sound Records) with Lineman’s Rodeo, Big Slur and Mark Johnson. $5, 9:30 p.m.
Small but boisterous crowd for Laibach last night at The Slowdown. Maybe 125 (pure guestimate) was on hand to see the Slavic titans put on their unique, goth version of a post-industrial dance party.
The entire production was well-constructed. I wouldn’t call what they played last night “Industrial” as much as art-synth rock with an accent. There were elements that sounded like the band was parodying a Cold War East German synth band when in fact this was the real thing, taken to a modern world where The Wall has been torn down for decades and the only thing to rant against is capitalism, in an “Occupy” sort of way.
The band consisted of three synths, a drummer and two vocalists, chief of which was the gravel-voiced Milan Fras, who I’m told (by the fan sitting next to me last night) sounded exactly like he did in the ’80s. Countering his growl was the Enya-esque singing of Mina Špiler. My pal said the band seemed like a kinder, gentler, modern version of the Industrial band he remembered from his youth. There were times during the second of two sets (complete with intermission) that their music sounded like a Euro-synth dance party, sort of a cross between Depeche Mode and The Faint, but with more growling.
Not to say that’s a bad thing. Add the dramatic staging and you’re getting your $25 worth — digital klieg lights beamed across the Slowdown’s empty balcony like WWII search lights, while images flashed on the screen behind the band — sometimes like Mac screen savers, other times showing clips from what looked like a German science fiction film complete with flying saucers emblazoned with swastikas, a sort of Battlestar Galactica fascist nightmare vision, which was actually pretty cool if not disturbing.
The best moments were the symphonic-style movements from the first set (again, very Enya), the cover of Bob Dylan’s “Ballad of a Thin Man,” and the encore, which was sung in a foreign language. These foreign-language songs were the most powerful, maybe because they were the most mysterious and — combined with the goth-synth music — the most disturbing. We add our own meaning when the language isn’t English, inescapably haunting and filled with post-apocalyptic dread.
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Well, one assumes there will be nothing dreadful about what’s happening at The Waiting Room and Reverb this weekend. The One Percent clubs are hosting the 3rd Annual Crom Comedy Fest Friday through Sunday nights. Says comedian Mike Perry, “The festival is locally produced and was started by OK Party Comedy, a local collective created to give Omaha an option that isn’t a corporate comedy club with drink minimums and hacky jokes.” You be the judge regarding hackiness. Pricing and line-up vary from club to club. Go to cromcomedyfest.com for more info.
Needless to say, it puts a hole in the musical calendar, though there’s still plenty going on.
The Barley Street has a full slate tonight, headlined by Strange Attractors with Kerry Eddy and The Current Situation and Scott Severin. $5, 9 p.m.
It’s another all-local showcase tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s with Charlotte Sometimes, Kait Berreckman and The Ronnys. $5, 9:30 p.m.
The weekend’s big show is Saturday night at The Slowdown — the return of Built to Spill. The band is on the road supporting Untethered Moon (Warner Bros, 2015) their first studio album since 2009. Also on the bill are Wooden Indian Burial Ground and Clarke and the Himselfs. $20, 9 p.m.
Also Saturday night, 4ontheFloor headlines a show at O’Leaver’s with Clarence Tilton and The Sons of O’Leaver’s. $5, 9:30 p.m.
And that’s what I got for this weekend. If I missed your show, put it in the comments section. Have a great Memorial Day weekend.
We’ll start with The Rentals because it was one of the best shows I’ve seen this year. Frontman Matt Sharp and his band were transcendent on a number of levels despite fewer than 100 people in the Waiting Room crowd, a testament I suppose of the fact that their hey day was almost 20 years ago and how hard it is to keep your memory alive in the internet age. It certainly isn’t from lack of quality. The Rentals new record, Lost in Alphaville (Polyvinyl, 2014), is as good or better than the rest of their discography. If you were a fan of the band or of good electronic pop rock, you’d love it.
They came out in white lab coats with Sharp dressed in black Nehru chic. The outfits only lasted one song before the band dropped their guises for their usual stage clothes, though there would be more “costumes” later.
You could say the Haden sisters were an integral part of The Rentals’ original sound. They invented those unique tight-pitched cooing harmonies, as anyone familiar with their band (That Dog.) can attest. The fact that current vocalists Lizzi Ellison and Patti King (who also performed in opening band Radiation City) were able to reproduce those harmonies is impressive, let alone bring their own style to this material. The duo are less mechanical, more earthy sounding than the Haden sisters, which lent itself well to the new material along with a couple covers, including a fetching low-key version of Whitney Houston’s “I Want to Dance with Somebody” that was a heart-shaped nod to the ’80s (but that would get eclipsed during the encore).
Sharp is a consummate performer, a theatrical presence constantly moving and reaching out to the rather small audience that surrounded the front of the stage. You’ve heard this one before, but it didn’t matter if there were 60 or 600 in the room, Sharp gave an arena-style performance, as did his band.
Ghostbuster Matt Sharp vs. the Sta-Puff Marshmallow Man at The Waiting Room, March 15, 2015.
For the encore, Sharp, Ellison and King walked onto the floor with a small Casio-type synth and sang the first song surrounded by the tiny crowd before returning to the stage to play the requisite encore song “Friends of P” with the full band. Prior to the end of the tune, however, Sharp exited stage right, leaving the band to finish the song alone. Something wrong? Nope. Out came Sharp onto the floor again, this time dressed as a Ghostbuster holding a marshmallow rifle, followed by someone dressed in a Sta-Puff Marshmallow Man costume. Hilarity ensued, along with a dead-on rendition of the Ghostbusters theme. Why not? Count yourself lucky if you were there to see it.
Healer at The Slowdown, May 15, 2015.
Earlier in the evening I caught the stage debut of Healer, the new supergroup that features members of Ladyfinger, Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship and UUVVWWZ. Fronted by Dan Brennan, the band specialized in a style of indie that melds traditional rock that leans toward Mother Love Bone grunge. Unlike so many vibe bands in the scene these days, Brennan writes full-on songs with soaring vocal melodies sung over a very tight band. If there’s a quibble it was with Brennan’s uncertain vocals, which wobbled and faded at times. Chock it up to this being their first gig, performed in front of a sizable main-stage Slowdown audience.
And maybe the fact that the band was missing one players, Jim Schroeder, who is out on the road with Simon Joyner. Simon passed along some bad news yesterday via Facebook. Someone broke into the band’s van while they were in Oakland, taking off with some pedals, cymbals and computer equipment. Despite that, Simon said the show — and the tour — will go on…
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Tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s, Kevin Seconds, the lead singer and principal songwriter of legendary American hardcore punk band 7Seconds, headlines a show that also features Ted Stevens (Cursive, Unknown Project) and Aaron Parker (Gordon). Come see a legend up close and personal. $8, 9 p.m.
Matt Pond PA has such a sublime voice. I mean, a really good voice, especially for the kind of indie-pop music he’s known for. The first time I saw him play was about 12 years ago at Sokol Underground, and his voice has only gotten better. So has his band. He had an amazing crew with him last night at Reverb Lounge, including a standout guitarist, cellist, drummer and bass player (Hey, that’s everybody!).
For this performance they played his 2005 album Several Arrows Later, which was/is a career standout moment for Pond. A collection of 12 songs, each a charmer in its own way, played as if he just released the album last week. Pond and his band ran through the entire record (I think) in order, hardly pausing between songs except to let one of his band mates share a corny joke or two.
Pond’s songs, whether upbeat or mellow, have a somber edge lyrically and sonically. They’re the kind of songs that bring emotions forward to catch in your throat like the memory of a long-ago breakup or a loved one you haven’t seen in years or may never see again. Sad songs mostly, but catchy and memorable. In that way, Pond’s music reminds me of stuff by Pete Yorn or Jeremy Messersmith, though Yorn’s stuff can be so dark and lonely I have hard time even listening to it. Not so with Pond’s music, which is catchy and fun even if it leaves you with a broken heart
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It’s a sorta slow weekend for shows.
Tonight Outlaw Con Bandana headlines at fabulous O’Leaver’s. You can’t miss with Brendan and Pearl. Also on the bill are Church of Graviton and Andrew Berkley. $5, 9:30 p.m.
Saturday night Relax, It’s Science plays at Reverb in Benson with nanaHara. $5, 9 p.m.
Over at O’Leaver’s Saturday it’s singer/songwriter Miwi La Lupa, who was Kevin Coffey’s “band of the week” in the Omaha World-Herald, presumably beating out Garth Brooks (and for good reason). Joining him at the club are Calling Cody and Jazz Brown & The Afterthought. $5, 9:30 p.m.
And that does it for the weekend. If I missed your show, put it in the comments section. And if you haven’t already (or even if you have) listen to this week’s Lazy-i Podcast featuring reviews of new albums by Klemmensen, Joyner, Barnett and Waxahatchee, along with some other fun stuff. Have a great weekend!
What is the musical future of John Klemmensen? Who knows. It’s impossible to base anything on an album release party. Case in point: How many times have you seen bands pull off well-attended album release shows only to fall back to wherever they were before, never building on the momentum they’ve gained leading up to the show? It’s laughably commonplace.
On the other hand, what are these artists supposed to do next? The simple answer is hit the road. Go on a self-booked tour that gets them to as many nearby cities and towns as possible; a tour that presumably was arranged months in advance of the album release show. But that rarely happens because, well, these artists have to survive. They have to feed themselves and their family. They have to pay their rent. Which means the following Monday it’s back to whatever day-job they suffer through to pay the bills.
Booking a tour on your own is difficult. Going out on tour — especially with a band the size of The Party — is expensive. It’s a massive money-loser for everyone involved, an expensive vacation that doesn’t include good meals and hotels. Because of these reasons, local bands talk about touring, but rarely do.
And time passes. Eventually the band plays another local show, and another. And slowly, in their spare time, they begin to write more songs and, before you know it, a Kickstarter campaign pops up and they begin gearing up for the next album release show. It’s an endless cycle. The only way to break out of it is for a miracle to happen, such as someone important (such as a record label) discovering your album who is willing to do what it takes to get you to the next level — rerelease, distribution, publicity, booking agent, financial backing necessary to hit the road. It’s like winning the lottery, and it never happens.
That doesn’t stop people from dreaming. Part of that dream has happened for Klemmensen. Someone put up the money to press 500 copies of Party All Night, his new album. What that person is able to do next to get the record heard only Klemmensen knows, but to that person I say: You have made a good bet based on how the audience responded to his music Friday night — full-on sing-alongs and fist pumps. It helps that Klemmensen has been performing this music for months, but there also is that tangible quality — memorable, yell-worthy lyrics.
I think Klemmensen could break through as a pop act. His music is suited for it. It’s certainly not indie, and when it comes to making a living playing music, that’s probably a good thing these days. But it all depends on what he does next. If he never gets a chance to go on the road, if he goes back to life-as-usual, the only thing that’ll come out of Friday night’s show is a sweet memory.
Little Brazil at Reverb Lounge, May 1, 2015.
Opener Little Brazil put on the best show they’ve played in a long time. The set was all (or almost all) new material, and it was all somewhat awesome. I’m told they’ve recorded some demoes of these songs; can a full-length can’t be far off? Well, frontman Landon Hedges has his hands full over the coming months with the release of the new album by his other band, Desaparecidos, and the ongoing support tour.
Dan McCarthy at Brad’s Corner during Benson First Friday, May 1, 2015.
One other act I caught Friday — Dan McCarthy doing a solo acoustic set on Brad’s Corner. McCarthy is always entertaining. If Brad Hoshaw had been ambitious he would have dragged a full-sized upright piano out to the corner. Next time. Benson First Friday is getting crazier and crazier. This time Military Ave. was blocked off for some sort of art fair craft show thing…
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When did record labels start releasing albums on Mondays? Today Saddle Creek released the new Hop Along and Twinsmith records. Isn’t Tuesday release day (which is eventually shifting to Fridays at some point)?
No matter. If you haven’t heard the new Hop Along album, titled Painted Shut, you need to. As I’ve said before, it’s the best non-Omaha-based Saddle Creek release in years. And apparently Pitchfork agrees. The indie “tastemakers” gave the album a respectable 7.9 rating in this review, where they call out Saddle Creek:
Painted Shut is being released on Saddle Creek, a label built on the kind of romantic, middle-American indie that made Hop Along possible in the first place—music more indebted to the 1970s than the 1980s, more to the earnest mythologizing of folk than the grandstanding of rock, more to the fantasias of Edward Gorey and e.e. cummings than to the flash of the city; music for rickety houses in college towns and the lonelyhearts who collect in their corners like dust and give each other stick-and-pokes. I’d say it all seems old-fashioned but it has been this way for about 25 years and seems part of a longer continuum all the time, so who knows.
Uh, 25 years?
Now, Pitchfork, where’s that Twinsmith review? Not to be outdone, punknews.org reviewed Alligator Years and gave it four stars (out of five, here), launching the review with the statement: “Omaha’s Twinsmith are the next Vampire Weekend.” Oh boy…
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Just got word that the big concert announcement I mentioned online here last week is coming Wednesday morning. Huge. Watch Lazy-i or (I guess) the local media for the announcement. It’ll be hard to miss.
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Great Monday night show tonight: Lady Lamb, whose new album After was just released in March on Mom & Pop Music (Courtney Barnett’s new label) are playing at Slowdown Jr. with Rathborne and Jordan Smith. $12, 9 p.m.