#TBT April 14, 2005: Selling the Ranch (Bowl); Carl Miller/Thrillers, Alexa Dexa, Lodgings are Live @ O’Leaver’s…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:41 pm April 14, 2016
The long, lost Ranch Bowl...

The long, lost Ranch Bowl…

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

This being Throwback Thursday, why not we step into the Lazy-i Wayback Machine and turn the dial to 11 years ago, to April 14, 2005? Omaha was still basking in the glow of national attention thanks to Saddle Creek Records. Adding to the ever-changing local music landscape was the advent of new clubs that would eventually dot the Omaha landscape in the coming years, presumably to ride that indie music wave.

In 2005 the only games in town for indie shows were the Sokol properties (the auditorium and “Underground”), Saddle Creek Bar, Mick’s and various hall shows that were blurring into the ether. And then there was The Ranch Bowl, a relic from an earlier time that had seen better days.

It was on this day 11 years ago that I posted the following column, which reported that the legendary Ranch Bowl, once located on south 72nd St., was finally closing its doors for good and would be torn down to make way for a Wal-Mart. The news sent mild shockwaves throughout the music scene, even though The Bowl had lost its luster years earlier…

Column 21: Selling the Ranch

Mike Brannan isn’t talking.

When news began buzzing through the music scene last Wednesday that the once legendary Ranch Bowl — the venue Brannan owns and operates with partner Dan Crowell — will be closing its doors, Brannan confirmed it, but said nothing more.

Rumors of the venue’s demise had begun circulating earlier in the week, and were met with skepticism by those of us who have followed the music scene for any amount of time. We’d been hearing those rumors for years, from before Brannan and Crowell took over in 2003, back when Matt Markel ran the place. And every time the rumors ended up being false.

Like last October, when rumors were flying that Markel was about to somehow sell the joint out from under Brannan and Crowell, that the IRS had raided the bar during a Little Feat concert, and that the duo had been bouncing checks all over town.

Brannan responded that time, saying he had been involved in a very tough negotiation with the Markels, who had attempted a last-minute renegotiation of their purchase deal. That led to lawsuits from both sides, which eventually were settled. Brannan said that it wasn’t the IRS but the Nebraska Dept. of Revenue that had made an unannounced house call to the Bowl and levied them for $800. He also said that he and Crowell had some additional property under contract, and that other projects would be coming on line that would be unveiled accordingly. “The Ranch Bowl will now receive considerably more attention from Dan and myself as we consider what to do with it,” he had said last October. “We, however, had to resolve the deal with the Markels before we could push ahead with anything else, as that handcuffed us for quite some time.”

Five months later and the rumors were back. But this time there were no denials. Brannan confirmed on SLAM Omaha — the city’s music-scene gossip Web board — that the Ranch Bowl will finally be closed and torn down. A deal had been made to redevelop the site, finalized April 4. All their original renovation plans had been scrapped because they “lacked the local goodwill required for us to make the additional investments required” and that he and Crowell “look forward to putting the first proper mid-sized music venue online in Omaha.”

The next day, The Omaha World-Herald made it official, but Brannan didn’t add any Technicolor. Instead, the paper pursued the Wal-Mart angle. Seems Brannan and real estate man John Lund have been working together to acquire the Bowl property from Markel, which they will turn around and sell along with a sizable chunk of surrounding property. Instead of dropping big bucks on renovating the Bowl, it had to make more sense for Brannan to cash in and invest in a new venue that doesn’t need as much renovation (and doesn’t have a bowling alley attached to it). A place like Club Joy on the southwest corner of The Old Market, for instance.

But that’s all speculation. When contacted Sunday, Brannan was unwilling to comment about the new venue and its location; he wasn’t even willing to say what style of music it will cater to, only saying that there would be an announcement made when the time is right.

He did say that Artery Studios, located in the Ranch Bowl complex, would stay open after the Bowl closes, and that he’s looking for somewhere to move the studio once the bulldozers arrive. Though not eager to run a studio, he said he likes the co-op nature of the recording business, and this time he’ll be bringing in some new players.

But the real questions remain unanswered. Like why Brannan thinks he’ll have better luck with a new venue when he couldn’t make it work with an established enterprise like The Ranch Bowl, a club that once boasted shows by acts like The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pavement and Bob Mould.

Or how a city the size of Omaha can support a new 500-capacity venue — as well as a second new live music venue rumored to be announced this month, also located downtown — when it can’t support the ones that are operating now.

All good questions. But Brannan ain’t talking. — Lazy-i April 14, 2005

Needless to say, The Ranch Bowl was demolished and Brannan never opened another club, but two new mid-sized clubs did pop up a couple years later, but that’s another story…

* * *

The good folks at Live @ O’Leaver’s rolled out three new sessions this week. Check them out below:

* * *

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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Ten Questions with Alexa Dexa; Darkwing, They Might Be Giants tonight tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:33 pm March 22, 2016
Alexa Dexa plays House of Loom Wednesday, March 23.

Alexa Dexa plays House of Loom Wednesday, March 23.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

New Yorker Alexa Dexa, who plays a free concert tomorrow night (March 23) at House of Loom, coined the term “toychestral electronic pop” to describe her avant-art music played on a toy baby grand piano, desk bells, alarm clock and iPhone (playing pre-recorded beats). Add to that her swoony, bluesy voice and you’ve got an altogether unique musical / performance art experience with the charm of early Purity Ring or Bjork crossed with Philip Glass but played on tiny toy instruments.

This must be seen to be believed.

We asked Alexa to answer our Ten Questions. Here’s what she had to say:

1. What is your favorite album?

Alexa Dexa: Probably my favorite record to listen to is Peter and The Wolf. Prokofiev is a master!

2. What is your least favorite song?

I’m not a huge fan of commercial pop songs. I think most of them are too sterile both musically and lyrically.

3. What do you enjoy most about performing?

My favorite part of performing is having the opportunity to connect with people. To share my story and then listen to the stories of others who came to hear me. It’s a beautiful exchange.

4. What do you hate about performing?

I hate all the work it takes behind the scenes to plan a performance – I certainly can’t romanticize sending countless emails into the Internet void knowing only a handful will contact me back and an even smaller percentage will be interested. I love when I’m lucky enough to stumble on a venue like House of Loom where there’s a clear reciprocal interest in the event and I’m given a generous helping hand in putting the show together!

5. What is your favorite substance (legal or illegal)?

I feel like my number one definitely has to go to water. I don’t think I’m going anywhere without that! Recently I got an inhaler for a brutal chest cold. That was pretty stellar to be able to breathe easily again after so much constriction. Kind of like putting glasses on for the first time when you start needing them. I love glasses too.

6. What city or town do you love performing at?

There are a few! Detroit is absolutely teeming with friendly and creative people. So are Houston, Memphis and Charlotte! I find that these cities are always ultra welcoming to me and genuinely focused on music as an art-form to facilitate building community. That’s a big deal for me. I always want to perform for and with people that are in it for the quality of the music and for creating lasting friendships instead of playing into the industry’s mandate that music is only as valuable as the big money or big connections backing an artist.

7. What city or town did you have your worst gig (and why)?

My worst gig to date was in Austin, TX. The sound engineer who was also the owner of the venue I was playing was out of his mind with rage (and allegedly crack) because he couldn’t find the stage plot I had sent him a month earlier. He almost cancelled my show during the hour-long sound check he insisted on giving me because I tried to show him how I mic my toy piano and desk bells. A regular sound check for me takes like 10 minutes. My set up is just 2 mics and a 1/4 inch cable. Nothing complicated. Anyway after playing the show (which I should have just refused to play at the first sign of inappropriate behavior) I left behind my favorite Native American turquoise necklace. I came back for it 20 minutes later and it was cracked in half.

8. How do you pay your bills?

I teach music lessons through Skype and at some music stores on Long Island when I’m not on tour. Royalties for my performances and CD sales help quite a bit too!

9. What one profession other than music would you like to attempt; what one profession would you absolutely hate to do?

I’ve been thinking about this lately actually! I’m pretty sure I’d make a rad travel agent since I spend so much time touring and organizing my own national and international music-related travel. I have a few itineraries that I’m sure some people would enjoy! I also have the know-how on budget travel. Lots of tips! As for what I would absolutely hate: I have an aversion to being stuck in front of a computer screen doing mindless tasks all day and to routines that don’t allow for educational/creative/personal growth. Any 9-5 data entry type position that doesn’t require much intricate thought or involvement is sure to lose my interest and commitment pretty quickly.

10. What are the stories you’ve heard about Omaha, Nebraska?

One of my favorite professors at Berklee College of Music (and an incredible composer at that) named Marti Epstein is from Nebraska. I remember her once telling our class how proud she is of being from the area! Honestly, I’m excited to have my own stories come March 23rd!

Alexa Dexa plays Wednesday, March 23, at House of Loom, 1012 So. 10th St. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Admission is FREE. For more information, visit houseofloom.com.

* * *

Just to make it perfectly clear, the Alexa Dexa show is tomorrow night, March 23. I post Ten Questions interviews a day or so prior to the actual events, so you have time to contemplate and make room in your busy schedules to attend. We’ve got a quite a few more Ten Questions going online in the coming weeks…

* * *

Tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s it’s Leonia, New Jersey grunge/surf band Darkwing with Pioneer Moxie and Gallivant. $5, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, They Might Be Giants returns to The Slowdown tonight for a sold out show.  Starts at 8 p.m.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.