#TBT: The 49’r keeps the music coming (from 2005); Zammuto, Dosh, Caravat tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 1:05 pm September 11, 2014

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

With nothing newsworthy happening — and this being “Throwback Thursday” — let’s dip back into the Lazy-i wayback machine to Sept. 1, 2005, and an interview with The 49’r’s Mark Samuelson shortly after word leaked that his bar would be cutting back on live music. Mark tells us why and gives us a brief Omaha music history listen at the same time…

The 49’r Takes Five — Sept. 1, 2005
You can’t stop the music at the midtown tavern.

The 49'r

The iconic sign for The 49’r…

Within the past few years, The 49’r has established itself as one of the city’s more important music venues, hosting a few national acts but mostly concentrating on providing a stage for up-and-coming local bands. It’s arguably the best place to see snarling, hard-ass rock and punk from bands like The Monroes, Anonymous American and Race for Titles.

So when word leaked out a few weeks ago that The Niner was cutting back on live music, it came as a disappointment both to the bands and the fans of those white-knuckle acts.

Rumor and conjecture did abound. Had The 49’r reached the end of the live music business cycle? A cycle that goes something like this: A bar suffers from a lull in business. A few bands that hang around the place ask if they can play some gigs there, and the owner figures why not, it could help drum up some business. More bands are booked and crowds grow like kudzu. Before long, folks start coming out just because they dig the bar, the staff and its jukebox, and before you know it, the live music becomes a nuisance for the regulars who just want to drink in peace. Seeing an opportunity to cut costs, the venue puts an end to the stage show.

That theory, in this case, is only partially correct, says Mark Samuelson, owner of The 49’r. During the height of his nightclub business, Samuelson ran four successful Omaha bars simultaneously: The Partners on 42nd and F, the legendary Howard St. Tavern in the Old Market, its “upstairs bar” called The White Rabbit, and the good ol’ 49’r at 49th & Dodge.

Today only The Niner remains, which Samuelson still operates along with his other businesses, Aksarben Fixture and Supply, an ATM business, and some real estate ventures. The degree in which he operates The Niner, however, has changed. Samuelson says he’s somewhat removed from the bar’s day-to-day operations.

“I listen to my help,” he said when asked about the shift in the venue’s live music policy. “I think we got over-saturated, and every band wanted to play here. The staff was hearing that we were doing a little too much music. Now we’re only choosing the best bands that really draw people.”

He pointed out that The Niner’s live music policy differs from the way the Howard St. was run. Back then, Samuelson said he started booking new music acts because blues was such a tough sell. And it didn’t take long for the club to become a national tour stop for tomorrow’s superstars.

“We had the Smashing Pumpkins come in for a $140 guarantee and two vegetarian pizzas,” he said. “It’s crazy to think about that today.”

Unlike the Howard St, The 49’r doesn’t offer guarantees. Instead, bands take home whatever cover charge they can generate. “So if you’re just playing for the door, it doesn’t make sense for the big bands to come here,” he said.

There are exceptions, however, such as when the staff wanted to bring in New York Dolls guitarist Sylvain Sylvain. “If they have a good idea, I just stay out of the way,” Samuelson said. So far, it’s worked well.

But if anything, The 49r’s biggest draw is its location in the heart of Dundee, or as their matchbooks used to say: “In the middle of everything and no place to park.”

“We’re not in the middle anymore. We’re downtown,” Samuelson said, laughing. “We’re so busy because we have so many people who live close to here. The .08 (drinking) law is really hurting a lot of clubs. No one wants to risk it.”

Better to tie one on at The Niner and safely stumble home then to get behind the wheel of a car.

So does the bar’s already-packed weekends without bands spell the end for The Niner’s live music? Hardly. In fact, Samuelson said the venue will get back into the swing of things later this fall. “It’s gonna pick back up,” he said. “I anticipate doing more than just a couple of shows a month like we’re doing now.”

And really, how could he ever stop? For it was at The 49’r back in the early ’70s that a 15-year-old Samuelson’s own band, Hat Trick, had its first gig. Ironically, the band’s second gig would be at The Howard St. Tavern. — Sept. 1, 2005.

* * *

Well, we all know what happened next. The 49’r would get sold to CVS in 2010, but the actual deal would get tied up by Ben Gray in the Omaha City Council. Then, for reasons that are still unclear, Gray would change his vote and the walls came tumbling down. Hard to believe it’s been five years. I think about The Niner every time I drive past that CVS on Dodge Street, or see Ben Gray at some public function or on TV….

* * *

OK, a couple shows worth mentioning tonight.

Over at The Waiting Room it’s Zammuto, featuring Nick Zammuto, a co-founder of classic indie band Books. Zammuto has a new album, Anchor, on Temporary Residence. Opening is Dosh (Anticon, Graveface Records). $12 9 p.m.

Also tonight, Caravat, featuring David Ozinga and Teal Gardner of UUVVWWZ, headlines a show at fabulous O’Leaver’s with Laughing Eye Weeping Eye and L. Eugene Methe. $5, 9 p.m.

* * *

In this week’s column, Pt. 2 on my Lumo Lift experiment. You can read it in this week’s issue of The Reader or online right here.

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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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


CVS/Niner Circus today at 2; School of Seven Bells, Hole fundraiser tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 2:17 pm September 21, 2010

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

An e-mail went out today from Voice Omaha focused on today’s Omaha City Council meeting that will decide the fate of The 49’r and (some say) the fate of Dundee as a residential neighborhood if the council approves plans to build a CVS pharmacy at 49th and Dodge. Voice Omaha is a “non-partisan group dedicated to creating a more inclusive, just, transparent, sustainable and culturally vibrant Omaha by actively supporting leaders, policies and projects that advance this vision.” The CVS pharmacy proposal apparently doesn’t fit into that vision, as the e-mail asked readers to not tolerate a “corporate-run Omaha.” The letter said:

“Not only were the New York developers unwilling to negotiate to create a structure more suitable for urban neighborhoods, they took to veiled threats and coercion to get the job done. One of the more active opponents of the development was contacted by the principal developer and told ‘we know where you work and we know where you live.’ City Council members were told CVS would pull plans for additional sites, including the location at 72nd and Maple already in process, if the 49th and Dodge location is blocked.”

Strong stuff. While I’ve heard rumor of the above-mentioned threats, I haven’t seen it stated in print, until this e-mail arrived. The Voice Omaha letter went on to ask readers to contact Ben Gray, Thomas Mulligan or Franklin Thompson and urge them to vote against CVS. I guess they gave up all hope on changing bitter ol’ Garry Gernandt’s mind (Rosenblatt is dead, Garry, let it go).  You can read the entire letter online at the Voice Omaha website.

My guess is that the two votes — one to reconsider the previous vote and the other to approve the CVS proposal — will be handled as promptly as possible just so the council members can get the issue behind them. After all, there’s no public hearing on the matter, and it’s clear that everyone has made up their minds. Still, if you want to go down there and be seen (but not heard), the circus starts at 2 p.m.

* * *

There are two shows worth your time tonight:

At good ol’ Sokol Underground it’s a benefit concert for the new Hole in downtown Benson. Money raised presumably will go toward fixing up the new location, which is in the basement of the building just east of 60th St. on Maple. Headliner is NYC punk band Star Fucking Hipsters, while the undercard includes Eastern Turkish, Youth and Tear Gas and Bombs Blast. The $10 show starts at 6 p.m. Here’s some more background on the new Hole.

Also tonight, School of Seven Bells plays at The Waiting Room with Active Child. $10, 9 p.m.

* * *

Tomorrow: Land of Talk

* * *

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 © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Column 288: The Hole moves, Worker’s Takeout opens and Mousetrap returns; Ben Gray’s inner struggles (The 49’r, bleak); LotM tonight…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:53 pm September 15, 2010

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I went to the new Worker’s for lunch. The line was out the door. The Italian Beef was delicious, though next time I need to remember to order it “dry.”

Column 288: New Beginnings

The Hole moves to Benson; Worker’s Takeout reopens downtown.

When the all-ages music venue The Hole opened in its new location in February, there was hope that it could become this generation’s Cog Factory — the legendary ’90s-era bunker where kids (and some adults) saw national touring punk and indie bands perform alongside their local heroes. It was a tall order for The Hole’s owners Anna and Donny Diederich, and booking agent Lucas Wright. But as summer leaned toward fall, it looked like they were onto something. The Hole had regular bookings, was attracting good audiences, and was beginning to gain a national reputation as a viable all-ages option for touring punk bands.

But it all ended last Friday when the landlord that owns the building where The Hole was located at 712 So. 16th St. (the old Diamond Bar) changed the locks and told them to get out. The eviction was easy, since the Diederichs had never signed a lease on the building.

The reasons were… sketchy. The landlord had completed refurbishing apartments above the venue, and wanted to move in, said Anna Diederich. “At first he told us we could only do shows on weekends.” Then there was the dispute over the building’s basement, which Donny and some of his friends cleaned out and fixed up. “(The landlord) said by doing that we devalued the property, and that we threw things away that we shouldn’t have,” Anna said.

The eviction had come with little warning. “He gave us a week to get out,” Anna said. “We tried to renegotiate, and he gave us a couple days extension, but when Friday afternoon came around, he called and said the locks had been changed and that we could come back later for our PA equipment.”

It didn’t matter to the landlord that Wright, who goes by Black Heart Booking, had touring bands booked at The Hole Friday night. Wright and Deiderich both said the landlord feared that the final show would turn into an orgy of destruction, even though both had been very clear that nothing like that was going to happen. At the last minute, Wright moved the show to a local house. And that looked like the end of The Hole.

But it wasn’t. Anna said Monday that The Hole will reopen in a new location in downtown Benson. “We just made the deal today, and can move in in a couple days,” she said. “We just need to come up with the deposit.”

The new location is in the basement of a building located on Maple Street just east of the Subway sandwich shop. “It’s right across the street from the Community Center and catty-corner from the thrift store,” Anna said. “The door to the venue is in the alley off 60th St. It’s a back-door entrance only, which is kind of cool.”

Anna said the first step will be to clean out the 2,000-square-foot space, decorate and then add the stage. The couple, who also ran the Convicted skate shop, which had moved to the Diamond Bar building a few months ago, said they also intend to have a small skate shop in their new Benson location. “We want it to be more like a venue that sells skateboards,” Anna said. “We’ll start off small with just boards, trucks and wheels. We kept the signs from the old store — Convicted is not going to die, that’s for sure.”

To help pay for their initial start-up costs, a benefit show for the new Hole is being held at Sokol Underground Tuesday, Sept. 21, headlined by NYC punk band Star Fucking Hipsters, and featuring local punk acts Eastern Turkish, Youth and Tear Gas and Bombs Blast. The $10 show starts at 6 p.m.

Like before, The Hole will be booked primarily by Anna and Donny with help from Black Heart and whoever else wants to book the room, Anna said. It will remain an all-ages venue, designed as a place where kids can come and hang out. “All-ages venues end up being non-profits,” she said. “You’re not making money off alcohol; you’re doing it just for the music, and that ain’t easy.”

* * *

Speaking of new beginnings, it was only this past June that Worker’s Takeout, located next to O’Leaver’s on south Saddle Creek Rd., went out of business. The shop, owned and operated by Ladyfinger and So-So Sailors frontman Chris Machmuller, had gained a reputation for its amazing pressed Cuban pork roast sandwiches and other hot and cold treats, but it wasn’t enough to keep the doors open.

Then out of the blue, Worker’s reopened at 16th & Dodge in the ground floor of the former First National Bank downtown headquarters. Worker’s is sharing the space with Scooter’s Coffee, so now you’ll now be able to grab a latte with that Hot Italian Beef or Chicago dog. Machmuller said the shop will be open 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays; but there will be no weekend hours. The menu will stay as it was “with a few enhancements.” Can downtown delivery be far behind?

* * *

One final bit of good news: I got an e-mail Monday afternoon via Facebook from Craig Crawford, bass player for legendary Omaha punk band Mousetrap. “It looks like mousetrap 2010 will happen at The Waiting Room on Dec. 23 (again), with a possibility of a show in Lincoln as well,” Crawford said. “Same line up, with a possibility of some deep cut songs.” Last year’s line-up included frontman/guitarist Patrick Buchanan (of course) and drummer Mike Mazzola, and was arguably one of the band’s best performances in its 20-year history. Can they top it? Stay tuned…

* * *

It’s not all good news.

Yesterday Omaha City Council meeting, Councilman Garry Gernandt supported Ben Gray’s motion to reconsider the building of a CVS Pharmacy at 49th and Dodge, the site of The 49’r Bar, which means the proposal will be voted on again at next Tuesday’s City Council meeting, without a public hearing.

In addition, The Omaha World-Herald reported this morning in this article that Gray will flip his original vote against the proposal and will now support the CVS proposal. No real reason was given by Gray in the article other than to say that his first vote “was not consistent with what I normally do,” which makes it sound as if Gray had an argument with himself when he got home after the first vote:

“So what did you do?”

“Well, I voted against it.”

“What!? Are you stupid? Do you know what that could do to economic development in Omaha?”

“I… don’t know. I guess I didn’t think…”

“You’re damn right you didn’t think.”

“Look, I’m sorry. There were all those angry people at the meeting, staring at me. I mean, I shop at Walgreens. I guess it was not consistent with what I normally do, but what’s done is done.”

“Well then you better undone it.”

“What do you want me to do?”

“You’ll get on that phone right now to Channel 7 and tell them that you’ve had a change of heart and want to change your vote.”

“But… It’ll look like someone from CVS got to me and made me change my vote by threatening to pull out of Omaha if the Dundee proposal isn’t passed. It’ll make me look like a pussy.”

“I don’t care what it makes you look like. You’re going to get on that phone right now and get the ball rolling.”

“Yes dear…”

There are countless more diabolical (and reasonable) theories as to why all of this is happening, but they all boil down to the same thing: economic coercion by CVS — you’ll either allow us to build at 49th and Dodge or we’re stopping construction on the 72nd and Maple CVS location. That’s certainly what was implied in this WOWT story that appeared online yesterday.

If that threat was indeed made to any City Council member, it was an empty one. Any “economic development” by CVS will come at the expense of Walgreens or other pharmacies (such as Kohll’s). I think I can speak for most of the people I know when I say Omaha already has too many pharmacies. If CVS decided to take their ball and go home because the City Council wouldn’t approve their Dodge St. plan, no tears would be shed. Even if CVS had vindictively stopped construction at 72nd and Maple (which is highly unlikely) the worst thing that would come of it is that an already vacant corner would remain vacant.

Does any of this matter? Not really. It’s obvious that the City Council is now going to vote yes to what amounts to an invasion of CVS stores throughout Omaha, supposedly centered around a “flagship” store on 49th and Dodge that will be the least profitable of the bunch. Regardless of the “Old Lincoln Highway” argument or the “ruining the neighborhood feel of Dundee” argument, it’s just a bad location to build a pharmacy – an area with poor foot traffic next to a major throughway that will make access difficult. They’ll see.

And while there will be no public hearing on the matter, there’s nothing stopping those who oppose CVS from showing up at next week’s City Council meeting as a show of numbers against the proposal. Even though it probably won’t make a difference.

* * *

Landing on the Moon once again returns to O’Leaver’s tonight with Millions of Boys (Sara from Honey & Darling), Tina Sparkle and Jared Grabb. $5, 9:30 p.m.

* * *

Tomorrow: An interview with Titus Andronicus where Patrick Stickles talks about all those comparisons to Conor Oberst. Oh boy…

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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 © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Ben Gray reconsiders The 49’r’s stay of execution; AutoPilot Art benefit (Capgun Coup, Conchance, Dapose, more) tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 2:25 pm September 9, 2010

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

And just like that, the execution of The 49’r could be back on.

Omaha City Councilman Ben Gray this morning said he’s going to ask the Council to reconsider CVS Pharmacy’s plans to build a store at 49th and Dodge where the Niner currently stands, reports KETV.com. Last week the Council voted 4-3 against CVS and everyone thought that was the end of it. Gray was among the “nay” votes. So what would make Gray change his mind? No doubt CVS has (had?) plans to do a full Walgreens-style invasion of Omaha, including building new stores in Gray’s district. Did the Dundee Uprising put a sour taste in CVS’s mouth?

KETV asked if CVS threatened to pull out of the Omaha market because of the Dundee rejection. Gray said he had a conversation with the mayor about the issue,” said the KETV.com story, which went on to quote Gray saying “There was no pressure there. It was his opinion that I ought to revisit it — especially since there was some things he realizes I didn’t know early on.” Sure sounds like Gray is trying to deflect some of the heat for his decision onto Suttle.

The item to reconsider the CVS proposal will be on next Tuesday’s City Council agenda, KETV said. If approved, a public hearing will be held the following week. So here we go again, maybe…

On a side note, the two Cursive shows at The 49’r Sept. 19 and 20 sold out in the blink of an eye.

* * *

Autopilot Art is a small clothing business owned and operated by Alexia Thiele, who has been designing clothes for the past six or seven years for her friends and folks in bands around town. Her materials include repurposed everyday textiles like curtains and table clothes. You can check out some of her work on the Autopilot Art website.

Anyway, tonight there’s a benefit event at Slowdown in support of AutoPilot that will include apparel sales, tie-dying, silk screening, a raffle and live performances from a slew of local bands and musicians, including Capgun Coup, Conchance, Dapose (The Faint), Honeybee, La Casa Bombas, Jason Meyer (Talking Mountain) and some “special guests,” along with DJ action by Jacob Thiele and friends. Get the full skinny on the event’s Facebook page. Show starts at 8 and will run you $8. It’s a great opportunity to support a local fashion artist/icon and, of course, have a good time.

Also, tonight may be the last Omaha show for Scott Severin and the Milton Burlesque for the foreseeable future. Severin sent an e-mail last week saying tonight’s show at The Lift Lounge on 96th St. would be one of the final shows before an “extensive (?) hiatus.” Severin and Co. go on at 8, $8. The Severin Burlesque’s last show is slated for Saturday at Lincoln’s Zoo Bar.

* * *

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 © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.