Almost Music to exit Benson for Blackstone; BFF, Guster tonight (SOLD OUT)…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:41 pm February 5, 2016
The Iwen Photography building at 3925 Farnam St., will become the new home of Almost Music.

The Iwen Photography building at 3925 Farnam St. will become the new home of Almost Music.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

The big news (and it is big news) is that used record store Almost Music, which opened at a storefront on the west end of Benson (65th and Maple) in October 2013, announced yesterday via Facebook that it is moving operations to the Blackstone District.

The new store, which will also include Solid Jackson Bookstore, will be located at  3925 Farnam St., in the building that used to house Iwen Photography. The targeted opening date of the new location is April 1 or 2, according to Brad Smith, who runs Almost Music.

In addition to having the best curated selection of quality used vinyl (and some new vinyl, too), Almost Music hosted a number of in-store performances that included some tasty sidewalk barbecue. “We will still be doing in-stores, there’s room (in the new location),” Smith said. “As far as the grilling out goes…not quite sure yet. Maybe we’ll take over Archetype (Coffee)’s patio!”

Smith knows the move is risky, but says it’s a step he needed to take to continue growing the business. No doubt there will be more foot traffic along Farnam Street. Blackstone has quickly established itself as one of the most exciting new food and booze districts in Omaha in recent years. That addition of more retail outlets will only strengthen the area.

Smith said it’ll be business as usual at the old Almost Music/Solid Jackson location until the last week of March. So will there be a big “moving sale” leading up to the move? “There probably will at some point,” Smith said.

Read more about Brad’s vision for Almost Music and how it carries on a tradition that began with The Antiquarium Record Store in this 2013 Lazy-i interview.

* * *

Guster at Slowdown, Oct. 12, 2010.

Guster at Slowdown, Oct. 12, 2010. Guster returns tonight to Slowdown for a sold out show.

Is it time to start booking Guster in larger venues than The Slowdown? The laid-back good-time indie band (now on Network) sold out tonight’s show in the big room a few days ago.

They’ve been touring through Omaha since way back in 1999 when they first played at The Ranch Bowl. Even back then, the band traveled in style in a tour bus, as described in this vintage ’99 Lazy-i interview. I’ve interviewed the Guster dudes a number of times since, but not for this show, and guess what? I didn’t get tickets. Boo! Vetiver opens. Show starts at 9.

Also tonight, Super Ghost and Timecat open for Fight Metaphor at Reverb. The 8 p.m. show costs $7.

Also, it’s another Benson First Friday. Check out the Brian Tait installation at The Little Gallery (across the street from The Sydney) titled 355. Runs from 6 to 9 p.m. Find out more. See you there.

That’s all I got for this weekend (slim pickin’s indeed). If I missed your show, put it in the comments section. Have a great weekend.

* * *

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.

Lazy-i

Column 292: Rock of Ages; Live Review: Guster…

Category: Blog,Column,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:48 pm October 13, 2010

Ra Ra Riot at The Waiting Room Oct. 8, 2010.

Ra Ra Riot at The Waiting Room Oct. 8, 2010.

Column 292: Rock of Ages

Live reviews of Ra Ra Riot, The Sons of…

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I’ve never bought into the whole idea that age has anything to do with enjoying rock music, and I still don’t, but the question did come up this past weekend.

I waded into the crowd of suburban youth at The Waiting Room Friday night too late to see either of the opening bands, thanks to the Yankees. I considered skipping the show altogether because it was already 11, but I was on the list and I figured why not? While I’d heard of Ra Ra Riot — the headliner — they’d always slipped under my radar. I knew that they’d been in the College Music Journal top-20 shortly after their Barsuk release hit the streets. I’d read their description at allmusic.com, where their style was described as “chamber pop,” probably because the band employs a violinist and cello player, both young women.

Upon entering the club, there they were like a pair of gorgeous bookends standing on opposite sides of the crowded stage, divided by RRR’s shaggy frontman who leaned forward on the microphone in front of a mob scene down below. The show wasn’t a sell out, but it was handsomely attended, again by more women than men — a trend that’s becoming familiar for indie shows these days.

So I stood back by the soundboard with my Rolling Rock and tried to lock in, but couldn’t. Other than those strings, the six-piece didn’t sound much different than any of the crop of hot indie pop bands currently burning up the CMJ charts — Vampire Weekend, Tokyo Police Club, Yeasayer, even Local Natives, a band who played a sold-out show at TWR a week earlier.

Outside the venue on the sidewalk along Maple Street a fan tried to convince me that Ra Ra Riot was different than all those other bands, that there was something special in their melodies that set them apart from the herd. I listened quietly, and then told him that as much as I respected his opinion, he was wrong. I said RRR was just another kick-drum-fueled open-chord pop act trying to skirt the border between indie rock and dorm-room dance music, and while that was all perfectly fine, nothing stood out about the band’s music, no lyric or melody was memorable, and that I was getting tired of hearing the same old song that I’d been hearing by all these bands for the past two years.

And then the question came up: Was I turning into one of those “back in my day” old guys who couldn’t get with the latest sound?

In my dismay, I mentioned this to one of the 20-something regulars at O’Leaver’s the following night. “Yes, you’re getting old,” he said, “but that doesn’t mean that Ra Ra Riot doesn’t suck.” He then went on to admonish me for not having been at The 49’r the night before to hear the band I was about to hear.

O’Leaver’s is a tiny club compared to TWR, and when it’s packed, it feels even tinier. Saturday night the drunken throng pushed out the door into the concrete beer garden, there to see the reunion of The Sons of O’Leaver’s (the night before, they were The Sons of The 49’r), a local band that made its mark in the early part of the last decade. The band features some of the city’s most notable musicians: Frontman Kelly Maxwell and drummer Mike Loftus, who had been in 60-Watt Saloon, Shovelhead, and Hong Hyn Corp, which is a band that included guitarist/vocalist Matt Rutledge, who had been in Compost, Miss Lonely Hearts, Holiday and The Great Dismal, which is a band that included bass player Mike Tulis, who is known for his work in Full Blown, The Monroes and The Third Men.

In other words, The Sons of… is a veterans’ club made that much more venerable that night by the addition of Omaha expatriate Mike Jaworski (Hello from Waveland, The Cops), who was in town from Seattle.  Dressed to the nines in formal suits and ties, the band took to the area that O’Leaver’s calls a stage and ripped through an hour of gritty rock that bordered on punk. It was just what I had been thirsting for after the past few weeks of indie rock pabulum. I could have listened to it all night.

But didn’t this underscore the whole “old guy” argument? The Sons of… music clearly is a reflection of a by-gone era — a sort of homage to ’90s “college rock” (the phrase used before the term “indie” came into vogue) played by a bunch of guys in their 30s.

I stood back by the sound board with my Rolling Rock and looked over a crowd that was as locked in as I was — a crowd whose age spanned from 21 to 50+. After the smoke cleared, Little Brazil took the stage, a band as modern as any you’ll likely hear on Sirius XMU, but with a sound not that far removed from the band I just heard.

And I realized that I knew the answer. Some new stuff will never jive with me. On the other hand, I’ve been digging the new CDs by Pete Yorn, Land of Talk and Deerhunter. While Katy Perry, Justin Bieber and Ke$ha will always be greasy kids stuff. Rock music isn’t always universal; it doesn’t always span the ages, but in the end, the only person who can tell you if you’re too old to listen to it is you.

* * *

Guster at Slowdown, Oct. 12, 2010.

Guster at Slowdown, Oct. 12, 2010.

I didn’t see many familiar faces last night at Slowdown for Guster. And I didn’t expect to, either. Regardless, the show sold out, and the big room was filled with hard-core Guster fans who sang along with the band throughout the evening. Performing as a five-piece, Guster’s usual trio had a second drummer and a second guitarist in tow. Overall, they sounded very good playing a broad selection of songs from all their albums, and making note whenever they played a new one. I know frontman Ryan Miller thinks their new record is a bold, new direction, but the songs fit into the rest of the Guster canon seamlessly, and could have come off any of the older records. Miller had good between-song shtick, talking directly to a few members of the crowd, including one poor person who said they saw him at dinner. His response: “I took a really good sh** today, too.” Hopefully, the poor patron wasn’t around for that.

In the end, it was a somewhat flat set by a band with lots of catchy songs that tend to blend into each other after an hour, which was when I reached my threshold. They seemed to be doing the set “by the numbers,” walking through the songs as if they’d been on the road for six months straight instead of just a few weeks — a general lack of enthusiasm from a band that’s been playing the same style of music for nearly 20 years. The performance, specifically from Miller, looked more like a chore than a spectacle.

* * *

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.

Lazy-i

Column 291: Guster Pt. 2; Beauty In the Beast (ex-Eagle Seagull) tonight…

Category: Blog,Column,Interviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 2:40 pm October 7, 2010

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Column 291: These Uncynical Days

Guster’s Ryan Miller has hope for the future of music…

More with Guster’s Ryan Miller that didn’t fit into the feature story, which was posted yesterday, here, and which you should read before you read this. Go ahead, we’ll wait for you…

You’re back? Good. I should point out that I have some familiarity with Miller and Guster. I interviewed him way back in December 1999 in the band’s tour bus before a concert at the long, lost Ranch Bowl. Miller was a whirling dervish, jumping around the bus looking for a lost Wheat CD (you remember Wheat, right?) having just done an in-station performance at KCTY The City, an Omaha FM radio station that, in its day, was sort of ground breaking in that it had no real format, no play list. The DJ’s played whatever they wanted to, and Miller couldn’t believe it.

The KCTY experiment didn’t last very long, and the whole idea of a broadcast radio station that isn’t nationally programmed seems impossible now. Which brings us to the present and Mlller’s take on current-day radio. He and the band have just spent the past two weeks touring radio stations “educating radio programmers about their single,” he said. It didn’t seem much different than back in ’99, when Miller told me one of Guster’s main goals was to break through to mainstream radio. “We like our record label and we’re waiting for our shot,” Miller said proudly, almost defiantly way back then. “We feel we’re a commercial band, that we’re real and we’ve been doing this for a long time. I say congratulations to the Goo Goo Dolls, Sugar Ray and Matchbox 20. They’ve broken through.”

Now 11 years later, Guster still hasn’t broken through, though that goal remains in their sights, sort of. “It’s not thee goal,” Miller said last Saturday. “It’s a goal. We had an opportunity when (our contract with) Warner Bros was up after Ganging Up on the Sun (released in 2006). It was a moment when we said, ‘What should we do? Should we release the next one in-house on our own record label?’ We decided to give the major label thing one more shot.”

In some ways, Guster was bucking the trend when they signed with Universal instead of going indie. Miller said the band had watched how Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails did their successful pay-what-you-want self releases, and realized it wouldn’t work for them. That model “only works for bands that are already hugely established,” Miller said. “For us, it’s really helpful to have the machinery behind us, especially people who understand what we’re doing. Without it, we wouldn’t have been able to make the video for ‘Do You Love Me?'”

That video, a stop-action piece that shows the band performing dressed in long underwear while white-hooded (Klannish?) drones decorate the stage (and the band) with paint, was picked as iTunes “video of the week,” an honor that drummer Brian Rosenworcel called in a Gloucester Times article “The biggest news that ever happened in our band’s history.” Wow.

Miller said the video and its exposure is something they wouldn’t have had without the label backing. Still, he’s well aware that there are a lot of bands that are “breaking through” on indie labels.

“I’m not cynical about it anymore,” Miller said. “It’s an amazing time to be a musician. There are so many great records coming out, I download four or five every week and some are so uncommercial. What’s happening with the whole democratization of music is so inspiring, though it’s harder than hell to break into the monoculture.”

Which made me scratch my head and wonder how any band does it. Last week’s sold out Local Natives show at The Waiting Room is a prime example. Hundreds of fans were grouped around the stage singing along to songs that have never been heard on Omaha airwaves outside of small, 2-hour boutique radio shows like 89.7 The River’s stylish New Day Rising show (Sunday’s at 9). If that’s the only outlet, is radio important any more?

“I keep asking myself that same question,” Miller said. “It’s still hanging in there. I live in Brooklyn and never listen to the radio. I listen to (Seattle public radio station) KEXP on my iPhone, which plays a lot of music that I like. We still see popular bands on the radio, so we’re still willing to give it a couple weeks of our lives.”

Miller said these days publications like Pitchfork are acting as tent poles for new bands. “It kind of started with Broken Social Scene,” he said. “That band came out of nowhere and got a 9.2 rating (for 2002’s You Forgot It In People). A great review in Pitchfork can get you to sell-out 400-person venues in 15 cities, and that gets you your shot. If you’re shitty, it all goes away.”

Miller said that’s what helped break Local Natives. “All these bands — indie or blog bands — it helps them crawl up and crawl out of this Internet-only thing and become part of the culture. Today it’s Local Natives. It was Fleet Foxes before that and Vampire Weekend before that. And now Arcade Fire has the No. 1 record in the country. That band didn’t get played on the radio. That’s why I’m so uncynical about the whole thing. All of those bands are great fucking bands and they don’t sound like anything else. It’s all happening based on merit more than anything.”

* * *

It can now be said that Eagle Seagull is no more, just as their best album, The Year of the How-To Book, has finally been released (You can find it on iTunes; I have no idea if it was physically released in the U.S.). Its availability marks the end of years of speculation if it would ever see the light of day. We all heard the Starbucks story (though I’ve never seen it documented) and assumed that after that debacle someone would pick it up. If the waiting seemed like forever for Eagle Seagull fans (the album was recorded in May 2007), it must have been an eternity for the band. When it was announced this spring that [PIAS] was releasing it outside of the U.S., the long nightmare appeared to be over. But it wasn’t. And now, eight months after that, the record is out but the band is no more.

And maybe it’s for the best. Because I just spent the last seven minutes listening to “Theologians Tell Me,” one of the demos available from Beauty in the Beast’s Facebook page, and am now listening to it again. Drenched in delay, frontman Eli Mardock sounds like early Anton Newcombe (Brian Jonestown Massacre) belting out a sinister baroque ballad in 3/4 time, complete with a two-minute instrumental interlude. Carrie Butler does a sly, graceful vocal on synth-fueled popper “If You’re With Me, You’re Against Me.” And while “King of the Crickets” is soft and dreamy (or spacey), there are touches in the effects-laden harmonies that will remind you of Eagle Seagull — but those few moments will be the only ones that do. Rounded out by veteran Lincoln drummer Andrew Tyler (Indigenous), you can catch the trio tonight at The Waiting Room and decide for yourself if Eagle Seagull’s passing is an occasion to mourn or celebrate. I’m leaning toward the latter.

A final little post script on all this: Eagle Seagull will go down as one of the most controversial bands in Nebraska history. They were hated as much as they were loved. For a number of years they were the biggest band from Lincoln and everyone thought they were poised to break through. But it never happened. My only regret is that I never got a chance to see them perform “Twenty Thousand Light Years” on Letterman. That would have been a gas.

Playing with Beauty in the Beast is Lawrence band Cowboy Indian Bear, who has become a local favorite thanks to their almost monthly treks to Omaha. Also on the bill, Chicago avant-pop band A Lull, whose rhythm-heavy style comes by way of no less than three percussionists. The Village Voice compared them to Blitzen Trapper, Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear — talk about your ultra-hip trifectas. $7, 9 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 © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Lazy-i Interview: Guster; Poison Control Center tonight…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:35 pm October 6, 2010

Guster

Guster 2010

Guster: Better with Age

After two decades, Boston’s favorite pop band is still going strong.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

One of the best things about listening to a just-released Guster album for the first time: The comfort in knowing that you’re about to hear something that’s familiar, but at the same time, new and different. In other words, Guster never lets you down.

From the time the band formed in 1991 to when it released its first hit pop album on a major label with 1999’s Lost and Gone Forever, through its two successful follow-ups (Keep It Together in 2003 and Ganging Up on the Sun in ’06), and onto their latest, Easy Wonderful, released this past Tuesday on Universal Republic, the band has consistently given its fans what they want — warm, tuneful, mature rock songs with strong central melodies and sing-along choruses.

Guster frontman Ryan Miller points to that consistency as one of the reasons why the band, which includes Brian Rosenworcel on drums and Adam Gardner on guitar and vocals, has managed to keep it together for nearly 20 years.

“Our first producer, Mike Denneen, said you’re so lucky that you’re a pop band. Pop music doesn’t go out of style,” said Miller after a soundcheck in Charlotte, North Carolina, this past Saturday.

On the other hand, Miller said he’s sometimes frustrated that Guster is not considered a “cool, contemporary band.”

“It would be nice to get reviewed in Pitchfork or get invited to Coachella or be profiled in Brooklyn Vegan or get to collaborate with Dirty Projectors,” he said. “But there was a moment when this record was being made where I realized it doesn’t sound like what most bands sound like right now, and that’s something I’m really proud of. In general, our music ages a little better.”

Better than, say, the latest by indie phenoms Sleigh Bells, which Miller said “is amazing. I know it will be played in every loft in Bushwick, but that stuff will sound so 2010 forever. That’s what it is, and it’s not a knock on them. It’s really contemporary, and I’d love to make a contemporary album. Radiohead felt contemporary, too, and their records don’t sound dated.

“I love these bands. I’ve seen Dirty Projectors seven times in three years, and I know that band doesn’t give a shit about me, but maybe they could. It’s frustrating, but our goal has always been to make a great pop record that transcends genre and is still contemporary.”

Guster, Easy Wonderful (Universal Republic)

Guster, Easy Wonderful (Universal Republic)

While it’s true that you won’t classify Easy Wonderful alongside the latest by Best Coast or Animal Collective or Deerhunter, there is something contemporary about the album, at least in Guster terms. Opening track “Architects & Engineers” sports that classic Guster swing, the great harmonies, the shout-out chorus, but also sounds like a fresh direction. The first single, “Do You Love Me,” starts with hand claps and bursts with church bells. While dance track (yes, dance track) “This is How It Feels To Have a Broken Heart,” glides on a ’70s-flavored counter melody and a disco beat.

All right, maybe it isn’t contemporary in an indie music sense, but really, don’t we all need a break from the usual art projects every once in a while? Guster may not be redefining pop music, but that doesn’t mean their music isn’t good or relevant, and Easy Wonderful is arguably their best record in a decade. Will Dirty Projectors be able to say that about whatever record it releases 10 years from now (if they still exist)?

Ironically, the making of Easy Wonderful almost ended Guster. Miller said the band has spent the last four years since the release of Ganging Up on the Sun touring (for two years), having kids (Miller has two children, while Gardner has his second on the way) and writing the new album. It wasn’t until they found themselves in a New York studio with producer David Kahne (The Strokes, Sugar Ray, Regina Spektor) that the wheels began to fall off the wagon.

“It wasn’t a good mesh,” Miller said. “We didn’t see eye-to-eye (with Kahne) and didn’t have our eyes on the same prize. We couldn’t make it work. And while a lot of what was great about the record we did with Kahne, (he) wasn’t a great choice for us. He threw us for a loop.”

Miller said the experience left the band “emotionally battered.”

“After our first session (with Kahne) it was the darkest point where we really thought the concept wasn’t great and we weren’t communicating that well,” Miller said. “The process did a number on our confidence, and we didn’t know how to approach music again. We didn’t know what we wanted to do. There was a week where nothing was moving, and that was the first time that’s happened in 20 years.”

The band required a “hard reset,” Miller said. “The first conversation I had with Brian, we both said we want to be in this band. We built it up from there. After that, things were so good and so happy and so appreciative.” The band recamped at then-Guster member Joe Pisapia’s studio in Nashville for sessions that Miller said were “magical.”

“We had a lot of great ideas that came in big chunks,” he said. “It was our most creative moment, coming out of those depths.

“We needed that hard reset,” he added. “It’s an unnatural idea to have three dudes be in this band for  20 years after we met. We’re all growing, and we’re all alpha dudes. If you don’t recalibrate, if you don’t break and reset the bones, you’re not all going to grow in the same direction.”

Guster plays with Eli “Paperboy” Reed & The True Loves Tuesday, Oct. 12, at Slowdown, 729 No. 14th St. Showtime is 8 p.m. Admission is $25.50 adv.; $30.50 DOS. For more information, call 402.345.7569 or visit theslowdown.com.

* * *

Tomorrow, Guster Pt. 2, where Ryan Miller talks about radio’s relevance (or lack thereof)…

* * *

Poison Control Center might as well just move to Omaha. Seems like they play hear every couple of months, so often that people are beginning to think they’re an Omaha band (uh-oh). They’re back and completely untethered tonight at O’Leaver’s (expect some gnarly high kicks and somersaults) along with singer/songwriter genius Kyle Harvey and La Casa Bombas. $5, 9:30 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 © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i