Another Record Store Day in the books. I only had time to visit one store, Almost Music in Blackstone, where I caught a few minutes of Montee Men playing in the bookstore — brutality among the children’s titles, big crowd, lots of smiling faces (RSD brings out the kid in all of us).
Montee Men at Almost Music, RSD2017, April 22, 2017.
I only picked up three things, though: The new O+S, a promo pressing of U2’s War and a T-shirt. That Spoon vinyl had already sold. Oh well. RSD is one of the smartest retail promotions — designating one day as a tribute to consumerism, collecting and music. Well, two days if you count RSD Black Friday, and I’m sure the independent record stores do.
After Almost Music I headed to Elmwood Park for Earth Day festivities. The good weather brought out every stoner, hippie and yuppie parent in Omaha. It was a day shot in Technicolor and sunshine.
Icky Blossoms had the legendary Dereck Higgins playing bass for this show (temporary or permanent member?), which was performed with its usual dance-vibe bombast but suffered from poor PA/audio. Everything sounded a but fuzzy and blown out, but what are ya gonna do? It’s an Earth Day concert. And the lousy sound didn’t stop the the gaggle of freaks from dancing in front of the stage. Gotta love it.
Last I heard Icky Blossoms was working on new material, though I didn’t hear any Saturday afternoon. Where will they go next? We’re all waiting for the next record…
* * *
Umm, the duo of Stef Drootin and Chris Senseney (a.k.a. Big Harp), released their first new music online last week. Check out the Majestic Litter Soundcloud files below…
* * *
Finally, the folks at the Holland Performing Arts Center announced last week another show at their 1200 Club. This time it’s High Up and McCarthy Trenching as the featured acts May 6 (tornado day). Tix are $15 Adv./$20 DOS.
Late Friday night at The Brothers. Someone pointed out that those overhead PA speakers were mounted on their ceiling a long time ago, evidence of how the bar has kind of transformed into an occasional music venue this year (though it’s still a punk bar at heart). The pseudo drum riser in the back corner I’d noticed before. On Friday night it held Tim Moss, who I’d forgotten was pretty good drummer in addition to being the frontman of Omaha golden age punk band Ritual Device.
SERIAL is a sort of super group of golden age punk rockers, heroes of the ’90s who get together while in town for the holidays to play some covers. John Wolf, of Cellophane Ceiling fame, played guitars and did vocals. So did Lee Meyerpeter of Cactus Nerve Thang and modern-day act Filter Kings. And there was Jerry Hug on bass, a lawyer by profession, a rocker by reputation, at least the rep he has among folks at The Brothers.
I only watched the first set, which included covers of songs by Nugent, the Stones, Tom Petty, Cheap Trick, one of my favorites by Pavement (“Two States) and Bowie’s “Rebel, Rebel.” As Wolf said, they were SERIAL, killing one classic at a time.
Moss’s wife, Clementine, took over the drum kit, allowing the bearded wonder to growl a couple numbers himself, including a punked-up version of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab,” and a gruff cover of AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds” that featured a young lady with dreads who crushed the guitar solo. I split when the band took its first break. Great stuff on a late Friday night before Christmas…
* * *
The holidays continue with tonight’s show at The Waiting Room. Icky Blossoms headlines a strong four-band bill that includes Closeness, Nathan Ma & the Rosettes and Cult Play. This is sort of a reunion show for Icky Blossoms, though Derek, Nik and Sarah haven’t gone anywhere. Rumor has it they’re working on new material for 2017. $10, 9 p.m.
First off, thanks to everyone for the birthday wishes, whether they be via Facebook or wherever. Very likely I’ll be hanging out in Benson for BFF and O’Leaver’s, so if you see me, feel free to buy me a Rolling Rock…
Speaking of fabulous O’Leaver’s, tonight Des Moines’ Christopher the Conquered and his band will be celebrating the release of his debut LP, I’m Giving Up On Rock & Roll (Maximum Ames Records). Opening is Rothsteen and Fun Runner. $7, 9:30 p.m.
Also tonight, the two bands I’m forever mixing up — Super Moon and Super Ghost — play at Barley Street Tavern with King Thumper. $5, 9 p.m.
While in Benson tonight, swing by the Little Gallery (right across the street from The Sydney) and see Julie Jenowe’s installation, Alchemical Remains of Love. We’re open 6 to 9 p.m. Say hello!
Tomorrow night (Saturday)’s marquee show is Icky Blossoms at Reverb Lounge. The band just released a new VR/360 degree music video a couple days ago that is setting the world on fire. Opening is Channel Pressure — the duo of The Faint’s Todd Fink and Reptar’s Graham Ulicny. Kicking things off at 9 is Chemicals, the latest project featuring Dereck Higgins, Jacob Cubby Phillips, Jake Reisdorff, Blake DeForest, James Cuato and drummer John Evans. Get there early. $10. Would not be surprised if this one sold out…
That’s all I got. If I missed your show, put it in the comments section. Have a great weekend!
Even if you’ve never seen Godspeed You! Black Emperor before but are familiar with the band’s music you pretty much knew what you were in for last night at The Slowdown.
Five minutes before the band walked onto the darkened stage a low-end rumble quietly roared like distant thunder. One at a time the eight members found their places among a stage cluttered with equipment and pedals and cables, looking for a place to set down their drinks, and quietly picked up their instruments, each adding to the building din. This went on for another five minutes or so as scratchy abstract marks began being projected on the screen behind the stage.
Eventually, the noise took form. Two percussionists began rattling things as the violin and cello added something akin to a melody that ultimately was overtaken by the three guitars and bass, and 15 minutes later you realized the concert had indeed begun.
Most compositions (songs?) were deep, repetitive ambient tonal melodies that evolved into haunting and/or majestic sweeps of sound. Sludgy, slow, deep ponderous movements were played in dim, deep-red sepia lighting, perfect for setting a mood or developing film. Overhead, the projections became less abstract — images of burning fields, film sprocket holes, a deer standing in a field, a sunset shot from inside a moving car — all in black-and-white (of course).
There wasn’t much to see on stage except lots of people leaning over things, huddled over guitars or effects pedals. Sometimes the compositions transformed into big rock numbers that reminded me of Meddle-era Pink Floyd or Mogwai, but most of the set was a pulsing dirge set to a 6/8 beat. Throughout the set, none of the performers talked to the audience. There were no microphones on stage if they’d wanted to.
It was beautiful and awful and exhausting. The set began at a quarter after 9. When I left at 11 and it was still going strong, the sold-out crowd standing in front of the stage was transfixed, mesmerized.
* * *
A day or so after this interview from Nik Fackler hits the internet, Nik’s band Icky Blossoms released a new video for “Living in Fiction,” directed by Aaron Gum. Omahans, see how many people you recognize on the dance floor. Hey Ickys, I’m still waiting for a video for my favorite track on the album, “Away from You”…
* * *
Everyone’s favorite Nebraska ex-patriot Darren Keen just released a new track called “10,000 Dollar Pyramid Scheme” that is twisted remix of the $10,000 Pyramid game show theme. It’s included in Channel Flippin’ 2, a comp of TV theme song remixes. Enjoy, and as we like to say, “Big money, no whammy.”
* * *
They’re calling it Bands for Bernie. It’s a rally for Bernie Sanders at Reverb tonight. Bands playing include CJ Mills and Lincoln punk band Once a Pawn. The free show begins at 7 p.m.
Also tonight, Fizzle Like a Flood’s Doug Kabourek does a rare set at The Barley Street Tavern. It’s part of a free six-band show that starts at 7 p.m.
Omaha filmmaker/musician Nik Fackler has been putting his nose to the grindstone working on a number of new film projects. He just finished a script about the music industry, which is in the hands of his agent at William Morris as well as iconic actor Martin Landau, who starred in Fackler’s first feature film, Lovely, Still.
In this month’s Over the Edge column, Nik talks about his film projects, his music (with Icky Blossoms) and working with his wife, Kat, who will be performing this Saturday night at Kaneko (where Nik also will be debuting yet another new film project). The column is in the new issue of The Reader, on newsstands now, and online right here. Check it out.
* * *
I’m rolling around in my head whether I should buy tickets to tomorrow night’s God Speed You! Black Emperor show at Slowdown. One Percent Productions just posted a “low ticket warning,” saying only 15 percent of tickets remain before it sells out. Here’s the deal: Advance tickets are $22 plus $4.15 service fee for a total of $26.15 right now; or I can wait until tomorrow and get tickets for $25 at the box office. Do I roll the dice?
* * *
Last week Live @ O’Leaver’s released a handful of new sessions on their illustrious website. Links to these quality recordings are below. Consider them a precursor to what I’ve been told will be three new mammoth sessions to be uploaded to the L@O site this week. Is O’Leaver’s trying to break the Internet?
Maybe it’s the new record or maybe it’s the time they spent on the road with Of Montreal, but Icky Blossoms is blossoming into a full-on arena-rock band.
Whereas no past performance has been less than fun, there has been a tentativeness to their stage shows, an unsureness that bordered on amateur. All that was gone Friday night on The Slowdown’s big stage in front of what looked to be 300 or so fans eager to cut loose.
Adding to their usual energy was new lighting and stage designs — three giant, gaping, bleeding “flowers” that resembled either poppies or a certain portion of the female anatomy were painted on backdrops hung from the rafters.
Icky Blossoms at The Slowdown, July 3, 2015.
Icky’s music is beginning to fall into three categories — seething acidic rock propelled by Nik Fackler’s screeching guitar (“Silver Tongue,” “Phantasmagoria”), ethereal driftwood stoner shoe-gaze where Derek Pressnall and Sarah Bohling share the vox (“Want You So Bad,” set highlight “Away From You,” which screams to be released as a single) and pure, unadulterated dance tracks (“Living in Fiction,” “In Folds”) that get the crowd moving.
A smart set list that ebbs and flows between those three styles makes the show dynamic and keeps the band from being pigeon-holed as just another dance band. Now blend in the best songs from their debut (“Babes,” crowd-chant-exorcism-humpfest “Sex to the Devil”) and let the party begin.
In fact, Icky Blossoms could become the ultimate party band, taking the helm from The Faint, but to get to that next level they’ve got to reach even further into the crowd to turn their shows into unforgettable, sweat-soaked spectacles. They’re on their way.
One other show note: I was told to pay close attention to opening hip-hop act Both. I saw what was billed as “Both” at the Hear Nebraska Vol. 3 album release show and was less than impressed. That show featured only one member of the duo, who spent that set playing bomb-explosion samples. Well, Friday night I got the full Both treatment and was impressed with their sound, their beats and how they worked the crowd. I’ll wait until I hear their new EP and can check out their lyrics (undecipherable from stage) before I say more…
* * *
The first-half CD/album reviews round-up went online at The Reader this morning, here. I used to do these round-ups quarterly, but now that The Reader is monthly, I’ve pulled back to bi-annual, which is tough in years like this one where there’s so many good new releases. Check it out and see if your favorites made the list.
It’s been a long while since there’s been this kind of excitement surrounding Saddle Creek Records: Three releases over the course of the past two weeks: Hop Along’s Painted Shut, Twinsmith’s Alligator Years and Icky Blossoms’ Mask. Boom-boom-boom.
So far, the Hop Along release has received the lion’s share of press (but then again, it’s been out the longest). In addition to its massive Pitchfork rating (7.9), the album received a whopping 4-star review in the new issue of Rolling Stone. And the record is among the top-10 highest rated at review aggregator Album of the Year with a composite rating of 83 out of 100 (based on 10 reviews). Impressive.
Icky Blossoms, Mask (2015, Saddle Creek)
Not to be outdone, Pitchfork just reviewed the new Icky Blossoms record, giving it a respectable 6.8 rating. The review concluded with, “…a follow-up that finds Icky Blossoms letting their guard down and embracing the values of their music scene, where there’s no higher form of fashion than wearing your heart on your sleeve.” OK then.
I listened to the record over and over last night. The album trounces around with more unbridled energy than the band’s debut, relentlessly so. Mask isn’t so much a dance record as a rock album with a beat that leans closer to acidic psychedelic more than EDM or “electro-clash” (whatever that means). For my money, Mask has more infectious electronic hooks than the debut, which makes it more interesting, and more fun.
Sarah Bohling sounds like an altogether different vocalist, with a range that goes well beyond the deep, pronounced croak heard on the debut. Pitchfork noted this as well, saying about the band’s debut, “There were moments where the band’s primary singer Sarah Bohling in particular sounded as if she longed to emote, but she restrained herself, because genre protocol dictated she remain as dispassionate as the sequenced pulses behind her. On Icky Blossoms’ sophomore album Mask, Bohling recasts herself as a real, vulnerable human being.” Hear hear!
If there’s a criticism it’s that the album is too relentless, rarely letting up on the gas pedal. There’s nothing on the new record as campy or fun as “Babes” or as slinkly/slacker as “Perfect Vision,” though for sheer debauchery, nothing on the debut matches album highlight “Away from You” and the line “Let’s get together / There’s no afterlife.” Or the emotional punch of “Want You So Bad,” which starts off sounding like a lost Azure Ray track.
Allmusic.com — maybe the oldest online review site — came in with a 3-1/2 star review for Mask, pointing out: “…the inelegant use of compression that causes even the sweeter parts of Mask to slam like a digital hurricane becomes downright distracting, especially on the final two tracks which, consequently, are the most aggressive and harshest mixes on the album. Production missteps aside, there is some great material here and Icky Blossoms’ big new sound generally agrees with them.”
We’re still waiting for the Twinsmith reviews to come rolling in, though Allmusic has weighed in with a 3-star review, concluding: “…much of Alligator Years feels so familiar that it’s hard to distinguish them from the multitude of other generally pleasant bands working in this same milieu. Still, it’s a solid enough release by a talented young band who have the potential to grow into their own personality.”
Exciting times. And it’ll keep on rolling next month when the new Desaparecidos new record comes out on Epitaph the same day the new Digital Leather record comes out on FDH. I haven’t heard the Desa record yet. The DL record is a breakthrough of sorts for the band.
* * *
Tonight at The Waiting Room, The Lone Bellow (Descendent) with Cereus Bright and Clarence Tilton. $15, 9 p.m.
At Sweatshop Gallery it’s the abrasive, angular punk of Pile. The Boston band recorded its most recent full length, You’re Better Than This (2015, Exploding in Sound Records) at ARC Studios right here in Omaha with producer Ben Brodin. There are moments on the record, like the triumphant “Mr. Fish,” that dip and dive like a drunken barn swallow. Striking stuff. Opening is a rare performance by Omaha band Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship and the sloshy slacker grind of Stomach (Check out their bitchin’ DEMOS — after hearing these, I was intrigued…). $8, 9 p.m.
Meanwhile, cross town at The Slowdown, it’s the return of Icky Blossoms. Last time they played they sold out Slowdown Jr., which is why (I guess) this time they’re playing in the big room. Either that or the fact that Reptar is headlining this show. Coaxed opens. $12, 9 p.m.
Speaking of Icky Blossoms, here’s their latest from their upcoming Saddle Creek release Mask:
And here’s the latest from the Reptar, off their new album Lurid Glow (Joyful Noise, 2015):
It’s nice outside. Get out there and enjoy some live music!
The weather was still pretty awesome on Day 2 of SXSW (last Thursday), so why not take a walk to the Saddle Creek / Nicodemus Showcase at Stay Gold? I mean, hey, it’s just on the other side of the freeway in east Austin, right?
Well, two miles by foot later we finally came upon Stay Gold, a new venue with a great outdoor beer garden and a sweet indoor stage where Josh Berwanger Band already was playing (Alas, we were too late for Twinsmith and Orenda Fink).
Berwanger, a former member of Lawrence band The Anniversary, is repped by Nicodemus Agency. No idea what label he’s on, but the band was pretty good in a straight-forward indie rock sort of way. Very clean, very tight and a good preview to PUJOL, who took the stage next.
I’ve never seen Daniel Pujol and his band play live. I think they’ve only played in Omaha once, despite being signed to Saddle Creek Records. I’ve had discussions with local garage-rock aficionados who say Pujol (who apparently counts Jack White among his fans) was Creek’s stab at releasing a garage rock band. I don’t believe that was their motivation at all. Pujol’s sound is too controlled, to pro to be mistaken for garage, reminding me more of Marshall Crenshaw or Graham Parker but with a bit more dirt behind the ears. My quibble: Too many of his songs sound the same, but you could make that same argument about Crenshaw and Parker’s music…
Laura Burhenn of the Mynabirds followed with a solo keyboard set that included a number of old favorites and a few from her upcoming Saddle Creek album, Lovers Know, played in a down-key style that accentuated her rather luscious voice. How will the new material sound with a full band?
Last up at Stay Gold (for me, anyway) was Icky Blossoms playing in front of a max crowd of maybe 50 people – no doubt a sharp contrast to their sold-out send-off show a few weeks earlier at Slowdown Jr. The band kicked right into some tunes off their last album before rolling out a couple new ones from Mask, including “In Folds,” which translated just OK in the live setting.
They could have beefed up the energy level, but what do you expect playing to a half-empty club on a Thursday afternoon? Icky is playing as a five-piece — didn’t recognize the drummer or bass player, but it was indeed a good rhythm section. This was easily the best vocal outing for Sarah Bohling, who continues to grow into her frontwoman role alongside Derek Pressnall, the consummate professional, while Nik Fackler is the band’s wild-card wild man.
They need to get more new songs polished and stage-ready before hitting the road. As much as I like the Creek debut, I’m crazy curious about this new record. Maybe we’ll hear more new stuff when Icky Blossoms returns to Slowdown (in the big room this time) April 14 with Reptar.
It was back to the Courtyard for evening festivities, specifically the controversially named Viet Cong. The place was even more packed than the night before — I could barely move. On stage Viet Cong’s drummer was playing hurt with a cast on his left hand. Somehow he managed to soldier through the set Rick Allen-style. The band’s sound is abrasively indie with some prog flourishes here and there. I’m not sure why they’re so hot these days, unless it’s all about the name.
Afterward I high-tailed back to Red River and the 720 Club, a tiny bar with a small indoor stage area all but vacant on this Thursday night. Under the lights warming up, Krill, a band that colleague Chris Aponick has suggested I check out. The Chicago trio also has caught the attention of such taste makers as Stereogum and Pitchfork, though you wouldn’t know it by the eight people standing in the club. I guess it was everyone else’s loss, as Krill brought their A-game to a post-punk set that recalled Protomartyr but with (much) better vocals. These are the kinds of sets I go to SXSW for — intimate, special, the feeling that you’re seeing something you’ll never see in Omaha.
Finally it was time to pluck one of the artists off my must-see list — Natalie Prass. I’ve been enjoying her debut self-titled album (on Spacebomb) for a few months — rich singer/songwriter stuff, like Jenny Lewis singing Joni Mitchell. The venue listed was Maggie Mae’s. I figured she’d probably be playing at the venue’s rather large rooftop stage.
My SXSW badge got me past the line and right up the stairs, but I didn’t recognize the band performing. Did I get the date wrong? I asked the door person, who had no idea who was playing that night. There actually are three performance spaces in Maggie Mae’s — the rooftop, the Gibson Room and the standard downstairs stage. Turned out Prass was slated downstairs.
Once again, there was no problem getting in and plenty of space right up next to the stage. By the time her set began, the floor was filled, but not uncomfortably so. There was Prass seated behind a piano, her face hidden behind her dark brown curls. Backed by a solid band, Prass performed a half-hour of the best songs from her album. It was the closest thing to a “perfect moment” I experienced at SXSW this year. Check out part of the performance (along with snippets from everyone else mentioned above) in the podcast below.
Vega just announced this morning that Prass will be playing there July 22. I might have to make a pilgrimage to Lincoln….
The final chapter of my SXSW 2015 journey tomorrow…
* * *
Tonight, alt-rock band Born Cages (Razor & Tie) plays at Slowdown Jr.. The band apparently opened for Guns & Roses a couple times, though they sound more like an indie version of Simple Minds. Opening for them tonight is fellow New York band Dreamers and Omaha favorite The Kickback (from Chicago) and Low Long Signal. $10, 8 p.m.
This will go down as the least impressive, least satisfying year I’ve attended South By Southwest. Sure there were a lot of bands, but not nearly as many as year’s past and even fewer legends. Still, I had fun and didn’t get beat up, and that’s always a good thing.
This year I tried to podcast from Austin. The results are below. I’ll probably never try it again, based solely on the number of hits each stream has gotten. That said, there’s probably no where else online that has snippets of this many performances. Each podcast is only about 10 minutes long and includes bits from every band I saw. Check them out:
Day 1: Performances by White Mystery, Twin Shadow, Dotan and Speedy Ortiz.
Day 2: Performances by PUJOL, Laura Burhenn (Mynabirds), Icky Blossoms, Viet Cong, Krill and Natalie Prass.
Day 3: Performances by Courtney Barnett, Best Coast, LITE, Drivin’ and Cryin’, The Pop Group and Will Butler.
And here are the photos. If you follow me in Instagram or on social media you’ve seen most of these, but here they are again, in living color.
White Mystery at Beerland Patio, March 18, 2015.
Twin Shadow at Iron Castle, March 18, 2015.
Dotan at Cedar Street Courtyard, March 18, 2015.
Speedy Ortiz at Cedar Street Courtyard, March 18, 2015.
Josh Berwenger Band at Stay Gold, March 19, 2015.
PUJOL at Stay Gold March 19, 2015.
Laura Burhenn (Mynabirds) at Stay Gold, March 19, 2015.
Icky Blossoms at Stay Gold, March 19, 2015.
Viet Cong at Cedar Street Courtyard, March 19, 2015.
Krill at the 720 Club, March 19, 2015.
Natalie Prass at Maggie Mae’s, March 19, 2015.
Best Coast at the SXSW Convention Center, March 20, 2015.
Courtney Barnett at the SXSW Convention Center, March 20, 2015.
LITE at The Ginger Man, March 20, 2015.
Drivin’ and Cryin’ at The Ginger Man, March 20, 2015.
The Residents at The Paramount Theater, March 20, 2015.
The Church at Buffalo Billiards, March 20, 2015.
The Pop Group at Maggie Mae’s Rooftop, March 20, 2015.
Will Butler at Maggie Mae’s Rooftop, March 20, 2015.
There may or may not be a formal review of each gig to come. Check back tomorrow. There will be a column in the April issue of The Reader about SXSW. Watch for it.
* * *
Tonight at the Sweatshop Gallery Darren Keen headlines with Calm Fur and Just Jace. $5, 9 p.m. Say goodbye to Darren before he flies back to Gotham City…