Live Review: Criteria, Little Brazil, Icky Blossoms…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:32 pm March 12, 2012
Criteria at The Waiting Room, March 9, 2012.

Criteria at The Waiting Room, March 9, 2012.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

It was another great weekend of shows, starting with Friday night’s 5-year birthday party at The Waiting Room.

I arrived in time to catch one song by The Photo Atlas — their usual high-energy dance rock a la The Rapture left me wondering why these guys have yet to catch on nationally.  By the time Little Brazil came on stage The Waiting Room was crowded, though not a sell out. LB lit it up as per usual, using the opportunity to play some new material which fell in line with their older stuff but somehow felt more modern. Frontman Landon Hedges continues to galvanize his role as indie music’s Freddy Mercury with his soaring, high voice and overall stage bombasity. Before closing their set, Hedges suggested that Criteria’s Stephen Pedersen would have to come out for their last song, a fiery rendition of a Smashmouth tune — not the “Walking on the Sun” Smash Mouth, but Pedersen’s old old band. Sure enough, out came Steve to share vocals on the final chorus, and the crowd went nuts.

Moments later, he was back on stage fronting Criteria. Here’s a band that hibernates for months only to pop their collective head out once a year (or so) to thrill its fans and generate unfounded speculation that perhaps this time they’re back for good (though we all know better).

I’ll say what I’ve said every time this band reunites — they haven’t lost any of their chops. The band still shreds, and Pedersen can still hit those high notes with a mighty fist in the air. His rockstar moves and his movie-star good looks have always made him an indie version of Rick Springfield (“…paging Dr. Noah Drake…“), though these days he’s in Hard to Hold territory.

The difference between this performance and all the other Criteria reunions was the crowd response — I’ve never seen their fans so animated and into the music. And we’re not talking about oldsters from “back in the day” — there were plenty of youngsters screaming back the lyrics who couldn’t have been around when Criteria was first hitting the stages of America a decade ago. How this happens — how a new generation discovers a band that rarely plays and hasn’t released an album in years (and obviously doesn’t get any airplay) — is indeed a mystery.

Icky Blossoms at The Slowdown, March 10, 2012.

Icky Blossoms at The Slowdown, March 10, 2012.

Saturday night was the send-off concert for Icky Blossoms at The Slowdown. The show, originally slated for the Jr. room, was moved to Slowdown’s main stage due to the anticipated crowd size. It turned out being the right call.

Here’s my takeaways:

— The band seemed tighter than usual, maybe they were nervous?

— With the new songs, Derek Pressnall appears to be taking a back seat on vocals to Sarah Bohling, who still doesn’t seem completely comfortable in that lead role. It’s either that, or the sound mix was poor, because I couldn’t hear her on half her songs as she struggled to project above the booming rhythm section.

— Ah, that new rhythm section of Saber Blazek on bass and Clark Baechle on drums is bad-ass. Anyone who’s seen Machete Archive knows about Blazek’s chaotic ballet when he’s deep in a groove, and years of playing in The Faint (and in Bright Eyes) has made Baechle arguably the best drummer in Omaha. HUGE.

— If Sitek has had an influence on their sound, it may be in their new emphasis on deep beats. Icky always was a dance band, but now they’ve pumped up the volume to new levels, reminiscent of The Faint.

The more I see them, the more they remind me of The B-52s and Public Image Ltd (PiL), with Derek divided somewhere between Fred Schneider and John Lydon. Meanwhile, Bohling continues to fill the Nico role. Nik Fackler’s guitar textures continue to impress me, as does his knee drops. When he’s wigging out next to Blazek the whole room feeds off the energy.

In retrospect, I do think Bohling was simply tight at the beginning of the set, because she laid it on toward the end, especially on a new tune that she shared with Pressnall, whose name presumably is something like “Riding Around in My Car Forever.” And then there was the closer, the always huge “Perfect Vision,” which never fails to get the crowd bouncing. It’ll be interesting to see how well the tune translates to a South By Southwest audience this week. I’ll let you know.

* * *

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 © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Lazy-i Interview: Icky Blossoms talks new album, David Sitek, the line-up, touring and the soul of creativity; Live Review: Midwest Dilemma; Buck Bowen tonight…

Category: Blog,Interviews,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:29 pm March 8, 2012
Icky Blossoms

Icky Blossoms

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Here’s the story: Icky Blossoms is headed to SXSW next week. They’re driving. The distance from Benson, Nebraska, to Waterloo Records in Austin, Texas, is roughly 770 miles the way the Google flies. Gas currently costs around $4 a gallon. They’ll be driving a van that probably gets (if they’re lucky) 10 miles a gallon. If you use the above numbers:

770 / 10 x $4 = $308

That number does not include the cost of roadside junk food and other assorted “necessities” to make the 14-hour non-stop drive tolerable. Nor does it include the cost of lodging (substantially more than $308 if they’re staying at a hotel) and meals needed while in Music City.

Icky Blossoms just returned from Los Angeles where they recorded their debut album with TV on the Radio’s David Sitek to be released on Saddle Creek Records in early July. If you’ve ever been to LA and know how expensive its pleasures cost, than you know the band very likely is tapped out.

That’s where you come in. This is an early heads up for this Saturday night’s Icky Blossoms show at The Slowdown. In an effort to generate as much money as possible to cover costs, the band has moved the concert from Slowdown Jr. to Slowdown’s big stage.

Icky Blossoms needs you. Change whatever you had planned for Saturday night. Buy your tickets now. $7, here. You will be watching the birth of Omaha’s Next Big Thing.

To entice you even further to come to Saturday’s show, Icky Blossoms’ guitarist/vocalist Nik Fackler offered to answer some questions about the new album, touring and the future of the band.

What did Dave Sitek do to improve these songs? Did he act more like an engineer or as a traditional producer, and what’s the biggest change we’re going to hear in these songs from what we’ve heard in the past?

Nik Fackler: Sitek produced a creative, experimental and pro atmosphere for us to work in. I personally haven’t worked with many music producers, so for me he was kind of like a film director. He orchestrated the flow, experimented with ideas, created beats and analogue synth sounds and kept us all on schedule. He had an ear for what would work on the dance floor and kept a continuity between all the songs. The biggest change to previously released songs is quality, clarity and bigness.

Did you guys write any new material in LA for this record? Will we hear new songs on Saturday? What is the scheduled release date for the new record?

Nik: We wrote three new tunes when we were out in LA and we will be playing all three at the show on Saturday. The record is going to come out in early July.

What’s the lineup for Saturday night’s show? Is it the regular “live band” lineup?

Nik: The live lineup has shuffled a bit. Saturday’s show will see Saber Blazek (Machete Archive) on bass, Clark Baechle (Faint, Depressed Buttons) on drums, Nik (Fackler), Sarah (Bohling, keyboards, vocals), and Derek Pressnall (lead vocals, guitar) take stage.

How is Derek going to tour with: 1) a new baby in the house, and 2) Tilly and the Wall releasing a new record (and, presumably, touring as well)? Is that going to limit the amount of touring that Icky will be able to do this year? 

Nik: We are planning on touring and promoting the record as heavily as we can. How much that will actually be will be determined in the way the record is received and what kind of offers come in. If all goes well it definitely will be a balancing act, but not one we can’t handle. Our main focus right now is to continue to make our best songs and as many of them as we can so we can build a fan base. Scheduling stuff can always be worked out.

What about your schedule? If funding comes through for one of your major film projects, won’t you have to put Icky on hold? Does one project (music or filmmaking) take precedent over the other?

Nik: Creation is my soul.  The goal for me is to never limit the amount of things I can create. I think we live in an age where artwork like film and music can be accomplished quickly. The digitizing of the world has removed some of the hands on aspects of art, but created the ability to produce things more quickly and with just as much quality. Right now, I am in a mode of work. Trying to forge a path for myself where I can do everything and not have to put anything on hold. Right now, it’s about coming up with a balanced and positive process to execute all these different ideas I have.

Neither takes precedent over the other. In a way I see them as all part of the whole.

How many times is Icky going to perform at SXSW? I know of only two gigs currently scheduled.

Nik: We are playing three shows. Thursday: The Waterloo Records Party, Waterloo Records Parking Lot, 2 p.m.; Friday: Saddle Creek Showcase at Lamberts BBQ, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday: Mad Decent/ Check Yo Ponytail/ Fool’s Gold Super Party at Emo’s East, Noon.

Opening for Icky Blossoms this Saturday at Slowdown is Midtown Marauders and Pony Wars. 9 p.m. $7. See you there.

And this just in: Rolling Stone is featuring the first track off the new album, “Babes,” right here. Or download it here.

* * *

Midwest Dilemma at Slowdown Jr., March 7, 2012.

Midwest Dilemma at Slowdown Jr., March 7, 2012.

Last night saw a much stripped-down version of Midwest Dilemma at Slowdown Jr., at least compared to the last time I saw Justin Lamoureux’s band, where there were something like 16 people on stage. Last night MD played as a 4-piece with Lamoureux on guitar backed by cellist, flautist and brass player (tuba, bass trombone). I know he likes the big ensemble (hey, who doesn’t want to be surrounded by their friends?), but I much prefer this slimmed-down format which strips the songs to their bare essentials with just enough unique accoutrement for added flavor. Years of performing have aged Lamoureux’s voice like a fine Bordeaux. He’s discarded any vocal affectations (at times in his career he used to sport an Oberst bray) and now sings with a purely unique folk voice that would be appealing to anyone who likes, say, M. Ward’s style of music. Among the highlights was an ode to The 49’r and Lamoureux’s pre-song take on the role the bar played in his life (spoiler alert: booze). He hinted that a new album could be ready to go in a couple months, but quickly added that he’s been saying that for the past four years. Maybe it’s time we all put a collective boot up his ass?

Headliner Water Liars came on at around 10:30 to play a short set in front of about 10 people (including myself, bar staff and Lamoureux’s bandmates). Despite the lax crowd, their songs sounded heartfelt and full for a duo in the classic guitar-and-drums design. I love this guy’s voice, which reminded me of Will Johnson on songs that reminded me of Will Johnson as well. Gorgeous stuff.

* * *

Tonight at House of Loom it’s the homecoming of nefarious hip-hop artist Buck Bowen, returning from California and places beyond. Hear Nebraska has the story of where Buck’s gone and where he going, right here. His hop-hop set tonight is part of Loom’s Midtown Marauder Showcase, which runs from 9 p.m. to 2 and costs $5. More info here. Bowen also will be manning the turntables at Loom Saturday night for a DJ set. Info on that showcase is here.

Also tonight, a live performance by KMG and Birthday Suits — I have no idea who these dudes are, but it don’t matter cuz the show’s at O’Leaver’s, which means it ain’t nothing but a party. $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 © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

So who exactly is Icky Blossoms? And the winners are…; Sun Settings tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: — @ 1:54 pm January 18, 2012
Icky Blossoms, from left, Derek Pressnall, Sarah Bohling and Nik Fackler.

Icky Blossoms, from left, Derek Pressnall, Sarah Bohling and Nik Fackler.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

As the announcement that Icky Blossoms signed to Saddle Creek Records filtered its way though the various social media channels Monday, I noticed something peculiar: Promo photos of the band only showed Derek Pressnall, Nik Fackler and Sarah Bohling. Where were JJ Idt, Dylan Strimple and Craig Dee?

I wasn’t the only one who noticed the omissions, as I received a couple e-mails asking the same question. So I contacted Saddle Creek Records and asked if the band had been downsized to a trio. I received the following response from the band via Saddle Creek:

“The band originally evolved out of Flowers Forever which was never a ‘band’ band. But as Derek and Nik began writing music together with Sarah singing they realized a different band had formed and started Icky Blossoms. They took the songs and beats and began playing them live with JJ, Dylan and Craig filling in the parts.

“Nothing has downsized. The writing/recording process (Nik/Derek/Sarah) has always been different than the live performance.”

Is this any different than how Conor Oberst runs Bright Eyes? Conor, Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott are “the band” while a variety of players fill in parts on stage. The difference might be that Oberst changes out his live players on almost every tour, while JJ, Dylan and Craig seem to have a more permanent footing in Icky Blossoms, at least on stage (I don’t recall seeing the band play without them). Who knows? Regardless, they’re apparently not involved in the recording process, which is taking place right now with TV on the Radio’s David Sitek behind the board. Is info, Idt also plays in Conduits, while Craig Dee is a member of Tilly and the Wall with Pressnall. Strimple used to play with Son Ambulance and Baby Walrus.

* * *

Drum roll please…

The winners of this year’s drawing for a copy of the Lazy-i Best of 2011 Sampler are:

Matthew Hanson, Omaha
Nathan Johnson, Yankton
Tim Guthrie, Omaha
Vic & Fletch Fletcher, Omaha
Lauren Rosenthal, Long Beach

Thanks to everyone who entered. I’ll get them in the mail tomorrow, and hopefully we’ll be doing it again next year…

* * *

Tonight at Slowdown Jr. Sun Settings are headlining a show with Howard and Jasong Mountain. It starts at 9 and it’s at the “right price” of absolutely free.

* * *

Tomorrow: One on one on one with Millions of Boys.

* * *

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 © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Icky Blossoms signs to Saddle Creek with Sitek at the knobs; Simon Joyner goes Kickstarter; last day for the drawing; Lydia Loveless tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 2:18 pm January 17, 2012

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Yesterday’s announcement that Saddle Creek Records will be releasing the debut by Icky Blossoms came as a very pleasant surprise. IB was among the triad of bands who emerged last year that everyone thought Creek would — or should — give close consideration. The other two were So-So Sailors and Conduits. S-S S is still without a deal (I’m not sure they even want one as much as a tour agent). Conduits, of course, ended up on Team Love. After the Conduits announcement last week I asked TL exec Matt Maginn if his label was considering releasing records from both Tilly and the Wall and Icky Blossoms. He said “yes” to Tilly (though there’s no release date yet), and that IB would be “releasing with someone else I believe.” Coy, Mr. Maginn, very coy.

Anyway, when Creek passed on those two acts whose lineage traces back to other Saddle Creek bands (So-So to Ladyfinger, Conduits to Good Life), I figured they’d also give the cold shoulder to IB. Thankfully, I was wrong (again).

The other big news was that TV on the Radio’s David Sitek will be recording Icky Blossom’s debut, presumably in LA according to their Facebook page (apparently they’ve already headed West). That’s a sizable coup, and a change of pace from the usual ARC Studio approach (though few of Creek’s recent signings record at ARC). What will Sitek bring to IB’s already-trippy sound? We’ll find out eventually, but probably not until late 2012 (I’m guessing). We’ll all be able to track their progress at the new Icky Blossoms website, conveniently located at ickyblossoms.com (What, that url wasn’t already taken?).

Now who else in Omaha still needs a record deal?

* * *
Speaking of new records, Simon Joyner launched a Kickstarter campaign today to generate money for an upcoming double album. “I’m nearing completion but I’m looking for backers to help fund the final recording, mixing and manufacturing expenses for my 13th proper full-length album. The new album is being recorded all-analog in my south Omaha warehouse ad hoc studio on a borrowed 16 track, 1” reel to reel machine and will be mixed at ARC Studio soon,” Joyner said on his Kickstarter page.

His plan is to self-release the vinyl album, making it available directly from him via mail order as well as distribute it through traditional channels via Ba-Da-Bing Records. Team Love, who put out Joyner’s last album, Out Into the Snow, will also help out.

Joyner’s pledge target is $6,000, and donors will receive a number of incentives based on level of support, ranging from a good-hearted thank you to a personal performance. Check it out today, campaign ends Feb. 19.

* * *
Speaking of limited-time offers, today is the last day to enter the drawing to win a copy of the Lazy-i Best of 2011 comp CD. You know the routine. Just email me (at tim@lazy-i.com) your mailing address, and your name will be dropped into the hat. Tracks include songs by tUnE-yArDs, St. Vincent, Icky Blossoms, Decemberists, Gus & Call, It’s True, Eleanor Friedberger, Peace of Shit, Digital Leather and a bunch more (check out the track list at the bottom of this blog entry). I’ll announce the winner(s) right tomorrow!

* * *
Last but not least, Bloodshot Recording artist Lydia Loveless is playing tonight at The Waiting Room with Gerald Lee Jr. (You know him from the Filter Kings). Among Loveless’ accolades: #4 on SPIN’s Top 20 Country/Americana Albums of the Year, included in Paste Magazine’s Best of What’s Next 2011 feature, an 8 / 10 album rating in SPIN Magazine, features with AOL/Spinner, Daytrotter, and The Chicago Tribune. Show starts at 9, $7.

* * *

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 © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Icky Blossoms & burlesque debauchery, Har Mar Superstar tonight; Snake Island vinyl release party New Year’s Eve…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 2:02 pm December 30, 2011

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

glitterball

Tonight is a huge night of music to kick off your New Year’s weekend.

Down at Slowdown Jr., Icky Blossoms is hosting a “let your freak flag fly” burlesque throwdown. Joining the Blossoms are punkers STDz (described to me as a “crazy dirty all-girl rap group”), DJ Brent Crampton (he’s dirty all by himself) and a virtual parade of drag stars including Dusty Bibles, Wanda Bones, Pope Trojan II and Lincoln “smut with a smirk” group Potboiler Burlesque. More details here. Should be a hedonistic debacle not seen since that bash they threw when Moses climbed the mountain. $7, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, across town at The Waiting Room, Har Mar Superstar returns with Marijuana Deathsquad and Weezer tribute band Pinkerton. Believe it or not, this one has yet to sell out. And it’s only $8, 9 p.m.

So you say you want live ORIGINAL music on New Year’s Eve? Well this year you got it, and it’s at The Sandbox where Snake Island will be celebrating the release of their debut vinyl 12-inch record. And check out the rest of the punk-o-licious line-up: Peace of Shit, Baby Tears, Sun Settings, Artillery Funk and Cheap Furs. Admission is free with two non-perishable food items to be donated to the Omaha Food Bank, otherwise it’s $3 for adults, $5 for minors. Show starts at 9 p.m.

Have a happy New Year! See you in 2012.

* * *

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 © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Icky Blossoms’ drag-tastic dance party; Sun Settings tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: — @ 12:40 pm October 24, 2011
Icky Blossoms at The Waiting Room, Oct. 21, 2011.

Icky Blossoms at The Waiting Room, Oct. 21, 2011.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

It was apparent last July that Icky Blossoms is poised to take The Faint’s place as thee party-fun-dance band from Omaha that will conquer the world. If you don’t remember me saying it then, go reread that review right now (don’t worry, we’ll wait until you get back).

Nothing’s changed since that July show, except that the band has refined its sound to the point where they’re now ready to tour, if only they had an album recorded and released. Saddle Creek, please take note.

Friday night’s show at a packed Waiting Room was your typical high-energy dance-a-romp-a-thon Icky Blossoms set, though a couple things stood out. First, the band came out dressed in drag. I’m not sure if that was a one-time thing or a spur-of-the-moment decision or a whole new approach to their staging. The extent of the drag queen shtick only extended to wearing dresses and wigs (the band also wore its usual warpaint). When it comes to playing in drag, the New York Dolls did it better, guys.

Secondly, shortly after Icky started its set, a couple girls bounced on stage to dance with the band. By mid-set there were about 20 people up there, including a hilarious Sam Martin from Capgun Coup, who now has a more intimate knowledge of guitarist/vocalist Nik Fackler.

While I was watching, I wondered if the band was setting a new precedent for its performances — how are they going to keep people from running onto stage now? While I guess it adds to the overall festive nature of the show, it has to be hugely distracting (and annoying) for the band. Ah well, I guess that’s show business, right? Just as long as it doesn’t take away from the performance. That’s one difference between Icky and The Faint — no one ever went on stage during a Faint show (Joel would have physically tossed them off).

Just like in July, the burning question is where Icky goes next. The band’s following continues to grow, but until they get a record out, I’m not sure how much larger it will get. They need to strike while the iron is hot. The indie world desperately needs another fun dance band.

* * *

Sun Settings, who recently opened for Ty Segall, takes the headlining spot tonight at Slowdown Jr. The band’s style is distinctively indie slacker, but also pushes into garage and new wave territory. Quite a variety, at least on their SoundCloud demo tracks. Check out “Too Gold,” below:

Also on the bill are a handful of bands I’ve never heard of: Hot Ashes, The Howl, and Howard. $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 © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: The Arrival of Icky Blossoms…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , — @ 10:32 am July 25, 2011
Icky Blossoms at The Waiting Room, July 22, 2011.

Icky Blossoms at The Waiting Room, July 22, 2011.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I strongly suggested that the MAHA guys book Icky Blossoms for this year’s festival. Strongly suggested. But for whatever reason, they passed. Maybe they didn’t know who they were. Maybe they were afraid the band wouldn’t “draw.” Probably they never heard their music. Pity. Because Icky Blossoms is now poised to take The Faint’s place as the premiere show-stopping dance, prance, throb-rock psychedelic must-see band in Omaha (and beyond).

They galvanized their position Friday night at The Waiting Room with a crush-mob set that had the dance floor bouncing with its hands in the air. Sweaty, orgiastic. They are no longer “emerging.” They have arrived. And maybe there is a reason that three members of The Faint were in the audience along with a large contingent of Saddle Creek Records “management” (though I have no doubt that The Creek will pass on this one, too).

That Icky Blossoms has something going on is undeniable. They are sitting on a launch pad with the countdown clock ticking down down down. The thing that could light that candle is a full-length record consisting of each of the 8 or 9 songs they performed Friday night. In this sad time in the music industry where there no longer is a “sure thing;” they are a sure thing (probably).

In a lot of ways they remind me of The Faint, circa 1999. Right after that band changed its sound and began investing in lighting gear. Imagine if the Baechle boys (one now a Fink) were to take Icky Blossoms under their wing and produce their record. The problem with that fantasy is that at the rate the Faint gets things done, the record wouldn’t be released until 2015. And the band needs a record other than its singles collection. Then there’s the question of frontman Derek Pressnall who is about to have another baby with his wife and co-hort in Tilly in the Wall, Jamie Pressnall.  Babies have a way of taking precedence things like rock music and touring. And then there’s Tilly, the Pressnalls’ other band, which rumor has it is working on a new recording.

But you labels out there, put all that aside and consider what you’re getting with this band. Pressnall, a natural frontman who knows how to get asses shaking. A frontwoman in Sarah Bohling who is his perfect match (or foil). A madman/genius in the form of writhing Nik Fackler on guitar. A rhythm section that had every internal organ in my body shaken to guava jelly, and a keyboard guy who looks like he could be the second coming of Greg Hawkes.

But at their core are their songs — modern dance numbers that combine house beats and sonic stylings influenced by bands like Jesus and Mary Chain, The Happy Mondays, Depeche Mode, The B-52s, The Cure, Brian Jonestown Massacre, and, yes, The Faint. Pressnall and Co. know what buttons to push, and gleefully jam them down as hard as they can. Live, they’re stellar, but they’re as good on their recordings, where they pull back enough to keep everything in perfect focus.

So yeah, this is just the kind of act that MAHA needed, and MAHA was just the type of coming out party that Icky Blossoms needs, though I don’t know how well their set would go over if they had been scheduled to play at 3 p.m. on a 100-degree day in Stinson Park in the middle of an all-male revue headlined by a legendary ’90s-era power pop band in GBV. Even though they don’t have the light show, like The Faint, Icky Blossoms seems like a night band, an androgynous hedonistic dream with a style and lilt that women can’t seem to resist. They were just what MAHA needed, but that ship has, sadly, sailed, even though the boat doesn’t leave the dock until Aug. 13.

Talking Mountain at The Waiting Room, 7/22/11.

Talking Mountain at The Waiting Room, 7/22/11.

Walking to the club at around 10:30, I noticed smoke billowing out of the front doors of The Waiting Room. Smokers? No, way too much for that. A fire? No, this smoke didn’t have that burnt smell. I peered through the front window and figured it out. It was Talking Mountain’s new(ish) stage show that involves blaring multi-color LED panels, lasers and way too much stage smoke.

No longer wearing their lovable fake-fur handmade masks, the Mountains play their fun-pop dance songs in rainbow hatchet light, figures cut from the fog. It is an impressive thing to see, each light perfectly choreographed, but that smoke, gag. Fifteen minutes after their set a member if Icky Blossoms had propped open the exit door in a vain attempt at clearing out the air in The Waiting Room.  It was hopeless.

* * *

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 © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

 

Lazy-i

Live Review: Conduits, Icky Blossoms, InDreama, Touch People; Nik Freitas tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:02 pm April 18, 2011
Conduits at The Slowdown, April 15, 2011.

Conduits at The Slowdown, April 15, 2011.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

When it comes to the four-band record release show at Slowdown Friday night, instead of dwelling on the one unfortunate negative, let’s instead dwell on the positives. Positives like the big crowd (+200?), the impeccable sound quality and, most of all, the performances.

Touch People at Slowdown 4/15/11.

Touch People at Slowdown 4/15/11.

Touch People started off the evening at the stroke of 9, playing to an empty floor in Slowdown’s big room. On stage, a costumed Darren Keen played a small stack of technology veiled two ways — one, behind a curtain that hid him from view, and two, behind a mask and hood, though everyone knew that only one person in the Nebraska music scene bears his stature. Just as unmistakable is Keen’s sound. Even though this project stands at a distance from his main gig — The Show Is the Rainbow — there were distinctive Keen-isms that dotted a sonic landscape littered with enormously loud bass lines, jittering break beats and trippy synth tones. Touch People is the most experimental of Keen’s projects, and as a result, the most challenging to the listener. The music isn’t so much an attempt to get people dancing as to get them to step into whatever dimension Keen is occupying over the course of the 40-minute set. The music was as entrancing as it was disjointed and, at times, disturbing, which I have believe is just the way Keen wanted it.

InDreama at Slowdown, 4/15/11.

InDreama at Slowdown, 4/15/11.

It only got trippier with InDreama, In this, their third live performance and perhaps their most ambitious, frontman Nik Fackler and company navigated through a mine field of technical problems to take yet another step forward in crafting their sound and vision. And what a weird vision it’s turning out to be. Fackler is at his best when he’s crafting songs with specific melodies and ideas, such as the track from the single, “Reprogram,” (which he opened with) and the set’s closing two numbers. In between were shades of Jim Morrison and Jim Carroll. Fackler has said that his goal is to create a new persona on stage. At this point, that persona is still only half realized, though no less entertaining.

Icky Blossoms at Slowdown 4/15/11.

Icky Blossoms at Slowdown 4/15/11.

By the time Icky Blossoms hit the stage at around 11, the crowd had arrived. The floor in front was mostly filled and jumping. Of all of Derek Pressnall’s projects including Tilly and the Wall, this one is the most satisfying and the one with the most promise. I got the feeling that there was nothing stopping the band from hitting the road tomorrow and getting any out-of-town crowd to become fans. Yes, the music is that good — a modern take on straight-up dance rock with an ’80s flair. Of the four bands, Icky Blossoms is easily the most commercially embraceable of the bunch. They’re also the most fun.

Conduits closed the night with grand aplomb — just an absolute wall of sound — thick slabs of droning feedback, subtle synth tones, and throbbing, tribal rhythms a la Slowdive, MBV and all the other shoe-gaze masters that obviously influenced their style and that we all know and love. The beauty of Conduits is its sonic dynamics. The Achilles heel may be its lack of rhythmic variety — one mid-tempo song after another. Frontwoman Jenna Morrison couldn’t be more statuesque in beauty and style. She has amazing tone that cuts through the dense layers of sound. But somewhere in the morass she’s become merely another instrument. I could not understand a word she was singing (how much is the soundman’s fault, I do not know). It’s an advantage Icky Bossoms had over all four bands — you could understand just about every word Pressnall was singing, and that made his songs that much more interesting (and easy to sing along to). With Conduits, all you get is beautiful, beautiful drone. When you think of a band like Low, you can hear every heart-breaking word that comes out of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker’s mouths. Those words are what help make their music that much more memorable. I know there are words underneath Conduits’ music as well, I just need to find out what they are.

And now that one negative I mentioned earlier — one thing was missing that is crucial to the success of any record release show — the records themselves. I don’t know if there was some sort of production problem that kept the delivery from happening, but there was no product on hand to sell. Instead, the band was selling “pre-orders” of the single, with a promise that a member of the band would hand deliver the record when it arrived (you also received a free download). How many people took them up on the offer, I do not know. I do know that they had 200 or so people on hand that wanted to buy a copy and who went home empty handed, myself included. Maybe they should have another record release show, but this time in Lincoln (and with records to sell).

* * *

Things are running a bit long here today. I can’t expect y’all to sit through 3,000 words of copy. So come back tomorrow for my take on Record Store Day and my first “DJ” gig, as well as a look at last night’s Decemberists’ show, which was “all that” and more.

* * *

Nik Freitas is kind of a big thing around these parts. But despite that, he’s the opening act tonight at The Waiting Room for a band that I’ve never heard of — The Submarines. The $12 show starts at 9, so you better get there early.

Also tonight, Dim Light plays with Slow Skate at O’Leaver’s. $5, 9:30 p.m. And Pharmacy Spirits makes a trip from Lincoln to play at Slowdown Jr. tonight with Cat Island, Dangerous Ponies and Shipbuilding Co. $5, 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 © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Column 318: The Fantastic Four (Conduits, InDreama, Icky Blossoms, Touch People); Dark Dark Dark, Omaha Invasion tonight…

Category: Blog,Column,Interviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:56 pm April 14, 2011

Conduits

Conduits

Column 318: Four bands, two slices of vinyl, one distinctive sound.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

The dim, squalid confines of The Underwood Bar are a fine place to drink yourself into oblivion while playing a game of pool or pinball. They’re not such a fine place to conduct an interview, especially with four bands simultaneously. But that’s where Conduits drummer Roger Lewis decided would be the best place for what would turn into chaos.

Crammed between the pool table and glowing digital jukebox in the back of the bar sat Lewis and Conduits band mate Jenna Morrison; InDreama frontman Nik Fackler with his bandmate — legendary bass player Dereck Higgins; Icky Blossoms mastermind Derek Pressnall, and the hardest working guy in local music, Darren Keen, the genius behind Touch People. If you go to The Slowdown this Friday night you will hear all of these musicians and their band mates perform together on one bill, maybe for the one and only time (though there’s talk of repeating the line-up sometime in Lincoln).

Darren Keen a.k.a. Touch People

Darren Keen a.k.a. Touch People

The occasion for this grand collective is the release of a duo 7-inch split — one song from each band on two vinyl records. Morrison said J.J. Idt, who plays in both Conduits and Icky Blossoms, came up with the idea, and then “one link led to another.”

It sounded like a great story, but somewhere before Lewis bought me a second Rolling Rock and after one of the fat, bearded locals plugged the jukebox and began belting out lines to Vanilla Fudge’s “You Keep Me Hanging On,” I realized that it was all going to get lost in the noise and confusion of trying to reign in six people talking from six different angles.

And that the project’s real story centered around the music, anyway. The recordings break down like this:

“Misery Train” by Conduits is a perfect slice of the band’s trademark dream-pop sound, dim and faraway, with Morrison’s angelic voice burning through the mist like a distant beacon, safe and familiar and strangely comforting in its ghostly beauty.

Icky Blossoms’ “Perfect Vision” is a pop gem, a mid-tempo hand-clapping slacker anthem that’s a combination of Jesus and Mary Chain and Love & Rockets, with Pressnall standing right in the middle of it all, singing presumably with eyes half closed lines like “Nothing to do but get high in the afternoon.”

InDreama

InDreama

Opening with icy synth tones, InDreama’s “Reprogram” evolves into proggy electronic drunk-funk. As much an art piece as a rock song, the track defines Fackler as a Midwestern version of Beck, unafraid to reach out and try something different for difference’s sake, but never losing sight of the melody.

Finally, there’s Touch People’s “Sound Expression,” a cacophony of electronic noises and break beats tethered to an uneven foundation of shifting chords and tones, with Keen’s voice emerging strangely through the floor boards with lines like “Sometimes a sound is just a sound.”

Side-by-side, each song is starkly different, and yet somehow there’s a sonic thread — a dreamy vibe — that binds all four together into a cohesive whole. These four bands stand at the vanguard of a new direction of Nebraska music, a clear departure from the singer-songwriter fare that so brazenly defined the scene over the past decade.

In fact, all the bands are second-generation outgrowths of former projects. Icky Blossoms was born out of Pressnall’s Flowers Forever (which was a side project of Tilly and the Wall); InDreama is a bastard child of Fackler’s The Family Radio; Conduits includes veterans of Eagle Seagull and Son Ambulance, while Touch People is a third concurrently functioning incarnation of Darren Keen, who’s better known for his persona as The Show Is the Rainbow.

Derek Pressnall

Derek Pressnall of Icky Blossoms

The duo splits are an introduction to all four bands, which despite their obvious differences make sense collectively. Consider these singles as a crossroads where all four meet before spinning off once again in their own directions. We can expect to hear full lengths or other recordings by all four at some point later this year. But for now, they’re all together, at least for one night.

“This scene is more accepting of general weirdness,” said Keen, who despite frequently playing in both Lincoln and Omaha has always been viewed by some as an outsider. “Omaha and Nebraska music has evolved from its labels. Now it’s like any other cool city. Seattle, for example, is more than just grunge.”

“We’re in a period in Omaha music where there are so many kick-ass bands out there,” Lewis said. “It’s a kick-ass-band overload!”

Fackler, who is more well known as the writer and director of indie film Lovely, Still, said seeing Conduits perform “genuinely inspired me. I got that feeling again to put a band together.”

“We all are just friends,” Pressnall added, “and while this hasn’t exactly been thought out, we’ve all been very inspired by each other. When I see these bands, I just want to go home and push myself creatively.”

From there, the conversations rose to a fever pitch and I started to lose my balance. Like a wise Jedi master or an all-knowing Buddha or what he really is — the veteran of some of the area’s most important legacy bands —  Dereck Higgins simply looked at me, smiled and summed it all up perfectly. “Can you feel it?” he asked quietly between three conversations. “Can you see how all of us are connected? There’s something going on here.”

Conduits, Icky Blossoms, InDreama and Touch People play Friday, April 15, at The Slowdown. Tickets are $7, show starts at 9 p.m.

* * *

Minneapolis chamber-folk band Dark Dark Dark is at Slowdown Jr., tonight with Honey & Darling. Check out Chris Aponick’s interview with the band if The Reader (here). $8, 9 p.m.

Also, tonight is the first of two nights of the Omaha Invasion Festival in Lincoln. $6 per night or $10 for a 2-day pass. Here’s tonight’s sched:

Thursday – April 14th – Duffy’s Tavern

08:40 – 09:20PM – Kyle Harvey

09:40 – 10:20PM – Lonely Estates

10:40 – 11:20PM – Down With The Ship

11:40 – 12:20AM – All Young Girls Are Machine Guns

12:40 – 01:20AM – Midwest Dilemma

Thursday – April 14th – Bourbon Theatre (Rye Room)

08:20 – 09:00PM – Underwater Dream Machine (Bret Vovk)

09:20 – 10:00PM – Vago

10:20 – 11:00PM – Dim Light

11:20 – 12:00AM – Conchance

12:20 – 01:00AM – Matt Cox

Also, according to Saddle Creek, Bright Eyes is on Leno tonight. Set the DVR for stun…

* * *

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 © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Lazy-i