Saddle Creek to release 7-inches; Rolling Stone archive goes online; Andrew Jackson Jihad tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:39 pm March 21, 2012

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Saddle Creek Records announced this morning that it’ll have four vinyl releases for Record Store Day, April 21, 2012, including three 7-inch singles.

Of the 12-inch variety, there’s Cursive’s Burst and Bloom EP, back on vinyl for the first time in years, pressed on RSD-exclusive yellow, white and black marbled vinyl limited to 1,500 copies. Very cool.

Ah, but what I’m excited about are the singles, which they’re calling “7-inch previews” since all preceed full-length releases by the bands:

Icky Blossoms

Icky Blossoms — “Babes” b/w “Chicas,” a Spanish version of the A-side, pressed on colored vinyl and limited to 1,000 copies.

Mynabirds — “Generals” b/w non-album track “Fallen Doves.” The 7″ features silk screened sleeves hand spray painted and numbered by frontwoman Laura Burhenn herself. Covers are available in five different paint colors, and limited to 1,000 copies on black vinyl.

PUJOL — “REVERSE VAMPIRE” b/w demo version of “PSYCHIC PAIN.” The record is pressed on colored vinyl and limited to 1,000 copies.

As an added bonus, each release comes with an mp3 download code, so you can listen to them on your “portable electronic device.” I love 7-inch singles, and wish-wish-wish Saddle Creek would develop a singles club like Matador has now and Sub Pop used to have…

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Believe it or not, I subscribe to Rolling Stone and have for years, though I don’t know why when these days they devote too much space to TV and teen film stars (Hey, how else am I supposed to keep up on the Twilight saga?). Anyway, yesterday RS emailed me that they’ve digitized every back issue, dating back to the iconic Nov. 9, 1967, debut with John Lennon on the cover. They call it Rolling Stone All Access, and the service is free if you’re a subscriber. We’re talking full scans of full pages of each issue, including the advertising, which can be as entertaining as the articles and reviews.  The archive even appears to be somewhat indexed , though I haven’t had a chance to really kick the tires on their search engine. However, when I searched for Cursive, up popped the April 3, 2003, issue, with the 4-star review of The Ugly Organ. For those interested in rock music history, All Access alone is worth the subscription price.

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Tonight at Slowdown Jr. a huge five-band bill featuring punk folkies Andrew Jackson Jihad, along with Cheap Girls, Laura Stevenson and the Cans, The Sidekicks and Roar! $15, 8 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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The Full Monty: Three days of SXSW coverage, all on one page…

The enormous crowd at Stubb's watching Fiona Apple during SXSW 2012.

The enormous crowd at Stubb's watching Fiona Apple during SXSW 2012.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Below is my full coverage of last week’s trip to Austin for the South By Southwest Music Festival. All of this content first appeared at thereader.com last week, so if you’ve been clicking over to that site daily, you’ve read this already. For those who didn’t click over, here it is in its entirety. Sit back with a sandwich and enjoy all 5,000 words of it.

A 1,000-word wrap-up also will be printed in this week’s issue of The Reader, along with my weekly column that looks at an alarming new trend at rock shows. The new issue will be on news stands Thursday.

Day 1: Wednesday, March 14, 2012.

I promised myself that I wasn’t going to kill myself this year at SXSW, but the way I felt this morning, I think I’m doing a pretty good job of it.

We got into Austin early yesterday afternoon, which I figured would mean an abbreviated show schedule. But no. We still had time to see nine bands. That’s the amazing thing about this festival and why I keep coming back year after year despite the obvious toll it’s taking on my body — you can see the hottest, most talked-about bands the same day as you get to see some all-time classics, sometimes in clubs literally next door to each other.

Onward.

After a lightning fast registration process (SXSW has figured out how to get you in and out of their convention center with a badge around your neck in less than 15 minutes) it was off to the first band: Nashville garage trio The Ettes at The Ginger Man, a dark, cozy out of the way club on 3rd Street that opens to a sweet hidden patio performance area in the back. People were lined up along benches facing the stage waiting for the overcast 3 o’clock sky to burn off whatever cloud cover had hung around from the morning. We wisely had “blocked up” before leaving the Hyatt Regency — overcast skies can be deceiving, and misreading them can mean a week of skin-peeling pain.

Despite having a tough(er) garage punk sound, The Ettes will never be able to shake their “cute factor” with adorable little Lindsay “Coco” Hames at the lead, with a sassy voice bordering on boopsy at times (but more Patsy at most), as well as her stage mannerisms, which are just plain endearing, even when she’s calling out someone in the crowd from Boston with “I’ll tell you about it after the set.” Countering her cuteness was the vicious cool of drummer Maria “Poni” Silver, who looked like she could take you AND your buddy in a fight, and look damn good doing it. Rounded out by red pants wearing bassist Jeremy “Jem” Cohen, they were one snarling unit, as Hames sweetly barked “I’m not not not not not going to break your heart.” What a way to kick things off.

Next on the list was Thee Oh Sees at Red Eyed Fly, one of a batch of clubs that sit about a block north of 6th Street along Red River, where arguably all the best clubs are situated. I saw the line snaking from the door into the street and asked fellow Omahan Mike Tulis (you’ll always run into a lot of local folks at SXSW) ‘what was the deal?’ He said it was the holdout line for a reunion performance from the classic ’90s band The Wedding Present.

Glancing at my watch, I knew we’d never make it inside in time for Thee Oh Sees, so we walked down the street to Austin favorite Mohawk Patio not knowing who was playing. Look, you can’t schedule every move of your SXSW experience or you’ll miss most of it. Go with the flow, baby. Have fun, that’s what this is all about.

On stage was a tall black guy standing alone torturing an electric guitar Prince-style backed by prerecorded tracks — your typical one-man band shtick. The Xeroxed band list next to the beer cabana said the band was Blood Orange — never heard of them. But a quick google later and I recognized who I was looking at. It was Dev Hynes of Lightspeed Champion, all growed up. I’d interviewed Dev for my column in The Reader way back in 2007 when he was in town recording a Lightspeed album with Mike Mogis at ARC Studio. Our interview back then concluded with a trip to Crossroads Mall, which was in the same state of decay as it is today.

Now here was Dev, easily a foot taller and looking like a college fullback despite wearing the same geeky round glasses that he wore while shopping in Target all those years ago. He apparently had turned his back on Lightspeed’s chamber pop for something more rock, soul and funk based that could turn into an astringent guitar solo at the turn of a dime. Despite his appearance, his high croon hadn’t changed. The packed crowd on the patio ate it up, grooving to his pre-recorded beats.

About halfway through the set and in the middle of a song, Hynes stopped. “I’m sorry, I know I’m just one guy on stage, but do you think you could wait until after I’m through with my set before you start loading in?” he said to either the stage grips or the band guys who had been fumbling around on stage behind him while he played. “I mean, what the f***? I’ll be done in 20 minutes.” The crowd applauded in approval, while the grips slunk off stage and Dev started back up again, finishing the song by jumping off stage and playing a solo in the middle of the crowd.

It was after his set that we got our first celebrity sighting. While sitting on a retaining wall that surrounds the patio, a small crowd formed around Dev, literally at our feet. Running up and giving him a big hug and a hello in her pseudo British accent was none other than fashion model Alexa Chung host of 24 Hour Catwalk, another in a long series of Project Runway-style reality shows. Okay, okay, maybe I should have said it was a “Lifetime TV celebrity” sighting.

We made our way back down Red River, past the still snaking line in front of Red Eyed Fly and stumbled into the darkness that is Beerland, a club that doesn’t “participate” in SXSW, instead hosting free shows all week long. On stage was the band with the festival’s possibly most offensive name, Puffy Aureoles, a HoZak Records punk band that in addition to sporting a hard garage sound also sports a saxophone. Frontman Teets took a moment between a couple rumbling songs to say something like “You’re gonna get a better show in here than in there,” referencing the Wedding Party show next door at Red Eyed Fly.

He was wrong. When we got out of Beerland we noticed that the line had shrunk to maybe a half-dozen people being let into the Wedding Present show on a one-in one-out basis. Thinking it may be the only time that I’ll get to see this amazing band, we took a chance and got in line and were rewarded with some witty-ness by the doorman, who looked like a ginger Scotsman. As we got closer and closer to finally getting inside, a guy in his 40s walked up to complain. At first I thought he was the doorman’s mate, but then he started getting in his face about how “he was from Austin, man, and I work in television and I know what you’re doing. I can see that there’s plenty of room in there. You’re on some sort of power trip. If you don’t let me in I’m going to post about this on my Facebook page.” We all busted out laughing as the doorman told the guy to f*** off and leave. The small crowd began to clap, and the doorman said “Dude, they’re clapping for me, not you.” The whiney Austin TV man scowled and eventually slunk away.

We got in seconds later, in time to catch most of The Wedding Present‘s set, and it was as if time had stood still for British frontman David Gedge. He looked and sounded as he did in the ’90s, despite being in his early 50s. I only own one Wedding Present album, 1994’s Watusi, but loved it then and love this band now. If you’re going to do a reunion, you best do it like this, without missing a single, stripped down, bass-fueled, cocksure, angular beat.  Someone bring them to Omaha, please.

Looking at the schedule, the next natural stop was Fiona Apple at Stubb’s, the huge outdoor stage just a street away from where we were. Though the set wasn’t supposed to start until 7:45, there already was a huge line for badge holders at 6, waiting to get in. But seeing as my back and feet were already killing me, it gave us a chance to sit down on the curb and recover while waiting in line. Within a half hour, the line was literally a half-mile long, stretching three blocks behind us cross a street and up and over a hill. Meanwhile, a second line almost a long stretched down the street — this one for people with wrist bands, not badges. People’s oh-shit reactions when they turned the corner and saw the huge lines were priceless.

Well, they began letting us in at 7 and we were in the door by 7:10 and so was everyone else. Stubb’s must hold more than 2,000 people, judging by the size of the crowd. At 7:45 she came on stage backed by about 5 people, including a keyboard player, and began braying through her set. I’ve never been a Fiona fan, but she plays so rarely I figured I’d be crazy not to catch her set, and besides, I really wanted to see the band that followed her.

It was the same flaccid Fiona I remember from the ’90s, a woman who I always thought got by more on her looks than her talent. Her music had more in common with wonky Broadway show tunes than rock, fueled by awkward arrangements and her own awkward stage presence, though the crowd absolutely loved her.

The second she got off stage there was a mass pilgrimage to the door, which was fine by me. I walked right down by the stage and got ready for Sharon Van Etten, who I’d really came to see. Backed by a small four-piece band and with guitar in hand, she performed a stunning set of indie folk reminiscent of Chan Marshall (Cat Power), but with better melodies. When I turned around after the first couple songs, I noticed that the place had filled back up to capacity, this time for an artist that deserved the attention.

Getting near 10 p.m. the streets were beginning to fill with the crazies. I took a quick stroll to nearby Elysium to try to beat the crowd for Zola Jesus, and got right in to see Philly drone band Amen Dunes, whose sound can best be described as Lithium-fueled underwater buzzcore rock sung by a team of tribal shamen. Actually, not bad if you’re into Nyquil rock.

But nothing compared to Zola Jesus, perhaps the most hyped indie band since, well, Lana Del Ray, though LDR has managed to leverage her hypeness into international fame. Zola Jesus is merely creating a rather massive cult of followers who view her as a second coming, and after last night’s gig, may be onto something.

Frontwoman Rosa Danilova is an indie Gaga — slight and almost fragile, wearing a ghost-white silky one-piece translucent draped dress, the tiny woman explodes into stage calisthenics the minute her band breaks into their dreamy, almost spiritual post-ambient rock that features synths, guitar and fantastic drums, while Danilova croons and prances on stage. I’ve heard her and her music compared to Cocteau Twins, and that did come to mind, though sonically there really is no similarity. Danilova, however, is amazing to see and hear on haunting songs that have a tendency to blend together, though it only makes the songs that stray from the formula shine even more.

I talked with fellow Reader music writer Chris Aponick during her set, asking how he thought she’d draw in Omaha. He thought she’d never sell out The Waiting Room, and pointed out there’s a reason why she’s only played down in Lawrence. He was right. As amazing as Zola Jesus is, the band is a hidden commodity in Omaha except for diehard indie fans, record store geeks and music writers. At least she is right now. I have no doubt that she could blow up as big as LDR if she ever got her break on SNL.

Finally at midnight, I made my way up to the 18th Floor of the Hilton Garden Inn and caught a solo acoustic set by ’90s indie rock legend Freedy Johnston. Freedy used to be one of my favorites, and his albums from the ’90s are still heard often in my car and earbuds. Despite my love for his music, I’ve never had a chance to see the former Lawrence-native play live, until last night.

There he was in the corner of the hotel’s sky lounge surrounded by rows of chairs and a crowd of 50 that was a mix of older people and a handful of young hipsters who knew a good thing when they heard it. Johnston complained of a rough throat and apologized for his voice throughout the set, but he sounded just fine to me as he played through the favorites including “Evie’s Tears” “Bad Reputation” and one of my all time faves, “Trying to Tell You I Don’t Know,” from his breakout album Can You Fly. It was a sweet way to end a sweet day in Austin. Check out the photos from Day 1.

Day 2, Thursday, March 15, 2012.

Another day of bands, but better weather at South By Southwest 2012. Let’s get right into it.

Typically, covering SXSW means a lot of walking around. There’s this falsity that all the venues are located along 6th Street aligned one right next to the other like a perfect string of pearls. In reality, SXSW venues are scattered across 100 square blocks in downtown Austin, with a few located even further away, including across Town Lake and on the east side of I-35. We’re talking miles and miles of walking.

But sometimes (if you’re lucky) you can cut down on the legwork if one, two or three bands are scheduled back to back at the same venue. Sponsors know this, which is why they schedule as many top acts as possible for their “day parties,” figuring you’ll say “fuck it, let’s just stay here,” when the band you came to see finishes their set.

For example, I kicked off yesterday afternoon by going to the Pandora day party at Antone’s, where I hoped to catch a set by Neon Trees. Since I knew that NT is currently trending, I got there early not knowing who was on the schedule. The name Incan Abraham didn’t ring a bell. The LA-based 5-piece (which appears to genuinely be unsigned) is one of the many new bands that have decided it would make good business sense to sound like Vampire Weekend. At one point during their set I wanted to yell, “Play something off Contra,” but that wouldn’t have been nice. Besides, no one was there to see them, anyway.

Half the crowd was there to see the next band, Neon Trees. This Provo-based band of Mormons (all are LDS members, according to Wiki) has the distinction of having one of the best frontmen in the business — the amazing Tyler Glenn. The second this guy takes the stage in his faux hawk and gold leather pants you know he meant business, and if you don’t, he’s going to let you know right to your face. Rarely has a frontman tried so hard to make a connection with his audience doing everything except pulling them on stage with him. He’s an in-your-face rock version of American Idol with a wicked sense of humor that will help him immensely when he reaches his final destination in Las Vegas. Pure showman.

As for the music, well, it sounded like someone grew up listening to The Cars, along with more modern pop like The Killers, a band who helped Neon Trees get signed to Mercury. You might have heard their music on Buick commercials, and something tells me they’ll be selling a lot of other stuff in the future. They’re a good time band that demands audience reaction, even if it’s 2:30 in the afternoon. Some did. Most did the ol’ standing-hump dance. Of note, Omahan Neal Duffy runs their sound. It was nice to see a friendly face behind the sound board. By the time you read this, Duffy will be headed back home, his tour of SXSW over, for now.

I said half the crowd was there to see Neon Trees. The other half was there for Glen Hansard of The Frames, The Swell Season, and the hunky leading man and Oscar winner for the music in the 2007 film Once. I didn’t know Hansard was on the slate at Antone’s, and was pleasantly surprised. He did about a half hour of fantastic personal folk, including the song “Gold” from Once, just him and his worn-to-shit acoustic guitar.

Hansard’s between-song patter is good enough for the stand-up circuit. He used it to coax Tom Meny onto stage, a YouTube musician who has covered one of Hansard’s songs online, which Hansard said was better than his version. He wanted him to sing it, but before he started, Meny whispered into Hansard’s ear that he’d forgotten the words! Instead, Meny added some tasty harmonies and told the crowd before he left the stage, “You’ve all experienced the best day of my life” — a touching moment.

Well, I couldn’t hang out at Antone’s all day, could I? Next it was off to the Mess With Texas party at the 1100 Warehouse, located on the east side of I-35 on 5th St. Getting there was an adventure involving crossing many lanes of live traffic with no stoplights (though a friendly cop helped us at one intersection). This event used to be held in a park just north of 6th St., but somehow they lost the rights to use the property. Unfortunate, because to say the airplane-hangar-sized metal-roofed warehouse had poor acoustics would be showering it with praise.

We waited about 10 minutes in the sweltering tin can for Cults to take the stage, and when they did, we held on for about three songs. Worst acoustics I’ve ever heard at SXSW; a waste of time for the bands and its fans. If that’s the best place Mess With Texas could find to host their day party, they’re better off not hosting one.

After the long hike back to 6th Street we set the bands aside and splurged on a sit-down meal at Annie’s on Congress Ave. and then went back to the hotel to watch some March Madness. Look, my non-stop days are over, folks, I’s gots to get some rest. And the way my night ended up, I’m glad I did.

I headed back out at around 9 to catch Secretly Canadian band Gardens & Villa at Mohawk Patio. The Santa Barbara band’s standout quality is a frontman that plays a variety of bamboo flutes (but not exactly in a Jethro Tull sort of way). With a regular drummer and a guy on an electronic drum kit, the band has more than a passing resemblance to Yeasayer, though not nearly as hippy-ish (even with the flutes).

From there, I figured I could sneak in a set from Grimes at the Central Presbyterian Church — yes, you read that right, it’s a big frickin’ church a block off of 6th Street that hosts shows for SXSW. Once inside, the kind-faced volunteers — obviously members of the church’s congregation — were selling coffee, scones and bottled water. They shepherded us into the main church and told us to take a pew. I wandered up to the balcony instead, and moments later (and what was 10 minutes ahead of schedule) a woman on stage asked to kill all the lights. The band that I thought was Grimes was, in fact, electronic duo Purity Ring who played a haunting set lit only by colored electric lanterns made all the more dramatic from the church’s spooky confines (which, btw, had remarkably good acoustics).

So apparently the church’s schedule was way behind, and there was no way I was going to be able to stick it out for Grimes because I had to get in line if I wanted to see The Jesus and Mary Chain at The Belmont at midnight.

I’m happy I got there when I did, at around 11, because I only had to wait in line for about five minutes. Once inside, it was a crush mob that would only become more crushing as the night went on. So packed were we that I could not raise my hand to scratch my nose without hitting the guy or woman standing next to me. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to hold this sardine pose for a full hour, not knowing that I’d have to do it for two-and-a-half hours. Good thing I took a leak at the church.

Before Jesus and Mary Chain it was a set by Titus Andronicus, who I didn’t recognize because frontman Pat Stickles had shaved off his wilderness beard, making him now look like Matt Whipkey’s long lost twin brother. I’ve seen Titus a number of times. They’re known (and proud) of their marathon-length songs, some of which are more than 10 minutes long and just seem to stretch on pointlessly forever, especially last night. No one wants to hear a 15-minute song about your eating disorder, Patrick, especially one with a repeating chorus that goes “Spit it out.” I will say this, it took cajones the size of melons to take a gig where everyone in the audience just wants you get off stage as fast as possible, and instead play these long, boring songs.

Finally, at around 12:30, Jesus and Mary Chain took the stage and played a ton of my favorite songs and a few I never heard of, one after another for over an hour. The Reid Brothers may be older, but they haven’t really lost any of their style. Jim’s voice is distinctively lower and grainier, but still has that thing that makes it unique. Meanwhile, brother William slouched off to the side with his axe and blew us all away with the shear volume of it all. As it stands, that was the highlight of my SXSW…. so far. Check out the photos from Day 2.

Day 3: Friday, March 16, 2012.

I’m writing this at 30,000 feet above some place between Austin and Omaha where dinosaurs once roamed the earth before the great Ice Age wiped it all away, long before anyone cared about weeklong music festivals in Austin, TX.

I recently had a conversation with another Omaha music critic who was giving me grief for skipping the last day of SXSW. “Why would you want to miss Saturday? I don’t get it.” Look, I said, I’ve never stayed in Austin for more than three days, ever. After three days of running around from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. listening to bands, I’ve had more than my fill, thank you very much. I see between 25 to 30 bands over those three days. If you haven’t gotten what you need from the festival by then, you’re not trying. But that’s just me.

Day 3 started with a show sponsored by The Google on top of a parking garage just north of 6th St., providing gorgeous views of the chaos down below. The wind it did blow, and the sun it did scorch as Saddle Creek band Two Gallants took the stage sounding just like they did the last time I saw them a few years ago, before the duo went on hiatus, released their respective solo albums (to crickets) only to get back together again. Nothing had changed with their old-time ship-shanty folk rock sound. As always, when you hear one of their familiar tunes, you nod and say, “Aw right,” but if it’s a new song, well, you just want to get through it, especially after the 6-minute mark. Here’s yet another band that would improve immensely if they shaved three minutes off each song.

Like yesterday, I had no clue who else was playing the Google stage, and was pleasantly surprised to discover next up was Grimes, the “band” I went to see at the Presbyterian church the day before, but missed due to scheduling issues. On stage was pixie-ish DJ/vocalist Claire Boucher, working electronic backing tracks and singing one-woman-band style. Grimes’ music is brittle electronic dance stuff cast with a gothy Japanese sheen, thick deep beats balanced by her cooing voice. Later in the set a guy/person added even more percussion, but despite the head-bouncing beat, few (if any) were dancing. By the time I left, the half empty parking lot was really beginning to fill in, ballooning for day-party headliner The Shins, who would play in a few hours. Ah, The Shins. No thanks (though I liked them the first time ’round).

Instead it was across town to the coolest bike store I’ve ever seen — Mellow Johnny’s. In addition to having a gigantic selection of bikes, Johnny’s boasts a ton of apparel, a coffee shop, and for this week, a stage, where red hot Brooklyn punk band The Men (not to be confused with androgynous dance band MEN) played an afternoon show for about 50 fans and bike enthusiasts. The band is riding a wave of rave reviews, including a Pitchfork “recommended selection.” And I would add my name to that list for those of you into chunky Bad Religion-style rock. They’re loud and fast and raw, with dueling guitar riffs and a couple solid vocalists/screamers. But like a lot of bands in this genre, it all begins to sound the same after three songs.

The first part of my last evening in Austin was dedicated to the Saddle Creek showcase, held at a 2nd St. BBQ restaurant called Lambert’s. Whenever I tell someone I’m headed to SXSW, they always say, “Man, you’ve got to check out the Omaha bands and see how well they translate to an out-of-town crowd.” That would be a good idea, except every time I’ve seen an Omaha band in Austin, the crowd consisted mostly of Omaha people who made the trip. Such was the case last night for Icky Blossoms. I looked around and felt like I was watching a show in O’Leaver’s or The Waiting Room. There even was some guy I didn’t recognize wearing a Waiting Room T-shirt. Needless to say, the audience of 50 or so was gracious with its applause, and, in fact, IB put on a sterling set, especially for playing at a rib joint.

We left a couple songs into Big Harp’s surprisingly loud and rowdy set so we could get in line to see Eleanor Friedberger at the Merge showcase just a couple blocks away at a hot dog joint called Frank. I figured we’d have a hard time getting in, especially since their showcase capper was Bob Mould performing Sugar’s Copper Blue album, so I was surprised when they waved us in with our badges — no line at all. The cool little restaurant (everything is cool in Austin) never got crush-mob crowded, which is either a testament to the current state of Merge Records or the fact that Snoop Dog was performing across the street.

After a day of ear-bleeding noise, it was a treat to hear Friedberger do an intimate solo acoustic set. She’s a modern-day Joni or Janis (or Bowie), but with a self-assured lyrical voice that’s never cloying. This night she seemed distracted and slightly annoyed, and inasmuch said so during her set, telling the crowd that she’d been complaining just a little earlier, but that she was over that now. Her songs can be sad, but are sung with a voice laced in persistence, sounding not so much an optimist but rather a survivor. And I was literally standing right next to her.

So here was the sitch — Friedberger sang at around 8:45. Mould wasn’t scheduled to perform until 12:30. I could either leave and try to get back in and also risk being stuck way behind a roomful of pumpkin heads, or I could just hang out at Frank all night and soak in the other Merge artists. Easy choice.

I missed The Love Language to go upstairs for a chili dog and basket of waffle fries, but came back down for Crooked Fingers. In addition to once releasing a solo album on Saddle Creek, frontman Eric Bachmann has the distinction of (at times) having a voice that’s a dead ringer for Neil Diamond. Another distinction is his hulking 6-foot-8 frame that makes him resemble a Viking farmer in a trucker cap. With a solid backing band and a rack filled with guitars, Bachmann and Co. ripped through a set of folk rockers that at its finest moments recalled Richard Thompson. Again, I was literally right in front of the stage, and did my best to slump down so as to not block the people behind me.

I moved back a couple rows for the next act – Imperial Teen, a band that’s been around literally forever, and by that, I mean since the ’90s. Despite that, I knew virtually nothing, which resembled a group of schoolteachers (I would later find out that one of the guys was former Faith No More keyboardist Roddy Bottum). Don’t let appearances fool you — they rocked like The Pixies but without the pretention. I will now be searching out their catalog.

Finally, it was time for Bob Mould. He was preceded on stage by a crew of grips rolling in a stacks and stacks of Marshall and Orange gear, piled along the rear of the stage. Mould strode in with his classic blue Fender and began plugging in the pedals. The last time I saw him perform he was strapping young, clean shaven rocker. These days he looks like a wizened college professor or scientist, sporting a gray beard and extra pounds around the middle. With no fanfare, he looked over at bassist Jason Narducy (Telekinesis, ex-Verbow) and drummer Jon Wurster (Superchunk) and said, “I guess let’s just go” and tore into the opening chords of “The Act We Act,” the first song on Copper Blue. The crowd, of course, exploded. Mould sounded fantastic, his guitar work as lethal as ever, his voice achingly familiar. From there it was right into “A Good Idea,” “Changes” and “Helpless,” one after another. Unreal. Every one a heartbreaking anthem. And being performed about 10 feet in front of me.

After “Hoover Dam,” he stopped to explain how the show was a last-minute thing, how he’d just signed a deal with Merge the week before, and how the only thing left to do on the new album (slated for release this fall) was to record the vocals. With that, the band played what I assume were a couple new songs from that album, which were stunning. So no, this was not a performance of Copper Blue in its entirety (merely side one). However, after the last song, Mould came back out for an encore of “I Can’t Change Your Mind” that blew the place away. Mould clearly was having the time of his life, and so was the crowd, making it the high point of my SXSW 2012 experience.

It was well past 1:30 when I left the club. When I walked out, there was no less than 50 uniformed police officers in what looked like riot formation standing in the middle of Colorado Street, cop cars with lights flashing bordering either intersection. The moment felt tenuous and chaotic. I asked a guy what was going on, but all he said was, “Man, this is typical South By.” And with that, I headed back to Congress Ave. and my hotel, keeping my head on a swivel for whatever was going to happen next. Nothing did.

So much for South By Southwest for 2012. The old guys — Jesus and Mary Chain and Mould — were the standouts this year, though performances by Sharon Van Ette, Zola Jesus, Neon Trees, Eleanor Friedberger, Grimes and our very own Icky Blossoms were also on top of my list.  And you’re goddamn right that I’m coming back next year. Check out the photos from Day 3.

* * *

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

SXSW Day 3: Bob Mould, Grimes, Icky Blossoms, Eleanor Friedberger, The Men, Crooked Fingers, Imperial Teen, Two Gallants…

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Just like yesterday, click here to read my recap of Day 3 at SXSW at thereader.com. FYI, the festival is closing out today, even though I closed it out yesterday (three days is enough). So go read, then come back and check out my photos from Day 3. I’ll be posting all three day’s worth of write-ups here at Lazy-i on Monday.

Two Gallants at the 9th & Trinity parking garage, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Two Gallants at the 9th & Trinity parking garage, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Grimes at the 9th & Trinity parking garage, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Grimes at the 9th & Trinity parking garage, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

The Men at Mellow Johnny's Bike Shop, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

The Men at Mellow Johnny's Bike Shop, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Icky Blossoms at Lambert's BBQ, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Icky Blossoms at Lambert's BBQ, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Big Harp at Lambert's BBQ, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Big Harp at Lambert's BBQ, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Eleanor Friedberger at Frank, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Eleanor Friedberger at Frank, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Crooked Fingers at Frank, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Crooked Fingers at Frank, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Imperial Teen at Frank, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Imperial Teen at Frank, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Bob Mould at Frank, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Bob Mould at Frank, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Bob Mould at Frank, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Bob Mould at Frank, SXSW, March 16, 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 © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

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.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

 

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