Icky Blossoms Pitchfork review (6.6); Tribute bands (R.E.M., The Cure), Noah’s Ark, Snake Island tonight; SPEED! Nebraska Soapbox madness (and concert) Saturday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:42 pm July 20, 2012

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Icky Blossoms' Pitchfork rating...

Icky Blossoms' Pitchfork rating...

The Icky Blossoms Pitchfork review went online today. They gave the band’s debut a 6.6, which is a little better than OK, and in line with what they typically give Saddle Creek releases (though Mynabirds’s latest came in at 7.5). Kudos to writer Ian Cohen for using the term “Cornhusker” in his review. Whether he got the rest of it right is a matter of opinion, though this write-up was better written with more color (and more research) than the typical Pitchfork review. It concludes with:

“So while the band comprises veterans, it’s worth remembering Icky Blossoms is still a debut. That point is driven home by the appropriately-titled closer ‘Perfect Vision,’ the moment where the past and present of Icky Blossoms’ personnel dovetail towards an individual perspective. A woozy, six-minute duet cruising at a pace no quicker than a backhand moving across a sweaty brow, Pressnall and Bohling kick back as boredom sets in, bicycles spin all over town, and ‘there’s nothing to do but get high in the afternoon.’ It’s the most in-tune the two sound with each other on Icky Blossoms and the most potent unification of sound and emotion as well. It’d be too easy to posit Icky Blossoms as a mid-career diversion for Pressnall, to consider the band latecomers or hayseed interlopers to a sound NYC hasn’t had much use for in a while. And perhaps it’s unfair to hold them to the standards of their urban peers when “Perfect Vision” suggests Icky Blossoms might be more suited for wasteful afternoons than a wasted evening.”

Not bad. Read the whole thing here.

* * *
Tribute bands are a dicey experiment for everyone involved, especially if the band being tribute-ized has an avid fan base that knows every nuance of the music. Such is the case for R.E.M. and The Cure, both of whom get the tribute treatment tonight at The Waiting Room.

REModled poster


Via drummer and TWR bartender Matt Bowen, R.E.M.odeled is “a chronological series of album-by-album shows paying tribute to R.E.M. (natch!) that includes myself (Matt plays in The Third Men), Chuck Davis (ex-Janglepop), Jeff Bell (ex-Janglepop), Mike Volk (Qing Jao) and Mike Hergert. For the first show we’re doing Murmur, of course, but also throwing in Chronic Town since it was actually their first release.”

R.E.M.odeled will be followed by Fear of Ghosts, which Bowen says, is a “straight-up Cure tribute, covering most of their career, up to and including Disintegration. That band is me (again!), Phil Reno, Braden Rapp, Tom Barrett and Ryan McLaughlin.

Unlike bands that play original music, tribute bands (and cover bands) are by their very nature novelty acts. Their intent isn’t to communicate personal messages or emotions of the musicians on stage. They exist purely to entertain. For many people (myself included) the music of R.E.M. and The Cure is ingrained with deep personal meaning. Their songs are not just music, they’re the soundtrack to our lives; signposts as we traveled through times both triumphant and disastrous. So when a band goes on stage and tries to recapture those intimate moments, they better know what they’re doing. The margin of error is razor thin. The audience will either smile and nod knowingly, or roll their eyes and shake their heads (or even worse, laugh).

Make no mistake, these bands will be judged from the moment they walk on stage. Yeah, I know this is “all for fun,” which is generally why I don’t go to these things. I’d like to keep my memories of this music as unmarred as possible for the same reasons that I prefer closed-casket funerals. One person’s “goofy fun” is another persons loathsome insult. That said, Bowen not only is a local legend as a musician (He’s a veteran of such Saddle Creek-related bands as Norman Bailer, The Faint, Commander Venus and Lullaby for the Working Class as well as Magic Kiss — a precursor to Tilly and the Wall), he’s also an audiophile, DJ and music aficionado whose knowledge about both bands runs deep and wide. Translated: I trust Matt to take this endeavor seriously.

So… go. The show starts at 9 and costs $7.

Also tonight, Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship headlines a show at fabulous O’Leaver’s with Buildings and Lincoln band Dirty Talker, who will be celebrating the release of a new CD. Dirty Talker features Brendan McGinn from Her Flyaway Manner. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Snake Island has a busy night in store. They’re playing an early show in Lincoln opening for A Place to Bury Strangers at The Bourbon Theater before heading back to Omaha to play a show at The Sandbox with Des Moines’ Holy White Hounds, The Dead Records and Isle Life. $8, 9 p.m.

Start your Friday night on the chill side by catching a set by DJ Andrew Norman — that’s right, thee Andy Norman of Hear Nebraska — as he mans the turntable for Loom’s Friday Afternoon Club. It’s part of HOL’s “non-DJ DJ series.” Andy (or as he’s known in the hip-hop community DJ Mad Frodo) kicks out the jams beginning at 5 p.m.. It’s fun and free.

soapbox riot 2012 poster

Tomorrow’s big event is the annual SPEED! Nebraska Soapbox Riot (Derby) at noon at Seymour Smith Park. Watch as some of your favorite musicians and O’Leaver’s regulars risk life and limb and reputation as they hurl down the ramp in their homemade racing machines. Gravity as we all know can be a cruel mistress, especially when the engineers of these fine jalopies very likely were tanked when they were put together the brake assemblies. There will be blood, indeed…along with heat exhaustion and stroke.

Later that evening — at 9 p.m. to be exact — the bandaged survivors will pick up guitar, bass and drumstick to perform live at O’Leaver’s. Among the bands: The Filter Kings, Domestica, The Wagon Blasters, The Really Rottens, Sons of Soapbox and Qing Jao. Your $5 not only will pay the bands, but will help cover any ongoing medical bills (j/k)(probably).

* * *

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.


Paste, PopMatters, AMG chime in on Icky Blossoms; hot gambling and booze (in the column); the Future of Maha, Landing on the Moon tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:32 pm July 19, 2012

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Those Icky Blossoms reviews are finally beginning to roll in, though we’re still waiting on the all-important Pitchfork review.

PopMatters gave the album a stunning 8 out of 10, and compare the band to X. “Imagine if that outfit leaped from the ‘80s to the modern day and started toying around with synthesizers and drum machines in some basement workspace and there you have Icky Blossoms (member Nik Fackler even has a little John Doe thing going on with his lead vocal turn on the ramshackle ‘I Am’).” X? I’m not sure I’m buying it, but a compliment’s a compliment. They close by saying, “Icky Blossoms may not be the first to champion this brand of art house experimentalism, but they do it with such aplomb that you wish they were.Read the whole thing here.


Not as complimentary but still positive was Paste Magazine, who gave the debut a 6.1 out of 10. “Heavy on electronic haziness the whole way through, vibes jolt from upbeat sweet songs to super weird, druggy dance throbs. The zig-zagging isn’t necessarily a negative thing; it just makes for a hard-to-follow full-length.” Again, I’m not sure I’m buying it. To me, the record as a whole is very cohesive. The closer:  “It seems with this first release, they’re just starting to unfurl their musical feelers and see what it is that they do. So far we know they can do electronic music in the grand sense pretty well, and that’s cool. But what else?”  Read the whole Paste write-up here.

Finally, there’s the once all-important All Music Guide, one of the first online review websites whose dominance has waned, thanks in part to all the other sites and their own lousy website redesign. AMG gave the record 3 out of 5 stars. “Icky Blossoms succeed in showing many different sides of dance-infused indie rock with their debut, but there’s an unsettled feeling that suggests the trio members weren’t entirely sure where they wanted to go with the record. With a more clearly defined musical direction, like the Faint before them, they’d sound more fully committed.Read the AMG review right here.

No doubt, more to come…

* * *

This week’s Over the Edge column is a recap of a sweaty Sunday afternoon spent at Horsemen’s Park. Read how easy it is to lose money gambling when you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s in this week’s issue of The Reader, or you can read it online right here. Live horse racing continues at Horsemen’s Park this weekend. It’s fun and it’s free (except for the gambling and the booze parts).

* * *

When Red Sky announced that it was dropping its Thursday night programming, the first thing that went through my mind was ‘My God, what will they do with the thousands (tens of thousands?) of people who have traveled to Omaha for this mammoth festival?‘ Well, here’s a suggestion for the geniuses at MECA. Tell your (imaginary) throngs of festival goers stuck in their downtown hotels waiting for Brad Paisley to arrive to instead venture out to beautiful downtown Benson for The Future of Maha Showcase at The Waiting Room. Three of Omaha’s up-and-coming high-fliers — Lightning Bug, Millions Of Boys and Snake Island! — will take the stage starting at 9 p.m. And the cost for this spectacular air-conditioned slab of entertainment — absolutely free.

If that doesn’t trip their trigger, skip on down to The Barley Street Tavern tonight, where Landing on the Moon is playing along with Madison band Icarus Himself and Above the State. This one will cost ya $5. Starts at 9.

* * *

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.


Icky Blossoms release day (so where are the reviews?); Drakes Hotel, Nightmare Air, LCD Soundsystem tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 12:50 pm July 17, 2012

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Icky Blossoms, self-titled (Saddle Creek, 2012)

Icky Blossoms, self-titled (Saddle Creek, 2012)

It’s drop day for Icky Blossoms’ Saddle Creek debut. Go out and buy a copy (preferably on vinyl). You won’t regret it. That said, I’m a bit disappointed at the lack of pre-release reviews for this record. I’ve been checking with Pitchfork the last few days hoping they’d put something online. Nothing. Then I noticed they haven’t updated their reviews since July 12 and realized that their “critics” are probably all at Pitfchforkfest (or whatever it’s called). Still, where is the Pop Matters review or Consequence of/Drowned in Sound review or A.V. Club or Under the Radar or Coke Machine Glow…? I’ll guess we’ll just have to wait until everyone gets back from Chicago.

* * *

Drakes Hotel, Logic Adopts Senses (self-release)

Drakes Hotel, Logic Adopts Senses (2012, self-release)

Tonight at The Barley Street Tavern local post-punk/shoegaze/electronic duo Drakes Hotel takes the stage. The band’s new album, Logic Adopts Senses, is a slice of post-Factory post-4AD pop that’s a breath of fresh air in a scene dominated by tired, run o’ the mill Americana. To me, they’re sort of a Heartland version of His Name Is Alive. The album’s production and engineering was handled by DH’s Chris Y and Amy Drake. According to their website, “Shows consist of the duo, many amps, guitars, pedals, loopers, keys and other devices used to augment their ghost rhythm section.” Translation: No drummer. Can they pull it off? Also on the bill: electro/spacerockers Nightmare Air. $5, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, it’s another installment of Record Club at the Saddle Creek Shop down in the Slowdown complex. Tonight’s album to be played in its entirety: LCD Soundsystem’s, The London Sessions. The shop also will have a pair of tickets to giveaway to Film Streams’ screening of the LCD Soundsystem career-ending documentary, Shut Up and Play the Hits, on July 18. And, DFA Records provided the shop with some LCD Soundsystem 12″s, some  mirrorball keychains, and buttons, which will be raffled away. The needle drops at 7, followed by hearty discussion. And… it’s free. More data here.

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


Lupines go in studio and online; Icky Blossoms/Capgun Coup go video; The Newsroom V. Stewart/Colbert (in the column); InDreama, R.Ring (Kelley Deal of The Breeders) tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:59 pm July 12, 2012
A still from the new Icky Blossoms' video.

A still from the new Icky Blossoms' video.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

The Lupines (or, as I like to call them, The O’Leaver’s All-Stars) have three songs on Soundcloud for your review and reflection. “They’re fully tracked studio songs that the great Mark Wohlberg recorded at Plan C in Lincoln about 18 months ago,” said Lupines’ guitarist/vocalist John Ziegler. “I did all the tracks myself when it became more clear that Brimstone Howl was on its last legs. That’s why the drumming is very basic and sometimes slightly off, the former of which I really like.”

The rest of the Lupines are guitarist Mike Friedman (ex-Movies, member of Simon Joyner and the Fallen Men), bass player Mike Tulis (Monroes, Fullblown, Sons of ___, and the Third Men), and drummer Javid Dabestani (Ghost Runners, among others). “We’re working on proper, full-band recordings, some of which are the same songs and will sound pretty different, and will definitely have more ‘kinetic’ bounce than what I was able to make on my own,” Ziegler said. “Nonetheless, the songs on soundcloud right now are not basement tapes or demos, and I think they represent the sound of the band’s music well enough, as well as being a really good example of Mark Wohlberg’s analog perspicacity. They’re part of a nine-song session.”

Ziegler said release of the nine-song session is pending, and the band has a show Aug. 30 at the Barley Street Tavern. Until then, enjoy:

The Luplines, “I Blame Creation”

The Lupines “Everlasting Man”

The Lupines, “Ohio”

* * *

Icky Blossoms’ latest video is an epic love story realized to the song “Perfect Vision,” off their new album, which hits store shelves next Tuesday. You can check it out on Vimeo here. Wonder whose house got the demolished in the making of this modern masterpiece?

Also premiered this week was the new video by Capgun Coup for “Laugh Cry,” off their latest album Contextual Doom released on the ORG Music label.  Check it out here. Sweet!

* * *

This week’s Over the Edge column takes a look at the new HBO series The Newsroom — is it a drama or satire, and is wordy scripter Aaron Sorkin trying to influence the electorate a la Colbert/Stewart? You can read it in this week’s issue of The Reader, or online right here.

* * *

Tonight’s show at The Waiting Room is one of the best $8 shows I’ve seen scheduled in a long time. Opening is InDreams, the psychedelic/dance/rock project of Icky Blossoms’ guitarist Nik Fackler, along with local legend Dereck Higgins, Ashley Miller, Sam Martin (Capgun Coup), Aaron Gum, Craig D (Tilly & the Wall), Kevin Donahue, and Mason Brown. With Icky blowing up all over the place, it’s good to see Nik keep his foot firmly planted in this project. Also opening is Atlanta’s Hollow Stars fronted by former Deerhunter guitarist Colin Mee and featuring David Matysiak (Coyote Bones), Devin Brown and Mason Brown. Finally, the headliners: R.Ring is Mike Montgomery of Ampline and Kelley Deal of The Breeders. After listening to one of their songs online, it’s safe to say this may be the closest we’ll ever get to seeing The Breeders live. $8, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, the Nebraska Pop Festival continues at The Barley Street Tavern with Union Specific (Austin), Orion Walsh (Lincoln), Chasing Shade (Iowa City), Seedlings (Des Moines), In Love (Omaha), and Elijah Jett (Michael Todd, the managing editor of Hear Nebraska). $7, 7:30 p.m. Check out the full schedule here.

* * *

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.


Live Review: Icky Blossoms vs. The Faint; Porsches and Yankees and the a-hole factor (in the column); Eli Mardock EP release show; Outlaw/Bellows tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: — @ 1:00 pm July 5, 2012
Icky Blossoms at The Waiting Room, July 3, 2012.

Icky Blossoms at The Waiting Room, July 3, 2012.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

The only drag shows I’ve been to have been at Icky Blossoms shows. Are all drag shows like this?

My answer to the above question, posed Tuesday night at The Waiting Room, was that I did not know; that the only drag performers I’d seen outside of Icky shows were on television. And those performances weren’t anything like what was happening on stage. When I think of drag queens, I think of female impersonators doing Liza, Cher, Marilyn Monroe, Tina Turner, Streisand. Most look like women. The drag queens at the Icky Blossoms record release show looked like guys dressed as women. Was that the intent? The first performer came bounding onto the stage during Depressed Buttons’ set (This night, featuring only Todd Fink, maybe because brother Clark was about to play drums in Icky and DB’s third member, Jacob Thiele, was on Injured Reserve). It was a man in a dress and make-up dancing to the house music. A good dancer indeed, but there was no attempt at illusion, no question that he was a guy. He was followed by two more performers — dancing men in high heels. Nothing campy or erotic; instead it was a proud display of outgoing, cross-dressing men having a good time on stage. And the capacity crowd couldn’t get enough of them.

Then came Icky Blossoms. I’ve seen them at intimate, frenzied club settings, in larger theater-style shows, even on a hot spring day in Elmwood Park. Tuesday night felt altogether different; there was a surreal energy to their performance and a sense that the band was finally complete. It’s hard to not compare them to The Faint — both bands’ music combine dance grooves with edgy rock. But beyond the sonic similarities is the overlap in their stage production. For the first time, Icky was performing with programmed colored floor-level flood lights shifting and changing in perfect sync with the music, not unlike The Faint’s Sokol Underground shows circa ’99 and early 2000s, though IB’s LED lighting technology looked a bit more sophisticated than The Faint’s first stab at floor-light theatrics. The new lights added drama — there were times when guitarist Nik Fackler cast shadows through the bright glow-rays that reminded me of Prince on stage at First Avenue in Purple Rain.

But while this show had a similar musical intensity to a Faint performance, it still hadn’t reached their level. Faint shows are sweaty music orgies with the entire crowd bouncing in rhythm. The crowd Tuesday night at The Waiting Room was more tentative. This audience is still discovering who Icky Blossoms is and what they’re about. But it won’t take long for them to figure it out and for IB to get to The Faint’s level. IB’s debut album — the funnest record Saddle Creek has released in years — stands right up there with Blank Wave Arcade, and some might say has even more catchier material. The Faint didn’t begin to reach its true potential until around Danse Macabre. Just imagine how high Icky Blossoms could go — maybe to levels that The Faint never reached.

But there is still a number of questions in the equation. The Faint were relentless road warriors when they first started out. What are Icky Blossoms’ tour plans? Check out their tour schedule on Saddle Creek’s website. There just ain’t that much there… yet. Now that they’ve hired a high-profile tour booker (The Windish Agency), that could change. Integral to their tour success would be landing an opening slot with a breaking indie rock or EDM act. When asked during our recent interview who would be a good fit, the band mentioned Crystal Castles and KC act SSION. But why not a more mainstream pop band? We all remember how The Faint opened for No Doubt. Imagine Icky Blossoms opening for Neon Trees. Interesting, interesting…

The other looming question is Pitchfork. How will IB’s debut rate? We’ll find out in the next couple weeks (Remember, the album’s street date is July 17). Sadly these days, a high Pitchfork rating is crucial to capture people’s attention, though Pitchfork pooped all over The Faint’s last two albums and it didn’t seem to matter.

Anyway, back to the show. The band did the prerequisite rock star turn of leaving the stage before coming back for a two-song encore that included a gutsy rendition of “Chicas,” the sinister Spanish-language version of “Girls” (which I prefer over the English-language version — it’s campy and dirty, like watching a sordid Telemundo drama). It was the first time they’ve ever played “Chicas” live; something tells me if their agent ever gets them south of the border, it won’t be their last. After that, they rolled out the ultimate show ender, the majestic “Perfect Vision,” bigger and bolder and groovier than ever. Like a rite of passage, Fackler took the opportunity to join the Brotherhood of Guitarists by smashing his axe on stage in a moment of sonic bliss that, despite being a rock ‘n’ roll cliche, seemed perfectly appropriate. I hope Saddle Creek is supplying Nik with a replacement (unlikely).

* * *

In this week’s column in The Reader, some thoughts on visual cues and pre-judging based on motor vehicles and apparel and why I have nothing to complain about. You can read it online right here.

* * *

Tonight at The Waiting Room, it’s the EP release show for Eli Mardock’s NE Sorrow Is Born, released on Mardock’s own Spider and I Records. The EP actually was released June 25, and can be streamed in its entirety on Soundcloud (here) or on Spotify. It’s also for sale in iTunes. Opening is The Seen and Sun Settings. $7, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, an all-star line-up at The Barley Street Tavern with Outlaw Con Bandana, Jake Bellows (Neva Dinova) and Sam Martin (Capgun Coup). $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 © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Icky Blossoms CD release show (and where their name came from), Avett Bros tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: — @ 1:06 pm July 3, 2012

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Icky Blossoms, self-titled (Saddle Creek, 2012)

Icky Blossoms, self-titled (Saddle Creek, 2012)

Though technically their debut album doesn’t hit the streets until July 17, there are a couple ways to buy a copy of Icky Blossoms’ debut record today, that is if you live in the Omaha area.

The best way is to come to Icky Blossoms’ record release show tonight at The Waiting Room with UUVVWWZ and Depressed Buttons (Todd, Clark & Jacob from The Faint’s EDM project). Don’t forget your dancing shoes — this one will definitely be a party. 9 p.m. Tix/ $7.

The other way to pick up a copy of their album is to drop by the Saddle Creek Shop down at the Slowdown complex where they already have both the vinyl ($15) and CD ($11) in stock. Sweet!

By the way, during our recent interview, I asked the band what exactly does “Icky Blossoms” mean. I figured it was some sort of southern-fried drug reference. It’s not. “We got (the name) from our friend Jesse (Mckelvey) from Capgun Coup,” said Icky mastermind Derek Pressnall. “It was the name for an art project he did; then he joined a punk band a couple summers ago and they played one show under the name Icky Blossoms at Hotel Frank. I thought the name was bad ass.” When Pressnall found out Jesse’s punk band was no more, he asked if he could use the name. Interesting story, but it still doesn’t answer the question of what “Icky Blossoms” means… Leave it to your imagination.

* * *

Also tonight, the Avett Brothers are playing at Stir Concert Cove. No opener, it’s just them, and it starts at 8 p.m. Tix are still available for $47 from Ticketmaster.

And let’s not forget Bear Stories plays at The Sandbox with The End of the Ocean, Lee Corey Oswald and Family Picnic. $7, 8 p.m. More info here.

* * *

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 Interview: Icky Blossoms (CD release show July 3); Nightmare Boyzzz; The Whipkey Three tonight…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:45 pm June 28, 2012
Icky Blossoms on the Earth Day stage in Elmwood Park, April 21, 2012.

Icky Blossoms on the Earth Day stage in Elmwood Park, April 21, 2012.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

The germination of Omaha indie dance-rock band Icky Blossoms dates back to a different sort of flower created by the band’s mastermind, Derek Pressnall.

Started in 2007 as a side project to Pressnall’s main band, Tilly and the Wall, Flowers Forever was a multi-layered, psych-rock head trip, but by 2010 the band’s sound began to change. The band’s final evolution came at a frenzied performance at Slowdown Jr. in October 2010. With only about 50 people left in the club, Flowers Forever closed the evening with an unexpected number called “Babes” that transformed the room into a throbbing dance club. The crowd, who only moments earlier had been struck motionless by the thick, buzz-saw shoegaze sound of Montreal band No Joy, at once lost all inhibitions and simply let go, liberated by the song’s irresistible bass line and disco thump-thump-thump.

Bodies moved. Hands rose. Sweat glistened. And just like that, Icky Blossoms was born. At its core were Pressnall channeling John Lydon and Fred Schneider, dreamy blond vocalist Sarah Bohling sounding like a modern-day Nico, and crazy-haired guitarist/dynamo Nik Fackler, on his knees coaxing shrill noises from his axe, lost in the moment.

When “Babes” ground to a halt the crowd cried out to hear it again. Never ones to disappoint, Pressnall and Co. took it from the top, and the party continued. And then things got weird(er) when someone (maybe Capgun Coup’s Sam Martin) broke open an enormous bag of popcorn and began throwing it like like buttered confetti. It was strange, surreal, fun, and became a sort of blueprint for future performances.

“Every performance should evoke emotion, danger, excitement,” Pressnall said, surrounded by his bandmates last week at the Old Dundee Bar & Grill. “What’s the worst thing that could happen? We’re a rock ’n’ roll band. We want the show to be exciting and a little uncomfortable in the best sense of the word. We’re trying to push ourselves on stage, and there’s a bit of magic involved.”

Icky Blossoms, self-titled (Saddle Creek, 2012)

Icky Blossoms, self-titled (Saddle Creek, 2012)

The band tried to recreate that magic when recording its debut earlier this year with TV on the Radio’s David Sitek in his Los Angeles studio. “We were looking for instantaneous grooves,” Pressnall said. “That was the first thing we talked about for every song — the groove has to be there as soon as the music starts.”

“We constantly asked ourselves if a song would translate to a huge club or a massive festival,” Bohling said. “Would the groove get everyone’s attention?”

No doubt the grooves on the new album are impossible to ignore. Clocking in at around 42 minutes of sonic debauchery, Icky Blossoms’ debut, slated for release by Saddle Creek Records July 17, re-imagines the band’s dense, high-energy live sound. At the core are the 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, Public Image Limited and hometown heroes The Faint. Pressnall, Bohling and Fackler know what buttons to push, and gleefully jam them down as hard as possible on every track.

Album highlights include howling opening number “Heat Lightning,” orgiastic dance mantra “Sex to the Devil,” hypnotic album closer (and early single) “Perfect Vision,” and, of course, the track that’s bound to light up every runway at Fashion Week this fall, “Babes.” Taken individually, each track has its own sonic vibe; but as a whole, the album can be overwhelming, if not exhausting.

While Pressnall, Bohling and Fackler are the core members, the band’s stage lineup is a revolving cast. The current configuration includes the powerhouse rhythm section of drummer Clark Baechle of The Faint and high-kicking bassist Saber Blazek of Lincoln band The Machete Archive.

“It’s safe to say Clark has come up with some things that have impacted the band,” Pressnall said, though he added that they could lose their star drummer now that The Faint intends to regroup later this year. “Both Clark and Saber will work with us for the next six months,” he added. “Who knows where we’ll go from there.”

But that’s not the biggest question hanging over Icky Blossoms’ future. Beyond the fact that Tilly and the Wall has recorded a new album set for release later this year by Team Love Records, Pressnall and wife Jamie (also a member of Tilly) have a couple young children to raise. How can he do that and tour?

“Being away from my children is incredibly hard, much harder than I thought it would be,” Pressnall said. “It’s hard to describe. The separation really started to affect me after a couple weeks in LA. When touring, I would like to see my kids at least every two weeks, but if I had to I could go out for four weeks at a time. We’ll figure it out.”

Then there’s Fackler, who is more well-known outside of Omaha as a successful filmmaker. His 2008 feature film debut, Lovely, Still, which starred Martin Landau and Ellen Burstyn, landed him a nomination for an Independent Spirit Award.

Fackler just completed his second feature film, a documentary titled Sick Birds Die Easy shot in the jungles of Africa. “It’s an exploration of western culture and ancient culture, drug addiction, spirituality and the destiny of mankind,” Fackler said. Now that the first cut is in the can, he’s in the process of submitting the film to festivals, which he says will tie him up most of July.

But with all that going on, the band still plans to tour this fall and winter. They’ve already signed with national booker The Windish Agency (M83, Ra Ra Riot, Dirty Projectors) and have their hearts set on a landing an opening slot with a more established band.

But no matter who it is, Fackler said the goal will still be to create an environment from the stage where people can let loose and dance.  “If you’re making music, that’s the best compliment.”

Icky Blossoms will celebrate the release of its debut album with UUVVWWZ and Depressed Buttons Tuesday, July 3 at The Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St. Showtime is 9 p.m. Admission is $7. For more information, call 402.884.5353 or visit onepercentproductions.com.

* * *

Muscle Shoals, Alabama band Nightmare Boyzzz calls their music “Shit Pop,” which conjures a number of unsavory images that seem right at home at a place like O’Leaver’s. They actually play sweet garage rock that recalls our old friends The Ramones. Check out “Devil III” and “My Body Breaks Down” at their Bandcamp page. Also on the bill, Omaha’s own Peace of Shit and Black Out Sounds (Worried Mothers, Thee Tapeheads). O’Leaver’s, $5, 9:30 p.m.

The Whipkey Three returns to The Waiting Room stage tonight in support of their recent self-released album Two Truths. Read more about Matt and the boys and the new record here. Opening is The Lupines (Ziegler, Tulis, Friedman, Dabestani, amazing) and The Ground Tyrants. $7, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, Lonely Estates plays at The Barley Street Tavern with The Rocketboys and From Indian Lakes. $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 © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


MAHA announces initial lineup (and it’s DesapareGarbage); Live Review: Icky Blossoms (and their new record)…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:21 pm April 23, 2012
Icky Blossoms at Earth Day in Elmwood Park, April 21, 2012.

Icky Blossoms at Earth Day in Elmwood Park, April 21, 2012.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

By now you’ve heard the news about this year’s MAHA Music Festival. Four bands were announced last night, with more to come.

The bands: Garbage, Desaparecidos, Josh Rouse and Icky Blossoms.

Garbage is quite a catch. Other than a handful of U.S. dates this month and into early May, the band will tour primarily in Europe throughout the summer, sneaking in the MAHA appearance Aug. 11 just prior to heading to Japan. In other words, as of now Garbage is skipping the entire summer U.S. festival season, giving MAHA something of an exclusive.

If you’re too young to remember Garbage, the band scored a couple hits in the mid-’90s with “Stupid Girl” and “Only Happy When It Rains,” which still get airplay on the better radio stations throughout the country. Their last album was ’05’s Bleed Like Me. Now they’re back with a new album, Not Your Kind of People, which comes out May 14 on STUNVOLUME, their own label. The first single, “Blood for Poppies,” leaked about a month ago, continues the band’s brash alt rock sound. Check it out below:

Garbage, “Blood for Poppies”:


Desaparecidos is the mysterious band referenced in my last blog entry (As Desaparepussies). The guys played at Conor Oberst’s Concert for Equality in Benson in 2010, so this isn’t exactly a bolt-out-of-the-blue reunion. Regardless, as of now, MAHA is the only scheduled date for the band, and that alone makes it special. I’m highly doubtful this will be the only Desa show. There’s never been a better time for Oberst and Co. to reform as we enter a rather important political cycle. Are there any other significant political bands out there these days?

Josh Rouse is a singer/songwriter born in Paxton, NE, who now lives in Tennessee. He’s sort of a poor man’s Freedy Johnston, but certainly has his followers, especially in Europe.

Then there’s Icky Blossoms, who is being billed as “headlining the local stage,” which I guess means they play last on the small stage prior to the big stage headliners. I practically begged MAHA to book Icky Blossoms last year and (of course) they ignored me. I can’t say’s I blame them. MAHA is paying more attention to the band now that they’re signed to Saddle Creek. Funny how that happens.

MAHA has at least two more main stage bands to announce May 6. If you’re scratching your head wondering where the “new bands” are (Because let’s face it, all three bands announced yesterday had their heydays at least a decade ago), I have a suspicion the next announcement will fill that void. We’ll all just have to wait and see. As it stands, it’s not a bad start. Red Sky would have been lucky to get either Garbage or Desa (or Icky Blossoms). Instead, Red Sky confirmed that it’s cutting back its festival from 6 to 4 days this year. There are rumors that Red Sky’s local and smaller-band day stages in the parking lot also may be nixed this year as the “festival” continues to devolve into a country-music/hair metal concert series that competes with, what, county fairs?

More MAHA info at their website.

* * *

Speaking of Icky Blossoms, I caught their set at Earth Day Saturday afternoon in Elmwood Park. The band gets better every time I see them play. Imagine what they’ll sound like when they become road-hardened? Sarah Bohling continues to become more confident handling the vocals. Someone pointed out that she has a “tonal” voice — a mid-range mumble that cuts through the chaos, a grounding contrast to the pulsing rhythm section and grinding, squealing guitars. The added jet fuel of bassist Saber Blazek and drummer Clark Baechle now ratchet everything past 11. Prepare for liftoff, MAHA. The band has evolved to a perfect unit, though recent news that The Faint are reforming brings up obvious questions about how Baechle can be active in both bands. He’s the best drummer in the area, and is irreplaceable in both projects.

Bohling’s vocals are especially prime on Icky’s new single, “Babes” b/w “Chicas,” released Saturday as part of national Record Store Day. Between the two sides, I’ll take “Chicas” every time. There’s just something about the Spanish-language version that makes the song more lurid. The production by David Sitek throbs like a sweaty after-hours dance floor in Miami by way of Los Angeles (where it was recorded). Based on just this single, Icky Blossoms could be Saddle Creek’s biggest new signing since Tokyo Police Club. It comes down to how the label promotes the album, and, of course, touring, which is the biggest question mark about the band. Derek Pressnall, Nik Fackler and Baechle all are involved in two bands (Pressnall has Tilly and the Wall, Facker has InDreama and Baechle, The Faint). Not to mention Pressnall’s family obligations (he and wife wife Jamie (formerly of Tilly and the Wall) just had their second child) and Fackler’s film making career, which could reignite at any moment. Something tells me they’ll figure it all out.

* * *

My only other Record Store Day purchases were copies of The Mynabirds’ “Generals” single and the new PUJOL single “Reverse Vampire.” The PUJOL song is better than anything off their Creek debut EP; I’m looking forward to their upcoming full length. I also picked up a copy of the Bright Eyes/Super Furry Animals 7-inch remixed by Danger Mouse that was offered at the Saddle Creek Shop. To my knowledge, this single was never released, and is quite a find.

* * *

Tonight at The Waiting Room it’s Interscope pop band Imagine Dragons with local boys Skypiper. $12, 8 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.


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…

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.


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.


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.

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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.