UUVVWWZ, The Trusted Language (Saddle Creek, 2013)
It’s a big day at Saddle Creek Records. UUVVWWZ’s The Trusted Language and Ladyfinger’s Errant Forms both drop today. Interestingly, both are being offered as digital/vinyl releases — i.e., Saddle Creek isn’t offering either on CD from the online shop, though the vinyl comes packaged with a compact disc. So if you want the CD, you have to buy the vinyl at a higher price ($15 for UU, $17 for Ladyfinger).
Is this CD-with-vinyl-only format how Saddle Creek will handle all releases in the future? I wouldn’t be surprised. Interestingly, digipak CDs of Errant Forms were on sale at last Friday’s album release show. I wonder if UU will have digipaks at Saturday’s release show at The Waiting Room…
* * *
If Jenny Lewis wasn’t busy enough with the upcoming Postal Service tour, today Rilo Kiley announced (via Press Here Publicity) that it’s releasing a b-sides and rarities collection called RKives April 2 on LA based indie Little Record Company, owned by Rilo Kiley’s Pierre DeReeder.
“The record includes nine never-before released songs, a variety of demos, b-sides, and previously hard to find tracks. The 16-song CD and double vinyl will be available in multiple formats including a special deluxe bundle personally curated by Rilo Kiley.”
Who remembers when RK was on Saddle Creek?
* * *
The Slowdown is featuring some interesting garage rock bands tonight, headlined by Cali band The Growlers (Burger Records), Milwaukee Sub Pop act Jaill, Bluenote/Capitol act Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas and Twinsmith. $13, 9 p.m.
After last Friday night, it’s high time that I dig out whatever parking maps may be available for the Benson area that identifies public parking. Big shows + First Friday = ol’ reliable parking places won’t be available. That certainly was the case last weekend, as I drove around and ’round looking for somewhere to park my ’96 POS Tracker, finally finding a parking lot east of PS Collective’s back parking area. There were no “No Parking” signs anywhere, so I figured I was safe (and was). I’m guessing there’s plenty of parking in Benson — if you know where it is — and even more importantly, where it isn’t. No one wants to go back to their car after a show and find it gone, which is a distinct possibility if you park in a private lot owned by an asshole who loves to tow cars.
But I digress…
I got to Ladyfinger’s album release show Friday night at The Waiting Room around 10:15 in time to see The Seen, who also was celebrating the release of a new record. I’d describe the 5-piece band’s sound as “alternative” in a ’90s connotation, a sort of post-grunge alternative, the kind of music that 89.7 The River plays between its usual spate of grunt/cookie monster goon bands.
Their recipe is big guitar riffs beneath frontman Buck Blanc’s breathy Counting Crows/Adam Duritz-style vocals. I had one guy tell me his voice reminded him of Conor, but all I heard was Duritz, though The Seen’s music in no way resembled the Crows’. The band was tight, the music well-played, but just not my cup of tea. And no doubt their commercial style of rock would/could attract a much larger audience than the usual indie stuff that I listen to.
I was a tad bit concerned that there could be a drop-off in the crowd after The Seen. The fans pushed up against the stage during their set was way younger than who I’ve seen at past Ladyfinger shows — they looked like regular listerners of The River (which (I’m told) The Seen has been played on). And while the crowd’s demographics did indeed change between sets, the room was no less full when Ladyfinger hit the stage for what was easily the loudest set I’ve heard them play.
The band played mostly songs off their fantastic new Saddle Creek release, Errant Forms, as well as a few older numbers including “Smuggler” from their first record. The giant sound was a good test of The Waiting Room’s new sound system, which was impressive — huge, but with great separation. If there was a nit to pick it was (probably) with the mix. Cursive’s Patrick Newbery joined the band on keyboards for a handful of songs, but I couldn’t hear him above the roar… that is until I went to take a leak, when all the sudden, there were the keyboards coming straight out of the urinal! But once I got back out to the floor, they were gone, lost in the melee.
Errant Forms officially comes out tomorrow. Order your copy of the cool, clear, limited-edition (of 500) vinyl at the Creek store while you can…
* * *
The Postal Service announced today via its press agent (Nasty Little Man) that the project, which centers around Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello, will play its first headlining gigs in 10 years. And get this, joining them as part of the backing band will be The Mynabirds’ Laura Burhenn.
From the press release:
Gibbard and Tamborello will be reuniting on the road with a band fleshed out by Jenny Lewis (Jenny & Johnny, Rilo Kiley) and Laura Burhenn (Mynabirds, Bright Eyes) to celebrate the 10th anniversary and deluxe edition reissue of The Postal Service’s universally acclaimed release, Give Up. The Give Up Deluxe 10th Anniversary Edition out April 9 on Sub Pop, includes the original 10-track album along with 15 bonus tracks–including the brand new songs “Turn Around” and “A Tattered Line of String,” a previously unreleased live recording, and every other official recording the band has ever released-as well as cover versions of Postal Service classics by The Shins and Iron & Wine.
Both the tour and Give Up Deluxe 10th Anniversary Edition find Lewis reuniting with The Postal Service: She appeared on the original album and played with the band on its handful of 2003 tour dates. Lewis also sings on the two new songs on the Give Up Deluxe 10th Anniversary Edition. Give Up was certified platinum last year just shy of 10 years from its original Feb. 9, 2003, release. Led by the single “Such Great Heights,” the landmark album is the second-biggest selling album in Sub Pop’s nearly 25-year history after Nirvana’s Bleach.
The first tour dates announced were on the West Coast, Europe and NYC. No Omaha dates have been announced… yet. Who remembers when the Postal Service last came through town? Here’s a hint…
And the biggest show of the weekend is the Ladyfinger record release show at The Waiting Room tonight. I’m told the boys will actually have some CDs on hand for sale in addition to the vinyl. Opening is The Seen, who also are celebrating a CD release, and The Hussies. $8, 9 p.m. See you there, if I can find a place to park…
…Because in case you’ve forgotten, it’s Feb. 1, which means tonight is Benson First Friday. As part of the art walk festivities, Sweatshop Gallery, 2727 No. 67th St. (just south of The Barley Street) is hosting Club No Quiet featuring music by Howard, George Glass, Rock Paper Sisters, Sister Kisser and The Wayward Little Satan Daughters. The fun starts at 8. More info here.
Saturday night Florida “punk” band Hot Water Music plays at The Slowdown with La Dispute and The Menzingers. Hear Nebraska has a Q&A right here with Menzinger Tom May (wonder if he gets confused with former Omaha folk singer Tom May? Something tells me he doesn’t). $20, 8 p.m.
The evolution of Ladyfinger can be heard from the first track of the band’s new Saddle Creek Records release, Errant Forms.
“Renew” opens with brittle, electric guitar chords before the rhythm section of drummer Pat Oakes and bassist Dan Brennan slides beneath warm keyboards, Jamie Massey’s smokey, twirling guitar and frontman Chris Machmuller’s cool growl.
You could say Machmuller also sang on the band’s 2006 debut, Heavy Hands, but not like this. These days Machmuller really sings, confident on the ghostly, glowing high notes that follow the song’s prophetic line, “I will grow old.”
If it sounds “pretty” compared to the howling noise of Ladyfinger’s early years that’s because it is. Still, the music is no less bracing or powerful, just easier to grasp in its clarity.
Or as Machmuller put it, “There’s more space between the parts on this record.”
A brief history: Ladyfinger (also known by the legal restriction Ladyfinger (ne)) formed in 2004 out of three other bands: Massey from Race for Titles, Machmuller from Bleeders for Treats, and Oakes and bassist Ethan Jones from Putrescine The original foursome produced two albums, Heavy Hands and the 2009 followup, Dusk. After that, Jones left Ladyfinger to be replaced with “new guy” Brennan, formerly of rock band The ’89 Cubs.
Ladyfinger, Errant Forms (Saddle Creek, 2013)
Back to the present: Better singing means understandable lyrics. Good thing Machmuller knows how to tell a story. On Errant Forms‘ first single, “Dark Horse,” he spins a non-autobiographical yarn about a wild, irresponsible party hound who’s “looking for a road I ain’t ever gonna find” but finds it when he discovers his wife or girlfriend is carrying his baby. Coincidentally, Machmuller discovered his wife was in a “family way” shortly after writing the song.
Then there’s “Galactic” — also not auto-biographical…probably. The brutal rocker describes a guy who picks up signals in his head — numbers and images — obviously messages about an alien coup, which he explains with the line: “I’m a space invader and I think I can save this planet from galactic destroyers from space.” Rush’s 2112 has nothing on these guys.
Like their previous albums, Errant Forms was recorded by their old pal Matt Bayles, whose track record includes working with Mastodon, Minus the Bear, Pearl Jam and fellow Saddle Creekers Cursive.
Working with such an accomplished producer puts pressure on the band, Oakes said, especially when the band isn’t sure it’s ready to enter the studio.
“This record seemed like it was pieced together out of random parts more than the last ones,” Oakes said. “When we went in for Heavy Hands, we knew exactly what we wanted to do, and had played those songs a million times, but for this one, we asked ourselves, ‘Are we ready to record? What if this whole thing falls apart?’”
When it comes to working with Bayles, uncertainty could spell trouble. “Matt does not indulge you,” Machmuller said. “He refers to our sessions as ‘abridged.’ He’s used to having six to 12 weeks in the studio. We only had two weeks (at Omaha’s ARC Studio) to track 13 or 14 songs.”
“He’s very thorough, very meticulous, and that’s what makes him a good producer and engineer,” Oakes said. “If you push back, Matt will stand his ground and be a dick about it. He knows that time is of the essence, and he’s not going to negotiate with you.”
Good thing he likes these guys.
“He doesn’t do our records to make money” Massey added. “He’s been good to us when he didn’t have to be. He bends for us and we appreciate it.”
While the way they make records hasn’t changed much, the way the band and label sells them has. In the old days bands simply released records and hit the road, hoping college radio and good reviews piqued people’s interest.
These days marketing is all about online placement and social media. “The social network sphere is completely different than when Dusk came out,” Oakes said. “As a result, we’re seeing things happen with this record that have never happened before.”
Things like first single “Dark Horse” being selected as the “Daily Download” at rollingstone.com, where readers can listen to and download the track for free. Massey credited Saddle Creek’s Jeff Tafolla, in charge of licensing and new media, for the increased exposure, including Errant Forms being available as a digital stream from taste-making music blog AbsolutePunk.net.
“All four of us have access to these accounts and can do what we want with them,” Oakes said, “but it gets complicated.”
“I’ve been signed up to six brand new things that I have to figure out,” Machmuller said. “I’m worried about keeping all the passwords straight.”
With fans now able to hear the entire album from their computers for free, some of the “specialness” that comes with buying an album has faded. That’s one reason Errant Forms is being offered on vinyl in addition to digital download. “We considered going the vinyl route with Dusk,” Machmuller said. “Vinyl has become less of a novelty and more of a collectible. We saw the trend even back then.”
Saddle Creek says Ladyfinger’s combined sales for their past two releases was somewhere north of 1,200 units, far from what’s needed to make a living. All four band members have day jobs. Brennan, 34, is a sound engineer at The Slowdown when he isn’t on the road working sound for bands like Cursive. Massey, 37, is an art director at Turnpost Creative Group and proprietor of The Sydney in Benson. Machmuller, 32, launched Workers Take Out and now runs O’Leaver’s Pub, while Oakes, 35, is a production manager at Ink Tank Merch, a custom screen printing company owned by Saddle Creek.
With families to support and a music industry in decline, why keep putting out records?
“At the end of the day, for me, it’s all about playing shows,” Oakes said. “And if we sell more albums, that could mean playing bigger shows.”
“None of us have never not been in a band,” Machmuller said. “I love hearing things in my head and hearing them become recorded music. That’s the best part.”
Ladyfinger plays with The Seen and Hussies this Friday, Feb. 1, at The Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St. Tickets are $8. Show starts at 9 p.m. For more information and tickets, go to onepercentproductions.com.
More Ladyfinger… The fine folks at Love Drunk today released the new video for Ladyfinger’s “Away Too Long.” If you ever wondered what Saddle Creek Records’ world headquarters look like, here’s your chance to get a peek. Check it out below:
* * *
The Thermals, Desperate Ground (Saddle Creek, 2013)
Saddle Creek Records announced via Pitchfork (Who needs to issue a press release when you’ve got Pitchfork?) that the label signed (former) Sub Pop act The Thermals. The details, from the actual press release issued by the band:
“The Thermalsare pleased to announce they have signed toSaddle Creek, a label the band has known and admired for many years. The Thermals and Saddle Creek have a long history of sleeping on floors together: The Thermals have toured with Cursive and Ladyfinger, and Hutch and Kathy organized the firstBright Eyes show in Portland way back in 1999.
“The band formed in 2002 and has released five records and toured 15 countries. The Thermals’ sixth LP and debut for Saddle Creek, Desperate Ground, will be released April 16 and is available now for pre-order at the Saddle Creek Online Store. The album was produced by John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth) in Hoboken, NJ. Agnello and The Thermals completed the record and evacuated the studio just hours before Hurricane Sandy ravaged New Jersey, a fate quite fitting when you consider the product. Desperate Ground is a true scrappy and scratchy return-to-form for The Thermals, with all the raw power and unhinged adolescent energy that made their early LP’s so insanely enjoyable.
“Lyrically, Desperate Ground is a brash and irresponsible ode to human violence, a black celebration of the inevitability of war and death. A dark and yet joyous affair, Desperate Ground tells the (murky) tale of a lone rogue in the night. One man, one path, one sword. An unceasing urge to destroy. A never-ending battle against the forces of nature. A destiny impossible to avoid.”
The signing could be good timing for Saddle Creek, as Sub Pop announced last week that it’s reissuing the band’s first three albums on vinyl. “On March 5, fans can own limited-edition, colored vinyl copies of 2003′s More Parts Per Million, 2004′s Fuckin’ A, and 2006′s The Body, the Blood, the Machine. The triple-reissue (which also includes the rare “No Culture Icons” 7″) comes on the 10th anniversary of the release of More Parts Per Million.”
The only Thermals album I’ve owned was More Parts… which reminded me a ton of Superchunk. I haven’t heard their last couple of albums. After 2008′s “Returning to the Fold” single, the band jumped ship from Sub Pop (or was pushed) and landed at Kill Rock Stars for two more LPs, the last of which was Personal Life in 2010.
The Thermals are no strangers to Omaha stages. They last played in Omaha at The Waiting Room in May 2011. Before that, they played Slowdown Jr. in April 2009, and before that, Sokol Underground with Thunder Power back in November 2007.
Hey Maha, here’s another band for you to consider for this year’s festival…
* * *
The Whipkey Three opens tonight for touring Columbus, Ohio band Red Wanting Blue (Fanatic/EMI/Caroline) at The Waiting Room. $10, 9 p.m.
I’m scattering the annual year in review coverage over the next few days, beginning with this column, which also appears in this week’s issue of The Reader, which I think is on the streets now (though I’m not entirely sure as my internal calendar is discombobulated).
Over the Edge #43: The Year in Review 2012 (or 1969?)
Every year at about this time for more than a decade, I’ve written a “Year In Review” article for The Reader that looks back at the events of the past 365 days and outlines the trends and direction of the coming year in popular music. This year, Music Editor Chris Aponick is handling those duties, but if I was writing a YIR article, the main message would be this:
Imagine that it’s 1969.
A major catastrophe has struck the eastern United States. President Nixon and a congress headed by Senator Hubert Humphrey (D-Minn) and John William McCormack (D-Mass) are doing what they can to pull together resources to help our fellow citizens in this time of need, but it’s just not enough. In a stroke of genius, an enterprising young person comes up with an idea to host a massive concert at the just-opened Madison Square Garden to generate funds to rebuild communities devastated by this unnamed disaster.
For the concert to succeed, only the most popular acts of the day would be invited to perform — a list that anyone in America could name off the top of their heads: Al Jolson, Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, Whisperin’ Jack Smith, the Kentucky Serenaders, George Olson and Jelly Roll Morton. You know, the music that everyone was listening to in 1969 at the height of the Viet Nam War.
Wait a minute, doofus, that’s not the music of 1969. Yeah, I know. In this Bizarro World, instead of inviting the current rock acts of the day, concert organizers invited the hottest acts from 43 years earlier, from 1926. Sounds crazy. An effort doomed to fail. And yet, it was a no-brainer, just like what happened two weeks ago.
When it came time for organizers to pull together a lineup for the 12-12-12 relief concert for the victims of Hurricane Sandy, the short list of top-name performers was obvious: Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, The Who, Roger Waters, Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones, acts whose heyday was 40+ years ago. Sure, Alicia Keys, Chris Martin and Kanye were there, but no one came to see them. They came to see the dinosaurs along with a few “more current” faves like Billy Joel (“Piano Man,” 1973), Bon Jovi (“Wanted Dead or Alive,” 1986), and Michael Stipe (“The One I Love,” 1987).
This is a reflection of the current state of pop music in this country. There are no new superstars making groundbreaking music anymore; and there hasn’t been in decades. The last universally recognized game-changing rock band was probably U2 in the ‘80s. Radiohead came close. Arcade Fire was important, but their music is far from known by the Great Wad.
Everything else is manufactured. Look at the charts. Bieber, Kelly Clarkson, PSY, Rihanna, Ke$ha, Taylor Swift, all diversionary fluff that no one would mistake for important game-changing music. And sure, there was plenty of fluff in the ‘70s and ‘80s, but there always was something that people could point to as timeless, embraced by a nation instead of a tiny sliver of indie music nerds who “know better” about what’s good.
Despite all the technology, there’s no longer a method for elevating talent, there’s no way for the cream to rise to the top. Because, believe me, the talent is still out there. There was some great music in 2012. You simply didn’t hear it because it wasn’t on your radio. When radio became irrelevant as a way to identify and escalate talent, we lost our national music identity.
What about television? Look, these people that emerge from American Idol or The Voice are performers; they’re not songwriters, they’re not musicians. In many ways, we’ve gone back to the pre-Beatles days of Pat Boone and Bobby Darin empty haircuts. What made The Beatles important was that they wrote and performed their own music.
But even more discouraging is that somewhere over the past few years, it has become painfully obvious that the dream of “making it” in rock ‘n’ roll is now and forever gone. There was a time not so long ago when a group of musicians could get together, write some great songs, practice, perform and record some demos that they would shop around to mid-level independent labels in hopes that maybe — just maybe — someone would spot their talent, sign them to a “deal” and put out a record whose sales would generate enough money so they could quit their day jobs.
Sure, bands still dream of getting signed, but they know better than to think that they’ll ever make a living selling records in this Spotify era when $10 a month gives a listener access to (nearly) everything. When Spotify launched a couple years ago, no one really understood how artists would get paid. Now we know — they get paid, but at a rate of around 0.004611 cents per play, according to an article on pitchfork.com. That equates to around $46 per 10,000 plays (before the split with their record label). Good luck with that.
Ironically, among the few bands who would actually make decent money off Spotify are those dinosaur acts like the ones who played at the Garden a couple weeks ago (though some of them, such as Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, have the wisdom to keep their music off the service).
I don’t know, maybe the music back then really was that good, that timeless. Maybe it will never be matched. But for the sake of future generations, I hope I’m wrong, or else in 43 years — in 2055 — when the next disaster occurs and a benefit concert is organized, the last great rock stars will be long gone.
* * *
Sound hopeless? Maybe. Maybe not. This Spotify/streaming audio model is just beginning to fuck things up for everyone. We’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg, as non-music fans are just now beginning to discover it. It could pile on the already-catastrophic damage that downloading had done to CD sales…
Anyway, as I said above, there was some damn fine music produced in 2012, you just had to look really frickin’ hard to find it. Tomorrow: The Year in Review 2012, Pt. 2 — The top-10 of 2012, and the Lazy-i Best of 2012 Sampler track list and give-away — get ready to enter the drawing!
* * *
Ladyfinger at Slowdown Jr. Dec, 21, 2012.
A bit of catch-up on some pre-holiday bric-a-brac: Ladyfinger at Slowdown Jr. last Friday was like being introduced to a different (i.e., new) band, as it was the first time I’ve really noticed the impact of Dan Brennan since he took over for Ethan Jones in 2010. One might assume “it’s just a bassist” and one would be wrong, as the entire rhythm section sounded different (in a good way). Actually, the entire band sounded more polished, more focused, more tuneful. Or maybe it was just the new songs. I’m not entirely sure.
Ladyfinger used to be a hazy noise rock band that was more about dirty, dark energy than music. There was a smear or recklessness to everything they did, and amidst the smoky sturm und drang the words didn’t matter. This new version is cleaner in every way, and that more cohesive sound is reflected on their upcoming album — the best collection of songs they’ve recorded in their career.
I would be lying if I said I didn’t think that elements of So-So Sailors’ anthem rock were beginning to seep into this band. The similarities are obvious, and other than the vocalist’s grainy style, are not two-way — So-So has never resembled Ladyfinger. Whether that’s good or bad depends on what you liked most and least about Ladyfinger before the shakeup.
Too cerebral? Never. The point: Ladyfinger is emerging as more of a straight-up rock band than the grizzled noise-punkers we’d grown accustomed to, and a big part is driven by the new approach to songwriting, especially in the rhythm section. While the guitars are nice, it’s Brennan and Pat Oakes driving the show these days — a pounding, pulsing freight train that pushes Chris Machmuller’s vocals as far as his brassy croon will go.
In fact, the only criticism I have is pointed directly at Machmuller, whose vocals sounded way too restrained and mumbling on stage. Part of the precision and appeal of the new record is being able to understand exactly what Mach is singing (another So-So overlap?). That quality was gone Friday as he casually rushed the vocals. So all the fun of “Galactic” was lost because you couldn’t understand his star soldier declarations; while the soul-searching of “Dark Horse” was merely a heart-ache mumble. We may never get those qualities live, which I guess makes the records that much more valuable.
* * *
Holy Hannah!, it’s a garage rock blow-out tonight at Slowdown Jr. with Dads, Yuppies and Places We Slept all for a measly $5. Show starts at 9.
Also tonight, former Omahan and current legend Kyle Harvey returns to The Waiting Room’s stage opening for singer/songwriters Tara Vaughan and Jessica Errett. $7, 9 p.m.
So what if it’s one below zero outside? Get yourself to the clubs, people. The year ain’t over yet.
I didn’t watch every moment of the 12-12-12 concert last night, but I did catch Rolling Stones, The Who, Billy Joel, Bon Jovi, Alicia Keys and Paul McCartney. For my money, Billy Joel won the “best remaining voice” competition among the codger squad. The Stones sounded every bit of 70 years old, Roger Daltrey can’t hit the high notes any more and McCartney was, well, better than I thought he’d be. It was a real sausage party. Strange that there was only, what, one woman vocalist all night? Shades of 2011 Maha Festival. As a whole, the production was a few steps below Jerry Lewis Telethon quality, with way too many technical glitches and quick cuts to people in headsets angrily shouting at someone off camera. But hey, that’s live television (or webvision) for ya.
* * *
There’s a lot of “truth” and “growing up” going on with Ladyfinger’s next album, Errant Forms, slated for release Feb. 5, 2013, on Saddle Creek Records, and no track underscores that more than “Galactic,” the auto-biographical epic that explains once and for all the mysterious behavior of frontman Chris Machmuller. The gritty, brutal rock song tells the story of a man who picks up signals in his head — numbers and images — obviously a distress signal about an alien coup, and I’m not talking about an uprising at the Arizona state capitol. It all comes down to this line: “I’m a space invader and I think I can save this planet from galactic destroyers from space.” Unclear if Machmuller is saying he, himself, is an alien or some sort of “super soldier” tasked with leading a mission to destroy an alien onslaught. I’ve listened to this song on repeat at least 100 times in the past 24 hours and I’m still not sure. Maybe I’m not supposed to “be sure.” What I can say is that “Galactic” is one of the most important songs ever released by Saddle Creek Records (and one of my favorites). Watch the skies, people. PS: I can’t wait to see the video. Attention: Ridley Scott.
* * *
Look’s like Statistics, the project by Denver Dalley (of Desaparecidos fame and Har Mar Superstar sideman) has signed to Afternoon Records. The label will be releasing the next Stats full length, Peninsula, in March. More info here. Check out Stats’ first AR single, below:
Statistics, “Rewind, Replay, Repeat”
* * *
BTW, that For Against box set I mentioned on Tuesday slated for release in January? Well its release has been pushed back until May or June of 2013. And I’m also told to not hold my breath waiting for a For Against reunion. One can dare to dream…
* * *
This week’s column is pt. 1 in a series about the joys and frustrations of remodeling a house. You can read it in this week’s issue of The Reader or online right here.
* * *
No shows again tonight, which sucks because I have tomorrow off.
Rollingstone.com posted a couple early tracks from two upcoming Saddle Creek Records releases.
The jolly guys in Ladyfinger take a load off.
“Dark Horse” is the first sounds off Ladyfinger’s upcoming album, Errant Forms, out on the Creek Feb. 5. You can download the track fer free right now right here. The album was produced by that crazy mofo who produced their last record, Matt Bayles (Mastodon, Minus the Bear, Isis), at ARC Studios, with mixing at Bayles’ Red Room in Seattle. Says frontman Chris Machmuller at the ‘stone website: “Simply put, Dark Horse is about growing up: A departure from selfishness and moral ambiguity. Despite the overwhelming urge to escape, the convivial main character, upon reflection, realizes he wants to stay with his pregnant girlfriend. Two months after I finished writing the song I found out my wife was pregnant with our first child.” What a coincidence, Mach.
Also at Rolling Stone, right here, is “Open Sign,” the first song off UUVVWWZ’s next Saddle Creek release, The Trusted Language, also out Feb. 5. Get it.
* * *
Benson’s First Friday (BFF) event is going on tonight, which means art and music to be seen and heard all along Maple Street. One red hot show that’s part of this event is at Sweatshop Gallery 2727 No. 67th St. (just south of The Barley Street Tavern) where Digital Leather headlines with Killer Blow and the debut of Pleasure Adapter, a brand new band featuring some familiar faces: Jeff Ankenbauer (ex Shanks, Saudi Arabia) on bass/vocals; Annie Dilocker (ex-Digital Leather) on keys; Ben Allen (Watching the Train Wreck) on guitar and newcomer Joey DeRosa. An arm wrestling tourney will be going on between bands. Should be a real David Lynch-ian moment. Admission is free and so is the beer with a $5 donation. Facebook says start time is 8, but the bands tell me that they won’t get rolling until 9. Take your chances.
Also part of BFF, Rock Paper Dynamite headlines at The Sydney with HERS and Goon Saloon. $5, 10 p.m.
Meanwhile, down at The Slowdown, it’s the return of Of Montreal. I can tell you first-hand that if the show is anything like their last one a year ago last May, it’ll be well worth the $20 ticket price. Opening is the disco stylings of Brooklyn’s French Horn Rebellion. Show starts at 9.
On Saturday, Lincoln heroes Domestica return to Slowdown Jr. with The Sons of The Slowdown. $7, 9 p.m.
Also Saturday, Envy Corps returns to The Waiting Room with Field Club. $7, 9 p.m.
Meanwhile, down at The Barley Street Tavern Saturday night, Dirty Fluorescents plays along with Robo Dojo and Earlytown. $5, 9:30 p.m.
Somehow this one fell through the cracks. Received April 26 from one John Vredenburg with the subject line: “Dance Me Pregnant Over?”
“I think not. We’re finishing our record in May and will be out playing shows ASAP. We’ve just been on a delayed holiday, with all of us in our current projects….Chris Machmuller in the So-So Sailors and Ladyfinger, Mark McGowan in Ketchup & Mustard Gas, Corey Broman in New Lungs, and me in Digital Leather and Saudi Arabia. Busy dudes finally wanting to get this project back up and full steam ahead. Matt Balis is going to be the fellow that’s mixing our first LP, and we couldn’t be more excited. Just figured I’d plant the seed in the scene.“
I think when he says “Matt Balis” that Johnny means Matt Bayles, whose productions credits include the latest Cursive album, The Sword, Mastodon, Minus the Bear and a shitload more. This is indeed welcome news. In a related story, Ladyfinger just announced that it’s doing a free gig with Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship June 22 at Slowdown as part of the club’s College World Series events.
Alas, the Ladyfinger/Noah’s gig is the only one of consequence for the June 15-26 tent-city CWS madness at Slowdown. The rest of the schedule, announced earlier this week, includes such cutting edge bands as The Mother Dudes, The Lizard Kings, Hi-Fi Hangover, The Fishheads and Lemon Fresh Day. I realize that Slowdown feels that they should cater to the great unwashed masses (i.e., the non-300) for CWS, a crowd that one presumes doesn’t give two shits about indie rock. Still, I’ve been told that Slowdown’s tents weren’t exactly at capacity at last year’s CWS event with basically the same lame-o coverband lineup. For what it’s worth, it has been suggested that Slowdown build on its strengths as an indie/quality rock music centerpiece to Omaha’s music scene by booking some of the best local indie bands for the CWS weeks, which at the very least would expand some culture into a rather culture-starved CWS fanbase. Deaf ears…
* * *
Tonight at The Waiting Room, it’s classic ’90s band Son Volt (Jay Farrar ex-Uncle Tupelo) with Matt Cox. And yes, I prefer these guys to Wilco (but as you might guess, I’m in the extreme minority). $15, 9 p.m.
I just had to throw that out there as Facebook is buzzing this morning about Lady Gaga’s Benson invasion last night. I was not there; I did not see the Gaga in person. I heard she got mobbed. I guess The Waiting Room needs to get a “VIP Area,” though I don’t know where they’d put it. Maybe it’s time to build a balcony somewhere…
Well, if Ms. Germanottais still in Omaha, she may want to consider dropping in at Slowdown (which does have a balcony) tonight for Ladyfinger with Back When, The Answer Team and Lightning Bug. That’s a lot of heavy rock for just $7. Starts at 9 p.m.
Our Fox at The Barley Street Tavern, May 21, 2010.
Here’s a recap of the past weekend, starting at The Barley Street Tavern Friday night.
The best part about opening duo Love of Everything: Their songs were short, and no, that’s not a shot at them. I actually enjoyed their simple tunes with simple choruses played by the simple duo of vocalist/guitarist Bobby Burg and wife/drummer Elisse. Burg gave their sound depth using an effects pedal that allows guitarists to record samples of a guitar line or phrase and play it back repeatedly, allowing for another guitar line (and another) and so on. This worked best on “I Love All You Guys,” a song where Burg seemed to be playing random feedback squawks, until those squawks started to repeat themselves as part of the song — small, sharp shocks of sound that pushed through the guitar and vocals at strangely opportune times. And before you got tired of the whole thing, the song quickly ended.
The Barley Street’s small room packed up (but not claustrophobic-ly so) for Our Fox, who could be the next best thing on Saddle Creek Records (if Creek would take them) — and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they did, with personnel that includes frontman Ryan Fox (The Good Life) and second guitarist Jake Bellows. On the most basic level, their music fits the slacker/indie-rock category but with an intensity of early Crazy Horse (Stephen Malkmus and Crazy Horse?). Fox has one of those shaky, unstable croons that sounds like a less-nasal version of Simon Joyner. Actually, he probably has more in common with someone like Malkmus vocally, and that shakiness is less apparent on the few demo recordings on their Myspace page. I thought the first few songs sounded like Good Life out-takes, and I could have imagined Tim Kasher singing them (with great aplomb). I like their music better when they leave Kasherville and head toward Foxland, where the citizens aren’t afraid to let it all hang out on songs that aren’t afraid to go on and on and blissfully on. This is a band that could create the indie equivalent of “Cowgirl in the Sand” or “Down by the River” — long, drawn-out jams that you never want to end thanks to Bellows’ and Fox’s clever, inventive and sometimes raw guitar work backed by a solid rhythm section.
Saturday night was a Saddle Creek Records reunion showcase with the return of both Ladyfinger and Criteria at The Waiting Room. Though not a sell-out, the place was appropriately packed. Ladyfinger played first (after opener Masses’ set). It was the first time I’ve seen the new line-up with Dan Brennan on bass replacing Ethan Jones, and Megan Morgan (Landing on the Moon) on backing vocals (on about half the songs). Ladyfinger is a different band with Brennan, both style- and performance-wise. You cannot ignore him on stage; he gets locked in and doesn’t let go. It’s fun to see that level of pure enthusiasm from a band that’s pretty much known for just standing around on stage and playing. Their performance was the usual dead-on excursion into serious mind-fuck rock; too bad the sound mix was so bad. From where I stood almost dead center and 20 feet from the stage, everything was flat, without dynamics. Some guitar lines got lost in the fog along with the vocals (especially Morgan’s, who only rarely broke through the surface).
The sound mix problems continued with Criteria. The usual soaring guitars and vocals — the highlight of any Criteria performance — seemed buried in the rumble. A number of soundmen in the audience gave me their arm-chair quarterback diagnosis, telling me that there wasn’t enough being driven through “the mains.” All’s I know is that Aaron Druery’s guitar was tough to make out at times, and A.J. Mogis’ microphone might as well have been unplugged. Despite that, you couldn’t tell that this band hadn’t been on a stage in almost two years. It all sounded tight, including Stephen Pedersen’s high-flyin’ vocals that still have that pop. They all looked like they were having the time of their lives, and so did an audience that greeted old favorites with raised fists. The band also rolled out some new material that, to me, was a departure from the usual militant rattle-and-hum toward something more, well, groovy – there was something slightly vintage about the new riffs. I’m not sure what it’s about, but I liked it. Too bad we probably won’t be seeing these guys again until 2012.
* * *
I know it’s already 7 p.m. but I figure I might as well give you this late reminder about the MAHA showcase tonight at Slowdown. The four bands vying for a slot on the MAHA Festival’s small stage are Betsy Wells, Dim Light, Flight Metaphor, and Noah’s Ark Was A Spaceship. Voting will take place during the show, and the whole thing is free, so you don’t have anything to lose. It also starts early — 8 p.m.
Also playing tonight over at O’Leaver’s are Street Lethal (covering The Ramones), Stoned at Heart and Flamboyant Gods. $5, 9 p.m.