2012 Year in Review, Pt. 3 — best live shows; Live Review: Little Brazil; Capgun Coup, Yuppies tonight; Jimmy Skaffa, Kite Pilot Saturday…
by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com
I went to fewer shows this year than the past, what, 15 years? I typically go to 1.5 shows a week, which rounds out to around 75 shows a year. But this year I only went to around 50. One reason for my attendance decline was my busy schedule; another was my decision to quit seeing bands that I’ve already seen in the past six months. But the biggest reason was that there seemed to be fewer high-quality indie acts coming through town this year.
Still, there was plenty to see and hear in 2012. Here were my favorites:
Feb. 17, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks at Slowdown — Live vs. recording, the Pavement frontman took short songs like “Tigers” and “Senators” and “Baby C’Mon” and stretched them into longer jams that leaned heavy on his own slinky guitar solo prowess.
March 1, Bleeding Rainbow at Slowdown Jr. — The set-up was simple: two guitars, drums and bass, with male/female vocalists creating flat-toned harmonies on songs that were jet-fueled by loud-as-fuck guitar riffs.
March 9, Icky Blossoms at The Waiting Room — The more I see them, the more they remind me of The B-52s and Public Image Ltd (PiL), with Derek Pressnall split between Fred Schneider and John Lydon.
April 27, Lambchop at Slowdown Jr. — Their sound was warm and subtle like sipping a glass of fine old scotch. Really beautiful stuff.
May 14, St. Vincent at Slowdown — Though her stage presence recalled Prince, her music had more in common with arch New Wave composers such as Brian Eno, Laurie Anderson and Talking Heads, while her voice was Joni and Aimee and Souxsie Sioux. But it was nothing compared to those hot-bitch guitar licks that could rattle your teeth with its staccato fists or pull you under the covers with waves of luscious, tonal phrasing.
Aug. 3, Simon Joyner and The Ghosts at The Sydney — Joyner’s seven-member drone-folk orchestra kept the vibe in a noisy haze throughout the night, filling every inch of dense space with waves of feedback, pedal steel, violin and cello, with two percussionists keeping beat for the tribe.
Aug. 12, The Maha Music Festival, Stinson Park – Despite the on-again off-again rain, the festival drew an impressive 4,300 for one of the most diverse line-ups that Omaha has ever seen. Can they top it in ’13?
Aug. 18, The Faint at Slowdown — Top of mind (at least to me) was how they would sound without Faint ex-pat Joel Petersen on bass. I doubt any of the bouncing sold-out crowd that turned the Slowdown’s dance floor into a giant trampoline noticed a difference.
Sept. 8, Twin Shadow at The Waiting Room — The crowd did the classic ’80s shoulder-shrug dance while frontman George Lewis pounded out chords on guitar. There was a macho drama to everything he did, more intense than fun, but fun nevertheless.
Sept. 14, Wild Nothing / DIIV at Sokol Underground — They reminded me of ’90s champions The Church and The Cure with bigger guitar riffs and vocals that you could actually understand.
Oct. 18, Judgement Day at O’Leaver’s — Driving, pounding, throbbing rock as intense as metal but without the pain. The Pantzer brothers played souring mini-orchestrations blending violin and cello atop a bed of drums.
Oct. 28, Cursive at Slowdown — When I Am Gemini came out at the beginning of the year, we all had our doubhts that it would fit in with the rest of the Cursive oeuvre. Those doubts were erased on stage that night…
Nov. 12, A Place to Bury Strangers at The Waiting Room — Standing next to the stage was like sitting at the foot of an airport runway watching jets fly overhead.
Nov. 21, Titus Andronicus at Sokol Underground — Patrick Stickles and company came on in a meat-and-potatoes fashion and barreled through a set that included the best off the new album.
Nov. 28, Digital Leather at Slowdown — Shawn Foree and Co. threw out a golden nugget I thought I’d never hear them play again — “Studs In Love,” the homo anthem from Blow Machine re-engineered from an electronic hump fable to a roaring, spitting metallic confession.
And then, last night at The Waiting Room, four bands to close out the year…
John Klemmensen is a big guy with a blue guitar, a golden voice and a broken heart who can capture more yearning with a single line than most bands can with an entire album. Mainly because you believe him; mainly because it’s (probably) all true and he doesn’t care who knows it. With his back-up band, The Party, he infuses his confessions with hooks that camouflage either anger or bitterness or just plain loneliness with lines that you would scoff at as self-flagellating BS if they came from anyone else but the guy standing/singing/rocking right in front of you. His only recordings are homemade. It’s time someone gets him into a formal studio and gets it all down on tape.
The Brigadiers debut was a cause celeb thanks to some heavy hitting vets not the least of which included drummer Clint Schnase of Cursive fame. On this project, Schnase rides the kit with a distinctively lighter touch backing songs that are folk rock bordering on Americana bordering on pure tunesmith-ing. I was reminded of Big Star. The guy next to me was thinking T. Rex, and if you can pull off those kinds of comparisons on your debut, you’re onto something.
The Sons of The Waiting Room (better known as The Sons of O’Leaver’s but recently known as The Sons of The Slowdown) saw their numbers grow by 33 percent with the addition of The Brothers Weber on pedal steel / electric guitar and keyboards. As one onlooker put it “Shit, they’ve got three of the best guitarists in Nebraska on that stage.” Indeed. The additional fire power did its job filling out their sound and (on some songs) adding a bit of southern twang. It felt more laid back than an O’Leaver’s set because it was. I prefer the harder stuff, like set-closing classic “We Need the Night” that any god fearing Replacements fan would love.
And then came Little Brazil. The line-up change mentioned a few weeks ago was done with little fanfare, and maybe that was for the best, though there wasn’t a fan in the crowd who wasn’t curious how the band would sound with beefy Matt Baum replacing the kinetic/frenetic Oliver Morgan behind the kit. The diff for me: Ollie loves his cymbals while Baum prefers his throaty toms. More lower end gave frontman Landon (a Bobby Brady alto) more room to roam on vocals, or so it seemed to me. Others said they didn’t notice a difference, and that may be true considering the a typical Little Brazil set is like sitting in a field adjacent to Cape Canaveral during a shuttle launch. Pow-ful stuff. Baum was introduced as “helping us out tonight.” So does that mean they’re still looking for a permanent drummer? With he and Landon headed to Europe and then the East Coast for a Desaparecidos tour, who knows where this lineup is headed…
* * *
The holiday action continues with a four-friggin’-band bill tonight at the Sweatshop Gallery, located just south of The Barley Street Tavern. The line-up: Capgun Coup, Yuppies, Adult Films and Brooklyn band Parquet Courts, who’s song “Borrowed Time” was named a Pitchfork “Best New Track” this past November (take a listen here). $5, 9 p.m.
Tomorrow night, popular local ’90s ska band Jimmy Skaffa has a full-blown reunion at The Waiting Room. The Stick Figures open at 9 p.m., $7.
Meanwhile down the street at The Barley Street Tavern Saturday night, Kite Pilot headlines a show with High & Tight and Above the State. $5, 9 p.m.
* * *
And don’t forget to enter the drawing for a copy of the Lazy-i Best of 2012 Sampler. The full track listing is here (scroll to the bottom of the entry). To enter, send your name and mailing address to firstname.lastname@example.org. Hurry! Deadline is Jan. 15.
* * *
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.