Live Review: Low; Stardeath & White Dwarfs, State Disco tonight; HN legal workshop, Christopher the Conquered Saturday; Mason Jennings Sunday…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 2:21 pm November 13, 2015

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by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Walking into Reverb at just after 9:30 the show still wasn’t sold out, but it was close. Only a few tickets remained, and they likely got sold before Low took the stage at 10 p.m. So yes, it was a sold-out show (probably). And easily the most crowded show I’ve attended at Reverb.

Once through the sound-room door I was met by a dense crowd watching as opening singer/songwriter Andy Shauf was seated performing his set with an acoustic guitar. His singing style was a cross between Elliott Smith and a hearing-impaired Russian sailor. At first I thought Shauf was singing in a different language, until I listened more closely and picked out a few familiar words in English, words like “love” and “death.”

Still, I figured Shauf must be a visitor in our country, until he spoke between songs with a clear North American accent, which quickly disappeared as he began his next song, returning again to his affected, foreign, nasal croon. His songs were pretty, and I’ll be checking out Shauf’s recordings later (hopefully they’re in English).

Low came on right at 10 — Alan Sparhawk standing with guitar stage right, bassist Steve Garrington stage left seated behind a keyboard, and Mimi Parker seated behind a trap set. Sparhawk and Parker have aged only a little since the last time I saw them play, about 10 years ago at Sokol Underground. Their pitch-perfect intertwining vocals still carry the same amount of heart-break and dread as they ever did.

The set-list was identical to what they played at First Ave. the night before (where they kicked off this leg of their current tour). “Monkey” from The Great Destroyer was an early set highlight, only surpassed by a dark, ominous version of “Pissing” (also off Great Destroyer) that built from Low’s usual quiet stance to a crashing sonic nightmare that ended with Sparhawk screaming into his guitar pushed overhead against his face. Intense.

The majority of the set consisted of songs from new album Ones and Sixes (Sub Pop, 2015), including a rich take on album favorite “Lies.” The new stuff sits seamlessly with the old stuff. Over the course of two decades Low has added more noise, more guitar, even pop-fueled moments (How else to describe the uptempo rock of “Part of Me,” also off the new album?), but ultimately retained their patented “slowcore” style — stripped down, simple, stark and at times beautifully dreadful.

The only deviation from the First Ave. set was the encore. After a crashing version of “Landslide” (also from the new album), the band left the stage and came back for a two-song encore (instead of four the night prior) that included a gorgeous take on “Sunflower” (from Things We Lost in the Fire) and favorite “When I Go Deaf.”

Startling stuff, enhanced by the fact that it was performed in such a small space. Maybe too small, as I spent the evening crushed against one of Reverb’s new drink rails that are mounted along the stage-left wall, forced to shift from one foot to the other to see around a fat-headed dude standing in front me. Whattaya gonna do? Last night also was the first time that I noticed noise bleed coming from The Waiting Room, where Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers were playing — a steady thump-thump-thump that cut into the silent moments of Low’s set. Sparhawk and Co. struck back as only they could — with the full force of their instruments during the encore, leaving me wondering if the poor saps at the Clyne show were getting a taste of what we were hearing…

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After a couple solid shows this week, we’re left with a pretty quiet weekend.

Tonight Stardeath and White Dwarfs headlines at The Sydney. The four-piece psych-rock band from Norman, Oklahoma, includes none other than Wayne Coyne’s nephew Dennis Coyne on lead vox. Surf-rockers Sub-Vectors open. $10, 9 p.m.

Also tonight State Disco headlines at Reverb Lounge with AZP and Rothsteen. $10, 9 p.m. BTW, Reverb now hosts all-ages shows, if you didn’t know (I didn’t until last night).

Meanwhile, at fabulous O’Leaver’s, it’s Fitness 000010, featuring Bus Gas, Big Slur and Ridgelines. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Tomorrow night (Saturday) it’s back to O’Leaver’s for Christopher the Conquered, with Bazile Mills and Tenenbaums. $7, 9:30 p.m.

Also worth mentioning for you musicians , Hear Nebraska is hosting a free workshop called Protect Yourself and Your Music: Legal Advice for Musicians, Saturday afternoon from 1 to 2:15 p.m at the TipTop Building. U of N Law students will talk and take questions about such things as copyright law, licensing, contracts, streaming services, performance rights, in other words, all the things you should know if you’re going to be a working musician. If friggin’ free, so go! More info here.

Finally, indie-folk singer/songwriter Mason Jennings headlines at The Slowdown Sunday night. S. Carey opens. $27 Adv/$30 DOS. Starts at 8 p.m

And O’Leaver’s ends the weekend with Fort Collins dream-pop band Sound of Ceres, along with The Sunks, Chalant and Little Ripple Sunday night at 9. $7.

That’s all I got. If I missed your show, put it in the comments section. Have a great weekend.

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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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Live Review: Sucettes, Simon Joyner & the Ghosts, Skeleton Man; let the holiday week begin…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:49 pm November 24, 2014
The Sucettes at Reverb Lounge Nov. 22, 2014.

The Sucettes at Reverb Lounge Nov. 22, 2014.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Someone asked me if Saturday night’s Simon Joyner and the Ghosts show at Reverb was a “top-5 Joyner set.” I’m not sure what that’s supposed to mean. Every Joyner set is different and interesting in its own way. How you compare them, I don’t know.

Over the years I’ve gotten as much out of Joyner’s various solo acoustic sets as I have his wonky-bordering-on-experimental band sets performed at Sokol Underground and O’Leaver’s as I did his more “polished” sets, like when he opened for Bright Eyes at The Rose Theater way back when. The beauty and wonder of Joyner performances is that you never know what you’re going to get, though over the past few years, Simon and the Ghosts have become more predictable, more musically confident and (perhaps) less experimental. His music also feels more upbeat, more rocking, especially the handful of new songs from his forthcoming record, Grass, Branch, and Bone, out on Woodsist next year. I’m looking forward that album as much or more than any of his past efforts.

Ghosts bassist Alec Erickson was AWOL Saturday night. Megan Siebe, who usually handles organ and violin, filled in, though pedal-steel/keyboardist Mike Friedman also handled bass chores on a few numbers.  I won’t say it was a top-5 show, but it was in the upper third of the 50 or so Joyner shows I’ve witnessed over the years.

Simon Joyner and the Ghosts at Reverb, Nov. 22, 2014.

Simon Joyner and the Ghosts at Reverb, Nov. 22, 2014.

The Sucettes, who opened Saturday night, is the most “realized” Dave Goldberg-fueled band since his Carsinogents days. The lineup is Goldberg switching between keyboards and drums, Jeremiah McIntyre on bass and vocals, Genie Molkentine on vocals, drums and keyboards, Todd VonStup on guitar and CJ Olson on guitar. The band’s music sounds like an extension of what Goldberg and McIntyre were doing in Box Elders, though the arrangements are more filled out. This is a fun band to watch, centered on Goldberg, who is the preeminent stage performer — you can’t keep your eyes off him. Joyner joined Sucettes for their set closer, a scorching cover of the Minutemen’s “Jesus and Tequila.”

In the center slot was Skeleton Man, a droning psychedelic band fronted by Kevin Donahue (Ghosts drummer) on guitar/vocals that also featured fellow Ghost Megan Siebe, who might be the hardest working musician in Omaha these days. Now when someone asks me what “drug music” sounds like, I can point to this band, whose trippy drone felt like Pink Floyd on acid (Is there any other kind of Pink Floyd?). They only played four songs, but their set closer rolled on for 20 minutes of rhythmic noise, capped by Donahue’s undecipherable vocals/wailing.

This was the largest crowd I’ve seen at Reverb, and with the collection of local musicians in the audience, it felt like a coming out party for the club. The room’s sound gets better with every visit. It’s only been open for a few months and it already is getting a rep for being one of the city’s best music venues.

* * *

No shows tonight, but it’s going to be a busy week. It always is during the holidays. You may want to get tickets to tomorrow night’s Desa show in advance…

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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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Reverb: Omaha’s Mid-Century live music lounge (in the column); and how many bars are in Benson, anyway?

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:01 pm October 2, 2014

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

A look inside the new Reverb Lounge as well as some Q&A with one of its owners, Jim Johnson, is the subject of my column this week. Jim talks about his vision for the club and why One Percent decided to open another bar literally feet away from two other bars they own. It’s in this week’s issue of The Reader and online right here.

As I say in the column, I foresee that I’ll be spending a lot of time at Reverb. As Omaha continues to get bigger and bigger, I’m spending more and more time in a smaller geographical location — i.e., Benson. Back in the old days, going to shows would mean driving to way south to Sokol, to downtown Omaha, out to The Asylum on West Center, and so on. These days most of my time is spent on Maple Street, with the occasional trek to O’Leaver’s. I haven’t been to The Slowdown in a few months (due to a combination of factors including 1) going to fewer mid-week shows, 2) Slowdown booking more private functions on weekends, along with 3) Slowdown booking fewer indie shows).

My coverage is definitely becoming too Benson focused, both in this blog and in my column. There is a world west of 72nd Street, though these days, I rarely step foot in it. And with clubs like Reverb opening, I’m less apt to.

So what’s the current bar count in Benson? Let’s see (not counting restaurants that serve booze): Jerry’s, Full House, Beercade, Krug Park, The Waiting Room, Burke’s, 1912, The Sydney, The Musette, St. Andrews, Benson Brewery, Infusion, Jake’s, The Barley Street and now Reverb. That’s 15 (and I’m probably missing something). That’s a lot of bars in about a half-mile stretch of road.

You have to ask yourself if there’s enough people to keep them all afloat.

BTW, news to me (though probably news to no one else), Jim told me that The Waiting Room is only open when an event or show is booked. Did not know that.

Some other comments that didn’t make it into the column:

— There will be tables and chairs added to Reverb’s concert space when appropriate. Jim is even considering adding row seating for some performances.

— There are no TVs in Reverb, nor video games or pinball.

— Jim said they’ll be adding some “sound treatment” to the concert room in the near future.

Again, you really need to check it out, whether there’s a show scheduled (check out their website to see) or not. And man, they make a potent mai tai.

* * *

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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Sebadoh and the debut of Reverb’s concert space…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:54 pm September 29, 2014
Sebadoh at Reverb Lounge, Sept. 28, 2014.

Sebadoh at Reverb Lounge, Sept. 28, 2014.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

First off, there will be a full write-up about Reverb in this week’s column, a detailed look at the place and what it means in the larger picture of the Omaha music scene. That’s out Thursday. This is a review of last night’s kick-off show, and man, it was a bumpy ride.

The problems with the vocal PA seemed obvious during See Through Dresses’ opening set. Instrumentally, the band sounded great, you just couldn’t hear the vocals, they were dead or gone from the first note. Who to blame — was it something the band was doing wrong on stage or was it the sound guy? The vocals were simply buried in the mix and stayed that way.

Then came Sebadoh. Let’s not make more out of the incident than it was. By the second song, Lou Barlow was clearly irritated. “Can you hear me?” About a dozen hands went up with thumbs pointed at the ceiling, indicating more vocals. Barlow apologized, saying it was the first show for the club, that it “sounded like shit,” and mentioned something about giving the crowd its money back.

Then he left took off his guitar and left the stage. Jason Loewenstein, sporting a bass at this point in the set, looked up and said, “What did you guys say?” A few moments later, Barlow returned to a smattering of applause before kicking into their next song, which had virtually non-existent vocals. Then they went right into “On Fire” and things got noticeably better as two sound guys poured over the digital sound board trying to figure out what was wrong.

Next, Barlow’s amp broke. “I guess this room doesn’t like guitars.” Loewenstein came to the rescue with a spare guitar pedal and the show went on, and by the next song or two, the vocals gradually got better. By the end of the first Barlow-sung portion of the set, Lou could be heard fairly clearly, but the PA never had the necessary heft to really cut through the rest of the band’s equipment.

After Loewenstein’s set, Barlow apologized again. “Sorry I was so pouty earlier. I ran off stage to drink some wine and when I got back the sound was better.

I assume the band did a sound check earlier in the afternoon. If they had, they would have noticed the problem (It wasn’t one of those deals where “the crowd muffled the mix” — Reverb is way too small for that). Did something happen between sound check and the first set? Who knows.

A look at the crowd from the edge of the stage during See Through Dresses' set.

A look at the crowd from the edge of the stage during See Through Dresses’ set.

It was an inauspicious start for a new club with lots of promise. Located through the main lounge, entering the performance room is like walking into a sound stage, albeit a tiny sound stage. I couldn’t believe how small the room looked. It is, in essence, a gray box with a stage raised about four feet off the ground built into the wall. Maybe it was the high ceilings or the lack of tables and chairs, but the room seemed downright microscopic. The performance space is definitely bigger than The Barley Street’s or Sweatshop’s, but is it bigger than O’Leaver’s? I don’t know.

With its poured concrete floors, gray paint, no windows and exposed ceiling, the room is austere. The only decoration is a series of black-and-white concert photos that line the room at eye level, further accentuating the high ceiling. Then there’s the stage itself. Small, back-curtained with LED spotlight racks mounted on the ceiling in front of and behind the band. The only outcrop in the room is the sound board in the back directly facing the stage.

With all that concrete, featureless walls and high ceiling, I expected the sound to be brash and bouncy and was pleasantly surprised at how well directed it sounded. No doubt it was loud — bands aren’t going to need much to fill the space, which will help keep the sound down in the main lounge (where, no surprise, you could clearly hear the band during the set).

I’m no audio engineer, but the flaw seems to be the vocal PA. (From what I could see) the system has two smallish overhead arrays and a couple subs built under the stage. I didn’t have a chance to check out the stage monitors. As Barlow said himself a couple times from stage, hey, this is the first show. Give it time and this is going to be a great room.

The performance itself was solid. Barlow’s getting shaggy in his old age, with a big head of hair and a massive beard. His voice was as good as ever (when I could hear it). Loewenstein also was in fine form (especial on his personal anthem, “My Drugs”), despite suffering from a tooth ache (They’ll be looking for an oral surgeon today). Ouch.

One Percent said they sold 115 tickets and purposely kept the number at that level to make for a comfortable show, and comfortable it was. Moving around the room was easy, with plenty of space against the back wall and good sight lines throughout. I guess the room is bigger than I thought.

Having a second exit along the opposite side of the soundboard makes exiting easy. I’d like to see the room “warmed up” a bit aesthetically – it’s rather sterile and barren now. That said, it is indeed an intimate experience. It definitely felt like a private show. Someone said “I’d pay $200 to see Sonic Youth in this room.” Now wouldn’t that be killer?

* * *

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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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