#TBT: Oct. 5, 2006 — Omaha enacts first smoking ban; new Good Life track(s); Vinyl Williams, Chemicals tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:50 pm October 20, 2016
Sokol Underground used to be one of the smokiest venues in Omaha...

Sokol Underground used to be one of the smokiest venues in Omaha…

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

This being Throwback Thursday, here’s a dip into the Lazy-i Wayback Machine to 2006, a few days after Omaha’s first smoking ban went into effect. Hard to believe it’s been 10 years. There is an entire generation of music-goers who have no concept of what I’m describing in the following column from 2006, and even now it seems strange that smoking once was allowed in restaurants, and Sokol Underground (which, at the time, was the primary indie rock music venue in Omaha). The citywide smoking ban for all bars would come more than a year later.

Column 95 — The stench of rock… – Oct. 5, 2006     

Just when you thought you’d heard all you care to about Omaha’s new pseudo-smoking ban that went into effect Sunday, here’s another comment, this time from the musicians’ perspective. What wasn’t pointed out in the column below was the scorecard as to where smoking is and isn’t allowed. Smoking isn’t allowed at Sokol Underground, Sokol Auditorium and Mick’s — that’s the extent of the ban’s impact. It’s still allowed for the next five years at O’Leaver’s, The 49’r and The Saddle Creek Bar. If you don’t know the rules, here’s an abbreviated explanation: Smoking is allowed in bars that don’t serve food (O’Leaver’s, The 49’r) and isn’t allowed in multi-use facilities (Sokol) or bars that serve food unless those bars offer keno (The Saddle Creek Bar). Mick’s, which doesn’t have a kitchen, voluntarily banned smoking.

Column 95: The Smell of Rock
Is smoking part of rock ‘n’ roll?

Before we move forward, we must understand and agree on this one conceit: Smoking holds no value in a human being’s life. None. It is not essential for your continued existence. In fact, it’s unquestionably destructive. It shaves the very essence of life away from the individuals that imbibe in its behavior.

Anyone who smokes cigarettes knows this, and has known it from the first puff. Just like those who drink bottle after bottle of beer and/or wine know that their lives are in no way being enhanced by the activity. There is no argument for drinking alcohol, especially when the endeavor taken to excess results in inebriation, loss of reasonable judgment and motor skills, and a painful hangover. Anyone who drinks knows this, and has known it from their first under-age beer.

To say that second-hand smoke is more dangerous than the secondhand effects of a drunk smashing into your car is to ignore the fact that more people are killed driving than by almost any other activity, and that a huge number of those deaths are the result of drunken driving.

That said, smoking and drinking are a part of rock and roll right along with sex and drugs. Always have been. Always will be? Who knows, but probably, in some form or another, regardless of any awkwardly developed citywide ban that says it’s okay to smoke in some bars but not in others.

Part of the experience of going to rock shows for as long as I can remember has been going home afterward and stripping off my tar and nicotine-soaked clothing so as not to contaminate the sheets before passing out, then picking up my t-shirt in the morning and smelling the previous night’s stench. Now that’s rock and roll. And it’s going to become a thing of the past, eventually.

No one knows this more than the people who make a living performing in the smoke dens, but even among them, there is no agreement that the smoking ban is good or necessary.

Take Matt Whipkey, lead singer/guitarist of Anonymous American (Who, by the way, will be releasing a new album by the end of the year). Whipkey’s down with the smoking ban. “In terms of my personal dexterity, you smell better after you get done,” he said of playing gigs in smoke-free bars. “When playing out of state or at smoke-free places like The Zoo Bar (in Lincoln), I’m not absolutely disgusting afterward.”

Whipkey says the smoking ban might even bring more people to gigs, people who have avoided going to shows because they can’t stand the smoke. “Times are changing,” he said. “You can’t do it in Minneapolis, Lawrence, New York, Madison, California or Lincoln. I assume you can’t do it in most cities. It’s just how it goes.”

And then there’s Dave Goldberg, guitarist/keyboardist/drummer/vocalist of The Terminals (Who, by the way, have a new record coming out on Cleveland’s Dead Beat Records). “It’s like taking the smut out of Time’s Square,” he said of the ban. “I’m against it. Rock and roll is supposed to be bad for you. Smoking has been a part of it since its inception. And this is coming from a non-smoker.”

Forget about the sanitized confines of a smoke-free lounge. A punk from back in the day, Goldberg prefers the grime. “I’m partial to a seedy atmosphere, and smoking is definitely part of it,” he said. “I’ve gone to blues clubs for years now, and it seems to go hand-in-hand. Smoky rock clubs — it’s almost like that’s how it should be.”

Unlike Whipkey, Goldberg thinks the ban will have a negative impact on audiences. “In Lincoln, you noticed the effects immediately,” he said of the Capitol City’s ban, which has been around for almost a year. “Duffy’s, for example, has a beer garden, and a lot of times a band will be playing to a partially full or worse-sized audience on account of everyone being outside smoking.”

The one thing Whipkey and Goldberg do agree on: Playing in smoky bars has never impacted their performance quality, or so they think. “Part of my vocal style is the accumulation of secondhand smoke caked on my lungs over the years,” Whipkey said. “Maybe now I’ll sound like a choir boy.” Let’s hope not.

Goldberg, who just finished touring the country as drummer for theater-rock legend Thor, has played in both smoke and smoke-free environments. “I’ve never noticed a difference,” he said, “but I spent a lot of time in smoky bars, perhaps I’m used to it.”

So who’s right? Smoking is indefensible. Banning it in clubs like Sokol Underground will only save lives and keep my clothes and hair smelling better after a night of noise. But you know what? I’m still going to miss it. — Lazy-i, Oct. 5, 2006

* * *

Yeah, well, guess what, I don’t.

Back to the future….

Today The Good Life released via Stereogram (here) a new track recorded during the Everbody’s Coming Down sessions called “Are You Afraid of Dying?” The Good Life hits the road with Jake Bellows beginning early next month for a tour that concludes Nov. 28 at fabulous O’Leaver’s. Speaking of outtakes, here’s another one from the same sessions that dropped last month (and that somehow I missed):

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Tonight at Reverb, LA’s Vinyl Williams headlines with Oquoa and Chemicals. $7, 9 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

TBT: Lazy-i March 5, 2003: Carsinogents douse their flames; Gramps, Midwest Dilemma tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 1:38 pm March 5, 2015
The cover photo of the Omaha Weekly-Reader from March 5, 20114. Photo by Bill Sitzmann

The cover photo of the Omaha Weekly-Reader from March 5, 20114. Photo by Bill Sitzmann

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Before we go back in time, here’s this week’s Lazy-i Podcast: Matthew Sweet speaks; Simon Joyner, Icky Blossoms, Shy Boys, J Fernandez and Bloodcow and what’s happening this weekend. Fun!

This being Throw Back Thursday, a blast from the past… or maybe a doused blast.

This cover story for The Omaha Weekly-Reader about The Carsinogents came out March 5, 2003, and highlighted the band’s then just-released full-length on Speed Nebraska, Ole! This was just a few weeks after the notorious Feb. 20, 2003, tragedy where pyrotechnics used during a Great White concert sparked a fire at a club in West Warwick, Rhode Island, killing 100 and injuring 230.

Of course back then, one highlight of Carsinogents’ shows was their novel use of fire, with a member of the band often blowing flames from his mouth. Rhode Island changed all that. As guitarist Vig Brooks said in the article: “Locally, I don’t care that it’s over. On the road, I wish we could still do it. One of the worst bands of the ’80s f***ed us.”

Sure enough, the flames were doused at their March 8, 2003, CD release party at Sokol Underground. Here’s the review of that show, which would end up being a warm-up before the band went on tour with Cursive .

Live Review: The Carsinogents at Sokol Underground
From Lazy-i, March 9, 2003

Sokol Underground, March 8, 2003.

Sokol Underground, March 8, 2003.

In the end, they didn’t need the flames.

I guess you could look at this almost as an epilogue to my current feature on the Carsinogents. What would the band do after being forced by Great White to give up the key theatrical element of their live show — the flame-blowing routine?

At the risk of sounding cliché, the band brought a different kind of fireworks to the Sokol Underground last night (yikes, I can’t believe I wrote that). I’ve seen these guys at least a half-dozen times — all of the past shows included the usual fire-breathing hi-jinx. Last night’s non-flame show was easily their best all-out performance. And no one seemed to miss the fire.

The set started with the video projector and pre-show music (Remember the day when all bands played about five minutes of music before their set, just to get people in the mood? The preshow music was a signal to finish your conversation, get a beer and get up to the stage. I miss those days). The recorded music was of the mariachi variety — Mexican trumpets and orchestra — while on a large sheet draped over a pole with duct tape a video was projected of a bull fight, interspersed with a shot of the band’s old flaming-skull tiki.

The flames were replaced with plenty of smoke from a fog machine. There was so much smoke, I turned to the guy next to me and asked if it was part of the act… shades of Rhode Island still fresh in my mind. I glanced up sheepishly at the exit signs. In addition to the smoke, the stage was set with red floor lights and side spot lights, as well as a lighted keyboard placard with the band’s logo blaring white.

Then on stage came the band. Anyone who’s seen the Carsinogents knows that lead singer, Dave Electro, is a natural showman, a true tripped-out troubadour with footwork that would make Elvis blush. When Dave wasn’t behind the keyboard, he was in front of the stage swinging his vintage microphone, belting a riff on guitar, doing some sort of weird shuffle that reminded me of gospel minister lost in the jubilation at a revival meeting.

The set list was a blend of old stuff, songs off the new CD and a couple I hadn’t heard before. The band’s sound indeed has evolved from ‘horror-billy’ to straight-out hard rock. I don’t know what kind of a match they’ll be with Cursive, whose songs are angular punk with introspective vocals. What will the emo kids think when they see Electro standing atop his organ while the rest of the band crashes along with knuckle-busting powerchords? Regardless, last night’s crowd of around 300 ate it up. I noticed those who were standing in front of or near the speaker stack were pushed to center stage by night’s end. It was indeed loud. I felt sorry for anyone stupid enough to not have earplugs. There’s nothing tough or cool about tinnitus.

No, the flames weren’t missed. As a matter of fact, the boys can now also confidently leave the film projector at home — in the end it didn’t add much to the staging. The lights and smoke and rock and roll moves are enough to entertain. But the real moment of truth came during the encore, when the band rolled out their signature finale that traditionally includes the flame-stunt. Like always, during the last part of the song, Dave seamlessly switched places with drummer Eldon Vampola. But instead of Eldon grabbing a torch and spitting Bacardi all over the place, he strapped on Dave’s guitar and punched out guitar riffs while the rest of the band bashed around stage. After Eldon switched back to his drum set, Dave stretched out his arms across the duct-taped sheet, strolled up to the keyboard, climbed atop and stood there playing the song’s final chords.

When he climbed down, that was it — the end of an era for the band and a beginning of a new one. The final word about The Carsinogents: I don’t know if they’ll ever break out of this one-horse town. Sure, they’ve got four Texas dates with Cursive including a gig at Emo’s in Austin. But the end of the story won’t be written until we find out if they ever get a full-blown tour of their own, up either coast or for three or four weeks throughout the Midwest. And then follow-up with a return tour, because everyone knows the first time out is small and, if you’ve made an impression, the second time is huge. This band — both in terms of its music and stage show — would impress any crowd. The only thing holding them back is them.

We’re all still waiting for that Carsinogents reunion. Something tells me we’re going to be waiting for a long, long time…

* * *

Tonight at 6 at Urban Outfitters in the Slowdown complex it’s free beer, free pizza and free music featuring Gramps, the hot new combo fronted by Love Drunk impresario Django Greenblatt-Seay. Also performing is DJ Kethro. More info here.

Than later tonight at PS Collective, Jackson Mississippi band Young Valley headlines a bill that includes super talented singer-songwriters Nick Carl, Tarvis Sing (Township and Range) and Omaha’s original folk-explosion, Midwest Dilemma. This one’s early, too. 7 p.m. and $5. More info 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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Wild Nothing, DIIV, and a return to Sokol Underground; Silversun Pickups tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:51 pm September 17, 2012
Wild Nothing at Sokol Underground, Sept. 14, 2012.

Wild Nothing at Sokol Underground, Sept. 14, 2012.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

In a lot of people’s minds, last Friday night’s Wild Nothing/DIIV show was a make or brake sitch for The Sandbox, a club that’s been struggling to become “sort of” legit, booking bands on a regular basis for the past few months. Well, a few hours before showtime, I got an email from someone associated with the show saying that it had been moved to Sokol Underground. No reason for the move was given.

The Sandbox posted the following on Facebook this morning, pointed at the show’s promoter, Slow Burn Productions:

Sorry to do this, but so much shit talking and misinformation has been spread about this fucking major screw up on the part of the promoter. When what something called a ‘sound rider’ is given to a promoter, it details everything a band will need for sound and or lighting for an event. For this Wild Nothing / DIIV show no sound rider was given to us, the venue, in advance by said promoter so we really had no idea what the bands were expecting for sound needs. As such, we were under assumption business as usual in the sound dept. Needless to say, the bands were not satisfied with this. We easily could have got the extra things and mics the bands were expecting HAD WE KNOWN ABOUT IT AHEAD OF TIME, like any reasonable and conscientious promoter would have done. Thank you.

I haven’t been to the Sandbox in almost a year, but the last time I was there, its meager PA system could have handled the show. I’ve been told that since then, there have been a lot of improvements in sound, stage and lighting. I guess I’ll have to wait until the next “big” indie show rolls through there to find out, as the style of punk usually booked there hasn’t sparked my interest.

So it was off to Sokol Underground. I hadn’t been down there since last winter, when my nephew’s band played a death metal showcase. I used to go to Sokol Underground a few times a week back in its indie heyday, when it was booked by One Percent Productions (and before them, by the Saddle Creek duo of Robb/Jason). Since the One Percent guys opened The Waiting Room — a far superior music venue that’s literally walking distance from my house — other promoters have booked Sokol Underground almost exclusively for metal/death metal/goon rock showcases, a reflection of the years of influence radio station 89.7 The River has had on the scene — i.e., the emergence of Cookie Monster Metal almost a full decade after it went out of style around the rest of the country.

And it’s a shame, because Sokol Underground is still a fun place to see a show, as last Friday night’s Wild Nothing/DIIV show proved. Walking down the stairs into the club it felt just like old times except that Marc or Jim wasn’t there to give me the nod to let me into the show. Instead, I handed my printout ticket to the strapping young lad at the register, walked over to the bar and tried to buy a Rolling Rock, but was told they just sold their last bottle, leaving to me drink Lucky Bucket the rest of the evening — not a bad alternative.

The room itself hasn’t changed much, though the PA looks and sounds less powerful than during the golden years. The rock stickers (including my Lazy-i sticker) have been stripped from the poles; the bulletin board across from the cash register that used to be covered with show fliers is empty. But other than that (and some much-needed paint) the room is virtually the same and still has that quality I loved from its early days — you can always go unnoticed in Sokol Underground. The dismal room lighting makes it easy to hide. But beyond that, unlike the upscale Slowdown and The Waiting Room, Sokol Underground is so dumpy that no one cares who you are… or at least that how it seems. The brokedown-palace atmosphere is oddly relaxing. I can’t explain it any other way.

By the time I arrived at around 10:15, the first two openers already had left the stage and DIIV had just started. DIIV is an ambient/dream-pop band in the vein of M83 — lots of chiming, layered guitars and tonal vocals. Definitely a vibe band with an obvious shoe-gaze sound that at its best can fall into a droning, rhythmic groove that’s full-on Stone Roses-esque. The drawback is in its lack of variety. Every song — in speed, rhythm and style — sounds like it was cut from the same sonic cloth, and becomes one dimensional, especially with vocals that have more to do with mood than lyrics.

Wild Nothing is very similar but more straight-forward — less vibe, more songwriting, better compositions. They reminded me of ’90s champions The Church and The Cure with bigger guitar riffs and vocals that you could actually understand. While there was a basic droning common denominator, their set had a satisfying ebb and flow that DIIV lacked. The young crowd of between 100-150 soaked it all in at the edge of the stage, a few even tried to dance (sort of).

It really is a shame that more indie shows aren’t booked at Sokol Underground, but with One Percent (who books almost all the good indie shows that come through town) already having two main clubs for indie — The Waiting Room and Slowdown — why should they bother? I get it, especially when they can take home the bar sales at TWR, something they’ll never get at Sokol. Still, it seems like there have been fewer and fewer CMJ-quality indie shows coming through town over the past couple years. I blame the economy, the decline in the music industry, and  what appears to be a decline in interest among those who (should) go to these shows. I also blame lack of radio, though in this era of XMU-satellite and everything being online, does it really make that much of a difference? Yeah, I think it does.

Bottom line: If I could choose between TWR/Slowdown or Sokol Underground to see a show, I’d always choose TWR/Slowdown — better sound, better sight lines, easier access, and in TWR’s case, much closer to home. But that said, I’d still love to go to Sokol three or four times a year for a solid indie show like the one I saw last Friday night. It’s going to take a new promoter like Black Heart or Slowburn or someone else to make that happen.

Wild Nothing at Sokol Underground, Sept. 14, 2012.

Wild Nothing at Sokol Underground, Sept. 14, 2012.

* * *

Sumtur Amphitheater is about 10 miles south of Benson in Papillion. I’ve never been there before, but from what I’ve been told, it should be a great place to see tonight’s Silversun Pickups show. Opening is School of Seven Bells and Atlas Genius. $30, 8 p.m.

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

Lazy-i