Of Mynabirds, ‘New Revolutionists’ and a fashionable war (in the column); RIP Javier Ochoa; Great American Desert, Millions of Boys tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 12:59 pm June 20, 2012

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

This week’s column talks about the marketing behind The Mynabirds’ new album, Generals. Is Laura Burhenn’s New Revolutionists concept the face of modern-day feminism or just a another way to sell records? You can read column in the new issue of The Reader, or online right here.

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Javier Ochoa

Javier Ochoa

I learned this morning via Facebook of the untimely death of Javier Ochoa. A former member of The Get, Blah Buddha and Goodbye, Sunday, the 43-year-old drummer was known more recently for his work in Led Zeppelin tribute band The Song Remains the Same. I only had the privilege of talking with Javier a few times, when we discussed our mutual love of Led Zeppelin and classic rock. But more than anything, I’ll remember him for the way he hit this drums — he was, indeed, a force of nature…

* * *

Tonight at the The Waiting Room it’s the CD release show for The Great American Desert’s (a.k.a. Max Holmquist) new album, Carson City (Yer Bird Records). Joining Holmquist are Millions of Boys, Betsy Wells and Family Picnic. $5, 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 © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Mynabirds, Jake Bellows & Co., Under Water Dream Machine, Touch People, OEAAs…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:53 pm June 11, 2012
The Mynabirds at The Slowdown, June 8, 2012.

The Mynabirds at The Slowdown, June 8, 2012.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

So maybe you were right giving me shit about my warnings of Mynabirds’ CD release show selling out. It didn’t, though there were at least 400 people there for Friday night’s show. OK, maybe I was hyping. So what. If you were there, you probably had a good time.

Laura Burhenn came out with her signature dead fox head gear, stood on her box and belted out about an hour’s worth of new and old material. I thought I’d hear at least a little political diatribe to coincide with her album’s perceived political themes (more on that later), but instead Burhenn stayed focused on the music, and wishing Slowdown a happy 5th birthday.

And I have to admit, her new record is beginning to grow on me, which is good since I apparently am the only one in America who wasn’t bowled over by it on first listen. The upbeat numbers (like “Body of Work”) are  fun, but it’s the slower, tonal pieces, such as “Mightier Than the Sword,” that are the real show stoppers.

Whereas most of the her backing band are competent-though-faceless musicians, Burhenn is blessed with an amazing drummer. I have no idea who she is, but her big, dynamic, throaty sound stands out above everything (but Burhenn’s vocals, of course).

My only disappointment was with her set structure — it was as if Burhenn figured out the set list about five minutes before the show. Or maybe I’m just hypercritical about these things, but a good set list is like a great DJ set — it rises and falls, each song blending naturally into the other like perfect transitions in a seamless story taking you for a ride that culminates in a big finish. It’s about dynamics. Burhenn instead merely plays the songs, one after another with little interest in transition. Even the set ender and prerequisite leave-the-stage-followed-by-the-encore moment was more awkward than usual.

Jake Bellows & Co. at The Slowdown, June 8, 2012.

Jake Bellows & Co. at The Slowdown, June 8, 2012.

I caught the last half of Jake Bellows and his unnamed band (I call them “Jake Bellows and the Dying Embers”… think about it). Where Jake solo is interesting, it also can be boring. With a band backing him, Jake’s songs are given new life, new dynamics, new muscle. I understand that this particular collaboration of musicians may never play together again, which is a pity. That shouldn’t stop Bellows from surrounding himself with players for future shows.

Under Water Dream Machine at The Sydney, as part of the OEAA Summer Showcase, June 9, 2012.

Under Water Dream Machine at The Sydney, as part of the OEAA Summer Showcase, June 9, 2012.

Saturday night was Day 2 of the Omaha Arts and Entertainment Awards Summer Showcase in Benson, and yes it was fun but scheduling issues also made for disappointments. The first act I saw was 20 minutes late to start. The second act was more than a half-hour late. That meant missing a band that I otherwise would have caught. But I guess those things are to be expected when you’re juggling five venues and around 30 bands.

Touch People at The Barley Street, OEA Summer Showcase, June 9, 2012.

Touch People at The Barley Street, OEA Summer Showcase, June 9, 2012.

Highlights of the evening were Under Water Dream Machine at The Sydney and, of course, Touch People at The Barley Street Tavern. UWDM was backed by two musicians, giving his songs the backing meat they need to work on stage. Bret Vovk has a perfect stage voice on songs that feel like upbeat Simon and Garfunkel pop folk. Keep an eye on him. Touch People a.k.a. Darren Keen’s frenetic electronic music is both throbbing and jittery, chaotic and groovy, with the added attraction of Keen’s unique brand of humor. It’s impossible to not be entertained.

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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

Live Review: The Mynabirds, Big Harp…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:13 pm March 26, 2012
The Mynabirds at The Waiting Room, March 23, 2012.

The Mynabirds at The Waiting Room, March 23, 2012.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I don’t know if that’s supposed to be a fox or a coyote or a wolf plopped upon Laura Burhenn’s lovely head. For you vegans in the audience wondering, it’s not real, though the spirit of it is (However, it would have been even more effective had it been a griz head, just like ol’ Bear Claw’s in Jeremiah Johnson). Everywhere she goes these days, Burhenn is photographed with that stuffed animal on her noggin, representing, what… rebellion? or the death of it, because nothing says futility more than the head of a dead animal balanced on your head, even if it resembles a plush toy.

Still, the crowd loves it, and when Burhenn put it on again at the end of the show, they went nuts, so I guess we all better get used to seeing it. If anything, it represents Burhenn’s new music, or her departure from the old(er) stuff from her debut. Friday night at The Waiting Room was the first time I’d heard any of it, and my impression is that she’s taken a hard right turn toward drama — even stoicism — on stage. All those months backing Conor on last year’s Bright Eyes tour pumped up the “importance” of her approach, as evidenced by her announcement about three songs into her set that her new album, Generals, is a a protest album with “a lot of anger.” She seems to have volunteered to take on the role as front piece for a movement that isn’t terribly well defined, but that she’s very serious about, and you should be too, even though a lot of what I heard Friday night sounded like love songs.

According to the press release, the forthcoming album, which arrives in June, “is both a protest record and concept album. It’s fueled by a full decade of Burhenn’s political frustration and aimed at finding a revolutionary yet pacifist way in a world where, these days, it seems warring comes quick.” The record is “filled with armies of stomps and claps, sweeping full spectrum orchestrations, and moments that range from intensely personal pleas to shout-out-loud protests with teeth.” For me, the best protest music is more subtle than that. Dylan’s best moments are met through metaphor. And some of the best ’60s political commentary is outlined in humor. Even Conor’s best political statements are draped in clever irony (“When the President Talks to God,” is an obvious example). Go too far with it, and you risk sounding too self-serious or preachy. Whether Burhenn suffers that pitfall, I’ll withhold judgement until I hear the record.

That said, such earnestness was marked as much by Burhenn’s between-song patter as the songs themselves, which you couldn’t really absorb from the stage Friday night. At one point, Burhenn congratulated the crowd for their support in getting the LGBT ordinance passed by the City Council, but added that the fight isn’t over yet, and that we’ll all be hearing more about it in the future. Yes, indeed. Despite the politics, most of the evening was dedicated to music and Burhenn’s new band. Gone are all the original members that hailed from Omaha — Johnny Kotchian, Dan McCarthy, Pearl Lovejoy Boyd, Ben Brodin and Alex McManus. I don’t know the story behind their departure, but have been told it had to do with touring availability. I can’t seem to find a listing of the new band members anywhere, but will say they all had the tact and talent of veteran support folks or session players. None of them stood out, but all were competent. This galvanizes the idea that The Mynabirds is fully a Laura Burhenn project. If so, why not just go by the name “Laura Burhenn,” especially if you intend to put your politics out front?

Look, I realize I’m asking more questions than providing a review. Musically, it all sounded fine. The new stuff  seemed less orchestrated and more poppy than the songs heard on the first album (which as a result, is a record I’ve come to appreciate even more). It’s too early to say if there will be a song on the new album as gorgeous as “Right Place” or as sing-along fun as “Numbers Don’t Lie.” Burhenn seems destined to be compared to Jenny Lewis, whose own music feels less constrained and more easy-going than Burhenn’s. But then again, Lewis isn’t a self-proclaimed writer of protest songs.

Opening band Big Harp continued on the hard(er) electric path that I briefly heard unveiled in Austin at SXSW. If you liked the simple acoustic two-step of songs like “Goodbye Crazy City,” you might be disappointed with the new blues explosion approach that recalls The Black Keys more than, say, Justin Townes Earle or Willie Nelson. Luckily, frontman/guitarist Chris Senseney has more than enough guitar and vocal prowess to pull it off and give Dan Auerbach a run for his money.

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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

Column 286: In the shadow of the sponsor; no CVS (The 49’r lives?); Capgun Coup, Poison Control Center tonight…

Category: Column,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:47 pm September 1, 2010
Built to Spill at the Slowdown Block Party, Aug. 27, 2010.

Built to Spill performs at Slowdown Aug. 27 under the watchful gaze of their sponsor.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Column 286: Under the Moon, Under the Stars

Live Review: Built to Spill, She & Him.

The best thing about outdoor concerts: Even if you can’t stand a single note of the music, all you have to do is look up, overhead, and there’s something worth seeing.

Of course that wasn’t necessary this past weekend at two of the summer’s most anticipated indie concerts, both held under the black ocean of night, lit only by streetlight, stage light, star light and eventually, moonlight.

In the case of the Slowdown Block Party — held in the venue’s parking lot Friday night — there also was advertising light in the form of massive stenciled floods that blared “TOYOTA aNTiCS” — the primary event sponsor and the reason you didn’t need to pay to get into the show. Parked throughout the lot was Toyota’s line of economy cars “tricked out” to make the young, ultra-hip audience covet them. It’s all about demographics, my friend, which we would hear more about from stage later.

In this era when the dying shell of the music industry continues to decay before our very eyes, it’s sponsors like Toyota that are helping prop up the carcass. There was a time when bands and their fans would consider such blatant commercial “opportunities” as “selling out” — an inexcusable crossing of the line between art and commerce. In the old days (just 10 years ago) any respectable indie band would have taken one look at that aNTiCS sign, packed up its gear and left. But these days gigantic sponsor banners are the norm at music festivals, while most indie bands would kill their publicist and/or booking agent just for a chance to get their music used in a Toyota commercial. Selling out, it seems, is just good business.

But I digress.

When I joined the crowd of around 2,000 just after 9 p.m., The Mynabirds were finishing their set as the last remnants of daylight waned. Laura Burhenn’s band sported a new cello player tucked neatly behind the front-stage vocalists. As is the case with almost every cello I’ve seen at a rock show, you could barely hear it except at the quietest moments. There was a time when it seemed like every indie band was trying to work a cello into its line-up, including noise-makers like Cursive. But slowly they all got the drift, and cellos began to disappear. Until now.

A stroll around the grounds between sets revealed beer tents, food tents and merch tents mingled among the little Toyotas. You don’t realize the enormity of Slowdown’s parking lot until you’re at this kind of event. It easily could hold a few thousand more music — or sports — fans. In the shadow of the half-constructed TD Ameritrade Park, imagine all the money that will be rolling in during the College World Series next spring, and every spring thereafter. Enough money to “make their year” and allow Slowdown to host more concerts like this one, but without the tacky sponsors.

The Mynabirds were followed by another Saddle Creek band, The Rural Alberta Advantage, whose dusty backbeat hoedown fare makes them a strange fit for the label (though their new material sounded promising). Finally, on came Doug Martsch and Built to Spill. With his stringy hair and big, crazy graying beard, Martsch looked like he just walked out of a survivalist compound. Tough his Neil Young-meets-Kermit the Frog voice can’t hit the high notes on crowd faves like “Time Trap,” Martsch can still shred like few others in the indie world. And when joined by two other axemen, Built to Spill becomes a Fender-powered rocket at lift-off.

Too often, however, the songs turned into extended jam sessions — great stuff if you’re a guitar enthusiast, boring for anyone else. It was between jams that guitarist Brett Netson let loose on the night’s sponsor, angrily warning the crowd that they had been defined as “a demographic.” “I wonder who’s sponsoring this show,” Netson snarled. “What kind of car do you want to buy? A used one.” Hope they got paid up front.

The following night outside along the river a different kind of star took the stage at The Anchor Inn. It was movie star Zooey Deschanel — the she in She & Him — who’s had her own fling with selling out, acting in a TV commercial where she sings about how Cotton is the “fabric of my life”– a jingle that would fit comfortably on the latest She & Him album.

Fortunately, Zooey didn’t sing about her love for natural fibers Saturday night. Instead, she and M. Ward (“Him”) played a selection from their two Merge records. Deschanel indeed has a sweet voice. But you wonder if she would be singing in front of 1,600 people if not for her film career. At its best, her voice is second-round American idol pitchy, especially on an ill-conceived Beach Boys cover. Still, Deschanel and Ward are smart for taking on a retro ’60s girl-group pop style that’s both musically and lyrically risk free. But while Ward and the entire band are talented, there was something strangely inauthentic about their retro sound in a way that only a freed Phil Spector could decipher.

The crowd of mostly women, however, could have cared less about authenticity as they drank their watermelons and bobbed their heads to the milquetoast beat, while the rest of us leaned back on the banks of the Missouri River and looked up as a burnt orange new moon slowly rose in the northeastern sky.

* * *

A terrible summer  head cold kept me away from The Waiting Room last night for Crooning for Kat — figured I shouldn’t ruin everyone’s night by infecting them with my pestilence.  I hope all of Greater Omaha made it out, and that Kat’s quickly on her way back to good health.

* * *

I bet the hot topic of conversation last night at TWR (other than Kat) was the Omaha City Council yesterday rejecting the request by CVS Pharmacy to build a new store at 49th and Dodge, the current location of The 49’r (story & video here). So I guess that means The 49’r will live on, right? Right? Did Mark Samuelson, who owns the Niner, hope to put the bar to bed? One would assume so, since CVS couldn’t have developed the property unless Samuelson wanted to sell it. Looks like he’s lost his buyer, which also makes one assume that The 49’r will indeed live on… until Samuelson finds another buyer.

* * *

Tonight at The Waiting Room it’s Capgun Coup with Conchance featuring Black Johnny Quest, and Dojorok and Kethro. $5, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, down at Slowdown Jr., it’s the return of Poison Control Center with Talking Mountain. $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 © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Photos from the weekend; Seafarer meets goal; Canby, Ember Schrag at The Bemis tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 1:40 pm August 30, 2010
Built to Spill at The Slowdown Block Party, Aug. 27, 2010.

Built to Spill at The Slowdown Block Party, Aug. 27, 2010.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

The full review of this weekend’s outdoor shows — the Slowdown Block Party and She & Him at The Anchor Inn — will be online as this week’s column on Wednesday. Until then, here is a selection of photos taken at the shows.

The Mynabirds at The Slowdown Block Party, Aug. 27, 2010.

The Mynabirds at The Slowdown Block Party, Aug. 27, 2010.

The Rural Alberta Advantage at The Slowdown Block Party, Aug. 27, 2010.

The Rural Alberta Advantage at The Slowdown Block Party, Aug. 27, 2010.

She & Him at The Anchor Inn, Aug. 28, 2010.

She & Him at The Anchor Inn, Aug. 28, 2010.

* * *

Update: The Seafarer Kickstarter project met its $3,500 fund-raising goal. Shooting for the film, that will include music by local bands, will begin in the next couple of weeks. More info about the film is available at seafarerfilm.com.

* * *

Envy Corp drummer Scott Yoshimura’s side project, Canby, is playing tonight at The Waiting Room. Opening is Skypiper and Pictures of Then. $7, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, Ember Schrag will be performing at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, Gallery 2, along with Baltimore’s Daniel Higgs, The Chiara String Quartet and Carnal Torpor. $6 members, $8 non-members. Doors open at 7.

* * *
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 © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Kweller, It’s True round out MAHA; Our Fox tonight, Criteria Saturday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:53 pm May 21, 2010

Catching up on some “news” after being out of town all week on bizness…

The MAHA Music Festival folks announced last Tuesday that Ben Kweller and local boys It’s True will round out the “TD Ameritrade” main stage line-up, and that Saddle Creek’s newest band, The Mynabirds, have been added to the Kum & Go small stage line-up, along with Satchel Grande and the winner of this coming Monday night’s talent show at The Slowdown as well as the winner of another talent contest to be held in Benson next month.

Kweller, a 28-year-old singer/songwriter, toured with Ben Folds and Ben Lee (who remembers him other than Jim Minge?) in 1993.  His C&W-inspired 2008 album Changing Horses (ATO Records) peaked at No. 92 on the Billboard charts, which means, yes, he’s significantly under the radar for a national act and as such is a perfect fit for this festival, whose headliners also include Spoon, Old 97’s, The Faint and Superchunk. Will the addition of Kweller help sell more tickets? I would guess maybe 500, which is significant considering a successful festival is the sum of the all its parts.

It’s True, who has a new album and has played around Omaha a lot this year, was an insignificant addition from a sales perspective (but not from a fun perspective). “We decided that It’s True! was better than any other band we were looking at getting, so why not just book them,” said festival organizer Tre Brashear in an e-mail. “If our other five main stage artists (+ Satchel + Mynabirds) can’t sell enough tickets, then we’ve got problems that a sixth ‘smaller’ main stage band from somewhere else wasn’t going to solve. Plus, we think it would be cool to give them the opportunity to play in front of Mac (MacCaughan) and Laura (Ballance, both from Superchunk and the proprietors of indie powerhouse record label Merge Records). Plus, we just like them.”

You can’t argue with that logic. Now look for MAHA posters to start popping up around town.

Lets get to this weekend…

Our Fox is playing tonight at The Barley Street Tavern with McCarthy Trenching, Love of Everything and probably one other band. According to Our Fox’s Ryan Fox, “Love of Everything is Bobby Burg (who plays in a bunch of Chicago bands including Make Believe and Joan of Arc), and his wife, Elisse. They’re doing a Daytrotter session and stopping here as part of a brief midwest tour.” Their record label is cleverly (if not confusingly) called Record Label.

Fox added that “Ben Brodin (drummer in Our Fox, guitarist in The Mynabirds, drummer/guitarist/etc in McCarthy Trenching, Mal Madrigal, etc.) recorded an LP, Methods of the Mad, under the moniker Before the Toast and Tea, which was released on Bocca Lupo Recordings (which was started by Steve Bartolomei). He’ll probably have a few records on hand to sell as well.” $5, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, Landing on the Moon is opening for the Jes Winter Band at The Waiting Room, along with Lonely Estates and Rock Paper Dynamite. $7, 9 p.m.

And the band that win’s today’s award for “best name,” Peace of Shit, is playing at O’Leaver’s with Watching the Trainwreck and Forbidden Tigers. $5, 9 p.m.

Saturday night’s marquee show is Criteria at The Waiting Room with Ladyfinger and Masses. So who’s Masses? Even Criteria’s Stephen Pedersen didn’t know. Thankfully, Masses member Eric Nyffeler emailed to say that the band is from Lincoln and “this is only the second or third time we’ve played in Omaha, so not a lot of people know who we are.” The few tracks that I’ve heard from the band are instrumental and are brazenly mathy and bombastic. Masses members are Jon Augustine, Shane Brandt, Mike Vandenberg and Nyffeler. $8, 9 p.m. This one will be crowded.

Also Saturday night, The Beat Seekers (Keith from The Fonzarellies) are playing at Slowdown Jr. with Scott Severin and the Milton Burlesque and Whipkey/Zimmerman. $8, 9 p.m.

Lazy-i

Live Review: So-So Sailors, Jeremy Messersmith, The Mynabirds…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 6:35 pm May 3, 2010

I came to see Jeremy Messersmith, the crowd came to see The Mynabirds, but it was So-So Sailors that everyone was talking about after the show Saturday night at Slowdown Jr.

The room was only about half-full when Messersmith took the stage for a solo-acoustic set. In most cases, I’d be bummed about a solo set, especially from someone like Messersmith whose records are some of my favorites and are generally played with a full band. But business is business these days, and it’s expensive to haul a band around with you on tour (especially when no one knows who you are). Messersmith made the most of it, augmenting his guitar and voice with a series of effects pedals that nicely filled out the songs — magical pedals that created the effect of two-, three-, four-part harmony, pedals that provided rhythm tracks and pedals that created loops of vocals and guitar lines, all brought together like a modern-day one-man band. Even when he didn’t use the doo-dads, I enjoyed what I heard. Messersmith is an amazing songwriter who has a gift for creating gorgeous melodies and monster sing-along hooks. He also has a huge, high voice (imagine Ben Gibbard if Ben Gibbard could really sing). In addition to playing tunes off his new album and my favorite, The Silver City (download it now at jeremymessersmith.com), Messersmith did two covers — a Red House Painters-style version of “Norwegian Wood,” and his take on The Replacements’ “Skyway” (which also appears on Silver City). We need to get him back here soon (see photo), but with a full band and big amps to drown out the sea of audience chit-chat.

By the time he was done, the room was near capacity. I have no idea if this show was a sell-out, but it was a crush-mob. Next was the stage debut of So-So Sailors, a local supergroup of sorts, anchored by Chris Machmuller (Ladyfinger) on vocals and piano, Dan McCarthy (McCarthy Trenching) on Wurlitzer, Alex McManus (The Bruces) on guitar, Brendan Greene-Walsh (O’Leaver’s) on bass and the former drummer for Bloodcow (whose name I don’t know (Edit: It’s Dan Kemp)).

With Mach on the front end, I guess I was expecting something harsh, uptempo and loud. Instead we got slow, quiet and pretty. Beautiful at times; edgy and proggy at others.  The faster, louder songs fell in line with the slowest moments of Ladyfinger. It was all very moody for the most part and different than anything that any of these guys have done before. Definitely not what I or probably anyone was expecting.  One thing’s for certain, with this band — and this laid-back style of music — Mach has absolutely nowhere to hide. His voice is fully exposed for all to hear. It’s a cool (if not unsteady) voice that sounds like a sleepy, Midwestern version of Roger Waters on songs that often start with Mach playing piano one-handed only to gradually build to a pounding finish. Quite a debut, and quite a buzz afterward (see really lousy photo).

Finally, there was The Mynabirds. I think I made clear in my interview and in the blog that I really like their album, but I wasn’t sure if it would translate well live. The record is a real hodge-podge of styles made popular by some very familiar indie female artists. One song (“Ways of Looking”) sounds EXACTLY like a Mazzy Star tune, complete with droopy guitar line and morning-after vocals. At other times, Laura Burhenn sounds like Jenny Lewis, other times like Chan Marshall of Cat Power, other times like Maria or Orenda, and so on. So while entertaining, I’m still not quite sure I know who Burhenn really sounds like (despite what Pitchfork says). I’m not convinced that she’s defined her own style, yet. The arrangements on the recording are very, very good, but could they pull them off on stage without horns? And how would Burhenn compare to someone like Jenny Lewis, who owns a stage from entrance to exit? Could Burhenn bring out her inner-diva, or would she just stand behind her keyboard all night.

Well, in the end, she did pull it off, though she never strayed from that tiny spot behind her keyboard stand. Playing as a five piece, the music obviously lost some of the dynamic edge heard on the CD, but what did I expect? Burhenn was in good voice, belting out the hits, and to be honest, sounding more unique and on her own than on the record. She has a different delivery on stage — it’s bluesier, looser, more relaxed and natural. It was distinctly Burhenn (even though the person next to me still compared her to Jenny Lewis). Now if we could only get her to loosen up behind the microphone.

Lazy-i

Box Elders 7-inch; Bye-bye Lala; DL offer continues; It’s True tonight; Mynabirds, Jeremy Messersmith tomorrow…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , , , — @ 12:49 pm April 30, 2010

The Box Elder’s new 7-inch on the HOZAC label is finally in stock at the Antiquarium, according to guitarist  Jeremiah McIntyre. Get it while you can. He said the band’s new 12-inch 45 rpm EP will be coming out soon on Captured Tracks out of Brooklyn. It just keeps getting better…

* * *

My download service of choice — Lala.com — announced that it’s shutting down at the end of May. Or, more accurately, Lala is being shut down by Apple, who purchased the company last December. This is likely the first step in creating a “cloud-based” iTunes that would allow you to access your digital library from any web-connected device. If it works like Lala, then you could upload your entire digital collection “to the cloud,” which would mean you would no longer need to worry about your iPhone/iPod/iPad hard-drive limitation — as long as you had a signal (3G or Wifi) you could listen to anything in your collection. Let us pause and think about the implications of this. Again: Upload entire collection once, access from any Wifi/3G-connected device. Hmmm… Details.

* * *

The Digital Leather $15 early-download + vinyl offer continues despite the fact that the band met its $600 goal in less than a day. “We’re putting a cap on the number that we send out,” DL says. “No more than 150 vinyls with special covers will be produced… any additional funds raised will go toward additional recording equipment. Shawn has his eye on a Manley ELOP limiter, which ‘makes songs sound like heroin,’ so we’ll see how close we come to that. If not that, and probably more likely, additional funds will buy our tickets to Europe this September.” You can get in on this offer here.

* * *

Well, it’s finally here — the It’s True CD release party for the band’s debut full-length. Joining the band on the Waiting Room stage are The Haunted Windchimes (Pueblo, CO) and Omaha favorite Bear Country.

According to Jesse Stanek’s piece in The Reader, the CD is being released on Kyle Harvey’s Slo-Fi Records. As much as I like Kyle’s label, I’m disappointed that someone a bit larger didn’t pick it up. Maybe they will. Look what happened to UUVVWWZ. Their debut came out on Darren Keen’s It Are Good label before Saddle Creek committed to the band and rereleased it. What more does a label like Saddle Creek need from an act besides a quality product (though I haven’t actually heard their CD yet) and willingness to tour? It’s True seemingly could provide both.

Also tonight, Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies performs as part of a four-band bill at Slowdown that also includes Satchel Grande. $10, 8 p.m. And Capgun Coup’s Sam Martin headlines an acoustic show at The Hole with Sean Pratt, Brandon Behrens and Allen Schleich of Snake Island –the show is a benefit for the performers upcoming tour of China. $6, 7 p.m.

Tomorrow night is the Mynabirds CD release show with Jeremy Messersmith and The So-So Sailors. This show is in the Slowdown Front Room, which means it could very easily sell out. Get there early (if only to also catch Messersmith’s solo set). $8, 9 p.m. Also Saturday night, Son of 76 and The Watchmen are playing at Harrah’s Stir Lounge — one of the few local bands that I think could actually carry off a three-hour set (When is Harrah’s going to figure out that most indie bands’ sets only last (and only should last) about 35 minutes?) $5, 9 p.m.

Lazy-i

Interview: The Mynabirds’ Laura Burhenn

The Mynabirds

The Mynabirds: Zen Songs

The existential sounds of Laura Burhenn

by Tim McMahan

Sometimes you just have to let it go.

But before you do, you have to acknowledge the situation — reach a level of acceptance — and then, move on. It’s a very Zen philosophy, and it’s worked for Laura Burhenn, singer/songwriter of The Mynabirds.

She’s applied that existential attitude throughout her career, starting as a solo artist before joining with former Q and Not U frontman John Davis for indie pop act Georgie James in 2006.

Georgie James checked off most of the items on the must-do list for indie rock success. They released an album on a respected label (Saddle Creek Records), toured internationally, had their video played on MTV and performed on a late-night network talk show (Late Night with Conan O’Brien).

“From an outsider’s perspective, you see those benchmarks and check them off and say that the band was really successful,” Burhenn said last week while sipping a Manhattan on the patio at Slowdown.

But less than a year after the October 2007 release of their debut, Places, Burhenn and Davis found themselves trying to communicate through walls, before finally splitting up. “We had different ideas of what we wanted to do musically and where we wanted to go with our lives,” she said. “It made sense to do different projects. I never wanted the band to break up. I figured we might go our separate ways for awhile and come back and do another album, but it wasn’t to be.”

The Mynabirds - What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood

The Mynabirds - What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood

While Georgie James was still in full swing, Burhenn had continued writing and performing as a solo artist in her former hometown of Washington, D.C. “I had been holding back songs for the next record,” she said. “I wanted to write a record about reflective consciousness, something really political and heady. I was trying to mathematically work out this symphony.”

But Burhenn knew after recording demos that the concept was too complicated and wasn’t going to work. Wanting to make a complete break from her Georgie James past, Burhenn was convinced by friend and fellow musician Orenda Fink to move to Omaha in the fall of 2008 and to also join her on tour as a keyboard player and backing vocalist for Fink’s project, O+S.

“That experience was totally life changing,” Burhenn said. “Orenda’s a songwriter that isn’t afraid to approach music as art.”

When Burhenn returned from the tour, she threw out almost everything she had been working on and started over. She took her new material to the Oregon studio of personal musical hero Richard Swift, a singer/songwriter whose 2007 album, Dressed Up for a Let Down, was a huge inspiration. “The first time I met (Saddle Creek label chief) Robb Nansel I said, ‘You have to hear this record. It’s amazing.’ And he kind of laughed and told me that Saddle Creek put it out overseas.”

The label facilitated connecting Burhenn and Swift, and the two finally met at the South by Southwest Festival in 2009, where they agreed to collaborate on her record, with Swift focusing on the arrangements and the two playing almost all the instruments. Joining them on the recording was Fink, musician/engineer/producer AJ Mogis; Tom Hnatow (These United States) on pedal steel; and Nate Walcott (Bright Eyes), who arranged the horns.

The result was What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood, a 10-song collection of rootsy, gospel-influenced songs about love, loss and resolution that reflects soberly on the past but looks forward with a glass-half-full optimism.

Among the opening numbers is the piano-pounding rocker “Let the Record Show.” With the lines “Let the record show, you gave a real good fight / And let the record show, so did I,” the song is an after-the-fact account of a relationship gone wrong.

The Mynabirds Laura Burhenn

"The album is a very simple story about loss and recovery.”

“It’s the most cathartic song on the record,” Burhenn said, acknowledging its thematic connection to Georgie James. “The idea is that it’s not going to help anyone holding onto a terrible experience. It says, ‘I don’t know what happened here, but I’ll figure it out eventually. Let it go.’ It’s about forgiveness.”

That healing theme continues with the dense, gorgeous heart-breaker “Right Place,” that looks back at a failed relationship, and closes with the line “I haven’t changed my mind, God knows I tried.” Burhenn said it was the last song written for the album.

“Until I wrote it, I didn’t think I had a song in this whole story that made peace with anything. That song went there,” she said. “There’s something sad and kind of mean at the end, but resigned. I tried to sing it from my perspective as well as imagining John Davis singing that song. The idea that we tried our best, it didn’t work, and it’s where it needs to be.

“The album is a very simple story about loss and recovery,” Burhenn concluded. “I turn to music to lift me out of dark times.”

With the album in the can, Burhenn said other labels were interested in releasing it, but that she stayed with Saddle Creek Records despite reservations she would be “mixing business with pleasure.”

“I was thinking, ‘These are my friends who I’ve grown to love. Is this healthy?’ But then I thought why wouldn’t I want to put out a record with people I trust and admire? Saddle Creek puts out records that they love or by people that they love. I always admired Saddle Creek because it’s like a found family.”

Burhenn once again looked to Orenda Fink to help put together yet another found family — her touring band The Mynabirds. The group is a who’s who of Omaha talent that includes Johnny Kotchian (drums), Dan McCarthy (bass and vocals), Pearl Lovejoy Boyd (vocals), Ben Brodin (guitars and vocals), and Alex McManus (guitars, horns, and vocals). Plans call for a short northeast tour in early June, followed by a full U.S. tour later in the year.

The Mynabirds play with The So-So Sailors and Jeremy Messersmith, Saturday, May 1, at Slowdown, 729 No. 14th St. Showtime is 9 p.m. Admission is $8. For more information, visit theslowdown.com.

Lazy-i