Throwback Friday: Live Review: The Postal Service from 2003…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 10:54 am December 9, 2022
Postal Service at Sokol Underground, April 26, 2003.

by Tim McMahan,

Yesterday, The Postal Service and Death Cab for Cutie announced a 2023 co-headlining tour to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the release of PS’s Give Up and DC’s Transatlanticism. Ben Gibbard is in both bands.

“I know for a fact I will never have a year again like 2003,” Gibbard said in a press release. “The Postal Service record came out; Transatlanticism came out. These two records will be on my tombstone, and I’m totally fine with that. I’ve never had a more creatively inspired year.”

Exciting news, except that (of course) Omaha isn’t a stop on the tour, which plays Minneapolis Sept. 24 then veers to Denver for a two-day stint Sept. 26-27 at Mission Ballroom, leaving a wide open Sept. 25 date. Who knows why our fine city was overlooked, especially considering that Omaha was a tour staple 20 years ago for Death Cab for Cutie. I can’t count the number of times they played to a half-full (smoke-filled) Sokol Underground. And, of course, Jenny Lewis (who’s in Postal Service) practically lived in Omaha in the early 2000s when she was in Saddle Creek Records band Rilo Kiley.

Omaha, with its plethora of enormous stages, continues to be flyover country for the best indie tours.

Anyway, to celebrate another NOmaha event, let’s turn on the Wayback Machine and relive Omaha circa 2003, when The Postal Service played at Sokol Underground. I wrote a feature on Postal Service for The Reader in support of that show (which you can read here).

The openers, Fizzle Like a Flood a.k.a. Doug Kabourek is still making music. His latest release is a preview of his forthcoming LP, Black Walls and William Hall, which you can check out at his Bandcamp page. And despite an outdated Wiki entry that would imply he’s no longer around, Baltimore performer Cex continues to release music on his Bandcamp page, which, in addition to having his latest release from this past January, also includes his 2003 album Being Ridden, which he was supporting that night in 2003.

Now… let’s go back, back, back….

From Lazy-i, April 27, 2003

I was back in the country to make it to last night’s Postal Service / Cex show at Sokol Underground, but not quite in time to see Fizzle Like a Flood, who had just finished their opening set when I arrived. Sounds like I’ll get another chance to see them in a few weeks as they’re playing May 12 with Matt Whipkey’s new combo at The 49’r.

Next up was Cex. A disembodied voice said, “Don’t look up on the stage, I’m not gonna be up there anytime soon.” There he was, in the center of the floor surrounded by the audience, taunting people to come closer, “Don’t be pussies!” Cex, a.k.a Rjyan Kidwell, is a blond rap kid from Baltimore with a microphone and a laptop, who sounds like a cross between MC 9000 Ft. Jesus (who remembers that guy? I do.) and an angsty Trent Reznor. He spent the entire set in the crowd, trying to eke out audience participation with call-and-response lyrics, going as far as giving instructions before the song (“When I yell ‘I promise!’ you yell ‘We promise!'”) One guy I talked to likened him to a lite version (in every way possible) of Har Mar Superstar. I didn’t catch that at all. Sure, his electro-pulse hip-hop ditties all-too-often were sex driven, but for the most part, there was no over-the-top escapades, just Kidwell and his microphone, bouncing in the crowd, screaming into faces, trying to get a rise out of them. His 30-minute set was pleasant but not altogether very interesting. We’ve heard it all before.

Finally there was The Postal Service. The stage was adorned with a large bed sheet taped to the rafters, acting as a screen for the overhead projector mounted on the ceiling stage left. Unlike the recent Faint show, where the band’s videos were so good they totally consumed your attention, the video projected during The Postal Service’s set was little more than looped snippets that acted more like a screen saver or tonal visual backdrop — they didn’t distract, merely adding color to the sensual palette — images of clouds, people’s shoes, a microwave oven, someone drinking a pint of beer, etc. A guy was sitting just below the side of stage-left with a Powerbook, keyed up the vids for each song. Nothing really synched directly with the music, so if a song ran long, the vid could just cycle back and start over.

Enough about the visuals, the music was what the 250 were there to hear. Death Cab for Cutie fans had to be pleased. Fact is, The Postal Service sounds like Death Cab with a beat box and some female backing vocals. Gibbard consumes every arrangement he touches with his simple melodies and warm, cooing voice — one of the more distinctive voices in indie rock. As a result, it’s impossible not to make the comparison to Death Cab.

It was a long set — they played almost (if not every) song off their just released Sub Pop CD, Give Up. It felt more like a duo, with Gibbard and Jenny Lewis center and stage left playing in the dark (no stage lights to distract from the projector, hence no way to really see the band other than as silhouettes), and Jimmy Tamborello dimly glowing behind another Powerbook, its white Apple logo shining in the dark. Occasionally, Gibbard would step away from his microphone or set down his guitar and slap on a pair of headphones behind a kit and add some kicky drums, a microphone was set up next to it so he could sing along Don Henley style.

For a couple songs (the duet “Nothing Better” and the encore) Gibbard and Lewis did their best Neil Diamond / Barbara Streisand impersonations, trying to look lovingly into each other’s eyes while Gibbard did his typical, weird monkey dance thing. As they came to the last song of their set, something went awry with Tamborello’s Powerbook, who knows what. Gibbard kept apologizing about the computer losing power and saying, “That may be it, folks.” Lewis added, “That’s what you get when you use that high-tech computer shit.” No one in the audience knew what was going on — everything up to that point had sounded fine. After a few moments, they started playing again. Maybe he rebooted?

They came back for a one-song encore (“It’s all we have prepared for you”), a cover of Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds.” As you might expect, scenes from the 1984 Taylor Hackford romance were shown in the background — shots of Jeff Bridges and Rachel Ward making out on the beach and snorkeling. It started as a relatively straight-forward reading of the song, but Gibbard changed the ending, repeating “Take a look at me now” over and over into distortion — a nice moment.

Lazy-i, April 27, 2003

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No touring indie shows this weekend.

The Sydney has Lincoln instrumental band Turquoise Saturday night with Good Morning Midnight and Guilt Vacation. $8, 9 p.m.

And there’s a record show at fabulous O’Leaver’s this Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. that includes an “interactive vinyl experience.” Stop in for a drink and a cheeseburger and take home some tunes.

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 — 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 © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Ladyfinger, The Seen; Mynabirds’ Burhenn joins Postal Service for upcoming tour…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:49 pm February 4, 2013

Ladyfinger at The Waiting Room, Feb. 1, 2013.

Ladyfinger at The Waiting Room, Feb. 1, 2013.

by Tim McMahan,

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…

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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 EditionGive 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

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — 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 © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.