Column 20: Donovan Vs. the Goat; Ranch Bowl rumors; Handsome Boy tonight

Category: Blog — @ 12:23 pm April 7, 2005

A few notes before we get to this week’s column. It appears that someone identifying himself as Ranch Bowl operator Mike Brannan has posted on SLAM Omaha — Omaha’s music scene gossip board — that the Ranch Bowl will finally be closed and torn down. “Yes, we have made a deal to redevelop the site, it was finalized Monday,” posts mb/ranchbowl. “Closing details will be released as known and we will share them asap… I look forward to putting the first proper mid sized music venue online in Omaha. I think it’s long overdue…” Apparently plans to renovate the old facility were scrapped because they “lacked the local goodwill required for us to make the additional investments required.”

If it’s true (and everything seems to indicate that it is), it could mean some big changes for the Omaha music scene. Rumors have been rumbling that Brannan has already identified a downtown site for a new mid-sized music venue (and he also recently purchased Caffeine Dreams at 45th and Farnam). Add to that talk of yet another new indie-rock venue being announced this month by another developer and you have a veritable music revolution on your hands… More to come.

Tonight, Handsome Boy Modeling School with Buck 65 and Rondo Brothers at Sokol Underground. I’m told that this version of Handsome will include Prince Paul and Dan “The Automator” Nakamura, which make this a must-see show for any alt hip-hop fan. Interestingly, the Handsome Boy site says the show will be held at Sokol Aud, but I’m told it will, in fact, be down in the Underground. This is an early one: 8 p.m., $15.

Speaking of Sokol, this week’s column is a tale spun from last week’s Mountain Goats show, drawn from a number of sources, not the least of which is Matt Whipkey, mentioned in the column.

Column 20: When Donovan Goes a Goatin’
The rock legend gets shunned from the Sokol stage.

So if you’re a touring band, do you drop what you’re doing and let a guest musician climb up on stage? What if it’s psychedelic-rock legend Donovan?

That’s the question that indie band The Mountain Goats had to answer last week during their set at Sokol Underground, and heated arguments about what’s right and wrong — and what’s good rock ‘n’ roll etiquette — have been firing up ever since.

Seems Donovan — penner of hippy anthem “Mellow Yellow” — had a day off in Omaha the evening before his March 31 gig with John Mellencamp at the Qwest Center. While chilling in the Old Market at La Buvette, he struck up a conversation with a couple local ladies, who mentioned that they were headed over to Sokol for the Mountain Goats show. Donovan decided to tag along.

Once there, the long-haired legend immediately began making friends, talking to anyone willing to talk to him. A number of folks told me that Donovan was the happy-go-lucky child of the Flower Power generation that you’d expect him to be.

Things turned ugly, however, when Donovan’s tour manager, “Stuart,” decided it would be a good idea to get him on stage to grace the audience of about 200 with a few of his golden oldies. The idea was proffered to John Darnielle and the Mountain Goats, who had just finished their set. They passed on the idea as they were busy hocking T-shirts from the front of the stage. That sent ol’ Stuart — who I’m told looked and sounded like he just walked off the set of Spinal Tap — right into orbit, reportedly telling the Goats that they were “f—ing negative, man,” and that offering the stage to a fellow traveling musician was part of an unspoken code.

When I heard the story the next day — April 1 — I figured it was another Fool’s Day scam. But then I heard it from another person, and another, and another — all livid that The Goats wouldn’t let Donovan do his thing.

Were the Goats out of line? My take is that it was their call whether or not to make room for the guest star. Sure, they could have easily moved their T-shirt operations to the back of the room. Sure, it probably would have made for a very special evening. But the Goats didn’t feel like sharing the stage, and it was, after all, their show. Would Donovan have offered Darnielle and company the same courtesy the next night at The Qwest Center?

Well, the story doesn’t end there. Afterward, Donovan and Stuart were looking for a ride back to the Hilton when along came Anonymous American frontman Matt Whipkey and his van. Whipkey says Donovan, Stuart and the ladies all jumped in and high-tailed it back to the Hilton, where they enjoyed drinks in the lounge with Mellencamp guitarist Andy York. After closing the bar, York suggested everyone go upstairs to continue the party. “Donovan said, ‘Yeah, man, you can play us a song,'” Whipkey said.

Before long, Donovan pulled out a harmonica and the three musicians jammed until the wee hours. “He was extremely nice and wanted to talk about songwriting,” Whipkey said. “It’s the kind of conversation you don’t get into with other musicians, and I was more than happy to hear any advice he had to offer.”

Whipkey said that playing his songs for Donovan and York stands as one of the highlights of his career. “I was certainly star struck,” he said. “Afterward, I went home and looked at my Beatles anthology and there was Donovan with John Lennon and Keith Moon. He certainly has a place in rock history.”

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