Column 106 — Wishing in Stereo; the amusing Ladyfinger, The Good Life Pt. 1…

Category: Blog — @ 11:39 am December 21, 2006

Every year as part of its hard-hitting coverage of the holiday season, The Reader does a “holiday wishes” article where they go out and ask local celebs (The Mayor, Todd & Tyler, whoever will talk to them) what their “wish” is for the new year. This was my contribution to the theme — a reflection on what we have, topped off with a pointless wish that’ll never come true…

Column 106: Wishing in Stereo
We’ve got everything here, but…

Always striving to be a team player, I thought I’d add to the wishful discussion of The Reader’s annual “holiday wishes” issue. But when I sat down to write this column, there was one undeniable problem. From an indie music perspective, there really isn’t that much to wish for. We’ve got it pretty good here in ol’ Omaha.

I’ve done my fair share of traveling around the country, whether for work or pleasure. And whenever I’ve had the chance I’ve gone out of my way to check out the local music scenes in these far-off lands. Other than New York City and Austin, I’ve yet to find a town with as robust a music scene as Omaha’s in terms of quality local bands and the chance to hear the best touring acts.

There are probably more than 100 active original local bands in Omaha. Sure, most of them suck, but a lot of them are pretty freakin’ good and more than a few have garnered a national following thanks to terrific songwriting, first-class musicianship and a strong Midwestern work ethic that puts them on the road for weeks at a time despite financial (and mental) risk. Eventually they always come home to roost — usually around the holiday season — just like The Faint and Bright Eyes and The Good Life have for the past two weeks. The Good Life doesn’t have to play three nights at three different local venues. The Faint didn’t have to do two back-to-back nights at Sokol and Bright Eyes and Simon Joyner and Alex McManus didn’t have to do a benefit concert for The Bemis. But they do and they did and we’re all better for it.

So what else do we really need? More music venues? We’ve got plenty already, with new ones waiting in the wings. Get out your piggies and count: O’Leaver’s, Saddle Creek Bar, The 49’r, Mick’s, Sokol Underground and Auditorium, The Scottish Rite Hall, as well as the clubby West Omaha venues like Shag and Shea Riley’s and upscale theater spaces like The Holland Center, The Orpheum, The Music Hall and The Qwest Center. What more could you ask for? An all-ages club? Perhaps, perhaps… but your wishes should be grounded in at least a hint of reality. It would take either an ageless core of organizers who would never outgrow the venue or a good-hearted millionaire to make one work. We’re lacking in both. Even still, there’s Sokol and the Mosiac Center and The Rock.

How about good independent music stores? We’ve got that covered as well, with Homer’s, Drastic Plastic, The Antiquarium, Zero Street, Leola’s, and Kanesville across the river, to name a few. Now all we need to do is patronize them. Quit being a bunch of cheapjack hustlers and buy your music at the indies instead of saving a couple bucks at the faceless box stores. A dollar spent at an indie record store is a dollar spent supporting your music scene, because the guy or gal behind the counter most likely is someone in a local band trying to scrounge up enough bread to go back on tour, buy a new guitar or pay for studio time.

So let’s do an inventory: We’ve got the bands, the venues, the music stores. What else could I possibly wish for? Amidst all this wealth, I don’t want to sound greedy, but I do have a wish:

I wish there was just one good radio station in this town. But that’s not really a wish, that’s asking for a miracle.

I know that the lack of real college radio is aging me way before my time, forcing me to listen to the dispatches from the End-of-the-World News Team at NPR or the droning, pointless back-and-forth nattering of sports talk radio. There are no other options. Retro FM is a bizarre life-support system for those who desperately want to hold onto the memories of a time when they had hopes and dreams and could enjoy new and unfamiliar things. And while the quality of that old time rock ‘n’ roll will never be heard again, feeding at that trough will only make you lose sight of the younger world around you, turn your hair gray and eventually transform you into that guy that calls the cops whenever he hears someone else having a better time than himself. I don’t want to be that guy.

I’m tired of listening to Internet radio on my tiny computer speakers. Satellite radio sucks — it’s the box store of broadcasting devoid of local color and personality. And The River doesn’t count. Yes, the station is run by a college, but their programming is modeled after commercial goon rock/metal radio, not the College Music Journal (CMJ) or traditional college music.

God, how badly this town — this hub of the indie music work — needs a good college radio station that plays new, fresh, intelligent music from the CMJ charts. I’m tired of hearing how it’s not financially viable, how there is no audience for college music. We live in Indie Central, people. We as a city are known nationally for our indie music, and we can’t hear it on our airwaves. We can’t support a real college music station? For fuck’s sake, has anyone tried? When a far-sighted pioneer finally does take the plunge, the beneficiaries will be our venues, our music stores and all of our local bands who can’t get heard on the radio today. And, of course, this poor, aging music critic who ain’t too proud to beg.

The always amusing fellows from Ladyfinger were interviewed for British e-zine Drowned in Sound in support of the release of Heavy Hands over there Jan. 29. I think Chris took the interview a bit less seriously than Ethan, judging by this exchange.

What’s your favourite childhood memory?
Chris: Hangin’ out at Mel’s diner with Richie, Potsie, Ralph and Fonzie.
Ethan: My family had a creek/stream in our backyard when I was a kid. My younger brother and I practically lived there building forts and having a blast just being kids.

Read the whole thing here.

Tonight is the first of three nights of The Good Life’s Eastern Nebraska tour. It kicks off at The Saddle Creek Bar at 9 p.m. with openers Art in Milan (formerly Art Bell) and Coyote Bones. $7. See you at the show.

–Got comments? Post ’em here.

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