Live Review: Head of Femur, These Are Powers, Domestica; Cripple Lilies tonight…

Category: Blog — @ 5:11 pm May 26, 2007

Domestica have come into their own as the natural continuation of Mercy Rule, picking up right where that band left off earlier in the decade. They’re now a tight, confident trio, a far cry from what I heard when they first played at The Brothers about a year ago. It’s not like Heidi Ore and Jon Taylor aren’t seasoned veterans already, but for this band, they’ve decided to play only new material, not stuff from the Mercy Rule catalog. Those new songs are beginning to stand on their own, similar to the old stuff but with a new spin, thanks partially to drummer Boz Hicks, who brings a different style to their music than Ron Albertson, partially because it reflects how they’ve grown over the past five or six years.

It’s easy when writing about Domestica to simply compare them to Mercy Rule, as if everyone is already familiar with Flat Black Chronicles and Providence and God Protects Fools. Most people in The Waiting Room last night have never heard those albums. Why should they? They were released 8 or 9 years ago. Only the grizzled, seasoned Nebraska music followers remember that sound, and what would be the point of Heidi and Jon simply replicating it with a new band? There are common characteristics, however, that they can’t and shouldn’t escape, such as Heidi’s thin, sweet, girl-next-door vocals that have a way of growling or fading with emotion. In stark contrast to Jon’s white-knuckle post-punk guitar riffs, played on an ax slung practically to his knees. It is the epitome of loud-quiet-loud — loud as in the guitar and bass, quiet as in Heidi’s voice, loud as in the crashing, anthemic power ballads that they play. Domestica isn’t so much a punk band as a power-rock band born out of acts like Superchunk and Husker Du, but with an even more-defined notion of melody, hooks and dynamics. Not so much a freight train as a rollercoaster ride. I hear that they’re still talking about recording. They’ve tightened their set so much that they could probably lay down the tracks in a few days. They certainly have enough material for a full-length already.

Next up: These Are Powers. What do you call their style? New York post-punk noise dance music? The guy next to me called it artsy free-jazz Sonic Youth-inspired noodling with a touch of Yoko Ono. He also used the word “shitty,” saying that he could climb up on stage and do a better job. I liked it, but I was also in the mood to hear loud, droning, shrill, siren noises that caustically repeated the same noise-phrase over and over for six, seven, eight minutes. During the second song, they stretched that to well over 10 in what was basically a throbbing duet between drummer Ted McGrath and frontwoman/guitarist/giantess Anna Barie while bassist Pat Noecker fiddled around with his bass and amp cables, feverishly trying to fix something wrong — plugging and unplugging chords while a grip helped him move bass cabinets around the stage — it was like a performance art piece. What held it together (for me, anyway) was McGrath’s minimalist tribal drumming that was deceivingly intricate in its simplicity.

Finally, Head of Femur, who were originally supposed to play second but got moved to the headlining slot. I first saw these guys years ago as a trio, and that remains my favorite configuration. They’ve grown to five or six pieces, adding keyboards, and a violin, shifting their music to a style that — at times — leans dangerously close to jam-band fodder. They’re a terrific, tight ensemble and are tough to pin down, varying their style not only from song to song, but within songs. The most common style comparison might be to Elvis Costello, thanks to some of the up-tempo keyboard-driven songs and Matt Focht’s at times dead-on Costello vocals. Other times, however, they reminded me everything from The Allman Brothers to Phish. Quite a difference from the proggy style of their earlier years that recalled acts like Eno and Talking Heads, King Crimson and Flaming Lips. There’s still some of that in there, though it seems they’ve smoothed out and popped-up their songs to something closer to mainstream rock. Still, a lot of fun.

Tonight at Saddle Creek Bar, The Cripple Lilies with Audrey and Barn Burning. $5, 9 p.m. or Young Galaxy at The Waiting Room with Landing on the Moon. $8, 9 p.m. And don’t forget The B-52s in Papillion, if it doesn’t get rained out. 7 p.m., free.

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