Live Review: Brad Hoshaw; Cursive’s bargain basement bonanza; Ladyfinger tonight…

Category: Blog — @ 6:36 pm March 2, 2009

As I prepare for my trek to South By Southwest this year I’m considering all the bands from Omaha as well as the rest of the country that are headed to Austin for reasons that I’m not entirely sure of. When SXSW first started a few decades ago it was to provide a stage for unsigned bands that hoped to get signed, or so the legend goes. These days SXSW is nothing more than five nights of label showcases. Every band performing already has a label, a publicist, a booking agent, etc. SXSW has become a vacation option for us media people who want to check out bands that they may not have a chance to see elsewhere. Nothing more. So why do signed bands want to play the festival? Certainly not for the pay. Exposure? Probably…

I say this because if SXSW still had its original mission, no other Omaha band would be better suited to play the festival than Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies. Hoshaw doesn’t have a label or a publicist or a booking agent. An appearance at SXSW could trigger a bidding war for the guy — if this were the ’80s and labels still had serious A&R guys who searched out talent to bolster their rosters. Hoshaw’s music — specifically on his new CD — has a rare, timeless quality that I haven’t heard in long time. What I mean by this: I can’t remember when I first heard Simon and Garfunkel’s “Cecilia,” because to me the song seems to have always existed. A song like “Gone in a Minute” — the best track on Hoshaw’s new album — has that same quality. It’s a pristine pop song that will fit perfectly on anyone’s mix CD, the kind of song whose melody sticks in your head and that you automatically hum along with the next time you hear it.

Hoshaw would be the perfect guy for just about any record label. He has a unique voice, is a prolific songwriter, is young and unencumbered and willing to tour. And although I don’t know if he’s interested or not, from a publishing standpoint his music is perfect for screened-media (TV, film, advertising). He’s reliable and as far as I know doesn’t have a drug or alcohol problem. And he’s a nice guy (not that that ever mattered in the music business). If I had a label, I’d sign him and figure out a way to leverage all of those qualities into $$$. It could be done.

I was thinking all of this Saturday night at Hoshaw’s sold-out CD release show at Slowdown Jr. He gave his usual spot-on performance (despite his songs’ crazy range, I’ve never seen him blow a vocal melody, ever) as did his band (Whipkey continues to define himself as one of the best guitar soloists in the area). The show and his CD is a culmination of a lot of work, and is part of an ongoing musical discovery that I personally made a year ago this past January. I’d like to see Brad continue it all the way to the national exposure that he and his music deserves. Despite how much he deserves it, though, I don’t know if it’ll ever happen. Making it in the music world takes more than talent and a strong work ethic. It takes timing and luck and a million other intangibles that we’ll never know about. I don’t want this CD release show to be his high-water mark. I don’t want this album be remembered 10 years from now as another strong local record that never made it out of Nebraska.

* * *

If you don’t already know by now, Saddle Creek Records and Cursive are offering a 320 kbps download of Mama, I’m Swollen at bargain basement prices. If you act today at, you can download the new record for just $2. Had you acted yesterday (as those who follow my Twitter feed know), you could have gotten it for $1. Tomorrow the download is $3, then $4 on the 4th and so on until the official release date March 10.

I spoke with someone the night of the Hoshaw show who thought the new Cursive album was a dud. I hadn’t heard it yet, so I couldn’t respond. After spending yesterday with it, I can say it’s the best Cursive album since Domestica (Yes, I like it better than The Ugly Organ). Is there an inevitable convergence in writing style between Cursive and The Good Life? I think that’s going to be a common perception by those who think that Cursive songs are loud and acidic while Good Life songs are more melodic (That criticism was even more appropriate for Happy Hollow). It’s hard to argue against someone who thinks “From the Hips” would fit on a GL album. That said, there’s a relentlessly stark quality about this record that defines it as a Cursive album. That dark energy is encapsulated on the closer, “What Have I Done?” which could become Kasher’s “Purple Rain” — a perfect closer for any show. This is a terrific record.

* * *

Tonight at O’Leaver’s, madness in the form of Ladyfinger. On stage. Live. The last time you’ll get to see them before they head off into the wilderness we call the road. Opening is Bazooka Shootout. $5, 9:30 p.m. You want in? Get there early.

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