Live review: Yo La Tengo, Well-Aimed-Arrows, Landing on the Moon; Mousetrap reunion; Humane Society benefit, Digital Leather/Box Elders tonight…

Category: Blog — @ 10:10 pm October 12, 2009

The sound-explosion freak-out that was last Friday night’s Yo La Tengo show at The Slowdown was absolutely epic. Like the last time they came through, this will be on my list of the best shows of the year. The trio was on fire playing nearly two hours of songs from their new album, Popular Songs, as well as a collection of their “greatest hits” that reached as far back as Painful (see photo). After they opened with the 15-plus minute instrumental noise odyssey called “And the Glitter Is Gone” from the new album, the band settled into a selection of the more jazzy, dancey, poppy songs from albums gone by. I thought it was going to be a laidback evening, but by the beginning of the second hour, it was one noise anthem after another. About half-way through, I began to have a new “understanding” of a band that I’ve been listening to for more than a decade. It’s as if guitarist Ira Kaplan was creating a wall of painful noise and distortion designed to counteract the pretty melodies and straight-forward, streamlined rhythms created by bass player James McNew and drummer Georgia Hubley. All three have quiet, almost dour voices (Hubley is Nico to Kaplan’s Lou) that chirped pretty melodies while Kaplan systematically tortured his guitar, at times pulling the strings from the neck with both hands — shoving objects between the strings and the fretboard — blasting out a sharp, anguished howl (After each song, a guitar tech would hand Kaplan a different guitar to play while he was back stage presumably repairing the damage). So that balance — the pretty and the painful — almost put me in a trance, as songs rose and fell and regurgitated themselves following a pulsing thread of McNew/Hubley rhythm. It was exquisite.

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I had to do a bit of driving Saturday night. First stop was O’Leaver’s for the world stage debut of Well-Aimed-Arrows, the new band by Koly Walter and Clayton Petersen, formerly of the legendary Omaha post-punk band The Protoculture. Considering that Koly wrote most of the songs for both bands, W-A-A sounded like Protoculture Pt. 2. The Arrows (let me be the first to call them that) had Protoculture’s same dissonant song structures propelled by punchy rhythms and Walter’s flat vocal howl. Petersen’s wife Michelle provided the necessary counter vocals (a la Erica). The difference for me was bassist Brian Bird (of The Antiquarium) whose hot dog style took the music to a groovier level. The band only played five songs, but it was more than enough to get the crowd’s blood pumping. What’s that they say about “leave them wanting more”? (see photo).

I skipped out right afterward and headed to The Waiting Room where I caught the last half of Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship’s ferocious set. (see photo). These guys have emerged as thee band to carry on Omaha’s ’90s post-punk noise-rock tradition. They sound influenced by early Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Unsane, Surgery, Helmet, Cop Shoot Cop and a host of other bands that (considering their age) they may or may not have heard of.

Landing on the Moon bought everyone in the crowd of about 150 a glass of champaign and kicked off their set by having a toast to a new LP that took them two years to complete. Their set was the usual rock-solid performance, highlighted by a screaming guitar solo from Matt Carroll during “She Wants,” and a new song — perfect set-closer “California,” a simple, upbeat pop tune that seems to be pointing the direction in which the band is heading for their next album — very encouraging indeed. (see photo)

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Well, that Mousetrap reunion that I mentioned back in July has become official. One Percent announced that the reunion show will take place Dec 23 at The Waiting Room. The line-up will include original members Craig Crawford and Pat Buchanan. On drums is a new guy. “The drummer’s name is Mike Mazzola,” Crawford said via Facebook. “He played in a band called ‘The Lost’ with Patrick. Pat thinks that he will be perfect for the show. We’ve all been working individually on our parts and will start rehearsing as a group shortly. Should be good and loud!” Opening the show is the reunited Mercy Rule and Beep Beep. I’m told this will be the final performance for Beep Beep, and the band’s line-up will include original member Chris Hughes. Tickets for this show aren’t available until Oct. 17, when they’ll be $8. This will sell out, so I suggest you get online or in line the day tix become available.

* * *

It’s a busy Monday night for shows. At The Waiting Room, a 6-band line-up has been announced for tonight’s Nebraska Humane Society/Lindahl benefit show. Your $8 cover will go to the NE Humane Society, while tips (and presumably a separate donation box) will help cover costs for necessary eye surgery for Lindahl, a Jack Russell terrier that I’m told is no stranger to the local bar/music scene. The line-up of performers is impressive: Fortnight, Lincoln Dickison, Reagan Roeder, Sarah Benck, The Wagon Blasters, and Kyle Harvey. Show starts at 8 p.m.

Meanwhile across town at The Brothers Lounge (3812 Farnam), Digital Leather is playing with Box Elders and the Fresh & Onlys. Chris Aponik has a feature on DL in this week’s issue of The Reader, which you can read online here. Tix are $5 and the show starts at 9.

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