Live Review: Simon Joyner, UUVVWWZ; Anvil tonight…

Category: Blog — @ 11:58 pm November 16, 2009

It was an exhausting weekend, starting Thursday with Old Canes, then OEA’s and Simon Joyner Friday, and then UUVVWWZ on Saturday.

The final tally for my OEA showcase experience was seeing Son of 76 and The Watchmen at PS Collective, Jes Winter and the tail-end of Mars Black at The Sydney, and Matt Whipkey and Midwest Dilemma at The Waiting Room before hauling it downtown to Slowdown for the Joyner show. I’m weighing my comments on all of it in this week’s column — now to decide just how candid I should be…

The question that came up a few times late in the evening was whether Friday night’s OEA showcase really was the best that Omaha had to offer. It’s a matter of opinion, but if your answer is “no,” than you have to ask whether the OEAs have jumped the shark. To me, it’s too early to say, and it’s probably not fair to judge based on Friday’s showcase, especially when you consider that this summer’s showcase was one of the best things that the OEA’s have pulled off. More later.

Joyner and UUVVWWZ were both remarkable in their own ways. I can’t remember Joyner ever coming off more like a straight-up indie rock performer instead of a folk-art relic. Wearing a crumpled straw cowboy hat, Joyner mostly played songs off his new album, Out Into the Snow — the most straight-forward record that we’ll ever get out of him (Translation: It’s good) — as well as “The Only Living Boy in Omaha” from Skeleton Blues and a couple others I didn’t recognize. There was a point during the opening song, “The Drunken Boat” (from the new album), where sideman Alex McManus put down his bass and picked up a violin to create an effect as brutal and cutting as any powerchord from any Strat, Tele or SG — a crushing avalanche of sound.

As I’ve said before, Joyner is now creating music that’s as thoughtful and emotionally engaging as his lyrics. He still has his off-key moments vocally, and it’s hard to say why they’re there. I asked someone standing next to me if she thought he was singing off-key on purpose — it never dawned on her that he could be as part of a “style.” I’ve always thought that the off-kilter warble was intentional, but I doubt we’ll ever know for sure.

Also backing Joyner Friday night was the most underrated guitarist in Omaha: Mike Friedman on pedal steel, along with drummer Chris Deden and a keyboardist that I didn’t recognize. Terrific stuff. (See photo).

I got a second chance to hear Midwest Dilemma Saturday night when they opened for UUVVWWZ — the ensemble sounded like they were playing the same songs from Friday night, but of course it didn’t sound nearly as good on the Sydney’s smaller sound system. UUVVWWZ didn’t go on until after midnight. Their set was familiar since I’ve been listening to those same songs for almost two years now. They did unveil a new one that was more abstract, more art-tortured than anything on their album, pointing the way (possibly) to where they’re headed next time — many odd time and key changes and a disregard for traditional melody, the word “prog” came to mind. (See really out of focus blurry photo).

* * *

The Waiting Room is screening Anvil, The Story of Anvil tonight at 8 p.m. I saw the movie at The Dundee in July and reviewed it here. It’s one of the best rock documentaries that I’ve seen since Some Kind of Monster in 2004. See it. Then tell Jim and Marc to get the band here in Omaha for a gig.

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