Live Review: Mousetrap…

Category: Blog — @ 6:59 pm December 24, 2009

Finally, Mousetrap.

Last night’s set at The Waiting Room might be the most cohesive set that they’ve ever played. Certainly it was their longest. What’s the old saying — you always sound best at the CD release shows, the farewell show and the reunion show.

For me, the most amazing part: Some of their music is nearly 20 years old but it’s as good, or better than, what we’re getting now from bands out there that are just getting started. It held up well. And at times during the set, it was like hearing some of those songs again for the first time.

There was always something subversive or obscene about Mousetrap. They were indeed an underground band in their short-lived heyday. You needed to know someone who knew them to know them, or you had to shop at The Antiquarium. You weren’t going to find them on your own, that’s for sure. And once you did find them, it was going to take awhile to figure out what they were about.

A band could be subversive back then; it could be “underground.” That’s simply not possible anymore, especially if you’re any good. And Mousetrap was good. Dave Sink knew it, Grass Records knew it, John Peel knew it, a lot of kids that would become central to the Omaha music scene and Saddle Creek Records knew it. In the end, it didn’t matter. Their music was too “out there,” too abrasive, too disturbing for a larger audience to appreciate.

Time has blunted the illicit nature of Mousetrap. In an era where nothing is shocking, their music also no longer has the ability to shock. And that changes everything. Instead of disturbing, Mousetrap’s music merely sounds like loud, fast, hard, distorted, and perfectly stylized post-punk, which I’ve always thought they were trying to be anyway. They just wanted to be a rock band, and now they are. What was once unrecognizable is now pop. Which is an overblown way of saying their music may be more relevant now than it ever was back in the ’90s. Especially considering the lack of good, heavy music these days.

The setting couldn’t be more perfect. The Wagon Blasters — ex-Frontier Trust, another band from the era — opened. They were followed by Beep Beep, a band clearly influenced by Mousetrap. And then another band who — along with Frontier Trust — often shared the bill with Mousetrap in the ’90s: the reunited Mercy Rule, bigger and badder than ever. I caught the full Mercy Rule set and it was as if they never stopped playing all those years ago. They rolled out a couple new songs, one of which is probably harder and faster than anything they’ve ever done before (and which I can’t wait to hear recorded).

It all led up to Mousetrap. Yeah, Buchanan and Crawford looked older than the last time they took the stage together, but no worse for wear (see live photo). In fact, Buchanan looked the part of the rock star — Big City Hair, as one guy put it. He had the look and the style. But most of all, still he had the chops — his voice, his guitar, sounded pristine. And then there was Crawford’s amazing bass playing — an aerobic workout — and his voice also never sounded better. Time has been kind to these guys. New drummer Mike Mazzola did what he needed to do to hold it all together.

Together, the band sounded more rock than punk, or at least more rock than I remembered them sounding. The highlights were my favorites from the past — “Superkool,” “Mariko,” “I Know Where You Live,” “Wired.” There were a couple missing from the bunch, chief among them “Have Fun in Hell” and the El Fino Imperials classic “Step Off.” But hey, you can’t have everything.

The set list from last night (via the set list found on stage):

Signal To Noise
I Know Where You Live
The Coathanger Kid
People Who Disappear
Sweet Dreams Baby

The Last Dance
Give it

The only thing that sounded different other than the drums was the way the band seemed to stretch out the endings of a couple songs — to their betterment. Overall, Mousetrap sounded, well, groovier, less static, certainly less angry. Looking at them smiling on stage, it’s hard to remember Buchanan’s terse, pained scowl and volcanic spitting from the old days. They were having a good time. I think they may have been surprised by the size of the crowd, commenting that it was the biggest show they every played. It wouldn’t have been a Mousetrap show without some sort of technical difficulty — a broken string, a blown amp. So in keeping with their history, Crawford’s bass cut out at the end of “Superkool.” He fiddled with plugs and switches and finally got it going again before the song ended. Perfection.

So what next? I asked both Crawford and Buchanan after the show, and neither could say. Crawford said they’ve talked about working together on another project. After all, they only live about five hours away from each other. Whatever happens, Craig said he plans on continuing playing. It would be a shame if he didn’t. Buchanan always kept playing after Mousetrap ended and I have no doubt that he’ll continue to do so with our without Crawford, but wouldn’t it be cool if they kept it together? I’d love it if a label like Team Love would either reissue a Mousetrap album or create a “best of” collection that pulls together songs from the various singles and albums. And then the band hooked up with one of Omaha’s bigger players for a three-week tour. And then, who knows. Wishful thinking on my part, but I guess it’s the right time of year for that sort of thing.

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