Column 260: Tim Wildsmith live review; Saddle Creek ‘came and went’?; Hubble tonight…

Category: Blog,Column — @ 7:20 pm February 24, 2010

Checking his website, Wildsmith has no upcoming shows scheduled. None. Odd, considering that he just released a new album.

Column 260: A Serious Man
Live Review: Tim Wildsmith

I got a text from Whipkey at 10:30 last Friday night telling me Tim Wildsmith began his set 20 minutes ago. This was a CD release show. He was the headliner. He started at 10. I was told he wanted to play early because he had a lot of friends and family in the audience that don’t like to stay out late. Fine. Not so great for the traveling band, Charn, who had come all the way from Minneapolis. Anyone who knows anything about Omaha music crowds knew what was going to happen to Charn. But we’ll get to that.

So, I missed the first half-hour of Wildsmith and his band, The Lost Cause, but still got about 45 minutes’ worth since he played a long set with a long encore. This was the first time I’ve seen these guys, and my first impression was that they’re a tight, talented band that plays middle-of-the-road, mid-tempo suburban “Adult Alt” music.

There was a time when “alt” meant alternative. These days, alt is a catch-all phrase that radio programmers use for non-traditional (non-classic) rock that’s approachable enough for the general public to grasp; music that has key familiarity aspects that people who casually listen to music will recognize and be comfortable hearing in their cars. It’s the kind of music by bands like The Fray and Snow Patrol that winds up on television shows like Grey’s Anatomy or programs on the old WB. In other words, it has the potential to be hugely popular with a large audience — a much, much larger audience than listens to indie music.

But beyond being safe, the primary characteristic of Wildsmith’s music to me was its insistence on being taken seriously. This is earnest stuff, and Wildsmith said at least a couple times from stage that “writing music is his therapy.” So instead of just enjoying it, you feel like you have to acknowledge its importance, at least to Wildsmith and his fans. If you, for example, were to dislike a song like “Recovery,” off his new album, you also are disliking Wildsmith as a person and whatever he went through or is going through or will go through.

Should an artist be penalized for taking himself that seriously? No, probably not. It certainly didn’t hurt a band like ’90s alt-rock act Live, a band that I’ve loathed from the first time I’ve heard one of their songs, years before their placenta fell to the floor. Live always sounded like it was trying to manufacture drama for an audience that also takes itself too seriously.

Well, Wildsmith isn’t Live. He’s got an enormous, loving fan base made up of great people, and I know this because the first time I heard of him was from a great person who said, “You should check out Tim Wildsmith’s music. He’s the nicest guy in the world.” Yeah, I said, but is his music any good? Her response: “He’s a great guy.”

That’s too much analysis for only hearing 2/3rds of one performance. To be fair, I’m listening to some of the tracks on his Myspace page as I write this. It’s nice. It’s catchy. It’s just not the kind of music that I usually listen to or write about. As Dave Sink used to say when asked his opinion about a band that he didn’t care for (and toward the end of his days at The Antiquarium record store, that was most new bands), “It’s not my cup of tea.”

Anyway… Before leaving the stage, during his encore, Wildsmith beseeched the crowd to stick around for one of his favorite bands, Charn from Minneapolis. He said it a few times, actually, but I knew it wouldn’t matter. And sure enough, by the time Charn got to its second song, the crowd of 200 or so dwindled to 20 people dancing in front of the stage while a few dozen others focused on Women’s Olympic Curling being broadcast on the Waiting Room’s plasma screen network. In other words, Charn got “Omaha’d” in the most classic sense of the word.

* * *

Continuing the wave of Cursive news, KC’s Pitch has a nice, long feature on Cursive that just hit the Intergoogle yesterday. Tim Kasher talks about some of the reasons behind his not-so-recent move from LA to Montana. One of the more interesting quotes from the story is in this paragraph:

Omaha’s tightknit music scene blew up like a mini Seattle in the early part of the last decade as bands on the Saddle Creek record label blossomed into critical darlings. “Saddle Creek: That really came and went,” Kasher says. “A lot was really happening for, like, five minutes.” He laughs and continues: “It seems like I came out of it pretty well. I have a tendency to dismantle the machinery if things are going too well, so working on a lower, steadier profile with more of a cultish group of music fans is a healthier place for me to live.”

Came and went? I think ol’ Saddle Creek is still open for business. The label even has another showcase this year at SXSW…

* * *

Tonight at O’Leaver’s, it’s Reagan Roeder’s project, Hubble. The line-up recently changed as keyboard player Annie Dilocker no longer is in the band (she’s in Digital Leather these days). Also on the bill is Winston Audio and Sam Martin (Capgun Coup) and Sean Pratt. $5, 9:30 p.m. Turn off the Curling and come on down.

BTW, I’ll be updating the site early tomorrow morning with an interview with Talking Mountain. Their CD release show is tomorrow night at Slowdown Jr., and it’s absolutely free.

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