Live Review: It’s True; Sharon Van Etten, Little Scream, Joyner, Black Joe Lewis tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , — @ 12:36 pm April 4, 2011
It's True at The Waiting Room, April 1, 2011.

It's True (full sequence) at The Waiting Room, April 1, 2011.

by Tim McMahan,

There are two reasons why there was a lot of chatter in the audience during Friday night’s It’s True “reunion” / “CD release” show at The Waiting Room. Reason 1: The show was “sold out.” I put that phrase in quotation marks for a reason, which you may understand by looking at the crowd in the above photo, perhaps the largest crowd I’ve ever seen in TWR. And Reason 2: Said crowd was made up of a lot of friends and fellow countrymen who spent the past couple years becoming fans of It’s True, and conversely, became a sort of extended family. And since that family hasn’t been together since last summer, they had a lot of catching up to do.

That explanation isn’t going to help those who just discovered the band, however, one of which complained to me that he couldn’t find a place to hear them without having to also hear yelled conversations between two, three, four other people. He had a right to be pissed, but who expects to really “hear” the band when they go to something akin to a wedding reception?

That said, I had no problem hearing them — no crowd can drown out TWR’s mighty sound system. And what I heard was at times angelic, explosive, violent, angry, loving, lost, lonely, funny, happy and familiar. Yes, there were 12 people on stage at the beginning of the set — the breakdown included back-up singers, two percussionists, and lots of guitars — but everyone seemed to have a reason for being there, which is more than I can say for some of the ridiculous everyone-and-their-best-friend ensembles I’ve seen/heard over the years. The first half of the show focused on reproducing the depth of sound and substance heard on the band’s EP, Another Afterlife, for sale for the first time that evening. And for the most part it was spot on. Hawkins ran through the album with little spacing between songs, intent (it seemed) on getting through the set list as efficiently as possible. I assume playing with 11 musicians is a trick not unlike juggling cats — everyone thinks it’s fun to look at except for the guy tossing the kitties, who would just soon get it over with before one of them plunges to its death or sinks its claws into your wrist.

It's True at The Waiting Room, April 1, 2011.

It's True (first sequence) at The Waiting Room, April 1, 2011.

Hawkins seemed more comfortable when the band switched to the stripped-down version heard on the previous album. The crowd seemed more responsive as well, as the band dipped into the more familiar material that they’d been waiting to hear again. Certainly the old stuff — with its lengthy, bombastic feedback jams — lends itself to stage heroics, while the newer, more compact (i.e., shorter) material is in many ways more direct and more effective in a pure songwriting vein. I like the new stuff better, and maybe the crowd did as well, as it thinned oh so slightly during the encore.

A final note: Hawkins kept his glasses on for the full 12 rounds. In the past, the specs were either violently whipped off or set on the stage three or four songs into the set, but Friday night they stayed firmly affixed to the bridge of his nose all evening long. Read into that observation whatever you will.

The only opener I caught was Cowboy Indian Bear, who did a pretty good job capturing an audience that wasn’t there to see them.

* * *

Quite a singer/songwriter showcase going on tonight at Slowdown Jr. Brooklyn’s Sharon Van Etten’s latest album, Epic, was released on Ba Da Bing in ’10 and received a whopping 7.8 on the Pitchfork meter. You might know her for her guest-spot work on The Anters’ last album Hospice. In the middle slot is Little Scream. Her new album, The Golden Record (Secretly Canadian), reminds me more than a little bit of St. Vincent. Opening the festivities is Simon Joyner. This is a pretty “epic” line up for $8. Starts at 9.

Also tonight…. Seems like there were as many people excited about tonight’s Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears show when it was announced a month or so ago as there were when the upcoming Sharon Jones / Dap Kings concert was announced . Well here we are, a month or so later, and BJL still hasn’t sold out. Not yet, anyway. Opening is Tennessee’s Those Darlins. $12, 9 p.m.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


  • Wow. I had a totally different reaction to Friday’s show. It was, hands down, the worst It’s True show I have ever seen. I love the band, and the new EP, but that show was weak (reviewed here: They all sounded like they were playing in different rooms or something, no cohesiveness at all. Even when it was just the original five, they lacked the tightness and intensity of past performances.

    Comment by Dave — April 4, 2011 @ 12:44 pm

  • Meh. We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one, Dave. I thought the show was as good as any other It’s True show I’ve been to, and that the new stuff translated pretty well to that huge ensemble. As for the five-piece, they sounded tight to me.

    Comment by tim-mcmahan — April 4, 2011 @ 1:33 pm

  • The specs got whipped of two or three times at the Bourbon show, namely during the crazed encore.

    Comment by Jordan — April 4, 2011 @ 3:59 pm

  • Adam’s specs flew off during the encore. I was standing right in front of them when they landed.

    Comment by AYGAMG — April 5, 2011 @ 8:49 pm

  • (I should specify that I mean while at The Waiting Room.)

    Comment by AYGAMG — April 5, 2011 @ 8:49 pm

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