Live Review: So-So Sailors, The New Pornographers, Rural Alberta Advantage; Back When, Little Brazil, Yuppies tonight; Kite Pilot Saturday…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 10:44 am April 22, 2011
The So-So Sailors at The Waiting Room, April 21, 2011.

The So-So Sailors at The Waiting Room, April 21, 2011.

by Tim McMahan,

I doubt that very many people were at The Waiting Room last night specifically to see The So-So Sailors. In fact, I ran into an old friend who was sitting in the back booths during their set as if no band was playing at all, ignoring them altogether. I can’t say that I blame him as he had no idea who they were or why he should be listening. He was there for the Pornos. Still, he missed out on the most interesting part of the night, to me anyway.

The New Pornographers at The Waiting Room, 4/21/11.

The New Pornographers at The Waiting Room, 4/21/11.

Don’t get me wrong, New Pornographers were pretty special. Presented as a 7-piece with uber-star Neko Case along for the ride looking like she just got back from the Laundromat in her hoodie and wind-blown red witch hair. Even without makeup and with tired, older eyes she still looked good to me. And she sang good, too, even though she didn’t own the spotlight (that was leader Carl Newman’s job). You can’t beat Neko being “only” part of your band, no stronger or weaker then the other six members who reached back for some oldies but played what you expected from Together. They sounded terrific, just like they do on their records, and the sold-out crowd dug it.

So-So Sailors, who played right before them, will never be as big as New Pornographers. Probably not, though I admit to enjoying their short, 30-minute set just as much (or more) than what I saw of NP’s. Frontman Chris Machmuller sat behind a keyboard backed by Dan McCarthy who sat behind another keyboard backed by Ben Brodin who sat behind yet another keyboard. And they were backed by the incomparable Alex McManus on guitar. Standing dead center (and the center of attention, whether he deserved it or not) was bass player / backing vocalist Brendan Greene-Walsh, with Laura Burhenn to his left  (just back from touring with Bright Eyes) and Dan Kemp on drums. That’s all of them. And what you got with three keyboards is a very organic, very earthy sound, augmented by Mach’s brassy warble and his occasional alto sax solo. The music really is unlike anything being played around here. It sounds humble. It sounds soulful. It sounds very Sunday afternoon after a long Saturday night. A song like the amazing “Young Hearts,” which was the centerpiece of their set, can’t be compared to anything that I can think of. Mach said that they’ve finished recording their debut album, but he didn’t know when it was coming out. Hopefully sometime soon, and hopefully on Saddle Creek or some other label with its reach, though I’m not holding my breath.

The Rural Alberta Advantage at Slowdown Jr., 4/21/11.

The Rural Alberta Advantage at Slowdown Jr., 4/21/11.

Anyway… after the first eight or nine songs by New Pornographers, I got a text from one of my Reader colleagues saying that Lord Huron had just finished at Slowdown and that Rural Alberta Advantage was up next. So I trotted  out to my car and onto Radial Highway and made my way down to Slowdown. I got there just in time to catch RAA’s entire set. The show wasn’t sold out, but it was plenty full with a crowd whose average age was a good 15 years younger than what I’d seen at TWR. New Pornographers are the vets; RAA are the up-and-comers. I’m not going to compare the two and declare a victor in this Canadian invasion, but I will say I was happy I made the trip downtown. For the first time I started “to get” RAA and what they’re about.

A thin trio, here’s a band that glows in an intimate setting like Slowdown Jr. rather than on an outdoor stage like their gig last June in Slowdown’s parking lot. Frontman Nil Edenloff pushed every inch of his life into his vocals as he viciously strummed his acoustic guitar. Meanwhile, pixie-ish beauty Amy Cole performed a plate-spinning act as she sang, played keyboards and punched out a bass line with her feet on her Moog Taurus III bass pedals. I asked her last week if they ever would consider getting a bass player and she said no way. But while I liked what she was doing, I still think they could use an extra set of strings. They played a number of songs from their new album, Departed, including a rousing version of my personal fave, “Tornado ’87.”

Halfway through the set, Edenloff thrilled the crowd with a surprisingly earnest acoustic solo version of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.” I think a lot of people knew it was coming as the song got raves when they played it at SF’s Bottom of the Hill last week. If there was a weak spot in their game it’s that too many of their songs sound alike, and after a half-dozen, they begin to blend together into one extended, rousing ballad.

* * *

Easter weekend is never a good weekend for shows, and this year’s is no exception.

The highlight is tonight’s red-hot rock show at The Waiting Room. But first at 7 p.m. at TWR is an early show — The Found Footage Festival, a collection of seriously bad but funny commercially developed videos gathered from VHS tapes collected at various garage sales and thrift stores. Check out for more info. $10. The late show starts at 9 p.m., headlined by Back When and featuring Little Brazil, Talking Mountain and Self Evident, all for just $7.

Meanwhile, down the street at The Barley Street Tavern, The Yuppies are headlining a show with Baby Tears, High Diving Ponies and Death of a Tax Payer. $5, 9 p.m. Saturday night, John Klemmensen and the Party are playing at The Barley Street with Tina Sparkle and Traveling Mercies. $5, 9 p.m.

Also Saturday night, Honey & Darling are playing at O’Leaver’s with The Empty Spaces and Blue Lights Shine Bright. $5, 9:30  p.m.

And that’s just about it for the weekend. Except, of course, for Big Al’s annual “Free Music Festival,” being held tonight through Easter evening at The Hideout, 320 So. 72nd St. As the name implies, there’s no cover charge. Line-up / info here. Shows start at 8:30.

ADDENDUM: I almost forgot one of the most interesting shows of the weekend: The long-awaited return of Kite Pilot, opening for Thunder Power at Harrah’s Stir Lounge Saturday night. $5, 9 p.m. Go!

* * *

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.

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