Live Review: The Sky Drops, Eli Mardock; Felice Brothers, Hunx and His Punx tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:50 pm May 4, 2011
The Sky Drops at The Barley Street Tavern, May 3, 2011.

The Sky Drops at The Barley Street Tavern, May 3, 2011.

by Tim McMahan,

It was a late start at last night’s show at The Barley Street Tavern. I would find out later that it was because opener Pastel Pistol canceled. That meant sitting alone in the bar, quietly stewing over a Rolling Rock while playing Tiny Bird on my iPhone for an hour. Us working types are taking a chance going out on a “school night” to see a show, hoping that it’ll wrap up at least by midnight so that the 5 a.m. wake-up call isn’t quite as painful…

The touring band, The Sky Drops, finally got started a little after 10:30. With all the bands jumping on the “shoegaze” bandwagon these days, this was the first that actually had that classic guitar sound that I identify with the subgenre — that shimmering, rainy-day woozy drone made famous by bands like My Bloody Valentine. Guitarist/vocalist Rob Montejo pulled it off with a Fender Jaguar, a small stack of amps and an array of effects pedals that bent the notes in an off-kilter, underwater sort of way. Meanwhile, drummer Monika Bullette merely kept the beat on her small kit, nothing fancy, and provided sweet harmony vocals. Yeah, they could have used a bass, just like every two-piece out there. Still, Montejo’s guitar tone did a good job filling in the void. I was thrown by his clear, unaffected voice. He has one of those very American voices — sort of Lou Barlow meets Glen Phillips (Toad the Wet Sprocket) meets Dan Wilson (Semisonic) — that provided a distinct contrast to the feedback. Definitely worth losing sleep over.

Eli Mardock at The Barley Street Tavern, May 3, 2011.

Eli Mardock at The Barley Street Tavern, May 3, 2011.

The impressive thing about Eli Mardock, who followed The Sky Drops, is that he writes actual songs. That sounds funny/stupid I know, but it’s what has always distinguished him and his projects from the rest of the crowd. Good songs, good arrangements. Nothing wasted. The set up was Mardock, who switched between acoustic, bass, and electric guitars; Carrie Butler on space synths and keyboards, along with a bassist and drummer who I didn’t recognize. Mardock still has that slightly affected, showy drawl, which has become his trademark. A good voice, and certainly memorable. But back to the songs — Mardock has a way with strong, catchy melodies and equally cool counter melodies that are, for the most part, uniquely his own. There were a couple moments in the short, 5-song set (though long songs) that crept dangerously close to Radiohead territory, but every time he managed to throttle back his Thom Yorke tendencies, shifting to a synth or guitar solo. Gorgeous stuff that outshines his work with Eagle Seagull. Call it pop music of the best kind, songs that are just fun to listen to. It’s True has a similar, though obviously different, quality. Mardock said he’s finished recording an album’s worth of material and is off to New York to mix it. More to come…

A quick note about The Barley Street’s sound: I was told that the system had been retooled around the time that Brad Hoshaw took over the venue’s booking chores. I’m not sure what they did, but the bands sounded quite good last night. Credit goes to the sound guy who took his time balancing everything during sound checks and adjusted throughout the set. I’m sure the dozen or so other folks who turned out appreciated the effort…

BTW, I got home a little after midnight…

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There are two hot shows going on tonight. Down at Slowdown Jr. it’s Hunx and His Punx with Shannon And The Clams & Talking Mountain. Chris Aponick has the skinny on H&HP’s man-love rock in this interview in The Reader. $8, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, up at The Waiting Room, it’s the return of The Felice Brothers with Shovels & Rope. Kevin Coffey’s got the lowdown on the band in an interview with the band’s bass player at his Rock Candy blog, right here. $13, 9 p.m.

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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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