Live Review: Digital Leather, New Lungs; Clarifying tomorrow’s Record Club launch; Ladyfinger tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , — @ 2:41 pm February 6, 2012

by Tim McMahan,

Strange start Friday night at O’Leaver’s. Amidst the noise and chaos I didn’t get the memo as to why a guy was sitting on stage during New Lungs’ set wearing swim trunks, sun block and sun glasses reading a copy of the OWH. Irony? Maybe, considering the impending snowstorm. A living advertisement for the Men of O’Leaver’s 2012 calendar? I good idea, except I don’t think the guy is actually in the calendar (which you should check out if you haven’t, especially you ladies and you gay and/or bi-curious fellows). Unless you were in front of the mob or off to the side by the head (as I was) you never saw the guy anyway. Yeah, it was that crowded. The biggest crowd I’ve seen at O’leaver’s in a long time.

New Lungs is a fantastic band that lives off the soul of a ’90s West Coast SST hassle-core punk vibe mixed with its own Midwestern ’90s punk heritage. As cliche as it sounds, they get better and better every time I see them. Frontman Danny Maxwell is gaining more confidence with every performance. Call it swagger. Call it hubris. Call it I-don’t-give-a-fuck moxie. I like it, along with the band’s bone-rattling energy. I’m told the band has been working with Matt Carroll at his Little Machine recording studio putting down tracks for a debut album. How long must we wait for this?

So crowded was the room that I eventually found my way by the soundboard in the back, where you can move around and get a fresh Rolling Rock as needed, but behind the grand mob that stood in front of the band. As a result I heard rather than saw Digital Leather perform what (to me) was one of their longest sets, conceivably to work out the kinks before they head off on the road tomorrow for a West Coast/Texas tour.

I’m not sure what’s left to say about Digital Leather that I haven’t already said a dozen times. As a recording entity, Shawn Foree creates some of the best modern rock music heard out of Omaha (or anywhere, for that matter). I spent Sunday listening to my copy of Infinite Sun (which I finally got Friday night). Seven guitar- and keyboard-fueled rock songs that turn their back on the futility of living in these days when an infinite sun seems only to cast long shadows before dusk. That music, along with the songs on just-released cassette, Sponge, and the couple new songs off Modern Problems (which I didn’t buy Friday as I ordered a copy from the label’s website a few weeks ago — a mistake, apparently), have a playful post-apocalyptic groove that are lively and deceptively upbeat.

On recordings, Digital Leather casts an electronic sheen with the addition of synths. Live, DL is a punk three-piece — all leather, no digital. This has startled a few people who are only familiar with the recordings, me among them. But I’ve since seen the error of my ways. Last November on his It’s a Digital World blog (, Foree explained once and for all the difference between recorded and live Digital Leather (the lowercases are his, or as they say in the trades, “sic”):

when you put on a record or play an mp3 or tape it’s a one on one situation: you and the artist. that’s why i make my recorded sound more intimate. when i play live, there’s a different dynamic. the music becomes a dialogue between a living audience and myself. therefore, these two sides of music, while having comparable aspects, will always contrast, rather (than), complement each other.

But the real difference to me is the addition of the rest of the band. DL is a different sort of monster when its powered by the rhythm section of bassist Johnny Vrendenburg and drummer Jeff Lambelet. It’s a clean, powerful, breakneck sound that let’s Foree spread out on guitar and vocals in a way that he couldn’t if he were trapped behind a keyboard like he used to be. I never could hear those keyboards live, anyway, no matter who played them. There’s a reason why Foree has stuck with Vrendenburg and Lambelet over the years, a very good reason.

Anyway, I’ve been indoctrinated in the difference between the recorded and live Digital Leather. And as the band continues to tour, more and more people will be as well, but until then, there’s going to be a certain amount of shock, surprise (and disappointment) by those who have listened and loved the records and expect to hear those synths on stage. In fact I was texted by someone who was watching them play in Chicago late last year, asking me where the fuck were the keyboards. I told him that this is what you get with live Digital Leather. Suck it up, and listen.

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Point of CLARIFICATION regarding tomorrow’s launch of Saddle Creek Shop’s new series called “Record Club at Shop.” I said last Friday that Cursive would be there. Cursive will not be there. Let me repeat: Cursive will not be in the house.

I thought I was supposed to moderate a Q&A with a member(s) of Cursive. In fact, the Club’s concept is for music fans to get together and talk about a specific album, in this case, Cursive’s I Am Gemini. To be honest with you, I’m not exactly sure what my role is. Maybe to just sit and listen. Regardless, we’ll all find out tomorrow. The event starts at 7 p.m. with the playing of I Am Gemini in its entirety inside The Saddle Creek Shop. Discussion will follow afterward, and copies of the album will also be available for purchase — two weeks before its street date! If anything, just go there to pick up a copy of the vinyl, which I’m told is spectacular.

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Over the weekend, O’Leaver’s announced a special last-minute show that’s going on TONIGHT. It’s the long-awaited return of Ladyfinger to the house that booze built, along with Great American Desert. $5, 9:30 p.m. Call in sick tomorrow and go.

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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 © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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