Live Review: Criteria, Noah’s Ark and rum drinks at O’Leaver’s; Desert Noises, John Klemmensen tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:47 pm March 4, 2013
Criteria at O'Leaver's March 2, 2013.

Criteria at O’Leaver’s March 2, 2013.

by Tim McMahan,

Let’s start with the tiki bar.

It’s amazing that O’Leaver’s could create this alternate reality in a club that used to be as well known for its smell as its music. Tucked away in the space just behind the main bar (take a left right after you go through the front door), the room used to house a punching machine and other assorted junk. Bands stored their gear back there between sets. It’s now been transformed into a dimly lit tropical paradise complete with cabana grass and a sunset mural. Classy, very classy.

Manning the tiki bar Saturday night was none other than Cursive guitarist/vocalist and Mayday/Lullaby for the Working Class frontman Ted Stevens. Dressed in a grass skirt w/coconuts Stevens took to his bartender role like he’d been slinging cocktails his entire life, and before you know it, I was holding my first O’Leaver’s umbrella drink — a Mai Tai — and it was damn good. Too good. Going-straight-to-my-head good. Dangerously good. I could get used to hanging out back there, but who knows what the hours will be for the tiki bar. I assume it’ll be manned on weekends and/or show nights. Time will tell.

As for the rest of O’Leaver’s, well the place isn’t that much different. You’ll notice the new baby-poop-brown paint job for the ceiling tile and that any holes in the walls of albums have been properly filled. And the smell is gone. There were other new touches throughout I’m sure, but after that Mai Tai, things became a blur.

Saturday night’s crowd was one of the largest I’ve seen shoe-horned in that place. Tables and chairs has been removed to make more room near the “stage,” and as a result, unless you were in the melee, you couldn’t see who was performing. I’m told that Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship has become a power trio — they certainly sounded like one — lean, mean, in top fighting shape. This new, tight ensemble brings more focus on their Sonic Youth/Pixies-flavored indie songs.

They were followed by the all-powerful Criteria. A note about O’Leaver’s sound — normally it’s impossible to talk to the person standing next to you while the band is playing without shouting a hole in a person’s eardrum. Not Saturday night. The mass of humanity was part of the reason, acting as a natural sound buffer from my perch next to the (new) soundboard in the back of the room. Don’t get me wrong — it still sounded loud, just not painfully so. If Criteria was a test of the bar’s improved sound system, it passed with flying colors.

Criteria rolled out two or three new songs that showed a progression for a veteran band that rarely plays these days. The songs were riff-heavy in a good way; fierce and anthemic as anything they’ve done before. Of course the question is what will they do with this new material. Judging by the rather large contingent of Creekers in the house, could a new release be in the making?

For my ears, O’Leaver’s ranks just behind The Waiting Room and Slowdown in sound quality — it’s  a really balanced room considering it’s just a dive bar. The deficit (at least Saturday night) is the sightlines since the band is standing on the same floor as the crowd in front of it. With no head room to add a riser, the only solution is to get off your ass and join the crowd. Maybe it’s not such a bad problem to have after all.

Sharp-eyed fans noticed that the upcoming Tim Kasher dates at O’Leaver’s (March 20 and 21) are promoted by One Percent Productions. Giving the club the ability to pre-sale tickets is only part of the reason. Will One Percent view O’Leaver’s as a viable venue for smaller touring acts that are ill-suited for the much larger TWR and Slowdown? If so, we could see a new beginning for a club with a legendary past.

BTW, weekends at the club are booked through the balance of the month…

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Tonight at The Waiting Room it’s Utah Valley band Desert Noises with Omaha’s own John Klemmensen and The Party. $7, 9 p.m. Check out some Desert Noises below…

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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 © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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