Live Review: Noah’s Ark, Back When; RSD results; Maha announces ‘local stage’; Johnny Marr tonight…

Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship at The Waiting Room, April 20, 2013.

Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship at The Waiting Room, April 20, 2013.

by Tim McMahan,

Every band should play one cover song during their set because the song they choose opens a hidden door into what they’re about. At least that’s the conventional wisdom. In the case of Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship, that wisdom does not necessarily apply.

Halfway through their well-attended (200?) album release show Saturday night at The Waiting Room, the band decided to play “the best song we didn’t write,” and tore into Neil Young’s “Hey, Hey, My My (Into the Black).” Fantastic rendition including blazing between-verse guitar solos by frontman Andrew Gustafson. Great song, but who would have guessed that this is the cover they’d pick? I would have guessed something by Sonic Youth or Dinosaur Jr. or even the Pixies, but an old Freedom Rock chestnut from Rust Never Sleeps? Surprising indeed, and somewhat amazing, as was the rest of their set.

Tell me if I’m wrong (my memory, it fades) but I remember Noah’s being an instrumental-only band when they first came on the scene all those many years ago. Now I can’t imagine them without vocals — lead guitarist/vocalist Gustafson has a fantastic voice — imagine J. Mascis without the croak-groan and you’re kinda getting there. He bends his notes in a similar appealing fashion that pulls everything together for this power trio. If you haven’t checked out You Need You you need to.

Back When at The Waiting Room, April 20, 2013.

Back When at The Waiting Room, April 20, 2013.

I found out weeks ago that the opening slot for Noah’s would be Back When’s last-ever gig, but somehow it slipped my feeble mind. Why they’re hanging it up, I cannot say, though one (well-connected) person in the audience told me that the band felt they’d simply moved on to other things, other projects, other lives.

The irony for me is that Saturday night’s show was really the first time that I “got” what Back When was going for, and it came about three songs before the end, during an epic sonic punch-out where each member was locked into every break, every moment, as if channeling some dark, Gothic metal secret shared only by an elite circle of musicians who can hear the rhythmic language that floats beneath the surface of the chaos. Theirs was a pounding, pummeling sound, experimental on a number of levels as well as cinematic in sheer layered scope (pushed in that direction by recent videos). And of course, it could be very dark indeed. You would never mistake it for pop music.

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The line outside of Homer's yesterday prior to the 10 a.m. opening time. Photo by John Shartrand.

The line outside of Homer’s yesterday prior to the 10 a.m. opening time. Photo by John Shartrand.

Mike Fratt, who runs Homer’s Records, said Saturday’s Record Store Day was one for the record books. “Historic sales for us as well as every other retailer around the country I’ve talked to,” he said. “Loads of fun and exhausting, too. Crowds/customers were awesome, and we are very thankful for their support.”

The nitty-gritty: Homer’s sold 273 of the 313 titles they got in — double-digits sales quantities on 32 titles. “We still have quantity left on about 80 RSD items, 1’s or 2’s,” Fratt said. “We ordered some items in heavy quantities hoping we would have 3 to 6 left so there would be stock through the year, but many of those totally sold out; Mumford, White Stripes, Notorious BIG, etc.”

I didn’t get to the store until Saturday afternoon, but still managed to find the two main things I was looking for: Pulp Vs. Soulwax 12-inch and  Big Star’s Nothing Can Hurt Me. Both releases are remarkable.

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The Maha Music Festival announced its “local stage” last night, and it’s got something for everyone: Criteria will provide another in its series of amazing “occasional” performances, pop band Rock Paper Dynamite, a reunion of Lincoln indie band The Millions, the arresting chamber pop of Hers, and the winner of the OEA talent contest. And the band I guess could be considered the “local stage headliner”: Digital Leather. Yeah, the night could get weird (in a good way) if DL does its usual set closer “Studs in Love.” But something tells me there will be an Ed Sullivan-type dictum thrown out by the Maha organizers to prevent DL from playing their more racier material. Will Shawn Foree pull a Jim Morrison? We’ll have to wait and see.

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Last week I was whining about the lack of touring indie shows. This week, we’re loaded, beginning with tonight’s Johnny Marr show at The Waiting Room. Lots of buzz about this one. Tickets are still available for $25. Opening is Alamar. Show starts at 8.

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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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