Live Review: VietNam, Dumb Beach; Hawkins goes to Bar/None; Thermals, Pleasure Adapter, the return of Jiha Lee tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:34 pm May 13, 2013
Dumb Beach at O'Leaver's, May 11, 2013

Dumb Beach at O’Leaver’s, May 11, 2013

by Tim McMahan,

I’m oh-for-two for being on the list for national shows. The first oh came at that Polica show a couple weeks ago. The publicist for opener Night Moves was supposed to handle it. Nothing. And then this past Friday the publicist for Black Pus left me high in dry. Mortifying. In both instances, I got in out of the goodness of the club.

VietNam at Slowdown Jr., May 10, 2013.

VietNam at Slowdown Jr., May 10, 2013.

So needless to say, I don’t feel bad about missing Black Pus’ set, though I was told it sounded like Lightning Bolt, the band that BP’s Brian Chippendale drums in, and that would have been something to see and hear. Instead, I got to Slowdown just in time for VietNam. Described as singer/songwriter Michael Gerner’s project, the essence of their sound is a culmination of all seven band members. That’s right, seven — two guitars, fiddle, bass, Moog and two drummers.

Whenever I hear a band has two drummers, I prepare for either World Music or psychedelic. Friday night it was the latter, in spades. In fact VietNam is the purest form of drug music music I’ve heard in a long time. That fiddle provided a layer of scratchy, droning feedback that cast the proceedings in sonic tones, like a red handkerchief thrown over a lampshade. But this wasn’t some sort of slow-drone Floyd-ish psycho head game. More like the kind of music you imagine playing in the background while on the run after a deal gone bad just outside of Bakersfield on a summer day in 1972, a day that never ends viewed through the filter of over saturated 70 mm film stock. Chugging, hot, on-the-run rock music with no place to hide. This band would be fun to see on a big outdoor stage (just outside of Bethel, NY) sitting in a field surrounded by 100,000 people. Can Gerner bring this energy to VietNam’s upcoming recordings? Wait and see.

Laughing Falcon at O'Leaver's May 11, 2013.

Laughing Falcon at O’Leaver’s May 11, 2013.

Saturday night was another O’Leaver’s night. Lots of folks there to see the reincarnation of Peace of Shit in the form of new band Dumb Beach. I got there just in time to hear the last five minutes of unbridled roar from Dim Light, a band that has reemerged with obvious new energy. I didn’t know much about the next band, Lincoln’s Laughing Falcon, and expected even less. Instead I was pleasantly surprised.

As one guy told me Saturday night, metal is metal, and Laughing Eagle is indeed metal, but of a more palatable strain than the dumbed-down goon rock heard at Rock Fest this past weekend. Laughing Falcon heralds back to the days of Judas Priest, Sabbath, all the way back to Deep Purple and as current as Early Man. But despite referential riffs, the four-piece brought something modern to this rather tattered fight club. It’s not so much angry as energetic, though afterward, you’ll feel like kicking someone’s head in.

The main event, of course, was Dumb Beach, the latest brainchild of frontman Austin Ulmer, and by far his best. Ulmer has surrounded himself with some of the best up-and-coming talent in town, including drummer Jeff Lambelet (Digital Leather), guitarist Ethan Jones (Baby Tears, ex-Ladyfinger), a second guitarist who I’ve seen in a couple other bands whose name I do not know, and secret weapon smiling Dave Hansen (Worried Mothers) on bass. The resulting roar is more straight-forward and “poppy” than Peace of Shit, with songs reminiscent of Digital Leather during that band’s three-piece punk years. They were at their best when playing the fast, heavy stuff vs. the slower songs (though you’ve got to have that contrast to give the highs their highs). Ulmer is at the center of it all with guitar and howl, bare boned, raw, he’s a working man’s frontman, a no-nonsense Midwestern garage punk with an obvious knack for riff and melody and violent noise.

* * *

Everyone thought that Adam Hawkins’ last project, It’s True, was going to break through and get signed, but it was not to be. Hawkins got married, had a kid and now lives somewhere other than Omaha, though he’s far from forgotten by the Benson crowd who once called him their own.

Now comes word that Hawkins’ new project with his wife, Katy Sleeveless, called Eros and Eschaton, has been signed by Bar/None Records. Bar/None has been around since way back in 1986. Among the bands that got their first break from Bar/None are Yo La Tengo, Freedy Johnston, They Might Be Giants, Poi Dog Pondering and even our very own Lullaby for the Working Class.

* * *

Believe it or not, tonight’s Thermals’ show at Slowdown Jr. has yet to sell out — surprising considering the band’s past history and the hype behind their Saddle Creek Records’ debut Desperate Ground. Opening is another hot band, Pleasure Adapter, who I’m told will have a new cassette available at tonight’s show. $12, 9 p.m.

By the way, I’m supposed to be on the list for this one. Let’s see what happens.

Also tonight… Jiha Lee was a member of Bright Eyes and at the center of Saddle Creek music scene when it was just emerging in the early 2000s . And then, she just seemed to disappear. Well, she’s back tonight at Pageturners, performing with another ’00s veteran Fizzle Like a Flood a.k.a. Doug Kabourek. Show starts at 9 and is absolutely free.

* * *

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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