Live Review: Junkfest, Ramon Speed, Josh Hoyer; Desa adds show, Whipkey Kickstarter; Sour Boy, Bitter Girl, High Ends tonight…

Ramon Speed at Junkstock #20 at Sweatshop Gallery, Nov. 8, 2014.

Ramon Speed at Junkstock #20 at Sweatshop Gallery, Nov. 8, 2014.

by Tim McMahan,

It was a night of contrasts Saturday. The evening started out in Benson at Junkstock #20, the gala event hosted by Unread Records’ Chris Fischer featuring a number of artists from the exec’s famous tape label. I got there just in time to catch an amazing set by South Carolina songwriter Brantley Fletcher who goes by the name Plundershop. His story-telling style of acoustic balladry had a personal quality reminiscent of Mountain Goats’ John Darnielle, and equally as stark. The guy had a great voice that sounded sterling on the Sweatshop’s tiny PA.

This was my first show at Sweatshop, which is basically the garage in the back of the Sweatshop Gallery, located just south of The Barley Street Tavern in Benson. Entrance is in the back through a smokers-picnic area where people hung out on lawn chairs and drank from BYOB tall boys. Had I known it was a BYOB thing I would have picked up a can of Rolling Rock before I arrived.

The performance space is small; it looks like it could hold 50 or so comfortably in front of the “band space.” It’s a stand-around experience, though a couple people were seated here and there including near the doorway that led downstairs to the art gallery. It had the feel of a house show (or garage show).

Plundershop was followed by a guy who goes by the name Mean Spirited Robots, another acoustic songwriter who played his personal stories seated to a crowd of around 20.

Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers at The Slowdown, Nov. 8, 2014.

Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers at The Slowdown, Nov. 8, 2014.

After his set it was time for something completely different. I skedaddled down to The Slowdown for Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers’ CD release show. Hoyer filled the big stage with a pro team that included sax, trombone, guitar, bass, drums, keyboard and three backup singers, all necessary to fill out the funk/blues sound heard on his new album. Hoyer said he’d spent the time before his set resting his voice which “felt funny,” but you couldn’t hear a bit of hoarseness when he launched into his CD’s title track, “Living by the Minute.”

This is traditional blues/funk that borders on Steely Dan yacht rock played precisely by a team of instrumental craftsmen, but it’s Hoyer at the center — pounding out the keys and singing — that makes it all work. It was nice not being the oldest guy in the crowd of around 200, a crowd that looked a lot different than the usual indie audience I’ve seen at past Slowdown shows.


Plundershop at The Sweatshop Gallery, Nov. 8, 2014.

Thirty or so minutes into the set and I headed back uptown to the Sweatshop, arriving just in time to see the last band of the evening, Ramon Speed. By then, the garage was jam packed and I began to understand why they call it the Sweatshop as I was sweating my ass off in my pea coat.

Ramon Speed has been around in one form or another since the ’90s, having released music on Sing! Eunuchs label, among others. The band’s personnel is George Peek on guitar and vocals, Brad Smith (of Almost Music) on bass, Mike Marasco on guitar, and Miah Sommer on drums.

This was my first time ’round with these guys and it was amazing — a hard, guttural punk rock sound, a throwback to the early Antiquarium days of the ’90s of bands like Solid Jackson and Culture Fire. The closest modern comparison would be one of Steve Micek’s bands (The Stay Awake) though RS’s sound is not nearly as technical. Great stuff. Too bad it was a one-off, as Peek doesn’t live around here, and the rest of the band is involved in other projects.

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A few newsy notes…

This morning One Percent Productions announced that Desaparecidos will be playing at The Waiting Room Nov. 25 with Digital Leather and BOTH. Not sure why this one popped up now, other than the band might be getting in some stage time while everyone’s in town for Thanksgiving (and they’re prepping to support an upcoming release on Epitaph?). $20 tix are on sale now.

Also, Matt Whipkey’s Kickstarter campaign is winding down and Matt’s still got a ways to go. He’s just under $3,000 with a goal of $5,250 and just three days left. So if you’re gonna help him out, better do it now.

There is a raft of shows going on tonight…

Over at the Down Under Lounge, 3802 Leavenworth, Ft. Collins band Sour Boy, Bitter Girl headlines with Micha Schnabel (Two Cow Garage), Anthems and Cooper Lakota Moon. 7 p.m., $5.

Indie hip-hop star Murs headlines at The Waiting Room tonight with Ces Cru. $20, 9 p.m.

The sneaky-good show of the night is High Ends at Reverb. Fronted by Jeff Innes of Yukon Blonde, the Vancouver band’s music has been compared to Destroyer and Jim James. Opening is One Eye White. $10, 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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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