Live Review: Gloom Balloon, Christopher the Conquered; punk rock toy drive (Cordial Spew, Bent Life, Time Cat) tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 2:42 pm December 17, 2015
Christopher the Conquered at Slowdown, Jr., Dec. 16, 2015.

Christopher the Conquered at Slowdown, Jr., Dec. 16, 2015.

by Tim McMahan,

To put this in perspective, before I drove down to The Slowdown last night I watched about five minutes of Magnolia, which HBO is now showing on demand. I caught the sequence where Julianne Moore is trying to buy high-powered drugs — liquid morphine — for her dying husband played by a really-dying-in-real-life Jason Robards in a heart-breaking performance. The young pharmacist sees her prescription and freaks out to his older pharmacist partner, who spies Moore over the counter with fear and contempt, making phone calls to her doctor’s office, not knowing what she’ll do with these dangerous pain killers. Finally, the young pharmacist returns to the counter with the prescriptions and says something like, “These are strong drugs, do you know what they could do?” and Moore explodes in a tear-filled gut-wrenching tirade of F-bombs and how-dare you’s. Because her father is dying, and she’s falling apart.

That’s what set my mood right before entering The Slowdown for Christopher the Conquered. Somehow I got the band order wrong or they changed it along the way and Christopher (Ford, his real name) was slotted second instead of the headline-third spot on a show that started at 8 p.m., which meant I only got to see the last song of his set, a heart-felt rendition of his recent digital single “I’m Giving Up on Rock & Roll.” Ford belted it out behind the keyboard, before standing up and belting it out some more. I wish I would have gotten there earlier. Next time, Christopher.

Afterward, a local music dude who goes to a shit-ton of shows — and who’s seen Christopher the Conquered numerous times — said “I think he’s the next big thing to break out from around here.” Maybe. Probably. I need to see his full set before I make up my mind, but from what I’ve seen and heard online from this Des Moines dude who has made Omaha a second home (thanks to this Wednesday-night residency at Slowdown and a handful of shows at O’Leaver’s) my music friend could very well be right.

Next up was Gloom Balloon, which one could describe as a “party band.” The duo of Christopher Ford and former Poison Control Center member Patrick Tape Fleming is a re-imagining of the rap-along-with-a-prerecorded-track performance style that The Show Is the Rainbow honed to a sharp edge years ago. There are a lot of similarities between Gloom Balloon and Darren Keen’s old act (which Keen retired long ago).

Like Keen used to do, Ford and Fleming spent the entire set in the crowd with microphones egging on a circle of fans as they punched out lyrics to their unique style of yacht-rock infused hip hop. Meanwhile (also like TSITR) a video was projected on stage that included snippets from movies (Harold & Maude, for example), old camp-reel footage and new video of Ford and Fleming doing funny, weird things. I found myself paying more attention to the video than the performance.

The party circle watches Gloom Balloon perform on the floor at Slowdown Jr., Dec. 16, 2015.

The party circle watches Gloom Balloon perform on the floor at Slowdown Jr., Dec. 16, 2015.

Punk shows have mosh pits; Gloom Balloon has a party circle — the area near the stage on the floor where the duo interacts with the willing, in torrid, in-yer-face one-on-ones (that is, when the duo isn’t rolling around the floor on their backs or on each other). Playful, yes. Lots of yelling. I don’t like crowd interaction where the performers actually touch you, so I stayed back by the merch table and soaked in the performance art from a distance. You have to be in the mood for this sort of thing; but even if I was, I’d never get near the spectacle.

I take that back. I’ve seen this sort of in-your-face performance done quite effectively on a different level. A Deleted Scenes performance comes to mind, where frontman Dan Scheuerman came into the crowd and sang directly at/in fans’ faces, even grabbing hold of one poor sot’s head. Then there’s Les Savy Fav, a post-punk band where lead singer Tim Harrington was known to bound from stage and angrily push his act directly into his audience (when he wasn’t climbing a nearby stack of speakers).

The above are “serious” examples. Gloom Balloon isn’t serious at all. Neither, really, was The Show Is the Rainbow. The intent was to entertain in a way that can only be described as mad-cap, and to fill the time between songs with funny banter, something Ford and Fleming do as well as Keen ever did (though it wasn’t uncommon for Darren to end up naked by the end of the night).

The set highlight was near the end, when the duo pulled out a real, full-sized multi-colored parachute, which the crowd-circle held like a makeshift tent over the performers who crawled around under it. Fun to watch. But that’s nothing new for Fleming. I enjoyed his somersault-fueled theatrics for years in Poison Control Center, along with that band’s music. If there’s a minus with Gloom Balloon it’s that their music gets lost or forgotten among the videos and yelling and crowd-hassling and jokes and rolling around the floor. Does it matter as long as everyone had a good time? Only if you’re selling records.

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The season of giving continues tonight at Lookout Lounge with what’s being called the See Nebraska Give Toy Drive. Maybe they should have called it the Punk Rock Toy Drive because the bands playing this charity event are some of the area’s punkiest — Bent Life, Pergatory, Cordial Spew, The Ridgways, Third Eye Merchants, Kovacs and Time Cat.

Entrance to the show is either 1) a new or lightly used toy, or 2) $5 (or more, depending on how generous you feel). All proceeds go to Omaha’s Open Door Mission. Show starts early at 6 p.m. and runs ’til 11.

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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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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