Live Review: Oberst/Bridgers’ Better Oblivion Community Center; Black Moth Super Rainbow, Brazen Throats tonight; Liz Cooper Sunday…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:37 pm March 22, 2019

Better Oblivion Community Center at The Slowdown, March 21, 2019.

by Tim McMahan,

Last night’s Conor Oberst/Phoebe Bridgers Better Oblivion Community Center (BOCC) gig at The Slowdown was a packed affair; a crowd that in many ways resembled your typical album release show where fans mix with proud parents and family members. The difference being that BOCC is probably the most successful project Conor Oberst has launched since Bright Eyes. Whereas Desaparecidos, Monsters of Folk and Mystic Valley Band all produced some good tunes, they always felt like bro-fueled good-time side projects, creative diversions between Bright Eyes and/or Conor Oberst solo projects.

BOCC holds a bit of that essence as well. You can’t help but think Oberst and Bridgers just like hanging around each other and said, “Let’s do a band, that way we can tour together,” then set out to combine their varied styles of songwriting. Sharp-eared fans will recognize the Bridgers’ portions — all her music has a similar cascading harmonic style, like watching snow fall — and Oberst’s sing-song folk harmonies, which have become less varied musically over the past few years.

Most of the time they mesh well and take advantage of their contrasting vocal styles. Bridgers’ voice couldn’t be more light-as-air angelic; Oberst couldn’t sound more guttural and down-to-earth. It can be a brittle mixture, especially live when Bridgers is trying to harmonize with a guy whose voice sounds two octaves lower than hers. At times, its very charming; at other times, you just want one or the other to shut-up and let the other handle it.

An example is BOCC’s cover of Bright Eyes’ “Lua.” Bridgers led off the song alone, her high, thin voice added a new layer of loneliness to an already forlorn song. When Oberst came in on the second verse it felt like putting on an old pair of well-worn shoes, and I just wanted him to carry on the rest of the way (which he mainly did).

“Lua” was never written to be a duet. The songs on the BOCC album presumably were, or at least were written together.  The rough edges become less abrasive after multiple album listenings, but are still very obvious live on stage, for better or worse.

The set covered most, if not all, of the new album as well as renditions of a number of Bridgers and Oberst solo songs, and a cover of The Replacements’ “Can’t Hardly Wait,” with Oberst rippingly handling the leads and our own Patrick Newberry handling the trumpet. It was a highlight, along with a fantastic version of Bridgers’ “Would You Rather,” which is a perfect melding of their styles.

Oberst and Bridgers played guitars all night, with Christian Lee Hutson adding some tasty leads and keyboards. Missing was the soaring Nick Zinner guitar lines (Zinner of Yeah Yeah Yeahs fame, is one of the best axe-bearers in the business), but the combo still was plenty ferocious.

The between-song patter brought up only one controversy, at least for Omahans. I don’t know anything about Phoebe Bridgers except her music. And though I’ve been writing and interviewing Oberst for more than two decades, I don’t really know anything about him, either, except his music.

So when the two of them combined to make comments like “This one’s written about our home town, Los Angeles,” I don’t know if they’re speaking proudly of good ol’ El Lay or are taking a jab at 311, which Bridgers seemed to do when she sarcastically said her favorite Omaha band is 311. Nor do I care, because Oberst has lived all over the country for the past two decades, and as far as I know, still owns a mansion in Fairacreas, whether he actually sleeps there or not. Still, Nebraskans are proud of his heritage (We have so little else to point to on a national level). A few in the crowd booed the first time Oberst/Bridgers mentioned LA as their hometown. The second time, they cheered.

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A few interesting shows this weekend…

Tonight Black Moth Super Rainbow headlines at The Waiting Room — trippy psych/experimental synth stuff. Opening are Stever Hauschild and High Tides. $17, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, Brazen Throats opens a show at fabulous O’Leaver’s. Consisting of guitarist/vocalist Rich Higgins (Sideshow), bassist Rob Rothe (13 County) and drummer Paul Engelhard (For Against), it’s like a ’90s-’00s Lincoln supergroup. They’re up first, followed by Minne Lussa and headliner Satellite Junction. $5, 9 p.m.

Saturday night at O’Leaver’s Fort Collins art-rock band Safekeeper headlines. Bach Mai and Death Cow open at 10 p.m. $5.

Sunday night Liz Cooper and the Stampede (Sleepyhead Records) headlines at Reverb Lounge. Sean Pratt opens at 8 p.m. $14.

And that’s all I got. If I missed your show, put it in the comments section. Have a great weekend.

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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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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