Live Review: Bull Nettles at Dr. Jack’s, and a return to live shows…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 10:11 am May 31, 2021
Bull Nettles at Dr. Jack’s Drinkery, May 29, 2021.

It’s so weird going inside anywhere without wearing a mask let alone a club, but that was the sitch Saturday night at Dr. Jack’s Drinkery, the bar formerly known as The Brass Knocker.

I had a mask in my jacket pocket not knowing the bar’s masking protocol. I could have left it at home. No signs on the door and no one inside wore a mask and there was no evidence we’d ever been in a pandemic. In fact, had I put on my mask I would have have been the subject of much pointing and maybe even a confrontation. No doubt people who still feel like wearing a mask inside clubs will feel intimidated to not wear one – no one wants to be the center of attention.

I’ve been long vaccinated, though that doesn’t guarantee I’ll never get COVID, only that I might not die from it. Which leads one to wonder how many people in the room Saturday night have had their shots…

Enough about the pandemic. I haven’t been in this club in well over 20 years, back when it was the Brass Knocker. My recollection of the layout is rather foggy, but I seem to remember there was a staging area for karaoke, which is now gone. Instead, on the other side of the bar is a small “stage” set-up with old-fashioned PAs stacked on either side. Though Dr. Jack’s hosts shows, you can tell the place wasn’t designed for live music (but then again, neither was O’Leaver’s).

As The Mudpuddles ripped through their set, I wandered outside through an open overhead door where a bunch of people were hanging out drinking. The patio is actually nicer than the club’s interior, which was a bit ramshackle.

Bull Nettles, the trio trio that features Travis Linn (a.k.a. Travis Sing) on lead vocals and guitar and Doug Kabourek on drums (and “Steve” on bass), kicked into gear at around 10:30 for a set that featured mainly songs from their new EP, The Last Days of Empire, whose release they were celebrating Saturday. They call their sound “cow punk” but it’s really alt country, and live reminded me more of Centro-Matic than Frontier Trust, because Travis actually sings (vs. Gary Dean Davis’ barrel holler).

It’s a quibble, but the mix was not good unless you really wanted to enjoy a band’s rhythm section. Travis and his guitar at times got lost, which was a shame because both are among my favorite things on the EP. Also lost with this crowd was Sing’s clever, biting political lyrics, which make seeking out the Bandcamp page and following along with the lyrics a smart go. It’s hard to write political stuff without sounding preachy, but Sing pulls it off better than most these days.

Among the highlights was a rousing version of stand-out track “No Higher Ground,” and album opener “Howl & Whine,” along with nice version of Creedance’s “Don’t Look Now,” and an old At Land song by Doug Kabourek.

If you missed the show you’re out of luck with these guys, as they posted on their Facebook page afterward that this would be their last gig for the foreseeable future. “We never really intended to be a live band, plus there are radical changes afoot for one of the bandmates.” A pity.

Not a bad way to come out of a pandemic, but I’m still waiting for the city’s real clubs to book some decent live shows. And it could be awhile.

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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 © 2021 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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