Year in Review Pt. 2 — The Best Live Shows of 2011; Gus & Call residency concludes w/Simon Joyner tonight…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , — @ 1:51 pm December 29, 2011
The Shanks at O'Leaver's, June 24, 2011.

One of the year's best shows, The Shanks at O'Leaver's, June 24, 2011.

by Tim McMahan,

In years past I made it to at least a hundred shows in a calendar year. This year the number was around 60, but looking over the following list, 2011 was as good as any year that I can remember:

Jan. 18 – Cursive performs Domestica at The Waiting Room – It didn’t matter if frontman Tim Kasher messed up the opening line of “The Casualty” or if he even remembered the words, because the SRO crowd spent the evening singing along like an indie rock Greek chorus — a happy soccer mob chanting anthems that have become part of their lives.

Feb. 11 – Best Coast / Wavves at The Waiting Room – In this battle of the hyped indie bands, Wavves won with its morph of modern post-punk, low-fi, garage and So. Cal surf music, even though Best Coast had the better songs.

March 12 – Gus & Call at Slowdown Jr. – The band’s coming out party, Gus & Call unveiled a new kind of psychedelic, droning, alt country. Instead of “shoegaze,” call it “bootgaze” — a slower, denser sound that still held a hint of twang.

April 1 – It’s True at The Waiting Room – A combination reunion show, CD release show and last show (for now) for Adam Hawkins, he and his band of more than a dozen played a set that was at times angelic, explosive, violent, angry, loving, lost, lonely, funny, happy and familiar.

April 17 – The Decemberists at The Holland — Frontman Colin Meloy had the crowd in the palm of his hand throughout almost two hours of music, which included most of the songs off the new album and plenty of old stuff from Crane Wife.

April 30 – Digital Leather at O’Leaver’s – Stripped down to a three-piece, DL standards like “Your Hand, My Glove” were transformed into punk trash anthems that ride the bass line. The night ended with a cover of M.O.T.O.’s “Deliver Deliver Deliver” beefed up raw and twice as fast as the original.

May 6 – Of Montreal at The Slowdown — Strangest moment: Simulated sex between two stage performers in flesh-colored body suits wearing pig-head masks. Who says cabaret is dead?

May 13 – Solid Goldberg at The Barley Street Tavern – With just two keyboards, a battery of effects pedals and amplifiers, a digital projector and colored lights, one of the area’s – nay, one of the country’s – most ingenious music talents, Dave Goldberg, blew our minds.

May 21  Dundee Spring Fling – Three of the area’s best bands — So-So Sailors, Gus & Call and Conduits — invaded sleepy Dundee for a post-thunderstorm rock party.

June 4 – Bright Eyes at Westfair Amphitheater — Simply put, Conor Oberst put on a rock concert. Not an indie-folk show; not an “intimate acoustic evening of personal confessions.” A rock concert. As heavy a show as he’s probably capable of or would ever want to do. Bright Eyes at its peak.

June 5 – Iron & Wine at The Slowdown — Looking all formal and Zack Galifianakis-like in his intimidating dark suit, Iron & Wine frontman Sam Beam took charge of a huge ensemble that included a small woodwind/brass section, turning the Slowdown into his own private lounge.

June 24-25 – The Shanks at O’Leaver’s – The bloody, brawling conclusion to a band that played punk rock seething with the twisted life of those who wrote and performed it, who stood on the front line drunk or amped doing whatever they could to make contact with the crowd, with a smile or a fist.

July 16 – Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings at Stinson Park — Jones, age 55, performed with more energy than most R&B divas 1/3 her age — singing, dancing, grooving, pulling guys on stage to act as foils for her “you-better-do-me-right” rockers.

July 22 – Icky Blossoms at The Waiting Room – No longer “emerging,” with this show Icky Blossoms took The Faint’s place as the show-stopping dance, prance, throb-rock psychedelic must-see band in Omaha (and beyond).

Aug. 13 – MAHA Music Festival at Stinson Park – In the wake of one of the worst floods to hit the area since the ‘50s, Omaha’s premiere music fest headed west to Aksarben for a day-long concert featuring Cursive, Matisyahu and headliner Guided by Voices. Despite disappointing numbers (>4,000), it was nothing less than a success.

Aug. 27 – The Show Is the Rainbow at Dundee Day – The day-long street dance ended with TSITR’s Darren Keen precariously climbing the tower of speakers that balanced on the edge of the stage, looking like a big pink bear climbing a tree in search of a bee’s nest. Once on top, he looked out over the crowd he just conquered, and saluted them with his microphone.

Nov. 2 – Future Islands at The Waiting Room — Like a young Streetcar Brando combined with Deliverance Burt Reynolds and Kirkian Shatner, but with the intensity of a Rollins or Morrissey frontman Samuel T. Herring owned the stage with a voice that ranged somewhere between Richard Burton, Pee Wee Herman (in la-la-la-la mode), a monster and Billy Idol.

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Tonight, Gus & Call ends its December residency at Slowdown Jr. with special guests Simon Joyner & The Parachutes and The Bruces (Alex McManus’ band). Should be a fantastic evening of folk/rock/noise. $5, 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 © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.