TBT: Lazy-i March 5, 2003: Carsinogents douse their flames; Gramps, Midwest Dilemma tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 1:38 pm March 5, 2015
The cover photo of the Omaha Weekly-Reader from March 5, 20114. Photo by Bill Sitzmann

The cover photo of the Omaha Weekly-Reader from March 5, 20114. Photo by Bill Sitzmann

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Before we go back in time, here’s this week’s Lazy-i Podcast: Matthew Sweet speaks; Simon Joyner, Icky Blossoms, Shy Boys, J Fernandez and Bloodcow and what’s happening this weekend. Fun!

This being Throw Back Thursday, a blast from the past… or maybe a doused blast.

This cover story for The Omaha Weekly-Reader about The Carsinogents came out March 5, 2003, and highlighted the band’s then just-released full-length on Speed Nebraska, Ole! This was just a few weeks after the notorious Feb. 20, 2003, tragedy where pyrotechnics used during a Great White concert sparked a fire at a club in West Warwick, Rhode Island, killing 100 and injuring 230.

Of course back then, one highlight of Carsinogents’ shows was their novel use of fire, with a member of the band often blowing flames from his mouth. Rhode Island changed all that. As guitarist Vig Brooks said in the article: “Locally, I don’t care that it’s over. On the road, I wish we could still do it. One of the worst bands of the ’80s f***ed us.”

Sure enough, the flames were doused at their March 8, 2003, CD release party at Sokol Underground. Here’s the review of that show, which would end up being a warm-up before the band went on tour with Cursive .

Live Review: The Carsinogents at Sokol Underground
From Lazy-i, March 9, 2003

Sokol Underground, March 8, 2003.

Sokol Underground, March 8, 2003.

In the end, they didn’t need the flames.

I guess you could look at this almost as an epilogue to my current feature on the Carsinogents. What would the band do after being forced by Great White to give up the key theatrical element of their live show — the flame-blowing routine?

At the risk of sounding cliché, the band brought a different kind of fireworks to the Sokol Underground last night (yikes, I can’t believe I wrote that). I’ve seen these guys at least a half-dozen times — all of the past shows included the usual fire-breathing hi-jinx. Last night’s non-flame show was easily their best all-out performance. And no one seemed to miss the fire.

The set started with the video projector and pre-show music (Remember the day when all bands played about five minutes of music before their set, just to get people in the mood? The preshow music was a signal to finish your conversation, get a beer and get up to the stage. I miss those days). The recorded music was of the mariachi variety — Mexican trumpets and orchestra — while on a large sheet draped over a pole with duct tape a video was projected of a bull fight, interspersed with a shot of the band’s old flaming-skull tiki.

The flames were replaced with plenty of smoke from a fog machine. There was so much smoke, I turned to the guy next to me and asked if it was part of the act… shades of Rhode Island still fresh in my mind. I glanced up sheepishly at the exit signs. In addition to the smoke, the stage was set with red floor lights and side spot lights, as well as a lighted keyboard placard with the band’s logo blaring white.

Then on stage came the band. Anyone who’s seen the Carsinogents knows that lead singer, Dave Electro, is a natural showman, a true tripped-out troubadour with footwork that would make Elvis blush. When Dave wasn’t behind the keyboard, he was in front of the stage swinging his vintage microphone, belting a riff on guitar, doing some sort of weird shuffle that reminded me of gospel minister lost in the jubilation at a revival meeting.

The set list was a blend of old stuff, songs off the new CD and a couple I hadn’t heard before. The band’s sound indeed has evolved from ‘horror-billy’ to straight-out hard rock. I don’t know what kind of a match they’ll be with Cursive, whose songs are angular punk with introspective vocals. What will the emo kids think when they see Electro standing atop his organ while the rest of the band crashes along with knuckle-busting powerchords? Regardless, last night’s crowd of around 300 ate it up. I noticed those who were standing in front of or near the speaker stack were pushed to center stage by night’s end. It was indeed loud. I felt sorry for anyone stupid enough to not have earplugs. There’s nothing tough or cool about tinnitus.

No, the flames weren’t missed. As a matter of fact, the boys can now also confidently leave the film projector at home — in the end it didn’t add much to the staging. The lights and smoke and rock and roll moves are enough to entertain. But the real moment of truth came during the encore, when the band rolled out their signature finale that traditionally includes the flame-stunt. Like always, during the last part of the song, Dave seamlessly switched places with drummer Eldon Vampola. But instead of Eldon grabbing a torch and spitting Bacardi all over the place, he strapped on Dave’s guitar and punched out guitar riffs while the rest of the band bashed around stage. After Eldon switched back to his drum set, Dave stretched out his arms across the duct-taped sheet, strolled up to the keyboard, climbed atop and stood there playing the song’s final chords.

When he climbed down, that was it — the end of an era for the band and a beginning of a new one. The final word about The Carsinogents: I don’t know if they’ll ever break out of this one-horse town. Sure, they’ve got four Texas dates with Cursive including a gig at Emo’s in Austin. But the end of the story won’t be written until we find out if they ever get a full-blown tour of their own, up either coast or for three or four weeks throughout the Midwest. And then follow-up with a return tour, because everyone knows the first time out is small and, if you’ve made an impression, the second time is huge. This band — both in terms of its music and stage show — would impress any crowd. The only thing holding them back is them.

We’re all still waiting for that Carsinogents reunion. Something tells me we’re going to be waiting for a long, long time…

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Tonight at 6 at Urban Outfitters in the Slowdown complex it’s free beer, free pizza and free music featuring Gramps, the hot new combo fronted by Love Drunk impresario Django Greenblatt-Seay. Also performing is DJ Kethro. More info here.

Than later tonight at PS Collective, Jackson Mississippi band Young Valley headlines a bill that includes super talented singer-songwriters Nick Carl, Tarvis Sing (Township and Range) and Omaha’s original folk-explosion, Midwest Dilemma. This one’s early, too. 7 p.m. and $5. More info here.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — 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.


Lazy-i Interview: Guided By Voices’ Tobin Sprout; Introducing ‘From the Vault’ (with Carsinogents); Dntel tonight…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:49 pm August 10, 2011

Guided by Voices Classic Lineup

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

When the Guided By Voices reunion tour was announced in June 2010, Matador Records deemed the band’s configuration “the Classic Lineup.” Even the GBV logo was reworked in the same colors and font as Coca-Cola, another American classic.

It was the perfect moniker for a lineup that drove GBV’s mid-’90s golden era — frontman/singer/songwriter Robert Pollard, guitarist Mitch Mitchell, drummer Kevin Fennell, bassist Greg Demos, and Pollard’s partner in crime, guitarist Tobin Sprout, who penned such GBV classics as “Awful Bliss,” “Atom Eyes” and “It’s Like Soul Man.”

For the uninitiated, a quick GBV career summary: It started when grade school teacher Pollard got together with friends from a number of local Dayton bands and jammed in his garage. From 1986 through 1993 the band put out seven recordings, none of which caught the ear of anyone outside southern Ohio.

After ’93’s Vampire on Titus was released on Scat Records, music insiders began figuring it out. Following a series of New York shows, the band began to attract an interesting group of fans, including The Breeders, Thurston Moore, Peter Buck, Peter Wolf, Ray Davies and the Beastie Boys.

Then in ’94, the year of Kurt Cobain’s death and the beginning of the end for grunge, along came Bee Thousand, GBV’s homemade opus that positioned the band as indie rock legends. Pollard and Sprout had an uncanny ability to write short, sweet pop songs with hooks that you couldn’t get out of your head. Sprout’s 4-track recordings ushered in what would come to be known as the “low-fi” craze. Suddenly, for better or worse, hiss-filled CDs that sounded like they were recorded for about $10 in someone’s basement “studio” were all the rage among indie bands. Sounding good meant sounding bad.

During this era, the classic lineup would make some of GBV’s most famous recordings, including PropellerBee ThousandAlien Lanes and Under the Bushes Under the Stars.

But all good things come to an end, right? GBV split up in ’06. Pollard went on to a solo career. So did Sprout, who was also nurturing a fine art career and a family. And that, it seemed, was the end of the GBV story.

Until this reunion, but even that has to end sometime. The band’s appearance at the MAHA Music Festival this Saturday at Stinson Park will mark the third-to-last show of this reunion tour.

We caught up with Tobin Sprout to find out what happens next:

Guided by Voices' Tobin Sprout, circa 2010.

Guided by Voices' Tobin Sprout, circa 2010.

How did the “Classic Lineup” happen? What convinced the band to get together for these shows?

Tobin Sprout: Matador asked us to reunite for their 21st Anniversary show in Vegas (2010).  After that was announced we were getting offers from all over the country to play, so we ended up doing a 21-city tour.  Then added New Year’s and other weekend shows.  We have four more shows to do ending in September, about a year from the time we started the reunion. It was sort of the plan to put it to rest after a year.

What’s it been like playing with Bob and the rest of the band again?

It’s been good; everyone is having a great time, picking up where we left off.

What have been the best and worst parts about this tour?

The best part is playing in GBV again, I never thought for any reason it would happen.  But Matador gave us an opening and we just have gone with the flow.  It has been great to be with the band and see the fans again.

Flying is the worst part. It never really used to bother me, but now it does, not really for the danger because it’s safer than driving, or even the high up in the air part, just the checking in, waiting, waiting, checking, sitting in a very small area. Maybe I’m becoming claustrophobic.

Guided by Voices, Bee Thousand (Matador, 1994)

Guided by Voices, Bee Thousand (Matador, 1994)

Have you ever talked about writing and recording new GBV material?

Yes, we have talked about it, and you never know it could happen. The reunion happened.

Within the past three or four years, there has been a revival of garage bands, and certainly a lot of these up-and-comers have been influenced by GBV. The GBV set was singled out as one of the best at the Pitchfork Music Festival. What’s it like knowing that your music is having an impact on a different generation?

Glad to hear Pitchfork said it was one of the best. It was considered by NP (defund them) R, as one of the worst shows in Seattle.  If we help carry and pass the torch, that’s great. It’s all about the songs. There are people in every generation that seem to get that.

How has being in a band changed since the early ’90s?

Cell phones, laptops, e-mail have made touring seem a lot easier — being able to stay in touch with home and not have to deal with finding a phone (that works), phone cards, etc. I can always be reached now.

What advice would you give those just starting out?

I would say if this is what you want to do, write songs, and write songs.  Then go on tour and play them, and don’t sign anything until you have your lawyer look at it.

Guided by Voices at Sokol Underground, April 8, 2000.

Guided by Voices at Sokol Underground, April 8, 2000.

What are you going to do after the tour ends? Are you working on any solo material or with another band?

I’ll be working on my art, music and painting.  Bob and I might do an art show together; right now it’s being called “The Big Hat And Toy Show.” No date has been set, and I will also need time to get more work together.  (I’m) also writing more on my book, Elliott — April and Elliott, the story continues.

Your paintings are amazing. Will you now refocus your efforts on your fine art?

Thanks, I never really lose focus.  I still manage to paint and write between shows, and I’m always making notes, and sketching ideas in my head on tour.

Will GBV ever reform again for another tour?

I don’t know.  Maybe

Finally, what should we expect from GBV when we see you at the MAHA Festival?

The Big Hat And (Amazing) Rock Show, for all the great Omaha and visiting GBV fans, and fans to come.

Guided by Voices plays with Cursive, J Mascis, Matisyahu, The Rev. Horton Heat and The Envy Corps at the MAHA Music Festival, Saturday, Aug. 13, at Stinson Park in Aksarben Village, 67th & West Center Rd. Gates open at noon. Tickets are $30; $35 DOS. For more information, go to mahamusicfestival.com.

Story originally published in The Reader Aug. 10, 2011. Copyright © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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So here’s the deal: While plugging away at a history project of my own, I got lost in the catacombs of old articles and blog entries that make up 13+ years of Lazy-i.com. Narcissistic? I suppose. It dawned on me that no matter what history is written, there will always be things that fall between the tracks that should be remembered. And that’s where “The Lazy-i Vault” comes in, a new blog feature online once a week, usually Tuesday or Wednesday, that takes readers back to something that happened in Omaha/Nebraska indie rock history, as reported in Lazy-i. It could be a news item, it could be a show review, it could be an interview. It’ll be followed by a brief “so what happened”-style update. It’ll usually be just a brief snapshot taken from the past, like this one:

From Lazy-i Vault, Aug. 10, 2000: The Carsinogents will be trotting out a new bass player when they open for the all-girl band, The Pindowns, this Saturday, Aug. 12, 2000, at The 49’r. Vocalist Dave Goldberg said Marc Phillips will be taking over for Mike Ivers, who recently left the band. The Carsinogents also will be playing a show at The Ranch Bowl Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2000, with the Young Hasselhoffs and The Cuterthans.

Goldberg said the band has completed recording a 5-song EP at Rainbow, produced by Dan Brennan of Red Menace fame. “We’re currently sending it to various labels and people with connections,” Goldberg said. “Ideally, someone will pick it up and put it out. We’re very eager to tour.” FYI, for those who are on the fence as to whether to hit that 49’r show, Goldberg said The Pindowns perform in Catholic school girl outfits and have played a party for cinematic hero Ron Jeremy.

Back to the present: I don’t know if I made it to either of those shows, but I’m sure they were ones for the ages. Carsinogents never did much touring before the band split up a few years later. Goldberg got more than his share of roadwork as a member of Box Elders. You can catch his new joint, Solid Goldberg, Friday night at O’Leaver’s.

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Tonight at Slowdown Jr. it’s Dntel (James Scott “Jimmy” Tamborello of Figurine and Postal Service fame) along with One AM Radio and Geotic (Will Wiesenfeld of Baths). According to One AM’s publicist, “all three acts remixed each other, Will has played on The One AM Radio’s latest LP, and Jimmy and Hrishikesh (of The One AM Radio) go way back after meeting through the dublab community up in LA.” Expect to see more than just three guys sweating behind a bank of electronic equipment. Probably. $10, 9 p.m.

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Tomorrow: The final word from MAHA before MAHA…

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — 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.