Live Review: Happy Birthday; on the eve of Conor-fest; Conduits, Heartless Bastards tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 3:22 pm July 30, 2010
Happy Birthday at The Waiting Room, July 29, 2010.

Happy Birthday at The Waiting Room, July 29, 2010.

by Tim McMahan,

I almost didn’t go see rock band Happy Birthday last night at The Waiting Room. I got a text from someone at the show who said no one was there. And it was $10. And I was tired. But then I thought to myself, dammit, I should go to this if only because I don’t want to be part of the reason why One Percent quits booking these kinds of bands — touring Sub Pop bands, bands that should be drawing crowds of people who like indie music.

So I went. And sure enough, there was maybe 10 people there (and 10 people at TWR looks like no people). But it didn’t matter. Happy Birthday put on an amazing show. Their set was a half-hour of buzzing indie goodness, sort of a modern version of Dinosaur Jr. but poppier, funner, and sung by a guy with a witchy voice who looked like a shaggy version of Derek Pressnall. Sure, it ended up costing me about a $1 per song, but it was worth it.

So how can we get more people to come out to see young touring bands like this? It’s always been a problem. I remember when Retsin came through Sokol Underground and played for five or six people (talk about an empty-looking venue when fewer than 50 were there). That had to be 10 years ago. I felt as embarrassed for Omaha then as I did last night. But beyond embarrassment, if the promotors can’t get people to come to these shows, they’ll have little choice but to quit booking them. So if you want to see your favorite Sub Pop or Merge or Matador band come through Omaha, you better start going to shows, whether you’re tired or not.

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Here’s the burning question from many of the patriots who plan on attending tomorrow’s Concert for Equality: Where do I park? The answer: It’s every man for himself. Benson isn’t exactly designed to handle an influx of 2,000+ people from a parking standpoint, so if you’re driving and intend to show up right before the 5 p.m. start time, expect to do some hiking from your car to the concert site just outside of Jake’s on Military Ave. As someone pointed out last night, there isn’t much parking at Sokol Auditorium, yet people always seem to find a place to park in the surrounding neighborhoods for sold out shows of 1,400 people. Me, I intend to walk from my house, a little over a mile away. It should be an adventure.

Conor Oberst was on the local NPR news this morning talking about the concert and the issue surrounding it. Kevin Coffey’s article in the Omaha World-Herald came out this morning, right here, where Kevin references one of Oberst’s personal motives behind his activism:

And he’s outraged at the situation of a close family friend who came to the United States illegally from Mexico decades ago. She recently returned to Mexico so she could come back here legally, and though her three daughters and husband are citizens, she can’t return to the U.S. for 10 years.

This paragraph begs for more explanation. If the “family friend” is married to a U.S. citizen, how is it that she’s not able to return to the United States for 10 years?  I don’t know much about immigration law, but I always thought that if a citizen of another country married a U.S. citizen, that person also becomes a U.S. citizen. That, apparently, isn’t the case. A quick search at WikiAnswers brought this back: “If the person was illegally in the country for more than a year, than he or she is barred from ever coming back for 10 years (known as the “10-year-bar”) The only way to overcome having the 10-year-bar is by the US citizen spouse filing a petition for a waiver of the bar.

I’m sure there’s even more to the story. And that’s the problem when a celebrity becomes the center of a cause such as this one — there’s a pretty good chance that you’re going to confuse more people than you convince. Immigration law is complicated. It’s multi-faceted and multi-layered, with jurisdictions inside of jurisdictions. The issue that seems to be impacting Oberst’s family friend is a federal immigration issue. The Fremont immigrant law is a local issue that resides within a federal framework. Do the kids who will be rocking out to Desaparecidos know or care about any of this? Very unlikely. All’s they’ll know is that the Fremont law is “a bad thing.” Do they need to know more than that?

That said, it’ll be impossible for those young fans to ignore the hate groups that will be set up along the parameter of the concert. If those fans thought they lived in a world free of racism, they’re in for a sobering civics lesson tomorrow afternoon. And maybe that shot of reality alone will make this concert worthwhile.

* * *

There are a lot of other shows going on this weekend other than Conor-fest.

A brand new band is being unveiled tonight at Slowdown Jr. Conduits is a supergroup of sorts. The line-up: Guitarist J.J. Idt (Eagle Seagull), guitarist Nate Mickish (Kite Pilot, The Golden Age), bass/keyboardist Mike Overfield (Eagle Seagull), drummer Roger L. Lewis (The Good Life, Our Fox), and vocalist Jenna Morrison (Son, Ambulance). The band describes its sound as “moody, atmospheric, shoegazey, drone pop.” Headlining is Our Fox, who are going on hiatus after this show, and the always amazing Jake Bellows. $6, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, down at Sokol Underground, its Fat Possum band and critics’ darlings Heartless Bastards. This show has been flying under the wire, probably because it’s not being presented under the One Percent banner. Also on the bill are Builders and the Butcher and Peter Wolf Crier. $12, 7 p.m.

The Sydney is hosting a little pre-Conorfest party tonight with Statistics frontman and Desparecidos guitarist Denver Dalley doing his thing on the turntables. Starts at 10 and no cover.

Tomorrow night, of course, is the Concert for Equality. Watch my Twitter feed for updates and photos throughout the afternoon and evening (Yes, I’m a “deluxe” ticket holder).

Here’s the schedule for Saturday’s concert, by way of One Percent Productions:

Flowers Forever – 5:00-5:30
Vago – 5:45-6:15
The Envy Corps – 6:30-7:00
Bright Eyes – 7:15-8:00
Gillian Welch – 8:15-9:00
Cursive 9:15-10:00
Desaparecidos – 10:15-11:00

Fathr^ – 5:00-5:40
Simon Joyner – 6:00-6:40
The So-So Sailors – 7:00-7:40
Conchance – 8:00-8:40
David Dondero – 9:00-9:40
Closed from 10:00 – 11:00
Lullaby for the Working Class – 11:30-12:15
Hootenanny – 12:30-2:00

And finally, Sunday Tokyo Police Club returns to Slowdown with Freelance Whales and Arkells. $15, 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 © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.