Live Review: Our Fox, Ladyfinger, Criteria; MAHA talent show tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 7:03 pm May 24, 2010
Our Fox May 21, 2010

Our Fox at The Barley Street Tavern, May 21, 2010.

Here’s a recap of the past weekend, starting at The Barley Street Tavern Friday night.

The best part about opening duo Love of Everything: Their songs were short, and no, that’s not a shot at them. I actually enjoyed their simple tunes with simple choruses played by the simple duo of vocalist/guitarist Bobby Burg and wife/drummer Elisse. Burg gave their sound depth using an effects pedal that allows guitarists to record samples of a guitar line or phrase and play it back repeatedly, allowing for another guitar line (and another) and so on. This worked best on  “I Love All You Guys,” a song where Burg seemed to be playing random feedback squawks, until those squawks started to repeat themselves as part of the song — small, sharp shocks of sound that pushed through the guitar and vocals at strangely opportune times. And before you got tired of the whole thing, the song quickly ended.

The Barley Street’s small room packed up (but not claustrophobic-ly so) for Our Fox, who could be the next best thing on Saddle Creek Records (if Creek would take them) — and it wouldn’t be a surprise if they did, with personnel that includes frontman Ryan Fox (The Good Life) and second guitarist Jake Bellows. On the most basic level, their music fits  the slacker/indie-rock category but with an intensity of early Crazy Horse (Stephen Malkmus and Crazy Horse?). Fox has one of those shaky, unstable croons that sounds like a less-nasal version of Simon Joyner. Actually, he probably has more in common with someone like Malkmus vocally, and that shakiness is less apparent on the few demo recordings on their Myspace page. I thought the first few songs sounded like Good Life out-takes, and I could have imagined Tim Kasher singing them (with great aplomb). I like their music better when they leave Kasherville and head toward Foxland, where the citizens aren’t afraid to let it all hang out on songs that aren’t afraid to go on and on and blissfully on. This is a band that could create the indie equivalent of “Cowgirl in the Sand” or “Down by the River” — long, drawn-out jams that you never want to end thanks to Bellows’ and Fox’s clever, inventive and sometimes raw guitar work backed by a solid rhythm section.

Saturday night was a Saddle Creek Records reunion showcase with the return of both Ladyfinger and Criteria at The Waiting Room. Though not a sell-out, the place was appropriately packed. Ladyfinger played first (after opener Masses’ set). It was the first time I’ve seen the new line-up with Dan Brennan on bass replacing Ethan  Jones, and Megan Morgan (Landing on the Moon) on backing vocals (on about half the songs). Ladyfinger is a different band with Brennan, both style- and performance-wise. You cannot ignore him on stage; he gets locked in and doesn’t let go. It’s fun to see that level of pure enthusiasm from a band that’s pretty much known for just standing around on stage and playing. Their performance was the usual dead-on excursion into serious mind-fuck rock; too bad the sound mix was so bad. From where I stood almost dead center and 20 feet from the stage, everything was flat, without dynamics. Some guitar lines got lost in the fog along with the vocals (especially Morgan’s, who only rarely broke through the surface).

The sound mix problems continued with Criteria. The usual soaring guitars and vocals — the highlight of any Criteria performance — seemed buried in the rumble. A number of soundmen in the audience gave me their arm-chair quarterback diagnosis, telling me that there wasn’t enough being driven through “the mains.” All’s I know is that Aaron Druery’s guitar was tough to make out at times, and A.J. Mogis’ microphone might as well have been unplugged. Despite that, you couldn’t tell that this band hadn’t been on a stage in almost two years. It all sounded tight, including Stephen Pedersen’s high-flyin’ vocals that still have that pop. They all looked like they were having the time of their lives, and so did an audience that greeted old favorites with raised fists. The band also rolled out some new material that, to me, was a departure from the usual militant rattle-and-hum toward something more, well, groovy —  there was something slightly vintage about the new riffs. I’m not sure what it’s about, but I liked it. Too bad we probably won’t be seeing these guys again until 2012.

* * *

I know it’s already 7 p.m. but I figure I might as well give you this late reminder about the MAHA showcase tonight at Slowdown. The four bands vying for a slot on the MAHA Festival’s small stage are Betsy Wells, Dim Light, Flight Metaphor, and Noah’s Ark Was A Spaceship. Voting will take place during the show, and the whole thing is free, so you don’t have anything to lose. It also starts early — 8 p.m.

Also playing tonight over at O’Leaver’s are Street Lethal (covering The Ramones), Stoned at Heart and Flamboyant Gods. $5, 9 p.m.


Kweller, It’s True round out MAHA; Our Fox tonight, Criteria Saturday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:53 pm May 21, 2010

Catching up on some “news” after being out of town all week on bizness…

The MAHA Music Festival folks announced last Tuesday that Ben Kweller and local boys It’s True will round out the “TD Ameritrade” main stage line-up, and that Saddle Creek’s newest band, The Mynabirds, have been added to the Kum & Go small stage line-up, along with Satchel Grande and the winner of this coming Monday night’s talent show at The Slowdown as well as the winner of another talent contest to be held in Benson next month.

Kweller, a 28-year-old singer/songwriter, toured with Ben Folds and Ben Lee (who remembers him other than Jim Minge?) in 1993.  His C&W-inspired 2008 album Changing Horses (ATO Records) peaked at No. 92 on the Billboard charts, which means, yes, he’s significantly under the radar for a national act and as such is a perfect fit for this festival, whose headliners also include Spoon, Old 97’s, The Faint and Superchunk. Will the addition of Kweller help sell more tickets? I would guess maybe 500, which is significant considering a successful festival is the sum of the all its parts.

It’s True, who has a new album and has played around Omaha a lot this year, was an insignificant addition from a sales perspective (but not from a fun perspective). “We decided that It’s True! was better than any other band we were looking at getting, so why not just book them,” said festival organizer Tre Brashear in an e-mail. “If our other five main stage artists (+ Satchel + Mynabirds) can’t sell enough tickets, then we’ve got problems that a sixth ‘smaller’ main stage band from somewhere else wasn’t going to solve. Plus, we think it would be cool to give them the opportunity to play in front of Mac (MacCaughan) and Laura (Ballance, both from Superchunk and the proprietors of indie powerhouse record label Merge Records). Plus, we just like them.”

You can’t argue with that logic. Now look for MAHA posters to start popping up around town.

Lets get to this weekend…

Our Fox is playing tonight at The Barley Street Tavern with McCarthy Trenching, Love of Everything and probably one other band. According to Our Fox’s Ryan Fox, “Love of Everything is Bobby Burg (who plays in a bunch of Chicago bands including Make Believe and Joan of Arc), and his wife, Elisse. They’re doing a Daytrotter session and stopping here as part of a brief midwest tour.” Their record label is cleverly (if not confusingly) called Record Label.

Fox added that “Ben Brodin (drummer in Our Fox, guitarist in The Mynabirds, drummer/guitarist/etc in McCarthy Trenching, Mal Madrigal, etc.) recorded an LP, Methods of the Mad, under the moniker Before the Toast and Tea, which was released on Bocca Lupo Recordings (which was started by Steve Bartolomei). He’ll probably have a few records on hand to sell as well.” $5, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, Landing on the Moon is opening for the Jes Winter Band at The Waiting Room, along with Lonely Estates and Rock Paper Dynamite. $7, 9 p.m.

And the band that win’s today’s award for “best name,” Peace of Shit, is playing at O’Leaver’s with Watching the Trainwreck and Forbidden Tigers. $5, 9 p.m.

Saturday night’s marquee show is Criteria at The Waiting Room with Ladyfinger and Masses. So who’s Masses? Even Criteria’s Stephen Pedersen didn’t know. Thankfully, Masses member Eric Nyffeler emailed to say that the band is from Lincoln and “this is only the second or third time we’ve played in Omaha, so not a lot of people know who we are.” The few tracks that I’ve heard from the band are instrumental and are brazenly mathy and bombastic. Masses members are Jon Augustine, Shane Brandt, Mike Vandenberg and Nyffeler. $8, 9 p.m. This one will be crowded.

Also Saturday night, The Beat Seekers (Keith from The Fonzarellies) are playing at Slowdown Jr. with Scott Severin and the Milton Burlesque and Whipkey/Zimmerman. $8, 9 p.m.