Live Review: Son of 76; Conor Oberst organizing a benefit concert; People of the Southwind tonight, the weekend…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 3:05 pm July 2, 2010

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i

Son of 76 and the Watchmen at The Waiting Room, July 1, 2010

Son of 76 and the Watchmen at The Waiting Room, July 1, 2010

Son of 76 and the Watchmen is one of those bands that plays spot-on renditions of the music on their CD — impeccably, almost note-for-note. They can do this because they’ve got some of the most talented musicians in the area — seasoned pros backing Mr. Sixer himself, Josh Hoyer, who held court last night at The Waiting Room like a guy who has been singing these songs for years instead of just for the past few months. If I had a quibble with their set, it was with the relentless mid-tempo pace of every song and the generally unchanging arrangements, which didn’t lend themselves to a lot of dynamics — the end result could be a lulling effect, with me anyway. Not, apparently, with the rest of the 120 or so on hand — a “blues crowd” I’m told, which I guess means it was a lot of people from the Omaha blues scene. Whether what Hoyer and Co. were playing was blues or not, they all were digging what they were dishing out, and a few were even swinging in front of the stage. If you missed it, you can catch the band Saturday night at Stir Lounge. $5, 9 p.m.

* * *

The streets of Benson were abuzz last night with talk of an upcoming benefit concert for the ACLU. I can’t give any details because the details aren’t set in stone. But I can tell you that one of the artists involved is Conor Oberst, who has taken a very visible stance against immigration laws passed both in Arizona and, more recently, Fremont, Nebraska.

In an open letter written to Charlie Levy, the owner of Stateside Presents, an independent concert-promotion company based in Phoenix, posted on (here), Oberst references the Fremont law, saying he’s “outraged, saddened and embarrassed for their town and my state,” and mentions that he’s in the process of organizing  the fundraiser. Here’s an excerpt from the letter:

“Just this past week, the little town of Fremont Nebraska passed a very similar, almost more radical, city ordinance.  It was co-authored and championed by Kris Kobach of Kansas who helped write SB1070.  I was outraged, saddened and embarrassed for their town and my state.   I am already in the process of organizing a fund-raiser for the NE chapter of the ACLU who is suing the town of Fremont.  Our situation requires immediate legal action and a campaign for public awareness (there has been very little press on this).  Charlie, I promise you, if this Fremont law had been passed Statewide instead of in a rural town of 25,000 people, I would be the first to call for a boycott of my home state. This way of thinking and legislating is so dangerous, and such a threat to our basic ideals as Americans and Humans, that we cannot stand by and do nothing.  We cannot play on as if nothing is wrong.  This is not just about Arizona.  I am not just skipping a tour date.  This is not going to be easy for anyone.”

Read the whole Billboard article — including the full text of the letter — here. Among the rumored performances at this benefit is a reunion of one of Oberst’s former punk bands. I’m sure we’re going to be getting all the details in the next few days.

* * *

I was 13 when I went to my first concert at the Civic Auditorium. The band was Kansas, who was out on one of its later, post-peak tours, but still had the same core talent that released Leftoverture. What do I remember? Hmmm… I remember there were green lasers lights everywhere — something I hadn’t seen before. I remember the stink. Concerts at the Civic Aud were the closest things to hippie scenes that I ever witnessed first-hand — teen-agers on the concrete floor sitting Indian style passing around a doobie while Frisbees flew overhead across the smokey auditorium (yes, kids, you could smoke in auditoriums back then). All seats were general admission, so fights were common when people stole each other’s seats. It was hot and dirty, and most of the people were pigs, but it was fun, especially if you were 13 and without your parents. And yeah, as proggy and cheesy as they were, I dug early Kansas back then.

Of course the band that calls itself “Kansas” that’s playing this evening in Memorial Park isn’t the same band that played at the Civic all those years ago — no Kerry Livgren, no Rob Steinhartd. Still, Steve Walsh continues to sing with them, so most people won’t notice, and of the three legacy acts playing tonight, Kansas will probably sound closest to the original. Styx, on the other hand, no longer has Dennis DeYoung; and Foreigner is without classic frontman Lou Gramm. But considering the crowd, I doubt anyone will notice that, either.

Anyway, after the fireworks, once you’ve finished packing up your blanket and get back to the car, you can head on over to The 49’r for The Filter Kings, Killigans and Ron Emory (TSOL). No idea on the price, but probably around $5, and starting at 9 p.m.

Saturday night Honey & Darling play with Everyday/Everynight and Cat Island at The Waiting Room, $5, 9 p.m.

And them comes the Fourth of July. At The 49’r, Simon Joyner and the Parachutes play with Hubble. Joyner and his crew are getting ready to head out on the West Coast leg of their tour. $5, 9 p.m. Also on the Fourth, O’Leaver’s is hosting a “Salute to America” featuring Peace of Shit, Mosquito Bandito and Lite Lion. $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 © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Lazy-i Interview: Son of 76 and the Watchmen; Say it ain’t true: It’s True calling it quits?

Son of 76 and the Watchmen

Son of 76 and the Watchmen

by Tim McMahan,

Bicentennial Man: Son of 76 and the Watchmen

Son of 76 and the Watchmen celebrates Shangri-La.

Lincoln’s Son of 76 and The Watchmen is not a blues band, not that there’s anything wrong with playing the blues.

The Son of 76 himself, Josh Hoyer, sees some advantages to being aligned with the genre. “If you’re called a blues band, blues fans will come out to see you even if you don’t play the blues,” he said.

Conversely, there are those who go out of their way to avoid blues bands, having been burned too many times by the army of Blues Hammer (i.e., “blues rock”) acts that have eroded the genre to something that just barely crosses the line from being a cover band.  Hoyer quoted a friend who summed it up this way: “What went wrong with the blues world is that a bunch of old white guys with day jobs put on bowling shirts and began playing the same Stevie Ray Vaughn covers,” he said. “Blues is a pretty vast genre, but the majority of guys around here are stuck in that world.”

It was my own close-minded take on blues that almost kept me from discovering Hoyer’s band at last year’s Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards (OEAA) summer showcase. Someone had told me they were a straight-up blues act, and I nearly left before they hit the stage. Luckily, I didn’t.

While there are blues overtones to some of their music — thanks in part to Hoyer’s throaty, deep vocal delivery — Son of 76 has more in common with classic American rock acts like Warren Zevon and Springsteen. On their new album, Letters from Shangri-La, the band sways through a plethora of genres, from the piano-driven rock of “She’s the Kind of Woman,” to the Celtic-flavored ballad “Annie’s Heart,” to the NOLA style of the title track, to the doo-wap of “The Moon,” to, yeah, the blues grind of “‘Til She’s Lovin’ Someone Else.” It’s Hoyer’s voice — which lies somewhere between Tom Waits, Dr. John and Elvis — that ties the styles together into something uniquely cinematic, original and thoroughly authentic.

Born in 1976 in Lincoln, Hoyer is a veteran of a number of bands including The Magnificent Seven and Electric Soul Method.  While he lived most of his life in the Star City, the music on Shangri-La was inspired by travels throughout the South. “I took a trip down Highway 61 and went to Clarksdale, Mississippi, and a lot of small towns in Louisiana,” he said. “Instead of taking pictures, I remembered what I’d seen and put it into the songs and lyrics.”

But not all of his songs are based on his travels. With the lines, “Well that coward was never a man / Just a scared little boy, with a gun in his hand,” the elegiac “Starkweather Son” has obvious local origins.

“Everyone in Lincoln has a Starkweather story,” Hoyer said. “I thought no one could write about it better than Springsteen.”

But then one night at a party during another round of Starkweather tales, Hoyer heard one that was hard to top. “This kid said, ‘My great uncle was Starkweather. I’m a Starkweather.’ He shared what it was like to grow up with the name,” Hoyer said. “He’d said that many of his relatives had been driven away and how hard it was to grow up in Lincoln, but that he wasn’t going leaving. He hadn’t done anything wrong. I knew it was a story that would make a great song.”

One of the best tracks off the new album, the song burns with a grim intensity, thanks to Hoyer’s band of local pros that includes Brian Morrow, bass; Nick Semrad, piano; Luke Sticka, rhythm guitar; Justin Jones on drums, and guitarist Werner Althaus, who also co-produced and recorded the album in his basement studio.

Hoyer said he met Althaus at an open jam and realized he was “the missing piece of the puzzle,” but was too shy to ask him to play in his band. “I finally got the nerve up,” Hoyer said. “For me, he perfectly finishes the songs I write by how he approaches music. He seems locked in on my ideas.”

Althaus, who sounds like a Midwestern Arnold Schwarzenegger thanks to a slight German accent, said that while Hoyer writes most of the music, everyone in the band gets involved putting the songs together and offering ideas. “Josh used to be much more controlling,” Althaus said. “In his previous bands, he told people exactly what to play. So this was a new thing for him.”

He said he doesn’t understand where the band’s blues tag came from. “I can hear the influence, but I don’t hear the blues,” Althaus said. “When people say I’m a blues player, I tell them that I’m not. I play what I want to play. I don’t listen to it or study the old masters, but if a blues vocal line fits into a song, why not?”

He added that the band’s musicians have a broad background in a variety of musical styles. “If someone takes it somewhere, we draw on what we know,” Althaus said. “We all have the basic vocabulary.”

“They’re all stellar players, and they’ve trusted me,” Hoyer said. “There have been times when I’ve written something that they’ve said is weird, but they’ll try it anyway.”

With a band that consists mostly of seasoned veteran musicians, Hoyer said touring may not be a realistic option. “We’re all adults,” he said. “Everyone except for Nick (Semrad) has a mortgage. Whenever I think about touring, it seems like a pipe dream. Maybe I’m killing the dream before it happens.”

For now, Hoyer is content booking local shows. “We sold a thousand copies of last album playing Lincoln and Omaha,” he said. “We’re building a crowd just playing at home. That’s pretty cool.”

Son of 76 and The Watchmen plays with The Kris Lager Band and Matt Cox, Thursday, July 1, at The Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St. Showtime is 9 p.m. Admission is $6. For more information, visit band also is playing at Harrah’s Stir Lounge July 3 at 9 p.m. Admission is $5.

* * *

It's True at Slowdown Jr., June 30, 2010

It's True at Slowdown Jr., June 30, 2010

Just two months after releasing their debut album, It’s True announced that the band is calling it quits. The announcement came from stage at last night’s show at Slowdown Jr. “This is our third to last show,” said inebriated frontman Adam Hawkins without giving an explanation. “We have this show, and two others, and that’s it.” During the set, someone jokingly suggested to me that it was a publicity stunt. But something tells me the MAHA guys aren’t that brutally savvy — that’s right, the MAHA Festival July 24 would be the band’s last performance (not counting a rumored MAHA after-party), Hawkins said. Their second-to-last show will be in Lincoln tonight at The Bourbon Theater — that is if they are, indeed, breaking up. But something tells me it’s true, which is a shame.

Last night’s performance had all the charm of a drunken wake, with Hawkins taking double shots between songs. Despite proclaiming that he was “wasted,” he still put on one helluva show, calling his pals from Poison Control Center (the opening band) up on stage to join him for a couple songs. The set ended with a 15-minute guitar-noise-odyssey, with Hawkins kneeling with his back to the audience next to Kyle Harvey who was busy creating his own curtain of feedback on electric guitar surrounded by a couple girls on stage along with the PCC folks. The sonic melee didn’t end until after 1 a.m. when the house lights came up — a rare late-night at Slowdown. God only knows what the band has in store for tonight’s show in Lincoln.

* * *

In addition to tonight’s Son of 76 CD release show at The Waiting Room and It’s True at The Bourbon, Dim Light is opening a four-band bill tonight at Slowdown Jr. with The Vingins, and Colorado bands Woodsman and Candy Claw, who have been described as ambient/minimalist/psychedelic rock. $7, 9 p.m.

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.


Column 274: Music City Redux; Hercules tonight…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , — @ 12:40 pm June 9, 2010

This week’s column is a redux and addendum to last week’s blog entry on Lincoln Invasion and the Lincoln Is A Music City organization (which is here). As you’ll see, Son of 76 and The Watchmen frontman Josh Hoyer read that piece and sent a thoughtful, well-written response explaining the name and the mission. Interestingly, Omaha doesn’t have anything like LIAMC, unless you count Benson as a whole. One could also point toward the OEAA’s, but that has evolved into another Benson-music-boosting organization, and doesn’t really represent the city of Omaha as a whole.

Column 274: Bold Statement

Will the real Music City please stand up?

Nobody likes the idea of competition when it comes to art and music. And yet… whenever “Omaha invades Lincoln” or “Lincoln invades Omaha,” it begs the question as to which scene has the strongest roster of bands — maybe only to me and a few other a-holes, but the question does come up.

And it’s becoming harder and harder to defend Omaha, especially when you look over the line-up playing the second annual Lincoln Invasion festival July 9 in Benson: The Amalgamators, Amy Schmidt, Diamond Kazzoo, Dirty Talker, Ember Schrag, Husbands, Kris Lager Band, Machete Archive, Manny Coon, Masses, Mercy Rule, No One Conquered, Wyoming; Once A Pawn, Orion Walsh, Pharmacy Spirits, The Power, The Renfields, Ron Wax, Shaun Sparks and the Wounded Animals, Shipbuilding Co., Smith’s Cloud, South Of Lincoln, Tie These Hands, and The Vingins.

Very solid. The only bands missing (that come to mind) are High Art (The latest project by Darren Keen of the Show Is the Rainbow), For Against, UUVVWWZ, Son of 76 and The Watchmen and Ideal Cleaners. Event organizer Jeremy Buckley said High Art is playing the night before at The Waiting Room; and the rest simply were unavailable. “I think we were able to balance a lineup of established acts with a good number of newer bands that have made waves in Lincoln, but haven’t had much exposure in Omaha yet,” Buckley said.

The venues involved in the one-day music orgy: The Barley Street Tavern, Burke’s Pub, Benson Grind, Louis, The Sydney and The Waiting Room. A mere $8 will get you into all six venues all night, or $5 gets you into any one venue for the evening.

According to a press release, the fest is being “supported” by an organization lamely called “Lincoln Is A Music City” — a “collection of people who are interested in promoting and growing the local music scene in Lincoln, NE,” according to their website.

The title is a bold statement. Most people consider Lincoln to be a “Football City” or the state capital or a great place to get drunk, but “A Music City”? And if Lincoln is “a music city,” then what is Omaha? Can Omaha be a “Music City” too? Which one really deserves the title? And here we go again…

The whole thing sounds silly. Most people think of Nashville as “a music city,” or New Orleans. But not Omaha, and certainly Lincoln, but I guess to the handful of bands behind the effort, Lincoln can be whatever they want it to be.

Lincolnite Josh Hoyer — Son of 76 frontman and reluctant spokesman for the effort — explained that “Lincoln Is a Music City” started as a slogan printed on a banner used for a group photo of more than 200 Lincoln musicians. “From that there were some folks wanting to make T shirts with the same phrase,” he said. “So I asked that we get together and talk about raising money from the sales to promote our growing music scene. From those meetings a few things happened, one of which was a decision to call the group ‘Lincoln Is a Music City’ instead of Lincoln Music Union or Star City Music Nerds, etc. That idea was put forward by Jon Taylor of Mercy Rule. We dug it, and hence the name was born.”

Hoyer said he has no delusions of Lincoln being anywhere near the stature of Nashville or New Orleans, Chicago, Seattle, NYC or even Omaha for that matter. “We are a sports town,” he said, “but that is exactly why we are making the effort to raise awareness in Lincoln — to the population that doesn’t go out for live music — that our city really does have some great musicians and bands. The slogan is kind of the carrot before the horse carriage. It was our thought that with work, publicity, organization and passion, Lincoln could become a music city as well as a sports city.”

Helping him with his cause is a handful of musicians, promoters and club owners, including Buckley and Lincoln Invasion co-conspirator Dub Wardlaw, Brendan Evans, Jon Taylor and Brendan McGinn of Her Flyaway Manner. So far they’ve started a free all-local concert series at UN-L, launched a local music radio show on community station KZUM Friday nights at 6 hosted Taylor and his lovely bass playing/singing wife Heidi Ore, and helped organize the Lincoln-named festivals, such as Lincoln Invasion, Lincoln Exposed and Lincoln Calling. They’re also thinking about starting a ‘zine that would be an alternative toGround Zero, Lincoln’s entertainment/arts rag.

For Hoyer, making Lincoln a “music city” was part of his decision to plant roots there. “I have a 1-year-old daughter, and instead of moving back to New Orleans (where he lived for six months) we decided to raise her in a safer place with a better support system,” he said. “However, I was in love with NOLA because music is a way of life there. I want to make a living playing music… and I am. I believe Lincoln is a musically diverse and talented city. The trick is getting a larger mass of people here to embrace that and start filling the clubs.

“Who knows where it will end up? But what I do know is, the people that have a passion for music in Lincoln are true blue, as well as talented and creative. Lincoln is a Music City. At least in my eyes it is. I’m just trying to persuade a few other folks to feel the same way.”

* * *

Tonight, local legendary hardcore band Hercules plays a rare show at The Hole on a bill that includes Minnesota band In Defense, High Dive and Agress. No price listed on the Myspace page, but it’s probably $5, and starts at 7 p.m. No Booze!

Also tonight,  Korey Anderson and Edge of Arbor open for Matt Cox Band at The Waiting Room. $5, 9 p.m.