Live Review: So-So Sailors, The New Pornographers, Rural Alberta Advantage; Back When, Little Brazil, Yuppies tonight; Kite Pilot Saturday…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 10:44 am April 22, 2011
The So-So Sailors at The Waiting Room, April 21, 2011.

The So-So Sailors at The Waiting Room, April 21, 2011.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I doubt that very many people were at The Waiting Room last night specifically to see The So-So Sailors. In fact, I ran into an old friend who was sitting in the back booths during their set as if no band was playing at all, ignoring them altogether. I can’t say that I blame him as he had no idea who they were or why he should be listening. He was there for the Pornos. Still, he missed out on the most interesting part of the night, to me anyway.

The New Pornographers at The Waiting Room, 4/21/11.

The New Pornographers at The Waiting Room, 4/21/11.

Don’t get me wrong, New Pornographers were pretty special. Presented as a 7-piece with uber-star Neko Case along for the ride looking like she just got back from the Laundromat in her hoodie and wind-blown red witch hair. Even without makeup and with tired, older eyes she still looked good to me. And she sang good, too, even though she didn’t own the spotlight (that was leader Carl Newman’s job). You can’t beat Neko being “only” part of your band, no stronger or weaker then the other six members who reached back for some oldies but played what you expected from Together. They sounded terrific, just like they do on their records, and the sold-out crowd dug it.

So-So Sailors, who played right before them, will never be as big as New Pornographers. Probably not, though I admit to enjoying their short, 30-minute set just as much (or more) than what I saw of NP’s. Frontman Chris Machmuller sat behind a keyboard backed by Dan McCarthy who sat behind another keyboard backed by Ben Brodin who sat behind yet another keyboard. And they were backed by the incomparable Alex McManus on guitar. Standing dead center (and the center of attention, whether he deserved it or not) was bass player / backing vocalist Brendan Greene-Walsh, with Laura Burhenn to his left  (just back from touring with Bright Eyes) and Dan Kemp on drums. That’s all of them. And what you got with three keyboards is a very organic, very earthy sound, augmented by Mach’s brassy warble and his occasional alto sax solo. The music really is unlike anything being played around here. It sounds humble. It sounds soulful. It sounds very Sunday afternoon after a long Saturday night. A song like the amazing “Young Hearts,” which was the centerpiece of their set, can’t be compared to anything that I can think of. Mach said that they’ve finished recording their debut album, but he didn’t know when it was coming out. Hopefully sometime soon, and hopefully on Saddle Creek or some other label with its reach, though I’m not holding my breath.

The Rural Alberta Advantage at Slowdown Jr., 4/21/11.

The Rural Alberta Advantage at Slowdown Jr., 4/21/11.

Anyway… after the first eight or nine songs by New Pornographers, I got a text from one of my Reader colleagues saying that Lord Huron had just finished at Slowdown and that Rural Alberta Advantage was up next. So I trotted  out to my car and onto Radial Highway and made my way down to Slowdown. I got there just in time to catch RAA’s entire set. The show wasn’t sold out, but it was plenty full with a crowd whose average age was a good 15 years younger than what I’d seen at TWR. New Pornographers are the vets; RAA are the up-and-comers. I’m not going to compare the two and declare a victor in this Canadian invasion, but I will say I was happy I made the trip downtown. For the first time I started “to get” RAA and what they’re about.

A thin trio, here’s a band that glows in an intimate setting like Slowdown Jr. rather than on an outdoor stage like their gig last June in Slowdown’s parking lot. Frontman Nil Edenloff pushed every inch of his life into his vocals as he viciously strummed his acoustic guitar. Meanwhile, pixie-ish beauty Amy Cole performed a plate-spinning act as she sang, played keyboards and punched out a bass line with her feet on her Moog Taurus III bass pedals. I asked her last week if they ever would consider getting a bass player and she said no way. But while I liked what she was doing, I still think they could use an extra set of strings. They played a number of songs from their new album, Departed, including a rousing version of my personal fave, “Tornado ’87.”

Halfway through the set, Edenloff thrilled the crowd with a surprisingly earnest acoustic solo version of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.” I think a lot of people knew it was coming as the song got raves when they played it at SF’s Bottom of the Hill last week. If there was a weak spot in their game it’s that too many of their songs sound alike, and after a half-dozen, they begin to blend together into one extended, rousing ballad.

* * *

Easter weekend is never a good weekend for shows, and this year’s is no exception.

The highlight is tonight’s red-hot rock show at The Waiting Room. But first at 7 p.m. at TWR is an early show — The Found Footage Festival, a collection of seriously bad but funny commercially developed videos gathered from VHS tapes collected at various garage sales and thrift stores. Check out foundfootagefest.com for more info. $10. The late show starts at 9 p.m., headlined by Back When and featuring Little Brazil, Talking Mountain and Self Evident, all for just $7.

Meanwhile, down the street at The Barley Street Tavern, The Yuppies are headlining a show with Baby Tears, High Diving Ponies and Death of a Tax Payer. $5, 9 p.m. Saturday night, John Klemmensen and the Party are playing at The Barley Street with Tina Sparkle and Traveling Mercies. $5, 9 p.m.

Also Saturday night, Honey & Darling are playing at O’Leaver’s with The Empty Spaces and Blue Lights Shine Bright. $5, 9:30  p.m.

And that’s just about it for the weekend. Except, of course, for Big Al’s annual “Free Music Festival,” being held tonight through Easter evening at The Hideout, 320 So. 72nd St. As the name implies, there’s no cover charge. Line-up / info here. Shows start at 8:30.

ADDENDUM: I almost forgot one of the most interesting shows of the weekend: The long-awaited return of Kite Pilot, opening for Thunder Power at Harrah’s Stir Lounge Saturday night. $5, 9 p.m. Go!

* * *

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.

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Lazy-i Interview: The New Pornographers’ Kathryn Calder; Delicate Steve, Pony Wars tonight…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:46 pm April 13, 2011

The New Pornographers

The New Pornographers

Full-time Pornographer

New Pornographers’ Kathryn Calder is more than a fill-in

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Early in the interview with New Pornographers vocalist / keyboard player Kathryn Calder I figured I’d try a bit of a joke.

Calder said she was recovering from a solo show played the night before in Duncan, a small town an hour north of her home of Victoria, British Columbia. While people mostly know her from her New Pornographers role, she said a few also remember her work with former band Immaculate Machine, as well as from her solo album, Are You My Mother?, released last fall.

“I haven’t done many solo shows yet,” she said. “I’ve planned a little tour in a spot when I knew New Pornographers weren’t going to be doing anything. It makes it easier.”

It was here that I suggested that if Calder needed more time to nurture her solo career, she could always hit up fellow New Pornographers vocalist Neko Case to fill in on her parts while she was gone, which resulted in Calder’s good-hearted, if not polite, laugh at my rather lame joke.

Kathryn Calder

Kathryn Calder

It’s a joke because part of the reason Calder was asked to join New Pornographers in 2005 was to fill in for Neko Case when Case is away doing a solo tour. Calder first began working with the band on ’05’s Twin Cinema album. “I wasn’t really in the band yet,” she said. “The reason they invited me in was to see how well I’d fit in with the sound. I guess we were recording in early 2005 for Twin Cinema and in June I had my first five dates with the Pornographers. That was the trial period, and I guess they were happy with it clearly. In August they just started to invite me along.”

Calder is credited with back-up vocals and piano on that album. By the time 2007’s Challenger was released, she was a full-blown Pornographer, having spent the past two years touring with the band. “Carl (Newman) gave me a more prominent role of that record,” she said.

Calder plays an even more prominent role on the band’s fifth album, Together. Released last May on Matador Records, the album was a departure from the New Pornographers’ more inward-sounding, intimate recordings, to something more, well, robust. Opening track “Moves” launches with a guitar-and-cello riff that would feel right at home on a latter-day Zeppelin album before it lets go into a piano bounce and frontman Newman’s familiar, groovy summer-time vocals. Neko Case takes over for track two, the swinging “Crash Years,” while Dan Bejar’s sinister snarl is front and center on big-pop rocker “Silver Jenny Dollar.” Mixed among it all is Calder’s sweet vocals, giving the band its distinct harmonic sound.

“I was more involved in this one than any other record,” Calder said, adding that she spent a lot of time at Little Blue recording studio in Woodstock, NY. “We hadn’t heard the songs before I arrived at Woodstock. You get played these songs and have to jam them out.”

It wasn’t until after the recording that Calder discovered that the album would be dedicated to her mother, Lynn Calder. “She had just passed away in July 2009,” Calder said. “We went to record in September. The songs were written by that point and I was still reeling obviously and they dedicated it to her, and I thought that was nice.”

The New Pornographers, Together (Matador, 2010)

The New Pornographers, Together (Matador, 2010)

More than any other New Pornographer’s album, Together is a mix of the band’s generous vocal talents. “Carl even said that it’s the first album where he thought he was singing the least,” Calder said. But having that much talent means that — like Calder and Case — everyone has side gigs. As A.C. Newman, Carl Newman had something of a hit with 2009’s Get Guilty (Matador Records), and Bejar is known as much for his other band, Destroyer, as for New Pornographers, having released arguably one of the best albums so far this year with Kaputt, on Merge Records.

Because of all these side projects, you never know who you’re going to see when New Pornographers rolls into your town. For next Thursday’s show at The Waiting Room, Neko Case will be along for the ride, while Bejar most likely won’t be, Calder said.

“We have various incarnations for all eventualities,” she said of the ever-changing line-up. “We have the ability to play as a 6-piece, 7-piece and as an 8-piece. On our last big tour we were a 10-piece.”

With Bejar gone, Calder said the band will “just fill in his parts and won’t play that many of his songs. We can also play some of his songs with Carl singing Dan’s parts. It’s just how it has to be.”

With Case along on this tour, Calder said the two will be doing a lot of singing together. “Carl is very clever when he arranged it,” Calder said. “I play piano and play the same thing whether she’s there or not. I’m always doing my thing anyway. She sings her songs and I sing with her, and we’ll sing at the same time, providing a powerful female assault.”

Calder said expect a 7-person line-up at The Waiting Room “and there will be lots of singing and foot stomping, and I’ll even bring out my accordion for one song. It’s going to be a lot of fun.” And that’s no joke.

The New Pornographers plays with The So-So Sailors, Thursday, April 21, at The Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St. Showtime is 9 p.m. Tickets are $22 adv. / $25 DOS. For more information, visit onepercentproductions.com.

* * *

I’m a bit surprised that this New Pornographers show hasn’t sold out yet. What’s up with that, Omaha?

* * *

An addendum rather than a correction to yesterday’s Poster Child item: Jeremy Buckley e-mailed to say that he has two partners in his new business — Dub Wardlaw and Scott Hatfield from Duffy’s. Regardless, there’s no question that Buckley is “all in” on this one: As part of the deal, he no longer works for The Bourbon Theater, though Poster Child is booking shows for the venue. When will we begin to see Poster Child-produced shows in Omaha?

* * *

Tonight at The Waiting Room it’s Jersey guitarist / instrumentalist / one-man band Delicate Steve (real name: Dave Marion), who’s new album, Wondervisions, was released on Luaka Bop, a label created by Talking Heads’ David Byrne. AMG compares him to Animal Collective (not quite) and Dirty Projectors (getting closer). Opening is Bad Speler (a.k.a. Darren Keen) & DVH (a.k.a. Dereck Higgins). $8, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, down at Slowdown Jr., Lightning Bug is headlining a show that also includes I Was Totally Destroying it, Cashes Rivers, and what I believe is the stage debut of Pony Wars, a new band featuring Craig Korth (Oil, Brave Captain). $7, 9 p.m.

* * *

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.

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