I'm told that the Pretty Girls Make Graves show mentioned below took place at that short-lived club down on Farnam St. (not The Junction). PGMG has been back to Omaha since, but the memory of that night lingers.
Column 74: Getting Omaha'd
Don't let it happen to you…
Here's something that was left out of my feature on Pretty Girls Makes Graves: Our protagonist, drummer Nick DeWitt, pointed out the following when asked if he'd ever been through Omaha before.
"Oh yeah, we've been to Omaha," he said. "It was at our first show that we played there that we coined a term called 'getting Omaha'd.' We played with The Blood Brothers, who insisted on playing before us. They have a way of whipping fans into a frenzy. It's not much fun following them, and we always made sure that didn't happen. But that night they insisted that we play last because we were 'the headliners.' So the place was full. Then The Blood Brothers played. Then everyone left, and we played to an empty room."
Translation: They got Omaha'd.
Whether the phrase is catching on (and there's little evidence that it is), the circumstances it represents are becoming more and more common, especially 'round these parts. Playing last on an evening's bill often means playing after the band that brought in most of the crowd, and who will likely take that crowd with them when they're done -- to The Brothers for last call.
Marc Leibowitz, half of the dynamic promoting duo known as One Percent Productions along with Jim Johnson, said "getting Omaha'd" isn't just an Omaha thing. It happens everywhere, mostly to unknown bands that are out on their first tours, like Pretty Girls were when they first blew through town all those years ago. Getting Omaha'd is a rite of passage, a necessary evil that bands must suffer if they ever want to make it to the next level.
Leibs said it rarely happens to bands that target a younger, pre-21 audience -- probably because those kids don't have a bar to go to after their friends' band finishes their set. Or because they haven't become jaded scenesters who only go to shows to be seen, to drink, to make contact, to move on.
No band wants to "get Omaha'd." In fact, bands are now getting wary of playing anywhere but the "sweet spot" of a show -- the middle of a three-band bill. Opening spot? Not so good, even though most local shows don't get rolling until well after 9 p.m. Most people are unwilling or unable to tear themselves away from whatever they had going on earlier in the evening, whether it's dinner and a movie or their precious "stories" on the glass teat. Playing second is optimum -- you get the stragglers, along with those who skate in only to see the headliner, unless of course the headliner was smart enough to take the second spot for themselves, which is becoming more common these days. A show's band order has become so controversial that at one recent show, a local band refused to play unless they were guaranteed not to play last.
They didn't want to get Omaha'd… like Des Moines' The Autumn Project did last Saturday night.
The instrumental trio had the last spot on a show that included local bands Noah's Ark was a Spaceship, and Father, a deafening, dread-fueled art-noise project that features among its players Clark Baechle and Dapose from The Faint. Sure enough, the crowd kept rolling in throughout the Noah's Ark set, and peaked right before Father turned off all the lights, turned on a big-screen projector and let loose with 20 minutes of bludgeoning noise that made me feel slightly nauseous afterward (as I'm sure was the intent).
When the lights came up after Father's disturbing set, everyone headed to the door. The crowd of more than 100 dwindled to around 20 -- mostly the bands that played sets earlier in the evening. It was a shame, too, because The Autumn Project was pretty damn good. But what are they gonna do? They got Omaha'd.
I'm trying to figure out other ways to use the phrase in everyday life, outside of the music scene. For example, you show up late to a party, just as everyone is leaving, and have to help empty ash trays and pick up dead beer bottles.
You got Omaha'd.
Or, you arrive late to help someone move to a new house, after the rest of the crew has gone home, leaving you to lift the washer and dryer out of the basement by yourself.
You got Omaha'd.
It means more than just showing up late, it means being left holding the bag. That was also the case for Pretty Girls Make Graves. After they played to a room full of crickets, they were told by the show's promoter (and no, it wasn't One Percent Productions) that there was no money to pay them.
"The promoter tried to screw us," DeWitt said. "We had to take the guy to an ATM to get our money. So for us, getting Omaha'd meant everyone leaving and getting ripped off… almost."
Let's hope things go better when they play Sokol Underground next Tuesday. Say, who's opening that show, anyway?
Tonight, El Ten Eleven at O'Leaver's. All Music calls the all-instrumental Chicago duo "groove-oriented post-rockers" and a "much less tortured Godspeed You Black Emperor! minus the drones." Sounds familiar. Opening band Spring Gun is Mr. 1986's Micah Schmiedskamp's new band. $5, 9:30 p.m.
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