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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Cursive for $5; Column 201 -- Darkness on the edge...

Cursive announced a brief January tour that includes two nights at Slowdown (Jan. 23-24). Tickets: Just $5. They'll never get rich at those prices. Seriously, here's to a band that's cognizant of the current economy and how it's affecting its fans. Tickets go on sale Saturday, according to The Slowdown website. Get them while they last.

* * *

The following column is essentially a repackaging of a couple blog entries from last week, slightly modified. Old news repackaged.

Column 201: Darkness on the Edge of Town
Of Crime and Blackouts…

There's an underlying sense of anxiety these days when going out at night, what with all the murders going on.

Just getting home after an evening at one of the city’s tony music venues seems like an accomplishment, something that you can gloat about while enjoying a cup of coffee the next morning and hearing about who got shot or stabbed or knee-capped in a drive-by the night before. Each news story is accompanied with a city map and a bloody red star to indicate where the "incident" took place. There is that edgy moment when you mentally do the math and figure out how close it was to where you were, and when.

Drive-by shootings and random murder used to be something that no one in the indie music scene cared about because those sorts of things only took place in parts of Omaha where few rarely, if ever, stepped foot. Certainly not at night. But when that guy got shot a couple weeks ago getting cash out of the ATM in the parking lot across from the A&B’s in Dundee, well, people started to notice. Everyone has used that ATM before without a thought that they could find themselves rolling on the ground in a puddle of blood clutching their leg, waiting for an ambulance to take them to Emergency. I personally have stepped into that Infinite convenient store on Leavenworth -- the scene of a tragic random killing a few weeks ago -- numerous times. Now it’s impossible to go in there and not think about Tari Glinsmann, who was minding her own business and ended up dead in the parking lot. How did we get to this place?

Shortly after the crime spree earlier this month, the talk on the midtown sidewalks turned to speculation as to who was behind all the violence. Were these just desperate acts generated by desperate times? No, too random, too scatter-shot. Was it gangs moving into Dundee, trying to lay claim on the coveted latte and batter-fried fish cartel that the neighborhood is known for? That, too, seemed unlikely. But as we all were scratching our heads, the body count continued to rise. Every morning brought fresh news of yet another shooting or mugging – most of them likely unrelated to the spate of crime that had crept into Dundee, but now each demanding our attention. By mid-November Omaha was enjoying a record eight homicides so far that month.

Paranoia reached a fever pitch last Wednesday night, the day before Thanksgiving. I was driving north on 60th St. from Western Ave. and noticed that the streetlights were out. I turned on my brights and glanced at the houses flying by and saw that they, too, were dark. Power outages are commonplace in my neighborhood. At least once a week I come home from work and all the digital clocks on the appliances are blinking. It's the price you pay for living in an old neighborhood with lots of trees and dangling overhead power lines.

I struggled to see where I was going as I rolled up to Benson’s main drag. Every storefront was dark, but the streets were far from empty. Cars motored down Maple, blowing through intersections without slowing down. I eased onto the street and drove by Mick’s and The Musette and the empty Subway sandwich shop.

The outage encompassed all of Benson and points beyond. Would all the venues be closed? Surely it would take more than lights out to keep drunks away from the bars. I parked in my usual parking lot and made my way to Burke’s Pub, the site of Kyle Harvey’s CD release show.

When I got there, I could see the candles burning from the sidewalk outside the venue. Burke’s was packed to the gills, in fact too packed to get in. A couple smokers outside said that Harvey had already played his set (though it was only 10:30), and now the Black Squirrels were playing in the front end of the bar. Who needs power when you’re a bluegrass band?

I never stepped foot inside Burke's. It looked too crazy, and I knew that even if I could squeeze in that getting a Rolling Rock would be a dicey challenge. So I made my way through the darkness down to The Barley St. Tavern, passing The Waiting Room, which looked as empty as the streets had suddenly become. I kept an eye over my shoulder and wondered to myself if it made sense to be walking around alone.

Any fear disappeared once I got to The Barley St. Tavern, a bar that's become one of the city’s most talked-about music venues not because of a state-of-the-art sound system (it has a tiny PA) or an enormous capacity (you can probably stuff 50 into the music room), but thanks to an inviting, unintimidating stage where singer/songwriters feel comfortable trying out new music.

Little Brazil's Landon Hedges was behind the candle-lit bar and quickly handed me a needed beer. Emergency lighting glowed from the ceiling in the music room, and people milled around wondering when the power was going to come back on. The usually electric Whipkey Three had been slated to play, but was left with nothing to plug their amps into. It took about 15 minutes for Matt Whipkey to find an acoustic guitar (lent to him by Kat of the Black Squirrels). He and the rest of the band played an acoustic set to about 20 people gathered around in a circle.

Right after they played their last song, the power came back on, ending the Great Benson Blackout of 2008.

To the best of my knowledge, no crimes were committed in the few hours that Benson was in the dark. I don't know what this recent crime wave means, but I know that even in the darkest moments, there is a sense of community that brings people together and makes them feel safe. It's a kind of security you'll never find with a gun.

Tonight at Slowdown Jr., it's Audrye Sessions with Midwest Dilemma and Down with the Ship. $7, 9 p.m.

--Got comments? Post 'em here.--

posted by Tim at 11:05 AM

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