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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Oberst on Ferguson; More 'zine best-of lists; Column 204: Mick's goodbye...

Conor Oberst was on the Craig Ferguson show last night singing the best song off his solo debut, "Cape Canaveral." I'm curious if everyone else's audio was as f_cke up as mine was -- some sort of ticking sound was coming from the studio feed. At first I thought it was a percussion effect by the band, but it didn't stop after they song did. Maybe it was just me. Conor looked tired and slightly goofy, his eyes at times half shut, other times wide and freaked out. He and the rest of the band sounded fine though (most of them were just standing around as CC is more of a solo acoustic song, with Nate dropping in a few keyboard lines). Oberst has now appeared on almost all the top nightly late-evening chat shows twice, which I assume guarantees he won't ever be a special musical guest on SNL. I know, I won't let it go...

* * *

Some more online 'zines have posted their their lists of top releases of '08. Take a look.

-- Tiny Mix Tapes 25 Favorites -- No. 1 is Deerhunter, Microcastle, followed by Portishead, Third, and TV on the Radio, Dear Science.

-- Drowned in Sound Top 50 -- No. 1 is M83, Saturdays=Youth, followed by Frightened Rabbit, The Midnight Organ Fight, and Cut Copy, In Ghost Colours.

-- SPIN's Top 40 -- No. 1 is TV on the Radio, Dear Science, followed by Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III and Portishead, Third.

-- Coke Machine Glow Top 50 -- No. 1 is Erykah Badu, New Amerykah, Part One (4th World War), followed by Black Milk, Tronic, and Gang Gang Dance, Saint Dymphna.

-- Blender's top 33 -- No. 1 was Lil Wayne, Tha Carter III, followed by Girl Talk, Feed the Animals, and TV on the Radio, Dear Science.

--Magnet's Top 25 -- No. 1 was American Princes, Other People, followed by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! and Nada Surf, Lucky.

I might have a few more tomorrow.

* * *

Like Column 203, No. 204 is a retread of a past blog entry, this time about Mick's closing, with a few slight additions. Skip it if you've been there before. One brief addendum, Burke's Pub was robbed at gunpoint Monday night, according to an item on the WOWT website (here). Every time something like this happens, it hurts Benson.

Column 204: Mick’s Deep Sixed
Also, Beep Beep, Neva Dinova news…

These holiday deadlines are killing me. I no sooner file a column then another one is due. I'm writing this on Dec. 18 but you won't be seeing it until after Christmas, so please bear with me if this is old news.

The past week's top story: Mick’s Music and Bar is closing at the beginning of the year. The rumor became official in the Dec. 16 Omaha World-Herald. Everyone knew this was coming, but the fact that Michael Campbell found a buyer for the club, which has been on the market for a long time, only became street knowledge a few days before the Herald story broke. In fact, I heard about it at the Criteria show, but was told that a bank loan was still pending – an iffy proposition in these troubled times. Well, it looks like that loan came through.

I've been told that the new owners intend to make Mick’s a hang-out bar, “similar to O’Leaver’s but nicer.” There will be no live music. The concept: People will go there on any given evening and drink. As simple as that sounds, the idea is a bit far-fetched. I guess the new owners have never been to music venues – or even Mick’s for that matter – on non-music nights. You could shoot a cannon off in them and hit nary a drunk.

The initial concern was how a new non-music bar will hurt The Barley St. Tavern and Burke’s Pub. Barley St. is slowly becoming a go-to destination during the week, thanks to its stage, which is evolving into a place where musicians can try out new material – anyone from Brad Hoshaw to Conor Oberst (Who remembers that secret show way back in October ’07?). But more important than that, the Barley St. has musician / celebrity Kyle Harvey behind the bar -- an attraction all by himself.

The clientele at Burke’s Pub, on the other hand, consists mostly of bent-over locals looking for somewhere to get their nightly booze fix – true regulars in the Paul Westerberg sense of the word. They’re unlikely to go anywhere else to get loaded. Long live Burke’s.

When it comes to neighborhood hang-outs, size matters. For example, imagine if The Homy Inn – a crush mob with just 20 people inside -- was the size of The Saddle Creek Bar but drew the same number of patrons. We’d fear for its continued existence. Both the Barley St. and Burke’s are about half the size (or smaller) than Mick’s, and as a result, they feel cozy and inviting even when there's only a handful of people inside watching the game.

The $64,000 question: What'll happen to Mick's stage and PA? Will the new owners keep it in tact, just in case? I bet they will. In fact, I'm willing to bet that by the time summer rolls around (or sooner) we'll see bands playing there again. In the end, the new owners will have no choice but to relight that stage.

As much as I liked the place, I rarely went to shows at Mick’s, mainly because I’m not a fan of the style of blues-folk that Campbell booked. He almost never hosted indie-style singer/songwriters – that just wasn’t his cup of tea.

As a bar, the room is well-designed, with good lighting and ambiance. But as a music venue – especially one that focused on acoustic music -- it suffered from noise problems -- not from the stage, but from the crowd. Musicians complained that Mick's crowds were too chatty, but they probably weren't chattier than any other crowd – you could just hear them better.

A young couple could be whispering sweet nothings into each other’s ears at a table by the door and you could hear them up by the stage. The room was like an enormous whispering arch. When 15 or 20 people quietly talked, the chatter became a roar that built upon itself, growing louder and louder and the next thing you knew it was like being in a union hall during a political rally, drowning out the music. I spent an evening with a musician drawing diagrams of Mick’s on napkins, trying to figure out a way to partition that the room and separate the music from chatter. It could not be done.

Well, now it won’t matter as Mick’s stage is going dark for good (supposedly). The move cripples Benson’s efforts to become Omaha's miniature version of Austin's 6th St. Now there are only three music venues left: PS Collective, The Waiting Room and The Barley St. At least for now…

* * *

Last week Saddle Creek Records confirmed that Chris Hughes no longer is a member of Beep Beep, the band he co-founded with Eric Bemberger eight years ago.

Beep Beep's line-up is now Bemberger, Darren Keen (The Show Is the Rainbow), Javid Dabestani (Bright Calm Blue) and James Reilly (Pharmacy Spirits), according to Saddle Creek label exec Jason Kulbel. Interestingly, Beep Beep is slated to release a new album in early '09 on Saddle Creek that features Hughes. I've heard a few of the tracks from the CD last summer and they were groundbreaking (I'm not kidding).

And in other band news, if you’ve been thinking about seeing Neva Dinova, you better make a special effort to catch their Dec. 27th show at Slowdown with Ladyfinger, McCarthy Trenching and The ’89 Chicago Cubs. Neva frontman Jake Bellows said the gig will be the band’s last for the foreseeable future. No, Neva Dinova isn’t breaking up, but it is going on an indefinite hiatus. Catch them while you can.

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

posted by Tim at 10:20 AM

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