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The Blog Archive -- Nov. 2002 through May 26, 2003
Live review: Verbena – May 26, 2003
Looked like fewer than 75 showed up (I forgot to ask about the door, duh), and talking around, it seems I was the only one surprised at the low turn-out. These guys have a new CD out on Capitol. And they're slated to play on The Late Show with David Letterman in June. But I guess no one's heard of them around these parts, which makes sense since Omaha doesn't have a radio station worth a shit.
They get credit for being polished, for their fancy stage lights that look like the ones used in their promo materials. There was even a guy (I assume a roadie) who walked around during their set taking movies with a super-8 camera, as well as 35 mm pics. Could Sokol Underground make it into one of their future videos?
And it was easily the loudest show at the Sokol since, well, maybe The Warlocks a few months back. The trio has a Nirvana-revisited thing going on, moreso live than on their CD. Or as the promoter said, "Didn't anyone tell these guys it's not 1989?"
Regardless, I can hear the potential. They rock harder than hell and play very catchy, bluesy stuff with an edge. They're drummer is amazing. And other than one song where the bass player's gear quit right in the middle, they were the epitome of professionalism. Even then, the guy quickly fixed his bass set up, then the drummer casually looked over to the frontman/guitarist/vocalist Scott Bondy and said something like "Let's take it right after the second verse" or some such thing. Clicking off four with his drum sticks, they started right back in without missing a beat. Then apologized after the song.
Weird stage patter: "Where's the missiles?" No one knew what he was talking about. "You guys look concerned. Are any of you old enough to remember 'The Day After'?" Whoops from the audience, someone yelled, "Yeah, it was great" and everyone laughed. Bondy gave up the patter and went right back into their set.
The other odd amusing moment: After their last song, the singer says, as if addressing an SRO show at the Civic, "Thanks a lot for coming. We'll see you next time," and leaves the stage while feedback blares out of the speakers (did I mention it was bone-jarringly loud?). A small handful of people did stadium clapping which could barely be heard over the feedback din, and back came the band, triumphant and ready for an encore. It was kind of silly. If there are only 50 people in the crowd and you have a "scheduled" encore, don't bother with the stage departure, just play the last two numbers and leave the suspense at home.
I like these guys because I like full-on rock music. A strictly indie-music fan probably wouldn't get it or care. But if there ever is going to be a return to hard rock on the radio (indie will never, ever, make the mainstream airwaves again), why not these guys? You could do a lot worse.
Live review: the legendary Mike Watt – May 24, 2003
What is there to say? He's a legend. And I'm certain that most of the 150 that turned out at the Underground were there to honor him as much as hear what the world's hardest working bass player had to sing and play.
I'll be honest with you, I've never been a fan of Watt's solo work. I've seen him a couple times, but never really paid attention, which is something you really can't do at a Watt show. If you're not watching, you'll miss the whole point.
This time I closely listened to his entire set and was pleasantly surprised. Watt sings pretty well, sounding sort of like a baritone W.C. Fields with marbles in his mouth. It's weird and engaging at the same time. This line-up included a solid drummer and an organist who sang on a couple of numbers and added harmonies here and there.
Watt's music seems to fall into three categories. The strange Coltrane-inspired experimental stuff, which sounds like a barrage of noise, disjointed and grating. Then there's the punk stuff, his strong suit and a real pleasure to listen to. And now with this guy on the Hammond B3 (or whatever it was), there's these long, jammy instrumentals. I got the feeling that Watt could do very well performing on the Dead / Phish / Panic circuit. I personally don't care for this style, but I'm sure stoned-out jam band aficionados would find it appealing.
There's a couple other Watt styles. He does a great slow ballad, as epitomized by last night's rendition of "Walking the Cow" -- a gloppy midnight stroll that would make Tom Waits proud. And there's also his story songs, where Watt talks about his recent illness or, as in one of his encore songs, relates choices of a young kid looking toward a future -- "Army? Frat? Army? Frat?" It was curious and endearing and wholly entertaining, eventually turning into stream-of-conscious beat poetry.
Fact is, the guy is a legend, and no matter what he plays his history will always be his biggest draw. So many people there had grown up listening to Minutemen and fIREHOSE, who started bands because of his work and his dedication to the punk rock DIY lifestyle. There he is on stage, on his 50th tour since he started at age 13.
Watt ended the evening telling the crowd how D Boon's father was from Nebraska, and how he himself was just two relations removed from being from the state. His last words before leaving the stage for the night: "Start a band. Write a poem. Paint a painting. Try Coltrane." God bless Mike Watt.
Tonight -- Nada Surf, Sondre Lerche and The Long Winters. I'm most looking forward to the Long Winters, hopefully I'll get there in time to see them.
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A long-winded live review of Vue, Bright Calm Blue and The Ranch Bowl – May 23, 2003
This goes on and on. Those with no interest in what/is the Ranch Bowl can skip to the end where I talk more directly about the Vue show. This should be one of four straight days of show reviews on Lazy-i. Tonight is Mike Watt and The Monroes, tomorrow is Nada Surf and The Long Winters (both at Sokol Underground) and Sunday is The Beauty Pill and The Mariannes at Ted & Wally's and Verbena at the Sokol. Thank God I have Monday off.
The 100 or so people at the Ranch Bowl last night were there to see a show. For me, it was a walk down a rock and roll memory lane.
The last time I stepped foot in "the Bowl" was at least three years ago, maybe longer. Let's put it this way, it was a long time ago. My memories of the place are mostly smoke-filled, beer-soaked visions of the '80s, back in a time when the Ranch Bowl made its dime hosting big-haired cover bands and was one of Omaha's choice meat market/pick-up joints for 20-somethings on the prowl. Stone-wash-jean clad patrons in Members Only jackets would pay their cover, stroll through the tables eyeing prey, and belly up to the bar for a $3 beer while the night's cover band played the usual rotation of radio-friendly favorites, eventually making it around to a version of The Romantics' "What I Like About You," a song I used to actually like, that is before the '80s and the bars, before having to hear it played poorly a million times by the same dozen or so Omaha-based cover bands.
The Ranch Bowl's role changed in the '90s. Owner Matt Markel discovered alternative rock, and bands like Red Hot Chili Peppers and 311 and Warren Zevon and Pavement took over. The place slowly became a respectable touring club. Slowly, however, as the '90s waned, fewer and fewer good touring bands made it through the legendary bowling alley. The Bowl started booking six-, seven-, even eight-band shows made up mostly of bad metal, hardcore, goon rap-rock or ska bands. The audience became the bratty, faddish children of West Omaha sporting fake-punk façades and clueless earnestness. The choice touring indie bands moved their wares to other confines, like Sokol Underground and The Junction, and The Ranch Bowl became a fading memory to those of us who remembered the old days.
Then along came a change of ownership, and lo and behold, here comes Vue, and in the next few weeks, The Buzzcocks. Sure, there's still a lot of awful metal/aggra-goon-rap bands booked at the Bowl, but something tells me that that could change, and maybe Vue is one of the first steps in that direction.
The first thing I noticed after my seamless entry (after years of frustration, the Bowl finally has its "guest list" system worked out) was that the club itself has become a bit run-down. The blue railing that used to run along the upper bar (the venue is a two-tier affair) was gone, replaced with industrial chain-link fence. I suppose they'd had enough of kids climbing through the railing bars, or maybe they thought the cyclone fence is fashionably industrial. It isn't. It's awful.
Orange plastic snow fence cut the upstairs tier in half, acting as a makeshift barrier between the drinking section and the under-21s -- I suppose it's a necessity for all-ages shows, but most of the kids were on the floor anyway, so the underage section turned into a makeshift gear closet, stacked with crates and instrument cases.
Like going back to your high school years after you graduated, the place seemed smaller than I remembered. Maybe because all of the high-top tables had been cleared off the main floor, only a few still stood along the back with a couple pop machines (unheard of in the old days). The walls were dingy and covered with band posters -- not necessarily a bad thing for a punk or indie club. You don't want it to look too nice. Sadly, the portraits of local cover bands -- outfits like Tight Fit and On the Fritz -- that used to hang along the hallway leading to the back bathrooms had been taken down.
Some things, however, never change. The Rolling Rock is still $3 a bottle, served by the same wonderful, sneering grandmother who served it back in the day. God bless her Gollum-like stare.
So anyway, the music.
I got there at around 10:30, just missing Anonymous American (Matt Whipkey's new combo) but in time to see Bright Calm Blue, a Lincoln 4-piece whose meandering, screechy compositions border on hardcore or metal or prog rock.
Another thing that hasn't changed about the Ranch Bowl -- you cannot hear a guitar if your life depended on it. The sound system looks to be the same as the last time I was there -- two huge stacks of speakers on either side of the stage, emitting nothing but bass. Bright Calm Blue does, in fact, have a guitarist, but you'd never know it from that performance. It was nothing but chest-rattling bass and drums, the occasional wonky keyboard, and shrill scream vocals.
I was ready to completely write these guys off after the first few songs. It seems obvious that they grew up listening to At the Drive-In and D.C.-based punk. Their playing seemed almost purposely sloppy and tuneless -- the vocals (shared by members of the rhythm section) were little more than off-pitch yodeling or knife-kill screams. The between-song banter consisted of sneering, telling the crowd that "it sounds better on the CD" and belches. How very punk.
The band, however, redeemed itself a bit with its last two songs, both of which actually seemed to sport a melody, which the vocalist actually tried to sing. It also had the best arrangement (their drummer is, in fact, quite good), and as a result, were their best songs, or should I say, only songs worth listening to.
The first half of Vue's set was seriously hampered by the ultra-bass effect. I couldn't hear guitarist Jonah Buffa at all, whether he was playing guitar or harmonica. The guy to my right screamed "All I hear is bass -- its intolerable," while the guy to my left, a Ranch Bowl regular, said it was the best sound he'd heard there in a long time, and seemed shocked that all I could hear was bass, drums and vocals.
As the set continued, however, the sound improved. As I described in the feature article, Vue's music is '60s-style good-time garage and Bay-area psychedelica that reminds me a lot of Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Warlocks or just about any band from the '60s garage era -- the Stones, the Animals, the Yardbirds, Them, your typical Nuggets bands. The guy on the right said they reminded him of The Standells, especially Rex Shelverton's vocals. He's right.
Between songs, Shelverton told the crowd that the show was actually a birthday party for The Faint's guitarist, Dapose. Vue and The Faint have toured together in the past, and in fact everyone from The Faint was there for last night's show.
The strangest moment of the night came when three football-player looking guys strolled out into the crowd and inappropriately began a make-shift mosh-pit, slamming into each other and a few annoyed members of audience. A cute little girl in red pants and glasses who couldn't have been more than 16 almost got smashed. She looked downright scared, and I thought I was gonna have to come to her rescue when out of nowhere appeared a couple bouncers and (I think) owner Mike Brannan. Moments later, the three stooges disappeared. You always hear complaints about the Ranch Bowl's bouncers being assholes. Nothing could be further from the truth. In all honesty, I've never ever had problems with bouncers anywhere, and my experience has been those who complain the most are usually part of the problem.
Anyway. It was a solid set from a band that, though they're on a major label, will never break through to commercial success because their sound just isn't radio fare. You've heard the saying 'It's a movie for movie lovers'? Well, Vue is really a band for underground music aficionados. The general public is never going to like them because, though they're actually on the leading edge of indie, they'll be discounted as a "'60s-style garage band." Too bad.
Verbena interview, The Quiet Type, interesting chatter – May 21, 2003
Just posted, an interview with Verbena's Scott Bondy (it's right here), where he talks about living in the South and how that's touched his music. He also talks about being on Capitol Records after the band got its start on Merge. This marks the second story in a row on Lazy-i about a band that's moved from an indie to a major label (as well as the second band in a row whose name begins with "V"!). I failed to mention in the article that Frodo is a huge Verbena fan, a fact that Verbena and its label seem eager to mention in their press materials. Never mind the fact that the guy who played Frodo is the weakest link (whatever happened to that show?) in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. But I digress... Verbena is playing at Sokol Underground Sunday night, which leaves me in a quandary because Beauty Pill, Bombardment Society and The Mariannes are playing at Ted & Wally's Sunday night as well -- a particularly fertile night for shows considering Monday is a holiday. Decisions, decisions...
Tomorrow night is Vue at The Ranch Bowl, and should I attend (and I plan to), there will be a review right here Friday morning that will not only comment on the bands, but on The Ranch Bowl itself, a venue I haven't stepped foot in in three years or so.
Another notable show this weekend is Little Brazil (Landon Hedges), The Potomac Accord (from St. Louis) and The Quiet Type at The 49'r Saturday night. The show marks the last gig for The Quiet Type, who are calling it quits before they really got a chance to get off the ground. QT frontman Oliver Morgan said the band was about to step into the studio to record its first full length when bassist Mark Kosmicki and guitarist/vocalist Shawn Cox said they'd had enough. "Then all of these repressed feeling all came out of everyone at once," Morgan said. "It seemed like we were all on the same page, and I think we all just hoped we were, but there were un-addressed issues, and we were actually very far from it, all along. We are not seeing eye-to-eye, goal-wize, or musically anymore. Maybe its just time doing its thing." Morgan says he and his wife, Megan, are planning a new project in the near future.
Finally, there's some interesting chatter on the Lazy-I Webboard, including a Matador Records update and a message from Superdrag about that band's personnel changes, not to mention your comments on recent Lazy-i articles (some concerning Bright Eyes). Take a look and leave a comment.
Check back tonight or tomorrow for a few more reviews, including looks at the new Crooked Fingers and FCS North.
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Black Eyed Snakes w/Carsinogents tonight at the 49'r – May 19, 2003
Like the title says... the 49'r seems sort of a small to be hosting this show, but just about any show is too big for the 49'r, which is crowded regardless of whether they have a live band playing or not. It'll definitely be packed tonight, and the venue is probably ideal for what you're gonna see. I wrote a preview for this show for The Omaha Weekly-Reader, but they misplaced the file and it was never printed. So here is is, as background for those thinking of going to tonight's show. Check back for new reviews and another update later tonight, and look for an interview with Verbena tomorrow night.
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Vue interview, Reviews of Cex, Blue Shade Witness, the return of Mercy Rule and Sideshow – May 14, 2003
Just posted, an interview with former-Sub Pop current-RCA rockers Vue (read it here) on what it took to get a major label to understand what they're trying to do. Sounds like RCA tried to jack them around and they held their ground. We'll see when their full-length actually gets released later this year. Vue is playing at The Ranch Bowl May 22 with Anonymous American a.k.a. Matt Whipkey and his new band. I haven't been to the Ranch Bowl in almost three years, so this should be quite an experience.
Also added to Lazy-i, reviews of the latest releases by Cex and Blue Shade Witness -- go to the Reviews page and click, click, click.
Finally, our friends over at the Star City Scene site (the "Star City" is Lincoln for you out-of-staters) are reporting that Mercy Rule and Sideshow, two seminal bands from Omaha's Golden Age of indie punk circa the mid-'90s, are getting together for a one-time reunion show for charity. Both bands have been cited numerous times by various local bands, including all the Saddle Creek acts, as not only influential, but as what inspired them to get involved with music. Bernie, the lead singer of Sideshow (think Cursive on speed) also heads up Caulfield Records, an indie label that predates Saddle Creek by a number of years. To find out more about Mercy Rule, check out my 1998 interview with the band by clicking here. I'll pass on more info about the show's date, time and venue when I get it.
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Live Review: Bright Eyes at Sokol Auditorium -- Conor, you OK? – May 12, 2003
To be honest with you, I hadn't expected to stay for the Bright Eyes set. I had come down really just to see Head of Femur (amazing), and was thinking of leaving during Arab Strap (painfully boring, though Aidan Moffat's colorful, angry rants between songs was amusing). A pressing deadline (a feature on the band Vue, which will be online here tomorrow night) and a 7 a.m. appointment the next morning were forcing my hand. Besides, I'd seen Bright Eyes just a couple months earlier with the same backing band. Regardless, I decided to stay just to hear what Conor and company were going to open with. After the first song, I knew I had to stay and see if he was going to make it through the whole set.
There was something obviously wrong from the beginning of opener "One Foot in Front of the Other." Unlike how he played it a few month's earlier as Sokol Underground, this version was slower, and Oberst's guitar at times was barely audible, leaving just his weary voice (yes, the rest of his band was on stage, but for the opener, it was mostly Oberst). Conor looked down while he sang, but not at the crowd. Each word seemed slow and deliberate, almost detached. I turned to the person next to me and said "Something's wrong."
The whole band played on the next song (I apologize for not knowing the titles) but again, Oberst's tinny guitar (He wasn't playing that big fat Gretsch that seems to dwarf him on stage) could barely be heard. He looked mentally and physically drained. He didn't seem drunk. And despite a couple coughs between songs, his voice sounded fine.
So the set continued, the rest of the band chugging along. Between songs, Oberst thanked the crowd while he took sips from what looked like a plastic cup filled with Guinness. He said it was his brother's birthday. And that it was mother's day. And that the tour had been really good. And that he was happy to be home.
After about the fifth song, the band left the stage to Conor for a solo rendition of "Waste of Paint." Oberst and his guitar were at times barely audible. He seemed somber and sad and at one point stopped playing guitar altogether why he said the lines and rubbed his eyes with the hair that had hung in his face all night. I don't know if he was crying as he struggled, but he pulled it out and pounded out the chorus with his guitar.
Then things just got worse. I can't remember if it was before or after the next song, but Oberst announced that he couldn't continue. "Robb, can you give everyone half their money back?" he said to the crowd. Two or three members to the band huddled around him as he turned his back to the audience.
After a moment, they started in on the next song, one I had never heard before. Oberst looked confused or frightened or in pain, rubbing his eyes. He backed away from the microphone, paused, then walked up and started singing the first few lines, then backed away again and mumbled something. The band stopped playing and the crowd clapped. Oberst earnestly told the crowd to stop, that when the next song ends he doesn't want any applause, that he just wanted everyone to leave in silence.
After a few moments, the band launched into a rousing version of "The Calendar Hung Itself." Oberst's voice sounded fine, though he looked to be in some kind of agony. And as an exclamation point or a signal that the show was definitely over, he swung his guitar over his head Pete Townshend style and smashed it on stage, shattering pieces of wood into the crowd, then turned his back and walked off stage.
Of course the crowd roared as the rest of the band quietly left.
The whole thing was like watching a car wreck in slow motion. I don't know if Oberst was sick or drunk or drugged or emotionally burned out. But every song he performed was sung from the bottom of a deep, dark well, with eyes clinched closed behind those long bangs.
I left there
worried about Conor Oberst. I hope he was just sick. I hope he was maybe just
exhausted from having been on the road for too long. I hope the weight of the
world wasn't getting too heavy, wasn't pushing him down. If I knew him better,
I'd ask him if he was OK. Somebody needs to.
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New reviews -- Saddle Creek 50, Atom, Murder, etc. – May 10, 2003
Just posted, a slew of new CD reviews, including reviews of the Saddle Creek 50 compilation, Atom and his Package, We Talked About Murder (recently opened for Cursive in Austin), and Gatsbys American Dream (plus The New Pornographers, Head of Femur, Lanky and more). Check 'em out at the Reviews index.
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Bright Eyes on Letterman June 11, Arab Strap at Sokol, The New Pornographers – May 6, 2003
Robb Nansel at Saddle Creek Records confirmed the rumor -- Bright Eyes has been booked to appear on The Late Show with David Letterman June 11. Bravo to Conor Oberst for waiting out other offers to nab what is arguably the most sought-after TV gig this side of Saturday Night Live. What this means for Bright Eyes and Saddle Creek is anyone's guess, but methinks it could be the rocket ship that takes everything to the next level.
questions that come to mind:
And why now? In addition to the obvious reasons (tons of national publicity including a couple NY Times articles, a critically acclaimed album, etc.), you have to figure that his recent NYC gigs, his alleged "move" to NYC and the recent "Winona sighting" all played in a part in it. Check out what Carlos from Interpol said about how his band snagged a Letterman appearance: "We have a really good publicist. The other reason is that it's the job of music directors at shows like Letterman to get bands that are hot at the moment, but aren't that big yet. The idea is that, in the long run, it will look like this (the appearance on the show) is a significant moment that happened when they were raw in their career and had just released an album. Music directors know that stuff." Seems to fit Bright Eyes' situation as well.
I have to admit that it'll be exciting to see, especially for those of us who have watched Oberst grow up on stage over the past eight years or so.
Speaking of seeing Bright Eyes on stage, Oberst and company will be performing again in Omaha at Sokol Auditorium May 11 with Arab Strap. In support of that show, I just posted an interview with Malcolm from Arab Strap here at Lazy-i (read it here). Opening the show will be Chi-town's Head of Femur -- another can't-miss act. Better take the opportunity to see Conor now. After this Letterman thing, his next Omaha show may be in the cozy confines of the Civic Auditorium...
Also, CD reviews are back with a vengence -- at least two or three new ones a week. Check out the write-up on the new one by The New Pornographers. Say, why doesn't someone book those guys at Sokol Underground? Come on, people, get with it!
Sioux City on OmaCreek, Journey and Park Ave. redux, The Monroes – April 30, 2003
Our friends up north in Sioux City give their take on the recent OmaCreek explosion in an article at Siouxland.net called "Indie Music Thrives in Omaha" (read it here). Yours truly was among those interviewed, along with Saddle Creek Records' Robb Nansel and promoter extraordinaire Marc Leibowitz of One Percent Productions fame. The point of my comments was that all the national press about "the Omaha scene" has been directed squarely on the Creek bands. And while they deserve the attention, there's more to the Omaha scene than just Creek. You've heard me make this point before on the blog, so I won't tire you with it again. Omahans will recognize the author, Andy Walter, as the primary record reviewer at The Reader. Andy's off to bigger and better things in Denver, and I'm not sure what his future role at The Reader will be, if any.
Speaking of reviews, my take on the new Journey tribute CDEP just went online (read it here). More newsworthy is the fact that Urinine, who released the tribute, is reissuing Park Ave's only full-length CD, When Jamie Went to London We Broke Up. Originally released in 1999, the first pressing sold out last June. For those of you who've never heard of them, among Park Ave.'s members were Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst and The Faint's Clark Baechle. The story behind the band and the release is here. Urinine announced the reissue in March, but no word on when it will be available. Check back at their web site.
Speaking of new releases, The Monroes just finished a new 7-inch: "Razorback" & "Ready, Set, Topeka" b/w "Breaker, Breaker" & "Six Days on the Road," released on Speed! Nebraska Records, of course. The band will host their record release party in style, opening for punk legend Mike Watt May 23 at Sokol Underground. Watt's visit to Omaha means that I'll probably have the opportunity to do yet another Watt interview, each one is a truly, uh, unique experience.
Live Review: Cex, The Postal Service – April 27, 2003
It's been more than a few days since the last update. I've been out of town, in beautiful Canada, seeing the mountains from the back of a train, traveling between Calgary and Vancouver. No apologies, just explanations Vancouver is an amazing city. I'll leave it at that.
I was back in the country, however, in time to make it to last night's Postal Service / Cex show at Sokol Underground, but not quite in time to see Fizzle Like a Flood, who had just finished their opening set when I arrived. Sounds like I'll get another chance to see them in a few weeks as they're playing May 12 with Matt Whipkey's new combo at The 49'r.
Next up was Cex. A disembodied voice said, "Don't look up on the stage, I'm not gonna be up there anytime soon." There he was, in the center of the floor surrounded by audience, taunting people to come closer, "Don't be pussies!" Cex, a.k.a Rjyan Kidwell, is a blond rap kid from Baltimore with a microphone and a laptop, who sounds like a cross between MC 9000 Ft. Jesus (who remembers that guy? I do.) and an angsty Trent Reznor. He spent the entire set in the crowd, trying to eek out audience participation with call-and-response lyrics, going as far as giving instructions before the song ("When I yell 'I promise!' you yell 'We promise!'") One guy I talked to likened him to a lite version (in every way possible) of Har Mar Superstar. I didn't catch that at all. Sure, his electro-pulse hip-hop ditties all-too-often were sex driven, but for the most part, there was no over-the-top escapades, just Kidwell and his microphone, bouncing in the crowd, screaming into faces, trying to get a rise out of them. His 30-minute set was pleasant but not altogether very interesting. We've heard it all before.
Finally there was The Postal Service. The stage was adorned with a large bed sheet taped to the rafters, acting as a screen for the overhead projector mounted on the ceiling stage left. Unlike the recent Faint show, where the band's videos were so good they totally consumed your attention, the video projected during The Postal Service's set was little more than looped snippets that acted more like a screen saver or visual tonal visual backdrop -- they didn't distract, merely adding color to the sensual palette -- images of clouds, people's shoes, a microwave oven, someone drinking a pint of beer, etc. A guy was sitting just below the side of stage left with a Powerbook, keyed up the vids for each song. Nothing really synched directly with the music, so if a song ran long, the vid could just cycle back and start over.
Enough about the visuals, the music was what the 250 were there to hear. Death Cab for Cutie fans had to be pleased. Fact is, The Postal Service sounds like Death Cab with a beat box and some female backing vocals. Gibbard consumes every arrangement he touches with his simple melodies and warm, cooing voice -- one of the more distinctive voices in indie rock. As a result, it's impossible not to make the comparison to Death Cab.
It was a long set -- they played almost (if not every) song off their just released SubPop CD, Give Up. It felt more like a duo, with Gibbard and Jenny Lewis center and stage left playing in the dark (no stage lights to distract from the projector, hence no way to really see the band other than as silhouettes), and Jimmy Tamborello dimly glowing behind another Powerbook, its white Apple logo shining in the dark. Occasionally, Gibbard would step away from his microphone or set down his guitar and slap on a pair of headphones behind a kit and add some kicky drums, a microphone was set up next to it so he could sing along Don Henly style.
For a couple songs (the duet "Nothing Better" and the encore) Gibbard and Lewis did their best Neil Diamond / Barbara Streisand impersonations, trying to look lovingly into each other's eyes while Gibbard did his typical, weird monkey dance thing. As they came to the last song of their set, something went awry with Tamborello's Powerbook, who knows what. Gibbard kept apologizing about the computer losing power and saying, "That may be it, folks." Lewis added, "That's what you get when you use that high-tech computer shit." No one in the audience knew what was going on -- everything up to that point had sounded fine. After a few moments, they started playing again. Maybe he rebooted?
They came back for a one-song encore ("It's all we have prepared for you"), a cover of Phil Collins' "Against All Odds." As you might expect, scenes from the 1984 Taylor Hackford romance were shown in the background -- shots of Jeff Bridges and Rachel Ward making out on the beach and snorkeling. It started as a relatively straight-forward reading of the song, but Gibbard changed the ending, repeating "Take a look at me now" over and over into distortion -- a nice moment.
The Postal Service, Fizzle Like a Flood, Head of Femur and others, New Merch! – April 24, 2003
Some updates. First, an interview with Ben Gibbard of Postal Service just went up (read it here), which also includes an interview with Fizzle Like a Flood. Both will be playing the same show, along with Cex, this Saturday, April 26, at Sokol Underground. This was suppose to be two separate stories, but our friends at The Reader suggested that I merge them, since they support the same show. I'll be posting a separate Fizzle story in the near future, for you Fizzle fans out there.
Also online are a few new CD reviews, including Omaha bands Killian Ryan and Citizen's Band, as well as Chicago band Head of Femur. Our official guest reviewer, Stephen Sheehan, handled the Femur review, and goes into great detail about their sound / style. These guys open for Arab Strap and Bright Eyes May 11 at Sokol Auditorium (I'll be adding an interview with Malcolm from Arab Strap to Lazy-i next week sometime). More reviews are on the way, as always. My call for contributors remains the same -- if you wanna write reviews and have similar tastes as yours truly, drop me a line. I can't pay you but you'll get lots of free CDs and the honor of having your words posted on one of the nation's most important indie rock web sites (well, maybe one of Nebraska's most important indie rock sites...).
Also, new Lazy-i merch is now available from the Lazy-i shop. In addition to the 2002 tour T-shirts that list all the bands that made it into the pages of Lazy-i last year, there's also a new Lazy-i baseball shirt, coffee mug and camisole (which should go well with the Lazy-i thong). Check 'em out. All prices are at cost.
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Live review: Cat Power April 19 at The Sokol – April 20, 2003
Chan (pronounced "Shawn") (By the way, she should just change her name to Chan Pronounced Shawn Marshall and save the typesetters and copy editors all the trouble of adding it to their stories. Someone at The Reader actually added the explanation to mine. I hadn't included it in my draft, figuring no one was dying to know how to pronounce Ms. Marshall's first name and it seemed unlikely that they'd ever get a chance to use that correct pronunciation. I was dying for someone last night to yell at the top of his/her voice "Chan, we love you!" but pronounce it like the surname of the famous Chinese detective, then being shamed by everyone with "It's Shawn, not Chan, stupid!") Marshall didn't blow up on stage last night. There was no car wreck. In fact, the cars just seemed to zip around the track at their usual languid pace. And I think I was the only one disappointed.
I showed up apparently four songs into her set. I talked to a guy back by the cash register smoking cigarettes near the soundboard who said, "Yeah, she's on her fourth song, but it sounds like she's been playing the same song for 20 minutes."
I grabbed a beer and pushed my way through the cramped, sold-out crowd, making my way to my usual spot along the wall stage right. Adoring fans were sitting on the edge of the stage, next to the old upright piano that someone had placed up there (I imaged poor Marc and Jimmy -- our faithful promoters -- struggling with the 2-ton monstrosity). I figured the women sitting with a guitar in the middle of the stage was Chan, and began snapping some pictures. But when the song ended, the crowd applauded and she and the rest of the band went off stage. In fact, Chan was about three feet from me, hidden behind the oak soundboards of the piano, where she stayed for a medley of four or five songs, played end-to-end without pause, while the doe-eyed crowd stared in silence and awe.
Most crowds at Sokol Underground are, shall we say, respectful. But this one was particularly reverent, worshipping at the temple of Chan. For the first time since maybe Bright Eyes, there were more girls than boys in the crowd, flying single or with other girls. One innocent-looking girl standing right against the stage wore a T-shirt that said "Rockandroll Motherfucker" and clearly was entranced by everything Chan did.
Speaking of Entrance, the opening band canceled, apparently last minute, and Landon Hedges a.k.a Fine Fine Automobiles, opened the show. I missed it, of course, but was told it was one of his best performances.
Anyway after her solo piano numbers, Chan turned around on her stool and grabbed a guitar, did a couple numbers before the rest of the band joined her on stage for the best part of the set, where things became suddenly electrified and all full of fire verging on psychedelic. As always, I don't know the names of the songs and don't have a set list to share. I'm told a couple were covers, but I recognized a few from Moon Pix and the new CD. If there was a time where Chan could possibly have burst into flames in her legendary, ritualistic sort of way, it would have been when her bandmember's guitars cut out completely during one song. I could see his face, laughing and shaking his head in sort of a "who me?" sort of way. Moments later, though, the guitar was up and running again and Chan played on with her eyes pressed shut.
No theatrics, no tears, no screaming, no back-turned-to-the-audience. And no encore, by the way. As she walked off stage, she shielded her eyes with her forearm while she waved to the crowd with her index finger, sort of in Redrum fashion or as if she were spraying the audience with a magical, imaginary spray bottle. And that was the last we saw of Chan Pronounced Shawn Marshall for the evening.
Cat Power -- concert or car wreck? Entrance – April 18, 2003
I couldn't get an interview arranged with Chan Marshall a.k.a. Cat Power. I almost got one, but it just didn't happen. Such is life when you're dealing with a performer who is billed as a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Regardless, below is a preview I wrote for Saturday's Cat Power show at Sokol Underground that was also published in this week's edition of The Omaha Reader (I'm dropping the "Weekly" part of the name from now on) along with the Matt Pond PA piece I already told you about. There's also some info below about the opener, Entrance.
Matt Pond PA – April 16, 2003
I know it's kind of early, but here's an interview with Matt Pond PA, in support of their April 23 show at Sokol Underground. The story is in this week's edition of The Omaha Weekly-Reader, and would seem to be a week early, except that it doesn't make sense to publish a story about a show on the exact same day as the show. You would be picking up a copy of the paper next weekend and realize that the show took place three days earlier.
Anyway... I also wrote a preview for the Cat Power show, which I'll put online in this blog Thursday or Friday. It doesn't include an interview with Cat Power (one was scheduled but was abruptly cancelled). Instead, it talks about the Chan Marshall's rep for coming unglued on stage, and also a description of her new CD.
No other news right now, other than work continues on writing more CD reviews and I'm on the lookout for someone with my taste to help schlog through the rest of these CDs. If you're interested, drop me a line at email@example.com.
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Live review: The Faint's multi-media extravaganza! – April 12, 2003
They were turning people back at the door when I got there last night at around 11 p.m. -- a sell out at Sokol Hall, which I've heard is anywhere between 1,200 and 1,400 people packed inside. Passing through the door was like walking into a sauna -- hot, dark and steamy.
I missed Les Savy Fav, but was told by a couple friends that they were amazing as usual. Apparently at one point, that crazy lead singer was hanging off a balcony --complete spontaneous anarchy -- one of the best live bands on the road these days.
But regardless, the kids were really there to see The Faint... and to dance.
OK, so the whole multi-media thing (There is little to say about the music -- it was as pure as their recordings, but with lots more bass -- you could literally feel your bowels shake and your feet vibrate with every beat). As described by Jacob Thiele in my article (btw, Dapose's nose looked fine, not crooked at all), the stage was set up with two large screens shot with videos by dual overhead projectors.
The mini-movies were an amazing accomplishment by these guys -- genuinely entertaining art pieces that kept you glued. They featured mostly snippets of abstract images that related in some way to the songs being performed, all perfectly synchronized to the music. It was like watching a cacophony of disturbing subliminal images -- war, mouths, TV commercials, people, buildings, explosions, real and unreal. The most striking images were in "Paranoia Attack" (it was a gas to see Peter Jennings and Aaron Brown sing along with Todd from their anchor's desks), "Worked Up So Sexual" (a pastiche of nipples -- smooth, hairy, pieced, black, white, freckled, all switching to the beat), and of course the music video for "Agenda Suicide," deemed too offensive to run on MTV and as disturbing as ever. After the first song, I found myself focused on the video presentation, completely ignoring the band. Sure, I occasionally looked down to see which Faintster was flopping where, but ultimately was drawn back up to the screens.
As engrossing as the videos were, the new lighting effects were almost unnoticeable, maybe because of the size of the hall. Yes, there were some moving spots on the stage and some other off-stage lighting, but nothing terribly striking or surprising. They did what they were suppose to do, but added very little drama, and were overshadowed by what was happening up on the screens and on the floor below.
The problem was that there were no moments when the video stopped for a few moments during a song, forcing the audience to focus on the band. When the Talking Heads created a multimedia presentation for its Stop Making Sense Tour, for example, their three-screen presentation would often just show individual words, solid colors or would go white -- it complimented the performers on stage, it didn't replace them. Here, the constant barrage of hyperactive multiple images completely draws all your attention. If, however, the screens had gone blank for 15 or 20 strategically placed seconds during a song, the audience would have had to let go of the visual chaos from above and refocus on the visual chaos on stage.
This sort of happened during one encore number, "The Ballad of a Paralysed Citizen," where Todd Baechle stood alone center stage, singing to recorded background tracks or samples, while above him was only the image of ripples rolling across a digital pool of liquid. All eyes were on Todd for three solid minutes.
Here's the deal -- The Faint already are encased in a click track, unable to move beyond the straight interpretation of their songs as recorded. Add to that a video presentation also cued off the same click track and you begin to wonder why there's even a band on stage. Why not just play the videos along with a (loud) copy of the CD? You would get pretty close to the same experience. Why put the band up there if you're not watching them play and they're never going to stray from the rigid structure of the click track? There was little, if any, spontaneity.
but who cares? Certainly not the audience on the floor, which was too busy jumping
and pumping their fists in the air. It was a hopping, pogoing dance party, reminiscent
of -- dare I say it -- a couple 311 shows I've attended where the entire floor
bobbed in unison to the music. It was so packed down there that by the end of
the evening you were covered in sweat -- your own and the people's next to you.
For one night, Sokol Hall became the Midwest's most exclusive ultra-hip dance
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The Faint and the price of success – April 9, 2003
Just placed online, an interview with The Faint, or more accurately, with Jacob Thiele of The Faint. Read it here. Jacob called from Europe last week while the band was completing a tour with Placebo and shared some comments about traveling overseas during these days of war. They're already back in Omaha, and judging from Jacob's comments, have probably already started their soundcheck for the April 11 Sokol Auditorium show.
I commented only briefly about the band's difficulty getting their new, multi-media show to work on the big, fat, rather uninviting Sokol Auditorium stage. I can count myself one of the lucky few who got to see The Faint downstairs at Sokol Underground -- a much better venue for their type of show because of the more confining, club-like setting. The same goes for opener Les Savy Fav. Last time they came through town, they played down in The Underground, and it was one of the best shows of the year, mainly because the bear-like, head-band-wearing lead singer jumped off stage and into the crowd throughout the evening, literally singing face-to-face with audience members. This type of interaction won't be happening Friday.
Chock it up to the price of success. It doesn't make sense to book The Faint downstairs anymore, where the capacity is a mere 320 or so (if the fire marshal's watching) vs. the 1,000+ capacity upstairs. Oh well...
Addendum to the Bright Eyes March 30 Omaha show review... – April 4, 2003
A quick addendum to the Bright Eyes Omaha show review, which is posted a couple blog entries below. Kind reader Swifty McSwift sent along this set list from that show, which he (or maybe she?) says was yanked from the stage after their set. Thanks, Swifty! The first song was apparently "One Foot in Front of the Other," a new song from the upcoming Saddle Creek 50 compilation CD available in stores April 8. I can't quite figure out how to read this set list, so make of it what you will. Incidentally, the review was published in its entirety in this week's edition of the Omaha Weekly-Reader (along with the Statistics story, which I posted a couple days ago).
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Statistics, Dave Dondero and Joe Knapp – April 2, 2003
An interview with Denver Dalley about his new project, Statistics, just went online. Read it here. The project is Denver's effort to make a name for himself outside the world of Saddle Creek Records. Don't get me wrong, he loves Saddle Creek. But the fact that he's signed to Jade Tree Records does give him a different kind of credibility. Now if he can only get his band together and play a gig in Omaha. Seeing as the EP isn't slated for release until June, it could be awhile until we see the live version of Statistics. Or for that matter, Desaparecidos. As Denver mentions in the article, it will be many months until that band gets together again, considering everyone's busy schedules, not the least of which is Conor Oberst's, who just left on a Bright Eyes tour and then plans to follow it up with spending some time in his second home in New York City.
More reviews on the way. Keep watching. Almost no rock shows to speak of this weekend, however, there's a last-minute show tonight at Sullivan's at 39th and Farnam featuring Joe Knapp a.k.a. Son, Ambulance, Dave Dondero, Jason Anderson and MC Matt Baum. I've never been to Sullivan's, though I'm told it's a rather small space to see performances. The show starts at 9 p.m. and is 21+.
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Live Review: Bright Eyes and the anti-war effort – March 31, 2003
Was it a night of peace and love or just another Bright Eyes concert?
The show at the Sokol Underground Sunday night was thrown together in a hurry as a benefit for Omaha anti-war pro-peace organization Action Now. Admittance was a $5 donation to the cause, and by the looks of it, they must have raised at least a couple thousand bucks, because the place was completely packed with hot, sweaty, smoky people eager to let their freak flag fly.
The night began promptly at 9 p.m. with a speech by Action Now organizer Steve Thyberg, a guy in his 40s that looked the part with his long, thinning gray hair and college professor appearance. Thyberg had his remarks written on sheets of paper that he struggled to read in the dark while the crowd looked on wide-eyed. He said Bright Eyes' frontman Conor Oberst had called his organization asking what he could do to help. More on that later. Thyberg then went on to list the usual arguments against the war in Iraq, the Bush administration, how peace is the only answer, how it's up to "all of us to raise our voices."
Thyberg seemed to be preaching to the choir... or was he? How many were there just to see Bright Eyes and how many were supporting the peace movement, an effort that seems utterly futile in a city that's 95 percent conservative, Republican, and pro-war? In many respects, it was a typical Sokol Underground crowd, and I recognized a number of regulars at other shows. But mixed in was a diverse audience of old and young, including a contingent of what most people would classify as... hippies.
Standing next to a scenester in shiny slacks, greasy swoop hair, Buddy Holly glasses and a windbreaker was a guy who could have been the second coming of Wavy Gravy, stout and in his 40s with a beard, wearing pajama pants, dew rag, peace buttons, carrying a large peace-sign flag. There were West-Omaha guys in their Husker clothes and white ball caps standing next to young dreadlocked girls doing "the hippy dance" made notorious at countless Grateful Dead and Phish concerts. I stood in the back, and moments after the show began, the guys in front of me pulled out a pipe and a small crowd formed to get the obligatory toke. One guy even asked me if I "wanted a hit from my joint, dude." I just told him I was good and took a swig from my Rolling Rock. Hippies...
Thyberg must be new to the speaking gig. He looked down most of the time, rarely looked at the audience, and tried as hard as he could to sound sincere. It was far from the fire and brimstone stuff that you see in movies and on TV. His "speech" only lasted a few minutes, then on came Bright Eyes. This show was really a warm-up for a month-long tour with Arab Strap that begins April 1 in Boulder and ends up back in Omaha May 11. This iteration of the band is a 6-piece ensemble that includes Mike Mogis on guitar and vibes, Matt Focht (Head of Femur) on drums, Alex McManus on guitars, Nick White (Tilly and the Wall) on keyboards, and Stephanie Drootin (the newest member of The Good Life) on bass. It's probably the smartest, most professional Bright Eyes line-up I've seen. Focht makes all the difference -- clearly the best drummer he's had in the band.
Oberst was lively and in good voice. His opening salvo was one that I've never heard before, a subtle antiwar song that takes a pacifist approach to confrontation, with the line "If we walk away, they'll walk away." I halfway expected Oberst to do a little proselytizing about the war. But he kept relatively quiet between songs, at one time apologizing for being bashful. It was before his second set that he explained how he got involved in Action Now. Seems someone repeatedly tore up his "No War" yard signs. Even after duct-taping them back together, he said, they would wind up torn to bits the next day. Finally the signs simply vanished. He said he felt violated, and that, apparently, was the impetus for his call to Thyberg, not only to get a couple more yard signs but also to find out what he could do to help the cause.
Thyberg spoke again between Bright Eyes' two sets, reprising the same comments he made at the beginning of the show. Then a couple more speakers took the stage, one of them a woman apparently from Brooklyn who told the crowd how popular Bright Eyes is in New York, quoting the New York Times' recent article about Omaha being a hotbed for underground music. She was followed by a young man who tried to rouse the crowd by singing over and over the chorus from the Youngbloods' "Get Together." (Come on people now, smile on your brother, etc.). The crowd did join in, but by now most were distracted from the stage. The buzz became a mild roar that continued throughout a 3-song set by Consafos, a female-fronted 5-piece, which included a violinist and a saw player as well as a couple Bright Eyes bandmembers. They sang quiet, sweet K Record-style indie pop songs that got lost in the din.
After Consafos, Bright Eyes came back on stage and sang for another half hour or more. The show was supposed to end promptly at 10:30, but Oberst and company didn't leave the stage until a quarter after 11. "This is officially the longest set we've ever played," he said. I can't tell you the names of the songs, I don't have the set list, but I did recognize "Bowl of Oranges," "Haligh, Haligh, A Lie, Haligh," an ode to an old Omaha band called "Solid Jackson," and quite a few more from the last two albums as well as a few I've never heard before. The band came back and did a two-song encore, one featuring only Oberst and his guitar.
As the crowd funneled out of the Underground, Thyberg handed out fliers and tried to get kids to sign up as volunteers. He seemed genuinely thrilled by the response, though I didn't see anyone stop and sign up. I'm sure people felt good about being there. It was a rare extended Bright Eyes performance and a chance to say you did something to stop the war. But I left feeling no different about the peace movement -- the bleak, utter futility of it all. Yeah, these people, for the most part, opposed the war in Iraq. Some might even take part in a local peace march or antiwar festival. But in the face of the millions upon millions of people around the globe protesting in the streets -- who are getting arrested or worse and are having virtually no impact on U.S. policy -- what possible impact can a handful of Omaha peaceniks have speaking out against war while nestled in the belly of the beast?
As I walked back to my car, I thought about poor Conor kneeling down over his jigsaw puzzle of a No War yard sign, stretching pieces of silver duct tape, cussing the assholes who did this while struggling to keep the hair out of his eyes.
Live Review: The Black Keys – March 30, 2003
The Black Keys played last night at Sokol Underground. I didn't know what to expect, really. They've been getting tons of hype in the indie world as this hip, second coming of the blues a la The White Stripes. One guy had told me that the lead singer sounded like an 85-year-old black guy.
In the end, the band was as straightforward as they come, mainstream to the point of verging on commercial. Lead singer Dan Auerbach didn't sound anything like an old black bluesman; he sounded like your run-of-the-mill white blues rock singer, complete with the husky vocal swagger that's easily recognizable among all those blues rock guys out there, with maybe a bit of (ironically) Jack Bruce in his voice. Ironic because the band is just two guys, singer/guitarist Auerbach and drummer Pat Carney -- no bass. The music was more rock than blues, a la Robert Cray/Double Trouble/Cream, without a hint of twang (thank God). For some reason, I expected some sort of gritty, modern-day sons of Robert Johnson sort of thing. That's what I get for not checking out the music beforehand.
I generally despise blues rock, a genre I equate with country or jazz fusion -- formulaic, hum-drum good-time music with no substance and generally no regard for the actual genre in which it's derived (for reference, see the Blues Hammer from the movie "Ghost World"). Blues is supposed to be "black music" -- funny that there's rarely a black guy to be found at most local blues rock shows. At least these guys were fun to watch, though not terribly adventurous or dirty. Auerbach does play a mean guitar and the songs weren't as repetitious as most blues rock bands' sets. Carney made the most out of a minimal drum set -- bass, side, snare, two cymbals. Could they have used a bass guitar? Not really. Call it "indie-blues" for a lack of a better name.
Regardless, the 165 on hand seemed to like it, judging by the number of nodding heads; and the band had a good time, performing a two-song encore.
Tonight is a special Bright Eyes performance at Sokol Underground, a benefit for local pro-peace/anti-war organization Action Now. Look for a review of the show here later tonight or early tomorrow, and quite possibly in the Omaha Weekly-Reader Wednesday. I fear it could be a mob scene, though the Saddle Creek guys don't expect a sell-out because the show information has only been posted on their Web board (and also the SLAM Omaha board). The show begins at 9 and supposedly ends by 10:30. We'll see.
For Against, the lazy New York Times– March 28, 2003
New CD review online of For Against's latest. Read it. Slowly, slowly the wheels of progress turn...
Much talk locally about a story that appeared in the New York Times March 23 by Kelefa Sanneh, where the writer describes Omaha as "the city that has perhaps the most vital underground rock scene in the country."
Kelefa Sanneh. Why is that name so familiar? Is that the same Kelefa who wrote the review of the new Cursive CD in the April 3 Rolling Stone? Seems Kelefa is a regular Saddle Creek groupie, who's written other Creek-related stories/reviews for Stone, not to mention at least four other articles for the Times where she talks about Conor Oberst in some capacity. Her intense love for all things Creek explains the Times coverage, which seemed inordinately intense, especially considering that their Sunday Magazine did a feature on Oberst just this past November (Kelefa didn't write that one).
In fact, the most recent Times story, "News from Nebraska: Local Bands Make Good," seems oddly timed, especially when you consider the bulk of national publications, including Shout NY and Time Magazine, did their "Omaha is the new Seattle" stories almost six months ago.
Regardless, all press is good press, eh? And Creek must be pleased with the attention, though the rest of the city's bands probably feel a little bit slighted. Other than Neva Dinova (who Kelefa amusingly describes as "one of the few Omaha bands that doesn't record for Saddle Creek..."), no other non-Creek bands were mentioned. She (I don't know if Kelefa is male or female, though something tells me she's a she) even goes out of her way to mention Rilo Kiley, most-definitely not an Omaha band.
Either the story was originally intended as a feature solely about Saddle Creek Records or Kelefa is just plain lazy. Sokol Auditorium was indeed abuzz the night of the Cursive CD release show that someone from the Times was on hand for the festivities. So that means the NYT reporter blew into town, probably hung out at Creek's Benson offices, then high-tailed it down to Sokol, watched the show, then flew back to New York. And that was the extent of her research on the city with "perhaps the most vital underground rock scene in the country"? The second half the story focuses on Presto! Studios and the Mogis brothers, which means there must have been a road trip to Lincoln during her trip. It ends with a brief history of Creek and their upcoming comp CD.
So do non-Creek bands have a right to be miffed that the great gray lady equates the Omaha scene solely with Saddle Creek? Yeah, they do. But it sure as hell isn't Creek's fault that the Times hires such lazy reporters. The story really doesn't help the Omaha scene -- or non-Creek bands -- all that much. It only galvanizes the notion that Omaha is Creek and only Creek. Her comments about Neva are completely erroneous. A more accurate statement would have been "Bright Eyes, Cursive and The Faint are among the few Omaha bands that record for Saddle Creek." When you break it down, there are only seven Omaha bands on Saddle Creek, leaving about 100 or so Omaha bands not recording for the label.
There's no question that Saddle Creek Records and its bands deserve all the attention they receive. Their hard work is well-documented (and nowhere moreso than at this very Web site). Their music speaks for itself. The real question is what will it take for national reporters to open their eyes to all the non-Creek Omaha bands that are making important music right here in River City. I've yet to read an article that captures the real Omaha scene. And I have a feeling that I won't until I write it myself.
Reviews return, Lazy-i merchandise, the March WoodEe Award – March 23, 2003
First and foremost, the Reviews page has been cleaned up, with a number of old reviews moved to the Reviews Archive page and the creation of a new Live Reviews page, where blog entries that focused on live shows will eventually be stored with larger photos, etc. That out of the way, I added the first new review since January, a look at the just-released debut by Two Guys on Absolutely Kosher Records. Expect more reviews on a regular basis as I begin to plow through the hundred or so CDs that have been submitted. Those who have sent discs and are painfully waiting for comment, keep waiting. In addition, our guest reviewer, Stephen Sheehan, says he's back in the saddle again to lend a hand. Hooray!
For all those who have been eagerly begging for Lazy-i to begin offering apparel merchandise, we proudly announce the sporty, sexy Lazy-i T-shirt and thong, now available at the Lazy-I Cafeshops page. This handsome Hanes Beefy-T sports the eye-catching Lazy-i World Tour logo on the front, while all the bands profiled in the web pages of Lazy-i in 2002 are listed on the back, along with the respective date of publication. Take a look. What better way to show off your indie rock good taste? And for those with a hankering of something a bit more... exotic, check out the Lazy-I sport thong (I'm not kidding). As they say in the now-hated country of France: Ewww-la-la. All products are offered at cost, so I ain't making one thin dime on this stuff. I might be adding a few more products in the future, so check back to my cafeshops page.
And finally, though it's already past mid-March, it's not too late to name this month's winner of The WoodEe Award. The much-adored prize goes to the pricks at FakeDIY.net. The backstory: I was checking out my site's user log files and stumbled across a referrer from FakeDIY's Staff Web Board, where there was a nice topic about how such a crappy eyesore of an e-zine like Lazy-i could possibly be getting all these sweet interviews with big stars like Bright Eyes and Interpol. The topic went on to describe my wee little 'zine as pathetically ugly (the topic's title was "Are we aiming too low?" or something clever like that). Of course, I quickly registered to their web board and responded, asking why a 'zine with a staff of more than a dozen contributors (and two web editor/designers) was barely able to keep up with copying music news off other web sites and had only conducted five interviews with such prominent UK bands such as Medium 21 and Kinesis (and if you've heard of those guys, you get a free thong). I called them lazy. They deleted the post and unsubscribed me to their web board. Oh well... just to show there's no hard feelings, I figure the least I can do was give them a WoodEe. Maybe it will motivate them to DO SOMETHING instead of just complaining about the exploits of my little one-man show. Not likely.
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Live Review: The Warlocks, Little Brazil – March 22, 2003
I went to a rock concert last night.
Me and about 45 others, that is. And at least a dozen or so left before it was over, maybe because it wasn't indie enough or avant gard enough for their tastes. Whatever. It didn't matter, at least to the remaining handful, lost in a fog of chocolate smoke and feedback. One guy put it this way: It'll be remembered as a you-were-there concert, like last year's Smog show witnessed by only about 75 of us.
I expected to see the shortest set in history. Here was this 7-piece band who had just made it to town, almost canceling because of the Denver blizzard, looking out from the side of the stage before their set at Little Brazil and the few dozen patrons who showed up. When Little Brazil ended (and I'll get to their set in a few moments), The Warlocks took to the stage like a crack military unit, putting together their weapons of mass destruction as if they were being timed. I figured they wanted to get on, get off and get the hell out of there.
I couldn't have been more wrong. The fog machine started about five minutes before the band -- pushing smoke off the stage and into the audience. Then on they came -- a guitarist and bassist stage left (the guitarist, a feedback maestro), a tambourine girl/keyboardist and another guitarist stage right, all surrounding their long-haired guitarist/vocalist/leader, Bobby Hecksher, standing stage dead-center in the dark, while behind them two drummers sat side-by-side working like mechanics behind their sets. All's you could really see was red fog, the silhouettes of drummers moving in unison, tambourine girl's flared hips, the psychedelic grease lights on the ceiling and the occasional strobe blazing from behind posed axemen.
What you could hear was a solid wall of guitars pounding out songs based on repeated, simple riffs that built over the course of five to 10 minutes per. Consider them a mix of Velvet Underground, My Bloody Valentine, Spiritualized, Jesus and Mary Chain, Mercury Rev and your favorite stoner rock band all rolled up in into one king-kong sized sound, playing as if they were in front of a sold-out crowd at Hammersmith Odeon instead of on a plywood stage in the basement of a South Omaha dancehall for a few dozen onlookers who became fanatics before they were through.
The set lasted until 1 a.m., then the band came back on stage and played a two-song encore, with Hecksher looking genuinely touched by the crowd response. Two rocker girls added to the festivities, one yelling, "Play one more song and no one gets hurt." When the lights came up, I was a bit dazed, and stumbled around asking people if I just saw what I think I just saw. Judging by the stoned glances, everyone was a little bit freaked by the whole thing. These guys can't do this every night -- it would kill them.
I can see why Interpol has chosen The Warlocks to open on two of their tours. They're music is a perfect compliment to Interpol's almost static-hum-minimalism no wave. It wasn't for everyone. You either got into the throb or you didn't. I did. and for me, it was among the best shows I've seen so far in a year that, only three months' old, has been filled with great shows.
As for Little Brazil -- I got there late, thanks to the Maryland Terrapins. But I saw the last three songs, which were enough for me to declare Landon Hedges and Co. to be one of the best upcoming pop-punk-emo bands now going. The music was pure bash and crash, but Hedges knows his melodies, both on guitar and in his angry-little-man vocals. When is their next show?
Live Review: Songs:Ohia, The White Stripes, Tenacious D, Liz Phair – March 21, 2003
Went to the Sokol Underground last night for Songs:Ohia knowing next to nothing about the band, only that it is a changing cast of characters centered around singer/songwriter Jason Molina, that they've been compared to Palace Brothers, and that people as diverse as Edith Frost and members of Pinetop Seven have played on Songs:Ohia records in the past.
I thought the band sounded like jammy, twangy Neil Young (and I'm a huge N.Y. fan), with Molina's vocals a cross between Young and Damien Jurado. Consider it upbeat Smog without the self-loathing. Molina has a strong touring band, including a guy who counters on electric guitar, sharing solos. The first song seemed to last 15 minutes or more, oscillating between a back-beat jam and quiet passages, soaring just over the horizon, never quite getting off the ground and not wanting to.
I think I would have dug the songs more had I been more familiar with them. Molina's lyrics are definitely dark Americana of the finest sort, and it looks like I'll have to search out a couple of his CDs to get the full effect. During some between-song chit-chat, Molina said he was recovering from flu or a cold picked up by sharing some lady's microphone in Memphis a couple weeks before. He pulled his black stocking cap over his face for the next song, singing facelessly into the microphone. He walked off stage during the last couple minutes of the last song (they played about a 45-minute set) and never came back, leaving the band to say 'goodnight.'
All in all, a low-key evening. Only about 75 people were on hand, most standing against the stage while others sat at tables around the perimeter, soaking in Molina's style of low-key Crazy Horse. It should be quite a contrast to tonight's Warlocks show, which I was told last night, almost got canceled because of the Denver blizzard, which seems to be impacting just about every touring band coming through town.
In the news: Undercover.com.au has an amusing piece about The White Stripes getting bumped from David Letterman nine times. "We always said yes and they'd always come back with a comment like 'No, U2 is now going to play that night.' We had nine different times we were rebooked." The whole story is here.
Looks like the war is causing bands to cancel tours in Europe. NME reports that Tenacious D is cutting short their European tour for "security fears." I'm trying to imagine "Middle Eastern extremists" trying to take out Jack Black. Strange, but I can't say that I blame them. That story's here.
And for all you Liz Phair fans out there, Rollingstone.com is reporting that her new CD comes out in June (story's here). It looks to be a real mish-mash, and includes five songs sculpted by pop production hit machine the Matrix, the folks behind April Lavine (you know who I'm talking about). Says Phair: "The songs that made it onto the album are the ones that rock. I wanna sell some records, goddammit." I think we're about to see a whole new definition of the phrase "sell out." It's a shame, too, because Phair's first album is among my all-time favorites. She was never able to equal it, and never will if all she's concerned about is $$$. Exile's dreaded charm was the result of the honesty of its settings. There will be those who say 'Let Liz make some money, it's a free country,' and I can't argue with that. Doesn't mean that she has to be taken seriously anymore, at least by me.
The Warlocks, choices, getting old – March 19, 2003
What to do, what to do... two of the best shows of the year going on at the same time -- God Speed You Black Emperor at The Music Box and Death Cab for Cutie at Sokol Underground. My final answer -- I go to neither. I had too much going on at my real job to go out and feel wiped out the next morning. So... hopefully people showed up in high numbers at each show. My intention was to catch the beginning of God Speed, then drive downtown for Death Cab. Instead, I fell asleep on the couch. It's a bitch getting old, eh?
I just placed online a real nice interview with The Warlocks, an L.A.-based 7-piece who are playing Friday night at Sokol Underground with Little Brazil. I will make this show.
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Live Review: Cursive– March 16, 2003
Last night, the place to be was upstairs at Sokol Auditorium for Cursive -- the band's first headlining gig in the big room. I'm a terrible judge of crowd size, but it seemed as packed as any big show I've seen up there, including Wilco and The Faint. But it wasn't a sell-out. One guy estimated 850, but it sure seemed like more, especially when you felt the swelteringly heat coming off the main floor (seems like it's always hot at Sokol Auditorium shows).
I missed Small Brown Bike, and Sorry About Dresden cancelled due to mechanical troubles. I arrived just in time to seen the last Desaparecidos song, a real scorcher featuring Oberst jumping off Baum's drum kit. My impression: Conor needs a haircut.
Then came Cursive. If Kasher had worn a beanie and short pants on stage he would have looked like that guy from AC/DC, with his short-sleeved white shirt and neck tie. If you're a Cursive fan, you would have dug the set. Kasher was in prime voice, and everything else was good and loud. People were crammed up either side of the stage on the wing steps, while you could see a crowd hanging backstage on either side. Rumor has it that someone from The New York Times was there last night, doing a piece on "the Omaha scene." That would make four nationals in town over the last few weeks, including SPIN, Blender and Fader. According to my photographer friend, all are doing stories on "the Omaha scene," a story that was heavily covered six months ago by everyone from Time to Rolling Stone to obscure New York magazines. Here I thought the spotlight was beginning to wane on Omaha, and along comes the next wave of hype.
Anyway the band played a variety of songs from all their CDs (again, I didn't get the set list). For me, the most noticeable element was Gretta Cohn's cello. As I mentioned in the feature story, Gretta's cello for the first time stands out on their new CD. Every other time I've seen them live, I couldn't even hear the cello amongst the fog of bass/drum/guitar. Tonight, however, it felt like a warm blanket on even the most violent numbers, completely transforming their sound, adding a bottom and depth that underscores the seriousness of the proceedings.
The most interesting stage patter came before the last song, when Kasher said, in essence, that they've been playing for years, and Omaha has never been the band's favorite city to play, but he'd like it to be.
For some reason, it doesn't surprise me that Cursive has never had the strongest following in Omaha amongst the Saddle Creek bands (The Faint holds that distinction, even over Bright Eyes). At its very core, Cursive's music is abrasive and unforgiving. It doesn't lend itself to nice melodies or yell-out choruses (though the crowd did give it up during "The Martyr"). As a result, they don't attract the fans that are looking for easy pop, dance beats or good-time rock and roll. Cursive demands an investment from their listeners, and even then, a lot of people still don't get it. But those who do are rabid, die-hard fans -- the sort of fans that Cursive has enjoyed more in other cities. I don't know if that'll ever change, and I doubt the band cares all that much.
I got in one song from the encore, then split, hearing the next song blare from Sokol's open side doors, bringing in a much-need breeze, as I made my way back three or four blocks to my jeep.
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Live Review: 1989 Chicago Cubs, Examination of the...; Quote of the Day – March 14, 2003
Last night at Sokol Underground... I missed the opening band, Back When, which I'm told was a speed metal outfit.
Next up was the 1989 Chicago Cubs, the new Omaha super-group power-trio consisting of Ryan Fox from The Good Life on guitar and lead vocals, Matt Baum from Desaparecidos on drums and Dan Brennan from Red Menace on bass. We're talking relatively straight-forward indie-rock emo stuff. Fox's vocals don't quite have the umphhh to carry it off just yet. The band was tight, but was struggling to find a solid melody, as if the vocal lines were sort of written after the arrangements were completed.
Baum has already forged a rep as one of the city's best drummers, and his calisthenics are what drove the six-song set. Interestingly, between songs, he got up from behind his drum set and drank water, walked around, and then sat back down. I don't think I've ever seen a drummer get up and walk around between songs before. He also occasionally yelled into what appeared to be a toy bullhorn.
The highlight of the evening was the Cubs' last number, called "Burn the Boats," an absolutely amazing math test that walks away from their regular indie/emo sound to something that's slower, more angular, more interesting altogether. One guy I talked to compared the number to a cross between Unrest and Unwound. I thought it sounded like a cross between Chavez and a great, slow-drone Pixies tune. The song ends with the band hitting notes in unison and yelling numbers between the crashes. The crowd of 65 loved it. At the final crash, bassist Brennan swung his axe and knocked the mic stand off the stage, maybe into an innocent bystander, judging by the guy flipping him off afterward. Very punk indeed. Are these guys "the next big thing"? Considering the activity of The Good Life and Desa (both just back from tours), it's amazing that they even have time to practice together.
By the way, The Cubs are playing at the 49'r tonight... Ask to see Baum and Fox's impressive gangsta tattoos on their guts.
what I remember about the headliner, Examination of the
I don't know if they were frightening or just downright funny. What I do know is that they sure did stink... phewwww!
Quote of the Day: From a Reuters article about the Elizabeth Smart kidnapping/reunion:
Well, that about says it all...
Tim Kasher and Cursive, various updates, Men of Porn – March 12, 2003
Just posted, a nice feature on Omaha band Cursive, where Tim Kasher bares all about living on the road and the toll it takes both physically and emotionally (read it here). The story also talks about the making of their new CD, The Ugly Organ and the band's new policy of taking fellow Omaha (and non-Creek) bands on tour with them. Cursive takes their show to Sokol Auditorium this Saturday. It's become somewhat of a rite of passage for Saddle Creek bands to jump that hurdle between performing down in the Sokol Underground and the big ballroom upstairs. So far, The Faint and Bright Eyes have made the leap, now Cursive after their last show downstairs way exceeded capacity. I'm one of only a handful of people who prefer seeing bands down in The Underground vs. up in the aud, simply because the tighter confines down below make for a more intimate rock experience (The Faint is the best example of this -- when they're downstairs they make the place feel like a NYC club). The downside downstairs, of course, is the unfortunate smoke problems. First thing I do when I get home from an Underground show is rip off my smoke-stank clothes and take a shower.
Other random news... there are a few new posts on the Lazy-i Webboard of note, including the latest One Percent Productions show schedule, the latest Saddle creek News update (info about the spring tours), and an update from Tim Moss about the doings of everyone's favorite stoner rockers The Men of Porn. Moss is a former Omahan who was part of arguably one of city's best punk bands, Ritual Device. After that band broke up, he moved to San Francisco and formed Porn. Moss' memo talks about his bands upcoming performance at SXSW, which I believe is this weekend. Also the fact that the Men of Porn has recruited a woman on bass -- that should make for some kinky business...
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Live Review: The Carsinogents – March 9, 2003
In the end, they didn't need the flames.
I guess you could look at this almost as an epilogue to my current feature on the Carsinogents. What would the band do after being forced by Great White to give up the key theatrical element of their live show -- the flame-blowing routine?
At the risk of sounding cliché, the band brought a different kind of fireworks to the Sokol Underground last night (yikes, I can't believe I wrote that). I've seen these guys at least a half-dozen times -- all of the past shows included the usual fire-breathing hi-jinx. Last night's non-flame show was easily their best all-out performance. And no one seemed to miss the fire.
The set started with the video projector and pre-show music (Remember the day when all bands played about five minutes of music before their set, just to get people in the mood? The preshow music was a signal to finish your conversation, get a beer and get up to the stage. I miss those days). The recorded music was of the mariachi variety -- Mexican trumpets and orchestra -- while on a large sheet draped over a pole with duct tape a video was projected of a bull fight, interspersed with a shot of the band's old flaming-skull tiki.
The flames were replaced with plenty of smoke from a fog machine. There was so much smoke, I turned the guy next to me and asked if it was part of the act shades of Rhode Island still fresh in my mind. I glanced up sheepishly at the exit signs. In addition to the smoke, the stage was set with red floor lights and side spot lights, as well as a lighted keyboard placard with the band's logo blaring white.
Then on stage came the band. Anyone who's seen the Carsinogents knows that lead singer, Dave Electro, is a natural showman, a true tripped-out troubadour with footwork that would make Elvis blush. When Dave wasn't behind the keyboard, he was in front of the stage swinging his vintage microphone, belting a riff on guitar, doing some sort of weird shuffle that reminded me of gospel minister lost in the jubilation at a revival meeting.
The set list was a blend of old stuff, songs off the new CD and a couple I hadn't heard before. The band's sound indeed has evolved from 'horror-billy' to straight-out hard rock. I don't know what kind of a match they'll be with Cursive, whose songs are angular punk with introspective vocals. What will the emo kids think when they see Electro standing atop his organ while the rest of the band crashes along with knuckle-busting powerchords? Regardless, last night's crowd of around 300 ate it up. I noticed those who were standing in front of or near the speaker stack were pushed to center stage by night's end. It was indeed loud. I felt sorry for anyone stupid enough to not have earplugs. There's nothing tough or cool about tinnitus.
No, the flames weren't missed. As a matter of fact, the boys can now also confidently leave the film projector at home -- in the end it didn't add much to the staging. The lights and smoke and rock and roll moves are enough to entertain. But the real moment of truth came during the encore, when the band rolled out their signature finale that traditionally includes the flame-stunt. Like always, during the last part of the song, Dave seamlessly switched places with drummer Eldon Vampola. But instead of Eldon grabbing a torch and spitting Bacardi all over the place, he strapped on Dave's guitar and punched out guitar riffs while the rest of the band bashed around stage. After Eldon switched back to his drum set, Dave stretched out his arms across the duct-taped sheet, strolled up to the keyboard, climbed atop and stood there playing the song's final chords.
When he climbed down, that was it -- the end of an era for the band and a beginning of a new one. The final word about The Carsinogents: I don't know if they'll ever break out of this one-horse town. Sure, they've got four Texas dates with Cursive including a gig at Emo's in Austin. But the end of the story won't be written until we find out if they ever get a full-blown tour of their own, up either coast or for three or four weeks throughout the Midwest. And then follow-up with a return tour, because everyone knows the first time out is small and, if you've made an impression, the second time is huge. This band -- both in terms of its music and stage show -- would impress any crowd. The only thing holding them back is them.
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Live Review: Califone, The Sea and Cake – March 7, 2003
So I get home from the show last night and fumble through my stack of promos, looking for that Califone CD that I got a few weeks ago. I don't remember the band sounding like what I heard on stage at the Sokol. I think I would have remembered the trippy arrangements, the amazing songs, hell, the electric banjo. The CD didn't hold a candle to what these guys do live.
Watching Califone play was like watching a mechanic intently working on your car. Everyone was seated except the bass player, all with their heads down, slouched over their instruments, focused on the task at hand like surgeons over an open heart. Most songs trailed off into six- or seven-minute ambient jams centered around the rhythm section, with the guitarist and keyboardist (who also doubled on guitar) adding syncopated noise shimmers to the wall of sound -- it felt like really good drug music.
The Sea and Cake, the headliners, were less impressive. I guess you have to be a big Sea and Cake fan to get into it (the ones I talked to were, one saying he didn't even notice the Califone set because he was so jazzed about actually getting a chance to see Sea and Cake). Don't get me wrong, I dug what they were doing. Their set started off timid, and slowly built into a juggernaut. One fan at the show described them as masters of exuberance and restraint, which pretty much hits it square on the head.
The visual highlight was watching drummer John McEntire stare straight ahead throughout the entire set, barely moving his head, his eyes fixed on some distant point as if trying to light something on fire with his psychokiller gaze. The band ended the show with a two-song encore that, at times, reminded me of tepid New Order.
Both bands are huge in Chicago, but are barely known 'round these parts. I halfway expected this show to be a let-down from a crowd standpoint and was pleasantly surprised (along with the promoters) at the 220 turnout. Either a lot of people traveled from surrounding areas (the band doesn't make it down to Lawrence and Iowa City until later this month) or Omaha is a much more hip town than we give it credit for.
I still haven't found that Califone CD -- it's around here somewhere.
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The Carsinogents douse the flames; shows out the ying-yang; Matador update – March 5, 2003
Online just now is a rather detailed interview/feature with Omaha's favorite pyromaniac rockers, The Carsinogents (read it here). Or I should say, ex-pyromaniacs, because, as the article details, Rhode Island has made their flaming stage show obsolete, for better or worse. Writing the story, I considered mentioning the Rhode Island tragedy only in passing -- it seemed rather cliché. But in the end, it was unavoidable. The Carsinogents have made playing with flames a part of their stage show since day 1; now they had no choice but to put away their lighters. The band also talks about the making of their new CD, Ole, and what they plan on doing differently this time 'round to get word out, because, baby, the clock be ticking -- they're never going to have a better chance at breaking through than with this CD.
The Carsinogents piece also is slated as the cover story for this week's issue of The Omaha Weekly-Reader, just in time to support the band's March 8 CD release show at Sokol Underground with The Lepers and The Miscasts. This has to be one of the biggest weeks for shows in a few years. Tomorrow night is The Sea and Cake and Califone; Friday is The Locust and Beep, Beep; I already mentioned Saturday, and then Sunday is Rilo Kiley, The Good Life and Mayday (all these shows are at The Sokol Underground). I'll try to attend as many as possible, and will post reviews the following morning right here.
Finally, Matador just released their latest batch of news. Among the headlines: The label just signed Pretty Girls Make Graves; Matador Europe is licensing the new one by M Ward; Guided by Voices has a new CD coming out in August, and more. The news release is posted on the Lazy-i Webboard (go there). On same Webboard, a kind reader has posted the Low set list from the Feb. 27 show in Omaha.
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Live Review: Low; CMJ scandal? – Feb 28, 2003
Quiet as a mouse was the crowd of 130 who showed up for Low last night at The Sokol Underground. Quite a contrast to the show-barn atmosphere at Knickerbockers the last time I saw the band. That night was an affair of loud, grisly rockers. Not tonight, not this time. Low's set was one quiet take after another, punctuated by feedback roar, power chords and striking, subtle harmonies.
I had a feeling, based on past Sokol shows, that this was what we were in for -- a relatively rare show these days for a band who, more and more, has to put up with unrelenting crowd noise as they continue to draw larger and larger audiences. From the front of the stage, between songs, there was nothing but absolute silence, quieter and more focused than I've seen at any other shows down there.
There's not a whole lot to say about the set. Sparhawk and Parker were in perfect voice. Between a couple songs, Sparhawk sang curious, short a capella ditties, which I'm now led to believe were songs by (or for) Mr. Rogers. "I'll beat the shit out of anyone who has anything bad to say about Mr. Rogers," Sparhawk said. "Right here on stage." The crowd whooped it up. It was a lighter moment amidst some pretty heavy material.
The crowd yelled for "Dinosaur Act" as an encore, but got "Starfire" and "Over the Ocean" instead. Other songs I recognized from the hour-long set (I didn't get the set list) include "Violence" from '95's Long Division, "Sunflower" from Things , the unreleased "John Prine," and from Trust, "(That's How You Sing) Amazing Grace" and "Canada." There were a few more, but I'm not good with song titles.
Overall, a reserved evening of beautiful music, but what did you expect from a Low concert?
On the indie news front: Virgin is reporting that New York-based CMJ magazine (College Music Journal) has admitted to altering its published playlists. Is a scandal reallyl brewing? I'm skeptical. Read it for yourself.
The Sea and Cake – Feb 26, 2003
Just up, an interview with Archer Prewitt of The Sea and Cake, who'll be coming through Omaha next Thursday with Califone. Archer talks about the unorthodox way S&C records their albums -- with Prekop's vocals almost held as a secret until he lays down the vocal tracks at the very end of the process. As a result, they have no idea what the songs will be about until they listen at the mixdowns. Also, Archer briefly talks about his comicbook character, Sof' Boy. I asked him why Sof' Boy was so huge in Japan (as evidenced by the number of .jp Sof' Boy Web sites). Apparently it's not uncommon for underground comics to have much larger followings abroad, specifically in Asia. He said there might even be some interest in a producing a Sof' Boy animated show, but not in this country.
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The Grammy's – Feb 24, 2003
They just ended and weren't as bad as I thought they'd be.
Do you get a sense that the music industry was pushing an agenda tonight, something along the lines of "Please take us seriously"? That's what I got out of the Norah Jones, James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkel and John Mayer performances. I mean, have you ever seen that many people playing piano at The Grammy's? I halfway expected to see Eminem and Avril behind the business end of a Steinway. The bottom line is that the commercial music industry has lost a lot of credibility over the last few years pushing these sugar-coated, talentless pop acts. And while the cigar-chompers are busy slapping each other on the ass when Britney or N'Sync sell 8 million copies of their shitty albums, the industry as a whole continues to see CD sales slide into the abyss. At first they blamed illegal burning and pirating for the slide, never mentioning that maybe the music that was being produced was a bit, uh, lacking. Funny, there was no mention of pirating in this year's president's message. I think they're starting to figure out that in five years, no one will be listening -- or buying -- any of those Backstreet Boys records that were such big hits when they were first released. Artists like Simon and Garfunkel and James Taylor wrote songs that became part of people's lives. I don't know what anyone is suppose to do with a Britney Speers record in five years except vehemently deny ever liking it.
Anyway... Some other quick observations: Avril sounded froggy; and where did they get all those kids in the pit for her song? And what awful truth was emblazoned in her trenchcoat that CBS felt was too controversial to air? The only performance worse than hers was Ashanti's, or maybe Nelly, or maybe Kid Rock and Sheryl Crowe singing the theme from a Jeep commercial. The highlight, of course, was the "London Calling" Joe Strummer tribute. I felt sorry for anyone sharing the microphone with Little Steven, especially when they showed a close-up of a fountain of spit flying from his mouth. Hey, Stevie, say it, don't spray it.
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Live Review: Clarissa's Weird, The Prom – Feb 23, 2003
Just got back from Son, Ambulance/Clarissa's Weird/The Prom at Sokol Underground. A fairly early show actually, over by 12:15. Decent crowd -- 116 according to the promoter. I missed Son, Ambulance altogether -- got there too late. Ah, but I know I'll have a chance to see what Joe Knapp and Company again fairly soon.
Clarissa's Weird was indeed weird. They worked on their sound check before their set for what seemed like forever. When they did get it together, they started out rather flat and boring, especially considering the unboring quality of their new CD. They're a Seattle-based six-piece with keyboards, violin and the regular rock accoutrements. The problem was the overall dullness of the set's first four or five songs. On the other hand, they ended strong, with the best songs off their new CD sounding full and -- shall I say it? OK I will -- rocking. I wish they would have played the whole set that way instead of all the moody shit at the beginning. You can't blame them -- they were a bit bummed, explaining from the stage that their van broke down, asking the audience to buy some merch to raise money to get it fixed. Being stranded in Omaha in February when the wind-chill is 9 degrees would bum anyone out. Fun fact: The band closed with a scorching rendition of Avril's "Complicated."
Last was The Prom. I saw them the last time they came through town at The Junction. Either it was the better sound system or a better vibe, but they clearly sounded, uh, better (can you tell that I'm tired?). Their music is built around piano and pounding waltz-time rockers. They've been unfairly compared to Ben Folds by people who don't know better. I remember how their set got old quick last year. Their new set, with a couple new songs thrown in, cooked thanks to the heavy nature of the new songs. Very heavy nature. They were probably getting bored with playing the old stuff every night. It was a pretty good show overall, shrouded by the fact that I was tired from the previous night's show.
OK. More later. I can almost guarantee I'll be driven to write a rant about The Grammy's after the broadcast tonight. Check back and watch me seethe.
Live Review: The Golden Age, The Mariannes, Simon Joyner – Feb 22, 2003
Other than the fact that this was a release show for two 7-inch records (I'm told Simon Joyner's wasn't available), the buzz going into last night's show at the Sokol Underground was about The Golden Age, a 6-piece band out of Lincoln that had been rumored to be the next Saddle Creek Records signing. One of the label's executives quickly doused that fire, telling me that, though they love the band, there are no plans to sign them to Creek (There was a large Creek presence on hand, by the way). In the end, it probably doesn't matter because these guys sound so polished, just about any other sizable indie label will want to gobble them up.
Next up was The Mariannes, who suffered through a few technical problems during their set (plugging in the wrong chords, equipment adjustments, etc.). Regardless, they sounded good and looked assured. I hadn't noticed it on their record, but their songs are powered by Robert Little's bass, which pumps things forward over Matt Stamps' rather spare guitar lines and sweet, warbly vocals.
Last up was Simon Joyner, accompanied by violinist Lonne Methe (Naturaliste) and guitarist Alex McManus (The Bruces, Lambchop). I haven't seen Simon in more than a year, and he was in his usual voice -- confident in its unsureness -- playing as many upbeat numbers as dry, slow ones. Methe's fiddle provided a constant drone/bottom to every song, sometimes adding timbre, other times pure dissonance, giving everything an avant flare. Same goes for McManus. On Simon's more experimental pieces, Alex looked rapt in concentration, trying to make the right noises to compliment wherever Simon was headed. For the third song -- which Joyner said was a new one and still untitled -- the trio fittingly bent every element of structure on a painful, dark, almost gothic lament with lyrics that talked about "liking your music when I'm drunk". The crowd seemed unsure how to respond, and Joyner met their confused applause with "Thank you, I think." You get a sense watching Joyner that he knows each performance is a unique experience for both him and the listener, and that once the ball starts rolling, there's no turning back and no way to control where it's going, and that he wouldn't have it any other way. The more upbeat, folkie numbers were my favorites, and no one can turn a phrase like Joyner, who's maybe the best lyricist Omaha has ever produced.
Beyond the music, everyone was talking about the Rhode Island tragedy -- it was clearly on everyone's minds. Who hasn't been in an oversold club and thought to themselves "If there's a fire in here I'm never getting out"? Safety wasn't a concern last night. The crowd was comfortable -- a respectable 175 -- and these weren't the type of band to use pyrotechnics other than what they can produce with their instruments.
The Mariannes tonight, another update later, Aereogramme on Peel, The White Stripes – Feb 21, 2003
A more-detailed update will be posted later today or tonight, where I'll comment on feedback about yesterday's review of the 49'r show. In addition to some e-mail, there was some discussion about the review posted on a local Omaha Webboard. As a rule, I don't get involved in arguments on Webboards unless I was the one who started the "string" (there were comments on that board recently about my views on The Music Box that were a hoot!). Anyway... later.
Tonight is The Mariannes 7-inch release show at Sokol Underground with Simon Joyner (also releasing a 7-inch) and The Golden Age. I'm hearing all kinds of rumors about The Golden Age, which hopefully I'll be able to confirm or deny in the review which I'll post after the show (that is, unless we get an ice storm or blizzard tonight).
For the record, lining up an interview with The Sea and Cake has proven to be quite a challenge. Archer Prewitt, where are you?
For all you Aereogramme fans out there, the band was featured in a John Peel session yesterday. The show is still available online here. Look for a review of the new Aerogramme on Lazy-i in the near future.
In other UK-based news, those wacky Brits seem to be going ga-ga over The White Stripes. NME is beside itself over their new release, which apparently has been pulled forward a week because it's already available for download. My experience with the stripes is limited to their MTV VMA appearance -- I have none of their records. For some reason I've always put them in the same category as the dreaded Strokes, unfairly I might add.
Review: Landon Hedges, Stop at Line, Joe Liebentritt at The 49'r – Feb 20, 2003
So how was Landon Hedges at the 49'r last night? Well, I only made it through an hour of the show. The venue suffers from its own success, at least on these acoustic nights. The room was completely filled, no place to sit, no place really to stand without being in someone's way. That, plus a headache and a sore shoulder drew me away before I could get through a second cycle -- their acoustic nights are done in a 'round robin style, with each artist performing three songs. It's not really the ideal place to see solo acoustic singer/songwriters because the constant crowd noise never drops below a stadium rumble, even when the performers are on stage. As a result, despite a high-quality job by soundman Matt Whipkey, there's no way to make out what the singers are singing.
I got there in time to see first performer Joe Liebentritt do his thing. All's I can tell you is he sat down, he played an acoustic guitar, and he sang songs that had melody with words that probably rhymed. Of the three, he was the most suited to be playing in a coffee shop where there's no distractions. His voice got lost in the rumble.
Next up was a performer that goes by the name Stop at Line. I had been told by a couple people what to expect, but I didn't expect what I heard. This guy's vocals are spot-on impersonations of Conor Oberst a.k.a. Bright Eyes -- from the quiet shimmy all the way to the off-kilter screech. I had to smile. He even looked a little like Oberst, sans bangs in the eyes and bad posture. I asked a couple people I knew if I was missing something, and they all just smiled. Nope. His Oberst impersonation is uncanny. He's managed to take all the worst characteristics -- all the things that Oberst is criticized for vocal-wise -- and blend them into his keynote vocal style. So distracting was his mimicry that everything else -- his songwriting, his lyrics, his guitar playing -- went right out the window. He must be aware that he is doing this -- no one sings that way for any other reason then on purpose. Any criticism can't be anything he hasn't heard before, too many times.
Third up was Landon Hedges, dwarfed behind his giant electric Harmony. I didn't think his voice would carry through the Niner's barroom ambiance, but surprisingly, it made it through okay. He sang the song I mentioned in the article, the one about being called a monster (FYI, none of his songs have names -- Landon says he comes up with them last. For lack of a better name, I call that one "The Monster Song").
All of Hedges' songs sounded terribly lonely, forlorn, sad. Landon's vocals lend themselves well to the style, all filled with high-end ennui that counterbalances his echoing guitar tones -- his songs would be a perfect soundtrack to a film shot on an empty, overcast ocean beach about 20 minutes before sundown.
would have stayed for a second round, but by the time Landon was finished and
Liebentritt had started up again, I found myself standing by the back door, the
parking lot's call just too enticing to pass up
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Low, The Mariannes, updates, Beastie Boys – Feb 19, 2003
New online -- features on Low and The Mariannes. The interview with Low's Alan Sparhawk is one of my favorites of the past year. The story talks about Sparhawk's take on spirituality in music, the band's intensity level, and their then-upcoming travels to Europe amidst the current world unpleasantness. The interview actually took place in late February, before the band was headed abroad. There's a ton more information in the actual interview transcript, including Sparhawk's take on bands like Interpol and Beck, and how he seems a bit envious that they're able to get on television shows like Letterman, and a ton more. I may place the entire transcript online later this week, so watch for it. Low plays at Sokol Underground Thursday, Feb. 27.
The Mariannes are an Omaha-based indie trio who are celebrating the release of their first 7-inch with Simon Joyner and The Golden Age this Friday night at Sokol Underground. Not mentioned in the printed version: drummer Steve Micek's dislike for Blues music, which I found amusing so I included it in the online version -- see, you're always getting value by going to lazy-i.com.
I seem to be having writers' block when it comes to writing reviews -- probably because of the daunting pile of CDs that have yet to be listened to. Also, updates have been infrequent, but that's because recent snow storms have kept me from going to shows. So here's the plan -- from now on, at least one new CD review per day (except on days when I'm adding new features, like today), along with new blog entries daily. Tomorrow, right here, look for a review of Landon Hedges' solo efforts from tonight's acoustic evening at The 49'r. I may include comments about the other soloists, as well.
Notable News: Chartattack.com is reporting that The Beastie Boys are putting together their comeback and will headline the fourth annual Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in Indio, California, April 26 to 27. Read the whole story here. Beastie Boys -- talk about old school...
Landon Hedges, Rainer Maria – Feb 12, 2003
Two new articles/interviews just online -- Landon Hedges and Rainer Maria. Landon's story is the more intriguing of the two. It recaps his work with Saddle Creek Records artists, and chronicles his plans for a comeback of sorts, at the age of, well, very early 20s.
I first saw Landon perform solo as Little Brazil three years ago at McFoster's with Son, Ambulance (who had just released the Insound split with Bright Eyes) and Matt Whipkey (who had just released his first solo EP). Including my girlfriend and Joe Knapp's son and father, there were maybe 10 people in the audience. Teresa and I left the show thinking that Landon was going to be the next big thing, probably destined to be on Saddle Creek. Of course that never happened. Instead, a few months later, he would start practicing with the band that became Desaparicidos. (Joe, of course, went on to record the tracks for Oh Holy Fools with Landon).
I generally only highlight one artist on my Interviews page at a time, so I'm starting with Rainer, who's show at the Sokol Underground is this Friday night, and then I'll switch it with Landon's story -- his solo gig is Wednesday, Feb. 19 at The 49'r (the Bangs, by the way, is tonight at Sokol). That's probably more explanation that you needed or wanted to know about the bullshit inner-politics of Lazy-i.
week there will again be two new stories posted online at the same time. I'll
leave it mystery as to who those bands are, only to say one is a national indie
darling and the other is a local indie darling. And yes, the reviews are going
to start trickling back onto the site as soon as I get time to write them. Check
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Bangs, Lost situation, Empire State, indie Sundance soundtrack – Feb 8, 2003
Just online, an interview with Maggie Vail of the Bangs. Maggie talks about The Donnas, Avril, punk, big labels and politics. The interview is a Lazy-i exclusive because of scheduling and deadline issues -- the whole thing is explained in the article. Looks like my story about the Lincoln joint-band-effort 'a situation' also is a Lazy-i exclusive, as the story was cut for space in the Weekly-Reader, probably with the logic that it could be run again in April when 'a situation' comes to Omaha. I was surprised as anyone when I opened the paper and didn't see it there. It's not the first time that's happened and probably won't be the last -- all the more reason to read Lazy-i. The Lincoln 'a situation' show is tonight at Duffy's, by the way.
A clarification or explanation concerning the Alex McManus profile: Someone had asked why the story didn't mention Alex's work as part of trippy indie trio Empire State. Fact is, it never came up in our interview, and though I had discovered the omission after I wrote the piece, I didn't think it necessary to add that bit of history to the story, which I thought was already a bit long -- I didn't know that it would end up being a cover story for the newspaper.
In other news: Rockbites has a brief story about how Sundance Film Festival selection "All the Real Girls" features a slew of indie bands in its soundtrack, including Will Oldham, Mogwai, Sparklehorse, The Promise Ring and Explosions in the Sky. I've always wondered why independent filmmakers didn't take better advantage of indie music. There have been only a few examples, not to mention a few indie bands used for crappy WB television programs (Azure Ray on "Felicity" comes to mind). The trailer and story -- townie falls for returning daughter of best friend, trouble ensues -- don't sound as promising as the soundtrack.
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'A Situation' in Lincoln, UNO's rock class, Matador update – Feb 5, 2003
The story about the effort to pull bands together into a consortium called "a situation" is online (it's right here). Malcom Miles of the Post-Trendies acknowledged that the idea isn't a new one. The Decline of Midwestern Civilization compilation CD spearheaded by Randy Cotton and Mike Saklar of Ravine comes to mind. Their idea also was to create a comp and have the bands sell copies at their individual gigs. I don't know how well it worked, though I haven't heard any talk of doing a sequel. That one was about making contacts and growing the image of bands scattered throughout the Midwest, whereas 'a situation' is really concerned with broadening the exposure of Nebraska bands. Miles sounds sincere about their goals, which could make this an interesting proposal. The bands involved are playing at Duffy's Saturday night. Funny how Nebraska seeme to continue struggling for exposure in the wake of last year's "Omaha is the new Seattle" hypefest that was going on in a slew of national magazines. The need for 'a situation' seems to fly in the face of Saddle Creek Records' national success, which has had little or no impact on bolstering bands that aren't on that label. The recent Cursive tour that includes Race for Titles and Neva Dinova could change things.
Also just put online, though it was published in The Omaha Weekly-Reader last week (and when is the paper gonna drop the merged names? It can't come too soon), is a story about a UNO class that focuses on the history of rock music (that story's right here). An interesting aside, the teacher, Dr. Tomm Roland, knew nothing about Omaha's recent rise in profile in the indie music world. Though he's a professed Ultravox/Berlin fan, he'd never heard of The Faint. You can't blame the guy -- actually, maybe you can. You could argue that what's going on right under his nose could be an important part of music history. His expertise, however, seems to be only in the most-commercial of arenas. Maybe I should teach a course on the history of Indie Rock, or for that matter, write a history of the Omaha music scene? I could sell at least a couple dozen copies, at least to the bands I wrote about..
I know I've been promising a ton of reviews, but all this feature writing has been keeping me on a treadmill. I promise there will be a ton of new reviews online, hopefully starting by the end of this week, including reviews of new ones by Atom + His Package, Cursive, Cat Power, Crooked Fingers, Aereogramme, For/Against and a ton of bands you've never heard before. I'm guilty of spending way too much time listening to each CD, and as a result, they keep piling up around here.
Speaking of Matador Records, the label's latest 'news' has been posted on the Lazy-i Webboard. Among the most notable tidbits -- Matador is bringing the bling-bling to SXSW this year -- Yo La Tengo, Cat Power and their most recent signing, Dead Meadow. I thought SXSW was 'passé'? Apparently not, especially for a bunch of New Yorkers looking for a spring vacation. Also, new CDs by Arab Strap, Yo La Tengo and a slew of Pollard efforts. There are some efforts under way to get Cat Power to Omaha. Keep your fingers crossed. Why isn't someone trying to get Aereogramme here? Probably because the band is too obscure, though they're one of Matador's better more recent signings. Actually, it's been argued that Yo La Tengo is too obscure to bring to Omaha without the local guy losing his ass on the guarantee. Too bad for us, but there's always the "thrill" of going on a road trip...
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Alex McManus of The Bruces – Jan 29, 2003
Just placed online a feature on Omaha journeyman singer/songwriter Alex McManus (read it here), who's currently performing as The Bruces and as part of the ensemble Lambchop. The story idea just came out of the blue, actually. McManus doesn't have a local show coming up, and his new CD, The War of the Bruces, was released a few months ago. But when I found out that Alex had moved back to Omaha from Athens, I thought it would be cool to get an interview from the guy who's played alongside Simon Joyner, cult folkie Vic Chesnutt and as part of the Bright Eyes 14-piece "orchestra" that toured the country this winter. I don't think anyone locally has ever bothered to interview Alex before, though his impact on local music is important and undeniable. This interview actually took place almost a month ago, but after The Omaha Weekly-Reader received it, they thought it would make a good cover story. Subsequently, the actual publication has been delayed a number of times. I think it's suppose to be in today's edition of The Weekly, but regardless, it was time for the story to see the light of day, at least in Lazy-i.
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The Quiet Type, The Lepers, Fromanhole live review – Jan 25, 2003
last night at the Sokol Underground. We're they all that I hoped
for? Yes and no. Having only had a taste of their live act at the Jesus Christ
Superstar Live benefit a couple weeks ago, I perhaps built up too high of expectations.
I mean, the cover of "The Temple" that they had performed at JCSS --
and more importantly, their arrangement of that cover -- epitomized everything
that I love about their most recent Caulfield Records release, The Love from
Above. It was an experiment in dynamics, pace and tension, just like the best
tracks from their CD.
So I was a bit disappointed with their set last night. Yes, they played well. Drummer Ken Brock showed why he's one of the region's best behind a drum kit, and Owen Cleasby's guitar and vocals were spot on. Missing, however, was that epic, end-of-the-world quality that I so dearly wanted. I was expecting songs to grow gradually over 10 minutes, from quiet to loud to explosive. In fact, most songs had an intro, then Brock came in, and Cleasby turned it up for four or five minutes. Not bad, but I wanted more drama. A couple numbers delivered just what I was looking for, one in particular that felt like a duel of bravado between Brock in Cleasby, sort of a challenge to see who could go harder and faster. It was all enough to keep the crowd of just under 100 transfixed for their entire set, wondering how a drum-and-guitar duo could make such a huge sound.
The headliners of the night were The Quiet Type and Fromanhole, who were celebrating the release of a split 7-inch. This also was the first time I'd seen The Quiet Type's entire set. I admit now that I had them pegged all wrong in a story I wrote a month or so ago -- actually, it's not all my fault. I had said that they were at the forefront of Omaha's neu-prog movement and judging by the recordings that drummer/vocalist Oliver Morgan had passed me, I was right. But live, well, the band knows when to roll off the prog/art tip and stretch out long rock mantras. Their opening number felt like an Eno/Fripp head-orgy, centered around a 5 or 6-note line that was repeated over and over, starting with keyboard and bass then adding guitar before Morgan tried to dismember his kit, always with a look of orgasmic joy on his face, proving that he's another of the region's best drummers. Instrumentally, The Quiet Type is about as tight as it gets -- it's fun to watch Megan, Oliver's wife and keyboardist, intently concentrate on the rhythm section, watching for the cues in this ornately complicated music. The vocals are the obvious clink in the armor. Morgan, already occupied behind the kit, is the best of the three, while the other two guys warbled at time. The vocals are more like aggressive, controlled yelling, so when they sound out of control, it can put the rest of the arrangements in a spin. Since range isn't an issue, this problem can be solved with practice, focus and lots of playback -- and while listening to a playback, band members can't be bashful with their criticism. It's the only way these vocals are going to improve.
The closers, Fromanhole, got the short shrift, from me anyway (apologies to Her Flyaway Manner, who opened the show. I was late due to a mix-up by the Dundee Theater, which screwed up and underestimated the running length of "Nicholas Nickleby," causing me to be an hour late to the show). Fromanhole didn't start playing until around 12:40, and their first song (the only one I stayed for) was seven or eight minutes long. I don't known if they had a chance to play more than three songs, because the Sokol can be rather disciplined with the 1 p.m. cut-off time (I've seen them turn the lights on during a Good Life set). What I can tell you is that the trio continues to get tighter and tighter, performing some of the most intricate, difficult art/math rock by any band I've heard either locally or nationally. Their breaks and change-ups could not be any tighter -- a prerequisite for their style of music to be effective.
A quick note about the sound -- the last three shows I've seen at the Sokol Underground have all been superior. One Percent Productions says they've found their sound guy who will work their shows from now on. Whoever he is, he seems to understand the limitations and strengths of the venue, sound system and bands and adjusts accordingly.
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Mary Lou Lord live review –
Jan 24, 2003
Mary Lou Lord just happened to pick one of the coldest nights of the year to play in Omaha. So as an added bonus, she started her set with a pitch for the crocheted hats that she's apparently now making either as a hobby or a side business. The hat looks like a gray, chenille, cat-girl costume, with little horns and two long tassels that fall on either side, sort of like those hippy snowboard caps that you might see at a Phish concert.
More about the caps later.
About 50 people braved the below-zero chill for the show, which also featured Matt Whipkey and Lord tourmate Adam Goldman. Devon Baker opened the evening, but I missed her set. In fact, I only caught the last half of Whipkey's -- the "electric" half, apparently. The highlight was a solid cover of Springsteen's "I'm on Fire." Goldman played a handful of quiet acoustic numbers, mostly original songs which were pleasant and unmemorable.
Then came Mary Lou, wearing her fuzzy cat-hat. She said she'd just made one for Janeane Garofalo, and that the one she was wearing was destined for Kelly Osborne's head. It would get there via her old friend, Sean Tillmann (a.k.a. Har Mar Superstar), who Lord was scheduled to play with the next night in Minneapolis. Lord said that, much to her surprise, Tillmann had written some songs for Osbournes' latest CD and had accompanied her to the VMAs (and that Tillmann was now writing some songs for J-Lo -- I don't know if she was being serious or not).
Lord's set included a selection of her own material mixed with covers, many from her latest Live City Sounds CD. For one number (a Nick Saloman song called "She Had You" which appears on Got No Shadow) Lord picked up Whipkey's electric guitar and did her best Crazy Horse impersonation, saying it was the first time she'd ever played an electric during a performance. It sounded great, but she quickly switching back to her beat-up acoustic for the next number and the rest of the night.
The quiet, well-behaved crowd sat at tables throughout the Underground, politely clapping after every number and laughing along with Lord's between-song stories. At one point, she commented on the crowd's silence, saying she felt like Jan Brady in the episode of The Brady Bunch where Jan is on a TV quiz show, being asked to name the capitals of states, scared silent, staring at the flashing red "on air" light atop the TV camera (while, off camera, in a hushed voice: "Jan, it's Baton Rouge!"). It was a low-key evening, and afterward, Lord apologized for "the bumpy ride," saying she was still getting used to performing after her long layoff. I told her she sounded great to me, but she just smiled and adjusted her cat hat.
The Lepers interview,
inspiration, gigs – Jan 22, 2003
A feature/interview with The Lepers just went online. Read it here. It's actually an interview with one of the Lepers, Leper Owen Cleasby, recapping the band's history, new CD and other interesting tidbits. Based on their new CD and seeing them perform at the Jesus Christ Superstar benefit, I think The Lepers are among the best non-Saddle Creek bands from this area -- absolutely dynamic, entrancing music that'll appeal to anyone who's into stuff like Mogwai, Aereogramme, God Speed You Black Emperor or Sigor Ros. The Lepers are one of the opening bands for the Fromanhole / The Quiet Type 7-inch release party at Sokol Underground Friday night, along with fellow Lincoln band Her Flyaway Manner (which could be one of the best band names ever dreamt up).
Cleasby pointed toward The Liars as one of their inspirations when things "seemed dismal to us. Here were some of our really great friends from Lincoln touring with Sonic Youth in Europe," he said. "If they can do it, maybe we can, too." Meanwhile, last week there were rumors on a Lincoln web board that The Liars may be breaking up. Let's hope they're just rumors.
By the way, in addition to the Sokol gig, The Lepers are slated to play at Duffy's Feb. 9 with The Bad Sects and Creagrutus. And on top of that, Dave from The Carsinogents tells me that The Lepers will open at their CD release party March 8.
Lastly, I'll be plowing through a ton of reviews over the next few weeks, trying to unbury myself. So keep an eye on the site.
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Dismemberment Plan dismembers
itself – Jan 20, 2003
This just in from dismembermentplan.com -- the band has broken up.
There's more, mainly stuff about not knowing why they broke up, etc. Seems obvious that Travis just wanted to do his own thing, but who knows? I'm just happy I got a chance to see them live and interview them a couple times.
Check back tomorrow for a feature on The Lepers -- it's a preview to Friday's show at the Sokol where Fromanhole and The Quiet Type will be celebrating the release of their new split 7-inch. Should be a great show.
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Richard Thompson, the cheap-jack
Music Box and a billionare's playthings – Jan 19,
Richard Thompson is performing tonight at The Music Box. I won't be going to the show because The Music Box no longer provides press passes, according to the music editor at The Weekly-Reader, who was told that by the venue. This policy underscores The Music Box's disinterest in becoming recognized as a serious music venue in this market. All other promoters and venues recognize The Weekly-Reader as a viable outlet for music reportage -- most consider it the best local music resource in the city and provide information about upcoming shows, contacts and passes on the day of show. The Music Box, however, sees no value in this.
This isn't surprising coming from a venue that consistently books cover bands on weekends instead of local original acts. You won't be seeing Saddle Creek artists performing there any time soon, nor the top-flight non-Creek bands that are making their mark nationally. In spite of my cheap-ass whining, my personal opinion is that The Music Box's antiseptic environment is about as inviting as going to see a show at a small-town Holiday Inn lounge (actually, it isn't even that captivating). It has all the personality of a model home in a West Omaha housing development. Zero charm. The Box consistently boasts having the best sound system in Omaha -- its strongest selling point -- and few would argue that point. However, the augmented sound system at last week's Interpol show at Sokol Underground was superior, and The Ranch Bowl has plans to improve its sound system in the coming months.
The Box is the product of billionaire (that's right, the "b" isn't a typo) Norm Waitt (brother of the guy who owns the financially troubled Gateway 2000 Computer company) who always wanted to be a mover in the music biz. So first he created Gold Circle Entertainment and Samson Records, a label that puts out lackluster CDs by MOR artists like Kory and the Fireflies and CPR -- a poorly conceived New Age outfit fronted by David Crosby's son (I had the great misfortune of seeing CPR live down at The Music Hall. The only highlight was when David Crosby himself waddled out on stage and sang a number, then left. The rest of the show was pure John Tesch). Norm then built The Music Box to have a venue for his label's bands to perform locally, along with other quality acts like '80s loser John Waite. Next, he bought a bunch of radio stations, including Omaha's 106.9 The City -- a station that prides itself on playing "alternative" music by some of the least alternative bands today, including schlock by Dave Matthews, Tori Amos, Sting, you get the drift. Why do all these billionaires have such bad taste?
The strategy? Today's music industry has ignored listeners in their 30s and 40s, instead concentrating on the fickle youth audience. As a result, these "oldsters" are being deprived of records, radio and venues that cater to their tastes. Great idea, except for the fact that most people in their 30s and 40s don't listen to music anymore. They certainly don't go out to see music -- they're too busy watching TV and raising their kids. And when it comes to radio, most prefer listening to right-wing idiots on talk radio. As a result, Samson, The City and The Music Box can't be making any money, but who cares when you're a billionaire (with a "b")? You would think with that much disposable income that The Music Box could afford to put "the press" on "the list."
Anyway, the Music Box's silly policies aren't going to deter me from covering notable artists that it hosts, such as the upcoming God Speed You Black Emperor show and tonight's Richard Thompson gig. For those wondering who Thompson is, here's what I wrote for The Weekly-Reader. Think about me at the show tonight. I'll be home switching between the playoffs and the Globes:
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A review of last night's
Interpol show at Sokol Underground – Jan 16,
I promised myself that I would quit writing this review at 1 a.m. so that I could be awake and fresh at 5:30 a.m. to be able to bound out of my front door and begin shoveling the six inches of snow from my 45-degree pitched driveway.
Although I expected one, there was no line to get in to see Interpol at the Sokol Underground tonight, Jan. 15. I figured that the promoter was crazy to have the show downstairs rather than up in the ballroom. It turns out that the promoter was right as usual, because the Underground was the perfect venue, both in capacity and ambiance. The promoter wouldn't say how many paid, only that it was a sell-out, which was obvious once you were inside and warm and out of the heavy show that was pouring down in the street. The line to get in, when there was one, was handled quickly and I didn't notice anyone getting turned away. It might have been packed, but if the show had been upstairs, it would have seemed half empty and hollow and less important.
Once it started, it was like any other Underground show, really. The opening band, Calla, came on at around 9:45. Live, they didn't really resemble the band on their new CD, Televise. Instead, the music was medium-slow and throbby with an implied drone and vocals that seemed lost in the haze. Though I like the CD, I thought they were relatively boring on stage, with songs that did little and seemed to go on forever. The person next to me said that I needed to take the right chemicals to fully enjoy their set. I think he was right -- this was trippy head music, something that you would hear in the background of a cheap B-flick during the scene where everyone takes acid and the cameraman tries to capture the "trip" by zooming in and out on the actors' groggy faces.
Thankfully, it was a short set, maybe four or five songs.
Then along came Interpol, dressed in their usual black costumes. I remembered how nervous and shallow and flat they sounded a week earlier on The Late Show with David Letterman -- all that wonderful reverb and echo on the vocals -- so integral to the CD -- had been completely washed away by the fine folks at CBS. Tonight, however, was a different story. Though they never strayed from the basic recorded compositions, the band sounded much fuller, deeper, even more canyon-esque than on CD. My comrade who stood next to me in the back of the room by the soundboard, snagged the set list, printed out in plain, bold, centered, 32 pt. san serif type. It said:
There was also a two-song encore, but I don't know Interpol's music well enough to tell you the songs' names. "Length" was their new one, and stood out as being catchier than the others, but all-in-all, was another typical Interpol song. For those who don't know what this band sounds like, here's my take: Mid-tempo, brooding, chiming repeated 16th notes, understated throbbing bass, back-beat kick drum, controlled, stoic, Indian chant vocals a la deadpan Jim Morrison sung in a forced Cloris Leachman-as-Nurse Diesel tone, all covered in lots of reverb. When they really rock they're like Flock of Seagulls without the big chorus.
The sound was terrific. Their performance was dead on. Their stage presence (other than their black suits) was non existent except for Carlos, who managed to pull out an interesting swagger (though he seemed less animated than when he was on Letterman). The additional keyboards added depth and tone, especially to "NYC." On one song, the keys and rhythm section reminded me of early Pet Shop Boys. I'm sure that wasn't the intention.
The crowd seemed to love it, though no one really danced. A few girls in the back sort of wiggled on top of chairs, but for the most part, people were just transfixed, staring at the stage.
It dawned on me about three-quarters through their set just how static Interpol's music really is. It's enjoyable, almost ambient and certainly atmospheric. But this isn't rock music. Not really. I realized that if I were 18 and driving around in an El Camino with a six-pack on the bench seat on my way to the bar to meet some friends for a night of drinking and trying pick up chicks, Turn on the Bright Lights would be just about the last tape that I'd be putting in my car stereo. They might be enjoying a certain amount of popularity in the indie world, but this band, as they currently are configured, will never be more than a niche act, an art display, a conversation piece in an underground record store. And that's just fine with me.
The show ended at midnight, and when we walked out (sweaty and smelling of smoke), the snow had almost stopped.
It's 1 a.m.
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Mary Lou Lord on past
lives and new discoveries; The AMAs – Jan 14, 2003
A new interview with Mary Lou Lord just went online. Read it here. She talks about her life as a busker, her history of championing unheard artists and her latest discovery: a singer/songwriter named Rachael B. Davis who she promises we'll be hearing a lot from in the future. In our interview, which took place Saturday afternoon at about 1 p.m. (my phone call apparently had woken her for the day), Mary Lou was charming and funny and quick with a music reference. It was obvious that she's clearly an indie-music wonk, or as she calls herself, a "music geek." Other than Davis, other stuff she's been listening to lately includes The Shins, AC Acoustics and The Soundtrack of Our Lives -- very hip indeed (though she says she hasn't worked any of those bands' songs into her repertoire).
A lot of our interview didn't make it into the finished story, and I'm tempted to run the transcript, which was around 2,000 words. One of the most interesting comments that didn't make the cut: I told her she looks rather attractive in her photos. How did she manage to deal with the scumbags who tried to make a move on her when she was singing in the subways all those years. Her first comment: "I ain't that good looking." Then she went on. "I would only get screwed around with when I wasn't playing yet, but getting ready to play. I would just try to plug my gear in and not pay any attention. Once I stood up and started singing, the whole vibe would change. It created a bubble around me, a protective shield; and it just calmed them down and they became protective of me."
Another comment that didn't make it: Her response to my obligatory question about her notions of Omaha. "I've been through Lincoln once, passing through on Lilith Fair," she said. "I remember it was really quiet, really kind of nice. The only thing I know that came out of Omaha is Bright Eyes. He really seems to be getting kind of big." She didn't say what she thought of his records and I didn't press it.
Mary Lou is playing at Sokol Underground Jan. 23 in what I'm sure will be a memorable show.
In other news, did anyone watch Dick Clark's annual wankfest last night, The American Music Awards? Here's an honor that's apparently based on "record buyer feedback and sales figures." What's the point? Why give an award to a performer for selling a gazillion units of his/her homogenized R&B? So they can sell even more units? They're honoring artists for creating the most watered-down music that appeals the the largest percentage of the unwashed masses, an award for deriving a musical common denominator. At the end of the day, the most-honored "musician" -- Eminem -- didn't show. Someone better talk to Dick about this. He's probably still stewing over The Osbournes off-hand disses that took place at the podium throughout the night -- at one point, Sharon Osbourne ripped open an envelope before announcing the nominees, then rolled her eyes and said, "It doesn't matter, the winner is Creed" and tossed the envelope on the floor. Nice. Next up, The Grammys. I can't wait.
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The Jealous Sound to release
new full-length in May – Jan 13, 2003
The press guys at Holiday Matinee are putting out the word that their label, Better Looking Records, is releasing a new full-length by The Jealous Sound this spring. Seems the band has been batted around like a cat toy from label to label since they released their 2000 CD EP.
Says the press release: "With the success of Better Looking Records' CDep release, The Jealous Sound signed a record deal with Mojo Records in 2001. Within weeks of signing, Mojo lost their distribution and announced sweeping layoffs. The Jealous Sound found themselves in limbo. Months later, Mojo was bought out by Jive Records (home to such artists as Backstreet Boys, Jars of Clay and R.Kelly). Obviously mismatched on Jive, The Jealous Sound managed to escape and wasted no time in signing back with former label, Better Looking Records."
BLR will release the 12-song full length in May. The band is currently in the studio with producer Tim O'Heir (All American Rejects, Superdrag, Sebadoh / Folk Implosion, Juliana Hatfield, Dinosaur Jr.). According to the release, singer/guitarist, Blair Shehan says the new CD "is going to be a dark and moody record. The songs are still honest and revealing. With Tim producing, we're getting bigger more expansive sounds...the music will have much more of a sonic landscape."
Hopefully they'll be touring through Omaha again...
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Fairburn Royals, People's Choice
ain't mine – Jan 12, 2003
Just a brief update. There's a lot of new interviews going online in the next week or so, including Alex McManus, Mary Lou Lord and The Lepers, so keep checking back. I just posted a new guest review of the latest from Fairburn Royals. Check it out. I'm writing this while the annual People's Choice Awards blare on the TV downstairs. The opening number featured Tony Danza doing what seemed like a 20-minute parody of Eminem, under the name 'Italian Ice.' It was one of those moments where you change the channel out of sheer embarrassment -- for Danza and anyone in the audience who can't escape his "rapping." Danza, with his forced attempts at humor (at one point, playing an accordion), is hands-down the worst award emcee ever. Frighteningly bad. Award shows are a crock to begin with, but this one is the absolute top of cowflop mountain. You know things are bad when Mr. Deeds is nominated for a best picture award -- and it loses to that Fellini-esque classic, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Now that's what I call quality.
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Contest winners!, Nasty Little
Man and Creek updates – Jan 11, 2003
Thanks to everyone who entered the Lazy-i Best of 2002 Comp CD Giveaway. Sixty entries were received, each one assigned a number based on when it arrived. Utilizing only the most high-tech, scientific process available, I tore up 60 squares of paper and numbered each, placing them in an NCAA 2002 Final Four ball cap. My girlfriend, Teresa, had the honor of pulling the six numbers. So without further ado, the winners are: Daniel Burns, Omaha, NE; Mark Coldham, Colchester, United Kingdon; Jenn Bernard, Omaha, NE; Lisa Meisinger, Portland, OR; Brad Egan, Florance, KY; and Jen Klingensmith, Olathe, KS. I'll be dropping your CDs in the mail today. Congratulations!
Our friends at the PR firm of Nasty Little Man sent out an update with their clients' CD release dates and tour schedules. Here's a look at some upcoming CD releases:
21-- CURSIVE -- Art is Hard (single) CD5 -- Saddle Creek
It'll be interesting to see what Cobra Verde has up its sleeve. The entire update with tour schedules is posted on the Lazy-I Webboard.
Saddle Creek also just sent out their label update, including tour information for Cursive and Rilo Kiley/The Good Life/Mayday. I was pleased to see that Sorry About Dresden has a new CD coming out March 18. The Creek update also is posted in its entirety on the Webboard.
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Contest deadline is today!
– Jan 10, 2003
Today is the final day entries will be accepted for entering the Lazy-i Best of 2002 Comp CD giveway. Just e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your name and mailing address and you'll be entered into the drawing. More details and the CD's tracks listing are right here. Response has been surprisingly good, and I intend to give away at least six copies, so your odds of winning are better than, say, picking all four winners of this week's play-off. Winners will be announced tomorrow right here in the blog, and I'll be dropping their copies in the mail the same day. Good luck to everyone who entered.
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Interpol talks, tonight's David
Letterman show, the Grammys, Drew does the Stroke, the deadline approacheth–
Jan 8, 2003
The interview with Carlos, bassist for Interpol, just went online. Read it here. He was a super-nice chap and a lot of fun to talk to. The story was originally slated to also be published in The Omaha Weekly-Reader, however the assignment was given before the two publications merged. Josh Avram from The Reader also had been assigned the story and had completed his interview well before mine. As a result, his got done first, and they didn't need two interviews, which makes mine a Lazy-i exclusive. You can read Josh's interview onlinehere (at least for the next week -- The Weekly= Reader doesnt' archive their stories online).
In my interview, Carlos talks about the band's scheduled appearance tonight on The David Letterman show. They originally were slated to appear Jan. 9, but according to the Interpol Web site, the date was moved up to Jan. 8, so Omaha fans should tune in tonight to get a mini-preview of what they have in store for the Jan. 15 Omaha appearance.
Don't go looking for Interpol at The Grammy Awards this year. They just announced their nominations for the 45th annual "event" and Interpol seems to be missing from the Best New Artist list (instead, the nominees were two R&B artists I've never heard of -- Ashanti and Norah Jones -- American Idol-quality singer Michelle Branch, manufactured country-hack-turned-'punker' Avril Lavigne, and Dave Matthews rip-off John Mayer). The full list is here. I used to really enjoy the Grammy's, but never got over REO Speedwagon losing to Christopher Cross for Artist of the Year way back in the '70s. Somewhere over the past decade or so, the Grammy's turned into something that looks like it was produced by Dick Clark -- pure schlock. I predict a big night for Bruce Springsteen.
Crappy gossip news of the day: Looks like Strokes drummer Fab Moretti will be husband No. 3 for Drew Barrymore, according to someone at NME who saw it in the NY Post. Somewhere a washed-up Tom Green quietly weeps alone. Am I the only one who notices that Drew only talks out of one side of her mouth?
Don't forget, the deadline for entering the Lazy-i Best of 2002 Comp CD giveway is Jan. 10. Just e-mail me (email@example.com) with your name and mailing address and you'll be entered into the drawing. More details and the CD's tracks listing are right here.
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Gary Numan redux, Cave-In loses
its indie status – Jan 4, 2003
One of our reviewers (the more-industrious one) weighs in on two Gary Numan reissues: I, Assassin and Warriors. It marks the first Stephen Sheehan review to garner a "yes" rating (though there were caveats involved). Check it out. There's a ton of other new stuff in the works, including my annual "predictions" article (mostly likely online tomorrow), a Lazy-i exclusive interview with Interpol (online Tuesday), and a couple very special treats over the next few days, so keep checking back.
In national indie news: Indie prog-rock band Cave-in ain't indie no more. Their RCA debut, Antenna, hits the streets March 18 to much hullabaloo, including big-time rock videos, commercial single releases and this here Billboard magazine article. They apparently haven't forgotten their Hydrahead beginnings, letting the tiny indie label release the vinyl version of Antenna -- wow, thanks guys, that should be worth a couple bucks (I'm beginning to think that giving the indie label the vinyl rights has become some sort of major-label "best practice" -- in addition to throwing a bone to the rubes working out of their basement, it also helps maintain the band's oh-so-important "indie cred"). Of all the indie bands out there, I never pegged this one as getting signed by a major, though when you consider the obvious Rush overtones on their "breakthrough" full-length, Jupiter, it doesn't come as a surprise.
Don't forget (I'll be reminding you every day until the Jan. 10 deadline) to enter the Lazy-i Best of 2002 Comp CD giveway. Just e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org) with your name and mailing address and you'll be entered into the drawing. More details and the CD's tracks listing are right here.
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Enter the Lazy-i Best of 2002
Compilation CD Giveaway! – Jan 2, 2003
That's right, enter to win a copy of the coveted Lazy-i Best of 2002 Compilation CD. All you have to do is e-mail me (email@example.com) with your name and mailing address and you'll be entered in the drawing. Tracks include songs by Yo La Tengo, The Flaming Lips, Rilo Kiley, Britt Daniel, Karate, The Good Life, Knodel, Gerty, Interpol, Jack Hayter, The Monroes, Desaparecidos, Pedro the Lion, The Delgados, Bright Eyes, Okkervil River, The Carsinogents, The Mountain Goats, and Dan Wilson. Details and track order, are right here.
Enter today! Deadline's January 10.
Year in Review – Jan 2, 2003
Or, as it's subtitled: Emoha Rising. I put it online last night (click here to go directly to it), but the "predictions" portion of my annual look-back article won't appear until sometime this weekend. The Omaha-Weekly, where the story is printed, now divides the year-in-review from the predictions part of the story and prints them in seperate issues (I'll end up just tacking the predictions onto the year-in-review piece when it's ready to go). Predictions are easy when you're clairvoyant. The 2002 "Best of" CD information and contest goes online tonight.
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The Ranch Bowl under new management
– Dec. 31, 2002
Some breaking news that will appear in Friday's edition of The Omaha Weekly-Reader: It's confirmed that The Ranch Bowl is under new management. I interviewed Matt Markel and Dan Brannan to get the story, which you can read in advance exclusively at Lazy-i by clicking right here. I think Brannan is sincere when he says he wants to mix things up there, and that he'll actively pursue more national indie acts. If it happens (and there's no reason why it shouldn't) this gives Omahans yet another venue in addition to Sokol Underground to see good touring indie bands. As implied in the story, Brannan doesn't seem concerned about losing money booking a cool underground act that would draw less than a sell-out audience -- so maybe someone will book a Silkworm show in Omaha after all?
Later today, probably tonight, look here for my annual Year in Review story.
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Slacking, Comping, Waiting for
the year to end – Dec. 27, 2002
Well, it's been a few days since the last update: 1, because of the holidays, 2, because there's no news, 3, because the 2,500-word story I wrote this week for The Omaha Weekly is a recap of the merger story between it and The Reader, along with a narrative history of both papers, hardly something that could be considered "music related." For those of you who can't live without my sterling prose, however, I'll be adding a link to those two stories after I see what editor John Heaston has decided to publish. I won't be making all of his cuts, so you'll be seeing a mostly original version online here tomorrow -- check back.
A couple other reasons for my slacking: I've been busy burning, burning, burning this year's Lazy-I best of 2002 compilation CD. Artwork is being developed as we speak and the finished product should drop in the mail early next week. Those of you who follow Lazy-I already know that I've been putting together year-end comps for quite a few years (and here's a link to last year's comp listing). As before, I'm again giving away a couple copies. Consider it a contest. Just e-mail me your name, e-mail address and snail mail address (don't worry, it'll go no further than the mailing label, I hate spam even more than you do). I'll draw the winners randomly and post their names here. I'll list the comp's track order as soon as I get the artwork back from Donovan Beery (www.eleven19.com).
The next full-length story for the site is my annual Year in Review piece (here's last year's), which should be finished this weekend and will appear in next week's Weekly-Reader and online here early in the week.
Clash Legend Joe Strummer
Dead at 50 – Dec. 23, 2002
The cause is an apparent heart attack. NME has the only online coverage as of 6 a.m. CT, but that will change quickly (seems odd that BBC1 has nothing on it on their web site yet). I was looking forward to seeing the band reunite and possibly even tour. Here was a band that spanned generations and musical tastes -- everyone, from fans of punk, indie, ska, hardcore, straight-on rock to folk, found something to enjoy in The Clash's music. Their sound was the universal language of a sneer crossed with a good beat and toothless guitar. 50 is way too young to die.
I'll post more links to updates / stories here throughout the day (seeing as I'm on vacation from work).
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Omaha Weekly to Merge with The Reader – Dec. 20,
You heard it here first. John Heaston and The Omaha Weekly are "merging" with The Reader, with John in control of the merged operations.
John is meeting with the staffs of both papers to decide who will do what and other personnel-related issues. There apparently are a ton of things that still need to be worked out, but I do know this for sure:
The deal behind the merger is consummated;
Here's what else I know: The music coverage will continue to grow -- and I'm talking from the Omaha Weekly's standpoint. The Weekly has consistently had more local and national music coverage than any other news source in the area. That's something I know John and everyone at The Weekly is very proud of and wants to continue as they enter this new era.
Bottom line: This is going to be a welcome change for everyone involved in the Omaha music scene. You will now have one alternative weekly as 'thee' definitive source for music and entertainment news (not to mention other kinds of news that involve police and courts and business and sports sorts of things).
Oh yeah, I don't want to forget to mention that I will continue writing my usual coverage of all things indie (and them some) for this new rag. I'll let you know more as I hear it.
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Jesus Christ Superstar Live Tribute – Dec. 20,
Look, I'm not really familiar with Jesus Christ Superstar -- I know maybe two songs from the musical. It turned out that it didn't really matter if you knew the music or not if you went to the "Live Tribute" at Sokol Underground last night (or are going Friday night at Knicks). No way does the album sound anything like what was played on stage.
The cabaret-style show featuring 17 Omaha and Lincoln bands (The Ghost Runners cancelled) was a lot of fun and a great way to check out acts from the other city. The format worked remarkably well. Each band played a song, and I expected it to take 10 minutes between bands, but (in most cases) bands got on in off the stage in just a few minutes. There's not enough room to talk about every band that performed, but I can say there wasn't a dud in the bunch, and all were entertaining -- in fact, this was one of the most entertaining live shows I've seen this year just for the sheer variety of acts, the pace and the quality of music.
-- Opening bandWolf Tickets (in their debut performance) played a tight, taught punk version of "Heaven on My Mind" that set the stage for the rest of the evening. The band is a conglomeration of players thrown together for the tribute, but you'd never know it. These guys should keep it going (that is, as long as one of them can actually write songs).
-- Omaha's Neva Dinova took "Strange Thing Mystifying" and turned it into a Neva Dinova song. It sounded like something off their CD, done in a style that is uniquely there's. Drummer Bo Anderson said the band might work the cover into their set when they go on the road with Cursive, something that would surely earn them hipness points from the local alt weekly critics throughout the nation.
-- Omaha's Race for Titles, featuring drummer Matt Bowen on vocals, belted out a Minuteman-style take on "Hosanna." I like when they do this punk stuff and wish they'd incorporate more of it into their music.
-- The Lepers -- the Lincoln band I was most curious to see -- turned in the evening's most powerful performance. A guitar-and-drum duo, their take in "The Temple" went from quiet, humble and mesmerizing to a wall of highly orchestrated, textured feedback driven forward by throbbing, precise tribal drums. I think even I saw Jesus before they were finished.
-- Lincoln trio Crush the Clown threw out a white-knuckle, angular punk take on two numbers and scored well with the crowd. They along with The Lepers were my favorite bands from Lincoln. I'd like to see them do a set of their own stuff.
-- Greg Cosgrove's Tom Wait-meets-Joe Cocker take on "I Don't Know How to Love Him" was remarkably simple and moving.
-- Matt Whipkey, alone with electric guitar, more than anyone on the bill, was able to uniquely interpret his selection without losing the spirit (or meaning) of the original version.
-- Omaha folkie Kyle Harvey was joined by members from all the other bands as he sang the finale, "Superstar," in what was sort of a "We Are the World" moment staged by drunks.
Yeah, there were two or three bands that could have practiced more or didn't seem to take the project as seriously as they could have, but they were still entertaining (and only on stage for a few minutes). Overall, it was a really fun night that was a tad heavy on the punk side -- lucky for me. There were around 120 people there when things started and the crowd hung strong throughout most of it, but as it entered hour number three, the crowd dwindled. By the time the last six or seven bands went on stage only about 60 people were left. Three hours is a long time. And while most bands were on and off quickly, a couple bands dawdled late in the game and sapped away some of the energy from earlier in the show. I expect there will be a larger crowd at Knickerbockers tomorrow night.
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Lincoln and Omaha bands
join hands, No-Nothing Rock! wins WoodEe, Buzzcocks are back
– Dec. 17, 2002
Just posted the story behind the Jesus Christ Superstar Live Tribute shows that will take place in Omaha (Sokol Underground) and Lincoln (Knickerbockers) this week. Read it here. I can't remember when this many Omaha and Lincoln bands have ever been on one stage for one night, let alone two. Organizer Eric Ziegler's intention of trying to recreate the old LinOma/Capitol days -- when Lincoln and Omaha bands could often be seen frolicked together on stage -- is a noble one. What wasn't mentioned in my story is Ziegler's thoughts behind why the two scenes have become so isolated. One reason, he said, is the success of Saddle Creek Records -- while their national notoriety helps everyone in Nebraska, Creek bands haven't been terribly interested in bringing non-Creek bands along for the ride. That's changing as Neva Dinova hits the road with Cursive in the next few months. Another reason could be that bands like Mercy Rule, Sideshow, Frontier Trust and Darktown House Band were really good friends beyond the stage, as anyone who knows about the infamous Lincoln vs. Omaha softball battles can testify. Ziegler thinks the two scenes' bands would probably play and tour together again if they just got to know each other a little bit better. I for one would like to see someone actively book Lincoln bands like The Lepers and Ghostrunners here in Omaha.
For all you punkophiles out there, legendary punkers The Buzzcocks announced that they just signed to Merge and will release a new album in March, their first studio album since '99. More details here.
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Tim is struck down by illness,
misses Get Up Kids and The What Ifs, Pulp calls it quits –
Dec. 16, 2002
I ended up getting a muther of a cold over the weekend and missed The Get Up Kids show, which Marc from One Percent Productions tells me drew around 500... not bad.
Maybe the GUK crowd was impacted by the debut of The What Ifs at The 49'r. The band features bassist Chuck Davis (ex-The Davis Three, ex-Janglepop) along with guitarist Aaron Stevens (ex-Orange), keyboardist John Friedman (ex-Orange), drummer Mark Mefford (ex-Uggly) and guitarist Mark Petersen (ex-Coctosens) -- that's a lot of ex's! Davis calls the band's style "chamber pop." I'm not sure what that meant, so he forwarded a list of some bands that play chamber pop: Jason Falkner, Owsley, Brendan Benson, Divine Comedy and Ben Folds -- and the AMG definition of chamber pop: "Drawing heavily from the lush, orchestrated work of performers including Brian Wilson, Burt Bacharach, and Lee Hazlewood." Sounds very interesting. Needless to say, I also missed that show thanks to wads of toilet paper shoved up my nose. An "acoustic" version of the band will be playing this Friday at The Pizza Shoppe, 6056 Maple St., with Kansas' The Beach.
Lotsa news coming your way this week, including an announcement that will impact bands and venues throughout the city... stay tuned.
In National news: NME is reporting that Pulp probably played their last concert ever. "The singer stayed onstage for a few minutes after the final encore of Common People and told the crowd, 'Thisll be the last time you see us for a while. But we may meet again, who knows?'" The whole story is here.
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Friday the 13th's bad luck
show, Saddle Creek news and local shows, Theselah–
Dec. 13, 2002
Not a lot of news today: The show to attend tonight, in commemoration of Friday the 13th, is Bad Luck Charm and The Upsets at The 49'r. That's a lot of rock and roll for $3.
Saddle Creek Records posted a new update that includes Cursive's tour dates supporting their full-length, The Ugly Organ, which is due out March 4, and will be preceded by the Art Is Hard single, due out Jan 21. Among the dates is a Dec. 29 show with Doris Henson and Calico. Of no real surprise, it looks like Robb and Co. are booking down at the Sokol Underground again, with two more shows slated (Rainer Maria Feb. 14 (that's Valentine's Day, folks) and Death Cab for Cutie March 18). So much for not doing any more shows, eh? We'll see... The entire update is posted on the Web board
Just posted a new review of the latest by Theselah -- a bunch of NYC kids doing a droney YLT/MBV/SY sort of thing. Read it.
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Drive By Honky's demise, Low
confirmed, Sprawl hate/love, Pinback/Wrens spring 2003 releases –
Dec. 12, 2002
Though I'd already overheard it at a rock show a few weeks ago, I wanted to verify with Dan Jenkins that Drive-by Honky was, in fact, dead. Here's what the band's lead vocalist said: "It's true: DBH is no more. This happened in late November, I think. Basically what happened was one guy decided he wanted to quit because things weren't going the way he had planned, the rest of us thought this was a good idea and for the best. We weren't sure whether or not to continue and then I decided that 'No, I don't want to continue' so I called it off. I'm ready for a change. No drama, we're all still really good friends."
Jenkins says he'll continue to perform as Joe Buck. In fact, Joe Buck, Bronco and Strawberry Burns are slated to play at Duffy's in Lincoln this Sunday, Dec. 15. "I only do it (Joe Buck) two or three times a year (Easter was the last one). But I am in a new band with Mike (Keeling, who played bass for DBH) and things are going really well. I think we're on to something. No name or shows set up at this point, but we're in no hurry. They say the ROCK will wait for no man, but I disagree."
Interestingly, DBH had gone through a metamorphosis of sorts when it added former Mercy Rule guitarist Jon Taylor to the band. Taylor's ridiculously powerful guitar attack helped transform the band from a left-of-center alt country act to one of the loudest, hardest rocking bands in the area. Ironically, a few days after I found out about their breakup, I received a copy of the band's brand new live EP, which will be reviewed here in the very near future.
One Percent Productions has booked Low for Feb. 27 at Sokol Underground. Tickets are available from the One Percent Web site. I saw Low's last appearance at Knick's in Lincoln a year or so ago, and it was mighty powerful stuff (the opening act was Bright Eyes, who put on the best set I've ever seen him perform).
Critic Stephen Sheehan chimes in with another negative review, this time of the new CD by poor, Canadian pop band Sprawl. Read it here along with my argument for the CD (take that, Stephen).
What else... in national indie news, Absolutely Kosher Records announced its spring/early fall releases, which include new ones by Pinback, The Wrens, Eltro, Summer At Shatter Creek, Bottom of the Hudson (there's is curiously called "The Omaha Record CD"), and Two Guys. Read the entire AKR update on the Lazy-i Webboard.
The Get Up Kids; Lazy-i
gets yet another critic; news for Conor Oberst completists
– Dec. 11, 2002
An interview with James Dewees of The Get Up Kids just went online. James talks about the new CD (which actually came out this summer), why the band changed their sound, the critical backlash that followed, and the rigors of touring. The Get Up Kids and Hey Mercedes are playing upstairs at the Sokol this Saturday night.
So, I'm bringing on even more help with writing reviews (notice I didn't say PAID help, other than allowing the lackeys to keep the CDs they're reviewing). Stephen Sheehan is the new guy. Notorious in these parts as the lead singer of Bliss Repair and one of the founding members of legendary Omaha ambient rockers Digital Sex and The World, Steve knows more about recorded music (obscure and otherwise) than I ever will. He's also a helluva writer, having contributed CD reviews to a number of other publications 'round these parts and elsewhere. Having already received two of his reviews (including a review of the latest by Halifax Pier that just went online), I can tell you he's going to be a real ball-breaker -- so far he's 0 for 2 on recommendations. As with Doug Kabourek's reviews, I'll be chiming in with my comments on Steve's reviews (whether he likes it or not).
Not terribly new News: Grenadine Records announced that they signed Belgium's Melon Galia. The band's upcoming CD, Les embarras du quotidien, was mixed by Mike Mogis, the wizard at Presto! Studios (where the Saddle Creek stable records). Mogis also contributed instrumental tracks and Bright Eyes lead-man Conor Oberst contributed vocals on "N¹en parlons plus." I remember when Mogis did this -- a few years ago. For some reason I needed to get in touch with him, but was told "he's in Belgium working on a record." No one had details. I guess the mystery is solved.
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Lisboa/Kid Brother Collective
– Dec. 10, 2002
A quick note: Just added Doug's review of the Lisboa/Kid Brother Collective EP. We disagree on this one. I'll be posting a more-detailed update later today...
Broker's and Fromanhole
– Dec. 8, 2002
Made it to Broker's last night just in time to miss The Quiet Type but in time to catch Fromanhole's set. First, the venue: Anyone who remembers this as Raphael's will no longer recognize the place. It's been gutted and turned into a pseudo music venue / bar, with sofas here and there, tables, Golden Tee golf, etc. Strangely, the main room looks half its previous size -- a weird effect, partially due to placing a pool table in the back of the room. It seems incomprehensible to me that the owners are mulling over whether to establish this as a regular music venue -- I'm not sure what else would draw people to the place, certainly not the ambiance. I didn't get a count, but it looked like a crowd of about 75 and they were reaching the edge of their comfortable capacity. A service issue -- I tried to order a Boulevard, but they were out of glasses! And no Rolling Rock! I ended up with a bottle of Bud Light.
Fromanhole put on the tightest set I've ever heard them play. The trio performs mostly instrumental numbers, though Doug Kiser does occasionally recite/scream a line or two of poetry here and there. The more I listen to them, the more they remind me of a garaged-up version of Don Caballero without the obvious Fripp overtones -- lots of progressive riffs, intricate time signature, stop/start construction -- leaving you feeling rather restless and unnerved at times. Fromanhole's music generally doesn't have a central melody, or at least not one that jumps out at you, and that's by design. They're probably trying to create an atmosphere of organized chaos or extreme urgency rather than a traditional musical experience; as a result they will always be viewed as experimental or progressive.
Their latest CD, Out of the Flats, doesn't adequately capture their live vibe mainly because much of the nuanced dynamics are lost in the flat recording (this wasn't recorded in a traditional studio). This style of music demands an enormously polished performance by the band -- any sloppiness stands out like a neon flag, and the guys have indeed reached that level of precision in their live set. But it also demands a well-produced recording experience or else the dynamics are imperceptible. I'd be interested to see how someone like Warehouse or Presto! studios or a seasoned producer would treat their music. The CD's worth checking out if you're into experimental, mathy instrumental rock a la Don C., Slint, Tortoise, June of 44, etc.
>In the News: Tommy Stinson says Westerberg has a bigger ego than Axl (story here). So who has a bigger ego than Stinson?
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Living with the guilt
– Dec. 6, 2002
So I go home for lunch today and take a few minutes to put a review of the new CDEP by Rizzudo online -- a review that basically pans the CD. When I get home, I find this in my e-mail from Holiday Matinee, the promotion company that's handling Rizzudo's press:
Okay so I feel a little guilty about the negative review in the face of their bad luck, but only a little bit. The vision of these three guys walking around the beach in wet suits, looking for their van... Hey, it's not funny! They're obviously looking for ways to take advantage of the situation if they're issuing a press release about the incident (the e-mail closed with "Contact Grant (from Holiday Matinee) for more information on Rizzudo.") At least they'll have a story to tell to the music writers when they get interviewed on tour...
The Monroes vs. The Diplomats,
Doug gets mean, A-Ha – Dec. 5, 2002
They're calling it the Speed Nebraska! Vs. Estrus Records night at The 49'r Dec. 7, when The Monroes will return to the stage for the first time since August with Iowa City's The Diplomats of Solid Sound and local rockabilly/honky-tonk mavens the Great Northern Cannonball.
The Monroes are fronted by a seed-cap-wearin' outlaw named Gary Dean Davis, former frontman of legendary Omaha tractor-punk bands Frontier Trust, D is for Dragster and Pioneer Disaster. Davis' yell-vocals are driven by Lincoln Dickison's punk-fueled guitar licks, Mike Tulis' throbbing rockabilly bass and Jesse Render's white-knuckled, piston-like drumming. The Monroes' debut 7-inch, featuring the rip-snorter "Kiss Your Elbow Goodbye," was released on Speed Nebraska! Records earlier this year.
The Diplomats of Solid Sound are unabashed Booker T and the MGs, James Brown and Meters fans, and their music reflects it. Bluesy, jazzy, funky, with plenty of surfy licks, the Iowa City 4-piece anchors its sound around Nate "Count" Basinger's Hammond and guitarist Doug Roberson's spy electric shuffle. The band recently put out a 7" on Estrus Records. The 21+ show starts at 9 p.m. Cover is $5. Hate to have to force you to choose between The 49'r and Broker's. I'll probably miss both shows because of a company Christmas party.
Proving he can be just as much of a jerk as me, Doug chimes in with his first "no"-rated review. Read it.
And if the yesterday's Peter Garrett story wasn't enough of a "where are they now" tribute, along comes this little ditty about one of the guys in A-Ha -- Magne Furuholmen -- decorating a Christmas tree in Oslo Central Station with real money. Hold on a minute... is A-Ha still even together anymore?
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The Quiet Type, Broker's,
and another top-20 list – Dec. 4, 2002
Added a few things late, late last night, including a review of the new one by Gerty (good stuff), and an interview/preview of a show Saturday night featuring The Quiet Type. Hopefully the bands mentioned in that story won't take offense to being called prog-rock -- which is a term I use liberally to describe uniquely structured arty music that only sort of falls into the rock category. Oliver of The Quiet Type underscored that there has been no conscious effort by the three or four bands playing that night to book gigs together, that it just works out that way. He's open to anything, including opening a show for a Saddle Creek band, which as most bands in Omaha know, is a tough ticket to get placed on -- and always a prime showcase (though I've seen it backfire on headliners, when the Creek band finishes and half the crowd leaves).
I've not been to Broker's since it switched from being Raphael's. Oliver says the stage is set up in the back of the room, and that the overall vibe is good. Considering its location, it could be a nice alternative to Sokol Underground for indie shows, and that's his thinking as well.
I've been getting some grief over the Doug Kabourek stuff (see below) -- that I'm being too hard on the poor emo lad. My goal is to emotionally torture Doug so much that Fizzle will become a hardcore/metal band by this spring. Doug also thought my comments on his "top-20" list were out of line, and asked me to list my top-20 so he could ridicule them. The point was to give readers an idea where he's coming from when he writes a review -- I don't need to do that because you can read the 100-odd reviews on the site and figure it out. Regardless, here are some of my favorites for Doug to laugh at:
and Linda Thompson -- I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
There's a ton more, but I'll leave that for later. The next list I'll be working on is the annual "best of" for 2002, part of the annual "year in review" story... always a favorite, with someone.
>Weird music news of the day: Actually it came out yesterday at RollingStone.com and Reuters that Peter Garrett, everyone's favorite bald Aussie, quit Midnight Oil. I'm not sure why that's considered "headline news." I figured they broke up years ago. Apparently not. Here's the story.
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In an act of desperation, Tim
takes on some help with reviews – Dec. 2, 2002
So here's the deal. I'm getting a dozen or more CDs in the mail a week these days. There ain't no way I could review all of them by myself. So after pleading and begging, I've agreed to let Doug Kabourek contribute guest reviews to the site.
Doug, who just received his degree from UNO in communication, also happens to be the guy behind Fizzle Like a Flood. That, of course, means nothing to you when it comes to reading his review, especially if you think Fizzle Like a Flood blows. So I asked Doug to list his 20 favorite CDs just so y'all could get a sense of what he digs, dig?
Here's Doug's faves:
-- Tripmaster Monkey
As you might guess, Doug and I don't share the same taste in music. Weezer? Their first album is the only one that's even listenable. Five Flaming Lips releases? Ugh Soft Bulletin was pretty good and the new one's okay, but Zaireeka? The Beatles is the most overrated band in the history of modern music. I respect Doug's choice of Built to Spill, GBV and RFTC releases, but Buffalo Tom is pretty weak. Fact is, none of these CDs would make it onto my top-20 list. None.
Needless to say, as I edit Doug's reviews I may discover that I have a difference of opinion, and when I do, you'll see my comments right next to his, like on his first effort, a review of the new Heros Severum CD. Yeah, this gimmick wreaks a bit of Siskel and Ebert, but it only adds to the fun (and I have to respect those of you who sent in your stuff asking me for my opinions). It should be noted that being in a band, Doug has a number of friends in the local scene, which is why he won't be reviewing CDs by Omaha artists (sorry Doug, I know you'd give an honest assessment, but why even bring up questions of impropriety when I control what you review?). Oh yeah, his role as reviewer also ain't gonna affect my review of his latest CD, which will be online later this week (though it may affect his willingness to continue contributing reviews... heh heh heh...).
News Headline of the Day: Bono comes to Lincoln to talk about AIDS Awareness
and here's how MTV
covers it. If that doesn't make you gag, here's The Omaha World-Herald's
Rowell spooge-a-thon that must be read to be believed. A sample: "The
first time I heard 'Pride (In the Name of Love),' it made me feel strong."
-- I am invincible, I am wooomannnnn.....!
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The New Junction reviewed, Matt
Whipkey, Fizzle Like a Flood and Dave Dondero – Nov.
Well, the part about the beer prices is untrue. A bottle of Rolling Rock at The Junction will still put you back $3.50, hardly competitive with other Omaha venues, such as The 49'r. That said, the rest of the description of "The New Junction" is pretty much spot on. The place has been rearranged, with the stage now at the back of the room. The round pleather booths are still there, they've just been moved to where the stage used to be. The ceiling tiles over the old stage area have, in fact, been replaced, and overall, the club has been cleaned up. Other changes include moving the pool tables to the front of the bar (where the booths used to be) and placing the pinball machines (for the connoisseurs, we're talking Attack from Mars and Gone Fishin') on either side of the pole that used to block the view of the stage.
With those changes, the venue almost doubles the capacity for watching a band. There's even a cyclone fenced-in area off to the side of stage-left with second-hand couches and tables. Nice.
But there are also drawbacks. The area in front of the new stage (almost twice the size of the stage itself) is completely vacant, and tends to stay that way when the bands are playing. As a result, it looks like the performers are playing to an empty room, when in fact everyone is congregated in the dark booths some 30 yards away. There's also a problem with the sound equipment. The house system wasn't being used last night (apparently some critical parts were being used at another venue down the street). Sound was provided by Matt Whipkey, the evening's first performer (it's the same set up he uses for shows at The 49'r).
For the 50 or so people who showed up, the sound was pretty damn good. Whipkey opened with a solo set performed alternately with electric and acoustic guitars. The solo versions of songs he's played with his old band, The Movies, managed to hold the same intensity, though Matt looked rather lonesome flailing around on stage all by himself.
Fizzle Like a Flood, a.k.a. Doug Kabourek, used the gig as a CD release party, playing solo which was appropriate seeing as his new CD is mostly solo acoustic "demos." Having seen Doug play about a dozen times, this marked his best solo performance, though afterward he complained that he couldn't hear his guitar in the monitor (I didn't even see a monitor on stage).
Then along came Dave Dondero. Everything I've heard about him was true -- he's pretty amazing. His set, while subdued and withdrawn, was riveting. Dondero is a throw-back to classic American folk singers, taking a distinctively traditional style and placing it squarely in our time with lyrics that are introspective and rooted in the everyday. The comparisons to Simon Joyner and Conor Oberst are justified (or for that matter, their comparisons to him). He looked disheveled and lost, lonely as the other two artists on that same empty stage with its one bright white light. Never smiling. Acknowledging the applause by squinting through the glare, as if looking for a sailboat lost far away on the horizon.
While The Junction is drastically improved over its former self, it's gonna take some work to get it placed in the same category as Sokol Underground or The 49'r. For one thing, it needs a functioning sound system. Then there's the drink prices. I heard one patron (a hipster girl dressed in a '70s coat with frilly collars and a hippy cap) say "I hate this bar" as she was leaving, complaining about the drink prices. Just like old times.
I, for one, continue to like the club and see only potential (especially for smaller touring indie artists) but only if the owners do what needs to be done to make it a suitable venue. If they don't, they're likely to find themselves looking in vain for someone to book the joint. And that would be a shame.
Getting ready for The Explosion,
Malkmus and Interpol – Nov. 27, 2002
An interview with Damian Genuardi of The Explosion is now up in the interviews section. The Explosion, along with One Man Army, Madcap and Lick Golden Sky, are playing at Sokol Underground Sunday in an early show with a start time of 7:30 p.m. It caps of a weekend of shows that begins tonight with Joe Knapp of Son, Ambulance, and Matt Whipkey at Sullivan's Bar, 3926 Farnam St. I've never been to Sullivan's before; I'm told it's a small venue and to prepare for a packed crowd. If it's too uncomfortable, there's always The Brothers right down the street. Friday night is the first show at the "new" Junction, featuring Dave Dondero, Fizzle Like a Flood and, again, Matt Whipkey. Dondero, who used to be in Sunbrain, is releasing his stuff on Future Farmers these days. What I'll be tracking is whether the Junction actually drops its beer prices -- $4 for a Rolling Rock... unbelievable.
In other news... Looks like Stephen Malkmus just finished recording tracks for his second CD, Pig Lib. It isn't slated to come out until next March, but Matador already has an mp3 of one of the songs online. It sounds like low-fi Beck to me. Speaking of Matador, if you haven't already heard, Interpol is booked to play at Sokol Underground Jan 15. These guys are popular enough that it could have been booked upstairs in the auditorium, but Marc Leibowitz of Onepercent Productions says the aud wasn't available. Too bad. At just $9, this one should sell out.
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Owen against a sea of humanity
– Nov. 26, 2002
Last night's Owen show at The 49'r has to be a new low in terms of rude Omaha crowds. I've heard about how loud the chatter was at the recent Cowboy Junkies show at The Music Box. That couldn't have come anywhere close to what happened last night.
The evening's festivities began with an ear-piercingly loud set by Omaha's Sound of Rails, a three-piece indie-art instrumental outfit in the Pele / Euphone / Sea and Cake / Tortoise style. They were so loud that you couldn't really talk to the person standing next to you, which is to be expected from their style of post-punk rock. Not exactly a complimentary opening act for what was about to follow.
After their set ended, Owen, a.k.a. Mike Kinsella, took a seat and began strumming his acoustic guitar. Though the sound guy did as good a job as anyone could in those conditions, Kinsella's quiet set was blanketed under the ocean of crowd noise -- not chatter, not idle talking -- out and out yelling, laughing, that sort of thing.
There was Kinsella, head down, looking at his shoes, playing some amazing guitar and singing his broken-hearted songs amidst a sea of noise akin to a college football crowd (it was no coincidence that the 49'rs/Eagles game was playing on a TV over the bar). I had a feeling this might happen (note the question about handling crowd noise in my Owen interview), especially having heard how inattentive the crowd is at the Niner's acoustic nights.
It took about six songs before Kinsella began to crack. "Would you please be quiet?" he asked. Nothing. Someone yelled "No."
"Who's talking?" he asked while idly strumming his guitar. Someone in the crowd yelled "Me!"
"I'll give you a dollar if you stop talking," he said as he noodled absentmindedly. The crowd, however, continued to rumble. "If you be quiet I'll sing you a song about my ex-girlfriend." No response, no acknowledgment that he even said anything. No matter. Kinsella started playing "The Ghost of What Should Have Been," but it was hopeless.
That was probably the breaking point. Kinsella gave up and began a night of covers that eventually turned into a karaoke free for all. He asked the crowd if they liked Bon Jovi. Whoops all around, clapping. He fiddled around until he found the chords to "Wanted Dead or Alive" and everyone went nuts, eventually singing along with him during the chorus. Kinsella had raised the white flag. What choice did he have?
I don't know if that broke the tension or not. I can vouch that he was smiling and laughing at times from the stage, though I don't know if he was laughing with or at the crowd. Regardless, the noise didn't dissipate at all. "You guys like Oasis?" More whoops. Kinsella asked for someone from the crowd to come up and sing, and sure enough, up came Race for Titles' drummer Matt Bowen along with a couple other people. Kinsella took one look at Bowen and began playing "Disarm" by Smashing Pumpkins. Someone else handled the vocal chores.
For the next 20 minutes or so, Kinsella accompanied 1) Bowen and company singing Oasis' "Wonderwall,", 2) Bowen doing an admirable Thom Yorke impression on "Fake Plastic Trees," 3) Matt Whipkey singing Springsteen's "I'm on Fire" (which, by the way, he dedicated to Timmymac). The medley ended with someone singing Jane's Addiction's "Jane Said." And that was it, Kinsella put his guitar away.
Was it a disaster? Probably for any Owen fans who might have come to hear Kinsella play a quiet, introspective set of his own music. That wasn't going to happen last night.
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Us Against Them sports Wood
– Nov. 24, 2002
A quick one today -- we're more than halfway through the month and just now announcing the winner of the November WoodEe Award -- UsAgainstThem.org. Back at the beginning of this century, UAT was a daily indie-rock blog (blog, by the way, is short for Web log) that covered the indie scene, the music, its critics, the people and all the web sites dedicated to it. The guys that wrote for it did it in a way that was always insightful and amusing and above all, timely. Then in July 2001 the site closed, I guess the guy got tired of doing it. It came back up last October with a new design and similar content, though I think some of the writers are gone. It's one of the few sites I go to every day, and is what partially inspired Lazy-i's new blog section. The other November winner -- the "graphic design/fine arts" award picked by Donovan Beery -- goes to Fine Art Quality Tattoos by Bob Reddy -- a strange selection, considering Donovan has no tattoos (or none I know of).
Also, added a review of the new one by Jim Yoshii Pile-Up on Absolutely Kosher Records. Go read it.
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Message from New York, new reviews
– Nov. 23, 2002
First off, a couple new reviews went online today -- a look at the new one by Lincoln's The Lepers (one of the best local CDs of 2002, hands down) and a look at the Nettwerk America indie Christmas comp that features Omaha's Bright Eyes. Yes, there are ton more reviews in the pipeline, and help is on the way to handle the onslaught, but more on that later.
My Nov. 17 write-up on the New York Times Magazine feature on Conor Oberst (scroll down, dear reader) drew some attention from Boston DJ Peter Choyce, who was quoted in that story. Seems somebody sent Peter a link to my web site. He wrote to say he's spinning at WMBR (88.1 FM, the voice of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology -- that's MIT to you and me) "tho, i've been on KUSF sf and lots of others including a few sucky commercial ones."
Said Mr. Choyce (and, btw, this is how it appeared in his e-mail -- he calls his writing style "pirate talk" and I like it): "The MIRRORS LP was a stand out, everything else has been pushing it unless you are a huge fan, which you are. Not just bright eyes, but LOTS of indy artists overwhelm the racks w PRODUCT. They don't know how to edit. i LOVE bright eyes but now i can't trust them. i can't just pull their LATEST CD and find THE SONG to play in my paltry 2 hour show. i MUST play only the best."
I replied with a question or two. His response: "I relistened to Desaparacidos -- track 6 is so, so good but i don't know- with so many bands, see so much product new product every week it does cause me to 'rush to judgement.' It's not just Conor, it's everybody. Started w fucking Sebadoh 25 tracks on CDs, sometimes 3 or more a year and they sucked, except for their 5 good ones." I couldn't agree more.
"But I DO think Conor is taking Ritalin or something. I work in mental health and he just sounds it and if he doesn't train properly he will lose that voice by the time he's 30."
I asked Peter, honestly, how many people in NYC really know who Bright Eyes is? "NEW YORK is a whole other world. BOSTON knows bright eyes cuz we have HUGE college radio. NY has NONE, like chicago and LA - no one can hear bright eyes on the air. just Howard stern and rush limbo." Hmmm... sounds like the lack of college radio isn't just a problem out here in the boonies.
You must check out Peter's weird, wild, wacky web site, at http://peterchoyce.com.
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Tonight's rock show and Nuclear
War – Nov. 21, 2002
Y'all got The Gloria Record and The Swords Project, along with Race For Titles tonight at Sokol Underground. Gloria Record is still on the road, supporting Start Here, which was released last May by Arena Rock Recording Company. In my review of the CD, I said "Start Here takes withdrawn indie pop and builds it to massive proportions, melding momentous and oftentimes plodding melodies with gigantic arrangements that make you remember Chuck Heston as Moses parting the Red Sea." The word "epic" definitely applies. I interviewed the band back in February of 2001 when they were recording the CD at Presto! Studios in Lincoln (Mike Mogis produced). Take a look. Nice chaps all. Portland's The Swords Project is a 6-piece with a line-up that includes keyboards and a violinist, at least they used to. Absolutely Kosher put out an EP by the band a couple years ago, and I'm told they have a their debut full-length on the way early next year. And of course we all know about Race for Titles. The last time I saw these guys was at their CD release show back in October, and it was easily the best set they ever played. You can bone up on them by reading my October interview with the band. Hopefully I'll make it down there tonight.
Fun Quote of the Day: Yo La Tengo on their new EP Nuclear War, which is basically four different versions of Sun Ra's "Nuclear War." According to a bit in Rolling Stone online, one of the four takes features a choir of children chanting the chorus "It's a motherfucker." "It was interesting to watch these kids singing stuff they at best barely understood," says singer Ira Kaplan. "They were all instructed beforehand that stuff they're saying is not something to say outside the studio. They all knew they were saying something forbidden, but I don't think the meaning of the song was sinking in." Sweet.
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Nov. 20, 2002
An interview with Mike Kinsella of Owen is now up in the interviews section. Owen, along with Sound of Rails, is playing at The 49'r next Monday. Owen is often compared to Kinsella's work in American Football, which makes sense since he was the singer and primary songwriter then. I can neither confirm nor deny the comparison, seeing as I've never heard American Football before. I have heard Joan of Arc, however, and can confirm that their 2000 album, The Gap, sucks. As I said in a review of that CD, "Somewhere along the line, these folks have mistaken 'experimental' for unstructured, nonsense jamming." So needless to say, I was less then excited about doing a story on Owen, expecting more of the same. Instead, Owen's new CD surprised me with its beautiful, rainy day melodies.
The story is based off an e-mail interview, which hopefully will be the last one I have to do in a long while. Kinsella's comments were pretty thin. I had sworn off doing e-mail interviews after my experience with Smog a few years ago, where Bill Callahan sent back little one-line quips. Then came last week's Mountain Goats e-mail job. Darnielle's responses were so thoughtful and profound that I included the entire Q&A in the Lazy-I version of the story. Kinsella's comments, while not as useless as Callahan's, were unfortunately not as detailed as I had hoped. And e-mail doesn't really give you the option of doing follow-up questions. The one bit of info I didn't use from the interview: When was the last time you were in Omaha and what did you think of our fair city? (a standard question I ask every non-Omaha band). His response: "I played a show in Omaha last spring (I think) and I had a really nice night. We met some nice people and ate at a steakhouse for really cheap." I guess I shouldn't have really expected a poetic description of the river city
Next week were back to a story based on a live, living breathing interview. Yee-haw...
Today's weirdness bit: Courtney to front a reformed Guns 'n' Roses (Slash, Duff, Izzy, Matt, no Axl)? Now that would be interesting...
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The skinny on The New Junction
– Nov. 18, 2002
An update on The "New" Junction, care of Omaha man-about-town MarQ Manner.
In addition to booking shows at venues that include The 49'r, The Howard St. and The Music Box, MarQ says he will now be handing Friday-night bookings at the fabulous Junction, 15th & Farnam St. The venue, which has seen performances by the likes of Okkervil River, Kyle Fischer, Bright Eyes, The Prom, Azure Ray, The Movies, The Rapture, The Places, The Monroes and a bunch of other fine indie bands, has passed from promoter to promoter over the past few years, leaving behind a trail of broken bodies. Now it's MarQ's turn in the barrel.
MarQ says he's hoping to develop a 49'r-style club for 18-and-overs. And the Junction seems to be taking the idea seriously, including paying for a few renovations like moving the stage from its odd position in the center of the bar to the back of the room where it belongs. MarQ says they even cleaned the place up a bit. Ah, but they didn't take away those fancy round pleather booths, which will now be deemed completely useless for actually watching bands since they face the wrong direction and are blocked off by a wall. MarQ couldn't confirm if they fixed the ceiling tiles that've been missing for years due to a leaky roof.
MarQ also said that "Billy," the infamous club owner, is hiring "a troop of girls" who will tend bars at all of Billy's downtown clubs (see below). Gone also are the $4 bottles of Rolling Rock, as the venue wants to make drink prices competitive with other venues around town -- I'll believe that when I drink it. MarQ says there may even be new sound equipment. Huzzah!
The first show is David Dondero with Fizzle Like a Flood (who will be celebrating a CD release) and Matt Whipkey Nov. 29. It's not gonna be all indie -- MarQ plans to mix it up with more mainstream bands, which ain't a bad thing (he's got Grasshopper Takeover there Nov. 30 with Lovetap).
The Junction always gets bad-mouthed because of its overall seediness, but I've always loved the place. Back in the day when no one was booking smaller touring indie bands like Evil Beaver or The Prom, The Junction always stepped up, thanks to guys like Randy Cotton (Violenteer Productions) and Colin Shenefield (Victory for the People Productions).
Another tidbit -- MarQ says the old Olympia Café is being renovated into a 21+ dance club for weekend meat-market festivities. The Farnam Street will continue to be booked as it is today, and a small stage and sound system will be placed in The Olympic Lounge, where MarQ will also be handling some bookings. Is this the beginning of some sort of new Omaha music street? Only time will tell.
One last bit of weirdness: Looks like you can buy just about anything on e-bay. So just how much would you bid for Eminem's house?
Sokol Again, Oberst in NYT, and Jocko– Nov. 17, 2002
This new blog is up for one day and the result: CONTROVERSY! Actually, there was quite a bit of feedback about Saddle Creek's last show at Sokol Underground. Marc Leibowitz wrote to point out that he had been doing shows at the Underground years before Robb and Roger were involved. He's not carrying on any tradition, he said; he started the tradition back in 1998. I admit that I don't know the venue's history that well. I just remember Robb and Marc behind the register at the first few shows I attended down there, years ago. Then Marc headed north for a year, the same year that Saddle Creek really started to explode on a national level. It just so happens that that was also the same year Creek bands dominated the Underground stage. Marc moved back almost a year ago and picked up where he left off, but without a partnership with the Saddle Creek guys, and with an eye toward booking at multiple venues. In fact, The Nov. 25 Owen show will be held at The 49'r, not at the Underground. It just so happens that tonight I'll be writing a feature about Owen's Mike Kinsella, based on responses just received from an e-mail interview. Look for it on this site Tuesday or Wednesday (and in Wednesday's Omaha Weekly).
Speaking of Saddle Creek, imagine my surprise while perusing the NYT.com site to find a huge feature on Conor Oberst, apparently part of this week's NYT Sunday Magazine. Titled "The Ballad of Conor Oberst" it's basically a bio feature with some road color thrown in, a good read because it's long enough to include lots of detail, a good introduction for those who don't know anything about Bright Eyes or Desa. There's very few actual Oberst quotes (probably a good thing) and plenty of description of his hair and clothes. Not to mention the obligatory Bob Dylan comparisons, which I've never quite seen. To me, stylistically, Oberst's music seems more comparable to early Simon and Garfunkel or Cat Stevens (in fact, I'd prefer someone call him "Our generation's Cat Stevens," though I'm sure he wouldn't appreciate it).
The two parts of the article that were memorable: 1) a description of Conor's diet: "During the three days I trail his band," the article said, "the only items of food I see pass his lips are a few pistachios. Admittedly, I am not with him some of the time. Still, his seeming ability to live on nothing but a tiny green nut or two contributes to his ethereal presence." Funny, and probably too true. This is the fourth reference to his diet that I've heard in the past month; and 2) complaints from Peter Choyce (who the article describes as a "long-time college radio DJ" but never tells you where he DJ's at) about the sheer volume of Oberst's material. "Peter Choyce, a longtime college-radio D.J., praises Oberst as an 'icon' but wishes he would edit himself. 'Every time I go to the station there's more product. Him with the guy from Spoon. Him in Desaparecidos. Him with a new EP. I can't keep up. Better to release one strong, solid 10-track CD a year and make people want more.'" Choyce would have a point if half of the releases he mentioned sucked. In fact, the Bright Eyes/Spoon split is my favorite recording by Oberst this year, the Desa album stands on its own, as do the LP and EP. As a result, Choyce just sounds cheap and lazy. His comment about "one solid 10-track CD a year" comes off as major-label bullshit. The whole story's online, but you have to register or subscribe to get to it.
One other bit of weirdness: I woke up to read this little horror from Reuters: Surgeons' Verdict Grim on Michael Jackson's Nose. It's sad tale where a half-dozen plastic surgeons try to figure out what happened to Jocko's nose. Read it at your own risk.
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New look, new stuff – Nov. 16, 2002
So here's the new lazy-i homepage, for your consideration. Why the new look? Because this site's basic design hasn't changed much since it was launched in 1998 (other than the logo). So it seemed about time. Donovan Beery of cutting-edge design firm eleven19.com is to blame. Other than some slight organization shifts and the smaller typefont, little has changed (I've already been told that the type is way too small to read in Netscape on a Mac. Adjustments must be made...)
Your feedback is welcome.
This area here, however, is brand new and will be used sort of like a blog that will be updated every day or so, and will include info about shows, goings on, backgrounds on new features and reviews, gossip, opinion, hype, etc. You'll also see next-day reviews of live shows, links to other indie-music articles on other sites, and comment on popular culture in Omaha and in general.
That said, I just got back from The Mountain Goats show at Sokol Underground. Nice turnout (about 200) there to see the Goats with John Vanderslice and Fizzle Like a Flood. I arrived late (all's I can say is Bowling for Columbine, see it) and caught only the last few songs by Vanderslice. Everyone 'round these parts is ga-ga over his drummer, who sets up his drumset at an angle at the front of the stage and places his cymbals way up high. Yeah, he's good, but he ain't exactly the second coming of Neil Peart. Vanderslice is Vanderslice, for anyone who has seen him before, it was more of the same -- nice, catchy stuff, not terribly interesting.
The Mountain Goats, however, were in good form. The first half of the set was just John Darnielle and his guitar, seated on stage, belting out songs from his latest CD as well as a number of chestnuts. For a guy who says that his music is "there to sort of help slip the words under people's doormats," his set was very musical -- in fact, downright ornate. He fills out the sound just fine with his voice and guitar. Still, there's no doubt that it's the lyrics that make it go. The audience crowded in front of the stage and yelled requests between songs while Darnielle tuned his guitar and grinned. I don't know if he played their requests or not, seeing as I don't really know any of his songs other than what's on his new 4AD release. Bassist Peter Hughes (Nothing Painted Blue) joined him for the last half of his 45-minute set and added some dead-on harmonies. For the set closer, Vanderslice and his band joined him on stage and the mostly quiet set turned into a rock show. Darnielle and Hughes returned for a two-song encore and closed the night with "Going to Georgia." The guy next to me, who knows nothing about The Mountain Goats, recognized the tune as a song Atom & His Package covered on his last CD.
Is this destined to be the last Saddle Creek-promoted show at Sokol Underground? Who knows. This was the last local show listed on the Saddle Creek site, and though there's a back story that goes along with it, it's better left untold. If that really was their last one, it's a shame because Robb, Jason and Roger brought some amazing indie bands to The Underground over the last five years or so. Marc Liebowitz at Onepercent Productions looks to be carrying on their tradition (a tradition that, in all fairness, he helped create back in the day when Liebs and the Creek guys worked shows together).
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