lazyhome  •  reviews  •  hype  •  webboard  •  interviews  •  woodEe awards

Lazy-i indie rock interviews

Blog Archive table of contents



The Blog Archive -- May 2, 2007 to Aug. 3, 2007 -- Go to lazyhome for most-current entries

Why Kite Pilot is back in Omaha; Art in Manila, Cloven Path tonight… – Aug. 3, 2007 –

Back in May (here, to be exact) I wrote about how Kite Pilot was bidding Omaha a fond farewell as Todd and Erica Hanton headed for better climes in Portland. Final shows were scheduled; people said goodbye. Only a few weeks later, while enjoying some ice cream at the Dundee Ted & Wally's, Protoculture's Koly Walter informed me that the couple had already returned to Omaha. What? Within a few weeks, Kite Pilot was gigging around town again, this time with a visiting original guitarist Austin Britton, home for the summer from the West Coast.

"We went out there in June to find a place to live," Todd said. "We did a lot of research first -- the rental market, areas of town that we would or would not like to live in. After five days of driving around the city, looking at houses and apartments, waiting for call-backs, this is what we found. Compared to Omaha, you will pay about 30% more in rent for about 30% less in the quality of living. Anything worth renting was snatched up immediately."

The frustrating search to find affordable housing resulted in the couple reevaluating the reason why they were moving to Portland in the first place.

"We had another sit down, each of us writing a list of pro's and con's of living in both cities, what we wish we could do in Omaha that we weren't already, what we wanted to get out of Oregon," Todd said. They discovered that they weren't willing to compromise their standard of living without a good reason. "If we were to move for an awesome job or for the benefit of Kite Pilot, that would be another story. Neither of those were reasons why we wanted to move," he said.

They'd also miss their music. "We missed playing even before we left Omaha. We have the contacts, the players and the music right here, so why start all over again? True, we might have more success in the long-term by playing in a larger market and not having the Saddle Creek (Records) hanging over our heads like every other local band, but success is what you make of it, where you make it."

Saddle Creek hanging over their heads? Did he mean that he feels there's a stigma being from Omaha and not being on Creek? "That is a real good way of saying it," Todd said. "Everyone that is not from here thinks, 'Hey, you guys are great! Why aren't you on Saddle Creek?' They don't have any idea of the social dynamics that goes into something like that."

Todd said he and his wife realized that the real changes they wanted to make were within themselves and not dependent on location. "Living in Omaha can often feel like you are in the movie 'Groundhog Day,'" he said. "We all want new and exciting. We all look for it in different place. We were looking in Portland. But you know what? After a certain amount of time, the allure of a new city wears off, no matter what city. We feel that we have to change our attitude about Omaha, instead of changing where we live."

Now for some points of clarification:

--Kite Pilot will continue as a trio after Austin moves back to the West Coast later this year, with Jeremy Stanosheck on drums. Todd said the band will probably start writing new songs.

--Erica will no longer perform in The Protoculture. "The whole reunion was to put out all of their songs in one compilation," Todd said. "Now that that is complete, she is done. The guys want to continue, though. Erica wants to focus on KP only."

-- The couple got their house back, and Todd even got his job back with Elan. Erica, on the other hand, didn't return to her government job. "She actually started a company called Saque," Todd said. "Right now the only product she has are handmade purses and shoulder bags. She just got them into her first store -- Crane Coffee on Cass St. Having her business started, she is currently looking for a new job."

You can check out Kite Pilot with special guest Austin Britton tonight when they open for Art in Manila at The Waiting Room with The Ladybug Transistor. Show is $7, starts at 9 p.m.

Unfortunately, I'll likely miss that show as one of the most gonzo shows in recent history is happening down at Sokol Underground tonight: The Cloven Path CD release "party" with Dance Me Pregnant, The Shanks and The Little Nastys. I expect mayhem the likes of which haven't been seen on any stage since the days of GG Allin, or at least plenty of drunken debauchery. $7, 9 p.m.

This is a busy weekend: Tomorrow at the Waiting Room it's Eagle*Seagull, Spring Gun and Michael Morris (9 p.m., $7). Also Saturday night, The Shanks play again, with Mosquito Bandito ($5, 9:30 p.m.). Sunday night it's Against Me! with Two Gallants, Gaslight Anthem and Cobra Skills (8 p.m., $14). Also Sunday night, The 4th of July play at O'Leaver's with Thunder Power!!! and Midwest Dilemma ($5, 9:30 p.m.).

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Column 135 -- Two Gallants returns to Houston; Bazooka Shootout tonight… – Aug. 2, 2007 –

Here's part 2 of the Two Gallants interview that began yesterday. Missing is mention of the guy who took all the video footage of the incident that ended up on YouTube (the videos are still online, here and here). He also got arrested and went through the court process with Tyson Vogel. I do not know his fate, however. Vogel said, beyond June's return engagement, the band would play at Walter's again.

Column 135: The Scene of the Crime
Two Gallants' return to Houston brings closure.

First-off, Two Gallants are playing at Slowdown (opening for alt rock band Against Me!) this Sunday, Aug. 5. The duo of drummer Tyson Vogel and guitarist/vocalist Adam Stephens released a 5-song EP on Saddle Creek Records, The Scenery of Farewell, June 19, and though it continues in the band's tradition of delta-blues-flavored indie folk, it's a departure by way of acoustic (rather than electric) instrumentation. The result is a more subdued, more stark collection of ballads that includes (for the first time) special guests, including Anton Patzner on violin, Jackie Perez Gratz on cello and Chico Tunney on contra bass. The contributions give an already stirring collection even more depth and emotion, and ultimately, an overall sense of loneliness and regret. The EP isn't a single from the upcoming full-length (due out in September) or session out-takes, but a true stand-alone collection that is an essential part of the Two Gallants oeuvre.

I lead with that mini review because drummer Tyson Vogel and I didn't spend much time talking about the EP during our interview last Saturday. Instead, Vogel reflected on the Walter's on Washington incident nearly a year after the fact, an incident that was put to bed with a return engagement to Walter's June 18.

"I would totally shut down everything before things got escalated," Vogel said, reflecting on what he'd do differently in a similar situation. "We're used to working with police in San Francisco. We play house parties and parks all the time. It always works well when we work together as human beings, but when it becomes a power struggle… Some say we should have dropped everything right away, but we were inquisitive about what was going on. You're in a club in the middle of a song and a huge police officer gets in your face. People are going to get scared."

A recap: On Oct. 16, 2006, during a Two Gallants performance at a bar that calls itself "the best new live music venue in Houston," police were dispatched to respond to a noise complaint. But instead of talking to the management or the show's promoter or asking the soundman to turn it down, an officer stormed onto the stage during a song and began berating frontman Stephens. Confused, Stephens asked what was going on. Pandemonium ensued. Tasers were drawn. Equipment was broken. Arrests were made.

Among those taken into custody were Vogel and two members of opening band Trainwreck Riders. Somehow, Stephens managed to flee and avoid arrest.

Vogel spent the next 18 hours in a Houston lock-up, reflecting on the state of the American justice system.

In the days before the Internet, the incident would have been chocked up as just another rock band getting in trouble with the law. Instead, portions of the incident were captured on a fan's video camera, and within hours, footage of a police officer standing over a fallen Stephens and calling for back-up was posted on YouTube.

Vogel was startled at how quickly the story spread. "Suddenly, Rolling Stone and these publications that wouldn't have given us the time of day were ready to hear our side and hear what actually went on," he said. "It was intriguing how it all exploded. It was everywhere. I didn't realize how much time people spend getting information off computers."

Overnight, websites and Myspace pages were created. Even yours truly received a number of e-mails from fans at Walter's that evening, recapping the event. While all the support was encouraging, it had little effect on the outcome.

Vogel said musicians Sean Kohler and Andrew Kerwin of Trainwreck Riders eventually were forced to "settle" out of court. "They couldn't afford to fight it any more," he said, pointing to costs involved with lawyers fees and airfare. Both were charged with Class C misdemeanors and forced to write an apology to the City of Houston, despite having done nothing more than ask a police officer what was happening.

Vogel, however, fought the charges, flying to Houston to appear in court four times for what were essentially roll call appearances. Eventually, a new district attorney reviewed the case. "When she saw the footage and saw it was ridiculous, she threw the case out," Vogel said. "The defense had thought that I was the guitar player and they were going to charge me for pushing the officer with my guitar. It was plain in the footage that I had no guitar in hand."

On June 18, Two Gallants along with Trainwreck Riders returned to Walter's for a free concert "to say thank you in our own humble way to the people who were there, who really supported us through the whole thing," Vogel said. "One girl baked us a cake with prison bars on it and put a nail file in the middle. One random fellow who never heard us before gave us a card with 20 dollars each telling us how much he admired what we were doing."

In retrospect, Vogel said the incident left him with a sense of dread over what could have happened, and what happens every day to those who don't have the means to defend themselves. "It's a big, invisible machine," he said of the justice system. "It was a very large learning experience to see how it works, how people might get lost in the bureaucracy once its set in motion, and what could happen to those who don't have the kind of support we had."

According to their Myspace page, Noise FM cancelled their appearance tonight at Sokol. One Percent still lists them on their site, however. Doesn't matter, because everyone's going to that show to see Bazooka Shootout anyway. Also on the card, Ric Rhythm and the Revengers and Anatomy of a Riot. $8, 8 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Two Gallants Pt. 1; Silversun Pickups tonight… – Aug. 1, 2007 –

Last Saturday afternoon I chatted with Two Gallants' Tyson Vogel from his apartment in San Francisco. His cohort, Adam Stephens, was somewhere in Paris visiting his girlfriend while the band enjoyed some much needed time off the road. "When we have some down time, we're on opposite ends of the world," Vogel said. "This has been the longest break in the past three months. We finally got two weeks off, and we're both reveling in it."

We spent most of our interview talking about the Walter's on Washington incident and the aftermath. That part of the interview will go online tomorrow as this week's column.

The rest of the time was spent talking about Saddle Creek, the band's new EP and opening for what would seem to be oddly matched bands, like Against Me! and Les Claypool. Vogel and Stephens bring an interesting perspective to working with Saddle Creek Records. They're really the first band signed to the label that didn't have direct personal ties to anyone in any of the other Creek bands (read about how they got signed here). How happy are they with the label?

"The reason that we stay with Saddle Creek is we enjoy working with them," Vogel said. "We do get frustrated with how hands-off they are. They always have good ideas and opinions, but they really want to keep the artist in control of the art, and we both admire that. That's why we enjoy working with them. They're respectful of our ideas and have a good sense on how to get things done. They also have good distribution and work with the industry without pandering to it -- that's a great thing. They stay true to their nature; they enjoy music and want to keep it that way. It's been really good working with them."

When I pressed him on the frustrations, Vogel clarified his comments. "It's not frustration," he said. "We don't know about this music business stuff. We just know how to play music. One of the reasons we like working (with Saddle Creek) is that they put a lot of consideration and thought into things."

The band's new EP, the 5-song The Scenery of Farewell, was released in June and though it's a departure instrumentally for the band, their signature sound is still there.

"I would hope that (the EP) would have the same feeling," Vogel said. "In the end, it's not that we're purposely trying to do anything different. What makes it different is the songs come from a slightly different place. These songs demand more than the electric bass songs. We're putting this out because it's just as important as electric or loud songs. It's more stripped down in the sense that the songs aren't that complicated and demand a different kind of playing. At the same time, they're just as full or even more so, since we have these other players playing with us and adding other layers."

The band just finished a 3-week acoustic tour of Europe with additional support players -- and it may be the last time they play songs off the EP live. They're going back to their two-piece configuration for the Against Me! tour. "The acoustic shows can be heavy and dark at times. It's not for every night.," Vogel said. "The songs on the EP have opened up both of us internally to let go a bit more, so we can keep on writing songs."

Songs for the new self-titled LP, slated for release Sept. 25, were recorded at a completely different session than the EP. "Originally, the EP was supposed to be a full length, but we took three songs off -- we didn't like how they came out, and it would have been a long, heavy record. One of those songs will be on the new full length. I would say this record is really significant because we never recorded songs without playing them live."

Vogel said the band traditionally spends a year playing songs before putting them down on tape. "For this next album, we haven't played the songs for anyone yet. Not to be too lofty, (Adam and I have) come separately and together into the music more. This next album represents a change for the better, it'll be different than What the Toll Tells and more similar to The Throes."

Combining Two Gallants with Against Me! for a tour seems odd. Against Me! plays relatively straight-up FM alt rock -- quite a contrast to Two Gallants' more traditional sound. Vogel said he and Stephens invited the contrast.

"The Les Claypool tour was a weirder mix," he said, adding that he grew up with the early Primus records. "One night we ran into each other, and Les and I talked and had a good conversation. I admire him for his creative judgement and ideal in life. He invited us to come on tour. We knew it would be a very different audience. With Against Me!, people have told us for a long time that we should tour with them, and we have mutual friends. We thought it would be fun because they always seem to pop up in the periphery. I hope that we're not too much of a downer. The first band (Gaslight Anthem) is more of a punk band. Actually, it's more involved than punk, very melodic and kind of anthemic alternative, I guess.

"The last tour broke us in. The Les Claypool fans are pretty intense. There's a story about Rasputina going on tour with him and getting pennies thrown at them. If the music is so different but comes from a similar place, it can still come off. People there to see Against Me! might find something they can relate to in our music. I'm a proponent for an eclectic show if the mood or energy is right. There are too many shows where the bands are too similar. It's good to be pushed to look at different things."

I told Vogel that, on a certain level, Two Gallants' style seems more mature, more sophisticated and certainly more literate than typical rock music. It seems to have a new classic American style that stands on its own beyond that genre. Did they ever look around at their environment and ask if they're reaching the right audience with their music?

"I don't think he or I really try to think about it that way," Vogel said. "I think if you become too concerned about it that you will always be unsatisfied. And that's not the point. If the honesty and integrity comes off, if certain people are drawn to that, then great. Music is a necessity for us. We'd be doing it anyway. We're honored to be in front of this many people. All we have to focus on is doing it right."

Tomorrow's column: Two Gallants and Walter's on Washington.

* * *

The first time I heard "Lazy Eye" by Silversun Pickups I naturally thought it was a new Smashing Pumpkins song. I mean, it sounds almost identical to "1979" right down to the bouncing bassline and Brian Aubert's Billy Corgan impersonation. The rest of Carnavas is just as Pumpkinesque, which is great, I suppose, if you're a big Pumpkins fan. I never liked the band (other than "1979"). I find it odd how something so derivitive of another band could become so popular unless the kids picking this up never heard Mellon Collie (released in '95) or Siamese Dream ('93) before, which is very, very possible. Anyway, Silversun is playing at Slowdown tonight with Dangerbird Recording artist Sea Wolf, and it's SOLD OUT. Also tonight, at Saddle Creek Bar, it's Lucia Lie, Paper Owls and Civic Minded. $5, 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Neil Hamburger, Outlaw Con Bandana tonight… – July 30, 2007 –

I can't tell you how many people told me that I absolutely can't miss Neil Hamburger at The Waiting Room tonight. They go on and on about how drop-down side-splitting funny the guy was at O'Leaver's last year. And I have no doubt that they thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Yet, after watching Hamburger on YouTube (like right here) I have a hard time thinking he's anything but a poor man's Andy Kaufman/Tony Clifton. I'm sure he's much funnier live. Or not. With Daquiri, $8, 9 p.m. Meanwhile, tonight down at O'Leaver's, it's Outlaw Con Bandana and Theodore. $5, 9:30 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Live Review: Built to Spill; Shiver Shiver, SSTM; Remembering Tom Snyder; Coyote Bones, High on Fire tonight… – July 30, 2007 –

Before I get to last Saturday night, a quick review of the Built to Spill show at Slowdown July 18. What's that? Wasn't I in Cape Cod the night of that show? Well, yes, I was indeed, good reader. But through the magic of bootleg technology, I was able to relive the moment. A friend of mine sent me a link to the Blasé Blogspot, which posted a link to this divShare page that allows you to download the entire Slowdown performance, presumably recorded off the soundboard. It sounds pretty marvelous indeed.

I've never been a collector of bootlegs. My only foray into bootleg acquisition was picking up a cassette from a friend of a friend of mine of an old Led Zeppelin concert titled "Mudslide." The quality was piss-poor, but at the time (back in the '80s) I was so hungry for anything Zeppelinesque that I cherished the tape, which included a recording of a (then) unreleased Zeppelin track. These days there are entire web networks dedicated to nothing but bootlegs of live shows -- not just the usual boring, pointless Phish or Widespread head-shop noodling sessions, but everything from Prince to Morrissey to last week's Built to Spill concert. Who knows which of the recordings are authorized by the artists and which aren't. I assume the person listed in the accompanying BTS text file (strangely identified only as "DB" -- who could that be?) had permission from Martsch to record.

My take on the concert: Martsch's vocals continue to sound more and more like Neil Young's, to the point where the recording got me wondering if Young would ever consider covering a Built to Spill song (Martsch certainly has covered enough of Young's songs). Sounds like the band had a few problems with their gear, but that didn't stop them from putting on a solid night of rock that dipped extensively into their back catalog. Seems ol' Doug was a man of his word, and rock won out over jams, though he ended with a 16-plus minute version of "Randy Described Eternity" that devolved deeply into jam territory. Among the highlights were roaring versions of "Time Trap," "Stab," and a cover of Brian Eno's "Third Uncle." The recording includes all the between-song banter, including Martsch asking (after "Time Trap") "Anyone know what happened to Mousetrap?" Silence (a testament, I guess, to the number of people in the audience who don't remember the band). Moments later, he said"Chicago?"

* * *

File this under "eerie" and "sad": Yesterday while doing some "research" on personal writing hero Harlan Ellison, I spent a couple hours watching old Tom Snyder interviews on that ultimate internet time-waster, YouTube. After Ellison, I went to an old Wendy O. Williams interview, and -- just like opening a bag of potato chips -- couldn't stop watching interviews with The Clash, Iggy Pop, and PiL (specifically, Johnny Rotten, who is as famous for being a prick during interviews as he is for his music -- and what a prick he was to Snyder).

Then this morning on my drive into work, NPR reported that Snyder died yesterday after a long battle with leukemia. Strange, sad coincidence. I didn't grow up watching the Tomorrow show; I only caught it a few times during the '80s. It was on way past my bedtime -- if I was up that late it was because I was either studying or partying. The times I did catch it, however, I loved. It. Snyder's interview style seemed off-the-cuff, as if he did little or no research before strolling onto the set each evening. He was the first guy I ever saw regularly talk to the folks behind the cameras and control board during a broadcast -- it felt like he was letting you in on something you weren't supposed to see, and as a result, you felt like you were part of the show. He was no fan of punk and New Wave -- he simply didn't understand it. Despite that, he knew it made good television, and often invited punks onto his show, providing exposure that they'd get nowhere else. Unfortunately, more people remember Dan Akroyd's impersonation of Snyder than the man himself. YouTube, of course, could change all that.

* * *

My only show attendence this weekend was Shiver Shiver and Sleep Said the Monster at O'Leaver's Saturday night. Opening band Donnelly is a new project by Satchel Grande member Ben Zinn. I missed them. Shiver Shiver is a keyboard/drum duo whose impressive recordings on MySpace drew me to the show. In fact, they were probably the main draw of the evening as half the crowd left shortly after their set. Live, their sound was muddy and off-balance, moreso due to the limitations of O'Leaver's sound system. O'Leaver's is a fine venue for punk and hard rock sets, not so much for more laid-back keyboard or acoustic-driven music. That said, Shiver Shiver sounded as good as they could, though nowhere as good as on their recordings. The formula is simple: Jordan Elsberry belts out loungy, jazzy ballads a la Todd Rundgren or Ben Folds on keyboards, while drummer Chase Thornburg fills in the rhythms and adds harmony vocals (For whatever reason, I couldn't help thinking of Flight of the Conchords). Again, maybe it was the venue, but the set seemed hollow. I'm told Elsberry handled bass lines on one of the keyboards, but that didn't compensate enough for not having a real bass (Why are bands so reticent these days to bite the bullet and bring on a bassist?). Elsberry's keyboard tones also seemed locked in a mid-tempo, mid-range rut, and lacked some much-needed variety. Some songs seemed too long. Still, there's no question these guys know how to write music, and no one is doing anything like Shiver Shiver around these parts. They slated to play at Saddle Creek Bar Aug. 17 with Seymore Saves the World. Check them out.

Sleep Said the Monster sounds different every time I see them, and last Saturday was no exception. They've evolved into a hard-rocking indie band that plays run-of-the-mill indie music -- which is a nice way of saying the band never sounded better, but their music was far from unique. I'm not sure fans of this style of music care, as long as it rocks, and it certainly did.

Tonight at Slowdown Jr., Coyote Bones opens for Blitzen Trapper. CB, one of the best new bands in the area, has a split 7-inch with Flowers Forever coming out eventually on CoCo Art. $7, 9 p.m. Also tonight, Oakland stoner metal band High on Fire (Matt Pike, formerly of seminal stoner band Sleep) plays at The Waiting Room with Omaha band Back When. $10, 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Filter Kings tonight, the rest of the weekend… – July 27, 2007 –

It's kind of a quiet weekend show-wise, at least compared to the past few weeks.

The feature event is tonight at The Waiting Room -- Omaha twang-punk masters The Filter Kings with The Mercury's. The Filter Kings is Lee Meyerpeter (Bad Luck Charm, ex-Cactus Nerve Thang) and his team of highly trained cowboy-hat-wearing knife fighters ripping apart alt-country-punk and reassembling it in their own image. I enjoy this band immensely, especially when they play at The Waiting Room (where they should be the house band (I'll keep saying it until it happens)). The only thing that would make their performance better would be if two drunks had a broken-bottle fight in front of the stage while Lee and Co. provided the sound track. In fact, if these guys ever release a CD, there's the perfect premise for their first rock video. $7, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, over at O'Leaver's, trippy Virginia space-rock band Gifts from Enola sneaks into town. They call themselves "experimental" on their Myspace page. Their recordings sound more proggy/shoe-gazer than experimental to me. Opening is Paper Owls, and something tells me they're going to give a sneak preview of their new album, which they'll be celebrating with a CD-release show Aug. 11 at PS Collective. Also on the bill, The Slats. Waitaminit, SLAM Omaha says not the Slats but I Hear Sirens are playing tonight. The Slats' Myspace page, however, shows them at O'Leaver's. Find out who's right by showing up at 9:30 and doling out $5.

And don't forget Film Streams grand opening tonight. I was talking Wednesday to one of the guys who works there about the choice of screening the Seven Samurai (Shichinin no samurai) on opening night. He pointed out that it made sense if only for the fact that opening night will bring in people who otherwise wouldn't sit through a 3-plus-hour black-and-white Japanese film with subtitles. And if you're lucky Alexander Payne will provide a half-hour spoken introduction. Two showings, 5 and 9 p.m. Also playing (in the small theater) is La Vie en Rose (see yesterday's review) at 4, 7, and 9 p.m. Film Streams also is having an open house tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free popcorn!

Saturday night is all O'Leaver's, with Donnely, Sleep Said the Monster & Shiver Shiver. No idea who Donnely is and can't find anything on the 'net about them. SStM play laid-back indie pop. Shiver Shiver is the duo of keyboardist/vocalist Jordan Elsberry and drummer/vocalist Chase Thornburg. A friend of mine pointed me toward their Myspace site a few weeks ago and I dug what I heard. Their demos remind me of early Squeeze or laid-back Ben Folds. $5, 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Column 134: Mid Year Report; Reviews: Film Streams, St. Vincent; Vampire Weekend/LotM/Sad Sailor tonight… – July 26, 2007 –

First an apology for the extreme length of this entry. I'll get to the column in a minute, first a look at last night's show at Film Streams. How exactly do you review a movie theater? I guess you consider the environment, the seating, the picture, the sound, the whole experience. Taken as a whole, Film Streams gets four stars.

The facility has a classy, simple elegance, with its gorgeous lobby designed in the same concrete-glass-and-steel modern-Euro style as Slowdown. Clean lines, big windows that look out to the street. I didn't get a chance to test the ticket window as entry was handled entirely by a guest list. Instead, the ticket booth was being used to film "testimonials" about the facility and the concept of Film Streams (Interestingly, Slowdown also has a ticket window, but I've never seen them use it). No idea on concessions as complimentary popcorn and soda were handed out. I didn't see anything unique in the candy counter, but really, I'm not looking for anything beyond Milkduds. Eventually, the theater is supposed to also offer Blue Line coffee and baked goods. I'm not sure how that'll work (actually, I'm not sure where Blue Line will be located in the new complex, I just know it ain't open yet).

Onto the important stuff: The auditoriums. They were pretty much what you'd expect from a new, modern theater -- high-back seats with drink holders, plenty of leg room (though, like every theater I've been in, still a bit tight for me, which is why I always sit in an aisle seat). Picture and sound were, of course, immaculate.

If I have a quibble, it's with the large auditorium. The seating is done in typical "stadium style" -- rows climbing up at a steep angle -- a welcome innovation in theater design. The problem is that the screen seems hung too low. The best seats are in the middle rows. If you go too high, you feel like you're looking too far down to the screen. If the auditorium were my living room, I'd either get a taller screen (probably not possible due to the theater's width and aspect ratio issues) or move it up about 10 feet (there's plenty of room to do that). The smaller auditorium has more traditional (non-stadium) seating, and feels more intimate. I kind of like it better, actually. The screen seems huge, and as a result, the best seats in that aud are in the last row (though, because the narrow slope of the rows, you my have a problem if you're sitting behind someone with Marge Simpson hair).

Film Streams is doing another Alexander Payne presentation tonight for special guests, then tomorrow is opening day, with Seven Samurai playing in the big theater (Payne might introduce it?) and La Vie en Rose in the small theater. The long-term plan is to have the first-runs in the big aud and the retrospectives in the small room.

So how was La Vie en Rose? I knew next to nothing about Edith Piaf before going to this. I still don't know much about her afterward, other than she lived a rather horrible, painful life that started drenched in illness and poverty and ended drenched in illness and loneliness. Along the way, there was plenty of great music and lots of morphine. Since the film is non-linear in nature, you don't get a sense of story so much as a sense of being -- not for who Piaf was, but what she was like. Great performances, especially by Marion Cotillard as Piaf (though she doesn't do the actual singing in the film). Ultimately, it was an utterly depressing two hours of film, as you watch Piaf experience one personal horror after another, ending with her death at age 47 of liver cancer (which isn't explained in the film). In French, with subtitles. If I were a movie reviewer, I'd give it three stars.

Speaking of reviews… I got out of Filmstreams at around 10:30 and high-tailed it to The Waiting Room in time to see St. Vincent. My take: She's going to be as big as PJ Harvey. Maybe bigger. I was under the impression she'd be playing solo, but instead, had a three-member band in tow -- a violinist, bass/keyboardist and drummer. Frontwoman Annie Clark impressively handled the lead guitar herself, with a tone reminiscent of Jack White's work in White Stripes (though she varied between hard-edged fuzz and a gentler sound). When she ripped into the heavy stuff, the music was cathartic. I stand by my earlier opinion that her voice is similar to Carly Simon's, especially on the more laid-back tunes, while it became chipped and PJ-like on the hard numbers (To give her vocals more dynamics, she switched between two different microphones -- a standard mic and one piped through an effect's pedal). After finishing her set, she came back alone to do a cover of Nico's "These Days" sitting on the edge of the stage with an acoustic guitar, surrounded by fans bent close to hear her quiet voice. A star is born. See for yourself when she opens for The National at Slowdown in September.

Now onto this weeks column. Like I said earlier this week, I didn't listen to a lot of music in Cape Cod, but I did on the flights out there and back.

Column 134 -- Mid-Year Report
A glance at the first half of '07.

Like our overblown, underachieving movie industry, so far indie music in 2007 has been a year of sequels, but with big question marks attached. Can Arcade Fire match the austere genius of its debut? Can Spoon keep its streak alive after the break-out success of 2005's Gimme Fiction? Does Bright Eyes have what it takes to keep the ball rolling (toward musical maturity)? Has Modest Mouse turned its back on the weird brilliance of their early records? Here's my take on the biggest (but not necessarily the best) indie releases so far this year.

Arcade Fire -- Neon Bible (Merge) -- With "(Antichrist Television Blues)," Win Butler has declared himself a modern-day Bruce Springsteen. I beseech anyone to listen to this song and -- in their mind -- replace Butler's beaten-child warble with The Boss' brassy New Jersey croon and not think of that upbeat era of Springsteen from the '80s just after he discovered Nautilus. It's one of the record's standout tracks, along with "No Cars Go" and "The Well and The Lighthouse" and most of the second half of the disc (after the rather droll, overly produced first half). I still like the debut better.

Modest Mouse -- We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank (Epic) -- Ah, for the days of dirty madman splendor that were Lonesome Crowded West, back when these guys could stretch out on head-case ballads like "Heart Cooks Brain" or "Styrofoam Boots/It's All Nice on Ice, Alright." Sure, "Dashboard" is a fun, kick-drum-driven dance track in a Franz Ferdinand sort of way, but do we really need another fun dance band (or even one Franz Ferdinand)? Nice knowing you, Isaac.

Wilco -- Sky Blue Sky (Nonesuch) -- I don't like Wilco. Never have. Little bit too hick-jam for my taste. But I like this record. A lot, in fact. This is a departure for Tweedy and Co., who throttled back the twang and opened up something genuine and richly melodic and slightly overcast. I've heard Wilco fans whine that it's too laid-back. Well, they can go back and spin Yankee Hotel Foxtrot again while I enjoy the dark-blue tone of songs like "Either Way" and "Impossible Germany." This is Tweedy's Sea Change, which means, like Beck, it's also the best thing he's ever done.

Spoon -- Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Merge) -- Not hugely different from Gimme Fiction. Maybe a bit more thought-out, but ultimately, just another bouncy Spoon album in a series of bouncy Spoon albums that stretch back to 2001's Girls Can Tell. And then there's "The Underdog" -- with its handclaps and horns, it might be the best song Britt Daniel ever recorded, thanks, in part, to Jon Brion's production chops (but, sadly, only on this track).

The National -- Boxer (Beggars Banquet) -- You could say they're a newer, fresher version of Interpol, with the same militaristic drums, the same rich, droning vocals, the same elements that forced people to compare Interpol to Joy Division (whether they sounded like Joy Division or not). The difference is The National's variety of sound and song (a quality that Interpol too often lacks) and the willingness to soften the edges with piano or a cushion of synth strings, or a simple acoustic guitar, something Interpol would never consider (nor, I suppose, should they).

Interpol -- Our Love to Admire (Capitol) -- People were quick to discard Antics as just another disappointing follow-up, only to later realize just how good it was. This is the one that deserves that sense of disappointment. You get the classic Interpol rhythmic thrust, their usual chugging, echoing guitars and Daniel Kessler's trademark Ethel Merman-esque bark. Missing, however, is the starkness of melody, the dismal pall of bleakness that was so irresistible in their debut. Songs like "The Heinrich Maneuver" and "Who Do You Think?" would have you dance rather than mope. Sometimes I prefer moping.

Bright Eyes -- Cassadaga (Saddle Creek) -- Yeah, you already know all about it. But three months after its release it bears revisiting. It's still not as good as Wide Awake or Lifted, but it's growing on me the more I isolate the songs from the over-the-top production. Rumor has it that Conor may be stripping the sound down on the next one. It could be a revelation (or a naked emperor's curse).

LCD Soundsystem -- Sound of Silver (DFA) -- The album explodes out of the runway with opener "Get Innocuous" and never reaches that level of pure-build dance-itude again (though it comes close on the title track, whose fortune-cookie lyric is more disturbing than revelatory). Still, nothing here is as good as "Yeah (Crass Version)" or "Daft Punk…" or the genius "Losing My Edge," which is why the debut is still the one to own.

Once -- Original Soundtrack (Canvasback/Columbia) -- This soundtrack to one of the best movies about music that I've seen in a long time is a postcard reminder of the film's finest choke-up moments, much in the same vein as Magnolia's soundtrack (minus the Supertramp songs). If you're smart enough to see this indie gem before it leaves The Dundee, you'll pick up this album the next day and wonder what happened with those two crazy kids. Kind of sappy; absolutely gorgeous.

Tonight at Slowdown Jr. it's New York's Vampire Weekend and Omaha's own Landing on the Moon along with special guest Sad Sailor, a new 7-piece improvisational, psychedelic, group featuring Brian Poloncic of Tomato a Day. Get there early to check them out. $7, 8 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Hello, Film Streams; Handsome Furs, The Winter Sounds, St. Vincent all tonight… – July 25, 2007 –

I'll let you in on a little secret: I go to as many movies as I do rock shows, maybe more. I see everything, not only the high-falutin' indie and foreign flicks at The Dundee (Once, After the Wedding, etc.), but also the popcorn fluff at the cineplexes (Harry Potter, Fantastic Four, Ratatouille). And I love them all, except for the shitty ones, which -- just like shitty bands -- are plenty and hard to avoid.

Anyway… tonight is special for a non-musical reason: It's the press opening of the Ruth Sokolof Theater down at the Slowdown complex -- i.e., the grand opening of Film Streams. Actually, one of the first screenings was last night for city big-wigs and the high-end donors who are making the whole thing possible. Tonight is the press screening. Tomorrow is yet another event (I'm not sure who's invited) and Friday is the hoi polloi opening. Watch for the spotlights.

When Rachel Jacobson told me about the project back in 2005 (for this story), I thought it was a no-brainer -- it was an even better idea than Slowdown, quite frankly. The only theaters screening indie films at the time were that grand old dame The Dundee, and its ghetto twin, the $2 Westwood Cinema 8. Now two years later, the AMC Oakview has dedicated a couple screens to indie films, and theaters in the new Mutual of Omaha and Aksarben developments also are likely to screen a few indie films. That's more competition, but if the Film Streams' auditoriums (two of them -- 209 seats and 96 seats) are as state-of-the-art and comfortable as originally planned, it won't matter. Film Streams is more of an arts organization than a movie theater anyway, a non-profit that depends on the kindness of strangers for its financial well-being. And there are plenty of strangers in Omaha willing to lend a hand if it means getting quality films shown in this town. I bought my membership weeks ago. You can too, right here. $50 is a small price to pay to get access to films that I only used to read about in my subscription to Time Out New York. And, yeah, you can always Netflix them, but really, there's no comparing watching a film at home on a plasma to a movie theater experience.

Tonight's screening emphasizes a problem with Slowdown that I've mentioned before -- their 8-sharp start time for rock shows. Because I'll be walking the streets of France via the Sokolof Theater this evening, I'm going to miss Handsome Furs and Latitude Longitude at Slowdown Jr. The bands will just be leaving the stage when the final frames of La Vie en Rose burns on the virgin screen. A pity, because the new Handsome Furs disc, release by Sub Pop, is Neil Young meets Arcade Fire, with lead vocalist Dan Boeckner (also of Wolf Parade), providing the lonesome moan over the Crazy Horse-style guitars. $10, 8 p.m.

Well, the movie should be over in plenty of time to make it out to the other hot shows tonight. The sleeper is Winter Sounds at The Saddle Creek Bar with The Lemurs and Hyannis. In its more laid-back moments, Athens Georgia's Winter Sounds is like Minus the Bear fronted by Bob Welch (who remembers "Ebony Eyes"?). They're at their best when trying to be dreamy and psychedelic vs. when they're doing the usual indie stutter-step guitar stuff we've all come to know and yawn over. Hyannis just finished recording the final two tracks of their upcoming EP, Off the Reels. $5. 9 p.m.

The other prime show is St. Vincent at The Waiting Room with Scout Niblett, and Omaha's Bear Country. St. Vincent is singer-songwriter Annie Clark, a veteran guitarist for both The Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens. Her new album, Marry Me (on Beggars) is stunningly beautiful, mixing upbeat ballads with a voice reminiscent of (this is really gonna date me) Carly Simon. She works with a number of accompanists on the record, including Bowie pianist Mike Garson and a horn section. But tonight I believe she'll be doing it solo, probably with backing tracks. I fear it could be more of a PJ Harvey 4-track Demos-style presentation than what we get on the record. If you've never seen Scout Niblett and her wig before, you're in for a weird treat. The first time I saw Scout down at Sokol Underground, it was just her, her drum set and her boyfriend from Swearing at Motorists. The next time, a year or so later, it was her, her drum set, and her electric guitar (Though Ryan Fox lent a hand on one song). Scout looked like a spooky, stoned-out Chan Marshall with adult ADD. It's weird stuff that borders on beat poetry and often includes crowd participation (you'll likely be prompted to help with a few cheers). $10, 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Don Cab, Fromanhole tonight… – July 24, 2007 –

I haven't kept track of Don Caballero for years. In fact, I thought they'd broken up earlier in the decade. So when I saw this show slated for The Waiting Room tonight, I was a bit surprised. In fact, according to the all-knowing Wikipedia, Don Cab did break up in 2000, shortly after American Don was released. Says Wiki: "To equal parts surprise and criticism, (drummer Damon) Che reformed Don Caballero in 2003 with an entirely new lineup consisting of members of Pittsburgh's Creta Bourzia, a band that bore clear marks of influence from Don Caballero. The new members are Jeff Ellsworth on guitar, Gene Doyle on guitar, and Jason Jouver on bass. (Original members Mike Banfield and Pat Morris were invited to participate but both declined)." Che apparently vowed never to work with original second guitarist Ian Williams again. So Che is the only original member in tonight's line-up, according to Wikipedia. The band, who recorded for Touch and Go for years, now records for metal label Relapse Records. I have to assume they sound somewhat like they used to, but I haven't heard any of their recent recordings. Opening the show is Omaha's own math rock/noise rock masters Fromanhole -- who alone are worth the $10 admission. Show starts at 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Back from vacation; Creek's Tokyo Police Club deal; Terminals last night; Mother Mother tonight… – July 23, 2007 –

I'm back from Cape Cod, where I spent seven days on a beach with virtually no music whatsoever except for oldies stations on the car stereo -- Boz Scaggs, Dr. Hook (does every one of their songs have to sound like it was written by a pervert?), Gerry Rafferty, ELO, Orleans, Ambrosia -- you get the picture, it was a week of FM Gold. Boston stations barely reach the Cape, and those that did only played hip-hop or retro. Indie music as we know it didn't seem to exist. But hey, you don't go to Cape Cod to sniff out hot local clubs brimming with introspective indie bands. You go there to get away. When you do find a club with live music, chances are you're in for an evening of Jimmy Buffett covers or a Doobie Brothers tribute band... and you wouldn't want it any other way.

So, not a lot to write about. Looks like there was some news while I was gone. Saddle Creek Records signed Tokyo Police Club, a deal that's been rumored for months. I'm not sure how they fit into the Creek roster, but I don't think the label execs care all that much about things fitting these days. TPC is a band that's going to support their debut release in classic Creek style -- by constantly touring, which is what they've done for the past year. Their sound clashes no more awkwardly with the old-line Creek stable than, say, Georgie James or Two Gallants. Two Gallants seemed like an odd addition when they climbed aboard the S.S. Saddle Creek a couple years ago. Over time, the signing made more sense if only weighted on their music's lyrical content. Georgie James was more of a question mark, though some people pointed toward drummer John Davis' Q & Not U connection and his relationship with other Creek bands. Who knows. None of these new signings except for maybe Art in Manila are going to be big earners for the label in the vein of The Big Three or Jenny Lewis, who was a veritable home run for Team Love. Does it matter? Maybe not. Anyway, look for TPC's debut in early 2008.

I dropped in on The Terminals at O'Leaver's last night, they were headlining a show with a couple touring bands. Their set started rough and only got more brutal as the night wore on (in a good way). They sounded about as heavy as I've ever heard them (but nowhere near as distorted as Forget About Never). Fans and followers crowded the "stage," standing on railings, forming a standing circle around the band. You had to press up close to see what was going on. Strangely, after about a half dozen songs -- and just when it was getting really interesting -- the band called it a night. The set seemed half-finished and it was only 12:30.

Tonight at The Waiting Room, it's Cary Brothers with Stars of Track and Field and Mother Mother. Cary Brothers plays adult alternative (a more horrible term I can't think of) in the vein of The Fray, and just like that band, they've had some of their tracks played on TV shows like Scrubs, Grey's Anatomy, ER and a couple lame Zach Braff flicks. Inoffensive, probably boring, but likely well-played. Stars of Track and Field are Radiohead replicants (OK Computer era). Opening band, Vancouver's Mother Mother is the most interesting of the three -- think Tegan and Sara with a guy added to the mix, though their music is weirder, almost proggy in an indie sort of way. Quaint and clever, Mother Mother has an identity of their own making, which is more than you can say about the two "big bands" on this bill. $10, 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

A brief look into the future as Lazy-i goes on hiatus … – July 13, 2007 –

Yup, it's that time of year again when Lazy-i takes a week off to enjoy some well-deserved R&R. What will you do without me? Anyway, here's what I'll be missing (but hopefully you won't be) in my absence:

-- Tonight and tomorrow is the continuation of the Mavradio Benson Local Music Festival. Tonight at The Foundry it's Tea Ceremony, Scott Severin, Mike Harvat and Goodbye Sunday. $2, 7 p.m. While over at PS Collective it's Talkin Mountain, Electric Needle Room and Family Unit. $5, 9 p.m. The festival's highlight comes Saturday night. First, at Barley Street Tavern, it's Ric Rhythm and the Revengers, Reagan and the Rayguns, and the Southpaw Blues Band. $2, 8 p.m. and then at The Waiting Room, the long-awaited return of Son, Ambulance. Chatting with Joe Knapp last weekend at Slowdown, it sounds like they'll be playing some stuff off Key and maybe some new material. This isn't just a one-off reunion. Knapp sounds ready to put the Ambulance back on the road. I'm sorry I'm going to miss this one. Also on the bill is Ladyfinger and Little Brazil. $5, 9 p.m.

-- Also tonight, Satchel Grande opens for The Balance at The Waiting Room. SG is one of the funnest (and best) bands going these days. Should be a riot (if they can get people to loosen up and dance). $7, 9 p.m.

-- Monday night, Box Elders (that's Dave Goldberg and them McIntyre brothers) open for Quintron and Miss Pussycat at The Waiting Room. $8, 9 p.m.

-- Wednesday, of course is the big Built to Spill show at Slowdown with The Boggs. Tickets are still available for $17. I figured this show would sell out fairly quickly, but BTS didn't sell out the last time they came through until the night of the show, and this venue is a bit bigger than Sokol Underground. Will it be a jam-band fiesta or just a solid rock show? I think it'll be the latter. It'll certainly be something you won't want to miss. Show starts at 9.

-- Thursday, No Blood Orphan and Capgun Coup open for Drakkar Sauna at The Waiting Room. NBO's new album, Robertson Park, is a solid effort, and Capgun Coup continues to be dead-set on world domination. Also the bill, Dim Light. $7, 9 p.m.

-- Friday, the second big show at Slowdown this week that I've been dying to see but will, alas, miss. Tokyo Police Club plays with Dappled Cities. TPC is a favorite of the Saddle Creek Records crew. They play pretty, peppy indie punk, lively and fun. Imagine Cursive with hand-claps and you're starting to get the picture. $10, 8 p.m.

See you when I see you.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Column 132 -- Hello, Goodbye Drakes Hotel; Mavradio Benefit Day 1 tonight… – July 12, 2007 –

One of the more surprising things I heard when I talked to Chris Y and Amy Drake outside of The Saddle Creek Bar Sunday night was that they'd been advised not to play at O'Leaver's. The duo had never actually stepped foot in the club before. To me, playing O'Leaver's has become almost a rite of passage for local indie bands (and a few touring bands, as well). Sure, Slowdown and The Waiting Room remain at the top of the food chain, followed by Sokol Underground (which used to top the list). While a great place to play, Sokol is too big for most up-and-coming bands, especially if they're not filling an opening slot for a big-name national show. As everyone knows who frequents the place, playing in front of 50 people in Sokol Underground is like playing in front of an empty room, and looks disastrous. While playing in front of 50 people at O'Leaver's is like performing in the middle of a mob scene. Sure, the club has a sub-par PA. Sure, the place kinda smells like a wet ashtray and has the ambiance of someone's rec-room. But some of the best shows I've seen in Omaha have been performed there. Odd that someone would tell the band to avoid the place. Drakes did manage to play at The Waiting Room while they were here, as well as Sokol and The Saddle Creek Bar (four times!).

Column 132: A Matter of Timing
Drakes Hotel goes unnoticed.

Earlier this year, I got a phone call from Roger Lewis of Saddle Creek Records bands The Good Life and Neva Dinova. Roger never calls unless there's something important on his mind.

So I got in touch with him post haste. Roger's trademark greeting: "Dude!" Anyone who's met him knows exactly what that sounds like. Roger has a unique Midwestern Valley Girl drawl that only he could possess. He called to give me a head's up about a new band on the scene called Drakes Hotel, and to tell me that I'd soon be getting a preview copy of their CD, Tell Me Everything, released by Portland's Reverb Records. "Dude, it's really good. You really need to do something about this band."

I'd heard about Drakes Hotel from a few other folks around town who compared them to shoe-gazer bands like Jesus and Mary Chain and Curve. Well, the CD arrived, and it was gorgeous, filled with dreamy, buzzing music that would have fit right in with late-'80s UK bands like Cocteau Twins and Ride. On songs like "Broadcast to the Addicted" and "Red," Amy Drake's effects-laden vocals were a cross between Siouxsie Sioux and Cocteau's Elizabeth Fraser, while husband Chris Y's fuzzy, shuttering chop guitar pulsed atop a thick rhythm track. More laid-back songs, such as "Songs I Forgot About," featured the duo harmonizing over spacey, Cure-flavored music.

Roger was right, I had to write something about these folks, but a funny thing happened every time I tried. Whenever they had a show on the horizon, the date fell on a week when I already had a story scheduled with The Reader. The same thing happened for their live shows -- every time I made a point of seeing them, they either played first or I was unavailable or I simply forgot… and missed them. The next day when I asked people who had told me they were going how it went, for whatever reason they missed the show, too. Something always came up. It was a matter of timing, I guess, or bad luck.

Tell Me Everything was officially released May 1 to a roomful of crickets. Time passed, and I still intended to write about the band.

But I waited too long. In my inbox was an e-mail from Chris Y, inviting me to the band's farewell show last Sunday at The Saddle Creek Bar. "We will be relocating to Portland OR. In fact, we will be leaving right after the show. Portland is home to our label, Reverb Records, and they will be able to do much more for us if we are out there.

"Doesn't seem like Omaha is a very good fit for our kind of music," the letter continued. "Seems like unless you're The Faint, people only want to hear straight up rock or campfire sing-alongs. They certainly aren't going to dance - that's for sure. There are some great rock bands around here and there are some mediocre ones -- doesn't seem to really make any sense as to who gets shows, who gets popular and who's left on the sidelines."

Chris admitted that "we never really played the game or broke our backs around here trying to get shows, but I know of some great musicians that have and should be doing better. Seems like no matter where you go, the scenes are the same. We have lived in a ridiculous number of places, and Omaha is so small it's almost laughable that there should even be any kind of clique in this town. Three cheers to Saddle Creek Records for building an impenetrable wall around themselves. How Indie are you really when you build a shrine to yourselves with the blessing of the city and only book your friends and bands from your ultra cool record collections? Good luck with that. Anyway -- don't know what brought that on -- I just wanted to send you an invite--- so there ya go. Take care, Chris."

I finally got to see Drakes Hotel last Sunday night at the sparsely attended Saddle Creek Bar show -- a venue where they played most often over the past year. Before their set, we talked about Chris' e-mail while standing alongside the Flintstones-style camper that they'd be living in on their way to Portland. I'd heard they moved to Omaha to get signed to Saddle Creek. True? Of course not. Drakes Hotel already had a label. After living for years in Santa Cruz, Seattle and Blanchard, Iowa, the couple had decided to move to Amy's hometown of Omaha. Sure, part of the reason behind the move was to get involved in the music scene, but it just never happened, though they made some good friends along the way, like Roger. While the letter sounded bitter, the band wasn't bitter at all. They had tried their best. Now they were going to try their best somewhere else.

So why didn't Drakes Hotel ever catch on in Omaha? Maybe because they lacked a live rhythm section. Playing over prerecorded rhythm tracks hardly makes for a dynamic show. Or maybe the real obstacle was their inability to break into the scene's social network. You'd hope that wasn't the case, that the music would be enough, but maybe not.

Or maybe it was just a case of bad timing, and bad luck. So, Omaha, let me introduce you to Drakes Hotel while we bid them fond farewell to fresh waters, and, hopefully, to better luck.

Tonight kicks off the 3-day Mavradio Benson Local Music Festival, with shows at two venues -- Vago, It's True, Thrift Store Clerk and Stephen Monroe at Benson Grind ($2, 7 p.m.), and Paper Owls, Pictures of Lily and Midwest Dilemma at Mick's ($5, 9 p.m.). Serious festival goers can purchase an $8 wristband at Jake's, The Pizza Shoppe or Benson Grind that will get them into all three days-worth of shows -- a bargain.

I wrote about this festival in my column a couple weeks ago. Mavradio is UNO's campus-only radio station. Proceeds will go to buying new equipment that will allow the station to once again stream its programming at, with the long-term goal of purchasing a new sound board and radio tower to broadcast on the entire UNO campus.

Wouldn't it be great if you could hear the station off campus in our cars? Considering the politics and costs involved with radio broadcasting, that likely will never happen, especially with KVNO being UNO's official broadcast radio station. But you can always dream.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Built to Spill: rock vs. jam; Gravy Train!!!, The Shanks tonight… – July 11, 2007 –

I think it's fair to say that Doug Martsch of Built to Spill was slightly agitated and slightly amused at my line of questioning for our interview (online here). Fact is, BTS hasn't released an album in over a year other than the limited edition vinyl and reggae songs mentioned in the story. The real burning question on everyone's mind is whether or not BTS will rock next Wednesday or jam all night. I don't know if I got a definitive answer other than the denial that they excessively jam in the first place. Well, I was there last time, and I can tell you it was one long solo after another (relive the evening here). At one point during the discussion, Martsch said something along the lines of "We'll now be sure to do lots of jams when we get there." Uh-oh. We also discussed the fact that this is the first big touring show on the Slowdown stage, and how it also was the first Slowdown show announced prior to the venue's opening. Martsch said he'd heard something about it and was pleased to be the band picked to break the place in. Too bad I'm going to miss the show as I'll be out of town that evening...

A couple shows worth mentioning tonight: Those crazy kids from Gravy Train!!! are at The Waiting Room tonight with SSION (who remembers when they opened for Yeah Yeah Yeahs in March 2004 dressed as chickens, a lion and a cow?) and The Flamboyant Gods. $8, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, over at O'Leaver's, it's those crazy punk rock kids from The Shanks with Thee Almighty Handclaps and Ric Rhythm and the Revengers. Mayhem shall ensue. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Tomorrow in Lazy-i, Drakes Hotel.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Capgun Coup, Slowdown and Omaha's "Next Wave"; some Conor news… – July 9, 2007 –

Forgive the lateness of this post as I'm suffering from a lingering head cold. Not good. Don't catch it.

Moving on…

This past March I went to a show down at Sokol Underground featuring Capgun Coup, Baby Walrus and Whatever Happened to the Dinosaurs? Easily the best band that evening was Baby Walrus (ex-Le Beat). The worst was Capgun Coup (Whatever Happened… bordered on being a Bright Eyes tribute band). My comments from that show: "Finally there was Capgun Coup, who I really came to see. I was told by someone who has heard them before that it wasn't their finest moment. The set was sloppy and out of sync, and I have to wonder if it wasn't just an off night. That said, the crowd of around 80 didn't seem to mind. In fact, the whole evening had a house party feel to it and you could tell that the crowd consisted mostly of friends having a good time."

Fact was, they were terrible. This was just a few weeks after Conor Oberst had name-checked the band during an interview I conducted with him, focused on Cassadaga. Oberst had said he loved Capgun. After this show, I went back and reread my notes. Surely he couldn't have been talking about this band. But there it was. Oberst name-checked the band again a few weeks later in a Rolling Stone interview. For better or worse, Capgun was on its way.

Needless to say, I wasn't expecting much last Friday night when I headed down to Slowdown to check out their new "small" stage. I got there late -- they don't mess around at Slowdown -- shows start at 8 p.m. sharp. Owner Robb Nansel even told me that evening that nary a note will be heard from a band in Slowdown past midnight. That's a harsh timeframe for those of us used to heading to shows after seeing a 7 o'clock screening. By the time I rolled in around 10:30, The Family Radio had long finished their set and David Vandervelde had just left the stage. Last up that evening -- Capgun Coup.

First, an update on Slowdown's service. Remember that blog item where I said it took 24 minutes to get a beer (here)? For whatever reason, it got a lot of attention, judging by the number of people who have come up to me to also complain about Slowdown's service. Misery loves company, I suppose. Well, bar captain Ryan Palmer seems to have gotten things under control by throwing sheer numbers at the problem. There were at least five people hustling drinks Friday night at what I was told was a capacity show for the "small bar setting" (i.e., when they have the divider in place, blocking off the big stage). I was able to get my Rolling Rock ($3) in less than five minutes. Not bad. I even had a bartender ask me "how ya doing" all night from my roost at the far end of the bar. The real test will be next Wednesday's Built to Spill show (which, alas, I won't be in town for).

The small-bar stage located just inside the door is overhung by a set of amps that provide pretty good sound without overpowering the room. Capgun was a good test of this -- they sounded frenetic (and loud), but I was still able to talk/yell at people standing next to me. In retrospect, I don't think the band had "an off night" down at Sokol in March as much as they didn't know what they were doing on that huge stage. They've gotten a helluva lot better, thanks to playing all the time. Their show Friday night certainly came closer to the sound heard on their CD, and Sam Martin's yelp (at its most ragged) even brought back memories of a young Pat Buchanan. Capgun sounds nothing like Mousetrap though, and though their energy is similar to Desaparecidos, they don't sound like those guys, either. I guess you'd have to call their sound house-party-punk. The style is ragged and out of control, what you'd expect from a band weaned on uninhibited house shows. Now Capgun is trying to translate the party to a bigger stage, and for the most part, is succeeding, at least in their hometown. Ah, but how will it translate when they hit the road and get away from their hordes of followers?

Rumors of their Nebraskafish debut being reissued on Team Love are true. I'm told promos of the Capgun Coup reissue were available from a T-L rep who was in the house Friday night (I didn't grab one). That same rep told me that Flowers Forever also will see their debut released on Oberst's label. Will Capgun and Flowers tour together? Time will tell, but the combination seems like a natural (actually, Capgun would be better suited touring with Tilly and the Wall, a band that shares the same youthful exuberance).

Capgun is part of the "Next Wave" of Omaha bands, a wave that includes The Family Radio, Bear Country, Baby Walrus, Coyote Bones, Sleep Said the Monster, Flowers Forever, Art in Manila, Hyannis, and Drakes Hotel (though Drakes no longer is with us here in Omaha). The bands all seem to be drawn together, either through their style or their social network. Most play the same house parties, and when they perform together on a regular stage, they tend to turn the room into a house party.

* * *

A couple Conor items to pass along from the Interweb… Seems the folks at Shepherds Bush Empire (in bonny ol' UK. Tut-tut! Cheerio!) got a glimpse of the old Conor during their July 3 show. According to a report in Uncut (here): "Technical hitches at the end of the show, which had been elaborate with live projections of swans, candles and jigsaws in the background, saw front man Oberst snap, with the singer picking up and throwing a stage amplifier half-way across the stage. He also flung fellow Bright Eyes band member Mike Mogis' guitar in a pique of anger." I have this vision of Mogis looking down at his hands where he had just held his guitar. Upon reading this, I wondered if the reporter was just misinterpreting the usual end-of-show fracas that takes place nightly during "Road to Joy"?

In other Conor news, Polydor has commissioned five directors to create videos for Cassadaga, according to Digital Arts (here). Each director and video is described in the story, which also includes a link to the videos online. One would think that the videos cost Polydor a shitload of money, and that Saddle Creek will get all the benefit in the U.S.

This week, look for an interview with Doug Martsch of Built to Spill (probably Wednesday morning), and a piece on Drakes Hotel leaving us just after being discovered...

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

David Vandervelde, Prospect Avenue tonight; Little Brazil Saturday… – July 6, 2007 –

Busy night last night. And I missed it, thanks to a head cold. Or maybe it was just allergies. Don't know. All's I know is that I couldn't breathe. Tell me you've been there before. Come on!

Tonight should be just as busy. The feature show is at Slowdown -- David Vandervelde and the Moon Station House Band. The Chicagoan, who records for Secretly Canadian, sounds like he just stepped off a tour bus with Norman Greenbaum. That is, when he rocks. When he's acoustic, he sounds like your typical indie-folk ballad guy. The music is tweedy and urban at the same time, like a hipster dressed in a western-cut suit. Opening are local heroes Cap Gun Coup (Conor Oberst's favorite local band, in case you didn't know) and The Family Radio (featuring filmmaker/videomaker/full-time genius Nik Fackler). $7, 8 p.m. (I've been told that Slowdown's 8 p.m. shows are routinely starting at 9, though).

Meanwhile, over at The Waiting Room, it's Prospect Avenue, No Action and Landon Hedges' other band, Fine, Fine Automobiles. $7, 9 p.m.

Also in Benson tonight, over at The Barley Street Tavern it's a reunion of Such Sweet Thunder. No idea on the cover, but the show starts at 9 p.m.

Saturday night's feature event is Little Brazil at O'Leaver's with Noah's Ark was a Spaceship, Cloven Path and Gertie Fox. While over at The Waiting Room, it's '90s rockers Secret Skin (remember them?) with Old Boy Network. $7, 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Column 131 -- Standing in the iQueue; Har Mar Superstar tonight… – July 5, 2007 –

My 30-second review of the iPhone: It's neat, it's easy to use (though the keyboard takes some getting used to). My biggest gripe: The device doesn't accept headphones/earbuds that use a standard jack, which means if you want to use those fancy Epitonic or Bose or Ultrasone earbuds/phones, you're going to have to shell out $10 for a plug adapter. No one mentioned this at the Apple store. The other gripe is AT&T's coverage area, which is spotty in Dundee (or at least around my neighborhood). In fact, I get no signal at all inside my house, which I now assume is made of lead.
Column 131: In the iQueue
Is the iPhone worth the wait?

"Imagine what it must have been like in the Soviet Union, waiting in line all day for a scrap of stale bread. After hours and hours, finally getting to the front of the line only to have the door slammed in your face because they were all out, and that was all you had for dinner."

Teresa's story, while poignant and touching, seemed strangely inappropriate. The line we were waiting in wasn't for bread or free cheese, but to purchase a $600 iPhone. Teresa promised to buy me one for my birthday, a month earlier. I'd never owned a cell phone before. Never understood why anyone needed one. The iPhone would be my first, and would also replace my dying Palm Tungsten as well as my white Third Generation iPod. That is, if we could actually get our hands on one.

The hype machine behind the iPhone's June 29 release was nothing short of a proclamation of the Second Coming of Christ. With the ongoing genocide in Darfur, Congress and the White House locked in a stalemate and the never-ending violence growing in Iraq, the national news media had chosen to focus its entire resources on covering the latest overpriced high-tech fashion accessory, coveted by greedy yuppies who mistake shopping for creativity. And we were among them.

Rather than go to the Apple Store way out at Village Pointe, we chose to get in line at the AT&T store located next to the Bag N Save on Dodge St. I'd driven by over lunch earlier that day and noticed only four or five lunatics sitting in lawn chairs outside the door.

The store was closed when we got there at 5. Along with every other AT&T and Apple store in the Midwest, it would reopen at 6 to what I assumed would be a feeding frenzy unrivaled since the Cabbage Patch Kids craze of the '80s -- a mania I had witnessed first-hand while working at Kmart. I remember being in the store's stock room, soberly stacking dolls three-high onto a flatbed cart while outside, drooling mothers waited with claws drawn. The manager told us to push the cart out into the open and get out of the way. The resulting melee resembled a piranha feeding -- women physically fighting and scratching each other, trying desperately to score a doll. Boxes were ripped apart. Children stole dolls out of other people's carts. It was madness. Within two minutes, it was all over. Nothing was left but a couple black Cabbage Patch dolls and a pile of tattered cardboard.

We would see nothing like that this day. In fact, the line was a bit of a downer. I'd hoped for an atmosphere similar to a Star Wars movie premiere, with people dressed as iPods or wearing Steve Jobs-style black turtlenecks and blue jeans. Instead, about 50 drowsy people stood along the sidewalk, looking bored and annoyed.

We sat on the curb outside of the grocery store and played hangman while people drove by in SUVs and stared. An elderly woman walked up and asked about all the hub-bub. "We're all waiting in line to sign up for the Army," I said, pointing at an Army recruiting office a few feet away. She lit up, excited, until I told her it was really for the iPhone.

Ten minutes into our wait and a cheerful AT&T representative bound out of the store, clipboard in hand. Resembling a young Doogie Howser in his powder blue AT&T polo, black khakis and enormous cell phone holster, he explained the line policy while wrapping orange wristbands around our wrists. No one would be admitted without one. "If you have to go to the bathroom, there's a Subway shop just a few doors down," he said, officiously. "Ask someone to hold your spot."

Time crawled. Small talk in line involved cell calling plans and gaming. I wondered what was happening at The Apple Store. I imagined an entirely different, more exciting atmosphere, where black-shirted Apple clerks made their way through the line, telling people it was almost time, that Steve Jobs was just spotted flying over North Platte with a bag filled with iPhones, the crowd clapping their hands in glee. Back at our store, angry-looking people forced their way through the line to get inside the Cash Advance place, glowering at the idiots.

One woman drove by in a dirty white sedan, leaned out her window with her little black-and-white dog by her side, and said loudly, "Oh, it's that fucking phone."

Finally, at 6, the store manager popped out the door and yelled the rules of the game. One in, one out. There would be no turmoil, the armed sheriff would see to that. "Are you excited?" he shouted. "We're excited, too!"

A camera crew from one of the local TV stations was on-hand to film the first lucky shopper to emerge victorious with an iPhone. Strangely, no one in line clapped.

It took an hour, but we finally made it just outside the door. Inside, we could see excited customers watching hands-on demos of the iPhone. They looked happy. In just a moment, we would be happy, too.

But before that would happen, out came the store manager along with Doogie and the sheriff. "Sorry, folks, we just ran out." The crowd exhaled with loud groans and a hidden, yelped "fuck you." Turns out the AT&T store only had 40 of the 8-gig iPhones on hand before they opened their doors. We'd wasted our time.

Suddenly, amidst my angst, Teresa's story made sense. No, we didn't have an iPhone, but at least we would not go hungry that evening. At least we had food.

Epilogue: The next morning I drove out to The Apple Store, walked right in (no lines) and bought an iPhone. I'm still waiting for my first phone call.

There are a handful of good shows going on tonight, the biggest being Har Mar Superstar down at Slowdown. It's being promoted as a "GOO" event, which would imply that Sean Tillmann will be spinning discs all night from stage. Not likely. I have to assume that we'll also get plenty of Har Mar sexiness in the form of a performance. Tillmann has adopted Omaha as a second home, and the Saddle Creek crew as a second family. I suspect this will be a huge show. $5, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, over at The Waiting Room, it's Fort Worth band Black Tie Dynasty, a group of guys who dress in black dress shirts and play music drenched in their influences, which include The Cure, Psychedelic Furs, The Smiths, etc. Opening is Civic Minded and Sleep Said the Monster. $7, 9 p.m.

Finally, at O'Leaver's it's Thunder Power!!! featuring new members Alex Boardman and Kacynna Tompsett. The gig is a warm-up for the band's mini Midwest tour that will take them to Lawrence, Chicago, St. Peters, Minneapolis and Des Moines, winding up at The Saddle Creek Bar July 13. Opening are Jon Crocker and It's True. $5, 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Slowdown's small stage debut… – July 3, 2007 –

Thanksgiving Eve. Christmas Eve. July 3rd. And so on. These are all perfect nights for shows, since almost everyone can sleep in the following morning. And yet, historically there are very few shows on the eve of holidays in Omaha. I guess that's to the venues' advantage, since they're all going to be packed tonight with or without bands performing on their stages.

That said, Slowdown is taking advantage of this holiday eve to christen their new "small stage," located along the north side of the bar. The space is designed to host less-popular bands that would have a hard time filling the venue's "big room." Doing the honors is Flowers Forever (Derek Presnall of Tilly and the Wall) and Fourth of July (Adrianne Verhoeven of Art in Manila). The 8 p.m. show will run you $5, with all of it going to charity. With a capacity of around 100, I bet this one will be packed.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Live Review: KC, Dan Deacon; Once; Page France tonight… – July 2, 2007 –

The iPhone odyssey will be recapped in Wednesday's column. I will say this: I got one… eventually. More later.

After my late-afternoon iPhone fiasco, we headed to Memorial Park for KC and the Sunshine band. It was the usual crowd of fun-loving suburban white folks, mostly families, lots of kids. Almost no black people whatsoever. The crowd seemed larger than last year's 4th of July celebration-in-the-park (certainly larger than the Bright Eyes concert). KC and his entourage came on at around 9:15, and though I thought the whole thing was disappointing, I don't know what I was expecting -- some sort of hip disco show that highlighted the grooves of the band's best songs? Dumb on my part. Instead it was your typical Vegas/Branson-style medley/revue performance. Bombastic. Lots of bad dance routines. A handful of covers from the disco era that should have been left out. KC could easily have played 45 minutes of nothing but his own material. Instead, we got disco's greatest hits and even a couple obscure KC numbers along with ones we all know and love. The band was good, but the sound was particularly bad for an outdoor show -- shrill, with too much high end. No bass at all. The Sunshine Band, specifically the brass, was first rate, and KC's voice was good enough to pull it off despite having to run around stage like an elderly aerobics instructor. Most people around us weren't watching, anyway. They were too busy making sure their kids weren't lighting things on fire or spilling Kool-Aid on their blankets. A small handful of women in their 40s did some good-time rump shaking, hiding their Busch Lights beneath foam coozies. KC finished at around 10, and the fireworks followed. Funny how these fireworks shows always use the same music. Get ready for Lee Greenwood, Neil Diamond and the requisite Louis Armstrong "It's a Wonderful World." Teresa wondered what it would be like to see a fireworks display backed by indie rock songs -- Spoon, Death Cab for Cutie, Bright Eyes. The crowd would hate it. Actually, I'd probably hate it, too. It seemed like the shortest fireworks display I've seen at Memorial Park since the '90s. People around us actually booed. I guess they didn't get their money's worth.

Saturday night was Dan Deacon at The Waiting Room. A friendly Lazy-i reader saw the show listed on my blog and pointed it out as something I shouldn't miss. I'm glad she made the effort. She said Deacon is part of a Baltimore art / theater / music collective called Wham City. I knew he was a one-man band sort of thing, but other than that, didn't know what to expect. His shtick is similar to The Show Is the Rainbow's -- Deacon sets up on the floor instead of the stage, surrounded by samplers and lighting gear and a big green skull on a stick that lights up during the high points. Before he started, a couple guys taped white bedding sheets from the beam that divides the stage room from the rest of the bar, effectively creating a barrier, forcing people to come inside the stage area and surround Deacon and his gear. Smart move. It made the room more intimate and enclosed. Deacon's music is almost entirely prerecorded tracks played on an iPod Shuffle, augmented by keyboards and his vocal effects. Hyperactive, frenetic, big-bass dance songs sung by squirrels playing Casio keyboards, melodies reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange and The Faint and TSITR and video game soundtracks.

The biggest difference between Deacon and TSITR is how Deacon forces crowd participation. Sure, Darren Keen gets out in the audience and gets them involved, but Deacon makes almost every song a sing-a-long, includes a pseudo dance contest, even passes out lyric sheets and stinky plastic robes for a few unfortunate fans to wear during his final song (a rapacious version of "Wham City"). With the crowd of 50 or 60 packed so tightly around the front of the stage, with the red, green and white floor lights, Deacon's show felt more like a weird religious event rather than a rock concert -- a psionic cult happening, a throbbing dance ritual where you halfway expect grooving onlookers to begin floating in the air, trying their hardest to "renew" Logan's Run-style. Instead, Darren Keen picked up one hearty soul and lifted him over his head and passed him around the crowd before he was set down in front of high priest Deacon. A religious experience indeed.

One last music note from the weekend: Went to see the film Once at The Dundee Theater Saturday night. I thought it -- and its music -- were terrific. Glen Hansard, the leading man, sounds like an Irish version of Cat Stevens, with music that at times is nearly as good. Hansard also is in the Irish band The Frames, who have released a handful of albums, including a couple on Anti Records. The Frames are opening for Bob Dylan in New Zealand and Australia in August. Once is a simple film filled with so much music and performances that it borders on being a musical (maybe technically it is). It isn't a love story as much as a fable about a singer-songwriter making the record of his life. Check it out before it leaves.

Tonight at The Waiting Room it's Suicide Squeeze artist Page France with Bear Country and Scissors for Lefty. France plays twee acoustic indie-folk songs that are always pretty, sung in frontman Michael Nau's charming nasal croon. All Music said the press compares them to Bright Eyes or Jeff Tweedy. I don't hear that at all, but you be the judge. Scissors for Lefty are the brothers Garza (three of them) and the brothers Krimmel (just two), singing upbeat indie rock songs in a style similar to Eagle*Seagull -- vocalist Bryan Garza even sports an affected rasp similar to Eli Mardock's (at least on the tracks I heard online). The show starts at 9 p.m. and costs $8.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

In search of iPhone, KC and the Sunshine band and the rest of the weekend... – June 29, 2007 –

Yes, you read that headline correctly. I'm one of those idiots who will be trying to purchase an iPhone today. Actually, my girlfriend will be buying it for me as a belated birthday present (I'm still waiting for my presents from all of you to arrive). I highly doubt I'll be able to snag one this evening, but we're going to give it a try. The effort is newsworthy in the fact that I'm the last person in America who doesn't own a cell phone.

Our failed effort will hopefully be concluded by 7 or 8, in plenty of time to weave through the angry traffic that will be clogging my neighborhood -- van-loads of people making a pilgrimage to Memorial Park for the free KC and the Sunshine Band concert. I love KC. Always have. I can't say the same for The Little River Band, though, who will be opening the show.

Once all that nonsense is over, I'll likely be heading to PS Collective for Coyote Bones, Baby Walrus and NYC's Chairlift. You already know about CB. Baby Walrus is another up-and-comer that's on the top of my list of new local bands. The show starts at 9, which means I'll probably miss them as I'll still be stuck in Dundee traffic hell. That shouldn't stop you, however.

Elsewhere this evening:

-- The Nadas, Matt Whipkey and Anonymous American and The Only Children are playing a marquee show at The Waiting Room. The Nadas have a huge following (though I admit to never having heard them before). Should be crowded. $12, 9 p.m.

-- Hot local underground MC Articulate will do everything he can to burn down O'Leaver's tonight. Holding the matches and gasoline will be Bobby Dangerfield, Carnage, Capaciti, & Concentrate. $5, 9:30 p.m.

-- Finally, the patron saint of Omaha hip-hop, Surreal, will be hanging up the mic for the last time tonight at Shea Riley's as part of his CD release show. $6, 9 p.m. Brett Wertz writes about Surreal's last show in this week's issue of The Reader (story here).

Saturday night it's The Stay Awake (Steve Micek's band) at The Saddle Creek Bar with This Alibi and veteran Omaha noise-rock band Fromanhole. $5, 9 p.m. Baltimore electronic music artist Dan Deacon takes the stage at TWR with Video Hippos. Weird fun for only $8.

If I don't see you at one of the shows, I'll give you call...

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Column 130 -- Wicked Feedback; Melt Banana/TSITR, Great Lake Swimmers tonight (corrected)... – June 28, 2007 –

I probably received more mail for last week's column than anything I've written since last year's "Fun City" piece. The comments this time were mixed -- half disagreed and called me a prickly doomsayer, half said I was on target. Verbal feedback was just as mixed. I should have added to the column the fact that all the club owners that I've talked to say attendance is down at shows, especially smaller shows, and that everyone seems a little worried.

Column 130: Wicked Feedback
Lazy-i readers sound off.

It's been a while since I got feedback like the letters received in response to last week's column, "Omaha's Farewell Tour," where yours truly tried to make the point that the problem with the Omaha music scene isn't getting good bands to perform here, the problem is getting people to go see them.

A number of you wrote to say that I didn't help my argument by pointing to the June 17 Tortoise show at The Waiting Room, which failed to sell out.

Among them was Katie Wudel, who wrote The Reader to say that the show was, after all, on a Sunday night "and many of us were a tad hungover and had to go to work or school the next morning" and that Tortoise "surely to be respected for its verve and persistence" creates "sorta boring noise rock more suited for napping or studying than a night out…" and that despite that, "twenty-five whole people below the Waiting Room's 225-person capacity stayed home that night. Well, looks like things are going down the crapper. Good thing you were there that night, or none of us would've noticed that dead horse you've been beating since you started this column."

Ouch, Katie. That's gonna leave a mark. A somewhat less biting response came from Ed Perini, who said, "Just because shows aren't selling out doesn't mean that our scene is dying - it just means that some people need to get beyond their comfort zones and be a bit more adventurous. And a sell-out in one of the coastal cities isn't necessarily going to translate to a sellout in Omaha, no matter how high the band's score was in Pitchfork, because people here don't blindly follow trends (not musical ones, in any case)."

Ed went on to say Omaha will never be like Chicago or New York or L.A. "But I like it that way - and I think that bands and promoters can sense that we have something special going on in our town, even it if isn't the 'new Seattle.'" Ed added that my "doomsday predictions" about the Omaha scene are starting to get tiresome and predictable. And, "You can't shame people into going to see bands that they don't want to see."

He's right. So's Katie. In fact, one of the show's promoters, Marc Leibowitz, said that even though Tortoise didn't sell out, the band had a great time, and will likely return to Omaha, which pretty much shot a hole in the basic premise behind last week's column.

Not everyone, however, thinks I'm full of ca-ca. Annie Dilocker wrote to say that she regretted missing the Tortoise show "but at the same time, the show was not really on my radar. It seems to me that unless people pay a lot of attention to music, or unless they have a friend who tells them which shows to go to, they miss a lot of good shows."

Others pointed out that, despite my comments, there is an indie music resource available on your FM dial. Marc's brother, David Leibowitz, said that he's been playing indie music for more than two years as host of New Day Rising, a two-hour radio show that runs Sunday nights at 11 p.m. on 89.7 The River.

"I am so tired of hearing commentary from Omaha's scenester elite (I am not referring to you, but to people I encounter at shows all the time) talking about how there is no place to hear any good music anyplace other than the Internet," Dave wrote. "I'll be honest, most of the audience for my show is younger kids who are not part of the hipster class. They are listening to and being exposed to music they have never heard, and music that is not given an outlet anywhere else. I have met plenty of kids who came to a show specifically because they heard the band on NDR. I think this should count for something."

It does Dave, and I beseech anyone who isn't at a rock show on a Sunday night to tune into The River for those two hours -- the only time you'll likely hear songs by Sonic Youth, LCD Soundsystem, Neva Dinova or Spoon on your FM tuner.

That is, of course, unless you're on the UNO campus. Instead of just complaining about the current state of radio, Matt Beat, music director of Mavradio, UNO's campus-only radio station, is trying to do something about it. Matt wrote to remind me about Mav Aid -- an effort to raise funds and awareness for Mav Radio. The event takes place July 12-14 at venues throughout Benson, including Benson Grind, Mick's, The Foundry, PS Collective, Barley Street Tavern and The Waiting Room. Money raised will go toward buying new equipment that will allow the station to once again stream its programming at, with the long-term goal of purchasing a new sound board and radio tower to broadcast on the entire campus. A worthy cause indeed.

So keep those cards and letters coming -- even the ones that call me a "curmudgeon" and a "bitter middle-aged white man" -- and I'll try to mosey this ol' dead horse back to greener pastures. Giddyup!

CORRECTION: onight at Sokol Underground, The Show Is the Rainbow opens for Japanese noise rock act Melt Banana. This should be one of the last Darren Keen shows around here for awhile, as he says he's moving to sunny Orlando July 1 (details here). Also on the bill is LWA. $10, 9 p.m. Meanwhile, over at The Waiting Room, laid-back Canadian indie folk-rock band Great Lake Swimmers (Nettwerk) plays with Madison band Southerly (on Greyday) and Omaha's own Kyle Harvey. $8, 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Nine Inch Plastic Faint, Lightspeed Eyes, Eagle*Seagull flies again; Jake Bellows/Midwest Dilemma tonight... – June 27, 2007 –

Here are some news blips for ya:

-- Aversion is reporting (here) that The Faint are making a remix of a track off Nine Inch Nails' Year Zero album. No idea what Trent will do with it. The story concludes with news that The Faint will be heading into the studio to record the follow-up to Wet from Birth. No word on who will be releasing it, however. Speaking of The Faint, I discovered this dance interpretation of "Posed to Death" on YouTube yesterday, featuring UNO professor Dr. David Corbin. It concludes with a serious message about plastic shopping bags that will make you think the next time the cashier asks that timeless question: "Paper or plastic?"

-- Remember that column about my night spent at Crossroads Mall with Dev Hynes of Lightspeed Champion (read it here)? Well, according to DiS (here), Domino is about to release his new record. Lightspeed also will open for Bright Eyes at a couple London dates early next month, and then Tilly and the Wall in early September.

-- Eagle*Seagull's Eli Murdock e-mailed to let me know his band just finished recording their next record in Seattle with producer Ryan Hadlock (The Gossip, Blonde Redhead). Don't look for it until early 2008, though. "We're right in the middle of negotiations with a number of labels and after that's finalized it'll be at least another four to five months until release," he said. Anyone who's been to an Eagle*Seagull show in the past year probably has heard a few of the new songs, and is as eager as I am to have it in their hands.

Tonight, Justin Lamoureux of Midwest Dilemma celebrates his birthday at The Waiting Room with Jake Bellows (of Neva Dinova), Salt Lake City's Drew Danburry, It's True and Chandler Arizona's Iji. $5, 9 p.m.

Tomorrow morning, your letters in column form.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Live Review: Sarah Benck/Robbers, Life After Laserdisque, Menomena; Fromanhole tonight… – June 25, 2007 –

Here's the recap of this past weekend's shows…

Friday night, for the first time in years, I did some actual bar-hopping. That's right, I went to two different bars to see two different shows. It was like being in college again (except back then, we bar-hopped for reasons that had nothing to do with the bands…). I popped into The Waiting Room to see how well Sarah Benck's show was drawing, knowing that it would probably "sell out" -- that is, if they had actually sold tickets. Who knows why they decided to do the show for free when they could have pulled in the same crowd charging $5 to $8. Maybe because Benck and her band do so many free outdoor festivals and "events" that she wanted to keep with the theme. Or maybe she just wanted to pack people in to get them to buy the new CD. So -- no surprise -- the place was "at capacity." To give you some perspective, it looked like more people were there than at TWR's Cursive and Faint shows.

The size of the crowd brings up a point I've been trying to make about TWR -- even when they're at capacity, you can still freely move around that club -- I've never felt uncomfortable at a TWR show. Prior to the club's opening, I thought parking could be a problem -- it is Benson, after all, and TWR doesn't have a designated parking lot. But I've never had a problem finding a spot for my Mini within a few blocks of the place. Jim and Marc have something special with this club -- good capacity, great sound, great booking, plenty of parking and good service. What more do you want?

Anyway… so I slipped in around 10 just as Benck and her band began to tear into their set. Benck was wearing the same get-up she wore in The Reader photo -- leather skirt, high-heel boots, etc. You notice in a live setting just how talented her band is -- all of them are poised, seasoned musicians with the confidence to lean into a solo whenever they want, just like any good road-hardened touring band. The crowd whooped it up between songs, and I gotta believe Benck sold plenty of merch that evening.

I listened to three or four songs, then high-tailed it to O'Leaver's for Life After Laserdisque's CD release show. Landing on the Moon had just began their set, where they revealed a handful of new songs that are dramatically different than their old material. It's not a completely different sound, but rather a better one, thanks to arrangements that take advantage of their melodies and guitars. A few of the new ones ended with lengthy repeated (heavy) grooves that never went too long or became boring. The band says they're getting ready to enter the studio to lay down the new stuff.

Next up was Life After Laserdisque. It's been about a year since I've seen these guys, before Shawn Cox took over the vocals. Since then, LAL has evolved into some sort of super-pop-rock band, complete with call-and-response choruses (Where did she go? I don't know…) and tight guitar solos. Cox may be one of the most underappreciated guitarists in the scene (though he seems to play in everyone else's band). Before the set, he told the sound guy (Little Brazil guitarist Greg Epps) to put plenty of delay in the vocals. The effect transformed Cox into an indie Elvis, minus the swagger. It was a hot set, played to a happy, drunken crowd. No matter how nice all these new venues are -- TWR, Slowdown -- they can't beat the old-home, where-everybody-knows-your-name reality that is O'Leaver's. It's like drinking at a private club where everyone becomes a member (or a regular) by merely walking through the door.

I don't know what was in the air Saturday, but something definitely was, and I spent a good part of the afternoon convulsed in rapid-fire sneezing. By the time the evening rolled around, my head had closed shut, except for my nose, which drip-drip-dripped all night long. Luckily, TWR has plenty of dark spots where no one could see me wiping snot from my upper lip with the back of my hand (In fact, I probably could have done the ol' stick-a-Kleenix-up-the-nose trick, but that would have been too unsettling for passersby). I got to the club just in time to see the last half of All Smiles, a rootsy indie band with a frontman whose voice resembled Neil Young's (but without the twang). That said, there was a rural feel to their guitar-powered rock and I wish I had seen more.

Though not nearly as crowded as the prior evening, there was a large draw to see Menomena (pronounced Men-Naw-Men-Naw -- like phenomena -- not as I stupidly pronounced it, Men-Oh-Meen-uh). The trio featured a drummer/vocalist, keyboard/guitarist/vocalist, and frontman/vocalist/guitarist/saxophone player. Huge sound for a trio. Everything seemed keyed off the drums, which were big and brawny, the kit set up at the front of the stage so all three members could watch each other throughout the set. Trying to think of what they sounded like, the guy next to me said, "Man, it's like early Peter Gabriel." Bingo. Especially when the drummer sang the leads, the keyboards were in loop and the frontman added harmonies or played an odd line on baritone sax, it was 1980 Melt-era Gabriel all the way. Other times, when the keyboardist held the vocal spot, Menomena resembled early Death Cab or a more conventional indie band. They were at their best when being unconventional, however, which was most of the evening

Tonight at O'Leaver's it's Fromanhole with Knoxville, Tennessee bands Mouth Movements and Gamenight. $5, 9:30 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Sarah Benck/Robbers, Life After Laserdisque tonight; Western Electric Saturday… – June 22, 2007 –

It's a weekend of CD release shows, starting with Sarah Benck and the Robbers celebrating the release of Neighbor's Garden with a free gig at The Waiting Room. Scott Severin and his band kicks it off at 9. Get there early because it'll be packed. Meanwhile over at O'Leaver's it's Lazy-i intern Brendan Greene-Walsh's band, Life After Laserdisque, celebrating the release of Postwar Housing with Landing on the Moon and Acadia and the Asteroid. $5, 9:30 p.m. If you miss LAL, they're playing again down at Sokol Underground tomorrow night with Blucymon and The Watch ($7, 9 p.m.). Why not catch both?

Tomorrow night, Western Electric featuring Scott Roth of Such Sweet Thunder celebrates the release of their new CD, State Line, at The Saddle Creek Bar with Pendergast and Brother Trucker. $5, 9 p.m. Also Saturday night, Cloven Path plays with Lincolnites Ideal Cleaners and Strawberry Burns at O'Leaver's, $5, 9:30 p.m.; while Barsuk Records band Menomena plays The Waiting Room with All Smiles and Stephanie Drootin (The Good Life). $10, 9 p.m.

Sunday, Reagan and the Rayguns (featuring Reagan Roeder and Kyle Harvey) burn up The Waiting Room stage with Lindsay Donovan, Amy Cooper and Ether Bunny. $8, 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Column 129 -- Omaha's Farewell Tour; an unusually busy Thursday night … – June 21, 2007 –

The Associated Press article referenced below for which I was interviewed is here. The quote attributed to me is 180 degrees different than the response stated in my column below (I can hear every person who ever thought they were misquoted by me chuckling to themselves, thinking "Now you know what it's like, TMac."). I don't think Slowdown will draw new and different indie bands to Omaha. It could, however, impact where you see those bands when they come here, that is, if you get off your ass and actually go to the show.

Column 129: Omaha's Farewell Tour
If a Tortoise falls in a forest…

Legendary indie rock band Tortoise played last Sunday night at The Waiting Room in another in a series of Omaha farewell concerts.

"Farewell" in that the band performing will never come back. Tortoise all but defined the concept of the indie rock instrumental band, influencing literally hundreds of other bands through their innovative merging of rock, jazz and deconstructed ambient music. They sell out shows in Chicago, Seattle, New York City, but failed to sell out a room with the lowly capacity of 225.

For Tortoise, the great experiment was a failure. Somehow, they had managed to avoid Omaha for years. Actually, our little village probably never crossed their minds. But this year, the band or its booking agent ran its finger across the red ribbon of I-80 on the ol' Rand McNally and thought, "Hmmm, Nebraska. Isn't that supposed to be an indie-music hotbed? We should play there."

It was a great show. You should have been there. Really.

Last weekend I got a call from The Associated Press out of New York City. The reporter, a former Omahan, had been in town visiting her family and fell into the rabbit-hole of hype surrounding the opening of Slowdown. She traveled back to Gotham City thinking it would make an interesting story, and found me via the Interweb.

The phoner went something like this: So tell me about the enormous impact Slowdown will have on Omaha's local music scene.

I paused for a moment, then replied: "Why, it won't impact it at all."

Yes, it's an amazing club with a state-of-the-art sound system. Yes, its owners and operators are the celebrities behind Saddle Creek Records. But ultimately, it's just a 500-capacity room that books indie-rock shows in a town filled with venues that book indie-rock shows. What impact could it have?

The reporter reasonably assumed that the venue's (or the owners') reputation would draw bands to Omaha that never considered playing here before. Bands like Built to Spill and Tokyo Police Club, who actually have played here before, albeit in smaller rooms. Bands like Silversun Pickups or The Rentals, who, if Slowdown wasn't here, would have played at Sokol anyway. Bands like Wilco and The Flaming Lips, who are way too big for Slowdown.

Bands like, well, Tortoise.

See, the problem isn't getting good shows to Omaha. The problem is getting Omaha to good shows. And when you're talking about indie rock shows -- the bread-and-butter for most clubs I cover -- that problem becomes multi-faceted.

The fact that Tortoise drew only 200 people might have been a big disappointment for the guys who booked the show, but it couldn't have been a surprise. If you're a regular reader of this column, you're probably familiar with Tortoise, and were either at the show or at least thought about going. Unfortunately, your numbers aren't growing -- they're dwindling, thanks to marriage and kids and day jobs that require you to be up-and-at-'um at 5 a.m. the next morning. You're getting old.

So what of the next generation? Well, why should they know who Tortoise is? Sure, they might have seen a concert poster in the window of Homer's or the show listed in the newspaper. But amidst the white noise of all the other bands crowding the scene, why should they go out of their way to find out what a band sounds like that they've never even heard of?

MySpace -- the technological panacea that's supposed to magically bring the youth of today up to speed on quality bands -- isn't the answer. What started with good intentions has turned into yet another overcrowded, useless Internet tool. There are now millions of bands grazing in MySpace. How is anyone supposed to find the prize Gurney among the overcrowded, amateur-laden, tuneless herd?

Back in the old days (he said, leaning on his cane), we found out about new bands by going to record stores and -- believe it or not -- actually talking to people about music. But record stores -- those great hubs of music knowledge -- are slowly, surely becoming a thing of the past. Thanks, again, to the 'net.

In the end, there's only one technology that can wake up the next generation to quality music, an ancient technology called radio. Unfortunately, Omaha doesn't have a college radio station that plays indie music. And without one, there's no way a kid at Westside or Morton or Millard North is going to hear a band like Tortoise.

You can build all the shiny music palaces you desire, adorn them with the finest sound equipment and lure the best bands in the country to play their gilded stages, but if no one shows up to see them, they're all doomed to becoming sports bars.

The farewell tour continues. Thank you, Omaha, and good night.

There are quite a few shows happening around town tonight. Five bands I've never heard of before are playing at Sokol Underground, headlined by Hymns, a New York band by way of North Carolina who record on Blackland Records, and who are disciples of Pavement and Neil Young. Among the openers is Thrift Store Clerks, a new local band that plays feedback-drenched slacker indie rock, judging by the one mp3 file that they sent me. $8, 8 p.m.

The 49'r is hosting a rare Thursday night snow with Dallas band Brickfight! and Omaha's own Fonzarellis. $3, 10 p.m.

Continuing a week filled with jazzy rock, The Waiting Room is hosting The Jazzwholes with Shiver Shiver & Thousand Houses. $5, 9 p.m.

And the Saddle Creek Bar is hosting five bands, including Tie These Hands. $5, 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Cover story: Sarah Benck and The Robbers; UPDATED: Live Review: NOMO… – June 20, 2007 –

Just posted, a profile/interview with Sarah Benck and The Robbers (read it here). The story covers the band's new album (Neighbor's Garden), their business model (or lack of one), why American Idol sucks and where they're headed in the future. The mantra surrounding Benck for the past few years has been, "She's gonna be huge, just you watch." Yet, here we are in 2007 and Benck and her band continue to play the local bar circuit, rarely leaving the city limits. We spent a lot of time talking about that during the interview, and I never got a sense that the band is pulling at the reigns to get out on the road, content to be a big fish in this small pond. Same goes for getting signed -- while they'd like to be on a label, there's either a reticence to do what it would take to make that step or a self-defeating sense that it'll never happen. That's somewhat unique among the bands I've interviewed over the years. Give them credit for being honest and knowing what they want.

About a half-dozen people read this story before it went to press. One was taken aback by the American Idol discussion -- "I don't imagine you'd ask any of the Saddle Creekers that kind of question. Did you ask her that because she's a sweet, unassuming powerful but humble woman?" I asked her because she has what it takes to be a finalist on American Idol -- the vocal chops, the looks, the personality, she's the right age. Fact is, she almost auditioned for that INXS talent search a couple years ago, and then decided not to after reading the contract, so she's not above doing that sort of thing. By the way, there are about four past American Idol participants currently in the Billboard top-100. She's a pop artist playing pop music. Indie artists wouldn't stand a chance on American Idol. Imagine Conor Oberst trying out for the show. He wouldn't make it past the city auditions. Even the more talented Creek singers, like Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor, would never make it to Los Angeles -- vocally too frail, not glamorous enough, and too old (sorry ladies). Decide for yourself if Benck and Co. have the chops to make a big splash nationally by watching them perform at their CD release show this Friday night at The Waiting Room, with opener Scott Severin and his band. You can't beat the price -- it's free.

* * *

Funny thing about last night's NOMO show at The Waiting Room… Don't get me wrong, it was a great show, an inspiring show -- eight people on stage tearing through a set of Americanized Afrobeat that insisted -- insisted! -- that you move your feet. It even got me to shrug my shoulders to the beat -- a miracle. The set-up was two trumpets, a baritone sax, a tenor sax/keyboardist, bass, guitar, drums and congas. The style was big-beat African riddums, tribal drums, highlife brass/woodwind chords, funk and jazz, with plenty of improvised solos strung together by enormous, rootsy, big-sky choruses, that faded and returned like ocean waves crashing against your back, covering your head, swallowing you up, eating you whole.

The band sounded great, almost too great, almost like a Soundstage session. Every instrument was mic'd and the mix was full and balanced -- a huge departure from O'Leaver's NOMO show last year, where the band could barely fit onto the "stage," where the audience was practically on top of them, where only two or three mic's were available. The O'Leaver's show was like a seedy white-trash backyard party, hot and drunk, with the best band in the world playing right in front of you. It was dirty and raw and completely unexpected, and as a result, utterly remarkable.

Last night's show, while just as musically thrilling, was, well, cleaner, nicer, more professional, more rehearsed. The mob of dirty freeway gypsies that performed at O'Leaver's a year ago had been transformed into a first-rate stage ensemble fit for the Holland Center. All night I anticipated a repeat of how they closed their set at O'Leavers -- when the band paraded into the crowd (What the hell are they doing?!) for a final cathartic moment, coaxing every drunk to sing a wordless call-and-response chorus. It happened again last night, too, but when the time came, the band announced its intentions, then strolled (not marched) to the floor. It was still the evening's emotional high-water mark -- NOMO, surrounded by an audience of drunken, suburban dancers in the dark, desperately trying to find their roots, whether it was their roots or not.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

NOMO returns tonight… – June 19, 2007 –

Because I think you might be too lazy to reach forward with your index finger and click on a link that would take you to the review, here's the write-up I did after the last time NOMO was in town, back in June 2006:

You know you've just seen a great band when you forgot to pay attention to them in a journalistic sort of way and just LISTENED to them. Such was the case last night for NOMO at O'Leaver's. Seven people on "stage" including a bari and tenor sax, two trumpets, two percussionists, a bass player and keyboards (I didn't see/hear a guitar). I don't know a thing about "afro-beat" music. I do know that I dug what I heard last night -- intricate horn charts played over intricate rhythms that pulsed with a dirty global beat. Think Fear of Music through Speaking in Tongues-era Talking Heads, then add plenty of funky brass. The guy next to me mentioned Fela Kuti, who I will now have to research further. To say it was celebratory would be an understatement -- O'Leaver's glowed. Though the horn lines were well-charted, there was plenty of room for the saxophones to stray into freeform improv. They ended their set playing a song while parading through the bar, ending up in a chanting circle right in front of where I sat by the door. There was a sense that we were seeing and hearing something special that we never seem to see and hear around these parts, and should more often.

Yeah, they were that good. This is a must-see show, and for the mere cost of a movie ticket. It's worth losing sleep over. You will not be disappointed. Playing with NOMO is The Kevin Pike & John Kotchian Duo. $8, 9 p.m.

And it just so happens that tonight is the musician's open house at Slowdown from 6 to 8 p.m., so all you pros can get well-lubed before heading back uptown for the show.

Tomorrow in Lazy-i, an interview with Sarah Benck and The Robbers.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Live Review: Tortoise… – June 18, 2007 –

Only around 200 people paid to see Tortoise last night, a band that sells out shows just about anywhere else. But this is, after all, Omaha. And yet, the band couldn't have been too dissatisfied eyeballing the crowd from stage. The main room was packed to the gills with star-struck gawkers who never thought they'd ever see the band in Omaha, let alone in the intimate confines of The Waiting Room.

I freely admit to not being a follower of Tortoise, having only heard a few of their tracks online. I can't say I'm a complete convert after last night, either, though I dug what I heard and saw. Unlike other instrumental bands (Tristeza, The Album Leaf, etc.) the Tortoise guys were actually having a good time, judging by the grins on their faces. They were five dudes in constant motion, circling the stage, trading instruments from song to song. The guy handling guitar on one song would be behind a drum kit on the next before moving to a vibraphone and then to guitar. Constant shifts without a drop in quality, like a team of astronauts able to flawlessly perform each other's maneuvers just in case one of them accidentally gets jettisoned.

For the uninitiated, Tortoise's music is like listening to the real cool parts of the Risky Business soundtrack -- you know, the scene where Joel and Lana make it on the train? Like that, but with the added cacophony of multiple percussion and the occasional roaring guitar. There's a clean precision to their angular, jazzy compositions that seemed almost mathematical, though they left plenty of room to stretch beyond the sonic circuitry. The set-up involved two drummers (sometimes), a bass (sometimes two), guitarist (sometimes two) a keyboard/synthmaster, and two vibraphones (one acoustic, one digital) on either side of the stage. Video images were projected on the screen behind them -- subtle digital graphics that bordered on screensavers. The hottest moments were when two drummers stared each other down from opposing drum kits set up at the front of the stage. Nice.

Only one flaw stood out amidst all that precision: About three songs into the set the drummer stopped and said, laughing, "I can't play this." He couldn't hear the bass in his headphones. "We'll try it again." But they never could get it worked out. "OK, moving on." It was more amusing than annoying. The only other criticism is in the "sameness" of their music, which rarely shifted tempo or dynamics -- songs bled into each other -- it was more of an experience than a series of musical moments. You left with a sense of what Tortoise sounds like, not with the memory of an individual song.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Live Review: The Berg Sans Nipple; the weekend is at hand … – June 15, 2007 –

The Faint are a phenomenon. I mean that with all sincerity, and without even seeing them perform last night. I got to Sokol just after 8 to catch The Berg Sans Nipple. I guess you'd call them a percussion duo -- both guys played drums and other percussion instruments while also playing a variety of noise makers, synths, loops, a melodica. Each song (if you can call them that) is built upon a repeated rhythm, usually something throaty and tribal, dense and meaty. I only noticed one of the guys actually singing once during the set - the rest of the time the vocals were sampled or prerecorded, allowing them to concentrate on whatever they were pounding on at the moment. At times, there was a sort of Blue Man Group vibe going on, other times, Eno. I've heard them compared to Air, probably because one of the guys is French, but I didn't notice a resemblance. By the time their set ended, the floor already was 3/4 filled and the heat was just beginning to rise.

It's been a long time since I've been to a show upstairs at Sokol. After going to The Waiting Room and Slowdown the last few weeks, Sokol seems a bit war-torn, but it's still one of the biggest rooms in town and a perfect setting for shows like this, with its huge sound system made even huger last night thanks to the enormous wall of subwoofers stuffed under the stage. For the first time in memory, a large steel barrier was set up in front of the stage, with a small army of blue t-shirt-clad security guys patrolling the alley like pitbulls (standard issue at sold-out Sokol shows, I'm told). In fact, I've never seen that many security guys at a Sokol show before (or maybe I never noticed them). The usual security precautions were in effect outside the venue, with more blue shirts frisking people on the way in -- this time confiscating cigarette lighters, it was kind of like going through security at the airport. And with the recent advent of bottle-throwing incidents, every beer was poured into a plastic cup, taking away opportunities for rowdies to wing empties at the band. Who needs chickenwire fencing?

After BSN finished I decided to take off, and was told twice - once by a security guy, once by a cop - that if I stepped through that turnstile I wasn't coming back "DO YOU UNDERSTAND?" Yeah, yeah, I get it. Instead, I stood in the entryway and chatted with a couple people while a small army of ticketgoers got scanned in - most of whom were 7 or 8 years old when Media came out in '98. The Faint's crowd is a young crowd, and seems to get younger every year.

Before I left I got a taste of those subs when Services - a synth duo whose keyboard racks were donned with florescent shop lights - kicked into their set. The bass was bone-rattling, startling. I could only imagine how loud it was going to be for The Faint. Or how hot it would be inside Sokol. It was a sweatbox standing in the doorway, and their set wasn't going to start for another hour and a half.

The Faint are an enigma. They haven't released a record since 2004 and their crowds just seem to grow larger. I've heard a few of their new songs at The Waiting Room in March. Some critics have pointed out that they seem less keyboard-driven and more straight-up rock. To me, the new stuff doesn't stray much from Wet at Birth (which, by the way, was a pretty good album no matter what anyone says. Not as good as Danse Macabre, but that record ultimately will define their career). Imagine how huge they could be if they released a record that stretched their sound even further, instead of merely repeating themselves.

Well, if you missed it, you'll get another chance tonight at Sokol Aud, where The Faint plays with Eagle*Seagull and Flowers Forever. As of this writing, it's not sold out. Tickets are $15, show starts at 8 sharp. It's a quiet weekend for shows thus far. Saturday at 8 p.m. Ted Stevens, Dan McCarthy and the ANALOG arts ensemble will present music from James Joyce’s Ulysses at the First Central Congregational United Church of Christ, 421 S. 36th Street (just south of Harney Street, just south of Kiewit Plaza and the Blackstone Hotel, just southwest of Mutual of Omaha, just southeast of McFoster's). It's free, in celebration of Bloomsday.

Speaking of free, Little Brazil and Drakes Hotel are doing an in-store at Homer's downtown Saturday at 1 p.m.

Sunday's a big night for shows. Tortoise plays at The Waiting Room Sunday night with Lichens. $15, 9 p.m. Brimstone Howl plays down at Sokol Underground with Barter the Trigger, Keep and Confess, & Eustace. $7, 9 p.m. And Bloodcow tears up O'Leaver's with Filthy Few and Lotto Ball Show, 9:30 p.m., $5.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

The Berg Sans Nipple, The Faint tonight (sold out); GOO; Filter Kings at TWR… – June 14, 2007 –

The Faint start a two-night residency at Sokol Auditorium tonight with a sold-out show that features Team Love recording artist The Berg Sans Nipple. I'm listening to Along the Quai as I type this (you can too, here). I'm actually looking more forward to seeing them than The Faint, who I just saw at The Waiting Room a few months ago. Other than maybe 311, no other band with Omaha origins puts on a funner show, especially if you're 16 and uninhibited. Yeah, I know, 311 blows musically blah-blah-blah, but there's no denying that they get a crowd into it. I know from personal experience, having been caught up in one of their pseudo jump/moshpits at a Ranch Bowl show 100 years ago, a scene that I've seen repeated at every one of their shows since (from a distance, that is). The Faint also get the crowd jumping, from the stage back to the soundboard, a hot, sweaty dance ritual served up at ear-splitting decibels (bring your earplugs, you'll need them). The Berg Sans Nipple doesn't play dance music, or at least this album doesn't sound like something that would get teens doing a sloppy Midwestern version of The Pogo. The duo plays spacey, ambient rock that borders on trip-hop, with some nice rhythms and pretty bell-keyboards, synth noises and loops. I like it. I'm not sure the kids will get it, though. Also on the sold-out bill tonight is Brooklyn synthmasters Services, who probably will get the crowd moving. If you don't have tickets tonight, a second Faint show has been added tomorrow night with Eagle*Seagull and Flowers Forever ($15).

Directly following The Faint is the "soft opening" of GOO at Slowdown. Val Nelson says GOO is a "party for dancing" hosted by Jacob Thiele and Todd Fink of The Faint, as well as Derek Presnall from Tilly and the Wall/Flowers Forever. "The basic concept is a dance party. All night the previously mentioned gentlemen will be spinning records," Val said. Maybe as much as a concert space, Slowdown is well-designed to host this sort of rave-up dance party (though I'm not sure the room is properly equipped with the necessary strobes). Admission is free, and this is an 18+ event (according to Val), which would seem to fly in the face of the all-ages policy at Slowdown. Sorry kids.

Also tonight, The Filter Kings open for Wayne Hancock at The Waiting Room. $12, 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Column 128 is a rerun; Rolling Rock arrives; Canada, Spring Gun tonight… – June 13, 2007 –

This week's column is an abbreviation and slight update to Monday's review of Slowdown's opening weekend. A post-script to that column -- I received word last night via electronic carrier pigeon that Slowdown now stocks Rolling Rock -- just more proof that whining to "the man" can make a difference.

Tonight at The Waiting Room, Ann Arbor band Canada along with local boys Spring Gun. I'm listening to Canada now via their Virb site. Virb must be a competitor to MySpace -- it was only a matter of time. Better sign-up your band now on Virb before someone steals your URL. I will say this -- it's better looking than MySpace and the music player doesn't automatically begin playing when you get to a band's page. Spring Gun also has a Virb page (here). Nifty. Anyway, Canada features guitars, drums, cellos, glockenspiels, melodicas, Rhodes piano, organ and accordians, and sort of reminds me of Okkervil River. The show starts at 9, $7.

Column 128: Too Good for You
Is Slowdown too nice?

A recap of my personal Slowdown experience last Saturday night: I caught an early movie at The Dundee and got down there at around 10:30. The parking lot, which had been filled Thursday night, had a space open just a few feet from the building. Could this be a trend?

I walked around the corner past the outdoor smoking area surrounded by security guys in black Slowdown "staff" T-shirts, and ran smack-dab into a waiting line maybe 20-people deep. Two young guys got in line behind me and asked about the hold-up. "Sounds like they're at capacity," I said. "This could be a while. That means there are 500 people in there. Imagine how long it will take to get a beer?"

Just the mention of the capacity situation caused four people around us to leave. The guy behind me grinned. "I heard the bathrooms don't work. I bet it smells something fierce in there." It was a good idea, but no one budged. By the time we got to the front of the line, the two guys behind me gave up.

Only 15 minutes and I was in. The place was just as I imagined -- a wall of darkly lit humanity bustling around on Slowdown's shiny concrete floors, mulling beneath the stage, standing in a queue at the photo booth. While taking it all in at the railing, club owner Robb Nansel said hello. I pointed at the crowded bar. "I'm not even going to try to get a beer."

He gave me a look. "It's not that bad. Let's time it." So we stood there, but it only took a minute before Nansel was pulled away to take care of some pressing business.

Surrounding me was the usual indie crowd I've seen at other shows, along with band members and a few beefy young guys with caps turned backwards, probably hoping to scope out some action, but quickly discovering that an indie rock show is no place to pick up some trim. Mixed in with everyone else were older people, relatives of those involved with the club, out to show their support.

While we waited, I pointed out celebrities working behind the bar. There's Roger Lewis (The Good Life) filling a tub with Old Style tall boys. There's Steph Drootin (Bright Eyes) doing something with a bar rag. That dark-haired woman is Orenda Fink (Art in Manila). It was like being at The Hacienda in Manchester and having Joy Division or Happy Mondays serving the drinks.

It took 24 minutes, but I finally got my beer. Unfortunately, it wasn't a Rolling Rock -- they don't serve it. Instead, it was an Old Style tallboy -- a mistake, because I had forgotten how much I hate Old Style -- a beer brewed to taste like it's been sitting behind the back seat of an El Camino for three hot weeks in July.

Twenty-four minutes was a long time to wait for a lousy beer, but what did you expect? It was the opening weekend, fercrissakes. Sucky service is a natural byproduct of successful marketing.

I know that's not much of a review, but what more is there to say? The sound system was state-of-the-art. Even and balanced wherever you stood, but not too loud as you couldn't at least talk/yell at the person next to you -- I felt no need to wear earplugs. The sightlines were faultless. The view from the balcony was stellar and there was enough room to stand around and chat up there without bothering people. Slowdown was undeniably the best music venue in town. Or was it?

The next morning while getting gas at AB's I ran into someone who was at Slowdown the night before, a guy who's a regular at punk shows. What'd you think? "I hated it," he said with a scowl. "It's alienating. I felt out of place." When he added, "It's no O'Leaver's," he wasn't kidding.

In some ways, Slowdown has the same albatross hanging around its neck that hung around The Music Box. When that club opened, the general consensus was "great stage, great sound, nice and clean." Its competition -- places like O'Leaver's, The Niner and Sokol -- were dark, smoky old rooms with the atmosphere (or more accurately, odor) that comes from selling booze for decades. The Music Box, which started out smoke-free, was a nice alternative. Maybe too nice. Maybe a bit antiseptic, a bit sterile, a bit like a Holiday Inn lounge. The fact that it booked mostly middle-of-the-road pop rock bands and rarely booked indie or punk shows added to a vanilla reputation that it never shook.

Within a year, The Box changed its smoking policy. Eventually, it died for reasons involving insurance and other money issues.

Midtown show-goers will again have a similar choice -- between heading downtown to the sparkling clean Slowdown or over to the smoky, lived-in Waiting Room in the heart of Benson. In its defense, Slowdown is no Music Box. Yes, it's clean and loungy and boasts a no-smoking policy, but unlike the Box, it knows what it wants on its stage -- College Music Journal (CMJ)-style indie rock, and nothing more (or less). That targeted vision will see it through it's month-later doldrums -- because you can't judge the success of this or any club based on its first weekend.

Some people will never feel comfortable surrounded by nice things. It's not that they don't think they deserve them; it's that they don't want them, and what comes with them. Maybe in 10 years, after the gloss has worn off the tiles, the floors have become scuffed and the "new club" smell has been replaced with the funk of spilled beer, sweat and toilet bowl deodorant, they'll feel welcome. Slowdown will survive just fine without them.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Final thoughts on Slowdown; Lazy-i wins an award; Fathr^, Ladyfinger tonight… – June 12, 2007 –

A few final observations on Slowdown before we move on to other things. The spotlight has been on the club for a couple weeks now. The hype machine is beginning to wind down, as it does with every shiny new toy (even though we haven't really had a chance to play with it very much). I went there last night, just to catch the ambiance on an off night, a night without live music, without crowds. There was only a handful of people there -- maybe 10? -- at 8 o'clock. A young couple played Chinese checkers in the booth next to ours, while on the other side, the owners and bookers talked shop out of earshot (I got my drink instantly, btw, though it wasn't a Rolling Rock).

In the light of early evening, with its divider wall secured, blocking off the stage, Slowdown isn't that much different than any other classy West Omaha lounge but with better furniture and a sense of openness provided by those glass garage doors and floor-to-ceiling windows that look out to an empty field to the West, a field that one day may hold a baseball stadium. The music was low-key indie rock piped over the house sound system at levels that allowed conversation but not whispering. I assume it got rowdier after 10. It was, after all, a Monday night, and who parties on Mondays? A nice, comfortable place to grab a drink.

* * *

It dawned on me that I forgot to mention that Lazy-i was honored with the 2007 Excellence in Journalism Award from the Omaha Press Club. The category was "Best Column-Print," and the entry was the Fun City column that ran last June. Judges consisted of editors from the East Bay Press Club, San Diego Press Club, and the LA Press Club. Among those presiding over the awards banquet June 2 was Omaha World-Herald columnist Robert Nelson, or so I'm told. I wasn't there to accept the award, having found out last-minute about the competition (I didn't even know I was entered). Anyway, it's an honor, and I look forward to seeing the award plaque if I ever get out to The Reader's new offices on 24th and M.

* * *

When was the last time you were at Sokol Underground? It's been months for me. Well, there's a good reason to venture down tonight: Ladyfinger and Fathr^ are opening for Hydrahead artist Big Business (ex-Murder City Devils, Melvins, Karp, The Whip) and Relapse artist Minsk (ex-Buried at Sea). Collaborating for this Fathr^ performance will be James Cuato (ex-Jazzwholes) on saxophone. Tickets are $10 via Ticketmaster (that's right, this isn't a One Percent show). 8 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

For now, call it Sloooowwwdown; Fine Fine Automobiles tonight… – June 11, 2007 –

A recap of my personal Slowdown experience, Saturday night: I caught an early movie at The Dundee and got there at around 10:30. The parking lot that had been filled Thursday night had a space open just a few feet from the building. Could this be a trend?

I walked around the corner past the outdoor smoking area (which, for some reason, was surrounded by security guys in black Slowdown "staff" T-shirts) and ran smack-dab into a waiting line maybe 20-people deep. Two young guys got in line behind me and asked about the hold-up. "Sounds like they're at capacity," I said. "This could be a while. That means there are 500 people in there. Imagine how long it will take to get a beer?"

Just the mention of the capacity situation caused four people around us to leave the line. The guy behind me grinned. "And I heard the bathrooms don't work. I bet it smells something fierce in there." No one budged, but it was a good idea.

By the time we got to the front of the line, the two guys behind me gave up. Fifteen minutes of waiting and I was in, and the place was just as I imagined it -- a wall of darkly lit humanity bustling around on Slowdown's shiny concrete floors, mulling beneath the stage, standing in a queue at the photo booth. While taking it all in at railing, club owner Robb Nansel said hello and I congratulated him on his success. "If this keeps up, you'll earn another million dollars." I pointed at the crowded bar. "I'm not even going to try to get a beer."

He gave me a look. "It's not that bad. Let's time it." So we stood there, but it only took a minute before Nansel was pulled away to take care of some business. Ladyfinger had just ended their set, so the push to the bar was at an apex. Surrounding me was the usual indie crowd I've seen at other shows, along with band members and a few beefy young guys with caps turned backwards, probably hoping to scope out some action, but quickly discovering that an indie rock show is no place to pick up some trim. Mixed in with everyone else were older people, relatives of those involved with the club, out to show their support. I likely won't be seeing them there again.

Ten minutes. Young girls, all under-age judging by the crosses on their fists in magic marker, figured out that if they kneeled up on one of the high-rise bar chairs they could lean over and get a bartender's attention. It worked. Slowly, I actually began to make progress toward the bar. Nansel came back and tapped me on the shoulder. "Fifteen minutes," I said. His eyes widened, he grinned and disappeared again. The woman next to me was someone's relative, down from Falls City. Another older guy said, "Imagine how much beer they could have sold if they had a second temporary bar over here." Laughs. Then, more waiting.

I pointed out celebrities working behind the bar. There's Roger Lewis filling a tub with Old Style tall boys. There's Steph Drootin doing something with a bar rag. I think that dark-haired woman is Orenda Fink. It was like being at The Hacienda in Manchester and having Joy Division or Happy Mondays serving the drinks.

The woman next to me had tag-teamed the bar with her boyfriend -- just like when you go to the grocery store with your spouse and each of you pick a line, then switches to the whoever gets to the register first. She gathered up her drinks -- everyone was ordering two or three apiece so they wouldn't have to go through the ordeal again -- and looked at me as if she were climbing onto a lifeboat while the ship was sinking, and frowned. Then she became more animated than she'd been waiting for service and began frantically waiving down a bartender. I got distracted by Chris Esterbrooks (Inktank Merch, No Blood Orphan) who asked me to get him an Old Style tallboy if I ever got any service. When I turned around, there was bar manager Ryan Palmer, explaining that I was standing at the wrong place. "You really need to stand by 'the well.' We're going to put signs up sometime soon." I thought he was going to tell me to move down and start over. But no, he asked what I was drinking.

I remember the e-mail I got from Nansel's partner, Jason Kulbel, telling me to come by on Thursday: "I think we have a Rolling Rock for you."

"Give me a couple Rolling Rocks and an Old Style tallboy."

"We don't sell Rolling Rock."

Ugh. I quietly fumed, but realize I'm probably the only guy in Omaha that drinks Rolling Rock. "OK, how about a couple bottles of Bud Light?"

Nope. We sell it, but we're out. I settled for two Old Style tallboys ($5) -- a mistake, because I had forgotten how much I hate Old Style -- a beer brewed to taste like it's been sitting behind the back seat of an El Camino for three hot weeks in July. Skunky. Flat. Horrible. Just how I'm sure other people view Rolling Rock.

So, 24 minutes to get a beer, but what did you expect? It's opening weekend fercrissakes. What would it have said about the bar if I could have gotten a beer in two minutes?

I know that's not much of a review of the place, but what more is there to say? The sound system is state-of-the-art. Even and balanced wherever you stood, but not too loud as you couldn't at least talk/yell at the person next to you -- I felt no need to wear earplugs. The sightlines are faultless. The view from the balcony is stellar, and there's enough room to stand around and chat up there without bothering people around you.

The next morning while getting gas at the A&B I ran into someone who was at Slowdown the night before, a guy who's a regular at punk shows. What'd you think? "I hated it," he said with a scowl. "It's alienating. I felt out of place."

I wasn't surprised by his comment.

In some ways, Slowdown has the same albatross hanging over it that The Music Box did. When that club opened, the general consensus was "great stage, great sound, nice and clean." O'Leaver's, The Niner and Sokol were the competition -- dark, smoky, dirty bars that had been serving drinks for decades. The Music Box, which started out smoke-free, seemed like a nice alternative. Maybe too nice. Maybe a bit antiseptic, a bit sterile, a bit like a Holiday Inn lounge. It never shook that reputation. The fact that they booked mostly middle-of-the-road pop rock bands and rarely booked indie or punk shows added to their vanilla reputation.

Given a choice between going to The Music Box or the dank, lived-in O'Leaver's was no choice at all. Within a year, The Music Box changed its smoking policy. Eventually, it died, supposedly due to insurance and other money issues. The cursed building that housed it was finally razed last year for a 24 Hour Fitness.

Midtown show-goers will have a similar choice now -- between going downtown to the sparkling clean Slowdown or over to the smoky, more lived-in Waiting Room in Benson. The decision will be easy for anyone turned off by Slowdown's glitz (even though there's nothing glitzy about the crowd that was there Saturday night). Some people will never feel comfortable surrounded by nice things.

In its defense, The Slowdown is no Music Box. Yes, it's clean and loungy and boasts a no-smoking policy, but unlike the Box, it knows what it wants on its stage -- College Music Journal (CMJ)-style indie rock, and nothing more (or less). That targeted vision will likely see it through it's month-later doldrums -- because you can't judge the success of this or any club based on its first weekend. Come back in a month, when no band is playing and see how it swings.

Tonight at The Waiting Room, Landon Hedges' other band, Fine Fine Automobiles with Chris McCarty. 9 p.m., $7.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Slowdown (publicized) opening weekend, and everything else … – June 8, 2007 –

When I interviewed Robb Nansel and Jason Kulbel last Friday for this story about Slowdown, they mentioned that while their countdown clock on their website shows the opening day to be June 8, that they were planning a "quiet opening" on Thursday (last night) "but that's not for publication." The idea was to get the bar rolling before "getting hit by a train" of business the following day. Then yesterday word leaked out that Bright Eyes might play for the "quiet opening." Well, so much for the silence. Rumors spread quickly on the Internet. I swung down to Slowdown last night at around 10, figuring I'd stop in for a quick Rolling Rock before I head out to The Waiting Room for the No Blood Orphan show. I drove by the building along 14th street, saw the line to get in and the crowds of people standing around inside and kept right on driving, not in the mood for a mob scene which I figured I'd be experiencing Friday and Saturday night down there anyway. has brief a write-up about last night's BE show, with pictures (here).

I got to The Waiting Room just in time to catch the last song of Landing on the Moon's set (which sounded great, btw). There were maybe 60 people there; some thought the attendance was hurt by the Slowdown show. In fact, Artsy Golfer didn't play as scheduled. Instead, Jake Bellows and Ryan Fox performed a duo-guitar soundscape standing on the floor in front of the stage. Then came No Blood Orphan performing songs off their new CD, Robertson Park (see yesterday's review). Pretty awesome. So you have a great CD, a great live band, why not hit the road, guys? When I talked to the band last year, serious touring wasn't in the cards, and it doesn't sound like it's going to be for this CD, either, but you never know.

So tonight is the "real" grand opening of The Slowdown, and I have a friendly wager with one of the musicians performing tonight that the show will sell out (I think it will; he doesn't). If they can cram the place for a "quiet opening," I have to believe the official ribbon-cutting will be just as crazy, especially with a six-band line-up that includes Capgun Coup, Flowers Forever, Now Archimedes!, Art in Manila, Domestica and Little Brazil, all for just $2. Performances begin at 7, according to The Slowdown site. Parking could be a question mark, as the lot was filled last night.

Tomorrow night's Slowdown schedule looks just as robust, with Mal Madrigal, The Terminals, Ladyfinger, Bear Country and Neva Dinova. Show starts at 8 and again costs only $2.

Don't feel like a mob scene? Slowdown isn't the only game in town this weekend. The Waiting Room is hosting BrakeBrakesBrakes tonight with Pela & Electric Soft Parade. 9 p.m., $10. Tomorrow night you have Scott Severin and his band at The Saddle Creek Bar with Matt Whipkey, Sarah Benck and Thousand Houses, $5, 9 p.m., while TWR has The Mercurys with John Henry Band, 9 p.m., $7; and Local H is playing at Sokol Underground with The Goddamn Rights; $10/$12, 9 p.m. Sunday at TWR is The High Strung with Kyle Harvey, $8, 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Column 127 -- Spotlight Fades; No Blood Orphan's Robertson Park, Artsy Golfer tonight… – June 7, 2007 –

The comments from Robb Nansel and Jason Kulbel in the column below came from the same interview that spawned the Slowdown feature story. About two thirds into the interview, when I began asking questions about Saddle Creek, Nansel said, "Waitaminit. Is this story going to be about Slowdown or is it a label update?" Why, it's both, Robb. But in the end, the feature stayed focused on Slowdown and the label comments ended up in this column. A couple things that didn't make it in: How did the Polydor deal (Cassadaga was released on Saddle Creek Records in North America and Polydor everywhere else) impact Saddle Creek? "It didn't impact us at all," Kulbel said. "It certainly had an impact on the London operations. It was a lot less work for them this summer and spring. We certainly had a very long advanced warning (about the move to Polydor). They had been looking around for something for months."

"We would have preferred to release it ourselves," Nansel said.

"It was a bummer, but I was never bummed," Kulbel added. As hard as I tried, I wanted to include that golden quote in either story, but it just didn't work out. We also talked about working with Target on Saddle Creek releases. "We've dealt with them on three record cycles," Nansel said. "Wide Awake, Digital Ash and Cursive's Happy Hollow, and now the new Bright Eyes record. Only a select number of records are accepted in their stores. I would say it does pay off, on average. It typically pays off more times than not."

"If the band involved begins with the letter B," Kulbel added. There were a few other things, but the bulk of it is below.

Column 127: Out of the Spotlight
Omaha's 'New Seattle' days are gone

Who remembers the good ol' days when Omaha's music scene glowed white-hot in the spotlight of the national media?

Back then, just a few years ago actually, you couldn't scan a newsstand without seeing an article -- complete with glossy color photos -- stating that Omaha was ground zero for the national indie music scene. Time, Rolling Stone, SPIN, The New York Times, The Associated Press, the list goes on and on. I mean, you couldn't go to The Brothers lounge without bumping into a reporter from Filter or Heckler sharing a table with Saddle Creek label executives Robb Nansel and Jason Kulbel and a handful of loaded local musicians.

Well, those days are gone, it seems. The last time I remember seeing Omaha lifted on the shoulders of a national publication was the recent Kurt Andersen story in New York Times magazine, but even then, the focus was more on the city's art scene and the new Film Streams theater than on music. Could this shift in attention be hurting Saddle Creek Records?

Certainly the label's biggest releases aren't moving off the shelves the way they used to. Cursive's Happy Hollow, arguably the band's best release since Domestica, has suffered disappointing sales. Bright Eyes' Cassadaga -- the label's most anticipated release of '07 -- jumped out of the gate at No. 4 on the Billboard charts, and then seemed to drop off the map.

Kulbel isn't complaining. "Cassadaga has done very well," he said. "I don't know if it's done as well as I expected it to do, but I'm not bummed about it. It's probably sold around 140,000 copies or so."

Meanwhile, the label's smaller bands -- such as Ladyfinger, Criteria, Eric Bachmann -- seem to be selling fewer CDs than new bands did just a few years ago. This hasn't discouraged Kulbel and Nansel, who say they'll continue to release those bands' CDs regardless.

"People just don't buy as much music anymore," Kulbel said. "That's become more apparent all the time."

He said the old tried-and-true methods of getting records into consumers' hands no longer apply. "You have to get involved in this new media bullshit -- blogs, MySpace, YouTube. It's so hard for me not to just dismiss it entirely and say that we just need to keep doing the things we've always done -- traditional retail and bands on the road. But I have yet to totally denounce MySpace. I don't have a MySpace page. I'm the last person in the world who doesn't have one."

Nansel, on the other hand, has a MySpace page (though I couldn't find it online). "I did it as an experiment to see how easy it was to use," he said. "I only have one MySpace friend -- Tom."

Kulbel said a band's MySpace "friends" could equate to the people who go to their shows. "There are a lot of people that pay attention to that," he said, wearily. "It's really a new form of a mailing list."

But with literally hundreds of thousands (or millions?) of bands crowding MySpace, getting people's attention in a world of information overload can be difficult. It's a problem that didn't exist when Saddle Creek Records opened for business more than a decade ago.

Kulbel said he wouldn't start a record label today. "I would know how; I just wouldn't consider it. It takes so much time to build. When we started Saddle Creek it seemed like there was nothing stacked against us. There are so many things stacked against a new label."

Still, starting a new label might make sense for someone who has a killer band or group of bands to build around, Kulbel said, but... "Doing all those new media things take so much man power. You can have someone