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The Blog Archive -- Jan 2, 2009 to June 30, 2009 -- Go to lazyhome for most-current entries

Box Awesome's going away party, Japandroids tonight... – June 30, 2009 – twitter icon

Tonight is the farewell concert for Box Awesome in Lincoln, sort of. Yes, I know that they're closing their doors at that location after the smoke clears from this evening's festivities, but we've already been told that the search is on for the next location. Box Awesome may be dead, but its death will be short-lived. Until Jeremiah Moore and Jeremy Buckley find a new home for the club, Buckley said to expect some of the shows to be hosted at The Bourbon Theater (when it makes sense).

The Lincoln Journal-Star did another story about the closing yesterday (here), and the reason given for the eviction (again) is late rent. Everyone knows there's more to the story than that, but we'll likely not know the real reason until the next tenant moves into 815 "O" St. Meanwhile, Buckley says in the story that the closure "is definitely going to limit the options of bands coming through town for a while." Well, there's always Duffy's and Knickerbocker's and The Zoo and what else? Regardless, Box Awesome filled a unique niche thanks to its willingness to host experimental and little-known bands along with the usual college-rock fodder. It will be missed... for awhile. But for tonight, expect a celebration featuring Somasphere, Triggertown and Plack Blague and a few hundred rock and roll well wishers.

Also tonight back here in Omaha, Vancouver low-fi/garage rock sensations Japandroids (on Polyvinyl Records) plays at Slowdown Jr. with the hangover-fueled tuneage of Dim Light. $8, 9 p.m.

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Conor/Tilly pics; Speed! Nebraska Soapbox Derby deadline approaches... – June 29, 2009 – twitter icon

Look for a review of last Friday's Tilly and the Wall/Conor Oberst concert as part of this week's column, which means it'll be online Wednesday. Until then, feast on a couple photos taken at the event via my iPhone:

Here's Tilly doing their thing in front of the rather huge mob. I didn't get the numbers, but it seemed like the crowd was as big or bigger than last year's Conor Oberst Anchor Inn show. Though they hadn't played since last August, Tilly sounded as tight as I've ever heard them.

Here's a shot of Conor and Co. Conor's the one wearing the crazy oversized Amish hat, which made him look like the boy Samuel from the film Witness. Where's Harrison Ford when you need him?

More later.

* * *

Our friends from Speed! Nebraska sent out a message this morning reminding folks that the race registration deadline for the Speed! Nebraska Adult Soapbox Derby at Seymour Smith Park is Wednesday, July 1.

Race details and registration materials are located here. The actual race is July 18 starting at 11 a.m. All proceeds benefit The Special Olympics.

And to commemorate the event, Speed! Nebraska is releasing the Soapbox Riot 10", featuring racing songs by Wagon Blasters, Filter Kings, Mezcal Brothers, Domestica, The Third Men and Ideal Cleaners. The vinyl will drop July 18, and likely will be available at the race or at the after-race concert at O'Leaver's that evening. That show will feature Filter Kings, Wagon Blasters, The Third Men, Domestica and The Sons of Soapbox Derby. More details at the Speed! Nebraska website.

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No more kings; Live Review: The Stay Awake, Deleted Scenes; Conor Oberst tonight… – June 26, 2009 – twitter icon

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Michael Jackson died yesterday.

Even in an indie haunt like The Slowdown, there was an underlying buzz about MJ's passing last night. The discussion: Will another music performer ever reach the same heights of global deification as Jacko? In this new world of multi-media multi-channel multi-message communication, the answer is no. You've seen the last King of Pop. There is no room for royalty in a musical democracy where anyone can listen to anything anytime.

Jackson first and foremost was a performer. Unlike Springsteen or Prince or The Beatles, he wasn't known as a musician and he only wrote about a third of his songs (which included some of the best tunes on Thriller). Elvis was a performer. Sinatra was a performer. And though American Idol is designed to generate more and more performers, we'll see fewer and fewer, and none that will equal the stature of those who came before them.

So here's my question: When Dylan's time comes, will he get as much attention as Jacko is now? I doubt it.

Actually, there is a new King of Pop, and his name is The Stay Awake. I'm sort of kidding (really?), though last night's set by The Stay Awake in front about 50 at Slowdown Jr. was the closest this trio has come to making pop music. Their typical style is a ferocious wall of guitar, bass, drums, feedback and screaming, delivered with all the subtlety of a knee to the groin. The music is throbbing, jittery, staggering, at times hypnotic, but always ballistic and rarely boring. But last night there was even more of a throbbing vibe to their set; it seemed less random, more organized. It's as if they've begun to evolve from a rhythmic, mathy noise collage band to something more…musical. And I like it. Kings of Pop indeed. (see action photo).

Deleted Scenes, a four-piece from the District of Columbia (see photo), played songs from their new album, Birdsheed Shirt, none of which I recognized. In fact, the band didn’t sound anything like their record, which is much more mannered and straight-forward than what I heard from stage. Part of the problem was the sound mix -- it was way too bottom-heavy, too bassy, and that bass crushed everything in its path. Still, an interesting set, but not as interesting as their quaint, trippy pop record.

* * *

Tonight Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band play again at The Anchor Inn. Those of you wondering whether it's worth it, here's a detailed review of when the band played at the Anchor Inn last September. It was a blast, and it's likely going to be a blast tonight even if there aren't any fireworks. Opening the show are Tilly and the Wall, Deep Sea Diver and Michael Runion. We all know Tilly. I have no idea who the other two are. Show starts at 8 and is $20.

Of course, also tonight is the annual concert in Memorial Park, this time featuring The Guess Who, Grand Funk Railroad, and the main attraction -- fireworks. The show starts at 6 and please don't park in front of my house. Thanks.

Afterward, you may want to swing down to The Sydney for a punk rock extravaganza featuring Pornhuskers, Blood Cow and Coffin Killers $5, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, O'Leaver's is hosting No Blood Orphan with Matt Whipkey and Ashley Raines. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Tomorrow night (Saturday) Brooklyn band White Rabbits is playing at Slowdown Jr. The band's new album was produced by Britt Daniel of Spoon. Also on the card, The Subjects and Little Black Stereo. $8, 9 p.m.

The Dinks return to O'Leaver's Saturday for an eclectic show that includes The Lonely H and Western Electric. $5, 9:30 p.m.

The Sydney has Mal Madrigal and the horribly named Box of Baby Birds (from Chicago). $5, 9 p.m.

And Led Zep tribute band The Song Remains the Same returns to The Waiting Room with rock karaoke band Girl Drink Drunk. Here's your chance to climb on stage and do your best MJ impersonation. $7, 9 p.m.

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CD Review: John Klemmensen & The Party; Deleted Scenes, The Stay Awake tonight... – June 25, 2009 – twitter icon

The following appears in the current issue of The Reader. The best song on the album, btw, is the second to last one: John's ode to Amy Winehouse...

John Klemmensen and The Party, Advanced Hedonism (Slo-Fi Records) -- Klemmensen is a staple of the Omaha music scene, both for his solo work and work with bands such as Landing on the Moon and Satchel Grande. Once you've see him, you'll never forget him. On this solo effort, Klemmensen channels his inner-Dave Matthews (or Van Morrison) for an album's worth of songs that dissect a relationship from start to finish, but mostly finish. Klemmensen has no qualms about letting you peak inside his broken heart, but all too often his words are taken from arm's reach instead of digging from a darker place. We know you loved her, John; now tell us what really happened. Musically, this is warm, acoustic singer/songwriter fare with vocal lines that tend to follow the chord progressions rather than their own path. Horns (from Klemmensen and Satchel bandmate James Cuato) add some much-needed swing, especially on acoustic rocker "Dotted Line" and the loungy "Late at Night." Lazy-i Rating: Yes. The Reader Rating: 3 stars.

* * *

There are three pretty solid shows going on tonight. On top of the list for me is DC band Deleted Scenes at Slowdown Jr. Their latest record, Birdseed Shirt (on What Delicate Recordings), got a nice little 8.0 rating from indie tastemakers (for better or worse) Pitchfork. The band is indeed distinctly indie in that their style is all over the place but clearly rooted in solid, groovy songwriting. Check out some of their stuff on their Myspace page. They've also got a tape out on Omaha label I'm Drinkin This. Your $5 cover charge will also get you music by two of Omaha's best post-punk/noise rock bands: The Stay Awake and Techlepathy. Show starts at 9.

Also tonight, neu-punk masters Perry H. Matthews God Sham God (former Prostitute America) plays at O'Leaver's with Daughters of the Sun. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Finally, a band that sneaked in under the radar but that's beginning to make an impact -- The Answer Team -- is opening for Paria at The Sydney. $5, 9 p.m.

* * *

Brief culinary detour: Last night I went to Wohlner's for dinner (for the first time) and had what easily was the best French Dip sandwich that I've ever eaten. I'm not kidding. Look, over the years I've eaten a lot of French Dip sandwiches from literally all over the world. They all paled in comparison to the delicacy that was served to me at Wohlner's last night. 5 stars.

Now, back to the music...

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Column 227: Macey Talks Conor; Fromanhole, John Klemmensen tonight... – June 24, 2009 – twitter icon

Mystic Valley Band bass player Macey Taylor said among his options after this summer's touring is rejoining his sister, Maria, on the road. "I'm still hoping to do some more stuff with her in August," he said. "Yeah, I miss her. I recorded on her last record (Ladyluck) and am going to go back and play with her when I can." What a nice brother...

Column 227: Knowing Conor
Mystic Valley Band's Macey Taylor talks Oberst.

Conor Oberst isn't doing interviews these days, at least not with me or other small writers at small publications like The Reader.

The slight isn't a personal thing, it's just the way he's handling the press for this Mystic Valley Band project. If you've seen One Of My Kind, the hour-long documentary about the making of the band and their first album, you know that Mystic Valley was a spur-of-the-moment attempt to break free from the way he'd been doing things for years as Bright Eyes. The results are obvious to anyone who's followed both of bands. Mystic Valley is looser, more direct, less introspective. It's like a long drunken weekend spent with your old high school buddies vs. Bright Eyes' trip to the confessional where Oberst's sins are spoken to a stranger through a mesh screen while his family stands right outside the door.

So when it came time to write something in support of the Mystic Valley Band show this Friday at Anchor Inn I was told by his publicist, "No Conor, but you can have Macey."

Macey is Mystic Valley Band bass player Macey Taylor who also performed with Bright Eyes on the Cassadaga album and tour, and who just happens to be the brother to Oberst's former girlfriend Maria Taylor. It was through their relationship that Macey first met Oberst.

"He was visiting my family with Maria and we were just hanging out," Macey said from the pool in the back yard of his mother's house in Birmingham, Alabama. "We just sat on the floor and started playing some songs with Maria."

Macey said Bright Eye's '07 tour was like "being asked aboard this big, huge warship."

When I did the Bright Eyes tour, it was such a huge body of work that they chose from and played," he said. "The first time on tour with (Mystic Valley Band) we drew from 10 songs Conor wrote, and we only played that stuff. That's what set it apart in a lot of ways."

The other difference with Mystic Valley was the lack of Mike Mogis. "Obviously Mike's presence is one of the strongest parts of Bright Eyes," Macey said. So who fills the Mogis void? "In the studio, Andy Lemaster is a huge help, though we all kind of try to help produce. So in that sense, Andy is. But on stage, I wouldn't say that someone is filling the void of Mogis. That's another main difference between the bands."

So far the Mystic Valley tours have seen mostly highs, but there have been some lows, especially in the beginning. "We had our best show and worst show back to back," Taylor said. "We played this private thing in Los Angeles because Jason (Boesel, drummer) and Nik (Freitas, guitar) live there and set up a show for their friends at the R Bar. It was a clusterfuck, just too many people. We played late and got drunk and ended up hiding in the bar's kitchen. The next day we played at The Troubadour and that was really our first good performance. It was still very early on in the band."

If spontaneity defines the Mystic Valley Band, it also defines its future. Taylor said they have plans together throughout the summer, but nothing after that. "It's casual where it wouldn't be a big deal if we wouldn't do anything or if we did," he said. "It wasn't a big deal to start it. It just happened, and that's the attitude to have. I'd say we most likely will continue to try to do something. It depends on what's going on. We could play here and there, but it would never be a busy, main thing. Both Taylor (Hollingsworth, guitarist) and Jason have records coming out this year."

Then there's the just-announced Monsters of Folk project that will reunite Oberst with Mogis along with M. Ward and Jim James of My Morning Jacket. Their new album is slated for release Sept. 22 on LA label Shangri-La Music.

And what about Bright Eyes? Interestingly, Taylor said there "could be a crossover" between Bright Eyes and Mystic Valley. In fact, the grinding psychedelic headtrip and centerpiece of their current live show, "Roosevelt Room," originally was a Bright Eyes song.

"We played it with Bright Eyes," Taylor said. "When we recorded it for Outer South (Mystic Valley's new album), we were interested in getting Mike (Mogis) to come down and record the guitar part on it, but he was busy and didn't really want to. When we played it, it wasn't that much different than how Bright Eyes did it. Mogis added a different attitude, but Tayor (Hollingsworth) goes crazy on it. It's kind of a jammer song, where toward the end everything could fall apart."

As our phoner came to a close, Taylor described Oberst as an everyday Joe who just happens to be a helluva songwriter. "He's never really gone past what's in his heart and gut," Taylor said. "He's stayed with the people he's worked with, the team players -- not the big music industry people, and that's different.

"Conor exists in his own bubble, and he doesn't play attention to a lot of this. He doesn't listen to critics and businessmen and whatnot, and it's the same way for the people that surround him. And that's a good way to stay."

Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band plays this Friday, June 26, at The Anchor Inn with Tilly and the Wall, Deep Sea Diver and Michael Runion. Tickets are $20.

Tonight at O'Leaver's it's Fromanhole with Chicago band Bear Claw and Italy's Three Second Kiss. The out-of-towners will be joining up with Shellac on tour after this O'Leaver's gig. (Come on, Brendan, don't tell me you couldn't get Shellac to play here). $5, 9:30 p.m. Across town at The Barley St., John Klemmensen and The Party headlines a show that also features Bright Light Forever and By Sunlight. $5, 9 p.m. Finally, at The Waiting Room Black Squirrels play with Sarah Benck and the J.J. Wills Band. $5, 9 p.m.

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Au Revoir Simone, Matthew Sweet tonight... – June 23, 2009 – twitter icon

Here's a little something I wrote for The Reader about the Au Revoir Simone show tonight at The Waiting Room:

The new album by Au Revoir Simone, Still Night, Still Light, was sent to me via the interweb. There was no artwork save a picture of the album sleeve. No photo of the trio's members -- Erika Forster, Annie Hart and Heather D'Angelo. But as I listened to their sad, sweet music -- a swirl of keyboards, synthesizers, sequencers, drum machines and their heavenly voices -- a picture formed in my minds' eye. I imagined not three girls, but one -- rail-thin, not a super model, but still remarkably pretty in a way that every guy thinks was designed especially for him. Quiet, smart, unassuming, unpretentious, funny when she decides to speak up, but saving the best stuff for when she's alone with you, in the back of a taxi cab, standing in line to get into a show, flipping through album bins at the record store, her eyes cutting right through you, breaking your heart, because in the back of your mind, you know it will never last.

Opening is UK singer/songwriter Findlay Brown. Tix are $10, show starts at 9.

Also tonight is the return of Matthew Sweet, this time at The Slowdown. Last time I talked to Sweet was way back in October 2004, when he was playing at Sokol Underground supporting his then-new album Living Things. Since then, he's worked with Susanna Hoffs of The Bangles on an album of covers as well as 2008's Sweet Sunshine Lies on Shout Factory. My hats off to him for doing what he's done all these years. Opening is the golden pop stylings of The Third Men. $15, 9 p.m.

Tomorrow: Macey Taylor

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Live Review: Lincoln Invasion; Box Awesome update; Telekinesis tonight... – June 22, 2009 – twitter icon

The organizers of last weekend's Lincoln Invasion festival have to be somewhat satisfied with the way the event went down. LI organizer Jeremy Buckley said they sold around 150 wristbands on the first night. Ultimately, bands probably took home around some cash. Friday night seemed more crowded than Saturday night. Neither night was a crush mob anywhere, though there was at least 50 people in Barley Street during Triggertown and around 75 in PS Collective during Columbia vs. Challenger.

Here's a recap of both nights:

For me, the best performance Friday night was the first one of the evening -- Triggertown at The Barley Street Tavern. I love this band, and so did Teresa, who would have been happy to just listen to them all night (She wasn't happy when we had to leave before their set ended to catch another band). I don't know how you define "traditional bluegrass," but Triggertown must come pretty close. The band includes an upright bass, a couple guitars, fiddle and a guy sitting playing what looked like a lap steel guitar (I couldn't see what it was). There was no drummer, which I guess follows the bluegrass rules. Still, Triggertown's sound isn't buried within bluegrass conventions. They have an infectious, twangy, acoustic rural style, with gorgeous harmonies and a sassy little fiddle player that would make anyone smile. Here's a blurry photo of the action.

Like I said, I hated to tear myself away from their set, but I didn't want to miss The Machete Archive at TWR. I tweeted Friday night that their sound was "electric prog rock instrumental power trio w/amazing hair solos," and that about sums it up. I wouldn't call them "metal" as their sound isn't evil enough for that sort of thing. Instead, their music was all about rhythmic precision, violin-like guitar tone and that crazy-ass bass player and his amazing afro (Whipkey now has competition in the "best hair" department) who was impossible not to watch. He also was the featured "whistler" on a song that was the highlight of their set. See pic.

Next it was down the street for Lucas Kellison and the Assembled Soul at the PS Collective. Buckley said they forgot to hire a sound guy for that room, and it showed -- it sounded bouncy and hollow for music that was more "lounge" than "soul."

I strolled back over to TWR for about 15 minutes of Ideal Cleaners -- they sounded big and huge and angry. Very nice. See photo.

Then it was back to Barley Street for Pharmacy Spirits. I'm listening to the band's self-released album of demos called Teen Mindwash right now, which I picked up at the show for $5 (get one if you can). They remind me of Boys-Don't-Cry-era Cure mixed with New Order and a smidge of Pixies. I point to their bouncy bass style/ tone, which sounds as if it was lifted directly from the British Isles circa 1980. I like frontman Jim Reilly's voice better here than in Beep Beep, but I wish he'd sing closer to the microphone -- I was having a hard time hearing him. In fact, I could have used a ton more of both guitars in the mix. While I'm making suggestions -- don't do a thing to the drums, they're perfect -- simple, crisp, the epitome of '80s post-punk percussion. I want to see this band on a larger stage, with a larger set-up -- it will either ruin their sound or take them to the next level. One more thing about Pharmacy Spirits -- they do something that no other bands seem to do these days -- they find a groove and exploit it for two, three, four minutes per song, and I could listen to it all night. (Another crappy photo)

The first night ended with The Show Is The Rainbow at TWR -- Darren Keen, his guitar, his laptop and his video, playing to around 75 dazzled fans. He said he had to cut his usual set short due to computer problems, and instead ended with three or four songs sung only with guitar. Among them was a new one designed to be a comment about his recent dealings with Saddle Creek Records, which (in the end) turned out in his favor, though that wasn't exactly reflected in the lyrics. There was a couple others that he said were about moving into a house with his girlfriend -- sweet/cute. (a blurry photo).

Saturday night began with singer/songwriter Manny Coon at TWR, playing to a somewhat sparse crowd -- hey, it was early. MC's style was traditional story-teller folk done up on acoustic and damn good. See photo.

Next was Once a Pawn at PS Collective (with Jon Taylor of Domestica handling the soundman chores!). Last time I saw them they were a trio. Saturday night they were just a guitar-and-drum duo with more than enough fire power to fill out their sound (though I do miss that bass). The music was loud and punky and a lot of fun, though only about 20 people were there to hear it. (See creepy pic)

Did I say loud? Well, it was nothing compared to Domestica at The Waiting Room, which was the highlight of the festival's second night. The band always sounds enormous, but was particularly epic on that stage. I don't know if they were playing new material or if I just didn't recognize it in this setting, either way it was mega-good, and mega-loud as all good Domestica shows should be. See pic.

Finally, it was back to PS Collective for the farewell set by Columbia vs. Challenger. Actually, the band repeatedly told the rather large crowd that they played their "real farewell show" a few weeks earlier in Lincoln. This one, apparently, was a bonus round, though you wouldn't have known it by all the technical problems they suffered. They were supposed to go on at 10:10 but didn't actually start until about a half-hour later, and then kept having even more problems. After their first song, they discovered that their keyboards weren't working, which delayed the show for another 10 minutes. They ended up playing only four or five songs to a crowd that was hungry for more. (see photo)

And that, my friends, was the end of my Lincoln Invasion experience. Overall I thought it was a lot of fun, and again proved that Benson is great place for festivals (We've got two more coming in the months ahead). The only disappointment was the lack of the usual Benson crowd at the shows. Where were all those Benson musicians and singer/songwriters? I did see plenty of other musicians in the house -- including a contingency of Saddle Creek folk, Speed! Nebraska pit crew and a few other local legends. Now we wait and see if Buckley and Dub do it all again next year...

* * *

This just in, a last-minute update from Buckley himself:

"Hey Tim, looks like we had about 330 paid for the weekend -- 164 and 165 respectively. Each band made about $35 a piece after the expenses were taken care of (which was about 1/2 of the door when all was said and done). From the communications I've had with the bands I know some of the obvious things we'd like to improve on for next year, but overall (bandwise) everyone expressed how much fun they had over the weekend, getting out of town, seeing faces new and old, etc. The venues were all pretty easy to deal with, the bands and Lincoln fans who drove up all were into the spirit of the event and the faces I didn't know seemed genuinely excited to be trying something new. The goal for now is to build on this initial venture and work out the kinks to make an even better Lincoln Invasion 2.0. Here's to seeing who else can invade where!"

And here's an update on Box Awesome, also from Buckley:

"…had our second court date this morning. We are out of the current Box Awesome location by July 6 and our last show will be on June 30 featuring Somasphere, Triggertown and Plack Blague. We're hoping to get up and running by the end of the year at Box Awesomer. Now we get to figure out who's moving in. :)"

* * *

Telekinesis kicks off a very busy week of music in Omaha. The Seattle band that's signed to Merge Records is playing at Slowdown Jr. with Brisbane's An Horse and Our Fox. Amazing line-up for a mere $8.

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Lincoln Invasion starts tonight… – June 19, 2009 – twitter icon

The keynote event of the weekend is the Lincoln Invasion festival in Benson. The details/background/schedule is here. Like I said the other day, I intend to see as many bands as possible (thanks to staggered scheduling), but my don't-miss suggestions for tonight are Twiggertown, The Machete Archive, Pharmacy Spirits, Ideal Cleaners and The Show Is the Rainbow. For Saturday night, it's Columbia vs. Challenger, Domestica, Once a Pawn and Strawberry Burns.

Bands that I didn't mention are bands that I haven't seen before, and there are a lot of them. You're not going to find a better festival value than Lincoln Invasion -- $5 per night gets you into all three venues all night long.

But it's not the only thing going on tonight. Down at Slowdown Jr. it's the debut of Boy Noises with Sweet Pea, AM Revival and In the Spring. $7, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, O'Leaver's has a sweet show tonight featuring The Stay Awake, Gold and Anatomy of a Riot. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Saturday night's other hot events include Blood Cow and Black Skies at O'Leaver's, $5, 9:30 p.m.; and Shiver Shiver, Goodbye Sunday and Black Squirrels down at Slowdown Jr., $5, 9 p.m.

Then on Sunday, Chicago instrumental band Russian Circles is playing at Slowdown with Coliseum and The Answer Team. $10 adv/$12 DOS, 9 p.m.

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Live Review: Deer Tick; More LI coverage; Vanishing Kids tonight… – June 18, 2009 – twitter icon

When I arrived at The Slowdown last night at around 9:15 I discovered that there was a third, unannounced band on the bill, added as an opener. I have no idea who they were, other than they weren't from around here (Bear Country would have been a terrific opener, btw). So my hopes for an early evening were quickly dashed. Ah well, it only meant that I would be skipping Jenny Lewis' set altogether as I had an early wake-up call this morning. I've seen Lewis in her various configurations at least a dozen times, so I knew I wasn't missing anything I hadn't already seen before. The band I came to see was Deer Tick anyway, who didn't get on stage until around 11. I was surprised at the number of covers they played, considering they have two albums-worth of material to select from. The covers included a weak version of John Mellencamp's "I Fight Authority," which I could have done without. The highlight was a duet with Liz Isenberg on "Friday XIII," which I had told frontman John McCauley during our interview was my favorite song off their new album Born on Flag Day. He had told me that it was unlikely that they'd be playing it in Omaha since he doesn't do it without Isenberg, and she wasn't coming along. Well, there she was. From stage McCauley also apologized for his voice, saying he was just getting over a cold. He sounded just fine to me. As fun as the band was last night, I have to think they'll be even more fun to watch tonight in Lincoln when they play in the intimate confines of Box Awesome with UUVVWWZ and Manny Coon. Here's a really fuzzy action photo.

* * *

Speaking of Lincoln, The Lincoln Journal Star published its story on this weekend's Lincoln Invasion festival in Benson. Check it out here.

* * *

I have been told by at least three different people not to miss tonight's show at O'Leaver's featuring Portland band Vanishing Kids. The music I've heard on their Myspace page is lush, trippy, brash, post-punk, and pretty darn good, too. The show's line-up includes Honey and Darling and Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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Column 226: Lincoln Invades Omaha; Jenny Lewis/Deer Tick tonight… – June 17, 2009 – twitter icon

In addition to filling me in on Lincoln Invasion, Jeremy Buckley updated me on the status of Lincoln's Box Awesome, which is being forced from its current home by its landlord who hoped to have them out well before the end of their lease (Oct. 31). The issue already has gone to court and the case has been continued to June 22, with hopes that both parties can reach some sort of agreement/settlement. In the meantime, he and Box Awesome owner Jeremiah Moore have been scouting new locations for the venue. "We're going to be picky and make sure the situation is something we can sustain for a long time," Buckley said.

He said they know they'll be able to host their shows through the rest of the month, but will likely be gone shortly after that. In the meantime, they're looking at ways to make the new Bourbon Theater "smaller" for smaller shows -- this could involve some strategically placed curtains. "We're not going to do shows where we know no one is going to show up," he said. "Shows that draw 50 or less won't be happening at The Bourbon."

The ultimate goal, however, is to find a new location for Box Awesome. "We want to get this all figured out and have something up and running by the end of this year," he said.

Right now, though, Buckley's focus is on Lincoln Invasion. Someone asked me the other day which bands I'll be most eager to see at this weekend's festival. Buckley said he staggered each venue's band schedule so that "theoretically" you could see some of every band performing at all three venues. So my answer is: All of them.

* * *

Column 226: The Lincoln Invasion
2 nights, 22 bands, 3 venues

Let's start by clarifying that I don't really have anything to do with this weekend's can't-miss event, Lincoln Invasion. We're talking two nights of top-flight musical entertainment -- 22 bands by way of Lincoln, Nebraska -- at three of Benson's finest clubs. For just $5 each night you'll get into all three clubs all night. It's a veritable smorgasbord of entertain direct from the Star City to you -- the easiest way you'll ever have of experiencing the best of Lincoln without having to truck 50 miles south by southwest on I-80.

My only role in this amazing extravaganza is coming up with the idea. Years ago, before there was an OEA Showcase or a Mid-America Music Festival, I was chatting with Jeremy Buckley, who's organizing this weekend's event along with Duffy's booker Jeremy "Dub" Wardlaw. Buckley had just held his first Lincoln Calling Festival (which you'll hear more about in the coming months), and I suggested that instead of me having to drive my lazy ass down to Lincoln, that he pull together a handful of Lincoln bands and have them play in Benson, where folks could walk from club to club all night long.

Jeremy let that idea steep in the back of his mind until this year when, after graduating from the esteemed University of Nebraska-Lincoln, he realized he was about to have a lot of time on his hands. "I was freaked out and had to find something to do," Buckley said. So he contacted the folks at The Waiting Room, PS Collective and The Barley Street Tavern, found an open weekend in their crowded schedules, and with Dub's help started contacting bands. The rest, as they say, will be history this Friday and Saturday night.

Buckley said his motivation other than filling a hole in his social calendar was to get Lincoln bands into the Omaha spotlight. In a sordid effort to help hype the event, I tried to get Buckley to say that Lincoln Invasion was really a chance for him to once-and-for-all prove that Lincoln bands were far superior than Omaha bands. But he just wasn't biting. "That's just a weird notion," he said. "Both (cities) have fantastic bands that will go to the other city and play for 10 people, and that sucks -- everyone involved (in those shows) feels like shit afterward because they know that the bands deserve more."

Lincoln Invasion is a chance to get the broadest Omaha exposure to the largest number of Lincoln bands in the shortest span of time. "It gets Lincoln bands out of town and (afterward) gives Omaha people a reason to drive to Lincoln," Buckley said. "The cities aren't that far away from each other."

It's also a chance for the bands to make some money. Unlike some other local music "festivals," bands will actually get paid for playing, that is if enough people show up. Buckley said total costs for printing fliers and posters, and paying the sound guys, is only around $500 to $600. "Every band splits what's left after covering expenses," he said. "All bands get an equal share -- from the band who might be playing to 10 people at the Barley Street to another playing to 100 at The Waiting Room. The entire pot is split evenly."

That's all very magnanimous, but really, why should anyone go? Buckley points to acts like Machete Archive. "They're beloved in Lincoln, but Omaha people don't know them at all," he said. Machete Archive plays instrumental math rock along the lines of Mars Volta and "are fun to listen to live. Everyone in the band is talented, but everyone fixates on the bass player, who is just all over the place. They're one of the most entertaining bands in Lincoln."

Buckley also mentioned Manny Coon, a singer/songwriter in the Wilco vein. "He tells amazing stories with his songs. It's easy to get fixated on what he's doing."

And then there's Columbia Vs. Challenger, a band that's been kicking around Lincoln for years. One of the band's members is about to move to Honduras, making the Lincoln Invasion gig the band's last show ever. "That'll be bittersweet and awesome and sad," Buckley said. "It'll be interesting to see how the band handles it on stage."

Buckley said he has no expectations on the success of Lincoln Invasion. "Whatever happens this first year will help us decide if we should try it again," he said. "The answer should be obvious. I think we'll be looking at ways to improve it for next year, with more bands and more venues, and figure out how to do an Omaha Invasion in Lincoln."

In fact, Buckley and Dub have even talked about doing a cross-border exchange. "We should have a Nebraska Invasion in Kansas and have 20 bands from Omaha and Lincoln take over Lawrence for a weekend, and then get 20 bands from Lawrence to come up here," he said. "The options are limitless."

Here's the schedule. Just $5 each night will get you into all three venues.

Friday, June 19

PS Collective: The Allendales (9:30); Lucas Kellison and the Assembled Soul (10:40); Andrews Ave. (midnight).

The Waiting Room: The Machete Archive (9:40); Ideal Cleaners (10:50); The Show Is the Rainbow (11:55)

Barley Street Tavern: Triggertown (9:20); The Amalgamators (10:20); Pharmacy Spirits (11:20); The Big Gigantic (midnight).

Saturday, June 20

PS Collective: Gooses (9:10); Once a Pawn (10:10); Columbia vs. Challenger (11:10); Knots (12:10).

The Waiting Room: Manny Coon (9:40); Crush the Clown (10:20); Domestica (11:20); Somasphere (12:20).

Barley Street Tavern: AM Revival (9:00); Jodie Loves Hinkley (10:00); Orion Walsh (11:00); Strawberry Burns (midnight).

* * *

Tonight at The Slowdown, it's Jenny Lewis with Deer Tick. This show sold out a few days ago, so no tickee no luckee. It starts at 9 and I suggest you get there early for Deer Tick.

Of course if you're in Lincoln tonight, check out Cursive at Box Awesome with Ideal Cleaners and Box Elders.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

DN quote; Beep Beep/Cursive videos; Vinyl Saturdays; Lez Zeppelin tonight… – June 16, 2009 – twitter icon

I'm quoted in a Daily Nebraskan article regarding Lincoln Invasion. You can read it here. I suspect there will be tons of press about this weekend's festival. And you'll be able to read my take on Lincoln Invasion right here in tomorrow's column.

* * *

Looks like Saddle Creek has finally released the new Beep Beep video. Check it out here. It's as weird as you'd hope and expect it to be. What's going on with this band? I'm told that bassist Darren Keen no longer is a Beeper.

Cursive also has a new video online for "I Couldn't Love You More," right here.

Does it still make sense to make videos these days? I guess probably more so in the past few years with the advent of YouTube.

* * *

Mike Fratt dropped me and the rest of Omaha's music journalism establishment an e-mail yesterday announcing that Homer's is now celebrating "Vinyl Saturdays" every third Saturday of the month, starting this Saturday. The promotion promises "a new monthly unveiling of limited special vinyl pieces." This month's offerings include limited edition vinyl by Wilco, Scarlett Johansson/Pete Yorn and Green Day. Homer's does have a shit-ton of vinyl these days. Check it out.

* * *

Lez Zeppelin is tonight at The Waiting Room. The name sez it all. Other than The Song Remains the Same, the only Zeppelin "tribute" band that I've ventured to see is good ol' Dread Zeppelin, featuring Elvis impersonator Tortelvis and a boxing ring. Fun stuff at the old Ranch Bowl. That band eventually got signed by Miles Copeland and IRS Records (Un-Led-Ed), and according to Wikipedia, is still touring today, somewhere. Will there be a boxing ring tonight at TWR? I hope so. Find out. $12, 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Live Review: Bear Country, Capgun Coup; The Sydney online… – June 15, 2009 – twitter icon

Is Bear Country the best band to emerge from the Slumber Party Records' roster? Judging from last Friday night's show at The Waiting Room, the answer is an obvious "yes."

That Friday night show was a veritable Slumber Party showcase. Darren Keen opened with a solo performance (which I missed) and was followed by Conchance, an MC that doesn't have an actual line placement on the Slumber Party artists page, but seems to be tacitly affiliated with the label. I'm a tough critic when it comes to hip-hop, and a large percentage of white-guy rappers fall either into the Eminem or Beastie Boys category to me. Conchance seems to be in the former group, but even though he had his share of miss-starts on stage, he sounded better than the last time I saw him a year or so ago at Slowdown. There was nothing groundbreaking going on -- it was the usual shtick we've seen before. At times he crowded his lyrics a tad much, but still sounded better than, say, Rig 1. He saved the best for last, performing a song with three instrumentalists (instead of his prerecorded track). To me, anytime you use live instruments you're going to sound better, and he certainly did.

Up next was the evening's biggest draw, Capgun Coup. Sam Martin and Co. always bring their fans along for the ride. The basic set-up this time included two guys singing into telephone handsets while Martin fronted the songs with a normal mic. Seems like a couple years ago that Capgun was a keyboard-heavy indie spazz rock outfit. These days Martin has stepped from behind the keyboard, exclusively wearing a guitar, and the change is for the better. No one shows jaded disinterest better than Martin, standing behind a mic as if he's played his 10,000th show, wearing an "Oh-it's-you-again" smirk while he flatly yells lines that eventually devolve into literal "blah-blah-blahs." As a whole, Capgun (who's on Team Love these days) has changed into an indie garage band in a similar vein as Titus Andronicus, though not nearly as coherent or straight forward except on a few instrumental-only songs that were the highlight of their set. Martin capped off his portion of the night with a song he introduced as "the punchline to the joke," a shredded, spazzy garage rock song that eroded into anarchy and screaming, with Martin casually knocking over mic stands while the rest of the band squirmed. "I guess no one got the joke," Martin said afterward. "I don't see anyone laughing." Ah, but with the kind of kid-frenzy that Capgun seems to generate, it'll be Martin laughing... all the way to the bank (yuk-yuk).

About a third of the crowd left after Capgun, which is too bad for them because they missed the best performance of the night. If you're a regular Lazy-i reader, you've rarely seen a word about Bear Country in this blog, not because I hadn't seen the band over the years -- I have. I just never cared for their safe, standard take on C&W. It was too formal and too strained and too boring. But that was a year ago. Something's happened to Bear Country, something remarkable.

A band that ebbs and flows throughout their set, at its largest Bear Country is a six-piece that includes guitars, keyboards, drums, bass, the occasional fiddle and three vocalists -- two guys and a girl -- who look like they fell to the stage from a time machine circa 1968. Ah, but their music is distinctly modern -- the comparisons run the gamut from early Mazzy Star to Centro-matic to The Silos -- this isn't in any way traditional C&W, more like "alt country" thanks to the underlying twang. Quiet songs grow into bigger-than-life jams and then fall back down again -- a far cry than the band I saw a year or so ago. Who knows the reason behind their transformation -- maybe it's just the nature of getting older and wiser. I'm told they have a new album in the can, waiting to be released. If I was Saddle Creek, I'd buy them away from Slumber Party before Merge does. Yeah, they're that good.

Saturday night, after pizza at the Pizza Shoppe, we wandered down to the Benson Days street event and were told it would cost $5 for a wrist band. The guy in front of us asked what he got for the five bucks. "Well, you get a wrist band that allows you to buy drinks. The $5 is actually a donation." That guy turned around and left, and so did we. Maybe they should have just given people wrist bands and asked for a $5 donation. Or charged $5 admission. We headed to the Sydney, where we discovered that they were also having a show that night.

Looks like all this talk about only having "the occasional show" at The Sydney is quickly headed out the window. The bar recently launched a website -- -- that includes an "Upcoming Shows" section. They've even made their "stage" platform bigger since that Little Brazil show a few weeks ago. At $5 a show, expect them to feature mostly local acts, which is a good thing. Opening on Saturday night was Jake Bellows, who played a sweet solo set with an electric guitar. Next up was Landing on the Moon, and to prove the new stage's adequacy, all five members of the band fit nicely (and played nicely, too).

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Monsters of Folk on Shangri-La; Bear Country, Capgun tonight… – June 12, 2009 – twitter icon

It looks like the new album by Monsters of Folk (featuring Conor Oberst, Jim James, M. Ward and Mike Mogis) is being released on Shangri-La Music, the home of Amazing Baby, The Pretenders and Band of Skulls, among others. According to Wikipedia, Shangri-La is owned by Steve Bing, the 44-year-old multi-millionaire playboy entrepreneur, who's past projects included financing the films "Get Carter," "The Polar Express" and "Beowulf" (Bing, btw, inherited his wealth from grandpa Leo S. Bing, a New York real estate mogul). While not listed on the label's artist page, Shangri-La's news page prominently features the band. I'm still waiting for an official announcement, though we do know that the record is coming out on Sept. 22.

* * *

Lots of stuff going on this weekend, so let's get right to it.

Tonight The Waiting Room is holding a virtual Slumber Party Records label showcase with Bear Country, Capgun Coup, Conchance and Darren Keen. Capgun crushed O'Leaver's last week. Let's see if they can bring the crowd across town. $7, 9 p.m.

Just down the street at PS Collective, another Slumber Party band, Talking Mountain, is playing a show with Electric Needle Room, Mammoth Life (Lawrence, KS) and Coax from Chuckanut (St. Paul, Minn.). This may be your last chance to see Talking Mountain for a few months. $5, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, over at O'Leaver's, you're looking at The Curtain Calls, Denver's The Still City and Cat Island. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Saturday starts early with Snow Patrol doing an instore at Homer's in the Old Market at 2 p.m. The band is in town opening for Coldplay at the Qwest. This should be a madhouse.

Later that evening, Dillinger Four headlines a show at The Waiting Room with crazy noise masters Japanther, The Brokedowns, and Speed! Nebraska band The Wagon Blasters. $12, 9 p.m.

O'Leaver's is hosting a singer/songwriter night with Midwest Dilemma, Brad Hoshaw, Kyle Harvey, Cody Wynne Cox and Reagan Roeder. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, over at The Saddle Creek Bar, it's the return of The Upsets with Thad Sands One Man Band. $5, 9 p.m.

One of the most interesting shows of the weekend is Sunday night -- Digital Leather with Private Dancer and Leisure Birds. As I mentioned before, Digital Leather is Shawn Foree, a labelmate of Box Elders on Goner Records, who records songs himself and tours with a band, which this time is comprised of members of Shanks/Dinks/Ric Rhythm. Foree has been involved with bands that included current garage-rock phenom Jay Reatard. I'm also told that Foree just signed with Fat Possum for his next record. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Don't forget to look for band-order information from the shows I attend via my Twitter feed.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Monsters of Folk set for Sept. 22; Tweeting band orders; Sly/Robbie/Eyes tonight… – June 11, 2009 – twitter icon

Monsters of Folk is Conor Oberst, Jim James, M. Ward and Mike Mogis. The musicians recorded a number of songs together some time ago (before Mystic Valley?). Now it appears that the long-rumored, long-awaited album is on the verge of release, or at least that's what I'm led to believe by There's no clue or indication on that one-page website who will be releasing the album (The domain is registered to Micah Taylor). Saddle Creek Records, however, has confirmed that it won't be releasing it. Will it be on Merge? Team Love?

* * *

I've had a quandary lately deciding whether or not to go to specific shows, especially if I can't get to the venue before 10:30. Here's the problem: I have no idea when the band or bands that I want to see will hit the stage. I don't want to go there, drop my $5-$8-$10-$15 only to find out that the band I wanted to see played at 9, and I missed them.

Generally speaking, websites rarely have a show's band-order correct, mainly because often the decision concerning who's going on stage when (i.e., the band order) is made by the bands on the night of the show. So the band you think is opening may get slotted to play last, or the so-called "headliner" might play second, and so on. It's especially a problem with local-band shows (traveling headliners generally are always last).

Assuming others have the same problem, here's what I'm going to start doing with my Twitter feed: When I arrive at a show, I'll find out the band order and who's already played (and who's about to play) and Tweet that information to my followers. It's something venues should do, but they either don't have time or don't want to discourage people from coming out ("Oh, Box Elders already played? Forget it then.").

So if you haven't already, go to my Twitter page and follow me. In addition to band order and set times, you'll also get Twit pics from most performances along with some live comments.

* * *

Speaking of shows, the legendary Sly & Robbie will be at Slowdown tonight with Heavyweight Dub Champion. $25, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, Chicago art-noise band Eyes is playing at The Saddle Creek Bar with El Diablos Blancos. $5, 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Lazy-i Interview: Deer Tick; Outlaw Con Outlaw (and bowling) tonight… – June 10, 2009 – twitter icon

This week's column is last Sunday's live review/comment about the Memorial Park Gomez concert fiasco, so if you missed it, read it here. The original plan was to run my interview with John McCauley of Deer Tick as my column, but The Reader wanted the Memorial Park thing in that space and pushed Deer Tick as a separate feature story. The article is written in more of a column style, with McCauley -- a singer/songwriter who spent a few years booking his own tours -- talking about how he stayed with it and got "over the hump," which seems to be the dream of every local singer/songwriter that I know. Read that story here. Deer Tick is opening for Jenny Lewis a week from today at The Slowdown. Tickets are still available for $16, though Val Nelson at Slowdown said in her weekly mailer that the supply is dwindling, so you better get yours now if you haven't already.

Speaking of shows, Outlaw Con Bandana has its album release show for Faeries and Rewards tonight at The Immaculate Conception Church Bowling Alley at 25th and Bancroft. The vinyl-only 14-song opus is being released by Slumber Party Records. Also on the bill are The Praries, Box Elders and Sarah Xiong. For your $10 you not only get a night of music, but free bowling from 9 until 10:30 -- now that's a deal! Something tells me this is going to be a lively crowd.

Also tonight, Leeds funk/soul band The New Mastersounds is playing at The Waiting Room with Moon Taxi. These guys could give Satchel a run for their money. $12, 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Box Awesome update; Capgun last Saturday… – June 9, 2009 – twitter icon

Jeremy Buckley, who works at Box Awesome in Lincoln, texted me yesterday saying that the court hearing concerning their removal from their current location had been "continued" for at least a couple of weeks. Jeremy also said Box Awesome has found another possible home and hopes to move sometime in July. Meanwhile, benefit events continue to be held to help pay the lawyer, including a comedy show at Duffy's tomorrow night and a rummage sale this coming Sunday at 18th & Washington in Lincoln. If you're in town, you should go.

* * *

After being overwhelmed by the enormous crowd at Memorial Park Saturday, I headed to O'Leaver's to find an even bigger crowd, there to see Jake Bellows and Capgun Coup. I caught about 15 minutes of opener Porlolo and dug it -- a band fronted by a female singer/songwriter that deserves further study. I missed Jake altogether and caught about 20 minutes of Capgun's boisterous spazz rock. This band continues to sound like it's being influenced by classic '60s- '70s garage rock (bordering on low-fi surf), but never lacking their trademark just-about-t0-spin-out-of-control style. Frontman Sam Martin continues to remind me of what Simon Joyner could have become had he followed a punk muse rather than a folkie one. If you missed it, Capgun is playing again Friday night at the Waiting Room, opening for Bear Country with Darren Keen and Conchance -- all for $7.

* * *

Tomorrow: Deer Tick

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

The Memorial Park Youth Concert: Wasted Opportunity… – June 7, 2009 – twitter icon

I hate to say "I told you so," but…

My guestimate of the attendance at last night's Gomez concert in Memorial Park: less than 1,000. It was hard to say since people were so widely scattered across the enormous park bowl. The number was probably closer to 600 or 800.

You can't blame the weather. It was gorgeous despite weathermen warning of storms for the past few days. You can't blame the "Taste of Omaha" thing going on downtown. The food orgy doesn't really target "area youth" -- and this was promoted as a "youth concert." Actually, "promoted" is the wrong term. Part of the problem was that the city did such a terrible job promoting the concert. I saw one commercial for it on cable a few days prior, and nothing -- no posters, no billboards -- around town. I think there were a couple mentions in The Omaha World-Herald, but no one (certainly not "youth") reads that anymore.

I heard the same thing over and over when I asked people if they were going to the concert Saturday afternoon: "What concert?" The next question out of their mouths: "Who's Gomez?"

And that of course was the biggest problem of all. Why would anyone know who Gomez is? Because they had a song played on Grey's Anatomy in 2006? Their music isn't played on local radio. At least when Feist played here last year, people were familiar with her "1-2-3-4" song from the iPod commercials (though they may not have known who actually sang it).

So let's do the math. According to this invoice filed by the city which you can view on the internet right here (thanks, Jeremy Buckley, for pointing this out), the performance and booking fees for Gomez totaled $27,750 (not including hotel and hospitality expenses), paid for by the city (i.e., by you). According to the same document, U.S. Cellular pitched in $50,000 I assume to cover staging and sound costs as well as for paying the 400 or so police on hand.

So let's just round up to a total of $80,000. That means if 800 people were there, the concert costs around $100 per person in the audience. Seems a tad pricey.

Adding to the discouraging turnout was the utter lack of "youth" in the park. I guess it depends on how you define "youth." I mostly saw people in their late 20s and early 30s, most of them pushing baby carriages. People in the 40s likely outnumbered people in their teens.

The only successful part of the concert was the performances. Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies sounded like an arena band from that mammoth stage. The sound quality was the best I've heard at a live outdoor show. Pristine. Too bad there were only 100 people there to see it. As you can see from this photo, I was able to lean against the stage barricade and take a picture unhampered. Even Brad cracked from stage that he'd seen most of the crowd a few weeks ago... at his CD release party.

I missed Mal Madrigal and Sarah Benck, and returned for Gomez. Again, terrific sound, and let's face it, a terrific band whose music is as featureless and forgetful and middle-of-the-road safe as you could find anywhere. Unadventurous pabulum, but very well played.

Look, I think the idea of a free "youth concert" in the park is terrific and essential in a city like Omaha. But you absolutely have to have someone who knows something about music (and "youth") help decide on the headliner. I'm not involved in the music business, but I have to believe that you can get some pretty amazing bands for $30,000 if you begin organizing the event now (or in a few months). I have no doubt that Mayor Fahey had no idea who Gomez was, nor should he know. Instead, he or his staff must have turned the decision over to the St. Louis booking agency hired for the gig, and they decided for him. "Hey, we've got this hot band called Gomez that was originally scheduled to come through The Waiting Room. They'd be perfect for your park concert." A copy of Bring It On was mailed to someone in the Mayor's office, where it was "monitored" to ensure there wasn't anything offensive on it, and then the band was given the green light.

Did anyone bother to ask any area youth who they'd like to see perform in the park? The answer clearly was "no." While I think The Plain White T's is a horrendous band, I can at least see why teenagers might listen to their derivative drivel. No teen is listening to Gomez.

So the question becomes whether there should be a sixth "youth concert" in Memorial Park next year. If the city can't get their shit together and start asking the right questions -- or hire One Percent Productions to handle the gig -- the answer is clearly no. It's a huge waste of money. It's also a huge wasted opportunity.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Gomez in the park, Starlight Mints Saturday… – June 5, 2009 – twitter icon

Looks like all the good shows are on Saturday night as I can't find a thing to do tonight (Brothers, here I come).

Tomorrow starts off in the afternoon (4 p.m.) with the "youth concert" in Memorial Park featuring Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies, Mal Madrigal and Sarah Benck, leading up to the headliner, Gomez. The price is right -- it's free. The current forecast calls for a 70 percent chance of rain Saturday morning with afternoon thunderstorms and a 40 percent chance of rain tomorrow night. Better bring your poncho.

As is always the case, people were bitching the other night at the show about how bad a choice Gomez was for this concert, and how the band is virtually unknown to the so-called "youth" that's being targeted. In fact, among the group of music-loving folks I was talking to, all had heard Gomez music before, but not a single one could name a Gomez song (I was able to name their cover of The Beatles "Getting Better," which was used for a Phillips light bulb commercial way back in 2000 -- their only mainstream claim to fame).

If the weather ends up being nice, people will show up for this concert anyway if only because it's something to do -- not because they want to see Gomez. Even a slight threat of rain could be enough to convince people to find something else to do Saturday afternoon/night. Here's hoping -- with a new mayor in power -- that we have a better headliner next year. As for you opening bands -- better watch your tongues. Remember what happened to Tim Kasher last year when he decided to voice his political views from stage. You don't want the once-powerful Omaha World-Herald to come down on you like a ton of shit, do you? (By the way, judging by the outcome of the election, Kasher got the last laugh).

* * *

After Gomez, head down to Slowdown Jr. for Minneapolis band The Starlight Mints with The Evangelicals. $10, 9 p.m. Also Saturday night, O'Leaver's is hosting Capgun Coup with Jake Bellows, Porlolo and Andrew Ancona. $5, 9:30 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Live Review: St. Vincent… – June 4, 2009 – twitter icon

I had a terrific birthday yesterday, thanks to everyone who wished me well (mostly via Facebook). Unfortunately, none of you cheap bastards bought me a single bottle of Rolling Rock at last night's St. Vincent show at Slowdown, Jr. And what a well-attended show it was. I don't know if it was a sell-out, but it looked darn close. Opener Pattern Is Movement came on at around 9:45 (Hey, Slowdown, whatever happened to starting at the stroke of 9?). A keyboard and drum duo, they sounded nothing like their music on Myspace. Instead, the frontman's warbly vocals sounded like a cross between an insecure David Byrne and Adam Sandler's Operaman, stammered over indie prog waterfall keyboards. And it was a short set (which reminds me of the Woody Allen quip, when reviewing a restaurant: "The food was terrible, and such small portions").

St. Vincent (Annie Clark and her band) didn't go on until around 11. After I first heard her perform at The Waiting Room a couple years ago, I declared her "this generation's PJ Harvey." Last night -- and on her new album, Actor -- it would be more accurate to call her this generation's Kate Bush. Backed by four band members -- a violin, bass, drums and a guy on woodwinds (flute, saxophone, clarinet) -- the music was dreamy and theatric, as well as rocking and, dare I say it, funky (see action photo, actually for a better view of Annie, see Dave Leibowitz's action photo). Their secret weapon is that woodwind player -- who added depth and emotion to every song -- and Clark's own gritty guitar work -- stark, hard, efficient, chopping, groovy. And, of course, her sweet voice that at times got lost in the mix. As is the case with any great band, the music sounded more dynamic on stage than on my speakers. Clark and Co. took it to the next level and peaked with the last song of the night -- an amazing version of "Your Lips Are Red," (from Marry Me) -- that put this show on top of my "best of" list (so far this year).

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

St. Vincent tonight; Column 224 redux… – June 3, 2009 – twitter icon

As I mentioned yesterday, tonight is St. Vincent a.k.a. Annie Clark at Slowdown Jr. with Philadelphia indie band (in an Arcade Fire/Decemberists vein) Pattern Is Movement, both for just $10. It's also my birthday, so come down and buy me a Rolling Rock. Show starts at 9.

This week's column is a rehash of last weekend's live reviews, so for you regular readers it's (essentially) a rerun, and I include it below for record-keeping's sake. The next three columns over the next three weeks all center around interviews, so quit complaining!

Column 224: It Happened Last Weekend
From the front lines...

Friday night.

It was my first live rock-show experience at The Sydney. I'd been warned that despite lowering the stage to near floor level from Mick's ridiculously high perch that the room still sounded like a noisy ball of shit. Ah, but the crowd was mostly tough guys that embrace such dissonance. It was the first time in a long time that someone pulled a "Nice earplugs" barb at me. I just smiled and adjusted my foam nubs -- I knew I'd get the last laugh.

I like the laidback feel of The Sydney. The room just has a good, friendly drinking vibe that it didn't have before. The folks running the place are super nice; everyone seems to be in a good mood -- what a concept! (Everyone seems to be in a good mood at O'Leaver's every night, too, but that's because they're lost in a NyQuil-like daze after mainlining Rumple Mintz since 4 in the afternoon).

If you saw a show at Mick's, you very likely were sitting down. If not, you were trapped in the crawlspace by the front door, likely in someone's way but still able to see the band on the crazy-high stage. At The Sydney, tables play a secondary role. There's plenty of space near the pseudo-stage, which is so low to the ground that it encourages people to get off their asses and stand right next to the band like any respectable punk and soak in the full force of the amps.

Kansas City's The Life and Times (the opener) was a classic guitar/bass/drums trio, and from their opening song reminded me of '90s-era Chicago band Chavez -- from their mathy compositions to the slurring, rising vocal lines that ironically countered the machine-gun-firecracker drums and counter-melody bass.

Was it loud? Oh yeah. I saw a few frowning fans up front doing the classic fingers-in-the-ears pose. I found the comedian who mocked my earplugs hiding in the back. Silly rabbit -- everyone knows that there's nowhere to hide from the noise in Mick's/Sydney, no escape but the exit.

Saturday night.

Having been to Ireland and having heard authentic tourist folk at its finest, I can say that The Turfmen are the best traditional Irish folk band we have, and as good as anything I heard "over there."

The five-piece features a couple accordions, a bass, an acoustic guitar and Douglas County public defender Tom Riley as the helm. Riley's life is begging to be adapted into an hour-long drama series on NBC -- a short but clearly tough lawyer who defends the innocent during the day and is a fun-loving Irish musician by night whose buoyant fighting ballads have that undercurrent of despair that marks all things from the Green Isle. The acoustic guitarist is his son, Brendan (for the TV show, let's make him a cop); the bass player is Omaha World-Herald reporter (and insider) Paul Hammel. The spiritual guiding light is the band's founder, Peter Brennan, straight from County Louth -- on the TV show, he'd provide wizened advice as only someone from the motherland could. Voiceover for the promo commercial: "From the mean streets of Omaha to the darkened stage, together this band of Irishmen not only play music, they protect and serve. The Turfmen -- Based On A True Story."

Anyway, by 11 the older folks in The Dubliner had been run off, replaced by an army of baseball-cap wearing frat guys and gaggles of prom-dressed girls out hosting giddy bachelorette parties. By 11:30, the place was a mob scene -- the front room a solid block of humanity. Why hasn't The Waiting Room or even Slowdown tried booking The Turfmen?

Which brings us to Sunday night...

The last time I saw Willy Mason was at Sokol Underground four years ago. He was a shaggy kid sneaking beers before his Omaha debut, having just signed to Conor Oberst's just-created Team Love Records label. Despite his age and stature, his deep, broad voice sounded like it should come from someone 10 years older. Now four years later, Mason has grown into that voice. No longer the long-haired kid, he showed up on the The Waiting Room stage with a crew cut and a smile that's logged a lot of miles.

Mason's songs have grown up, too. These days his style is closer to traditional folk than what was on his first record. He's a modern-day Woody Guthrie that holds himself on stage like a musical version of Sean Penn -- loose but serious and funny at the same time, singing songs about ex-girlfriends and his constant journey to somewhere/anywhere but home.

As his set came to an end, he announced that it was his last song. Some girls in the audience yelled a request for his most well-known tune -- "Oxygen." Mason smiled and seemed happily surprised. "Oxygen? I guess it is getting kind of stuffy in here," he joked. "I think I know that one." Who knows if he intended to play it during the encore. He probably did, though I like to think that he didn't, that he felt like he'd moved on from the late-teen anthem to individuality (a Tilly and the Wall's forte), with its references to Ritalin and a world that "just keeps on spinning." Sung as an adult, the song takes on a different, sentimental hue, like staring at a Polaroid taken years ago. No matter what he does from now on or how much better his songs become, Mason will never escape "Oxygen," thanks to the role it played in so many young indie fans' lives. How many songwriters wish they had one of those in their back pocket?

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Recent acquisitions… – June 2, 2009 – twitter icon

Yesterday I dropped by Homer's and picked up a copy of Iggy Pop's new album, Preliminaires, after hearing him interviewed by Terry Gross on Fresh Air (You can hear the interview online here). This is a lush, smoky, gorgeous (but relatively short) album by a guy who, at age 62, only gets better. It's the kind of album Bowie should have made a decade ago. Go out and buy it.

I also got a copy of Neil Young's Sugar Mountain: Live at Canterbury House 1968, part of Young's Archives Performance Series. The double album is pressed on 200 gram vinyl (and weighs a ton) by Toyokasei in Japan (whatever that means). It cost $66 and was worth every penny that I didn't spend on it (thanks to my store credit at Homer's).

Finally, I also took home the new one by St. Vincent, Actor. St. Vincent is performing down at Slowdown tomorrow night in the small room, for just $10. You really should go to this. She could be this generation's PJ Harvey. Find out for yourself.

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Live Reviews: The Turfmen, downtown; Willy Mason at TWR; Hot Toddies tonight… – June 1, 2009 – twitter icon

First, before we get to today's entry, there was a rare weekend update to Lazy-i. Scroll down below this entry, or just go here and read my review of a night at The Sydney.

* * *

There is nothing indie about The Turfmen, I know. But having been to Ireland and having heard authentic tourist folk at its finest, I can say that The Turfmen are the best traditional Irish folk band we have to offer and as good as anything I heard "over there." I used to get my fix of their music every St. Patrick's Day down at The Dubliner, but the Turfmen quit doing St. Paddy's at The Dub years ago, and I haven't caught them since… until Saturday night.

When we arrived at The Dubliner at around 10 the band already was well into its first set, and the main room was only half full -- a bit disappointing? A few tables were filled with 20-somethings enjoying black-and-tans and "older" couples having a night out. Within an hour the entire complexion of the laid-back audience turned completely upside down.

If you don't know, The Turfmen is a five-piece that features a couple accordion players, a bass, an acoustic guitarist and Douglas County public defender Tom Riley as its frontman (See action photo). Riley is guy whose life is begging to be adapted into an hour-long drama series on NBC -- a short but clearly tough lawyer who defends the innocent during the day and is a fun-loving Irish musician by night, whose buoyant fighting ballads have that undercurrent of despair that marks all things from the Green Isle. The acoustic guitarist is his son, Brendan (for the TV show, let's make him a cop); the bass player is Omaha World-Herald reporter Paul Hammel. The spiritual guiding light is Peter Brennan, the band's founder, straight from County Louth -- on the TV show, he'd provide wizened advice as only someone from the motherland could. Voiceover for the promo commercial: "From the mean streets of Omaha to the darkened stage, together this band of Irishmen not only play music, they protect and serve -- Based On A True Story."

Anyway, by about 11 o'clock the older folks had been run off, replaced by an army of baseball-cap wearing frat guys and gaggles of prom-dress-wearing girls. No, it wasn't an all-ages show. Saturday must have been the city's designated official "bachelorette party" night -- there were three of them going on at The Dubliner, along with what appeared to be the lamest bachelor party in history. By the time we left at around 11:30, the place was a mob scene. The front room was a solid block of humanity -- there were more people in the front room than in the main room listening to the band.

I've often wondered why The Waiting Room or even Slowdown haven’t tried booking The Turfmen. Yeah, I know that technically they're a cover band (if you can call a band that plays traditional music that), but so is The Song Remains the Same and Secret Weapon, who play at those clubs all the time. Could The Turfman get its legions of fans to follow them to Benson? I know I'd be there.

The strangest part of the evening -- the walk back to my car. The streets of The Old Market were packed with young party-goers headed to The Dub or Saki Bombers or 419 or wherever else there is to dance/party downtown. I had no idea that the Market was such a happening place for the young and the restless. It brought back my own days of youth, when The Howard Street Tavern was a central hang-out spot thanks to its live music (and the White Rabbit upstairs), the Crazy Duck had the occasional band along with the basement of the Jones St. Brewery. Will live music ever return to the Market? Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem likely. The club kids ain't having it.
* * *

Which brings us to last night...

The last time I saw Willy Mason was at Sokol Underground four or five years ago. He was a shaggy kid sneaking beers before his Omaha debut, the lucky guy who got "discovered" by Sean Foley while listening to a community radio station out of New England before being put on the roster of Conor Oberst's just-created Team Love Records. Willy was just a kid, though his surprising voice -- deep and broad -- sounded like someone 10 years older. Now four or five years later, Mason has grown into that voice. No longer the long-haired kid, he showed up on the The Waiting Room stage last night with a crew cut and a smile that's logged a lot of miles.

Mason's songs seem to have grown up, too. These days his style seems closer to traditional folk than what we got on his first record. He's a modern-day Woody Guthrie that holds himself on stage like a musical version of Sean Penn -- loose but serious and funny at the same time, singing songs about ex-girlfriends and his seemingly constant journey to somewhere/anywhere but home. In the end, it's his rich and buttery croon that stands out above everything else. (See pic)

As his set came toward a close, he announced that it was his last song. A few girls in the audience yelled out a request for his most well-known tune -- "Oxygen." Mason smiled and seemed happily surprised. "Oxygen? I guess it is getting kind of stuffy in here," he joked. "I think I know that one." Who knows if he intended to play it during the encore or not. He probably did, though I like to think that he didn't, that he felt like he'd moved on from that song that seems almost like a late-teen anthem to individuality (what Tilly and the Wall is still surviving on), with its references to Ritalin and "the world just keeps on spinning." Sung as an adult, the song takes on a different, almost sentimental hue. No matter what he does from now on or how much better his songs become, he'll never be able to escape "Oxygen," thanks to the role it played in so many young indie fans' lives. How many songwriters wish they had one of those in their back pocket? After his real last song, Mason stayed on stage and played three more as an encore before "joining you all in a drink."

Before Willy went on, Jake Bellows did a lively, funny solo acoustic set that was the most relaxed I've ever seen him (see blurry pic). The songs were all upbeat (pace-wise). Jake stopped a few times mid-stream to stare at a lost chord or remember a line and did it in a way that only he could pull off on stage. I wonder what he's going to do with all these songs, few of which I'd heard before. Jake also had the line of the evening. He said Willy Mason was a fine, respectful gentleman, "and he's got a hot mom." What? Now how would Jake know that...?

* * *

Speaking of hotties, there will be four of them on stage at The Slowdown Jr. tonight in the form of The Hot Toddies, a four-piece all-women indie-pop band reminiscent of The Go-Gos that's signed to Asianman Records . Opening is Talking Mountain and Malpais. $6, 9 p.m.

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Weekend Update: Live Review: The Life and Times, Little Brazil; Speed! Vanderslice tonight…. – May 30, 2009 – twitter icon

Yes, this is a rare Weekend Update on Lazy-i. There's too much stuff going on this weekend, and I don't want to smash it all into one blog post on Monday. We have Vanderslice tonight and singer-songwriters tomorrow, but I'll get to that (again) in good time.

This was my first time experiencing a live rock show at The Sydney (ex-Micks). I'd been warned by a number of people that despite lowering the stage to near floor level from Mick's ridiculously high perch that the room still sounded like a noisy ball of shit. Ah, but the crowd last night was mostly full of tough guys that embrace such dissonance. It was the first time in a long time that someone pulled a "Nice earplugs" barb at me. I just smiled and adjusted my foam nubs -- I knew I'd get the last laugh.

As I've mentioned before, I like the laidback feel of The Sydney. The room just has a good, friendly drinking vibe to it now that it didn't have before. The folks running the place are super nice; everyone seems to be in a good mood -- what a concept! (Everyone seems to be in a good mood at O'Leaver's every night, too, but that's because they all seem to be lost in a NyQuil daze after mainlining Rumplemintz since 4 in the afternoon).

When you went to Mick's to see a show, you very likely were sitting down somewhere. If not, you were trapped in the crawlspace by the door, probably in someone's way but still able to see the band on the crazy-high stage. At The Sydney, the tables play a secondary role. There's plenty of space near the pseudo-stage, which is so low to the ground as to encourage you to get off your ass and stand up there next to the band and soak in the full force of whatever's going on. I have to assume that the bands prefer this over towering above -- and being separated from -- everyone in the crowd.

Kansas City's The Life and Times -- the night's opener, who went on at around 10:30 -- certainly seemed to dig it. A classic rock trio -- guitar/bass/drums -- I'd heard they had a "showgazer vibe." Not to me. From the opening song I was reminded again and again of classic '90s Chicago Matador band Chavez -- from their mathy compositions to the slurring, rising vocal lines that ironically countered the machine-gun-firecracker drums and counter-melody bass lines. The frontman's voice even sounded sort of like Matt Sweeney's. And don't get me wrong -- you're not likely to find a bigger Chavez fan in any crowd, and these guys stylistically hit the mark. Here's an action photo.

Was it loud. Oh yeah. I saw a few fans up front doing the classic fingers-in-the-ears pose. I found the comedian who mocked my earplugs hiding in the back. Silly rabbit -- everyone knows that there's nowhere to hide from the noise in Mick's/Sydney -- it's as if you're trapped in a gigantic whispering arch, the sound is as loud in back of the room as it is up front. That said, I thought the dynamics were just fine (and even better for Little Brazil, who themselves had more dynamic range in their set). I can see why TL&Ts is generating a following around Omaha. They have a powerful, melodic sound, and when they stray from their Chavez/Sunny Day-esque formula, they really "shine" (get it?).

Little Brazil came on at about a quarter to midnight. I was wondering how they were going to fit onto the stage when TL&T barely could get all three members on the platform. The answer: They didn't. Guitarist Greg Edds set up his pedals and stood off the corner of the stage. I don't see a solution for this as there just isn't any room for expanding the stage. (See photo). If you're a four-piece (or larger) someone's going to be playing on the floor. Edds didn't seem to mind (or care) -- he just stood off in the dark and did his thing. Instrumentally, Little Brazil sounded spot on, if not a bit more majestic than usual (they pulled out a Tighten the Noose song that sounded fresher than ever, tucked into a set of songs from LB's most recent album, Son). Vocally, Landon Hedges sounded a bit tired and complained of having a tough time catching his breath, even asking if it as possible to develop adult asthma. Someone in the crowd yelled, "Quit smoking" and he responded with "I don't smoke that much, I only smoke when I drink," to which the voice in the crowd replied "Yeah, but you drink all the time." That said, neither Landon nor the band clearly were loaded last night. Maybe after playing the same songs for months, they just need a break. Too bad they won't get one. Word is they'll be heading out on tour later this summer -- and they need to, as that record was charting pretty well on CMJ last I looked.

* * *

OK, as I mentioned yesterday, tonight is John Vanderslice down at Slowdown Jr. with Skypiper. I have a funny feeling that this $10 show will be near capacity. You may want to get your tickets early. Also tonight, the Speed! Nebraska caravan rolls into O'Leaver's with Wagon Blasters, The Third Men and Ideal Cleaners. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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Little Brazil tonight, Vanderslice tomorrow, Willy Mason Sunday... – May 29, 2009 – twitter icon

Here comes the weekend...

Start it out with a fundraiser concert for the Omaha Entertainment Awards at Nomad downtown (not sure why this is being held downtown since the OEAs have historically been the domain of midtown/Benson, but I guess this must be considered an "outreach effort"). The program runs 5 to 9 p.m. and features Matt Cox, Satchel Grande and Rhythm Collective. Your $10 cover charge also gets you two draws of beer from Upstream brewery.

Alas, I won't be starting until much later, specifically at The Sydney where The Life and Times are playing with Little Brazil. While I do enjoy drinking at The Sydney, which is in the space that used to be Mick's, I've yet to hear a band perform there. The bar's sound system has received mixed reviews (from folks I've talked to). We'll see tonight. $8, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, get your twang on at The Waiting Room with Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers along with Dead Rock West the Pendrakes. $17, 9 p.m.

Saturday night, John Vanderslice plays at Slowdown Jr. with Skypiper. I've been listening to Vanderslice's new CD, Romanian Names, for the past few weeks and have yet to hear anything that stands out, but then again, I've never been a big Vanderslice fan. That shouldn't stop you, though. $10, 9 p.m.

Over at O'Leaver's, it's another Speed! Nebraska showcase, this time featuring Wagon Blasters (Gary Dean Davis' latest hot rod), The Third Men and Ideal Cleaners. $5, 9:30 p.m.

The Waiting Room is closed this Saturday night for a "private event." I just realized that it's been too long since I've there (I sadly missed Mike Watt a couple weeks ago), which means I'll have to make an extra effort to try to get out there Sunday night when Willy Mason -- the subject of my very first column -- returns to Omaha with Jake Bellows, Dan McCarthy and Phil Schaffart. $8, 9 p.m.

Also Sunday night, Saddle Creek Records artist Sebastien Grainger and his band The Mountains drops in at Slowdown Jr. for a last-minute show with Brimstone Howl. $10, 9 p.m.

And also Sunday night, O'Leaver's is hosting The Pendrakes with The Tisdales and Greg Loftis (of Malpais fame). $5, 9:30 p.m.

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Column 223: Save Box Awesome; Shanks reunite somewhere tonight... – May 28, 2009 – twitter icon

As mentioned in the column below, numerous calls to the property owner were unanswered and remain unreturned.

Column 223: Save Box Awesome
The Lincoln venue is being forced out...

Before I wrote this, I figured it would make sense to actually see the club that I had been hearing so much about for the past couple of years.

So this past Sunday night I drove down to Lincoln to see Box Awesome for the first and probably the last time -- at least at its current location.

For a guy who rarely drives to Lincoln (I'm not a huge Husker fan), finding the club wasn't easy -- 815 "O" St. appears to be an off-ramp when searching on Google maps. It took some mindless wandering around to figure out how to get to the Haymarket and Box Awesome.

Once through the door, you're met with a choice -- either go into the main club or downstairs. The main club is flat-out swank -- oak floors, cool artwork, vivid colors, a funky modern big-city vibe. The stage is oddly located in the center of the long, narrow room. There are no sight lines to the stage from the tables along the front of the building where the stage used to be when Box Awesome was The Chatter Box.

Sunday's upstairs show featured metal bands. So most of my evening was spent in the basement -- and that's exactly what the downstairs bar looked like. The lumpy cave-like walls were painted in a weird silver-gray paint that made them look like the surface of the moon as viewed from an orbiting service module. The decor was second-hand trailer-park -- ratty couches, kitchen dinette sets and a velour La-Z-Boy -- all had seen better days. The cave had all the charm of the rec-room of a neighbor who likes to have his friends over for house shows.

The stage wasn't a stage at all, but a space near the front of the long, narrow room where the band was set up behind a floor-speaker-quality PA. "Can I get more of the upstairs band in my monitor?" asked Sweet Pea bassist Django between songs as the bad Soundgarden-style noise filtered through the floorboards.

So this was Box Awesome -- a two-story music venue where the main bands play upstairs and the smaller bands, downstairs. But Jeremy Buckley, who helps book and manage the club, said it's more than that. Box Awesome has become a hotpoint for the Lincoln indie music community. In fact, folks involved in the venue's day-to-day operations include members of bands Crush the Clown, UUVVWWZ, Dean Armband, Knots, Idle Minds, The Show is the Rainbow and Eagle Seagull. And now that community is about to see its home taken from them.

While standing outside the club just downwind from the smokers, Buckley gave me his 10,000-foot explanation. The building's landlord -- a company called U.S. Property -- is trying to get Box Awesome to vacate as soon as possible instead of at the end of their lease, which runs through October. Buckley said no one knows exactly why, but that the legality surrounds a breach of contract that has to do with a rent payment sent a day or so late (but not exceeding the fifth of the month, Buckley said).

Efforts to discuss motives have fallen on deaf ears. U.S. Property apparently doesn't care that the club has performances booked through July, nor that Box Awesome has established itself as Lincoln's premier hip indie rock venue, whose performers have included Tilly and the Wall, Ssion, Grand Ole Party, Broken Spindles, Bassnectar, EOTO, Mr. 1986, Pattern is Movement, Flowers Forever, Eagle Seagull, the Flobots and Big Business.

In fact, one of the club's biggest shows is slated for June 17 -- Cursive, with openers Ideal Cleaners and Box Elders. Buckley said Cursive could have played at a much larger venue, but preferred to play at Box Awesome, which has a capacity of only around 250.

Ultimately, the reasons behind the eviction are likely business, not personal. Some are speculating that the landlord has found a high-dollar tenant willing to shell out even more for the building. Others suggest that one of U.S. Property's other tenants runs another club and sees The Box as unnecessary competition. None of it makes sense. Buckley e-mailed me U.S. Property's contact information Monday afternoon, but calls to their offices were unreturned; questions left unanswered. Maybe they just wanted them out.

But it's not going to be that easy.

Last week, with the blessing of club owner Jeremiah Moore, Buckley posted an "open letter to the local music community" on the Starcityscene webboard (here) outlining the situation. "We've been asked to leave the building and the landlords along with their lawyers are trying to find ways of forcing us out," he wrote.

And with lawyers come bills. Buckley's plea: "We will need to figure out how to either pay some lawyers or allow ourselves to be harassed without recourse if we can't pay those legal fees," he wrote. "If you are in a band and are interested in being a part of a series of benefit concerts to help with some of these legal fee issues, please feel free to contact us."

As a result of the letter, 27 bands offered to play fund-raisers. Two shows are now scheduled: May 29 at Box Awesome and June 7 at Duffy's, along with a comedy-show fundraiser June 10 at Duffy's, and a "garage sale" June 14 at 18th and Washington streets (in Lincoln).

Buckley and the rest of the Box Awesome community realize that whatever happens, they are going to be out of their current location by Halloween. Their only wish is to be able to spend the next few months playing out their final schedule, and finding a home for the next Box Awesome.

* * *

A few weeks ago, I got into a heated discussion with someone over the virtues of a Shanks reunion. The person speaking against such a diabolical proposal said that nothing good could come of it, except pain and despair. I argued that a Shanks reunion was inevitable, that all of the angst that existed between band members hadn't had a chance to work itself out (on stage) and that sparing us from that cathartic experience would mean cheating their primary fans, who have been following this rock 'n' roll Payton Place for the past few years. Well, tonight's the night. The Shanks are performing at Muscle Beach -- i.e., a house show -- with Digital Leather and Perry H. Matthews. Don't ask me where Muscle Beach is because I don't know. Digital Leather is Shawn Foree, a labelmate of Box Elders on Goner Records, who records songs himself and tours with a band, which this time is comprised of members of Shanks/Dinks/Ric Rhythm. Foree has been involved with bands that included current garage-rock phenom Jay Reatard. I'm also told that Forsee just signed with Fat Possum for his next record. I suspect that this show will get out of hand (in a good way). Find it and go. We'll probably see more of the Shanks in the future (but only at house shows). They have a split 7-inch with El Diablos Blancos coming out on Free Thinkers Union Records and a 7-inch called "Backstabber" that's being released this fall on Tic Tac Totally.

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Live Review: Sweet Pea... – May 27, 2009 – twitter icon

Well, I drove down to Box Awesome Sunday night to see what the place actually looked like. You'll see that report in tomorrow's column, where I essentially reiterate what was written last Friday, but with a little more Technicolor. The whole controversy surrounding Box Awesome doesn't make a bit of sense to me, and I can't get anyone other than Jeremy Buckley (the guy at the center of the storm) to talk. Regardless, the fundraiser benefit shows are scheduled, along with a garage sale. Details tomorrow.

When I arrived at Box Awesome, there was a metal show going on upstairs. The door guy let me take a stroll through the club, however, and I was genuinely impressed. It is a cool room, though as I say in the column tomorrow, I don't understand the stage location. I'm sure there's a logical reason for it being smack in the middle of the room rather than at one end or the other.

In addition to the fact that I had Monday off (and there was virtually nothing going on in Omaha Sunday night), Sweet Pea was the reason for heading down there. The band has been playing a ton around town, but I've never managed to catch their set. Needless to say, I still need to catch them in Omaha because the Box Awesome basement is rather… rustic. It's PA is a few steps below O'Leaver's, and the acoustics of a concrete bunker leaves a lot to be desired. Still, even in such un-acoustic-friendly conditions, Sweet Pea was a lot of fun. The four-piece is anchored by a lead guitarist/vocalist frontman and a female keyboard player/vocalist. There music resides somewhere between K Records twee pop, Belle and Sebastian, The Pixies, and new-indie dance acts like Cut Off Your Hands, The Pains of the Pure at Heart and Tokyo Police Club. The funny thing about keyboardist Annie Dilocker is that unlike a lot of women in local indie-rock bands, she can actually sing, though her voice was lost in the basement rattle. Toward the end of their set, the room had become so hot (as in muggy, since there's no circulation in the room) that the band asked that the lights to bet turned off, and they were, leaving them to perform in the unlit cave. A small gaggle of young women up near the non-existent stage danced in the dark. Check out the blurry action photo.

Sweet Pea is headlining a show at Slowdown Jr. June 19 with Boy Noises, AM Revival and In the Spring. Ironically that's also the first night of the Lincoln Invasion festival in Benson.

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What's going on with Box Awesome? The weekend... – May 22, 2009 – twitter icon

In an "open letter to the local music community" by Jeremy Buckley, posted on the Starcityscene webboard, Buckley announced yesterday that Box Awesome is being forced from its current location at 815 O St. in Lincoln. Buckley, the genius behind Lincoln Calling and the upcoming Lincoln Invasion festival in Omaha (June 19-20), works at Box Awesome.

"For reasons we're not exactly clear on yet, the landlord for the building that acts as the home to Box Awesome is no longer interested in having us as a tenant," Buckley wrote. "We've been asked to leave the building and the landlords along with their lawyers are trying to find ways of forcing us out."

Buckley said a court date has been set in the coming weeks and "a judge will decide either then or at a later court date when and if we have to leave the building before the end of our lease." The lease expires at the end of October.

Buckley said if Box Awesome continues to exist through that time, the operators will consider alternate locations for the club. Of course lawyers are involved, and with lawyers come bills -- large ones. Buckley's plea: "We will need to figure out how to either pay some lawyers or allow ourselves to be harassed without recourse if we can't pay those legal fees. If you are in a band and are interested in being a part of a series of benefit concerts to help with some of these legal fee issues, please feel free to contact us. If you have any other fundraiser ideas in particular please feel free to make suggestions."

Their e-mail address is

There's still no mention of this on the Box Awesome website, so for now keep an eye on the Starcityscene thread (here) for updates and other information.

I haven't been to Box Awesome since its facelift. I've been pondering a trip down there just to check it out because the room looks awesome in photos and everyone I've talked to who has played there loves the club. BA just bagged the Cursive show for June 17, and now this bomb drops out of the blue...

* * *

Despite this being a holiday weekend, there ain't much going on musicwise. Atmosphere and Brother Ali are at Slowdown tonight, but the show is sold out, so if you don't have tix, you're out of luck.

Tomorrow, O'Leaver's is hosting Lincoln Dickison, Steve Bartolomei and out-of-towner Malone. Show starts at 9 and costs $5.

Meanwhile, down at Slowdown Jr. Saturday night, Landing on the Moon plays with Fortnight and Thunder Power. $5, 9 p.m.

Have a good holiday.

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CD Review: Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship; Conor Week 2; Cursive in Lincoln... – May 21, 2009 – twitter icon

The Reader published another handful of micro CD reviews in this week's issue. Among them, my micro-take on the new one by Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship:

Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship, My Name Is What Is Your Name (Slumber Party) -- Even their own literature says that they're a product of '80s/'90s "alternative rock," so call them an unabashed post-post-punk band, which is something to be proud of in an era of post-chamber/folk/country rock. The guitars are chiming (and loud), the simple rhythm section is core (and loud), the vocals slur and scream (and yes, are loud). The six-song EP spans nearly 28 minutes and may bring to mind chunky, brittle, early Nirvana, but more likely mid-'90s bands like Rodan, Polvo, Zoom and Slant 6. Take it from someone who was there: These guys know what they're doing. Lazy-i Rating: Yes. Reader Rating: 3.5 stars.

Other CDs that were reviewed include the new ones by Little Brazil, Beep Beep and Cursive (All three would have received a "Yes" rating from me). Pick up a copy of The Reader and check them out.

* * *

Homer's Records Major Domo Mike Fratt wrote in yesterday to say that Week 2 sales numbers dropped for Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band's Outer South. The breakdown: 4,926 physical copies sold, good enough for No. 94 on the Billboard album charts, and 866 digital sales for No. 117 on the digital charts. After two weeks of release, Outer South has sold around 25,000 copies, which Fratt said is below what Oberst's done before, but is still "quite impressive." Fratt thinks Oberst is losing his traditional "emo kids" audience and gaining new, older Triple-A fans. "These 'older' fans are not as street-date driven and take longer to discover and make a purchase decision," he said. If true, that would be good news for Oberst, who was tagged with the emo label from the age of 14. Now that he's pushing 30, it's time to shed it once and for all.

* * *

The opening line-up has been announced for Cursive's June 17 show at Box Awesome in Lincoln. The bands are local heroes Box Elders and Lincoln's Ideal Cleaners. I'm told that Cursive was presented with larger venue options for the Lincoln show, but insisted on Box Awesome even though the venue's capacity is a mere 250. Tickets are $13, and should go quickly.

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Column 222: Long live SLAM; Raise High the Roof Beam, Thunder Power, Sweet Pea; Cloud Cult tonight... – May 20, 2009 – twitter icon

I guess there are a couple things to keep in mind before you read this week's column: First, as much as I enjoy Slam Omaha I don't post messages there very often. i have my own webboard, website, blog and column where I can espouse my profundities. When someone goes after me on Slam (which happens every once in a while) I wait for the discussion to come to me, then comment, usually on my board, but occasionally in my blog. I'm not a fan of pissing matches. And moreover, if you're going to write a column or music criticism, you better be prepared to hear that you're full of shit. And hear it often.

Also, the folks who frequent Slam like a different style of music than I listen to or write about, so I don't have much to offer by way of relevant commentary, and reciprocally, I don't think the folks there give two shits about my point of view (nor should they). Still, I check it out every day, even throw in a few bon mots in their Cool Talk board (usually about film or food).

Whether the folks in indie-music land want to admit it or not, Slam is an important part of the Omaha music and arts landscape. The few times I've been fortunate to talk to Mick (one of the guys who runs the site) I've heard about upcoming upgrades to Slam's technology. Yes, their webboard is somewhat old-fashioned and lacks most of the functionality of simple user-created online hosted webboards. But there's a charm and simplicity to its basic usability that I hope it never loses.

Column 222: The Art of Conversation
Online discussion boards are under siege.

Almost didn't have a column this week. These are, indeed, the doldrums, my friends; the time just before summer where nothing "musically" is going on, no CDs are arriving at my door (or in my e-mail box). Everything is on hold, waiting for something to happen.

So in these times of uncertainty, when I'm clawing for an idea -- any idea -- for this column, I do what I normally do -- I check out S.L.A.M. Omaha to see what the chatter's all about.

S.L.A.M. Omaha (or just Slam), for those of you completely out of the loop (not by choice but by ignorance), is a website located at that includes music and art events calendars, news and probably its most popular feature, message boards. For a decade at least, Slam has been a local musicians' and music fans' watering hole where folks shoot the breeze over last night's show, tonight's show, next week's show and everything else in between. The occasional well-thought-out analysis of a specific music genre, artist or performance is mixed in with assorted dick jokes, insults and personal attacks. It's the latter that keeps some musicians and music fans away, or chases away others who feel that the site isn't living up to what the SLAM acronym stands for: Support Local Art and Music. My response to them: It's a friggin' discussion board. It's the Internet. What did you expect? Along with unmonitored discussion comes controversy and general stupidity as well as the occasional thoughtful insight and humor.

Despite its outdated technology and general lack of interest (or contempt for) indie music and Saddle Creek artists, Slam continues to be one of the most important online resources for Omaha music information. It is the first place I go for a daily perspective on the local scene. If a musician had a breakdown on stage the night before, you'll read about it the next morning on Slam.

But lately, sites like Slam are under siege by new-ish social media "services" -- Facebook and Twitter come to mind. Now musicians and music fans can create their own online communities and share their comments only with those who have a like-minded point of view -- their "friends," their "fans," their "followers." It's safe, it's easy, it avoids uncomfortable feedback from those who might not dig what you're doing. For musicians, it paints a perennial rosy picture that almost always is untrue. Facebook can create a dangerous tunnel vision, a guarded, unnatural point of view, and before you know it, the emperor is parading down Maple Street naked with a guitar slung over his shoulder.

* * *

An example of an interesting recent Slam thread asked whether venues' "regulars" should be forced to pay a cover charge when there's a live band scheduled to perform. Well, as with most popular threads on Slam, the discussion morphed from "regulars" not paying the cover charge to roadies and even free-loading music critics. Wrote Klark Kent (the K Mart of Supermen): "I'm wondering how long it's been since (for example) MarQ (Manner, the patron saint of the Benson music scene) or Tim McMahan (has paid to get into shows -- I had to finish the sentence because Klark apparently lost his chain of thought -- don't go to discussion boards for good grammar or spelling).

There was a time when I always was on "the list," back in the Sokol Underground days, when the guys running the door just stamped my hand. Those days are gone, not because I pissed them off, but because those guys aren't working the door anymore, and quite frankly, they don't need to give the guy who writes Lazy-i a free pass. They know that -- probably more than most people in the club -- I can afford it.

Still, whenever I write a preview profile on a touring band or pimp a show in my column, I ask the record label to put me on "the list." Why not?

The only place where I've never been on "the list" is O'Leaver's. As One Percent Productions' Marc Leibowitz used to say way back in the day when he booked shows there: "O'Leaver's doesn't have a list." Nor should it. When a band rolls into town after driving in a dirty van all day, wondering if their petrol will hold out 'til they get to the club -- hungry, tired, second-guessing this whole rock-star shtick -- and then see the dump that they're going to play at, they deserve every penny of that $5 cover charge from fans who showed up to rock. They need the cash to get to the next town. And while you're at it, buy a T-shirt, too.

But should that include $5 from regulars? My answer: No, it shouldn't. These "regulars" are the life-blood of any bar. They're a hedge against tough times, showing up night in and night out to drop $10+ on booze. Without regulars, a venue is going to be forced to grind out shows on their stage every night, or quickly find themselves out of business (or both). Bands who feel cheated by a toll-free presence should feel lucky to even have a place to perform, because believe me, most bars or venues would rather cater to a roomful of regulars than those bands' fans, who likely will be bolting the minute they say "Goodnight."

* * *

So that's my take. After it's published, I'll post a link to this column on Slam Omaha. Some of the website's regulars will read it and hate it and will say so. But that's part of the fun. On a discussion board, you're going to catch a few turds along with any roses. But if we all lived in Facebook, where would we find our turds?

Tonight at Slowdown Jr., it's Chicago indie band Raise Height the Roof Beam with local comers Thunder Power and Sweet Pea. TP says that this will be the second to last Thunder Power show until the end of August due to touring. $6, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, over at The Waiting Room, Minneapolis art rock band Cloud Cult returns with Ice Palace. $10, 9 p.m.

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Big Business (1/2 Melvins) tonight... – May 19, 2009 – twitter icon

I'm telling you, there's nothing going on tonight. Well, nothing in Omaha anyway. In Lincoln, the band Big Business, whose members include 1/2 of The Melvins (presumably the good half), are playing at Box Awesome. According to Wikipedia:

Big Business started as a two piece band composed of Jared Warren of Karp and The Tight Bros From Way Back When, and Coady Willis of Murder City Devils. Their sound has been characterized as a bombastic and frantic low end attack, marked by Warren's signature vocal delivery. The band released its first album, Head for the Shallow, on January 25, 2005. In late 2006, after relocating to Los Angeles, Jared and Coady both became members of The Melvins and were featured on the Melvins album (A) Senile Animal.

Show starts at 9:30 and is $6 if you're over 21 (it's $8 for 18-21). More details here.

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An uneventful weekend; One for the Team tonight... – May 18, 2009 – twitter icon

Very little to report from this past weekend music-wise. Saturday night involved a drop-in at Dario Days -- as part of the Dundee Spring Fling event -- where I saw one of the worst live bands I've heard in long time (while enjoying a cup of potent Belgian beer). The combination of cold weather and bad music drove me away fairly quickly. In addition, I never made it to Mike Watt at TWR, which I've been told was the usual event-quality performance.

And thus, another uneventful weekend passes.

So who was the crappy band at Dario's? You'll figure it out on your own if you ever see them (or simply do the math). I'd never heard of them prior to the gig, and have a feeling they won't be playing again (at least at any venue that you and I frequent). Like I've said here before -- I generally don't shit on sucky local bands unless they've managed to receive a modicum of national attention (National bands, of course, are fair game). Instead, I just don't write about them. Perhaps I'm doing you a disservice. The way I see it, I'd rather brag up someone you should check out than bag on someone you probably won't be seeing anyway. Or maybe you will be seeing them, and they turn out be the band you've been looking for all your life. Who am I to deprive you of such a discovery?

* * *

Minneapolis indie band One for the Team plays tonight at Slowdown Jr. with Betsy Wells. $7, 9 p.m.

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Coyote Bones update; Mike Watt, Dundee and the weekend... – May 15, 2009 – twitter icon

David Matysiak of Coyote Bones sent me an e-mail with a head's up that he just mastered their new record, Niobrara, on April 2. "Just finishing the artwork and then going to print vinyl LPs," Matysiak said. "No CDs this time!"

Matysiak said CB is now a trio, featuring himself, Jordan Noel of Athens band Iron Hero, and Heather Kemp, a singer from Macon, GA. Coyote Bones just opened for Cursive May 1 in Atlanta. Look for their new album in late August on Matysiak's label, CoCo Art. "PS:," he wrote, "New Telephono Vol. 2 info coming up!" Nice.

* * *

Keynote event for my weekend is, of course, Dundee's Spring Fling event, but specifically Dario Days -- the music/beer-drinking event held in the parking area right next to Blue Line Coffee in Dundee. The music starts at 6:30 with Ragged Company, followed by Moses Prey, Rock Paper Dynamite and Satchel Grande at 10 p.m. Taking place just a few yards away will be the Dundee Spring Fling stage located right outside of the KFAB building. The music starts at 11:45 a.m., but the biggest draw will likely be for U2 tribute band Me2 at 5:30.

Also Saturday night, Mike Watt returns to Omaha, this time to The Waiting Room, where he's headlining a show with The Stay Awake and The Third Men. Tickets are $10, show starts at 9.

Also Saturday night, Bazooka Shootout plays at O'Leaver's with Actors and Actresses. $5, 9:30 p.m.

And Sunday night, O'Leaver's is hosting Fucken Snakes with Mosquito Bandito and Goddamn Gallows. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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UUVVWWZ, Oui Bandits, It's True tonight… – May 14, 2009 – twitter icon

You'd think it was Friday instead of Saturday based on tonight's show line-up.

Down at Slowdown Jr., it's Saddle Creek recording artist UUVVWWZ, with Oui Bandits, So Many Wizards and Black Hundreds -- all for only $7. Starts at 9 p.m.

Also tonight, It's True headlines a show at The Waiting Room with Midwest Dilemma, Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies, Little Black Stereo and Haywood Yards. $8, 8:30 p.m.

* * *

An addendum to yesterday's Mogwai live review: I forgot to link to the photos I took at the show. Here's a shot of Mogwai's Stuart Braithwaite making some noise using his battery of effects pedals. Here's a typical action shot of Mogwai jamming. And finally, here's a blurry shot of opening band Women. Of course, those of you who follow Lazy-i in Twitter saw all these the night of the show.

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Column 221: Mogwai live review; Cursive, Azure Ray to play free show July 24; Outer South first-week numbers… – May 13, 2009 – twitter icon

Before we get to the breaking news, first this review of Monday night's Mogwai show. I don't think this show sold out, but judging by the size of the crowd, it must have been pretty close. This wasn't the loudest show I've ever attended. That honor goes to a Bob Mould concert at The Ranch Bowl that was so painfully loud that it cut alleys into the sold-out crowd standing in front of the stacks. The Faint concert at The Waiting Room back in March 2007 comes in a close second. This one was right up there, though...

Mogwai at The Slowdown May 11, 2009
Photo by John Shartrand, used with permission.

Column 221: A Night of Sound
Mogwai brings it LOUD.

A lot of people have asked me how I manage to go to shows during the week and still maintain a "regular job" that commands that I be in the office by 8 a.m. The Slowdown's strict policy of starting shows at 9 p.m. sharp helps immensely, because it means I'll probably be home by midnight.

And that schedule was kept at the Mogwai concert this past Monday. Opening band, ironically named Women (no skirts in sight), hit the stage at the stroke of 9, even if I wasn't there to see it. I've heard their highly lauded debut album, and wasn't feeling it. Their live performance, however, made me shuffle through my iTunes library afterward, looking for the tracks.

The Calgary four were the most un-rockstar looking dudes I've ever seen -- they looked just like you and me, like nobodies -- no style visually at all, just a bunch of guys you'd find shopping at the Slowdown Mall. But musically, they were the reincarnation of the classic '80s-era 4AD band, with a minimalist, rhythmic style that was much more interesting than what I heard on their Jagjaguwar release.

Mogwai didn't do much to ratchet up the style quotient, except for their preponderance of shaved heads, most notably from short-guy frontman Stuart Braithwaite, who welcomed the crowd in his lovely Scottish brogue before proceeding to slowly, deliberately take away their ability to hear.

I've written about hearing protection before, so I'm not going to re-plow that old ground except to say: 1) I was happy I had my earplugs, and 2) They sell earplugs at Slowdown's bar for 50 cents (They used to have an earplug gumball machine, but someone smashed it).

But I digress. It was loud. It needed to be loud. Such is the style and ways of Mogwai, a band whose instrumental-only music creates tension through its quiet-LOUD-quiet dynamics.

In fact, that equation is the be-all and end-all of their compositions -- start off each song with a quiet guitar melody, keyboard or soothing percussion line, and then slowly build-build-build as if climbing a mountain or having sex -- or having sex while climbing a mountain -- until they reach some sort of breathless orgasmic peak -- usually at ear-bleeding wake-the-neighbors decibels -- to slowly come back down in a post-coital glow, lying back in wait for the next mountain to conquer.

Like any good partner, they occasionally strayed from the standard deviation -- once lulling the audience to comfortable passivity bathed in dark blue or ruby red stage lighting -- only to shock with a wall of bristling noise accompanied by blinding STROBES. The strobes were the only elaborate piece of staging, and were used effectively to accent the high-noise action in a BOOM! Take that! sort of way.

OK, I admit that I did find it a bit repetitive, especially since every song was played at the exact same plodding pace -- absolutely no variety in meter the entire night. But I suppose keeping the performance locked in a single gear was part of their shtick. And what they lacked in rhythmic variety they made up for in sheer majestic scope.

My plus-one for the evening texted me throughout the show from somewhere in the crowd, mostly complaining about the constant mid-tempo pace, with text messages like, "Hoping 4 godlike instead got plodlike."

I couldn't argue, but I still dug every minute of it. And so did the crowd, though at times it was hard to tell. From my usual "spot" in the front right corner along the wall by the fired doors just off of stage left, I watched the crowd. A skinny kid in a T-shirt -- no more than 18 -- stood up front and stared not up at the band, but downward, toward the front edge of the stage. Blank. Flat line with eyes wide open. What was he looking at? What was he seeing?

Meanwhile, between songs from in back of the audience a drunk woman slur-yelled "Yah-yah-yah- yah-yah" like a tipsy peacock. Over and over. She tried to get the rest of the crowd to join in, slurring "Come on, everybody!" before screaming another drunken mating call. On stage, the band tuned their guitars and smiled. "And I'm used to people not understanding me," Braithwaite said, sounding like a short, bald version of Scotty from Star Trek.

About three songs from the end I noticed that most of the kids standing in front of the stage -- all young guys -- weren't looking up. They stared forward like an army of sad killers. Or zombies. Lost, I guess, in the fog of sound.

Meanwhile, during the encore, a woman nearby cringed and covered her eyes, cowering against the STROBES and the NOISE, waiting for it all to end. First she would have to endure 10 minutes of noise created by Mogwai's arsenal of effects pedals that Braithwaite and one of his cohorts "played" while kneeling on stage, covered in a shower of lightning. As the drone continued to echo, he grabbed a couple empty Red Stripe bottles, stood up and waved to the crowd and was gone.

And I was home by midnight.

* * *

And now the news: Val Nelson who helps run Slowdown tells me that Cursive is headlining a free show with Azure Ray and Flowers Forever to be held in the Slowdown parking lot July 24. The 18+ concert is being held in conjunction with Mutual of Omaha's Wild About Omaha weekend. With the Conor Oberst Anchor Inn show on June 26, and a second even more interesting show at Anchor Inn rumored to be in the works, this is turning out to be a great year for outdoor entertainment.

* * *

Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band's album, Outer South, released last week on Merge Records, came in at No. 40 in the latest Billboard charts, according to Mike Fratt of Homer's Music. The album nationally sold 14,361 physical units, while moving 4,823 digital copies -- good enough for No. 12 on the Billboard digital charts. Fratt said only five records on the charts sold more than 50,000 copies last week.

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Conor Slept Here; The Bastard Sons of Del the Funky Homosapien tonight; VOTE!… – May 12, 2009 – twitter icon

The Mogwai live review with photos will be online tomorrow. Why tomorrow? Because I used it for this week's column in The Reader. The short version: It was big, it was loud, it was somewhat awesome, if not a bit monotonous.

* * *

Paste Magazine today published a brief history of the Farnam House/Gunboat/Frank's Hotel, written by local music journalist Liz Stinson. Liz describes the house (located at 38th and Farnam, right across from The Brothers Lounge), interviews a number former occupants and discusses its improbable future. Read it here. My first interview with Conor Oberst back in '98 took place in that dumpy house.

* * *

It's a busy night for shows. Down at The Slowdown, Del the Funky Homosapien returns with Mike Relm, Bukue One and Serendipity Project. $18, 9 p.m. I believe Del sold out The Slowdown the last time he came through, so you may want to buy your tickets before you head downtown.

Also tonight, The Bastard Sons of Johnny Cash play at The Waiting Room with The Filter Kings. $10, 9 p.m.

* * *

And before you do anything, don't forget to vote!

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Live Review: The Whore Moans, etc.; Mogwai tonight… – May 11, 2009 – twitter icon

The Whore Moans were tearing it up when I got to O'Leaver's Friday night, in fact they were about halfway through their set. The Seattle band is on Mike Jaworski's Mt. Fuji label, the former home of Little Brazil (who moved to Anodyne for their latest record). WM is a completely different animal than LB. They play spazzy, jittery punk that leans forward with an open aggression that is nothing less than impressive, especially on O'Leaver's tiny "stage." Though they're designed on an indie-rock platform, there's something almost glammy about the 4-piece soundwise. They're too self-assured to be mistaken for a garage band, but they're not shiny enough for pure commercial consumption. Put it another way -- they seemed at home at O'Leaver's and would be just as comfortable at The Niner, but I don't know if their sound/style would translate well to a larger stage like The Waiting Room. Like any great party band, they make the most of dungeon-like confines and cramped pseudo stages to the point where that's the only place that I can imagine seeing them, especially when they're doing things like jumping off tables or hanging from the rafters (which they did Friday night). I think this is a band that Fuji can build upon if they can keep them in the stable.

Techlepathy is becoming O'Leaver's pseudo house band (They're playing there again June 6). I don't know what more to add since the last time, other than beneath the unholy, mathy, complex din there is a pop sensibility lying in wait -- whether frontman Lincoln Dickison ever allows it to come out and play for more than one song is yet to be determined.

Late Saturday night I dropped in at The Saddle Creek Bar where I heard the last few songs by singer/songwriter Chris Pureka, which were very strong. Despite the obvious similarities, it's unfair to compare her to Melissa Etheridge or Amy Ray -- her music and style are more indie and more compelling than either of those two. Sarah Benck followed with a solo set that included acoustic versions of a few songs from her last album along with some stuff I haven't heard before, all enjoyed by the 10 or 15 people on hand.

Tonight at Slowdown, it's the power and majesty of Mogwai. As I said in this story, don't expect a ton of fancy lights or any intricate staging, just five guys creating a helluva beautiful noise. Opening is critics' darlings Women (which, incidentally, includes no Women). $17, 9 p.m.

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The Whore Moans, William Elliott Whitmore tonight; Margot & the Nuclear So & So's, Dinks tomorrow… – May 8, 2009 – twitter icon

Listening to the new Sonic Youth album, The Eternal, which is slated for release by their new label, Matador Records, June 9. It's not so much what I expected from SY as much as what I wanted from them -- their most tuneful album in years.

Here's what we got for the weekend…

Tonight at O'Leaver's, it's Mt. Fuji recording artist The Whore Moans with Psychic Campfire opening the show and Techlepathy headlining. Michael Jaworski, proprietor of Mt. Fuji, said The Whore Moans "are truly the best live band I've ever worked with" -- high praise when you consider Jaws worked with Little Brazil for quite a few years. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Over at The Waiting Room it's the return of folkie singer-songwriter William Elliott Whitmore with Frontier Ruckus and songwriting genius Brad Hoshaw solo. $8, 9 p.m.

At The Barley St., it's Black Squirrels with Sweet Pea, Traveling Mercies and everyone's favorite troubadour bartender Kyle Harvey. $5, 9 p.m.

Saturday night The Dinks are playing at The 49'r with Cat Island. This should be raw. Cover will probably be around $5 and things will get rolling at around 10.

Meanwhile, Margot and the Nuclear So & So's are playing at Slowdown Jr. with Everything Now! $10, 9 p.m.

The Saddle Creek Bar has Sarah Benck with Northampton, Mass. singer/songwriter Chris Pureka and Platte River Rain. $5, 9 p.m.

Sunday night, Landon Hedges in the form of Fine Fine Automobiles is playing O'Leaver's with David Zollo. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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Feature story: Mogwai; Live Review: Other Lives, Elvis Perkins in Dearland… – May 7, 2009 – twitter icon

Just placed online, a feature story with comments from Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai (read it here). I say "feature story" vs. "interview" because Stuart was a man of few words. Still, he talked about what few words are used in Mogwai's mostly instrumental music -- song titles, album themes, etc. He also talked briefly about iPods and what the band has in store for next Monday's show at The Slowdown. Give it a quick read -- then click over here and buy your tickets.

* * *

Speaking of shows, last night's show at The Waiting Room was a good one. I got there just in time to catch the last song by Bear Country, which featured some gorgeous multi-part harmonies a la CSNY. Here's an action photo. I haven't seen these folks do a full set in a couple years (and I need to).

Stillwater, OK, band Other Lives was up next. The six-piece was more like an orchestra than a band, featuring cello, harmonium and violin (not fiddle) along with the usual guitar/keyboard/bass/drums combo. Their music was as big and broad as the Oklahoma sky -- cinematic and, especially on a Leonard Cohen cover, draped in drama like a soundtrack from a Sergio Leone spaghetti western. Folks in the crowd compared them to everyone from Richard Buckner to Fleet Foxes to (in my case) Pinetop Seven -- one of the few bands that had the same epic grace and scope (see photo).

Elvis Perkins' set opened on a somber note when he came out alone -- looking like a 95-pound version of Johnny Depp -- and performed a solo version of "123 Goodbye," that, for me, was one of the night's highlights (see photo). Afterward, he was joined by the rest of his band -- each member playing multiple instruments -- guitar, piano, bass and most notably, trombone. Ah, that trombone, which was only used on a few songs, gave the proceedings a brassy New Orleans sheen. Most of the set was dedicated to the …in Dearland album, including a gripping version of "Shampoo," the album's "single," which you could hear on your radio if life were fair. But life isn't fair when it comes to independent music, and never will be. That said, Perkins is riding a deserved wave of loving press these days, ordained as the latest "NPR band" to break through from college to something (slightly) bigger. He's the kind of guy whose music will appeal to everyone from smart late teens to their parents to their parents' friends in their 50s and 60s who grew up listening to The Band and Dylan. The next time we see Perkins could very well be on stage at The Holland or another larger, more formal venue.

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Column 220: Record Show stories; Elvis Perkins and Dearland tonight (and today); Little Brazil at Slowdown Jr… – May 6, 2009 – twitter icon

Who knows what the Polecat record discussed in the column below is really worth. What I do know is that eBay makes it easier to find out. It's also ruining it for treasure hunting at shows like the one held last Sunday. Used to be you could go to a record show (or an antique store or a garage sale…) and find a hidden treasure if you dug long enough. Those days are long gone -- that's the downside to eBay. The upside is that you can find just about anything you've ever wanted online… but for a price.

Column 220: Skinning a Polecat
A record collector's story

It was some time last week that I got a call from a pal who makes money on the side as a record dealer, asking if I knew anything about a 7-inch by a band called Polecat.

I recognized the name immediately. Polecat was a band from Lincoln in the early '90s that consisted of Ted Stevens, Boz Hicks and Oliver Blaha. Stevens, as regular readers of this column know, went on to form chamber-pop group Lullaby for the Working Class, and today plays guitar in Cursive. Hicks went on to become a member of Her Flyaway Manner, and today is in Domestica, a trio featuring ex-Mercy Rule rockers Jon Taylor and Heidi Ore.

But was there more to the story of that red-vinyl single, titled "2500 ft of our love," and the role it played in the history of the Omaha music scene?

My broker pal said he was headed to a record show Sunday with the Polecat single, unless, of course, it made more sense to sell it on eBay, where the item could ignite a bidding war. There are stories about how copies of Conor Oberst's cassette-only early recording, titled Water, have fetched hundreds of dollars on eBay. Could the Polecat single be as valuable? It seemed doubtful, but I said I'd ask around.

Funny how the Internet has made the world so much smaller. Imagine trying to track down an old friend from 16 years ago without using the World Wide Web. It would involve lots of phone calls and maybe even hiring a Jim Rockford-style PI. Today, all you have to do is Google.

Moments after getting off the phone with the broker-friend, I logged onto Facebook, and lo and behold, also online but Dan Schlissel, proprietor of '90s-era Lincoln-based Ism Records (which became Ismist). Back in the day, Schlissel was involved with record distribution, including handing that Polecat single. Sure, he remembered it. So what's it worth? Schlissel, who now runs the amazingly successful comedy label Stand Up! Records (whose roster includes Grammy winner Lewis Black), said he'd seen the single sell for more than $20 on eBay.

I called the dealer back, and with that info he decided to go ahead and bring the record to the show and see what happens. But that wasn't the end of the research. Later that evening I went down to Slowdown for the Crystal Antlers show, and who was there but former Polecat drummer Boz Hicks (and for once, he wasn't working behind the bar).

Between bands, Boz told stories of Polecat from days gone by. He thought the single was released at about the same time that local label Lumberjack Records (which had released that Water cassette) was forced to change its name because a distributor already had the rights to the name "Lumberjack." Turns out that song titles on that Polecat single were "Chinese Water Torture" and (wait for it...) "Saddle Creek." Hicks has a couple copies of the single himself, and thought it could fetch far more than $20 if the record's back story were well-established to potential buyers.

The next morning I headed down to the record show thinking I might just buy that damn single myself. After all, it was a piece of local music history.

The show -- organized by Tim Behrens, the guy behind Kanesville Used Records in Council Bluffs (and the undisputed local king of used vinyl) -- was located in the Firefighters Union Hall at 60th and Grover. If you were looking for proof that vinyl is making a comeback, all you had do was look at the crowds jammed between the rows and rows of tables stacked with boxes of CDs, T-shirts, posters, music memorabilia, but most of all, record albums.

Behrens, who's been dealing records for 30 years, said the show did well. "It was a full house of dealers and there were lots of new faces," he said. He credited a renewed interest in vinyl by fans who want something more substantial than a computer file or a jewel case holding a piece of silver plastic. "Plus, used records are cheaper than new," he said. "Selling used stuff doesn't seem to be affected by the state of the economy."

As I thumbed through the bins, time seemed to stand still, or even slip slightly backwards. Here were all the lousy records I'd bought back in high school by bands I'd long forgotten -- Fastway, April Wine, The Alarm, The Firm, Asia -- along with an endless supply of Beatles records. And just like whenever I go thrift-store shopping, a wave of exhausted malaise rolled over me like an overdose of dusty nostalgia.

I hustled over to my broker friend's table that was set up in the middle of the hall. "Where is it?" I asked. Too late, it's gone. Sold only moments earlier. The lucky buyer was Jordan Delmundo, who bought the single, along with another piece of vinyl, for a total price of $20.

He pulled it out of its plastic bag and let me take a look. Despite a small crease at the top of the sleeve, it probably looked the way it did when it was first sold 16 years ago. "You know what you have there?" I asked Delmundo. He did. He knew it might have be worth more than $20 -- or maybe less -- but he had no intention of finding out.

I didn't go home empty handed. I added to my Factory Records collection, purchasing FAC 123 ("The Perfect Kiss") and FAC 293R ("World in Motion Remix") -- 12-inch records by New Order. Ah, but I would have rather gone home with a Polecat record.

* * *

Elvis Perkins in Dearland is in town today and tonight -- I highly recommend you catch him. The main attraction is the show at The Waiting Room with Other Lives and Bear Country. Tickets are still available for a mere $10. But if you’re a cheap-ass and don't have a job, you can always swing by Homer's in the Old Market this afternoon at 4 p.m. and catch them doing an in-store with opening band Other Lives. While you're there, you may want to pick up Perkins' latest album on XL Recordings, which currently sits at No. 163 on the Billboard charts.

Also tonight, Little Brazil has been added to a show at Slowdown Jr. headlined by Australian band Youth Group and also featuring The Sleepover. $8, 9 p.m.

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New Oberst out today; Richard Lloyd tonight… – May 5, 2009 – twitter icon

The new Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band disc, Outer South, dropped today on Merge. If you're wondering what it sounds like, check out the stream at The Pitchfork review came out yesterday (here) with a rating of 4.9 -- the lowest PF rating I've seen for an Omaha-based act in a while (or maybe ever). "As you might expect, Oberst's reversion to logorrhea and emotional extremism here effectively eliminates the possibility that Outer South will possess any ensemble cohesion," says the review, which was written in a style that's about as inviting as a college thesis. On the other hand All Music Guide chief critic Stephen Thomas Erlewine gave the album 4 out of 5 stars (here) -- the highest rating he's ever given an Oberst-related record (He gave Wide Awake 2 stars). Says Erlewine, "Oberst himself seems swept up in the motion -- he's dropped his vocal affectations, his grandiose couplets, he's happy to be leading a group that feels like a band of brothers -- one that might not always sing in the same voice, but share a sensibility, something that gives Outer South a big human heart." Rolling Stone, btw, gave it three and a half stars (here). My take? I've yet to sit down with my Mac and listen to the whole stream.

Tonight at The Waiting Room, former Television guitarist Richard Lloyd plays at The Waiting Room with The Third Men and Scott Severin and the Milton Burlesque. Tickets are still available for $12. Show starts at 9.

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Live Review: Via Dove, Crystal Antlers… – May 4, 2009 – twitter icon

Before Via Dove went on stage Friday night at O'Leaver's, I caught a couple songs by Mal Madrigal, which for this performance was the duo of Steve Bartolomei and Mike Saklar. The songs were the usual poignant, well-crafted, singer-songwriter fare that we've come to expect from MM, who I later was told had been asked to be on the bill at the last minute. Bartolomei is old friends with Via Dove bass player Mike Marquard.

What to say about Via Dove… The first thing you notice about these guys has nothing to do with their music -- all four members wore white pants, a mistake in a club like O'Leaver's, which is like playing inside the lungs of a 85-year-old lifetime smoker. I guarantee those pants weren't white when they climbed back into their van. The white pants were the brunt of many a comic aside by many a crowd member. Matching wardrobe decisions almost always are a mistake unless you're DEVO. A few songs in, the argument was over who came up with the idea of the white pants (The consensus: It was probably the frontman) -- not something you want people talking about during your set.

Anyway… Via Dove isn't an indie band and never said it was. They are an unabashed modern pop-rock band, with a talented lead guitarist and a frontman who sounded like the second coming of Michael Hutchence. In fact, some of the band's music resembled early INXS -- a comparison that I'm sure most indie bands would cringe at. These guys, on the other hand, might consider it a compliment, and in fact, it's meant to be. Their music was upbeat radio rock that's just a few steps from being hooky enough to be played on the radio. If there's a minus it's that the vocal melodies meander too often for this kind of band (and this kind of frontman, who is an arena-rock showman). Another minus was their choice of covers -- a snippet of Eurythmics "Sweet Dreams," and an encore of "Helter Skelter." Unless you're Neil Young, you may want to step away from the Beatles covers. That said, the crowd ate it up.

Saturday night at Slowdown Jr. featured the funniest line of the weekend. From the opening band: "Hi, we're Swine Flu from Mexico City and this is our first time in Omaha." Nice. Swine Flu a.k.a. His Mischief from Minneapolis tore into a set of noise rock that made me regret having (for the first time) forgotten my earplugs. I survived with torn bits of cocktail napkins stuffed in my ears (couldn't find The Slowdown's earplug gumball machine). They were followed by Crystal Antlers, a band that records on Touch & Go who take noise rock to epic levels. The six-piece (which included a drummer and percussionist) created rhythmic walls of throbbing psychedelic rocket noise -- huge and ominous and at times sludgy. It's not garage rock as much as modern noise rock with a big helping of low-fi dosing up the middle. Too bad they played such a sort set.

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UUVVWWZ signs to Saddle Creek; Record Show this Sunday; Box Elders, Stay Awake, Via Dove tonight, Crystal Antlers tomorrow… – May 1, 2009 – twitter icon

Waitaminit, you already knew about UUVVWWZ signing to Saddle Creek? Seems like everybody already knew… except poor ol' me (*sniff*) -- just more proof of my "insider" status with the Omaha music scene. Ah well… It's a smart signing for both parties involved, and of course, for all of us who will be reaping the benefits of more UUVVWWZ music in the future. In fact, the benefits will be heard on the rerelease of their debut, as I'm told AJ Mogis has remixed all the tracks. I wonder if Darren Keen, owner if It Are Good Records (who originally released their debut), got a big, fat buyout check from Creek…

It wasn't the only announcement yesterday: Creek also signed a band called Rural Alberta Advantage, and will be rereleasing their debut, Hometown, on July 7 (also when the UUVVWWZ album comes out).

Pitchfork had the exclusive, here. They don't say much about UUVVWWZ. Of course I've been writing about UUVVWWZ for awhile. Here's a review of the first live show of theirs I attended over a year ago, and an interview/feature with the band from last August.

* * *

With the recent rise in popularity of vinyl, I also foresee a new level of interest in record shows -- after all, what good is having a turntable if you're only going to play 180-gram reissues instead of the originals? Well, there will be plenty of originals available this Sunday at the Music & Collectors Show at the Firefighters Union Hall, 60th & Grover. I'm told the fine folks at Kanesville Kollectables are behind the event, which means there should be plenty of good stuff to choose from, including vinyl, CDs, posters and other memorabilia. The show runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

* * *

Let's get to the weekend:

Tonight at The Waiting Room everyone's favorite local rock trio The Box Elders are headlining a show with Brimstone Howl and Flameflower's Tribute to Black Flag. $7, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, down the street at The Barley St. Tavern The Stay Awake are headlining a show with Life of a Scarecrow, Techlepathy and Lightning Bug. $5, 9 p.m.

Thunder Power is headlining a show at The 49'r with Malpais and Lawrence band Cowboy Indian Bear. $5, 9 p.m. Get there early.

Finally, over at O'Leaver's, St. Louis band Via Dove is headlining a show with Mal Madrigal. $3, 9:30 p.m.

Saturday night has Crystal Antlers over at Slowdown Jr. with His Mischief and Perry H. Matthews. $8, 9 p.m.

The Answer Team plays at Saddle Creek Bar Saturday night with Gyromancer and Oneword. $5, 9 p.m.

And finally, The Whipkey Three plays at The Barley St. with The Pilots and Two Drag Club. $5, 9 p.m.

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Live Review: Neil Young; Headlines (Cursive, The Faint, Bright Eyes)… – April 30, 2009 – twitter icon

Due to a broken pipe in my basement, I arrived at last night's Neil Young concert four minutes before he went on stage -- I couldn't have planned it any better. After three shows at Qwest where my seats were abysmal (Fleetwood Mac, The Who, Springsteen), I had prime seating for this show -- atop the first tier, right by section 120 -- terrific sight lines. There were plenty of other good seats available, too, as the upper tiers were curtained off and only about half the floor was filled. The OWH is reporting attendance of 6,000 -- pathetic. Despite being one of the best live touring performers in history (his live CDs and concert films are as popular as his studio recordings) no one really expected Young to sell out or even draw very well here -- more testimony to the current listening trends of the American Idol/Hannah Montana sink-hole generation.

Anyway, right around 9:30, Neil and his band ripped into their opening number, and like Qwest shows, I was startled at how bad it sounded -- not Neil, but the Qwest's sound system. It had all the dynamics of a transistor radio. Teresa turned to me and said "Wow, this sounds just plain bad." Really bad. And it never got any better, though just like when you listen to your buddy's shitty car stereo, after awhile you think it sounds better, when in fact it doesn't. Part of the problem is the cow barn's terrible acoustics, part of the problem is being spoiled by Slowdown and The Waiting Room. And part of it is my general dislike for arena shows. I don't know, maybe all arena shows sound like shit these days…

It didn't stop Neil and the boys from putting on one helluva show, though. No one's updated the set list at sugarmtn site, but what he played was close to what he's been doing the last few nights (which are listed there). The highlights were 10-minute-plus versions of "Change Your Mind" and "Down By the River," as well as a sweet version of "Tonight's the Night." Despite being in his early 60s, Young's voice is solid, as is his roaring guitar work. The only sign of age other than his general puffy, old-dude-with-long-hair appearance was flubbing up "Cinnamon Girl" and "The Needle and the Damage Done," both of which he had to start over.

The concert's highlight was the encore -- a violent version of Beatle's "A Day in the Life," where Young tore out the strings on his Les Paul and left it leaning against an amp, battered and broken. Here's an unremarkable action photo from last night's show.

* * *

Here are a few web stories of note:

The first reviews of Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band's upcoming album, Outer South, have surfaced in the webosphere. In this review, The UConn Daily Campus gave it 3 out of 5 stars, summarizing with: "Much like other wunderkinds who produce a lot of material, Oberst just needs to find himself a capable editor before producing an album that is more subpar than superior. This album walks that line precariously - but it's such a tight line that one can't help but wonder when it will snap."

The LA Times was even less complimentary in this review, giving the album two stars and saying: "If only Oberst had seared more of his sirloin-steak country-rock with a fraught sense of place, the "Outer South" of his title that's left largely unexplored."

Don't ask me. I've yet to hear the disc.

Cursive is in the midst of a publicity tour. In an interview in the GW Hatchet, guitarist Ted Stevens gives props to The Better Beatles: "There's another band called The Better Beatles that are from Omaha. I just heard of them right before I left on this tour. It's kind of a No Wave, early '80s artsy project where they get a bunch of Beatles music with just a synthesizer and a bass and a little bit of that New York - like I said, No Wave - that Laurie Anderson kind of spoken word. It's pretty hilarious; I've been trying to turn people onto It's really interesting for a band that existed for probably one afternoon [laughing] and they made one record; it's pretty incredible … what they're doing with that record. It just got reissued." He also talks about the joys of reading Dan Brown.

In another Kasher interview, this time with The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (read it here), Tim talks about opening for Mastodon: "Opening for a metal band, there was the fear of being booed off stage night after night. It really worked out great. It's funny, the first night there was this huge guy in the middle of the crowd, friendly, big smile on his face, flipping us off. His smile said, 'Hey, buddy, don't take it too hard. Understand that you're opening for Mastodon. I don't give a [expletive] about you.' I laughed about it. He wasn't antagonizing. That was the last time we got any heckling."

The Faint also have been getting some web attention in the past few days. My favorite Q&A exchange from this piece in

BBM: Where's the craziest place you've had sex?
TF: "Someone else's house while they were trying to sell it to us."


* * *

Singer/songwriter Sarah Xiong opens for Andrew Ancona tonight at The Barley St. $5, 9 p.m.

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Column 219: Pre-summer CD reviews; Anderson benefit, Neil Young tonight… – April 29, 2009 – twitter icon

Just to clarify, I don't recommend the U2 CD -- it rates a "no." All of the others get a firm "yes." A few others worth checking out that didn't make it into the column: A.E. Newman, Get Guilty; Alela Diane, To Be Still; Beep Beep, Enchanted Islands; Bonnie Prince Billy, Beware; Elvis Perkins in Dearland, self titled; Heartless Bastards, The Mountain; Little Brazil, Son; M. Ward, Hold Time; Maria Taylor, Ladyluck; Micachu & The Shapes, Jewellery; Mogwai, The Hawk Is Howling; Neko Case, Middle Cyclone; Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship, My Name Is What Is Your Name; Sebastien Tellier, Kilometer; The Show Is the Rainbow, Wet Fist; The Thermals, Now We Can See; Thin Lizzy, Still Dangerous - Live 1977.

Column 219: 13 for Summer
Capsule reviews of recent releases.

Here's another one of those what-have-you-been-listening-to-lately columns to stave off readers dying for music suggestions as we head toward summer. I realized after rereading these that they're written in a sort-of short-hand -- you have to know something about these bands or this style of music or else these caplettes will read like someone with tourettes barking out an iPod playlist. You'll figure it out.

Camera Obscura, My Maudlin Career (4AD) -- As if channeling Phil Spector or the Ronnettes or something that your folks' folks grew up listening to, but jazzed up like modern swing without a hint of nostalgic irony, thanks to Tracyanne Campbell's shiny-lipstick voice. Leave it to some Glasgowians to show us how to reinvent classic American pop.

O+S, self-titled (Saddle Creek) -- The sell-point is Scalpelist (a.k.a. Cedric LeMoyne) adding his thick, throbbing, exotic rhythms to Orenda Fink's downcast, typically passive love/lost songs. In the end, it's a Fink solo album, as moody and down-tempo as everything she's done before. And "The Fox" is the prettiest, saddest, slightest song of her career.

U2, No Line on the Horizon (Interscope) -- It's not so much that it sounds uninspired as much as it sounds like they were trying to capture an earnest buzz not heard since The Joshua Tree. The result is a hodge-podge of shadowy guitar reflections heard on better albums. In the end, it made me like their older material that much more, and made me wonder if they'll ever come up with anything groundbreaking again.

Belle & Sebastian, The BBC Sessions (Matador) -- Back when they were young and sinister, the album collects some of their most obscure -- and most essential (at least to fans) -- recordings, including a handful you've never heard before unless you tuned to John Peel. The stripped-down, breathy production reveals a whole 'nuther, twee-ish view of their intricate, heartfelt songwriting.

Glasvegas, self-titled (Columbia) -- Like a Scottish version of Interpol laced with equal parts of The Cure and Simple Minds, they take songs "Geraldine" and "It's My Own Cheating Heart that Makes Me Cry," to gigantic, anthem-sized proportions. Throughout, the brogue is unabashed -- on the shimmering do-wopper "Daddy's Song," crooner James Allen sings "Forget your da, he's gone." Not dad, da. One of the most hyped bands going, and worth all of it.

Depeche Mode, Sounds of the Universe (EMI) -- When I say it sounds like 1988, I mean the 1988 seen in a film adaptation of a Bret Easton Ellis novel -- rich kids driving in shiny convertibles on their way to a late-night El Lay party, blurred on coke, looking for a backyard swimming pool to pass out next to. No one makes mid-tempo electronic music like this anymore, though that hasn't stopped bands from trying. Their best album since '93's Songs of Faith and Devotion.

Jarvis Cocker, Further Complications (Rough Trade) -- Nevermind that Steve Albini recorded it (What'd you expect? A Big Black album?), it still has the same strut and swagger one wants and expects from a Jarvis Cocker/Pulp record, with something a little harder ("Homewrecker," "Pilchard," the title track) tossed in to shake things up.

Lloyd Cole, Cleaning Out the Ashtrays (Tapete) -- Included because I'm his biggest (and only) fan in Omaha, here's a 59-track, 4 CD box set of b-sides and rarities that span from 1989 to 2006 and includes extensive notes that explain where the recordings came from and why they never saw the light of day. I still say he's our best living literary pop-song writer.

Los Campesinos!, We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed (Arts & Crafts) -- This band of Cardiff, Wales, rebels is getting by on the idea that if you shout loud enough -- together and in a group -- you can make any miserable situation go away. Maybe they're right. On the same label as Broken Social Scene (though punkier than any of their label mates).

Morrissey, Years of Refusal (Lost Highway) -- Is it me or are all of Moz's albums beginning to sound the same, like since Vauxhall and I? Not that that's necessarily a bad thing, but the songs are starting to grow as gray as his sideburns. Still, it's worth it for standouts like the booming "Black Cloud," and the chiming, soaring "I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris" which, yes, we've heard before, but never seem to grow tired of (at least I don't).

Peaches, I Feel Cream (XL) -- Boom-box bass, electro-clash synth, simple 1-2-3-4 kick drum, and a woman with a filthy mouth who "don't give a f__k if you fall for me." This dance-floor Wendy O. Williams is at her best when she's sassin' ya with her sex jive and bragging that she'll "f__k you like a billionaire," vs. when she's trying to channel Heart-of-Glass-era Blondie. But as infectious as the beats are, she can only "keep it up" for so long.

The Strange Boys, The Strange Boys And Girls Club (In the Red) -- Garage rock by way of dawn-of-time Rolling Stones, Them, The Count Five, The Blue Magoos, all the usual suspects. The up-jump jangle belies songs with titles like "They're Building the Death Camps," "Should Have Shot Paul," and "Death and All the Rest." Don't worry, it's all in good fun, and good fun it is.

Dark Was the Night, various artists, (4AD) -- A can't-lose double-CD (or triple-vinyl) album that compiles previously unreleased songs from current-day indie royalty, from Andrew Bird to Yo La Tengo and 30 artists in between, including Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, My Morning Jacket and Spoon, with proceeds going to the Red Hot Organization dedicated to raising funds and awareness for HIV and AIDS. The most satisfying indie music comp I've heard in years.

* * *

Tonight is the Benefit Music Show for Erin and Ariann Anderson at The Waiting Room. The Andersons' parents, Karla and Robert Anderson, were the couple who died March 30 in their Dundee home -- the alleged victims of a murder-suicide. Performing at the show are Song Remains the Same, Grand Theft Girlfriend, Goodbye Sunday, and Awake and Dreaming. The show starts at 8, and the minimum donation is $10.

Also tonight, Ha Ha Tonka plays at Slowdown Jr. with Tie These Hands and Ben Weaver. $8, 9 p.m. Me, I'll be at Neil Young at the Qwest Center. Opening is Neil Young protégés Everest and the Neville Brothers. Show starts at 7:30 -- I'll get there around 9. Tix are still available.

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Lincoln to invade Omaha! and here's the schedule… – April 28, 2009 – twitter icon

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I suggested to Lincoln Calling organizer Jeremy Buckley that he should put together a weekend of shows in Benson that feature all Lincoln bands. Maybe call it Lincoln Invasion. Now a few years later, Lincoln Invasion is becoming a reality. In fact, Buckley just sent me the preliminary schedule for the event, which will be held June 19 and 20 at three Benson venues -- The Waiting Room, PS Collective and The Barley St. Tavern.

"It's still seven-plus weeks out so we might have a band cancel or add, but hopefully we don't screw with too much," Buckley said. "We're doing a $5 cover each night -- the cover will get you into all three shows (Barley St. is 21+). We have 10 bands on Friday and 12 on Saturday and I think it's a good representation of what's going in Lincoln musically these days."

So do I. A few bands are obviously missing (Eagle*Seagull, UUVVWWZ, For Against, etc.), but Buckley said that's partially due to scheduling conflicts (i.e., they're on the road). He said that he's also "hoping to set up a bus excursion from Lincoln to Omaha and back each night so fans that don't want to drive up there personally can go with a bunch of other music fans. If we pull this off it will be a true Lincoln Invasion."

Here's the schedule, along with the bands' myspace addresses:

Friday, June 19

The Waiting Room

9:40-10:30 The Machete Archive
10:50-11:35 Ideal Cleaners
11:55-12:40 The Show is the Rainbow

PS Collective

9:30-10:20 The Allendales
10:40-11:40 Lucas Kellison and the Assembled Soul
12-1 Andrews Ave

The Barley Street Tavern

9:20-10 Triggertown
10:20-11:00 The Amalgamators
11:20-12 Pharmacy Spirits
12:20-1:00 Big Gigantic

Saturday, June 20

The Waiting Room

9:40-10:10 Manny Coon
10:20-11 Crush the Clown
11:20-12 Domestica
12:20-1 Somasphere

PS Collective

9:10-9:50 Gooses
10:10-10:50 Once a Pawn
11:10-11:50 Columbia Vs Challenger
12:10-12:50 Knots

Barley St. Tavern

9:00-9:40 AM Revival
10-10:40 Jodie Loves Hinckley
11-11:40 Orion Walsh
12-12:40 Strawberry Burns

This festival, of course, will not preclude the annual Lincoln Calling festival, which will be held Sept. 30 through Oct. 4. More info as it becomes available...

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Live Review: Maria Taylor; Kasher in AV Club; Dim Light tonight… – April 27, 2009 – twitter icon

Friday night's Maria Taylor show at The Waiting Room wasn't quite a sell-out but looked pretty darn close. I caught the last two or three hoe-down-inspired tunes by Whispertown 2000 -- a six-piece that included Taylor. Everyone in the band had amazing heads of dark-brown hair -- maybe they should change their names to The Brunettes (Oops, that name's already taken). Taylor and her band came on at around 11 and sounded their usual spot-on selves, playing a nice selection of old songs and new stuff off Ladyluck. Here's a pic from the show.

The running gag throughout the set was Craig Reier's wedding the following day in Lincoln. The keyboardist played the show in a formal suit, apparently coming to the club right after a rehearsal dinner. Many offers were made to buy him a shot to help him get through the next day, but Reier wisely stayed away from the hard stuff. The celebratory tone carried over throughout the evening, with the Taylor's band and members of Whispertown joining for a raucous cover of "Song Beneath the Song" to close out the set.

I didn't know if I was going to catch any of Big Al's "Free Music Festival" last weekend, but ended up down at the Saddle Creek Bar for at least an hour both nights. There was about 60 people on hand both evenings (not including band members) -- not bad. Al did his usual, fun-loving heavy-metal set that included such "classics" as "It's War, You Die," and a new song about people who text and Twitter with their cell phones. In fact, on stage on night one, Al directed that song right at me, saying, "TMac is probably twittering a review of this show right now." He was right (Follow my Twitter feed here). Half of the fun of Al's stage presence (and songs like "Oregano") is his carnival-barker personality behind the microphone. So while I still don't understand why he didn't charge at least $5 (or $3 or $2) for the show, I've got to hand it to him for pulling it off.

* * *

There's an extensive interview with Tim Kasher that was posted today on A.V. Club (right here) that covers everything from his past band break-ups, to listening to old Cursive albums (specifically The Storms of Early Summer), to the status of his Help Wanted Nights -- the script, not the album, the production of which appears to be in limbo. Check it out.

* * *

Tonight, it's the whiskey swagger of Dim Light at O'Leaver's with Drakes Hotel and Junius. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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Live Review: M. Ward; The Photo Atlas; Maria Taylor tonight; The Thermals tomorrow… – April 24, 2009 – twitter icon

Last night started at the sold-out M. Ward show at Slowdown. Ward went on shortly after 10:30 for a 5-man low-key urban hoedown in support of his new album, Hold Time (Merge Records) which I recommend. The music is middle-of-the-road '70s-style countrified folk-rock, differentiated by its thick beat and Ward's miraculous guitar prowess, not to mention his raspy croon. On stage, he was the young guy in the trucker cap surrounded by what looked like a veteran crew of sidemen who followed his lead to perfection.

There is a timeless quality to Ward's music, an easy simplicity that masks a deceptive intricacy. It's considered indie rock, probably because of Merge and his ties to other indie rock performers (not the least of which is Zooey Deschanel), but Ward's music exceeds the boundaries of any trends. I get the feeling he'll be playing his songs for the next 40 years, and they'll always sound just as good as they did last night. I'm also not sure where he falls in the cadre of classic singer songwriters. He's not angry enough for Johnny Cash; too urban for Woody Guthrie; too rootsy for Glen Campbell. Most often, he reminded me of Kris Kristofferson, maybe because the song he was singing -- alone on stage -- when I wrote this note was a dead ringer for "Help Me Make It Through the Night," but with Ward's moonlight guitar chords and his wispy singing style has become his trademark.

Memorable between-song comment: "We've been traveling all over the country. It's nice to be in a place that feels like home." Shortly before that, I took a couple pictures with my iPhone, but was told to stop by a Slowdown guy who couldn't have been cooler. So I guess that makes this photo contraband.

I cut out before the encore so I could drive cross-town to O'Leaver's for The Photo Atlas. Fortnight was still on stage when I arrived, playing its brand of indie-pop. They get better every time I see them. When are they going into the studio?

The Photo Atlas took over at midnight for a set of twitch-dance-rock that reminded me of The Rapture, sort of. It was shiny post-punk with an ever-present dance beat beneath everything all the time. Chatting with folks around the bar, the consensus -- regardless of whether they liked the music or not -- was that this is the kind of band that a label could turn into something huge, at least with 15-year-old girls. I think there's more to them than that, but then again, I like twitchy-dance rock. Here they are in action.

* * *

Let's get to the weekend. Tonight at The Waiting Room it's Nettwerk Recording artist Maria Taylor with Whispertown 2000 and our very own McCarthy Trenching. Tickets are still available for only $9. I wouldn't be surprised if this sells out prior to showtime.

Also tonight at O'Leaver's it's San Francisco duo Tartufi with local heroes Fromanhole and new band (as far as I know) Wall Street Kids featuring members of Perry H. Matthews and Gnome Slaughterhouse (who remembers them?). $5, 9:30 p.m.

Tomorrow night The Thermals play at Slowdown Jr. with The Shaky Hands & Point Juncture, WA. $12, 9 p.m. Thermals' new album, Now We Can See, is a pop gem. This will be tons of fun.

Also Saturday night, singer/songwriter Nick Jaina is playing at The Barley Street with Midwest Dilemma, Robert Adam HauG and Lincoln Dickison. Jaina's new album, A Narrow Way, is loaded with good, lowkey indie folk. $5, 9 p.m.

Of course, going on both Friday and Saturday nights is Big Al's Free Music Festival at the Saddle Creek Bar. 12 bands, two nights, all the details are here.

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Column 218: RSD, park life, a good cause, a free show; More RSD coverage; Little Brazil in CMJ 100; M Ward, 1090 Club, Ladyfinger tonight… – April 23, 2009 – twitter icon

Column 218: Holiday on Vinyl
Record Store Day afterglow...

Records Store Day has come and gone and now we wait another year for the next one.

The discussion in the Twitter/Facebook-sphere afterward: What did you score? Among my haul purchased at the Old Market Homer's -- only one RSD exclusive: The Flaming Lips with Stardeath and White Dwarfs / Black Lips split 7-inch on luscious seafoam-green vinyl, bought on the recommendation of a local record label honcho. As I type this, I'm listening as Wayne Coyne's spacey whisper-love cover of Madoonie's "Borderline." The rest of my Saturday booty was all CDs: Neko Case's Middle Cyclone, Pete Molinari's A Virtual Landslide, Thin Lizzy's Still Dangerous: Live at the Tower Theater, Philadelphia 1977 and Art Brut's 2007 release It's a Bit Complicated. Most of these were recommended by Homer's staff (The number one reason I shop at record stores is staff recommendations).

Alas, the two things I specifically came to pick up weren't available. The Cursive/Ladyfinger 4-song 10-inch split picture disc sold out immediately (The aforementioned label honcho said that it'll be available on the Saddle Creek website for purchase, eventually), while I was told that the Neil Young Sugar Mountain Live at Canterbury House 1968 2LP set was never in stock. Disappointed? Yes.

Regardless, the event looked like it was a success. At 1 p.m. Homer's was packed with folks mulling around like cattle trying to find the exclusives along with whatever else they needed to pick up. Meanwhile, in the front of the store, KC duo Far Beyond Frail was providing the shopping soundtrack. Funny thing: It really did feel like a holiday. Homer's top dog Mike Fratt did his job generating hype for the event, and people I know were eager to participate. There were also crowds of shoppers up the street at Drastic Plastic and The Antiquarium thumbing through the vinyl bins.

So the question that's begging to be asked: Why can't every day be Record Store Day? Why do the national indie stores only come together once a year to provide exclusive releases, in-store performances and other promotion? I asked Fratt via email but didn't hear back from him by deadline (I'm told he was on vacation). I suspect the answer has to do with the event's overall costs. Still, with indie record stores under attack by everyone from online Somali-like pirates and faceless box stores like Best Buy, they're going to have to keep a Record-Store-Day level of interest going all year 'round.

It's time that record stores return to their roles as gathering spots for music lovers and hubs for products that can't be found anywhere else, especially online.

* * *

The city announced that this year's "youth concert" in Memorial Park will be June 6, and the headliner will be Gomez, a band that hasn't had a notable record in 10 years and would likely be playing Slowdown or The Waiting Room if this "opportunity" hadn't presented itself.

According to an article by Kevin Coffey in the Omaha World-Herald, Mayor Mike Fahey worked with "a St. Louis-based talent scout to line up bands." It's not as if Fahey didn't have other promotional options locally, including One Percent Productions, who at least could have found someone who has released a popular record this century. Needless to say, booking a show like the Memorial Park gig probably needs to be done a year in advance -- as in right now for next summer -- if you want someone with a broad appeal but that still targets a younger demographic, such as Wilco, Death Cab, Belle and Sebastian, PJ Harvey, MGMT, etc.

Depending on the weather, I suspect this will be one of the least-attended of the park concerts. Having been to all four previous events, the largest hands-down was 311 in 2004, followed by Feist last year, Bright Eyes in '06 and Plain White T's in 2007 where fewer than 3,000 people showed up (despite the city's estimate of 10k, which was pure malarkey).

Now the big question: What local bands (if any) will open? Last year The Good Life did a controversial set that was the highlight of the evening. If the city could get The Faint, they might be able to draw a sizable crowd both locally and from out of state. Too bad The Faint has a moratorium on outdoor shows. So who decides...?

* * *

I generally don't hype shows in this column -- we've got an event calendar and our 8-Days section for that sort of thing. Still, I feel compelled to mention the Benefit Music Show for Erin and Ariann Anderson next Wednesday, April 29, at The Waiting Room. The press release issued for the benefit doesn't mention the story at its core -- that the Anderson's parents, Karla and Robert Anderson, were the couple who died March 30 in their Dundee home -- the alleged victims of a murder-suicide. I know Ariann as the singer in long-gone indie band Echo Farm, who I interviewed way back in 1998. Performing at the show are Song Remains the Same, Grand Theft Girlfriend, Goodbye Sunday, and Awake and Dreaming.

I also feel "compelled" to mention the Big Al "Free Music Festival" at the Saddle Creek Bar this Friday and Saturday night. Eleven bands are taking part, including The Filter Kings, Sarah Benck, No Blood Orphan and, of course, The Big Al Band, whose epic anthem "It's War, You Die" has become the theme song at local area fitness centers (or at least the one Al works at). So there's your promo, Al, now GET OFF MY BACK.

Ah, deadlines. Literally a few hours after my column went to press, Mr. Fratt responded to my e-mail questions regarding RSD. Fratt said business for the event was "WAY up" this year. "We were up 88 percent over last year," he wrote. "Even beyond the goals I gave the stores. Last year our bump was only 20 percent so this year's numbers are really good." In fact, nationally, RSD business was up 28 percent over '08. He gives some of the credit to a strong media presence both nationally and locally.

So why not have this level of intense promotion all year 'round instead of just once a year? Fratt says he does, with at least two in-stores per month and 130 exclusives offered last year. "What makes the difference is the national media exposure and the combined efforts of all indies; something that would be difficult to arrange on a daily basis," he said. "It would lose its impact if we tried to say 'Everyday is Record Store Day.' Although the desire is to get people to get into stores everyday by focusing on what we do one day a year.

"Lots of under-20-year-olds don't even know we exist or think we, too, are a national chain because, hell, everything is anymore."

And what happend to my Neil Young album? "Bill, our buyer, got cold feet on the Neil Young vinyl because it was $64.98 list, so sorry about that," Fratt said. He also passed along a list of upcoming in-store performances:

April 24 (Friday): Maria Taylor in the Old Market store, 5:30 p.m.
May 5, Ben Harper listening party at Orchard Plaza, 5:30 p.m.
May 6, Other Lives in the Old Market store, 5:30 p.m. (Elvis Perkins' band may do this, too)
May 25, Grizzly Bear listening party at Orchard Plaza, 3 to 6 p.m.

* * *

According to their publicist, Little Brazil's album, Son, has weighed in at No. 67 in this week's College Music Journal top-200, up 58 spots from the previous week, with 20 stations adding the album this week.

* * *

Tonight at Slowdown it's M Ward with The Watson Twins, and yes, it's SOLD OUT. No tix? You've got a couple other solid shows to choose from:

-- The 1090 Club, The Photo Atlas and Fortnight are all playing at O'Leaver's tonight for just $5. What's going on with O'Leaver's? Suddenly they're booking awesome shows almost every night. It's like 2005 all over again.

-- Over at The Sydney (formerly Mick's), Ladyfinger takes the stage with Paria. Think it'll be loud? $5, 10 p.m. When is The Sydney going to get a website? Let's get on that, Jamie.

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Maria Taylor interview; Drew Smith, Whipkey tonight… – April 22, 2009 – twitter icon

Just posted, the Lazy-i interview with Maria Taylor, right here. Maria talks about leaving Omaha, leaving Saddle Creek, and the end of a relationship (with Conor? She's not saying...). She also talks about her poppy new album, Ladyluck, and working with (among others) R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe. It's a barrel of fun. In the end, Taylor was sometimes elusive but never unwilling to talk (or explain things, off the record). Give it a read, then run out and buy your tickets to Friday night's show at The Waiting Room. Opening is Whispertown 2000 and McCarthy Trenching. Let's give Maria a homecoming she deserves.

* * *

Tonight at The Waiting Room it's Drew Smith's Lonely Choir, a guy who counts among his influences Harry Nilsson, Van Morrison and Ray Davies. And according to his bio on the Waiting Room website, he once joined a band in Omaha. What band would that be? Opening is Matt Whipkey (doing a solo set). $7, 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Live Review: Techlepathy; Vampire Hands, Pomegranates tonight… – April 21, 2009 – twitter icon

Techlepathy played their usual post rock / noise / math-groove set last Friday night at O'Leaver's to a smallish crowd of around 30. Here's an action photo from the show that of course doesn't capture the disturbing energy coming off the stage. Their music is intricate and abrasive, nothing that you'd mistake for pop. But just as I was thinking that -- about two or three songs from the end of their set -- the band rolled out a new song that was surprisingly poppish -- or at least started out that way before devolving into their usual brutal fun.

* * *

Two noteworthy shows are on tap tonight setting off a strong week of shows. Tonight at O'Leaver's Minneapolis post-rock phenoms Vampire Hands play with Dance Me Pregnant and Perry H. Matthews. When VH came through O'Leaver's last September, a patio chair almost went through someone's back windshield (see review here). Strange days indeed. $5, 9:30 p.m. Meanwhile over at The Waiting Room, Cleveland indie band Pomegranates (Lujo Records) takes the stage with Baltimore duo Wye Oak (Merge Records) and Omaha's very own Honey and Darling. $8, 9 p.m.

Coming soon (tomorrow? Thursday?): An interview with Maria Taylor.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Memorial Park Yawner; Ladyfinger in Pitchfork; Speed! Nebraska showcase tonight; Record Store Day tomorrow… – April 17, 2009 – twitter icon

The city announced that this year's "youth concert" in Memorial Park will be June 6, and the headliner will be Gomez, a band that hasn't had a hit record in 10 years and would likely be playing Slowdown or The Waiting Room if this "opportunity" hadn't presented itself. According to Kevin Coffey's OWH article, Fahey worked with "a St. Louis-based talent scout to line up bands." It's not as if Fahey didn't have other promotional options locally -- i.e., One Percent Productions, who at least could have found someone who has put out a decent record this century. Needless to say, booking a show like the Memorial Park gig probably needs to be done a year in advance -- as in right now for next summer -- if you want someone with a broad appeal but that still targets a younger demographic, such as Wilco, Death Cab, Belle and Sebastian, Morrissey, PJ Harvey, MGMT, etc.

Depending on the weather, I suspect this will be one of the least-attended of the park concerts. Having been to all four previous events, the largest hands-down was 311 in 2004, followed by Feist last year, Bright Eyes in '06 and Plain White T's in 2007 where fewer than 3,000 people showed up (despite the city's estimate of 10k, which was pure malarkey).

Now the big question: What local bands (if any) will open? Last year The Good Life did a controversial set that was the highlight of the evening. If the city could get The Faint, they might be able to draw a sizable crowd both locally and from out of state. Too bad The Faint has a moratorium on outdoor shows. Wonder who decides...

* * *

Pitchfork has weighed in on Ladyfinger's Dusk with a 6.2 -- a rating that's par for the course for almost all Saddle Creek releases (read it here). The summary: "Ladyfinger (ne) are obviously a talented bunch, but they're trying to crack open the rock 'n' roll firmament with ball-peen hammers, chiseling grooves without making any real breakthroughs. Which is fine in therapy, but not if you're rocking with your cock out. So to speak." The writer's assessment would hold more water if she could get the names of the songs correct: It's "Plans" not "Plums."

* * *

Tonight at O'Leaver's, Speed! Nebraska is welcoming its two newest bands to the label: Wagon Blasters and Techlepathy. Both bands are kind of connected to the label -- Wagon Blasters' frontman Gary Dean Davis runs Speed! Nebraska with help from Techlepathy's Lincoln Dickison (read about the label here). $5, 9:30 p.m.

Also tonight, Des Moines' band North of Grand plays at The 49'r with live karaoke rockers Girl Drink Drunk. Down at Slowdown Jr., Midwest Dilemma headlines a show with Anniversaire, Cameron McGill And What Army and McCarthy Trenching. $7, 9 p.m.

As mentioned yesterday, tomorrow is Record Store Day at all Homer's locations, Drastic Plastic and The Antiquarium. I'm told that as part of the event, The Antiquarium will be giving away copies of Fullblown's Agents of Entropy CD with any purchase. Nice. Performers Far Beyond Frail, Brad Hoshaw and Matt Cox will be doing in-stores at the Old Market Homer's starting at 1 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Record Store Day Saturday; Unwed Sailor tonight… – April 16, 2009 – twitter icon

I don't know if I mentioned this to you or not (actually, I have), but I've got a little over $800 in store credit at Homer's. And I plan to drop a large chunk of it this Saturday at "Record Store Day."

The event, founded in 2007, is celebrated each year on the third Saturday of April and involves 700 independently owned record stores, which are defined as "a physical retailer whose product line consists of at least 50 percent music retail, whose company is not publicly traded and whose ownership is at least 70 percent located in the state of operation" -- i.e., the Good Guys.

It's not just Homer's who's involved -- The Antiquarium and Drastic Plastic also are participating, which I guess means they'll be offering some of the event's exclusive, limited-edition merch. What kind of merch? Well, the full list is online here.

What each store will actually have on hand is the real question, and will also depend on when you get there, because I assume all of this stuff is very limited. What am I interested in? Well, the Cursive/Ladyfinger 4-song 10-inch split picture disc (two unreleased and two "new" tracks) limited to 1,500 copies; the Neil Young Sugar Mountain Live at Canterbury House 1968 2LP set; The Yeah's new LP; The Smiths The Headmaster Ritual/Oscillate Wildly 7"; the Camera Obscura 7-inch, and that's just for starters. I'm open to suggestions. And apparently there are performances by Matt Cox, Far Beyond Frail, Brad Hoshaw and others downtown at the Old Market location, but I'm not sure of the schedule.

So drop in on any of the local record joints Saturday and buy something. Seriously, when was the last time you went to a record store?

* * *

Seattle singer/songwriter Unwed Sailor a.k.a. Johnathon Ford is playing at O'Leaver's tonight with Landing on the Moon, $5, 9:30 p.m. Also tonight, Little Black Stereo plays at The Barley Street with Down with the Ship and Sweet Pea.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Column 217 from the department of redundancy department… – April 15, 2009 – twitter icon

Regular readers of Lazy-i can skip this week's column, which I include below for posterity's sake only. It's a remix of last week's Lazy-i review of the Oberst concert with the Oberst review, with a slightly different lead and ending.

Column 217: Fly Like The Eagles
Oberst Kicks off U.S. Tour

A day before the sold-out Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley concert at The Slowdown last week, I got an e-mail from an editor at, asking if I could review the show for their site. I guess the fact that Oberst was kicking off a national tour in Omaha -- and playing new material from his upcoming album, Outer South -- was newsworthy. So out of that came a review, which is still online and linked from the homepage.

The "hook" to the write-up: That Oberst and his pals are this generation's Eagles. Each member of his band took the helm for at least one song during the concert, while The Conor played the role of enthusiastic sideman. Guitarist Taylor Hollingsworth was Joe Walsh on a short Beatle-esque pop song, bassist Macey Taylor was Timothy B. Schmit singing a twangy number that could have been off Oberst's last album, while drummer Jason Boesel did the Don Henley thing behind the kit while Oberst sang along, off microphone.

It was an amusing comparison that of course breaks down when you realize that 1) The Eagles never had a frontman like Oberst to anchor everything, and 2) Other than a similar amount of country-rock twang, the two bands' music isn't terribly similar. When they're rocking, Oberst and Co. sound more like the Allman Bros. than The Eagles (In fact, I can hear Dickey Betts' classic duo-guitar harmonies on "Jessica" in my head as I type this).

OK, now here's what didn't make it into the review:

Capgun Coup was on stage when I arrived at around 10:30. Frontman Sam Martin wore what looked like a Kurt Cobain wig and an argyle cardigan sweater. Was it some sort of tribute to the fallen hero a few days after the 5-year anniversary of his death? I don't know. However, I think Cobain would have approved of the tribute as well as Capgun's crash-bam rock style. With the organ/keyboard off to the side, the set had more of a garage-rock feel, but with a proggy overhang that kept things riled up. As per usual, their performance seemed almost purposely sloppy. As Oberst would say later in the evening from stage, Capgun is a band that can't be put in a box, and doesn't even know what a box looks like. They're doing their own thing, whether you like or not.

Clearly some of Conor's little-girl fans didn't. From my roost off to the left I could see a small bevy of bored, pissed-off looking girls leaning against the stage; two of the little puppy dogs had their backs to the band, arms crossed, waiting. They didn't have to wait very long.

Oberst and Co. wasted no time after Capgun's rather short set. There was Conor in his super-tight skinny brown jeans, button-up shirt, Banana Republic sports jacket and flat-toe boots roaring into a couple new songs that were darker than the usual stuff, singing about Jesus and charisma with lines like, "I got a sad, sinking feeling."

While not overly chatty (He's no Kasher when it comes to between-song patter), Oberst did get off a few good lines. Halfway through the set he commented on the Slowdown complex. "Me and Robb (Nansel) never thought we'd have our own mall. Now we have our own mall. It's fantastic," he said in a way that could be taken as sarcasm. He dedicated new song "Nikorette" to his dentist and even did a brief commercial, repeating his dentist office's location and saying, "Over the years I smoked a lot of cigarettes, but they can give you something to make your teeth white," and then broke out a big ol' smile.

Overall, it was a solid two-hour concert that nicely wove the new stuff with stuff off the first album. The highlight (for me, anyway) always is the slower, quieter stuff, and Oberst has a couple nice ones on this new record, including a somber waltz called "Ten Women," and a song that led off his encore that could be "Lua Pt. 2."

I applaud the fact that everyone in the band got to contribute a song or two, but the only non-Oberst song that stood out was the one sung by Boesel. We'll see how it all works out in the end. Oberst clearly just wants to have fun with this band. I can't imagine how he could ever feel he was on the same level with everyone else unless he shared the writing and lead vocal chores with the rest of his chums.

I concluded the Spin review with this: For a guy who's been performing on stage since he was 14, Oberst has never looked more content than when he's playing with the Mystic Valley Band. Still, he's the kind of guy who never stays in one place -- or with one band -- for very long. So tell us, Conor, are you in this one for the long run?

I realized after I wrote it that most of his young fans won't "get" the reference to the Eagles' 1979 album, and in fact, many won't even know who The Eagles are. That's OK, because something tells me The Eagles don't know who Conor is, either.

It's been pretty quiet the past few days for shows. That'll change as we head into the weekend.

Happy Tax Day.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Poster Children in Champaign… – April 14, 2009 – twitter icon

No, this isn't necessarily pertinent to us folks who live in Omaha, but since there's nothing else going on today I figured I might as well pass on some info about one of my favorite old-school indie bands. The fine folks in The Poster Children wrote to say that they'll be "emerging from hibernation" on Memorial Day weekend to play a show at The High Dive in Champaign, Ill., in honor of Josh Gottheil, who was an integral part of the 1980s Champaign-Urbana music scene. Also scheduled to appear are The Outnumbered (Jon Ginoli's pre-Pansy Division jangle punk band), Lonely Trailer (hugely influential CU quirk rockers) and Cowboy X (Trashcan Records power poppers). The details:

Sunday May 24, 2009
The High Dive
51 Main St.
Champaign, IL

Doors open at 7 p.m., the show starts at 8 p.m., PC plays at 11 p.m. It's a 19+ show. Tickets available at

Check out a few ancient Poster Children videos if you don't know who they are. Have they ever played in Omaha?

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Live Review: Shiny Around the Edges, The Dinks; Death Cab tonight… – April 13, 2009 – twitter icon

The smoking Quonset hut has been dismantled, freshly graded beach sand has been added to the volleyball courts, spring is in definitely in the air at O'Leaver's. After catching a little bit of The Ten Commandments (Nile turns to blood, green death sequences) it was off to everyone's favorite booze dispenser, where I arrived just in time for Shiny Around the Edges. I'm told they change their line-up frequently. For Saturday night, the band featured frontman Mike Seman, his wife on drum (not drums) and a guy on bass for a set that can only be described as "experimental tribal noise." The first 15 or 20 minutes was drum and bass and feedback and ethereal vocal/chants. The last 10 minutes, when Seman switched to drum and his wife strapped on a second bass, was more interesting in a throbbing-post-rock sort of way. The set was more "out there" then I remember the last time they came through; you got to hand it to them for changing things around.

The Dinks got off to a rough start thanks to a broken bass string, but their follow-through was golden. Most of the guys in this band were in the now-defunct Shanks -- a violent, free-for-all punk experience that had a way of driving itself off of a cliff every time they performed. Shanks shows were dirty train wrecks that consisted of thrown beer bottles and man-on-man make-out sessions. The Dinks are a different thing altogether. There is an obvious, focused attempt to make this into a rock band rather than a performance-art experience. The result is better music that ranges from punk to metal to straight-up rock. I credit the double-guitar attack, which is getting there but isn't quite there yet. And while I enjoy Shanks' recordings purely for their noisy decadence, this band's songs could be acceptably added to anyone's playlist. This is rock music -- not garage rock -- just rock, and if they keep their eyes on melodies (yes, melodies) they could turn into a winner. Check out the action photo from Saturday night (and get a peek at O'Leaver's state-of-the-art stage).

* * *

Tonight at The Holland Center, it's Death Cab for Cutie with Cold War Kids and Ra Ra Riot. This is promising to be a memorable show for those lucky enough to have tickets. I don't. The 1 Percent website says that it's sold out, but was still offering second-tier tickets at $35 apiece, but they won't last long. Show starts at 8.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Live Review: Conor Oberst/Mystic Valley; Once a Pawn tonight; Shiny Around the Edges tomorrow… – April 10, 2009 – twitter icon

My review of last night's Conor Oberst concert is actually here, at Read it, then come back and read the rest.

OK, here's what didn't make it into that review:

Capgun Coup was on stage when I arrived at around 10:30. Frontman Sam Martin wore what looked like a Kurt Cobain wig and an argyle cardigan sweater -- was it some sort of tribute to the fallen hero a few days after the 5-year anniversary of his death? I don't know. However, I think Cobain would have approved of the tribute as well as Capgun's crash-bam rock style. (see photo). With the organ/keyboard off to the side, the set had more of a garage-rock feel, but with a proggy overhang that kept things riled up. As per usual, their performance seemed almost purposely sloppy. As Oberst would say later in the evening from stage, Capgun is a band that can't be put in a box, and doesn't even know what a box looks like. They're doing their own thing, whether you like or not.

Clearly some of Conor's little-girl fans didn't. From my roost off of stage left I could see a small bevy of bored, pissed-off looking girls leaning against the stage; two of the little puppy dogs had their backs to the band, arms crossed, waiting. They didn't have to wait very long.

Oberst and Co. wasted no time after Capgun's rather short set. There was Conor in his super tight skinny brown jeans, button-up shirt, Banana Republic sports jacket and flat-toe cowboy boots roaring into a couple new songs that were darker than the usual stuff, singing about Jesus and charisma with lines like "I got a sad, sinking feeling." (see photo).

While not overly chatty (He's no Kasher when it comes to between-song patter), Oberst did get off a few good lines. Halfway through the set he commented on the Slowdown complex. "Me and Robb (Nansel) never thought we'd have our own mall. Now we have our own mall. It's fantastic," he said. He dedicated new song "Nikorette" to his dentist and even did a brief promotional speech, repeating the dentist office's location and saying, "Over the years I smoked a lot of cigarettes, but they can give you something to make your teeth white," and then broke out a big ol' smile.

Overall, it was a solid two-hour concert that nicely wove the new stuff with stuff off the first album. The highlight for me is always the slower, quieter stuff, and Oberst has got a couple nice ones on this new record, including a somber waltz called "Ten Women," and a song that led off his encore that could be "Lua Pt. 2."

I applaud the fact that everyone in the band got to contribute a song or two, but the only non-Oberst song that stood out was the one sung by Boesel. We'll see how it all works out in the end. Oberst clearly just wants to have fun with this band. I can't imagine how you could ever feel on the same level with everyone else unless you shared the writing and lead vocal chores with the rest of your chums.

* * *

After a solid week of shows, here's the weekend line-up:

Detroit disco garage band Electric Six is at The Waiting Room tonight with Bang Camaro. $13, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, down at Slowdown Jr., it's Stardeath and White Dwarfs, an Oklahoma band fronted by Wayne Coyne's nephew, Dennis Coyne, and yes, there's more than a little Flaming Lips residue to their music. Opening is the irascible Talking Mountain. $8, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, Lincoln punk duo Once a Pawn opens for Goodbye Sunday at The Barley St., $5, 9 p.m.

Tomorrow night's just as busy. The Sydney is hosting its first real rock show Saturday with Little Brazil and The Filter Kings. 9 p.m., $5.

O'Leaver's is hosting Denton, Texas post-punk band Shiny Around the Edges with The Dinks and Watch the Train Wreck. $5, 9:30 p.m.

While Saddle Creek Bar brings the punk, old school-style, with The Upsets, Lowkey, Binfield Broke It and Officially Terminated. $5, 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Column 216: Bloodcow in color; Live Review: The Hold Steady; Conor Oberst, Bonnie "Prince" Billy tonight… – April 9, 2009 – twitter icon

Try as I might, I could not get in touch with Bloodcow for comment, and in the end, it didn't matter as the ingenious pitch discussed below speaks for itself.

Column 216: Perfect Pitch
Sometimes a one-sheet actually works.

About a 100 years ago, I was asked to be part of a panel on the music industry, representing (I guess) the perspective of a music journalist. The panel was part of a conference for up-and-coming musicians, designed to give them "tips" to succeed in an industry where success often is the result of a fluke of luck or a curious aligning of stars rather than talent or hard work.

The discussion -- which consisted mostly of the moderator barking out her personal viewpoints rather than referring to a panel that included some actual music business professionals -- eventually got around to the subject of self-promotion. Specifically artist promo packages. Specifically promo CDs and the supporting documentation. Specifically, one-sheets.

The moderator said that "having a perfect package" -- including CD, multi-page bio (no typos), and professionally produced 8x10 print-ready photos, all collected in a rugged folder -- was essential not only to grab the attention of those booking talent at venues, but radio station programmers and music critics. The ocean of blue jeans and T-shirts feverishly took notes, maybe for the first time in their lives.

And then the moderator threw it to me. "Wouldn't you agree, Tim?"

No, I said, I would not agree. Don't bother with any of that stuff. It's expensive, it's time-consuming, it's unnecessary and if it shows up in my mailbox, chances are it'll end up right in the trash. If I want to know more about you or I need a photo of your band, I'll get it off your website or MySpace page. All I want is a copy of the CD and a website address. The rest of that stuff is clutter that I don't have time to sort through. If you do decide to create such a package, my only suggestion is that you make it recyclable.

The moderator stood frozen with mouth agape, staring at me as if I had just stood up, turned around, dropped my drawers and farted loudly into the microphone. She then proceeded to tell the audience just how wrong I was and to not listen to my idiocy. I leaned back in my plastic chair and let her talk, and eventually the "discussion" moved to another pointless topic. Needless to say, it was never "thrown to me" again for the rest of the morning, and I've never been asked to participate in another such panel.

And that would have been the end of the story and this week's column, except that something arrived in my mailbox last week that made me eat my words. Inside the non-descript manila envelope was a folded piece of graph paper with a message written in black crayon, as if scrawled by a child or a mentally challenged (is that the politically correct terminology?) adult. It said:

"Dear Tim, When not doing large piles of blow off of our OEA award, maxing out our credit cards, or planning to launch our own taco restaurant, we have been busy touring, making our way to Austin during SXSW promoting our new 7'."

The letter was from local metal phenoms Bloodcow. It went on to say that the record was a split with Boston band Motherboar, and that the Bloodcow tracks were recorded by (Omaha punk legend and producer) Jim Homan at Warehouse Studio.

The note also said (in perfect hand writing, no typos… er mistakes) that Bloodcow has signed to Crustacean Records out of Madison, Wisconsin, and will be releasing a new CD on that label in the latter part of the fall of '09.

"We have plenty of shows coming up and are getting a tour set for July. Enjoy the record! Thanks Bloodcow."

I've included a scan of a portion of the note, where the writer has drawn a near-lifelike castle and storm cloud, and clarified that "Yes, this is Crayola."

Bloodcow noteNow here was a one-sheet that caught my attention. I didn't know if I should put the record on my turntable or contact the Nebraska Dept. of Corrections to see if a lunatic was on the loose writing crayon-letters to perspective murder victims. Luckily, I did the former and was rewarded by nearly seven minutes of jittery, vein-bulging punk-metal that wasn't afraid to lay into the funk. Loud, angry, snarling, flamboyant; songs "Shop Together" and "Evil Magna Carta" had everything that would make any metal-lovin' dude throw the devil horns in approval (and the Motherboar tracks weren't bad, either).

Would I have listened to the single without reading the letter? Probably. But not with the same attitude; and having the right attitude when listening to anything (let alone a metal track) makes all the difference.

So here's to you, Bloodcow, for putting me in my place, proving that a one-sheet isn't a waste of time, especially when it looks like a ransom note written by a mentally retarded killer.

PS: Bloodcow opens for Jucifer this Thursday (April 9) at The Saddle Creek Bar.

* * *

A caveat before I begin: I've never been a fan of The Hold Steady. I bought Separation Sunday and Boys and Girls in America on the urging of others (We've got a lot of Hold Stead foamers in Omaha), listened to them a couple times and rarely (if ever) listened to them again. No question that Craig Finn is one clever, witty mofo. And who wouldn't like their faux-Thin Lizzy guitar crunch? I don't know, but for whatever reason, they've never done it for me. Their music is too repetitive, and Finn's monotone nasal delivery is charming but quickly becomes tiresome. I'd rather just read his lyrics.

Still, here they were, coming to Omaha for what will be deemed as one of the biggest shows of the year (even though it took until yesterday for the show to finally sell out The Slowdown). The crowd was a sausage party -- guys outnumbered women 10 to 1. Most of them were in their late 20s early 30s -- the big brothers of the crowd that will be down at The Slowdown tonight for Conor.

At around 10:15, The Hold Steady took the stage and tore right into a set with only a moment's pause in between songs -- very little stage banter other than Finn saying how much he liked the club. Out of the gate, the sound mix was muddy and dense -- maybe the worst sound I've heard at Slowdown on the big stage. It took about 15 minutes to make the necessary adjustments, and after that, it was all rock, with only a few slower ballads thrown in to break things up. (See action photo)

It's not fair to criticize Finn's vocals. Sure, he's monotone and doesn't really sing at all, but some of my favorite bands' frontmen can't sing either -- Lou Reed, Randy Newman (who Finn most closely resembles vocally), Dylan and Gary Dean Davis, who Finn sort of resembles physically. Actually, that's not true at all. Sure, they both have the same hair and glasses, but Davis is a man mountain, a fighting farmer with the power to crush a stage with his mighty leaps. Finn looks like he's four feet tall and is more of a stage prancer than leaper. He looks like someone who works for public radio rather than a rock star. But a rock star he is. From my vantage point just off stage left, I could see that Finn had the crowd in the palm of his hand -- very commanding in a weird sort of way. Just about every guy who stood along the front of the stage sung along with every word he sang, pumping their fists in approval.

The Hold Steady is a terrific, well-seasoned band, and it was a great show, even though the music inevitably bored me long before the encore. These guys love their so-called "Unified Scene," and it loves them back. I'm just not a member of that scene.

* * *

So there are three good shows going on tonight. The marquee event is Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band kicking off their tour down at The Slowdown. The lucky ones who got tickets will get to hear the new material off Oberst & Band's upcoming Outer South. Opening is local faves Mal Madrigal and Team Love recording artist Capgun Coup. This show sold out about a month ago. Watch for Twitter updates from Slowdown.

A good alternative would be Bonnie "Prince" Billy at The Waiting Room with White Magic. As I said in this week's issue of The Reader: Bonnie "Prince" Billy is Will Oldham -- singer, songwriter, musician, actor, former member of The Palace Brothers, the list goes on and on. His music has been hung with the term "alt-country," though the songs on Beware, his latest release on Drag City Records, go well beyond that label. Sure, there are acoustic guitars and fiddles and plenty of twangy choruses, but Oldham's songs are more like explorations of his soul rather than a drive down a dusty country road. At the bleakest moments, the music holds a lost, dark quality, a shadowed loneliness, but with a touch of reassurance that a Palace Brother or Oldham or a Prince is waiting at the bottom of the well to lead you back into the light. $15, 9 p.m.

And then there's the rock in the form mentioned in the above column: Bloodcow opening for Jucifer at The Saddle Creek Bar. Also on the bill are Motherpile and Officially Terminated. There's nothing on the Saddle Creek Bar website to indicate that this show strays from their usual $5 cover charge. And from what I hear about Jucifer, it will be LOUD. Starts at 9.

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Goodbye Omahype; The Hold Steady tonight (SOLD OUT)… – April 8, 2009 – twitter icon

While glancing at my iGoogle page, I noticed that the Omahype RSS feed hadn't been updated since mid-March. Updates to their blog have fallen off over the past few months, but never for this long. When I clicked on the link, here's what I got:

hey guys we had fun
we'll be around
thanks to anyone cool we met
thanks for the guest lists
thanks for the mp3s
love you forever

omahype @ gmail

And that, it appears, is that. All of Omahype's archived blog entries are coming up 404 Not Found. The only way to find them is via (the Wayback machine), which goes back to Sept. 2007.

I loved Omahype. I know I'm not the only one that's going to miss Andrew and Ian's acerbic, enthusiastic takes on the local music scene, as well as their live reviews and leaked mp3 files. Over the course of a couple years, they managed to make a sizeable mark, providing a fresh, young perspective that this scene was -- and is -- sorely in need of. Thanks for the memories, guys. You know you can always come back online...

* * *

Tonight at The Slowdown it's Minneapolis band The Hold Steady. If you didn't get your tickets, you're out of luck because it's SOLD OUT.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Techlepathy, Wagon Blasters join Speed!; Conor on film; Damien Jurado tonight… – April 7, 2009 – twitter icon

Speed! Nebraska Records announced yesterday that it signed high-flying rock 'n' roll bands Techlepathy and Wagon Blasters to exclusive contracts.

Techlepathy features Lincoln Dickison (The Monroes, Bombardment Society, Putrescene), Eric Ernst (Fullblown, Sound of Rails, Aemon), and John Kestner (Fullblown, Sound of Rails, Coldsore). The band is described as "Black noise in a black room: a spiritual meltdown, a precognitive vision. Post humanistic, seeking a chemical bond with the circuitry." I describe it as noise punk. You make the call when their debut CD, Anthem for Future History, is released later this spring or early summer.

Wagon Blasters features Gary Dean Davis (The Monroes, D is for Dragster, Frontier Trust, Pioneer Disaster), William Thornton (Past Punchy and the Present, Low Rent Guilt, Frontier Trust), Robert Thornton (Now, Archimedes!, Past Punchy and the Present, Culture Fire, Clayface Regular) and Jesse Render (The Monroes, Lonny and the Lux-o-values, The Bullphrogs). When they first started playing around town late last year, they covered a few Frontier Trust classics, which will give you an idea what kind of sound they're after. Speed! says look for WB's new release sometime this summer.

Both bands are playing O'Leaver's April 17 -- put it in your dayplanner.

* * *

Wonder who that guy was running around with a video camera during the last Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley band tour? It was none other than Phil Schaffart, the band's guitar tech and now filmmaker. His documentary of the past year and a half touring with the band, titled One of My Kind, is slated for an Internet release on April 15 by Causecast.

"Footage from Tepoztlan, Mexico, where they recorded their first album, Conor Oberst, their worldwide tour in 2008, and the making of Outer South in El Paso, TX, takes viewers on a 60-minute musical journey around the world," says the press release. The film will be available as a free stream or HD download at,,, and

Causecast is "a community of people and nonprofits that are actively involved in causes like child slavery, global warming, mentoring, animal rights and autism research, just to name a few," says the press release. Wonder if they'll be any footage from last September's Anchor Inn gig...

* * *

Singer/songwriter Damien Jurado plays tonight at The Waiting Room with Laura Gibson. $10, 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Live Review: Beep Beep; Box Elders tonight... – April 6, 2009 – twitter icon

Enchanted Islands, Beep Beep's new CD on Saddle Creek, is one of my favorites so far this year. Eric Bemberger and former band member Chris Hughes managed to figure out a way to streamline and soften the edges to their more-challenging, abstract music while adding a new dimension with songs that are mellow and catchy yet just as subversive as typical Beep Beep fare.

That said, the band's CD release show at The Waiting Room Saturday night didn't capture the album's essence and power, maybe because they're still learning how to perform the music live. Like the Barley St. show about a month ago, they didn't play any of the new album's slower, mellower stuff. The one exception was "The Lion's Mouth," which featured James Reilly singing from within the crowd. Reilly still seems tentative on vocals, almost as if he's holding back, unsure of himself. He was barely audible throughout the set. He needs to throw himself into these songs like he does with his other band, Pharmacy Spirits.

Missing from the ensemble was new drummer Ian Francis, who Bemberger said had a previous engagement (i.e. another gig). He was replaced for this show with Ben Armstrong (Head of Femur), who just so happened to play drums on Enchanted Islands. Bemberger was his usual preening self -- strange and awkward like a schoolgirl who just discovered s/he's a schoolboy. Darren Keen, on the other hand, continues to be the lion who roared, this time with his shirt off (and no, he didn't go "Full Monty" (like at his TSITR CD release show) during his excellent opening set). This is a strong , talented band. I hope it gets the time it needs to develop into a band that can transport its audience to those elusive Enchanted Islands, mellow stuff and all. Here's an action photo from the show.

* * *

Omaha punk rock heroes Box Elders, hot off a recent tour that included a handful of shows at SXSW, are opening for Quintron and Miss Pussycat and Psychedelic Horseshit tonight at The Waiting Room. $9, 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Snow or no snow, Beep Beep Saturday... – April 3, 2009 – twitter icon

Not much happening as we wait for the weekend to take effect. The forecast seems to change hour-to-hour. It went from 5 to 9 inches of snow expected Saturday night into Sunday to only a dusting (according to Accuweather). We'll have to wait and see, but it looks like it's all going to swing north to Sioux City.

The preceding weather report was brought to you by The KTIM Severe Weather Storm Team™

OK, onto the scorecard for this weekend:

Tonight, Lincoln's Forty Twenty is having its "final show" at The Waiting Room with The Black Squirrels and Gerald Lee Jr. with Josh Dunwoody. Wear your cowboy hat. $7, 9 p.m. We'll miss you boys.

Meanwhile, down the way at The Barley St. Tavern, Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies will squeeze themselves onto the stage before Son of 76 and The Watchmen play. $5, 9 p.m.

The big show Saturday night is the Beep Beep CD release party at The Waiting Room with The Show Is the Rainbow and Cat Island. Will Darren "go all in" like he did during his CD release show a few weeks ago? You'll have to show up early to find out. $7, 9 p.m.

Bloodcow also is having a 7-inch release show Saturday night at O'Leaver's. $5, 9:30 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Column 215: SXSW Postmortem... – April 2, 2009 – twitter icon

Here's the final word on SXSW. First, the full story -- all three days of Lazy-i blog entries from Austin -- all 5,000 words -- cleaned up and compiled into one cohesive story, with all the photos, too. Take a look.

And here's this week's column: Three different views of SXSW by three people who had three different reasons for being there. The summations:

Jeremiah McIntyre: "It's fun. You get to get in front of a lot of people. Parking can be a pain in the ass, but both times we played the 6th St. area we got lucky and got spots right in front of the club."

Robb Nansel: "One of the downsides of living in Omaha is that you don't have access to all those people all the time. And South By Southwest and CMJ are the two times a year that everybody you want to talk to and do business with is going to be in the same city."

Eric Bemberger: "It was not only an opportunity to see things that changed my life, but to converse with someone who's responsible for it."

Column 215: SXSW Epilogue
For bands, was it worth it?

It's only been a week since the South By Southwest Festival ended and it already seems like it never happened. We've all gone back to our little corners of the world, wrote our post-coital summations in blogs and columns and articles and podcasts, told our stories at our respective bars and hang-outs and begun planning for next year with Austin in the rear-view mirror.

From a music journalist's standpoint, not only is SXSW a blast but also a real opportunity to see and hear new music in a condensed, compressed setting. But what about the bands and labels who actually participated in the festival? Was it worth their time to drive or fly cross country, figure out (or actually pay for) lodging and then perform in the center of the cyclone to 15 or 50 or 500 or 5,000 strangers?

Case in point: After seeing our very own Box Elders play at punk wonderland Red 7 on the last day of the festival, I tracked down Jeremiah McIntyre to congratulate him. The first words out of his mouth after saying "thank you" were "Buy us some beers, man, we are so broke right now."

Look, if you're PJ Harvey or even Cursive, you're probably doing SXSW in style, but if you're an up-and-coming band just signed to a label -- or one of the few that's unsigned -- the decision to play SXSW comes with a financial cost that may make you think twice before accepting the invitation. Then again, you'd be stupid to turn it down.

"We'd never been to South By Southwest," said McIntyre a week later. "I'd do it again as long as I didn't have to do any of the work." Box Elders, which also include brother Clayton McIntyre and drummer/keyboardist Dave Goldberg, played five times at the festival. Jeremiah said other than the performances, SXSW was a chance to meet the folks from Goner Records, the label that's releasing their new album in July.

"Goner wanted to get everyone together to meet and do some work," he said. "It was really informal. We met the publicist who'll be working on our record and a couple people who might do booking for us. Booking our own shows is a real drag."

Does SXSW provide advantages for unsigned bands to find a label? "I guess," McIntyre said. "The whole signed/unsigned thing seems irrelevant these days. Signed to what? Do people really buy records on labels anymore?"

Robb Nansel, executive at Saddle Creek Records, certainly hopes so. He's gone down to Austin for the past nine years.

"I do feel like it's worthwhile to be there," he said from a conference room in his Saddle Creek offices. "You may only be playing to 10 people, but the likelihood is that three of them are booking agents, two are writing for a magazine and two are at record labels."

As an example, Nansel said that Saddle Creek fleshed out its relationship with Two Gallants at SXSW. "We met them down there, we saw them perform and then we went up and spoke to them and set up a time to spend a couple hours together to talk and not watch bands," Nansel said. "And the rest is history."

He insists that there are plenty of unsigned bands still invited to the festival, and that it provides a great A&R opportunity to scout talent. "From a label's perspective, I go there for four reasons," he said. "To support our bands, to hopefully see new bands we're excited about, to see all of our friends that we don't get to see that live in other cities, and to conduct business with managers, booking agents, press people and publicists. The whole industry is there."

I was surprised to find that labels aren't charged to host showcases at SXSW. Saddle Creek, who tries to do a showcase annually, merely makes the request and sends the list of participating bands, then SXSW organizers decide on the venue. Last year, Creek's night showcase was at The Dirty Dog. "We're never playing there again," Nansel said. This year they got the larger, nicer Radio Room. I also thought that bands were playing for free. Not so, said Nansel. Participating bands can choose between getting $200 or a single badge that will get one of the members into all the clubs. The rest of the band members get wristbands, which means dealing with long lines.

Among those playing the Saddle Creek showcase was Beep Beep. Frontman Eric Bemberger said playing SXSW was worth it for a myriad of reasons, but for him it was a chance to see a lot of bands he might never have had a chance to see, like punk legends The Homosexuals and Canadian indie band Mother Mother. "It was the adult equivalent of Disney Land," Bemberger said.

"As far as propelling the band, I can't think of too many examples," he added. "There was someone that attended our show that said, 'I run this venue in Sacramento, give this card to your booking agent.' Stuff like that. There were people who wanted to do video interviews that many not have if they hadn't seen us play.

But if you're unsigned...

"The practicality of South By Southwest is slowly but surely disappearing," Bemberger said. "There are bands who are self-released that work so hard to get there that are overshadowed by all these self-gratifying hyped showcases and parties. But other people, who are trying to make music and lasting connections and find someone to support on their next tour, all that is valuable. Record labels, what are they anymore, anyway?"

That's it for SXSW for this year. Time to book my hotel for next year.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Beep Beep talks new album, personnel; Thunder Power tonight... – April 1, 2009 – twitter icon

My interview with Beep Beep's Eric Bemberger was pretty easy. All the questions were right there in front of me: What happened to Chris Hughes? What's with the new album's musical split personality? Will you be playing the quiet stuff in concert? Most of the answers made it into the story, here.

But there wasn't enough room to discuss their live set. I told Eric that I was at their Barley St. Tavern show last month and noticed a lack of quieter numbers from the album. He said that the show was a disaster going in. "We knew before we stepped on stage that things would fall apart," he said, adding they were supposed to go on first, but ended up playing last. "By the time we got on stage, the clock was ticking, so we just blasted through our stuff. We just wanted an opportunity to get some shows under our belt before leaving on tour. Ian (Francis) had only been in the band a month; James (Reilly) had been in for six months and had to learn all the synth parts."

The band may work a couple of the more mellow songs into their set Saturday night at The Waiting Room. They haven't been playing them because they're still figuring out how to replicate them on stage. "We now play 'The Lion's Mouth,'" Bemberger said. "A week before the tour, I cracked the code on Dan McCarthy's accordion on 'Return to Me' and translated it to something that could be played with software."

That said, we won't be hearing the Roxy Music-ish "Baby Shoes." Bemberger said he doesn't know what to do about the Wurlitzer and Rhodes sounds used on the track. That's too bad because it stands out as one of the most starkly different tracks on the album.

Anyway, check out the story, then buy tickets to Saturday night's show. And look for more Bemberger comments in tomorrow's column -- a postmortem of SXSW.

* * *

Thunder Power is headlining a show tonight at The Waiting Room with Midwest Dilemma, Jake Bellows and Carbondale, Illinois band The Black Fortys. $7, 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Apples and oranges; The Faint tonight... – March 31, 2009 – twitter icon

Here's a thought about what your hard-earned entertainment dollar can buy these days...

I went out to Marcus Village Pointe Cinema Friday night to see I Love You, Man and was surprised to find that movie ticket prices have gone up again, to $9. "It just went up this week," the gal behind the counter said. Nine dollars for a 90-minute movie that will be on HBO or Netflix in a few short months seems rather excessive. I mean, this wasn't exactly the kind of film that demands to be seen "on the big screen." And yet, I Love You, Man has earned more than $37 million in two weeks. And yes, it was funny.

Contrast that with the price for seeing, say, Little Brazil at The Waiting Room last Saturday night. For a mere $7 you got to see four touring bands for more than four hours of live entertainment -- with your cash going into the pockets of someone just trying to make a living off of art. Think about it: Live music really is your best value for your entertainment dollar -- it's loud, unpredictable, an interaction with actual human beings, and usually there's booze involved. And if you miss it, you've missed it. There is no replay on HBO or DVD version to rent later. You're living in the moment; and it can be cheaper than a movie.

Anyway... It's not always cheaper. Take tonight's Faint concert at Sokol Auditorium. At $18 per ticket, it's still not sold out -- which seems unheard of for this band. I speculate the reason for the slower ticket sales might have something to do with them having played here within the past six months, and the openers -- UUVVWWZ and Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship -- having played a few times within the last few weeks. Still, a Faint show is always worth the price of admission, and I wouldn't be surprised if this sold out before the first band takes the stage tonight at 8.

Tomorrow: Beep Beep.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Live Review: Little Brazil, Eagle * Seagull; Oui Bandits tonight... – March 30, 2009 – twitter icon

Before I get to the review, a word of thanks to the men of Little Brazil. While on tour, the band visited the Anheuser-Busch beer plant in St. Louis (where, due to their legendary consumption, I'm sure they were treated like returning heroes) and while there, picked me up a piece of valuable memorabilia -- a genuine Rolling Rock bottle opener keychain! Their thoughtfulness was so touching that I, well, teared up at the merch table when Brendan gave it to me. Thank you, gentleman. Your gift will not go to waste.

Now onto the show...

I arrived at around 10:30 and caught the last few moments of Kansas City's The Life and Times -- amazing, I wish I would have gotten their earlier. I can't estimate the crowd size, but can tell you that the show was very likely "sold out." Eagle * Seagull was up next. No fewer than a half-dozen people asked me if I knew what "the deal was" with their new album, the long-awaited The Year of the How-to Book, which we've been hearing about for over a year. The ongoing unconfirmed story has to do with Starbuck's record label Hear Music, but no one knows if it's true since E*S have been exceptionally good at keeping a lid on things. (I was surprised to learn that the label is still functioning, and according to this item at Nashville Scene, plans on releasing a new Elvis Costello album called Secret, Profane & Sugarcane June 2.)

Apparently the band briefly mentioned the new album during their set, but was as elusive as ever. We'll just have to wait and see. Performance-wise, they never sounded better, though I've been hearing most of the "new" songs for nearly two years. Imagine if they actually ever get to release this album -- they'll be stuck having to play those songs for yet another year. God.

Finally it was time for Little Brazil, who tore right into their set that consisted of new stuff off Son and a few older numbers. No, they didn't play the album front-to-back, and they didn't need to. They had a number of special guests join them on stage, including balladeer Adam Hawkins (providing harmony vocals), Oliver Morgan's wife, Megan, on keyboards and Landing on the Moon's John Klemmensen on trumpet. Who wasn't amazed by Landon Hedges' voice? First, he's been on the road for the past few weeks; second, his songs demand serious high-end vocal work. You'd expect him to be at least be a little hoarse, but no, Landon hit every note dead on, as did the rest of the band. You could tell they were happy to be home as much as the crowd was happy to see them (see photo). If you missed the set, the band is playing again a week from this Saturday (April 11) at The Sydney with The Filter Kings.

* * *

Tonight: At The Slowdown Jr., Oui Bandits opens for These United States and Laura Burhenn. $6, 9 p.m. A word of navigational warning: Cuming St. closed today until November, so take I-480 (if you can find an on-ramp) and get off on the 14th St. exit, or just look for the detours. You think it's a pain in your ass? I've got to navigate this mess every day to get to work, so stfu, as they say on Twitter.

Also tonight, It's True is opening for The Tallest Man on Earth and Red Cortez. $8, 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

More Cursive numbers; Her Flyaway Manner tonight, Little Brazil Saturday... – March 27, 2009 – twitter icon

Homer's head honcho Mike Fratt sent along second-week hard-unit numbers for Cursive's Mama, I'm Swollen: 2,694, enough to place it at No. 200 on the Billboard charts, and for a combined two-week sales total of 8,000 units. So is that good? Says Fratt: "Well, it's no Faint or Conor, but I think that's good for an indie."

He went on to list other sales numbers for comparison:

Vetiver on Subpop has been out since late January, and is at 4,722 total.
The new Buddy & Julie Miller, out three weeks, has sold 7,512 so far.
Heartless Bastards, out since Feb. 3, is at 14,209.
Jason Isbell, out since Feb. 17, is at 8,689 so far.
Black Lips, 2/24, is at 4,684
Matt & Kim, 1/20, is at 8,899
Black Joe Lewis only sold 1,629 in its first week
Razorlight, 3/10, is at 2,787

A few of these numbers surprised me, specifically Black Lips, which is one of the most-hyped bands going these days (certainly at SXSW), and Heartless Bastards (also hyped, but deservingly so). Fratt said Conor's solo disc has exceeded 100k in sales, and that the Faint sold more than 11,000 copies of Fasciinatiion in its first two weeks of release, dwindling to 500 copies a week by the end of August; Fratt thought Fasciinatiion was at around 20k total.

In that context, 8,000 is respectable. It just never ceases to amaze me how CD sales overall have fallen over the past 10 years. Cursive's 5,429 first-week sales landed it at No. 104 on Billboard's chart. Where would that number have placed it on the charts 10 years ago, or even five years ago? Probably nowhere near the top 200...

* * *

Busy week for shows. Very busy. Not SXSW busy, but busy. Here's the skinny:

Tonight at The Slowdown Jr., it's Lincoln punk stars Her Flyaway Manner with fellow Lincolnites UUVVWWZ and Ideal Cleaners. It's a mini Lincoln invasion, and well worth the $7 cover charge. The fun starts at 9 p.m.

Over at O'Leaver's, Bazooka Shootout is playing with Birthday Suits. $5, 9:30 p.m. Meanwhile, down that street at The Barley St. It's True plays with Michael Wunder, Reagan Roeder and Underwater Dream Machine, $5, 9 p.m. The Waiting Room is hosting the Matt Cox CD release show with Filter Kings and Black Squirrels, $8, 9 p.m. Saddle Creek Bar is hosting The Fergusons live recording, with Stephen Monroe and Swapboy Blues. $5, 9 p.m.

The marquee attraction Saturday night is the Little Brazil CD release show with Eagle Seagull, The Life and Times and Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship. $7, 9 p.m. LB is coming off a tour with Ladyfinger and Cursive, so expect them at their well-honed best... or at least fully loaded (if you know what I mean).

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Interview: Little Brazil; Live Review: Ratatat... – March 26, 2009 – twitter icon

The second photo in the Little Brazil story which I just posted (here) was taken right after the interview, when everyone was three sheets to the wind. After that, I went home and took a nap for a few hours, but was still dragging at Brad Hoshaw's CD release show that night. Not these guys, though; they drink like champions.

Anyway, read the story and find out about Little Brazil's new album, Son (which dropped on Tuesday), and the thinking that went into making it a "concept album." There was some talk about performing the entire album in sequence at the CD release show this Saturday at The Waiting Room, but nothing was definite and I haven't talked to the guys since the interview. We'll see.

* * *

Last night's Ratatat show at The Slowdown sold out some time in the afternoon. Evan Mast said the duo had spent their off time between tours working on visuals for their staging, and the results were impressive -- large, bright LED light bars framed the sides of the stage, lasers glowed overhead and a disturbing video that meshed abstract images with warped pop-culture icons played behind them -- not that anyone was paying attention. They were too busy "throwing their hands in the air like they just don't care," or whatever. The floor was crushed with dancers trying to get into the mid-tempo groove. (See photo).

And if there's a criticism to be levied, it's that their music was too mid-tempo, and at times downright plodding, which was only enhanced by the massive (and typical) bass samples. The performance involved Mast on bass and autoharp and Mike Stroud's whirring electric guitar played over prerecorded samples (drum tracks, synths, etc.). At its best, it was a huge carnival of sound that got the entire audience jumping. Too much, however, was low-energy and ornamental -- motion picture soundtrack music. Their videos were absolutely inspired. One song took the video for Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al" -- which also features Chevy Chase -- and warped them into slithering freaks. Another chopped up scenes from Arnold Schwarzenegger's "Predator" to make exploding bodies and buildings dance, while other cuts showed Arnold soaring through the air like a god. The most disturbing image: An Abba video distorted so that the singers' eyes and mouth were turned upside down, creating grotesque masks. Creepy, campy fun.

* * *

The Lepers and The Big Gigantic are at O'Leaver's tonight. $5, 9 p.m. Go.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Ratatat interview, at Slowdown tonight; Boy Bathing at PS... – March 25, 2009 – twitter icon

In the noise and confusion of SXSW I never got around to posting this interview with Ratatat's Evan Mast (read it here). The focus was on music licensing and how Ratatat has broadened its exposure by having its music used in TV, movies, commercials, etc. They've also broadened their wallets along the way.

Licensing continues to be the new radio. Labels (including Saddle Creek) have personnel specifically dedicated to getting their bands' music into commercials and movies. In the old days, there were those who considered such endeavors as "selling out." Today, with record sales being usurped by downloading and leaks, it's as an economic reality, and a way to survive. Of course you can always go to far, as Of Montreal proved. But like I said in that 2006 column, bands that can't get played on the radio don't have many options when it comes to getting their music heard (or making a living off music).

Anyway, check out the story, then go pick up some tickets for tonight's Ratatat show at The Slowdown. Opening is hip-hop artist Despot and Montreal's Think About Life. $15, 9 p.m.

Also tonight at PS Collective, The Boy Bathing is back. I'm assuming that this followup to last year's MAMF appearance is probably a solo acoustic performance. Opening is Brad Hoshaw, Tim Koehn and Black SmoKers Duo. $5, 8 p.m.

Tomorrow: Little Brazil

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SXSW: Final Thoughts; Aponik's last words... – March 24, 2009 – twitter icon

Final thoughts on SXSW: An event that enormous makes Omaha's piddly music scene seem miniscule, almost embarrassingly so. A common theme heard and read this year (and I'm sure was probably heard last year) was that Omaha's heyday was seven years ago. Seven. That's forever from a pop music standpoint. And yet, Omaha had a healthy number of acts performing at SXSW, including Beep Beep, Cursive, Ladyfinger, O+S, Yuppies, Box Elders, and unofficially, Little Brazil (I assume Darren Keen also was playing somewhere (other than with Beep Beep)).

But besides the fact that it was a great time, I'm still not sure what purpose SXSW serves other than as a media junket. New bands aren't getting "discovered," deals aren't being made. Will The Oh Sees, who were my favorite at the festival, emerge from SXSW with heighted exposure, increased record sales and more demand for touring (and consequently, more money)? We'll have to wait and see.

So now I'm back home. I've already submitted my 1,500-word version of my three days of blog entries (Thursday, Friday, Saturday) to The Reader, and the whole thing already is fading like a dream. Will I be back next year? Sure, if I can get another badge from The Reader (and if I have the vacation time available). If so, I'll be booking a room closer to the action -- walking over the Congress Ave. bridge twice a day quickly became a drag, especially at 2 a.m.

To round off the coverage, here are the last two submissions by Chris Aponik, received yesterday:

My Friday at SXSW was taken up by one of the biggest non-SXSW showcases, the In the Red Records show at Beerland. For me, it was packed with bands guaranteed to please my garage-rock heart. Texas' Strange Boys and Seattle's the Intelligence led the way on that showcase. The Boys smash twee, garage, '60s psychedelic rock with nods toward Dylan in their winsome, upbeat songs. Ryan Sambol is the driving factor, as his drowsy drawl is part Bob and part Belle & Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch. Meanwhile, the Intelligence are the garage-punk Devo, turning guitars and keyboards into crisp musical machines. Lars Finberg (also of the A-Frames) sounds more natural than on the band's records, but the syncopated delivery remains. I also caught Christmas Island and Cramps' member Kid Congo Powers at the showcase, with the latter doing songs from his days in the Gun Club and with Lux Interior. Rick Froberg's Obits started the day, proving that he had made a successful leap from the Hot Snakes. Obits is still tightly coiled, but there's more bar-band groove here. Crack Pipes bloozed up the Beerland patio mid-day and the Oh Sees reappeared closing the In the Red show outside as well. Cause Co-Motion! stirred up a good time with its messy indie pop, though they sometimes went too fast and got ahead of the natural pace of a song. I also walked hurriedly through shows by Delta Spirit and the Hold Steady. Both sounded great, but I'll be spending time with the Hold Steady here in Omaha, and I've had a recent enough taste of Delta Spirit to tide me over until I get to see them again.

Addictive: The Intelligence, The Strange Boys, Crack Pipes, Cause Co-Motion!

Memorable: Dappled Cities, Obits, Christmas Island, Kid Congo Powers

Listenable: Mae Shi, Antlers, Young Galaxy

* * *

It was just a brief moment, but in it, Ed Harcourt transcended me and a room full of SXSW attendees in a Convention Center exhibition hall to another place. Chalk that up to the English songwriter's daring decision to place a sprawling, noisy song near the end of his televised set on SXSW's sound stage. That song, "Beneath the Heart of Darkness," is off his 2001 debut. During its seven minutes, it morphed from piano ballad to noisy, Velvet Underground meltdown and back. The version he played Saturday induced chills. I had just seen one of my favorite songwriters do something amazing. Later on, the other half of that sound stage brought a downer, thanks to the power-pop super group Tinted Windows. In the annals of rock artist distractions, joining a super group should be tossed on the list next to going to rehab, having an identity crisis, having a child and attempting to become an actor. Super group is exactly what has befallen Adam Schlesinger, who now has at least another year worth of excuses to deprive me of a new Fountains of Wayne album. Tinted Windows also has Bun E. Carlos, Taylor Hanson and James Iha, who hasn't ever met a super group he didn't like. The results at times are solid power pop, but other times the radio ambition does between Daughtry and mall-emo.

Human Eye bore a weird, wild streak with their oddball lo-fi post-punk. Squealing guitars, spacey keyboards and a bug-eyed singer make for a psychotic, but intensely watchable experience. Gentlemen Jesse and His Men should be promoted to the kings of modern power-pop. They play fast and loud, but with hooks aplenty. The energy is great, the songs are all candy floss and sing-along ready. Magic Kids may give Box Elders a run for best pop band on Goner Records. The Memphis band had three singers melting together over simple, fun '60s pop. This is the Beach Boys on a shoestring budget. Golden Boys tear ass down Texas back roads with their loud, guitar-fueled country-rock blaring.

And finally, a band I out and out hated: Avoid the Death Set so you don't need counseling to forget this cancerously bad band. They start off as Girl Talk, Jr., mash-up artists raping pop music in quick-hit snippets. But then they play mediocre noise punk on top of it. It's colossally stupid.

Addictive: Human Eye, Ed Harcourt, Gentleman Jesse and His Men

Memorable: Sebastien Grainger, Magic Kids, Golden Boys

Listenable: Frustrations, Girls (San Fran.), Jason Lytle, Razorlight, Limes, Razorlight, Ty Segal

Soon to be Forgotten: Abe Vigoda, Tinted Windows,

Please Let it be Forgotten: Death Set -- Chris Aponik

Nice job, Chris. He and I ran into each other briefly at the Waterloo Park day show. It is funny how many Omahans you run into at SXSW.

Tomorrow: Ratatat.

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SXSW Saturday: Janean Garofalo, Abe Vigoda, Echo and the Bunnymen, PJ Harvey... – March 22, 2009 – twitter icon

Before we took off for the park Saturday morning, we bought grab-and-go breakfast from the little Starbucks-like coffee shop in the lobby and carried it out to a patio that also acts as a smoking area, complete with flat-panel television. While unwrapping my cresc-sandwich, I noticed someone pacing like a caged tiger along the sidewalk, her cell phone and backpack lying on an outdoor table. It was Janean Garofalo, the once-star of movies turned professional left-wing talk show guest. Standing around 4 feet tall and covered in tattoos, Garofalo looked angry and impatient, tracking back and forth behind me while I unwrapped a carrot-cake muffin. This wasn't the first time I'd seen her in Austin. We crossed paths the day before as she marched with her backpack across the Congress Avenue bridge. I guess she was tired of making the hike and was now waiting for someone to pick her up, someone who obviously was late. She stopped her angry march occasionally to stare at the flat-panel, which was showing Fox News. I wondered if that also was why she was seething, and I decided not to say hello fearing that she would lean over my table and try to bite me. We finished our breakfast and left her there, circling and scowling. I wondered what she thought of Ben Stiller these days, her old boyfriend and now a multi-millionaire movie actor married to a model, while she still slummed the comedy circuit and got by with the occasional guest role on "24," a show that ironically airs on the network she despises.

She was quickly forgotten as we began our own forced march toward 6th St. Waterloo Park is a few blocks north of the action near the edge of the U of Texas campus, and rock-throwing distance to the State Capitol Building. The entire park had been incased in chain link fence for SXSW. We made our way inside and found the small "side stage" where Sleepy Sun was playing, then walked over to the much larger main stage, where fewer than 100 onlookers watched Cut Off Your Hands walk through the same set I heard Thursday night. Were they still New Zealand's Tokyo Police Club? They were to me, playing that same style of jump-rock indie music, complete with its earnestly young tone. We left and ate lunch and came back for King Khan and the Shrines. By then, the lower bowl was half full. On stage was the Shrines in matching black shirts and ornamental neckware, preceding Khan, who entered to much fanfare wearing a crown and cloak and accompanied by a cheerleader with pom-poms who danced throughout the set (see photo). The whole thing had a James Brown-by-way-of-Hawaii feel to it that was wasted on a crowd composed of afternoon picnic-ers and hungover hipsters.

Afterward we walked back over to the side stage for Abe Vigoda -- not the actor but the band named after the actor who, judging by their age, probably never heard of Phil Fish or Tessio. The guy playing bass thought he'd throw a few bombs before they lit into their set: "I used to listen to Cursive when i was in 9th grade," he said, apparently miffed that Cursive was playing on the big stage. "Don't get me wrong, Domestica was a great album, and I don't mean that factiously. But that was 9th grade."

Shit talking is an odd way to greet your audience, and can be audacious and ballsy if you can back it up, but Abe Vigoda couldn't. The four-piece played a flaccid set of run-of-the-mill indie rock sung by a guy who couldn't sing. Listen, if you're trying to be punk and can't carry a note, at least try to scream the lyrics so no one notices. Instead, it was typical wonky Modest Mouse-flavored indie rock, poorly played and sung by a band whose only memorable quality was its name. By chance, I ran into Tim Kasher later in the evening and passed along Vigoda's pre-set soliloquy. "Don't worry, we'll get them back," he said. Anyone familiar with Kasher's famous between-song rants knows what he's talking about.

We left halfway through Vigoda's set and caught the tail-end of Cursive. By then, the field was filled and the band had turned their sound into a monster roar, waves of feedback crashed against the trees.

By the time Cursive ended, it was already around 3 o'clock, so we hiked back to the Austin Convention Center where Echo and the Bunnymen were scheduled to play at 5 at "The Bat Bar" -- a made-for-TV lounge that was nothing more than an exhibition hall turned into a sound stage. After waiting in line for an hour, they finally let us in and reminded us over and over that the performance was being televised live on Direct TV -- so "make some noise, you're going to be on TV, too!" Moments later Ian McCulloch stepped on stage with the rest of the band and stood there while we all waited for Matt Pinfield to finish an interview somewhere else. It was strange and awkward. McCulloch tried to pass the time talking about European Cup "football" to an audience that had no idea who Manchester United was, nor cared. Finally, he got the cue and tore into his set. I've never been a big fan of Echo and the Bunnymen. To me, their music was a watered down version of stuff I really liked by bands like Psychedelic Furs and Teardrop Explodes. But McCulloch sounded terrific, not a bit of age showed on his 49-year-old voice. I recognized a couple of the songs, including set closer "Lips Like Sugar." He also played a few new songs that sounded just like the old songs.

We stayed on 6th St. and caught the Oh Sees playing outside at Beerland -- not nearly as good as the Emo's Jr. set from Thursday night -- before heading over to Stubbs to find something to eat and wait for PJ Harvey. This turned out to be an agonizing decision, as the food was bad and so were the bands preceding PJ, including the Razorlight, a British act that wants to go the U2 route but doesn't have the songs for it. They started out strong and quickly became boring. The crowd mulled around just waiting for them to get it over with.

Everywhere people were jockeying for places to sit down, their backs and feet like open sores, dying for some relief but finding none. The crowd shifted from foot to foot just trying to get through the next two hours, while bouncers came by and shooed people off booze loading ramps and camera platforms. We found a spot near a railing where we could at least lean. Down below was a table full of water coolers that had long since gone dry.

PJ came on at 10 sharp, dressed in a white satin outfit with a big white "thing" in her hair -- we were too far away to make out what that "thing" was. She kicked into a set of rather low-key songs off her latest album, which sounded good, but I preferred the old Polly Jean, the one that played electric guitar on 4-Track Demos, instead of this modern version of Annie Lennox.

Next it was off to see Alessi's Ark -- the same Alessi that recorded in Omaha a couple years ago at ARC with Jake Bellows. The venue -- Stephen F's Bar -- was hidden on the second floor of a 7th St. luxury hotel. Inside was all oak paneling and French doors that opened to a balcony that overlooked the flotsam in the street below. Alesssi played a set of acoustic songs with guitar to a crowd of around 50 -- nice stuff.

Finally it was off to punk rock central in the form of Red 7 for Box Elders. I figured it might be my last band of SXSW, why not go out with a bang? There on stage was Dave Goldberg and the McIntyre brothers in their respective get-ups (the too-short shorts, the gold lame smoking jacket) doing their garage band thing to a crowd of 100 punkers and scenesters who got into the vibe. Halfway through the set, Goldberg bit into some sort of capsule that made him drool green foam maddog-style. It was all well received (see photo).

I considered heading over to Emo's for Daniel Johnston and even got as far as getting into the club, but the previous band was still on stage and I figured they wouldn't be done 'til past 1:30. So instead I left to find a brat and was hit again with the Mardi Gras-on-amphetemines atmosphere of 6th St., rowdier than ever, but this time The Man was in full force. Crossing Brazos I ran into a battalion of cops headed somewhere, ready for action. A glance down the street revealed a wall of red and blue strobe lights and mounted police surrounding some sort of melee. Fleets of cops in cruisers flew over Congress Ave. bridge, looking for trouble. A couple kids in a black VW GTO sped by us, one of them standing out of sunroof yelling with glee, just glad to be alive -- then boom -- squad lights, busted. When I passed them walking to the hotel I could see the two kids inside the VW looking scared, digging through their glove box for papers as a second squad car pulled up next to them -- a bad scene, but a suiting way to end three days of rock 'n' roll chaos. Tomorrow, what it all means and was it worth it.

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Friday at SXSW: The Wrens, Titus Andronicus, Cursive, Jeremy Messersmith, Mark Mallman, more; Aponik report... – March 21, 2009 – twitter icon

The goal of my Day Two (yesterday) was to figure out the ins and outs of the so-called "day parties" at SXSW. In the end, I never really figured them out, or I never actually found them. All the performances I had logged into my schedule were at the same clubs where I'd been the night before, with a couple exceptions. The only difference about day parties is that they're absolutely free -- no badge needed for entry. A person could have a good time at SXSW without ever buying a wristband or badge, as the best show of the night for me also was free-entry.

First stop was at noon. We hustled over to Mohawk Patio, an outdoor venue with multi-tier concrete and steel decks that wound around a stage below on the floor (see photo). Stairways led up and up (but only VIPs were allowed to the very top, where someone grilled an assortment of meats; needless to say, we weren't VIPs). It was a hot, burning sun -- nothing to complain about after this past winter -- but still, sunblock was needed, or shade. We watched from the center tier next to a guy who was filming the entire performance. The Wrens sounded no different than the last time I heard them a few years ago, though the group had gotten a bit more gray around the temples. I recognized a few songs off older albums, and so did the crowd, all of whom were busy getting started on a long day of binge drinking thanks to free Pabst tickets handed out to everyone who came through the door.

SXSW is a drinkers' paradise, though I didn't notice many "free beer" events. Ordering soda pop is looked upon as quaint. But despite the heavy alcohol intake, there were few -- if not any -- drunks flopping around... in the daytime. At night, well, that was a different matter. We hung around and watched the first 15 minutes of Bishop Allen -- a real snore -- before heading off to another outdoor venue -- which was little more than a large tent constructed in a parking lot behind a bar on the east end of the strip called Habana Calle Annex 6. I figured Titus Andronicus would be playing outside, but instead they played on the stage inside the tiny bar (see photo). I liked their most recent album enough to place it on my 2008 top-10 list -- it's rowdy and rough and young, with unbridled energy -- and so was the band, bashing away on stage, the frontman sporting the new-hipster unibomber beardo look. It was loud, but forced -- they never got into an angry groove heard or maybe it was just too early for that sort of thing.

It was already approaching 3 p.m. One thing I was dead wrong about in my column: I said there was no way that the venues would stay on schedule. I couldn't have been more wrong. Bands hit their mark timewise at every showcase. There were no exceptions. I assume either the SXSW organizers or the venues are responsible for drilling the schedule into the bands' heads. In fact, three or four times during the day, a band commented on how much time they had left. "Just 8 minutes; I better make this a good one." And so on. Everyone is carrying their own schedules in their hip pockets or saved on their iPhones; and instead of enjoying what they are watching, they're planning three gigs ahead, tracking their path in their minds, trying to figure out how they'll get across 6th St. in time for whatever they want to see. A band running late wasn't going to stop them from heading out when they needed to.

Knowing that we'd be heading back toward the hotel afterward, we figured we'd trek further down the strip. It's here that I decided to break my own rule and go see an Omaha band -- maybe the only Omaha performance of the trip (unless we see Box Elders today). I figured if I'm going to see only one Omaha band, it might as well be Cursive. So we hoofed it west a mile down 4th St. to La Zona Rosa, the newest and most pristine of all the venues and quite a contrast to the usual crap-panel walls or paint-everything-black exterior of most clubs located further east. The place had a stage, sound and lights that rivaled Slowdown's (see photo). It only made sense that Dan Brennan was there to run sound for our homeboys. They played a strange set, heavy with songs from The Ugly Organ and only two or three from the new album, skipping entirely the big closer, "What Have I Done?" instead opting to close with "Dorothy at 40." The huge crowd (400?) ate it up. So how did this out-of-town crowd react to an Omaha band? No different than any typical Cursive crowd at TWR or Sokol or Slowdown. Kasher struggled with his voice, and I wondered how he was going to sound at 1 a.m. that same night at the Saddle Creek Showcase at The Radio Room. But I never found out. Cursive is playing the hell out of SXSW -- a show Thursday, two on Friday and again today out at a park.

After the agony suffered after Day One, I knew I wouldn't make it a full day and full night walking/standing around. After Cursive we headed back to the hotel for a dip in the pool and a nap, which made all the difference. We got rolling again around 7, but discovered that none of the night showcases were starting until 8. Sixth St. was crowded with people looking for food options, and finding very little other than pizza, hot dogs and other street vendor fare. This is the worst food I've eaten on a trip in years.

With few options, we figured we might as well head east across the freeway to see Peter John and Bjorn. Little did we know that we were entering the dirty side of town, at least compared to 6th St. It not only felt like we were in a different city, but a different country and time -- Tijuana circa 1973. Houses like shacks. Dirt lots and rusted fences that surrounded exposed junk yards and auto graveyards. When we got to Fader Fort we found a line that stretched more than a block long. I talked to someone wearing a headset at the front, asking her if there was a badge line. The gig wasn't really part of SXSW, and you had to RSVP to get in. I RSVP'd to a ton of stuff over the past two weeks but couldn't remember if that show was one of them, and I couldn't find out until I made my way through that block-long line that barely moved as every individual had to be looked up in a database on a small white Macbook. No.

We walked up a block to where Mark Mallman would be playing at 9, a place called The Iron Gate Lounge. A shitty haphazard fence had been thrown around the crushed-stone parking lot, a portable stage placed against a retaining wall was covered with one of those portable tents. Two porta Johns were pressed up in the corner. It was seedy but fun (see photo). Up the weather-worn deck steps stood a young mutt with the traditional hippy dewrag tied around its neck that couldn't have been more than 5 months old. The pup was being walked on the lawn next to the house-like bar, where old power-line cable spindles were being used as tables. Pot smoke wafted in the air as people blazed up in lawn chairs on the tiny side lot, right in the open. Back down on the crushed-stone lot someone sold hippie artwork. I glanced behind a barrier curtain and two guys sat in folding stadium chairs picking through through buds, rolling joints. This was the other Austin that no one on Sixth St. would ever see unless they moved here.

Another non-sponsored event - everyone was allowed in -- the crowd looked like it was made up of neighborhood locals. The whole thing felt like O'Leaver's 5-year anniversary block party. And here's where the beauty of SXSW comes in: I had no idea who was playing before Mallman, nor did I care. We figured we might as well just stay there instead of hiking back to Sixth St. As luck would have it, the guy playing first was fellow Minnesotan Jeremy Messersmith, who's self-released album was one of my favorites from last year. With a sideman on electric guitar and a beat-box synth gadget, Messersmith played what wound up being my favorite set of the evening.

Right after him was Mallman with a full band -- quite a contrast to the last time I saw him play (a solo set at the long-gone Johnny Sortinos Pizza joint where Wal-mart now stands and I was the only one in the crowd). With his full band, Mallman became an unbridled madman, hyper beyond words, throwing himself on top of his keyboard, doing leg kicks and tossing his piano stool. It was worth it just for his theatrics -- entertaining, though the music was sloppy and marred by technical problems. I think Mallman was trying too hard for a crowd that was too small to make his efforts worth it.

We left Tijuana and headed back to 6th St., back to Mohawk Patio this time for The Ettes, a poppy punk four-piece with a bubbly female singer who had the buoyancy of Belinda Carlisle before she got old and fat. The Ettes have enough to turn this relatively straight forward punk into something harder, and do. Not a bad band, though none of their songs stood out.

I considered staying at Mohawk for The Hold Steady, who was playing at midnight, but figured I could see them in Omaha soon enough. Outside, a huge mass of humanity crowded the street, trying to get a glimpse of Metallica playing inside -- people stood on top of a nearby parking garage, tossing devil horned salutes down below. I pushed through and headed back to Emo's Jr. for the other most hyped group of the weekend: The Pains of the Pure at Heart. Once inside, it was a crush mob, mostly girls, many who longingly mouthed the words to the songs (see photo). Their music was standard-issue indie with a pop slant that recalled '90s acts like The Trashcan Sinatras. It was well-played, but boring and flat. Very run-of-the-mill, but that won't stop them from riding a hype train all the way to SNL.

I figured I might as well stay for The Black Lips, who I missed at TWR last week. Something was up as their set was running late and there was a lot of back and forth with the sound guy. Finally on came the band with another SXSW surprise -- a guest appearance by what I assumed was a member of the Wu Tang Clan based on how the crowd reacted by throwing up the classic thumb-fingers "W" symbol. I have no idea who it was as I was never into WTC. Needless to say, the guy laid down some lyrics while the Black Lips tried to back him. It didn't work out very well, and the EmCee bossed order throughout the half-hour endeavor, before leaving the stage. After being told to "bring it down" by hip-hop guy so often, the Lips' set was flaccid and half-assed.

It was well past 1 a.m. when I made the long walk back to the hotel. Sixth St. had turned into a drunken bacchanal -- thousands of people stumbling around, yelling, chasing after each other. I expected to see someone carrying around a golden calf. The streets turned from carefree to angry and weird, as huge lines formed behind hotdog carts, people looking for anything to eat to kill their daylong buzz.

* * *

Chris Aponik turns in his report:

Punk band reunion shows are often little more than a desperate money grab by over-the-hill misfits who no longer give a shit. But that ain't Keith Morris. Circle Jerks owned Beerland with an hour-plus set that transported the churning, sweaty crowd back in time. What's more is the band was totally into it as well, with Morris telling stories, ranting and pouring out an impassioned vocal performance. He kept the crowd vibe right, going as far to lecture one unruly member about the message of one of the band's songs. Sure, the Circle Jerks are a seminal hardcore progenitor, but last night's set at Beerland was seminal as well.

Other standouts included TV Ghost, a no-wave basement punk act that throbs with mechanical menace. Their singer shouts his lines as if giving an incantation. Blank Dogs created an insular punk-pop with vocals processed into some echoing '50s alien sci-fi effect. Sam Roberts Band won me over with power-pop that also nodded to the Stones, while Mark Sultan (aka BBQ) knows his way around doo-wop stylings. Tim Easton impressed by finally re-embracing a rock band to put a live wire under his folk stylings.

Meanwhile, Crystal Stilts proved not up to the buzz, as their indie-pop flirts with post-punk atmosphere. Sometimes it clicks, but mostly it seems stuck in indecision. The Living Things don't have any trouble deciding however. The major label rock act rocks with a capital "R." They are the Makers with a brasher, glammier sound. Turn off your mind or you'll just be turned off.

Today, I just don't know. I'm definitely hitting up the unofficial In the Red Records showcase at Beerland. I've already had Tamale House breakfast tacos, so I'm ready to roll.

Addictive: Tim Easton, TV Ghost,
Memorable: Sam Roberts Band, Blank Dogs, No Age, Red Red Meat, Mark Sultan, Crystal Stilts, Greg Ashley Band
Listenable:Army Navy, Living Things, Two Hours Traffic, Naked on the Verge, Baptist Generals, Nite Jewel, Ancestors -- Chris Aponik

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Thursday night in Austin: Peter Murphy, Micachu, Cut Off Your Hands, Thee Oh Sees... – March 20, 2009 – twitter icon

Everything I said in my column about SXSW was true. All true. The good and the bad. It really is a nirvana for "new music" lovers, a paradise, a shrine to what's happening now in music -- be it good and new and original, or regressive, derivative, boring. You'll hear it all here, along a stretch of road that runs a mile beside a dark, flat river surrounded by hotels and restaurants and new condominium construction. On the streets, in the restaurants, in mezzanines, alongside the locked doors of banks and office buildings, on the stairs alongside rows and rows of garbage scows, besides a Jimmy Johns, in clothing stores, outside of convenient marts where the local downtowners stop in to buy a pack of smokes and a $3 vending-machine-quality sandwich wishing it would all go away. You'll get a chance to see every band that's been written about in Magnet and Pitchfork three or four times over the course of the week. If you missed them at 1 a.m. at Emo's don't worry, they're probably playing tomorrow afternoon at the Urban Outfitters or in a tent at a day-party booze-and-brats give-away.

We got in at 5. Our hotel -- located on the opposite side of the river -- is only a $20 cab ride from the airport. We walked to the Convention Center about a half-mile away to get our "credentials" -- a large laminated badge with my photo and an imbedded metallic device that acts as a keyfob that magically gets you into all the shows in all the clubs for the duration of the festival. So efficient was our arrival, we had time to catch a full evening of shows. I checked my list and figured why not try Peter Murphy at Elysium? After all, it was only a couple blocks away.

There's a sense of disorientation upon reaching 6th St., the same blind chaos of Bourbon St. during Mardi Gras. The street is blocked off and every venue is hosting something, but what? After a few minutes you realize that no one else seems to know, either. The reason this festival works is because people aren't assholes -- more people came up to me yesterday asking for directions or advice about bands than any time I can remember, maybe because I look like an undercover cop or a club bouncer or someone's dad. Certainly not because I look like a local. This would never work in NYC. Everyone's friendly, maybe because it's 82 degrees and sunny, and those of us who flew or drove in from northern climes -- having suffered through five months of bone-aching cold -- are so desperately happy to be able to casually walk around in a T-shirt and shorts and flip-flops.

We made our way down Red River St. to Elysium and ran into an enormous crowd that turned out to be the 7 p.m. "hold out line" for Peter Murphy, though no one was sure if, in fact, it was a line at all. More of a mob/crowd situation. After waiting for about 20 minutes, the guy behind me said "Dude, you got a badge. You should wait in the 'badge line.'" I was in the non-badge line. In fact every venue has two lines, one for people with badges, one for those with wristbands or nothing. We moved to the other line, but it didn't really matter. After waiting for 30 minutes, and almost giving up, the cattle began to move. Elysium is billed as a "dance club," but it's not much different than, say, The Waiting Room -- a large venue with a decent stage and a side room with pool tables and pinball machines.. Murphy already was on stage performing when we got in. I remembered interviewing him years ago -- one of the toughest interviews I've ever done because of his thick cockney accent -- I didn't understand half of what he said. Murphy speaks quickly and mumbles. I recognized that London mumble telling stories on stage between songs, but I couldn't decipher a single word. Musically, Murphy sounds as good as ever (solo-wise anyway). He's still in good voice -- that same old deep warble that slides upward into a David Bowie impersonation. "He looks old," said a gothy-looking girl standing beside me, and he did. His hair has thinned and he's starting to comb-over a bald spot, his skin looked drawn and grey, his eyes deeper set, but he still had whatever it is that made him famous in the '80s.

We lasted about 20 minutes before we'd had enough. I wanted to get across the street to what's known as "Emo's Annex" -- nothing more than a tent set up across the street from the actual Emo's. I had called Aponik in a panic while waiting for Murphy asking, "Is it going to be like this everywhere? Super long lines?" He assured me that it wasn't and he was right. There was no line for Micachu -- a young UK lady/guy who plays what looks like is either a tiny guitar or a big ukulele, pounding out arch, dissonant pop songs sung in an angry chirp. Her music will either entice you or drive you away. I loved it. Teresa was confused by it. The crowd of around 75 seemed interested but not terribly drawn in.

We left and got a slice of pizza from one of the countless pizza windows located about every 40 yards down the street. Everyone's eating pizza, probably because that's all you notice on the street. Pizza is quick and easy. No one wants to sit down for a normal meal. I wanted to catch The Warlocks, but somehow misread my pocket guide and wound up at Stubbs, an enormous outdoor venue located behind a famous barbecue joint. The stage was large, topped by a huge tent-like canopy.The feature attraction -- The Meat Puppets. I've never been a fan of the band, though like everyone else in America, I enjoyed their guest spot during Nirvana's MTV Unplugged gig. It was so loud that I wondered what the diners were hearing inside the restaurant while they crushed their ribs. Meat Puppets sounded pretty dead-on in front of a crowd of at least 500, maybe more. Teresa thought they sounded Brookes and Dunn. I thought they sounded like gritty swamp rock.

It was 10 when we left and Teresa had had enough and I was beginning to fade after too many Shiners. Sixth St. had turned into a drunk noise carnival, exactly as you would imagine it -- noise (mostly drums) echoing out of every venue. Street crazies and people on bicycles mixed in with the badge-wearing crowd and locals trying to get into free shows. Everywhere, all the time, an ambulance was either parked in front of a venue -- cherries ablaze -- or rushing through an intersection. Odd. Despite cops at every corner, I walked Teresa back to Congress and headed over to Emo's where I spent the rest of the evening. Like Slowdown (but really, not like Slowdown at all) Emo's has a main stage and "Emo's Jr." The diff from Slowdown is that both go at the same time, divided by an outdoor passageway that makes up most of Emo's excess capacity. I wasn't sure what I was watching and then found an order sheet taped to the wall. On stage was Wild Light from Manchester, NH, a commercial-sounding indie band that reminded me of shit like Dexy's Midnight Runners (for no reason, really). Meanwhile, over at Emo's Jr., The Homosexuals were doing their thing. Formed in 1972 as The Rejects, the trio is the read deal, like a slice of Brittany when the barricades were still in the streets, and they looked like they lived through it.

Back in at Emo's was Cut Off Your Hands, who I originally was drawn in to see. They played in Omaha just a few weeks ago and I missed them. High energy indie rock from New Zealand that sounded like a rougher version of Tokyo Police Club. I mentioned this to Robb Nansel afterward and he gave me a look like I was nuts. The best was last. Thee Oh Sees from San Francisco -- amazing garage rock to the extreme. The lead guy, looking like a young (short) Marty Sheen straight out of Badlands, is magnetic on stage -- the best garage rock I've heard in years, covered in reverb and noise. Easily the best band I heard on my Day One, or maybe it was the Shiner talking. There was talk of a secret Jane's Addiction set at a local Playboy Club, which I'd heard about before I left. Nansel was going, but I was dead tired.

By the time I got back to the hotel at around 1, my back felt like it'd been crushed in a vice from standing up for five hours after spending five hours smashed in a jet. Pure agony. The part about SXSW having nowhere to sit down is true, so is the part about doing lots of walking. I will need a vacation from this vacation by Sunday. Today I try to find the day parties on foot.

No Aponik comments. What happened, Chris? Too much partying? The only Omahan I've seen so far is Nansel, though I've been in touch via IM with a number of people. Stay tuned.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

SXSW: Aponik's Day One... – March 19, 2009 – twitter icon

I'm headed to the airport. Don't let this be the last thing I ever write (if you know what I mean). Chris Aponik sends his Day One comments, below. Chris is known more as a garage band guy (his love of Brimstone Howl is legendary), but you wouldn't know it judging from the bands he saw yesterday, many of which I'll (hopefully) be seeing this week. Unlike Chris, I've done little planning or RSVP-ing. I hope it doesn't end up biting me in the ass.

Day One in Austin is in the books and it seems destined to be the lightest of the four main days of SXSW. Still, I was able to knock three must-see acts off my list. Only one of them disappointed.

It was a day of running around and quickly remembering how to get places. The best way to do SXSW seems to let the day show schedule fall into place on the fly, as you zip up and down Sixth Street. The night shows I try to plan a little more, charting out the most desirable options and making sure I'm not passing on anything I'll not have another chance to see.

Even before Wednesday kicked off, I had spent some time in a downtown club. That Tuesday night show featured a horde of San Francisco SXSW bands and Detroit's Tyvek. The stand-out was the Oh Sees, the current project of Coachwhips mastermind John Dwyer. It's still a lo-fi affair, but there's a tighter, matured pop craftmanship going into the Oh Sees than any of Dwyer's past projects. But Dwyer still moves like a madman and keeps the pace quick. The Fresh & Only brought a different rock 'n' roll experience with a Southern-sounding heap of guitar rock.

Wednesday brought surprises both in surpassed expectations and slight disappointments. Credit Wavves, Pains of Being Pure at Heart and the Heartless Bastards for bringing more to the table than what was asked. Heartless Bastards soared on the backs on their newest album The Mountain. Those songs, delivered by a cohesive, energetic band, gave singer Erika Wennerstrom a chance to send out spinal cord chills down backs. It's when her simple songs melded blues rock muscle to her inner chanteuse that made the set. One quibble: the band's older material stills hews close to forgettable blues bar band territory.

Wavves succeeded with just the right sense of how to mess up a good pop song. The two-piece band ably writes updated slices of surf rock and '60s pop, but it's when you hear just how beautifully they sit inside the band's bowl of lo-fi garage racket that really amazes. Pains of Being Pure at Heart's achievement isn't as surprising, but it's certainly stuck in my head. The Brooklyn dream-pop revivalists made a strong case for not being written off as a shoegaze tribute. That's because there's an indelible, unforgettable quality about the band's simple, fuzzy pop songs, especially with the singer's twee vocal delivery.

Unfortunately, Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears bore the disappointment label. Lewis' two recent Lost Highway releases reveal a new player on the retro soul/funk scene. The cleanliness of those recordings carry over, with a sound that goes for replication instead of reinvention. The only thing different from those old soul singers is that Lewis saddles himself with guitar playing, when he should be sweating like James Brown.

All in all, it was a busy day with a few bands getting left in my dust after a few songs. Here's the final tally.

Addictive: Oh Sees, Heartless Bastards, Wavves, Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Memorable: Fresh & Onlys, Tyvek, Psychedelic Horseshit, Dikes of Holland, Phenomenal Handclap Band, Thomas Function, Vetiver
Listenable: Anathallo, Greg Laswell, Port O'Brien, Black Joe Lewis, Cut Off Your Hands, Peter Bjorn & John
Soon to be Forgotten: Maus Haus, Laryatta, Loney Dear, Themselves, Fol-chen, Porcelain, Young Love, Lovely Sparrows -- Chris Aponik.

See you in Austin.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Cursive at No. 104; Bright Eyes farewell?; Column 214: Headed South by Southwest... – March 18, 2009 – twitter icon

I know I'm overloading you with Cursive data, but Mike Fratt at Homer's passed along that Mama, I'm Swollen sold 5,429 physical copies nationally its first week, which is good enough to put it at No. 104 on the Billboard Top-200. Nice.

* * *

Bright Eyes is tonight at The Waiting Room. I will not be in attendance as I wasn't one of the lucky ones to score a ticket in the 23 minutes that they were available before selling out. Will this "reunion" actually be a swan song for Bright Eyes? My guess is yes, it will be, but only for the time being. Conor goes out with the Mystic Valley Band for part of this year, and then has the M. Ward/Jim James/M. Mogis album after that. If I had to venture a guess, I'd say he'll pull together Bright Eyes whenever the mood strikes him or the stars align for everyone involved. That said, who knows when that will be again or what he'll say at tonight's show.

* * *

Tomorrow I leave for SXSW, arriving in time to take in the Thursday night schedule. Look for updates on a daily basis right here. For "real-time" data, follow me on Twitter ( or on Facebook. That said, here's my pre-trip perspective:

Column 214: South by South Wasted
Austin or bust.

I have seen the future of rock and roll, and it's _______.

That's why someone like me goes to the South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin. Right? To discover tomorrow's Next Big Thing, the band that we'll all be talking about the following year, the one that will blow the lid off the Mercury Lounge next September when Bowie and Lou "just show up" with guitars and microphone and jam alongside them, the band that played here in Omaha last year to 50 people that we now know will never be back. The next Arcade Fire. The next Interpol. The next Animal Collective. The next Bright Eyes.

I've been watching SXSW from the sidelines for years, never dreaming of actually attending. The lead-up to mid-March always has been the same: "You goin'? You're not? Dude, you're really missing out, especially you. It's a four-day fucking party, man, and you never know what's going to happen or who's going to show up. Dude, seriously, you need to go next year." And so on.

There's nothing more annoying than hearing how great someone's vacation was, especially when they just got back from Antigua in the middle of January. No one really wants to see the pictures. No one really cares, because we're stuck here, in this icebox called Omaha, and Antigua might as well be the surface of the moon. The same holds true for SXSW. Returning festival attendees go on and on about how so-and-so destroyed Emo's or El Sol y La Luna or The Speakeasy. About how they drank themselves blind and greeted the sunrise with breakfast burritos at this little place off Red River St. And the whole time that they're telling you this, you just want to punch them in the throat because you know you'll never be able to get off work, never have enough cash, never get a "Gold Badge," never get to go.

Well, I'm going this year for the first time. As you read this on Thursday or Friday or Saturday, I'm most likely crouched over somewhere on 6th St. in Austin suffering from a hang-over, confused, looking for a place to take a piss, wondering where I'm supposed to go next. As soon as I figured out a way to get there, I backtracked to everyone who had gone before -- but who aren't going this year -- and got the same story: "You going? Really? Man, be prepared for the lines and the hassle and the heat. Austin's weird because there's really nowhere to sit down anywhere. You'll be standing up for three days straight. Those laminates they give you, man, they're worthless. Forget about getting in to see any band that you really want to see. And if you do get in, the sound system in every bar sucks. You're better off just waiting to see those same bands when they come through town. Good luck, you're going to need it." And so on.

I'm told that there's no reason to put together a schedule or list of bands prior to flying out because the odds that any of the clubs will keep to the schedule -- or that I'll actually be able to make my way through the line in time -- are next to nil. On the surface -- and based on my own research -- I tend to believe this, but that's not stopping me from pulling together a half-assed schedule anyway, so that I'll at least have a few stars to navigate by as I try to make sense of it all. (You can see my half-assed schedule online, here:

I did figure out one thing a long time ago -- I'm not flying to Austin to see the same handful of bands that play in Omaha once a month. Every year I talk to someone who went to SXSW and spent the whole time running from venue to venue to see Omaha bands. Why see Ladyfinger when they just played at O'Leaver's a week ago? The answer: "Because we really want to see how they go over with an impartial crowd." It's like rooting for the home team, but in the end, no one cares how well anyone goes over. Every band at SXSW has been signed to a label, in most cases for years. Their "big break" came long before they ever got invited to play the festival. And the only reason they came this year was because their label is hosting a showcase and told them they should.

Every band I've talked to who has played SXSW has bitched about it, placing it among the worst tour experiences of their lives because there's nowhere to park their van, getting equipment into the club is an insane hassle, and once they do get their gear set up they can't leave for fear of not getting back in -- even though they're in the band.

But that's not my problem, is it. For me, SXSW is a spring break, a chance to burn up some carryover vacation time and check out the madness from inside the belly of the beast. My plan is to arrive Thursday afternoon, taxi over to the Hyatt and drop my bags, then stroll over to 6th Street just across the river and let fate guide me in the right direction.

The whole time I'll be taking notes, snapping pictures, Twittering (, updating my blog (, and putting together notes Hunter S. Thompson-style, scribbled on napkins, recorded into my iPhone, for a story in next week's issue of The Reader. And nothing is going to stop me from having a good time.

If I discover the future of rock and roll, I'll let you know.

If my own perspective wasn't enough SXSW coverage, fellow Reader reporter Chris Aponik is in Austin as well and will be contributing his personal take on the festival as a Lazy-i exclusive. His "final report" will be published in The Omaha City Weekly. Chris left for Austin either today or yesterday. Here's his pre-launch musings:

I've not even set foot in Texas and I already feel fatigued. There's just no possible way I'm going to see all I want to see by week's end. I've barely been able to wrap my mind around what I want to see. But I am armed and ready. I've logged in all the official showcases I want to check out and I've put in RSVP's for just about every semi-private day show I could find. Now I just need to will myself to look through and whittle my list down to what I must absolutely see. That basically makes it a list of people that might soon be dead and people that won't be caught dead playing in Nebraska in 2009.

So here's my must-see list:
Heartless Bastards
TV Ghost
No Age
Sam Roberts Band
Crystal Stilts
King Khan and the Shrines
The Wrens
Primal Scream
Ed Harcourt
Mika Miko
Red Red Meat
Human Eye
The Intelligence
Cause Co-Motion!
Tim Easton
The Drones
Black Joe Lewis
Blank Dogs
Echo and the Bunnymen
Andre Williams
Golden Boys

Chris also will be posting video updates at

Hold onto your hats, we're in for a bumpy ride... to Austin.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Happy St. Patrick's Day; Black Lips, Brad Hoshaw tonight... – March 17, 2009 – twitter icon

First, an update on yesterday's blog entry regarding Cursive. A number of people wrote in asking what happened to Cornbread Compton, Cursive's drummer who didn't appear with the rest of the band for last Friday night's performance on Late Night with David Letterman. Jason Kulbel of Saddle Creek Records wrote to explain that Cornbread had "work related things that prevented him from being able to tour."

Moving on...

I used to head to The Dubliner on St. Patrick's Day. But with SXSW just a couple days away, I'll be lying low this year, perhaps only dropping in at Burke's Pub for a pint of Guinness. There's a ton happening tonight in Benson -- a.k.a. Little Ireland. Over at The Waiting Room those Irish lads known as The Black Lips are playing a show with Gentleman Jesse And His Men, and Brimstone Howl. $12, 9 p.m. Meanwhile, down at The Barley St. Tavern, Brad (the Bard of Killarney) Hoshaw is hosting a party with performances by himself, Kyle Harvey, Adam Hawkins and Matt Cox, all for $5.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Live Review: Cursive on Letterman, TSITR exposed; NOMO, Tokyo Police Club tonight... – March 16, 2009 – twitter icon

First, Cursive on Letterman Friday night: Probably the best live network performance by a local band so far, and there have been a few (Bright Eyes, Mystic Valley, The Faint, Tilly). Kasher's voice never sounded better, and the band was on point (They even got help from a few members of the CBS Orchestra). But the best part was that the CBS studio actually sounded good for a change. The band even looked like they got dressed up for the occasion -- jackets and ties, as if headed to a First Communion brunch. Eagle-eyed fans may have noticed that the guy behind the drumkit wasn't Cornbread Compton. Jason Kulbel at Saddle Creek tells me it was Cully Symington (Zykos, 1986). With the last chords of "From the Hip," Dave bounded from the stage and asked, "Where you from?" "Omaha, Nebraska," said Matt Maginn. "Omaha Nebraska? I'll be damned. Nice job." Dave said, pumping Matt's hand and looking genuinely impressed. In case you missed it, here's the performance YouTube.

* * *

Darren Keen went "all in" in a "Full Monty" sort of way at The Show Is the Rainbow CD release show Saturday night at The Waiting Room. Halfway through the second-to-last song, Darren dropped trow while performing from inside the crowd. He eventually climbed back on stage au natural and grabbed a guitar, and then slid his jeans back on for an encore. His "full disclosure" had the audience of around 200 in a state of shock and awe and ew. As funny as it was, Darren's glistening buttocks may actually have taken away from the performance, not because it offended anyone, but because it's the only thing those on hand will be talking about Monday morning, instead of what they should be talking about: His music. Ironically, halfway through his set I was thinking how he'd proven all the naysayers wrong, those who had lazily compared his past performances to a Har Mar Superstar freak show. There was no shtick to this set -- just Darren, his samples, electric guitar and voice, along with his high energy stage -- and floor -- antics. The songs from Wet Fist got some added oomph from TWR's huge low end, and had Keen had the necessary lighting and strobes, he could have had that crowd dancing like it was a Faint concert. But in the end, the only thing anyone will remember is his "set" within his set. Ah well, it was fun, but afterward I wondered if Darren planned on "dropping his tool belt" at every show on tour. Not likely. He doesn't want to pull a Jim Morrison and end up scrounging for bail money in a southern town that doesn't take that sort of thing lightly. Keen will be hard-pressed as it is to play both a TSITR and a Beep Beep set every night for the next few weeks. It's an enormous challenge that will leave him either in a hospital suffering from exhaustion or America's next big thing, or both.

Speaking of next big things, Lincoln's UUVVWWZ opened the show with its usual panache. Teal Gardner is our Debbie Harry, our Karen O. Mesmerizing in her own way, could anyone be more relaxed on stage and still bring it the way she does? Funniest part of the set: When the bass player's guitar strap became unstuck. "Anyone got any duct tape?" he asked from stage. In the end, the soundman came through with a jumbo roll.

* * *

Tonight at The Waiting Room, it's the post-Afrobeat stylings of NOMO, along with dance giants Satchel Grande. $10, 9 p.m. Also tonight, Tokyo Police Club plays at The Slowdown with Ra Ra Riot and Ruby Coast. $15, 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Cursive on Letterman tonight; Live Review: Oui Pharmacy Beeps; TSITR Saturday... – March 13, 2009 – twitter icon

In commemoration of Cursive's appearance tonight on Late Night with David Letterman, here's one of the more scathing reviews so far for Mama, I'm Swollen from the Johns Hopkins News-Letter. The publication managed to find another critic who liked Happy Hollow, but then used it to call the new album "a bit of a back-pedal," with "less of the sheer catchiness that makes your average Fall Out Boy rip-off so shamefully entertaining." Uh-Oh. The Fall Out Boy reference is all you need to predict the rest of he review, which later references the Von Bondies. I'm not criticizing the reviewer or the review -- it's well written, though I don't agree with her comments or her perspective. The most killing line: "These guys (Tim Kasher, Matt Maginn, Ted Stevens and Cornbread Compton) are upwards of 30 and it seems about time for them to step back from opening veins all over the pages of their own diaries." Ouch. If Kasher isn't supposed to write about his life, than what is he supposed to write about?

* * *

So, for everyone who wasn't in on the joke, Das Tango Boyz is/was Beep Beep doing a secret warm-up show at The Barley St. last night. The tip-off might have been that Pharmacy Spirits was opening and DTB was the "headliner." Pharmacy Spirits' James Reilly is now in Beep Beep, "replacing" Chris Hughes, who quit the band last year.

Pharmacy Spirits was my favorite band of the evening. A Lincoln 4-piece that features Reilly in the frontman role (looking like a younger, trimmer (taller?) version of Greg Dulli), they play college music (not indie, not punk, just college) the way I remember it and the way I love it. Each song carried a mesmerizing, throbbing, trance-inducing moment -- usually toward the end -- where all four got into a perfect rhythmic groove. At the heart of the matter is drummer Courtney Nore -- she's got a bracingly clean, uncluttered style, and I couldn't keep my eyes off of her the entire set (yeah, I know, it sounds creepy). Sometimes I was reminded of Poster Children and The Pixies, and a couple times early in the set Reilly sang like a young Tim Kasher, but ultimately Pharmacy Spirits brings a modern touch to a college sound that thrived before the onset of all these retro, beirdo indie bands. And on top of that, they're light-hearted enough to put their stamp on the Tommy James & the Shondells song (covered by Tiffany) "I Think We're Alone Now." Nice.

Oui Bandits were next and started by launching into two new songs not on their latest album, both of which were better than anything on their latest album (which is pretty darn good, btw). Their new material is more streamlined and straight-forward than the stuff on the record, and since I'm a sucker for a good melody, I loved it.

Finally, at around a quarter to 1, on came Das Tango Boyz playing what co-founder Eric Bemberger called "a Beep Beep practice set." And by god, that's exactly how it sounded. Once on stage, it took about 10 minutes for the band to sort out its instruments and technology before prying into the first of a set of 7 or 8 acidic, proggy, post-punk songs. Reilly appears to be filling the spot vacated by Hughes, but seemed a bit tentative and unsure at the microphone (compared to his Pharmacy Spirits set). And who can blame him? This is complicated music with vocals that intentionally sound like a man struggling with his own voice. But here's the thing about the new Beep Beep album -- half of it is the usual proggy noise assaults that you'd expect, and half sounds like moody, slow-stroll Fleetwood Mac FM rock -- a real departure from their last record. So the first thing I wondered was whether they were going to play some of the more laidback, more melodic and less proggy stuff like the rollicking "Return to Me," the late-night stroller "The Lion's Mouth," and the piano-sax-driven "Wooden Nickels." The answer was no. Instead, it was 20 minutes of post-punk Beep Beep freak-out, with a couple songs on the end that turned into stone jams, anchored by a drummer wearing a bee costume, and the always entertaining Darren Keen on bass. So, a bit rough, but fun. It'll be interesting to hear how they sound when they come back through town in April at The Waiting Room.

Speaking of Darren Keen, Saturday night at The Waiting Room is The Show Is the Rainbow CD release party for Wet Fists, the best album that Keen has ever created and the one that is going to place him in front of a larger national audience. Keen's evolution into a singer-songwriter could be heard on his solo album that came out a few months ago. Melody has become the center of his music instead of just beats and irony. Don't believe me? Check out moody instrumental "Wordless Whisper," which is followed by funk-town dance number "Mother and Son," which ranks up there with anything The Faint has been doing lately. This is one of the funnest records I've listened to in quite a while. Buy it at the show Saturday. Opening is Lincoln post-punk faves UUVVWWZ and one other band that Keen told me last night is a Stoner-rock-lovers dream.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Here's how the weekend is looking, starting with tonight:

At O'Leaver's it's the hard stuff with The Stay Awake and Perry H Matthews. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Benson has Fortnight playing at PS Collective with John the Savage and Dane. 9 p.m. $5; while over at The Barley St. She Swings She Sways plays with Jason Walsmith, Turtle Moon and Sean Haupt. $5, 9 p.m.

Over at The Saddle Creek Bar it's The Reddmen, Lucky Losers, Eastern Turkish and Angry Eyebrows. $5, 9 p.m.

Where will I be tonight? With Teresa watching a fashion show featuring Project Runway winner Jeffrey down at The Slowdown.

Tomorrow night, as I mentioned, it's The Show is the Rainbow CD release show at TWR. $7, 9 p.m. O'Leaver's has another heavy night featuring Techlepathy, Ideal Cleaners and Dean Armband. $5, 9:30 p.m. And John Klemmensen has his CD release show at The Barley St. with Bright Light Fever. $5, 9 p.m.

Let's not forget Sunday-- Bloodcow, The Dinks, 20 Dollar Love and The Black Hand are at The Waiting Room, all for a mere $5.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

The L.A. Finks and new Azure Ray? Column 213: Yuppie giveaway; Har Mar tonight... – March 12, 2009 – twitter icon

I learned a few things reading this Seattle Spectator interview with Orenda Fink, written in support of a Seattle O+S show. Among the story's revelations (which are probably old news to those closer to the action): Orenda and Todd Fink now live in Los Angeles; Art in Manila are officially over, and there may be a new Azure Ray album sometime in the future. "I think what I'd like to do is have O+S, and I think I'm going to have other solo records as well," Fink said in the article. "And there will hopefully be another Azure Ray record too … but I'm going to stop changing my name."

I'm listening to the new O+S album as I type this. Although its billed as a loop-heavy pairing of Fink with Scalpelist, aka Cedric LeMoyne (Remy Zero), the recording doesn't stray too far from Orenda's other recordings, and actually seems slower and more downcast than either her solo or Manila stuff. In fact, it's the closest thing to Azure Ray I've heard since Azure Ray, albeit moodier and more atmospheric. The new record drops March 24. This new collaboration is pretty cool, but here's one I'd love to see: A full-length collaboration between Orenda and Todd -- and I don't mean the kind that walks and talks, though that would be pretty cute as well.

* * *

This week's column is a recast of last week's blog entry regarding bands playing gigs for free. Among the changes: no mention of Harlan Ellison, and a different ending. Other than that, it's pretty much the same. That blog entry has generated plenty of chatter on the Webboard.

Column 213: Playing for Free
What's it worth to you?

Late last week I wrote an entry on my blog about bands playing shows for free. The touchstone was the benefit concert for the Young Professionals Council held at Slowdown. I assumed it was a benefit, since none of the bands that performed were paid even though just about everyone else involved -- the Slowdown and its employees, the door guy, the sound guy, the vendors that sold the liquor to Slowdown, OPPD who's supplying the power, heck everyone who played a role in the program -- got paid. Just not the bands.

And whose fault was that? Why, it was the bands' fault, of course. They accepted the gig believing that they'd make money on merch sales and would gain exposure. My take: It's a free country. If you're in a band and you want to play gigs for free when everyone else is getting a paycheck, well then by god you should. Certainly accepting those kinds of gigs helps define you and your band -- just maybe not the way you want to be defined.

Who doesn't want to help out a charity that they believe in? I've even kicked around the idea of organizing a charity concert for the Nebraska Humane Society, which I'm told is struggling these days. And what band doesn't want to open a show for one of their favorite touring bands coming through town? They may not get a red cent for doing it, but it's an honor and it's fun. And yeah, there are those bands that "just want to play" and have no interest in making money. We all have our hobbies.

Serious bands (not hobbyists) seem to fall into four categories when it comes to non-paying gigs:

First there are the new bands that just want to build a following. In their minds, any chance they can get to be on stage is an opportunity. Sure, they should get paid, but their anonymity -- and their lack of drawing power -- puts them in a weaker position then, say, bands at the next level -- the ones that know what they're worth, and quite frankly, so do most of the venues in town who know better than to ask them to play for free (except under certain circumstances, like real benefits or opening for a band that they love for a show that could tank).

Then there's the superstars, which really only applies to a few bands around here. I'm talking about the bands that everyone thinks are making millions -- whether they are or not. Charities might approach these guys to play a gig for free thinking the band has so much cash it doesn't mind giving it away. What the charities don't understand is that the one thing more valuable than money to these bands is time.

Finally, there are the bands that everyone knows will play anywhere for free.

Look, if I organized a benefit show for the Humane Society I would absolutely expect to pay all the bands playing. Why? Because I would want to feature the acts that I hoped could draw the biggest audience and sell the most tickets. I wouldn't want to limit myself only to those bands that I know would play for free. It doesn’t matter if the band believes in my cause as long as it can draw a thousand paying customers to the show (that said, I wouldn't invite, say Michael Vick's All Star Extravaganza to play). I'll let the band decide if it wants to donate its earnings or not, and I'm more than happy if they don't because they helped get asses in seats.

I know what you're thinking: Who am I to say anything? Don't I write my blog for free? True, true, though most of what I write there eventually ends up here, and I'm paid for it (though that's not the reason I do it). There's a philosophy that bloggers who write for free are killing newspapers and other publications. It's bullshit, since most bloggers (myself included) are insignificant to the general public compared to the dailies. I can tell you indisputably that played no role in the cuts announced at the Omaha World-Herald last week.

There was an exquisite irony to the entire situation. YPC stands for Young Professionals Council. You know what a professional is? It's someone who gets paid for doing what s/he does for a living. Paid. It's not the Young Philanthropists Council. The YPC's mission isn't to build houses for the homeless or gather clothing or food for the poor. It exists as an opportunity for young pros to learn more about business and leadership so they can become more-effective leaders and hence, make more money. It's also an opportunity to network to find better-paying jobs than the ones they currently have. Woven into their mission is a chamber-of-commerce element to "promote the city" along with themselves.

Young Professionals do not do what they do in their companies for free, nor should they. And yet, here they are asking bands that presumably view themselves as young professional musicians to do what they do for free. Well, a number of bands that were approached to become "young amateurs" for one night said, "No thanks, I don't ask you to do your job for free, why are you asking me to do mine for free?" The organizers just shrugged and asked someone else until they found willing bands. They will always find willing bands.

Since the blog ran, a member of one of the bands said he was "doing a favor for a friend." Good for him. Like I said before: You want to play for free? God Bless America, go right ahead. Ultimately, you're the one who puts the price on the value of your music.

* * *

It's a busy night for shows. The highlight kind of snuck up on me: Har Mar Superstar at The Slowdown Jr. with His Mischief and Talkin' Mountain. Har Mar's alter ego, Sean Tillmann, has been known to pop up in the crowd at Slowdown shows from time to time. Unfortunately, HMS hasn't released a new album in five years. Maybe it's time? And yes, you read correctly, this is a frontroom show, so it'll very likely be packed (if not sold out), especially at the $8 ticket price.

Also tonight, Merge recording artist The Broken West is playing at The Waiting Room with Blind Pilot and Skypiper. $8, 9 p.m.

Down at the Barley St. Tavern, Das Tango Boyz plays with Oui Bandits, Lincoln's Pharmacy Spirits and Electric Needle Room. $5, 9 p.m.

While over at The Saddle Creek Bar it's Brave Citizens with Farewell Flight and The Answer Team. $5, 9 p.m.

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Bright Eyes sells out in 24 minutes; Kasher in Magnet... – March 11, 2009 – twitter icon

I see by a post on Slam Omaha that the March 18 Bright Eyes show at The Waiting Room sold out in 24 minutes (and like most of you, I also didn't get a chance to buy a ticket). That's fast, but it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, considering that Conor Oberst and his band(s) have been known to sell-out medium-sized music halls these days.

Other than that, not much else to report. Lazy-i Reader "Dane" posted links to two more Cursive-related articles on the webboard (here): A Magnet interview with Kasher, and Kasher reviewing the semi-new Aimee Mann CD @#&%* Smilers. Take a look.

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Cursive drop day, inteviews, reviews; Bright Eyes returns; Peter Yorn goes Back and Forth; Perry H. Matthews tonight... – March 10, 2009 – twitter icon

If I'm doing my math correctly, the Cursive CD downloads are now at their full price of $9, which means it's drop day for Mama, I'm Swollen. And with drop day comes plenty of press, starting with this AZ Central interview that's so good that if I ever get a chance to interview the band for this album I'll only be left with the stupid questions (what else is new?) like "Why did you call the album Mama, I'm Swollen?" (Oops, Stereogum beat me to it). The best quotes of the piece: "I didn't realize when I was 20, that to be doing what we're doing, playing rock and roll essentially, in its broadest sense, really does give you this kind of leniency to stay young, which I would love to uphold for as long as I can. In that sense, I really embrace immaturity," and "But this is the first time in my life where if I have some sort of ailment, then, the thought can cross my mind that I'm degenerating. My body is now degenerative. I don't even want to get into my 40s because I think I'll probably go insane." Don't worry, Tim, you'll survive intact... probably.

In case you missed it, here's the Pitchfork review, which gives the album a flunking 5.2 rating and concludes with this: "There is of course a huge market for their kind of angst-ridden emo, and in many ways-- particularly lyrically-- this album sounds like it's been lifted straight from the emo handbook, which may well satisfy many listeners. For the less committed, however, the lack of the band's usual wit and musical inventiveness will be missed." Somewhere along the way (some) critics confused "emo" with "confessional," so now any indie music that's even slightly angry and personal is considered "emo" (along with anything on Saddle Creek, which somehow had an emo blanket thrown over all of its artists sometime around 2001). And in case you were wondering, emo is never used as a compliment.

Rolling Stone, on the other hand, gave the album 3 stars (here), and said, "Cursive haven't sounded this crazed and inspired since their breakthrough album, 2003's The Ugly Organ."

I stand by my earlier statement: This is the best Cursive album since Domestica.

Don't forget: Cursive's network debut is this Friday night on Late Night with David Letterman. Set your DVRs...

* * *

Surprising news of the day yesterday: Bright Eyes has scheduled a show at The Waiting Room on March 18. Tickets go on sale tomorrow at 10 a.m. for $20 a throw (limit 4). Just when people were beginning to think that they'd seen the last of Bright Eyes, Conor pulls this rabbit out of his hat apparently as a way of saying "I haven't forgotten where I came from." Hopefully that's all he's saying. We won't know until next Wednesday night, which also happens to coincide with the first day of the SXSW music festival -- I don't leave until Thursday, so I'll be at this show…if I can get a ticket.

* * *

At the same time that Little Brazil was recording its new record, Pete Yorn was working at ARC Studio on his new album, Back and Forth. Sony announced today that the album will be released June 23 on Columbia Records. The record is being touted with the headline "Mike Mogis (Bright Eyes, Rilo Kiley) produces with additional creative consulting from Rick Rubin." Among the guest stars on the album are Bright Eyes' Nate Wolcott and O&S's Orenda Fink.

* * *

Tonight at The Barley St., perennial noise-rock favorites Perry H. Matthews takes the stage with Stress Ape and The Contrails. $5, 9 p.m.

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Spring Gun tonight; The Sydney Grand Opening (with Mal Madrigal and Jake Bellows) tomorrow... – March 6, 2009 – twitter icon

Congratulations, you made it to the weekend. Now here's your reward for persevering:

Spring Gun is playing its final Omaha show tonight at Slowdown Jr. There will be tears, along with plenty of blood and other bodily fluids. SG, along with Thunder Power and Noah's Ark, was one of those bands that seemed to constantly be evolving, so you never knew exactly what you were going to see on stage at any given performance. Opening is new kids on the block Sweet Pea and Slumber Party Records artist Honeybee. $5, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, Speed! Nebraska artists The Diplomats of Solid Sound and The Third Men return to The Waiting Room with Satchel Grande. $7, 9 p.m. Meanwhile, punk is the flavor of the evening tonight at the Saddle Creek Bar with The Shidiots, Officially Terminated and Youth & Tear Gas. $5, 9 p.m. Also, Lincoln's Cory Kibler is doing a set at The Barley St. $5, 9 p.m.

Expect a crush mob Saturday night for the Grand Opening of The Sydney in downtown Benson (formerly Mick's, read about it here). The night will feature performances by Mal Madrigal and Jake Bellows (of Neva Dinova). No cover!

Also tomorrow night (Saturday) at O'Leaver's, Denver's The Photo Atlas is performing with Epilogues and Cooper from Dim Light. $5, 9:30 p.m., while down at The Saddle Creek Bar it's Curbstone with Twitch and classic '80s punkers Cordial Spew. $5, 9 p.m.

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The Cursive strategy; playing for free at Slowdown; Murder by Death at TWR; David Bazan house show tour... – March 5, 2009 – twitter icon

The day after Cursive and Saddle Creek started offering 320 kpbs-quality downloads of Mama, I'm Swollen on the Creek site for $1 last Sunday, I dropped an e-mail to Creek head honcho Robb Nansel asking him how many copies they moved and why so cheap.

The specific details -- the download started at $1 on March 1 and the price has increased by one dollar each day afterward. The price as of today is $5. Nansel's not ready to share any sales numbers until the promotion ends, presumably on the March 10 drop date.

"As for the decision," Nansel said. "It's simply an experiment, to raise awareness for the record. The hope is that we get interested listeners talking about the band and ultimately build excitement for the physical release March 10th. We successfully protected against an early leak in an attempt to condense the period between when a record becomes available for free download and when it's available for purchase. In order to bolster physical sales, we designed CD and LP versions that have exclusive additional content (downloads for bonus tracks, demos and videos) and snazzy packaging. We'll see how it turns out.

The 180g ruby-red vinyl offering is indeed luscious and comes with a CD, 15-page gatefold jacket, and a download card that gets you extras including bonus tracks and videos -- all for a mere $15. Could this be the future of music marketing?

* * *

Tonight is the benefit concert for the Young Professionals Council down at Slowdown. Well, I just assumed it was a benefit concert since I've been told none of the bands performing are getting paid. Strangely, I assume that everyone else involved -- the Slowdown and its employees, the door guy, the sound guy, the vendors that sold the liquor to Slowdown, OPPD who's supplying the power, heck everyone who plays a role in the program -- is getting paid. Just not the bands.

Whose fault is that? Why, it's the bands' fault, of course. They accepted the gig believing that they'd make money on merch sales and would gain exposure. This is an issue that was discussed ad nauseam on Slam Omaha. My take: It's a free country. If you're in a band and you want to play for free for gigs where everyone else is getting a paycheck, where you don't know or like the organization, well then by god you should. Certainly accepting these kinds of gigs helps define you and your band -- just maybe not the way you want to be defined.

Who doesn't want to help out a charity that they believe in? I've even kicked around the idea of organizing a charity concert for the Nebraska Humane Society, which I'm told is struggling these days. And what band doesn't want to open for one of their favorite touring bands coming through town? It's an honor, and it's fun. And yeah, there are those bands that "just want to play" and have no interest in making money. We all have our hobbies.

It's another thing altogether if you're an established act that's been around for years and you're playing corporate-level events for free.

Serious bands (not hobbyists) seem to fall into four categories when it comes to non-paying gigs:

First there are the new bands that just want to build a following. In their minds, any chance they can get to be on stage is an opportunity. Sure, they should get paid, but their anonymity -- and their lack of drawing power -- puts them in weaker position then, say, the bands at the next level -- the ones that know what they're worth, and quite frankly, so do most of the venues in town who know better than to ask them to play for free (except under certain circumstances, like benefits or opening for a band that they love for a show that could tank).

Finally there's the superstars, which really only applies to a few bands around here. I'm talking about the bands that everyone thinks are making millions -- whether they are or not. Charities might approach these guys to play a gig for free thinking the band has so much cash it doesn't mind giving it away. What the charities don't understand is that the one thing more valuable than money to these bands is time.

And then there are the bands that everyone knows will play anywhere for free.

Look, if I organized a benefit for the Humane Society I would absolutely expect to pay all the bands playing. Why? Because I would want to feature the acts that I hoped could draw the biggest audience and sell the most tickets. I wouldn't want to limit myself only to those bands that I know would play for free. It doesn’t matter if the band believes in my cause as long as it can draw a thousand paying customers to the show (that said, I wouldn't invite, say Michael Vick's All Star Extravaganza to play). I'll let the band decide if they want to donate their earnings or not, and I'm more than happy if they don't because they helped get asses in seats.

I've never included an embedded YouTube video into the blog, so this is a first. Here's my personal writing guru/savior/inspiration, Harlan Ellison, talking about getting paid for his work. It's amusing, and accurate.

I don't know if Ellison's point about the amateurs ruining it for the professionals really applies to this argument. The amateurs can play all the free shows they want to and it's not going to lower the price that The Faint is going to receive for playing a gig. If you can sell a lot of tickets, you're going to get paid.

I know what you're thinking: Who am I to say anything? Aren't I writing this blog entry for free? True, true, though most of what I write here eventually ends up in The Reader, who does pay me (though that's not the reason I do it). There's a philosophy that bloggers who write for free are killing newspapers and other publications. It's bullshit, since most bloggers (myself included) are insignificant to the general public compared to the dailies. I can tell you indisputably played no role in the cuts announced at the OWH a couple days ago.

I'm rambling now. Let me wrap this up by reiterating my earlier comment: You want to play for free? God Bless America, go right ahead. Ultimately, you're the one who puts the price on the value of your music.

* * *

Not playing for free tonight is Murder by Death at The Waiting Room with Fake Problems and Sam Lowry. $10, 9 p.m.

* * *

Finally fellow Reader music writer Brady tipped me off that David Bazan will be playing a house show in Omaha on April 13. To find out where, you have to pay $20 per ticket. Check out how Bazan has figured out an innovative way of setting up a house-show tour. And it's working. He's selling out all over the country. Go to for details.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Column 212: Business As Usual; A.A. Bondy tonight... – March 4, 2009 – twitter icon

And now part three of what has become a trilogy of stories featuring Ladyfinger. Part one was an indepth feature on the band (here). Then came last week's column, where I reviewed their CD release show (here). And now this week, a look beyond the music to the businesses owned and operated by two of the band's members. Something tells me this won't be the last thing I write about Ladyfinger this year.

Column 212: The Entrepreneurs
For these rockers, it's business as usual.

I'm told we're living through the second coming of the Great Depression. Maybe it is. People are losing their jobs and houses and livelihoods. Fear is strangling all of us as we await the return of the bread lines. Even Warren Buffett says that times are tough.

In the middle of all of that, when people are holding each dollar tightly in their angry fists, two Omaha entrepreneurs are starting new businesses. What all this has to do with music (this is, after all, a music column) will come later.

Chris Machmuller, 28, and Jamie Massey, 34, figured now was as good a time as any to roll dem bones and invest in a new business despite an economy bad enough to scare any survivor of the Depression into epileptic fits. But while they explained how they got their businesses off the ground, neither brought up the current state of the world. Booze and sandwiches, it seems, are immune to economic downturn.

Along with partners Ryan Albers, Ken McNealy and his boss at Media Services Jim Pettid, Massey purchased Benson folk music club Mick's Music and Bar from Michael Campbell and reopened it as The Sydney -- named after an old bar in Sioux City where Massey's grandparents would "kick it."

It was Pettid who found the ad in Craigslist. "I told him that it's always been a cool space, though I didn't always agree with what Mike (Campbell) was doing with it," Massey said. "If someone did something different, it could be a good place to hang out."

Hang out, and drink. Immediately after Massey and partners took over the bar in January they made changes -- painting the walls, taking out tables, adding a TV, jukebox, darts and a Golden Tee machine -- all the typical accoutrements of your local neighborhood bar. And they tore out Mick's famous stage, replacing it with a platform that currently holds a foosball table.

"We wanted it to be kind of like O'Leaver's, with regulars and a happy hour crowd," Massey said. "In my opinion, it's a little nicer than a dive bar."

Machmuller and his business partner, Pat O'Neill, originally looked at opening a restaurant in a vacant Old Home outlet on Farnam St., just down the road from The Brothers Lounge. After the deal fell through while working a shift at O'Leaver's -- a bar Machmuller's managed for three years -- he realized the answer to his dreams might lie on the other side of the bathrooms.

"I started wondering about how big that space was next door," he said. "I knew that there was no room for seating, but if we made it simple and good, a take-out restaurant would work fine."

It took 11 months of remodeling and construction before Worker's Take Out served its first sandwich last August. Machmuller said he came up with the recipes himself and with some help from his friends. Just months after opening, the shop's Cuban Pork Roast already has gained a rep as the restaurant's flagship sandwich.

And now, as the late Paul Harvey used to say, is the rest of the story. Machmuller and Massey are members of Ladyfinger (ne), a band that's signed to Saddle Creek Records and that just released their second full-length album, Dusk. Rock 'n' roll protocol states that upon releasing a new album (especially for a label with national distribution) that the artist hits the road and spends weeks driving around the country in a shitty van, performing nightly in hopes of generating attention, exposure, word-of-mouth and ultimately, album sales. So how do you do that and run a business?

Guitarist Massey said there are plenty of people to watch his back at The Sydney; the struggle will be keeping his head above the waves at Media Services, where he's the art director. Machmuller, the band's frontman, also has the necessary staff at Worker's, and there's always someone to take his shifts at O'Leaver's.

"I spread myself pretty thin," Massey said. "I'm the type of person who doesn't want to say 'no.' It becomes stressful, but it could be worse. I could be doing a job that I hate, or be at home doing nothing."

Fact is, Machmuller and Massey have no choice but to burn the two-sided candle. Both Ladyfinger and their businesses are at a crossroads, and what happens over the next few months will determine their success or failure.

"It's a matter of just staying open," Machmuller said. "Year to year -- from the first year to the second to the third -- your business should double. You hope that the longer you're around that more people will know about you, and a sense of consistency will come into place." The same holds true for rock bands.

But if Ladyfinger fails to catch fire, it only costs Machmuller his pride, whereas with Worker's, "if we have a bad week and the rent's due, even if the business can't afford it, someone's got to afford it," he said. "The money comes out of someone's pocket. You hope that the business pays for itself completely, after that, you hope to start paying yourself."

But what if the stars align as they should and Worker's and The Sydney become money-making machines at the same time that Ladyfinger finally gets the attention it deserves?

"We'll have to do everything on a bigger scale," Machmuller said, "We'll have to order more food."

"When that happens," Massey added, "we'll do another interview."

The Sydney celebrates its grand opening this Saturday, March 7, with music by Mal Madrigal and Jake Bellows (someone's going to have to move that foosball table). The bar opens at 4 on weekdays and noon on weekends, and boasts a "reverse happy hour" from midnight to closing in an effort to scoop up the after-show business.

Worker's is open Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Call ahead at 932-6083. If you order a hot Cuban for me, tell them to hold the mustard.

* * *

Here are a few words about tonight's A.A. Bondy show at The Waiting Room: Before opening for Felice Bros last September at TWR and Kevin Devine at Slowdown in early '08, it had been almost five years since A.A. Bondy came through town. Back then, he was going by the name Scott Bondy and was fronting Verbena, a major-label band that mixed grunge with Delta Blues. Verbena probably got tagged with the grunge label thanks to Bondy's grainy Cobain-esque voice. Shortly after that show in '03, Verbena hung it up. Bondy disappeared for four years and reemerged with a stripped-down sound and a new name. In '07 A.A. Bondy released American Hearts on Superphonic Records. The LP is 40 minutes of earthy indie-folk ballads that combine a heartfelt '70s Americana vibe with the subtle urgency of Nirvana Unplugged. The disc caught the ear of blues label Fat Possum Records, who rereleased it in April '08.

And so on. Opening the show is McCarthy Trenching and It's True. $8, 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Mac McCaughan interview; Todd Snider tonight... – March 3, 2009 – twitter icon

There's an interesting interview with Mac McCaughan at PopMatters (here). He talks about Superchunk and the rise of Merge Records. Like Saddle Creek, his label seems to have succeeded by not trying to succeed. "It's really a matter of whether we like the music or not," McCaughan says in the interview. "We're not looking at the commercial potential or the bottom line. We don't try and narrow it down to one thing that we're looking for. We appreciate experimental bands and in some ways it's a gut reaction. A lot of bands we'll discover when they mail us music, or someone emails us some tracks, and sometimes it's just not the thing that feels right for us to do at the time, and sometimes it's the fact that we have too many releases coming out in a certain time period. Merge is a really small family, so things just work out or don't based on any number of reasons. Really it's not a specific thing ... it's a gut feeling about the music." He goes on to say that he learned a lot from Gerard Cosloy when Superchunk was on Matador "and their roster is certainly something to envy." I don't know the sales figures, but these days Merge has a more envious roster than Matador (to me, anyway).

* * *

Todd Snider is at The Waiting Room tonight with Jonny Burke. Seems like Snider's been passing through Omaha for 20 years. His music isn't my thing, but I have to hand it to the guy for sticking with it as long as he has. $18, 9 p.m.

* * *

Tomorrow's column is the conclusion of the Ladyfinger trilogy that began three weeks ago. Check back to see how it ends.

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Live Review: Brad Hoshaw; Cursive's bargain basement bonanza; Ladyfinger tonight... – March 2, 2009 – twitter icon

As I prepare for my trek to South By Southwest this year I'm considering all the bands from Omaha as well as the rest of the country that are headed to Austin for reasons that I'm not entirely sure of. When SXSW first started a few decades ago it was to provide a stage for unsigned bands that hoped to get signed, or so the legend goes. These days SXSW is nothing more than five nights of label showcases. Every band performing already has a label, a publicist, a booking agent, etc. SXSW has become a vacation option for us media people who want to check out bands that they may not have a chance to see elsewhere. Nothing more. So why do signed bands want to play the festival? Certainly not for the pay. Exposure? Probably…

I say this because if SXSW still had its original mission, no other Omaha band would be better suited to play the festival than Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies. Hoshaw doesn't have a label or a publicist or a booking agent. An appearance at SXSW could trigger a bidding war for the guy -- if this were the '80s and labels still had serious A&R guys who searched out talent to bolster their rosters. Hoshaw's music -- specifically on his new CD -- has a rare, timeless quality that I haven't heard in long time. What I mean by this: I can't remember when I first heard Simon and Garfunkel's "Cecilia," because to me the song seems to have always existed. A song like "Gone in a Minute" -- the best track on Hoshaw's new album -- has that same quality. It's a pristine pop song that will fit perfectly on anyone's mix CD, the kind of song whose melody sticks in your head and that you automatically hum along with the next time you hear it.

Hoshaw would be the perfect guy for just about any record label. He has a unique voice, is a prolific songwriter, is young and unencumbered and willing to tour. And although I don't know if he's interested or not, from a publishing standpoint his music is perfect for screened-media (TV, film, advertising). He's reliable and as far as I know doesn't have a drug or alcohol problem. And he's a nice guy (not that that ever mattered in the music business). If I had a label, I'd sign him and figure out a way to leverage all of those qualities into $$$. It could be done.

I was thinking all of this Saturday night at Hoshaw's sold-out CD release show at Slowdown Jr. He gave his usual spot-on performance (despite his songs' crazy range, I've never seen him blow a vocal melody, ever) as did his band (Whipkey continues to define himself as one of the best guitar soloists in the area). The show and his CD is a culmination of a lot of work, and is part of an ongoing musical discovery that I personally made a year ago this past January. I'd like to see Brad continue it all the way to the national exposure that he and his music deserves. Despite how much he deserves it, though, I don't know if it'll ever happen. Making it in the music world takes more than talent and a strong work ethic. It takes timing and luck and a million other intangibles that we'll never know about. I don't want this CD release show to be his high-water mark. I don't want this album be remembered 10 years from now as another strong local record that never made it out of Nebraska.

* * *

If you don't already know by now, Saddle Creek Records and Cursive are offering a 320 kbps download of Mama, I'm Swollen at bargain basement prices. If you act today at, you can download the new record for just $2. Had you acted yesterday (as those who follow my Twitter feed know), you could have gotten it for $1. Tomorrow the download is $3, then $4 on the 4th and so on until the official release date March 10.

I spoke with someone the night of the Hoshaw show who thought the new Cursive album was a dud. I hadn't heard it yet, so I couldn't respond. After spending yesterday with it, I can say it's the best Cursive album since Domestica (Yes, I like it better than The Ugly Organ). Is there an inevitable convergence in writing style between Cursive and The Good Life? I think that's going to be a common perception by those who think that Cursive songs are loud and acidic while Good Life songs are more melodic (That criticism was even more appropriate for Happy Hollow). It's hard to argue against someone who thinks "From the Hips" would fit on a GL album. That said, there's a relentlessly stark quality about this record that defines it as a Cursive album. That dark energy is encapsulated on the closer, "What Have I Done?" which could become Kasher's "Purple Rain" -- a perfect closer for any show. This is a terrific record.

* * *

Tonight at O'Leaver's, madness in the form of Ladyfinger. On stage. Live. The last time you'll get to see them before they head off into the wilderness we call the road. Opening is Bazooka Shootout. $5, 9:30 p.m. You want in? Get there early.

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Andrew Bird tonight, Brad Hoshaw tomorrow, Broken Spindles Sunday... – Feb. 27, 2009 – twitter icon

I'm listening to Andrew Bird's album Noble Beast in preparation for tonight's show at Slowdown that I don't have tickets for and hence won't be attending. This one sold out very quickly, an example of another popular band that's flying under the radar. Bird's albums -- released on Fat Possum records -- are filled with slight songs that accentuate his twee voice with strings and other acoustic instruments. He's in the same league as Belle & Sebastian or even Sufjan Stevens, but darker and less poppy. Bird is a midwesterner, living in Chicago and on a farm somewhere in Illinois. He's been on a number of late-night chat shows, including Letterman and Conan, which is one of the reasons for his popularity. Another is his music. Opening is Lonely Dear. Starts at 9. Also tonight, Led Zeppelin tribute band The Song Remains the Same plays at the Waiting Room again, this time with The Big Empties. $7, 9 p.m.

Tomorrow night (Saturday) is the CD release party for Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies at Slowdown Jr. I suspect that this will be an SRO occasion as this record has been a long time coming (I'll have a full review of the album at a later date). Opening is Pueblo, CO's The Haunted Windchimes. $7, 9 p.m. Finally, on Sunday night, blank.wav recording artist Broken Spindles (formerly on Saddle Creek) is playing at The Waiting Room with Capgun Coup and Drake's Hotel (remember them?). $8, 9 p.m.

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Free Mark Mallman; Column 211: Next Steps; Whipkey Three tonight... – Feb. 26, 2009 – twitter icon

Before we get to the column, I just wanted to point you toward some free music that's actually worth downloading. Minnesota rocker Mark Mallman is giving away his "greatest hits" compilation as a free download right here. Titled Loneliness in America (Best of 1998-2008) and released on Badman Records, the 10-song collection of arena-style pop-rock ditties includes tracks from his five full-length albums. Mallman has played in Omaha a couple times (including opening for Head of Femur at Sokol and playing for three people at the defunct Sammy Sortino's pizza restaurant (reviewed here)). He's got a new album coming out this spring on Badman, so maybe we'll get to see him again.

* * *

This week's column is a rehash of stuff that's already been on Lazy-i -- that's the beauty and the curse of reading this blog. There are a few new ideas thrown in, however, so reading it won't be a complete waste of your time.

Column 211: Next Steps
Ladyfinger, Cursive and Conor Oberst...

I've been watching local bands rise and fall for more than 20 years; the trajectory never fails to inspire or disappoint, depending on the circumstances.

Seems like every week another band pulls its rocket ship onto the launching pad in the form of a CD release party. All of their friends show up along with the curious others who were coaxed to the event by the endless hype. The celebration feels like the conclusion of every rock 'n' roll movie -- the big finale where a yearning crowd leans forward, desperately stretching over the edge of the stage to touch the rock god before he leaves his little town to better things, bigger things, to a world seen through funky dark sunglasses aboard tour busses filled with sexy groupies and drugs, a world of jaded inconvenience and ever-growing expectations.

But real life almost never ends that way. After the CD release show, while the hourly guys sweep the floor and pick up empty beer bottles, the rock god returns to his life as a mere mortal. He'll never see a crowd like he just saw until a few years later when he calls it quits and all his friends show up one last time for the farewell engagement. He'll tell them he has no regrets for not taking the time to schedule a tour, no regrets for merely playing weekly gigs at the local bar or coffee shop of steak house. No regrets for giving up on his dreams.

Actually it doesn't always end that way, and here are three examples to prove it.

* * *

Slowdown Jr. was packed last Saturday night for the Ladyfinger (ne) CD release show. When I walked through the front doors I was met by a wall of humanity glued to opening band Landing on the Moon. It took about 10 minutes to get my pair of Rolling Rocks, but I didn't mind because there was nowhere else to comfortably stand anyway.

Shortly after 11, Ladyfinger took the stage, and I realized that the club and the band had made the right call in hosting this show in Slowdown's small room. Sure it was packed -- it was crushed -- but that only added to the vibe. Despite being supremely uncomfortable and unable to get a beer, you felt lucky to be there. It certainly wouldn't have felt that way had they held the show on Slowdown's big stage. That 150 (or whatever the number was) would have seemed like nothing, and the show would have felt like a failure instead of an event.

In the old days a few years ago, Ladyfinger was content just grinding it out. Today, the band's music sports real melodies, hooks and riffs. But for me, the best part of their new sound is Chris Machmuller's vocals. I don't know why, but for whatever reason his voice reminds me of Deep Purple's Ian Gillan -- a comment that will surely produce some snickering at O'Leaver's (where Machmuller tends bar). It's a different band than the one that released Heavy Hands in 2006 to disappointing sales. Now the question is: Are there enough hooks on the new album for Ladyfinger to finally capture the larger audience it deserves? Only time and touring will tell.

* * *

When it comes to deserving bands, there are none more so than Cursive.

The indie-rock four-piece on Saddle Creek Records has been writing and recording and touring since the mid-'90s. If Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst is the new Bob Dylan, than Cursive's Tim Kasher is who? The new Lou Reed, albeit a Lou Reed that can actually sing? Kasher has watched as Oberst/Bright Eyes, The Faint and Tilly and the Wall have made their way onto late-night network television, leaving Cursive behind.

That changes March 13 when Cursive finally makes the leap, performing on Late Night with David Letterman. Kasher already is a god in the tiny, insular world of indie rock. Now a new, much larger world will be introduced to him and his band, and who knows where that will lead.

Those doing the math may wonder how Cursive could be on Letterman the same night that the band is scheduled to play a sold-out show at The Troubadour in L.A. with Ladyfinger and Little Brazil. Saddle Creek Records executive Jason Kulbel explained that Cursive will tape the show while in NYC March 9 for airing on the 13th. Presumably they'll jet out to the Left Coast shortly afterward. Very rock 'n' roll. The Letterman appearance will come just three days after the release of Mama, I'm Swollen on March 10.

* * *

Finally, some next steps by a guy who's already there. Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band announced last week that they're releasing their second album on Merge Records, Outer South, on May 5. The album features songs written by Oberst and other band members, including Jason Boesel, Nik Freitas and Taylor Hollingsworth. The tracks were recorded at Sonic Ranch Studios in Tornillo, Texas, just outside El Paso.

With this release, it's beginning to look more and more like Bright Eyes may be a thing of the past. It's conceivable that Oberst will be touring in support of this new album through the balance of this year. That will be followed in 2010 by the long-talked-about Conor Oberst / Jim James / M. Ward / Mike Mogis album, which likely will see a tour of its own. If Oberst is working with Nate Walcott in Mystic Valley Band and Mogis in this separate project, why bother with Bright Eyes, whose only "permanent" members are these three musicians? Is Oberst writing a new ending to his movie, one where he liberates himself from what some consider to be his teeny-bopper past?

If you missed last Saturday night's Ladyfinger show, you'll get one more chance to see them live this coming Monday at O'Leaver's. After that, they're on tour with Cursive and Little Brazil, headed south to SXSW.

Omaha's version of Michael Hutchence, Matt Whipkey (see yesterday's blog) and his band The Whipkey Three are opening a show for Little Black Stereo tonight at The Waiting Room. Also on the bill are Under Water Dream Machine (read a review of their CD here). $7, 9 p.m.

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Matt, that could have been you; Come fly with me... – Feb. 25, 2009 – twitter icon

Remember that pair of columns I wrote about the Omaha INXS try-outs back in February 2005? You can still read them online here. Just scroll down to the Feb. 10 and Feb. 17, 2005, entries (Columns 12 and 13).

The column started like this:

So you wanna be a rock star, huh?

Well, Friday just might be your lucky day. Mark Burnett Productions, the fine folks who brought us such intelligent, thoughtful television programs as Survivor, The Bachelor and The Apprentice, will be at Mick's in Benson all day looking for an "INXS Rock Star." The talent search/reality TV series is an effort to help '80s rock band INXS find a replacement for deceased frontman Michael Hutchence, who hanged himself in 1997.

The casting director, Michelle McNulty, had told me they were looking for that person who has "it."

"'It' is that charismatic quality that comes from someone who can perform in front of 50,000 people. It could be a man or a woman."

Among those who made it to the second round were Sarah Benck, Korey Anderson, Matt Whipkey and Lovetap's Galen Kieth. None of them made it on television, which is lucky for them.

Reuters reported in this story that the winner, Canadian rocker J.D. Fortune, was unceremoniously fired by the band with a handshake in a Hong Kong airport.

"I found myself really alone because I had travelled with these guys for 23 months," Fortune told Entertainment Tonight Canada without saying exactly when he was sacked. He acknowledged that he had been taking drugs including cocaine while with the band but said he had been drug free for two years.

Since then, Fortune's fortune has continued to turn rather bad, as he says he's now back to living in his car. Ah, Matt, that could have been you.

* * *

Speaking of old stories, last fall I was asked by Midwest Airlines to write a feature about Omaha for their airline magazine, MyMidwest. They wanted your typical "what to do on a long weekend in Omaha" sort of story. The piece ran in the Jan/Feb issue, which presumably is in airplanes now. Of course, like all magazine articles, it was partially rewritten (they changed my lead, which referenced hilly Omaha streets and Les Nessman, and my ending. Oh well, at least the check cleared.). I've never seen an actual print copy of the story (I don't fly Midwest much these days, though I do prefer it over any other airline if only for its first-class leather seating and chocolate chip cookies). I discovered this PDF version of the story online, and include it for your amusement, since you already know all of this stuff. I tried to highlight Benson's music scene, and some of it actually made the cut. At the time I wrote this, Mick's was of course still in business. Warning, this PDF is a 2 meg file.

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Fat Tuesday... – Feb. 24, 2009 – twitter icon

Is Fat Tuesday becoming another calendar event with the sole purpose of getting drunk like St. Patrick's Day, Halloween and New Year's Eve? It's beginning to look that way judging by the number of shows going on around town. The Waiting Room, Saddle Creek Bar and O'Leaver's all have shows tonight. The stand-out is at O'Leaver's with Ric Rhythm and the Revengers, and from Minneapolise, Private Dancer and The Chambermaids. 9:30, $5.

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Live Review: Ladyfinger, Landing on the Moon; Cursive on Letterman; Appleseed Cast tonight... – Feb. 23, 2009 – twitter icon

Slowdown Jr. was indeed packed Saturday night for the Ladyfinger CD release show. When I walked through the front doors I was met by a wall of humanity, all glued to Landing on the Moon. It took about 10 minutes to get my pair of Rolling Rocks, but I didn't mind because there was nowhere to comfortably stand anyway, figured I might as well just stand in line.

LotM, which formed after The Quiet Type broke up in 2003, is now recognized as a veteran band in the scene. When they first started, they were tight -- almost too tight -- but years of playing on local stages has loosened them up, made them more relaxed. And while I like their brand of indie rock (I'm told they're working on new material) I'd love to see them venture outside of their comfort zone, i.e., improvise somewhere within their set. I know that improvisation is a dirty word in the indie music world and conjures images of the most dreaded description of all -- the jam band. But look, I'm not talking about "jamming," I'm talking about letting their songs breath a little bit, to loosen that musical corset. LotM is methodical. They stick to the script as closely as any band out there. But they also have some of the most talented musicians in the scene, which makes me wonder what they'd come up with if they slid an extra 16 or 32 bars onto the end of their songs. What would happen?

The very nature of indie rock seems anathema to improvisation. Bands write songs, record them and then do their damdest to replicate them live, and for the most part, that's how it should be. As much as I can imagine LotM strolling off the path, I can't imagine Ladyfinger budging from their formula, nor would I want them to. We've come to expect something from them, and would only be uncomfortable if it varied from that expectation.

Shortly after 11, Ladyfinger took the stage, and it didn't take long to realize that the club and the band had made the right call in hosting this show in the small room. Sure it was packed -- it was crushed -- but that only added to the vibe. Despite being supremely uncomfortable and unable to get a beer, you got the feeling you were lucky to be there. That certainly wouldn't have been the case had they held the show on the big stage. That 150 or whatever the number was would have seemed like nothing, and the show would have felt like a borderline failure instead of an event.

The band roared through its set -- a selection of old and new songs. Joining them on six songs was LotM's Megan Morgan -- a smart addition. When I interviewed Ladyfinger a few weeks ago, they talked about how they brought down their volume level so that Megan could be heard better in the mix. That adjustment was noticeable when they played on the big stage opening for Neva Dinova a few months ago. It wasn't so successful last Saturday. Ladyfinger kept the amps roaring, and Megan did the best she could to push her voice above the fray.

For me, the best part of the new stuff is Chris Machmuller's vocals (I don't know why, but for whatever reason, Machmuller's voice reminds me of Deep Purple's Ian Gillan -- that comment is bound to result in some snickering at O'Leaver's). In the old days, just grinding it out was enough. Now Ladyfinger's music sports true melodies, hooks and riffs. It's a different band than the one that released Heavy Hands. So the big question is: Are there enough hooks on the album to finally capture a much-deserved larger audience? Time and touring will tell.

* * *

Speaking of O'Leaver's, I spent Friday night there catching sets by Cowboy Indian Bear and Thunder Power. CIB was a pleasant surprise, a trio out of Lawrence where all three members provide vocals and harmonies (as well as some expert chops on guitar/bass/drums/keyboards). About half the set was performed using a double-bass attack. Nice. They're said to be working on a new album, which hopefully will bring them back through town. Thunder Power continues to be defined as Omaha's version of Belle and Sebastian, and for good reason. The six-piece knows how to play whimsical chamber pop as well as anyone out there. Good melodies and fine vocals, though for the life of me, I can't understand a word the cooing lead singer is singing. Does it matter? With this style of music, the answer is yes.

* * *

Just got word this morning that Cursive will be performing on Late Night with David Letterman March 13. Waitaminit, don't they have a sold-out show at The Troubadour in L.A. that night with Ladyfinger and Little Brazil? Jason Kulbel from Saddle Creek tells me that the band will be taping their performance March 9 for airing on the 13th. Very rock and roll. The new album has a street date of March 10. Entertainment Weekly is currently hosting an exclusive track off Mama, I'm Swollen, here.

* * *

Tonight at The Waiting Room, it's our old friends The Appleseed Cast with Tie These Hands and Anniversaire. 9 p.m., $10.

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Conor does it again; Cowboy Indian Bear tonight, Ladyfinger CD release show tomorrow... – Feb. 20, 2009 – twitter icon

Catching up on some news from earlier this week, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band announced it is releasing a second album on Merge May 5, titled Outer South. According to CMJ, "The album will feature songs written by both the Bright Eyes mastermind and other band members, including Nik Boesel, Nik Freitas, and Taylor Hollingsworth, and was recorded at Sonic Ranch Studios in Tornillio, just outside El Paso." The sold-out April 9 show at Slowdown apparently is in support of the release. It's beginning to look more and more like Bright Eyes may be a thing of the past. It's conceivable that Oberst will be touring this new album through the balance of the year. That will be followed in 2010 by the long-talked-about Conor Oberst / Jim James / M. Ward / Mike Mogis album, which will likely see a tour of its own. If Oberst is working with Nate Walcott in Mystic Valley Band and Mogis in this separate project, what's the point in even doing a Bright Eyes album since Conor, Nate and Mike are the only permanent members of that band? It's hard to believe that it's been almost two years since Cassadaga was released...

* * *

Marty Hillard, the Lawrence, Kansas, chap who you remember from a few years back performing as TheSisterMaria, is playing tonight at O'Leaver's with his new band, Cowboy Indian Bear, along with Thunder Power, Why Make Clocks and Platte River Rain. The show should be the usual $5, and start around 9:30.

Also tonight, Saddle Creek Bar has hard rock acts Constant Velocity and Sin. $5, 9 p.m. Thank You and Mi Ami are at Slowdown Jr. $8, 9 p.m. And Midwest Dilemma is playing at The Barley St. with Down with the Ship, Where Astronauts Go to Hide and Fiance. $5, 9 p.m.

Tomorrow night, it's the long-awaited CD release show for Ladyfinger's new one, Dusk, at Slowdown Jr. with Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship and Landing on the Moon. That's right, I said Slowdown Jr., which means this one will be packed to the gills. Get there early. $7, 9 p.m.

Also happening Saturday night: Underwater Dream Machine is playing at The Barley St. with Cat Island. $5, 9 p.m.; and Javier Ochoa is having his 40th Birthday Bash at The Waiting Room with a bevy of tribute bands. Your $10 cover will go toward the Multiple Sclerosis Society. This one starts early -- 7 p.m.

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Column 210: Cleaning out the cupboard... – Feb. 19, 2009 – twitter icon

Work has kept me from posting today's entry until this late hour. Hey, a guy's got to make a buck, right?

Column 210: Unheard Melodies
A critic's guilt upon spring cleaning.

I had to clean out my office over the weekend, or at least begin to clean it out. Endless clutter is one of the by-products of being a music critic.

As I've said before: I got involved in writing about music for one reason and one reason alone: To get free CDs. When I started writing reviews over 20 years ago, compact discs were still sort of a novelty. Working my way through college at Kmart, I remember flipping through the bins of albums and seeing the racks of cassette tapes, but CDs had only just begun to arrive, displayed in large cardboard boxes, which later were replaced by impenetrable plastic containers. The odd, oblong contraptions were designed to prevent thieves from sticking discs down their pants, but they also kept buyers from getting their CDs opened after they got home. I remember struggling with a pair of industrial-strength scissors desperately trying to cut through the thick plastic CD holders, often cutting my hand in the process. I once had the brilliant idea of melting the container with a lighter only to have it catch on fire along with my copy of Billy Idol's Whiplash Smile.

In the late '80s, record labels had just begun mailing CDs to music writers, and getting a compact disc for free was a real treat. Vinyl records seemed old-fashioned and junky, but free CDs, well they just had to be quality or the label wouldn't have wasted the money making them, right? Funny how times have changed. Now I can't imagine anything more valuable than finding a box in the mail filled with free promotional vinyl albums and 45s.

Getting free CDs also was the driving force behind creating back in '98. And just a few short months after the website's launch, I began to reap the harvest. CDs magically began arriving in my mailbox, one or two per week like prizes awarded for my writing. I eagerly tore open the envelopes to reveal these little presents before neatly stacking them next to my stereo. It didn't matter that only one out of 10 was actually worth listening to, my collection was growing.

By the time Omaha became recognized as the center of the indie music world (in around 2001), I was getting three or four CDs in the mail every day. My cup quickly runneth over. Soon, the dining room table was littered with stacks of unopened manila envelopes, to the annoyance of Teresa who would eventually gather up an armful and drop them in my office to await the tedious task of opening and cataloging each on the website.

The envelopes themselves became a screening device. Opened first were packages from recognizable labels -- Matador, Merge, SubPop, Saddle Creek, Secretly Canadian, YepRock, Caulfield, Homestead, etc. This was the good stuff.

Next were packages from larger metropolitan areas and indie music hubs -- New York City, the Pacific Northwest, Athens, North Carolina, Lawrence and of course, Omaha. After that were the quirky packages that obviously contained something more than a CD. Somewhere along the way bands got the idea that if they threw in little treats like candy or toys with their music that it would catch a reviewer's eye, and they were right. What they didn't understand, however, is that the reviewers are more interested in the trinkets than their music.

Last opened were the plain envelopes with hand-written return addresses and "Do Not Bend" scribbled on the back. Anonymous packages from anonymous locales. It's amazing how much one assumes about a band and its music simply by its name, photo and album artwork.

It didn't take long until towers of precariously stacked, unlistened-to CDs covered every horizontal surface in my office. It's not that I didn't want to listen to all of them. The problem is that in addition to CD reviews I also write feature stories about bands -- their music has to take precedent or else I'll come off even more like an idiot during interviews than I actually am. Falling to the wayside in all this was time for listening to music that I actually sought out and knew I liked.

About every 18 months things reach a tipping point, and I have no choice but to undergo a global purge. I've never sold a promo CD in my life; I've only traded them for other music, which is what I did this past weekend with more than 600 CDs (and with another 500 on the way). I'd like to tell you that I'd listened to all of them, but that would be a lie. It simply wasn't physically possible.

While packing away those CDs, I felt a tinge of guilt and regret. Somewhere in there could have been a diamond hidden among the hours and hours of derivative indie folk, sloppy garage punk, geek metal and personal confessional monstrosities. Could I be missing the next Elliott Smith or Husker Du? I'll never know. What I did know was that each one of those poorly packaged and designed CDs represented someone's hopes and dreams. All they wanted was for me to take a moment and listen to their music. Instead, here I was sending it away, unheard.

Over the past couple of years, the number of CDs arriving in the mail has slowly dwindled thanks to new ways of distributing music via digital download -- a much more efficient, economical and earth-friendly approach. It won't be long until finding a CD in the mail will once again be a novelty -- an unexpected gift -- instead of an ever-growing monster that slowly takes over my office.

Look for the usual Friday pre-weekend update at the usual time tomorrow...

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The return of Ladyfinger... – Feb. 18, 2009 – twitter icon

Just posted (here) is a brand new feature / interview with Ladyfinger. The band talks about their new album, Dusk, and how they hope it performs better saleswise than their debut, Heavy Hands. So what went wrong with the first one? Beyond basic quality issues, who knows why one record sales well and another doesn't. The assumption was that HH would sell much better than it actually did, based on sales of the band's self-released demo and the fact that they had Saddle Creek backing them. Add to that months and months of touring, and you had a recipe for success -- or so everyone involved thought. The sales numbers outlined in the story are bracing, but do they reflect a new reality for the indie music business? I don't think so; I certainly hope not.

I didn't have room in the article to talk about the words within the music. Ladyfinger frontman Chris Machmuller writes all the songs' lyrics, and we went through a handful during the interview. The standout is "Plans," which would be my pick for the first single. The song opens with the lines: So much for plans / So much for heavy hands to take / The hopes we had were bound to break. "It's about an ex-girlfriend and close friend of the band who died of a cocaine overdose," Machmuller said, adding that they got the sobering news about her death the day after Halloween while in Belgium on tour. The song epitomizes the more thoughtful, more layered approach Ladyfinger has taken with this album. Check it out.

* * *

Val Nelson at Slowdown is asking that anyone interested in how downtown Omaha evolves over the next 20 or 30 years attend a meeting tonight between 6 and 10 p.m. at The Embassy Suites at 10th and Howard. Val says it'll be the first opportunity to see where the Master Plan is headed, and a chance to let the City know where you'd like it to go. If you care about downtown, you'll be there.

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M. Ward in Time; Ladyfinger on the Z... – Feb. 17, 2009 – twitter icon

There's a Q&A with M Ward in Time Magazine (here) wherein Matt mentions the now legendary M Ward / Conor Oberst / Jim James project that's been kicked around since the trio did that show at Witherspoon Hall in January 2004 -- five years ago. It'll be another year until the actual recordings are released (my guess is it'll be on Merge). It's hard to believe it's been almost six years since I did this interview with Ward. Time has indeed flown by. Of course one drawback to being associated with Conor and Mike Mogis is that Pitchfork will only give you a fair-to-middling review, as they did today for Ward's new album Hold Time (here). It got a rating of 6.7 -- in the same ballpark as all Saddle Creek releases.

Someone posted on the ol' webboard that Ladyfinger will be performing live in the studio on Z-92 tomorrow morning at 10 a.m. CT. More details here (I didn't know that Todd & Tyler listened to rock music). Watch for my feature interview with Ladyfinger tomorrow on Lazy-i.

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Marah tonight... – Feb. 16, 2009 – twitter icon

I ended up not going to any shows this weekend. None. What's up with that? It was a combination of the crappy weather and pulling a muscle in my back. Fact is, I knew that the It's True CD release show at the Barley Street would be so packed that I wouldn't be able to see or hear any of it anyway. Sure enough, someone who was there told me it was the biggest crowd he'd ever seen in the place (which only has a capacity of 40 or 50 in the showroom) -- a real crush mob. It's a shame that the show couldn't have been held in a larger venue.

Anyway, my back's fine now, so much so that I'm contemplating dropping in on that Marah show tonight at The Waiting Room tonight. Landon Hedges is opening, doing a solo acoustic set as Fine, Fine Automobiles. $8, 9 p.m. Marah's out touring its latest on Yep rock, Angels of Destruction, which has a sort of chug-a-lug rock 'n' roll vibe. Also tonight is Ben Kweller at Slowdown with The Watson Twins and Drew Smith's Lonely Choir. That show's $15 and starts at 9. I have no interest in Kweller but wouldn't mind seeing the Watson Twins, who came through a few years ago as a backup to Jenny Lewis.

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Every show is local; It's True tomorrow... – Feb. 13, 2009 – twitter icon

For whatever reason, Fu*ked up canceled their show last night. You would have known that before you went out had you been "following" me on Twitter or read my webboard. And you'd figure there's a good chance for even more cancellations tonight, but I doubt it. Every show is a local show, and let's be honest, it's only supposed to be six or eight inches. It is, after all, winter.

So the question becomes where would you want to be on a snowy night in Omaha? Top of the list may be The 49'r, where The Filter Kings are playing with The Killigans and Making Movies. Few bars are as ski-lodge cozy as the Niner on snowy nights. The bar's website is showing an 8 p.m. start time, but no word on the cover.

There's a benefit show down at The Bemis Underground featuring a slew of Slumber Party Records bands including Capgun Coup, Bear Country and Honeybee, along with the toughest trio in Omaha, Box Elders. Tickets are $13 for non-members, $7 for members, and the show starts at 9. For more info, go to

Over at O'Leaver's, Speed! Nebraska recording artist The Third Men is playing with No Blood Orphan. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Saddle Creek Bar is going punk with crazy-ass Officially Terminated, ska-boys Eastern Turkish and classic '80s thrashers Cordial Spew. $5, 9 p.m.

Sarah Benck and The Robbers are playing their last show under that moniker tonight at Slowdown Jr. with Bonne Finken and The Ground Tyrants. $7, 9 p.m.

Reagan and the Rayguns are playing at The Waiting Room tonight with Jessica Errett Band and Vago. $7, 9 p.m.

Black Squirrels, Goodbye Sunday and Tsumi are at Barley Street. $4, 9 p.m.

Valentine's Day (Saturday) is highlighted by the It's True CD release show at The Barley Street Tavern with Cat Island (also celebrating a CD release on Slo-Fi), Kyle & Kat, Ben Seiff and John Klemmensen. $5, 9 p.m.

If I hear of cancellations, I'll pass them on via Twitter.

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Column 209 -- The truth about Adam Hawkins; F*cked Up, Dance Me Pregnant tonight... – Feb. 12, 2009 – twitter icon

Column 209: A Simple Truth
Adam Hawkins embraces reality.

Adam Hawkins has lived through some bad shit. It was self-inflicted shit, it was some dumb shit, but it was shit nonetheless and he lived through it. And maybe too much has been made of it, at least to me.

When I first heard about the singer / songwriter / band leader, it was only in the terms of this bad shit. "Man, this guy's been through it," they said. "He's seen it, he's lived it and now he sings about it in his music."

Lived through what? I had this picture of a junkie bunked out under an interstate off-ramp in a cardboard box or on his knees shaking a stained Dixie cup begging for dope money.

The truth was less dramatic. He did go through some bad shit, but he's better now. It didn't happen here; it happened when he was living in Ames, Iowa, in the early part of this decade. "I did a lot of hanging out, a lot of partying," he said. "I was engaged to be married and then the shit hit the fan in all those regards."

His partying led to the failure of his relationship, which led to harder partying. Just how bad was it? "It wasn't anything monumental; I wasn't 98 pounds," Hawkins said. "I was on the path of losing control. I slowly started realizing the type of people I was hanging around -- I wasn't around them because they were my friends, but because they had stuff and they would share it with me. I kind of realized that I didn't want to become these people."

So he moved to Omaha. It wasn't his first choice. The plan was for him and his roommate to move to Hollywood -- a decision based on a 3 a.m. conversation after a few days of partying. Instead, Hawkins' brother Jamie suggested he pack up and move in with him in Omaha. "He knew what was going on and said I could stay with him as long as I needed to. He gave me a lifeline and some security."

Music wasn't even in the picture. Hawkins had been in a few bands in Ames ("none worth mentioning"), but that had fallen to the side during his party years. Now in Omaha sometime in late 2005 or early 2006, he was living through a string of jobs -- telemarketing, then slot attendant and eventually blackjack dealer at the Horseshoe Casino in Council Bluffs, a job that depressed him so much that he hated getting up in the morning. After he was fired, he went back to telemarketing, and then waiting tables at Perkins. He's now at Dietze Music, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Music slowly eked back into Hawkins' life. After hearing him play in her living room, a friend suggested he perform at a birthday gig at a local school. On her own volition, she launched a Myspace page for him. "I thought it was totally ridiculous," Hawkins said. "I thought Myspace was a tweener past-time, what kids did." But that Myspace page would become a conduit for meeting other local musicians.

Kyle Harvey, the label executive behind Slo-Fidelity Records, first heard Hawkins play a solo show at The Foundry. Harvey and Hawkins began to correspond via e-mail, along with Midwest Dilemma's Justin Lamoureux, and before long, Hawkins found himself entrenched in the Benson singer-songwriter scene.

"Knowing them motivated me to play out more," Hawkins said. "Instead of playing in some school conference room, they were helping me get shows at bars."

On his debut album, titled there there, now... / i think it's best... (if i leave), Hawkins goes by It's True -- the name has to do with his psychedelic past and his definition of reality, which boils down to: "Any form of truth is a representation of that ultimate truth."

Self-recorded on a four-track in bedrooms over the past couple years, the album is solo-acoustic folk sung in Hawkins' dreamy croon, strong on melody and meaning. The lyrics are straightforward and painfully honest, obviously candid, and probably written from a place that you don't want to go. But at the same time, it's up-tempo and touchingly positive.

"Negativity can quickly get corny and self serving," Hawkins said. "Not a lot of people want to hear you complain about your life unless there's some deeper resonance. I want to be positive, but that doesn't mean that I always want to sing about rainbows and sunshine."

He said he never intended to release the songs until Kyle Harvey asked him to. "They were rough drafts," Hawkins said. "I wanted to put a band together and rerecord them, and then time passed. It was actually keeping me from writing new stuff. Kyle said to just release them as they are." Good call. The austere production adds to the music's simple honesty.

Hawkins is celebrating the CD's release this Saturday night at The Barley St. Tavern with fellow songwriters Kyle & Kat, Ben Seiff, John Klemmensen and Kendra Senick (Cat Island).

He said he has another group of "wordier songs, less melodic, more rambling" that he may record as an EP someday. Or he may not. Hawkins is content going with the flow.

"Right now, the plan is to get the band up to par. And that's all in terms of ambition. I know the guys would really like to record something, and I would, too."

But Hawkins said anytime he tries to do something deliberately, it doesn't work out, and he gets frustrated. Better to take it one day at a time. "I'm not trying to avoid disappointment. Things just seem to turn out better that way."

* * *

It's another hopping night in Benson tonight. Over at The Waiting Room, Fucked Up headlines a show with Dance Me Pregnant. Here's what I said about FU's Matador Records release The Chemistry of Common Life back in December:

The vocals aren't so much Cookie Monster as they are an Andrew W.K. rip -- over the top, slightly out of control, in your face. But not Cookie Monster -- that term is forever reserved for the vacuous metal-esque goon-rock bands that litter high-NRG Nickelback stations (in Omaha, 89.7 The River). Fucked Up isn't "goon," and you would never confuse it with metal or, really, even punk (though it is loud and obnoxious). This is spaz rock in that AWK-vein. Overbearing and sometimes annoying, it's best served in small doses. That, along with odd tangents like space instrumentals "Golden Seal" and "Looking for God" -- that owe as much to Pink Floyd as anything punk --are enough to make this worth checking out.

I think it could be entertaining, if not ear-bleedingly loud. $8, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, down at The Barley Street Tavern, Brimstone Howl plays with Rock Paper Dynamite and Watching the Trainwreck. $5, 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Headlines: NationMaster? Vinyl Nation? Free Alive? Hoshaw tonight? – Feb. 11, 2009 – twitter icon

Here is a handful of notable news from the web:

I was just reading an article in Rolling Stone about how Live Nation was supposed to bring down the cost of tickets -- specifically service charges -- when they began selling them. Of course they didn't. And now comes news yesterday that Ticketmaster and Live Nation have proposed a merger. Best line in the AP article: "'Ticketmaster does not set prices. Live Nation does not set ticket prices. Artists set the prices,' (Ticketmaster CEO Barry Diller) said, without mentioning the ticket surcharges Ticketmaster relies on for much of its revenue." Looks like the Justice Dept is going to get involved. The Boss already has, according to this update: "'The one thing that would make the current ticket situation even worse for the fan than it is now would be Ticketmaster and Live Nation coming up with a single system, thereby returning us to a near-monopoly situation in music ticketing,' Springsteen said on his Web site." I'm happy I don't go to arena shows anymore. Now if we can just keep these thieves out of the clubs.

* * *

For those of you who don't get the OWH, there was another detailed write-up about vinyl's increased popularity in the Sunday edition, this time written by Kevin Coffey. The OWH has printed three or four of these stories over the past three or four years, and for my money, they never get old. Interviewed this time were Spencer Munson (DJ Spence), Homer's Mike Fratt, and Drastic Plastic's Neil Azevedo. There's also a companion piece about vinyl fans' favorite vinyl here. Coffey left out his favorites. My favorite vinyl is anything by Led Zeppelin. While I've acquired most of the Zeppelin catalog digitally, there's just something special about listening to Zeppelin I or III on vinyl. Hmmm, seems like I predicted the return of vinyl in 2007 (along with everyone else). For serious music fans, vinyl is still the best value, especially for new albums because they almost always come with a CDR for downloading.

* * *

Speaking of free stuff, the fine folks at Alive Records have issues a 2009 sampler and they're giving it away for free digitally at Amazon right here. The sampler includes tracks by Hacienda, Outrageous Cherry, Buffalo Killers and Lincoln's own Brimstone Howl.

* * *

There's a notable happening going on tonight but it's by invitation only, so I don't know if I can tell you about it or not. It involves Brad Hoshaw and his band and the debut of his new full-length album. Look, if you stumble around Benson long enough tonight you're bound to find it. Consider it a treasure hunt.

* * *

Tomorrow's column: A profile of Adam Hawkins.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Live Review: Hyannis; SCB crowds; One Percent announcements... – Feb. 10, 2009 – twitter icon

There was no update yesterday because of a mechanical breakdown of the ol' Sidekick. In fact, I thought it was going to start on fire. The tow-truck/repair scenario wiped out my lunch hour, but ol' trusty is back and running again and so is this here blog.

Some weekend thoughts -- The Hyannis CD release show at Slowdown Friday night was well attended and the band sounded okay -- kind of like a hippie band without the hippies. The CD's liner notes indicate the band has four members plus a cello player, but I only counted three on stage during their set, and that might account for the overall hollowness. Their sound is more pleasantly filled-out on In a Car, their self-released LP that I'm listening to as I type this. They appear to be going for a yesteryear sound that falls somewhere between Syd-era Pink Floyd and The Stooges. Frontman Joey Bonacci has a voice that fits his first name -- high, kinda quirky and unforgettable in a strange way. I would tell people who were at the show that they really need to check out the disc since it's probably a more accurate portrayal of the band, but they all got free copies at the door so they already know this. I'd like to hear how Hyannis sounds with their full contingent.

We drove over to Pizza Shoppe Saturday night for dinner, and on stage in the room next door was the gospel choir that performed at the OEA's. Unbelievably, they all fit on PS Collective's stage and didn't blow the lid off the room -- nice background music for my garlic bread. We then drove down to Saddle Creek Bar for 49 Cents (both T and I follow UNO Mavericks basketball, and former power forward Ryan Curtis is in the band), but quickly discovered that instead of being first, that they were going to be last, and I knew we'd never make it to the end. When we left after the first set, I noticed that every table in SCB was filled. I also drove by the bar last Saturday night and saw that its parking lot was jammed. Has SCB finally turned the corner in attracting a crowd?

* * *

One Percent Productions announced a new batch of shows last night, the most interesting of which are Tricky March 15 at Slowdown, another Faint show March 31 at Sokol (come on guys, play somewhere else), and that Beep Beep release show at The Waiting Room April 4. The upcoming Conor show at Slowdown sold out over the weekend.

* * *

Anyone know if the Tim Kasher listed with the music credit on the film My Suicide (reviewed here) is that Tim Kasher?

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

The Sydney Saloon; Fackler film update, Sarah Benck drops the Robbers; Hyannis CD release, Domestica tonight... – Feb. 6, 2009 – twitter icon

I checked out The Sydney last night for the first time since it switched over from Mick's, and I definitely give it a thumb's up. The place looks distinctively different -- more open and yet more comfortable. I walked around trying to figure out what they did other than throw up a fresh coat of paint. There are fewer tables than before, and the raised stage has been replaced with a "stage" that stands about three inches from the floor. I always thought the old stage was too high and probably added to the room's acoustic problems. One of the owners told me they wanted to take the stage out altogether until they discovered that the flooring beneath it was messed up. Overall, The Sydney feels more like a saloon than a neighborhood bar, thanks to its high ceilings and dim lighting. One somewhat strange side note -- I was there from 8:30 to around 11 and didn't see a single woman walk through the door (I described it as a "sausage party" to Teresa, who had no idea what I was talking about). I assume this will change after bar's grand opening in early March. PS: I can't wait to see the first live show there.

* * *

Looks like Nik Fackler's debut film, Lovely, Still, has found international sales and Canadian distribution, according to this item in IndieWire. The distributor is Cinemavault, based out of Toronto. "With the producers currently in post-production on the new cut, Cinemavault is presenting the film at the European Film Market and will be premiering the final version at the Cannes Film Market," says Indiewire.

* * *

Sarah Benck sent out an email yesterday saying that her band is dropping "...and The Robbers" portion of their name. From now on, they're simply known as Sarah Benck. People poo-poo the importance of a band's name, but the fact is it impacts everyone's first impressions. "Sarah Benck and the Robbers" had a cheesy connotation to it from the beginning; it sounded like someone you'd hear at a Holiday Inn Lounge. This name change is a long time coming.

* * *

Lots of chatter about yesterday's column on the webboard. Check it out and add to it.

* * *

So what's going on tonight?

-- The Hyannis CD release show at Slowdown Jr. with Brimstone Howl, The Night Gallery and Outlaw Con Bandana. Everyone gets a free copy of the Hyannis CD with their $5 admission. Show starts at 9.

-- Domestica plays at O'Leaver's with Techlepathy and Wagon Blasters. $5, 9:30 p.m.

-- Brad Hoshaw and The Seven Deadlies opens for Kris Lager Band at The Waiting Room. $7, 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Column 208: Too old to rock?; Landing on the Moon, Lincoln Dickison tonight... – Feb. 5, 2009 – twitter icon

Today's column is self-explanatory. I think I've mentioned this before -- Ten years ago or so, Robb Nansel of Saddle Creek Records told me something that a major label honcho told him. He said if you're still involved with music when you're 30, you're going to be involved with music the rest of your life. Truer words were never spoken…

Column 208: Greasy Kid's Stuff
Age and music.

I was feeling just fine about everything until Barack decided to join in with his "Let us set aside childish things" rant during the inauguration. What exactly was he saying? Who was he talking to?

After awhile, it does begin to pile up. The whole age thing never occurs to me unless someone else mentions it -- directly or indirectly.

Last week a friend who works at The City Weekly pointed out that Mike Fratt "went after me" in his column. Really? By name? No, he never used your name, my friend said. He merely referenced "Omaha's own aging indie-hipster blogger street weekly writer..." I was flattered that Mike would think anyone would even know who he was talking about (and without that knowledge, a reader would think Fratt was being self-deprecating instead of just snarky -- he is, after all, considerably older than I am).

A week before that, I was at a local watering hole listening to a band when one of the city's better musicians said, not off-handedly, "Why would a 20-year-old want to know what a 40-year-old guy thinks about new music?" He was making a point about himself, of course; about how he thinks no one cares what his favorite music was from 2008 (but we do). I'm sure the fact that I'm in my 40s and still write about indie music never crossed his mind. Did it?

And then there was the time I was speaking in front of a class alongside a former mover-and-shaker in local music retail. I asked him what he thought of Saddle Creek Records. He said he only listens to blues these days. "I outgrew that stuff a long time ago."

It comes down to the notion that rock music -- specifically new rock music -- should only be enjoyed by young people. That people beyond their 20s (some say beyond their teens) should have moved on from listening to rock or any music for that matter.

I remember as a teen-ager listening to albums with my headphones on, wondering how much I'd miss it when I got older because, well, "old people" don't listen to music. Certainly my dad didn't.

That same backward thinking applies to rock shows -- when are you too old to go see a band (other than a dinosaur act at the Qwest Center)? Is it when your friends quit going to shows? Or when you have kids and reprioritize your life so that music no longer plays a role? I can't speak to the issue of getting married and having a family. I can say that a lot of people I know put music away when their children arrived, and use their family life as an excuse for not going out any more (or doing anything creative, for that matter). And that's fine. Chances are even if they didn't have kids they would have quit going to shows anyway. Rare is the person who can continue to "get into" new music after they reach their 30s. That's just the way it is.

I made that point on my blog, and one reader took offense. He said he used to go to shows at The Cog Factory and Kilgore's before moving to Chicago and getting involved in the music business himself. He ended up in California "…and then, I had kids. Now you can chalk it up as an 'excuse' to 'quit' the pursuit of music-passion (or other cultural endeavors), but I actually blame it as much on not only a re-prioritizing of priorities as I do finances," he said in an email. "When you’ve got a young mouth (or in my case two young mouths) to feed, given the choice between buying groceries or going out to a club to see a band play and then proceed to spend $25 on drinks….well, the choice should be pretty clear."

I guess it's like those commercial say: "Having a baby changes everything." I don't doubt that. Still, this guy said he continues to subscribe to Magnet and The Big Takeover, and makes notes about bands that might interest him. That alone makes him a rarity. Because most people that I know who have kids go home after work and sit in front of the TV for five hours and then go to sleep. Every night. They feel entitled. They've worked hard all day, they want to come home and "unwind." These are people in their late 20s and 30s (and 40s). And before they know it, they're in their 50s and 60s and then they're dead. But, dammit, they accomplished something. They raised those kids. And that's more than I can say for myself.

Would I still be going to shows if I had kids? Well, not 80 to 100 shows a year, but yeah, I'd like to think that I'd definitely make it out at least a couple times a month. But we'll never know.

Age isn't so much a state of mind as it is surrendering to a state of mind. I don't think my personal writing guru, former Village Voice columnist and now Rolling Stone critic Robert Christgau, who'll turn 67 in April, thought for a second about what was appropriate for someone his age to listen to when he was reviewing the latest albums by Glasvegas (which he gave in A) or Jay Reatard (which he gave an A-). Is he worried that a 20-year-old might scoff at his opinion? I don't think it crossed his mind. It certainly doesn't cross mine when I'm writing about the new Animal Collective or Ladyfinger CDs or watching Stolen Kisses or Perry H. Matthews.

Nor should it. Rock was never meant to be only a young man's game. Just ask this aging indie-hipster blogger street weekly writer.

There's a show tonight at the Waiting Room worth checking out: Landing on the Moon and Anniversaire opening for The Envy Corps. $7, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, folkie balladeer (when he's not shredding in Techlepathy) Lincoln Dickison is opening for Son of 76 and the Watchmen tonight at The Barley St. Tavern. Techlepathy will be on stage tomorrow night at O'Leaver's along with Domestica and Wagon Blasters.

Which reminds me, a reader commented on yesterday's blog entry, telling me that record label Speed! Nebraska has Lincoln bands on its roster that play in Omaha all the time, including Domestica, Brimstone Howl, Ideal Cleaners and the Mezcal Bros. This reader also included The Wagon Blasters (whose members include Lincolnite Bill Thornton), but I'm not aware of any Wagon Blasters releases on Speed! Nebraska Records. Something tells me that that's gonna change…

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Benson in the DN; Beep Beep drops on March 24; Lazy-i heads to SXSW... – Feb. 4, 2009 – twitter icon

A few weeks ago I was asked some questions about Benson from Daily Nebraskan reporter Jeremy Buckley. You might also know Jeremy as the organizer of the wildly successful Lincoln Calling festival. I've been asking Jeremy for a few years to put together a similar festival called Lincoln Invasion, where he brings all the hot Lincoln bands to Omaha for a night or two. We don’t get enough exposure to Lincoln's music here in Omaha, which makes no sense to me at all. Come on, Jeremy, let's get this done.

Anyway, I asked Jeremy last night what happened to that article, and he finally sent me a link. Also interviewed was Homer's general manager and Benson resident Mike Fratt, and the proprietor of One Percent Productions and The Waiting Room, Marc Leibowitz. Take a look.

* * *

Saddle Creek Records announced yesterday that the new album by Beep Beep, Enchanted Islands, is slated for release on March 24. Says Saddle Creek: "We guarantee you one of the most interesting listens of your young year. Enchanted Islands will blow your mind in different ways...from insane guitar playing to soon-to-be-classic melody to just plain oddness. It's the whole package." Creek also announced Beep Beep's spring tour, which includes a show at The Waiting Room April 4. They'll also be playing at South by Southwest this year.

* * *

And speaking of SXSW, I'll be attending my first SXSW Festival this March. As a result, you'll be seeing full coverage before, during and after the festival right here at Lazy-i. It'll be just like being there...

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Ladyfinger drops Dusk – Feb. 3, 2009 – twitter icon

Ladyfinger's new LP, Dusk, dropped today on Saddle Creek Records. The CD is more up-tempo, more "tuneful" than Heavy Hands, which on some level, was actually a bit, well, heavy handed. What a difference dynamics makes. Take "Little Things," for instance, a track that bleeds to nothing before blowing up in your face. "Read the Will" simmers until it reaches a boiling point halfway through then spills all over the floor. So does "Plans," which would be my pick as the album single. Ladyfinger may have sounded like two feral cats in a burlap sack before, now they sound like indie buzzsaw-rock pioneers. Omaha's version of Helmet or Queens of the Stone Age? I don't know about that.

The question is what will it take for this record to break through to an audience that eluded Heavy Hands? A brief tour with Little Brazil is a fun start, though you could argue that neither band is building on the other's "big following." They're slated to play with Cursive in Tempe in March. I'm guessing that they'll be at SXSW. What they need is a few months on tour opening for someone that's huge in a Foo Fighters sort of way. How does that happen? It doesn't, not for an indie band. In lieu of that, Ladyfinger will have to hit the road for months and months and miles and miles at a time this year. Are they up to the challenge?

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Date set for new Cursive; Super Bowl reflections… – Feb. 2, 2009 – twitter icon

Saddle Creek Records, Cursive and their publicist finally have given details on Mama, I'm Swollen, the band's new full length. The release date is March 10 on Saddle Creek, of course (did you ever doubt?). The album was recorded last summer at ARC. According to the press release: "Wrestling with life's miseries and mysteries, Mama, I'm Swollen is an album brimming with the universal, questioning the human condition, social morality, and the 'Peter Pan Syndrome' of grown men." Not sure what that last part means, but I assume it's PR-speak for "It rocks!" The band's headed back to NYC in early March and then out west for a few shows, and of course, SXSW.

* * *

My thoughts on the Super Bowl: Arizona's defense choked on that last drive; and the bizarre pick for a touchdown at the end of the first half was nothing less than the Hand of the Football Gods making their wishes known.

As for halftime, I thought Bruce's performance was fine, a bit cheesy, but fine. I would have placed "Working on a Dream" in the middle and closed with "Born to Run," but Bruce seemed to know what he was doing (I also could have done without "It's Boss time!" but that's quibbling). So the list goes, Springsteen this year, before that, Tom Petty, Prince, The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, and then the infamous Justin Timberlake/Janet Jackson's tit debacle. U2 played it in 2002 (the Super Bowl, not Janet's nipple). The full list is here.

Who's left? Well, there's Dylan -- imagine how that would go over with the Super Bowl crowd. Zeppelin would be a natural, but that's out. That leaves Elton John/Billy Joel, Madonna, AC/DC, Metallica or someone from the C&W world. My suggestion: The Flaming Lips -- though completely unknown to the average football fan, Wayne Coyne could put on a spectacle that would never be forgotten. Instead, if Fox is broadcasting the game next year (I'm not sure who has the rights), look for an American Idol medley of "stars." Ugh.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Updates; Little Brazil, Malpais, The Ettes tonight… – Jan. 30, 2009 – twitter icon

Before we get to tonight's show schedule, here are a couple updates on items that ran this week in Lazy-i:

Jamie Massey, one of the new proprietors of The Sydney -- the bar that's taking over where Mick's used to be (story here) -- wrote to say that his new bar will indeed host live music.

"We will be doing some shows at some point … maybe not full-time like the Waiting Room, but keeping the option available since we have the means," Massey said. He went on to explain that the name wasn't derived from his love of Australia. "It was just an old bar in Sioux City that my grandparents would kick it at... For now we want to open as a place to hang out with decent prices and hopefully a good atmosphere."

Jamie still hasn't replied as to whether The Sydney will be serving Rolling Rock. Mick's didn't (and look what happened to it).

* * *

Chris Kramer, vocalist/guitarist in Stolen Kisses (reviewed here) and synth/guitar player in Talking Mountain, wrote to say that he's moving to Chicago at the end of February and that this past Tuesday's Darren Keen show was his last with Stolen Kisses. "I talked to the other guys in Stolen Kisses, and gave them my blessing to keep the band going," he wrote. "I think we've created a good happening, and I'd hate to see it end just because I had to leave."

Talking Mountain also will continue without Kramer, just as it did before he joined the band. His last show with TM will be next weekend at Box Awesome in Lincoln.

* * *

There are at least four good shows happening tonight. Here's the run-down.

-- The most crowded gig will be at O'Leaver's tonight for Little Brazil and The Dinks. Will this be the first show since Har Mar where there's a line outside the door of people waiting to get in? $5, 9:30 p.m.

-- A night of indie is in store at The Barley St. Tavern tonight with It's True, Oui Bandits, Adam Haug, Beati Paoli and Spring Acres. $5, 9 p.m.

-- Greg Loftis and his band Malpais is playing tonight at Slowdown Jr. with Flight Metaphor. See if any of the Kevin Costner vibe from last night wears off on the set. $7, 9 p.m.

-- Maybe the most interesting show of all is at The 49'r, where The Ettes are playing with Brimstone Howl. The Ettes are a New York trio with a garge-y sound that has toured with acts as diverse as New York Dolls, Holly Golightly, The Constantines, and The Black Keys. I'm digging their new album, Look at Life Again Soon. No idea on the cover. Show will probably start at around 9:30.

Saturday night is much quieter. The legendary Dereck Higgins is playing at The Barley St. with Paper Owls and Agronomo. $5, 9 p.m.

As for Sunday? My money's on Arizona. Don't let me down, Mr. Warner.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Column 207 -- Twittering it all away (and that belated Cursive review)… – Jan. 29, 2009 – twitter icon

The funny thing about Twitter is that -- like all social media -- people who know about it or use it think that everyone's using it. That flat-out simply isn't true. Twitter still seems to only be emerging now as something more than a one-to-many chat device for kids with too much time on their hands. It's become integrated into some consumer-targeted companies as an extension of their customer service / support function. For example, if you bitch about on Twitter, a Zappos guy may see it and contact you (My flat, flipper-like feet prevent me from buying shoes online). Airlines and local transit authorities are providing service updates via Twitter. And of course every ad firm in America is now trying to sell its clients on using Twitter to market their shit, presumably to a young, tech-savvy audience with a very short attention span.

I've yet to see it effectively used by bands or record labels. There are natural limitations to Twitter due to its inherent brevity, which seems to breed a perception of frivolity or insignificance to the very messages it communicates. Still, if used in a focused manner, it could become a timely vehicle for delivering news and other information, if not live music reviews…

Column 207: In a Twitter
The end of conversation.

Back in the old days -- a few short years ago -- just blogging was enough. People had a way of electronically publishing their ideas -- no matter how mundane -- in a format that was accessible to the entire world via the Internet. Bored college students in Toledo could now share their insights with bored college students in Gdansk about such nail-biting topics as: what they had for dinner, why they're pissed at their boyfriend/girlfriend, and what's on TV.

Now along comes Twitter. Well, not just now. Twitter's been around since 2006 (according to Wikipedia, which itself has been around since 2001), but it seems like no one started using it until last year. Oh sure, there were a couple Twitter pioneers (drones who will proudly boast that they've been Tweeting (the verb form) for years), but the technology -- and the term itself -- only just entered our vernacular in the past year or so (or mine, at least).

Brief tech discussion: Twitter is a browser-based "social networking" environment that limits its users to 140 characters per post. The limit is there, in part, to facilitate the use of cell phones as input devices, along with the web. It also forces people to strenuously self-edit themselves, to carefully hone their ideas to only the most critical few words. Each comment answers the universal question: What are you doing? The result: Briefer discussions about what's for dinner, boyfriends/girlfriends, and what's on TV.

Unlike blogs (but like Facebook, which is another slice of entropy altogether) people search Twitter for their friends, and then "follow" them. Twitter aggregates everyone you're "following" into one inane conversation, each comment conveniently time-stamped, something like:

Husker_power: Hungry. Taco Johns tonight fur shure. about 3 hours ago from TwitterBerry
Santinofan: Watching Top Chef. Ariane got screwed. Padme where are you? about 5 hours ago from web

And so on. Twitter appears to be a natural de-evolution of human interaction. Soon all discussions will be limited to Tarzan-like grunts, culminating in: "Poop. Pee. Eat. Poop. Screw. Eat. Simpsons. Poop."

So why all this discussion about Twitter? About six months ago, I logged onto Twitter for the first time. You can "follow" my tweeting online at: I quickly discovered that "micro-blogging" has its advantages. Take CD reviews, for instance. Instead of spending hours writing gripping, nuanced examinations of an album's true meaning, I only have room for:

tim_mcmahan: Listening to the new Ladyfinger album. Brutal fun.


tim_mcmahan: Listening to new Springsteen. Nothing new here *yawn*.

Conversely, Twitter allows bands, record labels and assorted famous folk to keep in touch with their fans. I now know what The Willowz (thewillowz), Saddle Creek Records (saddlecreek) and Lance Armstrong (lancearmstrong) are having for lunch. For better or worse.

One perceived value of Twitter is the real-time nature of the medium. Instead of text messaging to one person, you're text messaging to all of your "followers" at once. To test Twitters' capabilities and limitations, I took my iPhone to Slowdown last Saturday night for the Cursive concert and annoyed everyone within a few feet of me by tapping in the following comments throughout the evening. Here's the transcript/review:

tim_mcmahan: Full house. I'm buying Rolling Rocks two at a time. 10:34 PM Jan 24th from mobile web

tim_mcmahan: House music is Michael Jackson, or at least it sounds like Jacko. 10:37 PM

tim_mcmahan: Nice. Kasher's voice sounds husky. 10:57 PM

tim_mcmahan: Classic Kasher rant. "Bark bark bark." 11:11 PM

tim_mcmahan: Seems like they're working trumpet into every song these days. For better or worse. 11:14 PM

tim_mcmahan: Some of this new stuff sounds like The Good Life. The convergence keeps getting closer. 11:31 PM

tim_mcmahan: Halfway through the set. Ted Stevens finally switches from the 12-string to his LP. 11:34 PM

tim_mcmahan: Kasher says he's got a sore throat and is drinking hot tea. He sounds fine. 11:41 PM

tim_mcmahan: "What Have I Done." Kasher's back to the self-referential lyrics. Songs about writing songs. 11:44 PM

tim_mcmahan: His most soulful song since Domestica. 11:46 PM

tim_mcmahan: Cornbread on drums changes the entire complexion of Cursive. They swing now, moreso than the old frontal assault of Schnase. 11:54 PM

tim_mcmahan: Off stage now. Encore's next. This is a longer set than Union Hall. 11:55 PM

tim_mcmahan: Back. With "Art is Hard." Crowd loves it. Kasher's right. Mostly kids huddled along the stage. 11:59 PM

tim_mcmahan: Never get tired of hearing "The Martyr." 12:04 AM

tim_mcmahan: Okay, now his voice is giving out. 12:06 AM

tim_mcmahan: Struggling through "Sierra." The last song of the night. 12:11 AM

tim_mcmahan: Kasher takes over the drum kit. 12:13 AM

tim_mcmahan: That's it. Kasher won't be talking for a week. 12:14 AM

Just like being there? Not really. Looking over the comments the following morning, I wondered if they needed to be augmented with explanations, but realized that anyone who knows me and what I write about understands the shorthand. They know who Kasher and Cursive is. They know the song titles and the terminology. And if they don't, they can always find out. On Myspace or Facebook. On YouTube. On Wikipedia. Or on Twitter, which is effectively shoe-horning the world into a conversation that's only 140 characters wide. For better or worse.

* * *

The Black Squirrels are playing tonight at The Waiting Room with Robin James Hurt and Lincoln Dickison (Monroes, Bombardment Society). $7, 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Live Review: Darren Keen, Stolen Kisses… – Jan. 28, 2009 – twitter icon

I've been following Darren Keen's career for years, since 2003 when I first interviewed him as The Show Is the Rainbow. TSITR shows are mad, freak-out events, part dance party, part performance art, part AV extravaganza. TSITR recordings and performances have been inaccurately compared to Har Mar Superstar because of their sheer mad-cap quality even though TSITR leans more toward experimental-noise-rap than HMS's comedy-dance-underwear shows.

That said, last night's CD release show for Darren Keen -- not TSITR -- was the most entertaining thing I've seen/heard Keen perform -- a straight-up psychedelic rock show with a bit of standup/personal confession/monologue tossed in between songs. Keen approaches songwriting in a way that so few non-Creek local singer-songwriters are able to -- he writes about his life and how he's living it. His songs aren't cliché, made-up rock fantasies, but small scenes from his personal reality. We got about 45 minutes of Keen singing about crushes suffered at Urban Outfitters, being broke and in debt, drug fantasies in Germany, messages to his mother, bizarre love triangles and other moments from his everyday sordid life.

TSITR fans may not be aware of this, but anyone who remembers Musico knows that Keen is something of a guitar virtuoso -- a real showman. And he's smart enough to surround himself with other virtuosos on keyboards and drums. So while his new record is a somewhat restrained, stripped down, keyboard-dominated affair, the live rendition is pure rock spectacle. And I loved it.

The irony (to me, anyway) is that Keen as TSITR just signed to Retard Disco Records (Gravy Train!!!, Hawnay Troof) and has a new TSITR album coming out this spring, which means he'll be stuck touring his one-man show for the next six months or so, and neglecting the music that I heard last night. Is this merely a Keen side project in the vein of Sean Na Na? If so, it'd be a shame.

I did catch most of the Stolen Kisses' set. Here's a four-piece that consists of guys dressed in collared shirts and sweaters, tweed jacket and turtleneck, playing '60s-style garage rock that recalls early Velvets and MC5 and the bands that influenced them. We're talking stuff like "This Magic Moment," and "My Baby Does the Hanky Panky." I thoroughly dug it, but from what I gleaned by comments made on stage, some of the band's members might be moving away. I don't know that for a fact, but if it's true, it's another shame.

* * *

Column 207 -- about Twitter -- will appear tomorrow. Sorry about the delay.

BTW, if you were thinking of going to that Kevin Costner show at Slowdown tomorrow night, you're all out of luck.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Darren Keen tonight; Mick's closes, Sydney opens… – Jan. 27, 2009 – twitter icon

How to describe Slumberparty, the new album by Darren Keen, the mastermind behind The Show Is the Rainbow… Personal? Introspective? Homemade? Tuneful? Glistening? All those words seem to fit, but not really.

In Keen's interview with Kevin Coffey in the OWH (here), he said he was trying to make a singer-songwriter record, but that Slumberparty wasn't it. "It's kinda like psychedelic singer-songwriter music," he said. It's experimental, but in its own way, less experimental than TSITR. In fact, tunes on the album sport more-focused central melodies, my favorite being "Fun Buddy," with the line, "Well I don't know what I did / Would you show me?" I can't wait to see how Darren belts it out tonight at the album's release party at The Waiting Room. Joining him will be Slumber Party label mates Honeybee, Stolen Kisses & DJ Kobrakyle. $7, 9 p.m.

Speaking of the OWH, I just noticed that another article appeared in the paper last Friday announcing that Mick's is closing and reopening as "The Sydney," a "neighborhood bar." The new owners were identified as Pinkerton Properties, which includes Jamie Massey of Ladyfinger/Race for Titles fame. The owners reiterated that although they're keeping the PA, The Sydney (Aussie theme?) won't be a music venue. I recently discussed the wisdom of opening a new neighborhood bar in the already crowded Benson market with one of the area's bar owners. His take: It'll be a huge success. We'll see.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Cursive Twit review; the return of Dave Shouse (Grifters, Those Bastard Souls)… – Jan. 26, 2009 – twitter icon

The review of Saturday night's Cursive show will be this week's column (about the plusses and minuses of Twitter), so look for it on Wednesday. If you can't wait that long (and who could?) the review's skeleton is on Twitter now, here. The Twitter entries were written in "real time" as a sort of experiment. I'll probably begin to do this at most shows I attend (though detailed reviews will end up blogged at Lazy-i the following day). If you have a Twitter account, go ahead and "follow" me.

* * *

Once upon a time, there was a Memphis band that formed in the early '90s called The Grifters. You may remember them. They put out their seminal album in 1995 on Shangra-La Records, a head-trip called Crappin' You Negative. They switched to Sub Pop in '96 for Ain't My Lookout and Full Blow Possession in 1997. In '96, Grifters guitarist/vocalist Dave Shouse formed Those Bastard Souls, which released one of my favorite records, Debt & Departure on V2 records in 1999. Shouse followed that project with Bloodthirsty Lovers, which put a self-titled album in 2003 followed by Delicate Seam on Frenchkiss Records in 2004.

Then Shouse sort of disappeared. Or at least I lost track of him. I sent him an e-mail a couple years ago, asking what he was up to, and he replied saying he was working on something that wasn't quite ready for public consumption. Then this weekend, I got another e-mail from Shouse, saying:

Scott Taylor & I are back playing together in The New Mary Jane. Just got a few tunes up on MySpace page & soon to post more. Just wanted to let you know that we're still making music down here.

In addition to Taylor, who also was a member of Grifters, New Mary Jane includes John Argroves on drums/vocals, and James Godwin on bass/vocals/synth. The tracks on their myspace page have that same trippy, psychedelic yet almost slacker-heroic indie rock style that The Grifters were known for. Looks like they're currently unsigned (labels, get your checkbooks out).

There's two bands from the '90s that I regret never having seen play live. The first was Silkworm. Well, a couple surviving members of that band, guitarist Andy Cohen and baritone guitarist Tim Midgett, went on to form Bottomless Pit with drummer Chris Manfrin of Seam in 2007. I'm told they're working on a new album as we speak, so maybe we'll get them to come through town in this new incarnation. It's not the same, but it's the next best thing.

The other band I regret having never seen live was The Grifters. Now somebody needs to book New Mary Jane when they finally get their album out and hit the road.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Where is Cursive (other than at Slowdown tonight and tomorrow)? (UPDATED) – Jan. 23, 2009 –

For those of you heading to Cursive tonight and tomorrow at Slowdown (both shows are sold out), here's sort of a preview in the form of a sweet review of their Jan. 18 Union Hall show in NYC, published in, that includes a set list. Looks like the band is playing five songs from their forthcoming album Mama, I'm Swollen. The question that comes to mind: What's the status of this new album? There's no mention of a specific release date on or even more curiously -- In fact, is Saddle Creek even releasing this album? I've yet to see anything indicating that they are in any of their email newsletters or on their site. Let's hope for Creek's sake that my prediction isn't coming true…

***UPDATE: Saddle Creek's Jason Kulbel just confirmed that Mama, I'm Swollen will indeed be released on Saddle Creek Records, though the release date has yet to be set.***

Tonight's show sold out first and rather quickly. I didn't even get a ticket. The reason could be because the openers -- Son Ambulance and It's True -- are more well-known than tomorrow night's openers, Bald Eagle and Fortnight (I did get tickets to that one). Both shows should be legendary.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Beep Beep, Yuppies, Cursive headed to SXSW; Column 206 is (sort of) a rerun... – Jan. 22, 2009 –

Three Omaha bands are listed on the South by Southwest website as "official showcase bands": Beep Beep, Cursive and Yuppies. I think this list will only get bigger as we get closer to the event, which is March 18-22 in Austin. You can keep track of the list as it grows right here. No word yet as to whether Saddle Creek or Team Love will be hosting a showcase this year…

* * *

The Modern Age and Rock, Paper, Dynamite are at Slowdown Jr. tonight. $5, 9 p.m.

* * *

This week's column is a consolidation of three or four blog entries from the week prior, so if you're a regular Lazy-i reader, you've seen it all before. I include it here merely for documentarian purposes…

Column 206: Headline Rippers
News from the 'net

Here’s a recap of some news that went down last week that's been burning up the Interwebs.

* * *

Sounds like the Box Elders -- everyone's favorite Omaha garage-punk trio -- annihilated Brooklyn music venue Market Hotel Jan. 10, according to "Box Elders left a lasting impression and had the whole, sold-out, Brooklyn room going crazy," said the reviewer. And apparently Gerard Cosloy was in the house. Cosloy, who started Matador Records with Chris Lombardi in 1990, listed Box Elder's "Hole In My Head" 7-inch on his year-end list of favorite recordings. Will the trio become label mates with Times New Viking? Stay tuned.

* * *

According to a press release from Nettwerk Music Group, Maria Taylor's third solo album, LadyLuck, will be released April 7 on Nettwerk. "Teaming up with producer friends Andy LeMaster (Bright Eyes, Azure Ray and a host of Saddle Creek label mates), Mike Mogis and Lukas Burton and featuring collaborations with Michael Stipe, Nate Walcott of Bright Eyes and Mckenzie Smith of Midlake, LadyLuck showcases Taylor's ability to pull at your heart strings while proving she's not a woman down on her luck," said the release. Two tracks from the album became available on iTunes Jan. 13.

I'm told Nettwerk has handled Taylor's management for years. A Canadian company, the label has released music by Great Lake Swimmers, HEM, Guster, Sarah McLachlan, Skinny Puppy, Ladytron, Josh Rouse, and Single Gun Theory, among others. Interestingly, Nettwerk has a history of fighting the RIAA, and has even offered to pay legal fees to defendants being sued for downloading. According to Wiki: "Nettwerk is one of the first major music companies to abolish DRM, releasing songs in the unrestricted MP3 format, as well as the lossless FLAC and Apple Lossless formats."

It's a shame to see any act leave Saddle Creek, but this shouldn't be a big surprise to the label, considering Taylor's past relationship with Nettwerk. I figured Orenda Fink/Art in Manila would be the first to jump ship. Is this a body-blow to Saddle Creek? Well, anytime you lose a performer of Taylor's caliber, it's gotta hurt.

* * *

Speaking of Orenda, up until this past week, Saddle Creek continued to secretly market (now there's an oxymoron for you) a project called O+S. Creek's December e-mail update listed a full-length from O+S as a future release. At the time, I asked Creek who/what O+S is, and was told "More info to come" from Creek exec Jason Kulbel. Meanwhile, Saddle Creek twittered cryptic messages to its followers, like: "can't wait for you to hear the new O+S album! you're going to love it!"

Well, O+S was revealed last week as a new project by Orenda Fink -- the "O" -- and Scalpelist, aka Cedric Lemoyne of Remy Zero -- the "S." College Music Journal reported on it Monday: "The collaboration originally began with Fink's residency at the Bemis Center of Contemporary Arts in Omaha," CMJ said. "As part of the residency experiment, Fink collected odd sounds on travels from Omaha to Haiti, and eventually asked LeMoyne, her friend for nearly 20 years, to help organize it all. LeMoyne was soon sampling and looping the recordings, ultimately crafting the disparate noises into pop song structures for the two to write songs around."

Look for the album on March 24. The reaction? Disappointment by those who were hoping the O stood for Oberst.

* * *

Flipping through the latest issue of Rolling Stone (which now resembles a copy of Us magazine, I still haven't figured out how to cancel my subscription) I noticed former Omahan Mike Jaworski's Mt. Fuji label mentioned in David Fricke's column. Fricke was shelling out praise for the Whore Moans, a Seattle band that just released its new album -- Hello from the Radio Wasteland -- on Mt. Fuji. Said Fricke, "...the Whore Moans are steadfast believers in loud-fast salvation, or what they call in one power-cord catapult, 'The Holy Fu**ing Moment.' This album has plenty." Nice.

* * *

Tim Kasher talked about getting older in an interview with the Youngstown Vindicator. "Why do people have to act so old?" said Kasher, in the article. "The problem is we all get older, but generally for Americans -- and not myself -- going out to see shows becomes something younger people do, which it doesn't have to be that way. So I think it means more to us when 30-year-olds are into [our music]. Not to dismiss teenagers: When you write and play this umbrella genre of rock ’n’ roll, that’s who listens to it, teenagers."

Kasher went on to say in the article that, believe it or not, he and his band mates were once teen-agers but are now in their 30s. "And it’s not like we’re playing some antiquated music that we don’t believe anymore," he said. "We’re still doing the same things that we believed in then. So I guess it means more to us when there are 30-year-olds who actually have been with us the whole time. I don’t think there are many of them, frankly."

Well, something tells me Kasher will see more than his share this weekend as he and the rest of Cursive play sold-out shows at The Slowdown Friday and Saturday nights. This old guy will be among them.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Yuppies/Noah's Ark 7-inch; Slumber Party free stuff; upcoming CD release shows... – Jan. 21, 2009 –

Some music news on a sleepy Wednesday after Obama...

Dutch Hall Records has released a split 7-inch by Yuppies and Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship. Catalog No. 002 joins No. 001 -- a single by Perry H. Matthews called "From the Brohouse." Copies are available at The Antiquarium and, of course, at the respective bands' shows. According to their Myspace page (where you can also order the singles), Dutch Hall also is affiliated with The Pistol Brothers, Civil Ground, My Dream Scientist, Ryan Prinz, Paul Hansen, Conchance and Noah Sterba. Seems like new labels just keep popping up around here.

Speaking of record labels, Slumber Party Records just posted the third of its weekly "New Thing" downloads at their website. The song by Stolen Kisses, "My Oh My Hanky Panky," is Chris Kramer of Talking Mountain doing his best Tommy James and the Shondells tribute. Nice. The free download joins singles by My Pal Dragon (Matt from Thunder Power) and Honeybee. Get 'em; they're freakin' free.

While you're on the SP site, check out a couple tracks from Darren Keen's new LP, titled Slumberparty Records (here). Keen will be celebrating the CD's release (on his own It Ar Good label) at TWR next Tuesday with Honeybee, Stolen Kisses, & DJ Kobrakyle.

And speaking of upcoming release shows, here are three more to add to your calendar:

-- Hyannis's CD release show for In a Car is Feb. 6 at Slowdown, with Brimstone Howl, Outlaw Con Bandana and The Night Gallery. $5 gets you in the door and a copy of the disc.

-- Ladyfinger will be celebrating the release of their latest Saddle Creek full-length, Dusk, Feb. 21 at Slowdown. The disc actually hits the bins Feb. 3. I've heard it -- it's smokin'!

-- Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies will celebrate the long-awaited release of their debut CD Feb. 28 at Slowdown.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Obama-rama... – Jan. 20, 2009 –

Nothing to report as we all celebrate Obama Day, other than... I caught the Obama pre-inaugural music bash last night on HBO. There, standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, was Little Johnny Cougar, Bon Jovi, Garth Brooks, Little Stevie Wonder, Sheryl Crow, Herbie Hancock, Springsteen, U2, and I was starkly reminded what generation Obama comes from. I wonder who put together the program's line-up. Something tells me the new Commander in Chief had nothing to do with it. I hope I'm right.

And is it me or is Bono starting to look like Robin Williams?

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Live Review: M83; Mt. Fuji in Stone; Reagan/Rayguns tonight; Lazy-i giveaway winners... – Jan. 19, 2009 –

M83 last night at Slowdown went down pretty much as expected. Actually, that's not true. I went thinking that there may be a bit more theatrics in their staging. After all, they're competing with acts like Sigur Rós, Godspeed! You Black Emperor, and considering the dance/pop nature of some of their songs, The Faint. So it was a bit disappointing to see the only stage accoutrement was a large M83 curtain hanging from the rafters. I also expected a smaller turnout. Someone posted on the webboard last week that only 100 tickets were sold. I would guesstimate that there was maybe three times that number in the crowd -- a respectable turnout except when you consider that M83 is selling out in other cities on this tour.

Their sound, however, was no surprise at all. At the center was mastermind Anthony Gonzales on keyboards, electric guitar, Mac (judging by the glowing Apple logo that stood out like a beacon atop his hardware rack) and vocals. Standing across from him behind an opposing battery of synths was the amazing Morgan Kibby. Add a drummer and bass and you've got a full band that made a note-perfect recreation of the dense, atmospheric, dreamy music heard on M83 albums. M83 is a must for anyone into synth-powered ambient shoe-gazer stuff from bands like those mentioned above as well as The Cure, Roxy Music, Eno, My Bloody Valentine, Cocteau Twins, and stylized synth-dance acts like Ladytron and Junior Boys. Their sheer enormity and their unabashed penchant for '80s synth sounds make them stand out from the crowd. There is a tension and drama to M83's music, which makes the Mogwai/Sigur/Kevin Shields comparisons easy; there's also a knack for Eno-esque repeated phrasings that build to glittering, crashing crescendos. In fact, their music is so naturally theatrical that a complementary lighting show is a must. It certainly would have helped get the crowd into the music -- the bowl in front of the stage was filled with blank-eyed, mesmerized stares, seemingly oblivious to the dance beats.

It was probably the best-sounding show I've heard on Slowdown's big stage -- gorgeous and balanced and not too loud. They played for about an hour before coming back for one 15-minute encore that ended with a shimmering fade played from an empty stage.

* * *

Flipping through the latest issue of Rolling Stone (which now resembles a copy of Us magazine, I still haven't figured out how to cancel my subscription) I noticed former Omahan Mike Jaworski's Mt. Fuji label mentioned in David Fricke's column. Fricke was shelling out praise for the Whore Moans, a Seattle band that just released its new album -- Hello from the Radio Wasteland -- on Mt. Fuji. Said Fricke, "...the Whore Moans are steadfast believers in loud-fast salvation, or what they call in one power-cord catapult, 'The Holy Fucking Moment,' This album has plenty." Nice.

* * *

Tonight, a special Martin Luther King Jr. spectacular at O'Leaver's featuring Reagan and the Rayguns, Local Natives, The Union Line and Voxhaul Broadcast. One wonders if Reagan will recite the "I Have a Dream" speech over a sample of's "Yes We Can." Now that's hope I can believe in… 9 p.m., $5.

* * *

And last but not least, here are the winners in the Lazy-i Best of 2008 Sampler giveaway:

Ryan Hinderaker, Chicago
Helen Gassmann, Hamburg, PA
Bart L. Parks, Omaha

Congratulations! I'll be dropping your CDs in the mail tomorrow. And thanks to everyone who entered.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

O+S revealed; Kasher's getting old; last chance to win; SStM's last show; Box Elders Saturday; M83 Sunday... – Jan. 16, 2009 –

First, within an hour after posting yesterday's blog entry, Lincoln music expert and man-about-town Jeremy Buckley posted a comment on my webboard with all the details about O+S (here). Judging by the number of profile views on their myspace page, I'm the last to know about Orenda's new project. Lord only knows why Saddle Creek is keeping them on the down low -- there's no mention of O+S on the Creek site, despite the fact that the album hits the streets in March.

* * *

Tim Kasher talks about getting older in a new interview at the Youngstown Vindicator (here). From the article: "Why do people have to act so old," said Kasher, laughing while calling from Santa Monica, Calif. "The problem is we all get older, but generally for Americans — and not myself — going out to see shows becomes something younger people do, which it doesn't have to be that way. So I think it means more to us when 30-year-olds are into [our music]. Not to dismiss teenagers: When you write and play this umbrella genre of rock ’n’ roll, that’s who listens to it, teenagers.
"We were teenagers, and now we’re in our 30s. And it’s not like we’re playing some antiquated music that we don’t believe anymore. We’re still doing the same things that we believed in then. So I guess it means more to us when there are 30-year-olds who actually have been with us the whole time. I don’t think there are many of them, frankly."

I remember when I was a teenager listening to albums with my headphones and thinking how much I'd miss music when I got older because there was this thought that "old people" don't listen to music, that rock was for teen-agers only. Certainly my dad didn't listen to rock music. The same backward thinking applies to rock shows -- when are you too old to go see a band (other than a dinosaur act at the Qwest Center)? Is it when your friends quit going to shows? Or when you have kids and reprioritize your life so that music no longer plays a role? Well, my old friends don't go to shows anymore, so I made new friends. I can't speak to the issue of getting married and having a family. I can say that a lot of people I know put music away when their children arrived and use their family life as an excuse for not going out any more (or doing anything creative, for that matter). So be it. Chances are even if they didn't have kids they would have quit going to shows anyway. Rare is the person who can continue to "get into" new music (and not just what they grew up with) after they reach their 30s. That's just the way it is.

* * *

Lazy-i Best of 2009Which is a good segue into letting you know that today is the last day you can enter to win a copy of the Lazy-i Best of 2008 CD Sampler! I started putting together samplers 12 years ago as a way of sharing new music with friends and family who either don't have the time or the resources to hear new music. And now you can become part of that "inner circle." Just send me an e-mail (to with your name and mailing address and you'll be entered into a drawing for a free copy. Tracks include songs by Silver Jews, David Byrne/Brian Eno, Conor Oberst, Jenny Lewis, UUVVWWZ, Deerhunter, M83, Taking Mountain, Neva Dinova, Dan McCarthy, Tilly and the Wall and more. Full track listing is here. Enter today. Deadline is tomorrow, and I'll be announcing the winners on Monday.

* * *

There's a very special show tonight at Slowdown Jr. -- the last-ever performance by Sleep Said the Monster. I got an email from Karl Houfek of SStM a couple weeks ago saying the band may return in a different incarnation at some point, but that Chris Rivera (drummer) is moving to Miami soon and "we're either going to pack it in as a band or get a fresh start with a new name." Houfek is pretty busy these days as a member of both Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies and It's True. Helping send off SStM in style will be Deleted Scenes and Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship. $7, 9 p.m.
Also going on tonight, The Filter Kings play at The Waiting Room (headliner Joe Buck Yourself cancelled). With Weezil Skweezins Or Whatever. $5, 9 p.m.

Over at The Saddle Creek Bar it's John Klemmensen (Landing on the Moon) with Jes Winter and Black on High. $5, 9 p.m.

* * *

Tomorrow night at Slowdown Jr. it's the victorious return of Box Elders after a successful East Coast tour. Also on the bill is Girls of Gravitron, Yuppies and The Contrails. $7, 9 p.m.

It's another night of punk at the Saddle Creek Bar Saturday night with The Upsets, Jealous Lovers and Cordial Spew. $5, 9 p.m.

OEA winner for best cover/tribute band The Song Remains the Same plays at The Waiting Room Saturday night with Tenclub, a Pearl Jam tribute band. $7, 9 p.m.

Finally, Sunday night is M83 at Slowdown with Fine Fine Automobiles (Landon Hedges). Tickets are still available for $15.

* * *

One final non-music-related note: The closing of the Cinema Center yesterday garnered a lot of coverage in the local press that included dollops of nostalgia and reminiscing, and that's fine. Missing from the coverage, however, was the fact that Cinema Center had one of the largest (if not thee largest) movie theater auditorium in Omaha, designed to old-school specs that made going to a movie feel like going to an event. Cinema Center's huge No. 1 aud could fit well over 600 patrons and was only rivaled by the long, lost Indian Hills for sheer size. There's nothing like seeing a movie in a sold-out theater that enormous. These days, the average theater auditorium capacity is miniscule in comparison, thanks to the advent of stadium seating. Sure, we're more comfortable, but it just ain't the same.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Maria Taylor leaves Saddle Creek; Who/what is O+S?; Tapes 'N Tapes, Little Brazil tonight... – Jan. 15, 2009 –

According to a press release from Nettwerk Music Group received this past Monday, Maria Taylor's third solo album, LadyLuck, will be released April 7 on Nettwerk. "Teaming up with producer friends Andy LeMaster (Bright Eyes, Azure Ray and a host of Saddle Creek label mates), Mike Mogis and Lukas Burton and featuring collaborations with Michael Stipe, Nate Walcott of Bright Eyes and Mckenzie Smith of Midlake, LadyLuck showcases Taylor's ability to pull at your heart strings while proving she's not a woman down on her luck," said the release. Two tracks from the album will be available on iTunes Jan. 13, and listeners can get a sneak peak right now at

I'm told Nettwerk has handled Taylor's management for years. A Canadian company, Nettwerk has released music by Great Lake Swimmers, HEM, Guster, Sarah McLachlan, Skinny Puppy, Ladytron, Josh Rouse, and Single Gun Theory, among others. (Interestingly, Nettwerk has a history of fighting the RIAA, and has even offered to pay legal fees to defendants being sued for downloading. According to Wiki: "Nettwerk is one of the first major music companies to abolish DRM, releasing songs in the unrestricted MP3 format, as well as the lossless FLAC and Apple Lossless formats.")

It's a shame to see any act leave Saddle Creek, but this shouldn't be a big surprise to the label, considering her past relationship with Nettwerk. In all honesty, I figured Orenda Fink/Art in Manila would be the first to jump ship. Is this a body-blow to Saddle Creek? Well, anytime you lose a performer of Taylor's caliber, it's gotta hurt.

Meanwhile, Creek continues to secretly market (now there's an oxymoron for you) a project called O+S. Creek's December e-mail update listed a full-length from O+S as a future release. I asked Creek who/what O+S is, and was told "More info to come" from Creek exec Jason Kulbel. Meanwhile, Saddle Creek twittered the following message to its followers this morning: "can't wait for you to hear the new O+S album! you're going to love it!" The plot thickens...

* * *

The weekend starts early tonight at The Waiting Room as XL recording artist Tapes 'N Tapes performs with Wild Light and our very own Little Brazil. $12, 9 p.m.

And speaking of shows, last night I bought my ticket to the Jan. 24 Cursive show at Slowdown. For Just $5. If you want to go you better get your ticket toot-sweet. The Friday, Jan. 23, show has already sold out.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Column 205: Visions of '09 (Pt. 2); Box Elders blow up NYC... – Jan. 14, 2009 –

Here's part 2:

Column 205: Visions of '09 (Pt. 2)
The lightning round.

Someone came up to me at the bar after reading Part 1 (which appeared in last week's issue of The Reader) and painstakingly tried to explain why my first installment of "Visions of '09" was pure balderdash, how my prediction that terrestrial radio would perish in the flames of Wi-Fi/3G/WiMax-enabled Internet radio was impossible because not only would it require that the RIAA and record labels agree to let SJs (which stands for Stream Jockeys, the modern-day DJs who program internet radio and podcasts) play "their" music unhindered, but that ASCAP and BMI and every other music mafia organization would have to acquiesce as well, not to mention bands like Metallica, which have been fighting to get every spare ruble out of its trailer-park-loving fans' pockets since back in the Napster days and blah-blah-blah-blah-blah…

At which point I had to explain, again, that although these predictions can be uncannily accurate (check the scorecard for the '08 predictions), they are written for ENTERTAINMENT purposes; that I don't actually have a crystal ball or reverse Wayback Machine or closet of magic fortune cookies filled with riddles that reveal the future. It's all for fun, see. And maybe if I know something that you don't know and happen to slip that into the mix along with the obvious crazy stuff, well so be it. Sometimes visions are guesses, sometimes they're warnings, sometimes they're hopes, but once in a while they're dead right.

So last week was the more cerebral predictions; this week is the lightning round. Hold on, here we go:

-- Saddle Creek watched as two of its three crown jewels flew the coop in '08 – The Faint and Conor Oberst (though Bright Eyes probably will release something on Creek again, some day). To add to their woes, one of Tim Kasher's bands – either Cursive or The Good Life – will release an album somewhere other than Saddle Creek. But don't worry. The label will pull out a secret project this year that will not only blow your mind but also outsell every one of its past releases.

-- The economy will continue to take its toll on Omaha's music venues as another well-known club will switch hands (and yes, someone will eventually buy Mick's, but not this year). Meanwhile, an already-established venue will become red hot by hosting the ultimate celebrity open-mike night. PS: A West Omaha club will catch traction among the indie crowd.

-- Just as Marc Leibowitz and Jim Johnson began to book shows in the shadow of the Ranch Bowl's Matt Markel, another young entrepreneur will launch a promotion company to compete with One Percent Productions, booking underground, fringe and indie acts that have eluded the Omaha market. Initially the new "company" will focus on venues not locked down by Marc and Jim, but eventually it will nose its way into downtown and Benson clubs.

-- Bands we'll be talking about this time next year: Box Elders, Pavement, Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies, Cursive, U2, Titus Andronicus, Spoon, The Show Is the Rainbow, Replacements, Outlaw Con Bandana, Liz Phair, Talking Mountain, Alessi's Ark, Jake Bellows, Little Brazil, Denver Dalley, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fullblown.

-- Bands we won't be talking about this time next year: Girl Talk, Okkervil River, The Faint, Bright Eyes, My Morning Jacket, Nickelback, Britney, Kanye, Animal Collective, Nine Inch Nails, Radiohead, Of Montreal, Metallica, British divas.

-- Conor Oberst will break the hearts of thousands of his female fans.

-- One of the city's three renowned downtown record stores – Drastic Plastic, The Antiquarium or Homer's Old Market – will close its doors. Meanwhile, huge national retailers like Best Buy, Wal-Mart and Target will continue to reduce shelf space for CDs as they quietly get out of the music business.

-- One of Omaha's under-the-radar record labels – Slumber Party, Slo-Fi, It Are Good, I'm Drinking This, Boom Chick, Speed! Nebraska or a new label TBA – will gain national attention when one of its bands breaks on a national level.

-- Due to the death of one of its members, we will say goodbye to one of the few remaining all-time classic rock acts that originated in the '60s and is (was) still performing today. The loss will be recognized as the passing of an era.

-- ARC Studios will host an arena-level superstar to record his/her next album.

-- Yet another 2-hour radio show will launch on one of city's stations that will feature locally produced music along with top-flight indie bands.

-- In an effort to attract new blood to the OEA's music category, one of this year's OEA showcases will be held at Slowdown.

-- A new online music news source will launch this year that will complement existing online blogs and webboards, but will actively compete with printed outlets for precious advertising revenue. The new website/blog/social media site will offer podcasts, videos, mp3 downloads, live streams and a Twitter feed, and will have a staff large enough to rival the local alt weeklies.

-- In an effort to bring more (younger) culture to the White House, President Obama will announce a one-day concert that will feature some of the hottest indie and hip-hop acts performing alongside the biggest names in rock and jazz. The event will become a cultural touchstone along the lines of Woodstock or the Monterey Pop Festival.

-- Instead of appearing on one of the usual late-night talk shows, a local band will break into television by scoring a commercial that will make one of its songs as notorious as Feist's Apple commercial or Of Montreal's Outback Steakhouse ads.

* * *

Sounds like the Box Elders annihilated Market Hotel in NYC last Saturday night, according to this item at "Box Elders left a lasting impression and had the whole, sold-out, Brooklyn room going crazy," says the reviewer. Check out the snaps from the show. Apparently Matador's Gerard Cosloy was in the house. We already know that he's a fan. Will Omaha's favorite garage-punk trio become labelmates with Times New Viking? Stay tuned.

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The odds are in your favor... – Jan. 13, 2009 –

You'll never have a better chance of winning a one-of-a-kind hand-made collectible Lazy-i "Best of..." sampler CD than this year. I guess all my talk about people giving up on CDs has translated into the low number of entries for the 2008 comp giveaway -- and no, it's not a question of declining readership, as hits to the site are at the same robust level that they've been at for years. Hey, maybe people think the track listing sucks? Not likely, not with artists like UUVVWWZ, McCarthy Trenching, The Faint, Conor Oberst, Deerhunter, David Byrne/Brian Eno, Silver Jews, Neva Dinova, Tilly and the Wall, Tokyo Police Club, Titus Andronicus, M83, Jenny Lewis, Brad Hoshaw and Talking Mountain (among others). Check out the full track listing yourself, then send me an email (to with your name and mailing address. Hurry. Deadline is Saturday, Jan. 17.

Tomorrow, Part 2 of Visions of '09 (Read the controversial Part 1 here).

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Backed-up Slowdown back up... – Jan. 12, 2009 –

Slowdown is back to normal after a rather messy weekend. Bar owner Jason Kulbel confirmed that things got a little out of hand at last Friday night's Girl Talk show. Some geniuses decided it would be fun to shove rolls of toilet paper into the toilets and back up the plumbing. Slowdown personnel and plumbers worked on the problem overnight and figured they had it all fixed the following day. They didn't find out until after show time Saturday that they still had a problem, and had to cancel after it started. Needless to say, the beer was flowing again on Sunday. Good thing, too, because Slowdown will be finishing this week strong with Deleted Scenes, Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship and the last-ever show by Sleep Said the Monster on Friday, Box Elders on Saturday and M83 on Sunday (I'm surprised it hasn't sold out yet).

I missed Girl Talk mainly because it had been marketed as a "dance party." And while I love dance music, everyone is better off if I just kept my dancing to myself. GT's mash-ups are a lot of fun, though they border on novelty (kind of like Dickie Goodman's "Mr Jaws," but without the narrative -- fun the first few times through, but then the joke gets old). I spent Saturday night hanging out at The Saddle Creek Bar, where I heard a dirty set of punkish rock by The Fu*ken Snakes, and what can be described as "ear-piercing experimental noise collage with a static beat" by headliner El Diablos Blancos. Show draw: Maybe 30, not including the performers. I had fun...

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OEA's: Winners and sinners... – Jan. 9, 2009 –

Ah, the OEA's…

A few weeks ago, maybe it was months ago, someone involved in the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards (OEA's) asked me what they could do to attract the younger indie bands to the organization's events -- specifically their showcases, etc. This guy was referring to the Hotel Frank/Slumber Party Records bands as well as the usual Creek/Team Love bands. I told him I didn't know. That there may be a perception that the OEA's are an "establishment" organization focused on conservative, establishment entertainment. In other words, those bands may think the OEA's aren't "cool," or for that matter, that awards and competition among bands is kind of stupid.

But after last night's show, I think they may be staying away because they think the OEA's are for old people. The average age of the folks on stage last night was probably around 50. Emcee Dave Webber, with his "case of crab" jokes and running updates on the Florida/Oklahoma game, certainly gave the show a "sitting at home with grandpa" charm. Then there was this seemingly endless parade of honorees in their 60s (or older), carefully being led on stage to accept their awards, telling stories of days long gone by. Afterward, Webber would come back to the podium and say something like, "Isn't she wonderful? We worked together in the late early '60s." Even the crowd seemed older. Most of the people seated near us in the balcony were late-middle-aged or older, except for two young girls seated to my left who screamed every time Emphatic's name was mentioned. They left looking rather dejected after the last category inwhich they were nominated.

The whole evening was a contrast to the first two years, where everyone seemed to be having a good time and you never knew what was going to happen on stage. Clearly there was an effort to throttle back on unscripted revelry. The most noticeable and distracting format change was how half of the award winners were announced but were hustled back stage to receive their awards. On the other hand, some winners were allowed to come on stage. It was confusing for everyone involved, including the audience. The unfortunate outcome -- whether it was planned or by circumstance -- was that the majority of those accepting awards on stage were old people.

My primary gripe about the OEA's, however, was that Indie music -- which Omaha and Nebraska is known for NATIONALLY -- wasn't represented throughout the evening -- except of course for winning awards. How does that happen? How do you put together an awards show that's supposed to honor the area's best and brightest musicians and not have a single indie artist perform?

In fact, show organizers somehow managed to have only two of the music category winners perform during the show -- Kris Lager playing music completely out of his genre, and a gospel choir. I'm told that two of the winning bands had been asked to perform -- but that they were told that they could only bring half of their members. To their credit, the bands refused.

Indie wasn't the only music genre left in the dust. There was no hip-hop, metal, punk, i.e., music that appeals to a younger audience.

Why was an entire portion of the music community ignored by this event? Any music critic from outside this state will take one look at the show's coverage and wonder what happened to all the cool indie bands that Omaha is known for. It is, frankly, kind of strange. The most important bands from this scene -- the Saddle Creek acts, Slumber Party/Hotel Frank bands, the Goldberg/garage band scene, the punk scene -- the bands that record and tour nationally -- continue to be conspicuously absent. If the OEAs do not -- or can not -- get these musicians involved, then it's time to reconsider the value of the event. It simply doesn't represent Omaha.

Or maybe I'm just taking this way too seriously. Fact is, any recognition is better than no recognition, right? Here's the run-down of winners:

Best Country/Bluegrass/Folk/Roots/Americana: Black Squirrels

Best Adult Alternative/Singer Songwriter: Brad Hoshaw and Seven Deadlies

Best Blues: Kris Lager Band

Best DJ/Electronic: Brent Crampton

Best Cover Band: The Song Remains the Same

Best Jazz/Standards: Luigi, Inc.

Best Ethnic: Rhythm Collective

Best Gospel: Salem Baptist Church Voices of Victory

Best R&B/Funk/Soul: Son of 76 & The Watchmen

Best Rock: Little Brazil

Best Hard Rock/Punk/Metal: Bloodcow

Best Indie: The Faint

Best Hip-Hop: Jamazz

Album of the Year: Midwest Dilemma, Timelines & Tragedies

Best New Artist: Civicminded

Artist of the Year: The Faint

Surprises? Considering who was nominated, not really. Maybe that Oberst didn't win anything, but then again, the Academy voters may be suffering from Conor fatigue, especially since he didn't show up for the OEA's last year and it was assumed that he wouldn't be there last night. Little Brazil was surprised that they won, considering they didn't release an album last year. Civicminded was a bit surprised, too, since they've been around for five years. I knew that Midwest Dilemma would win either Album of the Year or Artist of the Year. I figured Oberst would take Album of the Year because, like I said yesterday, his solo debut is on a lot of national critics' top-10 lists (including mine).

Oh well. Onto Year Four...

* * *

Briefly, what's going on this weekend:

Tonight at Slowdown it's the long-soldout Girl Talk concert with Hollywood Holt and Grand Buffet. The Waiting Room has Sarah Benck and the Robbers, Skypiper and Tim Wildsmith, $7, 9 p.m.

Almost forgot the show I'll probably be at tonight: Kyle Harvey at The Barley St. Tavern with Andrew Ancono of Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship, and Headphones. 9 p.m., $? (It'll be cheap, don't worry).

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Who will win at tonight's OEA Awards show? – Jan. 8, 2009 –

The Omaha Entertainment Awards (OEA's) annual award show is tonight at The Holland Center. If you can't afford a ticket, you can watch it unfold at home (if you have Cox digital cable and aren't glued to the national championship game) by tuning into Cox 120 at 7:30 p.m.

I’ve been told the show will undergo a few format changes this year. Among them:

-- The program is scheduled to run only 90 minutes – if only the Oscars were so brief. If they stay on schedule, I'll be home in time for the second half.
-- The lobby bar will be closed during the ceremony. Last year, as you may recall, there were as many people (or maybe more) in the lounge drinking their asses off as there were watching the actual event in the Holland auditorium.
-- More work has been done to dovetail the categories in an ill-fated attempt at keeping people from leaving right after their award has been announced -- always a problem. Last year the auditorium floor was filled at the beginning of the ceremony, by the last performance two-thirds of the seats were empty.
-- In an effort to “spice things up” or maybe to “show solidarity in the music community” or maybe to “give a nod to those who came before us,” nominated musicians have been asked to perform together as “mash-ups” (which is the wrong use of that word). So, two (or more) nominees will appear together on stage to perform a song by a singer/songwriter/performer from Omaha’s past. My personal take: most people at this awards show don't know who these nominees actually are. Wouldn’t it make more sense to have the nominees play their own songs so that this new audience could be introduced to their music or at least have a better understanding why their music is being honored? Turning Omaha’s singer/songwriters into cover artists for the evening is only going to keep their music a mystery. We’ll see how it goes tonight.

On top of all that, they're handing out awards. So, like last couple of years, here are my predictions as to who will win, and -- in the interest of full disclosure -- how I voted (I am, after all, an "Academy Member" ya know):

Best Adult Alternative/Singer Songwriter: I voted for Brad Hoshaw & Seven Deadlies, with Kyle Harvey as my alternate (We had to provide a “preferred” choice and a “second” choice). There were a lot of obvious people missing from the list of nominees in this category, not the least of which were Conor Oberst, Dan McCarthy, Simon Joyner, Jake Bellows/Neva Dinova, Joe Knapp, Talking Mountain, Capgun Coup, Baby Walrus, Mal Madrigal, well, let’s just say anyone on Saddle Creek or Slumber Party Records rosters.

Nominees are selected by a public voting process, so the lack of the artists mentioned above could mean:

1) Voters think Saddle Creek artists suck,

2) Despite touring nationally and appearing in the national press, folks around town still don’t know who Creek artists are,

3) Creek artists don’t do enough to promote themselves locally or for this event,

4) Creek artists need to play weekly shows around town to get nominated,

5) Creek artists are being boycotted/blacklisted by the people who participate in the OEA’s,

6) The majority of those casting public ballots have shitty taste,

7) The majority of those casting ballots view the OEA’s as a way to give more exposure to artists that they feel need it rather than honor the very best in the music community.

That said, even if all of those Creek/Slumber Party folks had been nominated, I would have voted for Hoshaw, who will win this category.

Best Alternative/Indie: I voted for Conor Oberst. Waitaminit, the guy who’s on a number of national critics' "best of" lists for '09 wasn't nominated. That being the case, I actually voted for The Faint, followed by Tilly & the Wall. The Faint will take this one home. Wonder if someone from the band will even be there?

Best Ethnic: Based solely on their OEA showcase performance from two years ago, my vote went to Mariachi Luna y Sol followed by Mariachi Zapata. The winner will be Rhythm Collective.

Best Hard Rock/Metal/Punk: I voted for Bloodcow, and Bloodcow will take home the crystal shaft.

Best Country/Bluegrass/Folk/Roots/Americana: Geeze, the only thing they left out of this category description was "jug band." For whatever reason, Conor Oberst was one of the nominees here, though he doesn’t really fit the genre. Oberst is more singer/songwriter than country (no real country-loving KXKT listener would mistake Oberst for a C&W artist). Had I been able to write-in a nominee, it would have been The Filter Kings. Instead, I picked Oberst, because even in the wrong category he’s the best songwriter/performer, followed by Hoshaw and his band (also not Country). The winner will be Oberst.

Best Jazz/Standards: Despite the fact that most people only know him from his luncheon gigs at The Dell or his appearances at Mr. Toad, and know nothing about his celebrated past, Luigi, Inc., will win. He got my vote, followed by Steve Raybine.

Best Hip Hop/Rap: I voted for Articulate, followed by Breathless. Breathless will win.

Best Blues: I voted for Kris Lager Band even though I don’t like his music. At least what he does seems bluesy (rather than just sounding like a cover band). Second pick was Sarah Benck and The Robbers, which isn’t a blues band. Sarah will win.

Best New Artist: The thing everyone brings up about this category is that most of the nominees aren’t new at all, but they must fit whatever guidelines the OEA has that define someone as “being new.” My vote went to Malpais even though I’ve never heard their CD . I’ve seen them perform live a number of times last year. My alternate was Shiver Shiver, who I think will actually take home the trophy.

Best R&B/Funk/Soul: Like last year, I voted for Satchel Grande, who blows away everyone in this category. That said, the winner will probably be the 9’s, who have a lot of friends among the academy members and have been around for years.

Best Rock: Of course, my background is indie music, and indie music is rock music, and the best indie rock band among the nominees is Little Brazil. But other than playing live, LB didn't do much last year (next year is a whole 'nother story). The Whipkey Three got my vote, but really, they fit in better in the Americana or singer/songwriter category. That said, the winner will be Chris Saub.

Best Cover Band: This is a category that doesn’t belong in an award show. Regardless, here it is. My vote, of course, went to Song Remains the Same. Second choice was Secret Weapon. Song Remains the Same will win.

DJ/Electronic: I voted for Brent Crampton, who is the central artist that drives Omaha’s DJ scene. Brent will win unless people construe this category as meaning "best live elecxtronic band," inwhich case The Faint will win. I have no idea why "DJ" and "Electronic" are in the same category.

Local Album of the Year: Conor Oberst again is nominated, this time for his self-titled solo debut. He also got my vote – easily the best album of all the nominees. My second choice was The Faint’s Fasciinatiion. The winner will be Oberst.

Artist of the Year: The winner will be determined by how the academy interprets what the category means. Is the "Artist of the Year" the best performer or the performer who accomplished the most? To me, it means the performer from Omaha who accomplished the most on a local and national scale. With that yardstick in mind, Oberst should win (again), but he's not nominated, so I voted for The Faint, followed by Tilly and the Wall. Considering the make up of the academy (that I know of) the winner will be Midwest Dilemma.

See you at the show.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Visions of 2009 (Part 1)... – Jan. 7, 2009 –

Here's what you've been waiting for: Part 1 of my 2-part "Music Visions of 2009" article, the uncannily accurate round-up of my premonitions for this year. Part 1 includes a recap of my predictions from last year (and what actually happened) and includes the first half of my predictions for '09 -- a more, shall we say, cerebral list of visions of the future. This is it, folks, the year it all goes down. Take a look. Part 2 -- the usual list of which bands will do what with who and when -- will appear next week in Lazy-i (and will be added to the bottom of the article).

After you're done looking into my crystal ball, enter to win a copy of the coveted Lazy-i Best of 2008 Compilation CD! All you have to do is e-mail me ( with your name and mailing address and you'll be entered into the drawing. Tracks include songs by M83, Deerhunter, UUVVWWZ, Brad Hoshaw, Jenny Lewis, Titus Andronicus, Conor Oberst, Vampire Weekend, Tilly and the Wall, and more. Details and track listing are right here. Enter today! Deadline's January 17.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Handful of headlines... – Jan. 6, 2009 –

There's not much to report today, but that doesn’t mean there isn't news, or at least someone trying to get their news online. Here's a sample of the press releases I received in my email box today alone. it's going to be a busy year…

These Arms Are Snakes Announce First US Tour in Support of New Album "Tail Swallower & Dove!"
Glasvegas In Stores Today, Kick Off US Tour
The Boxer Rebellion Set To Digitally Release Sophomore Album "Union" on January 11, 2009
N.A.S.A. To Tour North America This February ‘The Spirit of Apollo’ To Be Released 2/17 On Anti-
Jones Street Station Announce January Tour & Ben Kweller Northeast Theater Dates In February
Harlem Shakes To Release Debut LP "Technicolor Health" Out March 24th On Gigantic Music
SWAN LAKE to release "Enemy Mine" on Jagjaguwar this March
The Antlers Self-Release New Full Length, Hospice, March 3rd
Witch ( J Mascis ) and Earthless Set Dates For Winter Tour
Antony & the Johnsons Announce "The Crying Light" Presale w/ Instant Digital Download + Bonus Track!

* * *

Tomorrow, the long-awaited Part 1 of Visions of 2009 (Predictions for the coming year in music). See you there!

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Live Review: Hoshaw, Whipkey Three; OWH talks music economy; Talking Mountain, Oui Bandits tonight... – Jan. 5, 2009 –

Brad Hoshaw was in his usual fine form and The Whipkey Three cranked it up a few notches on Friday night in front of a hundred or so people at The Waiting Room. Hoshaw performed an acoustic set that included a few new songs (or at least ones that I haven't heard before). He said he's putting the finishing touches on his Seven Deadlies record -- Omaha waits with baited breath. Whipkey and Co. played for more than an hour (90 minutes?). The set included a handful of new songs, most of them heavier than the usual TW3 fodder. In fact, one song started with a reggae beat before evolving into something that sounded like it was off Zeppelin's later records.

I planned on seeing Reagan and The Rayguns Saturday night at Slowdown Jr., but stayed home in fear of icy roads. Poor me. I'll get another chance Jan. 19 when Reagan and the boys play at O'Leaver's.

* * *

Interesting story in the Sunday Omaha World-Herald about the economy's impact on local clubs (here). Nice reporting. My only quibble was that the Mick's portion of the story didn't mention that the bar has been for sale for a long, long time, well before the economy took a bath. In fact, maybe the oddest thing about Mick's recent sale is that he was able to find a buyer at what could be the worst time in history to invest in a new bar (or any new business, for that matter). The discussion about Slowdown now willing to take any band that they think can fill the venue (and not just indie bands) is old news. TWR always has had that business philosophy. Maybe the most interesting part of the story for me were comments from David Rezak, a Syracuse University professor, who said that small clubs were in a better position than large venues (like the Qwest Center) to thrive during economic downturns, thanks in part because their shows have lower ticket prices. Missing were comments from venue owners other than the Slowdown and TWR guys, but isn't that always the case?

* * *

In some rather unfortunate news, The Barley St. Tavern reportedly was held up at gunpoint Friday night. No one was hurt, but that makes two Benson bars held up in the past two weeks. It may be time for the Benson Business Association to put some money in a hat and hire off-duty cops to patrol the streets at night.

* * *

Tonight at PS Collective, it's Talking Mountain with Oui Bandits, Netherfriends and White Elephant Gift Exchange. 9 p.m., $5. It's arguably the best (if not the only) show of the week, until Friday's Girl Talk show. Go!

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

2009 welcomes Gilda; Whipkey/Hoshaw tonight... – Jan. 2, 2009 –

Gilda the dogIn case you were wondering, I spent New Year's Eve adopting the creature on the left, named Gilda, rescued from an animal shelter in Grand Island. Don't ask what kind of dog she is because I don't know -- some sort of weird mix of Jack Russell and Basset Hound. She joins Evie as a member of the Lazy-i Executive Music Review Panel. Prospective bands: She can be bribed with doggie bix.

Speaking of dogs, don't forget to enter to win a copy of the coveted Lazy-i Best of 2008 Compilation CD! All you have to do is e-mail me ( with your name and mailing address and you'll be entered into the drawing. Tracks include songs by M83, Deerhunter, UUVVWWZ, Brad Hoshaw, Jenny Lewis, Titus Andronicus, Conor Oberst, Vampire Weekend, Tilly and the Wall, and more. Details and track listing are right here. Enter today! Deadline's January 17.

* * *

These holidays are messing with my head. Strangely, It's Friday already, and with it comes the weekend.

Tonight at The Waiting Room it's The Whipkey Three with Brad Hoshaw and Great Atomic Power. $7, 9 p.m.

Saturday is another benefit for The Octopus' Garden Art Alliance, this time featuring Reagan Roeder, Lindsay Donovan, The Whiskey Pistols, Dim Light and Landing On The Moon. $7, 8 p.m.

Reagan, who hasn't been seen anywhere in months, will be a busy man Saturday night. After his gig at TWR, he's driving down to Slowdown Jr. to headline a show with his band The Rayguns. Also on the bill are Why Make Clocks and Watching The Train Wreck. $7, 9 p.m.

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