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The Blog Archive -- July 1, 2009 to Dec. 31, 2009 -- Go to lazyhome for most-current entries

Column 252: 2010 Predictions Pt. 1; Saddle Creek Bar's farewell show tonight... – Dec. 31, 2009 – twitter icon

Pt. 2 -- which contains the actual predictions for next year -- will be online next week. Until then...

Column 252: Visions of '10, Pt. 1
The Sage looks back...

It's that time of year again where I gaze into the lid of my magical Technics turntable and see visions of the future -- your future! But before I do that, let's look back at how I did last year.
I can say without reservation that last year's predictions were the worst I've ever made in terms of accuracy. Part of the reason is that I let myself get carried away with technology. I predicted '09 would see the beginning of a paradigm shift in how we listen to "broadcast" music. Instead of traditional terrestrial radio or satellite radio, Internet radio would emerge as a major player, thanks to the proliferation of simple Internet radio receivers that would allow you to tune into streamed Internet stations via wifi or 3G broadband. With this would come a rebirth of the traditional DJ, who would host these streamed broadcasts and become the nation's music tastemakers.
Well, it didn't happen. Yes, Blaupunkt did show off a new Internet car stereo at CES this past year, and Pandora has emerged as an important streaming music source, but nothing has really caught fire in terms of web radio. Wishful thinking? If it ever does happen, Internet radio will change the playing field and open up a whole new way for listeners to discover new music.
OK, so what else did I get wrong (and right) last year?  
'09 Prediction: New "smart phones" will effectively killing the iPod and iPhone.
Reality: We said hello to Android and Pre, but neither have seriously bitten into Apple's market share.
'09 Prediction: Record labels will evolve into entities that loan money to bands to allow them to tour and quit their day jobs, and act as mere brands that bands want to be associated with.
Reality: Not really, though labels continue to become more marginalized as the industry continues to decay.
'09 Prediction: Venues like The Waiting Room and Slowdown will begin to webstream live video broadcasts from their stages.
Reality: This one's just around the corner.
'09 Prediction: One of Tim Kasher's bands – Cursive or The Good Life – will release an album somewhere other than Saddle Creek. Creek will release a project this year that will outsell all of its past releases.
Reality: No, though no one knows where Edelweiss (Kasher's solo project) will be released. And not only didn't Creek not sign a huge new act, they lost Tokyo Police Club to Qprime label mom+pop.
'09 Prediction: A well-known local club will switch hands. A West Omaha club will catch traction among the indie crowd.
Reality: Mick's became The Sydney (and no, that hadn't been announced when I wrote that prediction last year). We're still waiting for that West O club.
'09 Prediction: A young entrepreneur will launch a promotion company to compete with One Percent Productions.
Reality: One Percent continues to dominate the market, with no real local competition in sight.
'09 Prediction: 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.
Reality: For the most part, right on, except for those illusive Fullblown and Replacements reunions.
'09 Prediction: 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.
Reality: Well, The Faint just played three sold out dates at The Waiting Room, and Animal Collective's EP was No. 1 on Pitchfork's "best of '09" list.
'09 Prediction: Conor Oberst will break the hearts of thousands of his female fans.
Reality: He's still available, girls.
'09 Prediction: One of the city's three renowned downtown record stores – Drastic Plastic, The Antiquarium or Homer's Old Market – will close its doors.
Reality: Homer's did close its Old Market store... only to reopen it a block west of its old location.
'09 Prediction: One of Omaha's under-the-radar record labels will gain national attention when one of its bands breaks nationally.
Reality: Not yet, but Bear Country (on Slumber Party) could make it happen this year.
'09 Prediction: 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.
Reality: They're now called The Jackson Four.
'09 Prediction: ARC Studios will host an arena-level superstar to record his/her next album.
Reality: The closest thing (I know of) was Pete Yorn.
'09 Prediction: In an effort to attract new blood to the OEAA's, one of this year's OEAA showcases will be held at Slowdown.
Reality: Too bad that didn't happen.
'09 Prediction: 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.
Reality: His inauguration celebration included Springsteen, Beyonce, Herbie Hancock, Stevie Wonder and U2.
'09 Prediction: 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.
Reality: Thankfully, no.
Next week: Visions of 2010 -- Hold onto your hat.

* * *

New Year's Eve is always a bust when it comes to music. It's a holiday designed for cover bands, which is really as it should be, I suppose. That said, there are still a couple good shows going on tonight.

Top of the list is the send-off for The Saddle Creek Bar. Tonight marks the venue's "last show ever," according to the venue's Proprietor of Darkness, Mike Coldewey. As announced on the Saddle Creek Bar website:

Join us Dec. 31st (New Year's Eve) for one last blowout musical event as we shutter the doors of the legendary Saddle Creek Bar. Appearances by local legends Cordial Spew and The Upsets will be augmented by a closing set by The Shidiots, our (former) bartender Cass Brostad and her Family Gram, and a plethora of solo artists making their last appearance on our venerable stage. As always -- admission is free.

The SCB's drive-thru liquor store also is having a going-out-of-business sale. What a way to close out a decade.

Also tonight, Satchel Grande and Marachi Zapata are at The Waiting Room, which closes its doors temporarily after its Jan 2 show. 9 p.m. $10. The Sydney is hosting a free show with The Mercury's and free champaign. Starts at 9. And punk bands RAF, Hercules and Cordial Spew, along with five others are playing a show at The Hole at 715 S. 16th St. (under Convicted Skate Shop). 7 p.m., $5.

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Live Review: The Faint, Digital Leather; The Year In Music! – Dec. 30 , 2009 – twitter icon

Another Faint show is in the books. It must have been the 20th time that I've seen them play live over the past decade, and last night's show ranks right up there with the best of them. "The best of them" being (to me) the Sokol Underground shows from around the middle of the decade and The Waiting Room's grand opening gig. Last night's, however, was definitely in the running -- the usual high-energy sweat-soaked bounce-a-thon that the band is known for. Great fun and great music, but... it's the same songs I've been hearing them play for years. Not that it matters to anyone, least of all the folks who continue to have a good time pumping their fists to "Paranoia" and "Agenda Suicide" and the rest of them. My hats off to the band for continuing to draw a sizeable underage audience even though they only release new material every four or five years. As I've said before, if these kinds of nights are what they're doing it for, why even bother recording new material? They could live off this live show for years to come. But is that going to keep them satisfied artistically? Who knows. Joel and Mike and Clark all are involved in other bands (Joel also keeps busy producing new bands at Enamel). For the fans in the audience this week, none of that matters. Viva la Faint for as long as The Faint shall be (See photo).
While I dug their set, I was more interested in seeing Digital Leather, and they didn't disappoint. Shawn Foree and his band (that includes ex-Shanks) ripped through a set of songs off their new album. And while that record is dynamically broad, on stage these guys tear through everything in one gear -- bam-bam-bam-bam-bam for every song, with no variance in dynamics or pace, which I suppose is expected of the genre, though I could have done with a touch more of the variety heard on the record. There's nothing wrong with pulling it back, in fact it only makes the loud parts seem louder. Despite that, theirs was a more compelling set if only for its ingenuity. Digital Leather is a band to be reckoned with. I'm told that they've also been invited by SXSW to play at this year's festival. Oh lord, what those Austinites are in for (See photo).
* * *
And now the moment you've all been waiting for, here's the 2009 Year in Music story, complete with my various "favorites" lists including recordings and performances from '09. Like I said Monday, this was written about two weeks ago, and some of the year's best live shows were left out because they hadn't taken place yet. If the story's introduction seems dire, it's because these are indeed dire times for the music industry, both nationally and locally. Who knows what the future holds, but that's something I'll be touching on in my "predictions" columns over the next two weeks (starting tomorrow). So without further ado, go read the Year in Music.

Lazy-i Best of 2009 CD coverAnd while you're contemplating the year that was 2009, enter to win a copy of the coveted Lazy-i Best of 2009 Sampler CD! I started putting together samplers 13 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 Yo La Tengo, Elvis Perkins in Dearland, Box Elders, Micachu and the Shapes, Cursive, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, The xx, Digital Leather, Pete Yorn and more. Full track listing is here. Enter today. Deadline is Jan. 18.
* * *
Tonight is The Faint Part 3 at The Waiting Room. As with the other two shows, it's sold out and has been for weeks. Opening are two Lincoln bands, UUVVWWZ and Plack Blague. Show starts as 9.

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Live Review: Bear Country, The Faint Pt. 2 tonight… – Dec. 29, 2009 – twitter icon

Bear Country is evolving once again. When I heard them this summer, their sound had gone from run-of-the-mill to something special. Well, their sound continues to get even more special; if last night's packed LP-release show at Slowdown Jr. (just south of 200 attended) is any indication. The band played songs off the new EP, Frozen Lake, and there were a few rough moments as vocalist Susan Sanchez suffered from a soar throat. Ah, but the show must go on, no matter how raspy your voice is. In the end, she sounded fine.

The big change, however, came in the form of their new songs, specifically two tunes that were fronted by guitarist/vocalist James Maakestad. Both started out with Maakestad playing a simple folk-versed melody by himself on acoustic guitar. When both songs started, I thought they were pretty if not repetitive. Maybe too repetitive, especially over the course of multiple verses. To be honest, I was beginning to get bored, but then slowly the rest of the band joined in on the repetition, and grew the songs to anthemic levels before falling back again. These songs seemed to go on for 10 minutes or more each, and were probably too long in the build-up stage, but the pay off was exquisite, especially for the last song of the evening. Now I want to hear them again... (See photo).

* * *

Tonight at The Waiting Room is Night 2 of The Faint's three sold-out nights. If I had to choose one of the three nights to attend, it would be tonight as Digital Leather is opening, along with FTL Drive. Digital Leather's new album, Warm Brother, is one of the best surprises of '09 -- a terrific electric garage rock album that you can actually dance to. Which makes them a perfect opener for The Faint. Show starts at 9 p.m. Get there early.

Tomorrow: The Year in Review 2009.

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Live Review: Mal Madrigal, The Good Life; Bear Country, The Faint Pt. 1 tonight… – Dec. 28, 2009 – twitter icon

A week ago today I had my deadline for the annual Year in Review article for The Reader (which will be posted here at Lazy-i on Wednesday). One major focus of the piece is my list of favorite shows of '09. Because of that deadline, some of the best shows of the year are missing from the list -- the Conor Oberst show from last Tuesday, the Mousetrap show last Wednesday, the Mal Madrigal show Saturday and last night's Good Life show at Slowdown. No doubt tonight's Bear Country show also would have made the list, as well as the three sold out Faint shows that begin tonight and run through Wednesday. These last two weeks of '09 are the best two weeks' of shows of the year.

Anyway, Mal Madrigal on Saturday night. The blizzard of '09 V.2 couldn't stop this one. Streets were slick but passable. On my way down to The Slowdown I watched as people in rear-wheel drive cars drove backwards down streets after giving up. I nearly was smashed a few times by big-shouldered SUVs that weren't going to share the road with anyone. I saw dark and lifeless cars abandoned in snow banks.

But I made it. And so did a few hundred more people. I had thought the Slowdown folks had made a mistake on their website and forgot to post that the show was on the small stage, but I was wrong. The show was indeed on the big stage, and good thing that it was as it would have sold out the small room.

Steve Bartolomei, Mal Madrigal's frontman and songwriter, is nothing if not consistent. His uptempo numbers always have had a waltz-time lilt combined with south-of-the-border guitars and melodies. On some songs, it's almost Flamenco, but not really. Alt-Flamenco? It's too Americana for that. It's really just acoustic folk music with a hint of Spanish gypsy, enough to recognize the influence. While Bartolomei is strumming, sideman Mike Saklar blends in his own Andalusian tones. It's this ethic flair that pumped life into some of the evening's best numbers (and best songs on the new LP). The highlight was the stomping "Kill Floor Rebellion," which had the blood-red sunset color of a Robert Rodriguez mariachi western filmed in a meat-packing town in western Nebraska - a song that's both angry and desperate. (See photo).

But more central to Bartolomei's music are the sad-guy waltzes -- slump-shouldered sorry-for-yourself acoustic dirges designed to make your chest throb in lost loneliness. Bartolomei always has had a good voice, but it's never sounded stronger and more assured than last Saturday night. I'd tell you that he's found his voice, but he always knew where it was. Joining him on stage were Saklar, Dan McCarthy (bass), Chris Esterbrooks (keyboards) and Pat Oakes (drums). All perform on the new album, From the Fingers of Trees, along with Ben Brodin and Nate Walcott. What makes the vinyl package a big step forward for Mal Madrigal is the variety of its 10 tracks, ending with bluesy rock-jam "Hush." I bought a copy of the record at the show and was at first taken aback by the price -- $20. But for your money you get a hand silk-screened album jacket, the vinyl and a full-processed CD of the music, along with a couple inserts. The jacket is artwork suitable for framing. And each is hand numbered from a series of 400. You can buy your copy at Etsy, here.

So yes, that show would have made my end-of-year "favorites" list. So would have last night's Good Life show at The Slowdown. I'd been watching the One Percent site all week, wondering if the gig would sell out. Sure enough, it did at around 9 p.m. Inside, it was one of the largest crowds I've seen at a Slowdown show -- packed shoulder to shoulder.

I got there just in time to catch about half a set from one of the openers -- I'm not sure who it was, but I know it wasn't Old Canes or Outlaw Con Bandana, which leaves either Fourth of July (though there were no women on stage) or Chris Seseney and his band (I don't know what Chris looks like). Whoever it was, they played a blazing set of tight, garage-y rock that got the crowd warmed up for the headliners.

It was one of the best Good Life shows I've seen. Tim Kasher looked genuinely happy to be back on stage with his mates, playing some of the best songs he's ever written, including selections from all the records, but pulling heavily from Album of the Year and Help Wanted Nights. It's been a long time since I've heard these songs on stage, and they felt familiar as slipping on an old coat.

About three songs into the set, Kasher introduced a fifth member of the band joining Roger Lewis (drums), Ryan Fox (guitar, keys) and Steph Drootin (bass). The new member made a timid entrance, spending most of the song with just her nose peaking out from behind the stage-right curtain. I thought I might be seeing things until Kasher said she could come out on stage, and there she was, to the whooping of the crowd, Kasher's dog -- a brown-and-white mutt with a red bandana tied around her neck. The crowd loved her so much that Kasher said, "Get her off the stage, she's hogging all the attention." Instead, she wandered around throughout the set, finally lying at his feet during one of the evening's more quiet numbers. Needless to say, it was a relaxed evening. At one point, Kasher began playing "Album of the Year" -- a crowd favorite (and one of mine) -- and screwed up a line, started over, screwed it up again, then gave up and said, "I'm just not into the song right now. We'll play it later." And he did, during the encore, which also included a big, throbbing cover of Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain," that featured Outlaw's Pearl Loveioy Boyd on backing vocals, Drootin nailing the song's iconic bass break and Fox doing his best Lindsey Buckingham axe grinding. (See photo)

The encore ended with Kasher doing what sounded like an improvised version of a song alone on keyboards before being joined by the rest of the band for the big closer, pushing the show past 1 a.m. Epic. My only quibble was with the sound. From my vantage point on the tier along stage left, Drootin's bass overpowered everything for the entire set. It sounded like a dub version of The Good Life. I'm surprised that whoever was running the main board didn't make some adjustments, but maybe that dominating bass was what the band was going for. It wasn't the only sound problems. Kasher commented that, for some reason, his guitar sounded "all distorted," and back-stage sound guy Dan Brennan ran out and fiddled with an amp right behind Kasher. And then, during the encore version of "Album of the Year," some dopey young couple came running up the stairs and tried to run out the emergence exit, setting off an alarm (right next to me). Brennan again came to the rescue, but it clearly fucked up the pace of the song, though Kasher and Co. recovered nicely.

So, I've been to four shows in the past week and have two more in the next two days to close out the year. Tonight's show is the Bear Country 10-inch release show at Slowdown Jr. (You read about their new album right here in lazy-i already, right?). Opening is McCarthy Trenching and Sean Pratt. $7, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, The Faint begins its three-day sold out stay at The Waiting Room. Opening for them tonight are Somasphere and Honey & Darling. 9 p.m.

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Mal Madrigal LP release show tonight; The Good Life tomorrow… – Dec. 26, 2009 – twitter icon

Being snowed isn't so bad as long as you got power, and heat, and food. In the past when we had a snowstorm like the one we just had, the power would still be out here. This time we had full power the whole time, so it was actually a nice respite from the holiday noise. The snow plows have made their way through the major arteries, which makes me assume that tonight's Mal Madrigal LP release show is still on at The Slowdown (I haven't heard otherwise). Opening the show are Machineshop (Tiffany Kowalski) and Tin Kite (Stefanie Drootin and Chris Senseney). $8, 9 p.m. BTW, this is not listed as a "front room" show on the Slowdown site - I don't know if that's an oversight or if they really expect a huge crowd, but I'm guessing this is probably in the front room.

Tomorrow night's show, however, is definitely in the big room -- The Good Life with Fourth of July, Old Canes, Chris Senseney and Outlaw Con Bandana. It's been a long time since I've seen The Good Life -- maybe a year? This one is a real surprise. $10, 9 p.m.

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Live Review: Mousetrap… – Dec. 24, 2009 – twitter icon

Finally, Mousetrap.

Last night's set at The Waiting Room might be the most cohesive set that they've ever played. Certainly it was their longest. What's the old saying -- you always sound best at the CD release shows, the farewell show and the reunion show.

For me, the most amazing part: Some of their music is nearly 20 years old but it's as good, or better than, what we're getting now from bands out there that are just getting started. It held up well. And at times during the set, it was like hearing some of those songs again for the first time.

There was always something subversive or obscene about Mousetrap. They were indeed an underground band in their short-lived heyday. You needed to know someone who knew them to know them, or you had to shop at The Antiquarium. You weren't going to find them on your own, that's for sure. And once you did find them, it was going to take awhile to figure out what they were about.

A band could be subversive back then; it could be "underground." That's simply not possible anymore, especially if you're any good. And Mousetrap was good. Dave Sink knew it, Grass Records knew it, John Peel knew it, a lot of kids that would become central to the Omaha music scene and Saddle Creek Records knew it. In the end, it didn't matter. Their music was too "out there," too abrasive, too disturbing for a larger audience to appreciate.

Time has blunted the illicit nature of Mousetrap. In an era where nothing is shocking, their music also no longer has the ability to shock. And that changes everything. Instead of disturbing, Mousetrap's music merely sounds like loud, fast, hard, distorted, and perfectly stylized post-punk, which I've always thought they were trying to be anyway. They just wanted to be a rock band, and now they are. What was once unrecognizable is now pop. Which is an overblown way of saying their music may be more relevant now than it ever was back in the '90s. Especially considering the lack of good, heavy music these days.

The setting couldn't be more perfect. The Wagon Blasters -- ex-Frontier Trust, another band from the era -- opened. They were followed by Beep Beep, a band clearly influenced by Mousetrap. And then another band who -- along with Frontier Trust -- often shared the bill with Mousetrap in the '90s: the reunited Mercy Rule, bigger and badder than ever. I caught the full Mercy Rule set and it was as if they never stopped playing all those years ago. They rolled out a couple new songs, one of which is probably harder and faster than anything they've ever done before (and which I can't wait to hear recorded).

It all led up to Mousetrap. Yeah, Buchanan and Crawford looked older than the last time they took the stage together, but no worse for wear (see live photo). In fact, Buchanan looked the part of the rock star -- Big City Hair, as one guy put it. He had the look and the style. But most of all, still he had the chops -- his voice, his guitar, sounded pristine. And then there was Crawford's amazing bass playing -- an aerobic workout -- and his voice also never sounded better. Time has been kind to these guys. New drummer Mike Mazzola did what he needed to do to hold it all together.

Together, the band sounded more rock than punk, or at least more rock than I remembered them sounding. The highlights were my favorites from the past -- "Superkool," "Mariko," "I Know Where You Live," "Wired." There were a couple missing from the bunch, chief among them "Have Fun in Hell" and the El Fino Imperials classic "Step Off." But hey, you can't have everything.

The set list from last night (via the set list found on stage):

Signal To Noise
I Know Where You Live
The Coathanger Kid
People Who Disappear
Sweet Dreams Baby

The Last Dance
Give it

The only thing that sounded different other than the drums was the way the band seemed to stretch out the endings of a couple songs -- to their betterment. Overall, Mousetrap sounded, well, groovier, less static, certainly less angry. Looking at them smiling on stage, it's hard to remember Buchanan's terse, pained scowl and volcanic spitting from the old days. They were having a good time. I think they may have been surprised by the size of the crowd, commenting that it was the biggest show they every played. It wouldn't have been a Mousetrap show without some sort of technical difficulty -- a broken string, a blown amp. So in keeping with their history, Crawford's bass cut out at the end of "Superkool." He fiddled with plugs and switches and finally got it going again before the song ended. Perfection.

So what next? I asked both Crawford and Buchanan after the show, and neither could say. Crawford said they've talked about working together on another project. After all, they only live about five hours away from each other. Whatever happens, Craig said he plans on continuing playing. It would be a shame if he didn't. Buchanan always kept playing after Mousetrap ended and I have no doubt that he'll continue to do so with our without Crawford, but wouldn't it be cool if they kept it together? I'd love it if a label like Team Love would either reissue a Mousetrap album or create a "best of" collection that pulls together songs from the various singles and albums. And then the band hooked up with one of Omaha's bigger players for a three-week tour. And then, who knows. Wishful thinking on my part, but I guess it's the right time of year for that sort of thing.

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Live Review: Conor Oberst and friends; Column 251 -- Bear Session… – Dec. 23, 2009 – twitter icon

I stand by my earlier statements that Oberst is at his best when he's the center of attention, i.e., Bright Eyes. Whereas Mystic Valley Band was an interesting diversion, and Monsters of Folk is certainly fun (for him), his best work has been with his original band. Or maybe I'm just being sentimental.

After all, backing him last night on The Waiting Room stage was half of Cursive (Ted Stevens and Matt Maginn), a piece of The Faint (Clark Baechle, stellar on drums, as always) and the ever-talented Dan McCarthy. It got even more maudlin when Simon Joyner joined him for a four-song encore (two Joyner songs, two Oberst songs) along with Alex McManus, Mike Friedman and a plethora of musicians from the opening bands.

Dressed formally in a velvet sport jacket and clean-shaven for the holidays, Oberst backed by his friends ran through a passionate set that included old and not-so-old Bright Eyes songs (including a couple I'd never heard before) along with a few Mystic Valley tunes that seemed Bright Eyes-ish when played by this line-up. The performance felt easy and comfortable, well played, as good as any BE or MV set, but strangely better because everything seemed familiar. The only thing missing was the old-time Conor drama that used to mark his earlier shows; those days are long gone.

Besides, the weather provided enough drama for the evening. Twice during the show Oberst told fans they could crash at The Waiting Room if they were afraid to drive home. I don't know if anyone took him up on the offer. Probably not, considering that the streets were fine when I left at around 1. Tonight could be a different story entirely. I suspect that regardless of any ice or snow that the show will go on. It has to. This may be a once-in-a-lifetime event. The boys from Mousetrap are in town from Chicago, and I can't see any way that this show could be rescheduled.

It starts at 9 with The Wagon Blasters, followed by either Beep Beep or Mercy Rule, then Mousetrap. All four for just $8. My hope is that the sleet turns to snow during the show, and we all have enough traction to get home alive -- that is if we survive the sheer force, power and concentrated anger of Mousetrap. Tonight's show was the talk of last night's show. What will the trio bring to the table after all these years? What will they play? As was reported (here), the band says they intend to play a variety of songs off all their albums and singles. I have a feeling it could be something special… if we all make it home alive.

* * *

I'm beginning to think that Bear Country could be poised to break out in 2010, based on their soon-to-be-released EP. Now all they have to do is get on the road and get heard...

Column 251: The Bear Session
Bear Country reinvents itself with Frozen Lake
Compared to Cowboy Junkies' The Trinity Session, Bear Country's new EP, Frozen Lake, is downright uplifting.
In fact, the two bands don't have much in common other than a similar love for laid-back country swing, and heartfelt melodies, and a great female vocalist, and terrific musicianship. Come to think of it they do have a lot in common despite the fact that the bands' albums are separated by 21 years.
I was the one who brought up The Trinity Session, offhandedly mentioning that Frozen Lake's recording had a sonic density and distance similar to the 1988 classic, which legend has it was recorded in Toronto's Holy Trinity church with a single microphone. I just assumed the folks in Bear Country knew what I was talking about, until about 20 minutes into the interview, when I said, "Uh, have you heard The Trinity Session?" Of course none of the twenty-somethings had, and I was exposed once again as the presumptuous ass that I am.
After I further described the album's recording approach, vocalist/guitarist James Maakestad said the band was after a similar sort of ethereal sound when keyboardist Aaron Markley recorded Bear Country at the University of Nebraska at Omaha's Strauss Recital Hall. "We were observing the way a note decays, and had to be sensitive to that," Maakestad said, surrounded by Markley, guitarist/vocalist Mike Schlesinger and drummer Cody Peterson in Markley's Benson-area home. Vocalist Susan Sanchez and bassist Matthew Owens round out the band.
"We were interested in having listeners hang over the edge of something," Maakestad said.  "We were doing that with sparsity rather than having everything going on at the same time. It's about phrasing it so that it's like listening to some story that has dynamic contrast and drama."
To me, Bear Country is the most surprising band of '09. When I first heard them perform a few years ago right after Slowdown first opened, they came off as one-dimensional -- a hipster-driven cookie-cutter country band that was, quite frankly, boring. I'd written them off as talented, but uninspired and over-hyped.
And then this past June I saw them perform again as part of a Slumber Party Records showcase at The Waiting Room, and was blown away. The formulaic balladry had been replaced with intensely dynamic folk rock that sounded like it fell out of the sky circa 1968. Each player sauntered around the stage with a cool ease and confidence of a band whose every member shared the same great idea. They were unrecognizable, with a sound that reminded me of early Mazzy Star, The Silos, Grant Lee Buffalo, and, yes, Cowboy Junkies, but with a modern, youthful twist.
Their evolution began after spending six months in Bassline Studio at the tail end of 2007. "Through the course of that recording session, we heard how it was developing and realized we didn't like it too much," Markley said.
"Hearing yourself back changes your ear," Maakestad added. "I think it gave us some time to think about what we needed to do to attain the sound we wanted, something a bit more blended. A lot of mainstream music is overproduced -- none of it blends so you can hear everything perfectly."
Instead, the band wanted listeners to get lost in the recording. "Not being able to hear everything at once gives you a reason to listen to it again," Maakestad said. "Those were some of the things we became conscious of -- not having everything be perfectly clear."
So they threw out most of the Bassline sessions and started over, at UNO, where Markley -- a percussion major with an emphasis on music technology -- had access to the university's recording studio and equipment. "We recorded groups of instruments live," Maakestad said. "That was a change from Bassline, where we tracked every single instrument."
"Several things were recorded in the (Strauss) Recital Hall," Markley said. "We also recorded in hallways. We had a lot of different spaces and different sounds."
The result is a moody 7-song EP with grand scope, open space and beauty, balanced by lyrics typical of the title track's opening line: "I sat down on the edge / Of a frozen lake / I was thinking to myself, 'oh man, a poor boy will never catch a break.'"
"Some of the songs are about that feeling of being let down, to the point of becoming indifferent," Maakestad said. "It's like waves that keep coming and don't stop, and you might as well get used to it."
As much as anything else, Bear Country's sound is a natural evolution that comes with growing up. "Age was a big contributor," said Maakestad, who wrote most of the songs with Schlesinger and Sanchez. "I was only 17 when we recorded that first record (2006's Our Roots Need Rain)."
"A lot of our sound back then had to do with what we were listening to," Schlesinger added. And what was that? "Rilo Kiley and indie pop." Since then, the band has graduated to listening to classic and contemporary folk and country. Maakestad said two years of music school got him interested in deconstructing music. "A lot of my influence comes from impressionist composers like Ravel and Debussy, stuff like that," he said.
It all comes together like a forlorn hoe-down, a musical celebration of futility and the perfect way to start a new decade after being beaten down by the last one.
Frozen Lake comes out on 10-inch vinyl Jan. 12, 2010, on Slumber Party Records. Bear Country celebrates the release Dec. 28 at Slowdown Jr. with McCarthy Trenching and Sean Pratt. $7, 9 p.m.

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Batten down the hatches, Conor Oberst tonight; Live Review: Comme Reel… – Dec. 22 , 2009 – twitter icon

God, I hope this weather doesn't screw up the next couple of days. Tonight is the Conor Oberst solo set at The Waiting Room with Renee Ledesma Hoover and Simon Joyner opening. It's sold out and has been for a month or so. Tonight's forecast calls for freezing rain at around 8 p.m. and later after midnight. Could get nasty. Then tomorrow night is the Mousetrap reunion show with Wagon Blasters, Beep Beep and Mercy Rule. Again, freezing rain is in the forecast for the evening, but maybe we'll get lucky. The heavy snow isn't supposed to hit until Thursday. But it's not the snow that gets ya, it's the ice. Keep your fingers crossed.

* * *

Catching up on the past weekend, I caught Comme Reel's set at a crowded O'Leaver's on Saturday night. As you may or may not know, Comme Reel is the folks from No Blood Orphan, headed up by Mike Saklar. Mike started the set by explaining that Comme Reel's music is so different than NBO that they decided to go under a different name for the project. He then warned that they were going to play everything off the new EP -- 29 minutes straight without a break. "It's like a soundtrack to a nice romantic drive to Fremont," he said.

I don't know about the romance part, but the road music comparison was apt. Comme Reel's sound is dark, throbbing, cinematic blacktop music so vivid that you can almost see the white stripes strobing in the headlights though the windshield. Moody. Engrossing. Suspenseful. Sure enough, the set lasted 29 minutes on the nose. They broke away from Comme Reel to play a few NBO songs to close out the set, making me realize just how poppy NBO's music really is. Great stuff.

* * *

Tomorrow: Bear Country.

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Matador (and Box Elders), Mousetrap and Little Brazil; Edelweiss (Tim Kasher) tonight; Comme Reel tomorrow... – Dec. 18, 2009 – twitter icon

The holidays are a hectic time and the weather's been abysmal, so please excuse me if I miss a day's worth of updates here and there as I did yesterday. Did anyone notice? I didn't have much to say anyway, other than to point out a few fun things:
* * *
For those of you into year-end lists, every year Matador Records posts a doozy. It compiles "favorites" from a variety of bands and personalities that have some connection to their label. The list/blog entry is here. The part I like the most is label exec Gerard Cosloy's submission. And lo and behold (at the very end of the entry) Gerard mentions our very own Box Elders and their album, Alice and Friends. James McNew from Yo La Tengo also included Box Elders on his year-end list.
* * *
In the Mousetrap story that went online Wednesday (and is in the current issue of The Reader) I mentioned that while in Manila in '07, Mousetrap's Patrick Buchanan starred in a couple television commercials. They were for Philippines radio station NU107, and one (titled "Room Service") featured Buchanan in the role of a stereotypical inebriated rock star trashing a hotel room, ending with him trying -- but unable to -- yank a plasma TV off the wall. The commercial's catch phrase: "Times have changed." Buchanan said the taping took place in a real hotel room and he really did trash it. Well, someone forwarded me a link to Buchanan's old blog and there at the bottom of the entry -- dated November 20, 2007 -- is the actual commercial in living color. Take a look. It's awesome.
* * *
Speaking of videos, Little Brazil's video for "Separated" is finally online, in gorgeous hi-def here. How many people do you recognize?
* * *
This weekend is busy for shows, and my suggestion is for you to get in as much live music while you can because the January show schedules look mighty thin. In fact, this might be the slowest January music-wise on record…
Tonight (Friday)
Tim Kasher will be performing solo material tonight at The Sydney under the moniker Edelweiss. Also playing sets are Cursive cohort Ted Stevens and McCarthy Trenching. $7, 8 p.m.
Also tonight, The Dinks are back at O'Leaver's with The Prairies and Watching the Trainwreck. $5, 9:30 p.m.
Comme Reel (the same guys in No Blood Orphan) celebrates the release of its new CD Saturday night at O'Leaver's with John Klemmensen and The Party, Ben Brodin, Brad Hoshaw, Eric Baughman and Lincoln Dickison. $5, 9:30 p.m.
Also Saturday night, Underwater Dream Machine plays at The Barley St. Tavern with Traveling Mercies and Manny Coon. $5, 9 p.m.
And Led Zeppelin tribute band The Song Remains the Same plays at The Waiting Room. $7, 9 p.m.
Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship plays The Waiting Room Sunday night with The Stay Awake and At Land (ex-Fizzle Like a Flood). $7, 9 p.m.

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Lazy-i Interview: The Return of Mousetrap… – Dec. 16, 2009 – twitter icon

Just posted, an interview with Patrick Buchanan and Craig Crawford of Mousetrap. The story (here) reads just like an episode of VH1's Behind the Music  -- it covers the band's rise, fall and return -- specifically their return for next Wednesday's reunion show at The Waiting Room. Go read the story and then buy a ticket to the concert -- it's only $8. Also on the showbill are Mercy Rule, Wagon Blasters (ex-Frontier Trust) and Beep Beep (Their second to last performance ever). It'll be like 1994 all over again, and the ticket money even goes to a good cause, so everyone wins.

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Live Review: Our Fox, McCarthy Trenching, It's True; (My) Top 20/Next 15… – Dec. 14, 2009 – twitter icon

The fact that my driveway had turned into a skating rink by 9 (and that I had a deadline the next morning) kept me from the Lash LaRue Toy Drive show (despite having already paid $17 for a ticket -- what the hell, it's a good cause).

As for Saturday night, I was surprised at the size of the crowd at The Waiting Room -- only about 100 people for one of the better line-ups in recent TWR history. Shows at O'Leaver's and Slowdown could have cut into the draw or maybe It's True is just playing too often. Who knows. 

Our Fox was on stage when I got there, but the line-up was different than what I expected. No Roger Lewis, no Jake Bellows (Who I believe is in England performing with Alessi). Instead, a trio headed by Ryan Fox roared into a set of fractured indie/folk rock that started out safe before bleeding bright red with feedback. It reminded me both of Neva Dinova and Fox's old outfit, The '89 Chicago Cubs. I'm dying to hear these guys when they're at full strength. 

Dan McCarthy started his set by holding a raffle for a slightly used guitar strap -- something that presumably he no longer will need as he announced that he won't be playing guitar anymore, only piano. And that would be just fine with me, based on the keyboard-only set that he performed Saturday night. My favorite songs off McCarthy's last album, 2008's Calamity Drenching, were the ones he played solo with piano. No other local singer/songwriter has a better sense of melody behind the ivories, or a more honest, forlorn approach to singing in general.

McCarthy spent the entire set playfully complaining about The Reader's Top 20 / Next 15 list in the current issue. McCarthy Trenching didn’t make the list because, well, they didn't release anything in '09 and rarely played (Come on, Dan, you were on the list last year). McCarthy was relentless, and with each jab between songs, I shrunk a little further into the shadows.

Finally, It's True performed its usual pristine set, though I was disappointed that they didn't work in any new material. I don't know what's on their new, yet-to-be-released album, but I'm beginning to think that it must be a full-band rendition of the songs on his debut.  

* * * 

Speaking of the Top 20, I've already heard from a couple bands that are pissed that they didn't make the list, and I can't say that I blame them. No one wants to be told that they're not good enough to be in the top 35 bands in the area. Actually the list isn't the top 35, it's the top 20 most notable bands of '09 AND the 15 bands that The Reader predicts will make a mark in 2010. Here's The Reader's list:

The Reader's Top 20 Bands  
Beep Beep  
It's True  
Brad Hoshaw & the Seven Deadlies  
The Black Squirrels  
Outlaw Con Bandana  
Conor Oberst  
Brimstone Howl  
Simon Joyner  
Box Elders  
Landing on the Moon  
The Show is the Rainbow  
Capgun Coup  
Brent Crampton  
Ladyfinger (ne)  
Little Brazil  
Matt Whipkey  
The Reader's Next 15  
Bear Country  
Dim Light  
LIttle Black Stereo  
Son of 76 & The Watchmen  
Filter Kings  
Noah's Ark was a Spaceship  
Thunder Power  
Matt Cox Band  
Mal Madrigal  
Satchel Grande  
Our Fox  
Digital Leather  
Mercy Rule  
Platte River Rain  
Baby Tears 

FYI, the process for creating the list involved having The Reader music writers each create their own list. Those lists were then compiled by editor Sarah Wengert, and four of the writers (including myself) got together and argued out the final line-up. Overall, I think it was pretty accurate. But in the interest of full disclosure, here's my list: 

Tim's Top 20 

Conor Oberst
The Faint
Box Elders
It's True
Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies
Simon Joyner
Brimstone Howl
Little Brazil
Midwest Dilemma
Beep Beep
Tilly and the Wall
Matt Whipkey
Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship
Landing on the Moon
Capgun Coup
The Show Is the Rainbow

Tim's Next 15

Honey & Darling
Wagon Blasters
Ragged Company
Digital Leather
Outlaw Con Bandana
Bear Country
Thunder Power
Kyle Harvey
Broken Spindles
Black Squirrels
Little Black Stereo

Let the shouting begin.

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Pretty big friggin' weekend for shows… – Dec. 11, 2009 – twitter icon

Those looking for The Price of Rock cover story, it's here. Go read it. For the rest of you...

I'm just going to run through my picks quickly and you can figure it out yourselves…
Friday Night
Over at O'Leaver's, Ragged Company (who I wrote about here) is opening for Travelling Mercies and Buick McSnake, neither of which I've heard of. Still, it's O'Leaver's, and sure to be worth your $5. Starts at 9:30.
Down at Slowdown Jr., indie band Flashbulb Fires, who I also haven't heard of, is headlining a show with three bands I have heard of -- Lincoln's Machete Archive (worth the price of admission alone), along with Honey & Darling (awesome) and Down with the Ship. $7, 9 p.m.
Also, Andrew Jay has a CD release party at The Barley St. Among the "special guests" is Dave Downing, who is a member of Ragged Company who is also supposed to be playing at O'Leaver's tonight… Anyway, $5, 9 p.m.
And finally, The Whiskey Pistols are playing at The Saddle Creek Bar, where there's never a cover and the booze is cheap and cold.
Saturday Night
Top of the list is Digital Leather (just got a big review in Pitchfork, here) with Perry H. Matthews (amazing new unreleased and unavailable CD recorded at Enamel) and Dim Light (always a show stopper) at Slowdown Jr. $8, 9 p.m.
Also at the top of the list, an all-star line-up at The Waiting Room headlined by It's True and featuring McCarthy Trenching, Our Fox and The Bruces (singer/songwriter/genius Alex McManus). $8, 9 p.m.
O'Leaver's has Fortnight, O Giant Man and Bazooka Shootout. $5, 9:30 p.m.
It all leads up to…
Sunday Night

The Lash LaRue "Pine Ridge Benefit" Toy Drive at The Waiting Room with Cursive, Capgun Coup, Brad Hoshaw and Vago. This will sell out, folks, so get your tickets now $14, 9 p.m.

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Feature story: The Price of Rock… – Dec. 11, 2009 – twitter icon

My portion of the Price of Rock cover story written for The Reader is now online at Lazy-i, here. Go read it.

I've been "involved" in The Reader's Music Issues for the past few years. Two years ago the focus was on sound guys (interviews with a dozen or so). Last year it was electric guitars (defining the six most commonly used, their distinguishing factors, their differences, their advantages). This year it's the price of being in a band. I'm sure that area musicians who already know all of this look upon these stories as rudimentary spoon-feeding to the masses. I understand that. They are not the audience (necessarily), though hopefully they recognize a lot of the information and can nod their head knowingly. Maybe they disagree, who knows.

The focus was on touring indie bands. Musicians in local bands that never tour or that are in cover bands probably don't know or care about a lot of this info since they'll never have to (or want to) experience it. They have regular jobs and regular careers that pay regular salaries and provide regular benefits, like health insurance. And on weekends (or occasionally during the week) they play a gig at one of the local watering holes and pocket the cover charge as a bit of bonus money. Nothing wrong with that. Then there are the ones who feel compelled to reach further with their music, who have turned their backs on having a typical career and everything it provides in order to pursue a dream of making a living solely on stage. Those are the ones we're talking about.

Brad Hoshaw, Little Brazil and Cursive were chosen because each represents a band at a different stage in its career. Though he's been playing music for years, Hoshaw said he only really began focusing on music as a living a couple years ago. Little Brazil has been doing this for five years or so with some success, and Cursive is recognized as one of the more successful local bands (Even still, Matt Maginn says that everyone in the band has a job on the side these days to make ends meet).

My biggest thanks go to Brad, who shared a lot of information that many musicians would feel squeamish about sharing publicly. I think he knows as I do (whether he would admit it or not) that despite the losses, his first tour will be the one he remembers when he's rumbling across country in a tour bus headed to his next theater-sized gig. His debut album, Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies, was one of the favorites I've heard this year from any band anywhere in the country. That's because Hoshaw is a one of the best songwriters in the country. Someone at a label will figure that out, eventually.

Anyway, go and read the feature, then run out and buy tickets to Sunday night's Lash LaRue Toy Drove concert at The Waiting Room, which features Hoshaw along with Cursive and the subject of yesterday's column, Capgun Coup. Tickets can be bought online here for $14. Do it quick before the show sells out.

* * *

Look for a weekend update wrap-up blog entry later today (probably).

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Update later; Dave Rawlings Machine tonight… – Dec. 10 , 2009 – twitter icon

Between the blizzard and the scooping of snow, I haven't gotten around to creating a page for the Hoshaw/Edds/Maginn interview mentioned yesterday. Look for it online tonight (I'll update this page with the link). Or, if you're super-eager, you can pick up the interviews/story along with the top-20/next-15 list in the new issue of The Reader, which should be hitting the stands today. Regardless, I'll have it all online here tonight or early tomorrow...

To my knowledge, Dave Rawlings Machine is still going tonight at The Waiting Room with Phil Schaffart opening. $17, 9 p.m. If I hear about a cancellation, I'll let you know here. The show tonight at The Slowdown -- LA singer/songwriter Mike Simmons -- has been canceled, though the Slowdown will still be open (hosting one of their infamous pub quizzes).

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Column 249 -- Loaded Capgun; Snomaha… – Dec. 9, 2009 – twitter icon

This is a busy week for content in that The Reader's annual "Music Issue" hits the stands. The theme this year is "the cost of rock." There are four articles total. I interview Brad Hoshaw, Greg Edds of Little Brazil and Matt Maginn of Cursive about the costs of going on tour and living the life of a musician. Brad shares a lot of numbers that will be no surprise to other musicians but might open some eyes from the general public. That story will be online here at Lazy-i tomorrow.

A second story looks at how musicians are coping with health insurance issues. The third is a list of various costs, from studio time to CD production to practice space rental, and so on. The fourth story is the annual Reader Top 20 list of the top bands in the area, plus the 15 to watch out for in 2010 -- always controversial, always fun.

And then there's the following column -- an interview with Sam Martin of Capgun Coup, where he gives his take on the topic and talks about the band's new album. Lots didn't make it into the column because of space. Among the comments was his thoughts on Simon Joyner. I've always thought that Martin had a similar vocal style as Joyner -- that wonky, off-kilter, almost purposely off-pitch vocal style that can make you feel uneasy.

"I didn't really like Simon's music until about three years ago," he said. "I guess I hadn't been that depressed before, I hadn't been looking at myself with that much of a magnifying glass. His songs really spoke to me. I'm sure there's an influence there subconsciously. I like his lyrics and his voice."

Capgun will be putting out videos for every song on Maudlin. Last week was the release of the video for "Only the Times Are Changing," an eye-popping piece of data-moshing fun directed by Jacob Thiele of The Faint that perfectly captures the chaos of the song (check it out here). Martin said he wants to get involved in film making and has been writing scripts and working with local film maker Nik Fackler (Lovely Still). He says he thinks Omaha should be investing in the film making industry so that people don't have to move to California to make films. "It's sad for Omaha to be putting money in things like Midtown Crossing. We already have enough stores, why not build another industry instead of more stores?"

We even chatted a bit about national healthcare. "I think it's a big band-aid on a body that's already dead," he said. "If they want to do free healthcare for everyone with psychological problems, that may be beneficial, but I think there are way bigger problems. The government itself is a big fucking problem. I'm for the Public Option, I'm for people staying alive and being happier, but I don't think it's going to make people happier. If people aren't happy when they're sick, they're not going to be happy when they're not sick."

Fun interview. Fun band.

Column 249: Capgun Confessions
It's all about the attitude…

"I'm pretty poor, I guess. I don't have a job and I live in my mom's basement for now. After this tour I'm going to get a job and save money to travel. You can't be really poor and do your art, but to be a songwriter, all you need is a guitar and to be alive."
That's Capgun Coup's Sam Martin on the poverty of being a musician. He was responding to having his band's press materials read back to him, the part where it says how they "willingly dove head first into poverty in order to pursue music, bidding farewell to the possibility of financial stability." It conveniently ties to the theme of this year's "Music Issue" -- the price of pursuing the life of a musician.
But while Martin and Co. are indeed paying that price, they've had a pretty sweet gig since they first surfaced in 2007 with their jangling, shrill noise rock. Capgun Coup's music is sonically dense and frenetic, like watching a group of 7-year-olds dancing a hyperactive shag to the Sex Pistols, not understanding what they're hearing, only reacting to the energy and the noise, moments away from flying out of control, from taking a forced naptime. In the middle of the group is Martin yelling out the words like a high-strung dodgeball captain at recess.
You either get their music or you don't. Most critics don't, and write them off as "sloppy" and "unfocused."
"That's the attitude," Martin says of the criticism. "It's nice to know our attitude shows through the music. It's also sloppy because we don't practice that much, and sloppy in that there's a lot going on at some points. We play what's fun to play."
He sounds like he doesn't give a shit about the critics, and why should he? Conor Oberst "got it," and agreed to release Capgun Coup's music on his Team Love record label, starting by reissuing their debut, Brought to You by Nebraskafish (originally released on Slumber Party Records), and now releasing their sophomore effort, the more refined Maudlin, recorded in April by local studio pro A.J. Mogis at Oberst's ARC Studios. To capture the chaos (and to save money on studio time), Mogis recorded the band live in one room. "We told him how we wanted it to sound, and he got it exactly right," Martin said.
Maudlin takes a sort of natural right turn from its predecessor. Instead of the minor-key indie rock of the debut, Martin and the band fused elements of surf and garage rock into the mix, giving it a psychedelic flare. Martin said the style came naturally, having grown up listening to his parents' 45s in his dad's '50s-diner-style basement, complete with jukebox. "Velvet Underground, Beach Boys, Mamas and the Papas, stuff like that," he said. "I don't listen to that much new music."
Laced among the spy guitar and noise are Martin's lyrics for songs like "I Wish I Was a Fag." He says that anyone who follows the words will know that it's not a homophobic song, but if, like me, they download the record, they're going to be out of luck. The only words that I can make out are "I can't but I want you bad every girl that I had was a jerk I wish I was a fag so this party..." and then I'm lost.
"The group I hang out with, their scene is very androgynous," Martin explained. "I like that. It's not masculine or feminine in any given person. The song was written in that context. It's about being broken up with, and not wanting to be, and getting the run around by a certain person and finding a safe house in friends, in guys, and thinking about how easy it would be if we could just date and I wouldn't have to deal with motives."
Team Love was "weird about" the song title and wanted them to change it. "They didn't want it to be a speed bump," Martin said. "Well whatever. That's the title of the song and there's no need to change it. I don't think about what people think outside of Omaha. I write (songs) for people that are close to me."
Martin says all of this over a cell phone from somewhere in Gainesville, Florida, on the road with Cursive -- a fortunate situation for any young band, and he's grateful. But he knows touring has a price.
"If you think about how far we drive every day and how much it costs to eat and smoke and drink, we probably won't come back with much money," he said. "It's hard on relationships as well. It's hard to keep a relationship if you're going to be gone for months at a time, especially young people who haven't worked through everything. Young people seem more jealous and wary of their partners than mature people."
Sounds like Martin is still licking some wounds. "I regretted it at the time," he mused. "In the long run, it's good what happened."
He knows the road won't last much longer, and then it'll be back to working a regular job, at least part-time.  "I like to be able to eat well," he said, "and most of my calories come from liquor now, and I don't want it to be that way much longer. If you work more than 25 hours a week, you don't have the passion and energy to do music and think about things as much.
"You can take things for granted. It can always be better. I'm trying not to focus on what's good and focus on how other parts of my life could be better, and ride this one out."
Capgun Coup plays with Cursive, Brad Hoshaw and Vago this Sunday at The Waiting Room, as part of the Lash LaRue toy drive.

* * *

I told you I'd pass along the info regarding the Comme Reel CD release show when I found it. The show is Dec. 19 at O'Leaver's.

I also got an e-mail from Mal Madrigal pointing out that the CD included in their new vinyl record is a "real CD" and not a CDR. They went all out this time.

Digital Leather's new album, Warm Brother, got reviewed at Pitchfork, here. It got a 7.3, and a closing line of "The balance between carefully fitted parts and their edge-of-danger deployment keeps us on thrillingly unsteady footing for the album's duration. It's a kitschy, shticky, charming curio." Digital Leather plays at The Slowdown Dec. 12 (this Saturday).

Everything got cancelled last night, and judging by the streets, I wouldn't be surprised if a few get canceled tonight, especially shows that involve out of town bands. That being said, Flobots is scheduled to play at The Waiting Room tonight with Kinetix. $15, 9 p.m. Just got word that Flobots is canceled.

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Eagle Seagull on PIAS (finally), new albums abound; Mynabirds tonight… – Dec. 7, 2009 – twitter icon

Eagle Seagull announced today in various places (including my e-mail box) that the long-awaited The Year of the How-To Book will finally be released in early March 2010 on [PIAS] Recordings, the home of Dinosaur Jr., Editors, Everlast, Crystal Castles and others. Four songs off the upcoming album are now online at the band's myspace page. How long have we been waiting for this record? Two years? One has to believe that the folks in the band are dead tired of playing these songs, and now they're going to have to play them for another year...

* * *

Some CD releases/show announcements/new stuff also entered my email box recently.

-- Bear Country will be celebrating the release of their EP, Frozen Lake, on Slumber Party Records Dec. 28 at Slowdown Jr. I've been listening to it off and on for the past few days and can tell you it's the best SPR release to date.
-- Mal Madrigal will be celebrating the release of their new LP, Fingers of Trees, the day after Christmas at The Slowdown. Joining them are Machineshop (Tiffany Kowalski) and Tin Kite (Stefanie Drootin and Chris Senseney). I believe this is yet another vinyl-only outing (though you will get a CDR in the sleeve).
-- Comme Reel, the reinvention of No Blood Orphan (all the same members!), has a new album coming out, but I'm not sure when because I lost the letter that came with the disc (sorry Mike). I'll post it as soon as I find out.
-- Last but not least, Paul Hansen of Perry H. Matthews sent me an unmastered version of their new untitled album, recorded by Joel Petersen at Enamel. It is a true mind-fuck (in a good way). Unfortunately, unless Hansen gets a job, no one else is going to hear it. Could someone lend him a few hundred bones? It's in everyone's best interest.

* * *

Tonight at The Waiting Room, Mynabirds (Laura Burhenn -- half of the late, great Georgie James, who I talked about here) open for The Dutchess and the Duke, along with Greg Ashley of Gris Gris. $8, 9 p.m. Check it out, y'all.

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Jack Oblivian, It's True, Filter Kings tonight… – Dec. 4, 2009 – twitter icon

It's a crazy-busy Friday night for shows, none of which I'll likely see as I'm "under the weather." None the less, that shouldn't stop you from taking in one of the many spectacles happening around town tonight (and tomorrow night).

Top on the list tonight is Jack Oblivian and the Tennessee Tearjerkers at Slowdown Jr. with John Paul Keith and the One Four Fives and Nebraska's very own Brimstone Howl. Jack Oblivian a.k.a. Jack Yarber is something of a legend of the Memphis underground/garage scene thanks to his work in Compulsive Gamblers and The Oblivians. His latest with the TT's, The Disco Outlaw, was released this year on Goner Records. JPKat145s are signed to Big Legal Mess (Fat Possum). $10, 9 p.m. If you can't make the show, try to catch Brimstone Howl at Drastic Plastic at 6 p.m. this afternoon.

Talk about a big show in a too-small venue, It's True headlines tonight at The Barley St. Tavern. Expect to hear tracks off Hawkins and Co's yet-to-be-released new LP. That alone is enough to crush Barley St., but also on the bill is Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship, Underwater Dream Machine and Cowboy Indian Bear from Lawrence, KS. $5, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, just up the street at The Waiting Room, it's The Filter Kings with The Mercurys and Cowboy Dave Band. TWR recently opened their swank remodeled pinball room, complete with a couple booths and shiny new bathrooms. Very uptown. $8, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, Sarah Benck plays at PS Collective ($5, 9 p.m.), and Minneapolis band Tarlton plays at The Saddle Creek Bar with Welcome to Florence, 9 p.m., free.

Tomorrow night, Beep Beep plays its second-to-last show ever opening for Melt Banana at The Waiting Room. Joining them is The Show Is The Rainbow. $10 adv./$12 dos, 9 p.m.

Downtown at Slowdown Jr. Saturday night, Brianna Lane (Minneapolis, MN), Jeremiah Nelson (Madison, WI), Brooks West (Nashville, TN) join Brad Hoshaw for an "in the round" performance. $8 9 p.m.

Also Saturday night, the first of Lash LaRue's annual Toy Drive shows is happening at Burke's Pub. The line-up includes Lash, Michael Campbell, Sarah Benck and Korey Anderson. Admission is $10 or a new toy. Show starts at 9.

Finally, down at The Sydney, Little Black Stereo plays with Spider+Octopus, Kyle Harvey and The Worst Friends Ever. $5, 8 p.m.

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Briefly: Thunder Power, Cursive, Brimstone, O'Leaver's… – Dec. 3, 2009 – twitter icon

A few things of note on a quiet Thursday:

-- Looks like Thunder Power has the auspicious honor of being the first Nebraska band accepted at South by Southwest 2010, according to this list on the SXSW site. Congrats. I intend to attend SXSW again this year, if I can find a decent hotel (and it looks like all the ones downtown are already sold out).

-- More Cursive/Kasher interviews keep going online, including this one at and this one at As FYI, tickets are still available for the Dec. 13 Cursive show in conjunction with the Lash Larue Toy Drive. Get them while you can.

-- While I'm thinking of it, Brimstone Howl has a live in-store performance scheduled for tomorrow (Friday) at 6 p.m. at Drastic Plastic, 1209 Howard. You should go. It's free.

-- Pretty dead tonight show-wise. O'Leaver's is hosting The Answer Team with Rock Paper Dynamite and The Half Hearts. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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Column 250: Five Years Down… – Dec. 2, 2009 – twitter icon

Chronologically, this is actually No. 249, but timewise, it's the end of five years (Column No. 1, which was a piece on Willy Mason (who had just signed with Team Love Records) was published Dec. 2, 2004. You can find it here (but you'll have to do some scrolling)). Thanks to everyone -- and The Reader -- for sticking around for five years. Now onto the next five years...

Column 250: The Big 250
Five years down...

This week's column marks the five-year anniversary of Lazy-i -- 250 columns, which equates to around 250,000 words, which, if you linked them end-to-end, would reach to the moon and back. Who would have thunk that someone could write essays about the Omaha music scene -- and indie music in general -- for five frickin' years? I sure didn't. Anyway, it's time to glance over our shoulders at the past year's worth of columns and provide any needed updates before we slog forward into year six. As I do every year, I beg/grovel/beseech you to send your column ideas to It's your input that keeps this thing going. Now, onward!

Dec. 3 -- Column 201: Darkness on the Edge of Town -- A recap of crime troubles that struck Dundee in late 2008 and the great Benson blackout. The Infinite gas station on Leavenworth where Tari Glinsmann was murdered is now long abandoned. And though there haven't been any murders around here lately, crime remains a problem, especially in Benson where both Burke's and The Barley St. Tavern were held up at gunpoint, and where a friend of mine was mugged only a few months ago -- a signal that it's time for local merchants to pull together and hire a security guard to walk the streets at night.

Dec. 24 -- Column 204: Mick’s Deep Sixed -- Count me among the many who thought the closing of Mick's signaled the beginning of the end of Benson's emergence as an Omaha live music hub. When The Sydney opened in its place, the owners had no intention of making it a music venue, despite having kept Mick's old PA in tact. But only a few months after opening, that PA was back in action above the Sydney's tiny stage, and the club has emerged as yet another option for live music in Benson.

Feb. 12 -- Column 209: A Simple Truth -- An interview with Adam Hawkins, the singer/songwriter behind the band It's True, where he talks about his past demons and his future dreams. Since then, Hawkins has become one of the stars of Omaha's next wave of singer/songwriters, thanks to solid local shows and regional touring. Hawkins and his band entered ARC Studios last fall with producer A.J. Mogis to record the follow-up to there there, now... / i think it's best. Look for it next spring. In the meantime, something tells me there's an OEA Award in Hawkins' (near) future.

March 4 -- Column 212: The Entrepreneurs -- The column title refers to Ladyfinger band members Jamie Massey, who runs The Sydney, and Chris Machmuller, who runs Worker's Take-Out on So. 50th (next to O'Leaver's). They opened their respective businesses during the depths of the worst national economic crisis since the Great Depression, and both continue to thrive. In fact, Worker's has added a new dining room. Can a citywide (nationwide) chain of Worker's franchises be far behind?

May 28 -- Column 223: Save Box Awesome -- Despite efforts to keep it open, Lincoln indie music venue Box Awesome was shuttered at the end of June. At the time, the club's booker, Jeremy Buckley said he and owner Jeremiah Moore were actively looking for a new location. Instead, they turned their focus to Moore's new Bourbon Theater -- a massive live music venue built in a converted movie house located right on Lincoln's 'O' St. Buckley said the venue's front room is being used for smaller shows. So no new Box Awesome? "Not until we are comfortable with the Bourbon as a fully functional venue," Buckley said.

June 17 -- Column 226: The Lincoln Invasion -- Speaking of Buckley, he also was the impresario behind two of the most successful festivals of '09 -- Lincoln Invasion and Lincoln Calling. Look for the return of Lincoln Invasion in June '10, and another Lincoln Calling next fall. And this coming April, look for Omaha Invasion -- where Omaha's best and brightest bands will invade Lincoln venues. Now all's Buckley needs to do is figure out a way for Nebraska to Invade Kansas (and vice versa).

July 15 -- Column 230: Seeing Red -- The column recapped the making of Little Brazil's music video for the song "Separated," shot on location at The Sydney. Plans called for the video to debut in late August. No one foresaw the untimely, tragic death of the video's producer Drew Billings of H-Minus Productions. Billings died in his sleep Sept. 11. "His death was a shock to all of us," said Little Brazil's Greg Edds, who added that afterward, the video's production took a back seat to mourning the loss. The final edits have just been completed, and the "Separated" video will have its invitation-only premiere Monday, Dec. 14, at Filmstreams. Shortly afterward, look for the video online at the Little Brazil Myspace page (

Oct. 14 -- Column 242: 2001: A Grubb Odyssey -- Where we caught up with Grasshopper Takeover frontman and now studio producer Curtis Grubb. His rock rescoring of the last 35 minutes of 2001: A Space Odyssey (think Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon synced with The Wizard of Oz) will soon be heard by none other than Mrs. Christianne Kubrick -- wife of the late Stanley Kubrick, who requested a copy of the CD/DVD. The rest of us will be able to get a copy of the soundtrack online on 1/1/2010. Look for the physical release sometime in February, as well as a screening of the project in early spring. It might be the last we hear of Grubb for awhile, as he began an odyssey of a different kind Nov. 11 when he and partner Marcie Webber welcomed twins Elliott Logan Grubb and Everly Kai Grubb into the world.

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Old Canes in OWH; Pine Ridge listening party tonight… – Dec. 1, 2009 – twitter icon

No new live reviews as I was out of town last weekend. It was pretty quiet show-wise anyway, except for Sunday night's Season to Risk reunion show. Things will be picking up in the weeks to come, however.

* * *

A headline worth mentioning: Omaha World-Herald's Kevin Coffey put together a one-night tour-diary of Old Canes' mid-November show at The Slowdown (which was reviewed on Lazy-i here). You get plenty of Technicolor from frontman Chris Crisci as well as some nice pics from OWH shooter Kent Sievers. Check it out here. While we're talking about Mr. Coffey, I never got a chance to thank him for the Omaha World-Herald T-shirt I won after he (or his editors) took my suggestion to name his new column "Rock Candy" after his blog. Can't wait to wear it to a rock show!

* * *

There's a listening party tonight at The Waiting Room for the Christmas at Pine Ridge: Vol. 2 compilation CD. I got a preview copy a week ago and have already picked my favorites of the bunch (Noah's Ark, Korey Anderson, Josh Dunwoody). The party begins at 7 and is free.

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Live Review: Beep Beep; Black Friday special; some leftover headlines; Season to Risk Sunday… – Nov. 26, 2009 – twitter icon

There was maybe 50 people on hand at Slowdown Jr. for Beep Beep Tuesday night -- a bit disappointing, but not entirely surprising. Beep Beep's arty noise is definitely an acquired taste that hasn't exactly caught on in the Omaha metro area. For those who "get it," these last few shows of their immediate existence (including Dec. 6 and Dec. 23 at The Waiting Room) are a rare, valuable treat. This was the first time I've seen their new bass player who replaced Darren Keen, and I was impressed. He doesn't have Keen's stage presence (and who does?) but he knows his way around the fretboard. Tuesday's show was the most varied set I've heard them play, but I've still yet to hear them perform "Baby Shoes" live (and I suspect I never will). Opening was the Sacramento/Austin all-girl trio of Agent Ribbons, who play that kind of whimsical, waltz-driven, gypsy-flavored indie rock where you're not at all surprised when one of them pulls out a kazoo and goes to town. Cute and fun.

* * *

Here's a Black Friday music special for you: Last week Portland-based music publicity firm XO Publicity put online their second volume of Christmas music recorded by some of their clients, including The Winter Sounds, Piney Gir, Caravan of Thieves, The BAcksliders and Blue Skies for Black Hearts, who contributed what is destined to become a holiday staple in the McMahan household, "Wishing You a Merry Xmas." The best part (well, one of the best parts) is that XO For the Holidays Volume II is absolutely free to download right here. If you dig it, Vol. I is still online here.

* * *

Here are some headlines that have been clogging up my inbox:

-- There has been a recent wave of Cursive news hitting the net. Among the more amusing articles is this one from Onion AV Club Austin titled "Recluses and martyrs: Five Cursive characters you wouldn't want to invite to Thanksgiving dinner." My favorite: The Great (failed) artist from "What Have I Done" (the closing track off Mama, I'm Swollen). What'd he bring for dinner? "Leftover kung pao chicken, and—what's this? An unfinished manuscript that you should totally read after the game is over? He'd love to hear your thoughts on it." Funny.

-- On a more serious note, there's this recent interview with Cursive's Ted Stevens in the Louisiana Advocate, where Ted talks about the impact of their recent performance on Late Night with David Letterman, as well as their recent tours of Asia and his origins with the group. Interesting stuff. On Letterman: "It's like everything is different," he said in the article. "Suddenly my family, and my extended family, they're all aware of what my band looks like and what we sound like. We came home and were validated for all these years that we'd 'wasted' in this futile pursuit."

-- A brief follow-up on that interview with Chris Crisci of Old Canes from a few weeks ago. At the time, Crisci had said he wasn't quite sure what was next for Appleseed Cast, his other band. Well here's what's next. Appleseed Cast will be hitting the road for a month beginning Feb. 24 in Norman OK, performing what are considered their landmark albums -- Low Level Owl 1 and 2 -- in their entirety. The band also announced that it signed with Chicago independent label Graveface Records, home to Black Moth Super Rainbow and Monster Movie, among others. Their first release on Graveface will be a live album that will be available on tour, and then look for a new Appleseed full-length in late 2010.

* * *

Here's what we got for the weekend, which starts tonight:

Down at Slowdown Jr. it's the return of A.A. Bondy (ex-Verbena) with Lissie and Phil Schaffart. $10, 9 p.m.

Satchel Grande is playing a full set at The Waiting Room tonight. $7, 9 p.m.

The Dark Lord is celebrating his birthday by playing a set at The Saddle Creek Bar with his Sexy Minions. I feel strangely responsible for this, having indirectly named the band/performer. Too bad I have to miss it as I'll be wandering around central Iowa tonight (sorry Mike). No cover, starts at 9.

The highlight tomorrow night -- Saturday -- is Brian Poloncic (Tomato a Day, Cactus Nerve Thang) opening for Golden Mean and Black Lillies at The Barley St. $5, 9 p.m.

Last but not least, this Sunday at The Waiting Room is the 20-year reunion of Kansas City noise-rock legends Season to Risk. Who remembers their 1995 buzzsaw classic In a Perfect World, released by Sony/Columbia? Or maybe you remember them as the band playing in the warehouse party scene in the sci-fi thriller Strange Days? The band is only playing five gigs on this anniversary tour, including ours, thanks to Little Brazil's Oliver Morgan -- LB now records for Anodyne Records, which also is the home to Roman Numerals, the current project by S2R's Steve Tulipana and Billy Smith. Opening is Techlepathy and Comme Reel (members of No Blood Orphan). $8, 9 p.m. Do not miss this one.

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Column 248 -- Council of Elders; Beep Beep, Thunder Power tonight… – Nov. 25, 2009 – twitter icon

Because of The Reader's holiday printing deadlines, this column was actually written two weeks ago. I was going to write a "Gee, these are things I'm thankful for" yawner until the NPR piece mentioned below dropped into my e-mail box. There's a lot more to the interview than what I've summarized below, and it should be required reading for anyone with more than a passing interest in how technology has impacted the indie music business. Too bad Sub Pop couldn't participate, but it's hard to beat Cosloy... and Nansel. My annual "predictions" column isn't due for another month, but I can make this one right now: The '00s will be remembered as the last decade of the "record business" as we knew it. If a record label really is "a filter, a bank, a promo machine," as Kill Rock Stars' Portia Sabin defined it, than Pitchfork is poised to become the biggest indie record label of all time. Fact is, if you can somehow land that elusive 9.1 rating from Pitchfork, you don't need a record label, and the booking agents and the publicists (and the lazy music journalists) will come looking for you. Someone once asked me how Pitchfork became so important in such a short time. Everyone agrees that their reviews are poorly written (and as Cosloy points out, with their numbering system, no one reads the reviews anyway). To me, the answer was Pitchfork's willingness to go "all in" and invest in covering indie music with its heart and soul. With hundreds of new indie records coming out every month, fans needed an easy, convenient, well-organized and well-designed resources to filter through the dross and find the wheat. With no one else willing to step up to the degree that Pitchfork did, they shouldered their way to the front of the pack. And that numbering system didn't hurt, either.

Column 248: Sound Advice
Indie label owners discuss the state of the biz…

The topics ranged from iTunes to the role of record labels, the "single" to the resurgence of vinyl, bands vs. brands vs. Pitchfork, and in the end, there really was no consensus other than it's harder to make a buck in the music business these days.
The discussion happened last week when National Public Radio (NPR) conducted an online summit of indie music industry movers and shakers to get a then-and-now take on how the business has changed since the beginning of the decade. The panelists were Maggie Vail and Portia Sabin from Kill Rock Stars (Elliott Smith, Deerhoof), Gerard Cosloy from Matador (Yo La Tengo, Cold Cave), Mac McCaughan from Merge (Conor Oberst, Arcade Fire), Chris Swanson and Darius Van Arman from Jagjaguwar/Secretly Canadian/Dead Oceans (Yeasayer, Okkervil River) and our very own Robb Nansel from Saddle Creek (Bright Eyes, UUVVWWZ). NPR's Carrie Brownstein was the moderator.
The transcript is online at here -- it's 4,000 words of wisdom from people who have been in the trenches since the Compact Disc was the only game in town.
Matador's Cosloy got the most interesting (and clever) points across. Discussing the advent of digital file-sharing, Cosloy said initially he thought the technology would be beneficial. "That was before it took only a matter of minutes to download an entire box set," he said. He went onto say that early downloaders/uploaders were hardcore music nuts who tended to buy more records than anyone else. "In the years to follow, file-sharing became mainstream... and younger audiences had less of a fond connection to things like records stores, record labels, etc."
In fact, the tone of the entire discussion centered on the relevance of record labels, both to bands and listeners. KRS's Portia Sabin defined a record label as "a filter, a bank, a promo machine. A source of contacts in the industry."
Merge's McCaughan said the 'net gives consumers access to any music they want. "If you don't know what you are looking for, it's like trying to find a good record in a thrift shop. So the label is, as Portia says, a filter or at least a starting point for fans."
But most agreed that more and more, music buyers have no idea what record label a band is on. If that's true, that's a real problem for these guys who partially depend on brand loyalty to get people to consider their new bands (certainly they can't depend on radio, and never could). Add to that a one-and-done mentality from record buyers and the problem gets worse. They call it "the churn factor."
"The churn factor is severe; the public burns out on supposed faves very, very fast these days," Cosloy said. "... I think it is fair to say that anyone who is making a second record is about to contend with it to some degree."
The rise of the (generally unprofitable for indies) "singles" market -- driven in part by iTunes -- supports listeners' short attention spans. "People are more into songs right now than bands, albums or labels," said Jagjaguwar's Swanson, who added that his label is actively encouraging some of its artists to only focus on singles, but he was alone among the execs on this.
What they all agreed on is that the resurgence of vinyl is very real, even though its overall share of the market is miniscule. Nansel said Saddle Creek just raised its list price and scaled back packaging (of non-180-gram vinyl) for most of its fall releases, while Cosloy said Matador is introducing a lower-grade vinyl with "more Spartan packaging" for less money.
And then there was Pitchfork, the music news and criticism website that seems to drive the entire indie music world. Cosloy said one of the most effective ways to get people excited about a release is to get a high rating from Pitchfork. "A Pitchfork 9.1 (out of 10) is more influential to the audience and the retailers than a Rolling Stone or New York Times review," he said. KSR's Sabin said a 4.5 rating could "kill a record," but Nansel disagreed. "I'd be inclined to say a high Pitchfork number helps; a low Pitchfork number is irrelevant," he said. Considering how poorly Creek scores with Pitchfork, that may be wishful thinking.
Nansel went on to say bands playing shows and word of mouth is what sells records. "It's 1995 from that perspective."
There was one sobering fact that Sabin threw in that has nothing to do with '95: "There were 105,000 records released in the U.S. last year," she said, "and of those, 1,515 sold more than 10,000. So indies now have a greater share of the market that exists, but we still don't have the part that the majors always had: 500,000-plus (sellers)."
Cosloy pointed out that even the majors have fewer gold records than ever before.
If you didn't read closely, it all could sound somewhat bleak, especially if you're in a band. To me, it pointed out that the future is wide open, that the industry underwent (and is undergoing) a complete reset, and those who are willing to anticipate -- and embrace -- change are going to be fine. Thanks to all this technology, more people than ever are listening to music. Now the labels just need to figure out how to get them to pay for it.

* * *

There are a number of pre-Thanksgiving shows going on tonight around town. On top of my list is Beep Beep at Slowdown Jr. with Thunder Power and Agent Ribbons. According to Thunder Power's Matt Hutton, this will be his last show with the band and the last time you'll get to hear several of their songs performed live as he's moving away from Omaha after Thanksgiving. So send him off in style. $7, 9 p.m.

There's also a lot going on in Benson tonight:

-- Landing on the Moon plays at The Sydney with Blue Rosa and The Answer Team. $5, 9 p.m.
-- Matt Whipkey plays a set backed by Scott "Zip" Zimmerman at The Barley St. Kris Lager also is on the bill. $5, 9 p.m.
-- Zeppelin tribute band The Song Remains the Same is playing at The Waiting Room. $7, 9 p.m.

Tomorrow: Some free Xmas music and some headlines and (maybe, probably) a review about what happened at Slowdown...

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Live Review: Bass Drum of Death, etc.; A Sunny Day in Glasgow tonight… – Nov. 23, 2009 – twitter icon

Ah, O'Leaver's, where everybody knows your name. Quite a show there Friday night. The highlight was the first band, John Barrett's Bass Drum of Death, an electric guitar-drums duo with a raw, gritty delivery on spare songs that were as subtle as a machine-gun tearing a hole in your living room wall. Their recipe was lightning-fast riffs over scatter-shot drums and Barrett's barking yowl vocals -- twitchy, nerve-rattling garage rock played at blazing speeds. As pure as it gets. The second opener, Lover!, was a four-piece that consisted of former members of Jay Reatard's band playing '70s-style rec-room rock loud and fast and, unfortunately, unvaried from song to song -- kind of boring. Last up was Brimstone Howl, sounding about the same as they sounded when I heard them at the Barley St. last month, though this time they only played for around 20 minutes -- disappointingly brief, especially for a "CD release party." Oh well…
O'Leaver's had another marquee show Saturday night -- the Omaha return of Mercy Rule, along with Wagon Blasters -- but I missed it, figuring I just saw them at Lincoln Calling and will be seeing them again at the Mousetrap reunion show Dec. 23. Tickets are still available to that show, by the way.

* * *

It's an evening of shoegaze (sort of) tonight at The Waiting Room. Philly dream-pop band A Sunny Day in Glasgow headlines a show with Drakes Hotel (remember them?) and Honey & Darling. $8, 9 p.m.

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Brimstone Howl, Pink Mountaintops tonight; Mercy Rule tomorrow… – Nov. 20, 2009 – twitter icon

The little club that could -- O'Leaver's -- is hosting two of the best shows of the weekend. It starts tonight with Brimstone Howl (You read about them here yesterday) celebrating the release of their new CD on Alive Records, Big Deal, What's He Done Lately? Opening is Lover!, a Memphis/Chicago band that records on underground label HoZac Records (here's Lover's Myspace page). If that weren't enough, also opening is John Barrett's Bass Drum of Death, a duo that has a 7-inch out on Fat Possum (Here's their Myspace page). All three for a mere $5. Show starts at 9:30.

Also tonight, Canadian sludge-space band Pink Mountaintops returns to Omaha, this time at Slowdown Jr. with Dim Light and The Mulanix Street Orchestra. $10, 9 p.m. And I would be remiss in not mentioning the Big Al video shoot tonight at Barley St. Tavern. Opening is Jes Winter and Sarah Benck. $5, 9 p.m. While over at The Waiting Room Detroit dance-rock band Electric Six plays with The Gay Blades & Millions of Brazilians. $13, 9 p.m.

Saturday night, it's back to O'Leaver's for the Omaha debut of the reunited Mercy Rule -- the lights, the sounds, the songs, it'll be 1994 all over again. Opening is Speed! Nebraska bands The Wagon Blasters (ex-Frontier Trust) and Ideal Cleaners, along with Jake Joyce McCoy. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Also Saturday, Vancouver rockers Japandroids (Polyvinyl Records) plays at Slowdown Jr. with West Palm Beach masters of echo rock Surfer Blood (Kanine Records) and The Answer Team. $10, 9 p.m.

The annual Homeless for the Holidays benefit concert also is going on Saturday night at The Hideout (320. So. 72nd St.). $10, 7:30 p.m.

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Lazy-i interview: Brimstone Howl… – Nov. 19, 2009 – twitter icon

Just posted online, an interview/feature with Brimstone Howl's John Ziegler, where he talks about the making of the band's new album, Big Deal. What's He Done Lately?, their record label (Alive) and the sometimes one-note nature of garage rock. Read it here.

Among the stuff that didn't make it into the interview was discussion about some of the more commercial elements of being in a rock band. Ziegler said that Brimstone albums sales have been steady -- if not slowly increased -- from record to record. "If we're lucky, we can get a song used on a TV show," he said. The band already had a song used in the series Supernatural but "we didn't tell anyone. It's a horrible TV show about these guys that hunt demons. Someone saw it and said our song 'Bad Seed' was playing on the juke box in the bar (scene)." They've also had a song used on Friday Night Lights, which he said "the guys like watching." For payment, the band received "a little more than a grand" each time. "It seems to be the way bands make money these days instead of record sales," he added. "A lot of bands like The Dirtbombs have gotten big car commercial deals."

Read the whole feature/interview here, then get ready to see the band play their CD release show tomorrow night at O'Leaver's with Lover! and Bass Drum of Death.

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Column 247: OEAA Fall Showcase review; Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Fortnight tonight… – Nov. 18, 2009 – twitter icon

According to MarQ Manner, who organized the OEAA showcase, all the venues did well "and if I were to guess there were 500 to 600 people around." He said The Waiting Room swelled for Black Squirrels and Brad Hoshaw.
From an "issues" standpoint, he said the PS Collective had PA problems and that the singer for Song Remains the Same walked off during their performance -- I guess Robert Plant would have done the same thing, so it fits with the overall "tribute" theme of the band. There also were some scheduling issues with the DJs, but overall, "We got through it and everyone once again seemed pretty happy, especially the people attending the event."

Column 247: Shark Jumping
The OEAAs and Benson.
And so with last Friday night's Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards (OEAA) showcase in Benson, another Omaha music festival season comes to a close. But did it go out with a bang or a whimper?
If you judge the event by its turnout, it would appear to be the former. When I showed up at PS Collective at around 8, the venue's music room (where the stage is) already was mostly full. By the time the first band, Son of 76 and the Watchmen, began playing, it was standing room only. So crowded, in fact, that a couple of strangers happily shared our table in the back of the room while we scarfed down a pizza.
About a half-hour later, the scene was repeated (sans pizza) down the street at The Sydney where Jes Winter and her band were playing -- every table was filled. And while it wasn't SRO at The Waiting Room for Matt Whipkey and Midwest Dilemma, the crowd was respectable (It is, after all, a rather large venue). Keep in mind -- this was all happening before 10 p.m. in a city where no one shows up before halftime.
While I saw the usual cast of lovable miscreants that make up the Benson music scene out and about, there were a lot of new, unfamiliar faces in the crowd, which one assumes were drawn to the showcase by its reputation for quality bands and a good time. So, a success, right?
But, there were a few cracks in the foundation. Some of the best bands nominated for OEA Awards played the following night at the very same venues. This may have had more to do with the late date in which the showcases were booked than the fact that the bands that played Saturday night actually got paid to play. Whether it's their showcases or their big annual awards ceremony at The Holland Center, the OEAAs never have paid their performers. It is, after all, a non-profit organization.
The venues, on the other hand, are for-profit businesses and made profits Friday night, strengthening the theory that the OEAA showcases are pseudo-fundraisers for Benson music venues. But I've been down that road before.
For me, a bigger indication that the OEAA showcase might have jumped the shark is the fact that I only lasted a couple hours before heading downtown to see Simon Joyner (an OEAA nominee) and his band perform at Slowdown.
My capsule review of what I did see in Benson:
Jes Winter: The young, wizened music critic that stood by my side during her set made this brilliant statement: "If she did nothing but covers, she could make a killing in West Omaha." Truer words were never spoken.
Son of 76 and The Watchmen: Gorgeous, bluesy Americana by a Lincoln ensemble fronted by a guy who sounds like he grew up on a steady diet of Tom Waits and Joe Cocker. You're lucky if you discover one new talent at these showcases; this was the one for me.
Matt Whipkey: Proved that he don't need no steenk-ing band; he can do just fine backed only by the über-talented Scott "Zip" Zimmerman on drums, his own mercurial guitar playing and the tightest pants in the business.
Midwest Dilemma: With his ensemble paired down below double-digits, I fear that our hero, Justin Lamoureux, will (fairly or not) forever be dogged with the Bright Eyes comparisons, as the person next to me who had never seen or heard him before said, "Is he kidding? Is he singing like Conor on purpose?"
Other than The Filter Kings, there wasn't anything that tempted me to stay in Benson. As one OEAA show-goer who showed up later at The Slowdown put it: "Is that really the best that Omaha has to offer?" Of course not, despite the fact that every one of the performers had been nominated for awards.
The fact is, it's been a long, long festival year. It started with the Lincoln Invasion in June and was followed by the OEAA Summer Showcase, the MAHA Festival (and its "play-in" benefit for The Waiting Room), the glorious RatFest, the Nebraska Pop Festival, Lincoln Calling and ended last Friday night with the OEAA Fall Showcase. Only half of those "events" were paying gigs for bands. Throw into that cauldron a plethora of benefit shows, and you've got a recipe for a lot of good bands making little to no money. And after awhile, even the most kind-hearted of the bunch gets tired of playing for free.
With no bars outside of the Maple Street corridor involved (again), the criticism continues to get louder -- and more credible -- that the only ones benefiting from the OEAA program are Benson and its venues. And what's wrong with that? Now if we could only find an organization that brought the rest of the Omaha/Lincoln music community together.

* * *

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band plays tonight at The Waiting Room as part of their "My Feet Can't Fail Me Now 25th Anniversary Concert Tour." Show starts at 9. One Percent doesn't list any opening bands. $15.
Also tonight, Fortnight is playing at The Barley Street with a couple Nashville singer/songwriters -- David Condos and Charlie Hardin. The event is a pot-luck dinner -- those who bring something to eat get in for $2, otherwise its $5. Dinner starts at 6:30 and the music begins at 7:30.

Tomorrow at Lazy-i: Brimstone Howl

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Live Review: Simon Joyner, UUVVWWZ; Anvil tonight… – Nov. 16, 2009 – twitter icon

It was an exhausting weekend, starting Thursday with Old Canes, then OEA's and Simon Joyner Friday, and then UUVVWWZ on Saturday.
The final tally for my OEA showcase experience was seeing Son of 76 and The Watchmen at PS Collective, Jes Winter and the tail-end of Mars Black at The Sydney, and Matt Whipkey and Midwest Dilemma at The Waiting Room before hauling it downtown to Slowdown for the Joyner show. I'm weighing my comments on all of it in this week's column -- now to decide just how candid I should be...
The question that came up a few times late in the evening was whether Friday night's OEA showcase really was the best that Omaha had to offer. It's a matter of opinion, but if your answer is "no," than you have to ask whether the OEAs have jumped the shark. To me, it's too early to say, and it's probably not fair to judge based on Friday's showcase, especially when you consider that this summer's showcase was one of the best things that the OEA's have pulled off. More later.

Joyner and UUVVWWZ were both remarkable in their own ways. I can't remember Joyner ever coming off more like a straight-up indie rock performer instead of a folk-art relic. Wearing a crumpled straw cowboy hat, Joyner mostly played songs off his new album, Out Into the Snow -- the most straight-forward record that we'll ever get out of him (Translation: It's good) -- as well as "The Only Living Boy in Omaha" from Skeleton Blues and a couple others I didn't recognize. There was a point during the opening song, "The Drunken Boat" (from the new album), where sideman Alex McManus put down his bass and picked up a violin to create an effect as brutal and cutting as any powerchord from any Strat, Tele or SG -- a crushing avalanche of sound.

As I've said before, Joyner is now creating music that's as thoughtful and emotionally engaging as his lyrics. He still has his off-key moments vocally, and it's hard to say why they're there. I asked someone standing next to me if she thought he was singing off-key on purpose -- it never dawned on her that he could be as part of a "style." I've always thought that the off-kilter warble was intentional, but I doubt we'll ever know for sure.

Also backing Joyner Friday night was the most underrated guitarist in Omaha: Mike Friedman on pedal steel, along with drummer Chris Deden and a keyboardist that I didn't recognize. Terrific stuff. (See photo).

I got a second chance to hear Midwest Dilemma Saturday night when they opened for UUVVWWZ -- the ensemble sounded like they were playing the same songs from Friday night, but of course it didn't sound nearly as good on the Sydney's smaller sound system. UUVVWWZ didn't go on until after midnight. Their set was familiar since I've been listening to those same songs for almost two years now. They did unveil a new one that was more abstract, more art-tortured than anything on their album, pointing the way (possibly) to where they're headed next time -- many odd time and key changes and a disregard for traditional melody, the word "prog" came to mind. (See really out of focus blurry photo).

* * *

The Waiting Room is screening Anvil, The Story of Anvil tonight at 8 p.m. I saw the movie at The Dundee in July and reviewed it here. It's one of the best rock documentaries that I've seen since Some Kind of Monster in 2004. See it. Then tell Jim and Marc to get the band here in Omaha for a gig.

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Live Review: Old Canes; OEAA showcase, Simon Joyner tonight; UUVVWWZ, It's True Saturday… – Nov. 13, 2009 – twitter icon

Pop-Americana is how one guy described Old Canes as we stood outside of Slowdown and listened to the band through the glass overhead doors, leaning against the metal fence that surrounds the beer garden. Old Canes plays a kind of nostalgic indie folk. Not nostalgic in reference to any style of music, but in the sense of a reminder of things you recall from growing up -- dusty old houses, kids playing football in an empty field, finding a grocery list from last winter a jacket pocket. It's Midwestern white-man's blues with nothing urban at all about their sound, and there isn't supposed to be.
Frontman Chris Crisci, with his pulled back, thinning hair and bushy going-gray beard, played an acoustic guitar and pumped out his melodies with an honest earnestness. Behind him were three guys playing a variety of instruments, just trying to get a note in edgewise -- cello, banjo, bells, melodica, trumpet, a cacophony of hand-held rhythm shakers. Imagine the kind of Christmas music they could pull off. Above it all soundwise was a drummer pounding out an Ozark backbeat from the 1950s, the only country-sounding thing about the band. They (thankfully) do their Pop-Americana without a hint of twang -- a hoe-down in tennis shoes and untucked button-down dress shirts. (See photo)
I like it more than Crisci's other band, Appleseed Cast, and I have a feeling Crisci does, too. Or at least he enjoys playing in it more. How could he not? The performance seemed loose and fun vs. AC's furrowed-brow rocket-launch party. But I guess he probably views both bands as different sons of different mothers -- there are things he loves about both, and he could never turn his back on one for the other, though, in the end, one may emerge stronger and permanent while the other becomes a fond memory.
Saddle Creek was wise to sign them as the label stumbles forward, trying to find the right recipe to fuel their next decade of existence. Though I'm not sure how a band like this ever takes off. Then again, how did Deer Tick break through (and OC is better -- certainly more interesting -- than Deer Tick)?
* * *
I'll be doing some driving tonight.
The early show(s) are part of the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards (OEAA) showcase, strung out across five bars in Benson. The earliest set doesn't start until 8:30 (most begin after 9), which means my exposure will be somewhat limited. The full schedule is here. The bands I suggest you try to catch are at The Waiting Room (all of them), and PS Collective (Filter Kings at 11:45). Your $10 gets you into all the five venues all night.

Across town tonight at Slowdown Jr. Simon Joyner is playing a CD release show for Out Into the Snow (Read my review of the disc here). Opening is Hubble (Reagan Roeder and friends) and Outlaw Con Bandana. $8, 9 p.m.
Ironically, some of the best OEAA nominees are playing Saturday night in Benson rather than tonight. It's True is headlining a show with Anniversaire at The Waiting Room. Opening is O Giant Man and Family of the Year. $5, 9 p.m.
Meanwhile down the street Saturday night at The Sydney, UUVVWWZ is playing with Midwest Dilemma and Underwater Dream Machine. That show also is a mere $5, and starts at 9 p.m.
Cross town at the fabulous O'Leaver's, Fromanhole is headlining a show Saturday night with Perry H. Matthews and Engine Orchestra. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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Lazy-i Interview: Old Canes (and they're playing TONIGHT)… – Nov. 12, 2009 – twitter icon

Just posted, an interview with Old Canes (and Appleseed Cast) frontman Chris Crisci. Crisci talks about how Old Canes was born out of Appleseed, the new album Feral Harmonics, his relationship with Saddle Creek, and more. (Read it here).
Old Canes is playing at Slowdown Jr. TONIGHT. That's right, the show is this evening. I'm not sure, however, that Old Canes is the headliner as Slowdown Jr. has Dave Dondero listed on top at their website, which is odd since this is sort of a CD release show for Old Canes.
Opening is Muscle Worship, a Wichita band that's touring with Old Canes. Crisci described them as "flavored in Polvo, maybe a little more Braid-meets-surf rock. The guy has an amazing guitar tone. He plays a Jazzmaster but I don't know what else he has going on there. It's awesome." All three bands for just $8. Starts at 9 p.m.
Also tonight is the closing night for screenings of the Nik Fackler film Lovely, Still at the Marcus Midtown Theater.  Check it out and see if you can find O'Leaver's tucked away somewhere in the middle.

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Column 246: Lovely, Score… – Nov. 11, 2009 – twitter icon

There were other challenges in making the score and soundtrack to Lovely, Still, including acquiring the rights to use certain Christmas songs throughout the movie. As a result, "We put more money in for that than I thought we would," Fackler said. In some cases, the price was too high. Jake Bellows and Alessi Laurent-Marke recorded a version of "I'll be Home for Christmas" that you won't hear in the film because the cost was simply too steep. Instead, the duo recorded an original Christmas song that sets a similar mood.

I asked Fackler if he ever thought of pulling a John Carpenter and write/compose his own score. "No," he said, followed by "I mean, I will never say 'no,' but who knows what the future holds? Originally I wanted to do some music and have one of my songs in (Lovely, Still), but it was fun collaborating with everyone involved. There's so much great music out there."

Go see the movie. It's playing at the new Marcus Midtown Theater through Thursday night.

Column 246: Lovely, Score
Mogis and Walcott provide the background music...
I've been hearing about Lovely, Still for what seems like forever -- or at least five years -- and last Friday night I got to see the final product.
Lovely, Still is a film by local maverick filmmaker Nik Fackler, who over the years you've read about in this column, whether it was about his early days as a music video maker for a plethora of Saddle Creek Records bands or his work creating a video montage that was projected as a backdrop during a Bright Eyes tour or his various music projects, including fronting the band The Family Radio and his work with Derek Pressnall in the revamped Flowers Forever.
Throughout all of that, Lovely, Stillhas provided the ongoing background music to Fackler's personal symphony. It was (and still is) his day job (though he no longer gets paid for it), the career that his entire life-circle can point toward with pride.
This isn't going to be a review of the film. Hopefully Ryan Syrek or Ben Coffman will take care of that in the movie section when the film has its "formal release" next spring. Still, I can't help but add my two cents. The movie, which stars screen legends Martin Landau and Ellen Burstyn, was much better than I expected based on the film's early word-of-mouth and chatter from those associated with the production. All I'd heard was that it was an "Alzheimer's love story," but it's much weirder than that. Two days after seeing it, Teresa and I were still talking about it and what certain sequences meant or why Fackler went in the direction that he did. We also conducted the obligatory search for the house used in the film (and found it on 54th St.).
Instead, this is a look at the film's score. Not the collection of popular songs tied together by a theme -- that's the soundtrack. The score is the orchestral tip-toeing of curiosity or thunderous rise of trumpets when the hero enters the room. The score is the thing you hear but may not notice that is coaxing tears when boy-loses-girl and a smile when boy-gets-girl-again.
Lovely, Still's score was created and composed by Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott of Bright Eyes. As local music insiders know, Mogis, who also plays in Monsters of Folk, is the "secret ingredient" and mad genius arranger that has fueled Conor Oberst's Bright Eyes albums. Walcott, who also played keyboards in the Mystic Valley Band, is a virtuoso who knows how to write sheet music. Fackler's known both of them for years.
He said the scoring process involved first creating a "temp score" comprised of music from eight different films by composers like Danny Elfman, Jon Brion, Ornette Coleman and Clint Mansell. The temp score, compiled by Fackler, gives the composers an idea of what he has in mind for certain scenes in the film. "We assemble and edit the film, and once we lock the picture, we split it up into five reels, each 15 to 20 minutes long," Fackler said. "You edit it in portions. You lock reel one, send a DVD of it with the temp score and start scoring the film with keyboards."
Fackler said Mogis and Walcott would work on themes and he would come in and listen and make suggestions -- slower here, faster there, and so on. After that was "locked," the three entered Mogis' ARC Studio with a "small orchestra" comprised of members of the Omaha Symphony who brought the score to life. All of the score's guitar parts were played by Mogis, while the keyboards were played by Walcott.
When it all comes together, it sounds like, well, a motion picture. Like any good score, the music is both subtle and necessary; it quietly tugs the viewer along like a sonic flashlight without getting in the way, and like anything else that these two composers have created, could stand on its own as modern classical music.
Facker said the score was one of his favorite parts of the movie. "I listen to a lot of classical music, and the only place you can go and hear new orchestral music is in film and video games," he said. "Mike and Nate did an amazing job."
Of course there also is a soundtrack, comprised of songs written and performed by Saddle Creek Records' artists who are Fackler's friends and associates. Since this is a (spoiler alert!) Christmas film, most of those songs are holiday themed or covers of Christmas classics, all picked by Fackler. "For a long time, I gave copies of the screenplay to bands I've worked with and asked if they'd be interested in contributing original music," he said.
Among them, Cursive's Tim Kasher, Tilly and the Wall, Son, Ambulance, Bright Eyes, Alessi Laurent-Marke, Jake Bellows (Neva Dinova) and Lawrence Kansas singer/songwriter Arthur Dodge. The song that plays during the end credits -- Bright Eyes' "Make a Plan to Love Me," was written especially for the film and was originally called "Lovely, Still Theme." Fackler said Oberst changed the name when he included it on his last Bright Eyes' album, Cassadaga. That's followed by Son, Ambulance's "Quand Tu Marches Seul," which also appeared on that band's last record, Someone Else's Deja Vu.

Some of the original songs didn't make it into the film, but will be included in the Soundtrack to Lovely, Still, which Fackler said Saddle Creek Records will likely release next spring when the film gets its formal national release.

The score, the soundtrack, it all works. Find out for yourself before the film's special engagement at the new Marcus Midtown Theater ends Thursday night.

* * *

Tomorrow: An interview with Chris Crisci of Old Canes. They're playing at Slowdown Jr. tomorrow night...

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Live Review: Meat Puppets; Marcus Theater; Har Mar Superstar tonight… – Nov. 9, 2009 – twitter icon

More than any recent band performance, I've had more people ask for my comments about the Nik Fackler film Lovely, Still. I'll be talking about it in length in this week's column (which focuses on the film's soundtrack and how it was made). The short answer is that it was a lot better than what I was expecting based on the film's early word-of-mouth and various chatter from those associated with the production. Two days after seeing it, Teresa and I were still talking about it and what certain sequences mean or why Nik went in the direction that he did. We also did the obligatory search for the house used in the film (and found it). I suggest that you go see the film, which is playing at the new Marcus Midtown Theater through Thursday.
My experience with the Marcus theater wasn't as… positive. I realize it was the opening week and that they still have a lot of things to work out, but come on folks, there are some basic things about running a theater that should be engrained before you open the doors -- things like good concession service and an explanation when your theater is offering something outside the norm.
Some background: The Marcus Midtown is a four-level entertainment complex of which only one floor is dedicated to the actual theater (level 3). There's an entrance on the first floor, the Glo Lounge on the second floor, the actual theater and concessions on the third floor and a "VIP area" on the fourth floor (which I didn't see) -- all connected via escalators. Once inside, the complex feels like something you'd find in a big city (i.e., New York City). The lounge was bustling when we showed up at around 8 for the 9:15 screening. I talked to a couple people in the lounge who told me they weren't there to see a movie, only to booze it up in Glo.
So the gripes… There are two kinds of seating at Marcus -- CineDine and General Admission. If you want to try some of their restaurant fare, you have to have CineDine seating, otherwise you're stuck with the traditional movie theater grub (hot dogs, popcorn, etc.). You can't order the "good food" from the concession area. You also can't order booze from the concession area. I assume it's some sort of liquor license restriction. I guess you can get your beer at Glo and bring it with you? There certainly were a lot of people drinking beer/wine in the theater.
If (as we did) you get stuck with general admission seats, get ready for a horrible experience. GA seats are designated to the first three rows of the theater, below the stadium-style CineDine seating. When they designed the theater, they put these rows too close to the screen, so viewing is terrible from all three rows -- a real Clockwork Orange experience, as I overheard one patron describe it. Don't get GA seats.
Then there's the concession stand. We ordered some hot pretzels and an Icee. It took 10 minutes to get the pretzels. The Icee ended up being a Sudsee -- warm punch-flavored goo instead of, well, ice. Literally warm foam. The person running the concession stand apologized and promised to bring us a frozen one "in 10 minutes, as soon as they're ready." It never arrived. Again, you expect some turbulence during opening week, but not theft.
I'd like to tell you that the screening itself was good, but I'm still nursing my sore neck from the horrible GA seats. I want nothing more than for this theater to succeed, however until they get their act together, I'll see you at the Dundee…
* * *
I saw a lot of people at the Meat Puppets show at The Waiting Room Saturday night that I haven't seen at shows in, well, years. It was an old school crowd in every sense of the word. The average age of the 200 or so fans on hand had to be somewhere in the 30s. Someone described the band as "the Grateful Dead of punk rock," and that's kind of what it looked like.  The Kirkwood brothers themselves visually added to that hippie vibe, but musically it was anything but. While not the over-the-top arena rock that I saw in Austin earlier this year, the Meat Puppets still bought the noise with equal parts thunder and twang. Nice set, with no chit-chat between songs, just one song right after another. I left two songs into the encore. See photo.
* * *
Tonight at The Waiting Room, it's Har Mar Superstar with Bang Bang Eche. $10, 9 p.m.

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Lovely Still, Honey & Darling tonight; Meat Puppets, Capgun Coup, Stay Awake tomorrow… – Nov. 6, 2009 – twitter icon

I'm foregoing music in the early evening tonight as I attend the Marcus Theater screening of Nik Fackler's feature length motion picture debut, Lovely Still. Marty Landau is supposed to be in attendance (Why couldn't Nik also get yummy co-star Elizabeth Banks?). There actually is an indie music angle here: Bright Eyes' members Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott scored the film's music. And Nik is in The Family Radio (He's the frontman). This also is the grand opening weekend for this new theater located at the Midtown Crossing development. I heard they serve booze. We'll see. I'll give you the skinny on the whole evening maybe this weekend but probably Monday.
Afterward, it's off to O'Leaver's for Honey & Darling, The Sleep Over and The Golden Mean. $5, 9:30 p.m.
Tomorrow night is crowded for shows.
The Meat Puppets take the stage at The Waiting Room with Little Brazil and Winston Audio. I caught the Meat Puppets at SXSW this past March, and it was quite a surprise. I was expecting a gritty acoustic rock sort of thing, but instead it was huge, grinding, arena rock -- quite a spectacle, and very entertaining (and loud). $13, 9 p.m.
Down the street at PS Collective, the Filter Kings unveil their new line-up for the first time ever, with Jason Fergusen (ex-Sarah Benck/Robbers) on guitar. Filling in on drums is Scott "Zip" Zimmerman. If you miss it, you'll be able to catch the same line-up next week at the OEA showcase. No idea on the cover, but it probably won't be more than $5. Starts at 9.
Capgun Coup will be celebrating the release of Maudlin, their sophomore effort for Team Love Records, at a CD release show at "Old Orifice" Saturday night, according to the band's publicist. It took me a while to figure what venue she was referring to, then it dawned on me that she was talking about The Faint's old practice space at 2406 Farnam, where Ratfest was held this past summer. I've been listening to Maudlin for the past week, and it indeed sounds like a drunken house party, slurred and happy and ready to puke. Very garage-y. It's also a leap forward from their debut album. The rest of the night's line-up includes punk-rock legends Hercules, and The Pharmacy. No idea what it'll cost to get you in, but it's a fun little place to see a show. Capgun Coup embarks on a tour of the south and southeast starting Nov. 24 that concludes with a show at The Waiting Room Dec. 13.
Also Saturday night, The Stay Awake headlines a show at The Brothers Lounge with Falcon Crest (Twin Cities) and Baby Tears. $5, 9 p.m.

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Lazy-i Interview: Har Mar Superstar; Matisyahu, Will Whitmore tonight… – Nov. 5, 2009 – twitter icon

Just posted, a feature on Har Mar Superstar that includes comments both from his alter ego/true self Sean Tillmann, and innocent bystander Denver Dalley. It's right here.
I've interviewed Tillmann before, way back in '02 and again in '06 when he was touring as Sean Na Na, and knew I wasn't going to get a lot out of him over the phone. He's just not a phone interview kind of guy, which may explain why there are so few interviews with him online. Knowing this, I hit up Denver for the Technicolor, and got what I needed. Unfortunately because of space limitations, I left out how Denver got "ruffied" and lost control of his motor skills. And how he's able to multi-task by having Sean pour shots directly into his mouth while he's playing. And how he played their last show in L.A. barefoot in swim trunks and sunglasses. And how Project Runway's Tim Gunn was "genuinely concerned" for Denver after Har Mar's Jimmy Fallon performance (which you can see right here) where he broke a fake-blood capsule in his mouth. And on and on...
I also left out some Tillmann comments, most notably, how he worked with Clark Baechle and Jacob Thiele to create "Creative Juices," off the new Har Mar album, Dark Touches. The process involved sending tracks back and forth, adding melodies and vocals. The finished product has a distinctively "Faint" quality to it. The Faint boys also worked on a second song -- "Just the Tip" -- which didn't make the album, but is available from a b-sides collection that you can get if you order Dark Touches through the Har Mar Superstar website.
If you go to Slowdown regularly, there's a good chance that you've seen Tillmann hanging out. I know I have. "Yeah, I love Omaha," he told me. "I try to make it down whenever I visit Minneapolis. It's like a second Minneapolis."
Anyway, check out the story, and then get your tickets to next Monday night's Har Mar Superstar show at The Waiting Room for a mere $10.
* * *
Tonight at The Slowdown it's Matisyahu with Trevor Hall. The show is sold out, and I'm told it will be a real hippie scene, despite the fact that Matisyahu is a Hasid who sings reggae songs about his faith. Actually, that does sound hippie-esque. I may attend this. I'm on the list. It could be… colorful.
Also tonight, acoustic old-time-style bluesman William Elliott Whitmore returns to Omaha, this time to The Waiting Room with Hoots & Hellmouth. $10, 9 p.m.

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Column 245 -- Safe at Home; Pomegranates, Headlights tonight… – Nov. 4, 2009 – twitter icon

This column is a recasting of last Thursday's blog entry with about 500 words added on the end. The Conor Oberst concert that I mentioned Monday (and is mentioned in the column) sold out last night. Game 6 is tonight…

Column 245: Safe at Home
Monsterless by choice... 

This was supposed to be a review of last week's Monsters of Folk concert at The Holland Center, but the "poets of our time" were up against the Yankees, and they didn't stand a chance.

In their defense, there was more than a little uncertainty helping the Yankees in this battle. I'd had a conversation a few weeks ago with Monsters of Folk's publicist about that Conor interview that never happened. At the time, the publicist said she was putting me on "the list" for the show, but it was spoken almost as an aside. I e-mailed her the morning of the show asking for confirmation, but never heard back. 

Late in the afternoon I stopped down to the Holland box office to see if I was on the guest list, but they said they wouldn't know until an hour before the show, and that I could just call down to confirm. But when I did, the grunt on the other end of the phone said the only way I was going to find out for sure was to drive downtown. A side note: I've had three bad experiences with the Holland box office in my critic's capacity. Good thing I rarely attend shows there. 

Anyway, while on hold with the Holland, the World Series was beginning. So: Do I drive downtown and possibly get turned away at the Will Call window, or do I stay home and watch the Yankees in Game 1 of the World Series? 

It didn't take long to decide. The Monsters of Folk record -- which very likely will be at the top of a number of national critics' "best of" lists -- is somewhat boring. The thought of sitting in Holland's pine-box seating for three hours listening to yawn-inducing singer-songwriter fare just wasn't appealing -- that is, if I even got inside the concert hall. But had I made it in, I probably would have been glued to my iPhone the whole time keeping track of the score, and hoping they'd just wrap it up so I could at least catch the last inning. And that wouldn't be fair to Conor and his pals. 

I need to clarify something: I don't do this for a living. Never have. I occasionally run into people at shows or record stores or bars, people who have read my column or my website, who think that I make my living writing for The Reader. I guess it's a reasonable assumption when the only way they know me is through my writing, but really, how much do they think freelance writers make, and do I really look that destitute? 

All those years that Sex and the City was on the air, I always was amused that the heroine, Carrie Bradshaw, could afford to live alone in a Manhattan apartment on an income generated from writing a column for a local paper that wasn't The New York Times. Think about that the next time you watch a movie based in NYC -- could the protagonist really afford his or her luxury Upper East Side lifestyle based on his/her salary? Ah, but that's why we go to the movies isn't it, to suspend our belief in reality. 

It is because I don't do this for a living that I don't have to go to every "significant" rock show, and certainly the Monsters of Folk gig will go down as one of the landmark shows of '09, whether it was or not. In the old days, just a few years ago, I would have felt an overwhelming sense of guilt for missing the event; I would have felt a need to attend it just for "history's sake," and probably would have gone. 

But these days, there are the other "distractions" that are taking precedent -- like the Yankees. I'm finally beginning to get to that point where it's becoming easier and easier to let myself stay home or do something else. Fact is I don't -- I couldn't -- see every significant on-stage performance; my life simply won't permit it. The act of lifting my head off the warm, inviting pillow at 5 a.m. the morning after -- my whole body vibrating with a sense of all-encompassing inner fatigue -- is becoming too brutal. Keep in mind, most of the people that you saw last night at The Waiting Room or Slowdown or O'Leaver's or wherever didn't wake up until the rest of us were going to lunch. 

There still are "can't miss" shows, and I rarely miss them. Unlike his Monsters of Folk project, I won't be missing Conor Oberst when he performs a solo set at The Waiting Room Dec. 22 as a benefit for a very worthy cause. I already bought my ticket.  

This may not be what I do for a living, but this is what I do. Not because I have to, but because I want to. So if you see my writing -- online or right here -- talking about last weekend's mind-blowing concert or ultimate let-down, it's because upon weighing the plusses and minuses, the band came out on the plus side.  

By the way, the Yankees lost. 

* * *

More interesting than the headliner are tonight's openers at The Waiting Room. Pomegranates album, Everybody Come Outside (on Lujo Records), has been on my iPhone since it was released in April. If you dig, say, Tokyo Police Club or Vampire Weekend or Shout Out Louds, you're going to love this band. Fellow opener, Minnesota singer/violist/keyboardist Anni Rossi signed to 4AD Records last year, and just got off the road with Camera Obscura. The headliner, Headlights, has come through Omaha a few times in the past (to both O'Leaver's and The Waiting Room). This will be a helluva show that I'm going to very likely miss for reasons given above…9 p.m., $10.

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Bishop Allen tonight… – Nov. 3 , 2009 – twitter icon

Tonight at Slowdown Jr., it's Brooklyn indie band Bishop Allen (Dead Oceans) along with Seattle's Throw Me the Statue (Secretly Canadian) and the quirky, cute pop of Darwin Deez (get there early). $10, 9 p.m.

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Live Review: Whore Moans; Oberst for sale; Ghostface Killah tonight… – Nov. 2, 2009 – twitter icon

Friday night's Whore Moans show at The Saddle Creek Bar was probably the loudest thing I've heard on that bar's stage. I'm not sure why I'm leading with that, especially considering that the Seattle act was one of the better touring punk bands I've seen in a while -- hard, heavy, with a pop sheen that kind of reminded me of The Towers of London but without the accents. The crowd of around 50 seemed properly perplexed and mesmerized -- i.e., they mostly sat and stared, despite the fact that their clothes were rippling from the sonic waves rolling off the amps. Very loud, very good. Opener The Upsets did their usual snarling, grimy set of more traditional punk. The evening ended with The Shidiots, joined at times by members of The Upsets and a Whore Moaner or two -- it was like a brotherhood of punk. See photo.
* * *
Though it hasn't been announced, tickets to the Dec. 22 Conor Oberst show at The Waiting Room went on sale over the weekend at the One Percent website (here). The $12 show also features Simon Joyner and Renee Ledesma Hoover, and I'm told the door money will go to a good cause. Get your tickets before this one sells out.
By the way, the same "cause" that is receiving money from the Oberst show also will be the recipient of money taken in for the Dec. 23 Mousetrap reunion show at The Waiting Room. It has been brought to my attention that Chris Hughes, one of the original vocalists for Beep Beep (whose performance as an opener for this show will be their last ever) will not be joining the band on stage as previously announced. To be honest with you, I had my doubts that something like that was going to happen, but I got the info from one of the horses' mouths, so to speak.

* * *

Tonight at The Waiting Room it's Wu Tang Clan member Ghostface Killah with Fashawn, Skyzoo, Gaiden Gadema, & Maxilla Blue. $20, 9 p.m.

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Whore Moans tonight, Halloween with David Bazan... – Oct. 30, 2009 – twitter icon

The Whore Moans are a Seattle punk band that records on former Omahan Mike Jaworski's Mt. Fuji Records -- the same label that released the first two albums by our very own Little Brazil. They're playing tonight at The Saddle Creek Bar with The Shidiots and The Upsets, and there's no cover. Show starts at 9.
Also tonight, Slowdown is hosting its Sixth Annual "Goth Ball" with Cloven Path, Army of In Between, Strap On Halo, and Janus. I don't know the specifics, but something tells me you may want to swing by Hot Topic beforehand and pick up some goth apparel. $15, starts at 9 and is 21-over only.
Tomorrow night, of course, is Halloween, and what better way to spend this fun-loving holiday than by heading down to Slowdown Jr. for a rousing set by David Bazan. If his website is any indication, it looks like the former frontman to Pedro the Lion will be backed by a full band. Opening is Omaha's current "It" band It's True and Say Hi. $10, 9 p.m. If I go out at all Saturday night, this is probably where I'll end up seeing as I generally don't partake in annual lets-get-fucked-up-in-costumes festivities.
There's also a punk-flavored bash going on at The Brothers Saturday night featuring 138 and Cordial Spew. $5, 9 p.m. And Cat Island is playing at The Barley St. with Spiders for Love. $5, 9 p.m.

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Monster-less; Little Black Stereo, Oh Possum tonight... – Oct. 29, 2009 – twitter icon

Last night the "poets of our time" were up against the Yankees, and they didn't stand a chance.
In their defense, there was more than a little uncertainty helping the Yankees in this battle. I'd had a conversation a few weeks ago with Monsters of Folk's publicist about that Conor interview that never happened. At the time, the publicist said she was putting me on "the list" for the show, but it was spoken almost as an aside. I emailed her yesterday morning asking for confirmation, but never heard back.
Late in the afternoon I stopped down to the Holland Box office to see if I was on the guest list, but they said they wouldn't know until an hour before the show, and that I could call down and find out. But when I did, the grunt on the other end of the phone said the only way I was going to find out was to drive downtown. A side note: I've had three bad experiences with The Holland box office. Every time I've gone down there they've treated me like shit. Good thing I rarely attend shows there.
Anyway, while I was on hold with The Holland, the World Series had already begun. So: Do I drive downtown and possibly get turned away at the Will Call window, or do I stay home and watch the Yankees in Game 1 of the World Series?
It didn't take long to decide. The Monsters of Folk record is somewhat boring. The thought of sitting in Holland's pine-box seating for three hours listening to yawn-inducing singer-songwriter fare just wasn't appealing -- that is, if I got inside the concert hall at all. But even had I made it in, I probably would have been glued to my iPhone the whole time keeping track of the score, and hoping they'd just wrap it up so I could at least catch the last inning. And that wouldn't be fair to Conor and his pals.
Probably the only other person down at the Holland who gave a damn about the game was drummer Will Johnson. Johnson, who also fronts Centro-matic, is a huge baseball fan. We talked baseball before he played a solo set at The Ranch Bowl back in 2004. Johnson described sneaking into baseball parks after hours and running around the bases. One of his other talents is painting baseball stars from the past. You can check out some of his work at  You won't find any Yankees in his collection, however.
The Yankees lost, by the way. They (probably) won't be keeping me from seeing Little Black Stereo (who I've yet to hear) and Lawrence band Cowboy Indian Bear at The Sydney tonight. The show is $5 and starts at 9.
There's also a big show going on at Slowdown tonight featuring Oh Possum, Carl Weathers Co-Operative, Conchance, & Sam Martin (Capgun Coup) with Sean Pratt. $7, 9 p.m.
Also tonight, Broken Truth plays at The Barley St. with Mitch Gettman. $5, 9 p.m. ; and Platte River Rain plays O'Leaver's with Theodore and The Travelling Mercies. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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Column 244: Joyner Rolls On; Monsters of Folk tonight... – Oct. 28, 2009 – twitter icon

Simon Joyner's official CD release show for Out Into the Snow is slated for Nov. 13 at Slowdown...

Column 244: Roll On
This time, Simon Joyner's music is as strong as his words.
I stole some words from Simon Joyner for this review of his latest album, Out Into the Snow. I figure his words are better than mine, since he has a way of saying things as only a poet or a dreamer (or a realist) could. Lines like this one from the song "The Arsonist":
"I look for you in the dye of cancelled stamps / In the panic of sirens / In the vanishing kite strings of airplane exhaust"
I'm never going to come up with anything like at. When it comes to talking about his records, your best bet is to use his words rather than your own, because nothing you're going to say is going to describe his music better than his music, or his lyrics. All the high-brow analysis or references to literary or musical giants of the past only reveal a reviewer reaching for something that isn't there.
Joyner strings together revealing metaphors throughout his new album that, taken as a whole, create an indelible portrait, a landscape of his broken horizon that is a crystal-clear snapshot of our time.
See, that just doesn't work. When you over think it, it just sounds forced. And nothing on his records sound forced. From the title song:
"Verse from the bible memorized in childhood / Fell from your tongue to the car keys / You asked me if it mattered / Everything had a pattern / You can't stand far enough back to see it."
It's just like he's done for the last 11 albums over the past 15 years or so. Like his literary progeny, Conor Oberst, few people recognize the brilliance of his melodies, but everyone respects the quality of the words he chooses. Joyner's lyrics are dark, lonely poems or stark observations of the every day tied together in a folk-rock-country melody that all the young indie kids are in love with these days.
Also like Oberst, his wobbly croon is not immediately embraced -- or by some, never embraced. And that's okay. While Joyner's music was made for mass consumption, I don't know if that's ever going to happen, at least not with his purposely off-balance, uncertain voice singing those painful, lovely words. I suppose somebody said that about Dylan and Cohen, too and just look what happened to those two kids.
Released on Team Love Records last month, Out Into the Snow is the most streamlined, most easy to embrace album of Joyner's career. If you thought he was trying to chase you off before, well, he sounds like he's trying to call you back with this one. Or at least coax you to give it a try.
Backing him up is Alex McManus (Lambchop, Bright Eyes, The Bruces), Ryan Kennedy, Mike Friedman (The Movies), Michael Krassner (Boxhead Ensemble), and Chris Deden, along with vocalists Sarah Gleason and Pearl Lovejoy Boyd (Outlaw Con Bandana) and string arrangements by violinist Laraine Kaizer.
Joyner was backed by a full band for his last full-length, Skeleton Blues, an album that seemed to point the way toward this one. But on that record, only one song came in under four minutes, while the rest were reckless, bluesy folk-jams that were comfortable stretching out over six, eight, ten minutes.
Only the opening song, "The Drunken Boat," feels epic in length at over nine minutes, and even then, you don't really mind because Joyner keeps it moving along with lines that you don't see coming, like "Memories drank from the horizon as my eyes dried in the breeze." And he does it at his most controlled -- i.e., he's not noticably off key, at least not that often. It's as if he's decided to try to sound, well, normal.
Adding to the musical emphasis are unique instrumental touches seldom heard on a Joyner record. Toward the end of that epic opener, he shares the melody with a floating trio of violins. Halfway through "The Arsonist," the crooning and piano pause for a brief flute interlude before the drums come back in and Joyner gets back to "penny arcade portraits of Lauren Bacall." All in under three minutes.
Still, like the others, it really is the words that drive this record. Certainly it's the words you're going to remember.
"It's fading, it's fading / So what are you gonna do now? / You're either laying low or chasing smoke or thinking of throwing in the towel / So roll on, roll on..."
If I close my eyes, I think I can hear that one on a jukebox somewhere, standing shoulder to shoulder with the Stones and Dylan and Leonard and Lou. And some young kid listening, and thinking to himself, "That's a good line." That's a good song. And this is a good album. Roll on indeed.

* * *
Tonight at The Holland Performing Arts Center its Monsters of Folk featuring Conor Oberst, M. Ward, Jim James and Mike Mogis, with special guest Will Johnson (Centro-matic) on drums. When Oberst/Ward/James played at Joslyn's  Witherspoon Concert Hall way back in 2004 it was considered a landmark performance that would likely never happen again. If you missed it (like I did), you were kicking yourself for the rest of the year. Who would have thought that the same trio of indie music royalty -- along with Omaha guitarist/producer/genius Mike Mogis -- would ever grace an Omaha stage again (at least without Obama in tow)? Yet here they are, this time as The Monsters of Folk, promising more than two hours (more like three) of music that will include not only songs off their new self-titled album, but also nuggets from each of their personal musical projects. Lost in the event's hub-bub is the fact that $1 from every ticket sold will go toward Omaha's Octopuses Garden Art Alliance -- a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to strengthening community interaction through visual, literary and performance arts. Find out more at
Three hours in the Holland is almost inhumane, especially if the bar is closed. That said, I don't know how they'll keep the lobby bars open and not expect people to congregate there during the show (who remembers the OEA Awards show, where there were more people in the lobby than in the aud?). Tickets are still available at $47 a pop. Show starts at 8 p.m. sharp.
There's also a hip-hop show going on at The Waiting Room tonight featuring P.O.S., Eyedea & Abilities and Plain Ole Bill. $12, 9 p.m.

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Dinosaur Jr./Lou Barlow, Chinese Stars tonight... – Oct. 27, 2009 – twitter icon

Tickets are still available for tonight's Dinosaur Jr. show at Slowdown. I went the last time J. Mascis and Co. came through town, and can tell you it was plenty LOUD -- which means it was plenty GOOD. How loud was it? "So loud that halfway through the set, I wondered what damage I was doing to my hearing (and I wore earplugs). I could feel my clothes rippling across my body, moved by the shockwaves of noise (think of the famous Maxell poster where the guy sits in front of a loudspeaker, holding onto the arms of his easy chair to keep from being blown backwards by the volume). Crazy, excessive, pure, necessary loudness." Read the full review of that 2007 show here.

In case you're wondering, the new Lou Barlow album, Goodnight Unknown, is plenty good, and the show would be worth $20 (or at least $12) just to see him. Also in tonight's line-up is Aussie band Violent Soho (signed to Ecstatic Peace! Records, owned/operated by Thurston Moore). $20, starts at 9.

Also tonight, The Chinese Stars play at The Waiting Room with Sensitive Hearts. This is being billed as a "Goo Presents" event, which means Goo will be DJ-ing the show. $10, 9 p.m.

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Live Review: Brimstone Howl, Honey & Darling; Langhorne Slim tonight... – Oct. 26, 2009 – twitter icon

I posted on Twitter/Facebook Friday night that Brimstone Howl's set at The Barley St. had made me reconsider the band. Someone quickly asked in a comment if I meant that "in a good way."

I've always liked Brimstone and thought they were a fun band to see live, but like a lot of other so-called "garage bands" all their songs generally sound the same to me. You could step outside the club, come back in and hear a song that sounded just like the one that was playing when you left. It's a common criticism, and in the end, does it matter? Isn't that part of the reason why so many people like the Ramones? You not only want but you expect all their songs to sound the same. It's not so much about the music as it is about the energy. And if you're not drunk, a little goes a long way.

That wasn't the case with Brimstone Friday night -- their set was was their most musically varied that I've ever heard them play. I point to the new album, Big Deal, What's He Done Lately, which combines elements of garage with '60s psychedelic and straight-up vintage rock balladry. It's easily my favorite among their catalog thanks to how it combines styles and sounds that compliment each other, making each song even more interesting. And that's what we got Friday night.

So the short answer was, yeah, I meant it in a good way. Brimstone Howl is dragging itself to the next level, whether they're trying to or not.

Brimstone was the late show. Earlier that evening I listened to a set by The Answer Team at The Waiting Room and was underwhelmed. My enthusiasm was probably dampened by having to wait what seemed like a half-hour for them to take the stage after their pre-set soundcheck. Oh well. They were opening for Honey & Darling, who in a very short time have managed to generate nice crowds to their shows. There were about 100 on hand for their CD release party for their new EP, What Became of What I Love. The trio of Sara, Matt and Robert sounds like a cross between a riot grrrl band (Dresch/Huggy Bear) and Sebadoh, and aren't afraid of drenching songs in feedback. Check out the EP if you can find it.

* * *

Tonight at The Waiting Room it's Pennsylvania folkie Langhorne Slim with Dawes and the amazing Bear Country. LS, a.k.a. Sean Scolnick, just released a new album on Kemado called Be Set Free. $8, 9 p.m.

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And the winner is…; OEAA nominees list (and mine); Honey and Darling, Brimstone Howl tonight... – Oct. 23, 2009 – twitter icon

Thanks to everyone who entered the first-ever Lazy-i Twitter tickets giveaway contest! We had 37 entries, and the winner, whose name was drawn from an electronic hat, was @k_to_the_t. Thanks to everyone for playing!
* * *
The OEAA (I always forget to add the last "A," which stands for "Awards," as in "Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards," a name that implies that Arts and Entertainment are two always separate things)(and that they needed to make "Awards" an official part of the name)(screw it, I'm just calling it the OEA Awards) announced their list of nominees for the 2009 season. The full list has been posted on the Lazy-i webboard, here.
The list is derived from a public nomination process where first, anyone can nominate a musician/band for consideration. That list is then whittled down by the OEAA Academy (the OEAAA?), who picks three from the list for each category. The public nominee that got the most public votes in each category also makes it onto the final ballot.
For the sake of full disclosure, I've posted my own official ballot submission beneath the official nominees list. Some of my choices made it, some didn't. Some weren't even nominated on the public ballot, but I added them anyway. OEAAA members also were asked to nominate someone for induction into the Hall of Fame (have to be dead to be considered) and Lifetime Achievement Award. Both of my choices are included.
One other note about the OEA's -- I'm not the event's organizer, nor am I responsible for its existence. I'm merely an "academy member." Please do not stroll up to me at O'Leaver's and complain about it. It's not my fault, and I do not care. I've made my position very clear about the OEA's from day one -- I think it's a fun diversion that means absolutely nothing, just like the annual Reader list of the Top 20 best in Omaha/Lincoln, which, btw, will be published in early December.
* * *
Hot show of the evening is the Honey & Darling CD release show at The Waiting Room. I've been listening to the EP, titled What Became of What I Love, and dig it mucho. Also on the bill are The Answer Team, Everyday/Everynight, and Adam Robert Haug. All for $7, starts at 9.
Also tonight, The Third Men are playing at O'Leaver's with Des Moines band North of Grand and Dead Girls from Lawrence, Kansas. $5, 9:30 p.m.
Over at the Barley St., Brimstone Howl will be tearing it up with JAIL, Mojomatic and Christopher Wright. $5, 9 p.m.
And finally, Michael Lee Firkins is down at Slowdown Jr. tonight with Gerald Lee, Jr. (Filter Kings). $8, 9 p.m.:

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Your odds are good; Lotus, Japanese Game Show tonight... – Oct. 22, 2009 – twitter icon

My first foray into the world of Twitter contests has been rather lackluster -- only a dozen people have entered the drawing. That means the odds of you winning a pair of tickets to next Wednesday's Monsters of Folk concert at The Holland Center are pretty good. To enter, go to Twitter and retweet the following message:
" Enter a drawing for two Omaha 10/28 Monsters of Folk tix. Just retweet this, and follow @tim_mcmahan"
It's that simple. Entries will be received via Twitter through tomorrow (Friday) noon, after which a name will be drawn from all the retweeters. That person's name (plus one) will be added to "the list" for the Oct. 28 Monsters of Folk show. Tickets are being provided by Shangri-La Records and Filter Magazine/Creative Group. These tickets cost $47 each! So get on Twitter and and retweet. The winner's name will be announced Friday afternoon.

* * *

There has been a mini-lull in shows this week. Not much going on until next week, however there is a show tonight at The Slowdown -- a band called Lotus that one of The Reader's photographers told me is sort of a cross between a jam band and electronic rock show. He loves them. I've never heard of them. Opening is The Egg. $15, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, down at The Saddle Creek Bar, it's Wichita indie band Japanese Game Show -- check out their myspace page and drop by. The show is free, so what do you have to lose? Starts at 9.

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Monsters of Folk tickets give-away; Column 243... – Oct. 21, 2009 – twitter icon

First, the ticket giveaway -- those who follow me on Twitter ( already have seen the tweet:
" Enter a drawing for two Omaha 10/28 Monsters of Folk tix. Just retweet this, and follow @tim_mcmahan"
It's that simple. Entries will be received via Twitter through Friday noon, after which a name will be drawn from all the retweeters. That person's name (plus one) will be added to "the list" for the Oct. 28 Monsters of Folk show at The Holland Performing Arts Center. Tickets are being provided by Shangri-La Records and Filter Magazine/Creative Group. These are $47 tickets, folks, so it's a nice haul for a show that likely will go down as one of the best of 2009. So get on Twitter and and retweet. The winner's name will be announced Friday afternoon. Fun!
* * *
As described below, Column 243 was to be a diatribe about my inability to land an interview with Conor Oberst for a cover story in support of the Monsters of Folk show. I actually wrote the column, but after showing it to a couple people, shelved it and replaced it with a column that draws from items from the past week's blog. I feared the original column, which outlined the paper trail to attempt to get the interview as well as my history of interviews with Oberst and speculation as to why he no longer is doing interviews with the local press, sounded too harsh or petty. My "editors," however, didn't think that was the problem. They simply reinforced a comment that was echoed in the actual 243: Who cares? Why is this relevant? And so on.
One editor asked why I thought Oberst would ever do an interview with me or anyone locally again when he clearly doesn't need us anymore. Maybe he won't. Another asked how much a local artist who has "made it" really owes the local press. My answer: Not much, if anything. A musician's or band's success depends entirely on his/her/their talent. Period. If a musician is making great music, an audience will find him/her regardless of the press or circumstances.
Anyway, I haven't given up on one day interviewing Oberst again. I think he hasn't done interviews since Cassadaga because he feels his current projects are true team efforts and he doesn’t want to take the spotlight from the other members or generate a perception that the projects are Oberst solo efforts. I also think he hates doing press, and looks for any excuse to not have to do interviews. I can't say that I blame him.
So, for posterity's sake, here's what we ended up printing in The Reader as Column 243, which regular Lazy-i readers already have seen most of:

Column 243: Monsters of News
Ragged Company, Cursive, Ladyfinger, Conor...
This week's column is a real grab bag, so stay with me...
* * *
People ask me why I go to so many shows every year, a number that's just north of 100 (that's a lot of late nights, folks). Part of the reason is to see bands I know and love do their thing, but just as enticing is the chance to discover something altogether new and special -- something that's become more and more rare these days. That said, the highlight of the past weekend was finding the four-piece folk-rock act The Ragged Company, who played a show at The Saddle Creek Bar Saturday night with Cass Fifty and the Family Gram.
While the entire band swung bravely with its twangy Americana story-telling folk-rock, the centerpiece was Dave Downing a.k.a. Cello Dave -- one of the most talented guys I've seen on an Omaha stage. You may remember Downing from his work in Midwest Dilemma, Tomato a Day and who knows how many other ensembles. He's becoming something of a local legend, elevating every band he performs with as he did Saturday night, pouring his heart out leaning over his instrument, his hair hiding his eyes from the crowd of around 50 -- one of the larger crowds I've seen the Saddle Creek Bar, which, by the way, is officially for sale once again.

* * *
Some old news that just got confirmed: A few weeks ago I was told that Ethan Jones no longer is playing bass in Ladyfinger. Sure enough, he isn't listed on their Myspace page, and last week Saddle Creek confirmed that Ethan no longer is in the band, and that Ladyfinger is working on finding a replacement. It's been a while since Ladyfinger's organized chaos was heard on an Omaha stage, and the band has no shows scheduled in the future. Frontman Chris Machmuller has been splitting his time slinging Cubans at the recently expanded Worker's Sandwich Shop next to O'Leaver's, playing guitar in Dance Me Pregnant, and --rumor has it -- working on a new rock project. Stay tuned...
* * *
Cursive announced last Wednesday that it's headlining Christmas for Pine Ridge - The 6th Annual Lash LaRue Toy Drive Dec. 13 at The Waiting Room.
According to a post on the event's Facebook page, the toys are for the children of the Porcupine District of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. "According to the 2000 census, Pine Ridge’s Lakota Sioux community is one of the most poverty stricken communities in the United States," the page says. "The children of the reservation are desperately in need of some sunshine and cheer, especially during a time of cold, harsh winds and immense desolation like winters on the reservation can be."
The annual concert is one of the more successful fundraising shows of the year, but with Cursive on the bill, this could actually sell out in advance. Joining Tim Kasher and his crew will be Brad Hoshaw and Vago. The $14 tickets went on sale last Saturday.
Also on sale last Saturday were tickets to the Mousetrap reunion show Dec. 23 at The Waiting Room. The line-up will include original members Craig Crawford and Pat Buchanan, but on drums will be a new guy. "The drummer's name is Mike Mazzola," Crawford said. "He played in a band called 'The Lost' with Patrick. Pat thinks that he will be perfect for the show. We've all been working individually on our parts and will start rehearsing as a group shortly. Should be good and loud!"
Opening the show is the reunited Mercy Rule and what I'm told will be the final performance of Beep Beep, whose line-up for the evening will include original member Chris Hughes. At $8, this also will sell out, so if you haven't already bought your tickets to either event, you better get in the digital queue before it's too late.

* * *

Speaking of shows that should sell out (but at $47, probably won't), reviews of Last Sunday night's Monsters of Folk show at Los Angeles' Greek Theater report that the indie-folk supergroup played for nearly three hours covering 35 friggin' songs. Featuring Conor Oberst, M. Ward, Jim James and Mike Mogis, the band (which is scheduled to play at The Holland Center Oct. 28) also had Will Johnson of Centro-matic on the drum kit. "In a sense, Monsters of Folk’s live show was like a mini-festival, since the crowd was treated to solo performances by all of the principal players, but it was when all four besuited players were on stage together that they shined the brightest," said critic Craig Rosen on Three hours seated in the Holland Center? I hope the lobby bar will be open during the performance (something tells me it won't be).
By the way, with the show slated for next Wednesday, where's our interview with Conor? Well, we tried, friends, we tried. Just like we tried so many times before. But Conor ain't talking and hasn't talked to us poor indigent local media since back in his Bright Eyes days, circa Cassadaga. The spigot that ran so robust just two years ago was shut off for reasons we can only speculate. The editors of this fine publication wanted me to write a diatribe about my/our inability to land a Conor interview. But in mulling it over in my somewhat cavernous head, I couldn't muster the necessary anger/outrage. In other words -- I just didn't care.

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Live Review: Cass Fifty, Ragged Company; Little Brazil tonight... – Oct. 19, 2009 – twitter icon

Last Friday night was spent at The Saddle Creek Bar with Cass Fifty and The Family Gram. I heard a few minutes of Cass' new album while out at Grubb Inc. last week (He's recording it) and wanted to hear more. An accordion plays a central role on the recording, but there was no accordion to be seen (or heard) on Friday night as the band decided to instead use the house organ. Not bad, but why not switch between the two instruments throughout the set? Maybe he simply didn't bring the accordion with him. Who knows. Regardless, Cass and the band played a nice set of rustic indie folk that bordered on Americana, fronted by a girl who sounds like a midwestern version of Grace Slick with a touch of Janice Joplin (and maybe some Bonnie Raitt thrown in for good measure).
They were followed by the four-piece folk-rock of The Ragged Company, a band featuring Dave Downing a.k.a. Cello Dave --  one of the most talented guys I've seen on an Omaha stage. Downing has become something of a local legend, and I have no idea what's true and what isn't. The only thing I know is that he elevates every band he performs with to another level, and that was evident Saturday night. The guy is amazing, which is not to say that the rest of the band is chicken soup -- this is a band to keep an eye on. Nice stuff all around, played to a crowd of around 50 -- one of the larger shows I've been to at the Saddle Creek Bar (see photo), which, by the way, is officially for sale once again.
The Yankees kept me hostage for 13 innings Saturday night, making me miss Blitzen Trapper at The Waiting Room.

Tonight at The Waiting Room it's the return of Little Brazil with Weatherbox and We All Have Hooks for Hands. $7, 9 p.m.

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Cursive, Ladyfinger news; The Envy Corps tonight; Blitzen Trapper, Dean Armband Saturday; Le Loup Sunday... – Oct. 16, 2009 – twitter icon

Cursive announced yesterday that it's playing at Lash's 6th Annual Toy Drive Dec. 13th at The Waiting Room -- that's quite a coup for a benefit concert that has really picked up steam over the years. Pollstar is showing Capgun Coup also on this show; I'm pretty confident that it'll sell out. The $14 tickets go on sale this Saturday.
Also going on sale this Saturday are tickets to the Mousetrap reunion show Dec. 23 at The Waiting Room with Beep Beep (their final show ever, and Chris Hughes is playing, too) and the recently reunited Mercy Rule. Only $8!!! Better get in line...
* * *
Some old news that I'm not even sure is newsworthy: A few weeks ago I was told that Ethan Jones no longer is playing bass in Ladyfinger. Sure enough, he isn't listed on their myspace page, and yesterday Saddle Creek confirmed that Ethan no longer is in the band and that Ladyfinger is working on finding a replacement. It's been a while since Ladyfinger played, and they have no shows scheduled. Frontman Chris Machmuller has been splitting his time playing guitar in Dance Me Pregnant, and I'm hearing rumblings that a new project may be afoot. Stay tuned...
* * *
It's another busy weekend for shows…
Tonight at The Waiting Room, Ames Iowa indie band The Envy Corps (Vertigo Records) plays with Anniversaire and Skypiper. $8, 9 p.m.
Meanwhile, down at The Saddle Creek Bar, it's Cass 50 and The Family Gram with Ragged Company and Nick Carl -- all for FREE.
Saturday night's big show is Blitzen Trapper at The Waiting Room with Omaha super group Our Fox (members of Neva Dinova, The Good Life). $12, 9 p.m.
Down the street at The Sydney, Lincoln's Dean Armband (members of Her Flyaway Manner) is playing with Unites Sons of Toil and The Lepers. $5, 9 p.m. After they get done with their set, The Lepers will have to high-tail it down to Slowdown Jr., where they're also opening for Ruskie rock band Mumiy Troll. $12/$15, 9 p.m.
Finally, Baltimore band Le Loup is playing at Slowdown Jr. Sunday night with Nurses. $8, 9 p.m.

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Our Fox, Black Whales tonight... – Oct. 15, 2009 – twitter icon

Looks like it's going to be a long night at O'Leaver's. The four-band bill includes Reagan Roeder's new band Hubble (with a new member debuting tonight), Mt. Fuji Records band Black Whales, completely unknown Minneapolis band Ex-Lover and headlining Omaha super group Our Fox (ex-Neva Dinova). All for $5, 9:30 p.m. Also tonight, Kyle Harvey opens for Minnesota singer/songwriter Chris Koza and Edge of Arbor at The Saddle Creek Bar. Show starts at 9 and is absolutely free.

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Column 242: Catching up with Grubb; Cloven Path/Hercules, System & Station tonight... – Oct. 14 , 2009 – twitter icon

Those who have been following this website over the course of the past decade (and longer) know that The Grasshopper Takeover Saga has been well-documented. The story begins here in 1998, and runs through 2004 (here) with stories in between (You can navigate between all four parts from the '04 story). Grubb is one of the most controversial figures that I've had the good fortune to interview. And GTO is/was one of the city's most popular bands, despite being ridiculed by an indie music scene that the band itself ridiculed (or at least seemed to. Grubb would disagree).
Needless to say, we had a lot of catching up to do during last weekend's interview, and a lot of the conversation didn't make it into the column below. Among the more lively exchanges was a discussion about the so-called "indie music scene," and Grubb's contention that it is scribblers such as myself that perpetuate the concept and its resulting divisions.
"Those kinds of stereotypes and stigmas can create a certain aspect of ignorance and inability for younger musicians coming up, who don't know and don't care about a scene until someone tells them they 'shouldn't be hanging out with so and so.'" Grubb said. "I think it should be more open." No one would argue with that, though I think young musicians are apt to follow whatever muse that guides them, whether it's metal or punk or country or R&B or indie, regardless of what their friends (or a review) tell them is "cool."
But with that in mind, Grubb implied that my suggesting that an indie band like Landing on the Moon and a guy like Grubb, who's known for his pop-rock tendencies, are "Odd Bedfellows" is somewhat reckless, if not irresponsible. And I would agree with Grubb if I held his views of the local music scene. I don't. Divisions do exist and always have (and always will).
GTO began to define its role in that scene when the band decided to head to Los Angeles to try to land a major-label record deal. "I remember when we first started, I thought I was going to conquer the world," Grubb said, "but outside of that, I remember telling you that you had to get a deal, and if you didn't, what was the fucking point. Now I couldn't be further away for that.
"Where I am now is a matter of development, maturity. The fact that I'm not so centralized in that scene any more, I have a better perspective on what music means to me and what I think the value of music is. I value creativity and total and complete dedication. That's what I want out of my (studio) clients, too -- to do whatever it takes to make themselves happy."

Column 242: 2001: A Grubb Odyssey
From GTO to Saturn and beyond...
It was only a few minutes into the interview for last week's Landing on the Moon article that his name came up, and then we proceeded to talk about him for the next hour: Curtis Grubb.
I hadn't thought about him in years, and hadn't talked to him since 2004, when I did my last interview with Grasshopper Takeover, the trio Grubb fronted with James McMann and Bob Boyce. I knew that he'd opened a studio, Grubb Inc., but whatever happened to GTO?
I had been writing about the band since '98, right around the time GTO decided to follow their dreams to Los Angeles with the hopes of landing a big record deal. Instead, they found themselves living on the road touring for more than two years. Albums were recorded and released. Bones were crushed. Equipment was stolen. The fan base grew. And eventually they found themselves playing arena-sized gigs opening for Incubus and pals 311. And then they came back home, to Omaha, and that's where I lost track.
Their last gig was two years ago, opening a show for Better Than Ezra at one of the Council Bluffs casinos. "To be honest, part of the reason is due to me," said Grubb sitting behind the console of his new basement studio located in his West Omaha home. "I was just getting a little tired of doing it. Nothing against it at all. I love playing live, I love the band and the music, I stand by everything and every choice we made. It was never a conscious decision, I always let the music guide me every step of the way."
Two years ago, it guided him to Saturn, in the form of creating music for a national television commercial featuring the car maker's 2007 models. Grubb said he landed the gig through his Los Angeles connections. "I got a call to be a candidate to write the music, so I wrote like fucking crazy for two weeks straight."
That led to commercial work for Comcast and Sprint and the NBA finals. "That first one opened a whole new concept for me and my career," Grubb said. "It cut that tie that bound me, so I just started running with it. I bought all the equipment, set up a studio and started learning everything I could."
Along with the commercial work, Grubb began recording bands, and figured out that he loved inspiring other people to make the best music that they could "and I was good at it, too."
And as all that was happening, GTO just got further and further in the rear-view mirror. "It wasn't a conscious decision, it seemed like a natural progression of my life's path as it relates to music," Grubb said. "I never thought (GTO) wasn't working; I just wanted something new. That was it. It never didn't work. We weren't on any kind of a downhill slide. We were still packing the house and selling out shows and touring religiously. The bubble was still big and getting bigger, but it was a fragile thing, and it's like some external force stuck a pin in it and let the air out a bit."
Grubb said all three grasshoppers remain "great and fantastic friends." He's seen Boyce and McMann's new band, Two Drag Club, a number of times. "I think they're fantastic." He also hasn't closed the door on working with them again.
In fact, GTO has never really "broken up," Grubb said. "As soon as you have the 'break up' tag on you, than your next show together is considered a 'reunion show,' and those never seem to work." So even though they haven't practiced together for over a year, Grubb said he and the rest of GTO feel like they have another album to write. And his days behind the microphone are far from over.
"I don't miss it in the form of any kind of regret that I'm not doing it now," Grubb said of performing. "I know that I'll be back there at some point. If I couldn't, I'd miss the shit out of it. I love the stage, man, and I believe I'm pretty damn good at being a frontman and an entertainer."
He's also still making music, though exclusively in the studio. His latest project is a "musical reimagination" of the last 35 minutes of 2001: A Space Odyssey -- a modern rock rescoring of the last portion of the film that starts right as Dave begins to dismantle Hal and is thrown into the "star gate" to die and be born again.
"I've been working on it for two years and it's almost done except for a couple sync points," he said. "I have a vision that if every star in the universe lined up perfectly, that the owner of the movie would accept it as a true sync, and then have the studio license it to planetariums around the world."
Grubb screened it for me, and the work is indeed impressive. Musically, it's a "giant leap" forward from his GTO work. At the very least, Grubb said he intends to release it digitally, and is beginning work on another secret film-sync project while he continues working with bands, including Cass 50 and Rock Paper Dynamite.
And there's an even bigger project in the making, something that will impact everything he does moving forward. Ah, but that'll have to wait until the next article.
"I've had a lot of people tell me how lucky I am," Grubb said. "I subscribe to the idea that luck isn't thrown on you, it's created by you. I think a lot of luck is created by following your heart."

* * *
It seems like yesterday that I was telling you that Cloven Path were hanging it up and moving to Texas for reasons that couldn't be explained in this blog. Well, now they're back, or at least a new incarnation of Cloven Path is back, performing tonight at their old stomping grounds of O'Leaver's. Opening the show is local punk-rock phenoms Hercules, Portland's Prize Country and Denver's Git Some (ex-Planes Mistaken for Stars). $5, 9:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, across town at The Sydney, Portland band System & Station is playing with Fromanhole, Comme Reel and Nicole Le Clerc. $5, 9 p.m.

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Live review: Yo La Tengo, Well-Aimed-Arrows, Landing on the Moon; Mousetrap reunion; Humane Society benefit, Digital Leather/Box Elders tonight... – Oct. 12 , 2009 – twitter icon

The sound-explosion freak-out that was last Friday night's Yo La Tengo show at The Slowdown was absolutely epic. Like the last time they came through, this will be on my list of the best shows of the year. The trio was on fire playing nearly two hours of songs from their new album, Popular Songs, as well as a collection of their "greatest hits" that reached as far back as Painful (see photo). After they opened with the 15-plus minute instrumental noise odyssey called "And the Glitter Is Gone" from the new album, the band settled into a selection of the more jazzy, dancey, poppy songs from albums gone by. I thought it was going to be a laidback evening, but by the beginning of the second hour, it was one noise anthem after another. About half-way through, I began to have a new "understanding" of a band that I've been listening to for more than a decade. It's as if guitarist Ira Kaplan was creating a wall of painful noise and distortion designed to counteract the pretty melodies and straight-forward, streamlined rhythms created by bass player James McNew and drummer Georgia Hubley. All three have quiet, almost dour voices (Hubley is Nico to Kaplan's Lou) that chirped pretty melodies while Kaplan systematically tortured his guitar, at times pulling the strings from the neck with both hands -- shoving objects between the strings and the fretboard -- blasting out a sharp, anguished howl (After each song, a guitar tech would hand Kaplan a different guitar to play while he was back stage presumably repairing the damage). So that balance -- the pretty and the painful -- almost put me in a trance, as songs rose and fell and regurgitated themselves following a pulsing thread of McNew/Hubley rhythm. It was exquisite.

* * *

I had to do a bit of driving Saturday night. First stop was O'Leaver's for the world stage debut of Well-Aimed-Arrows, the new band by Koly Walter and Clayton Petersen, formerly of the legendary Omaha post-punk band The Protoculture. Considering that Koly wrote most of the songs for both bands, W-A-A sounded like Protoculture Pt. 2. The Arrows (let me be the first to call them that) had Protoculture's same dissonant song structures propelled by punchy rhythms and Walter's flat vocal howl. Petersen's wife Michelle provided the necessary counter vocals (a la Erica). The difference for me was bassist Brian Bird (of The Antiquarium) whose hot dog style took the music to a groovier level. The band only played five songs, but it was more than enough to get the crowd's blood pumping. What's that they say about "leave them wanting more"? (see photo).
I skipped out right afterward and headed to The Waiting Room where I caught the last half of Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship's ferocious set. (see photo). These guys have emerged as thee band to carry on Omaha's '90s post-punk noise-rock tradition. They sound influenced by early Nirvana, Sonic Youth, Unsane, Surgery, Helmet, Cop Shoot Cop and a host of other bands that (considering their age) they may or may not have heard of.
Landing on the Moon bought everyone in the crowd of about 150 a glass of champaign and kicked off their set by having a toast to a new LP that took them two years to complete. Their set was the usual rock-solid performance, highlighted by a screaming guitar solo from Matt Carroll during "She Wants," and a new song -- perfect set-closer "California," a simple, upbeat pop tune that seems to be pointing the direction in which the band is heading for their next album -- very encouraging indeed. (see photo)
* * *
Well, that Mousetrap reunion that I mentioned back in July has become official. One Percent announced that the reunion show will take place Dec 23 at The Waiting Room. The line-up will include original members Craig Crawford and Pat Buchanan. On drums is a new guy. "The drummer's name is Mike Mazzola," Crawford said via Facebook. "He played in a band called 'The Lost' with Patrick. Pat thinks that he will be perfect for the show. We've all been working individually on our parts and will start rehearsing as a group shortly. Should be good and loud!" Opening the show is the reunited Mercy Rule and Beep Beep. I'm told this will be the final performance for Beep Beep, and the band's line-up will include original member Chris Hughes. Tickets for this show aren't available until Oct. 17, when they'll be $8. This will sell out, so I suggest you get online or in line the day tix become available.
* * *
It's a busy Monday night for shows. At The Waiting Room, a 6-band line-up has been announced for tonight's Nebraska Humane Society/Lindahl benefit show. Your $8 cover will go to the NE Humane Society, while tips (and presumably a separate donation box) will help cover costs for necessary eye surgery for Lindahl, a Jack Russell terrier that I'm told is no stranger to the local bar/music scene. The line-up of performers is impressive: Fortnight, Lincoln Dickison, Reagan Roeder, Sarah Benck, The Wagon Blasters, and  Kyle Harvey.  Show starts at 8 p.m.
Meanwhile across town at The Brothers Lounge (3812 Farnam), Digital Leather is playing with Box Elders and the Fresh & Onlys. Chris Aponik has a feature on DL in this week's issue of The Reader, which you can read online here. Tix are $5 and the show starts at 9.

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Yo La Tengo tonight; Landing on the Moon, Well-Aimed Arrows (ex-Protoculture) tomorrow... – Oct. 9, 2009 – twitter icon

And so, the weekend…

Tonight's mega-show is Yo La Tengo at The Slowdown. For all of us who lived through Matador's heyday in the 1990s, YLT is a can't-miss concert. And for you young-ens who weren't around in those golden days, YTL also is a can't-miss show if only for the strength of their latest album, Popular Songs. Every time they release a new record I say it's their best one yet, and every time I'm right. It is almost three years to the day since the last time they came through Omaha, and that show ended up being in my top-five for the year (read that review here). As of this writing, tickets are still available for a mere $17. Opening band is Tennessee garage/punk trio Cheap Time, whose full length was released on In The Red. Cheap Time has toured with garage band legend (and Matador labelmate) Jay Reatard. Get there at 9.

Also tonight, Simon Joyner will be at O'Leavers playing songs off his new album, Out Into the Snow. Joining him is Grotto recording artist Samuel Locke Ward & The Boo, Mr. Wizard and Data Gun. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Saturday night's marquee event is the Landing on the Moon CD release show (read about them here) at The Waiting Room with Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship, Ideal Cleaners and Fortnight. $7, 9 p.m.

Also Saturday night is the world premiere/stage debut of Well-Aimed-Arrows, a new band that features Koly Walter and Clayton Petersen of The Protoculture as well as Brian Bird (Antiquarium co-owner) and Michelle Petersen. Well-Aimed-Arrows (the name was derived from the Simon Joyner song "Three Well Aimed Arrows") opens for Private Dancer at O'Leavers. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Also also Saturday night, Cowboy Indian Bear makes a trip up from Lawrence to play at The Sydney with Shiver Shiver. $5, 9 p.m.

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Lazy-i Interview: Landing on the Moon; It's True, The Coffin Killers tonight... – Oct. 8, 2009 – twitter icon

Just posted, an interview with Landing on the Moon (read it here). The band talks about the making of their debut full-length, We Make History Now, and working with engineer/producer Curt Grubb (yes, that Curt Grubb). They also talk about finding and signing with fledgling New York label Young Love Records. It's a fun read, so check it out, and then get ready for their CD release show this Saturday at The Waiting Room.

* * *

Tonight at O'Leaver's, It's True is scheduled to play after the Husker game, along with The Photo Atlas and Epilouges. With the game starting at 8:05, we could be waiting until 11:30 until someone actually takes the stage. How is O'Leaver's going to figure this one out? $5.

Also tonight, everyone's favorite '90s-scented punk band The Coffin Killers is playing at The Sydney with TBA (you remember those guys, right?). Will the Husker football game also influence when this show starts? I highly doubt it. 9 p.m., $5.

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Column 241: Lincoln Calling recap... – Oct. 7, 2009 – twitter icon

It's been a busy year for festivals. The ones I can remember: OEA Summer Showcase, Lincoln Invasion, MAHA, RatFest, Nebraska Pop Festival and last weekend's Lincoln Calling Festival, which is the subject of this week's column. And it's not over yet. The OEA Fall Showcase is Nov. 13 in Benson.

Column 241: Turning the Corner
Best year ever for Lincoln Calling... 
After word got out that a reunion of legendary '90s-era rock act Mercy Rule was going to replace Domestica last Saturday night at Lincoln Calling, I knew that I was going to make my first excursion to the festival after writing about it for the past six years.
Jeremy Buckley, Lincoln Calling organizer and "A-No. 1 Ass-kicker" (as designated from stage by Mercy Rule's Jon Taylor) had texted me with the details. Ron Albertson -- Mercy Rule's drummer who had moved to Brooklyn all those years ago -- was back in town to stay, and Mercy Rule was a band again. In Ron's absense, Taylor and his wife, bassist/vocalist Heidi Ore, had formed Domestica with drummer Boz Hicks. I guess Boz simply stepped aside, understanding the obvious historical implications.
They were scheduled to play at 9 p.m., so we left Omaha at 7:30 in the Cooper. I can't remember there being so much construction on I-80 -- the speed limit shifted from 55 to 65 to 75 to 55 and so on, which didn't matter since I was driving 85 anyway, and still almost missed the show when we flew past the 9th St. exit, not realizing our mistake until we got to Crete with the city in the rear-view mirror.
For many, Mercy Rule would be the highlight of the five-day festival. But not for Buckley. "The best thing I saw was Ideal Cleaners doing 'Go, Go Big Business,' a song that I always ask for but they never play," he said.
It was the cherry on top for Buckley. This is the year that Lincoln Calling "turned a corner" from being a nice weekend of shows put together for the locals who probably would have been at the bars anyway, to an "event" that drew new blood in the form of people completely outside of the Lincoln/Omaha music scene.
Buckley called Monday night after spending the entire day in bed recovering from the weekend. He reported that total Lincoln Calling attendance was 3,590 patrons, a thousand more than the 2,500 he had been shooting for. Cash from the event's ticket sales totaled $9,063 -- an average of about $2.50 per patron. "(I) should probably try and figure out how to get that 'per person figure' higher next year," he said.
Regardless, everyone that performed got paid -- something that's unheard of for most local music festivals. The worst-paying night was Sunday, where the light draw meant each band only pocketed about $15. For the rest of the weekend, "a couple solo artists got $30, and the rest of the bands got between $50 and $200," Buckley said, explaining that their take was based on door splits. Every performer also received a free $30 all-access pass that let them into every show throughout the festival.
In the end, Buckley said most bands were happy with the way things turned out, except for Eagle Seagull, who had a "melt down" on the The Bourbon Theater stage on the festival's opening night. Buckley said Eagle Seagull frontman Eli Mardock "left the stage in the middle of the third song and watched from the side. I think he made it through four or five songs total. People were in a bad mood afterward and talked about it all weekend. Eli said he was sorry, and that they would do a makeup show in December in Lincoln for free. Other than that, there were no major disasters."
Statistically speaking, the highest grossing show was Sarah Benck's Saturday night performance at The Zoo, which she had announced would be the swan song for her band. The room was a crush mob, and after only a few minutes of being in everyone's way, we left with claustrophobia setting in.
From a pure attendance standpoint, Buckley said Friday night's UUVVWWZ show at Duffy's or The Killigans show at the 12th St. Pub took the prize. Each drew well over 300.
But forget about the numbers. Buckley pointed to other signs that Lincoln Calling is growing into a real festival: He watched as someone actually scalped an all-access pass outside of Duffy's. Like Austin's South by Southwest Festival, an "unofficial Lincoln Calling show" was held after hours at a nearby house for Bandit Sound. And two radio stations and a local TV affiliate approached Buckley to cover the event -- another first.
Buckley said the seventh annual Lincoln Calling Festival would be "the year of sponsorship and board of directors and volunteers." He missed too many of the shows this year because he was constantly being texted to put out fires along O St. Next year he wants to place a volunteer at every venue to handle flare-ups. He also is fielding offers to help with the event's marketing.
For me, the festival's highlight was that Mercy Rule show -- something I never thought I'd see. But there they were on Duffy's famous stage, Jon, Heidi and Ron, illuminated in the glow of their trademark floor floodlights, tearing into four classics (including "Summer" and "Tell Tomorrow") and pointing toward their future with four new songs that were as loud and angry as anything in their crowded oeuvre. Taylor's homemade guitar was still ringing in my ears as we made the long drive back home.

* * *

Tonight at The Waiting Room, Skypiper opens for Nickel Creek's Sara Watkins. $12, 8 p.m. Matt Whipkey opens for The BoDeans at The Whiskey Roadhouse/Horseshoe Casino. $23.50, 8 p.m. And Sarah Benck is playing solo at The Barley St. with PennyHawk and Adam Faucett. $5, 9 p.m.

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Brief Recap: Lincoln Calling; Brad Hoshaw/7 Deadlies tonight... – Oct. 6 , 2009 – twitter icon

A complete recap of Lincoln Calling is the subject of this week's column, which will be online tomorrow. The short version is that the festival drew 3,590 people -- about a 1,000 more than organizer Jeremy Buckley had hoped for. In other words, it was a success. More data and quotes tomorrow.

I actually went down for one night of Lincoln Calling this year, to catch the Mercy Rule reunion and the final show of Sarah Benck and her band (the band formerly known as The Robbers). Mercy Rule brought the goods to Duffy's stage, playing four old songs (including "Summer" and "Tell Tomorrow") and four new songs that absolutely ripped. It was fun to see Ron Albertson behind a drum set again, and to see the band lit up in their trademark floor-floodlights (see photo). The question now is when will a new Mercy Rule album be released (presumably on Speed! Nebraska)?

The Sarah Benck show at The Zoo Bar was a mob scene, crazy packed, overheated, insane (see blurry photo). We made it through one song before we had to get out of there as the walls seemed to be closing in. It has been pointed out to me by a couple folks in other bands how ironic it is that Benck and her band are breaking up as it is one of the few non-Creek Omaha bands that consistently makes money (and good money at that).

Anyway, more tomorrow. Also this week (Thursday), look for a sweet interview/feature with Landing on the Moon.

* * *

Tonight at Slowdown Jr., it's the return of Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies with The Matt Cox Band and Kyle Harvey. $6, 9 p.m.

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Live Review: The Mynabirds, Tortoise; Sarah Benck/Robbers last show; Lincoln Calling Day 3... – Oct. 2 , 2009 – twitter icon

Last night's show at Slowdown Jr. was the first-ever performance by The Mynabirds, though you'd never have known it by the way they played. The band is fronted by Laura Burhenn -- half of the late, great Georgie James. Burhenn apparently just moved here from Washington, D.C., so I assume the other four Mynabirds are from around here. In fact, on bass was singer/songwriter Dan McCarthy, and I recognized the guitarist, but can't for the life of me tell you who he was.

Anyway, Burhenn and her band came on at around 10:30 and played a short set of well-crafted indie rock songs that sounded like a cross between Jenny Lewis (the upbeat, strutting stuff) and Azure Ray (thanks to a terrific harmony vocalist). The band rocked like it'd been around for years -- very tight with only one noticeable miscue (To start off their last song, the drummer did a 4/4 count-off. Laura turned around with a "no" look, and da-da-da'd a waltz-time beat that the drummer mimicked to get them started). Burhenn's voice is indie gold, and I could see any number of labels clamoring to get he band on their books, but I have to believe that she'll end up at Saddle Creek, where she'd be a perfect fit. Nansel would be a fool to let this one go... (See photo)

When I got to the bar, Jake Bellows had already begun his opening set of solo electric lonely-guy ballads that we've all come to love. I'm starting to think he has a million of these lovely, sad songs filed away in the back of his mind, enough to perform a set that would last an entire weekend, and no one would mind. Bellows is a crooner; on stage he looks like an everyday Joe who woke up one day to discover that he had this dreamy, heart-breaker voice, the kind of voice that would have made him a star in the 1950s, bigger than Bobby Darin. Instead, he's slowly edging his way into the indie foreground, sneaking in under the radar. It's just a matter of time, and considering that Neva Dinova's been around since the '90s, time is something Bellows seems to have plenty of.

The crowd of around 70 was oddly mannered -- everyone was seated and no one talked at all. Dead silence between Bellows' songs, it was awkward. People were afraid to get up and get a beer while he was playing. I felt strange standing up at the edge of the bar, like I was out of place. The odd behavior carried over to the Mynabirds' set, and toward the end, Burhenn pleaded to the crowd to get up and walk toward the stage, which about a dozen people did.

I didn't stick around for These United States. Instead, I high-tailed it across town to The Waiting Room where I caught most of the set by Tortoise. The show wasn't a sell-out, but the crowd was pretty good, maybe 150 (I'm guessing), a majority filling in the main room, staring up at the five-piece as they traded off turns on drums. Tortoise's instrumental-only music is intensely rhythmic (at times, brutally so) at once hypnotic and groovy and unpredictable in its changes and sounds. It's like '50s beatnik jazz-lounge infused with a post-punk attitude and a touch of art/prog. Which makes me wonder why the band appeals so much to the neu-hippie culture. When the band came through a couple years ago, I don't remember seeing so many white-guy dreads, so much hurdy-gurdy dancing, I expected to find someone back by the pinball machines making tie-dye t-shirts. I bet the only ones more perplexed by the onslaught of hippie nation was the band itself, who looked like a bunch of very cool, aging Chicago artists who grew up listening to really good college music, music from bands like Tortoise. (See photo).

* * *

This Saturday's Lincoln Calling performance by Sarah Benck and the Robbers will be the last for the band, as they're breaking up afterward. Benck said the decision to end the band came about quickly, and that she's disappointed by the situation but realizes that people's lives change. "My bandmates are all great friends, and I'm sure that will remain. Six years was a great run, and that's what makes it so bittersweet," she said.

Moving forward, Benck said she intends to play solo shows until she decides if, when or with whom she'd like to play again. I don't think she'll have much trouble pulling together another band. For me, the real question is whether she'll keep creating music in her current style or use this crossroads as a touchstone for moving in a different direction. Time will tell.

The Benck/Robbers Lincoln Calling show is slated for 10 p.m. at The Zoo Bar. If you want to catch it, you may want to show up early.

* * *

Speaking of Lincoln Calling, festival organizer Jeremy Buckley texted me to say that attendance has been strong for the first few days. Wednesday attendance was 395 while Thursday drew 690. Tonight should be just as strong and Saturday should be crazy, with the Benck/Robbers farewell and the Mercy Rule reunion at Duffy's.

Here's tonight's schedule:

Duffy’s Tavern
Early -- 6-9 p.m.
Women of Music First Friday featuring art and photography from:
Teal Gardner
Courtney Nore
Alexandra Matzke
Natasha Richardson
Kayleigh Speck

Late -- 9 p.m., $3 suggested donation, 21+
9-9:45 Honeybee
10-10:45 Sat in What
11-11:45 Flowers Forever
12-12:45 UUVVWWZ

Zoo Bar
Early --- 5 p.m., $5 for 21+
5-7 p.m. Tijuana Gigolos

Late -- 9 p.m., $8 for 21+
9-9:45 The Bellflowers
10-10:45 Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies
11-11:45 Frontier Ruckus
12-1245 The Allendales

12th St. Pub -- 9 p.m., $3 for 21+, $5 for 18-20
8:30-9:30 Triggertown
9:45-10:30 Cowboy Dave Band
10:50-11:30 The Filter Kings
11:45-1 The Killigans

Bricktop -- 10 p.m., free for 21+
Dr. Zhivago
Brent Crampton
DJs will decide rotation

Bodegas -- 9 p.m., $5 for 21+
10-1 Lazer Wolfe

Duggan’s Pub -- 9 p.m., $5 for 21+
9-9:40 Tendead
10-10:40 Hellanova
11-11:40 The Lifeless Design Norfolk
12-1 Deadechoes

Songwriter Power Ranger -- 6 p.m., free for all ages
6:30-7 Das Hoboerotica (Spindle)
6:50-7:20 Adam Jameson (Duffy’s)
7:10-7:40 Jonathan Dell (Spindle)
7:30-8 Saint Christopher (Duffy’s)

Early -- 6 p.m., free for 21+
7-9 p.m. Lucas Kellison and the Assembled Soul

Late -- 10 p.m., free for 21+
Ol’ Moanin’ Corpse
DJs will decide rotation

* * *

OK, so what's going on in Omaha tonight?

O'Leaver's has a nice little post-punk/indie show going on with Ketchup and Mustard Gas, Driftless Pony Club and godshamgod. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Saddle Creek Bar is presenting a much more conventional punk show with Officially Terminated, The Shidiots and Youth and Tear Gas. There's never a cover charge at the SCB. Show starts around 9 p.m.

The biggest show tonight is The Get Up Kids (read my 2002 interview) with Youth Group and Pretty and Nice. $23, 9 p.m.

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The Mynabirds (ex-Georgie James), Tortoise, Static Static, LC Day 2 all tonight; and the return of Mercy Rule... – Oct. 1 , 2009 – twitter icon

Who are The Mynabirds (who are opening tonight's These United States show at Slowdown Jr.)? Well it's the new project by former Georgie James member Laura Burhenn. Her yet-to-be-released new album, What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood, was recorded with singer/songwriter/producer Richard Swift. You can hear a bit of it on the Mynabirds myspace page, or better yet, come down to Slowdown and hear it live. Also opening is Jake Bellows. $7, 9 p.m.
Also tonight, as if you didn't know, is Tortoise at The Waiting Room. I didn't think we'd see these guys again after their last show at TWR (in June 2007) didn't sell out (read my comments here), but here they are, better than ever with a brand new album on ThrillJockey called Beacons of Ancestorship. Opening is Prefuse 73. $15, 9 p.m

O'Leaver's has Static Static tonight with Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship and The Prairies. $5, 9:30 p.m.
And then there's Day 2 of Lincoln Calling. The sched is below. The big LC news, announced just yesterday, is that the reunited Mercy Rule -- complete with drummer Ron Albertson -- will be performing Saturday night at Duffy's as part of Lincoln Calling. I just figured out which night I'll be heading down to Lincoln.

Bourbon Theatre -- 8 p.m., $8 for 18+
9:15-9:45 Talking Mountain
9:50-10:20 Capgun Coup
10:25-10:55 Conchance
11-1 Goo DJs
Duffy’s Tavern
Early -- 6 p.m., $5 for all ages
6-8:30 Academy of Rock celebrates Banned Book week
Late -- 9 p.m., $3 suggested donation for 21+
9-9:45 Techlepathy
10-10:45 Ideal Cleaners
11-11:45 Fromanhole
12-12:45 Masses
Zoo Bar -- 9 p.m., $5 for 21+
9-9:45 Mal Madrigal
10-10:45 Loup River Band and Street Choir
11-11:45 Matt Cox Band
12-1 Son of 76 and the Watchmen
12th St. Pub -- 9 p.m., $3 for 21+. $5 for 18-20
9:30-10:30 Andrews Ave
10:50-11:30 Jodie Loves Hinckley
11:45-1 Tempo
Bricktop -- 10 p.m., free for 21+
Ol’ Moanin’ Corpse
DJ Relic
Jacob Smith
DJs will decide rotation
Duggans Pub -- 9 p.m., $5 for 21+
Bandit Sound
To the Grave
Songwriter Power Ranger street corner stomp
6:30-7:00 Jon Wesley Crusher
6:50-7:20 Rebecca McPherson
7:10-7:40 Manny Coon
7:30-8:00 Grant Centauri
Marz Bar
Early -- 6 p.m., free for 21+
7-9 p.m. Son of 76 and the Watchmen
Late -- 10 p.m., free for 21+
Dr. Zhivago
DJs will decide rotation

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Monsters of Folk at No. 15 on Billboard; Lincoln Calling Day 1 is tonight; Column 240 is a rehashed mashup…. – Sept. 30 , 2009 – twitter icon

The self-titled debut by Monsters of Folk sold 34,547 physical copies in its first week of sales, good enough to weigh in at No. 15 on the Billboard chart, according to Homer's General Manager Mike Fratt. The album by the so-called indie supergroup that features Conor Oberst, M.Ward, Jim James and secret weapon Mike Mogis also sold 17,369 digital copies since it became available a few weeks prior to the physical release. That put Monsters of Folk at No. 7 on the digital sales charts.

Those aren't bad first week numbers, but it's no Bright Eyes. Fratt pointed out that of the three amigos releasing music on their own, Bright Eyes is the clear best seller, followed by M. Ward then My Morning Jacket. "Conor (as Bright Eyes) is a few thousand units away from gold (500k) with Wide Awake," Fratt said. "Ash is around 250k, and Lifted is around 300k. M. Ward has nothing over 100k and MMJ's biggest is in the mid-100k's."

Fratt added that Oberst's solo CDs with Mystic Valley Band are at 100k for the debut and 40k for Outer South.

* * *

The sixth-annual Lincoln Calling Festival kicks off tonight with a full slate of shows. Tonight's schedule and prices are below, or you can get details at the Lincoln Calling Facebook page.
Pricewise, the right answer is to get a $30 wristband that lets you into all the shows for the entire five days. It's available from e-tix right here.
If I were heading to Lincoln tonight, I'd definitely be checking out the duo-stages at the Bourbon featuring SF glam act Sleepy Sun and Nebraska's very own Eagle Seagull. Actually, I'd also scamper on over to the Zoo Bar for New York rock-folkies The Rosewood Thieves. And of course, I'd check out the streetcorner buskers (including the fetching Nicole LeClerc outside the Bourbon at 7:10).
Here's the sched…

Wednesday, Sept 30

Bourbon Theatre -- Doors at 8 p.m., $10 for 18+
9-9:45 Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound (main stage)
9:45-10:15 Gold Lions (front room)
10:20-11:20 Sleepy Sun (main stage)
11:25-11:55 Life of a Scarecrow (back of main room)
12-1 Eagle Seagull (main stage)

Duffy’s Tavern -- doors at 9 p.m., $5 for 19+
9:30-10 Sundays Best
10-10:30 Diamond Kazzoo (beer garden)
10:30-11:15 The Wildbirds
11:30-12:30 The Amalgamators

Zoo Bar

early -- doors at 6 p.m., $4 for 19+
6-6:45 Ember Schrag
7-7:45 Tsumi
8-8:30 Once a Pawn

late -- doors at 9 p.m., $8 for 19+
9-9:30 Manny Coon
9:40-10:20 Outlaw Con Bandana
10:40-11:20 Dead Trees
11:40-12:40 The Rosewood Thieves

Bricktop -- doors at 10 p.m., free for 21+
DJ Spence
Jim Reilly (bday DJ set)
Note: DJs will determine rotation

Duggans -- doors 9 p.m., free for 21+
Open mic night; Rob from Duggan’s will facilitate

Songwriter Power Ranger street corner stomp -- free (obviously)
6:30-7 Darren Keen (Bourbon)
7:20-7:50 Son of 76 (Duffy’s)
7:10-7:40 Nicole LeClerc (Bourbon)
7:30-8 Chanty Stovall (Duffy’s)

* * *
This week's column is an opportunity to catch up on some of the news that has appeared in this-here blog over the past couple weeks. So if you're a regular reader, you've already seen a version of this mashed-up commentary. I include it here for posterity's sake (there have been a couple adds and edits).

Column 240: Ship Jumpers
But what price of fame?
A couple weeks ago, Tokyo Police Club announced that it had signed an exclusive U.S. recording deal with record label mom+pop, ending its relationship with Saddle Creek Records that began in July 2007. "The band is currently recording its second full length album, with an expected release projected for early 2010," said the band's PR folks.
Mom+pop was formed in 2008 by the owners of Qprime, "one of music's most respected management firms, with a roster featuring the likes of Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Snow Patrol, Muse, Silversun Pickups and The Mars Volta," the release said. The record label's roster, however, is tiny, and includes Josha Radin and An Horse.
Not surprisingly, Saddle Creek Records was not mentioned in the press release. None of this made sense to me. Why would TPC jump ship? Did this have more to do with Qprime than mom+pop?
"The band wanted a label with the resources and willingness to put a large amount of money into a commercial radio campaign, and that's not something that we as a label have traditionally bought into or were willing to do," said Saddle Creek label executive Jason Kulbel, who runs the label with Robb Nansel.
So this tiny mom+pop has the cash for something like that, or are other deep pockets involved? "I would assume that being backed by Qprime would mean they have some money to spend and experience in the commercial radio world," Kulbel said.
Conversely, I would assume that everyone at Saddle Creek was disappointed, considering that TPC's 2008 effort, Elephant Shell, is one of the label's best-selling recent releases.
"I can't say that we are not disappointed," Kulbel said. "You don't really start working with a band to only do one record. That said, we were well aware of the situation. It's not like we were blindsided or anything. We have been talking on and off for months, and when the band decided on a road to go down, we were made aware and they asked us if it was something we would be interested in doing."
The answer was no. Incidentally, Kulbel said Saddle Creek got nothing (no buy-out or whatever) as a result of TPC going to mom+pop. 
The whole thing is depressing. To some, TPC represented a new wave of powerhouse indie bands that would guide Saddle Creek into the next decade after the label lost two of its triple-crown acts -- The Faint (who left to start their own label) and Bright Eyes, a band that Conor Oberst announced would be sunsetted after a final album on Saddle Creek sometime in the future. Oberst's solo albums with Mystic Valley Band are released on Merge Records, and the new album by Monsters of Folk was released on LA's Shangri-La Music, a label owned by millionaire/international playboy (I'm not kidding) Steve Bing, who I've been told made Oberst and his compatriots an offer they simply could not refuse.
As far as major earners go, that leaves Creek with the ever-faithful Cursive/The Good Life, and the upcoming Azure Ray album. And of course, there's that extensive back catalog, which is probably enough to sustain them as another generation discovers The Faint and Bright Eyes (and Cursive). Creek has the luxury of owning these musicians' best albums.
Still, it would be nice if even one of Saddle Creek's recently signed acts -- Old Canes, UUVVWWZ, Rural Alberta Advantage or Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson -- could ignite as brightly as TPC did out of the gate.
Speaking of Monsters of Folk, over the past couple of weeks dozens of reviews of their new album have been printed and posted. The only one that will be looked upon as "relevant" went live last week at Pitchfork. The undisputed king of tastemakers gave the album a 6.5 (out of 10) -- a luke-warn rating that's become standard-issue for all Omaha-affiliated indie rock releases.
Pitchfork (along with everyone else) compared the "super group" to The Traveling Wilburys -- which is apt, right down to the production on some of the songs. I'll play along. For me, Jim James, with his irresistible voice, is Roy Orbison. Oberst, who wrote the best songs on the album, is (of course) Dylan, which puts M.Ward in the George Harrison slot (some might say inappropriately, as James just released a sleepy Harrison tribute EP). That makes Mike Mogis a modern-day Jeff Lynne -- in fact both produced their respective albums.
While Mogis' production and the fact that the four members played all the instruments were efforts designed to "hold it all together," the record still sounds like a collection of songs by the individual artists instead of a cohesive album by a singular band. The M.Ward songs sound like Hold Time rejects, the Conor songs could have come off a Mystic Valley album, and Jim James is Jim James. For fans of those records, this could be a real coup rather than a let-down.
For me, it's all somewhat... predictable. "Say Please" -- their "Handle with Care" -- is the most radio friendly of the bunch. And since they decided to go with the millionaire (Shangri-La Music), efforts will be made to get the track shoved down radio programmers' throats, and placed in "heavy rotation" in hopes of hypnotizing The Great Wad that needs to be told -- over and over again -- what to listen to. I guess that's what these guys and TPC wanted after years of flourishing in indie obscurity.
Oh, but what price fame? TPC and the Monsters will find out soon enough. Because there's one thing that Saddle Creek provided that money can never buy, something that has to do with the ability to look at yourself in the mirror.

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Alessi & Jake in Germany; Cursive in Vegas; Young Widows cancels; Fathr^ tonight... – Sept. 29, 2009 – twitter icon

A few newsy items from the Googlenet:

An interesting interview was posted today on U.K. website with Alessi Laurent-Marke, the charming U.K. singer songwriter who briefly made Omaha her home a couple summers ago. Alessi talks about Nebraska, Saddle Creek and what she's up to now -- which includes a December tour of Germany with Neva Dinova's Jake Bellows.

"…we became friends when I was in Nebraska and he's the fellow that sings on 'The Horse' and does all the harmonies and backing vocals for that record and he's a fantastic singer in his own right, and I thought it would be fun to play some solo stuff together in December, both here and in Germany," said Alessi in her typical never-ending-run-on-sentence speaking style. "It will be the first time either of us have played in Germany, so it will be good to share it with a friend." Read the whole interview here.

* * *

Tim Kasher's latest stage apparel: Flip-flops, according to this review in the Las Vegas Weekly of Cursive's Sin City show last Thursday. Critic Laura Davis raved about the performance that included Kasher making a dive into the mosh pit and the band playing a cover of "Get Me To the Church on Time." Ironic? Only the insiders know for sure.

* * *

A kind reader posted on the webboard (here) that one of the opening bands for tonight's Thursday concert at Slowdown -- Young Widows -- cancelled (including the rest of the tour) due to personal reasons. The band's myspace page confirms this. The show will go on, however, with the headliner and the other openers -- The Fall of Troy and La Dispute. Tickets are $20; show starts at 7:30.

Also tonight, Wovenhand, a project by former 16 Horsepower frontman David Eugene Edwards, plays at The Waiting Room with Fathr^ featuring Clark Baechle (drum), Dapose (electronics, guitar), James Cuato (saxophone) and Willy (saxophone). $10, 9 p.m.

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Live Review: Amazing Baby, The Entrance Band; Social Distortion, Sea Wolf tonight... – Sept. 28, 2009 – twitter icon

Oh what it must feel like to be a touring band that's played sold out shows for months opening for other bands and to finally get your own headlining tour and then show up in Omaha and play to an empty room. Such was the case for Amazing Baby. There was only around 20 people in Slowdown Jr. last night (including members of the opening band and bar help). That's got to be a let-down and feel a bit demoralizing, but is something that every new band has to go through. I blame last night's Flogging Molly show, as well as the band for not allowing a local opener on the bill, and myself for not giving the details about opener The Entrance Band in my Amazing Baby write-up.

Fact is, I didn't know anything about The Entrance Band before last night. I found out while talking to one of the few patrons before their set that the band consists of frontman Guy Blakeslee, who's past bands include The Convocation Of..., and Paz Lachantin -- who in addition to being super-model attractive in her 5-inch high heels is something of a legend who can count among her former bands A Perfect Circle, Zwan and The Chelsea -- a band with Melissa Auf de Maur. Lachantin also played on albums by Queens of the Stone Age, Jenny Lewis, Jarboe (of Swans) and many more. It seemed like more people were at the show for The Entrance Band than Amazing Baby.

As it turned out, their set was just as riveting as AB's. The trio played a blistering -- but short -- set of psychedelic burn-out music that screamed, thanks to Blakeslee's unreal guitar histrionics and Lachantin strutting around like a Bryant Park amazon holding the entire set together with her bass work.

Amazing Baby followed shortly afterward at around 10:30 and played a half-hour, six-song set. I thought maybe they short-changed us because of the crowd, but they only played six songs at The Troubadour last week, too. Despite the embarrassingly empty ambiance, their performance was "spirited" (to say the least) with a blinding LED/laser light show and fog machine (see photo). Yeah, they deserved a better crowd, but what are you gonna do? It was a Sunday night after a hard-rocking weekend. Hopefully the empty room won't discourage them from coming back...

* * *

I skipped Os Mutantes Saturday at The Waiting Room and am sorry I did. I'm told by people who were there that it was an amazing show and a decent-sized crowd. Friday night I hung out at The Saddle Creek Bar and caught a set by The Foghorns, a Seattle-based anti-folk roots rock band complete with tuba whose influences -- John Prine, The Velvet Underground and Violent Femmes -- were apparent in their music -- a great set played in front of a smattering (maybe 12) of people.

* * *

Tonight at Sokol Auditorium, it's the return of Social Distortion -- a band that you gotta love because all you need is one of their albums (or songs?) and you've got the entire catalog. No openers are listed on the Sokol website. Show starts at 8 p.m., tickets are an unreal $30.

Also tonight, LA indie band Sea Wolf, riding high after one of their songs was used in a Chevy Malibu commercial (another was in a RadioShack ad), is playing at Slowdown Jr. with Port O'Brien & Sara Lov. $10, 9 p.m.

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Os Mutantes, T.A.T.E. tonight; Yuppies Saturday, Amazing Baby Sunday... – Sept. 25, 2009 – twitter icon

What to do tonight?
Legendary Brazilian psychedelic band Os Mutantes is playing at The Waiting Room. They just released their first new album in 35 years, Haih Or Amortecedor, on ANTI-. The odds are pretty good that you'll never get another chance to see them in Omaha. With that in mind $20 is a steal. Get your tickets while you can. The show starts at 9 with opener DeLeon.
Tonight's The Airborne Toxic Event show at The Slowdown is sold out, so if you don't have tix yet, you're out of luck. Opening is Red Cortez and The Henry Clay People. 9 p.m.
Other options tonight include Rhymes with Orange and Andrew's Ave. at The Sydney; $5, 9 p.m. And The Foghorns, John Fino and Western Electric at The Saddle Creek bar, where there's never a cover charge. Starts at 9 p.m.
Tomorrow night (Saturday) The Yuppies are playing at The Sydney with Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship and Lightning Bug. $5, 9 p.m. Yuppies will be hocking their fresh new 7-inch with Noah's Ark for $5. Editor's Note: UUVVWWZ was originally supposed to play this show.
Meanwhile, up the street at The Waiting Room, it's a night of independent hip-hop with Brother Ali, Evidence, Toki Wright and BK One. $13 now/$15 DOS. 9 p.m.
Everyone's favorite local power-pop band, The Third Men, are playing at The 49'r Saturday night with Spartan Apartments. $5, 9:30 p.m.
Finally, Mitch Gettman, OK Hemmingway and Lisa Donnelly are playing at The Saddle Creek Bar Saturday, where there's never a cover charge. Show starts at 9.
Last but not least, Amazing Baby is playing at Slowdown Jr. on Sunday night with The Entrance Band. Tickets are a mere $8 (cheap!) and the show starts at 9.
* * *
A correction to my Phoenix live review that was posted on Tuesday…. I said that the band was on V2 Records in the U.S. Jesse Stensby, vice president/radio rep at Vitriol Radio Promotion, e-mailed to point out that Phoenix's U.S. label is Glassnote. That's what I get for half-assing it by using Wikipedia as a source instead of AMG (another Wiki entry said that Astralwerks was their U.S. label).
So what/who exactly is Glassnote? I did a Google search and discovered their website, which listed Phoenix's labelmates as Secondhand Serenade, Jonas Sees in Color, The Temper Trap and Justin Nozuka -- all bands that I've never heard of, though many apparently have appeared on television. According to the site, "Glassnote Entertainment Group is a full service independent music company founded by Daniel Glass, one of the most accomplished and respected music people in the industry."
The site goes on to say that "Through Glassnote, Mr. Glass has created the next-generation Music Company. It can be looked at as a rebirth of the great independent record companies, Chrysalis, Motown, Atlantic and Island, but built for the ever-changing marketplace."
Maybe so. Certainly Phoenix was a great catch. The question, of course, is how did they do it. Here, we turn again to Wikipedia, where we discover that Daniel Glass worked at Chrysalis Records back in 1983 as the director of new music marketing, where he worked with Pat Benatar and Huey Lewis and the News, among others. He next headed to SBK Records where he was vice president of promotion, responsible for bringing us such break-out acts as Jesus Jones and Vanilla Ice. After that, he started Rising Tide Records for Universal, and then joined Danny Goldberg at Artemis Records in '99. Which brings us to Glassnote, where he's the CEO.
With that kind of provenance, it all makes sense, sort of. Anyway, apologies for the error.

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Lazy-i Interview: Amazing Baby; Rademacher tonight... – Sept. 24, 2009 – twitter icon

Just posted, an interview with Amazing Baby frontman Will Roan. He talks about the band's first headlining tour, musical influences (among them, T.Rex -- no surprise) and the making of their latest album. Read it here.

They've got a huge amount of buzz surrounding them, considering that they've been around less than two years. I mentioned this to Roan, who was quick to point out that they've all been in other bands. He says their quick rise to national attention has more to do with hard work. "I've been playing music since high school, and everyone else for longer than that," Roan said, "and we've never worked as hard as we have on this project."

It doesn't hurt to have a label like Shangri-La Music, the same label that also released the Monsters of Folk album. "They are a new label that has a lot of hard-working strong music lovers and lot of energy at their disposal, so to speak," Roan said. "They're interested in trying to keep music alive, where I think a lot of labels that have been around for awhile don't know their asses from their elbows." Maybe so, but it also doesn't hurt that the owner of Shangri-La is a multi-millionaire who appears to be doing this for the fun of it. I pointed this out to Roan, and didn't get any arguments.

None of that is in the story. Also missing is the routine question about Omaha. Roan has never been here before, but has some connections. "I got kicked out of a band that had Willy Mason in it," he said. "His brother, Sam (Mason) was in one of my first bands, too. Willy signed to Team Love at the time Bright Eyes was really big. SPIN had just done a huge article on Saddle Creek in 2003 when I was a freshmen in college. And Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson (who just signed to Saddle Creek) is a close friend of mine from Brooklyn. I always have a beer with him before I go away on tour. I know Omaha is kind of a speck on the radar of the world, but it's had a huge impact.

Anyway, read the story, then go out and get your tickets to their show Sunday night at Slowdown Jr. It's a mere $8.

* * *

Tonight at O'Leaver's, Boy Noises plays with San Francisco band Rademacher. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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Column 239: Lincoln Calling at 6; Review: Monsters of Folk; Built to Spill tonight... – Sept. 23, 2009 – twitter icon

Lincoln Calling starts a week from today, and as I neglected to mention in the column (though people will find it on their Facebook page, I suppose) is that all-access full-weekend wristbands are a mere $30, which is a steal. I stand by my claim that it's time for Lincoln Calling to "grow up" and start doing things that other successful festivals do, like advertise and find sponsors. It's amazing how well Buckley's done without those two basic elements all of these years. I've never met anyone more concerned (afraid?) of making money, but he makes a couple good points. He said the only thing he remembers from the Maha Festival is that Alegent was the sponsor, and the only thing he remembers from the Gomez concert in Memorial Park was the cell phone company drones screwing up the introduction before the band went on stage (saying that they were touring their new album, Bring It On, which was released sometime in the late '90s). That said, I think LC could maintain its integrity and level of quality AND involve sponsors. Why do so many people around here think that making money is such a bad thing?

Column 239: Growing Pains
Lincoln Calling at Year 6
I like to give Lincoln Calling organizer Jeremy Buckley shit. I love to bust his proverbial, music-loving balls. Why, you ask, would I mentally torture this all-around good guy whose selfless efforts have produced one of the state's biggest, most successful indie music attractions? Because it's fun, and because I only want Mr. Buckley to continue to succeed, though he's done just fine without me, thank you very much.
What have I been busting Buckley's ever-loving balls about? First let's take a glance at this year's Lincoln Calling festival, which will be held Sept. 30 through Oct. 3 at eight venues throughout the downtown Lincoln metroplex. I would list all the bands and all the times and all the venues, but they only give me 900 words for this column, kids, and that would take up most -- if not all -- of my space. So I suggest you do the right thing and go to and search for "Lincoln Calling 2009," where Buckley has created a nice fan page that gives all the deets.
For now, let me list five things that make this year's Lincoln Calling Festival different than the past five years'.
Difference 1 -- Instead of walking with hat in hand to every venue asking to use their stage for the event, venues for the first time have actually come to Buckley. Both The Bricktop and Marz Bar asked how they could get involved. So look for early band sets at both clubs, followed by DJs the rest of the evenings.
Difference 2 -- Duggan's Pub is back. Buckley said he stopped using them two years ago after "having problems with the employees," that included shutting down the bar before the final band of the evening performed. "(Anonymous American frontman Matt) Whipkey wasn't very happy to be told to go f*** himself," Buckley said. "After that, I didn't want to deal with their shenanigans." Duggan's wanted back in and assured Buckley that he wouldn't have any problems.
Difference 3 -- Metal and punk have been added to the line-up. "I don't know about bands in those genres," Buckley said. So he turned to someone who does named Rich Johnson, who helped him find 10 angry young bands to add to the line-up.
Difference 4 -- The weekend falls on the first Friday of the month, when local art galleries switch out their shows. To recognize this and the fact that so few women are involved in local festivals, Buckley organized the Women of Music First Friday art show at Duffy's from 6-9 p.m., followed by bands invited to play by the artists themselves.
Difference 5 -- The first annual Lincoln Calling Merch Madness Market, a swap meet/flea market/garage sale held from 4 to 8 p.m. Sunday at The Bourbon Theater. "It's a place where any band can sell merch and gear," Buckley said. Want to sell your junk? Buckley said to contact organizer Malcom Miles on Facebook or "just show up with your merch and you'll be fine."
One "difference" that didn't make the list -- Knickerbocker's is not involved this year after a disagreement over hold dates. Buckley said Knick's gave away a crucial agreed-upon date -- intended for Minneapolis act Heiruspecs -- without notifying him. "What if I'd signed the contract and found out afterward I couldn't do the show there?" Buckley said. "I'd still have to pay the band."
Buckley blames the fact that he books shows at The Bourbon Theater, and before that, the late-great Box Awesome -- both in competition with Knick's for shows. "In my opinion, Lincoln Calling is a separate thing," he said. "The whole point is to get the kids at UN-L to pay attention to our music scene."
This year Buckley also had a particularly challenging time weeding though all the bands that now want to participate, and telling some of them "no." Not surprisingly "people get mad when they're not involved." Really? He said the only ones being left out, however, are those with "entitlement" mentalities or that simply don't make sense in the grand scheme of things.
Consider these problems growing pains. It's what happens when people begin to recognize your success, and want to be part of it. Buckley's favorite example: "I got a text message from (Cursive's) Ted Stevens asking if he could play," Buckley said. "My response was, 'Are you kidding me? You're Ted Friggin' Stevens!" Look for Stevens as part of the festival's closing night at Duffy's.
Buckley's attendance targets are modest. Last year he said Lincoln Calling drew 2,300, not including bands and venue personnel. This year he's shooting for 2,500 paid participants.
That's impressive, but it's also reaching the ceiling for what is essentially a one-man DIY festival. If Buckley wants to get to the next level, he'll need to explore sponsorships, something that he's always been skittish about. "I don't watch TV or listen to the radio because I don't like commercials," he said. "I don't like people telling me what I should buy."
That's magnanimous, but Buckley also realizes that with sponsorship comes more money, which means more for the bands (That's right, bands actually get paid to play at Lincoln Calling) and more money to attract larger out-of-town acts. The chance to sponsor what has become the largest, longest-running independent music festival in Nebraska should be a no-brainer for any Lincoln business. The only problem is that Buckley doesn't know how to go about it, which is what I've been busting his balls about.
"I guess I need to learn how to look for and ask for sponsors," he said, adding that if anyone knows how to set up LC as a 501c3, he's all ears. "This has gone from being a fun hobby to an opportunity to help make Lincoln a music town." 

* * *
The Monsters of Folk made their network television debut last night on The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien. There wasn't much mystery as to what they were going to sing since "Say Please" is the first "single" and one of the few songs on the album that features all three vocalists. Conor certainly stood out in his colorful aviators -- the only one in the band to wear sunglasses during the performance. All wore suits. It was as good as any typical Oberst late-night performance. 

Over the past few days dozens of reviews of their new album have been posted online. Of course the one that will be looked upon as the most "relevant" went online today, at Pitchfork (here), where the album was given a 6.5 -- the standard-issue rating for any Omaha-affiliated indie rock release. The writer is obviously a Jim James fan.

I've been listening to the album for the past few weeks. We all know that there was no way it could live up to the hype that's been generated since it was first discussed in, what, 2007?
Like the Pitchfork writer and everyone else, it is virtually impossible not to compare this "super group" to The Traveling Wilburys, right down to the production treatment on some of the songs. So who is who? Jim James, with his irresistible voice, has to be Roy Orbison. Conor, who wrote the best songs on the album, is (of course) Dylan, which puts M.Ward in the George Harrison role (some might say inappropriately as James just released a Harrison tribute EP) and makes Mike Mogis Jeff Lynne (who produced the Wilburys' albums along with Harrison).
As successful as those Wilburys albums were (the first one went 3x platinum in the U.S.) they never did much for me. And the same holds true for this Monsters of Folk album. Though Mogis' production and the fact that they played all the instruments were designed to "hold it all together," it sounds like a collection of songs by the individual artists instead of a cohesive album by a singular band. I don't know how that could have been avoided. That said, the M.Ward songs sound like stuff off Hold Time, the Conor songs sound like they could have come from the Mystic Valley Band albums, and Jim James is Jim James. So for fans of those records, this could be a real coup rather than a let-down.
I hate to sound like a homer, but my favorite moments come mostly from Oberst. "Man Named Truth" is the best song he's written in years. "Ahead of the Curve" sounds like a slowed-down, down-cast version of "Souled Out," and I like it. In fact, I like this record better than the last Mystic Valley album. The other standout track is M.Ward's lovely, dreamy "The Sandman, the Brakeman and Me." The best part about the Jim James' songs are his voice. His "Magic Marker" is pretty, but sounds like he took a huge bong hit before he wrote the lyrics.
The rest of the album is somewhat forgettable. "Say Please" -- their "Handle with Care" -- is the most radio friendly. One assumes that since they decided to go with multi-millionaire-owned Shangri-La Music that it'll get shoved down radio programmers' throats, and placed in "heavy rotation" in hopes of hypnotizing The Great Wad that need to be told -- over and over again -- what to listen to. I guess that's what these guys want after years of flourishing in indie obscurity.
I, for one, hope that Oberst eventually backs away from all these collaborative projects and gets back to what he does well -- write complete albums, either as Bright Eyes or simply as himself.
* * *

Tonight at The Slowdown it's the return of Built to Spill with Disco Doom. As of this writing, tickets were still available for $20. Do yourself a favor and see one of the best live indie acts currently touring. And bring your earplugs.

Also tonight, Simon Joyner plays songs off his new Team Love-released album, Out Into the Snow, at The Bemis "Cave" (724 So. 12th St.) with Jack Rose. $8 for non-Bemis members, and starts at 8:30

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Live Review: Phoenix... – Sept. 22, 2009 – twitter icon

Phoenix live at The Slowdown, 9/21/09Last night's Phoenix concert at The Slowdown will rank as one of my top-5 favorite shows of 2009. Unlike last weekend's Bon Iver show, I knew what to expect since I've been enjoying Phoenix's Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix album for most of the year. There weren't a lot of surprises. The band came on stage at around 9:15 and proceeded to ignite the sold-out crowd for almost 80 minutes, including a 4-song encore.

The staging was the usual multi-colored strobe bars that were synced with the music; but just as dynamic was the six-man band of Frenchies strutting around like a posse of hipster messiahs dead set on breaking all the little girls' (and a few little boys') hearts. Musically, they were dead-on. Frontman Thomas Mars has one of the most distinctive (and thankfully not unpleasant) voices in current-day indie rock -- a bright, cutting croon that fits the band's Euro backbeat flair. Mars is a cool customer, lying down on the stage during a taut  instrumental performed about halfway through the night's set. One could argue that the band's drummer is their secret weapon, and one would be right -- just a terrific, clean, unobtrusive style.
These guys have been compared to The Killers, and I can see where people might think that, especially when they stray from the dancier stuff and try to "rock." But ultimately, Phoenix has brighter, poppier and more endearing songs that don't sound as commercially forced as what The Killers have been throwing out there for the past few years. A friend of mine from Lincoln said to expect the place to turn into a dance party, but I guess he forgot that he was talking about Omaha. The crowd didn't get into it until late in the set, and even then it was the typical shoulder-shrug sort of thing, occasionally punctuated by hands in the air (especially during the encore) -- far from the fevered madness that we're all used to at Faint concerts. I couldn't help but think that I was seeing what eventually will become an arena band in just a few years. Phoenix has been around since the late-'90s and currently records for V2 in the U.S., a  division of Universal Music Group. I suspect that they'll be getting the full major-label treatment moving forward (if they aren't already). Photo by Megan McIsaac.

* * *

Tomorrow: Lincoln Calling's growing pains...

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Live Review: Bon Iver; Phoenix; Wye Oak tonight... – Sept. 21, 2009 – twitter icon

I confess to having heard nary a note of Bon Iver music before last week (except for one track off the amazing Dark Was the Night compilation, which if you're a fan of BI, you should run out and buy post-haste). Then last Friday I fell across For Emma, Forever Ago on Lala and was mesmerized and began regretting not having bought a ticket for the show before it sold out (literally within a few weeks after it was announced -- something that's becoming more and more rare these days). Well, my regret turned around as I got on "the list" and joined the throngs Saturday night at The Slowdown. It didn't seem like a crush mob when I entered the club; but I was still unable to get to my usual perch near the stage-left exit doors because of crowd density. I was forced to watch most of the show from the balcony (see blurry photo).

My take on Bon Iver is that he sounds like laid-back Jim James (or Yim Yames as he's known these days) thanks to the high falsetto and the overall winsome-folk style of music. The difference comes from Bon Iver's melodies, which are just prettier and popper than JJ's. Despite being known as a quiet performer, I went ahead and bought a pair of the 50-cent earplugs sold at the bar, and was glad I did. While there was plenty of quiet stuff, more often than not the band pushed the sound level to 8 or 9 (as opposed to 11), driven on one song by three drummers. Tribal? Not really.

As a casual fan, i thought the set was fine, if not a bit one-dimensional (and too short). Based on the overwhelming crowd response, however, I was definitely in the majority.

I still scratching my head as to why the Bon Iver show sold out so quickly. Yes, he's a stalwart presence on the CMJ charts, but he hasn't had the exposure of a Jim James or a Conor Oberst. I suspect I'm missing something…

* * *

There is no lack of hype around tonight's Phoenix show at The Slowdown, which sold out only in the past few weeks. Their new album, austerely called Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, is pure pop fun, a jump-run of chiming keyboards and clean, quick back-beat rhythms that are as thoroughly inviting as an ocean beach stroll on sun-baked morning in Saint-Tropez. They've been hung with the "'80s synth-rock" label even though their sound is as thoroughly modern as anything on the CMJ charts. Tonight's openers, a Memphis/Sparta Tennessee four-piece called The Features, have been compared to The Kinks, E. Costello and the Elephant 6 contingent. Like I said, it's sold out, and starts at 8 p.m.

No tix? Check out Wye Oak at The Waiting Room with local indie supergroup Our Fox and Midwest Dilemma. $8, 9 p.m.

On the sched this week: Interviews with Amazing Baby and Lincoln Calling.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

The Tokyo Police Club situation; Stay Awake, Silversun Pickups, Bon Iver, the weekend – Sept. 18, 2009 – twitter icon

Some disappointing music news reached me while I was in Chicago this week...
Yesterday Tokyo Police Club announced that it had signed an exclusive U.S. recording deal with record label mom+pop, ending their relationship with Saddle Creek Records. "The band is currently recording its second full length album, with an expected release projected for early 2010," according to the band's PR folks, Nasty Little Man.
Mom+pop was formed in 2008 by Cliff Burnstein, Peter Mensch and Michael Goldstone, the press release said. Burnstein and Mensch are the owners of Qprime, "one of music's most respected management firms, with a roster featuring the likes of Metallica, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Snow Patrol, Muse,  Silversun Pickupsand The Mars Volta, among others." The record label's roster, however, is tiny and includes Josha Radin and An Horse.
Not surprisingly, Saddle Creek Records was not mentioned in the press release.
None of this made sense to me. Why did TPC jump ship? Did this have more to do with Qprime than mom+pop?
"The band wanted a label with the resources and willingness to put a large amount of money into a commercial radio campaign, and that's not something that we as label have traditionally bought into or were willing to do," said Saddle Creek label executive Jason Kulbel, who runs the label with Robb Nansel.
So this tiny mom+pop has the cash for something like that. or are other deep pockets involved? "I would assume that being backed by Qprime would mean they have some money to spend and experience in the commercial radio world," Kulbel said.
Conversely, I would assume that everyone at Saddle Creek is disappointed in what happened.
"I can't say that we are not disappointed," Kulbel said. "You don't really start working with a band to only do one record. That said, we were well aware of the situation. It's not like we were blindsided or anything. We have been talking on and off for months, and when the band decided on a road to go down, we were made aware and they asked us if it was something we would be interested in doing."
The answer was no. Incidentally, Kulbel said Saddle Creek got nothing (no buy-out or whatever etc.) as a result of TPC going to mom+pop. 
I find it all somewhat depressing. To some, TPC represented the next wave of powerhouse indie bands that would guide Saddle Creek into the next decade after the label lost two of its triple-crown acts -- The Faint (who left to start their own label) and Bright Eyes, who Conor Oberst announced would be sunsetted after a final album on Creek sometime in the future. Oberst's solo albums with Mystic Valley band are released on Merge Records, and the new album by the Monsters of Folk supergroup is being released on LA's Shangri-La Music, a label owned by millionaire/international playboy (I'm not kidding) Steve Bing, who I've been told offered Oberst & his compatriots a deal they simply could not refuse.
As far as major earners go, this leaves Creek with the ever-faithful Cursive/The Good Life and the upcoming Azure Ray album. And of course, their extensive back catalog, which is probably enough to sustain them as another generation discovers The  Faint and Bright Eyes (and Cursive). Creek has the luxury of owning these musicians' best albums.
Still, it would be nice if even one of Saddle Creek's recently signed acts -- Old Canes, UUVVWWZ, Rural Alberta Advantage -- could ignite as brightly as TPC did right out of the gate. Only time will tell.
* * *

Here comes the weekend. Tonight at O'Leaver's, The Stay Awake headlines a show that also features Chambermaids and Baby Tears. $5, 9:30 p.m.

The Black Squirrels are celebrating their 3-year anniversary at The Sydney tonight with Lincoln Dickison and 24 Hour Cardlock.$5, 8 p.m.

And of course, Silversun Pickups is playing at Sokol Aud with Manchester Orchestra and Cage the Elephant. $25, 8 p.m.

Saturday night is the long-sold-out Bon Iver show at Slowdown with Megafaun. I only recently became a Bon Iver fan, after listening to the soothing-though-hookfilled For Emma, Forever Ago.

Also Saturday night, The Mezcal Brothers is playing at The Waiting Room with The Mercurys and JJ Willis Band. $7, 8 p.m.

And then Sunday night Capgun Coup is opening for Autolux (along with Mini Mansions). $10 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Column 238: Daydream Notion; Harvey, Hoshaw, McManus; New Radiant Storm Kings tonight… – Sept. 16, 2009 – twitter icon

This is sort of an extension of last week's column about Homer's and buying CDs, etc. The shopping spree took place after I was notified that Homer's got those Feelies reissues in stock that I was looking for last week. Of course once you step into a record store for one thing, you rarely leave without a few others, which is why record stores will continue to be viable businesses, as long as they can keep what we're looking for in stock...

Column 238: Daydream Notion
It's never too late to play catch-up...
You've been writing about indie music for how long and you still have never heard Daydream Nation? How does that happen?
It's a good question, received this past weekend at a record store. And it wasn't the only time during that shopping trip that I was met with stunned indignation. I also received blank stares when I asked a couple fellow shoppers whether I should pick up copies of Johnny Cash's At Folsom Prison, The Smiths' The Queen Is Dead and Rolling Stones' Some Girls, all albums that I've never heard, at least not in their entirety.
There is this perception that anyone who considers him/herself a music fan, let alone a rock critic, has heard every seminal album from beginning to end. But it's just not true. The only thing more disturbing and mystifying is that any rock critic would admit to it.
The reasons behind these blatant oversights (or over-heards?) on my part are logical if not flimsy. Let's take the obvious ones first.
You would have to have been raised in a Tibetan cave temple with earmuffs glued to your head to have never heard "Shattered," "Miss You," or god forbid, "Beast of Burden." All are -- and have been -- staples on FM rock radio stations since that classic Stones album was released in 1978. In fact, they've been played so often that it seemed like a waste of money to buy that album when I could hear its best songs (or so I thought) for free on Z-92. A similar logic holds for the recent Beatles reissues. I like Sgt. Peppers…, but I don't feel like paying money to listen to it again even if it has been remastered.
Then there's the case of The Smiths, and the biggest problem with my past record-buying habits. When it came time to replace my vinyl with CDs, I made the mistake of not re-buying the original individual albums where songs first appeared, but instead bought collections -- or "greatest hits" compilations. This has proven to be a costly mistake.
Now whenever I listen to "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You," off Early Days: The Best of Led Zeppelin Vol. 1, I immediately expect -- and want -- to hear "You Shook Me" because it was the track that followed "Babe..." on the band's self-titled debut, where the songs first appeared. Instead, I get "Dazed and Confused." Wrong. When I listen to "Magic" off The Cars' Complete Greatest Hits I expect to hear "Stranger Eyes" right afterward -- the tune that followed it on Heartbeat City. Instead I get "Hello Again." Mistake.
For any true music-lover, Greatest Hits packages are a waste of time and money, especially if you grew up with the original albums. Don't try to nickel and dime your way through your memories, just buy the complete catalog.
The same holds true for bands you think you may like. My first Smiths album was The Best of the Smiths, Vol. 1. I am only now going back and buying the original Smiths catalog and discovering that every song is among their best.
The Johnny Cash oversight is also easy to explain. I've never been a huge Cash fan mainly because my father forced us to listen to KFAB when I was a child working at our family store in Fremont, back when KFAB was a "music station." I got plenty of Cash back then, along with Crystal Gayle, Bobby Vinton and the New Vaudeville Band's rendition of "Winchester Cathedral." That music brings back stale, dusty memories of long Saturday afternoons dealing with stupid, smelly customers.
And then there's Daydream Nation. I didn't start buying Sonic Youth records until Dirty in 1992. I knew of DN's status in underground music, but it was a double album and expensive and hard to find and, quite frankly, there just didn't seem to be a driving reason to buy it back then. When I waved a copy at a local musician and asked, he said, "Sure, you should buy it. You should have bought it 20 years ago."
Maybe. Probably. But if I had, well, I wouldn't have had the experience of listening to it this weekend for the first time, along with the rest of those albums. What I discovered is what I already knew, that the most interesting songs are the ones they never played on the radio, like The Stones "Imagination" or Cash's "25 Minutes to Go," or, really, that entire Smiths album.
Daydream Nation isn't so much a collection of songs as a jangling, nerve-twisting hour-plus of textured noises and gritty college-rock released in 1988, and whose echoes can still be heard today in bands like Los Campesinos, Times New Viking and all of the bands in Omaha's own brutal noise-rock scene.
Daydream Nation is seminal, it is important, and it is also a difficult album to listen to from beginning to end in one sitting. But I did, and I will again and I'll be better off for it. And if you haven't, so would you.

* * *

There are a couple good shows going on tonight, which I'm going to miss because I'm in Chicago for the next couple of days (which is also why you probably won't be getting a blog entry tomorrow).

A bevy of singer/songwriters will be taking over The Barley St. tonight starting at 9 -- Brad Hoshaw, Alex McManus, Kyle Harvey and Chad Wallin. It's like some sort of crazy singer/songwriter summit! $5, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, up the street at The Waiting Room, '90s indie rock band New Radiant Storm Kings is playing with At Land (reviewed here). $8, 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Live Review: Broken Spindles, Techlepathy… – Sept. 14, 2009 – twitter icon

Very. Little. Time.

Only time to tell you about last Saturday night's shows. It felt sort of like one of those Benson festival nights, as I was walking back-and-forth between The Waiting Room and The Sydney all night. Couldn't be helped. Both shows were going on simultaneously, and the ticket prices were so low, $7 and $5, it was worth it to pay for both and do the hiking. It also helped that The Sydney started so late (and went so late).

The evening opened with Boy Noises at The Waiting Room with new drummer Corey Broman proving once again that he's one of the best drummers in town, though I don't know if there was really a night-and-day difference between what he was doing and the former drummer. No matter. The band was in their usual high-flying form despite something being wrong with the mix -- at times Karl Houfak's keyboard parts blared over the rest of the band. Odd. It did bring up the question of how they're ever going to replace Karl (or do without him) once he leaves the band, as his keyboard parts are integral to their music. (See blurry photo).

Next it was down the road to The Sydney for what I thought was Mother Pile but ended up being Life of a Scarecrow playing tight, intricate metal that also was very LOUD. Easily the loudest show I've heard at The Sydney, and probably by design considering the style of music on the night's bill. Halfway through their set I found people huddled outside in the Sydney's tiny new beer garden, seeking shelter from the sound storm. (See incorrectly titled photo).

After that, it was back to TWR for Broken Spindles, though I did catch the last couple songs by Pharmacy Spirits (Always a good time. If you haven't already, check out their new CDR, available at all their shows). Broken Spindles is The Faint's Joel Petersen's side project. It used to be a full-on A/V experience with Joel's hand-made videos projected behind him while he played. Not anymore. Now it's just Joel on guitar/keyboards/vocals, along with a bassist/keyboardist and a drummer. The secret weapon was that bass player, who was phenomenal, playing an aggressive style that reminded me of Tony Levin-'80s-era King Crimson. While there were a few typical Broken Spindles tone poems, most of the set featured thick-beat rock that was almost "danceable." Petersen makes the most out of his deep, monotone vocals (sort of like listening to The Edge sing "Numb"), wisely knowing his limits. I did not miss the ol' video at all, which I used to find distracting and unnecessary (like most performance-projected videos, including The Faint's). (See photo)

Finally, it was back down the street to The Sydney for Techlepathy who was celebrating the release of their debut CD. I've heard Lincoln Dickison and Co. play at least a half-dozen times, and always get lost in their brutal, syncopated noise rock, though this time it was noisier (and louder) than ever.

The crowds at both shows were somewhat lackluster -- by best guess, maybe 60 at TWR and 40 at The Sydney. I blame football season, and if I'm right, it could be a long winter for Omaha music venues, especially on Husker Saturdays.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Live Review: The Pains of Being Pure at Heart; Box Elders in Pitchfork; CD release weekend… – Sept. 11, 2009 – twitter icon

Omaha's indie music scene is perplexing. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, who played last night at Slowdown Jr., is easily one of the most hyped new indie bands in the U.S. They stormed SXSW this spring after getting a raging 8.4 on the Pitchfork petermeter.  I figured the gig in the small room would have sold out quickly. Instead, there was fewer than 100 people in the bar last night -- more evidence that I should never consider a career as a show promoter.
I was less than thrilled by them when I saw them in Austin, calling their music "standard-issue indie with a pop slant that recalled the '90s… well-played, but boring and flat. Very run-of-the-mill…" I've had a few people tell me that was unfair, that I wasn't listening to their songs because of the gauze of hype that enshrouds them. One guy told me last night to just ignore it all and listen to their music. Fine.
He was partially right. Maybe I was unfair as far as the overall band was concerned. The musicians in POBPAH do indeed know how to rock, and yes they've got some very catchy songs in their oeuvre. They certainly were much more alive last night then they were at Emo's in March. The part about them sounding like a '90s band, however, still applies. Pains… sounds like a cross between The Cure and Modern English, with a less-glossy guitar sound.
Their Achilles heel is singer/frontman Kip Berman who simply doesn't know how to sing. He has no tone, no intonation, you could barely hear him, it's as if he didn't know how to use the microphone (i.e., this wasn't the soundman's fault). His singing sounded like a shy boy trying to ask a girl out on a date for the very first time. Backing vocalist Peggy Wang added nothing to the mix (because you couldn't hear her).
This is a classic example of a great band with a nonexistent frontman whose only attribute is his haircut. It's a shame because the music is very pretty and well-played. Then you have that guy up there mewing like he's never sung in front of an audience before. (See action photo).
Which brings us to the opening band, the horribly titled The Depreciation Guild, whose frontman was the guitarist in POBPAH. Compared to Berman, he was a veritable Sinatra. Too bad their music sounded like a tribute to "the shoegaze era" played in the temple of My Bloody Valentine. The three-piece consisted of two guitars and a drummer, and an ill-conceived synth loaded with samples, including lots of wonky keyboard parts. They were at their best when they turned down the sequencer and turned up their guitars.
* * *
Speaking of Pitchfork, it was brought to my attention that indie music's favorite online make-or-break tastemakers reviewed the new Box Elders album a couple weeks ago (here) and gave it a lowly 5.4, saying " …you've no doubt heard the 1960s garage surf of Box Elders before. It just wasn't theirs. Of course, if you put together enough solid hooks, none of that would matter. But Alice and Friends doesn't produce often in that department, relying instead on the kind of raw energy that fuels a good house party." Confused? Then you've never read a Pitchfork review before.
* * *
There are a couple interesting shows going on tonight as we head into the weekend.
Flight Metaphor is celebrating its CD release tonight at The Waiting Room. I haven't seen this band live, and have only casually listened to their new album, Mess, which sounds like a stab at alt-radio rock. Opening is Charm and Skypiper. $7, 9 p.m.
Down the street at The Sydney, Fortnight is headlining a show with California Wives and the mighty Talking Mountain. $5, 9 p.m.

And over at O'Leaver's Yuppies opens for Davila 666 and The Prairies. $5, 9:30 p.m.
Tomorrow night (Saturday) Techlepathy celebrates the release of its new CD, Anthem For Future History, on Speed! Nebraska Records. Opening is Mother Pile and Speed! labelmates Ideal Cleaners. $5, 8 p.m.
Also Saturday night, Broken Spindles plays at The Waiting Room with Pharmacy Spirits -- one of my favorite Lincoln bands -- and Boy Noises featuring new drummer Corey Broman (Dance Me Pregnant, ex-Art in Manila, ex-Little Brazil, ex-Kite Pilot). $7, 9 p.m.

Finally, down at Slowdown Jr. Saturday night, Arts & Crafts recording artist and Milton Ontario natives The Most Serene Republic headline a show with Still Life Still and Omaha's Adam Weaver and the Ghosts. $8, 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

The Benson crime problem; sorry, no Feelies; Pains of Being Pure at Heart tonight… – Sept. 10, 2009 – twitter icon

Via Facebook I discovered that a friend of mine was robbed last night at gunpoint in Benson, presumably a few blocks from The Waiting Room. And we all remember when Burke's Pub was held up at gunpoint this past January. I'll say again what I said back then:  It's time for the Benson Business Association -- or the bars, venues and restaurants in the area -- to put money in a hat and hire off-duty cops to patrol the streets at night. A network of security cameras also might make a difference, though I don't know who would be responsible for running them. The best answer would be for the OPD to start a foot patrol in the evenings, but with budget cuts I doubt that'll ever happen. Of course we could all start escorting each other to and from the venues, but I don't know how that's going to stop a guy holding a gun.
Crime in Benson is a problem that is going to have to be addressed if the area is ever going to emerge as one of the city's true entertainment centers. I know people who will not step foot in Benson after dark for fear of being robbed. I always thought they were paranoid, but after what happened last night, maybe their fear isn't so unwarranted.
* * *
Well, I went to Homer's Old Market location yesterday to pick up a copy of the reissue of The Feelies' The Good Earth, an album that was ballyhooed in the current issue of Rolling Stone. After pushing past the racks of Beatles' reissues that stood like a barricade at the front of the store, I perused the "Rock" section of the CDs. Hmmm., not only was the reissue not there, but there wasn't even a place-holder for The Feelies in the bins. Clearly they must have moved the CDs somewhere else. There's no way they wouldn't stock what many believe is one of the most influential indie bands in the history of rock music, right?
So I asked the clerk. "The Feelies, is that the name of the band you're looking for?" he asked, seemingly never having heard of them. After a few taps in his computer, he said "Nope. We don't have it." Apparently they didn't order it. I told him how surprised I was, especially with the rather large review of the Feelies reissues in Rolling Stone. He offered to order it for me, but really, who wants to deal with that? I wanted my Feelies CD yesterday. Now I'd have to wait, or check back later. Homer's obviously can't stock every band that I consider to be essential, but it would be nice to at least be aware of what magazines like Rolling Stone consider to be essential. It is, as the kids say these days, an epic fail.
* * *
I'm surprised that tonight's Pains of Being Pure at Heart show at Slowdown Jr. hasn't sold out yet. They were one of the most talked-about bands at SXSW this year, and continue to garner tons of press. If you're interested in going, I suggest you buy your ticket online now rather than risk being disappointed by seeing "Sold Out" taped to the box office window. Opening is The Depreciation Guild and Cymbals Eat Guitars. $12, 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

I'm back; contemplating The Beatles; Matt & Kim, Shelley Short tonight... – Sept. 9, 2009 – twitter icon

I've returned from NYC with little if anything to report. My annual trip to Gotham revolves more around sports (U.S. Open, Yankees, etc) than music. The only music-related activity was seeing Hair on Broadway (Not bad, not great, despite the fact that there was full-frontal nudity and it won a Tony for best musical revival). Anyway, it's good to be home.

* * *

Today the world is abuzz over The Beatles remasters. I figured I should run by Homer's and pick up at least one, but haven't been able to decide which. Sgt. Peppers is the classic, but it's also the most burned out in my mind, and years of listening to Rubber Soul, Revolver and The White Album have left me lacking the will to listen to them again. So maybe Help? Beatles music is so ubiquitous, both on radio and television, that it seems like a waste of money to actually buy the albums. I suppose if I were 13 years old and had yet to be introduced to the music that I'd be more excited about the remasters, but anyone my age has been submerged in dollops of The Beatles his/her entire life.

Which is making me think perhaps my money would be better spent buying one of The Feelies reissues, which also come out today (specifically, The Good Earth, which I don't already have).

* * *

This week's column, btw, is last week's piece on Homer's (slightly retooled), though I'm not entirely sure The Reader is going to run it. I guess we'll both find out tomorrow.

* * *

Matt & Kim are playing at The Waiting Room tonight with Honey & Darling. The duo had a hit with "Daylight," which you'll remember from the Bacardi commercial in which it appeared (watch it here -- oh, now you remember). Watching it again makes me want a Mojito. $14, 9 p.m.

Unfortunately Portland singer/songwriter Shelley Short has yet to have one of her songs appear on TV selling anything (Actually, maybe that's not such a bad thing). Instead, you can hear her dreamy music via videos like this one for "Submarine." Or better yet, see her tonight in person at Slowdown Jr., with Alexis Gideon and Omaha musical genius Jake Bellows. $8, 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Lincoln Calling line-up locked in; on family trees; a brief NYC hiatus, and while I'm gone... – Sept. 3, 2009 – twitter icon

Jeremy Buckley, the organizer of the annual Lincoln Calling Festival which runs Sept. 30 through Oct. 5 at seven Lincoln venues, has posted the line-up in Facebook right here. We're talking about 106 bands at 35 shows.

More LC news: This year they're offering an all-access pass that gets you into every show for just $20, but it's a limited-time offer. The $20 price only lasts through Saturday. After that, the all-access pass is $25 through Sept. 12, and then $30 after that. If you live in Lincoln, you can buy a pass at Kinetic Brew inside the Bourbon Theatre, 1415 O St. If you live in Omaha (or presumably anywhere else) you can buy one online at e-tix, right here.

* * *

Lot of chatter about The Omaha World-Herald's official Omaha Music Scene Family Tree, which ran on the front of the paper's poorly named ETA section in the Sunday edition. You can read it online here. The problem, of course, is that the "tree" (which isn't a tree at all) focused almost solely on Saddle Creek Records' artists and businesses, and neglected to mention the hundreds of other musicians and entities that are at the core of the Omaha music scene. As you can imagine, all of those who were left out are a bit miffed. The OWH is the newspaper of record, after all, so its declaration of what comprises the Omaha music scene will be viewed as creed by readers who know nothing about it (which, it would be safe to say, is about 99 percent of the paper's subscribers).

As I say in this thread on the webboard, perhaps a better name for the chart would have been "Six Degrees of Saddle Creek," a play on Six Degrees of Separation and Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

In his defense, Coffey did provide this disclaimer: "Omaha's music scene involves more people, bands and venues than could possibly fit on this page. This chart covers the big names, but some items inevitably got left out." But that, apparently, isn't going to be enough to satisfy all those with hurt feelings.

My take on all of this: Everyone needs to suck it up and cut Coffey some slack. The guy is doing things at the OWH that I never thought were possible. Somehow he's managed to break the OWH of the mindset that the only thing worth covering are American Idol-quality Qwest Center acts. I always marveled at how his predecessors -- Christine Laue and Niz Proskocil -- gutted out all those Nickelback and Taylor Dane concerts only to have to go back to the office and write reviews that didn't blow them out of the water.

The OWH sent Coffey to Lollapalooza for godsake, and Coffey has even managed to get the OWH to acknowledge there is an internet outside of Unlike so many other national newspapers and media outlets, Coffey is allowed to have both a Twitter feed (here) and a blog (here) that are not owned or operated by the OWH. That's groundbreaking. And on top of that, it's good reading. Here's hoping that he can keep the momentum going and that the powers that be at OWH don't rope him back into their odorless, colorless, flavorless stable.

* * *

Well, it's that time of year again when I head to NYC for some rest and relaxation (and as always, if you have any suggestions for must-see or must-eat places in NYC, send them to me). As such, Lazy-i will be on hiatus for the next few days. Judging by the venue calendars, I picked the right weekend to skip town. Here's what I see worth checking out in my absence:

Little Black Stereo, maybe the most lauded band in the Omaha scene that I have yet to see perform live, is having its CD release show at The Waiting Room Friday night with Shiver Shiver, It's True and Another Holiday. $6, 9 p.m.

Also Friday night, Little Brazil is playing at O'Leaver's with Digital Leather and Cloven Path (Hey, didn't they break up?). $5, 9:30 p.m.

While down at Slowdown Jr., Omaha's latest supergroup, Our Fox, is playing a show with Outlaw Con Banana and Dim Light, and it's FREE.

After that, it's looking mighty thin.

I may or may not provide dispatches from Gothem while I'm gone, but I will be updating the ol' Twitter feed (follow me). Have a good holiday weekend.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Column 236: Fest Vs. Fest Vs. Fest... – Sept. 2, 2009 – twitter icon

More notes from last weekend before we get to the column:

-- A couple people commented at MAHA that Little Brazil was as good or better than any of the nationals that were on the big stage. They did sound particularly good, and it makes me wonder why others aren't picking up on their potential (national press, etc.).
-- Appleseed Cast was a droning wall of sound, atmospheric and somewhat interesting, though afterward no one would be able to hum one of their songs by memory as there's no central melody to their music (or at least none that sticks out). Hopefully Old Canes, a band that shares some Appleseed members and that just signed to Saddle Creek, will be different.
-- Army Navy were a fun band with a solid indie-pop sound that was culminated in the fact that they covered Maxine Nightingale's "Right Back Where We Started From." I'd like to see these guys again at TWR or Slowdown.
-- We're still waiting on official word of MAHA attendance. I've been being told (unofficially) that as many as 2,500 tickets were either sold or given away prior to Saturday, and that the landing was packed during G. Love, but that the crowd dwindled to around 400 for Dashboard Confessional. So the question isn't whether MAHA lost money; the question is how much, and was it enough to pull the plug on a festival for next year. I hope not.

-- Matt Beat, the guy behind the Nebraska Pop Festival, clarified that the new Mav Radio HD channel will in fact include all the indie and local music programming that's now at the center of the station, and that the jazz/blues content (mentioned in the Gateway article) would be aired during overnight and hours when the station isn't manned. Now if only people had HD radios…

-- RAT Fest is the first effort of Derek Pressnall's new event "production company" called OAF (Omaha Action Force). Look for more OAF events in the very near future.

Column 236: Festival vs. Festival
Three music festivals jockey for patrons on the same weekend.

We decided to leave the car parked in front of Malara's since we were only six blocks from the address on the flier. We've all heard stories about this area of town, seen the walking dead along its sidewalks, read about bodies in dumpsters, have been told that it's no place to go after dark. But we went anyway.

We made our way along 24th Street, open road under orange phosphor street lights, and didn't see a soul let alone a dangerous one. We were fine until we got to Leavenworth and realized we were lost, peering into the closed and empty 11Worth Cafe, looking vainly from building to building, until we spotted a couple guys standing ominously in the shadow of a doorway of an unmarked building across the street.

"Hey guys, do you know where 2406 Leavenworth is?"

"What are you looking for?"

"It's uh... well... uh... we're looking for RAT Fest."

It was nearing the end of a long weekend of festivals, with RAT Fest as the capper. It started Friday night with the Nebraska Pop Festival in Benson. The event actually had started the night before and would run through Sunday night. A four-night festival seemed like a tall order after an already long summer of multi-band festivals, most of them held in Benson. This one, a benefit for UNO's Mav Radio, was a particularly hard sell since the majority of the bands were completely unknown in this market.

So it was no surprise to find upon entering The Waiting Room only about 20 people watching Talking Mountain put on a theatrical show complete with a small bank of colored lights, fog machine and the lead guy in his trademark hand-made furry monster mask. They were followed by a six-piece band from Seattle called Poland that played some amazing pop featuring two violinists, and a NYC band called Strega that sounded as if they had been weaned on Factory Records. Both bands had traveled to Omaha on their own dime -- and weren't making a dime that night -- but seemed happy to be there anyway, playing to a crowd that consisted mostly of other band members.

Nebraska Pop Fest organizer Matt Beat said he was "disappointed" by the weekend's turnout. "We only made $211 for the radio station," he said. "Saturday night was the busiest night, but there were still only about 50 people there (that's including band members)."

On the bright side, he said the bands were phenomenal and "no one seemed to mind that they were not getting paid for the event, despite some of them coming from overseas. As it turns out, if we had to pay the musicians, we would have lost money."

The next day was The MAHA Festival at Lewis and Clark Landing. You couldn't have asked for better weather, but it wasn't enough to bring people to the event. When we arrived at around noon, maybe 100 folks were walking along the patio under Rick's Boatyard Café, checking out the row of concessions while swabbing on free sunscreen offered by Alegent volunteers.

Appleseed Cast sounded pristine on the mammoth stage, if not loud. After their set, Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship played on a small stage atop a walkway just to the west of the main stage. The sound, again, was amazing for an outdoor venue. In fact, the whole MAHA Festival was well run, first-rate and professional. Too bad so few people saw it.

MAHA Fest organizer Tyler Owen didn't have any attendance numbers to pass along on Monday, but said kudos should go to the folks on the ground and the volunteers. When we left after watching Little Brazil rip it up, there were between 200 and 300 people camped out on the patio. I'm told it filled up nicely later in the evening, but I'm guessing that ticket revenues didn't come anywhere near what organizers had hoped for.

And then came RAT Fest.

Any fear we had moments earlier was gone as we made our way up the long dark stairway of the broken-down warehouse where we were greeted by a smiling young lady who took our $5 and directed us to the keg (free beer, but $5 for a cup, you know the drill).

The room -- a former practice space for The Faint and Tilly and the Wall -- looked like a converted Manhattan loft with a stage in one corner and a smattering of comfortable couches and chairs along the opposite wall. I had feared that RAT Fest would be a hipster fest, but there was nothing but smiling faces and people having a good time.

The one-man band Brainworlds played ambient noise-washes that sounded like an undersea sound track -- the only thing missing was whale noises. After him, a new incarnation of Flowers Forever took the stage -- a huge improvement over their original sound -- dancier, more electronic and just more interesting. Six more bands followed before the "fest" ended before 3 a.m.

RAT Fest organizer Derek Pressnall (who fronts Flowers Forever) said around 350 people came through the door by the end of the night. "Not bad considering everything going on in the city and that I put it together a week and a half out," he said.

Not bad indeed.

The three festivals were a portrait in contrasts: The overly ambitious four-night Nebraska Pop Fest vs. the mammoth scale of MAHA vs. RAT Fest's one night in one room furnished in early poverty.

I'll let you decide which was the most successful.

* * *

Tomorrow, Lincoln Calling info, family trees and the beginning of a brief vacation hiatus..

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Goodbye, Homer's Saddle Creek…; Roman Numerals, Eyedea tonight... – Aug. 28, 2009 – twitter icon

A detailed recap of this past weekend's shows/festivals will be encapsulated in this week's column (probably). I went to Nebraska Pop, Maha and Rat Fest. And as we all know, the weather was perfect, though it didn't help attendance that much, at least during the daylight hours at Maha (though I'm told it filled in somewhat after dark).
* * *
A bit of news that I had tucked in my e-mail that I missed reporting last week -- Homer's is closing its Saddle Creek store Sept. 19 (This even after I begged Homer's general manager Mike Fratt to keep it open or move it to Benson!).
"Leases are up at Lincoln and Saddle Creek, and based on their volume of biz and the ridiculous prices landlords still think they can get, we can't risk it by re-signing," Fratt said in an e-mail. He went on to say that Homer's is signing a new lease in the Old Market (but at a new location). "We're not going away, just positioning ourselves to remain profitable."
In fact, the Saddle Creek Homer's was profitable, Fratt said, but just recently slipped to break even. "To some extent, Old Market and Saddle Creek compete with each other."
He said Homer's tried going month-to-month on the Saddle Creek lease for the rest of the year, but the landlord "would not work with us. We tried to buy the space and they would not work with us."
OK, now this seemed strange. How could that little notch of property be worth holding onto, especially considering that when Homer's is gone, the converted Kwik Shop building likely will remain empty indefinitely, just like the sad old Target store that's been sitting empty right next to it for years?
Fratt said the property was owned by an oil company and it has changed hands six times since Homer's moved in. "That piece of land is bundled with over 100 other properties around the country and the current owner will only sell the bundled real estate package," he said. "But, as you say, it will likely sit empty because REITs (real estate investment trusts) are in big trouble right now ($3 trillion in commercial real estate loans are up for renewal in Sept., next bubble to burst?), so there are no buyers."
All right then, what about Benson? Surely it has better "foot traffic" than Saddle Creek, and we all know there are plenty of empty storefronts along Maple St.  "I remain interested, but have concerns about what's happening in Benson right now," Fratt said, "Two restaurants closing, the bridal shop closing, no new food coming in to replace the losses. Also, Mick's closing has chased away affluent adults to some extent, and Espana, since the sale, is not doing very well, so it'll have to wait until the economy improves."
I suppose you could call it a "duck-and-cover strategy," and I can't say I disagree with it. "You won't find an indie like us, anywhere in the U.S., with more than two locations per metro," Fratt said. 
Want more data? Here's Christine Laue's recap from the OWH. In it, Fratt says Homer's, as part of the Coalition of Independent Music Stores, has negotiated with the major music labels to be able to sell new releases at $9.99, or $2 below cost. He called the price drop "a game changer" that will help them compete with the big box stores (Wal-Mart, Target, etc.).
I hope he's right. For me, the big game changer continues to be the Internet, but not necessarily because of illegal downloading. Case in point: Who remembers the old days before the Internet and Myspace when it was impossible to hear a new album without buying it? It was so difficult, in fact, that you often bought albums sight-unheard just because of your curiosity -- you took a chance, and sometimes the chance paid off, sometimes it didn't.
With the Internet, that sort of blind commitment no longer is necessary. These days, if you wonder what a band sounds like -- and I mean any band -- you can just go to Myspace or where you can hear their latest album for free.
This ease of availability has turned us into a nation (or world) of listeners with short attention spans. We click on a link and begin listening, and if the track doesn't turn us on in 15 seconds we click to the next track or click away from the recording entirely, deciding that it sucks, whether it does or not.
The mystery is gone, for better or worse. For the better, it means we no longer have to waste money on an album that turns out to be 95 percent dud (We've all done this before). For the worse, we're discarding a lot of music that we simply haven't given enough time to "sink in." Fact is, most great albums don't sound great the first time through. It takes repeated listens before we "get it." And, of course, it also means with fewer people willing (or needing) to make a blind commitment, that Homer's and other record stores are selling fewer albums.
That's just my theory, of course…
I'll miss that little store on Saddle Creek. It was like a miniature version of the Old Market location, complete with that horrible incense stench that permeated your clothes so that you were left smelling like a head-shop for the rest of the day. Saddle Creek didn't have the biggest selection, but it had whatever I was looking for. And the people who worked there were always cool, just like everyone who works (or has worked) at Homer's. Here's hoping they all land on their feet.
* * *
Tonight at O'leaver's, Little Brazil labelmates Roman Numerals (Anodyne Records) is playing along with fellow Kansas City band Waiting for Signal. $5, 9:30 p.m.
Over at The Waiting Room, it's indie hip-hop royalty Eyedea and Abilities, along with Kristoff Krane and Maxilla Blue. $10, 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

It's a music festival weekend... – Aug. 28, 2009 – twitter icon

From my perch on the top of the world, I can see the semi-trucks parked along the riverfront, preparing for tomorrow's MAHA Festival. A glance at my Yahoo! weather forecast indicates Saturday will be sunny with a high of 74, perfect conditions for an all-day outdoor event. The only thing in question: Will people come? At $29.50 per ticket, the jury's definitely out.
I intend to be there early for Appleseed Cast and Army Navy and a taste of the Kermit Brashear Local Stage. You already know the rest of the line-up, but here's the schedule anyway. The good stuff ends after when It's True leaves the stage (they're scheduled for 4:45), which gives you plenty of time to go home and get ready for the evening's three other festivals.
I'll get to Saturday night's festival showcases in a minute. First, tonight is Night 2 of the Nebraska Pop Festival at The Waiting Room. The line-up starts at 7 p.m. sharp:

Spiders For Love (Omaha, Nebraska)
Transmittens (Lawrence, Kansas)
Mr. and Mrs. Muffins (Jakarta Indonesia & Seattle, Washington)
Talking Mountain (Omaha, Nebraska)
Poland (Seattle, Washington)
Strega (NYC, New York)

Of the festival's four nights, this will be the one that I'll likely attend. Tickets are  $10 for this benefit showcase, with money going to UNO Mav Radio.
There's also a show tonight at O'Leaver's, featuring Dance Me Pregnant, Old Panther and Bazooka Shootout. $5, 9:30 p.m.
Now onto the Saturday evening festival line-up.
Top on the list, of course, is RAT FEST being held at 8 p.m. at a warehouse at 2406 Leavenworth -- the former Faint and Tilly and the Wall practice space. The current residents have added a stage, sound system and a back-alley smoking patio. The 8-band lineup is:

Beep Beep (Saddle Creek)
Life of a Scarecrow
Coyote Bones (Coco Art)
Brimstone Howl (Alive)
Flowers Forever (Team Love)
Conchance (Slumber Party)
Brainworlds (I'm Drinking This)

No idea on the band order. The DJ's for the evening are W.E.R.D , Mello Mic, and DJ Rey. Admission is only $5. This one could get crazy.
Also Saturday night at 7 p.m. is Night 3 of The Nebraska Pop Festival, featuring:

Electric Needle Room (Omaha, Nebraska)
Hanwell (Des Moines, Iowa)
Labrador w/ special guest Dereck Higgins on bass (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Mammoth Life (Lawrence Kansas)
Thunder Power (Omaha, Nebraska)
Cleemann w/ special guest Dereck Higgins on bass (Copenhagen, Denmark)

$8 adv./$10 dos. I'm told this will be the last local Thunder Power show until late November.
And for those of you into skanking the Reggae and Ska Festival is being held at Sokol Underground featuring The Super Colliders, Linoma Mashers, RC Dub, The Bishops and Rhythm Collective, all for $10 starting at 6 p.m.
On top of all that, there's a slew of great non-festival shows going on Saturday night.
At the Sydney, Reagan Roeder's new band Hubble is playing with The Wagon Blasters and Nicole Le Clerc. $5, 9 p.m.
At Slowdown Jr., John Klemmensen and The Party are playing with Lincoln's Ember Schrag. $7, 9 p.m.
At The Barley St., The Yuppies are playing with The Bassturds and Petit Mal. $5, 9 p.m.
And to top it all off, Dario Days is happening at Dario's as part of Dundee Day from 11 a.m. to midnight. Yes, there will be live music; no, I don't know who it is.
That brings us to Sunday and the last night of the Nebraska Pop Festival, and maybe the festival's most impressive line-up:

Sweet Pea (Omaha, Nebraska)
Andrew K. Butler (Lincoln, Nebraska)
Cowboy Indian Bear (Lawrence, Kansas)
At Land (Omaha, Nebraska)
The Mother Z's (Chicago, Illinois)
Darren Keen (Omaha, Nebraska)

Tickets again are $8 adv./$10 dos. Show starts at 7 p.m.
Also Sunday night at O'Leaver's it's Circle K , Fergus and Geronimo, Teenage Cool Kids and Rainbow Party. $5, 9:30 p.m..

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Nebraska Pop Fest starts tonight; Boy Noises personnel update; Martin and Hedges at The Sydney... – Aug. 27, 2009 – twitter icon

Maybe they should have called it the Nebraska Dream Pop Festival. I'm listening to the 19-song sampler (download here) of bands that will be performing at the four-day event, which starts tonight at The Barley St. Half the songs reminded me of laidback pop from such '80s and '90s bands as The Lilac Time, The Trash Can Sinatras, Lightning Seeds, The Sundays, House of Love, Everything But the Girl, you know what I'm talking about, and if you don't, well, look them up on AMG. The other half felt homemade and simple, able attempts at low-fi. Most of the bands on the sampler have a lighter-as-air quality (which isn't meant as a slam) combined with traditional modern-day indie and chamber folk that we've all become accustomed to living here in the former epicenter of indie music world.
So, the kick-off is being held at The Barley St. tonight starting at 7 p.m. The line-up, according to the Nebraska Pop Festival Myspace page, is:

Magic Crayon (Brighton & Hove, United Kingdom)
The Argyle Wishlist (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
The Sleepover (Lincoln, Nebraska)
Honey and Darling (Omaha, Nebraska)
The Tinycakes (Chicago, Illinois)
Pennyhawk (Ames, Iowa)

Tonight's show is $5. The rest of the week is being hosted at The Waiting Room and costs $8 adv./$10 dos. The whole weekend is a benefit for UNO's Mav Radio station, which just announced that it will soon be broadcasting over the air in HD. From this story in the UNO Gateway:

As university-based KVNO FM-1 gets set to transform into the metro's home for UNO athletics in the fall, KVNO HD2, 90.7-2 on your dial, will become student-run Mav Radio. The dial's digital channel will provide Mavericks fans a home for UNO men's and women's basketball games when UNO hockey is being aired on KVNO.
Mav Radio's official launch is set for Sept. 9. The station's production team plans to fill the broadcasts with satellite programming, likely jazz or blues music, during student holidays and other times where it will not be airing UNO athletics programming.

Conceivably, Mav Radio's on-air content also will include local and indie music. I guess we'll see, that is if any of us plunk down the cash to buy an HD receiver, which will be necessary to listen to the station.

This is an ambitious festival in that it 1) comes at the end of a long festival season in Omaha, 2) is four days long and 3) most of the (non-local) bands are virtually unknown in this market. It could be a hard sell, especially on Saturday when three other festivals are going on at the same time.

* * *

A clarification on an item that ran in Lazy-i yesterday: Karl Houfek wrote to say that last night's Boy Noise's show at O'Leaver's was the last show with Chris Rivera, who's moving to Austin and joining a new band called Loxsly. Houfek also is leaving Boy Noises in the near future, but the remaining members "might want to keep things going, so I told them I'd help them with the transition," Houfek said. Part of the transition will include the addition of Corey Broman (Dance Me Pregnant, ex-Art in Manila, ex-Little Brazil, ex-Kite Pilot), who will take over drums for the Sept. 12 Broken Spindles show at The Waiting Room.

* * *

Finally, tonight, singer/songwriters Sam Martin of Capgun Coup and Landon Hedges of Little Brazil join Blankenship at The Sydney. $5, 8 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Column 235: Smoke-free turns 1; Sweet Pea, Boy Noises, Honey/Darling tonight... – Aug. 26, 2009 – twitter icon

Along with spotting the first robin, another sign of spring is when O'Leaver's disassembles its smoking hut (while its construction, sadly, symbolizes the onset of the long winter ahead).

Column 235: Smoke and Mirrors
You won't smell me later...
It dawned on me as I was driving home from the Box Elders show or the Eagle*Seagull show or the Matt Whipkey show or any of the other 200 or so shows that I've seen since last summer that I don't miss all that smoke in the bars.
I don't miss coming home smelling like a wet cat dunked into a wine barrel filled with nicotine. I don't miss having to strip off my clothes and place them in a smoldering pile on the bathroom floor, the smoke residue nearly visible like anger lines coming off a comic-book character's forehead. I don't miss having to wear my "smoking coat" to the club in the wintertime -- an old brown parka specifically dedicated to nights out, segregated from my other coats and clothes as to prevent infecting them with cig-stink.
I've thrown out the smoking parka. I don't need it anymore.
It's been over a year since the smoking ban went into effect in Omaha. When the hammer dropped in mid-June 2008, a gnashing of teeth was heard from the smokers along with a wave of warnings that the ban would result in systematically shutting down bars throughout the city.
They said that smokers would stay home and drink in their kitchens in front of their black-and-white TV sets, a mountain of butts ever-growing in their Bakelite ashtrays.
But a year has passed and all the smoking bars that were open back then still are today. People still file out of The Waiting Room between bands, cluttering up the sidewalk along Maple Street like halftime at a Philip Morris convention. And while it's true that the crowds at shows seem smaller these days, it may have more to do with our 21st Century Great Depression than a smoking restriction.
Marc Leibowitz, who runs The Waiting Room with business partner Jim Johnson, said it's hard to tell if the smoking ban affected their business. "I think it affects business, but not as (much) as it does non-music venues," he said.
For clubs like O'Leaver's, the solution was to create outdoor "beer gardens" that are little more than smoking porches. Drive by O'Leaver's on a show night and you'll see them packed into the wrought-iron enclosure like a herd of smoking cattle.
As winter began to encroach last year, the carpentry staff at O'Leaver's built a hand-made Quonset hut out of plywood that had about as much charm as a cooler in a Nazi prison camp. Inside, people huddled like weary GIs around a tall chrome space heater, the butts shivering between their lips.
The Sydney in Benson followed O'Leaver's lead and just finished building its own "beer garden" behind the bar. They're waiting for the city to give the final OK before it can open. The ban was in full effect when The Sydney opened for business this past January, said bar owner Jamie Massey, so he couldn't say if it impacted his business. "I think if people are going to smoke, going outside isn't a deal breaker if you want to get a drink," he said.
So, was all the doom talk about the ban crippling the bar business nothing more than smoke and mirrors? Not so, said Trey Lalley, the owner/operator of Omaha's best non-live-music rock bar, The Brother's Lounge at 38th and Farnam. "I know business is down everywhere and that there are bigger factors in play," he said. "but as far as my business goes, the smoking ban has impacted it."
Lalley said when the ban first went into effect, people didn't mind going outside for a smoke. "Now they're going other places," he said. "They're not coming here. I've had people tell me they're going where there's a beer garden."
Like The Waiting Room, The Brothers doesn't have anywhere to build a beer garden. "The only thing we could do is float a hot-air balloon above the bar," Lalley said.
But it's more than just fewer patrons. On a busy night, Lalley said 35 to 40 people are standing outside The Brothers smoking... without a drink in their hands. "Those people used to be inside, drinking," he said. "So we may be as busy, but they're not spending as much."
Trey said he won't know the ban's true impact for a few more years. "We just have to embrace the people we still have," he said. "It's not devastating, it's just a little hiccup. We just have to work through it."
As for the ban's benefit: "I feel great," he said. "I'm going to live longer, but I'm going to have to work all those extra years to make up for the lost business."

Playing tonight at O'Leaver's is some of the best and brightest new talent on the Omaha indie-rock scene: Sweet Pea, Boy Noises and Honey & Darling. This had been rumored to be Boy Noises' last show ever, but I see that the band is scheduled to play at The Waiting Room Sept. 12, opening for Broken Spindles and Pharmacy Spirits. Go ahead and check them out tonight for only $5. Show starts at 9:30 p.m.

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And now… RAT FEST!!! – Aug. 25, 2009 – twitter icon

In an already crowded festival season, one more has just been announced, presumably by The Rat King himself:
"To all my rodents with a pointy noses and sparsely haired tails that sometimes spread diseases, to all my people who hang out at the mall food court all day, to all who have been called treacherous, disloyal, or despicable, to all that are dirty and smell bad, to all who have short hair except a long strand of hair protruding from the back of their scalps. And to everyone else in the City of Omaha. The time has come...RAT FEST!!!"
Rat Fest is being held this Saturday night at 8 p.m. at a warehouse at 2406 Leavenworth. The 8-band lineup includes Beep Beep (Saddle Creek), Life of a Scarecrow, Coyote Bones (Coco Art), Brimstone Howl (Alive), Flowers Forever (Team Love), Conchance (Slumber Party), Brainworlds (I'm Drinking This) and Babes -- all for $5.
"Plus DJ's all night, rat masks, rat drinks, live drumming, live guitaring, live masking, The Rat King shouting at you through a megaphone, gyrations, dreams come true and any and everything else you can think of!!!!"
Oh my.
The message was forwarded to me by Flowers Forever frontman Derek Pressnall, who explained that the Leavenworth property is the former Faint and Tilly and the Wall practice space as well as the former studio of photographer Bryce Bridges. The current residents have fixed up the space with a stage, sound system and a back-alley smoking patio. The DJ's for the evening are W.E.R.D , Mello Mic, and DJ Rey.
The marketing for Rat Fest already has exceeded MAHA and the Nebraska Pop Festival. Why? Because this actually sounds like fun. Could Rat Fest become Omaha's Lollapalooza? Very unlikely. Still, it could become another sordid annual event like the Aksarben Coronation. Imagine, say, the guys in MGMT talking to their agent about next year's tour schedule: "Let's see, we've got Pitchforkfest in Chi, followed by Lolla and All Tomorrow's Parties, and then we have Rat Fest in Omaha…." Believe it.

More info as it becomes available, presumably from The Rat King...

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Live Review: Eagle*Seagull, At Land, Matt Whipkey… – Aug. 24, 2009 – twitter icon

The draw to Eagle*Seagull Friday night was stoked by Kevin Coffey's Q&A with the band that appeared in the OWH last week (here), where they touched upon the Starbucks label ordeal that concluded with frontman Eli Mardock saying, "What is important is that we’ve got the rights to our record, and we’re going to release it."  This would imply that after their deal with Starbucks fell though that E*S had to reacquire the rights to The Year of the How-To Book. We've all heard the story before with other bands; hopefully reacquiring the rights didn't put them back financially…
Anyway, that's not why I went to Slowdown. I've heard the band perform songs off How-To for the past two years (or so it seems) and wasn't really in the mood to hear them again. Well, Mardock apparently wasn't in the mood to play them, either. "It’s actually the tunes from (The Year of the How-To Book) that I’m really sick of," he said in the OWH story. "That’s why for this show I think a large portion of our set will be songs we’re preparing for our third album."  
And that's exactly what we got. E*S played a number of new songs that carried on the thick-beat-dance style from the best of How-To, but with more atmospherics, more layered tones, more nuanced melodies (Hooverphonic came to mind). The new material sounds more sophisticated than the older stuff without losing the thread that runs through all E*S music -- Mardock's unique vocal style and the band's celebratory arrangements. The crowd of 130 (that's a guess) was definitely into it.
The story of Eagle*Seagull is definitely one of peaks and valleys. I remember when they first kicked off back in '05, the buzz was so extreme that it was generating resentment (and jealousy) from other local bands. Everyone thought E*S was going to launch like a rocket and be the next big thing out of Nebraska. Rumors of the Starbucks deal only fueled the hype. And then, things just seemed to go dark. The songs off How-To showed up on Myspace and the band began playing them live to an adoring audience with everyone wondering when it was coming out and who was releasing it.  But then word eked out that the Starbucks thing fell though. And those who had resented E*S were now quietly rooting for them. 
Which brings us to the present. Said Mardock of How-To in the OWH story: "It's coming out in Europe this January or February. I reckon we'll release it in North America around the same time, too." I assume he means Jan/Feb 2010. Again, no word on who's releasing the CD.  As much as he's tired of playing those songs, he can look forward to another year of touring them. Here's hoping that it actually happens this time; that E*S get the break it deserves.
* * *
Saturday night was the Matt Whipkey CD release show at The Waiting Room. I got there early to catch At Land, and am happy I did. At Land is Doug Kabourek (drums/vocals), Travis Sing (guitar/vocals) and James Carrig (bass). Kabourek is one of the best drummers in the Omaha music scene, whether anyone knows it or not.  His throaty percussion drove everything, though Sing knows how to shred a guitar. That's right, I said "shred." Those of you who remember Kabourek's last great band, Fizzle Like a Flood, will be impressed/surprised at the power/intensity of this new band (His other new band, The Dull Cares, carries on the Fizzle tradition). But while this is indeed heavy stuff, there's a gorgeous sugar-pop sheen that coats everything with a smile. The closest comparison would be Monster-era R.E.M. meets early Weezer with just a hint of a twang on Travis' songs. Translated: This is the funnest band Kabourek's been involved in. Watch out for them.
Whipkey fleshed out the songs on his new album, Instant Heart, with a full band that included most of the members of Anonymous American (except for Zip Zimmerman on drums). I walked away thinking maybe he should have waited and released a full-on band version of the album. It reminded me of hearing Brad Hoshaw's Live at Mick's album followed up by his debut with The Seven Deadlies. As much as I like that live record, the Seven Deadlies release really put air under those songs. The same was true with Whipkey's songs. With a full band, the music took on a different, more defined hue, turning a lonely, almost forlorn-sounding album into a macho exercise in Americana-Folk, with Whipkey once again proving that at his core, he's a consummate showman. Though only about 100 people were there to see it, the crowd got out of their seats and on their feet, and eventually filled the floor in front of the stage.  
* * *
This is a quiet week in terms of live shows. O'Leaver's has a big one on Wednesday (Sweet Pea/Boy Noises/Honey & Darling), The Sydney has Sam Martin and Landon Hedges on Thursday (while Rev. Horton Heat is at Slowdown), but that's it until the weekend, when the Nebraska Pop Festival kicks off, along with the MAHA Festival on Saturday...

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Eagle*Seagull, Outlaw Con Bandana, Jake Bellows tonight; a hot fest... in S.F. – Aug. 21, 2009 – twitter icon

You'll have to make some tough choices tonight...
Eagle*Seagull is playing at Slowdown Jr. with Honey & Darling, Mighty Tiger and The Answer Team. The show is a benefit for The DailyER Nebraskan, the satirical newspaper of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln which I never heard of prior to this benefit. $8, 9 p.m.
Over at O'Leaver's, Outlaw Con Bandana is playing with Church of Gravitron and "one other guy." $5, 9:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, at The Barley Street Tavern, Lincoln singer/songwriter Ember Schrag is playing with Jake Bellows (Neva Dinova) and Nicole Le Clerc. $5, 9 p.m.
Looks like you're going to get two chances to see Jake play in Benson tonight. He's also playing a set at The Sydney along with Lee Meyerpeter (of The Filter Kings/Bad Luck Charm/Cactus Nerve Thang fame), Sleepy House and Comme Reel. $5, 9 p.m.
* * *
The big draw on Saturday night is the Matt Whipkey CD release show at The Waiting Room with Anonymous American and At Land. $7, 9 p.m.
Also Saturday night, Fortnight at The  49'r with Bazooka Shootout. $5, 9:30 p.m.

* * *

Someone who had read my recent MAHA column asked me what bands I'd like to see at an Omaha festival. I told them to consider the line-up for the Treasure Island Music Festival Oct. 17-18 in San Francisco. The second day alone features The Flaming Lips, The Decemberists, Beirut, Grizzly Bear, Yo La Tengo, The Walkmen, Bob Mould, Thao with The Get Down Stay Down, Vetiver, Spiral Stairs, Sleepy Sun, Tommy Guerrero, and Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros. I would be happy if MAHA could get just the first five on that list. Treasure Island is a steal ticket-wise: Single-day tickets are a mere $65, two-day tickets (Day 1 headliner is MGMT) are $115. Considering how much lodging will cost, that low ticket price is probably a wash...

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Lazy-i Interview: Matt Whipkey; The Pretenders and how Stir is shooting itself in the foot… – Aug. 20, 2009 – twitter icon

Just posted for your reading pleasure, an interview with singer/songwriter/haircut Matt Whipkey (read it here). Whipkey talks about his past projects and how they contributed to his new solo album, Instant Heart, which will be celebrated at a CD release show this Saturday night at The Waiting Room.
This is Whipkey's most intimate and straight-forward recording, mainly because he played all the instruments himself and recorded it alone in his basement over the course of three weeks (presumably nursing a broken heart…or maybe not). He said he was going for a low-fi, homemade sound (It was recorded on a 4-track analog tape deck), but it sounds as good as a formal studio recording. There will be (and has been) comparisons to Springsteen's Nebraska album. It's obvious to anyone who knows Whipkey's work that he's an unabashed Springsteen fan, and it shows through on these tracks.
Anyway, read the interview, and then get your tickets to Saturday's show. The evening includes an Anonymous American reunion, which is sure to confuse any of Whipkey's newer fans, and a performance by At Land, Doug Kabourek's new rock project. $7, 9 p.m.
* * *
Speaking of shows, tonight is the big Pretenders/Cat Power/ Juliette Lewis concert at Harrah's Stir Cove. I saw the Pretenders open for The Who at the Qwest White Elephant Barn a few years ago. They put on a decent, if not boring, show. Here's the review:

No one stood up during The Pretenders set even though Chrissie Hynde and her band probably sounded no different than they did during their '80s heyday. Wearing a crazy top-hat, elbow gloves and leg warmers, the 55-year-old Hynde tore through a set of the usual oldies, songs whose names I don't know because I was never much of a Pretenders fan. The only time the crowd got into it was during "My City Was Gone," where a few folks did a modified bump-and-grind in their seats. Thankfully, it was hard to see with the lights out...

The Pretenders' new album is rather dry; needless to say, fans will be hitting the port-a-jonny (or the dice tables?) when they roll out their "new stuff." I would love to see Cat Power, but not in that setting. Juliette Lewis should be comically entertaining.
Here's what I don't get: Tickets are on sale right now for $51, and had been on sale before that for $45.50 -- for those unfortunate enough to buy them early. I say that because last week Stir offered tickets online for $5. In fact, Stir has been known to give away tickets to shows that don't sell well.
Knowing this, why would anyone buy advanced tickets to a Stir show? The answer: From now on, no one will, except for those completely out of the loop. Had I bought tickets for $45.50 and found out that they were selling them for $5 (or giving them away), I would feel ripped off.
Needless to say, I didn't get in on the $5 tickets, and am now completely unwilling to spend more than $5 for this show…

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Column 234: MAHA Explained; Nobunny tonight… – Aug. 19, 2009 – twitter icon

So who came up with the name? "We wanted it to be kind of self-deprecating," said MAHA Festival organizer Tyler Owen said, "but we wanted it to describe the area, too. Bemis Press (a local design firm) came up with the name. There was some resistance, but it was better than some of the others we were considering. (The name) was a very contentious issue for the board for two months. It wasn't the name I wanted, but I like it. It's kind of a silly word that doesn't mean anything, like Bonnaroo and Coachella."

Column 234: MAHA Explained
The festival's organizer talks about compromise.
Tyler Owen, one of the key people behind next weekend's MAHA Festival at Lewis and Clark Landing, wasn't too happy with last week's column, where I suggested that the terribly named event was nothing more than a repackaging of the usual casino acts, along with a sprinkling of local bands that had to win talent contests to get on the Kermit Brashear (I-Love-Sarpy-County) Local Stage.

It wasn't the first criticism that Owen and the rest of the "YFC" committee have heard about MAHA. And word on the street (confirmed by Owen) is that ticket sales have been lagging in the wake of The River Riot and Green Day, which have siphoned off all of the extra lawn-mowing money from their target audience.
Owen called Sunday while driving back from a South Dakota vacation. His key message: The festival being held next weekend is not the festival that he wanted. The real goal is to make MAHA into a Midwestern version of the Bonnaroo or Coachella festivals.
Sound ambitious? He went on to say organizers envision MAHA as a three-day event held at a dam site that would be preceded by a week-long South by Southwest-style invitational hosted in Benson or the Old Market.
"The intent is to get this thing big and powerful enough to get Radiohead here," he said. But instead, they got G. Love and Special Sauce and Dashboard Confessional. What happened?
"We asked over 200 bands and ended up with the lineup we have, for better or worse," he said.
They thought they had The Flaming Lips, but that fell through. The list of targeted bands also included Fran Ferdinand, The Killers, Phoenix and Bob Mould, but because of their touring schedules -- and the fact that MAHA is an unproven quantity -- none would commit.
Add to that the fact that they got started three months too late, in February. One of their first decisions, Owen said, was hiring One Percent Productions' Marc Leibowitz -- easily the best promoter of local indie rock shows, who books The Waiting Room, Slowdown and larger venues such as The Holland and Anchor Inn. Owen said off the bat they had The Decemberists locked in, "but we became concerned about selling 3,000 tickets for them," he said. "So we went a little bit more commercial."
With that in mind, Owen said they dropped One Percent. "Marc is 100 percent indie, so we decided to wait and collaborate with him next year," he said. Instead, the YFC turned to Events Resources Presents, Inc., a company out of Green Bay, Wisconsin, whose festivals include Sioux City's Saturday in the Park Festival. Their headliner this year was Counting Crows. You can figure out the rest yourself.
So who is the YFC? Owen said the acronym doesn't stand for Your Festival Committee, as had been reported. "I can't reveal its true definition," he said without explaining why. The five-member committee includes Mike App, Trey Brashear (yes, he's related to Kermit), Mike Toohey and Traci Hancock. And Owen, who said he's worked in the music business in Los Angeles and has played in bands for 25 years. His current band, The Eye, has a new album coming out in December. These days Owen makes a living working in his family's steel business.
The MAHA Festival is a non-profit endeavor -- designated 501c3 -- and depends not only on ticket sales but donations and sponsors to make it work. Owen said a festival mission is to keep prices down "so it's not going to cost $150 for tickets" -- an admirable goal.
From a local standpoint, Owen said the YFC tried to get Cursive, Bright Eyes and The Faint on the bill, but had no luck. "We wanted Saddle Creek and the Slumber Party Records guys involved in the say in the local lineup," Owen said. But instead, they decided to go with a "battle of the bands" approach because "we thought it would be a good opportunity for people to get excited" about MAHA. The final local band line-up is Jes Winter Band, Little Brazil and Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship. It's True, which is also playing, got invited without winning a contest because they are "kind of a favorite" of the YFC.
Owen said that indie bands Appleseed Cast and Army Navy are his "favorite bands on the bill." So why relegate them to early afternoon time slots when no one will be there? "That's where we felt they fit in the overall lineup," he said, adding that G. Love and Dashboard got the plum 7 and 9 p.m. slots because "We kind of went by who we thought would pull the largest number of people."
"It was a hard decision to make," he added. "Were we going to hire a band for twice as much to play a festival environment that would be lucky to fill Slowdown on a Saturday night? Maybe we did this bigger than we should have. This whole thing is a learning experience."
In the end, this year's MAHA Festival has been an endless series of compromises, right down to the location. "Our first choice was Anchor Inn," Owen said. Lewis and Clark Landing was chosen because "it's plug and play, and we just wanted to get this first one under our belts."
Things will be different next year, Owen said. They're considering Levi Carter Park or Standing Bear Lake as possible locations, and plans call for forming a panel of local music experts to make recommendations for bands.
"The thing I keep coming back to with people not into the lineup is to go down and be a part of it anyway," Owen said. "Be a part of an all-day festival and help us become viable for the future."

* * *

Tonight at Slowdown Jr, it's Oakland, California low-fi garage punk-rock freak Nobunny. Check out his rabbit-masked hi-jinx on YouTube. Opening is Flamboyant Gods and Mr. Wizard. $7, 9 p.m.

Tomorrow: Whipkey

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Correction: It's Conrad, not Conor; Homer's to close Lincoln store; Shiver Shiver, Fromanhole, Voodoo Organist tonight… – Aug. 18, 2009 – twitter icon

Regarding yesterday's blog item about Conor playing Jimi at Woodstock... I didn't believe it, either, but I figured, heck, this is The Washington Post ferchrissake, the home of Woodward and Bernstein, they couldn't possibly have gotten this wrong no matter how upside-down-and-backwards the story sounds.
Then yesterday afternoon I got an e-mail from a reader that said the following: "I also found it strange that Conor would be playing in place of the dead Jimi Hendrix. Seems The Washington Post got the facts wrong...figures! The kid's name is Conrad Oberg...close but still wrong."
He included links to two other stories, including this one in USA Today which shows a picture of Conrad in mid-shred.
The Post apparently printed a correction yesterday. Ironically, I can link to the original article online (and it still references Conor), but I can't link to the correction because it's "by subscription only."
* * *
We all make mistakes.
In last week's column I referred to Saddle Creek's Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson in second reference as MBAB -- not MBAR. I blame fatigue and poor eyesight for the miscue, and have since fixed it on my website. Wish I could say that the typo was caught by the fine folks at The Reader
* * *
The Lincoln Journal-Star reported yesterday (here) that Homer's is closing its Lincoln store sometime next month. In the article, Homer's general manager Mike Fratt said the economy and the inability to negotiate more favorable lease terms with the building's owner combined to prompt the closing. "It was really ugly in October, really ugly in January and really ugly this month," said Fratt in the LJS article, noting that Homer's did not see a similar decline at its Omaha stores.
Does that mean we're not going to see any Omaha Homer's stores close their doors in the very near future? Hey Mike, I just bought three CDs at the Saddle Creek location Sunday! If you're thinking of closing it, at least consider moving it to Benson. I think there's an empty storefront that just became available where a bridal shop used to be.
* * *
It's a busy Tuesday music-wise.
Keyboard-and-drum pop-rock duo Shiver Shiver is playing at The Waiting Room with The Half Hearts. $7, 9 p.m.
Down the street at The Sydney, art-noise-rock trio Fromanhole is playing with The Stay Awake and The Short Histories of Powerful Nations. $5, 9 p.m.
And the Voodoo Organist returns once again to fabulous O'Leaver's Pub, with godshamgod (formerly Prostitute America). $5, 9:30 p.m.

* * *

Tomorrow: MAHA Explained...

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Wasted weekend; Thee Makeout Party tonight… – Aug. 17, 2009 – twitter icon

Thanks to the rain, the weekend was a giant bust. I went to no shows at all, but I did pick up three CDs at Homer's -- new ones by Wilco, Grizzly Bear and Dirty Projectors --  all are among the most-hyped indie albums so far in '09. I'll let you know what I think, but so far, the Wilco album is making the cut, the Grizz album started out strong but seems to meander and meander and meander. I haven't had a chance to listen to the DP album.
I also did a couple interviews -- Matt Whipkey, which you'll see online Thursday, and a member of the MAHA Festival committee reacting to last week's Lazy-i column, which will be online Wednesday. Very interesting indeed.
What else…
According to the Washington Post (here) Conor Oberst opened the Woodstock reunion concert this past Saturday "reprising Jimi Hendrix's electric guitar version of 'The Star Spangled Banner' that became legendary after he performed it at Woodstock." Conor is a strange choice for such an honor. He's about as well known for his guitar playing as Hendrix was known as a singer/songwriter. See Aug. 18 entry.

O'Leaver's is kicking off a busier than normal music week tonight with Anaheim garage band Thee Makeout Party (who just got off the road with Nobunny), along with The Contrails and The Prairies. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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Thunder Power, The Dinks tonight… – Aug. 14, 2009 – twitter icon

For me anyway, it looks like it's going to be a pretty quiet weekend. All shows are local -- there are no nationals coming through worth mentioning.
In fact, the only thing on my radar screen is Thunder Power at The Sydney tonight with two bands I've never heard before -- OK Hemmingway and Icares Himself. $5, 9 p.m.
The Dinks are doing a set tonight at The Hideout Lounge with a handful of punk bands. $5, 9 p.m. And it looks like Hubble -- the new band featuring Reagan Roeder, Mike Friedman and Tim Blair -- are playing at The 49'r tonight. Big Al is doing his thing Saturday night at The Hideout. And that, my friends, is the weekend.

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Live Review: Portugal. The Man; The Blind Shake tonight… – Aug. 13, 2009 – twitter icon

Portugal. The ManI wasn't really in the mood to see Portugal. The Man last night at The Waiting Room. I went on a two-hour cycling run just an hour before the show and was still feeling it. But I went anyway, arriving at around 10:30, after Landing on the Moon (who, btw, has a new album coming out in October) but just in time to see P.TM's full set.

My first impression: This band belongs on a major label. In fact, this band will be on a major label, eventually. It's the first time in a long time that I've thought that about a self-proclaimed indie band playing at TWR or Slowdown. P.TM has all the tools to make it in the big leagues. They have a huge, heavy sound that recalls Led Zeppelin or any of the other big '70s arena bands. Their frontman, John Baldwin Gourley, has an amazing voice with a huge range and plenty of sass (He was named AP Magazine's "vocalist of the year" in 2008). And they know how to put on a show -- they turned off the stage lights, opting for their own bottom-up floor strobes and light curtains, controlled off the side of the stage by one of their roadies. Very dramatic. Photographer John Shartrand took the photo on the left. Here's what I captured on my iPhone.

But at the center of it all is their songwriting, which fuses the best parts of indie with heavy/arena rock and (at times) prog -- they had a way of wandering off the reservation for eyebrow-raising transitions, always finding their way back to the center of things. As bombastic and drama-filled as their arrangements are, they still lack the pure, simple hook that all those majors covet. But that'll come. You get a twinkling of it on their album, but anything that comes close to being "safe" is dashed to bits on stage, where it's brutalized into a monsters-of-rock thunderstorm.

They're very good. They could be the next (quality) band to emerge on radio and television. I guarantee one of the big-label boys will snort them up if they get daring enough to scurry out of their safe little cubbyholes and take a look around. And if the band's wonky name doesn't scare them away.

* * *

Tonight at fabulous O'Leaver's, Minneapolis band The Blind Shake play with local noise-rock heroes Ketchup and Mustard Gas and Perry H. Matthews. TBS is on Learning Curve Records, a label whose roster boasts Private Dancer, Sicbay, The Fuck Yeahs and The Hold Steady (I'm still trying to figure that one out). $5, 9:30 p.m.

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Portugal. The Man tonight; news bits (Capgun, Techlepathy, Meat Puppets); Column 233 retake… – Aug. 12, 2009 – twitter icon

Wasilla Alaska indie band Portugal. The Man is playing tonight at The Waiting Room with Landing on the Moon. Portugal's new album, The Satanic Satanist, kind of reminds me of low-end MGMT with some groovy rock touches and plenty of falsetto. If you're wondering about the name, Wikipedia says they were going for a "bigger than life" vibe. Says guitarist John Gourley, "The band's name is 'Portugal'. The period is stating that, and 'The Man' states that it's just one person," though there's more than one person in the band (more like five). They just played at Lollapalooza and did Bonnaroo earlier this year, so their star seems to be on the rise. Catch them for a mere $12. Show starts at 9 p.m.

* * *

A few newsy bits to pass along:

-- Capgun Coup announced yesterday that its sophomore effort, Maudlin, will be released Nov. 3 on Team Love Records. According to the publicist: "The new album is often a satiric commentary on the state of contemporary life, from the futility of sadness, self-pity, and ennui to economic and social inequities to the anesthetizing effects of technology. With dishwater-colored and cracked glasses, Capgun Coup are almost modern, Midwestern Holden Caulfields - howling with restless dissatisfaction in anguished, dissonant vocals and armed with guitars." Yeah, but does it have a beat you can dance to?

-- Speed! Nebraska announced that Techlepathy's debut CD is "at the plant" with more release info to follow. Techlepathy frontman Lincoln Dickison will be playing at noon this Saturday at famous Omaha craft store Mangelsen's along with The Wagon Blasters and Outlaw Con Bandana. It's free; bring the kids.

-- I just noticed that the Meat Puppets are slated to play at The Waiting Room Nov. 7. I've never thought much of these guys live, but caught them at SXSW and was indeed impressed with their over-the-top arena-rock sound.

* * *

This week's column is a slight retooling of Monday's blog entry, so if you read Lazy-i regularly, you've already seen this. I include it here for completist's sake. I'm told that Little Brazil and Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship won the talent contest and will be playing the Brashear LLC Local Stage, or as one clever reader suggested, perhaps they should rename it The Sarpy County Stage (see this OWH story for the punch line).

Column 233: Homeless in MAHA
Creek signs NYC singer/songwriter, MAHA hosts another talent contest.

Some bits and pieces from last week, culled from the blog... reported Sunday that Saddle Creek Records signed singer/songwriter Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson and will be releasing his new album, Summer of Fear, Oct. 20. MBAR has worked with a couple guys in Grizzly Bear and TV on the Radio.

I've never heard of MBAR. Looks like there was a rather large swell of press surrounding him last summer, including an item in SPIN and a Q&A in New York blog Gothamist that included this quote about his stint as a homeless person in NYC:

"Q: Are there any nights you remember distinctly from that time in your life? A: This album is not about being homeless in New York. Maybe if we're having a beer sometime we can bullshit about our past and tell drug stories but the repeated discussion of them in relation to talking about my music is beginning to bore me. I HAVE DONE A SHIT TON OF DRUGS AND I USED TO SLEEP OUTSIDE SOMETIMES. I ATE FOOD OUT OF THE GARBAGE AND SAVED FOUND CHANGE TO BUY MALT LIQOUR (sic). IF YOU DON'T ALREADY HATE THIS STORY YOU WILL SOON. Oh the unshakeable stench of cliché that surrounds me."

Poor, poor MBAR. I have to agree with him, his background certainly is sad and cliché, and there are those who will assume that the experience permeates his songs, whether it does or not. He better get used to being asked about living in a cardboard box because us poor, lazy music journalists -- dying to find some kind of hook to write around -- are going to ask about it again and again. It reminds me of a comment I read from a musician who had a different kind of pre-fame hardship: "Yeah, I lived in my car for a year, in fact I was parked right behind Jewel."

Checking out some of MBAR's music on Myspace, it indeed sounds like something that belongs on Saddle Creek. How did it all come about? Saddle Creek head honcho Robb Nansel e-mailed me to say, "Jeff Tafolla (who works at Saddle Creek) came across him online. We all really liked his music and he was looking for a label. Jeff and I met him and his manager at SXSW earlier this year." So, along with the recently signed Rural Alberta Advantage, it's yet another SXSW success story for Saddle Creek.

Creek is on a signing binge these days. The label announced last month that it signed Lawrence band Old Canes. It's as if they've decided to throw a handful of indie haircuts at the wall and see what sticks. Hopefully it'll turn into a big, sticky wig.

* * *

Yet another "talent competition"-style audition was held Monday night for the MAHA Festival (O! what a terrible name). This time it was Little Brazil, Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship, Anniversaire, Little Black Stereo and Conchance battling for a chance to play on the festival's "local stage."

Two of the five were to be chosen via audience ballot. I told members of one of the bands prior to the show that they should form a union and tell the MAHA organizers that it's all or nothing -- take all the bands or take none. All have moved beyond the "battle of the bands" point in their careers a long time ago.

The two "winners" will be joining a couple other local bands on the litigiously titled "Brashear LLP Local Stage." A similar audience-ballot process was conducted during the recent Omaha Entertainment and Arts Showcase. MAHA organizers issued a press release last weekend announcing that Jes Winter Band received the most ballots in that election. But it also said that "Another local band, It’s True, will appear after a collaborative effort between YFC, MAHA’s organizing committee, and 1% Productions earned them an invitation to play."

Don't get me wrong, I dig It's True, but what exactly is "a collaborative effort" supposed to mean? That they got together and just decided? That would be a refreshing alternative to this endless stream of talent contests.

By the way, who or what is "YFC"? Well, Google "YFC" and the first search results you'll see is Youth For Christ, which this ain't. Instead, YFC stands for the not-so-cleverly titled "Your Festival Committee." They may want to rethink that TLA (Three Letter Acronym).

The fest takes place at the Lewis & Clark Riverfront Landing on Aug. 29. Tickets are $30. On the bill are some Harrah's Casino-type bands including Big Head Todd and the Monsters, G. Love and Special Sauce and Dashboard Confessional. Guess they couldn't get The Spin Doctors or Crash Test Dummies.

There actually are a couple good national acts on the bill -- Appleseed Cast and Army Navy, two bands that I'd rather see perform at The Waiting Room or Slowdown. The bad news is that they'll be playing at 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. respectively. Of course no one will be there yet, so the organizers will feel justified in saying, "See, no one's here. Good thing we scheduled them early." And they'll be right, because no one who wants to see Big Head Todd knows or cares for Appleseed Cast.

I'm still waiting for someone to step up with a real festival that would include some truly vital bands, like Sonic Youth, Wilco, PJ Harvey, or a reformed Jane's Addiction. Waitaminit, that festival was held last weekend... in Chicago.

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Daniel Johnston and The Rayguns tonight… – Aug. 11, 2009 – twitter icon

So who is backing Daniel Johnston tonight at The Slowdown? The mystery was solved last week when Kyle Harvey e-mailed me to say that Daniel's backing band would once again be The Rayguns -- Mike Friedman, Reagan Roeder, Scott "Zip" Zimmerman and Mr. Harvey himself. Those of you who missed Daniel's last Omaha performance (back in February 2008) can catch up on it with this review. Opening tonight's show is Hubble (Roeder's and Friedman's latest project) and Darren Keen (of The Show Is the Rainbow fame). Tickets are $18 and the show starts at 9.

Also tonight, indie dance pop band Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin (or simply SSLYBY) is playing at The Waiting Room with Joe Firstman and Brian Wright. $8, 9 p.m.

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Live Review: Box Elders; Saddle Creek signs MBAR; BLAHA talent contest tonight... – Aug. 10, 2009 – twitter icon

The Box Elders tore it up at their CD release show at The Waiting Room Friday night. Though we didn't get any green-foam-drooling, the crowd of around 200  (I'd hoped for a sell-out, and I'm sure they did, too) did get a scorching two-song encore. Opening band The Goodnight Loving was OK, but too many of their songs sounded the same (and their set was too long).

Saturday night I swung by The Saddle Creek Bar for a late-night drink(s) and saw The Pilots and Lawrence band American Lowlife. The Pilots played mainstream FM rock, while American Lowlife was trying for punk but relied too much on the same chord progressions and rhythms as Blink/Green Day, which is a shame because they could do more with it if they wanted to. They had one song with a vocal line that reminded me of Chavez. I mentioned this to the band afterward and of course they'd never heard of Chavez (but said they'd check it out). Total audience size at The Saddle Creek Bar, not including the help, was around five. BTW, I'd gone there to see Akita-Ken, who I'd been told played a good set at least week's OEA showcase, but the band didn't show up -- they didn't cancel, they just didn't show up.

* * * reported yesterday (here) that Saddle Creek Records has signed Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson and will be releasing his new album, Summer of Fear, Oct. 20. MBAR has worked with a couple guys in Grizzly Bear and TV on the Radio.

I've never heard of MBAR. Looks like there was a rather large swell of press about him last summer, including an item in SPIN and this Q&A in Gothamist that included this quote about his homeless stint:

Q: Are there any nights you remember distinctly from that time in your life? A: This album is not about being homeless in New York. Maybe if we're having a beer sometime we can bullshit about our past and tell drug stories but the repeated discussion of them in relation to talking about my music is beginning to bore me. I HAVE DONE A SHIT TON OF DRUGS AND I USED TO SLEEP OUTSIDE SOMETIMES. I ATE FOOD OUT OF THE GARBAGE AND SAVED FOUND CHANGE TO BUY MALT LIQOUR. IF YOU DON'T ALREADY HATE THIS STORY YOU WILL SOON. Oh the unshakeable stench of cliché that surrounds me.

Poor MBAR. I have to agree with him, his background is sad and cliché, and there are those who will assume that the experience permeates his songs, whether it does or not.  He better get used to being asked about it because us poor, lazy music journalists -- dying to find some kind of hook to write around -- are going to ask about it one way or another. I like how Gothamist broached the topic. It reminds me of a comment I read somewhere from a musician who had a different kind of pre-fame hardship: "Yeah, I lived in my car for a year, in fact I was parked right behind Jewel."

Check out some of MBAR's music on his Myspace page. Sounds like something that belongs on Saddle Creek. So how did this all come about? Saddle Creek's Robb Nansel e-mailed me just now to say, "Jeff Tafolla (who works at Saddle Creek) came across him online. We all really liked his music and he was looking for a label. Jeff and I met him and his manager at SXSW earlier this year." So yet another SXSW success story.

Creek appears to be on a signing binge these days. It's like they're throwing a handful of spaghetti at the wall and seeing which piece sticks. Hopefully it'll turn into a big, sticky pasta puck.

* * *

Tonight is another "talent competition"-type audition for the poorly named MAHA festival. This time it's Little Brazil, Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship, Anniversaire and (last-minute addition) Conchance battling for a chance to play on the festival's second stage. The show is at The Waiting Room at 8 and is free of charge.

Two of the four will be chosen via ballot. I told members of one of the bands that they should form a union and tell the BLAHA organizers that it's all or nothing -- take all four bands or take none. They all have moved beyond the "battle of the bands" point in their careers a long time ago. I wonder if any of these bands will be getting paid for performing tonight. I wonder if they'll get paid for performing at the BLAHA Festival or if they should "just feel lucky" that they've been given a chance to play in front of what organizers believe will be a large crowd.

I'm also trying to figure out who's actually behind this event. The BLAHA folks issued a press release a couple days ago announcing that Jes Winter Band received the most ballots during the OEA Summer Showcase, and will be performing at the fest. But it also said that "Another local band, It’s True, will appear after a collaborative effort between YFC, MAHA’s organizing committee, and 1% Productions earned them an invitation to play."

Don't get me wrong, I dig It's True, but what exactly is "a collaborative effort" supposed to mean? That they got together and just decided? That would be a refreshing alternative to this endless stream of talent contests.

By the way, if you Google "YFC" the first search results you'll get back is Youth For Christ, which this ain't. Instead, YFC stands for "Your Festival Committee."   You guys may want to rethink that TLA (Three Letter Acronym).

Anyway, you can find out more about the BLAHA Festival here. On the bill are a couple of Harrah's Casino-type bands including Big Head Todd and the Monsters, G. Love and Special Sauce and Dashboard Confessional. Guess they couldn't get The Spin Doctors or Crash Test Dummies.

There actually are a couple good bands on the bill -- Appleseed Cast and Army Navy, two bands that I'd rather see perform at TWR or Slowdown.  The bad news is that they'll be playing at 1 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. respectively. No one will be there yet, so the organizers will feel justified in saying, "See, no one's here. Good thing we scheduled them early." And they'll be right, because no one who wants to see Big Head Todd knows or cares for Appleseed Cast.

The fest takes place at the Lewis & Clark Riverfront Landing on Aug. 29. Tickets are $30.

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Box Elders tonight; Pete Yorn tomorrow, Breeders Sunday... – Aug. 7, 2009 – twitter icon

Here's what I have for the weekend...

Tonight at The Waiting room it's the Box Elders CD release show with Hercules and The Goodnight Loving. Methinks this one will draw very well indeed, especially for a mere $7. Show starts at 9 p.m. Get there early to see a rare club appearance by Hercules.

Also tonight, Chris Kramer, the former member of Talking Moutain who as you all know moved to Chicago earlier this year, is back in town tonight for a very special performance by Stolen Kisses at The Barley Street Tavern with Darren Keen (TSITR), Adam Robert Haug and The Red Burros. Quite a line-up for $5. Starts at 9.

Down at Slowdown Jr., singer/songwriter supreme Kyle Harvey opens a show for Vago and 24 Hour Cardlock. $7, 9 p.m.

Saturday night, Pete Yorn, who recorded a ton of his new album right here in Omaha at ARC studio with Mike Mogis, heads to Council Bluffs to perform at The Whiskey Roadhouse at the Horseshoe Casino. $22.50, 8 p.m.

Also Saturday night, Akita-Ken and The Pilots open for American Lowlife at The Saddle Creek Bar. No idea on the cover, but the fun starts at 9 p.m.

Finally on Sunday, The Breeders return to Omaha to perform at The Slowdown with Times New Viking. Tix are $17, show starts at 9 p.m.

Also Sunday night, the incomparable Thunder Power plays at O'Leaver's with Sleeping in the Aviary, Cloud Dog and Adam Robert Haug. 5, 9:30 p.m.

See you tonight at The Waiting Room.

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Lazy-i Interview: Box Elders; Magnolia Electric Co., Little Brazil tonight… – Aug. 6, 2009 – twitter icon

I easily could have written 2,500 words on Box Elders, but the paper just didn't have the room. Such is life. Instead, this streamlined 1,000-word epic (which you can read here) covers the origins of the band, the sibling characteristics, the new album and the stage show. Read it, then get your tickets to tomorrow night's CD release show at The Waiting Room featuring Hercules and The Goodnight Loving, all for a mere $7.

* * *

A reader pointed out on the webboard that I forgot to mention in yesterday's column -- where I talked about how bands from a number of labels, including Slumber Party Records, didn't take part in the OEA showcase -- that Thunder Power (which played the showcase) is actually on Slumber Party Records. Not only that, but Thunder Power has a new EP called And Everything After that just came out on the label that includes three songs that previously were only available on that hard-to-find split EP the band did with Alessi's Ark. Check it out at

* * *

Tonight at The Waiting Room it's Magnolia Electric Co. with The Donkeys and Thousand Arrows. $10, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, down at Slowdown Jr. it's Little Brazil with The Valley Arena and Anniversaire. $5, 9 p.m.

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Column 232: OEA Redux; The Whigs, Honey & Darling, The Lepers tonight… – Aug. 5, 2009 – twitter icon

Other thoughts about the OEA showcase:

For the most part, the bands ran on schedule, sometimes too much so. I missed The Answer Team because apparently The Barley St. was running the schedule on bar time rather than human time. Only two bands canceled. The smaller venues sounded great, specifically The Barley and Burkes. Burkes was hampered by having the bands set up next to the front door -- there must be a reason they don't set them up in the back of the room.

Though I say below I didn't hear any complaints from the bands, I did hear one -- at some clubs (maybe all of them?) performing bands had to pay for their own drinks. This seems to be a slap in the face considering they're already not getting paid to play. At the very least, bands should be given drink tickets that can be used at all the venues, or better yet, a laminate that would give them access to a venue's green room where free refreshments would be on ice. Considering that 60 bands were scheduled to perform, each with an average of four members, that equates to 240 potential lost paying booze customers, which means this idea will never materialize.

Column 232: OEA Redux
The showcase enjoys its best year ever.

MarQ Manner, the organizer of last weekend's Omaha Entertainment and Arts (OEA) Summer Showcase, must be pleased.

By the looks of the crowds (and the lack of available parking throughout Benson) the two-day showcase of mostly unsigned local bands was a big wet success -- at least on Friday night when a downpour fell halfway through the night's docket of bands.

This is the third year for an OEA-related festival held in Benson. Cash generated from wristband sales went to the non-profit organization, apparently to help pay for all those heavy crystal trophies that will be handed out at the annual awards presentation this January.

As per usual, the bands who played got nothing except exposure to the same people who they expose themselves to during non-festival nights at the very same venues, but I didn't hear any complaints. No one held a gun to their heads and said they had to play the showcase.

The weekend's real beneficiary, of course, were the clubs involved -- The Waiting Room, Burke's Pub, The Sydney, The Barley Street Tavern, and PS Collective. They got two days' worth of free entertainment on their stages and kept every penny of the booze sales, which had to be staggering judging by the zombie-like patrons seen stumbling along the sidewalks toward closing time.

By the way, this wasn't an official "qualifying round" for this year's OEA awards. That showcase, where nominated bands perform for the OEA's "music academy" (of which I am a member), takes place later this fall, but will likely be a rerun of what we got this weekend.

With 60 band performing, it was impossible to see them all. Here's my personal scorecard:

-- Boy Noises -- Consisting of former members of Sleep Said the Monster, these guys have awoken into a Franz Ferdinand-flavored big-beat dance band. If It's True is Slo-Fi Records' Bright Eyes, Boy Noises is their Faint. Word has it that the band's days are numbered, as their drummer is moving and their keyboard player wants to focus on his other band (the aforementioned It's True, and who can blame him?). Catch them while you can (Pssst... Sept. 12 at TWR with Broken Spindles and Pharmacy Spirits).

-- Anniversaire -- I tweeted that they are "a baroque Ben Folds w/cello and giant bass drum," and that's about right, though their songs go for "slow building epic" more than Folds' "sing-a-long," and could do with a bit of editing (as if that'll ever happen). They're playing Aug. 6 at Slowdown Jr. with Little Brazil.

-- Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies -- Sporting the best local album released so far this year, Hoshaw is bound to take home more of those OEA crystal penises. The Seven Deadlies have been cut to three, but they're just as deadly. Maybe even deadlier. Hoshaw now has no reason for not getting this tightly hewn unit onto the road (and I mean roads outside of the quad-state area).

-- Sweet Pea -- Chop pop upbeat dance rock that at times seemed to be trying for a fun (rather than dour) Pixies vibe and at other times bordered on cabaret (or Broadway). They could be theatrical if they wanted to be, but they just want you to forget about them and dance. They're almost there.

-- It's True -- Adam Hawkins and his crew are blowing up. They drew the largest crowd of the weekend (that I saw, anyway), bringing The Waiting Room close to capacity and then killing it with their epic soundtrack. I remain quietly amused that these guys and Hoshaw are not signed to a mid-sized indie label (including one that resides in their hometown).

There was more. The Midwest Dilemma Orchestra played half unplugged resulting in an exuberant performance that turned The Sydney into a heated gypsy orgy. Goodbye Sunday went out in style, playing their farewell show to an adoring Burke's crowd. Honey and Darling pulled the short straw and got gypped by PS Collective's inferior sound, while Fortnight got buried beneath a muddy mix at TWR. My weekend ended by watching DJ Brent Crampton getting the shorties moving with his thick-ass beats (I Zimbra indeed).

Manner said around 850 paid over the weekend, but that numbers seem light if (as he said) they sold 500 wristbands on Saturday alone. Regardless, the showcase is the organization's most successful to date. Still, whether the OEA folks want to admit it or not, many are starting to consider the OEA's as "a Benson thing" that only involves the neighborhood's bands.

Which brings us to that point in the story that you've all heard from me before. Most of the city's best bands continue to be missing from OEA events. There were no Saddle Creek, Slumber Party, Speed! Nebraska (except for The Filter Kings) or "Goldberg bands" (you know who I'm talking about) playing on either night. It wasn't for lack of trying. As one band that declined an invitation told me over the weekend, they don't need exposure in this market, and they'd like to get paid for what they do.

But they never will, not at this event, which means you'll likely never see those bands play an OEA showcase, and that's OK. The OEAs are doing just fine without them.

Tonight is busy show-wise.

At The Waiting Room, Athens GA trio The Whigs (on ATO Records) plays with London trio Band of Skulls. Should be nice and loud. $10, 9 p.m.

At O'Leaver's, The Lepers are headlining a show with Giant Squid and Grayceon.$5, 9:30 p.m.

Down at Slowdown Jr., locals Honey & Darling and Akita-Ken are opening for One for the Team. $8, 9 p.m.

And finally, Midwest Dilemma is playing at The Barley Street Tavern with Long Shadowmen. $5, 9 p.m.

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OEA Recap tomorrow; Perry H. Matthews tonight … – Aug. 4, 2009 – twitter icon

What can I say, I've been busy. My recap of last weekend's OEA showcase will be online tomorrow and it'll also be my column this week in The Reader. Also this week (Thursday) I'll be posting an interview/feature with/about the Box Elders in support of Friday night's CD release show at The Waiting Room. Apologies for the delay, but your patience will be rewarded.

So until tomorrow, enjoy some images from last weekend's OEA showcase by way of my iPhone:

-- Anniversaire at TWR.
-- Goodbye Sunday at Burke's.
-- Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies at TWR.

* * *

Tonight at The Waiting Room, the always entertaining Perry H. Matthews opens for Anavan and Dazzler -- two bands I've never heard of. $8, 9 p.m.

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OEA Summer Showcase tonight and tomorrow… – July 31, 2009 – twitter icon

This weekend is easy: Just head to Benson for the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards Summer Showcase. There. You're done. No more thinking necessary.

Performances are tonight and tomorrow beginning at 8 p.m. Wristbands are sold at the door of every performance spot. A one-time $10 charge will get you into all five venues all night long; or do as I do and spend an extra $5 and get access for both nights

I'm told that this two-day event is actually a fund raiser for the OEA organization, and that the real academy-targeted showcase -- that will feature bands nominated for an award -- will be held sometime this fall. So this one is really "just for fun," an exposure-generator for 60 local bands whose music cuts across multiple genres.

As seems to be the case with most OEA events, the acts chosen to perform are mostly bands that regularly perform in Benson anyway, which makes this more of a "come-to-Benson" exposure-driven event. We'll see if the crowd consists of out-of-Bensoners or the usual crowd (who, strangely, didn't show up for the Lincoln Invasion festival just a few weeks ago).

My advice on how to best enjoy this festival: 1) Find a designated driver, 2) Get your wristbands in order, 3) Proceed to drink you face off while stumbling from venue to venue. Benson-based showcases are really just high-end drinking games involving music. The OEA folks would be advised to organize a taxi stand so game participants can get home safely after the party's over.

Anyway, here is the schedule as posted on the OEA website. For those who need help deciding which bands to see, I've placed an asterisk (*) next to my recommendations -- keep in mind that I haven't seen or heard half of these bands.

Friday July 31

Barley Street Tavern

8:10 p.m. — Spiders For Love
*8:55 p.m. — Answer Team
9:40 p.m. — Travelling Mercies
10:35 p.m. — Matt and Ben
*11:20 p.m. — Boy Noises
12:35 a.m. — Black On High

The Sydney

8 p.m. — Jason Fergusen
8:45 p.m. — Little Black Stereo
9:30 p.m. — Akita Ken
*10:15 p.m. — The Filter Kings
*11 p.m. — Shiver Shiver
*11:50 p.m. — Thunder Power

P.S. Collective

8 p.m. — Pat Higgins Trio
*8:45 p.m. — Honey & Darling
*9:30 p.m. — Sarah Benck
10:15 p.m. — El Genius
11 p.m. — Funk Trek
11:50 p.m. — Rock Paper Dynamite

Burke’s Pub

8 p.m. — The Pilots
8:55 p.m. — Chris Massara
*9:40 p.m. — Dereck Higgins
*10:35 p.m. — Goodbye Sunday
11:15 p.m. — Vago
12:05 a.m. — DJ Spence

The Waiting Room

8:10 p.m. — Lunatik
8:55 p.m. — Mitch Getman
*9:40 p.m. — Anniversaire
10:35 p.m. — Ten Club
11:20 p.m. — The Cowboy Dave Band (ex-40-20)
*12:05 a.m. — Brad Hoshaw & The Seven Deadlies

Saturday, Aug. 1

Barley Street Tavern

8: 10 p.m. — Broken Truth
8:55 p.m. — Strictly Roots
9:40 p.m. — Raven Carousel
*10:35 p.m. — Sweet Pea
11:20 p.m. — Platte River Rain
12:05 a.m. — Vinyl Haze

Burke’s Pub

8:10 p.m. — 24 Hour Cardlock
8:55 p.m. — W.E.R.D.
*9:40 p.m. — Matt Whipkey
*10:35 p.m. — Black Squirrels
11:20 p.m. — Son Of 76 & The Watchman
*12:05 a.m. — Brent Crampton

The Sydney

8 p.m. — After The Fall
*8:45 p.m. — Kyle Harvey
*9:30 p.m. — The Show Is The Rainbow
10:15 p.m. — Surreal
*11 p.m. — Midwest Dilemma
*11:50 p.m. — Paria

The Waiting Room

8:10 p.m. — Kethro
8:55 p.m. — Flight Metaphor
9:40 p.m. — Poor Mans Opera
10:35 p.m. — Oxygen
*11:20 p.m. — Fortnight
*12:05 a.m. — It’s True

P.S. Collective

8 p.m. — Jess Winter Band
8:45 p.m. — ASO
9:30 p.m. — Edge Of Arbor
10:15 p.m. — Qubit
11:20 p.m. — The Last Few
*11:50 p.m. — The Big Al Band

Watch for updates via the Lazy-i Twitter feed (follow me), along with some shaky, grainy, out-of-focus iPhone photos.

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Column 231: Eyes Wide Shut; Dark Town House Band tonight… – July 30, 2009 – twitter icon

Only the top half of this week's column is new; the bottom half appeared here a week ago. No new updates on the Mousetrap reunion, though I've heard from two drummers who said if Craig and Patrick can't find anyone to handle the drum parts, they'd be honored to step in -- they grew up listening to all those Mousetrap albums. As for the top half, I just noticed that tickets for the Oct. 28 Monsters of Folk show at The Holland are nearly $50 and go on sale tomorrow. Wonder how fast it'll sell out? I also noticed that the first three songs on the Monsters' upcoming album are now on their Myspace page.

Column 231: Eyes Wide Shut
It's Bright Eyes, not Oberst, who's calling it quits.

They're worried about Bright Eyes in Jakarta.

That's Jakarta Indonesia for all of us geographic illiterates. Where last Tuesday in the Jakarta Post there was an item in their "Reverb" section about the demise of Bright Eyes. Jakarta. Indonesia.

It was just one of what seemed like 50 online publications that regurgitated a story written by Kevin Coffey of the Omaha World-Herald that was published now almost two weeks ago, where Saddle Creek Records head honcho Robb Nansel repeated what was in Rolling Stone almost a month ago -- that Conor Oberst was retiring his Bright Eyes moniker once and for all after a final Bright Eyes release on Saddle Creek sometime in late 2010.

Maybe it was a slow news week, but what was essentially old news got picked up by Pitchfork -- the New York Times (or more accurately, The TMZ) of the indie music world -- before exploding across the Intergoogle on website after website until it ended up in Jakarta last Tuesday. And the whole time I just shook my head.

Bright Eyes' demise was being treated as if Oberst himself was retiring from the music business, which is anything but the truth. Have people forgotten that Bright Eyes is really just a name for Oberst and whomever he wants to perform with on any given record? Sure, starting with Cassadaga Oberst declared that Bright Eyes' core ensemble was a trio consisting of himself, Mike Mogis (who's been along for the ride since the very beginning) and keyboardist/pal Nate Walcott. But the guy driving the bus -- the one writing all the songs -- was Oberst, and Oberst ain't going away.

Does the retirement of the Bright Eyes name mean you'll never hear "Padraic My Prince" or "Waste of Paint" or "I Must Belong Somewhere" performed live on stage by guy who wrote them? Maybe, but it would make absolutely no sense. Moreso than being Bright Eyes songs, those are Oberst songs, tied more closely to the person who wrote them than the name printed on the record sleeve in which they appeared.

If there's a loser in this whole "death of Bright Eyes" story, it may be Saddle Creek, who released almost every Bright Eyes album. Conor Oberst's other identities -- The Mystic Valley Band, The Monsters of Folk -- are being handled by other record labels. When Oberst said he "wants to lock the door, say goodbye" to Bright Eyes, did he really mean he wants to lock the door on Saddle Creek?

Nansel and business partner Jason Kulbel -- who are still licking their wounds from the loss of The Faint last year -- continue to control Bright Eyes back catalog, and then there's the final album. After that, well, that's the real question, because after the Monsters of Folk go their separate ways and the conclusion of the Bright Eyes Farewell Tour sometime in 2011, Conor Oberst will be left as Conor Oberst, releasing albums simply as Conor Oberst -- albums that will sound strangely like Bright Eyes albums.

* * *

Just imagine how big that Bright Eyes reunion tour is going to be. Huge!

Speaking of reunions. A couple years ago at a show at The Slowdown I bumped into Craig Crawford, bass player for one of Omaha's most important '90s punk bands, Mousetrap. Craig had mentioned at the time that he'd been in touch with Mousetrap frontman Patrick Buchanan and that there had been talk about a possible band reunion.

This information was a bit surprising based on an interview I had conducted with Buchanan in March 2004 when his band at the time, After Dark, was coming through town for a show at The 49'r. Buchanan said he couldn't even listen to Mousetrap records because they brought up "too many memories, most of them bad." He concluded that interview with this: "You might think you made some good records, but you never know if you're creating anything important. I guess we did. Maybe in 10 or 15 years I'll be able to listen to them again."

Now here was Crawford a few years later saying that a reunion was a possibility. I was skeptical. Two years passed and nothing happened and I thought that was the end of it.

Then last week I got a message via Facebook from Crawford that said, once again, a Mousetrap reunion was in the works.

"We are 90% committed at this point," he said. "Patrick lives in Detroit now, and is planning on commuting into Chicago for practices. He wants to use a drummer from one of his old Chicago bands, and I have no problem with that. I have access to a warehouse and large-scale PA here, so that is good. I also want to document this when it happens. I've got cameras and all sorts of shit! This should be fun. Patrick is very excited about this, and I am as well. I would love to see if Scott (Miller, Mousetrap's original drummer) would want to be involved, but I do not know how to get ahold of him." Hey, anyone know Scott's whereabouts these days?

Craig said this landmark show had yet to be booked, but I have to believe that just about any of the major clubs in town would be honored to host a Mousetrap reunion show. How well would it draw? That's a good question. Among the Saddle Creek Records contingent and Omaha's dynamic noise-punk scene, Mousetrap is the stuff of legends. But that's not a terribly large crowd. For many (including myself) this would be a can't-miss event -- that is if this time it actually happens.

According to the Barley Street Tavern online calendar, The Dark Town House Band is scheduled to play on the Barley Street stage tonight. I've seen nothing promoting this show anywhere else. Expect an SRO crowd (if it's true). $5, 9 p.m.

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Anvil! The Story of Anvil rocks; Dave Dondero, It's True tonight… – July 29, 2009 – twitter icon

As you know, I generally don't review movies on Lazy-i unless they have a music tie-in, and Anvil! The Story of Anvil certainly does. The documentary, which is now playing at The Dundee, is one of the best music docs I've seen since Some Kind of Monster, the 2004 Metallica doc, and in many ways, it's better. The movie tells the story of '80s Canadian metal band Anvil as it continues to reach for the rock 'n' roll golden ring even though the band's members are now in their 50s.

Brief interviews with members of G 'n' R, Slayer, Motörhead, Metallica and others lay the groundwork before the opening titles. We're then introduced to the key members of the band -- Steve "Lips" Kudlow and Robb Reiner -- as they struggle with their daily jobs and their daily lives before heading off to a disastrous European tour. The film has been called a real-life version of Spinal Tap, and the incidents depicted in many ways resemble that film. The difference, of course, is that this is real.

It is virtually impossible not to feel something for these lovable schlubs who, through bad timing, bad luck and a series of bad managers, record labels and recording experiences, missed the boat that made all those '80s hair metal bands millionaires. Now all they want is their chance with a major record label. You can't help but shake your head as they walk into the iconic Capitol Records building in LA carrying a bagful of CDRs with them name written on them in Sharpie.

This film won the Audience Award at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. Within two months, it became the highest-grossing rock documentary in U.K. history. It's only now getting U.S. distro and has a rare 100 percent Top Critics rating at Rotten Tomatoes. The whole time I was watching it I was thinking that these guys' lives will forever be changed by this documentary, that their days of playing to nobody in tiny bars is over (for now, anyway). Sure enough, when I got home and did some Googling, I discovered that Anvil is opening three stadium dates for AC/DC next month.

I don’t know how long The Dundee plans on screening Anvil, though they usually change films on Fridays, so make plans to see it tonight or tomorrow. It's well worth your time.

* * *

Speaking of things worth your time, Dave Dondero is playing a gig tonight at The Barley Street with Micah Bruce. $5, 9 p.m. Also tonight, It's True is playing at Slowdown Jr. with Theodore and Andrew Bryant. $7, 9 p.m.

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Yo La Tengo? Built to Spill? Nice; The Start, Birdlips tonight… – July 28, 2009 – twitter icon

I was clicking through the One Percent Productions website today and noticed a couple awesome additions to their calendar. On top of the list is Yo La Tengo coming to Slowdown Oct. 9 -- almost three years to the day that they played at Sokol Underground. That show, reviewed here, made my list as one of the best of '06, partially because I'd been waiting 10 years for someone to book YLT in Omaha. This is a must-see show. Also, looks like our friends Tortoise is coming back to The Waiting Room Oct. 1. I didn't think we'd see them again after their last appearance here back in June 2007 (see review) failed to sell out. And one of Omaha's favorites, Built To Spill, has been booked to play at Slowdown Sept. 23. This was one of the first big national touring band to play Slowdown after it opened in the summer of 2007. This is winding up to be one of the stronger fall seasons for One Percent (and Slowdown).

OK, but what about tonight? Well, over at the Waiting Room, No Wave dance band The Start is playing with Normandie and Omaha expatriates Drake's Hotel. $8, 9 p.m. Meanwhile, Slowdown Jr. is hosting Charlottesville/Washington D.C. indie duo Birdlips, with Brad Hoshaw and Midwest Dilemma.$7, 9 p.m.

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Live Review: Azure Ray/Cursive; Beat Seekers tonight… – July 27, 2009 – twitter icon

A handful of people told me that they didn't go to the free concert outside at Slowdown Friday night for fear of large crowds, parking congestion, etc. They had nothing to worry about. I showed up after Flowers Forever and parked on the street on the east side of the Slowdown complex. After strolling through the entrance between Slowdown and American Apparel you were met with a sort-of festival environment, with booths for food, merch and most of all, booze. There were maybe 500 people there when I arrived. Another 250 showed up in time for the Azure Ray reunion set.

The stage was tucked into the nook behind Slowdown and Film Streams -- very nice. Not so nice was the sound system, at least during Azure Ray -- the vocals were overblown (ironic when you consider who was doing the singing), and crackled and dropped out throughout the set. Very unfortunate. That said, the duo was in good voice, and it was nice to hear some of these old AR tunes again. Andy Lemaster, who played guitar in their band, continues to resemble a 17-year-old boy, which will only continue to stoke the speculation that he's a vampire. See action photo.

By the time Cursive hit the stage, it looked like more than 1,000 people were there, though it never seemed crowded. My guess is you could have had double those numbers within the parking lot/compound and it still would have been comfortable, which raises the idea of Slowdown hosting two or three of these kinds of outdoor shows per summer, that is if the residents of the new "22" apartment complex don't mind -- hey, what did they expect when they moved into a building linked to Omaha's indie-music ground zero?

Cursive came on just as it was getting dark. Behind them on two large screens was a video created especially for the event that juxtaposed footage from Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom with old movies (including a Dustin Hoffman chestnut). It worked pretty well; Cursive should consider bringing the video on the road with them. Their set was a selection of classics reaching as far back as Domestica to new stuff off Mama, I'm Swollen, and it all sounded great. I assume the sound system was selected with them in mind (and not Azure Ray). Tossed into the mix were covers of The Cure's "The Lovecats" and Bowie's "Modern Love." Overall, it was a lot of fun. Let's do it again a few more times next year.

* * *

Tonight there's a rare Monday evening show at The Sydney featuring The Beat Seekers with Brannigans Law and The Moves. $5, 9 p.m.

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Cursive: The Lazy-i interview with Tim Kasher… – July 23, 2009 – twitter icon

Just posted right here, the Lazy-i interview with Tim Kasher of Cursive. Tim talks about the meaning (or perceived meaning) behind the band's latest album, Mama, I'm Swollen, and the realities of getting older alongslide the band's fans. Read it here. The story, which appears in today's issue of The Reader, is in support of tomorrow night's free concert in The Slowdown's parking lot featuring Cursive, a reunited Azure Ray and Flowers Forever. More details about the show tomorrow.

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Mousetrap to return; Pitchfork likes The RAA; Bowerbirds tonight… – July 22, 2009 – twitter icon

A couple years ago at a show at The Slowdown I bumped into Craig Crawford, bass player for one of Omaha's most important '90s punk bands, mousetrap. Craig had mentioned at the time that he'd been in touch with mousetrap frontman Patrick Buchanan and that there had been talk about a possible band reunion.

This information was a bit surprising based on an interview I had conducted with Buchanan in March 2004 when his band at the time, After Dark, was coming through town for a show at The 49'r. Buchanan said he couldn't even listen to mousetrap records because they brought up "too many memories, most of them bad." He concluded that interview (which you can read in its entirety here) with this: "You might think you made some good records, but you never know if you're creating anything important. I guess we did. Maybe in 10 or 15 years I'll be able to listen to them again."

Now here was Crawford a few years later saying that a reunion was a possibility. I was skeptical, but I still mentioned it in my year-end "predictions" article. Two years passed and nothing happened and I thought that was the end of it.

Then last week I got a message via Facebook from Craig that said, once again, a mousetrap reunion was in the works.

"We are 90% committed at this point," he said. "Patrick lives in Detroit now, and is planning on commuting into Chicago for practices. He wants to use a drummer from one of his old Chicago bands, and I have no problem with that. I have access to a warehouse and large-scale PA here, so that is good. I also want to document this when it happens. I've got cameras and all sorts of shit! This should be fun. Patrick is very excited about this, and I am as well. I would love to see if Scott (Miller) would want to be involved, but I do not know how to get ahold of him." Hey, anyone know Scott's whereabouts these days?

Craig said this landmark show has yet to be booked, but I have to believe that just about any of the major clubs in town would be honored to host a mousetrap reunion show. How well would it draw? That's a good question. Among the Saddle Creek Records contingent and Omaha's dynamic noise-punk scene, mousetrap is the stuff of legends. But that's not a terribly large crowd. For many (including myself) this would be a can't-miss event. More to come...

* * *

Saddle Creek Records seems to have shaken its Pitchfork jinx with this recent review of The Rural Alberta Advantage's Hometowns. It scored a massive 8.0, and these comments, "...Rural Alberta Advantage were known as the best unsigned band in Canada before Saddle Creek snapped them up and re-released this debut. And it's a good thing they did; songs this good deserve to be heard by audiences as large as their sonic scope." This is the highest-rated Pitchfork review for a Saddle Creek act in recent memory (or perhaps ever?). Keep in mind, this is a re-release. Let's see how well The RAA scores with their first Creek-exclusive album.

* * *

Tonight at Slowdown Jr. Bowerbirds plays. They're out on the road supporting their latest album, Upper Air, on Dead Oceans. They play pretty acoustic folk-rock with accordion and plenty of harmonies. Opening is Megafaun. $10, 9 p.m.

Did anyone notice that Amazing Baby is scheduled to play at Slowdown Sept. 27? They've yet to list the date on the 1% or Slowdown websites, however. Amazing Baby is one of the hotter (and better) new indie rock bands on the scene. Check 'em out.

* * *

By the way, Pt. 2 of my guest appearance on the Worlds of Wayne podcast (celebrating the show's 100th episode) is now available for your listening pleasure at

* * *

Hey, where's this week's column? Column space this week was used for an extended interview with Tim Kasher in support of Friday night's free Cursive show at the Slowdown parking lot. The interview will be online right here tomorrow.

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It happened last weekend; Our Fox, Gogol Bordello tonight… – July 21, 2009 – twitter icon

I'm still catching up on last weekend. The most notable event was, of course, the first annual Speed! Nebraska / O'Leaver's adult soapbox derby held at Seymour Smith Park. As predicted, there was plenty of bloody mayhem in the form of grisly crashes. The crowd was... unfortunate. When I showed up shortly after 11, only 20 or so people were there. That number would balloon to about 50 when I left at 1, and I was told by an organizer that another 100 or showed up later in the afternoon. This was the first time for this annual event, after all. I don't think anyone expected a Horsemen's Park-sized crowd. Six soapbox cars entered the fray, and from its first test run it was obvious that the three-wheeled death contraption driven by Jon Taylor of Domestica was going to win the whole thing, for among other reasons it was the only entry able to make it to the end of the course. It was also scary fast, like watching someone luge head-first staring at a spinning blade. Here's an awesome picture someone took of Taylor and his ride prior to the race. Frightening.

Gary Dean Davis' race car also was bad-ass (here's my not-so-awesome photo), and would end up coming in second pace. O'Leaver's El Camino took third-place honors.

But who cares about the race results? People go to the races for the crashes, and there were two doozies. Taylor lost control of his death mobile the third time down the track and went airborne before performing a tumbling exercise on the asphalt mat that scored him a perfect 10 along with a gashed elbow. Very exciting. After I left, Mike Tulis and his rolling piece of plywood crashed into a guardrail. The damage could still be seen on his face later that evening at O'Leaver's. So yes, there was blood, but no permanent damage except maybe to the pride of the guy who raced the H1N1 pig mobile...

Later that evening the racers took a musical victory lap at O'Leaver's. I caught the tail end of The Third Men's set, along with all of Domestica's, which sounded better than ever (see photo). At the end of the day, a few hundred bucks was raised for Special Olympics of Nebraska, which made everyone a winner.

Earlier in the evening I caught Neko Case's sold-out performance at The Slowdown. It was a different crowd than the usual hipper-than-thou scenester/slacker club -- mostly couples in the late 20s and 30s out for a date night. Case is an indie-music diva who appeals to a smarter, more refined audience than you'll find at, say, a Sheryl Crow concert. She sounded terrific on Slowdown's big stage, backed by five musicians including a back-up singer who was more of a stand-up comic, playing the role of EmCee in charge of keeping the laughs rolling between songs while Neko tuned her beefy Gibson SG. Neko got a few choice lines in as well, but it was mostly the side-kick that kept the audience engaged. While her music is uplifting, Neko's lyrics are agonizingly depressing. Adding to the gloom, projected on a stage decorated with a giant crowned owl, were images that looked like were shot on Super 8 film of storm clouds and buildings being demolished and gloom. Depressing indeed. Still, Case was in her usual terrific voice, and the band was dead-on -- one of the better shows so far this year.

* * *

There are a couple shows worth mentioning tonight. Down at Slowdown Jr., new local indie super group Our Fox opens for country-flavored Tennessee chick-punks Those Darlings and Tin Kite. $7, 9 p.m. Also tonight, eastern European carnival ride Gogol Bordello plays at Sokol Auditorium. $25, 7 p.m.

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Beef Curtains tonight; Speed! Soapbox Derby Day, Neko Case tomorrow… – July 17, 2009 – twitter icon

One perfect weather weekend coming right up. And it ain't bad musicwise, either.

Tonight at The Stir Cove at Harrah's in beautiful Council Bluffs, The Beef Curtains return to the stage with a little help from Bear Country, The Filter Kings and Little Brazil. This one is absolutely free, folks, and starts at 6:30.

Also tonight, the return of Janglepop at The 49'r. It's probably $5 and probably starts at 9:30.

Then tomorrow, Saturday, the event you've been hearing about for weeks (months?): The Speed! Nebraska / O'Leaver's Adult Soapbox Derby at Seymour Smith Park (72nd & Washington entrance). The racing action begins at 11 a.m. with teams fighting for the right to call themselves The King of the Slope! The event includes a beer garden (just what these guys DIDN'T need) along with plenty of grilled food and raffles, with the proceeds going to the Special Olympics of Nebraska. Afterward, O'Leaver's is hosting a checkered-flag party featuring Domestica, The Third Men, Wagon Blasters, Filter Kings and The Sons of the Soapbox Derby. $5, 9:30 p.m. This could well prove to be the EVENT OF THE SUMMER. Don't miss it.

Also tomorrow night, Neko Case plays at The Slowdown with Imaad Wasif. $22, 9 p.m. Meanwhile, over at The Waiting Room, it's The Pendrakes with Landing on the Moon and The Ground Tyrants. $7, 9 p.m.

See you at the park.

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Live Review: The Rural Alberta Advantage; racing begins today… – July 16, 2009 – twitter icon

Other than Nils Edenloff's twangy croon, the first song on the new Rural Alberta Advantage album, Hometowns, sort of resembles a DCFC song -- warm keyboards, bells, thumping percussion. But despite having performed that very song last night at The Slowdown, there wasn't a single moment during their set that resembled how it sounds on their record, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.

The RAA -- a trio with Nils on lead vocals/guitar/keyboards, drummer Paul Banwatt and fetching female vocalist/percussionist/keyboardist Amy Cole (there is no bass) -- more closely resembles the dusty Americana sound of Deer Tick. I'm not the only one who thought so. I got a text halfway through their set from someone on the other side of the crowded room (not a sell-out, incidentally, but a beefy 140), saying "way more Deer Tick than Great Lake Swimmers." Yes it was. More Deer Tick than DCFC or Neutral Milk Hotel, who they also have been compared to.

The Deer Tick comparison left me wondering who I would pick between the two bands if I owned a label. Deer Tick seems to be riding a slightly higher wave, in part due to a longer history, NBC's Brian Williams and SXSW. Despite that, I'd still pick The RAA if only for the fact that their music is more interesting to me. Their songs have better variety and better hooks, and I like Hometowns a lot more than DT's Born on Flag Day, which has its moments but overall is forgettable.

Last night, the trio kept it simple, with Nils out front on acoustic guitar throughout most of the set while a giddy Cole pranced around stage with a maraca or leaned into a large drum at her feet. Their relatively short set was capped with a two-song encore that included one cover -- Nils doing a solo acoustic version of "Eye of the Tiger." Sweet.

I did catch most of Dave Dondero's solo acoustic set -- it's always nice to hear where Conor got his famous bray. I missed UUVVWWZ entirely. It seemed odd that one of the bands celebrating its CD release would be slated to go on first at 9 p.m. sharp, instead of in the middle (the sweet spot for any show) or last. I'm not sure what that says about how the label -- which owns the club -- perceives UUVVWWZ compared to The RAA (or ol' DD, for that matter).

* * *

A non-music aside…

This is a racing weekend. As I mentioned a couple days ago, the Speed! Nebraska/O'Leaver's adult soapbox derby is this Saturday at 11 a.m. at Seymour Smith Park. You don't want to miss the carnage. But that's not the only racing going on. Starting tonight, Horsemen's Park is hosting its annual 4-day track meet -- live horse racing -- with post times at 6 p.m. today and tomorrow and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. If possible, I shall be at all four days of racing as I cannot get enough of the spectacle. I hate casinos, I don't bet football and I've never been into cards. This is the only gambling that I do. And it's only one weekend per year.

For those of you wondering if it's worth your time, consider the following essay that I wrote for The Reader in 2004, an ill attempt at capturing The Sport of Kings. So angered was Horesmen's Park by this article that they pulled their advertising from The Reader (Hats off to John Heaston for having the cajones to run it as is). Although five years have passed, the facts (for the most part) remain the same. Sit back an enjoy:

* * *

A Day at the Races (First published in The Reader, July 21, 2004)

There's a scene in the 1989 Richard Dreyfuss horse racing classic Let It Ride where Dreyfuss' character, Jay Trotter, is accosted by his pissed-off wife, Pam (played fetchingly by Teri Garr), inside the track's Jockey's Club. Trotter's already had a good day, and it would only get better. Anyway, while sitting at a table with Trotter and a few other high rollers, Pam asks the essential question that cuts to the heart of horse racing: "Why can't you people just watch the horses run around the track without betting on them?"

Everyone titters with rolled-eyed laughter, and afterward Trotter explains it simply, calmly, matter-of-factly: "Because, Pam, without betting there would be no horse racing."

It really is as simple as that.

Look, I could write 800 words that try to capture the majesty of the so-called Sport of Kings with colorful, poetic descriptions of sweaty horses and tiny jockeys. I could make metaphors for how this "sport" is the ultimate test of man controlling nature against man. And while all of it may be true, it has nothing to do with why thousands of people showed up at Horsemen's Park last weekend for the annual four-day track meet.

* * *

After two days of relative success betting on individual horses "across the board," the final day was deemed "All Exotics Sunday." I would bet only exactas and daily doubles. By this point, I was still on the plus side moneywise for the weekend (not including what I spent on beer and food).

On the way to the track we figured that, like the year before, no one would show up on Sunday. Wrong. Of the three days we attended (we skipped Friday because of the nightmarish 311 concert) this seemed like the largest crowd. We did our best to dodge the insane people as we pulled into the makeshift parking lot / mud field adjacent to the track. They were driving around the barriers and through taped-off mud holes desperately trying to find a place to park. They ran from their SUVs dragging their children behind them by their wrists -- My God! Post time was in five minutes!

I'd done my research on the way to the track, busily underlining the names of horses in the day's program. Even so, there was no way we were going to run to the betting window in this heat. But just as we parked, up came a shuttle bus and we rode in air-conditioned comfort to the front door of the main building, passing the huffing father and his crying 5-year-old as they rounded the far corner of the track, lost in a cloud of dust.

Too bad we made it in time. Like the previous days, my bet in the first race was a loser. Keeping with the exotics theme, I had bet the 3-5 exacta and a 3-1 daily double -- a total of $5. My partner in crime bet the No. 10 horse -- $2 to win -- for no other reason than she liked the name: "What About David." She won $7.40. My No. 3 horse came in second to last.

It didn't matter. I figured I actually saved $1 by placing the exacta bet instead of the usual $2 across-the-board bet (total $6) that had been so successful the past couple days. Gambling means always looking at the positive side of losing.

The second race featured 1 and 1A horses -- that's two different horses that you can bet for the price of one -- a real bargain. I boxed an exacta with the 3 horse, "Lost in a Rush," which seemed like a sure thing. This time I got the lingo right at the betting window. The first time, the 60-year-old woman behind the window glared as I took five minutes explaining what I wanted to bet. "You mean Box the 3-5 in the first?" she asked through her smoker's hack. "Honey, you need to learn how to say it right if you wanna bet exotics."

After placing the bet, I was left with something like 50 minutes before post time and nothing to do. If you're a hardcore gambler you can waste money betting on the televised races inside the main facility. If not, you're left with either listening to the band (On the Fritz playing a cover of "Jesse's Girl"), watching the horses get examined in the paddock, listening to drunks explain why they always bet horses with blinders, or sitting in the grandstand under the canopy to avoid the scorching, blistering sun.

I took a moment to soak it all in and examine the humanity that makes up the usual day at the races:

On the far end of the spectrum were the crazies. For example, the shaggy old guy with a full beard, cowboy hat, long-sleeved dress shirt and red suspenders that held up a pair of denim shorts that revealed red-and-white Cat in the Hat-style knee-highs tucked into a pair of cowboy boots. There was plenty of this type to go around.

There were groups of older Mexican guys groomed in western shirts, wrinkleless blue jeans, immaculate boots and straw hats, quietly talking to their senioritas.

There were the suburban, blond-dyed housewives with their hair pushed behind visors revealing cocoa tans and made-up faces. Alongside them, their matching husbands in bright, tacky golf clothes.

There were kids everywhere -- since when is going to the track a family affair? Children ran around on the hot white rock, slapping each other with rolled-up racing programs and running absentmindedly into angry beer-soaked strangers. There's nothing like seeing a young, goateed father in Nascar gear bully his way to a betting window with a stroller, cigarette in the one hand, telling his five year old to "Find your mother. I'm out of money. Go!"

There were plenty of folks in their twilight years, taking a day off from the boats to enjoy some outdoor gambling. Saturday night's race featured the excitement of an apparent heart attack or heat stroke. The poor guy was white as a ghost, staring blankly ahead in the stands after the day's final race. Passing eyes shifted between the gasping man, the overhead odds board and the security people holding walkie-talkies and waving to the EMTs.

For every grinning, giddy first-time winner ("I can't believe it! My 'place' ticket won!") there was a bitter lifer, swearing "shit!" as he tore his losing tickets, tossing them like confetti into the summer breeze. Two minutes of sulking later, he was buried in the forms picking the next "winner."

"Exotics Sunday" ended up being a bust, and after the second race I returned to picking single horses on hunch bets. Both "Fajita" in the Third and "Chuckie's in Love" in the Fourth died before they hit the stretch, and I ended down $20 for the weekend. Not bad for three days of entertainment and a slice of Wal-Mart style Americana that can't be found anywhere else in Nebraska... at least until that gambling initiative passes in November.

* * *

That gambling initiative, as we all know, didn't pass.

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Column 230: Seeing Red; The Rural Alberta Advantage, UUVVWWZ tonight… – July 15, 2009 – twitter icon

Little Brazil's Greg Edds said that when the production company showed up at the West Omaha house for the video shoot last Saturday morning, it garnered plenty of attention from the neighbor, followed by cops, who merely did drive-bys. "There were 15 dudes standing in the front yard at 6 a.m. with giant equipment," Edds said. "We stuck out like a sore thumb. Everyone had to think that a porno was being shot."

Column 230: Seeing Red
Little Brazil and the art of the video.

Upon arriving at The Sydney at around 11 a.m. last Sunday -- the time the "shoot" was scheduled for the Little Brazil music video -- only a handful of people were mulling around in the bar. Near the entrance, four guys in jeans and t-shirts were stringing lighting equipment above the curtained-off front windows. Scratch that -- only one guy on a ladder was actually doing something while the other three "grips" watched and gave advice.

Track had been constructed along the floor in front of the bar -- two shiny chrome rails like long strippers' poles lay side by side. A large push car sat on one end with the camera rig waiting to go. This was no ordinary camera; it was a Red One -- a state-of-the-art digital cinematography camera capable of shooting up to 4,096 by 2,304 pixels -- huge by industry standards, or so I was told. Little Brazil was going all out, diving head-first into the artistic realm of music videos. And it wasn't cheap.

Video director Bill Sitzmann, a still photographer known for his quirky, artistic style of shooting rock bands (including many featured in this newspaper) hustled me down to the Sydney's dusty basement for a demo of the Red One in action. On a Powerbook connected to two portable hard drives, Sitzmann played video from the previous day's 16-hour shoot at a West Omaha home. Recorded at 100 frames per second, the effect was surreal -- intricately detailed images of children playing in a back yard, frozen in the air on a swing set, every nuance, every speck of detail captured crystal clear, near 3D, ghostly, like CinemaScope at a wide-screen ratio of 21 x 9. This wasn't a video, this was a motion picture; this was art.

To Little Brazil guitarist Greg Edds, it was the art that made it all make sense. Because it wasn't the band's label -- Anodyne Records -- or their publicist picking up the multi-thousand dollar tab for the shoot; it was the band along with Edds himself.

"This is our first major production of a video," Edds explained. "We've done things in the past with HD cameras and crews, but I wanted to take a step forward. We were raised in the MTV generation. I remember the videos more than the songs themselves. I can't remember Peter Gabriel's 'Sledgehammer,' but I remember its crazy video."

Now with YouTube and Hulu, millions of music videos are viewed every day. "You can do a lot with flip cameras and camera phones, but there's a quality issue," Edds said. "From an art perspective, that's where the Red One came to mind."

It was Sitzmann who told him about Red One. Edds saw some examples, including two recent feature films by Steven Soderbergh shot with the camera as well Maria Taylor's video for "Time Lapse Lifeline," shot by Alan Tanner.

"I knew (the camera) would give the whole idea for the video new meaning," Edds said. "The rest of the guys (in the band) jumped on board. It's a big financial gamble. We're not going to make money from it; it's just another creative aspect of the music that will make the song hit home."

The song is "Separated," from Little Brazil's recently released record, Son, a concept album that tracks the lifeline of a family from a couple's first date to its suicidal demise and beyond. "Separated," comes toward the end, after the couple splits. The husband (played by Workers Deli sandwich chef Francis Rowe) struggles with losing his wife (played by Son Ambulance vocalist Jenna Morrison) and seeing his children bond with her new boyfriend. He daydreams about getting back together with her.

The sequence being shot at The Sydney is part of that daydream -- the couple's glorious hand-in-hand entrance into a party greeted in a cloud of confetti thrown by all their friends. Unfortunately, this Sunday morning Little Brazil's friends hadn't shown up. Frantic calls for "extras" were sent via text and Twitter and Facebook. It wasn't until 2:30 that Sitzmann yelled "Ready!" while standing atop the bar, telling everyone to go crazy when Francis and Jenna enter the front door. Queue the song, and then… action. In rushed the talent, pushing through the crowd's smiling, screaming faces -- the same faces you'll see on a typical night at O'Leaver's or The Sydney or The Waiting Room -- while the Red One and its operator floated beside them down the chrome rails.

The shot was done again and again and again. Extras ran out of confetti. Little Brazil bassist Dan Maxwell found a new use for The Reader, tearing its pages to tiny bits. By 3 o'clock, Sitzmann yelled "Moving on," and the crowd cheered. But that wasn't the end of the shoot. Everyone stayed for three more hours for shots of the couple dancing while the band played on The Sydney's stage.

Now Sitzmann along with editor Jon Tvrdik will cut the video, with Edds looking over their shoulders. Post production could take two to three weeks. With the band scheduled to tour in the beginning of August, they hope to have a screening scheduled when they get back two weeks later. After that, copies of the video will be sent to their label and publicist, who will filter it to different networks and online outlets, with hopes of it "going viral."

As for Edds, he's already thinking of the next shoot. "It was a fun experiment," he said. "It's exciting and really addicting. Now I want to do it again." But next time, he said, it'll be 48 minutes instead of 48 hours, and lot less expensive.

* * *

It's a duo CD re-release party tonight at Slowdown Jr. The Rural Alberta Advantage, who I wrote about in the last issue of The Reader (read it here) is celebrating the re-release by Saddle Creek Records of Hometown; while UUVVWWZ is celebrating the re-release -- also by Saddle Creek -- of its self-titled debut album. On top of that, Dave Dondero is in town and opening this show. Except a very crowded front room (maybe even a sell out?). $8, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, another chance to catch Brad Hoshaw (third show in less than seven days?) along with Anniversaire when they open for Chicago's Cameron McGill & What Army at The Waiting Room. $7, 9 p.m.

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Speed!-ing along at 33 rpm; Wholesome tonight… – July 14, 2009 – twitter icon

As I type this I'm listening to the new EP on Speed! Nebraska Records called Speed! Soapbox Riot, a six-song compilation by six different Speed! bands, all built around a theme that involves cars and racing and... speed! Featured artists are Wagon Blasters, Filter Kings, The Mezcal Brothers, Domestica, The Third Men and Ideal Cleaners. All the tracks except for the Filter Kings' song were recorded at Fuse Recording Studios in Lincoln by Charlie Johnson (FK's "Steal Your Car" was recorded by Tim Cich at Baseline). Think of these as sort of modern takes on Commander Cody's "Hot Rod Lincoln." Except of course for The Third Men's cover of Deep Purple's "Space Truckin'," which screams.

The record is a celebration of the First Annual Speed! & O'Leaver's Soapbox Derby, which goes down this Saturday at 11 a.m. at Seymour Smith Park. I suspect that it'll be a bloody extravaganza -- here's hoping they have an ambulance on stand-by. All proceeds from the race benefit the Special Olympics, so I guess that makes everybody (that survives) a winner. That very evening there will be a checkered-flag celebration at O'Leaver's featuring many of the bands on the 10-inch. Incidentally, the record (that's right, it's vinyl) is available at all your favorite local independent record stores.

* * *

Tonight at O'Leaver's Wholesome (which, according to their Myspace page, consists of members of Rasputin, Hedge, Bloodcow, Head of Woman, The Dinks, and Members of the Press) plays with San Diego's Archons. $5, 9:30 p.m. Also, Minneapolis hip-hop posse Doomtree is at The Waiting Room with GaiDen Gadema. $8, 9 p.m.

* * *

I spent a good chunk of my Sunday at The Sydney watching the Little Brazil video shoot for "Separated." These guys are going all-out for this video, and putting their money where their mouth is. The shoot, the technology and reasoning behind it is the subject of this week's column, which will be online tomorrow.

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Some Saddle Creek news (Orenda, Old Canes)… – July 13, 2009 – twitter icon

Quick weekend recap -- the only music I experienced was last night's Songs for a Cure benefit at The Waiting Room, which drew a pretty good crowd for a Sunday night. Of course the bands that I saw -- Dan McCarthy, It's True and Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies -- were exceptional, as per usual. Bonus for all who attended and will attend The Waiting Room in the future -- the club just got a new high-efficiency cooling system, so you'll never sweat at their shows again.

A couple news items of note:

Saddle Creek sent out a press release last Friday where they announced a couple new releases for the fall. First is a new Orenda Fink album called Ask the Night, slated for Oct. 6. According to her publicist (Cobra Camanda Publicity), "Ask The Night was primarily recorded live to 8-track by Stephen Bartolomei (Mal Madrigal) in Orenda's former Omaha, NE, basement (she is now based in Los Angeles, CA), as well as by Andy LeMaster in his Athens, GA, living room." The album features a number of guest performers, including Bartolomei and LeMaster, Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse, Dan McCarthy and Adrianne Verhoeven (Dri, The Anniversary, Art In Manila).

Orenda is one busy lady. This album comes just a few months after her last album, O+S, was released, and she's also reunited with Maria Taylor for Azure Ray, with the duo apparently working on a new Azure Ray album. Prolific.

Also tucked into the last Saddle Creek press release was an apparent new signing by the label -- Old Canes, who will be releasing their album Feral Harmonic on Saddle Creek Oct. 20. Who is Old Canes? Well, Cobra Camanda, who's also handling their press, hasn't sent out the info yet, but according to their Myspace page, Old Canes "is Chris Crisci (Appleseed Cast), Jordan Geiger (Minus Story), Tyler French, John Anderson (Boy's Life / White Whale), Kelly Hangauer (Save The Whales), and Kelsey Richardson."

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Filter Kings tonight, Songs for a Cure (Hoshaw, It's True, McCarthy) Sunday; WofW 100 is online... – July 10, 2009 – twitter icon

All shows this weekend are local -- no national acts worth mentioning (or that I know of -- chime in if you know something I don't).

Tonight at The Waiting Room the mighty Filter Kings headline a show with Cowboy Dave Trio and JJ Wills Band. Wear your shit-kickers and cowboy hat. $7, 9 p.m.

Tomorrow night Brad Hoshaw opens a singer/songwriter showcase at The Saddle Creek Bar with William Fitzsimmons (He's from Illinois, so there goes the local spin angle) and Jenny Owen Youngs. $5, 9 p.m.

Also Saturday night, The Mercurys play at The Waiting Room with Vago. $7, 9 p.m.

Sunday night, The Waiting Room is hosting Songs for a Cure, a benefit concert for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), that features some of the area's best singer/songwriters. On the showbill are Brad Hoshaw, It's True, McCarthy Trenching and Raven Carousel (Benn Sieff, guitar/vocals; Cass Brostad bass/vocals, and Jerry Kuhn, drums). The totality of your $5 admission will go toward JDRF. Do yourself and the JDRF a favor and check this one out.

* * *

The 100th Episode of Worlds of Wayne went online yesterday at Now all of you who ever wondered what my voice sounds like (or who has doubted that I actually exist) can find out by listening to the podcast. The show features Wayne Brekke and I discussing the history of WofW, his favorite guests and in-studio performances, along with music and other h-jinx. Wayne had so much material to work with that he's split the episode into two parts. Part 1 is available now. Check it out.

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Cover story: The Rural Alberta Advantage; open call for Little Brazil video... – July 9, 2009 – twitter icon

Just placed online, an interview with Nils Edenloff of The Rural Alberta Advantage (read it here). Nils talks about the band's Canadian origins at an open-mic night in Toronto, their quick rise to national notoriety and their relationship with Saddle Creek. It is amazing how quickly they've rocketed to national indie acceptance in such a short time. This tour that brings them to The Slowdown next Wednesday is their first one that's lasted more than a few weeks. In that context, they've got a lot in common with fellow new labelmates UUVVWWZ, who are opening that show. They're also a rare example of living the dream that is SXSW, where Nils said it all came together with Creek. Maybe going to Austin isn't such a waste of time after all? Anyway, read the story here or in this week's issue of The Reader.

* * *

Little Brazil is inviting everyone to The Sydney late Sunday morning to be extras in their next rock video, being shot and directed by Bill Sitzmann, whose photos have appeared numerous times on this here website (as well as countless national magazines). The shoot begins at 11 a.m. and will run until 2. You have to be 21 and wearing "Graduation Party" attire, which I guess means business casual and summer dresses. Sayeth Little Brazil guitarist Greg Edds, "We're gonna be using the mother of all cameras. It's called the RED ONE. Costing us $1,500 a day for this bad boy. It's the same camera that was used to film the new Star Trek, for all the camera nerds out there. Little Brazil is taking a step forward into the costly creative world." No kidding. So stop by. You might not only end up in the video, but also in a column written about the shoot...

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Column 229: Worlds of Wayne 100; The Stay Awake tonight... – July 8, 2009 – twitter icon

Years and years ago, I was asked why I didn't have a podcast. I certainly could -- I'm loaded with Mac equipment, which makes such things easy as pie. My answer was/is that I barely have time to keep my blog updated let alone sit in front of a microphone and read the blog to those too lazy to read it themselves. Sure, I suppose I could do a lot of stuff other than just read what I've written, but it would cut into time I need to write and rewrite, not only Lazy-i but also the music features I try to write on a regular basis (and on top of that, if I depended on recorded interviews, it would double the time necessary to write due to transcription, and I hate transcription). Anyway, I don't need a podcast because Wayne has his. And though we generally don't follow the same music (Wayne's taste runs drastically more mainstream and less indie than mine) our reporting paths do overlap (sometimes). And there's no way I could do it as well as he does.

Find out Friday when Worlds of Wayne episode No. 100 goes online at I'm the special in-studio guest. Tell me how well I did, because I very likely won't listen to the program due to a severe phobia about listening to my own recorded voice -- another reason why I don't do a podcast.

Column 229: Omaha's Podfather
Worlds of Wayne turns 100

And with a click of a mouse, the Worlds of Wayne Show was on the air.

Well, not really "on the air." Worlds of Wayne isn't broadcast in a conventional sense. Actually, Worlds of Wayne isn't broadcast at all. It's a podcast, a digital recording that you listen to on your computer at, or download and take with you on your iPod or whatever kind of portable music device you prefer. When WoW began three years ago, it was kinda/sorta new technology, a way for talented talkers like Wayne to get their message out without having to deal with the bureaucracy and idiocy of mainstream radio.

It was that idiocy that drove Wayne to first plug his microphone into his tower PC, slap on a set of "cans" and begin sharing his worldview -- along with his favorite music -- with an audience wandering in that dark, crowded nether world that we call The Internet.

"Wayne," by the way, is Wayne Brekke, drummer for such famous Omaha pop bands as Five Story Fall, The Get and Anonymous American; graphic artist, freelance writer (whose assignments include work for this very newspaper), husband and father and music-loving man-about-town. As of last Monday evening, Wayne had recorded 99 episodes of Worlds of Wayne. For his 100th, he invited me to sit in on the festivities. How could I say no?

The Worlds of Wayne studio is located in a small room in a small house on the north side of Benson, a spare bedroom turned into an epicenter. Behind a mic, computer and console of knobs and dials was Wayne looking like a stocky beat poet in a stretched-out red tank top and black gym shorts that I just assumed he'd been sleeping in only moments before I arrived. He balanced a rim-filled martini glass as he slid into his black leather office chair, carefully avoiding a hairy pile of flesh with a tail called "Timmy J," an overweight white tabby who later would be evicted from the studio upon suffering a wheezing fit.

And with a click of a mouse, we were "on the air." No. 100 was in progress.

It was a retrospective show not unlike those anniversary episodes of Happy Days or Laverne and Shirley where the characters reminisce about the past as lead-in to clips from previous shows. Wayne talked about his favorite episodes, like the one where he had two paranormal groups in-studio to talk about their ghost-busting exploits and play snippets of EVPs -- Electronic Voice Phenomenon, i.e., ghost recordings. Spooky, if you believe in that sort of thing (and I don't).

There were the in-studio performances by the likes of Chris Trapper (of the Push Stars), Seneca, Sweet Pea, Brad Hoshaw, Skypiper, John Elliott, Orenda Fink and Korey Anderson, among others. Wayne is compiling the best ones into a CD -- Worlds of Wayne - Studio Sessions Vol. 1 -- his version of The John Peel Sessions.

And then there are the interviews, including with such notables as KISS guitarist Ace Frehley, Achy Breaky Heart guy and Miley's father Billy Ray Cyrus and Blues Traveler keyboard player Ben Wilson, who was the first guest on the first show July 26, 2006.

That first episode also featured music by Anonymous American and Sarah Benck as well as Wayne's natterings about whatever entered his mind. "I explained the show and what I wanted to do," he said. "I just wanted to focus on music, art and culture, with commentary and interviews with local and national guests." And that's exactly what Worlds of Wayne became, and is. Brekke originally wanted to do it on the radio, until he got a small taste of the business, just enough to turn his stomach.

"I found out how corporate and restricted it was," he said, adding that he was turned off by "the buffoon-ism of the morning shows, where the DJ's knew less about music than my cat. They were behind the times on everything musicwise. It was like listening to your parents try to make a teenage joke."

Podcasting was his perfect alternative. "I can play whatever I want, say whatever I want. I can swear. I can have it be about anything and just put it out there for people to take with them."

And people have. Brekke said Worlds of Wayne is downloaded about 1,500 times a month, with fans from as far away as Europe and Australia. The rise of new media sites like Twitter and Facebook has only helped his audience grow. "I'm now known more for Worlds of Wayne than any band I've ever been in," he said. It's that notoriety that keeps him doing it. "I'm an attention hog. I like the spotlight, but I don't play in bands much anymore. This is my way of keeping my name out there and staying connected with the music scene."

In other words, Worlds of Wayne isn't a money maker, and never was intended to be, though he does have a few sponsored ads, just enough to pay for his mics and cables and other upgrades. Just enough to keep him going, and that's all he wants to do. Until he reaches No. 200, and beyond.

"Part of me is old school," he said. "There's an intimacy that comes with listening to a radio show even if it's on the Internet. I've captured some pretty amazing things."

And with a click of the mouse, Worlds of Wayne signed off... until No. 101.

* * *

Omaha's favorite noise-punk trio, The Stay Awake, opens a show tonight at The Waiting Room for St. Louis' So Many Dynamos and Lincoln's Tie These Hands. $8, 9 p.m. Also tonight, Chicago mid-fi pop band Netherfriends (on Emergency Umbrella Records) plays with adamroberthauG, Conchance and Capgun Coup's Sam Martin and Sean Pratt. $5, 9 p.m.

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Live Review: It's True emerges; Oberst does Letterman, again… – July 7, 2009 – twitter icon

I've been trying to write this for the past couple of days. I've rewritten it three times. What can I say, I've been busy. Yesterday instead of writing the blog entry, I was writing a feature on The Rural Alberta Advantage, which you'll see right here on Thursday. And this week's column is a celebration of the Worlds of Wayne podcast, where I was the "special in-studio guest" for its 100th episode. That column will be online tomorrow and the podcast will be up at on Friday (if Wayne gets his editing shit together).

Which brings me back to last Saturday night and It's True. I wasn't expecting much of a crowd. It being the Fourth of July and all, I figured most people would be home minding their bandages and burnt fingers and early-evening hangovers. Instead there was a sizable crowd at The Waiting Room -- my guesstimate, around 150 -- there to see Little Brazil but also there for It's True, who rarely plays shows these days (whereas LB seems to play somewhere every other week).

There's been a buzz about Adam Hawkins for the past year that's been simmering just below the surface. He's been the "It band" for singers, songwriters and musicians "in the know" since last summer. Now interest in Hawkins and his music is starting to eke out to the rest of the Omaha music scene. The timing couldn't be better. I've seen a few incarnations of It's True, but the one on stage last Saturday night was the apex -- a solid, huge-sounding ensemble that's pushed its way to the top of the list of Omaha's unsigned bands (and it's quite a list).

The set list included material from It's True's debut that came out on Slo-Fi earlier this year. That album was essentially a Hawkins solo record. Last Saturday's set fleshed out those songs to epic proportions, where they deserve to be. Hawkins had talked about holding off on that first album until he could "do the songs right." He did the right thing by releasing it when he did, but now he needs to rerecord it with this band, and let the games begin. If there's a local band that belongs on Saddle Creek, it's these guys. They fill a niche that resides between the songwriting angst of Tim Kasher and the pastoral elegance of Bright Eyes (who we haven't seen the last of, yet). Kasher has a history of taking local bands out on the road with him. The most recent example is cave pop superstars Box Elders, who are currently tethered to a rocket pointed straight to the upper stratospheres of garage rock stardom, fueled by a tour that lasts through August and ends at Goner Fest in Memphis Sept. 26. As good as Box Elders are, It's True would be an even better opening band for Cursive since its style of music compliments Cursive's more recent outings, which are heavier on songwriting than teeth-gnashing noise.

In honor of the holiday, It's True ended its set with a rendition of the national anthem, an American flag draped over Hawkins' back. It was a lead-in to a cover of Springsteen's "Born in the USA" that was sloppy and diabolical. By mid-song, the flag fell from Hawkins' slumped shoulders where it was kicked around on stage (intentionally or not). Afterward, someone asked me what I thought. "Looks like there's a new sheriff in town," I said. (See photo).

Following that, Little Brazil had its work cut out for them, and they met the challenge with another over-the-top set that featured a clean-shaven Landon Hedges once again looking like the second-coming of Bobby Brady. If there's a band that needs to get out on the road for two months, it's these guys. Let's hope a tour is in the works.

* * *

In case you missed it, Conor Oberst and his crazy hat (along with the Mystic Valley Band) were on The Late show with David Letterman last night singing a rather flat version of "Spoiled" from Outer South. Not his/their best performance, but then again, this isn't one of his/their better songs, either. Check it out on YouTube.

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Live Review: Girl in a Coma; the holiday weekend... – July 3, 2009 – twitter icon

My only concern with Girl in a Coma, the band that played in front of about 50 people last night at The Waiting Room, has to do with their name. If you heard it for the first time, you'd assume this was a Morrissey tribute band instead of a smart, fun, catchy indie rock trio. No matter that on about half of their songs hot frontwoman guitarist/vocalist Nina Diaz sings exactly like Morrissey right down to the odd octave jumps on songs structured from the same boilerplate used for Vauxhall and I. Forget the fact that -- for a time -- they actually opened for Morrissey. Being anchored to such a name could eventually be a hindrance, especially considering that the other half of their music is guttural punk that's too well played to be mistaken for garage rock. They have a well-tooled sheen about them that comes from serious touring and having a mentor in an old-school performer like Joan Jett, whose label (Blackheart) they're signed to. Despite the familiar vocal phrasing, Nina's voice is actually closer to Karen O's and at times could be flat-out gorgeous (although the vocals along with the drums were poorly mixed last night). I listened to their latest, Trio BC, again this morning, and it comes nowhere near the intensity of their live set, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Bringing everything down a notch and balancing the sound reveals some clever, hook-filled songs by a clever band that could be the next Donnas (but with better skills and songs). See iPhoto from last night.

* * *

The July 4 weekend kicks off quietly. Satchel Grande is doing its thing tonight at The Waiting Room with Old Money. $7, 9 p.m. and... that's about all that's worth mentioning. Tomorrow night's hot show is Little Brazil, It's True, Flight Metaphor and David Matysiak of Coyote Bones at The Waiting Room. $4, 9 p.m. While Reagan Roeder's new band, Hubble, is playing at The 49'r with Jake Bellows, Dylan Davis and John Klemmensen and the Party. $5, 9 p.m. The Slowdown is closed Saturday.

Have a happy Indie Day...

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Girl in a Coma, Bear Country tonight... – July 2, 2009 – twitter icon

I wish I had tomorrow off. But I don't. Tomorrow is only the third of July, not the Fourth, so my office will be open for business. That, however, isn't going to stop me from going to one of the many good shows happening tonight.

At the top of my list (and the show I'll likely attend) is Girl in a Coma at The Waiting Room with Miss Derringer. GIAC is signed to Blackheart Records (Joan Jett's label) and plays gritty indie rock that borders on punk. Joan, I'm sure, is proud. $8, 9 p.m.

Just down the street, one of the area's best bands going -- Bear Country -- is playing at The Sydney with Andrew Ancona, Adam Robert Haug and Spring Acres. $5, 9 p.m. You won't be disappointed.

Over at O'Leaver's, low-fi punk rock dynamos Ketchup & Mustard Gas are playing with The Fergusens. $3 (a bargain!), 9:30 p.m.

Pop duo Shiver Shiver joins DJ Brent Crampton at Espana as part of the Loom series. $5, 9 p.m.

Finally, Les Claypool of Primus is doing a show at The Anchor Inn with O'Death (who we saw last November at TWR). I've never been a Primus fan ("Jerry Was a Racecar Driver" is the only song if theirs I ever dug) and am even less of a fan of Claypool. Still, the weather should be good and The Anchor Inn is a terrific place to see a show. $25, 9 p.m.

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Column 228: Tilly, Conor and Michael; UUVVWWZ named Nebraska's best (in Boston); Outlaw Con Bandana tonight... – July 1, 2009 – twitter icon

As mentioned Monday, this week's column is a comment about/review of last Friday night's Anchor Inn show, which was a lot of fun. Last week's Michael Jackson comment was tacked on the end for posterity's sake…

Column 228: Anchors Aweigh
Tilly, Conor and Michael…

When we got to The Anchor Inn last Friday evening, one of the translucent openers that are currently touring with Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band was finishing a set of run-of-the-mill indie rock, followed by another in a series of droning bands fronted by women who sing like Cat Power.

Checking out the sparse crowd, I wondered if the show was going to be a bust. But it was early. Only about 50 people were crowded around the stage, while the rest meandered between the picnic tables carrying Bud Lights and pulled-pork sandwiches or wandered down to the river that acts as a backdrop to the Anchor Inn's massive stage.

Things picked up, though, as the sun dropped and Tilly and the Wall began its set. The open patch of grass between the stage and picnic tables was butt-to-belly packed. Tilly guitarist/vocalist Derek Pressnall announced from stage that the band hadn't played a show since last August, but you wouldn't have known it from listening to them. Tilly sounded tight as a tic, as if they'd just come off a two-month tour.

The band's numbers have ballooned to seven, but it wasn't the only thing about Tilly to "balloon." Making assumptions about a woman being in "the family way" can be dangerous, but Jamie Pressnall made the guesswork easy, thanks to her dress that bore a print of a large smiling fetus, complete with umbilical chord.

Jamie usually is the band's centerpiece, eagerly tap dancing above the rest of the cheer team on top of a microphoned "tap box." But with a baby on board, she instead replicated her tap-shoe rhythms by tapping sticks on a drum rim. She disappeared altogether during the end of crowd favorite "Beat Control," only to return -- dancing -- for the rest of the set. Will Tilly go on hiatus while the new band member arrives?

After a half-hour between bands, Oberst and Co. finally took the stage with Conor wearing a crazy black oversized Amish hat that made him look like the boy Samuel from the film Witness. Where's Harrison Ford when you need him? About halfway through the set I realized I was hearing essentially the same thing I'd heard in April at Slowdown.

Mystic Valley is a natural evolution for Oberst -- a midlife crisis for a guy pushing 30. Lyrically, he seems to be reaching for meaning in the most random, benign things, only managing to be profound in slogan-like spurts rather than sweeping narrative arcs. Sure, the Mystic Valley stuff is probably a lot more fun to play, but it's also a lot less relevant.

Between songs, fans yelled song titles, which Oberst kindly deflected with a smile and a "we don't know that one," responding to the perennial Bright Eyes requests. It got me thinking about the Chris Norris-penned article in the last issue of Rolling Stone that solved a couple mysteries, sort of. The story said the next Bright Eyes album will "close the door" on that band. The comment isn't a surprise, and I believe Oberst actually believes it. He'll probably walk away from his Bright Eyes material... for a few years.

But don't think you've heard the last of "Poison Ivy" or "Bowl of Oranges" or "Lua" or whatever. Oberst will retool those songs with a different band, blurring the line between projects. He is, after all, the guy who wrote those Bright Eyes songs as well as most of the Mystic Valley tunes. He can play whatever he wants with whomever he wants. I can't imagine that he'd place a permanent, self-imposed ban on performing some of his best-written material. Oberst has never been the kind of guy to build impenetrable walls, especially around himself.

Like a lot of articles about Oberst, the RS piece tried to define him as the stereotypically lonely, wandering artist, searching for something in life to anchor to. It's a convenient cliché, and like all clichés and stereotypes, it's true until you stare at it long enough and realize there's an even better truth beneath the surface. In the end, Oberst will disappoint Norris and the rest of them. He'll find a serious girlfriend (if he hasn't already), he'll have kids, he'll enter the next chapter of his life and feel a new comfort in family and friends. He'll get a dog. He'll grow up. He'll quit wandering. And his writing will be better for it.

* * *

Speaking of mortality, I would be remiss to not pass along a bit of news that seems to have escaped the attention of the national media: Michael Jackson died last week.

Even in an indie haunt like The Slowdown last Thursday night, there was an underlying buzz about MJ's passing. 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?

* * *

The Boston Phoenix released its annual Best New Bands in America list, where they declare the best new band from each state. This year's winner from Nebraska is UUVVWWZ. Their reason: "Someone hasn't forgotten that you can royally fuck with melody, hooks, and any semblance of a vocal narrative and still have a buttload of incredible punk-funk jams on your hands." Check out the full list here.

It appears that the staff made the choice amongst themselves (Here's the selection guidelines), though I know that The Reader was among those contacted by the paper's editor, Lance Gould, asking for feedback. Last year's winner, btw, was Tilly and the Wall.

* * *

Outlaw Con Bandana is playing a last-minute show tonight at The Waiting Room with Fancie. $7, 9 p.m.

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