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The Blog Archive -- June 2003 to Dec. 28, 2003

Live Review: Bright Eyes/Simon Joyner at The Rose Theater – Dec. 28, 2003

Let me preface this review with a statement: Conor Oberst is a musician and a songwriter, but not an entertainer. At least he wasn't last night in front of a sold-out crowd at the historic Rose Theater, which, along with The Orpheum, is sort of Omaha's version of Carnegie Hall. Oberst was content to play his songs and get off stage, or so it seemed. He didn't say a word to the crowd other than to complain about the feedback and monitors until the third to last song of his set. Instead he just stood up there and played one song after another, never acknowledging the crowd. The person next to me asked, "Is he always this cold?" to which I replied "He's a musician and songwriter, but not an entertainer."

But before I get to him, the activities that led up to Bright Eyes.

We had driven past The Rose at around 6 p.m. on our way downtown for dinner prior to the show, and a line already had formed outside the theater. When we got there at 7:30 (The show was slated to begin at 8), the line had grown all the way down the street, almost to the corner. Regardless, it only took about 15 or 20 minutes to get through the line and a few moments more to get a beer. It was a happy, almost excited crowd, laughing and drinking in the downstairs and balcony lobbies. Hey, it's the holidays, right? It was kind of like being at a big Christmas party, waiting for Santa to arrive.

I expected the seating situation to be chaos -- all general-admission seating and sold out. Wouldn't there be problems finding room for everyone? I assumed people would be standing in the aisles or in front of the stage. Of course I was wrong. Everyone took their seats in an orderly fashion. I sat behind the back row, in chairs that had been set up along the wall. Right before Simon Joyner came out at around 8:15, I noticed there still seemed to be a few open seats in the main theatre area.

Onto the stage walked Joyner and his thrown-together band, The Wind-Up Birds, consisting of Dave Hawkins (ex-Mariannes) on electric guitar, classically trained Chicagoan Fred Lonberg-Holm on cello, eccentric gnome violinist Lonnie Methe and his sweater, drummer Brad Smith and super-bassist rockstar Mike Tulis (The Monroes, The Sons of…, River City Revue) in satin shirt and cowboy hat.

I've been following Simon Joyner for years and this easily was the best he's ever sounded. I credit The Rose and its acoustics for being able to really hear Simon's voice well for the first time. He's always sort of been a low-fi guy, really the first Omahan to use home recording and the low-fi sound on his records to full effect. So hearing him boom atop the full band was something of a treat and probably a shock to those who have never heard him before.

Joyner's music, while being rooted in traditional coffee-shop folk and Leonard Cohen, has its own unique, nightmarish, carnival fun-room quality. His vocals always seem slightly off-pitch and wobbly, like watching a child ride a bike for the first time, uneasy but determined. Then there are the songs and arrangements themselves, which leave you with a slight sense of a skewed reality. You know the songs should be straight forward ballads, but the bizarre arrangements give everything a three-day-binge hangover texture. While Lonberg-Holm's cello at times provided a clear, strong bottom, more often then not he joined with Methe to create acoustic feedback, purposely distorting their instruments to produce a harsh counter to Joyner's acoustic strumming. Methe, as per usual, spent the entire set seated with his back to the audience, which seemed a strange way to react to stage fright as it pulled even more attention to him.

The setlist was the strongest, most upbeat I've ever heard Joyner perform, with the best tunes from Songs for the New Year (a rocking version of "When Will the Sun Rise Again?"), The Lousy Dance (a driving "When She Drops Her Veil") along with a couple new ones which hopefully will be on his anticipated Jagjaguwar release Lost with the Lights On.

The crowd seemed into it. I stepped out toward the end of the set and saw only a few people having drinks in the main floor lobby (though the balcony lobby was absolutely packed).

After a brief staging change, on came Bright Eyes, starting the set with an acoustic number alongside perennial sideman Mike Mogis on mandolin, and guitarist Nick Zinner, who looked like a young Edward Scissorhands. Dressed head-to-toe in black, with white complexion and dyed-black Robert Smith hair, Zinner could have stepped right off the set of an early Tim Burton film (The Nightmare Before Christmas comes to mind). Striking and odd, he provided the perfect counter to Oberst, who's had his own peculiarities on stage throughout his career. Alongside the flamboyant Zinner, Oberst looked like a regular (albeit grown-up) guy in his black jeans and western shirt.

After the first tune, the rest of this version of Bright Eyes joined the trio on stage: Nick White (Tilly and the Wall) on piano; Casey Scott on bass; Gretta Cohn (Cursive) on cello; Maria Taylor (Azure Ray) on keyboards and backing vocals; Orenda Fink (Azure Ray) on trumpet and last but not least, Clark Baechle (The Faint) on drums. I say that because Baechle's driving, upbeat style held the entire operation together and changed the very sound of songs. When I've seen Bright Eyes in the past, the band generally looked toward Mogis for leadership since no one seems to know what Oberst will do next. But so forceful and in command was Baechle, that the band leaned on him for their cues.

And what a band it was. In addition to Baechle, the highlights came from Cohn, whose Cello provided beautiful, broad swoops beneath the jangling surface, and the always dead-on Mogis, who switched between songs from mandolin to pedalsteel to banjo. The band performed the best songs from the last couple records and a few promising new ones, including a solo acoustic number that included some lyrical snapshots of Oberst's life in NYC that was the highpoint of the evening.

Despite that, however, this was not one of Bright Eyes' best performances. Oberst appeared nervous and alone on stage, never looking at the audience let alone talking or singing to it. He seemed determined to get through the set list as quickly as possible, as if he had somewhere else to be that night. Strangely, it took to the very end of the set for him to even acknowledge the crowd, and when he did, there was little for him to say. Most of his comments came during the encore, when Oberst thanked 1 Percent Productions and The Rose for doing the show, and when he gave his usual anti-war let's-vote-Bush-out-of-office spiel. Everything else out of his mouth was centered on the sound problems the band faced on stage. At one time Oberst walked around between songs with his hands out as if vibrating in feedback.

Maybe the strangest acknowledgment came at the end of the set and encore: When Oberst finished his songs he took off his guitar and gently laid it on stage. It was a reminder of sorts to last summer's Bright Eyes show at Sokol Auditorium, when he finished the set by smashing his guitar on stage in a fit of rage and frustration. There was no such theatrics this time.

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The Year in Review – Dec. 25, 2003

Well, I hope y'all got what you wanted for Christmas.

Anyway... I just posted the 2003 Year in Music article, complete with top-10 list, top local shows, and my perspective on the Omaha scene over the past year. Take a look. 2003 was a banner year for Lazy-i, as we watched our traffic numbers double for some reason, probably because of the launch of this-here blog space. The continued rise in popularity of Creek artists is another good reason for the traffic surge, as Lazy-i continues to be the ultimate source for Creek-related news (as well as news on Omaha's indie music scene). Thanks for reading, and keep coming back. Next up is the annual "predictions" article (which I skipped last year because of publication dilemmas), the CD review roundup, and the launch of our annual Year in Review comp CD giveaway.

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Ah, the holidays... – Dec. 22, 2003

It's that time of year
When the world falls in love
Every song you hear
Seems to say...

What a pain in the ass. I spent the weekend trying to get shopping done. I'm about half-way there. As a result, I didn't get the year-end review story posted. I'll do it tonight. I've also been busy burning the annual "best of" CD compilation. I'll be giving away a copy or two again this year. Watch Lazy-i for details.

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Live review: Fizzle Like a Flood, Little Brazil, Poison Control Center – Dec. 19, 2003

Shades of Athens, Georgia, circa 1990? For some reason I left The Ranch Bowl last night thinking about The Squalls, Love Tractor, Time Toy, bands that brought it heavy but had a loose almost organic flavor to their style.

Little Brazil seemed very loose indeed, and I mean that in a good way. These guys' music has a natural sense of melody, balanced between Landon Hedges' almost adolescent vocals and the second guitarist's laid-back counter melodies a la Pixies in surf mode. I couldn't hear that second guitar quite as well as I'd liked to have, thanks to the poor mix which hampered all the bands' sets (ah, but you could sure hear the drums loud 'n' clear).

I got there in time to hear Fizzle Like a Flood finish the last half of a solo acoustic set that included a few numbers from his soon-to-be-released EP. Doug Kabourek (the Fizzle in the Flood) had been talking about a new approach to his live shows that will include lots of prerecorded samples. He didn't unveil it last night, which means we're going to have to wait for his CD release show (with Criteria) Jan. 30. Doug seemed kinda loopy, and when he wasn't singing about dying kittens he was livening up the stage with his always amusing between-song banter. A natural showman is he.

There was another act on stage between Fizzle and Little Brazil. The electric guitar-and-drums duo apparently was a last-minute fill-in for a band that canceled, and I never caught their name. Considering it was their first gig at a "real venue" they weren't bad, but their almost tractor-punk style (as in Gary Dean Davis bands (The Monroes)) really begged for a bass to fill things out.

I like Little Brazil, enough to say that I think they're one of the best non-Creek indie-rock bands from around here. I have yet to hear any of their recorded stuff, but I dig their live set. Ironically, Hedges' guitar broke about halfway through their best number of the evening. He finished the song, then threw his broken ax down and strapped on another one, which also would wind up being thrown to the stage at the end of the set. Little Brazil's next gig is opening for the Statistics CD release show January 9.

Last was Ames, Iowa's Poison Control Center, an indie band that borders on prog featuring two guitarist, a cello, drums and a bass player who doubles on trumpet (for one song, anyway). While the music was unremarkable, their stage antics are colorful and lively -- kind of like watching a band of kittens. The second guitarist spent most of the set pulling backward somersaults, while the lead vocalist/guitarist repeatedly jumped off the stage and into the crowd. I don't know if they loose as much as just plain sloppy, but always interesting.

What's the deal with The Ranch Bowl? The room just seems to continue to decay. I've discussed the decor before on the blog -- the crappy chain-link fence combined with the crappy orange snow fence, apparently in place to divide the 21+ drinking area from the main floor (no booze beyond the bar). Who knows if they'll ever invest the cash to fix the place up? It's a shame because the venue has the potential to host a real cool, laid-back vibe. They don't need to drop thousands to make it better, just get rid of all that fencing. Why is it the only bar in Omaha that cordons off the youngsters from the drinkers (especially strange when there were only around 40 people there last night)? With a little vision, the Bowl could become Omaha's version of the 40-watt Club with its 5- to 8-band bills that mix touring bands with interesting local support, each playing 20-minute sets. But for it to work they'll have to start booking different bands then their more typical aggra-rap/hardcore staple. Maybe they're trying to define themselves as the next Cog Factory -- something that they'll never succeed at doing. Lord knows its location and staging make it a potential diamond in the rough, which I for one would like to see get polished.

My exhaustive Year in Review article (with my year's top-10 list) will go online this weekend. Check back.

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As the year winds down...; Another Omaha Bright Eyes show – Dec. 16, 2003

The site's focus for the next couple weeks will be on wrapping up 2003, which means plowing through a bunch of reviews, writing a year-in-review and predictions story (which should be online by the end of the week) and putting together the annual "best of' compilation CD, which I'll, once again, be giving away in a contest on the site. For such a down year music-wise, I'm finding plenty of tracks suitable for the comp.


One percent productions announced yesterday "An Evening of Solo and Collaborative Performances with Bright Eyes, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, and M. Ward" Feb. 19 at Witherspoon Hall (in the Joslyn Museum). Jim James is the guy from My Morning Jacket. Reserved seat tickets are $15 and will probably go on sale by the end of the month. This one should sell out as fast as the Dec. 27 Bright Eyes show at The Rose Theater did. I suspect you'll be able to purchase tickets online at

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Live Review: Azure Ray & Crooked Fingers – Dec. 14, 2003

There was a ton of people at the Azure Ray/Crooked Fingers show last night. I didn't get an exact count, but it looked close to a sellout, at least when Azure Ray was playing. I arrived right at the beginning of their set (Dave Dondero was on before that), and the rather large crowd was hushed, almost reverent. Even Roger Lewis, who was working the door, spoke in quiet tones as he stamped my hand. You sort of have to be quiet during an Azure Ray show because their music is so soft, whispery and withdrawn. Backed by the guys from Crooked Fingers (Eric Bachmann on keyboards), the duo stood with guitars and sang one quiet, languid waltz after another. This was the last stop on their tour and they were "glad to be home."

The performance was a spot-on perfect rendition of their recorded work, with little if any variation from the CD renditions. It was nice, as all Azure Ray shows tend to be, but relatively boring. At the beginning, it was so quiet you could hear the smoke-eaters blowing in the ceiling. But about halfway through the set, the crowd began to grow in the back of the room and the chatter level rose. I went to grab another beer and noticed that the couches in the "lounge" in the room next to the main floor -- which had been empty at the beginning of the set -- were now full. The fact that people took their conversation to the other room helped keep the chatter level down in the main room, but there were still plenty of loud conversations going on during their performance.

Strangely, I left wondering what would happen if Azure Ray ever decided to make a straight-out rock record. I doubt that there's much more they can do differently with their quiet-ballad style that they haven't already done. However, their vocals and presence would make for a real interesting (i.e., hot) rock record.

Then up came Crooked Fingers. Eric Bachmann, the band's frontman, looked like a giant standing in the middle of the stage, wearing a white T-shirt over a black long-sleeve and donning a Tomcat hat a la Richard Thompson, who he sort of resembled from the back of the room. Bachmann is tall and big, more like a full-back than a linebacker, with a frame that's the exact opposite of the stereotypical indie rock stickfigure.

Before the set began someone asked me if they were any good. I said, "Sure, if you like Neil Diamond." But the fact is, though Bachmann's voice at times is a spot-on replica of Neil's, the band's music isn't exactly "September Morn" stuff. I think Bachmann has an amazing voice, maybe one of the most distinctive voices in indie today, and one of the strongest. Unfortunately, it's hard to ignore the similarities to Diamond, though about a third of the way into the set, I began to. More so on Bring on the Snakes than his latest, Red Devil Dawn, Bachmann's songs have a way of all sounding the same. They didn't, however, performed from the stage. Bachmann made subtle little changes in the basic compositions, adding dynamics or dropping the band all together during specific passages, giving the songs much more depth and variety then on his CDs. His band included Bachmann alternating between keyboards and guitar (during one song he played a sample and sang the song from the crowd using a bullhorn), as well as guys on pedal steel, drums and upright bass, with Azure Ray helping out on keyboards, trumpet and harmony vocals.

I remember watching, thinking to myself that of all the indie bands that could make a real impact on television, Crooked Fingers could be the most effective. I saw Interpol and Bright Eyes on Letterman and left thinking that only their fans got what they were trying to do, that their songs simply didn't translate to the great unwashed masses and that they were viewed by the general public merely as oddities. But if Crooked Fingers was ever on Letterman, I am dead-sure that the performance would cause a stir because his songs and his voice have that thing that catches people's ears as something that's both unique and inviting. The band has that "who are these guys" attraction that makes people willing to take a chance on buying the CD.

Bachmann closed with a two-song encore in front of a crowd that was half the size of the one that had watched Azure Ray moments earlier. The show goes down as the last good touring indie show of 2003, with only the Bright Eyes/Simon Joyner gig to look forward to. Look for my annual Year in Review recap in the coming weeks.

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Tonight: Azure Ray & Crooked Fingers; Sons of O'Leaver's – Dec. 13, 2003

I expect a near sell-out for tonight's Azure Ray/Crooked Fingers show at Sokol Underground. We'll see. If I'm there, look here tomorrow for a review. Meanwhile, The Sons of .... are playing at O'Leaver's, which means tonight's band will be called The Sons of O'Leaver's, starring Mike Tulis (The Monroes), Mike Loftus (Hong Jyn Corp, Sixty Watt Saloon, Shovelhead) and Mike Rutledge (The Great Dismal, Compost). They'll be called The Sons of The 49'r on Jan. 16. Get it?

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Why the name 'Dudefest; ain't so good; and a correction – Dec. 12, 2003

I don't know if "Dudefest '03" was such a great name for tonight's show at Sokol Underground featuring Carsinogents, Race for Titles, '89 Chicago Cubs, and Carmine. I once almost got beat up by a Mexican guy in Cancun for calling him a dude. It went like this: I was walking through an open-air marketplace where various "merchants" were trying to sell us their wares -- silver jewelry, trinkets, crippy-crap, etc. So this Mexican guy walks up to me and my girlfriend and says "Hey, man, what you give me for this?" He was holding a watch or something. I said "No thanks," but he wouldn't give up. He kept following us through the market saying "Come on, man, offer me something. $20? $15? $10?" Finally, I turned to the guy and said, "No thanks, dude, I'm not interested." The guy freaked out. "I am not a dude," he said like a young Ricardo Montalban. "All right, man, I get it. You are not a dude." We kept walking. "That's right, I am not a dude." The word "dude" must mean something different in Mexican. He ended up following us around for another five minutes.

Anyway, it should be a fun show, as long as some girls show up, too.

I received a couple e-mails telling me that I misidentified Sarah Chang in the blog (below), and that her real name is Sarah Xiong. My apologies to Sarah. I blame SLAM Omaha for the mistake, since that's how they had her listed in their calendar. FYI, if you're looking for more detailed Omaha gig listings, check out either the SLAMOmaha music calendar, or for the best in regional indie shows, the wonderful Someday Never Omaha listing.

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Consafos, Acoustic Fizzle – Dec. 10, 2003

Just placed online, a profile/interview with Consafos (read it here). I interviewed the band when they were headed to Omaha to kick off their brief tour that took them to the West Coast for a few dates opening for Crooked Fingers and Azure Ray. The story traces the band's history, including how singer/songwriter Stephanie Drootin found herself living in the heart of the heartland as a member of Bright Eyes and The Good Life, and how she finally wound up living in Chicago. In researching this story I found virtually no information about Consafos on the Internet. The only origin story, linked off the web site, was taken down a couple days after I discovered it, maybe because I mentioned to Drootin that I read it, prompting her to reply "That story's really old." Who knows, maybe it was a coincidence. Anyway, my story was originally slated to run only in Lazy-i, and was picked up for publication by The Reader, which explains why the timeline is a bit askew. Consafos has already finished the tour and Drootin's back here working on the next Good Life record. Judging by the single-digit temperatures outside, she probably wishes she was back living in L.A.

As my update at around 6 p.m. yesterday noted, the Stella Link show was cancelled due to bad weather. I apologize for anyone who read my blog and ventured out only to find the doors of Sokol Underground locked.

No word on tonight's show at O'Leavers but I have to think it's still on: An acoustic showcase featuring Fizzle Like a Flood and Sarah Chang, who, unless my memory is failing me, was pictured among the "Omaha women of Rock" that was printed along with this story in the Omaha World Herald. They didn't run the same photo with the online version, merely a pic of Azure Ray, who wasn't interviewed for the piece. But then again, neither was Chang. $3, 9:30, 1322 South Saddle Creek Road.

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Saddle Creek release sched; Stella Link and snow, WoodEe award – Dec. 9, 2003

For the 10 or so readers who are not on the Saddle Creek mailing list, here's the Creek release schedule for 2004:

Azure Ray - New Resolution CD Single (January 20th, 2004)
Now It's Overhead - Fall Back Open CD (March 9th, 2004)
Broken Spindles - full-length due out in May 2004
Desaparecidos - EP or full-length due out in May 2004
Rilo Kiley - full-length due out in April 2004
The Good Life - EP due out in May, full length due out in August 2004
The Faint - full-length due out late August/early September 2004
Son, Ambulance - full-length planned for second half of 2004
Cursive - b-sides collection tentatively planned for Fall 2004
Bright Eyes - single/ep in Fall 2004 - next full-length early 2005

The label originally sent me a list without the Son, Ambulance or Bright Eyes dates. It's good to see that we'll be getting something from both of them this year. If last year was a slow one for Creek (and who says it was), this year is a knuckle-buster, some might say a make or break year, though I have a feeling Creek will be around for as long as the bands stay put and look away from big-time label offers. The only new act listed is Broken Spindles -- a "signing" we reported here a number of months ago. I think The Broken Spindles recording is already completed (Joel somehow got out of his deal with TigerStyle), as is Son, Ambulance (part of which was recorded months ago). The Desa is working on their CD now, as is The Good Life (according to Stephanie Drootin). I'll pass on more info as I get it about these releases.

Who's missing from the 2004 list? Sorry About Dresden and Mayday.

Tonight's show at Sokol Underground is Stella Link with Coast of Nebraska. Update: The show's been cancelled! Scroll down to the Nov. 17 entry for a review of Coast of Nebraska's last gig. Stella link is a four-piece that includes members of Season to Risk and Dirtnap. Opener is Call In Call Out, who I've never heard of. $7, 9 p.m. I want to go, but probably won't venture out if this snow keeps up.

Check out the December WoodEe Award winner. More to come, as we get the WoodEes back on schedule.

And I'll be putting the Consafos story online tonight (finally). Drive carefully.

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Bill Hoover tonight at The darkRoom; Up Up Down Down, Burgess Shale; where's that Consafos thing?– Dec. 5, 2003

I wrote a relatively long backgrounder in The Reader on tonight's Bill Hoover / The Bruces / Ted Stevens show at darkRoom Gallery (616 South 11th St., 8 p.m., $5), which basically was a composite of three stories (linked above). The only unique copy: The show marks the 10-year anniversary of the release of Hoover's first solo recording, a tape called Baby, Don't Be Messing with Those Arabs in my Head. And this point which I didn't include: Along with Simon Joyner, Bill Hoover is among the biggest influences of the current roster of Saddle Creek songwriters, including the Oberst/Kasher/Baechle trio. He is beloved in here in Omaha, and with good reason. Get there early, the place is pretty small (seems like I'm always warning y'all about these tiny venues).

Two new CD reviews: Up Up Down Down (it's a long name) and Burgess Shale (the intern again). Someone get Up Up Down Down booked in Omaha, preferrably with Criteria.

And where's that Consafos article I promised you earlier this week? Well, The Reader has decided to run it, so I'm doing revisions. You'll see it here in the next day or so. Sorry about the false advertising.

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Concerning tiny bars that are becoming music venues... – Dec. 2, 2003

Well, as you can probably guess, I didn't go to that Snakehandlers' show at O'Leaver's Saturday night. I drove by the venue around 11 and noticed people in line waiting to get in. I figured if there was a line to get in, I can only image the crush scene inside the place. No thanks. O'Leaver's is among a number of small-sized venues (which were never designed for live music) that are now hosting shows, and while I think it's great for the local music scene, it doesn't necessarily mean that those venues are conducive to an enjoyable listening experience for the audience. Bands, on the other hand, love it. I've talked to musicians who will only play tiny places like O'Leaver's, O'Shea's, Ted & Wally's, etc., saying that the "room vibe is amazing." Of course it's amazing -- for the band! The band doesn't have to deal with trying to find a place to stand, or struggle to get a beer. It's one of the reasons why I haven't seen The Monroes for such a long time -- they generally only play at The 49'r -- a great neighborhood venue. Unfortunately, The Monroes draws more fans than The 49'r can comfortably serve. The 49'r is packed on Friday and Saturday nights without a band. Add a band and the place is intolerable unless you get there at around 8:30 and get a table. Look, there really isn't a point to this rant. Like I said, more venues -- tiny or not -- are a good thing for local music. They're just a bitch for us lazy, cranky types who don't like to wait in lines and be forced to stand along the back wall and try to see what's happening over a room full of bobbing heads.


Look for a site update tomorrow morning (I'm told by my service provider that there is a scheduled server outage tonight at around 10 p.m., so the site will be down for a brief time). The update will (hopefully) include a fresh new interview with Consafos, as well as some new CD reviews.

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Preston Love retrospective; Snakehandlers, Neutrols at O'Leaver's – Nov. 29, 2003

Just placed online is an interview with Omaha jazz legend Preston Love and drummer/producer Gary Foster that focuses on the new Preston Love retrospective CD (read it here). The story was printed in The Reader in October in support of the Omaha Press Club's "face on the floor" ceremony; but the CD I believe just became available. Lot of people 'round these parts don't know who Preston Love is, though he's performed with some of the greatest names in popular music, not the least of which include Frank Zappa, Sonny and Cher, Janis Joplin, Buddy Miles, Smokey Robinson, Diana Ross and The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, Aretha Franklin, the list goes on and on, all the way to Love's role in Count Basie's Orchestra. But beyond that is Love's contribution to the development of '60s funk, including work with Johnny and Shuggie Otis (he's the guy that wrote "Strawberry Letter 23"). A number of those funk tracks are included on the new retrospective, and they're absolute head-turners-- no cheese here -- this is pure, teeth-rattlin' funk that sounds like it came right out of the soundtrack of a blaxploitation film. It's unbelievable to me that Preston Love is so unknown or so forgotten around Omaha. He is a true living legend. If this piqued your interest, there's also a 2000 Lazy-i interview with Love that discusses his entire career and includes his rather controversial comments about today's "blues" and "jazz" music.

I'm spending the day writing CD reviews when I'm not shopping. Look for updates over the next couple of days.

Tonight's red-hot show of choice is The Neutrols and The Snakehandlers at O'Leaver's, 1322 S. Saddle Creek. The Reader just did a feature on the venue and I'm dying to check it out myself, along with these two bands. The Snakehandlers fancy themselves a punk-n-roll outfit, while The Neutrols is pop with guitars and organs. If I go, you'll read about here tomorrow.

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Live Review: Consafos, 1989 Chicago Cubs at Sullivan's – Nov. 27, 2003

I was pleasantly surprised at Sullivan's at 39th and Farnam. I've never been there before and had heard the place was small, cramped and the absolute wrong place to see a band. That description couldn't be more off. Sullivan's has a classic long-bar layout. As you enter, there's a bar to your left that runs about a third of the length of the place, with a few tables along the opposite side. Where the bar ends the space opens. The band's play back in this area, which isn't really a stage as much as a clearing, with a few tables directly across. The bathrooms are all the way in the back, which means you have to cross the band to get to them. It's not huge, but it's decent size, and for some reason it reminded me of the old Howard St. Tavern -- it has that same clean, cool vibe.

I expected a crush scene and in fact it did get a bit crowded during the 1989 Chicago Cubs' set. It was definitely old-school night at the bar, with lots of mid-town band members in attendance. "Midtown" is a term I use to describe the Creek scene plus the quality bands that live or hang out around Dundee or the Gold Coast (a broad area on either side of Dodge St. between 30th and Saddle Creek, which, in my screwed-up logic includes such Omaha landmarks as The Blackstone, UNMC, Brother's, Sullivan's, etc.). Everyone was blowing off steam knowing they had a day off to look forward to. So, yeah, it was crowded, but nothing like the SRO shows at The 49'r where you have to struggle to find a place to stand up, let alone struggle to talk to the person next to you or even get a beer. There was plenty of space in Sullivan's, and the bar service was terrific -- on par with The Brothers. I have no doubt that people were circulating between the two bars throughout the evening (Brother's is just up the street).

Anyway, onto the show. I didn't realize that there were three bands scheduled. The first was a singer/songwriter acoustic guy named Steve Bartolomei. It was typical acoustic fair, nicely sung, sort of lost in the crowd. He was followed by the 1989 Chicago Cubs, sounding nothing like the band I had heard a few months ago at Sokol Underground. It's almost as if they wrote an entirely different set of music which was much more experimental while at the same time more melodic. The problem with Sullivan's is that the sound system is less than optimum (to say the least). All the performances sounded tinty and bright, slightly overblown, probably because the bands were essentially playing directly into a wall across from them -- instead of having the bands in the back of the long bar facing front, they were situated along the one of the two side walls, facing the opposite wall, which would work fine for an acoustic set, but not for an electric rock band like The Cubs. That's where The 49'r has an advantage from a live-performance standpoint. I was seated by the front door, about as far away from the band as you could get, which obviously wasn't the best vantage point. But for me to have gone up and watched them closer would have meant blocking someone else's view (and I'm very, uh, blocky).

Finally, up came Consafos, a four-piece from Chicago (Incidentally, I interviewed lead singer Stafanie Drootin yesterday, so expect a full interview/profile this weekend or early next week). Included in their line-up is guitars / mandolin, stand-up bass, and drums in what was essentially an acoustic set with touches of other sounds. I like Drootin's voice (especially on the recordings I've heard), and the band was very tight, both musically and considering in the small "stage" they had to play. They handled the challenging acoustics quite well, helped in part by the fact that a large portion of the crowd had left after the Cubs' set. This opened up the space around front of the band and cut down on crowd noise. It turned into a rather casual, intimate set that was a perfect launch to a holiday weekend.

I liked Sullivan's a lot -- both its classic tavern layout and its flexibility for live performances -- though I think the place is better suited for acoustic shows than electric rock. It's becoming another important character in the unique a Omaha music scene that seems to be built around comfortable familiarity.

Look for more updates over the holiday and weekend -- mostly CD reviews. Gobble gobble.

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Consafos is TONIGHT; Sun Kil Moon, Stone 500 – Nov. 26, 2003

I got an e-mail from Stefanie from Consafos yesterday afternoon saying that there were too many problems with the Friday date and that their show with the 1989 Chicago Cubs is actually tonight at Sullivan's. I'm trying to wrangle an interview with her, keep your fingers crosssed. If I go tonight, I'll report about it tomorrow morning. Regardless of the date change, this will still be a crush scene.

Other assorted news:
-- Here's a story from Alternative Weekly about Sun Kil Moon, the new band by Red House Painters' frontman Mark Kozelek. Last week's issue of Rolling Stone also has a brief mention of the band. There's also a few tour dates listed (the closest to Omaha is Schubas in Chicago).
-- The backlash to the Rolling Stone "Top 500 albums of all time" already has begun. The following was received and posted on the Web board. It looks legit. Reply at your own risk. I probably will.
-- Lazy-i will be updated over the holidays. The time off gives me a chance to write CD reviews and other features. Look for the Preston Love story hopefully tonight.

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As we veer toward the holidays...; Consafos – Nov. 25, 2003

Yet another week without an assignment from The Reader. As a result, I'll be posting my Preston Love feature on his new retrospective CD tonight (check back), it's the one that was printed about four weeks ago. There's no assignment because there's not a lot of shows going on this holiday week, and looking into the future, there ain't many 1 Percent indie shows through January. You have Will Whitmore next Monday at the 49'r, Stella Link (ex Season to Risk and Dirtnap) Dec. 9, Dudefest Dec. 12 and the sold-out Bright Eyes / Simon Joyner show Dec. 27. That's it. The 1 Percent guys are taking a well-deserved break after booking nearly 100 shows this year. Regardless, there will still be plenty of new content at good ol' Lazy-i, including the annual year in review article, predictions for 2004 and more interviews. Not to mention CD reviews -- I've got a buttload to get through.

Probably the hottest show going this week is Consafos / The 1989 Chicago Cubs at Sullivan's Friday Wednesday night (this has been moved up two days). Consafos is a four piece from Los Angeles and Omaha that includes members of such bands as Topeka, Ritual of Defiance and Glasscraft. Saddle Creek Records followers will recognize guitarist Stefanie Drootin, who also plays bass for The Good Life. The band's debut full-length, Such Is the Way of Things, was due out this month. This show was originally scheduled for Sokol Underground, but was shuffled to Sullivan's because the bands were apparently concerned that they would be playing for an empty room. I think they forgot that the show is the day after Thanksgiving and that there are literally no other shows that night. Now that it's at Sullivan's, which has a capacity of about 15, they are assured to play for a Standing Room Only crowd. It'll be a great show... if you can get in the door. The Sullivan's show is the first gig in a Consafos tour that takes the band to Denver, Las Vegas, L.A., Pomona and San Francisco, where they'll play with, among others, Crooked Fingers. Go to the Greyday website and hear one of the band's songs on MP3. I've got a request out to the band for an interview, but I'm not holding my breath...

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Live Review: Ted Leo & The Pharmacists; GBV, Consonant – Nov. 23, 2003

Ted Leo was nothing less than amazing last night at Sokol Underground. Playing as a trio was Leo on guitar and vocals, and the Pharmacists, consisting of a guy who looked like Booger from Revenge of the Nerds (but with a poodle haircut), and the remarkable Gavin McCarthy from Karate on drums -- strong.

The 70 or so on hand stood close to the stage and got to see Leo rip out about an hour's worth of high-energy, fun-loving indie-pop, playing songs from Hearts of Oak and Tyranny of Distance along with some older numbers. Ted Leo's music has always reminded me of the brighter side of college rock, along the lines of Elvis Costello or Tommy Keene, even '70s rockers Thin Lizzy. It's upbeat, energetic, actually just right for radio, but it'll never get there because it's too smart and unique for radio programmers to give it a try.

How would I describe him: Leo sort of looks like an American version of Tim Roth (specifically the version that played Pumpkin/Ringo in Pulp Fiction), very energetic and funny on stage. He did a lot of between-song patter that was quick, clever and witty, punctuating comments with guitar chops. His guitar playing is simple but fast and can become rather ornate later in songs when he allows himself to stretch out on solos. While he's cranking away, he leans forward and puts everything in his vocals. Meanwhile, behind him, McCarthy brutally drives it all forward with skill and precision -- a marvelous drummer. The bass player, on the other hand, hardly moved while he was playing.

After about 45 minutes, they played their last song and the lights and house music came up. But Leo wasn't through yet. He returned to the stage and said "Usually when they turn the lights up that means no more music." For the encore, he played one song by himself, then invited the Pharmacists back for two more. It'll go down as one of the top five best live performances I saw this year.

Two more CD reviews just posted -- Guided by Voices "Best of" collection and the new one by Consonant (former Mission of Burma). They're linked off the Reviews page. I'll be writing more today, grinding through the stack as 2003 begins to draw to a close.

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Live Review: The Rapture; Ted Leo at Sokol; The Diplomats at The 49'r – Nov. 22, 2003

And only The Rapture. I didn't get to Sokol Underground until 11:10. The Rapture came on at 11:15, which means I missed the three opening bands. The show apparently started promptly at 9, and one of the bands (I assume it was Underwater Birth) played in the room adjacent to the main floor of Sokol Underground -- a first, and probably a last considering they blew a fuse at the end of their set. By the time I arrived the show was officially "sold out." I'm told by someone who was there earlier that the crowd seemed bigger for The Locust, but regardless, it was pretty packed.

There's not much to say about The Rapture's performance. They were okay. Nothing terribly special. They played a variety of songs off both their Sub Pop EP and the new one. The band is really a 3-piece with our man Gabe Andruzzi switching between saxophone and various percussion instruments. For example, he played cowbell for "House of Jealous Lovers," one of the three songs played as an encore (The last song was the infamous Gary Glitter Jock Rock anthem "Rock & Roll, Pt. 2." -- lots of pumping fists in the air for that one).

The crowd seemed rather passive. They sort of got into it for the dance numbers, but it was hardly a dance manifesto. Andruzzi was right when he said in his interview that the band has it tough because they intersperse a few low-energy ballads in the middle a set that's equal parts no-wave punk and dance fodder. The ballads brought the room down, and it seemed like they struggled to get it back up. When they rolled out the electronics on the dance anthems, they sounded like a poor man's version of The Faint. The band played for an hour and left, making it an early evening.

Interesting side note: A number of the local band folk showed up in suits and sportcoats, apparently having just come from the wedding of Beep Beep's Chris Hughes. Rapture lead singer Luke Jenner awkwardly asked from the stage who got married, but never got an answer.

Tonight's Sokol show is Ted Leo / Pharmacists with El Guapo and The Close. The promoters aren't expecting a large turnout. I think they're in for a pleasant surprise. I know more people who said they were planning to go to Ted Leo than The Rapture. Attendance, however, may be hampered if we get a snowstorm.

The other big show of the evening is The Diplomats of Solid Sound, with The Monroes and Carmine at the 49'r. The Diplomats are unabashed Booker T and the MGs, James Brown and Meters fans, and their music reflects it. Bluesy, jazzy, funky, with plenty of surfy licks, the Iowa City 4-piece anchors its sound around Nate "Count" Basinger's Hammond and guitarist Doug Roberson's spy electric shuffle. The band just released a new full-length on Estrus Records called Let's Cool One! that continues in that tradition. According to their one-sheet, several tracks off the CD are featured on MTV's "Real World" -- now there's a selling point. I don't think I've seen an episode of Real World since Puck was in the cast. Expect another crush scene at The Niner. The Monroes can fill the place up on their own, and Carmine has also begun to pull together a following for their brand of SST-style punk.

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Tonight: The Rapture; Fiel Garvie, Young People – Nov. 21, 2003

Not much to say, other than mention tonight's Rapture show at Sokol Underground. I plan on being there, so look for a review tomorrow morning. With Ted Leo on Saturday, this looks to be a looong weekend. There's other stuff going on, and I'll tell you about it when I have a bit more time. For now, read a couple new reviews. The intern turns his nose on Young People, while I turn my nose on the intern's opinion. Also a review of the new one by Fiel Garvie. Look for reviews of the GBV Best of, Consonant, The Holy Ghost and more in the next day or so, as the avalanche begins. Just in time for Christmas.

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The Rapture, Miracle of 86 – Nov. 19, 2003

Just placed online, an interview with The Rapture (read it here). The guy I interviewed, Gabe Andruzzi, didn't really see a difference between what they were doing a couple years ago and what they're doing now, which I found puzzling. This show, which is Friday at Sokol Underground, should be pretty huge. Opening is crazy noise band The Locust. In fact, there's four bands on the bill, which means it'll probably start on time for a change.

The intern has provided yet another review -- Miracle of 86 (read it here). He's starting to earn his credit, but the semester is far from over. Expect a bounty of reviews in the coming days.

That's all for now. If I go to that Statistics/Little Brazil gig at the Niner, I'll post a review of it tomorrow. My attendance, however, seems unlikely if only because I don't like the crush of human bodies at The Niner. And I have to get early on Thursday. But you never know.

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Statistics, Little Brazil tomorrow night... – Nov. 18, 2003

Thought I'd spend a few moments pimping tomorrow night's show at The 49'r featuring Statistics and Little Brazil. This show was originally scheduled for Friday night, but then word got to me that it was canceled (I'm told because they didn't want to compete with The Rapture show at Sokol Underground). In fact, it was rescheduled for Wednesday, which screwed me on covering it here and in The Reader. I plan on doing features on both bands in the near future. Regardless, I've already received a copy of the upcoming Statistics full-length, Leave Your Name, and can report that it, indeed, rocks. I'll have a full review here in the coming days. There is no release date on the one-sheet provided by Jade Tree, but I think I remember Denver Dalley (Mr. Statistics) telling me it doesn't come out until early 2004 (All Music Guide says Jan. 20). Curiously, it contains the same version of "Hours Seems Like Days" from the Statistics EP released last June. Also according to the one-sheet, "For touring, Dalley has a group featuring members of Omaha groups The 1989 Chicago Cubs and The Good Life." Hmmm. Ryan Fox, perhaps?

Little Brazil, an indie rock project that features Landon Hedges, is one of the best live bands now going 'round these parts. I'm told they also have some sort of CD coming out soon, but I haven't heard it. I suspect that this will be an uncomfortably packed show, and that if you show up late, you're likely to be stuck standing in the back of The 49'r without a beer. Not good.

Check back tonight for an interview with The Rapture as well as a new CD review or two.

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Live Review: The Appleseed Cast, the Belles, Coast of Nebraska – Nov. 17, 2003

A long night of music, and a decent crowd for a Sunday show at Sokol Underground, probably around 75 (but I'm guessing).

First up was The Coast of Nebraska, a trio of local boys that includes Jeremy Stanosheck, formerly of Magic Kiss (a tap-dance band that was the precursor to Tilly and the Wall). I didn't recognize the guitarist/vocalist and bassist. A fairly new band, they sounded pretty tight, and Stanosheck's drumming has improved since the old MK days. The person I hung out with most of the evening said they reminded him of a 1996-era Cog Factory band. To me, they epitomized what emo used to sound like -- melodic punk with slightly angular Cursive-style overtones. Not bad at all, though the vocal melodies sounded like they were written as an afterthought, as if the band had finished putting together the basic song structure and then told the vocalist to sing something over the top.

The Belles is another Lawrence band (where also hails Appleseed Cast) with a sweet, south-by-way-of-El Lay approach. Performing as a four-piece that sounded like a three-piece (I could barely hear the guy on electric guitar), their set mostly showcased the acoustic guitar-playing lead singer, Chris Tolle, who sounded like the spitting image of Don Henley, which was appropriate considering their songs had that same peaceful, easy feeling as early Eagles. Pleasant, though not terribly memorable.

Finally, The Appleseed Cast, playing what they said was the 26th show in 30 days, and the last of this tour. Singer Chris Crisci looked like a fully bearded Wayne Coyne wearing a once-fashionable John Deere trucker cap. Their sound was relatively formulaic, to say the least. Playing straight, mid-tempo 4/4, the mostly instrumental stuff consisted of three or four minor chords: One chord played for two measures (8 beats), then the next chord for 8 beats, then the next chord for 8 beats, then back to the first chord for 8 beats. Repeat that cycle for what seems like eight or nine minutes and you've got their basic song structure down pat. On about half the songs, Crisci sang a "melody" that complimented the chord changes. The immense delay (they were pleasantly loud) and chiming guitar tone reminded me of Disintegration-era Cure. I've heard other bands do this sort of droning, trancy, repetitious stuff before, but more effectively. Missing from the Appleseed Cast's songs was any sort of dynamics -- they started out at one level and maintained it throughout the entire song; everyone playing all the time, never dropping out to showcase an individual player (The only true standout was drummer Josh Baruth, who seemed to constantly try to come up with clever ways to keep the rhythm section interesting while trapped in these plodding, one-dimensional compositions). The result was an unending wave of shimmering repetition that hardly ever varied, and hence gave the impression that the songs were longer than they really were.

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Amy Blaschke – Nov. 14, 2003

Briefly, there's a review of Amy Blaschke's new self-titled release right here. The intern didn't like it. I did. Go figure. Amy, if you're pissed, you can always march down to the Ranch Bowl tonight and kick Whipkey's ass. He's opening for that sell-out pop star Art Alexakis. Me, I might be at O'Leaver's where Jason Steady is playing tonight, with Fizzle Like a Flood's Doug Kabourek on drums. Or I might not be.

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The Appleseed Cast in a Lazy-i exclusive! – Nov. 13, 2003

This Q&A with The Appleseed Cast's Chris Crisci (read it here) is the first full interview that is a bonafide "Lazy-I exclusive." It's exclusive mainly because the folks at The Reader said they didn't have room for it in this issue (Don't worry, they haven't fired me yet. I did an interview yesterday with The Rapture that will be in next week's issue). I figured that, even though The Reader didn't want it, I might as well put it online. Who knows, it may be the beginning of a lot more exclusive content. Like I've said before -- if I were in a band, I'd much rather have the story run online than in the paper. The Reader is front of the Omaha reading public for a mere week, while Lazy-i stories live forever on the Internet and are read by people from all over the world. Most publicists, however, have yet to embrace the e-zine model, preferring traditional press and alt weeklies.

This story was written in support of the Appleseed Cast's upcoming gig at Sokol Underground -- Nov. 16 with The Belles and The Coast of Nebraska. Sunday nights are tough for rock shows, but this one will be worth it. It's the Cast's last show of this tour and probably their last for 2003.

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Things to look forward to...; Random notes – Nov. 12, 2003

Things like another site update tonight, including an exclusive interview with The Appleseed Cast, some new reviews and other stuff. I had hoped to get the ASC story written last night, but fell asleep instead. The intern has provided another CD review, which means I have to do a few myself or risk failing as a hard-working role-model. Until then, here are a few observations in passing:

-- Driving home from the grocery store last night I noticed a For Sale/Lease sign on The Music Box, which answers a few questions and raises a few more about the Omaha music venue that closed at the end of October. There were -- and are -- a number of rumors about what would happen to the building, which many believe is cursed to failure (Firmatures and Sharkey's are just two examples of previous belly-up operations). There had been talk that Joe Cascio, the landlord, was going to turn around and reopen the place as a night club with DJs and cover bands. There were rumors that another bar owner in town was going to take over the lease and continue The Music Box as a club for original music. And there was the story that the building was slated to be torn down, with a new, entirely different business rising in its wake. But with the appearance of that For Sale/Lease sign, it would seem that maybe all those rumors are unfounded, and that there are no plans for The Music Box. How long did it sit vacant after Sharkey's died?

-- Last night I received an e-mail from The Reader titled The Road to Austin. It appears that The Reader, The Ranch Bowl and SLAMOmaha are teaming up on a promotion that would allow local bands to sign up for the South by Southwest Festival even though the official entry deadline has passed. According to the e-mail "The deadline for bands to register for SXSW expired last Friday. We've got an extension until THIS THURSDAY." The memo goes on to say any band getting the SXSW application in to the Ranch Bowl by this Thursday with the photo, bio, CD and $30 gets to "play for the prizes at the Ranch Bowl the first two weeks of January" -- I'm not sure what this means, unless it's another "Battle of the Bands" type thing. "An august body of judges led by Reader critics will choose three bands to recommend to SXSW," the e-mail says. I don't think I've been chosen as part of that "august body of judge" since this e-mail is the first notice I've received about the promotion. Anyway, bands interested should realize that they will only receive "a recommendation" by The Reader and the other parties involved, which obviously doesn't guarantee that their band will be chosen to play a SXSW showcase.

I remember, sometime in the '90s, when playing at SXSW really meant something. It has since turned into just another industry hack showcase. This year's SXSW "keynote speaker" is Antonio “L.A.” Reid, the CEO at Arista who brought us such "quality" acts as Dido, Usher and Avril Lavigne. I'm sure he's just itching to sign a few hot indie rock bands to open for Usher on his next tour. These days, CMJ has taken the mantle as "thee indie music showcase," and The Reader says it's trying to work something out for that festival as well as NEMO.

Check back tonight. Late.

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Who Turned out the Lights?, Denison Witmer, TV on the Radio – Nov. 10, 2003

So the site's back up after being down all weekend. Seems my service provider decided to do "server upgrades" without notifying anyone of the outage. As a result, I've dropped that service provider for a new one. The outage came as the site was receiving an avalanche of traffic for the Greg Dulli interview and live review (below) -- something like 500 reads over the course of a few hours. These outages always seem to happen at all the wrong times.

The intern comes through with a new review of the latest by Denison Witmer (read it here). He's got another one coming this week (Where is it, Matt?!).

Tonight at Sokol Underground is TV on the Radio. I know absolutely nothing about this band, other than they're supposed to be "real good." Opening is Lincoln's Bright Calm Blue, who I know are really good, on CD anyway. Birdland also is on the ticket, all for $7. If you go, let me know how it was.

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Live review: The Twilight Singers, Marianas at Sokol Underground – Nov. 7, 2003

It will go down as arguably the best live show of 2003, and even more precious for the true Dulli/Whigs fans in the crowd (and there were plenty among the 165 on hand, judging by the age and the patter, the constant ongoing arguments over which was his best album, Black Love or Gentlemen or '65). A handful of people had been there an hour earlier to hear the soundcheck, Dulli apparently was rife with comments about buying cocaine and playing pick-up cover songs. Afterward, Dulli and his band wheeled off to Gorat's to get themselves a few platters of steak, prepping for a gut-wrenching night (I know those big fat steaks took their toll when, halfway through his set, Dulli said, "I need a nap.").

While they were gone, Marianas played their set. The Lincoln 5-piece that prides itself on meticulously arranged ambient songs seemed a strange match for a white-knuckle gutter bluesman like Dulli and Co. It ended up being an interesting contrast. Marianas' music is multi-layered, with two keyboardists, a guitarist, drummer and bassist/trumpeter. If they sounded like Tristeza on their debut CD, they sounded even more so live, like a blend with The Album Leaf and The Mercury Program. There were some obvious problems with their gear that the band must not have noticed from the stage -- the guitar was either out of tune or (as one person told me) had a problem with its pedal. The low-end was overpowering, either from the bass or from the keyboard/synth/drum machine, occasionally drowning out the rest of the band. While the drummer did a good job keeping in the middle of everything, I so wanted him to let go and really punish his set. Their best songs featured the bassist on trumpet, and a unique cover of The Velvet Underground's "Sunday Morning." I like this band, and would love to see them open for someone like Low or Her Space Holiday.

Five minutes after their set ended, Dulli and his band walked in and within minutes The Twilight Singers lifted off.

Dulli looked like a lean, sweet, young Jake LaMotta, decked out black-on-black, his gleaming jet-black hair framing a face that is pure Italy by way of Greece, like a thin, fit John Belushi standing short beneath a microphone that was too high on purpose, forcing Dulli to squeeze upward with every note, while at the same time pulling down on his electric guitar.

There's not much to say about the set other than it was as pure an hour and forty-five minutes as you're going to hear from any performance. Dulli was in perfect voice; as if time had stood still since the day Gentleman was released 10 years ago. He was obviously having a good time, grinning at the crowd, at his band, at his guitar-tech who stood off to the side of the stage and poured him a plastic cup of Maker's Mark, constantly feeding him cigarettes between songs. The whole band was tight as a tic, the drummer was especially flamboyant and acted as a perfect foil to Dulli's wide-open front-man pose.

I've always liked the Afghan Whigs, and own Gentleman and Black Love, but I couldn't tell you the name of one of his songs. I recognized a few old Whigs tunes, and the tunes off the most recent Twilight Singers CD, which blended seamlessly together, along with a barrage of covers inset within the songs themselves, covering everything from Prince to Derek and the Dominos to Skip Spence (Moby Grape) to The Zombies. Regardless, I knew the purist would be disappointed without a set list, so I swiped one from the stage after the band finished its encores. Here it is, copied letter-for-letter:

Esta Noche
Teenage Wristband
Twilite Kid
That Bird Sings
Cloud Busting
Decatur Street
Annie Mae
Dixie Peach / Ying for Yang
Martin Eden
King Only
Black is the Color/Time of The Season
The Killer/Rhiannon/Layla

Throughout the set, Dulli referenced Council Bluffs at least a half-dozen times, asking the crowd to join him there for a drink after the gig. He deserved it. We all did after that set. I left thinking that Dulli has one of the most distinct and awesome voices in the history of rock, the perfect instrument that can make you cower or cry or stand up straight right alongside him, wanting to testify to love both good and bad and every which way, a dark love that Dulli has seen and wants you to see with him.

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Greg Dulli of The Twilight Singers – Nov. 5, 2003

There are two versions of this interview / profile of Greg Dulli a.k.a The Twilight Singers -- the one that's printed in today's edition of The Reader and the Lazi-i version (this one), which is about 600 words longer and includes Dulli's rants about everything from President Bush to the California fires to Ryan Adams to the record industry. And there was even more rants I didn't include, like his take on Bright Eyes (regarding Wynona Ryder and Bonnie Tyler), the Omaha scene ("I peed and bought cigarettes there once"), and his record label, One Little Indian ("Bjork is on the label, man. The guy who put it together walked away from Warners so the Flaming Lips could stay"). Talking to Dulli is like watching a bomb go off.

It'll be interesting to see if people are making the connection between The Twilight Singers, Dulli and The Afghan Whigs, who never played in Omaha before. Whigs fans should note that tomorrow night's Sokol Underground show will include Whigs songs among the scorching, smoky two-hour set. But in all honestly, it wouldn't matter, because this new Twilight Singers CD sounds like classic Whigs anyway. Get there early. Opening the show is Lincoln's Marianas, who I'm told are as good live as on their new CD.

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D Plan remixed, Greg Dulli write-up (tonight), Flaming Lips panda scare – Nov. 4, 2003

Like I said... there's a new review of the Dismemberment Plan's just-released remix CD right here. Tonight I'll be posting my interview/feature on The Twilight Singers a.k.a. The Afghan Whigs' Greg Dulli, so check back. Until then, read this report from NME about the Flaming Lips' mishap with their dancing panda, as well as this report about the Lips return to the studio. I've never been a huge Lips fan (they may well be the most overhyped band in indie), but I wouldn't mind seeing them make their way to an Omaha stage someday.

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Tonight's reeely big (tap) shoe; Bronwyn – Nov. 1, 2003

So you got yourselves Tilly and the Wall with Zykos and Statistics tonight at the Sokol Underground. It looks like Tilly will be the opener for a show scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. I'm not entirely sure who is backing Denver Dalley as Statistics. Last time I spoke with him, Denver said his band would consist of members of 1989 Chicago Cubs. I guess we'll see tonight, when hopefully he'll roll out a few of songs from his upcoming Jade Tree full-length. I know nothing about Zykos except that they're on Post-Parlo and have opened for Cursive before. I fear we'll have another situation where most of the crowd takes off after Tilly and Statistics finish their sets, leaving Zykos to play for 20 people after seeing the floor almost full when the other bands were on stage. That has to be disheartening, to say the least. If I'm there, look for a review here tomorrow.

Another hot show is the debut of The Sons of The 49'r (I don't remember them being called that, but that's the name posted on SLAM Omaha) opening for Hello from Waveland. The Sons include The Monroes' Mike Tulis and a bunch of local yocals. This one will be packed.

New CD review: The intern sounds off on the latest by Bronwyn.

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Happy Halloween; an intern haunts the Lazy-i offices; Emily Easterly – Oct. 31, 2003

There's too many shows to mention going on tonight. The one I would attend if I went out on Halloween (which I generally don't do) would be Ex Modes w/Beep Beep and Dance Disaster Movement at "The Orifice," The Faint's practice space at 2406 Leavenworth. Sounds like it could be a real Warholian experience. I'm told costumes are in order if you attend. If I went, I'd go as the Elmwood Park moutain lion.

So, believe it or not, Lazy-i has an intern, and a lazy one at that -- it's halfway through the semester and I'm just now starting to get reviews from the guy.

The guy is Matt Whipkey, a journalism student at UNO who also happens to be be known 'round these parts for his work as a singer-songwriter and member of the now-defunct Movies and his new combo, Anonymous American. In his defense, he says he's been busy recording a new AA album. Whip says he'll be submitting two reviews a week -- I'll believe it when I see it (though Mr. Whipkey knows that if I don't get my reviews, he ain't getting his internship papers signed!). Here's the first one, a review of the last release by Emily Easterly. The rules are the same as when I've published reviews by other contributors -- you'll get their review and rating, and you'll also get mine -- I figure, if a band sends me materials asking for my opinion, it should get it regardless if a contributor writes the initial review. Also, since Matt's active in the local music scene, he won't be reviewing local bands -- we got our ethics around here, ya know.

Whip's first assignment was to provide a list of his 20 favorite CDs so you, the reader, could get a sense of what he likes before you dig into his reviews. Here's the list -- very heavy on freedom rock twangers, which makes sense if you ever heard his bands. To be honest, I expected a list of shit, but I agree with most of his stuff, particularly his Clash, R.E.M. Pixies and Beatles selections. Joni Mitchell's Blue is one of my top-10 favorite recordings of all time.

Matt Whipkeys 20 favorite albums (in no apparent order):

The Beatles- Revolver or The White Album
Bruce Springsteen- Nebraska, Darkness on the Edge of Town
Bob Dylan- Highway 61 or Blonde on Blonde
CCR- Green River
The Clash- London Calling
Joni Mitchell- Blue
REM- Reckoning
Uncle Tupelo- No Depression
Nirvana- Nevermind
Buddy Holly- Never really had an album, but any collection of his songs will do
Beach Boys- Pet Sounds
Bob Dylan- Blood On The Tracks
Neil Young- Everybody Knows This is Nowhere
The Rolling Stones- Let It Bleed
Ryan Adams- Heartbreaker
Simon Joyner- Room Temperature
Wilco- Being There
Miles Davis- Sketches of Spain
The Band- Music From Big Pink or S/T
The Pixies- Doolittle

Look for another Whipkey review tomorrow.

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Live Review: The Black Keys at Sokol Underground; JR Ewing tonight – Oct. 30, 2003

Most modern day blues is more about the aesthetic then the music -- as in bands being more concerned that people recognize their so-called blues influences rather than just trying to make good music. I don't confuse it with what I consider real blues -- the early swampy shit, Lightnin' Hopkins, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson you know, the old southern black stuff.

Anyway. The Black Keys isn't blues. Not to me, anyway. The electric guitar-and-drum duo is pure heavy rock -- early Robin Trower meets Southern Gentlemen meets Cream meets early Hendrix. In fact, Keys guitarist/vocalist Dan Auerbach sounds exactly like Trower to me, which ain't such a bad thing if you're a Trower fan, which I was back in the day. Live, these rather slight, haggard-looking fellows put on a bombastic show that captures the essence of those white London "blues" rock monsters of the '60s. It's nothing new, but it's managed to capture the attention of a youth nation that hasn't been subjected to those earlier bands. Clearly the crowd at Sokol (around 220 or so) didn't consist of traditional blues aficionados. I spoke to one guy who hangs with the Omaha Blues Society crowd and he said he saw only one of "the society" there last night. It was an indie crowd, and I guess you could call The Black Keys indie-blues, for lack of a better term, though it really doesn't capture the spirit of indie or blues music. Maybe that's not such a good term to use after all.

If Auerbach looked tired it's because he spent most of the day traveling. "I flew from London this morning and have been flying all day to get to this show tonight, and I'm happy I'm here," he said between songs. "It's the first time we've ever done anything like that and hopefully the last." Obligatory cover song (that I recognized): The Beatles' "She Said, She Said." Nice. Yeah, there was some slight variance from song to song, including one real trancy number that was particularly good, but I didn't stick around to the end, having heard what I thought was essentially the same song played over and over for 30 minutes. You have to be pretty smashed to really get into this, and I wasn't.

Opening act Thee Shams reminded me of '60s garage rock a la The Animals or Them, and did it quite well, though none of their songs stood out.

Tonight at Sokol Underground is JR Ewing with The Panthers. I got an e-mail from their press agent yesterday saying, "JR Ewing are 5 restless young men from Oslo, Norway. Comparable to bands like Drive Like Jehu, Antioch Arrow, The Who, Shellac, etc." I agree with the Antioch Arrow comparison, and maybe Jehu, but not The Who or Shellac. They apparently just got off the road with The Mars Volta and are going out again with Dillinger Escape Plan. Their new one, Ride Paranoia on Gold Standard, is some heavy, loud shit. I know nothing about Panthers except they're from Brooklyn and supposedly sport a D.C. sound a la Fugazi. Bring your ear plugs (I forgot mine tonight and am regretting it now).

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Tilly and the Wall – Oct. 29, 2003

Is there a band more destined to make it big in the cloistered indie world than Tilly and the Wall? They just started performing (on a serious level) this year and already had an opening slot on a Bright Eyes tour (with more to come) and Head of Femur. Add to that the "mysterious" unnamed record label the will be releasing their debut full-length early next year and methinks you'll be hearing a lot more about these guys in the national media (they've already been mentioned (with picture) in Jane). Well, you can be ahead of the curve by reading this Lazy-i profile/interview. Get the scoop before Rolling Stone and Magnet get a whiff of their tap-and-roll stylings. The band opens for Zykos and Statistics this Saturday at Sokol Underground, when they'll also be celebrating the release of their new 7-inch. Get 'em while they're hot.

I'll be announcing a new contributing review writer (who's actually a summer intern) later today. Check back. Fun!

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Bright Eyes Omaha holiday extravaganza – Oct. 28, 2003

Seems like every year around Christmas time in Omaha there's a show that features a special star-packed line-up. Down in my basement I have the Kozik poster for the 1994 "holiday show" that took place at the now-gone Capitol Bar & Grill and featured Clayface, Secret Skin, Frontier Trust, Mercy Rule and Ritual Device. Every year since then there have been other holiday shows, most of which I've forgotten. This year's, however, should be rather unforgettable.

Marc Leibowitz of 1 Percent Productions just informed me that Saddle Creek recording artist Bright Eyes has been scheduled to play a concert at The Rose Theater Dec. 27. Opening the show is Omaha indie-folk artist Simon Joyner. It's been a personal dream of mine to see these two performers together on The Rose stage. And you can bet there will be tons of unannounced special guests. This could wind up to be Omaha's version of The Last Waltz (without the permanent connotations).

"There aren't many artists that have the flexibility to play different types of theaters," Leibs said. "Bright Eyes is one of those artists. It's a beautiful room and should be a great show." It should also be a relatively quick sell-out. The Rose's capacity is around 900 (I think), and tickets are only $12. The concert is a first for The Rose, which hasn't hosted anything like this since, well, Peter Buffett (the son of billionnaire Warren Buffett) played a benefit concert there for UNMC -- a horrible show put together by none other than Robert Redford, whose son, Jamie, was hospitalized at UNMC for major organ surgery. Usually The Rose's stage is reserved for children's productions, plays and whatnot. There's no more regal stage that I know of around these parts. I'll pass on more details (ticket sales info, etc.) when they become available.

Check back tonight for a interview/feature with Tilly and the Wall as well as a few new CD reviews and other fun stuff.

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Live Review: Team Rigge, Broken Spindles, Radio Berlin; Evil Beaver, Azure Ray – Oct. 25, 2003

Where to begin…

The team of Team Rigge consisted of two people tonight -- Clark Baechle (The Faint) and Ian McElroy (Desaparecidos), looking like two suburban indie kids half-heartedly rapping over their pre-recorded beats, karaoke style. To be fair, the crowd seemed hesitant; McElroy even said, "You can bob your heads to the beat if you want to" a couple times, which resulted in a few slackers nodding to the thump-thump-thump, but only momentarily. Their beat style was distinctly old-school -- radio-friendly '80s hip-hop -- pleasant and safe and oh so white.

Look, it wasn't bad, in fact, it was kinda fun. But it bordered on novelty and the duo's goofiness only lent itself to laughter, which is maybe what they were after, I couldn't tell because I couldn't keep up with the lyrics. It certainly didn't have the weird, isolated suburban angst/tension of the pre-reel track on the Criteria CD. It also lacked that song's layered complexity. Most of these tracks, while reasonably head-noddable, were pretty sparce in composition. Add to that a set that lasted what seemed like 15 minutes and it was disappointing. The crowd of about 140 (the peak for the evening, which slowly drained away until the end) politely "got into it," but this wasn't great hip-hop and everyone knew it, including the guys on stage.

That's not to say Rigge don't have potential. Clark and Ian's delivery ain't half bad, and their interplay is downright endearing. They just have to get themselves into it more, and they gotta try like hell to get the crow to wake up. It's all about stage antics, fellahs. You remember the Beastie Boys? They tore it up on stage; they went to any level to clown the crowd. They gave a shit. At the end of the day, Team Rigge came off as just another side project.

Next up, Broken Spindles a.k.a. Joel Petersen also of The Faint. Petersen's multi-media set-up seemed more sophisticated than last time I saw him play, a year ago at Sokol Underground. A digital rear-screen projector shot a movie onto a fold-out silver screen set on the edge of the stage while Petersen switched between guitar and bass, playing along to the intricate prerecorded electronica. The first tune was a new one that was hands-down better than anything on his debut CD, sporting the same static-clean percussive sound over a throbbing beat. There is a stark, naked-white quality to Broken Spindles' music, almost antiseptic compared to the stuff Petersen plays with The Faint, which is naturally warmer due to Todd Baechle's vocals.

Petersen's guitar and bass felt secondary to the prerecorded music, almost unnecessary in the first half of the set, where the real focus was on the video -- a selection of vaguely colorless images superimposed with words presented in plain typewriter font, unfolding a story about finding / meeting / not meeting the "100 percent perfect girl." After about four or five songs, reading the "story" became tiresome. I would have preferred straight images or design vs. reading a story about self-effacing reticence, doubt, and regret. In fact, I didn't read the whole story, having gotten up to move around the venue. Toward the second half of the set, Petersen began focusing on his guitar, taking a more active role in the performance, peaking with a grating noise treatment.

His new songs were genuinely amazing. Petersen said after the set that he's finishing a new album that will be released next year on Saddle Creek (not Tiger Style, who released his debut). He also hinted at what lies ahead with his other project -- not The Faint, but Beep Beep, who have been working on some new studio recordings which I'm dying to hear.

By the time Radio Berlin rolled on stage, the crowd had dwindled to maybe 40 people. It was obvious that most had come to see the openers. They missed out on what ended up being a very heavy set by a four-piece that has a serious jonze for Psychedelic Furs, Joy Division, Flock of Seagulls, and, inevitably, Interpol. The highlight was the drummer, who managed to take relatively simple songs and drive them forward with his intense, intricate rhythms. I thought the mix was muddy. The guitar was lost in an ocean of overbearing keyboards and bass -- just the exact wrong approach for a style of music that begs the elemental detachedness of each instrument.


Saturday night's hot show -- Evil Beaver (these bass-lovin' mamas must be seen (and heard) to be believed) and Members of the Press at Oleavers on south Saddle Creek. What's the deal with these new venues popping up around town?

Before you go, check out a review of the new Azure Ray CD, just placed online (read it here).

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Team Rigge (and Broken Spindles, Radio Berlin) at Sokol Underground; Carmine at the Niner; whaddya think of this new board? – Oct. 24, 2003

So I'm hearing that tonight's version of Team Rigge that opens the evening at Sokol Underground probably won't include Conor Oberst as he's still in NYC. Maybe he'll fly in for the gig? Maybe Jenny Lewis, also reportedly part of the Team, will be there, though I'm told she's living large in L.A. Don't matter, really, as long as Clark and Ian are there tonight, showing off their def beats. There's a discussion about Team Rigge on the Lazy-i Web board that talks about the band's origins, make-up, etc. -- read it here (local Creek historian and rock god M Bowen chimes in). I've got a copy of the new Radio Berlin CD but haven't had a chance to listen to it (hey, I've been out of town, remember?). I'm told it's very Faint-like. And you already know about our boy Broken Spindles (if not, read this Lazy-I profile). I expect this to be another big Saddle Creek coming out party, so wear nice shoes. If I'm there, I'll tell you about it tomorrow here. Those of you into old-school Husker Du-style SST rock should check out Carmine tonight at The 49'r -- primo good.

So I'm thinking of switching over my Web board services to a new board (I think it's the same board that Star City uses). Take a look and let me know what you think. The problem with my Bravenet board is that it seems to be censoring dirty words, and I can't figure out how to shut the censor off. I'm still not sold on this new board, though, which is why I haven't linked to it. Your feedback is valuable. Really.

Believe it or not, a flood of new CD reviews is on the way, so be patient. I also just bought an i-pod and will be sharing the experience with you as I learn how to use it. Look for a new interview next week, the Preston Love interview this weekend and some other goofy things.

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Okkervil River (and Clem Snide, Califone) at Knicks, The Lepers at Oleaver's – Oct. 23, 2003

A very good show tonight if you're in Lincoln -- Clem Snide, Califone and Okkervil River are playing at Knickerbockers (9 p.m., $8). Clem Snide is a very slick semi-alt country outfit that played to about 50 people at The Music Box a year or so ago. They get a tremendous amount of press -- always on critics' lists, etc., but seemed to have faltered in growing their fan base. They're touring in support of an album that came out in June on Spin Art called Soft Spot, which I haven't heard. Califone played in Omaha last year as well, opening for someone at Sokol Underground. These are the guys that were in Red Red Meat -- it's your typical droney indie rock schtick. But the band I'd want to see if I was going to this show is Okkervil River. Their 2002 CD, Don't Fall in Love with Everyone You See, topped my "best of" list for that year (Like I said: "The Austin, Texas, combo's music is rural and slightly southern, more backwater than wheat field, with a nod toward slow bluegrass and dustbowl folk. Consistent songwriting from track to track makes this my favorite CD of '02"). Their new album on Jagjaguwar, Down the River of Golden Dreams, is more of the same, but not as interesting as Don't Fall... Still, these guys put on a great show. I've seen them live twice (at the now-defunct Junction), playing killer sets for maybe 30 people. I'd love to see them play down at Sokol Underground some day.

FYI... don't bother to read the Kurt Morris review of Don't Fall... in the online All Music Guide. Morris gives the CD 2.5 stars and goes out of his way to compare it to the so-called "No Depression" acts, etc. As with most of his reviews, Morris is off the mark. I don't know where All Music finds their critics, though I'm sure if Morris reads this (very unlikely) he'll be happy to send me an e-mail listing his credentials.

Those of you who stay in Omaha can see The Lepers tonight at Oleaver's with Tiny Lund and Portland's The Planet The ($5, 9 p.m.). Some nights The Lepers' sets can be cathartic, other nights they can be a jangling mess. Which version will show up at this highfalutin' volleyball bar on the south end of Saddle Creek Road is a mystery.

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Back in black – Oct. 22, 2003

Those of you wondering why there hasn't been an update in the last few days -- I've been out of town, in Hartford, CT, for a wedding. The indie scene in Hartford appears to be rather, uh, limited. I'm sure there's some clubs and record stores out there, I just never found them.

The Web chat boards are rife late yesterday afternoon with unconfirmed reports of the demise of Elliott Smith, though reputable music sites have still yet to report it. Overnight an obituary appeared at Then this morning,'s homepage was replaced with the words "goodbye elliott" and remembrances. Finally, NME and The Guardian both posted reports of Smith's death, with the comment "The official cause of death is currently unclear." Smith, though a celebrity in indie music circles, clawed his way into public conscious through years of touring, finally breaking through (to some extent) when his song "Miss Misery" was included in the soundtrack of the film "Good Will Hunting" and was nominated for an Oscar. I still remember Smith's performance on the Academy Awards broadcast, looking slightly nervous and out of place, but still providing the evening's best entertainment. Keep your eye on the web for more news about this -- other than Pitchfork, there still appears to be no U.S.-based reports on what happened.

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Thee gigs of the weekend, David Bowie – Oct. 16, 2003

So what do we have going this weekend? Here's a look at some of the more interesting gigs:

-- I Am Spoonbender, Young People, The Show is the Rainbow -- tonight at Sokol Underground. $8. 9 p.m. You'll want to get there early to see TSITR (see story). Young People might be the hottest of the hot right now, much hotter than Spoonbender. Let me put it this way, The Liars (minus our Nebraska heroes, Ron Albertson and Pat Noeker) unveiled their new line-up at a Sept. 27 gig at NYC's Knitting Factory opening for Young People (according to Time Out New York it was some sort of "secret show"). Young People will return the favor, opening for Liars Oct. 30 at Bowery Ballroom.

-- Friday night's a bit, uh, thin... I suggest you go to The Brothers lounge and enjoy some good jukebox and booze. If anyone knows of any good shows, you can post them here. You may wanna traipse up to Lincoln for another TSITR show with Kissing Tigers and Rent Money Big at Knicks.

-- Tractor Punk icons (Their term, not mine. I prefer the more modular phrase "Tractor Punk heroes") The Monroes are playing at The 49r Saturday with They
Were Expendable (from Des Moines) and Ideal Cleaners (from Lincoln). $5. 9:30 p.m. The same night, Minus the Bear, These Arms Are Snakes, The Velvet Teen, & Race for Titles are playing at Sokol Underground. $8, 9 p.m. Do I need to remind you that it's also Game 1 of the World Series? Sorry Cubs fans...

-- Sunday's also kinda thin. If you haven't had enough of Lincoln, drive up to Duffy's and see Bright Calm Blue with Ideal Cleaners. The new BCB CD is hella good, I just haven't had a spare moment to review it -- angular punk fun.

Our illustrious guest review, Stephen Sheehan, contributes a review of the new one by David Bowie. Read it here.

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The Show is the Rainbow, Rocket Fuel is back – Oct. 15, 2003

Here's that feature/interview with Lincoln one-man music machine The Show is the Rainbow I mentioned last week. If you get a chance to catch him as he travels around the country on his various tours, do it. Darren Keen lives up to his weird hype (he's opening for I Am Spoonbender and Young People this Thursday at Sokol Underground). What I didn't do in this story was properly describe his music. I don't have the split-7-inch (with Troubled Hubble) or a copy of Spoonbender sessions, just his EP which he recorded early in "career" (translated -- late last year). Keen's live show doesn't reflect what he's done in the studio. He doesn't sing on stage as much as sort of yell/rap into peoples' faces. The CD, on the other hand, features his quite lovely voice singing over midi-heavy tracks, and I dig it. Why he didn't sing when he was in his former band, Musico, is a mystery. I felt a little guilty during our interview at The Dundee Dell (I recommend their Cream of Tomato soup). When we set it up, I thought Keen lived in Omaha. In fact he lives in Lincoln -- so he drove all the way to Omaha just to do the interview. He'll learn how to deal with us unsavory media types over time.

All you early Internet trollers remember when Rocket Fuel was thee indie 'zine of record (and back in the days when was thee music board)? Well, looks like they're back and better than ever, with a new site design and content. I always liked their rather snarky reviews (This from the review of Scout Niblett's latest: "And, frankly, Ms. Niblett has a voice that could make next year’s tax code revisions sound compelling." Mean.). I'll have to keep an eye on this to see if they keep updating it. I remember heralding the triumphant return of, only to see it quickly return to dormancy in a few short weeks. If I only had a dollar for every 'zine that went belly up... anyone remember Addicted to Noise?).

Check back tonight or tomorrow morning for a fistful of new CD reviews. BTW, as you can tell, I didn't make it to Mountain Goats, Enon or Unsane, and I'm not gonna be able to see The Show is the Rainbow and Spoonbender, either. My next live experience will probably be Radio Berlin / Broken Spindles / Team Rigge on Oct. 24, which is sizing up to be a rather huge event.

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Live Review: Criteria's industry mixer; Mountain Goats tonight – Oct. 12, 2003

Weird vibe at last night's Criteria gig at Sokol Underground. It had nothing to do with the bands - everyone was great. Karl Hendricks Trio kicked things off sounding a lot like what they sound like on their new CD -- a mix of Silkworm and Dinosaur Jr., though the vocals were a bit muddy. Despite his noisy guitar, Hendricks looks like a quiet, reserved guy, and after his set, he sat by himself behind his merch table wearing with a lost, 1,000-mile stare. I didn't see him sell a single thing, which is a shame because his music is solid. This wasn't the right crowd for what he does.

Next up was The Carsinogents. They always put on a great show, even though they've cut back on the pyro and the other colorful staging gimmicks. No more tiki torches, no more video projector. Just the band, with the florescent sign on the keyboard, blowing smoke. They don't need the flashy stuff anymore, they've got enough stage charisma and knee-cracking songs to carry the show on their own. The only criticism is their set selection -- I've been hearing some of those same songs for what seems like three years.

The weird part of the evening was the crowd. During the Carsinogents set, I noticed that, though there were a lot of people watching the band, there was a huge crowd in the other room isolated from the stage, talking and drinking and doing whatever. I asked someone what was going on, and they said "It's the Saddle Creek people." There were members from just about every Creek band at the show, apparently there just to see Criteria. I'm also told there was a few other label guys in tow, a couple from Sub Pop were in town, and a few other industry folks. Seems they made that second room into an industry mixer.

They came back 'round the corner when Criteria took the stage. The band's set is essentially the same as the last time I saw them play in June. As Stephen Pedersen said from the stage, they don't have enough material for a full set, just the songs from their debut album. Because of their upcoming tour with Cursive, Pedersen said the band has written some new material, and played one of the songs toward the end of the set -- a typical Criteria song, complete with pounding rhythm section, solid melody, and Pedersen and AJ Mogis belting out the vocals. The band sounded tight, though the interplay between Pedersen and Mogis was rough at times and slightly off key. They will only get tighter after a couple weeks of hard roadwork.

Maybe I'm just imagining things about the crowd, but it sure seemed like there were a lot of people not paying attention to what was happening on stage. The show turned into an industry networking session, which was probably a natural continuation of the Saddle Creek invitation-only party that took place the night before in celebration of Bright Eyes' Lifted album selling 100,000 copies (and receiving a commemorative "wooden record"). Is a scene that was once just a gathering of friends brought together around music turning into a hip insiders' club? I hope not.

I don't think we'll see quite the same crowd at tonight's Sokol Underground show featuring The Mountain Goats and The Mariannes and Poison Control Center. Then Monday night is Enon. When will I get some sleep?

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Live Review: Fleetwood Freakin' Mac at the Qwest Center – Oct. 10, 2003

First off, before we get to the rock, about the facility itself. All this talk about the Qwest Center being difficult to access (parking, lines, etc.) was not experienced by me. We drove right down Cuming St. (we left at 6:30) and got directed right into a parking space. The $6 fee is typical for evening downtown parking. Whiners who complain about that never come downtown for anything anyway.

It took about 15 minutes to get through the line and into the venue. The place still looks half-finished to me, but maybe that's the "industrial" design of the architecture -- lots of exposed wire and conduit, cracked unfinished floors, exposed unpainted concrete, etc. The concourse around the outside of the seating (below the tier) has plenty of food places, but not much variety foodwise. Still, I got a cheeseburger, a pulled-pork sandwich, an order of cheesefries and a large beer for less than $20, so I can't complain. Note to beer drinkers -- the beer is a buck cheaper at the side restaurants vs. the beer carts.

Once seated, it doesn't look that much larger than the Civic Auditorium, but I guess it has to be. There's not much else to say -- it's a freaking arena. The seats are nice -- kinda like cheaply upholstered car seats -- but with no drink holders! The sightlines were good from my vantage point (I was seated on the other side of the arena, almost directly across from the stage, four rows up in section 113).

More on the venue later.

It's been a long time since I've been to a real rock concert. Other than a Prince show a few years back (which you can't really count because that's more like a cabaret event), the last concerts I attended were at the Civic Auditorium and featured bands like The Cars, Journey, Styx, Van Halen (DLR-era only), etc. Things have changed a lot since those days.

At most indie rock shows, I'm the oldest person there by at least a few years. Here, I was actually one of the younger guys -- we're talking an old crowd. These same people at the Mac show were probably at shows at the Civic back in the day, sitting in circles on the auditorium floor passing around a joint or throwing a Frisbee into the ever-present cloud of blue cigarette smoke. Now here they were 20 years later, sitting quietly in their assigned seats, drinking their $5 beers, comfortably clad in their polo shirts and Dockers, wearing unironic Eagles T-shirts and crisp, freshly pressed blue jeans. Their packs of cigarettes have been replaced with cell phones.

While I was waiting for the show to start (no opening act and the band didn't hit the stage until 8:30), I noticed a strange detail -- there was virtually no black people at the show. None. Not a single black person in sight. It became like a sick Where's Waldo game -- find the negro in the crowd of 16,000. At first it was amusing, then it became slightly disturbing as I scanned the crowd row by row. Every time I thought I saw a black person, it turned out that he/she was part of the Qwest Center staff, not the audience. I came to the conclusion that Fleetwood Mac may be the whitest rock music in the world, next to The Eagles.

Before I could get too worked up over it, the lights came down and there, on stage, was Fleetwood Mac, or at least most of it. No Christine McVie (though John was there on bass). They fired into "The Chain" like it was 1977 all over again. Stevie Nicks, looking like a fat Tipper Gore, hadn't lost a shred of her vocal prowess, nor had Lindsey Buckingham, who also looked a little raw around the edges, though rather spry for a geezer.

All the recent griping about the arena's sound quality was unfounded. It sounded pretty damn good to me, though a bit tinny on the high end (I blame the sound man). After three songs, I dutifully put in my ear plugs. It was loud, but not as loud your typical Loverboy concert at the Civic.

Throughout the more rocking songs, there were no less than 11 musicians on stage. Mick had a second drummer and a percussionist backing him, there were two additional guitarists hidden in back, along with two female backing vocalists and an anonymous keyboard player. Despite that, nothing was overdone.

"The Chain" sauntered right into "Dreams," (also off Rumors), which led into "Eyes of the Word" (off Mirage). Then came "Peacemaker," the first single off the new CD, Say You Will. For that song and that new album's title track, the crowd was enthusiastically respectful, but as the night wore on, performances of new material were the cue to get up and stretch or take a leak. It's too bad, really, because their new stuff is pretty good. Ah, but this crowd didn't come to hear the new stuff, they wanted the classics and classics they got, most of which were beautifully performed. There were, however, exceptions...

They ruined "Tusk" by changing the lead-in drum line -- why mess with what makes the song haunting? Overall, it was too rushed and lost the song's tribal quality. Very disappointing. They also made the mistake of trying to sing "Don't Stop" as one of the set closers. Neither Nicks nor Buckingham had the range to hit the high notes, and it ended up sounding sloppy. Wisely, it was the only McVie song that they tried.

Of course, what rock concert would be complete without the stereotypical drum solo, and boy did we get one. But instead of playing it behind his mammoth rockstar drum set, Mick Fleetwood walked around the stage with some sort of finger-triggered drum vest, looking like a crazy-eyed freak. Speaking of solos, Buckingham may well be the most unheralded guitarist in rock history. With his finger-plucking style and tiny guitar, he was unbelievable in his virtuosity. A couple of his solos bordered on exotic, while his blues solos were less impressive and somewhat boring.

Mac finished with a three-song encore. And seemed to love being there. So did all the oldsters. Toward the end, they got out of their seats and shook their 40- and 50-year old booties -- I sight that all of us could live without.

On a final note, getting out of the Qwest Center parking lot was as easy as getting in, and I was home in about 10 minutes. Qwest gets an A for service, convenience and operations. Too bad that this will probably be the last show I attend there until they start booking more interesting acts… I mean, who really wants to see lame-o's like the Gaither Family Reunion or fossils like Aerosmith/KISS -- maybe if it was 1977, but it's not.

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Fleetwood Mac at Qwest, Bleu – Oct. 9, 2003

So tonight is the big Fleetwood Mac rock concert at Omaha's new Qwest Center. It'll mark the first time that I'll have stepped foot inside the multi-million dollar monstrosity/arena, said to hold 18,000 people. Look for a full review of the concert and facility either late tonight or tomorrow morning, right here in the blog. I've received early word from someone who saw The Mac on the East Coast that this could be a boring show because of the preponderance of new songs in their set list. I, for one, like the new Mac album, so it won't be a letdown for me. But all those folks who are coming to see the oldies might get a bit pissed off. Oh well. The other surprise to those who don't follow these sorts of things is that Christine and John McVie are no longer in the band. I was never a fan of the McVies, so again, no skin off my nose... but there will be those who wonder why "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow" sounds so different than the record... Incidentally, I tried to interview the band, but, alas, they're not doing press unless you're Rolling Stone or USA Today -- yet another reason why I focus on indie music.

And for those of you out there who think I'm prejudice against pop music, here's a glowing review of the most recent CD by Bleu.

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A small, not terribly informative chat with Enon – Oct. 8, 2003

Here's a rather brief interview with red-hot indie band Enon. It was one of those interviews where the guy on the other end of the phone (in this case, the drummer) didn't have much to say. He was busy driving a van on the interstate, for God's sake. Obviously his mind was on other things. Anyway, I try to give you a sense of what their new CD is like. If there's an overhanging sense that I liked the old version of Enon better, that's because I did. While it's nice that they added Toko to the vocal mix a couple albums back, her stuff comes off like a walk through the perfume section of Dillards -- sweet and rather annoying and hard to escape. I much prefer Schmersal's rocking songs. Anyway, check it out. Enon plays down at Sokol Underground next Monday night at what the early buzz is saying could be a pretty big show. Opening the gig is The Close and Omaha's own 1989 Chicago Cubs.

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Oh where have you been, Joe Dimaggio?, Live review: The Show is the Rainbow, I Am the World Trade Center, Mates of State – Oct. 7, 2003

It's been a busy week, for me anyway. Two features -- an interview with Enon and a long feature on the new Preston Love CD retrospective, which was sort of a last-minute thing to pull together. The Enon story is rather short and will be posted tonight. The Preston story is rather detailed and will be posted in the next couple days if I can figure out how to pull together some artwork to make it look good.

I've been debating whether to post the Preston Love story at all -- I mean, does it really have an indie spin? Well, in the broadest sense of the term, it does. The CD is being released on Mexi records, which is named after Preston's mother's nickname. The story is also historical (especially from an Omaha point of view), and the last Preston story I wrote and posted gets its share of traffic. So… look for it by Friday, which is when Preston gets honored by the Omaha Press Club with is "Face on the Floor" -- more about that later.

I never got around to reviewing last Friday's rock show mainly because I've been too busy running around trying to get these two stories pulled together. Here's a brief recap: The Show Is the Rainbow stole the show. And let me make this proclamation:

The Show Is the Rainbow is the "next big thing" to come out of Nebraska.

You've heard it first here in KTIM. Darren Keen, formerly with the rock trio Musico, does a one-man-band sort of thing a la Cex, rapping (if you can call it that) over pre-recorded beats, samples and music in what is sort of an interactive freak-out. Like Cex, he performs from the floor, not the stage, running around with a microphone yelling in people's faces and screaming his stories of Midwest depravity. There will be more detailed description of his schtick later when I do an interview with the bushy-haired lad. But let me say this: He does what he does very well and is successful at pulling the crowd into his madness. It's weird and, at times, kinda creepy but always full of energy and fun. And did I mention the music is pretty damn good? Sort of a cross between Atom & His Package and Har Mar Superstar (the Har Mar comparison will likely dog Keen as he continues to perform his schtick on tour across this great country of ours).

More on The Show is the Rainbow later.

Next up was Victory at Sea, which nearly put me out. The sleepy little band features a violin and a talented female lead vocalist, which sounds like a recipe for something special. Instead, their minor-key dirges all sounded the same, lacked a central point of reference and were mind-numbingly boring. Why this band is on tour with Mates of State is a mystery.

I Am the World Trade Center was up next, and were actually quite disappointing. After listening to their two full-lengths and interviewing Dan Geller, I was expecting this huge, interactive dance party. What I got were interesting renditions of their songs but without the spark. Lead vocalist Amy Dykes doesn't have it going live, at least not this night. I counted at least three covers, including The Sunday's "Here's Where the Story Ends" where Dykes didn't have the range to hit the notes, and New Order's "Bizarre Love Triangle," one of my favorite songs and their best cover of the night, though it added literally nothing new to the original version and resembled a karaoke performance more than anything. Did people dance? Sure, they tried to get into it, but it was no party.

Finally, Mates of State. I realized again, after seeing then now three times, why I don't like this band. The keyboards are gratingly annoying, the songs have no variety, the harmonies -- while wholehearted -- become a gimmick, and none of their songs are catchy. But judging by the response of the 175 on hand, I'm wrong about all of this. People love them, though I can't seem to figure out why.

More later tonight, including the Enon story.

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I Am the World Trade Center – Oct. 1, 2003

There was a ton more to this interview with Dan Geller of I Am the World Trade Center that I either didn't have room for or am holding for a different story. Among his comments is his complete comfort in leaving his own label, Kindercore, to sign with a major (he mentioned RCA among those who had been knocking at his door). "The idea of Kindercore is to bring great music to as many people as possible," Geller said. "We have no trouble letting our bands go to the majors. We have a good relationship with our bands. We want them to make it." I said it was a stark contrast to Saddle Creek Records family-like atmosphere, where you get a sense that if someone jumped ship, it would be akin to a betrayal. But not at Kindercore, though Geller says some of the bands have that attitude. He put it bluntly: "What we do (as part of IATWTC) needs to be in that major market."

I also left out his references to now-defunct Omaha club The Junction, where IATWTC played on their second go-'round. Expecting the same "party" atmosphere that they received at The Gunboat, Geller said the show "was not so good." The duo had the same experience in Portland -- their debut there was "off the hook," the second show was another let-down. Seems IATWTC is known as a dance band throughout the southeast and East Coast, where the duo generally plays only with a DJ.

The band will be trying to throw a party at Sokol Underground this Friday with Mates of State and Omaha's own The Show is a Rainbow. Bring your dancing shoes, though I have a feeling Geller will be faced with the usual audience of deer-in-the-headlights gawkers.

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Live Review: Scout Niblett – Sept. 30, 2003

I never had a chance to write a review of the Scout Niblett show last Saturday night, so here it is, in rather belated fashion. Jake Bellows of Neva Dinova was one of the opening acts (and the only one I had a chance to catch). He performed solo with an electric guitar, playing what in essence sounded like Neva's quieter songs without the backup. I like Bellows sing-songy, free-wheelin', laid-back style and it worked well alone.

Then along came Scout, but she wasn't alone. The first three songs were performed with Swearing at Motorists' Dave Doughman, and at least one of them was introduced as a Swearing song. Doughman played guitar and stood up front, while Niblett took a seat behind the trap set, adding vocals. Very nice stuff. Then Doughman left the stage to Scout, who switched between her electric guitar and drum set. A catty Brit, she chatted briefly with the crowd of 75 between songs, asking them to join in on a couple numbers.

Say what you will about her rather minimalist recordings, live Niblett absolutely shines. She pulled off her quirky, one-women set with enough panache to keep the small crowd's attention. And that's about all there is to say. It was a mellow evening of singer-songwriter fare by a woman who will either grow to be as big as Cat Power or will quietly fade away into indie rock ether. I'm betting on the former.

Check back tomorrow morning for an interview / feature with I Am the World Trade Center, and a couple new CD reviews (probably).

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Live Review: From Autumn to Ashes/Cave In – Sept. 26, 2003

It makes no sense for me to write a critical review of a metal show. I don't know very much about the genre. This sort of thrash metal that borders on hardcore has never been my thing. Most of it is boring and repetitive with little or no merit.

From Autumn to Ashes was the headliner -- a five piece band that included two guitars, a bass, a drummer/vocalist and a lead growler/vocalist who looked like a chubby version of Mike Mogis sans glasses. Their music is formulaic -- guitars and bass playing the same brutal riffs, the drummer pounding on a double bass-pedal and the Mogis clone screaming in the stereotypical Cookie Monster voice. There ain't much more to say.

It was loud. One of the loudest shows I've seen at Sokol Underground in a while. Some random notes from the show:

-- The crowd was 90 percent metal guys in black T-shirts/jeans, with logos of everything from Anthrax to Suicidal Tendencies.
-- I saw a guy sitting at a table with his hands to his ears. I figured he forgot his earplugs until he moved one of his elbows and I noticed he was actually talking on a cell phone. Since the band was playing at about 200 dBs, I can only imagine the conversation.
-- I saw a kid who looked exactly like Jack Osborne, but with a huge afro.
-- During the beginning of the FATA set, a few kids tried to get a moshpit started in front of the stage, ripping off their shirts and throwing them at the drummer, then going into the typical mosh/goon strut. A small circle opened for them to bash each other, and they took turns running onto the stage and jumping off. When no one else got into the scrum, the pit quickly dissipated.I saw them later, trying to find their shirts.
-- While about 50 boys did the classic Beavis and Butthead devil-horn headwag up front, three or four bookish girls stood off to the side, sheepishly taking pictures of the band with their digital cameras.
-- FATA's style includes a loud/soft/loud thing where the growler screams during the loud, footsteps-of-doom parts, followed by the drummer -- a spitting image of Dana Carvey as Garth (a la Wayne and Garth) -- singing in a high-pitched, boyish Garth voice. Hilarious.
-- There must have been more than a dozen merch guys at the show trying to sell cases of shirts and other junk in the back of the room. In fact, there was an army of tour guys everywhere, either selling shit or gripping band equipment between sets.
--Two huge tour buses were parked in the Sokol parking lot. There's no question that this rolling caravan had to be expensive to pull into Omaha to play for 175 people at $12 a pop.
-- I only saw the last two songs by Cave In. I didn't even recognize them during the first one because it was performed in the metal/monster style. It must have been one of their early, pre-prog numbers. They closed the set with one of their more typical Rush-style rock songs.

Maybe the biggest news of the night: Sokol Underground has installed a number of SmokEaters, and their effects were clearly noticeable. With The Music Box headed out, could this be the beginning of needed renovations for the Sokol space?

Tonight's Scout Niblett show should provide an interesting contrast.

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Cave In vs. Huskers, Let It Burn – Sept. 25, 2003

Well, we got the big Cave In / Autumn to Ashes show tonight at Sokol Underground. If I go, look for a review of the show here tomorrow. We're talking four bands, which means this one's gonna start early, around 8:30, which means I'll miss the first two because of the Husker game. I won't be the only one. Everyone talks about how indie/punk music is so anti-sports, yet I consistently see a lull at early shows when there's a good game on the TV. I don't care what anyone says -- I love sports, though I'm not much of a Husker fan (hey, I graduated from UNO -- I rarely miss a home Mav football game). I kind of wanted to see Funeral for a Friend if only because their name is one of my favorite Elton John songs. Methinks they won't be playing anything resembling Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.

Another new CD review -- The Break / Let It Burn split EP. Check it out.

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My controversial Scout Niblett story, Omaha's newest white elephant – Sept. 24, 2003

I finally found Scout Niblett. Seems she's hanging out somewhere in Japan, which might explain why her cell phone was out of range all those times I tried to call her (it's all explained in the "non-interview" with Scout that just went online here). I'm told my story, which will also appear in today's issue of The Reader, has been read as being "negative" toward the artist. Fact is, I tried to put something together about this-coming-Friday's show at Sokol Underground without the benefit of netting a real, live interview, and do it in a way that was more interesting than a straight-on CD review or a recitation of her one-sheet. There was no ill-intention intended. And Scout wasn't being purposely evasive. I know from her label that the fine folks at Omaha Pulp had no problem getting in touch with her. I just waited too long to make contact. That's what happens when the label or publicist e-mails you the artist's cell number and says "Call her anytime," instead of scheduling a hard-target interview. The implication is that she's lying around in a hammock somewhere, watching clouds pass by overhead. You say to yourself, "she's probably shopping at a thrift story or something. I'll call her this weekend," not knowing, of course, that she'll be taking off to the Orient Friday afternoon. I blame myself and my procrastination.

Tonight's big show -- The Nuge at Omaha's newest white elephant -- the Qwest Center -- a multi-million dollar arena that's promising to turn Omaha's music scene upside-down with exciting entertainment potential. Now Omaha finally has a facility big enough to draw the big, important, quality shows, like Ted Nugent, the Kiss/Aerosmith tour, Cher, Lisa Marie Presley and Matchbox 20. Needless to say, when it came time for a citizens' vote as to whether tax dollars should be spent on this boondoggle, I voted "no." As a result, I wash my hands of its eminent failure. Omaha is the wrong market for this sort of multifunction arena/convention center, and there was nothing wrong with the city's existing auditorium. The bands I love don't play at 18,000-seat arenas where only those who can throw down $200 for a pair of tickets can get close enough to recognize the artist as more than a noise-making blur. That said, I'll be attending the Oct. 9 Fleetwood Mac concert at The Qwest. Hey, whatever you do, don't stop thinking about tomorrow.

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Marianas line-up change, Morning Jacket at The Bowl, Big Collapse – Sept. 23, 2003

Expect to see some new additions to the Marianas' lineup when they open for My Morning Jacket at the Ranch Bowl Oct. 1. Everyone's favorite ethereal, ambient Lincoln band, which includes guitarist/keyboardist Aaron Grauer; programmer/keyboardist Aaron Coleman and singer/guitarist Ryan Dee, has added two new members -- drummer Tom Tollefsen and bassist/cornet player Malcom Miles. The band is currently supporting its just-released debut, Onward + Upward, on Elastic Heart Records.

If my memory serves me, this gig will serve as the Marianas' Omaha debut as well. With write-ups in Rolling Stone and recent appearances on a few TV shows, My Morning Jacket has become a very hot ticket, so hot, in fact, that I'm told the Ranch Bowl isn't allowing bands to put people on guest lists -- I guess the MMJ's guarantee is rather epic. But if I'm reading my hype tea leaves correctly (and I've misread them more than once), I don't think the Bowl has anything to worry about. Especially with a $12 ticket price. It should be a great stage for Marianas to introduce Omaha to their rather unique and fetching sound.

Another new review: Big Collapse -- Prototype.

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The better-late-than-never live review: Head of Femur – Sept. 19, 2003

So where was I? Oh yeah... last Saturday night's show at Sokol Underground -- The Golden Age and Head of Femur (I missed Crush the Clown thanks to the Cornhuskers).

I didn't even recognize The Golden Age -- the lead singer must have gotten a haircut -- he used to have Conor Oberst hair -- no more. The band played warm, poignant music with a carnival-ride feel, helped out by its lulling, weaving waltz meter. The lead guy's voice reminds me of Joe Knapp's, but that's about as far as you can go with any comparison to Son, Ambulance. Their arrangements are more sophisticated, featuring two guitars (one a slide), a bass, drums and a lonely keyboardist pushed off to one side as if stranded on an island. The interweaving of her keyboards and the guitars were something to behold, and despite their distance on stage, all three were wonderfully linked in interplay. Lots of looking up from her hands, lots of nodding heads, there was something unspoken being spoken.

I thought The Golden Age's songs were at once thoughtful, delicate and thoroughly rocking. Missing was my understanding of the words -- I simply couldn't hear the vocals over the rest of the mix. Part of the problem was my location, standing behind the stack along the wall stage right, where one can get an unencumbered view of all that's happening on stage and avoid the initial bass blast from in front of the amps (I still can't figure out why people go to rock shows without earplugs, then stand right in front of the stack covering their ears in pain).

The band had a three-song self-released EP at their merch table. I should have picked one up, but I was low on cash -- such is the life of the lowly critic, loved and hated and poor.

It took only about 10 minutes to get set up for Head of Femur. This version of the band featured nine -- count 'em nine -- musicians playing everything from sax, trumpet, violins, vibes, guitars, keyboards, drum and bass. The sax player was this older guy. I have now been told by various audience members that 1) he's the bass player's dad; 2) he's the guy from The Sea and Cake; 3) He's only in his late 30s -- all three are wrong on some level. I think it was the trumpet player who is in The Sea and Cake. Anyway...

You have to see this band to believe it. People who really dug the Bright Eyes orchestra last year will be the most entertained, although I think this ensemble is far superior. Bright Eyes thing was to create this dense, rhythmic experience (there was something like three percussionist in Oberst's orchestra). Femur's is more about creating an almost vaudville-ian noise. I talked about their sound in the article, but the guy next to me put it more concisely. He turns to me, smiling, and yells "They sound like a 21st Century version of ELO." Not bad. In fact, pretty damn close. Not quite the same melodies, but a similar intensity. Everyone is on top of each other during the songs, bouncing off one another both physically and musically, creating these large-scale, intricate pop songs that wander from different time signatures and keys and dynamics. For added effect and chaos, two small bubble machines haphazardly made bubbles during a few songs, sending glistening bits of soap around the band a la everyone's favorite waltzmaster Lawrence Welk.

I enjoyed the music and the spectacle and the band's infectious enthusiasm. There were even a few people in the crowd of 200 who rushed the stage and did weird hand gestures at the band... and danced (if you can call it that). Talking around the crowd when the lights went up, there were either true believers or enemies. People either gushed or glowered. It has to do with your willingness to accept this sort of prog/art music. The rockers seemed less enthused, but the folks who are into experimental and ambient stuff, were in love. You gotta wonder how it'll play in Cleveland or NYC or L.A.

Tomorrow: More CD reviews and assorted news stuff. Tonight is Q & Not U, Black Eyes and Antelope at Sokol Underground. I may go, I may not go. I suggest you go if you're free and have the cash.

I just finished watching Charlie Rose interview Sofia Coppola. Charlie, struggling to get Sofia to say something relevant about anything, Sofia struggling to be courteous and give Charlie something that's relevant about anything. I've been there before, interviewing bands that, while they aren't trying to be secretive, just don't have anything interesting to say beyond their art, and are awkwardly out of place describing it. Poor Charlie was asking -- and answering -- all the questions himself. I finally had to turn it off.

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Update Pending! – Sept. 16, 2003

I'm in a slight bit of a stall at the moment. Check back tonight for an update that'll include a review and pics from Saturday's Head of Femur show, an interview/feature with Cave In, some news on The Mariannes, and more.

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Head of Femur interview; Criteria and Cursive, Greedy label update – Sept. 11, 2003

So I just plugged in a brand spankin' new interview with Chicago rock ensemble Head of Femur (read it here). The online version is about 400 words longer than the one printed in today's edition of The Reader (it was cut for space) so Lazy-i readers win once again. Even with extra innings there was a ton of stuff that didn't make the Lazy-i cut. Like how the band decided to cover Eno's "The True Wheel" on their new CD (Seems Mike Elsener and Ben Armstrong were in a short-lived (one-day) Eno tribute band called 801. They liked the song so much they made it part of the Femur set. Their next cover will be a version of Elton John's "Holiday Inn" from Madman Across the Water). Or why Matt Focht auditioned with piano-guy Ben Folds ("Well, I was in New York, I wasn't doing anything that was going anywhere. I was playing in the Holy Ghost, and that was fun, but it was hard to get it off the ground. So I heard about the audition through Folds' management. I was stoked. I like his music. It took place in a practice studio in mid-town. The management company sent five songs and I worked them for two weeks. When I got there he barely wanted me to do any of that stuff. He just wanted to talk. He said, 'I never do these session tryout things. I play with friends.' He ended up giving the job to a session guy, someone from the Blue Man Group, which ended up not working out.")

And so on. There's more. I guess I should probably just post a Q&A, but you get the gist of it in the article. The band will be playing at Sokol Underground with Lincoln bands The Golden Age and Crush the Clown this Saturday night.

Speaking of tours, I just noticed that Criteria will be touring with Cursive for the last half of October (and those two bands will be joined by the Jealous Sound for what has to be one of the most solid tours this year). My advice to Criteria's Stephen Pedersen: bring lots of product -- there are still a lot of Cursive fans out there who have never heard of Criteria, and all of them will want to buy a copy of the debut CD after they hear their set.

Finally, an update on the Sept. 9 blog item about the Universal Music Group announcement that they'll be dropping prices by $6 on their titles. Homer's Mike Fratt e-mailed me saying that the initial press release by Universal was a bit misleading. Seems not all of Universal's labels will be involved in the price reduction. Dreamworks, Roadrunner, Abkco will not be lowering prices after all. I have a feeling that even more weirdness will emerge as the deal goes into effect.

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Live Review: Carmine, The Few at The 49'r – Sept. 10, 2003

Carmine is a classic four-piece band -- two guitars, a bass, drums, everything turned up loud. Among them is Handsome Marc from the Carsinogents and one of them thar Thornton boys, Bob I think it is, the one who used to be in Clayface. There's another guy in the band who also was in Clayface, a hardcore band from back in the day, who I never saw live but whose single I own. Carmine's sound is fast and furious punky rock a la Flip Your Wig-era Husker Du, a sound that no one is playing 'round here these days and that these guys do very well. There was only a couple songs in their 20-minute-or-so set that ran over three minutes. I like the fact that the music is upbeat both rhythmwise and tonally (is that a word?). Wish I could tell you what they were singing about, but the vocals got lost in the mix, which is a shame because their voices (two guys handle most of them) are pretty good and perfectly suited for this style of music, though they could use a but more umphh. The sound in the 49'r is anything but balanced; it was so loud on the high-end that it would take a real bellower to get over the guitars. Anyone who didn't have earplugs last night was likely in pain or hiding in the back of the venue, looking for something to stuff in their ears.

Marc says the band has recorded a few demos but hasn't really done anything serious in a studio, which is a shame because there's a market out there for this kind of music -- a modern spin on a sound that's a throwback to the late-'80s SST stuff that people like me miss hearing. Incidently, Marc may hold the title as Omaha's hardest working bass player -- in addition to his work with The Carsinogents and Carmine, he'll be filling in on bass tomorrow night when Race for Titles plays at Triple Rock in Minneapolis.

Topping off the night was The Few, a band from L.A. I wrote about last week (do some catching up here if you haven't read it already). Live, they're a different band then on their Andy LeMaster-produced LP -- grittier, punkier, closer to a mainline indie rock thing. I like this band because their songs have a genuine melody underneath the chiming guitars and snap-bash drums, which were more straightforward than on the record. I couldn't tell if the crowd of 50 or so on hand were really into it or not. The band didn't seem to notice, they seemed satisfied with the fun they were having on their own.

I left wondering what it would take for a band like this to break through to something outside of the typical indie-rock-club circuit, playing for fewer than 100 people a night. They seem to always be touring (they were in Denver last night, they'll be in Aberdeen tomorrow), which everyone says is the key to growing a following, though these days I'm not so sure. You get a sense that they'll never draw a larger audience unless they get on a tour with a bigger, more well-known indie band. And how exactly does something like that happen if it hasn't happened already?

Site Note: Look for the Head of Femur story tomorrow -- it's too late to put it online tonight!

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An indie retailer's take on the shifty record industry; The Few tonight – Sept. 9, 2003

Here's a write-up/interview I did for The Reader about the lowering of record prices by Universal Music Group. Homer's is the largest independent record "chain" in the Omaha/Lincoln area. In addition to being the chain's merchandising guy, Mike Fratt plays bass in Midwest Dilemma and used to be in The Acorns. Of course The Reader thought the story was too detailed and cut it in half, so you're reading a Lazy-i exclusive:

By now, music buyers know about last week's announcement that Universal Music Group is lowering the MSRP of its CDs from $18.98 to $12.98 in an effort to revive the sagging sales. Universal controls nearly 30 percent of the U.S. music market with a stable of labels that includes Interscope, Geffen, A&M, Island, Def Jam, MCA, Lost Highway and Motown.

Mike Fratt, vice president of merchandising for Homer's Records, said Universal's decision impacts more than just CD prices. Fratt said the Universal deal, which he believes will be emulated by the other major music distributors, also cuts back on targeted co-op advertising -- direct payments made to retailers by Universal for local ads.

Companies such as Target, Wal-Mart and Best Buy -- whose business constitutes two-thirds of all US CD sales -- often received a disproportionate amount of co-op advertising dollars vs. independent retailers, Fratt said. The Universal deal opens a new advertising model similar to the one used by the movie industry. For example, when you see a movie trailer on TV, the commercial doesn't target a specific chain of theaters. Similarly, a broad national music release campaign would be indifferent to where consumers purchase the CD, replacing the current advertising model where $250,000 could be spent on an individual Best Buy Sunday circular.

"This will dramatically affect the way retailers advertise," he said. "About 75 percent of advertising is co-op money." The huge amount of co-op cash received by large retailers also allows them to drop the price CDs in their stores. "The co-op money allowed Target to offer a release at $9.99 and still make a dime. We don't get the co-op dollars to allow us to sell at $9.99 and make a profit," he said.

But doesn't Homer's also share in the co-op cash cow?

"We get co-op ad funds as well, which we use for listening stations and producing a direct mail magazine," Fratt said. "But we're willing to forgo that money to get a level playing field with the larger retailers."

One frustration with the deal -- Universal may be lowering suggested retail prices by $6 per CD, but it's only lowering wholesale prices by $3 per unit, insisting that retailers will make up the difference with higher volumes. "We hope that happens," Fratt said.

He said other stipulations call for retailers to guarantee that 25 percent of their inventory be Universal product and that a third of co-op ad programs target Universal artist offerings, even though they won't be providing cash for the ads. How that will shake out after the other major distributors follow Universal's suit is anyone's guess.

Don't look for that price drop overnight. Although the price change takes effect Oct. 1, retailers will still have plenty of old stock purchased at the former cost that will have to be moved to make room for new stock at the lower price. Regardless, Fratt said Universal's strategy is welcome news in an industry that's been suffering a 15 percent reduction in sales each year for the past two years.

"People blame downloading for lagging sales, but another reason is the huge shift in marketplace," Fratt said. "People are buying more CDs from the big players like Best Buy and Target rather than at record stores. When people shop at record stores, at least half the time they buy another CD along with the one they came in for. But when they go to Target, they just pick up the one CD and leave."

And what about indie labels that have been pricing their music at $12.99 all along? Fratt said he thought the Universal deal wouldn't have much impact on them since they were never screwing consumers to begin with. They also don't have the majors' bloated co-op advertising budgets. Large indie distributors such as ADA, WEA and Caroline, on the other hand, might feel pressure to do something about their pricing structure; and wouldn't that pressure flow downhill? Only time will tell.

While Fratt agreed (reluctantly) that crazy, bloated CD prices contributed to the slump in sales along with "illegal downloading" and shifts in the retail marketplace, we didn't talk about what I think is the No. 1 reason for the sales slump -- a severe deficit in talent on major-label rosters. Labels are now seeing the result of five years of goon rock (Korn, Limp, etc.) and Britney Boy bands. And now we're entering a phase where carbon-copy, lifeless, pop-punk bands like Good Charlotte, Saves the Day, Blink 182, New Found Glory and a cadre of others have piqued the majors' fancy. There appears to be no hope on the horizon.


Tonight is The Few and Carmine at The 49'r. I've been hearing lots of wonderful things about Carmine. If I decide to brave the usual packed and cramped 49'r crowd, look for a review in tomorrow's blog. Also, check back late tonight for a fresh new interview with Head of Femur.

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News bits: Statistics, Schatzi, The Talk, Fizzle Like a Flood, more – Sept. 7, 2003

Here's a peek at a few mastering projects that studio engineer Doug Van Sloun has working on lately at Studio B Ltd.

  • A new 10-song recording by Statistics, the solo project by Desaparecidos guitarist Denver Dalley. The CD will be the follow-up to his debut, released earlier this year by Jade Tree Records.
  • A new full-length by Austin indie-pop band Schatzi, recorded last February at Lincoln's Presto! Studios with Mike Mogis. No word on a release date or label.
  • A live recording of last month's Rock Lotto show at Sokol Underground. Rock Lotto took musicians from various Omaha rock bands and mixed them up into new bands for the evening's performances.
  • Re-mastering Fizzle Like a Flood's 2000 release Golden Sand and the Grandstand. Flood says the CD is slated to be rereleased by indie label Ernest Jenning Record Co. in the fall of 2004.
  • A live concert CD by Austin honky-tonk showman Jack Ingram. Ingram's last CD, 2002's Electric, was released on Lucky Dog Records.
  • A new hip-hop release by local artist Mista Soull.
  • An EP by Charlotte, N.C., rockers The Talk, recorded at Presto! Studios by Mike Mogis. The CD is slated for release on MoRisen Records.

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Live Review: Beep Beep, Numbers, Erase Eratta; that shifty record industry – Sept. 4, 2003

I wrote this right after getting home from Sokol Underground last night, which explains why it's written like this:

Draw: 110. Late start. Early end. 11:30 tops. Perfectly suited lineup. Circa New York 1977. Each band a perfect compliment. I had no intention of staying past Beep Beep. I was lulled. By the music. The weird, choppy music. The hurky jerky punk.

First: Beep Beep. Pure clang-'n'-roll. Chris Hughes and Eric Bemberger share vocals. Joel Petersen (of The Faint) on bass (surprise!). Vox reminds me of John Lydon. As PiL. Breathy, high-pitched, whine shrieks. Spitting out lines. Spitting profanities over harsh guitar. Held together by the bass/drums. Reminds me of Mousetrap. Reminds me of punk rock. It's been a while. Six songs and off. Maybe 20 minutes? I wanted more. Not tonight.

Next: Numbers. Trio with guitar, Moog, and tall thin chick drummer. All three sing, sometimes. All wear matching T's. Black with blue # signs. Like uniforms. They put 'em on before the set. Take them off right after. Rhythms are back-beat chops. Everything plays off the back-half. One-and-two-and-three-and-four-and. Cymbals on the "ands." Clocking around 80 bpm. The Moog sets the tone. And the drums. Chop chop chop. Think early Devo meets Gang of Four. I like.

Finally: Erase Errata. I know nothing about them. Pleasantly surprised. A 4-piece. All chicks. All short. Three out of four in granny glasses. More back-beat. More chop-chop-chop. Bass, drums, guitar, vocals. Trumpet, songflute, all for effect. It's all rhythm. Really. Forget about melody. Think angry, lost rants. Think Gang of Four Chicks.

And so on. Good stuff.

Lots of chit-chat this morning about rumors that Universal Music Group will announce that it will lower the retail price of its CDs from $18.98 to $12.98. Other labels are expected to follow suit. While this will be "big news" to those in the business, I'm skeptical that the average serious music consumer will see an impact. I've rarely if ever spent more than $13 for a CD. Does that mean that I'll only be paying $7 or $8 for CDs from now on, with "sales" of CDs at $5? I doubt it. This could also have a radically different side effect with folks wondering how record labels can simply lop off $6 from the price of their commodity. "They've been screwing us all these years?" could be the typical reaction. My answer: Yes they have. Imagine if the auto industry as a whole decided to take 1/3 off the price of new cars -- all $20,000 cars now sold for $12,000 -- or moviehouse ticket prices suddenly were $6 instead of $10. Most industries can't do that without serious consequences. And how will this impact indie labels that have been pricing their CDs reasonably all along? Will they be forced to drop their prices as well? Let's see where CD prices are a month from now. I might be paying $11.88 again instead of $12.88. Whoop, whoop! Last time I looked, dem bad ol' downloaders could still get their tunes for free at SoulSeek.

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The Few's Saddle Creek connection; Erase Errata Wednesday night; Calibretto – Sept. 3, 2003

Just now posted, an interview with The Few's Jaime Zwick on the band's history, sound and new CD recorded by Now It's Overhead's Andy LeMaster at his Athens studio (read it here). The band will be playing at The 49'r next Tuesday, Sept. 9, in a return engagement. Zwick said they passed through the Niner their last time out just a few months ago and "It was the best show on our tour. We had a lotta fun." He said the band had no problem holding the attention of Niner's usually fickle and talkative crowd. The band says they plan on winding up their next tour at the upcoming CMJ "Music Marathon," though they may only be spectators, seeing as they have yet to line-up a Big Apple gig in conjunction with the industry shindig. "It'll be fun just to be in New York that week," Zwick said.

Us Omaha folks got Erase Errata, Numbers and Beep Beep tonight at Sokol Underground. Every time Beep Beep is slated to play a 1 Percent-produced show something goes awry. So far they're 0 and 2 for Sokol gigs. Keep your fingers crossed. If I go (and they play), look for a review here tomorrow.

Speaking of reviews -- here's a look at the new one by Calibretto. More reviews to come.

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Neva Dinova in the dark; where's Sin-é anyway?; Anonymous American in the studio; Beck does it old school – Aug. 27, 2003

Sometime when I have the time and the inspiration I'll detail my own experience in New York City on the day of the big blackout. I've told the story so many times now to friends and co-workers, that it's gone from a 20-minute epic story of pain, suffering and outright heroism to a 30-second mention of walking across the Queensboro Bridge with a million other sweaty people. I wasn't the only Omahan whose travels were disrupted by the biggest power outage in history. Omaha rock band Neva Dinova got a rude welcome for their big NYC debut. They were slated to play at The Mercury Lounge in Manhattan Aug. 14. In fact, I'd hoped to drop by the show myself and provide a little Cornhusker support. Instead, I was lying on the dirty ballroom floor of the Helmsley Park Lane Hotel when the band was suppose to be taking the stage. I'm told by Jason at Saddle Creek Records, who also was in NYC that night, that he and the band spent the evening throwing back beers at an impromptu party on the roof of a lower east side apartment.

I gotta tell you, being a hayseed and all, that I found the lower east side to be a bit, well, spotty. A few days after the blackout, my girlfriend and I took the V Train down to 2nd Ave at around 10 a.m. and walked around trying to find Sin-é and The Mercury. We never did find Sin-é, but did finally find the Mercury after stumbling through some of the most, uh, colorful parts of the city. At one point, walking through a neighborhoold of what looked like high-rise, run-down, low-rent housing units, I thought we were gonna get rolled. We were getting a lot of "what are you doing here" stares, but that was most likely due to the fact that we looked like a couple vacationing hicks. With a Yankees game scheduled for that evening, and the flight home the next day, we never made it back down there for a show. But if you happen to be at the Mercury sometime, look at the metal pole that's to the right of the front entrance -- high up, above an Evil Beaver sticker, you'll find a good 'ol Lazy-i sticker -- a little reminder of Omaha in the heart of the city.

Some news -- former Movies' frontman Matt Whipkey's new project, Anonymous American, is headed for the studio to record their debut full-length. The band, which includes ex-Movies bassist Bob Carrig, along with Corey Webber and Wayne Brekke (both ex-The Get), will be recording at Bassline Studios at 50th and Center. Whipkey says fans of The Movies will notice a change in the band's style.

"Anonymous American is different than The Movies in the sense that Bob and I have both grown since that band," Whipkey said. "The sound is similar but a little more mature, I attribute that growth to those months where I was performing solo. You learn a lot about your capabilities as a performer when you have no one to fall back on."

The band just finished recording the single "Hurricane Girl," which they'll be pushing for radio play and selling at local gigs, including a Sept. 13 show at The 49'r. The single features former Movies guitarist Mike Friedman on pedal steel.

Finally, Rolling Stone reported yesterday that Beck's next CD is gonna be a throwback to his old, more rocking style (read the story here). He says in the article that the new songs are reminiscent of his very first recordings. "My early stuff was a lot more punked out and noisy," Beck said. "I didn't really let myself use big guitars for a lot of years. The early Nineties was so saturated by big guitars that I became really interested by what I could do if you took all the guitars out -- with the space that was left." Despite all the accolades that said Sea Change was his masterpiece, Mellow Gold is still my favorite Beck album. Hopefully the new one will have a little bit of "Beercan"/"Soul Suckin' Jerk" vibe to it.

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The birth of Backbeat, The Strokes on fire?, more CD reviews – Aug. 26, 2003

The Reader will begin running a new newsbits column called Backbeat that will incorporate some of the tips from this here blog with contributions from other music writers at the newspaper. You should see the first edition of Backbeat in this week's edition of The Reader, which will include a couple items that will be posted in tonight's (actually, very early tomorrow morning's) blog update. That said, if you're in a band or affiliated with a recording studio or other aspect of the Omaha music industry, drop me a line with your news and I'll get it online in the blog and in print in The Reader. Don't bother sending me gig dates, however, as they don't want the column to turn into a glorified calendar listing, which makes sense to me.

NME is already getting the hype machine rolling for the next Strokes CD with an "exclusive" story that the CD will be called Room on Fire (the whole story's here). The Strokes have their work cut out for them. The success of their last album was due entirely to a huge hype push that came with the novelty of being the "new guys" -- something that they won't benefit from with this new one. And let's face it, the fickle fans that the band attracts (most music fans I know joined me in, uh, vehemently disliking their last CD) have moved onto "the next big thing" (The Yeah Yeah Yeahs? White Stripes?) I predict the new CD will sound pretty much exactly like the last one, and do we really need another one of those?

Two more reviews went up last night -- Winfred E. Eye and Self-Evident, tucked beneath yesterday's CD reviews (these are capsules). Many more to come.

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Review, review; catching up – Aug. 25, 2003

Just added a couple new reviews of new ones by Canoe and Lincoln's Strawberry Burns. I'll be adding five or six more reviews tonight. I'm slowly getting back into gear after last week's NYC extravaganza, which I might go into further detail tonight. Part of the problem is getting interviews lined up both with bands and The Reader, but there are a couple on the way. My main focus is getting through all these reviews and clearing the deck, as it were. That means you'll see a combination of longer reviews, like the two just posted, along with smaller, capsule reviews, so keep coming back for more.

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I'm Back – Aug. 22, 2003

Please stand by...

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The bad news and the bad news, Mariannes/Consafos/Fromanhole Saturday – Aug. 14, 2003

Well, the bad news is that though I've gotten about a dozen CD reviews written, I haven't had a chance to post them on the site. The other bad news is that this is the last site update until Aug. 20. I'll be in NYC for the next few days, and hopefully will get a chance to catch a couple bands while I'm out there. If so, you'll read about it here.

Looks like I'll be missing a couple hot shows while I'm gone, not the least of which is Son, Ambulance / Wolf Colonel / Kite Pilot tonight at Sokol Underground. I was intending to do an interview with S.A.'s Joe Knapp, but Saddle Creek tells me that his new album won't be released until early 2004, so I decided to wait. Those who go to the show tonight, however, may get a chance to hear some of Joe's new material.

The other hot show -- The Mariannes, Consafos / Fromanhole Saturday, also at Sokol Underground. Here's something I wrote for The Reader as a preview for the show:

Is there a more laid-back outfit than The Mariannes?

During their 7-inch release show last February at Sokol Underground, the band soldiered through a series of technical glitches (plugging in the wrong chords, equipment adjustments, etc.) and still managed to perform a flawless set, looking as if they didn't have a care in the world.

The aforementioned 7-inch is called "Your New Life on Medicine." The three-song single was recorded in lead singer Matt Stamp's mid-town living room by drummer Steve Micek (Sokol Underground regulars will recognize Micek as the guy who runs the sound at most of the shows).

The band's style is Midwestern art folk on Valium. The single's title track begins as a soothing jangler with Stamp sweetly singing about "arms outstretched making snow-angel puddles in the grass," before shifting gears into a weird, guitar-driven jam-rock anthem. "Sword of Damocles," on the other hand, would sound right at home on a Mountain Goats CD, while the mostly instrumental closer, "Truth," feels like early, laid-back Pavement built around a repeating guitar line that you wish would go on forever

Stamp began The Mariannes as a solo project three and a half years ago, putting the current, permanent line-up in place a little over two years ago. Micek previously played with Real Time Optimists and has done a tour of duty with Bright Eyes, while bassist Robert Little has played in Son, Ambulance.

Also on the bill is Consafos, a four piece from Los Angeles and Omaha that includes members of such bands as Topeka, Ritual of Defiance and Glasscraft. Saddle Creek Records followers will recognize guitarist Stefanie Drootin, who also plays bass for The Good Life. According to their record label, Greyday Productions, the band's debut full-length, Such Is the Way of Things, is due out in November.

Opening the evening's festivities is Omaha trio Fromanhole. Consisting of brothers bassist/vocalist Doug Kiser and guitarist Daryl Kiser, along with drummer Doug Berger, the mostly instrumental ensemble matches angular, mathy riffs with complex start-stop rhythms that create a wall of post-prog-noise rock. Rare vocals consist of Doug Kiser yelling what sounds like freeform poetry. The band is currently supporting their full-length, Out of the Flats.

One other hot show, the same night as The Mariannes, is Bad Luck Charm and Carmine at The 49'r. BLC has become a local hot-rock legend stuck in overdrive -- an ear-bleeding good time. I've heard nothing but good things about Carmine, a band which I'm told includes one of them thar Thornton boys as well as a Carsinogent and a few other dudes. Haven't heard them, though, so go there and tell me how it goes.

See you when I see you.

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Who went to Cursive? Monroes on the teevee. Another 'look' at Doug Van Sloun. – Aug. 11, 2003

Family events and general fatigue kept me from last night's Cursive show at Sokol Auditorium with Planes Mistaken for Stars. Anyone who was there, feel free to post a review on the Web board.

No interviews this week or next, and updates will be review-heavy. In fact, I'm trying to get eight more reviews online tonight and a bunch more the rest of the week before Lazy-i goes on a one-week hiatus starting Thursday. There might be a surprise live review popping up early next week, however.

Tonight, Omaha's premiere tractor-punk rockers The Monroes finally make it onto the teevee. No, not on Letterman or Leno or Conan. Even better. They're one of the featured performers on local public access show Mass Transit on Cox channel 23 at 9 p.m. Find out more about the show here.

One last thing -- I updated the photos on the Doug Van Sloun interview with actual pictures of Doug Van Sloun. So go back and take a look and see what a master mastering engineer looks like. That picture/plaque over Doug's left shoulder is the coveted Mannheim Steamroller RIAA award. Look with envy.

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Everything you wanted to know about audio mastering but were afraid to ask, and other stuff – Aug. 6, 2003

I was the one that suggested this story for The Omaha Weekly-Reader and it was for purely selfish reasons. As I say in the just-posted story (read it here), I kept seeing the name "Doug Van Sloun" popping up on all my favorite locally produced CDs, whether they be Saddle Creek or non-Saddle Creek releases. Who was this guy and more importantly, what does he do when he masters these recordings? The story ended up being much longer than expected, and also (hopefully) more interesting, though you still may be bored off your ass. If the technical stuff wonks you out, skip to the last section, where Doug talks about some egregious trends in the mastering and mixing profession, and sites examples.

By the way, the photos of vintage recording equipment used to decorate the story are not Van Sloun's, just something I found off the 'net. I hope to get a pic of Doug to replace those images, eventually.

There's a new review online (in the reviews section). I'm toying with the idea of altering my reviewing process similar to what Robert Christgau does, just to get more reviews online. For duds, he merely rates them "bombs" or lists the "prime cuts." I might do more than that, but not much. I gotta do something. I'm beginning to average about one review a day, and The Reader is printing one review a week (the last issue featured the Mayday review, the before that, Marianas).

I just noticed that Attack Action Helicopter is no more. RIP. I dug it while it lasted.

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SOS Concert; The Album Leaf, Fizzle Like a Flood tonight – Aug. 4, 2003

I did drop by the SpeakOut at STRATCOM 2003 concert in the park Saturday night to catch a bit of Michelle Shocked. The crowd of 200 or so sat in the park's dog bowl on the west side and seemed content to hear Shocked and her guitar sing folk songs and talk about the importance of speaking up. There was some weirdness felt. Who were the "official observers" in the vests? Why so many cops? What were "they" expecting? The only subversive thing I saw was three sculpted heads -- of George Sr., Jr., and Cheney -- lying on a banner in the grass, seemingly watching the concert. Pics of the event are posted on their site:

Tonight is a show that somehow flew under my radar -- The Album Leaf with Fizzle Like a Flood and Lewis & Clark at Sokol Underground. The Album Leaf is Tristeza guitarist Jimmy LaValle playing soothing acoustic ditties. LaValle's 2001 Tiger Style release, One Day I'll be on Time, is a must-own for anyone into this kind of intricate guitar-based instrumental music. We all know opener Fizzle Like a Flood. I still have to laugh when I read the AMG review of Flash Paper Queen: The 4-track Demos: "With the exception of the layered, Pet Sounds-esque opening track (the lovely "Like Wind Like Rain"), Flash Paper Queen: The 4-Track Demos features skeletal, home-recorded versions of the ten songs that ultimately became the Flash Paper Queen album." We're all still waiting for that Flash Paper Queen album, Doug.

New CD review: John Larsen. More on the way.

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Live Review: The Good Life / Minus the Bear – July 31, 2003

I showed up just in time to miss Luigi Waites. The 200 or so on hand (I'm guessing here) were still buzzing about his set. Someone told me they'd never heard applause like at Sokol Underground -- a nice tribute to one of Omaha's legends.

Now I know why Minus the Bear has the rep for being a "math rock" band, but I guess I never really noticed it listening to their CD. Now it's painfully obvious why having seen them perform live. Don't get me wrong, I like "mathy" music, and these guys certainly have all the requirements for that label -- intricate time signatures, dollops of syncopated rhythms, multiple time changes within songs, and so on. The crème de la crème is the band's guitarist -- a dead ringer for a young Nick Nolte, he plays using the "touch" method, where he fingers his chords with his left hand and pokes the strings with his right, a la Eddie Van Halen (but nearly as fast or flamboyant). His guitar mimics what you've heard on later King Crimson albums -- repeated almost piano-like tonal circles that add as much rhythm-wise as musicwise. Unfortunately, really good math demands strong melodies to remain interesting. About four songs into their set, their music began to blur and get a bit tiresome. The last two songs were easily their best -- one shifted from a down-low ambient thing to a rock mantra, the other was more typical of their style, and happens to be the best song on their new CD. The finest moments came when they gave their keyboardist room to stretch out, adding texture and ambiance to the usual stuttered proceedings.

The Good Life at Sokol July 30, 2003. Photos by leann jensen

Then came The Good Life. Clearly a bit rusty from not having played live for four months, they impressed with their new material. Kasher is beginning to remind me of Lloyd Cole, both physically and musically. I've come to the conclusion after hearing the new stuff that I really don't like Black Out that much. The Black Out songs performed were such a stark contrast to the poppy new material, there's no question that the band is going in a different direction with the next disc. It's downright bouncier than anything they've done before, and to complement it, they even rearranged some of their older material.

The lack of drum machine was an interesting change. On the first song, drummer Roger Lewis played bongos while multi-instumentalist Ryan Fox sat behind the trap set. Sometimes the new arrangements sans machine didn't work. For example, the electronic drum static on "A Dim Entrance" was replaced with what was essentially Kasher rhythmically scratching on his guitar. The transition to the song's main melody was harsh and disjointed and they dropped the song's pretty piano line. But other times, you couldn't tell you were missing anything without the electronic drums.

A highlight was a cover of The Faint's "Worked Up So Sexual" that was interesting in its downcast interpretation. I don't know if it worked or not, but it was certainly unique. When the band wasn't bouncing with the new stuff, they played mostly downstyle, quiet, slow numbers that highlighted the new sexy spy guitar parts that were quite pretty. But the person standing next to me in the audience got so downcast with all the lowtempo stuff that dominated the middle of the set that he left!

Anyway... I know I'm being rather obtuse describing their new material. The opener did remind me of early Lloyd Cole, with Kasher singing lyrics that described the first day he met a new girlfriend to the last day he saw her. One song sounded exactly like a Neva Dinova number thanks to the morose spy guitar line, while another toward the end of the set felt like a latter-day Elvis Costello song. Kasher's new stories have more detail and clever lines and seems less self-defacing than earlier Good Life stuff (again, Black Out) that seems more like a cry for help.

If what I heard last night is any indication, their next CD will easily be my favorite, a good rebound from the moribund songs on Black Out, yet even more poppy than what we got on Novena on a Nocturn. In other words: I smell hits! As always, everything they do is a stark contrast to Kasher's other band. Whereas I thought Black Out seemed headed toward Cursive territory, these new songs couldn't be further away on the spectrum. This is Kasher at his tuneful best.

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Scenefest this weekend, The Good Life/Minus the Bear tonight – July 30, 2003

Here's something I wrote about Scenefest that'll also be in today's edition of The Omaha Weekly-Reader:

Lincoln web 'zine Star City Scene is sponsoring a three-day music festival this weekend featuring 18 local acts all in an effort to raise awareness and generate a sense of community among bands.

Called Scenefest 1, the event runs Aug. 1-3 at Duffy's Tavern, 1412 O St. in Lincoln. The line-up includes:

Aug. 1 -- Mr. Miyagi, Strawberry Burns, Rent Money Big, The Republican'ts, The Skinny, and Wasteoid.
Aug. 2 -- DJ Robot:Modern, The Bad Sects, Her Flyaway Manner, Starboy, Ideal Cleaners, and Tangelo
Aug. 3 -- Floating Opera, The Return, Minutia Stew, Suzy Dreamer & Her Nightmares, Caesar The Greaser, and Crush The Clown

Festival organizer Tery Daly (Suzy Dreamer & Her Nightmares, Starboy) said the event hopefully will open some eyes among Lincoln and Omaha music lovers too timid to come out and see the local talent. "We have so many good bands here, but it seems like there are always the same 15 to 30 people at all the shows," he said. "People sit in front of their TV sets and watch 'Making the Band' or 'American Idol' but don't go out and see better bands playing right here in their own back yard."

Daly said that through the festival he hopes to build a sense of community among Lincoln's diverse music scene, which is oddly divided by genre and age barriers. Launched last April, his Web site Star City Scene, acts as a touchstone for bands by pulling together a calendar, news and reviews about the Lincoln scene.

The next hurdle to overcome is bringing the Omaha and Lincoln scenes closer together. Daly said he's working with Star City Scene's Omaha counterpart, SLAM Omaha, to co-sponsor shows that combine bands from the different cities. "The scenes were a lot closer in the early '90s," Daly said. "I'd like to see that happen again."

Scenefest 1 shows begin at 8:15 nightly. Tickets good for entrance into all three days of the event are $15 and available at Duffy's and Homer's in Lincoln. Tickets to individual evening shows are $6 at the door.

Among Scenefest 1's highlights is a rare live performance by Lincoln ensemble Floating Opera. Spearheaded by songwriters Charles Lieurance (The Black Dahlias) and Richard Rebarber, the ensemble includes some of the state's most talented performers, including vocalist Lori Allison (The Millions), drummer Paul Tisdale (Sideshow), as well as all three members of legendary punk rock outfit Mercy Rule -- guitarist Jon Taylor, vocalist Heidi Ore and drummer Ron Albertson.

On the ensemble's just completed third full-length release, Burning Lighthouse, the lineup rotates from song to song, with Allison handling the lion's share of vocals along with Omaha and Lincoln symphonies violinist Chris Wilson. Together, the ensemble comes off as a baroque plaything with violins, trumpets, the occasional keyboard and powerchords when you least expect them. The lilting all-girl vocals, almost angelic when harmonizing, all too often can be as soft as a covey of nuns, and would be too soft if not for the mostly first-person lyrics that sound like a slice of day-to-day and, hence, are as real as the Platte River.

According to Scenefest organizer Tery Daly, the Floating Opera lineup for the Aug. 3 show will be Wilson, Taylor, guitarist Scott Stanfield, Rebarber, bassist Dave Boye and cellist Alyssa Storey. Allison fans will be able to see her perform with the band, along with drummer Tisdale at the band's Aug. 27 CD release show at Duffy's.

Scenefest will have some competition on Saturday from a free concert in Memorial Park that runs from 5 to 10 p.m. Performing will be Mayday, Michelle Shocked and Stephan Smith. The concert is part of a three-day counter-conference to raise awareness about the US government's plans to build new nuclear weapons. For more information go to More on this event later.

Tonight we have The Good Life w/Minus the Bear at Sokol Underground. As mentioned earlier in the blog, the Good Life will be unveiling a handful of new songs destined for their new CD which will be played without the aid of a drum machine. Who's Minus the Bear? The Seattle 5-piece is fresh from a tour of Japan in support of their new album, Highly Refined Pirates on Suicide Squeeze Records.

Produced and engineered by Steve Fisk (Low, Pell Mell, Beat Happening) Highly Refined… sports the same sort of indie power-brawling that can be found on the last Jealous Sound CD. You know, the uncompromising hooks borne to fruition by Jake Snider's soaring vocals cast upon a glaze of angular guitars and a tight rhythm section. At its best (like the album's third track) the Bear comes close to breaking through to FM territory. Though there's energy o' plenty to go around, there's something desolate in their delivery -- like watching the guy in second place race to the finish line, knowing he'll never catch the winner. You gotta love the underdog.

Strangely, the band is becoming known for its bizarre song titles. A few of the more amusing entries on the new CD: "Thanks for the Killer Game of Crisco Twister," "Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse," "Get Me Naked 2: Electric Boogaloo," and "Hey, Wanna Throw Up?" You'd think they were a novelty act.

Get there early to catch a solo performance by Omaha jazz legend Luigi Waites. If I go (and I probably will) look for a review of the show here tomorrow.

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Live Review: Jets to Brazil / Criteria – July 28, 2003

Someone who saw me at the show e-mailed me and asked why I didn't do a "next-day" review of Jets to Brazil/Criteria. The main reason was because I didn't have a chance, and because I was unable to really pay attention to what was happening on stage.

I missed the Ideal Cleaners set altogether and got there just before Criteria. To make a long story short, I missed their entire set waiting in line to get a beer. This was Sokol's fault, not 1 Percent's -- there was only one bartender to serve 250 very thirsty people. The beer line ran all the way to the next room. That being the case, I could watch a lot of the set from my vantage point standing in line behind the crowd, and of course, liked what I heard.

Criteria finds itself in an interesting quandary. Here's a band, headed by Stephen Pedersen, that has released one of the best indie CDs this year with En Garde -- certain as good if not better than a lot of what's been released on Saddle Creek. And yet, other than a July 30 show with Beep Beep at Duffy's, they have no touring plans (at least none listed on their website). Pedersen is a lawyer, with a real career at one of the city's most prominent law firms. You can't blame him for not pissing it away to hit the road. On the other hand, how is he going to get the word out about his marvelous record without touring? It's almost impossible to get radio play on a college station these days without making a local appearance. I'm sure it's something he -- and his label, Initial Records -- thought about before making the CD.

Anyway, what I heard and could see from Criteria was pretty amazing. I got my beer just in time to see Jets to Brazil put on a lackluster performance. I didn't like their 2000 release and I'm guessing I wouldn't like their latest CD either, judging from what I heard -- generic indie rock that lacks individual style. Here's a band that doesn't take any chances, which would lead me to believe they could be huge in the alternative radio circuit where not taking chances is rewarded with lots of airplay. About five songs into their set, people began leaving, stopping to say goodbye or chat, I found myself completely distracted and detached from the stage. I guess I can thank the sound guy, who had the levels low enough so people could carry on conversations without screaming. I didn't even need to wear earplugs.

This week -- no interviews. I have a piece on the Lincoln's Scenefest that'll go in this space tomorrow night, and includes some comments on the new Floating Opera CD. Other than that, reviews reviews and more reviews, as many as time can provide.

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Jets to Brazil tonight, The Good Life's drummer situation, CD reviews: Mogwai, Poleposition – July 25, 2003

Big show tonight -- Jet's To Brazil, Criteria and Ideal Cleaners at Sokol Underground. I would have loved to have done an interview with Jets, but alas, they're not doing interviews and I haven't heard their latest CD (seems their publicist isn't sending them out to media and I'll be damned if I'm buying one considering the quality of the last one). The show is worth the $12 just for Criteria, which is currently one of my favorite bands. Ideal Cleaners is a new version of Lincoln's Drive-by Honky. I'm not sure of their personnel (there's no bio at their website) other than it doesn't include guitarist Jon Taylor. Uh, be prepared to rock.

Some news about The Good Life... I wrote a preview of their upcoming show at Sokol Underground (July 30 with Minus the Bear) and gleaned this info from uber-drummer Roger Lewis. Seems in addition to playing a bunch of new songs slated for a new CD, the band will be playing electronic drumless for the first time. "We won't be using one for this show," Lewis said of the click-clack gizmo. "We're going for something new with this new record." In addition to playing new songs without the machine, the band picked 11 of their chestnuts that they are rewriting to perform minus machine. It'll be interesting to see what they come up with to replace some of those effects. Roger says the band will be entering Lincoln's Presto! Studios this coming December and January to record the new album slated for release sometime in late spring or early summer of 2004.

Finally, I've added a couple reviews for new ones by Mogwai and Poleposition. Check them out linked off the Reviews page. More to come.

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Beep Beep and art appreciation – July 24, 2003

Yikes, a week without an update! Content on this site definitely comes in peaks and valleys, and while it appears to have been a valley this week, it's because I've been working on new material, including the just-placed-online story of Omaha/Lincoln art rock band Beep Beep (read it here). Chris Hughes, Eric Bemberger and Co., are all integral players in what has become "the Omaha scene" both through their work with their former bands and now through this ensemble. A word about the artwork used -- don't ask me what it means. Hughes and Bemberger were reticent about giving me a photo for the article, but grudgingly obliged. Then Hughes came by my house and dropped off the drawing and asked for the photos back. They want to maintain some sort of mystique about what they look like, I guess kind of like Steve Miller (Ah, I can just see the younger folks scrambling to find out who he is, and the look of disappointment on their faces when they discover it's the guy who sings "Fly Like an Eagle").

Later today or tonight I'll be adding more CD reviews, including reviews of new Mogwai and Pole Position. Also some info about The Good Life and their upcoming show at Sokol Underground with Minus the Bear.

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And now... Eels, too – July 16, 2003

Over lunch, I added the profile/interview with Mark Oliver 'E' Everett of the Eels (read it here). He's playing at the Ranch Bowl this coming Sunday with MC Honky. Both this and the Ward interview are suppose to be in today's edition of The Omaha Weekly-Reader, along with the Sorry About Dresden interview (a week late) and those reviews I posted yesterday. It remains to be seen since I haven't found a copy yet. More reviews are forthcoming.

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M. Ward – July 16, 2003

Just added an M. Ward profile/interview (read it here). He's playing at Sokol Underground this Saturday with Rilo Kiley and The Golden Age. I'll be putting the Eels interview online later today.

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New reviews... – July 15, 2003

New reviews -- Marianas, Lovetap, Mayday, FCS North -- check 'em out. Full(er) update tonight when I add a couple new interviews to the site.

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1% Productions – July 13, 2003

Just placed online a rather long and detailed story that outlines the history of 1% Productions and how the two proprietors go about conducting their business as independent show promoters in the Omaha area (read it here). 1%'s bread and butter is indie rock bands, and they've been doing shows for years, including working with all the Saddle Creek Records artists. The role Leibowitz and Johnson have played in helping establish "the Omaha scene" is hard to quantify. There's no question that Saddle Creek Records is the main ingredient behind the recent interest in all things Omaha, however 1%'s contributions can't be ignored in defining the city as an important stop for touring indie bands. Anyway... it's an interesting read and a unique peek into the backstory of our "burgeoning" music scene. It's also the cover story of this week's issue of The Omaha Weekly-Reader, so pick up a copy.

Coming up this week: Reviews of new ones by Marianas, Lovetap, and Mayday (these are already written and awaiting posting), along with a bunch of others. Also look for new interviews with The Eels and M Ward as we get ready for those two bands' Omaha shows. And don't forget Sorry About Dresden Tuesday at Sokol Underground.

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Live Review: Guster – July 10, 2003

The last time I saw Guster was way back in '99 when they played at the Ranch Bowl. For that gig, it was just the three of them squished on stage along with Brian Rosenworcel's bongo set, playing in front of maybe 300 people. Things have changed slightly over the past three years, at least from a staging standpoint. Last night's Sokol Auditorium gig in front of 750 or so boasted an intricate light show, a big sound system and some extra Gusters. The band has added an extra guitarist/bassist for the tour, along with a second drummer to help out on a few of the new numbers. And I could have sworn there was a sixth person on stage at one point, possibly behind the keyboards.

Their 90-minute set included songs from their last two CDs and probably their first couple (I don't own them, so I expect that those unfamiliar songs came from them). Woven in the middle was a tasty cover of The Talking Head's "(Nothing But) Flowers," perfect considering their harmonies, acoustic flair, the bongos, etc. A couple of the song's intricate guitar leads were lost in the mix or flubbed, but it was still a crowd pleaser.

Between each and every song song, Miller's guitar tech walked across stage and switched his guitar, sometimes replacing it with a bass. Along the same lines, Rosenworcel would switch between his stand-up bongos set and a small trap set. Methinks he's enjoying playing with sticks, and I wouldn't be surprised if he turns his back on his traditional knuckle-breaking style. Even Adam Gardner did the switcheroo, playing keyboards on at least one song.

Of course half the fun of a Guster show is Miller's between-song patter. Early in the show, jazzed by the crowd response, he threw his hands in the air and yelled (joking) "We're the best band in the world!" Then someone threw a baseball cap on stage with a Big 'N' on the front, which Miller put on to roars. "I must have done something good." Miller has a natural flair with casual asides; so natural, in fact, that he's got a second career as a gameshow host if he wants one.

His longest story of the night was a recap of the last time the band was in town. They played at Sweet 98's Sweetstock festival. Rosenworcel had mentioned the gig in our interview in disparaging terms. Miller continued the lambasting, saying the fest headliner was Christina Aguilera and the emcee was none other than Barry Williams a.k.a. Greg Brady of The Brady Bunch. Backstage, Williams had asked Miller where he's from. "So I said 'Well I'm originally from Texas but I've lived in Boston for a long time and recently moved to New York.' And Greg looks at me and says 'I was only making conversation. I don't really care where you live.' I was dissed by Greg Brady. It hurt my heart."

Crowd favorites were "Barrel of a Gun" (the four-three-two-one song) and closer "Fa Fa," both from Lost and Gone Forever -- don't these guys ever get tired of playing those two songs? The reaction to the new stuff was rather tepid in comparison, but what are you gonna do? The new CD has only been out for a few weeks. They came back and did a three-song encore which included a completely unplugged version of "Jesus on the Radio" from the new album. And when I say 'Unplugged,' I mean completely unplugged, with all acoustic instruments (the new guy was on banjo and Rosenworcel had a tambourine) and no microphones. Miller told the crowd he was "going to try this as long as nobody yells while we play because no one will be able to hear us." That resulted in a people yelling "Shut Up!" to all the woopers. The crowd finally brought it down and the song was played -- a nice seamless way to end the night.

Check back here later for that 1% Productions covers story from this week's Omaha Weekly-Reader (or just pick one up at your local Kwik Shop).

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Sorry About Dresden, Guster tonight – July 9, 2003

The interview with Matt Oberst of Sorry About Dresden is up (read it here). Their show is next Tuesday at Sokol Underground. I feel compelled to keep reminding Omaha readers of this since, as I explained yesterday, the printed version of the story won't run until after the show. I feel guilty, though I really shouldn't (*shakes fist at sky*). Tonight is Guster at Sokol Auditorium. It'll be interesting to see how many people show up for these guys since they don't get much airplay in the Big O. Early chatter is that ticket sales have been brisk. I'll post a full report early tomorrow morning. Oh, and that Neva news... keep watching.

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Sorry about losing power, Dresden; Pedro the Lion – July 8, 2003

Well, sorry about the lack of updates. Power had been knocked out at my house since Saturday. I only got my power back last night at 6 p.m. This proved to be a huge problem because I interviewed Matt Oberst of Sorry About Dresden earlier in the day Saturday, typing my notes on my computer. When the power got cut, I was unable to retrieve the notes, meaning I couldn't get the story written. When the power finally came back up last night, I dashed out the story but to no avail -- I'm told that The Weekly-Reader went to press without it! You'll still get to read the story tonight on Lazy-i, and Reader readers will see it in print next Wednesday -- a day after the Sorry About Dresden's July 15 show at Sokol Underground.

So… my apologies to Matt Oberst and Sorry About Dresden, but there wasn't anything I could do about it. It truly was an Act of God. Anyway, check back here tonight and I'll have the story online.

Also online tonight or tomorrow will be my 2,600-word profile of Omaha's 1% Productions -- this week's cover story for The Weekly-Reader. I got that one written and sent in Saturday, just hours before the storm struck that knocked out my power.

Another casualty of the storm -- my review of Sunday night's Pedro the Lion/Azure Ray/Bright Eyes show at Sokol Underground. I did manage to attend, figuring if I'm going to be miserably hot, I might as well be miserably hot at Sokol Underground. And boy, was I. You would think since the venue really is underground that it would be cool and dank inside. They got the dank part right. I had sweat dripping off my elbows as did the rest of the SRO crowd. Bright Eyes was a last-minute addition to the showbill (it had been slotted as TBA), but word must have gotten out rather quickly, based on the crowd.

Azure Ray was first, but I didn't get there until most of their set was over and missed it. Next up was Bright Eyes -- Conor Oberst on acoustic guitar with three women backing vocalists. It was probably the most down set I've heard Oberst perform, and also one of the most boring. Sitting back by the sound board, the show was all but drowned out by the roar of people talking in the back of the room, ignoring what was going on on stage. From my vantage point, I couldn't even see Oberst as he was sitting down in a folding chair, quietly mewing his sad, sad songs.

Then in roared Pedro the Lion. It was a no bullshit set -- Bazan was on fire, ripping through most of my favorites, including blistering renditions of "Winners Never Quit" and "Indian Summer." A few times during the set he asked the audience if they had any questions before launching into the next song. It was charming, although only one person took him up on the offer, asking something about Starflyer 59, which Bazan went on to give great accolades. Alas, overcome by the heat, humidity and smoke -- and with a 6 a.m. wake-up call and a smolderingly hot house awaiting me -- I left before the end of the set.

I should have some interesting Neva Dinova news tonight when I post the update, so check back.

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Guster interviewed – July 2, 2003

Just posted an interview with Guster percussionist. Brian Rosenworcel (read it here). Guster has a new album, a new label, and a new approach to music, though there's still plenty of the old Guster to be heard on the new CD. What didn't make it into the story is Rosenworcel's comments about Omaha and Saddle Creek, specifically Bright Eyes. Seems he's a big fan of Oberst and company (when I rattled off the list of Creek stablemates, he didn't seem to know anyone but Bright Eyes. Cursive? Desaparecidos? The Faint? "Uh, I like the Bright Eyes stuff."). Says Rosenworcel: "As much as (guitarist/vocalist) Ryan (Miller) is influenced by Erasure, The Cure and New Order, I'm into indie rock, Bright Eyes and Yo La Tengo. I don't know if it comes across in our music, though." It doesn't, except maybe for a few ambient YLT touches. Guster is slated to play at Sokol Auditorium July 9 with The New Amsterdams.

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Live Review (sort of): The Village People – July 1, 2003

So what about that Village People concert? I haven't had a chance to post this:

Family digging for gold.

They say there were 50,000 people at Memorial Park to see the Village People Friday night. For the most part, it was a bust for anyone who got there after 8 p.m. Seems someone thought The Pointers (as in The Pointer Sisters -- one of the original siblings was missing) should be the evening's headliner, which means I heard the rumblings of "Macho Man" from my home a quarter-mile away instead of from the park. We made it down there in time to see 30,000 people do the international hand/arm gestures to "YMCA" -- a sight that was the height of irony considering Omaha is easily one of the most homophobic cities in the United States. To this day, I still meet people from around here who have no idea about the subtext to their music.

Musicwise, I couldn't hear shit because I was so far from the stage, all the way over on the Dodge St. side of the park. It didn't matter because no one around us was listening anyway. It was a great night just to be outside and in the park among friends and all these happy happy happy people.

And the fireworks were rather spectacular.

I took no pictures of the event, except a few day-after shots of the mountains of garbage festering in the hot morning sun. Nothing quite says "Independence Day" like seeing a family scavenge through a dumpster looking for aluminum cans or watching two guys with metal detectors swap pointers while looking for people's lost valuables entangled in the matted, shit-smeared grass. God Bless America. Tomorrow night I'll be posting an interview with Guster, along with a couple more reviews. Check-on back, ya-heeya.

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Live Review: Chameleons' Mark Burgess at Healing Arts – June 27, 2003

Who would have expected such a low-key evening to turn out so celebratory?

First, the venue -- The Healing Arts Center in the heart of the Old Market isn't the first place you'd consider for a rock show. It turned out to be the perfect place for a performance that resembled a recital more than a concert. A converted warehouse-style building, the interior looked like a new age church with high, beamed ceilings and a skylight that stretched 30 yards or so along the entire room.

The makeshift oak stage was lit with a battery of gelled Kliegs, the only other lighting came from the skylight and candles. A quiet, respectful crowd of around 60 sat in folding chairs while the opener, Atomic Breathing's Dickson LeBron, performed 45 minutes of acoustic music that ranged from tedious, repetitive instrumentals to more lively songs with vocals, accompanied by talented bassist Dereck Higgins (more on him later).

Dickson LeBronMark BurgessBurgess with Dereck Higgins

Burgess arrived by a back door dressed in white dress shirt and black pants, with long, dark, slightly graying hair -- he reminded me a little of Mitch of Mitch and Mickey fame sans glasses and wide-eyed stare. He picked up his 12-string, checked the microphone, then performed one of the most interesting, energetic acoustic sets I've ever heard. I don't profess to be a Chameleons fan. I have none of their records and hadn't heard of them up until writing a pre-show profile for this gig. I left a fan, thanks to Burgess' rich, haunting voice and frenetic guitar playing. Sitting there, listening to the chord changes, you recognize the compactness and efficiency of his songs -- Burgess wastes nothing as he moves from one movement to the next, never forcing his intricate, personal lyrics within the tapestry of his music.

I couldn't tell you the names of the songs he played. I know that I recognized quite a few from the Chameleons' Strange Times CD, including an extended version of "Souls In Isolation," where Burgess broke halfway through (with a forceful staccato strum) and interspersed new lines in the style of Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance" that called out, among others, Tony Blair in a way that was both biting and humorous -- a real highlight. I also recognized "Mad Jack" and a few others whose names escape me.

Halfway through his set, Burgess called Higgins to the stage to accompany him on the remainder of the songs. Higgins records music as a solo performer and has played with a number of local bands, most notably Norman & the Rockwells, Digital Sex, RAF and Disco Ranch. There was no question that he was prepared for last night's supporting role -- he seemed to know every nuance to every song the two performed, including intricate fills and unexpected changes. Higgins' accompaniment altered the whole texture of the evening, and Burgess obviously enjoyed every moment of it. Between songs, Burgess would quietly ask Higgins if he knew a specific song. Dereck would nod his head, smiling, and Burgess would start off with Dereck quickly joining in as if he'd played the song a million times. It was great fun and great music.

Like I said, Burgess seemed to be enjoying himself quite a lot. He commented from the stage on how much he liked the performance space, how it was quite a change from the usual bar/nightclub atmosphere. It was also a lot less noisy, which seemed to startle him a bit. At one point he commented, smiling, that he was nervous because everyone was so attentive. By the end of his set, he looked as if he felt right at home.

Check back tomorrow for a review of tonight's Village People Memorial Park extravaganza, that is if I survive the crowd. It should be extra cheesy.

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Alk Trio, North Sea Story CD reviews – June 26, 2003

They're linked off the Reviews page. Check 'em out.

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Obligatory update, Mark Burgess, Alk Trio, Putrescine over?, the biggest show of the year – June 25, 2003

Bit of a lull in updates, mainly due to family obligations last weekend -- you know how it is. There's a ton of stuff coming up, though, so keep checking back. I intend to update daily with something from now on -- a live review, CD review, interview or news item.

Not the least of which will be a review of Thursday night's solo acoustic performance by Mark Burgess of The Chameleons at the Healing Arts Center, 1214 Howard. I fully intend to attend this one and hopefully take some pictures (if it's allowed). I'm told that legendary Omaha bassist Dereck Higgins will be accompanying Burgess on a few numbers as well as with opening act Atomic Breathing. Another plus -- it's an early show, starting at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12 at the door.

The other big show -- Alkaline Trio Thursday night at Sokol Underground. Go there after Burgess. I tried to get an interview with these guys, but alas they're not granting interviews unless you're Alternative Press. Oh well. I guess they don't need the publicity these days, as their new CD, Good Mourning, debuted at No. 20 on the Billboard charts and sold 40,000 copies its first week. I'll be adding my review shortly (the abbreviated version -- *yawn*).

As you can see, I didn't make it to last week's Putrescine or Matt Sharp shows (What can I say? I was indisposed.). I was told the day of the show that it would be the last waltz for Putrescine, who apparently have decided to break up. That was never directly confirmed to me, and I haven't talked to anyone who was there. It would be a shame if they called it quits. They were one of the heaviest post-punk bands on the Omaha scene, having just completed a brief string of dates opening for Cursive. Lead guy Lincoln Dickison is still in The Monroes, who have just released a new 7-inch single. Look for a review here shortly. The Monroes' "official" release show is Saturday, July 5, with Mayday at The 49'r. It should packed, as usual.

Speaking of reviews, I'm taking a new approach to CD reviews out of sheer necessity. I find that I can tear through a half-dozen reviews only to get bogged down on one. I tend to over-analyze, which results in... well, nothing. Case in point is the new Liz Phair CD. Because I've been a Phair fan from way back , I'm trying to come up with a unique, introspective, clever review of her new CD, when all I really should say is "It sucks." (And it really does). All right, so the new process -- I'm going to waste less time on the shitty CDs, and just get something on the site ASAP. As well as be more concise with the other reviews. If it works, you'll be seeing a lot more reviews online in the coming days. Also, The Omaha Weekly-Reader is again publishing my reviews (and have been for the past couple months). If you miss them online, pick up a copy of the paper.

Finally ... what is the biggest show of the year I refer to in the headline? It's this Friday in Memorial Park -- the annual "salute to America" concert celebration, this year featuring The Village People. Wooo-hoo! I live literally down the street from the park (about three blocks) so I'll be attending, as always. If the weather's good, expect more than 25,000 to crowd the park with their blankets, coolers and other assorted shit, sitting in the sweltering heat to hear the usual collection of has-beens do their thing. The gig is sponsored by a local bank, so I guess they need to book a performer that will appeal to the largest common denominator. They had Neil Sedaka a few years ago. Imagine what would happen if they booked, say, R.E.M.? Wouldn't that be amazing? Never happen.

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The Chameleons' Mark Burgess – June 18, 2003

Just posted in the Interviews section a profile / interview with Mark Burgess of the legendary '80s band The Chameleons (read it here). Burgess will be making his way to Omaha June 26 on a solo acoustic tour, playing at the Healing Arts Center at 1214 Howard. I've never set foot in the joint before, but the photos from their Web site promise that this will be an interesting, good-Karma-filled evening. Burgess is one of those artists that, along with his band, has flourished in obscurity from Day 1 and wouldn't want it any other way. Meanwhile, a whole boatload of bands have glommed onto their style and called it their own -- not the least of which is Interpol. Burgess doesn't seem to mind, in fact, he's flattered by it. I admit that I, too, had only heard of The Chameleons in passing before this, never having owned any of their CDs. I'm considering adding the full transcript of my interview with Burgess at a later date, if there's interest. It'll be a busy week for the Lazy-i staff, as I have two interviews scheduled this week and a ton of CD reviews to get off my lap. In addition, tomorrow night is Putrescine at Sokol Underground (the band just came off the road last month with Cursive), followed by a solo gig by Weezer/The Rentals' Matt Sharp on Friday. Dunno if I'll be attending either show, but if I do, I'll have a review up here the following morning.

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Live review: Criteria, Statistics, Tilly and the Wall -- a night of pop – June 15, 2003

This was probably my favorite overall show of the year thus far, because each band complimented the other with its unique take on pop. For one night, melody reigned at the Sokol Underground with three unabashed lovers of pure rock smiling from the stage.

Tilly and the Wall

The show started later than normal at around 10:15, I'm told because they expected the sets to be short -- these are three brand new bands here with a limited repertoire. Tilly and the Wall took the stage like a team of waiters at Grisanti's making their way to a table to do a "happy birthday" chant -- clapping and stomping their feet as they hopped into position. Tilly is three girls (two of whom were in Magic Kiss) and two guys on guitar and keyboard. The drums were replaced with Jamie Williams' tap shoes and plenty of hand claps, absolutely appropriate for these happy, peppy, fun-loving acoustic songs sung mainly by the women, with the guitarist adding some vocals here and there. Imagine Park Ave. mixed with an upbeat Azure Ray and you begin to get the picture. It was fun, and cute... maybe a bit too cute toward the end, but hey, everyone was having a good time.

I made this statement last night and I stand by it this morning with the fog of alcohol firmly lifted from my judgment: Tap-dancing will sweep the nation and UK as the primary form of rock percussion by this time next year. Who can deny its infectious nature and pure staging value? Williams' feet cut through the noise crisply, thanks to what appeared to be a microphoned plywood amplification box. The downside (for Williams) is that there's no way she'll be able to do that on any sort of sizable tour, especially if their set ever grows beyond its current 20 minutes. She looked bushed by the end of the second song, and who can blame her?


Next up was Statistics, headed by Denver Dalley of Desaparecidos (I didn't recognize the rest of the trio on drums and bass). The band played songs off their soon-to-be-released Jade Tree EP and they sounded pretty good, though Denver's vocals were a wee bit off. Part of it was that his mic wasn't turned up enough. But most of it was his uncertainty on stage. Watching from the side, Dalley seem a bit hesitant to belt out the vocals and as a result, they were thin and slightly off pitch. Chock it up to stage rust -- his tour only just began a few days ago. I suspect as he gets more comfortable on stage and listens to the playback he'll either get more confident. Musically, the compositions are as first-rate as they are on the CD, but more guitar- than electronically-driven. I liked the tone, and the girls seemed to like looking at Denver. Someone yelled "Take off your clothes!" from the audience. Denver shielded his eyes, gazing out through the crowd, and said, "Mom? Are you out there?" Funny.

Then Criteria came on and killed everyone.


With this performance, they immediately put themselves on top of the list as one of the best Omaha/Lincoln bands for pure-energy post-punk. Stephen Pedersen has surrounded himself with some amazing musicians, not the least of which is AJ Mogis on bass and backing vocals. Mogis, with his receding hairline, glasses and beard looked like a radio DJ or a '70s-era Walter Becker standing next to the suave Pedersen all covered with sweat like a young Rock Hudson. Pedersen is a phenomenal guitarist, but second guitarist Aaron Druery is just as remarkable. Drummer Mike Sweeney topped it off with pounding precision -- he would give even Clint Schnase a run for his money. The comparison is apt when you consider that Criteria's music is clearly an off-shoot of early Cursive, right down to Pedersen's Kasher-like vocals.

With such a prof line-up, the band is amazingly tight, and lord knows they have to be considering the intricacy of their music -- time changes, syncopation and massive breaks abound. Beneath it all are some of the most hummable post-punk melodies you will hear from anyone in the business these days. Pedersen looked elated to be on stage again, and the whole band glowed with an energy akin to pride. They performed every song off their Initial Records' debut, En garde, and what I believe was an early Cursive song -- I'm bad with song titles. It was introduced by Pedersen saying, "This next one will show our age."

The irony of Criteria is that there are no plans for them to play again in the near future. Pedersen told me during our interview that only this Sokol date had been set up -- they hadn't even lined up a Lincoln gig yet (though he acknowledged he'd like to do a show there, but didn't know where or how). There are no plans to tour, though he'll continue to play local shows. He said the band hopes to hit the road sometime this summer, when Pedersen can take some vacation time from his attorney gig. It's a shame because this band is ready right now and would conquer any tour they could line up. They would be a sure crowd-pleaser on a Cursive tour -- something that probably won't be happening too soon as I've heard Cursive will take some time off when they finish this tour so Kasher can get to work writing the next Good Life CD. It could be a long time until out-of-towners get a glimpse of Criteria.

As for the crowd, it was a regular Who's Who of the Omaha indie scene. Among the 300 on hand were most of the members of Bright Eyes (including Oberst), most of the members of The Faint, Azure Ray, half the Saddle Creek office staff, members of The Carsinogents, Little Brazil, Fizzle Like a Flood, The Movies, Bliss Repair, The Mariannes, Oil, and maybe most astounding of all, local legend Dave Sink, operator of The Antiquarium record store, who rarely attends shows these days. The last time was a Monroes show a month ago, before that, maybe two years since I'd seen him in a club.

A site note: I'll be working on CD reviews over the next couple days as well as a couple feature. Keep checking back.

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Live review: Dashboard Confessional, the real show's tonight – June 14, 2003

I'll make this short because there's not much to say about last night's Dashboard Confessional show at Sokol Auditorium. I didn't go there expecting to like the music and I wasn't disappointed. What's the point of recapping all the things I don't like about Chris Carraba and Company? Most people over the age of 18 who enjoy indie music don't like the guy or his music. They've outgrown it, if they ever were in that awkward "poor me" phase to begin with.

No, the point is the crowd of 1,000 or so (I don't have the exact number) loved every note Carraba played as he stood center-stage behind a microphone and a guitar. He performed most of the songs off his last CD either solo-acoustic or with only sight accompaniment. Slight, that is, if you don't count the throngs of teenagers who sang every word like a soccer crowd at an American Idol broadcast. Obviously there was no singing along to the new stuff, which won't be released for another month or so (though I wouldn't be surprised if you can't already find it somewhere online).

Carraba's "new direction" is to rock harder, though he doesn't want to lose that core fanbase of little girls and confused boys. The result is something akin to a poor-man's Green Day. And though the tunes are more tuneful, the music is nothing we haven't heard before performed by better bands. The kids, of course, don't care, and won't for a couple more years when they grow out of this phase, look back, and laugh at the fact that they ever listened to Dashboard in the first place.

As for Carraba, he's in for a frustrating future if his new music doesn't catch on -- condemned to a career of playing the same simpering girlie songs with the same simple melody over and over and over and over and over and over and over.


The real show is tonight. Statistics, Criteria and Tilly and the Wall at Sokol Underground. I expect to see all of you singing along to every word of En garde. Leave your Kleenix at home.

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Live review: Shout outs, racial confusion, Brother Ali and a night of hip-hop at the Underground – June 13, 2003

First off, let me preface this by saying I never asked Brother Ali if he was white or black, at least not from a racial standpoint.

Here's the deal: During last night's show at Sokol Underground starring Minneapolis hip-hop artist Brother Ali, my homeboy did a little shoutout about the profile I wrote last week (that'll teach me to give a copy of the story to the artist right before he hits the stage). He was cool about it, even said I was cool as shit and so forth, but then went on to say, holding up a copy of the Weekly-Reader, "The first thing he says in the article is that I'm a white guy."

Laughs, boos, yeahs, it was all good.

You see, Brother Ali is a white guy. He's an albino. I knew this, of course. I asked him point blank during our interview "What's it like being an albino in the hip-hop world," and he went on to say, "Being an albino has never really hurt me," and so on. You know what I wrote, you read the article (If you didn't, well, you better now!).

He apparently made a similar he-called-me-a-white-guy comment to one of the promoters, who deftly replied, "You look like a white guy to me." I never actually asked Ali about his race, and I avoided it intentionally because it shouldn't matter, though I'm not naive enough to think that it doesn't. The issue was implied in the next quote. Would his race make his music any less relevant? Not to me.

Anyway, it was a funny moment, and everyone got a good laugh at the poor, poor music journalist… Then Ali broke into about 30 minutes of serious thump-thump hip-hop action, nice and loud, for a crowd of 200 -- impressive numbers for a rap show at the Underground. And what a crowd it was. Yes, there was the usual indie-rock slacker types walking around smoking cigarettes, but there also was an odd mix of ball-cap wearing rednecks, young hotties in halter tops, baggie-clothes-wearing suburbanites and even a couple dozen black guys.

But the biggest difference from the usual indie rock crowd was the audience participation. This crowd got into it from the first beat, swinging their right arms in the air like they just didn't care, bouncing the night away. A stark contrast to the typical standing, staring, black-faced droogs who usually surround the stage at indie shows as if they're listening to a cult leader give prophecies of doom.

Ali was in fine form, running through a number of songs off his latest CD, and breaking it down for a sermon-like a capella free-style thing. But as good as he was, he didn't hold a candle to the headliner, PSC/Luckyiam and MURS from Living Legends, who blew the place up. Highlights were a diss-rap on somebody's boyfriend, a number that segued into a Sublime cover and an off-the-cuff Queens of the Stone Age sing-along during a mic check.

So here's the part I didn't get. I walked up next to the stage during the PSC set and watched the deejay, expecting to see some crazy turntable action. Instead, the tone-arms stood off to the side. It looked like they weren't using the turntables at all, instead cuing up the beats from some sort of DAT player. What's up with that? I thought the whole idea was driving the beat off the tables, instead it was like a rap karaoke set. I don't know the first thing about hip-hop performances, so maybe this is just how it's done these days. Kinda kills the whole mystique. Or maybe I'm just showing my age, remembering the days of watching Run DMC doing their thing on TV while a deejay performed acrobatics behind a turntable rack. Damn, now those were the days...

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Recap: Bright Eyes on Letterman – June 12, 2003

It was downright odd watching Bright Eyes on David Letterman last night. Here was this band of people who we've been watching perform in one band or another over the past 8 or 9 years suddenly catapulted into the national spotlight. For what it's worth, they seemed cool, calm and collected, singing that song about the virgin in his bed called "The Trees Get Wheeled Away," a song that, as far as I know, isn't available on any Saddle Creek release. There's really not much more to say about the performance. Oberst looked in control, albeit slightly rushed, and Focht's drumming seemed a bit off at the beginning of the song (or maybe it was just me). Regardless, the nation got a king-size helping of the famous Oberst quiver / goatboy vocal style, with a side order of greasy bangs. Was it enough to get people rushing to the internet to find out just who this wunderkind is? Well, as of a half-hour after the performance I still wasn't able to get on the Saddle Creek Web board (the rest of the Creek site fired up just fine), probably due to all the SCWB regulars trying to chime in at once.

The most amusing moment of the evening was Letterman joshing with Paul about the Lifted record album ("Gee, Paul, this record stuff is before my time" or something like that). With the exception of Marv Albert and his bloopers reel, I found the rest of the show to be horrendous. Letterman has turned into that strange, weird reptile uncle who shows up at Christmas uninvited and won't shut up. His monologue was dreadfully unfunny, only eclipsed in its un-entertainment value by the painfully forced, horrifically scripted "dialogue" between Letterman and guest Lauren Graham -- one of the most awkward moments I can remember seeing on broadcast television. The first half-hour of the show was a complete wasteland of unfunny current-events-driven shtick -- really sad considering how funny Letterman used to be in the early days, when you got the feeling that he didn't give a shit if you thought he was funny or not. Now it's as if he knows how unfunny he really is and just wants to get the hour over as fast as possible.

And then there's Paul… but, well, I'm rambling now…

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Criteria interview, a week of updates, Bright Eyes on Letterman – June 11, 2003

Whoa, a week without an update! Hopefully I'll make up for that in the coming days. Starting with this interview/profile on Criteria, the new band fronted by former White Octave and Cursive guitarist Stephen Pedersen (read the story here). The band celebrates the release of its Initial Records debut, En garde, this Saturday at Sokol Underground with Statistics (Denver Dalley of Desaparecidos), who also celebrates the release of his new Jade Tree release, and the elusive Tilly and the Wall (I've been trying to tie down an interview with them for the past couple weeks with no luck, but it'll happen soon, I'm sure of it).

Like I said, I'll be making up for last week's pause in updates with lots more the rest of the week. Check back for a review of tonight's Bright Eyes performance on Late Night with David Letterman -- what could be a make or break event in young Conor Oberst's career. Then, three nights of shows, starting with Brother Ali on Thursday night at Sokol Underground, Dashboard Confessional Friday night at Sokol Aboveground (the auditorium), then Saturday's Criteria/Statistics show at Sokol Underground -- all should get the next-day review treatment right here. I'll also be weaving in a buttload of CD reviews that are stacking up.

Oberst's Letterman appearance should be a spectacle. The folks at the Saddle Creek board are saying he'll play "The Trees Get Wheeled Away," which syncs with a rumor I heard that the song will be something had hasn't recorded or released before, mainly because he doesn't have anything off the new CD that meets the three-minute-or-so time restraints the Letterman producers put on performances. The sound on Letterman is consistently bad -- tinny, no reverb, no nothing. Interpol's Letterman performance was painfully awful. Here's hoping that Conor has better luck.

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Live review: Pleasure Forever; Brother Ali interview; Grasshopper Takeover's misfortune – June 4, 2003

Sub Pop band Pleasure Forever (formerly Slaves) let it all hang out in front of 95 folks at Sokol Underground last night. I guess the word I would use to describe them is "bombastic." Not much in the melody department, but big on that growing, seething, pounding noise that made some of those great '70s bands great (one song even reminded me of classic Golden Earring).

Most songs started out with keyboardist/vocalist Andrew Rothbard (hooded or wearing a newsboy cap) playing a pretty, twirly piano riff on his keyboard that eventually turned into a screechy hand-of-god sort of thing that reminded me (for some reason) of Trail of Dead. The rolling distorted pound comes by way of playing 3/4 or 6/8 pieces or slow 4/4s with lots of triplets, giving everything an off-kilter, hell-waltz, sea-sickness feeling.

Part of it was lost on me, of course, because I couldn't understand a word Rothbard sang, and you know the lyrics have to be at least part of the experience. Instead, his vocals, along with his keyboards (split between straight piano, vibes and organ effects) added to the unsettling malaise of noise that had a lot in common with a headache trance.

Or maybe I was just really tired after a long day. They were good, but I left craving more melody or more theatrics.

The Brother Ali interview is online (read it here). I don't usually write about hip-hop, mainly because I don't like most hip-hop (a genre for which I'm extremely finicky -- I have almost no patience for the typical gang-banger stuff, figuring NWA covered that as well as anyone could a couple decades ago). This guy's different in that he and the other artists performing next week at Sokol Underground seem to epitomize a DIY indie esthetic that is pretty hard to deny. And Ali's rap comes off with the same sort of honesty that you find in any quality indie rock music. His comments about the underground scene and balancing between touring and staying close to his son were candid and compelling.

Local power alt-rock band Grasshopper Takeover had the misfortune of having their touring van filled with all of their equipment stolen in broad daylight while they were flyering a Foo Fighters show in Council Bluffs this weekend. Details here. The story led the 10 o'clock local news on Channel 6, which is unheard of. This happens to the band on the heels of a reported major-label scout showcase in a couple weeks. Something tells me that their misfortune will either be the end of them or the best thing that ever happened to them. Funnier things have happened.

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Where's the updates? Live reviews' new home. Assorted newsy stuff – June 3, 2003

Sorry about the lapse in updates, but I'm still catching up from the previous week's blistering pace. I intend to make up for it with a slew of new content, including a feature/interview with indie hip-hop artist Brother Ali (that'll go online sometime today), new CD reviews of, among others, Liz Phair, Marianas, Fleetwood Mac (there is an indie angle to that one, I swear), Lovetap, The Monroes and a number of others, and look for a live review tomorrow of tonight's Pleasure Forever show at Sokol Underground, which I intend to attend not only for fun but as research on another, more in-depth article that involves the Omaha music scene. More on that later.

And speaking of live reviews, I've spent the last few days migrating the older reviews from this blog into more-formal live reviews, listed in the Live Reviews section (linked off the Reviews index page). Added are reviews of past shows by Cursive, The Warlocks, Examination of the..., Califone, Sea and Cake, Low, Simon Joyner, The Mariannes, the Golden Age, Landon Hedges, The Lepers, Mary Lou Lord, Interpol, Calla, Dave Dondero, Fizzle Like a Flood and Owen, with more on the way. Many of the reviews also contain exclusive unseen live photos taken by me at the shows. Continue to look for "next day" live reviews in this blog area.

Old news for M Ward fans, but new news to the rest of you -- M Ward is hitting the road with a backing band called A Band of Four that consists of, well, Rilo Kiley. So for M Ward dates you'll also got Rilo Kiley as an opening act (like Certs, that's two, two, two bands in one). The tour dates have been posted on the Webboard, and include a July 19 Sokol Underground gig.

Another big show announcement, this time for fans of old school post-punk: Mark Burgess from The Chameleons has been booked to play at Omaha's Healing Arts Center in the Old Market June 26, with Dickson LeBron from Atomic Breathing opening. Who are The Chameleons? They're an '80s-era band from Manchester that were part of a music movement that influenced such bands as Stone Roses, Catherine Wheel, Kitchens of Distinction and even Interpol. The full AMG write-up is here. Hopefully I'll be able to snag an interview with Burgess for the site.

Lastly, those of you clicking here from the Saddle Creek site looking for the details on Bright Eyes' June 11 David Letterman appearance, that item is now here, in the blog archive.

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