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The Blog Archive -- July 2004 to Dec. 31, 2004

Happy NYE? – Dec. 31, 2004

New Year's Eve always sucks and this year appears to be no different. There are no real significant goings-on that I'm aware of, other than Head of Femur at Duffy's, which is way out of reach for most Omahans on what is easily one of the most dangerous driving days of the year. Regardless, hope you have a good NYE, a safe NYE, and an even better 2005. From a music standpoint, it's going to be hard to beat '04. I think it'll happen. Let's find out together. Thanks, again, for reading Lazy-i.

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2004 Year in Review; win a copy of the Lazy-i Best of 2004 comp! – Dec. 29, 2004

Here it is, what you've all been waiting for the 2004 Year in Review story -- my annual wrap-up that includes highlights from the past year, my top-10 list, my favorite live shows list and more. Always a favorite.

While you're here, make sure you enter to win a copy of the coveted Lazy-i Best of 2004 Compilation CD. All you have to do is e-mail me ( with your name and mailing address and you'll be entered in the drawing. Tracks include songs by Now It's Overhead, The Faint, American Music Club, Arcade Fire, Kite Pilot, Rogue Wave, Willy Mason and more. Details and track order, are right here.
Enter today! Deadline's January 17.

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The off season; Budenholzer and Co., The Des Moines Register; reviews reviews reviews… – Dec. 27, 2004

It is the off season for live music in Omaha. Glancing at the various calendars online there is virtually nothing going on up and through New Year's and beyond (I can't speak for O'Leaver's as their calendar has (again) not been updated). It makes it easy to imagine what it would be like to live in a city with no real music scene *shiver*.

Actually, there is one show of interest --Joe Budenholzer (Backworld, Small Creatures) will be playing at Mick's this Thursday (Dec. 30) with Dereck Higgins (Digital Sex), Jim Fleming (Confidentials, Wingtips) , Eddie Zwieback and Bill Eustice (The Firm), performing T. Rex's Electric Warrior album in its entirety. A Nebraska native, Budenholzer is something of a local legend, having performed with members of Swans, Belle and Sebastian, Coil and Lydia Lunch, among others. Last year Budenholzer and company performed Velvet Underground's Live at Max's Kansas City. I suspect this will be an SRO performance.

This here website was mentioned in yesterday's Des Moines Register. Music Critic Kyle Munson again asked for my "top-5" favorite CDs as part of his year-end wrap up story (read it here). This list is merely an abbreviation of the top-10 list that I'll be posting on Lazy-i Wednesday morning, along with the rest of my Year in Review article, which also includes top live-shows for '04. Don't miss it.

That said, I've got the next couple days off work, so I'll be catching up with some reviews on the matrix in a vain attempt to try to wrap up 2004.

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Cursive's 100,000; New Day Rising online; and, uh, Merry XMas? – Dec. 24, 2004

A couple things to pass along in the middle of this holiday:

-- Saddle Creek Records confirmed that Cursive's The Ugly Organ has sold more than 100,000 copies. I heard that the label had an impromptu celebratory party for the achievement last Tuesday at the Goofy Foot Lounge (and no, I wasn't invited). Released way back in March 2003, The Ugly Organ could be the last new material we hear from Cursive in a long time. Word has it that Creek will be releasing a Cursive B-sides compilation sometime this year.

-- A website has been launched in support of New Day Rising, the new indie music program on 89.7 The River at 11 p.m. Sunday nights. The site (here) includes the show's playlist, as well as links to the bands' and labels' websites. I caught the first show last week and was impressed with the variety of styles, though they were a bit light on the local stuff (only one local track, by Beep Beep). I assume that could change over time. For a non-commercial station, there sure were lots of commercials.

-- Doubt that I'll be updating tomorrow, so here's wishing you a Happy Holiday.

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Live Review: Dereck Higgins, Le Beat, Kite Pilot; '89 Cubs tonight – Dec. 23, 2004

If you're wondering why Frankenixon isn't mentioned in the above headline, it's because the band canceled. Something about a van breaking down (and I gotta believe that their cancellation allowed the other three bands to play longer sets). Man, it was crowded last night at O'Leaver's, guess it might be a holiday thing, but I talked to a number of people who got there early to see Dereck Higgins' set. Higgins plays guitar and sings over a prerecorded CD that was acting somewhat finicky, which gave him an opening to make an SNL/Ashlee Simpson joke that went over well. Strange, quiet crowd during his set -- absolutely focused on his every move. I don't know how anyone wouldn't get nervous in that environment, but Higgins did his usual solid job playing a set that really focuses on his guitar work. A handful of people commented on his guitar tone; one guy said it reminded him of Brian May, another said it was the same bright tone he remembered from '80s metal bands, all were knocked out by the virtuosity -- you don't see that kind of playing every day at O'Leaver's.

Next up was Le Beat, a trio of former members of The Neutrols that consists of Christopher Senseney (guitar, keyboards, vocals), John P. Voris (drums) and Cody Heinert (bass). Their sound is distinctively indie with obvious NYC proto-punk overtones. Senseney's down-low vocals and the rolling guitar and rhythms at first reminded me of Spoon, but later more stylistically resembled The Strokes -- which means you could hear bits and pieces of a lot of bands, from Velvet Underground (Senseney is somewhat Reed-ian) to Pavement to Pinback. Someone at the show was giving out a two-song sampler put out by Rocket Park Records (what is this new superlabel?) which I'm listening to as I write this. And two songs isn't enough -- I want to hear more from this band.

Finally, up came Kite Pilot. Bassist Austin Britton said that it was the farewell set for fill-in drummer Jeremy Stanosheck (Coast of Nebraska), who has been taking Corey Broman's place while he was on tour with Statistics (Broman was actually in the audience last night). I only stayed for the first four songs, which were played with the usual Kite Pilot finesse. I don't know what else to say -- I've now seen this band perform at least a half-dozen times and they're always solid. Pick up a copy of their EP if you haven't already, which, btw, is in my list of 10 favorite CDs of 2004. You're gonna have to wait until next Wednesday to see who else made the list.

As mentioned in yesterday's blog/column, tonight is The '89 Cubs with Ted Stevens & Dan McCarthy, Mal Madrigal and Mr. 1986 (I forgot to mention them yesterday) at The Ranch Bowl. It's the first time in a long time that 1 Percent Productions has been involved in a Bowl show. Tickets are $7 at the door.

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Kite Pilot, Dereck Higgins tonight; Column 4: The '89 Cubs' personal giants... – Dec. 22, 2004

Though the main attraction is headliner Kite Pilot, get down to O'Leaver's early tonight to catch the first act, the legendary Dereck Higgins (Digital Sex, RAF). Higgins plays electric guitar and sings ambient rock songs over prerecorded tracks. Trippy stuff. Look for a Dereck interview in Lazy-i in the very near future. It's a freakin' four-band ticket tonight, with Le Beat and the amazing Frankenixon also on the bill.

As mentioned at the end of this column, The '89 Cubs are headlining a show at The Ranch Bowl this Thursday with Ted Stevens (Cursive, Mayday) & Dan McCarthy, and Mal Madrigal -- it could be the best show the Bowl has put on this year. There was more to my interview with Brennan and Fox that I might weave into a full-feature version of this limited-word-count column. I'm just happy I had a chance to get their comments in print. I sat on this interview for so long, waiting for the right time to put it together and feeling guilty every time I ran into one of them at a show. I'm also sitting on a great Dapose interview, ready to fly as soon as the stars align properly. Anyway...

There Are Giants in the Earth

I interviewed Dan Brennan and Ryan Fox of The '89 Cubs way back in August (I never had a chance to speak with drummer Matt Baum, who fills out the trio). We sat on the deck behind Brennan's house in Little Italy, under a huge oak tree in our T-shirts and shorts. Halfway through the interview it began to rain, but we stayed safe and dry under those branches. There was no Reader assignment in conjunction with our talk; I just wanted to find out the story behind their remarkable then-yet-to-be-released CD, There Are Giants in the Earth. What a lyrical name for a record, but what did it, and the CD, mean?

"It's about transition and death, which is more interesting than singing about girls," said the always quiet, always reserved Fox, whose beard, glasses and wry smile make him look like a grown-up choir boy.

Brennan, on the other hand, looks like that guy you remember from high school -- the one with the wild hair and crazy grin who was always getting sent to detention. "2002 was a good year for death for us," he said. "I lost my brother, and Ryan and Matt both lost grandmothers. Making this record helped each of us individually."

"The losses brought us together," Fox said. "We never talked about it directly."

Fox broke the heavy moment with this story: "I went to lunch with my grandma and played one of our songs for her in the car, and she said she liked it. Then "Benny and the Jets" came on the radio, and she said, 'You sing so much better than this guy.'" Big laughs.

Pretty somber stuff. Balance it by the fact that Brennan and Fox's fathers -- longtime friends and veteran musicians from such bands as The Chevrons, Marquee Review and Bozak and Morrissey -- played guitar on a number of the CD's songs. "It took them a little while to figure out what was going on," Fox said. Those tracks were recorded in a homemade studio at Fox's parent's house in the room next to his parent's bedroom -- which he aptly named Adjacent Magic Studio.

With Fox a member of The Good Life, Baum a member of Desaparecidos and Brennan the touring soundman for Cursive, the Cubs garnered immediate attention from record labels, specifically NYC's Arena Rock Records, who began courting the band way back in June 2003 with talk of a recording budget, profit splits, the usual record deal mumbo-jumbo.

To seal the deal, Baum and Fox flew out to Brooklyn on their own dime to meet with Arena Rock label executive Greg Glover while Brennan also was in town on a Cursive tour. Glover gave the band the run-around up until their last day in NYC. "Then he calls us and says to meet him at this bar," Fox recalled. "After 15 minutes of chitchat, he said, 'We'll figure it out. I'll come out to Omaha.' We didn't hear from him again for a couple weeks. I asked in an e-mail if we were 'still dating,' and he said the label had overextended itself and couldn't do anything with us."

It was a crippling set-back, but just when all hope seemed lost, along came Ezra Caraeff of Portland's Slowdance Records. The label ended up releasing the CD in October. One of the driving factors for signing them? "They can probably out drink any band on the label," Caraeff said, "a talent which will probably sell few records, but impresses me greatly."

With Caraeff's comments, I thought I had the story, but it wasn't until after the interview that I really came to understand the gravity of the CD's title. That's when I bumped into Brennan again at O'Leaver's and he added an important detail. Though each one of the band member's losses had been giant in its own way, it was Brennan's brother, Tim, who fit the description from a stature standpoint.

"Tim was a big person," Brennan said of his brother, who had suffered with health problems his entire life. Despite constant setbacks, he had always kept in good spirits and was a joy to be around. "Everyone who met him loved him. He was a funny guy, and he just loved life."

A giant indeed.

Check out The '89 Cubs Thursday night (Dec. 23) at The Ranch Bowl where they headline a show with Ted Stevens & Dan McCarthy and Mal Madrigal.

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Atomic Breathing at Mick's; The OWH's exploitation take – Dec. 20, 2004

I caught a set last night featuring Atomic Breathing's Dickson Le Bron and the legendary John Wolf of Cellophane Ceiling/Bad Luck Charm fame. Le Bron played an electric guitar and sang folk-punk ballads while Wolf accompanied on acoustic guitar. Nice stuff. The two say they'll be collaborating as Atomic Breathing on future recordings and performances. Who was Atomic Breathing? It was Le Bron and a band that included guitarist Bob Griswold, bassist Steve Warsocki, drummer Kazumichi Tatebayashi and a few others that released a trippy album back in 1989 on 1008 Records. Good luck finding a copy (And you can't have mine). On a side note, Wolf says BLC has an album's worth of music to record, but couldn't say when they'll be recording it. Look for BLC at The 49'r on Jan. 15.

Among the talk at the table last night was yesterday's Omaha World Herald article about bands that are exploiting their connections to the Omaha music scene and Saddle Creek to get noticed (read it here). I know from talking to one of the people quoted in the article that he thought it was going to focus on the success of non-Creek bands. Well it did, but not quite in the way he expected. I'm not entirely sure what the point of the article was. I doubt that just mentioning that you're from Omaha has any real impact from a marketing standpoint, especially with the press. Omaha isn't anywhere near as prominent as Seattle or Athens were during their heydays. Back during the Seattle days, you couldn't turn on MTV without seeing Nirvana or Pearl Jam. When was the last time you saw an Omaha band on TV? I have no doubt, however, that mentioning Creek connections to certain people can open doors, especially in the indie world. How that helps Anonymous American -- a decidedly un-indie-sounding band -- is a mystery. It apparently has, but if the record exec that goes to hear AA play out in LA in January is expecting to hear Bright Eyes, he's in for a shock. Landon Hedges' role in Saddle Creek was significant and deserves mention in press materials, but ultimately it's the strength of Little Brazil's music that is getting people's attention. The Race for Titles mention was a stretch and seemed out of place. Perhaps a more interesting story would have been how bands like The Monroes, Bombardment Society, BLC, Criteria, Simon Joyner, The Bruces and Kite Pilot have managed to do just fine functioning outside of Creek's shadow.

Hey, where's the year in review piece I promised? I'm holding it a little while longer because the actual story won't be published in The Reader until Dec. 29. And I've been finishing up the Lazy-i Year in Review Compilation CD, which could be the best one ever. Keep an eye here for details on how you can win a copy.

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Hey, I'm Alive... – Dec. 17, 2004

That's a reference to a made-for-TV movie that came out sometime in the 1970s that starred Sally Struthers and Ed Asner as survivors of an airplane crash who live through 49 days in the Yukon eating nothing but snow. It also describes my re-emergence from a cold/flu thing that knocked me out for the last couple of days, making me miss last night's The Third Men show, Wednesday's Two Gallants show and Tuesday's Stay Awake show, all at O'Leaver's. And will probably keep me away from tonight's Voicemagik performance as well. It's also kept me from posting the Year in Review story (which should have been printed in this week's issue of The Reader, which I haven't seen). Fret not. The Year in Review will be online tonight or tomorrow, and this week's column is below (though it will appear to be woefully outdated).

Notes, Reviews and Rumors...

Some notes and rumors picked up from a weekend of shows, starting with VHS or Beta Saturday night at Sokol Underground: I came expecting Duran Duran and left thinking The Cure and The Church, two other bands from a decade that VHS or Beta apparently would like to permanently be immersed in. I couldn't put my finger on it, but something about the sound mix screamed "single's bar cover band." Maybe it was the thump-thump-thump of the electronic drums or the shimmer of their glam-hair power chords. Comparing them to the latest cadre of electronic dance outfits, one guy I spoke to said they were better than Radio 4, but not as good as !!! I thought they fell somewhere below The Rapture on the list. The 130 or so on hand loved it, though, which makes me wonder if the re-emergence hair bands is in our future.

Fresh from a successful European tour, non-Creek Omaha supergroup Statistics opened the show with a new, stripped down line-up. No more fiddling with keyboards and sample tracks for frontman Denver Dalley. Instead it was just him on guitar, bassist Jon Tvrdik (Back When, Plosion), and drummer Corey Broman (Son, Ambulance; Kite Pilot), creating something harder than anything heard on Dalley's records. Without the keyboards, Statistics sounds even more like The Cure. Expect more of this style of tonal rock when Dalley and Co. enter Presto! Studios in January to record their new album with A.J. Mogis.

I received a certain amount of razzing throughout the evening about last week's column, where I erroneously reported that The River's new indie music show would launch on Sunday. In fact, New Day Rising, hosted by Eric Ziegler and Dave Leibowitz, will (probably) start this Sunday if they can get all the pre-recorded accoutrements (bumpers, promos, etc.) completed in time. Leibowitz pointed out that they will be playing some Saddle Creek music during the show after all, just not any on the River's regular rotation.

Other news from last weekend:
-- Neva Dinova has completed mastering their new CD, and has found a new label to release the album in February 2005. I guess that means the end of their relationship with Crank! Records.
-- Music goers at Austin's South By Southwest -- one of the industry's largest music festivals -- will have to wait another year for a Saddle Creek showcase. Label guy Jason Kubel says Creek was originally planning on hosting a showcase this year, but that the bands' conflicting schedules made it impossible.
-- If you're used to showing up at 1 Percent Production rock shows after 11 because they never start on time, you better change your plans. Marc Leibowitz and Jim Johnson -- the 1 Percent guys -- swear that shows will begin at 9 p.m. sharp beginning Jan. 1. The hope is to finish shows earlier in the evening -- a welcome change for all of us who have to get up the next morning. PS: I'll believe it when I see it.
-- Omaha Americana rock band Anonymous American is headed on a 10-day tour to the West Coast starting with a Jan. 1 gig at The Larimer Lounge in Denver, followed by gigs in Albuquerque, Phoenix, and three dates in L.A. before returning Jan. 9. Word has it that label execs may be audience at some LA dates.
-- Two-thirds of the boys in The Sons of… have formed a new band called The Third Men. Joining veteran guitarist Matt Rutledge, bassist Mike Tulis and drummer Mike Loftus is guitarist/vocalist Pat White of Iowa City's Bent Scepters. Check out their debut Thursday night at O'Leaver's.

I closed out last weekend by catching a set by Citizen's Band at O'Leaver's Sunday night. I reviewed the band's debut EP a couple years ago and always felt I was a bit, well, harsh, calling their music "watered down, relatively boring stuff that wanders and repeats more than it rocks." Despite those cruel words, the band invited me to check out their new set, saying it had a "1990s SST mentality." Well, I didn't notice any SST influence. Instead, their all-instrumental numbers sported a distinct Santana vibe, thanks to the guitar solos laced throughout their four-chord, progressive jams. Very '70s FM. It's still not my thing, but I can't deny that they're amazing musicians. Looks like I'm getting soft in my old age.

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Standby... – Dec. 15, 2004

Head cold. snot. update later. must sleep.

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Some housekeeping; The Stay Awake (with Make Believe) at O'Leaver's tonight – Dec. 14, 2004

Funny how traffic increases to my site on days when I don't write an update… perhaps you're sending me a message? Even though I had the day off work yesterday, I didn't have a chance to update the blog because I was writing the annual Year in Review article, which will be online tomorrow in one form or another -- I was given limited space this year by The Reader (all their word-counts are lower for all their articles these days, 'tis a pity) forcing me to cut cut cut, so you might get the "directors cut" on Lazy-i. I've also integrated comments about last weekend's shows into this week's Reader column, which explains why I haven't put them online yet. Look for them here Thursday. I like the idea of running brief show reviews in the column, when space allows...

Enough housekeeping. Tonight's big show is Steve Micek's new band The Stay Awake at O'Leaver's. As regular concertgoers of Sokol Underground know, Micek is the guy behind the soundboard in the back of the room, doing his damndest to make everyone else sound their best. Already known for his stickwork in The Mariannes, he sports an ax in this outfit. I don't know if he sings or not -- guess we'll find out tonight, eh? Get there early 'cuz they're the opener for Make Believe, last year's "touring version of Joan of Arc." Could be interesting, especially if, like me, you thought the last couple Joan of Arc CDs blew the needle off the suck-meter. The third band on this crowded bill is Chicago's Chin Up Chin Up, who I was told are quite good by one of the six or so concertgoers at last week's Cub Country show. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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VHS or Beta, Statistics' new line-up tonight – Dec. 11, 2004

Well, this one is designed to be a dance party at Sokol Underground. VHS or Beta's music could best be described as retro-indie-rock-disco, with emphasis on the words "retro" and "rock." Very Duran Duran. Their latest CD was on the CMJ top-20 a couple weeks ago. It has since fallen from that list. Just as interesting will be Statistics homecoming show (opening) after playing a slew of dates in Europe where frontman Denver Dalley tells me they were well received. They head back to Presto! studios in January with A.J. Mogis to lay down tracks for a new LP. Backing up Mr. Dalley tonight will be Jon Tvrdik of Back When and Plosion, and Corey Broman of Son, Ambulance and Kite Pilot. Also on the bill are Race for Titles and New Roman Times. I can't remember the last time 1 Percent Productions had a 4-band bill, and I'll probably miss half of it seeing as I have a company X-mas party to attend -- gotta love the holidays...

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Updates, follow-ups and corrections... FortyTwenty/Zyklon Bees tonight – Dec. 10, 2004

A couple quick things to mention that have been brought to my attention:

  • Someone e-mailed me to say that Tim Kasher WILL NOT be playing Saturday night at O'Leaver's. The line-up will be Outlaw Con Bandana, McCarthy Trenching, and Jake Bellows (Neva Dinova). Still a quality show. Incidentally, O'Leaver's finally updated their calendar.

  • Dave Leibowitz posted a message on the webboard saying that New Day Rising, the new indie music radio show that he's hosting with Eric Ziegler on The River starting Sunday, Dec. 19, will in fact include music from Saddle Creek bands -- just not Creek bands that are heard in The River's regular rotation. Perhaps we'll get to hear Son, Ambulance's new stuff on the airwaves after all.

  • Someone on the webboard also mentioned that UNO has a local/indie music show, available on the Internet (from here). UNO always had a student-run station other than KVNO, even when I was earning my valuable degree. According to their site, they'll begin broadcasting again on 93.7 FM, but only on campus. The dream has been to figure out a way to get the station heard throughout the city and make it the equivalent of KRNU in Lincoln. It'll never happen.

Fun-lovin' twangers FortyTwenty and the remarkable Zyklon Bees tonight at O'Leaver's, whose marquee along Saddle Creek Rd. (driving south) now reads something like "Bush makes U not want to have kids." Daring, and I mean it. In this town, placing anti-Bush statements on your marquee is like painting a target on your building for every drunken redneck bent on destruction. FortyTwenty, btw, sort of reminds me of a super-southern version of The dBs. I'm talkin' fiddles and pedal steel, boys. Wear your cowboy hat.

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'New Day Rising' for indie music on Omaha radio... – Dec. 9, 2004

Two things before I get on with the column. First, those looking for the Willy Mason story, scroll down to the Dec. 2 entry of this blog (or click here). Looks like I'll be pulling it out as a feature in the next day or so. Secondly, because of production issues, the new indie radio show, mentioned below, won't be starting until next Sunday. Ziegler did say that he was only 98 percent sure that it would happen this week. Looks like the 2 percent chance of a delay proved to be enough. Anyway, here's this week's column, which also appears in this week's issue of The Reader:

New Day Rising: Indie Music Returns to Omaha's Air Waves

It always seemed somewhat ironic that Omaha has become this so-called "center of the indie music world," yet none of the music from that world can be heard on the radio waves within its borders. Important national touring indie bands come through town all the time and draw respectfully well without an ounce of radio support. The only way anyone finds out about these shows is through articles in The Reader, websites (lazy-i comes to mind), word of mouth and show posters and fliers.

All that will likely change Sunday, Dec. 19, at 11 p.m., when Omaha's only college rock station, 89.7 FM The River, launches a new, locally produced two-hour radio show whose focus will be, believe it or not, indie music.

Omaha's had indie radio shows before, most recently "Pirate Radio," hosted at the same 11 to 1 a.m. Sunday night timeslot on 93.3 KRCK -- the grunt-rock station that became The Dam and now spins "legendary American country." Hosted by Saddle Creek main man Robb Nansel and Good Life drummer Roger Lewis, Pirate Radio was a laid-back (some would say unstructured) two hours of indie rock, where you were bound to hear a couple songs by Cursive or Bright Eyes. My fondest memory of Pirate Radio was being a guest host and hearing callers requesting Korn, Metallica and Limp Bizkit songs throughout the entire two hours. Typical call: "Dude, something's wrong with your station. Turn this shit off and play 'Freak on a Leash!'").

Now comes "New Day Rising" (For you younguns, that's a tip o' the hat to Husker Du), hosted by Eric Ziegler, manager of Homer's Old Market store, and Dave Leibowitz, former head of Mafia Money Records out of Madison, Wisconsin, who just moved back to the Big O.

Ziegler says their show will plow similar ground as Pirate Radio, with a play list derived from the College Music Journal charts. CMJ has become the defacto bible of college radio stations all over the country, and indie music is at its very core. Just don't use the "I" word around Ziegler. Call it "College music" or "Underground" or even "Alternative" (though that word was bastardized long ago by the likes of Creed and Matchbox 20, who are about "alternative" as Britney Spears).

Ziegler says the term "Indie" turns people off. It's at once too broad (What is indie, anyway?) and too confining (Like "emo," no one wants the term applied to their music), with baggage that conjures images of pasty scenester kids squeezed into youth medium-sized T-shirts, with dyed-black hair and thick, clunky glasses.

Instead, the show's play list will be all over the map, even beyond CMJ. "We'll play anything from Bauhaus to The Replacements to My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult to The Smiths and Pavement."

Isn't that oldie indie? "The thing is to play newer music -- the stuff the kids are into -- and also keep listeners our age (i.e., in their 30s) intrigued. We want to throw in a couple gems to educate people. Half the kids today don't know who Joy Division is, but will listen to all the bands that were influenced by them."

The key, Ziegler said, is variety -- underground metal next to underground hip-hop, a Shins song followed by the new one from Mastodon. Expect local music, too, but no Saddle Creek artists. "We might stay away from Bright Eyes and The Faint," Ziegler said. "That stuff's already on The River's regular play list." They'll also avoid music heard on The River's local-music show, Planet O.

Could the show's success influence The River's regular play list? Ziegler hopes so. "I would suffer through Slipknot to hear TV on the Radio." But considering the success of the station's current goon-rock format, any change seems unlikely.

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VHS or Beta; Is Omaha the new Athens?; Movie night at O'Leaver's – Dec. 8, 2004

The VHS or Beta profile/interview is online (read it here). Lots of talk of dance music and Duran Duran -- you don't wanna miss this. VHS's Craig Pfunder said the band is particularly looking forward to playing Omaha Saturday. He says that Omaha has garnered a reputation among touring bands similar to what Athens enjoyed in the '80s, as a place that you have to put on your tour just to say that you played there. "Your scene seems to have something going on that's special," he said, adding that his buddy, Jim James (who's also from Louisville) had nothing but nice things to say. Isn't that nice?

O'Leaver's is trying something different with Movie Night at O'Leaver's, where patrons can enjoy a free movie along with their booze. Tonight's feature: "That Was Rock: The TAMI/TNT Show," the 1965 documentary that captures the making of the Teen-Age Music International Show that featured, among others, The Rolling Stones and a handful of other early rock stars. More detail on this post on the webboard. Now if they could just find a print of Urgh! A Music War. Fun.

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Live Review: Cub Country, Austin Britton; Kasher/Bellows Saturday – Dec. 7, 2004

Remember what I said yesterday about the turnout for Cub Country perhaps being somewhat small? Well, it was small all right. Maybe 20 people were on hand to hear a flawless set from a band that just days earlier played to sold-out shows with Spoon down in Texas.

First up was a solo set by Austin Britton, who counts among his bands the amazing Kite Pilot. In KP, you only hear Britton singing the occasional backing vocal or duet alongside chanteuse Erica Petersen. Alone, he comes off self-assured, though he had to start a couple songs over and forgot a verse to another. He introduced his second-to-last song -- the best one of the set -- as "one of his old ones." I asked him afterward if he'd ever recorded it. Of course not. He can't afford to. Would someone please lend this guy 85 bucks so he can lay down this track and release it as a single?

Cub Country sounded nothing less than pristine. The four-piece has honed their set to utter perfection, playing spot-on renditions of songs off their last two albums to the small but appreciative crowd. "This really is an intimate show," said lead singer Jeremy Chatelain, who told me before the set that he didn't mind the small turn-out. It was a Monday night, after all. Still, the promoter felt a bit embarrassed. With features in both the Omaha World-Herald and The Reader (not to mention, Lazy-i) there wasn't much more he could do to get the word out.

It always pays to drop in at O'Leaver's on any given night. For example, O'Leaver's will be hosting what could be one of the more memorable shows of the early winter this Saturday with a night of solo sets from, among others, Tim Kasher (The Good Life) and Jake Bellows (Neva Dinova). The gig was mentioned to me off-hand by the bar's proprietor. Is it a secret show? Not really, he said, though you won't find any posters or mention of it anywhere. That same night, VHS or Beta will be playing down at Sokol Underground. Look for a feature on that band online here tomorrow.

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Cub Country tonight at O'Leaver's – Dec. 6, 2004

Monday night in the bar again, this time with Cub Country and opening act Austin Britton. Lead cub Jeremy Chatelain expects a small crowd and just might get it, though as I mentioned before, I expect some Jets to Brazil and Handsome fans to drop by, which means it could be packed. Who knows? It'll just be nice to have a drink in O'Leaver's again after a lengthy stay away. The venue's No. 1 problem is the fact that no one seems to know when or what bands are playing there. They almost never update their web site, instead depending on the odd post on SLAM Omaha to get the word out, not realizing, I guess, that most of the people who frequent SLAM are under 21 and can't go to the shows, anyway. Should the guys at O'Leaver's ever take a more aggressive approach to promoting their shows, the venue could become even more popular. To be honest, I kind of like it the way it is.

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Architects, Zyklon Bees tonight; Ted Stevens, NBO tomorrow – Dec. 3, 2004

I've been reticent about seeing KC's Architects, mainly because they're always listed as "Architects (ex-Gadjits)", and I never liked The Gadjits. In fact, I know a lot of people that didn't like The Gadjits and their outdated, watered-down brand of ska. The irony is that Architects is hardly an extension of Gadjits. In fact, there's nary a ska riff to be heard on their new CD, Keys to the Building, which I'm listening to as I write this. So why do they keep attaching Gadjits to their name? It's a mystery (yeah, I know, The Gadjits had their fans. Whatever). So what do these guys sound like? Well, judging from this CD, they sound a whole helluva lot like Black Crowes, who I never liked much, either. Still, Architects' faux revivalist-rock style, while somewhat cliché and unnecessary, is still a massive step forward from The Gadjits, and from what Joe at Someday Never tells me, they put on a remarkable show. Also on the ticket, Lincoln grit-rock animals The Zyklon Bees.

You can tell it's the holidays because the number of shows has begun to dwindle. The hot Saturday night show is No Blood Orphan (which features ex-Ravine/Ritual Device guitarist Mike Saklar backed by Steve Bartolomei -- a reversal of sorts of Mal Madrigal) and Ted Stevens (Mayday, Cursive, Lullaby for the Working Class, local legend) at The 49'r (Coast of Nebraska, originally advertised on the bill, won't be playing). There's also a hip-hop show at Sokol featuring Buck Bowen, who, I'm told, does some side-splitting rap -- according to 1 Percent Productions, Bowen "raps over a range of topics such as his ill grandma, skateboarding, and brushing ya teef." I'll leave it at that.

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The first one... Willy Mason – Dec. 2, 2004

This was to be published in The Reader yesterday. I couldn't find a copy anywhere, however. I do know that the editor had to cut about 100 words to make it fit, so it will be slightly different than what's below. The column lead-in was/is to say: This is the first installment of a new weekly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on the Omaha music scene with a decisive focus on indie music. Check out Tim's daily music news updates at his website, I'm not sure they had room for that, either. At any rate, future columns will reference back to this site so I'm sure I'll see a huge boom in traffic... So here it is:

Stronger than Bombs: Willy Mason Blows Up All Over the Indie Scene

Why Willy Mason for a first column? He's not even from Nebraska let alone Omaha, and isn't the focus supposed to be on "local music with an indie slant"?

Well, Mason holds the austere honor of being the second act to have a CD released on the horribly named Team Love Records -- Saddle Creek Records' so-called "sister label" owned and operated by a pair of New Yorkers, one of which has Omaha ties. Maybe it's a bit presumptuous to call Conor Oberst a New Yorker, but it sure seems like he's been spending a lot of time in his Manhattan apartment these days, lots more than he's spending in his Omaha home. Heck, according to the OWH, he didn't even come home for Thanksgiving. What kind of no-good son is he, anyway?

Team Love appears to be the place where all the acts that couldn't get signed to Saddle Creek get a second life, at least if they know Conor. Jenny Lewis of Rilo Kiley fame -- that's the band that fled Saddle Creek for a posh deal with Warner Bros. disguised as their vanity Brute/Beaute label -- just announced that she's got a solo record coming out on Team Love. And everyone's favorite suburban white-boy rappers, Team Rigge (a.k.a. Ian McElroy and Clark Baechle), already have put tracks from their upcoming Team Love release on the label's website for free download (Eminem watch out!). But mystery man Willy Mason seems to be the exception to the rule. No one 'round these parts ever heard of the guy before his name showed up on the Team Love website, along with a handful of working man glamour shots.

That's because Mason made Oberst's acquaintance by sheer luck. Via a call from Chicago a few days after his recent Omaha gig, Mason told me the Hollywood movie version of how he fell into Conor's life (For reference, think of the shitty Cameron Crowe rock epic Almost Famous). Seems a friend of Mason's dad owned a local radio station on "the island" -- Mason's vernacular for his hometown of Martha's Vineyard -- and asked Willy if he would play a song on the air during his Friday night show. Turns out an associate of Oberst's, Sean Foley, who works in the production office at NYC's Irving Plaza, was driving through Cape Cod and heard the performance. He liked it enough to leave his phone number at the station.

"I thought it was cool that someone from New York had heard it," Mason said. "He started sending me CDs of bands he thought I'd like -- a lot of Saddle Creek stuff like Cursive, Rilo Kiley and Bright Eyes. It was like another scene of kids had popped up that I felt I could relate to even though they lived in a different part of the country."

Foley invited Mason to see Bright Eyes perform in Northampton, Mass. In no time, Mason, Oberst and the rest of his crew hit it off and presumably partied the night away. "I woke up on their tour bus in Vermont, and that night Conor, without warning, called me onto the stage. That was my first gig off of the island. The whole thing was surreal." Afterward, Mason, a high school student at the time, ended up hitching a ride with a fan headed back to the Berkshires, where he hopped a bus and made it back in time for his second-period class.

Foley soon began lining up shows for Mason, who would stay at Oberst's apartment whenever he was in Manhattan. "We were walking through the East Village one day, and Conor told me he was starting a record label and would love to do some stuff with me."

The rest, as they say, is history, or is becoming history. Mason's debut, Where the Humans Eat, was released in October and already has garnered praise on both sides of the Atlantic. The British newspaper The Independent called the track "Oxygen" (which just happens to be the song Foley heard on that fateful drive-by) "an anthem to generosity of spirit, a hymn to a better, buried America, 'stronger than bombs' and 'cooler than TV.'" Better watch your step, Conor. Your student could quickly become your master.

Mason had a lot more to say, stuff about growing up listening to Andy Lomax, about maybe someday touring with his mother who's also a musician, about what inspired his keynote anthem "Oxygen," about how Omaha reminded him of "the island" because he felt that same sense of camaraderie and DIY chutzpah. I might redraft the whole thing as a feature for Lazy-i... if time permits.

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Cub Country – Dec. 1, 2004

Just placed online, a profile of Chapel Hill's Cub Country (read it here). The Cub in charge, Jeremy Chatelain, talks about being raised in the "cultural vacuum" of Salt Lake City as a Mormon and how it affected his future in music. Chatelain's been in a couple renowned bands -- metal/core band Handsome and indie band Jets to Brazil. He says he's played shows in Omaha eight times in the past -- four in Handsome and four in Jets. "First time through there was about 15 years ago," he said. "The kid we stayed with took us down to the Old Market to some really cool record store and a cool pizza place." Now what could he be talking about? He said both were gone last time he came through... He was quite excited when I told him about O'Leaver's. "I specified (to my booking agency) that I wanted to play small clubs. It's gonna make more sense. Cub Country is by no means a big band. We're a tiny band." But if his old Jets and Handsome fans come out next Monday night, something tells me O'Leaver's might get packed.

Come back later tonight (or tomorrow morning) when I post the first column for The Reader, which talks about how Willy Mason met Team Love.

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Live Review: The Arcade Fire, Kite Pilot – Nov. 30, 2004

Those Arcade Fire guys aren't a-holes after all, at least not their drummer, who chatted with me back by the soundboard before Kite Pilot took the stage last night at Sokol Underground in front of an impressive crowd of 300. Funny and kinetic, the Montrealean talked about Canada and America and how much he liked being here. It's not America that Canadians don't like, it's gee dubya, and who can blame them? And it's not smoky bars that they hate, it's... well, actually they do hate smoky bars, so much so that the band taped hand-made signs throughout Sokol asking patrons to please not smoke in the main hall "at the request of the band." The tactic was surprisingly effective, at least until they got on stage.

Those who arrived late missed what was Kite Pilot's finest live set. Playing songs off their EP, everything seemed lighter and quicker, on target and upbeat. All were on their best game, including substitute drummer Jeremy Stanosheck, who took Corey Broman's place while he's on tour with Statistics. For many, it was the first time seeing Kite Pilot, and judging by the people gravitating around their merch table during the set, they left a good impression. Bassist/backing vocalist Austin Britton said KP is headed back to the studio in early 2005 to record a new full-length, and then they'll fish it around to the labels to see if any will bite. Something tells me they will.

Then came Arcade Fire. The six-piece band crowded a stage lit with two Christmas-light lawn deer and assorted instruments. Win Butler towered front-and-center like a good frontman should, singing in his perfect David Byrnesian chirp. Live, their music was even more upbeat than on their smash CD (though I thought the sound was a little too bassy). This was the first band I've heard in a while where people in the crowd knew the record well enough to comment on every song -- this in spite of the fact that you'll never hear this band played on an Omaha radio station.

Arcade Fire ended their hour-long set with a three-song encore that included a rickshaw cover of Talking Heads' "This Must be the Place" as well as a brand-new song that Win introduced by saying "we're gonna try a new one, you can leave now if you like." Needless to say, no one did. A great show.

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A new column; the Arcade Fire tonight... – Nov. 29, 2004

Delays, delays... I spent the morning writing a feature on Cub Country as well as reworking the first installment of a new column that'll be appearing in The Reader and on Lazy-i, likely named after this very website. It'll focus on the local scene, with the first installment featuring an interview with Team Love badboy Willy Mason. That one, along with Cub Country, will be online and in print Wednesday.

The column will give me some breathing room at The Reader, allowing me to write about topics other than just features on upcoming bands touring through the area. Look for topics ranging from local radio, venues, trends and of course, bands including and beyond those signed to a certain Omaha-based record label. Hey, there's more to life than Saddle Creek. Lot's more. There also will be breaking news sprinkled among the text when space allows...

Anyway, tonight's big show is The Arcade Fire, a little band that's become a huge band virtually overnight. The fact that they're playing Sokol Underground at this stage in the game is somewhat amusing, considering their distaste for "dingy smoky bars." A glance at their website shows that they've been moving their shows to bigger venues in some cities to compensate for larger crowds. While that won't be necessary in Omaha, I think the promoter will be pleasantly surprised at the size of the turnout, that is if the buzz has made it to Omaha. Get there early for the opening act, a personal favorite of mine called Kite Pilot. This could be the biggest crowd this little local band has ever played in front of. Can you say "turning point"?

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Live Review: Mal Madrigal, Manishevitz, Edith Frost – Nov. 28, 2004

I go to a lot of shows. This is a fact. And often I see what I expect to see and little more. But every once in a while I get a surprise -- something I was completely not expecting. Such was the case with Manishevitz, the second band on the line-up last night. I gave these guys the best endorsement I can possibly give any band, and haven't done at a local show in a long, long time. I bought a copy of the latest CD -- a miracle of idiocy considering I have about 50 CDs piled at my feet at this very moment that I haven't listened to -- the last thing I need is another one. But I couldn't leave without picking up a copy. I had to hear if they sounded as good on CD as they sounded last night on stage. But I'll get to that in a moment.

First up was Mal Madrigal. The lineup for this version was frontman Steve Bartolomei, Mike Saklar on guitar, Ryan Fox on bass and keyboards, and Dan McCarthy on banjo and other assorted instruments. Judging by how the crowd waned as the night went on, most of the 75 to 100 that showed up were there to see Mal, and I doubt any of them left disappointed. Just like every other set I've seen Bartolomei and company play, the music was right on, introspective and always tuneful. Bartolomei has a clear, grainy voice that sounds like he's been doing this sort of thing for 20 years instead of 20 months. Saklar's guitar tones add stark shadows and bright colors on songs already lush with Bartolomei's own guitar and the skillful work of the other sidemen. Given a chance by a larger audience and an astute record label, only good will come of this band. Speaking of CDs for sale, Bartolomei bashfully said from the stage that he constructed 10 copies of his CDR for anyone who wanted one and if he ran out that he'd "figure something out" for anyone else. Sure enough, he sold all 10 right after his set. They're gonna be collector's items, I tell ya…

Then along came Manishevitz. I had no idea who they were, just some band from Chicago. The five-piece included two guitars, a bass, drums and a guy who alternated between baritone and tenor sax and flute. Musically they reminded me of a combination of The Feelies and The Wedding Present, while Adam Busch's vocals were the same clipped, hiccup of early David Byrne, Ric Ocasek and Lou Reed. And you could leave it there if not for Nate Lepine's saxophone and flute work, which threw everything out of whack in a good way. Lepine along with lead guitarist Via Nuon led counter-melodies that balanced the straight chop rock chords and locomotive rhythm parts. At times Lepine simply added more bottom with his bari-sax, at others he peppered songs with a contrite, upper-register flute counter, but most often he laid down a strange, throaty rock via the tenor. Some songs found a groove that the band was smart enough to draw out for extended jams that I would have been happy to hear for 20 minutes or more, all the time Lepine threw in colorful improvisations on his sax that never got in the way or were cheesy. Unfortunately, you only get a small taste of those Feelies-like jams on their latest CD, City Life, released on Jagjaguwar in 2003 (which I'm listening to as I write this) -- the recording being a more straight-forward approach than we saw on stage. Manishevitz is probably the best "discovery band" I've heard at the Underground this year, and discovering them makes up for all those smoky nights when I was treated to the usual predictability. Quite a find indeed.

Last up was Edith Frost, of course. I had a vague idea of what I was in for and pretty much got what I expected -- nice, folky tunes bordering on country singer-songwriter fare from a woman with a voice that lies somewhere between Mary Lou Lord and Kristin Hersh. She started alone, but as the night wore on, members of Manishevitz backed her up, most notably bassist Ryan Hembrey, who added some rich harmony vocals and guitarist Nuon, whose subtle touch brought on a whole new depth and edge to fairly typical folk songs. By the end of the evening, the Frost and the band were a full-throttle rock outfit a la Throwing Muses, rife with noise and distortion -- quite a contrast from where Frost starting things off.

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Mal Madrigal tonight with Edith Frost and Manishevitz... – Nov. 27, 2004

As the headline said, that's the show of the night, down at Sokol Underground. Get there early to see Mal Madrigal. It should be a relatively quiet, intimate evening of arty folk music, perfect for that after-Thanksgiving vibe. Kyle Harvey, Little Brazil and Anonymous American will be playing to a crammed 49'r tonight.

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The Arcade Fire online; Ointments (Kyle Harvey), LB and S,A (?) @ O'leaver's; Floating Opera/Shelterbelt at Sokol – Nov. 26, 2004

You might get a sense from reading my story that The Arcade Fire is less than interested in doing press these days (read it here). Why should they? They are, after all, the hottest band in the world, right? The phone pass-around scenario mentioned in my story was awkward, and instead of being funny ha-ha it came off funny asshole. But, hey, come on, they don't really need us little guys anymore, do they? Funeral probably will be the album of the year, whether you like these guys or not. As interviews go, Richard Parry was, uh, less than interesting. Since he didn't write the lyrics he didn't really know what the record was about, or at least that's what he implied. At least he pulled out the comments about Bowie and Byrne. Judging by what's online, it doesn't sound like Niz over at The Omaha World-Herald had a very good time with these Canadian lads either, but at least she got to talk to Win. Too bad he didn't want to talk to her (read Niz's story here).

Tonight's winding up to be one of the biggest show nights of the year. Top drawer is Kyle Harvey and the Ointments with Little Brazil and Son, Ambulance (probably) at O'Leaver's. Next drawer is Floating Opera, Shelter Belt, and Papers at Sokol (Luigi's on that one as well. Guess what, guys, Luigi was a clever novelty when The Faint had him opening for them. Now he's just boring). Then there's various shows at Mick's, The Ranch Bowl and elsewhere. If you miss Harvey, who's in town this week for the holidays, you can catch him tomorrow night at The 49'r with Little Brazil again.

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Mal Madrigal feature online; Anonymous American tonight… – Nov. 24, 2004

Just posted a profile of Mal Madrigal a.k.a. Omaha singer-songwriter Steve Bartolomei and friends (read it here). Steve talks about the making of his new, unavailable CD which you should ask him about at Sokol Saturday, when he and his band open for Edith Frost. He probably won't have one, but it's worth a shot. I've got one and I'm not giving it back -- I know that once he gets signed and discovered that this little baby is gonna be worth serious ka-ching on good ol' e-bay.

I'm tempted to drop by Mick's in Benson tonight to see Anonymous American with Springhill Mine Disaster, though I'm somewhat concerned that it'll be too packed to move in there (everyone has tomorrow off). If you haven't been to Mick's, it's a pretty sweet venue designed for acoustic performances. Whipkey tells me that AA will be the full Monty tonight -- not just him and a guitar -- which could mean it'll be unbelievably loud. Bring your earplugs. I was practically blown out of the place by a three-piece jazz combo one night. O'Leaver's is also rumored to be having a show tonight, though their online schedule doesn't mention it.

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They're trying to kill me; Faint Eyes; Planes Mistaken for Stars tonight – Nov. 23, 2004

Why no update yesterday? Because I was busy killing myself with stories and interviews. Yesterday morning before work I wrote features on both The Arcade Fire and Mal Madrigal, both of which will be online this week (Mal Madrigal tomorrow, Arcade Fire Thanksgiving morning). I'm also sitting on interviews with Cub Country, Dereck Higgins, Willy Mason, The '89 Cubs, and Dapose of the Faint, the goal of which is to have them all written up this week and placed online by next Tuesday. Probably won't happen, but dammit, I'm gonna try. Think about that when you're gorging on your Thanksgiving turkey. The Reader and that slavedriving prick at Lazy-i are trying to kill me. When I'm not working on those stories and watching football I'll be plowing through a ton of CD reviews, so keep an eye on the matrix.

Speaking of The Faint, our friends at Pitchfork reported yesterday (here) that Conor Oberst and The Faint will be touring together next summer, with The Faint acting as Bright Eyes (i.e., Oberst's backing band). I guess you could call the band Faint Eyes. I heard about this last week at the Willy Mason Sokol show, but never got around to confirming it with the Creek staff. The combination of these two indie powerhouses should make for one super-gigantic tour. Maybe they'll book it at The Qwest Center in Omaha? How weird would that be?

Tonight's big show is Planes Mistaken for Stars with the illustrious Race for Titles and one of Omaha's hottest bands, Ladyfinger. Planes continues to get grouped under the so-called "emo" banner, and I'm not sure why. They're music borders on angular screamo or noise more than whatever is passing as emo these days. The band is out supporting their July release, Up in the Guts on No Idea Records. Lots of scary growling. Lots of guitars.

I'll be digging up info to see what's going on tomorrow night and through the holiday, seeing as we all can sleep in for the next few days. Rumor has it that Kyle Harvey is in town…

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Live Review: Willy Mason – Nov. 19, 2004

So you ask yourself, what was Conor Oberst thinking when he signed Willy Mason as the second act on his new record label, Team Love? Putting out the Tilly and the Wall CD was a no-brainer -- Oberst knew most of the people in the band, in fact, played with most of them either in Park Ave. or Bright Eyes. And from a purely commercial standpoint, there's no denying that Tilly strikes a loud-and-clear chord with a young, eager, fanatical demographic that can't get enough of the band's whimsical, adolescent charm. And it doesn't hurt to have three attractive girls in the band.

But Willy Mason? Who is he? He's not from Nebraska. He doesn't have a following (at least none that I know of). His music is hardly ground-breaking.

It all made sense, though, after seeing him play last night, opening for Jay Farrar in front of 2/3rds of the 120 people who finally showed up by the time the headliner came on. Mason took the stage with guitar in hand, looking (as a guy standing next to me put it) like he just walked out of Mass Comm class, wearing jeans, a striped long-sleeved shirt and a pair of heavy-soled sneakers. He then preceded to play some of the best straight-forward folk that I've heard in a long time. Not touchy-feely emo-folk or creepy Tom May-style granola folk, but a roll-up-your sleeves, urban, working man's folk, punctuated by his crisp, sharp, pick-and-strum guitar playing.

In some ways, he's a Phil Ochs throw-back -- a young Ochs, before his music was devastated by overproduction -- with a natural story-teller assurance and a way with a clever phrase. His voice stands out -- loud and strong -- without a hint of affectation. Mason carries no stylistic vocal baggage. He sings in a straightforward manner atop his straightforward guitar licks playing catchy, straightforward songs about living a straightforward life. And he's only 19.

In that sense, his stripped-down, simple approach is a natural counter-weight to Tilly's style-bordering-on-novelty reputation. Tilly is Team Love's eye-catching show-stopper; Mason is the pure singer-songwriter with something to say. And in that regard, he more closely resembles Oberst, who, with this record label, is playing the role of mentor for Mason -- a role he's playing for the first time.

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Willy Mason tonight w/Jay Farrar; Bright Eyes tour starts in Omaha – Nov. 18, 2004

Something tells me there will be as many people at tonight's Sokol Underground show to see Willy Mason as headliner Jay Farrar. Mason is the second artist to release an album on sub-Saddle Creek label Team Love Records (The first was those sexy, toe-tapping wonders called Tilly and the Wall). The 19-year-old singer-songwriter with a jonze for Hank Williams-influenced coffee-house folk apparently is a buddy of Team Love coach Conor Oberst, who he first ran into backstage at a Northampton, MA show (or so his bio implies). Mason's voice and phrasing reminds me at times of an unvarnished version of British pop folkie John Wesley Harding on tunes designed to be played standing alone with a guitar. You can download his latest album for free off the Team Love website, that is if you're reading this in North America -- you foreigners are gonna have to shell out your hard-earned Euros. To my knowledge, this is Mason's first appearance in Omaha, and as a result, I foresee a large turnout of Creek disciples along with Uncle Tupelo/Son Volt fans there to see Jay Farrar. Better get there early.

Speaking of Mr. Oberst, seems Bright Eyes announced its first North American dates for '05, a warm-up for their opening slot on an upcoming R.E.M. tour in Australia. It all kicks off in Omaha, though there's some disagreement on the proper date. Pollstar said today in this article that the Omaha date is Jan. 15, while the Saddle Creek and 1 Percent Productions websites are saying Jan. 14 (The One Percent site also says Tilly and the Wall will be the opener for the Sokol Auditorium $12 show). Something tells me Pollstar got it wrong.

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Live Review: American Music Club, Will Johnson; Ryan Adams tonight; 1 Percent turns 300 – Nov. 16, 2004

The promoters of last night's American Music Club show have every reason to be disappointed with the turnout. Heck, I'm disappointed. There were maybe 70 or 80 people there total, very much below anyone's expectations. Maybe it was because it was a Monday night and Ryan Adams is tomorrow, though I doubt that Ryan Adams draws the same type of crowd as AMC. Add last night to the poor turnout for Matthew Sweet and Vic Chestnutt and you begin to see an unfortunate trend in terms of shows that target an older "heritage" crowd. Side note: AMC was officially 1 Percent Production's 300th show.

AMC fans who stayed home last night because they couldn't get a sitter or had to work this morning missed out on what could be the last AMC show they'll ever get to see. I overheard Eitzel talking to a fan while he was signing a couple albums. He said that touring was getting too expensive, too hard to do, and that this might be it. And though he sounded great last night, he looked a bit agitated on stage. He was in perfect voice, opening with a couple classics off Everclear before segueing into material from his amazing new album, Love Songs for Patriots. The mix, however, was poor -- too bassy, and there seemed to be a problem with the monitors. Eitzel fiddled with earplugs and looked exasperated. During one song, the bass rumbled like a bomb going off, some sort of weird effect that was distorted and strange. As the set wore on, Eitzel quit talking to the crowd and looked like he wanted to just get off stage, especially toward the end when his vocals seemed to fade and get lost in the ruckus. Still, it was a good set that at times transcended the technical glitches, especially when the band got to stretch out, and Vudi, looking like a indie version of Leonard Nimoy, leaned into a feedback-laden guitar solo.

Opener Will Johnson was remarkable. With the aid of one of his Centro-matic buddies on fiddle, he filled out a set of touching, tuneful acoustic songs that highlighted his rough American growl. A full band backed him on his last couple songs, creating a dramatic contrast to the rest of the set.

If the promoters are licking their wounds from last night's turnout, they should be all healed up after tonight's Ryan Adams show upstairs at Sokol, which is sure to be a great draw. Dunno why, but I've never liked Adams' music -- just a bit too simple for my tastes. Ah, but the kids love him. If you're at the show tonight, take a moment to raise a toast to Marc and Jim at 1 Percent, and to their next 300 shows. I don't know what we'd do without them.

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American Music Club, Will Johnson tonight… – Nov. 15, 2004

This is a don't-miss show. Why does it always have to be on a Monday night? Because we're in Omaha, that's why. Quit whining. American Music Club's new album is a stunner, and Mark Eitzel is one of indie's most notable showmen. Then there's Centro-matic's Will Johnson, who blew through Omaha last April for a one-man show at The Ranch Bowl with The Sleepy Jackson. About 20 people saw it. From the April 18 Lazy-i live review: "I'm more convinced than ever after the solo gig that Johnson has one of the most unique and interesting voices in rock today. As unique as Eddie Vedder or Neil Young -- a voice that's instantly recognizable." Johnson is punctual, by the way, which means he will be taking he stage at 9 p.m. even if the only one's there are me and the 1 Percent guys. And since there are only two bands on the bill, I wouldn't be surprised if this show wraps up by 11:30. Don't be late.

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Live Review: The Street Urchins – Nov. 14, 2004

The 49'r was packed with the leather people -- punk rocker black-T-shirt belt-chain motorcycle shop sorts that you'd see at a hot rod swap meet. Lots of guys with slicked back hair and sideburns. Lots of chicks with black-dye doos and too much makeup. Finding a place to stand was the usual challenge -- I settled on a stand-spot next to the fireplace in front of the shuffleboard table where I could get knocked around but still not be in the way, such is the situation at The 49'r on any given night when a decent band is playing.

The guys in The Street Urchins played right along with the vibe, but with a glamorous twist: spiked dog collar, flying V guitar, bald head vs. Marc Bolen curly locks, open-chest spandex shirt a la Paul Stanley, and lots of make-up -- raccoon eye shadow, eye-liner and lipstick. It was glam punk meets '70s arena rock (as in KISS) done up by a band that should be playing at The Roxy or the Troubadour moreso than CBs or Max's KC -- Sunset Strip Hollywood glam meets NY Dolls pomp.

Their sound melds power-chord hair rock (not '80s schmaltz) with high-NRG throb that's full-on fast thanks to a rhythm section that knows what it's doing. I kept thinking about bands like Sweet and KISS and Ram Jam and Thin Lizzy -- i.e., all the bands I grew up loving back in the '70s -- but couldn't keep my mind off acts like The Stooges or The Cramps or The Gories known for their campy theatrics. And in the end, the music is way too fast for either group -- too frenetic and jittery, mixed with simple rock moves and a light show that featured a rack of blaring floods pointed straight at the crowd alternated with floor spots that lit from the bottom up.

Typical numbers grind a fast-and-furious guitar riff with pump bass and white-knuckle drums. The vocals, which leaned more toward punk, were too low in the mix to really hear, but you got the picture. What little I could decipher pointed to lyrics about getting laid one way or another, culminating in crowd favorite "I Need a Whore," which is destined to become their anthem. Amidst the chaos and hooks they always found room for a guitar solo -- something that, along with a set a balls, is missing from most of today's indie rock. These guys had balls and were eager to rub them into the nearest faux-punk's welcoming face. For those among you who have missed straight-out rock, this is what you've been looking for. Street Urchins is the best band that I've seen drummer Dave Goldberg play in, and that's saying a lot considering his other projects, not the least of which are Full Blown and The Carsinogents. Unlike those outfits, which seemed to doddle with nostalgic genres, The Street Urchins just want to burn everything up with pure, simple American rock, and there's nothing wrong with that.

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Little Brazil EP (not LP) release show; Street Urchins at the Niner – Nov. 13, 2004

I was told in no uncertain terms by their publicist that tonight's Little Brazil CD release show does not celebrate the release of their new LP, You and Me, but the release of the band's new self-titled debut EP. The new LP won't be out until Feb. 15 on Mt. Fuji Records, who also is releasing the EP. Regardless, the press for this show has focused mostly on the LP, probably because writers such as myself received promo copies of the LP but not copies of the EP. That said, I have one of the early demo versions of the EP which I picked up at one of the early LB shows with the old line-up. I think the songs were rerecorded for the new EP, this is unclear. I can tell you that the versions of the songs from the EP that are on the 9-song LP are different than those heard on the original EP. Confused? Don't be. Just go to the show tonight at Sokol, where you'll also get a chance to hear Someday Stories and Latitude Longitude. I haven't heard any of these bands, including this version of Little Brazil with guitarist Greg Edds (who replaced Austin Britton, who, btw, will be playing a solo set tonight at O'Leaver's with The Outlaw) and drummer Oliver Morgan (former frontman of The Quiet Type who replaced Corey Browman). The original band was featured on Lazy-i earlier this year (read it here). I've been told that this new lineup brings a whole different swing to Landon's songs.

On the other hand, there's the Street Urchins tonight at The 49'r. Here's another band that I've failed to see for one reason or another. Always wanted to. The trio is sparked by ex-Carsinogents now-Terminals member Dave Goldberg behind the drums. I'm told they're quite theatrical -- complete with green foaming spit, with music that would be right at home in NYC or Detroit in the late '70s when America was inventing its own form of glam punk. Local punkers The Rundowns also are on the bill. I'll be at one show or the other -- or both.

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The Holy Ghost, Lepers tonight; assorted web news... – Nov. 11, 2004

Not much on the news front today except for a mess o' rumors (which I ain't gonna publish). Tonight's hot ticket isn't New Found Glory at Sokol Aud, which sold out weeks and weeks ago. No, it's The Holy Ghost and Lepers at O'Leaver's with Chris McFarland and the Moment Band. Real rock wins again.

For further reading: Those funny chaps at Pitchfork are not pleased with Bright Eyes' Billboard singles chart achievement, saying that it shows promise for "a world smeared in shit and horsegore." Play nice, kids! Sounds like someone wants to be the new Buddyhead. For the eight or so of us who still wonder about Nine Inch Nails, Reznor says he's pushing back the new album again until next year, according to this Billboard item. Will it ever see the light of day and does anyone care? And personal writing mentor Robert Christgau has posted the latest edition of Consumer Guide here in the Village Voice -- where he gives the Dud of the Month award to the new Leonard Cohen album (but still gives it a B).

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American Music Club; what's next for Slowdown? – Nov. 10, 2004

Just put online, a brief profile/interview with Mark Eitzel of American Music Club (read it here). The interview took place almost two months ago, way before the election, back when Kerry looked like he might actually win. I wonder if Eitzel still has such a rosy view of things. Something tells me he does. On a side note, the new AMC record is mind-blowingly good. And the Nov. 15 AMC show at Sokol Underground is a must-see (why why why do they always have to be on Monday nights?).

Anyone who turned on the Channel 23 recap of yesterday's City Council meeting (and who doesn't watch that pulse-pounding program every week?) saw Saddle Creek Records' Jason Kulbul read a brief statement to the council, officially withdrawing Creek's liquor license request and effectively burying the Slowdown project, for now at least. Kulbul looked down and read from the written statement, recapping how excited he and Robb Nansel were at the prospects of Slowdown being built on the small inlet of Saddle Creek Road right behind The Homy Inn. About how they underestimated the neighborhood uproar. About how the project details have ballooned way over and above the its original budget. About how Slowdown was just another attempt to support the Omaha music scene as it continues to struggle, scratching and clawing, to move forward to national prominence. When he announced the withdrawal, a smattering of neighbors applauded and was quickly told to stop by the council president. This was no cause for celebration.

And then Jason added that he and Robb are meeting with Councilman Mark Craft and the city planner today at 4 p.m. to go over ideas for where to put the office/bar/venue now. I have this vision of Kraft in his office, rolling out a huge map of the city with empty lots and failed businesses highlighted in fluorescent yellow, most of them located next to junk yards, abandoned buildings, and crack-infested neighborhoods, or right alongside prime real estate priced at ungodly amounts. It's hard to believe that Robb and Jason haven't already combed every square foot of available land around mid-town, but who knows? Maybe Kraft and the council can pull something from their sleeve that no one's already considered. The fact that they're going through this exercise is a good sign that this recent episode hasn't broken their spirit, and that instead of a map of Omaha Robb and Jason haven't spread out maps of upper New York, the North Carolina triangle, Athens proper or Seattle on their overcrowded desks in their overcrowded Benson offices.

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Slowdown is no-down and the spectre of NIMBY – Nov. 9, 2004

They had a dream of building a club in a neighborhood that simply wasn't gonna have it, even if it was built. The neighbors were going to make their lives a living hell, whether it be writing down the number of every license plate that parked on their street or calling the police every night when the club let out or, generally, just talking. Talking to anyone who would listen about 'those goddamn kids who built that rock 'n' roll club in the middle of my neighborhood.' The neighbors would create allies again and again and again from every middle-aged or older person who would sympathize with their plight and praise Jesus that the club wasn't built in their neighborhood. In short, the neighbors would hate them a lot from the beginning, and hate them a little more every time some hopped-up kids leaned on their horns at midnight on the way back to wherever it is they came from, away from their neighborhood.

You can't blame the Creek guys if, as the Omaha World-Herald reported last night (here), they pull their liquor license application from consideration at this afternoon's City Council meeting. Jason and Robb thought they were doing the neighborhood a solid, that they were beautifying a piece of Omaha that they've seen slowly decay over the past few years, a piece of Omaha they grew up in, that they love. Silly rabbits. For them to understand the neighbors' concerns, the Creek crew would have to get married, have a couple kids, get steady cube-farm jobs, watch a lot of TV, and slowly slowly slowly begin to resent anyone who is young, hopeful and having a better time then they are. You see, guys, once property is in hand, everything changes. And no one with a $100k mortgage and two kids in grade school wants to have a club/music venue built a stone's throw from their driveway.

It brings up a bigger problem, not only for Saddle Creek Records, but for a city that's supposedly trying to re-energize portions of Omaha that have been neglected while the majority of the city's population slowly moves closer and closer to Lincoln. Destination Midtown is, to some extent, a joke. If organizations like Saddle Creek Records -- a label with fans who are maybe the meekest of any concertgoer you will ever meet -- can't build in one of those areas targeted for revitalization, then why would anyone? The neighbors would prefer a nice, quiet grocery store be built where the Slowdown compound was proposed. Nice idea, except that there used to be a grocery store there that went out of business and lay vacant for years before being demolished, and the fact that there's three more grocery stores currently strung along Saddle Creek, including a soon-to-open brand new Hy-Vee at 50th and Center.

Developers call it a NIMBY issue -- Not In My Back Yard. It's a thorn in the side of anyone trying to lead a "Destination Midtown"-style campaign. Because no matter what commercial enterprise goes into the location where Slowdown was proposed, there's going to be a portion of the neighborhood who will oppose it. That brings up the question of zoning, and how much consideration the City Council should give to neighbors who knew they were buying a house next to an area that was zoned commercial -- that's one of the reasons why those homes were cheaper than ones built in the heart of Country Club, where all the surrounding property is zoned residential.

All that said, few people I talked to thought the proposed Slowdown location was a good one. It really did come down to parking -- there wasn't enough, no matter how you added it up. The streets would have been lined with cars for a half-mile around the venue on a big-show night. And just because "that's the way it is at Sokol" doesn't mean that that's the way it's supposed to be. But, quite frankly, their proposed site may be the last and only reasonable place to build the facility. There is no affordable property along Saddle Creek that has the space for the building and the necessary parking. Venture outside of Saddle Creek and you'll find that there aren't any places in mid-town, either. The cost of development makes a downtown location an impossibility, and who wants to be down there, anyway? Talk about bad parking. That leaves west of 72nd to 108th (forget any place further west than that), where there are a number of faceless, empty stripmall locations that are in the first stages of blight as Omaha's great western migration continues (and it's only going to get worse as the 114th St. overpass makes commuting that much easier for the 30-minute commuters).

Today at the City Council meeting, a small parade of neighbors will saunter up to Robb and Jason and tell them how brave and smart they were to withdraw their proposal and how "we really support your idea." But none of them will have any suggestions as to where to put it now. Nor will they really care, as long as it ain't going to be in their neighborhood.

I would say the future of Slowdown is somewhat bleak. Add this defeat with the recent election results and suddenly the idea of Creek moving out of Nebraska isn't so crazy.

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BE tops Billboard? Minus the Bear tonight – Nov. 8, 2004

No update this morning because I was busy pounding out a feature on American Music Club that'll go online Wednesday. In fact, I promised an update this weekend (but never got around to it) because I've got all this content waiting to go online, not the least of which is a 2,500-word Q&A with Dapose of The Faint, which will be going live most likely tonight or tomorrow.

This is probably very old news to Creek fans, but Reuters is reporting that Bright Eyes had the two highest debuts on Billboard's Hot 100 Singles Sales chart last week. "This week, those two singles, 'Lua' and 'Take It Easy (Love Nothing)' move 18-1 and 7-2, respectively, to take over the top two spots on the survey. It is the first time in seven years that one artist owns the top two positions on this list. In August 1997, Puff Daddy was No. 1 with Faith Evans on 'I'll Be Missing You' and was featured with Mase at No. 2 on the Notorious B.I.G.'s 'Mo Money MO Problems.'" the article says. (read the whole thing here).

This seems very odd, especially when you compare the amount of radio play, MTV play and Entertainment Weekly facetime P-Diddy gets compared to Bright Eyes (which, uh, is almost nil). How can the arch enemy of Clear Channel possibly have the No. 1 and 2 singles on a Billboard chart? In fact, try as I might, I can't find Bright Eyes mentioned in the online version of Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart. Am I looking in the wrong place? All's I'm seeing is Usher and Snoop.

Tonight's show: Minus the Bear w/ Detachment Kit, Askeleton, & The Firebird Band at Sokol Underground. Minus the Bear came through here a couple years ago, opening for The Good Life again at Sokol. Some comments from the Lazy-i live review of that show: "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 not 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." You can read the full review in the blog archive, at the entry dated July 31, 2003.

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Live Review: Matthew Sweet; Whitmore tonight – Nov. 5, 2004

So I show up at 10 o'clock to Matthew Sweet last night, figuring I'd catch the last half of Velvet Crush, a band I've never heard before, and as I walk down the stairs I hear the familiar strains of "The Ugly Truth." How long has he been playing? I yell to the promoter. Since 9:30 or so. Seems on this tour Velvet Crush is Sweet's backup band, and to mix things up they combine their sets, starting with a few Sweet songs, then playing the Velvet Crush set, and finishing off with another Sweet set - a good idea, actually, especially if the opening band is the headliner's backup.

So I caught the last couple Sweet songs and VC took the stage. I was surprised at the turnout - somewhere around 150, way fewer than anyone expected. I figured at least 300 - it's Matthew Sweet for god's sake, he had some huge hits in the '90s, and though he hasn't done anything other than The Thorns for the past five years, you still occasionally hear a Sweet song on your typical CD105-type FM station. But the make-up of the crowd indicated that Sweet isn't getting the radio support he once got - most people were in their 30s or late 20s (a few in their 40s). Sweet's parents were there, sitting in the back by the merch table.

Soundwise, I thought the mix was very muddy, almost chunky. And Velvet Crush only added to that atmosphere. Their sound is very similar to Sweet's, but they lack the central melodies that make Sweet's stuff so memorable. Very jammy, and it was obvious that they were still getting used to having Sweet play with them, as one song was so off that it wound down to nothing, followed by laughter and apologies. The next song didn't sound much better. After the lack-luster and somewhat jammy set, Sweet took center stage again, apologizing for "ruining Velvet Crush's best song."

Sweet went on to play another half-dozen or so tunes, including a couple from his new CDs along with the usual chestnuts. He was in good voice, and with three guitarists sharing the load, the rock songs had plenty of rock. Unfortunately, he never brought the energy down for a few quieter acoustic moments (hey, I wanted to hear "Winona" or "Your Sweet Voice"). He finished with a two-song encore that included "Girlfriend" and "Superdeformed" before calling it a night at around 11:15 or so, an early evening for a Sokol show.

Also unlike the typical Sokol rock show, T-shirts were arena-priced at $20. Sweet took advantage of his tour by not only selling clothes and CDs, but also his hand-made pottery -- small amateurish pieces nicely glazed, running around $50 each. For a minute I thought it would be cool to come home with a signed Matthew Sweet hand-thrown dish-thing -- I couldn't tell what the pottery was suppose to be other than maybe a dish to throw your keys when you got home. Hopefully next time he comes through he'll also be offering an assortment of coffee mugs and windchimes.

Tonight's live offering is the twangy, throaty folk of William Elliott Whitmore w/ The Vets & The Spring Hill Mine Disaster at O'Leaver's. Yee-haw.

Look for some weekend updates at Lazy-i as I have a few suprises to throw online...

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Matthew Sweet, The Close tonight…; What in Tarnation? – Nov. 4, 2004

Tonight, in the intimate, smoky environs of Sokol Underground, 1% Productions brings us Matthew Sweet. The Lincoln native sets off on a tour of smaller venues, I suppose as part of a process of reinvention or reintroduction to a fan base he's had since the '90s. The tour began last night in Denver and goes to Minneapolis tomorrow before heading east. Absolutely no word on who's in his band this time around. Velvet Crush opens and tickets are $12. Meanwhile, The Close and The Mariannes are lighting it up at O'Leaver's for a mere $5. I plan on attending one or the other… probably the other.

A side note… I was clicking around the web last night, trying to find the trailer to a new film that NPR has been hyping called Tarnation, a documentary that took 20 years and $800 to make. I was immediately taken by the soundtrack, music by a guy named Max Avery Lichtenstein which is utterly beautiful. The overall soundtrack (which apparently won't be released) also includes music by Low, Iron & Wine, Lisa Germano, Cocteau Twins, Red House Painters and Marianne Faithful, among others. But it was Lichtenstein's stuff that caught my ear -- simple acoustic guitar, piano and cello music. Turns out, a lot of the tracks are online at Lichtenstein's record label web site, Tin Drum. Check out the main theme (mp3'd here) and go to his site if you want more. Too bad the movie probably won't make it to Omaha...

Check-in: Little Brazil, The Donnas, Mike Ferraro, Bermuda Triangle Service, The Original Mark Edwards, Shesus, Guitar Wolf, The Minus 5, Osgoods, Grandaddy Artist's Choice, UWP, 5 Story Fall, P. Jones

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It's not the end of the world (is it?); Nightmare on Saddle Creek? Vic Chestnutt tonight… – Nov. 3, 2004

Believe it or not, there are a lot of people who are even more disappointed than you are right now. Find one of them and tell them that it's not the end of the world. It may seem like it. But if you dwell on the negative, you will never be able change anything.

. . .

A predetermined nightmare. That's what one melodramatic neighbor called Slowdown, the proposed Saddle Creek bar/office/concert space, at yesterday afternoon's City Council meeting where a Class C liquor license was being considered for the venue. Unlike last week's neighborhood brouhaha, where old women were yelling angry epithets and grown men were on the verge of fisticuffs, this meeting was a rather somber affair. But maybe that's because I watched the rerun on Cox 23 last night instead of seeing it live.

I'm not going into details about proceedings because the whole thing was boring. Needless to say, the opposing neighbors put up a good argument against the plan (i.e., lack of parking, noise, street congestion, etc.) while the Creek boys did their best to deflect attacks by promising they'll figure out a way to make it all work. At the center of the discussion was the council itself, a group of good old boys who've never heard of indie rock, Saddle Creek Records or Bright Eyes before yesterday.

That said, the council went out of its way to tell Robb and Jason how much they respected them, their ideas and their business (even though neither of them wore a necktie again). They even like the idea of the venue, but not necessarily in the middle of the Metcalfe Park neighborhood. I think the council pretty much ignored all the complaints of potential noise, riff-raff and *gasp* drinking of alcoholic beverages (one lady sounded like she was arguing for a reinstatement of prohibition). What they didn't and can't ignore is the parking question. 180 + 60 doesn't equal enough parking for 500. The city planner pointed out something that I've been telling people all week -- the alternative parking at Kelley's Hilltop ain't a block away -- it's more like three or four blocks away. If they can't figure out some sort of solution to the parking, the council will have a hard time approving the license request no matter how much they love the idea.

Councilman Marc Kraft moved that the decision be delayed for a week while the council and city planner take a closer look at the plan, talk to the neighbors and see if they can work something out to make everyone happy. I still say, regardless of whether the council gives its recommendation or not, that the license will be granted by the State liquor commission and the building will go up. And then Robb and Jason will have to figure out how they're going to operate a facility nestled in center of a bee's nest of angry neighbors who will make it their life's work to get them out of their neighborhood. More to come.

. . .

Legendary Athens folk artist Vic Chestnutt will be at Sokol Underground tonight (though I don't know how they're going to get him down a flight of stairs). Last time I saw him perform was at the old Capitol Bar, accompanied by legendary Omaha singer-songwriter Alex McManus. Wonder if Alex will be sit in on a few songs tonight? Find out with me, and tell me that it's not the end of the world.

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Vote – Nov. 2, 2004

Vote, it's not only your right, it's your duty, it's your blah blah blah. Jesus Christ, just fucking do it. How hard can it be to go to a freakin' polling place and vote? We have to be the laziest country in the goddamn world when we have to beg our own citizens to vote in what most people believe is this country's most important election since the Viet Nam War. Sad. Just go. Get out there. Vote. And it won't kill you to meet a few of your neighbors while you're doing it.

Enough diatribe…

Today's also a chance to see another, albeit smaller, political process in action as Saddle Creek Records goes before the Omaha City Council to ask for a liquor license for a new music venue/bar/office to be constructed at 1528 No. Saddle Creek Road (right behind The Homy Inn). According to the Slowdown license application, the new construction is slated to be completed by April 2005 -- that's just six months from now.

Expect a replay of the Metcalfe Neighborhood Association meeting from last Wednesday, complete with angry local neighbors outlining how the facility's lack of parking will result in kids peeing on their lawns (scroll down to the Oct. 28 blog for a full description of that meeting's mayhem). According to the City Council agenda, the meeting starts in the legislative chamber at 2 p.m. The Slowdown license is the 14th agenda item, so expect it to be heard within the first hour of the meeting. I won't be there, but intend to TiVo the televised replay if I can figure out what channel of Cox Cable will be broadcasting it on.

Enough. Now vote, dammit.

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A brief glance backwards… – Nov. 1, 2004

Catching up on a few shows from last week.

Damien Jurado and Richard Buckner drew around 125 last Friday night at Sokol Underground. Buckner's set featured a lot more guitar histrionics than you hear on his recent Merge release, Dents & Shells. Someone told me that night that it's Buckner's song that's played on the VW Toureg commercial (you know the one, where the young yuppie couple drives their SUV up a mountain to take a picture for an old women instead of just letting her ride along and take the picture herself). Buckner's style is more mainstream than that of Mark Eitzel or Will Oldham or Bill Callahan -- three guys he's compared to who's writing styles are more gritty and naked than Buckner's. Jurado's a different story. Like Pedro the Lion, his songs are modern-day fables that linger like dread at the heart of his vision of morality without rubbing anyone's nose in his beliefs. Live, he jumped between quiet solo acoustic and the noisy, emotional mayhem of a full band. Great voice. Still, I watched as lot of people who came to see Buckner left during Jurado's more haunting set. Most, I'm sure, were driving away in VW's.

Last Thursday I dropped in at O'Leaver's, where 50 or 60 others showed up for The Coast of Nebraska and Zykos. I've never seen The Coast before, and after what I heard, they deserve further study. A high energy, angular band, the sound had the vocals upfront, right in your face, overpowering the rhythm section. A patron at the show turned to me during the set and asked if I recognized what they were playing. It was a rare cover of a Cursive song. Apparently he didn't recognize it, either. Zykos' set was much more stripped down from what can be heard on their latest Post-Parlo release. As a result, they sounded like a lite version of Spoon, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, though not terribly interesting.

I had a hard time focusing on the music both nights, as I was flung from one conversation to another about the Saddle Creek Records music complex -- everyone was buzzing about last week's neighborhood meeting and tomorrow's City Council hearing. The conventional wisdom now is that the council will pass their liquor license and that Robb Nansel, despite everyone's advice, will refuse to wear a tie to the proceedings. For those of you going tomorrow, I'll be posting a copy of the agenda in the blog. And because I have a real job, I'll be catching the rerun on Cox Cable between the election coverage.

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Another music venue (the Ranch Bowl) in the news; Damien Jurado tonight… – Oct. 29, 2004

Those looking for info on the new Saddle Creek Records office/venue, scroll down to yesterday's blog entry…

For the rest of you…. Saddle Creek's proposed new venue isn't the only club that's been in the news lately. Seems every time I ventured into the Ranch Bowl in the past few weeks, I would get attacked by people asking when I was gonna "blow the lid off" what's going on at The Bowl. The floodgate of rumors included word that former owner Matt Markel was about to somehow sell the joint out from under the Bowl's owner/operators Mike Brannan and Dan Crowell. That the IRS raided the place during the recent Little Feat show. That the duo were out of money and bouncing checks all over town.

For as long as I've been following local music, there have been rumors that the Ranch Bowl was going out of business and about to be knocked down and turned into a WalMart/Home Depot/Dr. John's Warehouse Outlet. This latest round seemed no different, except… well, the sheer volume of rumors was strangely high and coming from some well-placed sources.

So I e-mailed Mike Brannan and asked him for the straight poop. Here's what I asked:

I've been besieged by a number of people over the past couple months telling me that the Ranch Bowl was either about to be closed by the IRS (I've heard the Little Feat story about a half-dozen times), was on the verge of being sold (by Matt Markel), or was going out of business (bounced checks, etc.). Then last week someone told me that all your financial worries had been "taken care of." All's I know is that you're in business and that Artery (studios) has been busy lately (the new Cubs CD is quite good). Are you about to begin renovations/expansion? One rumor has it that you're about to buy even more nearby property. Any comments for lazy-i?

And here's his answer, edited to include little things like capitol letters, commas and periods…

Hey Tim,

We have, most unfortunately, been involved in a very tough negotiation w/the former owners, who attempted a last-minute renegotiation of our purchase deal. This lead to us filing suit, them suing us and finally a settlement. During that time we were unable to do much of anything. Anyway, fast forward and the matter has been resolved and we are moving ahead with our business plan.

BTW, the IRS DID NOT show up at Little Feat. We had made an error in a tax return and the Nebraska Dept of Revenue showed up without warning and levied us for $800. Unbelievably heavy handed IMO, considering the small amount, but they knew we were having problems with the Markels and that we could lose the suit.

We have some additional property under contract, and other projects that will be coming on line that will be unveiled accordingly. The Ranch Bowl will now receive considerably more attention from Dan and myself as we consider what to do with it. We, however had to resolve the deal with the Markels before we could push ahead with anything else as that handcuffed us for quite some time. I'm sure our lawyer will be buying himself a fancy new car over this one and we're glad the fighting's over and settled amenably.

Mike Brannan

This would seem to indicate that we could begin to see improvements at the ol' Bowl in the very near future. Will Brannan and Crowell finally make good on the dream they spun about the place way back in January 2003 (read it here)? I hope so. Because as I've always said, I have a lot of fond memories of nights spent at The Ranch Bowl, and no one would like to see it return to its past glory more than me, if for the sheer reason that I like the set-up, I like the location, and I like the guys that run the place. It's reemergence as an important venue in the Omaha music scene would only add more competition in an already strong environment that includes Sokol Underground (or more specifically 1 Percent Productions) O'Leaver's, The 49'r and now maybe even Slowdown. Has Omaha music lovers ever had it so good?

Speaking of Sokol, tonight's show is a must-see: Damien Jurado with Richard Buckner and Dolorean. I'm a fan of Jurado's caustic-yet-poppy acoustic folk from way back when he was on Sub Pop. Like Pedro the Lion, Jurado's music has Christian overtones, but he doesn't rub your nose in his beliefs, he merely shows you that your actions can come back to haunt you, either down here or up there.

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Slowdown: An uphill battle? Zykos tonight... – Oct. 28, 2004

The first thing that comes to mind after being at last night's Metcalfe Neighborhood Association meeting was "Where are the torches?" (hint: think townspeople and Frankenstein).

Click on the thumbnails above to see larger images of the Slowdown blueprints.

City Councilman Marc Kraft said the crowd stuffed into the library at Harrison Elementary School was the largest neighborhood gathering he'd ever seen on any issue in his seven years on the council. It was packed, standing room only, people fanning themselves with information packets, sort of like a Creek show at O'Leaver's minus the smoke. But instead of half-drunk happy hipsters, this crowd was filled with angry neighbors come to vent their spleens about Saddle Creek's proposed office/bar/entertainment complex located right where I wash my car at 1528 N. Saddle Creek Road.

Creek kingpins Robb Nansel, Jason Kubel and Matt Maginn and their attorney, Mike Kelley, began the meeting by explaining the proposed project after handing packets that included blueprints of the property and national press clippings of Saddle Creek acts. The lawyer was the only one in a suit and tie. Robb wore the usual uniform of a Saddle Creek employee -- an untucked, unironed long-sleeve shirt. Very indie. The crowd was relatively well-behaved until Kraft showed up and explained that granting a liquor license to Slowdown was a matter that would be in front of the City next Tuesday -- election night, and that Kraft's motivation was to do "what was best for the neighborhood."

Then the sparks began to fly as neighbors hurled angry questions and comments at our doe-eyed heroes who had to be expecting this kind of clench-fisted reaction from property owners frightened that this $1.5 million den of iniquity was going to be built right in the heart of their nest of Tudor-style homes.

Some points of clarity: The OWH reported yesterday that Creek already purchased the property -- Kubel said that wasn't true, that the acquisition would be contingent upon Slowdown (apparently the name of the new complex) getting a Class C liquor license (which would allow for package sales as well as bar booze sales). After the reaction I saw last night, the odds aren't in their favor of getting the City Council's recommendation, but the state will ultimately be the body that grants the license.

Standing in the back, I was surrounded by angry people afraid that their property values would plummet, that drunks would be stumbling up and down their sidewalks, that litter would be strewn all over their streets. But their No. 1 concern was parking. Once a month, Nansel said, Slowdown would host a show that could attract 350-400 people (the number "500" was thrown out at one time). Unfortunately, their plans only call for parking for around 60. Jason and Robb tried to calm their fears by saying that they're trying to cut a deal with the fine folks at Kelley's Hilltop bowling alley to use some of their spaces, adding maybe 180 more. Judging from the looks on the neighbors' faces, that ain't gonna be near enough. The last thing they want is a bunch of kids parking in their front yards, making all kinds of noise at 1 a.m. when the bar lets out (though Jason told them shows would not run past midnight).

The loudest, most hostile opponent was the guy who owns Sgt. Peffers, who was convinced that the proposal would hurt his business, though I'm still not sure how -- show-goers such as myself eat pizza, after all. The good Sergeant said he already suffered through the construction of the dreaded "peanut" -- the kidney-shaped roundabout that replaced a 5-way stop right in front his place. And now this. At one point, two guys standing right in front of me almost started throwing fists -- a younger homeowner for the proposal, an older guy convinced that "these kids don't know what they're doing." It was amusing to hear Robb and Co. be referred to as "kids" throughout the evening -- all three are pushing 30, which I guess makes me a kid as well.

Though they had materials, Creek and their lawyer seemed ill-prepared for the questions. Someone asked how they'd keep minors away from the drinkers in the club, and they replied, "We'll figure it out." Not what a concerned parent wants to hear. Someone else asked how they expected patrons to park over at Kelley's Hilltop. "You'll have to help us train them." That brought laughter. At times, it was a mystery whose side their lawyer was on -- he seemed to be siding with the neighbors on a lot of arguments, most prominently when they asked "why haven't you looked someplace else where there's more room?" Kelley replied with something like "I've asked them the same thing. They say they've looked elsewhere." It was like watching a roomful of angry parents argue over the future of their three delinquent children. People were bellowing out comments from the crowd. I halfway expected someone to yell "Crucify them! Crucify them!"

Next Tuesday's City Council meeting should be a replay, that is if anyone shows up, it being election night. In the end, does the attitude of a neighborhood association or the seal of approval from the City Council really matter if the state is the one that grants the liquor license? A couple veterans from similar wars I've spoken to said, in the end, no. But obviously Creek isn't eager to proceed with their plan without neighborhood support, especially since a facility that size is going to mean tearing the hell out of the streets, probably taking out the beloved "peanut," and disrupting local businesses for a year or more. It's an area that's already smarting from ongoing sewage issues as well as the closing of a relatively new Osco (you can bet that more than one person wants them to buy that property) and other local business. One poor old woman summed up their sentiments, "Why can't you just leave us alone?"

FYI... Zykos with Coast of Nebraska tonight at O'Leaver's. Grab a torch and come on down.

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Matthew Sweet Q&A; the Saddle Creek compound?; a brush with fame – Oct. 27, 2004

Uh, I didn't make the show last night. I fell asleep. Anyway, anyone who was there who remembers how it went, please post your impressions on the webboard (please?!).

Just posted, a nice, long Q&A with Matthew Sweet (read it here). Our interview lasted about an hour, and all the high points made it into the story, including candid comments about his Lincoln roots (and why he left), his new CDs (and his new approach toward music), Van Dyke Parks and Brian Wilson, being on an indie label (his own) and escaping the shadow of Girlfriend.

What didn't make it in was a brief discussion about Saddle Creek Records. Sweet knew of the label but hadn't heard any of their catalog except for a couple Bright Eyes songs. "What struck me with the Bright Eyes track was how English it sounded, the guy sounded English to me," he said. Sweet wanted to know how Creek did what they did, and was impressed with their business ethics -- specifically the 50/50 concept. He thought it was a breakthrough idea until I mentioned that Factory Records had a similar program with their artists, in which Sweet replied, "Sure... Factory was very strong in Lincoln, very strong, the way they did artwork… I always felt that was the biggest influence for bands like For Against." I mentioned that For Against had recently reunited with Harry Dingman and Jeff Runnings (who Sweet called an old friend) and he was mildly surprised. "More proof that music never dies," he quipped.

He also commented about what happened to The Thorns, the side project he did with Pete Droge and Shawn Mullins. "They're kind of done," he said. "In our minds, it was always supposed to be a side project. But Columbia went crazy over it so we felt obligated to support it. We made no money on it. Had it sold millions, we would have made another record at some point. If anything, we sold more records than we thought we would. We Soundscanned 200,000, which is a failure in today's music business. The live shows were magic, but we all felt like, 'Okay we're done.'"

And in a real turn, he was quite pleased to be playing at Sokol Underground instead of Sokol Auditorium, a room he played when he opened for the Jayhawks during one of their many Omaha gigs. He didn't like the acoustics up there, apparently, and I have to admit seeing Sweet downstairs should be a real treat.


News of the proposed Saddle Creek entertainment complex made it into the Omaha World-Herald yesterday. This is the info I hinted at in my Oct. 19 blog entry. The brief story (here) talks about tonight's Metcalfe Park neighborhood meeting to discuss the proposal. According to the Herald, Creek's new bar and concert hall would be built at 1528 N. Saddle Creek Road, the current site of the carwash (where I wash my car) and an adjoining vacant lot (where I dry my car). It would apparently be right next to The Homy Inn. The biggest question that comes to mind is where anyone would park. Nansel even admits in the story that the plan calls for 60 parking spaces -- enough for a bar but not a concert hall. I've been to The Homy on weekend evenings where even they didn't even have enough parking. Now that this meeting is out in the public, it'll be interesting to see who shows up beyond the media and parties involved. It could be a real circus. Look for a recap here tomorrow -- Hey! I can attend! It is my neighborhood, after all…

Afterward, I'll probably be headed down to O'Leaver's where the Don't Care Bears -- the city's best-kept folk-punk secret (they even wear costumes) -- will be opening for Nintendo cover band The Advantage. On second thought, I might be leaving after the guys in the bear costumes are done…

Oh yeah, my brush with fame: I got home late last night so I didn't feel like cooking. Instead, we went to the Venice Inn for dinner. Sitting in the main room, I couldn't help overhearing the Scottish-voiced guys at the table next to ours as they were telling the waiter how much they liked the restaurant. "We're in a band, so we need to load up before we go on stage," the main guy said, sounding like Scotty from Star Trek. The waiter asked what band they're in. "It's a band called The Average White Band," he said. Seems they were playing at The Ranch Bowl last night. I was too shy to ask for an autograph...

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The Good Life, Neva Dinova, The '89 Cubs, and, uh, Son, Ambulance tonight; Little Brazil road report – Oct. 26, 2004

It sounds like Son, Ambulance has been added to tonight's show at Sokol Underground as sort of an afterthought, which is a shame. Looks like this will be the official CD release show for Key, S,A's new full-length on Saddle Creek. I intended to do a lengthy feature with Joe Knapp in support of some sort of CD release show, but up to the moment he left on the first leg of his tour a couple weeks ago he was still unsure that there would be one, and hinted at a last-minute gathering at O'Leaver's before S,A takes off again on a 2-week tour that begins Nov. 4. I still want to write a feature with Joe and his band in the near future if I can track them down. Key is something of a landmark effort by one of the least known, least respected, least understood and most talented bands on the Creek label. Tis a pity that his set has been relegated to the opening 8:30 time slot when no one will be there -- it deserves better.

The next question is who will be playing in Son, Ambulance tonight other than Joe and his brother? The line-up will likely be different than the one that took the stage last time they played at Sokol a few months ago. Erica Petersen and Corey Broman, who played bass and drums respectively on Key, are no longer in the band as far as I can tell, with Broman dedicating most of his time these days to Statistics. Broman also left Little Brazil a few months back, but remains a member of Kite Pilot with Petersen.

Speaking of Little Brazil, that band played in Pittsburgh a week ago as a late addition to a bill at the Garfield Artworks. According to a source who was there (and regular readers will know who it is), they were very well received from the sparsely attended show. The band then headed to NYC where they played at Piano's in Lower Manhattan, followed a few days later with an gig at Maxwell's in Hoboken where they opened for Mike Watt. Said the New York Times about Little Brazil in a preview for those shows: "Mr. Hedges has a skewed, boyish warble, which pulls his sweet and tuneful indie-rock songs slightly askew; 'Now,' from the group's forthcoming debut album (on the Seattle-based Mt. Fuji Records), has a simple chord progression, a swaying 6/8 beat and lots of sighing-then-screaming mood changes; by the time you're finished figuring out whether you like it, the song's already over — and, more likely than not, already stuck in your head." Sweet.

I expect tonight's show to sell-out. The Good Life is coming off a well-received national tour in support of their most critically lauded CD to date. The '89 Cubs are catching on as well (that Cubs story I've been warning you about is forthcoming) and Neva Dinova is, well, Neva Dinova. Word has it that original drummer Bo Anderson has been behind the set throughout this tour, giving a road-weary Roger Lewis a break.

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It's not me, it's the band that screwed up... – Oct. 25, 2004

I didn't get an update in this morning because I was busy working on a 2,000-word Q&A with indie artist Matthew Sweet -- that's right, Sweet is 100 percent indie these days and is better off for it, as you'll read in the Q&A that won't be going online until Wednesday. This will be a busy week for the blog, what with The Good Life / '89 Cubs / Neva Dinova show on Tuesday night, Zykos on Thursday and Damien Jurado on Friday. Look for previews and reviews for all those shows, plus a lot of breaking news, so keep checking back.

A brief comment about the whole Ashlee Simpson debacle on Saturday Night Live this weekend (read about it here): I usually don't waste time writing about these sorts of "entertainers," but this is such a high-profile deal that someone at work even asked me about it. The bottom line is that Simpson's Milli Vanilli turn will have no impact at all on her career, and will probably make her even more popular in the eyes of the great, unwashed teeny-bopper masses who enjoy her routine. In fact, they expect Simpson to lip-sync -- in their minds she's a performer, not an artist -- how do you expect her to do a dance routine and sing at the same time? Britney can't do it, so surely Ashlee can't either. But the most disturbing aspect of the story is that SNL has finally resorted to booking someone with as little talent as Ashlee Simpson for their coveted "musical guest" slot. There was a time, ladies and gentlemen, when SNL was one of the most important showcases for new musical talent. Sure, they booked Anne Murray and Neil Sedaka in the '70s, but they also booked Elvis Costello and Talking Heads and David Bowie. In '78 alone they had Devo, Heads, Chieftans and Frank Zappa as musical guests. There was always a tendency to book NYC-based acts that you wouldn't see on the air anywhere else. All that's changed these days. According to the unofficial SNL transcripts site, the best act from 2004 was probably N.E.R.D. (and that performance sucked) or Pink. Does anyone watch SNL anymore anyway?

Check-in: Forty Watt Bulb, The Arcade Fire, Adam Richman, Val Emmich, Boyracer, The Channel, The Marlboro Chorus, So L'il, Men in Fur, Driver of the Year, Dutch Elms

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Live review: El Guapo, Q & Not U; The Show Is the Rainbow signs with Tsk Tsk – Oct. 22, 2004

You have to be in the right frame of mind if you go to a rock show that turns out to be a dance show. It's like Jon Taylor of Mercy Rule used to say about record reviews: The biggest influence as to whether a critic likes something is the mood they're in at the time they hear it. That's pretty accurate, actually, especially if you don't know what you're in for, and to be honest, I knew nothing about El Guapo, and the only Q & Not U CD I own (or heard) is No Kill No Beep Beep.

So I was somewhat surprised to hear a couple bands that were sort-of, kind-of dance acts. El Guapo more so. I joked that I blamed The Rapture for their sound, but that's probably not fair. The four-piece mixed NYC punk rock with dance beats and programming. I was initially confused by the drum parts -- I thought it was just a really clear, crisp snare. But in fact, they were using a combination of live drums and pre-recorded beats, which worked most of the time. I liked it, but when it comes to this sort of progressive punk-dance stuff, I prefer the live version of Radio 4.

For Q & Not U, I was expecting a more straight-forward Fugazi-esqe punk thing. In fact, the trio reminded me of dancified Talking Heads mixed with Beep Beep. Lead singer John Davis looked like a young, thinner version of Philip Seymour Hoffman (actually, so did the drummer). He's got a great voice -- clear and high and even more effective in falsetto -- that is, when he's singing out loud and now whisper-singing. It was all very upbeat and smiley, though not as danceable as the Guapos. The highlight was their encore, a droning, drum-fueled cover of Springsteen's "Born in the USA" that was turned upside-down, with the Davis asking rather subversively "Were you born in the USA?" The turnout: Maybe 125?

The talk of the evening was that Lincoln performance artist/rapper/auctioneer Darren Keen a.k.a. The Show is the Rainbow signed to Tsk Tsk Records, who will be releasing his next full-length sometime in the undetermined future. The London-based label boasts Erase Errata and Mates of State among their tiny stable of artists. The record was supposed to have been released on upstart Omaha label Someday Never Records, which appears to have been left bending in the wind. Oh well, thus is the ways of business in the world of rock and roll…

Check-in: Son, Ambulance, Yearbook, Bars, Colleen Coadic, Landing Gear, Matthew Sweet, Flood the Sky

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The Good Life, minus the beard – Oct. 20, 2004

Online now is the unabridged version of my profile on The Good Life (read it here). The version in this week's issue of The Reader is dramatically abridged, as the newspaper is now limiting feature music stories to only 600 words (a mistake, in my opinion, but hey, I'm not the editor). Instead, readers of Lazy-i get to enjoy all the details that The Reader left out, including more info on the future of Cursive, why Tim Kasher has stayed away from the majors, and details about his new project with local legend Todd Grant.

Even with all that, I didn't have room to put in everything from our interview, and that's where this blog comes in:

-- Kasher said the new CD, Album of the Year, is probably his most conceptual in nature, though no one seems to be picking up on it. "It's been coming across as less conceptual than the other records," he said. "I guess I'll never get it right. I thought I really nailed the story with this album. The songs go in a lot of different directions, however, so maybe that's why it doesn't feel cohesive."

I told Kasher that I thought the CD sounded like a cast soundtrack to a musical, and then told him maybe it was time that he penned something for the stage. "I'll put it on the record right now -- I will write a musical. I think I like them too much not to."

-- In the 2002 interview with the Good Life, Kasher mentioned his frustration with electronic programming -- a staple of earlier Good Life albums. There is virtually no programming on the new CD. "I wanted nothing synthetic on this album," he said. "I have honestly found a new appreciation for natural instruments, especially acoustic guitars on stage. But to be honest, the programming did kind of defeat me. It's a ton of work and the payout doesn't seem worth it to me. I also don't have the funds to manipulate the loops the way I want to, so I instead would have to spend hours using archaic equipment. We still incorporate programming into the older stuff during our live set."

-- The track "Inmates" on the new CD features former Good Life-r Jiha Lee. I asked Kasher what ever happened to her? "She's in Chicago getting a degree," he said. "Her and I kind of had a falling out, and have since patched things up and maintained a friendship." He said he had planned to sing the vocal himself, but was convinced that it would be cooler coming from a female perspective. "My voice is very imperfect and I wanted a female voice that sounded like my vocals," he said. "She had that smokey, battered quality that I was looking for, and was happy to do it. It was really last-minute. It would have been nicer to have had more time to relax, but it really went well."

-- Kasher said the initial instrumentation for both Album of the Year and the Lovers Need Lawyers EP were laid down at the same time in December 2003 by A.J. Mogis at Presto! studios in Lincoln. The EP was finished the following January with Andy Lemaster; and a second session was needed to finish the LP with Mike Mogis. "There were a lot of hands in the pot," Kasher said. "It reflects the incredibly busy Saddle Creek season that was under way when all the bands were trying to record in the winter of last year. Andy did the final mixing of the EP and Mike mixed the LP. Everything worked out the way I wanted it to."

-- Discussing the sound of the CD, I referenced Aimee Mann and Lloyd Cole. Kasher acknowledged the Mann comparison, saying that he even namechecks Bachelor No. 2 in the first song. Not so Lloyd Cole, who he was only vaguely familiar with. These days he's listening to mostly quieter music. "I enjoy hard rock, but I don't listen to it that much," Kasher said. "I appreciate it. If someone had Snapcase playing, I would be all about it."

-- Finally, we chatted about his show at The Black Cat in D.C. and his tourmates, Neva Dinova and The '89 Cubs. "I've been (to the Black Cat) so many times," he said. "The first time was with Cursive and we played to about 40 people. Then there was the first time with The Good Life, when we had about 11 people. We'll have more than that coming tonight." He went on to say he was surprised at how well-received the openers have been. "They're way more popular than I thought they'd be," Kasher said. "It's nice to see so many people buying merchandise from the opening bands."

That's about it. Look for an '89 Cubs profile online here later this week, also written in support of the Oct. 26 Sokol Underground show.

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The Makers tonight; dem rumors keep coming… – Oct. 19, 2004

Tonight it's Sub Pop recording artist Makers with The Terminals (from Omaha) and Zyklon Bees (from Lincoln) at Sokol Underground. I've got a copy of the Bees 4-song demo EP, which is pure wallet-chain punk rock. It's a sweet combination of garage with a touch of twang and horror-billy that rubs raw on a demo that sounds like it was recorded in 1965. I like it. The Terminals is Dave Goldberg's latest (and some say greatest) venture where he's tucked behind keyboards instead of a microphone. Spokane's Makers has been kicking around since the early '90s and is known for its releases on Estrus. Better wear leather if you go.

It's amazing how many rumors are passed to me either through e-mail or by people I run into in places as innocuous as grocery stores. And I think the reason people tell me so much stuff is because they know I won't publish anything in Lazy-i until I can verify it either with a credible source or documentation -- I don't want to become indie rock's version of The Drudge Report. Over the past six months I've debunked a few things, verified a few more and am waiting on some others. There are some real doozies floating around out there right now, including a series of rumors that, if true, will shake up Omaha's live music scene. But regardless if they're true or false, there's a visible shift under way locally in terms of venues and promoters. We've seen -- or are seeing -- the passing of the old guard while new stalwarts have taken their place, at least as far as indie and local shows are concerned. Seems like I'm spending a lot of time at Sokol and O'Leaver's these days. Wonder where I'll be watching the rock in 2005?

Look for that Good Life feature late tonight (unless I go to the show, in which case it'll be up tomorrow morning).

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Live review: Dereck Higgins... – Oct. 18, 2004

Another late update as I was busy again this morning finishing a feature on The Good Life, an extended version of which will be online tomorrow night that includes details about the Cursive, the Todd Grant project and other interesting tidbits.

I only went to one show this weekend -- the Dereck Higgins CD release show Saturday night at The Antiquarium book store in the Old Market -- an interesting if not eclectic place to see a performance. The music was held in the upstairs art gallery surrounded by art by Bill Farmer and Yoshito Shinohara -- art lovers, I wholeheartedly recommend you check it out. The gathering of around 50 was more of a family reunion than a rock show, as Higgins said he knew just about everyone there, and judging by the chit-chat, they all knew each other as well. I won't go into a lot of detail about the music as I intend to write a feature with Higgins in the very near future for Lazy-i, but I will say the live interpretation is quite different than the music on his new CD, Dereck 2, even though the backing tracks were used in place of a live band. Higgins called it "Dereck Karaoke." The most striking difference is in the guitar work that laid atop of the prerecorded sonics. Higgins wields his ax like the rock veteran that he is, adding jagged edges to the usually soothing ambient textures heard on his CD. It was downright startling at times. His deep, throaty voice is the perfect counter-balance to songs etched in synthetic dreams, and watching Higgins and his guitar along with the psychedelic light show (When was the last time you saw an oil light projection?) was entertaining enough. Higgins only suffered a few technical glitches, and it'll be interesting to see how his show works when he has a soundman taking care of the balance issues. You'll get a chance to see for yourself at a couple upcoming shows, including a gig at Omaha's Healing Arts Center Oct. 30, as well as an opening slot with Kite Pilot and Frankenixon at O'Leaver's Dec. 22.

I regret missing Explosions in the Sky last night, but it couldn't be helped what with the story deadline and the Yankees. If you were there, tell us about it on the webboard. 1 Percent is hosting Matt Nathanson tonight at Sokol Underground for a show that has receive no attention whatsoever (and maybe deservedly so?). I've never heard of the guy, though says the San Franciso native who records on Universal is "an impressive 12-string guitar player and songwriter" whose live show is half music and half standup comedy. Hmmm... I don't know... Still not convinced - apparently some of his songs have been heard on Dawson's Creek and Smallville...

Check-in: Aloha, Low Millions, Quantice Never Crashed, Grenadier, Best of Seven, North of Emerson, Montoya, Saint Etienne, Askeleton, The Invisible Cities

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Live Review: Crooked Fingers; Le Beat tonight – Oct. 15, 2004

Some brief observations from last night's Crooked Fingers/Eric Bachmann solo show at Sokol Underground:

-- Bachmann is easily one of the purest voices in indie rock today, though, like most stuff thrown into that genre-class, his music eclipses the style. The only reason why Crooked Fingers music isn't heard on adult contemporary radio is because Bachmann and Merge refuse to play (and pay) the game necessary for its airing.

-- The age of the average show-goer last night was 30, an obvious nod to Bachmann's Archers of Loaf history. As one person said at the show, if you listened to Archers when they were around, you're in your 30s now or you were one hip teenager.

-- I missed the opening band, but saw a couple songs from Swiss Army and now wish I would have gotten there earlier -- a very tuneful, angular rock band that isn't afraid of rattling-it up with extra guitars, played by a guy who looks like a thinner version of Jack Osbourne (sort of).

-- Speaking of resemblances, I was chastised for comparing Bachmann to Neil Diamond by a patron of the Jewish persuasion who said listening to Diamond is a prerequisite in every Jewish household, and that Bachmann sounds nothing like the guy known for belting out "Play Me." This fallen Catholic firmly stands by his earlier comments.

-- There was a show crasher during Bachmann's set. I was in back, chatting with someone when suddenly Bachmann stopped mid-song and there was a girl sitting behind the keyboard on stage. The two started arguing about what key Bachmann was in. Based on the glimpses of I Love Lucy-style banter I heard, I thought it was a scripted gag. It wasn't. The woman eventually got off stage and left. I asked the promoter if that was part of the set. "No, that was an apology waiting to happen," he said.

-- Bachmann mixed it up with songs from Red Devil Dawn, Bring on the Snakes and his new CD, all of which blended together well stylistically, which tells me that Dignity and Shame probably won't be a big departure from his earlier albums. The biggest reaction of the evening came from an inspired guitar-and-harmonica version of "Sweet Marie" that drew some whoops from the crowd.

-- Bachmann ended by saying he'll be back in Omaha in February with his full band. I can't wait.

Noteworthy show of the evening: Le Beat with The Atlas and a band that goes by either Zoo Bullet (according to the O'Leaver's website) or 200 Bullets (according to the SLAMOmaha calendar) tonight at O'Leaver's.

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News Flash! Head of Femur goes to SpinArt; Crooked Fingers tonight – Oct. 14, 2004

Todd Berry of Greyday Productions informs us that Head of Femur's follow-up to the glorious Ringodom Or Proctor will be released on powerhouse indie label SpinArt, whose enormous roster already includes Richard Thompson, Frank Black Francis, Camper Van Beethoven and Apples in Stereo, among others. The CD is in the can and slated for release in the March/April timeframe, Berry said.

Greyday will still be a big part of Femur Nation, as the label will be releasing Ringodom in Europe next month and is planning to also release a Femur EP next year. And look for Femur to contribute a track or two to Greyday's upcoming Christmas EP late next year.

But that's not all, Berry said Redder Records will be releasing both Ringodom Or Proctor and the Femur's new full-length together as a double 12-inch vinyl set. Sweet. Can a Head of Femur world tour be far behind?

Tonight: Crooked Fingers / Eric Bachmann solo at Sokol Underground with Hymn from the Hurricane & Swiss Army.

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Crooked Fingers flies solo – Oct. 13, 2004

Just posted, an interview with Eric Bachmann, the man behind Crooked Fingers (read it here). He talks about his band's upcoming album, which won't be out until February. Us lucky folks on hand at tomorrow's show will get a sneak peak, albeit a solo rendition. This was a difficult interview, mainly because Bachmann's a nice guy who would never say a mean thing, and the fact that he speaks in short, fast blurts that are very hard to type. There really wasn't that much to talk about other than the upcoming CD, which I haven't heard. Instead, we talked about why he moved to Seattle -- "I wanted to find Sasquatch" he said, then went on to say he likes the water and trees and air there. "I grew up in the Southeast so you naturally go to the polar opposite." *yawn* He also went on to call Robb Nansel "a super human being and a fun guy." Again, nothing I can use in an article about Crooked Fingers, but interesting, I suppose, especially if you're a big Robb Nansel fan (and who isn't?). Other outtakes from the interview: You've worked closely with Azure Ray and Andy Lemaster. How has your relationship changed since Orenda and Maria moved to Omaha? "Not so much," said Bachmann. "They're dear friends and will always be. I don't know what's going on musically in the future" You get the drift. I blame myself for not having better questions. Like, I should have asked him point blank about the obvious vocal comparisons to Neil Diamond. Bachmann would win any karaoke contest simply by belting out a version of "America" (You know the one: "Everywhere around the world/They come to America!"). Some of his Saddle Creek pals should hijack him while he's in town and run him out to The Brass Knocker -- it would freak the locals out.

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Watching Omaha from the road... – Oct. 12, 2004

A quick glance at the Internet and you'd think the country was undergoing some sort of Omaha invasion.

The University of Chicago's student newspaper destroyed Tilly and the Wall and Now It's Overhead in this review of the recent Rilo Kiley show there. "The music itself was more than a step above that of the first two bands" the reviewer said of RK. Ouch! I heard just the opposite about the Omaha show. The Newsday review was a bit kinder to Tilly, saying, "the group looked like a collection of pocket-sized emo figurines."

Days after the Bruce Eyes tour, Oberst is back on the road with Jim James and M. Ward. This review gave their Ft. Worth show a "B" rating. "…Dylan was never as tortured as Oberst, who has made a career out of wallowing in his agonizing tunes." Eek!

Texans also like Kasher rock, as this review of The Good Life in Austin attests -- "'You're awesome!' shouted Dan, soundman for The Good Life as well as Cursive, from the back of the crowd during Neva Dinova's set. 'You're awesome, Dan,' replied the lead singer as he explained to the audience, 'It's great hearing that from people you know. It's like, 'You're awesome, Mom'"

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Late live review of Frog Eyes; Little Brazil tonight – Oct. 11, 2004

No update this morning because I was finishing a feature on Crooked Fingers that will be online here Tuesday night. CF plays Sokol Underground Thursday night. More on that later.

I did attend one show this weekend - Frog Eyes with The Lepers at O'Leaver's Saturday night. It was dead, maybe 15 people there including the illustrious O'Leaver's staff. I blame the Huskers for the poor turnout, though in reality, they had nothing to do with it. I'm not sure how much ink this show got locally -- very little if any for a band that's releasing stuff on Absolutely Kosher. Add to that the fact that Bad Luck Charm was playing up at the Niner at the same time. Though I had a good time, Frog Eyes was less than entertaining. The trio plays a sort of dissonant, rattle-punk that's light on melody and borders on experimental. The band itself seemed rather charming, with the lead guy explaining he's from Canada and that he just got his hair shampooed that morning. Nice. I missed The Lepers altogether because I ran into some people outside and got to talking. What I could hear through the walls sounded good, however.

On tap tonight at O'Leaver's is Little Brazil, Le Beat and No Blood Orphan. This is it for Little Brazil until they come back from an East Coast tour that runs through the end of the month.

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Live Review: Strawberry Burns, The Coffin Lids; more Conor; Le beat tonight…– Oct. 8, 2004

I caught Strawberry Burns' set last night at O'Leaver's along with 20 or so other people. The Lincoln-based four-piece epitomizes the stereotypical college band circa the late 1990s, very much swinging with the same messy almost low-fi groove made famous by Pavement. In fact, at one point the guy next to me started humming "Cut Your Hair" as sort of a back-hand homage. They play loose, very loose, but there's a structure hiding underneath that came out later in songs in the form of solid prolonged grooves. The lead vocalist sounded like a less-refined Malkmus, and was joined at times by a second vocalist who sounded like a more-refined Malkmus. As unkempt as the vocals seemed, they were the perfect fit for their slacker profile and I can't imagine anyone else fronting the band.

Moments before they went on stage, in walked this slightly balding guy in a yellow Cramps T-shirt, asking for the manager. He said he just came into town and was looking for a gig. The door guy ducked out and asked around, then came back and said, "You're on after these guys." They were The Coffin Lids, a trio from Boston Mass doing straight-up modernized '60s-style garage punk in the same vein as The Sonics or Shadows of the Knight or I guess maybe even The Cramps. Quite good actually, singing songs about women and cars. Just another example of the kind of surprise that can catch on any given night at O'Leaver's.

* * *

As if he hasn't had enough press lately, Conor Oberst is one of the featured editorial writers in the new issue of Magnet. Contributing to a special section called "Louden Up Now" that also features Joan Baez, Steve Earle, David Cross, Henry Rollins, Pedro the Lion among others, Oberst focuses on the evils of Clear Channel and calls for a strengthening of government regulation of media. He called Clear Channel's ownership of 1,200 radio stations "pretty dangerous," and goes on to say that the new Faint CD has songs that kids would like on commercial radio, but that it can cost a quarter of a million dollars just to hire an independent promoter to possibly get the songs played. "In Omaha, we have one college/commercial station, broadcast from a nearby Iowa campus," he says in the article. "But that's about it: our NPR station and a bunch of shitty FM stations. The best that we can hope for is for Clear Channel to grossly control the market, then the government will intervene." Keep dreaming, Conor. Radio is dead, my boy. The same issue of Magnet also features a solid interview with Tom Waits which by itself is worth the price of admission.

A quiet night for shows. Buzz band Le Beat is playing at Ted & Wally's with the Mathematicians. $3, starting at 11 p.m.

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Bruce Eyes reviews a-plenty; tonight at O'Leaver's… – Oct. 7, 2004

I have this service that sends me news clippings based on specific topics, and as a result, my e-mail box has become flooded with reviews of the concerts. Thought I'd pass on the links for those interested in how this is going. Word from a former Lazy-i intern who attended the Minneapolis show is that Conor represented himself with flair amongst the tall trees of Springsteen/Fogarty/Stipe. He said Oberst has now officially become a superstar. We'll see…

Vote For Change' Concert An Exhilarating, Exhausting Mix Of Stars -- -- Quote: "Appearing as unkempt as his music often is on record, Oberst delivered a surprisingly tight and soulful half-hour set."

M. Ward: Team effort -- Las Vegas Mercury -- Quote: "'Bruce [Springsteen] was doing his soundcheck, playing his version of the national anthem, and it goes into `Born in the USA,'' says Ward. 'I had this feeling like I didn't know what to do--watch the debates or the soundcheck.'

Vote For Change Kickoff: Springsteen Seeks Humanity, Oberst Wants 'This Madman' Out -- -- Quote: "Sure, it'll be a fond memory for me, like, 'Oh, rad, I played with Springsteen and R.E.M.,'" Oberst said backstage after the show, "and I'm sure it made the people feel good to see the concert, but it's only really going to matter if we win."

Lincoln's Strawberry Burns hits the O'Leaver's stage tonight with Thee Fine Lines and Adore El Amor. Should be a good one...

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Very briefly... – Oct. 6, 2004

Nope, I didn't make it to Gomez. I beseech anyone who attended to write a few comments on the webboard. A glance at the calendar reveals there are no shows tonight unless you're in Lincoln, in which case you should head over to Duffy's for Starcityscene's Powerless V featuring Floating Opera.

Worth mentioning: Looks like the Vote for Change folks checked out Bright Eyes at the Minneapolis' legendary 400 Bar on their day off Monday night. The lazy journalists covering the "big concert" have yet to post a review. Springsteen fans seem less than enamored with Conor, at least on The Boss' webboard. Pitchfork reported that former Lincolnites/former Liars Ron Albertson and Pat Noecker's new band, No Thing, has been gigging around New York; while their old band seems to be having troubles of its own - serves 'em right. A new batch of Christgau consumer guide reviews are up at the Voice -- he likes Brian Wilson, John Fogarty not so much.

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Live Review: The Faint; Gomez tonight – Oct. 5, 2004

The set-up: It was crowded, it was hot, it was hard to get a beer, there was no way you were going to get inside those bathrooms. I kept an eye out for the nearest exit at all times, just in case. In other words, it was pretty much what I and everyone else there expected. Going to a Faint concert is like entering the epicenter of Omaha's hip/trend/tastemaker elite. You literally see everyone who was involved in the music scene for the past five years (minus those on tour, of course). All looking eager and confident, waiting for their heroes to take the stage and loft high the banner of Omaha indie rock domination.

I arrived at 10:15 while The Fever was still on stage (The far superior TV on the Radio is the opener on this tour starting Wednesday). I missed Beep Beep altogether in an effort to avoid having to stand in a 4-block-long line. Incidentally, I parked literally a half mile away from the venue, having driven around for 10 minutes looking for someplace/anyplace, and witnessing a fleet of tow trucks as they pulled cars out of a church parking lot -- somewhere an amused priest was laughing. It was like walking into a sauna after that long walk in the brisk fall air. It got no better as the night wore on, but like I said, anyone who's ever been at a sold-out Sokol show upstairs or downstairs knows the routine.

The Fever got off stage at around 10:20 or so and The Faint took about a half hour to set up. Clark Baechle and Dapose casually strolled around the stage with Jacob Thiele, adjusting lights and instruments, all wearing street clothes. Every time I saw Clark I thought "Gee's, it's gonna be another 20 minutes til this thing starts. He's not even dressed in his black get-up yet!" Turns out the band no longer wears the black outfits -- maybe because it's too Interpol-ish -- instead they were unpretentiously clad in jeans and T-shirts. Todd, however, bent to fashion, wearing a stylish tie tucked under his shirt collar.

The set began at around 10:50, opening with "Birth" from the new album. The staging was the same as the last time they played at Sokol a year ago - two large rear-projection screens were set up in the back of the stage which showed videos while the band did their thing in front of them. The video content was obviously different, but I recognized a lot of stuff from their last show, including the same talking heads gag for "Paranoiatttack." Speaking of Talking Heads, halfway through the set they did a cover of "Psycho Killer" that was pretty good, if not somewhat pedestrian. All bands should throw in at least one cover during a set just to build character (please note, Criteria, you were born to do a Chavez cover). "Psycho Killer" is a somewhat obvious, almost commercial choice, but the crowd seemed to eat it up.

And what a weird wild crowd it was. I spotted a lawyer from my office standing next to a hippy-dippy Granola-eater next to a skinhead next to a standard-issue emo kid next to a backward-baseball-cap wearing Eminem suburbanite who probably has never stepped foot in Sokol before (and won't again until the next Faint concert). A young girl in pig-tails and T-shirt did a ridiculously choreographed cheerleader dance routine throughout the entire set, scratching at the air and just missing my face. Cute, if not somewhat annoying. There was even a bit of '80s-style crowd surfing going on. Glow-sticks bounced around the crowd -- a sad, silly, subtle reminder of the bygone rave era.

Like last year, the crowd erupted during "Worked Up So Sexual" and "Glass Danse." Crowd favorites from the new album came early: "Desperate Guys," "Birth" and "Dropkick the Punks," which was the best song of the evening. The crowd, however, was pensive for "Erection," "I Disappear" and "Phone Call," maybe because the videos were more interesting in a what-is-that? sort of way.

Their new vids are like watching a James Rosenquist painting come to life - quick cuts of commercial and stock footage sandwiched together, cut to the constant thump-thump-thump, like watching that weird brainwashing sequence toward the end of "The Parallax View." Particularly disturbing was the video for "Birth," with its sperm/ova/embryo and finally birth footage. The anti-war vids were the best. I'm sure that there was a deeper message in all of it, but I didn't notice because I was too busy enjoying the music.

I was less distracted by the videos this time vs. the last time I saw them. I've heard a lot of criticism of the vids mostly from musicians, who comment that they're not watching a band anymore, they're watching TV. Still, I found myself less involved in the screens and more interested in the band flopping around on stage and the crowd flopping around on the floor, bobbing their heads and the rest of their sweat-soaked, smoke-permeated bodies.

The set lasted an hour (30 minutes longer than I expected) and was topped off by a predetermined 2-song encore, which ended the show before it could become boring. It seems odd that The Faint isn't Saddle Creek's top act. Bright Eyes is interesting, intelligent, even somewhat emotionally engaging at times; but The Faint is pure rock candy whose flavor appeals to a broad demographic of men and women ranging from 12 to 50-something. It is Creek's most commercially appealing band, and yet, they haven't exploded into the "next level," not yet anyway. I think they probably will with this record if it gets the airplay and videoplay it deserves, but it probably won't.

Tonight: Gomez at Sokol Underground. A brief poll of people I chatted with last night would indicate that this should be a very well-attended show. I plan to attend, if I'm awake at 9 p.m.

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Live Review: Her Space Holiday; The Faint tonight (as if you didn't know…) – Oct. 4, 2004

Her Space Holiday
Even though our friend Mr. Bianchi accurately described his new backing band -- a bass player and drummer and him alternating between guitar and keyboards -- and even though I didn't see him sit down all evening (unlike last time), Her Space Holiday's set was, well, less than dynamic. Blame it on the fact that the crowd only numbered in the 40s. All were eager, yes, but getting into a groove is hard enough when the floor is filled let alone when there's only a handful of slouching people standing around the stage. You can't really expect anyone to break out into wicked dance moves, especially when hardly anyone was drinking - it was a Sunday night, after all. And an early evening at that. The show wrapped up at around 11:30 - unheard of from a 1 Percent show (seems one of the four bands canceled).

Tonight, as you all know, is The Faint at Sokol Auditorium with The Fever and Beep, Beep. The show sold out sometime yesterday; I figured it would have sold out in only a few days after tickets went on sale (wrong again). If history repeats itself, drivers-by of Sokol at around 9 p.m. will see a line of people stretched outside the auditorium and down the street. There will be virtually nowhere to park within three or four blocks of the venue. Once inside, the sound and heat and crowd will be overwhelming. Security may or may not be at the door confiscating cigarettes. The line for water or alcohol won't be a line at all but a sweaty, human globule crushed against the bar. The bathrooms will be a whole 'nother story. Sounds like fun, eh? Everyone should experience a Faint show once in their lives. Expect a whole new audiovisual presentation and a unique configuration of the sound system. Also expect lots of "dancing" from people who usually don't dance.

And expect a detailed Faint Q&A with guitarist/artist Dapose in the next day or so, exclusively in Lazy-i. See you tonight.

Check-in: Codeseven

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Live Review: Simon Joyner, Kite Pilot; The Pixies in Lincoln and I won't be there... – Oct. 2, 2004

I was standing last night next to a guy that hates Simon Joyner's music. He can't stand his voice, doesn't understand the melodies, doesn't get the noise. And I told him, half joking, "you just don't get it." Which brought a smile to his face, and to mine. But the fact was, either you get Simon Joyner or you don't. And for every person I know that believes Simon may be Nebraska's great undiscovered genius, there are two who can't be in a room where his music is playing. I've been listening and following him for more than a decade, and that's the way it's always been.

His is music that you certainly can't grasp if you're distracted - lost in a conversation or surrounded by a roomful of beer guzzling. And distractions were aplenty last night at O'Leaver's, where as expected, the room was at or over capacity even before opener Kite Pilot took the stage. I was in back right when they came on, chatting with a number of people, but I could still catch what was going on. It was one of their better, if not best, sets, highlighted by Todd Hanton's golden trumpet, which never sounded better, almost as if it was a prerecorded track -- in fact, someone asked me if "that's a real trumpet." It was, though I couldn't see it being played from my vantage point, crushed in the back by the bar. It was the full band. I say that because drummer Corey Broman (sans glasses) was behind the kit and I wasn't sure that he was playing in any bands anymore, having left Little Brazil and having not played at the last Son, Ambulance show. I didn't realize until last night that he's been touring with Statistics, and in fact will be leaving for five weeks with Statistics in the coming months as the band tours Europe. Still no label action for Kite Pilot, btw. Someone, get on the stick and sign them before they get away.

Then Simon was up, with his band, the Wind-Up Birds, that included Dave Hawkins and Alex McManus on guitars, Lonnie Methe w/trademark sweater (white this evening) on keyboards, seed-capped Mike Tulis on bass and a drummer unknown to me (was it Brad Smith, who played with the Birds at The Rose last year?). It was the heaviest band put together by Joyner, and it was the heaviest I've heard Simon play.

While he was on stage everything seemed to be going on around him, and around me. Finally I got away for the last song, a power ballad of sorts built around Joyner singing, "Down, deep deep down, deep deep down…" Listening to his voice is like watching a piece of trash blow around in the wind high above a tall building, dipping and falling, then going up gently though slightly askew only to drop again sharply as if jerked downward by a string. His voice is off kilter and remarkable in its sheer unpredictability. You think you know where he's going, you think you know where the melody is headed, and then it slips gently, strangely from its path. On purpose? Only he knows the method. To the unsuspecting, his voice can be jarring and as dissonant as the sounds coming from McManus' tortured guitar. Meanwhile, the rest of the band marched forward always on the verge of collapse. Joyner's music can be as exhausting and exasperating as it can be inspirational. But not to those who aren't paying attention. You have to focus on Joyner to get it; you can't be up at the bar getting another tallboy or watching SportsCenter on the TV monitors.

When the band finished, Joyner stayed for one more, which he played solo with electric guitar, this time in full control of a raspy, bluesy standard. A lot of people may never get what Joyner's trying to do, but the ones on hand last night, especially those who sat by the stage, got what they came for.

* * *

A friend of mine gave me a ticket to The Pixies show in Lincoln tonight, but situations changed and I'm not going now. I never really wanted to go, anyway. I would have loved to see The Pixies in 1988 when they were young and hungry and playing someplace like The Lift Ticket or the old Howard St. Tavern or the FOE Hall, when they were just discovering how cool their music was. I'm a big Pixies fan from way back when; I believe they're the most influential band of their era. But I'm not interested in seeing them play at Pershing Auditorium on a Husker Saturday standing on the floor with a few thousand others, wondering if they'll play "Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf)." Like someone who avoids funerals because he prefers to remember his friends in healthier, happier times, I'd just soon not see the body.

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Simon Joyner vs. The Plot… – Oct. 1, 2004

There are two worthy shows this evening, but one will likely be a landmark performance - Simon Joyner and the Wind-up Birds with Kite Pilot at O'Leaver's. I fully expect this to be a capacity show as in "Sorry, we can't let you in until someone leaves." As per usual, I'll probably be wrong, though I fully intend to be among those that will probably get turned away. And if I do, I'll be headed down to Sokol Underground where The Plot To Blow Up The Eiffel Tower will be scheming with Lincoln's Rent Money Big.

Check-in: David Singer & the Sweet Science, The Atari Star

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Her Space Holiday speaks from The Great White North... – Sept. 30, 2004

I've heard that last night's show sold out. I don't know because I wasn't there. Sleep took a priority, having seen all these bands a few times and recently at that. Surely one of you can scrawl a few lines about how it went on the webboard. Everyone gets a breather tonight as the eye of this hurricane of rock shows hovers over Omaha.

I spent last night putting up the Her Space Holiday story (read it here) where our boy Marc Bianchi talks about the improvement on his live show, the meaning of "Sleepy California" and why he doesn't dance. Her Space Holiday play Sokol Underground Sunday night as part of the Mush Tour that includes Daedelus, Neotropic, & Octavius. It's another dance show. I'm beginning to think 1 Percent needs to install one of those spinning spotlight balls and a variety of strobes to encourage a dance party vibe.

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Live Review: Superargo, Books on Tape; Now It's Riley and the Wall tonight… – Sept. 29, 2004

I imagined last night's show at O'Leaver's as sort of a low-fi microcosm of next Monday's Faint show. Instead of a terribly expensive, high-tech audio visual "experience" that we'll all see and hear at Sokol Auditorium, there was Superago dancing hurky-jerky behind a laptop computer while some guy in a skull-mask changed crudely drawn transparencies projected by an old-fashioned high-school over-head projector. When Mr. Skull-mask wasn't casually slipping film off and onto the glass surface, he was mock singing or speaking into a turned-off microphone to a pre-recorded digital track of a guy yelling "Bullshit" or a British man recapping the band's "bio." And when he wasn't onstage, it was just Superargo himself behind his lap-top playing buzzing bloop-bleep videogame music while a homemade video (sort of a day-in-the-life of Mr. Skull mask) played on the projector screen. The whole set was a weird and sort-of-funny performance art piece that ironically merged low-tech with high-tech with a couple guys from Kansas just trying to make a living with their music.

Though lacking in AV equipment, Books on Tape's set wasn't any less of a performance art piece. Technology player Todd Drootin slouched over a table filled with all kinds of cabled-together gizmos along with his own laptop computer and pounded out a mix of gleeping sound effects atop a break beat track. It was downright painful to watch him smack metal guitar pedals with his fists to launch sound effects in sync with the prerecorded music -- Slam! Slam! Slam! He should have at least worn fingerless work gloves. His hand-spun noise ensembles pretty much assured that what you heard on stage was uniquely different than whatever is recorded on his new CD, and I guess that's where the spontaneity comes in. I was expecting the whole of the performance to be Drootin pressing an "Enter" key; instead he dipped and swooped like a first-class turntable-ist trying like hell to pull all those noises together into a coherent "song."

It was something completely different for O'Leaver's and the 15 or 20 people who were on hand to see it, though I couldn't help but think that Superago and Books on Tape's digital beat music would have been better received at an Omaha dance club or rave party where people would actually try to dance to it.

Tonight's show at Sokol Underground should probably have been held at Sokol Auditorium - Rilo Kiley, Now It's Overhead and Tilly and the Wall all on one ticket. Any one of the three have the capability of selling out Sokol Underground by itself. Together, the triple-whammy is guaranteed to create a crush scene downstairs and I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the teenagers that this show will draw will get turned back at the door due to capacity constraints. Scenester Alert!

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Books on Tape tonight – Sept. 28, 2004

Nice little show tonight at O'Leaver's. Someday Never presents Books on Tape, a.k.a. Todd Matthew Drootin, who's music borders on electronica. Or maybe just is electronica. I'm listening to his new one as I type this, called The Business End. It definitely reminds me of videogame music, but it's more thought out than the last BOT CD that made it into the player, 2001's Test Pressure. Since it sounds like the whole thing was done on a computer, the staging could be a bit sparse. Just Drootin pressing an "enter" key? We'll see tonight. Opening is Superargo and Headlights. And you late-night folks might want to check back for a new interview with Her Space Holiday...

Featured Reviews Matrix summary review: Paul Westerberg, Folker -- I love Replacements as much as the next guy, but Westerberg ran out of ideas after his first solo album. This comes off as an acoustic rehash of his usual schtick, and old Paul sounds road weary and bored most of the time. "Looking Up in Heaven" is an acoustic rip of his own "Dyslectic Heart." "What About Mine?" reminds me of an uptempo "Sadly Beautiful." Hardcore fans will never let go of this guy, and God bless them for their support because he is a living legend. Just don't expect the rest of us to come along for the ride. Rating: No.

Check-in: Zykos, Blood Meridian, Graham Perry, OPM, Daddy X, Faith Kleppinger, Pitty Sing, Neotropic, The Zyklon Bees, Val Emmich, The Swiss Army, Okay Paddy

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Technology gets the better of me; Live review: Radio 4, Criteria; The Faint's 10.5k; Mouse on Mars tonight – Sept. 27, 2004

So Sunday morning, all groggy eyed, I decided it's time to update my Windows XP to Service Pack 2. About 10 minutes after I began downloading and installing the software, I walk down to the kitchen to make something to eat. Then suddenly, and for no reason other than I live in an old neighborhood, the lights go out, then go back on. A power surge. You probably already know the rest of the story. With the Operating System update only halfway installed, my PC was unbootable. I dug out my restoration discs and began rebuilding my OS from scratch, everything on my C drive was obliterated, including notes for an upcoming story and a finished draft of the '89 Cubs story (luckily, I printed out those notes). The good news is that I had backed up all my photo and video files, along with all my downloaded software onto my D drive, so it wasn't a total loss (also my browser and Dreamweaver software are working properly again).

So that's why there was no live review of Saturday night's Sokol Underground festivities. Not because it wasn't any good or I was too wiped out from all the dancing... actually, I didn't dance, but plenty of people did. In fact, it was probably the most dancing I've seen at Sokol Underground since the old days when The Faint played down there.

Criteria's Stephen Pedersen. This is the Radio 4.
They weren't, however, dancing to Criteria, at least not in the conventional sense. Lead singer Stephen Pedersen even apologized for "crashing the dance party," though he had nothing to apologize for. Judging by the numbers, there were as many people there to see Criteria as Radio 4, this being their last show until 2005 as they continue to work on a new CD. And what a CD it'll be, judging from the new songs Pedersen and company unveiled Saturday night. Louder, faster, stronger than the stuff on En Garde, but written in the same stuttering rhythmic vein. Criteria's music is almost definable by its awkward meter, and the new songs are no exception. Two of the anthems were built around 5-note phrases played atop a 3/4 beat; another stumbled boldly forward from one odd time signature to the next. It's this stumbling, stuttering style that has become a hallmark of sorts along with their intricate guitar and rhythm sections. There was a distinct line of demarcation between the older and new stuff -- a separation in speed and friction, probably due to having heard the songs off En Garde for almost a year and half now. A.J. Mogis has turned into quite a vocalist, almost as strong and out front as Pedersen when he adds his lines. The mix of vocalists creates a call-and-response effect, with as many as three vocalists going at it on one song.

Criteria's monster-on-a-rampage plodding was quite a contrast to Radio 4's dance marathon. Going into this I had only seen one of their videos on MTV, and never heard any of their CDs. I was thinking they were a watered down version of The Rapture. Way off. In fact, Radio 4 is the dance reincarnation of The Clash circa London Calling. Every song is driven off the bass lines, which bounced like pure British punk disco. The 5-piece was rounded out by a guitarist, the occasional keyboard, an exhausting drummer and some guy on bongos and wood block, all doing their best to get everyone's rump shaking. And doing a good job of it. From my vantage point standing on a chair off stage right I could see about 50 of the 150-person crowd doing some form of odd gyration. These guys were good, and this was one of the better rock shows I've seen at Sokol this year...

So what's the deal with The Faint? I ran into Saddle Creek label guy Robb Nansel at Radio 4 and he passed on that Wet from Birth sold 10,500 copies in its first week. Nansel was hoping for 15,000. I had guessed they'd do 8k. We were both wrong. 10.5k was apparently enough to get the CD in the Billboard top 200 as well as in the top-10 on the CMJ charts. Not a bad start. It's going to get even better as they continue to tour. Just like when Danse Macabre came out, I see this one eclipsing Bright Eyes' records, only to be crushed when Bright Eyes two new CDs are released in early 2005. It's the kind of friendly rivalry that the boys at Saddle Creek gotta love.

Tonight: Mouse on Mars with two bands I've never heard of. To be honest with you, I've never heard Mouse on Mars, either, but I've heard of them. It should be pretty strong for a Monday night show, and the beginning of a big week of shows, that includes Books on Tape at O'Leaver's tomorrow night, Rilo Kiley on Wednesday at Sokol, Simon Joyner and Kite Pilot on Friday at O'Leaver's (which is the same night as The Plot to Blow Up the Eiffel Tower at Sokol), The Pixies on Saturday in Lincoln and Her Space Holiday at Sokol on Sunday. I'm getting tired already.

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Live Review: For Against; Radio 4/Criteria tonight – Sept. 25, 2004

I was not at the For Against show last night in Lincoln (illness kept me from any show last night, actually), but sometimes guest review Stephen Sheehan was there and gives us this review of the show. Take it away, Stephen:

Throughout its nearly 20 year history, For Against has focused its energies on releasing records over live shows. Not only was last night at Knickerbocker’s in Lincoln one of their rare performances, it was an unusual sight (and sound) to witness. The buzz preceding the show surrounded the return to the band of original guitarist Harry Dingman, known for his skillful and improvisational sound sculpting by way of a network of effects pedals combined with vintage amplifiers and echo boxes. On bass guitar and vocals was Jeff Runnings, the single constant member throughout the band’s history, and Paul Engelhard on drums, who has been in the band the past 10 years and played on their last 4 albums.

They opened their 10-song set with "Friendly Fires," an obscure cover song by Section 25 of Factory Records. The foreboding intonation of the piece along with the seemingly topical lyrics was a surprising choice considering that For Against has always shied away from making overt “statements” with a capital S: "Flying so high/You can't hear them/You can't see them/They're on their way/Over to you/No one can escape this kind of war/40,000 feet above the floor/And the little children have nowhere to run/They don't even know what's going on." From that point forward, the focus of the night was from their 2nd album December, along with two songs from Coalesced, one song from the newly-reissued Echelons and a very promising work in progress entitled Quiet Please that is hopefully a gateway track for more new music to come.

While it was evident that the band was nervous at times, those moments were rare compared to the peaks of exhilaration and effortless unity that were repeatedly observed. Besides noticing several people in the audience dancing (remember dancing at shows?), many more were seen singing along to the songs, songs that today seemed even more vital and relevant over the passage of time. There’s been a resurgence of interest and acceptance for bands and music that have been loosely categorized as "80's music" but under no circumstances will For Against surrender to being considered a nostalgia act simply because popular taste has randomly rediscovered them. By blending the upbeat rural pop music heard from the best bands to emerge from Athens, Georgia, along with the sinister urban sound of British bands produced by Martin Hannett, For Against has successfully mixed oil with water throughout their entire career and the taste has never been sweeter or more satisfying. Here’s a toast that they carry on in this new formation and continue to dazzle us in yet another new era of sound and word.

I'll drink to that. I wish I could have made it down there for what was clearly an historical performance. Lincoln Calling continues through tonight and tomorrow. Check their website for the schedule.

Here in Omaha, we have Radio 4 and Criteria tonight at Sokol Underground. I'm told the last time Radio 4 came through there were less than 100 people at the show. I expect about three times that number tonight. See you there.

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A glance at the weekend – Sept. 24, 2004

It starts tonight with Ian Moore at Sokol Underground with the remarkable Mal Madrigal, an outfit that features among its ensemble Steve Bartolomei and Mike Saklar. The opener is a perfect fit for the dense, rural-inspired music on Moore's new CD Luminara. I knew nothing about Moore so I glanced AMG for his write-up and it says he's this big-time Austin blues rocker. Blues rocker? Maybe I'm reading the wrong card. Nothing about Luminara screams blues. Instead, the CD, released on Yep Roc, has a gorgeously layered sound rife with pedal steel that is Daniel Lanois meets The Band (sort of). $10.

Tomorrow night is Radio 4, Criteria and The Golden Republic. I saw the new Radio 4 video on Subterranean last night (I TiVo the show). The song reminded me of The Rapture, that same no wave indie dance thing going on; the video reminded me of The Faint's "Agenda Suicide" -- that same graphic b&w style. I suspect there will be dancing. 1 Percent says this will be the last time to see Criteria live until 2005. That's reason enough to go.

While all this is going on, Lincoln Calling will be rolling. The sched is here. Tonight is For Against w/The Prids at Knickerbockers. At the same time, The Monroes will be playing at Duggan's. And Sunday is Statistics, Golden Age and The Prids at P.O. Pears. And if that wasn't enough, Mike Watt comes back for a show at Knick's Sunday. And in case you haven't figure it out, there's no Husker game this weekend.

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Some CD Reviews... – Sept. 23, 2004

Added: Reviews of Polyphonic Spree, The Slats, Local H and Wheat (linked off the Reviews page), along with a couple smaller ones on the Matrix. More coming. That's it for now.

Check-in: Frog Eyes, The Autumn Project.

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Chasing Rilo Kiley; The Blakes trump Further Seems Forever – Sept. 22, 2004

What a struggle it was to pull together this Rilo Kiley story (read it here). I made my initial inquiries to the publicist a month or so ago, interacted with three different people at Girlie Action before finally getting an interview lined up late Friday… with the band's drummer. I thought I was screwed. Drummer Jason Boesel said up front that he didn't really play much of a role in writing the band's music. "They come in with well-formed ideas," he said. "I add my thing…" So what are we gonna talk about? In retrospect, there couldn't have been a better person to interview, especially since I wanted to focus on why Rilo left Saddle Creek -- a topic that lead singer Jenny Lewis has been hammered with since the whole thing went down last April, and which she's handled deftly, politically, craftily. The canned story is that they wanted to start their own label. The truth was that they wanted to be on board with Warner Bros. and that this was their ticket to the major-label jamboree. Now we'll see where it takes them. For me, the judgment as to whether or not they sold out won't be made until their next CD. Boesel said the band hasn't discussed how they're going to record the next record, but that the band loves working with Mike Mogis. "We'd like to steal him away for a couple weeks," he said, adding that enduring six weeks of weather in Nebraska last winter was a struggle for everyone involved. What a bunch of LA pussies.

Another tidbit that didn't make it into the story: Boesel said The Elected -- the other band he and Blake Sennett are in -- will be playing fill-in shows on this tour when Now It's Overhead takes off to play a handful of dates with R.E.M. And although he's talked to Conor Oberst about it, Boesel said it would be tough for him to go out on tour with Bright Eyes when those new albums come out early next year, considering Rilo Kiley's tight tour schedule.

Rilo Kiley plays at Sokol Underground Sept. 29 with Tilly and the Wall and Now It's Overhead in what is guaranteed to be a sell-out.

Tonight, Further Seems Forever, the Tooth & Nail Christian emo outfit originally fronted by emo posterchild and talentless wanker Chris Carrabba, is playing at Sokol Underground. Probably the only thing worse than having Carrabba in your band is bragging about him quitting your band on your one-sheet. Meanwhile, across town at Ted & Wally's, the Glendale, California, trio The Blakes will be cozying it up next to the ice cream maker with Microphone Jones. Enjoy two scoops of grungy rock with a touch of keyboards, perhaps in a sugar cone.

Check-in: The Rubens, Twinkie, Andrew, The Get-Outs, Autolux, A Situation Presents Itself, Groove Pocket, Art Damage, Vaux, Flogging Molly, Wolf Eyes, Frausdots, Damien Jurado, Liars Academy, Dereck, Before Today, The Unseen Guest

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Briefly... – Sept. 21, 2004

Not a lot to talk about today. I'll be putting a feature/interview online tonight with Rilo Kiley that explores their motivations for leaving Saddle Creek Records and includes comments from the label -- check for that early tomorrow morning. Anonymous American will be playing at O'Leaver's tonight; and starting tomorrow, 1 Percent Productions will be hosting six straight days of shows at Sokol Underground. It's a busy season for live music here in river city.

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Lincoln Calling; fun with search engines; Miss Autopsy tonight – Sept. 20, 2004

I know it's kind of early to be talking about next weekend, but for us Omahans, it always pays to plan ahead, especially when the event is being hosted all the way in Lincoln. That said, Lincoln is hosting its own version of South by Southwest with a three-day multi-venue showcase aptly titled "Lincoln Calling."

The event features 25 bands from Omaha, Lincoln, Lawrence, Ames and Columbia and from as far away as Portland, Colorado, Illinois and Oklahoma. Five Lincoln venues are hosting the acts over three days in what could become an annual event. The festival is the brainchild of 26-year-old University of Nebraska-Lincoln student Jeremy Buckley. An arts & entertainment writer for The Daily Nebraskan, Buckley was less than thrilled with how UN-L's University Program Council (UPC) had been spending student fees.

Last April, the UPC brought horrible alternative rock band O.A.R. to the Pershing Auditorium. UN-L Students received $5 discounts on tickets that ultimately cost them around $20 each. He said that at the end of the day, the event cost more than $50,000. "If you don't like that kind of music, you're pretty much out of luck for a big event for that year," Buckley said. "I thought it would be cooler to bring in bands of different genres so people of different musical tastes could all have choices in what to go see."

His plan: To adopt a showcase style similar to Austin's South by Southwest and New York's CMJ festivals, featuring multiple bands playing at multiple venues. He took the idea to the University Program Council, who provided a grant for a measly $3,000. Buckley's managed to stretch three grand pretty well. Top acts include Omaha bands Statistics and The Monroes, Lincoln bands The Golden Age, Marianas and Bright Calm Blue, and Lawrence acts Architects and The Yards.

Perhaps the event's highlight is a reunion of seminal Lincoln-based dream-pop band For Against. After a 15-year absence, original guitarist Harry Dingman III (who played on 1987's Echelons and 1988's December) has rejoined the band with singer/bassist Jeffrey Runnings and drummer Paul Engelhard. The timing made sense, seeing as indie label Words On Music re-released Echelons for the first time on CD just last month.

It was lining up acts like For Against that was Buckley's main motivation, certainly not making money. "I would like for Lincoln Calling to become a fixture that the UN-L student body remains involved with and is an attractive event to the music-loving community at large," he said. "I think of this year as a test run to figure out how to fix problems and keep what works for next time."

Tickets are available at the venues; price varies between $5 and $8 depending on the evening's line-up. You can check out the full schedule at My picks are the For Against / Prids late show Friday night at Knickerbockers and The Golden Age, Statistics and The Prids (again) at P.O Pears Sunday night.

In other news… So I write on my blog last week about how great it would be to add a search engine if I only knew how, and along comes Lazy-i reader "Brian" with a suggestion (and a link to the code) for integrating a Google search into my site. Notice the new search engine at the bottom of the homepage. It works pretty spiffy, give it a try. Thanks, Brian, for the suggestion.

For those of you not enamored by the Vikings/Eagles game on MNF, check out Des Moines' weirdest musical son. Miss Autopsy is playing at O'Leaver's tonight with Po!arbear and Stolen Kiss. The brainchild of singer/songwriter Steve Beyerink, Miss Autopsy blends low-fi acoustics and some pre-recorded tracks creating music that can only be described as "unsettling." Beyerink tells me my review of his CD was the only positive notice it received -- I don't know if that's a credit to my genius or ineptitude. Decide for yourself tonight, and don't worry about the game. Chances are you'll be able to watch it on the monitors over the bar.

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Live review: The Rosebuds – Sept. 18, 2004

I showed up at O'Leaver's after the Yankees blew their lead in the ninth inning, too late to see Little Brazil's set. It was the biggest crowd I've seen at everyone's favorite neighborhood nightclub, a real crush scene and I have no idea if they were there for Little Brazil or The Rosebuds, though no one left after LB's set, if anything it got more crowded. Surprising, especially since The BoDeans also played last night to what I've been told was around 600 at Sokol Auditorium. There was probably only around 100 or 125 in O'Leaver's but that was more than enough to fill the place. Still, weirdly, there was enough room to fetch a beer quickly and easily and find a comfortable place to stand out of the way.

Playing as a three-piece (guitar/vocals, keyboards drums), The Rosebuds sounded much more stripped down and minimal vs. their recording, which is to be expected. Still, it was a good set of Beatles-inspired rock with a modern flair thanks to Kelly Crisp's New Wave-ish keyboards.

I chatted with the band briefly after the set. They were looking forward to driving across Nebraska tomorrow on their way to Denver. Crisp gushed about how she couldn't wait to see the open countryside -- a dramatic change from what she's akin to in North Carolina. I told her she might not be saying that by the time they get to Kearney, and that maybe she should let husband Ivan take the first shift behind the wheel while she get some shut-eye. Could they be any more charming? With that twang? No way.

Tonight: Lincoln's Strawberry Burns at O'Leaver's with Chicago's Raised on Zenith and The Tall Boys. This one's worth the trip down. Too bad O'Leaver's isn't showing the Hopkins/De la Hoya fight…

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Regrets? Not really… 2 shows, 2 venues tonight… – Sept. 17, 2004

I didn't go to either show at Sokol last night figuring parking would suck. I saw The Black Keys last time they came through and remembered that it sounded like the same Robin Trower blues riff played over and over for 30 minute. Dial up the Oct. 30, 2003 blog entry for that review. I definitely need to install a search engine on this site, but I don't know how. Tips, anyone?

Tonight, as mentioned throughout the week, is BoDeans/Anonymous American at Sokol Auditorium and The Rosebuds/Little Brazil at O'Leaver's. It is theoretically possible to catch some of both shows if you're so motivated since BoDeans is slated to begin at 8 p.m. and the O'Leaver's gig probably won't start until 10 -- which means if you tried, you'd still likely miss some of Little Brazil's set (especially if Anonymous American is allowed to play "at length"). My mood will direct my actions -- I'd like to see what Whipkey and Co. can do on a stage that large.

Then tomorrow night it's back to O'Leaver's for Lincoln's Strawberry Burns and Chicago's Raised on Zenith, along with The Tallboys. I dig Strawberry Burns, very catchy stuff. Look for live reviews all weekend, as well as a write-up on next weekend's Lincoln Calling festival.

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The Rosebuds take it easy; the Black Keys / Gov't Mule parking blues… – Sept. 16, 2004

Well, you just have to read the just-posted feature about The Rosebuds that just went online, where the sweet, funny Kelly Crisp talks about how her talented Raleigh N.C. band landed a record deal with Merge and got the producer of their dreams to record them all in the first year of their existence (read it here). For some bands, things just seem to fall into place, and in this case, it couldn't happen to better people. Crisp was a real fun interview, talking from the parking lot of a shopping mall where she was buying supplies (Like what? "I don't know… lipstick?"). I like the band's most recent record a lot and their style is perfectly suited for the intimate confines of O'Leaver's, where they'll be playing tomorrow night with Little Brazil. The show's the same night as The BoDeans, so a decision has to be made, and I've already made mine.

The same goes for tonight's buffet of entertainment at Sokol Auditorium -- Gov't Mule upstairs or The Black Keys (with The Terminals and The Cuts) downstairs. My sites are firmly set on the latter. I was wondering if Gov't Mule might be interested in checking out the explosive blues duo that will be performing under their feet, then I realized they probably never heard of The Black Keys, even though both bands' music sprang from the same branch of the rock family tree. I wonder if The Black Keys knows who Gov't Mule is? They'll know soon enough when they can't find a place to park their van because GM's tour buses have taken all of Sokol's precious curb space. Actually, this whole thing may be too much of a mad house for me to participate in. It's tough enough to find parking down there on a regular night without all those rusted-out conversion vans in the way, covered in Phish and Grateful Dead dancing-bear/lightning-bolt-skull stickers.

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The BoDeans; live review RFT, Rent Money Big – Sept. 15, 2004

A nice story about the BoDeans just went online. Sam Llanas, one of the band's primary singer/songwriters, talks about their absence from the studio, their search for a new label, their aging audience and today's crowded music scene (read it here). Seems the band never went away, never broke up, even though we haven't heard from them around these parts in a long time. The BoDeans will always be a band that I group with bands like The Long Ryders and Del Fuegos -- the so-called Americana bands of the late '80s early '90s that fell just under the radar but that everyone seemed to know. It'll be interesting to see how many people show up for their show upstairs at Sokol Auditorium Friday -- a gig that's being promoted as Homer's "Birthday Bash." Will the oldsters come out or stay home, as Llanas says many of their elderly audience seems to do these days.

On the same night as The BoDeans is The Rosebuds at O'Leaver's. Look for their interview with Lazy-i online tomorrow.

Briefly, I dropped by The Ranch Bowl last night to catch Rent Money Big and Race for Titles (Engine Down and These Arms Are Snakes also played, but I was in bed by the time they went on). Rent Money Big lost a little in the dynamics department on the big stage, maybe it was the mix or maybe their arrangements are just too cluttered. The last two songs of their set were the best, mainly because the breaks were bigger -- there was space between the instruments. Race for Titles did a short set of new material and now I'm even more hungry to get a copy of their new stuff, which isn't out yet and I'm not sure when it will be.

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Upcoming stuff… – Sept. 14, 2004

Didn't get an update up yesterday because I was writing features on both The Rosebuds and The BoDeans that will go on the site this week, along with that much-awaited '89 Cubs feature. Both bands play Friday night -- The BoDeans at Sokol Upstairs, The Rosebuds at O'Leaver's. 1 Percent is doing two nights of two shows at two venues back to back, starting Thursday with Gov't Mule upstairs and The Black Keys downstairs at Sokol. How do they do it? Not host the shows, but count all the money they're gonna make! I ran into one of the 1 Percenters last night at the local Hy-Vee pushing around a cartload of junk food to fulfill Gov't Mule's "rider." Just to show you how out of touch I am, I've never even heard of Gov't Mule, but I'm told that the show will likely sell out. It must be one of those weird Galactic/Phish/Dead things where people travel around to the country to see them… Meanwhile, there's a fairly large show tonight at The Ranch Bowl with These Arms Are Snakes, Engine Down, Race for Titles and Rent Money Big. $9.

So who else has seen the new Lexus commercial with Broken Spindles' "Song No Song" as the background music? Wonder how much money Mr. Petersen gets every time they play that on TV….

Check-in: Cheating Kay, Sean Russell, Books on Tape, Bella Parker, Haiku d'Etat, Afrika Bambaataa

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Live Review: Namelessnumberheadmen, Carrier, The '89 Cubs… – Sept. 12, 2004

Briefly, last night's show at O'Leaver's was a packed house, a standing-room-only affair to see the return of The '89 Cubs after nine months off from playing in Omaha. It was the usual O'Leaver's crowd, but with a larger-than-usual share of local music followers, Creek people and, shall I say it, tall women dancing in the aisle (and ignored, for the most part, because of the distraction caused by the Texas game).

Namelessnumberheadmen were on first and were terrific. Here's a band that can seamlessly integrate electronic effects into their set without distracting from their music's very basic groove. From KC, the band featured the usual rock set-up but with keyboards and synths that subtly added texture to their very melodic brand of indie rock. For the most part understated, they knew when to throw in the occasional power chord for good measure. They definitely deserve further study.

Next up was Carrier, the group that includes a drummer who was once part of the touring Flaming Lips band. They played O'Leaver's a few months back and were memorable at the time mostly for their sheer volume. They were just as loud this time, but their set was vastly improved, with a style that melds Lips-brand melody and vocals with Dinosaur Jr. guitar licks and, frankly, incredible drum work. Unlike last time, their set held together better, with a vibe that was more laid-back and tuneful. But just as loud. People were walking around with their hands over their ears and one guy I talked to said he was going deaf.

Lastly, the Cubs. I'm not going to go into too much detail because I'm in the process of finishing a lengthy feature about the band that will more-accurately describe their sound. Needless to say, they're different live than on CD, mainly in Ryan Fox's vocals, which were a bit faded vs. the recording. I think it's a performance issue in how he sings into the microphone, at times walking away or ducking from the mic during phrases. On top of that, his voice doesn't project naturally. I wished he would lean right into the mic, pushing it up to his lips, and not move while he's singing, but that's probably not going to happen. Baum was his usual over-the-top self, yelling at the crowd between songs and fiddling with his samples, thankfully making himself the center of attention -- something that's lacking from a lot of indie bands I see these days. He gives you something to watch during the set -- I guess you can call it showmanship.

The Cubs feature is going online shortly, I promise. Seems every time I get going, another set of information drops in my lap that clarifies things even further. Last night was no exception.

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Hey, where's that Cubs story?; this weekend's shows… – Sept. 10, 2004

I'd like to say my '89 Cubs article was done, but it's not. I find that it's harder for me to write features exclusively for Lazy-i than for The Reader. With The Reader I'm under intense pressure to get it done, and once the deadline passes, well, it's gone isn't it? But there's no real deadline for Lazy-I, and with no deadline I tend to tinker with stuff until I kill it. So. Tomorrow. For sure. It has to be done tomorrow because that's when The Cubs play at O'Leaver's.

Meanwhile, tonight at O'Leaver's is Little Brazil. The band's new line-up has already played a few times, but I still haven't had a chance to see them. Also on the bill is Le Beat (ex-Nuetrols), The Tallboys and The Forecast. Other than tomorrow night's Cubs show, there ain't a whole lot going on this weekend, which makes picking a show to attend pretty darn easy.

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This and that… – Sept. 9, 2004

Working on getting an '89 Cubs story online tomorrow, which includes an interview with the band, comments from the head of their label, Slowdance, as well as a look at their new, rather trippy CD. The Cubs have a show this Saturday at O'Leaver's with KC's Namelessnumberheadmen and Carrier that will be the highlight of the weekend.

Some various quotes heard 'round the net and elsewhere:

-- "And on "Going for the Gold", a live acoustic recording spiked with ethereal slide guitar, Bright Eyes' Conor Oberst avoids overt political commentary to spin a characteristically miserable tale about winning the "gold medal for idiots" by fashioning his unspoken guilt into a structured song at the behest of malevolent coffee shop patrons." -- from the Pitchfork review of Future Soundtrack for America, the new politically driven comp released by Barsuk that features a track from Bright Eyes. (read it here).

-- "Fortunately, no I have not encountered any bands that remind me of Commander Venus. We don't really need another one of them." -- Robb Nansel talking about his old band in a recent Q&A from Tweed Magazine, which includes a classic photo of Nansel that captures his trademark haircut. (read it here)

-- "Always humorless, sometimes sententious. All told, pretty dull-unless you're so desperate that you'll sing hosanna for every piece of intelligent-honest-original that comes down the circuit." -- Writing mentor Robert Christgau on the new TV on the Radio CD, which he rated his "Dud of the Month." (read it here) The band is opening for The Faint on their upcoming tour, except, of course, in Omaha, which didn't make TV's hip-factor cut.

-- "I don't believe Andy Roddick is from Nebraska. He has more soul than that…" -- Spoken by a limo driver featured on last night's US Open Tennis coverage, who bragged about driving Roddick around Manhattan. Roddick's music of choice -- Maroon 5.

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Live Review: Colonel Mal Ambulance; observations from the classroom… – Sept. 8, 2004

It was a down and dirty show at Sokol last night, with only about 75 on hand including a stable of Saddle Creek Records personalities; there to support Son, Ambulance in what was one of the more curious shows I've seen him play.

The night began with Mal Madrigal. No, they don't keep sounding better; because they already sound pretty damn good. Rarely have they sounded fuller or more complete. Guest appearances during the set included an Azure Ray-er and a Good Lifer, and I am now kicking myself for not interviewing Steve Bartolomei for this show when both Joe Knapp and Jason Anderson bagged on me. This was the best set of the night.

We didn't get a real Jason Anderson/Wolf Colonel set. Last night happened to be Anderson's birthday, with a cake and everything. When his set came up, the backward-ballcapped Anderson stood on a chair in the middle of the floor and told everyone to gather 'round. He was going to break down the barrier that divides artist from audience and "make this my best show ever." I hope it wasn't. The set revolved around a few uplifting monologs, a couple covers (including a Whitney Houston bite) and some crowd participation that was the best sounding thing of the set. Anderson is what you'd call "spirited." He enjoys himself and you enjoy him enjoying himself, but us newbies to the Anderson style never got a clue what he sounds like on the other 364 days of the year.

Than came a brand new Son, Ambulance. Who were those strangers on stage with Joe Knapp? I assume the guy on keyboards was brother Daniel, but the rest were a mystery. Usual drummer Corey Broman and bassist Erika Pederson were nowhere to be seen, and I didn't recognize the additional guitarist, though it could be his regular guy. Joe started solo with "On the Concourse" from his Bright Eyes split, then the band slowly joined in on a few songs from what I assume is his new CD, Key. One featured a delicate, arpeggio-filled piano sequence that built to a pounding refrain that went of for what seemed like 20 minutes. The last of the new stuff was the best, featuring nice synths and nicer drums. Don't ask me what they were about -- the vocals were too boomy to make out the words. Looks like we'll have to wait for the liner notes. His set closed with a loose version of "Maria in Motion" from Euphemystic that bordered on sloppy The five song set was wrapped up by midnight. So was this the new Son, Ambulance that will be out supporting the release of Key in late October?

Yesterday I took part in a panel discussion on the future of the music industry as part of a class at UNO that focuses on entrepreneurism. Also on the panel were Bruce Hoberman, the founder of Homer's Records; Rick Galusha, the current (though not elected) president of Homer's, and Jason Kulbul, one of the top guys at Saddle Creek Records. I was the moderator along with professor Anne York.

This was not the usual glassy-eyed, I'm-only-in-it-for-the-credits class of students that I've seen at so many other classes I've either spoken at or taught. While we heard about the origins of Homer's and the Creek, the discussion really centered around downloading and its impact on the music industry, and asked the burning questions: Is it ethical, legal or, gosh darn it, the right thing to do? The consensus was that it's probably the wrong thing to do. My two cents were that it doesn't matter if it's right or wrong, it's inevitable, and you can either fight it or figure out how to hone the technology to your advantage.

During the brief Q&A afterward, one student said that she used to go to The Cog Factory every weekend; that those bands and their music were important to her, and that she'd pay for their CDs if she ever downloaded them. But, she added, these days she's the exception rather than the rule. No one really listens to music anymore. They might have it on in the background or as something to dance to, but that most people she knew used music as nothing more than a social accoutrement. I think that's right on. For the vast majority of folks out there, music is nothing more than sonic wallpaper, background music for their daily lives and nothing more. Has the audience of serious music listeners dwindled? Hoberman seemed to think so.

Earlier in the class, I asked how many students were familiar with Saddle Creek Records and their bands. Maybe four or five out of the 25 or so raised their hands. No surprise there. Then I held up my I-pod and asked how many have one. Someone asked what it was. When I said "an I-pod" no one said yes. I said that it doesn't have to be an I-pod, it could be any mp3 player. Still, only one or two nodded, and one student said, "We don't have the money to buy something like that." That was a surprise. Here I was, thinking I was late to the whole I-pod thing, and here was almost an entire classroom that was still listening to CDs. At first I thought that my theory about the inevitable end of the Compact Disc and music stores as we know it was flawed. Then it dawned on me that, as widespread as I thought the technology already was, we haven't even scratched the surface of where it's headed. These eager young minds had yet to experience the power of the I-pod. Oh what the next two years and the real drop in mp3 player prices is going to bring to the record industry. Hold onto your hats, folks...

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Wolf Colonel, Son, Ambulance tonight… – Sept. 7, 2004

Here's what I wrote about Wolf Colonel for The Reader, completely winged because I couldn't get an interview with the Colonel himself. Maybe I'll get lucky and get something set up at tonight's show. Anyway, for those of you who don't know what he's about:

Wolf Colonel is singer/songwriter Jason Anderson, who, as his pseudonym, has released a number of catchy indie rock CDs on Olympia, Washington's K Records working with label chief Calvin Johnson (Beat Happening, Halo Benders).

But these days, his identity is in flux. The Colonel is going by his given name on his most recent K Records' CD, New England, recorded by Phil Elvrum (The Microphones) and released this past March. Why the name change? According to the Internet, Anderson never liked the Wolf Colonel moniker and felt it was time for a change.

But though the name may have changed, the music is pretty much the same, albeit much more quiet and personal than Wolf Colonel's at times bombastic, rocking moments.

The New Hampshire native began performing as Wolf Colonel in 1996 working with Johnson, who was involved behind the scenes on his early recordings including 2000's Vikings of Mint and the follow-up from the same year, The Castle. Often compared to Guided by Voices because of his huge, guitar-driven pop hooks, Wolf Colonel has just as much sonically in common with early Elvis Costello or even Saddle Creek Record's Sorry About Dresden.

By the time Something/Everything! (no apologies to Todd Rundgren) came out in the fall of 2002, the GBV comparisons began slipping away and the more personal stuff started seeping through, like the song "Jet Ski Accident" where Anderson comes off as a youthful version of Mountain Goats' John Darnielle, singing "Don't you think we should kiss / While the Husker Du is playing / Do you like Grant Hart songs? / Do you like Bob Mould songs? (yup) / And have you ever sung along with 'New Day Rising'?" How can you not love someone who loves Husker Du?

It seemed only natural that Anderson would eventually cast off his Wolf Colonel persona, especially considering New Hampshire's almost stark, minimal solo acoustic jaunts that include a somber cover of Son, Ambulance's "A Book Laid on Its Binding," from 2001's Euphemystic. Son, Ambulance's Joe Knapp and Anderson go way back, with Anderson even playing in Son, Ambulance for one brief tour. The Omaha connection doesn't end there -- according to the Wolf Colonel website, Anderson has "another band in Omaha called The Legend of Zelda."

Tuesday's opening slot for Son, Ambulance at Sokol Underground is part Anderson's national tour in support of New Hampshire that began last month and runs through the beginning of October.

And so on. As I mentioned before, the plan originally was to write a feature on Joe Knapp, but no one wanted to do it (Knapp, his publicist, etc.) because the new Son, Ambulance full-length ain't out yet. Looks like we'll have to wait at least until sometime around Halloween for that one, but methinks we'll get an earful of the new stuff tonight.

Check-in: Richard Buckner, Ian Moore, Piney Gir, Paper St.

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Live Review: Average White Band, Michael McDonald, Hall & Oates; The Monroes tonight – Sept. 4, 2004

Some observations from last night's concert at the MAC in beautiful Council Bluffs...

The mostly white, mostly middle-aged, mostly overweight crowd seemed happy just to be out of the house, away from the kids and somewhere else on a Friday night, and what better place than a "Rock and Blues Revue"? The arena was curtained off, cutting it in half which brought all the seats closer to the stage. As a result, there really weren't any bad seats in the house. We got up from our $25 seats and moved to an empty area of the 2/3rds-filled auditorium (the floor, incidentally, was sold out) so we could stretch. It made all the difference. This is the first time I've been to the MAC and it was by far a better experience than any night spent at The Qwest.

Anyway, the show... The Average White Band started things off just past 7, and other than the radio hit, "Pick Up the Pieces," I didn't recognize nor like any of their songs. Don't get me wrong -- all were impeccable musicians, but their watered-down white man "soul" was lost on me. The highlight was their saxophonist, who also played with Michael McDonald. Though an obvious spazz, he knew how to play his horn in the style that we all remember from that era when it was cool to have a saxophone in your songs.

Up next was good ol' Michael McDonald, looking fit and in fine fighting form. His set was easily the best of the night. He hasn't lost an iota of vocal ability -- sounds like he could have recorded "What a Fool Believes" yesterday. Backed by a six-piece band, I was halfway expecting him (as well as Hall & Oates) to play a bunch of R&B covers -- McDonald's last album and upcoming album are all covers of standards (so is the upcoming Hall & Oates CD). Instead, he blew right into a Doobie Brothers song, then did "I Keep Forgetting" from one of his solo albums, and then another Doobies number before he started rolling out a few covers of R&B standards, which weren't bad but weren't as interesting as his own solo stuff. The highlights of the blues stuff were a cover of Stevie Wonder's "All's Fair in Love…" and a bluesy piano solo thing that rocked. He closed his set with an almost gospel version of "Takin' It to the Streets." Nice.

What struck me about Hall & Oates' performance was how obviously important Oates is to the equation. We take him for granted because of the pompousness of Hall, but the whole thing wouldn't work without Oates' harmonies and incidental vocal touches. Without them, you'd be left with nothing but Hall's bullshit vocal gymnastics, his self-important yodeling that he must think is "really clever gospel/blues improvisation." It's nothing more than vocal noodling, and it ruins everything it touches. In fact, Hall is almost unable to sing anything straight-up without a flourish of gracenotes all done to impress us with his talent. It was up to Oates and the other backup singers to rein him in when they could. I can see now why the two had issues throughout their career. How could anyone work with that ego?

Unfortunately, the noodling didn't stop with Hall's braying. Many of the duo's standards were presented with overdone arrangements, often killing the songs' original introductions -- important cues we all grew up with. It's sad to have to figure out what the song is after a minute of jazz-odyssey-style noodling. Regardless of all that, the band, and Hall's vocals, have stood the test of time, and songs like "She's Gone" and "Maneater," though poorly arranged, still satisfied the crowd who could care less about such things as long as they had room to dance.

The evening ended with all three bands on stage for a predetermined encore that featured Hall and McDonald trying to outdo each other, with McDonald getting the better of the deal. Hall tried to sing "What a Fool Believes," and it didn't quite work. Meanwhile, McDonald did a spot-on version of "You Make My Dreams Come True." And everyone joined in on a couple R&B standards, concluding with "Hot Fun in the Summertime." No, it wasn't a spectacular event, it wasn't pulse-poundingly important music, but it was a good time and one of the better times I've had at an arena show.

Tonight, a show of equal stature as The Monroes and The Bombardment Society take the stage at O'Leaver's, I assume just after the finish of the Nebraska game which will be televised at the bar. Bring your ear plugs.

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The weekend is upon us… – Sept. 3, 2004

So what's going on this weekend? Tonight you have Tommy Stinson of Replacements fame at The Ranch Bowl. Meanwhile I'll be at the MAC Center in C.B. for Hall & Oates, maybe the hottest indie band going these days. You heard me right. After years of producing duds following their stratospheric highs in the '80s, most people thought the dynamic pop duo broke up. Then came VH1 and the infamous "Behind the Music" episode, which was followed by the independent release of Do It for Love in 2003 that included the bonafide hit "Forever for You." And just like that, Hall & Oates were back on your local lite rock radio station. I grew up listening to these guys and even have a couple of their albums. My sources say that ticket sales of have been rather sparse and that the MAC will be set up in the half-shell, so to speak. Look for a review tomorrow.

Tomorrow night's two hot tickets: Race for Titles, Little Brazil, The Like Young, and Latitude Longitude at Sokol Underground, all for just $7; while cross town at O'Leaver's (where I'll be) it's The Bombardment Society and The Monroes in what should be one of the loudest shows hosted by everyone's favorite mid-town bar -- I'm not sure how they're gonna pull this off as they'll also be showing the Nebraska game at the same time (and as everyone knows, O'Leaver's comfortably holds only around 65 people).

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Some news from the web on Low, Rilo Kiley, The Good Life, Bright Eyes; Tonight's show… – Sept. 2, 2004

Some Indie news items from the Internet…

-- Dirge-lovers everywhere take note: Low reportedly has left Kranky and signed with SubPop. Very few details here. I suppose they'll have better distribution now? Wasn't like I couldn't find their CDs to begin with. SubPop's been on a signing tear lately. I know for a fact that they even pursued at least one Omaha band.

-- Super critic and personal writing mentor Robert Christgau gushed over Rilo Kiley in yesterday's issue of the Village Voice. Says Christgau: "Lewis is such a wet dream for indie boys-pretty, bright, likes men, says "fuck" a lot-that I underrated The Execution of All Things. Its basic pleasures as purely aesthetic as pop gets, More Adventurous makes that impossible." Read it here and don't forget your magic decoder ring.

-- Billboard likes the new Good Life CD, but what doesn't Billboard like? Apparently the CD's title track: "The liquored-up love ballad meanders aimlessly, turning Kasher into a campfire bard with a penchant for repetition. And as the album-opener, it's undoubtedly ill-timed." Other than that, they loooved it. Read it here.

-- Conor Oberst apparently announced the names of his two upcoming albums, according to Click here and scroll under the pulse-pounding item about Nick Carter's new movie, or just read this:. Conor Oberst has announced the titles of his two upcoming releases under the Bright Eyes moniker: I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning and Digital Ash in a Digital Urn. Both albums will be released on the same day sometime in mid-to-late January."

-- Speaking of Conor, the angry young men at St. Louis' The River Front Times have place him at No. 8 in their "Ten Most Hated Men in Rock" list along with Chris Carrabba. This is an unfortunate misstep -- not that they put Conor on this list, but that they grouped him in with a no-talent like Carrabba, who's music in no way, shape or form resembles Oberst's. "Every song they write is overwrought and essentially intellectually dishonest. Everybody's got problems, to be sure, but we'd love to transplant this double entry (two whiny weenies equal one man, by our count) of pastoral crackers to the ghetto for a few decades." No. 1 was Paul McCartney. Not exactly a clever list, nor accurate. Scott Stapp didn't even make the cut. Read the whole list here.

Tonight's show: Coast of Nebraska and The Mariannes at The 49'r. Go.

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Live Review: Mr. 1986 – Sept. 1, 2004

There were three bands on the bill at last night's show at Sokol Underground, but I only stayed for one.

They're bound to be compared to Godspeed You! Black Emperor, but I'm sure they already know that. Everyone else I talked to seemed to think so, and ultimately the obvious comparison could hurt them if they ever tour outside the Midwest. But for here and now, Mr. 1986 can count itself among the top local bands.

The Lincoln 5-piece does what Godspeed does with as many as nine or 10 people, albeit on a smaller scale. The idea's the same -- create sprawling, echoing, tonal sound pieces that are theatrical in size and style. These guys do it well. The first tip that we were in for something special was when the band didn't face the crowd, but faced each other -- the guitarist and keyboardist at stage right faced another guitarist and a bass player who stood toward center, focused intently on the drummer. They watched each other as we watched them create haunting, sonic joyrides. Like tonal chamber pieces, the 10- to at times 15-minute ambient overtures often rode on two or three chords that switched at the end of two-bar phrases of 4/4 -- back and forth or back and up and back while the drummer played crisp syncopated rhythms. Guitars added even more rhythms, created effects or took off on their own highly technical though nuanced tangents.

Tying it all together was the band's sense of dynamics -- understanding the need to build, break, then build again within their compositions, giving enough breathing space to each instrument between the over-the-top wall-of-sound sequences. It was pretty groovy, as the hippies say. You almost expected the these guys to be dressed in formal wear instead of the usual jeans and T-shirt ensemble. I don't know how they'd pull it off in a smaller venue like O'Leaver's or The 49'r, and by the same token, it would be fun to see them on a larger stage with a massive sound system.

My only quibble was with the drums. I'm not a technical wonk and I don't know anything about drum kits, but during the quieter sequences the buzz coming from the snare was unbelievably distracting -- the drummer would quit playing and the buzz would just get in the way, like looking at the music through a veil. It only bothered you once you noticed it, but once you noticed it, you couldn't get it out of your mind.

No shows tonight -- stay home and watch the spectacle in New York City -- the U.S. Open.

Check-in: The '89 Cubs, Now It's Overhead, Lismore, The Eames Era, Kava Kava, The Rosebuds.

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Tracking a Wolf, some Cubs, and a couple Philly dudes… Troubled Hubble/Show is the Rainbow tonight – Aug. 31, 2004

I haven't had a lot of luck lately.

I've spent part of last week and this weekend trying to track down Jason Anderson, the feller behind Wolf Colonel, the band that's opening for Son, Ambulance next Tuesday at Sokol Underground.

To be fair, the story was a last-minute thing. I originally wanted to interview Son, Ambulance's Joe Knapp, but his publicist (the powerful Nasty Little Man) along with Joe asked that I hold off until closer to when his new album is released, sometime around Halloween. Joe suggested a piece on Wolf Colonel instead, so a volley of e-mail went out late last week via Wolf Colonel's website and K Records, the band's label, asking if there was a way to line something up. All I got was an auto-reply from one of the K Records' staff saying she was out of the office. Armed with virtually nothing but the Internet, I wrote a 400-word story about Wolf Colonel based on online info, mp3 files and sound clips. It'll run in The Reader tomorrow. As luck would have it, hours after the deadline, I got e-mail from both K Records and Jason. Look for a Lazy-i exclusive interview with Mr. Anderson probably sometime after the Sept. 7 show (which also features Mal Madrigal, who I probably should have gone after in the first place).

Next was The '89 Cubs (incidentally, seems like lately they've dropped the "Chicago" part of their names). I originally wanted to go after the story in support of their Sept. 11 gig with Carrier and Namelessnumberheadmen, but a fellow writer at The Reader got the jump on it and I acquiesced. Then out of the blue I got an e-mail from Cubs' frontman Ryan Fox saying the band is interested in doing an exclusive profile for Lazy-I Look for that one in the very near future as well.

Finally, there was Daryl Hall and John Oates… yeah, I know… not very "indie" of me, but I've been listening to their music since I was in high school and hey, their last album, 2003's Do It for Love, was independently released, so they are indie... sort of. Unfortunately, they're not as accessible for interviews as your typical indie artists, and efforts by The Reader staff to line something up fell flat. In fact I'm still trying to line up tickets to Friday's show at the Mac Center with them, Michael McDonald and the Average White Band.

So, my luck has been somewhat spotty as of late, but the upside is to expect a number of exclusive interviews on Lazy-I in the coming weeks. I don't know what's going on, but within the past six months traffic to the site has steadily grown, and more and more artists are interested in doing website-exclusive interviews. Maybe it's because of the site's reach (after I post stories, I look up and down the web for places to link from, including UBL, fan sites, web boards and doing Google "tricks" for placement, etc.) and the fact that the stories stay online forever. Who knows?

Tonight: Troubled Hubble, The Show Is the Rainbow and Mr. 1986 at Sokol Underground. TH and TSITR are perennial tour-mates. I've been hearing various things about Mr. 1986. Our friends at say the all-instrumental band is like Marianas but in "different way" -- contemporary with a '70s influence… hmmm… interesting.

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Inside the mind of Team Love – Aug. 27, 2004

Conor Oberst and Nate Krenkel, the duo behind Team Love Records, tells all about the label's concepts and business strategy in a Q&A -- not with SPIN, Rolling Stone or Magnet -- but with BusinessWeek. And why not?

The interview (which is right here) explains how and why the label was formed and includes some interesting tidbits about the whole Creek philosophy toward signing bands, which Jason Kulbel touched on in my Beep Beep article last week (here). Sounds like Conor found himself on the losing side of couple of Creek's round-table exercises in democracy. "I lost out on a couple of records I had wanted to help release," Oberst said in the Q&A. "Team Love is an outlet to keep stuff moving forward and keep giving people the ability to hear all this music from new bands who deserve to be heard." This seems to support the theory that Conor approached Creek with Tilly and the Wall and that -- for whatever reason -- the label gave the CD a thumb's down. Oberst must have then said, Fine, I'll put it out myself.

Krenkel goes on to say that the label has moved 8,000 copies of Wild Like Children with the goal of selling 10,000 in the first year. Not bad, but I expected more. Has the fact that they literally give the record away via download from the Team Love website impacted sales? They don't say, and the reporter doesn't ask how many times the CD was downloaded from the site.

"There's a morality about it," Oberst says about the label's downloading policy, "about saying let's just share this with everyone, let's not just let this be a commercial good when in our eyes it's a work of art." I think they underestimate the power of the i-pod and how technology has impacted the way fans listen to and acquire music. As I've said before, the first thing I do when I get a CD is download it to my I-pod, and I rarely ever pick up the CD again afterward. I think this is true for people downloading music online. Once they have it on their i-pods I'm skeptical that they'll go out and buy a copy of the CD unless there's another incentive, such as sheer collectability. Sounds like the upcoming Willy Mason CD won't be available for download from because Willy's European label is not "going to be happy with it." So much for the grand experiment?

A correction from yesterday's blog: Books On Tape and Superargo are at O'Leaver's Sept. 28, not this Saturday when it will just be Fizzle Like a Flood and Voicemagik. Go anyway.

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Destination Midtown this weekend? Now It's Overhead to open for R.E.M. – Aug. 26, 2004

With nothing going on down at Sokol, all the attention will be placed squarely on my favorite mid-town watering holes, beginning tomorrow night at O'Leaver's with Racetrack, Brief Candles and the new incarnation of Little Brazil. That show will be competing with what's being billed as the real "last show" by Kyle Harvey and the Disappearing Act at The 49'r, with Carmine as the opener. Saturday night at O'Leaver's is Fizzle Like a Flood opening for Voicemagik along with Books On Tape and Superargo, while just down the street The Lude Boys -- a Social Distortion tribute band -- will be playing at The Brother's (Don't ask me how Tre plans on doing this, but I've been told he's had bands play there before).

According to, Saddle Creek band Now It's Overhead is being tapped as an opener for R.E.M.'s upcoming national tour that begins in mid-October. No surprise there, as Michael Stipe and NIO's Andy LeMaster have worked together before, including on NIO's Fall Back Open CD. R.E.M.'s new album, Around the Sun, is slated for release Oct. 5.

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Kasher on The Cure and Curiosa – Aug. 25, 2004

The San Jose Mercury News today published this story about the Curiosa tour, where they single out Cursive as one of the standouts on the second stage. The writer calls Cursive's last two albums "epic on the level of Pink Floyd's The Wall." Now there's a comparison I would have never considered...

"It's been so strange,'' Kasher says in the article. "You think to yourself, Robert Smith isn't someone you are going to brush shoulders with. And even weirder is for him to introduce himself to you."

The story goes on to say that Smith sent Cursive a bottle of Dom and that The Ugly Organ has sold 90,000 copies. "It's 89,500 more than I expected," says Kasher. It also says that Kasher and Co. have turned down major label offers because Tim thinks that staying hungry will keep him writing well.

If that sales number is accurate, I guess we can expect another Saddle Creek "100,000 Sold" party at the zoo in the coming months. They'll easily push an additional 10,000 units just by being on Curiosa.

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Odds 'n' Ends… – Aug. 24, 2004

Server problems are resolved. You should again be able to conveniently navigate to on the Internet from anywhere in the world. I'm told the server is "faster" so expect quicker download time. This could facilitate the posting of video-clips on the site, which means I may be toting a mini-dv to shows in the near future. We'll see.

Remember when I said Kyle Harvey's last show was last week? He lied. His last show is this Friday at The 49'r with those fun-loving rockers Carmine. Then Kyle's gone.

No new feature this week (hey, you got two last week!). I'll be spending the week posting CD reviews in a fruitless effort to try to "catch up." Watch the Matrix for the latest.

Tonight, Boyskout, a 4-piece all-women punk band from S.F. plays down at Ted & Wally's with adore el amore. Their music has been described as "If some CBGB's Frankenstein had managed, circa 1977, to transplant Patti Smith's sensibility into Blondie's garage-band pop." Show starts at 10 p.m.

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Live Review: Kite Pilot, The Show Is the Rainbow, Beep Beep; Tonight: Statistics and The Velvet Teen – Aug. 22, 2004

First off, if you're seeing this then you've lucked onto the site when the server wasn't down. They moved the site's server over the weekend, so expect outages here and there until they get the technical bugs worked out.

That said…

I think the best place to see Kite Pilot is O'Leaver's, where the sound set-up is so simple it's impossible to screw up. Last night's KP gig at Sokol was a mess soundwise. Everything that could go wrong did. The set was delayed while they figured out what was making this awful static noise on stage (turns out it was an effects pedal or something). Once they got started, there were all kinds of problems with the stage microphones picking up every little sound and causing horrendous echo. At one point, the trumpet sounded like it was being run through a vocorder -- an effect that only the guys from The Faint could admire. Someone next to me asked if they were doing it on purpose. Then there was the keyboards -- so blaringly LOUD they drowned out the rest of the band.

I don't know if anyone in the band was aware what the audience was hearing, but they looked somewhat shell-shocked for the first couple of songs. The levels were figured out about halfway through the set and the band settled down and finished in good form. There were a number of new songs unveiled, including one featuring Austin Britton on vocals (who, when he goes to the high end, sounds exactly like Landon Hedges) and the closer that included a Pink Floyd-esque sound montage that the guy next to me hated, preferring the simpler arrangements. I didn't mind it at all. Regardless, with all the sound problems and what looked like a bit of nervousness, this wasn't Kite Pilot's most shining moment.

Darren Keen, a.k.a. The Show Is the Rainbow, on the other hand, was in fine, albeit sweaty, form. He told the audience he was nervous before he started -- I guess because there were a number of local celebs in the audience. But once he turned the lights on (no dark rooms for him) and he was on the floor surrounded by the crowd, he let it all hang out to the amusement of almost everyone. This is the first time I've seen him use a gag where he lip-synchs over pre-recorded dialogue between songs. Kinda funny, kinda weird. He also unleashed a couple new songs, including one about ethno love that the audience dug.

One guy I talked to described the performance as "Extreme Karaoke." Not bad. Another said he thought it was watered down Har Mar Superstar. The diff between Har Mar and Darren is that Har Mar is doing a character -- for Keen, TSITR is no act. He's pretty much like that in real life (minus the blood-spitting). Keen let me in on some big news regarding his future, record labels and touring that I can't pass on yet, but if it comes to fruition, TSITR will become a global enterprise (I think the Japanese and their deification of all things karaoke will eat it up). One show minus: No Back-kick song. Keen says he doesn't do it anymore. A pity.

Finally, the headliner: Beep Beep. They had stage decorated with balloons and a bubble machine just to make the event more festive (Kite Pilot wasn't too keen on the balloons, btw). They needn't have bothered with the props. Their set went flawless, and as I expected, they came off better in the dark, cavernous room than the last time they played upstairs in the Aud. Their vibe, style, music is perfectly suited for smoky clubs. I'd love to see them at a place like NY's Sin-e (or CB's back in the day). They have that late-'70s early-'80s post-punk vibe down to a science. Was the audience getting it? I'm not sure. There were some people up front who were clearly into it, but most of the crowd was gawking, transfixed by Bemberger's weird, slightly fey gyrations and facial expressions. I was struck by how Beep Beep, more than any other band on the Creek label, epitomizes the style and substance of the mostly overlooked Omaha punk scene circa early-'90s that was, unfortunately, too far ahead of its time. There was an underlying deviant dynamic to bands like Mousetrap and Ritual Device that Beep Beep has captured and modernized. No wonder they got a thumbs-up from one of Omaha's legendary record store owners who was on hand last night to see if the band lived up to its hype. Doesn't look like fans will be seeing these guys in a club setting any time soon since they'll be playing big halls for the next few months opening for The Faint.

Tonight it's Statistics and The Velvet Teen at Sokol Underground -- a fine way to cap off a long weekend of shows. I'd say the odds are slim and none that I'll be attending since I'm still recovering from the last two nights of rock action. That shouldn't stop you from going, though.

Check-in: Winter In Alaska, Dura Mater, Renee Heartfelt, BoySkout, Andy Germak.

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Live Review: Sebadoh; Tonight: Beep, Beep; TSITR, Kite Pilot – Aug. 21, 2004

There was some talk going into last night's Sebadoh show that it could be a let-down. After all, it was just Loewenstein and Barlow with recorded drums. Ah, but what recorded drums it was. Loewenstein said he spent a lot of time putting the drum track on CD, and the attention to detail was obvious during the set -- it sounded pretty awesome. In fact, it was one of the best sounding shows I've heard at Sokol Underground. With Loewenstein on bass and Barlow playing an amped acoustic that had amazing tones -- at times you'd-a sworn that it was an electric, but brighter, actually more versatile than a typical electric guitar. Then the recorded drums, which Barlow appeared to be cueing up from song to song. Maybe it wasn't visually dynamic, but it was more than adequate from a sonic standpoint.

The song-division breakdown appeared to be about 60/40 Barlow, but the crowd was clearly more into the rocking Loewenstein songs. Both were in good voice, but Loew's songs had more fire whereas the arrangements for the Barlow songs seemed to bring them down even more than on recording ("On Fire," played during the encore, was essentially a quiet acoustic ballad).

Loewenstein was wrong about the crowd break-down -- he said he expected to see mostly people in their 30s who had grown up listening to Sebadoh and very few younger kids. In fact, the mean age of the crowd of 200 was probably around 24. Yeah, it was an older crowd than the usual Underground show, but for every old-timer who'd seen these guys open for fIREHOSE at the Ranch Bowl in '92 or had bought III when it first came out, there was a kid who was seeing Sebadoh for the first time. And Loews and Barlow could feel the love, though about halfway through the set, Barlow mistakenly said something about "being in Iowa," and was quickly called down by the crowd, to much laughter. Loewenstein threw in "Thank You Cleveland!" Barlow apologized for the rest of the set. He and Loews were genuinely touched by the crowd's enthusiasm -- lots of hooting after songs and yelling of requests. It was a great, warm vibe, and a great reminder for us old fans just how good Sebadoh was and is.

Tonight's show might be a sell-out -- Beep Beep's CD release show at Sokol Underground. The crowd size, however, could be hampered by the fact that they play in just a few weeks with The Faint at what will definitely be a sold-out show upstairs at Sokol. Will people go to both shows? I think so. Notable is the opening bands that I'm told Beep Beep personally selected for tonight. Kite Pilot is easily one of my favorite bands and worth the extra effort to get to the venue early. The Show Is the Rainbow is unpredictable mayhem -- who knows what Darren Keen will pull out of his bloody sleeve tonight. But the centerpiece will definitely be Beep Beep, Saddle Creek's latest and greatest, the so-called black sheep of the label. Look for a hipper-than-usual crowd of scenesters (who will probably be crowded into the adjacent room during the opening bands, unfortunately), even though the men of Beep Beep are the last guys you'd ever see casting any ultra-hip pretension.

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Some Kind of Masterpiece?; why Kyle Harvey is leaving home; Sebadoh tonight – Aug. 20, 2004

Some thoughts after just seeing "Some Kind of Monster," the Metallica documentary which closed last night in Omaha at the Dundee Theater. If you missed it, you missed a great piece of documentary filmmaking. Whether you like Metallica or not, it was a gripping study in human nature. It just so happens the humans involved are in a band -- a huge, crummy band.

There's a lot of funny stuff -- almost "Spinal Tap" moments. When Lars Ulrich's father -- who looked like a weathered troll/dwarf from "The Lord of the Rings" -- is in the studio listening to a one of the band's new songs, Lars asks for an opinion. The old man answers quietly, in his thick, Danish accent, stroking a long, gray beard, "I would delete it." In another scene, Hetfield and Ulrich are having another of their ego-fueled arguments. This time Hetfield is complaining because he thinks the band is listening to playback without him after he leaves for the day (this is post-rehab, and he's limited himself to just four hours of work per day). "I don't like the idea of showing up and thinking you guys have made the decisions without me," he says. Kirk Hammett chimes in, "That's the way it's been for me for 15 years."

I couldn't help imagining this film being reshot with the guys from "Spinal Tap" playing the roles -- Michael McKean as Hetfield; Christopher Guest as Ulrich and Harry Shearer as Hammett. Ulrich's "who cares" expressions when Hetfield or the band's therapist are waxing so self-seriously are pure Nigel Tufnel.

I didn't leave the movie liking Metallica's music any more than I did coming in (especially after watching how Hetfield just sort of wings the vocals in the studio, reading/screaming/growling scrawled idiotic lyrics off sheets of notebook paper), but I gained a new respect for the band members as, well, humans.

* * *

Kyle Harvey had a send-off last night at the Goofy Foot Lounge. I e-mailed him and asked what was the dealio with his escape from Omaha. Seems his planned three-month tour just sort of fell through and had to be postponed until early 2005. "In the meantime, I had given notice to my job at The 49'r, and they had hired a replacement," Harvey said. "Also, the room that I have been renting is being rented to someone else as of Sept. 1st. So I started brainstorming as to what I should do with the lemons that I'd been given."

Harvey says he needed a break from Omaha anyway. He wrote down a list of cities where he has friends and contacts and narrowed it down to his favorites -- Portland, Minneapolis and Nashville. "This past winter I played a few shows in Nashville and loved it. The city has a lot of energy... I find it very inspiring that there is so much talent in one place," he said.

He added that it can't hurt to be so close to Nashville's music industry. "However, I wouldn't say that is why I am leaving. I will be performing as Kyle Harvey there. I am hoping that it will help me to focus a bit more on writing.

"In reality, I may get there and it may be hard to find a job and place to live. In that case I will be back in a few weeks. However, if things go well -- and I hope they do -- I will hang my hat there for awhile."

Good luck, Mr. Harvey. I'm sure you'll do well, because as they say about talent that from Omaha: If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.

Tonight: Sebadoh at Sokol Underground. Get there early to see Bombardment Society because they rock.

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Beep Beep and a peek behind the Creek; Kyle Harvey says goodbye, The Lepers tonight – Aug. 19, 2004

I guess you can call this extended version of the Beep Beep profile/interview (read it here) a Lazy-i exclusive -- The Reader chopped off about a third of the story to make room for ads (I think they also cut my Sebadoh story as well -- hey, that's business). You get an interesting look inside the decision-making process that Creek goes through when they bring on a new band. Beep Beep is the latest expansion team in this successful league of indie rock stars. The fact that the band thinks of itself as the "black sheep" of the label is amusing and fitting and probably appropriate. Creek may not have a "sound" as Jason Kulbel says, but they do have certain boundaries that the bands are comfortable playing within, and Beep Beep breaks through them all. Yeah, Creek doesn't have a "sound," and they don't really have anything like Beep Beep, either. There's something strange and psychotic about their music, something that borders on violence and voyeurism, an eccentric decadence indeed. The guys in Beep Beep are as curious as anyone as to how their oddity will mesh with the rest of the label's bands, which seem almost mainstream in comparison. As Chris Hughes says, "The record takes five listens to get the hook. If you give it a chance, you'll get it." I just don't know if indie America (or America in general, for that matter) has the patience or the attention span to listen to anything five times.

Tonight's shows: Kyle Harvey "and friends" at the Goofy Foot -- it's being billed as one of his last Omaha performances before he moves to Nashville. Meanwhile The Lepers and Players Club are at O'Leaver's. Very unlikely that I'll attend either show as I'm looking at three days in a row starting Friday night. Instead, I might check out the Metallica documentary at The Dundee Theater -- I hate Metallica, but I hear this is a good flick. If I go, I'll pass on a review tomorrow.

Check-in: The Good Life, Album of the Year; The Faint, Wet from Birth.

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I'm back; Sebadoh – Aug. 18, 2004

After driving all day back from Breckenridge Monday I didn't have the oomph to go to Cursive/Criteria/Ladyfinger at Sokol that night, and now I'm hearing it was a rare show -- lots of sweaty covers (including The Cars and Til Tuesday). What are you gonna do? I'll have to do a list of best shows I missed this year, including this one and !!! a few weeks ago…

Anyway, here's that feature interview with Jason Loewenstein of Sebadoh (read it here) written in support of this Friday's show (which I have no intention of missing). The Beep Beep story goes online tomorrow (or late tonight, if you're up) or you can read it in today's issue of The Reader if you can find one around town. Figured I'd stagger the two stories over a couple days. It's going to be a long week of shows preceding the start up of the UNO/UNL fall semester -- Beep Beep Saturday and then Statistics/Velveteen Sunday. I have a feeling that this is the beginning of the biggest three months of shows Omaha will ever host…

Check-in: American Music Club, 25%Toby, Year Future, Rich Robinson, halfwayhome.

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On hiatus; this weekend's shows… – Aug. 12, 2004

Lazy-i is going on a brief hiatus while I go recharge my batteries in the Rocky Mountains for a few days. But don't worry. When I get back next Tuesday I'll post new Sebadoh and Beep Beep features, both of which are long and detailed (I know, because I got up at 3:30 this morning to finish them).

The Sebadoh interview with Jason Loewenstein talks about the band's rise and fall, why they broke up and are getting back together five years later. The Beep Beep story outlines the band's relationship with Saddle Creek Records (including comments from the label) and is the natural continuation of the original (and first) Beep Beep story written a year ago (read it here).

Enjoy your weekend while I'm away. Shouldn't be a problem with Max Fischer playing tonight at Sokol; Kite Pilot, Mal Madrigal and The Mariannes also tonight at The Goofy Foot (10th & Pacific); Old Canes, The Race, Son Ambulance Friday night at O'Leaver's; and Year Future, Ladyfinger (maybe the city's hottest newest band?) and The Terminals Saturday at Sokol. Hopefully I'll be back in time Monday night to see Cursive, Criteria, and Ladyfinger at Sokol Auditorium. It could be the last time you get to see Cursive 'round these parts for long while. After the band heads out for the Curiosa tour, Kasher will gear up The Good Life for what will likely be many months of touring for their new CD, Album of the Year.

See you next week.

Check-in: The Snake The Cross The Crown, The Rutabega, Mike Watt, Carol Blaze, Mark Burgess and the Sons of God, The Great Depression, The Wanteds, Blind Jackson.

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Little Brazil burns brightly – Aug. 10, 2004

I'm told by people who were there that Sunday night's unofficial Music Meltdown "make-up" show at O'Leaver's was a hoot. The highlight was Little Brazil, who, as former intern and current rock star Doug Flood put it, "were on, like Criteria at The Bowl," an obscure reference to last winter's Criteria set at The Ranch Bowl that is now a part of Omaha history.

Seems only fitting that Little Brazil would burn so brightly Sunday night. I'm told by various sources that two of its members, drummer Corey Browman and guitarist/keyboardist Austin Britton, are leaving the band and that Sunday was their last show. Oliver Morgan, formerly of The Quiet Type, Ravine and Reset, told me last week that he'd been practicing with the band on drums. No idea who will take Austin's place, however.

This comes as somewhat of a shock to anyone who has followed the band. Little Brazil seemed destined to be the first recent non-Saddle Creek band from Omaha to break through to national indie recognition. Little Brazil's debut, You and Me, is scheduled for release on Seattle's Mt. Fuji Records in mid-October, with a limited edition Little Brazil EP to be released in early September. The band had been slated to tour throughout the fall, and probably will, with new personnel. Core members guitarist/vocalist Landon Hedges and bassist Dan Maxwell are still very much intact.

I have no idea why Corey and Austin are leaving the band, and as far as I know, they will continue to be involved in Kite Pilot.

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Midwest Music Letdown? – Aug. 9, 2004

What happened at the Midwest Music Meltdown? Comments on my webboard indicate that only a handful of people showed up for Saturday's show. Reports range from a few dozen in the early afternoon to around 300 for Venaculas and Anonymous American -- a far cry from the 10,000 expected.

What happened next is a mystery. As word spread Sunday morning about the poor attendance, I received a number of e-mails saying that organizers had canceled the Sunday events due to expected "inclement weather." Of course we've all been to shows that have gone on right up until people were almost struck by lightning (anyone remember that KRCK deal a few years ago?). It doesn't take a genius to speculate that organizers were canceling the show to cut their (expected) losses on an concert that was billed as a charity event.

So what happens to all those folks who bought tickets? No one seems to know yet. Common decency would seem to dictate that organizers would have to refund full ticket price because weather had nothing to do with the cancellation. You can't sell tickets to a show, declare it canceled due to inclement weather when it's warm and sunny outside, and then keep the ticket money -- legal issues come into play. Of course, we might only be talking about 20 tickets, but the number doesn't matter. Hopefully folks who have money coming to them are getting it.

What's the poor attendance say about the local music scene? Nothing really. Ticket price and location probably played more of a role in its failure than the line-up, which was stronger than last year's. In my opinion, a local scene's "strength" is judged on the quantity, quality and variety of bands and venues. Omaha is right in the middle of its second "golden age" of music (the mid-'90s was the first one).

Coming up this week -- two interview/features -- Beep Beep and Sebadoh -- both going online by Thursday. Watch the Reviews Matrix for new CD reviews (five went up this morning). Show-wise, it's kind of quiet, with only a Max Fischer gig at Sokol and Kite Pilot, Mal Madrigal and The Mariannes at The Goofy Foot (10th & Pacific), both Thursday.

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Some thoughts on Midwest Meltdown – Aug. 7, 2004

If the weather holds, attendance at this year's Music Meltdown could eclipse last year's by a sizable amount. But it's not just the weather that's the draw. Organizers have put together a better line-up that includes some of the area's more talented non-Saddle Creek acts.

The stand-outs include Anonymous American, Rent Money Big and The Jazzwholes today and tonight, and The Show Is the Rainbow, Mr. 1986, Greg Loftis, Son, Ambulance, Kyle Harvey and The Great Disappearing Act, and Little Brazil on Sunday (along with Fizzle Like a Flood on the acoustic stage).

For my tastes, Sunday is the more inviting line-up, but it doesn't matter because organizers decided they weren't going to sell one-day event tickets this year. Instead, everyone is forced to buy a two-day pass for $18 adv. $22 day of show. I've heard that one reason for the pricing scenario was to draw more people both days. Not surprisingly, it's Sunday's line-up that's likely to benefit the most from the scheme because there's no question that Saturday's bands have a greater commercial appeal. Whether you like them or not, Venaculas, GTO and Lovetap consistently draw more people to shows and get more local radio air play than Little Brazil, Kyle Harvey and Son, Ambulance (none of whom I've ever heard on the radio here).

Still, you gotta wonder how many people threw their hands up and said 'Forget the whole thing' when they were forced to buy a weekend pass. How likely is it that anyone will venture to Crescent two days in a row? Had they also offered single-day tickets at, say, $12/$18 they might have sold more -- and those who saw that the price of same-day single tickets was the same as a two-day advance ticket might have figured it was worth the extra $6 to get two days of music even if they decide not to go the second day.

Then again, maybe the Music Meltdown organizers will get the last laugh -- the forecast tomorrow calls for a 70 percent chance of rain and thunderstorms. If it happens, at least the event will have enjoyed one great day of weather. Meanwhile, since there's no other shows worth mentioning tonight, I'll probably end up at The Brothers.

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Wha'? No Update? The weekend. Oberst and The Boss – Aug. 5, 2004

So Tuesday, just before I'm about to leave to do an interview with the boys from Beep Beep (an exciting little chat that will be featured online next week), a storm blows through Omaha, dropping almost three inches of rain and knocking out the power to my house. It would be another day until power would come back on, briefly, before going out again. I have power now, as you can see. Hence, no updates.

Didn't matter because I really didn't have anything to report, anyway. It's been a quiet week for shows. Tonight you have The Gamits, a straight-up punk-pop/indie band (some might call it "emo," I wouldn't), at The Ranch Bowl with The Upsets, Carmine and Snakehandlers ($5, 8:30). Tomorrow is Street Urchins (Goldberg, the ex-Carsinogents' other "other" band (the "other" band is The Terminals)) at The 49'r with Zyklon Bees. And then, the mighty Music Meltdown in beautiful Crescent Iowa, details of which I haven't written nary a word about, but will in tomorrow's blog as we take a close look at this year's line-up and ask a very basic business question for the folks running the show.

Newswise, the "hot topic" is that our boy Conor Oberst and Bright Eyes has been named among the bands that will be performing alongside Bruce Springsteen on the Vote for Change Tour sponsored by The official lineup is Springsteen / R.E.M. / John Fogerty / Bright Eyes performing Oct. 1 in Philly, Oct. 2 in Cleveland, Oct. 3 in Ann Arbor, Oct. 5 in St. Paul and Oct. 8 in Orlando -- big cities in crucial "swing states" in the upcoming election. I saw Springsteen last night on Nightline and he's mad. Conor should have some good stories to take away from that tour, which we'll probably never hear. With this tour, he has just entered the next level, and there's no turning back.

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Rilo in the L.A. Times; Simon Joyner on the air… – Aug. 2, 2004

A few short bits this morning. Make sure you scroll down and read this weekend's live reviews -- they're long.

The LA Times published a story about Rilo Kiley yesterday with the headline "Leaving indie life behind -- L.A.'s Rilo Kiley, with a new album on its own label and support from Warner Bros., believes its time has come." Jenny Lewis lays out the logic behind jumping from Saddle Creek, saying essentially that they felt it was time for their big break, even if it costs them their creativity.

"I think we're excited, but we're a little nervous as well because we've been completely independent up until this point," says Lewis, 28, in the LA Time article. "Once you start considering stockholders and the way these corporations are run, it isn't necessarily in line with experimental music and continuing to do things in a totally organic way. But at the same time I feel like, you know, it's been eight years for us, and if we're not gonna do it now, then when? And I think we owe it to ourselves to continue to grow."

Later, she explains that the band couldn't get airplay on an indie label, which is absurd. "I think after making the record we started playing songs for our friends and we realized for the first time that [radio airplay] could possibly be an option, and I think that led to our decision in trying new things," she said in the Times article. "With the shift that's happening in music right now, where bands like Modest Mouse and Franz Ferdinand and all these rock bands are starting to get played on the radio again, it just seemed like the appropriate time."

That's kind of like saying that Creek bands are damned to only get airplay in college radio. She could have led the charge to help change that. Oh well, I'm sure there's more to the story than this. Thanks to Lazy-i reader "Ted" for sending me a copy of the story. It's at the Times site, which is password protected (and I can't seem to remember my password).

Remember that Simon Joyner radio piece I was interviewed for? (if not, read the June 24 blog) It went online last week and you can hear it on the web right here (I could only get it to work with my AOL version of Real audio player). They didn't use any of my quotes, which isn't a big surprise. If you only have 8 minutes to try to describe Joyner and his new CD, why waste it on me gabbing about his role in inspiring the current-day Omaha music scene? It's nice to hear him get the national attention he deserves.

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Live Review: Ideal Cleaners, Rent Money Big, Race for Titles – Aug. 1, 2004

Well, it's been a long time since I "bar hopped," but I felt I had to last night. I started out at Sokol Underground and ended up at a crushed 49'r for what was ultimately a great evening of music.

First Sokol, where Ideal Cleaners and Rent Money Big were opening for The Architects. Ideal Cleaners is the new project by former members of Drive By Honky. That outfit was a twanging alt-country-indie thing that became much more edgy when ex-Mercy Rule guitarist Jon Taylor joined shortly before the band called it quits. Maybe Jon's high-powered style (he doesn't know how to play any other way than loud and fast) wore off on these guys because the twang is all but gone. The trio is fronted by guitarist/vocalist Dan Jenkins and driven by bassist Mike Keeling, who I don't even remember being in DBH. Keeling is the band's secret weapon, adding white-knuckled swing to Jenkins' raw, edgy guitar. You can't keep your eyes off this tall, bald guy as he bounces around stage doing his version of a shuffle-dance. Jenkins' voice is tough-guy indie in all the right ways. Who do they remind me of? It's hard to make comparisons. One song sounded sort of like Chavez, a rarity these days, but overall Ideal Cleaners swings more than Chavez ever did or wanted to. They're the best Lincoln-based rock band I've heard in quite a while.

Up next was Rent Money Big, which someone had described as being reminiscent of The Stooges. The only thing this band has in common with that band is lead singer Tim Scahill's Iggy Pop posturing. I almost expected the guy to strip off his shirt, slice up his chest with broken glass and slither across the stage. Scahill's style is all about entertaining the crowd, and he does it with his weird gyrations, occasionally darting back to a small keyboard to add some synth sounds to the din. RMB's sound is noise-punk that lacks the groove that made Ideal Cleaners' set so propulsive. Some songs seemed to go on forever before disintegrating into pure noise. At one point, Scahill stuck the microphone in his mouth and screamed - interesting, fun, dangerous, but not terribly entertaining. I guess you might say that there was a slight resemblance to At the Drive In during their rawest moments. I was told by one of the band's followers that this wasn't their best live set, and in fact it hardly resembled their CD, which will be reviewed here in detail in the very near future.

Next up was supposed to be Gnome Slaughterhouse, but they were nowhere to be found. Everyone had written them off when at the last moment they showed up, just as I was leaving.

I headed cross town to catch Race for Titles at The 49'r. It was, as I expected, packed to the rafters, but there was room to stand up front off the side of the "stage." It was loud. Unbearably so. I'm happy I had my ear plugs. Seems like every time I go to the Niner the sound is deafening. Looking around, I didn't see anyone else wearing ear plugs and I don't know how they stand it.

Anyway, the reason I made a point of checking out RFT was because I'd been told that they had revved up their sound. It's funny how when a band puts out a new CD or does something different that all the sudden it's okay for everyone to talk about what they didn't like about them before. I never got into RFT's debut CD, finding it downright mopey and boring. Seemed like they were playing the same song over and over, and even though rumor has it that lead singer Jamie Massey used an auto-tuner in the studio, he always seemed off pitch.

Well, I'm happy to report that you can believe the hype about their improved sound. RFT now has more energy, power and originality, especially in their guitar lines. The band lives off a chiming, hypnotic guitar sound that was central to late-80s bands like The Church, The Chameleons, Catherine Wheel, and most notably, The Cure. Zac Lorenzen's guitar tones are straight out of Disintegration, with Massey adding an often chopping counter line. Massey seems to have gotten control of his pitch problems, only occasionally making a noticeable vocal blooper. He seemed stronger and more confident, probably because the band as a whole is more confident. Even Matt Bowen's sometimes skiffly drumming seemed more muscular and angry (even with his trademark stick-twirling). I still think the band could profit from more variety in the vocal melodies (Massey too often finds himself stuck in three-note swoops that play off the guitar lines) as well as a wider range of dynamics. The strangest moment of the night came at the end of their set at around 12:30. After the band finished the last number, they seemed honestly surprised that the crowd wanted more, looking somewhat confused as to what to do about an encore. People yelled out requests, which were met with shrugged shoulders. Finally, after a brief huddle, the guys strapped in again for one last song, which Lorenzen introduced with "If this sounds like shit it's your fault" pointing at someone in the audience -- a true rock and roll moment.

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Live Review: thesistermaria, Papers, Shelter Belt; two more shows tonight – July 31, 2004

Let me start off by saying I've never seen O'Leaver's as packed as it was last night. I'd like to credit the long reach of Lazy-i and The Reader for creating a buzz that drew the capacity crowd. But that would be, uh, misleading. First, I'm told the bass player for the opening band, Minneapolis' The Glad Version, is from Omaha, which explained the 20 or so people in their 50s and 60s sitting around the bar -- apparently this was the first time his family has had a chance to see him play. Add to that the 10 people in Papers along with their entourage, and the eight or so people in Shelter Belt and their entourage, and you're quickly approaching capacity at O'Leaver's.

Thankfully, Marty Hillard of thesistermaria only showed up with his girlfriend. The bar was the most crowded right after Glad Version quit and before Papers went on -- the exact time Hillard took the stage, sitting down with a guitar in his lap. It was the wrong environment for his personal singer-songwriter fare. Hillard was lost between the people moving equipment off and on stage and the rest of the crowd jockeying to get a beer. But almost unbelievably, the din of the crowd dropped to a manageable rumble about halfway through his set, and the people sitting near the stage were somewhat transfixed. Hillard is one of those artists who uses clever, intricate multi-tracking techniques on his recordings -- which is virtually impossible to recreate live. As a result, his solo-acoustic take, as pretty as it is, doesn't capture the depth and beauty of his recorded stuff. But part of the problem was the setting -- Hillard would be better suited on a bill that showcased other singer-songwriters or in a venue like Mick's that compliments an acoustic approach.

After Hillard came Papers, a 10-piece indie chamber-pop orchestra from Lincoln. From my vantage point at the bar I could make out a baritone sax, trombone, trumpet, keyboards, a guy with a handlebar mustache, a banjo, guitars, a flute, and on and on. From the opening notes of the first song, blurted out on bari-sax, you knew you were going to see something outside the norm. It sounded like a New Orleans funeral march but without the uplifting ending -- just the dirge. Most of the songs were relatively low-key, though the band did stretch out on a couple upbeat numbers that reminded me of Belle and Sebastian -- i.e., a modern-day ironic take on Bacharach-esque, stylish, '60s hipster pop. The arrangements were impressive if a bit choppy, with the horns providing harmonies but few counter-melodies to hold the lines together -- which can be effective when the entire band cuts at the same time, but more often lacked the crispness that would make it truly startling. Maybe it was the tight confines of O'Leaver's makeshift stage -- musicians were practically standing on top of each other -- but the entire set lacked a certain precision, which is a nice way to say it sounded sloppy. There were at least four vocalists -- one deep-throated baritone guy and three women -- one sang indie-girlie, one sang in classic Echo Farm style (you know what I'm talking about) and one was lost somewhere in the harmonies. The guy's vocals were the best and most interesting. All this said, Papers was an experience that bordered on an experiment, and it's not fair to judge them by what I heard crushed on stage last night performing without the aid of a soundman.

That lack of a soundman was what killed Shelter Belt's set. I don't know who did what after Papers left the stage, but someone completely messed up the PA settings. Whereas Papers and Hillard sounded okay (Hillard could have used more vocals; Papers had no balance whatsoever); Shelter Belt's mix was embarrassingly bad. Poor Jesse Otto sounded like he was singing through one of those plastic toy microphones directly into a laundry bag. His voice was muffled and fuzzy, worse than any karaoke situation, completely missing his usual crisp high-end. Unfortunately, there was no one in the house to fix it. I asked the guy next to me -- a musician in a number of local bands -- what was wrong and he said someone must have flattened out the EQ across the board. He'd come last night specifically to check out Shelter Belt. I told him not to judge them by this performance (he left after five or six songs). The bartender just looked at me as if saying "man, there's nothing I can do." Someone behind us asked if the speakers had blown "or something."

Regardless, the people up by the stage could have cared less -- all the folks in Papers and their entourage were up there dancing and having a party. I've never seen anything like it at O'Leaver's before. A tip of the hat to Jesse and Co. for soldiering through even in the worst of technical situations. It's a good time to point out that Shelter Belt's recent release, Rain Home, continues to grow on me (but not in a fungus sort of way). At first I thought it was just okay and not as good as their debut. But it's a classic situation where I'll be listening to my i-pod in shuffle mode and I'll be stopped in my tracks when a Rain Home song comes on. It's definitely an album that demands repeated listenings.

Tonight: two shows, two venues, which will it be? At Sokol Underground our friends at Someday Never are presenting four bands -- Architects (ex Gadjits, Anniversary), Rent Money Big, Gnome Slaughterhouse and Ideal Cleaners -- all for five bucks! I plan on being there for at least Ideal Cleaners. Meanwhile, at The 49'r, it's Race for Titles and Bear Claw, a band with two bass players from Chicago. I'm told that RFT has revamped their sound and infused it with a bit more energy. I might end up there to close off my night…

Check-in: The Vandalays, The Waking Eyes, David Demordaught, Renata, Arthur Yoria, The Ordinary.

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Live Review: The Minders; thesistermaria, Papers, Shelter Belt tonight – July 30, 2004

I'm getting to the point now where I'm beginning to believe that O'Leaver's is Omaha's best-kept secret regarding music. I talked to a number of people last night who recanted stories of seeing one touring band after another on any given evening where there were only 30 or 40 people in the place and hearing a set that was something special. Such was the case last night with The Minders. But first, Fizzle Like a Flood, a.k.a. Doug Kabourek did what was probably the best solo acoustic set I've ever seen him perform. Seated on stage with just his guitar, he blazed through a dozen or so of his songs in lively fashion. I've seen Doug play solo half asleep and half drunk. Last night he was wide awake and energized and it showed. The gig was the first of his big three-night, two-city summer tour. You'll get a chance to catch him again at O'Leaver's Sunday night when he plays with Poison Control Center.

Then came The Minders. Maybe it's because of the austere setting, but the band seemed relaxed and downright chummy, and their set had a laid-back, groovy feel that matched their '60s retro-tinged music to a T. They sounded more like The Who than the Beatles last night, playing a set that included a number of songs off their new CD but doing it in much more rocking fashion. Whereas I found their CD to be somewhat milquetoast and flat despite the hooks, the stage added a true garage touch (in a good way), and when Martyn Leaper's keyboardist wife Rebecca Cole switched places with drummer Joel Burrows (who picked up a guitar), the whole thing took on a different, much more rocking edge. The best part: It wasn't too loud (and rarely is at O'Leaver's).

Find out for yourself tonight when O'Leaver's hosts a four-band bill that starts early (8:30) with The Glad Version, followed by Topeka's Thesistermaria, Lincoln's Papers (making their Omaha debut) and Omaha chamber-rock-folk act Shelter Belt. That's a lotta music for $5.

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The Minders tonight at O'Leaver's – July 29, 2004

The Minders play tonight at O'Leaver's on a tour that will be taking them to Schuba's in Chicago, Northsix in NYC, The 40 Watt in Athens and 7th Ave. Entry in Minneapolis. Here's a band that, if they were better known 'round these parts, would probably do okay at Sokol Underground, especially when you consider their Elephant 6 roots. I tried but was unable to line up an interview with them, so here's what I wrote for this week's issue of The Reader:

They don't seem to "mind" being compared to early Beatles and The Who, and why should they?

Portland's The Minders takes pride in their love of all things '60s-pop. As lead guitarist/vocalist Martyn Leaper said in a recent article in Magnet about the covey of bands who have taken a vampiristic approach to the psychedelic pop of the '60s: "They've sucked everything they possibly could out of the '60s, and that's where music has been for the last 10 years: revising old styles. And it's not like anything new is being done with it, and we are as guilty as anyone."

Why hold back? Especially when everyone else is doing it, eh? At least Leaper and the rest of The Minders can lay claim to being among the first to steal from the groovy era as an offshoot of the Elephant 6 Recording Company, a gathering of bands and artists whose sound reflects a love of California sunshine-pop from such icons as The Beach Boys, Van Dyke Parks and The Turtles. Elephant 6 acts include Of Montreal, Elf Power and Neutral Milk Hotel.

Leaper formed the band with Elephant 6 co-founder Robert Schneider in '95 as a recording project. The two had met at a show of Schneider's other band, Apples in Stereo, yet another Elephant 6 outfit. Two years later, Leaper would turn it into a live band by adding drummer, keyboardist and wife Rebecca Cole, bassist Marc Willhite and lead guitarist Jeff Almond. These days, the band consists only of Leaper, Cole (who now plays keyboards), and drummer Joel Burrows.

With or without Schneider in their live band, The Minders still fit right in with the whole Elephant 6 sound -- an inexcusable deification for all things jangly, poppy and '60s -- but with a more British, rather than a Californian, flair. They take the best sounds from early efforts by The Beatles, The Who, and The Zombies and mix them with a decidedly modern approach. Unlike other popular indie bands that have taken a similar tact -- The Shins and New Pornographers come to mind -- The Minders stray into tangential weirdness less often. On The Future's Always Perfect, their latest release on Future Farmer Recordings, The Minders are content with finding the right pop hooks and exploiting them to the nth degree. Even so, there's plenty of trippy "ahhs" and kooky organ and synths to go around.

Our old friend Fizzle Like a Flood is the opener. Mr. Kabourek is busy lately. Tomorrow he's off to Des Moines to play a with Poison Control Center, and then he drags PCC back to O'Leaver's for another gig Sunday.

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Thesistermaria; Will O'Leaver's be SRO Friday?; Tilly on AMG; No Creek? – July 28, 2004

I was limited to a mere 500 words for this sistermaria story (read it here) and ended up turning in 600, which meant that I had to leave out a lot of good poop from my interview with Marty Hillard. For one thing, what exactly does the band name mean? Well, it is named after his sister, Maria, who was the chief influence in his musical life. It also is a tip-of-the-hat to his life growing up attending a number of different churches, from Catholic to Baptist, though I don't hear a direct correlation between his spirituality and his music (though he was in a Christian rap group in high school). His strangely titled new album, Let Go of | Hold Onto the Gold, deals with a conversation he had with an old-school comrade who got married and had a couple kids, and how he lamented that those responsibilities have impacted their friendship -- no longer having the time to just hang out together. "He's making a transition where memories of his wife and family will outweigh anything he did when he was a kid…" Pretty heady stuff. I look forward to hearing this new CD.

This show Friday night at O'Leaver's is turning out to be a real event. Thesistermaria is only one of four very interesting acts. Opening is Minneapolis band The Glad Version, an upbeat indie rock act with a short, sharp electric guitar sound and keyboards that sort of reminds me of The Jealous Sound. Then (and I'm not sure of the order entirely) it's thesistermaria. Then it's Papers. I got an e-mail from the band's manager, Nick Neary, who used to manage The Movies way back when, before he moved to Lincoln and retired from rock. He says Papers drew him out of retirement. The Lincoln band features four girls and six guys and three different songwriters, playing what Neary calls "an experimental easy listening sound." This will be that band's Omaha debut. Then, finally, it's Shelter Belt, another huge ensemble. O'Leaver's will be at capacity with just the bands showing up. It starts early, at 8:30.

A quick note: The All Music Guide website was recently redesigned. The jury is still out on whether the new site is an improvement on the old one, but interestingly enough, Omaha's own Tilly and the Wall is currently the "featured band" on their homepage. The word continues to spread.

Has anyone else noticed that Saddle Creek's website has been down for going on two days now? What will all the SCWBers do with themselves?

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Such Sweet Thunder Reduxe; The Good Life in TONY; Rasputina tonight – July 27, 2004

I did get to that Such Sweet Thunder reunion show last week at Sokol, I just never got around to writing a review. For the 125 or so who were there, it was 1992 all over again. SST epitomize a time in local music history when Omaha and Lincoln bands stood on the precipice of larger national fame but rarely took the next step. SST was one of those bands, but their live set Friday reminded me why I never considered them in the same breath as acts like Mercy Rule, Mousetrap, Ritual Device, Frontier Trust, etc.

Despite having not played together in a decade, they sounded spot-on, as if in the middle of one of their Lincoln/Kearney/Omaha tours. Scott Roth's vocals hadn't decayed a bit, and the band sounded as tight as ever, playing music that was sort of a morph between early R.E.M. and grunge. Roth's vocals have this strange downward swoop at the end of every phrase that's almost cock-rock in nature. Halfway through the set, someone walked up to me and said, "These guys remind me of what a local band should sound like" -- that pretty much summed it up. SST never had a terribly unique sound, and never seemed to want one. In spite of that, they can be proud knowing that they helped motivate a new generation of local musicians whose sites were firmly set on a national stage, and who have managed to actually get there.

Bands like The Good Life. I have a subscription to Time Out New York, probably the only magazine that I read cover-to-cover if only for its writing style, which is confident, smart and funny without being pretentious. On a certain level, I respect TONY's music coverage more than Stone or SPIN because it's more in tune with what's going on now and in the future instead of trying to glom onto the latest music fad (Rolling Stone is a sad reflection of its old self, but a must-read anyway for music fans just to know what the unwashed masses are listening to these days. They lost all credibility years ago when they began to seriously cover boy bands and goon rock acts without a shred of irony).

So anyway, I'm paging through the latest issue of TONY, which just happens to be their "NYC Music Special" and there, leading off the magazine's music section, is a big fat article on The Good Life with the headline "Stealth Bomber" and an underline that reads "Cursive leader Tim Kasher wraps emotional wreckage in irresistible pop hooks with the Good Life." In the article, which was written in support of the band's July 22 gig at The Knitting Factory, writer Steve Smith compared The Good Life to Cursive, saying, "The Good Life's route is more direct, via straightforward, hook-laden melodicism rather than ornately arranged density." Not bad.

Kasher is quoted saying Cursive is on hiatus and that he's going to do The Good Life for awhile. Smith must not know about Cursive's role in the Curiosa Festival with The Cure. The story ends with a Kasher quote explaining the sentiment behind the song off their latest EP called "Entertainer": "More than anything, I'm poking fun at how ludicrous it is here in Omaha that us songwriters get to run around and be drunk and sleep in, with all my friends who still have jobs." Can The Good Life get bigger than Cursive? Only time will tell, though if I have to reach for a CD by either band, I generally pick The Good Life from the rack. Hey, Saddle Creek, where's my copies of Album of the Year and Wet at Birth?

Tonight at the Ranch Bowl is the indie-goth act Rasputina, which features Melora Craeger, who we all remember as the cellist who backed Nirvana just before Kurt took his final curtain call. Think moody Belle and Sebastian and you're getting there. Opening act is Hazard County Girls, an all-girl trio which includes former members of White Zombie and Nashville Pussy and who sound like a cleaned-up version of Hole. This should be one of the most interesting shows of the year. But at $14, unless there's some way I can get on the list, it's unlikely that I'll be there.

Tonight's cheap show is System and Station, Fromanhole and Landon Hedges at O'Leaver's. You'll be reading a lot about O'Leaver's from me in the next few days, as I'll be posting an interview online tomorrow morning with thesistermaria, who plays there Friday night with Shelter Belt. That should be an interesting show, as O'Leaver's usual sound guy, Matt Whipkey, will be playing one of his date-night gigs at everyone's favorite meat-market, Arthur's, the same evening. I hope they find another sound guy in time…

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Such Sweet Thunder tonight; Joe Knapp's quiet buzz – July 23, 2004

Just a reminder about tonight's Such Sweet Thunder show at Sokol Underground. Opening this historical reunion show are Goodbye, Sunday and Carmine. Scroll down to the July 10 blog entry for a review of Goodbye, Sunday's last live show. You'll have to go all the way back to the Feb. 22 blog entry for my take on Carmine. Aw hell, here's what I said:

Carmine is straight-up, punked-up '80s college underground, loud and fast and loud. If you like the early SST stuff, you're gonna love these guys. They temper their tunes with more modern melodies, which is to say they have a taste for pop. It's fun stuff played by four guys who look like they're genuinely having a good time up there. They need to record. Now.

Carmine should be a natural complement to Such Sweet Thunder's decidedly '80s underground sound. Get there early.

If you can't make it to Sokol, Kyle Harvey is playing at The 49'r with Joe Knapp of Son, Ambulance fame. There is an enormous buzz about the new Son, Ambulance CD from the handful of lucky bastards who've had a chance to hear it. So while The Faint is loudly receiving press from, of all places, as Rolling Stone for the upcoming Wet from Birth (check out this new RS article), Joe and company are quietly building a storm through underground buzz. What else is new?

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Such Sweet Thunder, but don't call it a comeback – July 21, 2004

This week's feature is on Omaha legends Such Sweet Thunder (read it here), who are playing a reunion show this Friday at Sokol and Saturday at P.O. Pears in Lincoln. These guys were around during Omaha's first Golden Age of indie, back in the day when Frontier Trust, Mercy Rule, Ritual Device and Mousetrap ruled the scene and Saddle Creek was just the glimmer in Dave Sink's eye. In fact, SST frontman Scot Roth remembers seeing little Conor Oberst at a number of their shows back in the early '90s sporting an oversize t-shirt that drooped down to his knees -- doesn't that sound precious?

I remember seeing these guys sometime around 1992 at McFarland's, the only "West Omaha" venue at the time, located at 120th and Somewhere (if it were around today, it would still be Omaha's only West Omaha venue). I was working for the Lawrence, Kansas, music magazine The Note at the time, and the publication's editor, Jeff Shibley, was in town for some reason. We went to the show together and talked about doing a feature on the band. It never happened because The Note folded shortly afterward. So did Such Sweet Thunder. With a following that includes a number of folks who make up the current Omaha music scene, the reunion show (the brainchild of 1 Percent Production's Jim Johnson) should draw a diverse crowd of oldsters and scenesters. But you SST fans shouldn't expect more than this single weekend. The guys aren't calling it a reunion as much as a one-off chance to see what they can do live. Guitarist Dan Ostdiek will be jetting back to Phoenix afterward and we'll be left with nothing but memories. Enjoy them while you can.

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The Gambler, SST – July 20, 2004

Well, all I can say as thank god the Omaha 150! celebration is finally over. All those activities bent around recognizing Omaha's 150th birthday, well, have all of us here completely tuckered. Actually, the entire event was rather lame, leading up to a huge fireworks display on the riverfront that kept me from seeing Criteria Saturday night. In fact, I've been somewhat lax in my show attendance these past few days. I missed !!! last night because I was wiped out from writing a Such Sweet Thunder profile yesterday morning that'll be online tomorrow morning, written in support of this Friday's big SST reunion show at Sokol Underground. This past weekend was dominated by my annual horse racing / betting endeavors at Horsemen's Park. You can read about that experience in Wednesday's issue of The Reader (along with that SST profile). Incidentally, I finished the four-day track meet down $20, all lost on Sunday.

The Such Sweet Thunder show is the only remarkable thing upcoming until you hit the Rasputina show at The Ranch Bowl next Tuesday. It's a quiet time in Omaha… for now. That being the case, I'll try to scratch up some news this week, and get more reviews written and online (check out the new Modest Mouse review in the reviews section).

Check-in: The Polylphonic Spree, Coastal, For Against, The New Year, Radiant Republic of Texas, Bensin, Patient Zero.

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Live Review: 311 in the park; tonight, an even bigger show – July 17, 2004

As you can see, if you didn't get to the park early you didn't see the show, or much of it. The flyer I received from the city said they expected 15,000 to show up for the 311 concert. There was easily twice that, and unlike the annual July 4 Memorial Park concert where the average age is around 42, the average age last night was probably around 18. I showed up right before 311 took the stage and found a place to stand behind the perimeter walk, on the grass along the bright-orange snow fence, where, of course, I could see virtually nothing as the view was obscured by pine trees. If you maneuvered you could see five dots on stage jumping around like fleas. You could, however, hear pretty well, and 311 sounded much the same as they did the last time I saw them perform live oh so many years ago. They opened with the hits, which they'd keep playing the rest of the evening. I walked closer to the bowl and watched the pit that had formed in front of the stage for a moment, but with nowhere to stand without being in someone's way, I wandered back to my tree-enclosed spot, where I could hear Nick Hexum's plea to the fans to quit throwing shoes at them. "We're already covered in the footware department," he said. "This night is about positivity." Or something like that. He also led the crowd in singing of Happy Birthday to the city. It was a positive environment, people seemed to be having a good time and the weather couldn't have been better. I ended up walking back home, though, about 30 minutes into their set. Really, the only way to see a band like 311 -- whether you like their music or not -- is from inside the pit.

An even bigger show tonight at Sokol Underground. Instead of 30,000 expect a huge crowd of around 300 for Criteria with Lords and Black Cross.

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Live Review: The Good Life; Monroes/Terminals tonight – July 15, 2004

Those of you looking for the 311 story, it's here and below this blog entry. For the rest of you:

It was pretty much what you'd expect from their first show in a long time -- kinda sloppy, kinda off-kilter, but it still had its moments. The Good Life played to what looked like a capacity crowd last night at Sokol Underground, and it was all I could do at one point to stay awake. Why? Because after a couple rousing opening songs from their fabtabulous new EP -- extra vamped-up with electric guitars -- the band switched into their brooding, ultra-sensitive mode for three songs in a row, a couple of which I'd never heard before and I hope don't represent the direction of their upcoming full-length. As one person said standing next to me, "I'm burning myself with my cigarette to keep myself awake." Even Kasher knew that the set was grinding to a coma-like halt, saying after the third song, "I apologize if I'm putting you to sleep, but that's, well, our songs." Then he promised to rock-out the rest of the night, and pretty much did, playing a couple more songs off Lovers Need Lawyers as well as a couple chestnuts from their earlier albums, culminating in a three-song encore that included a long, rambling story by Kasher about buying cheap and ineffective toilet paper at the local Family Dollar, and the grisly aftereffects discovered when he took a shower. I'm still not sure what the point of the story was, and I'm sure Kasher was wondering the same thing this morning. He made up for it by tearing into the heaviest song of the evening, another new one I've never heard before and hopefully an indication of what Album the of the Year will sound like.

I've always found The Good Life's live sets to be merely pleasant and never sounding as good as their CDs (a sharp contrast to Cursive, which has never been able to capture the raw energy of their stage performances on disc). Kasher seems reserved when he's fronting this band and unsure exactly what he wants to do -- again, never a problem when he's in front of Cursive. That said, I've always liked The Good Life's records more than Cursive's (the masterpiece Domestica being the exception). But like I said (and like Kasher said on a few occasions) this was their first gig in a long time and the band seemed almost as if they were relearning the songs. They can only get stronger as they embark on a North American and European tour that runs through mid-August.

Tonight, a triple bill of rural goodness at The Goofy Foot (10th & Pacific -- the old Stork Club / Planet Boom) -- The Country Darlings (Mike Friedman & Sara Gleason), The Monroes and The Terminals (featuring Dave Goldberg of Carsinogents fame). I haven't been to this club yet, but they've begun booking some interesting shows lately. Seeing as tomorrow is the opening day of live racing at Horseman's Park, I can't guarantee I'll make it (unless I hit a big exacta) -- but that doesn't mean you can't go.

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311 and GTO and Saddle Creek; The Good Life tonight, reviewed (an afternoon addendum) – July 14, 2004

An interview with 311's Nick Hexum is on the site (read it here). Nick once and for all disputes the age-old stigma that 311 turned its back on Omaha by denying its Midwestern roots. Nothing could be further from the truth, Hexum says, categorically denying the accusation. And it only makes sense. Why on earth would they not take advantage of the novelty? Especially at a time when Omaha was only known for being in the center of the country? No, there is no cache in telling anyone that you're among the thousands of faceless bands from LA. Who cares? Now, telling them you're from Omaha… instant interest. The novelty has been somewhat blunted since the emergence of Saddle Creek Records.

Speaking of which, among the interview highlights that didn't make it into the story is a back-and-forth about Omaha band Grasshopper Takeover and the Creek scene. I asked Hexum why GTO's move to LA didn't propel them to the same commercial heights as 311. "There's an element of luck involved," he said, adding comments (included in the story) about how the move had nothing to do with their signing to Capricorn. 311 and GTO go way back. In fact, Hexum said he recently was on some sort of fishing trip with the band's members. And GTO is opening for 311 at Friday's Memorial Park concert.

Then I asked him about Saddle Creek Records. Had he heard of it or the bands on the label? "I know of them, but haven't listened to them," Hexum said. "I asked Curt Grubb (GTO lead singer) why those bands don't embrace GTO. GTO sounds like emo and Jimmy Eat World. Curt said (the label) is very clique-y. I don't know a lot about it, but I'm happy to see any band from Omaha doing well." Interesting. I wouldn't categorize GTO as sounding like a Creek band, and I certainly wouldn't categorize Creek bands as sounding like Jimmy Eat World, but then again, I've had the advantage of having listened to them.

One other interesting aside that didn't make the story: While Hexum was describing how 311 was driven to make it in the music world, he said, "Most of the bands that we were in competition with have broken up. How many bands in '93 are headlining tours?"

I jumped in. "Well, there's the Red Hot Chili Peppers."

Hexum paused. "Yeah, the Chili Peppers were plugging away. We did a show with them New Years 2000. We were so influenced by them, they kicked open some doors and we went through them and kicked open some doors for some other bands." A gracious comment, especially considering that when 311 was just emerging in the early '90s, they were often compared to RHCP because both bands shared a similar hip-hop-meets-rock style. Years later, it doesn't matter who came up with the sound first.

Tonight's The Good Life at Sokol Underground. Should be a huge show. Here's a review of their latest EP, Lovers Need Lawyers. A summary: It's better than Black Out but not as good as Novena. Read more.

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Briefly... – July 13, 2004

-- Look for a lengthy profile/interview with Nick Hexum of 311 on the site tomorrow morning. I know, I know… what does 311 have to do with indie music? Virtually nothing. But I was given the opportunity to talk to a platinum-selling artist, so I figured why not? Plus, it's impossible to ignore 311's role in the Omaha music scene, which I'll talk about in more detail in tomorrow's blog. Until then, bone up on my February 1993 profile of 311 that lays the groundwork for tomorrow's feature, that continues the "asshole" theme.

-- Tomorrow night is the big, fat Good Life show at Sokol Underground. Look for a review of their new EP online at Lazy-i tonight, in which I invoke the memory of the Broadway musical Rent.

-- During my usual perusal for upcoming shows I noticed our sexy friends at have posted a sweet link to Lazy-I that acknowledges their June 2002 WoodEe Award. And why not? The WoodEe is one of the most coveted web awards in the world! Seriously, Somedaynever is going through some changes these days as Joe launches a full-blown record label and promotional company (He's actually been booking punky rock shows for years). His efforts are the subject of a feature in last week's Reader by colleague Jeremy "Scrap Iron" Schnitker (read it here). Look for the July WoodEe announcement in the coming days.

-- Technical note: There's some bizarre e-mail problems with my e-mail address. If you want to get ahold of me, send it to I'm told the mail-forwarding problem will be fixed as soon as they decipher the AOL spam filter system. Way to go, AOL.

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Live Review: Goodbye, Sunday; Anonymous American – July 10, 2004

I've been watching a lot of Tour de France coverage these days, so pardon any odd sports analogies as I tell you that Goodbye Sunday tried to make a break from the peloton last night at a show that drew about what everyone expected -- around 150 counting the guest list patrons.

And the band pretty much sounded as I expected, having seen Echo Farm a few times back in the day. Like them, Goodbye Sunday has a mainstream alternative sound that's done in classic Lillith Fair fashion but melded with a '70s FM flair, combining the typical Difranco / McLachlan styles with Santana and Fleetwood Mac. The result is a safer sound than Echo Farm's, a more suburban style that seems crafted for Lite 96. Someone asked me what I thought as I listened from the back of the semi-full Sokol Underground. I said it makes me feel like running out and buying a Ford Explorer. Someone else said their music seems more suited for an outdoor festival in a park instead of a darkened club. That's a spot-on observation. The band handles their tools well, but I didn't really notice the songs being anything other than pleasant. Lead singer Ariann Anderson-Novak has sort of a girlie Grace Slick-ish voice toned down for the material, while Cami Rawlings' harmonies bring back the Ani comparisons. Still, not bad for a first show, and like I said, a great draw for a debut, but it'll take a few more gigs before we know if they'll be able to break from Omaha's crowded bar-rock pack.

Anonymous American did their best to draft Goodbye Sunday's early lead (again with the Tour de France quips) but as 2/3rd of the crowd left by 12:15, it appeared that they would be left back at the peloton again. I've seen Anonymous American at least four times, and this was their best-sounding set ever. They are indisputably the finest bar-rock-style band in Omaha, having honed their musicianship to the sharpest edge. The problem is an overall lack of dynamics. Seems like Whipkey and company aren't happy unless they're playing all-out all the time, amps to 11, with epileptic Matt flailing like a 6-foot-plus version of Mick Jagger, strutting around stage, jumping off the drumkit, down from the stage to the floor, the back of his shirt soaked in sweat. You'd think he was playing at SRO arena instead of in front of 50 people holding beers. Nothing wrong with that, except that if you go all-out all the time without any restraint, the crowd will tire every time. It's why the good climbers hold back during the early stages -- they want to save their best stuff for last. But if they burn it up early in the race, they'll never make it to the mountain stages. Take a tip from Lance Armstrong, Mr. Whipkey, dazzle us early, hold back, then leave it all on the mountain for everyone to see.

Tonight, two shows of note: Statistics at Sokol Underground with Mr. 1986 and Greg Loftis; and The Omaha Project (featuring the other vocal half of Echo Farm, Rebecca Rotert) at Mick's Place in Benson. It's all leading up to They Might Be Giants tomorrow night at Sokol Auditorium. It's another crazy week of music in the Big O.

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Live Review: The Don't Care Bears; Goodbye Sunday on Friday night – July 9, 2004

Well, the Kingdom Flying Club didn't make it to O'Leaver's last night. Seems their van broke down somewhere on the way to the gig. The only band to perform was the Don't Care Bears, a dynamic folk rock trio (Jason Steady among them) dressed in pajama-style bear head-covering that looked like something your 3-year-old nephew would wear. Cute. So was their set, that featured songs like the poignant "Methodist Coloring Book" -- tune about the evils of coloring outside the lines -- as well as covers of songs by The Faint, Cheap Trick and The Beach Boys, all the while showing a slide show of images taken from their bear fairy kingdom somewhere around 50th and Grover. They called themselves a Moldy Peaches rip-off band. I don't know how accurate that was since I've never heard/seen Moldy Peaches. Regardless, the 10 people on hand were entertained. Genius or idiots? Only time will tell.

Tonight, the debut of Goodbye Sunday at Sokol Underground, along with Kyle Harvey and Anonymous American. Expect a good draw as curiosity has slowly been building over Goodbye Sunday, a five-piece that features Veronica Valenz, Javier Ochoa (The Get, Blah Buddah) , Ariann Anderson-Novak (Echo Farm, Lavender Couch), Cami Rawlings (Sugarburn, Lavender Couch) and Mike Fratt (Midwest Dilemma, The Acorns). The tracks I heard on their website point to a folky, hippy groove-rock sound voiced by a woman who sounds like she could have sung in Jefferson Airplane (not Starship). We'll find out tonight.

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"She's six foot two, and she's the queen of them all." – July 8, 2004

The Kingdom Flying Club sneaks into O'Leaver's again TONIGHT -- just when you least expect them, expect them. The band is out supporting their brand new 5-song EP Sumatra Fox, released by Emergency Umbrella, that continues in the same laid-back, Weezer-meets-Pavement-meets-The Kinks rocking tradition of their last LP, Non-fiction, which I highly recommend you seek out and purchase immediately (psst… Non-fiction made my top-10 list for 2003. 'Nuff said.). Opening for KFC are two bands I've never heard of: Aneuritical and The Don't Care Bears. It's the beginning of a big weekend of shows that I'll fill you in about as we go. But it all starts tonight at O'Leaver's with Columbia, Missouri's best kept secret. See ya there..

Check-in: Hilliard, The Starvations, The Presidents of the United States of America, Paul Westerberg, The Cure, Pale Beneath the Blue, Daniel Liszt, Comets on Fire, Tommy Stinson.

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Live Review: Pedro the Lion – July 6, 2004

Here I was expecting maybe 100 people at the show, it being a Monday night after a holiday. In fact, the show was a sell out last night at Pedro the Lion. I guess the band is catching on in the Big O even though they still can't be heard on the local airwaves.

That said, the show was pretty much what I saw the last time they came through except for some new songs off their latest CD and an exceptional cover at the end of the set. Bazan looks just like he always has, a chubby short guy with a well-groomed beard wearing a T-shirt playing guitar and singing spot-on renditions of his recorded stuff, barely moving behind the microphone. His stage presence is entirely encapsulated in the music, which is impossible to ignore, especially if you're a fan, in which case you were in heaven.

Like last time, Bazan took questions from the audience. After two or three songs, he'd say almost as if he were at a press conference, "Does anyone have any questions at this time?" and someone would inevitably yell something from the crowd. Most of the time he mumbled the answer directly to the questioner and couldn't be heard from the back of the room. All the questions culminated in the predictable "What do you thing of Bush"?

Wisely, Bazan didn't give a straight answer. Not really. Instead he said that, with all the opinions and static coming from the television and the radio, he didn't want add his voice to the already crowded noise. Turn off your TVs and your radios, he said, pick up a newspaper because that's the only place where you'll get the facts that you'll need to make your own decisions. He went on to say that the U.S. can only last the way it's going for another 50 years or so, that greed is taking over, that it'll all end with a nuclear bomb -- that comment resulted in someone from the crowd whooping a big "Yeah!" We got the usual spiel about how it's important to register to vote, and then he added that you should vote for Kerry because if he wins things will at least be a little bit better. Not exactly a sparkling endorsement.

Bazan played rock music for almost an hour in a half -- no acoustic ballads this night. The entire stage was brightly lit with extra lighting equipment, and a camera was mounted off stage left. Apparently he's videotaping all his shows and making them available from his web site. The set ended with a sterling cover of Radiohead's "Let Down" from OK Computer, a song perfectly suited for him and his band. He played one encore and the lights came up.

. . .

No new feature this week as I'll be concentrating on getting more reviews written, including reviews of the new one by The Good Life, who are playing at Sokol Underground July 14, as well as a slew of local CD reviews. Keep checking back.

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Pedro the Lion tonight – July 5, 2004

Quick heads up about tonight's show: Pedro the Lion at Sokol Underground. John Vanderslice opens. Be there.

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Live review: Carrier, The Belles; Doobie tonight? – July 2, 2004

The usual laid-back vibe at O'Leaver's last night, but it was a larger than normal crowd to see The Belles, who it was pointed out to me, opened for Dashboard Confessional when they came through here last year. I missed the opener, but was there in time for Carrier. Soundguy Matt Whipkey told me that the drummer for Carrier had played with The Flaming Lips. I have no idea if he was pulling my leg or not since I have virtually no knowledge of who plays in the Lips other than Wayne Coyne. Regardless, after he told me that, Carrier did seem sort of Lip-sy, especially the vocals, which had a high-end falsetto flavor. Wherever he was from, the drummer was amazing, very technical and intricate style. But by the end of their set, about a dozen people had left because the band was so loud. I had earplugs and didn't notice, but even the show's promoter was driven away. Whipkey said the intense levels were by the direction of the drummer.

Whipkey turned the stage down for The Belles, a pretty, acoustic-driven Lawrence band that sounds like a combination of The Jayhawks, acoustic Neil Young and the Pernice Brothers. The music was gorgeous in a laid-back, faded jeans sort of way, but felt a bit repetitive. They never eclipsed the first song of their set, where lead singer Chris Tolle added some tasty harmonica.

I think the crowd was understandably withdrawn, what with The Doobie Brothers concert tonight at Memorial Park, that is if it doesn't rain. Maybe they should call themselves The Doobie Brother, because I'm told most of the original band won't be playing. We'll probably just get the guy who played bongos on "Takin' It to the Streets." I suspect that this could be one of the worst turnouts in the history of the Memorial Park 4th of July concerts, what with the rain, the horrible opening bands (Mulberry Lane, need I say more?) and the fact that 311 is doing a park concert in just two weeks. My attendance is mandatory, since I only live about two blocks from the park. At least the fireworks will be cool… if it doesn't rain.

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The Belles at O'Leaver's tonight – July 1, 2004

There's a nice little show at O'Leaver's tonight that hopefully will remain under the radar, except to me and you, of course: The Belles with Minus Story and Carrier. I would have to research my own site, but I think I've seen Lawrence's The Belles before and they were pretty darn good. AMG calls Minus Story "the next generation of Flaming Lips acid pop dream-makers." $5. It should be cozy and not crowded, unlike Saturday night's show at Sokol, which could be a sell-out. More on that tomorrow. Remember to keep your eye on the Matrix; it gets updated almost every day with new reviews. Look for the for the most recent.

Check-in: David Brookings, The Bubbleheads, Dutch Kills, The Paradise Vending, The Show Is the Rainbow, Beep Beep, Rent Money Big, Constantines, Wigglepussy, Vago, Simone White, Q Public, Rounding 3rd

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