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The Blog Archive -- July 2005 to Dec. 30, 2005

New Year's in the crosshairs; Joe Budenholzer tonight – Dec. 30, 2005 –

The last weekend of the year starts out with a bang tonight at Mick's with singer-songwriter Joe Budenholzer's annual live music/tribute show. Budenholzer is a Nebraska native residing in Scotland whose band, Backworld, is influenced by "English folk music, certain aspects of '60s psychedelia, and Christian mysticism," according to the Backworld website. "Recently, while recording the upcoming album, Good Infection, he enlisted the talents of Isobel Campbell (Belle & Sebastian, Gentle Waves), David Tibet (Current 93) and Drew McDowall (Coil) to contribute vocals and other textures to the new songs." Sounds interesting. For the tonight's live set, Budenholzer will enlist the talents of Dereck Higgins on bass, Gary Foster on drums and Bill Eustice on keyboards. The show will be divided into three sets. The first is devoted to Backworld music. The second is a performance of Iggy Pop's 1977 classic The Idiot in its entirety, while the last set will be a free-for-all under the moniker Small Creatures that will feature guest artists (among them, The Faint's Todd Baechle?), and a performance of a Higgins song. I suspect this will be an SRO event. $7, 9 p.m.

Then there's New Year's Eve and, not surprisingly, no shows that I'm aware of. That's nothing new. New Year's is notorious for its lack of original music -- cover bands rule the night, as it should be, I suppose. While you're all out dodging drunken cars, I'll be checking out this brave new talent named Ryan Seacrest (Dick Clark's heir apparent? Let's hope not.).

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Column 57 -- Visions of '06 – Dec. 29, 2005 –

You've all been waiting patiently, now here it is: Pt. 2 of the "predictions" column. If you haven't already, read Pt. 1, which appeared Dec. 22 (For those of you who prefer last year's format, I'll be putting Pts. 1 and 2 together into a single feature this weekend, complete with photos, etc.). I got to tell you, when I write this story every year, I don't even remember typing it -- something sinister rolls over me like a fog and I just start typing typing typing and before you know it, it's written and I'm as surprised and shocked by what I see as you'll be. There are powers at work that are way beyond this mortal sphere. I "typed" these predictions (or maybe I should call them "visions"?) Monday and already forces have been set in motion. The Who, for example, just announced an '06 tour yesterday -- I don't want to take credit for it, but I doubt the idea even entered Pete's mind before Monday night. There are subtle hints of other things happening in '06 written between the lines -- look for them, and remember where you read them first.

Column 57: Crystal Ball Gazing Pt. 2.
Premonitions for 2006

Look, it's very unlikely that I could outdo the unholy performance of my 2005 predictions (see last week's column). I know this. So much so that I considered taking my crystal ball to Sol's and trading it in for a second-hand shotgun or an 8-track-tape player. But, knowing how much you, the reader, depend on my precognitive skills, here are my visions of 2006.

Prediction: This music scene was built from a concrete bunker on Leavenworth Street called The Cog Factory. Just about every significant band of the current era either performed or watched a performance at the all-ages shithole during their creative infancy. Under a cloud of IRS controversy, the Cog closed its doors in 2001. Now as we reach the end of the Omaha music scene's second Golden Age, the next generation of bands will see the opening of a new, all-ages performance space in '06 that caters to high-school kids who've reached the age of anger and dissent. If the operators of this nonprofit venue are wise, they'll consider resurrecting the Cog Factory name, as blasphemous as that sounds.

Prediction: Living rooms will be introduced to Omaha music via a new weekly television program broadcast on one of the four local affiliates. Focusing exclusively on original music, the show will include interviews and taped performances from local bands (including Creek artists).

Prediction: Instead of a slew of music stores closing their doors, a couple new stores will open in '06 selling a combination of new and used CDs, collectables and Urban Outfitter-style apparel.

Prediction: Adding to the resurrection of independent record stores, national box chains (Best Buy, Target, but probably not Wal Mart) that successfully lured unsophisticated music buyers by offering new releases at fire sale prices will get out of the music biz altogether after the major labels finally drop CD prices below the $10 mark. Look for new CDs as low as $8.99 and $9.99.

Prediction: Meanwhile, to make up for this generosity, those greedy major-label bastards will force Apple's hand to introduce a tiered pricing scheme on i-Tunes. The oldies will still cost 99 cents to download, while new tracks by craptacular acts like Britney, Kanye and Stefani will run $1.29 or more. Promised cheaper prices for Freedom Rock classics will never materialize.

Prediction: We're all going to have to keep waiting for that next important music trend to emerge. The only trend in '06 will be more indie bands signing to majors (who will continue to water down their already tired sound), as well as the prolonged country music and retro-electronic/dance music revivals.

Prediction: Bands we'll be talking about this time next year: Morrissey, New Order/Joy Division, Radiohead, Modest Mouse, The Postal Service, Prince, Tilly and the Wall, Ladyfinger, Cursive, Sarah Benck, The Cure, The Who, David Bowie and Simon Joyner.

Prediction: Bands we won't be talking about: Clap Your Hands and Say Yeah, Bright Eyes, U2, Kanye West, The White Stripes, Fitty, Fall Out Boy, Franz Ferdinand, Wilco and Ryan Adams.

Prediction: All of Michael Jackson's personal and legal troubles will come to an end in '06.

Prediction: In a maverick move, One Percent Productions will enter partnerships with a number of large venues in markets outside of Omaha and Lincoln. It's their next step as they evolve into a regional music promotion powerhouse. Marc and Jim in business suits? Unfortunately, yes.

Prediction: Slowdown, the highly anticipated downtown Saddle Creek Records office/music venue/bar/retail space/condos/movie theater/pizza place, won't open in the fall of 2006, as had been announced. But look out 2007.

Prediction: Like the guest who arrives at the party long after everyone's left, a local radio station will switch formats, giving Omaha its first true indie/college radio station. Regardless, local music snobs will still complain that it isn't playing "the right music."

Prediction: With the emergence this year of video i-Pods, myspace and satellite radio, technology will take a breather in '06. The division won't be between Sirius and XM radio users, but between those who listen to satellite radio and the rest of us.

Prediction: I say it every year and I'm gonna say it again: A non-Saddle Creek act from Omaha or Lincoln will make an appearance on a late-night chat show -- Conan, Carson Daly, Craig Ferguson, etc. Meanwhile, this year Bright Eyes will be a "special musical guest" on an episode of Saturday Night Live. It's going to happen this year, by cracky!

I also predict that some of you will win copies of the Lazy-i Best of 2005 Compilation CD... but only if you enter the drawing. All you have to do is e-mail me ( with your name and mailing address and your name will be in the hat. Tracks include songs by Eux Autres, Tegan and Sara, Dios Malos, My Morning Jacket, Beck, Criteria, Syd Matters, Low, Of Montreal and more. Coveted? You bet it is! Details and track order are right here. Enter right now! Deadline is January 16.

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2005 The Year in Review; Win a copy of the Lazy-i Best of 2005 comp CD! Darktown House Band tonight – Dec. 28, 2005 –

No, it's not the end of the world, but maybe the end of an era. This year's year-end wrap-up story (read it here) points out signs that indie and the Omaha scene may have peaked last year. Where we go next is anyone's guess. Included in the story is the annual top-10 CDs list as well as a list of the best shows of '05.

While you're there, make sure you enter to win a copy of the coveted Lazy-i Best of 2005 Compilation CD! All you have to do is e-mail me ( with your name and mailing address and you'll be entered into the drawing. Tracks include songs by Of Montreal, Eagle*Seagull, Iron & Wine, Mercy Rule, Teenage Fanclub, Okkervil River, Sufjan Stevens, Maria Taylor, Orenda Fink and more. Details and track order are right here. Enter today! Deadline's January 16.

Speaking of "best of" lists, Kyle Munson of The Des Moines Register has put together his annual list, which also includes his annual critics' panel that included yours truly. The White Stripes, eh Kyle? I don't know about that one...

Don't forget, tonight is the Darktown House Band reunion at The Dubliner with Dan McCarthy opening the show at around 8:30.

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Reader feedback and shows this week – Dec. 27, 2005 –

A couple things that have been pointed out to me the past couple days: First, that there are some worth-seeing shows going on over the next few days, not the least of which is tomorrow night at The Dubliner, where The Darktown House Band is doing a reunion show. The gig was moved from The Darkroom Gallery, which I'm also told is closing in January. Opening the night at around 8:30 is Dan McCarthy. The Dubliner, to me, is the perfect place for this sort of shindig.

Another show that somehow fell off my radar screen is the annual Joe Budenholzer show at Mick's Friday night. This time Joe and his band will be doing up Iggy Pop's The Idiot in its entirety. Budenholzer will also be doing some tunes as Small Creatures. Expect surprise special guests, including (as rumor has it) The Faint's Todd Baechle. Dereck Higgins, who reminded me of this show, will be performing as part of Joe's band and may even play one of his own numbers.

In addition to those reminders, a few people e-mailed commenting on my 2005 predictions recap piece. Someone who reads the RSS-fed version pointed out that I was a might bit too hasty in saying that thrash rock and Mastodon didn't make it to the scene in '05, pointing to this LA Weekly article. Another reader pointed out on my webboard that I was wrong in saying I was right that we wouldn't be talking about Green Day, U2, the Simpson sisters and Gwen Stefani, while I also missed mentioning local bands Paria and Cellador having signed to Metal Blade Records. Who knows what kind of comments I'll get when '06 predictions go online Thursday morning.

Tomorrow I'll be posting the Year in Review story, which includes both my top-CDs and top-shows lists as well as details on how to win a copy of the Lazy-I Best of '05 compilation CD, which has become something of a collectable. Believe me, after you see the track listing, you'll want to enter to win.

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Merry Christmas; late review Virgasound, Her Flyaway Manner, Jaeger Fight – Dec. 25, 2005 –

First, a Merry Christmas to all you faithful Lazy-i readers. Here's hoping you got everything you wanted for Xmas or Chanukah or Festivus...

Shopping and other important demands prevented me from writing a review of Friday night's Virgasound show at O'Leaver's, which was surprisingly well-attended considering night-two of The Good Life was going on (and sold out) downtown at Sokol with GTO upstairs. First up was Jaeger Fight, a five-man band that includes two guitars, a drummer, a frontman and The Reader's Andy Norman on bass. I had no idea going in what they sounded like and was pleasantly surprised that their sound was an homage or tribute to late-'90s hardcore. Throughout their set of short thrash songs a couple of us leaning against the railing struggled to ID who they were trying to sound like. 7 Seconds? Descendents? Certainly early Epitaph bands (They even did a Bad Religion cover, or so they said). Suicidal Tendencies? Someone mentioned Propaghandi. You get the drift. And they weren't bad, except that they seemed to lack that angry spark that makes those bands so magnetic. It probably doesn't help that the frontman wore a polo shirt and glasses and looked like someone from IT who would come fix your computer. The two guitar parts could have varied more, while the drummer needed to throttle the drums, not just rat-a-tat them. Good punk bands are angry or else they sound like they're merely emulating the style. Andy did fine, looking like the spitting image of Elijah Wood in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, right down to the haircut and sideburns. At one point I wanted to yell "Frodo Lives!" but figured Andy might take umbrage to that comparison. His bass playing was spot on, by the way.

Though I have a couple of their CDs, I've never seen Lincoln's Her Flyaway Manner before. They seem to be endlessly opening shows, and I'm notorious for always arriving late, usually making it to the bar or venue after seeing a movie earlier in the evening. Live, the trio is much more progressive, downright arty, but they have the chops to pull it off. Bass player Adam2000 is the anchor that holds it together, playing a fretless bass like a Midwestern Jaco Pastorius. Just as technically jaw-dropping was drummer Boz Hicks, whose unique style was a sick morph of Buddy Rich and John Bonham. The rhythm section is everything to this band, steering it through an obstacle course of ever-shifting styles, staying on no one rhythm for more than a few bars. The constant change-ups left me both uneasy and in a trance-like state. Frontman/guitarist Brendon McGinn barks rather than sings his lyrics while chopping chords on his guitar, adding yet more layers to the band's rhythmic stew. Because of the variance in styles, you don't leave their sets with any residual melodies ringing in your head -- just ringing in your ears.

Finally there was Virgasound. These guys have emerged as Omaha's all-star team. It's like watching The Yankees at bat, knowing whomever comes up next is as good or better than the last guy and certainly better than anyone on the opposing team. Just look at the line-up: Mike Saklar on guitar -- Saklar's downright legendary for his guitar style, having played in everything form heavy outfits like Ritual Device and Ravine to folk bands like Mal Madrigal. Drummer Jeff Heater is arguably the most over-the-top guy behind a set, having played with Jimmy Skaffa, Carmine, and yes, Men of Porn. Marc Phillips, formerly of Carmine and The Carsinogents, is one of the most underrated bass players in Omaha and is the most important member of this ensemble. Finally there is Chris "Brooks" Esterbrooks (also formerly with The Carsinogents), a stylish in-your-face frontman who isn't afraid of the microphone, making him impossible to ignore. Together, they're sort of a murderer's row of rock, creating a big, booming sound like Social Distortion on speed. They're drawback may be in the samey-quality of their songs, rarely breaking up their sound. But when they do, like on a song who's lyrics are either "I want to piss on you" or "I put a curse on you," it makes all the difference. I think they need to go through their entire repertoire and identify the best songs and get rid of the near duplicates. It was a great set, nonetheless, and a great way to bring in Christmas Eve.

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Tonight: The Good Life Pt. 2 (not sold out); Virgasound and The Reader's house band – Dec. 23, 2005 –

Tonight is the second night of The Good Life at Sokol Underground, this time with Kite Pilot and Little Brazil opening. The show has yet to sell out, but ironically, parking could be even more difficult down at Sokol than last night because the mighty Grasshopper Takeover is hosting their CD release show upstairs in the Auditorium. I intend to go to both shows, so look for a review tomorrow in this here blog (I'm hoping someone who was at the show last night will come through with a review, which they could post right here). The Good Life show is $8 and starts at 9 p.m. GTO is $10 and starts at 7 p.m.

Also tonight, Virgasound (or The Band Formerly Known as The Philharmonic) is at O'Leaver's with Lincoln's Her Flyaway Manner and Jaeger Fight (whose members include The Reader's Managing Editor, Andy Norman -- if you've ever disagreed with any of the paper's editorial policies, tonight's show would be the perfect time to voice your discontent). $5, 9:30 p.m.

After tonight there are virtually no shows of note in Omaha until the second week of January (at least that I'm currently aware of). This will give all of you time to get to know your families again as you share in this holiday season and reflect on the year gone by. Come on, somebody, put some freakin' shows together, will you?

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Column 56 --Premonitions Pt. 1, the Look Back; The Good Life SOLD OUT; The Third Men at Goofy, Conor gets carded – Dec. 22, 2005 –

Below, the first half of the annual "predictions" story, in column form because The Reader no longer does a "predictions issue." I was planning on running the second half -- predictions for 2006 -- next week, but it might wait a week because my annual Year in Review story took up my column space in the next issue (it's long, and includes a list of favorite CD and favorite shows of '05). I got pretty lucky last year, as you see below (actually, "luck" had nothing to do with it).

Column 56: Crystal Ball Gazing, Pt. 1
Glimpses forward, glimpses back

One of the more popular articles I write each year is my "predictions" story. So controversial was it last year that those ignoble poets of the airwaves, Todd & Tyler, skewered me over it during their dreadful morning show. The sods. I'll be using this column next week to give you, gentle reader, a glimpse at what lies ahead for '06. But first, let's look at how I did with my predictions published Jan 5, 2005:

Prediction: "Podcasting" will begin to replace traditional radio broadcasting, acting like an audio version of TiVo. Reality: In June, Apple added podcasts to its I-Tunes music store, giving easy access more than 3,000 downloadable podcasts. Today just about every popular radio show has a podcast counterpart.

Prediction: Watch out for Mash-Ups -- a music craze where DJs/remixers take two songs by two different artists and combine them. Reality: In November, reported that the RIAA targeted, a site that hosts and distributes mash-ups, saying that their content violated copyright law.

Prediction: The first mix-and-burn custom CD kiosks will begin popping up at local coffee shops and music stores. Reality: Homer's added its first such kiosk at their Orchard Plaza location, allowing users to select individual tracks from different sources and burn them onto one CD in the store.

Prediction: The break-out indie artist in '05 will likely be Mastodon. Reality: Masta-who?

Prediction: U2, Bruce Springsteen and one other mega-band will be booked at the Qwest Center by year-end. Reality: U2 was last week. The Stones are Jan. 29.

Prediction: All of Courtney Love's personal and legal troubles will end in '05. Reality: She's alive and kicking.

Prediction: Bands we'll be talking about this time next year: Beck, Yo La Tengo, Nine Inch Nails, Cat Power, M Ward, Bob Dylan, Lou Barlow, Crooked Fingers, Ladyfinger, Anonymous American, Bright Eyes, The Monroes, Neva Dinova, Desaparecidos and The Golden Age. Reality: Beck's up for some Grammy's. NIN finally released With Teeth. Dylan got his own satellite radio show. Ladyfinger and Neva are on the verge of signing with Saddle Creek. And Bright Eyes just released a live CD (but that new Desa album never materialized).

Prediction: Bands we won't be talking about this time next year: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Gwen Stefani, Eminem, Switchfoot, the Simpson sisters, Modest Mouse, Interpol, 50 Cent, Green Day, Avril Lavigne and U2. Reality: Mostly correct, other than Bono (the post-show buzz continues) and Green Day (more Grammys).

Prediction: Saddle Creek will cut a deal with the city allowing them to build Slowdown downtown, somewhere north of the Old Market. Reality: The bulldozers are currently digging away on 13th & Webster.

Prediction: Slowdown won't be the only new live music venue that'll hit the Omaha scene. Reality: A number of new venues opened, including Jobber's Canyon downtown, Shag and The Spotlight Club, but none of them are a replacement for The Ranch Bowl.

Prediction: Saddle Creek Records will add not one but two new local bands to their roster, including their heaviest band yet. Meanwhile, sister label Team Love will out-release Saddle Creek almost two-to-one. Reality: Criteria joined the Creek fold in April, followed by Azure Ray's Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink, with both Neva Dinova and Ladyfinger rumored to be next. Creek, however, out-released Team Love 11 to 4.

Prediction: Saddle Creek mainstay Bright Eyes will boast the label's first gold record. Reality: Not yet.

Prediction: Camera crews from a national TV news magazine -- 20/20, 60 Minutes, 48 Hours or Dateline -- will attempt to blow the lid off the burgeoning Omaha music scene. Reality: A VH1 exec came through this summer to research a proposed expose of Saddle Creek that never materialized.

Prediction: KM3 will replace talentless blowhole Travis Justice's "For What It's Worth" segment with a new nightly arts & entertainment segment. Reality: KM3 deemed For What It's Worth worthless, yanking it last month. But it's another local TV station that's in the early stages of developing a program dedicated to local music. Stay tuned.

Prediction: Scheduling conflicts will take their toll on one of the area's most successful recording studios, causing it to close its doors in '05. Reality: Presto! lives on, though it may be moving to Omaha this year.

Prediction: Two local video producers/film makers will gain national attention for their rock video work. Reality: Local videomaker Nik Fackler (The Good Life, Orenda Fink) will be directing his first full-length feature film this year.

Prediction: As many as six local bands will sign either to national indie or major labels. Reality: The big push never happened, though Criteria went to Creek, Venaculas is working with a start-up indie, and Emphatic is rumored to be working with a major.

Prediction: A non-Saddle Creek act from Omaha will appear on a late-night chat show while Bright Eyes will be a "special musical guest" on Saturday Night Live. Reality: We're still waiting.

Well, 12 for 18 (if I stretch it). Not bad. Next week: Premonitions for '06.

Tonight's Good Life show at Sokol Underground featuring Mayday, Orenda Fink and Cocoon is officially sold out. If you didn't get tix and you're downtown, you may wanna swing by The Goofy Foot Lodge where The Third Men are playing a set that I have to assume will include at least one "holiday" song.

And before we go, looks like our boy Conor made it into the Village Voice's NYC Life column (scroll to the bottom): "Funniest thing I missed at the Vice holiday party at Fat Baby last Monday: When Conor Oberst was rumored to be denied entrance because he was already too tipsy and didn't have ID, Vice staffer Eddy Moretti cut the music and shouted, 'They're not letting my friend Conor of Bright Eyes in. Let's take this party somewhere else!'The crowd chanted 'Bullshit!' but the DJ turned the music back on. In the end, Oberst had already left, and everyone, including the 'protester,'stayed." He wouldn't have had that problem at O'Leaver's...

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Feature o' the Week: The Good Life – Dec. 21, 2005 –

Putting together this week's story on The Good Life (read it here) I completely forgot to add (and didn't have room for anyway) the details about their back-to-back nights of shows tomorrow and Friday at Sokol Underground. Roger Lewis tells me that the band will be playing a different set each night. Night 1 will be "the Quiet Life" featuring more laid-back tune-age, while Friday night will be the heavier stuff, which makes sense considering the diversity of their opening acts from night to night. One Percent Productions warned in their weekly mailing yesterday that the Thursday show, featuring Mayday, Orenda Fink and Cocoon, is almost sold out, and that Friday's show, featuring Kite Pilot and Little Brazil, will likely sell out at the door. Get your tickets now.

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Bits and ends and Bono – Dec. 20, 2005 –

We're in that XMas middleground where light becomes shadow and there isn't much musicwise to write about... or is there? Tomorrow I'll be posting a feature on The Good Life where we discuss the band's breakup last May (Yes, it did happen after all.) and how everything seems to be back to normal. Then Thursday Part One of my annual "predictions" article gets served up column-style, wherein I score how well I did on my 2005 predictions (you'll be shocked... shocked!).

I forgot to report my brush with greatness on Saturday afternoon... While driving back from lunch on Underwood St. just before crossing 50th I spied a trollish little man wearing a straw cowboy hat and bug-like glasses surrounded by a handful of people crossing the intersection heading east. My girlfriend erupted "Look! It's Bono! Look! Look!" But I couldn't look because I was trying to safely operate my motor vehicle. I glanced over again, and sure enough, it looked like Bono... sort of. Teresa, however, was sure of it. So we doubled back up Webster to see if we could figure out where he was going, but by the time we got to Underwood again, he was gone, perhaps into Blue Line or Mark's or (and I suspect this to be the case) the Laundromat. Yesterday I recanted this story to my co-workers, and sure enough, Bono had still been in town on Saturday, apparently taking part in some event at The Joslyn Museum. Later that day I surfed to and there was Bono again, declared the magazine's "Person of the Year." In a photo essay accompanying the story were pictures of the intrepid, ill-shaven Irishman wearing the same straw cowboy hat. So close... so close... There are all kinds of celebrities catting around Omaha this time of year. Last night a friend of mine called from the bar saying he almost got in a scrum with Alexander Payne whose seven foot of bad haircut wouldn't get out of his way.

Other things to occupy your time this morning:

-- Personal music critic guru Robert Christgau has a new reviews/update on the Village Voice site (read it here) where he writes about new non-boxed greatest hits releases. I've learned my lesson to stay away from artist "best of" compilations, preferring remastered complete versions of original releases. This is a fun read, anyway.

-- Everyone's "Top Records of 2005" lists are now coming out. Here's one from Mote Magazine that includes a "Records I need to buy Cuz I hear they're great" list, which I admire. Fact is, most people who write these lists haven't heard half the good stuff out there because it's physically impossible to do so. I'm no exception. (My list, by the way will be online next week as part of the annual Year in Review).

-- The arsenal of press for the new Jenny Lewis solo CD is beginning to slam against the Internet shores. Here's Filter's coverage. I got a copy of Rabbit Fur Coat in the mail last week. First impressions -- Lewis is trying to channel June Carter (or Anne Murray?) and not doing a bad job of it. It's certainly better than the last Rilo Kiley CD.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Live Review: Poison Control Center, Fizzle Like a Flood, Shelter Belt – Dec. 19, 2005 –

I was expecting an early evening last Saturday night at O'Leaver's. Fizzle Like a Flood was scheduled to be up first, followed by Shelter Belt. I planned on leaving after that, having seen my share of sloppy Poison Control Center freak-outs. But when I arrived, I found out that the order had been changed -- Fizzle was now up last after The Belt and PCC. In the end, it was all good.

Shelter Belt put on their usual solid set of good-time rock tunes, declaring from the stage that it would be the last time they'd be playing tunes off their last CD, Rain Home. Look for new Shelter Belt music sometime early next year (if all goes well).

Next came PCC. The talk before the set centered around what piece of equipment the boys would break. The Ames Iowa 4-piece is said to be banned from all One Percent shows after destroying various pieces of equipment down at Sokol Underground. What would get destroyed tonight? The microphones (too easy)? The "monitor" (more on that later)? The biggest bulls-eye was circled around that big ol' plasma TV behind the drumset. In my mind's eye I could see a mike-stand flying through it.

Ah, but it was not to be. While they performed their usual calisthenics -- the backward somersaults, table splits and high kicks -- nothing was shattered. Sure, the microphones were thrown to the ground on more than one occasion and numerous glasses and bottles of beer were knocked over by flailing feet, but no one got injured. And for once, PCC sounded more like a band than a novelty act. Yes, they came with their share of sophomoric dick lyrics, but the music was first-rate punk-howl, and though the between-song patter became tedious, the crowd laughed more than once at their drunken monologues.

Finally up, Fizzle Like a Flood featuring Jim Carrig on bass, Travis Sing on guitar and frontman Doug Kabourek behind the drum set Don Henley-style. I came prepared for Doug's usual sing-song mewings. I wasn't prepared for him to bring the rock. Fizzle turned its back on the quiet ballads for a heavy show featuring Sing's rippin' guitar and Kabourek's first-rate drumming, transforming older, quieter songs into full-out punkers. I'm not kidding. This is not your father's Fizzle. If there's a drawback to the new style, it's Kabourek's vocals, which seem better suited for ballads than punk. Part of the problem was O'Leaver's "monitors." Throughout the set, Kabourek complained that he couldn't hear himself, making the trick of playing drums and singing even trickier. Clearly pissed, Doug announced his last song, played it, then split for the exit with the crowd begging for more.

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Looking toward the weekend – Dec. 16, 2005 –

Let's get to it. Another in a series of "last shows" for The Street Urchins is tonight at Mike's Place in beautiful Council Bluffs. From a Nov. 14, 2004, show review, when thoughts of quitting never entered this trio's mind: "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." Catch them while you can. Bad Luck Charm will warm up the stage. Mike's is at 162 W. Broadway. 9:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, MC Buck Bowen and folk artist Tim Perkins take on O'Leaver's tonight. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Saturday night Poison Control Center, Shelter Belt and Fizzle Like A Flood hump it up at O'Leaver's. Ames Iowa's PCC's stage show is unpredictable while their music can be classified as "arty." It's worth the $5 just to see how Shelter Belt manages to cram their full ensemble on O'Leaver's "stage." If only this band shows up along with their families this will be SRO. I'm told Fizzle Like a Flood a.k.a. Doug Kabourek, has turned his live show into a ROCK show, with gunslinger Travis Sing on guitar. You never know what configuration you're in for with Doug, though.

Finally, Sunday night it's back to O'Leaver's for Brimstone Howl's CD release show with The Terminals and Iowa City's Autodramatics (This, according to SlamOmaha --I can't seem to confirm it on any other site, so buyer beware).

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Of downtown condos and big buildings; The (International) Noise Conspiracy tonight – Dec. 15, 2005 –

For those of you who haven't been paying attention to the local news, the city announced yesterday the construction of a 32-story condo tower smack-dab in the middle of downtown Omaha (at 14th & Dodge -- just north of the new Union Pacific HQ to be precise). Unit prices start at $200k for those at the lowest levels and could rocket up to a half-mil for the top dogs. The burning question that continues to go unanswered: Who the hell wants to live in a high-rise condo in downtown Omaha? Certainly not families. Young urban professionals? Why when there are so many other (better) living options available downtown (and elsewhere)? It's a mystery to me and to everyone I've asked. Regardless, it can only be good news to our friends building Slowdown (the soil-removal work continues on the site), or is it? Do the kind of people who spend between a quarter- and a half-million for an apartment go to rock shows? Maybe... maybe not.

Tonight you've got The (International) Noise Conspiracy with Circa Survive and Nightmare of You at Sokol Underground. (I)NC started its life as a Swedish hardcore band that's been transformed into a Stooges/Hives garage-punk outfit that would have fit well next to the long lost Carsinogents (or one of its surviving brood of bands). Their last CD, Armed Love, was produced by none other than Rick Rubin and included cameos by Billy Preston and Benmont Tench. Sounds like a fun band. Philly's Circa Survive leans more toward a traditional indie/emo sound while Nightmare of You is Morrissey crossed with The Cure and The White Stripes. Derivative? You bet. $12, 9 p.m.

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Column 55 -- Bright Eyes gets punk'd by The Academy – Dec. 14, 2005 –

The discussion with Saddle Creek about The Grammys did happen. I really thought last March that ol' Conor and company were going to make it onto the red carpet. At the time, Wide Awake and Oberst were getting showered with press that exalted him as the second coming of... well... someone. But the year wore on, the press petered out and people began to forget, especially considering that you're not going to hear Bright Eyes on your radio (and certainly not on a Clear Channel station). Members of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences -- voting members of which are producers, performers or engineers on six or more tracks of a commercially released album -- are obviously entrenched in "the industry" and historically have judged performers not on quality but on success, which they define as being heard on the radio and "moving units"... and lots of them. But if that's the case, how does one explain The Arcade Fire? Is it their Bowie connection? Well, Bright Eyes' connection to Springsteen trumps that. No, there are exceptions to every rule, except for the one about biting the hand that feeds you even if it didn't feed you anything at all. In the end, a lack of nomination for "Best Alternative Album" wasn't a surprise. It was Best New Artist shun that raises an eyebrow. Fall Out Boy? Keane? Now these are The Grammys that we've come to ignore.

Column 55: No Love in Grammy Town
Bright Eyes doesn't get the nod. Surprised?

So last March I'm interviewing the guys who run Saddle Creek Records -- Robb Nansel and Jason Kulbel -- for a preview piece for the coming year. We talked casually about record releases and new construction and whims of temperamental artists until we got to a discussion about "the industry" and The Grammy Awards. "Wouldn't it be a kick in the ass if Bright Eyes' I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning got nominated?" I asked straight-faced.

Nansel and Kulbel just smiled their usual dead-pan smile. Yeah, it would be something. Especially for an independent record label like Saddle Creek which is more of a co-op than a business. But it could never happen. Not the way Bright Eyes wunderkind Conor Oberst takes on Clear Channel and the rest of the above-ground record industry like a rabid rat terrier flushing out a ground squirrel. Oberst has gone as far as canceling gigs at venues upon discovering their affiliation with CC.

On top of that, there's no way that a community that worships the marketing possibilities of entities like American Idol are going to give the nod to a guy who's taken on our beloved Commander-in-Chief on The Tonight Show.

But still… well, anything's possible. There's no question that I'm Wide Awake is one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the year, and that Oberst, despite his toe-scuffing gee-whizzes, has been deemed this generation's Bob Dylan by a covey of journalists too lazy to realize just how ridiculous that statement is.

I wasn't alone in my speculation. Last week before they were announced, New York Daily News critic Jim Farber posted his guesses at the nominees. Among them: "In the coveted Best New Artist category, expect to see John Legend (the male Alicia Keys), Daddy Yankee (the poster boy for reggaeton) and emo-poet Bright Eyes (aka Conor Oberst)," Farber wrote. "Of course, Oberst is hardly a new performer. But the Grammys, which will never win any awards for hipness, considers an artist eligible for this category if they simply made their first impact in a given year."

Certainly that could be said for Bright Eyes. This was the year that Oberst thrust himself wholeheartedly into the welcoming limelight, going on a peace tour with Bruce Springsteen and appearing (though uncomfortably so) on various late-night chat shows. Oberst has done every bit of publicity he could without losing his self-respect. If it's ever gonna happen, it's gotta happen now. As 2006 rolls in, Oberst, who's been putting out records for over a decade, will no longer be considered a "new artist."

Ah, what silly lads we are, Mr. Farber.

Later that day, amongst a blitzkrieg of flashbulbs and blazing-hot cell phones, the 48th annual Grammy nominations were announced at Gotham Hall in New York City. All the usual schlockmeisters were named in the usual categories, including world-class yodeler Maria Carey, thug-life role model and videogame character Fitty Cent, Madonna impersonator Gwen Stefani, and proud i-Pod hucksters U2. There were no surprises.

Eagerly, I scrolled down the list expecting the inevitable and getting it. The nominees for Best New Artist: Ciara (the so-called "first lady of Crunk"), Fall Out Boy (a painfully bad Green Day rip), Keane (a painfully bad Coldplay rip), John Legend (Touché, Mr. Farber), and SugarLand (yee-haw country).

No Bright Eyes.

OK, how 'bout Best Alternative album (even though there's nothing really "alternative" about Bright Eyes)? And the nominees are: The Arcade Fire's Funeral (For once, the Grammy's got something right), Beck's Guero (One of my favorite albums of '05), Death Cab for Cutie's Plans (Oops, this one was a step backward for the band, but better late than never); Franz Ferdinand's You Could Have So Much Better (*yawn* When will these guys go away?) and The White Stripes' Get Behind Me Satan (The love affair with this novelty act continues).

No Bright Eyes. In fact, a quick word search of the list for Bright Eyes turns up "Not Found." It looks like our boy has been -- as they say in the awards business -- snubbed.

I wasn't the only one who searched out the nominees list online Thursday. So did Nansel. When asked Saturday night about the lack of nominations for Wide Awake, I got the same faraway look that I'd seen last March when I first proffered the topic. Nansel said he wasn't surprised or disappointed. "Just look who got nominated," he said, betraying at least a hint of disappointment. Whether he wants to admit it or not, a Grammy for a Creek artist would have made a world of difference, not only for the artist, but for a label that's managed to survive in a business that doesn't tolerate troublemakers. When did rock 'n' roll become such a prissy sport?

And what about Oberst? Something tells me he wouldn't have accepted the award anyway.

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Denver's got a brand new bag; TNR News Flash: Bright Eyes isn't Bob Dylan (Shocking!) – Dec. 13, 2005 –

We've obviously hit the holiday season. Just glancing that the various and sundry upcoming-shows calendars is rather depressing. There's no shows this week until Thursday's International Noise Conspiracy gig at Sokol Underground, at least none that I know of. In fact, the boys from One Percent will be taking Sundays through Wednesdays off for the next couple months. One hopes that O'Leaver's will be stepping up to fill the void. I found out last weekend that everyone's favorite man about town, MarQ Manner, is now working with O'Leaver's to book their local shows. Hopefully MarQ has some latent HTML coding skills and can update the O'Leaver's online show calendar, which hasn't seen an updated since before Halloween.

Digging through my e-mail yesterday I found an update from Ezra Caraeff of Portland's Slowdown Records with news that the label signed Denver Dalley's Intramural project. Denver's been working on this for over a year with his Nashville bro Sam Shacklock. Essentially the duo write foundation tracks and e-mail them off to a plethora of vocalists who add their talents to the mix. Confirmed vocalists include members of Men Women & Children, Brand New, The Velvet Teen, The Faint (who could this be?), and John Roderick (The Long Winters). Seems to me one of the women in Azure Ray also was involved. Regardless, this originally was strictly a recording project with no intention of touring, but those things have a way of changing. The first track is online at the Intramural myspace. Ezra doesn't mention a release date. Let's hope it isn't another year away.

In Bright Eyes news, the band's latest video (for "At the Bottom of Everything") went online Dec. 9 at Video Static and stars Terrance Stamp, Evan Rachel Wood and Brady Corbet. Stamp, btw, has been named as a primary actor in another upcoming Omaha-based film project, which I've written about a number of times on this blog. You remember Stamp from The Limey, right? OK, well then you remember him from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, doncha? OK, how about as General Zod from Superman II. Now we're talkin'!

Bright Eyes gets taken behind the barn for a whoopin' by our liberal friends at The New Republic. In an article titled "Trite Eyes," Jason Zengerle slowly dismembers Oberst, with the central theme of "why aren't there any good protest singers anymore?" His description of Bright Eyes' "When the President Talks to God": "Yes, the lyrics are that bad, and the instrumentation--provided by a lone, off-putting acoustic guitar--isn't much better. And then there's the problem of Oberst's voice: It is fey and timorous, which may be good for lamenting lost loves but is ill-suited for stopping a war." Ouch. He goes on to try to decimate any comparisons between Oberst in Dylan: "Where Dylan's protest songs awe and maybe even frighten you with their power, Oberst's make you want to give him a hug and tell him everything's going to be OK. Dylan was an angry young man; Oberst is a whiny boy." Yikes. While amusing, the article is hardly insightful. Everyone who knows Bright Eyes music (not the least of which is Oberst) has always laughed at the Dylan comparisons.

As a counter, "Bernie" at Pop Politics tells Zengerle to relax.

I'll be writing more about Bright Eyes (and The Grammys) in this week's column, which appears in tomorrow's pulse-pounding installment of Lazy-i!

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Live Review: Dead Bird, Baechle, Nik Fackler, The Stnnng – Dec. 11, 2005 –

Last night started at O'Leaver's, where a revolving cast of performers took the stage, almost all connected in some way to Saddle Creek Records. The exception was Nik Fackler, who though not directly connected to Creek has done a lot of videos for Creek bands. He also was an exception in that his was the only inspired music of the bunch. First up was The Dead Bird, featuring Tilly and the Wall's Derek Pressnall on acoustic guitar and vocals and Nick White on keyboards. The duo did a couple mid-tempo singer-songwriter ditties, before being joined by Neely Jenkins for a song. After that Clark Baechle of The Faint took up a stool and an acoustic guitar and sang a couple numbers, one of them with lyrics involving gas pains. Somewhere in there Joe Knapp joined in (or at least was on the stage) as did another women who I didn't recognize. None of the music sounded terribly inspired or memorable.

It's become something of a necessity for Creek performers to put together solo side projects. They obviously want to explore something creative outside of their usual schtick along with new frontiers involving publishing rights, and you can't blame them for that. But the effort has to be inspired or else it's just another side project that borders on a hobby. Had this music been performed by a cast of no-name local musicians it would never be heard (or at least not in front of a crowd like last night's).

After the Creek acoustic parade ended, Nik Fackler took the stage backed by Dereck Higgins and White again on keyboards. Fackler was clearly nervous, and why not? I think this was one of his first gigs, and it just happened to be in front of a jam-packed crowd that consisted of the entire Saddle Creek Records staff as well as members of The Faint, Cursive, Neva Dinova and a variety of scenesters. Anyone would be nervous. Fackler pulled it off, however. In his soft voice he sung four songs that sported intricate acoustic guitar lines reminiscent of Kings of Convenience or early Simon and Garfunkel. Higgins, the consummate pro and artist, provided the perfect accompaniment (as always), adjusting his style and tone throughout Fackler's uncertain set. What made the performance stand out was Fackler's enthusiasm and youthful intensity. You'd think with his film aspirations that music would only be a novelty, but that clearly isn't the case after what I heard last night. He's talented and knows how to write a good ballad. Obviously his vocals were somewhat subdued, but that'll come with time, if he continues to pursue it.

After Fackler, I drove downtown to Sokol Underground, missing both Cocoon (The Faint's Todd Fink and Jake Bellows from Neva Dinova, apparently dressed in Zorro costumes) and Dave Dondero. I got there just in time to see The Stnnng, and believe me, after an hour of acoustic love ballads it was just what I needed. The Stnnng is one of those bands that you can't enjoy from the back of the room. You have to get right up there near the stage and just soak in the madness and naked aggression. They are brutal and angry. Frontman Chris Besinger doesn't sing, he exorcises by yelling into a leather-grasped microphone like an unholy reincarnation of David Yow. The fist-poundingly quick music bludgeons you… in a good way. It's an amazing band sporting one of the most muscular rhythm sections I've heard in a long while, balanced by two blazing guitars and the crazy man on the microphone. This must be seen and heard live and loud. A studio recording will pale in comparison.

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Saturday night live... – Dec. 10, 2005 –

There is a plethora of shows tonight. I'll start off with the one I'll likely be at: Dave Dondero, Nik Fackler and The Dead Bird at O'Leaver's. Dondero is the headliner, while The Dead Bird -- Derek Pressnall and Nick White from Tilly and the Wall -- will open the show. Sandwiched in between those two bands is a new band fronted by local filmmaker Nik Fackler with Dereck Higgins and Nick White. I suspect that this show will be unbelievably packed if only due to its innate hipster factor. Dondero and Tilly are both on Team Love, which means the Creek contingent will be in the house. One could argue that this should have been held in a larger (all ages) venue. $6, 9:30.

Meanwhile, down at Sokol Underground it's Minnesota's The Stnnng (pronounced "The Stunning"), Ladyfinger and The Stay Awake. The Stnnng are arty, proggy punk; they sort of remind me of Dismemberment Plan but not nearly as tuneful. $7, 9 p.m. Then there's Bad Luck Charm and Escaping Sobriety at The '49r. $6, 10 p.m. And Brad Hoshaw and Adam Weaver at Mick's, $5 9 p.m. Find a show and go.

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Live Review: Liz Phair; The Pomonas, Conner tonight – Dec. 9, 2005 –

Well, I'd like to tell you that I was disappointed by the Liz show last night, but I'd be lying. I went into it thinking the show would be just south of mediocre -- Liz isn't exactly known as a live performer, her strength used to be in her songwriting, which she compromised years ago leaving her with nothing of value other than really nice hair. Like I said, I wasn't disappointed.

The mix was about as bad as it gets at Sokol Aud. It's always boomy. It was particularly boomy last night. You could barely hear her guitar. Unfortunately, you could hear her lead guitarist and his overtly ornate style all too well (someone needs to take away about half of his pedals). And although Liz played a half-dozen songs from Exile, I would have preferred that she hadn't. Not with this band, not with these arrangements. To make the most of her "new style" of songwriting, Liz has put together a So Cal-style chug-a-lug ensemble -- an absolute necessity of you're going to play the type of cheese-flavored shitola that she now squats for a living. Keep them away from the classics, please. I don't need to hear "6'1"" turned into an Eagles song. There's a reason why there isn't a guitar solo on that track. Exile wasn't about guitar histrionics.

Which brings us to Liz's vocals. Look, everyone knows she sings like your sister fronting a neighborhood garage band -- that's part of the charm and honesty of Exile. The slightly off-kilter voice is every girl you knew in high school who decided to take a shop class instead of Home Ec. On stage, it's just as wobbly -- not a bad thing if you're playing the '90s. A problem if you're playing Avril karaoke. Judging by the crowd's reaction, most were there to see a Sheryl Crow concert. Well, Liz ain't no Sheryl Crow. Liz will never be Sheryl Crow. She doesn't have Sheryl Crow chops. And writing Sheryl Crow songs only accentuates the negative.

So am I wrong calling her new songwriting style misdirected? Well, my girlfriend, who's never heard a Liz Phair album in her life, preferred every song performed from Exile and Whip-smart -- even in this watered down form -- over the limp stuff from her last two records. "6'1"," "Never Said," "Mesmerizing" "Fuck and Run" "Supernova" all rocked with an energy that made the new stuff seem formulaic and flaccid in comparison. Regardless, the biggest cheers she received last night came for the more recent stuff. The opening chords of the Avrilesque "Why Can't I?" were met with high-pitched squeals from all the women in the crowd (and there were a lot of them). Liz said "This one isn't very radio" when introducing "H.W.C," her current take on "edgy" sung to a melody that has all the depth of a toothpaste commercial jingle. It was a short set, maybe 40 minutes, and I didn't stick around for the encore.

Some sidenotes: It was crowded, and hot, probably because the adjacent gym was closed off for the first time that I can remember. That said, it looked like there was still about 800 people there (I didn't get a headcount from the promoter). One guy commented about how lifeless the crowd seemed. I'm not sure what he expected or, really, how the crowd reaction was different than at an indie show. The only difference was in the average concertgoer's age. There were a lot of soccer moms in the audience last night, and that ain't such a bad thing. They need to get out more. Like maybe tonight, when Lawrence bands The Pomonas and Conner (very Rapture dance-esque) take the stage at O'Leaver's. I was told last night that there have been some improvements in the sound system there. We'll see.

Look here for a blog update tomorrow (which will probably include a show review).

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Remembering Liz Phair (tonight) – Dec. 8, 2005 –

Besides the fact that it's One Percent Production's 500th birthday, I do actually want to go see Liz Phair tonight. This could be a surprise to you younger readers, those who are only aware of Phair's last two albums. Why would Lazy-i be interested in a performer who's music is so vanilla, so candy-white boring, uncreative and clearly manufactured to please MOR FM "adult contemporary" music programmers? They might say, as I do, that Phair's self-titled 2003 Capitol Records outing is merely an adult's attempt at Avril Lavigne's moronic pap. And they'd be right, of course. The only thing more mundane is the just-released Somebody's Miracle, which takes the same bland, bordering-on-country-music formula and slows it down slightly. It is worse than bad, it is boring.

You see, kids, it wasn't always like this. Once upon a time there was an album called Exile in Guyville that came out on indie powerhouse label Matador Records in '93. If you haven't heard it, get up right now, go to your nearest Homer's record store, and plop down $10 and take it home. It'll be the best $10 you spend this month. Exile easily is one of the 10 best albums released in the '90s. Not "the 10 best indie albums." Not "the 10 best albums by a female vocalist." One of the 10 best albums released in the '90s. Period. It is a testament to what can be done by a songwriter. It is personal and confessional, dark and sexy, and above all, it rocks. It's one of my favorite albums of all time. It is a "stranded on a desert island" selection. I do not stand alone in this assessment. Many of my generation, who grew up with indie and punk and music that isn't afraid to push the boundaries, looks upon Exile as an achievement. From a female vocalist standpoint, it's the best thing done by a woman since Joni Mitchell's Blue album changed everything in '71. It is one of a kind, and there will be nothing like it again. Certainly there's no one doing what Phair did back then currently on the concert circuit, except for Phair herself. And even she doesn't exist anymore.

Now the best thing you can say about Phair (other than Exile) is that she perfectly defines the concept of a "sell out," and she did it unashamedly. She turned her back on her former self because she was tired of being deified by the indie music scene and glorified by the critics only to have to crawl back inside a van and tour the same smoky clubs that she toured for a decade. She wanted better -- financially. So she brought in some "songsmiths" (among them, the same team who created the Frankenstein monster of idiocy named Avril) and tried her damndest to write a radio-friendly album. Then she did whatever an artist needs to do to get the radio industry to pay attention (so ugly and sordid, that I don't want to go into it on a publicly accessible website... let's just say it involves a lot of schmoozing) and lo and behold, Liz had a hit on her hands. The totally forgettable '03 album connected with that great unwashed audience of people who prefer celebrity over creativity when it comes to their music (how else could one explain shit factories like American Idol?). Now, whenever there's a discussion at a record store and a kid asks a clerk "What exactly is a sell-out?" the clerk can say "Someone who compromises their art to make money, you know, like Liz Phair did." A confused look with cross the kid's face before s/he says "You mean lady that sings about motherhood on Q98? She's awful." "Yes, my child, she's awful, but she wasn't always that way." And then the clerk will put on a copy of Exile and the two will laugh and cry and wonder why -- like plastic surgery or becoming a Republican -- why would anyone do that to themselves?

See you tonight.

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Column 54 -- Happy Birthday One Percent – Dec. 7, 2005 –

What was the best way to approach this story? Ten best shows? Too subjective. Ten favorite shows? Same problem. Ten most successful shows? Too much Bright Eyes. How about the 10 most important shows during the evolution of One Percent Productions? That sounded good to me, and to Johnson and Leibowitz. They worked on this list off and on (mostly off) for the past three or four weeks, and it does provide a nice, concise history of the company from its fledgling year when they did only 10 shows to last year's more than 120. Leibowitz said he was surprised at how fast No. 500 came up. "It's pretty nuts," he said. "We're riding a wave of momentum. We envisioned us opening our own space when we had 500. But if we can hit the 500th show without a club, it's alright."

As discussed in an earlier column, the business has changed since they started. For one thing, they no longer only book shows they want to see. "At first we booked stuff we wanted to see that no one was booking," Leibowitz said. "Look at our first 50 show. There's not one where I didn't not like band. Now look at the last 100 shows -- there's 10 that we really wanted to see."

"For us, to make this a full-time job, we can't just pick and choose," Johnson said.

"There's politics in everything," Leibowitz added. "If we pass on smaller shows, someone else will do them. If we need to work an extra night a week to make sure someone doesn't pop up and become promoters, that's what we do."

How big they can grow their company is anyone's guess. There's talk that they'll be working with Saddle Creek to book the new Slowdown venue while at the same time, keeping their hooks in Sokol and expanding the number of shows they'll put on at larger facilities such as The Mid America Center and The Orpheum. What will this list look like when they hit 1,000?

Column 54: One Percent Turns 500
The independent promoters look back.

Thursday's Liz Phair concert at Sokol Auditorium marks the 500th show put together by One Percent Productions since Ani Difranco graced that same stage in October '97. While everyone touts Saddle Creek Records as the driving force behind the current state of the Omaha music scene, I also point to Marc Leibowitz and Jim Johnson - the guys behind One Percent -- for bringing Omaha the music that's influenced so many successful local bands. To commemorate the occasion, I asked the dynamic duo to list the 10 most important shows from the past 500. Without further ado:

1. Ani Difranco w/Indigenous, 10/24/97, Sokol Auditorium. It was One Percent Production's first show as a company, and it was a sell out. "It helped that she was on the cover of SPIN the week after we booked it," Leibowitz said. The $17-a-ticket show would give the team momentum moving forward, and they'd need it. "It paid for the first Jayhawks show, where we lost money, and a couple others as well," Leibowitz said.

2. Built to Spill w/The Delusions and Bright Eyes, 5/7/99, Sokol Underground. Legendary if only for the amount of cigarette smoke that filled the stuffy basement venue, the show was booked without the help of Saddle Creek Records personnel, who One Percent had worked with on a number of early productions. "The agent called me and said 'Let's do a show,'" Leibowitz said. "We knew we must be doing something right." Show highlight: Oberst played his entire set in the dark.

3. Guided by Voices w/Sensefield, 4/8/00, Sokol Underground. One of Leibowitz's "top-5 favorite bands," he first approached The Music Box to host it, but they passed having never heard of GBV. "It's a prime example of why The Music Box isn't around today," Leibowitz said. Colorful sidenote: While most large bands have a guitar tech, GBV had a "beer tech," whose only job was to fetch beer for the band.

4. Wilco w/Preston School of Industry, 7/29/02, Sokol Auditorium. Leibowitz had just moved back to Omaha from North Carolina, and the estranged Jim Johnson had rejoined the company. "It marked the beginning of Round 2 of One Percent," Leibowitz said, "and it was a good start"… even though the show didn't sell out.

5. Interpol w/Calla, 1/15/03, Sokol Underground. Though there was plenty of buzz about Interpol among music insiders, Leibowitz and Johnson didn't expect the capacity crowd that showed up, especially in the heart of one of the worst winter storms to hit Omaha that year. "It snowed hard the entire time," Johnson said. "At 12:30, you walked out of there and wondered how you were gonna get home." Perhaps one of the best-sounding shows heard in the Underground.

6. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs w/SSION and Beep, Beep, 4/5/04, Sokol Auditorium. Originally slated as an Underground show, its quick sell-out prompted a move to the upstairs auditorium. Most remember Karen O's skin-tight dress and Nick Zinner's (a.k.a. Edward Sissorhand's) buzzsaw guitar. The after-party in the Underground following the show is the stuff of legend.

7. The Arcade Fire w/Kite Pilot, 11/29/04, Sokol Underground. Booked before the band broke big in the U.S., One Percent got them for a mere $150 guarantee. "The agent laughed at me. He knew I was underestimating the show," Leibowitz said. The band still walked away with a ton of money, thanks to a sweet back-end deal.

8. Bright Eyes and The Faint, 5/11/05, Mid America Center in Council Bluffs. One Percent's first arena show drew 3,200 ticket buyers and stands as their largest-drawing production to date. The duo first approached The Qwest Center to host it, "but they didn't want to work with us," Leibowitz said. Thanks to a recommendation by 89.7 The River's Sophia John, the MAC took the show. Look for more One Percent/MAC shows in the future

9. Bright Eyes, Spoon, Dave Dondero, Willy Mason, 11/11/05, The Orpheum. "It was monumental because of the facility, which is big and amazing," Leibowitz said. It was also arguably the best Omaha Bright Eyes show this year.

10. Liz Phair w/The Fray and Aqualung, 12/8/05, Sokol Auditorium. In addition to being their 500th show "it's safe to say we've always wanted to book a Liz Phair show," Leibowitz said.

Honorable mention: Har Mar Superstar at O'Leaver's 10/24/04 (Leibowitz: "He (Har Mar) made out with every girl in the room."); Sebadoh at Sokol Underground 8/20/04 (Johnson: "One of the only times I've been star struck."); Ween at Sokol Auditorium 11/29/05 (Leibowitz: "I said I could retire after booking Ween. Well, I'm not retiring").

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Milemarker tonight – Dec. 6, 2005 –

As I type this, it's -7 outside. But never fear those of you who are considering venturing out to see Milemarker tonight at O'Leaver's. Forecast calls for the temperature to rise dramatically to at least 7, which, admittedly is sweater weather. Opening is Louisville screamo band Lords, whose music combines fast metal riffs with vocals that are only slightly better than your typical hardcore screamer (At least vocalist Chris Owens doesn't sound like the Cookie Monster). Lords are on tour supporting Swords, their new release on Jade Tree Records. Note: This one is $6 (not the usual $5). Starts at 9:30. If it wasn't so bleedin' cold I'd predict a good-sized crowd as Milemarker has ties to a lot of Omaha bands (many on Saddle Creek).

Look for this week's column online tomorrow -- One Percent Productions looks back at their "10 most important shows" on the eve of their 500th show Thursday night.

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Late Live Review: Head of Femur, The Bruces; Bright Eyes lends a hand... – Dec. 5, 2005 –

Our man Alex McManus (a.k.a. The Bruces) was already on stage with drummer Chris Deden when I finally showed up at Sokol Underground Friday night, having missed the entire Simon Joyner and the Wind-up Birds set -- a set that I'm told was one of the best Joyner performances in recent history (all the more painful considering it may be quite awhile 'til I get a chance to see them again). McManus never seemed more confident in voice, belting out his tunes while bending his electric guitar in all directions, doing just fine only with Deden's drums (Who needs a bass these days?). He's reminding more and more of a looser, groovier version of John Darnielle, with songs that sport the same sameness of melody as Mr. Mountain Goats, songs that depend on the stories to keep them interesting, along with his stylistic guitar playing honed to a bitter edge after years and years of sideman duties for other good songwriters. McManus seemed, dare I say it, happy on stage, which is more than you can say about a lot of indie troubadours these days.

Head of Femur -- performing as a five-piece -- came out of the gate somewhat stiff and less than dynamic. Part of the problem was a flat mix that seemed to blend everything into a gray sonic stew. Focht still did an admirable job with the stripped-down version, though prog this proggy demands those extra instruments (the trumpet was sorely missing) to give it the wind it needs to take off. Highlights included a number of covers, the best of which was a take on The Rolling Stone's "100 Years Ago." As the night wore on, the band picked up steam (again, I credit the mix, or maybe it was the Rolling Rock), and an uneventful set turned out to be respectable, but far from the best Femur show I've seen. Crowd size: 125.

And in this holiday season when we're surrounded by good Samaritan stories, here's a great one from the Daily Freeman that involves our boy Conor Oberst, who did what he could to give a couple Boston girls badly burned in a house fire at least one evening to try to forget their troubles. From the story: "Peone (the mother of the two girls hurt in the blaze) said a friend arranged for the family to see the band Bright Eyes, a favorite of Dina and Angie. They especially like frontman Conor Oberst. 'Dina and Angie are crazy about him,' Peone said. 'They treated us like queens. We went backstage, and Conor kneeled down in front of Dina's wheelchair and took her hand. She was over the moon. They gave us CDs and posters and T-shirts. We had great seats and they dedicated a song to my girls.'" Nice.

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A cold weekend ahead; Head of Femur, The Bruces and Simon Joyner tonight – Dec. 2, 2005 –

I was going to write about the whole Scott Stapp vs. 311 brawl, but really, who cares? Stapp is a no-talent has-been who will end up on America's Most Wanted some day while 311 is a band that continues to suck off the teat of its former fame, having done nothing innovative musically in over a decade. There are a couple amusing lines from the story, however, such as "Meanwhile, 311 is due in Toronto Friday as part of a fall tour in support of the Omaha-based band's latest album, Don't Tread on Me." Omaha-based band? And "(Stapp's) debut solo album, The Great Divide, barely dented the charts this week, opening at 19 with 94,000 in sales." I can see why he's drunk all the time -- only 94k in sales the first week?

Anyway, the hottest show of the weekend is tonight down at Sokol Underground with Head of Femur, The Bruces and Simon Joyner, all on one bill for a mere $7 -- a remarkable value. According to their website, the line-up for HofF tonight will be Ben Armstrong, Mike Pardington Elsener, Matthew Focht, Tyson Thurston and The Chancellor. I assume since 1 Percent is billing him as simply "Simon Joyner" that he won't be backed by his band, The Wind-up Birds, who just wrapped up recording an album down at The Goofy Foot space slated for release sometime next year. That likely won't stop Simon from playing some songs off the upcoming album, however.

Meanwhile, also tonight, is Meadowlarks, Austin Britton (Kite Pilot), Bill Latham and Outlaw Con Bandana at O'Leaver's. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Saturday night, O'Leaver's has Kansas City's Roman Numerals (Steve from Season to Risk), Members Of The Press (Randy Cotton), and Fromanhole. $5, 9:30 p.m. And that about does it for shows this weekend.

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Column 53 -- A year in the life; Appleseed Cast tonight – Dec. 1, 2005 –

The hardest part about doing this column week after week is, of course, coming up with a new ideas every week. So far it hasn't been that bad, but as we enter Year 2, things could get kinda tricky. As always, I ask for your input, ideas, insight, ingenuity, gossip, poop, skinny, even lies (I'll do the part of proving you wrong, or right). Send them to me at or just Other than "write-about-my-band" suggestions, every idea will get considered and get a response. The response might only be "I'll look into it" or "You're full of shit," but you'll hear from me.

Column 53: What Have We Learned?
Looking back at a year's worth of Lazy-i.

It's been a year since this column began appearing in The Reader -- Dec. 2, 2004, to be exact. Fifty-two weeks and 52 columns later, what have we learned? Here's an update on some of the people, places and things covered over the past year:

Column 1 -- Stronger than Bombs: Willy Mason Blows Up All Over the Indie Scene -- Wherein we meet young Willy Mason, singer/songwriter extraordinaire who had just signed with Conor Oberst's new Team Love Records (A label's name hasn't gotten any better with the passage of time). Incessant touring and the vices that come with it took its toll on ol' Willy, and he pulled himself off the road early the following year, only to re-emerge, older and wiser, opening for Bright Eyes at the recent Orpheum show.

Column 2 -- New Day Rising: Indie Music Returns to Omaha's Air Waves (12/9/05). The 2-hour all-indie radio show, an experiment by our friends at 89.7 The River, continues to introduce Omaha to new music every Sunday night at 11. Eric Zeigler, half of the original on-air team, is gone, but Dave Leibowitz continues like Omaha's version of John Peel (RIP). Hey Sophia, this show deserves a better time slot.

Column 4 -- There Are Giants in the Earth (12/22/05) -- A profile of band The '89 Cubs. They have since broken up. Ryan Fox is now touring with Mayday, while drummer Matt Baum can be heard in Race for Titles.

Column 6 -- Young Eyes, Big Vision (1/6/05) -- A profile of Omaha filmmaker/actor Nik Fackler. When he wasn't hanging out with Lea Thompson and Dave Foley, Fackler was lining up financing for his first feature film, Lovely Still, which could begin shooting sometime early next year with an all-star cast (I'm not kidding).

Column 12 -- INXSessive or American Idolatry? (2/10/05) -- Myself and most of America forgot to watch the Mark Burnett-produced reality series, Rock Star, which aired this past summer and fall. No one who took part in the Omaha try-outs made it to LA. One local performer invited to the final call-back turned it down, not wanting to be hounded by cameras 24/7 -- a wise decision.

Column 16 -- Grant-ed a Second Chance (3/10/05) -- The story of the re-emergence of Todd Grant, an influential singer-songwriter from the Golden Age of the Omaha music scene circa early-'90s. Grant's series of on-stage implosions last summer (including a brawl at Mick's) all but guarantees that he won't be seen on an Omaha stage anytime soon. Nonetheless, he continues his musical pursuits.

Column 21 -- Selling the Ranch (4/14/05) -- A look at the activities of former Ranch Bowl owner Mike Brannan, with WalMart looking over his shoulder. Brannan's rumored 500-capacity venue at the old Club Joy never materialized. Something tells me we haven't heard the last from him.

Column 26 -- Heavy Rotation (5/19/05) -- With the subhead "Has the River changed its course?" an interview with 89.7 The River's program director Sophia John on the station's shift to more indie-flavored programming. Six months later, that course seems to have changed back to their usual goon rock/aggra-rap/screamo formula -- a pity.

Column 27 -- Behind the (Omaha) Music (5/25/05) -- An interview with VH1's Eli Lehrer on a proposed documentary about the Omaha music scene. Lehrer visited Omaha a few weeks after the column appeared, looking for dirt about personnel conflicts within the Saddle Creek Records family. Methinks the project got shelved.

Column 32 -- The Border Wars (7/6/05) -- An interview with Shag owner Terry O'Halloran on the division between east and west Omaha venues (and their clientele). That division runs as deep as ever, with yet another west O venue -- The O Zone -- catering to cover bands and bands that sound like cover bands. Meanwhile, Saddle Creek Records' Slowdown complex has broken ground on North 13th St., promising to provide everything indie.

Column 37 -- One Hundred and 1 Percent (8/16/05) -- One Percent Production's Marc Leibowitz talked about quitting his day job, but it was partner Jim Johnson who took the plunge, quitting his job a few months after this column. Look for more One Percent news in next week's column.

Column 40 -- The 49'r Takes Five (9/1/05) -- Where 49'r owner Mark Samuelson assured us that the mid-town tavern would pump up its live music after a brief hiatus. Funny, there were no shows at the Niner last weekend. We're all waiting, Mr. Samuelson.

Column 41 -- Brother, Can You Spare $3.30? (9/8/05) -- Seems like only yesterday that bands (and the rest of us) were whining about $3.30 per gallon gas. Who remembers Katrina?

And so on. Thanks to all the "deep throats" who provided the inside poop that helped make Lazy-I -- both in The Reader and online -- an interesting read. Now, onto year two...

Tonight, The Appleseed Cast with Latitude, Longitude and Lifeafter Laserdisque at Sokol Underground. Lawrence's Appleseed Cast was pegged early on as just another emo band, thanks to a handful of Deep Elm Records releases. Then in '01 they went crazy and released a two-volume collection called the Low Level Owl series that critics hailed as artsy, ambient, experimental... even genius. Two years later they took another U-turn, called Two Conversations, a record as lonely as the echo of traffic heard across a cornfield on a clear, moonlit night. Find out tonight where they're headed for their next record, due out in April. $8, 9 p.m.

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This week's feature story: Milemarker – Nov. 30, 2005 –

I've been following Milemarker for years, having reviewed both 2001's Anaesthetic (Rating: No) and 2002's Frigid Forms Sell (Rating: Yes), both on Jade Tree. It was the latter album where the band really hit its stride. They'd release the moribund Satanic Versus later in '02, before disappearing from the music scene altogether -- which is discussed in the interview (read it here). It was during those Jade Tree years that Omaha became something of a regular stop on the band's tours through Nebraska, even opening for Desaparecidos' CD release show back in January 2002 (surprisingly, none of their shows were One Percent gigs, until now). Starting over means going from playing rooms the size of Sokol Underground to the more intimate O'Leaver's -- a switch that frontman Dave Laney is fine with, realizing that the band couldn't draw a crowd big enough to fill anything larger. We'll see. There are a lot of Omahans who remember this band and hopefully will show up next Tuesday.

And if you're wondering, no, I didn't go to the Ween show last night. Anyone who did, please be kind enough to grace us all with a brief review on the webboard...

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Ween tonight – Nov. 29, 2005 –

Well, as hard as I tried, I couldn't get Ween to do an interview. Not this time, said their tour guy/publicist person. In all honesty, I'm not sure what I would have asked them. I'm one of those people that never got into the band, which says more about me then about them. Though I've heard that they deplore jam bands and the whole jam-band aesthetic, Ween and its horde of followers has a lot in common with Phisheads, Deadheads, Widespread Panicheads, etc. Without the help of radio, Ween has managed to garner a sizable following of fans who travel from town to town to hear their heroes, thanks for the most part to their stage shows that draw from a wildly diverse catalogue of music and styles. And because they're funny. So as background for you Weeners and non-Weeners who are braving the arctic cold to attend tonight's sold-out festivities, here's some recent Ween articles to study:

For weird's sake -- Dirt, Boulder, Colorado, Nov. 28 -- A good backgrounder about the band and this tour, written in support of Ween's three-night stand in Boulder that concludes this Saturday. Writer Andy Stonehouse (a more appropriate name for a writer of a Ween article I could never think of) describes the band as "Sophomoric. Ridiculous. Homophobic. Asinine. Puerile." And he's being nice.

Vegoose has flown -- The Rebel Yell, University of Nevada, Nov. 3 -- A review of the Vegoose Festival featuring Ween, Flaming Lips, Arcade Fire and Widespread Panic. A snapshot of the crowd: "All the lead singer had to do was say 'Ween,'and then all the weirdos in the crowd immediately began to howl, conditioned like Pavlov's dogs, which left all the sane people in the vicinity stricken with fear." Look for the same reaction tonight.

Order from Chaos -- Metro Newspapers, Bay area, CA, Nov. 2 -- A piece about Dean Ween side project Moistboyz, who One Percent should try to book when they go on tour this winter.

Ween Radio -- A website that does nothing but stream Ween music. You can request a song and find tour info... from as recent as 2002.

The Official Ween site -- The usual stuff.

Look for a feature on Milemarker here tomorrow, and a column that recaps the past year of columns on Thursday...

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Live Review: Civicminded, Summer Birds in the Cellar; a quiet weekend ahead... – Nov. 25, 2005 –

It seems unfair to make any comments about Civicminded's set Wednesday night at O'Leaver's. The sound couldn't have been any worse. Look, everyone knows that O'Leaver's has an inferior PA, but some nights bands sound pretty damn good (bordering on great). Wednesday night wasn't one of them, at least not for Civicminded. I was curious about these guys after hearing their song on the First National Bank comp. I know that they do a lot of gigs in the West Omaha club world. Their stage presence reflected this. Not that there's anything wrong with the frontman saying "How's everybody doin' tonight?" halfway through a song, it's just not what I'm accustomed to at indie shows. Most indie bands slouch onto the stage, plug in and play their entire set without acknowledging that there's anyone else in the room. A common question during an indie band's set "Who are these guys?" No one seems to know, and you usually don't find out until after the set, when you can ask the frontman (and he might even tell you). That wasn't a problem with Civicminded (or the headliner, for that matter). The frontman announced, "We're Civicminded, thanks for coming out," after almost every song. Again, nothing wrong with that, it's just something I'm more used to hearing at The Ranch Bowl or from a cover band.

Civicminded seems to be somewhere between being a radio-alt band and something different, something better. They're teetering on the edge of heading different places than the run-of-the-mill alt-band. A couple of their songs (the track, for instance) wander from the typical radio formula to more interesting territory. It's their rhythm section that seems to be in limbo. Most of the time, the bass and drums were playing atypical heavy-metal backbeat rhythms a la cover bands. This music, especially the guitars and keyboards, demand something more creative than that. Too often the compositions seemed formulaic, as if someone came up with the riffs and everyone else nodded and smiled and thought "Oh, it's one of those songs" and then went into auto pilot. That style -- that straight-on alt rock/bar rock style -- is exactly what 85 percent of a typical bar audience wants to hear. They want the familiar. They want Pearl Jam. That won't cut it with the 15 percenters who are used to hearing more unique (or oddball) stuff that typifies college/indie music. But then again, I have no idea where these guys want to go. Maybe they're targeting the FM alt-radio crowd. And that's fine, too. But if they're interested in doing something more creative (and better), the potential is most definitely there.

It's impossible to comment much further because of the horrible, muddy, cluttered mix. Civicminded is a five-piece that features a frontman (who only sings, he plays no instrument), two guitars (one guy also plays keyboards), bass and drums. Rarely could you make out the second guitar line in the fog of noise. The vocal pick-up was worse than bad -- at moments the guy sounded like he was blowing out the stage-right amp with his voice (He has classic rock frontman tendencies that don't lend themselves to O'Leaver's RadioShack microphones). The proof in the pudding lies in how they would sound on a better PA...

The inferior sound system was no problem for Summer Birds in the Cellar. They spent about 15 minutes dragging a mountain of amps onto the stage and stacking them under, then in front of, the plasma TV. The additional firepower made all the difference. But even then, there were problems. Thing kept getting unplugged to the bass head, and someone would constantly have to lean over and plug stuff back in. Despite the technical glitches, these guys were pretty amazing, with a sound that combines dance rhythms with Cure-style drone guitars and intricate, repeated riffs that pulled songs out with extended, jammy endings that you didn't want to stop. The frontman introduced the last song with "I hope we win the war on terror, because I hate it," or something like that. About halfway through, however, the bass head apparently fell off the stack of amplifiers. Once they lifted it back onto the stack, they declared that the bass head was blown, fiddled around with some wires, and started the song over from the beginning, declaring it was the first encore they ever performed. Great set, great band. I should have bought a copy of their CD that night.

As for the weekend: For me it'll probably start at The Brothers tonight since there's no shows to speak of. There might be a show at O'Leaver's but who knows? They quit updating their calendar again and sending out information on their e-mail list. I do know, however, that they've got a hot show tomorrow -- Bad Luck Charm with The Black Rabbits -- this one will be packed. $5, 9:30 p.m. And that about does it for the weekend. Blame the holiday for the lame schedule.

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Column 52: A Thanksgiving Prayer; Summer Birds in the Cellar, Civicminded tonight – Nov. 23, 2005 –

This column is self-explanatory. The staff at the paper hated it. I don't blame them.

Column 52 -- Be Thankful for Nothing
Omaha's music scene has no one to thank but itself.

About two weeks ago, the editorial staff at The Reader approached me and the other writers to lend a hand on this issue's cover story based on the question: "What are you thankful for?" I was given a list of local musicians and important figures from the music scene, which I was assigned to call or e-mail asking them what they're thankful for during this holiday season.

My reaction: This has got to be the lamest idea I've ever heard. Look, I'm not going to pick up the phone and call Simon Joyner or Marc Leibowitz or Tim Kasher and waste their time by first, asking what they're thankful for and second, explaining why The Reader thinks their comments are relevant to anyone outside of their immediate family, close friends or whatever deity they worship.

Beyond the basics -- their health, and the health of their friends and family -- what could they possibly say that would be interesting? What curveball could they throw that would be "good reading" to the guy or gal sitting at O'Leaver's or The Blue Line or your local convenient store or any other place where The Reader is stacked? "Dude, I'm thankful for my sweet, sweet Electro-lux Flying V with duo pick-ups and flaming starburst finish." Right on.

Yeah I know, I flew off the handle, as per usual. I'm sure the story, which is tucked somewhere inside these pages, is absolutely riveting. And upon reflection, the local music scene and its participants do have a lot to be thankful for. But once you get past thanking the obvious -- the venues, the labels, the promoters, the recent national attention, and, of course, their natural talent -- there's not much left to be thankful for.

Our music scene was built on hard work. Not luck, not fortune, not the good will of some omnipotent rock god. The bands that have made a name for themselves did it by busting their asses in the studio, in the clubs, on the road. Beyond that, I can only image what they could be thankful for:

A good van
A better mechanic.
Cheap(er) gas.
Free booze at gigs.
A quiet place to throw up after all that free booze.
Getting away with it.
Getting caught by the right people.
The decision to not press charges.
Staying together, because it makes sense.
Breaking up, because it makes sense.
Just getting rid of fly in the ointment.
Thinking through every possible consequence before saying no to a groupie.
Those times when you said yes.
Catching the flu on off nights.
Being able to fake it when it catches you.
Staying away from the wrong drugs.
Surviving those time(s) when you weren't smart enough to avoid them.
Making that one last phone call.
Sending that one last e-mail.
Making and sending one more after that.
Listening to the right people.
Ignoring the wrong ones.
Not giving a shit either way.
Being clever enough to come up with the right riffs,
The right fills,
The right lyrics
At the right times.
And most importantly, doing things the right way when tempted time and time and time again to do it the easy way.

This is getting preachy. And trite. And it's just the kind of thing I wanted to avoid by not participating in that article in the first place. What do the fans and musicians and everyone involved in the Omaha scene have to be thankful for? That there is an Omaha scene at all. And who can they thank? Themselves.

Maybe I should have ended it with "Happy Thanksgiving"? Anyway, in addition to spending my holiday with family, I'll be spending it in the bar, starting tonight at O'Leaver's. The headliner is Summer Birds in the Cellar, a Florida-based four-piece that combines keys and guitar and guy-vocals to create a sound that's more mellow than rock. The stuff I heard online is unremarkable but pretty. More interesting to me is opening band Civicminded, who had a stand-out track on the First National Bank Omaha music compilation. They've been playing the West Omaha circuit for months now, so I fear they could draw a large crowd which would likely drive me right out of the bar. Guess I'll have to get there early and try to grab a seat, as you should, too. $5, 9:30.

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Watching them dig a Slowdown hole; Ladyfinger tonight in Papillion – Nov. 22, 2005 –

I e-mailed Jason Kulbel the day I noticed the heavy-moving equipment touch down at the Slowdown site, figuring he would regale me with stories of a fireworks-laden ribbon-cutting ceremony, tales of how he and Robb Nansel and Rachel Jacobson -- decked out in business suits and hardhats (with their names printed on them) --grinned as they pushed their gold-painted shovels into the half-frozen November soil while a small crowd of poorly dressed Creek staffers and well-dressed Kutak Rock "friends" clapped with enthusiasm. Maybe Robb made a speech in his usual acerbic style that captured the moment in everyone's hearts, the totality of which was "Thanks for coming" and a half-wave. On hand for the occasion, of course, would be Mayor Mike Fahey with his usual leprechaun grin, strongly shaking the Creek crew's hands, their arms waving like wet noodles. "I just love you goddamned kids! But tell me, why Slowdown? I figured you'd want something more up-tempo, like The Rock House or Shakers or something like that." Robb would quietly reply with, "Well, we thought about those names and all the other ones you e-mailed us, Mr. Mayor, but Slowdown... well... it would take too long to explain..." Fahey's face would remain a frozen grin as he moved on to talk about the real meaning of Election with Alexander Payne...

Instead, Jason replied to my e-mail with: "we wanted to have an official groundbreaking ceremony but nansel lost all of the shovels. no, there was nothing official. a lot of people told us we should have one, but it seemed a bit over the top. we're just happy to finally see something happening down there." (Note the lack of capital letters -- this is a Saddle Creek correspondence trait, reflecting how the writer is way too fatigued to push the Caps key.) I'm sure Fahey was disappointed. I know how much he likes to wear a hardhat. Anyway, they tore out the sidewalk along the west side of the property yesterday, and steamshovels (or whatever they're called) are eagerly digging away at some sort of foundation. It won't be long now.

Noteworthy show tonight: Ladyfinger at The Rock (now there's a cool club name) in Papillion along with The Atlas and emo bands Renee Heartfelt and Leaving Lafayette. $7, 8 p.m. Ladyfinger is probably playing early...

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Injury Time Out – Nov. 21, 2005 –

The day after I wrote the Nov. 18 blog entry I woke up and couldn't move my fingers without lightning bolts of pain shooting from my wrist, up my arm to my elbow. Any pressure on my right hand created tiny sparks of agony. It's only now that I can type, and even then it's a bit of a struggle. No, I didn't break my wrist, more like sprained it (It never swelled up). So, as this medical report would indicate, I missed all the weekend shows. Driving was out of the question. Ah well, there will be other weekends. It also means there will be no column this week (the deadline was last Friday). More tomorrow. I promise. And if anyone went to any of the shows this weekend, give us a bit of a review, will you?

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Weekend Update – Nov. 18, 2005 –

I write this in a broken and battered state, having fallen flat on my ass on some icy stairs. My back and ass are sore but fine, my hands are two bloody stumps, which is why you're not reading a review of last night's Eagle*Seagull/Benck/Neva show. Anyone who did go, please leave us a brief review on the webboard. My personal agony, however, will likely not deter me from attending the weekend highlights, which start tonight at O'Leaver's where Brimstone Howl, The Terminals and Autodramatics will be performing. Brimstone Howl, if you didn't know, was formerly known as The Zyklon Bees before the Anti-Defamation League stepped in and gave the band some one-on-one sensitivity training. This is the CD release show for Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! Bang! or as I call it Seven Bangs! or Bang! x 7. released on Speed! Nebraska Records. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, downtown at Sokol Underground tonight it's LA noise-rock outfit Mae-shi (5 Rue Christine Records), Lincoln's The Show is the Rainbow and St. Louis' So Many Dynamos (who AMG compares to Dismemberment Plan). $7, 9 p.m.

Saturday night it's The Third Men (ex-The Sons of...) with the jazzy Iowa City combo The Diplomats of Solid Sound at The 49'r. $5, 9:30 p.m.

But perhaps the biggest show night of all this weekend is Sunday. Down at Sokol Underground it's a four-band bill with Broken Spindles, GoGoGo Airheart, The Joggers and Flamboyant Gods, all for just $7 (Starts at 9). Meanwhile, at Mick's, Kite Pilot takes the stage with Unwed Sailor. $4, 8 p.m.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go change the dressing on my wounds. Have a good weekend.

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Feature o' the Week: Eagle*Seagull, playing tonight with Neva Dinova – Nov. 17, 2005 –

I am occasionally asked by the very few who read this blog or my stuff in The Reader what's hot these days. My answer for the last few months has been Lincoln's Eagle*Seagull, a band to which I just posted a feature story about (read it here). My first question during our recent interview (which they drove all the way from Lincoln to do -- I was touched!) was the traditional "stupid question": What in hell does your name mean, and why the cock-a-doody asterisk (which is a pain in the arse to type)? The answer to the first half is in the story, the answer to the second was never really given. It had something to do with Google and the Internet. However if you type Eagle*Seagull into Google these days, the top result is a model airplane website, followed by a site selling decorative mobiles. For God's sake, get rid of the asterisk!

What didn't make it into the story? Frontman Eli Mardock's reticence to explain, read and/or publish his lyrics, though he says he takes great pride in them. When I asked him what "Your beauty is a knife I turn on my throat" means, he hum-hawed. "I get self conscious about my lyrics when I see them printed out," he said, avoiding the question. "Poetry is supposed to look good on the page. Song lyrics are about the song. Seeing any of my lyrics makes me cringe." Fair enough. I guess it just means we need to listen to the songs more closely, and that ain't such bad thing.

Tonight Eagle*Seagull opens for Neva Dinova and Sarah Benck & The Robbers at Sokol Underground, which means you must get there at the stroke of 9 p.m. You will not be disappointed. As good as their CD is, their live show is much better and really does deserve comparison to The Arcade Fire, whether the band likes it or it. $7, 9 p.m.

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Column 51: Caulfield, Goodbye; Gerald Lee Jr. a.k.a. Lee Meyerpeter at The Niner tonight – Nov. 16, 2005 –

Switching things around this week and running the column today and the feature on Eagle*Seagull tomorrow (that show it tomorrow night with Neva Dinova).

I said last week in this blog that I'd heard that Caulfield Records' label chief, Bernie McGinn, had moved to San Francisco, but that there'd been conflicting reports to the truthfulness of that rumor. Bernie put those questions to rest when he e-mailed me with the real poop, and then agreed to do an interview for the column. This piece merely scratches the surface of what Caulfield Records was all about. Believe me, Caulfield was a big deal in the '90s, much in the same way that Saddle Creek is today. In an era before the widespread use of the Internet, Caulfield was the real deal -- a distributed label (via Lumberjack) that got your music heard all over the country. The quality of their releases was consistently first-rate.

Column 51 -- Goodbye, Caulfield
Nebraska's original indie label calls it quits

Before there was Saddle Creek, there was Caulfield Records.

It was 1988 -- a time when the thought of Nebraska ever being the center of anything other than college football, telemarketing or insurance -- let alone the indie rock music world -- was insane. Record labels belonged in New York or L.A. (or maybe Seattle), certainly not Nebraska.

Then along came a 17-year-old Lincoln entrepreneur who conned his loving mother into cosigning a loan to finance the release of a 7-inch EP by his band, Peer Puppet.

"We actually changed our name after the record was pressed," said the entrepreneur in question, Bernie McGinn. "We crossed out 'Peer Puppet' and stamped it with the new name, 'Sideshow,'" McGinn told me the story from his new home in sunny, soothing San Francisco, California, where he moved seven weeks ago to pursue an offer he couldn't refuse from CNET The move decidedly spelled the end of one of the most influential record labels in our scene's rather young history. Caulfield Records and its roster of bands that included Frontier Trust, Mercy Rule, Christie Front Drive, Giants Chair, Opium Taylor, Mineral, The Sound of Rails, The Lepers and Her Flyaway Manner, were the predecessors to a phenomenon that would emerge a decade later called Saddle Creek Records. McGinn proved that you could run a successful, nationally distributed indie label out of your house and have fun doing it. Making money at it, well, that's another thing altogether...

The label's heyday was in the early '90s. Caulfield grew from a regional label with local acts like Mercy Rule and Frontier Trust, to a national entity with the release of CDs by Denver's Christie Front Drive and Kansas City's Giants Chair, two bands that toured extensively. Things got so busy around the Caulfield offices that there wasn't enough room for McGinn's own band -- Sideshow released their second LP on Flydaddy, a subsidiary of Sub Pop.

Then over the course of '95, Giants Chair, Christie Front Drive and Lincoln band Opium Taylor all broke up, just after Caulfield released those bands' follow-up LPs. "Opium Taylor's last show was their CD release show," McGinn said. "For all intents and purposes, not having bands on the road was the beginning of the end."

But McGinn soldiered on. In 1999, the label released the debut by Traluma, a project fronted by former Gauge guitarist Kevin. J. Frank. It was the first time McGinn had to work with a band's independent publicist. It would prove to be a souring experience.

"I struggled with it for quite a while -- do I want to make this my job or is this a passion or hobby?" McGinn said. "I did try, on a number of levels, to make it a record label by putting out music by (bands) Kolya and m.i.j., and working with people who weren't part of my close circle of friends. Afterward, I decided that this isn't fun and it isn't the reason I started the label."

Add to that the fact that by 2000 McGinn's last band, Luck of Aleia, had folded, and he no longer was performing on stage. "That meant I wasn't meeting new bands," he said. "It just didn't make sense anymore."

Caulfield's last gasps were releases by his brother Brendan's band, Her Flyaway Manner, as well as The Lepers and The Sound of Rails. In May 2003, Caulfield released Fractions and Exaggerations, a compilation of material from '90s noise-rock band Germbox. Catalog number 41 would prove to be the label's final release.

"There was no official tent folding," McGinn said of Caulfield's demise. "It was an organic process of not putting out any records, in the same way that putting out records in the first place wasn't an effort to start a record label."

These days, McGinn and his wife, Tammy Childers, are busy enough just keeping up with their 3-year-old daughter, Stella. He says he's still going to keep material in print that people want (You can find it at, as well as make the catalog available on digital services such as i-Tunes, Rhapsody and Napster.

"It's been an honor working with bands that I have been huge fans of, and being trusted to help get their music out there," McGinn said. "That's been the best part of it."

Tonight, Bad Luck Charm's Lee Meyerpeter is doing an acoustic set as "Gerald Lee Jr." at The 49'r. Lee says his songs are written in the vein of Waylon Jennings, Uncle Tupelo and Iggy Pop. Also playing is Lash La Rue from The Mercurys. Hey, is there a better place to be on a cold, cold night than The Niner? $2, 10 p.m.

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Live Review: Mal Madrigal; Slowdown breaks ground; Rachel's tonight – Nov. 15, 2005 –

Where was I yesterday? Writing a feature on Eagle*Seagull and a column on Caulfield Records, that's where. Watch for them tomorrow and Thursday.

I never got a chance to talk about Saturday Night's Mal Madrigal show at O'Leaver's. It was a packed house. I stood by the door most of the night, which sucked. Nothing like being in somebody's way all night, but what could you do? I don't know what the deal was, but the place was filled... with women -- unheard of at O'Leaver's. I halfway expected some guy to walk in wearing a cop's uniform and tell one of the women that "she's under arrest" before throwing his hat across the room and unbuttoning his shirt to the throbbing beat of The Petshop Boys. Even the owner was perplexed by the number of women who came out to see Mal Madrigal. I guess it's that sexy heartthrob Steve Bartolomei, this season's Keith Partridge.

First up was Denton, Texas' Shiny Around the Edges, a minimalist noise-rock trio with heavy Sonic Youth influence. Their music was tribal and rhythmic, featuring chant male and female vocals. Some songs were feedback dirges while others were gritty rockers (They opened with a gruelingly slow Neil Young cover). Quite a contrast to what was about to hit the stage. It's been about a year since I last saw Mal Madrigal, and their sound hasn't changed much. The band's rural folk is centered around Bartolomei's warm, almost-soothing vocals. Some songs were downright pretty; all were laid-back -- at least all the songs I heard. After about five songs-worth of people constantly walking back and forth in front of me, I gave up and went home. Mal Madrigal may well have outgrown O'Leaver's Saturday night. It will be awhile until we get a chance to see them again as Bartolomei is headed to Europe for a month to play in Mayday. I ran into drummer Corey Broman (Statistics, Son, Ambulance, Little Brazil) at the show -- he'll be on the same tour, playing for both Mayday and Orenda Fink, who are sharing the bill.

A brief mention that Saddle Creek Records' Slowdown project apparently broke ground over the weekend. I saw tractors and other heavy equipment busy at work yesterday from my office window. I was beginning to wonder if they were going to get the hole dug before the ground froze.

Tonight, The Rachel's take the stage at Sokol Underground with Invert and The Mariannes. The Rachel's play incredibly droll, drawn-out found-sound instrumentals on their last CD Systems/Layers. It's a tough listen and could be challenging to pull off on stage. $10, 9 p.m.

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Live Review: Bright Eyes, Spoon; Mal Madrigal, Dereck Higgins tonight – Nov. 12, 2005 –

One advantage to being a music writer other than getting free CDs in the mail all the time is getting on "the list." Most newspapers (The World Herald for instance) don't allow reporters to be "on the list." Reporters aren't even allowed to keep the CDs they've reviewed for fear that it might give an impression of impropriety. That's not a problem at alt weeklies (or online 'zines, for that matter), where receiving free stuff is one of the chief motivations for writing in the first place. Impropriety be damned.

That said, I was on "the list" plus one last night for the Bright Eyes show at The Orpheum. After eating a fine Mexican dinner at Trini's I considered bypassing the whole event. It was already 9:30, and I've seen Bright Eyes more times than I care to admit. But since we were walking in the general direction of The Orpheum, we figured we might as well take a peek.

The Orpheum is an amazing venue, absolutely gorgeous, like walking into a New York Opera House (or what I imagine one to be like). If you've never been there, you need to go at least once before the City decides to bulldoze the place to make room for a parking garage (now that we have their cold, sterile Holland Center). Our seats were in The Loge in the front box on stage-right -- actually the two front seats of the front box -- so close you could watch the rock stars stumbling around backstage.

Spoon already had begun their set and I quickly realized the drawback to our location. Sure, you were close enough to piss onto the stage, but you'd have to heave it over the stack of sub-amps stacked on either side. At first I didn't think I'd need earplugs -- not here, not in this home of perfect acoustics. But after a couple minutes, I put mine in, and after a few songs, it was like I wasn't wearing earplugs at all. The bass so dominated the sound that you could hear or feel little else. This must be what it's like inside one of those rattling Escalades that you can feel approaching your car about eight blocks away. The sound was worse than bad, it was horrible, (at least from our seats).

Spoon walked through its set with mechanical gusto. Britt Daniel played the role of the frontman with as much panache as he could muster, looking like a thin version of Gary Busey circa The Buddy Holly Story. His one rock star trick was dropping to his knees to face a small amp, his back to the audience as if trying to leech feedback from his guitar. While I like Spoon's records, last night, it all sounded the same except for the few numbers where the band played drawn-out, droning endings. It was a boring set that seemed to go on forever, but maybe that's because I was being shaken to jelly by those sub-amps.

Between bands The Orpheum's lobby swelled with hipsters desperately trying to down as many drinks as possible before the next set (no drinks allowed inside the theater). I ran into a few people I knew, all of whom had seats up close but against the wall, and all complaining about the bass. I don't think these types of theaters were designed to handle this sort of music, certainly not this sort of sound equipment.

It wasn't as bad when Bright Eyes came out, serenaded by a harp. Though the harpist played on half the songs, I never really noticed her other than during the opener, "Sunrise, Sunset." It was ornate and pretty. The rest of the time it was drowned out by, well two drummers (Clark Baechle from The Faint and Jason Boesel from Rilo Kiley), Mike Mogis on electric guitar, a trumpet (I think it was Nate Walcott), and bass. The harpist also played keyboards and vibes, and sang harmonies on one song.

Conor looked relaxed in his too-tight pants and button-down shirt. He spent most of the time between songs complaining to someone off stage about the monitors, pointing at his microphone and then pointing up, occasionally doing impromptu sound checks and saying "I need a little more" while, again, pointing at the mike. It reminded me of a Warren Zevon concert I saw at the Ranch Bowl years ago. Zevon did the same thing -- pointing at his mike and angrily jerking his finger upward to some poor soundguy in the back of the room, before he finally blew up and threw his keyboard to the ground. Conor didn't do anything like that last night. He just ran through his playlist, which included selections from throughout his career. The most amusing part of the show was watching Clark Baechle get up from behind one of the drum sets like a trained bear, walk up to the front of the stage and play clarinet. He's pretty good at it, too.

Conor did the obligatory "thank you Omaha" speech, and acknowledging his family in the crowd. He said the last time he was in The Orpheum was for his graduation, then did a mock reenactment with Mogis playing the role of his principal. He went on to say how much he hated his f---ing school. That was the only controversial moment of the evening. After about five minutes of clapping, Oberst came back out for an encore that started with an angsty rendition of "Lua," where he painfully pulled every note from his guitar. It was the highlight of the night. The band came on after that to play a song I didn't recognize before belting out "Ode to Joy," the usual set closer, and my cue to leave.

Two good shows on tap tonight. At O'Leaver's Mal Madrigal is playing with Shiny Around the Edges. The Madrigal band this time consists of Mike Saklar (guitar), Ryan Fox (bass), Eric Ernst (drums), Dan McCarthy (accordion, keys etc.), and of course, frontman/guitarist Steve Bartolomei. The band just finished recording a live, all-analog set of songs using old vacuum-tube mic pre-amps and two linked tape machines. Shortly after this show, Bartolomei will be headed to Europe to play bass on tour with Mayday. 9:30, $5.

Meanwhile, in the heart of Benson at Mick's, Dereck Higgins and his band will be opening for Goodbye Sunday and Stephanie Pilypaitis. This is the same band that backed Higgins at his Healing Arts gig last July (here's that show review). $5, 9 p.m.

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In anticipation of Bright Eyes, Spoon and others tonight – Nov. 11, 2005 –

What are we in for tonight at The Orpheum? Going to a Bright Eyes show used to be like going to Sunset Speedway to see something blow up good. Will Conor be so loaded that he'll barely be able to stand up? When will he throw something at the audience or spit on someone? Will he stumble off the stage halfway through his set? Will he smash his guitar after the encore? Will he accidentally insult half the audience or the entire state of Nebraska? The operative words here, however, are "used to be." Bright Eyes sets these days are rather tame affairs. Maturity has caught up with our boy, and he seems to now understand that most of the crowd is there to hear his music, not see him hoist a jug of wine over his head like a pro.

Others from around the country apparently go to his shows with the same level of gruesome anticipation. Check out this review from The University of Washington-Seattle Daily of a recent show on this tour. The lead: "The question on most fans' minds as they wait for a Bright Eyes show to begin usually has something to do with front man Conor Oberst's level of inebriation." Bravo, Keegan. I suspect Conor will be on his best behavior, this being The Orpheum, Omaha's version of Carnegie Hall, a special, regal place to most people who grew up here (God forbid it should be torn down or turned into condos now that the World Herald got its precious Holland Center). Doing the math, I suspect the show will start at the strike of 8 p.m. with Willy Mason and his guitar, followed by Dave Dondero, then Spoon, with Bright Eyes coming on stage at 10:30. If you're still hungry for music afterward, stumble down to Ted & Wally's for Tomato A Day (helps keep the tornado away) featuring Dude Wyoming, Abigail Fishel, and Doug Wray with Morning at Sea and Nick Hugg -- I have no idea what any of these bands sound like, but you'll be downtown anyway...

Look for a review tomorrow, along with a preview of Saturday night's show here tomorrow.

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Column 50: Shelter Belt comes home from the road – Nov. 10, 2005 –

This column originated while driving home from work. Running down the street was sweat-covered Shelter Belt frontman Jesse Otto on his daily jog. I waved him over and we chatted for a couple seconds (No one likes to be interrupted during a workout) about their touring life and studio work. An interview was scheduled later that week. Shelter Belt has always been one of those bands that flies just beneath the radar. They're not terribly concerned about building a big following in Omaha, preferring instead to take their show on the road, which they've done in spades. Will their hard work pay off when they shop their new CD to labels early next year? It should. Most larger indies insist that the bands they sign do the necessary touring to support a release, as it should be. But because Shelter Belt's sound doesn't fall into any trendy categories, they might get overlooked, which would be a shame but not the end of the world for a band that seems satisfied with their current level of success (with hopes, of course, of making it to the next level). But just imagine what they could do with support from a label and a booking agent... Check out Shelter Belt at their website:

Column 50 -- Shelter on the Road
Shelter Belt epitomizes the term DIY

I never again want to hear woe-is-me laments from local rock bands complaining about how they'd just love to go on the road but they can't figure out how to book a tour.

Not after talking to Jesse Otto and Anthony Knuppel, two of the 7-member indie folk-rock orchestra called Shelter Belt.

Whilst clicking through the daily gig calendar on this summer I kept coming across listings for Shelter Belt shows at such obscure and faraway venues as Beaner's Central Coffeehouse in Duluth, The Brown Bean in Fredonia, NY; Soul Infusion Tea House and Bistro in Sylva, N.C., and Reptile Palace in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Hardly the towns and venues I'm used to seeing on a touring band's typical itinerary.

As of last Saturday night's gig at Shea Riley's, Shelter Belt has logged 58 shows this year throughout the North Central, Midwestern and Eastern United States. That follows a 70-gig year in 2004, all without the help of a record label or booking agent.

Booking is hard, frustrating work, Otto and Knuppel said over espressos in a packed Blue Line coffee shop Saturday. "You have to be persistent, and it can't bother you to be ignored," Otto said. "When a venue says they've never heard of you and they don't have time to listen to your record, you just have to move on to the next one on the list."

There's a method to the band's touring madness. Knuppel said it involves identifying colleges and universities within driving distance, then researching nearby venues. They bypass large cities and big clubs. "Unless you're a really huge band, forget about it," Knuppel said. "We've had our best luck at smaller cities with bigger schools. We try to avoid 21-and-over clubs for venues that are 18-and-over or all-ages. Coffee houses are the best. We'll sell 15 to 20 CDs at those shows."

But it's not only juggling venues' schedules, Otto and Knuppel also have to juggle the band members' seven day-jobs. Otto, for example, works at UNO and is a history grad student, while Knuppel does accounting for a downtown parking company. "We're lucky everyone has flexible jobs," Knuppel said, adding that the band takes vacations days at the same time to facilitate longer tours. "We've only had to turn down four or five shows because of job schedules."

With the gigs booked, the band piles into both a van and a car and hits the road to venues like The Boheme Bistro in Ames, Iowa -- a favorite because of its generous owner, its roomy stage, and of course, its loving crowd. "The Iowa State Daily and the radio station have been good to us," Otto said. "We've had large crowds there from day one."

Otto and company received the ultimate compliment the first time they played The Main Street Pub in Brookings, South Dakota. They began playing "Sad Thing" from their last album, Rain Home, and members of the crowd already knew the words. "That's the ultimate compliment," Otto said.

He says touring is like being on vacation, but not a paid one, as the band usually struggles to break even or get a few dollars ahead. Still, without a record label, touring is the only effective way that Shelter Belt is going to get their music heard outside of the Omaha area. So far they've sold more than 1,100 copies of Rain Home -- almost all of them sold at gigs.

The band is winding down its tour schedule for the year as they reenter their homemade Belt Cave Studios located in the basement of a Dundee home, to record the follow-up to Rain Home. Fans can expect the finished full-length sometime next spring. And then it's back to the road.

"We want to do more shows than last year," Otto said. "Every year it gets a little easier now that we've done the initial leg work. More people know who we are."

But wouldn't it be a dream come true if the new CD caught the attention of a record label and Shelter Belt got a booking agent? Otto and Knuppel aren't holding their breaths. The band didn't even bother shopping Rain Home to labels. They might send the new one out to a few this time, but if no one bites, that's okay.

"We've always done things DIY and it's worked for us," Otto said. "We would love to make a living traveling and recording and not have to work day jobs. We're told that it's possible.

"We wouldn't be doing it if it wasn't possible," Knuppel said.

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This week's feature: Spoon; Tristeza tonight – Nov. 9, 2005 –

It's become something of a habit to tell you that the mere 400-word limit that The Reader places on feature stories wasn't enough and that I had to commandeer my column to have enough room to get all the important meaning out of an interview. That wasn't the case with Spoon's Britt Daniel this time around (read it here). Britt clearly wasn't in the mood for an interview. I got a sense that I caught him at a bad time, or that he'd just woken up. I can understand that. I don't know how musicians, especially popular ones, stand being interviewed over and over and over. In the case of Conor Oberst, he simply doesn't do interviews anymore, at least not with small publications (I should point out that I didn't request an interview with Conor this time around. There wasn't anything new to talk about. I gleaned his no-interviews policy from The Omaha World-Herald's precoverage of Friday's show -- Niz was forced to interview Conor's publicist). Daniel could have refused as well, but he was willing to take 10 minutes to at least chat with me.

Interestingly, most of the time was spent with me updating him on the Saddle Creek's Slowdown project, which he was "eager to see while in town." I told him he'd be staring at an overgrown weed field with a railroad track running through it as the project hasn't broken ground yet (and time is ticking away). The other stuff that didn't make it into the story includes how Omaha has sort of slipped off Daniel's radar screen. "A lot of people who made Omaha special have left," he said. But he couldn't really think of anyone else other than Conor, who now lives in New York. "Nansel's still there," Daniel said, referring to Creel label head Robb Nansel, "and some Saddle Creek people are still there. The Faint still are still there, but some of my best friends left." The rest of the interview was somewhat forced. Britt talked about how digital downloads will never replace record stores and how he's never really pursued top-40 status. He also had no idea what kind of venue The Orpheum is, figuring it was just a large hall. Not a stellar interview, but that can't all be.

Anyway... Tonight is Tristeza with Bella Lea at O'Leaver's. Tristeza has gone from being one of the hottest acts in the indie sphere back in 2000 (and here's my 2000 interview with the band) to just another touring indie instrumental act. I remember them talking about breaking up way back then, but they never did (though I think some of the personnel did change). It should be a rather soothing show. $6, 9:30 p.m.

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The Lepers in the studio; Brother Ali tonight – Nov. 8, 2005 –

Owen Cleasby of The Lepers tells me that he and drummer, Ken Brock, are recording a new album at Steve Micek's home studio. Owen said this one will be more fleshed out instrumentally than the last Lepers CD, The Love from Above, which was released on Caulfield Records. Very unlikely that Caulfield will release this one, Owen said, as the guy behind the label, the legendary Bernie McGinn (ex-Sideshow), has moved to San Francisco. Someone else had told me that McGinn moved to S.F., then I mentioned that news to someone else, who said it wasn't true, then Owen told me the same story at the Okkervil River show. I guess I could try e-mailing McGinn via the Caulfield website, which is still live. Anyway, Owen says their CD should be done in early 2006 and then they'll shop it around to labels.

Tonight, Brother Ali returns to Sokol Underground with Swollen Members and Buck Bowen. Fellow Reader screed Jeremy Schnitker did an interview with Ali last week (read it here), where race again became the center of the discussion. Sounds like he's getting tired of the same questions over and over. I'm lucky I got to interview him waaay back in June 2003 (read that one here), before he caught fire with the critics and was more open about those sorts of questions. That didn't stop him from calling me out on stage about my article, however (you can read about that uncomfortable night in the June 13, 2003, Lazy-i blog entry). $10, 9 p.m.

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Chromatics tonight with... Black Guys (Darren Keen strikes again!) – Nov. 7, 2005 –

It's shaping up to be a pretty busy week, with significant shows somewhere every night. Tonight it's Chromatics at O'Leaver's with Black Guys? Who are these Black Guys? None other than Darren Keen of The Show is the Rainbow with Jim Schroder (Mr. 1986), Javid Dabestani (Bright Calm Blue, Broken Spindles) and Brendan McGinn (Her Flyaway Manner). No idea what they sound like. Keen describes them as a "rock band." Chromatics record on Troubleman Unlimited, so expect arty noise mixed with electronics. $5, 9:30.

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Live Review: Cursive; Virgasound, Local H tonight – Nov. 6, 2005 –

It's my assessment that the whole Cursive storyline -- opening for The Cure, The Hiatus, The Return -- couldn't have been more ingeniously calculated by our friends at Saddle Creek. Cut the band off whilst it prepares to break through whatever invisible force field the protects the different layers of public acceptance, leave the masses wondering if the band has breathed its last, leave them yearning for more. Then a little more than a year later, seemingly out of nowhere, pluck them from the ashes reborn as a lean, mean four-piece, casting aside the glitter and glow to reveal muscle and bone. The New Cursive is a Jeet Kune-Do version, stressing power in efficiency, building strength through simplicity. Applying this new philosophy to recordings and the road, their fans, who have wept in their dormancy, will have new heroes to celebrate. And all will once again be well in Cursive land.

I mentioned this theory to the label chief last night, how he couldn't have marketed the band any better if he tried, and he just laughed. He didn't laugh, however, when I told him that the next Cursive album will be King Kong-sized, as will the subsequent tour. Cursive is slowly evolving from being just another indie band with principles to folk heroes on par with Fugazi. I mentioned that to Matt Maginn last week, and he quickly denied it. "We try to walk the fine line, we try to make good decisions, but we don't make decisions based on whether it follows a DIY or independent ethic or rule," he said. "We follow our own ethic. I love Fugazi. We don't take ourselves seriously enough to be in their league."

Fair enough. But the hiatus did prove that Cursive isn't in it for the cash (though the cash can't be bad). Whether they want it or not, people are identifying with this band for than its music.

But I digress…

Cursive brought their A-game last night, dipping deep into the catalog for what was an inspired set. I was told by three or four people that it was a night-and-day difference from their Friday night show, when Kasher and the band seemed more stressed and disconnected with the audience. Halfway through the set, Kasher inasmuch admitted it, saying that the band was too anxious Friday night having tried to relearn so many different songs. There was no anxiety in the house last night as the band eagerly rifled through a huge set list that included what I assume was a number of new songs that sounded altogether different than their usual fare. The new music is more muscular, angular and less interested in providing hum-able melodies. The songs don't seem angry as much as intense, and while there's an inherent dissonance to the new stuff, there's also something undeniably, well, funky about it, specifically in the rhythm section. Who knows how much of what I heard will ever make it to the studio. If it does, look out.

The only thing I can whine about was the all-Cindy-Lauper encore -- "Time After Time" would have been enough of an ironic statement. "True Colors," OK, cute. You can stop now. "She Bop," however, pushed the envelope a little too far, and maybe that was the intention. I didn't hear a lot of complaints when they left the stage for the last time. Nobody wanted to hear "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" Cursive-style.

Tonight it's Local H doing what's been billed as their "all request" tour. I have no idea what that's all about. I do admit to liking their last studio release, Whatever Happened to P.J. Soles? Opening is Virgasound (formerly known as The Philharmonic) and that alone is worth the $12 ticket. Unfortunately I'll be too busy tonight writing a feature on Spoon and a column on Shelter Belt to go. Goddamn deadlines.

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Live Review: Okkervil River, The Minus Story; Cursive Pt. 1 tonight – Nov. 4, 2005 –

Sorry for lateness of submission but I have the day off and was busy raking. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you've been pulling your hair out wondering 'When is that lazy bastard going to update his blog?' Especially when you know that I went to Okkervil River last night at Sokol.

The biggest surprise of the evening was the turnout. Last time they came through maybe 60 showed up at O'Leaver's to hear their set. Last night the number was around 200 -- quite a jump. What's the deal? Has their stuff been played as background music on an episode of The OC or something? Maybe people are just starting to catch on that Okkervil River is one of the best folk/rock/indie bands going these days. They certainly proved it last night, despite a number of setbacks.

But first, Lawrence's The Minus Story opened (actually, Fizzle Like a Flood opened, too, but I missed their set. Sorry, Doug.). I've heard they're all the rage down in Lawrence. I was told last night that a certain Omaha record label had looked long and hard at them a year or so ago, but missed out to Jagjaguwar. I can see why they'd be interested. To me, The Minus Story sounded like a slightly more indie version of Now It's Overhead, probably because vocalist Jordan Geiger has the same nasal high-end delivery as Andy LeMaster. Their opening song was a bit of a dud, but they only got better as their set went on. I'm a bit reticent about saying more because I wasn't really in the mood for their style of dreamy/indie/pseudo-psychedelic rock, or maybe I'm just getting tired of the drone. They're probably better than I give them credit for (Hey, Jagjaguwar doesn't sign slouches).

Then came Okkervil River. Frontman Will Robinson Sheff warned everyone before their set that it wouldn't be typical. The band apparently just returned from a few weeks in Europe, where Sheff lost his voice. He got it back, but then drummer Travis Nelsen broke his hand a few days ago (I'm told he had it iced before the set). To make matters worse, Sheff broke a string on the very first song (an acoustic version of "Happy Hearts") and proceeded to tell us while he was restringing how his ex-girlfriend, who he had been pining for, told him last night that she never wanted to talk to him again. "Awww!" cried the girls in the audience. Cute. He also said that Omaha was special to the band, recalling how their March 5, 2002, show at The Junction was the first gig they ever played outside of Austin, and what a crappy gig it was (Though I thought they performed well that night. Guess I'm the only guy in Omaha that misses The Junction).

Regardless, Sheff got it together, played his solo song, and then was joined by five other players, including guys on accordion, mandolin, keyboards, trumpet, the whole ball of wax. The drummer's broken hand supposedly caused them to rewrite their set list and omit a few songs (not the least of which was "Black," which someone kept yelling for, and which Sheff kept saying he couldn't play because of the broken hand). I didn't notice a drop-off in the quality of drumming, I certainly couldn't tell the guy's hand was broken. But maybe the set-list was a little more restrained than usual. There were a few more droning, atmospheric numbers than I remember from last spring, but there were still all my favorites, including "Red," "Black Sheep Boy" "The Latest Toughs," "Okkervil River Song" (the traditional set closer), and "Kansas City" (part of the two-song encore). Good stuff.

Tonight is the first of two nights of Cursive at Sokol Underground. As you know from reading Wednesday's feature, it's sold out and has been for a long time. Even the tickets on eBay are gone. Opening tonight's show is Back When and The Stay Awake. Tomorrow night it's Criteria and Race for Titles. It will be a madhouse, as all sold-out shows are at Sokol Underground. Bring your earplugs. If you don't have a ticket, you might want to check out pop-rockers The Plus Ones with The Hooligans at O'Leaver's. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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Okkervil River at Sokol, Eagle*Seagull at O'Leaver's – Nov. 3, 2005 –

Two good shows tonight. The marquee act for me will be Okkervil River at Sokol Underground with Lawrence's The Minus Story and Omaha's own Fizzle Like a Flood. Okkervil is touring in support of a just-released addendum CD-EP from their last full length, called Black Sheep Boy Appendix. I assume these are the tracks that didn't make it onto their amazing full length. Three of the seven tracks are keepers, though, the rest are dour or found-sound collages, but those three (titled "No Key, No Plan," "Another Radio Song" and "Last Love Song for Now" are as good as anything they've done before. They travel large. When they played at O'Leaver's last April (review here) there must have been six or seven of them, most were drunk or sounded drunk. Still, it was a good show. Okkervil's label, Jagjaguwar is also releasing the new Minus Story CD. From the couple tracks I've heard online, they sound like a good fit. Who knows what configuration of Fizzle Like a Flood will show up. Last time it was just Doug on drums and vocals and Travis bearing an ax. $7, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, at O'Leaver's, straight-up indie rockers Sam Champion take the stage: My review of their new one on Razor & Tie is on the Reviews Matrix, but here it is for the lazy reader: "Starts off as country by way of Johnny Cash (without the ornaments) and shifts into grind rockers with the snarly Cash drawl. Meanwhile, track 3, is a stone-cold Pavement rip. So yeah, I guess you could say they're all over the place. In the end, the Wowee Zowee-era Pavement wins out -- which is an easy way of saying this is slacker indie rock. It's not bad, but it's been done before, and better." Rating: No. Consider it melodic Pavement-lite. Most will be on hand to see Eagle*Seagull, which has become something of a breakthrough local act. They're even better live. More on them later. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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Feature interview: Cursive – Nov. 2, 2005 –

First, an apology for screwing up the location of yesterday's Cracker show -- I said Sokol when it was in Lincoln at Knickerbocker's. I figured it out after I got back to work and wasn't able to fix it until I got home. Hope no one got misdirected by my miscue. Speaking of Lincoln, tonight is the real "final show" for The Street Urchins at Duffy's. Brimstone Howl will also play. $5, 10 p.m., if you're in the Capitol City you won't want to miss it.

This week's feature is an interview with Matt Maginn from Cursive (read it here), where Matt talks about the band coming out of its hiatus, the sold-out $2 Sokol Underground shows, the "fake name" tour, their return to Junior's Motel this winter, their new CD and how they'll keep it together once they return to the road. It will appear in The Reader as my weekly Lazy-i column because I needed more than 400 words (the typical word-count limit) to tell it. Even with twice the real estate I didn't have room in the article for everything Matt and I talked about. Among the stuff that got left out: Has marriage gotten in the way of being in the band? Apparently not. Maginn said he and his wife have been together the entire time he's been in the band. "Obviously I don't like to be away from her, but the situation's the same for other members of the band. If anything, I'll talk myself into going on longer tours, figuring if we're going to go out, we might as well hit all the cities. Clint (Schnase) is married now, too. No one wants to live on the road."

Will the "back-to-basics" approach be heard on the new CD as well? No again. "We may be returning to the oldies in our style and mind, but not in our music. We're going to approach each song differently," he said. Asked about whether it will be a collection of songs or a concept album, Maginn hmmed and hawed and deferred to Kasher. He knew, he just wasn't gonna tell me.

Finally, the $2 shows were originally going to be free, but logistics made it impossible to not charge something. "Originally, since it marks 10 years that the band existed, we wanted to do something for free," he said. "But it was explained to us why that wouldn't work. If it was free, people might take more and more tickets and we'd have no idea if they used them or not. Also, we wanted the shows presold." If you're heartbroken that you can't get a ticket, don't sweat it, Maginn said there will be other Omaha shows. "That's a guarantee, and they'll be sooner rather than later."

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Ex Models tonight; Matrix; some interesting headlines – Nov. 1, 2005 –

Ex Models at are O'Leaver's tonight with Brilliant Red Lights and Omaha's The Lepers. Should be a very noisy, jarring experience. $5, 9:30 p.m. Cracker is also down at Sokol Underground at Knickerbocker's in Lincoln tonight with Matt Whipkey of Anonymous American opening. $15, 9 p.m.

The Reviews Matrix has been updated with some new reviews. Check it out. More to come.

The San Jose Mercury News has an interesting review of last Saturday's Bridge School Benefit Concert that featured Bright Eyes along with Neil Young and others. Sayeth the writer: "It looked just as awkward during the show closer, 'Teach Your Children,' as Good Charlotte twins Joel and Benji Madden, (Conor) Oberst and (Nora) Jones, craned their necks to read lyric sheets of the song that was an anthem to the Woodstock generation that, sadly, must not have been taught to its children."

And there's an interesting looong piece over at the South Florida Sun-Sentinal about the advent of indie music. The writer points toward the Internet and the coming of age of fans of '80s underground music to decision-maker status as a couple of the reasons. Interesting quote: "If the pattern holds true, what will happen next is a rash of really terrible bands that are pale imitators of Death Cab and Modest Mouse will get signed by the major labels and be marketed to a mainstream audience." That's already happening, trust me. When it comes to imitators, Death Cab could be this generation's Dashboard Confessional, god help us.

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Happy Halloween – Oct. 31, 2005 –

Briefly for I have zero time: Fromanhole is playing a special gig tonight at Bemis Underground, 12th and Leavenworth, with Chicago band Gemini and Ladyhawke. Bands begin at 8 and it's free. While you're downtown, One Mummy Case is also playing a show at Ted & Wally's. That one starts at 10. Have a fun Halloween.

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Live Review: The Standard – Oct. 29, 2005 –

They had a lead singer who's quivering voice was a strange mix of Stuart Staples of Tindersticks, Cat Stevens and Tricky, a bass player/guitarist who looked like Jason from Saddle Creek, a drummer who looks like James Cameron, a second guitarist who looked like he belonged in Gang of Four circa 1981, a keyboardist who struggled to balance a tower of keyboard on his lap. Each song had something interesting and unique woven within its arrangement. You could argue that they're progressive, but you'd probably lose the argument to someone who insists that they're angular traditionalist indie miracle workers. I fancy them as straight-on purist songwriters who aren't afraid to inflict layers and layers of rhythms into the center of any song. Tim Putnam has a subtle quality that isn't coy or treacle, Jay Clarke's keyboards are assertive, adding a broken-hearted counter that, at times, reminds me of Vince Guaraldi in their tonal range. Neither Putnam nor the second guitarist (whose name doesn't seem to appear on the new CD's liner notes) ever seem satisfied with a run-of-the-mill rock guitar approach. Highlights included the guitar counter on "Little Green" (played by bassist Rob Oberdorfer) that cut-syncopated against the Putnam's vocals. Another was the lovely, amber "Hills Above," that featured a gorgeous chiming piano line and Putnam singing broken "When I left home they said you're a helluva disaster / So I moved fast but disaster moved faster…" This was special. Too bad nobody saw it.

It's a shame that there were only about 25 people on hand to see one of the coolest bands to come through town, playing some of the coolest music I've heard in a long time. It's depressing to hear someone pull out an amazing chord progression and then look back at an empty room. It seems to be happening a lot lately (Last week's remarkable Dios Malos show comes to mind). Blame it on the holiday or the costume party that was going on upstairs. Blame it on the sheer volume of indie shows that have come through here in the past month. Or blame it on the scene's unwillingness to take a risk on a band they just don't know much about. At least I got to see and hear it.

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The Standard w/The Mariannes tonight; the rest of the weekend (in costume)... – Oct. 28, 2005 –

I wrote blurbs for The Reader this week for a couple upcoming shows. One of the blurbs was for tonight's show at Sokol Underground headlined by The Standard with The Mariannes and The Close. In the words of Mariannes' frontman Matt Stamp: "Very few people around here are familiar with The Standard. They are really f***ing good. Equal parts jazz, art rock, folk songwriting, ambient experimentation. Wounded, introspective lyrics." Matt should know. He's their biggest fan. In fact, he's been hounding us for months to hype this show. It's our pleasure. The Close is a tight pop rock band from Atlanta "worth the price of admission just to see their bass player dance." Thank you, Mr. Stamp. It does sound like a fun show, especially for a mere $7. And a costume isn't required. Meanwhile, upstairs at Sokol Aud, The Jazzwholes is hosting their CD release show/costume party w/Sarah Benck and The Robbers. The Jazzwholes, who gig for free at The Goofy Foot every Sunday night, sound like the sort of combo that would play during commercial breaks of a late-night TV chat show. They promise an "exciting, diverse, large scale production." It better be for $15.

Saturday night is dominated by costume-related shananigans, the most interesting of which is The Lude Boys, a Social Distortion tribute band, and 138, a Misfits tribute band, at The Brothers. Something tells me a lot of the patrons' costumes will involve leather, and yes there will be a contest at some point in the evening. $5, 10 p.m.

I wrote this blurb about Sunday's Broken Spindles show at Duffy's w/The Golden Age: Broken Spindles is a project spearheaded by Joel Petersen, better known as the whirling-dervish bassist in Omaha No Wave band The Faint. Here, Petersen takes center stage on keyboards and vocals, and instead of the usual AV gear he'll be backed by a full band that includes Faint cohort Dapose, Garaldine Vo, and Javid Dabestani of Lincoln's Bright Calm Blue. They'll be performing songs from Inside/Absent, Petersen's latest long player on Saddle Creek Records that's part noodling-keyboard-spider-web-tinkling spook and part thump-thump-thump electronic pulse. You'll either dance or be very afraid. Lincoln band The Golden Age's downbeat folk-rock should provide a jarring contrast. $5, 9:30, no apparent costume requirement, though I'm sure there will be plenty to go around.

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Column 48 -- CD Reviews; Michael Allison Memorial show tonight w/star-studded lineup... – Oct. 27, 2005 –

About once a quarter I like to do a column of CD reviews, which is below. I'll be focusing more and more on CD reviews as the winter months approach, so keep an eye on the Reviews matrix, which will be updated this weekend.

Tonight is the big Michael Allison Memorial show at Sokol Underground. Allison, who was in a number of local bands including Kid Icarus and Goblin Grenade, recently passed away. According to a post on the webboard, "The money raised will help his brothers and sisters take his ashes to South Korea as well as release a collection of his many songs written over the last ten years." The lineup includes Bombardment Society, Outlaw Con Bandana, The Stay Awake, Ladyfinger, and He Do The Policeman In Different Voices. It starts early, at 8 p.m., and is $7. In addition to supporting a worthy cause, you'll get to see some of the best local bands the city has to offer.

Column 48: Digging Through the Stack
A round-up of worthy recent releases

Dipping through my stack of CDs, here's a handful of recommendations to check out at your local record store. The keyword here is "retro," as in "tribute" or "influence" or "return of a style" or "art repeating itself" or "there is no such thing as 'original' anymore." Oh well. Rock's been eating itself since before Bo Diddley and will continue gnawing away at its own foot long after the kids from Smoosh (rocking from the age of 8) are finally put to bed.

Ester Drang -- Rocinate (Jade Tree) -- Think Avalon-era Roxy Music with a touch of The Sea and Cake and Flaming Lips and you're halfway to this Oklahoma band's summer-breeze vibe. Tracks like "Hooker with a Heart of Gold" and "Great Expectations" sport a cushion of lush strings, brass and piano that would make Burt Bacharach blush with admiration. Jazzy and carefree, it's hard to believe this was released on post-punk label Jade Tree, home to such angst brutes as Girls Against Boys and Onelinedrawing, and Omaha's own Statistics.

Early Man -- Closing In (Matador) -- I profess to rarely listening to metal of any stripe these days. Sure, I dug Queensryche and Iron Maiden as much as the next guy, but that was back in my younger, stupider days (he said with a sniff). Then along comes Early Man, and suddenly I feel like a 17-year-old again, riding around in my brother's El Camino cruising for chicks and booze. Fist shaking. Bloody nose. Angry for no reason. Angry because it rocks! Sure, it sounds like the riffs were lifted directly from 1) Black Sabbath, 2) Judas Priest, and 3) Metallica (not necessarily in that order), but there's no denying the pure head-bangin' extravagance of rippers like "Death Is the Answer," complete with Bobby Beers a.k.a. Steel Dragon falsetto intro. Could they single-handedly bring metal back from the dead? If it all sounds like this, I sure hope so.

Eagle*Seagull -- Self-titled (Paper Garden) -- I've already proclaimed that these swinging Lincolnites as being Nebraska's version of red-hot Canadian "It" band The Arcade Fire. Why? Could be because Eli Mardock's breathy moan resembles AF's Win Butler's, or that both bands have a penchant for jaunty non-traditional arrangements on a grand scale ("Your Beauty is a Knife I Turn on My Throat" sounds like it came straight off Funeral). Still, the comparison ain't fair. Too often E*S's debut veers headily away from AF's Bowie worship, especially on tracks like the momentous "Lock and Key," with its late-song waltz that creates a majesty uniquely its own. Ambitious, and good too.

Acid House Kings -- Sing Along with the Acid House Kings (Twentyseven Records) -- Like the last Kings of Convenience album, Sing Along... sports a falling leaves / Simon and Garfunkel texture thanks to its gliding strings, chiming acoustic guitars and twee vocals. Add more reverb to the guitars, hand claps and some sweet West Coast harmonies and you've got a modern-day version of The Association. Elevator music for a new generation.

Sufjan Stevens -- Come on Feel the Illinoise (Asthmatic Kitty) -- Like listening to a choir of indie slackers led by a Little Prince in a Cubs hat whose voice is a morph of Art Garfunkel and Ben Gibbard singing lullabies to Jacksonville, Decatur and Chicago. Fans of Greetings from Michigan will find it all too familiar (In fact, if you weren't paying attention, you'd be hard-pressed to differentiate between the two). Can there be too much of a good thing? I don't think so. On the other hand, it could get pretty tired if he repeats it over the next 48 states (albums).

My Morning Jacket -- Z (ATO/RCA) -- Am I the only one who thinks that the CD's first single, "Off the Record," with its Hawaii Five-O guitar riff and trippy reggae beat, sounds like a laid-back Who track circa Who's Next? Maybe it's because of how they've made Jim James sound like Robert Daltrey or the fact that there's so much reverb throughout the album that it feels like it was recorded from the bowels of whale... or the back of a smoky arena circa 1972 haunted by the memories of Neil Young, Alex Chilton and Joe Walsh.

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This week's feature: Ex Models; Statistics, Little Brazil tonight – Oct. 26, 2005 –

Ex Models music is a hard pill to swallow. Very noisy, very chaotic, to many it'll sound only like noise. Writing this feature (read it here) was reminiscent of writing the Public Eyesore article a few weeks back, where I had to find the method to the madness. Ex Models Shahin Motia is very aware that he's going to alienate fans of the older, more danceable version of his band, but he figures that's just the way it goes. I asked him if he thought the methodical shift from album to album to becoming a more "noise-based" band was what also drove down the band's numbers from four to just two guitarists. "Yeah," he said. "For me personally, I feel like Other Mathematics (their debut album) was very rhythmic, and we spent a lot of the time creating these bizarre drum patterns and threading the guitar and bass through them. A lot of that was simplified on Zoo Psychology (their follow-up) through raw power. At the end of that tour, I felt like I personally had grown tired of it. We were going into rehearsals with very little creative energy and I knew what the four of us were capable of, and it wasn't a good feeling. I was convinced personally that I didn't want to deal with drums anymore; I didn't want the beat to be the thing anymore."

Motia went on to say it's been tough learning to play live as a two-piece. "We have played 100 shows since February and have figured out what we want to do and what we like about it," he said. He divides the band's audience into three groups: Those who are familiar with their old stuff who turn up and say "What the hell is this?"; another third who like the old stuff and think the new stuff is great; and another third who will have seen this incarnation of the band before and have come back for more. "The U.S. is the only place we've toured as a two-piece twice," he said. "So now there are those who have seen it who were never into our older stuff. That's cool."

Tonight it's Statistics and Little Brazil together at one show at O'Leaver's. The gig is a warm-up for the bands' upcoming joint tour, where Little Brazil will actually be acting as Statistics' backing band. Should be a rousing good time indeed. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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Hot Topic night at O'Leaver's – Oct. 25, 2005 –

Yesterday morning was spent writing a feature on The Ex Models (online tomorrow morning) and a column's worth of CD reviews (online Thursday morning) and recovering from a weekend of shows (see Oct. 22 and 23 entries). A full week of shows begins tonight at O'Leaver's with what essentially is a Hot Topic tour, featuring The Forecast with tourmates Lorene Drive and My Epiphany. The Forecast is a straight-up indie rock band with male and female vocals. They've got a new CD coming out on Victory -- the king of bland pop-punk labels. Sacramento's Lorene Drive is the kind of band that is thrilled to be opening for an act like Yellow Card, and signs their e-card "See you in the pit" even though no self-respecting punk would ever listen to their music. My Epiphany has a new CD out on Eyeball Records and has a lead singer with one of those yearning emo voices (Dashboard Confessional?) that can only be described as "unfortunate." This should have been an all-ages show somewhere, as the bands clearly fall into the high school or younger demographic. Still, it's three touring bands (as lame as they may be) for $5. If you feel like going out anyway, you might want to check out Kyle Harvey and Reagan Roeder at Mick's. It's free. I'll be at home, watching Game 3.

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Live Review: Swords, Dios (Malos) – Oct. 23, 2005 –

I went to see Swords last night. I left discovering Dios (Malos). Swords weren't bad. The six-piece band that included two drummers (one of whom also fiddled with electronic noises), a keyboard/violinist and a couple guitarists had way too much going on and the result was muddled and unfocused. Their music actually sounds bigger and more thought-out on CD. Live, it's a bit too fey and yearning for my tastes. One guy described them as sounding "pretty." Another patron complained "Could they sound anymore like Death Cab?" Well, other than the lead vocalist's upper-register voice, they sounded nothing like DCFC, not nearly as catchy or interesting. Maybe they just didn't have it last night. O'Leaver's small size can be either intimidating or disappointing to bands, even if its full as it was last night. Their set seemed like it lasted about 20 minutes and was over without a flourish. "Are they done?" the guy in front of me asked. Looks that way.

I had zero preconceived notions about Dios (Malos). Like I mentioned yesterday, I got lost on their website and never found any music files online. After last night, I don't think I've been turned on by a band as much since maybe The Smithereens' first album. No, Dios doesn't sound anything like The Smithereens. They do have a similar aesthetic regarding traditional song structure. But the comparison ends there. Dios also has a relationship with My Morning Jacket in that giant-sized singer/guitarist/keyboardist Joel Morales uses a huge amount of reverb and delay in his vocals, which make them sound -- appropriately -- big and haunting. You knew it was going to be special when, during the pre-set sound chec,k Morales improvised piano fills to New Order's "Temptation" which was playing on the juke box. Their first song played off the opening organ chords of Led Zeppelin's "All of My Love" before turning into a Dios original, sort of (I think it was merely a warm-up exercise). Whereas everything seemed lost and confused with Swords' mix, the sound couldn't have been any better for Dios -- they did have an unfair advantage in that drummer Jackie Monzon would make my top-five "best of" list for drummers seen and heard at O'Leaver's -- unbelievable stuff. So were the songs, whose So Cal sensibilities and nod to retro supersede any indie rock labels, though they certainly are an indie band. Uber-engineer Phil Ek produced their just-released eponymous CD on Star Time that captures the band's crisp take on laid-back rock. A pleasant surprise.

Tonight: Fromanhole at O'Leaver's with Landing on the Moon and touring band from Minneapolis, Self-evident. Just added to the bill: self-proclaimed rock/blues/death metal band Black Horse.

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Live Review: Metric; Swords tonight... – Oct. 22, 2005 –

The night started out on the wrong foot. I missed the two opening bands, and then was told that earlier in the evening, a member of Metric was pissed at the headline used in The Reader story (He didn't understand why the media keeps getting hung up on the whole "metric system" thing... it might have something to do with the fact that the band is named Metric). Apparently the same Metrician was overheard making a colorful comment about our fair city. "We went downtown this afternoon. Sucks!" I guess when you're from Toronto, Omaha's Old Market is going to be somewhat lacking. Hey, you know what? It's all we got. So whatever love I had for the band was slightly tarnished by the time they took the stage at around 11. Despite all the hostility, I gotta admit that they put on a pretty good show. If you read their one-sheet you'd think they were symbiotically tied to Goo-era Sonic Youth (In fact, their soundguy played "Kool Thing" over the PA right before their set), but the way they were mixed last night, they seem more like descendants of Depeche Mode or The Cure. The kick-drum was so amped that you could feel the thump-thump-thump shake your insides to Jello -- it was huge. So huge that it overpowered the rest of the mix. Instead of an experimental noise rock band, Metric has turned itself into an electro-clash dance band, someone you might hear opening for The Faint. A number of songs started off subtly, pretty, toned with edgy keys or echoing guitar, but once the drums came in, all you got was THUMP-THUMP-THUMP. If you were there to dance, that's not necessarily a bad thing, but it killed Jimmy Shaw's gorgeous, shimmering guitar lines and overpowered pretty Emily Haines' too-thin vocals. A few times they reached some sort of equilibrium (or maybe I just channeled out the kick drum) and created an unstoppable dance vibe. Shame that so few people in the crowd picked up on it (Come on, we all know that nobody dances in Nebraska!). The 150 or so in the crowd did what they usually do -- stood and stared as Haines and bassist Josh Winstead tried to get their groove going. They didn't succeed until the encore -- the two best songs of the set, neither of them recognizable from the new CD. Ten minutes into the last song, during a killer guitar solo drenched in reverb, Haines coaxed part of the crowd on stage. It wasn't easy, in fact she had to ask three or four times and practically drag them up. After the first couple got up there, though, 20 or so more slowly came up and did their thing with the band. I have no doubt that Metric could easily jump to the next level if they got on the right tour (Yeah, they would be perfect opening for The Faint). Instead, they may be satisfied playing their string of sold-out Canadian shows scheduled through the end of October. Something tells me the downtown scene is cooler in Edmonton, Calgary and Saskatoon.

I mentioned to a couple people last night that I'm probably going to pass on the sold-out Decemberists show at Sokol Underground and head to Swords at O'Leaver's. No one's heard of the Portland-based six-piece, apparently, though their new CD, Metropolis, on Arena Rock Records has gotten accolades from The Boston Globe, Magnet and Time Out New York, among others. I dig it. Fred Mills from Magnet called it "chamber music for post-rockers" and that sums it up well. The title track, for instance, reminds me of brooding early Genesis with vocals as light and airy as Lindsay Buckingham's. They have a big sound, maybe too big for O'Leaver's. We'll find out tonight. They are not the headliners -- apparently Dios Malos is. Trying to figure out something about that band, I got totally confused and lost on their website. I did find the Startime Records site, where you can download their cover of Beck's "Asshole." Nice. $5, 9:30.

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Metric tonight, and the rest of the weekend... – Oct. 21, 2005 –

The weekend starts with an all-Canada showcase at Sokol Underground, headlined by Toronto band Metric and opening acts The Most Serene Republic, a Milton, Ontario, six-piece who sound heavily influenced by Death Cab/Postal Service, and The Lovely Feathers, who sound like a strange cross between Two Gallants and Pavement. 9 p.m., $10. If that doesn't trip your trigger, check out The Terminals with Austin's The Midgetmen and Lincoln's Ideal Cleaners at O'Leaver's. $5, 9:30 p.m. Also tonight, the Sixth Annual "Sisters Doin it for Others!" all-girl revue at Mick's featuring Goodbye, Sunday and Sarah Benck, among others. It starts at 7:30, and all donations go to the Lydia House, a shelter for battered and abused women and children.

Tomorrow night's hot show is the sold-out Decemberist concert at Sokol Underground with opening band Cass McCombs. So mad should that house be that I will probably instead go running to O'Leaver's, where Swords is opening for Dios Malos (I'm going for Swords). $5, 9:30 p.m

The weekend winds down on Sunday, again at O'Leaver's, with Fromanhole, Landing on the Moon and Minneapolis band Self-evident. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Look for live reviews here all weekend...

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Column 47: Zero Street Records... – Oct. 20, 2005 –

This column makes Mike Garber's Zero Street Records sound like it only deals in rare vinyl. Not true. Garber sells all kinds of stuff. In addition to foreign pressings of, say, a Beatles albums or an early copy of Captain Beefheart's Strictly Personal, you can also find a nice, clean copy of your favorite Jethro Tull album, on vinyl of course. Most of the stuff in the bins is only a couple bucks -- these are the records that he isn't going to bother putting on eBay even though he could get more for it there. When I first approached this column, I wanted to focus on why anyone would want to open a record store in the first place, what with the advent of downloading -- legal or otherwise. But one look inside Zero Street and you realize downloading won't touch a place like this. The target audience is strictly vinyl junkies, most of whom would never consider owning an iPod. Garber insists that it's the economy, not technology, that's been killing record stores. "If the economy was better now, people would be buying the same as when Clinton was president," he said. "We're in a time when we're paying an arm and a leg for gas. You can't buy stuff like you used to. Some people are doing well, but generally people are struggling. It's a lot harder to have that expendable income to buy stuff."

Column 47 -- Biography of a Digger
Zero Street is more than a store, it's a way of life

Mike Garber is a reformed digger.

No, I'm not talking about a guy who makes a living preparing final resting-places. Diggers are record collectors (not CD collectors) who think nothing of flipping through a few thousand pieces of vinyl at record shows, garage sales or places like Zero Street Records at 65th & Maple in Benson -- Garber's new shop -- to find that hidden, elusive side that's been haunting them all their lives.

Garber's quite familiar with the digger's lifestyle. He was one for years. He speaks of his early record collecting days like a reformed junkie recalling a bleary-eyed life on the street desperately looking for a fix, living off Ramen noodles to save every dime he could scrape together. Not for drugs, for more records.

"I scored some great stuff back then," Garber said from behind his store's counter. "Every penny I had went to pay off records. A thousand dollars for one 45 meant nothing to me. I loved owning this stuff. I recognized the beauty and value in it."

So much so that after earning his degree in Fine Arts at UN-L, Garber dashed any thoughts of a career in graphic design when he was offered ownership of his first record store, Lincoln's original Zero Street Records, named after Alan Ginsberg's poetic dig on "O" St., where the store was located. Growing up in Omaha, Garber spent his youth digging through stacks of sides at The Antiquarium. He wanted Zero Street to be Lincoln's version of that classic record store, selling not only used, but new music.

So dedicated was he that he gave up one of the most important things in his life -- his record collection. "I sold it at market rates and took the money and invested it in the store and the building it was in," Garber said. "I recognized life is more than a record collection."

But it only took five years of sitting behind a counter all day and trying to keep up with stocking new music before Garber burned out on Zero Street. He closed the Lincoln store last August, and just like he'd done before, someone stepped up and reopened it -- but it didn't take long before the store closed for good.

Garber spent the next year traveling to record shows and buying private collections. One New Jersey collection of fewer than 100 records set him back six grand, but included two ultra-rare singles -- one by a '70s Connecticut punk band called Tapeworm, another by a Texas punk band called The Rejects. Never heard of them? Neither had I. Regardless, each fetched more than $1,000, thanks to the wonders of eBay, the 21st Century diggers' hunting ground and Garber's new field of dreams.

So why open another store? Garber said he got tired of the road and being stuck in his apartment eBaying all day. "I wanted that social interaction again that I got from running a record store," he said. After considering Chicago and Minneapolis, he was drawn back to his hometown and the low-rent storefront in the heart of Benson.

Things are going to be different this time, however. Zero Street sells no new records or CDs, only used vinyl. Step inside and there's not much to see -- freshly painted blue walls, shiny aluminum heating ducts, and lots of waist-high wooden crates filled with record albums.

"Half the people who come in to check out the store think it's a novelty," Garber said. "When you walk in, it doesn't look like much, but if you're a record person, you'll recognize it. If you're a digger, you're gonna come in and think there's some really great records here."

The proof was right before our eyes. While chatting, a mustachioed guy worked his way through a stack of rare R&B 45s, playing them on a small turntable behind the counter before buying about 50 bucks' worth. Meanwhile, another guy laid a 2-inch-thick stack of albums and singles on the counter -- again consisting mostly of R&B sides -- which ran him well over $100.

As important as guys like these are to Zero Street's success, Garber says there's one clientele even more important, and it could include you: It's people cleaning out their apartment, house or garage looking for a place to sell those old records that have been sitting around unplayed for so many years.
"The only way this store will survive is if people sell me their records," he said. "I won't last long without them."

Spoken like a true digger.

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Feature interview: Metric; New Black tonight... – Oct. 19, 2005 –

This week's feature interview with Metric just went online (read it here). I didn't get a lot of space, but I didn't need much, either. Metric guitarist/songwriter Jimmy Shaw mostly talked about the process of recording the band's new CD, Live It Out, and how much he hated going to Julliard. Since Julliard appeared so prominently on the band's one-sheet, I figured he'd be tired of talking about. "Actually, no one's asked me about Julliard before," he said, then went on to rail against the institution. Guess that whole dancing-in-the-streets-of-New York thing you see in Fame is bogus, or Shaw just never took part. He also talked about his apprehension to finish the CD, second-guessing the quality of the tracking and underscoring the need for an outside voice to give the project perspective -- in this case, mixing engineer John O'Mahony, who would stop Shaw from rerecording or throwing out tracks destined for the eraser head. "Someone's got to kick you out of the studio or you'll twiddle to oblivion," Shaw said. "Someone was interviewing Miles (Davis) when he was painting in his back yard. They asked him to define jazz, and he put one last stroke on the canvas and said 'That's it, now it's done.' The whole point is to call it finished. You could go on forever, there's no such thing as perfection. I got too close to the recording. 'Poster of a Girl' (off the new album) happened as it is right now on tape. I had it in my head that we had to go back and fix the arrangements. The first time John heard it, he said, 'It's finished. Give me the hard drive.'"

I didn't go to United States Electronica last night because I plan on going to New Black tonight at O'Leaver's with Ris Paul Ric, the new project from Christopher Richards of Q And Not U. New Black has been compared to Le Tigre, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Lost Sounds, Death From Above 1979, Sonic Youth, X-Ray Spex, ESG, Suicide, X, and Siouxsie And The Banshees. Yikes. 9:30 p.m., $5.

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United States of Electronica tonight... – Oct. 18, 2005 –

Tonight, United States of Electronica again graces Omaha with its frontal-assault dance party at O'Leaver's. Here's a profile I wrote about the band last March when they came through with Aqueduct, and here's the review of the show. This being a Tuesday night, who knows what kind of crowd it will draw -- I suppose it'll be a testament to whatever buzz they've managed to generate between gigs. Opening the show is Seattle band The Divorce, which is touring a new album out on Made in Mexico Records. The couple songs on their website sound like '80s Breakfast Club music, sort of Simple Minds meets The Cure. Probably a good fit with USE. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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A few things of note... – Oct. 17, 2005 –

- The only show I hit this weekend was The Gunshy at O'Leaver's Friday night, and boy did I get the preview write-up wrong. I expected a soaring indie band, but what I got was a singer/songwriter and his guitar. I should have known better. Although this guy has just finished recording a full-length with a full band, he rarely tours with one. Everyone I talked to seemed to know this already (He's apparently toured with Darren Keen of The Show Is the Rainbow on a number of occasions). He told me after the show that his modus operandi might change for his next tour. There weren't many people there anyway, and only a few actually paying attention to the stage. Unfortunate.

-- Regular versions of the Two Gallants story (here) and Public Eyesore story (here) went online yesterday; the Public Eyesore story was restored to its original 1,200-word version, so there's a couple more details included.

-- Look for a feature on Metric Wednesday and a column on Zero Street Records Thursday. Fun, fun.

-- Tonight, hip-hop artist Hangar 18 plays at Sokol Underground with Cryptic and local artist Breathless. $8, 9 p.m.

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Onward, the weekend... – Oct. 14, 2005 –

Tonight: The Gunshy, Austin Britton, and Bill Latham at O'Leaver's. The Gunshy are from Lancaster, PA/Chicago, IL and play souring indie rock fronted by a guy with a raspy voice that's a cross between Tom Waits and Dicky Barrett. They've got a new album coming out on Latest Flame Records. The track I listened to on their site prominently featured trumpets. Wonder if they'll have a trumpet player in tow. Austin Britton plays in Kite Pilot. Good stuff. $5, 9:30 p.m. Down at Sokol Underground, Irving, CA, band Thrice is playing with Underoath and Veda. $18, 9 p.m.

Saturday: The Cops, featuring former Omahan Mike Jaworski, is playing at The 49'r with Mt. Fuji labelmates Little Brazil and Race for Titles. The Cops are touring their new CD Get Good or Stay Bad, due in stores Nov. 1 -- consider it a modern revisionist version of The Clash's London Calling. Nice. $5, 9ish. Meanwhile, The Show Is the Rainbow is headlining downtown at Sokol Underground with Books on Tape and Lincoln legends Her Flyaway Manner. $7, 9 p.m. And if that wasn't enough, those swinging kids, One Mummy Case, are playing a gig down at The Foundry Coffeehouse on 60th and Maple. 8 p.m., free.

Sunday: Underground hip-hop artist Sage Francis performs with Sole & Sol.iLLaquists of Sound at Sokol Underground. $15, 9 p.m.

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Column 46: Public Eyesore Records; metal, blues, pop tonight... – Oct. 13, 2005 –

I did not make it to Sleater-Kinney last night. In addition to smashing my toe yesterday morning, Built to Spill just took too much out of me the night before. Anyone who did go, give us a quick review on the webboard, will you?

This week's column again was slated to be a feature story in The Reader, but the paper again cut my word-count limit down to 400 -- not nearly enough. I could either cut it myself or make it a column. The story was born out of a discussion I had with musician Lonnie Methe after his band, Mancini's Angels, played a gig at O'Leaver's last May. Methe, who was about to move to Austin, said that the local media all but ignored a thriving experimental scene that was making waves internationally. He pointed to Public Eyesore Records as an example. One of the goals in writing this piece was to better understand the so-called "sound art" scene, its recordings and their appeal to, well, anyone. The results are below. I'll likely post an extended version of this article online in the next few days in the "Interviews" section.

Column 46 -- Omaha's Other Record Label
Public Eyesore could be an earsore to some

Sure, everyone knows about Saddle Creek Records, but did you know that there's another record label right here in river city that produces CDs that are distributed all over the globe by bands that tour all over the globe to fans all over the globe?

Public Eyesore Records has been thriving right under your nose for the past seven years. How could such an enterprise exist without your knowledge? Probably because most -- if not all -- of the bands on the label's roster are known only by the tiniest of audiences who listen, collect, perform and enjoy a genre of music that's been referred to as "avant-garde," "minimalist" or "experimental." In fact, your typical FM radio listener probably wouldn't consider it "music" at all.

"I call it music," said Public Eyesore owner Bryan Day, who operates the label out of his midtown apartment. "I might call it 'sound art' or something like that. Referring to it as 'experimental noise' is naïve terminology since there are so many subgenres within it."

As research for this article, Day sent a care package that included a handful of CD-Rs in colorful cardboard sleeves, jewel-cased CDs and some vinyl. Among them:

Monotract, Pagu. Released in 2002, the LP contains rhythms beneath layers of electronic noise/static/squawks that sound like messages received from outer space. Amidst the chaos are tracks like "Birao de Lao," a pleasant tone poem lightly sewn together with clicks that fall on a beat.

Jad Fair and Jason Willett, Superfine (May 2003). Known as the frontman of the underground punk band Half Japanese, this solo collaboration between Fair and HJ band mate Willett is almost commercial sounding. Fair's solo work has been released on such labels as Kill Rock Stars, Jagjaguwar and Matador, but this is still an oddity in the Public Eyesore tradition. Fair and Willett play a variety of instruments, pick out weird melodies and blend it with shrieks and comic vocals. The 20-song "enhanced" CD also includes 155 mp3 tracks for more than five hours of additional music.

Blue Collar, Lovely Hazel. Released this year, the trio plays trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone, percussion and "sings." Opening track "48/1" sounds like boiler pipes moaning in an old building or someone moving furniture in the apartment upstairs. The bleeping horns have an improvisational feel and often build to a noisy conclusion. Along with Superfine, it's among the label's best sellers.

Jorge Castro, Sin Titulo #2. The 2001 CD-R contains pulsing noises like faraway satellites that slowly mutate into ambient tones over its single 44-minute track. Atmospheric and somewhat soothing, it has no discernible melody.

Jesse Krakow, Oceans in the Sun. Krakow is a member of Fast and Bulbous, a Captain Beefheart-influenced avant-prog band. The 2004 CD-R opens with "Tree for Me," a track that features beatbox, organ and Krakow actually singing a melody.

Onnyk, Private Idioms. The 2001 CD-R contains two live sessions recorded in October 1995 and January 1997 in Morioka, Japan, that sound like stringed-instrument improvisation but could be confused with random noodling. The band includes Day's wife, Yoko Sato.

Naturaliste, A Clamor Half Heard. The Omaha-based ensemble has included among its members Lonnie Methe, Simon Joyner, Chris Deden, Charles Lareau, Chris Fischer and Day himself. This 2001 CD-R is a wall of noise, distortion, pure nihilism that's both grating and disturbing.

Day admits that to the untrained or unwilling ear, some of his label's music will sound like noise. He markets his catalog nationally via magazine ads and the Internet (his website is, but he's never focused on Omaha, though his discs are available at The Antiquarium record store.

"There' such a small market for this kind of stuff to begin with," he said. "It's something where if you're naïve to the whole scene you can't appreciate it as much as if you're actually a part of it. It's difficult to get into unless you're doing something with experimental sound."

Despite the limited audience, Public Eyesore has released 14 recordings so far this year and is on target to release his 100th catalog item by year-end. CD releases have 1,000 to 2,000-copy runs. CD-R releases are painstakingly hand-produced in lots of 250 -- a process that Day said he's dropping because of the manual labor required to cut and assemble the sleeves.

The work doesn't end there. Day also books tours for his bands in the U.S., Europe and Asia. "The tours are much more successful in Europe," he said. "Japan has a big scene as well, and there are some places on the coasts of the US where you can tour successfully."

That said, his own band, Paper Mache -- which he describes as "definitely not as loud as Naturaliste and easier to understand" -- is taking off on a two-week tour of the US heartland later this month, including gigs in Iowa, Minneapolis, Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Tennessee and Missouri. "It should be interesting," he said. "You never know who's going to show up."

Tonight's festivities: One Percent is hosting a metal show down at Sokol Underground with Norma Jean and Darkest Hour ($12, 9 p.m.), while uptown at The Scottish Rites Hall One Percent is hosting New York blues-hammer guitarist Joe Bonamassa ($25, 8 p.m.). Just as compelling is The Ointments (Reagan Roeder, Kyle Harvey, Landon Hedges) and Lifeafter Laserdisque at The Spotlight Club at 120th and Blondo. ($?, 10 p.m.).

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Live Review: Built to Spill; Sleater-Kinney tonight... – Oct. 12, 2005 –

Last night's Built to Spill show sold out sometime yesterday afternoon as expected and when I showed up at around 11 Sokol Underground was filled to the gills, it was like stepping into a third-world Customs holding tank, but with smokers -- lots of them. I chatted with someone outside the venue while one of the openers was on stage. "What's going on in there?" I asked. "Just a lot of sweating and secondhand lung disease." There's something weird about Built to Spill attracting so many smokers. Maybe unbeknownst to me they're sponsored by American Spirit, though I didn't see anyone passing out free pastel-colored boxes of their cigarettes.

As per usual, Lea Thompson and Dave Foley were there. Okay, guys, it's time to go back to Hollywood now (I guess their movie wraps tomorrow). I never saw Foley. Thompson spent part of the show on the stairwell leading outside, I assume to gulp in fresh air or something else. I also saw some people who looked exactly like Steven Spielberg, Vincent Gallo, Sean Penn, and Napoleon Dynamite, as well as a guy who looked exactly like Doug Martsch, though he was older and balder than the Martsch I saw at Sokol Underground six years ago. But other than playing guitar better -- and longer -- he and his band didn't sound much different. Martsch isn't exactly a stage ham. He stands up there with his guitar, surrounded by four other guys, and does his thing, separating songs by saying "Thanks a lot." We got treated to at least three songs from Keep It Like a Secret. I can't tell you more than that because I don't have any of his other CDs. I thought the band sounded tight, though the mix was too muddy for my taste. It wasn't as loud as typical shows (maybe all the bodies in the room were acting as buffers) and I was able to take out my earplugs for most of it. The biggest complaint I heard was that the songs went on too long. He used them merely as starting points for 10-minute "jams" (probably the wrong word to use since these guys are anything but a jam band). I was standing in the back of the room toward the end of the set and one die-hard fan I knew stopped to say so long. "Where are you going?" I asked. "It's just more of this for 20 minutes" he said, referring to another one of the structured rock odysseys that seemed to tail up and down forever. I hung around just to see if they played "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" which I had heard they were playing at other shows. Sure enough, Martsch and Company launched into it as the encore, but I left before he finished his solos. It was a looong set, probably over 90 minutes.

Tonight is Sleater-Kinney with The Gossip. I figured this one would have sold out by now, too. Seems like I'm the only person in the continental United States that doesn't like S-K's new CD The Woods. It's been lauded as one of the best records of the year in almost every indie/rock music publication. I think it sounds like they tried too hard to be hard, and sacrificed melodies for gronk to create a Zep-meets-grunge noisefest better suited for L7. That won't stop me from going tonight, though (being exhausted might). $14, 9 p.m., with two bands, it should be over by 11:30. We'll see.

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Built to Spill tonight... – Oct. 11, 2005 –

Something of a surprise is that tonight's Built to Spill show at Sokol Underground is not sold out (at least at the time of this posting). In a post on SLAM Omaha last night, One Percent Productions said that there were fewer than 50 tickets left. I have no doubt that they'll be gone before show starts. I blame their lack of sell-out power on the fact that the band hasn't released a new CD in four years (frontman Doug Martsch's solo album, Now You Know, came out three years ago), which made me wonder why they're touring now. Apparently they're playing a number of new songs for an album to be released this fall. Funny, when I interviewed them waaay back in 1999 they were an icon band that had just signed to Warner Bros. and were positioned to become huge. Meanwhile, a fellow Pacific Northwest-based band that took root in their shadow called Death Cab for Cutie was quietly emerging. Well, we all know the rest of the story.

The last BTS show was one of the smokiest in Sokol Underground history -- that was before they installed the SmokeEaters though. Look for a cover of "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" during the encore. Opening are Mike Johnson (ex-Dinosaur Jr.) and Helvetia. $15, 9 p.m. This will be an event.

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Brief Columbus Day update; strange pairing tonight... – Oct. 10, 2005 –

I essentially took the weekend off from hitting shows and got some well-deserved sleep as we prepare for a big week's worth of huge shows, well, two for sure anyway. Before we get to that, however, there's tonight's pairing at O'Leaver's -- San Francisco indie rock band Audrye Sessions, who's music is described on their site as "beautiful and bittersweet," headlines a show with opener Mars Black -- yes, that Mars Black. I'm sure there's a good story behind all this, but you'll have to go to O'Leaver's to find out what it is. Also on the bill is The Cushion Theory. $5, 9:30 p.m. It's day 3 of 11 straight days of One Percent Productions shows.

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Live Review: The Double, John Vanderslice; the weekend ahead – Oct. 7, 2005 –

Strange pairing of bands last night. Not sure why The Double -- essentially a noise/art band -- is touring with Vanderslice -- a run-of-the-mill indie singer/songwriter.

I figured The Double would come off experimental live. They did. Imagine Ian Curtis fronting The Fall with lots of drone and you begin to get the drift. A four-piece featuring organ/keyboards right in the middle and nice drums but with no real beat. At times it reminded me of Interpol if Interpol weren't a dance band. Trippy stuff that came close to reaching epic proportions but never quite got there. Funny how their single, "Icy," sounds just as out of place in their live set as it does the CD. I assume Matador listened to the demos and said "You can have all the strange organs and jangle-drone shit you want, but we need a single to use on the comp." And it is a good single.

Vanderslice started out strong -- I loved the first two songs -- but then he got into his regular indie-pop groove, which is a bit too vanilla for my taste -- sort of a less fun version of Matthew Sweet or a watered down Ted Leo. The crowd seemed into it, but after about a half hour people started to leave. I'm somewhat guilty of never having given Vanderslice much of a chance from the beginning of his career. I never got into Mass Suicide Occult Figurines when it came out in '00, and I still don't get what all the fuss is about. Seems like a nice guy, though. Head count: I'm guessing 125. I left before the encore.

A glance at the weekend's best:

Tonight: Lee from Bad Luck Charm does a solo set at Mick's. Cross town at O'Leaver's Shinyville is headlining a four-band bill consisting of bands I've never heard of. I've never heard Shinyville, either, but I hear good things about them. $5, 9:30.

Saturday: The Street Urchins at The 49'r for what's being billed as "their final Omaha show." Opening is Brimstone Howl. This will be a mob scene. Come out and see The Urchins one last time so you can say you saw The Urchins. They're that good, by the way. $5. Also Saturday, Mal Madrigal is at O'Leaver's opening for Medications (ex-Smart Went Crazy, ex-Faraquet). $5, 9:30. Down at The Goofy Foot, Kite Pilot is opening for First Fight recording artist The Floating City, a straight-up, laid-back indie band. It's an early show -- 8 p.m. -- and will cost you $4.

Sunday: Good ol' William Elliott Whitmore is back, this time at O'Leaver's. It's worth it just to see a 27-year-old white guy sound like a 70-year-old black man singing Texas blues a la Blind Willie Johnson. Opening is local blues artist Sarah Benck sounding like a 20-year-old white girl. $5, 9:30.

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Column 45 (see Oct. 1 entry); John Vanderslice, The Double, McCarthy Trenching tonight – Oct. 6, 2005 –

This week's printed column in The Reader is a tightened up version of the Oct. 1 Lazy-i entry/review of last Friday's Two Gallants show. There are a couple tiny differences, but nothing worth putting online again. Next week you'll get a fresh column and a fresh feature story about another record label here in town, one that you probably don't even know exists…

Tonight it's John Vanderslice, McCarthy Trenching and The Double at Sokol Underground. I know more people who are interested in seeing the openers than the headliner. McCarthy Trenching is Omahan Dan McCarthy (Mayday). Brooklyn's The Double is a new band on Matador Records that released its label debut, Loose on the Air, Sept. 13. Their music can be trippy or jangly, experimental (in a Flaming Lips sort of way) and even straight forward ("Icy" off their new CD is a bouncy, organ-driven rocker). There used to be a time when being on Matador was all it took to draw a crowd. Those were days... $8, 9 p.m. Should be fun.

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Live Review: Mark Mallman – Oct. 5, 2005 –

I knew it was going to be weird when I saw the sign out front of Sammy Sortino's a.k.a. Slammers that welcomed "Piano Man Mark Mallman." When I walked in, the guy who took my money said, "You here to see Mark Malberg?" Uh, you man Mallman? "Mallberg." OK.

The show was supposed to start at 7:30. I got there at 8:30 and the opening acoustic guy playing cover songs was still on stage. He went on to play for another hour.

Mallman didn't mind. Including me, there was only three people there to see him play. He said the venue wouldn't let him use the big P.A. stacked on either side of the stage. Instead he was told to use a couple tiny Peavey amps the size of cereal boxes. That meant that he wasn't going to be able to do his regular show, which involved he and a drummer playing on top of prerecorded instrument tracks - supposedly recreating the full sound heard on his records. Instead, his drummer watched with the rest of us, videotaping Mallman's solo set. Lord knows he wanted a record of his gig in Omaha.

I guess it was the kind of disaster show that all touring bands dread. Here was a guy who, just a year ago, opened for Head of Femur at an SRO Sokol Underground show. His records are released on one of the more respected indie labels - Badman Records - home to such acts as My Morning Jacket, Mark Kozelek, Rebecca Gates and Hayden. And now here he was, playing in an Omaha pizza restaurant, propped up on a riser looking at row upon row of empty tables. Let's face it, he could have bagged -- he could have simply canceled the gig and passed up his portion of the $15 door. But instead he hunkered down and pulled out a memorable solo set that included a couple songs from his self-released comp CD, which I highly recommend you find. Heck, Mallman didn't even mind when someone walked up to the stage between songs and asked him to play a cover - any cover. "I might be on a great indie label but I'm not too big to do a cover," he said before going on to do a half-assed version of Billy Joel's "Piano Man" that included a few new lyrics written especially for the occasion. Priceless.

I gotta tell you, Mallman has a helluva voice and knows what he's doing on a piano. The whole set sounded kind of Elton John/Billy Joel-esque, and I think he knew it. His songs, however, took on a darker hue when sung alone. I talked to him before the show as he was compiling his set list, crossing off songs he couldn't do solo. He said he felt kind of weird playing songs about loneliness, death and incarceration while families sat around and ate pizza and watched the Yankees. Let's hope Mr. Mallberg -- uh Mallman -- has better luck tonight in Denver. He deserves it.

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Mark Mallman tonight, somewhere... – Oct. 4, 2005 –

Somewhere in Omaha tonight, Mark Mallman performs. I've been told by Omaha's busiest bass player, Mike Tulis (The Third Men, The Monroes, Simon Joyner), that this show should not be missed, that Mallman is the ultimate showman. I'm listening to his new CD, Seven Years, released on Eagles Golden Tooth, as I write this. It's an enticing combination of Ben Folds, ELO and T. Rex sung in Mallman's Midwest-via-Minneapolis nasal voice. His sound is relentlessly throwback, sort of a tribute to '70s glam and so absolutely embraceable that I'm shocked he hasn't broken through the real-but-invisible radio barriers that keep indie down. You might have seen him before as he's opened for Guided by Voices, Beth Orton, Linda Ronstadt, Cat Power, Donovan, Tegan and Sara, Ozomatli, Everlast, Exene Cervenka, Howie Day, and Cracker, among others. Sounds good to me.

The problem: I'm not sure where he's playing. O'Leaver's has Mallman listed on its show schedule, but Mallman's site says he's playing at Slammers, formerly Sortino's at 1414 So. 72nd. St. The venue's shows are booked by Dreamweaver Productions, but their website is either broken or not updated. So what the hell? If I find something out that's more definitive by lunchtime, I'll update this page.

Noon Update: I now know that Mallman will not be playing at O'Leaver's tonight. I assume, then, that the show will be at Slammers. If I can confirm this, I'll update the site again when I get home tonight.

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Live Review: Eagle*Seagull, The Heavenly States – Oct. 3, 2005 –

Saturday night's sparsely attended show at O'Leaver's could very well make it onto my year-end top-10 "best shows of the year" list, just because the music was that good -- two hot bands playing two hot sets for 30 or 40 people.

Jeremy Buckley -- boy wonder behind the Lincoln Calling music festival -- gave me a head's up a couple weeks ago about Eagle*Seagull. So excited was he that he e-mailed me a couple of their mp3 files, one of which wasn't properly mastered and sounded pretty bad. I didn't hear whatever he was hearing.

Buckley was right, though. Eagle*Seagull - a band whose name is a pain in the ass to type because of the unnecessary asterisk - is a 7-piece ensemble that includes three guitars, a violin and two keyboards. You can imagine how crowded they were on O'Leaver's "stage." Their intricate, new wave-esque, and perfectly executed arrangements make them Nebraska's version of The Arcade Fire - at times they sounded just like them. E*S has only been around a year or so. Lead singer Eli Mardock told me he's well aware of Arcade's music. Still, he didn't list them as a specific influence, instead referencing Leonard Cohen, who they obviously sound nothing like (He said he meant it from a lyrical perspective). At other times, E*S also has an Interpol sheen. Regardless, their songs are at times more tuneful than both those bands, while during quieter moments Mardock reminded me of Jarvis Cocker and during the fast parts, a yelpy James Johnson from The Wilderness. The live set was more upbeat and focused than their new CD, which demands further study. We need to get these guys back on an Omaha stage soon.

They were followed by Oakland's The Heavenly States, an upbeat 4-piece ensemble that prominently features violin on most songs (I could honestly barely hear E*S's violin during their set). Unbelievably entertaining. If pushed for comparisons, Spoon or Dismemberment Plan comes to mind, but neither really fits. Leader Ted Nesseth plays a left-handed guitar and sports a wicked phrase (for whatever reason, his vocal phrasing sometimes reminded me of Phil Lynott). His between-song patter is also some of the funniest stuff I've ever heard on stage. The motor behind their sound, however, is their rhythm section anchored by Jeremy Gagon on drums, a veritable dynamo that keeps it simple and keeps it moving. Violinist/keyboardist Genevieve Gagon blew me away as well. I picked up a copy of their new CD, Black Comet, and while the songs were just as good, the mix sounded muddy and unfocused -- it just didn't pop from my speakers the way this band popped from the stage.

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Live Review: AA, Holy Ghost, Two Gallants, when the stars come out to play... – Oct. 1, 2005 –

Just another typical night at Sokol Underground? Hardly.

The draw was around 150 if I had to venture a guess, not as many as I thought would show up. So much for the we-just-got-signed-to-Saddle Creek drawing power. Two Gallants is still on the rise, they're not going to sell out the Underground. Not yet, anyway. Someday, probably. Sooner than you think.

Anyway. Opening the show was Anonymous American, who I've seen at least a dozen times. They're good. Look, if you like your rock and roll with a double-shot of bourbon and a long-neck chaser, if you like massive hooks (not indie hooks, not prog hooks, not country hooks for God's sake), the kind of hooks you expect to hear on your local FM, you have to check out AA. They're a top-drawer saloon band that would be right at home behind a wall of chicken-wire fencing. Frontman Matt Whipkey is and will ever be a top-notch showman, a throwback performer to a time when people expected more from a band than four slouching beatniks that look like they're about to cry. That said, AA doesn't belong in Omaha. Austin? Maybe. Nashville? Possibly. The West Coast, definitely. Omaha, hmmm… I don't know. They definitely were out of place on this bill, but it didn't matter. They just wanted to rock.

So now, the star turn…

After they finished their set I was standing by the cash register and in walks Lea Thompson (Caroline in the City, Back to the Future, Jaws 3D) and Dave Foley (Kids in the Hall, News Radio, Celebrity Poker Showdown), along with soon-to-be-star Nik Fackler. I'd heard that all three had been cast in a movie being shot around town. And here they were, checking out some of Omaha's gritty nightlife. My recollection of the two out-of-towners: Both are very short. Thompson is as lovely as ever. Foley looked like he grew up in South O instead of Canada, sporting a head o' gray hair and an old-guy beer gut. They looked like a couple of locals, which I guess is what they're playing in the movie.

But I digress. The stars showed up just in time to see The Holy Ghost Revival, the band touring with Two Gallants who's music is somewhat in the same vein, though a little more fleshed out with keyboards, a bass, sort of like a regular band but with a frontman who looked like Iggy Pop's son complete with tit-length hair and exposed abs throughout his shirtless set. I heard them described as a cross between Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and Frank Zappa. I likened them more to a psychedelic jug band. I will say that I didn't dislike them as much as everyone else I spoke with, none of whom "got" what they were trying to do (The clarinet on the opening song was a bad way to start). Fact is, their style seemed identical to Two Gallants' albeit a little more proggy and sung by Geddy Lee.

Finally, on came Two Gallants. For as many people who had seen them before, there were just as many who had not and had come out to hear who this band was that Saddle Creek Records just invited into their fold. My girlfriend probably caught the gist of their sound best when -- listening to their track on the new Saddle Creek records compilation, Lagniappe -- she said "Who is this guy? He sounds like Rod Stewart." I hadn't thought of that before, but I couldn't get it out of my mind while watching them on stage last night. Lead vocalist Adam Stephens does have a certain Steward-y gravel-drawl that's even more noticeable when he reaches his raggedy limits.

Two Gallants' music comes in two distinct flavors. First, there's the high-energy, 3/4-time pirate songs, where Stephens belts out an endless stream of lyrics over his electric guitar and Tyson Vogel's all-over-the-place-but-with-no-bottom drumming. Vogel's style is completely scattershot, a miasma of rhythms like a beatbox with the knobs twisted to "hyperactive." Their upbeat songs all sounded identical to me, like rousing ship-galley sea-shanty ballads on meth.

Then there's their slower, quieter tunes that downplay Vogel and accentuate simple, repeated melodies along with the endless stream of lyrics. While less ferocious, the gentle ballads are more interesting.

In both cases, the songs are too long -- a criticism that I know the duo is sick of hearing. Regardless, they have no intention of moving away from largess -- Stephens told me that their new CD has one track that's over nine minutes long.

On the surface, Two Gallants appears to be an odd fit for Creek except for the fact that, other than maybe The Holy Ghost Revival, no one else sounds quite like them. Their music is unique, done without a scintilla of concern as to its commercial potential or critical acceptance. You'll either "get it" (as most of the folks near the stage did) or get bored. I fall somewhere in the middle. Their songs always start out great, but lose me at about the five-minute mark, when I start to wonder how many verses I'm in for. A little goes a long way.

The duo played about 45 minutes and did a one-song encore (Stephens asked for an acoustic guitar, I think it was "All Your Fatherless Loyalties" off Lagniappe) then called it a night.

Outside of Sokol after the show I got a chance to meet tiny Lea -- a very nice lady. Foley came out moments later, shirt unbuttoned exposing his white T-shirted gut. Before long there were about 20 people standing around on the sidewalk along 13th St. I snuck away wondering where their entourage of local indie musicians was headed next.

Tonight: The Heavenly States with Lincoln's Eagle*Seagull at O'Leaver's -- the usual $5 and 9:30 start.

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Two Gallants tonight; the weekend ahead – Sept 30, 2005 –

Two Gallants tonight at Sokol Underground with Anonymous American and The Holy Ghost Revival. Just $7. Is it me or are prices going down for shows lately (Cursive shows for $2)? It's probably just me. Also tonight, Life After Laserdisque, Petracovich and Stephanie Rearick at O'Leaver's ($5, 9:30).

Tomorrow night, Oakland's The Heavenly States with Lincoln's Eagle*Seagull at O'Leaver's. I've heard a few E*S tracks online and am intrigued. $5, 9:30.

Sunday night, Austin Americana band The Black roll into O'Leaver's with Danica Newell. $5, 9:30.

It looks like the beginning of a long month at O'Leaver's. I clarified with owner Sean Conway the whole 30-shows-in-30-days thing. They're not doing a show every night in October, though it sounds like he tried to book it that way. He said he couldn't find enough bands to play every night. I find that hard to believe, especially in this town. Still, he's doing a lot of shows (check out their updated calendar) with the help of 1 Percent Productions, which, just glancing at their calendar, looks like they're doing a stretch in mid-October of 13 straight shows. They're putting it in road gear. Hang on.

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Little Brazil/Statistics tour announced; Simon Joyner to start recording; MDC tonight – Sept 29, 2005 –

Nice turnout at O'Leaver's for movie night last night. Landon Hedges from Little Brazil told me at the bar that his band is headed out with Statistics for a brief tour in late October. In fact, members of Little Brazil will be Statistics -- that is, they'll be Denver Dalley's backing band for the tour. Though it's not listed on their site, Hedges said they hope to kick off the tour with a gig at O'Leaver's (probably around Oct. 25).

I source close to the action tells me that Simon Joyner and his band, the Wind-up Birds, will begin laying down tracks for a new album in the next week or so at an undisclosed location (not at a studio). Expect it to be a full-band recorded live. I'm also hearing that Joyner has been added to the Nov. 15 Rachels/Mariannes show at Sokol Underground -- no confirmation yet.

That Millions of Dead Cops show I wrote about weeks and weeks ago is tonight at Knickerbocker's in Lincoln. $10. Wear your Docs.

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Column 44 -- Two Gallants are welcomed into the fold – Sept 28, 2005 –

This column was originally slated to be a feature on Two Gallants, but at the last minute The Reader pulled back the story's word-limit. They gave me the choice of keeping it at 400 words or using it as this week's column, which would double my word count. I chose the latter, though making it a column involved a different style of writing, one that incorporated more comment than what's found in a simple profile. Regardless, here it is.

As always is the case, there was a ton of stuff that didn't get used. For example, the band already has recorded their new record out at Tiny Telephone studios in San Francisco. Creek says expect a late-January release date. Their last album, The Throes, was recorded in nine days. This time they had three weeks to record and mix it, says guitarist/vocalist Adam Stephens, and as a result, the album will sound bigger and better. That said, I assume Saddle Creek paid for the recording time even though the band opted not to use Lincoln's Presto! Studios. "The prospect came up to do it in Lincoln," said Stephens. "But we needed to stay at home. It's important to be somewhere where you're comfortable. They were open to giving us the time we needed, being aware that we don't want to waste their time and money. That allowed us to do things that we wanted to."

Stephens also went into detail about his songwriting process. I'd commented that songs from The Throes, like "Train That Stole My Man" and "My Madonna," betray experiences that are beyond their experience. "Through songs you can question things more and come up with new scenarios," Stephens said. "I think it comes out more as a very personal feeling, out of respect for people who suffered, not necessarily ourselves. It's not a very thought-out process. The songs come up on their own in a lot of ways. It (the songwriting) follows a whole new invention of modernism in literature, of stepping out of yourself and describing things from a different point of view and a different voice. It's not anything new."

Got that? I'm not sure I did, especially considering his comments later on about blues music, but you'll read that soon enough.

Finally, I asked them what they grew up listening to. The duo has known each other and been playing music together since they were 12, though Two Gallants has only been around for three years. "We both kind of wanted to make loud music and play guitar because we thought it was cool," said drummer Tyson Vogel. "No one in our families urged us to play music. It came out of an indescribable desire to make noise, and we've been doing it ever since in some form. We both listened to Guns 'n' Roses and Nirvana, but that was back when we were 11 years old. Our tastes have changed a lot since then. We listened to a lot of old country blues and such."

Stephens said the band will be pulling out a lot of new material for Friday night's show. "It's hard to tell how a show will go; we never know until after the first songs," he said. "But there will be some newer stuff along with older stuff. And we'll be touring with Holy Ghost Revival, one of our favorite bands."

Column 44 -- All in the Family
Two Gallants adopted by Saddle Creek family

I think I sort of freaked out the guys from Two Gallants.

I interviewed them a couple weeks ago when they were in San Francisco having just returned from a brief tour of England. They were getting ready to head out to Saddle Creek Records' CMJ showcase followed by Omaha.

So I'm on the phone with both of them -- singer/guitarist Adam Stephens and drummer Tyson Vogel -- and off I go about how Two Gallants is really the first band to get signed to Saddle Creek with absolutely no links to the label. They didn't grow up in Omaha, they didn't go to Creighton Prep, they didn't hang out at The Brothers, they never recorded at Presto! Studios or toured with any of the label's bands.

They just played their strange-yet-endearing personal brand of pirate-voiced blues-waltzes at a couple O'Leaver's gigs before opening for Beep Beep at Sokol last January. The hoopla generated from those shows caught the attention of Creek label chief Robb Nansel, who ran down a copy of the band's CD, The Throes, and the rest, as they say, is history. That chronology of events, I told the Gallants, was unheard of. It just doesn't happen. Don't you get it? Creek doesn't sign bands out of the blue like that.

I didn't stop there. I told them about the vote. "You guys had to be 'approved' by the powers at the label -- the Conor Obersts, the Tim Kashers -- all had to give you the nod," I said, my voice rising to a painful howl. "And only then -- only after the vote -- did you get invited to join the family."

Stephens and Vogel sounded startled (or maybe just annoyed). "So, do you think that we're worthy?" Stephens asked. "I guess it's kind of an honor."

Stephens said that he and Vogel already knew about the label before hanging out with Nansel in Austin a few weeks after their Sokol gig. "It was pretty comfortable," he said. "Robb wasn't trying to impress us by buying us a lot of drinks like most of the industry folks do. He just seemed like someone who enjoyed music. There wasn't any pretending going on."

Shortly thereafter, the deal was done. I don't know all the details. Nansel said that there was, in fact, a vote held. Would Creek be signing more "strangers" (my term, not his) to the label? "Yeah, but we don't have an active A&R department, so I don't know how active we'll be," Nansel said.

Two Gallants' music is a departure from Creek's usual singer/songwriter or angular punk or electro-dance style. Or maybe not. Come to think of it, Creek bands don't really have a specific "style." If anything, it's the songwriters' personal, diary-esque lyrics and their non-commercial approach that ties everyone together.
"The one way we do fit in is that most of the bands are different," Stephens said about Saddle Creek. "We don't sound like anyone else, and I think that's what's interesting about the label. They're not getting stuck inside a specific genre. I think that a lot of bands on Saddle Creek are going in a different direction than what's typically considered indie."

There isn't anything typical about Two Gallants. Don't mistake them for other guitar-and-drum duos like The White Stripes or The Black Keys. Their sound is rooted in a different kind of musical tradition. When I saw them last winter, their set consisted of long, three-quarter-time ballads that married Arlo Guthrie with Janis Joplin (sort of) to create a nasal-esque folk-blues 'explosion.' I mentioned that I could hear Janis singing every one of their songs, how she was influenced by people like Bessie Smith and Otis Redding and Big Mama Thornton. Did those artists influence them?


"No, not really," Stephens said. "I can get down with some Bessie Smith, but I haven't heard much Janis Joplin. Both of us are deeply influenced by music from the '20s and '30s by people who actually experienced the blues. In terms of the evolution of the blues, I think of B.B. King as someone who has no connection with where it came from. His stuff wails and people dig it, and maybe it has heart and soul, but we're more into the people who lived the lives the songs described."

Somewhere, members of the Omaha Blues Society are collectively gnashing their teeth.

Check out the newest member of the Saddle Creek family Sept. 30 at Sokol Underground with non-Creekers Anonymous American and The Holy Ghost Revival.

On a side note, I was told by organizer Mike Tulis that tonight is Rock Movie night at O'Leaver's featuring Thin Lizzy in "The Boys Are Back in Town." Meanwhile, local singer/songwriter Reagan Roeder has posted on my webboard that there's actually a rock show at O'Leaver's tonight featuring him, local band The Atlas and Tucson act The Sweat Band (who also have the date listed on their website). Keep an eye on the webboard for any updates or clarification, or else just show up and prepare to be surprised.

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Omaha from A to Z on the BBC; Race for Titles/Precious Metal tonight; Wednesday is O'Leaver's movie night… – Sept 27, 2005 –

That BBC Radio 1 program -- titled One World -- that's focused entirely on the Omaha music scene (for which I was interviewed a week or so ago) was broadcast yesterday and is now available for your listening pleasure via the Internet at this site. Click on the "Listen again to this week's show" link, or click here. The producer took the clever approach of discussing something about Omaha for every letter of the alphabet ("B is for Bright Eyes" "K is for Kite Pilot" "V is for Venues" etc.) The difference between this 2-hour show and the majority of national (and international) coverage of the Omaha scene is that producer Jimmy Devlin actually went out of his way to gather material about bands and elements outside of the Saddle Creek sphere of influence. The program's track listing includes Simon Joyner, Kite Pilot, Little Brazil, Ladyfinger, Mousetrap and Statistics, as well as the usual Creek suspects. You will finally be able to hear what your favorite Omaha music journalist sounds like as my comments are used throughout. The quote that I'm most please with: My gritty, real-life description of O'Leaver's that I'm sure will elevate the venue's profile to that of CBGB's or the 40 Watt Club. Sean, prepare for the multitudes. Check it out -- it's an accurate, interesting depiction of our scene that includes some nice touches about our history.

Tonight's big show is heavy indeed: Back When, Race for Titles, Precious Metal and Father at Sokol Underground. It's being billed as "the return of Race for Titles after months of hiatus." It's also another opportunity to hear Precious Metal, the side project of Faint guitarist Dapose. Bring your earplugs, it's gonna be loud. $8, 9 p.m.

Also, an early head's up for the monthly Rock Movie Night at O'Leaver's, which is tomorrow night (Wednesday). This time it's "The Boys are Back in Town" -- an October 1978 performance by Thin Lizzy at the Sydney Opera House in Australia. Read more about it here. It's fun and it's free.

Tomorrow morning, look for my feature on Two Gallants that talks about how the band found itself signed to Saddle Creek.

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Live Review: Landing on the Moon; Pretty Girls Make Graves, Ladyfinger tonight… – Sept 26, 2005 –

A couple quickies to pass on over lunchtime:

I caught Landing on the Moon Friday night and never had a chance to type up my thoughts over the weekend. To put it simply, I dug them. LOTM is a five-piece anchored by drummer Oliver Morgan (Little Brazil, The Quiet Type) with two guitars, bass and his wife Megan on keyboards (who also was in The Quiet Type). Stylistically, there's nothing like these guys 'round town. First, no one is kicking out original ballads, not like this. LOTM closed their set with one after having played a cover of The Zombies' "Tell Her No" that was as good as it gets. Their sound is all over the board. The opener had a Bowie vibe going on, while the second or third song reminded me of an old Reset tune, which makes sense since two of the band's members were in Reset. There's even a TV on the Radio thing that happened a couple of times. The two guitars play opposing picked counters anchored by a solid bass and Morgan's usual perfection on the sticks -- though he's more reserved and precise here than in his other bands. He seemed a bit surprised when I told him after the set that LOTM reminded me nothing of The Quiet Type. It's more reserved in a good way, more musically formal. "More grown up?" Oliver added. Yeah, that. In a world where indie seems to be the rule of the day, there's nothing indie about Landing on the Moon, and that's the whole point.

Also playing that night at O'Leaver's was Kite Pilot and Mariannes, which explained why it was so damned crowded. I left right after LOTM though, not because I don't dig those bands, but because I had to be at work early the next morning, thanks to Hurricane Rita.

Overheard that night: O'Leaver's is apparently doing 30 shows in 30 days in October, throwing caution to the wind, taking the plunge, putting the hammer down, doing whatever it takes, blah blah blah. Now if they'd only start updating their online calendar...

Tonight, it's Matador band Pretty Girls Make Graves at Sokol Underground with Ladyfinger and Latitude, Longitude, all for a mere $8. Expect a crowd.

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It's a Lincoln Calling weekend… – Sept 23, 2005 –

Of course the most notable event this weekend is Lincoln Calling. Two marquee shows tonight: Neva Dinova, Tilly and the Wall, Dave Dondero and Orenda Fink at Knickerbockers; Ladyfinger, Bombardment Society and Ideal Cleaners at Duggan's (The Stay Away is staying away, apparently). As far as I can tell, there are no individual ticket prices listed on the Lincoln Calling site, I guess as an incentive to buy the $20 all-access weekend pass, available at Homer's in the Old Market.

If you're staying in Omaha tonight, check out Landing on the Moon (Oliver Morgan of Little Brazil and his wife, Megan, among others), Kite Pilot and Mariannes at O'Leaver's. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Tomorrow's marquee Lincoln Calling event: The Prids, For Against and Eagle Seagull at Duffy's. If I go to one show surrounding this event, it'll be this one, though I fear it'll be so packed in Duffy's that I won't be able to get in. No idea what the ticket price is, and there's nothing listed on the Duffy's site, though I'm told no show will exceed $10.

Sunday's Lincoln Calling main attraction: Little Brazil, Her Flyaway Manner and Life After Laserdisque at Duffy's with an unannounced opening set by Landing on the Moon. Nice. A few blocks away Anonymous American is playing at Duggan's. Again, the full Lincoln Calling schedule is here. They've also added some film events and a rock poster show (discussed here).

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Column 43: FNB Omaha music comp; Tonight: Atmosphere vs. Waking Ashland Vs. Sonata Form – Sept 22, 2005 –

Despite what you may think about First National Bank's compilation CD, the effort should be applauded -- at least the bank's trying to acknowledge the good things going on in our city musicwise. FNB's Sporhase wouldn't give me details (dates, times) about the on-campus events mentioned at the end of the column, but if I catch wind I'll pass on the info. He said the colleges were concerned about non-student attendance, which of course is completely untrue at least as far as UNO is concerned. My alma mater does just about everything it can to attract non-students to campus in hopes that they can also lure them into the Registrar's office. Creighton, on the other hand, is a different story.

Column 43 -- The First National Bank of Rock 'n' Roll
Comp CD (tries) to reflect local scene.

Looks like the bank is getting into the rock 'n' roll business.

When I say "the bank" I'm obviously talking about First National Bank, because let's be honest, FNB dominates the financial landscape 'round these parts, thanks in part to aggressively sponsoring community-based cultural events. So leave it to the great grey institution to have the wild idea of putting together a compilation CD that attempts to capture our nationally recognized Omaha music scene.

FNB Second Vice President Clint Sporhase, 33, said the bank's involvement in, the compilation in question, isn't really any different than their support of other cultural events like the symphony or opera. Says Sporhase, "What a great way to do something that supports a segment of the arts in Omaha that also reaches out to that younger, twentysomething demographic."

Ah, those twentysomethings -- a demographic that historically has viewed white-collared stuffed-shirted institutions like the bank as "The Man." You want them to let down their guard? Better start speaking the language. Hence, the CD. Sporhase, however, is the first to admit that pop music is a language that he and most of The Suits in the white tower downtown don't understand.

That's where Homer's comes in. Sporhase says the record store was the first place that came to mind when guys in the board room were kicking around the idea. A phone call was made to Homer's president Mike Fratt, who called his Saddle Creek store manager Marq Manner. Not surprisingly, both were happy to lend a hand.

To their credit, the duo didn't do a "call for entries" and openly solicit bands to contribute. Instead, they relied on their own knowledge and taste to come up with the track listing. "We didn't want any one type of music," Fratt said. "My objective was to make a compilation that represents the best of what's going on in Omaha."

The 13-track end product certainly tries, but hardly represents the entire scene. How could it? Look, if you've ever put together a comp CD you know that no one is going to like everything on it. The same holds true with

FNB and Homer's get high marks for including some innovative acts, such as Little Brazil, Kyle Harvey, Le Beat and Ladyfinger. Fratt says more commercial bands like Eyes Catch Fire, Emphatic, Venaculas and Straight Outta Junior High got the nod in part because they're heard on 89.7 The River.

Like any good comp, there's a "discovery track" -- a pleasant surprise from a band you never heard before. From my standpoint, the honor goes to Civicminded, whose "Stoplight Traffic" is the bouncy alt-rock track that you've been waiting for. The CD is rounded out with songs by Anonymous American, Grasshopper Takeover, Sarah Benck and the Robbers, and Fratt's own Goodbye Sunday.

What's missing?

For starters, there's no hip-hop on Sporhase and Fratt both said that the two tracks they considered for the disc illegally used samples, which would have been too difficult to acquire rights to.

Next, it's hard to say any comp represents the Omaha scene that doesn't include at least one song by a Saddle Creek Records artist. Yeah, I know they've already received more than their share of visibility, but to most people locally and nationally, the Creek is the Omaha scene. Fratt said he didn't think there was any possibility that Saddle Creek would participate." He's probably right. We'll never know.

Finally, where are the Speed! Nebraska bands and the white-knuckle rockers like The Terminals, Bad Luck Charm, Race for Titles and The Philharmonic? "Some of the bands mentioned won't sell their product at Homer's," Fratt said. "We have to carry it if I'm going to hear it."

And some stuff didn't make the cut because it just plain sucks. Fratt knows there's going to be plenty of pissing and moaning from those left off the record. Where's the death metal? Where's the hardcore? Where's the Ukrainian string bands? At the end of the day, he's satisfied with the CD. So is Sporhase, who said "If the project is well-received -- if we feel good about what happens -- we would love this to be an annual project or a rite of passage for local artists."

About 7,000 copies of will be distributed for free in the next few weeks at UNO, Creighton and other local colleges. Students should keep an eye out for related on-campus events. Copies also are available at Homer's with the purchase of any participating band's CD.

One Percent Productions has its hands full tonight. Indie hip-hop wunderkind Atmosphere performs in Sokol's "big room" upstairs with Blueprint and P.O.S. One Percent points out that they're "one of the only promoters in town that attempts hip-hop show." They've been doing it for years, and have managed to grow a sizable following for indie hip-hop, as evidenced by moving this show to the auditorium. Tickets are $20, show starts at 8. Meanwhile, down in the underground, One Percent is hosting Waking Ashland, Jamison Parker and An Angle. I don't know diddly about the first two acts. An Angle is the notorious Bright Eyes imitation band, whose lead singer even sports Conor's famous quivering bray. Tsk. tsk. $8, 9 p.m. So where the hell are we all going to park?

Well, you could always park in Benson, where acoustic prog songsters Sonata Form a.k.a. Jeff Carlson (formerly of The Gladhands) will be performing at Mick's with singer/songwriter Richard Schultz, who will be joined at the end of his set by his band The Miracle Men. $3, 9 p.m.

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This week's feature: Lincoln Calling; Live Review: Sufjan Stevens – Sept 21, 2005 –

First, this week's feature, a look at the second annual Lincoln Calling music festival and chat with event organizer Jeremy Buckley (read it here). Yes, I think this year's line-up easily eclipses last year's, thanks to the Creek/Team Love showcase at Knickerbockers (brought to you with the help of One Percent Productions) which is being held concurrently Friday night along with the Ideal Cleaners/Ladyfinger/Bombardment Society/Stay Awake show at Duggan's. But the real highlight (for me, anyway) is The Prids/For Against/Eagle Seagull show the following night at Duffy's. Buckley tells me that this could be the last time you Prids fans will get to see your band until maybe 2007 as they head out on 18 months or so of touring. Legendary ambient rockers For Against, which rarely if ever plays live, will be celebrating the rerelease of their December CD, which is a must-have. Why doesn't Omaha do something like Lincoln Calling? Because, as Buckley pointed out, we don't have six decent live music venues in walking distance of each other like they do in Lincoln. As for the great divide that separates the two cities scenewise, Buckley points out (rightly so) that it doesn't have to exist. I, for one, would love to see more Lincoln bands take the stage at O'Leaver's and Sokol and The 49'r and The Goofy Foot and Mick's. Maybe events like this will help make it happen.

Onto the live review: Packed it was last night at Sokol Underground. It was sold out, and we'll leave it at that. Packed from stage to the merch table, wall to wall, a mass of humanity come to see Sufjan Stevens and his 8-person band of cheerleader musicians dressed in their Big "I" T-shirts, some holding pompoms, all playing a myriad of instruments, most singing. The pompoms weren't mere props. Stevens and crew began four or five songs with well-choreographed cheers, complete with arm signals and spirit fingers. It was that kind of set, a goodhearted rah-rah for ol' Illinois, all in celebration of his second "state LP," this one dedicated to The Prairie State.

Seriously, at times it was like listening to a choir led by a little guy in a Cubs hat with a voice that was a morph of Art Garfunkel and Ben Gibbard singing lullabies to Jacksonville, Decatur and Chicago. I didn't know what to expect from the arrangements, I knew Stevens would be hard-pressed to recreate the lushness heard on the CD. But by God, he captured the majesty thanks to the glockenspiels and brass (especially his trumpet player) and keyboards and battery of percussion and those four female cheerleaders whose angel-voices made the whole thing float. Listening to Come on Feel The Illinoise as I write this after the show, I think everything was a tad funkier live, especially "Decatur," which sported a nice bass riff and finger snaps and probably some sort of synchronized cheer-dance. After playing high school pep-rally standard "Varsity," the band came back and did a one-song encore that nicely rounded off the hour-long set.

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Late Live Review: The Ointments, Pomonas, Fizzle/Flood; my chat with The BBC; Sufjan Stevens tonight – Sept 20, 2005 –

The usual Tuesday message: Too busy yesterday morning writing a feature on Lincoln Calling (it'll be online tomorrow) and this week's column (about the First National Bank comp CD, it'll be online Thursday) to write an update. Such are the pressures of deadlines.

Saturday night. Packed crowd at O'Leaver's (what else is new?). Ointments on stage -- that swinging Kyle Harvey, that commie Reagan Roeder, that madman Landon Hedges. Hedges looked like an emaciated Animal from the Muppet Show on drums, but man, could he play, swinging the lumber like a real pro, like a tribal warrior. It was Hedges' stickwork that fueled this revitalized version of The Ointments, along with the songs, of course. I just saw these guys a couple months ago at Shag and was only mildly amused. There's something about Shag and its big stage so far away from the audience that just seems to suck the life out of bands. The Ointments that played Saturday sounded like a different outfit altogether. Much more animated, much more soulful, much more into the crowd. And the crowd was into it right back. Roeder has a way of adding something filthy from his guitar at the end of every song. Feedback, squeal, static, like Crazy Horse but different. Their songs are, of course, pure indie pop that, as I mentioned before, reminds me of Big Star or Teenage Fanclub, especially on songs whose endings stretch out ad infinitum.

Then there was the Pomonas. No more slop for these guys. Nope, they're true professionals, now playing every note tight as a tick. Consider them a Midwestern version of GBV or Pavement but with poppier hooks and three-man harmony and playful hi-jinx usually involving a tambourine. A few people even came up from Lawrence to see the set (Don't know why, since they're from Lawrence). I grieve at the idea that it could be months until they come back to Omaha, though our friends at Someday Never swear that they'll do what they can to book them here soon. I was there when Joe from SDN told frontman Justin Ripley he was going to make it his personal mission to get these boys back on an Omaha stage toot-sweet. And now, through the power of the Internet, the whole world knows. Get on it, Joe.

Finally, there was the White Stripes version of Fizzle Like a Flood, featuring singer/songwriter Doug Kabourek on drums and guitarist Travis Sing on, uh, guitar. The gig was celebrating the rerelease of Golden Sand and the Grandstand, a lush, multi-layered opus that combines 40 tracks on each song. Needless to say, the version heard Saturday night in no way resembled that recording. Kabourek stripped it all down to raunchy guitar chords and big-fisted drumming while he struggled to sing along Don Henley style. The new arrangement completely changed the complexion of the music, not necessarily in a better way, but in a different way. Kabourek is said to be putting together a bigger supporting line-up for when he opens for Okkervil River later this year. He even talked about making a rock record. This could get interesting…

Speaking of interesting: Last week I was interviewed for about a half-hour by BBC for a 2-hour program dedicated to "the Omaha scene," but with an emphasis on Saddle Creek Records (of course). The chat took place in a studio off 110th and Mockingbird, where we were patched in to Ireland via an ISDN connection. Very high tech. It was kind of fun answering questions for a program that I probably will never hear (The interviewer said it'll air at 3 a.m. sometime in the future, no specific date was given). They wanted to know about old days circa mid to late-'90s. They asked about Mousetrap. They asked about Simon Joyner. They asked about how Creek influenced the whole scene. They asked about other Omaha bands not on Creek and said they were going to play some songs from them (Kite Pilot was one mentioned, as was Ladyfinger and a few others). They asked about the hot venues (I described O'Leaver's to the Nth degree, mentioned Sokol, etc.). They asked if there was any resentment about Creek's success -- how could there not be? And on and on. This was apparently the same producer that posted on the Saddle Creek webboard a few weeks ago, asking for people to call and give their impressions of their favorite Creek bands. He told me no one called, probably because no one wanted to eat the international long-distance charges. Or maybe because they may never hear the finished program. I'll let you know if they let me know when it'll air.

Tonight at Sokol Underground: Sufjan Stevens with Liz Janes. This will be the first time Stevens has ventured into this part of the Midwest. I'm told by our friends in The Pomonas that despite selling out three nights in NYC, Stevens was unable to sell out The Bottleneck for a recent gig. Something tells me this one will either sell out or be damn close. Get there early if you want to get in. 9 p.m., $14.

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Live Review: FFA, Danny Pound, Arthur Dodge; weekend "happenings"… – Sept 16, 2005 –

This is a briefer-than-normal review, mainly because I'm running late (not because of the quality of bands). There were a good 50 or 60 on hand at O'Leaver's last night (which equates to SRO), surprising considering that The Vibrators/Bad Luck Charm was going on over at The 49'r. Fine, Fine Automobiles a.k.a. Landon Hedges was backed by a band (at one time referred to from stage as The Decepticons). Kyle Harvey was among them, and they changed the complexion of Hedges' usually sweet, withdrawn, personal acoustic songs to laid-back rock ditties that perfectly complimented the other bands on the bill. With the band, the songs were fleshed out, and FFA could be the The Good Life to Little Brazil's Cursive, which would be somewhat ironic for those of you that know Landon's history. Afterward, Hedges said he only recently threw the players together; that they only had practiced a couple times. And that he plans on swapping them out for another band in sort of a rotating fashion. Kite Pilot, for example, might back him next time; Someday Stories the time after that, etc., constantly providing a new interpretation of songs from band to band -- I guess sort of like Bright Eyes, which would be somewhat ironic for those of you that know the history…

Arthur Dodge and the Horsefeathers were up next. Dodge is a grizzled veteran and sounds like one, with a voice like a Midwestern Randy Newman singing bluesy, Dylan-y rock songs that demand your attention -- attention I couldn't give them from my perch at the bar, boxed in behind a wall of people ordering drinks. I should have stood up, but there was nowhere to stand up. I should have bought a CD cuz I can tell I'd like the lyric sheet. Someone should bring back these troubled souls (preferably someone like Mick's).

Lastly was David Pound and his band, which consisted mostly of Horsefeathers. The two acts are touring together, so it makes sense to share the horses, especially when these horses have such strong backs. I have a confession to make: I had no idea going in what Pound's current music would sound like. I haven't seen or heard from him since his grunge-rock Vitreous Humor days. Mr. Pound is all grown up and playing grown-up music a la '70s-era southern Cal-style groovy rock that's all about telling stories in a laid-back (though still rocking) vibe. I loved it. Pound is a helluva songwriter, and this band of horses could power any late-model muscle car (I'm thinking maybe a '69 Pontiac GTO a.k.a The Judge). Especially Jeremy Sidener, who never failed to provide jaw-dropping bass lines on ever song he played for either frontman.

Hmmm… that review ended up being longer than I expected.

Anyway. This weekend:

Tonight: You lucky Lincolnites have The Third Men with Strawberry Burns and The Static Octopus at Knickerbockers. You Omahans, it's worth the $12 in gas to drive there (it'll cost another $5 to get in the door). If you're too lazy to visit the capital city, then why not motor over to Counciltucky, where The Lepers, The Stay Awake and Virgasound (formerly The Philharmonic) are playing at Mike's Place (162 W. Broadway)? I've never been there. They tell me it's nice.

Saturday afternoon is Mavfest, which I discussed in yesterday's blog/column. Drop by and drop some cash for a good cause.

Tomorrow night: The Pomonas w/The Ointments and Fizzle Like a Flood, who is celebrating the rerelease of his Golden Sands and the Grandstand album on Earnest Jenning Records. Methinks The Ointments will open, followed by The Pomonas, then Doug and Co. will be last (it's their party, after all).

Close out the weekend Sunday night with Fromanhole and Kieskagato at O'Leaver's. Ah, but if you're in Lincoln, check out Tangelo and The Holy Ghost at Duffy's. Lately I've been getting into The Ghost's Welcome to Ignore Us… it's damn good.

That's all for now.

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Column 42: a grab-bag of old news, MavRadio ; Danny Pound (of Vitreous Humor) tonight – Sept 15, 2005 –

My original intention was to write the column that'll appear next week this week, but interviews and schedules couldn't be worked out. So instead, I wrote the following, which is somewhat old news for any local indie music fan who spends any amount of time on the web. That said, one must remember that the initial audience for my columns are the fine folks who pick up The Reader, and the intent all along has been to cull items that appear in the daily Lazy-i "blog" once a week to educate and inform the poor unwashed masses who still read the printed word. So, you daily readers of Lazy-I will have read some of the the following already. Perhaps most of note (and what you haven't seen here yet) is the item about MavStock this weekend at UNO. I don't listen to or follow the bands that are on slated to perform at the event, but I do support MavRadio and the artists on its playlist. It is, perhaps, truly wishful thinking that the station could ever get a real license and tower, and that Omaha would finally get a radio station that actually plays college music. I think for a variety of reasons both economic and political that it'll never happen, but if a miracle were ever to occur, it would begin at Saturday's fund-raiser at UNO's Milo Bail student center. As the column suggests, go to for more details. Drop by and drop some cash in the bucket. You'll be helping the folks in New Orleans and the future of local college radio at the same time.

Column 42 -- An (Old Country) Buffet of Music News
Saddle Creek, Cursive, Ladyfinger and MavStock

This week, a few observations, rumors, suggestions and hyperbole -- the stuff that make columns worth reading.

-- In Saddle Creek news: Touched by the devastation and need coming out of the Gulf port states, Omaha's premiere record label is putting together a compilation CD whose proceeds will go entirely to The Red Cross for Hurricane Relief. Among those signed up are a cadre of local superstars, including Bright Eyes, Cursive, The Faint, The Good Life, Mayday, Orenda Fink, Maria Taylor, Broken Spindles and Criteria. The Creek says the collection will be available on iTunes shortly, while the CD version will be available for order from in the coming days. It's just another way to do your part to help get the Gulf and its people back on their feet.

-- And speaking of getting back on their feet, so is Saddle Creek band Cursive. The scuttlebutt was that the band had been preparing to hit the road. Now in a move reserved for the likes of The Rolling Stones and U2, they're performing as an opening act under assumed names for a mini-tour leading up to the CMJ Music Festival in NYC (where they'll be a surprise "special guest" at the Saddle Creek showcase at the Bowery Ballroom Sept. 15). spilled the beans late last week with this post on its homepage:

"You should look for the following bands in the next week or two: Flippy and Hambone, T Lite & the Heavies, Jazz Hessian, Cursifix, Stuffy Dumbfuck, and Sgt. Snippy, in these cities: Chicago, Columbus, OH; Wilkes Barre, PA; New London, CT, North Manchester, IN, and Lansing, MI. Oh boy, if you like seeing Cursive you should really see these shows."

-- So who is the pseudo-Cursive opening for? None other Ladyfinger -- Omaha's current "It" band. I caught Ladyfinger's pre-tour warm-up at O'Leaver's last Friday with The Third Men -- themselves a pop-rock gem the combines Matthew Sweet pop, Replacements bar, dB's cool and a little bit of The Feelies irascibility thrown in for good measure.

Maybe Ladyfinger can do what another gutter-groove band from the past was unable to. That band was Ritual Device -- one of the city's Golden Age icons, the band that often gets left out of the who-influenced-Creek discussions though they, along with Mousetrap, undoubtedly laid the foundation for the label's heavier acts (Beep Beep comes to mind). Ladyfinger is the Second Coming of Ritual Device except they're faster, and in some respects, harder than RD ever was. But in spite of their fleetness, they bare RD's unmistakable knack for finding a head-bobbing groove via their rhythm section and chop guitar. What they don't have is a frontman like Ritual's Tim Moss, who was not only a stage ham, but a real factor in RD's overall sound. Not so with Ladyfinger's vocalists Ethan Jones and Chris Machmuller. Blame the mix, blame the sheer volume of the band, but I could not hear their vocals all night, and when I did, they were mere wisps before a hurricane. They certainly have the vocal chops -- by god they both can sing better than Moss (Hell, I can sing better than Moss).

-- And finally, there is MavStock. As an alum, I feel compelled to talk about this one-day, six-band music festival to be held at UNO's Milo Bail Student Center Sept. 17, if only for the charities involved. Proceeds reaped from your $5 attendance fee will be split between the American Red Cross and MavRadio. The student-run station has a transmitter on UNO's North Campus broadcasting at 93.7 FM. It can only be heard, however, on campus. Their biggest potential audience comes from those who listen via the webstream at As I type this, the station is playing Spoon "I Turn My Camera On," leading into Aqualung, "Brighter Than Sunshine." Imagine if this station ever got a real license and transmitter. Dare to dream...

MavStock begins at around 3 p.m. The all-local lineup includes Liquid Static, Endeavor, Dielated, Emphatic and Smilin Liar, and headliner Venaculas. Find out more at

Tonight's marquee must-not-miss-show: In 1998 Lawrence band Vitreous Humor released Posthumous, a collection of singles and whatnot that were released throughout their brief history. You can read my review of it here. The kicker was that the CD was released after the band had disbanded. Frontman Danny Pound continued on in The Regrets and now The Danny Pound Band, which also includes Zoom bassist Jeremy Sidener. Most people don't remember either Vitreous Humor or Zoom, but both were among my favorite bands from the late-'90s that performed at one time or other at the old Capitol Bar & Grill. Well, Danny Pound band is playing tonight at O'Leaver's along with hot Lawrence band Arthur Dodge and the Horsefeathers (mentioned in yesterday's Pomonas story), and Landon Hedges' Fine Fine Automobiles (with Kyle Harvey and Tyler Cook). This is a show that should not be missed. I predict that word of its quality will leak out to Omaha's trendy underbelly and it could actually get crowded, so get there early. It starts at 9:30. It costs $5.

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The Pomonas feature o' the week – Sept 14, 2005 –

Just placed online, a nice story about a nice little band from Lawrence called The Pomonas (read it here). I saw these guys last winter at O'Leaver's and was knocked out by their sloppy-yet-fun set, so much so that I told them afterward if they ever come through town again, let me know and we'll do some press. Well here they come, this Saturday at O'Leaver's with Fizzle Like a Flood and The Ointments. Among the stuff that didn't make it into the article are comments about making of their EP, Jubilation, specifically the part about how it was recorded in 24 hours in the all-analog studio run by Tom Wagner of rock band Conner. "It was recorded on the same reel-to-reel machine that was used to record Jefferson Airplane's Volunteers album," said guitarist Andy Gassaway. "Tom collects vintage recording equipment." The band recently acquired a practice space where they'll record their next CD using conventional digital equipment -- i.e., a computer and some microphones. "The sound quality won't be what the EP was," Gassaway said. "We all dig low-fi recordings. We really latched onto Guided by Voices." He said the band loves Omaha, even though they didn't like their performance the last time they were here. "Afterward we got invited to this fun house party. The next day we ate at this burger place called Big Daddy's." Big Daddy's? What the hell is Big Daddy's?

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Headlines; Aqualung tonight – Sept 13, 2005 –

No update yesterday (there rarely is one on Mondays anymore) because I was feverishly finishing a feature on The Pomonas, which will be online tomorrow, and a grab-bag column for Thursday. I hear from Mr. Whipkey of Anonymous American that his gig at Shag did well and he moved 50 copies of his AA/Whipkey split. Not bad. That said, here are a few interesting headlines/stories from the 'net:

Brainy 'geek rock' is posting smart sales numbers -- New York Daily News -- There's no question that indie rock needs a different name other than "indie rock," but I don't think "geek rock" or "dweeb rock" is it. Bright Eyes is mentioned, of course. Pompous quote from SPIN editor Doug Brod, who calls where-are-they-now star Chris Cornell "larger than life": "Frankly, these guys are nerds in sweaters and polyester pants who sing sensitive songs. That can only take you so far."

Onion's A.V. Club gives Criteria a "buy it" rating -- For whatever reason, Criteria is now being compared to Foo Fighters in reviews and interviews, a comparison that I don't get.

For example, here's one from U of Missouri-Columbia's Maneater, except it's actually Criteria's Stephen Pedersen making the comparison. "We get a lot of people saying that we sound like the Foo Fighters, too," Pedersen said. "I don't really listen to much of their stuff. I just hear it on the radio. They're a great band though, and we get compared to them sometimes." Don't encourage them, Steph-o.

311's SA Martinez makes an off-hand remark about the Omaha music scene in this story from The Oklahoma Daily. The writer asks "How has it been being one of the bands that has really gotten a scene going?" referring to the Omaha scene. "It's gone in cycles. When we were coming out, there was a scene goin' on in early '90s—late '80s. Now there's a new independent music scene centered around people like The Faint. It's like every town. Scenes come and go. They're the bee's knees, you know? To each his own." Not sure what that means...

Tonight's show of note: Aqualung with The Perishers and Tracy Bonham at Sokol Underground. Aqualung has been herded into the Radiohead/Coldplay category. I think they sound something closer to a quiet Ben Folds, but who knows? The Perishers are equally laid back. $12, 8 p.m.

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Live Review: The Third Men / Ladyfinger – Sept 10, 2005 –

It was a night of light and darkness at O'Leaver's. Light in the form of The Third Men, who, by the way, now include a woman on keyboards (she doesn't seem to mind the band's moniker -- hey, it was there before she joined, right?). By 10:30 or so O'Leaver's was already elbow-to-elbow packed and not with people watching the Ohio-Pitt game on the plasma (which guitarist/vocalist Matt Rutledge turned off with 10 seconds left in regulation and Pitt driving -- good thing I wasn't paying attention). I'm not entirely sure the crowd was there to see 3rd Men either, but they were there nonetheless and got what they deserved -- a scorching set of tightly wound pop rock from a group of laid-back veterans too cool to care if you don't like their sunshine-vibe (One guy next to me kept saying "Come on, where's Ladyfinger?" before he disappeared -- his loss). I liken them to an groovy combination of Matthew Sweet pop, Replacements bar and dB's cool with a little bit of The Feelies irascibility thrown in for good measure. These are songs with top-down hooks and lots of grins. And if their own pop ditties weren't enough, the band threw in two covers -- Mott the Hoople's "All the Young Dudes" and McCartney/Wings' "Jet" -- that's right, "Jet" -- with bassist Mike Tulis barking out the dog's name like a Midwestern Jerry Lewis. Gold.

Then came the darkness in the form of Ladyfinger. Has there been another band in the Omaha scene that bears their gutter-groove mark of the devil? The answer is yes. That band was Ritual Device -- one of the city's Golden Age icons, the band that often gets left out of the who-influence-Creek discussions though they, along with Mousetrap, undoubtedly laid the foundation (or at least provided the bad influence) for the label's heavier acts (Beep Beep comes to mind). As I've said in this here blog a few times before, Ladyfinger is Ritual Device's second coming, although it's a thoroughly different revelation. Ladyfinger is faster, and in some respects, harder than RD ever was. But in spite of their fleetness, they have RD's unmistakable knack for finding the head-bobbing groove in the rhythm section, bass and chop guitar, all blended into a very dark brew. The other huge diff -- Ritual Device had a frontman in Tim Moss that was not only a stage ham, but a true factor in that band's overall sound. Amidst the chaos there was always Moss's throaty voice, mumbling, growling or yelling (not screaming) twisted, obscene lyrics about nightmare sex visions and John Wayne Gacy child molesters. When I think of Ritual Device, I can hear Moss' voice like the memory of a bad dream. Not so with Ladyfinger's vocals, shared by two frontmen. Blame the mix, blame the sheer volume of the band, but I could not hear Ethan's or Chris' vocals all night, and when I did, they were mere wisps before a hurricane. Those guys need to lean right in there and spit it out, over the band, over the crowd. Else they become another edgy instrumental band, of which there are too many already. They have the vocal chops -- by god they both can sing better than Moss (who got by on intensity, not range). Their voices -- and whatever ideas they convey -- must be heard if this band is going to break through to our nightmares.

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The Chicago Tribune; what's Joe Kobjerowski up to?; Third Men / Ladyfinger tonight and other weekend hi-jinx – Sept 9, 2005 –

Before we get into the weekend, a couple notable items that crossed my inbox. First, the Chicago Tribune interviewed me for a story about the new Saddle Creek DVD (the story is here, but you have to register to read it, which is free). Writer Patrick Sisson chatted with me over my lunch hour a couple weeks ago, mainly asking me about the history of the Omaha scene pre-Creek, and the nature of scene today. Not surprisingly, he didn't mention anyone other than the Creek bands in the article (which I guess makes sense since the DVD only briefly discusses pre-Creek Omaha). Sisson called the DVD "a mosaic of old video footage, concert fliers and interviews with the production value of a 'Real World' confession." I get a pitch in for ol' Caulfield Records and make a nice comment about Creek bands' lack of commercial interest when they write their songs. Sisson says that Digital Ash and Wide Awake have sold a combined 600,000 copies so far.

A friend sent a link to the myspace page for The Lodge Club, a Portland band that includes "4 Nebraskans and 1 one under the age of 30." One of the Nebraskans is former Frontier Trust and Darktown House Band drummer Joe Kobjerowski. The other members are "Dave, Nancy, Ben, and Alex." I don't know their last names but I'm sure someone reading this does. The band has four songs available on their MySpace account (which is here) and even list a gig tonight at Portland's The Town Lounge. With four Nebraskans in the band, you'd think someone could lure them down here for a show one of these days.

Well, if you're Omaha instead of Portland tonight, your best bet is catching The Third Men (ex-The Sons of…), and Ladyfinger tonight at O'Leaver's. Ladyfinger now draws SRO shows at O'Leaver's, so get there early if you want a seat. $5, 9:30 p.m.

As for the rest of the weekend: Tomorrow night (Saturday) the only show of merit is Shelterbelt and Papers at Knickerbockers in Lincoln. It's Papers' CD release show. $5, 9 p.m. Sunday night is Anonymous American and Matt Whipkey at Shag for their CD release show. Korey Anderson opens the early show, which starts at 7 p.m. ($6). Could be crowded, seeing as AA performed live on Z-92 yesterday morning. If you're curious about Shag, here's a review of the joint from a couple months ago.

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Column 41 -- Have you seen the price of gas these days?; The Tremula, McCarthy Trenching tonight – Sept 8, 2005 –

It cost me $41 to fill up my little car yesterday. $41. And while I have no room to gripe (I can afford it and my living room isn't filled with toxic waste), I found the gas-pump experience to be rather disturbing. Another reason not to gripe -- my living doesn't involve filling up my tank multiple times to get to work, as it does for your typical touring indie band, which may be squeezed right out of playing distant, isolated markets like Omaha because it just cost too much to drive here from Chicago, Denver, Kansas City or Minneapolis. For those who say "Don't worry, the price will drop back down to the mid-$2s after the Gulf Coast pipeline problems are resolved" I say "Fie." I'm skeptical. Someone's making a lot of money off these prices. Too many "someones" for the price to ever drop back down significantly. Get used to $3 a gallon, folks, and thank your lucky stars you don't have to drive a 12-mile-per-gallon van to Denver tomorrow, then Seattle, then L.A., only to play a string of non-guarantee gigs that might get you $50 each. Chasing the rock and roll dream has never been so expensive.

Column 41: Brother, Can You Spare $3.30?
Gas prices slowing down bands on the road

So I'm talking to rock guy Matt Whipkey and he tells me he's flying to Chicago for his next gig. Flying? Since when did Whipkey become such a big-ass rock star? Who does he think he is? Springsteen?

"Flying will cost me half as much as driving to Chicago," Whipkey said. What's the matter? Hadn't I seen the price of gas lately?

Ripples from the disaster known as Hurricane Katrina has made it all the way to the gas pumps, where for the first time we're seeing $3 per gallon gasoline. As shocking as that is to drivers of gas-guzzling ego-machines like Escalades, Expeditions and Hummers, it's a painful reality to touring bands. As if driving around the country in a metal furnace called a van isn't bad enough, now bands will pay for the torture in something more substantial than sweat.

Whipkey gave me the easy numbers. Driving to Chicago for his gig would have cost him $170 if he rented a car. If he drove his van, it would have cost $270. Meanwhile, a round-trip ticket on Southwest was a mere $80. "When my band (Anonymous American) played Madison and Milwaukee, it cost us $180 in gas. Touring has never been a money-making prospect, but this is hilarious."

It's not just the little guy who'll feel it says Eric Dimenstein of Ground Control Touring, the company that books fish both big and small, including Statistics, Bright Eyes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Sonic Youth. "I've heard some of the smaller bands mentioning it can be tough," Dimenstein said of gas prices. "(I) would guess it hits them harder for the obvious reason there is less money coming in and more money going out. But it's an added expense end of day for bus tours as well."

Dimenstein, who deals with local promoters like Omaha's One Percent Productions, says he hasn't worked the cost of extra gas money into any bookings yet, "but who knows."

One Percent Production's Marc Leibowitz says he hasn't seen the impact of high gas prices on his costs. "I think it would affect the smallest bands the most," he said. "That means bands playing places like O'Leaver's have an even harder time making it to the next town with $60 or whatever."

So what can bands do to combat high gas prices? Not much, said Criteria frontman Stephen Pedersen. His band is poised to head out in their van on a 40-day tour in a few days realizing that they're going to take the cost of touring right in the shorts.

"Our guarantees (the amount they're paid for performances) are set in stone," he said. "We're not getting any extra money because the price of gas is going up. We just eat peanut butter more often."

Passing on the extra expense to promoters in the form of a fuel surcharge isn't even a consideration. "Promoters will just pass the cost onto the kids in the form of higher ticket prices," he said. "As a band that's looking to build a fan base, the last thing you want to do is increase the cost of shows."

Pedersen says Criteria's GMC Sierra 15-passenger van gets about five to six hours of travel time per 31-gallon tank -- that's about 13 miles per gallon. Their last tour -- a brief five-day jaunt -- cost them $200 in gas, and that was at pre-Katrina prices of around $2.29 per gallon. A dollar more per gallon equates to about $70 per day more for gas, which means Criteria will spend anywhere between $1,800 and $3,000 on gas for their upcoming tour, Pedersen said.

"Typically, for us, our guarantee is used for gas and food," he said. "There's also merch money, a percentage of which goes back to Saddle Creek (their record label). We use the remainder to pay rent and bills. Hopefully in a month, when we're two weeks into the tour, gas prices will go down. I think we'll be safe from operating at a loss, but beyond that, I don't know what to expect."

At the end of the day, however, Pedersen realizes the costs are nothing compared what New Orleans is facing. "The price of gas is relative to what's happening in New Orleans," he said. "One situation is a nuisance, the other is a tragedy."

Tonight at O'Leavers: Angry art/math rock band ensemble The Tremula with The New Trust and McCarthy Trenching. A fine, fine line-up for only $5.

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Anonymous American interview; The Terminals tonight – Sept 7, 2005 –

Just placed online, a profile of Anonymous American via an interview with Matt Whipkey (read it here), which is appropriate because the new EP for which they'll be hosting a CD release party at Shag Sunday is credited as "Anonymous American / Matt Whipkey" -- a combo of band and solo stuff, all on one disc. There was a ton of information that didn't make it into this story because of the space limitations placed by The Reader. Stuff about what the songs are about (mostly an old girlfriend and the breakup); that the band doesn't like the "alt-country" label ("It carries the same weight as the term 'indie.' Everyone has their own idea what it means, but you don't really know. Anyone would get frustrated with being labeled"); their plans to line up a distro deal ("My goal is to sell 1,000 CDs; that should be enough to lure a distributor") and the possibility of major labels ("I'm not going to quit chasing them"). And then there was Whipkey's comments about gas prices and touring, which you'll read tomorrow as I used them in this week's column about gas prices and touring.

Tonight's show de jour is The Terminals and Plastic Letters at O'Leaver's. It should make for a night of hard, fast punk-ified fun. 9:30, $5.

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One Mummy Case and pizza…; The Fruit Bats – Sept. 6, 2005 –

Not a lot to report from the weekend past. The only show I attended was One Mummy Case at The Pizza Shoppe in Benson on Sunday night. It was a nice turnout and good music (not to mention good pizza). Like I mentioned in an earlier review, these guys are the next generation of Omaha singer/songwriters (the youngest member is 15). It's the band that Creek begot, so to speak, and is definitely worth keeping an eye on. The Pizza Shoppe isn't a bad place to see a show, except that they made the band turn it down after their first song. I guess there are people living upstairs. That'll put a damper on things.

Look for a new interview with Matt Whipkey in Lazy-i tomorrow morning as he prepares for his CD release show at Shag this Sunday…

***CD Review***

The Fruit Bats, Spelled in Bones (Sub Pop) -- More than a mere Elephant 6 retro rehash but still in the same category of Sub Pop soothers as The Shins. Sub Pop is riding this psychedelic throwback rock craze for all it's worth. The Fruit Bats fit the bill. It's trippy stuff with '60s keys and a style that reminds me of Cat Stevens ("Traveler's Song") but without Cat's wrenching personal take. I like it, though I think the arrangements are a bit too heavy handed at times. I would have preferred a more stripped-down approach,