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The Blog Archive -- January 2006 to June 30, 2006 -- Go to lazyhome for most-current entries

Speed! Nebraska showcase tonight; Little Brazil/Third Men Sunday... – June 30, 2006 –

Tonight at Sokol Underground is the Speed! Nebraska showcase, featuring The Monroes, Ideal Cleaners and The Diplomats of Solid Sound. It's also the celebration of a record label turning 10 years old. No idea on the order, though I have to assume that The Monroes will be last up, but we all know what happens when we assume... I say this because there's a good chance that some of us won't be showing up until after the REO Speedwagon/fireworks spectacular at Memorial Park (I won't get there until late due to a wedding). $5, 9 p.m.

Tomorrow night it's... well... actually I don't see much going on tomorrow night. If you have any suggestions, post them on the Webboard. Otherwise, I'll see you at The Brothers.

Sunday night it's Little Brazil and The Third Men at O'Leaver's. As mentioned before, Little Brazil has a whole mess of new songs that'll be appearing on their forthcoming album, which I haven't had the privilege of hearing yet. The Third Men are one of the funnest rock bands in the city these days. Last time 'round, in addition to their own toe-tapping originals, they graced us with a rare Richard and Linda Thompson cover. What will they pull out of the bag Sunday night? $5, 9 p.m.

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Column 83: J.E. George takes a drive down Happy Hollow – June 29, 2006 –

By the way, this CD won't be released until Aug. 22, even though everyone seems to already have a copy.

Column 83 -- Unlikely Underdog
An unbiased look at Happy Hollow

I have been accused -- for good or ill -- of being a "homer" for Saddle Creek Records. And for those of you who don't know the terminology, a homer is someone who always roots for the home team, not a character on The Simpsons.

I have been called everything from "the unofficial public relations arm of Saddle Creek" to a "tool" in service of the label. As part of these claims, I've been accused of turning my weary eyes away from the labels' "dark side," for ignoring its artists' ignoble personal habits. I can live with that accusation. I have little or no interest in what any musician or artist does off-stage or out of the studio with his or her body (or someone else's, for that matter). I've never been one to sniff around for gossip and gooey "insider" tidbits in hopes of "capturing the real person who lives deep down inside."

It's the other accusation that gets my fur up, the ones that goes something like "You can't trust his opinion about Saddle Creek recordings. He wouldn't dare say anything negative for fear of pissing someone off." That, my friends, puts the very essence of my critical powers in question. It's also a load of horse flop. There are artists and recordings on Saddle Creek that don't turn my crank, and I've been more than willing to share my distaste publicly, both in print and/or blogspace. As I've said before, I might have interviewed every artist on the label, I might have given them a nod or chat at shows, I might have even drank beer whilst leaning against the railing at O'Leaver's standing next to them.

But I don't "hang out" with them, dine with them, converse with their parents, attend baseball games or meet them at the mall. I've never been to one of their after parties, birthday parties or "whatever" parties. I've never bailed them out, sobered them up, or hid them from the cops.

I'm sure they're all nice, fun folks, but buddying up to them or any artist/musician would make it difficult to convey criticism about their art (and not because they couldn't handle it, because I might not be able to). Plus there's the whole credibility thing…

All of this came to mind when I sat down to write about Cursive's new CD, Happy Hollow.

Within a week or so after the review copies began floating around the network of those "in the loop," word began to leak that Happy Hollow wasn't so happy. Before long, people were coming up to me at shows, saying "Psst… heard the new one by Cursive? I'm not feeling it. It ain't like their old stuff. They're losing it." And that's some of the nicer comments. Others told me that it just plain sucked. That it marked the end of Cursive. That they turned their backs on their fans. That Tim Kasher no longer had anything to say. That the band was "mailing it in" or "going through the motions."

Didn't sound so promising. I expected the worst when I slipped the CD into my car stereo. I quickly discovered that all those people were full of poo-poo.

Along with Domestica -- the band's career-setting high-water mark -- Happy Hollow is hands down the best thing Cursive has released in their storied career. It is a pop, punk, drunk, funk achievement. An adventure in brash swagger that shines like a gold lamé suit on a street bum pushing a shopping cart full of garbage through the snow. It is (shall I say it?) a dance album. Yes, Cursive has created music that the masses can actually move to without thinking about it.

Add to that Kasher's down-to-earth lyrics. No longer reaching for strange or introspective "I'm a songwriter writing about songwriting" lyrics, Kasher is now content examining questions that are on all our minds. I won't get into the concept here other than to say it involves things like Faith and hope and confusion and uncertainty and anger and Faith. And I'm still not sure I know where he comes down on all of it. I have to listen to it more before I can figure it out.

I already "get" the music part, the swinging "Dorothy at Forty," the bombastic "Big Bang," the strutting "So-So Gigolo" the propulsive "Rise Up! Rise Up!" All worthy of your critical ears. Oh, and did I forget to mention the horns? There are horns, kids. Oh yes, lots of them.

And no, it doesn't sound like any other Cursive album. They've already done that. Why would they do it again? If you miss their angular, jangular edgeworks, go listen to Storms of Early Summer (a disc I never liked) or Domestica. They're still on your iPod.

I say all of this with mind and conscience open and untainted. So to all of you bitter, envious folks who think I'm stroking the boys, trying to get in bed with the artists, hoping to "build bridges" to gain an inside scoop -- go blow it out your blow holes. This one's for the home team, whether you like it or not.

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Speed! Nebraska at 10; Live Review: Simon Joyner and the Fallen Men – June 28, 2006 –

This week's feature -- a lengthy history lesson of Speed! Nebraska Records -- went online last night. Read it here. You will discover how a band of merry men pulled their precious time and resources together to create an opportunity for Nebraska bands to be heard using a medium known as the vinyl 7-inch 45 rpm record. A quick aside: I recently discovered that not just a few, but many people don't know what a 45 is, never heard of records, and don't understand the concept of record players. Within the past day or so I've come across instances of two people in their 20s who had never heard of the term "45" or "7-inch." One of these encounters was first-hand. It's just more evidence that either 1) I'm getting old, or 2) the next generation is clueless. I guess we should never assume anything, especially details regarding music that seem obviously matter-of-fact. I still remember how baffled I felt the first time I talked to someone years younger than me who had never heard of Tom Jones. How could this be? Didn't they grow up hearing "It's Not Unusual" and "What's New Pussycat?" and "She's a Lady" on KFAB like everyone else? Laugh all you want, reader, but this painful reality will happen to you sooner than you think. I would love to see the expression on your face when you run into someone years from now who never heard of U2…

What to say about last night's Simon Joyner and the Fallen Men set at O'Leaver's (no longer the Wind-Up Birds, apparently)? Joyner and Co. came off like a band of Nashville veterans coming to after a three-day bender. More drone than I've ever heard from this ensemble, it reminded me of the Velvet Underground at their most atonal, with Joyner doing his best postnasal Lou Reed impersonation. It was downright mesmerizing in its cluttered, jambled genius. Bassman Mike Tulis kept the chaos together, god bless him, while everyone else glowed warmly within their own personal dissonance, lost somewhere between Hawkins' and McManus' improvisational experiments or Mike Friedman's layer of shimmering pedal steel. Deden's drumming continues to be defined by its minimalism because anything more would get in the way. I recognized favorite "One for the Catholic Girls" and one other oldie. And I'm sure there were a couple that will be forthcoming on the anticipated Jagjaguwar set, but I'm betting they won't sound like this. The final number was a 10-minute drone factory that featured the lyric "final solution" emoted by Joyner like a shrill proclamation. It was 45 minutes of sonic anesthesia followed by the inevitable hangover, but like I always say, you never know what you're going to get when Joyner takes the stage, and that's what makes his sets so essential.

Opener Miracles of God was a '90s punk-scream throwback to Sonic Youth and whatever SST garage band that your friend included on the end of that mixtape you used to play in your Datsun on the way to school that was at first annoying than catchy than annoying again, but, strangely, always the song you looked forward to most. They were energetic. Unfortunately their chutzpah wasn't contagious.

Tonight at O'Leaver's, Unwed Sailor and Spring Gun (Mr. 1986's Micah Schmiedskamp's band). Tomorrow on this Internet space, comments on the new Cursive CD in a column that also talks about homerism of a no-so-Simpsons variety...

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Delays, delays... Live Review: Tapes 'n' Tapes; Simon Joyner, David Mead tonight... – June 27, 2006 –

Sorry for the delay in updating the blog but I've been busy working on a massive feature story on Speed! Nebraska Records, that I'm told will be the cover story for this week's issue of The Reader. You'll, of course, be able to read it online here tomorrow morning. It was originally slated to be a mere show preview for their label showcase Friday at Sokol Underground, then out of the blue, the fine folks at The Reader said..."Uh, we were thinking cover." And that changed everything.

BTW, thanks to everyone who commented on the Fun City column. No word on what the World-Herald thought of it. Who am I kidding? I don't think the World-Herald knows The Reader (and lazy-i, for that matter) exists. And if they did, they certainly wouldn't acknowledge it. Way too low-brow for them. The words "riff-raff" come to mind (and just what are you doing reading this?). Ah well, it's not so bad being a media bottom-feeder.

So Tapes 'n' Tapes.... Yeah... uh... Look, no question that they're popular. They outdrew Fiery Furnaces by at least a couple dozen people last Friday night. But for the life of me, I didn't get what they were going for. They sounded like a watered down version of Wolf Parade to me. Uninteresting. I wasn't alone in that opinion, judging from the comments I heard (One guy said, "This is what you get when you go see a band that's been talked up on some bloggers' website."). The promoters, on the other hand, loved them, as did the majority of people there. I guess you need to hear their album first, which I haven't.

Which brings us to tonight's festivities and the choices that you'll have to make. Kyle Harvey, whose taste is impeccable and beyond reproach, says you'd be crazy to miss singer/songwriter David Mead at Mick's (at a show that Kyle is opening... think he's impartial?). I've never heard this guy before so I have no opinion other than to say if Kyle says he's good, he's good. But...

Down the street and 'cross town, O'Leaver's is hosting a show that I simply can't miss: Simon Joyner and the Wind-up Birds featuring Chris Deden, Mike Friedman, Dave Hawkins, Alex McManus and Mike Tulis. I have to assume Joyner will be playing songs from his forthcoming full-length that I've been told is a career-changing album for him. Also on the bill is Coolzey and Miracles of God.

Both shows are $5. Mick's starts at 9. O'Leaver's, 9:30.

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Live Review: The Fiery Furnaces; Tapes and Tapes tonight... – June 23, 2006 –

I was expecting The Fiery Furnaces' live set to be different from their albums -- no keyboards on this tour, remember? -- but I wasn't expecting the metal-rock-Rush-prog-Talking Head-Zappa-Sabbath explosion that I and about 200 of my closest friends got last night at the Sokol. "Bombastic" doesn't quite cut it. "Mercurial guitar histrionics"? Not exactly. "Anxiety-inducing tension"? Close, but no cigar. I admit to not being a follower of said band, so I can't really tell you how differently they sounded from their previous incarnations. I have only one of their CDs -- their newest one, which Sister Eleanor said they'd be dipping from extensively. From that disc, I only recognized one song -- the surrealistic "I'm in No Mood" and only because there's no mistaking the Russian pastiche melody-line, which when played on guitar instead of keys, was downright Queen-esque. Forget all the pretty stuff on the record, Eleanor has a perfect rock voice that rests somewhere between Chrissie Hynde and Johnny Rotten. Meanwhile, I am now convinced that Brother Matthew is some type of mad genius wunderkind. It's one thing to write this Dali-esque music, it's another thing entirely to play guitar with the virtuosity that he commands. Who needs a synthesizer when you can make your ax create similar (or better) sounds? The bottom line: I like them better as a full-out metal band with punk overtones and a prog jones that comes from listening to too much '70s arena rock (Did I mention Rush?). Yes, their records are interesting, almost quaint. Their live show belongs on a touring festival sandwiched between roaring sets by Cardiacs and The Who.

Yes, oh yes, I caught Kite Pilot, and they were their usual fine selves. I've seen them at least a half-dozen times and am aware that Sokol Underground has a way of bringing out the best in them (They should have recorded last night's live set, in fact, why don't more bands do that? Image the marketing potential of a record called Live at Sokol Underground...). I have no idea what they're going to do without Austin Britton playing guitar or, like last night, washboard. They'll find a way, just as I'm sure Austin has found his way, which is why he's headed to Cali under the command of a higher calling.

So let's take a moment to do a quick summary of very recent escapees: Nick White, Denver Dalley, Nik Fackler and now Austin Britton. Fun City is becoming less and less fun every day.

* * *

A crazy indie smorgasbord of a weekend began last night and continues on and on and on. Tonight it's maybe the hottest band in the world (at least for the right-now) Tapes 'n' Tapes at Sokol Underground with Figurines and Cold War Kids. Tapes 'n' Tapes are so crazy hot that I've never heard a single song by them and you probably haven't, either, yet they're still almost instantly recognized as the "It" band of the moment. If last night's turnout was disappointing (and it was) tonight's will be on the other end of the spectrum. I'm just saying. Every time I predict a sellout I'm wrong, so I'm not predicting one tonight. $10, 9 p.m.

Saturday night, the homecoming of Little Brazil at Sokol Underground, a make-up show for the gig they missed earlier this year with The Cops, a gig that I'm told they still feel guilty about missing. Methinks they'll channel that guilt into some kind of weird mega-performance where they'll attempt to change our personal definition of the word ROCK. Helping them out will be Prospect Avenue and Statistics (no idea who's backing Denver for tonight's gig). 9 p.m. $7.

Everything shifts to O'Leaver's Sunday night for Eagle*Seagull, Connor and Andrew Morgan. If you've never caught E*S before, there will be no better time. Strangely, I've watched them perform at O'Leaver's, Sokol and an art gallery and their O'Leaver's show was hands down the best, even though they barely have room to move on the bar's "stage." $5, 9:30 p.m.

Watch for updates/reviews all weekend...

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Column 82: Conor in the park, and welcome to Fun City; The Fiery Furnaces tonight... – June 22, 2006 –

The final word on the Bright Eyes show now that we're all toweled off; and, of course, some thoughts on the Omaha World-Herald's new designation for Omaha...

Column 82 -- Living in Fun City
It's all about furniture and cheesecake.

So I was in the park Saturday night to watch Bright Eyes. Were you?

A lot of you were, maybe 10,000, maybe 8,000, maybe 5,000. Depends who you ask. No one really knows for sure. There were a lot of people there. And all of them were wet. Just like me.

A few brief observation about the "event." As expected, it wasn't nearly the size of gathering that 311 was two years ago. Why would it be? Bright Eyes is under the radar, folks. Conor Oberst writes intelligent music that demands an investment from its listeners. It's not head-bobbing groove candy that asks nothing from the brain pan other than the ability to recognize primordial rhythms. Nothing wrong with dance music. It is, as we all know, the mode o' day of the status quo. Bright Eyes, on the other hand, whose music is at times beautiful and always lyrically interesting, ain't exactly the bread-and-butter of Clear Channel-infected commercial radio, keeping it safely under the radar. Which makes Saturday's opening acts Neva Dinova and Gruff Rhys downright underground.

So while you could argue that most of the people in the park on Saturday afternoon were there only to enjoy a free "event" with their families, and that the entertainment could just as well have been three guys and bagpipe, you'd be wrong. The rain proved it. No casual park-goers would have stood their ground from the nexus of that monsoon. It wasn't just raining. It was gushing. Forget about cats and dogs, this was biblical. And throughout the maelstrom, thousands refused to leave, both young and old (though mostly young). Talk about your acid test in the park. Conor Oberst found out who his true fan base was in his hometown. They were standing right in front of him, shivering wet, wanting to hear more.

Which brings us to the Omaha World-Herald and its bizarre declaration of the city's victory over the boredom. Glancing at the cover of the Sunday paper, there on top of the page was a "news story" headlined "Young Omahans hail new Fun City." Yes, folks, in case you were wondering, we now live in Fun City. Evidence of this is the Qwest Center and its endless stream of vintage-rock concerts whose tickets cost more than a typical "young Omahan" brings home in a week at his minimum-wage job. "Fun" also means lots of shopping opportunities, too. As the story boasted, by god, Omaha now has high-end retailers like Williams-Sonoma and Pottery Barn. And, as everyone knows, once you get a Cheesecake Factory, you've made it. Finally, there was that Bright Eyes concert and the "thousands of mostly young people who packed the grassy bowl of Memorial Park" who "seemed to be finding life here pretty good." (Incidentally, I guess Fun City doesn't have many black citizens. I only saw three in the crowd, and one was performing on stage. Maybe all the black people were busy picking out cookware at Williams-Sonoma).

Who knows why the Omaha World-Herald choose to place this editorial masquerading as a news story on its front page, essentially declaring "Mission Accomplished" like Bush on the deck of a battleship. Nothing much has changed in Omaha over the past decade, unless you view urban sprawl as an accomplishment. Conor Oberst sure doesn't. With his now sadly-defunct punk band, Desaparecidos, he wrote an entire album railing against it and the consumer-driven paradise defined by the Omaha World-Herald and the Chamber of Commerce. A year later, he moved to New York City. Oberst and most of the people who withstood God's wrath Saturday consider that kind of "fun" to represent everything that's wrong with America.

Because when you take away the shopping opportunities and the overpriced concerts at the Qwest Center there ain't much "fun" stuff left to do, especially if you're a youth in this faceless city. Sure, there's the One Percent indie rock shows that draw maybe a thousand kids every weekend to the city's one all-ages venue. There's the College World Series (that strangely, the article forgot to mention). But what else? Why would any youth want to live and die in Omaha? The answer overwhelmingly is the same as it was before the consultants declared war on boredom: Omaha is "a great place to raise a family." Fine, but what's that got to do with Fun City?

It reminds me of a chat I had with a friend of mine in his 20s who recently moved into one of those high-style condos downtown. I asked him what he thought of his "hip" new place, and he looked at me disappointedly and said, "It's designed by someone in their 40s who thinks they know how someone in their 20s wants to live."

Which perfectly sums up what's wrong with Fun City. The city fathers have forgotten who or what "youth" really is. It sure ain't some guy in his 40s pulling down $80k a year. It's that guy's son and daughter, who this weekend will be driving around Dodge Street looking for something to do. And not finding it. Unless, of course the World-Herald is right and today's youth thinks "fun" means aimlessly spending money on furniture and cheesecake. If so, God help us all.

Tonight, The Fiery Furnaces with Kite Pilot down at Sokol Underground for what is sure to be a sell-out, right?. Among the promotion for this show is the Omaha World Herald "Fun City" article referenced above in which Filmstreams organizer Rachel Jacobson was quoted as saying, "There's 30,000 people who go to U2, but there's also 1,000 people excited about seeing the Fiery Furnaces at Sokol Underground." Hmm... maybe One Percent should have moved this show upstairs...

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The Fiery Furnaces' sibling rivalry; VCR, Life After Laserdisque tonight... – June 21, 2006 –

This week's feature interview with The Fiery Furnaces is now online (read it here). Female furnace Eleanor Friedberger talks about how the band creates its quirky music, the advantages of a sibling relationship, Sebadoh and softball. Among the stuff that didn't make it into the story is an explanation why their new CD, Bitter Tea, was released on Fat Possum instead of Rough Trade. "It's complicated," Eleanor said. "Rough Trade in the U.S. is released on Sanctuary Records, and they stopped putting out records in US We needed a release date and they couldn't give it to us, so we licensed the recording to Fat Possum in the US and it came out on Rough Trade in Europe." What's in store for their Omaha set? "We're going to play a lot of songs from Bitter Tea. In the past we did it medley style -- 50 minutes without stopping. Now we're back to a more traditional style and will play whole songs." And what's up next for the band? "We're going to record another record in the winter, this time with live humans. We're going to have to recruit some people. But for now, we're going to be on tour most of the rest of the summer." I mention in the story that they're the darlings of the NPR set, and as a matter of fact they just did a new interview on Fresh Air with Terry Gross that aired Tuesday. You can listen to it here. It should be great show, especially when you add the fact that it'll be opening act Kite Pilot's last show with guitarist/vocalist Austin Britton.

And speaking of bands with personnel changes, tonight at O'Leaver's it's SideOneDummy Records band VCR with Omaha's own Life After Laserdisque featuring their new line-up sans lead singer. Who'll be handling the vocals now? Show up at 9:30 with five bucks and find out.

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Briefly... O'Leaver's show tonight... – June 20, 2006 –

Not much to report today, other than a couple Bonnaroo reviews that fell into my inbox here and here. There's a show at O'Leaver's tonight featuring a couple glamrock bands I've never heard of. Find out more here. Look for my interview with The Fiery Furnaces online tomorrow, and the last word on Conorfest in the Thursday column.

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Live Review: Bright Eyes' soaker in Memorial Park... – June 18, 2006 –

We made it all the way to "Lover I Don't Have to Love." Then we'd had enough. We hadn't counted on the rain. Judging by the condition of everyone else in the crowd, they hadn't either. But there's a funny thing about rain. Once you're wet, you're wet. Then you're just cold.

It started to rain before Bright Eyes started. Someone made an announcement from stage, a warning that there's a good chance that there would be lightning, and rain. But that the show would go on. Once the rain became steady, we made our way down toward the stage and hid beneath a tree along with a half-dozen other people, including some poor guy with a broken leg who had been stretched out in a lounger, a piece of plastic covering his cast.

Neva Dinova on stage

The perspective was better from down there. Up on stage in his black longsleeve hoodie thing was Conor saying something like "I'm going to play as long as you want me to or as long as they let me." And with that, he lit into a new song, or a song I didn't recognize. Within a few minutes, the rain began to subside and slowly, stop. But I knew better. I could see the storm clouds circling. I knew this was the calm before the storm.

I brought a moleskin with me and wrote down some observations after we arrived at around 6 p.m. right before Neva Dinova started their set. There was, what, maybe 3,000 people there? It just didn't look like very many. About the size of crowd that you'd see at Shakespeare on the Green on a Saturday night. The weather had been cooperating, it was nice and humid.

From where we were, toward the back of the bowl, no one was really paying attention to Jake and his band of merry men. I had no idea who all those people were -- since when is Neva Dinova an 8-piece with a violin? I did recognize, however, Roger Lewis, set up on stage right wearing a red-and-white striped hat. Neva's hippy blues seemed to fit in with the Midwestern love-in vibe… sort of. This wasn't a real hippie crowd. Hippies don't wear Puma gear or Abercrombie shirts.

Next to us was a covey of O! kids -- volunteers wearing red O! shirts that had been charged with handing out cheesy O! beach balls, supposedly for a photo shoot. "We're asking people to not blow them up and throw them around until Bright Eyes gets on stage." There was talk of some sort of choreographed moment when everyone was supposed to throw their beachball into the air, a moment that would never happen.

"I'm surprised that they allow people to put chairs so close to the stage," said O! guy. "All those emo kids are going to stampede when Bright Eyes gets up there." I nodded.

Bellows, from stage: "Do they have funnel cakes here?" He repeated the question and then someone yelled "No!" A joke... but everyone thought he was serious. Jake is funnier when he's drunk on stage. Neva finished their set with a cover of "Here Comes the Sun," ironic, considering that the storm clouds were just beginning to loom in the north.

There was about a half-hour break before Gruff Rhys came on. Some random observations:

-- Standing about 10 yards in front of us was a kid wearing a homemade T-shirt that said "Conor Oberst is my hero." Ironic? Maybe not.

-- Overhead, a helicopter flew over the crowd in circles -- chomp-chomp-chomp.

-- Hacky Sack and the geeks that play it are the most annoying people in the world. No matter where they set up their "hacky" circle, they are always in the way, and inevitably, run into someone.

-- We searched for the most "emo" kid in the crowd, and found him only a few feet in front of us -- a boy in his late teens, sitting alone wearing a brown polo shirt and blue ball cap. Emo kids aren't fashionable, they're lonely.

-- Lots of goth kids. More Goth kids than black people. We counted only two black people in the crowd, while there seemed to be an endless parade of Goth kids with their multi-zippered oversized pants, black hair, striped shirts and socks, and Lydia-from-Beetlejuice makeup. One guy looked like a Goth mime.

-- In spite of all the hype about the cops, we never noticed them after we got inside the park (the perimeter outside the park, however, looked like a pre-riot staging area). We weren't searched when we passed a couple cops on the way in, and easily could have snuck in a bottle of wine, though I assume there were "spotters" hidden somewhere (maybe in the trees?) who would have swooped down the instant we raised a bottle.

Gruff Rhys on stage. Getting more crowded...

Next up came Gruff Rhys, barely visible seated on stage with an acoustic guitar, a beat-box/Casio device next to him. He does have a great voice, kind of like the guy from Seals and Crofts. Again, from our vantage point, no one was listening, maybe because the music was being sung in Welsh and was somewhat boring, helped along occasionally by the Casio and Rhys sense of humor.

Meanwhile, all through his set, people kept arriving. By 7:30 the crowd looked to be around 5,000, but there was still plenty of room to find a spot, lay down a blanket and relax.

Let's get this out of the way. It makes no sense to compare this concert with the 311 concert from two years ago. Bright Eyes will never be as popular as 311. He'll never sell as many records, he'll never draw the kind of crowds 311 draws. 311 is a commercial pop band, heard regularly on Clear Channel radio stations, and will do whatever it takes to move units. Bright Eyes is not heard on the radio and will not compromise his art for sales or popularity. He shuns commerciality, even though there were gigantic US Cellular banners hung on either side of that stage.

What was the attendance right before Bright Eyes went on? Probably 10,000. Before the rain, from on top of the hill, there looked like fewer than 10k, and closer to 5k. Nothing like the 311 show two years ago, when you couldn't get near the bowl if you got there after it started -- in fact most of the south hillside had been filled as well (The estimate for that show had been 30,000 and that seems somewhat light).

So about 5 minutes after the rain announcement came from stage, it began to spit. Nothing horrible, sprinkles. Then slow, steady rain. That's when we folded up the lawn chairs and got up to leave. Huddled under the tree while listening to the first couple Bright Eyes songs, we thought maybe the rain would stop, after all, the sun had come out and was blazing on the crowd right where we had been sitting.

Oberst never sounded better, with a strong, professional band backing him. The crowd, now standing, was into it. Introducing one song, Oberst made a pitch for starting a mass transit system in Omaha, just like they have in NYC, "where he lives now," he said. Driving around in your car listening to music is fun, he said, but sometimes it's good to get out of your bubble and talk to someone you don't know. And it's good for mother earth, who's about to cry all over you.

Crowd from trees stage right. Miserable.

About five minutes later, the sky opened up. And it poured. Our little tree provided little shelter. Mr. Broken Leg was pulled closer beneath the branches, but he was soaked. As was the thousands who were still there listening to their savior. We moved to a bigger tree and leaned against its thick, dry trunk for warmth. But it was obvious the rain wasn't going to let up.

We made it to "Lover I Don't Have to Love," and then gave up. One observation: It's hard to walk in flip-flops when they're soaking wet. I looked up at the stage as we left and could see some of the earlier bands and VIPs, along with Conor and his friends, warm and dry under the stage tarp, watching while all the world turned into a puddle of human rain.

Though it was pouring, there was no reason to run. We were already wet, and had five blocks until we'd get home. Two little girls ran by us on the bike path, their hair stuck to their T-shirts. They were followed a moment later by their little sister, yelling, "What are you running from? What are you running from? What are you running from?..."

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Mark Burgess CANCELED; Joyner/Stevens/Bellows tonight; who in the hell is Ladyfinger (ne)?... – June 16, 2006 –

Let's get this out of the way: Mark Burgess' show at Mick's tonight has been canceled. Burgess played in Atlanta Wednesday night, but flew back to Hamburg today due to a family emergency. There's an outside chance that he'll pass through Omaha in September when he's in the country for a band-supported performance in NYC.

The cancellation will now allow me to attend the Graphic Noise Rock Poster show down at Jackson Artworks, featuring Simon Joyner, Ted Stevens and Jake Bellows -- all three for only $5. Unfortunately, galleries are lousy places to see performances. Go for the posters, dude, then afterward go see Skull Fight! (a.k.a. The Cuterthans) at O'Leaver's for another $5.

So the burning question about Saturday is: What to do after the Bright Eyes concert? (Incidentally, now there's a chance for thunderstorms Saturday afternoon. Uh-oh.). A lot of people will be strolling over to The 49r to see Ladyfinger (ne). No, the (ne) after Ladyfinger isn't a mistake -- that's the band's new name, according to the fine folks at Saddle Creek Records. You've heard this story before: Seems there's a band in California that already owns the rights to the name Ladyfinger, so our Ladyfinger (the real Ladyfinger) had to add something to the name or change it entirely. They liked the name so much, they decided to add the (ne, which I guess stands for Nebraska? Hmmm... maybe they could have just added an "s" at the end (Ladyfingers?). Anyway, Ladyfinger (ne) (something tells me that name's not going to work) and Lincoln's Ideal Cleaners are playing at The Niner Saturday after Bright Eyes, which will probably finish up at around 10.

I was going to suggest that if the Niner doesn't trip your trigger, there's always the goony-summer-goodtime rock of Dressy Bessy at O'Leaver's -- but according to the Dressy Bessy's myspace page, the show has been canceled "through no fault of our own." Meanwhile, O'Leaver's main page still shows it scheduled as does www.dressybessy.com. I suggest you contact O'Leaver's before making the trip.

Look for some reviews here over the weekend.

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Get ready for Saturday: Bright Eyes concert review round-up; The Black Angels tonight... – June 15, 2006 –

With the Bright Eyes concert around the corner, I thought I'd share a handful of reviews of his Canadian swing that's taking place as you read this. The tone of the reviews is rather subdued, though there's a couple spooge-fests along with a few hurled rocks. Sounds like Oberst and Co. played mostly mid-size venues -- 1,000 capacity or smaller. You can read the full reviews by clicking on the headline in front of each capsule.

Concert Reviews -- Straight.com Vancouver -- Malkin Bowl on Sunday, June 4 -- Maybe the best of the bunch. Inspirational quote: "Three vaguely embarrassed-looking security guards would march a teenage girl out of the venue not long after Oberst and his Bright Eyes band began—she presumably had a bomb or something—but it was an otherwise peaceful gathering of mostly young, female mall hippies. Of the men who were there, many were baffled dads, though there was also a healthy complement of clean-living young men, dressed like they wanted to be English schoolboys when they grow up." Nice.

Band emotes punk -- Goldstream News Gazette -- June 9 -- Probably the worst of the group, this one will activate the ol' gag reflex. Get ready to lean over the toilet: "For me, it struck during 'Lua,' the fourth song of the evening that he performed alone under the spotlight with his acoustic guitar. On the brink of tears, I heard a little voice deep within me whisper, 'I love you too.'" One's gorge doth rise...

Oberst's brilliance brightens concert -- Ottawa Sun -- Bronson Centre, Ottawa - June 12, 2006 -- This one starts off like it's going to be a bag full o' razors with this quote: "I can't tell you how many times Conor Oberst, the sulky singer and songwriter better known as Bright Eyes, was on the verge of storming offstage in a temper tantrum or breaking down into tears at Monday night's Bronson Centre gig." Turns out to be a yawner.

'Saviour of literate rock' fails to live up to the hype -- The Ottawa Citizen, June 14, 2006. Lynn seemed upset that Oberst's set was only 80 minutes. "But experience doesn't always guarantee charisma, and having loads of material doesn't always mean one is going to play for hours. Oberst gave a decent, 80-minute performance Monday at Bronson Centre but never seemed entirely comfortable in the spotlight. For those who were hoping for superlatives, it was a bit disappointing." Still, it winds up being fairly even keeled.

London Free Press -- Centennial Hall, London, Ont. - June 13, 2006 -- Conor talks about loving Labatt's from stage. "At one point, the Blue seemed to take its own revenge. 'I've got to relieve myself. I'll be back in 25 seconds,' Oberst said around the 50-minute mark before actually leaving the stage."

Concert Review: Bright Eyes, June 10, Winnipeg, Canada -- Blah. "Conor Oberst's vocals wouldn't have won him a spot on American Idol; with his somewhat husky, shaky style, however, he excels at conveying emotions and telling stories."

Bright Eyes surprise -- June 11 -- Hah. "Oberst's stage schtick has always trended towards preciousness -- his distinctive tremulous bleat, in particular -- and he found ample opportunity yesterday to do his willow-in-the-wind bit on the slower numbers."

Sounds like the set list will consist mostly of stuff from from Wide Awake, a new song, and no "When President Talks to God." All in all, a timid outing that will likely set well with the Memorial Park crowd but won't win him any new fans. So how many will show up? First, reread my take on what will happen, written back in April. The weather report looks pretty good, which will help, as will the fact that no Nebraska team made it into the College World Series. I still say the numbers will be far less than the 311 concert a couple years ago...

Tonight, retro stoner meets psychedelic rock band The Black Angels (check out their myspace page) are at Sokol Underground with Hopewells and Omaha's own Virgasound. $8, 9 p.m.

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Column 81 -- The Chameleon speaks; Head Like a Kite, An Iris Pattern tonight... – June 14, 2006 –

You're getting the full, unabridged version of my interview with Chameleons' frontman Mark Burgess. I wrote a condensed version for my column that will appear in the paper today, but I figured I might as well include it in its entirety at Lazy-i (Questions marked with an asterisk (*) are bonus material found only online here!). The 2003 Burgess show made that year's "best of" list and I have little doubt that Friday night's show at Mick's will make the list at the end of this year. There's additional info about the show here, and if you want more information about Burgess, check out my 2003 Burgess feature written in support of that Healing Arts show.

Column 81: Catching Up with a Chameleon
Mark Burgess returns to Omaha.

The Chameleons is one of those bands that changed peoples' lives.

No, they didn't change my life. I only discovered the influential '80s band a few years ago when I interviewed Chameleons frontman Mark Burgess for an article written in support of a solo show at the Healing Arts Center. There were a lot of people there that night, many who told me afterward that The Chameleons dreamy, floating music inspired them in some way, sort of how the band clearly inspired acts like The Psychedelic Furs, The Church, The Cure and Lincoln's own For Against. All of those bands sport the same, hollow, ghost-eyed style of gothic ambient rock.

So when it was announced that Burgess was coming through Omaha again -- this time at Mick's on June 16 -- I e-mailed him a few questions to see what he's been up to since that first show way back in '03. Here's the bulk of our little internet-based Q&A (including emoticons!). See you at Mick's Friday ($12, 9 p.m.).

What do you remember about the last time you performed in Omaha?

Quite a lot actually. The beautiful room, which was more like a kind of New Age temple than a venue, the hushed attention of the audience, which I recall was a bit unnerving 'cause I wasn't used to that level of respect at acoustic shows :) I remember strolling the streets with Stephen (Sheehan, the show's promoter) watching all the buskers that were around in glorious sunshine, one guy played the theme from 2001 on partially filled wine glasses. That was something. * And Dereck (Higgins, who accompanied on bass) of course, whom I'd never met before the sound check, how quickly he grasped the arrangements and dynamics and then later he introduced me to his amazing record collection, which included practically every record I ever grew up with. And one guy at the show who shyly made me a present of a guardian angel talisman, which I've carried around with me ever since.

* You're only doing three U.S. shows this time 'round, and once again you're including Omaha. Why?

Well, one of the reasons is to preview the up and coming live Chameleons DVD and promote that. It won't be distributed traditionally, rather it's only available via mail order directly from the band. So the manager thought it would be a good idea to preview it and make a few personal appearances. I was invited to come to Atlanta and to Omaha when Stephen heard about it; and the SF thing is a good opportunity to hang out with one of my closest friends, James Oakes of The Bellows. I'm hoping very much to bring my band out here before the end of the year and play more widely. I'm trying to drum up support for a new recording of fresh material.

* I believe when we last spoke, you were living in Hamburg. Are you still there and, if so, what keeps you there? Is it particularly conducive to the artist's lifestyle?

Yeah I'm still in Hamburg. I think it's one of the most beautiful and energetic cities in northern Europe, that's not to take anything away from other great cities, like Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, Copenhagen etc. But for me Hamburg has a very special ambiance, it was a love affair that began a very long time ago during the early days of The Chameleons. My wife is from there so it seemed logical to settle there. We spent some months living in Manchester, but it didn't really suit us. We both love going back to Manchester and have a lot of friends there, and family of course, but Hamburg is a bit more relaxed generally.

What is the current state of The Chameleons? When we last spoke, guitarist Reg Smithies' son had just been born, putting a damper on any upcoming reunion tours.

Yeah, and they're now expecting their second child, a girl I believe so that's pretty much that :-D We're all kind of scattered to the four winds and you know with the passing of time we've become very different people, different priorities. I think we took it as far as we could really.

Are you more interested in pursuing a career as a solo artist than keeping The Chameleons active?

Yeah, I think so. I mean I try and get involved with different types of people in terms of collaborations and I like re-exploring past musical relationships, I think with Chameleons we're too anchored in the past really from an audience's point of view. Having said that, I still enjoy playing a lot of that stuff, especially songs that we didn't play for one reason or another, like "Looking Inwardly" for example. It is very difficult, though, because Chameleons is what people are mainly interested in, it's hard to get them to put that aside and be open for other people I play alongside. Some do though, so I still have an audience :)

* Tell me about the Ascension DVD. How did you put it together. What were you trying to accomplish with it?

A film maker contacted me prior to the US reunion tour and asked if he could come to the Californian shows and film them. The understanding was that if we had something we were happy with we could come to some kind of arrangement about putting it out. It was too good an opportunity to miss, really, and I think it's the best footage of the band I've ever seen. That was the point really, to document the band at a time, which we all felt it was better than ever.

Do you keep current with what's going on with today's music? If so, what's your take on the current status of American music? To me, it's been in a rut for the past two or three years!

I think generally it has. One reason is because from the point of view of genre, it's become very, very fragmented. There hasn't been one scene that kind of unifies a ground swell of attitude or thought. I don't keep as current as I used to, I tend to rely on friends or whatever pointing interesting things out to me. Currently I'm still playing the Arcade Fire pretty much non-stop.

I think part of the reason for America's artistic malaise is its current political climate. What's your take on US foreign policy and how do you think it's impacted your life and your music? (I remember you throwing out some interesting jabs at Tony Blair during your '03 Omaha performance).

Well obviously all our lives have changed with what's been going on with US foreign policy. I understand that politically America has been forced to react to the forces that have been raging. I've lost what little faith I had that power politics will ever change the world for the better. I have contrary opinions to a great many issues that potentially may offend. I find it almost impossible to trust information that I'm given by the major media and think that in many instances, such as 9/11 for example, they fail us by failing to address very important questions. My cynicism toward Blair, though, predates all of that to a large degree. I feel that he got his party elected by betraying every ideal that the party was founded on. It was clever politics, forcing the Tories even further to the right and occupying the middle ground, but it was a betrayal in my view and it made me very sad.

What can we expect from your upcoming Omaha performance?

I honestly don't know. I never really know how it will go or exactly what I'll play. Hopefully the people who come will hear something or feel something that will stay with them for a long time. And at the very least it will be an honest performance.

* What's in the works for Mark Burgess for the rest of '06 and beyond?

Hard to say. I do hope I can take the band out and develop the new songs I've been working on. I have an autobiography coming out in December. Beyond that, I don't know. I have to think long and hard about whether I should continue as I have been doing or go into something else. I just don't know.

Tonight at O'Leaver's, Seattle shoegazer(s) Head Like a Kite headlines a show that also features Omaha's An Iris Pattern. HLaK's recent album combines trip-hop (Manchester-esque) with synth-hop (Kraftwerkian) with indie-hop (Sonic Youth-y) and is all over the board, and also pretty good. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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Rademacher tonight... – June 13, 2006 –

I was informed late last night that Eux Autres was in town at The Goofy Foot with The Family Radio and The Third Men -- an a-list show that completely slipped in under the radar. We almost have too much stuff going on these days, and I need data, people, if I'm going to help get you there! I rarely hear about Goofy Foot shows until afterward, which is a shame because it's a fun (and different) place to see a band. Tonight, Fresno California indie band Rademacher is at O'Leaver's. They sound sound like Yeah Yeah Yeahs meet, I don't know, a '60s garage band on ludes? Listen for yourself. No opener listed on the O'Leaver's site...

Tomorrow, look for an extended interview with Chameleons frontman Mark Burgess (which is the topic of this week's column).

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Live Review: The Protoculture; The Show Is the Rainbow, Neil Hamburger tonight... – June 12, 2006 –

Here's some late comments on last Friday's Protoculture show at O'Leaver's that I never got around to posting this weekend. I was pleasantly surprised (shocked?) at the turnout -- as many or possibly more on hand than the evening before for NOMO/His Name Is Alive. Certainly more than their debut gig a few months back, that was lightly attended. How many people were there to see opener Her Flyaway Manner is hard to say, though the place was packed when Protoculture got things rolling at around 11:30. Needless to say, this gig was hands down better than the first one, when they were probably nervous to be playing for the first time in years. Friday night was more relaxed, maybe too relaxed. The set started out strong, with Koly Walter and Erica Hanton in fine voice. Then came the moment of truth about halfway through the set. "This next song is called 'My New Laugh,'" announced Koly to a smattering of applause and hoots. With that, Clayton Petersen played the tinkling intro on guitar and Erica ripped into the vocals, making their way to the explosive chorus MY NEW LAUGH WILL KILL YOUR SMILE. And then right before the second verse they stopped. What happened? Someone turned to me and said "He broke a string." A moment later and they got it going again, but instead of starting over, they proceeded with the second verse. So I sort of got my wish, having wanted to hear that song performed live for years. The rest of the set took on a wonky tone. Songs started, then stopped, followed by more whooping (Erica had to tune her bass). It sort of had a band practice vibe, which wasn't all that bad. In some respects, it took the edge off and was more fun. Still, I'm waiting for that perfect Protoculture show, where all the stars align and the spirits of past New Wave/No Wave artists appear out of the smoky ether to take a seat and watch with nodding respect. That time will come.

Tonight at O'Leaver's, The Show Is the Rainbow opens for underground/outsider comedian Neil Hamburger. I've heard some of Hamburger's schtick, including his Letterman appearance. He's Kaufmanesque in his "laugh at me not with me" style of performance art -- an anti-comic whose gig is to be so bad that he's good -- i.e., the Tony Clifton of stand-up comedy. I suspect this will be packed. What will Darren Keen and The Show Is the Rainbow do to unsettle Hamburger and his audience? That's worth seeing all by itself. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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Live Review: NOMO, His Name Is Alive; The Protoculture tonight... – June 9, 2006 –

You know you've just seen a great band when you forgot to pay attention to them in a journalistic sort of way and just LISTENED to them. Such was the case last night for NOMO at O'Leaver's. Seven people on "stage" (I know I reported that they're a 10-piece -- hey, that's what Warn Defever told me) including a bari and tenor sax, two trumpets, two percussionists, a bass player and keyboards (I didn't see/hear a guitar). I don't know a thing about "afro-beat" music. I do know that I dug what I heard last night -- intricate horn charts played over intricate rhythms that pulsed with a dirty global beat. Think Fear of Music through Speaking in Tongues-era Talking Heads, then add plenty of funky brass. The guy next to me mentioned Fela Kuti, who I will now have to research further. To say it was celebratory would be an understatement -- O'Leaver's glowed. Though the horn lines were well-charted, there was plenty of room for the saxophones to stray into freeform improvs. They ended their set playing a song while parading through the bar, ending up in a chanting circle right in front of where I sat by the door. There was a sense that we were seeing and hearing something special that we never seem to see and hear around these parts, and should more often.

Three NOMOs joined Warn Defever and Andy FM for His Name Is Alive (including the tenor sax player who set his horn down to play keyboards). How do you follow that sort of organic, exuberant explosion of a performance? You showcase Defever's white-knuckle guitar work. His style that spanned everything from metal to acid rock to avant gard to drone. For obvious reasons the music didn't have as much of an hypnotic effect on the 100 or so on hand as NOMO had. Still, a great set, a diversion from the usual indie-rock schtick and something that we rarely get to see in Omaha.

Tonight, again at O'Leaver's, The Protoculture with Lincoln's Her Flyaway Manner. I've been told by Protoculture drummer/vocalist Koly Walter that the band has worked up a version of "My New Laugh," my favorite of their repertoire that they didn't perform at their comeback show last March. Again, the chorus: "My new laugh / My new laugh/ My new laugh / My new laugh / MY NEW LAUGH WILL KILL YOUR SMILE." Be there. 9:30, $5.

Also tonight, Mal Madrigal is playing at The Pizza Shoppe (which is now called PS Collective). $5, 9 p.m. Meanwhile, at The 49'r, it's The Diplomats of Solid Sound, The Bent Scepters and Springhill Mine Disaster. No idea on price. They usually get things rolling at around 10 p.m.

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Column 80 -- A peek inside the mailbag; His Name Is Alive tonight... – June 8, 2006 –

Mail Call! A bit of clarification: These letters were sent to The Reader, as opposed to all the correspondence I receive via the e-mail address posted on this site or on my webboard. Unlike The Reader, I yearn for your feedback, whether it be bouquets or roses or fistfuls of dung.

Column 80: Special Delivery
A peek inside the ol' mailbag.

Believe it or not, The Reader does get letters. They just don't print them. I have no idea why. I'm sure they have their reasons that involve "ad space" or "page count" or some inconvenience involving the phases of the moon. That said, in these days of the interweb, the fact that someone has gone to the trouble to sit down and compose a comment in response to something published in your paper deserves not only acknowledgment but proper presentation in those pages. It's called giving your readers a voice.

Readers like a local celebrity of old, responding to the May 11 column about how "vintage" music has taken over the airwaves:

… As someone maybe 10 years older than you, let me assure you that Styx, Foreigner and the 70s incarnation of Steve Miller sucked then, suck now, and will still suck 30 years from now. Boston -- not so bad.

Meanwhile, I agree completely with your premise. Let me add this for your consideration: Radio is ruining memory, sucking the sweetness out of nostalgia. In c. 1979, if I heard "Windy" by the Association, it took me back to high school, reminded me of the friends I hung out with at the pool that summer, put me in a specific place and time. And it was bittersweet because it took me directly from age 30 to age 17, skipping the intervening years in a sort of "time travel for the emotions." But now when I hear Windy, it reminds me merely of when I heard it last week. Or maybe the week before, or the week before that, or ...

Come to think of it, maybe you can't share my regret at this turn of events, since there never was a temporal gap between spins of "More Than A Feeling" and the like -- it's been played every week since its release.

Your points about the fragmentation of today's music audience are also true. Do you know that the fragmentation was deliberate, brought about by consultants, radio stations and (of course) advertisers? Anyway, one upshot is that these kids will never have the bittersweet experience of a shared nostalgic moment.

Not the most pressing problem in the world, I know. Just kind of a little sweetener that isn't available any more.

Signed: D.D. Doomey

"DD" as in Diver Dan as in half of the team of Otis XII and Diver Dan Doomey that owned local morning radio on Z-92 when I was a tot growing up in Omaha (and later, Ft. Calhoun). I won't wax nostalgic about Space Commander Wack (and Stupid Larry) or Lance Stallion Radio Detective other than to say Otis and Diver's unbridled creativity hasn't been heard on local radio since they left it sometime in the '90s, unless you consider misinformed, opinionated blather and fart jokes "creativity." Some do. Actually, most do, judging by the Arbitron numbers.

Reader Robin Tills also wrote in about radio's nostalgia boom: "I am not a musician, but I wonder since there are only so many musical notes to write from, and a lot of great songs have already been written and sung from groups like Journey, REO Speedwagon, Styx, Boston, John Cougar, Cheap Trick, Survivor, and on and on, it's gotta be hard to come up with something new. … I don't know if today's musicians really make an honest commitment to create great music…"

The problem isn't that today's music isn't as good, the problem is that the good music isn't getting heard. Tooling 'round town the other day with my iPod, Low's "California," Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins' "Rise Up with Fists!!" and Sufjan Stevens' "Jacksonville" came up on the shuffle back-to-back-to-back and I thought to myself all of these songs could be hits as big as any hit from the '70s or '80s if they only got picked up by Clear Channel or whatever music conglomerate owns the radio waves, because, folks, we certainly don't own them anymore. Judging from D.D.'s comments, maybe we never did.

Omahan Ed Perini commented on the May 25 column about wearing hearing protection at rock shows: "…I agree that the myth that wearing earplugs 'ruins the experience' is ridiculous. In fact, I have found that wearing them cuts out a lot of the distortion, and eliminates some of the background noise - like, say, people who insist on talking loudly while a band is playing."

They also protect from people who insist on talking -- or rather screaming -- at you during the set. Conversations like: "WANT ANOTHER BEER?" "WHAT?" "I SAID DO. YOU. WANT. ANOTHER. BEER?" "WHAT?"… Full throttle, directly into the ol' ear canal. Much more damaging than that guitar solo you just missed. And completely unintelligible unless you're wearing ear plugs. Just sayin', do yourself a favor.

Keep those cards and letters coming, folks.

One last reminder: Tonight at O'Leaver's, His Name Is Alive and NOMO. $7, 9:30 p.m. It should be nothing less than spectacular.

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Featured artist: His Name Is Alive... – June 7, 2006 –

This week's feature/interview with His Name Is Alive is up (read it here). Warn Defever talks about how he copes playing in stinkholes (like O'Leaver's), his 4AD experience, his style, and NOMO, an afro-beat band whose recordings he's produced and who is touring with His Name Is Alive. Here's the story's lead:

"Sometimes you just wake up and say, 'What are we doing playing in a sports bar?'"

It's a good question coming from a band that has played in such regal locations as a 500-year-old Buddhist temple in Osaka, a 19th century synagogue on the lower east side of New York City and countless historic venues throughout the United States, Europe and the world.

One can only wonder what Warn Defever, the mastermind behind His Name Is Alive, will think of the beer-stenched confines of O'Leaver's Pub. Weeks into the band's first headlining U.S. tour in 10 years, he's already devised his own, personal ritual for exorcising demons from less-than-hallowed performance spaces.

"Some bars have a vibe that comes from people drinking there for years. Just the smell of the place, it's not the most spiritual of environments," Defever said via cell on the road somewhere between San Francisco and Seattle. "We used to play a song at the beginning of our set to cleanse the room of evil spirits and get everyone on the right page. Then last night I realized -- where did those bad spirits go? They went to the next bar down the street." (continued)

As I said Monday, this could wind up being one of the best shows of the year, depending on the vibe at O'Leaver's tomorrow night. Will anyone show up? Most people around here never heard of His Name Is Alive except for avid vans of the band and followers of 4AD, a label whose heyday was in the mid-'90s, sporting a roster that included Dead Can Dance, This Mortal Coil, Red House Painters, Pixies, Throwing Muses, Cocteau Twins, Air Miami, Lush, and on and on. Defever said his band puts on an interactive show. He's not kidding when he says show up wearing a costume. "We involve people," he said. "We pass stuff into the audience, we hand out awards. It's a very collaborative process. Last night in San Francisco one lady gave Andy her costume and she's been wearing it all day. She's a devil." Then there's NOMO, the 10-piece ensemble which by itself will overwhelm O'Leaver's tight confines. You can check out a couple of their songs on their website (they apparently don't have a myspace account). A few members of NOMO will join Defever and vocalist Andy FM to make up His Name Is Alive. It's the most fun you'll ever have for $7.

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A late update on a Tuesday... – June 6, 2006 –

I'm told that The Cardinal Sin didn't make it to O'Leaver's last night. Something about one of the guys in the band "throwing out his back," according to the show's promoter. Just how old are these guys that they're already suffering from back problems? Apparently Jaeger Fight made it, so the night was salvaged. I didn't go. Nor will I be attending tonight's festivities at O'Leaver's: A Utah band with the unfortunate name of TaughtMe, along with Justin Lamoureaux's Midwest Dilemma and the always interesting Kyle Harvey. $4, 9 p.m. There are more details about this show here on the webboard.

One other item: This Bright Eyes article is making the rounds up in the Great White North where boy wonder will be playing a string of shows leading to his Memorial Park gig a week from Friday. His Dylan comparisons = lazy journalism comment is old hat. He's right about Canadians being more laid back -- they clearly are, in my experience. Smarter and kinder as well. Based on this piece, I assume that he'll also pass on playing "When the President Talks to God" when he makes it back. Quote of the article: "I don't see the record being as homogenized as the last two were." Homogenized? So does that mean he's going back to low-fi? Not likely.

Look for the His Name Is Alive piece bright and early tomorrow morning.

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Jaeger Fight tonight, a week of hot O'Leaver's action!! – June 5, 2006 –

I went to a total of no shows last weekend (If anyone wants to chime in on the Tilly show, please do so right here). That'll all change this week. In fact, having not stepped foot in O'Leaver's in a while, it looks like I could be spending a lot of time there in the next few days, perhaps starting tonight with Jaeger Fight (featuring The Reader's managing editor Andy Norman on bass) and Minneapolis' The Cardinal Sin.

I'm going to stupidly give you an early head's up about Thursday's His Name Is Alive/NOMO show. Stupid, because it could well be one of the best shows of the year, and me telling you this will only make it more unbearably packed in tiny O'Leaver's. NOMO is a 10-piece afro-beat band that is, in a word, amazing. The new His Name Is Alive CD, Detrola, is on heavy rotation on my iPod as I type this. This one would have been nice to see at Sokol Underground. Look for a feature/interview with HNIA's Warn Defever online here Wednesday.

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Tilly and the Wall, Charlie Burton tonight; Anonymous American tomorrow... – June 2, 2006 –

Tonight at Sokol Underground, Tilly and the Wall with Dave Dondero. The $5 show is SOLD OUT. Tilly keyboardist Nick White said their staging might have a "tropical theme" complete with flower leis. Fun! Speaking of Tilly, did anyone see this item in yesterday's Des Moines Register about the band's upcoming marriage? I didn't even know Jamie and Derek were dating. When is Of Montreal just going to throw up their hands and move to Omaha? Seems like they play here or in Lincoln about six months.

Also tonight, the return of Charlie Burton to the Omaha stage at Mick's. The show is supposed to be a "CD release party," except that I'm told there won't be any CDs on hand to release. Maybe FedEx will come through in time. Take a trip down memory lane and read this 1998 interview I did with Charlie when he was still living in Austin. $5, 9 p.m.

Tomorrow night is Anonymous American with Scott Severin and Virgasound at Sokol Underground. $7, 9 p.m. And that's it for the weekend, folks. Get out and enjoy the weather.

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Column 79 -- Omaha, where the music is easy... – June 1, 2006 –

You have to admit, seeing live music really is a bargain in this town. We do have it good here. And it's not only pricing, it's the variety of shows, the sheer number of shows throughout the year. A few years ago, I was contemplating moving to Austin, figuring the weather was nicer and they had a better music scene. After a few extended vacations there, I changed my mind. It was too expensive. It would cost me three times as much to buy a house there like the one I have now. The bars on 6th St. were always overcrowded. And other than Emo's and one or two other places, the music was mostly alligator blues or C&W... icch! I quickly realized that a lot of the bands that I liked that played in Austin eventually made it to Omaha, anyway. There were exceptions, though (there are always exceptions). A few bands that I've always wanted to see perform live -- Silkworm, Yo La Tengo, Lloyd Cole, Morrissey, to name a few -- just don't make sense to local promoters when you consider the Cost/Draw Ratio -- that's the cost it would take to get the band to play here vs. the band's drawing power in this city. For example, Silkworm, though hugely popular in Chicago and on the East Coast, would never draw enough people here to even come close to breaking even (that's probably not a good example as Silkworm are no longer playing live after the tragic death of their drummer, Michael Dahlquist, in 2005). Anyway, I guess that's what road trips are for. The message: get out and see see some live shows. It's cheap, it's easy, and when you show up and buy a CD or T-shirt, you're helping a band that you love do what they love to do. It's a better use of your money than dropping $20 to see The Da Vinci Code... Take advantage of what you've got here... before it's gone.

Column 79: Flyover Country
Will cheapskates kill our scene?

I was chatting with a friend of mine the other day about a show at one of our many fine establishments taking place that very evening. Never mind which show or where it was -- doesn't matter. What does matter is that this person loved the band and had for years. You going tonight? "No," he said, "I like the band and all, but sheesh, $12? That's way too much."

Twelve dollars too much to see a band that this guy goes on and on about all the time? It's the cost of a movie and a fizzy drink at your local Cineplex, about a third of what it costs to fill up your car and the amount you wouldn't think twice about paying for a good CD. Twelve dollars -- the price to see not one, but three bands, including a touring national act whose videos have aired on MTV, perform live for your enjoyment for one night only.

Well, let me let you in on a little secret, folks: Quality national bands are starting to pass Omaha by. That's nothing new, but in the past year or so, it's started to become more and more commonplace… again. Why? Because Omaha is known as a cheap-ass town when it comes to ticket prices, at least as far as mid-tier indie acts are concerned.

We've had it good here for so long that we've forgotten what it was like before Omaha became ground zero for the burgeoning national indie scene a few years ago. There now is an entire generation of concertgoers who don't know what it's like to have to drive to Lawrence or Denver or Minneapolis to see their favorite indie bands. Whether it was because of Saddle Creek Records or the tenacity of the two or three local promoters who keep the circus in town, Omaha became a destination spot for indie rock tours -- no longer a gas-and-go drive-through city.

Well, things have changed. Bands that made Omaha a tour stop over the past few years aren't so eager to make the stop again. Why should they when the night before they sold out a venue twice the size of Sokol for a ticket that cost twice as much? Suddenly taking a day off instead of playing here is looking a whole lot better.

I talked about the issue with a number of promoters last week. Some say I'm full of poo-poo. That Omaha ain't New York or LA and that prices should be lower here. But others say it is a problem, and gave specifics. No one wanted to be quoted for fear of making their patrons sound like cheap-jack hustlers.

Regardless, look at the facts: When Gomez, one of the more popular indie bands with a broad age demographic, played here last month, they did it for the lowest ticket price of their entire tour -- $15. Most of their gigs were in the $20 range, and their show at San Francisco's Fillmore Auditorium was $25… and sold out. The Omaha show only drew around 300. Wonder if they'll stop by here again.

It's not entirely our fault that we've become spoiled. Take the Saddle Creek/Team Love bands, for instance. The Faint and Bright Eyes charge twice as much for shows in other cities than they do here. Friday's Tilly and the Wall show is only $5. Tilly's charging $12 the following night in Des Moines. These bands play on the cheap because they feel indebted to the town that gave them their start. Nothing wrong with that, except that we've come to expect it, while the rest of the country is paying the going rate.

Is it just an indie thing? Sounds like it, when dinosaur acts at the Qwest Center sell out $100+ shows in less than an hour, and craphole (or kraphole) bands like Kottonmouth Kings have no problem drawing their usual head-banging crowd at $34 a pop. Suddenly $12 to $15 doesn't sound so bad, does it?

But apparently it is. Omaha's sweet spot when it comes to indie shows has always been $8 to $10. Once you get in the teens, it becomes a crap shoot for the promoters. Yet most mid-tier indie bands are now demanding at least that much to make it worth their time. The ones that do play here leave angry because they've made half as much as they did the night before, at a show that sold out.

It comes down to this: Ticket prices are going up eventually. Say bye-bye to the under-$10 show except for nights that feature "experimental," up-and-coming local or unknown acts. The $12 to $15 (and $20 to $25) ticket looms large on the horizon. And if you want to keep your favorite indie bands coming here, you better show up and lay it out. If you pay it, they will come. If you don't…

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Interview: Tilly and the Wall; I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness, Rogers Sisters tonight – May 31, 2006 –

Getting back to the regular schedule with this week's interview/feature with Nick White of Tilly and the Wall (read it here). When Tilly first appeared on the scene three or four years ago, I thought they were a unique and very cute addition to the scene. When Conor Oberst took them under his wing by making Wild Like Children the Team Love debut release, I thought it was smart, not only for Tilly but for Oberst. By that time, the band already had a national buzz going. But to be honest, I never thought the band would survive past the debut. Where could they go next? Well, years later and here they are with their follow-up and it looks like the only place they're headed is up. While they've plowed the soil of their fanbase through touring, they haven't really had the big national exposure -- i.e., television, MTV -- that will turn them into superstars. And believe me, they're going to get it. Considering who they're targeting with their music -- a distinctively younger audience -- Tilly is perfect fodder for the Conans and Lettermans and Lenos of the world, not to mention TRL. Should that happen, the sky's the limit.

In the story, Nick and I cover the nature of the novelty, the tap dancing, the new record, their audience and their songs' central message. Here's some of the interview that didn't make it into the piece due to space limitations:

Tell me about being on Team Love. Did Conor have to sign off on the record before it was released?
We really wanted him more involved in the whole recording and production part of it. He didn't get a chance to hear it until it was mostly finished. We sent him 12 songs that we recorded and started thinking about track order. That was a collaboration between Nate and Conor, and then we sat down as a band and discussed it. That was most of what he did. It would have liked him to have had a bigger role.

So how has it been being on Team love?
We couldn't be happier. We have so much freedom to do what we want. We've been so lucky with him just starting a label. The press release will say that this is the second Tilly album on Conor Oberst's label. It's nice to be aligned with him. A lot of his bands really trust in his vision.

What was it like working with AJ Mogis in the studio?
He's great. He's good at micing stuff to make it sound really interesting and clean. He finds the exact sound you want. And he has a thing where he won't tell you which take is best, but will do more takes if you're willing. It was on our heads to decide if we needed another. It's obviously has better sound quality than the debut because we did this one in a studio.

I heard you moved to LA, true?
I moved out in January but haven't been there very much. I've been back a week before we left to tour Europe and play South by Southwest.

Why the move?
I have a couple friends there. I love the weather. LA's got a bad rep. I wanted something … maybe just bigger and a little dirtier than Omaha. I love Omaha for sure. I've been here four and a half years. I'm from Atlanta. It's funny to say this, but there's so much stuff to walk to from my house -- there's a grocery store right across the street. I only drive on the freeway when people out of town come in and visit.

How do you get pumped up before shows?
It's always so much fun just to perform. We feed off the audience energy. The five of us in a row on stage, it's like a team vibe. It's important to us that people have a good time at our shows.

And so on. Funny thing about the interview -- I was given Nick's cell number figuring I'd be reach him on the road. Turns out he was doing the interview from Caffeine Dreams!

Tonight at Sokol Underground, I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness along with The Rogers Sisters and local phenoms Race for Titles. All for a mere $8 -- an incredible bargain. Actually, a bargain you likely won't find anywhere else but in Omaha, but I'll talk more about that in this week's column, which goes online tomorrow.

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Live Review: An Iris Pattern, The Monroes, The Stock Market Crash – May 27, 2006 –

One of the most enjoyable nights I've had at O'Leaver's in a long time, could you ask for a more diverse bill? Isn't this what all shows should be like? Probably. Maybe. Definitely.

First up was An Iris Pattern fronted by Omaha's own man of mystery and intrigue Greg Loftis looking like the spitting image of Jeff Tweedy, surrounding himself with some of the better talent in the city, judging from what I heard. James McMann on bass is no slouch, whether you like GTO or not, you cannot deny that this guy has some amazing chops. I don't know who the other guys were, but all were solid, especially the band's lead guitarist, who clearly understands the right way to play an arena-style rock guitar solo. Iris Pattern is just that -- an arena-rock band that would have felt right at home at the Civic Auditorium in the '70s. The guy next to me compared them to Billy Thorpe, and in fact, Loftis' voice has a similar timbre. Another guy was reminded of early Gram Parsons. I couldn't put my finger on who they sounded like, but can tell you that live they're much harder than what can be heard on the recordings posted at their myspace site. The sound mix was uneven and disappointing, mainly because these guys seem engineered for a larger stage (though the headliners, who have a similar trait, sounded perfect). Someone get them down to Sokol Underground.

Though it's been almost a year since they played live, The Monroes have not lost an ounce of their rural-fied energy. Classic heartland tractor-punk at it's finest. If you've never heard them before, their rural punk sound is driven mercilessly by Lincoln Dickison's guitar, which sounds like a chainsaw cutting a Hot Rod Lincoln in half. Keeping Dickison from going completely unhinged is the rhythm section of drummer Jesse Render and bassist Mike Tulis. Render's drums are rat-a-tat-tatty, understated and subtle. I tried to imagine what Render and these guys would sound like behind a big, throaty, hammering drum set and realized it would throw everything out of whack. Translated: leave it alone, it's just right. Tulis' role is just as important as it is understated. Listen closely and you realize he's the guy driving the tractor. Then there's frontman Gary Dean Davis, who looks exactly like he did more than a decade ago when he was fronting Frontier Trust, the band that The Monroes most resemble. Gary's hog-calling, atonal yell -- barking out lines about Impalas and the hook-and-ladder formation -- speaks for the everyman in every Nebraskan whose ever navigated the state's washboard-ladden dirt roads. Highlight of their set was a new yet-to-be-recorded tune that shows Render at his rat-a-tat-tattiest. If you missed them last night, The Monroes are playing a Speed! Nebraska Records showcase down at Sokol Underground June 30 with Ideal Cleaners and Diplomats of Solid Sound.

Finally, taking the stage in all their theatrical glory were Oklahoma City's The Stock Market Crash. People who'd seen them before warned me that I should have worn sunglasses because these guys like to shoot flood lights into the crowd a la The Faint and a dozen other dance bands. Frontman Matthew Bacon looked like he just walked out of a late '80s Duran Duran video with a get-up that included a Russian sailor's shirt, jacket, Clockwork Orange bowler, tight slacks and eyeliner. The style didn't stop with the costume, Bacon had all the moves you'd expect from any British pop band that you remember from the early days of MTV's 120 Minutes (who remember ABC?). The whole thing would be a joke if the band wasn't so damn good. They were as close to authentic as you're going to find, emulating bands like Psychedelic Furs and Morrissey, though at the end of the day, Bacon reminded me of an energetic Jarvis Cocker from Pulp channeling Bowie and Julian Cope. Yes, there were flood lights, as well as stage smoke and strobes, lighting up Bacon as he darted into the crowd and leaned into frightened, confused patrons. Fun!

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The Monroes, Two Gallants tonight, free root beer Saturday, and the rest of the weekend… – May 26, 2006 –

Briefly, here's what's happening this weekend show-wise:

At the top of the order are The Monroes with Stockmarket Crash and An Iris Pattern at O'Leaver's. This is a comeback of sorts for The Monroes, who haven't played live in quite a while. $5, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, Two Gallants are doing a one-of-a-kind acoustic set at Mick's in Benson. It may be the only time you'll get to see the duo take this approach to their usually blazing sea-shanty ballads. That said, playing unplugged should be an easy transition for these folky guys. With Drakkar Sauna. $8, 9 p.m.

Saturday night at Sokol Underground boasts the return of The Cuterthans after a four-year absence. Did I say Cuterthans? I guess they're actually going by the name Skull Fight!, which is less interesting than the original name. "The Cuterthans (err.. Skull Fight!, as the audience will find out that night) have got pieces of the Carsinogents, Viagrasound (Virgasound) , The Fonzies, and Roarbot all balled up into one," said cuter than a skull fighter Jason Steady, who also promises that the band will be offering free root beer at the show. How can you beat that? Also on the bill are Straight Outta Junior High, Treaty of Paris and VKS, a band that Steady says is "a bunch of high school-aged kids playing ska. That's right, SKA. Just when you thought it was long gone, here come the youngsters." $7, 8 p.m.

Sunday night is a busy one, what with everyone having the next day off and all. Down at O'Leaver's it's The Third Men opening for Oakley Hall, a band that Conor Oberst name-checked in his interview in this week's issue of The City Weekly, which should guarantee the place will be crawling with slackerly indie kids. $5, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, downtown at Sokol Underground, Rhymesayers member DJ Abilities will be on the turntable and the mic. $10, 9 p.m.

And if you're in Lincoln, you'll want to check out Saddle Creek Records artist Ladyfinger with Them Vs. Them and the incomparable Virgasound at Duffy's. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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Column 78 -- Heard, not felt; High Violets tonight… – May 25, 2006 –

OK, consider this week's column a public service announcement. I listen to a lot of music, both in live settings and with a variety of headphones. Within the last few months there has been a ton of press about the dangers of iPods to your hearing. In some articles, that fear bleached over to concern about wearing headphones in general. So I packed up my iPod along with my iPod earbuds, my Etymotic ER*6 earphones and my Ultrasone HFI-700 headphones and dropped in on earguy extraodinare Dr. Britt Thedinger, who's name I got from commercials heard every morning on NPR affiliate KIOS 91.5 FM. We spent about five minutes talking about iPods and headphones and spent the rest of our two hours together talking about rock shows and earplugs. An area of focus that didn't make it into the column was concerns faced specifically by musicians who are bombarded by loud music every night. He said being behind the stack protects them somewhat -- it's louder in front of the speakers. But that ultimately there are risks for rock stars. Just look at Pete Townshend, who has become a spokesperson for hearing loss. "The point is, musicians are realizing that they're at risk," Thedinger said, "Old rock stars saying, 'You young people, this will happen to you.'" Thedinger recommends making an appointment and getting fitted for "musicians earplugs" which cost around $150 but are effective in blocking out only dangerous frequencies and not all frequencies -- like my trusty yellow earplugs do. It's a small price to pay to be able to rock when your 65.

Column 78: Don't be a Tough Guy
What you don't hear can hurt you

There are a few things that can make you feel like "an old guy" at a rock show. I won't get into the gloomy specifics involving people looking young enough to be your children or bartenders not even looking for the fluorescent wrist-band -- everyone knows you're old enough to drink, pops.

Earplugs are another one. I've been wearing them to rock shows starting back in '93 when I road-tripped with Lincoln band Mercy Rule to a show at Harry Mary's in Des Moines. Before their set, bassist/frontwoman Heidi Ore strolled through the crowd of angry punks with a prescription vial in hand.

She wasn't passing out drugs, she was handing out earplugs. She ambled up to one big guy with his arms crossed and made an offering. He just nodded his head. He didn't need them. The pixie-ish, bespeckled, five-foot-nothing dynamo responded flatly, "Don't be a tough guy, just take them." He did. So did I. And she was right, we needed them. Few bands play as loudly as Mercy Rule did, thanks to Jon Taylor's roaring guitar.

That was the first time I wore earplugs at a show. I've been wearing them ever since -- little yellow pieces of foam tied together by a handy blue cord, the kind railroad workers wear in the field and in the shops. I've had a case of them in my cupboard all these years and always keep extra pairs in my car in case I forget to take them with me. Dr. Britt Thedinger, an otologist at Ear Specialists of Omaha, says the practice may well have saved my hearing.

I know, I know, you've read a gazillion stories about the dangers of loud rock music. I don't blame you if you stop reading. And to be honest, I didn't seek out Thedinger to do a story on earplugs. It was my iPod that motivated me, along with the dozens or recent stories about how prolonged listening to iPods could cause hearing damage. Could I have wasted all those years wearing earplugs only to be butchering my hearing with my iPod while cycling the Keystone Trail?

I dropped by Thedinger's midtown clinic last Saturday morning. What I heard surprised me. I expected gloom and doom. In fact, things aren't that bad.
Turns out the iPod scare is mostly hype. "I don't think there's a huge iPod crisis of people losing their hearing right and left," he said. Still, too much of anything can't be a good thing. Thedinger said a sign that you're listening to your iPod too loudly is if the person next to you can clearly make out what you're listening to. That's pretty freaking loud. But what about my trusty Etymotic in-ear isolator earphones? "If they're turned up so loud that they hurt your ears, you're damaging your hearing," he said.

Pretty simple advice. Okay, so while I'm here, what about those standard yellow, foam earplugs that cost about 50 cents at the Quik Pick? Are they doing the trick? Thedinger said they block about 29 dBs, more than adequate to protect me at a typical rock show, which he says can get as loud as 115 dBs. Wadded up toilet paper, by the way, blocks only 3 to 5 dBs -- in other words, it doesn't work.

But even if I didn't wear earplugs at every show, Thedinger said I'd probably be okay. Hearing damage occurs from prolonged high-decibel noise exposure. "At that level, it has to be continuous," Thedinger said. "The quiet few minutes between songs is usually enough to recover."

It also depends on the room's acoustics and where you stand, like right in front of speakers that can blow out up to 125 dBs. Even a short exposure at that level can erode your ability to hear frequencies between 2,000 to 8,000 hz -- the range where human speech makes lispy syllables, like "sh," "th," p's, and f's.

Which brings us to tinnitus -- the ringing in your ears that everyone's experienced after a night at The Qwest Center. Turns out that ringing is always there. We just don't notice it until our hearing has been damaged -- then it's all we hear.

"When I was doing my residency in a Boston emergency room, we'd have patients come in after a concert at The Garden saying, 'My ears are ringing and it's driving me nuts.' The membranes had swollen in their ears resulting in decreased hearing capability, so they could hear the tinnitus. After a few days the swelling went down, their hearing improved and the tinnitus went away."

Unless, of course, they sheered off the nerves, permanently damaging their hearing.

You might recover just fine after a few loud concerts without earplugs, but night after night of unprotected hearing will sneak up on you. "It's an insidious process," Thedinger said. "People don't realize the damage they've done until it's too late. And once you've lost it, it's gone."

It still amazes me every time I look around at rock shows and notice that I'm the only one wearing earplugs. The excuse that they "ruin the experience" is lame. They allow me to actually focus more on the bands and worry less about damage -- even if they may make me look like an old wuss in the eyes of guys too tough to wear them.

"You can be as tough as you want," the good doctor said, "but it's a real pain in the ass being hearing impaired."

Tonight at O'Leaver's, the gorgeous sounds of Portland's High Violets. The four-piece, led by vocalist Kaitlyn ni Donovan, has been compared to every lush, '90s ambient band you can think of, from My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive to Jesus and Mary Chain and, well, Lush. Strangely, their website says they're in Lawrence tonight at the Jackpot and that the Omaha show isn't until June 16, but both the One Percent and O'Leaver's sites say this show is tonight, with Landing on the Moon opening. $5, 9:30.

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Eric Bachmann on Saddle Creek; Cursive tour dates; Oberst on SNL… – May 24, 2006 –

Catching up on some assorted old news from the web on a sleepy Wednesday…

-- Looks like Crooked Fingers frontman Eric Bachmann will have his next solo album, To the Races, released on Saddle Creek Records Aug 22, according to this item at aversion.com. This is a great add to the Creek roster -- i.e., I dig Bachmann's Crooked Fingers records.

-- Also, on Aug. 22, Cursive will release their next full-length, Happy Hollow. Punknews.org has the track list here, while, Cursive's summer tour dates just went up on CMJ here, including an Aug. 4 Lollapalooza gig in Grant Park, Chicago.

-- My annual predictions article just seems to get more and more on target. Remember I said that this was the year Bright Eyes a.k.a. Conor Oberst would appear on Saturday Night Live? Well, apparently it happened last Saturday night... sort of. According to tvsquad.com (because who else stays home and watches SNL these days?), host Kevin Spacey did a skit toward the end of the program where he dressed up as Neil Young promoting his new album I Do Not Agree With Many Of This Administration's Policies. Among those helping out with the performance, Adam Samberg (famous for the "Lazy Sunday" vid) dressed up as and introduced as Conor Oberst. If anyone sees this online somewhere, pass on the link, I'd love to see it.

-- Personal critic/writing guru Robert Christgau has a new Consumer Guide entry at the Village Voice (here) He loves the new one by The Streets and gives the new Springsteen album the "dud of the month" award.

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Live Review: The Terminals; Minus the Bear, Criteria tonight – May 23, 2006 –

I turn to the soundguy three or four minutes into The Terminals set at O'Leaver's last night and tell him I can't hear the guitar at all. It's somewhat overpowered, he replies, by the keyboards, which have to pull double-duty as both keyboards and bass. It's the first time I've heard The Terminals since John Ziegler left the band a year or so ago. As a trio, they've lived on with Dave Goldberg playing the role of the band's energizer bunny, while Liz and Brooks Hitt provide the necessary punk moxie. While those two are married in real life, it's Dave and Liz who are the Fred and Ethel of the combo, playing off each other like bickering teen parents in a kitschy '50s B-movie. Make that '50s horror B-movie, as that also sums up their sound, which has evolved from a trash '60s garage band a la Them and Pretty Things a year ago to something more closely resembling The Cramps, propelled early in the set by Goldberg's carnival-ride organ, the same one you remember from his Carsinogents days. Goldberg has been on the leading tip of the area's psychobilly revival sound since his days in Full Blown, and if anything, that revival is picking up steam, judging by the popularity of this band and Brimstone Howl, who played after them.

Goldberg's organ pulled back and the guitars came forward as the set wore on, and garage punk ensued -- less retro, more angry. I like Liz Hitt's guitar solos almost as much as I like her girl-next-door-on-the-verge-of-a-homicide vocals. She didn't look like she was having fun until she switched to keyboards (and once, to drums), her face turning heat-seeker red while pounding on that organ, while cross stage Goldberg was making his guitar bark. There was one song (I don't know its name) where the two trade lines back and forth and it was the best moment of the evening.

Brimstone was up next, but I had to head home (some of us have to work at the crack of dawn). Opening last night was a trio called The Shanks playing quick, punchy borderline hardcore songs. Lots of yelling. A couple "Oy's" here and there. Remarkably sloppy. Was this their first gig, I asked the promoter. Maybe, probably, he said. You never know where these things will go. They could wind up being the next Nirvana. "Now you can say you saw The Shanks first show," I said to the guy across the table. "Yeah," he said, "and maybe their last."

* * *

Tonight is a mammoth show down at Sokol Underground -- Minus the Bear, Criteria, Russian Circles and The Lovekill. Minus the Bear is touring in support of Menos el Oso, the best record of their storied career. Criteria plays a home gig after months of touring the U.S. Welcome them back. Russian Circles' 6-song Flameshovel debut clocks in at over 43 minutes -- long, droning songs that build, you know the routine. Cleveland's The Lovekill play jangular punk. 9 p.m., $12.

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Live Review: Now, Archimedes!, Past Punchy; Terminals at O'Leaver's tonight... – May 22, 2006 –

Time only for some brief comments about last night's packed show at O'Leaver's. And it was packed. I was pushed to a far-off table and could barely see what was going on on stage. That said, I could hear just fine, and the highlight of the evening was opening band Now, Archimedes! Fronted by Bob Thornton, who also fronts Past Punchy, N,A! is a trio that includes former members of Fischer, Solid Jackson and Raymond Nothing. Their style is pure mid-'90s buzzsaw punk that reminded me of Thornton's old band Culture Fire. Raw, frenzied, with great-big-ol' riffs and lots of yelling, it's something that's been missing from the scene for too long. As the guy who was standing next to me put it, they sounded like every band that ever played at The Cog Factory. Past Punchy and The Present sounded like the lighter, more rural side of Omaha's mid-'90s scene -- sort of a Neil Young version of Frontier Trust. The capacity crowd ate it up, and I dug it to, but I would have liked to have heard more Archimedes...

Another solid night of punk at O'Leaver's tonight with The Terminals, Brimstone Howl and Rat Traps. $5, 9 p.m. Be there.

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A healing weekend... of rock! – May 19, 2006 –

Glancing at the calendar, not a good time to be sick as a dog (though my cold appears to be subsiding) . Strange weekend of shows. Let's take a look:

Tonight, maybe the strangest gig of all: Cloud Cult at O'Leaver's. It's the Minneapolis band's so-called "Eco-Friendly" Tour. These six hippies travel around in a solar-powered van playing indie rock that's been compared to Modest Mouse. Instrumentation includes cello, drums, bass, random electronics, keyboard and guitar. With them on stage (according to their one-sheet) will be live painters and back-screen video projection (better start tearing a hole in the back of the stage, Sean). How all this stuff will fit inside O'Leaver's, no one can say. Maybe the painters can do their thing down in the basement? I've been told by someone at the bar that they've been informed that "a busload of people will be arriving to attend the show." This has all the makings of a classic episode of my new hit half-hour sitcom about the Omaha scene that I should be writing for HBO. Opening is The Amateurs. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Your best bet may be to head to Mike's in CB and see Members of the Press with Bullets for Baby and LouderThanLove, all for only $3. MotP is Randy Cotton's band, and is the last bastion of angst/noise/punk left over from the old Ritual Device days now that Saklar is playing pretty guitar solos and Moss is missing in action somewhere in a cloud of San Francisco stoner rock. 162 W. Broadway.

Tomorrow (Saturday): Bloodcow and Life After Laserdisque at O'Leaver's -- talk about a strange combination, but LAL prides itself on playing with any style of music (remember that hip-hop show just a few weeks ago?). $5, 9 p.m.

And lest we forget, The Third Men and Pendrakes are playing at the The 49'r Saturday night as well.

That brings us to Sunday, and the return of Past Punchy and the Present at O'Leaver's along with Le Beat and possibly a surprise third band. Mr. Thornton ain't saying exactly what he has up his sleeve, but it could get interesting. This will be the last time that Omahans will be hearing from Past Punchy's Alex McManus for awhile as he heads out of town on travels that I'm told includes some touring with one of his many former bands. $5, 9 p.m.

And as extra credit, I want to give an early shout-out to a show next Monday at O'Leaver's (jeeze, you'd think I work there or something). The Omaha/Lincoln band The Terminals featuring the legendary Dave Goldberg takes the stage along with The Rat Traps. This show could make me painfully late for work on Tuesday.

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Column 77: Girls Vs. Boys; Simon Joyner tonight... – May 18, 2006 –

The column hopefully speaks for itself. This piece marks the first time I've interviewed Sarah Benck, who has been targeted by every guy in scene as "the girl most likely to succeed." Is a major record label contract in her future? We'll see. I think she'd be happy to sign to any respectable indie label (Bloodshot, are you listening?). I'm told her voice may also be heard on the new Cursive album. Erica Hanton was a last-minute addition to the story, and a good one at that. Her band Kite Pilot hits the road today through Saturday, playing Ames, Osh Kosh and Milwaukee. Meanwhile, Megan Morgan's Landing on the Moon is hitting the road this August with Billing's 1090 Club on a tour that'll take them from the Midwest to the East Coast and back. Landing... also will have a track on the upcoming Copper Press compilation.

Column 77 -- The Last Double Standard
Are women vocalists judged differently then men?

I credit Omaha's hardest working bassist and walking rock music encyclopedia Mike Tulis (The Monroes, Simon Joyner and the Wind-up Birds, The Third Men) for this installment's theme. It was his wisdom that inspired it.

Here's what happened: We were standing side-by-side in the back of O'Leaver's listening to a rock band -- Tulis in one of his stylish hats drinking an old-school tallboy. Classic.

On came the next band, which happened to feature a female vocalist. About halfway through the first verse, I noticed a slight shift in her voice. In the height of passion, she pushed it a bit too far in one direction, causing it to careen slightly off key. I turned to Tulis and yelled (because people don't talk at rock shows -- they scream at each other) "What do you think of her voice?"

Tulis just looked at me with his flat, knowing Tulis stare -- dead eyes behind his glasses. "I'm not going there," he yelled. "It's one of the last remaining double-standards in rock -- if a guy sings off-key, everyone thinks he rocks, but if a woman's voice is less than perfect, she sucks."

And like rays of light breaking through afternoon clouds, Tulis' words opened my mind. Think of all the lousy male singers you've seen on stage -- cocky, lazy, strutting around with their swooped haircuts and ironic retro clothing -- whose voices carelessly fell off pitch, twisting back and forth like a drunken businessman headed back to work after a three-martini lunch. You cringe with every off-kilter note, but ask the crowd what they thought after the set and you'll hear things like "Genius!" or "Man, he rocked!"

But if it's a woman, and her voice wavers oh-so-slightly, the result is rolled eyeballs. "Man, did you hear that? Where'd she learn to sing?" You've done it. Admit it.

So are women performers aware of this double-standard? I asked around, starting with Sarah Benck, perhaps our scene's most well-known female vocalist. Benck, whose forte is cranking out soulful, strutting Bonnie Raitt-style R&B, has a confident voice that never wavers. Though she says she's never had to deal with any "discrimination," she knows she's being judged on stage. "Springsteen, Jagger, those guys are on the top in the industry. They don't have fantastic voices. It's all about rocking out," Benck said. "I can only think of one female vocalist, Patti Smith, whose voice is an acquired taste. From the get go, it wasn't about what she looked like and sounded like, it was always about what she had to say. Her imperfection was part of her expression."

But Patti was the only example that Benck could come up with of a successful woman vocalist with less than stellar chops. The only one that I could think of was Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders. Her voice -- not pretty, and come to think of it, neither is she. The vocal double-standard is a social model, Benck said, that carries over from how people judge appearance. Erica Hanton, who sings in both Kite Pilot and The Protoculture, said the double-standard comes from an industry that markets women differently than men.

"You know, how, supposedly, 'ugly' men are considered distinctive or unique," Hanton said. "You don't see many women who are outside the 'standard beauty' who get that kind of treatment. So if a woman's voice is not a standard, nice-on-the-ears pretty, familiar-sounding voice, it's not acceptable. Imperfection in a guy's vocals gives it character. Imperfection in a female's vocals makes people uncomfortable."

Society, Hanton added, is all about correcting female imperfections.

But what about the woman who was singing the night of Tulis' epiphany? The vocalist was Megan Morgan of Landing on the Moon, a local indie rock band that throws a wrench into their sound with salty, John Steinman-esque rock ballads. Morgan knows a thing or two about singing -- she's the choral director at Bryan Middle School. She says if she's off-key during her set it's because she's lost in the moment. It's never intentional. That's not the case with a lot of stylish male vocalists she's heard warble over the years.

"I don't like it when guys try to sing like that," she said about their forced nonchalant approach. "Some guys sound that way on purpose. It's supposed to be artistic. They're supposed to be filled with so much emotion and angst. It sounds fake to me."

It's always been forgivable for guys to sing sloppy, Morgan said. Not so for women. "Women aren't supposed to have that I-don't-care attitude," she said. "When a woman is on stage, people pay attention. I always try to make it sound as pleasing as possible. But when you're into it, you become part of the music. Where it goes is where it takes you. Hopefully the audience is coming along with you."

What's my point? Don't judge the voice; listen to what the voice is trying to convey in all its blemished honesty. It took Tulis to shake me from my daze and really listen to what Megan was singing instead of mentally comparing her to whatever ignorant stereotype society has dictated that a woman vocalist should be. Once I was really paying attention, it changed everything -- about her band, about her performance. I heard a woman belting it out on stage, holding nothing back, lost in her music and lyrics. And just like that, I got lost, too.


The big show tonight at The Goofy Foot, 10th & Pacific, is Mal Madrigal, Outlaw Con Bandana and Simon Joyner and the Wind-Up Birds. Don't get no better than that, people.

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Neva Dinova added to the Memorial Park concert... – May 17, 2006 –

Sorry for the lack of update yesterday. Things are just getting back to normal with Lazy-i's server. The archived Blogger entries are now available again. And just as the weather finally becomes spring-like, I come down with a chest cold. Life sucks!

Anyway, according to the One Percent Productions website, the line-up for the June 17 Memorial Park Bright Eyes Concert appears to be in place. The openers are Welshman Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals -- apparently a friend of Oberst's -- and Neva Dinova, who recently signed to Saddle Creek Records. This came as something of a surprise as some of the organizers had said they didn't want the concert to be a "Saddle Creek showcase." A number of non-Creek Omaha bands had been rumored to be in contention for the opening slots. In the end, the decision was likely Oberst's and Oberst's alone. Certainly Mayor Mike Fahey isn't a fan of Rhys' 2005 solo debut Yr Atal Genhedlaeth. In fact, no one around here has even heard it before, except Oberst. Regardless, just imagine the crowd singing along to "Rhagluniaeth Ysgafn" or "Y Gwybodusion" or the infectious "Chwarae'n Troi'n Chwerw." Does it get any better than that?

Then there's Neva Dinova, a band that to this day would be hard-pressed to sell out Sokol Underground. Ah, but they're on Creek now, certainly that'll make the difference to the thousands of Omahans who are on the fence deciding whether or not they should go to the free show. Fact is -- and Oberst and the organizers know this -- it never mattered who opened the concert since anyone who shows up will be there to see Bright Eyes anyway. If you're Oberst and Creek, why not put your most recent signing on the bill? And though Rhys debut was released on a subsidiary of Rough Trade, I wouldn't be surprised if his next one comes out on Oberst's Team Love label. Industrious? You bet. Now go back and read my Acid Test in the Park column and think about how many people will show up for the concert. Better yet, ask yourself how many Omahans will be there, because certainly the biggest draw now will come from rabid Bright Eyes fans from across the country who will be making a pilgrimage to see their beloved savior at his only non-festival appearance this year in the United States. It's only one month away...

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Catching up; Live Review: Gomez; "Omaha's booming music scene" in the LJS; Islands tonight... – May 15, 2006 –

Amazing how far you can get behind in just a few days. The site is still not fully "there." Some pages still look askew. This will be fixed shortly. Also, there's a good chance that this update will disappear if the host service replaces the current version of the site with a backup. Your patience is appreciated.

First, The Lincoln Journal Star published a piece about "Omaha's booming music scene" late last week that included some quotes from me. You can read it here. My only comment is that I never called Mercy Rule "Mercy Kills" -- but you know that already. It's a long read. I wish the author would have interviewed an Omaha musician for the article (Mike Fratt is in a band, but he's representing Homer's in this story and his role in Goodbye Sunday wasn't explained). The central theme of the story was supposed to be "Is Omaha the next Seattle?" I was asked the question along with everyone else, and my answer was "no." There is no band from Omaha that has made a national impact in the way Nirvana, Pearl Jam or Soundgarden did. Omaha is what it is, which is all it needs to be.

Saturday night's Gomez concert was a nice surprise. I'm not a big fan of the band's middle-of-the-road made-for-VH1 style music, but I have to admit they sounded rather huge on stage, and the crowd (of about 250?) was going crazy for them. If you went to the front, you got the feeling that you were at an arena show except for the line of beer bottles that littered the edge of the stage. Plus, they played for almost two hours, just like a real rock concert. There was only one time during their set that I felt I was listening to a British band -- when they ripped into a throbbing, psychedelic number that had shades of '90s Manchester showing through the usual plastic exterior. I wanted more of that, but didn't get it.

Tonight, the wonky keyboard-driven spectacle that is Islands. Their music is fun-pop indie sunshine as light as a feather. Opening is Busdriver and Cadence Weapon (what, no local band?). 9 p.m., $8.

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Major Outage -- We're back, sort of... – May 14, 2006 –

Well, our server crashed on Friday which is why Lazy-i has been off the Interweb all weekend. It's back now, but there's still plenty of weirdness. Hopefully it'll be fully functional tomorrow. Look for an update with a Gomez review then. Thanks for your patience...

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Gomez Saturday; System & Station Sunday... – May 12, 2006 –

Those of you who may be wondering, yes, the server that hosts my website was down this morning. We're you worried? I didn't think so...

Looking at the various and sundry calendars, I don't see much going on tonight -- looks like another long night at The Brothers!

Tomorrow night (Saturday), Gomez with David Ford at Sokol Underground. I've been told that David Ford is very Damien Rice-like -- this, for me, is not a selling point, as I consider Rice's "The Blower's Daughter" to be one of the cheesier songs of the past few years. One listen to Ford's myspace confirmed the description. With only two bands on the bill, you'll want to get there relatively early if you want to catch the entire Gomez set. $15, 9 p.m. Meanwhile, down at O'Leaver's, it's a 4-band bill with The Photo Atlas, 1090 Club, Lifeafter Laserdisque, and Prospect Avenue, all for a mere $5.

One Percent is putting on two shows Sunday night. Down at Sokol Underground Kind of Like Spitting plays with Lemuria. $8, 9 p.m., while O'Leaver's hosts System & Station, Fromanhole and Landing on the Moon.

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Column 76 -- More than a feeling... – May 11, 2006 –

Let me just add that part of the reason why there seems to be no permanence to today's music is because the days of three or four radio stations playing the same songs (other than retro songs, of course) are over. Today's national hit radio station is the television. TV commercials are the equivalent of yesterday's "heavy rotation." Why do you think the horribly cheesy "Vertigo" by U2 got to be a hit? Because you couldn't escape their awful iPod commercials when you turned on your TV. If you play any song to anyone enough times it'll become a "hit" no matter how bad it is...

Column 76: Everything Old is Old Again
Retro rock is more than a feeling…

Have you listened to the radio lately?

It's changed, sort of. Actually, it hasn't changed. And maybe that's the problem. Or maybe it isn't a problem at all.

Look. I was buzzing through the dial the other day, CD-less and i-Podless in my little car, trying to find something/anything to listen to. Something new. Something exciting. Something that could CHANGE MY LIFE.

Here's what I found: On one station Joe Walsh was singing about being an ordinary, average guy. On another station, Dennis DeYoung was boasting about being a blue collar man. On yet another station, Bono was crooning about the assassination of MLK. And on a fourth, Steve Miller was flying like an eagle -- by now, an arthritic eagle with a growing prostate problem.

Radio has grown up, but at the same time, it never grew old. Not in a conventional sense. I turn on the radio now and I can still hear the same songs I heard in the basement of our family's house on Hartman Ave., down in my big brothers' bedrooms where the only stations played on our vintage Panasonic stereo were of the FM variety -- Z-92, Rock 100 and KQ98. The hot song: "More Than a Feeling" by Boston. Brad Delp warbling incomprehensible lyrics above a wall of Tom Scholz' studio-spawned, multi-layered guitar. It was 1976 and the only thing cooler than that song was the album cover that contained it.

Thirty freakin' years later and you can still hear "More Than a Feeling" today -- right now -- somewhere on the FM dial.

I've heard it called "retro programming." The experts say these radio stations -- these electronic museums of an arena-rock past -- are laser-targeting women in their 30s and 40s, the golden geese of leisure-suited radio admen because everyone knows 30-ish women are the leaders of this disposable-income-powered America. I have been told this by people "in the know." But I don't believe it. The appeal of retro programming goes beyond a specific demographic.

Seems like the only Omaha station playing new rock music these days is 89.7 The River, but even then, the programming is dominated by monster-voiced power-metal goon-rock bands that couldn't find a melody if it snuck up and bit them on their powerchord. Yes, there are a couple hip-hop stations out there, too, along with car-sick inducing C&W stations. But where can I hear the new rock songs that will define the '00 generation?

You have to remember, the first time I heard Styx, Foreigner and The Steve Miller Band, they were brand new! Z-92 was a new music station that prided itself on playing the hottest new arena rock music. They certainly didn't play songs that were 30 years old. Not once did Otis 12 and Diver Dan throw on a Nat King Cole or Dinah Shore platter from 1946. Yet, 30-year-old music is now a staple on the Z, along with a half-dozen other local radio stations, and kids can't get enough of it.

Again, where are the new rock "classics" that radio, in whatever form it takes, will be playing on retro stations in 2036? What songs from today will be used in hovercar commercials the way Led Zeppelin and Bob Seger are used to hock Cadillacs and Chevy trucks now? When was the last time you heard an "important" new rock song on commercial radio, one that will still be played in rotation 30 years from now?

Come on. Think.

The fact is, as fuddy-duddy as it sounds, they just don't write music like that anymore. And they probably never will. Your youth may be defined by the latest angst-rock song by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs or indie ballad by Death Cab for Cutie, but the memory landmark stops with you and the handful of friends you hang out with at the mall. An entire generation will not be defined by The Arcade Fire, Flaming Lips and Belle and Sebastian the way arena-rock bands like Heart, Van Halen and ZZ Top so perfectly represent teen life for an entire nation in the '70s, the way Jimi, Joni, Janis and The Beatles did a decade before that.

Even the music that defined my college years -- The Smiths, Husker Du, The Cure, Depeche Mode -- as good as it was, when was the last time you heard "How Soon is Now" on the radio?

But why even mention indie music? American Idol is what this country listens to. Along with hip-hop -- the new rock music. That means that this generation will be defined by Eminem, Ghostface Killah, T.I. and Kelly Clarkson. Do you really believe that? I don't, either.

I've got a strange, sick feeling that 30 years from now, as we're boarding the afternoon space shuttle, as we're flying in our saucer cars or waiting in line to buy another week's worth of food cubes, we'll still be hearing "More than a Feeling" on the Z.

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Gomez returns; Live Review: Cordero... – May 10, 2006 –

First off, I apologize for screwing up reporting the time when An Iris Pattern went on stage. Last night's show began at 8 p.m., not 9. So anyone who showed up at 9 sharp missed their entire set. Luckily, no one reads my site, so no one was disappointed... but me. I'm told they played very well, but it looks like I'll have to wait until May 26 when they play O'Leaver's to find out for myself. Incidentally, show promoter Marc Leibowitz pointed out that more and more, booking agents are pressuring for shows to start at 8 p.m., especially hardcore, metal and punk-pop shows that draw a younger audience. Do the right thing and check the 1 Percent website for the most accurate start times for their respective shows.

Despite my disappointment, I hung around and watched Bloodshot Records band Cordero play their brand of Latin-influenced rock -- think of them as a sort of fusion of Los Lobos with 10,000 Maniacs, but with lots of trumpet and heavier guitars. As hard as they pleaded with the tiny audience, they couldn't get anyone to dance, though their music definitely came with plenty of swing. A pleasant surprise. Headliner Koufax was next, and I stuck around for a couple of their songs. Someone told me before their set that they reminded him of Elvis Costello. I didn't hear it. Instead, they reminded me of Spoon, but maybe the set got Elvis-ier as the night went on.

* * *

Back to business as usual: This week's "special feature" is an interview with Gomez bassist/guitarist Paul Blackburn. He talks about the band's departure from Hut/Virgin, their strange acceptance into the jam band community, their new label and new record, How We Operate. Here's the lead to wet your appetite:

Where did Gomez go?

People who followed the band after their '98 breakthrough debut, the Mercury Prize winning Bring It On, just assumed that its success was the launching pad for the British band's rise on the American pop charts. More than once the phrases "on the heels of Oasis" and "the new Beatles" were seen printed in national music rags.

On top of that, the band's cover of The Beatles' "Getting Better" became a pseudo-hit when it was used in a Phillips light bulb TV commercial. Some thought it was better than the original, thanks to Tom Gray's and Ben Ottwell's gravelly delivery.

The band followed Bring It On with Liquid Sky in '99 and In Our Gun in '02, both released on tiny Hut Records, a subsidiary of Virgin. But with every subsequent release, Gomez failed to recapture the hype that surrounded their debut, even though the music was just as clever and catchy. By the time Split the Difference was released in '04, Hut Records had disintegrated, making it their last release involving Virgin.

"From a recognition standpoint, it's been an interesting ride," said Gomez bassist/guitarist Paul Blackburn via cell phone after just arriving in New Orleans, where the band was scheduled to perform as part of the city's famous Jazz and Heritage Festival that evening. "We started out and got some acclaim with our first album, and after that, we kind of got whacked a bit."

The story continues here. Go read it! Almost everything made it into the piece, except for Blackburn's comments about New Orleans after the hurricane -- mainly because he didn't have anything to say. Yes, they'd played there before the storm, and this was their first time back, but he hadn't driven into the city yet (their cab pulled up during the interview) and hadn't really seen any devastation. How would the band acknowledge the city's tragedy from stage? He hadn't thought about it. He was more stoked to be playing in New Orleans on Cinco de Mayo. "I'm not sure what state we'll be in." Nice.

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An Iris Pattern tonight w/Koufax – May 9, 2006 –

Tonight, after voting (Get out there, people!), I intend to drag myself down to Sokol Underground to see Omaha band An Iris Pattern when they open for headliner Koufax, along with Drag the River and Cordero.

I know nothing about the three touring acts. I have heard An Iris Pattern's tracks on their myspace account and loved them, especially the dreamy "Sentenced to Each Other." From what I can glean from their site, the band is driven by Ben Zinn and mysterious frontman Greg Loftis. Who is this Loftis fellow whose name has been whispered on the periphery of the Omaha music scene? Loftis, who has been described as both a genius and a shady character by those who know him. According to their bio, An Iris Pattern's recordigns have involved Tim Kasher, A.J. Mogis, Kyle Harvey, Reagan Roeder, Wade Hacklar, Landon Hedges, Dave Collins, Oliver Morgan and Jenna Morrison, along with James McMann and Lars Gallagher. Quite a line-up. I'm also told An Iris Pattern has performed on stage before, but only as a solo acoustic deal. First I hear the band is the next big thing and that I should check them out, next I'm told it's in Limbo and that Loftis is cooling his heels in Spain or Greece or Amsterdam. Will he be there tonight? Find out. $8, 9 p.m. sharp.

Along with a review of the show (if I go), look for an interview with Gomez, online at Lazy-i tomorrow.

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Live Review: Kite Pilot... – May 8, 2006 –

Some thoughts on Saturday night's Kite Pilot CD release show, a few days after the fact… I got there toward the end of Eagle*Seagulls' usual superb set, more evidence that these guys are positioned to take over the world, if they so choose. Frontman Eli Mardock has even taken the drastic step of shaving his once-shaggy head -- an unmistakable fashion statement (unless, of course, spring fleas had something to do with the shearing). I recognized songs from their debut that I've heard two or three other times on stage. They've never sounded so big, but I had to wonder what's next for these guys. They started off as Lincoln's version of The Arcade Fire mixed with Interpol, they morphed into a sublime version of Wolf Parade and now have come out on the other side wholly on their own, with no one left to compare them to.

Next came Kite Pilot featuring two additional trumpet players and Spring Gun guitarist Nate Mickish helping out on a few numbers. Like Eagle*Seagull, the band has never sounded better. I credit the Sokol Underground's sound system and the dozens of family and friends in the crowd lending their support (Among them, two members of The Protoculture, who told me they have an O'Leaver's gig scheduled in the coming weeks).

Things started off with a bang when keyboardist/trumpeter Todd Hanton threw a dozen or so plush teddy bears into the crowd. One got lodged on the lighting equipment, which resulted in some guy putting his bottle of beer on the ground while his buddy hoisted him up to get it. He missed, dropped backward and landed on the bottle, which exploded beneath his feet. Someone else got the teddy, eventually.

The bears were a cute touch, and cuteness is exactly what this band doesn't need any more of, especially with darling frontwoman Erica Hanton sounding more and more like Bjork on songs that are already sweet sweet sweet… but not as sweet as the tunes heard on the band's debut EP. Kite Pilot's new album is something of a tough sell -- a more serious recording that doesn't easily invite dancing. Unlike the EP, which is a pop gem.

One of the night's standouts was drummer Jeremy Stanosheck, who came into his own providing the tightest, strongest performance I've ever seen from him with any band -- an accomplishment, considering the sometimes intricate arrangements on the proggy new songs which made up most of set. The band finished with "a new one" that was the best tune of the night. The sound wasn't a new direction as much as a welcome return to the pop style heard on their EP, complete with some wicked group singing. This new direction -- or return direction -- is where I'd like to hear this band go next. Judging from the crowd response, I'm not alone.

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This weekend -- Kite Pilot, Eagle*Seagull; Cougars Sunday... – May 5, 2006 –

You get two bands in one form or another two nights in a row! What more could you ask for? Tonight at O'Leaver's Kite Pilot's Austin Britton is doing a solo set with Eagle*Seagull's Eli Murdock and Spring Gun's Nate Mickish, who's also playing with Kite Pilot these days. $5, 9:30 p.m. Then tomorrow night at Sokol Underground, it's Kite Pilot's CD release show with Eagle*Seagull and Spring Gun. Weird, in'it? That show is $7, 9 p.m.

Those who read the OWH daily might wonder why I overlooked that little nugget in Niz' Kite Pilot story -- the one about Austin moving to San Diego to attend seminary... Well, they talked about it at our interview, but I was asked to keep it out of the story. I guess the cat's out of the bag now. Will the band survive? Sure, said the Hantons. The line-up will change, but Kite Pilot will go on some way, some how. That said, the band will likely record some new material before Austin heads to Cali, including a new song that will be unveiled Saturday that they say has received the biggest reaction of anything they've played before. Can't wait to hear it.

Also Saturday night, Someday Never is hosting a show at O'Leaver's featuring Lincoln's The Killigans and Super Virgin. I'm told The Killigans do Irish-style punk rock in the vein of Flogging Molly. $5, 9 p.m.

Sunday sports two One Percent shows. Downtown at Sokol Underground it's a death-metal bash featuring A Life Once Lost and Cephalic Carnage. Also on the five-band bill is Omaha's Precious Metal. $8, 9 p.m. Meanwhile, over at O'Leaver's, its Cougars with The Stay Awake. Cougars are often compared to The Jesus Lizard, which is pretty much on the mark, at least from what I've heard off their Go Kart release, Pillow Talk. Big and loud, with the occasional horn part slipped in here and there (according to AMG, they formed out of the remains of a Chicago ska band, a bit of information they should try to keep under their hat).

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Column 75 -- The confidence of Kite Pilot... – May 4, 2006 –

As I mentioned yesterday, this column was originally supposed to be a feature story on Kite Pilot in support of their CD release show this Saturday at Sokol Underground. With a word-count limit not to my liking, I moved it into my column space. Funny thing about Kite Pilot -- the band is so comfortable with what they're doing and why they're doing it, you can tell them anything and they won't take offense. For example, Austin's screaming on the new album (and in their live set) -- I find it disturbing and somewhat jarring. Instead of being defensive, Austin simply explains why he does it. He knows some people may not get it. Same goes for their live shows. I mentioned that going to a Kite Pilot show has become an experience not unlike going to a Simon Joyner show -- you never know what you'll get. It'll either be transcendent or painful, but rarely boring. I am not the first person, apparently, to tell Kite Pilot this, and they revel in their inconsistency, unwilling to take out any of the variables that make their set unpredictable. This confidence in vision is why this band will be around for a long time, in one form or another, with different members coming and going in a natural progression.

Column 75: Success Hasn't Spoiled Them Yet
Kite Pilot defines it on their own terms.

It was all the way back in August of '05 when the first copies of Kite Pilot's new full-length, Mercy Will Close Its Doors, began surfacing 'round town.

Fifty hand-crafted CDR copies of the disc were distributed to press (including yours truly), record labels and friends of the band with hopes of generating some national indie label interest.

Eight months later and Kite Pilot is releasing Mercy… themselves. Some might consider that a failure, but not for a band who defines success on their own terms.

"We did get a label offer," said Austin Britton, who was joined last Saturday by fellow band members Erica Hanton and husband, Todd Hanton, in the couple's mid-town living room. Missing was drummer Jeremy Stanosheck, while new guitarist Nate Mickish (ex-Golden Age) showed up later.

No one was willing to say who the label was, only that differences -- artistic, business, personal and otherwise -- kept them from signing on the dotted line.
"The label just didn't seem to support what we wanted," Todd said. "There was a lot of talk about them being 'a big family' and allowing us to put out what we wanted, but their track record didn't support that. We wanted artistic control, and that's something you don't get anymore."

"There's this 'friendship model' out there now, where the labels want to be friends with you first," Britton said. "We're more interested in having them support the art first. They want to be bro's. That can come later, after the record is out."

Sound brutal? Britton and Hanton said it ain't personal, they just want the art to prevail. In fact, they want it the way it was in the '60s and '70s, back when major labels nurtured bands. "They signed you with the goal of helping develop your sound," Britton said. "Major labels were household names. You knew what a Motown artist was. Nobody knows or cares what label Britney Spears is on."

That said, the band also admitted that they weren't willing to make the personal sacrifices demanded by labels -- specifically, to tour extensively on a low budget.

"None of us are willing to quit our jobs to go on tour," Britton said. "In Kite Pilot, the band is subservient to the individuals; the individuals aren't subservient to the band. We won't sacrifice life and limb, and we don't want music to be our sole livelihood."

Uh, hold on a minute. The Hantons disagreed, saying they would be willing to make music a full-time career, but "we still want to live comfortably," Erica said. "We don't want to be obsessive about it."

That would take all the fun out of it, Todd said. And fun is what it all comes down to for this band, both in the studio and on stage where night-to-night, anything goes.

Kite Pilot defined their fun-loving style back in 2004 with a self-released debut EP that is a pop masterpiece. It effortlessly combines bouncing indie-pop with complex multi-instrument arrangements that lean on Todd Hanton and Britton's jazz backgrounds along with Erica's history as part of the classic post-punk band The Protoculture. Songs like the trumpet-fueled "Tree Caught the Kite" and dance anthem "On My Lips" can be heard nightly on O'Leaver's jukebox.

Things get more complicated on Mercy Will Close Its Doors. While the pop is still there, the arrangements are more complex and challenging -- which is a fancy way of saying the band wasn't afraid to take risks. For example, during one of Todd's airy trumpet solos on "Tiny Portraits (Of Miniature People)," Britton abruptly screams as if in agony. It's even more startling when heard performed live.

"There's no 'Kite Pilot sound,'" Britton said. "It's whatever the song needs, whether it's classical or jazz elements, or screaming. I listen to a lot of hardcore music. Screaming has a place as a musical tool."

"The first time he did it, we were shocked," Todd said. "There's a lot of personal experimentation going on."

Especially during their live set. Kite Pilot has garnered a reputation as one of those bands where, on any given night, you never know what you're in for. The results can be transcendent or downright disorienting.

"We let the songs do what they want to do live," Britton said. "If something's lacking, we'll change the part and do some improvisation."

The bottom line: They do whatever they want. Which is also how they define their success. Certainly not based on a record contract.

"I've known bands that live or die because of a record deal," Britton said. "They decide they don't need to do it anymore because they can't get signed."
"So many bands get hooked on the industry's definition of success." Hanton added. "If they don't fit that model, they've failed. No one ever said, 'You guys are successful because you didn't destroy yourselves doing what you love.'"

Kite Pilot hosts a CD release show with Eagle*Seagull and Spring Gun, Saturday, May 6, at Sokol Underground, 13th & Martha. Showtime is 9 p.m. Admission is $7.

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Live Review Pretty Girls Make Graves, Giant Drag... – May 3, 2006 –

Well, Pretty Girls didn't get Omaha'd. At least not much. Only a handful of the 130 or so on hand at Sokol Underground last night left after Giant Drag finished their set. Giant Drag, by the way, were pretty good. Little frontwoman Annie Hardy came off like a female version of Emo Phillips doing wonky schtick between songs, saying things like "I need more vocals in my monitors," to the soundguy, then "I like more vocals in my monitors just like Micah likes more cocks in his... monitors." She needled drummer Calabrese with these little comments all night. I felt like I was watching a husband and wife act in the Catskills circa 1969. Hardy was a tiny little thing, waifish. She looked like she weighed all of 75 pounds with that big ol' guitar slung over her shoulders. They made the most out of their two-person combo, with Calabrese playing drums and keyboards at the same time -- it was quite a feat. With the tiny keyboard somehow strapped to his drumset, he poked out small but potent counter melodies between swings of his drum stick. Talk about leveraging personnel costs. Hardy's voice was thin as a reed, but enough to push these minimal songs along in a Breeders/Blake Babies/Madder Rose sort of way. Her peep along with her broad guitar tone were enough to fuel a grungy cover of Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game." Nice. When will this parade of two-piece bands come to an end?

Pretty Girls Make Graves came on shortly afterward and only a few people walked out before their set. With their bigger-than-life frontwoman they come off with sort of an arena rock vibe, even though their songs lack whopping-big central hooks. Frontwoman Andrea Zollo is like an indie version of Pat Benatar -- less glamorous but just as pouty. The bass was way high in the mix, and after about three songs, I Omaha'd the set, having to get up early this morning.

* * *

Where's this week's feature? It's been incorporated into this week's column in an effort to give the writer more real estate to work with. Look for it tomorrow, featuring the fine folks in Kite Pilot.

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Pretty Girls Make Graves, Giant Drag tonight... – May 2, 2006 –

Pretty Girls Makes Graves tonight at Sokol Underground. I've spent the last week or so listening to the new Giant Drag CD, Hearts and Unicorns, which came out on Kickball last September. A duo consisting of hot-chick frontwoman Annie Hardy and drummer Micah Calabrese, they most-often are compared to My Bloody Valentine and Jesus and Mary Chain, which doesn't quite fit the bill for me. I liken them more to NYC's Madder Rose, a woefully overlooked band who produced some of the more grinding yet introspective music of the early and mid-'90s on Seed/Atlantic (and were amazing live, having played at The Howard St. Tavern during that era). On the slower numbers, Giant Drag sounds like Mazzy Star, with Hardy doing a spot-on Hope Sandoval ape. Should be interesting to see how they pull it off live if, in fact, they perform only as a duo. Hopefully the other opener, The Joggers, will be first up (if you know what I mean). Lets do what we can to ensure that Pretty Girls doesn't get Omaha'd tonight (though I do have to work tomorrow morning...). $10, 9 p.m.

It's a busy Tuesday, with O'Leaver's hosting a hip-hop show tonight as well that includes non hip-hop opener Life After Laserdisque.

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Live review: Pomonas, The Third Men, Boris Yeltsin; Maria Taylor... – April 30, 2006 –

A brief summary of the weekend's activities:

Friday night at O'Leaver's, I showed up just in time to catch the last three or four songs by Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, and was impressed. The buzz around the room was that the band had a song featured on The OC last week, which, of course, means instant status/love/future. What's the value of a catchy band name? Maybe everything. They may be on their own label now, but they'll be on someone else's before the end of summer. One of those change-up bands, they switched positions throughout the set, but no matter the configuration, they came off Weezer-esque (back when Weezer was good, and interesting, and no, I'm not talking about Pinkerton). Next time, probably Sokol Underground. Who knows after that.

The Third men took the opportunity to roll out a shitload of new songs, 5 or 6 of them, along with a Richard and Linda Thompson cover ("Wall of Death" off Shoot Out the Lights) that featured keyboardist/tambourine player Dana Rouch on vocals. The next night I told bass player Mike Tulis that I felt a distinct James Gang vibe coming off the first few songs, and he said everyone in the band has a few of those records in their collection. Joe Walsh would be proud. Everything about them -- their music, their stage approach -- says they're doing it because they love doing it, and if you want to come along for the ride, hop aboard. I'm there.

Finally, the Pomonas came on at around midnight. With about half the crowd gone (I guess you could say they got Omaha'd) they ripped right into it. This was the third time I've seen them, and they just keep getting better. Friday night's set emphasized the rhythm section, specifically the bass, whose chores were shared between a couple of guys. The sharp, bouncing bass lines had me asking the lead guy after the set if they're trying to become the next Rapture (especially on a tune they coined "their disco song"). I like the shared vocals (almost harmonies, almost cheerleading), the consistently great counter guitar lines, and the overall hubris of the whole durn deal. Afterward they gave out copies of their latest CDR to anyone willing to take them. Someone needs to find room for them on their label.

Which brings us to Saturday night and Maria Taylor after having watched The Golden Gloves finals down at the Qwest (the Omaha guy got robbed, by the way). Maria came on at around 11:15 or so, performing in a stripped-down ensemble because of problems with the band's keyboard. They got it figured out about halfway through the set, which drew heavily from her 11:11 album. Yes, she was in the usual good voice, and the band sounded great, building louder and more intense as the set rolled on, peaking with a "come on stage" version of "Song Beneath the Song" that included accompaniment by none other than Conor Oberst (guess he's in town now) and members of 13 Ghosts. The 200-plus on hand ate it up.

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Pomonas tonight; Maria Taylor tomorrow, and the rest of the weekend... – April 28, 2006 –

This is what it is:

Tonight at O'Leaver's, our old friends from Lawrence, The Pomonas will be returning to O'Leaver's with a whole new batch of tunes. Pomonas play laid-back summertime slacker indie pop, sort of like a low-octane version of Pavement without the fashion sense. Opening are Springfield, MO's Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin (more low-fi indie pop) and Omaha's own The Third Men (What song will Dana Rouch and Co. cover tonight? My money is on "The Dream Police," but I've never been right in my life). $5, 9:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, down at Sokol Auditorium, the return of Vagrant Records punk-pop band Alkaline Trio. According to their site, on this tour they're playing 1998's Goddamnit in its entirety along with other golden oldies. Opening is Gainesville, FL, Fat Wreck Chords band Against Me! $15, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, Spanish for 100 plays at Shea Riley's with Arbor Vitae and The Films. Here's my review for Spanish for 100's self-released album, Metric:

A friend of mine has a band that he vehemently denies is alt country even though their twang is undeniable. I bet Spanish for 100 holds that same denial. Though their rhythms are straightforward, mid-tempo fare, the vocals are Wilco-esque and the guitar roar is only missing a pedal steel. In fact, the guitar work here is the most riveting part of the recording. On any given song, the guitar counters the vocals in a preordained sloppy approach, just banging into whatever feels right, off the beat or just behind it. There are a couple songs where the guitars seem to wander off in their own strange angles, pulled (eventually) back into the fold by the rhythm section. The final result is that Spanish has a tightfisted jam band essence about it, especially on "See Now (Live at the Crocodile)" that pulls together all the elements into a crowd-pleasing roar. Go ahead and clap. Produced by the Phil Ek. Rating: Yes.

This could be the weekend's sleeper show. $5, 9 p.m. 320 So. 72nd. St.

Saturday night is the return of Maria Taylor to Sokol Underground. Niz reported in the Omaha World Herald yesterday that Maria will be playing drums with Bright Eyes on their next tour (which includes the upcoming Memorial Park show June 17 and the Bonnaro Festival). I didn't even know she could play drums. Opening is Birmingham's haunting 13 Ghosts and Mal Madrigal. Wouldn't be surprised if this one was a madhouse that brings out just about every Saddle Creek "personality" in the audience. Bring your bad hair, a disheveled look and a wrinkled jacket. $8, 9 p.m.

You prefer your music a little more rockin'? Than you'll be at The 49'r Saturday night with a couple hundred others watching John Wolf and Bad Luck Charm with Cruisin' Rosie. No idea what they'll be charging, but it likely will be $5 or less. Get there by 9 to get a chair.

Watch for reviews here at Lazy-i throughout the weekend (or shortly thereafter).

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Column 74 -- Getting Omaha'd; El Ten Eleven tonight... – April 27, 2006 –

I'm told that the Pretty Girls Make Graves show mentioned below took place at that short-lived club down on Farnam St. (not The Junction). PGMG has been back to Omaha since, but the memory of that night lingers.

Column 74: Getting Omaha'd
Don't let it happen to you…

Here's something that was left out of my feature on Pretty Girls Makes Graves: Our protagonist, drummer Nick DeWitt, pointed out the following when asked if he'd ever been through Omaha before.

"Oh yeah, we've been to Omaha," he said. "It was at our first show that we played there that we coined a term called 'getting Omaha'd.' We played with The Blood Brothers, who insisted on playing before us. They have a way of whipping fans into a frenzy. It's not much fun following them, and we always made sure that didn't happen. But that night they insisted that we play last because we were 'the headliners.' So the place was full. Then The Blood Brothers played. Then everyone left, and we played to an empty room."

Translation: They got Omaha'd.

Whether the phrase is catching on (and there's little evidence that it is), the circumstances it represents are becoming more and more common, especially 'round these parts. Playing last on an evening's bill often means playing after the band that brought in most of the crowd, and who will likely take that crowd with them when they're done -- to The Brothers for last call.

Marc Leibowitz, half of the dynamic promoting duo known as One Percent Productions along with Jim Johnson, said "getting Omaha'd" isn't just an Omaha thing. It happens everywhere, mostly to unknown bands that are out on their first tours, like Pretty Girls were when they first blew through town all those years ago. Getting Omaha'd is a rite of passage, a necessary evil that bands must suffer if they ever want to make it to the next level.

Leibs said it rarely happens to bands that target a younger, pre-21 audience -- probably because those kids don't have a bar to go to after their friends' band finishes their set. Or because they haven't become jaded scenesters who only go to shows to be seen, to drink, to make contact, to move on.

No band wants to "get Omaha'd." In fact, bands are now getting wary of playing anywhere but the "sweet spot" of a show -- the middle of a three-band bill. Opening spot? Not so good, even though most local shows don't get rolling until well after 9 p.m. Most people are unwilling or unable to tear themselves away from whatever they had going on earlier in the evening, whether it's dinner and a movie or their precious "stories" on the glass teat. Playing second is optimum -- you get the stragglers, along with those who skate in only to see the headliner, unless of course the headliner was smart enough to take the second spot for themselves, which is becoming more common these days. A show's band order has become so controversial that at one recent show, a local band refused to play unless they were guaranteed not to play last.

They didn't want to get Omaha'd… like Des Moines' The Autumn Project did last Saturday night.

The instrumental trio had the last spot on a show that included local bands Noah's Ark was a Spaceship, and Father, a deafening, dread-fueled art-noise project that features among its players Clark Baechle and Dapose from The Faint. Sure enough, the crowd kept rolling in throughout the Noah's Ark set, and peaked right before Father turned off all the lights, turned on a big-screen projector and let loose with 20 minutes of bludgeoning noise that made me feel slightly nauseous afterward (as I'm sure was the intent).

When the lights came up after Father's disturbing set, everyone headed to the door. The crowd of more than 100 dwindled to around 20 -- mostly the bands that played sets earlier in the evening. It was a shame, too, because The Autumn Project was pretty damn good. But what are they gonna do? They got Omaha'd.

I'm trying to figure out other ways to use the phrase in everyday life, outside of the music scene. For example, you show up late to a party, just as everyone is leaving, and have to help empty ash trays and pick up dead beer bottles.

You got Omaha'd.

Or, you arrive late to help someone move to a new house, after the rest of the crew has gone home, leaving you to lift the washer and dryer out of the basement by yourself.

You got Omaha'd.

It means more than just showing up late, it means being left holding the bag. That was also the case for Pretty Girls Make Graves. After they played to a room full of crickets, they were told by the show's promoter (and no, it wasn't One Percent Productions) that there was no money to pay them.

"The promoter tried to screw us," DeWitt said. "We had to take the guy to an ATM to get our money. So for us, getting Omaha'd meant everyone leaving and getting ripped off… almost."

Let's hope things go better when they play Sokol Underground next Tuesday. Say, who's opening that show, anyway?

Tonight, El Ten Eleven at O'Leaver's. All Music calls the all-instrumental Chicago duo "groove-oriented post-rockers" and a "much less tortured Godspeed You Black Emperor! minus the drones." Sounds familiar. Opening band Spring Gun is Mr. 1986's Micah Schmiedskamp's new band. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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Pretty Girls Make Graves talk about the new record; Spoon sells out? April 26, 2006 –

Just placed online, an interview with Pretty Girls Make Graves drummer Nick DeWitt. Nick talks about Seattle, working with Colin Stewart instead of Phil Ek on their new record, and dangerous lighting equipment (read it here). Among the stuff that didn't make the cut was talk about Nick's "project studio" out on Bainbridge Island. "I don't like that term -- project studio. It sounds like it's a side project. I make stuff out there." His "stuff" is another music project called Dutch Dub, which he does with friend Amy (no last name given). They're putting the finishing touches on a new full-length called Night Canopy that'll be released on Sound Virus Records some time in the near future. The Dutch Dub self-titled debut LP came out in '05 on Record Collection. And then, somehow, he'll tour, presumably around Pretty Girls' touring schedule, that is if he can get a band together. "Maybe it'll be a one-man-band kind of thing. I'll tie a tambourine to my foot. Hopefully, down the road, I'll be able to find a few people to play with me."

The other part of Nick's comments that weren't in this article surface in tomorrow's column, focused around the concept of "getting Omaha'd." Tune back then.

Apologies for not updating yesterday -- I've had a killer schedule. I intended to put something online last night about Spoon's recent foray into television commercials. So I'm watching the NBA playoffs this weekend and what should come up during a time-out but a nice, long commercial for the new Jaguar XKE. The music, Spoon's "I Turn My Camera On." And it wasn't just incidental background music -- it was produced like a rock video prominently featuring the song and tight, quick cuts of a shiny new Jag. The commercial was replayed again about five minutes later, and I immediately thought, 'Well, there goes that song."

Look, I think it's great if Britt Daniel can earn a little extra scratch from Madison Avenue -- no problem there. We all got bills to pay. Hey, didn't Broken Spindles sell a song to use in a recent Lexus ad? The difference, of course, is that the Broken Spindles tune is somewhat obscure, and he could use the exposure -- and it just sounds like piano tinkling anyway. The Spoon track was a "single" from Gimme Fiction, is impossible to miss during the ad, and if the commercial gets a lot of airtime (and it probably will) will now forever be identified with that car. I cannot hear Bob Seger's "Like a Rock" and not think "Chevy Trucks" or Sheryl Crow's "Every Day is a Winding Road" without thinking "cheesy car commercial." U2's "Vertigo" -- iPods. And so on. In those cases it doesn't really matter because I didn't like the song to begin with. But this winter Ford began using the Peanuts theme for a sales promotion -- I had to turn the TV off every time it came on because I grew up loving that little piano tune as a kid and couldn't stand the idea of it being bastardized (the family of Vince Guaraldi must be mortified). And I liked "I Turn My Camera On." Not anymore, not if it becomes the official Jaguar theme. Britt, what were you thinking?

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Late update… – April 25, 2006 –

I'll likely be adding something new tonight (it's been one of those days), but if I don't, make sure you check out New York Doll tonight at O'Leaver's movie night. More details here.

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Live Review: Father, Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship, The Autumn Project… – April 24, 2006 –

Here's a late review of Saturday night's show; late because the Lazy-i servers were down for awhile yesterday for maintenance, upkeep and and other technical stuff. I guess I should have just written the review right when I got home from the show Saturday night, but I was still feeling a but uneasy. Just to clarify up front: What I'm about to say isn't meant as an insult. I was literally physically ill after Father's set. But let me start at the beginning...

I got down at the Underground just as Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship had taken the stage. Their style and sound was pleasingly thunderous and epic, intense and... well, loud, dark and ominous as a storm cloud rolling in -- a fitting opener for what lied ahead. Shortly after they finished their set, a projector screen was placed on stage. The guys in Father followed next, setting up in the dark. The projector glowed blue, then pink as Clark Baechle started off the 20-minute song with booming, repeated, tribal drum riffs that went on -- alone -- for at least a few minutes before D. Bushon joined in on drums alongside him, throwing his arms high with every capped measure. Bushon threw his sticks off stage, picked up a guitar and began a throbbing drone that would eventually include Dapose and someone on bass.

Meanwhile, on screen, a faint pattern emerged, a pulsing central circle surrounded by four pulsing dots -- one in each corner. Slowly, small lines appeared, growing into a web of veins (or so it seemed). As the sound intensified, the veins kept growing, become more detailed with each pulse of the central circle, eventually resembling the circulatory system of an alien life form. Behind it, in the dark, the gutteral sounds from Father throbbed louder, trancelike and grim. Eventually Clark up and left the stage, leaving Bushon, Dapose and the bass to rumble on. I don't know if it was the all-encompassing low end, the nightmarish image on screen, or the combination of the two, but it was right about here that I began to get slightly nauseous. What the f*** was this supposed to be, some sort of bludgeoning nightmare séance?

One-by-one members of the band left the stage, eventually leaving Dapose to drone to a conclusion while Seth Johnson's gruesome image slowly faded from the screen. When Dapose finally left and the house sound and lights came up, the crowd of 100 clapped, confused and maybe a bit startled. Father's performance was disturbing and unsettling and most likely right on target.

Most of the crowd left before The Autumn Project took the stage (see this week's column (online Thursday) for a further explanation). They missed out on some more powerful, though stark, instrumental music driven by a talented drummer. It reminded me of the instrumental bands that were so popular four or five years ago, playing chord changes that center around the rhythm section. Autumn Project is the first band I've seen in a long time to use a smoke machine. At one point, during one of their song's dramatic moments, the drummer became hidden in the fog only to reemerge wearing a white mask! Weird! Was he wearing that thing the whole time? I think I would have noticed. He slipped it off moments later and continued with the set. All-in-all, a disturbing evening of sound, light and noise.

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This weekend's picks… – April 21, 2006 –

There's actually more shows going on than I realized this weekend. Here are my picks:

Tonight at O'Leaver's, an evening of twang, headlined by Iowa City's Shame Train, with Mal Madrigal and Springhill Mine Disaster. $5, 9:30 p.m. Meanwhile, down at Sokol Underground, you've got vanilla-flavored alt-rock band The Nadas, coming off a recent loss in a contest to open for Bon Jovi in New York -- which pretty much says it all. More Hootie than Hootie ever was. With The Josh Davis Band. $12. 9 p.m. Lincoln's Scenefest 4 kicks off at Duffy's with Tie These Hands, Prints of Apple Island, The Goddamn Rights, The Static Octopus and Straight Outta Junior High. $6, 9 p.m.

Saturday night: The multimedia spectacular known as The Autumn Project headlines down at Sokol Underground. I'm listening one of the trio's tracks now -- a long, heady instrumental that would be right at home on The Cure's Disintegration album. Quiet than loud, you know the drill. Father is guitarist D. Bushon with help from Dapose and Clark Baechle of The Faint, and visuals from Seth Johnson. Get ready to grind. $7, 9 p.m. Meanwhile, Randy Cotton (ex-Ravine, ex-Ritual Device) and his band Members of the Press will grace the O'Leaver's stage with Darsombra (from Baltimore), Wasteoid and Demon Attack. $5, 9:30 p.m. Night two of Scenefest at Duffy's will be under way with Robot, Creep Closer!, Producers of the Word, Electric Soul Method, Once A Pawn and Sinikil. $6, 9 p.m.

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Column 73 -- Dude, you goin' to Bright Eyes? Buck Bowen tonight… – April 20, 2006 –

For the record, the Petco clerk did say that she'd heard of 311, but didn't go to that concert, either.

Column 73: Acid Test in the Park
Who is this Bright Eyes character, anyway?

So I'm going through the line at the Petco on 72nd and Dodge, picking up a fresh box of much-deserved milk bones for the two very special critics who edit my work. I turn to the cheerful, late-30s-aged woman behind the counter and ask, whilst signing the digital signature pad, "Say, ever heard of a band called Bright Eyes…?"

Here's the deal: Never has there been a better acid test as to the popularity of Bright Eyes, Saddle Creek Records and the Omaha indie music scene than the just-announced concert in Memorial Park June 17 featuring Conor Oberst and his band of merry men. Once and for all, we're going to see just how popular indie is among the great unwashed masses.

Those of us who live and breathe indie, who go to the shows at Sokol Underground, buy the records and read the online journals, we go through life with blinders on. We believe that Oberst and Cursive and The Faint and Saddle Creek are the harbingers of Omaha's status as "The New Seattle," that the world outside our freeway has embraced us. I mean, everyone knows Bright Eyes, right? Hell, how could they not? He's played guitar right next to The Boss and Michael Stipe.

Ah, but mention Conor or any of the Creek bands to the guy or gal slouched in line next to you at, say, your local Wal-Mart, and you're bound to get a blank stare in return. Bright Who?

Which brings us to that concert in the park. I've already heard speculation from those entrenched in the local music scene that this will be an event for the ages that will far out-draw the July 16, 2004, Memorial Park show that featured 311. Depending on your source, that concert drew more than 50,000 rabid fans eager to see the former Omahans present a "night of positivity" along with a medley of dated ska-rock classics.

What will Bright Eyes draw on June 17, 2006? Let's look at the facts.

Conor has been written about in every respectable newspaper and magazine in the country. He's appeared on Letterman, Leno and even the lame Craig Ferguson Show. And unlike 311, he maintains a domicile in Omaha even though he spends most of his time in Manhattan (and who can blame him?). Those curious about his music but who have been apprehensive about venturing to a venue engulfed in sad-eyed indie kids finally will have a chance to see the boy wonder on neutral territory. And it's free. Yes, the curious will come.

So will the traveler. Other than a handful of shows in Canada and the Bonnaro Festival in Manchester, Tennessee, the park show is the only scheduled Bright Eyes appearance in North America this year. Expect heartbroken fans from across the country to make a holy pilgrimage and turn the event into a mini Woodstock. If you live within blocks of the park, expect moody youths with tattoos and piercings in tents in your front yard days before the show.

Let's not forget that Bright Eyes drew nearly 4,000 paying customers to Council Bluffs' MAC center just last May. Ah, but remember, The Faint was on the undercard that night. Who will open for Conor June 17? Certainly not The Faint or Creek's third-biggest band, Cursive.

Which gets us to arguments against a huge draw. Bright Eyes skews younger than 311, whose heyday was over a decade ago, and hence has a broader fan base than Conor's. And while we're talking about 311, remember that they've had four Gold records, one Platinum, one Triple-Platinum, a Gold and Platinum DVD; in total they've sold more than 7 million units in the United States. Bright Eyes has yet to produce even one Gold record, thanks to a complete lack of commercial radio airplay. Meanwhile, 311 music is on regular rotation on hundreds of radio stations across the country, including a couple here in Omaha.

Then there's the fact that the 311 concert was the centerpiece of the city's 150-year "celebration." Fireworks were promised. The Bright Eyes show is merely Mayor Fahey's and US Cellular's bright idea (And can you imagine Conor, who has railed endlessly against Clear Channel and commercial sponsorships, playing in front of a gigantic US Cellular banner?).

Some won't come because they despise Conor's politics. Some won't come because they despise Conor's music. Some won't come because they despise the kind of people who like Conor's politics and music. Then there's the proximity of the "oldies" concert in the park just two weeks later, which is more likely to draw wary families. And then there's the weather. And on and on.

But maybe the most telling indication of how many will come to the concert in the park is that cheerful Petco clerk bagging my milk bones. "Bright Eyes? Never heard of 'em. Is that a local band or something?"

Tonight at Sokol Underground, what's being billed as the "last performance" by local hip-hop impresario Buck Bowen. Is Buck really hanging it up at such an early stage of his career? Well, from what I've been told, you'll see Buck on stage again, but he won't be going by the name "Buck Bowen," which, by the way, is a perfect stage name (and, I'm told, is his real name). It would be a shame if he gave it up. $4, 9 p.m. w/Slang 5 and Headtrip.

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Live Review: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Murs; Lincoln's Once a Pawn… – April 19, 2006 –

I've never parked so far away for a Sokol show -- a block north of Bam's near the church, maybe a 1/4 mile from the venue. What's the deal? I've always parked closer, even for sold-out shows. I don't know if last night's Yeah Yeah Yeahs Yeahs show was a sell out or not, but I've never seen it so packed in the auditorium before. I got there at 10, just in time for the Yeahs' set. On the back of the stage hung a huge Show Your Bones scrim, red and black like a giant flag representing the United States of Yeahs. With no fanfare at all, on walked the band, including a fourth guy who played acoustic guitar, keyboards and, on one song, bass! So here were the Yeahs with added fire power, and despite that, they sounded less epic than they did when I saw them as a trio two years ago, back when the show was literally a showcase for Nick Zinner's blowtorch guitarwork. Maybe it was the fact that I was sandwiched in the very back of the hall, but Zinner's guitar sounded buried in the mix, tucked away somewhere beneath Karen O's vocals and the rest of the cacophony. Overall, a lackluster show. I blame their new record, which is less inventive and interesting than Fever to Tell (or maybe I'm just getting too familiar with the formula). With Nick in the background, O's theatrical prancing took center stage. Dressed in a red-and-black jumper and wearing one glittering glove on her right hand, she looked and sounded like a cross between a bobbed Chrissie Hynde and a modern-day Wicked Witch of the West. I never heard her once address the audience, instead blowing through the set of new songs non-stop. The crowd didn't seem to care, though. They were too busy doing a modified pogo and flashing devil horns. After 45 minutes, I figured I'd seen enough and high-tailed it down to the Underground. I'm told that shortly after I left the band kicked off a three-song encore that included the night's best performance.

Meanwhile, downstairs, a hip-hop show was in high gear. Here's where anyone with even a surface knowledge of the genre can click away to some other blog or news as you'll find nothing valuable in my comments (just make sure you come back in a sec and read about Once a Pawn, below). I don't know the name of the crew on stage who were opening for Murs, but they weren't bad. They featured three MCs and a turntable guy who pumped out dense but rather minimal beats beneath their rapping. Before their last number, they passed on a story about running into Conor Oberst at a party in Atlanta. "And like all emo parties, there was only one hot girl there," the MC said. Just as he was about to swoop down on his prey, Oberst walked up to her and leaned against the wall, blocking his approach. He shoots, he scores! "It was tight," added another MC, while the lone white MC said, "We still like his music." Murs joined them for their last song, and it was like turning on switch to a power grid. Night and day. The first crew walked off and Murs stayed up there and tore into his set. Compared to the last crew, he was magnetic, pouncing on an audience that looked 10 times as punk as the crowd that was standing around listening to the Yeahs above them.

End of review. Intro to this week's feature: Without a band story assignment, Reader editor Andy Norman called me last week and asked if I could do a little sumpthin' on Once a Pawn, whom I'd never heard of. I'm glad he did. I listened to the Lincoln trio's tunes on Myspace and made some calls. Read the results here and check them out at Scenefest this weekend. The fourth annual event seems a bit throttled back from years past, but is still an impressive showcase of Lincoln talent, all at Duffy's this time.

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Precious Metal added to tonight's Yeah Yeah Yeahs show… – April 18, 2006 –

What will all those radio-loving suburban youth who are driving down to the Yeah Yeah Yeahs show tonight at Sokol Auditorium going to think of Mike Dapose of The Faint's death metal side project Precious Metal? Will they cover their ears? Will they cower in fear? Or will they stand in awe at Dapose's guitar virtuosity? Putting Precious Metal on the bill was a savvy move that will result in as much talk as the headliners. I suggest getting there at the stroke of 8 to see the carnage. You'll either love it or hate it. You'll definitely remember it. The other opener, Brooklyn's Blood on the Wall, is described as an indie rock trio with male and female vocals. Hmmm... If the Yeahs are anything like they were the last time they came through, this will be a must-see show if only to see Nick Zinner's amazing guitar pyrotechnics. Last I looked, tickets were still available.

It's a busy Tuesday. O'Leaver's is hosting Voodoo Organist, who Brendan of Life After Laserdisque (who is opening this show along with No Blood Orphan) swears by. If the Yeahs end early, it might be worth a swing-by.

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Live Review: The Family Radio; Ladyfinger joins Saddle Creek Records; Saves the Day tonight… – April 17, 2006 –

I made it only to one show this weekend. Actually, one-third of a show. I drove down to Sokol Underground Friday night to catch The Family Radio, which I've written about on the blog for the past few days (Nik Fackler, Dereck Higgins, etc.). I got there later than expected, but didn't miss a thing as Nik and the band stood around on stage for a good 20 minutes doing a sound check (I think). You figure if you were nervous that standing around on stage would only make it worse. Fackler, however, seemed relaxed, almost giddy, throwing candy into the audience throughout the short, five-song set.

The consensus afterward -- they sounded a lot like Bright Eyes. Certainly the style is similar -- folksy, chamber-pop music pushed gently by a solid rhythm section, with personal lyrics (though not as confessional as poor Conor's). Fackler's voice is nothing like Oberst's, though he does provide the occasional shriek (maybe more Kasher-esque?) and he likes to count out the beat. Violinist/flautist Tara Konradi added nice counter-melodies, though I'm doubtful she could hear herself on stage. And ex-Azure Ray-er Orenda Fink lent a hand on trumpet for one song. It sounded pretty good, and at times, almost great. The night before Fackler was most excited about the "50s-style rocker" that the band planned to end their set with. It was the weakest tune of the bunch, however. The best songs were the more subtle numbers that featured Fackler's simple finger-picking guitar lines and the warm rumble of the rhythm section -- Higgins we all know about, but that drummer was a real pleasant surprise. Now we'll wait and see just how much more Fackler will do with this band. He's a busy boy, what with his film projects and music videos. Is it possible to do all of it at once?

In the News: A number of people e-mailed pointing out that Ladyfinger has signed with Saddle Creek. The band themselves confirmed the rumor on their website (http://www.ladyfingersucks.com/), where they announced that their debut full length will be released on Creek Sept. 26. The story goes that Saddle Creek paid for recording the new Ladyfinger disc with the option of putting it out if they liked it. Apparently they did. If you go to the Saddle Creek tours page you'll find details about the band's late-May early-June tour that caps off with a gig at The 49'r June 17 (You'll also find on that same tours page a listing for Neva Dinova dates -- the first pseudo-acknowledgement on the Creek site that the band has been signed to the label).

Tonight at Sokol Underground: Saves the Day with Moneen for $15. I'm not sure why I'm telling you this since I think both bands suck.

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Live Review: Crystal Skulls, John Vanderslice; the weekend… – April 14, 2006 –

Weird thing about the Crystal Skulls -- I listened to their new CD over the last few days, dug the keyboards throughout. And yet, last night, no keyboards. What the… ? Still, an interesting if not low-key band that got better as the night wore on. They have a hit song on their hands if they can get people to hear "Baby Boy," one of those tunes that jumps off their CD and off the stage. "I'm tellin' ya, it's sheer gold, Maury...." Here's one of those bands where their CD was better than their live show. It's a pretty good CD if you're into that laid-back indie sound...

Vanderslice, well, seems like he plays here every six months when actually it's probably about once a year, which is still a lot for a touring band. Who remembers the old days when Vanderslice had this madcap drummer who set up right at the front of the stage? You went to Vanderslice shows to see that guy. Well, he's long gone, and while the current drummer is no pushover, he's also no freakshow, like the last one. About a half-dozen people I spoke to during their set made the same comment. "Remember his old drummer? Man, that guy was a blast!" Anyway... Vanderslice sounded fine. I've never been a big fan, but I dig his clear, throaty voice, and the rest of his ensemble sounded rock solid. Still, nothing about the set stands out as I write this right after the show.

Not a bad crowd, btw -- maybe 150? I suspect Sokol will see twice that many tonight with The Elected/Jake Bellows/The Family Radio.

Which brings us to Friday's usual glance at the coming weekend (cue theme music).

It starts tonight with the show I just mentioned. And I'll reiterate what I said in yesterday's column -- Nik Fackler and his band, The Family Radio, is really what I'm interested in hearing. Fackler tells me the band has worked up at least a half-dozen songs for tonight. Talk about an acid test -- he'll be debuting this band in front of most of the Saddle Creek Club, all of whom he knows, anyway, thanks to his ever-growing video work. You'd think playing in front of his pals would make him even more nervous. But never fear, with Dereck Higgins backing him on bass, everything will be all right. Get there at 9. Door is $10.

My plan is to jet out early and go cross town to Mick's and see Bill Hoover & Friends. Hoover, if you don't know already, used to front The Darktown House Band and is something of a legend 'round these parts -- sort of Omaha's version of Tom Waits. This will be a special show, and Mick's will fill up early.

Saturday night's marquee event is The Stills w/Raising the Fawn at Sokol Underground. I've heard the new Stills CD, and no, it's not as good as Logic Will Break Your Heart, but it's still serviceable. Meanwhile, The 49'r will be hosting Brother Trucker from Des Moines and Western Electric (Scott Roth ex-Such Sweet Thunder).

Look for reviews this weekend.

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Column 72 -- A glance at the calendar; Vanderslice tonight w/Crystal Skulls, Ghosty.... – April 13, 2006 –

I received a "bwa ha ha ha" e-mail from one of the editors at The Reader correcting me about the Neva Dinova item mentioned below, telling me that the band is on Side Cho Records, not Saddle Creek. And I had to explain what I explained back on Valentine's Day, that the band's next CD will, in fact, be released by Omaha's fastest growing indie label (Just more evidence that no one reads this blog). You have to wonder why Creek hasn't announced the Neva news on their site yet. Or for that matter, that Neva hasn't mentioned it on their website. Maybe because they don't have a release date set in stone?

Column 72: Early Warning System
A glance at the rock calendar

Rock shows have a funny way of sneaking up on you if you're not paying attention. And though we at The Reader go out of our way to point you in the right direction week in and week out, we rarely give you a heads-up more than eight days in advance. With that in mind, here are some early warnings of worth-while indie shows on the horizon, with details on who these folks are and why you should care. A caveat -- two performances in the past two weeks were cancelled the night of the show due to "van troubles." Rock stars' lives are complicated, and schedules can (and do) change, sometimes at the last minute. Check the usual websites (onepercentproductions.com, myspace.com/oleaverspub, micksomaha.com, lazy-i.com) for the latest info.

The Elected w/Jake Bellows, The Family Radio April 14 @ Sokol Underground -- You already know The Elected (Blake Sennett of Rilo Kiley) and Jake Bellows (of Saddle Creek band Neva Dinova). The hidden treasure is The Family Radio, a new ensemble fronted by local film maker Nik Fackler that includes legendary bassist Dereck Higgins (Digital Sex, One Mummy Case), Aaron Gum, Ian O'Donnell and Tara Konradi making a noise like Simon and Garfunkel having dinner with Bright Eyes. Could Fackler turn his back on Hollywood to become a rock star? Get there early and find out.

The Autumn Project w/Father, Noah's Ark Was A Spaceship, Ila April 22 @ Sokol Underground. Father is guitarist D. Bushon with help from Dapose and Clark Baechle of The Faint, and visuals from Seth Johnson. Get ready to grind.

The Pomonas w/The Third Men, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin April 28 @ O'Leaver's -- Lawrence 4-piece The Pomonas look and sound like a bunch of slackers from your local record store gigging in their basement, which is why they're so damn charming. The Third Men is a retro/summer/feel good band featuring Mike Tulis, Matt Rutledge, Mike Loftus and Pat White.

Maria Taylor w/13Ghosts April 29 @ Sokol Auditorium -- Maria Taylor we all know as half of the currently defunct Azure Ray. Birmingham's 13Ghosts are as haunting as their name implies.

Pretty Girls Make Graves w/Giant Drag, The Joggers May 2 @ Sokol Underground -- PGMG's new one, Élan Vital on Matador Records, is a strange, slurred, funky bite of bittersweet post-punk. LA's Giant Drag is another guitar-and-drums girl-and-guy duo a la The White Stripes but with a distinct My Bloody Valentine vibe.

Kite Pilot CD release show May 6 @ Sokol Underground -- A copy of KP's Mercy Will Close Its Doors fell into my lap last August with the hope and promise of finding a label to release it. Nine months later and the CD will be born as a self-released joint, but still as precious. The Protoculture are rumored to open.

Atmosphere w/Brother Ali and Los Nativos May 10 @ Sokol Underground -- If you haven't experienced one of Sokol's underground hip-hop shows, there is no better time to start. Atmosphere is Slug a.k.a. Sean Daley, the genius behind Minnesota's Rhymesayers Collective, that includes such acts as MF Doom, P.O.S. and Brother Ali, the albino who called me out from stage for calling him a white guy. Things could get ugly.

Gomez w/David Ford May 13 @ Sokol Underground -- There was a time only a few years ago when you'd expect Gomez to be playing the big room above Sokol Underground. Those days, apparently, are long gone. That said, the band's new CD, How We Operate, rocks harder than anything they've ever done.

Minus the Bear w/Criteria, Russian Circles May 23 @ Sokol Underground -- Minus the Bear's last CD, Menos el Oso, renewed my faith in a band that before could only be described as "quirky." They're still quirky, but now there's something significant under the jangle. After months of touring, Criteria should be plenty road-hardened.

Two Gallants acoustic May 25 @ Mick's -- One of Saddle Creek Records' latest bands, the duo usually do their thing White Stripes style, all electric. How will their sea-shanty ballads sound unplugged?

I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness w/The Rogers Sisters May 31 @ Sokol Underground. The Austin band on Secretly Canadian (Antony & The Johnsons, Swell Maps) is making waves with a stark, electronic sound that heralds back to the old Factory Records days (Yeah, that means they're influenced by Joy Division).

Simon Joyner w/Coolzey, Miracles of God June 27 @ O'Leaver's -- Few shows these days are as thoroughly satisfying and memorable as Joyner and his band, The Wind-Up Birds, at O'Leaver's. It'll be packed, it'll be sweaty and it'll be pure spectacle.

Tonight at Sokol Underground, John Vanderslice with Crystal Skulls and Ghosty. I'm listening to the new Crystal Skulls disc on Suicide Squeeze Records, Outgoing Behavior, as I type this. Don't let the daunting name fool you -- the Seattle band's music is breezy, laid-back piano/guitar pop a la The Sea and Cake or the lighter side of Spoon, a perfect compliment to Vanderslice's own pop musings. Lawrence's Ghosty plays Pavement-meets-Dismemberment Plan-style indie rock. $8, 9 p.m.

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Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Nick Zinner; The Fray, LotM tonight... – April 12, 2006 –

Just posted for your reading pleasure, a feature/interview with Nick Zinner of Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Nick talks about hanging out in Omaha, competition in Brooklyn, the band's new album, and the old days (Read it here). Among the stuff that didn't make it into the story, Zinner said he digs playing in Bright Eyes, a band he's toured with as recently as last year's Digital Ash tour (Btw, he said playing at the MAC Center in CB for a Bright Eyes gig last May was kind of a drag because the crowd was so far from the stage -- it drained a lot of the energy from the set). Zinner says he looks forward to doing another tour with Conor and Company...eventually. "I'm booked for awhile, but I definitely want to do it again in the future. It's so much fun for me to play with him, it's like a rock vacation."

Zinner also talked about working with legendary producer Alan Moulder behind the mixing console both for their new record and their debut LP. Moulder has worked with some of indie rock's most defining acts, including My Bloody Valentine, Jesus and Mary Chain and Smashing Pumpkins. "He kind of downplays his role in all those productions," Zinner said. "I was able to get a lot of great stories out of him. He's an amazing man. He's worked on so many important, influential, seminal records, but is so down to earth and receptive and relaxed and supportive." Zinner said the band originally got connected to Moulder through their manager, who was good friends with Toni Halliday of Curve -- Moulder's wife. How do they work together? "When I'm in the studio, I take a back seat while Alan gets it to the point where he thinks it sounds good, then we'll work together at perfecting it. I'm a bit of a studio geek, but not as much as he is. We take time and keep listening to the song over and over again."

Tonight, The Fray at Sokol Auditorium with Landing on the Moon. I've never heard of The Fray, so I was a bit surprised when their show sold out so quickly. Who are these guys? Well, their last record was on Sony/Epic. They're from Denver. Their sound is safe, middle-of-the-road radio rock. Hmm. Ah, here it is. Their songs have been played on TV's "Grey's Anatomy," "ER" and "Bones," three shows I've never seen before. And last summer they toured with Weezer. It's all beginning to make sense now. More interesting than The Fray is the Sokol Aud debut of Landing on the Moon. How will they pull it off on the big stage? Get there at 8 and find out (if you have a ticket).

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Coming up empty; Boss Martians/AA tonight...– April 11, 2006 –

So I spent the good part of the last two days trying to track down a drummer on the road for this week's column and at the end of it all came up with nil. It happens, it happens... Luckily, I was able to track down Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, so you'll get a nice little feature on Nick and the band online right here tomorrow. As for this week's column (online Thursday), well, it's a recap of upcoming shows which y'all probably know about anyway. Oh well...

Bit o' entertainment tonight at O'Leaver's with Seattle's Boss Martians (they sound like run of the mill indie rock to me) along with Omaha's favorite bar band, Anonymous American. 9:30 p.m. $5.

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UPDATE: Albatross/Precious/Fromanhole show CANCELED...– April 10, 2006 –

Apparently the Albatross guys got stuck in Texas with van troubles. No show tonight.

The murmurs continue; An Albatross, Precious Metal & Fromanhole tonight... – April 10, 2006 –

No shows for me last weekend, but that'll likely be the last time that happens for a couple months.

Moving on… Seems like scuttlebutt of The Faint's rumored move to American Recordings has been picked up by a couple other websites (beyond this one), which are reporting the signing as fact even though nothing appears on the Saddle Creek, American or Faint sites. However, I don't remember there being a mention on the Creek site when Rilo Kiley flew the coop for Warners. Among those talking about the deal are Mammothpress, Absolute Punk and Punkbands.com. Someone even told me they heard it on The River. I'll believe it when I hear it from the horse's mouth. Those curious about confirming the story will have a chance to ask Dapose tonight when his other band, Precious Metal, takes the Sokol Underground stage with An Albatross and Fromanhole. $7, 9 p.m.

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Weekend going's on... – April 7, 2006 –

No barn-burner shows this weekend, just a series of smaller outings. In fact, I don't know much about any of these shows or these bands, but here's the rundown:

Tonight O'Leaver's hosts singer/songwriters Chris Koza and Brad Hoshaw ($5, 9:30); Sokol Underground has a local metal show ($7, 9 p.m.).

Saturday night's highlights include O'Leaver's again with Minty Fresh band The Living Blue (formerly The Blackouts) along with local retro garage monsters Brimstone Howl (formerly The Zyklon Bees), who I have seen before and do bring the rock ($5, 9:30). Sokol Underground is hosting Prospect Avenue's CD release show with SOJH, Eyes Catch Fire and 8th Wave ($8, 8 p.m.).

Sunday night, alt rock band Eisley (Reprise records) is at Sokol with Simon Dawes and Brighten ($10, 9 p.m.).

And th-th-th-th-that's all, folks. You know something better going on? Please let us know on The Webboard.

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Column 71 -- Tons o' Tiny CD Reviews; Jon Crocker/Kyle Harvey tonight... – April 6, 2006 –

Alright, a few of these brief CD reviews appeared in the blog earlier this year or in the Reviews Matrix. I compiled them, along with a many more, for the following column. I'd like to do a reviews run-down every few months or so.

Column 71: No Stars, No Letters
Recent releases, for your consideration…

Those who read the Lazy-i website already are aware of my pejorative CD rating system -- a simple "yes" or "no." No stars, no letter grades. Look, listeners simply want to know if a recording is worth dropping their hard-earned rubles for. I've been told my system is too draconian by those who would prefer a "you'd like this if you listen to that" system, which, of course, is spineless. That said, all of the CDs mentioned below rate a "Yes" unless otherwise noted. Pay attention, they're short (and in iPod alpha order, for your convenience).

The Ark, State of the Ark (EMI) -- They rip off every '70s act from The Knack to Sweet, but remind you why you liked those bands in the first place. Inspired line: "Try some manners, f***face."

Belle & Sebastian, The Life Pursuit (Matador) -- Their retro upbeat dance record heavy on Bowie and T. Rex, I hated it at first. It's grown on me (like a fungus).

Cat Power, The Greatest (Matador) -- The first album that Chan Marshall has made that I've enjoyed from beginning to end, she's sounding even more like Mazzy Star with her sleepy, slurred vocals and warm, mid-tempo dream-melodies.

Centro-matic, Fort Recovery (Misra) -- The most unheralded geniuses in indie since The Grifters (or Silkworm, but that's another story). It's about time they get discovered by the masses.

Chad VanGaalen, Infiniheart (SubPop) -- Simple one-man band production is dark, haunting, cool shit. A singer-songwriter creep show.

The Cops, Get Good or Stay Bad (Mt. Fuji) -- Mike Jaworski's bands have always been derivative, but they've never been this good. This time he combines The Clash, Rocket from the Crypt and a black-leather New York garage punk band. Heartfelt.

David Dondero, South of the South (Team Love) -- Hear once and for all where Conor Oberst got his bray. Smart songwriting.

Donald Fagen, Morph the Cat (Reprise) -- I don't want to hear how "uncool" it is to like Fagen and Steely Dan. Few people write smarter, snarkier lyrics, and even fewer can make them bounce with such infectious ease.

The Eighteenth Day of May, self-titled (Hannibal) -- British acoustic folk in the style of Richard and Linda Thompson/Fairport Convention; the kind of music we all need more of in our lives.

Elf Power, Back to the Web (Rykodisc) -- From Athens, they have the same sheen of early acoustic R.E.M., though Andy Rieger is no Michael Stipe, but maybe that's a good thing.

The Fall, Hex Enduction Hour (reissue) (Castle Music) -- Indie's last wave was all about rediscovering the desolate funk of Gang of Four; the next will be about rediscovering the arrogance of The Fall.

Hayley Taylor, Waking (self-release) -- Like Jenny Lewis (whose music her music resembles) she's another TV veteran (Sabrina, ER) turned musician. Produced by A.J. Mogis.

The Headlights, The Enemies EP (Polyvinyl) -- Another Death Cab-influenced band. This one's better than most. At O'Leavers 4/10.

Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat (Team Love) -- Easily the best thing Lewis has produced since The Execution of All Things back in '02.

Kyle Harvey, Truth Is the Color of Teeth (self-release) -- Stark, almost grim heartbreak tone-poems infused with electronics. Bleak.

Mad Happy, Renegade Geeks (Mutiny Zoo) -- Mike iLL and Rivka are hip-hop's Pat and Barbara K. McDonald. They have the same subversive vibe as Timbuk 3, though their music is more electronic than organic, and slightly more in your face (but only slightly).

Minmae, Le Grand Essor de la Maison du Monstre (Greyday) -- What you'd get if Bill Callahan (the one from Smog, not the Huskers) fronted Pavement.

Neil Diamond, 12 Songs (American) -- Again, I don't want to hear it. This gets added points from the Rick Rubin production, the only guy that can convince these dinosaurs that all they need is their guitar.

Neil Young, Heart of Gold (Reprise) -- With apologies to our cadre of movie critics, this is a flick review (though you can buy the soundtrack). Not as good as Rust Never Sleeps, but few concert movies are. Worth seeing if only for Neil's VH-1-style "songwriters" confessions and "Old Man," again.

The Plastic Constellations, Crusades (French Kiss) -- Frenetic, proggy, spazzy rock, strange and danceable, exactly what you'd expect from a band on this label (Les Savy Fav, Rahim, etc.).

Rahim, Ideal Lives (French Kiss) -- Frenetic, proggy, spazzy rock, strange and danceable, exactly what you'd expect from a band on this label (Les Savy Fav, The Plastic Constellations, etc.).

Simon Joyner, Beautiful Losers (Jagjaguwar) -- This B-sides and singles collection is an excellent introduction to Joyner's early work (though nothing beats his masterpiece, The Cowardly Traveler Pays His Toll, which remains out of print).

Stereolab, Fab Four Suture (Too Pure) -- I admit to never being a fan, but I can see why some might dig this French/Euro/Retro pop. I'm not one of them. Rating: No.

Talking Heads, Speaking in Tongues (reissue) (Rhino) -- Part of a massive reissuing of early Heads material, Rhino wouldn't send me the whole thing. Each DualDisc includes the album in 5.1 Surround Sound with a couple videos included. If you don't own this, now's the time.

The Twilight Singers, Powder Burns (One Little Indian) -- Greg Dulli (ex-Afghan Whigs) knows how to put his soul on the slab for anyone to poke at. He's done it again, albeit less subtly than on Blackberry Belle.

Two Gallants, What the Toll Tells (Saddle Creek) -- While a little of these hippy, ship-galley sea-shanty balladeers goes a long way, I'm beginning to see why they appealed to the sexy young execs at Saddle Creek.

Tonight at O'Leaver's Kyle Harvey, that bleak songster with a heart of gold, takes the stage along with traveling troubadour Jon Crocker (here's his myspace rig) and Denver's Ghost Buffalo. Worth $5? You bet.

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Live Review: The Lepers, Knife Skills, N0 Things... – April 5, 2006 –

The draw was light last night at O'Leaver's. I blame the Simon Joyner show at The Pizza Shoppe, which I completely forgot about. And the fact that the O'Leaver's show got next to no hype (other than on this site, of course, which is next to no hype). I got there at about the eight-minute mark of The Leper's 12-minute opening song. These guys' songs are looong, and are meant to be, I suppose. They've changed up their sound somewhat since the last time I saw them (probably over a year ago). A couple of the songs were downright fast compared to their usual tribal, tonal head trips. I'm told by drummer Ken Brock that the new pace will be heard on their new CD, which they've finished recording and have out for mixing. The band had just returned from two weeks on the road including a pass through SXSW. These guys are almost acidic in how they can divide a crowd between people who "get" where they are and where they're going and what they're trying to do along the way, and those who just plain hate their music. I'm part of the first group, though in all honesty, I have to assume this style of psychedelic drone tunage is best accompanied by hallucinogenics or grass (both of which I've never had the pleasure to have known). Guitarist/vocalist Owen Cleasby even asked if anyone had any pot in the audience (He was just kidding... I think).

Knife Skills was a different animal altogether. A Brooklyn trio that features two girls and a guy had one immediate noticeable difference from The Lepers -- they had a bass. And man, was it loud. They call their sound punk/rock/black metal on their myspace page. I would categorize them more as heavily rhythmic noise rock, dense and unforgiving. Their music doth not swing, nor doth it intend to. Instead you're bludgeoned repeatedly by that friggin' bass and those women's shrill, mocking voices. They apparently just finished a new album recorded by Steve Revitte (Liars, Black Dice, The Double) to be released on 5 Rue Christine and headed to a music-store bin near year this summer.

Finally, up came N0 Things. I'm not going to get too detailed here as I intend to run down Ron Albertson via cell sometime this week for an interview for next week's column. Needless to say, for those wondering, Ron looks fine, though a bit tired (doesn't he always look tired?). The music blew me away. Like the best of The Liars' stuff, it's all about the rhythms and the rhythm section of Ron and bassist Pat Noecker, who converge in some sort of unholy, decadent Vulcan mindmeld of sound. The bass and drums power everything, while guitarist/vocalist Christian Dautresme keeps his head above the waves with a tingling guitar and his stark, nasal vocals (he may not be a walking monster like Angus Andrew, but he's certainly a better singer). The crowd (of maybe 40) dug it as did I, even calling them back for a one-song encore. Yeah, I like these guys more than The Liars first incarnation (and certainly more than the current version).

Tomorrow, the weekly column featuring 26 CD reviews -- 26! I'm going to get caught up with that Reviews Matrix if it's the last thing I do...

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N0 Things (ex-Mercy Rule, ex-Opium Taylor, ex-Liars) tonight... – April 4, 2006 –

A brief reminder that n0 Things are tonight at O'Leaver's with The Lepers at O'Leaver's. As I mentioned last week, n0 things is Ron Albertson's and Pat Noeker's new band. Ron (formerly of Mercy Rule) and Pat (formerly of Opium Taylor) were in The Liars for that band's first (and only listenable) album They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument On Top, released on Gern Blandsten. They were poised to be as big as the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs (and, in fact, had toured with the Yeahs). They quickly outgrew Gern Blandsten and signed to Mute. Then Pat and Ron unceremoniously left The Liars, a band that they formed. I've never gotten the straight scoop on what happened (maybe I will tonight). I assume the label thought that sideshow-freak frontman Angus Andrew was the driving force behind the band. Well, anyone who's heard the two Mute releases that followed know that isn't the case. Ron and Pat licked their wounds and formed n0 things in the spring of 2004 with singer/guitarist Christian Dautresme. Based on what I've heard on their Myspace page, their sound has evolved into something more dissonant and disturbing, though you can still dance to it. Show starts at 9:30 and is $5.

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Neil Young in Dundee; Death Cab tonight... – April 3, 2006 –

Another notable music-related event I attended this weekend was a screening of the new Neil Young film Heart of Gold at The Dundee Theater. It's worth checking out for Young fans, though it pales in comparison to his ultimate concert film, Rust Never Sleeps. Here we see a reflective Young performing a mostly acoustic set in Nashville sometime after an aneurysm scare that resulted in successful brain surgery. Backed by a band, strings, choir and a robotic, ghostly-looking Emmylou Harris, Young performs most of his new album, Prairie Wind, written just prior to his surgery. That influence, as well as the death of his father, adds weight to the proceedings. The concert is set up by brief interviews with longtime band members, then launches with a handful of Prairie Wind songs, most of which are forgettable. He then uncorks his usual chestnuts, further making the PW stuff pale in comparison. From a filmmaking perspective, Demme spends a lot of time on tight crops of Young's face (a la Silence of the Lambs) and wide shots of the stage. Not exactly exciting. The sound, on the otherhand, is amazing, especially in the Dundee Theater, which I've always thought had a superior sound system. See it while it's still here, cuz it'll be gone before you know it.

Tonight: The sold-out Death Cab for Cutie concert at Sokol Auditorium. Opening band, The Cribs, is (according to AMG) a British trio influenced by The Beatles with a couple albums out on Wichita Records. The last time I saw Death Cab there was maybe 300 downstairs at Sokol Underground -- it was packed, but not a sell-out (I think they've probably been through here since then). While I like their CDs, I've always thought their live show was somewhat lackluster. Now that they're "huge" I suspect they'll be bringing more to the stage than the usual stand-there-and-sing performance...

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Live review: The Cops, Race for Titles… – April 2, 2006 –

…and no Little Brazil. Seems the band played a show in Billings, Montana, Friday night and raced to cover the 900 miles back to Omaha in time for last night's show. They didn't count on the black sheets of rain that met them along the way on the Interstate, slowing them down to a 70-mile-per-hour crawl. As midnight rolled around, the band was still 40 miles away. So close and yet so far away. Could be a long wait until we get to see these guys again as they don't have any shows booked that I'm aware of. Then again, they could pop up at O'Leaver's in a moment's notice.

LB's labelmates The Cops did make it last night, along with around 200 other folks who were able to find a place to park near the crowded Sokol, where a sold-out Blue October show was going on upstairs in the main auditorium. That show -- and that band -- were the butt of a lot of jokes from stage, and who can blame them? You ever heard Blue October? Anyway, The Cops kept up their end of the deal last night, sounding pretty much like how they sound on their new CD -- a cross between The Clash and Rocket from the Crypt and a New York garage punk band. Extremely well played. Mike Jaworski looked at home strutting around stage in the frontman role and sounding like a modern-day Joe Strummer. I've got to hand it to them, they actually managed to get a few people dancing -- maybe a dozen or so right in front of the stage.

This was the first time I've seen Race for Titles with new drummer Matt Baum (ex-a dozen local bands including The '89 Cubs and Desaparecidos). No doubt he brought a different style to the mix than former drummer Matt Bowen -- a more throaty, muscular sound, leaner, more straightforward, more epic. Though the set was all new material (or so they said from stage) it still had that same RFT sound heavy on delay, dense with echo, and the same dry, wailing vocals that aren't so much about melody as they are about adding another layer to the moody, red-light vibe the band casts, reminiscent of shimmering '80s bands like The Church and (a less poppy, more moody version of) The Cure. Their best number was an ambitious, larger-than-life closer that would send the crowd home through a driving rain, wondering if Little Brazil's vanishing act was just another April Fool's Day prank...

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CYHSY, The Cops, n0 things, the weekend... – March 31, 2006 –

Lord knows I tried to line up an interview with Clap Your Hands, Say Yeah, but my requests went unreturned. Alas, my only experience with this band is seeing their performance on The Conan O'Brien show (It was gawdawful) and hearing their one track on the One Percent Productions website juke box -- not exactly earth shaking, hardly innovative, but it has a beat and you can dance to it. I get the feeling that the youth crowd that's eating these guys up have never heard New Order or The Feelies before. And I guess if you were 16 or 17 and grew up only on Omaha radio, you'd think they were groundbreaking. And you'd sell out their show weeks in advance, as this show has been. More interesting than CYHSY is opening band The Brunettes. If you missed it the first time, here's the review of Mars Loves Venus that I put on the site last July.

Tomorrow night, One Percent is doing three shows at the same time -- Three! Ah, but they hardly compete with each other (except, maybe for parking). Downstairs at Sokol Underground it's Little Brazil, Race for Titles, The Cops and Le Beat -- four hot bands for a mere $7. Starts at 9 p.m. Get there early. Meanwhile, upstairs at Sokol Auditorium, it's the glorious return of Blue October for a sold-out show. I've seen Blue October before. They're horrible. Their cheesy live performance is only eclipsed by their painfully bad CDs, released on Universal. That said, they've got a huge following thanks to lots of local radio support. So when you go down to see the good show tomorrow night, make sure to address your curses at The River when you can't find a parking space. Finally, at Duffy's in Lincoln Saturday night it's Tapes 'n' Tapes, Eagle*Seagull and Kite Pilot, all for a mere $5.

Duffy's is the place to be Sunday for a homecoming show of sorts -- former Lincolnites (now Brooklynites) Ron Albertson and Pat Noeker's new band n0 things are playing, along with Knife Skills and Ideal Cleaners. Ron (formerly of Mercy Rule) and Pat (formerly of Opium Taylor) also used to be the rhythm section of The Liars before they got screwed by the other half of that band. Check out their myspace account. If you miss them on Sunday, they'll also be playing at O'Leaver's with The Lepers on April 4.

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Column 70 -- Climbing Mt. Fuji – March 30, 2006 –

Seriously, you need to go see The Cops on Saturday night at Sokol Underground with labelmates Little Brazil and local heroes Race for Titles and Le Beat. Seriously.

Column 70: A Label of Love
Mt. Fuji Records' difficult climb.

Before we get started, if you haven't done it already, flip over to The Reader website and read Sarah Wilson's lovely profile of Mike Jaworski's band, The Cops (right here). We'll wait for you (*twiddles thumbs; patiently glances at his watch*).

Done reading? Good. Aren't you happy you did? Having lived for the past few months with The Cops' debut LP, Get Good or Stay Bad, I was eager to interview frontman Jaworski -- or just "Jaws" as he's known throughout the local music community. Not only about his band, but about his record label, Mt. Fuji.

Jaws started Mt. Fuji back in '02 for the same reason most musicians start labels -- to give his band at the time, Hello from Waveland, a platform to release their music. The label's name, by the way, is a shout-out to Jaworski's Omaha roots. "When I was in high school at Prep, I must have driven by the Mt. Fuji Inn a million times," he said. "I always thought that logo looked cool and exotic." He forgot to mention the restaurant's multi-colored libations, the quality of which I can attest to personally (though it's been too long since I've been to the Mai Tai Lounge).

The difference between Mt. Fuji and the run-of-the-mill vanity label is, of course, distribution. You can find Mt. Fuji records in stores all over the country, thanks to their deal with Redeye -- the same outfit that distributes records for labels like Yep Rock, Gern Blandsten, Flameshovel, Parasol and GSL. Landing a "distro deal" is the biggest hurdle for any new label, let alone one as small as Fuji, so how did Jaworski do it? He used the time-tested combination of booze and old-fashioned salesmanship.

"I knew the president of the company, Tor Hansen, from my record store connections," said Jaworski, who also works at Sonic Boom Records in Seattle. "I took him out, got him drunk and sold him on what we were doing."

One "sell point" was having the band Little Brazil on the roster. With LB comes ties to Saddle Creek Records in the form of frontman Landon Hedges' past service in The Good Life and Desaparecidos. "I also told him that every band I work with on the label is dedicated to touring. We want our bands on the road at least four months a year. It's the only way to create a fan base."

Touring is an absolute essential for any band that wants more than twice-monthly gigs at the local bar, Jaws said. "It's fun to knock around town and play music and sell CDs to your friends," he said. "But without touring, you have to be realistic about your goals. You aren't going to get 'discovered' though your Myspace account."

Little Brazil is living proof of Jaws' theory. Landon and company -- who have spent more time on the road than any other band on the roster -- also are the label's best sellers. Imagine how well recent Mt. Fuji recruit Slender Means will do once they start serious touring. They've already sold more than 1,000 copies of their debut in Seattle alone. LA band Wintergreen is the label's most recent signing. Jaws said their new EP, which came out on Mt. Fuji in January, was compared to Death Cab for Cutie and The Smiths in an upcoming issue of The Big Takeover.

Add The Cops to the list and you've got a solid little line-up for having been in operation for four years. But the operative word here is "little." Jaworski isn't interested in putting out records for the sake of putting out records. He's content with slow, steady growth -- maybe adding one band per year. "I want to keep it small and focused, and take sort of a communal approach," he said. "These bands are not only friends with one another, but believe in each other musically."

Sound familiar? Jaws points to Saddle Creek Records as a model for his label. And just like Creek, Mt. Fuji pulled its bands together last week in Austin for a couple showcases in conjunction with the South By Southwest music festival. But unlike Creek's showcase, Fuji's weren't "officially sanctioned" by the illustrious SXSW organization. Like dozens (maybe hundreds?) of other bands and labels, Jaworski bypassed the bureaucracy and organized his own day-long party at a lawn and garden shop called Big Red Sun, located off 6th St. A second Mt. Fuji showcase was held at The Longbranch Inn. Both were well-attended. "Sometimes the parties are better than the event -- you don't need a wrist-band to get in, there's no line, there's free beer, and the environment is more laid-back."

Sound like fun? Maybe, but for Jaworski the weekend was mostly work. Such is the life of an independent record label owner and musician who has yet to see the financial rewards for all his work. But he ain't complaining, at least not much.

"It's definitely a labor of love," he said. "I would like to see it become a profitable business. It's been funded by credit cards from day one. I don't recommend anyone start a label that way."

Which forces me to end this column with this cheesy line:

Guitar picks: $2.95
Used Econoline van: $2,000
Bail money for incarcerated band: $5,000
Living the life of a music mogul: Priceless


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A few internet tidbits... – March 28, 2006 –

Recently spotted on the web:

-- Drowned in Sound does a nice, long interview with Nik Zinner (a.k.a. Edward Sissorhands) of Yeah Yeah Yeahs (read it here), where Nik invents a new word. He's discussing the All Tomorrow's Parties festival, which the Yeahs were asked to curate a day, along with Devandra Banhart. The writer comments about the festival's performers. "DiS: What's ridiculous, really, is that any one of those bands could easily curate a day themselves, such is their level of recognition. Zinner: Yeah, absolutely. We have to leave on the Sunday, though, but I don't know that many people that he (Devandra Banhart) has selected. They're all beardos." Beardos!

-- Criteria get dissed roundly in this review in the MSU State News, with the headline Criteria Lags with Dark, Whiny Style. "To get right down to it: Criteria sounds like a bunch of suburban boys finding an alternative to working for 'The Man.'" Uh, isn't that the motivation for most bands these days? Notable for being one of the first outright negative review of the CD, which came out last year.

-- Speaking of Criteria, Aversion reports the boys had some van troubles (read it here). And they gave WWB 4 out of 5 stars (here).

-- Pop Matters has a super-long interview/profile with Two Gallants (read it here). Adam Stephens doesn't like his band compared to Dylan and The Beatles, which, of course, they sound nothing like in the first place. "Not only is it lazy journalism, I think it is uneducated journalism. Mentioning Bob Dylan or the Beatles in the context of modern music is redundant. Of course the influence is there. It's like pointing out Thomas Edison's influence on a well-lit room. The only reason people say it with us more often is because our songs might have a bit of content. But, we don't really like to describe our music with words either. Not like what we do is beyond description, but we just try to avoid the undertaking whenever possible. Whenever people describe bands, it's always a litany of other bands. Sometimes that works, and some might think it works with us. I don't. We just try to stay away from it altogether." Wonder what he thinks of my description: "...rousing ship-galley sea-shanty ballads on meth." Probably not much.

-- Personal writing hero/mentor/guru Robert Christgau has posted another in his series of Consumer Guide CD review round-ups (read it here). He likes the new Arctic Monkeys (They sound like not knowing the doorman, like moving on a girl you think isn't pretty enough, like missing the bus in a leather jacket that doesn't keep out the cold.), hates Editors (Someone should tell him about the Human League.). Editors, by the way, don't just rip off Interpol (who ripped off Joy Division) they mug them in broad daylight.

-- Finally, there's been enormous coverage of last week's 'Bring 'em Home Now' concert, and Bright Eyes is consistently singled out as one of the evening's highlights, including in this New York Times piece. "But as pure protest, a quintet version of Bright Eyes, the ever-changing band led by Conor Oberst, hit the hardest of the night." Strangely, the next day, NYT Creek cheerleader Kelefa Sannah filed this story, where he calls out Oberst: "...in one sense: Mr. Oberst's best political songs are full of ambivalence and confusion, not unshakable defiance." Make up your minds, dammit.

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Weekend Live Reviews round-up; Reggie and the Full Effect tonight – March 27, 2006 –

I generally try to get live reviews online the morning after the show, but I was pressed this weekend for other things and never had a chance. That said, I did go out both Friday and Saturday nights. Here's what happened:

Friday was Edith Frost/The Zincs down at Sokol Underground. What a disappointing turnout. I was one of around 40 people there. The Underground never seemed so empty. One guy I talked to wanted to leave because he was so embarrassed by the whole thing. Why wasn't this show at O'Leaver's? Maybe because the promoters understandably thought that bands of this quality would bring out throngs of Omaha music fans that can differentiate between good music and schlock (Note, Pomoroy was playing upstairs in the Auditorium). I guess they were wrong.

I missed the opener, McCarthy Trenching, but caught most of The Zincs' set -- very earthy, very moody rock with a frontman who's voice was low and smoky. It's the kind of band that you could imagine breaking through the indie-rock glass ceiling to bigger things. Very cool.

Then Edith was up. Backed by members of The Zincs, she uncorked a nice set of songs from her new album along with plenty of older material. Though generally twangier, her music reminds me a lot of Liz Phair, the difference being that Edith can actually sing. She didn't seem to mind playing to a mostly empty room. Maybe it was the lack of people or the distraction of the UConn game on TV at the bar, but I never locked into her performance, as good as it was.

Saturday night was Western Electric at O'Leaver's, along with The Pendrakes. Very packed house. O'Leaver's is now packed just about any night they have a band (but you have to keep that in perspective -- packed for O'Leaver's means 60 to 75 people -- the Edith Frost show would have seemed packed in there). I showed up just in time to catch the last couple of Pendrakes songs, which sounded like generic pop-punk to me. I need to see a whole set to make any judgments. Western Electric, fronted by Scott Roth (of Such Sweet Thunder fame) has only been playing together six months. You wouldn't have known it by listening to them. They had the presence and sound of a veteran rock band. Yeah, they're twangy... sort of. But their style is closer to classic chug-a-lug Americana bar stomp rock (think Anonymous American for comparisons). One guy in back said they reminded him of Jeff Tweedy. I didn't hear it. And while the band was amazingly tight, it was Roth that was impossible to ignore -- he has a '90s grunge croon that recalls Pearl Jam or the dozens of bands that aped Pearl Jam back then -- a style fans of Such Sweet Thunder will immediately recognize and remember. They played a long set for never having recorded a CD. Roth said they're currently in the process of recording some of their material, and to look for some more gigs in the near future.

Tonight, Reggie and the Full Effect with Fluxuation and Common Denominator at Sokol Underground. Reggie's on Vagrant. Used to be that was all you needed to say and you knew what you were in for. But now The Hold Steady is on Vagrant, and that's thrown everything out of whack. I guess now I have to say Reggie sounds like old-school Vagrant. You know what I mean. $12, 9 p.m.

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There's a hole outside my window; Edith Frost tonight; Western Electric Saturday – March 24, 2006 –

In the wake of The Faint news, I received a few comments from people who were just as surprised by the news that the Slowdown business/entertainment project was slated to begin construction this week. Well, looking outside my office window from 1400 Douglas I watched as a big steam-shovel-type piece of equipment dug a large hole in the southern portion of the Slowdown property. Construction has indeed begun. I was getting pretty worried there for awhile that barriers put up by various bureaucratic entities were going to quash the entire project. Can they race against the clock and get it finished by the end of the year or will another of my predictions for '06 become a reality? I'll keep you updated as construction progresses, and might even post a few snapshots.

The weekend starts off with a bang tonight as Edith Frost takes the Sokol Underground stage with The Zincs and McCarthy Trenching. I'm guessing last night's Two Gallants show was either a sell-out or damn close (I didn't go, so anyone with data, please post on the webboard posthaste). Tonight could be a different story. Frost has a rep for being a sad-sack singer/songwriter, yet the last time she came through, she most definitely brought the rock (think Throwing Muses/Belly). I've got a feeling tonight will be no different. The Zincs play cool, laid-back indie rock with a frontman who sounds like a cross between Nick Drake and David Bowie. And opener Dan McCartney has become one of the area's must-see singer-songwriters. A terrific show for $8. Starts at 9 p.m.

Tomorrow night brings the return of Scott Roth (Such Sweet Thunder) and his new band, Western Electric, at O'Leaver's. In addition to Roth, the band includes John and Jerry Stevens (Hanna's Porch, Gauge, Box, Hong Gyn Corp, Midwest Dilemma) and Scott Petersen (Four Corners). Roth described the new sound as "more electric than western, but there are some twangy elements that round out the sound." Veeery interesting. The Pendrakes are the openers. $5, 9 p.m.

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Edith Frost in the spotlight; Two Gallants, Pink Mountaintops tonight – March 23, 2006 –

Those looking for the story about The Faint possibly heading to American Recordings, scroll down or click here. Traffic to the site was mighty fierce yesterday. Obviously there's some interest out there.

This week's feature is an interview with the sad, sweet Edith Frost (read it here). As outlined in the story, Edith couldn't do the interview over the phone because her voice was shot. She asked for an e-mail Q&A, which I usually dread. Thankfully, she's very literate and liberal with her answers. The story talks about how her music directly relates to her (she says it don't), how she got started in the biz, her touring band and lots more. The version in this week's issue of The Reader is abbreviated -- I was asked to hack out 200 words to make it fit. But the fact is, I couldn't get everything into the unabridged version, either. Here are a few questions that didn't get covered in the story:

Lazy-i: I think your music is sad and beautiful, simple and honest, and your voice is gorgeous and very easy to fall for. Your songs remind me of Aimee Mann or Liz Phair. Do you think Liz sold out on her last couple albums? Would you consider doing that if the money was there?

Edith: I'm not Liz Phair, I wouldn't be able to follow her same path. I have no problem with what she's done with her career... it's not a way I would want to go myself exactly, but that's cool, we're both doing our thing and making the kind of music we want to make. As a formerly huge fan I'd rather see her out there and continuing to make music even if it's currently not my cuppa tea stylistically. There's always hope.

Lazy-I: Speaking of song writing, I read somewhere that you're suffering from writer's block, or that you're just having a difficult time writing new material. Is that true, and is it a cause of worry for you? Do you need a muse? Are you trying to put together a new album?

Edith: I don't know where you're reading these things. I write songs when I'm in songwriting mode; I'm not in that mode right now. Actually I am writing things down and coming up with some ideas but I'm not in any rush get them demo'ed. Right now I'm in *touring* mode, I'm promoting the album that just came out. I'm not going to worry about the next job until I'm done with this one... should be done with touring by summer so that's when I'll hopefully get crackin' on new demos.

Lazy-I: What do you think of Omaha?

Edith: I need to get to know 'er better I guess. I've never hung out there at all, just played a couple of shows, blew in and blew out... the audiences have always been really cool though, that's for sure! Good audience = good show, for me and for them.

And so on... Tonight at the Sokol Underground, the return of Two Gallants with Pink Mountaintops. Opening is jazz duo The Kevin Pike/John Kotchian. I suspect this will be a heavily attended show thanks to the combined powers of Saddle Creek and Jagjaguwar. And a thrifty ticket price of $8 -- a steal.

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Column 69: The Faint headed to American?; Rainer Maria, Scout Niblett tonight – March 22, 2006 –

Let me take a moment to reiterate my policy regarding rumors -- I don't print 'em. Now, a certain promoter in town does not agree with this assessment -- he calls me a "gossip columnist," which is fine since he doesn't know what I'm calling him behind his back (just kidding). Look, I hear more than my share of rumors on any given night at the bar, club or venue, but I don't publish any of them unless I get some sort of official verification about their truthfulness. At which case, it ain't a rumor no more. To a large part, I depend on people passing me information, and they do so with confidence that 1) I'm not going to reveal my sources unless they want to be revealed, and 2) I'm not going to print anything until someone is willing to verify the information "on the record." Consider it my own, personal Woodward & Bernstein clause. So when I heard rumors about The Faint leaving Saddle Creek five or six weeks ago, I sat on the story because no one would comment "on the record." Meanwhile, everyone short of the late Mayor Ed Zorinsky let me know all about it "on the down low."

Why has this rumor become so pervasive? I think because there's a tremendous amount of concern as to what it could mean to Saddle Creek and the Omaha music scene if it becomes a reality. The Faint, Cursive and Bright Eyes are the holy triumvirate that has made the label what it is today. There was a similar level of concern a few years ago when rumors began circulating that Cursive was breaking up (a deep throat fed me that tidbit weeks before it become public as well). Different bitter factions may snipe endlessly about how much they don't like the label or its bands, but at the end of the conversation, they always punctuate it with a statement like, "regardless, I admire what they've accomplished, it's been good for the Omaha music scene as a whole." Everyone wants Saddle Creek to succeed -- there's nothing but upside to their continued prosperity. So when word of a breakup or defection gets hung on the grapevine, brows furrow and anxiety ensues that perhaps a turnaround in Omaha's good fortune may be in the offing. If this becomes a reality and contracts are indeed signed, I see downside for some, upside for others and hope in the fact that The Faint are investing a lot of time and money in facilities right here in river city. The band is putting down roots even though they could live anywhere in the country that they wish.

Column 69 -- Not for The Faint of Heart
Is one of Saddle Creek's biggest bands flying the coop?

Omaha is a very small town. And once a rumor gets traction -- any traction -- there's no slowing it down. We are a species of gossips and information whores, constantly on the look-out for hot scoop (or poop, in some cases). Information isn't power in Omaha, information is the new smack that forces those locked in the music scene to stumble around for their next fix.

There was plenty of smack on the streets last weekend in the form of a rumor that The Faint, one of the holy triad of Saddle Creek Records' bands, is leaving their home-town label for greener pastures. Specifically pastures fed and watered by hip-hop guru and professional turn-around artist Rick Rubin.
I could not grab a beer at any bar without someone leaning in and whispering, "I've got a lu-lu. But you didn't hear it from me," then saying that The Faint are not only sniffing around, but have already signed a deal with American Recordings and are flying Rubin to Omaha in a silver dart to begin recording sessions post haste at The Faint's swank new rehearsal space.

It wasn't exactly fresh news. I had heard about it five weeks ago, maybe more. A well-connected deep throat sent me an e-mail with a single sentence: "The Faint are leaving Saddle Creek." It sounded like shit to me. The band has been solid all around with the label from day one; no one's held up the Saddle Creek banner higher. Whenever it came press time, the Baechle brothers were always first in line with a faithful quote. "Why would we leave when we got it so good here? You think we're stupid?"

But my source had never been wrong. Never. Every bit of info no matter how lame-brained always proved solid. Even when I thought it was pure cockamamie, asking around always came up diamonds. But this seemed too big.

I immediately asked Creek about the rumor, but got zilch back on the record. Weeks went by with nothing new from the grapevine. Deep Throat was swollen shut. Then out of the blue a week ago, I got another tip from a different source. Same story. More details. This time Rick Rubin was mentioned by name along with his record label, American Recordings, home of Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond and Slayer. By last weekend it was all over the streets; it was just a matter of time until I'd read it in the World-Herald, until it was old news.

Calls and e-mail to a member of The Faint went unreturned. No surprise there. So I tried Saddle Creek again, figuring label executives Robb Nansel and Jason Kulbel would be too busy schmoozing at South by Southwest to reply. Lo and behold, Nansel clarified the rumor. "They have not signed anything with American," he wrote in an e-mail. "Not sure if they will. They are still talking to them, but that is all at this point."

Nansel went on to write that Rubin has indeed expressed interest in working on the band's new record, "but I don't know that he ever expressed doing that in Omaha, let alone at their space."

What's in it for Saddle Creek? One story had it that negotiations were under way to compensate the label for its years of support, promotion, and all the other benefits. Apparently not.

"We are not negotiating any compensation with the band," Nansel wrote. "We have briefly discussed different ways we could/could not be involved with their future records (assuming they don't end up on Saddle Creek). (We) have not come to any agreement on whether we would be involved at all or not."

None of this can be a complete surprise to Nansel or anyone at the label. It's only a matter of time until one of their biggest acts leaves the nest. There are limits to the meaning of the word "loyalty" in the rock and roll business, especially when millions of dollars are at stake. The Faint have had offers before, but always turned them down. Something else must be driving this new level of interest beyond cash.

So, if it's all true, why isn't Nansel pissed? "The possibility of a band leaving has always been there," he wrote. "The bands will ultimately make a well-informed decision about what is in their best interest. We will support their decision regardless of what it is, and hope that all parties are satisfied at the end of the day. Certainly (we) would not be pissed."

But what would it mean if The Faint does leave the label? How would it financially impact Saddle Creek, especially during a time when so much of the label's money is tied up in a new, untried venture -- the Slowdown entertainment complex slated to begin construction this week just a couple blocks west of The Qwest Center? Nansel didn't say. Maybe it's too early to speculate. After all, Elvis hasn't left the building… yet.

Tonight begins a string of solid shows that runs through Saturday. Rainer Maria and Scout Niblett take the Sokol Underground stage with The End of the World. It's been awhile since Rainer's been through, while Scout is making Omaha a regular tour stop. Her act is definitely something to behold for its sure weirdness (check out the wig). $8, 9 p.m.

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A Quiet SXSW... – March 21, 2006 –

An afternoon update today because I was finishing a column about The Faint, which will go online tomorrow morning (and look for an Edith Frost interview/feature Thursday morning).

Not much news today, anyway. In the aftermath of SXSW, sounds like Saddle Creek's Two Gallants made an impression on the masses, at least according to this San Jose Mercury News item. The writer called the band "one of the most exciting and unique acts I've seen this week." Other than that item, coverage of Omaha-related bands at the event was all but nonexistent. On a side note, The AP filed an interesting interview with Barsuk's Josh Rosenfeld, where he talks about the value of the SXSW, underscoring what everyone knows -- no one goes to Austin to sign bands anymore. Those days are long gone.

Underground hip-hop acts P.O.S., Mac Lethal and Sims at Sokol Underground tonight. 9 p.m., $7.

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Live Review: The Protoculture – March 20, 2006 –

As expected, The Protoculture brought the faithful in droves to last night's show at O'Leaver's despite forecasts of snowy doom, a full house of 75 or so were there to see the legends. And the legends did not disappoint, playing six songs off their upcoming 7-song EP -- almost the whole catalogue of Protoculture tunes. All except "The Hit," as I warmly call their b-side single "My New Laugh," the only Protoculture song with a sing-a-long chorus. Where was it?

They started out nervous and a tad tentative, or so they sounded. By the midway point of their brief set, they were firing on all cylinders. Having never seen them perform before, I had no idea that drummer Koly Walter did most of the singing. He was in good voice, as was co-singer Erica Petersen-Hanton, opening the set with the new material and closing with three songs off the '97 singles that sounded as modern as anything you're going to hear on today's indie charts. The crowd, as you might expect, loved every minute of it. The young lad next to me said this was just the kind of band he would have worshipped had he been kicking around the scene back in the day. I kept turning to him, saying, "They're gonna play their hit next." But it never happened. Afterward I mentioned this to Walter, who said rather quizzically? "That song? That's just a B-side." Maybe so, but it's my favorite of their entire oeuvre. Maybe they'll play it when they open for The Stay Awake and The Bombardment Society at Sokol Underground sometime in April. I've waited seven years to hear "My New Laugh" live, I suppose I can wait a few more weeks.

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Live Review: Ladyfinger; The Protoculture amidst a blizzard… – March 19, 2006 –

So the big question is whether or not the Protoculture show is happening tonight. I just talked to the show promoter and he says it's on no matter what. The heavy stuff isn't supposed to start until later tonight -- probably right when the show is going on. It should make for some interesting driving. I'd skip it, but this is The Protoculture, and though they say they'll be playing again soon, who really knows for sure what our future holds?

Nice crowd last night for Ladyfinger and Mr. 1986 at Sokol Underground. My ears are still ringing. Frickin' loud. Ladyfinger was double-barrel hardcore heavy. Throw the bitch out the window mean, but cool like a serial killer up there on stage. Chris and the boys are anything but metal head rock freaks when it comes to stage presence. Machmuller just leans to the mike and does his thing while nonchalantly uncorking a hail of power chords. That's the irony of this band -- they seem like nice guys, but their music is some dark shit, black and negative, psycho angry, rattling around loud and scary like a box of smoking chainsaws. All that time spent recording has done something to this band. Obviously they sound tighter, but they also sound harder, almost weathered. The old songs from their first EP seemed compact and well-planned. The new ones are complete chaos, not as hook-laden as, say "Too Cool for School, " which, in comparison, sounds like a dance song. The groove is still there, it's just more subtle amidst the ensemble's raw power. Did I mention how loud it was?

I only caught three of Mr. 1986's songs seeing as I had to make it down to O'Leaver's to bid farewell to Reader music writer/editor Jeremy Schnitker, who's on his way to Chicago. Good luck in the Windy City, bro. '86 does what it does about as well as anyone could -- huge, cinematic songs that recall Mogwai and God Speed, repeated tonal instrumentals that can explode at any moment. The drums were otherworldly in size and scope, and made the whole thing work. I wonder, however, if what they're doing hasn't become somewhat dated, if they have room to take it a different direction or if they only want to play these throbbing, dynamic symphonies of noise...

If I hear any updates about tonight's show, I'll pass them along right here. Otherwise, I'll see you there...

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Erin Go Bragh goes the weekend… – March 17, 2006 –

Everyone knows St. Patrick's day is a lousy day for rock shows, right? Wrong wrong wrong. O'Leaver's is putting on a big bash tonight. For $5 or two cans of food you can get in to see Matt Whipkey, the Spring Hill Mind Disaster, Le Beat, Life After Laserdisque and The Terminals. I'm told this one starts earlier than usual, around 7 p.m. I've heard there will be a beer tent outside the venue (Seems kind of cold for that sort of thing, but then again, any escape from the O'Leaver's smoke hole would be a relief. I wish they had a beer tent set up all summer long so you could step outside with your beer when you wanted/needed to).

As for the rest of the weekend:

Saturday at Sokol Underground it's Mr. 1986, Ladyfinger and Reverso Benigni. I haven't seen 1986 since 2004. Here's what I said about that show:

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

Ladyfinger will likely be unveiling some new material from their recently recorded album which may or may not be on Saddle Creek Records. Opener is Lincoln experimental prog-rock instrumental trio Reverso Benigni. $7, 9 p.m.

Then Sunday night: Kite Pilot and The Protoculture at O'Leaver's. This is a landmark show for those of us who have always wanted to see The Protoculture play live but never had a chance to when they were kicking around in the late '90s. They expect that no one will show up. I think they're wrong.

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Column 68: A Jury of Statistics… – March 16, 2006 –

The scoop that people are really dying to know that's missing below: What about Lea? The last time I saw Denver before this encounter was on the stairwell of Sokol Underground, where he was so "occupied" with actress Lea Thompson that I didn't want to bother him to say see-ya-later. I mentioned this to him and he just smiled. Denver doesn't kiss and tell, apparently. He did say he's kept in touch with Thompson and Dave Foley -- both co-starring in the movie"Out of Omaha" along with local filmmaker Nik Fackler, which was shot here last October. "I'm still good friends with them," he said. "I'm sure I'll see them in L.A. Dave has a club he likes to go to where Jon Brion plays all the time." That would be Largo (between Melrose and Beverly Blvd.), where Brion plays every Friday night. Ah, the life of a star...

Column 68 -- Dilly Dalleying in Court
A chat with Juror No. 23

There are few things more dull in life than serving on jury duty. You get the letter in the mail. You show up at the appointed time. You sit in a cramped little room filled with the other unlucky few forced to give up two weeks of their lives for the right to vote and drive a car. It's the price you pay for liberty, I suppose. You do your time like a good citizen and if you're lucky, they won't call your number and force you to sit and listen to cheap-suit lawyers argue over whether their client had the right-of-way when the light turned yellow.

So there I was, Juror No. 73, stuck in stuffy Courtroom 20 in the Douglas Co. Courthouse, bored, absently listening as the names were called, when suddenly up walked Juror No. 23. "What is your name and occupation?" asked the bailiff.

I wanted him to say, "My name is Denver Dalley and I'm a ROCK STAR." Instead, the frontman to Omaha indie band Statistics and guitar player for Saddle Creek act Desaparecidos (a band on perpetual hiatus), merely said, "I'm Denver Dalley, and I'm a musician." Dalley sat quietly throughout the vior dire process, looking forlorn in his blue hooded wind-breaker. I don't know how he did it, but when it came time to appoint the final jury, his name was struck from the list and he left the jury box, relieved.

Dalley had arrived in Omaha the morning of the first day's jury proceedings, driving straight from his parents' home in Nashville, where he's been living for the past few months while working on a new recording project called Intramural. More on that later.

Maybe the most interesting news was that Dalley has left Jade Tree Records, the label that took him on in early 2003. The original deal called for releasing one record and two "optionals." With two records out, Denver wanted out of the third, and got out. "When I first signed, there was a lot of personal contact and excitement, then it got to the point where I barely heard from them," Dalley said during one of the few breaks during our court time. "It wasn't the same label that I signed to. I'm not trying to totally trash them, but I really didn't want to work with them anymore."

Jade Tree had been offered the Intramural project, but was confused at the concept, which involves Dalley and Nashville partner in crime Sam Shacklock writing and producing tracks that are then sent to other artists for vocal tracks. Upon hearing the initial instrumental tracks, Jade Tree thought the project sounded "unfinished" (Duh!). After they passed, he gave a copy to Slowdance Records label executive Ezra Caraeff. "He immediately heard the potential," Dalley said. "He was stoked."

Shacklock is the son of Abbey Roads Studio producer Alan Shacklock, who's worked with the likes of Roger Daltrey, Jeff Beck and Meatloaf. "When he was doing sessions over there he got a number of outtakes that enabled us to get all these amazing drum samples and string sounds from the London Symphony Orchestra," Dalley said.

But more impressive is the list of artists supplying vocals, including The Long Winters, Minipop, Slender Means, The Pale Pacific, Men Women and Children, Brand New, The Evening Episode, and last but not least, Greg Dulli (Twilight Singers, Afghan Whigs).

While in town, Dalley is working with local filmmakers Nik Fackler and Aaron Gum to develop videos for each song on the album. The final product may be used for an Intramural tour. After he moves to Los Angeles in the coming weeks, Dalley said he plans to ask Dulli if he can film him playing piano at a local dive bar. Very cool… if it happens.

With all but one song mixed, the only thing left is mastering. Dalley said he's shooting for an August release date, which would be followed by an Intramural tour featuring him, Shacklock and a yet-to-be-named drummer. "We'd all be running around doing different things, playing keyboards and playing guitars and stuff," Dalley said.

So what's going on with Statistics? "I'm taking time off, but will come back eventually," Dalley said. "I want to record the next album entirely on my own and take as much time as I need. Right now I'm focused on this new project. I was determined to not tour for a while, but my UK booker really wants me to come over in September."

It was European tours that got Dalley out of two other requests for jury duty. He said he couldn't avoid serving any longer. By the end of our second day, however, it was all over. Neither Juror 23 nor 73 was ever called, and both were excused. I know I can speak for Dalley when I say how proud we are to have performed our civic duty.

God bless America.

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Pink Mountaintops aren't high; The Nein tonight… – March 15, 2006 –

Strange little interview with Pink Mountaintops just went online (read it here). Frontman Steve McBean talks about how drugs aren't an end to a means when it comes to their music, which sounds like drug music to the uninitiated. Very little of the interview didn't make the story except for our disjointed discussion about living in Canada (He doesn't see a diff between the US and his homeland, especially along the West Coast), his take on Two Gallants, which they'll be touring with ("I haven't met them yet. I'm looking forward to seeing them live.") and Omaha ("I've never been there before. I've been to Lincoln. I love the Nebraska plains, I've driven through there a lot."). Our cell connection made the Top-5 Worst Ever list. I could barely hear what he was saying. The technology just ain't there yet, people, that's why I don't carry a cell phone.

A last-minute show tonight at O'Leaver's -- The Nein (former members of The White Octave) are dropping in to do a set. They came through here almost exactly a year ago (March 12 to be exact). Here's what I said about that performance:

The Nein is The White Octave without Criteria's Stephen Pedersen (who was in the audience cheering on his former comrades). With a new CD out on Sonic Unyon, the band carried itself like seasoned indie rock veterans, playing tunes that sounded like typical angular indie rock with a hook. The lead singer/guitarist has a voice that (when you could hear it in the poor mix) was reminiscent of a young, gritty Elvis Costello -- a comparison that will seem out of the blue for these guys who would probably prefer to be compared to the usual suspects (Gang of Four, Pixies, etc.). Their music, of course, sounded nothing like Costello's. Overall, I guess I liked it, though we've all heard these songs before in one form or another. I think if they pulled it back they'd be better for it. That said, the CD is a keeper and worth finding.

No idea who's opening. $5, 9 p.m.

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Live Review: Slender Means, Landing on the Moon… – March 14, 2006 –

Some notes from last night's show at O'Leaver's…

Slender Means is a hard band to put your finger on. The five-piece from Seattle features a solid rhythm section and a frontman with a voice that's just this side of Morrissey, but ballsier, more masculine, almost brassy. A good voice. Almost too good for the relatively straight-up adult-sounding pop music that they play. The guy next to me (who knows more about music than I ever will) said they reminded him of Greg Kihn or The Plimsoles or Graham Parker. They reminded me of Semisonic or Jonathan Richman, but not really. The only similarity to those bands is their ability to make smooth, balanced pop music. In fact, if they have a flaw it's that, other than the frontman's sonorous voice (and the sweet harmony vocals), nothing stands out about them. Sure, they're first-rate musicians, but their songs lack a certain distinction that makes them stand out from the crowd. Does that really matter? Probably not to most people. But in this world where there seems to be 2 million bands with myspace accounts, having a quality that's obvious and distinguishable is a must. Slender Means is a good band in search of an identity, and when they find it, look out.

When it comes to identity, Landing on the Moon has it in spades -- three vocalists including an intense woman keyboard player, a dynamic over-the-top drummer and a bigger-than-life guitarist who wears his soul on his sleeve. They take chances with styles and dynamics, merging sprawling, poignant album rock with modern, quirky, post-rock tendencies. Whether you like them or not (and certainly those looking for standard-ish jangle-pop indie probably won't), you have to admire their bravado in playing a style of music -- with honesty and determination -- that no other bands are even attempting around here.

By the way, you would never have thought it was a Monday night at O'Leaver's. The place was packed like a Saturday night. Something's going on around here, as last weekend seems to indicate. Everyone's talking about Saturday night, where there were five shows/events simultaneously -- Jenny Lewis at the Scottish Rite, Criteria at Sokol Underground, RFT at The 49'r, The Terminals at O'Leaver's and The Groundhog Prom (wherever that was) -- and all were either sell-outs or capacity-only events. It was a landmark weekend, and after a break for St. Paddy's day, the following weekend should be just as busy. We live in a music town, folks. Forget about Austin.

Tomorrow, here, Pink Mountaintops.

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Slender Means tonight... – March 13, 2006 –

A long weekend of shows isn't over yet. If you haven't tuned into the site for the past few days, scroll down and check out a couple live reviews. I didn't make it to the Of Montreal show last night unfortunately. If you were there, let us know how it was on the board. Too many deadlines, including for a piece on Pink Mountaintops (online Wednesday) and a column with a judicial slant involving Denver Dalley (online Thursday). It's always something...

Tonight at O'Leaver's, Slender Means with Landing on the Moon and Le Beat. Slender Means records on Mt. Fuji Records, the Seattle label owned and operated by Omaha native Mike Jaworski, whose bands also include Little Brazil, Jaworski's own The Cops, and recent signing, LA-based Wintergreen. SXSW-ers can check out the roster at a couple showcase events around Austin next weekend. Details are on the Mt. Fuji site. Tonight's show: 9:30, $5.

Also tonight, for all y'all on the hip-hop tip, a member of the Wu Tang clan is in the house. Ghostface Killah will be on the mike down at Sokol Underground with M-1 of Dead Prez and Omaha's own Surreal the MC. $20, 9 p.m.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to my brackets... what do you got for Kentucky/UAB?

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Live Review: Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins; Of Montreal tonight... – March 12, 2006 –

One of the reasons I went to the Jenny Lewis show last night was to get a gander at the Scottish Rite Hall where the concert was held. I'd heard it was nice, but come on… it's really nice. It's downright gorgeous. And the bathrooms! It could become Omaha's version of Lawrence's Liberty Hall, except that it's a lot smaller. To think I've been driving past that place for years never knowing that there was a old-fashioned theater stage inside. Anyway… we got there early and took a pair of seat in the balcony, foregoing the main floor. I'm happy we did, but more on that later.

The show started rather unremarkably with opening act Whispertown 2000. The LA-based four-piece are pals of Lewis', having released a split single with her. Yikes, they were horrible. The band consisted of frontwoman/guitarist Morgan Nagler, a wedding-dressed tambourine shaker/harmony vocalist, a bass player and a guy on electric guitar. Nagler's voice is sort of Ricki Lee Jones-esque when it isn't completely off pitch. When Miss Wedding Dress joined in on harmonies, dogs from a five-mile radius could be heard howling in pain and fear. Particularly cringe-worthy was a butchering of Gillian Welch's "Look at Miss Ohio" and an a cappella number where the guys snapped fingers alongside the girls -- real high school talent-show stuff. Ah, but the crowd loved 'em… maybe because they were so cute, unsophisticated and obviously lacking in talent.

After that low-point, however, things took a decided turn for the better with Jonathan Rice. I guarantee that in five years you'll be seeing this guy on one of the late-night chat shows, and turn to whoever is lying next to you and say, "I saw that guy when he was just a kid open for Jenny Lewis" (Rilo Kiley having long been broken up). He reminded me of a young Jackson Browne, but without the broken-hearted lyrics. With acoustic guitar in hand and accompanied by a guy on pedal steel, Rice played a quiet, upbeat set that included a sing-a-long and a cover of Neva Dinova's "Poison" from the Neva/Bright Eyes split EP. In addition to being musically talented, Rice is quick-witted, with some funny between-song patter.

Then came the headliners -- Lewis and the Watson Twins. What to say about those twins… they're kind of creepy and kitschy, with their matching black cocktail dresses, '70s-era feathered LA hairstyles and mirrored do-what-I-do poses, it felt like something out of a David Lynch movie. There's no denying their vocal talents, they brought a whole new layer of sound to the ensemble, which included Rice, his pedal-steel player (doubling on keyboards), a bass player and Rilo Kiley's Jason Boesel on drums. I only wish the twins had been used more during the set. They spent most of their time standing side-by-side with their arms behind their backs, or adding bits of percussion (one song featured the two of them tapping rocks together).

The set began with the band on stage and Lewis and the twins entering from stage right singing "Run Devil Run" before launching into "The Big Guns." And here's where I'll add that note about the Scottish Rite Hall -- there is a wide space between the stage and the first row of chairs where about 50 people sat on the floor during the first two performances. About 30 seconds into Lewis' first song, the crowd rushed the stage -- everyone stood up and was joined by about 50 others. I couldn't tell from my seat in the balcony, but I assume everyone on the main floor (or at least most of the first few rows) stood up for the entire set, as there would be nothing to see seated except for a lot of blue-jeaned asses. Hey, this is a rock show -- what did they expect?

Lewis' entire set was twangier than her album (which, to me, sounds borderline Azure Ray). With those twins out front, the whole thing had a revival-tent flair, helped along by a crowd that was eager to testify. I half-way expected the twins to yell "Praise Him!" between songs. Lewis' voice has always been first-rate, like listening to an indie version of Loretta or Patsy. "Rise Up With Fists!!!," with its classic Van Morrison-style chorus, was made to be played your local Smooth FM radio station, and probably will wind up there eventually. The main set ended with a Boesel drum solo (this is the second drum solo I've heard at an indie show in a month, let's hope this isn't the beginning of a trend). Lewis came back out a few minutes later and did a solo number before being joined by the twins for another a cappella song and finally the whole band for one song. All in all, a nice set by one of tomorrow's radio stars. If she isn't already, Lewis is bound to become the biggest act on Oberst's Team Love label (besides Bright Eyes, of course), and could spur another C&W revival among the indie set -- God help us all.

Tonight at Sokol Underground -- Of Montreal. I was afraid that this show was being overlooked, but the promoters tell me that ticket sales have been brisk. With only one opening band, it could even be a early evening. $10, 9 p.m.

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Live Review: Ester Drang; Jenny Lewis, Criteria tonight... – March 11, 2006 –

Weak draw last night for Ester Drang. I guess I shouldn't be surprised. With a weekend full of shows, people have to pick and choose carefully, and something has to lose. So there I was with about 30 people watching one of the better sets I've seen down at Sokol in quite a while. Ester Drang managed to do something that few bands do well. They used electronics to replicate the strings and horns on their CD in a way that didn't sound cheesy or made-up. The mix blended the prerecorded orchestra tracks via Powerbook seamlessly with the live musicians, which included one guy who switched between keyboards and guitar throughout songs without missing a beat. The result was a lush, earthy, atmospheric sound that would make any Radiohead, Coldplay or Roxy Music fan nod in appreciation. The other thing they pulled off was effectively using AV equipment. How many times have you seen bands project video on a whitescreen during their performance only to distract or confuse the audience? Not with these guys, probably because a band with this much cinematic flair in their music has to live, eat and breathe the movies. Their footage appeared to be entirely drawn from film -- not digitally created on the Mac. All black-and-white, the images subtly supported every nuance heard on stage. The genius moment was when they used footage from High Noon -- cropped scenes of a self-conscious Gary Cooper looking stern and unafraid -- to enhance their spiraling, dustbowl epic "Hooker with a Heart of Gold." Inspired. Though they sounded remarkable, the four-piece didn't look like they were having a very good time up there, never once cracking a smile. Or maybe that's just their style.

Tonight: Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins at The Scottish Rite Hall. This is a sold-out, general admission "sit-down" show, and I'm told that if you, in fact, want to get a seat you better get there relatively early or else you'll be forced to stand in a small area in front of the stage (which, to be honest with you, sounds like the place I'd want to be anyway). Parking could be a challenge as the Omaha Press Club is having their annual grid-iron show at The Rose tonight. There should be a parking garage open nearby if you can't find a place to park on the street. The hall is located at 202 S. 20th St. (20th & Douglas). The show starts at 8 p.m. and is sold out. So for those who didn't get tickets, keep driving south to Sokol Underground where Criteria is playing tonight with Thunderbirds Are Now! and Rahim. $7. And I forgot to mention yesterday that there's also a show at O'Leaver's tonight: The Terminals and The Blind Shake. For whatever reason, the O'Leaver's myspace site says this one starts at 8 p.m. (The usual start time is 9:30).

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Omaha's SXSW weekend; Ester Drang tonight... – March 10, 2006 –

Yeah, I know, the music part of South by Southwest doesn't really begin until next Wednesday (though the film part begins today). In all my years, I've never been to the festival, not because it was too expensive (which it is) or because it interferes with my "real job" (which it does, though I's gets vacation too, massa). The reason I've never gone is because it sounds like such a hassle -- waiting to get into the clubs only to miss the act you wanted to see, then dashing down 6th St. to the next club so you can get into the queue to get inside. And so on. I'm sure it's more fun than that. What I've never understood, though, is people who go all the way to SXSW and then watch either Omaha/Lincoln bands or touring bands that come through here all the time. What's the point of that? (I know, I know... you're lending support in their time of need...).

Anyway, it's becoming a tradition that the weekend before SXSW brings some of the best shows to Omaha as the bands make their way to Austin. This year is no exception. We have four solid nights of good shows right here in river city.

It starts tonight with Ester Drang, The Minus Story and GO! Motion at Sokol Underground. You've already read about Ester Drang (here). Lawrence's The Minus Story came through Omaha last November. Here's what I said about that show:

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).

I have no idea who GO! Motion is. $8, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, there's a four-band bill tonight at O'Leaver's featuring Omaha's Latitude Longitude, Denver's The Photo Atlas, Billings Montana's 1090 Club and Jake Bellows of Neva Dinova/Cocoon fame. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Saturday night brings some big decisions:

-- Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins are performing at The Scottish Rites Hall with Jonathan Rice and Whispertown 2000. This show is SOLD OUT.
-- Meanwhile, down at Sokol Underground, Criteria takes the stage (on their way to SXSW) along with Thunderbirds Are Now! and Rahim. NYC trio Rahim are on French Kiss Records (home of The Hold Steady, Les Savy Fav, etc.). I've been listening to their new release, Ideal Lives, for a few weeks. Reminds me of laid-back Gang of Four, sort of. Very cool. $7, 9 p.m.

Sunday night, decisions are geographic in nature:

-- At Sokol Underground, it's the return of Of Montreal with Saturday Looks Good to Me. Not much buzz about this show, probably because it's been overshadowed by everything else going on this weekend. $10, 9 p.m.
-- Meanwhile, at Duffy's in Lincoln, you have The Heavenly States with The Floating Opera and Hockey Night. The Heavenly States just played O'Leaver's last October. Here's what I said about that show:

Oakland's The Heavenly States, an upbeat 4-piece ensemble that prominently features violin on most songs, were 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.

If you're in Lincoln, don't miss this show. 9 p.m. $5 (cheap!).

We're not done yet. Because Monday night there's a great show at O'Leaver's. Seattle's Slender Means takes the stage with Landing on the Moon and Le Beat. Slender Means records on Mt. Fuji (home of Little Brazil and The Cops) and sports a laid-back indie vibe and a lead singer with a smooth set of pipes. $5, 9 p.m.

After writing all that, I'm almost too exhausted to go out! Look for live reviews online this weekend.

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Column 67 -- The Return of The Protoculture... – March 9, 2006 –

The timing is a bit askew on this week's column. The Protoculture show is not this Sunday, but a week from this Sunday -- March 19 at O'Leaver's, with Kite Pilot. I didn't see any reason to sit on this story for a week, however. The only thing missing from the column is a description of the band's new material. The original Protoculture recordings are intricate little marvels of post-punk pop. The new stuff, of which I was lucky enough to hear a rough mix, is much more dense sounding even though it's the same three-piece we all know and love. Track "Formerly a Feeling" has a guitar sound reminiscent of Mercy Rule. "Airplanes and Fireflies" features Erica Petersen-Hanton on vocals and is poppier than any other Protoculture song I've heard (very near Kite Pilot territory). Final track, "The Brightest Twilight," is closest to the old Protoculture sound. It all rocks, of course, as does the mysterious never-released fifth track from the Whoop Ass sessions. The band has no clue as to how they're going to put this out. "I can't see someone locally putting out something by us," said drummer Koly Walter, adding that the CD is a "one-time thing. Saddle Creek wouldn't be interested. We're not a Speed! Nebraska-type band. (Dave) Goldberg started a new label, but we're not really their thing, either." That means the CD will likely be available (eventually) as a self-released CDR type deal with no distribution outside of their gigs. A shame, because I think there's an audience out there for this music. The Protoculture really is a revelation in that they combine the best qualities of math- and post-punk with a true pop sensibility (and you can dance it, too). Though the proposed compilation CD may be a one-off, the band's performance a week from Sunday isn't. The Protoculture plans to continue performing together into the foreseeable future. Walter said both The Stay Awake and Chicago's Head of Femur have voiced interest in playing with them.

Column 67: My New Laugh
The Protoculture are back

It was 1997 or '98, I don't remember which, but it was definitely one of those times when Omaha's music scene was curving downward oh so slightly. A number of good bands had broken up or simply quit. Nothing interesting seemed on the horizon. Not yet.

So I made my usual trek down to the Antiquarium to see Dave Sink. I could always count on Dave to load me up with hope in the form of amazing records that I wouldn't have heard otherwise. It was Dave that introduced me to Mousetrap. It was Dave that explained Simon Joyner. It was Dave that slid a copy of his Frontier Trust 7-inch into my record pile.

Things were different this time around, though. Dave didn't have much to recommend. "It all sounds like crap to me," he said, clearly uninspired by the latest efforts, be they from Omaha or points far away. "Except for this."

He handed me a 7-inch with a black and white sleeve by a band called The Protoculture. "You may want to check these guys out," he said. And so, I took the record home and played it. And played it and played it.

The single, "Driving a Stolen Car on a Borrowed Road" b/w "My New Laugh" was a revelation. The sound combined the ominous detached pop of early Talking Heads with the tense, post-hardcore posture of Fugazi and the volatile dissonance of Polvo. At the chorus (if you can call it that) three angry voices screamed "My new laugh will kill your smile." Pure genius.

I was writing about music for one publication or other at the time, and realized I'd found the next band that I wanted to write about. So I called Dave, asking how I could get in touch with The Protoculture. "You're too late," he said. "They're done."

I never got to see them play live. And from the sound of it, not too many others did, either. But that's about to change. The original line-up of Clayton Petersen, guitars/vocals; little sister Erica Petersen, bass/vocals, and Koly Walter, drums/vocals, are at it again. Last weekend I finally got my interview with the band over coffee at The Blue Line. I had my copy of the 7-inch in hand, and told them what a poppy, angsty, angular masterpiece it was. They just smiled.

One of the reasons The Protoculture called it quits in the summer of '98 was that they weren't feeling the love, from anyone. "We never realized people actually liked us," Walter said. "We had shows at The Cog Factory and we played with The Faint at Sokol, and no one showed up, maybe because when we moved to Omaha, we didn't know anyone."

The band formed in '96 in Kearney, where all three attended college. They moved to Omaha a year later and tried to establish themselves playing with bands like Bright Eyes, Opium Taylor and Simon Joyner. In the end, though, they never drew a following. A year later, and it was over. Clayton got married and wound up working as a financial analyst at First National Bank, where he is today. Walter said after the breakup he spent months in solitude, working at M.J. Java and reading Russian novels until he landed a gig at McMillan Magnet school doing what he still does today -- teaching 7th Grade World Cultures. Erica also fell into seclusion. Turning down an offer to join The Faint, she focused on playing guitar and performing music solo. She eventually joined Son, Ambulance, and later, formed Kite Pilot with the guy who would become her husband, Todd Hanton.

And that would have been the end of the story, except that in the middle of their brief two-year history The Protoculture got together with A.J. Mogis at Whoop Ass Studio in Lincoln and recorded five songs. Two would end up on that single I bought from Dave Sink, followed a few months later by another self-released single, "Cloud Named Girl" b/w "Condescendence."

A copy of the first single found its way on Clayton's kids' Fisher-Price record player. "The kids would play the record and sing along to 'My New Laugh,' and I started thinking about those old songs and how we needed to write the final chapter," he said. "I figured we're all here in Omaha. Why not?"

Erica had the same idea, and the two began bombarding Walter with emails at McMillan. Last November they began practicing in Erica's basement. "It all came back with surprising ease," Clayton said.

So did the songwriting. In January, the band recorded three new songs in Erica's basement with husband Todd behind the board. The plan calls for releasing the new material, along with tracks from the two singles and the fifth unreleased song from the Whoop Ass sessions.

And on March 19 at O'Leaver's, after waiting for eight years, I'll finally get to see The Protoculture perform live. I won't be alone. In their absence, the band has become something of a legend among local music followers. I tell them this and can see by the look on their faces that they're not buying it. "At least our parents will be there," Clayton said, "and my wife."

Oh my, are they in for a surprise….

One final addendum to this column. I asked the band what was their biggest exposure they received the first time 'round. They only played maybe a dozen shows locally, including an opening slot for Simon Joyner at a gig held in a rehearsal space inside The Rose Theater. "John Peel played our single on his radio show," Walter said. "Dave Sink acquired a recording of it from someone he knew in Sweden."

"Peel said something like 'With a clever title like this (Driving a Stolen Car on a Borrowed Road) it better be good,'" Clayton said.

"People called in to hear it again," Walter added, "So he played the song once more on his show. It was nice to know that someone somewhere liked it."

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Ester Drang's cinematic approach; Anathallo tonight... – March 8, 2006 –

Online here now, a new interview with Ester Drang's James McAlister (read it here). James talks about the band's lush, orchestrated sound, being on Jade Tree, the band's near-fatal van accident, and the live show they're bringing to Sokol Underground this Friday night. There was little from the interview left out of the story. Interestingly, Ester Drang is constantly touted for being from Oklahoma, even by the band itself -- they still call themselves a Tulsa band -- when in fact they've lived in Seattle for a while now. McAlister said there's probably more of a San Francisco influence to their new album than Tulsa considering most of it was recorded there at Tiny Telephone studios. The Oklahoma thing, he said, is a reporter's hook... sound familiar? I will be surprised if the band can pull off their lush sound live as well as McAlister says they will.

The same can be said for the 7-piece Anathallo, which plays tonight at O'Leaver's. I'm listening to Floating World, their latest on Nettwerk, as I type this -- it's big, with tons of keyboards and horns, very theatrical, reminds me a bit of Sufjan Stevens what with its hand claps, foot stomps and multiple harmonies. This could be a very cool show. Get there early. The beautiful acoustic splendor of Lincoln's Tie These Hands (here's their myspace) is opening. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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Where's the update?... – March 7, 2006 –

Sorry for the lack of an update yesterday, I was busy writing an interview with Ester Drang, that'll be online tomorrow, and a column on The Protoculture, that'll be online Thursday. On top of that, I also got a nasty head cold. And on top of that, I have jury duty this week. What other disasters can befall me? I probably wouldn't have written an update yesterday anyway since I didn't have anything to write about. With The Crud slowly creeping over me, I didn't go to any shows last weekend. I hope to god this pestilence has passed by later this week, when we'll all be swallowed up in a tidal wave of shows. Now if you'll excuse me, I have an appointment with a judge... I sure hope they let me listen to my iPod in there...

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Live Review: Nada Surf, Rogue Wave; the weekend (or what there is of it)... – March 3, 2006 –

The hand-scribbled message on the paper lying next to the cash register said it all: SOLD OUT. As in the room was at capacity. As in as soon as I said my hellos and turned the counter I was met with a wall of humanity. I didn't realize how popular these bands were. I guess a lot of people watch The O.C. Let me start by throwing some roses before I pick up a turd. Rogue Wave was impressive, much better than when I saw them back in January of '05, back when they were just another one of those bands riding the retro tip along with The Shins and New Pornographers and the various Elephant Six projects. They don't sound anything like that anymore (I confess to not having heard their most recent album). They seemed to have evolved into Death Cab for Cutie, but with denser, more haunting (and more interesting) arrangements, not at all what I was expecting.

And maybe it's the fact that I haven't been down to Sokol in a long time -- my ears seemingly having adjusted to the meager PA at O'Leaver's -- but the sound last night was just plain terrific, as good as I've ever heard in that smokey basement. Give credit to the sound guy, but give credit to the bands whose performances were clearly were honed and ready to make the most out of what they had (Christ, the drums from both bands were thunderous). Between sets the roadies set up large parabolic mirrors on stage -- five of them -- just like the ones used in grocery stores and convenient marts to keep an eye on shoplifters. The huge round mirrors mounted on stands were pointed at the crowd and made for an interesting visual (What is it about mirrors that make a room look bigger?). And so, with the stage set and after a prolonged (20 minutes?) break between bands, on came Nada Surf, and what can I say? They sounded good, I guess, but ultimately, well, kind of boring. I like The Weight Is a Gift, their new album, but live, for whatever reason (maybe I just wasn't in the mood; maybe it lacked the record's earnest dynamics), it felt flat. All's I could think of was how much they reminded me of those bands I remembered from the '90s -- bands like Goo Goo Dolls and Soul Asylum and Trip Shakespeare and Matchbox Twenty and maybe, most of all, Gin Blossoms. Don't get me wrong, they were doing what they do as well as they could (though the guitar parts seemed empty, evidence of the overdubs they must have used on their albums to compensate), I just got the feeling I'd heard it before, probably on the radio circa 1995, or on a television commercial circa now.

Moving on…

The weekend's looking a might-bit thin. Tonight, O'Leaver's has folk-rock outfit Goodbye Sunday and The Pendrakes. $5, 9:30 p.m. (Why not?). And that's…it. Nothing stands out for Saturday or Sunday. And maybe that's okay, because next week there are multiple worthy shows every night. Get some sleep, save your money. You'll need it.

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Live Review: Voxtrot, Kite Pilot; Nada Surf tonight... – March 2, 2006 –

Plead as they may, Voxtrot couldn't get them to come on up and dance last night at O'Leaver's. Had nothing to do with the music, which was certainly made for dancing -- poppy and loose, their arrangements were deceptively simple for a five-piece. If you closed your eyes you'd think you were listening to a trio, but there was a second guitarist tucked in the back and a guy that played keyboards here and there. Occasionally bands define themselves by the cover songs they play, or how they play them. Last night Voxtrot covered Talking Heads' "Heaven," a laid-back, shimmering, hangover track that throbs with the same hazy angst felt while driving home alone after a late-night party, one of my favorite Heads' tracks. Voxtrot reinvented it as a peppy back-beat pogo song, kicky and fun-loving house-dance fare. Lite. A perfect analogy for all their music -- hopeful love songs with snappy-patter percussion and shuffle rhythm guitar. Lots of smiles. Fun indie pop that means no harm. Simple. Nothing wrong with that.

Kite Pilot opened sounding as good as ever, though I noticed less trumpet during last night's set. Trumpeter/keyboardist Todd Hanton said that was by design. Fact is, he can't play keyboards and trumpet at the same time. Regardless, he came through with the brass on the back-half of the set, and the band finished with a new song that pop-pop-popped as well as anything from their records. A new guitar player even joined them on a couple songs. No idea if he's a permanent addition or not. If you're kicking yourself for missing them last night, don't worry. They're playing at O'Leaver's again March 19 with The Protoculture (yes, that Protoculture). More on that show in the coming weeks.

Tonight: Nada Surf at Sokol Underground. This should be a good one. NS drummer Ira Elliot said expect to hear most of The Weight Is a Gift as well as songs from their first two albums. "It's a pretty straight-up rock show," he said. "It's been running an hour and a half to two hours long. We cover lots of ground." Two hours? That's arena rock-show length. A lot of people will be there just to see their tour mates, Rogue Wave. Other opener Inara George (daughter of Little Feat's Lowell George) sounds exactly like Suzanne Vega (who I adore). It's gonna be a long night. $12, 9 p.m.

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Column 66 -- The art of going it alone; Voxtrot/Kite Pilot tonight... – March 1, 2006 –

A brief addendum on this week's column: I did know a number of people at the show in question, but they were sitting down, already busy talking to their friends and certainly didn't need to be bothered by me (I'm not a butt-in-er.) The 49'r is a notorious party bar if you're a regular. I'm not. I rarely go there. I do go to Sokol and O'Leaver's all the time, and as a result, I know people at those bars and feel comfortable going to them by myself. But it didn't start out that way.

Column 66: Being Alone Together
The art of flying solo.

I was trying to put my finger on why I don't like going to shows at The 49'r and finally figured it out last weekend.

I swung by at around 11 p.m. Saturday night to catch Past Punchy and the Present -- the band I wrote about here last week -- but they started early and I was too late and I only caught the last couple songs of their set (which I dug, by the way. Seek out this band whenever it pops its head out of its rabbit hole). A few minutes after they finished their set, I turned around and left. Total time at the Niner (after paying $5 cover and $5 for beer (with tip)) -- 15 minutes. No, there's nothing wrong with The Niner per se -- in fact, I'm quite fond of the bar. The staff is first-rate, their PA has never sounded better, the vibe is laidback and fun. No, it's something else, something ridiculous.

Look, I knew when I started listening to indie music 20 years ago that going to shows was going to be a problem. The genre is underground by its very nature. Friends who I grew up with listening to Zeppelin and Floyd aren't interested in seeing bands they've never heard on the radio. And though my girlfriend likes indie music (almost) as much as I do, she's physically incapable of staying awake past 11 o'clock (especially on school nights), effectively taking her out of the equation since most indie rock shows don't start until 10. Add it all together and it meant that I had to get used to going to shows alone. It wasn't easy.

There are three activities (not including those defined in the bible as "sins") that just seem strange doing by yourself: Attending movies, eating at fine restaurants, and going to rock shows. Call it the "Loser Syndrome," most people have deep-seated insecurities about being seen at social events without companionship. No one wants to be thought of as being friendless. But chances are, if you love indie music, indie films or adventurous dining, you're gonna have to get over it or suffer a future of cheesy cover bands, knife-kill horror flicks and flavorless chain-restaurant dining.

Let's start with the movies. You want to see "Transamerica" or "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" or Film Streams' indie movie of the week at The Joslyn. Your friends want to see "Date Movie" or "Saw VII" or whatever piece of shit Julia Roberts is starring in this week. It's a dilemma; because you're never going to talk them into seeing "your movie." You either go alone or wait for it to come out on NetFlix. You're better off just showing up at the theater about five minutes after the start time and taking a seat in the back. If you've never gone to the movies by yourself, it's pretty weird the first time. But once the film starts, you quickly realize that it doesn't matter if you're with someone or not -- you're inside the film's world now. And when the lights come up afterward, you'll wonder why you ever cared about going alone in the first place.

Movies are easy. Dining alone, well, that's another story. The Food Channel is creating a culture of "foodies" who want something more than the usual prefabricated pound o' flesh served at the neighborhood Chili's or Appleby's or The Outback (where, for whatever reason, everything must be smothered in cheese). Good luck, however, getting your crew to eat at, say, an Indian restaurant or -- god forbid -- Thai. Everyone remembers the "Table for One" scene from Steve Martin's "The Lonely Guy" where, once seated alone, the restaurant falls silent and a spotlight blares on Martin as a team of waiters clears the other three settings off the four-topper. His solution: Pretend to be a food critic on assignment. My solution: Forget about dinner and go to your restaurant-of-choice at lunchtime, when you'll be surrounded by a sea of one-toppers. An added bonus: Entrées will cost about a third less.

OK, so what about rock shows.

Is there a comfortable way to go see a band by yourself without feeling like a dork? The task is daunting, but it can be done. Sokol Underground is so dark that once you get in and get your beer no one will see you. Most people at O'Leaver's are so drunk that they can't see anything at all. And just like at the movies, no one notices anything after the band starts. There's really nothing to be afraid of.

It's between sets that can be weird. At Sokol you can hang out in the back; at O'Leaver's, just turn your attention to whatever game's on the television sets. But the Niner, well, there's simply no place to hide. Just like the guy at the party who doesn't know anyone, no matter what you do you're gonna feel like a freak as you stand in everyone's way waiting for the next band to start.

That leaves you with two options: You can do what I did and just turn around and leave like a wuss, or you can just stand there and wait uncomfortably until the next band starts.

Actually, there's a third choice. You could -- god forbid -- actually talk to someone -- preferably someone else who looks as uncomfortable as you. Suddenly, you know someone else at the show. And then another, and another. And before you know it, you're a full-fledged scenester!

On second thought, maybe you should just go home.

Tonight at O'Leavers, Voxtrot and Kite Pilot. Voxtrot came through here in August (actually, I think they've been back once since). Here's what I said about that show:
By contrast, the six-piece Voxtrot was a tight, slightly retro pop-rock explosion. The guy next to me said they sounded like a straight-up Elephant 6 band. I can see that. They reminded me more of fellow Austin band Spoon, what with their handclaps and keyboard, though you could argue that Voxtrot's music is even poppier. The key to their success is the rhythm section -- a ridiculously tight drummer who cracked the whip as well as anyone I've heard at O'Leaver's (and that includes the guy from The Silos). The set was slow out of the gate, with flaccid, overcomplicated songs, but as the night wore on, their music got simpler, and better, creating a tight core between the vocalist, keyboards and rhythm section (by the way, the bassist played a bass that looked exactly like the one Paul McCartney played and everyone seemed to notice -- he also had McCartney's hair circa 1964). Before long, there were about a half-dozen hipsters dancing in front of the band (sizable, when you consider only about 40 were there to begin with). By the end of the night, Voxtrot won over the tiny crowd, and I can see why they've been selling out shows on this tour.

Kite Pilot consistenly puts on a great show, and tonight should be no different. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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Happy Mardi Gras; brief live review of Past Punchy... – Feb. 28, 2006 –

This being a pseudo drinking holiday, you'd expect at least a few shows going on tonight. Nada. I guess Omaha started lent a little early this year. The rest of the week is dominated with shows: Voxtrot and Kite Pilot tomorrow; Nada Surf on Thursday (the weekend, on the other hand, is looking a might bit thin).

Those who might be wondering, I did go to the Past Punchy and the Present show Saturday night at The 49'r. My quick exit will be discussed ad nauseum in this week's column, which will be online either tomorrow or Thursday, depending on the amount of news worth passing on (No feature article this week, drat it). Suffice to say, what little I saw of Past Punchy was revelatory. I missed almost their entire set. Unsure of when the band was supposed to go on, I took a shot in the dark and missed, only catching the last two songs. Thornton Will was seated behind the trap set wearing a New York Yankees stocking cap (apparently it was stocking cap night, as Kyle Harvey and Alex McManus also wore them) while Thornton Bob was right out front in a suit. An apparently exhausted Reagan Roeder played seated on one of the steps. These guys make a big messy noise that is undeniably catchy. In a certain way, the ensemble had the same