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The Blog Archive -- July 2006 to Dec. 14, 2006 -- Go to lazyhome for most-current entries

Column 105 -- Hanging with the cool kids; Ambulette, Little Brazil, Artsy Golfer tonight... – Dec. 14, 2006 –

I had four people read this column before it went to press and got back four different viewpoints on the topic. Most thought Adam was right when he said fashion -- or what a performer looks like -- plays a central role in who gets "in" and who doesn't. Where's all this fashion that everyone's talking about. Do they mean the high-end fashion as presented by the bands on Saddle Creek Records? You ever see Oberst or Kasher perform? They are the epitome of non-fashion. Oberst always looks like he's rolled on stage wearing whatever he wore all day -- usually a long-sleeved shirt or a hoodie that was picked up at a thrift store. Kasher? Same thing. The Faint, on the other hand, could be construed as a fashion band. But, geeze, any other Creek band consists of a lot of guys that look like they slept in their clothes and haven't combed their hair before. Do you really think fashion played a role in Creek signing Ladyfinger or Eric Bachmann or Neva Dinova? Does anyone really think that the guys behind One Percent Productions consider how a band looks before booking them? Come on, folks...

Now, does a band have to be a friend of a friend of a friend of the One Percent guys to get their attention? Wouldn't hurt, but it ultimately doesn't matter as long as 1) your music is good, and/or 2) you can draw a crowd to your shows. If you have those attributes and you want to play on one of their shows, it's probably just a matter of time. Quality has a way of floating to the top. If you build it, they will come, so to speak...

Column 105: Hanging with the Cool Kids
Adam Weaver wants in.


This column is the result of a reader who took seriously my prodding to send in column ideas. Musician Adam Weaver wants to know:


"What does it mean to locally 'make it' in the Omaha music scene? I'm not talking about a record deal or anything, but at what point can you call a local artist an established and respected local artist? When you play Sokol? When you open for a nationally recognized and respected act? When you play a One Percent (Productions) show? When you're featured in The Reader?


"And further," the letter continued, "how does a band here in Omaha get legitimized without the blessing of One Percent, given that they're pretty much the only show in town? Is it even possible? And if you don't know any of the indie king-makers in town, and they don't return your e-mails, what are your options as far as trying to get yourself heard?"


Good questions -- questions that lots of bands have thought about over the years, but have never had the cojones to vocalize on the record. Weaver obviously feels like he's been locked out of a scene with which he personally identifies, whether anyone else does or not.


A native of Gulf Port, Mississippi, Weaver moved to Omaha three-and-a-half years ago to pursue an internship for his graduate degree in psychology. He planned on moving to Nashville after graduation to connect with some music friends there. Instead, he's still here, trying to land gigs at Sokol Underground and O'Leaver's, with little luck.


I already know what you're thinking: "Maybe, Adam, if you were any good you'd get the attention you deserve." Not this time. After listening to Places We Were, Places We're Not, the new CD by Weaver and his band, The Ghosts, it's obvious that quality isn't the issue. The disc is a collection of well-crafted -- if somewhat somber -- acoustic singer-songwriter stuff. In fact, it may be a bit too well-crafted. Produced over two sessions in a Nashville studio, the recording is slick, and Weaver's voice is quite good. He doesn't have the usual characteristic indie quirks -- he doesn't sing off-key, he doesn't bray, he doesn't shriek as if in pain. Weaver's voice is radio-friendly. In fact, it's downright mainstream. And that's always been an unspoken no-no in the indie world.


Yes, you read that right -- if your music sounds too well-produced or too "smooth," it could very well be discounted by the indie set as being commercial, and hence, uncool. But that's really not what differentiates indie music from what you hear on the radio.


Weaver, who wanted to make perfectly clear his comments aren't sour grapes, clarified his viewpoint over the phone Sunday afternoon. He believes the line of music legitimacy in Omaha is drawn by Marc Leibowitz and Jim Johnson, the duo who book shows at venues around town under the One Percent Productions moniker.


"You can only go so far without getting them involved," Weaver said. "I'm sure they didn't get into this thinking, 'We're the guys that can make or break a band in this town.' They try to promote the music they like. I'm not trying to give them a bad rap, but I can't pretend that they don't exist, either."

Weaver also says that a band's friends, political views and what they wear helps define them as "one of the cool kids."


"Music is way down on the list as to how bands in that scene are identified," he said. "There are bands that aren't 'One Percent bands' that are just as good musically, but don't get the attention or opportunities that those bands get."


This is where Weaver and I part ways. I don't think a dress code or a friendship network defines Omaha's indie scene -- not anymore. And certainly the scene isn't defined by One Percent Productions, who are just as quick to book a teen-angst screamo-metal goon band as a Creek band if it means putting butts in seats. They are businessmen, after all.


There is, however, an indefinable quality that characterizes our indie music scene. I wish I could tell Adam what it is. All's I know is I know it when I see it (or hear it). I'm not sure why Weaver feels that he needs to be part of that scene, anyway. We're living in new times, when an affiliation to Saddle Creek no longer is a prerequisite for local or national success. Just ask Eagle*Seagull or Emphatic or Little Brazil.


"What is indie? Is it a sound or a frame of mind or a business model?" Weaver asked. "To me, a good song writer is a good song writer, whether you're cool or not. If anything, my band has a hard time identifying if we're indie or folk or pop or cool. I guess it doesn't really matter. If you have good songs, you'll always get your foot in the door."


Adam, I think you answered your own question.

Tonight at Sokol Underground, Ambulette with Little Brazil and Artsy Golfer. Ambulette is Maura Davis (Pinebender), Stephen Howard (Pinebender), Matt Clark (Pinebender, White/Light, Joan of Arc), and Ryan Rapsys (Euphone, Heroic Doses) sounding like, to me, like Bettie Serveert meets a guitar-driven version of Metric. Little Brazil likely will be unveiling a number of songs from their upcoming album, slated for release on Mt. Fuji early next year. Artsy Golfer looks like a conglomeration of personnel from a ton of Omaha bands. According to their myspace page, the band consists of "Droot, Fox, Lew and Tan." Come out early tonight and figure out what that means (I'm stuck on Tan). 9 p.m., $8.

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The Year-end Blues, A Eux Autres X-mas, The Grammy's... – Dec. 13, 2006 –

-- Not much today. Seems like every "year in review" list is due this week, which puts me behind desperately trying to remember what music was good this year. It was, in fact, an off year for indie (and music in general). What's it all mean? To find out you'll have to wait for the annual Lazy-i Year in Review story, which will go online next week.

-- Former Omahans now Portlandites Eux Autres wrote to say that they've got a new Christmas song online that warmly reminisces about coming home for the holidays. The track is significant in that, unlike 99 percent of holiday songs by rock bands, this one is actually pretty good. Called "Another Christmas at Home," one can only imagine that the line referring to a tavern "where the Champaign's on tap" refers to The Homy Inn, where Cold Duck has flowed like an unbreakable urine stream for as long as I remember. You can check out the mp3 file here, or go to their Myspace page.

-- Did you realize that the Grammy nominations were announced last Thursday? Does anyone care anymore? Glancing at the list, I can see reason for apathy. Just take a look at that "Album of the Year" category: Dixie Chicks (will win), Gnarls Barkley (should win), John Mayer, Red Hot Chili Peppers (someone, please, put these guys out of the misery), and Justin Timberlake -- uninspiring to say the least, but what else is new? In the "Best Alternative Music Album" category you got Arctic Monkeys (flash in the pans), The Flaming Lips (getting old, real old), Gnarls Barkley (hipster favorites), Yeah Yeah Yeahs (weak followup to their debut), and Thom Yorke (*yawn*). What are these supposed to be alternatives to? Remember when The Grammy's meant something to someone other than music retailers?

-- What else? Lots of shows the rest of the week, starting tomorrow with Little Brazil, then Bright Eyes, two Terminals performances and two Faint concerts. I should be exhausted by Monday. Look here tomorrow for this week's column, where courageous singer-songwriter Adam Weaver asks: "What does it mean to locally 'make it' in the Omaha music scene?" Oh boy...

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Live Review: Danny Pound Band, 4th of July; The Faint SOLD OUT... – Dec. 12, 2006 –

Catching up with the weekend, a few over 50 were on hand for 4th of July/Danny Pound Band at The Saddle Creek Bar Saturday night. 4th of July, a 6-piece who, along with DPB, are from Lawrence, played a ballsy set of roots rock that reminded me of The Reivers (sort of). They'll be opening for The Faint Sunday night along with Tilly & the Wall, which should be an interesting clash of styles. The band includes Adrianne Verhoeven of Art Bell (Orenda Fink's new band... connect the dots), though I was surprised that she mostly sang harmonies, leaving the vocal heavy lifting to frontman Brendan Hangauer. Danny Pound announced from stage that it was his 33rd birthday (after midnight) and was treated to shots and beers and a nice round of applause. DPB is a straight-forward roots rock band (is that what we call alt country these days?) with distinctive indie overtones fueled by Pound's muscular songwriting chops. Clever lyrics, clever melodies, laid-back style, very cool indeed. Unfortunately, there was no reprise of early Vitreous Humor material -- I guess Danny didn't read the article! (just kidding). The always-changing sound system at SCB continues to improve. Whatever problems they had with the vocals in the PA seem to be fixed -- no more tinty hollow sound. Regardless, owner Mike Coldeway says he and his sound guy will continue to tweak the system, adding some new equipment before the big Good Life show there Dec. 21. Bottom line -- no matter what they do there's going to be someone who complains about their sound, just like there have been complaints about The 49'r and O'Leaver's PAs for as long as I can remember. Only Sokol Underground goes unscathed (and deservedly so).

Speaking of The Faint, both shows this weekend are now sold out, according to the One Percent Productions website. Scanning through the Internweb, I found this here review of their Dec. 2 show at The Showbox in Seattle. I had no idea that the tour was being sponsored by Camel cigarettes. From the review: "It's Saturday night at the Showbox and the whole place has been turned into a showroom for Camel cigarettes. They missed the memo about the smoking ban and have redecorated with glowing backlit signs, stand-up displays with freebies, and projections on the wall complete with requisite warnings from the Surgeon General. In the upstairs bar, the seating area has been transformed to a V.I.P. lounge with walls of LCD televisions broadcasting sexy scenes of the joys of smoking." Wonder if we'll get the same treatment at Sokol Auditorium. In addition to The Faint's usual sexy aerobics soundtrack, expect to hear at least four new songs from their upcoming follow-up to 2004's Wet from Birth, including "The Geeks Were Right," a performance of which has found its way onto YouTube (check it out here).

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Live Review: The Who, The Pretenders; the weekend ahead... – Dec. 8, 2006 –

There's one thing to be said about arena concerts. They're punctual. The Pretenders started right at the stroke of 7:30, just like it said on the ticket. We shouldered our way through the crowd trying to find our seats as The Pretenders dug in with opener "The Wait." I really need to learn how to buy tickets to Qwest shows. I thought we would be sitting along the edge of the first balcony, plenty high over the crowd, looking down over the stage. Instead, the 75-year-old usher pointed us to the very bottom row, essentially a step up from the floor seats. I hate floor seats because people stand up the entire time, which means you have to stand up, too. And since our seats were basically floor seats, that meant we'd have to stand up all night, or at least for The Who portion of the show.

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

The Prentenders played for just under an hour and did no encore. When the lights came up I finally got a look at the crowd. Just about every seat was filled (the upper tier had been curtained off), and I realized I was in the presence of the hippy culture. Not the lazy slobs and college kids who drive around the country following Phish or Widespread Panic -- these were real hippies, the original hippies, the pot-baked, acid-caked youth of the '60s who remember listening to "I Can See for Miles" while driving to a commune in a peace-sign-festooned VW Microbus. Those peace signs are long gone now, replaced with tacky yellow ribbon car magnets; the microbuses replaced with Lexi. The hippies have been transformed into bankers and principals and aging soccer coaches that would look just as home at a Bluejays home game. Sure, there were a few of them who had kept up their hippy charisma, but somewhere along the way, hippy chic had turned into biker chic, complete with leather vests and Sturgis T-shirts. Then there was the infirm. This might be the first concert I've been to where paramedics rushed an aged fan away in a wheel chair while an old lady with an eye-patch looked on, concerned. Unlike the typical indie show, we were easily among the youngest 20 percent of the audience. Nice!

And so, at around 8, The Who finally took the stage -- and what an elaborate stage it was. Like any typical arena show these days, huge screens were placed above the stage to allow fans in the back to get a good look at Roger Daltrey's bloated, sweaty face. Roger struggled the entire evening. After the first song, my partner in crime turned to me and said, "He sounds horrible," but I knew he hadn't lost his pipes because he sounded fine on their new record (though they can do wonders in the studio these days). It was after the fourth song that Pete Townshend told the crowd that Roger was suffering with a horrible cold, but "would do his best to get through it."

"It'll better as we go," Roger said.

But it never really did. You could hear the layers of mucus in Daltrey's throat bubble up in a hoarse cackle during the first line of every song. High notes were completely out of the question, as were Daltrey's signature screams (though he managed to pull one off during the peak of "Baba O'Riley"). Meanwhile, Townshend never looked, sounded or performed better. He may be one of the more under-appreciated guitarists in rock history, especially considering what I saw last night -- just some amazing stuff, complete with his trademark windmill riffing.

It's no surprise that the crowd preferred hearing the old classics vs. songs off Endless Wire. The band knew this, though they played just about every song off the record, including a rushed, medley version of "Wire & Glass," the CD's "mini-opera." The crowd was respectful, if patient, often sitting down during unfamiliar songs, only to stand up again when they heard the chiming opening chords of another classic. It's easy to forget just how big The Who's repertoire is until you consider the songs that they didn't play over the course of the two-hour concert. Among the missing were "Squeeze Box," "Magic Bus," "Long Live Rock," and "I Can See for Miles." But all the really big ones were there, "My Generation," "Behind Blue Eyes," "You Better You Bet," "Eminence Front," "Who Are You," "Won't Get Fooled Again," "My Generation," and opener "I Can't Explain." Throughout the set, five large movable screens presented a variety of edgy support graphics. Sometimes they were set up in an unbroken chain end-to-end to providing pano-like images. Other times they were broken up, each showing a different image, while the large screens above the stage focused on Daltrey or Townshend or the rest of the band, which, by the way, was pretty good. I'm sure die-hard fans think Entwhistle is irreplaceable, but Pino Palladino did just fine. The drummer, Ringo Starr's son Zak Starkey, however, was no Keith Moon, (though he wore a striped T-shirt just like Keith's). And though Who concerts are legendary for being ultra LOUD, this one wasn't. Ear plugs seemed unnecessary. Maybe the band (and especially Townscend) realize that the crowd has out-grown teeth-rattling performances.

After about an hour and a half, the band left the stage, only to return for an encore that included a medley of songs from Tommy, Daltrey gasping to get through "Pinball Wizard," while Townshend absolutely shined on a raucous version of "Underture" that was the night's highlight. It was definitely worth the price of admission, though I couldn't help but wonder how much better it would have been had Daltrey been in better shape…

* * *

The weekend's looking this way:

-- Tonight at O'Leaver's, Darren Keen takes the stage with Talkin Mountain and Family Unit. $5, 9:30 p.m.

-- Saturday night is Danny Pound Band with 4th of July at The Saddle Creek Bar. $5, 9 p.m. Meanwhile, down at O'Leaver's its Outlaw Con Bandana with Black Squirrels and Kickass Tarantulas.

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Danny Pound talks Vitreous Humor; The Who tonight... – Dec. 7, 2006 –

This story will get the usual feature treatment (photos, etc.) later. Since I'm press for time, I figured I'd just drop it in the blog for now. I saw Danny Pound when he played at O'Leaver's last September and was surprised at the number of people in the crowd who remembered Vitreous Humor. Pound was surprised to hear that as well, and couldn't really figure out why that old band had so many fans up north. I bought the aforementioned single down at The Antiquarium back then, and perhaps that's how the band got such good circulation. I know that Dave Sink was a big fan of Zoom, another Lawrence band that was around during that same era. Zoom was, indeed, amazing. I still vividly remember when they played at The Capitol Bar downtown (did Mousetrap open?), it was like watching an intense math-rock orchestra, each guitarist (I think there were three?) side by side by side tensely concentrating, watching each other, watching for the breaks, focused, the epitome of intricate post-punk. Zoom put out a couple albums, but the one that got around was Helium Octipede, released on the Tim Kerr label in 1994, produced by Greg Sage of The Wipers. Though the recording seemed excessively muddy to me, the songs were all there. Zoom was short-lived. I don't think they ever came back to Omaha, and as Pound says, I don't think Vitreous Humor ever made it here once, though The Regrets played here a couple times. Anyway, The Danny Pound Band plays with 4th of July (Adrianne Verhoeven of Art Bell), this Saturday at The Saddle Creek Bar. Showtime is 9 p.m. Admission is $5.

Less Humor Per Pound
Danny Pound's brief glance at Vitreous Humor.

You can't blame Danny Pound for not being eager to talk about his old band, Vitreous Humor.

After all, they haven't been around for over a decade, and his new band, aptly called The Danny Pound Band, sounds nothing like them. Still, there's more than a few followers of Omaha's mid-'90s punk-rock golden age that remembers Vitreous Humor and their grungy, post-punk sound heard on the classic 1993 7-inch, Harbor. The three-song single featured a teen-aged Pound warbling the words to "Bu-Dah," the single's catchy B-side that went "In the shithole where we live / Something's living in the cellar / Keeps us all awake at night / Smells like cooking blood." Remember it now? Probably not. Still, the song managed to make it onto a lot of mix tapes from that era.

Pound appreciates the memory, but said few people recall his former band around his hometown of Lawrence, Kansas. "Some younger kids look up to Vitreous Humor as one of the old-timey, classic Lawrence rock bands," he said, "but no one ever comes up and asks about it."

The story of Vitreous Humor is a rather short one. The Harbor single was followed two years later by a 7-song self-titled EP. Posthumous, a collection of unreleased tracks, outtakes and live cuts, was released on Crank! Records in '98, well after the band already had called it quits and moved onto Pound's next project, The Regrets.

A decade later and Pound has left Vitreous Humor's jangle-grunge behind in favor of a more grown-up, sophisticated sound born out of his fondness for mid-20th century folk and blues.

"After The Regrets broke up, I discovered Harry Smith's Smithsonian Folkways recordings, began listening a lot of blues and pulled out The Basement Tapes," Pound said.

The result was The Danny Pound Band's 2005 debut on Lawrence label Remedy Records, Surer Days, a collection of tuneful alt-country rockers that sounded like a cross between Centro-Matic and The Silos.

But even that style was short-lived. Since its release, Pound and his band -- bassist Jeremy Sidener (ex-Zoom -- another classic '90s Lawrence band), guitarist David Swenson, and drummer Ken Pingleton (who replaced former drummer Dan Benson, who also was in Vitreous Humor) -- have moved in a whole different direction, creating music that recalls '70s-era So Cal groove rock. The band's as-yet-unnamed follow-up to Surer Days was recorded at Black Lodge Studios in Eudora, Kansas, and is slated for release on Remedy Records sometime in the near future.

"You couldn't call our new record rootsy. It's more of an electric rock record," Pound said. "I get bored quickly. I'm always trying to find new things to do."

As for Vitreous Humor, Pound said he doesn't understand why the memory of that band continues to live on in places like Omaha and Milwaukee -- another city with more than its share of that band's fans. "It must be a Midwest thing," he said. "We never toured very much. I don't think we even played in Omaha as Vitreous Humor."

While he acknowledges that the band could have influenced someone, Pound is hardly proud of those early recordings. "I'm not offended by that era, but it doesn't give me great pleasure to listen to that music," he said before immediately correcting himself. "I take that back. Some of it was interesting, if a bit too earnest. I know there are those who liked it, and there's nothing wrong with that."

Tonight, of course, is The Who at The Qwest Center. According to the tickets, the show starts at 7:30 and to my knowledge, The Pretenders are the only opening band. If someone hears otherwise, let me know on the webboard. Look for a review sometime tomorrow morning.

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Column 104 -- Defending The Who... – Dec. 6, 2006 –

Day after tomorrow, folks. Plenty of tickets still available.

Column 104: They're Still The Who
And why they're still cool after all these years…

This is an actual conversation had, oh, a few months ago down at Sokol Underground while waiting for bands between sets, leaning on the bar, killing time. Use whatever nasal inflection you feel is appropriate to voice me or the "Pretentious Troll." Perhaps try to act this out with a friend while you wait for your coffee at The Blue Line.

Me: Well I got my tickets to The Who concert Dec. 7. I'm pretty psyched. The Pretenders are opening, too.

Pretentious Troll: Are you fucking stupid? You're going to The Who? Talk about lame. It's not even the real Who.

Me: Well, it's Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey, right? (I fumble for my receipt to make sure I haven't been duped into buying tickets to a tribute band called The What or The How).

Pretentious Troll: Man, I saw The Who when Entwhistle was still alive, and even then it wasn't the real Who. The real Who died with Keith. I wouldn't go if it was free. Those guys shouldn't be allowed to perform -- they're too old! As an indie music fan, I'm surprised you're even going -- The Who are sell outs!

I didn't have an answer for the little putz. He may have even been right, but it didn't matter.

I want to see The Who. They've been on my list, along with Yo La Tengo (who I saw at Sokol in October), Silkworm (who I'll never get a chance to see now) and Red House Painters for as long as I could remember.

The Who was my first punk-rock band. They were the ultimate outsiders that were allowed inside simply on the strength of their music. The Beatles might be the good-guy geniuses, the Rolling Stones the bad-boy working men, but the Who, well, they never seemed to fit into any category, even after their music was embraced by the masses.

To me, they were weird and different. Even at their height, when Tommy came out (in the theaters of course, I wasn't old enough to remember when the record was released) The Who were like some sort of super-intelligent alien wunderkind. They were the smartest kids in class who dressed funny and came up with all the interesting ideas that no one "got," then everyone copied. Their music told a story beyond the same old girlfriend-boyfriend-car-drugs-booze rock drama. They wrote about rebellion years before the snarky Sex Pistols came along and made fun of them.

And as saccharine-flavored as this sounds, some of my fondest memories are of listening to "Won't Get Fooled Again," "Behind Blue Eyes" and "Baba O'Riley" on my Spark-o-matic tape deck while roaring along Fort Calhoun's dirt roads in my rusty piece o' shit VW. It was years before those same songs became bastardized in car commercials and TV shows like CSI. Back when The Who were still cool.

They're still cool today. Their new album, Endless Wire, is a serious head-trip. It's a stereophonic thrill ride that isn't afraid to take chances. Some of them work. Some of them don't (yet). But it's never boring, and sonically, it's a quantum leap above the usual low-fi made-it-myself indie jangle-pap that I've been listening to for the past 20 years. There's a sense of real craftsmanship to Endless Wire that demands that you listen to it on a proper stereo or with a decent set of headphones and not -- god forbid -- on your computer.

I don't know what else to say. The Troll is right. Half the band is dead. But half the band is alive, too. And judging from what I've seen and heard, they still know how to pull off an arena concert. And they're coming to Omaha -- something I never thought I'd see or hear. So excited was I when the show was announced, I threw down some cash and joined The Who Fan Club just to get in on the ticket pre-sale. Now it turns out that I probably wasted my money since, as of this writing, the concert is unlikely to sell out.

Maybe that isn't such a bad thing. Maybe all those people who usually go to arena shows -- the ones who boo when the band plays a new song instead of one of their golden chestnuts, the ones who don't even like music and are merely trying to relive some unfortunate moment from their youth -- will stay home and leave the Qwest Center to the rest of us.

And for all you Pretentious Trolls who are reading this -- and laughing -- remember that all your cherished indie bands got their ideas somewhere. The more adventurous ones were inspired by bands like The Who, bands that will be here long after the current fads fade away.

Townsend did a series of e-mail interviews in support of this show, including one conducted by The Reader's super-talented assistant managing editor Tessa Jeffers that'll be in this week's issue. Do not miss it. And don't miss this show. They'll likely never be back this way again.

Tomorrow, The Danny Pound Band's Danny Pound talks about The Danny Pound Band and whatever happened to Vitreous Humor. Fanboys of the Omaha/Lawrence golden days of '90s indie post-punk take note. Anyone remember Zoom?

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Live Review: Robot, Creep Closer; Lemonheads tonight; Slowdown photo update... – Dec. 4, 2006 –

Three days after the fact, here are my thoughts on Robot, Creep Closer at The Saddle Creek Bar Friday night: Obviously these guys grew up listening to The Pixies, and conversely to the band famous for ripping off The Pixies, Nirvana (though there weren't many noticeable Cobain-isms). That means there were a lot of chug-a-lug bass lines ripped to shreds by powerchords, lots of quiet/loud/quiet architecture, and the usual pop-rock touches. Missing was the weirdness that The Pixies brought to everything they did -- even listening to their albums, you never knew where they were going next. RCC, on the other hand, is purposely predictable, probably as a product of trying to be a crowd-pleasing punk band. You may win friends that way, but not idiot critics who have heard this sort of thing before. Glancing back, that sentence sounds a bit harsh, and might leave you thinking I didn't like these guys. I did, they were okay, I just wish they'd go out on the limb a little more, take a few more curious turns, take a few chances. They certainly have the instrumental chops to go wherever they want. They even had a keyboard player, even though you couldn't tell by listening -- she was completely buried in the jangly mix, which is a shame.

And speaking of the sound, the owner of the SCB tells me that he and his sound man continue to tweak the bar's sound system, doing various tests, making adjustments, etc., etc. I couldn't really tell, but these bands weren't exactly a good test, either. A better test will be this Saturday when The Danny Pound Band and 4th of July take the stage.

Tonight's big show is The Lemonheads with Vietnam and Hymns down at Sokol Underground. This show has yet to sell out, which is something of a surprise considering how big The Lemonheads were in the '90s. Tickets are $15, show starts at 9.

And finally, here's an updated pic of the Slowdown construction project (click on the thumbnail to see it big). I know I was supposed to update this weekly, but the weather has been gnarly over the past few weeks. Amazing how much they've gotten done. This "pano" shows that they've apparently started on the condos on the property's north side while they slowly begin closing in the theater on the south side. Can they get it buttoned up before the first snow?

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Robot, Creep Closer, Bear Country tonight; The Monroes, Ladyfinger tomorrow... – Dec. 1, 2006 –

Gad, I hope it warms up. It was too cold and I was too tired to make it out to Black Keys last night. Anyone go?

The cold and fatigue won't stop me this weekend, though. Here's the run-down as I see it:

Tonight at The Saddle Creek Bar, Cory Kibler and his band, Robot, Creep Closer, take the stage along with Humland and Gypt. Cory sent a copy of their latest CD, She Beeps, which I'm listening to as I write this. It sounds sorta grungy, sorta Pixies-ish, lots of power chords, very indie. In a nice, handwritten letter, Cory tells me that the band "consider The Pixies, Spoon, Cursive, Modest Mouse and AC/DC as influences." His letter says the openers tonight are actually Her Flyaway Manner, though that's counter to the SCB website, unless HFM is really Gypt. Humland, he says, is "Matt Mortinosky & ex-Marianas & ex-Keller Hamilton" -- I'm not sure what the last part means. $5, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, tonight down at Sokol Underground, it's Bear Country with Cap Gun Coup and The Skull Krushers. An all-local line-up? I don't know. $7, 9 p.m.

Tomorrow night it's The Monroes with The Diplomats of Solid Sound at The 49'r -- it's always a fun night when Speed! Nebraska is in the house. $5? Around 10 p.m.

Meanwhile, tomorrow night down at Sokol Underground, the return of Ladyfinger with Back When and Mal Madrigal. If the show follows the One Percent online listing, Back When is the headliner. An all-local lineup? You bet. $7, 9 p.m. Parking warning: There's a River metal show upstairs that starts at 7.

See you at the show.

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Live Review: Devotchka; Black Keys tonight... – Nov. 30, 2006 –

With a violinist/accordionist that looks like a Bolshevik, a bass player who switches between a stand-up and a Christmas-tree-light adorned tuba, and a Theremin-playing frontman who yodels more than sings, Devotchka is as eccentric as you want them to be, right down to their cover of "Venus in Furs" that makes you think the Velvets could have been from an Eastern Block country.

There is an ethnic, Russian flair to most everything they do, a flair that the crowd of around 220 obviously came to see and hear. Sprinkled throughout the room, girls jumped and kicked in a sad, Americanized version of a Barynya folk dance, complete with obligatory squatting and foot stomps (Most of the guys did the usual immobile slouching, hands in pockets). When the accordion came out and the sousaphone was at full sail, the place turned into a Ukranian dance hall powered by the band's polka-flavored bounce. On the other hand, when the band took a more-modern less-ethnic approach, they turned into a Hungarian (by way of Denver) version of The Arcade Fire, thanks to the frontman Nick Urata's yodel croon and the music's soaring, layered sound, reminiscent of the better moments off Funeral.

I was told that these guys weren't an indie band. And I might have believed that if it weren't for drummer Shawn King - who, though surrounded by music played in a foreign language, still cracked the set like a first-rate (indie) rocker. King was astounding, even when he put down the sticks, picked up a trumpet and followed the rest of the band into the crowd for a pseudo-mariachi number. Great fun. I left after an hour, just as the band closed their set with the Morricone-flavored whistler theme from the Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack.

Tonight at Sokol Underground, The Black Keys with Brimstone Howl and Dr. Dog. This show was originally scheduled for Sokol Auditorium, but poor ticket sales drove it downstairs. Needless to say, the show is nearly sold out, so if you don't already have tickets, go to the One Percent Productions site and click on the Purchase Tickets link. They'll run you $17. If you plan on walking up, I suggest you get in line early (and bundle up, it's cold outside).

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Column 103: Happy Anniversary (to me); Devotchka, Pink Floyd tonight... – Nov. 29, 2006 –

Easily the hardest part of writing a column is coming up with topics. Unlike some of the other columnists around town, I don't spend column inches writing about the week's upcoming shows -- The Reader has the 8-Days Calendar and feature stories for that. My heads-up about shows can be found the day of or day before the actual show online here. No, instead I try to focus on newsy music-related topics, interesting stories surrounding a band or comments (or complaints) about trends in the local or national indie music world. A few times I've used the column to write more personal features about artists that wouldn't work in a standard feature-story format. So after two years, coming up with new column fodder (and not repeating myself) has become a challenge. Most of the time I don't have a column topic "thought out" until the weekend before deadline, which leaves me running down interviews on my days off. I'm not complaining. I say this in hopes that you, dear reader, will be generous enough to pass on any column ideas that pop into your heads. I would be oh-so grateful.

Column 103 -- Two Years (and counting)
A look back on the second anniversary

The end of the year for music fans means endless retrospectives of the past 12 months written with great pomposity, and lists upon lists upon lists upon lists of "the best blah-blah-blah of '06." We complain, but we love looking back if only to say "I told you so," conveniently forgetting the blind missteps, and hoping you forgot them, too. That said, let this be the first of those retrospectives for '06, as we celebrate the second year of Lazy-i in The Reader and look back with great aplomb to update the past year's columns.

Presto! Change-o! (2/1/06) -- A description of the new Presto! Studios in Omaha, gleaned from an issue of Tape Op Magazine. Saddle Creek Records executive Jason Kulbel tells me that the building that housed the Lincoln Presto! Studios now sits empty following tracking last fall for the upcoming Bright Eyes record. The new studios, located near 69th and Dodge Sts., are coming to life. As I type this, the facility's "B Room" is being used for the final mixing of said Bright Eyes CD. By the way, the name Presto! apparently will die along with the Lincoln studio.

Scars for All to Hear (2/16/06) -- A profile of Outlaw Con Bandana's Brendan Hagberg. The band currently is recording its fifth release, Faeries and Rewards, with producer Ted Stevens between Cursive world tours. "We are also attempting an EP by hook or crook during the down time," Hagberg says on his myspace page. Look for both records in early '07.

Band of Brothers (2/23/06) -- A profile of them thar Thornton boys -- Bob and Will -- and their band Past Punchy and the Present. Since the column, Past Punchy has become rather dormant. Instead, Bob's new band, Now Archimedes!, has established itself as the hottest new punk band in town.

Not for The Faint of Heart (3/22/06) -- Wherein your fearless columnist reported about the possibility of The Faint leaving Saddle Creek Records for American Recordings, a rumor that Creek label chief Robb Nansel confirmed. Since then, The Faint has begun working on the long-awaited follow-up to 2004's Wet from Birth in their new studio. Asked if the record will come out on Saddle Creek, Kulbel gave a two-word answer: "No comment."

Living in Fun City (6/22/06) -- The Omaha World-Herald took umbrage to my attack on their declaration -- made after this summer's Bright Eyes concert in Memorial Park -- that Omaha is "Fun City." An OWH editorial, cleverly titled "The Quest for Coolness," referred to "a local blogger" who is "beside himself that anyone could possibly consider Omaha a Fun City." Pity they didn't have the stones to either mention The Reader (where the column also appeared) or my website's address. But like I said last week, The OWH doesn't acknowledge non-OWH-controlled local media sources in print. As for their editorial: If the paper and the Chamber of Commerce think the answer to Omaha's "quest for coolness" is to bring in more national-chain retail outlets like Cheesecake Factory and Williams-Sonoma instead of supporting home-grown businesses, then they clearly have no idea what "cool" is.

Unlikely Underdog (6/29/06) -- Amid a cloud of negative buzz, the column was an early defense of Cursive's new release, Happy Hollow. The record, which I still consider to be the band's best effort in their storied career -- continues to split fans down the middle between those who love it and those who don't. Regardless, the album sold 9,700 copies in its first week of release, enough to place it at No. 96 in the Billboard top 100. To date, Happy Hollow has sold more than 27,000 copies, according to Kulbel.

Urban Legend (7/6/06) -- A profile of local rock band An Iris Pattern's quirky, mysterious frontman, Greg Loftis. Since the column, Loftis reports that An Iris Pattern has been asked by world-renowned fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger to be the first band on his new record label. Stay tuned.

Flyover Country (6/1/06) -- The premise: Top-drawer national indie bands are beginning to pass by Omaha because cheapskate concert-goers won't pay more than $10 for tickets. In fact, '06 will be remembered as one of the better years for stellar acts hitting our stages, including such bands as Yo La Tengo, Joanna Newsom, M Ward and Gillian Welch. Lately, however the crowds are staying home. One Percent Productions' Marc Leibowitz, who along with partner Jim Johnson is responsible for most of Omaha's indie shows, says ticket prices alone aren't to blame. "It's more likely the combination of higher ticket prices and over-saturation of shows," he said. "There are a ton of shows that are all slightly overpriced. But when we talked about ticket prices (in June) it was just for Omaha, and this downturn in attendance is happening in a lot of other cities as well."

The Kids Aren't All Right (8/3/06) -- Wherein I ask the question: Where have all the new indie bands gone? Leibowitz says they're right here, you just have to look for them. Among them: Coyote Bones, Bear Country, Spring Gun, Domestica, Art Bell and Hyannis.

And so on… Thanks to everyone who provided their insight, inspiration, information -- and most of all, ideas. These are the things that keep Lazy-I going. Now onto year three…


Beyond these, the most popular columns not mentioned above were the more introspective comments: Fear of Cool (how pretension keeps people away from shows); Being Alone Together (how to go to shows/movies/dining alone), Acid Test in the Park (will the city turn out for the Bright Eyes concert in Memorial Park?); Getting Omaha'd (leaving after the opening band); Everything Old Is Old Again (how retro rock is dominating radio); and more recently The Trouble with Lists (about The Reader top-20). As always, thanks for your feedback. It's nice to know that someone is reading this, either in The Reader or online.

Tonight: As mentioned yesterday: Devotchka and an all-star version of McCarthy Trenching at Sokol Underground. $12, 9 p.m., tickets still available. Also tonight, a screening of Pink Floyd - Live at Pompeii at O'Leaver's as part of the Rock Movie Night series. I'm told it's quite a flick, and it's free. More info here.

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McCarthy Trenching Superstar tomorrow night; Cursive in Dallas... – Nov. 28, 2006 –

Here's an early head's up about Wednesday night's Devotchka show at Sokol Underground. A little bird close to the show tells me that opening band McCarthy Trenching will, in fact, be the all-star line-up featuring Maria Taylor, Steph Drootin and Conor Oberst. We saw this lineup open for M Ward Sept. 6. Fact is, Dan McCarthy is just as good when he's playing with his non-all-star lineup His music is lilting, folky waltzes with a hint of Neil Young in the guitars. Oberst might throw in some harmonies, but he'll mostly just concentrate on being a faceless accomplice. Devotchka has become a hot property after contributing music to the Little Miss Sunshine soundtrack. Last time they came through they drew a few hundred -- this time it could be a sell-out, especially with the added star power.

Moving on... Here's a well-written review from The Dallas Morning News of Cursive's Nov. 25 gig at The Gypsy Tea Room. I generally don't agree with the writer, who can't help but pigeon-hole Cursive as an emo band. His comparisons to Fall Out Boy betray him -- Cursive doesn't have much in common with that band, so if he went to the show expecting that sort of performance he was destined for disappointment. Says he: "But with little exception (the raucous, whippy solo break on "Martyr" being one), its activity level didn't measure up to a normal emo act, almost as if it chose not to expend the energy lest it lost its rep as the Emo Band With Indie Clout." Right. I can't imagine anyone wanting a rep like that.

Tonight, Minneapolis trio The Slats, sounding like a cross between The Cars and Guided By Voices, takes the stage at O'Leaver's with Des Moines' Beati Paoli. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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Continued website problems; Live Review: Art Bell, Drakes Hotel… – Nov. 27, 2006 –

The site has been in a state of disarray over the last week because of ongoing technical issues which I hope to have resolved this week. I woke up this morning to discover that every link on the homepage (including in this blog) was broken and had to be reset. Not fun. Thanks for your continued patience.

I only went to one show this holiday weekend, but it was a doozy -- Art Bell at Saddle Creek Bar Friday night. It was (surprise, surprise) packed. After three different shows at the Saddle Creek over the past few weeks -- Virgasound, Eagle*Seagull and now Art Bell, I'm convinced that the club could become a player in the local music scene (for what that's worth). The caveat is that they must get someone to take a serious look at their PA. Over the past three shows, the sound has been hit and miss. Ultimately, there are limits to what they'll be able to do with such old equipment. Those two huge arrays of speakers on either side of the stage are ancient, and though I'm no sound engineer, even I can hear that something's wrong with them.

Every musician and music pro that I've talked to about the bar's sound has said the same thing -- the PA needs to be replaced. Friday night's show might have been a breaking point. A few minutes into Art Bell's set, every bass note was met with a loud rattle from the left set of speakers, as if one of the units was blown. After about 20 seconds, the sound guy smoothed it out. At all three of the past shows, however, the vocals sounded hollow and tinty, like a PA you'd hear on the floor of a convention hall. I'm told the microphones are top-notch, that the problem, again, is the PA.

Another musician who's played at The Saddle Creek on and off over the past decade told me that the room has never sounded good, partially because the stage is like playing inside a box. Club owner Mike Coldeway said the stage design prevents him from booking hugely loud metal bands because of noise issues. I doubt anything can be done about that.

That said -- as has happened at every show I've attended there -- a couple rather prominent musicians from the scene (one from the Saddle Creek stable) asked me what I thought of the place, and I told them what I've told everyone -- I love its size and the overall vibe of the room. It reminds me of The Bottleneck in Lawrence. And the location couldn't be any better -- about a mile away from my front door. Add to that $2.25 Rolling Rocks (the lowest price I've paid for the beer anywhere in Omaha) and a $5 cover ($6 Friday night, for some reason) and I'm in heaven. Those musicians I talked to said the same thing. They also agreed that there's something wrong with the PA. One of them wondered if the tables could be cleared out -- that they created a natural barrier between the bands and the crowd. That can easily be done -- and should be done for the upcoming Good Life show. Indie and punk bands don't like people sitting around -- they want them standing, preferably right in front of the stage -- and to be honest, there's nothing stopping them from standing in front right now, other than concern that they might be blocking the view of those seated (We are a courteous bunch here in Omaha, aren't we?).

So that's the executive summary on The Saddle Creek Bar. Check it out for yourself when the Danny Pound Band comes through on Dec. 9. Drakes Hotel sounded like Omaha's version of Jesus and Mary Chain, complete with droning feedback and doom-laden mid-tempo beats brought to you in care of a drum machine. The thump-thump-thump was more than adequate to move this luxurious show-gazer fare in a right, moody direction, while the female lead singer provided the counterpoint to the droning bass. I liked it, especially when the band stepped it up a notch, wrestling itself out of its mid-tempo rut. The set, however, was too much of a good thing, and seemed to go on forever, especially considering that Jake Bellows didn't start the night until well past 10 o'clock (but only played for about 15 minutes).

As mentioned before, Art Bell is a natural evolution for an Orenda Fink, an artist who has been defined by the warm, heart-throbbing style heard in Azure Ray. With a veritable supergroup of musicians backing her, Fink reinvents herself as a rock musician, taking her natural ear for melodies and galvanizing them with solid guitar and a rhythm section anchored by one of the city's best drummers -- Corey Broman, who's played with Little Brazil, Statistics and Kite Pilot, among others. If the band's recordings are anything like the live show, someone is going to have a hit on their hands -- will it be Saddle Creek Records?

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Art Bell tonight at Saddle Creek Bar… – Nov. 24, 2006 –

Art Bell is Orenda Fink's new band with Adrianne Verhoeven of The Anniversary and 4th of July. The last time I saw the band (back in July) it also featured Dan McCarthy on keyboards, Ryan Fox on bass, Steve Bartolomei on guitar and drummer Corey Broman (Little Brazil, ex-Kite Pilot, ex-Son, Ambulance). The One Percent Productions site says Fink and Co. are currently recording a new album with Joel Petersen of The Faint. Wonder what label will be putting that out... Also on the SCB bill is Drakes Hotel & Jake Bellows -- a steal for just $5. Starts at 9.

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Last night at Shag; Column 102: The OEAs explained – Nov. 22, 2006 –

Shag was packed last night for the Omaha Entertainment Awards showcase, absolutely packed. Lots of rock stars walking around, guys wearing tons of eye make-up who I assume were in one of the bands that I missed. I didn't stay long. Some of us have to work in the morning. I did catch Anonymous American, Sarah Benck, Monica Eby and one of the slam poets, who was drowned out by the crowd. If last night’s draw is any indication, this could be a successful deal for the OEA organizers. But last night was free. Can they get those same people to plunk down $25 a head on Jan. 4? We'll see. Shag is always a surreal experience. It reminds me of every 72nd St. pick-up bar circa 1983, which explains why the place is probably packed every night. They just don’t make them like that anymore.

A caveat about this week's column: My criticism of the Omaha World-Herald isn't targeted at any of the reporters. Niz is a hero in how she's tried to cover local music, just like Laue before her. No, the crosshairs are aimed directly at the paper's policies, and editors. I have been told by employees of said paper that the policy mentioned below does, in fact, exist. It's a myopic approach to covering a community that you're supposed to serve. But when you're the only game in town, you can do whatever you want...

Column 102 -- For 'Biggest Oversight' by an awards show…
The nominees are…

Before I get into this, I must tell you that I'm one of those hallowed few who have been asked to be a member of "The Academy" for the Live Music portion of the Omaha Entertainment Awards. And I also must explain that The Reader is one of OEAs' media partners, if not one of its chief organizers. So one could yell "Bias!" at these words, but one would be incorrect, as I hold no allegiance to the organization and have just as many gripes as you about the Nominees list published last week. Instead of griping for gripe's sake, however, I wanted explanations.

So I picked up the phone and called Tony Lange, the guy responsible for how the OEAs are being conducted. Lange comes to Omaha from Cincinnati, where the CEAs are in their 8th year. He said they were the boilerplate for the OEAs, right down to how bands were nominated. Anyone (as in you) could have submitted a nominating ballot, and Lange said around 2,000 of you did -- not bad for the first year. A five-person committee (of which Lange is a member) developed the categories with the help of a few others who were brought in to "broaden the knowledge base."

That brings us to the nominees and my list of gripes, first and foremost being the inclusion of South Dakota blues act Indigenous under the category of "Traditional / Indigenous" music. Anyone who's ever heard a lick of the band's Stevie Ray Vaughan blues-hammer aping knows that they don't belong in this category, and that South Dakota ain't Omaha (or Nebraska).

Clarification No. 1: Any performer from a 75-mile radius of The Holland Center was eligible for nomination, which explains why all those Lincoln bands are on the list (but doesn't explain why the awards aren't called the NEAs (N as in Nebraska instead of O as in Omaha)).

Lange admitted that, yes, Indigenous isn't from Nebraska, and no, they don't play indigenous music, and yes, the whole thing was a mistake. "That's one that slipped by us," he said. "We'll take the blame. It's a result of me not growing up here. It should have been caught."

Some of the categories, however, were tougher to explain. Why, for example, group "hard rock" and "metal" together? Everyone knows they're different genres. Apparently not everyone. "I know there's death metal and speed metal and hate metal," Lange said. "Next year we may consider separating the categories."

"Next year" also applies to including a "Singer/Songwriter" category, an omission that is the awards' biggest oversight, as Omaha is known nationally as a singer/songwriter town. Lange had no real explanation for this, other than to say he wanted to include the category but that other committee members preferred naming it "Adult Contemporary." This, of course, makes no sense, but "that's what you get when you deal with a committee."

Lange is not apologetic about the "Cover Band" category. "Cover bands are the core meat of the local entertainment business," he said. "Their art is just the same as anyone else's. Remember, this award is based on entertainment."

Complaints about who got nominated falls squarely on you, the voter, and your favorite bands' inability to "get out the vote." Lange admits that there always will be acts that simply aren't comfortable lobbying for themselves. That may explain why local jazz legend Luigi Waites was overlooked under the "Jazz" category or why Breathless wasn't nominated under "Hip-Hop/Rap." It also explains why there are no punk bands under the "Punk" category. Would a real punk band lobby for votes? Go ask Johnny Rotten.

For the first go-'round, the list of nominees isn't horrible, especially under categories "Alternative Indie" (rightfully dominated by Saddle Creek Records acts), "Folk Americana Roots," "Hard Rock" (I'm leaving metal out of it) and "Live Music Event." The full list is available online at oeawards.net. Yes, there are omissions, but hey, give them a break, it's the first year.

The most glaring omission is in how the local media have covered the event. Yes, The Reader is a sponsor, right along with NRG Media on the radio side. That shouldn't preclude the great, gray Omaha World-Herald from covering an event that has the full support of the Chamber of Commerce and a plethora of important local arts organizations.

The fact is, the OWH has historically put its own needs in front of its readers when it comes to covering anything that's sponsored by rival media, whether it be an alt-weekly newspaper, radio or local TV station. They need to let the paranoia go and realize what everyone else already knows: They don't have any competition. No one's going to steal away any of their potential advertisers and/or readers, certainly not The Reader. Acknowledgement of the OEAs by the OWH and other media is critical if this thing is ever really going to get off the ground. But I'm afraid that the polarizing, Citizen Kane mentality of local media will never let that happen, even for an event that's designed not to make money (OEA is a 501c3, nonprofit organization) but to celebrate this city's talent. Let's do this, before all that talent finds a more grateful place to play.

One other important point that didn't make it into the column: It's absolutely imperative to the future of the OEAs that a Saddle Creek Records artist performs at the award ceremony. It doesn't have to be one of the "big three" (though that would be the best scenario) – just someone from the Creek stable. Omaha's music scene has been defined by Saddle Creek bands for the last decade. Their absence would be a crippling blow to the credibility of a program designed to honor the best and brightest from our community. The only thing worse than not having a Creek band perform would be not having Oberst show up to accept whatever award he will win that night.

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Ed Gray, Simon Joyner; OEA Showcase tonight – Nov. 21, 2006 –

Tonight at O'Leaver's, Iowa City citizen Ed Gray takes the stage. Gray is something of a legend in the low-fi folk circuit. His first serious recordings involved John Crawford (Head of Femur, Grey Ghost), violinist Tiffany Kowalski (Lullaby for the Working Class, Mayday, Shelley Short), and producer Alex McManus (The Bruces, Bright Eyes). On his new record, Gray plays with a crapload of Omaha musicians that are usually seen orbiting around Simon Joyner. It's a folkie treat in a style that is right at home with Simon and Outlaw Con Bandana. Hear for yourself at his myspace page. That said, it makes sense that he's playing with Simon tonight, who, according to Ed, will be backing him along with the rest of the band, which he refers to as The Wind-Up Birds. Don't know if this is a different line-up than we usually see in The Fallen Men or not, but there's one way to find out. $5, 9 p.m.

But first, this member of the Academy for the Omaha Entertainment Awards will be venturing west, to Shag for the OEA showcase. The show starts at 7 and will include performances by Anonymous American, Scott Severin and a host of others (the schedule is here), while the American Music Awards are broadcast over Shag's television screens. I suspect this will be a surreal event and that I and the rest of the Academy will be plied with booze, whores and drugs in an ill-fated attempt by the nominees to garner our votes. Fun!

There are a ton of questions that arose when the OEA nominees were announced last week, which I'll attempt to answer in tomorrow's column. Look for it, and a reflection on tonight's festivities.

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Column 101: Commercial Considerations... – Nov. 20, 2006 –

Still catching up with last week, here's Column 101. Since writing this, I noticed Of Montreal also has allowed Nasdaq to use "Every Day Feels Like Sunday" in its latest commercial, albeit without changing the lyrics. And I've also downloaded the song used in the new Liberty Mutual commercial, "Half Acre" from Hem's 2001 Bar/None debut Rabbit Songs -- gorgeous. Also, "Punk Rocker" by Teddybear featuring Iggy Pop, used in the new Cadillac ads. Very cool.

Column 101 -- And Now a Song from our Sponsor
Commercials go indie…

I'll let you in on a little secret: I dig watching sports on TV. Football, baseball, basketball, you name it. I know it isn't cool from an indie perspective to admit to such a steak-and-egger sort of past-time, but at any given moment during the season I generally know where the Yankees stand in the AL, and I cry right along with everyone else in the Big Apple when the Knicks inevitably skid to the bottom of the Eastern Division (Damn you, Isiah!).

The problem with watching televised sports, however, is having to put up with all the commercials, and Sunday Night Football is easily the worst. Why? Because during every time-out, you're force-fed John Mellencamp's ode to America in the form of a Chevy truck commercial. Once upon a time, Little Johnny Cougar wrote real songs -- stuff like "Jack and Diane," and "Pink Houses." Not anymore.

Artists whoring their music to Madison Avenue is nothing new. Even such upstanding, well-respected musicians as U2 have gleefully traded in their flesh-and-blood to sell a few iPods. If Reverend Bono does it, it must be okay, right? Certainly it's a no-brainer for someone like Mellencamp, whose flat-lined career was in the same place as Bob Seger's when Seger let Chevy turn "Like a Rock" into a commercial.

But these days, it isn't just the county fair circuit that's grabbing the cash. Earlier this year I heard Spoon's "I Turn My Camera On" used to sell Jaguar XKE's. And it wasn't just incidental background music -- the commercial was produced like a rock video prominently featuring the song along with tight, quick cuts of a shiny new Jag. When they replayed the spot about five minutes later, I immediately thought, 'Well, there goes that song."

Then last night the whoring reached a new low. On screen was a commercial for Outback Steakhouse. Amidst the weird buzzing didgeridoo noise was the melody from Of Montreal's "Wraith Pinned to the Mist (And Other Games)." But instead of Kevin Barnes singing "Let's pretend we don't exist / Let's pretend we're in Antarctica," some poor schmuck sang "Let's go Outback tonight / Life will still be there tomorrow" while animated cave drawings danced gleefully around a steak.

My first thought: "Those idiots! Don't they know that Barnes will sue their asses off when he finds out that they so blatantly ripped off his song?" Then I went online and found out that Barnes was in on the whole thing. Pitchfork reported that Barnes had given Outback's ad agency permission not only to use the song, but to rerecord it with new lyrics.

"We thought it would be totally amusing to hear their take on one of our songs as a jingle," he told Pitchfork. In this case, "totally amusing" means receiving a check worth a few thousand bloomin' onions.

Can you blame them for selling out their music? Fact is, in the case of both Of Montreal and Spoon, more people heard those songs on those commercials than will ever hear them on the radio. What price can you put on that kind of exposure?

When you live in a town like Omaha -- a city with no real college radio station -- TV commercials may be the only way to hear new music over the airwaves. And I'd be a hypocrite if I didn't admit that I've searched out a song used in an ad.

Case in point: The latest commercials for Geico featuring that loveable caveman that gets no respect. He first appeared on TV having lunch with a high-powered ad exec who apologized for the insensitivity of the company's "so easy a caveman can do it" commercials. "I didn't know you guys were still around." Caveman's response: "Maybe you should do some research." Classic.

In the new ad, our caveman (Who I'm sure is now headed for a sitcom career) stands on a moving walkway headed toward his departure gate in an airport when he passes yet another insensitive Geico airport display ad with the same catchphrase. Meanwhile, in the background plays a cool, simple, Casio-powered song that is, quite frankly, absolutely infectious.

Two seconds after entering "Geico Caveman Commercial" in Google, I discovered the song was "Remind Me" by Norwegian Euro-dance duo Röyksopp -- an act I'd never heard of, and likely wouldn't have without this commercial. Like Trio's "Da Da Da" song -- which went unnoticed for 15 years until it was used in VW commercials in the mid-'90s -- "Remind Me" also is destined to become an international smash that never would have been discovered if not for some savvy ad exec picking the song out of the ether and placing it in the commercial.

Like it or not, the same can probably be said for the new Mellencamp song. Without its Chevy connection, it never would have made it out of the blocks. Now it's fueling his next world tour.

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Live Review: The Slip – Nov. 17, 2006 –

I feel like I got Borat-ed by The Slip. They went on and on in our interview about how much they don't want to be plopped in with the rest of the jam band scene -- how, sure, they used to do experimental jazz "back in the old days" but that now their music is much more structured and melody-dependent. A listen through their new CD, Eisenhower, and you (almost) believe they could be a next-generation indie band.

But last night... well... they sure sounded like a jam band to me. I was expecting to hear tight, structured renditions of songs from the new album. Instead, The Slip launched their set with four acoustic numbers, none of which I recognized, then went right into an electric set that featured lots of wild, experimental sound collages, jazzy interludes and an extra helping of long-form solos -- i.e., jams. When they finally got around to playing their pop opus "Children of December" the song was so all-over-the-place that it was tough to recognize.

There's no denying that these guys are first-class musicians. It was some of the best instrumentation I've heard in a long, long time -- throaty, precise drums, intricate guitar and spider-hand bass. But the basic underlying structure seemed designed only to allow for the musicians to pull away from standard songcraft (especially on the rock songs). So while, yes, they played well, their songs were hidden somewhere in a cloud of noodling.

The only time they came close to sounding like an indie band was on "Airplane/Primitive," but even that was marred by a number of improvisational gymnastics that would have been more at home at a groove festival. Missing were some of the more gorgeous ballads from the new album, including "If One of Us Should Fall." Why skip it? The only thing I can think of was that frontman Brad Barr was uncertain about his vocals, though he clearly had the chops last night on the acoustic numbers (including a new song that reminded me of classic '70s folk rock tune). Or maybe they were catering to the tiny crowd of 40. Just to add fuel to the jam-band fire, they encored with two instrumentals -- one featuring drummer Marc Friedman playing a home-made PVC-pipe percussion device that made hollowed notes when pounded with flip-flops Blue Man Group-style. Bonnaroo here they come.

***

We're having some serious technical difficulties around the Lazy-i servers these days, which is why there was no update or column yesterday. Look for Column 101 tomorrow morning if I can get the FTP transfer mumbo-jumbo figured out. Thanks for your patience.

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The Slip's jam band conundrum; catching up from a long week; Outlaw Con Bandana tonight – Nov. 17, 2006 –

I'm back from Dallas, and here's The Slip interview I promised Monday. The story ended up focusing on the band's inability to shake their "jam band" status that they developed early in their careers. Believe me, they, uh, dislike jam bands and the jam band scene, which they made perfectly clear in their interview. In fact, their manager sort of warned me that it was a sore topic with the band and that they'd be a bit unresponsive to questions about the whole jam band thing. But once we got started, the topic dominated the discussion. As I say in the story, judging from their new album on Bar/None, The Slip sound more like a traditional indie rock band influenced by Death Cab and Built to Spill than a jam band. One would hope that constant touring and the strength of their new album, which just came out, will help them get past being thrown in with noodlers like Widespread Panic and Phish. The show is tomorrow night at Sokol Underground with The Lovely Feathers and The Bon Savants. $10, 9 p.m.

The problem with going out of town all week is trying to catch up. Column 101 is ready to post, but I don't have the time to do it this morning, so look for it tomorrow morning.

Tonight at O'Leaver's you got Outlaw Con Bandana with A Poet Named Revolver and "The Antiquarium Staff" -- no idea who that could be -- along with Good with Guns. I have a feeling this could be a night of good eclectic music. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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An Odd Week – Nov. 14, 2006 –

Well, I've got this great interview with The Slip that I'm dying to put online, but y'all gonna have to wait until Friday to read it because I'll be out of town for the next few days on biz (You can always find it in The Reader). That means no updates over the next few days. I still haven't had a chance to write a live review of last Saturday night's Eagle*Seagull/Coyote Bones show at the Saddle Creek Bar (it was a good one), and I don't have time now, either. That said, I probably picked a pretty good week to be out of town. The only thing I'm going to miss is Book of Maps/Thunder Power/Hot Sick tomorrow night at O'Leaver's (though you shouldn't). I'll probably be back in time to catch Unwed Sailor/Adam Weaver and the Ghosts Thursday night (also at O'Leaver's). Have a good week and I'll talk to you Friday.

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Brimstone, Coyote, Shelter, Third Men, all tonight – Nov. 11, 2006 –

This is one of the more rambunctious weekends for shows in quite a while. Four humdingers at four different venues. If Omaha were Lincoln, all of these would be mere walking distances from each other and we could stumble from one to another lost in an indie rock music haze. But instead, we're in Omaha.

Let's do this in alpha order, just so's it doesn't appear that I'm showing any favoritism.

Down at Sokol Underground, Brimstone Howl takes the stage with Bazooka Shootout, Alaphabet, & I Miss America. The Howl are flying high these days, what with signing to Alive Records and working with the guy from The Black Keys. No idea who the other bands are, and various research tools (Google, Myspace) come up with nothing. Still, $5 is a cheap price just to see Brimstone on a big stage before the band explodes to national notoriety. 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, over at The Saddle Creek Bar, Coyote Bones wraps up a nice little tour that took them to the East Coast and back. Playing along is Eagle*Seagull (who, one would hope, will be unveiling some new material) and Neva Dinova frontman Jake Bellows. $5, 9 p.m.

Just over the hill at The PS Collective (6056 Maple St. -- part of The Pizza Shoppe), Shelter Belt is celebrating the release of their new CD, Under The World Awhile, with Omaha jazzman Luigi Waites & Paul Sim, The Masses, Fizzle Like A Flood (who's coming out of retirement for this show), and Lincoln's Papers. Shelter Belt kicks it off with an instrumental set at 6 p.m. and the thing runs all night (or at least to midnight). This one's free and will be packed (with musicians, if no one else).

Finally, over at The 49'r, The Third Men take the stage with The Pendrakes. It's been quite a while since T3M have played, so maybe we'll get treated to a few new tunes and a new cover song. Niner shows start around 10 and will run you up to $5 (though I don't know how much they'll be charging tonight).

Choose wisely.

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Live review: Cursive; The Terminals tonight – Nov. 10, 2006 –

What can be made of the fact that Cursive only drew 800 last night at Sokol Underground? Some might say that the number is significant in its diminutiveness, a bellwether of sorts of the lagging interest in either the band and/or indie music in general. Maybe, maybe… But I'm not so sure that it means anything. Cursive just played the same venue in July -- had I gone to that one I probably wouldn't have went last night, either. And then there's the $14 ticket - the highest price I can remember for a Cursive show, probably due to all the opening bands (who I missed, btw, due to Rutgers). Still, one would hope that a band like Cursive could sell out Sokol Auditorium even at that price, especially when you consider such unfortunate, lame shitmeisters like Hinder easily sell out the place at a higher price. Like everyone else in this scene, I blame radio for our area youths' poor taste in music. They've been indoctrinated to believe growling, talentless swine like Kottonmouth Kings and Slipknot are "important" music worth their time and money. Like I've always said, you play anything on the radio over and over and over and the listeners will find something they like about it, which explains why that wretched piece of novelty shit by Psychostick is actually selling (and some would say, also explains Tilly and the Wall).

But I digress…

It was a different sounding Cursive than I've seen over the years, a more restrained, almost adult-contemporary version. The 8-piece came out at around 11 amid a cloud of dry-ice smoke. The line-up included a 3-piece horn section (one of them doubled on keyboards) and a cellist. By god, it bordered on being a lounge act. The sound was certainly more refined than when only the four members play. That version is rowdier, noisier, much more dangerous, and unconcerned if a little thing like melody gets lost in the jangular din. Even when Gretta Cohn was in the band, you rarely could hear her despite the fact that she was plopped down right up there front and center, obscenely straddling her instrument.

Last night's cello player got stuck somewhere way in the back, but you could hear every stroke of her bow (Every time I heard Cohn play, she might as well have been playing a cardboard cut-out of a cello). Whether it's their new songs or the arrangements or the deft touch of the soundman, utter noise no longer dominates the ensemble. Cursive has become less metal and more mellow, for reasons I can't quite put my finger on. I noticed early in the set that a stone sober Tim Kasher was doing a lot of finger-pointed pontificating along withother weird hand gestures while he sang (At one point, he sang while holding the back of his right hand against his left cheek. Try that right now and imagine how odd it looks). It didn't dawn on me until about halfway through the set that the only way he could be doing all those gestures was by not playing his guitar. Ted Stevens now is the dominate guitar player, and maybe always has been, though I remember Kasher being much bolder with his ax in the old days.

All that instrumental restraint meant that Kasher was much more out front with his vocals, which have never sounded better -- maybe because this was the first show of the tour and he's well-rested. Kasher showed his full vocal range, from the low death rattle to the usual Robert Smith-ian howl, to the classic bluesman grunt to a girlish falsetto complete with high-pitched squeal. Rarely has he sang with such broad, emotional range.

The set, however, seemed short, though the band mixed it up pretty well with material from the last three albums. Songs off Happy Hollow rightfully took the lead. For me, the new songs ("Big Bang" "Dorothy…" "Bad Sects") were the night's highlights (but then again, I love the new album) along with the few from Domestica ("Lament for Pretty Baby," "Night I Lost the Will to Fight"). There were a couple weird interpretive numbers that bordered on noodling, and a few songs that I didn't recognize where Kasher seemed to be wandering.

Keeping with the restraint theme, even Kasher's between-song monologues -- which can go on for five minutes or more -- were kept to a minimum. There was only one real rant about five songs in where he declared his unconditional love for Nebraska, saying that if you're from Nebraska, it's okay to say it sucks, but if you're not, than fuck you, or something along those lines. Kasher said he feels safe in Nebraska "but not in some sort of weird, racial way." (I'm paraphrasing.) He later introduced the band but skipped the core line-up, only saying "these guys are trying their hardest to smile tonight." What the hell did that mean?

Tonight we all have to squeeze into The 49'r for The Terminals CD release show with The Shanks and Now Archimedes! I see from perusing the Star City webboard that CDs will be in hand and available. I suggest you go to the show and buy one along with a copy of The Shanks' new 7-inch. You may also want to pick up a record player at Sol's or Best Buy while you're driving around… you'll need it.

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Column 100: The Terminals' beautiful noise; Cursive tonight – Nov. 9, 2006 –

It would have been great to write a 2,000-word feature on The Terminals. Certainly I had enough info from my interview with the band to write one. Unfortunately, my column is limited to only around 800 words (which is, admittedly, better than the 400 to 600-word limit for most feature stories). So a bunch more follows, after the column...

Column 100 -- Metal Machine Music
The Terminals turn up the noise.

I was driving west on I-80 headed to Lincoln doing close to 90 because everyone else was and you either keep up or get run right off the road. No one told me about all the construction, the constant "Stay In Your Lane" warning signs that flipped past as the road jerked indiscriminately in odd directions, the left lane mere inches from large concrete barriers designed to keep semis and large SUVs from jumping into oncoming traffic. Lord only knows what hitting those could do to something like my Mini Cooper, which has a wheelbase akin to a rollerskate and the suspension of a go-kart. Every time my tiny tires found a piece of grooved pavement, it jerked the Mini in the wrong direction, either toward the deadly barriers or the adjacent lane crowded by a fleet of Voyagers, Caravans and Ram-tough Dodge SUVs that towered over me, blocking my view.

Meanwhile, blaring on my car stereo was the new CD by The Terminals, the band I was headed to Lincoln to interview. I'd seen them a number of times at O'Leaver's and The 49'r, playing hep-cat cool retro garage punk spiked by Dave Goldberg's gospel-infused organ twirls, frontwoman Liz Hitt's snarling, jagged guitar riffs and Brooks Hitt's beefy stick work. Fun stuff.

The CD, however, sounds nothing like that. Instead, most of the songs sound like a room filled with industrial power tools -- jack hammers, grinders, band-saws -- tearing through a concrete wall while an angry monkey pounds on a metal slab with a stone hammer. The recording is blown-out and raw. By the time I arrived at the Hitts' Lincoln home, my back was as tight as an iron rod and I could already feel the tension-pain in my neck that would haunt me the following day.

To say that The Terminals are not entirely thrilled with their Dead Beat Records debut, Forget About Never, would be an understatement.

"The first time I heard it I was furious," Goldberg said. "I called Liz with a list of complaints and got to No. 1 before she hung up. There are parts of the record that border on migraine-inducing industrial noise."

The story behind the recording began when Liz sent a handful of 7-inch records to Tom Spencer, the label chief at Dead Beat Records, hoping to get him interested in Brimstone Howl, another band on Hitts' and Goldberg's Boom Chick label. She also threw in some Terminals recordings just for kicks. "They were quite impressive," Spencer said of the Terminals. "So I told the band that I was interested in doing their debut album. After deciding on the track list, we got Andy Caffrey from The Horrors to record the album, and it turned out great."

Caffrey, Liz said, is "hot shit, and we accidentally made the mistake of telling Tom we knew him."

The band recorded the album live at The Zoo Bar when it was closed. Amps were placed in the bathrooms while the drum set was on stage. "(Caffrey) ran everything into this fucking box of noise and what came out the other side became the record," Liz said. "Getting Caffrey to record it was Tom's way of getting us credibility with these (types of) bands."

"With Andy, you take the good with the bad," Brooks said of Caffrey. "He has a weird view of things. He's the most over-the-top guy doing this kind of recording."

"The aesthetic is similar to other stuff you hear on Dead Beat," Goldberg explained. "The audience they're catering to are total speed freaks that enjoy that type of thing because they're always in that state of mind."

"Uh, I don't know if trashing our record during the interview is the way to go," Brooks added sheepishly. The fact is, the band actually likes the record, and so do I. The recording is almost artsy in its brazen, abrasive approach. The wall of static punk rock is aggressive and unnerving, and ultimately, very cool.

Goldberg said it took a few spins before his hatred for the recording turned into admiration. "Some of it is awesome. I'm pretty sure that people in Europe that are fans of this style of recording will go ape-shit over it. Most bands wouldn't put it out, and that aspect of it I enjoy. It is, dare I say, controversial."

He is concerned, however, that the stark contrast between the record and their usual live sound could result in some confusion, if not disappointment. "I'm afraid that people who are into the record will see us live and say 'What's this shit?' and by that same token, people who like us live will buy this record and say 'What's this shit?'"

Replicating the record's sound, however, is out of the question. "It would take a lot of expensive or broken equipment for us to sound like that on stage, Goldberg said. "Perhaps we should start poking holes in our PA speakers."

Omaha fans will get a chance to check it out Friday, Nov. 10, when The Terminals celebrates the official release of Forget About Never at The 49'r with Now, Archimedes! and Boom Chick artist The Shanks, which also will be celebrating the release of their "Cut Me" 7-inch single. For those of you driving down from Lincoln for the show, you may want to wait until you get home to listen to the CD, for your nerves' sake. Drive safely.

One might ask what kind of deal the band made with Dead Beat to allow a record to be made in a way they hadn't preferred. Goldberg was gone on a tour with metal monster Thor at the time it all went down. He described Spencer's role as "I will pay for everything and control everything and you guys will have no control whatsoever."

That level of control went all the way down to the artwork used for the CD, even the album title. Liz said the original cover was going to be a photo of a snake that had been run over, stretched across the front and back of the CD sleeve. Spencer, however, took the idea and passed it onto artist Mike Sniper of the band DC Snipers. Liz said the resulting cover artwork looks like the "Don't Tread on Me" flag. To top it off, Sniper went ahead and penciled in the title Forget About Never, which wasn't the title The Terminals had in mind for the release.

Using both Caffrey and Sniper on the project was Spencer's attempt at getting the band more credibility among fans who follow the "garage punk" scene. "Dead Beat has been around for 10 years," Goldberg said. "My assumption is that (Spencer's) not going to drop a bunch of money on anything that won't sell. Or maybe he is. He certainly loves the music."

Does the Terminals getting picked up by Dead Beat and also Brimstone Howl getting picked up by Alive Records reflect some sort of resurgence in garage punk music? Spencer didn't think so. "I wouldn't say the genre is really growing," he said. "I just think that it's an underground niche that will always be there. As long as kids have access to guitars, there will always be bands banging on their instruments in the garage. And it's labels like Dead Beat and Alive that will find ones that express true and genuine talent."

Spencer can add Boom Chick to that list. Half of the bands on the label's roster have now been picked up by larger labels. It's only a matter of time until roster mates The Shanks and Wesley Coleman also jump ship. "We don't consider it jumping ship," Goldberg said. "The label is a springboard."

"(Boom Chick) doesn't have the resources to commit to releasing LPs," Brooks said. "That runs around $3,000, and we're not ready to do that. Having another label take part is good for everybody. Us and Brimstone getting signed is a direct result of starting this label."

"It's also going to spark interest in our label," Goldberg added. And the roster continues to grow. A fifth band, The Alrightees from Portland, are in Boom Chick's sites along with a band from Chicago called Masters of the Obvious (or MOTO). Brooks said the label is self-sustaining. "It feeds itself," he said. "If the releases weren't paying for themselves, it would stop pretty fast. The money we make goes right back into the label. It's not like any of us are getting rich off this."

***

Tonight at Sokol Auditorium, the long-awaited return of Cursive with Jeremy Enigk (who you might remember as the frontman for Sunny Day Real Estate and now The Fire Theft), The Cops (fronted by former Omahan Mike Jaworski who also runs Mt. Fuji Records, home of Little Brazil) & The End of the World. All for $14. This is an 8 p.m. show, and should be jam packed.

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VOTE! today; Whipkey on Injured Reserved; Bright Eyes info; Starlight Desperation, Tokyo Police Club tonight... – Nov. 7, 2006 –

Before we get to the news, just a quick reminder that it's election day, which means you need to get your lazy ass to the polls and vote. I can't remember the last time an election was more important. Check out the Douglas Co. Election Commission website to find your poling place and to see a sample ballot. Do it, people.

Onward...

Anonymous American frontman Matt Whipkey is on the mend after injuring himself Oct. 20 in a bizarre scissors accident in his bedroom. "It's hard to explain what happened," Whipkey said. Apparently he was using a pair of scissors to cut plastic zip ties that were holding together a bundle of guitar cables. "I got to the second to last tie and was holding it with my left hand and cutting with my right hand," he said. "The scissors slipped and stabbed into my left index finger on the palm side underneath the knuckle. It severed the tendon in that finger."

As a result of the injury, Whipkey couldn't bend his finger at the knuckle. "For a professional guitar player, it's as big a nightmare as it gets, right up there with losing your hand," he said. Whipkey went under the knife right before Halloween to have the flexor tendon repaired and now has a huge scar on his finger beneath a cast that he'll wear for the next month. Rehab is ongoing and it will take several months before the finger is easy to move. He has plenty of motivation to get back in playing shape with a 30-day solo tour scheduled to begin Jan. 10 and a CD release show slated for Dec. 30 at Sokol Underground.

Although the prognosis is good, Whipkey's doctor tells him he'll never play exactly like he did before. Time will tell. "It's difficult to watch people play guitar now, especially at shows. It's maddening," he said. "I gained massive perspective on life as a result of the injury."

***

The first news about Bright Eyes' forthcoming LP is finally hitting the interweb. NME reports (from something they read in Spin) that the follow-up to I'm Wide Awake/Digital Ash will be a rather dark and stormy affair. "The apocalypse is a prevalent theme in my new songs," Oberst said. "There's a feeling in the world right now like everything is unravelling, but maybe that's not a bad thing. I'm not convinced that the human race is good for this planet anyway." Sounds like there will be some tsunami and hurricane-flavored country psychedelic folk rockers in the batch, along with songs about "telepathy" (unless Oberst was pulling Spin's chain). Read the full NME item here. Omahans will likely get a sneak preview of the new material at the Dec. 15 Bright Eyes/Simon Joyner/Bruces benefit concert at Sokol Auditorium. Tickets went on sale last Saturday, so if you wanna go, you better click on this here One Percent Productions link and buy some tix before it sells out.

***

It's a busy Tuesday night musicwise, with two very hot shows going on around town. The Saddle Creek Bar will be hosting Starlight Desperation, Virgasound and This Blush ($7, 9 p.m.), while a few blocks away Ontario band Tokyo Police Club and Bombardment Society will be playing a rare Tuesday night show at The 49'r (No idea on the price for this one, though it'll probably be around $5 and will start around 10).

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Live Review: Hyannis/Tomato a Day; Joanna Newsom tonight... – Nov. 6, 2006 –

I got a chance to catch most of the Hyannis set at O'Leaver's Saturday night, and it was pretty durn good. Nothing like their record, the boys decided to break out the electric guitars and rock the house instead. These guys (and one lady) could definitely make a mark if they stay together longer than their former band, the promising One Mummy Case, which was around just long enough for me to take notice of them. Saturday night was also the first time I've had a chance to catch A Tomato a Day. I was expecting a noisefest based on the fact that frontman Brian Poloncic was a founding member of noise ensemble Naturaliste. Instead, the trio played a set of bluesy indie rock reminiscent of Sebadoh and (vocally anyway, to me) J. Mascis. Very nice stuff. I should have stuck around and got a copy of their demo.

Tonight, it's Joanna Newsom at Scottish Rite Hall with Bobby Birdman. Here's a brief preview written for The Reader:

Her child-like voice has been compared to everyone from Kate Bush to Lisa Simpson. I fancy it as a quirky cross between Latka Gravis' wife Simka on "Taxi" (played by Carol Kane) and Melanie (who sang "Brand New Key"). Even more unique than her voice, however, is her instrument of choice, a full-sized harp just like the kind you've heard in orchestras or will hear at the pearly gates (if you've been good). On her new five-song, 55-minute EP, Ys (pronounced "ees"), Newsom coos, howls, shrieks and cheeps in all her baroque glory, backed by her gentle, bouncing harp and a whole slew of strings, woodwinds and brass. It's weird, wonderful and mysterious, like the soundtrack to your last puffy-clouded dream.

Tickets are still available for $15, and the show starts at 8 p.m. It'll be interesting to see how well this one does. Newsom may be hot stuff on the coasts, but I don't know how well-known she is around here.

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Live Review: Anathallo; FortyTwenty tonight; Saddle Creek Bar online... – Nov. 3, 2006 –

You've got to love the ambition of a band like Anathallo. The 7-piece outfit performed choreographed interpretive dance moves, foot stomps, snaps, hand claps, played a variety of percussion instruments (including marching-band bass drum), flugelhorn, trombone, two tinkling xylophone things, as well as the usual bass/keyboards/drums, constantly shifting from instrument to instrument like an indie Blue Man Group, each member also singing pretty harmony vocals. It was lovely, like listening to a Sufjan Stevens Christmas album. Unfortunately, the lead vocalist doesn't have Stevens' vocal chops, and the songs, though appropriately lilting, lacked in substance. And you can't help but ask yourself: Do they just sound like Sufjan Stevens or are they trying to rip him off? The resemblance is too keen to be a coincidence, though I'm sure no malice was intended. And while Stevens drew a near-capacity crowd when he and his band played here last year, only 50 showed up at Sokol Underground last night. But it was a devoted 50. Two girls standing next to me annoyingly sang along to every weird lyric Dashboard Confessional-style. I had to move.

Tonight's hot ticket is tractor-punk band FortyTwenty and The Filter Kings, which features Lee Meyerpeter of Bad Luck Charm, at The Saddle Creek Bar, 1410 N. Saddle Creek Rd. The Saddle Creek has a number of good shows lined up for November, all listed at their new website (at www.saddlecreekbar.com), which features a handy gig calendar. Tomorrow night at the SCB Adam Weaver and The Ghosts play with Jon Hardy and the Public and Spring Gun. Next Tuesday is Starlight Desperation with Virgasound and The Blush. And then Coyote Bones, Eagle*Seagull and Jake Bellows are lined up for Nov. 11, while Ladyfinger plays there Nov. 18 and Drakes Hotel Nov. 24. Not bad, not bad. As I've said before, I like SCB. It's close to my house, you can usually find a place to park nearby, the PA is first class, the beer is cheap, and there's plenty of places to sit or stand and watch the bands. I'm even told that food is served there, too, though I've never seen a menu. Yes, I'd like this place to join O'Leaver's and The 49'r and Mick's as important mid-town music venues. But for that to happen, SCB will have to continue to book decent shows every weekend, and make it even harder for people like me to choose between all those venues. Tonight's Filter Kings/FortyTwenty show is $7, so is that Starlight Desperation show Tuesday. The rest are just $5. All shows start at 9 p.m.

A quick rundown of the rest of the weekend. Tomorrow night, Hyannis plays at O'Leaver's for their first "bar gig" ever. Could be an achievement or a train wreck. Playing with Hyannis is Tomato a Day and Nicholas Hugg. $5, 9:30 p.m. And then, Sunday, the weekend's biggest show, Sean Na Na at O'Leaver's. I'm hearing that the bar is closing sometime after the dinner hour, when it'll be cleared out for a sound check, then reopened around 8 or 8:30. The show is slated to start at 9:30 and last I heard there was no opening band. Will Sean Na Na draw as well as Har Mar Superstar did the last time he played at O'Leaver's? The jury is still out on that one, but I think it probably will even if only Tillmann's friends show up (He has lots of them around here). So, if you're interested, you better get there early.

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Column 99: Local Heroes; Brimstone Howl to sign to Alive Records; Anathallo tonight... – Nov. 2, 2006 –

Another CD reviews column, and one of the last (you'll see why below). The advent of CD reviews at The Reader will actually mean that I'll be reviewing even more CDs here in Lazy-i in the future. The Shelter Belt CD was the biggest surprise, and will probably end up on a lot of "best of" lists if they can get it in front of the critics by the end of the year.

Column 99: Local Heroes
These four Omaha releases are keepers.

If the folks at The Reader are telling the truth, this will be the last time that this column will be dedicated to album reviews, as plans call for reintroducing a page of CD reviews sometime in the very near future (Hooray!). What better send-off then to review four just-released local albums, all of which deserve your hard-earned rubles.

Bright Eyes, Noise Floor (Rarities: 1998-2005) (Saddle Creek Records) -- This compilation of junk drawer b-sides, limited-pressing EPs, unreleased tracks and other obscura is worth it (to me, anyway) if only for rereleasing "Drunk Kid Catholic" -- a song that reminds me of my favorite live BE moment from spring of 2001 when Conor and crew opened for Low at Knickerbocker's. Originally released as a UK single, I've only found this track as an illegal download. Now I'm legit. Add to that the inclusion of his Britt Daniel collaboration "Spent on Rainy Days" from the split EP Home, which, before it was reissued by Post Parlo, was going for a pretty penny on e-Bay, along with just about every other out-of-print Bright Eyes rarity. Thematically, all this old stuff (though, thankfully, nothing released before '99) dwells heavily on drinking and women and the pain that comes with both. In the end, the rocking tracks out-gun the teary acoustic numbers (but isn't that always the way?). So yeah, it's a no-brainer for Bright Eyes fans, but taken as a whole, the collection stands up with the best of his stuff. Now when is Saddle Creek going to rerelease that Water cassette?

Simon Joyner and The Fallen Men, Skeleton Blues (Jagjaguwar) -- Forget all that talk about his wonky voice and his brilliant lyrics, first and foremost, this is a band album. Standing alongside The Fallen Men, Joyner has finally released his inner-rock star, emerging cautious and slightly broken in a cloak originally tailored for the likes of Dylan. In fact, in a lot of ways this one reminds me of Dylan's last couple of albums, cluttered and dense with musicians allowed to do their thing while their master tells tales of dark nights and loneliness. Easily the most tuneful collection Joyner's ever released, the best moments come when the band's allowed to stretch out, like on opening track "Open Window Blues" with its rolling bass that recalls The Doors, and the gorgeous string-laden "The Only Living Boy in Omaha," wherein Joyner sings "Jimmy says there's no God in the sky holding him for ransom," in a way that instantly recalls Lou Reed. It's not all roses. Just to remind us where he came from, Joyner ditches the band for the 10-minute closer "My Side of the Blues," which is a struggle no matter how you slice it. Should have kept the band in the room, Simon. Maybe you should from now on.

Hyannis, Hyannis (self released) -- It seems appropriate to follow Oberst and Joyner with a band that surely was influenced by both, though they may not know it. No question that these youngsters are a product of the Omaha indie scene circa now. Acoustic songs like "Ronnie" and "People Just Love" have that same acoustic hippy lilt that we've come to know from Neva Dinova, whereas "Timeline" and "Colorado" are pure modern-day Bright Eyes (without the lyrical depth). But maybe more than the usual club of Omaha indie scenesters, Hyannis recalls an aesthetic more in common with early Pink Floyd and Haight-Ashbury psychedelic rock that precludes their existence by, oh I don't know, a couple decades. With 13 tracks and over 40 minutes, it may be a tad bit too ambitions for a debut (which is a nice way of saying that it gets kind of boring toward the end). Are they the next generation of Omaha indie? Time will tell.

Shelter Belt, Under the World Awhile (self released) -- Maybe the biggest surprise so far in a year desperately in need of some surprises, Under the World… is a giant leap forward for a band that could easily have been written off after 2004's overly long cheese factory called Rain Home. This time, frontman/vocalist Jesse Otto loses any and all comparison to Kenny Loggins, purposely throttling back his vocals so as to not get in the way of songs that reflect a sound that's more modern than anything they've tried before. You could argue that tracks like the hand-clap-powered "Dry" and Timberlake-esque "So Sweet (I Have to Dance to Keep You Crying)" too obviously target radio except for the fact that these guys know they'll never make it to nationwide FM without a miracle (though FM could do (and almost always does) much, much worse).

This is probably old news for some of you, but I just found out yesterday that Brimstone Howl will sign to Alive Records. Label owner Patrick Boissel confirmed the story yesterday via e-mail. "Yes, it's true, although we still need to finalize the paperwork," he said. "Dan (Auerbach) from the Black Keys wants to produce the album, and the plan is to release it this spring. I'll post the info on the site as soon as it's final. I'm quite excited about it, they're the best new garage band I have heard in quite a while." Alive has put out records by some of the country's best garage bands, including The Black Keys, Two Gallants (now on Saddle Creek), The Bloody Hollies, Trainwreck Riders and Bufallo Killers, to name a few. After I found all this out, I discovered that the folks at Boom Chick posted the news on their site two weeks ago! Congrats to Brimstone. Catch them live Nov. 11 down at Sokol Underground.

Speaking of Sokol, there's an interesting show there tonight featuring Anathallo, a kinda cool indie band from Mt. Pleasant, Michigan, that boasts eight members and a style that reminds me of Sufjan Stevens or Polyphonic Spree. Big sound. Lots of instruments. And the fact that Pitchfork absolutely hates them is just icing on the cake. Opening the show is Page France and local boys Life After Laserdisque. $10, 9 p.m.

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Live Review: Guster; three minutes with Sean Na Na...– Nov. 1, 2006 –

I have been known to get shit for liking Guster. In fact, I've gotten shit about it from certain members of the local music scene literally for years. But the fact is, I've always liked the band and respected what they do and how they do it. Guster easily could have been absorbed into the hippie jam-band circuit and spent the next 20 years mailing it in for a bunch of stoners who travel around to gigs in shitty VW vans looking for an excuse to get loaded every night. Instead, Guster has consistently tried to further their sound, working with producers like Roger Moutenot (known for his work with Yo La Tengo, among others). They've also always tried their best to entertain their fans, and achieved it every time, including last night, even with one of their core members almost down for the count.

Actually, I wasn't really in the mood to go to Guster last night. I was still kind of whipped from Monday night's Twilight Singers show (I don't know how the One Percent guys do it every night). But three or four songs into their set and I was happy I made the cold drive down to Sokol Auditorium. Guster's injured player was singer/guitarist Adam Gardner, who (as co-frontman Ryan Miller announced from the stage) has been suffering from pneumonia. Miller said the band had talked about canceling the entire week of shows, but Adam insisted on playing Omaha. The effects of his illness were obvious. Gardner was off pitch most of the evening and could barely carry his few vocal lines. This put Miller further into the spotlight, and he handled the duties with panache, singing better than I remember him ever singing.

The first half of the set was weighed down with songs from the new album. I'd like to tell you that they carried as well as the usual chestnuts, but they didn't, and it wasn't just a case of the crowd not being familiar with the material. Ganging Up on the Sun is probably the weakest Guster album in terms of straight-out, unforgettable hooks. No single song has that great-out-of-the-box quality of the best tracks from the last two records (There is no "Fa Fa" or "Barrel of a Gun" or "Amsterdam" or "Careful" in the bunch).

It was interesting to see where new guy Joe Pisapia fell into the line-up. He's billed as the "multi-instrumentalist," when in fact he spent most of the evening on bass, and to be honest with you, I prefer Guster without that added low end. The few times Pisapia strapped on an electric guitar were impressive - the band rearranged a number of songs to make room for him to spread out on solos, and he shredded every one of them. The other nitpick is how much time percussionist Brian Rosenworcel spent behind a full drum kit vs. his usual bongo set up. Most of the new songs appear to be written for the drum kit. I can't say that I blame him for shifting to sticks knowing how he bludgeons his hands every night, but for me, that bongo sound is part of what defines Guster, and I hate to see it go. Combine the added bass with the drum set, and Guster's usual buoyant sound becomes weighed down in low-end, especially in a hall like Sokol that's somewhat boomy to begin with.

That's a lot of complaining, when in fact, last night's set was a lot of fun. Miller is a true entertainer. His combination of wit and a new short haircut makes him come off as a cross between Timothy Busfield and Andy Dick. When it came to the end of the evening, he asked the crowd if they wanted the band to leave the stage for the obligatory "good night, Omaha" pause or to simply stay on stage and go right into the encore, which everyone knew was coming anyway. The crowd of around 700 opted for them to stay, so at the end of the set he said, "Good night, Omaha!" followed moments later with "Thanks for sticking around for the encore."

* * *

I don't own a cell phone so I don't have a clue how the billing works. Sean Tillmann owns a cell phone. And apparently his "plan" charges him mucho dinero for calls to and from Canada, which explains my rather short feature on Sean Na Na. In retrospect, I don't know what more we could have talked about anyway. I'd heard he'd was burned out with doing the Har Mar Superstar schtick, but that apparently ain't the case. He also has a new album in the wings, but no real date has been set for release, at least no date he was willing to tell me. I can tell you that this show will be madhouse packed. Everyone in Omaha loves Sean Tillmann, but few love him more than the guys that run O'Leaver's, who are running this show Nov. 5. Want in? Get there early. You've been warned.

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Live Review: The Twilight Singers; Guster, Now It's Overhead on Halloween night... – Oct. 31, 2006 –

It's impossible to not be entertained by Greg Dulli and his band, the Twilight Singers. He is the consummate entertainer. Like the last time he was here back in '03, Dulli came on stage dressed all in black, along with the rest of his band. He looked like a cocky middle-aged John Belushi, guitar over his shoulder, cigarette in hand (In fact, the entire band smoked throughout the set, making Sokol Underground smell like the old days that were only a few weeks ago). But despite having the same swagger, Dulli seemed a little off last night. Maybe it's the fact that Omaha is one of only two cities that didn't sell out on this tour (drawing only around 200 last night -- what happened, people?). Or maybe Dulli is just getting older. If he was on fire three years ago, last night he was only smoldering. His voice had that same Afghan Whigs snarl, but lacked that little bit of oomph needed to hit the high notes.

He opened with "Teenage Wristband" off the first Twilight Singers full-length, Blackberry Belle, a collection which Dulli drew heavily from last night, and with good reason. While his new one, Powder Burns, has its moments, Dulli could make a living just playing the tracks off Blackberry, which has aged into a modern-day classic. After four or five songs, I began to wonder if Mark Lanegan was still on the tour. Then out of nowhere he appeared, entering from back stage looking like a cross between a straight-haired, goateed Will Ferrell and Frankenstein, striking a pose with one hand on the microphone, the other firmly grasping the mic stand, eyes clamped closed, barely moving. They tore right into their cover of Massive Attack's "Live With Me" and I couldn't take my eyes off Lanegan, who looked like some sort of ghost-zombie-statue, chewing a piece of gum between numbers. After three songs, he exited the stage and didn't reemerge until the encore, when he came back for two more.

Lanegan may have been a highlight, but really, this was Dulli's show, and as the set wore on, he only got better. Unlike the last time, Dulli kept the stage patter to a minimum, telling the crowd to forget it was Monday night. "It's Saturday night at Sokol Underground," he said, lifting a cup of something in a toast (where was that bottle of Maker's Mark he had three years ago?). Like any good showman, he figured out a way to work a Husker reference into his between-song patter. As he went around the stage introducing the band, he introduced himself with, "I'm Lawrence Phillips… and I'm gonna rape you!" Laughter ensued (by me and Dulli, anyway). Another memorable comment came when he introduced "Martin Eden," one of the more frightening drug songs you'll ever hear. "The last time I was here three years ago, I introduced this song talking about Elliott Smith," he said. "After that show, I bought some cocaine from a girl named Kristen. Kristen's not here anymore. Let's sing this one for her."

The set lasted over an hour, and much to chagrin of a few fans, didn't include any Afghan Whigs songs. After the last song of the encore, Dulli lifted up his cup of whatever to salute the crowd, and said in a cautionary tone while looking at his drink, "Be careful." He then stepped off stage and walked directly out of Sokol with a girl on his arm, presumably headed to Council Bluffs… I hung out until well past 1 but never saw Lanegan leave. The show may not have been as good as '03, but it was still one of the better shows of '06.

Sokol is ground-zero tonight for shows both upstairs and underground. The auditorium is reserved for Guster, which starts at 8 p.m. with a rare opening set by Trippin Balls, a surprise act that you may recognize if you can get past their costumes. I promised new Guster guy Joe Pisapia that I wouldn't say anymore. You'll have to find out who they are for yourselves. Tickets are still available for $20.50.

Meanwhile downstairs, it's the return of Now It's Overhead. On their records, NIO is a floating, dreamy, mid-tempo stroll through the trees. All that changes when they step out of the studio and onto the stage. With their atmospheric music stripped down and raw, Andy LeMaster and Co. turn into a rock band, roaring and angry and utterly convincing. Opening band Summerbirds in the Cellar combines dance rhythms with Cure-style drone guitars and intricate, repeated riffs that pull songs out with extended, jammy endings that you don't want to stop. Also on the ticket is Coyote Bones. $8, 9 p.m.

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Little Brazil announces new CD, tour; Coyote Bones news; the return of The Faint; Twilight Singers (Dulli, Lanegan) tonight... – Oct. 30, 2006 –

First off, the Little Brazil news. Guitarist Greg Edds e-mailed to tell me that the band is planning to release its second full-length Tighten The Noose, Feb. 20 on Mt. Fuji Records. "Right now, we're waiting for layout and design work to be finished by local artist Mindy Leahey and Jamie Massey from Ladyfinger/Race For Titles," Edds said. "We have one show left sometime in December before our 3-month tour starts on Feb 1."

Edds also said the band is in talks with SubPop Germany, "which should push a little bit more in our foreign markets. From that point on, we're on a mission to tour non-stop for the rest of 2007 as well as tear apart many stages and after parties. Basically, just do what we do."

Hmm…. New album on Fuji, a European deal and a year's worth of touring? Little Brazil could be on the verge of taking it to the next level.

You'd think that would be enough for Edds, but no. He recently joined Coyote Bones as a guitarist. "We will be leaving for a small two-week tour starting Oct. 31," Edds said. "We'll be doing dates all the way out to the East Coast and back with a two-night stint at CMJ. Coyote Bones also has a record that is fully finished, titled Gentlemen On The Rocks. That should be due out sometime in early 2007 on a label yet to be determined." If you haven't had a chance, you can check out Coyote Bones at a couple upcoming shows. They're opening for Now It's Overhead Halloween night at Sokol Underground. Or wait until their Nov. 11 gig at the Saddle Creek Bar with Eagle*Seagull and Jake Bellows.

Moving on… Saddle Creek Records' monthly update was a bit more newsworthy than usual. The highlights, for those of you who didn't get the memo:

-- The Faint are hitting the road for a few weeks worth of shows. They'll be testing out some new songs and playing some old favorites. The band is currently hard at work in their studio, crafting the follow-up to 2004's Wet From Birth. Among the dates are two Omaha shows: Dec. 16 with Baltimore dance-rock band Celebration, and Dec. 17 with Tilly and the Wall, both at Sokol Auditorium. Tickets to the Omaha shows go on sale Nov. 4 at onepercentproductions.com.

-- Cursive is making the tracks for "Bad Sects" -- one of the stand-outs on their new album, Happy Hollow -- available for anyone and everyone to download and create their own remix. The best effort will be included as the b-side on a future Cursive single. Details are at www.badsects.com.

(Speaking of Robb Nansel, the Saddle Creek label executive sent out an e-mail last night begging people to spread the word about a show he set up for Nov. 7 at The 49'r with Ontario band Tokyo Police Club. Yeah, they do sound pretty cool, judging by their myspace page. Opening the show is the dominating rock onslaught called Bombardment Society).

What else… oh yeah, only what will likely be one of the best shows of '06 tonight at Sokol Underground. The following, written for The Reader:

Oct. 30 -- The Twilight Singers featuring Greg Dulli and Mark Lanegan w/ The Stars of Track and Field & Jeff Klein, Sokol Underground, 9 p.m. $15. -- The perfect rock instrument, Greg Dulli's voice can make you cower or cry or stand up straight right alongside him, testifying to love both good and bad, a dark love that Dulli has seen and wants you to see with him. For this tour, the former Afghan Whigs frontman is teamed with Mark Lanegan, the growling, gut-punching genius behind Screaming Trees. Together, they've released a five-song EP called A Stitch in Time with former Whigs Joseph Arthur and Rick McCollum that includes a brazen, nasty cover of Massive Attack's "Live With Me." The last time Dulli was in town (Nov. 6, 2003), his nearly two-hour set wound up being on everyone's best-of list. Expect nothing less.

Seriously, you don't miss this one.

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Last night at O'Leaver's, Tilly on Letterman; Jolie Holland/Dave Dondero tonight... – Oct. 28, 2006 –

When I showed up last night at O'Leaver's, Black Squirrels had just already begun their set of fun, laid-back, folky acoustic songs, the kind that would sound perfect played on a ukulele. Pleasant and unobtrusive, it's stuff that your mom would love. I'm surprised these guys haven't played at Mick's yet. The crowd was clearly there to see them, cheering for an encore, which the trio gratefully provided. Ten minutes after they were done, half the crowd of family and friends left. Looks like the poor Pomonas got Omaha'd.

Then to my surprise, while the Pomonas were setting up, I glanced up at the TV and saw that Tilly and the Wall were going to be on Letterman. I had no idea that they were scheduled for last night's show. A small group gathered around the TV while the O'Leaver's soundman wired up a microphone to broadcast the program's sound over the bar's PA. The Letterman stage featured the three Tilly girls all standing on plywood platforms like Barbie dolls, as if all three were going to tap dance instead of just Jamie. It's hard to say how good or bad it sounded. They played "Bad Education" from the new album, which was probably the wrong choice (but which of their songs would have been the right choice?). Actually, it did sound bad, but everyone sounds bad on Letterman. Jamie, Kianna and Neely looked flashy and theatrical. The guy next to me asked if they were Prince's latest project. "Who are they supposed to be? Vanity 6?" They did sort of come off as a label creation, like a quirky, indie version of The Dixie Chicks. Nick White was hidden on stage, and it wasn't until about halfway through that the cameras panned away from all the tight close-ups of the tap shoes and hips to reveal Derek Pressnall off to stage right playing guitar and singing. No idea who the bass player was, apparently someone new to the band. If you missed it, I'm sure someone will put it on YouTube eventually. Getting on Letterman is quite an accomplishment, and you gotta believe it'll result in moving at least an additional 5,000 units.

After all that, on came The Pomonas, playing their usual brand of Lawrence-sounding indie rock (I know, I know, what the hell does "Lawrence-sounding" mean... there's something about KC/Lawrence indie bands of this vein that reminds me of all those mid-'90s bands from down there that I used to dig). It was a fun, sloppy set enjoyed by the few who remained.

Tonight's big show is Jolie Holland and Dave Dondero at Mick's. Someone told me last night that ticket sales have been brisk, and I wouldn't be surprised if it eventually sold out. $15, 9 p.m.

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Members of the Press (say goodbye?), Pomonas tonight... – Oct. 27, 2006 –

It's a busy, busy Friday night with ton of shows going on. Here's the rundown:

Tonight at Shea Riley's, Members of the Press are celebrating their CD release show, made doubly special as it will be one of the final MOTP performances before frontman Randy Cotton moves to the Portland area. He says he fell in love with the PNW (that's Pacific Northwest for you Midwestern types) after visiting his girlfriend there on a monthly basis. "I have been out here before on tour, but I never got to spend much time in Portland, until recently. I feel like there is a lot of opportunity for me in the area, so I'm gonna check it out for a while," Cotton said. "As soon as I get settled in, my brother Barry (other bassist in MOTP) is going to spend some time out here. If he likes it, he will most likely move here, too." As part of this special night, there will be a short set by Cotton and Mike Saklar's old band, Ravine. And on top of that, Saklar's new band, No Blood Orphan will play a set. And if that weren't enough, there will be a set by Killdozer tribute band Shoeshine Boys. The $10 cover will get you a copy of MOTP's new CD. Cotton is encouraging costuming. Do what you feel is right. 9:30, $10, Shea's, 320 So. 72nd St.

Also tonight, it's time to welcome back the The Pomonas at O'Leaver's. The Lawrence indie dudes will likely be unveiling some new material from an upcoming album. Also on the O'Leaver's dance card are The Black Squirrels and irresistible Omaha folkie Bill Latham a.k.a. Bill Donuts. $5, 9:30 p.m. No mention of costumes this time. Good.

Also tonight, two Benson-area folk-rock shows, starting with new band Hyannis at The Foundry in Benson (60th Ave and Maple, to be precise). 8 p.m. and FREE. Also in Benson, singer-songwriters Kyle Harvey and The Scott Severin Band are at The Barley Street Tavern, just 1/2 block south of 62nd and Maple. That one's at 9 p.m. and also is FREE.

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Guster's new guy, Joe Pisapia (a Lazy-i exclusive)... – Oct. 26, 2006 –

This really is a Lazy-i exclusive, and when I use the word "exclusive," I mean unlike most of the interviews seen here, this one won't appear in The Reader. It doesn't mean that no one else in the Omaha community printed an interview with Guster. In fact, the reason this won't appear in The Reader is because the interview was "called" by another writer weeks and weeks before I asked for the story. Instead of walking away, I still wanted to see what the men from Guster have been up to since the last time I interviewed them (here). And as a tip o' the hat to the power of online webzines, the band's publicist and the band agreed to do an interview with good ol' Lazy-i. So here it is. Enjoy it, and also go to the One Percent Productions website and buy a pair of tickets to the Halloween night Guster concert at Sokol Underground. I know that a majority of Lazy-i Omaha readers will likely be downstairs at the Underground that same night, where Now It's Overhead will be playing with Summerbirds in the Cellar & Coyote Bones. I don't blame them. But if you're a Guster fan and never been to a Guster concert, you'd be well-served to make your way upstairs that night (NIO was just here a few months ago, anyway). And, gosh, when was the last time you got to rub elbows with a more westerly-leaning Omaha crowd?

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Column 98 -- The Temple of Simon Joyner; The Elected tonight... – Oct. 25, 2006 –

This is not the full review of the new Simon Joyner and the Fallen Men CD that I promised. That's still percolating but will be online in the very near future along with reviews of new CDs by Hyannis, Bright Eyes and Shelterbelt. Really. Instead, this column was written after Sunday night's rocking Simon show. Though I don't know him very well and haven't interviewed him since way back in 1998 (here), Joyner is one of my all-time favorite singer/songwriters. I'd hoped that I could get the gig of interviewing him for The Reader in support of this show and this album release, but Jesse beat me to the punch (again). I guess it'll have to wait until the next one. As I've said many times before in various live reviews and again in the following column, Simon Joyner's musical style and his voice is downright polarizing -- people love it or hate it. There's no in between. I've never met anyone, however, who doesn't respect Joyner's song writing talent and what he's achieved in his career. If you haven't had the chance to see him perform live, you'll never get a better chance than when he opens for Bright Eyes at Sokol Auditorium Dec. 15 for a show that benefits The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts' International Artist-in-Residency Program.

Column 98 -- The Temple of Simon
What does genius sound like?

It was 10:30 on Sunday night. The Tigers had just got their last out, balancing the series at one game apiece. And the last thing I wanted to do was drive all the way downtown and pay $5 to stand in a smoke-filled club for two hours to be jostled and bumped and told to get out of the way. I had to work the next day, ferchrissake. And I was bone tired. And dammit, it was cold outside.

But this was a Simon Joyner show, and you always have to think twice before deciding to go or not to go to see Simon. The occasion was the "CD release party" for his new album at The Goofy Foot Lodge, and I couldn't miss it. Simon really is a genius in our midst, but here's the deal:

In last week's issue of The Reader, there's a terrific feature written by Jesse Stanek about Simon and his new album. If you haven't read it, it's still online at The Reader website. Find it. Jesse did an impeccable job capturing what went into the new record. But there's one point that Jesse kinda sorta failed to mention whilst calling the new record "poignant" and "nothing short of spectacular." And it's an important point. See, you can tell people how much of a genius Simon is, how brilliant and brave and true every word of his lyrics are, you can place every brick you can find and carefully build your temple to Simon Joyner, but at the end of the day, when you take one of his records and play it for your ma or pa or Joe Lunchbucket who lives out in West Omaha Wonderbreadland, the reaction will always be pretty much the same: "Who in the hell is this guy, and where'd he learn to sing?"

To forget to mention that Simon's voice is an acquired taste is like forgetting to mention that little detail about steak tartar. When the plate arrives, there's going to be some explaining to do. If you're honest, you can't not explain that Simon's voice can be -- and often is -- painfully off-kilter. You can either get by that little fact, or you never will.

Case in point, whilst standing next to a local musician at one of Joyner's last O'leaver's shows -- a musician who has always admired Joyner's music -- we listened as Simon climbed one of his quivering-Dylan-drunken-man-stumbling arpeggios, wondering if he'd make it to the top, and the musician turned to me and smiled and said, "I don't get it. The guy cannot sing." I told him -- firmly but gently and half-joking -- "You're not listening. You can't hear the genius with that smile on your face. Simon's trying to tell you something, about his life, about your life, and you're going to miss it if you keep concentrating on the fact that he's completely out of tune."

Simon disciple Conor Oberst has a similar style. You can play his early works for just about anyone out-of-the-know and you'll get the same "braying sheep" comments about his voice. I realize it's sacrilege to say that in this day when Conor has been thrust on stage with Stipe and Springsteen and Emmylou, but folks, his early genius was heard in the voice of a bleating, fuzzy farm animal. Joe Sixpack who works down at the Kum and Go doesn't get it. And never will.

But here's the rub: I provide the above confession whilst rubbing the red marks on my knees after kneeling at the temple of Simon Joyner most of my music-loving life. I'm one of those devotees, those followers, and have been since back in the day when Simon was a local teenage heart-throb that caused the little girls to rush the stage, their hearts a-swoon (I've seen it, at The Howard St. Tavern circa 1994).

I have listened to almost everything Joyner has recorded, starting with his cassette-only release, Umbilical Chords, to his masterpiece The Cowardly Traveller Pays His Toll to the droll, tiring Heaven's Gate to the twangy rapture of The Lousy Dance, and now, to his second high-water mark, the just-released ensemble record with his band, the Fallen Men called Skeleton Blues. And in all of it, I've always found something that was impossible to forget. But I had to get past his voice first. It wasn't easy, but I did it. And you can, too. You've done it before, for Dylan and Petty and even Conor. You've seen beyond the awkward croon and found the genius that touched your lives. Joyner's music can do that, too. But you can't hear it if you don't listen.

The Elected are playing tonight at Sokol Underground -- that's Blake Sennett of Rilo Kiley's "other band." Those wondering what's going on with Rilo might want to take a glimpse at this item at Billboard.com where Jenny Lewis talks about their upcoming new album, expected sometime in the first half of '07. Even more than The Elected, people are abuzz about tonight's opening band, Margot And The Nuclear So And So's, an 8-piece chamber-pop outfit from Indianapolis who doesn't have a member named Margot (the moniker is an homage to brilliant film The Royal Tenenbaums). Also on tonight's dance card, the kids from Whispertown 2000. This should be a scenester's paradise. $10, 9 p.m.

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Briefly noted from last weekend; Electric Six tonight... – Oct. 23, 2006 –

Went to a couple shows this past weekend. Last night's Simon Joyner gig down at Goofy Foot Lodge was the better of the two. Plans call for providing a little more detail and a review of Joyner's new album in this week's column, online Wednesday or Thursday. Look for it. Opening act The Miracles of God, who has opened for Simon on a few other occasions, sounded completely different to me, in a good way -- like a hybrid of punk and beer-bottle rock, the kind of punk you might hear in a truck stop driving east of Chicago. Dirty and loud. They played a couple shows with Outlaw Con Bandana leading up to this gig (who I missed last night, thanks to the Cardinals). Outlaw apparently had some van troubles on this short tour, troubles as in getting T-boned somewhere around Iowa City. I'm told their van was totaled. I assume no one was hurt or they wouldn't have played last night. Joyner, incidentally, declared them his current favorite local band during his set -- quite an honor (if you ask me).

The Goofy Foot continues to be one of the cooler bars in Omaha that still doesn't make you feel out of place, even if you're wearing a Ft. Calhoun Pioneers hoodie and a stocking cap (it was cold last night). Their pseudo stage is still somewhat lacking -- actually, it's more of an anti-stage as you seem to be looking down at the band rather than up to them -- but their sound system is more than adequate for the room. It does have a similar "standing in the way" problem that The 49'r has -- if you're not at a table or up at the pool tables, you're probably in someone's way. Oh well. They have the cheapest Rolling Rock in town, incidentally. More on Simon Wednesday (or Thursday).

I didn't get a good enough feel at Saturday night's Titanmoon/Davan show at O'Leaver's to give a real review (I was chatting with someone in the back during most of the set). Titanmoon was fun, poppy rock, and durn good. Davan was quirky and didn't hold my attention. Neither band was a good fit opening for the thunder of Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship, which pounded the place to rubble. Perhaps the bands are friends or the touring bands were just thrown on the night's bill? No idea.

Tonight at Sokol Underground, Detroit's Electric Six with Aberdeen City and The Blue Van. I'm listening to Electric Six's "I Buy the Drugs" right now -- sounds like a throwback to early '80s FM radio rock a la Jack Black, lots of keyboards and guitar and a big, bad chorus. Could be fun. Niz wrote about Aberdeen City here in the OWH this weekend -- their guitarist has Omaha ties, apparently, and Steve Lillywhite likes 'am. $12, 9 p.m.

Here's this week's Slowdown photo. As always, click the thumbnail to enlarge. The cranes have been busy, but it's getting colder out there, folks. Can they get it buttoned down before the heavy stuff moves in?

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Terminals/Willowz tonight, Simon Joyner and the Fallen Men Sunday...– Oct. 20, 2006 –

Here's what we got for the weekend, folks:

It starts tonight with The Willowz and The Terminals at O'Leaver's. Hopefully more people will show up this time for The Willowz than when they came through here last August. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Tomorrow night is another one at O'Leaver's, starting with Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship and Electric Needle Room. Dallas' Titanmoon is an indie disco rock band. Sounds pretty fun, judging by their myspace page. Headliner Davan is weirdness from Lawrence. A lot of music for $5, 9:30 p.m.

Finally, Sunday, the long-awaited CD release party for Simon Joyner and the Fallen Men's new CD, Skeleton Blues, at The Goofy Foot Lodge. Look for a full review of the CD online here sometime this weekend. Also playing are Outlaw Con Bandana and The Miracles of God. $6, 9 p.m.

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Column 97 -- YouTubed; Califone tonight... – Oct. 19, 2006 –

The final word on Two Gallants? Probably. Nothing new about the Houston incident went online over night. I sense the hype fading, at least until the court date. The whole thing was a good springboard to write the following column about YouTube, which really is the greatest time waster since the invention of pornography. Go to YouTube when you're board, look down at your watch and discover that an hour has passed while you absentmindedly viewed someone's shitty videos of their dog or tried to find every Joy Division video online.

Column 97: YouTubed
Videos are relevant all over again.

Overheard while out and about last weekend, talk of the new Ladyfinger (NE) video, the one featuring a slouched and beaten Matt Bowen -- local legend and music hustler, former member of too many bands to list -- pushing a broom in his role as a school janitor. I had to see it. But where?

Music videos have been around for what seems like forever, but they've never been a serious endeavor for local indie bands. What's the point? You could spend thousands of dollars and hours making a video that ultimately will never be seen by anyone but your family and friends. MTV? Who do you think you are? A-Ha?

YouTube has changed all of that. Located at www.youtube.com, the website is one of technology's ultimate time wasters right along with Madden '07 and the Blackberry. Go there now and you'll find linked off the homepage videos like "Sweet Tired Cat" -- 27 seconds of a cat falling asleep, and "Chad Vader," a 6-minute video that imagines Darth Vader as a grocery clerk at "Empire Market." Funny? Well, sort of.

You'll also find that aforementioned video of Ladyfinger's "Too Cool for School" in all its cheesy glory. In fact, you'll find just about any music video that you can remember seeing on MTV. Robert Plant's "Big Log" circa 1983? It's there. The A-Ha classic "Take on Me"? Of course. Cursive's "Dorothy at Forty"? Yup, right along with every other video made by Saddle Creek artists, including The Faint's "Agenda Suicide," arguably the best music video ever produced by a local band.

Saddle Creek Records exec Robb Nansel likes YouTube. "It seems like a great way to get some additional exposure that bands may not have had access to before," he said, adding that the website's crappy Flash-based video technology is so poor that it won't impact the label's video sales. "But we have never viewed the music videos that we make as a revenue stream. We think of them as promotional materials for our bands, so the more people that see the videos, the better."

Greg Edds, guitarist for local rock band Little Brazil, couldn't agree more. Edds emailed me a link to their video for "Stretching Skin," which captures the band playing in a well-lit practice space. He said the video has been viewed more than 1,300 times since it was uploaded to YouTube in September.
"(YouTube) definitely allows us and other bands to reach a world market without touring to those lengths," he said. "It's another avenue for bands to try something new… and free, creatively."

But even more prolific than band-made music videos is live footage captured by fans -- thousands of hours of it. You cannot go to a rock show these days without seeing those kids and their tiny palm-corders, capturing a performance that will be uploaded to YouTube the next morning.

The footage is clearly a breach of various copyright laws, but Nansel doesn't seem to mind. "I think technically, people should ask permission," he said, "but we have never asked anyone to take anything down."

Those amateur indie-rock videographers certainly came in handy last Friday night for Saddle Creek band Two Gallants. Over the weekend, a number of outraged Houstonites emailed me to recount how Two Gallants were busted by the HPD during a performance at club Walter's on Washington. They told stories of police brutality that bordered on Gestapo tactics, of people being thrown to the ground and 14-year-olds being "tazed." However, the only mainstream coverage of the event, by Houston ABC affiliate KTRK, seemed to counter their claims, stating band members attacked the officer, who efficiently restored order. Who to believe? In the "old days," most would rely on the ABC account.

But within hours of the confrontation, videos of the incident wound up on YouTube, capturing the frantic melee as it happened. One video clearly shows a cop taking down a band member on stage and calling for back-up. Another appears to capture a patron being pushed by the cop to the floor. Since they went online Saturday, the videos have been viewed more than 80,000 times. And that KTRK report has been updated, no longer stating the band attacked the cop.

In the end, the videos don't capture how the scuffle began -- that'll be for a Houston court to determine (talk about your return engagements). As of Tuesday morning, the story had been covered by more than a dozen online news outlets, including Rolling Stone.com -- many include links to the YouTube footage. You simply cannot buy publicity like that. And for a band that's known in the indie music world for their song about spending a night in a "Las Cruces Jail," they can now add a line about a real night in a Houston jail. Hopefully someone captured it on video.

Tonight at Sokol Underground, Califone with Peter & the Wolf and McCarthy Trenching. I enjoyed Califone the last time they came through here, opening for The Sea and Cake waaay back in 2003 (read the review here). Judging by their new CD, the very trippy Roots & Crowns, not much has changed. It should be a fun evening. $10, 9 p.m.

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More Two Gallants publicity; Thunderbirds Are Now! tonight; Minutemen at O'Leaver's... – Oct. 18, 2006 –

Who would have thought Two Gallants getting busted in Houston last Friday night would become such a big deal? It's a story that just isn't going to die. The Houston Chronicle today follows with a lengthy feature headlined, "Melee Could Put the Hurt on Houston's Music Scene," with the underline "Brawl between HPD, band draws national notice, may keep acts away, fans say." The story (here) says that Houston already has a bad rep among touring bands, and that the Two Gallants debacle is only going to make it worse. "Managers are trying to give their bands a chance in Houston. But there's absolutely nothing we can say to help our case to get bands into town when they're being attacked by cops. Whatever the official report is, there's no excuse for it," said local promoter Ryan Chavez, who booked the show. Two Gallants would be crazy to skip Houston now. Imagine the press coverage they'd receive, both locally and nationally, upon their return. The show would be huge. If they really want to make a statement about what happened, the best way to do it is from a Houston stage.

Doesn't sound like that will happen though, based on the band's interview with Pitchfork that went online yesterday afternoon (here). Adam Stephens' and Tyson Vogel's account of the situation is disturbing, painting a picture of a man-mountain strolling through the crowd brandishing a Taser like a cattle prod. "He was really focused on this one kid, who was really young," said Vogel in the article. "I think he was 14 years old. He kept Tasing him over and over again. The kid started having convulsions or something. It's so crazy. You can kill somebody with one of those things." If true, that's pretty creepy. The funniest line of the story comes from Stephens: "That guy was huge, and we're skinny little indie rocker kids. It's not like we go to the gym, and we definitely couldn't take this guy on in any way. He was a big dude and he was on top of us, pretty much had us down." So now the band is considering taking legal action, which would be a mistake. Says Vogel, "This is about a larger truth. We're not trying to get something else out of it. We just want what's right." Good luck with that one.

Tonight at Sokol Underground, Thunderbirds Are Now! roll into town in support of their new album, Make History on Frenchkiss Records, a standard-issue indie rock album. With Rescue and Tie These Hands, $8, 9 p.m. Meanwhile, over at O'Leaver's, it's Mike Tulis' Rock Movie Night featuring the documentary We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen. Movie details are here. The film rolls at 9:30 and it's FREE.

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Two Gallants epilogue; Bonnie Prince Billy tonight... – Oct. 17, 2006 –

A follow-up to the Two Gallants' drama. Just about every music outlet on the web has covered the incident, including Rollingstone.com and, of course, Pitchfork. And there are tons of blogs covering the fracas, including this one. Also as a result of the rigmarole, Thursday's Lazy-i column will focus on YouTube and will mention the incident. Again, could Saddle Creek and Two Gallants ask for better (or at least, more) publicity, even if it costs the band some more jail time and/or fines? Guess that's up to the band to decide...

Tonight at Sokol Underground Bonnie Prince Billy along with Dapose's Vverevvolf Grehv. Who remembers the last time Will Oldham came to town? I do. It was back in August 2001 at The Music Box. Simon Joyner opened the show, and Pinetop Seven did an amazing set. Oldham stumbled on stage last along with has band of very strange musicians. They created about 30 minutes of droning noise that featured Oldham mumbling words incoherently while some spook stood at the front of the stage and stared at the crowd (that appeared to be his only job, to be the official goon). Not one of the best shows of 2001, not by a long shot. But hey, that was five years ago. I'm sure things have gotten better for Oldham by then. He's certainly turned out to be a helluva an actor (Junebug, Old Joy, etc.). And his new album, The Letting Go, has been getting raves. $15, 9 p.m. If you prefer to dance instead, drop in at O'Leaver's for Chromatics, who's playing tonight with Glass Candy and Eagle's Blood. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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Two Gallants tangle with the HPD; Live review: Chin Up x2; Totimoshi tonight... – Oct. 16, 2006 –

I received a number of emails over the weekend from outraged Houstonites who were there Friday night when Two Gallants got busted during a performance at Walter's on Washington. Walter's calls itself "the neighborhood bar that is also the best new live music venue in Houston." Supposedly a few of those neighbors weren't so happy with the noise level Friday night and called the cops. By the accounts I've received, what ensued was a police action that borders on Gestapo.

One member of the crowd, Lazy-i reader William G.K. Zhang, says it went down like this: "A policeman came into the venue and immediately got on stage. The policeman then started to confront Adam and after a short while, threw him down on the stage. The policeman then got up and immediately called for backup. The policeman also started thrashing around and destroying musical equipment. Afterwards, members from the crowd and the opening bands started confronting the police officer. The police officer then proceeded to harass and taze members of the crowd, including one 14-year old teenager. Adam then ran out of the venue and disappeared into the streets. Tyson was handcuffed and peacefully entered the police car. Soon, helicopters and police cars flooded into the venue parking lot. Arrests were made of members of the opening bands and dissenting crowd members."

The local ABC affiliate filed this report, which originally stated the band attacked the cop. Ah, but the power of portable digital video cameras proved that those initial reports were, to say the least, questionable, and story has since been updated. Take a look a couple different videos of the incident on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JxKQb03A0bw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40x2KghHX_A

Ugly. I ran into Saddle Creek's Robb Nansel yesterday, who confirmed that the incident did indeed go down, and that Adam and Tyson didn't get out of Houston till the next day, then booked it to Austin for their gig at Emo's. Zhang said that among the casualties in the fray was Langhorne Slim's 90-year-old bass, which got broken when the cop pushed a crowd member into it. Now there are reports that the neighbors never complained about the noise. And let's be honest, isn't it odd for a cop to storm the stage and try to take a guitar away from the musician? If you want the sound cut, you go to the sound board and start unplugging things. Strange, strange business. It'll be even stranger when the Two Gallants make their return visit to Houston -- to appear in court.

The Houston Chronicle weighs in with this account, where an HPD spokesman calls the policeman's behavior "commendable."

Zhang's full account is now on the Two Gallants Wikipedia entry.

There's another account on a witness' myspace page:

And more comments at the Two Gallants forum.

Expect this story to be covered in all the usual music media in the next few days. Could Two Gallants ask for better publicity? Congratulations, Saddle Creek. And thanks to those who wrote in (Emily, William, John) to give me a head's up.

* * *

There was a nice crowd at the Chin Up Chin Up show Saturday night at O'Leaver's to hear a nice set from a nice indie 5-piece that plays nice, mid-tempo indie rock. I like Chin Up, but the set was less than riveting. To their credit, they got better as the set wore on, peaking with the final two songs.

Tonight at O'Leaver's, Oakland-based indie heavy-metal trio Totimoshi takes the stage with Omaha's own Lepers. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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Live Review: STNNNG, The Protoculture; Chin Up Chin Up tonight – Oct. 14, 2006 –

Maybe 65 people were at Sokol Underground last night to see Protoculture play the best set I've ever heard them play. If you were around the stage, you saw the hi-jinx between the crowd and band, that at one point forced them to start a song over. Kooky. Great sound, though, and always fun to watch (though they didn't play their Kite Pilot cover as drummer Koly Walter has promised.).

STNNNG had a tougher time. Halfway through their set, something went amiss with one of the guitar amps. It killed the momentum the band had gathered up to that point with their brand of hard-edged post-punk. Frontman Chris Besinger was in his usual bizarre form, looking like a dwarfish sex deviant straight out of Times Square circa 1971. With his scream-bark, leather gloves and piercing eyes, he looked like a homicidal street lunatic ranting at an imaginary friend, pointing and grimacing and storming around the stage. Meanwhile, a small moshpit formed up front, consisting of five or six young guys stomping around elbowing each other. Whatever happened to the slam-dance culture? STNNNG’s new songs are bleak, intense and filthy, at times creating an intense groove with Besinger playing the role of punk shaman. And man, it was loud.

Tonight at O’Leaver's, Chin Up Chin Up, with Skull Fight and Electric Needle Room. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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STNNNG on Friday the 13th!; Chin Up Chin Up Saturday; Cursive update – Oct. 13, 2006 –

Friday the 13th. Pretty scary. Is it safe to go out tonight? Well, if you do, there's a great show down at Sokol Underground: STNNNG, The Protoculture, Bombardment Society and The Stay Awake all for just $8. I'm told that The Protoculture will be rolling out a new cover of a Kite Pilot song this evening. And if you haven't seen Bombardment with new bass player Lincoln Dickison (The Monroes), well, you're in for a treat.

If for some reason you've gone crazy and you don't feel like driving downtown, Mark Mallman is "scheduled" to open a show at O'Leaver's with Pendrakes and Jon Yeager Band. Ironically, I mentioned Mallman's show to Chris Besinger of STNNNG, and he said if these two shows were going on simultaneously in Minneapolis, Mallman's show would be the one to sell out. Please Note: Mallman's O'Leaver' show is not listed on his tour page. He was scheduled to play in Fargo last night and in Albuquerque tomorrow. The show's promoter hasn't been able to reach him to confirm tonight's show, so caveat emptor on this one.

If you survive Friday the 13th, you may not be so lucky on the 14th, what with Skull Fight!, Chin Up Chin Up, and Electric Needle Room playing at O'Leaver's. CUCU just released the long player This Harness Can't Ride Anything on Suicide Squeeze. Skull Fight! is the new Cuterthans, but tougher, angrier, maybe not as smarter, but angrier (sort of). Electric Needle Room is one of the guys featured in my Joslyn column from a few weeks ago. I believe this will be his O'Leaver's debut. Will he be great? Will he suck? Find out for $5.

* * *

A bit of Saddle Creek-related news to pass on: In an interview with Billboard (they're getting all the scoops lately), Cursive's Tim Kasher said that the band is writing a new album's worth of music with the intention of hitting the studio in January for a fall release. Kasher also continues to work on his screenplay titled, "Help Wanted Nights." Ain't looking so good for us Good Life fans, as Kasher is unsure when he'll return to that band. Read the whole story here. If you're wondering how Cursive is doing on the road, here's a colorful review of their show in Philly, that starts with "A man has found his way onto the stage of the Starlight Ballroom and he is very, very drunk." and ends with "A smile deep across his face, Kasher thanks everyone post-sing-a-long, bending over and hugging the front row. His sincerity probably only half due to his drinking." Glug-glug-glug...

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Column 96 -- The Trouble with Lists; Benevento-Russo Duo tonight ... – Oct. 12, 2006 –

This column was written in conjunction with The Reader's annual "music issue" which features a list of the area's top-20 bands and the next 15 bands. I don't have an accurate list to show you because it changed before publication for whatever reason. I assume editor Andy Norman will share the process by which the list was created -- i.e., music writers at The Reader were asked to contribute their lists, and Andy used a method to consolidate them involving votes, etc. But before those lists were sent in, a number of the writers met at The Dundee Dell to discuss the guidelines, and arguments ensued - not angry, fist-shaking scream-a-thons, but lively exchanges about what should and shouldn't be allowed. That's where the question regarding Saddle Creek bands' inclusion surfaced. Are Creek bands "local" or not? I argue that they are, some say they aren't, which makes no sense to me. In the end, my side of the argument prevailed, as you'll be able to see when the issue hits the streets today. Andy plans to make the lists an annual event.

Column 96: What's the Point?
The trouble with lists.

The core problem with creating a special "music issue" of The Reader that includes a "list" of the 20 "best bands" in the Omaha/Lincoln area is obvious. You're forced to answer the question: "What's the point?" Why place bands in a pecking order based on the (hopefully, though unlikely) well-informed opinion of a group of faceless critics who feel compelled to tell the public what is good and what isn't?

The argument against such a list gets down to one undeniable fact: When it comes to art, competition sucks. It serves no purpose. It makes friends enemies. It creates pride, envy and doubt in the heart of the artists. It discourages as much as it encourages new art, new ideas, risk-taking.

And yet, "best of" lists and the endless string of award shows have become an acknowledged method of recognizing art and music in our culture, even though the determination of what's good and what isn't ultimately rests solely in the eyes and ears of the beholder. You can tell me a thousand times that something is great or something sucks, but in the end, I'll decide for myself (Unless, of course, I'm a sheep).

So why do it? Why make a list of the best and a list of runners-up (and, by default, a list of those that didn't make the lists)? The most obvious reason: Because it's fun. It's controversial. And most importantly, because people love their lists and awards. They need to have their opinions validated, to affirm that they, indeed, have "good taste." So I guess it all comes down to ego, and doesn't ego fuel all art? Perhaps, perhaps…

What I can tell you with extreme confidence is that no matter how Editor Andy and the rest of the staff cut it, the list will piss people off. Hell, I don't even like the list. Where's Mal Madrigal and Outlaw Con Bandana? Where's Brimstone Howl? WHERE THE HELL IS THE MONROES?

But let's start with the obvious complaint: Of the top 20 "best bands" 40 percent of them are Saddle Creek Records artists -- Neva Dinova, Tilly and the Wall, Cursive, Criteria, Bright Eyes, The Faint, Ladyfinger and The Good Life. The discussion whether to include Saddle Creek bands was -- to say the least -- heated. The core arguments against it: They're not local bands, they're national bands that happen to live in Omaha. They've already "made it." They're mentioned constantly in the national press, why do they need any more recognition? Aren't they all millionaires? Hell, they rarely even play in Omaha. And so on.

But to not include Saddle Creek artists would have made the list more pointless than it already is. Cursive and Bright Eyes and The Faint are Omaha bands -- they live here, they interact with other local musicians, they go to local shows, they drink booze at O'Leaver's and Sokol and The Brothers like the rest of us. They love Omaha or else they would have moved away a long, long time ago. But the most obvious argument: They're the sole reason the Omaha music scene is recognized east of the Missouri River and west of Elkhorn.

Yeah, they're successful, and they don't need any more pats on the back. And I can pretty much promise you that the one-sheet included with Bright Eyes' next release will not include the accolade, "Named one of Omaha's top-20 bands of 2006 by The Reader." But one-sheets for Anonymous American and Prospect Avenue and Jazzwholes might. How valuable is it for those bands to be on the same list as Saddle Creek acts in terms of just capturing the attention of an out-of-town club owner or small indie label?

Look, there's no way The Reader was going to completely satisfy anyone with this list. And from that standpoint, it's a failure before it was ever printed. But will it get people thinking, arguing, debating the music scene, defending their favorite band, discussing the merits of another, discovering a new band that they never heard before? Perhaps, perhaps…

So don't get mad. Relax. It's all in good fun. You already know that your favorite band is good, whether the idiots at The Reader know it or not. And maybe next year those asswipes will remember The Monroes and Mal Madrigal and everyone else that didn't make the list. But somehow, I doubt it.

Tonight down at Sokol Underground, the Benevento-Russo Duo with Chris Harford's Band of Changes. Here's a capsule preview I submitted to The Reader about this show:

Had enough of those guitar-and-drum acts? You know, The White Stripes, The Black Dice, Two Gallants, and on and on? How 'bout an organ-and-drum duo? Now there's a new twist. The Benevento-Russo Duo are just that. Organist Marco Benevento and drummer Joe Russo can go from loungy jazzy interludes to all-out cacophonous rock anthems in no time flat. The duo started out playing a weekly residency at The Knitting factory in NYC, and have since played everywhere from the Fuji Rockfest in Japan to SXSW to Bonnaroo. How did a Wurlitzer ever get so cool? $10, 9 p.m.

This one has the folks at One Percent excited, and the B-R is doing an in-store performance at the Old Market Homer's at 5:30.

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STNNNG's stunning interview... – Oct. 11, 2006 –

Yes, that STNNNG interview just went online (read it here). Frontman Chris Besinger was one of the better interviews I've had in recent weeks. Translated: He was funny and engaging, as opposed to dry and boring. In addition to mocking Wayne Coyne and Chris Machmuller, Besinger talked about his leather glove, his love of Omaha, his new and old albums, and why he does what he does.

Among the quips I didn't have room for in the article:

On how all cities have both a good music scene and a crappy music scene: "You can't have a good scene without a crappy scene, they feed off each other. Sometimes when you're on tour you just end up in the crappy scene, which is usually the people who are willing to give out their shows. About a week afterward, you heard from someone from that town who says, 'Oh, you really should have played with this band or at this club.'"

On chicks at shows: "There aren't any. If we were all gay guys, that would be awesome, because there's not a whole lot of babes at our shows."

On the fact their their new record is a "concept album": "It turned into a concept album accidentally, a concept that doesn't make sense. It's kind of about things and people or animals that are two conflicting things at the same time. It's not like one of those weird, unwieldy Pete Townsend or Pink Floyd concepts. I don't want people to think we're Tool or the Mars Volta."

On text messaging during shows: "We opened a show for a friend of ours and it was a much different crowd than we're used to. There was this dude up front texting on his phone, three or four rows back. I just wanted to get that phone and throw it against the wall. We're a loud, crazy, out-of-control band and you're sending a text message? NO TEXTING!"

On owning his first house in Minneapolis: "It's weird. You end up at weird times of the day thinking 'I own this house? I'm in my kitchen. I own all this crap.'"

On Prince: "He's still very much in the mindset in Minneapolis. Prince was at one of our shows, but when I say he was at one of our shows, it was more like he ended up at 7th St. Entrance after we finished playing." He went on to say Grant Hart is another local legend that still hangs out around town. "You see him all the time."

And so on... Read the story, then go to the show Friday night. By the way, here's the "Slowdown pic 'o the week." I should have put it online Monday. Click the thumbnail to see a bigger version. And for those of you who complain about the picture on the Lazy-i homepage never changing -- I've changed it twice in three weeks. So there! Please notice.

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Live Review: Yo La Tengo... – Oct. 9, 2006 –

I don't know how to lead this -- I've been waiting for this show for a decade and finally, here it was. I was halfway afraid that no one would show up, this being Omaha, and this band being somewhat unknown due to the city's lack of a college radio station. But my city didn't disappoint me, and lo and behold, the Underground was sold out, packed with people that were, for the first time in recent memory, closer to my age than what you'd find at a typical indie show. Lots of old guys in graying ponytails, lots of middle-aged couples out for a wild night, and yes, also lots of young, urban indie fans paying homage to these legends, though overall, a completely different audience than, say, at a typical Creek show.

It was nice to see the entire band sitting behind the merch table while opening act, Why?, played their set of middle-of-the-road indie pop sung by a guy who sounded like John Flansburgh from They Might be Giants. Ira, looking like a cross between SNL's Chris Parnell and monologist Eric Bogosian, even sold me my YLT T-shirt ($11, cheap!).

What to say about the show? Two hours, three encores, selections from throughout their catalog. Don't ask me the songs' names, because I don't know them. There were a couple from the new record, including "Pass the Hatchet, I Think I'm Goodkind," and "Mr. Tough." A throbbing version of "Big Day Coming," an ironically appropriate (if only because North Korea was probably preparing to test their first nuke at the time), revelatory take on "Nuclear War" (I didn't realize that James McNew sung the lead), and a couple long, droning jams that were 20 minutes of throbbing organ and shrieking feedback guitar. Between it all were interspersed a few quiet songs featuring Georgia on vocals sounding like Nico, including encore "Tom Courtenay."

This band is forever compared to Velvet Underground, and for good reason. Ira has the same, flat monotone voice as Lou Reed, Georgia vocally resembles Nico, and some of their music is reminiscent of VU's live recordings, but really, no one sounds like YLT to me. Their style is all over the board, from raging indie jams to urban, falsetto R&B to quiet, acoustic ballads. For someone of diminutive size, Georgia Hubley was a monster behind the drum kit, joined at times on a second drum set by McNew, who also manned keyboards when he wasn't on bass. The bass, incidentally, was numbingly loud. The set started tolerable; but after a few songs, I put in my earplugs, and by the end, the earplugs weren't enough, especially from the front of the house. I don't know how people standing next to me by the stack who didn't have earplugs could take the noise level.

Among Ira's between-song snappy patter: He acknowledged that last night was the first time YLT had ever been in Nebraska (though he admitted that he lied to one of the local journalists (who? wasn't me) by telling him/her that they played in Lincoln before). He took a shot at the Omaha World-Herald when he introduced a Ramones cover: "I read in your paper -- in one of the few articles that wasn't about your football team -- that today is Johnny Ramone's birthday." He asked the audience if they had any questions. Someone asked if the band would ever return to Omaha. "Well, we haven't left yet," Ira said, then added. "It's too early to say." Chances are, after last night's show, they'll probably return, but it could take another 20 years. For me, a top-five show of the year.

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Live Review: Ideal Cleaners, The Monroes, Domestica; Yo La Tengo tonight... – Oct. 8, 2006 –

The Brothers doesn't do shows very often. Hardly at all, actually. The reason is simple: Tré, who runs the place, doesn't need to. Drop in at The Brothers on any given Friday or Saturday night at around 10. Try to find a table. It's always packed on weekends just on the strength of its service (You're not going to have to wait for a beer), its rep (The Brothers is where bands go to get drunk when they're not playing gigs), and its jukebox (punk and heavy indie and Omaha music from back in the day). So Tré doesn't need bands to get butts in seats. But every once in a while, he sees an opportunity to put on a show that's close to his heart, and last night was one of them. My point being: The Brothers ain't exactly designed for live shows. Yet last night, the bands sounded better there than I've heard them anywhere else.

Take Ideal Cleaners. I saw them a few months ago at the Speed! Nebraska showcase at Sokol Underground, and they were good, they were fine. Last night they sounded like a different band. Listening to the trio rip through a set of bruising, welt-rising punk, I said to myself. "Okay, I get it." I hadn't really gotten it before, but last night they sounded ripped and raw, easily pushing the weight over their heads for a personal best. Ideal Cleaners sounded better than I've ever heard them sound. Better than they sound on record. Stripped down to sonic essentials, their songs bled bright red, and now I think I know what I've been missing. I have a feeling they come off just as straight-forward at Duffy's, where I've never seen them play. So look, I don't know a thing about sound engineering, but I can point to the fact that it was just their amps, the small PA and the bar's low ceiling and wonder if that resulted in the dynamic tension. Simpler is better, almost always.

It carried on into The Monroes' set. Has Lincoln Dickison ever played better? No. He was in his own special world last night. The hand-spiders (as Chris and Jamie from Ladyfinger describe his playing style) were running wild on the fretboard, crawling impossibly where other hand spiders rarely climb. Jon Taylor marveled to my left while unpacking T-shirts: "How does he do that?" and later from stage "He must have three hands." He does it by being the best punk/rock guitarist in Omaha. Lincoln was just plain filthy last night, right down to the riff that powered the band's cover of Husker Du's "Divide and Conquer" (you know the one). And again, the sound mix was enormous.

So here's where it gets weird. Mercy Rule was a band that was notorious for being one of the loudest acts in the Omaha/Lincoln circuit. Guitarist Jon Taylor didn't just like it loud, he wanted to hurt you. Earplugs weren't optional, they were required for your personal long-term health. So when Domestica took over The Brothers' pseudo-stage, I was expecting to be blown completely away. In fact, the band sounded muted and muddy compared to The Cleaners and The Monroes. Certainly it wasn't as loud as either of those bands. Disappointing? At first, yes. Anyone who's ever heard Heidi Ore sing knows that it can be a challenge for her just to be heard over the din. And despite the lowering of the amps, her voice still was lost during the first few songs. Ah, but as the set wore on, my ears adjusted to the mix and everything came into better focus.

There are obvious similarities between Domestica and Mercy Rule songs, and that's part of the charm. No one plays riffs quite like Taylor or has a similar tone. There is a layered, fluid quality to his sound that resonates through his constant, chopping chords. Jon's guitar always seems to rise to the level of Heidi's pure, honest, unaffected vocals. So yeah, the band sounds like Mercy Rule, in musicianship and in song structure -- those big, chiming anthems that drop down halfway through, leaving Heidi singing alone while Jon plays a simple pinging line that moments later will roar again. Boz Hicks drumming is completely different than Ron Albertson's. It's more spare, simpler, more narrow, less likely to get in the way, not nearly as colorful, but right for this style. It's going to take some getting used to because it ain't Albertson, who's precise fills and ballistic remarks are tough to forget.

As their set went on, they got stronger. Heidi's voice got more comfortable and fuller and familiar with the style. Anyone who's ever heard her voice before loves it. It's hearing it for the first time that can be startling. Though at times lost in the mix, she hasn't lost an ounce of what any Mercy Rule fan has always loved. Welcome back. That said, Domestica could pick up where Mercy Rule left off, if the band wanted to. But I don't know if that's what the want. For now, they just want to play together, rock out with their friends and enjoy making music. And that's all right with me, as long as I can listen.

Tonight, Yo La Tengo at Sokol Underground. If the One Percent site is up-to-date (and it almost always is) then tickets are still available. Do yourself a favor and get down there tonight and see this legendary band. Considering that they've never played here before, chances are pretty good you may never ever get another chance.

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Clarifications, Domestica Saturday, Yo La Sunday... – Oct. 6, 2006 –

This marks one of the best weekends of shows in quite a while, but before I get to that, a couple points of clarification brought to my attention via the Webboard and other devices (See, people really do use my webboard, mainly to complain, but that's okay, too). First, concerning Commander Venus, one of the former members of the band pointed out that I had the line-up wrong. Yes, while the lineup listed in yesterday's blog entry was technically correct (for one tour), the folks who actually played on The Uneventful Vacation were Conor Oberst, Robb Nansel, Tim Kasher (of Cursive/The Good Life) and Matt Bowen, who's been in a number of important bands, including The Faint. Matt also pointed out that Oberst was 17, not 14, during the CV days (He only looked like he was 14, apparently. He looks like he's 17 now).

A couple people also pointed out my error in stating that The Dundee Dell no longer serves food. In reality, it's the "old Dundee Dell" on Dodge St. that closed its kitchen, not the Dell on Underwood, which is the one that actually has the famous fish and chips. I've excised the error from yesterday's blog entry. Apologies all around.

Moving on.

As I was saying, this could be one of the strongest weekends for shows in recent history. It starts Saturday night with two very hot shows:

First, Orenda Fink is playing a concert at The Healing Arts Center in the Old Market (at 1216 Howard to be precise), which by the way is a great place to see a show. Proceeds will benefit Filmstreams, the two-screen nonprofit indie movie house that's going in as part of the Slowdown project (read about it here). Fink's back-up band will consist of Adrianne Verhoeven, Dan McCarthy (McCarthy Trenching), and Corey Broman (ex-Statistics, ex-Kite Pilot). Suggested "donation" to get in is $25. The evening begins with an 8 p.m. cocktail hour (beer and root beer provided by Upstream Brewery, food and sangria provided by La Buvette). You'll want to get there early, because space is limited.

Afterward (or after the game), truck on over to The Brothers for the debut of Domestica -- Heidi Ore and Jon Taylor of Mercy Rule and Boz Hicks of Her Flyaway Manner. The show will be a veritable Speed! Nebraska showcase, with openers Ideal Cleaners and The Monroes. 9:30, $5..

And then, Sunday, the show I've been waiting for (we've all been waiting for, right?) for almost a decade: Yo La Tengo at Sokol Underground. Tickets are still available from onepercentproductions.com for $15. Don't miss this important show.

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Column 95 -- The stench of rock; Architecture in Helsinki tonight; Commander Venus reissued...– Oct. 5, 2006 –

Just when you thought you'd heard all you care to about Omaha's new pseudo-smoking ban that went into effect Sunday, here's another comment, this time from the musicians' perspective. What wasn't pointed out in the column below was the scorecard as to where smoking is and isn't allowed. Smoking isn't allowed at Sokol Underground, Sokol Auditorium and Mick's -- that's the extent of the ban's impact. It's still allowed for the next five years at O'Leaver's, The 49'r and The Saddle Creek Bar. If you don't know the rules, here's an abbreviated explanation: Smoking is allowed in bars that don't serve food (O'Leaver's, The 49'r) and isn't allowed in multi-use facilities (Sokol) or bars that serve food unless those bars offer keno (The Saddle Creek Bar). Mick's, which doesn't have a kitchen, voluntarily banned smoking.

Column 95: The Smell of Rock
Is smoking part of rock 'n' roll?

Before we move forward, we must understand and agree on this one conceit: Smoking holds no value in a human being's life. None. It is not essential for your continued existence. In fact, it's unquestionably destructive. It shaves the very essence of life away from the individuals that imbibe in its behavior.

Anyone who smokes cigarettes knows this, and has known it from the first puff. Just like those who drink bottle after bottle of beer and/or wine know that their lives are in no way being enhanced by the activity. There is no argument for drinking alcohol, especially when the endeavor taken to excess results in inebriation, loss of reasonable judgment and motor skills, and a painful hangover. Anyone who drinks knows this, and has known it from their first under-age beer.

To say that second-hand smoke is more dangerous than the secondhand effects of a drunk smashing into your car is to ignore the fact that more people are killed driving than by almost any other activity, and that a huge number of those deaths are the result of drunken driving.

That said, smoking and drinking are a part of rock and roll right along with sex and drugs. Always have been. Always will be? Who knows, but probably, in some form or another, regardless of any awkwardly developed citywide ban that says it's okay to smoke in some bars but not in others.

Part of the experience of going to rock shows for as long as I can remember has been going home afterward and stripping off my tar and nicotine-soaked clothing so as not to contaminate the sheets before passing out, then picking up my t-shirt in the morning and smelling the previous night's stench. Now that's rock and roll. And it's going to become a thing of the past, eventually.

No one knows this more than the people who make a living performing in the smoke dens, but even among them, there is no agreement that the smoking ban is good or necessary.

Take Matt Whipkey, lead singer/guitarist of Anonymous American (Who, by the way, will be releasing a new album by the end of the year). Whipkey's down with the smoking ban. "In terms of my personal dexterity, you smell better after you get done," he said of playing gigs in smoke-free bars. "When playing out of state or at smoke-free places like The Zoo Bar (in Lincoln), I'm not absolutely disgusting afterward."

Whipkey says the smoking ban might even bring more people to gigs, people who have avoided going to shows because they can't stand the smoke. "Times are changing," he said. "You can't do it in Minneapolis, Lawrence, New York, Madison, California or Lincoln. I assume you can't do it in most cities. It's just how it goes."

And then there's Dave Goldberg, guitarist/keyboardist/drummer/vocalist of The Terminals (Who, by the way, have a new record coming out on Cleveland's Dead Beat Records). "It's like taking the smut out of Time's Square," he said of the ban. "I'm against it. Rock and roll is supposed to be bad for you. Smoking has been a part of it since its inception. And this is coming from a non-smoker."

Forget about the sanitized confines of a smoke-free lounge. A punk from back in the day, Goldberg prefers the grime. "I'm partial to a seedy atmosphere, and smoking is definitely part of it," he said. "I've gone to blues clubs for years now, and it seems to go hand-in-hand. Smoky rock clubs -- it's almost like that's how it should be."

Unlike Whipkey, Goldberg thinks the ban will have a negative impact on audiences. "In Lincoln, you noticed the effects immediately," he said of the Capitol City's ban, which has been around for almost a year. "Duffy's, for example, has a beer garden, and a lot of times a band will be playing to a partially full or worse-sized audience on account of everyone being outside smoking."

The one thing Whipkey and Goldberg do agree on: Playing in smoky bars has never impacted their performance quality, or so they think. "Part of my vocal style is the accumulation of secondhand smoke caked on my lungs over the years," Whipkey said. "Maybe now I'll sound like a choir boy." Let's hope not.

Goldberg, who just finished touring the country as drummer for theater-rock legend Thor, has played in both smoke and smoke-free environments. "I've never noticed a difference," he said, "but I spent a lot of time in smoky bars, perhaps I'm used to it."

So who's right? Smoking is indefensible. Banning it in clubs like Sokol Underground will only save lives and keep my clothes and hair smelling better after a night of noise. But you know what? I'm still going to miss it.

Tonight's Architecture in Helsinki show at Sokol Underground will mark the first time I'll have gone down there when the place didn't smell like an ashtray. While bars are understandably worried about the impact of the ban on their businesses, I can't see the ban impacting the draw at Sokol shows one iota, and I know that One Percent's Jim Johnson couldn't be happier about throwing away the ash trays.

Opening tonight's Helsinki show is The Family Radio (live review), a combo fronted by local filmmaker Nik Fackler (He's done vids for a lot of Saddle Creek bands, including The Good Life and Azure Ray). They should be a good compliment to Architecture's indie electric fun pop. 9 p.m., $10. A warning about parking tonight: Goon rockers Good Charlotte will be playing upstairs at the Auditorium at 7:30, so good luck finding a place to park within a mile of the building. At least it shouldn't be raining.

One last bit if news to pass on. Billboard is reporting that Wind-Up Records (formerly known as Grass Records) is reissuing Commander Venus' The Uneventful Vacation Nov. 14. Commander Venus included Ben Armstrong (Head of Femur), Todd Baechle (now Todd Fink, of The Faint), Robb Nansel (king of Saddle Creek Records) and an adolescent version of Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes, age 14). On the same day, Wind-up also is rereleasing two long-out-of-print Wrens albums. Asked why Wind-up was only now reissuing the albums, label chief Alan Meltzer told Billboard.com, "Because the music is too important to keep in some vault. We have been on such a huge growth curve as a company, we felt we were never able to do justice to the material in terms of the necessary marketing, promotion and in-store placement." Read the whole article here. Other than historical/novelty value, the CV album is worth picking up just hear baby Oberst sounding like Peter Brady singing "When it's time to change, it's time to rearrange..."

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Yo La Tengo interview...– Oct. 4, 2006 –

Just posted online, an interesting little interview with Yo La Tengo's James McNew (read it here). James talks about how the band makes records, his relationship with mates Ira and Georgia, and coming to Omaha for the first time. Almost the whole interview is there and in The Reader (I think), though this online version also talks about the making of the soundtrack to the movie Old Joy, which hasn't played in Omaha yet, and considering how this city handles independent film, probably never will.

The show is Sunday night, and as far as I can tell, isn't sold out, which is both unfortunate and not surprising. Yo La Tengo is a music fans' band and is beloved by a core group of people who likely have been following indie music all their lives. So while the band is making some of the best music of their careers, it's going unnoticed by most people around Omaha, mainly because we don't have a real college radio station that plays college music. But then again, we never have and look at the scene we've managed to create? We're also lucky to have a promotion company like Marc and Jim at One Percent Productions, who are willing to take on a show like this knowing full well that it's a gamble, but doing it anyway because they love the band. So get out there and buy a ticket to what promises to be one of the best shows of 2006.

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Random notes: Slowdown, Domestica, The Who, Zune...– Oct. 2, 2006 –

Some random notes on a quiet Monday:

Every Monday look for an updated photo of the Slowdown construction site online here. It's not that I'm obsessed with the project; the fact is that it's just a few blocks away from my office so taking a snappy once a week is no problem. Will they get the building enclosed by the time the snow flies? Keep watching and see.

* * *

I wound up not going to any shows this weekend, which means I missed Little Brazil on Saturday and Jenny Lewis on Sunday. Anyone who was at either show, feel free to chime in with a review on the webboard.

* * *

Domestica, the new band featuring Heidi Ore and Jon Taylor of Mercy Rule and Boz Hicks of Her Flyaway Manner, will be making their Omaha debut next Saturday night at The Brothers.

* * *

I bought my tickets to Dec. 7 Who concert, which I guess makes me a dick, or so it would seem from every local music guy I've mentioned the concert to. "Why in hell would you want to see The Who? It's not even the original line-up! Those guys shouldn't be allowed to perform -- they're too old! As an indie music fan, I'm surprised you're going -- The Who are sell outs..." And so on.

Look, I hate arena shows as much as the next guy that hates arena shows -- you're a mile away from the stage, the sound is always always always bad, and you're surrounded by a crowd that consists of middle-aged bikers, soccer moms, Husker fans and generally, people who don't like music and are trying to relive some unfortunate moment of their youth. I generally avoid arena shows, but The Who, well, that's different. They were punk before punk, New Wave before New Wave. This band of snotty British outsiders somehow was allowed inside simply on the strength of their music, which, from album-to-album always seemed to stray off the beaten path. Sure, half the band is dead, but half the band is alive, too. And they're coming to Omaha -- something I never thought I'd see or hear. So I got my tickets -- in advance, as a member of the fan club. I probably shouldn't have hurried -- glancing at their schedule, only their Nov. 24 Atlantic City show is sold out. I doubt the Qwest gig will sell out, either, even with The Pretenders opening (most people have told me they're more excited about seeing Chrissie and Co.). And as ridiculous as it sounds, I'll try to bag an interview with the band via The Reader -- it'll never happen. The Who doesn't need alternative newspapers to get the word out. They never have. But can you imagine what a gas it would be to talk to Townshend or Daltrey?

* * *

Finally, this rather humorous article on Yahoo! reports that Zune, the new soon-to-fail Microsoft competitor to the iPod is shipping with pre-loaded music so that consumers will have something to listen to when they take the player out of the box. Another mp3 player, SanDisk, will load more than 32 hours worth of music on their players -- all done under the guise of giving the consumer something for free! So all of us who use mp3 players in our cars to avoid the schlock that gets played on the radio these days will now be forced to delete the schlock from the players before they begin playing them. It's like freeware -- for your ears! I can't imagine a more annoying marketing ploy. A better idea may have been for giving away 30 free songs that users could download from the product-specific service (Rhapsody for SanDisck, for example). Ah, but then the labels would actually have to charge the hardware makers for something like that... Let's hope iPod doesn't follow their misguided lead...

* * *

Look for a nice, long exclusive interview with Yo La Tengo here on Wednesday, and another take on Omaha's new no smoking regs in this Thursday's column...

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Live Review: Eric Bachmann, Richard Buckner; Two Gallants tonight... – Sept. 29, 2006 –

A restrained, arty crowd (of 150?) last night at Sokol Underground got a long earful of Richard Buckner, maybe (definitely) too long. Seated with just his guitar and a sideman, Buckner put together a set of new and old that spanned at least 75 minutes, which I'm sure was a delight for fans. For the rest of it, the guy-and-guitar performance is always what I've never liked about him, and why his latest CD, Meadow, is such a good trip because there he's backed by a full band, making these folkish ditties into rockers instead of snoozers. Part of the problem was the lack of dynamics -- one song blended into the next, until you caught yourself looking at your watch.

Buckner finished up at around midnight (only a handful of people left after his set) then up came the towering Bachmann (There would be no sitting down for him!). From the first note of "Man o' War," which just happens to be the first song on his new album, Bachmann created on stage a pitch-perfect, dynamic replication of the CD -- in other words, if you like the record, you liked the set (I do and did). I heard two people comment on the Neil Diamond similarity in vocals (everything but the low-end growl), and another yap about Bachmann's precise finger-picking style (delicate pinging on a nylon-strung acoustic). The highlight, though, was my favorite track off Crooked Fingers' Red Devil Dawn, "Bad Man Coming," and fleshing it out with violin, keyboards and a guy playing a couple drums with mallets. Beautiful.

Tonight, all kinds of things going on. Down at Sokol Underground Two Gallants with Langhorne Slim and Trainwreck Riders. Here's what I wrote for The Reader about this show that they didn't publish: I've got to admit it -- Two Gallants' Saddle Creek Records' debut, What the Toll Tells, has grown on me. At first I couldn't get past the backbeat shack-shanty pirate pulse that runs thick throughout their take on '20s- and '30s-era blues by way of modern-day San Francisco. But now I look forward to hearing the over-the-top bash-crash ruckus of "Las Cruces Jail" and the rocking-chair blues of "Steady Rollin'" whenever they show up on my iPod shuffle. On stage they take their gritty folk elegies a step further, turning their set into a rock 'n' roll tent show. Don't miss out on this revival. $8, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, Scott Severin Band is at O'Leaver's. Scott sent me a copy of his latest CD, which reminded me of John Hiatt morphed with Stan Ridgway and some Midwest snarl. Wonder what he sounds like live? With three other bands, 9:30, $5.

And maybe the theatrical show of the evening, Father, collaborating with Dapose of The Faint, performing the first track off their disturbing just-released debut (you can find it at Drastic Plastic and I'm sure at the show) along with Vverevvolf Grehv (Formerly Precious Metal), Wasteoid, and Kjeld, all at The Magic Theater, 325 S. 16th St, and by candlelight no less. 9 p.m., $5.

The rest of the weekend is Little Brazil Saturday night and Jenny Lewis Sunday. More later.

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Column 94 -- Listening to Art; Eric Bachmann/Richard Buckner tonight... – Sept. 28, 2006 –

Clearly, as the Joslyn staff pointed out in Niz's story in The OWH Sunday (here, but you gotta register to read it), Art for Your Ears is targeted at attracting new blood to the museum, just like their (now defunct?) "college night" concert series that featured Son, Ambulance last year (and Tilly the year before). It's a good idea. We got masterpieces in our midst and most people don't even know it. While I was figuring out how to use the Joslyn's mp3 player next to that huge Chihuly near the gallery entrance, a young guy was standing dumbfounded looking up-up-up at the those shiny glass Mardi Gras bulbs. He asked if he could touch the sculpture. I said, "Better not. What if it came down around us? It'd be a helluva mess." He smiled and nodded, never taking his eyes off the art.

Column 94: Museum Makes Music
Can music explain art?

I recently was asked to serve as a "judge" for the Joslyn Art Museum's Art for Your Ears program. But before I continue, let me say that you, too, can be a part of the series. Just go to art4yourears.org, click on the "Podcast" button and download the mp3 files listed there. Plop them into your iPod, put it in your pocket and drive to the Joslyn at least until Oct. 11 (when the winners are announced). Tell the folks at the front desk that you're there for the show. They'll take it from there. You'll be glad you did.

The program's concept is simple: Local musicians were asked (via an open call for entries) to compose original songs responding to artworks in the special exhibition, Art on the Edge: Modern and Contemporary Art from the Permanent Collection. The basic premise is to explore the connection between music and art.

I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical. Certainly music has inspired art from back in the days when men scrawled on cave walls while their buddies aimless pounded on drums made of stretched stomach linings up to the "gallery" of concert posters that covers the back wall of Sokol Underground. It's rarely the other way around. How much music has been inspired by art?

So I said yes. And a couple weeks ago, I traipsed off to the Joslyn over my lunch hour, borrowed one of their mp3 players, took evaluation form in hand and critiqued seven compositions on overall quality, level of difficulty, emotional response to the artwork, originality, its influence on my experience or appreciation of the artwork, and the composer's spoken introduction to his or her composition.

Among the composers was recent Omaha transfer (from Wichita) Matt Beat, who along with his brother, Steven, make up the band Electric Needle Room. Matt visited the Joslyn with his wife, Shannon, a few weeks after moving to town and found out about Art for Your Ears. "I thought the program would give me a purpose in my song writing," he said. "This seemed challenging and fun, and it would force me to be a little more creative."

The art that stuck in Beat's creative mind was Bedroom Painting # 25 by Tom Wesselmann. Anyone who's ever been to the Joslyn remembers it as "the giant tit next to the phone" painting. It would stick in anyone's mind -- that tit is huge.

"I thought about it for a couple weeks, and then a song just popped into my head," Beat said. His composition "You Make Me Feel Sunny," is your run-of-the-mill yet catchy low-fi indie pop song in the vein of Flaming Lips or Pet Songs-era Beach Boys, with lines "You make me feel special / Like I'm number one / You hang out with me and pretend like you're having fun." It's childlike and bouncy, infused with keyboards and guitar riffs, and has nothing to do with large breasts and telephones.

Beat said he wasn't trying to interpret the art, he was merely inspired by it. "It's just a mood," he said. "It's like, there's a phone right by the bed. He could have just finished making whoopee, or you could say it's an innocent breast. Nudity doesn't have to be sexual."

This was typical. When it came time to explain the connection between the music and the art -- especially for the more abstract pieces -- the explanations became somewhat contrived. In their intros, musicians would say things like, "The two instruments in my piece represent the white and the black in the painting. The snare drum represents the converging lines." See what I mean?

Beat said he did the song to get his name and his music out there, as well as to get in touch with fellow musicians. In fact, one of the reasons he accepted his job transfer (Beat is a valet parking manager at Methodist hospital) was to get involved in the Omaha music scene.

"That was the most exciting thing about it," he said. "I knew about the usual Saddle Creek stuff -- Bright Eyes and Cursive -- but I didn't know about the wide variety of music here," said the KU grad. "I want to be able to do music for a living instead of parking cars."

You can't blame him for that. And Art 4 Your Ears ain't a bad first step in that direction (He's certainly getting the exposure). Now if he could just line up a few gigs in town.

In the end, whether you draw a direct line between the music and the art, Art for Your Ears has provided a well-thought-out soundtrack for an exhibition that can only be interpreted in the eye -- or ear -- of the beholder.


Tonight at Sokol Underground, Eric Bachmann and Richard Buckner along with local singer-songwriter Mal Madrigal, all for just $10. This is sort of a pseudo CD release show for Bachmann, whose new album To the Races, was released on Saddle Creek Records Aug. 22. I went out of my way yesterday to tell someone that the new Buckner CD, Meadow, was boring, when in fact it's much more interesting and lively than his last record. Buckner seems headed in a similar direction as Richard Thompson's solo stuff. It ain't bad, and the fact is most people will be there tonight to see Buckner, who has a bigger following here (for some reason).

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Eric Bachmann review; Butch Walker reviewed; Kayo Dot/Shinyville tonight... – Sept. 27, 2006 –

I just posted the first new full-length review on the ol' Reviews page. It's been over a year since that index has been updated, seeing as how the Reviews Matrix has taken center stage. My original plan was to interview Eric Bachmann as a preview for tomorrow night's show with Richard Buckner, but he wasn't available when I was available and vice versa, so instead I put together this review, which will give you a general idea of where he's coming from on his new album, To the Races. And speaking of reviews, the folks at The Reader tell me that CD reviews will be returning to the paper after, what, an 8-eight year absence. Strangely, I think The Reader is just about the only alternative newspaper in the country that hasn't run CD reviews. It is a freakin' staple for alt weeklies, as it should be.

And while we're talking about reviews, Lazy-i intern Brendan Greene-Walsh has submitted some more reviews for your perusal, starting with the following, which is another example of where we disagree -- we're a regular Ebert and Roeper (Wherein Brendan plays the role of the fat guy and I'm the geek).

Butch Walker and the Let's-Go-Out-Tonites!, The Rise and Fall of… (Epic) -- I knew I was in for a treat upon reading the first line of the band's one-sheet. Let me share it with you: "If you want a peek at Butch Walker's speed dial, the most recent copy of Billboard might do the trick." Ugh.

I'll get back to that after a few words about the actual music. The Rise and Fall of… is the third solo album to come out of Butch Walker, a man who has more credits to his producing career than most people could garner in four lifetimes. For this endeavor, he involved a seven-piece band affectionately titled the "Let's-Go-Out-Tonites!" Together the ensemble produces an incredibly tight sound with keys, organs and horn sections weaving in and out of the album. But no matter how tight the band, the bottom line is the song writing. Or in this case, the lack thereof. Cheese-ball chord progressions and elementary school vocal melodies just don't cut it in my book. It is everything that has been done before and I've got a good idea where it came from.

The included one-sheet focused on Walker's producing credits. Did you know he is producing Avril Lavigne's next record? Or that he flew to Las Vegas for a one-night session with the All-American Rejects? Neither did I, nor did I really care. This is a case of someone trying to dip his hand into other's pockets. Good thing mine are empty. Rating: No -- Brendan Greene-Walsh

Tim sez: The opening line to the band's theme song says it all: "I'm tired, I'm bored, Where's the cocaine?" Walker sounds like a '70s rock vaudevillian stuck between gigs with Sweet and Nick Gilder. Sure, he's a braggart, a boaster, a bullshitter. What Brendan doesn't understand is that a certain amount of rock cocksmanship is not only expected if you're going to plow this sort of ground, it's required. It won't work without it. Especially if you're going to do songs like "Bethamphetamine" (You're pretty strung out for a girl). And "Hot Girls in Good Moods" (My love is just a teen-age bullet belt). The complete lack of effort to update the songwriting style (Is that a cushion of strings on the stereotypical schlock ballad "Dominoes"?) makes it an homage to an era best remembered for its muscle cars. Is it cheeseball? It sure is, and I don't mind at all. Rating: Yes.

Tonight at O'Leaver's, Kay Dot with local boys Shinyville and Eagle's Blood. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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An Iris Pattern signs with Hilfiger; Bright Eyes heads to California; The Life and Times tonight... – Sept. 26, 2006 –

A couple hot little items to pass along on a quiet Tuesday.

I got a call from Greg Loftis of An Iris Pattern last night, inviting me to a last-minute gig at O'Leaver's. The reason for the show: To prepare for another show the band will be performing next Monday at an art gallery in New York City. According to Loftis, An Iris Pattern will indeed be the first band represented on Tommy Hilfiger's new record label. The as-yet-unnamed label (Hilfiger doesn't want his name involved, apparently) is in talks now regarding distribution (Atlantic Records is one name being tossed around). Loftis said the deal is 100 percent in the bag, and that a second act also will be joining An Iris Pattern on Hilfiger's label. "Tommy wants to show people what we sound like," Lofits said of the NYC gallery show. "It's playtime for him, but it's our lives."

Another bit of news, word has it that Bright Eyes has wrapped up recording in Omaha and has been working in Lincoln at Presto! studios to finish up the new album. Whether any more work continues at Presto! or not, chances are that the Bright Eyes album will mark the last project before the Lincoln studio closes for good and reopens full time in Omaha. Saddle Creek confirmed that Bright Eyes will now head to California at the beginning of October to do some mixing on the project.

Allen Epley's (ex-Shiner) new project The Life and Times will be taking the stage tonight at O'Leaver's. The KC trio also includes Eric Abert (Ring, Cicada) and Chris Metcalf (Stella Link). Good with Guns opens. $9:30 p.m., $5.

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Ladyfinger drops tomorrow, Slowdown speeds up, Man Man tonight... – Sept. 25, 2006 –

If you haven't had a chance or didn't look, there's a live review of last Friday night's Ladyfinger show just below this entry. The band's CD officially hits the record stores tomorrow, yet there have been very few pre-release reviews of the disc. Aversion posted this one today that gives Heavy Hands 4 out of 5 stars. Not bad for a first review.

* * *

Finally, after months of sitting dormant, serious work has begun again on the Slowdown compound. I was surprised to see steel beginning to go up last week from my office window and felt compelled to take a few snappies as I drove by the property yesterday afternoon (click the thumbnail to enlarge). If the 24-Hour Fitness on 77th and Cass is any indication, once the steel arrives it's only a matter of weeks before the whole damn thing is framed and walls become enclosed, and before you know it, they'll be working on the interior. I'm hearing from various sources that one of the retail bays is now spoken for by a coffee shop, though the folks at Slowdown deny that any tenant has signed a lease. At first blush, a coffee shop seems like an ill fit for an indie music venue, offices and film house, until you realize that there will be a couple hotels right across the street (to the north, which I suspect at the rate they're going up, will be open for business before the first band takes the Slowdown stage). I'll continue to take pics as construction progresses.

* * *

Tonight at Sokol Underground, Man Man, with Pit er Pat. Philly's Man Man plays an eclectic style of music that can sound as varied as Eastern European carnival hoedowns to standard Flaming Lips-flavored psych rock. $9, 9:30.

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Live Review: Ladyfinger, Criteria; Neva Dinova tonight – Sept. 23, 2006 –

It was Saddle Creek night at Sokol Underground with two of the label's "rock bands" playing back-to-back, picking their shots and landing just about every one of them. The night started with Now Archimedes! I arrived right before Criteria took the stage, and the place was already packed -- a sell-out sized crowd that reached all the way to the back wall.

It was the first time Criteria has played in Omaha with new drummer Matt Sanders, best known for his work in Lincoln punk band The JV All-Stars. The story behind the exit of Criteria original drummer Mike Sweeney is cryptic. Sweeney, I'm told, e-mailed the band saying he was done. A drummer from New York filled in during part of this summer's tour, before Sanders took over behind the kit. So how did he sound last night? It's hard to say, since the drums were buried in a mix that was bleached out with high-end and midrange. The kick-drum was virtually nonexistent, while Stephen Pedersen's guitar sounded tinny and shrill. The band's guitars always sound tuned on the high-end to me anyway, but last night's mix was so bright that everything was awash in piercing, jagged tones. That said, the performance was as honed as you would expect from a band that's road-hardened from virtually endless touring over the last six months. Pedersen's voice showed absolutely no wear, while AJ Mogis has become a veritable Sinatra compared to how he sounded a year ago.

Criteria's music continues to age well live. You'd expect a band that's played the same songs for so long to lose their edge or at least some of their intensity. Not last night. Clearly the band was feeling it, and so was the crowd. Or maybe the band was just happy that it was the last night of the tour, and now they can look forward to some well-deserved R & R while they work on their next record.

Not so Ladyfinger. As if grabbing the baton from Criteria, last night marked the band's first gig of two weeks of serious touring that continues tonight in Minneapolis with Cursive and The Thermals. What better send-off than a sold out CD release show? And Ladyfinger was up to the challenge. They sounded thunderous despite the continuation of that midrange-heavy mix. Anyone who's seen this band play at small stages like O'Leaver's or The 49'r likely wouldn't recognize them with the Underground's more massive sound system.

I know absolutely nothing about the science of singing. That said, you have to be concerned about Chris Machmuller's voice. It's not like Ladyfinger plays all that often, and now he's headed out for two weeks of nightly gigs where he'll be screeching in his barely-in-control vocal style. Will there be anything left by the time he reaches in Columbia, MO, Oct. 4? A couple vocal veterans assured me that he'd be just fine. Considering how things ended last night, their biggest problem will be their lack of material. The fans wanted more, but the band simply didn't have anything left to give them.

Night three of shows at Sokol Underground continues tonight with Neva Dinova, No Blood Orphan, Tomato a Day and Drakes Hotel. $8, 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Live Review: White Whale, Nada Surf; Ladyfinger, Criteria tonight; Jon Crocker Sunday...– Sept. 22, 2006 –

I don't know if it was the rain or the fact that the band hasn't released an album in a year, but only about 150 showed up last night for Nada Surf at Sokol Underground compared to, what, 500 the last time they came through and played upstairs? There are those who will point to the fact that Rogue Wave opened for them last March, and maybe Rogue Wave was the draw. Who knows? Regardless, I wasn't the only one expecting a sell out. Maybe if the show had been marketed as part of a "greatest hits" tour, more people would have come out, but more on that in a minute...

White Whale was up first (after The Plus Ones, who I missed), and despite the fact that their new album is kinda interesting in its without-borders approach, the band came off somewhat flat. You knew there was going to be trouble when they took 20 minutes to do their sound check. There was just too much stuff going on, what with three guitarists (two of whom doubled on keyboards) and a mix that was soaking in delay and echo. It sounded like the band was playing inside an empty blimp hanger. All that delay made for a mushy mess, which made it that much harder to find the songs' already-buried hooks. Their best stuff was saved for the end (vs. the eight or nine-minute "odysseys" that made up the first half of their set). I'd like to hear these guys stripped down to the bare essentials with a more conventional mix and fewer (or no) effects.

Nada Surf came on at around 11:30 and announced that they were going to do their entire set in chronological order, starting with a cover (I can't remember what it was) and blowing right into their all-time hit "Popular," a song that I'm told they've never played in Omaha before and that they supposedly quit playing live years ago. It was followed a cover of Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart," which wasn't half bad. From then on, the set consisted of songs from their other early albums. "We now go from 1998 to 2002," said frontman Matthew Caws, who explained that last night's gig was a fill-in for an open date on their tour with Guster (ironically, that tour is coming to Omaha Oct. 31, without Nada Surf). This gave them plenty of room to stretch out on the set, which I'm sure was a treat for the hardcore Nada Surf fans who braved the elements. I thought the band sounded pretty good, but when I mentioned that to the guy next to me (a big fan), he said they sounded like shit, and that they already blew it on a couple of the older songs. I couldn't tell because I've only heard their last record. By the time midnight rolled around and I had to leave, they were still playing songs from 2002's Let Go.

Tonight, it's Ladyfinger and Criteria at Sokol Underground. I beseech anyone who followed the Omaha punk scene in the early to mid-'90s to get to this show early and check out opening band Now Archimedes! (Here's a review of their last O'Leaver's gig). I'm told Criteria will be playing with their new drummer (Mike Sweeney apparently left the band a few weeks ago). Expect a sizable turnout for this, the kickoff of Ladyfinger's first national tour in support of Heavy Hands. I assume copies of the new CD will be available at the show. Pick one up. $8, 9 p.m.

As for the rest of the weekend:

-- Saturday night it's Neva Dinova with No Blood Orphan, Tomato a Day and Drake's Hotel at Sokol Underground. That's a lot of music for $8.

-- Sunday night brings an interesting show to O'Leaver's featuring gritty, earthy, folkie singer-songwriter Jon Crocker, on tour supporting his new album, Death.. Also on the fight card are local singer-songwriter Brad Hoshaw and the legendary Dereck Higgins (Digital Sex, The Family Radio). $5, 9:30 p.m.

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Column 93 -- The Price of a Finger; White Whale, Nada Surf tonight... – Sept. 21, 2006 –

Consider this an addendum to yesterday's Ladyfinger feature. The specifics were too good to cram into that story and deserved their own column. What would I have suggested had I been asked (and there's absolutely no reason why I would have)? Ladyfinger UK, of course. There's a rich history of bands that have tucked a UK after their name to appease greedy squatters (which is all that LA band really is) and lawyers. Who remembers Kansas City's Cher UK? Or Charlatans UK? Chameleons UK? The list goes on and on. I have no idea how much more negotiating went on beyond what's below. I wouldn't be surprised if there were counter-counter offers, but the fact is, time was running out. The band needed to get the CD pressed. Schedules were in place for a reason. Would they have won had they fought it? Maybe, but it would have taken months if not years for the glacial judicial system to render a decision...

Column 93: What's in a Name?
The high cost of being Ladyfinger…

Before we get started, go read the feature on Ladyfinger on page __. We'll wait. We always do….

Waitaminit... Did I say Ladyfinger? I should have said Ladyfinger (NE). After all, that is their legal name these days, despite how wonky it sounds, right? Look, no one I've talked to, including the band, likes the name Ladyfinger (NE). The added parenthetical albatross is awkward, confusing and just plain strange looking. But the cost of doing business without it could be higher than the retail, which in this case, is around $8,750.

Let's start from the beginning: The Omaha punk rock four-piece who we fondly know as Ladyfinger has been using the name since their conception in August 2003. Over the past three years, Ladyfinger has played gigs all over the country with no incidents, warnings, or threats of reprisals, legal or otherwise.

Everything seemed hunky-dory until Saddle Creek Records agreed to release Ladyfinger's debut LP. The band had already done their share of Googling and MySpacing and all the other Internet-related research, and couldn't find another band by the name. Things seemed copasetic. "The only thing we didn't do was check the trademark registry," said Ladyfinger frontman Chris Machmuller. "Why would we think to when we couldn't find a band by that name?"

But just for the heck of it, they decided to check the trademark registry of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. And that's when the problems started. Seems there actually is another band called Ladyfinger based out of Los Angeles that apparently has owned the name for years.

Drummer Pat Oakes said the LA band has no viable interest in the name Ladyfinger and hadn't even been playing anywhere. "It seems like they decided one day to trademark it," he said. "We thought maybe they'd be understanding, since they weren't functioning as a band."

In an e-mail dated May 16, 2006, Omaha's Ladyfinger reached out to LA's Ladyfinger, saying yes, they had found mention of the LA Ladyfinger, but couldn't find any contact information or active website. Since they thought it was no longer a functioning band, they went ahead and named their band Ladyfinger. "We'd really like to release our record under the name Ladyfinger," the email said. "To do so we would need to purchase the trademark from you to avoid infringement."

So Omaha's Ladyfinger made an offer, which the LA Ladyfinger, of course, immediately turned down. "If you want to buy the trademark, we would consider a reasonable offer that makes more sense for us…" the LA band said in a reply.

Incidentally, a few days after Omaha's Ladyfinger made contact, Ladyfinger.org -- the LA band's website -- curiously went online. Hmm…

Anyway, Omaha's Ladyfinger upped the ante -- considerably -- taking into account things like registration and lawyers' fees. The LA Ladyfinger wasn't biting. Instead, their counter offer included a detailed price list:

-- $1,000 for all fees necessary for the LA band to come up with a new trademark (license and legal)
-- $500 to cover legal fees to transfer the existing name to the Omaha band.
-- $500 for new artwork
-- $2,000 to repress their two CDs
-- $1,000 for printing new T-shirts
-- $200 for 2,000 stickers
-- $50 for registering a new website domain.
-- $3,500 for their perceived personal value of the name, derived by charging $500 per year for the seven years they've been in existence

The grand total: $8,750, not including $500 "for our time and effort."

The price was too high. Omaha's Ladyfinger considered fighting the claim. "And we could have won," Oakes said, citing trademark abandonment as a defense. But there simply wasn't time for a drawn-out legal battle.

Instead, the band considered the alternatives. Ladyfinger Jr., Ladyfinger UK, adding "The" or an "s" or a period or exclamation point. Purposely misspelling the name. Adding "Inc." or "Ltd." They even wrestled with new names like Bad Marks, Burger Time and Ages. Nothing seemed to work, Oakes said.

Time ticked by. The promo CD already had been held for a couple weeks at the plant. Decisions had to be made. "It got to be such a burden," Oakes said. "We just wanted it to end so we could move on with our lives."

Finally in June while on tour, the band sat down over coffee in an mall in Indianapolis and decided to add (NE) to their name -- representing Nebraska. "We thought it would be the most unobtrusive option," said bass player Ethan Jones.

"We were at the point where you could call us whatever the fuck you wanted," Oakes said.

And so, the band was rechristened Ladyfinger (NE), for better or worse, for richer or poorer, til death do they part. And if you don't like it, do what I do. I'll continue to call Pat, Chris, Jamie and Ethan "Ladyfinger," because that's who they are. And if those guys in LA don't like it, they can sue me.

This week of quality shows continues tonight with White Whale opening for Nada Surf down at Sokol Underground. If it sounds like a weird combination, believe me, it sounded weird when I mentioned it to the guys in White Whale, too. Also playing tonight, The Plus Ones (ex-members of Mr. T Experience and Pansy Division who played at O'Leaver's a year ago July). $15, 9 p.m.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Ladyfinger joins the Saddle Creek Mafia; Headlights tonight at O'Leaver's... – Sept. 20, 2006 –

This week's profile is a massive feature on Ladyfinger that may or may not be the cover story of this week's issue of The Reader. It was originally slated to be the cover, but now that looks doubtful, though the story is still cover-story length. It's confusing. The story was supposed to be the main feature of The Reader's "music issue," but that got pushed back until next week, which would mean this story wouldn't run until after their big show Friday night at Sokol Underground. The band will still be on the cover of next week's issue of The Reader along with two other bands, but not with this story (which is in the issue coming out late this afternoon).

Screw it -- just read the story now. It's right here. Chris, Jamie, Pat and Ethan talk about how the band got together, how they hooked up with Saddle Creek, how they made their new album, Heavy Hands, (including details on how they worked with producer Matt Bayles) and all kinds of other fun stuff. It's long. It's comprehensive. It's Ladyfinger! And yes, I know that I've left off the (NE). Find out why in tomorrow's column (which, btw, also is in today's issue of The Reader). Yes, I believe this band could be on a rocketship, what with a primo opening slot on Cursive's next tour and almost a month's worth of touring in Europe. Catch them while you can this Friday. It could be a while until Ladyfinger plays here again.

Tonight, it's Polyvinyl recording artist Headlights with Decibully and Someday Stories. Headlights just played at O'Leavers in April supporting their EP, The Enemies. Now they're supporting their debut LP, Kill Them with Kindness. See them again. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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Lincoln Calling recap; Of Montreal sells out; Murder by Death/Appleseed Cast tonight... – Sept. 19, 2006 –

Sorry for the delays in updates. I was out of pocket yesterday, but I'm back now with an update on how well Lincoln Calling did last weekend. Organizer Jeremy Buckley IM'd me to say that the numbers weren't as hot as he'd hoped. The breakdown: 600 attended Thursday night's shows, 500 on Friday and 250 on Saturday, bringing the grand total to around 1,350 -- a far cry from his hoped-for 2,000. The UNL-USC "rivalry" had more of an impact on the draw than he expected. So did last Saturday night's thunderstorms, which had the sirens going off here in Omaha throughout the game. That said, Buckley is OK with how things turned out. He's already looking at next year's Husker schedule for by weeks, and he's even considering adding a Wednesday night session. Here's to the 4th Annual Lincoln Calling...

What else...

Am I the only one to notice the new Appleby's (or was it Outback) commercial that features a rewritten version of Of Montreal's "Wraith Pinned to the Mist and Other Games"? There's no mistaking the source of the commercial's jingle, and you have to assume that whatever ad firm came up with it paid Of Montreal for the rights, which is a shame because it's my favorite song off that album and now it's being used to sell poorly prepared fast food. Or maybe Of Montreal isn't even aware that the commercial exists, which means there may be a lawsuit in the making (if they ever find out about it).

A big four-band show tonight at Sokol Underground: The moody Murder by Death with Appleseed Cast, Unwed Sailor and Sam Lowry. $10, 9 p.m. Meanwhile, the velvet tones of Voodoo Organist will be heard down at O'Leaver's with Life After Laserdisque and We're From Japan. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Stay tuned tomorrow morning for a huge feature/interview with Ladyfinger as we prepare for Friday's big shoe.

<Got comments? Post 'em here.>

Mal Madrigal, The Ghosts tonight at Mick's...– Sept. 16, 2006 –

It was brought to my attention that there is, in fact, a notable show going on here in Omaha tonight. Mal Madrigal, who I'm told has been working on a new record, will be taking the stage at Mick's along with The Ghosts, a band fronted by Adam Weaver. $5, 9 p.m.

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A weekend in Lincoln; Gillian Oberst tonight at the Rite… – Sept. 15, 2006 –

I'm looking at the calendar and other than tonight's Gillian Welch / David Rawlings / Conor Oberst concert at The Scottish Rite Hall (which, curiously, is still not sold out, according to the One Percent Productions website, where you can by tickets for $15) there ain't a whole lot happening in Omaha this weekend. Actually, I don't see a single show here in town worth commenting on, which is yet another indication that Lincoln Calling should have a banner year. I talked about the line-up yesterday and included a full schedule. Jeremy Buckley, who runs the event, lost the rights to lincolncalling.com -- the festival website -- but has since established a new site -- lincolncallingfestival.com -- which one would believe would have the most up-to-date schedule (although they failed to add the last-minute Gillian Welch afternoon show at The Zoo Bar yesterday that I hinted at in my column).

If I were going to the festival tonight, my first inclination would be to head to Duffy's for the Ideal Cleaners/Virgasound/Domestica show, which starts at 9 and is a measly $5. But considering that 2/3rds of this lineup is bound to play at The Brothers in the coming weeks, I'd probably end up at Knickerbocker's for The Show is the Rainbow / Heiruspecs ($9, 9 p.m.). Tomorrow's early show choice is Jake Bellows and McCarthy Trenching at The Zoo Bar ($3, 5 p.m.). Buckley tells me this version of Trenching won't be of the Oberst/Taylor variety, but should be just as good. My late show would be Neva Dinova, Little Brazil and The Golden Age at Knickerbocker's ($8, 9 p.m.). The Golden Age will likely be hampered by the Husker game, but things should get rolling after that.

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Column 92 -- Lincoln Calling (starts tonight); Live Review: Black Squirrels… – Sept. 14, 2006 –

Not mentioned in the Lincoln Calling schedule (at the end of the column) are the movies scheduled at Mary Riepma Ross as part of the event. Tonight it's I Am Trying to Break Your Heart (Wilco documentary), Friday it's Fearless Freaks (Flaming Lips documentary) and Saturday it's Disc 2 of Pink Floyd's Pulse, the full Dark Side of the Moon concert. All screenings are at 11 p.m. and are free.

Column 92: Growing Pains
Lincoln Calling struggles through third year

My one question for Jeremy Buckley, the UNL student, music lover and organizer of the annual Lincoln Calling Music Festival, slated for this Thursday-Saturday at venues throughout the Capitol City:

Is it getting easier or harder?

"I don't know. Maybe both," Buckley said. "Each year I add a couple more bands, which adds logistical problems."

And there certainly have been a few of those over the years, but what did Buckley expect? No one else is trying to do anything on this scale in Omaha or Lincoln: Three full nights of music featuring 36 bands/performers at five different venues, plus a film series. Just the thought of pulling all that together gives me a migraine.

But imagine having the whole thing booked and, one-by-one, you started losing bands. And not just any bands -- top-drawer acts that you're depending on to draw large crowds. Such was the case when three bands -- Saddle Creek Records' newcomer Ladyfinger, Lincoln break-out ensemble Eagle*Seagull, and white-knuckle punkers Axes to the Sky -- all told Buckley they couldn't perform just 10 days before the event.

"You get frantic to figure out how to fix the leak," said a nervous Buckley. "There's only so much you can do."

The biggest rupture was Friday night's Duffy's line-up, which lost both Ladyfinger and Axes to the Sky. Remaining on the bill was area favorite Ideal Cleaners and Omaha power-punk band Virgasound -- an act that's just getting its feet wet in Lincoln. Buckley said the folks at Duffy's almost pulled the plug. "Friday night is important business-wise for them," he said. "People come in to buy their fishbowls. If they have a cover and the show isn't strong, they'll just walk on by." Which is easy to do, considering Lincoln venues are all walking distance from one another.

But Duffy's said they'd gladly keep the show going if Buckley could line up Domestica, a new band featuring Jon Taylor and Heidi Ore of Mercy Rule and Boz Hicks of Her Flyaway Manner. "Heidi said Boz was available, so let's do it," Buckley said. "That's what you want to see -- a band that's willing to throw down."

Crisis averted. Nothing, however, could be done about Eagle*Seagull, but the rest of that Saturday night line-up at Knickerbockers -- Neva Dinova, Little Brazil and The Golden Age -- is more than enough to hold its own, Buckley said. E*S frontman Eli Mardock also was scheduled to perform a solo gig at The Zoo Bar Thursday afternoon with Rob Hawkins of The Golden Age. Buckley said a "very special guest" could fill in for Mardock (but he couldn't confirm it).

Why put up with these headaches? Because the festival, now in its third year, is finally catching on. "It's easier now that bands, for the most part, know what Lincoln Calling is," Buckley said. Last year's event drew about 1,800, despite sagging Sunday attendance (Sunday's been nixed this year) and problems at Duggan's, a venue that cancelled a show after one band -- The Architects -- failed to show up, Buckley said.

"Only 20 people were there for the opening band, The Gov't. So Duggan's just closed the bar." Leaving Omaha band Anonymous American out in the cold. "Matt (Whipkey, AA's frontman) was extremely frustrated -- they wasted an entire night -- but the band was understanding." Scheduling issues prevent AA from performing this year, but Whipkey is doing a solo opening set for The Mezcal Brothers Saturday night at The Zoo Bar.

"You remember who was easy and who was hard to deal with," Buckley said, adding that Duggan's wasn't approached to participate this year.

His goal for '06 is to exceed 2,000 in attendance. Considering the line-up, it should be a shoe-in. The 28-year-old Husker junior plans on graduating next summer with a degree in English. Teaching or writing is in his future, and so is Lincoln Calling, which he hopes to grow into something akin to Austin's South by Southwest Festival -- an event that involves more than just bands and venues, it involves the entire city.

"I suppose (I'm) interested in knowing how big this can get," he said. "It's important not to create limits to what can be achieved, so it's an interesting question to consider what something like a little music festival in the middle of Nebraska can become."

Here's this year's Lincoln Calling schedule:

Thursday, Sept. 14
Knickerbockers
Criteria
Maritime
Tie These Hands
9 p.m., $8, 18+

Zoo Bar
Early (5-7 p.m.)
Rob Hawkins of The Golden Age
(TBA)
5-7 p.m., 21+

Late:
The Jazzwholes
Tijuana Gigolos
9:30 p.m., $6, 21+

Christo's Pub
56 Hope Road
9 p.m., $5

Duffy's Tavern
The Prids
Her Flyaway Manner
Spring Gun
9 p.m., $6, 21+

Friday, Sept. 15
Zoo Bar
Early:
Son of '76
5 p.m., $3, 21+

Late:
Forty Twenty
The Killigans
9:30 p.m., $6, 21+

Duffy's Tavern
Ideal Cleaners
Virgasound
Domestica (Former Mercy Rule)
9 p.m., $5, 21+

Knickerbockers
Heiruspecs
The Show is the Rainbow
9 p.m., $9, 18+

Chatterbox
Early (6 p.m.)
Bloody Stump
This is We
The Speech Impediments
6 p.m., $5, all ages

Late (9 p.m.)
Jaeger Fight
Boycaught
The Hooligans
9 p.m., $5, 18+

Saturday, Sept. 16
Zoo Bar
Early:
McCarthy Trenching
Jake Bellows of Neva Dinova
5 p.m., $3, 21+

Late:
The Mezcal Brothers
Matt Whipkey of Anonymous American
10 p.m., $6, 21+

Knickerbockers
Neva Dinova
Little Brazil
The Golden Age
9 p.m., $8, 18+

Chatterbox
Early (6 p.m.)
Once a Pawn
The Deformities
6 p.m., $5, all ages

Late (9 p.m.)
The Goddamn Rights
Brimstone Howl
Bloodcow
9 p.m., $5, 18+


Big crowd last night at The Dubliner for the debut of Black Squirrels. Right from the start, the band's Darktown House Band heritage was obvious and appreciated. The four-piece played a nice, laid-back set of bluegrass-flavored torch songs that were as relaxing as your favorite blankie and a glass of hot Irish coffee. If you ever went to a Darktown show, you'll recognize Kat Smith's coffeehouse vocals, singing lyrics that were timely, local and pretty funny (in the right way). And then there was that spot-on cover of REO Speedwagon's "Take It On the Run," ratcheted down as only the Squirrels can. Drummer Doug Kabourek sat in on the last four songs, and his addition helped pep things up (even though he only played with brushes). Yes, this is a mellow crew, and quite a contrast to Gael Sli, the neo-traditional band from Dublin, who played afterward. I've seen my share of Irish folk bands (Hey, I went to Ireland last year, remember?) and these guys are right up there with the best of them, giving the usual fiddle-and-accordian traditionals a modern spice, thanks to a chopped-and-slurred acoustic guitar that recalled Luka Bloom.

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Lunchtime update: Welch and Oberst tonight at Mick's… – Sept. 13, 2006 –

Tonight's music calendar just got a bit more crowded: Mick's in Benson will be hosting Gillian Welch tonight along with Conor Oberst, Sarah Benck and Korey Anderson. The show starts at 9 p.m. and is free. Better get there early if you want in!

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This week's feature: White Whale; Black Squirrels, Race for Titles tonight… – Sept. 13, 2006 –

This week's feature is a short one. Short, mainly because the cell connection sucked. Cell phones have become the blessing and bane of interviewers. They're great because you can get ahold of bands much, much easier (usually from the back of their van) and they suck because it's like talking to someone on a walkie-talkie (from the back of a van). I don't own a cell phone, by the way (*readers cringe in disgust*), so let me let you folks who own one in on a secret -- you sound like shit from a land line and we're not hearing the first word of most your sentences. And you drive like shit. And you're annoying in elevators...

Anyway...

Here's this week's feature on White Whale (read it here). Bassist Rob Pope, formerly of The Get Up Kids, does a bit of compare-and-contrast between the two bands, about their music and their careers. Though I interviewed them back in 2002, I never much cared for The Get Up Kids, whereas I much dig White Whale's debut on Merge Records. And as for Pope's question to me in the story, my reply was, "Yes I do. When you grow up in the country (in my case, Fort Calhoun) all you ever listen to in high school is Led Zeppelin. Maybe a little Pink Floyd and Van Halen, but mostly just Led Zeppelin." Pope said I was lucky, that he didn't get into Zeppelin and Floyd until he was in in his 20s. He obviously didn't grow up listening to Z-92.

A couple marquee shows tonight. I already talked about Black Squirrels at The Dubliner (in yesterday's blog entry -- You really should come down there tonight and buy me a Guinness). That one starts at 8:30 and will cost you $5. Also tonight, down at O'Leaver's, our old friends Race For Titles is playing with Back When. I hear those RFT boys will be hitting the studio hard over the next week, working on a new album. It's about time. $5, 9:30.

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New meat: Thunder Power tonight at O'Leaver's, Black Squirrels tomorrow at Dubliner; Oberst added to Friday show… – Sept. 12, 2006 –

Remember that column where I asked 'Where are all the new bands going to come from?' (read it here, if you missed it)? Well, two new promising bands are making their debuts this week.

Tonight at O'Leaver's is the debut of Thunder Power, a supergroup of sorts consisting of members of Life After Laserdisque, Watch the Stereo and the Davenports, specifically Matt Hutton, vocals, guitar; Jason Koba, synth, vocals; Ian Simons, sax; squeeze box; Brendan Walsh, drums; and Will Simons, clarinet. Their myspace is here. With Pontiak and The Pistol Brothers.$5, 9 p.m.

Then tomorrow night at The Dubliner is the unveiling of Black Squirrels, consisting of two former Darktown House Band employees -- Kat Smith, vocals/guitar and Kate Williams, accordion/vocals/keyboards -- and former Fizzle Like a Flood-ers Travis Sing, bass/vocals and Doug Kabourek on drums. Check out their myspace at www.myspace.com/blacksquirrelsomaha. The Squirrels will be opening for Gael Sli, a neo-traditional band from Dublin. $5, 8:30. If anything, it's just a great excuse to get down to The Dubliner!

By the way, One Percent Productions announced that the "mystery guest" for Friday's Gillian Welch show at Scottish Rite Hall is (ta-da!) Conor Oberst a.k.a. Bright Eyes. Expect the show to now sell out quickly. It should have sold out with Welch alone. Tickets are still available at onepercentproductions.com. I'm hearing rumblings of a second (even maybe a third) Welch show sometime this week. I'll pass on the details when/if I get them.

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Live Review: Thor, Zolar X... – Sept. 11, 2006 –

When someone asks me "How was Thor on Saturday night?" it's kind of like asking "How was meeting the Pope?" or "What was it like to witness the parting of the Red Sea?" or "What did Santa Claus say when you met him at the North Pole?" The phrase "bigger than life" just doesn't cut it. Nor do words like "miraculous" or "biblical" or "Godlike." This wasn't just a concert, it was a life-changing event, like watching the birth of your first child or waking up from a 10-year coma (neither of which, admittedly, I have ever done).

I knew I was in for the heights of rock theater when one of the band's roadies opened up a large plastic container next to the stage filled with skull masks and plenty of plastic battle weapons (axes, swords, etc.). Oh yes, there would be blood.

But first, there was "Rock and Roll Nightmare," a film narrated by the man/god himself. I walked into the Saddle Creek Bar about halfway through what appeared to be a soft-porn horror flick complete with rubber monsters, fake blood and boobs. On screen was a younger, more muscular version of Thor with a huge head of blond hair and pecs the size of your thigh (a version of Thor, incidentally, that's long gone). Nothing feels quite as uncomfortable as watching a movie of a woman taking a shower and then getting humped by Thor while surrounded by a 100 or so folks who you will likely see at The Brothers on any given night.

After someone tripped over the projector chord -- bringing the film to a close before we could find out who was responsible for all that fine cinematography -- Zolar X, a science-fiction punk band from the '90s that I'm told are friends with Jello Biafra, took the stage. Dressed in blond wigs and skin-tight Lycra space suits, these scrawny guys weren't "brothers from another planet" as much as "geezers from another era." Their music was punk merged with '60s garage rock played by a trio that looked like they've lived through every bad moment of the last four decades (and have the wrinkles to prove it). It was like watching My Favorite Martian's Ray Walston fronting an effeminate version of The Buzzcocks dressed in Star Trek costumes. Things got off to a hairy start when the band was assaulted with ear-splitting feedback from the monitors (I couldn't hear it from the floor). After the first song, the drummer threw his sticks down and yelled, "The fucking feedback is killing us. FIX IT!" before storming off the stage. Someone apparently did, and he came back a few minutes later, looking a lot more relaxed. Their set was fun, if not too long. Or maybe it just seemed too long because we were all waiting to see the Thunder God.

We got our wish moments later, when Thor and his band of merry warriors took the stage, tearing into a set of heavy metal that would make Spinal Tap proud. Donning a huge black (plastic) chest plate and a series of gruesome rubber masks, Thor had the crowd in the palm of his mighty fist, proudly belting out one heavy metal ditty after another. Whether standing tall with shining crossed swords or looking for evil amidst the audience holding forth an electric Coleman lantern, Thor filled the crowd with a sense of awe and wonder. As the crowd pressed the stage, shaking their devil-horns high above their heads, I felt for a brief moment like I was back at Fat Jacks circa 1985, an era when touring heavy metal bands ruled the club circuit (Ah, those were fun times indeed. Where have they gone?).

Without his hood/masks, Thor's graying locks betrayed the aging God, and he sort of looked like a buff version of Kenny Rogers (albeit, with a broadsword). Whether he was sin