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Such Sweet Thunder: Redneck Reunion

 
story by tim mcmahan


 

 

Lazy-i: July 21, 2004

Such Sweet Thunder
w/Goodbye Sunday, Carmine
July 23
Sokol Underground
13th & Martha
$7

Such Sweet Thunder
w/Goodbye Sunday
July 24
P.O. Pears
Lincoln





One of the original players in Omaha's first Golden Age of indie rock is reuniting for the first and probably last time. Influential rockers Such Sweet Thunder will once again take the stage almost a decade after calling it quits.

The band's roots go back before grunge to a time when Omaha's first slew of original indie-style bands were just getting off the ground. Such Sweet Thunder formed in February 1988 in Kearney, Nebraska, where all the band members were attending college. Guitarist Dan Ostdiek met drummer Sven Deepe through an ad posted in a local music store. "He was the Neil Peart of Nebraska," Ostdiek said.

While the two were playing a Kearney kegger, a voice boomed out over the drunken college din. It was Scott Roth singing the words to R.E.M.'s "Driver 8."

"We said we've got to get this guy and jam,' Ostdiek said. Shortly afterward, Roth joined as lead vocalist, while Doran Bastin, a pal who could barely play guitar, joined on bass.

 

 

 

 


After playing a series of keggers, they quickly gained a following as a band that "sounded like R.E.M. with balls." Eight weeks after their first gig, Such Sweet Thunder released a cassette of seven home-recorded originals. Within three years they would release three more as they became a staple attraction at Omaha, Lincoln, Kearney and Grand Island bars.

Influenced by R.E.M., Such Sweet Thunder made the most of minimal arrangements that featured Roth's broad, soaring vocals over Ostdiek's Peter Buck-style guitar lines. Though the world was about to enter an era of metal-influenced Seattle grunge, Such Sweet Thunder's sound was pure Athens rock.

Their style would bring them their share of success and failure, all the while quietly influencing a handful of future Nebraska bands. They even had a brush with the big time.

"In 1991 we were approached by some wealthy British guys during a broadcast convention in Lincoln," Ostdiek recalls. "They liked our sound and wanted to bankroll us in England. We told everyone we were going to postpone our last year of school and be big rock stars."

But it wasn't to be. At the time, the Manchester scene was burning white-hot in England. The British businessmen asked the band to fire Deepe and get a drum machine or someone who could play dance beat. "We told them to fuck off," Ostdiek said. All four were back in school the following fall. Bastin, who was from Britain, was so embarrassed that he left the band and shortly afterward moved to Seattle.

Such Sweet Thunder carried on six months later with new bassist Steve Streit, a "heavy metal god" who lived on a farm 40 minutes outside of Kearney -- a perfect, isolated practice space.

After selling 1,200 copies of their Burning Ditches cassette in '91, the band branched out and released their first CD, Redneck, on Ism Records in the fall of '92, selling 500 copies only days after playing a series of CD release shows in Omaha, Lincoln and Kearney.

Despite regional success, the band never caught on nationally. They sent copies of Redneck to college radio and record labels. "They all said we rocked live and sucked in the studio," Ostdiek said. "Putting headphones on neutered us. They wanted us to tour the country for 10 years like The Beat Farmers and build up a cult following."

But the furthest the band ever toured was Denver and Des Moines. A bad experience in Denver at a venue that booked acts like Warrant tainted their taste for the road. "All the other bands were fighting over the dressing room," Roth said. "They had us set up our gear behind a curtain because they didn't want anyone to know we didn't have roadies. They ended up pulling the curtain on us before we finished our set. It really bothered me."


 

 

 

 

 

 

 



"Putting headphones on neutered us. They wanted us to tour the country for 10 years like The Beat Farmers and build up a cult following."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
"When Nirvana broke in the early '90s, we thought we could do this for a year. We never had dreams of getting on a tour bus"

 

 

By 1993, Ostdiek was attending Law school in Lawrence, Kan., while Roth was getting his masters at Kearney. "When Nirvana broke in the early '90s, we thought we could do this for a year," Ostdiek said. "We never had dreams of getting on a tour bus."

They finally called it quits in August 1994 after a pair of poorly promoted shows in Lincoln and Kearney drew only a handful of people. "That was it," Ostdiek said. "We'd had a 7-year ride and it was done. Six months later, I moved to Phoenix and have been there ever since."

The idea for the reunion show came last January when Roth and Streit attended a show by Seattle band Swell that featured Bastin on bass. One Percent Production's Jim Johnson, always a big fan of Such Sweet Thunder, suggested the band get back together for old time's sake.

Friday night's show will feature Roth, Ostdiek, Streit and Deepe. Bastin has been contacted too, and might even show up, Roth said.

"This will probably be the last time we strap on the tennis shoes as Such Sweet Thunder," said Ostdiek, who practices law in Phoenix. All have regular careers these days. Roth is a loan officer at an Omaha bank, Deepe is an electrician and Streit has returned to college in Lincoln, where he's studying psychology. "The goal of these shows is to show people who the band was."

"It's also about just about getting together again to hang out," Roth added.


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Published in The Omaha Reader July 21, 2004. Copyright 2004 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved. Photos copyright © 2004 by Bill Sitzmann, used by permission.