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Bright Calm Blue: One Loud Conversation

story by tim mcmahan



Lazy-i: February 25, 2004

Bright Calm Blue
w/Her Flyaway Manner, Gnome Slaughterhouse
Friday, Feb 27, 9 p.m.
Sokol Underground
13th & Martha

It's only fitting that Lincoln's Bright Calm Blue will be sharing the stage with fellow Lincoln act Her Flyaway Manner this Friday at Sokol Underground. BCB's lead guitarist Dustin Wilbourn credits HFM's Brendan McGinn as an inspiration for his band's gritty, shimmering, jangular indie sound.

"Brendan's a very big influence, especially on our guitar parts," Wilbourn said.

McGinn and his band, along with Wilbourn and BCB, were among the flock of performers that shared the same practice space in Lincoln's Haymarket, a plywood-partitioned basement near 8th and R streets sometimes referred to as The Garage. It's where the five original members of Bright Calm Blue first got together nearly four years ago.




"It had been an artist space until the bands took over," Wilbourn said. "There were four bands per room, about 15 or 20 bands in all."

It's these bands, including Happy Dog, Square, Dr. Solo, Wastoid, Scientific Method and Seasick Bob, that Wilbourn says have influenced BCB's blaring sound. "Since we all practiced in the same basement, we constantly were hearing new ideas from our friends," he said.

But none were as influential as Caulfield recording artist Her Flyaway Manner. When it came time for BCB to record its recent 6-song EP, they brought in HFM's McGinn to sit behind the soundboard at Presto! Studios during the 3-day recording marathon.

"We had already recorded a 5-song demo with Brendan on a laptop using Pro Tools," Wilbourn said. "Our label, Level Plane, had been talking to us before we had sent out the demos and asked us to do an EP. So we wrote one more song and squeezed in three days at Presto!, recording the instruments one day and vocals the next. Brendan mixed all six songs on the final day. Level Plane was paying for it, so we were trying to get it done cheap."

The final product, A Direct Approach for Casual Conversation, is pure punk buzzsaw highlighted by gnawing, pulsing, syncopated guitars and two guys taking turns howling their cynical observations about life, relationships, politics, the usual stuff. Pegged as emo, screamo and post-hardcore, A Perfect Approach… garnered a 4-star review by indie rock bible, All Music Guide.


"Since we all practiced in the same basement, we constantly were hearing new ideas from our friends."



"Lincoln seems more intimate compared to Omaha. But it's our hometown, so it's obviously going to seem that way."




Those labels, however, are a tricky fit for these guys. The EP's almost fast enough to be filed under "hardcore" except that there's way too much melody. On the other hand, the CD is almost grinding enough to fit with the metal stuff, except that their songs are too smart and never wander into metal's dimwitted drop-D minor-key monster movie territory. Plus, call it what you want, these guys actual sing, sort of, using their voices as screeching counterpoints to the chug-chug-chugging syncopated guitars.

Credit the rhythm section -- bassist Austin Skiles and drummer Javid Dabestani -- for the CD's variety and dynamics. They're never content with any one style, alternating between straight-on bashing and pulsing back-beat grooves. Both handle the majority of the vocals as well, taking over after original lead singer Ian Whitmore left the band just before they began recording A Direct Approach… Guitarist/keyboardist Michael Bredehoft rounds out the four-piece.

With the help of strong distribution and aggressive print and radio promotion, A Direct Approach… cracked the College Music Journal charts at 120 and has almost sold out its first pressing, Wilbourn said. Not bad, considering their limited touring experience that included a brief romp along the East Coast. The band plans a Midwest jaunt during spring break, touring with Virginia's Order of the Dying Orchid.

Look for a few more Omaha shows as well, though Wilbourn says he prefers playing in the capital city. "Lincoln seems more intimate compared to Omaha," he said. "But it's our hometown, so it's obviously going to seem that way. They're both great."

With three of the four members finishing up their degrees at UNL, there isn't much time for more elaborate road work, but Wilbourn says all four will rock full-time as soon as the diplomas are in hand. "We'll begin recording our full-length either in late spring or after our tour this summer, but nothing's set in stone."

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Published in The Omaha Reader Feb. 25, 2004. Copyright 2004 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.