Friday, June 25, 2010

Another Maha band: Landing On The Moon (plus a weekend roundup)

After some apparently close voting, Landing On The Moon was selected as band No. 4 to play on the Maha Music Festival's local band Kum & Go stage.

They'll join Satchel Grande, The Mynabirds, Betsy Wells and a player to be named later.

I didn't vote for a band. If I would have, I don't think I could have chosen anyway. I've stated before that the five performers from last night (Honey & Darling, Landing On The Moon, Tim Wildsmith, Matt Cox Band and Midwest Dilemma) could easily just be the Maha local stage lineup. Five of my favorite artists in town, in fact.

Anyway, Landing On The Moon's Oliver Morgan (also of Little Brazil) talked awhile back about the band's latest album, "We Make History Now." He talked about being a diverse band and making records that stand out among other artists.

“We don’t go out of our way to make this next song different from the (others), but at the same time, there’s a presence of mind that we want to be versatile," he said.

The group had a CD release show for the record back in October, but I received a release from Young Love Records saying "We Make History Now" will be released on Aug. 10. I guess it's a re-release?

* * *

What are you doing this weekend? I recommend you get to some shows. It's a busy week.

• If you're into that sort of thing, Kathy Griffin does her standup tonight at the Holland Center. I interviewed her yesterday.

• Also tonight is Mates of State. The (married) indie pop duo’s latest, this year’s “Crushes,” features the group’s distinct take on 10 songs from the likes of Tom Waits, Death Cab For Cutie, The Mars Volta, Fleetwood Mac and others. The tour is accompanied by a traveling variety show and Mates' Jason Hammel acting as resident DJ for the tour. Omaha’s own sideshow, The X-Medic, will perform as an opener along with Omaha band Thunder Power. $15. 9 p.m. at Slowdown.

• On Saturday, I recommend checking out Henry Rollins. Even if you're not a huge fan of his music (personally, I love Black Flag, but not Rollins Band), the man knows how to tell a story. He told me that he'll be talking about his recent world travels, but he always throws in stuff about his touring days, making movies, celebrity encounters and all kinds of wonderful stuff. I've seen him twice and each time was a delight.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bright Eyes doing an Arizona protest song

Awhile back, I mentioned that Conor Oberst had joined other artists (including Rage Against the Machine's Zach de la Rocha, Kanye West and others) in boycotting performances in Arizona.

The organization is called Sound Strike and their goal is the repeal of Arizona's law SB1070, which is aimed at curbing illegal immigration

Well, artists are going to be donating songs to benefit the cause. The first artist with a new tune? Bright Eyes.

Conor and the boys created "Coyote Song," which he said is "a love song about two lovers separated by conditions that are out of their control, namely this right here," as he gestured to the USA-Mexico border behind him.

"In my view, it's state-sanctioned racism. If we let it slide in one place in the country, it's like dominoes. That way of thinking will start to erode everywhere, and I think it's important that we take a stand now," Oberst said.

One of the places he's thinking of is Fremont, Neb., which passed a law aimed at curbing illegal immigration last week in a special election. Today, I was contacted by Oberst's publicist and sent an op-ed. If everything goes according to plan, you can read that opinion piece in The World-Herald next week.

[Update: No go on the op-ed by Oberst. Our editorial page declined, not because it was Oberst and not because it wasn't well written (it was), but because it basically made broad assertions on what people think. They were pretty excited at the prospect of getting Oberst's opinion into the paper.

Sadly, Obert's publicist told me I couldn't publish it here after I asked. It was quite well-written and I was hoping to include it. In summary, Oberst stated that he was ashamed to be a Nebraskan and that Fremont is right up there with Arizona in its display of "intolerance and bigotry." The law is racist and Fremont voters want an all-white town, he wrote. "The new law is a black eye on their town and our state. It is embarrassing. It is wrong," Oberst said.]

You can watch the interview with Oberst, containing some behind-the-scenes footage from the music video they filmed in El Paso, Texas.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

List: The best of 2010 (so far)

Soooo, 2010 is half over. Weird, right? Also weird is how much good music I've come across in just six months.

What's your favorite music this year? I want to know. Tell me in the comments.

In no particular order, here's my favorite stuff from 2010, so far:

Frightened Rabbit — “The Winter Of Mixed Drinks”
I don’t think anyone expected these Scots to match their last record, the phenomenal “Midnight Organ Fight.” But they did it anyway, filling up this record with enough masculine angst and uncertainty to fill a frat house.

Listen: "Swim Until You Can't See Land"

Titus Andronicus — “The Monitor”
Punk rock anger, volume and energy combined with excellent lyricism is the best way to describe Titus Andronicus. Mixing aggression with poetry? I guess the band’s name is appropriate, being William Shakespeare’s most violent work.

Listen: "A More Perfect Union"

Free Energy — “Stuck On Nothing”
The world needed more bouncy, fun rock songs that recall the energy and classic rock stylings of groups such as Thin Lizzy. And Free Energy was more than happy to provide.

Listen: "Bang Pop"

The Hold Steady — “Heaven Is Whenever”
Sounds like another collection of bar rockers, which some critics have derided as being more of the same. But how can you resist 10 new solid rocking tunes by the Hold Steady? I, for one, cannot.

Listen: "Hurricane J"

Sleigh Bells — “Treats”
Featuring one of the best opening tracks of an album that I’ve heard in a long time, this record kicks off with “Tell Em,” a song that makes you want to roll the windows down and drive real fast. Catchy stuff.

Listen: "Tell Em"

The Black Keys — “Brothers”
Another candidate for “best opening track,” “Brothers” also has the best album art I’ve seen in awhile, simply stating “This is an album by The Black Keys. The name of this album is Brothers.”

Listen: "Everlasting Light"

The Mynabirds — “What We Lose In The Fire We Gain In The Flood”
Laura Burhenn told me she wanted to make a Neil Young-styled soul record. And she succeeded, making a soulful record that’s a delight to listen to over and over again.

Listen: "What We Gained In The Fire"

Yeasayer — “Odd Blood”
Rocking, but with a definite groove to it, “Odd Blood” isn’t an album I thought I would like when I first cracked it open. But now I can’t stop listening to “O.N.E.” or “Ambling Alp.”

Listen: "O.N.E."

Satchel Grande — “Dial M For Mustache”
This whole record, especially “Them from ‘Dial M For Mustache,’” is so funky that it makes me feel like I’m in a ‘70s cop drama. And I mean that in a really good way.

Listen: "A.M. Gold"

Honorable mentions: Blitzen Trapper, Delorean, The Gaslight Anthem, Broken Bells, New Pornographers, Tim Wildsmith

Monday, June 21, 2010

Trio of Concert Announcements: She & Him, Titus Andronicus/Free Energy, Jenny and Johnny

Man, what a day for concert announcements. Looks like August/September is going to be a fun one. In addition to Tokyo Police Club, The Black Keys, The Watson Twins and more, One Percent is doing a helluva job bringing some good stuff in late summer. Kudos to them.

• First off, we have She & Him (pictured above) on Aug. 28 at the Anchor Inn. The duo - M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel - were critical darlings with "Volume 1" a couple years ago and this year's "Volume 2" ain't half bad either. The show I saw at SXSW was pretty good and was about half-half from both albums. If you're expecting M. Ward to play a bunch of songs from his solo catalog, this isn't what that is. He mostly takes a back seat, playing guitar and doing backup vocals. This show is the reason. Tickets available Saturday from One Percent.

Next up is Titus Andronicus with Free Energy. Again, both acts that I saw and loved at SXSW. The way that I've described Titus before is they're like Bright Eyes at the end of "Road To Joy" when they go nuts and Conor yells "Let's fuck it up boys, make some noise!" But, all the freaking time. Basically combine some punk rock energy with good lyricism.

• As for Free Energy, the Philly rockers are channeling Thin Lizzy in the most awesome way. It's happy, bouncy rock and it's excellent. They canceled a date with Mates of State next week and both the band's publicist and Jason Kulbel from Saddle Creek/Slowdown had no idea why. This show is the reason. Tickets available Saturday from One Percent.

• Last, but not least, is Jenny and Johnny, which I wrote about awhile back. Anyway, it's Jenny Lewis and boyfriend Johnathan Rice. They have a record coming out and are on tour. I'm interested in what they'll sound like, especially because they recorded with Mike Mogis at ARC in Omaha. Once again, tickets available Saturday from One Percent.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Weekend Roundup: Severin, Sleepover and Simon Joyner

I. Am. A. Slacker.

I don't remember the last time I went a week without posting on the blog. My apologies.

Today, I've got some suggestions for a weekend of concert-going. Next week, I'll be back with regular posts, including a list, a mailbag column (hopefully) and a lengthy Q&A with Henry Rollins (of Black Flag, Rollins band and generally-being-a-badass fame) who is coming next Saturday.

What should you do this weekend? Glad you asked. Check out these shows:

Scott Severin's CD release party is tonight. I interviewed him and it made for a pretty good story. Check out the free show for "Birdhouse Obbligato" at the Waiting Room tonight at 9 p.m. Big Wheel (Sarah Benck) and Platte River Rain open.

• Also tonight is The Sleepover's CD release show for "Oceans of Ice, Island of Terror."  The Lincoln melodic indie pop-rock band is fronted by Cory Kibler who has performed his own indie folk songs in the past. Techlepathy and Fortnight open the show, which is at 9 p.m. tonight at O'Leaver's. $5 cover, as usual.

Simon Joyner performs Sunday night at Slowdown ($7 at the door) with Paleo and Bear Country. He has several summer tour dates lineup up, which is a rarity for him. He tends to stay home with his family instead of go on the road.

That should set you straight for the weekend. Enjoy and, as always, let me know how the shows were.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Azure Ray to release "Drawing Down the Moon"

The fine ladies in Azure Ray, Orenda Fink and Maria Taylor, are back at it again. It's been six years since "Hold On Love," but the pair is set to release "Drawing Down the Moon" on Saddle Creek in September. Until a mini tour last year, the band was on hiatus since 2004 and the pair made solo records (as well as working with Bright Eyes, Now It's Overhead and projects Art In Manila and O+S).

In an interview last year, Fink told me about how the "reunion" happened.

Taylor had moved to Los Angeles around the same time that Fink was involved with Rilo Kiley, which frequently brought Fink to L.A. At the time, Fink lived in Omaha and would shack up at Taylor's place during her stints in California.

“We were having a great time together,” Fink told me. “We thought ‘We should be playing music. Let’s do a show.’ ”

They did, performing in Los Angeles in late 2008 — their first live date in years. They played the first Azure Ray show in Omaha in five years at a free outdoor event at Slowdown in 2009. If you were there, you probably heard some of the new tracks.

The twelve-track record was recorded with Eric Bachmann - whom the band worked with on "Hold On Love" - at Echo Mountain Studios in North Carolina and mixed by Michael Patterson. Familiar face Andy LeMaster (who's been playing with the band live) as well as Athens, Georgia, singer-songwriter Liz Durrett.

"Drawing Down the Moon" Tracklist:

1. Wake Up, Sleepyhead
2. Don't Leave My Mind
3. In the Fog
4. Larraine
5. On and On Again
6. Make Your Heart
7. Silver Sorrow
8. Signs in the Leaves
9. Love and Performance
10. Shouldn't Have Loved
11.Dancing Ghosts
12. Walking in Circles

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Blitzen Trapper 7: Wrapping up

It was universally agreed upon (among everyone I talked to) that Blitzen Trapper kicked ass last night. There were a couple hundred people there, by my estimate, and I didn't see anyone heading home disappointed.

As mentioned before, this band's songs seem so much more vibrant when performed live. 

The encore was "Not Your Lover," "Jericho" and one older song that I didn't know. Their pre-"Furr" music is pretty much balls-out rock and, as far as I could tell, that last tune was the only one they played from that era. And I'm fine with that.

These guys are pretty red hot right now for an indie band and since their album releases today, I'm curious to see what happens with them. This headlining tour is timed pretty well and could set them up for bigger things later this year.

Some live tracks recorded at last night's show:


"Wild Mountain Nation"

Monday, June 7, 2010

Blitzen Trapper 6: amping up

For some reason, "Furr" really got The band pumped up. After, they jammed out "Sadie" and then a rollicking version of "Wild Mountain Nation" that the crowd went nuts for.

Now they're back onstage for the obligatory encore. What will they play?

Blitzen Trapper 5: Slowing things down

After rocking out, the band has ben slowing thins down quite a bit. Most of what we're getting right now is acoustic.

They did "Lady on the Water," "Silver Moon" and are in the midst of "The Man Who Would Speak True." In fact, Earley was left onstage for that last one. Pretty sweet. Now they're onto "Furr."

These songs are an absolute pleasure to hear live. So much better than their album versions - more filled out, more full of life.

The band is also happy to be here, saying it's the sixth time in three years.

"Thanks Slowdown for letting us do our thing," the guitarist said.

Blitzen Trapper 4: Lead guitar and I get called out

Well, I found out where the Blitzen Trapper guitar sound cones from: frontman Eric Earley. He has played lead on a few tracks now and his solos have a sweet, southern kinda quality to them.

Anyway, I am pretty impressed that in a band with six guys, the lead singer is plain lead guitar.

Also, I just got called out from onstage.

"I believe someone is live blogging tonight," drummer Brian Adrian Koch said. "Put your iPhone down. No, I'm kidding. I think everyone should live blog the show."

Blitzen Trapper Blog 3: The main event

The boys have taken the stage, kicking out the jams. None of that slow folky stuff to ease us into it.

Four songs in, the new material fits right in with the old stuff. They've only done songs from "Furr" and the new record so far. And aside from last year's "Black River Killer," I doubt we'll hear much else.

And I'd like to state, for the record, that Marty the guitarist's mustache rivals any in indie rock.

Blitzen Trapper Blog 2: Intermission

Moondoggies have left the stage and the place is filling up a little bit more now. I remarked that the band was way better than I thought a band called the Moondoggies would be.

I'd see them again. They played some folky stuff, some bluesy Kings of Leon rock and even some groovy stuff. Anyway, their set was a good setup for Blitzen Trapper.

There are more hippie-looking folks than I thought there would be, but I guess the music kinda caters to that crowd. I'm also enjoying the balloons on the bar, which are there for Slowdown's 3rd anniversary (an anniversary I'd venture most of the crowd is unaware of).

Also,the conversation about the meaning of Hold Steady lyrics going on in the booth behind me is pretty enjoyable.

Anyway, Blitzen Trapper will be on soon. I'll have more for you then.

Blitzen Trapper Blog 1: And so it begins

I've snagged a booth inside of Slowdown. Not many folks are here tonight, so far, but it's only the Moondoggies on right now.

Seems like no one has ever heard of them before, myself included, so that's no surprise. And the frontman just said they've never been to Nebraska before either, so there you have it.

Honestly, they're a whole lot better than I thought they would be. Kind of a folk sound, but with electric guitars. Remind me of an indie rock Neil Young or a folkier Kings Of Leon, if there was such a thing.

Stay tuned, folks. More to come.

Blitzen Trapper tonight; Slowdown's anniversary; Tyson Vogel (Two Gallants) releasing solo record

Blitzen Trapper plays tonight at Slowdown. If you haven't read my 5 favorite things about the band, go ahead and check that out.

Show starts at 9 p.m. with the Moondoggies opening. Tickets are $12.

If you can't make it, head over to this blog later tonight to see my live coverage of the show. Instead of a traditional review, I'm going to try to give some live updates during the concert. Photos and (hopefully) some audio will follow.

See you starting around 9.

* * *

Also of note is that it's Slowdown's third birthday tonight. Wonder if they'll do anything special? Probably not, I'm guessing.

Oddly enough, one of the first shows I ever went to at Slowdown was a Blitzen Trapper show. In the weekly Slowdown e-mail, Val Nelson said that the band's show tonight is their 5th at the venue.

* * *

Tyson Vogel of Two Gallants (you may remember their previous releases through Saddle Creek) is putting out a new solo record under the name Devotionals. It's going to be put out through Alive Records, which released the first couple Two Gallants album.

Alive is also the home of Brimstone Howl and put out the first Black Keys album in 2002.

The self titled record will be out July 13 on CD, vinyl and digital.

Listen to and/or download the track, "Chest Like Expansive Wings."

Friday, June 4, 2010

It's True, Depressed Buttons (The Faint), City Weekly, Blitzen Trapper

Local boys It's True say they put 15,000 miles on their van last year. I'm impressed because I've seen the van. I'm honestly not sure it can handle that kind of mileage.

Anyway, they're headed out on tour again, hitting up 13 concerts on a 16-day jaunt. The band starts in Colorado and heads westward through California and then back again.

It may not sound very impressive to some, but it's a pretty lengthy set of dates for a label-less Nebraska band. I think it's a great next step for the guys and it's one that I think more local groups would do well to replicate.

Playing Omaha every two weeks will give you a good audience in Omaha, but making that next step often results in building up an audience in those places. One satisfied customer in a town on your tour will become three or four the next time you come through because he's going to tell his friends.

Check out the dates on the band's MySpace.

* * *

Depressed Buttons is now online. If you haven't heard the name before, you at least know the membership: brothers Todd Fink and Clark Baechle and their buddy Jacob Thiele, all of The Faint.

It's basically the name the trio has been using for the DJ sets and remixes that they've been doing for awhile. Soon, you can catch their remix of Boys Noize's "Kontact Me" on vinyl. That remix, as well as a few others, are on the group's MySpace page.

Big surprise, the remixes sound rather Faint-y. I like that.

Does this spell the end of The Faint? I doubt it, though they seemed all too happy to give away copies of "Fasciinatiion," their latest album, at their last Omaha shows. They've got that Maha show coming up, if you haven't heard (ha!), and I don't think they'd do these shows if they weren't interested in being a band any more.

* * *

Seems like the City Weekly has gone the way of the buffalo. Again.

Marq Manner said on Facebook that his music column will continue on in Shout! Weekly, as the City Weekly will cease printing. It happened once before, earlier this year, so we'll see if it's resurrected again or not.

Good to hear Marq has a home. There's a lot of musical coverage and opinions in this town and I think that's great. I gotta say that I don't have much to say that Tim McMahan didn't address in his own blog the other day. I enjoy reading from Tim, Marq and everyone else and you can learn a lot by reading "the other guy," so to speak.

* * *

I interviewed Eric Earley from Blitzen Trapper last week. Much like the first time I interviewed him (back when they played with Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks on election night in 2008), he is pretty terrible.

Nice guy, great music, great lyrics, but getting him to answer a question is like pulling teeth. Tough stuff. ("Your lyrics seem to reflect where you live, the Pacific Northwest." "[Pause] Yeah, they do." "Can you tell me about that?" "(Pause)It's where I live. [Longer pause]")

As it were, I managed to salvage a few quotes from my interview (as well as one borrowed from Spin) to tell you my five favorite things about Blitzen Trapper. Dig it.

The band plays Monday at Slowdown with The Moondoggies. Should be cool.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

News: Second-to-last Maha band showcase announced

More Maha Music Festival details have trickled out.

The news today is the lineup for the second Maha showcase (of three) that decides who plays the fest has been announced. Who will be playing the Waiting Room on June 24? So glad you asked: The Matt Cox Band, Midwest Dilemma, Honey & Darling, Tim Wildsmith, Landing On The Moon.

Who will win? That remains to be decided. This showcase appears to have bands with bigger followings than the last showcase did, so voting tallies may be a bit tighter. Frankly, I like this group of bands better than the first, but that's me.

How does one of these bands get picked for Maha? You, the fans, should go to the free (yes, free) show. Each person gets a vote. If you have purchased your Maha tickets, you get 10 extra votes. Winner of the voting plays the little, local stage at Maha.

So, it's in your hands. The festival is in your hands, dude. (Sorry... Watched a lot of "The Big Lebowski" over the weekend.)

In case you haven't been following, the all-day concert's main stage lineup is all full (SpoonThe FaintSuperchunkOld 97'sBen KwellerIt's True), but the smaller, local stage lineup has not yet been decided.

Local groups Satchel Grande and The Mynabirds will be performing on the little stage and, as of last week, Betsy Wells.

Two spots are left to be filled. One will be at the OEAA showcase in Benson down the road and the other is decided June 24 at the Waiting Room.