Monday, February 28, 2011

Today's Downloads: Interpol with School of Seven Bells, Manchester Orchestra

• I noticed some recording equipment onstage when Interpol was at Slowdown recently. Well, they were indeed recording stuff. They've released a "North American Tour EP" with stuff from School of Seven Bells and Matthew Dear, too. Download it here.

• Head over to Manchester Orchestra's site to get a copy of "Simple Math."

I'm going to start using this "Today's Downloads" column to let you know about free mp3s and other cool stuff. I'll also be updating this throughout the day if I hear of any more good stuff, so stay tuned.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Bright Eyes plays 'Jejune Stars' on Letterman last night

Bright Eyes played "Jejune Stars" on David Letterman last night, which you can watch above.

It's good to see them on a big show. And with electric guitars and a selection of good musicians rounding out the crew. Though I would have liked to see Laura Burhenn's excellent backing vocals a little higher in the mix.

Anyway, I'm surprised that they picked "Jejune Stars" rather than something a little more Letterman-audience-friendly like "Shell Games." You'd think something - I hate to say poppier, but I probably will - poppier would pull more people in.

But what do I know?

Though, to be honest, I do have to say that "umbrella under my arm" hook gets me every time.

It's not the first time for Bright Eyes on Letterman. They did "Hot Knives" from "Cassadaga" and "Trees Get Wheeled Away" from "Noise Floor."

The deal with Red Sky Music Festival

Concertgoers at the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago in 2010.
By now, you're probably aware of the Red Sky Music Festival, a six-day fest going down in July at Omaha's TD Ameritrade ballpark and the surrounding parking lots. (If you're not familiar, read this.)

And if you're like any of the many people who have called, e-mailed and tweeted me about it, you probably want to know who's playing.

Originally, the festival lineup (at least the six headliners) was supposed to be announced in mid-February. That deadline has obviously passed.

So, what's going on? What's the holdup?

Basically, this is a joint venture between MECA and Live Nation. That means it takes approval by Live Nation and MECA's board of directors to approve anything. And they're not letting out a peep without making sure every little thing is nailed down first.

My guess? They know who the headliners are. But they're not saying a word until everyone's got signed contracts and approvals on their desks.

But stay tuned for the next few weeks. We'll have something in our hot little hands sometime in March.

My question: Who do you want to see? And, being realistic, who do you think will perform?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tapes 'N Tapes play the Waiting Room tonight; Bright Eyes on Letterman tonight

I really like "Outside," the new album from Tapes 'N Tapes.

People loved "The Loon" when it came out a few years ago, but the band has mostly been written off since then. A shame, I think.

With "Outside," the band did the whole thing on its own, from recording to releasing, and started its own label, Ibid Records.

It paid off. The record is full of energetic indie rock, but not aggressive or loud. Tonight's show at the Waiting Room should be pretty excellent.

Read my full interview with Josh Grier from Tapes 'N Tapes and also feel free to listen to "Freak Out," the album's first single, below.

Listen: "Freak Out" by Tapes 'N Tapes


* * *

If you're staying in tonight because of the snow or any other reason, you should dial up the Late Show with David Letterman.

Bright Eyes will appear on the show tonight. Not sure what they'll play, but my guess is "Shell Games."

Also on the show will be Republican Senator Rand Paul.

Everyone's been saying they hope things don't break into fisticuffs, but I don't see Conor Oberst as the violent type.

I bet there won't be a ton of friendly conversation in the green room though.

Update (3:51 p.m.): Laura Burhenn of The Mynabirds and currently part of Bright Eyes' travelling band just tweeted: "just had my make-up done in a chair next to rand paul. so many things i could say about this..."

We'll see if there are any other comments...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

No. 1 for Bright Eyes? Not quite, but still a strong showing

Bright Eyes didn't have a No. 1 album, which I predicted could happen a few weeks ago.

But it came damn close.

"The People's Key" debuted at No. 13 on the Billboard 200. The album sold 40,816 copies (17,796 of which were digital downloads).

What was above it? Justin Bieber, Mumford & Sons, Lady Antebellum, Bruno Mars, Eminem, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Katy Perry and Arcade Fire.

Do those names sound familiar? If so, it's probably because they were all part of the Grammy Awards last week.

"The post-Grammy spike is one of the biggest I’ve ever seen," said Mike Fratt, general manager at Homer's Music.

Last week, Fratt predicted several among those named above that would beat Bright Eyes and he was right on.

Anyway, 41k is still a strong debut sales week for Bright Eyes and Saddle Creek Records in general.

It sold more than both of Oberst's solo albums, but less that "Cassadaga" and "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning." Both of those albums sold in the high 50k range in their debut week.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Video: Pete Yorn, Ben Kweller and Tim Wildsmith

Saturday marked a fun night for me at the Whiskey Roadhouse in Council Bluffs. While others were packed into the MAC for the roller derby, we headed to the casino where a sold-out crowd was waiting for Ben Kweller and Pete Yorn.

I have to say it was my first time at the Whiskey Roadhouse. I was honestly pretty impressed with the sound. It was pristine from where I was located, just a few people back from center stage.The layout was kinda weird with all of the tables just beyond the standing crowd and damn hard to navigate if you wanted to grab a ($4.25) bottle of beer.

Anyway, you can read my full review if you'd like.

The reason you're here is for some video.

Kweller's one of my favorite acts around. He's also a really cool guy and always signs autographs and talks to fans after shows. I chatted with him for awhile and he revealed that he just finished a new album that he'll be putting out on his own label. Look for it later this year.

Yorn put on a very rocking performance. This video's of "Murray," which closed out the night. His set felt a bit short, and I heard after the show that he "wasn't feelin' it." Odd to me since people were pretty bouncy and seemed to be digging the show. Oh well.

Tim Wildsmith performed a little "afterparty" set out on the miniscule stage between the Whiskey Roadhouse and the casino proper. He did a mix of covers and originals and it was pretty fun, especially because he was playing to a bunch of people playing craps and blackjack. His best effort that night, though, was a cover of Cee Lo's "Forget You" that the gathered crowd really loved. (Sadly, I wasn't able to get the whole song, but the above should give you a decent idea.)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Video: Bright Eyes' "Shell Games"

Bright Eyes has a new video today, fresh off the release of "The People's Key" yesterday.

It's the video for the first single (if you want to call it that), "Shell Games."

It shows Conor Oberst, Mike Mogis, Nate Walcott, Laura Burhenn, a drummer I couldn't make out and a bassist I don't recognize (it's not Matt Maginn, who played on the album) rocking out to the tune in someone's house that looks like it's been made up like a kid's couch fort.

They they light some stuff on fire and play out in the snow.

I'm guessing it was either filmed in Omaha or in Europe, but I couldn't make out any identifying landmarks.

Anyway, it's a fun time. Kinda trippy.

The Guardian has the video exclusively for the moment, so go check it out.

Update: Saddle Creek posted it on its YouTube page. Now, I have it right here:

Friday, February 11, 2011

Album Review: 'The People's Key' by Bright Eyes

Bright Eyes, "The People's Key"
Label: Saddle Creek Records
Release: Feb. 15

You might think Bright Eyes is this indie acoustic project.

You know, the one that’s really just Conor Oberst playing his folky tunes under a pseudonym?

It’s not. Not anymore, anyway.

The band has finally proved so with “The People’s Key,” the record where the group shows it has finally matured.

This record has melody, keyboards, guitars, beats and spoken word. It’s at some points plodding (“Approximate Sunlight”) and at other times dancy (“Jejune Stars”). And, of course, Oberst’s honest, “couldn’t have said it better” lyrics are all over the record.

Instead of focusing on one influence or style or idiosyncrasy, the band hits on all of them.

“Triple Spiral” recalls the best indie pop. “Firewall” is a contemplative but lifting tune. “Shell Games” rocks with a catchy chorus and rhythmic melody.

The only song that feels like old Bright Eyes is “Beginner’s Mind,” which sounds like the teenage Oberst who doesn’t remember the proper ratio of his pitchy voice to his acoustic guitar.

With “The People’s Key,” Bright Eyes feels like a band. Oberst’s usual acoustic croonings have been fleshed out into real live songs with full accompaniment by Nate Walcott’s playing and Mike Mogis’ production and guitar.

The one big thing lost on me is the “shamanic vocals” (as they’re credited) by Denny Brewer, a musician that Oberst met during his many musical adventures. Basically, the vocals are a rambling spoken word stream of consciousness from Brewer about Hitler and demons and aliens and the origins of human life and all sorts of — let’s be honest — craziness.

I suppose it’s Oberst saying, “This is my record and I can do whatever I want.”
It’s also part of the mysticism found in Oberst’s lyrics ever since we heard Bright Eyes’ last album, “Cassadaga,” named after a spiritualist camp. While certainly not in the reggae musical style, here the lyrics sometimes carry the theme, including mentions of “one love” and Rastafarian messiah Haile Selassie.

“It’s been said we’re post-everything,” Oberst sings on “Approximate Sunlight.”
I suppose so. Especially for Bright Eyes, which says here that it’s post-anything-and-everything by refusing to be defined by anything it has been called before.

© 2011 Omaha World-Herald

* * *

Want more on Bright Eyes? Pick up a World-Herald or head to on Sunday to get the scoop on the album, the possibility of being a No. 1 album and the album's artwork by Grammy-winner Zack Nipper.

Also, check out a special edition of my column on Sunday for my Grammy predictions.

Aaaaaand, I'll be doing a live chat here and at on Sunday at 7 p.m. during the Grammy Awards.

* * *

While I'm on the subject, there are a variety of good concerts with tickets on sale this weekend. Bright Eyes is just one of them.

Get that credit card out, here's what's coming.

• The Decemberists will performing with Justin Townes Earl on April 17 at the Holland Center, easily the best sounding place to see music in town. They don't do a lot of rock concerts, but this will be one to catch. Tickets, $35, are on sale now.

• The Felice Brothers will play the Waiting Room on May 4. Tickets, $13, will go on sale Saturday at 1% Productions.

• Bright Eyes plays with Jenny & Johnny on June 4 at Westfair Amphitheater. Can't wait for the sun to come out so we can hear some good tunes. Get tickets, $25, at 1% Productions starting Saturday.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

It's True is back! Record release party coming April 1

It's True back in 2010.
Remember how It's True broke up?

Yeah, right when they were getting a following and played the Maha Music Festival main stage. Then that Maha show (and the afterparty) turned out to be the band's last show.

Frontman/songwriter Adam Hawkins moved away and the band was dead. But, as you may have heard, he's actually reconvened with a new band (not sure who's in it).

They've been working on a new record, and now it's time to release it.

The band will release "Another Afterlife" with a show April 1 at the Waiting Room Lounge. No word on price, etc., but local folks Noah's Ark Was A Spaceship and Cowboy Indian Bear and Pueblo, Co., band Haunted Windchimes are also on the bill.

Slumber Party: The story with Bear Country; New stuff from Noah's Ark Was A Spaceship

 Bye, bye Bear Country.

As you may have seen yesterday, Bear Country will be no more.

Why? Aaron Markley of Slumber Party Records and Bear Country weighed in.

"Bear Country isn't what it used to be. We consider it to be completely different, actually, so we decided it was time to move on," Markley said. "Yes, a new project is in the works. I'm sorry I can't really say more about it now."

The band has more shows booked, at least according to Facebook, including a date March 12 at Slowdown and another on April 21 at Slowdown opening for Rural Alberta Advantage. I bet that's where we'll see the new band name and sound and what have you.

* * *

In other Slumber Party Records news, Omaha four-piece Noah's Ark Was A Spaceship is set to drop "Hanga-Fang," which was recorded by Mark McGowan and mixed by AJ Mogis.

Noah's Ark will host a release party at the Waiting Room on Feb. 25. Shortly thereafter, the band's going on a nice little tour.

Want a copy? Head over to Saddle Creek Records' web store and pre-order yourself a copy.

Before then, head to Noah's Ark's Facebook page and listen to tracks "Opener" and "Warm Eyes."

As I always say, I think it's a good thing when Omaha bands venture outside of the same usual in-town venues and actually build some buzz on the road. Having a hometown audience is good, but your band's going to need those people in other towns to build a real following.

The band hits the road with fellow Omaha band, The Yuppies, in March. Dates below!

2/25: Omaha, NE @ The Waiting Room (Hanga-Fang release party)
3/18: Iowa City, IA @ White Lightning
3/19: Chicago, IL @ The Empty Bottle
3/20: Bloomington, IN @ Clark on Clarke AKA The Blue Room
3/21: Saint Louis, MO @ Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center
3/22: Memphis, TN @ Poplar Lounge
3/23: New Orleans, LA @ TBA
3/24: Austin, TX @ Cheer Up Charlie’s
3/25: Denton, TX @ HOUSE SHOW!
3/26: Kansas City, MO @ The Brick

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Little Brazil live review; Bear Country calling it quits

If you were anywhere but The Sydney last Friday, you missed out on a good show.

OK, yeah... there were probably other fun things going on. But I found myself amid a mob of folks packed into that little Benson bar to see Ideal Cleaners, The Fucking Party and Little Brazil.

Ideal Cleaners rocked, as usual. They're always enjoyable and played a pretty lengthy set, which I was happy about.

The Fucking Party screamed a lot. Honestly, I wasn't really into them and was perfectly OK with the fact that they only played a handful of songs. I think the crowd agreed with me. The near-stage area cleared up and the bar (at the other end of the room) suddenly got busy.

As for Little Brazil, they kicked things off with seven brand new songs. I thought the melody and the music were driving the songs more than the vocals, which is what I thought the case was most of the time on the band's fantastic 2009 album "Son."

Meg Morgan (drummer Oliver Morgan's wife) filled out the lineup on keyboards from early in the set. Some people took it as big news of some kind, but it's really no surprise. The band's music has evolved from punk to indie rock and the keys/piano/organ just fleshes out that sound.

Hell, "Son" had its fair share of keyboards on it and songs like "Brighton Beach" sounded fantastic live with Morgan there to play her parts.

But, rest assured the keyboards aren't taking center stage. The songs are still dominated by Greg Edds and Landon Hedges' guitars. Morgan just fills out the melody.

I'm excited to see where these new songs take them. They haven't started recording yet, but a trip to ARC should be coming soon.

Looking forward to it.

* * *

Almost forgot to mention, the whole shindig was a party to launch If you haven't been there yet, get to it. Seriously, where have you been?

* * *

Bear Country is shutting down.

I loved the band's latest effort, "Frozen Lake." It's fraught with simple melodies, very folky, but one of the prettier albums I've heard in a long time. I still can't get enough of "Coolie Trade," the first song on the album.

Alas, the band's last show ever will be at the Sandbox on Feb. 18 19, according to this Facebook event post.

But fret not. According to Slumber Party Records, "we’ll be seeing these guys around with something new very soon."

Happy to hear it.

Bright Eyes: Omaha-area date added to the tour

Today, Bright Eyes announced a whole bunch of extra tour dates in the Midwest and West, including one that puts them close to home.

The band plays June 4  at Westfair Amphitheater in Council Bluffs. I'm also excited about the opening band, Jenny & Johnny.

This show has to be the biggest the band has ever played in town, maybe with the exception of the Mid-America Center show with the Faint in the "Digital Ash In A Digital Urn" era.

Should be a fun time in the sun. (Can't wait for that. Can you?)

Anyway, get your tickets starting Saturday at 1% Productions. Only $25.

All the added tour dates are below:

5/27-5/30 Sasquatch Festival
6/01 Boise, ID Knitting Factory
6/03 Denver, CO Filmore Theater
6/04 Council Bluffs, IA Westfair Amphitheater
6/06 St. Louis, MO The Pageant

Friday, February 4, 2011

Five reasons you should go to the party tonight; Plus the weekend roundup

What's your weekend plan? Aside from the Super Bowl, I mean.

Me, I'm headed to see Little Brazil, Ideal Cleaners and The Fucking Party tonight at the Sydney for's launch party.

You see, the fine folks at want you to hear and learn more about music from this fine state of ours. They also want to use the site to broadcast our music to the world.

So, here are five reasons you should go to tonight's part.

1. Good music. Three great bands for only five bucks. Plus Little Brazil has some new tunes I'm sure they'll play.

2. Support a nonprofit. The website is run as a nonprofit and needs donations to stay afloat (and help the Normans eat and pay bills), so your five bucks will really help.

3. Andy Norman is a cool dude. Seriously, he's a really good guy and I've known him since his first day at The Reader when he didn't know where the bathroom was (I was an intern at the time). If you bump into him (or his wife or any of the other people involved), tell them "good job" and then attempt to talk to them about something other than the site. Conversation that doesn't involve "music" and "websites" will probably be welcome.

4. I'll be there. And you know wherever I am is the place to be. (Kidding...)

5. The Fucking Party has one of the best names of any band in town. You really can't argue with how much awesomeness is projected from that name. Also on the band's Facebook page, frontman John El says he can singlehandedly drink Little Brazil under the table. This I'd like to see.

Note: If you're a Lincolnite and would prefer not to drive to Omaha, you're in luck. Just go to the Lincoln launch party at Duffy's on Sunday. Same deal, just different bands: Conduits, Kill County, Down With The Ship and Manny Coon. Enjoy.

* * *

If you're looking for other stuff to do this weekend, try out the following:

• Ladyfinger's Chris Machmuller will spin records at O'Leaver's tonight.

Kris Lager Band plays with Funk Trek and Rock Paper Dynamite tonight at the Waiting Room. 8 bucks at the door.

Cymbal Rush has a CD release show tonight at Slowdown with In Love, Everyday/Everynight and Tree. 7 bones at the door.

Ladyfinger plays Saturday at Slowdown with Techlepathy and The Stay Awake. That show is also 7 bills at the door.

That's about all I got. Good thing, too, because I was starting to run out of slang words for "dollar" that started with the letter "b."

Enjoy the Super Bowl on Sunday.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Interpol's Daniel Kessler on the changing face of music

Last week, I got a call from Daniel Kessler, guitarist for Interpol.

The post-punk indie band is one of several (The Strokes, The Killers and other "the" groups) that broke about a decade ago. Like the others, they've released another album. Next week, the band hits Omaha for a sold-out show at Slowdown.

It was a nice chat, and after the standard stuff such as "Where did you record the new album?" and "How has Carlos D's departure affected the band?" we got onto talking about things that affect the band outside of songwriting and lineup.

We got into a debate on shows vs. albums or live vs. recorded.

Back in the day, it was standard for a band to release an album and then go on tour and promote it. That's still what happens today, to an extent. But any more, especially for indie rock bands, they're making their money from playing at clubs, not from selling CDs.

Some bands have even forgone the old way, which was write music, record music, perform music (in that order). Now groups such as The Hold Steady or Matt & Kim will often write songs, perform them and then record.

I asked Kessler about it. He agreed, to an extent.

"I think you're still going out to support a record," he said. "An album's obviously really important because that's the body of art right there and will always be the umbrella of why a band's going out on a touring cycle. Regardless of whether people are buying a record or not, artistically that's what you're supporting at that moment."

He went on to say that the music industry isn't what it once was.

No kidding? It's a new age, one where people aren't exactly buying records. Thanks, Internet.

"Obviously, it would be nice if people bought records like they used to," he said. "I kind of think it's a good age, too. There's really wonderful things you can do as far as connecting with your fans and just people in general all over the world for the musical sharing standpoint. I kinda like it.

"I choose to look at that side rather than complaining about the fact that people don't buy records or sales dwindling. I'll obviously always care about the album because that's the art form. We're an albums band. We're not trying to put out mp3s. We're trying to make records like we've always made records, start to finish."

Touring and albums will all be united, Kessler said. And I agree. I'm usually looking forward to hearing the new songs on a band's album, but it's also fun to get the preview of what's on the next record. That's part of being a rock fan: wanting to be "the guy heard it first."

The Internet's not quite the Wild West any more. But it's rampant with sharing. Not necessarily files (though that obviously still happens), but ideas and music and all kinds of wonderful stuff.

"The upside is you can be very innovative in this day and age and it can actually pay off versus having to wait for quite a few middle men to give you the option to play your record on the radio or what have you," Kessler said. "You can have an innovative idea for your record on how to get it out there or reach your potential fans and it can pay off. It might be a really smart idea.

"That seems like a bit more of an honest age at the end of the day."

I remember when, if you wanted to hear some new music, you turned on a radio. You could go to a show, too. That stuff still happens, but off the top of my head, I can think of nine different websites and blogs to hit up to find new stuff.

For me, it's liberating. You don't have to wade through a murky swamp of crappy radio rock to find one good song. You can get it wherever and whenever, at the record store or online.

Word of mouth - once the record store guy telling you what he liked (still an excellent idea, by the way) - has kind of exploded.

"I like word of mouth. I go out and by records. I definitely buy stuff off of iTunes, but I really enjoy buying records," Kessler said. "I feel like it's a very saturated age. There's a lot to choose from, but beyond that, I think it's a pretty free age.

"And I think there's nothing but good things in that."

Well put.

* * *

That was only part of my interview with Daniel Kessler. Get ready to see Interpol next week by reading the rest over at

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Column: Stuck inside? Tips to help you pass the time

Ready for some non-Bright Eyes news? Here's my column that's publishing in tomorrow's paper.

* * *

By Kevin Coffey
© 2011 Omaha World-Herald

Lately, I’ve been having the notion that going outside means certain doom.

Or, at least freezing.

So, while it hasn’t kept me from going to a show I wanted to see, I’ve been spending most of the rest of my time indoors.

I’m sure you have, too.

If you’ve been stuck inside a little (or a lot) lately, here are some suggestions on how to pass the time (musically, of course).

Play Trivial Pursuit with the Music Singles package. It’s a set of 100 question and answer cards that can be played as its own stand-alone game or you can add the cards to your Trivial Pursuit board game. It will definitely test your musical knowledge.  

Four words: Snow day dance party. Get your roommates/kids/spouse/friends who are stuck at home with you, and get down with your bad selves. Or if you’re by yourself, crank it up and just go it alone.

Cruise and listen to some new, good, live music. At the moment, they have shows posted from Best Coast, Iron & Wine, The Decemberists and a ton more that were posted just within the last month.

Learn something. Netflix has a host of music documentaries on its “watch instantly” list. I recommend trying out “Stones in Exile,” the story of the making of the Rolling Stones’ “Exile On Main Street” by the Rolling Stones; “Heavy Metal In Bagdhad,” a film about Iraqi heavy metal outfit Acrassicauda; and “Air Guitar Nation,” a funny look at the world of air guitar. If those don’t float your boat, there about 100 more under “rockumentaries.”  (Hint: they offer a one-month free trial if you’re not already a member.)

* * *

Any other suggestions? Drop them in the comments below.

Bright Eyes listening party; Could it be a No. 1 album?

If you haven't listened to Bright Eyes' "The People's Key," get on it. It's not that hard to find.

Today, Saddle Creek Records announced it will host a listening party and pre-sale on Feb. 14, which is the day before the album comes out and also Valentine's Day.

Romantic? Uh, sure.

Party starts at 8 p.m. Also, you better be 21 or older or the won't let you in.

Homer's Music is also guaranteeing the album will be in stock. Get it there for $9.99 on CD or $19.99 for the vinyl at Homer's through Feb. 27.

With all the tracks released, streams, videos and now this party, it looks like Bright Eyes is making a real push for this album. It's bigger a bigger push than most indie bands go for and certainly one of the biggest that Saddle Creek Records has done (in my memory).

Could Bright Eyes be No. 1 on its release week?

It's possible. On Feb. 15, "The People's Key" is up against releases from Devotchka, Ginuwine, P.J. Harvey, Drive-by Truckers, Rev Theory, Sonic Youth and Mogwai.

Unless Ricky Martin's album (out yesterday) sticks to the top of the charts for three weeks (unlikely), Bright Eyes could pull it off.

Even if they don't, the band has had top 10 releases with its last couple efforts. I'd expect at least that this time, too.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Bright Eyes' favorite videos

So, following on yesterday's Bright Eyes video, we have a new series of them.

Conor Oberst, Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott broadcast from the A control room at ARC Studios. They're there to plug the band's new record, "The People's Key," and roll out a list of the band's favorite music videos.

The list includes The Faint, Cursive, McCarthy Trenching, Miles Davis and a bunch of others.

Check out the intro video below and watch the rest. You can find the full list at

* * *

More non-Bright Eyes stuff coming later today.