Monday, October 17, 2011

OEA Awards: Comments from Marq Manner

There's been some issues with the comments system on the blog (and just problems with Blogger in general) today. Marq Manner, music man about town and an OEA Award organizer, had some comments for my blog post about the nominees and the OEA Awards in general.

Instead of hiding it on the comments section of that post, I wanted to break it out and make it bigger.

He makes lots of good points here and explains some of the ways decisions are made for the awards.

Hello Kevin,

Thank you for the announcement. I would like to comment on some points. Comments, suggestions, and perception of the awards show from both the press, public and musicians have played a huge role in shaping this event and the categories over the years.

-Until this year we have not gotten a response back from you or any OWH music reporter. I just assumed that employees of the OWH may not be able to be involved. if I missed a response back from you last year, I apologize. We still ask every year. I am glad that you will be involved this year as your opinion is valued. The nominees are decided by a small group who go over the public ballots that are compiled by an accounting firm. The full academy votes on the winners.

-There is no "alternative" category (we dropped that I think two years ago to go with just "indie" music. Adult Alternative is a radio format that six years ago was something that a lot of bands in Omaha fit into. It evolved into a songwriter category-and I will be suggesting it just be a singer-songwriter category next year. I personally am not a fan of that tag either and understand the confusion involved with it. It was skipped this year when talking about other changes that we were making.

-These are not my words-but this is what was decided by the board (of which there are more music members than ever before). "We felt that this was a way to open up the categories and competition a little more. Progressive and Funk feature tendencies that are similar in structure so we felt this would be a great combination. Again we made some changes this year that we felt would increase the interest of the awards. Moving Funk from the Soul/R&B/Gospel category into a group that we felt was a better representation of the scene seemed like a positive move. I hope this clarifies. More feedback is always appreciated."

-Every year things evolve in the Omaha music scene and we try to evolve with it. We also listen to comments from the press, public, and musicians and take those comments seriously. Some other changes that we have made this year based on suggestions/complaints are that we "dropped" easy listening from the Jazz category. This is in response to members of the jazz community and because a "vocal standards/easy listening" contingent is not making an impact in Omaha at this time. We have dropped best "Christian" and moved gospel into the soul category. We added EDM (Electronic Dance Music) to the DJ category to try an represent more of the dance music scene in Omaha. We also shortened the Country/Americana category from four words to two. :)

-Some nominees are public nominees. Some bands and artists get their fan bases active and thus you may see some bands and artists on the list that many might not be familiar with. In the past some names have come out of the public nominees that might have fallen under the radar had it not been for the top public nominee. I would love to say that I know everything happening in every age group or scene in town-but I do not. People like Daniel Christian, Ember Schrag, and others have come out of these nominations. Both of those artists tour more and are/were more active in their "scenes" than many of the nominated bands by the academy in those given years.

-The OEEA's are about the region. A band like the Minnahoonies play many shows in Omaha proper and have played OEAA showcases. We do not feel it is fair to exclude bands from the area. Shenandoah, Iowa is not going to have a music awards show nor is any other town around them. The closest one is Omaha and this is where they play.

-Many city and state awards shows around the country recognize artists after they have "made it". We choose to do so as well. The Minnesota Music Awards always did (I think this is defunct), The Minnesota Black Music Awards do this, The Boston Music Awards do this (heck they named the ancient Peter Wolf of the J. Geils band as album of the year last year), City of Music (Seattle) awards major artists (Brandi Carlisle, Fleet Foxes, etc. though it is a different format than ours), as does the Austin Music Awards.

I appreciate the announcement andyou having a section where are able to comment. Thank you.

MarQ Manner
Music Nominating Co-Chair Omaha Entertainment And Arts Awards

OEAA's announces music nominees

It's time to name the best in Omaha music. At least, that's the intention of the Omaha Entertainment And Arts Awards.

On Saturday, the nominations were released. And, after some voting, the winners will be picked in February.

While I think this is one of the better nomination lists I've ever seen from the OEA Awards, it's still flawed.

Why is "best adult" combined with "alternative" and "songwriter? And why is there a category that just says "indie?" Those bands would fit under rock, alternative and singer/songwriter. Why is "funk" paired with "prog" and "experimental?" And who are the Minnahoonies and why are they voted one of the best rock bands? I've never heard of them. (Upon further research, they're from Shenandoah, which should also disqualify them.)

Most pressing of all, why are Bright Eyes and Tim Kasher even in this fight? Yes, they are two of the biggest names in Omaha music, but they're not in the same league as these other guys (nor are Emphatic, which released a major-label album).

Putting those guys in the same category as Matt Cox Band and Galvanized Tron is like nominating the Yankees and the Omaha Stormchasers for "best baseball team." They're not on the same level. I think I know who's going to win.

Also, when Bright Eyes wins best artist, will Conor Oberst finally show up to pick it up his award?

Of course, it comes from the process by which nominees are picked. Nominations are submitted by the public. Then "the academy" votes on the nominees to choose the winners.

(Note: I'm supposedly an academy member, but I've never voted. I've also never received a ballot to vote, so that explains that. Hopefully, this year I'll be able to participate.)

Still, the nominees are mostly right. There's a lot of good music on that list. And it's a great starting point for someone not familiar with the scene to maybe familiarize themselves.

Anyway, the 2012 awards show will go down on Feb. 12 at Harrah's sometime in February. The awards are moving back to Omaha (they've been in CB in recent years), but the venue hasn't yet been decided.

You probably want to see the nominees. Check them out after the jump.

Read them and let me know what you think in the comments.

Friday, October 14, 2011

This week in GO: Widespread Panic and more

This week in The World-Herald's GO entertainment magazine, you'll find a whole bunch of entertainment readin'.

My column was on nothing exciting, just fake rock 'n' roll tweeters that make me laugh.

• I also wrote a video game review on "X-Men: Destiny." Despite my love for the X-Men, this game wasn't too great.

Widespread Panic is making a stop in Omaha on their last tour before a long break. I talked to percussionist Sunny Ortiz.

• While it's not really musical, Josie Loza wrote about the zombie walk going down in Benson on Saturday. You may spot me all undead-like, shuffling around at the Waiting Room afterparty.

• And, as always, you can check out our live music calendar and Ticket Booth, our list of upcoming shows with tickets on sale (or sold out).

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

First song from First Aid Kit's new album (recorded in Omaha)

Back in May, I wrote about Swedish folk duo First Aid Kit recording in Omaha with Mike Mogis of Bright Eyes. Mogis, Nate Walcott and a variety of other Omaha musicians recorded with the band for the album.

Today, the first fruits of that collaboration can be heard. The album's title track, "The Lion's Roar," is available today for streaming. (Listen below.)

Sisters Klara and Johanna Söderberg told NPR that the song was written during a drive through a Scottish moor and the song changed the shape of the record.

"During the tour, we listened a lot to Townes Van Zandt in the car. We were inspired by this mystic scenery, as well as Townes Van Zandt's beautiful melodies. By far our darkest song to date," they said. "The mystic feeling of this song came to characterize a big part of the new record."

The song will be released as a single digitally on Nov. 8. A 7-inch can be found at the band's shows currently and will be at record stores on Dec. 12. Then on Jan. 24, "The Lion's Roar" album will be available through U.K. label Wichita Recordings.

The band recently toured with Bright Eyes and is currently out in Europe and the U.S. with Lykke Li.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Live Review: The Head And The Heart at The Waiting Room

The Head And The Heart

Sunday was at least my fourth time seeing The Head And The Heart have made its toe-tapping campfire dance songs get better and better each time.

The Waiting Room Lounge was sold out on Sunday night, and while I've been there for many a sold-out night, I've never seen it packed up against the stage like that. And I've never heard a crowd go that wild for a band, especially a new band who was on its first ever headlining tour.

They sing songs about reading good books, playing music and enjoying the good life. "Heaven Go Easy On Me" personifies these themes the most (and carries the band's name in its lyrics) with the line "Don't follow your head/Follow your heart."

From the first song, the crowd knew the words and belted them out. It reached a crescendo with the end of "Rivers And Roads" where the band's harmonies and the crowd's shouts were so thick that I got chills down my back.

"Lost In My Mind" was the biggest number. From the first words, the crowd was into it and opening band Thao + The Get Down Stay Down jumped onstage to make for 14 performers.

Another highlight was the encore, which started with Josiah Johnson and Jonathan Russell performing "No One To Let You Down" and ended with the whole band performing "Down In The Valley." (Watch video.)

Only one part of the show was unfortunate. It was short. But that's no surprise considering the band has one album and a few new songs, which is what Mumford & Sons ran up against at this summer's Stir Concert Cove show.

Wait until this band has another album under its belt (you shouldn't have to wait long... they already played a bunch of new tunes on Sunday). You'll see them rise even higher, taking a course similar to Mumford or The Civil Wars.

They're incredibly talented, somehow able to take folk songs and make some into something you'd dance to and others that you'd be comfortable singing at church with a lot of other pretty voices. I mean, if my 2-year-old nephew knows the band well enough to say "rivers and roads" repeatedly whenever the band comes on, they must be doing something right.

They were on of my favorites at SXSW earlier this year and I can't wait to see where they go. Should be a fun ride, especially if crowds keep loving them like this.

Setlist and video come after the jump.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Rock Candy Interview: Girl Talk

Girl Talk (real name: Gregg Gillis). Photo by Paul Sobota.
A few years ago, Gregg Gillis was an engineer working an office job.

On the side, he was making music with his laptop by cutting apart popular songs and making new songs out of their pieces.

Now, you'd know him a lot better by the moniker Girl Talk. He's a mashup artist, taking loops and samples from different songs and smashing them together to make one big, amazing track.

At his shows - including the one tonight at Stir Concert Cove - Gillis does this live from a pair of laptops. (Listen to "Triple Double" by Girl Talk.)

Last week, I called Gillis to talk about Girl Talk. We got through a lot of tidbits including how many samples he actually uses, the rise and rise of electronic music and what the first Girl Talk show was like.

Kevin Coffey: This is your third trip to the Omaha area in three years and yours shows have gotten bigger and bigger in size. What do you attribute that to?

Gregg Gillis: I feel like kind of the cycle to hit up most major cities about once a year. It's the only true indication of how the project is doing or how many people it's reaching. I don't have a song on the radio or record sales or anything like that. The only actual numbers in my life is attendance.

Pretty much every city, it's been growing. Along with that, we've been pushing for the show to grow. I've been paying more attention to what we're doing on stage because that's kind of become a major part of doing this now.

KC: With how big the show is now, it makes me wonder what the first Girl Talk show was like.

GG: The general idea and attitude was very similar, but it was very small scale. I was very serious about the project musically and conceptually. I was playing with other electronic artists. It would be a DIY show space with a bunch of other people.

Back then, to a certain degree, I wanted it to be a production and reference big stadium shows. But back then, I was trying to entertain people and have a fun show, but poking fun at myself to a certain degree. This grand laptop spectacle show, you know?

The attitude and a mentality was always there. I was just operating at a very small level and with a much smaller crowd. It was also more of a raw thing early on. I was interacting with the crowd and jumping on top of them physically - anything to have a real human element to the electonric music.

The show is really now a blown up version of that.

KC: It seems that electronic music is growing and growing. I saw you at this tiny rock club a couple years ago and then at Lollapalooza in the Perry's tent, which has also blown up in size. Why do you think that is?

GG: It's really exciting. Going back to what I was saying with the early days, I always liked that idea and people had definitely done it back in the day, all the way to Kraftwerk. Around 2000, there was a negative stigma attached to live electronic music that it would be boring or not entertaining.

I wanted to have a show that's entertaining and push electronic music. An entertaining show and not just something that's a dance party. A multi-level show. That's always been a big goal of mine.

At a lot of the venues I was playing at, it was primarily rock bands and hip hop groups. Touring at this level with various shows, it still is relatively new enough ranging to deadmau5 to what I'm doing.

I feel like it is an open book. Wide open for people dong whatever they want to do. It's hard to come up with solutions to make their shows visually entertaining, but a lot of these electronic musicians are drawing as much as large rock bands.

It's definitely happened over the years. Before this generation, there was the Chemical Brothers or Prodigy doing it. There's been different waves of it but it's hitting harder now than ever. The creative energy behind the shows is amazing, too.

All styles of music are competitive. You know, 'Do it bigger than the other person.' I love checking out these other artists to see what they're doing. Definitely excited to see where they've gone.

KC: Do you get to see a lot of shows, rock or electronic or otherwise?

GG: Not so much shows but festivals definitely. A lot of times at festivals, I get to see all kinds of stuff.

I feel like a lot of the electronic artists that I know, I'll catch on YouTube. I've seen a lot of stuff through video. When I'm home, I see local bands in Pittsburgh and friends' bands. Going to a festival, I can see all kinds of stuff.

KC: What do you listen to when you're not searching for a sample?

GG: Stuff that I listen to but I won't sample. (Pauses) When I'm looking for a sample, I like it to fit within top 40 or familiar songs. Do something with them because that's what people will recognize.

The mixtape scene out of hip-hop is really big with me. The mixtape world, there's so much content and it's exciting for me and raw. Rappers will put out one mixtape per month. There's this constant stream of songs. A lot of that stuff is far from what I would sample, but I really like keeping up with that.

Otherwise, it's random stuff. Yuck, their CD. I've been listening to a lot of soul and Motown recently. Yo La Tengo, too. I plow through a bunch of CDs.

KC: Is it hard for you to not be looking for a sample? Can you turn it off?

GG: Definitely. I feel like I can kind of get in and out of it. When I put on the new Wocka Flocka Flame tape, I'm interested in it, but knowing it's outside the world of things I'm going to sample. So yeah, usually I can turn it off a little bit.

I'm in my set currently and I really wish I had more early 80s synth pop. When I'm hunting for a sample, I'll turn on the radio or something. That's just a different style of listening. It's not really listening, but hunting. I enjoy that process. Different sort of experience than listening to me.

Even when I am just listening to the radio, it doesn't ruin that experience. Things pop out of every song. It's not something that takes away from it, though.

KC: I think a lot of people don't realize it, but you use a ton of samples, not just one music track and one vocal track. How many do you typically use in a set?

GG: Typically - this is an estimation - maybe in an hour of playing it's maybe 400 or 500 loops. You might recognize the main pieces, but not everything. I like the shows to be as isolated as possible. It sounds like two or three things playing at once, but in reality it might be 12.

The more I do, the more I've gotten interested in making it more complex. It's very thick and layered. There will be little vocal samples and tiny pieces of one song.

I am super impressed that there are people who recognized that Silverchair snare drum. That's kind of part of it.

KC: One reader wanted to know how many laptops you had gone through?

GG: I've been good in the last couple years because I've been using these Panasonic Toughbooks. Prior to that, in between 2003 to 2008 it was probably two a year. The shows were raw and I didn't have the money to blow back then on nice laptops.

As the show's gotten bigger and more orchestrated, it's a little better. But it used to be a total free for all and night-to-night people were spilling beer or falling on them.

KC: From your tweets, it seems like you go out a lot after shows. Does that happen a lot? Plan on doing it in Omaha?

GG: It depends on the night. I love doing weekend show schedule where I'm doing a Friday-Saturday show. If I'm not on tour, I'm at my house every day keeping it low key. But I tour with a lot of my close friends and people who live in different states from me.

If I'm not feeling completely ready to throw up after a show, which does happen, I love checking out a city. It's my night to have fun. When the show ends it's a good time to catch up with people.

I'm trying to think of what we did in Omaha. What was that club? Slowhand?

KC: Slowdown.

GG: Yeah, Slowdown. We just chilled there at the end of the night. Nothing really stands out.

KC: Are people from your hometown or your old job ever surprised at your success?

GG: Less weird about the coworkers because I was only at that job for 2 or 3 years. People from college and people from high school, it's definitely weird.

In the music scene though, there was always people in bands or trying to get in bands and trying to break it big, trying to fuck shit up.

Back then, my project was all about 'fuck the world' sort of mentality. 'I'm here to wreck shit and get out.'

They would all be like this is very weird about what's happened to him.

All of the music back then and even the first six years of being Girl Talk, there was never any career ambition whatsoever. A lot of my friends were doing electronic stuff, too. We weren't living off it. It was such a subculture. It was so small at the time.

Honestly, this is very surreal that this is gong on and I'm able to sell out those venues.

KC: Is it strange to be doing this professionally?

GG: The opportunity was given to me then, and I pushed it as much as I could. Where it is at now is definitely insane. I've been doing it professionally for four years.

When this project started, I was so far removed from making a living off of it.

If you're in a band, you might just be doing it for fun but you know in the back of your head that you want to make it big. In my world there was truly no precedent for this level of success as far as the people I was looking up to.

So, I didn't think it would actually happen to any degree.

KC: I notice that you always refer to it as "the project." Why is that? Do you envision yourself doing something else?

GG: (Laughs) It's just weird for me to call it 'me.' Girl Talk represents a specific side of me, plus there's so many other people involved.

If you're Lady Gaga or something, I think that's not you. It just represents a part of you.

So, I have a hard time referring it to Girl Talk as myself. It's more of an 'it' than a 'me.'

Of course, I'm the main person behind it, but a lot of other minds are involved in it.

It feels like a project. I think though if this wouldn't have become something of a career then I would still be doing it, but probably at a different level.

But there's no doubt in my mind: Girl Talk would still exist.

Girl Talk, "Triple Double"

This week in GO: McCarthy Trenching, Head And The Heart, Girl Talk, LeAnn Rimes

It's a busy week for music coming up, which is why I wrote a whole bunch of stuff for GO. Here's what you can read from me this week:

• Tonight, Girl Talk will turn Stir Cove into a big old dance off. I talked to Gregg Gillis last week.

LeAnn Rimes starts a three-day stand with the Omaha Symphony on Friday.

• On Sunday, The Head And The Heart will play a sold-out show at The Waiting Room. I spoke to bassist Chris Zasche about the band's start and rise.

• Local singer/songwriter Dan McCarthy releases a new album with McCarthy Trenching, "Fresh Blood," next week with three shows. He welcomed me into his home with coffee and ragtime.

• After you see McCarthy perform at Saddle Creek Shop on Tuesday, you can go next door and see The Smashing Pumpkins play at Slowdown (if you were lucky enough to get tickets, that is). I'm told by 1% Productions that all tickets were in an online shopping cart within 30 seconds. All transactions were final within 20 minutes.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bright Eyes covers White Stripes' "We're Going To Be Friends"

Conor Oberst - Photo by Alyssa Schukar/The World-Herald

For part of a charity project, Conor Oberst and his pals in Bright Eyes covered the White Stripes' "We're Going To Be Friends." (Listen over at Pitchfork.)

The female singing parts are provided by First Aid Kit, which was recording with Mike Mogis at ARC during a break in Bright Eyes' tour this year.

It's interesting to me because back when "We're Going To Be Friends" was released in 2002, Jack White and Oberst were being called the great songwriters of a new generation and were often compared to each other. The sentiment was more or less that Oberst was the folk half of Bob Dylan and White was the rock half. Neither ended up really fitting that description, but that's what critics were saying at the time.

Anyway, the song is part of a compilation called "Cool for School: For the Benefit of the Lunchbox Fund." The Lunchbox Fund is a non-profit org that provides daily meals to poor students in South African high schools.

Not sure when it will be released, but the tracklist follows below:
01. Bright Eyes (feat. First Aid Kit) – “I Can Tell We’re Gonna Be Friends” (White Stripes)
02. Jenny O. – “The Happiest Days of our Lives/Another Brick in the Wall” (Pink Floyd)
03. Gabe Saporta (Cobra Starship) & Louis Epsterin (Jump Into The Gospel) – “Futures So Bright” (Timbuk 3)
04. Albert Hammond Jr. (The Strokes) – “Thirteen” (Big Star)
05. Alexander (Edward Sharpe) – “Teacher/Student”
06. Joseph Arthur – “Rockin’ In The Free World” (Neil Young)
07. Luke Rathborne – “I Hate My School” (Redd Kross)
08. Fences – “School” (Nirvana)
09. Angela McCluskey – “We Rule The School” (Belle & Sebastian)
10. Rain Phoenix & Jonathan Wilson – “Coat of Many Colors” (Dolly Parton)
11. Craig Werden + Pink Ape (Shudder to Think) – “Headmaster’s Ritual” (The Smiths)