Sunday, March 11, 2012

Rock Candy has moved - Please update your bookmarks!

When I started this blog in 2009, it was out of necessity that I hosted it away from At the time, blogging hadn't been embraced and I was one of the first in the newsroom to start a blog or do this new-fangled thing called Twitter.

Now there are blogs all over our website and Rock Candy has finally joined the ranks there. It doesn't mean anything different for the blog. I'm still going to write about the same stuff and post what you've come to expect: news, interviews, expanded pieces, live reviews, criticism and everything else.

The only thing that changes, really, is the URL. And if you're a regular reader here, please update your bookmark to since I won't be updating on this Blogger site any more.

At the new site, you'll find all of the old posts and your old comments. I'll see you all there.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Rock Candy Interview: Tim Kasher of Cursive

Cursive on the cover of GO. Photo by Daniel Muller.

I've interviewed Tim Kasher many times and I'm always grateful because he's open for anything. As raw and honest as his lyrics are, he doesn't shy away from talking about the subjects contained therein (emotions, divorce, relationships, etc.).

Anyway, I was glad to talk to him again before Cursive came to Omaha once again to perform at Slowdown. They take the stage on Saturday with new record "I Am Gemini," released last week on Saddle Creek Records, in tow.

I called Kasher while the band was in San Francisco to talk.

Q. The Omaha show is coming up. Does performing here with friends and family potentially in the crowd make it better or worse?

A. There is a different vibe for me. I'd classify it with a few of the cities where my self esteem is lowered slightly more. I'm maybe concerned about judgement or how we're doing. I suppose it all stems from respect of peers.

Q. On "I Am Gemini," you wrote the album from start to finish. Did you start with the lyrics or the music?

A. It started with the (music) first. I didn't know what I wanted to write about just yet, but I had that hunch that I wanted to be schizophrenic or deal with mulitple voices.

The songs took that direction with the intent that I would have those lyrics. I weant ahead and outlined the whole story. I outlined them with the songs in mind as a chapter or occurence to propel the story forward. That was the abridged version of how we did it. Then we sequenced the album before I wrote the lyrics.

Q. Could Cassius and Pollack in "I Am Gemini" be the voices battling it out in someone's head? It sounds like that often.

A. Yeah. That's kind of the idea in the largest scope of it. But the story itself got so fictionalized. It went in certain directions so it kind of became its own story, too. I guess that's where I wanted it to land. It can be seen in two diffeernt ways: It's a story quite literally on the surface or you can take it all for allegory.

Q. A lot of the music sounds like stuff from a rock musical.

A. I didn't have the story in mind yet, but I had the hunch that if it could pull it off, I wanted to do something like that - something that felt more like a musical.

I wanted to write music that could lend itself to these different voices, so some of it is intentionally dramatized to fulfill that. I've been doing different versions of that for years, but this time I worked up the courage to take it a few steps further.

Q. Did you ever think of making this into a full-on play production?

A. The playbill that we wrote out, that's the more edited, more refined version of the story that I outlined before. I had a lot of daydreams of it being a bigger production. I always have daydreams like that. But I set all of that aside. I didn't really want to get ahead of myself and wanted to make sure the album is functioning. I wanted the album to tell some sort of story.

Again, with my daydreaming i certialnly do see that. When I do envision it, I see a thousand different ways for it to be done poorly. (laughs) It would be real prickly for it to get done in a way that I thought that it was good. Maybe, there's no way.

Q. I really liked reading the playbill as I listened to the album. It gave it a depth and direction I wouldn't have thought of, but I also wondered about people who downloaded the album illegally wouldn't have this thing.

A. It's certainly been brought up. In this technological age that it's kind of for the label and for marketers. They'll say, "Let's make it interesting. Let's bring it back to the packaging."

But I don't think on those levels. I enjoy the naivetĂ© of putting out an album and thinking everyone's going to the store and picking it up.

We are aware with the packaging that we do for albums, we're trying to make them as special as possible. For us, we want to do something a little more complete. Also, it's just making that available for anyone who likes that kind of thing. It comes fromt aht midwestern conservativism: "If you're going to be spending the money on it, we're going ot make sure it's chock full."

Q. "I Am Gemini" is another concept album. Is it a format you like or is it something you feel comfortable with?

A. I could maybe elaborate on what I was just saying. It's about making the album more complete. It's not necessary to write the songs in such a way, but in my head, I've always likeend an album to a book of short stories or, this time around, to just a book or just one story.

And my preference on a book of short stories is when they're threaded together on some common theme.

But it's taste. It's not necessary at all.

Q. On tour, are you guys playing the whole album from start-to-finish? With this album, I could see that but it would eat up the whole set.

A. We're not. We're kind of playing our catalog as we always have and just sprinkling them throughout.

Q. Do you have a favorite from these new ones?

A. It seems like it might be too early to tell, but i'd maybe say "Wowowow" is in the top five.

Q. You're not doing SXSW this year, are you?

A. No. We're playing Austin at a different date. It's a pretty fun thing to do, but there is a lot of stress involved, too. It is fun to get together and see a lot of people while you're down there.

Q. Are you feeling a little refreshed after having done a solo album? I hear that a lot from people who do solo records as a break from their regular band.

A. Yeah. And moreso than having another Good Life album because that kind of became an isnstituion in and off itself. So, absolutely.

It really reconfirmed for me that this is what I do and I'm comfortable with it in the sense that by doing that sort of record. Instead of going under the monikers that I've been working at - going under my own name - it was starting over. It was a really fun experience. The shows were a lot smaller. It was like doing another audience.

I also had the benefit of fans of Cursive or The Good Life checking it out. It is developing its own niche under the greater umbrella of what I do.

I also think that getting older, as I work on other forms of writing, I kind of just want to tie everything under one moniker, which is my name.

Q. So do you think you'll do another one?

A. Yeah, I'm working on one right now. Whenever the Cursive cycle kind of does it's thing, I'll have it ready.

Q. Are you still working on other types of writing?

A. Yeah, I have a lot of time for it. I try to treat what I do as a job as much as possible so I really put in hours. I try to do it daily of working on something that I can put out in the future.

But yeah, I kind of keep plugging away.

Q. Will we see any of that any time soon?

A. I always hope so. I officially call all of my other writing that's not songs "hobbies." I've only made very little amounts of money on them - as much as a hobbyist might.

But I'm working hard on them for a reason and I want to keep releasing any forms of writing.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Digital Leather does "Enzymes" for Love Drunk

Digital Leather

Digital Leather has a new album, "Modern Problems." On it is a song called "Enzymes."

The intrepid fellows at Love Drunk filmed them performing the song in O'Leaver's basement. If you know Digital Leather, then you know it doesn't sound the same as on the album. Live and recorded are two very different expressions for Digital Leather's Shawn Foree.

I recommend you go see the band when they perform somewhere soon (they just did a tour and reportedly will be playing in town sometime soon).

Until then, enjoy the band playing for Love Drunk below.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Listen to Mike Mogis play on the new M. Ward single

When M. Ward decided it was time to record a new album, he called on old friend and fellow folk monster Mike Mogis for some help.

A portion of Ward's upcoming album, "A Wasteland Companion," was recorded in Omaha at ARC and Mogis appears on several tracks.

Though the album doesn't come out until April 10, Ward released the first single today. Much like other Ward productions, "Primitive Girl" has a Buddy Holly rock sound paired with driving piano power pop. Mogis, who's also a member of Bright Eyes, plays organ on the track.

Listen to it below. What do you think?

New Mynabirds album 'Generals' and new single download

Laura Burhenn of The Mynabirds
We knew Laura Burhenn was in the studio with Richard Swift, the Oregon-based producer who has worked with Damien Jurado and plays with The Shins.

Now we know the name of the project: "Generals." The sophomore album from The Mynabirds will be out June 5 on Saddle Creek Records.

After recording her debut with Swift, "What We Lose in the Fire We Gain in the Flood," Swift toured heavily with the band and then with Bright Eyes.

According to a press release, "Generals" is a protest album and a concept album based on Burhenn's political frustrations. Burhenn said she wanted to pay tribute to women in history who got their hands dirty while making a difference.

"It was important for me that this record made sense of my own anger and turned it into positive energy," Burhenn says. "I needed it to be transformative – of both the individual and the body politic. It's as much a meditation on Walt Whitman's hope for America as Gandhi's directive to 'be the change you want to see in the world.'"

You can download the title track below by giving Saddle Creek Records your e-mail address.

The band is also going on tour starting with a Lincoln date on March 6. They'll hit up SXSW along the way and end the tour with a date in Omaha on March 23.


03/06/12 Lincoln, NE – Zoo Bar

03/07/12 Denver, CO – Walnut Room

03/08/12 Salt Lake City, UT – Kilby Court

03/10/12 Los Angeles, CA – Hotel CafĂ© w/ Big Harp

03/11/12 Santa Barbara, CA – SOHO w/ Big Harp

03/13/12 Tucson, AZ – Solar Culture w/ Big Harp

03/16/12 Austin, TX – Lamberts (SXSW) w/ Big Harp

03/19/12 Lawrence, KS – Jackpot Music Hall w/ Big Harp

03/20/12 Columbia, MO – Mojo's w/ Big Harp

03/21/12 Des Moines, IA – Vaudeville Mews w/ Big Harp

03/22/12 Minneapolis, MN – 7th St. Entry w/ Big Harp

03/23/12 Omaha, NE – The Waiting Room w/ Big Harp

Friday, February 17, 2012

Rock Candy Interview: Joanna Bolme of Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks

Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks. Credit: Leah Nash

Fresh off nearly a year of touring with reunited seminal indie band Pavement, Stephen Malkmus jumped into the studio with his main focus: the Jicks.

The result, produced by Beck, was Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks' "Mirror Traffic." As I'm not a fan of Pavement, I have usually shied away from Malkmus' music, but this album has brought me back. "Tigers" is melodic, thumping and singalong-able (it's a word, trust me) track. And "Stick Figures In Love" was another one that just rumbles along.

I also enjoy that many of the songs don't sound so wonderfully perfect. There are little human mistakes, which makes it more endearing.

Anyway, the band comes into town tonight to play Slowdown. Last week, I called Jicks bassist Joanna Bolme at her home in Portland to talk about the new album, the tour and the band.

Q. The last time I saw your band in Omaha was on election night in '08. Do you remember that?

A. Sort of. That was not a typical show night for sure. Obama's a hard act to follow.

Q. So with "Mirror Traffic," what it cool to have Beck as a producer?

A. Yeah. Beck was great. He's a musician first and foremost, so he's got a musician's mentality. He's coming from more of the same place that we are when working on a record. He's kind of listening more for the energy and the feel of a song than getting everything perfect. He was real conscious of what we were feeling, so he kinda just got it.

We blasted through everything real fast. We didn't go stop playing and go into the control room and listen back to see if it was good. We'd play through something a couple times and he'd say, "Great, let's move on."

We didn't have to make any of those calls. We just played. That was liberating.

Q. You and Stephen had done a lot of the producing-type stuff before, so I imagine it was nice to step back and let someone else handle it.

A. Oh yeah, much. We recorded at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles. There's Beck and then an engineer and an assistant and interns at the studio, so there's lots of people to move microphones and amps. We didn't have to do any of that stuff. It can be kinda stressful.

Q. Did you use a different bass on the album? It sounds a bit different.

A. The bass I ended up using mostly - or on half of the songs - was this Musicmaster Mustang bass of Beck's that had flat wound strings on it. It sounded great. It's very Wrecking Crew, Carol Kaye-style, muddy-type bass, which is not what I usually do when i play live. It's more live and loud-sounding.

Now I actually have a Musicmaster bass that I've been taking on the road. I play it on a couple songs. I've incorporated that into the act.

Q. How many do you usually take?

A. Usually, I just take one. If there's room maybe I'll bring a backup. Mine is real sturdy. This is the first time we've really consciously decided to take two basses and use two basses. The nice thing is you don't even have to change the strings on them. It's not really that crucial unless you really like the sound to be bright.

Q. What do you normally play?

A. I have a Fender. It says "Precision" on head headstock, but it's a jazz bass that's sort of been Frankensteined together. It's kinda ugly, but it sounds great. It weighs a ton. I really like it but it's also kind of annoyingly heavy and not really cute. But it sounds pretty cute.

My husband bought me a brand new Precision bass that also sounds good. I use it in another band with Rebecca Gates. It's a lot different sound.

Q. Your husband is also a musician. Is it tough to be on the road at different times?

A. Yeah. He's mastering his record right now so he's out of town. We're both on the road fairly often, which can be a drag not being on the road at the same time. You don't see each other as much as if you didn't do what we do.

The good part of that is that neither one of us gives each other a hard time for being gone. It's part of the deal. We both know that. That's nice. I feel like a lot of people get grief from their spouses. It's not normal, that's for sure, unless you're in the army or a salesman. (laughs)

Q. The album came out quite awhile ago, so I imagine you're pretty comfortable with the songs. Have you guys written more, or are you more of a "one album at a time"-kind of band?

A. We did a tour of the states in October or September. Then we did Europe in November. Yeah, we've been playing these songs for awhile. We've got a bunch of new songs, some weird covers. We play some oldies, too.

Q. What covers?

A. Let's see... Last tour, we played "Love Is Like Oxygen" by Sweet, "Brandy" by the Looking Glass, a song by a band called Stack.

Then the last show of the U.S. tour in San Diego, we played a whole encore of hardcore songs: Black Flag and Circle Jerks and Fear. That was fun. They were pretty excited. There's still a very serious hardcore contingent.

Sometimes we hear songs on the radio and Stephen says, "Yeah, let's play that tonight."

Q. Does he just write all the time?

A. Yeah. He's got a short attention span. Once the record's done, he's sort of like, "OK, whatever. Here's some more songs." He just keeps writing all the time. For as many songs as he writes, maybe half of them end up on a record. Half of them get shelved. Or they'll be turned into new things.

Q. Is that a good thing? Does it keep things fresh?

A. Yeah, kinda. It's great. That's the way I like things to work. I think everyone's sort of happy to have new stuff to work on.

Q. What do you, personally, have coming up?

A. Probably the next thing that I'll be doing when the Jicks have done this tour and are taking a break before summer is touring with my friend Rebecca Gates and the Consortium. You might know here from The Spinanes. I think we're gonna do a little touring in May.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Review: Karmin on Saturday Night Live

If people thought Lana Del Rey shouldn't have been on Saturday Night Live, I wonder what they think of Karmin.

If you don't know the duo, Karmin's famous for doing covers of pop songs on YouTube. But Saturday night, they played two original songs on SNL.

Also of note: Karmin lead singer Amy Heidemann graduated from Seward High School in Seward, Neb. She met Nick Noonan and Berklee College of Music where they formed Karmin.

The first of the band's two songs on SNL, "Brokenhearted," was really poppy and will appeal to fans of Katy Perry or Pink. It's mostly innocuous and the band did sound pretty good with a full band behind them.

What wasn't so great was the rapping verses. Heidemann kind of went into this Nicki Minaj-style tone and it came off totally goofy. She sounded OK, but when she bent at the knees and started dishing rhymes, she looked very out of place.

Heidemann kept her goofy poof hairdo during the second song, "I Told You So," where she did even more rapping. The song was much more of a rap jam, and I think they'd do better to stick with the pop hooks.

Honestly, the whole thing feels a little forced from the rapping to the overall look. It's like they're trying to take everything that's popular right now (Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne, etc.) and jam them all together. Both Noonan and Heidemann are really talented (and their covers are clever), but their originals end up coming off as imitations of other artists that are neither as as interesting nor as well-made as those they're imitating.

The Grammys: The best show I've seen in years

Last night's Grammy Awards telecast was the best I've seen in years. Most of the performances were fruitful, they actually gave out awards every once in awhile and some of the performances were incredible.

Let's start with the awards. No surprise, Adele and Foo Fighters took home almost everything, but deservedly so. I predicted 20 of the main categories and I ended up getting 14 out of 20 correct. The song that screwed me up the most was "All of the Lights," which isn't all that good but one a bunch of hip-hop awards anyway.

I was happy to see Foo Fighters win so many awards. They definitely had one of the best rock albums of 2011. Bon Iver also took home two trophies and I liked hearing Justin Vernon both be grateful and make a comment on how many worthy artists would never even be nominated.

Unfortunately, Omaha recording legend Tom Ware didn't win. He was nominated for his work on Lady Gaga's album, "Born This Way." Adele couldn't be stopped last night and she took the trophy for album of the year ahead of Gaga (and Ware, who was among 17 people included in the nomination for "Born This Way").

As for the performances, let's break down the best and worst.


Paul McCartney's performance of his song "My Valentine" was a total yawn-fest, but his telecast-ending performance of the medley from "Abbey Road" was incredible. Best of the night, in my opinion, although if you were watching in Omaha, you saw KMTV unceremoniously interrupt it with the evening news. I haven't gotten comment from the station as to what happened, but I'll post as soon as I do.

I was most skeptical of pairing the reunited Beach Boys with Foster The People and Maroon 5 because I thought they'd do a weird mashup of "Pumped Up Kicks," "Moves Like Jagger" and "Wouldn't It Be Nice," which would have been a total travesty. But it was actually a medley of all Beach Boys songs performed by each group. It ended up being a great tribute and the Beach Boys looked pretty good even though Brian Wilson looked a little overwhelmed.

I was also really skeptical of the "dance music" segment that was going to include David Guetta, deadmau5, Foo Fighters, Lil Wayne and Chris Brown. It ended up being like a live version of an electro mashup and it was pretty cool if not awkward at moments. I think most viewers probably wouldn't get it, but it was certainly a step in the right direction.

Jennifer Hudson's tribute to Whitney Houston was appropriate and moving.

I also liked that Foo Fighters got a big slot to play "Walk," but why were they stuck in the outside tent? It appeared that the edgy stuff wasn't allowed inside the actual ceremony, so they had to stick it outside. Weird. (Also, did anyone else think that it was weird to hear a guy who's voiced two animated panda films, Jack Black, talk about having indie cred?)

Nicki Minaj, what were you thinking? Ugh. Whomever told her this performance would be a good idea should be fired. Instead of doing something people knew, she went with newer track "Roman Holiday" and a Lady Gaga-imitating performance that will/did offend just about any Christian watching it.

Chris Brown needs to learn how to sing and dance at the same time or how to lip sync better. Either way, it was completely obvious that he was lip syncing the entire performances, which looked like a life-size version of the video game Q-Bert.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Grammy Awards live chat!

Hey! Yeah, you. The Grammy Awards telecast starts in a little while and we're going to talk about it.

Tune into CBS and join us starting around 6:30 p.m. to talk about the performers (Beach Boys, Foo Fighters), the host (LL Cool J... really?) and wonder what in the hell it is that Lady Gaga is wearing.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Weekend Candy: OEA Awards, Grammys, Ranch Bowl Orphans and a ton more

I'm not going to do OEA Award predictions because I already know who's won. No, I can't tell you. It's a secret. Go to the awards and find out yourself. They're Sunday night at the Hilton Omaha. You can get tickets here.

Speaking of the Grammy Awards, I have written a whole column of predictions, which you can check out in the paper and on on Sunday. I also talked to Omahan Tom Ware, who's nominated to win a best album Grammy for his work on Lady Gaga's "You and I." Others nominated with Nebraska ties are jazz singer Karrin Allyson and the Chiara String Quartet. It would be great for Ware to win, but I'm guessing Adele will take home just about every trophy she's nominated for.

On Sunday night just before the Grammy telecast (it starts at 7 p.m.), I'll be doing a live chat right here on the blog and on Tune in with me and we can talk the awards and performances. We can also mock people. It's fun.

Now, on with the shows coming this weekend:

• Tonight at the Waiting Room is a hard rock show headlined by The Wreckage. Show's at 9. $7 at the door.

• Slowdown is closed tonight, but reopens tomorrow with Pert Near Sandstone and The Big Deep. Expect a lot of banjo and toe-tapping. 9 p.m. show. $8 tickets.

• I like the lineup at O'Leaver's on Saturday night. It's Dirty Fluorescents' one-year anniversary show with Techlepathy, Comme Reel and Melissa Dundis. As usual, show starts at 9:30 p.m. with a $5 cover.

• If I were to pick a show for the weekend, I'd go to the MS Society benefit Saturday at the Waiting Room. Not only will Rock N Roll Suicide play David Bowie's "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars" in its entirety, but a band called the Ranch Bowl Orphans will play a bunch of songs by bands that played the old bowling alley's stage a bunch of times. Bands such as Grasshopper Takeover, Clever, 5 Story Fall, The Fonzarellis and Blue Moon Ghetto are groups I saw there a lot.

• Singer-songwriter Jenny Owen Youngs plays the Waiting Room on Sunday. 9 p.m. show. $10 tickets.

• On Sunday after the OEA Awards, Slowdown also hosts an after-party. Snake Island! and BASSthoven play starting at 9:30 p.m. It's free with an OEAA ticket or $5 at the door.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Head And The Heart video features the Waiting Room

The Head And The Heart

The Head And The Heart is one of my favorite bands from last year. I probably saw them more times than any other band (twice at SXSW and twice in Omaha) in 2011.

The folky Portland band's show at the Waiting Room was fantastic. Apparently, the cameras were rolling since you can catch  some shots of the Omaha rock club in the band's new video for "Down In The Valley."

The video shows the band in its van, loading equipment, doing sound check and performing at various places. You can see the the Waiting Room's loading ramp for a beat at the 1:23 mark and then a little more of the inside of the club at the 1:59 mark.

There also appear to be a couple of shots of the backstage room at the Waiting Room, too. It's not much, but it's still cool.

Watch the video below.

Monday, February 6, 2012

New happenings at Saddle Creek Shop

Saddle Creek Shop, the little indie record store run by Saddle Creek Records, is starting two new music event series.

The first is Record Club @ Shop. Though I hoped it would be a club that sends out regular, limited-edition releases from the label, it's still a cool idea. Like a book club, the record club will involve listening to a classic or recently-released album and talking about it. The first installment will naturally be Cursive's upcoming "I Am Gemini." Tim McMahan leads the discussion Tuesday where the album will be available for sale. That's early considering the album's official release date is Feb. 21. The club is bi-monthly.

The next event was supposed to debut last weekend, but the snow pushed it back to this Saturday, Feb. 11. Songs @ Shop is presented by Saddle Creek and Slumber Party Records and is an acoustic, hootenanny-style performance featuring a rotating cast of musicians. On Saturday, you'll hear from Jasong Mountain of Talking Mountain, Andy Cubrich of Family Picnic, Anna McClellan of Howard, Sam Martin of Capgun Coup and "more," or so says the shop's website. Performances start at 3 p.m.

They sound interesting, but I wonder if they'll be a big draw. Will you be checking it out?

Live Review: Craig Finn of the Hold Steady at Slowdown

Finn performs with his band on Slowdown's front room stage.

With a big snowfall iminent, I wondered how many people would actually show up to see Craig Finn on Friday night. Granted, the snow wasn't supposed to start falling until after the concert would be over, but people in this town kinda freak when they see a few white flakes fall from the sky.

When we arrived at Slowdown at about 8:30, only about 10 people (not including the club's employees) were milling about. I was surprised to see it was a front room show, but it probably would have felt empty in the main room.

As I feared, there were very few people there. But when the frontman of The Hold Steady took the stage more than an hour later, it was very full.

With little grandiosity but lots of applause, Finn took the stage with the band from his solo album, "Clear Heart, Full Eyes."

"Hey Omaha. The last time I was here was in the parking lot outside here on a night much nicer than tonight," Finn said, mentioning this summer's outdoor show at the venue. "These songs - or most of these songs - are off my solo album. Thanks for coming out tonight. Thanks for being a part of it."

To be sure, there wouldn't be any songs by The Hold Steady. Holding an acoustic guitar instead of his usual Les Paul, Finn started into the leadoff track off of his new album, "Apollo Bay."

In an interview, Finn described this music as being much less celebratory than what you'd normally get from The Hold Steady. That's for sure. These songs were more subdued, more singer-songwriter style, but still good. The guys:girls ratio was about on par for a Hold Steady concert, but there was no fist-pumping, fewer people singing and no tallboys raised in the air.

A lot of these songs are about being an adult and dealing with transitioning from your teenage/twentysomething shenanigans to being an adult while still staying true yourself. Of course, nothing changed in your personality: you didn't stop liking whiskey or staying up late with your friends, but you're expected to grow up.

That was pretty well summed up by Finn before he and the band played the song "Rented Room."

"You know when you're in college or you're just out of college - whatever you do - late teens/early twenties and you live in a house with all these roommates? And all these fun things happen. You're drinking, you're carrying on. You have all these inside jokes. It's funny," Finn said. "But when you're 35 and you have a whole bunch of roommates, it's not funny at all. Take it from me."

No, it's not funny, but it still did get some laughs. Finn was a lot more talkative than he usually is and had a lot of good anecdotes like the one above.

He played every song from the album as well as some stuff that didn't make the cut. Some of those songs were the best ones he played, such as "When You're Going To A Show," "Some Guns" and "Sarah, I'm Surrounded." (Check out the full setlist.) Hopefully he releases an EP of extra songs sometime.

Other favorites of mine were "Honolulu Blues" and "No Future," which you can listen to below.

Also of note was opening band Mount Moriah. The North Carolina band was fronted by tiny woman with a big, melodic voice, which was matched up well with their very melodic lead guitar player. I highly recommend you listen to their song "We Don't Need That Much."

After the show, Finn took at seat at the merch table to sign autographs and meet fans. I always like to meet artists I've interviewed in person, so I made my way back there while my friends snagged a booth in the emptying club.

Finn signed merch items, talked to fans and posed for a few photos. He was cool enough to let me bug him for a minute, and sign a vinyl copy of "Clear Heart, Full Eyes" for me. Since he played several songs that weren't on the album, I asked if he had plans to release an EP of those songs. He said he'd really like to, but there were no definite plans.

Finn also mentioned that mentioned how awesome Slowdown is compared to other venues he's played at. I said I think he's the only artist to ever play the front room, main room and outside stage there, and he laughed. He said it's a fantastic venue, especially compared to the place they were at the night before, whih may have been his number one worst place to play at.

I appreciate artists that hang out and talk to fans (and me, too). It takes little effort and it's a memory that people will have for a long time.

Apollo Bay
No Future
When No One's Watching
Some Guns
My New Friend Jesus
Sarah, I'm Surrounded
The Man Around Your House
Dudes From St. Paul
When You're Going To A Show
Honolulu Blues
Rented Room
Terrified Eyes
Not Much Left Of Us

Friday, February 3, 2012

Weekend Rock: Craig Finn, Digital Leather tonight; Blue Bird and more tomorrow

Craig Finn
Tonight's big show is over at the Slowdown, with The Hold Steady's Craig Finn taking the stage for his solo act. I'm a big Hold Steady fan (no surprises there) and I like his solo album a lot, though it's not really the same. Of course, don't expect to hear any Hold Steady songs tonight. Finn told me about that in this interview.

Also tonight is the kick off of Digital Leather's tour that kicks off tonight with a show at O'Leaver's. Well, the next show isn't until Feb. 9 in Seattle (full schedule here), but the band will travel down the west coast, through the Southwest and to Austin to play at Beerland. I wish I could be in Austin for that one. Cool venue.

Blue Bird plays Lincoln tonight with Cowboy Indian Bear at Zoo Bar and then they hit up Slowdown on Saturday (also with CIB as well as Skypiper and El Valiente). I talked to Blue Bird's Rob Matthews earlier this week about their bid to make it to SXSW this year. You can read all about that (and the band's forthcoming new album) in my column.

Also Saturday is local funk/disco legends Satchel Grande at the Waiting Room.

Sunday is the Super Bowl. If any local bands are playing a show opposite of the Super Bowl, I wish them good luck and the fortitude to perform in front of only a few people.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rock Candy Interview: Craig Finn of The Hold Steady

Craig Finn (Photo by Mark Seliger)
Normally when Craig Finn steps up to the mic, the crowd raises cups of beer, sings along about characters like Sal Paradise and girls that predict winning horses and belts out lyrics such as “we’re good guys, but we can’t be good every night.”

But Friday night will be different. Finn will be without his celebrator, raucous and literate rock band The Hold Steady and instead will perform songs from his debut solo album, “Clear Heart, Full Eyes.”

The songs are more intimate than anything we’ve heard from The Hold Steady. “Honolulu Blues” mentions a wavering faith in Jesus, how we’re all good and evil and how troubles still follow when you’re trying to get away from it all.

[Listen to "Honolulu Blues." ]

Intimate and personal? Yes. And still rocking without the soaring riffs of The Hold Steady’s Tad Kubler? Definitely.

We called Finn in Brooklyn as he geared up to head to Europe and then strike out on tour in the U.S.

Q. What should fans expect from your new album compared to The Hold Steady?

A. It’s quieter for sure. That’s the first and simplest answer. It’s also a little more narrative. It’s able to be a little more intimate and vulnerable.

With The Hold Steady, there’s high highs and low lows. My writing for that tends to be more cinematic. The solo stuff has more to do with the everyday and the mundane and those human moments.

Also in The Hold Steady, I really don’t write much music, if at all. Rarely do I contribute anything. With this, I come up with everything including lyrics and chords and melodies.

Q. Have you enjoyed doing things a little differently?

A. Yeah. I wouldn’t say they’re bad habits, but there are habits and ways you get of doing things. There’s a level of comfort there. One of the goals for me as an artist was to break out of those. To plug in with some other people and see if I could get somewhere with them.

Q. And you have never worked with this band before?

A. They were people I hadn’t met before. I remember the night before I left, I was really scared. I’m far from an accomplished musician. These guys, I had to shake their hands and then try to make a record with them. I learned a lot from it.

They’re all staring back at you and writing notes down. “This is the song in its most basic form. Where can we go from here? What is everyone hearing?”

It was nerve-wracking. It still was like you’re halfway through the song and you’re thinking, “Do they hate this?”

The producer (Mike McCarthy), he really produced the record in the true sense. He was sort of the leader, and he hand-picked some of the musicians.

Q. How did you end up working with Mike McCarthy?

A. We met through a friend. It must have been 18 months ago. I had a drink with him and he said some things that stuck with me. Also Britt (Daniel) from Spoon, he said a lot of the ways they made some of those Spoon records were very one-on-one.

I called him and talked about what I was thinking and played him some rough demos. I’m not a great musician and he said, “If you can sing me the song over the phone, like if you have a vocal, lyrics and melody, the rest of it can be my problem.” That was a really liberating thing to be said.

Q. Was it weird to be with a whole group of people you’d never worked with before and also to be recording in Austin instead of New York?

A. That was part of the whole concept; tying myself to a new concept and new people. It would have gotten weird if I was hiring people in New York or even Minneapolis. It was nice to separate and plug in down there.

Q. Is it the same band touring that was on the album?

A. Some of them. The touring lineup. I hired all Austin people because, spiritually, they live (in the mind set of these songs).

Q. Obviously, these shows have quite a different feel from what people may be used to seeing with you.

A. It’s more subdued, I’d say. There’s something about The Hold Steady that’s very celebratory. This record is sort of a break from being celebratory. There’s hours in the day where you don’t feel like that. This taps into a different part of my own human nature.

Q. How do you usually write? Do you sit down with a guitar or do you jot in a notebook?

A. It can go a lot of different ways. A lot of times, it’s the first line of the song or a phrase.

With this solo project, I really tried to write every day and write a song every day. I have a friend who wrote for Letterman. He’d say, “I don’t really have time to have writer’s block. We write a show and then we try to make it good.”

You probably know something about this feeling.

I though, “Maybe that’s a new way to approach songwriting.”

So, I started out with a song. A lot of them were terrible. But I gave them time and went back to them and got an idea of what was good and what wasn’t. Maybe the first verse was alright and then I’d build from there.

I liked putting a little more craftsmanship to it and punching the clock every day.

Q. And you recorded a lot of it live, right?

A. Even the vocals were recorded live, which is pretty unique. That’s one thing that I love about it. The musicians were in the room watching me sing. So when I step up to the mic, they back away, even imperceptibly. It’s the kind of thing you don’t get from overdubbing. I like the way it breathes.

Q. Do you think you’d ever do that with The Hold Steady?

A. It definitely makes me think of it. The volume that we operate at may not make that possible. (Laughs)

Q. Have you played much of this stuff live?

A. We just did one in Austin. It’s funny. When I got offstage, I felt like I hadn’t played a show yet — compared to what I’m used to. It’s mellower. I wasn’t tired and I wasn’t sweating and all wet.

Q. Is it tougher to keep people’s attention? It’s gotta feel different.

A. The audience energy is different. No one’s climbing on top of each other and throwing beer. It’s subdued material but it’s also keeping people’s attention. That’s a nice challenge to face. It’s a different one. It’s kind of cool.

Q. Will you be sticking to the solo stuff?

A. We won’t do any Hold Steady songs. We have 15 songs so far and we’ll be picking stuff up along the way. There’s 11 songs that made the record plus four outtakes. I might do a few songs alone without the band. I kind of want to keep things fresh. There’ll be plenty of material.

I don’t think it would feel right to play Hold Steady stuff. That doesn’t feel right to do.

Q. How many songs did you write for this album?

A. I have a lot of song that I wrote. I gave McCarthy 23 songs and he narrowed it down to 14. There’s plenty of songs. There’s more than that even. It’s just a matter of the band picking them up.
And they learn very, very quick.

Q. We’ve talked in past interviews about how you’ve taken up running a lot. Are you able to do it on tour?

A. I do. It’s actually a wonderful thing. It’s become completely necessary. I’ve got one of those iPod things that tells you how long you’ve run. There’s something about setting off on a run and not knowing where you’re going that helps me stay sane and focused and healthy.

I get kind of lethargic if I don’t run a few times a week.

Q. And you’ve talked about doing another Hold Steady record soon. What’s going on with that?

A. We have Steve Selvidge (on guitar) and we’re really committed to writing with him for this record. It takes a little extra planning because he lives out of town, but he’s coming to New York for all of next week.

I’d love to say that we’re in the studio in the end of the spring. I’d like to get back to the U.K. for the solo thing and then it’s back to The Hold Steady.

I’d love to have a record out in 2012. But that’s not always within our grasp. A lot of people have different things to say about that.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Cursive premieres another new track: "Wowowow"

Vinyl pressings of "I Am Gemini" were revealed yesterday by Saddle Creek on its Facebook page.
Over at Stereogum, Cursive premiered another new track from its forthcoming album, "I Am Gemini."

You can also download the song, "Wowowow," below by giving Saddle Creek Records your e-mail address. (Did you know that a lot of companies put an actual dollar amount on each e-mail address they have?! As in, "Each e-mail we get is worth $10." You learn all kinds of stuff talking to marketing people.)

The track lurches along like a song from a trippy musical. The best part, of course, is Tim Kasher screaming "Wow, wow, wow!" juxtaposed with the serene vocals of two female singers singing "Without a me/there is no you."

I received my promo copy of "I Am Gemini" yesterday. It's another concept album from Cursive, but I was intrigued and thought it was very cool that the album came with a play book.

I assume it's a copy of the lyrics sheet that will come with the album, but it's laid out like a play with characters, acts, scenes, scene descriptions, character motivation, etc.

It's pretty damn cool.

The section that goes along with "Wowowow" is mostly from the perspective of Pollock, one of the twins at the center of "I Am Gemini's" story.

Saddle Creek is doing pre-orders now, which will ship out on Feb. 7. I'd do the "I Want It All" bundle, which has some awesome swag. The colored vinyl (pictured above) is cool, as is the 10" picture disc. And it's only 50 bucks, which is a steal for all of that stuff.

Conor Oberst And The Mystic Valley Band releasing outtakes album and film

Via Twitter, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band announced it's releasing "One Of My Kind," a film about the band as well as an album of outtakes.

The film was shot by Phil Schaffart - a friend of Oberst's, his guitar tech and the leader of the band Con Dios - who recently performed a secret show with Oberst.

When the Mystic Valley Band got together to record in Mexico, Schaffart had a camera with him. He filmed the process, the resulting tour, the band's second album and the tour after that, too.

"One Of My Kind" is being released by Oberst's Team Love Records label and will be in stores on May 15. You can pre-order it now. Pre-orders will be sent out on May 1.

The tracklist features songs released in other formats by the band and Oberst as well as some (such as"Central City" by Taylor Hollingsworth) released at some point by other members of the band, but this is probably the best place to get it all. The song "Kodachrome," I would assume, is a cover of a Paul Simon song.

Disc 1 (CD or LP)

Disc 2 (DVD)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Mynabirds are in the studio now, on tour in March

Laura Burhenn of The Mynabirds (Photo courtesy Saddle Creek Records)
You may already know this from following The Mynabirds' Twitter, but singer/frontwoman Laura Burhenn has been in the studio recording once again with Richard Swift.

Swift produced The Mynabirds' first album, "What We Lose In The Fire We Gain In The Flood," which is fantastic and was one of my best albums of 2010.

The Mynabirds recently performed "Roses While I'm Living" for The 78 Project, a video project that films breakout artists singing songs from the past and recorded on old technology. The song is by Dock Boggs, an influential singer and banjo player. You can watch the video below, which includes the soulful song and a bit of an interview.

The Mynabirds are also going out on a short tour, including to SXSW. Big Harp will be supporting them starting on March 10. An Omaha date comes shortly thereafter on March 23 at the Waiting Room. I'll be there. Will you?

The Mynabirds Tour Dates - Spring 2012
Mar-07, Denver, CO, The Walnut Room
Mar-08, Salt Lake City, UT, Kilby Court
Mar-10, Los Angeles, CA, Hotel Cafe
Mar-13, Tucson, AZ, Solar Culture
Mar-21, Des Moines, IA, Vaudeville Mews
Mar-22, Minneapolis, MN, 7th Street Entry
Mar-23, Omaha, NE, The Waiting Room

Monday, January 16, 2012

Icky Blossoms sign to Saddle Creek

If you've been around the Omaha music hangouts, you've probably already heard the rumblings about Icky Blossoms getting signed.

Now, it's official. Icky Blossoms has signed with Omaha's indie label Saddle Creek Records and is going to record with Dave Sitek from TV On The Radio in Los Angeles.

Icky Blossoms is Tilly And The Wall's Derek Presnall, filmmaker/musician Nik Fackler, and vocalist Sarah Bohling. The band formed from Presnall's former band Flowers Forever, which had one release on Team Love and performed at Conor Oberst's Concert For Equality.

I really dig the song "Perfect Vision," which is streaming on the bands website. It - along with other songs from the band - is hazy, dreamy pop that you could either space out during or get up and dance to. Listen over here.

More info is coming on the band's album and some tour dates and the like. (I'm a little surprised they didn't wait to release this info until they had a release date or an album title, but what do I know about running a record label?)

What do you think about the signing? I like that Saddle Creek has gone with another Omaha band.

Conor Oberst and Phil Schaffart play a secret show in Omaha

Conor Oberst (Credit: Alyssa Schukar/The World-Herald)
"Phil and Conor are playing at Krug Park tonight. Don't tell too many people..."

That was the text I got at about 6 p.m. last night. The "Conor and Phil" in the text were, of course, Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes and Phil Schaffart, a member of Bright Eyes' road crew and frontman of Omaha band Con Dios.

They were playing a secret show at 9 p.m. in Omaha.


Secret shows are a somewhat regular occurrence in locales such as New York where there are enough "name" bands to be able to fill small clubs and bars at a moment's notice.

Read more »

Friday, January 13, 2012

Weekend Roundup: Lots going on this weekend

There's some good shows going on this weekend, all of them local.

Who's going out this weekend?

• Omaha rapper Jimmy Hooligan takes the stage tonight at Slowdown. $10 tickets

• See rockabilly band the Blacktop Ramblers tonight at the Waiting Room. $7 at the door.

• It ain't a concert, but O'Leaver's will have its Men Of O'Leaver's 2012 calendar available on Saturday. I've seen some of the images and they are both glorious and disturbing. There's a release party/signing at 9 p.m.

• Also at the Waiting Room this weekend is the Hootenanny on Sunday. A bunch of local musicians will be playing and jamming to raise money for the Gifford Park Teen Market Garden. $5 at the door.

• If you like the Doors, you should head to Slowdown's front room on Sunday. The Lizard King, a Doors tribute band, features a lot of talented, local guys. $7 tickets.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

311's Nick Hexum broke his elbow, will have surgery

311 is, from left, Chad Sexton, SA Martinez, Nick Hexum, P-Nut and Tim Mahoney.

Today on Twitter, 311 singer/guitarist Nick Hexum dropped some news: he broke his elbow riding his bike and walking his dog at the same time.

The Omaha native said he broke his bone cleanly, is in a cast and will have surgery.

He says he'll be fine for 311 Day, the March 11 concert (3-11, get it?) the band puts on every other year or so. This year it's a three-day event (fan event and two nights of 311 concerts) in Las Vegas.

Tickets to the event, $102 to $135, get you into both concerts and are still available.

"I'm going to make a full recovery and be burning up the fretboard in no time!" Hexum said in his post.

I know I have some 311 fans that hang around this blog. Are any of you headed to 311 Day this year? Let's talk in the comments!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Conduits' self-titled album will come out on Team Love

Team Love - the New York-based label co-founded by Conor Oberst - has cut back in recent years with the economy taking a dive, but that hasn't stopped them from releasing Omaha band Conduits' upcoming, self-titled album.

You can pre-order the album over at Team Love's store.

The band is also out on tour in March and April with Cursive, which will be a big boost for the group.

(Note: Conduits says on its Facebook page that the album comes out on March 20. Team Love's website says it comes out on March 30. When is it actually available? I'm trying to find out.)

Update: The album does indeed come out March 20. Team Love will ship pre-order copies about two weeks before that date, so get to ordering!

You can download the band's "Top Of The Hill" from its BandPage on Facebook and also listen to it below.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Anchor Inn closing. What does it mean for Omaha music?

[UPDATE:] Here's the full news story from the OWH's Roseann Moring, who has all of the details concerning the city planning director and Omaha's zoning laws (which state the Anchor inn can't be rebuilt).

And the land lesees responded with a statement saying they think they're not violating zoning laws.

So, the city is telling the Anchor Inn that it can't rebuild and re-open. The nitty-gritty details have a lot to do with FEMA money, flooding, city land leases and all that.

But the short story is that the bar (and occasional concert venue) won't be re-opening even though they've started rebuilding the property.

I dropped a line to Marc Leibowitz at 1% Productions to ask him what he thought of it.

Marc told me that 1%'s lone 2011 booking at the bar's riverside stage - Yonder Mountain String Band - had to be moved because of flooding problems.

Leibowitz wasn't planning on booking anything at the Anchor Inn this summer.

"There's no reputable agent that would book a venue that doesn't exist," he said. "It (currently) has no stage and it hasn't been open so it doesn't exist as a venue."

Anchor Inn had been used in the past primarliy because promoters couldn't find a similarly-sized venue. Other outdoor locations such as Westfair Amphitheatre east of Council Bluffs are cost-prohibitive for small concerts. ("You can't put 1,000 people at Westfair," Leibowitz said.)

Leibowitz said 1% is looking at places including Sumtur Amphitheater in Papillion for outdoor shows. Lewis & Clark Landing in Omaha (where Maha Music Festival debuted) is another option, but Leibowitz said it's booked just about every weekend.

What do you think about the closure? Do you have any epic Anchor Inn memories?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Video: My top 10 albums of 2011

In case you missed my top 10 albums of 2011, I have a new video version of it.

It's myself and online editor Randi Stevenson doing a quick rundown of the list.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Download Cursive's 'The Sun And Moon'

Today, you can download "The Sun And Moon," the first track from Cursive's upcoming album "I Am Gemini." Get it below.

Cursive also announced even more tour dates. Their first leg ends in Omaha on March 3. They head back out on March 22 with Omaha band Conduits in tow, which is a fantastic gig for an Omaha band. Let's hope they make the best of it.

Anyway, "I Am Gemini" comes out on Feb. 21. You can pre-order the album starting today from Saddle Creek Records' online store or from iTunes. Pre-orders will be shipped two weeks early on Feb. 7.

"I Am Gemini" is another Cursive concept album, this time about brothers Cassius and Pollock, one good and one evil that were separated at birth. It was written by Tim Kasher from start to finish and recorded at Omaha's ARC Studios and mixed at Red Room in Seattle, Wash., with producer Matt Bayles (Mastodon, Minus The Bear, Isis), who also did Kasher's solo album.

Tour dates are after the jump.