Broken Social Scene @ The Slowdown, Omaha

Legendary. That’s the only way to describe the last time Canadian collective Broken Social Scene‘s last show in Omaha, Nebraska. Last year the guys were just chilling at a local coffee shop without a booked show, when a native recognized the boys and insisted they play. Broken Social Scene agreed and quickly set up over at the Slowdown Jr. stage. There was no announcement or promotion, but word quickly spread and a decent sized crowd gathered in front of the stage for a free, intimate set by BSS. They closed down the bar and went on their merry way leaving those in attendance feeling blessed to have bragging rights that they were at this special show.

Cut to 2008 and the band’s current tour in support of Brendan Canning‘s solo album. Tickets cost a hefty $20 and the band had moved up onto Slowdown’s bigger stage. The ticket price, which the band joked about and said their agent made them charge to make up for last year’s free show, did not seem to hold back people from coming.

Not everybody was there for BSS. Many Omahaians (if that isn’t a word, I’m making it one) were curious to check out the band’s tour mates and Land of Talk who recently signed to Omaha label Saddle Creek Records. However, Land of Talk’s singer Lizzie Powell, was a little ill (I think bronchitis might be the culprit, but don’t quote me on that). To make up for their absence, Canning saved the day and played a special DJ set, borrowing vinyl from one of the venue’s bartenders. It wasn’t your usual oomp-oomp-oomp, let’s go clubbing, DJ mix. It was a more chill, oldies blend that allowed people the chance to just drink and talk, but they could still have danced if they had wanted.

After listening to Canning DJ for a good hour, he put on a final tune and jumped up on stage where he joined the rest of his BSS chums to seamlessly begin their set. They began with some mostly instrumental tracks, which sounded great, but didn’t immediately grab the audience’s attention. It wasn’t until about the third number that the crowd broke loose and started jumping and moving along.

Canning initially started off lead vocals, which isn’t that surprising considering his album was the focus of this tour. However, in true BSS fashion, frontman duties were constantly shuffled around and Kevin Drew was soon back at the helm.

The set list was a great mix of old and new BSS material. However, with Powell out of commission, many were curious what would happen to the band’s numbers that feature female vocals. These fortunately were not cut from the set and Omaha’s very own Orenda Fink stepped up and saved the day joining the group for numbers like “7/4 (Shoreline).” Never at a loss for guest musicians, in addition to Fink, BSS was also joined on trumpet by Nate Walcott, whom you may better know from one of Omaha’s biggest exports, Bright Eyes. Nothing like a brass section to make a show better.

About midway through the show, the kickdrum pedal gave out and as most of the band left to deal with the problem, Charles Spearin remained out on stage to entertain by presenting his “science experiment,” as Drew referred to it. Basically, he played a sample of his neighbor speaking about a subject such as love and then had a sax imitate the cadences of her voice. It was like the woman was right there on stage speaking back to us, the mimicry was that good. The audience was quite amused. The kickdrum problem not immediately resolved, Spearin started in on another voice sample, which the saxophonist tried to mimic by ear. He was shortly joined by Canning on cowbell and the rest of the band trickled back in.

It was kind of an intermission to the set and many more hits followed. My favorite number was when Drew had the audience scream their guts out on “Ibi Dreams of Pavement.” It was a nice catharsis after a long day.

An epic performance of “It’s All Gonna Break” seemed to end out the set, but Drew was not ready to quit. He looked around at the other guys and started talking to the crowd. As he talked, drummer Justin Peroff started to lay down a beat, which Canning quickly picked up on bass. The rest of the crew joined in and Drew sat down and let the boys just jam for a good 7 minutes.

Not being able to end on a freestyle, the band played another raucous tune that seemed to have  eight different endings. Seriously. It would start to end and Drew would get behind the mic where he’d say a rather circular speech that always ended, “And it goes/sounds like this” and the band would repeat the tune.

This seemed to complete the set, but Drew was still not done. Everybody walked off and the crowd started to leave. Drew and Peroff came back out to play a Guided By Voices cover before finally calling it a night.

Total set time: 2 hours, 45 minutes. It might not have been secret and free, but this show was legendary in its own right. BSS might arguably be Omaha’s favorite live band.

Broken Social Scene: website | myspace

Written by: Bethany
Photos by: Nick Davis

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Land of Talk – Some Are Lakes

Saddle Creek Records have always embraced the strong, empowered females singers (Orenda Fink, Jenny Lewis, Maria Taylor) and the tradition continues with Elizabeth Powell in the recent release of Land of Talk‘s Some Are Lakes.

Powell’s voice carries the power of Fiona Apple and when combined with the support of the band, many of the songs have the quality of Fleetwood Mac. Like many female singers, Powell sings of love, death and feminism. Although, some lyrics walk a fine line between brilliance and cheesiness like when she sings, “Maybe when I die, I’ll get to be a car” in “It’s Okay.”

Despite a few patchy lyrical spots, it is a solid debut from the young Canadian group with many tracks that demand listeners’ attention through the big cymbal crashes and drum rolls. Although many of the progressions are rather simple, the musical breakdowns are varied enough to keep listeners rapt with attention. However, Land of Talk does have several down times in the album when Powell’s voice sometimes develops an emotional flatness and the instrumentals get repetitive.

Title track “Some Are Lakes” is easily the strongest song on the album. The crunchy instrumentals are juxtaposed with a new found crispness in Powell’s voice, which she complements with a controlled vibrato. With lyrics like that of Rilo Kiley found on this song, this album is worth checking just to hear “Some Are Lakes.”

Land of Talk’s Some Are Lakes is available now on Saddle Creek Records.

Tracklisting:
01. Yuppie Talk
02. Death By Fire
03. The Man Who Breaks Things (Dark Shuffle)
04. Some Are Lakes
05. Give Me Back My Heart Attack
06. It’s Okay
07. Young Bridge
08. Corner Phone
09. Got A Call
10. Troubled

Land of Talk: website | myspace

Written by: Bethany

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Interview with: Todd Fink of the Faint

If electro indie pop group The Faint gets you swooning, then this is one interview you don’t want to miss. Lead singer Todd Fink took the time to talk to Bethany about the band and how to live the good life when not on the road. Check it out:

PopWreckoning, Bethany: So Fasciination was the first time you guys did everything in your album making process. What sort of new challenges did you face with that? Was it similar to remixing?
Todd Fink, The Faint: Yeah, we’ve done remixes as a band and it’s not that different from making your own tracks, at least the way we do it where you just take a lot of tracks from the artists and do the vocals on its own track, usually.
We had done one of those just right before we recorded this record. It was one for Nine Inch Nails. We did that in another studio, but in seeing how that went, we felt pretty good about doing our own record. We knew that we could do our own record without any trouble because we had been doing more and more of it as we recorded each record. It was good to get that little boost of confidence before actually recording our record. So yeah, it was easy, I guess.
It is nice to have the freedom to do whatever you want to do without having anybody take advantage of anybody or having to explain why you want to do one thing or another. If a mic is pointing at a guitar and you feel like a mic could be moved to a better spot or if you want to use a different mic, you might as well try it. You can stay up there all night. It’s your place. It was nice.

PW: So are you guys going to do a remix album for Fasciination like you’ve done for some albums in the past.
TF: I don’t know. At one point we were going to do them for every record, but we didn’t do it on the last one and I don’t think that we’re going to do it on this one. We’re going to just release songs on the record as singles, 12 inches, that kind of stuff. We have one out so far that has a couple remixes on it and another remix that’s been circulating on-line and maybe compilations and stuff like that. So we’ll see.

PW: Does blank.wav have any plans to release albums for any other artists or are you guys just using it for your own records?
TF: We talk about. We’d like to, but it just isn’t really a money making project. To put out other people’s records and maybe make money on it, you’d have to have an artist blow up. Maybe that would happen, maybe it wouldn’t, and we wouldn’t really be putting it out for that reason. We would put out things that we like and think the world should hear. If lots of people want to hear it, that would be great. We’re not ready to be risky about it yet and we’re not really in the financial situation to do that. I think with the Faint and other things, we’re pretty busy.

PW: Yeah, I imagine you guys stay pretty busy being on the road. So the new album, Fasciination, deals a lot with thoughts of the future and on songs like “Machine in the Ghost,” it deals with know-it-all leaders and people who think they are the boss of everything, and I know that for a lot of Omaha artists that politics are pretty important. How has this election year been figuring into your lives and your music?
TF: We follow the election and took election day off on tour. How’s it figuring in beyond that? I don’t know. I mean we’re rooting for Obama as a band and hoping that we get some kind of change in the way things are going. I know that we’ve been pretty discouraged in the last couple of elections and we’re hoping that it can’t go that way forever.

PW: Do you guys get a chance to watch the debates on the road?
TF: If at all possible, we’ll watch that kind of stuff. We did just miss the first presidential debate because we were flying from Australia to Japan, I believe, so it wasn’t possible. We watched the VPs the other night and it was interesting. We know who we’re rooting for.

PW: Do you guys refer to Omaha as Obamaha?
TF: I have friends that own a gourmet, soul-food fusion type restaurant that did say Obamaha on the window after it was announced that he would be the Democratic representative.

PW: What restaurant?
TF:
(temporary memory lapse) Dixie Quicks! It’s called Dixie Quicks and I recommend it to people who come to Omaha. It is easy to miss.
PW:
For sure, is it in the Old Market area.
TF: It is down towards the Old Market. It is on like 17th or 18th Street and Jackson. The Old Market starts on 13th, so it’s up a little ways from it.

PW: Outside of political issues with our own country, I know you’ve been involved in a lot of other issues, like, you went to Haiti several times. Recently you had an art project that you did with Orenda [Fink]. What was that exactly and how did you get the idea to set something like that up?
TF: It just kind of happened naturally between our friend in Haiti. There’s a guy that we’ve known for quite some time named Chris Lawson, who is an artist in the Birmingham area, Alabama. He went to Haiti with us, working there and kind of teaching art and working with aspiring Haitian artists. We did a project with them. That’s what we originally did.
We went with them and collected field recordings-sounds of the city, sounds of Haiti in general-and sowed them into a sort of sound collage for the art show that sort of fit within vibe of the whole thing. His was turning garbage and found objects into assemblages, sculptures and different types of collages. So, it made sense.
We did that in Haiti and brought that show more recently back to Omaha. It was great. We didn’t really know what to expect in Omaha, but it was a complete success. We’re actually doing something today, with my friend Ben [Brodin], we are doing a live soundtrack or score to the movie The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. It is one the first horror movie, silent films. It is classic. So that’s what we’re doing today. We’ll see how it goes.
(For those unfamiliar with silent film tradition, orchestras or a small music group used to sit in the theater and play the soundtrack and sound effects for the film live. As part of a horror series at Film Streams, Todd Fink, Orenda Fink and Ben Brodin composed the soundtrack and performed it live for the opening night of the series. So when he says live, he means live.)

by Chris Knight

by Chris Knight

PW: It seems like a lot of Omaha artists start off in one band and then has like eight other projects. Do you guys do a similar thing? Would you work on a solo album or is pretty much the Faint and the occasional art project?
TF:
I work on things for different projects all the time and a lot of times they end up as the Faint. It is a way that I like to think about music that it can be inspiring. Some times they end up as the Faint songs and others, I just have little bits of things to do here and there. Or if something comes up like the Haitian sound collage or the soundtrack that we’re doing today, I may use parts for this or that. I’m making a lot of things.
I have a side project that I’ve been doing recently called Vicious Kicks with a guy in Miami. I don’t know. I don’t know what the future of that is. The other guys do, of course, like Joel [Petersen] has Broken Spindles. Vverevvolf Grehv is Dapose‘s project of heavy death metal and he just put on album out on that not too long ago. And a couple of us play with a guy named Fathr^ here in town who does drone, ambiance kind of wall sounds, experimental type sounds. It’s called Fathr^, no “e”s in it. They’re actually performing tonight as well. I’m hoping to make it over after the film that I’m doing. I know Dapose is playing with him tonight and I’m not sure if anybody else is. Maybe Clark [Baechle].
PW:
Where at?
TF:I think at the Bemis.
I checked the show out and it was solid. Just Dapose played with Fathr^. It was quite the event, there was an art exhibit opening upstairs and the show was set up downstairs. Complimentary wine and beer were offered. Fink was at the show, as were Saddle Creek employees and most of the members of Tilly and the Wall.

PW: What other Omaha artists do you recommend?
TF: Box Elders is my current favorite. Maybe Box Elder. I can’t remember if it is plural (It is plural) , but go listen to some tracks on MySpace. We just played with them in Omaha recently. Baby Walrus, Capgun Coup, Son Ambulance, Orenda Fink. My wife’s always got a bunch of projects.

PW: What is one thing you wish people knew or understood about the Faint that they don’t already know. A stereotype or rumor you’d like to dispel?
TF: I’m not very schooled about what people think about the Faint to be honest. I don’t read that stuff much and nobody would come up to me and tell me one thing or the other about what they think. People will just say I like this song or the album or I hate this or that. Why don’t you do this more, but I don’t really get a feel for what the Faint means to people or what they think of when they think of the band. I’m too close to it to kind of understand it, so I don’t know. It is hard to dispel or affirm any of them now.

PW: Well, how about your Omaha association? There’s nothing associated with that?
TF: It is fairly interesting that there’s a electronic pop band from Nebraska that doesn’t sound like music of the heartland exactly. What do people think about Nebraska from an outside perspective, I get that. I like Omaha. I’ve spent my whole life here, so I’m not sure I want to stay here until I die.

PW: But you wouldn’t relocate the Faint to California or anything like that? (Cough, cough Cursive, cough cough 311)
TF: I don’t think we could all agree on a place to move with everybody we care about, which is probably why we’ve lived in Omaha as long as we have. It’s affordable and it’s easier not to move than to move. So if I move, I’d have to make trips back to do recordings and rehearsals.

by Shane Aspegren

by Shane Aspegren

PW: So, what do you think of the change that Omaha’s made in the past year with the venue regulations in places like the Slowdown and the Waiting Room? Has that affected you guys at all?
Basically, Omaha was having a hard time deciding if places that went back in forth between venue and bar should be allowed all ages shows. Eventually, the City Council decided all ages shows were acceptable, but minors would have to have a notarized parental permission form on file with the venues. Omaha also passed an indoor smoking ban. [Ed. note: Notarized parental permission? Intense.]
TF: It kind of affected Jacob [Thiele]and I with Derek [Presnall] of Tilly and the Wall. We had the party called GOO. It might have affected the longevity of that party, but we were about to end it anyway because we had to start touring. So not really.
I like being able to go to bars and not have smoke in them. I’m all for the freedom of anybody to get addicted to whatever they want, but I don’t want to have to share it with them necessarily. I like clean air. Although, the lights in the club don’t look quite the same unless you have a hazer in there and some places don’t allow people to smoke and put that on the smoke list.

PW: Yeah. Now, GOO kind of resurfaced as Gunk. I know you’re busy, but do you have any desire to get involved with Gunk and maybe guest DJ with that?
TF: I don’t know what that is?
PW:I think some people have brought back GOO, but renamed it as Gunk, but they’ve been having it at the Waiting Room. You still have DJsand a dance party theme, like what you were doing with GOO.
TF: Is is successful?
PW: Yeah, they’re getting the same turnout. It’s the 18 and over crowd. There’s a 3-D Gunk in like two weeks maybe. You’ve inspired somebody, I guess.
TF: Cool. More power to them. It’s not GOO, but the point of GOO was to have people have something to do in Omaha and have something that’s really like a night out where you can dance and sweat and dress ridiculously. Do those things that you need to be able to do and have an outlet for it.
Before that, I didn’t feel like there was much of an outlet for it. There are places, but I don’t know. It’s good to keep it going, although, I probably, I think we’ll probably do GOO again when we have a chunk of time at home.
PW: So, Gunk completely sprang up separately? You had no idea about it?
TF: No, I saw a flier recently. I thought it was like, “You remember GOO? Now, it’s hard and it’s called Gunk.” I was kind of like, well, I understand why they do it like that, but it’s kind of like, can’t they get it going on their own without having it seem like it’s part of GOO? Because we worked hard to get it going, you know? I did notice it, but it just didn’t…
PW: That’s interesting because I think a lot of people thought it was a development out of GOO.
TF: Right, that’s why I think I’m not really sure I like that it is intentionally referenced so it is confusing to people. In order to think that that’s what it is. On the other hand, I don’t know, it’s kind of like a tribute to our party, I guess. If you want to look at it like that like it is carrying it on. Referencing it makes it sound like it is cooler than it probably was than not referencing it or a different party.
PW: Yeah, well I know people really enjoyed GOO and blocked it off on their calendars.
TF: It was definitely a good party.

PW: Well, that’s all I have, so thank-you.
TF: Alright, it was good talking with you.

The Faint: website | myspace

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