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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Low vs. Diamond, Mates of State and Santogold: Liberty Hall in Lawrence, Kansas

I’ve waited endlessly for it to happen; the sifting of the music genres through each respective time period, past the bands influenced by the 70s and 80s, kicking the door wide open for drop D tuning and other signature sounds of the 90s. Honestly, I have never really gotten a clearer glimpse of this in a music venue, as I did this night listening to Low vs. Diamond piece through their set, which anyone outside on the street could have easily mistaken for Our Lady Peace.

Though poor sound qualitydue to an apathetic sound guy, not the band, seemed to hinder the quality of the band’s set, I was rather impressed by the hooks that managed to find their way out of the cloud of useless fuzz and bass distortion. The piano seemed to be the only instrument to really stand out and rising above a crowd who honestly couldn’t give a damn about this band’s opening set. This apathy seemed to carry over to the band as well. Their songs, seemingly angry and pointed, simply didn’t fluently display in the boys’ actions, who only seemed to half-heartedly want to be on stage.

Sadly, on this night, the energy of their album didn’t seem to make the trip to the stage. To be fair however, a number of the difficulties they had to overcome were placed in front of them by circumstances slightly out of their control. I honestly look forward to giving them another chance on another night.

Mates of State, the evening’s middle set, are no stranger to Lawrence, Kansas. Kori Gardner, lead vocalist of the group recalled to the crowd, “In case you didn’t know, this is where this band started. We went to school here, and we started the band here. It’s damn good to be back.”

And it was damn good to have them back. This husband and wife duo, packing great blended vocal patterns, progressive moog progressions and percussion big enough to fill the room, were at their best. Shooting smirks and flirtatious eye contact across the stage at one another, performing more of a love story than anything else.

Santogold, however, was something completely different, leaving the Lawrence hipsters slightly unsure of what the hell they were doing there. Though being compared to M.I.A. every time she turns around, Santogold actually brings a completely different, unique feel to her hip hop show. Joined on stage by a pair of matching dancers and a DJ, the four lit up the Liberty Hall stage, reflecting light from their gold jackets (or tights in Santogold’s case) and sporting 1980’s style fashion.

Unlike M.I.A., who played the same stage earlier that year, this show felt much more lighthearted, but just as dance friendly. Opening with “You’ll Find a Way,” a song that reminds me more of The Clash than NWA, Santogold stands tall in her punk rock roots as well as her hip hop desires.

My only complaint about her set falls with Santogold’s inability to include her audience in her art. Her relatively short set, consisting of about 40 minutes, was primarily used ignoring the half filled room. I’d go so far as to mention the lack of common hip hop show call-outs, like having the crowd lift their hands, or even make noise. It seemed that she was simply content to get through her set and go home.

But, then again, with sound problems muffling her voice, and the bass kicking me in the teeth, I must confess, I, too, wanted the same.

Low Vs. Diamond: website | myspace | Low vs. Diamond review | Interview
Mates of State: website | myspace | Re-Arrange Us review
Santogold: website | myspace

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The Mountain Goats with Kaki King @ the Slowdown, Omaha

A busy test-filled week, a car that wouldn’t start, the weather getting cold and still being tired from a show the night before almost deterred me from going to this gem of a concert. But I toughed it out and ended up having a phenomenal time checking out lo-fi 90s act The Mountain Goats and guitar legend Kaki King.

I must admit that I mostly wanted to go to this show to check out opener Kaki King. I also must admit that I jumped on her bandwagon after learning about her creative guitar skills from the movie August Rush. All the tapping and percussive use of the guitar that kid does is modeled after her and it is her songs on the soundtrack. She didn’t play any of the songs from the movie, but she still had a solid set.

Not only does she have mad instrumental skills, she has a gorgeous voice to debut and hilarious commentary. The stuff she said in between songs had everybody in stitches. She talked about everything from pizza to hygiene.

Following Kaki King were The Mountain Goats, led by John Darnielle. I had mixed feelings about this band. Darnielle’s voice has a bit of a nasally quality, which can be a little much at times. Also, after the guitar styles of King, theirs didn’t quite compare. I think the Mountain Goats respected her superior skills and consequentially had her join them on several songs.

Nonetheless, they are commendable musicians and I recommend checking out them because they are fun rock and they have great lyrics about social and literary subjects. They just weren’t my cup of tea, but everybody else in the crowd got really into them. I respect what they were doing and loved their Morrissey covers, but I think Kaki King stole the show.

The Mountain Goats: website | myspace
Kaki King: website | myspace

Writing and Photos by: Bethany

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TV On The Radio @ the Electric Factory, Philadelphia

Openers The Dirtbombs were already mid-set by the time I arrived at the Electric Factory on Friday and there is no tiptoeing around around the fact that I found the five piece completely lackluster. I sat on the bleachers bored with a friend. We flipped through The New Yorker awaiting TV On The Radio‘s set to begin.

The fellas kicked off their set with the title track from 2003’s Young Liars EP and from the very first note, Nigerian-born front man Tunde Adebimpe exploded with energy jumping around the stage. Much of the fantastic set, of course, included tracks off recent release Dear Science, which has already broken the top five on Billboard‘s Top Rock Albums list and hit number 12 on the Billboard 200.

As uninspired as I found the opening act, watching TV On The Radio rage on stage was an utter delight.

Tunde Adebimpe

Kyp Malone

Dave Sitek

Jaleel Bunton

TV On The Radio will finish up their North American tour in the beginning of November then head across the Atlantic for a European tour. Check the band’s MySpace page for dates and venues to catch a show near you.

Set List:
Young Liars
The Wrong Way
Dancing Choose
Golden Age
Wolf Like Me
Halfway Home
Province
Dreams
Blues From Down Here
Shout Me Out
Satellite
\\
Love Dog
Crying
Method
Staring at the Sun

TV On The Radio: website | myspace

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New York Magazine 40th Anniversary Party

New York Magazine threw a 40th anniversary bash at Hammerstein Ballroom. I was there. Comedy group Stella emceed, followed by musical acts Grizzly Bear and The National.

Stella

Stella

Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear

The National

The National

I’ve never been a fan of Michael Ian Black or Michael Showalter and didn’t even know who David Wain was prior to writing the preview for the show last week but, as they have all achieved some amount of fame as comedians, I assumed that they were funny. Wrong. Maybe they’re funny as singular entities, but as a group, not so much.

Michael Showalter

Michael Showalter

David Wain

David Wain

I would talk more about Grizzy Bear, but to tell the truth, I missed most of their set. Here is why: the entire event was painfully disorganized and I spent most of the set arguing with producers (one of whom I told not-so-politely to shove off) and security guards in an attempt to Do My Job. Doing so was apparently a security risk, as the pit was only accessible via the stage. Yes, I literally had to jump into it from the stage. Getting out of it was the same deal. Who knows what the genius behind setting the whole thing up was smoking, but I hope it was something good.

It took quite some time, but eventually, we photographers covering the party got together to Take Care of Business. We were tired of trying to get our shots from the crowd and annoying people who paid to see the show. Once we got our credentials changed from Press to All Access, it was all downhill from there.

The National was amazing. On-point for the entirety of the set, the guys covered their entire catalog pretty evenly. Matt Berninger is a master of intensity. He broke some shit at the end of the set and the crowd (myself included) ate it up. He also mentioned that this would be the last New York show for some time, a statement received with boos, but saved the moment with the announcement that the band would be spending time in the studio working on a new album post-tour.

Photos by Dese’Rae Stage. More from the show at flickr.

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Black Kids and The Virgins @ First Unitarian Church, Philadelphia

New York City’s The Virgins are out to have a good time and a good time is what they have every night on stage. Currently touring as support for Florida natives Black Kids. A great deal of the set reminded me of We Are Scientists with some fun distortions on guitar. Front man Donald Cummings had an intense energy that the crowd fed off of and they returned the band’s enthusiasm threefold.

Set List:
Private Affairs
Radio Christiane
Hey Hey Girl
Murder
Teen Lovers
One Week of Danger
Fernando Pando
She’s Expen$ive
Rich Girls

Ending on the high note of energetic single “Rich Girls,” The Virgins had gotten the crowd excited for headliners Black Kids. Touring their major label debut Partie Traumatic, Black Kids hit the road hard this fall taking their dance rock jams to kids all across the nation. The energy from the five piece was infectious and the entire Church basement was a great big dance party.

Set List:
Look At Me (When I Rock Witchoo)
Hit The Heartbrakes
Partie Traumatic
I’ve Underestimated My Charm (Again)
Listen To Your Body Tonight
I Wann Be Your Limo
Love Me Already
My Christian Name
Strange Power (Magnetic Fields)
I’m Making Eyes At You
I’m Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How To Dance
\\
You Only Call Me When You’re Crying
Hurricane Jane

The Virgins: website | myspace
Black Kids: website | myspace | Partie Traumatic review

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Tegan and Sara @ Terminal 5, NYC

It’s been a Tegan and Sara-filled couple of weeks for me, let me tell you. First, there was the interview (stay tuned for part two–it’s coming, I swear!); then, there was Austin City Limits; most recently, though, I got to shoot their second of two shows at Terminal 5. I don’t know if it was the particularly funny stage banter or the amazing set list, but I’d probably put this show in my all-time top ten. I’m sure it also helps that I got to hang out with them backstage post-show after interviewing Dallas Green of City and Colour, one of their openers.

Tegan and Sara, Terminal 5, 10/6/08

Tegan and Sara, Terminal 5, 10/6/08

The ladies were on-point with their comedy and storytelling, and at one point told an anecdote about how their father used to wrap them in blankets, turn off the lights, and put on a record. The goal of the game was to see who could stay awake the longest–an ingenious way to get your kids to sleep! Sara, however, seemed a bit distressed after the fact, as if this was somehow negatively telling of their father’s parenting skills. I thought it was adorable, though, and plan to put this “game” to use someday.

The set spanned their entire discography, including the old school “Superstar,” which Tegan is known to hate playing, and rarer songs, “When I Get Up” and “Love Type Thing.” They even threw in their cover of Rihanna‘s “Umbrella,” which they’d stopped playing for a time. Check out the entire list below, with more photos to follow:

Set List:
Call It Off
Dark Come Soon
Like O Like H
Burn Your life Down
Walking With a Ghost
I Bet It Stung
Hop a Plane/Superstar
Give Chase
Relief Next To Me
Love Type Thing
When I Get Up/Umbrella
So Jealous
Nineteen
One Second
Not Tonight
Where Does The Good Go
Speak Slow
Living Room
The Con
//
The First
Fix You Up
Back In Your Head

Tegan Quin, Terminal 5, 10/6/08

Tegan Quin, Terminal 5, 10/6/08

Sara Quin, Terminal 5, 10/6/08

Sara Quin, Terminal 5, 10/6/08

Tegan and Sara: website | myspace | interview with: Tegan

Photos: Dese’Rae Stage

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