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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Lollapalooza @ Grant Park, Chicago

Despite some rain late Thursday night, the weather in Chicago’s Grant Park was perfect for this year’s 2008 Lollapalooza festival. A nice breeze off the lake made this the perfect weekend to host the excellent and diverse lineup of music. The park was kept in pristine conditions as crews constantly walked around encouraging recycling and a cleaner environment. This festival knows what it’s doing and is one of the best organized and most considerate (they even had lots vegetarian options at the food booths!) shows in the business.

Lollapalooza by Jeff Gentner

Lollapalooza by Jeff Gentner

The whole weekend was sold out for the first time in the history of the festival. Friday had a record-breaking turnout as headliners Radiohead drew a sold out crowd of 75,000. Although, the earlier portion of the day wasn’t quite as packed, a solid crowd showed up to see the fine bands performing at the different stages leading up to Radiohead.

Starting off my day was Butch Walker on the PlayStation 3 Stage. Walker started his set solo with some fun loops on two new songs off his highly anticipated new album Sycamore Meadows before his band joined him on “State Line.” Walker performed a solid set showing that he is just as good an artist as he is a producer. If the new songs from his set are any indication of his new album, it is going to be phenomenal.

Butch Walker by Adam Bielawski

Butch Walker by Adam Bielawski

Any act following up the strong set by Walker would have a hard time not falling a little flat. Sure enough, the next act on the Bud Light Stage The Go! Team did just that. Maybe it is all that jumping around, but just because you want to be energetic in your presence doesn’t mean you should let the vocals suffer. Instrumental tracks like “Junior Kickstart” were just fine, but anytime Ninja would open her mouth I kind of wanted to go ninja and karate chop her throat.

Ninja of the Go! Team by Alberto Trevino

Ninja of the Go! Team by Alberto Trevino

After the poor pitches of the Go! Team, Welsh singer Duffy‘s soulful vocals were a welcome refreshment at the PlayStation 3 Stage. The young singer definitely has some pipes, but her stage presence could use a little work. Her hand motions quickly got repetitive, but maybe with a little experience, her set will get a little fresher.

Following Duffy, I caught a few songs by rockers Louis XIV over on the Citi Stage. Despite a few technical difficulties, the crowd went wild over radio single “Finding Out True Love Is Blind.” I didn’t stick around too long for Louis XIV because I didn’t want to miss a second of gypsy punk group Gogol Bordello over on the AT&T Stage and this was definitely not the set to miss. This raucous set was exactly what the crowd needed as an energy boost to get through the rest of the day. After walking around all morning in the sun, Gogol Bordello brought the crowd back to their feet for a big dance party as the band played through their accordion rock set.

Gogol Bordello by Chase Agnello-Dean

Gogol Bordello by Chase Agnello-Dean

Next up was Lawrence, Kansas indie rockers Mates of State. Their gentler set on the MySpace Stage was beautiful and it was a nice touch when the couple was joined by some strings. The crowd loved them, but it was hard to settle into their set after jumping around with Gogol Bordello.

Playing at the same time as Mates of State across the venue at the PlayStation 3 Stage was songstress Cat Power. Cat’s voice was just as great live as it is recorded. It is a shame that her set had to be the same time as Mates of State because they attract the same crowd.

Cat Power by Alberto Trevino

Cat Power by Alberto Trevino

Toward the end of Cat Power, the crowd quickly scrambled for a place to see The Raconteurs perform on the Bud Light Stage. Jack White and crew sounded great, but there was something a little off about their set. It could have been that they weren’t in their usual uniform, but street clothes or it could have been the technical difficulties causing Brendan Benson to drop out during the vocals of “Level,” but it just wasn’t as tight as their club performances.

Jack White of the Raconteurs by Stephanie Janisch

Jack White of the Raconteurs by Stephanie Janisch

I stopped at the Citi Stage for a few songs from Brazilian electro group CSS. Lovefoxxx must be tired of looking sexy because she sported a bright red spandex outfit with ruffles wrapping around it. CSS sounded a lot better live than their recording, surprisingly, and the crowd loved dancing around to their beats.

CSS by Abbey Braden

CSS by Abbey Braden

Radiohead closed out Friday on the AT&T stage. Thom Yorke and the rest of the guys thrilled the crowd by combining their tight instrumental skills with an amazing light show and fireworks as they performed songs like “Airbag,” “Fake Plastic Trees” and “There, There.” Friday’s crowd went home pleased after Radiohead’s double encore.

The crowd during Radiohead by Alberto Trevino

The crowd during Radiohead by Alberto Trevino

Radiohead by Alberto Trevino

Radiohead by Alberto Trevino

Radiohead wasn’t the only reason to attend this festival and Saturday looked just as packed. British group The Ting Tings was the perfect start to the day. Katie White (Interview at Diesel U Music Lounge at the Hard Rock Hotel) easily draws the eyes of the crowd as she energetically moves around singing their hits, but Jules de Martino should not be overlooked as he plays and sings with precision.

The Ting Tings by Alberto Trevino

The Ting Tings by Alberto Trevino

There was a little lag after the Ting Tings. Dr. Dog took to the MySpace stage, but was unmemorable. Foals played some fun dance songs over at the Citi Stage, but didn’t stand up to the high standard for other electro dance groups set by the Ting Tings. MGMT sounded phenomenal live, but their disinterest in a majority of their own set detracted from the performance. They finally loosened up and started bantering by the end of their set.

MGMT by Abbey Braden

MGMT by Abbey Braden

Brand New was the band to beat for best performance of the day, although Jesse Lacey‘s attitude may have detracted from the musical experience causing many to quickly forget just how good this performance was in actuality. Joined by Kevin Devine for their first song, they took to the AT&T Stage and put on the most powerful performance of the day. Jesse Lacey’s performance is better than ever, but he appears just as moody.
He seemed to be in a good mood at first as he seemingly jokingly told the crowd, “You should all be at Explosions in the Sky. You’re all fools.” But as the set progressed through “Sowing Season,” “Sic Transit Gloria,” “Jesus Christ” and a new song (tentatively called “Bride”), Lacey grew more and more frustrated with a pocket of disinterested crowd members before finally climaxing and throwing his guitar into the drum set and leaving the stage a full fifteen minutes before the set was meant to end. Despite this mishap, this was still one of the best performances of the day and the part of the crowd that was interested was left confused and chanting for an encore.

After Brand New, I caught some of Okkervil River‘s set across the venue at the PlayStation 3 Stage and their sweet indie rock was a nice respite. They were followed by Broken Social Scene over on the Bud Light Stage, but BSS is more suited for a smaller setting where their fun instrumentations can completely engulf the listener. As great as Okkervil and Broken were, they just couldn’t match the amphitheatric power of Brand New’s set.

Okkervil River by Amrit Singh

Okkervil River by Amrit Singh

To be quite honest, the crowd gathering for Saturday’s headliners Rage Against the Machine didn’t really appeal to us and we headed out early to get a head start home, which is lucky we did because the Chicago Transit system got backed up by three hours from the large crowd leaving Lollapalooza.

Lollapalooza continued on to Sunday and featured the usual buzz acts like Black Kids, but the real buzz swarming the venue all weekend was the suspected appearance of democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. Unfortunately, Obama didn’t put in an appearance, but there were still plenty of special guests present at the festival. While Stars member Amy Millan joined the boys in Broken Social Scene on the Bud Light Stage, guitarist Slash joined festival co-founder Perry Farrell for a few songs. Plus, there were plenty of celebrities to spot like Lindsay Lohan and the Wentzes if you just kept your eyes open. This festival was filled with fun surprises and definitely not a weekend to miss.

Lollapalooza: website | schedule | setlists

Written by: Bethany

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