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


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


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


Dead Confederate @ The Waiting Room, Omaha

There are times when I really wish that Omaha didn’t have a smoking ban let hazy lights and a deep, husky voice entrance me. The Dead Confederate show was one of those times.

The Waiting Room isn’t a particularly large venue, nuzzled between a row of bars in the Benson neighborhood of Omaha. However, the crowd on this particular Wednesday night was unusually sparse, a pity because these bands deserved a much a larger audience and perhaps the next time they cycle through town, the crowd size will increase considerably.

Awesome Color started things off with intensely fast drum beats juxtaposed with the singer’s slow growl. The voice effects made it difficult to understand the singer, but I was to engulfed in highly energetic drummer to even care. The drums teetered between a constant fast rhythm and accented bursts like on “Eyes of Light.”

Next up, was my favorite band of the night, Catfish Haven. “Are you ready?” they asked the crowd and thundered into the opening song off their latest album. The guys in this group were a blast to watch, but they were even more fun to watch in between songs, when they would say the most hilarious things. I loved lead singer George Hunter‘s deep, rich voice and the fact that the guy is a bit of a romantic. He dedicated several ballads to a couple in the front.

Headliners Dead Confederate sounded fantastic and I got some Nirvana vibes from their southern grunge, soul rock. The guys appeared in shadow as they were back lit by white lights, which perfectly added to their moody tunes like single “The Rat.” However, after the carefree set of Catfish Haven, it was a little hard to transition into music this dark and moody. A broken string gave me my favorite song of their as lead singer Hardy was forced into playing a solo piece, while the other guys dealt with the issue of the string. The more open exposure of a solo piece brought out some of Hardy’s most powerful vocals. The broken string also helped break some of the tension and the rest of the guys joined back with a more relaxed feeling.

Dead Confederate: website | myspace
Catfish Haven: website | myspace
Awesome Color: website | myspace

Written by: Bethany


Talking Mountain @ Urban Outfitters, Omaha

Omaha’s Urban Outfitters is officially a year old: commence the singing. Don’t worry if you aren’t feeling up to singing the tune yourself, Urban brought in their own bands for the occasion. To celebrate they had a sidewalk sale, cake and free performances by Tim Perkins, Honeybee and Talking Mountain. Urban knows how to celebrate in style.

Tim Perkins kicked off the music festivities, unfortunately, I arrived as he was wrapping up his set. So I instead I browsed the shelves while the adorable ladies (and the two gents) in Honeybee set up. With the lovely harmonies and fun instrumentation (ukulele! accordion!), this is one of my favorite Omaha acts, but alas, they are hidden away in the Midwest when they should be touring the world. As their set at Urban proved, they just get sweeter with time.

The three guys in Talking Mountain are quite interesting indeed. The are well known for always wearing masks. The stage set-up they had was intense and colorful with big bones in the back and store mannequins dressed in their merchandise. Since the event was about Urban, they featured a different Urban shirt for each song that they felt captured the mood of the song. Not always an easy task as the sing about such an odd variety of things like wrists and wizards. During their set they sang happy birthday to Urban while a cake was brought out. I love Talking Mountain and think they are a blast, but I should warn that they are an acquired taste because they do border a bit on the bizarre.

Tim Perkins: myspace
Honeybee: myspace
Talking Mountain: myspace

Written by: Bethany


NY Magazine’s Highbrow BBQ @ Solar One Complex, NYC

NY Magazine sponsored the Highbrow BBQ at Solar One Complex, a solar-powered, “green energy” arts and education center along the East River. “Top Chef” fans of the indie rock persuasion flocked to the event in the name of a 2-year subscription to NY Mag, free food and beer, a chance to witness “Top Chef: Season 3” contestant Chris “CJ” Jacobson take on grillmaster duties and a full set by indie rock darlings Islands (all for 25 bucks!). All in all, it was your not-so-average rock n’ roll beer-b-q along the NYC waterfront with awesome food and a kickass band.

The crowd was a mix of “Top Chef” fans, Islands fans, foodies, hip New Yorkers and “free beer” fans alike. While pale emo boys worked on their sun tans, some celeb-crazy individuals were able to coax uber-friendly CJ into posing for a photo as other fanboys and fangirls edged closer to the stage hoping to catch glimpses of Islands’ band members. The funniest part was the hordes of people zig-zagging the outdoor space, hopping from one line to the next. There were lines for food, the bathrooms, to win prizes/free stuff at the Saucony [Ed. Note: best shoes ever!] booth, and of course, the massive line for free beer. All these lines and the inevitable squabble with the occasional line-cutter, yet, sadly, no line dancing!

Did I mention the free beer? The Sugar Hill Harlem Brewing Company purveyed the alcohol and remained a hit with the crowd, until they ran out of beer for about 30 minutes. They eventually secured more and the crowd cheered like a bunch of frat boys. Running out of stuff seemed to be the theme for the event because even CJ’s culinary creations ran short and some people weren’t able to partake in the delectable goodies of the event’s menu:

* Moroccan BBQ pork tortillas with coriander citrus cabbage
* Vegetarian tortillas with grilled Moroccan eggplant, apples and dates
* Watermelon, chili and radish salad
* Grilled corn on the cobb sprinkled with cotija cheese
* Ginger peach cobbler
* Assortment of ice cream treats

The masses were forgiving because as soon as CJ hopped on stage to announce the Islands’ set, people forgot about the food/beer shortage and rocked the F out. Islands really got the crowd revved up with their brand of inventive indie pop. Super fun and super nice, they played many tracks off their latest release Arm’s Way and took requests from the crowd. They truly served as another reminder that Canadian indie rock never fails to please.

(For “Top Chef” fanatics, man, oh, man! is CJ tall: all 6 foot 8 inches of him! I chatted him up about “Top Chef: Chicago” and learned we share a mutual love of Richard Blaise, yet both agreed Stephanie Izzard deserved to win. We also laughed over Marcel Vigneron’s (Season 2) antics and he didn’t even mind when I gushed over the hotness that is Sam Talbot (Season 2). I jokingly asked him if he had his phone number, to which he smiled and said, “Unfortunately, no.”)

Islands: website | myspace

Written by: Mona Sheikh


Monolith Music Festival @ Red Rocks, Denver – Sunday, Sept. 14

Monolith Music Festival was just as busy and just as good on the second day, Sunday, Sept. 14. People started to come out a lot earlier for these acts. I had a long drive ahead of me, so I didn’t make it as late as the headliner Justice, but I still managed to catch a lot. Check out my pictures and reviews below. If you missed it, here is what I had to say about Saturday’s line-up: pt. I and pt. II.

2:00 P.M. to 2:30 P.M. Rosewood Thieves – Esurance Main Stage

I got to the venue in time to catch some of the Rosewood Thieves as they were finishing up their Dylan-esque folk rock set. I enjoyed the laid back jams I heard and wouldn’t mind giving trying to check them out another time.

2:45 P.M. to 3:15 P.M. Snowden – New Belgium Stage

After making the long trek up the stairs from the Esurance Main Stage to the New Belgium, I had the chance to catch my breath during Snowden‘s chill rock set. I really enjoyed grooving to their experimental rock, but what really caught my interest were the amazing bass lines and soulful harmonies of Corinne Lee.

3:00 P.M. to 3:45 P.M. Tokyo Police Club – Esurance Main Stage

Of all the bands at the festival, I must admit that Tokyo Police Club was the band I was most excited to see. This was partly because I really like their music, but also partly because they’ve canceled three shows that I’ve tried to see them at and I was finally getting to see them play live. The boys did not disappoint and put on an energetic set that had the audience clapping along. They all seemed genuinely pleased to be playing for the crowd and their enthusiasm was well-expressed in their music.

3:45 P.M. to 4:30 P.M. The Handsome Furs – New Belgium Stage

The Handsome Furs were one of those bands that I thought was really good, but maybe not as great as people are making them out to be. Denver was excited for this band because they’re not getting a visit from Wolf Parade on their upcoming tour, so I suppose this spin-off group sufficed. However, while they rocked musically, their stage show was a little dry.

4:30 P.M. to 5:10 P.M. Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson – Stage

Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson has been well-supported on this site by the other editors and writers and now I finally saw what the party was all about. MBAR and his supporting crew excellently swelled from mellow acoustic melodies to exploding indie rock anthems supported with big bass drums and guitar solos. MBAR treated the audience to a few new songs, which indicate the upcoming album should be amazing.

5:00 P.M. to 5:45 P.M. Tilly and The Wall – New Belgium Stage

Omaha represent! Tilly and the Wall are one of the best live groups you could possibly see. They play a series of songs that has everybody dancing whether they tap or not. One Omaha guy loves them so much he follows them around in fun outfits and Tilly even let him join them on stage. This was the first time I got to hear songs from O live and they sounded much better when accompanied by their live stage show than the recording was able to capture. My only regret about Tilly and the Wall was that I didn’t plan ahead and try to carpool to Monolith with them.

5:50 P.M. to 6:30 P.M. The Whigs – Stage

When I heard the Whigs on the radio, I wasn’t blown away. For the first song of their set, I still had yet to be blown away, but once the guys loosened up their Nirvana meets The Beatles music finally caught my attention. I especially loved when lead singer Parker Gispert kicked along with every clash of the cymbal.

5:45 P.M. to 6:45 P.M. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings – Esurance Main Stage

I just caught a few songs of soulful singer Sharon Jones‘ set, but she definitely has a powerful voice that will get people grooving along. The highlight of her show was when she spotted Tilly and the Wall’s number one fan in the crowd and had security bring him on stage to dance with her.

6:30 P.M. to 7:15 P.M. The Kills – New Belgium Stage

There are just two members in the Kills, but they produce a sound as full as any band. This UK group is getting a lot of deserved buzz, but I suggest you catch them now before Alison Mosshart destroys her voice with her chain smoking.

7:15 P.M. to 8:15 P.M. Band of Horses – Esurance Main Stage

Band of Horses took to the main stage to play their easy rock tunes to a packed crowd that I was glad to see actually knew the words to more of their songs than what was in commercials like “Is There a Ghost.” I saw these guys a few years and loved the vocals, but was kind of bored by the stage show, which offered little more than what you could hear on a CD. However, these guys have come into their own and feel a lot more comfortable being on stage and it shows on their songs. This was a much improved set.

7:10 P.M. to 7:50 P.M. Does It Offend You, Yeah? – Stage

I wish I had gotten to this party sooner because I was forced to listen to the electronica songs of Does It Offend You, Yeah? from the hall as the played to an overflowing room of dancing bodies. Even from the hallway, they were a fun show to listen in on.

7:50 P.M. to 8:30 P.M. The Airborne Toxic Event – Gigbot Stage

So, you might have noticed that The Airborne Toxic Event‘s album’s reviews are slightly mixed, though we love it. However, one thing is for sure and that is that their stage show is phenomenal. While all the musicians are quite skilled, keyboardist and violinist Anna Bulbrook especially shined on stage as she climbed on amps and rocks, while playing the violin.

8:15 P.M. to 8:45 P.M. Paper Bird – Acoustic Stage

Up in the rocky mountains, Colorado has been keeping a little secret, but I doubt they’ll be able to keep septet Paper Bird secret much longer. With bass, banjo, trombone and some of the prettiest harmonies of the weekend, it was hard to not to become endeared with this sweet group.

8:45 P.M. to 10:00 P.M. TV on the Radio – Esurance Main Stage

They almost didn’t make it. Van troubles in Utah threatened to keep the boys in TV on the Radio away. Rumors the entire day were that they were not going to make it, but TV on the Radio insisted they wouldn’t miss it for the world and the rented cars to speed through the mountains in. You have to admire a band that determined to not let their fans down. They barely got to the venue in time, but the drama of their drive and the lack of a warm-up did not seem to phase these boys as the ripped through a set of old and new material. The new album held up quite well next to the older songs.

Monolith Music Festival put together a great line-up of the finest indie acts. With five stages hosting one fine group after another, it is very hard to criticize any aspect of the festival. Although I wish more people had come for the entire weekend. In the future, a weekend with this solid of a line-up should be a sell out.

Monolith Music Festival: website | Sunday line-up | Saturday review pt. I | Saturday review pt. II

Photos and writing by: Bethany