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

Digg! del.icio.us

The Raconteurs Want Their Cake, Eat It Too

Posted on iLike yesterday:

We are in the process of creating a live section of our website and need your assistance. We’ll have different areas where you can view video footage and photos from tour dates as well as hear select audio for some shows.
….
We’d also like for you to submit your photos for possible inclusion as well.

Exciting, right? I’d love to be able to help out one of my favorite bands by providing the pictures I took. However, there’s a slight glitch. Before I shot that show, I had to sign a contract.

Raconteurs Contract

Unfortunately, the contract states (emphasis mine):

Photographer hereby agrees that neither Photographer nor any of his/her respective assigns, parent companies, related entities or successors in interest will use or publish or license or permit the use or publication of any of the Photographs, or Artist’s name, voice or likeness, except in print in connection with articles or press coverage of the applicable performance of Artist set forth above. No other uses whatsoever shall be made of the photographs.

….

In the event Photoghrapher uses or authorizes the use of Photographs in breach of this Agreement, in each such breaching instance the photographer shall pay artist $30,000.

Sorry, Raconteurs. I’d love to help with this project, but I just don’t have the $1,050,000 it would take to pay the fines. Maybe in the future you’ll remove this silly idea of forcing people who want to give you free publicity into ridiculous contracts (and, this contract was nearly identical to the one I signed to shoot the White Stripes). No one else I’ve covered requires a contract.

by: Nick Davis

Buzz Under The Stars – Kansas City

Transforming Kansas City’s 150 year old City Market, into a downtown amphitheater is not always as good of an idea as one would assume. In the past, these events have run into problems: several bands simply didn’t have the pull to sell tickets. Other events, such as Ben Folds and Rufus Wainwright saw struggling numbers due to rain the night of the show. This night however, could not have been a better night to open the “2008 Buzz Under the Stars Concert Series.” And, as a reward Kansas City came out in droves.

The evening’s first band, The Morning Benders found its way to Kansas City by way of the Kooks current national tour, serving as the latter’s support. Nonetheless, they couldn’t have fit into the show’s lineup more flawlessly. Their performance, driven by the flow of dark yet dance pop songs, like “Waiting on a War,” set the tone for what would be an energy fueled event. With a sound as infectious and catchy as The Shins and the ability to grab exposure from such great tour mates, I look for big things to happen to this band. The Kansas City crowd of almost 20,000 who seemed glue to the group’s set seemed to agree. They cheered and supported this band in a manner that would almost seem as if they had come to see only them. That was honestly really nice to see.

Following The Morning Benders, we found The Kooks, fresh off the release of their major label release, Konk. We also found our evening’s most energetic act. Vocalist Luke Pritchard‘s interactions with the crowd, ranging anywhere from intense eye contact all the way to hopping on the amps, were second to none. But, not to be pegged as all show and no sound, The Kooks orchestration was tight. Their set, which was a perfect mix of older tunes and new, was constructed and presented in a concise and efficient manner, supplying Kansas City with a showcase of why The Kooks are quickly climbing to the top of the indie scene’s biggest cult bands. This band does not disappoint. If you haven’t already, you certainly need to check them out.

It is my opinion that Rogue Wave, the lineup’s third performer, had the weakest set of the evening, but that might not be their fault. Based on the extreme showmanship of the bands they were following, and the acoustic setting in which they were playing, I feel that this show was not a great fit for them. I honestly think Rogue Wave would be an amazing band to see in a more intimate setting, like an indoor music theater, something that would enhance their somewhat detailed and atmospheric sound. While I was not impressed with their City Market performance, I really do look forward to catching this band again in a different venue. I’m sure they won’t let me down.

Death Cab for Cutie - Kansas City - City Market - 2008

Death Cab for Cutie, the evening’s headlining act, certainly made an effort to not let anyone down. Their set included as many old favorites, like “The Facts Are In and We’re Voting Yes” and “Styrofoam Plates” as well as new radio tracks from Plans and Narrow Stairs. Ben Gibbard‘s uncanny ability to create an environment of happiness and enjoyment through detailed and documented songs of sadness and disappointment is almost amusing. It’s as though the catchy nature of the group’s music overshadows the depressing content of their lyrics. Nonetheless, the set was beautiful and catching, capturing the attention of an audience and generating a unified buzz throughout the Market. Few left following the short intermission, waiting for what would become a fairly long and impressive encore. I was very pleased with the selection of the set and came away from the City Market happy with Death Cab for Cutie’s attention to both its old fans and new.

Overall, I must confess that the night was a success.

The Morning Benders: website | myspace
The Kooks: website | myspace | KONK review
Rogue Wave: website | myspace |
Death Cab for Cutie: website | myspace | Narrow Stairs review

*Photos by Nick Davis and Joshua Hammond

The Raconteurs, Uptown Theatre, Kansas City

The Raconteurs – April 29, 2008 – The Uptown Theater, Kansas City, MO

The Raconteurs
Brendan Benson and Jack White duet while drummer Patrick Keeler looks on

There’s no possible way I can be objective about this show or this band. Brendan Benson and Jack White are musical heroes of mine. I’ve seen Jack play with the White Stripes, but seeing The Raconteurs play together is another thing entirely.

The RaconteursThe Raconteurs
Brendan Benson/Jack White

Jack seems as relaxed as one can imagine he can be. With a stellar rhythm section behind him (“Little” Jack Lawrence on bass and Patrick Keeler on drums), and an amazing vocalist on his right, he seems freed from having to always play the leader.

The Raconteurs
Brendan and Jack singing an amazing duet

However, let there be no doubt that he is. For one thing, the roadies all wore matching uniforms. Yes, like the roadies for the White Stripes do. Another, I signed almost exactly the same contract to be allowed to shoot the Raconteurs as I signed to shoot the White Stripes, except the penalty for violating the Stripes’ contract was $10k per infraction, compared to $30k for the Raconteurs. Talk about inflation! This is Jack’s machine; only the players have changed.

Raconteurs Contract
Contract to Shoot The Raconteurs

But, at their core, The Raconteurs are about the give and take between Jack and Brendan. Brendan is as laid back as Jack is intense. Brendan brings his butter-smooth voice, killer melodies, and pop sensibilities. Then Jack takes it to the next level, adding killer guitar riffs and solos, and drags Brendan’s sugary-sweet power pop through the mud, stomps on it, smacks it around, and puts his stamp on it. Anyone who dismisses this band as just a Jack White project, or simply the White Stripes with a rhythm section is missing the boat. The core of the songs are Brendan’s. If you don’t believe me, check out “The Alternative to Love”, Benson’s most recent album.

The RaconteursThe Raconteurs
Jack White and Brendan Benson

Only someone as docile as Brendan (or Meg White) could work well with Jack White. In this respect, Brendan perfectly fits the bill. Rarely moving from his mic, and rarely displaying much energy, Benson shows his equality to White through his vocals and his calm, laid-back attitude. To play on Jack’s terms would be a guaranteed loss.

The Raconteurs
The band shares a rare moment of levity

Nothing was lost on the packed crowd, however. The Uptown Theater had electricity in the air. The cheers from the crowd almost equaled the volume of The Raconteurs themselves, and this was one of the loudest shows I’ve seen in a while. It’s obvious that the band (probably Jack) took care in picking their gear. The speakers were modern (not your normal road gear), and the lighting was well-planned. The set was decorated with drapery and tree branches on the backdrop. The finale brought a disco ball and The Raconteurs’ logo forty feet tall on the Cyclorama.

The Raconteurs
The well-planned set and lighting add the proper touch

The Raconteurs, especially Jack White, held back no energy at this show. Once you’ve seen enough shows, you can tell when the band is tired, not into it, hungover, or just lazy. This band takes their performances seriously, and like The Arcade Fire, spares no emotional expense in delivering their songs to their fans. If you are lucky enough to have these guys play within a few hundred miles of your house, you’d be insane not to go experience them.

View all Pictures from the Show.

Ra Ra Apollo – Spring Mix

Mixtape for springtime!

Track List:

The Polyphonic Spree – Light and Day/Reach for the Sun
The Raconteurs – Yellow Sun
Rilo Kiley – Hail To Whatever you Found
Mike Doughty– Fort Hood
Tilly and the Wall – Love Song
Belle and Sebastian – Song for Sunshine
Matt Costa – Sunshine
The Elected – Sun Sun Sun
Great Lake Swimmers – I Will Never See the Sun
Super Furry Animals – Hello Sunshine
Iron & Wine – Sunset Soon Forgotten
The Polyphonic Spree – It’s the Sun

-Nick Davis

Gogol Bordello

Tracie and I went to the Beaumont Club to check out Gogol Bordello. If you’re not aware of them, New York-based Gogol Bordello claims to be a “Gypsy Punk” band. Fronted by the unique Eugene Hutz, who starred in Everything is Illuminated alongside Elijah Wood, the band puts on a kinetic performance that could leave you exhausted just watching.

Gogol-Bordello-20

Since I am now shooting for music blog PopWreck(oning), I was able to get in front for the first 3 songs with an official photo pass. To say it was my toughest assignment yet would be an understatement.

Gogol-Bordello-18

The show was packed, much more packed than I would have imagined. The crowd was definitely alternative and punk, heavily tattooed and ready to mosh. My first realization of this was when 6 massive stage bouncers took to the front of the stage. One looked down at me and said “If I tap you on the shoulder, MOVE!”.

Gogol-Bordello-30

With me that night was my Canon 20D with my 85mm 1.8 attached, and my 5D with my 24-70 2.8L attached. Both cameras were set to spot metering, tungsten white balance, 1600 ISO, aperture priority. To be safe, I was bracketing a full stop on the 20D. I would normally have put the 24-70 on the 20D and my 70-200 2.8L on the 5D, but that lens is at Canon now for repairs.

Gogol-Bordello-31

The band took the stage like Kansas Citians take to a buffet. Game on. I perch down and try to get focused, but the lighting was awful. The basic setup was a bunch of red lights, with occastional full-on white lighting. The white balance was fine for the white lights, but the red lights leave everyone very, very red. Most of those shots are the ones in black and white.

Gogol-Bordello-03

I’m used to shooting mildly-energetic indie acts: Singer-songwriters, power-pop, and the like. They’re 90% in front of their mic stand, 10% moving. Eugene Hutz is 93% running, 4% jumping, and 3% flinging sweat everywhere. I’m pretty sure he never stopped moving. In low light he was almost impossible to shoot. I was glad to have that f1.8 lens at times, but it needed to be much wider. When Hutz was 24 inches away, that 128mm (effective) lens was way too long.

Gogol-Bordello-28

30 seconds into the first song, I get the first tap on the shoulder and was guided stage right. Seconds later a body comes flying over the barrier wall. I retake my spot and 30 seconds another tap and another flying body. 20 seconds after that a drink is in the air and it’s raining some liquid substance. Who knows.

Gogol-Bordello-34

So Equene is everwhere, bodies are flying, and mysterious liquids are coming down. Did I mention this was a difficult shoot? Difficult, but a ton of fun. It’s these shoots where I’m glad I had everything set correctly before the gig starts.

Gogol-Bordello-09

For the third song I go stage right just in time for a flying body that actually resists the bouncers. All 100lbs of this girl gave quite a struggle. The bouncers did an admirable job removing her without force, and an even more admirable job keeping a body from falling on me.

Gogol-Bordello-12

After the 3 songs I retreated to the back where I found Tracie sitting. This is a show where you either are up close and moshing with the crowd or you’re way in back. Neither of us had it in us, so we were in the back, which at the beaumont means not much of a view. Oh well, I had mine.

-Nick Davis