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Producers of the Word / Once A Pawn / Prints of Apple Island - The Chatterbox - 10/28/05

My experience of this event began with a bicycle ride down 8th Street with a skeleton attached to my body. I wasn’t exactly sure this would work, but it did, mostly because people didn’t think I was crazy skeleton-attached-to-my-body guy. You see, this was a Donnie Darko Theme Concert. I was dressed as Donnie was for the film’s Halloween party. Even if you didn’t have a Donnie Darko costume, it was perfectly acceptable to have any costume. It’s awesome to have Halloween fall on a Monday, because then you’re licensed to dress up all weekend. It should be known that Donnie’s calendar in the movie had October 28 falling on a Friday, just like this year.

Producers of the Word’s guitarist/vocalist wore a sparkly dress and blonde wig. I won’t deny this was indeed an impressive spectacle of transvestitism. Once A Pawn was also enjoyable. It’s always cool when the drummer sings, especially when in Once A Pawn’s case, the singing is excellent; better than Don Henley or Phil Collins in fact. I was surprised to see they added a bassist; and a fine bassist at that.

Prints of Apple Island did Donnie Darko proud with a jet engine suspended above the stage, and an appearance from Frank the Rabbit, who stood ominously in front of the stage for a good amount of time. What is it about rabbits that make them so scary sometimes? It must be the long ears. But the ears must be upright, because those rag doll bunnies with floppy ears are mainly cute.

Huskernaut, the future of mascots of the future, also showed up, but he was not in Donnie Darko. You see, Huskernaut arrived in Lincoln from outer space to rally on our Nebraska Cornhuskers. Huskernaut stood at the microphone, but did not say anything, because he does not speak. He proceeded to brush an Oklahoma Sooners mini-basketball, followed by stabbing the ball with the brush, and finally passing out. Huskernaut then regained consciousness and pointed toward space. Later on he appeared behind the stage during Prints of Apple Island’s set. Roberta Sparrow whispered something to him, but both remain mum concerning what was said.

I was more than pleased to hear Prints of Apple Island cover songs from Donnie Darko, including my favorite, Tears For Fears’ “Head Over Heels.” They also covered a cover with a rendition of “Mad World”, a song penned by Tears For Fears and reworked by Gary Jules.

It should also be known that Prints of Apple Island are an amazing commodity to have locally. Their enigmatic brand of danceable keyboard-driven avant-rock is superlative. Plus, they are nice guys with a gift for imagineering and engination. - Joe Younglove

The Terminals / Brimstone Howl - O'Leavers - 8/05/05

As the interference from the neon lights stopped buzzing through the Fender tube amps, levels were checked and cables in place, O'Leaver's became that nights haven for garage rock to the point where you swore there should be oil stains on the carpet that lay on stage.

The Terminals, two parts Lincoln and one part Omaha, came off as less of a band, and more of sonic breatheren, while the contract of marriage bonded two of it's members, their songs formed a secular agreement better shouted or crooned than spoken.

I began their set with remnants of a discarded early draft of a setlist torn and stuffed in my ears, seated at the 'cool table' with the other displaced Lincolnites whom all arrived early and anxious, the early blasts from Dave Goldman's keyboard amp warned me of the volume. Naturally, the earplugs didn't last.

Starting in the assumed lineup 'convention' of Liz Hitt as guitarist, Brooks Hitt as drummer, and aforementioned Dave Goldman as keyboardist, pulling double duty on both treble and bassline, so often interchanging the two that definitions of rhythym and melody would certainly lack clarity in seperation.

Vocals were handled by all, muffling lyrics into overdriven, punctuated wailing. The words themselves, though incoherent, were clearly not the focal point. That was left to the sustain of the power chords, the key riffs, the anchoring of a kick drum every 4th count. The building blocks of rockn'roll.

As the set progressed, the duties would rearrange. Liz would take the keys as Dave would transform the role of the guitar into overdriven fury. Before long, Dave would transform the role of the drums, adding melodic accents while still hitting the kick drum every forth count, and then some. Soon, Brooks would don a guitar of his own, reinstating power chords behind Dave's riffing, placing the anchor in the hands (and feet) of Liz.

By the end, The Terminals appeared so in sync with one another that it was difficult to fathom that their respective domiciles lay upwards of 70 miles apart.

As drums were dismantled and amps were pushed aside, Brimstone Howl took their turn in rotation. The night before the beginning of their tour, this was their dress rehearsal, their trapeze act without a net. The proving ground before the loss of their comfort zone.

Their set kicked off promptly with the song 'Rattle,' citing one major difference. Primary vocalist and driving force Johnny was sans guitar. With only a microphone stand to protect him, he proved himself confident and commanding as frontman. Like a Buddy Holly of the post-apocalypse, the roots of rocks most primal and oft-forgotten ancestry was alive in him. As it was in everyone.

As he donned his guitar for the second song, he denied himself the microphone, bestowing it to bassist Jeff, continuing to surprise the audience with his ability to sing, or scream, based on the appropriateness of the moment.

With Johnny resuming the duties of guitar, his interplay with prodigy Nicky came quickly in full effect. Their pentatonic, angular riffs, with linneage dating back to the crossroads, were shrill in perverse competition with one another.

Vino, the minimalist drummer with uncanny tempo, would often scorn his seat, standing up to effectively pronounce his beat with savage, uncompromising fury. Tightly interlocking with Jeff's perfectly in place basslines, the two provided enough support to allow Johnny and Nicky all the indulgent, table-hopping, drum-launching showmanship they were capable of giving, and the crowd was capable of taking.

A highlight included the song, written on the setlist as 'Gates,' where Nicky takes on vocals, repeating 'And I'll walk/ and I'll walk/ 'till the gates are open wide.' In spite of his youth, he came across like a lost spirit from the days of Sun studio's prime. The song would then flawlessly segway into 'Philistines Don't Care,' one of only a few songs from the 'Seven Mean Runs' EP, first released in January, when they still referred to themselves as the Zyklon Bees, a name epitomizing punk rocks middle finger at the face of society's conventions.

Now, as Brimstone Howl, they are deeper, and consequently darker, into the depths of rock's evil, unsatiated need for the blood and souls of its devout. As a Brimstone Howl audience is the lamb, just as the band is the slaughterer. As the last note of 'Cointoss' was played, still writhing with life, the audience desperately clammored for more.

What was given was 'Visceral Teen Rock,' only this time, sung by Nicky, who was now guitarless himself, and shunning the microphone stand, stepping across the broken glass that now seperated the crowd from the band, and with reckless abandon howled and screamed what might once, and soon again, be considered the epitomy of anthems for the distraught, the distasteful, the self-loathing devout.

Backed by the screaming of The Terminals' Liz, the band brought its tightest, and by far most effective set in their short careers to a close. Spilled beer, broken glass, and torn flesh was what remained after the brutal, glorious caucophony of sound ceased. And all was right with the world. - Christian Long

Sound & Shape / Sad Old Lady / Eagle*Seagull – Knickerbocker’s – 7/30/05

I sincerely hope this was not the last Sad Old Lady show ever. Their singer moved to Hastings, Neb., which is only like a couple hours from Lincoln. With that in mind, I think a reunion show should not be too much to ask for. Actually, Sad Old Lady should drop everything and tour the world, because they must be seen and heard in order to acquire any valid concept of what they are. I could try to describe them, I suppose.

The band began with two people: a keyboardist and vocalist known as Sad Old Lady From the South. The first time I saw them was at Lincoln’s preeminent blues venue, The Zoo Bar. What I saw there gave me the same feeling I get every time they play; the feeling of time stopping. Maybe it’s the unwavering transfixion I experience because Sad Old Lady is chaotic, visceral, dynamic and danceable. One time I went to see their show and they were suddenly a full band. Now this was an excellent idea, because it was louder, and they gained the female element because Tric from Papers joined. She likes to wear fishnets and extremely long eyelashes, and her physical gestures and expressions deftly complemented Singer Ben Clark’s absurdity. A strong candidate for their best characteristic is Ben’s eyes while he’s performing. Whenever they get wide and possessed, you know something great is going to happen.

I guess the main reason I like Sad Old Lady is because they’re entirely into the sounds they’re making. Their music peels back whatever shields primal instincts. I think it’s also interesting that they released their first album, “The Story of…Sad Old Lady,” for their “final” performance. When they get back together and make a lot of money, it would be extremely wise for them to release a DVD along with the album, because the album, while fascinating, does not do their glory justice. Do yourself a favor and find their CD wherever it may be. Members of the band are also in Papers, so that would be a good method for finding the CD. You’ll have a chance at Papers’ CD release party September 10 at Knickerbocker’s. Please go to that.

For this show that I’m reviewing, Ben’s appearance was altogether baffling. He sported Native American-esque face paint, and wore a half-shirt that had neon colors and read, “DANCE.” I think it’s wise that he often wore half-shirts for shows, so as to display his finely executed beer-belly.

Sound & Shape was a surprise opening band added to the bill on short notice. They are from Nashville, Tenn., and sound nothing like the “Nashville” sound. Their drummer did some amazing moves, such as leaping up and standing on his stool, and then falling down to continue the beat. As expected, Eagle*Seagull was absolutely breathtaking. The Golden Age was supposed to play, but they didn’t show up for reasons I do not know - Joe Younglove

The Tuna Helpers / The Guapotones - Duffy's Tavern - 6/29/05

Sometimes a bill is so diverse that the two acts come of as diametrically opposed polar opposites. Sometimes it works.

Sometimes it doesn't.

In the case of Lincolnite rockers The Guapotones sharing the stage with opening act The Tuna Helpers, out of Austin, Texas, it worked in such a strange, wonderful way.

Andy Fairbairn had the night billed as 'if The Who and The Stooges shared the stage with Bjork, Kate Bush and The Muppets.' Only a description as bizarre as that one could've been true, and true it was.

Starting off the night, The Tuna Helpers, a 3 (+1) piece mixed vague elements of folktronica tied (or braided) in with a minstrel-esque overtone. That being the sonic overtone mixed in with theatrics, sign language and, yes, puppets. Some songs were played straight away, with drums, keyboards & xylophone, acoustic guitar and vocals. At other moments of the show, singer/guitarist Adrienne would crouch behind a tiny cardboard theatre, allowing the audience to suspend disbelief, letting the puppets take the spotlight.

Ranging from two-headed babies, pale-faced babies in rabbit costumes and renaissance-garbed maidens, they were easily reminiscent of Mr. Roger's 'The Land of Make-Believe' on the surface. Though not far beneath that lurked a macabre, almost disorienting fare that left the audience wide-eyed with disturbed fascination.

"Right now we're going to a dark place. We're going to my dark place and YOUR COMING WITH ME!" was one of many segues by (organic) frontwoman Adrienne, reminding the audience that we were on their ride, and there was no getting off early.

"No, I don't want to go!" drummer Khattie would reply from behind her trapset, immediate covering her mouth with both hands as the attention would naturally shift to her.

Every third song or so, keyboardist/xylophonist Bethany would step to the edge of the stage, enthusiastically interpreting the lyrics in sign language.

While the puppetry and theatrics arguably played the central role, the strength and validity came with their songs. Laced with unconventional rock rhythyms and punctuated by arpeggio-heavy guitar and piano parts, lyrics like "you're weak, like an ice cream sandwich/ I'm strong, like a skeleton" made the Tuna Helpers truly poetic rock'n'roll, cleverly disguised as faux-artsy charades.

Following the estrogen-soaked set of The Tuna Helpers came The Guapotones, fueled by fire and dripping wet with testosterone.

Bursting into their set with opening song 'King Crack,' The Guapotones were off with hook-heavy, appropriately vintage sound of the cockrocking days of old.

Clad in afros, tight t-shirts and women's jeans, The 'Tones were (and are) every bit as theatrical and over the top as the act that preceded them this night.

But, as with the Tuna Helpers, the strength and solidarity of their songs afforded them every bit of credibility they needed to pull it off. And more.

Songs like 'It's Time to Get Rich" showcase all the Guapotones' strongpoints. An off-kilter, yet not complex backbeat, carried through with seaming ease by drummer Andy, bassist Frankie and guitarist Zach (the one who looks like James Valentine).

A densely layered lead guitar riff bouncing frantically between a loud/quiet dynamic. Joey, a guitarist richly schooled in the art (and lifestyle) of gritty, in your face Chicago blues has built himself quite a house on such an unyielding foundation.

And, finally, frontman extraordinaire Ben Marker. The bands whirling, flippantly arrogant centerpiece, belting his rough-around-the-edges staccato vocals with deliberate, surgical precision.

In contrast, songs like the long-running audience favorite, (dating back to the days when they were 'Action Squad)' "Full Throttle with an Empty Bottle" strip all the unnecessary intricacies away, leading to an almost Ramones-like trance pulsating at 4/4 time.

A Guapotones' set provides many of these near-overwhelming moments of sonic revelry and fist-first powerchord onslaughts, muscling their uniquely traditional rock'n'roll craftwork comfortably between MC5 and The Mars Volta, Iron Maiden and AC/DC. Vintage headbanding uniquely modernized.

All in all- a superb night out. - Christian Long

Valient Thorr / Rent Money Big / Blood Cow - 9th St. Basement - 6/07/05

So my plans for Tuesday were to go to Jazz in June and then on to Duffy’s to get crunk on Old Style for a buck. A jam band once told me things don’t always go as planned. And so they didn’t. Jazz in June went off without a hitch even if I had to haer the sounds of the freaking vibrator phonist, Joe Locke.

A post on this here message board as well as the calendar noted that there was a show at 9th St Basement featuring one of my favorite local acts, Rent Money Big. Two other bands I knew nothing about were on the bill, Bloodcow and Valient Thorr. On the board it was suggested I stay for the whole show after R$B’s opening set so I entertained the idea.

Drew says R$B plays at 9:30 so I get there at 9:20. But there is no band. 9th St. people don’t know where they are either. But we wait patiently and they show up around 9:30. I hear a ruckus at the door, something about an ID. It’s Tim explaining he’s with the band. So I’m like hey alright, the band is here, music coming up soon.

But as things don’t always go as planned, the wheels on the bus were already going round and Bloodcow had started setting up in case R$B didn’t show, meaning they were bumped to last, also meaning I would have to stick around if I wanted to see them. No biggie.

I took my spot in the music room and checked out Bloodcow. It was fun. The guys had a lot of intensity and reminded me of bands like System of a Down. The crowd was still somewhat sparse 20-30 people and no one was in front of the stage. But the band didn’t care; they were there simply to rock out, which they did. I like Coldplay, for starters, and I don’t go out of my way to see metal shows, but I was thoroughly entertained. They started off with a cover of “Shout of the Devil” and then went into some original material.

What I was most impressed by was two things; one, the sound was very impressive for a local venue. I could make out almost all of the lyrics, something I’m not used to with louder shows. Secondly, the guitarist for the band did this thing towards the end of the set which is probably common but that I have not before witnessed, that being a rapid twirling of the hair like the blades of a helicopter in time with the beat of the song. Good stuff. (Dude, you need to get out more, and maybe watch a few videos - ed.)

Valient Thorr played second and I expected to be impressed and wasn’t let down. The lead singer of the band had been outside when I showed up and needed to get past me to get some stuff and asked to get by me very politely, contrary to his beardish manly frame.

So when he went on stage and turned on the rock star persona I knew I was in for a treat. The band was pure professional, knowing how to suck the crowd in and make them forget about anything but the music. On top of a great set of music the lead singer had total control of the crowd. At the start of the set he asked that everyone get up and come close, we did as followed, like he was about to dose us with some kool-aid that would take us to the next dimension. Later he asked everyone to get low to the floor so he could explain how sweat is what binds us all. It was a great story; I can only hope it was particular to us and not something that he regularly provides to audiences across the country. All in all I would rate the set an A on the grading scale.

After their set there was the obligatory waiting period between bands so I went to chat with he bar owner and some other peeps. The doorman comes outside to speak with the owner and explains that there is a guy inside puking and that he should probably get booted, but won’t leave. I walk in with the owner and it’s none other than Tim Money Big with his head in a trash can. I think Drew explained he’s puked a good six or eight times, but “he’ll be fine.”

Tim is determined to perform the set so the band plows into the usual blistering business I’ve come to expect from a R$B show. The band was tight as usual, and didn’t seem annoyed that their lead man was all over the map. Tim thought it would be a good idea to walk out into the crowd randomly during songs and circle people with the mic in hand, forgetting that wires have the tendency to trip people up. But everyone was so entranced that the fact that we had to play jump rope with the cord seemed like it was an expected side effect of a rock show. Maybe it is. Tim also had the tendency of doing repeated somersaults, bumping into equipment, people and anything else that might be a solid object in his way. But the band ate it up and so did the crowd.

As Janelle explained, it was Drunk Money Big night, but what do you expect at a rock show? Religion? Maybe, but this was non-secular to the point that even a Coldplay fan could get caught up in the action. - Jeremy Buckley

Blane / The Atomic Pigs / Crush The Clown - Knickerbockers - 5/19/05

Blane kicked the night off, and in what has become standard operating procedure with Blane shows, the line up at tonight's show was a bit different from other shows. Tonight, in addition to Brandon McKenzie, the band included semi-regulars Lori Allison on drums, and Bryan McCue on bass, and joining the band for the first time was Dave Merritt (of Icarian Bird) on Fender Rhodes and fiddle.

I'd have to say, this might be the best Blane set I've ever seen, and that had a LOT to do with the addition of Dave Merritt. His keyboard playing lent a fullness to the band's sound that wasn't there in previous incarnations of the band, and it also lent a prettiness to the songs that was always implied by the melody, but hadn't been realized until tonight. Even Brandon's vocals, which are pretty hit or miss, were mostly on the mark tonight.

Most of the songs played tonight were off the "Blair" release from earlier this year, and tonight they seemed to be performed with a bit more tenderness than I've seen them done before, or maybe it was just that, with a very few exceptions, the band was tighter tonight than I've seen them before, maybe the addition of Dave had a bigger effect on how everyone else was playing, but Lori's drumming seemed a bit more laid back than usual which fit the songs better, Brian seemed to be doing a bit more melodically on the bass, and Brandon's guitar playing also seemed to be bringing out a bit more of the melody in the songs.

Someone standing next to me said "I don't remember liking Blane this much before, this is good".

After Blane's set, it was anyone's guess what was going to happen next. The Atomic Pigs were scheduled to play. From what I was told by others, Michael French was originally saying he'd be playing by himself with backing tracks on a CD, then it changed to him playing along with a video of himself with the other tracks on it, to finally last night I was told he that he was just going to show the video and not play at all. I guess that's the new millennium version of "phoning it in". I was talking to people in the bar and didn't end up seeing the video.

After the video Crush The Clown was scheduled to play, but The Renfields showed up instead. The Renfields of course being Crush The Clown in a different guise. Tonight was the CD Release show for the new CD “Misconceptual Art Rock”. They played several of the songs from the new disk, all of which were really good, a few songs off the first Renfields CD, which is awesome, if you don't have it, GET IT!

Sean Moon played a guitar solo on the CD, and he joined the band on stage during the show to play his solo live. We were also treated to a few older Crush The Clown songs, which was great since at their last show, the Valentines day CD Release show for their last CD "Sick Love" they just played the CD straight through and hadn't played any of the older material, so this was the first time in a long time we got to hear a lot of the old songs.

They ended their set by showing this awesome and really funny music video, with bassist Jarek Olivetti and his girlfriend Jamie flying around San Fran F'ing Cisco on a magic carpet and wreaking all kinds of havoc. It was difficult to hear the song behind it. It sounded a bit different for Nick, but I liked what I heard a lot. - Tery Daly

Jabid / Clean Plate Club / Bartislav Alvarez III / The Mathematicians - Duffy’s Tavern - 5/4/05

What a damn funhouse Duffy’s became for this show. It was an atmosphere where you’re constantly witnessing situations completely opposite of everyday normality. Case in point: Jabid wields a real knife now that the city smoking ban took effect. I think the knife never came closer than a couple feet from my face, so I felt moderately safe. I felt most safe when he jabbed the knife into the stage. I remember when Jabid didn’t move a muscle while performing, save for drinking his beer and taking a drag. It was also cool when he made a valiant effort of wrapping the crowd in duct tape during The Mathematicians’ performance.

Jabid’s music continues to mystify, with each song ending when you least expect it to. Some great video footage rolled during the set, featuring contestants on 70s and 80s game shows. The facial expressions correlated beautifully with the music’s Casio-fun-time. Game shows really bring out the unbridled joy in people.

Clean Plate Club, AKA Pawl Tisdale or Mannheim Creamslinger, makes buoyant and colorful music, but the highlight of this particular set was probably the sandwich sequence. Tisdale carefully showed each ingredient to the audience and made a real nice, healthy sandwich with wheat bread, mayonnaise, lettuce, onions, and cheese. He gave it to the most intoxicated person in the house, who not surprisingly dropped the delicious treat on the floor. Mathematicians Drummer Albert Gorithm rescued the sandwich and took a monstrous bite, garnering roars of approval from the crowd. Tisdale also supplied video footage, the most memorable clip being a stunt motorcyclist making a jump and crashing in slow motion. It was anguishing to see the extent of twisting and bending the body goes through in such a stunt. Tisdale wore a very strange mask reminiscent of a scary ventriloquist dummy, which is always fun, especially if there’s a knife involved.

Bartislav Alvarez III was gracious enough to fly in from Czechoslovakia for a rare American appearance. He put on a jaw-dropping performance featuring the xylophone and slide whistle. Alvarez III wasn’t scared to play notes with both mallets simultaneously. His on-stage assistant, also sporting a haunting mask, read a Lincoln Journal Star featuring our president on the front page. He got loads of applause after poking a hole through W’s face. It was a fun and inventive way to express disappointment in our town paper. Alvarez III wore authentic Czechoslovakian apparel, including puffy, high-rising pants and one of those leather suspender-connecting things worn across the chest. His music was actually quite awful, but Gorithm noted that Alvarez III is well renowned in Europe.

The Mathematicians were absolutely charming. Their music blew the place into a frenzy. It supported what I learned in “Revenge of the Nerds,” in that nerds are indeed more than meets the eye. Pete Pythagoras, bass/vocals, was best at playing the part, with his stiff body stature and timid speech. It’s really cool when bands present personas that make you wonder how much is theatrics and how much is real. They also wore authentic wardrobe, including extremely clunky, plastic glasses, bowties, and plaid suit coats and pants; all slightly ill fitting of course.

Like The Flaming Lips, The Mathematicians are masterful at audience manipulation. They weren’t hesitant to join the crowd, get in people’s faces, or just generally explode with passion for exciting the senses. Gorithm’s eyes made me think he took magical speed that never wears off. An audience member tried to give his dog tags to Pythagoras, who said “That’s heavy, man,” and graciously returned the military memento, which I’m sure the individual was grateful for upon returning to sobriety.

What I realized more and more in listening to their debut album, Level One, The Mathematicians are aware of the impact created by starting small and building sound into climax. The climax during the Duffy’s set occurred during “Hypotenuse of Love,” when the sound descended upon the room like a flood burst. The tune possessed the audience and caused a massive release of dancing and overall insanity. The feeling I got from The Mathematicians is that playing small-ass venues for who knows how many people always wins over some stationary, well-paying “real” job.

The Mathematicians rank at least in the top three of bands that soared above and beyond my expectations. Other contenders include Parliament Funkadelic and the Jazz Mandolin Project. Pythagoras, Gorithm and Dewi Decimal, keyboards/vocoder/vocals, rap like they invented the style. Their music’s often electronic, but it’s engineered so well that you can feel a human touch. I guess I was expecting some nice electro-punk, but I ended up with a sonic assault worthy of uncontrollable ass shaking. They taught me that Satan likes to dance too, and the dark lord’s rhythms are downright nasty. It feels good to hear beats from below. - Joe Younglove

Electric Soul Method - Celebrate Lincoln Ethnic Festival - 4/30/05

I went to Lincoln’s Ethnic Festival with gyros and Turkish coffee on my mind. It was a complete surprise to learn my favorite local funk purveyors would be hitting the stage in a matter of minutes.

Electric Soul Method quickly erased my spite towards the festival for making me buy tickets in order to acquire food and drinks. They required you buy groups of nine tickets for $5. Oddly enough, a gyro was 10 tickets, which proves the festival planners are crafty. However, there were plenty of other things deserving of my tickets, such as Turkish coffee and bunny marionettes.

I had seen ESM once prior, but it happened to be a show without their female vocalist, Laniece Micek. Luckily she was there for this show. I learned she certainly adds a lot to the band. It adds credibility to ESM to think they can still rock the house without their full lineup. Micek's greatness stems from a strong, soul-stirring delivery and her consistent return to smiling. There may have been someone amusing her in the audience, or it could simply be that being a part of amazing music makes her really happy. The group projects the high extent of fun they’re having, especially Josh Hoyer, vocals/sax/synth, and Nick Semrad, synth/Rhodes/organ/vocals. They gyrate, squirm, and generally move in whichever direction the music takes them. Semrad manages to stay within reach of his keys, which is good because he needs to play his parts. Bassist Luke Kellison doesn’t move a lot, but his fingers are lightning-quick. He plays bass lines that seem to have more notes than would logically fit in a measure. He plays each song as if he’s accessing codes from the encyclopedia of bass.

Guitarist Luke Polipnick sports some rad shades when he’s in the mood. Some of his guitar solos could pass for Van Halen. It goes to show another intriguing aspect of ESM, in that the members obviously bring a vast background of listening to the collective sound. I have a feeling the members encourage each other to present new and exciting styles.

Hoyer has an awesome voice too, and Kellison even sang for what started as a cover of “House of the Rising Son.” I am not sure if the song stayed true to the original the whole way through, but that’s OK because I trust ESM and pledge my allegiance to each song’s path. Lincoln is privileged to claim such a talented, young band. This town is no slouch for any kind of music.

I strongly recommend anybody on the face of the earth listen to Electric Soul Method, whether you’re a metal head, a Christian rocker, or a polka freak. An impressive young fellow about four years old actually did a flip onto the asphalt during the set. He sprang up and kept raising the roof, proving the existence of invisible adrenaline waves projecting from the speakers. ESM is about triggering your sense of rhythm and sending groove signals through your system. They are a surefire cause for happy feet. Expect to hear a song begin and without seeing it coming, you’ll be hypnotized; and until the music ceases your mind feels balanced, like everything you worried about all day was lies.

Electric Soul Method is five individuals spreading the funkiest funk around. To top it all off, each member of the band I’ve met so far has been cool as hell. - Joe Younglove

Eagle.Seagull / Thunderstandable / The Golden Age – Duffy’s Tavern – 3/20/05

Yet another incredible local band I hadn’t heard before. Eagle.Seagull make the kind of music that removes your awareness to the point where you only remember you’re merely standing in a building when the songs end. During the music’s course, my mind often slipped into subconscious mode, where you perceive the things in your life from a more logical standpoint, and fantastic imagery permeates the mental framework. Bands I thought of in reference to Eagle.Seagull include The Standard and The Dears. These bands create fresh music made with an honest love for sound’s potential to activate multiple moods. A great Eagle.Seagull moment occurred when this one song’s tempo stretched and washed over the crowd; and you could feel the sound collapsing. That’s when the drummer reverted the song to its fast-paced beginning.

Thunderstandable were amazing because it’s hard to believe they can remember each note pattern. The songs were like Pac-man taking lefts and rights and ups and downs. One of the band’s strongest suits is their rejection of tempo stagnancy. Thunderstandable has plenty of new material, but like Eagle.Seagull, I couldn’t get my hands on any. They did offer some professional buttons, including one that said “Naked to the Brim.”

The crowning achievement of The Golden Age’s set was Ian Aiello’s electric guitar wizardry. This one song seemed like a mellow number, but Aiello totally shredded, starting with a curious series of volume experimentation where the guitar creates a Doppler effect. Singer, Rob Hawkins, quietly strummed his acoustic guitar while Aiello played a beautiful sequence of chords with perfect hints of abrasiveness maintaining the song’s melancholy. I think it’s really great when the context of the song can manipulate the way an instrument is heard.

An interesting aspect of this show was the influx of local artists, as in painting and such. To get people to go to shows, all Lincoln has to do is make each one a fund-raiser (this one was for the Tugboat Gallery). We could get L. Kent Wolgamott to attend the shows he should be if there were some fund-raisers for the Lincoln Journal Star, or specifically that lame-ass “entertainment” guide Ground Zero.

If you want to talk solid set lineups, this night at Duffy’s was damn near perfect. The atmosphere was soaked with talent and creativity. – Joe Younglove

Tangelo / Head of Femur - Duffy's Tavern - 3/13/05

Head of Femur stopped through town as part of a 10 day tour as they head down to SXSW. It was actually just Ben, Mike and Matt giving a very stripped down version of the songs. Two guitars & keyboard, with the occasional addition of Harmonica or drums. Tonight's version of "Science Needed A Medical Man" was awesome, and they introduced some new stuff that was really good. Presenting their songs in this manner was a really nice change, and presented the songs in a very different light. It was almost like a "Powerless" set, but not as cool, because it wasn't actually a Powerless show. We also got an impromtu Pablo's Triangle reuinion during the set when they invited Pat & Pawl from Tangelo, former Pablo's members, to join them on "3/4 Ben". I'm not sure if the high point was "Science..., the Pablo's song, or Ben's Mom and Garry Focht dancing during the set, but having too many highpoints during a set to choose from is never a bad thing. HoF will be appearing tonight in Omaha with their full lineup, appearing along with The Holy Ghost.

Kind of like a racehorse that's been locked up in the barn for months and finally gets back out to run, Tangelo, playing their first set in ages gave us a very raw, powerful and fun set. Eric Sebby mentioned that since they've been recording for a while, they haven't actually practiced in about 4 months, so how it would go was anyone's guess. How it went, was very well. The set rocked, but was occasionally loose, which might have added to how much I enjoyed it, rather than detracting from it. A great selection of songs tonight, but unfortunately since Pat forgot his megaphone at home, "OHIO" was conspicuously absent. Perhaps the band's enthusiasm was best displayed when Pat, while rocking hard and jumping around, lost his balance and spilled into the drums. But hey, this is rock & roll, not ballet! Hopefully Tangelo will never stay off the stage for this long again. - Tery Daly

Tangelo / Head of Femur - Duffy's Tavern - 3/13/05

I'm not a very knowledgeable Femur fan. I own none of their CDs, I've only seen them 2 or 3 times and I don't know any of the band members. "So what?" you might ask. And my answer is "Exactly, so what?" The show was great despite my ignorance and being one of 2 people that wasn't a friend or family member of the band. Their New Year's Eve performance was energetic, fun filled, and played to a capacity crowd with the full band. Tonight was a three piece: Mike on electric guitar, Matt on acoustic, and Ben on keyboards. Although Matt took a stab at the tiny little drum kit (which I'm told was a floor tom rather than a regular bass drum) for a song which added a nice touch. Although not packed, a good crowd turned out for the intimate, subdued 3-piece Head of Femur. To me the highlight of the night was when Paul and Pat (of Tangelo) joined Femur on stage to perform a Pablo's Triangle song. What was great about the show was not so much what was played but the fact they still show up to play in Lincoln. On the verge of more and more popularity, touring and notoriety, I hope Head of Femur continues to make Lincoln a usual stop along it's way to the "big time."

Tangelo played second and sparked the place up after Femur. If Femur was all about subtleties tonight, then Tangelo was all about crass. It rocked and was one of the better sets I'd heard from them. They hadn't played live in awhile and seemed truly determined to supply the crowd with a great rock set. I can't ever tell if it's "Tickory" or Hickory" that is the name of my favorite song, but I love that song. And the screaming baby at the end of the song "Baby" was a nice touch. Really, these guys brought down the house to close the night making tonight's show worth way more than the $5 cover; it was just a great time, everyone seemed in good spirits afterward. Hopefully Pat got a ride home though. - Mark Bestul

The Gov't / Papers - The Zoo Bar - 3/1/05

I saw The Gov't for the first time last night, and they blew me away! During their first song or two it would have been easy to dismiss them as total Butt Rock, they have a lot of overtones of classic rock and even hints of southern rock, but the further along they got the more intriguing their music became. Set aside their "good ol' boy" exterior, and with each passing song it becomes obvious that they're putting a lot of thought and work into their songwriting and arranging. Stylistically they're covering a lot of ground, some songs are pretty poppy, some countryish, some blues, with the aforementioned classic rock sound remaining pretty consistent throughout the set. One song reminded me a quite a bit of Blue Oyster Cult (when B.O.C. were good). The lyrics are all really good, and the interplay of the guitar work between Shaun Sparks and Liam Harrison is really good. Check these guys out!

Papers has been through a lot of upheaval this year with their bass player leaving the band, trumpet player Beth Fry moving to Ohio for school, and Keyboardist Grace Carey off in Paris temporarily. (It's probably good that they were gone last night because the band barely fit on the Zoo Bar stage as it was.) Because of these changes, Papers could have gone in one of two directions, become tighter and cleaner sounding, which would be great, or become more chaotic, which would also be great. Last night, with Shaun Sparks from The Gov't (who's recording Papers upcoming CD) filling in on bass, it's clear, at least for last night, that Papers went the chaotic route, and it made for an incredible show. I don't know if the band was just being a bit more raucous on their own, or if the addition of Shaun on bass has anything to do with it, but they defintely seemed to rock a bit harder than usual last night. Their set list was perfect for their slightly altered feel of the band. Drummer Anders Peterson will also be leaving the band temporarily before too long and a backup drummer will be filling in for him in his absence, which will bring even more changes for Papers. - Tery Daly

The Legendary Shack Shakers / Forty Twenty - Knickerbockers - 2/18/05

I'd seen neither Forty-Twenty, nor the Shack Shakers before tonight, so I was really looking forward to seeing both bands. I've heard Forty Twenty's music on the radio and liked everything I'd heard, and I've heard from friends who had seen the Shack Shakers what an amazing show they put on.

Forty Twenty started out the night, and set the bar so high that the Shack Shakers were going to have to be incredibly impressive to top it. Some bands I love because their songs are just so good, but when playing live they don't necessarily put on "a show". Other bands are ALL show, but kind of light in the song department. Some times I dig a band just because some or all of their musicians are just so good on their instruments that it's a pleasure to watch and be inspired as a musician. Forty Twenty has got it all. They put on a very high-energy show from start to finish, their songs are great, a lof of them are very funny, and the level of musicianship in the band is amazing. Guitarist, Jon Bradley, was a wonder to watch all night. He's got his country, rockabilly, blues and rock riffs down to a science, and combines them to perfect effect in each song. If he alone stood on stage for an hour and played, that by itself would have been a great show. Lloyd McCarter on pedal steel adds the country twang to the bands tendency to rock like hell, and drummer J.J. King, played part of the set in a neck brace while on the mend from a recent surgery. The real one-two punch in Forty Twenty comes from Bassist/Vocalist Lern Tilton and Lead Singer/ Rhythm Guitarist, David Wilson. These two guys write most of the songs, and switch off singing lead. David alternates between guitar and fiddle, and can yodel like nobody's business. In tonight's set they played a few covers like "Hey Good Looking by Hank Sr., their opener, "The Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time", and "Hello, Walls" sung by Legendary Lloyd McCarter. When Lloyd steps up to the mic, you most defintely do NOT expect to hear the deep voice that comes booming out of him. They played some of their breakfast themed songs, "Milk & Pancakes" and "Pancakes & Beer", and non-breakfast songs like Honky-tonk Me, Life That Chose Me, and "Sober & Stupid" the title track from their most recent release. I know it's only February, so maybe that makes it easy to say that this is hands-down one of the best shows I've seen this year. There are some babies due to come along in the bands families shortly, so Forty Twenty might not be out as frequently as they've been in the past, so don't miss a chance to see them when they do play.

The Shack Shakers played next, and unfortunately weren't up to the task of raising the bar that Forty Twenty set for them. They paled in comparison. They were one of those bands who were ALL high energy show, and light on the songs. People I talked to tended to think the Shack Shakers used to be better with Joe Buck in the band, and although I missed them their last two or three times through Lincoln with Joe in the band, I would have to probably agree, because their current guitar player does more mugging ala G.E. Smith than he plays guitar. It's a shame to see such a nice old Gretsch in the hands of someone who didn't do anything with it. I found myself growing bored with their set pretty quickly, and before they were even half-way through was in the bar talking to people rather than watching the band. THey weren't bad by any means, they'd have just stood a better chance of winning me over had they played before Forty Twenty. I'll definitely give 'em another chance though. - Tery Daly

Crumbs / Jamie / Marisa – M&N Sandwich Shop – 2/12/05

It was refreshing to experience a music performance in an unusual setting with unusual music. I mean unusual in the best possible sense of the word.

I thought I showed up early when I entered the M&N Sandwich Shop about 6:50 p.m. Jamie, as he was identified on the flier, was preparing to play. Accompanied by a friend on Conga drums, Jamie wore a wool hat and played acoustic guitar. He had his own style; something like an avant-blues. His voice did not have far reach, but those who heard it know it was clearly heartfelt.

He covered the song from “Cool Hand Luke” about a plastic Jesus; and also played a tune about Jesus leaving Chicago. Some of the songs were instrumental, each holding my attention the entire time with intricate strum and non-traditional structure. The drummer did well and seemed to listen closely to the guitar. During one song, Jamie played trumpet with his voice. Although it was awesome and really sounded like a horn, he ended the song when it struck him funny. When the set ended, he explained since the show was free you had to buy a sandwich. The sandwiches there are nothing less than monstrous. It was fun to watch people come in to get a sandwich, totally caught off guard by the whimsical music happening. Norm, the storeowner, seemed to dig the music.

At the set break, I learned that Marisa played her set before Jamie, meaning this 6:30-8:30 show was prompt. I have seen Marisa play before, however, and like Jamie, she plays an acoustic guitar delicately and sings with feeling. She also fashioned some fascinating apparel for the creatures of “Milk,” the local puppet theatre show.

Crumbs took awhile to set up their gear, because M&N isn’t really designed for a band. Half the group was hidden behind a wall. Defining musical space in new places is definitely refreshing as well. Another bonus is that we were on the same level as the band.

Crumbs’ music is absolutely haunting and beautiful and charming at the same time. I can’t say enough about the satisfaction I feel when musicians ignore “popular” music and make sound only derived from what their souls play in their heads. For instance, I’m hearing this live music in The Mill right now that might as well be on a credit card commercial. Crumbs reflect the essence of Daniel Johnston, who didn’t need expensive equipment or high volume to be accepted.

They started out well, but hit a few speed bumps, such as the bass amp shorting out, and a couple of tunes that were more so fragments. For one fragment, the female keyboardist/guitarist used a megaphone, but didn’t really sing as much as she made primal noise.

I was enthralled with the ambiguity of where one song ended and the next began. The key features of Crumbs include the two-part vocals between the said megaphone operator and the male guitarist. Their voices are wonderful by themselves, let alone combined. Sometimes the band plays off-key, but I think that’s interesting because they are not embarrassed about it. What I’ve come to realize about so many professional ensembles is that they can’t be perfect enough. I like how Crumbs rejects the established notion of perfection, and simply make music to let it out.

One of the more inventive parts was when a keyboard solo rose repeatedly into this high-pitched melody. A floor tom entered the fray, injecting some pleasant aggression. Another song involved concise piano beneath a three-part vocal, consisting of different sets of sounds and lyrics, so it sounds like a round. I also like how there isn’t a “frontman.” They all give their own personality to the songs to create something exponentially more exhilarating.

Cassettes were made available, also free. They were stacked in a cereal box, packaged with candy hearts in a confounding picture-emblazoned Zip-loc bag. If Crumbs were a car, they’d be a Volkswagen Rabbit. - Joe Younglove

Junior Mighty / Icarian Bird - The Zoo Bar - 2/1/05

I had band practice toinght, so I didn't get down in time to see Junior Mighty, however someone said they they played a very different type of set tonight. Lori didn't play drums, she played guitar the whole set, Brian was playing some accordian, I think, and I was told that it was a very different dynamic than their regular show.

Icarian Bird, I DID see, and their set was great. They have a very interesting sound because the music is pretty contemporary, Wilco-Son Volt-Americana type music, but the vocalist sounds much more like a classic country/folk/mountain type vocalist. The blend goes together very well, and they sounded really good. Tonight, Mark Bestul was making his debut on pedal steel with the band. He only played on a few songs, but the different between when he wasn't playing and when he was was pretty noticable. Mark adds a lot to the sound of the band. I can't wait to see these guys again. - Tery Daly

Michael Fancy / Joe Buck - Duffy's Tavern - 1/25/04

This show was supposed to be Joe Buck an Amy Huffman, but Amy came down with whatever it was that's been going around lately, and had to pull out of the show, but Michael Fancy stepped up to the plate and filled in at the last second.

Michael, better known for his work with Minutia Stew gave us a nice acoustic set which contained some Minutia Stew songs, some very old songs of his that he hasn't played live before, and a T.Rex cover. Michael has a great voice, and showcasing it an acoustic sets make it stand out in a different way then with the full band behind him. Even without his band, all the lights & fog, Michael is still Glam as hell. Really nice set.

Joe Buck was playing what was unoffically a CD Release show for his Lone Prairie Records bootleg series CD (which I strongly recommend picking up a copy of). Tonight was great because it was an intimate crowd, and Joe was having fun (as was the audience). At one point he was going to play "Francis From Idaho", but couldn't remember how it went. He did a few other songs, including a version of "Hey Jude Your House Is On Fire" that he played on a bass instead of his guitar, and that sounded pretty cool. He also did a kick ass, funny, cover of "Sandra Dee" from the Grease soundtrack. After a few more times messing around, he remembered the chords to "Francis From Idaho" and launched into it. As always, the audience was rapt listening to the lyrics, in which he changed the name in the "I once touched Tom Osborne" line to Johnny Carson to honor the late, great, Nebraska born comic. Based on the audiences reaction they seemed to like the set better and better as it went on. I know I did. - Tery Daly

The Marx / Shinyville - Duffy's Tavern - 1/23/05

The Marx made their Duffy's debut last night with their new bass player, Drew Semrad, and for only having him in the band for about a week the bands performance was very solid. They started the set with a surf instrumental that was cool, if a bit restrained. Most of the rest of their stuff leans towards a sound that strikes me as "After The Gold Rush" era Neil Young and the more coutryish side of R.E.M. They do mix it up and throw in a bit funk and a few other things too. I'm looking forward to seeing them again after they have more time to get really solid with their lineup.

Shinyville was up next, also making their Duffy's debut. This was my first time seeing them, and after all I'd heard of their show from other people and hearing their music, I was really looking forward to the set, and Shinyville didn't disappoint. They played a set of almost entirely new songs. Their sound leans heavily toward Mr. Bungle, with shades of The Chill Peppers, Zappa, and Devo rearing their heads throughout the set. Shinyville is definitely one of those bands you should see, rather than just hear, because they wear great costumes when they play. Tonight, the members (Popebot 2012 a.k.a. Jaime O'Bradovich on guitar, Dr. Tao Honeybunsen a.k.a. Brian Alt on guitar, and Mr. PanTastic, a.k.a. Scott Scholz on vocals.) were each wearing a different colored day-glo haz-mat suit, initially starting the set with their hoods up and cinched tight around their faces making them look slightly like neon California Raisins, or Tele-Tubbies on Acid Throughout the set they changed their hats occasionally including viking hats, chineses hats, raggae hat w/ dreads, and gas masks The best hat of the night, however, was Scott's milk carton hat with a cut out for his face in a missing ad. On it's own, the hat would have been great, but what made it even better is that it went with a hilarious song about Darren Keen, and how hard he is to get in touch with and how he never gets back with you when he says he will. The chorus goes:

"We want you, we want you
Darren Keen
To be true, to be true
Darren Keen
We miss you, we miss you
Darren Keen
Where are you?, where are you?
Darren Keen

and they handed out sing-along sheets so the audience could join in. Scott recorded/co-produced the first The Show Is The Rainbow CD, so the song is just a friendly jibe. Shinyville had taken about a year away from playing while going through some lineup changes, members moving, getting married, etc, but they're back, and you can tell they're very happy to be. Scott said they're hoping to be around a lot, so be sure to check them out next time they're around! There are some photos of the show (and the hats) on the Photos page.
- Tery Daly

Sad Old Lady / The Master 8000 - Duffy's Tavern - 1/19/05
The damnedest thing happened to me on the way home from work yesterday afternoon. There I was, driving along down I-180, listening to some delightful tunes on my stereo and not really paying attention to my fairly dangerous surroundings, when I suddenly hit a patch of ice and went careening down a hill (yes I drove down a hill on I-180, look, I don't remember where it was, all right?). With the ice and the tailwind and the hill and everything, I was gaining a lot more speed than usual.

I glanced at my speedometer... 85... 86... 87..., well I'm sure you can see where this is going, and of course I doubt anyone was surprised when my car abruptly disappeared, leaving twin trails of fire behind it. I'm sure the other drivers appreciated my melting the ice a little for them. Naturally, the first thing I did after time travelling was pick up a copy of the Omaha World Herald. It hadn't changed much - my Grand Am didn't get me very far as usual. It was January 19th, 2005!

So, of course, I bummed around and drank for a while. Talked to my future self, who was kind of irritated - you know, that guy's kind of an attention whore and he didn't want me stealing his thunder or whatever. He did invite me down to the show though. After a while, I got in a little conversation with Future Ben Clark at Duffy's and he suggested that I write this review so that all of us past versions of ourselves could know what we were getting into that Wednesday. I told him to fuck off and that I was leaving, but then I realized that my car was out of Plutonium so I might as well enjoy myself for a while. Future Ben and I did some shots of Future Tequila, which is surprisingly similar to regular Tequila.

The Master 8000 played their first ever set in front of one of the most diverse crowds I have ever laid eyes upon. In fact, I am absolutely positive that I saw every regular poster from this message board there. I hope it's all right to say that - you realize of course that by NOT coming after having read this, you could disrupt the entire space-time continuum, resulting in the violent destruction of the Universe. Just a thought. Anyway, I was mingling with the crowd, drinking shots with all the A-list celebrities that showed up, when I noticed an unusual glow coming from the doorway. Suddenly, in walks this guy with long hair and sandals, and a shining halo of light around the top of his head. I'm not sure, but I think Jesus actually came to our show. I was astounded. We did some shots together and you know what, he is a really great guy. You should remember to drop by and meet him on the 19th - I hear he doesn't come back very often.

Anyway, after The Master 8000 finished playing, I congratulated Future me on what was really a pretty cool set and he sort of shot me this look like "who the fuck are you?", so naturally I challenged his ass to a drinking contest. He sort of snorted with derision and said I wasn't worth it, but then Future Jeff called him a pussy so it was ON. We slammed several of those big ass shots they have at Duffy's like they were water, but I could see Future me sweating a little bit, so I went for the kill with a double shot of his one weakness, which I would love to reveal in this convenient review, but it happens to be a weakness I share with him. Anyway, his face immediately turned a disconcerting shade of greenish yellow, and he threw up all over everyone in his vicinity. He even threw up on Jesus. Fortunately for him, he was in two of the bands, so they elected not to kick him out... this time. In any case, it turned out fine and Jesus even turned the vomit into wine (he can do that) and everyone got considerably more drunk. It was fucking sweet.

So anyway, having thrown up a good portion of his drinking contest, Future me was able to play at least adequately for the Sad Old Lady set, although he stumbled around the stage a lot and knocked over Future Brent's keyboard stand a couple of times. No one was paying attention though, because Future Ben Clark was such a raving maniac. He actually shot light out of his eyes and fire out of his mouth at the audience. Something came out of his ass too. It was unbelievable. I am pretty sure he's not human; in fact, I think I saw him exchange a couple of knowing glances with Jesus across the room. Anyway, it was awesome.

After that, Jesus beat everyone else at poker and then it was time to go home. I got him to jumpstart my car with the power of eternal salvation, which surprisingly can in fact enable one to travel backwards through time. I got here just in time to write this review. The moral of this story is that I made Future Drunky McDrunkis puke from alcohol while he was standing right next to Christ and Ben Clark, and so therefore I am way cooler than all of you. Thanks for reading! - Drunky McDrunkis

Icarian Bird / Bugs Meany - The Zoo Bar - 1/4/05

The Zoo seems to be making a move towards booking more local original-material bands, a move that certainly deserves our support, so I and about two dozen other souls ventured out on a winter-storm-warning Tuesday to catch two innovative Lincoln bands at a venue more commonly associated with sweaty ol' 12-bar blues. Had to scrape my windshield clear twice, but it was worth it.

Bugs Meany and Icarian Bird are in some ways as contrasting a pair of bands as would fit on one bill ­ Bugs being a fast, loud three-piece band and Bird a slow, quiet multi-instrument quartet ­ but there was a subtle link in that both Gene, singer and guitarist in Bugs, and his opposite number in Bird (didn't catch his name) are drawn to the keys of D and G (the classic strummer¹s keys) and tend to stick to classic country/folk chord changes and song structure (relatively few minor or augmented chords, no middle eights). This gave the evening a nice, satisfactory traditional core, different as the bands were in other respects.

I've seen Bugs quite a few times and continue to be struck by Gene's growing confidence as a guitarist and vocalist; his guitar's tone has gotten growlier over the last year and his vocal twang more authoritative, both welcome developments. What strikes you immediately about the band, though, is the degree to which the relative harmonic and structural simplicity of the songs (and the absence of a "lead" guitarist) gives bassist Kevin and drummer Mike plenty of room in which to go nuts, and by golly, they do, with round-the-kit triplet fills from Mike and swooping all-over-the-fretboard runs from Kevin. The effect is somewhat like Neal Peart and Geddy Lee backing Johnny Cash ­ you wouldn't think it would work, but when they click, the sheer audacity of what the guys are doing makes for exciting music.

The very good sound system of the Zoo also meant that the wit of Bugs's lyrics could be appreciated ­ for instance, the song in which Lois Lane has an affair with Peter Parker, leaving Superman devastated while criminals run wild in Metropolis.

This evening was my first time hearing Icarian Bird, and I hope to have the pleasure again frequently. The singer, who I suppose is also the songwriter, had a vocal tone strongly reminiscent of Jay Farrar, and the songs too evoked the former Uncle Tupelo/ Son Volt front man ­ root-flavored, emotional in sometimes oblique and enigmatic ways, indirectly conveying a sense of stoically-endured pain. The songs, as I mentioned above, had a lot of family resemblance to each other as to keys, tempi, and structure, but monotony was averted thanks to a multi-instrumentalist member of the group who contributed on banjo, fiddle, accordion, and electric piano, so that the group¹s tone color was continually changing over the course of the set.

(It was great, by the way, to see and hear an honest-to-God Fender Rhodes electric piano again after years of electronic keyboards. Nothing else sounds like a real Fender Rhodes. It was also pretty cool that they did a Scott Walker cover ­ major Anglophile savviness points for that one, boys. And bonus points for having a guy who looks a bit like Frank Black.)

Brian (of Junior Mighty) and Eric (of Lone Prairie Records) played upright bass and drum kit, respectively (Eric added some atmospheric Telecaster on one number), providing firm, sympathetic, understated support for the songs.

The whole evening made me once again appreciative of the Lincoln music scene. The next big thing is probably not coming from here, but one can nevertheless go out just about any evening and see good, intelligent musicians doing innovative and interesting things ­ and that's enough to keep me happy. - Scott Stansfield

Icarian Bird / Bugs Meany - The Zoo Bar - 1/4/05

‘Twas a cold and snowy night yet I trekked down to the Zoo for my first show of 2005. Let me tell you, it was well worth risking life, limb and hypothermia.

Bugs Meany played first. I’ve seen them twice before but only for really short sets at Scenefest 2 and someplace else. This was a long set and they played an interesting array of songs. One song that Gene identified as a new song I thought was their best of the night. They did a few covers that were okay but their original stuff is more fun and interesting. The first time I saw them they reminded me of Husker Du but on Tuesday I didn’t see that as much, but that may have been because I had a harder time hearing the guitar. All in all a good band with good songs and loud, loud drums; that’s my only complaint, as I said, I had a hard time hearing the guitar and sometimes the vocals because the drums were pounded hard all night. Might have been the venue because the other times I’ve seen them they didn’t have that problem. But, still they’re fun to see and if you haven’t seen Bugs Meany go see them next time they play because, to my knowledge, they don’t play too often.

Icarian Bird was the real treat of the night though. Firstly, the caliber of the musician’s in that band is quite impressive. And I like it when people switch instruments during sets. One guy (Dave? Dan?) played a Fender Rhodes keyboard, banjo, accordion and fiddle and Eric Wickizer played drums and guitar on one song which led to a very interesting, entertaining set. They had so much equipment on stage that it seemed that it was going to be a problem to play, but they pulled it off well. To say they’re like Wilco would be an alright assessment but IB sticks to a much more fundamental roots style whereas a lot of bands in that vein try so hard to make old-style folk or country into some fusion with modern instrumentation by sampling odd sounds and the like, these guys just play good, soul-filled music. The singer really sings well in a gospel-esque, deep voice that really suits the music. Next time they play, everyone should check them out; these guys really seem to care about what they are doing and have done a great job capturing exactly the sound for which they’re striving. Oh yeah, and Lori Allison did a great duet with the IB singer to close out the night. - Mark Bestul