Concert Review: Longwave, Knife in the Water, Tie These Hands (April 16, 2003, Omaha, NE)

Tonight’s was as enjoyable a concert as I could’ve hoped for — though I felt bad for the bands that so few people showed up.

Sometimes I wonder why bands still come to the Lincoln/Omaha area. After all, I just got back from seeing a really good show with Tie These Hands, Knife in the Water, and Longwave — all bands that, in one way or another, should have some buzz surrounding them. However, there couldn’t have been more than 30 – 35 people there. Now I realize that it was a Wednesday night, but seriously, what else are people going to do on a Wednesday night?

These days, it seems like it takes a band such as Bright Eyes or The Faint to pack in a venue ’round these parts. If a Saddle Creek band isn’t playing, then forget about it, or so seems the logic among this area’s scene. God forbid that people take a risk and check out a band they weren’t familiar with, that they take a chance and possibly discover a new fave. Don’t worry: you can still break out your tight t-shirts and those stylishly faded Diesel jeans that look so cool. There will still be a crowd to check out your cool duds, it just won’t be as big.

It had been awhile since I’d seen Tie These Hands play, so it was great to see them again. They played a couple of newer songs that completely rocked. They then followed those up with a couple of older ones from their album, including “Crusading to Regress,” which is so catchy it’s criminal. I suppose that some might write them off as yet another emo band, and they definitely don’t hide their love for all things Deep Elm, but they’re so talented that it’s ridiculous. And they’re still a young band, and their sound seems to grow and develop each time I hear them.

The newer material they played seemed to have a much more aggressive edge than in the past, so I’m eager to hear those again. On a related note, they’re currently in the studio recording a split with Lincoln’s loudest band, Mr. 1986, and from what I’ve heard, it should be some pretty good stuff.

I saw Knife in the Water last year at the Junction, and was completely floored, so I was pretty excited to see them again. This latest performance, however, seemed to be lacking something, which I chalk up to Bill McCullough’s absence, as his lap steel is one of the defining aspects of Knife in the Water’s music. But even performing as a foursome, their set was still nothing to sneeze at, once I got over my initial disappointment that is.

They played a lot of stuff that I was unfamiliar with, including a couple of songs from their amazing self-released debut (which is only available from the band). The set’s high point was a smoking rendition of “Youngblood in the River,” a seductive, foreboding song that plays like a tune from Twin Peaks (if the show had been set in some sleepy Texas bordertown). Afterwards, I chatted with the band’s vocalist/keyboardist Laura Krause, a very nice lady who, as it turns out, is also a Lift To Experience fan. (She couldn’t believe they played in a place like The Junction.) She also told me the band has a new CD (Knife in the Water Cut the Cord) that should be coming out sometime soon.

I was unable to stay for all of Longwave’s set (curse having to get up early in the morning for work), but I enjoyed the few songs I did hear a lot more than I thought I would. Yeah, they’ve got that “New York sound” that’s hip these days. I heard shades of (especially) Interpol and Calla and maybe even a bit of The Strokes, but their performance had so much energy and verve that I found myself looking completely past that. I even found myself enjoying the lead singer’s onstage antics (dancing, throwing himself into some guitar-oriented seizure, etc.). Normally, that sort of thing smacks of cliched posing and quickly turns me off. It’s annoying to see bands do that as if it’s their right to do so simply because they’re onstage.

They seemed to be genuinely excited and happy to be playing their music, and the crowd’s disappointing size didn’t seem to faze them one bit. I don’t know if I see myself ever buying their CD (new, at least), perhaps because I have this sinking feeling that I’d listen to it once or twice before it just started gathering dust on my shelf. I think I’d rather have the image that I came away with from the show, that of a young band who simply enjoyed the music they were playing, without a care for what or sounded cool. If and when I do their CD, I can only hope that impression carries over.

Overall, tonight’s was as enjoyable a concert as I could’ve hoped for — though I felt bad for the bands that so few people showed up. Sometimes I wonder why it seems like so many great bands completely skip Omaha (and Lincoln). Then I see the size of the crowds that show up for the bands that do come through, and I have my answer.

The one bit of encouragement I do that is that the area has been experiencing a rash of great shows lately, due to folks like those at 1% Productions, who are doing a lot of the booking. Hopefully, this will encourage more Lincoln and Omaha citizens to grow a bit more adventurous. I’d love to see the place packed for a concert like the upcoming Ester Drang/Starflyer 59 show in June (hint, hint).

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