By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
“At this point I’m less impressed by the national press than the local press,” said Tafolla. “When Saddle Creek stuff makes it into the Omaha World-Herald, I get calls all week. We’d almost rather not get press here. It causes weird, unintended effects.”
“Heh, heh, heh.”
To be a part of Saddle Creek right now is to be living in a moment of high anticipation. Where will things go next? The last two years have been a high, the apogee of success. Now there exists a commitment to the city that none seems willing to give up, yet few seem ready to acknowledge the difficulties in staying put.
About a half-hour after arrriving in Omaha, I met a friend who happened to be spending the summer living in the city’s downtown. There was this lunch place he liked — an organic grocery called Jane’s — so we walked on over. They were playing indie rock on the stereo, so I figured why not . . .
“Can you tell me a bit about Saddle Creek?” I asked the countergirl.
“They’re all such rock stars,” she said, “and frankly, I’m sick of dating them. First of all, they’re all bi, and who wants to go out with a boy that makes out with their roommates? And Conor, Conor just does whatever he wants. Ugh. And their music is so crappy. All their songs sound the same.”
She was playing out some personal resentments, obviously, but her criticisms were familiar. This is a scene that is intensely self-aware. Cursive’s new record, for example, contains a song titled “Art Is Hard.” Among the chaotic Sturm und Drang of guitars, a swooping cello and tangled rhythms, front man Tim Kasher, a vocalist both tortured and erudite, launches into an internal monologue from the singer about the song:
Cut it out. Your self-inflicted pain
is getting too routine
the crowds are catching on
to the self-inflicted song
Well, here we go again
the art of acting weak
Fall in love to fail
to boost your CD sales
The song is a withering indictment of the emo scene at the forefront of which Cursive stands, venturing that the songs bands like his write — about love and love lost — do more than document reality. Rather, they acknowledge that their authors live melodramatically in order to fuel their art.
Kasher’s concern is more than lyrical. Cursive’s third album, Domestica, carefully dissects the collapse of his relationship with his first wife. Their marriage was one of the reasons Kasher quit music, broke up the band and moved to Portland, Oregon, in 1998; their divorce helped inspire a move back to Omaha in 2000, the resurrection of his band and a new set of lyrics.
When I left the Saddle Creek office, Maginn and Tafolla were in a rush. They wanted to be on time for that evening’s karate-themed house party. This did not immediately compute.
“There used to be a lot of house parties, more when everyone was underage,” explained Maginn. “Now it’s more like once a year. I have a ninja costume with a hood and everything.” The parties began simply enough (Tiki Party I, Tiki Party II), but in recent years have grown more ornate, and explicitly comedic (such as Porch Arrest Party, Dress As Your Favorite Stereotype, or Invention Party, which you couldn’t enter without an invention of your own creation). This year’s invitation read, “do b.y.o. sake / no karate try — karate do / dress like your favorite karate.”
That night I ended up at a small house in the middle of town, owned by a handful of local scenesters. It was twilight, and the sky was electric purple, the lawn burnt to beige and dirt. Over the wood fence that surrounded the house, two white box towers of a local church were visible in the distance. Inside, three dozen rocker kids — singers, waiters, high school teachers, the underemployed — were partying Omaha-style, drinking tallboys, rolling bocce balls across the burnt-out lawn, and dancing to Justin Timberlake. One of the house’s owners wore a satin jacket, headband and handlebar mustache. He reminded me of the evil sensei from the Karate Kid movies. One costume consisted of a white towel, wadded, stuffed, folded and formed into the shape of a sumo wrestler’s mawashi. It looked like a ragged diaper. Several guests wore it, in rotation.
Maginn was there in his black ninja suit. He encouraged me to indulge liberally in what the ice chest had to offer, and overlook the fact that it was all Miller High Life and Milwaukee’s Best. The first new person I met was a painter, dressed in outdoorsman gear, with a cynical look in his eye. I told him I was a reporter here to meet the folks from Saddle Creek.
“So what do you think of the Omaha rock scene?” he asked.
“Sweet,” I replied.
“Yeah, well, Spin seems to think it’s a big deal,” he shot back. Then he introduced me to a girl who worked at a hairstyling place on the outskirts of town. She had a band called Bleeders for Treats, one of many gems yet undiscovered, he said, “because she’s not friends with Conor.”‰