And now, the fun part.
What’s an article that celebrates a music venue’s 10-year anniversary without a list of the best shows performed at said venue? Considering that The Slowdown and The Waiting Room each host in the neighborhood of 150 shows per year, it’s hard to pick favorites.
In fact, when put on the spot, the clubs’ owners struggled to list their stand-outs, but with some gentle prodding, they came up with some zingers.
Jason Kulbel, who co-owns The Slowdown with Robb Nansel, pointed to the first Atmosphere concert hosted at his club. “He’s got this song, ‘Trying to Find a Balance,’ one of his bigger songs,” Kulbel recalled. “I was standing side stage during that song and have never seen the room freak out like that. Everyone in the room was moving as much as they possibly could.”
Kulbel also cited the last time Against Me! played Slowdown this past February. “It was the best Against Me! show I’ve ever seen,” he said. “I’ve probably seen 20 Against Me! shows. I love that they can kick that much ass this far into their lives.”
But maybe the biggest standout evening was a Stephen Malkmus show at Slowdown in 2008 held the same night Barack Obama won his first presidential election. “That’s definitely one of the better memories I have,” Kulbel said. “We had a plan to have the screen down so people could check the election results, and before (Malkmus) even went on it was clear that Obama had won. The band just got really drunk and everyone was having a great time. It was a very joyous night.”
Nansel also pointed to that Malkmus show as being on top of his list of favorites.
“Other milestones, of course, were opening night with Bright Eyes,” Nansel said, “and the Slowdown Virginia reunion show” from December 2010. Another classic Nebraska band, Polecat, opened that night.
Nansel listed a last-minute Broken Social Scene show hosted in Slowdown’s front room that came together when he bumped into the band on a day off from their tour and asked if they wanted to play his club. A last-minute show by The Notwist in the front room is another favorite, along with St. Vincent and The National “and of course all the Saddle Creek band shows, parking lot shows and GOO nights.”
Ah, those GOO nights, now there’s something I don’t regret missing.
When it comes to The Waiting Room, co-owner Marc Leibowitz pointed to early shows from Dr. Dog and Brother Ali as among his favorites. “Then we’ve had some legends play at The Waiting Room, like Steve Earle,” he said.
“Lee Ranaldo was just so f—-ing phenomenal the night he played The Waiting Room,” Leibowitz added. “Built to Spill was a very memorable night. Built to Spill had been playing Slowdown all the time. We got them to play The Waiting Room, and it was a big deal for us.”
Jim Johnson, co-owner of The Waiting Room, pointed to the first reunion of golden age Omaha punk band Mousetrap, who played his club in late December 2010.
“The Jonathan Richman / Vic Chesnutt show (from March 2008) was really important to me,” Johnson said. It was the last show Chesnutt would play in Omaha before his death in December 2009. Johnson also pointed to that time The Waiting Room hosted Steve Earle.
Leibowitz added that as One Percent Productions, he and Johnson are proud to put on shows anywhere “whether it’s at Slowdown, Sokol, The Holland Center or wherever, but putting on a show at The Waiting Room means more than putting shows on in someone else’s facility. It’s where our heart is.”
What were my favorite shows? At The Waiting Room, the first that jumps out is The Faint show held there just a couple days after the club opened on March 11, 2007. It was an invitation-only break-in of The Waiting Room’s sound system. The sub-woofers definitely got a workout that night.
Other Waiting Room favorites include St. Vincent, July 25, 2007 — Annie Clark on lead guitar fronting a punk band, she’s never sounded better. After finishing her set, she returned alone to do a cover of “These Days” Nico-style, sitting on the edge of the stage with an acoustic guitar, surrounded by fans bent close to hear her quiet voice.
Monotonix opening for Silver Jews Oct. 7, 2008 — The band took the show outside when drummer Ran Shimoni banged on a snare while frontman Ami Shalev climbed a traffic signal pole along Maple Street.
Then there’s the first Future Islands show at The Waiting Room November 2, 2011 — no one had heard of them yet, and only a handful of people were there, but frontman Sam Herring was at his flamboyant best.
Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks Feb. 16, 2014, at The Waiting Room was like a mini Pavement reunion for an over-the-top rendition of “Unfair” off Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain that featured special guest Bob Nastanovich contributing his classic yelling.
My favorite shows at The Slowdown include Daniel Johnston and the Rayguns, Feb. 9, 2008 – You never know what you’re going to get when crazed genius Johnston comes to town. The highlight: When the crowd serenaded an absent Johnston with “Devil Town.”
Mogwai, May 11, 2009 — During the encore, a woman nearby cringed and covered her eyes, cowering against the STROBES and the NOISE, waiting for it all to end. First she would have to endure 10 minutes of pain created by Mogwai’s arsenal of effects pedals “played” while the band kneeled on stage, covered in a shower of lightning. Epic.
St. Vincent at Slowdown’s front room, June 3, 2009 — Backed by violin, bass, drums and a guy on woodwinds (flute, saxophone, clarinet), St. Vincent’s Annie Clark created dreamy, theatric, rocking sounds like the second coming of Kate Bush. That show was almost matched by a second St. Vincent show, this time on the big stage, May 14, 2012.
Finally, there was that very strange Cat Power show Nov. 22, 2013, and more recently Mark Kozelek on the front room stage Oct. 3, 2016.
No doubt our lists of favorite shows will only grow over the next 10 years.
Over The Edge is a monthly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on culture, society, music, the media and the arts. Email Tim at firstname.lastname@example.org