Concert Review: Anamude, Fromanhole, Little Brazil (August 24, 2003, Omaha, NE)

I suppose I should flaunt the whole “I run a music webzine” tag more often. I do get the occasional free CD to review, but so what? Everyone knows the cool points come when you can waltz into a venue, breeze to the head of the line, and decked out in your indie threads, point to your name on the guest list. Or maybe not. And I guess it didn’t matter Sunday night, because even if I hadn’t been put on a list I still would’ve gone.

Anamude’s performance was just one of those little gems, a performance that you pity everyone else for having missed (even if some of them were seeing Radiohead in St. Louis that night). Although not quite as intimate (read: empty) as last year’s Denison Witmer/Rosie Thomas show, it had that same feel for me. It didn’t hurt that Anamude’s breezy folk/pop bears some similarities to Ms. Thomas’ (and that both gals have similarly good-natured personalities).

While I had enjoyed Anamude’s Urban Comforts EP, I was rather unprepared for her performance. While her lilting voice was quite nice, her nimble guitar playing had me enthralled. Somehow I’d missed that facet of her music when I listened to the EP. At times, she didn’t even seem to be hitting the strings, but merely brushing them, coaxing a shimmery cascade of sounds from her acoustic. And I wasn’t the only who felt that way; the crowd responded quite favorably after each song, which Ana took in stride with a self-deprecating smile.

Only a fraction of Ana’s set consisted of material from the EP (including a revved up version of “Brokedown”). Since she’s recording for her new album at the end of the tour, I’m assuming that the remainder of the set was primarily new songs for the upcoming record. While Ana wasn’t performing, I had a chance to talk to her about the tour, the EP, what she should check out while in town — the usual breeze you shoot with a touring musician. Unlike some standoff-ish musicians, she was very humble and charming, excited to be touring and meeting new people, and totally approachable.

Little Brazil opened, and I think I had a grin on my face for much of their entire set. Sometimes it was because their messy emo-tinged power pop — with its choppy, distorted guitars, pogo-ing rhythms, and heartfelt vocals — would suddenly coalesce into something imminently enjoyable. And sometimes it was because their stage antics often made their music too silly to take seriously.

Every time one of the guitarists climbed up next to the drums, I knew it was only a matter of time before they’d launch into a flying kick, and when all three guitarists pointed their axes skyward in unison, I’m surprised my chuckling didn’t get a dirty look. I was just waiting for one of them to pull an “Angus Young.”

While silly at first, the Little Brazil’s histrionics got rather annoying, but only because they made it difficult to focus on the music. It just felt like the band was trying much harder than they needed to make their music intense, when their considerable enthusiasm would be better spent honing and tightening their music. As for the rock moves, they’re better left for the likes of Sum 41.

Watching Fromanhole close out the night was a somewhat surreal experience. Some of that had to do with their music, I suppose. But much of it had to do with the realization I had halfway through their set that I’d gone to high school with the bassist/vocalist. Musically, Fromanhole pushes out some pretty pummeling sounds, especially when Doug Kiser’s screams came through the PA. The music sometimes had an almost jazzy grindcore element to it, due in large part to the heavy, yet fluid basslines. But at the same time, intricate guitar passages could be heard winding through the dissonance, making Fromanhole’s music far more intriguing than it seemed at first.

In contrast to their punishing sound, the band was pretty lighthearted on stage. They never seemed to take themselves too seriously, instead engaging the crowd in some jovial banter whenever they messed up or broke a string (which happened quite a bit).

Between the 3 artists performing, there was quite a bit of musical variety. But for some reason, it went together surprisingly well. Somehow, Ana’s nimble folk music didn’t feel out of place or overwhelmed when followed by Fromanhole’s sonic trainwreck. Perhaps it was because of the refreshing lack of indie tude that one often thinks of when imagining a local show. Everyone was there supporting friends and good music instead of frontin,’ and even Ana commented on the cool vibe as she scribbled in her little tour journal. I hope the vibe’s the same when she comes back through in the spring.