Reviews

Someone Else's Deja Vu

Author: Chris Machian
04/10/2008 | Omaha World Herald | www.omaha.com | Feature
Less than a week before playing one of the world's largest music festivals, Son, Ambulance's current cast of musicians played its first show together.

In a smoky midtown bar, the Omaha band debuted songs that will round out their next album, "Someone Else's Déjà Vu," due out this summer. The gig also was a warm-up show before the Saddle Creek Records band played at the annual South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, last month.

Drummer Jeff Koster described that first show at O'Leaver's Pub as a "a little chaotic."

Chaotic was one way to put it. During Son, Ambulance's set, the power to the keyboards died, and the show stopped for a few minutes.

Lead singer Joe Knapp said preparation is important to any gig, even if it's just a few days. He said the shot at playing South by Southwest may have opened up opportunities for the band. Son, Ambulance's next gig will be Sunday at 9 p.m. at the Waiting Room Lounge, 6212 Maple St. The band is opening for Malpais.

Saddle Creek sent out a "feeler" e-mail to see how many bands were interested in playing South by Southwest. Knapp said he and enough other bands responded that the label set up a showcase there.

With various personnel, Son, Ambulance has been together for about a decade. Its debut album, "Oh Holy Fools," was released with Bright Eyes in 2001 on the Saddle Creek Records label. Since then, the group has released two more albums: "Euphemystic" and "Key."

The South by Southwest trip kicked it up a notch. Every year, more than 1,000 bands flock to Austin for the white-hot festival and conference that has become synonymous with cool.

For the trip to Austin, members of Son, Ambulance filled every square inch of a van and a car with their gear. A friend stopped by and gave them three cases of Red Bull energy drinks to keep them alert during the 15-hour drive.

At least one band member felt the effects of the trip.

"It's a young man's game," said bass player Dereck Higgins, who has been a Midwest musician since the 1970s. "I want to still try to have that experience, taking a band as far as successfully the band can go."

Son, Ambulance's first South by Southwest show was at a club called Emo's. Another Nebraska band, Ladyfinger (NE), opened the show. The place has some history; Johnny Cash played there in 1994.

Sax player James Cuato was impressed with the Austin culture.

"This place is so unique because you can walk down the center of the street and hear eight different bands playing in stereo," Cuato said. "I've never seen anything like this, with so many venues and so many different musicians. It's unbelievable."

While in Austin, backup vocalist Jenna Morrison hoped the band would stand out among the literally thousands of musicians playing.

"We are so different than anyone else here," she said.

Aside from the exhaustion of travel and hauling gear, Knapp said he feels good about the experience in Austin.

"It's a positive step, however small a step in the life of Son, Ambulance," Knapp said. "A few bands maybe got shot up. It can happen down there. There is a time for everything."
Someone Else's Deja Vu

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