Wednesday May 5th, 1999 at The Bottleneck in Lawrence, KS
Olivia Tremor Control & The Music Tapes

I found out about this show with about 6 hours warning. I was checking on the date to another show when I noticed the May calendar was up. Woah, Olivia Tremor Control! I tried to talk Michael into going but he said he had work to do (he didn't end up doing it anyway). Nessa said she just wasn't up for a late night so after geek night (Wednesday nights I get together with a bunch of geeks and play a shameful board or card game usually involving dragons or elves or something), I pointed the car towards Lawrence.

I knew it was at The Bottleneck but for some reason I was on Reply time and when I arrived at the club a little before 11, The Music Tapes launched into their third song. I was totally blown away by how many people were in the club. There were hundreds there. A few weeks early when Of Montreal played at the Bottleneck there were only dozens. I guess OTC were bigger than I thought. Are there that many people into this thing or is it just hype that sucked in alternative kids who were told this was what they should like?

I found my way to the front of the stage. The Music Tapes are an Elephant 6 band consisting of a million players that come and go and are in every other band in the collective as well. Largely though The Music Tapes is Julian Koster. He is an unlikely rock star, young and geeky in a dirty white dress shirt standing on a packing flat and playing banjo, or guitar, or saw, or kickball or well you get the idea. Backing him were a host of musicians on a host of instruments (drum kit, keyboards, assorted percussion, assorted brass, 7' metronome, large wooden hands, bass, guitar...). Somehow all the chaos culminates as simple pop songs full of swirl and invention.

Who would think to create percussion by stomping on a packing flat covered in chicken wire with a microphone under it? Who would think that you could bounce a kick ball on the flat to create a lovely raw snare sound with a built in back-beat? Only Julian. There were several tracks where an animated face on a computer screen sang with a human backing band. It doesn't get much better than that, and I was very impressed.

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I wasn't impressed however by the 45 minute delay before OTC played. I realize there were tons of stuff to crate off, and more stuff to get on stage, but I was really tired (running on 4 hours of sleep in the last 3 days) and the hot smoky club was making me feel sick.

OTC is another band with a sprawling list of players (almost half of which were on stage during the last act) on guitar, bass, violin, clarinet, sousaphone, banjo, saw, keyboards, drum kit, and anything else they could find. The songs are more structured than The Music Tapes with more room to fill out a song but the same ability to create a perfect pop song out of such disparate sounds. The harmonies of OTC are often heralded (like those of Of Montreal) but up front at The Bottleneck everything sounds like shit.

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About 20 minutes into their set I was feeling pretty sick so I moved back in the crowd a little bit to try and get out of the hot lights. It didn't work so I snapped a few shots and then pushed my way out of the club and headed home. Ya know I was not feeling well if I didn't even stop to pick up donuts.

After a few quick 80mph naps on the road I pulled into a gas station parking lot and slept for a few hours only to wake up feeling worse. Then, feeling worse, I had to drive home so I could get another couple of hours of sleep before I had to shower and change for work. Next time they play I'll prepare properly by eating a good breakfast, taking my vitamins, wearing clean underwear and napping at work.