Life With the Conchords, Big Black, and Another Showbox in SoDo

Cruel Summer.

Discussing the weather in a music column isn't very rock 'n' roll, but as almost every person I chat with these days asserts, we are really getting the shaft on the sunshine this year. Lack of bona fide summer weather kept me away from Havana's outdoor screening of Xanadu last week, which was a serious drag. Few things bring me more joy than Olivia Newton-John on roller skates, so I wasn't too thrilled about staying in that night. Luckily, the result of my unintentional homebody status was that I finally got into HBO's Flight of the Conchords.

Essentially a breezy indie-pop answer to Tenacious D's now-tired heavy-metal satirical sketch work, FOTC is required viewing for the Pitchfork crowd and quite possibly the funniest show on TV since Arrested Development or The Office. The genre-surfing, folk-minded duo of New Zealanders Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement have migrated to New York City in hopes of landing in the buzz bin, but spend much of their time fruitlessly chasing girls, gigs, and a sustainable income. McKenzie and Clement have delightful collective comic timing, and a refreshing sense of charming humility that plays itself out to great effect when they are earnestly shooting for the stars, such as their ultra-low-budget, robot-themed video shoot for "The Humans Are Dead." "But we don't look like Daft Punk!" laments Clement, looking down despondently at his cardboard-and-silver-spray-paint costume. Between priceless moments like that and stellar supporting work from comedians Kristen Schaal (as the band's singular, psychotic fan) and Rhys Darby (their bumbling wanna-be manager), watching FOTC is the sort of Sunday ritual fit for group viewings, so if you don't have cable, it's time to make friends with someone who does. Incidentally, the band also has local ties: Sub Pop just released its debut EP last week, and has plans to issue a full-length in early 2008.

Speaking of ritualistic group viewings, the shared energy of a packed crowd at Jules Maes this past Saturday for the Big Black cover night, Fucking About Songs, was gleefully intense. Full disclosure: The night was curated by my boyfriend and Jules Maes booking agent, JJ Wandler, but that shouldn't exclude me from giving credit to an impressively dedicated group of bands (almost a dozen altogether) that paid tribute to the legendary, Steve Albini–fronted trio responsible for dragging punk rock into the industrial age. With a surprising absence of drum machines and an admirably experimental mind-set, the bands took their homage homework seriously, and the attentive crowd (including Schoolyard Heroes' Jonah Bergman and Harvey Danger's Sean Nelson) ate it up. Among the highlights were Erin Jorgensen's marimba-based interpretation of "Cables"; Little Brown's (members of the Cripples and the Gloryholes) appropriately raw and guttural renditions of "Racer X" and "Fish Fry"; and I'm a Gun's brilliantly executed version of "The Power of Independent Trucking," played with heavy-hitting help from ex-Jawbreaker and current Short Birds bassist Chris Bauermeister. Many of the musicians were so pleased with the evening that they signed up for slots on the club's future Minutemen cover night, scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 1.

Something else worth signing up for is time to testify at this week's meeting of the City Council's Economic Development and Neighborhoods Committee, at the High Point Community Center (6920 34th Ave. S.W.) on Thursday, Aug. 16, at 6 p.m. Despite the fact that the City Council had already passed a reasonable package of new nightlife rules that allowed for an advisory board, enhanced security requirements for clubs, and increased enforcement staffing for the city, council members Jan Drago and David Della put Mayor Nickels' original, unreasonably constrictive licensing proposal back on the table, effectively making the contemplated regulations even more aggressive. What's more, the council is also reviewing a new noise ordinance, which has yet to be made public but is expected to be voted upon at Thursday's meeting. Go and make your live-music-loving voice heard, or at the very least, write to the council and express your concerns (go to for complete contact info).

Showbox proprietor Jeff Steichen certainly isn't letting the threat of increased regulation slow down his ambitions. Steichen recently acquired the seemingly cursed SoDo space previously known as the Premier (and, more recently, as the Fenix). The venue will be logically rechristened as Showbox SoDo; it opens for business next month, with plans for major renovations in early 2008. Booking agent Chad Queirolo already has plenty of covetable bookings locked down, including a Pogues show on Oct. 17 and the Hives on Nov. 1.

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