Editor's note: This article previews a concert series curated by Gus & Call every Thursday at 8 p.m., this month at Slowdown. RSVP to each respective concert: tonight, "Surf and Sand"; Dec. 15, "Carmina Novum"; Dec. 22, "Light It Up"; Dec. 29, "By the Hearth & Vocalise."
by Michael Todd
Beneath a clear, blue sky bigger than you ever did see, singer and six-string slinger James Maakestad’s wistful gaze seems to roll with the winds on the range. He dons his cowboy hat, lights up a cigarette and plays the part, on the edge of nowhere falling toward the middle, stalked at all intersections by his bloodline.
Or at least that’s one translation of Gus & Call. Maakestad’s band isn’t one to stick to a format, you see. The dust from barroom rafters might always seem to fall on their musical character sketches, but tonight, for one, they’ll ditch the boots for flip-flops at “Surf & Sand,” 8 p.m. at Slowdown. As the rest of December’s Thursdays fall in their hands as curators for a five-week concert series, themes such as “Carmina Novum” and “Light it Up” will thicken the plot.
Just nine months old, Gus & Call, a restructured form of Bear Country, has fired off in quick succession the usual milestones, if in a slightly non-traditional order: recorded an album in February, played a debut show in March and released an album in December. The task of creating a concert series sort of fell into their laps.
Aaron Markley, on keys and vibes, says the Slowdown approached them with the idea for a string of shows because “they must have been just wondering what to do with December. It’s usually a pretty slow month.”
The CD release show last Thursday went off without a hitch, Markley says, as Gus & Call played alongside InDreama and Honeybee & Hers, with interstitial music from DJ Tyrone Storm. Great American Desert’s Max Holmquist commended the band for a nonstop live trip through the album, noting that sort of thing probably won’t happen again this month.
Tim McMahan, in his Lazy-i review of the concert, says, “Their new album — as good a collection of wintry, reflective mood-folk and slide-guitar-fueled southern rock as you’ll find anywhere — misses in terms of capturing the band’s live energy.” He went on, saying that when the band breaks out their heavier material in concert, “it’s the second coming of the Allman Brothers band.”
Tonight, concertgoers can expect to hear a featured piece drawing on surf music and Westerns, Maakestad says, as well as “some other plain-old songs that we have in the repertoire.” Capgun Coup and Sun Settings will support, and Tyrone Storm will spin this and the following Thursdays during breaks to stave off the silence.
“We wanted to make sure every night was different from the last,” Maakestad says, “making the most of the residency for us and for people who will come out multiple nights.”
Michael Todd is a Hear Nebraska contributor. He would wear size 11 cowboy boots if you'd like to donate some. Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and you'll see if you can't cut him a deal.