Conor Oberst reunites Mystic Valley Band for first of two sold-out nights - Omaha.com
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Conor Oberst(Chris Machian/The World-Herald)


Conor Oberst reunites Mystic Valley Band for first of two sold-out nights
By Kevin Coffey / World-Herald Staff Writer


Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley band haven't really released new material in four years, but that didn't stop anyone from enjoying themselves.

It didn't stop Slowdown from selling out Wednesday (or today, when the band will play again) and it didn't stop people from traveling from as far away as Wisconsin, Texas, Georgia and Pennsylvania, among other places, to see the indie rock group.

set list

• NYC - Gone, Gone
• Souled Out!!!
• Slowly, Oh So Slowly
• Danny Callahan
• To All the Lights in the Windows
• Air Mattress
• Wedding Day in Funeralville
• Spoiled
• Moab
• Cape Canaveral
• Sausolito
• Get-Well-Cards
• Nikorette
• Difference is Time
• One of My Kind
• I Got the Reason #2
ENCORE
• Big Black Nothing
• Roosevelt Room
• I Don't Wanna Die (In the Hospital)

"Hello my friends," Oberst said after taking the stage. "How's the summer goin'?"

Wednesday's show felt cathartic, both for Oberst and the crowd. Oberst smiled through the show, and continually thanked the audience. He also played raging folk rock songs ("Moab") as well as quiet, contemplative tunes ("Cape Canaveral") and big, rambling rock numbers ("I Don't Want to Die (In a Hospital)."

And the audience, packed into Slowdown, listened reverently during the quiet times and shouted so much during rowdier tunes that Oberst's voice sounded like it had a dull, fuzzy echo.

Oberst, as we all know, is an Omaha native and widely considered one of the best songwriters around (including by this music critic). He brought the Mystic Valley Band back together the only two concerts the band will play all year, and it was a sought after ticket.

Through more than 90 minutes, the band played a retrospective of material from its two albums, 2008's "Conor Oberst" and 2009's "Outer South." Despite the band's four-year dearth of new material, those in attendance also swayed and sang during 19 songs in the set.

A genial Oberst, in a denim vest and black shirt, explained the meaning behind many of the band's songs, some of which were recorded in Mexico's Valle Mistico (hence the band's name) and others in Texas.

The Southwestern, Mexican and Texas influence on the songs - especially tunes such as "Nikorete," "Get Well Cards" and "Sausolito" - made many of them feel made for a summer night.
Many of the songs, which Oberst explained were about getting out of town, were energetic tunes that made me want to hit the asphalt with the windows rolled down. And they made the audience sing along and raise their hands in the air.

Though he's the frontman, Oberst wasn't the sole focus of the show. Nik Freitas and Taylor Hollingsworth created guitar riffs caked in sandy grit that makes the Mystic Valley Band sound close to classic rock riffs and gritty Neil Young folk rock.

Oberst also took a back seat to songs sung by Hollingsworth ("Air Mattress"), drummer Jason Boesel ("Difference Is Time") and Freitas ("Big Black Nothing.")

"Wedding Day in Funeralville," a John Prine song the band recorded for a compilation, was a rowdy highlight that came midway through the set.

Through most of the show, the band had the volume turned up, but "Cape Canaveral," one of the Mystic Valley's Band's best known songs, was also the quietest the band played all night. But by the end of the song, the band joined Oberst's acoustic guitar while he spit the lyrics out like he was mad at them.

Since so many people had traveled to Omaha for Oberst's hometown show, it felt like an injection of energy into the audience. Unlike those of us that live here, they probably haven't seen the indie rocker perform a dozen times, and that translated to an even more entertaining night.

The band - and especially Oberst, who was really chatty on Wednesday - seemed to revel in that and play even harder through the night.

It makes me wonder what they have saved, both in energy and in song, to bring to tonight's show.

Contact the writer: Kevin Coffey

kevin.coffey@owh.com    |   402-444-1557    |  

Kevin covers music, whether it's pop, indie or punk, through artist interviews, reviews and trend stories. He also occasionally covers other entertainment, including video games and comic books.

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