When: MONDAY (Dec. 23)
Where: Waiting Room
Phone: (402) 884-5353
By MarQ Manner, Ph.D, Rockology
The late-90s and the early-2000s was a time when local Omaha music was on a massive upswing. Omaha bands like Blue Moon Ghetto, Grasshopper Takeover and Clever were getting radio airplay locally and hitting the road. 311 already had their own “day” and festival somewhere other than Omaha, and local bands could fill the clubs. Saddle Creek Records artists were taking off in a different direction through a different scene adding to the diversity of the musical culture.
One band in the thick of the local scene was.
Members of Mandown had been in Old Boy Network and Blue Moon Ghetto and were looking to have some fun while creating music. Mandown played shows locally and regionally to increasing success and in the end they put out two albums, including the lauded "Shoulders," which spawned the regional hit “I Would Fly Around You” (The Helicopter Song). The band would tour aggressively, “take it seriously,” get some label interest, and eventually called it a day.
Mandown put on some of their most memorable shows at the Ranch Bowl in the time after the release of “Shoulders.” The band had improved on those songs live and were also bringing new material to the stage. The shows were one big sweaty, bouncy party that people in that scene tried to never miss out on. You were always going to have a good time with a lot of people and probably get pretty drunk and dance until the end of the night at a Mandown show. Now, over 10 years later, Mandown will finally take the stage in Omaha again in our new party central, Benson, to perform at the Waiting Room Lounge, 6212 Maple St., on Monday December 23 with reuniting contemporaries the Fonzarellies and 8th Wave. Advance tickets are on sale through Etix and Homers Records in the Old Market.
I met up with three of the four members of Mandown this past week at Jerry’s Bar to discuss what the members have been up to and what brought about this reunion after so many years.
Marq - Give me a brief history of how the band originally got together.
Joel Kassera - Dave (Backhaus), Vince (Giambattista) and Jim Watson came into Homer’s when I was working there and asked me to play drums for Old Boy Network, which I did at the very end. Jimi moved away and we didn’t want to quit. These two guys were like, “You want to f*** around?” and five years later we are boxing in a parking lot in Arkansas.
Dave - We were all doing music full-time, and when all of our bands went defunct and we were looking for something else.
(There is then a debate on all of the facts about how they actually got together)
Joel - Apparently, we have no idea how it started. In the end it works out great because we are having a s**t ton of fun. There is nothing else we want to accomplish, but have fun.
Vince - Counting our blessings. Counting our ranch dressing.
Joel - I hate when people put ranch dressing on pizza.
MarQ – What were the highlights of Mandown to you guys?
Vince - “Helicopter” was a big hit.
Joel - Having a song on the radio. Playing the House of Blues in LA. Potentially getting signed and doing some showcases.
Dave - We did a showcase in San Diego and played in front of two radio execs in suits in the middle of the day.
Joel - That wasn’t a highlight-that sucked. Plus, we hit a skunk and stunk. Sitting in the House of Blues in L.A. in the dressing room was a big deal for us. That was a highlight.
Dave - When “Helicopter” was on the radio that was our summer of headlining the Ranch Bowl.
Joel - There was a time when all the bands were getting along, and partying and there were a lot of happy people.
Joel - That is why we are having 8th Wave and the Fonzies play.
Dave - That was a show that happened a lot back then.
MarQ - Who are some of your other contemporaries from that era?
Dave - We played with Pomeroy, Anchondo, Jank 1000, Straight Outta Jr. High, Backlight Sunshine. We were plugged into that Weezer/Foo Fighters pop rock scene-that up-tempo pop rock scene.
MarQ - You have recently put the album “Shoulders” up online again on Spotify and iTunes. It still holds up. How does that feel?
Dave - I felt good that a few people told me that. A guy in Texas told me that. I want it to still be meaningful.
Joel - There is always the wish of what we could of done with what we put on it, but living in Arizona for a long time people that heard it there said’ you should still be playing this music.
Dave - That is why we haven’t played in a long time is because Joel moved to Arizona.
Joel - The songs that we played live, that we didn’t record – we are going to try to record them. There are some loose plans to do more. People want this show to happen and maybe they will want us to put something down. I want to record those songs as they are memories and moments for me that I want to have.
Dave - They are our body of work and we want to have them for ourselves.
Joel - This isn’t about “Hey look at us!” This is about come rock out with us.
Vince - The people that still remember us.
MarQ - Well you guys got quite the reaction on social media when it started to leak that you guys were hanging out and then eventually doing a show.
Joel - That may be one of the better moments around the band. The vibe of the picture that Chris Crutcher took.
Vince - Every year someone asks me about Mandown.
MarQ - Just one per year?
Joel - It’s his mom.
MarQ - When Mandown played, what did you want to accomplish on stage?
Joel - We went for pure adrenaline. We beat ourselves to death in practice. We definitely tried to pull energy out of a crowd.
Dave - We felt like we found our sound on “Shoulders” and that it had a lot of hooks and that was what we were going for. I think we all liked rock music.
Joel - We were all closet hessians.
MarQ - What have you guys done in the past 10 years?
Joel - I became an adult. I worked at one place for nine years. I bought a house. I kind of grew up. I kind of got away from music. That is what makes this so much more awesome. I miss it. I got away from it enough that it is new, exciting, and real and fun again. Down there I just took a break and recharged the batteries. I am still kind of grown up but I still like to get crazy. I have gotten married and have a baby girl on the way.
Dave - When he would tell me that he didn’t have a guitar anymore-I was like ‘wow he really went away’. We missed him. It is exactly what he said. It’s full circle, back to the beginning and its fun for us again. We are friends again. We were doing it for real then and things got serious.
Vince - We were touring and trying to take it somewhere.
MarQ - What about you Vince and Dave? You have both remained very active in the Omaha music scene.
David - I have played in Prospect Ave, Malpais, Lonely Estates, Old Boy Network and Secret Weapon all kind of at the same time.
Vince - Ten Club, Blue Bird, I was in Secret Weapon for a moment. We revisited Old Boy Network for a moment.
MarQ - How about the drummer Scott Evans who is actually practicing with another band tonight?
David - He is and was in Secret Weapon, Two Drag Club, Malpais, Lonely Estates and Old Boy Network.
David - In my personal life I got married and that was nice. Honestly, I have been chugging along. I have always been playing music….if something breaks up I always have a group of talented friends to play with in new projects.
Vince - I rebuilt my front steps last summer.
MarQ - What have practices been like?
Dave - A lot of laughs, a lot of fun and a lot of memory juice. Like Joel said we were always trying to better the songs and make them better. So we tried to remember them the way they were live before we broke up not how they are on the album.
Joel - We are putting some new twists in there also. When we are playing in the basement it feels like we are playing in front of 10,000 people. This has been one of the longest months of my life. I haven’t played a show forever. I have been telling the guys that I wish I could take a nap and just wake up on Monday. I cannot wait to play in front of these people again.
Dave - Mandown was a time when we were really trying to do music. We toured a lot and tried to make music a career. It is fun to get with the guys again to get back with them again.
Joel - It’s fun being with the guys and it’s like we are playing the first show that we have ever played. It’s almost explosive at times.