Live Shots: Desaparecidos at the Regency Ballroom


A wave of nostalgia rolled fierce last night through the Regency Ballroom. It was everywhere – on stage with the Desaparecidos, a reformed group of five accomplished Omaha musicians, who seemed to lean on one another for comfort during noisy breakdowns, bending backward and lurching forward while playing all the tracks off their one album together, Read Music, Speak Spanish (Saddle Creek Records, 2002). It was in the rapturous, screaming crowd, mosh-pitting past its prime, and pumping skinny fists to the beat. And up on the balcony, it rose on my arms in the form of an endless series of goose pimples. Nostalgia sans irony.

In between tracks off Read Music, Speak Spanish, the band jumped out of the past and into the (possible?) future with brand new songs, including the recently released “MariKKKopa” and one that group leader Conor Oberst said they just named, “Anonymous.”

Oberst, ever the emotive front person, threw his long pony hair back and kicked his red bandana-swaddled leg up during the intense guitar swells and his mid-lyric yelps of "woo!" The singer-guitarist-Bright Eyes mastermind also talked about the disparity between the rich and the poor, the problems with a two-party system, Arizona's sheriff, Obama's short-comings (fewer cheers there), and a whole lot about the RNC. I also think he called someone a witch?

As one balcony-percher noted, “he's preaching to the choir.” And another, “I feel like this political rhetoric was more interesting 10 years ago.” That would be when the band first came out, railing against the American dream. Still, it was nice to hear that someone out there in the music biz still cares; and that there are relatively mainstream bands still willing to stand up for what they believe. Sure, Desaparecidos is a cult favorite on an indie label, but Oberst supposedly dated Winona Ryder, so it's not like he's exactly under the radar. Anyways, I can't recall if he discusses such issues during Bright Eyes sets as well, but he certainly seems more intense with all the fury of Desaparecidos. And his vocals were stronger than ever.

The most nostalgic track of all (at least in my general area) was “Manana.” Rousing lyrics being, “We will learn, we will love, we will work to change each other/We will spread, we will cover the earth like air and water/Tomorrow is blank, well, just fill it in with our little answers/If we are stopped, well, just start again.” And ending with an intro callback, Oberst howling “Yes, today we are giving birth to our own fu-tur-r-re.”

Down in the crowd below Oberst, the pit ebbed and flowed. There were crowd-surfers and rising plumes of smoke. After a tight hour and 15-minute set, Desaparecidos played a brief encore that included the Clash's "Spanish Bombs," during which time a rapid fan tried to get at Oberst and a guitar tech and security guards snapped into action. Oberst put his hands out, saying “it's fine, it's fine.” After finishing the cover, Oberst ran up to drummer Matt Baum and apologized for something, then kissed him on the mouth.

The band closed out with screamy “Hole in One.” Baum cracked hard into his drums then whipped the sticks onto the stage. The whole thing was over before 11pm, like some sort of back-in-time dream.

All photos by Chris Stevens. 

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