Maha responds to local stage selection criticism (and how they’ll never be able to please everyone)…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , — @ 12:48 pm May 30, 2012

by Tim McMahan,

Maha logo

Comments from a blog post on Lazy-i last week raised the eyebrows of one Mike App, the gentleman responsible for booking the local stage at this year’s Maha Music Festival.

The blog post outlined Maha’s announcement of the remaining main stage acts, along with the local stage line-up: Icky Blossoms, The Mynabirds, UUVVWWZ, Universe Contest and Eli Mardock. A sixth band will be selected by popular vote from performers at an Omaha Entertainment and Arts (OEA) showcase to be held in the near future.

Among those commenting was a Lazy-i reader named “Jake” who had issue with the local band selection, saying that many bands who have played OEA showcases “for free” in the past have never made the Maha cut. “To see so many Saddle Creek acts is just a poor choice,” Jake said, adding, “Once again Maha has picked their friends to play along with Garbage (yuck) and left out all the bands who have played their fundraiser and supported them…” You can read his comments and others’ at the bottom of this post.

Before we get to Mike App’s response I should point out that Maha is never going to please everyone, and shouldn’t try. There always will be bands in the line-up that someone doesn’t like, whether on the local or national stage. Jake’s larger complaint is that some bands he likes (and he lists them) have yet to play Maha (and Jake has pretty good taste).

But such is the way of the world. I’ve asked Maha to book Digital Leather on the local stage for a few years. It’ll likely never happen, and it’s (probably) partially my fault because I’m the one who pointed out DL’s content (especially on earlier albums) isn’t exactly “family friendly,” with songs like “Slut” and “Studs in Love” and the irresistible “Please Be Quiet” (with its lovely chorus, “Shut the fuck up.”). But who ever said rock ’n’ roll should be safe? In the end, I have no idea why DL isn’t playing Maha, but I never thought it had anything to do with App or any of the Maha people “picking their friends,” and App inasmuch reiterates that in his response:

“The local stage (selection) started out as a battle of the bands format, but based on input from the music community — including two of the most vocal opponents, Tim McMahan and Kevin Coffey — we responded and shifted course to the format we employ today,” App wrote. “This year we allowed six different organizations the opportunity to make those selections.

— “OEAA ‘popularity contest’ format during the Benson showcases each summer selects the Maha opener.

— “Maha board selects the local stage closer/headliner, which is based on lots of input from the likes of (Tim McMahan), Chris Aponick, Kevin Coffey, Andy Norman, Kent Wolgamott and anyone else who wants to weigh in. We listen. In our four years that’s been It’s True, Satchel Grande, Somasphere and Icky Blossoms.

— “The managers at Waiting Room, Slowdown, Duffy’s and Bourbon each suggest 3-4 bands, from which Maha and Hear Nebraska representatives sit down to discuss and select. The input received when making the Maha board selection also goes into this decision. BUT, if the tavern manager does not suggest a band, we don’t have the ability to discuss it.

— “Maha is underwritten and driven by the community. We have tried our damnedest to engage broad swaths of that community when forming and shaping Maha. This present format provides Maha with more stakeholders than if we selected all the bands ourselves. We think this works.”

App pointed out that bands chosen by Maha local stage acts to play curated showcases get free tickets to Maha, but no assurance that they’ll be considered for the local stage in coming years. He agreed that he digs the bands that Jake lists. “All are crazy good bands that represent Omaha and Lincoln at such a high level,” he said. “We might be able to tweak our process to figure out how to get these bands and others like them engaged in Maha.”

He’s open to suggestions, but the fact is, as I said, he and the rest of the Maha board will never please everyone. No “process” will ever do that. As a whole, I think it’s a strong local stage line-up, albeit slightly heavy on Lincoln bands, but so what? Yes, three out of the five bands are Saddle Creek acts, but it would be hard to argue against any of them and the size of their fanbase compared to some of the bands Jake lists. Maha is trying to sell tickets, after all, and while none of the local acts by themselves will generate ticket sales, they may be enough to tip the scale for those on the fence trying to decide whether to drop $35 per ticket.

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Tomorrow, some off-topic comments about Yelp, restaurant criticism (and criticism in general) and Lot 2.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


  • I can’t seem to understand why people get so upset about the locals. The sense of entitlement amongst a lot of these bands is ridiculous. I mean, you should be happy they let locals in at all. To me, the complaints seem to either come from a butt-hurt band, or friends of a butt-hurt band. I play in a LOT of local bands around town and Maha has never asked one of them to play. I’m not upset at all because the lineups they choose are relevant and well thought out. They can’t have every one of your friends bands there. The process is open and covers pretty much every angle. I don’t see ONE local band on that lineup that doesn’t deserve to be there.

    Comment by Andrew — May 30, 2012 @ 1:02 pm

  • I totally agree with Andrew except on one point. MAHA should not have a repeat band period when so many local bands would love to play this event.

    Comment by .... — May 30, 2012 @ 1:28 pm

  • “I think I can sympathize and share the way both local bands and concert organizers feel. There are so many local bands and semi-local bands that are so good, so many genre’s from Rap to folk etc, the list goes on and on. but the truth is the Mynablossoms and the Ickybirds are what a lot of people are into right now and these bands sounds great and deserve to play Maha this year, but if you make Music a competition and diversity a bad thing than you lose every time, “I think there is a large group of local musicians who are true artists, and just wanna sing songs and make music and hope
    and thats a good problem for city to have.”

    Comment by Koby4kenobi — May 30, 2012 @ 5:40 pm

  • I think with the Mynabirds it is a thing where they have a new album out, have much more exposure than two years ago, and are becoming known on a national level right now. NPR featured them, their album is streaming ahead of time on the Team Coco website, and you will see a ton of press coming out on them over the next month. I think it makes a lot of sense to put them on the lineup as they are a local band that could drive some traffic IMO. If you consider that Laura toured with Bright Eyes and Desa is on this lineup-it might be more appealing to someone traveling in (and it sounds like there are people traveling in for this one). The goal for Maha is to sell as many tickets as possible and make this event bigger. There is no reason that it cannot be a two day festival like 80/35 in Des Moines and if/when that happens then you will see a heck of a lot more local bands on the lineup.

    Comment by MarQ — May 30, 2012 @ 7:50 pm

  • I think the line up is fantastic . The locals are somewhat predictable , but well deserving of playing the festival. There are only so many slots. It does seem questionable to have a repeat artist so early in the run of Maha,but people do love The Mynabirds and thats what a festival needs. Congrats to them . Great pick with Eli Mardock. He’s is a tremendous talent. I’d love to see Honeybee & Her’s and Dim Light up there. That is all.

    Comment by Chris Y — May 31, 2012 @ 2:05 pm

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