Khruangbin, Thundercat, Japanese Breakfast headline Maha ’21…

Category: Blog — @ 7:21 am May 21, 2021
Get your lawn chairs out. The Maha Music Festival is back July 31.

Those who know me and know where I work now know why I haven’t written extensively about the 2021 Maha Music Festival. The line-up was announced Wednesday night, along with the presenting sponsor.

Still, I have an opinion about the line-up (though to be clear, it’s mine alone). All in all, it’s pretty damn good, especially considering we’re coming out of a national pandemic.

Japanese Breakfast, who adorns the cover of the brand new issue of Under the Radar (“The Protest Issue”), is an act I’ve dug for awhile and definitely look forward to seeing and hearing live.

Thundercat, the last band a lot of people saw before the world shut down (at Slowdown), is coming back to Omaha. As is local favorite Drive-By Truckers. Then there’s the yeehaw stylings of Shovels & Rope, who I know has a lot of local fans.

As for the headliner, Khruangbin, I’m only familiar with a couple singles that have gotten airplay on Sirius XMU (“Time (You and I),” “So We Won’t Forget”) – slick, catchy, light-as-air pop tunes, and quite a contrast to the rest of the droning, World-dub jams on the band’s latest album, 2020’s Mordechai (Dead Oceans), some of which sounds like the nondescript, drug-infused noodling they play between bands at large concerts. Hey, but what does it matter? I never stick around for the Maha headliner, anyway.

This year’s locals are Matt Cox & the Marauders, Edem Soul Music, Dirt House, J. Crum, Kethro, and Crabrangucci.

The one-day fest is July 31 at Stinson Park in Aksarben Village. Tix go on sale this morning at 10 a.m. at the Maha festival site — $65 advance / $75 DOS. VIP tix are $155 advance and $175 DOS. Because of COVID-19 they’re limiting capacity at Stinson Park, and conversely, limiting the number of available tickets. So if you’re into it, you better get them tickets while you can. After being shut in for a year, people are starving for entertainment, and it won’t surprise me if this one actually sells out.

. ) ) ) .

Wish I could point you to some rock shows this weekend, but it’s still too early for touring shows and even good local gigs, despite the fact that all the clubs are open. Next week Omaha’s mask mandate will very likely go away for those vaccinated, and I have a feeling clubs will follow suit and not require masks wearing. Watch as the “must wear masks” signs begin to disappear along with the plexi-glass shields.

How quickly will people return? Here’s what I wrote about the return in the current issue of The Reader:

I Haven’t Given Up
We’re all waiting to get back to the clubs, aren’t we?

The Reader; May 4, 2021

I haven’t updated my daily local music blog,, in over two weeks, which is long enough for people to question whether it’s still “alive.” I’ve been writing the blog for (my god!) 23 years. I haven’t given up. There’s just so little to write about music-wise right now.

Omaha’s two major clubs for indie music — The Waiting Room and Slowdown — both have reopened. But with few bands touring yet, their offerings are (how to put this) somewhat lacking: cover bands, live professional wrestling, comedians, local productions of bad musicals. There are a few exceptions, but nothing on the indie music radar or that piques my interest.

It’s the way it’s going to be for a while. All the quality local bands simply haven’t played together in a year out of caution and responsibility, and musicians are just now getting vaccinated. It could be a month or two until they start practicing again, and who knows what has changed in these musicians’ lives over the past year of crippling isolation?

Staying in touch with one another via Facebook is a far cry from the up-close-and-personal relationships one forges by living in a pot-smoke-filled van for two months on the road. “Jamming together” by recording tracks alone on an iPhone and then sending them around to bandmates to add their parts just isn’t the same as having to breathe in each other’s vicious BO during a hot, cramped band practice in the bass player’s basement.

When these bands finally do reunite for the first time since spring 2020, there could be camaraderie and rejoicing, or picking up right where they left off, or the worst case scenario — a new realization of just how much they actually hated each other and how they should never have played together in the first place.

And then there are those bands that won’t get back together at all because one of the musicians had to figure out a way to make money after losing his or her job and now is stuck in a new career they never had to deal with before all this happened.

Some will have new relationships, maybe new family members, certainly new responsibilities; and suddenly the idea of making music will seem frivolous.

And a sad few may finally have convinced themselves they’re too old for this rock and roll lifestyle, which is something that even in my 50s has never crossed my mind.

Sometimes it’s the little things that keep you going.

I was pushing my shopping cart through the crowded parking lot of the Saddle Creek Baker’s after my usual Sunday-morning grocery haul, dodging dirty SUVs across the bumpy tarmac, still wearing my mask.

As I approached my VW, I looked up across the lot and there was a guy I recognized from one of the local rock bands — a tall dude in his 30s with long brown hair who plays a mean guitar and has been a staple in the Nebraska underground music scene for the past decade or more. He had just stepped out of his car with his wife or girlfriend or whomever. Also wearing a mask, he looked up across the lot and saw me loading my car and did a little head nod and wave. I did the same in return.

As I returned my cart to the corral I thought, “Huh, he remembers me,” as if I was a prisoner who that morning had been released after 20 years in the state penitentiary. I hadn’t been forgotten … by someone I’d never formally met and who likely was mistaking me for someone’s dad.

One of the biggest questions about life after the real passing of the Pandemic of 2020 (because that’s what they’ll call it 100 years from now after we’re all long dead) is whether people will go back to the same lives they lived before. It has to be a question gnawing on the minds of owners of movie theaters, restaurants and music venues.

Restaurants I’m not so worried about. People already are returning to their favorite places, even if they have to wear a mask to go to the bathroom. If we never questioned the food we bought as take out during the pandemic (and why we didn’t, I still don’t understand — what made us think the cooks back in the kitchen were wearing masks and diligently washing their hands like surgeons?), we’re sure not going to question it afterward.

Movie theaters are another matter. People have become so used to watching streamed content from their home theaters or on their iPads they might balk at paying $10 to sit in an auditorium with a bunch of filthy patrons to watch the same thing they can watch in their underwear on Disney+.

And then there are music venues. Rock and roll or whatever you want to call popular music continues to reinvent itself from generation to generation. Kids will continue to go to clubs to see their favorite bands just like people are returning to sports facilities as quickly as the local ordinances will let them.

Still, there are those few who are getting a little older, those who were always looking for an excuse to stay home on a Friday or Saturday (or weekday) night. They’ll be the last to return if they do at all.

I used to see bands three or four nights a week when the scene was more “indie-music friendly.” Five hours of sleep was plenty. But right before the pandemic struck, I’d limited myself to weekends or “can’t miss” shows. Now I wonder if I’ll be able to once again stand elbow-to-elbow at, say, O’Leaver’s, next to people young enough to be my grandchildren.

Fact is, I can’t wait. I miss my extended family — the club owners, the bartenders, the punk rock regulars and that guy in the Baker’s parking lot who I don’t really know. And besides, I’m going to need something to blog about.

Over The Edge is a monthly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on culture, society, music, the media and the arts. Email Tim at

First published in the Reader, May 4, 2021. Copyright © 2021 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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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 © 2021 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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