Pitchfork’s 36 ‘Best Live Music Venues’ surviving COVID, includes Slowdown; Moderna’d (in the column)…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , — @ 8:13 am April 7, 2021
The Slowdown is a survivor.

Everyone’s favorite indie music tastemakers, Pitchfork, published an article Monday where it interviewed operators of 36 independent music venues on surviving COVID-19. Among them was Jason Kulbel of Slowdown.

The article gives a (very) brief history of the bar, described as being best know for “Modernizing live music in Omaha.”

Before the pandemic, Kulbel had hoped 2020 would be one of the most successful years in Slowdown’s history,” says writer Andy Cush. “Today, they’re operating with a reduced staff and plan to resume limited-capacity shows with local bands in April.

Kulbel gives a rather bleak view of what lies ahead.

Said Kulbel in the article: “‘Reopening is going to be really hard, because everything that you had before is gone. The staff is gone, the shows are gone. We’re opening with all local stuff, which is fine, but it’s not going to bring people out, it’s not what people really want to see as a whole. So you’re going to be opening as a skeleton of yourself. It would almost be easier just to open a brand new place.’”

Would it really?

Kulbel goes on to cite Against Me! as one of his favorite shows, though it’s not his favorite band. Read the full Slowdown section here.

Other Midwest venues featured in the Pitchfork article include First Avenue, Wooly’s in Des Moines, and The Hideout in Chicago.

Check out the full article here.

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Speaking of COVID-19, my column in this month’s issue of The Reader is about my experience getting Moderna’s and how the anti-vaxxers are going to really screw things up for the rest of us. Mark my words, we’re going to be wearing masks for a long time because of the conspiracy theorists and their reticence for getting shots.

The column is online here and, of course, in print wherever you find your copy of the The Reader.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — 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.

Lazy-i

Local bands talk about returning to the stage (in the column); Slowdown announces reopening…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , — @ 8:30 am March 5, 2021
Jon Taylor of Domestica’s funky get-down space.

The Slowdown announced Tuesday that they’re reopening in April. The plan calls for shows only on the main stage to make more room for social distancing as the pandemic begins to wind down. It’ll be a fun opportunity for smaller bands who are used to playing the small room to try the big stage and its massive sound and lighting system.

Their first show is April 2 featuring Journey cover band Recaptured followed by Two Drag Club April 9.

Slowdown joins The Waiting Room and Reverb, who announced late last month that their stages are reopening.

When will the majority of our favorite local indie acts be returning to stage? That was the subject of my March column in The Reader, which is online right here. I contacted a dozen local musicians to find out when they’re coming back, and their responses underscore their caution as COVID-19 is still very much with us in this community.

The story is in the printed edition of the paper, which should be in the racks around town now or very shortly. Check it out. And heck, you can also read it below:

What Are They Waiting For?

As COVID-19 retreats, the stage has been set. It’s the artists who have cold feet.

Last month I told you where some of the more important local stages for indie music stand in regard to booking shows. A year after the pandemic began, places like The Slowdown, The Waiting Room and Reverb Lounge are reopening their stages. And while it’ll be some time before touring bands hit the road again, local acts are invited to plug in and rock on.

The only thing stopping that from happening are the bands themselves. I reached out to a dozen local musicians to find out when they’d play again on a local stage. Their answers reflected a serious respect for COVID-19.

Jon Taylor, lead guitarist for Lincoln-based seminal punk trio Domestica, is waiting for folks to get vaccinated. “Based on current vaccine shipping schedules, summer appears to be the earliest anyone should consider assembling large groups of humans for any reason,” Taylor said. He’s passed the pandemic time rocking out on his own glittering basement stage where, “I’m able to self-medicate with high volume until gigs happen.”

Domestica has been known to share a stage with Wagon Blasters, the tractor-punk powerhouse fronted by the inimitable Gary Dean Davis. Those with a sense of history will remember how these folks’ previous bands — Mercy Rule and Frontier Trust — were integral to Nebraska’s first wave of indie punk almost 30 years ago.

Davis has spent his downtime focusing on his record label — SPEED! Nebraska — which reissued Frontier Trust’s debut CD in June and released a new Mezcal Bros. album, Shakin’ Dog, in September.

“As Joe Strummer famously said, ‘The future is unwritten,’” Davis said. “Hopefully things can calm down over the summer, (and) we are able to return to playing shows. Maybe we’ll need to start off outside to keep everyone safe?”

Wagon Blasters bandmate, bassist Kate Williams, said while she would be comfortable on stage once vaccinations have reached the majority, “It will be strange to return to the small, intimate venues that I love, where the audience is right on top of the band.”

Williams hasn’t seen Davis or her other bandmates in person in a year. “Many of us are high-risk (or high-risk-adjacent) and aren’t comfortable practicing in an enclosed basement yet with each other, let alone playing in a room full of friends that we also haven’t seen in the last year,” she said. “It will happen though — I miss all of it so much!”

Caution also was the theme for legendary bassist/musician Dereck Higgins. “I’ll be 66 in July, and that is why I am being cautious and in no hurry to get out in the public gigging,” he said, pointing to fall for a possible return. In the meantime, he’s been recording new music and working on an art project with local choreographer Lauren Simpson.

Craig Fort of punk band Leafblower created an entirely new, outlaw-country-infused musical persona called Lightning Stills during the pandemic. “Obviously COVID is keeping us from booking anything, as well as neither project has been in the same room together in a year,” Fort said. “We all take this very seriously. Not being able to play shows is what’s keeping me from releasing anything physical. Without shows, I don’t have a booth to peddle my goods.”

Indie rockers See Through Dresses frontwoman Sara Bertuldo said her band is still together, “but we’re just focusing on different things at the moment. Some of us are back in school, focusing on work, and/or learning some new skills.” And she added, “We’ve also been working on our third album!”

One of my favorite songs released during the pandemic is “Snake in my Basement,” an infectious (in a good way) garage rocker by Those Far Out Arrows. Guitarist/vocalist Ben Keelan-White thinks his band will be back on stage possibly in early- to mid-summer.

“Outdoor shows seem more likely, but maybe some indoor venues might be willing to make some moves,” he said. “I feel like there is an optimism with more vaccine administration on the horizon. Nobody wants to be a part of a spreader event, but I think the type of individuals who want shows back would be absolutely willing to take the utmost precaution needed to go forward.”

“We’re all dying for shows, but nobody should die for shows,” said Aaron Gumm, half of the red hot electronic rock duo Glow in the Dark. “My parents in Iowa get their second shot next week, and my sister in Austin got her first today. Things are moving in the right direction.”

Some aren’t waiting to return to the stage. Josh Hoyer, one of the area’s best blues and soul voices, played a Sunday residency Feb. 21 at The Jewell in downtown Omaha.

“It wasn’t an easy decision, but it came down to me needing to get back to work and the venues needing to start getting people in or shutting down for good.” Hoyer said. “At this point, I am trusting people to do what is best for their health and the health of the community. So far, everything has been good, but the moment I feel that there is too much risk in any given venue, I will have to reassess my involvement with them. I think if people are intelligent about it, we can slowly get back to live entertainment.”

Darren Keen, the mastermind behind The Show Is the Rainbow and now a new electronic act, Problems, has a gig booked on St. Patrick’s Day at Boombox Social Club in Lincoln.

“As long as people are masked up and distanced, I’m OK with it at this point,” Keen said. “I’m still hesitant to book my own shows because I can’t honestly say, ‘You gotta come to this gig’ right now. I respect that people want to stay home and safe, and so if I can’t promote things 100% I’m not comfortable booking them.”

I saved the final word for Landon Hedges of one of my all-time favorite indie rock bands, Little Brazil. Hedges doesn’t know when he’ll be back on stage.

“It’s a matter of responsibility and feeling comfortable in the sort of environment that I’m used to playing a show or going to a show,” he said. “I want to do both. But this virus isn’t about me or what I want to do. I just want to try to do the right thing. It fucking sucks. You can quote me on that one.”

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 tim.mcmahan@gmail.com. First published in The Reader, March 2021.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — 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.

Lazy-i

Music Visions for 2021: A look forward (and backward) at the Omaha and national indie music scenes…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , — @ 1:25 pm January 4, 2021
Music visions for 2021.

It’s time to gaze into my crystal Peavey Amp and tell you what’s going to happen in the music world in 2021, but before I do (as I do every year), I’ll first look back at last year’s predictions. Only a stark-raving lunatic could have foreseen the rise of COVID-19 and its dreadful impact on the music industry. And yet… Let’s take a look:

2020 Prediction: One or two Omaha music venues will shut down permanently this year, while “those in charge” will begin to second-guess the proposed $109 million Omaha Performing Arts concert venue.

Reality: The Lookout Lounge and Barley Street Tavern both closed their doors, and rumor has it there’s some head-scratching going on over the OPA concert venue. Of course a pandemic played a role in both those predictions coming true…

2020 Prediction: A former Omaha Girls Rock student will break through in her own band on our local stages.

Reality: No one broke through on any stage in 2020.

2020 Prediction: In an effort to retain local talent, a new local nonprofit will form that will financially subsidize local musicians, their recording projects and their tours.

Reality: The only way this is going to happen is if I do it myself with Susie Buffett’s money.

2020 Prediction: The popularity of cassettes as a consumer format will continue as more artists choose to release new recordings on tape.

Reality: By July 2020, there was a 103 percent increase in cassette sales in the UK; still, cassette sales comprise less that 1 percent of the overall music market.

2020 Prediction: A major concert will be organized to bring out the vote in Nebraska’s 2nd District, which could play an important role in keeping Trump out of office.

Reality: NE2 did swing for Biden even if the pandemic prevented huge Democratic rallies in Omaha and elsewhere.

2020 Prediction: Despite capturing big sponsorships, Maha will not book a Lizzo-sized headliner this year, instead opting to spend more money on high-end bands across both festival nights.

Reality: The Maha Festival didn’t happen (but having seen the proposed line-up that was never made public, the prediction was spot on).

2020 Prediction: “The trend of booking fewer touring indie bands at Omaha venues will continue. We’ll be lucky to get one A-list indie show per month.”

Reality: When you’re right, you’re right.

2020 Prediction: We’ll all be singing “Deacon Blues” in 2020.

Reality: Donald Fagen did not join Walter Becker last year, though we all were singing the blues.

2020 Prediction: Bands we’ll be talking about next year: Algiers, Bright Eyes, Criteria, Perfume Genius, King Krule, David Nance Band, The War on Drugs.

Reality: All released albums in 2020 despite the pandemic, but we’re still waiting on those new ones by Beach House, Kendrick Lamar, Slowdive and St. Vincent.

2020 Prediction: Conor Oberst will finally walk across the Saturday Night Live stage.

Reality: Here I thought, at the very least, Conor would make a cameo alongside Phoebe Bridgers. Nope.

Final score: Around 50/50, with help from a national pandemic. So what about 2021? As shitty as 2020 was, things will only get better, but…

Prediction: Vaccinating enough people where it feels safe to go to concerts again will take a lot longer than anyone expects. The Waiting Room, Reverb Lounge and The Slowdown all will begin booking touring bands again beginning in July. O’Leaver’s will plug in the amps in early fall, alongside The Brothers Lounge.

Prediction: The Maha Music Festival will be back in late summer, though we’ll all still be wearing masks and social distancing (sort of). On the other hand, South By Southwest, which takes place in March, will remain a digital-only affair.

Prediction: As of this writing (Dec. 16), Save Our Stages legislation as part of a revised CARES Act has not passed, but it will pass eventually, only to be followed by a Save Our Stages II Act.

Prediction: Despite federal SOS and CARES Act money finally flowing, venues will continue to go out of business (including a major Omaha player) because gun-shy audiences still fearing COVID-19 will drag their feet before returning to the clubs.

Prediction: Under pressure from some very large artists, streaming services (and labels) will be forced to look at how they’re compensating talent, considering streaming revenues increased 21 percent in 2019 vs. the previous year, while Spotify now boasts 320 million monthly active users as of Sept. 30.

Prediction: After a year of ordering stuff online, shoppers will rush back to brick-and-mortars post pandemic, and record stores are going to be one of the big beneficiaries. Watch them enjoy their biggest 3rd and 4th quarter sales in years.

Prediction: One bi-product of the pandemic — live-streamed rock shows — will become a new revenue generator for bands and venues who learned how to properly produce and monetize online events. Look for venues to offer streaming tickets right alongside live show tickets on a regular basis.

Prediction: Home recording was already a thing, but after spending a year stuck at home, bands and musicians have honed their skills. Look for more home-recorded releases in 2021, though formal studios will be plenty busy servicing the big stars who have been holding their water throughout the prior year.

Prediction: While there was a surprising number of albums released in 2020, watch the floodgates burst this year, as artists rush to release recordings they’ve held onto until they could return to the road.

Prediction: Bob Dylan won’t be missing that song catalog he just sold to Universal after this year.

Prediction: Bands and performers we’ll be talking about this time next year: Arcade Fire, Bright Eyes, The Faint, The Good Life, David Nance, Courtney Barnett, Little Brazil, Nick Cave, The National, Angel Olson, Modest Mouse, Phoebe Bridgers and U2.

Prediction: I’ve given up on my annual “Conor Oberst on SNL” prediction, which almost guarantees this is the year it’ll happen.

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 tim.mcmahan@gmail.com.

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Lazy-i Best of 2020 Compilation

Relive the year gone by with the  Lazy-i Best of 2020 Comp CD!

The collection includes my favorite indie tunes I’ve come across throughout last year as part of my tireless work as a music critic for Lazy-i. Among those represented: Waxahatchee, David Nance, Bright Eyes, Digital Leather, Sufjan Stevens, Run the Jewels, Fiona Apple, Nathan Ma, Criteria, McCarthy Trenching, HAIM, Future Islands, No Thanks and lots more.

To enter, send me an email with your mailing address to tim.mcmahan@gmail.com. Hurry, contest deadline is TONIGHT, Monday, Jan. 4, at midnight.

Or listen on Spotify. Simply click this link or search “Lazy-i Best of” in Spotify, go to the Playlists tab, and you’ll find the 2020 playlist along with a few from past years, too!

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — 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.

Lazy-i

Soundtrack to a Pandemic (the top 40 Nebraska recordings 2020); Flight School, Lightning Stills, Simon Joyner new music…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , , , , — @ 1:02 pm December 4, 2020
Some artwork for the top Nebraska releases in 2020.

So Bandcamp Friday (today) is the day in which you can purchase downloads via Bandcamp, and all the money goes to the artists because Bandcamp is waiving their cut. With that in mind, I pushed online my column in this month’s issue of The Reader. It’s a listing of 40 Nebraska recordings released during this, the Year of Our Covid 2020. Included in the story are links to all 40 recordings on Bandcamp, wherein you can buy, download and listen to the best our state has to offer.

You know, The Reader didn’t do a “music issue” this year, and as such, didn’t publish a Reader Top 20 (and the next whatever). This list of 40 releases is as good as it gets considering no one was out performing or touring this year. These artists threw their wares to the masses anyway, knowing that they wouldn’t be able to support their album releases with live shows.

With that in mind GO TO THE STORY NOW and check out the list, click through the links and download/buy some music and support local area artists while hearing some damn fine sounds. Another way to help the artists out is by sharing The Reader story on your social media channels so others can discover what we already know.

Couple more things…

Flight School is a musical project of studio engineer/musician/genius Ian Aeillo. Ian doesn’t like it when I call him a genius, he thinks I’m funnin’ him, no matter how many times I tell him I’m not. The guy just can’t take a compliment. Fact is, Ian was involved in a number of the 40 recordings I mentioned in my Reader column.

Anyway, this morning, Flight School dropped its latest digital full-length effort, This Will Get You There. It’s 21 songs Ian wrote for his favorite vocalists, none of which sing on any of the tracks, leaving you with just Ian’s fine instrumental music. I asked him to list the “favorite vocalists” on the Bandcamp page so we could try to guess who went with which song, but he wasn’t having it. Buy/download/listen here.

Also online today, Lightning Stills (a.k.a. Craig Fort and band) released his entire debut EP Sings His Songs, which wasn’t expected to drop for awhile, but this being Bandcamp Friday, he said ‘what the heck.’ Check out the recording here, buy and download!

And for one day only (today), Simon Joyner is making available for download at Bandcamp Ten Songs (Home Demos for 2021 Album). These are demos recorded on his phone over the past few months that he’ll use as reference while working on songs, but the sound quality is hella good (certainly better than those early Sing Eunichs! recordings!). Go, buy, download here.

That’s it. If you’re going out, wear a mask (as if I had to tell you that!). Have a great weekend!

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily (if there’s news) at Lazy-i.com — 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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Have we taken live music for granted (in the column); it’s time to write your representative (again)…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:14 pm November 16, 2020
Skeleton Crew: Conor Oberst joined Phoebe Bridgers on stage at The Troubadour in West Hollywood during the live-streamed Save Our Stages Festival Oct. 21, 2020.

The National Independent Venues Association (NIVA) is making another push for you and me to write our representatives in Washington to get the Save Our Stages Act included in the next COVID-19 relief package, which is apparently being negotiated now.

All you have to do is go to this web page and fill out the form. You can use their sample letter or write one of your own. Once you hit the submit button, it’ll go to the right offices of your Congressional representatives. It really does only take 30 seconds and it could make all the difference.

Click this, go there, and do it now.

Along those lines, the November issue of The Reader is out now with my column that focuses on the Save Our Stages efforts while asking if we’ve taken live music for granted. It’s online at The Reader website, here and I’ve also included it below. Please to enjoy:

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Have We Taken Live Music for Granted?

#SaveOurStages is a lifeline for the live music industry

As I type this I’m watching the Save Our Stages Fest (#SOSFest) on Oct. 21, a few weeks before the election. Indie phenom Phoebe Bridgers and her band are dressed in skeleton costumes played alone in the West Hollywood bar where Elton John, Joni Mitchell and Linda Ronstadt paid their dues.

Singer/songwriter pals Conor Oberst and Christian Lee Hutson joined in the streamed event. A little over halfway through the set between songs about death and loneliness Phoebe turned to the camera and said, “Click the donate button because….” After a long pause Conor chimed in: “Because we need a place to play.

That was the reason for SOS Fest. The three-day virtual festival featured 35 artists performing at 25 venues beamed directly to your computer or phone screen, with proceeds benefiting independent music venues impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As you read this, the election is (hopefully) over. No matter who won, there’s still a shit-ton of problems to solve thanks to COVID-19. Somewhere on that long list after “figure out a way to keep people from dying (or at the very least from catching the disease)” is “figure out a way to reopen the rest of the country for business.”

While 90 percent of U.S. businesses have reopened, the first businesses to shut down — the bars and music venues — are still closed. And many could stay that way for a very long time.

Beginning in April, the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) — a group of more than 2,900 independent music venues and promoters — has lobbied Congress to pass legislation that provides recovery funds and tax credits to help venues survive during the pandemic. First it was the Save Our Stages Act, which passed in the House; and now the HEROES Small Business Lifeline Act is being considered in the Senate as part of the CARES Act.

NIVA asked music fans to write their lawmakers urging them to support the bills, and they have to the tune of nearly 2 million emails. (And more letters are needed. You can write your representative from this handy page on the NIVA website. It only takes 30 seconds!).

But here we are on Oct. 21 and Congress has yet to pass anything, while the future of the live music industry grows bleaker and bleaker. According to a survey of NIVA members, 90 percent of independent venues will close permanently without federal aid in the coming months.

We’re already seeing it here. The Lookout Lounge on 72nd Street closed permanently earlier this summer, and The Barley Street Tavern in Benson gave up the ghost in September. What role COVID-19 played in those closings is uncertain, though it no doubt helped rush some decisions. Now I’m told a third well known club is on the verge of shutting down.

And while two of the best stages in Omaha — The Waiting Room and Reverb Lounge — have reopened, they’re only booking comedy acts and cover bands at very limited capacity shows. Downtown showcase The Slowdown held an outdoor festival in its parking lot featuring local acts just to remind people it was still there, though its doors remain locked.

With stages dark, musicians also toil in darkness. According to Business Insider, with the decline in album sales, live events provide 75 percent of all artists’ income. Strangely, thankfully, a ton of new music has been released during the lock down (including albums by Bright Eyes and Phoebe Bridgers) despite the fact that no one is touring.

Three things:

One: Legislation will pass. It has to. It may not be ’til after a new Congress is in place (or heck, it may happen before this column sees print), but it will happen. Too many people have been without for too long. The assistance needed for bars and venues to survive that’s outlined in SOS and HEROES acts will be among the law’s provisions. But it won’t be near enough.

Two: We will climb this mountain of a pandemic and come out on the other side. But it’ll take more than a vaccine. It’ll take a concerted effort by everyone, regardless of political leaning, to do what scientists say we need to do.

And three: Venues will reopen at full capacity, and bands will begin playing and touring again. But, god help us, it may not be until this time next year, or even later. And when the smoke clears, the venue landscape will look very different.

Once people feel safe again, fans will flock to clubs like they never have before thanks to a hunger for live entertainment. But you’ll be surprised how quickly people forget what they’ve been through.

The sad fact is we’ve always taken live music for granted. While ticket prices for arena shows have gone up around 30 percent over the past five years, according to Fast Company those increases haven’t kept up with prices for other forms of entertainment.

It’s the same story for small touring bands that, prior to the pandemic, were lucky to get home from tours with anything in their pockets. Ticket prices for touring indie shows have risen only gradually over the past five years, always being outpaced by the costs required to tour.

And then there are local shows.

I’ve covered live music for more than 30 years. When I started, the cover charge to see live, original bands was $5. Thirty years later, the cover at small clubs is still $5 for local shows, while some larger venues have pumped it up to a whopping $7 or $8. Try splitting that between three bands and a sound guy.

Why are we willing to spend up to $15 to see a movie, but won’t spend $15 to see a live local band, to hear music performed in front of our eyes by living, breathing musicians who put themselves out there for our amusement and/or enlightenment? At the end of a typical night at a rock club, too many local bands go home with nothing except an empty wallet and a hangover.

And yet, I’ve never talked to a band that didn’t want to keep doing it. For them, it’s all about the music. It’s certainly not about the money. Why can’t they have both?

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 tim.mcmahan@gmail.com.

Originally published in The Reader, November 2020. Copyright © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily (if there’s news) at Lazy-i.com — 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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Indie music’s Libera Awards tonight (will Saddle Creek take home the prize?); Dereck Higgins live stream…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , — @ 12:50 pm June 18, 2020
Dereck Higgins performs a live streamed concert tonight at Low End.

Who doesn’t like an awards show, especially one focused on music?

No, I’m not talking about The Grammy’s, I’m talkin’ ’bout the Libera Awards, brought to you by the American Association of Independent Music (A2IM), the trade group for the indie music industry.

For the first time, the awards show is going to be streamed live for free, tonight starting at 5:30 p.m.

It’s sort of like the Grammy’s for indie rock. For example, the bands nominated for Album of the Year: FKA Twigs, Angel Olsen, Brittany Howard, Orville Peck and Big Thief. Big Thief, formerly on our very own Saddle Creek Records (now on 4AD), also is nominated for Best Alternative Rock album, and will be performing live at the ceremony.

Once again this year, Saddle Creek Records has been nominated for the Label of the Year (Medium) award, alongside 4AD, ATO, Sacred Bones and Drag City. Will the Creek take home the coveted Libera? You’ll have to tune in to find out. Register for free here.

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Also tonight, Omaha legend Dereck Higgins is performing a virtual concert streamed live from The Bemis Center’s Low End performance space.

For his performance, he will play a variety of his electronic compositions with live accompaniment as well as improvise several ambient pieces created on the spot,” Bemis writes. The stream begins via Facebook and Twitch (twitch.com/bemiscenter) starting at 8 p.m.

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Finally, this month’s Over the Edge column in The Reader is all about the fashion of face masks, and includes an interview with Fashion Institute Midwest’s Denise Ervin. Who would have thought Billie Eilish and Gucci could be so precog as to know face masks would become fashion staples months before the pandemic? Read the column here.


Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — 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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Write your congress person!; FXTHR^ (a.k.a. Dustin Bushon) tonight…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , — @ 1:40 pm May 14, 2020

FXTHR^ live streams tonight from Low End at the Bemis.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

There hasn’t been a heckuva lot to write about music wise over the past few weeks. At some point we’re going to start to get an idea how the clubs are going to react to COVID in regards to reopening their stages, but who knows when that’s going to happen.

You saw what Slowdown is doing in the interim, and while it’ll be a fun distraction amidst this void in live entertainment, it is by no means a true replacement. BTW, someone asked where the money’s going for those Slowdown shows, and the answer is the bands and crew, according to Slowdown’s Jason Kulbel.

In the meantime, if you haven’t gone to NIVA website and sent a letter to your reps in Washington telling them to get off their asses and help save live music, you should. The link is right here. It’ll take you 30 seconds.

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Speaking of live streams, there is one tonight being brought to you by the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, specifically the folks who opened Low End late last year. Tonight they’re hosting a live stream featuring the noise/art/rock act FXTHR^ a.k.a. Dustin Bushon. Joining him is visual artist Alex Myers.

The stream begins at 8 p.m. You can watch live on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bemiscenter/ and Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/bemiscenter . More info here.

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Last but not least, due to a back-office/clerical/editorial error, my Over the Edge column wasn’t published in the May issue of The Reader, which was devoted to writers’ COVID-related experiences. The column is online, however. Read about how I’m adapting to COVID-19 and learn about a 1971 film starring Charlton Heston. Check it out. I should be back in the printed pages of The Reader next month, barring any more snafus…

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — 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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

DIIV + Tomberlin on Low cover; Unexplained Death skewers Lindsey Graham…

Category: Column — Tags: , , , , — @ 3:22 pm December 18, 2019

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Well, it’s not like I haven’t been doing anything.

Look for my annual Music Year in Review article and 2020 Predictions article in the coming days online here and in The Reader, where it’ll also be published in the January issue. It’s a ton of writing (about 3,500 words, if they don’t cut it).

This being an historic day, I thought I’d share with you my Over the Edge column in the current issue of The Reader, wherein I reflect on how I was lambasted by my co-workers during the last impeachment, and how folks a few floors above me came to the rescue. That one’s online right here.

And speaking of impeachment-related news, Matt Whipkey today released a new Unexplained Death song via Bandcamp called “Lindsey,” and you can guess what it’s about. When is Unexplained Death going to perform at one of these Iowa political rallies that are all the rage these days? I could definitely see these guys open for Bernie…

Saddle Creek Records’ act Tomberlin teamed up with DIIV for a cover of Low song “Words” off the 1994 Low album I Could Live in Hope. The fact that these two artists covered Low gives me hope that one of my all-time favorite bands’ music will live on for another generation.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — 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 © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Where did all the critics go? (in the column); new (timely) Flight School track, Ghost Foot preview…

Category: Column — Tags: , , — @ 1:37 pm November 21, 2019

Listening to albums the way god intended…

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I’m catching up on a couple columns that appeared in The Reader over the past couple months but only just went online. First is this month’s column. I’ve written variations on this theme a number of times over the past 15 years, this idea that digital music has forever changed the way we listen to music. But this time I include critics.

When I was much younger I used to love to peruse the album reviews in Rolling Stone, SPIN, Option, Magnet and a slew of other printed publications. The only one of the above that still exists in printed form is Rolling Stone, and their reviews are little more than capsule summaries with a star rating. As I say in the column, while I rely on Pitchfork and Stereogum as well as the never-aging grand bard of critics Robert Christgau (you can now subscribe to his writings online here), I’m just as apt to catch recommendations in Facebook and Twitter as anywhere else. In fact, you may recognize a couple people I namecheck in the column as folks whose opinion I value (It wasn’t until after I filed the article that I realized, hey, 99 percent of my column’s readers have no idea who I’m talking about).

Anyway, read the column in the current issue of The Reader, on newsstands now, or online right here.

The October column also is online, which asks the question: “Does the art change once you discover that the artist is an asshole?” Woody Allen, Ryan Adams and Aziz Ansari are subjects of discussion, among others. I have always separated art from the artist. Social media is now making that more difficult, as we all know. And in the end, it might be yet another reason why it’s time to unplug your Facebook account. You can read that column online right here.

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If you’re involved in music at all in Omaha you already follow Ian Aeillo in Facebook and Twitter. If you don’t, you need to. Ian, who is a veteran musician and something of a scene legend, is the sound engineer at The Sydney and also works with bands on occasion.

One of them is Louisiana band Ghost Foot, who will be playing at fabulous O’Leavers this Friday night. Ian shared a new track by Ghost Foot called “Leaving Omaha,” which is destined to join the ranks of other Omaha-themed songs by the likes of Counting Crows, Moby Grape and Desaparecidos.

This one’s less a celebration of our city and more of a sordid snapshot taken by someone who lived to tell about it, with the lyrics:

Leaving Omaha

I’m leaving Omaha
With just my clothes
And all the powder
I put up my nose

I lost my girlfriend
I lost my wife
I lost my billfold
In that great good life

I’m leaving Omaha
Dead sick in my shoes
With a big head
All filled up with blues

I lost a song there
I lost a dream
I gained a nightmare
A few friends and a scene

But the sun
The sun is still shining
And the rain
The rain will still come

Let the bombs
All fall on the big world
As ashes
We all will become

Here’s the track, below. See them sing it live Friday night at O’Leaver’s.

Then there’s Ian’s project Flight School. After photos of Trump’s childlike handwritten notes exploded on the internet like a sad American meme yesterday morning, Flight School took those notes and created “I Want Nothing,” a track that accurately captures this moment in our country’s unfortunate history. As Mr. Trump would say, enjoy:

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — 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 © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Over the Edge: Lasting Impressions – a look back at the 2008 Lazy-i Top 20 list; Built to Spill tonight…

Category: Column — @ 12:24 pm June 27, 2019

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

The following Over the Edge column also is in the printed version of the June issue of The Reader. It hasn’t gone on their site yet, and I don’t know if it will (but it probably will). Perfect for #TBT…

Lasting Impressions
A Look Back to 2008 Shows the More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

By Tim McMahan

As I was putting together my top 20 list of favorite local bands for this, the annual Music Issue of The Reader, it dawned on me that many of the names looked, um … familiar.

I did a little research and discovered we began putting together top 20 lists way back in the October 2006 issue of The Reader. It was a novel idea that, if memory serves me, came about after bouncing concepts back and forth between myself and then-Reader music editor Andy Norman (who these days heads stellar nonprofit Rabble Mill, including remnants of Hear Nebraska, which I’m told will rise again, but that’s another story …).

Despite digging through my closet of yellowed Reader back issues, I couldn’t find that 2006 issue or that first top 20 list. I did find in my archives my 2008 top 20 and “Next 15” lists, and to my surprise discovered many of the same acts are on my 2019 list.

How did those 2008 top 20 bands fare a decade later? Let’s take a look:

Brad Hoshaw — Hoshaw, who’s on the 2019 list, is putting the finishing touches on an album recorded in Redwood Studio in Denton, Texas.

Brimstone Howl — Fronted by John Ziegler, the band evolved into The Lupines, who are on the 2019 list.

Conor Oberst remains Conor Oberst, and is on the 2019 list.

Eagle*Seagull — Fronted by singer/songwriter Eli Mardock, at the time the band was thought to be Nebraska’s “next big thing,” but broke up in 2010. Mardock and his wife, Carrie, also a former member of Eagle*Seagull, now run the Royal Grove in Lincoln. Eli just released a new project on Warner Music Germany called The Kiez with Hamburg native Lucas Kochbeck.

The Faint — Also on the 2019 list.

Filter Kings — Omaha’s favorite (and only?) outlaw-country band disappeared a few years after making this list, but occasionally makes a stage appearance fronted by the legendary Gerald Lee Jr.

Flowers Forever — Led by Derek Pressnall, who also was a member of Tilly and the Wall. Pressnall now fronts Saddle Creek Records band Icky Blossoms, which hasn’t produced new music since 2015’s Mask.

For Against — The ’80s-era Lincoln dream pop band re-emerged in 2008 and 2009 with new records, and then submerged itself once again. Indie labels Captured Tracks and Saint Marie Records reissued a number of their early recordings in recent years.

The Good Life — The other project of Cursive’s Tim Kasher currently is on hiatus while Cursive barnstorms the country supporting its new album, Vitriola. Cursive is on the 2019 list.

Malpais — Whatever happened to frontman Greg Loftis? Check the Nebraska Department of Correctional Services.

McCarthy Trenching — Dan McCarthy remains Omaha’s favorite troubadour, recently having one of his songs covered by none other than Phoebe Bridgers and Jackson Browne.

Midwest Dilemma — The folk-rock project by singer/songwriter Justin Lamoureux has yet to follow up the release of 2008 album Timelines & Tragedies.

The Monroes — One of the many musical projects of Gary Dean Davis, former frontman of ’90s tractor-punk legends Frontier Trust. The Monroes folded, and Davis re-emerged in The Wagon Blasters, who are on the 2019 list.

Neva Divona — The project of frontman Jake Bellows appears to be on permanent hiatus. Bellows now lives in Los Angeles and plays in Supermoon with Morgan Nagler of Whispertown.

The Show Is the Rainbow a.k.a. Darren Keen is living and working in Lincoln again after spending years in Brooklyn.

Son, Ambulance is still alive and kicking and, rumor has it, working on a new set of songs.

Thunder Power continued to play and record music through 2012 before disbanding.

Tilly and the Wall — The tap-dance powered phenoms haven’t released an album since 2012’s Heavy Mood (Team Love Records).

UUVVWWZ — The Lincoln-based art-rock project followed its self-titled Saddle Creek Records debut with 2013’s The Trusted Language. Last I heard frontwoman Teal Gardner was living and making art in Boise, Idaho. Guitarist Jim Schroeder is in a number of Omaha projects, including The David Nance Group, which is on the 2019 list.

The Whipkey Three — Matt Whipkey is on the 2019 list.

From 2008’s “The Next 15” list, Simon Joyner, Little Brazil and Talkin’ Mountain’s Jason Steady all made the 2019 list.

That makes 11 artists from 2008 with connections to this year’s top 20 list.

Back then, I introduced these lists with an essay that said, to paraphrase myself, “Lists don’t matter,” written (I suppose) to appease those who weren’t on it. A decade later, I can tell you that lists do matter if only to provide a guidepost in an era when we’re surrounded by too many paths.

Beyond the fundamental arguments we’re all familiar with about streaming music — that the sound quality is sub-par, that it cheats artists who could have made money by selling physical copies (which is bogus for young acts. How many bands do you know with unopened cases of their albums moldering in their basement?) — the biggest conundrum is there’s just too much of it. Anyone can release an album on Bandcamp or one of the streaming services, but few can get people to actually listen to it.

Lists like the top 20 point people to the good stuff, at least as it’s perceived by the publication or critic. It cuts through a mighty dense fog, and you can either follow the light or move on to the next lighthouse.

The fact that 12 of the Top 20 artists this year were on the 2008 list can be viewed as evidence of the lethargy of our scene, of how little things have changed in a decade.

But it also can be viewed as proof of that old list’s accuracy. These artists are still around, they’re still creating high-quality music, they’re still making a difference — if not with their own creations, then by influencing others on the list who have joined them.

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 tim.mcmahan@gmail.com.

First published in the June 2019 issue of The Reader. Copyright © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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If that wasn’t #TBT enough for you, Built to Spill returns to The Waiting Room tonight to perform seminal 1992 album Keep it Like a Secret. Orua and Clark and the Himselfs also are on the bill. $25, 8 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — 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 © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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