The final SXSW recap (in The Reader); Saddle Creek consortium re-ups with ADA; Alex McManus does Hitchcock, Conchance insurance tonight…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:56 pm March 20, 2014
Conchance performs tonight at The Slowdown.

Conchance performs tonight at The Slowdown.

by Tim McMahan,

The final word on this year’s South By Southwest conference/festival in this week’s issue of The Reader. It includes summaries of my favorite performances from Coachwhips, Protomartyr, Future Islands, Twinsmith, Eros and the Eschaton, Destruction Unit, Eagulls, Mark Kozelek and more. Check it out in the printed edition, which also includes a ton o’ pics by yours truly. You can also read it online at right here.

The Reader‘s coverage also includes Chris Aponick’s take on SXSW’s sights, sounds and smells (Over the course of the week, I smelled dope smoke more often than cigarette smoke. Have they legalized it in Austin already?). Chris spent a lot of time at Beerland (as he always does), and also gives his perspective on Trust, Perfume Genius, Coachwhips, Charli XCX, Perfect Pussy, Burger Records and more. It’s online here.

Over the past few days I’ve been reading a lot of SXSW dissing, mostly by people who have never been there. Fine. I get that you don’t need to take a bite out of a shit sandwich to know it tastes bad (probably). And anyone who tells you SXSW is anything more than an industry boondoggle is feeding you some of the above. That said, if you go to SXSW simply to listen to music, you’d have to try pretty hard not to have fun.

As for performers/bands, well, my heart goes out to them. It’s expensive and it’s a hassle — there’s nothing like seeing a very tired-looking band hump gear through the 6th Street chaos. And then wonder if the cost/hassle was worth it. Most bands I’ve interviewed who have gone to SXSW told me nothing ever came of their performance. I think if you’re only playing once during the festival, you’ll be overlooked. The bands that make the biggest mark — that get noticed — play at least eight times during the week. Fans/journalists/industry gimps are bound to notice your name when it shows up over and over on the SXSW master schedule — and then wonder “Who the hell are these guys?” But if you’re in a brand new band, the chances of getting multiple showcases/sets during SXSW are slim and none.

Dan Scheuerman of Deleted Scenes posted an honest perspective at Hear Nebraska that’s worth your attention (read it here). His summary, “..only a statistically insignificant percentage of bands who play SXSW get discovered, and for the rest, it’s just a good excuse to hang out and enjoy a little bit of springtime before anyone else.” No doubt.

Now that should be the last word on SXSW 2014…

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Super-indie consortium Independent Distribution Cooperative (IDC), which consists of Saddle Creek Records, Merge, Beggers, Domino and Secretly Canadian, resigned a physical distribution deal with Alternative Distribution Alliance (ADA), according to this article.

ADA is an arm of Warner Music Group. According to the article, “As part of the deal, ADA will continue to provide physical distribution services to major brick-and-mortar chain accounts for the consortium of labels and their distributed labels too. ADA will also sell select indie accounts on a non-exclusive basis, meaning that the labels can also sell directly to indie accounts too.

The rather convoluted article also mentions that IDC has negotiated for digital distribution, but isn’t clear what that means for the labels. The take-away for me is that these indies continue to work together to keep their product stocked in your local record stores. Wonder what they could accomplish if all five labels merged into one major label?

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Film Streams’ Hitchcock 9 Silents in Concert Repertory Series continues tonight. It features the silent films of Alfred Hitchcock brought to life sonically by live musicians. Tonight it’s the 1927 film The Ring featuring live music by Alex McManus (The Bruces), Aaron Markley and Daniel Ocanto. Tickets are $12 general; $10 students and $8 for Film Streams members. The curtain rises at 7 p.m. Find out more here. If you haven’t been to one of these, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

Also tonight, Conchance and Rock Paper Dynamite perform at the Rock Enroll showcase at The Slowdown. The free event will provide information about how to get health insurance coverage as the March 31 deadline looms. Music starts at 9.

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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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Brain Drain or Brain Gain? (In the column); Speedy Ortiz returns 3/21; acoustic King Buzzo, Gerald Lee Lr. and Miley tonight…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , — @ 2:02 pm March 6, 2014

by Tim McMahan,

In this week’s column, I contemplate the spate of musicians who have flown the coop (Jenna Morrison, Laura Burhenn, Kasher, etc.) and ask if the recent creative “brain drain” is a trend we should be concerned about. The column is in this week’s issue of The Reader or online right here.

* * *

Just noticed (via itsadigitalworld blog) that Speedy Ortiz has been booked to play Sweatshop Gallery March 21 with Digital Leather and Pile. I mention this because SO’s 2013 album, Major Arcana, was nothing less than amazing, and her new EP, Real Hair, is equally sublime. I can’t miss them this time…

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King Buzzo tour poster

King Buzzo tour poster

Roger “Buzz” Osborne a.k.a. King Buzzo is headlining tonight at The Waiting Room with Filter Kings’ frontman Gerald Lee, Jr. opening. For those of you who may not have grown up with their delicious noise, Buzzo is a member of seminal ’80s punk band Melvins, who have been credited as germinating a style of punk that evolved (or devolved, depending on your point of view) into ’90s grunge. Melvins put out a new album late last year that also featured original members Dale Crover and Mike Dillard called Tres Cabrones.

Tonight’s Buzzo show will be a change of pace as he’s out on the road supporting his new acoustic solo EP This Machine Kills Artists. This review from of a recent King Buzzo show will give you a taste of what you’re in for tonight: 

“Headliner King Buzzo did a mix of classic material from The Melvins’ back catalog and newer material from his upcoming, as-yet-untitled, all-acoustic album coming out this summer. True to form and reputation—see some of his appearances on Fox News’ Red Eye—Buzzo is a total card, cracking jokes at every possible turn. ‘Suicide in Progress’ and Stag’s ’Captain Pungent’ both show the musical finesse The Melvins material is famous for, and because the songs are being rendered for the first time without drums or bass, how crucial Dale Crover’s drumming is to each track’s arrangement. On ‘Captain Pungent’ numerous crowd members take to singing the drum fills while Buzzo is silently counting the absent spaces to keep in time.”

Sounds like a riot. $13, 9 p.m.

* * *

And then there’s Miley Cyrus tonight at The CLink. Driving into work this morning, I saw her fleet of tour busses — at least a half dozen — parked along the south side of the DoubleTree, along Capitol Ave. I looked but didn’t see Miley getting out of one of the rigs.

The controversy over her live show is… amusing. Maybe people make a big deal about her crotch-grab antics because she comes from the Disney cabal, I don’t know. She’s not doing anything that Madonna didn’t do two decades ago. Back then, people were up in arms about ol’ cone-tits and MTV and yes, there was a sense that pop music had died a little with every vogue, becoming that much more marginalized.

These days Madonna’s core discography is respected more than it was back then, if only for the sheer production value. Madonna had (has) a shitty voice, but it was pure gold compared to Britney’s ear-bleeding caw. Miley’s voice is a step up from her Disney sister, but it’s still pretty bad, while her music is as equally trite. In the end it doesn’t matter. The kids who are headed to Miley tonight are going for the foam-fingered spectacle, not the music. Let them have their fun…

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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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


The Return of Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies (in the column); Snake Island, McCarthy cinema tonight…

Category: Blog,Column,Interviews — Tags: , — @ 1:47 pm February 20, 2014
Brad Hoshaw towers over the crowd...

Brad Hoshaw towers over the crowd…

by Tim McMahan,

In this week’s column, an interview with Brad Hoshaw on what went wrong with the last album and what he hopes will go right with the new one. You can read it in this week’s issue of The Reader or online at website right here, or since this is a music-related installment, you can read it below:

Over the Edge 95: The Second Coming of Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies

When Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies released their debut album five years ago, I thought for sure it was going to be a breakthrough.

That record was pure bliss. If you haven’t heard it (and apparently not many of you have), it’s worth seeking out. It’s as good — if not better than — most records that came out in 2009, loaded with heart-wrenching hook-laden folk-rock songs that once heard are impossible to get out of your head.

Despite my growing pessimism about the ever-decomposing music industry, I still believe the only thing that matters is good songwriting — no matter how much music gets thrown into the giant milk barrel we call the internet, the cream will always rise to the top to be discovered by some enterprising record label exec looking to break the Next Big Thing.

And yet, that Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies’ debut album went nowhere. What happened?

Hoshaw said the record’s failure to gain traction outside of Omaha wasn’t for lack of trying. “I did as much as I could to capitalize on that last record, but trying to do the job of a record label by myself was probably unreasonable,” he said over a decaf Americano at a Benson coffee shop.

Hoshaw’s formula to break that first record involved a home-grown college radio campaign, where he personally sat down and called more than 300 radio stations from a promotion list he gleaned off a fellow musician.

“I sent out 120 copies of the CD to radio stations, but when it came time to do follow-up calls, I was burned out,” Hoshaw said. “I hit a threshold with what I could do by myself without going crazy.”

What about touring? Hoshaw said his band went on a two-week East Coast tour, but afterward band members said they couldn’t afford to do more. “They have families and jobs, and it didn’t make sense to lose money on the road,” Hoshaw said. Eventually the “Seven Deadlies” evaporated to just one — guitarist Matt Whipkey.

Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies, Funeral Guns (self-released, 2014)

Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies, Funeral Guns (self-released, 2014)

Now Hoshaw has a chance to try again. He’s celebrating the release of his new Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies album, Funeral Guns, this Friday night at The Waiting Room. The 10-song opus continues along the same path as the debut, with songs destined to be radio-station fodder (if they ever catch a programmer’s ear). Tunes like sinister opening ballad “New Tattoo,” sleek West Coast-rocker “Company” and album-closing magnum opus “It Falls Apart” continue to define Hoshaw as one of the best songwriters to come out of Nebraska.

So what’s he going to do differently this time ‘round? “I want to widen my fan base,” Hoshaw said. In collaboration with Whipkey, Hoshaw has picked Minneapolis, Des Moines/Ames and Kansas City/Lawrence as target markets where he’ll play gigs at least once a month.

Funeral Guns got made thanks to the support of 130 people who funded a Kickstarter online crowd-funding campaign. Hoshaw said he wants to keep that fan base happy and grow it as much as possible because he’ll need to call on them again when it comes time to fund his next record. Call it a grassroots effort rather than the traditional music career path that involves attracting the attention of a record label with hopes of signing a contract.

“Record companies are difficult; the odds are always against you,” Hoshaw said. “On the other hand, every time you go on stage you have a chance to make connections with new fans. It’s not a comfortable living, not like having a record deal where you can say, ‘We’ve made it.’ It’s hard work and constant stress.”

That said, Hoshaw still wouldn’t mind landing a record deal or a booking agent or a promotion company that could take some of the load off his shoulders so he could focus on what he says is his biggest priority: songwriting. He’s already talking about recording his next album this year, and has reached out to producers, including Saddle Creek Records’ veteran Andy LeMaster, whose credits include albums by Bright Eyes, Azure Ray and Now It’s Overhead.

And then there’s Nashville. “I have some friends who are songwriters down there,” Hoshaw said. “I’ve considered moving to Nashville. It would be more as a songwriter than a performer. I would pursue writing songs with other songwriters for other artists. For me, all the business stuff begins with the song — it’s the most important thing to develop, and writing with different people will make that stronger.”

Imagine Hoshaw selling a song like “Funeral Guns” to a hotshot like Blake Shelton. “I would consider it,” he said with a smile. “I would have to look at the contract and decide if it made sense.”

But what would make even more sense is writing songs for other Nebraska musicians. Hoshaw originally wrote the track “Delta King” off the new record for local band The Black Squirrels, while “New Tattoo” was written in collaboration with three other songwriters and album closer “It Falls Apart” was written by former Nebraska songwriter now poet Kyle Harvey.

Hoshaw’s contemplated recording an entire album of covers of songs by local songwriters, and would love for a fellow Omaha songwriter like John Klemmensen to record one of his songs.

“I would love more of that to happen locally the same way Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and Kris Kristofferson played each other’s songs,” Hoshaw said. “I would love to see less fear about sharing art and letting other people interpret it, because in the end, it’s really about performing the best songs.”

* * *

Over The Edge is a weekly 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, Feb. 20, 2014. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Tonight at The Waiting Room Snake Island headlines with Swamp Walk and Time Cat. $5, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, it’s the first in Film Streams’ Hitchcock 9 Silents in Concert Repertory Series featuring the silent films of Alfred Hitchcock brought to life sonically by live musicians. Tonight it’s the 1929 film The Farmer’s Wife featuring live music by Dan McCarthy and James Maakestad. Tickets are $12 general; $10 students and $8 for Film Streams members. The curtain rises at 7 p.m. Find out more here.

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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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Kyle Harvey on why he prefers words to music; Ghost Foot, Those Far Out Arrows tonight…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , , , — @ 1:45 pm February 13, 2014
Poet Kyle Harvey

Poet Kyle Harvey

by Tim McMahan,

In this week’s column, an interview with Poet Kyle Harvey on what it’s like to be a poet and why he turned his back on the music world. It’s in this week’s issue of The Reader or online right here, and since this tangentially involves music, you can read it below.

* * *

Over the Edge #94: The Life of a (Real) Modern-Day Poet

Hyacinth (Lithic Press, 2013)

Hyacinth (Lithic Press, 2013)

Just the word “poet” makes some people’s eyes roll in exasperation and disbelief. “Who does he think he is, calling himself a poet? Is he serious?” To those same people, anyone who would classify himself as a poet is very likely a self-involved, deluded, pretentious asshole who thinks he has all the answers and can even make those answers rhyme. Either that, or he’s a university professor.

The only problem with that theory is that Kyle Harvey is a poet, and he’s anything but a pretentious asshole.

He used to be a musician, the kind that plays rock ’n’ roll and folk songs of his own writing. Once upon a time when he lived in Omaha, Harvey was known to stand on stage with his guitar behind his rather bushy beard and sing painful, personal love songs designed to draw tears from your eyes (and often succeeded). He also played in a rock band that no longer exists called It’s True, which released records and drove around the country in a van playing concerts in night clubs.

All of that was a long time ago. These days Harvey lives in picturesque Fruita, Colorado, a town of around 12,000 located just outside of Grand Junction on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains. He and his wife, Veronica, live a quiet life raising kids (with twins on the way), hold down day jobs and are part of a community where Harvey recently was elected to the City Council.

But on top of all that, Harvey writes poems, like this one from his latest “chap book”:


There’s an overcoat of cottonwood,
on a quilted field in Holland.

Words spill from one pocket
and rhythms from the other.

Down into the soil they seep,
Cupping seeds in their hands

and sprouting the promise of bulbs
from which colorful miracles leap.

“I’m only a poet when I write a poem,” Harvey explained. “The rest of the time I’m just an average dude.”

How does one go from performing rock songs in front of an audience to quietly writing at the foot of a mountain? Harvey says at some point he “fell out of love” with being a musician and the pressures that came with it.

“Music just doesn’t hold as much value as it used to,” Harvey said. “I think it stopped a long time ago, well before I started stepping back from it. I got burned out on the formula of writing songs. Poetry seemed a little bit more open-ended and felt a little more free.”

Harvey said he also didn’t feel fulfilled playing rock shows. “The fulfillment came from the process of creating something,” he said. “With the band, the value for me was hanging out with my friends and traveling to different cities, but the shows and the grind of it was not as exciting or fun. I don’t crave being on stage in front of people, I almost like not being on stage — which is weird considering how long I played music.

“There doesn’t seem to be much to a poet’s lifestyle, like there is to a musician’s.” he added. “Poetry is solitary, you do it in solitude.”

Well, except for when he takes part in poetry readings, but even then all he has to do is read four or five poems. “Then you get to hang out with people who read books,” he said. “I’d rather read a book than listen to an album.”

What? Sacrilege!

Harvey said he began writing poetry back in his musician days. After he moved to Colorado one of his poems, “Hyacinth,” won the 15th Annual Mark Fischer Poetry Prize awarded by the Telluride Arts Council.

Shortly after that, friend and fellow poet Danny Rosen suggested Harvey collect his poems — many of which had been published in small poetry journals and magazines — and put out a book. Named after that award-winning poem, Hyacinth was published by Rosen’s Lithic Press. Harvey calls it a “chap book,” which he said is the term for books under 42 pages that use staples for the binding.

Unlike the music business, which seems to thrive on album sales, there isn’t a lot of pressure to sell copies of his chapbook. Harvey said Rosen would love to at least break even, but “in his mind, the most important part (of the process) is creating the artifact, the beautiful book,” Harvey said. “(Rosen) would tell you he already considers it a huge success, which is neat to hear.”

So what’s the pretentious part in all of this?

“There’s a misperception that (poetry) is some sort of pretentious high art. It’s not like that at all,” Harvey said. “What I’ve learned is that the poetry world to me doesn’t seem nearly as pretentious as the music world. Even the biggest, most widely read, best-selling poets — and there’s not a whole lot of them — are still nothing like rock stars. There’s a purity to it that maybe comes from the fact that there’s not much of an audience for poetry, and from the lack of exchange of money. There’s not even a whole lot of people who have been to a poetry reading. They’re almost considered taboo.”

And now you can take part in this taboo ritual when Harvey presents some of his work at a poetry reading Feb. 24 at the Petshop Gallery, 2727 No. 62nd St. in Benson. Joining him will be Greg Kosmicki (the 2000 and 2006 recipient of the Nebraska Arts Council’s Merit Award), Paul Hanson Clark (co-founder and operator of the poetry studio SP CE in Lincoln), and Omaha musician and novelist Michael Trenhaile.

And if you’re wondering what Harvey sounded like on stage, well you’ll get your chance to find out when he once again slings on a guitar as the opener at the Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies album release show Feb. 21 at The Waiting Room. No one said poets can’t sing, too.

Over The Edge is a weekly 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, Feb. 13, 2014. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Tonight at O’Leaver’s, Shreveport band Ghost Foot plays along with locals Those Far Out Arrows. Whenever I see shows like this listed, I wonder how they got booked. Ghost Foot has almost no web presence. They have a Facebook page with 375 likes with an “about” section that has almost no information about the band. They have a bandcamp page but no formal releases. Beyond that, nothing. And yet, here they are hundreds of miles away from home on tour.

Somehow they found O’Leaver’s, or O’Leaver’s found them and they booked a show for tonight. Maybe they’re friends with the TFOA guys, who also only have a Facebook page and a Reverb Nation page. I think it’s safe to say this is the punk underground at its finest. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


The inside scoop on Sick Birds Die Easy (in the column) plus outtakes; Long Low Signal, Betty Jean, Lincoln Exposed tonight…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , — @ 1:53 pm February 6, 2014
Ross Blockley from a scene from Sick Birds Die Easy.

Ross Brockley from a scene from Sick Birds Die Easy.

by Tim McMahan,

In this week’s column, an interview with the Nik Fackler, Sam Martin and Ross Brockley, the stars of Fackler’s new film, Sick Birds Die Easy. Fackler separates the real from the unreal, the fact from fiction in this documentary that isn’t a documentary but kind of is. You can read it in the current issue of The Reader, or online right here. Go ahead and read it now and come on back, we’ll wait for you…

With the column being more of a review and description than a Q&A, there was a lot of leftover interview content that didn’t make into the 1,000-word news hole. Hopefully much of what I missed was covered in a story that (I was told) was being written by Leo Adam Biga, The Reader‘s cover story writer. That said, here are a few details:

– Sam Martin’s soundtrack is as central to the film as the visual footage. Martin seamlessly combines the style of music he’s known for with a sublime score that perfectly accentuates the mirth and madness of every frame. “All the score work was done after a (mostly) final cut was done,” Martin said, “but while Nik was editing I gave him a hard drive of everything I recorded in the last two years so he picked (music) out of that hard drive. After that I tracked all the score work.”

“It was like a treasure chest hard drive of amazing music,” Fackler added. As I mentioned in the column, the DVD version of the film comes with a separate copy of the soundtrack.

– Fackler said the film’s budget was a little less than $100,000. His producer was Steve Hays of 120 dB Films, who Fackler had met when his film Lovely, Still premiered in Toronto. “(Hays) whole concept was ‘Let’s make a film that’s kind of like this new genre that’s popping up that’s a hybrid, kind of like Paranormal Activity.’ Initially I wasn’t interested in doing it, but then sent him a one-page concept.”

Hays gave the green light and Fackler proceeded to shoot more than 500 hours of footage that took a year and a half to edit between tours with Icky Blossoms and Tilly and the Wall. The entire time Hays was breathing down his neck for a print to hand over to various festival committees.

“It was good having that pressure to get the film edited,” Fackler said, but added. “I’m really burnt out on editing. Editing this film really took a lot out of me. I’m ready to put that hat away.”

– I’ve been a fan of Ross Brockley since he played the slacker son in the series of commercials with the pitch phrase: “What do you think this is, a Holiday Inn?” Brockley becomes the central figure in this film — you love him, you hate him. I asked why he doesn’t do more work and Brockley said his main focus these days is his organic farm operation located south of Lincoln called Brockley Farmaceuticals that he’s operated for the past 14 years. The farm was partially paid for by his Holiday Inn work. Still, Brockley hasn’t turned his back on acting. “It’s not like I”m passing up roles and offers all over the place,” he said.

– Dana Altman of North Sea Films, who is seen running a camera in the movie and plays a minor role, is said by narrator Fackler to be giving up film making to buy a farm of his own. “He did buy a farm,” Fackler said during the interview. “It’s so beautiful, I think if Dana had his choice, he would be there full time, but you can’t take the film maker out of him. He’ll always love film.”

– As for Fackler’s future: “I don’t know what I’m going to do next,” he said. “I like to have small goals and work real intensely one thing at a time. I don’t like to have all my eggs in one medium. Right now the focus is releasing Sick Birds and then music full-time. I’ve started writing a new script. Film will always be a part of my life. I don’t see being a musician and touring into my 40s and 50s.”

If you don’t have tickets to next Tuesday’s screening of Sick Birds at Film Streams and you want to go, you better get them soon. Fackler implied sales have been brisk. I wouldn’t be surprised if it sells out. And though it will be available on DVD and Video on Demand, it’s worth seeing on the big screen. Details/tickets are available here, and the after-party at The Slowdown should be (as the kids say) off the hook.

* * *

A couple shows on the radar tonight.

New band Long Low Signal headlines at The Waiting Room with The Love Technicians, The Sub Vectors and Let Alone. Interestingly, LLS plays tomorrow night at Slowdown, apparently prepping to go into the studio. I have no idea what they sound like. $5, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, tonight at Slowdown Jr., Betty Jean of The Betties is hosting a CD release show. Joining her is Travelling Mercies and Matt Cox. $5, 9 p.m.

And in Lincoln, it’s night two of Lincoln Exposed. Get the deets here.

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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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Opening Pandora’s Box (and finding Matt Whipkey inside)(in the column); Phantom Scout, Sowers tonight…

Category: Blog,Column,Interviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:20 pm January 23, 2014

by Tim McMahan,

In this week’s column, a look at Pandora from the vantagepoint of local singer/songwriter Matt Whipkey, who outlines the steps he underwent to get his music included in the streaming service, and included in the Music Genome Project. You can read it in the current issue of The Reader or online right here at, or, since the column is centered around music, you can read it below…

Over the Edge No. 91: Opening Pandora’s Box

pandoraIs Pandora the new “radio”?

And by that I’m asking, could digital music streaming services such as Pandora replace terrestrial radio stations, especially after car stereos become “internet ready,” allowing drivers to punch in a website from their dashboards?

While I can’t answer that in this column, I can say that Pandora at least gives unsigned musicians a glimmer of hope that a stranger will find their music, a glimmer of hope that they’ll never get from old-fashioned radio.

That hope is what drove local unsigned singer/songwriter Matt Whipkey to submit his latest album — an ode to the late, lamented Peony Park called Penny Park — to Pandora.

Before we get to that, what is Pandora? The service is a website and a smartphone app that plays music based on an artist’s “station.” For example, when I typed in “Led Zeppelin Radio” the four songs Pandora belched out were Zep’s “Whole Lotta Love,” Pink Floyd’s “Have a Cigar,” Jimi Hendrix’ “Voodoo Chile” and Rolling Stones’ “Beast of Burden” — basically the same thing you’d hear on Z-92.

Where Pandora gets interesting is when it “suggests” songs you haven’t heard before. That rarely happens when tuned into dinosaur acts like Zep; but it happens all the time when tuning into indie band “radio stations.”

Not just any act can get its music in Pandora. Whipkey said bands signed to record labels have a clear path. Unsigned artists, on the other hand, undergo a process that isn’t exactly easy.

Step One: Open an Amazon Marketplace Account and offer a physical copy of your CD for sale. Step Two: Submit two songs from your record to Pandora. Whipkey said it took two months for someone from Pandora to notify him that his music had been accepted. Hooray! Step Three: Fill out a ton of legal forms. Step Four: Send Pandora a complete copy of your CD.

Three months after Whipkey began the process, “Matt Whipkey Radio” was on the air, but more importantly, his music became part of Pandora’s sci-fi sounding “Music Genome Project.”

According to Pandora, every song in the Music Genome Project is analyzed using up to 450 distinct musical characteristics by a trained music analyst. Those attributes capture not only the musical identity of a song, but also the many “significant qualities that are relevant to understanding the musical preferences of listeners.” Pandora does not use machine-listening or other forms of automated data extraction.

I envision a huge warehouse filled with hipsters and tweed-wearing music professors sitting behind row after row of desks like headphoned elves. As they thoughtfully listen to each CD, they check boxes from a long list of descriptions that includes traits such as rhythm syncopation, key tonality, vocal harmonies and displayed instrumental proficiency (i.e, bitchin’ guitar solo).

“By utilizing the wealth of musicological information stored in the Music Genome Project, Pandora recognizes and responds to each individual’s tastes. The result is a much more personalized radio experience – stations that play music you’ll love – and nothing else.”

And nothing else.

So what does Matt Whipkey Radio sound like? In the first hour I heard songs by Delorentos, Second Dan, Boys School, Sissy and the Blisters, Two Cow Garage, Kirby Krackle and Peter Elkas — all artists and bands I’ve never heard of. Whipkey thinks Pandora groups unsigned indie artists with other unsigned indie artists.

Not everything on Matt Whipkey Radio was anonymous. I also heard songs by The Thermals, The Cynics, Gasoline Heart, Maps & Atlases and one of my all-time favorite bands, The Feelies. Pandora lets users “thumbs up” songs they like, and as a result, it learns a listener’s tastes. I “thumbed up” The Feelies, for instance.

As a whole, the music streamed for Matt Whipkey Radio was pretty good and in character with Whipkey’s style of music. I can’t say the same for “Eli Mardock Radio.”

Mardock is one of my favorite Lincoln singer/songwriters whose debut album was released by tiny label Paper Garden Records. An hour of his station included commercial-friendly music by unknown acts Black Lab, Golden Bear, No Second Troy, The Click Five, a Pat Benetar cover (“Love Is a Battlefield”) by Jann Arden, and songs by familiar (but dreadful) artists Blue October and Travis. None of the music bore the unique, sinister quality that makes Mardock’s songs so interesting.

On the other hand, listening to “Little Brazil Radio” (a popular local punk band) resulted in a very satisfying hour of music that included songs by classic indie bands Superchunk, Silkworm and The Academy Is… Cursive Radio was a veritable hit parade of ‘90s indie, with songs by Radiohead, The Pixies, Modest Mouse and Brand New. The groupings oddly made sense.

What would make Pandora really cool? Imagine the thousands of people listening to “Bruce Springsteen Radio” being fed a Matt Whipkey song. Whipkey says it (probably) will never happen, though he’s heard of bands that have become “Pandora famous.”

“Someone listening to Led Zeppelin Radio who was fed an indie band that sounds like Led Zeppelin probably wouldn’t be too cool with that,” he said.

Whipkey said he submitted to Pandora purely for the chance of gaining wider exposure (He never expects to see a royalty check). “When you tell people you’re on Pandora, they think it’s cool,” he said. “It’s kind of an achievement of sorts. They did have to pick me. They won’t take just anything.”

And who knows, strangers might actually hear his music, which is something they won’t hear on the regular radio. Whipkey said he’s done his share of in-studio performances on local radio stations, “but I never understood how my two minutes live on the air is different than putting on one of my CDs and hitting ‘Play,’” he said. “That’s a no-no. They can’t do it. The guys that host the shows say they have to play what they’re told to play, and that’s it. On the other hand, it’s super-cool that they let me come on their shows.”

So is Pandora the new “radio”?

“I think of Pandora as radio,” Whipkey said. “It’s out there, it’s always on my phone, it’s easy. I just hit the button and there it is. That’s kind of cool.”

Over The Edge is a weekly 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, Jan. 22, 2014. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Before radio host Dave Leibowitz can chime in with “What about my show, New Day Rising on 89.7 FM The River? We play local music,” I want to point out that Whipkey did mention how much he appreciated Sunday programming on The River. And I’ve written a couple times in my column about Dave’s radio show, which airs from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday afternoons (In fact, New Day Rising was the subject of the very first installment of my former music column, way back in 2004).

But I don’t think I need to remind Dave that three hours — along with a couple other shows aired on Sundays — do not make up for The River’s abhorrent play list the rest of the week. I explored this topic with Sophia John in my column as well – go here, and scroll down to the May 9, 2005 entry. The River’s perceived shift in format referenced in that column never happened. The station is still a glowing bastion of growly, Cookie Monster goon-rock, and  likely will remain so until Sophia moves on. Her justification for not changing format: “If I did that, I wouldn’t be doing what’s best for everyone. I want to bring the masses what they really want while opening their minds to something different.

Argue all you want about the quality of terrestrial radio, it’s not changing. If you like the kind of music The River spins, then you’re lucky; you’ve got an outlet right here in your home town. If you wish a station had a full-time playlist similar to what Dave plays on his show — or for a radio station that spins local musicians regularly — well, you’ve always got Pandora, Spotify and your record and CD collection. Technology will catch up eventually, and you’ll soon be able to tune into that music in  your car as if it were a terrestrial radio station.

This begs the question: Why doesn’t someone create an online radio station that focuses solely on Nebraska music? Keep watching, folks, it’s just around the corner.

* * *

Tonight at The Barley Street Tavern it’s Phanton Scout (featuring Jeremy Stanosheck). Also on the bill, Sacramento band Misamore and Sowers. $5, 9. More info here.

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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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Are record collectors the same as comic book collectors? (in the column); Jake Bellows tonight…

Category: Blog,Column,Interviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:56 pm January 9, 2014

by Tim McMahan,

In this week’s column, a discussion about 2013 music sales and industry trends with Mike Fratt, general manager of Homer’s Records. While national album sales were down, Homer’s enjoyed a double-digit increase in business vs. 2012. Read about it in this week’s issue of The Reader or online right here at Or, since the column is centered on music, you can read it below…

Vinyl Sales Help Homer’s Buck Industry Trend

by Tim McMahan

After spending the last two weeks writing about the current state and predicted future of the music industry, it’s time for a dose of reality in the form of the 2013 Nielsen SoundScan numbers.

Billboard Magazine reported last week that album sales suffered an 8.4 percent decline in 2013, CD sales declined 14.5 percent, even digital music sales declined last year for the first time since the iTunes store swung wide its online doors in 2003. Digital track sales fell 5.7 percent, while digital album sales fell 0.1 percent, all according to SoundScan.

The Billboard story said industry executives concede that “ad-supported and paid subscription services were indeed cannibalizing digital sales.” Call it the Spotify effect. Those same execs went on to say growth in streaming revenue offset the decline in digital sales.

But what about brick-and-mortar? That’s where Mike Fratt comes in. Fratt is the General Manager and buyer at independent record store Homer’s Music, 1210 Howard St. In the face of all the doom and gloom, Fratt said 2013 was a good year for Homer’s.

“Sales were up 10 percent, vinyl was again a big driver, up 40 percent for the year,” Fratt said. “DVDs, gift, accessory and lifestyle sales were also up.” It’s a trend that began in 2010. But it wasn’t all good news for Homer’s. Fratt said CDs saw their first sales decline at his store since 2009, slipping 3 percent.

So is it time to go all-in with vinyl? Not so fast. According to SoundScan, vinyl sales indeed rose from 4.55 million in 2012 to 6 million last year, but that’s only enough to make vinyl 2 percent of all U.S. album sales. CDs are still king of the mountain commanding a whopping 57.2 percent of the market, while digital albums sales comprised 40.6 percent.

Still, Fratt says Homer’s business plan is to continue to focus on vinyl and lifestyle/gift items. “We embarked on a project to replace all our vinyl browsers in 2013 to increase space efficiency and improve merchandising of 7-inch singles,” Fratt said.

In addition, Homers will continue to broaden its CD selection. “We have been adding new distributors that stock imports, budget and rarities,” Fratt said. “Despite potential declining sales (in CDs), customers will still expect a large selection.”

Fratt said streaming services such as Spotify and Pandora actually have driven his sales numbers. Customers often come into his store asking to buy an album that’s streaming on their phone.

He said overall, consumers’ buying habits are shifting. “As mall music stores have disappeared and mass merchants (Target, Walmart, Best Buy) reduce selection to below 1,000 different titles, music buyers are forced online to buy CDs,” he said. “This has also helped the indies.” Billboard reported that indie merchants as a whole saw a nearly 12 percent decline in album sales last year. Fratt said that number was wrong, and closer to a 5 percent decline.

“Right now, SoundScan only pulls sales data from about 60 indies nationwide and attempts to determine total national sales for indies,” he said. “Record Store Day website lists 1,000 stores in the U.S.” Fratt thinks vinyl sales were probably closer to 10 million last year. We won’t know the real numbers until a new media company begins tracking physical and digital sales this year.

I told Fratt I noticed another shift in consumer buying. More and more, record buyers are following a model similar to comic book collectors — they’re buying vinyl and limited edition hard product based on collect-ability (and maybe investment).

I speak from personal experience, as both a record and comic book collector. There is certain vinyl I collect just because I want to own it — Factory Records stuff, early copies of Smiths albums with unique cover art, for example. These are albums I probably will only listen to once, but will display in my house or just want to have. If I want to listen to the actual music, I listen to a digital version.

The amazingly successful Record Store Day in some ways supports my idea — it’s a great way for collectors to find and buy cool collectible limited-edition pieces. But I wonder how many people who buy rare or limited edition stuff actually play the recordings, especially if the music is already available online via Spotify?

The old arguments about purchasing physical seem to be dying away. The “need for a back-up” argument will disappear when people become familiar/comfortable with cloud computing. The “inferior audio quality” argument will eventually fade when technology provides a better, flawless audio file type (which is inevitable). Spotify gives access to nearly everything now, and if you’re a paying user (as I am) you can even listen when you’re away from a wi-fi/cellular connection.

So why buy hard assets like vinyl? Because you want to own it. You collect it. It’s finite. It’s physical in a world where fewer and fewer entertainment options involve physical things. If the above is true, than records stores will become like comic shops. Maybe they already are?

“Collectors certainly make up a strong customer group for us and play a large roll in RSD, but vinyl has become so big, it draws all kinds of customers, both casual and hard-core collector, young and old,” Fratt replied.

He said cloud computing, streaming and cars with internet will impact how people collect and access music, but early adopters (like me) remain a minority. “Over the last few years I’ve read that CD is dead, is dying and will be gone. Yet it is still 60 percent of album sales. So, a lot of people are still buying CDs to listen to and load onto their phone or PC.

“Vinyl is a fad,” Fratt added. “Yet, even a recent iPhone commercial started with the image of a record spinning on a turntable only to have an iPhone set down next to it. It’s 10 million new (vinyl albums) being bought (per year) and another 30 million used trading hands. Somebody’s playing this stuff, not just collecting.

“Collecting occurs in so many categories anymore. What you’re saying is not untrue. I think only a small minority sees it the way you do. Right now. We’ll see how that evolves. Ask me again next year.” I’m sure I will.

Over The Edge is a weekly 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, Jan. 8, 2014. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Tonight at Pageturners Lounge, 5004 Dodge Street, it’s a homecoming of sorts for Nebraska’s favorite wandering musical soul, Jake Bellows. On a brief tour through the Midwest, Jake is taking a evening between gigs to play a show in his hometown. If you have yet to check out Pageturners (and I haven’t, even though it’s been open for more than a year) tonight might be the perfect opportunity. The show is free and starts at 9:30.

Also tonight, Lincoln blues rock guy Josh Hoyer and his band The Shadowboxers are playing at The 21st Saloon, located way the fuck out on 4727 96th St. (south of L on 96th). This is their International Blues Challenge send-off show before they head to Memphis for a battle royale. $10, 6 p.m.

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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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Visions of 2014; New Year’s Eve with Simon Joyner, John Klemmensen and a bowling ball…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , — @ 12:07 pm December 31, 2013

by Tim McMahan,

It’s probably the most anticipated blog entry of the year, and for good reason: Who doesn‘t want to know what’s going to happen next year? How about nobody. I’ve got to say, I’m as surprised as anyone as I go through the previous year’s predictions and see how many were dead on, and how many missed. It’s a fine line that divides predictions from wishes and fears. So with that, I give you a look into the unrevealed face of 2014. You can also read this in this week’s issue of The Reader (on news stands now) and online at

Music Predictions for 2014

by Tim McMahan

It’s time once again to gaze darkly into my crystal Fender Stratocaster and behold what miracles and wonders lie before us music-wise in the year 2014. But before we begin, let’s recap and score last year’s music predictions:

2013 Prediction: The number of indie shows booked at larger clubs will decline, making way for more commercial fair — cover bands, pop acts, etc.

Reality: The trend started in 2012 and continued last year. In addition to pop acts and cover bands, comedy nights became a staple at almost every music venue in the city.

2013 Prediction: Shows hosted at alternative venues — including hall shows, house shows and temporary one-off venues — will become more commonplace.

Reality: Sweatshop Gallery (and West Wing) stepped up to fill that niche in ‘13.

2013 Prediction: Bands will give away music as free downloads to spark interest in vinyl and merch sales.

Reality: Almost every new recording is now available to stream for free via Bandcamp or Soundcloud, though actual downloads will still cost you.

2013 Prediction: The number of touring indie bands will dwindle as it becomes nearly impossible for even nationally known bands to make a living solely from their music.

Reality: There were as many bands touring last year as ever, but fewer stopped in Omaha.

2013 Prediction:  A new digital music file format will emerge that will make mp3 and AAC formats obsolete.

Reality: Not yet.

2013 Prediction: A new social web app will emerge to promote upcoming rock shows, replacing Facebook invitations, which have become more annoying than useful.

Reality: Unfortunately, no.

2013 Prediction: A new music-based TV competition will debut, but instead of focusing on performers it’ll focus on singer/songwriters.

Reality: What decent songwriter would ever sign away his/her publishing rights for a chance to be on TV?

2013 Prediction: Rolling Stone will follow SPIN and discontinue print publication to become an online-only music website, while Pitchfork will debut the first issue of a new monthly print publication.

Reality: Instead, Pitchfork diversified by launching a new online movie website, The Dissolve.

2013 Prediction: A stellar headliner will force Maha Music Festival to make a format change from past years that will involve either an additional night of music or a third stage.

Reality: Why fix it when it ain’t broke?

2013 Prediction: MECA will fill the void left by Red Sky Music Festival’s demise with at least two major outdoor concerts at Ameritrade Ball Park and six sell-out-quality shows at CenturyLink Center, including a “significant” indie-style band.

Reality: Uh, no.

2013 Prediction: Bands we’ll be talking about this time next year: Husker Du, Wilco, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, PJ Harvey, Pavement, My Bloody Valentine, Tom Waits, Lloyd Cole, Matthew Sweet, Liz Phair, Beck, Arcade Fire, David Bowie, Grasshopper Takeover and Bright Eyes.

Reality: Huskers and Wilco were AWOL, but Zep went online (with Spotify), MBV released a top-10 album, plus we got new ones from Lloyd, Beck, Arcade Fire and Bowie.

2013 Prediction: Bands we won’t be talking about: Green Day, Rolling Stones, Springsteen, Metallica, Lady Gaga, fun., Ke$ha and Psy.

Reality: Crickets from all including Ga Ga, whose new release was a flop.

2013 Prediction: All of Aerosmith’s problems will be resolved once and for all.

Reality: Tyler, Perry and Co. continued their ever-lasting world tour.

2013 Prediction: Local record stores will get some new competition from a music shop that will open in Benson that caters to vinyl enthusiasts and musicians.

Reality: Almost Music, a vinyl-only shop, opened in Benson this summer.

2013 Prediction: Expect at least two new bands to join the Saddle Creek roster, including one well-known indie veteran, while at least one long-standing Creek act will jump ship for a major label.

Reality: Saddle Creek signed and released an album by indie vets The Thermals, and released a single by local darlings Twinsmith. Meanwhile, rumors are rampant that Desaparecidos’ new record will be released by a different label (such as Epitaph?).

2013 Prediction: We’ll say goodbye to one of the area’s most promising local bands that will break up despite a label-released album, but we haven’t heard the last of the band’s frontwoman.

Reality: Conduits quietly dissolved last year. Frontwoman Jenna Morrison moved to Los Angeles last week.

2013 Prediction: Another all-ages venue will open in Omaha operated as a non-profit catering to the indie music crowd.

Reality: 402 Arts Collective launched this year. The non-profit opened an all-ages performance space and recording studio in Benson, along with a coffee shop.

2013 Prediction: An out-of-this world national performer will play a last-minute “secret show” at either O’Leaver’s or Pageturners.

Reality: No, though both venues hosted some big names this year.

2013 Prediction: A local performer will be “discovered” by a big-time movie or TV mogul who catches their set while in town working on a production.

Reality: Alexander Payne apparently isn’t into local music.

2013 Prediction: And finally, it wasn’t Bright Eyes, The Faint or Cursive but Icky Blossoms who will finally break the barrier by making their television premier on Saturday Night Live.

Reality: Maybe next year (seriously)…

So 10 for 21 (if you’re feeling generous). Not bad, not good…

As for this year’s predictions for 2014, if you read last week’s Year in Review story you got a glimpse of a possible ’14 dominated by streaming music services (and the possible consequences). So with that, this year we’re going straight to the Lightning Round!

2014 Prediction: Thanks to social media, MTV will become an important (i.e., actual) music channel once again, but not on television, on the web. Look for MTV to emerge as a primary launching pad for premiering new music and online video.

2014 Prediction: Streaming services such as Spotify, Songsa, 8Tracks and Pandora will enter the concert promotion business, creating packaged “caravan”-type concert tours that barnstorm the country and whose performances will be streamed live on their respective streaming channels.

2014 Prediction: Target, Walmart, Best Buy and even Kmart, will reinstall record bins as the vinyl renaissance continues.

2014 Prediction: With the advent of computers integrated into apparel, eyeglasses, rings and watches — i.e. “wearables” — almost every concert you attend will be recorded and uploaded to YouTube.

2014 Prediction: Pussy Riot’s release from a Russian gulag will land them in America, where they’ll work with a handful of “important” producers to create a breakthrough punk album… before returning to Russia where they’ll once-again be imprisoned.

2014 Prediction: Upon its release next year, a song off the new Cursive double-live album will break through to pop culture in a way we haven’t seen since Cheap Trick, Peter Frampton and George Thorogood.

2014 Prediction: A one-time-only all-day outdoor concert will attract a handful of well-known national indie bands and rival the Maha Music Festival in attendance.

2014 Prediction: Speaking of Maha, the festival will land multiple headliners this year and will finally reach attendance that exceeds Stinson Park’s capacity, forcing the organization to look for a larger venue in 2015.

2014 Prediction: In an effort to keep CD prices from eroding, more artists will follow Beyonce’s lead and release albums exclusively on iTunes, causing similar rifts with retail outlets such as Amazon and Target, but opening doors with independent music retailers who will get exclusive access to “hard inventory,” such as CDs and vinyl.

2014 Prediction: More artists and independent labels will say “I’ve had enough” and follow Thom Yorke’s and Nigel Godrich’s lead and pull their music from Spotify, forcing the online streaming service to rethink its business model.

2014 Prediction: Bands we’ll be talking about this time next year: Radiohead, U2. The Faint, Conor Oberst, Cursive, Ted Stevens, Beck, Prince, Animal Collective, Digital Leather, Frank Ocean, Grizzly Bear, Future Islands, Sleigh Bells, Spoon, Death Cab for Cutie, Little Brazil, Tame Impala, Local Natives, Modest Mouse and Icky Blossoms.

2014 Prediction: Bands we won’t be talking about: Miley, Springsteen, Flaming Lips, Bieber, Chris Brown, Ritual Device, Monae, HAIM, Kanye, Katy Perry and Skrillex

2014 Prediction: All Bob Dylan’s problems will be solved once and for all.

2014 Prediction: New Lincoln venues, including Vega, will put a squeeze on Omaha music-goers, forcing them to “make the drive” more often to see their favorite touring indie bands.

2014 Prediction: One local online music-focused website will shut down forever in 2014 (and no, it won’t be Lazy-i).

2014 Prediction: Believe it or not, a local radio station will integrate a College Music Journal-style playlist into its regular programming

2014 Prediction: Yet another new live music venue will open in Benson, but this one will focus on either jazz, blues or country music. In addition, look for a new music club to open in or around Midtown Crossing.

2014 Prediction: An indie music legend with Nebraska roots who moved away from the Midwest more than a decade ago will return to The Good Life state and open a recording studio.

2014 Prediction: Look for another local singer/songwriter to break out nationally in 2014, but without the help of Saddle Creek Records. The name will be no surprise to his longtime fans.

2014 Prediction: Next year Conor Oberst really will appear the Saturday Night Live stage, but not as a music performer…Oberst, the actor!

First published in The Reader, Dec. 31, 2013. Copyright © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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New Year’s Eve historically is a night for cover bands and DJs and this year is no exception. Only two shows stand out for bringing in the New Year with original music. Simon Joyner and The Ghosts are playing tonight at The Side Door Lounge, 3530 Leavenworth Street. I’m told the bar is under new management. Simon and his posse will hit the stage at 10 and will perform two sets. If it is anything like we saw last Friday night, you’re in for a treat. By the way, there’s no cover!

The other show worth mentioning is at The Sydney tonight where John Klemmensen and The Party open for A Man Amongst Men and headliner Rock Paper Dynamite. This one starts at 9 p.m. and also is absolutely free.

Me, I’ll be busy trying to blow a rack at Chops while counting down the seconds to midnight.

Have a safe and happy New Year. See you in 2014.

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Lazy-i Best of 2013

Lazy-i Best of 2013

Before you let 2013 pass you by, enter to win a copy of the Lazy-i Best of 2013 compilation CD! The collection includes songs by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, The Gardenheads, Destruction Unit, Lloyd Cole, Pet Shop Boys, Daft Punk, Jack Bugg and a ton more.  The full track listing is here. Entering has never been easier: To enter either: 1. Send an email with your mailing address to, or 2) Write a comment on one of my Lazy-i related posts in Facebook, or 3) Retweet a Lazy-i tweet. You also can enter by sending me a direct message in Facebook or Twitter. Hurry, contest deadline is midnight Jan. 6!

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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 © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


The Year in Music 2013 (why streaming could change everything, top-10 records, favorite live shows); a McCarthy Trenching Christmas…

Category: Blog,Column,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:42 pm December 24, 2013

by Tim McMahan,

In this week’s issue of The Reader, the annual Music Year in Review article, complete with top-10 list and favorite live shows. It’s on news stands now, or read it online right here at, or… read it below.

The Year in Music: 2013

by Tim McMahan

Let me tell you a story that could reflect a huge shift in how music is heard, and where the whole thing (may be) headed in the very near future.

I recently had this conversation with a young music listener. Her ear buds tucked firmly in her earholes, I tapped her on the shoulder and asked what she was listening to.

“Oh, I listen to 8tracks,” she chirped, referring to the music streaming service. Okay, I said, but what band are you listening to? “Oh, I don’t know who it is. I just like listening to this music.”

Wait a minute, you don’t know who you’re listening to?

“Right. I just tune to my favorite theme on 8Tracks. I don’t pay attention to who’s singing.”

This led to a discussion about live music. My friend said she rarely goes to live concerts because, “I can’t imagine listening to music by one band all night.” One band all night? Who could tolerate such a thing in this “random shuffle age”?

For her, going to shows or concerts wasn’t about the music, but the performance, the light show, the spectacle. In fact, the music wasn’t secondary when deciding to go out, it was way down the list, somewhere after the ticket price, venue choice, booze and food availability, and (of course) who else was going.

Data check: This person is an intelligent, educated, indie-music-listening graphic artist in her mid-20s. I thought she was a fluke, an oddity, until I had a nearly identical conversation with a guy at the gym. When I asked him who he was listening to, he said Pandora.

He said he never bothers to interrupt his work outs to see who’s actually singing. The last concert he went to was Nine Inch Nails a number of years ago. He’d never been to a local club. He didn’t even know there were local bands that played original music. It’s not that he didn’t care, it’s that local music doesn’t get played on Pandora, and even if it did, he wouldn’t know because he never checks to see who’s playing.

Think I’m feeding you a load of shit? Try it — ask someone outside of your personal music-listening inner-circle what they listen to. See which (if any) musicians they can name beyond those who have performed skits on Saturday Night Live. Then ask them how they listen to music.

It comes back to the same problem that’s plagued the music industry since the dawn of the Internet Age: The paradigm shift in how music is distributed. And it brings up some stark questions: Why and how do listeners buy music? Are labels necessary anymore? In a streaming age, will the idea of “owning” music even exist?

The so-called “vinyl renaissance” that’s been ballyhooed as a potential savior of the music industry (even though we all know that vinyl sales represent a scintilla of total music sales) could be a backlash to the lack of materialism associated with today’s music options. Digital music is “immaterial” to new listeners. Vinyl represents tangible ownership, especially for “collectors.”

But casual music listeners don’t care about collectables. They don’t buy vinyl. In fact, unless the artist is a mega media star that regularly lands in TMZ  or Huffington Post , they don’t know who they are, and they don’t care.

People are listening to more music today than ever before, they just don’t know who or what they’re listening to. Their loyalty is shifting from artists and labels to streaming services — Spotify vs. Songify vs. Pandora vs. 8tracks vs. Rdio vs. Slacker, etc. There’s a new one coming online every six months.

And in a Pandora world, more value is placed on “style” than individual artists. Songify’s model involves merely selecting a theme: “Music to study to,” “Runway music,” “Urban Dance Party,” and so on.

8tracks’ “explore” mode is all about curated lists and themes with names like, “I can’t unlove you,” “Numb and trippy” and “Don’t make a sound now.” It takes the shuffle-mode concept to a whole ‘nother level. It’s weird.

Curation has never been more important in this Amazon/Walmart world where we can buy whatever we want whenever we want it. The problem os, of course, figuring out which is “the good stuff.” With millions of digital tracks available from your iPhone or Android device, no one can be expected to figure out what they want to hear. It’s so much easier to let someone else decide.

So how is any of this different than terrestrial radio, where faceless DJs picked the music that was the soundtrack to our lives? Well, at least with radio, they told you what you were listening to. Curated streaming music services merely dish out the songs one after another. If you want to know who’s playing, you have to look at your phone, and who has the time or energy for that?

But even in the radio days, you never heard local bands on the airwaves. That problem is just as bad — if not worse — with streaming services.

The other night a local musician walked up to me at the bar and began excitedly talking about his new record — not that it was coming out on a label, but that he finally got it accepted by Pandora. Now if he could only figure out a way to get his songs played on everyone’s “Springsteen Channel.”

Now for something less dismal. Without further ado, the list of my top-10 favorite records of 2013, in no specific order:

lloydcole Lloyd Cole, Standards (Tapete) — Don’t call it a comeback, it’s the best thing he’s released since Music in a Foreign Language, and could be a hit if he ever tours the U.S.

lowinvisibleLow, The Invisible Way (Sub Pop) — Produced by Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy it’s a return to form for indie rock’s throb-pulse heroes.

arcadefirereflektorArcade Fire, Reflektor (Merge) — Probably the most hyped indie album of the year, it lives up to it (for the most part).

nickcaveNick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Push the Sky Away (Bad Seed, Ltd.) — As with most of his recordings, Cave is almost perversely dramatic in his singing/speaking, as if telling dark lies at midnight, which btw, is the best time to listen to this record.

foxygenFoxygen, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic (Jagjaguwar) — Produced by Richard Swift, who worked on the last two Mynabirds albums, it’s pure ’70s Stones, as Stonesy as you can get without dragging Mick into the studio.

destructionDestruction Unit, Deep Trip (Sacred Bones) — A twisted, feedback-soaked parade of broken, angry garage rock that never fails to shine brightly.

speedySpeedy Ortiz, Major Arcana (Carpark) — Conjures comparisons to Guyville-era Liz Phair (but much heavier), Breeders, Pavement, but with a soulful sound of its own.

daftpunkDaft Punk, Random Access Memories (Columbia) — Probably the most hyped dance album of the year, it exceeded all expectations.

kasherTim Kasher, Adult Film (Saddle Creek) — The most tuneful Kasher project since The Good Life’s Help Wanted Nights in 2007.

gardenheadsThe Gardenheads
, Growing Season (Wee Rock) — A lot of bands try to do Americana. A lot of bands are boring. And some might say The Gardenheads’ music is “by the numbers,” but there’s something more here, something infectious in its simplicity.

I went to a few shows last year (okay, a lot of shows). Below is the list of — maybe not the best — but certainly the most memorable moments I lived through in 2013:

Gordon at The Side Door Lounge, Jan. 26 — It was a lovely train wreck the likes of which I haven’t seen since The Shanks farewell two-night stand at O’Leaver’s a year or so ago. In a lot of ways Gordon reminds me of The Shanks, albeit a cute, furry animal version without the blood and gore.

Ty Segall / Digital Leather at Sokol Underground, Feb. 10 —  Segall and his band was a well-honed noise machine, easily the loudest thing I’ve heard on a stage in a few years. I stood on a chair along the wall and watched the crowd writhe in ecstasy to the knuckle-bleeding music.

The Men at Slowdown Jr., April 27 — Here was a band that could effortlessly switch between hyper-rock and something vaguely resembling alt-country while always maintaining their speed, power, grace.

Baths at The Waiting Room, June 2 —  In addition to having the deepest, loudest low-end I’ve heard at The Waiting Room since the last Faint show, Baths’ melodies were abrasive and tricky but worked their way into my psyche. What starts as awkward and ugly becomes big and beautiful by the end.

Digital Leather, Big Harp, Kill Country at The Holland Center, June 7 — On the surface, the line-up for the inaugural Hear Nebraska Live program sponsored by Omaha Performing Arts at the Holland last Friday night was edgy, if not just plain risky. The outcome was — for the most part — a success.

Maha Music Festival at Stinson Park, Aug. 17 — If you came for spectacle, you got it. The Flaming Lips’ amazing light show included pin lights flowing from above Wayne Coyne down a chrome mountain like an LED volcano. But the highlight of the day was Bob Mould, who rifled though a “greatest hits” selection so loud it scared away the faint of heart.

Joan of Arc at O’Leaver’s, Sept. 18 — Vocalist Melina Ausikaitis — hands thrust in pockets, slouched in rolled-up blue jeans, red Converse high-tops, well-worn T-shirt and suspenders — was strangely magnetic, especially singing two a cappella numbers while the band fiddled with their various tuning devices.

Quasi, Jeffrey Lewis at Slowdown Jr., Oct. 4 — The best moments were the hits, which Sam Coomes supplied with a weathered panache that made them sound as fresh as they did when first performed 15 years ago.

Built to Spill at The Waiting Room, Oct. 18 — Doug Martsch and company played a sharp, measured set that combined the best songs from his classic albums with heavy stuff from the band’s latest. The high point was the encore — a lush version of The Smiths’ “How Soon Is Now,” complete with Marr’s trademark tremolo guitar effect.

Desaparecidos at The Waiting Room, Oct. 22 — Conor Oberst was in rare form, though his voice was hoarse at times, especially on those high notes. Good thing Landon Hedges was there to fill in the gaps. Here’s a secret: Hedges has a better voice, but when the material calls for screaming more than singing, it doesn’t really matter.

Cat Power at The Slowdown, Nov. 22 — Throughout the two-and-a-half hour solo performance Marshall looked anxious and irritated, clearly struggling with either an illness or a serious case of anxiety, stage fright or just not being prepared, all the while constantly being distracted by someone in the crowd who baited her from the edge of the stage (whether that person realized it or not).

Cursive at The Waiting Room Dec. 5, 12, 19 — This trio of “residency” shows recorded for a possible live album is everything any Cursive fan could want — more than 20 songs performed each night spanning the band’s entire career. What a way to cap off the year.

First published in The Reader, Dec. 23, 2103. Copyright © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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So you’re done with the family stuff on Christmas night and don’t feel like watching It’s a Wonderful Life again? Why not sneak out to O’Leaver’s, where, in addition to a staff reenactment of The Gift of the Magi, Omaha troubadour Dan McCarthy a.k.a. McCarthy Trenching will be headlining a show that also features James Maakestad (Electric Chamber Orchestra), Michael Todd (yes, the one from Hear Nebraska) and more. As the song goes, “Oh what fun it is to drink / until you pass out drunk…” No price or time listed for this one, but it’s either $5 or free and probably starts at 9:30.

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If I don’t see you, Happy Holidays from your friends at Lazy-i….

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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 © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.



Omaha songwriters night (MWD, Hoshaw, Hedges, Whipkey…); Neutral Milk Hotel is SOLD OUT; Hobbit desecration (in the column)…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , — @ 2:27 pm December 18, 2013

by Tim McMahan,

Three local songwriter showcases are happening tonight, two of which are series that are celebrating their final curtain call (for now).

Down at Slowdown Jr. it’s the return of Midwest Dilemma. Frontman Justin Lamoureux’s band has taken on a myriad of forms — everything from a trio to a 16+ piece acoustic orchestra. What configuration will he take tonight? Opening is Landon Hedges, better known as the frontman of Little Brazil and member of Conor Oberst-powered rock band Desaparecidos. Joining them is the always entertaining Brad Hoshaw. Get all three for one low price of $7. Show starts at 9.

Also tonight, Matt Whipkey ends his “Whipkey Wednesdays” solo series at The Lauter Tun, 3309 Oakview Dr., a bar that recently announced it’s closing its doors for good. Send them both off in style. Jessica Errett opens. 8 p.m. and absolutely free.

Also ending tonight is MarQ Manner’s Songwriter Night at The Library Pub, 5142 No. 90th St. According to the Facebook invite, this is the last night of the series, though there’s more to come in 2014.  Slated to play: Magick K Band Acoustic, Dallas Hendricks, Matt Cox and Scott Severin. Show starts at 8 and is free free free.

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If you didn’t get your tickets to Neutral Milk Hotel you’re out of luck. E-tix is showing that it’s SOLD OUT.

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In this week’s column, a look at how film-maker Peter Jackson desecrated J.R.R. Tolkien with his latest installment in The Hobbit trilogy. You can read it in this week’s issue of The Reader or online right here.

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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 © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.