Umm ain’t Big Harp (but sorta is…); Leafblower’s rock ‘n’ roll prescription; the last VW (in the column)…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:42 pm April 12, 2017

Big Harp at The Slowdown, Nov. 28, 2015. Two of them are back as Umm tomorrow at Reverb Lounge.

by Tim McMahan,

Tomorrow night (April 13) Umm plays at Reverb lounge. Umm is the duo of Stefanie Drootin and Chris Senseney, who also are the core duo behind Big Harp. So Umm is Big Harp, right?

No, says Drootin.

“This is the first time we’ve made a record that’s truly just the two of us,” she said in an email back-and-forth earlier this week. “We’ve always had drummers and this time I played drums along with old drum machines and loops. Also, Chris and I were listening to The Everly Brother a lot and were inspired to make a record where we sing harmony vocals basically all the time, which is a change from Big Harp.

“Really we’ve been moving away from the rootsier vibe since the first record and it felt like time to formalize the break. This probably could, and maybe should, have happened on our last album.”

OK, so the duo-only project is called Umm while Big Harp is the name of the trio (or larger)?

“Not exactly. Umm doesn’t have to be a duo,” Stef said. “Partly we just wanted to start a new project and not have to worry about playing old songs or upsetting people by NOT playing old songs. To us, the music sounds different, but I guess people will have to formulate their own opinions on that.”

Ah, OK. Sort of like Cursive vs. Good Life — two projects fronted by Tim Kasher (one of which (The Good Life) Drootin also plays in)?

“Not exactly ’cause those are two bands that are 75% different members. Both of these are Chris and I. :)”

So… Umm is just a way to avoid playing older material?

“No, not really. That’s one part of it, but it’s really just a different project,” Drootin said.  “We co-sing constantly. We play with drum loops. The songs are looser and longer. It’s different music. But yes, it’s still Chris and I.”

And that’s where I left it — no more clear about the name change than I was before, other than Chris and Stef see Umm as a completely different project than Big Harp, and don’t want to play Big Harp songs Thursday night. They are, in essence, turning band branding on its ear. Imagine every time a band puts out a new record it renames itself.

If so, not a bad strategy, especially when you consider the number of bands that launch with big success only to fall flat on their second release, the fans of the debut apparently uninterested in hearing what comes next. In the old days (*he says from his rocking chair*) a band put out multiple albums trying to build up an audience and catalog of music. Sure, it was a drag when the crowd zoned out during the “new stuff,” but that’s a pain point every band went through.

Now, simply rename your band and start over with every album. How many iterations of Ty Segall are out there. Fuzz? Muggers? Ty Segall Band? Conor Oberst has Bright Eyes, Desaparecidos, Monsters of Folk, Mystic Valley Band and his solo output, though he played a “Poison Oak” (a Bright Eyes song) at his last solo show. Does it really matter what he calls himself since he writes all the songs?

Anyway… Joining Umm tomorrow night is Oquoa and BareBear. $7, 9 p.m. Hey, we all have Good Friday off the next day anyway, right?

* * *

Speaking of upcoming shows (I’m getting a head start to the weekend) Leafblower has a cassette release show Saturday night at The Brothers Lounge with David Nance and one other band. They dropped the first song off the album Monday,

“We recorded with Mike Friedman, and Mike Saklar mastered it,” saidl Leafblower’s Danny Maxwell. “The inserts were designed and screen printed by Ben Allen, and we hand-scored them and numbered them. The tapes are green and hand stamped by none other than Mr. Craig Fort.” How can you go wrong? Check out the new track, titled “RX,” below.

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Random non-music item: I write about my 1966 VW Beetle, my 2017 VW Beetle and how it might be the last car I ever own (because of the advent of self-driving vehicles and Uber) in this month’s Over the Edge column in The Reader. Check it out 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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Was I duped by a rock ‘n’ roll band? (in the column)…

Category: Blog,Column — @ 12:59 pm March 22, 2017

by Tim McMahan,

This month’s Over the Edge column in The Reader, which came out three weeks ago but has just now gone online, leads with an analogy about truthiness in journalism involving a story I wrote for The Note more than 20 years ago.

The column’s lead:

As we enter the “fake news” era, here is my first run-in with the genre.

The year was 1994. I had been writing about local music for a monthly regional magazine called The Note as a freelancer for two years, in charge of covering Omaha’s indie and punk music scene. The publication’s editor asked me to write a cover story about an Omaha punk band that recently had been signed by a national record label and was about to hit the road for an East Coast tour.

At the time, Nebraska bands rarely performed outside of the state. In fact, the idea that a local band could grab the attention of a national audience, let alone go on tour, was very much a novelty.

For the story, I came up with the idea of asking the band to call me from the road with tour updates. This was years before cell phones, so the calls would come long-distance via pay phones with reverse charges. Every day for a week, someone from the band — usually the frontman — would call from a remote East Coast location and recap road story after road story dripping with unbridled debauchery, kinky depravity and everything else that makes rock ‘n’ roll what it is.

A side note: I knew these guys well, or at least I thought I did. I had interviewed them before, and had watched them perform on Omaha stages numerous times. I trusted them.

Well, I wrote the story and it was published and distributed throughout college towns in Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas. A few days after it hit the streets, I walked in local record store/music Mecca The Antiquarium, and there was proprietor/guru Dave Sink behind the counter holding a copy of the article.

“Great piece,” he said. “I really loved the writing, but you know all those road stories were completely made up, right?”

What happens next and what does it have to do with Trump? You’ll have to go to the column to find out (right here). This is what they call “a tease” in the business, folks. Go read the column and come back. We’ll still be here waiting for you…

Dum-de-dum… *looks at watch*… OK, all done?

By the way, the incident mentioned in the column wasn’t the last time something like that happened. Years later I wrote another rather lengthy band profile and was told afterward (this time via social media) that the entire interview had been a ruse, a lie. Of course I confronted the band who said the guy who posted the comment was Looney Tune-city, completely speaking out his ass.

Still, it never dawns on anyone conducting an interview (especially of an artist) that the person you’re interviewing could be lying directly to your face just for kicks, just so s/he can point at the story to his/her pals in the bar and say, “Check this out, I was bullshitting the whole time.” To my knowledge, it’s never happened to me.

Like any other journalists, I fact-check what is fact-checkable. And if anyone tries to pull the wool over my eyes regarding the local music scene, well, I know people and ain’t afraid to ask more questions. That’s what journalists do.

Still, its’ weird times we live in when we have to assume our president’s words are very likely bald-faced lies…

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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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Landlady, Thick Paint; Milk Run moving locations…

Category: Column,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:45 pm February 13, 2017

Landlady at O’Leaver’s, Feb. 10, 2017.

by Tim McMahan,

Friday night’s Landlady show will likely go down as my first top-5 music moment of 2017. Fronted by Adam Schatz a.k.a. Brown Sugar of the band Man Man, the five-piece played a striking set of proggy indie rock that recalled Schatz’s other band and, for me any ways, acts like Les Savy Fav and Head of Femur. Landlady’s sound is inventive without being disjointed, melodic but sonically adventurous. And there’s nothing quite like Schatz’ voice, a high, cooing nasal delivery that bounces and jumps along with the acidic, almost afrobeat-style rhythms.

Drummer Ian Chang is one of the best stickmen I’ve seen under O’Leaver’s record collection, a marvel of poly-rhythms, he kept the sound boiling as Schatz and company rifled through a set of tunes off the bands’ last couple of albums. Highlights were a raging version of standout tracks “Electric Abdomen” and “Driving in California,” both off stellar new album The World Is a Loud Place (Hometapes, 2017).

At set’s end, Schatz brought up a small horn section, who stayed for the epic closer, a 10-plus-minute performance of “Above My Ground” where-in Schatz climbed above the crowd, leading them in a chorus of “Always, always, always…” that built to a climatic release. Well, you can see and hear for yourself in the following clip recorded from my phone for Facebook Live.

I’m told this was one of first times that opening act Thick Paint has performed as a full-blown band. Joining Graham Patrick Ulicny was a second guitarist, Icky Blossoms’ Sarah Boehling on bass, and two drummers.

Thick Paint at O’Leaver’s, Feb. 10, 2017.

The product was proggy goodness reminiscent of early Talking Heads. Like Schatz, Ulicny has a unique, high-end voice like no one else around here. The only set-back was that the band only played four songs because they’re so new together. We all want more, Mr. Ulicny.

* * *

More about the above video: I am, again, pleasantly surprised at the audio quality one can capture from a handheld iPhone 7. I figured the mics would be blown out, but this doesn’t sound bad at all.

I had someone tell me I should do these iPhone recordings at every show. I don’t for a number of reasons, the first being it’s probably illegal, at least without the band’s permission. Second is that it’s got to be rather annoying for the band to see some guy holding a camera while they’re playing. And third, I’d rather just enjoy the music. Still, if I can sneak one song onto Facebook Live by bands that I know won’t mind, I will. Follow me at

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Arbor Labor Union at Milk Run May 28, 2016.

Word went out over the weekend that Milk Run is leaving its current location at 1907 Leavenworth. In fact, this weekend’s shows were the last at that specific venue, which hosted its first show Nov. 6, 2015.

Sam Parker, one of the founders of Milk Run, confirmed the rumor, saying the all-ages performance space will move to a new location with cheaper rent.

“It’ll be before the end of of the month. Possibly as early as this week,” Parker said. “It’ll be in the midtown area.”

Tried as I might, I could not pry the new location out of Parker. He said the owners will make an announcement this week “when they’re ready.” He did say the new space will be “roughly the same size” as the old Milk Run space. He also said expect the same sort of progressive, indie-flavored bookings.

Milk Run is one of the few places in town that consistently books out-of-town indie, post-punk and progressive bands. I was hoping the new place would be a tad larger than the crackerbox space on Leavenworth. We shall see soon enough…

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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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Streaming and repeated listening (in the column); new Wolf Dealer; Landlady is Man Man offshoot; Dawes tonight…

Category: Column — Tags: , , , — @ 1:41 pm February 7, 2017

Is Spotify changing the way we listen to albums?

by Tim McMahan,

Finally, my answer to that burning Facebook question: “List 10 albums that have made a lasting impression on you as a teenager, but don’t think too long about it.”

My answer is in this month’s Over the Edge column in the current issue of The Reader, on newsstands now or online right here. Not only do I provide my list, but I talk about why few people under the age of 30 are able to make their own list, and how Spotify is changing the way I listen to records. Read it online here.

* * *

Punk rockers Wolf Dealer made a video for their latest song, “Too Old to Die Young,” featuring skateboards and pizza. It was filmed on a stupid smartphone, says frontman Jason Steady.

Wolf Dealer are playing this Saturday, Feb. 11, at Milk Run with Karen Meat from Des Moines, IA, “who are the best band in the world,” Steady says. “Bradley, their Omnichord player and co-songwriter, used to live in Omaha and was in the best line-up of Talking Mountain in the golden years when we released that vinyl album, but failed miserably.” More on that show later.

* * *

O’Leaver’s sent out their upcoming schedule, and among the shows currently flying under a lot of people’s radars is Friday night’s gig featuring the band Landlady. Turns out Landlady is a project by Adam Schatz a.k.a. Brown Sugar of the band Man Man. Now I’ve got to change my Friday plans…

* * *

Tonight is the big Dawes show at The Waiting Room, which is being promoted as “An Evening with Dawes,” which I guess is an easy way of saying there are no opening acts. If you haven’t already, read my Ten Questions with Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith before you go to the show. Tickets are $25, starts at 9 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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Catch up: Faint go cartoon; Conor goes NYT; Navy Gangs in Flood; I go swimming (in the column); Infinite Me tonight…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:40 pm October 13, 2016
The Faint on Adult Swim's Stupid Morning Bullshit.

The Faint on Adult Swim’s Stupid Morning Bullshit.

by Tim McMahan,

I haven’t neglected you, I’ve just been busy. And it’s tough to adjust to this season that precedes months of ice and cold, months that I despise. I belong in southern California or Key West or the Texas Gulf, not here in the winter-time.


Firstly, David “Doc” Matysiak wrote to tell say that The Faint appeared on Adult Swim’s streaming morning show Stupid Morning Bullshit on Wednesday. Todd, Clark and the guys played improv-style while the hosts rambled on about things like Runzas and ComicCon, plus there were segments like “Paint with the Faint” and “Blazing Saddle Creek.” It’s basically a video podcast featuring a floating shot of The Faint performing throughout.

Matysiak, who we all remember from Coyote Bones and CoCo Art, works on the show as a hands-on producer. Check it out online here.

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Conor Oberst on the New York Times' Facebook Live session.

Conor Oberst on the New York Times’ Facebook Live session.

Yesterday Conor Oberst did a Facebook live session for the great, gray, digital New York Times. The 17-minute video includes a few songs and a Q&A with questions via Facebook.

Among the questions, where’s one of your favorite places to perform? Conor: “There’s this place called O’Leaver’s that is one of my favorite places to play. It’s a dive bar but it has a special place in my heart…” Awww….

Watch it here.

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Brooklyn by way of Omaha band Navy Gangs has a new EP coming out and it’s sublime, one of the best spins so far this year. Flood online is hosting the first video from the EP and a tour diary (which I can’t find). Check it out. How come none of you told me about these guys before?

PREMIERE: Fight Your Post-Debate Malaise with Navy Gangs’s “Mondays” Video

* * *

This month’s Over the Edge column in The Reader is about the challenges I’ve faced learning how to swim — a topic that fits right in with this month’s cover story theme, politics (not). Anyway, a fun read you can check out online here or on newsstands now.

* * *

Tonight at Milk Run it’s Minneapolis post-punk (emo) rockers Infinite Me with Timecat and Pando Potential Meter. $7, 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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: The Thermals at Slowdown Jr.; the reluctant expatriates (in the column)…

Category: Blog,Column,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:50 pm May 9, 2016
The Thermals at Slowdown Jr., May 6, 2016.

The Thermals at Slowdown Jr., May 6, 2016.

by Tim McMahan,

So why aren’t The Thermals more popular? They’ve been putting out solid, albeit by-the-numbers indie rock albums for 13 years on established labels Sub Pop, Kill Rock Stars and now our very own Saddle Creek, touring incessantly the entire time. Their meat-and potatoes anthems sport a sly, cynical message and are catchy and fun.

And yet here they were Friday night playing to a less-than-capacity crowd in Slowdown Jr. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t understand the music business. How do bands get to that next level? At they very least they play like these guys. Performing as a four-piece, The Thermals ran through their set list very matter-of-factly, rolling out one song after the next, giving frontman Hutch Harris just enough time to make the crowd laugh with his snappy between-song patter. Clever, funny, his comments are the embodiment of Portlandia (actually funnier).

The band rolled out a number of songs off their latest album, We Disappear (2016, Saddle Creek) that fit right in with everything else. If there’s a nit to pick it’s that their music lacks variety in pace, tone, dynamics, but maybe that’s just the nature of this style of indie rock. Or maybe that’s what’s holding them back.

* * *

The new issue of The Reader is out, which includes this month’s installment of Over the Edge. The topic: Where are you moving to once Trump wins the election? Find it on newsstands around town or read it online right here. Also in this issue, my recent blog entry concerning this year’s Maha Music Festival (which you can read 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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


I’m back; Lincoln heads to SXSW; yes that’s me in Encounter magazine; King Trump (in the column)…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , , , — @ 2:14 pm March 1, 2016


by Tim McMahan,

Well I’m back from south Florida — Captiva Island, Florida, to be precise, an isolated land mass east of Fort Myers and just north of Sanibel Island. The kind of place where people ride around on bicycles and golf carts, and you’re lucky to find an open bar past 10 p.m. Music consists mostly of guitar-and-steel-drum trios playing covers of Jimmy Buffett and John Denver ballads. It was a long-weekend getaway and about as far away from a SXSW-style spring vacation as you could get. Like Nixon after a long week at San Clemente, I return tanned, rested and ready to go…

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Nebraska Exposed at SXSW 2016

Nebraska Exposed at SXSW 2016

Speaking of SXSW, the folks that bring you Lincoln Calling and Lincoln Exposed have organized a Nebraska showcase at this year’s Austin festival. Consisting almost entirely of Lincoln bands, they’re calling it Nebraska Exposed.

The showcase is Wednesday, March 16, at Cheers Shot Bar, which those familiar with the layout will remember is located a block and a half west of Red River Road on 6th Street — a red-hot location. Hats off to Jeremy Buckley and his pals for pulling this off with the help of a sponsorship by Nebraska Tourism.

The day party begins at noon with Oketo, followed by BOTH, Bonehart Flannigan, AZP, Universe Contest, Freakabout, Laughing Falcon and closes at 7 p.m. with Josh Hoyer and Soul Colossal.

I’d love to see someone organize a showcase like this that featured Omaha acts. In the past, Saddle Creek Records have sponsored showcases that included one or two Omaha bands, but not this year.

My dream Nebraska SXSW showcase would feature one of Saddle Creek’s crown jewel acts along with Miniature Horse, See Through Dresses, Little Brazil, Digital Leather, Bloodcow, Brad Hoshaw/7 Deadlies, Lupines, Simon Joyner and Whipkey (for starters). Get to work on this for next year, Hear Nebraska.

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From the pages of this month's Encounter Magazine.

From the pages of this month’s Encounter Magazine.

If you’ve ever wondered what I look like, you can find out in this month’s issue of Encounter Magazine. Writer James Walmsley wrote the feature, that talks about my history writing about the Nebraska indie music scene along with some opinions about the current state of the indie ’round these parts. The portrait is by the amazing Bill Sitzmann, who has quite a history of his own shooting Nebraska bands. Look for your copy ’round town and in the Old Market. It’s not online yet. When it does go online, I’ll include a link.

* * *

This being Super Tuesday, I figured it was as good a time as any to post my Over the Edge column from this month’s issue of The Reader focused (again) on Trump. The paper probably won’t hit the news stands until later this week, or maybe later. By then, the election on the Republican side (and likely the Dems, too) will be all but over. Trump is riding an unstoppable wave. Rumors of a secret New York Times recording of Trump speaking off the record support one of the points made in my column. In the end, it won’t matter, because his followers aren’t electing a politician, they’re electing a right-wing dream merchant, and nothing less than being convicted of murder is going to stop his ascension to the top of the GOP ladder, where Hillary awaits to knock him off… probably. Read the column here.

It’s good to be back.

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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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Music Visions for 2016 (and a look back at 2015)…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , — @ 1:50 pm January 6, 2016
What would Tom Jones say?

What does the future hold?

by Tim McMahan,

Here’s the one you’ve been waiting for: The annual Visions of 2016 Music Predictions. You can read the article in the January issue of The Reader monthly magazine, available at all the usual drop locations sometime this week. Or you can check it out right now online at, right here. Or, heck, just read the darn thing below…

Music Visions for 2016

So now you know what happened in 2015. Here’s what’s going to happen in 2016. But first, let’s score how well I did with last year’s predictions. My crystal ball must have been broken because I didn’t do so good.

2015 Prediction: An all-out Spotify rebellion will break out next year, and it won’t be coming from independent labels who are getting gutted by the service, but rather (ironically) from big name stars who make the most money off Spotify. And you’ll have Taylor Swift to thank.

Reality: Only a few stars joined Taylor and stayed off Spotify — Prince, Thom Yorke and Jason Aldean. The reason no one’s jumping off the streaming train — through mid-year 2015, music streaming has increased year-over-year by 92.3 percent, according to Nielsen Music. With the industry in shambles, who doesn’t want to ride that wave?

2015 Prediction: The vinyl craze will slow after a year that saw a 49 percent increase in U.S. vinyl sales vs. 2013 numbers. Younger music fans refuse to embrace a medium they see as an interesting but inconvenient gimmick that costs twice as much (or more) than what they pay to download the same album (if they pay at all).

Reality: As of July, vinyl sales climbed another 38 percent year-over-year in the U.S., with vinyl now comprising nearly 9 percent of all physical sales (up from 4 percent), according to Nielsen.

2015 Prediction: More record labels will be forced to follow record label Fat Possums’ lead and open their own vinyl pressing plants due to the shortage of vinyl manufacturing options.

Reality: Last month Third Man Records (founded by Jack White) announced it is opening a vinyl record pressing plant in Detroit, which will house eight brand new presses bought from a German pressing plant manufacturer.

2015 Prediction: Record labels will discover a way to add new value to CDs, either by offering better audio quality (hi-res audio), lower prices or new packaging options.

Reality: Didn’t happen. In fact, according to Nielsen CD sales were down 10 percent by mid-year 2015 versus the previous year.

2015 Prediction: A rock band will produce the first-ever Oculus Rift music video.

Reality: While artists such as Bjork and Squarepusher have produced 360-degree “virtual reality” videos, I’ve yet to see a band create something specifically for Oculus Rift or even Google Cardboard…yet.

2015 Prediction: Record labels will try to replicate Guardians of the Galaxy‘s success by releasing new albums consisting entirely of chart-topping oldies.

Reality: Nope.

2015 Prediction: A reunited ’90s band will release a new recording that will break into the mainstream in a big way. Will it be Sonic Youth, Buffalo Tom, Jane’s Addiction, Galaxy 500, The Grifters, R.E.M. or Commander Venus?

Reality: None of the above. Instead, ’90s alt rock is being regurgitated by today’s crop of indie bands.

2015 Prediction: Bands we’ll be talking about this time next year: Modest Mouse, Hop Along, U2, Desaparecidos, Low, Cursive, Prince, Savages, Lloyd Cole, The Mynabirds, The Replacements, The xx, The Rolling Stones, Tom Waits, For Against, PJ Harvey, Icky Blossoms.

Reality: Hop Along is a critic’s darling, U2 is going back on tour, Desaparecidos cancelled their tour, Low just played Reverb, and Prince released a new album in December.

2015 Prediction: Bands we won’t be talking about: Iggy Azalea, Madonna, Metallica, Bright Eyes, Sun Kil Moon, The War on Drugs, Swans, FKA Twigs, Kanye, Led Zeppelin.

Reality: Other than FKA Twigs, just about everyone else listed is MIA.

2015 Prediction: The Rolling Stones will be down one Stone.

Reality: Not only are they alive and kicking, but the Stones did a brief tour last summer, and Keith just released a new solo album.

2015 Prediction: Omaha’s bar-club bubble will burst as one or more local music venue/clubs will change hands and stop offering live music.

Reality: Well, Sweatshop has been dormant since it changed ownership.

2015 Prediction: Maha Music Festival organizers’ wish will finally come true and they’ll book “that band” that they’ve always wanted to play the festival.

Reality: They didn’t get “that band,” but they did get a sold out concert.

2015 Predication: We’ll experience the first wave of rock ‘n’ roll “retirements” as a number of long-time well-paid singers/songwriters/musicians/bands will announce they’re getting out of the music business because they can no longer make a living at it, thanks to declining album sales and streaming services.

Reality: Not only did no one retire, but Phil Collins said he’s coming back. Does anyone ever really leave the music business?

2015 Prediction: Look for a Kickstarter campaign from a former Billboard chart-topping act (and I’m not talking about Creed).

Reality: Other than De La Soul and TLC, successful pop acts have been avoiding Kickstarter.

2015 Prediction: While mainstream pop music becomes more sugar sweet, indie music will become more miserable. Depressing, dark acts like Pharmakon, Swans, Perfume Genius and Sun Kil Moon will be joined by even more miserable acts that will counter-balance pop’s bright banality.

Reality: Either the darkness has lifted or I’ve been ignoring the gloom.

2015 Prediction: With the continued popularity of music contest shows like The Voice and American Idol, it was only a matter of time until a network decided to revive American Bandstand.

Reality: Nope. In fact, this will be the final season for American Idol (or so they say).

2015 Prediction: Thanks to its airing on Palladia, someone will create an American version of Later… with Jools Holland.

Reality: We’re still waiting for something / someone like Jools in the U.S.

2015 Prediction: Look for the launch of yet another new FM radio station in the Omaha market that plays CMJ-style indie.

Reality: Not yet.

2015 Prediction: As the industry continues to crumble, more historically huge bands will sign deals with mid-level indie labels. Along those same lines, you’ll see more formerly “large” bands and performers self-releasing material as they turn their back on labels altogether.

Reality: Still not happening.

2015 Prediction: No local or Saddle Creek artist will make it to the SNL stage next year (duh), but one (other than a Conor band) will make it on national TV.

Reality: The only local to make it to the airwaves in 2015 was Desaparecidos.

If I really stretched, I was 5 for 20. Maybe I was trying too hard? This year I’m limiting predictions to just 10. Here we go:

2016 Prediction: In the old days, if you wanted your music to get heard by the biggest audience you sought out radio stations in hopes they’d add your single to their play lists. With music streaming replacing radio as the new music promotional model, the new target is getting songs added to streaming playlists that have the most followers. For example, if you happened to get your song added to Spotify’s “Today’s Top Hits” list, your music would be heard in more than 6 million pairs of ear buds. Spotify’s “New Music Friday” playlists boasts 855,000 followers, according to Billboard. Just as important is getting the attention of DJs, curators and social media “influencers” with large followings. Labels are now hiring reps that do just that.

2016 Prediction: Streaming live performances will become a thing. Apps like Periscope give anyone with a smartphone an opportunity to share a live performance, but more than that, clubs, venues and music halls will begin to upload their soundboard feeds directly to streaming services, sharing concerts as they happen, making it possible to catch sets by virtually any band on tour.

2016 Prediction: This is the year that vinyl crosses the line from interesting novelty to serious revenue stream, as it becomes second nature for labels and musicians to consistently produce vinyl versions for their latest albums. As a result we’ll see the beginning of a second record-store renaissance. More shops will open. In-store performance tours will become as common as book-signing tours. Record Store Day will expand beyond two days a year. Vinyl is here to stay.

2016 Prediction: Apple Music wasn’t the game changer everyone thought it would be, but it still managed to rack up more than 54 million users in 2015, according to Nielsen and was ranked as the No. 9 smartphone app. Watch as more services (including Facebook) get into the streaming music business, forcing Spotify and Apple to to figure out ways to gain bigger market share, ultimately cutting the price of premium streaming services in half (or lower). Free premium streaming may be just around the corner.

2016 Prediction: It’s not unusual that Tom Jones will take his final bow this year.

2016 Prediction: As costs continue to rise and income continues to shrink for record labels, watch as small and mid-sized indie labels begin to consolidate in an effort to share resources and broaden their reach. In this industry model, who would be a perfect suitor for Saddle Creek?

2016 Prediction: A long-time music reporter and Nebraska music scene fixture will either retire or get a new assignment.

2016 Prediction: When The Waiting Room and The Slowdown opened in 2007, those venues focused on booking indie shows. As interest in indie music dropped off in recent years, they’ve changed their course, only occasionally booking mid-sized to large indie rock show. That shift will continue in 2016 as more small and mid-sized indie shows will detour to small venues like Milk Run, Lookout Lounge and O’Leaver’s, who will become the de facto outlets for all things indie. With indie music headed back underground, is the rise in house shows and hall shows far behind?

2016 Prediction: Bands we’ll be talking about this time next year: My Bloody Valentine, Beck, PJ Harvey, Matthew Sweet, Green Day, The Arcade Fire, Stephen Malkmus/Pavement, The Faint, Warpaint and Spoon. Bands we won’t be talking about: Kendrick Lamar, Kanye, Taylor Swift, Drake, Kurt Vile, Adele, Beach House, Lana Del Rey and U2.

2016 Prediction: The next network appearance by a Nebraska performer will again involve Conor Oberst, as we welcome the return of Bright Eyes. Will Conor finally make it on SNL? Wait and see…

First published in The Reader, Jan. 6, 2016. Copyright © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Have a High Up / Digital Leather New Year’s; Over the Edge Year in Review…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , , — @ 2:08 pm December 31, 2015

HighUp112815by Tim McMahan,

Like all other holidays, New Year’s Eve is a night of DJs and cover bands. Let’s face it, if you’re still going out to the clubs on NYE you’re probably doing it to find some companionship (or to cement an existing companion, if you know what I mean).

I say this, and then there’s fabulous O’Leaver’s. If you go to O’Leaver’s for NYE you’ve grown past the hoopla, you’ve found your companion-zone years ago, you’re looking for a place to simply hang with friends and enjoy some exceptionally good live music. Tonight is no exception.

O’Leaver’s has two of Omaha’s best ringing in the New Year, along with one of the city’s best DJs. First there’s High Up. The band that made the biggest splash in 2015 takes a victory lap. I see big things in ’16 for the Fink sisters and their merry band of soul rockers. Then there’s Digital Leather, a band that’s been on the verge of something bigger since frontman Shawn Foree rolled into town back in 2009. Foree and the boys should be in rare form tonight, rare form. Holding it together is DJ Tyrone Storm a.k.a. Roger Lewis who is part of the team that made Benson Soul Society a huge hit. All of that and complimentary champagne at midnight? What more could you want for a mere $10. Music starts at 8.

As for the rest of the clubs, well, like I said, it’s mostly cover bands and DJs. Party at your own discretion. I’ll be ringing in the New Year with my wife coaxing my dogs out from beneath the couch as the world around them explodes in fireworks. Why Omaha allows fireworks in the city is anyone’s guess. City officials must have felt there was no way to enforce a law banning fireworks, so might as well let someone (i.e., campaign contributors) make some money off the holiday. Meanwhile, people are getting their hands and eyes blown to bits, my dogs are shaking in fear and I (and a lot of other dog owners) are staying home to make sure our furry friends are OK. Thanks, Omaha, for another backfired political decision.

Speaking of backfiring politics, check out my Over the Edge Year in Review where I look in the rear-view mirror and contemplate: What’s it say about us that when asked to look back on 2015 the only things that come to mind are solemn, terrifying, critical and trivial media-driven events? You can read it in the January issue of The Reader, which hits the news stands next week, or online at right here right now.

By the way, if you’re looking for my music predictions for 2016, they’ll be online next week.

Lazy-i Best of 2015!

Lazy-i Best of 2015!

Speaking of Years in Review, check out the track list for (and enter to win a copy of) the Lazy-i Best of 2015 comp CD. All my favorite indie tunes I’ve come across throughout last year as part of my tireless work as a music critic for Among those represented: Algiers, Sam Martin, Sufjan Stevens, Clarence Tilton, Beck, The Chemical Brothers, Freedy Johnston, The Mynabirds, and the two bands mentioned earlier — Digital Leather and High Up — plus lots more. The full track listing is here. Enter your name in a drawing to win a copy. 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. 4!

Happy New Year, y’all…

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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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Where does Maha go from here? (in the column); Oquoa, Rocky Votolato tonight…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , — @ 12:51 pm August 10, 2015
The Maha Music Festival is this coming Saturday, Aug. 15, at Stinson Park in Aksarben Village.

The Maha Music Festival is this coming Saturday, Aug. 15, at Stinson Park in Aksarben Village.

by Tim McMahan,

The Maha Music Festival is this coming Saturday, and chatter continues that this could be the first year it actually sells out. I don’t know what “sells out” equates to — 10,000 tickets? If it happens it would create a new benchmark and would likely signal a change in how the festival is run in the future. Expansion to a 2-day event? Partnering with other local entities?  A move of venue?

Those options are covered in this month’s Over the Edge column in The Reader. Maha Vice President Lauren Schomburg talks about the current state of the festival and possible future scenarios. The jury is definitely split as to whether Maha should remain a quaint 10,000-sized one-day indie music festival or take steps to grow into something bigger at the risk of losing some of its charm. Read the column (online here) and then let me know where you weigh in. And purchase your $50 tickets before it sells out.

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Tonight at Pageturners Lounge Oquoa plays a free set as part of the bar’s summer concert series. The show starts at 9 p.m. More info here.

Also tonight, singer/songwriter Rocky Votolato (Barsuk Records) headlines at Slowdown Jr. with Dave Hause and Chris Farren. $12, 8 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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.