Ten Questions with High Up (@Maha this Saturday)…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:00 pm August 14, 2017

High Up is among the bands slated to play at this year’s Maha Music Festival.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

This is the fourth in a series of Ten Questions interviews with bands performing at the Maha Music Festival Aug. 19 at Aksarben Village. For the printed version of all interviews, pick up the August issue of The Reader.

It should be noted that High Up, The Faint and Hottman Sisters are the first Omaha acts to have ever taken the Ten Questions survey, which was designed solely for traveling out-of-town bands. Still, all three had something unique to say about their home town…

High Up

High Up is the most talked about indie act to come out of the Omaha music scene since the band debuted sometime around 2015. Driving all the talk is frontwoman Christine Fink, sister of Azure Ray’s Orenda Fink (who also is in the band). With a voice reminiscent of Janis Joplin’s, Christine belts out High Up’s unique flavor of golden blues in a style Joe Cocker would admire — all jerky moves and pained expressions with a little James Brown shake thrown in to make it ultra-groovy.

After a string of local live gigs, the band hit the studio and recorded a a self-titled EP, released this past January by Team Love Records. The highlight, a smoking single called “Two Weeks,” is guaranteed to turn the Maha crowd into lifelong fans.

1. What is your favorite album?

Christine Fink: Grand Prix – Teenage Fanclub

2. What is your least favorite song?

“Centerfold” – J. Geils Band

3. What do you enjoy most about being in a band?

Being able to connect with people on a real, emotional level, without having to maintain any kind of friendship afterward.

4. What do you hate about being in a band?

Being broke and juggling schedules.

5. What is your favorite substance (legal or illegal)?

Xanax

6. In what city or town do you love to perform?

Minneapolis so far, but I have a lot more touring to do!

7. What city or town did you have your worst gig (and why)?

We played a show in Oklahoma City on the way to SXSW. The room was long and narrow, with a mirror on the other end. There was literally no one there, so I had to watch myself perform to no one in that giant mirror across the room. Toward the end of our set a member from another band heckled me and then jumped our bass player, who inadvertently sent the guy crashing into the monitors, and then my pocket-sized sister had to get in between him and the rest of the band. All of this WHILE we were playing. Oklahoma City and the club were cool though!

8. Are you able to support yourself through your music? If so, how long did it take to get there; if not, how do you pay your bills?

No. I work full time and sulk a lot when we’re not on the road.

9. What one profession other than music would you like to attempt; what one profession would you absolutely hate to do?

I’d love to be an archaeologist or historian. I’d hate to be a doctor. Too much responsibility.

10. What are the stories you’ve heard about Omaha, Nebraska?

I heard a staircase at Hummel Park counts differently going up and down, which I couldn’t verify because I can only count up to how many fingers and toes I have, and there’s way more than nine steps.

The Maha Music Festival is Aug. 19 at Aksarben Village. The day-long concert runs from noon to midnight. Tickets are $55. For set times and more information, go to mahamusicfestival.com.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

 

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Ten Questions with Built to Spill; Closeness, Chemicals tonight; Lungs, Chemicals Saturday…

Category: Interviews — @ 12:00 pm August 11, 2017

Built to Spill is among the bands playing at this year’s Maha Music Festival.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

This is the third in a series of Ten Questions interviews with bands performing at the Maha Music Festival Aug. 19 at Aksarben Village. For the printed version of all interviews, pick up the August issue of The Reader.

Built to Spill

Along with Death Cab for Cutie and Modest Mouse, Built to Spill defined the Pacific Northwest indie rock sound of the late ’90s. The band is the product of singer/songwriter/guitarist Doug Martsch, who formed Built to Spill in Boise, Idaho in 1993. While 1997’s Perfect from Now On is considered the breakthrough, my favorite is the follow-up, 1999’s Keep It Like a Secret, which included seminal songs “The Plan,” “Time Trap” and “You Were Right,” a trio of hits that weren’t hits fueled by soaring melodies and blazing guitars.

Built to Spill has since released five more full-lengths, all on Warner Bros, including their latest, 2015’s Untethered Moon. Martsch is no stranger to Omaha, having played here a number of times dating back to one very memorable, smokey show at good ol’ Sokol Underground.

What is your favorite album?

Doug Martsch: Welcome to Miami by Slam Dunk

2. What is your least favorite song?

The whole album is good.

3. What do you enjoy most about being in a band?

Fucking around.

4. What do you hate about being in a band?

People throwing things at me.

5. What is your favorite substance (legal or illegal)?

Legal

6. In what city or town do you love to perform?

All of them.

7. What city or town did you have your worst gig (and why)?

Aspen, Colorado, because rich people suck.

8. Are you able to support yourself through your music? If so, how long did it take to get there; if not, how do you pay your bills?

I think it took me 26 years.

9. What one profession other than music would you like to attempt; what one profession would you absolutely hate to do?

Scientist; contortionist

10. What are the stories you’ve heard about Omaha, Nebraska?

Too many to account.

The Maha Music Festival is Aug. 19 at Aksarben Village. The day-long concert runs from noon to midnight. Tickets are $55. For set times and more information, go to mahamusicfestival.com.

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All right, what’s happening this weekend? Of note, you’ll have two chances to see one of the area’s most dynamic acts.

The first chance is tonight when The Slowdown hosts a fundraiser for Mind & Soul 101.3 FM. Headlining is R-Style, described as “a high energy, R&B, Pop, and Soul show band based in Omaha, NE.” Also on the bill is hip-hop act The Dilla Kids featuring Marcey Yates.

For indie fans, this benefit also features 2016 break-out act CLOSENESS in what I’ve been told may be one of their last Omaha shows for awhile. Opening is the aforementioned “dynamic” act, Chemicals — an inspiring, progressive jazz-rock combo that must be seen to be believed. This 8 p.m. show is $10 adv/$12 DOS.

Also tonight Milk Run has Colorado act Gleemer with Minnesota’s Infinite Me and Rivercourt. $8, 9 p.m.

While over at fabulous O’Leaver’s it’s a handful of locals headlined by Satellite Junction with Time Giants and Doom Lagoon. $5, 10 p.m.

Saturday night Minnesota doom sludge band Lungs plays at Brothers lounge. It’s also the world-wide stage debut of Howlett. Noise act Höchste kicks it off at 9. $5.

Finally, Saturday is that second chance to see Chemicals, this time headlining at Reverb Lounge. Opening are Oketo and The Grand Poobah. 9 p.m., $6 Adv./$8 DOS.

So you have two chances to check out Chemicals. Unfortunately I’m going to miss them both as I’m writing this from the road. If you’re in town, check it out.

That’s all I got. If I missed your show, put it in the comments section. Have a great weekend.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Ten Questions with Priests (playing Maha Aug. 19)…

Category: Interviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 11:30 am August 10, 2017

Priests are among the bands playing 2017 Maha Music Festival. Photo by Audrey Melton.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

This is the second in a series of Ten Questions interviews with bands performing at the Maha Music Festival Aug. 19 at Aksarben Village. For the printed version of all interviews, pick up a copy of this month’s Reader.

Priests

The post-punk band (proudly from DC) has been ripping out their socio-poli-fueled anthems since 2012 but caught fire this year with their angst-driven full-length debut, Nothing Feels Natural (2017, Sister Polygon). The album captures a dark, stark world of haunted capitalism, anxiety and glum modernism bouncing along to a surf-rock beat. Vocalist Katie Alice Greer sings, howls and spits out lyrics atop the quick-pulse rhythms and jittery bass-driven arrangements that sound like ’80s post-punk Debora Iyall/Romeo Void territory, upbeat and often angry. This is the nervous sound of tomorrow.

What is your favorite album?

Drummer Daniele Daniele: it changes all the time, but Lanquidity by Sun Ra is an album I come back to over and over again.

2. What is your least favorite song?

Guitarist G.L. Jaguar: Journey, “Don’t Stop Believing.” Fuck that song.

3. What do you enjoy most about being in a band?

Bassist Taylor Mulitz: Answering interview questions 😉

4. What do you hate about being in a band?

Vocalist Katie Alice Greer: Anything directly in opposition to making music, there’s a lot of distracting BS you gotta wade through sometimes

5. What is your favorite substance (legal or illegal)?

Daniele: Sunshine

6. In what city or town do you love to perform?

Jaguar: DC ’cause of the home turf advantage.

7. What city or town did you have your worst gig (and why)?

Greer: New York City. We’ve played there a lot, had some of our best gigs there, too. But one time I was taunting the audience, expecting that we’d put on a really fire gig and blow them away. Instead it was a set rife with technical difficulty, I was totally embarrassed!

8. Are you able to support yourself through your music? If so, how long did it take to get there; if not, how do you pay your bills?

Greer: I do some other odd jobs, but I’m getting there. It’s taken five years at least.

9. What one profession other than music would you like to attempt; what one profession would you absolutely hate to do?

Daniele: I would love to be a weaver! Or textile designer. I’d hate to have a job where I had to carry a gun.

10. What are the stories you’ve heard about Omaha, Nebraska?

Greer: Haha. In the movie The Wizard Of Oz, at the end the wizard is in a hot air balloon headed for the Omaha State Fair…. that, and the steaks. But I’m vegan, so Omaha’s a bit of a mystery to me. Looking forward to exploring.

The Maha Music Festival is Aug. 19 at Aksarben Village. The day-long concert runs from noon to midnight. Tickets are $55. For set times and more information, go to mahamusicfestival.com.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Ten Questions with Downtown Boys; The Buttertones, Ron Gallo, Sylvan Esso tonight…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , — @ 11:15 am August 8, 2017

Downtown Boys are among the bands playing 2017 Maha Music Festival.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

This year’s Maha Music Festival, to be held Aug. 19 once again at Stinson Park in Aksarben Village, has arguably the best line-up in the festival’s 9-year history.

That’s high praise considering past Maha Festivals have included stellar acts such as Death Cab for Cutie, Garbage, Guided by Voices, Spoon, Dum-Dum Girls, Desaparecidos, Car Seat Headrest, Bob Mould and Superchunk, among others.

After last year’s strong, dance-driven line-up, Maha refocused on upcoming and semi-classic indie rock acts, striking a balance between veterans, up-and-comers and some of Omaha’s hottest bands.

Over the next couple weeks,  I’ll be publishing profiles of the 10 performing at this year’s Maha which also appear in this month’s issue of The Reader. Each band was sent my Ten Questions survey, an email questionnaire based on the Pivot Questionnaire made popular in this country by the TV show Inside the Actors Studio (but originally created by French talk show host Bernard Pivot). My version of the questionnaire adds a unique musical slant. We start with Downtown Boys…

* * *

Downtown Boys

It’s hard to top the description published on Downtown Boys’ Spotify page, which calls them “a six-piece multiracial, gender-integrated, bilingual rock band from Providence, Rhode Island, that plays fierce but joyous punk rock with blazing energy, howling saxophones and breakneck rhythms guaranteed to start a pogo frenzy on the dance floor.”

After releasing their full-length debut, Full Communism on Don Giovanni Records in 2015, the band is hopping over to Sub Pop for Cost of Living, due out Aug. 11.

What is your favorite album?

Joey La Neve DeFrancesco: That’s hard and changes regularly. Right now I really love the new record by Algiers, The Underside of Power.

2. What is your least favorite song?

If I could never hear “Closer” by The Chainsmokers + Halsey again I’d be pretty pumped.

3. What do you enjoy most about being in a band?

Performing live is the best part. Getting the immediate satisfaction of reaching people with something, sending a message, being a part of that community in the moment.

4. What do you hate about being in a band?

That musicians and cultural workers of all stripes are hugely undervalued, under-respected, and underpaid

5. What is your favorite substance (legal or illegal)?

Pass

6. In what city or town do you love to perform?

We like playing all over the place! Our favorite city is probably McAllen, TX, a city at the very bottom of the state right by the border. There is a really inspiring community there working in both culture and activism. It’s one of those places where after we play we’re like, “OK yeah this is why we do this.”

7. What city or town did you have your worst gig (and why)?

Hmm I’m not sure! And if the gig was bad I’m sure it’s more the circumstance and arranging of the show and not the city’s fault, so I don’t want to throw any particular municipality under the bus. Victoria and I have another band called Malportado Kids and once we played at Skidmore College and a drunk bro was being super violent in the crowd and we got in an argument that ended with him choking me against a wall, so that was probably the worst for me personally.

8. Are you able to support yourself through your music? If so, how long did it take to get there; if not, how do you pay your bills?

After doing this for years and years, we are only now at the point where we can even look at this as something that’s somewhat sustainable. We all still have other jobs to supplement what we make with music. There are five of us and we split everything evenly, so it’s pretty hard to make a real income on what we do just with the band. We continue pushing to make this something that we can do more and more full time, but the cultural economy treats workers like trash.

9. What one profession other than music would you like to attempt; what one profession would you absolutely hate to do?

Everyone in the band would have a different answer to this. I worked at a history museum for a while and I like that sort of public education work. As for what I would hate to do, I’m not sure – I’ve had so many awful minimum wage jobs over the years and I’m glad I’m not doing one right now, but I think all of those jobs could be sustainable and dignified and meaningful if we organized our economy better.

10. What are the stories you’ve heard about Omaha, Nebraska?

This is the first time we’ve played Omaha or anywhere in Nebraska so we’re very excited! I was really into the Saddle Creek bands like Desaparecidos and The Faint in high school, so that’s most of what I know of the city, and I’m thrilled to be playing with The Faint at the festival.

The Maha Music Festival is Aug. 19 at Aksarben Village. The day-long concert runs from noon to midnight. Tickets are $55. For set times and more information, go to mahamusicfestival.com.

* * *

It’s a garage rock smorgasbord tonight at Slowdown Jr. So-Cal surf rock band The Buttertones headlines, a band whose sound was inspired by The Sonics, The Beatles, The Monks and The Cramps. Opening is Philly garage rocker Ron Gallo (New West Records), and our very own Those Far Out Arrows. Wear black. 8 p.m., $12.

Also tonight, Carolina electro-pop duo Sylvan Esso plays at good ol’ Sokol Auditorium. Their latest, 2017’s What Now was released on Loma Vista and is indie-pop candy. Flock of Dimes (Partisan Records) opens. 8 p.m., $25.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Ten Questions with Cracker (@ The Slowdown 8/4); Ester Drang (Jade Tree Records) tonight…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:49 pm August 2, 2017

Cracker plays at The Slowdown Friday, Aug. 4. Photo by Bobby Conner.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

If you listened to CMJ-style indie rock in the early ’90s (or watched MTV for that matter) you’re already familiar with Cracker. Their anthem “Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now),” from their 1992 eponymously named debut on Virgin Records, was unavoidable, with the fist-shaking line: “Cause what the world needs now / Is another folk singer / Like I need a hole in the head.” Then there was their brooding rocker “Low” off the follow-up, ’93’s Kerosene Hat, where frontman David Lowery says being with his girl is like being stoned. Ah, now you remember.

Well, there was a lot more to Cracker than those two songs. Lots more. The band, who at its core is Lowery and guitarist Johnny Hickman, grew out of the ashes of seminal ’80s indie band Camper Van Beethoven. Since their debut, the West Coast act has released nine studio LPs whose sound ranged form alt rock to alt country to everything in between. No doubt Cracker fans at The Slowdown Friday night will get a smattering of favorites and deep cuts from the band’s 25-year recording history, including material from their most recent double-album, 2014’s Berkeley To Bakersfield.

We caught up with Cracker guitarist Johnny Hickman and gave him the Ten Questions treatment. Here’s what he had to say:

1. What is your favorite album?

Johnny Hickman: After 25+ years and nine albums I can honestly say that at any given time I can go back and revisit a Cracker album that becomes a favorite again for a while. When we write and record them, they are all the best thing we ever did… at the time. I think that’s a pretty common thing with recording artists. You’re always trying to top yourself, or why do it?

2. What is your least favorite song?

The answer to the first question likely applies here, too. We don’t have any songs that I can’t stand. It doesn’t make it onto an album unless David and I are both pretty proud of it. Sometimes they wear on us and we take them out of the live show for a bit, but then we often bring them back at some point. We always play our radio hits because those songs put us on the map. Bands that think that they are too cool to play their hits are shooting themselves in the foot. The rest of the set list changes as we go. It’s more fun that way.  I think the fans like that variety, too.

3. What do you enjoy most about being in a band?

It really all comes down to playing the songs live for people. That’s why we do it year after year. The rest of it, the fame, the rave reviews and attention, in time you realize are largely a lot of tedious bullshit. In the end, the music and the fans are all that count.

4. What do you hate about being in a band?

The travel. The jet lag and constant exhaustion of it all is more than most people could even imagine. There are days when I wish I’d followed a more normal path and could have the luxury of a decent night’s sleep in my own bed every night, more time with loved ones. But then again, I was bored senseless when I did work regular jobs as a young guy. It’s a blessing and a curse as the saying goes.

5. What is your favorite substance (legal or illegal)?

As a teenager playing in bands with older musicians I witnessed the frightening end result of overindulgence. I was in or around bands with guys that overdosed and died by the time I was in my early twenties. I like a glass of wine or bourbon or the occasional hit off a joint, but I don’t let them wreck my career or my life. It’s more just recreational to wind down after the shows.

6. In what city or town do you love to perform?

There are hundreds of towns that I love to work in. At the top of that list are the major cities of Spain like Madrid or Valencia, the Basque region, Bilbao. In the United States I especially like the towns that got us early on with our debut album “Cracker” in 1992 and stayed with us. There are plenty, but Chicago, San Francisco, Boston and Toronto come to mind.

7. What city or town did you have your worst gig (and why)?

That’s hard to say. After 25 plus years at this we’ve had great and terrible experiences all over the place. I remember Houston being kind of awful for us in the early days, but it has since really redeemed itself and been fine the last several years. Some places take a while to get this band but once they do they tend to stay with us.

8. Are you able to support yourself through your music? If so, how long did it take to get there; if not, how do you pay your bills?

Yes, very fortunately. We’re not wealthy, but we get by. It took years of paying dues before that as the saying goes. Let’s just say that I worked a succession of awful jobs before this. With people less willing to pay for recorded music these days, a band has to stay on the road to survive, and so we do. Every member of Cracker is involved with side projects that involve music as well.

9. What one profession other than music would you like to attempt; what one profession would you absolutely hate to do? 

One of the things I did before music made me a decent living was work as a hair stylist. I actually worked at a mortuary styling the deceased for a while, too. It was peaceful and not a bad way to make a living. At one point I thought about going into law enforcement but I’m glad that I didn’t now. I prefer to be appreciated instead of vilified as people in that field are so often.

10. What are the stories you’ve heard about Omaha, Nebraska?

As a kid, my military dad was stationed at Lincoln Air Force Base and we lived there for four years so I know more about that area. Omaha was where we went to get things at the big department stores like Gold’s. The winters seemed harsh, but I have great memories of Nebraska. Corn, sledding and fishing. I look forward to being back there for the show!

Cracker plays with Clarence Tilton Friday, Aug. 4, at The Slowdown, 729 No. 14th St. Tickets are $29 Adv./$32 DOS. Showtime is 8 p.m. For more information, go to theslowdown.com.

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One of my favorite records of 2006 was Ester Drang’s Rocinate, released on the mighty Jade Tree label. I described the album in an interview I conducted with the band (when they played at Sokol Underground with The Minus Story and Go! Motion in March 2006) this way:

Ester Drang’s just-released full-length, Rocinate, is, in a word, gorgeous.

Think Avalon-era Roxy Music with a touch of The Sea and Cake and Flaming Lips and you’re halfway to this Oklahoma band’s big-sky vibe. Tracks like “Hooker with a Heart of Gold” and “Great Expectations” sport a cushion of lush strings, brass and piano that would make Burt Bacharach blush with admiration. Jazzy and carefree, it’s hard to believe this was released on post-punk label Jade Tree, home to such angst brutes as Girls Against Boys, Onelinedrawing and Omaha’s own Statistics.

What a great label and what a great band; a band that I’d all but forgotten until I saw tonight’s show listed on The Slowdown’s website. Yes, Ester Drang is back, and (apparently) with new material and a forth-coming EP. I can’t wait to hear what they’ve been up to. The inimitable Sam Martin opens the show at 9 p.m. $8.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Ten Questions with Tobin Sprout (@Reverb Friday); Unsane, Ocean Black, Blondie, Garbage tonight…

Category: Interviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:49 pm July 19, 2017

Tobin Sprout and his band plays Reverb Lounge Friday, July 21.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Most know Tobin Sprout as a former member of seminal indie band Guided by Voices. Alongside Robert Pollard, Sprout gouged a unique pattern into the surface of indie rock for more than a decade, eventually splitting with the band only to return to the GBV fold from time to time.

As a solo artist, Sprout continues to create his own, unique style of rock that combines the tunefulness of The Beatles and The Byrds with modern lo-fi garage rock. His latest album, The Universe and Me (2017, Burger) — his sixth solo album and first in seven years — is a gorgeous collection of songs that rocks with a child-like winsomeness that cloaks sober topics that range from superheroes to life after loss.

I caught up with Tobin and asked him to take our Ten Questions survey. Here’s what he had to say:

1. What is your favorite album? 



Tobin Sprout: I don’t have one.

2. What is your least favorite song?

“Send In The Clowns.” Makes me want to rip my skin off.

3. What do you enjoy most about being in a band?

Playing live and recording.

4. What do you hate about being in a band?

The driving mostly, but I’ve learned to relax and enjoy the time.

5. What is your favorite substance (legal or illegal)?

Beer, Miller Lite but I’m starting to change to Amstel Light, but it can be skunked sometimes. Also like Leinenkugel Summer Shandy. Good beer when cutting the grass.

6. In what city or town do you love to perform?

We’ve had all great shows on this tour. Brillobox in Pittsburgh comes to mind. Real small club but packed. Johnny Brenda’s in Philly. Great stage, crowd. Big Room Bar in Columbus, Asheville Mothlight. So many cool clubs. Did a daytime outdoor show in Memphis that was really fun. River Series. Love The Cactus Club in Milwaukee. Across from At Random

7. What city or town did you have your worst gig (and why)?

Maybe Cincinnati, first show of the tour. Low turnout but thought it was a good show.

8. Are you able to support yourself through your music? If so, how long did it take to get there; if not, how do you pay your bills?

At times; make my living through art, too. Between the two I do pretty good. Been self employed from about the early ’80s. So it took to my early 30’s to make a living with art and music.

9. What one profession other than music would you like to attempt; what one profession would you absolutely hate to do?

Stand up comedy maybe, Although I think my wife Laura would be better at it than me.

10. What are the stories you’ve heard about Omaha, Nebraska?

Mutual Of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom with Marlin Perkins. Liked watching that show way back when.

Tobin Sprout plays with Elf Power Friday, July 21, at Reverb Lounge, 6212 Military Ave. Tickets are $13 Adv./$15 DOS. For more information, go to onepercentproductions.com

* * *

There’s a couple big ones going on tonight.

Nineties noise-rock superstars Unsane play at Slowdown Jr. tonight. The band is known as much (or more) for its gruesome album covers as its music. Opening is local sludge rockers Ocean Black and Fashion Week. 8 p.m., $18.

And then there’s the big Blondie / Garbage concert at Stir Cove. As much as I love Blondie, I can’t think of a more miserable time than standing around a huge crowd with a heat index of over 100 (and you’re talking to a guy who loves the heat). Show starts at 7.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

The return of Stephen Sheehan (ex-Digital Sex); Big Thief, Thick Paint tonight…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:42 pm July 13, 2017

Stephen Sheehan (ex-Digital Sex) returns to the stage Aug. 18 at Reverb.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

One band that is part of Omaha’s music folklore is Digital Sex. The band, who at its core was Stephen Sheehan, Dereck Higgins and John Tingle, released material in the late ’80s and last reunited in ’94. You can read about their history and that ’94 reunion right here.

Digital Sex split up shortly after that reunion and hasn’t played since, despite almost constant calls for another reunion. Well now, fans of Digital Sex will finally get to hear some of those songs again when when Stephen Sheehan performs at Reverb Lounge Aug. 18, the night before the Maha Music Festival.

Called “Stephen Sheehan: A Reunion of Songs 1982-2017,” the show will feature Sheehan performing songs from his bands Digital Sex, The World and Between the Leaves backed by a band that includes Donovan Johnson on keyboards, Randy Cotton on bass, Ben Sieff on guitar (all from Bennie and the Gents) and Dan Crowell on drums, who played in the final version of Digital Sex in 1994.

Sheehan says it was his work with Bennie and the Gents as part of a David Bowie tribute concert in January 2016 that sparked the idea of returning to the stage to perform his own material.

“This has been a thought of mine for several years, to do a retrospective show with musicians who could test the elasticity in the songs,” Sheehan said. “I’ve always been interested in hearing artists revisit their songs and ‘develop’ them years after they were written, even if it means only a slight flourish. I’ve never really done that with my material. It’s always been about performing them as close to the recording as possible.”

Sheehan said he approached the guys in Bennie and the Gents specifically for this project as they are “master interpreters.”

“With many of the songs, we are straddling the line between note-for-note reproduction and 2017 interpretation,” he said. “I don’t want to be bored doing these songs as I always have and I don’t want the band to feel they are a human jukebox.”

In addition to the greatest hits selection, Sheehan and company also will perform a new song. That said, he says the Aug. 18 performance is a one-and-done sort of thing… as of now.

* * *

As of this writing, that Big Thief show tonight at O’Leaver’s is still not sold out. Surprised? I know I am. I still anticipate a crushed room tonight at the club. Thick Paint opens. $10, 9 p.m.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Ten Years Gone: A Brief History of The Slowdown and The Waiting Room…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:39 pm June 8, 2017

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Today is the 10-year anniversary of the opening of The Slowdown.

The club’s public inaugural show,  Friday, June 8, featured Little Brazil, Domestica, Art in Manila, Now, Archimedes!, Flowers Forever and Cap Gun Coup. Neva Dinova headlined the Saturday, June 9 show, with Bear Country, Ladyfinger, The Terminals and Mal Madrigal. Ah, those were the days.

To mark the occasion — and to properly recognize the 10-year anniversary of The Waiting Room’s opening — I wrote the following article for The Reader that talks about the clubs’ origins and how they’ve managed to not only survive, but thrive, 10 years later. Maybe we should have done this story in March when The Waiting Room hosted a month-long celebration, because The Slowdown is doing nothing publicly to mark the occasion.  Oh well.

You can also read this read this in print in the latest issue of The Reader, on newsstands now or at The Reader website, but you’d miss out on all my sweet photos…

Ten Years Gone

Over the course of a decade, venues The Slowdown and The Waiting Room have transformed Omaha’s live music scene.

By Tim McMahan

Try to remember the way it was before The Slowdown and The Waiting Room opened 10 years ago.

Your choices for seeing an indie rock show were limited to Sokol Underground, the dark, smoky (remember, you could still smoke in clubs back then) basement of Sokol Auditorium located on South 13th Street. While somewhat large (its capacity was at least 400), the room felt strangely claustrophobic, with sight lines marred by metal support poles strategically placed in the most inopportune places. And while there was a decidedly punk-rock/DIY feel to the joint — and a surprisingly good sound system — Sokol Underground always felt temporary.

It didn’t stand alone. Shows also were hosted at The 49’r, O’Leaver’s, Mick’s and the odd west-Omaha bar, house or hall that splurged on a PA. BY 2007, rock destinations, like the all-ages punk club The Cog Factory and everyone’s favorite bowling alley, The Ranch Bowl, were long gone.

But folks in the scene knew things would change. They had to. In 2007, Omaha was still basking in the afterglow of national notoriety for its indie music scene, thanks in large part to One Percent Productions, who had a rep for booking the best touring indie acts, and Saddle Creek Records, home of indie superstars Bright Eyes, The Faint and Cursive (among others).

For Omaha to take that next step, it needed a first-class music venue (or two) for bands to show their stuff.

The Waiting Room, located in the heart of Benson, was the first to open in March 2007. The Slowdown, located in the yet-to-be-established North Downtown area, would follow in June of the same year. The clubs would grow to become focal points of their respective business districts, revitalizing the areas. But it didn’t happen over night.

Robb Nansel, left, and Jason Kulbel in front of The Slowdown, circa 2007.

The Slowdown

Jason Kulbel and Robb Nansel were more known for their record label — Saddle Creek Records — than their experience running music venues or promoting rock shows, though both had booked a handful of notable shows at Sokol Underground in the early part of the 2000s.

In 2005, Saddle Creek was enjoying what arguably was the height of its national fame, and likely the peak of its revenues, as all three of its crown jewels — Bright Eyes, Cursive and The Faint — were producing the best albums of their careers. For years, Kulbel and Nansel had a shared vision for opening their own music venue, but it was Kulbel who had been lured back from California in 2000 solely for the purpose.

“There was a hole in Omaha,” Kulbel said during an interview on the patio of The Trap Room, a tiny bar also owned by the duo that sits next to The Slowdown. “We’d been to countless good clubs in other cities, some cities a lot (smaller) than Omaha, population-wise. It just seemed like something that could do well here.”

Kulbel said they hoped a club would help keep people from relocating. “That was an early motivation, for sure,” he said. “A lot of people moved away, myself included, trying to find greener pastures or better places.”

It would take years just to find the right location. Among those considered and discarded was an old creamery at 14th and Jones streets, a big, open room with lots of potential. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get the owners to sell. “We were ‘full steam ahead,'” Kulbel said. “The guys that owned it just decided we looked too young, though we were in our 30s. It was too hair-brained an idea for their tastes.”

The old Magic Theater on South 16th Street also was considered “pretty heavily,” Kulbel said. But by 2004, he and Nansel had gathered enough seed money from Saddle Creek’s success that they decided to build rather than renovate an older building. Their first location choice was a small commercial district just west of Radial Highway along North Saddle Creek Road, next to one of Omaha’s most iconic bars, The Homy Inn.

They acquired purchasing agreements for property where two car washes stood, but before they went through with the purchase, decided to announce their plans to the neighborhood. And that’s when all hell broke loose. A neighborhood meeting held in November 2004 was “a true nightmare,” Kulbel said. “The first woman that we called on for questions started crying. And it all went downhill from there.”

It would be Omaha City Councilman Dan Welch, who knew the neighborhood would never support them, that convinced Kulbel and Nansel to look elsewhere. He introduced them to City Planner Bob Peters who pointed out the property where The Slowdown now resides, an area just north of downtown Omaha.

Construction begins at The Slowdown complex, Sept. 25, 2006.

“There was nothing there at the time,” Kulbel said. “Everything was vacant. After you just went to war with a neighborhood, the most appealing thing is that there are no neighbors.”

It was Todd Heistand of NuStyle Development, who was redeveloping the nearby Tip-Top Building, that convinced the duo to build more than just a club and headquarters for their record label. Rachel Jacobsen, the genius behind Film Streams, came on board next.

With a sizable loan and some attractive tax incentives, Kulbel and Nansel bought the land from the city and began laying out their plans for their dream club.

“We cut no corner,” Kulbel said. “The way the venue functions, the way the stage is, the sound system, the balcony, we never swayed from our vision one bit. Anything built was because we thought that’s exactly how it should be built.”

About a year and a half after buying the land, The Slowdown opened on June 8, 2007.

With a capacity of around 700, The Slowdown’s large stage was always destined to be the club’s center point, but it’s the smaller front room, with a capacity of only a couple hundred, that has hosted the most shows. “The front room has worked out really well for smaller shows, which I didn’t envision in the beginning,” Kulbel said. “It was made to be way more of a bar than a show room.”

Of the roughly 150 events booked at The Slowdown each year, Kulbel said probably two-thirds are booked in the front room.

Kulbel said financially, the club’s early years were thin. “There were times in 2008 through 2010 when we were taking out loans to make payroll,” he said.

When the club first opened, Kulbel and Nansel had intended to book the kind of indie bands that historically had played at Sokol Underground. “That dream died rather quickly,” Kulbel said. “You figure out that it’s a business, and you begin going back to the people that you have to take care of and the staff that you have to pay. You’ve got to have a good steady volume of shows and people coming through the door.”

As a result, the Slowdown began to broaden the style of music it booked. That fact played into the three milestone events over the life of the club that Kulbel said radically changed his views of how the Slowdown was run.

The 2007 staff, from left, Slowdown sound engineer Dan Brennan, hospitality/event coordinator Val Nelson and bar manager Ryan Palmer.

The first milestone was losing the club’s “hospitality director” Val Nelson in February 2014. “Our technical title was ‘hospitality,’ but she ran the venue,” Kulbel said. “She was the point person for all the staff. She was basically the general manager.”

In addition to doing hospitality, Nelson, who had moved from Kalamazoo, Michigan, to take the job, also handled the club’s back office and dabbled in bookings. When she left Slowdown, Kulbel immediately took over her responsibilities, which he wasn’t ready for.

“I don’t think I’ve ever felt a weight like that. I didn’t know what to do,” Kulbel said, adding that the departure was so swift, he never had a chance to ask Nelson how things worked. “I had to figure out how to do everything that she did. It was a really rough few months; truly awful.”

But the trial by fire ended up being the best thing that could have happened to Kulbel. “It taught me a lot about the business that I own and run,” he said. It wasn’t until July of that year and after struggling through his first College World Series season without Nelson that Kulbel finally began getting his sea legs. “I felt so much better about everything because now I knew how it all worked.”

The second milestone was the shooting that took place Halloween night 2015. According to published reports, 28-year-old Jamar Fields was shot and killed inside the back door of The Slowdown after a brawl.

“It didn’t really change how we do business, but it changed some of the people that we do business with, and it just really changed my life,” Kulbel said. “It was devastating for me, for my wife and family and everything.”

The club closed for a few days following the incident. When it reopened, Kulbel said for the first few weeks, “you could cut the tension in the room.” Patrons returned to shows, but the possible after-effects of the incident didn’t hit Kulbel until he received a call from the mother of a bride who had planned to host a wedding reception at The Slowdown the following summer.

“She said she was nervous because they weren’t sure we’d still be open in July,” Kulbel said. “It just absolutely floored me because that had never crossed my mind, that one idiot could walk into your club and tear it all down with one stupid thing.”

Unfounded rumors of Slowdown’s possible demise due to lawsuits or the club’s perceived inability to acquire insurance rattled through the scene. But less than two years later, the incident is behind them.

The final of the three milestone was Slowdown’s decision in January of this year to sign a deal with Knitting Factory Entertainment to take over the lion’s share of the club’s booking.

“I’m 43, so I listen to less music, I go to less shows, I just don’t really have the best pulse on that sort of thing,” Kulbel said. “We talked to Knitting Factory for probably nine months before we actually had a deal with them. I had been been curating a lot of shows and there were pretty big misses just because I don’t do it for a living. I can run the club, I can run the property, but when I’ve got to really sit down and pick out what to do for a calendar or even pick out what to book locally, I’m not the best judge.”

Kulbel said Slowdown’s relationship with Knitting Factory goes beyond booking. “They can answer questions about anything that I can throw at them,” he said, “from the type of cash register to use to how many shows we should be booking a month and everything in between.”

The new relationship also frees up Kulbel to focus on he and Nansel’s real estate holdings. Their tenants include Blue Line Coffee, Urban Outfitters, Hook and Lime, Trap Room, Slowdown and the recently opened Zipline Brewery in the space that used to house Saddle Creek Records’ warehouse.

The Slowdown days before opening in 2007.

“Owning our own building and the surrounding real estate helps a ton,” Kulbel said. “It’s not to the point anymore where Slowdown borrows from the property, but it was in the past. There were times when Saddle Creek floated the property, and times when Slowdown floated Saddle Creek. I think everything now has set sail and looks pretty good, but the property is the future. I don’t have a retirement account, and I wouldn’t consider Slowdown to be my retirement account. It’s the property and the buildings.”

Today, the once vacant lots that surround their property are now filled with hotels, apartments, restaurants and the massive TD Ameritrade Park, home of the NCAA Men’s College World Series.

If you wonder why Nansel isn’t quoted in this article, it’s because he currently lives in Los Angeles, where Saddle Creek Records has additional label operations. A little over three years ago Kulbel separated himself from label operations, which is Nansel’s full-time focus. Why the split?

‘It just became a drag once the club opened and the property was a concern as well,” Kulbel said. “For years I had three full-time jobs — the property, Slowdown and Saddle Creek. Then three years ago my wife and I had a little girl to join my two step-kids, and something had to give.”

Slowdown was always Kulbel’s labor of love. “It’s mine and Robb’s thing, but it was always way more of my thing and the label was way more Robb’s thing.”

Though neither are involved in the other’s day-to-day operations, the two touch base every Tuesday via phone, though Kulbel says he knows more about what’s happening at the label from talking to Omaha-based Saddle Creek personnel, who still have offices above Slowdown.

For Nansel, the challenge for Slowdown’s next decade is staying relevant and staying open. He now knows that an unexpected catastrophe could spell the end. Still, “I think the club business is a good thing to be in,” he said. “I think people are always going to want to go to shows and have a couple drinks and go home. If you were going to place your bets on a portion of the music industry, I think running a club is a pretty safe place to bet.

“I hope The Slowdown is open 30, 40, 50 years from now. That would be fantastic, but it’s really hard to say.”

Marc Leibowitz, left, and Jim Johnson a few days before the March 9, 2007, grand opening of The Waiting Room Lounge.

The Waiting Room

The Waiting Room’s origin story goes back well beyond 2007.

Working under the moniker One Percent Productions, Marc Leibowitz and Jim Johnson have booked the best indie shows in Omaha for more than 20 years. Remember that amazing Arcade Fire show in November 2004? It was a One Percent Production. Or that time when Sufjan Stevens played at Sokol Underground with his cheerleader orchestra during his Illinois Tour in September 2005? A One Percent Production. How about when Interpol played at Sokol Underground during a blizzard in January 2005? Again, a One Percent Production.

Those and thousands more shows earned Johnson and Leibowitz the reputation as the best indie rock bookers in the area, playing a pivotal role in exposing an entire generation of future Omaha musicians to the music that would influence their careers.

The duo put on so many shows at Sokol Underground some thought they owned the place, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. “At the time, we just wanted a place of our own,” Leibowitz said. “Sokol Underground was the basement of a 100-year-old building. The shows we were getting at that point couldn’t be in that venue anymore; they deserved something nicer.”

Like Kulbel and Nansel, Leibowitz and Johnson spent years looking for the right location. But unlike the Saddle Creek Records duo, who had visions and resources to spend millions to build their dream club, “we were looking for something very cheap,” Leibowitz said. “That’s why Benson became attractive.”

In 2006, when The Waiting Room project began, Benson’s business district was comprised mostly of thrift stores and empty store fronts, with a few legacy shops still hanging on. “Benson seemed very old, and there were a lot of old businesses,” Leibowitz recalled, “and old-timey bars. We were different.”

Leibowitz said their needed investment to open in Benson was minuscule compared to what it would have cost to go into a new development, like Midtown Crossing. But the gamble was whether they could get people to come to this forgotten district of Omaha.

“We figured if people were willing to come to our shows at Sokol Underground and go down into that basement and deal with what we were dealing with — the neighborhood and the parking — then we were pretty sure if we booked the right shows, they would follow us to wherever the club was, as long as it was centrally located.”

Forcing their hand was the fact that Johnson had just quit his full-time job and Leibowitz had gotten laid off from his. It was ‘Try it now or never try it,'” Leibowitz said.

The financing was straight-forward — the duo used their life savings as collateral to get a loan to cover the balance of the $100,000 needed to remodel what had once been a biker bar called Marnie’s Place, and years before that, the legendary Lifticket Lounge where Nirvana once played.

“It wasn’t turnkey,” Leibowitz said, “but it was turnkey enough that we could go in for a cheap amount of money and make do until we made enough money to fix the place up, build nicer dressing rooms, open the ceiling, buy better air conditioning, buy a better sound system, do all the things that we could have done from the beginning if we would have borrowed all the money we needed, sort of in the style that Slowdown did. That wasn’t a position we were in.”

Instead, those improvements would come over time as The Waiting Room quickly began to build its rep one of the hottest clubs in town shortly after opening on March 9, 2007.

“Our dream was to own a club,” Leibowitz said. “Our dream wasn’t to open this club necessarily, but our dream was to have our own spot to do the music that we liked, that we had been doing at Sokol Underground and O’Leaver’s and other people’s places.”

At the same time, One Percent Productions was still very much a going entity. “One Percent Productions rents The Waiting Room for shows, similar to how it would rent Slowdown,” Leibowitz said. “The Waiting Room isn’t the entity taking a risk on shows. If a show loses money, it’s not The Waiting Room’s money. Now, Jim and I own both, so it’s all the same, really, but mentally, it’s different.”

In fact, Leibowitz said, in 2011 when he and Johnson found partners to open Krug Park, a craft beer bar located across the street from The Waiting Room, dollar-for-dollar it made more money than The Waiting Room “because it’s really hard to make money in the music industry.”

“The bar business is a great place to make money, but you have to figure out how to get people to come and drink at your establishment,” Leibowitz said. “For other places, that could be whatever shot special they can come up with. Our way happens to be through live music.”

That means booking shows that draw crowds. Leibowitz said staying relevant in terms of the acts it books is one of their biggest challenges, especially as they get older and music changes. “The music’s not the same in your 40s as it was in your 30s or 20s,” he said.

He also admitted there have been “politics” they’ve had to deal with in that One Percent also booked shows at Slowdown. “That’s been a strain for the eight years we’ve booked at Slowdown, and it’s been a strain for the two years that we really haven’t been doing much booking there,” Leibowitz said. “There is still a small pie that we’re all trying to feed off, and there is still a limited amount of business that can come through Omaha and be successful.”

Leibowitz says booking shows isn’t difficult; booking successful shows is.

“It’s hard to pick which ones are going to be a financial success, because there’s not a lack of shows to be booked, there’s a lack of potentially successful shows to be booked,” he said. “You’re still dealing with the same thing people dealt with 10, 20 or 30 years ago. If something’s not super popular or not on the radio, how are people hearing about it, and how do you get the word out? How do you pick which show to buy?”

At the same time, tickets prices have risen, along with the costs associated with running a live music venue. Agents now have assistants marketing the bands, which means more demands on the venues and local promoters. “There’s a lot more work per show than I think there ever has been,” Leibowitz said.

But the risks involved with booking a show haven’t changed. “I still consider myself a professional gambler,” Leibowitz said. “I”m gambling on every show I buy. There’s no guarantees in this business.”

Leibowitz and Johnson balanced their risks by diversifying their business in the form of real estate. Since opening The Waiting Room, the duo have bought the building that houses the club, as well as the building across the street that houses Krug Park and restaurant Lot 2. They also own the building that houses restaurant Au Courant and are closing on yet another building in the area.

Buying property allows Leibowitz and Johnson to have more control over who comes into the area. “It really does matter what these businesses are,” Leibowitz said. “Getting the right businesses that are going to succeed brings everybody else up.”

There’s little doubt that 10 years after The Waiting Room opened, Benson has evolved into one of the city’s most robust entertainment districts. Those once empty storefronts are now filled with new bars, restaurants and other businesses that may not have taken a gamble on Benson if Leibowitz and Johnson hadn’t.

“Benson is a thriving community and still has a long ways to go,” Johnson said. “There’s a lot that’s changed in 10 years. I think we sparked it and got people to the area, along with (cigar bar) Jake’s and others. Everybody’s had a little piece of it; every little bit that’s opened has helped.”

Yet another property Leibowitz and Johnson purchased houses Reverb Lounge, a new bar and music venue that the duo opened in September 2014, just around the corner from The Waiting Room on Military Ave. The space provides a high-quality venue for shows too small for The Waiting Room.

Despite diversification, The Waiting Room remains Johnson’s and Leibowitz’s first love. And though it’s renowned for the national touring shows One Percent books on its stage, Leibowitz pointed to another factor.

“A good amount of The Waiting Room’s success is because of local music,” he said. “We host a lot of local shows. There’s big support for local music here. People like to see their friends’ bands play.”

From a national booking standpoint, Leibowitz recognizes they need to give the people what they want.

“There’s a lot of shows that you have to do in order to fill your calendar,” Leibowitz said. “We’re in the concession business. We need to get people in to drink, and that’s the ultimate part of running the venue — striking that balance between booking what people want to see and what you want to put on.

“We still buy shows we absolutely know we’re going to lose money on because we think the show’s cool or it’s an artist we really like,” he added. “We’ve got to book the stuff that we really like, or else this business could become a drag.”

So does Leibowitz think The Waiting Room will be around for its 20th anniversary?

“Boy, I hope it’s still around in 10 years. I expect it will be,” he said. “I mean, 10 years from now I’ll be 53. Do I expect to be doing the same role at The Waiting Room that I do now? No, I don’t think I can, but I think it’ll be there.”

* * *

Tomorrow: Pt. 2 — Leibowitz, Johnson, Nansel, Kulbel and your fearless reporter talk about our favorite shows at The Slowdown and The Waiting Room over the past 10 years…

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Tim Kasher’s Resolutions (in The Reader); Meat Puppets, Mike Watt, David Nance (is Brothers becoming a bonafide rock club?) tonight…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:39 pm May 3, 2017

Tim Kasher and his band plays The Waiting Room May 12.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

The May issue of The Reader, which I’m not certain has hit the racks yet, includes a feature/column focused on Tim Kasher, his new album No Resolution, and more specifically, his new record label, 15 Passenger, which he operates with Cursive bro’s Matt Maginn and Ted Stevens.

The story answers questions I posed about the label back in January, specifically why create a new label, how did you acquire the Cursive masters from Saddle Creek, will The Good Life be involved in the new label, and more. Kasher also talks his film No Resolution and how he hopes to screen it in the future.

Don’t want to scrounge around looking for a printed copy of The Reader? You can read the whole article online right here.

Kasher did the interview via phone while he was in Omaha rehearsing for the tour that brings him to The Waiting Room May 12. You should get tickets to this one while you can.

* * *

The Meat Puppets with Mike Watt are headlining tonight at The Waiting Room. According to TWR website, the band could “revisit the folk and singer-song writer nuggets Curt put out in 2005 on his solo masterpiece, Snow, as well as similarly veined tracks from Rat Farm (‘Sometimes Blue’).” The Jom + Terry Show opens. According to Wiki, Jom + Terry “was the backup band led by American punk legend Mike Watt (formerly of The Minutemen and Firehose) for tours of the USA and Canada in 2001 and 2002. The band, in addition to Watt on vocals and bass, included Tom Watson (Slovenly, Red Krayola) on guitar and vocals and Jerry Trebotic on drums.” $20, 8 p.m.

Also tonight….

Is it me or is The Brothers Lounge turning into a regular go-to spot for live music? In the past, Omaha’s most famous bar (with the best jukebox) hosted a live rock show maybe once a month, if that. These days they’re doing shows almost weekly. And anyone who knows the bar’s owners knows they know how to put on a rock show.

You would be wise to follow The Brothers Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/brothersloungeomaha/) to keep up on their many events, like the one tonight.

Tonight The Brothers hosts Omaha’s hardest working noise/garage rock band, David Nance Group. Also on the bill are a couple Los Angeles bands, psych-rock act Olga and dirge band Dimples. $5, 9 p.m.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Ten Questions with Brother Ali (at The Waiting Room May 2)…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , — @ 12:35 pm April 26, 2017

Brother Ali plays at The Waiting Room May 2.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I’ve been doing these Ten Questions surveys for a year. Few responses have been as well-thought-out as Brother Ali’s, and no one can beat his worst-gig story….

Ten Questions with Brother Ali

When it comes to performing, Brother Ali practically has a second home in Omaha. The Minneapolis native who is part of the world-famous Rhymesayers collective has been touring through Omaha for almost 15 years, bringing his unique brand of social justice-themed hip-hop to an always-eager fan base.

Ali’s new album, All the Beauty in this Whole Life (out May 5 on Rhymesayers) is said to capture “an American Muslim rapper digging deep on themes of compassion and virtue.” He wrote much of it during last year’s presidential campaign, before the election. I can only imagine how he feels 100 days into a Trump presidency.

I caught up with Brother Ali and asked him to take the Ten Questions survey. Here’s what he had to say:

1. What is your favorite album?

Brother Ali: There are hundreds of albums I could mention, but I listen to A Love Supreme by John Coltrane almost every day. No matter what space or state my heart is in, no matter who I’m with, that album improves everything. It heals when things are bad and illuminates when things are beautiful.

2. What is your least favorite song?

Okay this isn’t a bad song by any means, but “Royals” by Lorde is still stuck in my head from 3 years ago and I never sought it out. I watched the video once and popular culture kinda took it from there. Didn’t feel like I had a choice in the matter.

3. What do you enjoy most about being in a band?

Traveling and pursuing dreams alongside other people gives you a real window into each other’s hearts. I feel like I really know the people I’ve toured with in an intimate way. Hours and months of conversation, and witnessing each other is really beautiful.

4. What do you hate about being in a band?

Hours and months stuck with other people!!!

5. What is your favorite substance (legal or illegal)?

I love a really specific scent called Oud. It comes from a tree in southeast Asia, it’s very rare and expensive, but it smells like heaven to burn in a room or wearing the oil on my body. I’m legally blind, so smell has incredible impact on my state.

6. In what city or town do you love to perform?

Okay, this is gonna sound like I’m pandering because I’m talking about your town, but I’ve always had a dear relationship with Omaha. It was the first city outside of my home in Minneapolis to overwhelm me with love on stage. I’ve worked with the same independent promoter for almost 15 years. There are people in the crowd I’ve grown up with.

7. What city or town did you have your worst gig (and why)?

I was asked to do a benefit concert out of state for a friend of mine and the promoter was a homie who’d never thrown a big show before. Instead of a hotel, she figured I could “crash” at one of their friend’s houses. The friend we were raising money for didn’t show up. She wasn’t in the business of promoting concerts, so the fans didn’t get the message, and the show was almost empty. I found out afterward that she’d made the decision to print expensive commemorative posters for the show — a LOT of them, and as a result we hadn’t raised one dollar for the friend we were benefiting. Everyone was too drunk to drive me back to the crash pad and this small town didn’t have cabs or Uber. I ended up spending the night outside the locked airport waiting for them to open the next morning so I could catch my flight home.

8. Are you able to support yourself through your music? If so, how long did it take to get there; if not, how do you pay your bills?

I’ve been supporting a family of 4 (including a wife in private grad school) since 2002. I’ve been focused on music since I was 7 years old, and had honestly pursued it since grade school. I’m fortunate enough to have a small, but respectable following across the country and around the world. I put an album out every few years and spend the next year touring and selling merch. I usually spend the next year doing colleges, festivals and spot dates while making the next album. I’m also able to pursue my cultural and spiritual interests traveling the world on my time off.

9. What one profession other than music would you like to attempt; what one profession would you absolutely hate to do?

I’ve always been a teacher and preacher. If music wasn’t so prevalent, I’d do those full time.

10. What are the stories you’ve heard about Omaha, Nebraska?

I know Malcolm X lived there. My favorite story is one of my own. In 2009 we played a show where there was one fan who was clearly waiting to be the last one to talk to me. I have a habit of standing in the crowd for hours talking to everyone. He kept drinking while waiting and got hammered by the time we got to speak. Even though he stumbled through it, I was happy to see him. He’d been to every show in Omaha for several years. When we were done talking he left, about 5 minutes later we hear a loud crash outside. We run out to find our drunken fan had gotten in his car, tried to drive home and smashed into the trailer attached to my tour van. Wrinkled it up like a soda can. A cop came and I couldn’t believe it, but they let him drive home. When I came back to town a year later, I told the story from stage and asked if he was there that night. It got quiet in the room and someone yelled “he’s in jail!”. Not sure whether or not it’s true, but it was hilarious. I hope the guy is well.

Brother Ali plays with Sa-Roc, Last Word and Sol Messiah Tuesday, May 2, at The Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St. Tickets are $15 Adv./$18 DOS. For more information, go to onepercentproductions.com

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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