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.

Lazy-i

Ten Questions with Local Natives (Saturday @ Slowdown SOLD OUT)…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:45 pm April 6, 2017

Local Natives plays The Slowdown April 8. The show is SOLD OUT.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

When California band Local Natives played a sold out show at The Waiting Room in 2010, the buzz in the crowd that evening was that we were seeing the next Arcade Fire. In the end, they turned out to be something entirely different. The band would return to an even bigger Omaha stage when they played the 2014 edition of the Maha Music Festival. And now they’re playing a sold out Slowdown this Saturday, April 8. That’s an impressive trajectory, though seven years into their career, Arcade Fire was playing stadiums.

Still, Local Natives has nothing to complain about. Their latest album, Sunlit Youth (2016, Loma Vista), anchored by singles like the infectious “Past Lives,” carries their indie-rock sound forward in the same rhythmic, dance-inspired direction as their 2010 debut.

We caught up with the band and gave them the Ten Questions treatment. Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Kelcey Ayer provided the answers:

What is your favorite album?

Local Natives’s  Kelcey Ayer: One of my all-time favorite albums (can’t pick just one, that’s crazy) is Portishead’s Third.  I had always loved more somber, melancholy music, but I never had connected to a record that was so fully immersed in that sentiment before.  It was unapologetically and intensely sad.  And the tones of the instruments seemed laboriously fucked with in a way that sounded the perfect amount of “off.”  I felt like it gave me permission to be the kind of artist I wanted to be, like it was ok to go so deep into a feeling.

2. What is your least favorite song?

I worked at a pizza chain called California Pizza Kitchen in southern California, and they only played top 40, which is not totally terrible, unless you’re forced to listen to it for many many hours a week.  Whenever I’m out and about and a song comes on from that time, it always brings me back to the mid 2000s and I start immediately trying to remember an order, throw up a little in my mouth, and then realize I’m being weird in a grocery store and stop it.  There is tie for the most egregious offender of those days, and it’s between Blondie’s cover of “The Tide Is High” and KT Tunstall’s “Black Horse and The Cherry Tree.”  I don’t think any song is inherently bad, it takes a lot of effort to make anything, but circumstantially for me, I really, really hate those songs.  I just hate them so much.

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

Creating something that you couldn’t create yourself, whether it’s making a song or playing that song live in a room, having people to rely on to bring a vision to reality is my favorite part of being in a band.  Second-place is touring around the world, which if you’re lucky you get to do, and fortunately we are.  I’m very grateful for that.

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

Having to compromise on a vision you believe in for the greater good.  We’re always coming up with ideas for songs, or music videos, or ways to promote the band, and nine times out of 10 they get shot down by the group, which makes it hard to stay motivated.  But that’s the way it goes in a group of creative people.

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

I love beer.  The US has been a great place for beer over the last 10 years, so to be a beer fan is very exciting right now.  There are breweries, brew-pubs, bottle shops; all sorts of beer outlets popping up everywhere right now, so it’s pretty easy to find a good beer anywhere you go these days.  I was at a bar in the middle of nowhere Kansas and they still had Lagunitas IPA on tap, it was great!

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

Los Angeles is home and will always be our favorite place to play.  We’ve spent the most time there and played almost every club when we were coming up, and it will always be the first city to have embraced us.  Austin is a close second, SXSW was a big help for us.

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

Those files are sealed because we wanna play there again and have a better show.  All I’ll say is it was somewhere in England.

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?

This is our only job, yes.  I remember back in 2009 arguing with Taylor in Santa Barbara about upping our per-diems from $5 a day to $10, but he’s a financial stickler and was right to deny me.  We just didn’t have the money.  I would buy Subway foot-long subs and eat one half for lunch and the other for dinner.  We barely scraped by.  So when we did a publishing deal at the end of 2009 and got our first bit of money, I bought a Chipotle burrito and ate the whole thing!  Since then it’s been a thrilling roller coaster ride of getting fat and skinny now that I can afford to.

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 act in something, or make a movie.  I’ve always been really into film and love getting taken away from reality and into a new world.  I feel like I’m a dreamer, and watching movies is like being in a dream while you’re awake.  When it’s really hitting you hard it feels like a drug.  As far as a profession I’d hate, I guess anywhere I’d have to be quiet.  I’m a loud guy.

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

I never heard of Omaha until I fell in love with my first favorite band: 311.  Super random for sure, but your first music loves always are, and I’ll always have a soft spot for them.  I felt like I was in the twilight zone the other day when Dark Days was pitted against a new 311 single for a radio station voting contest in Kansas City.  My brain almost broke to read Local Natives and 311 in the same sentence.  I wholeheartedly believe in voting, but in that case, I chose not to.

Local Natives plays with Little Scream Saturday, April 8, at The Slowdown, 729 N. 14th St. This show is SOLD OUT. Showtime is 9 p.m. For more information, go to theslowdown.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.

Lazy-i

Ten Questions with Dinosaur Jr. (at The Waiting Room March 18); Jabid, Big Slur tonight…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , — @ 7:41 am March 16, 2017

Dinosaur Jr., form left, J Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph. The band plays The Waiting Room Saturday night.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

What is the soundtrack to your youth? For some very hip folks in their 30s, 40s and 50s, that soundtrack would have to include Dinosaur Jr. The band has been at it in one form or another since 1984, releasing their debut — a mish-mash of punk, heavy-metal and C&W — under the name Dinosaur in 1985.

Back then it was J Mascis on guitar, Lou Barlow on bass and Murph on drums. Just like the rest us, that line-up would go through some changes over the years, but would circle back to its original line-up in 2006 and pretty much stay that way right up to the band’s latest, Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not (2016, Jagjaguwar). In between, the band released seminal albums like 1987’s You’re Living All Over Me, 1991’s Green Mind, 1993’s Where You Been and 2007’s Beyond, keeping that soundtrack going for the next generation (and the generation after that).

We caught up with Dinosaur Jr. drummer Murph and asked him to take our Ten Questions survey.

1. What is your favorite album?

Murph: Jimi Hendrix’s Axis Bold as Love

2. What is your least favorite song?

Wham’s, “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go”

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

Performing live on stage is the best thing about being in a band.

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

Constant compromise, hardest thing about being in a band.

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

Coffee

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

New York

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

Worst  gig was in Pawtucket RI, sketchy vibe, and horrible sound.

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 haven’t always been able to support myself through my music and it has taken a long time. I’ve supplemented my income with drum lessons and odd jobs.

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

Profession I’d like to try is teacher or therapist, and worst profession would be being a cop.

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

Omaha Nebraska, “where’s the Beef”!  My mother always used to order Omaha steaks at Christmas time.

Dinosaur Jr. plays with Easy Action Saturday, March 18 at The Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St. Tickets are $22 Adv./$25 DOS. Showtime is 9 p.m. For more information, go to onepercentproductions.com

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Get your pre-St. Patrick’s Day partying in before us idiots take over.

Tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s it’s Jabid (Javid’s project), False Brother and Stephen Nichols. $5, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, over at experimental art/noise space Project Project, 1818 Vinton St., Big Slur (Dan Scheuerman’s project) opens for Amulets along with Teetah and Erinome. Let’s face it, I’ve never heard any of these acts, but Dan says it’ll be good. $6, 7 p.m.

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

 

Lazy-i

Ten Questions with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (Tonight) and Chuck Prophet (Tuesday at The Waiting Room)…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:45 pm March 13, 2017

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah plays tonight at The Waiting Room.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Two, count ’em two Ten Questions interviews! Clap Your Hands Say Yeah is tonight, while Chuck Prophet is tomorrow night. Both are at The Waiting Room.

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Ten Questions with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah

I’m not sure how this will sound to the creative force behind Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, frontman Alec Ounsworth, but maybe the band’s slow disintegration was the best thing to happen to him? After all, the new CYHSY album, The Tourist, is my favorite recording by the band.

The Tourist sounds like a cross between Radiohead and anthemic Arcade Fire. Ounsworth has that yearning Thom Yorke vocal styling going on, while the chiming synths and electric guitars, and snap-crack percussion on “Better Off” recall DIIV’s atmospheric essence.

I’ve never heard the back story behind the band’s erosion, only that the four-piece that broke big with its self-released 2005 debut had dwindled to just Ounsworth after 2014’s Only Run. He described the new record as “a type of purge.”

“I am a relatively solitary person and seem to work best alone,” he said. “I do count on others to help the project as the process of making and releasing an album moves forward, but if it doesn’t match what I have in mind, it’s hard for me to really be there for it. I guess this is one reason why the project has been independent all this time. Trust me, I understand that thinking this way is both an asset and a liability.”

We caught up with Alec and asked him to take our Ten Questions survey.

1. What is your favorite album?

Alec Ounsworth: I have been listening to a lot of Randy Newman lately . . .

2. What is your least favorite song?

Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer

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

I guess the travel.

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

The travel.

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

Coffee

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

New York is usually nice.  Tokyo is great.  Omaha is fantastic.

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

We had a rough one in Birmingham, Alabama, some years ago.  Usually there are technical difficulties involved. I imagine this was the case.

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 am lucky enough to be able to support myself through music.  It took years to get there.

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

I would like to play professional basketball. I would not like to play semi-professional basketball.

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

I have heard that it is bigger than I thought it was.

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah plays with Vita and the Woolf Monday, March 13, at The Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St. Tickets are $16. Showtime is 8 p.m. For more information, go to onepercentproductions.com
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Chuck Prophet plays at The Waiting Room March 14.

Ten Questions with Chuck Prophet

California rocker Chuck Prophet has taken a long road to stardom, starting in the ’80s with psychrock/Americana band Green on Red. Prophet went onto work with a number of music luminaries including Alejandro Escovedo, Kelly Willis and Lucinda Williams while nurturing his own solo career.

Prophet’s latest, Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins (2017, Yep Rock), is classic barroom rock with Prophet sounding like the second coming of Ray Davies. He said the album was inspired partly by the mysterious death of rocker Bobby Fuller in LA in 1966. “California has always represented the Golden Dream, and it’s the tension between romance and reality that lurks underneath the surface in all noir films and paperbacks, and that connects these songs,” Prophet said.

We caught up with Chuck and asked him to take our Ten Questions survey:

1. What is your favorite album?

London Calling by The Clash

2. What is your least favorite song?

Pavarotti once said he hated the sound of his own voice. Only one voice he liked less. Add that was Placido Domingo. I’m sure my least fave song it out there. I just haven’t heard it yet.

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

When it’s all clicking, it’s just a great joyride playing with a band as great as The Mission Express.

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

Hate is a strong word. But there are people out there don’t know that The Old Man in the Sea is not about fishing. Being in a band. It’s a shared experience. And that’s the best and worst part of it. There’s no way to share a pulled muscle with somebody else. Pain. We do that on our own.

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

I appreciate a good bowl of cereal. That’s hard question. But if you ask me, “Who’s your favorite drummer?” There’s no one answer to that. That’s like saying, “What do you like best for lunch. Do you like tuna fish sandwiches?”

9. How much do you tip?

I always tip 20% and I always round up.

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

Austin, TX

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

Albany, NY. I’d have to start taking medication if I revisited that night.

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?

Too long. I’ve been playing in bands since I was 12 years old. There have been times where I washed dishes, parked cars, or even gathered signatures. But mostly, I haven’t had a job other than playing music and writing songs. I don’t know if I’ve been making a living. But, I suppose not having a real job is a start.

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

I doubt it’s much fun being a corrections officer.  And I’m sure it’s pretty stressful and altogether unpleasant. Madness. Short leashes. But people who can do that? With dignity. I have to give them my respect.

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

Seems like a good and livable place. Been there a long time. They must be doing something right. I once drove across the country by myself. Sat in a Borders in Omaha from the time it opened until it closed. People came and went. Kids were doing homework. I got to know the staff. It was a good time. I made up my own stories about them.

Chuck Prophet plays Tuesday, March 14, at The Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St. Tickets are $17 Adv./$20 DOS. Showtime is 8 p.m. 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.

Lazy-i

Ten Questions with NE-HI (tomorrow night at Reverb Lounge)…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:41 pm March 1, 2017

NE-HI plays at Reverb Lounge March 2.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Jangle-buzz garage rock band NE-HI is the product the Chicago house show scene, emerging from a Logan Square DIY space called Animal Kingdom in 2013. The four-piece, fronted by guitarist/vocalist Mikey Wells, slowly crawled onto bigger stages on the strength of its live shows and the band’s self-titled 2014 debut.

The next thing you know, NE-HI was touring with Black Lips, Car Seat Headrest and Chicago bros Twin Peaks, including a swing through Omaha last June for a set that reminded me of Stone Roses circa 1990. Most of the tracks on the band’s follow-up, Offers (2017, Grand Jury), were recorded live in studio to capture their trademark house-show energy.

We caught up with frontman Mickey Wells and gave him the Ten Questions treatment:

1. What is your favorite album?

Mickey Wells: My favorite album right now is the first Ramones album. I hadn’t listened to it in a long time and i forgot how cool and funny the lyrics are.

2. What is your least favorite song?

My least favorite song of all time is “The Long and Winding Road” by the Beatles. It’s both long and winding and is sentimental crap.

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

I really enjoy playing the shows and going to different towns and meeting new people and making friends. It’s a cool way to see the country.

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

Smelling bad on tour.

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

Either coffee or the weed honey I put in my coffee. The lines are blurred!

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

I like Atlanta a lot. Good food, nice people and it’s usually a fun crowd.

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

In NYC our first time we played there we drove a super long time and then played in a coat closet and the sound person kept telling us to turn down the whole time. That was a bummer.

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?

Kind of half and half. We make some money playing music but we also all have jobs at home when we’re not touring.

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

Maybe some sort of writer or painter. But a successful one haha.

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

I’ve heard about the legend of infamous Omaha omega swamp monster. It supposedly roams the night in search of touring musicians and rats to eat!

NE-HI plays with Nathan Ma & the Rosettes and Wrong Pets Thursday, March 2, at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. Tickets are $10; showtime is 9 p.m. 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.

Lazy-i

Ten Questions with Mike Doughty (at The Waiting Room Feb. 15)…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:48 pm February 14, 2017

Mike Doughty plays The Waiting Room Feb. 15.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Mike Doughty’s music is deceptively simple but is, in fact, a sophisticated take on modern pop that reaches beyond simple rock and folk genre designations to something smarter, broader and ultimately, genuine.

A brief history: Doughty was the frontman to ’90s alternative band Soul Coughing, a bratty NYC four-piece that combined post-grunge, funk and indie into infectious rock centered around Doughty’s deep, brassy voice and whip-smart lyrics. Contemporaries included acts like Cake, Morphine, Eels and Fun Lovin’ Criminals. After releasing three successful albums on Warners, the band split up in 2000.

Doughty struck out on his own. The story goes that he sold more than 20,000 copies of his self-released EP Skittish out of the trunk of his car. It was none other than Dave Matthews that rediscovered Doughty in 2004 and rereleased his early solo EPs on his own ATO Records. Fourteen years and as many albums later, Doughty released the sublime The Heart Watches While the Brain Burns last year via PledgeMusic.

While his music recalls acts like Mountain Goats, Matt Pond PA, Rogue Wave and Spoon, Doughty’s style is more varied, inventive but no less catchy. We caught up with Doughty and asked him to answer our Ten Questions survey. Here’s what he said:

1. What is your favorite album?

Mike Doughty: What a question! I think the album that changed my life that I’ve been listening to most often of late has been Tom Waits’ Rain Dogs.

2. What is your least favorite song?

“Over the River and Through the Woods to Grandmother’s House We Go.” I mean, to hell with that song.

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

Surprises — when the other musicians on stage do something fascinating and new during the show.

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

When you go back to the hotel and there’s no Law and Order of any variety on any channel.

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

Cheese.

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

Omaha!

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

I had a terrible show in Amherst, Ohio, in a yoga studio. I don’t know why I was playing a yoga studio. But there were drunks that couldn’t stop babbling in the middle of this very intimate quiet show, and the yoga queen who ran the joint was a total control hippie.

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. I started being able to not have a job in about 1994.

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

I’d like to write long-form fiction one day. I worked in a McDonald’s when I was 16 and it was incredibly dehumanizing.

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

I don’t know if I have stories. My best memory is walking from a hotel room to the tour bus on a cold, clear night, and seeing the Woodmen building looming majestically in the distance.

Mike Doughty performs with Wheatus Wednesday, Feb. 15, at The Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St. Tickets are $17. Showtime is 8 p.m. For more information, go to onepercentproductions.com.

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One update on yesterday’s item regarding the move of Milk Run from its Leavenworth location. I mentioned that last weekend’s shows were the venue’s last. Apparently that’s not the case. Lucas Wright of Black Heart Booking pointed out that he still has a show booked at Milk Run this Thursday featuring an acoustic set from Off With Their Heads plus Rackatees, Dummy Head Torpedo and Jeff Miller. I’d hate for people not to go to this show because they read yesterday’s item.

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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

Live Review: Dereck Higgins Experience, Wagon Blasters, Big Al Band; Ten Questions with Dawes; Bandcamp results…

Category: Blog,Interviews,Reviews — Tags: , , , , , — @ 1:42 pm February 6, 2017

Dereck Higgins Experience at O’Leaver’s, Feb. 4, 2017.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Dereck Higgins, one of Omaha’s most prolific musicians, unveiled yet another new project Saturday night at fabulous O’Leaver’s. This new four-piece combo, called The Dereck Higgins Experience (or DHX, as he referred to it from stage), continued in a similar jazz fusion direction heard on Higgins’ recent solo album, Flyover Country. In fact, the combo created a live version of  at least one song from the movie soundtrack.

On bass and synths and acting the role of Emcee, Higgins was joined by James Cuato Ballarin on synths/wind instruments, Aaron Gum on synths, and stellar guitarist Jacob Cubby Phillips. All but Gum also are in progressive jazz band Chemicals, a more experimental, free-form combo than DHX, whose set felt split between smoother fusion numbers a la Spyro Gyra, and funky, digital-fueled jazz concepts. Less intricate and less challenging than Chemicals, DHX’s music likely is more accessible to a larger audience.

I’m told this offshoot of Chemicals isn’t a replacement for that band, who according to Higgins has a scheduled gig at the Harney Street Tavern Friday night, while DHX will play the following evening at The Down Under.

Next up was Wagon Blasters who were in particularly fine form, maybe because it was Guitarist William Thornton’s birthday. Gary Dean Davis yelled through a rowdy set of trademark tractor-punk rock songs, doing his darndest to break through O’Leaver’s floor and onto the birthday/karaoke party going on in the basement.

As a lark, I tried streaming Wagon Blasters’ set via Facebook Live through the faux window sills off stage left. You can still view a recording of the performance in Facebook (or below). Scroll to the 23:38 mark in the video to see Gary’s epic punk-rock stage fall!

Finally, Big Al Band closed out the night with his flying V and Holly Pop on the drum kit. Favorite moment of the set — the final song wherein Al swapped out the V for a bass for a go at song called “Jolly Roger.” Nice.

As mentioned, O’Leaver’s now has a basement party room. I snuck (sneaked?) down there Saturday night and was pleasantly surprised at the set-up, which includes a full bar and karaoke stage, all of which is available for rental at a bargain price. Let’s see, sand volleyball, live music, tiki bar, two outdoor beer gardens and now a karaoke party room? What more can O’Leaver’s squeeze into their entertainment complex?

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As you see below, I’m continuing the Ten Questions series both here and in The Reader. I recently got some push back from a publicist, asking if I would be able to do an actual interview with the band he represents rather than the survey. Fact is, I simply don’t have time to interview and write band features for every interesting act coming through town (and considering the pay for these features ($0.00), can’t afford it.). The Ten Questions format allows me to hype a touring indie band’s upcoming show in a way that’s not too time taxing. Let me know what you think of these surveys…

 

Dawes, photo by Matt Jacoby.

LA folk-rock band Dawes epitomizes a style of music I grew up listening to — tequila sunrise ’70s soft rock. You know what I’m talking about — those laid-back groovy bands they used to play on the FM (and AM) stations and still do if you have a classic rock channel in your town (and who doesn’t?).

But somewhere/somehow over the past few years it’s become accepted for snotty, tone-deaf hipsters and hipster wannabes to denigrate (via Facebook) music infused with a peaceful, easy feeling. And that’s a shame, because the new folk rock that they often laud — from the likes of Wilco, Ben Kweller, Jenny Lewis and even our very own Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band — owe much of their sound to those FM giants.

Certainly Dawes does. That classic ’70s El-Lay studio sound is evident on their latest album, We’re All Gonna Die (2016, HUB Records), which, at times, reminds me of One of These Nights-era Eagles (there, I said it). On songs like the title track, the slow burnin’ “Roll with the Punches,” the wah-wah funk of “When the Tequila Runs Out,” heck, just about every track, Dawes frontman Taylor Goldsmith unapologetically puts a modern spin on AOR gold, sounding like the second coming of Don Henley or Glenn Frey, complete with warm-cushion vocal harmonies. And that’s about as cool as it gets.

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

1. What is your favorite album?

Taylor Goldsmith: Always changing but I often go back to Warren Zevon self-titled.

2. What is your least favorite song?

Even though she’s one of my heroes and maybe the greatest songwriter that ever lived, there’s a song called “Not To Blame” by Joni Mitchell that I really hate.

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

The shows. The songs get to change shape every night and we get to pull out old ones we haven’t played in years sometimes.

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

Being gone from home so much of the year. While I love touring, it’s hard to keep a semblance of a normal life in order by being gone over half the year sometimes.

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

Coffee. I always want more coffee. About to make some.

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

We love playing at home for our friends and family and also love playing places like Nashville or NYC for the amazing venues and sold out shows, but there is also something special about coming into cities we’ve never been to or rarely play and having those more intimate experiences. It’s fun to still be building audiences in cities. It feels like we’re going into the past and future of the band from night to night depending where we are.

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

An LA show in 2012. I had really lost my voice. I got a steroid shot and it made it a lot worse. By the time we got onstage I could barely whisper. But we couldn’t cancel because everyone was there already and I didn’t want to let the band down. It was rough.

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?

Yeah, music pays the bills. We quit our jobs and moved out of our homes the day before our first tour for North Hills. It meant we couldn’t afford places for a while, but we’ve never had jobs since.

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

It’d be fun to be a novelist. I really idolize those guys. My brain just doesn’t work that way though. I’d hate to do just about anything that meant I couldn’t go outside during the day.

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

Well our good buddy Conor Oberst lives there so any stories we know are somehow indirectly connected to him and the community he’s introduced us to. After spending some serious time there (more time than we typically can in a city during tour) we’ve really fallen in love with Omaha and have been looking forward to this show for a while.

An Evening with Dawes is Tuesday, February 7, at The Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St. Tickets are $23 Adv./$25 DOS. Showtime is 9 p.m. For more information, go to onepercentproductions.com.

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Bandcamp says it sold nearly a million dollars worth of music on Friday: “With several hours remaining, we estimate that fans will have bought just over $1,000,000 worth of music today, which is 550% more than a normal Friday (already our biggest sales day of the week). All of our share of that (12%) goes directly to the ACLU. The other 88% (less transaction fees) goes directly to the labels and artists…

A lot of those labels and artists also donated their share to ACLU or other charities. If you bought something, good for you. We’re going to see a lot more of these kinds of efforts over the next four years as the current administration continues to do all it can to dismantle the nation’s arts, take away women’s rights and bar immigrants from our borders. Do what you can; it makes a difference.

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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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