Live Review: Double Grave, The Cult of Lip…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , — @ 12:33 pm June 17, 2019

The Cult of Lip at O’Leaver’s, June 15, 2019.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Walking up to O’Leaver’s Saturday I noticed they painted the building black, and then upon walking in… new carpeting! When’d this all happen? I asked the kindly young lady taking my $5. Oh, about a month ago. What? Has it been that long since I’ve been to O’Leaver’s? I guess so… 

Double Grave at O’Leaver’s June 15, 2019.

Anyway, the place never looked better, but it’s still the same ol’ Club we all know and love. Double Grave took the stage moments after arrival / Rolling Rock’d. The Minneapolis three-piece sounded closer to ’90s slacker rock / Pavement than I remember on their latest recordings. Frontman/guitarist Jeremy Warden has a loopy vocal style but knows how to punch out cool guitar lines atop a solid rhythm section. 

Fellow Minneapolis trio The Cult of Lip was next-level good. I’d love to tell you who’s in this band but there’s no info about them anywhere (that I could find). A young dude in a Greek sailor’s cap surrounded by two panels of floor pedals absolutely destroyed on guitar, playing an array of effects, many sounding like Loveless-era My Bloody Valentine (his Loveless T-shirt was the first clue). His vocals were deep and thick with reverb, real voice-of-god stuff. He shared vocals with a bass player, whose voice was as distorted and, as a result, lyrics were undistinguishable, more tones than words. 

Two songs into the set they shifted to Sonic Youth territory, and again, blew the place away, before heading back to that distorted MBV style. The drummer also played in Double Grave — and kept it solid in both. One of the coolest bands I’ve seen this year…

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Live Review: Disq, Diane Coffee, Fizzle Like a Flood, Frederick Julius; Thick Paint tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:38 pm June 3, 2019

Disq at Slowdown Jr., June 2, 2019.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Weekend recap:

Friday night Doug Kabourek, a.k.a. Fizzle Like a Flood, re-emerged from a long performance hiatus to play a six-song solo-acoustic set at B-Side in Benson opening for Frederick Julius, a.k.a., Matt Geiler, who was celebrating the release of a new album. 

Fizzle Like a Flood at Benson B-Side May May 31, 2019.

Kabourek’s six songs spanned his career, from new to old, capping it with “Believe in Being Barefooot” off his masterpiece, Golden Sand and the Grandstand. I bet Doug see from stage all the people in the audience who were singing along. 

He’s one of those people (and I know lots of them in Omaha) who doesn’t realize how talented he his. It’s almost like a sickness around here — running into musicians and artists who create works of art and then move on to something else, leaving us wondering why they’re not doing it anymore (I assume the need to pay bills has something to do with it). Kabourek’s voice sounded the same as the first time I heard him perform nearly 20 years ago. So if he just wants to play opening slots, I’m all for it, as long as he keeps playing. 

Frederick Julius at Benson B-Side May 31, 2019.

Geiler has put together a cracker-jack band that embodied the vision he’s created on his new album, Fixers and Elixers. The music is pure ’60s Beach Boys fun-in-the-sun pop, and what gave it wings was the harmony vocals provided by a couple guys (one being his brother?) who augmented Geiler’s embraceable voice with authenticity, and by that I mean they sounded like Beach Boys harmonies.

The songs ranged from those beachy numbers to more indie-fied pop melodies, many augmented by a doo-wap counter. Fun stuff and Geiler clearly was having a blast on stage — a natural performer whose quick wit was as abundant as his melodies, interspersing small bits and stories between every song. Often funny, there were times when I wish he’d just play a few songs in a row before doing the next schtick. That said, the crowd ate it up. 

This was the first rock show I’ve seen at B-side, and the sound was very bright — lots of high end bouncing around the room, powered by a light-duty PA that left out the bottom of the mix. It’s a good stage that could be even better with a little investment in the sound system. 

I felt lucky to be among the 20 or so people at Slowdown Jr. last night for the Omaha debut of Madison band Disq, one of the best live indie acts I’ve seen in a long time. The 5-piece powered by Isaac deBroux-Slone and Raina Bock released their first 7-inch as part of the Saddle Creek Document series and has since become one of indie’s “buzziest” bands, for good reason. 

With three guitars, bass and drums, and everyone but the drummer providing vocals, they sounded like a modern-day combination of all your favorites from the ’90s — from Teenage Fanclub to Weezer to Pavement to No Knife. But one glance at this motley crew, most of whom look like they’re too young to be in a bar, and you realize they likely have never heard of any of those acts. 

The highlight was a burning version of “Communication,” the A-side of that Saddle Creek single, though the B-side sounded just as good live. After looking on Spotify, I see their debut was released in 2016. They’ve come a long way in three short years. 

Disq is putting finishing touches on a new full-length. After the show I asked one of the guitarists what label is putting it out, but he wouldn’t say. Whoever it is, they better be ready for the onslaught. At a time when electronic music seems to be powering everything, Disq could be rock ‘n’ roll’s last great hope. 

Diane Coffee at Slowdown Jr. June 2, 2019.

You could see how headliner Diane Coffee got his reputation for being an over-the-top performer. He came on stage in a green bodysuit costume surrounded by a costumed band, all wearing white masks (which they quickly threw to the side), and ripped into the title track off his latest album, Internet Arms (Polyvinyl, 2019). 

That album is more synth-driven then guitar-driven, but on stage last night the guitars had the upper hand, turning it into a rock show rather than dance show (which it could never be, anyway, with most of the patrons sitting down). The person next to me said, “He sounds like Steve Perry,” and afterward I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind. Not Journey, mind you, Steve Perry solo, especially on the more straight-forward pop numbers.

There were moments when Coffee strayed into manic, quick-verse territory that matched his million-mile-an-hour between-song stage patter. I have to hand it to him, despite the small, rather dead audience, he put it all out there. And his band was absolutely killer in all positions (incredible rhythm section, soaring lead guitars, and keyboards that would make Elton proud). There was even a drum solo… and a keytar solo. 

The whole time I was thinking this guy belongs on Broadway. He’s got the glam Hedwig stance down to a science. Imagine how he’d come off in a packed room, which is what he deserves.

* * *

Tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s Thick Paint returns with Olympia band Oh, Rose and Oakland’s Painting with Statue. $5, 8 p.m.

* * *

And thanks, everyone, for the birthday wishes!

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Live Review: Cursive at Winchester Bar & Grill; awakebutstillinbed, Pity Party tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:37 pm May 29, 2019

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

O’Leaver’s has become (over the course of, what, a decade?) one of the best places to see live music in Omaha. It’s a stop for national touring indie bands and a welcome stage for the best local original live acts in Omaha. It’s “The Club,” a comfortable place to hang, a great place to drink.

But there’s a problem with O’Leaver’s when it comes to live music. On nights when the band is really packing them in, you’re probably not going to be able to see a damn thing. Because O’Leaver’s doesn’t have a real stage. Bands play on a cleared off space in the back of the room. So when there’s a crowd standing in front of the band, the only thing you’re likely to see is the back of a lot of unwashed heads of hair.

There are a few strategic places in the club that offer a glimpse of the band, if you’ve staked out your spot while they were humping in their gear between sets. If not, you better be standing right on top of the band. That’s the way it’s always been at O’Leaver’s, and because of the physical limitations of the room, that’s the way it’ll always be — there’s no way to build an elevated stage — the ceiling’s too low.

When we first walked into a sold-out and packed Winchester Bar & Grill Saturday night, the venue was reminiscent of O’Leaver’s in a number of ways. It’s a comfortable hole-in-the-wall hang-out that’s probably looked the way it does for a few decades. Like O’Leaver’s, there’s volleyball courts, this time located outside the back of the bar, which opens into an inviting patio with picnic benches and a small bar of its own, no doubt a smoker’s paradise. Unlike O’Leaver’s (for now) Winchester has a kitchen which makes a mighty fine cheeseburger.

But the thing that’s most similar to O’Leaver’s was the sight-line problems. Having been there for lunch when only a few folks were noshing sandwiches sitting in the booths, I thought Winchester had a leg up on O’Leaver’s because it has a fixed stage back in the corner. But as I quickly realized Saturday night, that stage wasn’t elevated enough. The band could be heard but, alas, could not be seen.

When Cursive was on stage I wasn’t even sure the entire band was up there. I could hear Megan Siebe’s cello but couldn’t see it. Where was drummer Pat Oakes? There were moments when frontman Tim Kasher’s head appeared between the spaces of bodies, and bassist Matt Maginn and guitarist Ted Stevens were playing so far off to the sides at times they could be seen, too. But see the whole band at once? Not Saturday night, not unless you got there early and were standing right in front of them.

It’s a problem easy to remedy — just raise the stage a foot, or two. Unlike O’Leaver’s, there’s plenty of head space. No doubt it’s not a problem on karaoke nights or when there’s a cover band playing, but if they ever have another sold-out show like Saturday hight, they’re in trouble.

The venue’s PA/sound system was serviceable. The room’s acoustics are what they are — i.e., this is no Waiting Room/Reverb set-up, but it was all they needed Saturday night. Of note — I could hear the cello throughout the set. I remember back in the old Gretta days when she might as well have been playing a cardboard cello for as much as it could be heard over the rest of the band.

Kasher sounded right at home, because he was at home — he’s an owner of Winchester as part of a consortium of partners that include Stevens and Maginn and host of Omaha rock glitterati. He looked relaxed and having fun, or maybe it was due to the fact it was the last night of a long tour.

The band opened with “Sierra” and played through a set of old favorites (“The Radiator Hums,” “Dorothy at Forty” “From the Hips” among the highlights) as well as songs off Vitriola, their latest release, including rousing versions of “It’s Gonna Hurt” and “Free to Be or Not to Be You and Me.” The crowd hooted and hollered after every song.

It was a sort of break-in performance for Winchester at least from a big show perspective, and despite the challenges of actually seeing the band, was a good time. As great as the music was, the best part for me was hanging out on the patio and catching up with old friends over beers (one drawback — no Rolling Rock. How is that even possible?).

During a recent interview with Kasher, Tim said he’d love to see Winchester evolve into another viable tour stop for original live music, just like O’Leaver’s. I’d love to see that happen, too. The club’s size (capacity has to be around 300?) makes it a great alternative to O’leaver’s when Craig D. has an opportunity to book a band with a larger following. They just need to jack up that stage a couple feet higher…

* * *

Awakebutstillinbed (ABSIB) is singer/guitarist Shannon Taylor and her band playing indie rock that glides between emo and folk but, in the end, is emo. She can scream with the best of them. Reminds me of the ’00s. From San Jose. On Tiny Engines Records. Opening act Pity Party is Oakland emo. Living Conditions is Omaha screamo. All three play tonight at Reverb Lounge. $10, 8 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: The Faint, Choir Boy at The Waiting Room; T.S.O.L. tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:42 pm May 28, 2019

The Faint at The Waiting Room, May 24, 2019.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

We got to The Waiting Room at around 9:15 Friday night, halfway through Choir Boy’s set. The person sitting next to me said it doesn’t sound like that voice should be coming out of the lead guy’s body. I said he sounds like Rick Astley. And their music also sounded like it came from the same decade that produced Astley — the era of Simply Red and Spandau Ballet and Simple Minds and Paul Young. MTV music. Choir Boy sounded like the soundtrack to a John Hughes film, but not necessarily one of his better ones.

I was reminded how much I heard this stuff in the early ’80s when I’d just graduated from high school and was going to places like The Depot and The Warehouse in Council Bluffs/Carter Lake, places where people listened and danced to this style of music, met people, went home with people. It was a time long, long before the internet and texting, when you actually had to walk up to someone and talk to them and ask them to dance. I wasn’t very good at that. But I had fun anyway, partially because of music like this.

I’m surprised an act like Choir Boy, a Team Love band playing ’80s-style New Romantic synth-pop, has a following among today’s youngsters. Or maybe they don’t. After all, The Faint’s biggest hits came out about 20 years ago, and Friday night’s audience reflected this — an older crowd for sure.

Todd and the boys came on just after 10 and ripped right into their set with their usual fervor.

I was reminded of another Faint concert at The Waiting Room about a decade ago in what was one of the venue’s “break in” concerts. Back then The Waiting Room was sort of two rooms — a stage room (where the stage is now) separated by pseudo walls that created a sort of separate room where the bar is located. The partial enclosures made the stage room louder, or so it seemed. That show was a sell out, and I spent it standing on a ledge that ran along the load-in ramp that lifted me above the throng. I watched the humanity down below bounce like butter on a hot skillet and felt every deep-bass throb in my bones.

And while Friday’s performance was as good as that one 10 years ago, the energy wasn’t as intense as those early Faint shows. We watched from behind the crowd along that soundboard wall that backs into the bar area. One super-tall guy, he must have been seven feet tall, stood in the center of the crowd and threw his arms in the air like an alien life form. He was the most animated of the mob that indeed bounced when they recognized a hit (“Worked Up So Sexual,” “Your Retro Career Melted,” etc.).

The set list for shows leading up to this one included maybe one song from the new album. But the band played at least three off the new one Friday night, including leading off their encore with “Child Asleep” — for my money, one of the best songs they’ve ever written. In fact, Egowerk sits right up there with The Faint’s best and the new songs blended in well with the rest of the set.

You have to ask yourself if they even need to produce new music with their rep as one of indie’s best full-tilt party bands. Egowerk isn’t what brought the crowd Friday night. And yet, how satisfying would it be for the band to just keep on playing the same songs over and over? Egowerk adds some new life into an already lively body of work. It’s not an evolution, but it continues their journey in the same dance-punk direction.

Anyway, the moment that everyone waits for always happens during the encore — “Glass Danse” — when the whole crowd erupts, and Friday night was no exception. The floor became a trampoline, just like in the good ol’ days. I have no doubt that a large portion of Friday night’s crowd came back for Saturday night’s encore.

* * *

Because this is running long (and because I don’t haven’t finished writing it yet) I’ll publish the Cursive (and Winchester) review tomorrow.

* * *

Tonight, Alternative Tentacles/Enigma recording artist T.S.O.L. plays at Lookout Lounge. They headline a night of punk that includes R.A.F., Hand Painted Police Car and The Scabby Ghouls. $15, 8 p.m. Wear your Docs.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Left Is West, The Lupines; Chris Isaak in Memorial Park…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , — @ 12:47 pm May 13, 2019

Left is West at O’Leaver’s May 10, 2019.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

A friend who listened to the new Left is West album How to Be Happy Without Even Trying described it as sounding “expensive.” I’m not sure exactly what he meant by that other than the recording quality was impeccable, which it is. So well done, in fact that it eclipsed the band’s live performance last Friday at O’Leaver’s.

It’s usually the other way around — bands rarely capture the ferocity of their live set on their recordings. For example, Omaha’s The Carsinogents were mercurial on stage, and while their recordings rocked, the albums never rocked nearly as intensely as when they were trying to burn down Sokol Underground. Left is West isn’t in the same incidiary category as Carsinogents. Instead, their album has a peaceful easy feelin’ style as if recorded in the ‘70s with one of the great producers like Bill Szymczyk at the knobs — it’s a true studio document that sounds like a perfectly balanced weapon. There was no way the band was going to replicate it in O’Leaver’s.

And they didn’t. The songs were still there, but… you couldn’t quite hear the keyboards, the vocals were at times soft and the drums hid behind the bass. Lead guitarist Matt Wellendorf, however, soared, and I was reminded again of Jackson Browne to the point where I kinda/sorta wanted them to cover “Running on Empty.” 

The Lupines at O’Leaver’s May 10, 2019.

On the other hand, The Lupines were completely uncaged and on fire Friday night. But I’ve never seen them perform any other way. They rolled out a couple new songs, which I hope means there’s a new album waiting in the wings. 

We’re in an era when there just aren’t many indie bands performing in Omaha anymore; and instead, garage / psych-rock bands are in the forefront. The Lupines stands tall as being among the best of them, alongside David Nance Group and Those Far Out Arrows. 

* * *

The folks behind the June 28 Memorial Park Concert this morning announced that Chris Isaak is opening for Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul for their big event. Who remembers “Wicked Game”? Great video. Couldn’t tell you what Isaak’s been up to since then except for some cameo film appearances. The Firm (not the one with Jimmy Page) opens the show at 6 p.m. Fireworks at 10. 

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

CD Review: Left is West: How to be Happy Without Even Trying (at O’Leaver’s May 10)…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , — @ 12:33 pm May 8, 2019

Left Is West, How to be Happy Without Even Trying (2018, self release)

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

While at the Minne Lusa show last weekend at O’Leaver’s, Mike Tulis, one of the area’s finest musicians and a man with impeccable taste, handed me a copy of the new Left Is West CD How to Be Happy Without Even Trying and said it was one of the best records he’s heard so far this year. That’s high praise coming from someone who has forgotten more music than most of us have heard.

Left Is West is a Des Moines, Iowa, band that’s been around since 2004, according to their bio on Facebook. At the center is singer-songwriter Chad O’Neall, who plays guitar alongside Matt Wellendorf, lead guitar; Pat Curtis, drums; John Parrish, bass, and Matt Jesson on keyboards. This current line-up has been together since 2013 and includes members of such acts as North of Grand, Brother Tucker and Monday Mourners, a band that released a split LP last year with Omaha act Clarence Tilton.

Tilton is among the bands that came to mind when listening to the CD, along with Wilco, The Jayhawks, Matthew Sweet and Centro-Matic, as well as classic ’70s FM acts like England Dan and John Ford Coley, Jackson Browne, J.D. Souther and dare I say it, The Eagles. The record skirts the border between modern Americana and slick FM MOR of yesteryear. MOR as in “Middle of the Road,” as in stuff I remember hearing on KFAB when KFAB played music.

We’re talking songs with sing-along choruses (none more so than “You Got the Coast,” which will make an appearance on my 2019 “best of” comp), ripping electric guitar solos, traditional rock-song structures complete with “big endings.” O’Neall knows how to write a great power-pop song — and every one of these has a massive hook. If you’re like me, you can’t get enough of it.

That said, this record will never be reviewed by Pitchfork, never be featured on Stereogum. It’s not “indie” in a genre-centric sense, though if Wilco had released this record it would be mega. This is college music for people who went to college in the ’80s or ’90s, which can be problematic because it’s hard to market music to a generation that quit going to the bars and listening to new music well over a decade ago.

That said, Mr. Tulis is right (He’s always right). And like him I, too, think this is one of the best records I’ve heard so far this year (and it’s been a very good year, my friends).

You won’t find this on Bandcamp (or at least I couldn’t). You will find it on Spotify and on Apple Music (probably). And you’ll very likely be able to buy your copy when Left is West plays at O’Leaver’s this Friday night with Lupines (Mike Tulis’ band). See you there.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Maha 2019 initial reaction; Live Review: Sasami, Ellis; Thick Paint Sunday…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 9:27 am April 19, 2019

Sasami at Reverb Lounge, April 19, 2019.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

My initial reaction to Maha 2019: It’s the best line-up they’ve ever had: Lizzo, Courtney Barnett, Jenny Lewis, Snail Mail, and best of all, Thee Oh Sees — a band that has been avoiding Omaha for as long as I can remember. Now you’ll get to see them in all their glory.

There’s about a half-dozen more acts. You can see the full line-up here. Two-day GA festival tickets are $80 (Plus an $11 fee!). Like I said, best line-up ever, but quality rarely equates to quantity audience wise… If they wanted to outdo last year’s attendance, they’d need another Weezer, which they don’t got (thankfully).

More thoughts on the line-up next Monday.

* * *

Sasami at Reverb last night was a hoot. Rarely have I seen such a well-balanced trio, with every musician playing a crucial roll, and amazingly so. The drummer was mesmerizing, and the bass at times carried the melody, but at the center was Sasami Ashworth, who you could tell was having a great time playing for a room half-filled with young women, all of whom crowded the stage (while the old dudes stood in back).

I’m paraphrasing here, but she said something like, “I love this crowd. This is a million times better than last night’s crowd. Fuck Denver!” Then went on to say she has nothing against old white guys. “My Jewish manager is here and I love him, but fuck ya! Girls to the front!” Indeed.

There were more white-guy comments later in the set, and I suppose someone could have been offended but who cares? I was easily old enough to be the grandfather to most of the women dancing up by the stage, and you could argue I didn’t belong there, except for the fact that I’ve never thought twice about my age when it comes to music. Especially music as good as Sasami’s, which, with her soaring guitar riffs and soft, low voice (that at times struggled to be heard above the amp center stage) reminded me of Exile-era Liz Phair but powered by an amazing rhythm section.

Show highlights were scorching versions of “Free” and “At Hollywood” (where she substituted “Omaha” for “Hollywood” the first time through), both off her self-titled debut. While that record is great, it doesn’t come close to capturing her live energy (but few studio albums do).

Opening act Ellis was a good match as a tour mate, with a similar songwriting style and a voice that also was hard to hear over the band. She ended her set with a song called “The Fuzz” that started with just her and her electric guitar, and you could hear every word: “The sky was big and it was dark / A picnic table in the yard / I still remember how it felt / When the sky came crashing down.” And then the band came in and that was the end of that. I made a note to find the song after I got home to find out what happened next.

* * *

I’m happy I went out last night because there ain’t dick going on this weekend. Since when did Passover/Easter become such a dead holiday show-wise?

There is one gig you won’t want to miss and it’s Sunday night.

Local heroes Thick Paint celebrate the release of their debut full-length Sunday night at Reverb Lounge. This one’s a long time coming, and I guess it’s a self-release, though I know there were labels sniffing around last summer. Who needs labels in the digital age, right?

Opening the show is Portland band Ancient Pools. 8 p.m. and $7. Expect a crowd.

That’s all I got. If I missed your show, put in the comments section. Have a mighty fine holiday.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Kero Kero Bonito; Will Johnson tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , — @ 12:40 pm April 8, 2019

Kero Kero Bonito at The Waiting Room, April 5, 2019

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I went into Friday night’s Kero Kero Bonito show at The Waiting Room knowing nothing about the band other than they are on Polyvinyl Records, home to some of the cooler indie bands in the last 20 years (Rainer Maria, Pedro the Lion, Alvvays). Someone outside the club told me they were a K-Pop group. Nothing could have been further from the truth.

In fact KKB was a five-piece British indie pop act with a Japanese front woman who sang, rapped, played keyboards and balanced stuffed animals on her head throughout the set. The music had a break-beat pop flash, driven by an amazing rhythm section with fantastic drumming provided by tour drummer Jennifer Walton (most of the night).  Vocalist Sarah Bonito had a playful, child-like rap/sing style that worked well for songs about stuff like swimming and playing on trampolines. 

Early in the set, it kind of felt like Saturday morning kid’s stuff, but as the set progressed, compositions became more sophisticated and stylish in a yacht-rock sort of way. Guitarist James Rowland proved he could shred when needed, but the band’s mix downplayed his guitar. In fact, the mix felt purposely flat and two-dimensional, with nothing standing out other than front-woman Bonito’s sing-song rap. 

This was another example of a band with a mysterious huge following (tables and chairs were taken out for this show to make room for the massive crowd) that knew the words to what was clearly the band’s “hits,” which have never been heard on any local airwaves. It must be a YouTube thing. The whole crowd joined in on single “Flamingo” (a video with more than 38 million YouTube plays), and I haven’t seen a room bounce like as it did for encore “Trampoline” since the last Faint concert. 

The oddest moment of the evening came after the show ended. The band’s outro music was a synth version of John Denver’s “Country Roads” that had the entire room singing along as they headed for the doors. 

* * *

Tonight at an unspecified location (though I promise it’s some place you’ll like) Will Johnson of Centro-Matic, South San Gabriel and Monsters of Folk fame plays an intimate living room concert. A limited number of $20 tickets are still available for this 8 p.m. performance. For more information, go here.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Hand Habits, Tomberlin; Laura Jane Grace (Against Me!), Rob Noyes, David Nance tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:36 pm April 2, 2019

Hand Habits at Slowdown Jr., April 1, 2019.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Sara Beth Tomberlin — or just Tomberlin as she’s known professionally and Toblerone as I sometimes mistakenly call her — sat center-stage at Slowdown Jr. last night with an acoustic guitar balanced on her crossed legs and sang heart-breakingly sad personal-journey songs in a voice I can only describe as “angelic.” You’d expect someone who writes such painful lyrics to be church-mouse quiet between songs and mumble morose thank you’s but instead, Tomberlin was a natural crack-up, talking about the time she was on the Jimmy Kimmel show during a bomb threat and how long it takes to get to the nearest Target from her hometown (hour and a half).

Tomberlin at Slowdown Jr., April 1, 2019.

She sang songs off her Saddle Creek debut as well as a couple new ones that fell into the same solemn territory as the others.  She thanked the crowd for being so quiet — the audience of around 60 stood as if in a trance throughout, except for two younger audience members who did a modified grind dance to every sad song.

By contrast, Hand Habits was a veritable rock show. Playing as a trio with bass and drums, Meg Duffy led with an electric guitar that broke away a few too few times for soaring solos that would make Richard Thompson proud. Duffy’s guitar work was stellar and I wished they’d work more of those solos into the set.

Instead, the band played mostly by the numbers songs from their latest Saddle Creek release, Placeholder, which is an early runner for my 2019 top-albums list. On the record, Duffy’s voice sounds like it’s always in harmony with someone or some thing. Live, the drummer added gorgeous harmonies, but for the big single, “Can’t Calm Down,” Tomberlin came up to the stage for one of the night’s highlights.

I can’t quite put my finger on who Duffy reminds me of, and I suppose they’d appreciate that (I’ve yet to meet a musician who likes being compared to anyone). That said (haha) I was at times reminded of Aimee Mann, at least in terms of the way Duffy and company made the most out of simple compositions for maximum emotional impact.

Not surprisingly, both acts said they were happy to be playing home base for Saddle Creek Records, whose reps were sprinkled throughout the audience, proudly watching their latest signees knock them dead.

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Huge show tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s. Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! is playing with her band, The Devouring Mothers. Advanced tickets to this show are long gone, but there may be a few available at the door for $22.50. The door is at 6:30, so if you’re interested, you’ll want to get in line well before than. The show starts at 7:30 with opening sets by Mercy Union and Control Top.

Also tonight, guitar virtuoso Rob Noyes performs at Reverb Lounge. Joining him are Jon Collin and our very own David Nance. $10, 9 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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Live Review: Oberst/Bridgers’ Better Oblivion Community Center; Black Moth Super Rainbow, Brazen Throats tonight; Liz Cooper Sunday…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:37 pm March 22, 2019

Better Oblivion Community Center at The Slowdown, March 21, 2019.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Last night’s Conor Oberst/Phoebe Bridgers Better Oblivion Community Center (BOCC) gig at The Slowdown was a packed affair; a crowd that in many ways resembled your typical album release show where fans mix with proud parents and family members. The difference being that BOCC is probably the most successful project Conor Oberst has launched since Bright Eyes. Whereas Desaparecidos, Monsters of Folk and Mystic Valley Band all produced some good tunes, they always felt like bro-fueled good-time side projects, creative diversions between Bright Eyes and/or Conor Oberst solo projects.

BOCC holds a bit of that essence as well. You can’t help but think Oberst and Bridgers just like hanging around each other and said, “Let’s do a band, that way we can tour together,” then set out to combine their varied styles of songwriting. Sharp-eared fans will recognize the Bridgers’ portions — all her music has a similar cascading harmonic style, like watching snow fall — and Oberst’s sing-song folk harmonies, which have become less varied musically over the past few years.

Most of the time they mesh well and take advantage of their contrasting vocal styles. Bridgers’ voice couldn’t be more light-as-air angelic; Oberst couldn’t sound more guttural and down-to-earth. It can be a brittle mixture, especially live when Bridgers is trying to harmonize with a guy whose voice sounds two octaves lower than hers. At times, its very charming; at other times, you just want one or the other to shut-up and let the other handle it.

An example is BOCC’s cover of Bright Eyes’ “Lua.” Bridgers led off the song alone, her high, thin voice added a new layer of loneliness to an already forlorn song. When Oberst came in on the second verse it felt like putting on an old pair of well-worn shoes, and I just wanted him to carry on the rest of the way (which he mainly did).

“Lua” was never written to be a duet. The songs on the BOCC album presumably were, or at least were written together.  The rough edges become less abrasive after multiple album listenings, but are still very obvious live on stage, for better or worse.

The set covered most, if not all, of the new album as well as renditions of a number of Bridgers and Oberst solo songs, and a cover of The Replacements’ “Can’t Hardly Wait,” with Oberst rippingly handling the leads and our own Patrick Newberry handling the trumpet. It was a highlight, along with a fantastic version of Bridgers’ “Would You Rather,” which is a perfect melding of their styles.

Oberst and Bridgers played guitars all night, with Christian Lee Hutson adding some tasty leads and keyboards. Missing was the soaring Nick Zinner guitar lines (Zinner of Yeah Yeah Yeahs fame, is one of the best axe-bearers in the business), but the combo still was plenty ferocious.

The between-song patter brought up only one controversy, at least for Omahans. I don’t know anything about Phoebe Bridgers except her music. And though I’ve been writing and interviewing Oberst for more than two decades, I don’t really know anything about him, either, except his music.

So when the two of them combined to make comments like “This one’s written about our home town, Los Angeles,” I don’t know if they’re speaking proudly of good ol’ El Lay or are taking a jab at 311, which Bridgers seemed to do when she sarcastically said her favorite Omaha band is 311. Nor do I care, because Oberst has lived all over the country for the past two decades, and as far as I know, still owns a mansion in Fairacreas, whether he actually sleeps there or not. Still, Nebraskans are proud of his heritage (We have so little else to point to on a national level). A few in the crowd booed the first time Oberst/Bridgers mentioned LA as their hometown. The second time, they cheered.

* * *

A few interesting shows this weekend…

Tonight Black Moth Super Rainbow headlines at The Waiting Room — trippy psych/experimental synth stuff. Opening are Stever Hauschild and High Tides. $17, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, Brazen Throats opens a show at fabulous O’Leaver’s. Consisting of guitarist/vocalist Rich Higgins (Sideshow), bassist Rob Rothe (13 County) and drummer Paul Engelhard (For Against), it’s like a ’90s-’00s Lincoln supergroup. They’re up first, followed by Minne Lussa and headliner Satellite Junction. $5, 9 p.m.

Saturday night at O’Leaver’s Fort Collins art-rock band Safekeeper headlines. Bach Mai and Death Cow open at 10 p.m. $5.

Sunday night Liz Cooper and the Stampede (Sleepyhead Records) headlines at Reverb Lounge. Sean Pratt opens at 8 p.m. $14.

And 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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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