Live Review: Spirit of the Beehive, Healer…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , — @ 12:36 pm May 11, 2022
Spirit of the Beehive at Slowdown, May 10, 2022.

by Tim McMahan,

I went in with the worst expectations for last night’s Spirit of the Beehive show at Slowdown Jr. based on their critically acclaimed most recent album, released by Saddle Creek Records. Instead, I was knocked on my ass by a band that’s poised to take it to the next level.

Live, SofB’s sound is more conventional, more sleek and, frankly, more rocking. The guitar-fueled five-piece shared lead vocals among three members, but was mostly held down by “frontman” guitarist Zack Schwartz whose vocal style vacillates between Frank Black and David Gilmore. Just as vital to the sound is fellow lead vocalist Rivka Ravede, who owned on bass; and power-angry-psycho vocalist synth dude Corey Wichlin.

Without the clutter and droopy/weirdo effects heard on the recordings, the band is white-knuckle tight on rock songs that have the spirit and energy of early Pixies or Sonic Youth. Fans of the wonky samples and noise effects littered throughout the last album take heart — the band grouped the cluttered noise between songs, playing the prerecorded tracks while they busily tuned instruments or changed gear.

Driving home from the gig, I listened again to Entertainment, Death thinking I might have misjudged the record, but no. It’s just as acidic and distressingly ugly as I thought it was. Give me a live recording of this band over their records any day. The only time last night that they slipped into art-prog territory was late in the set, closing with fan favorite “I Suck the Devil’s Cock” followed by a fantastic version of “Fell Asleep with a Vision” from 2018’s Hypnic Jerks album (Tiny Engines).

Healer at Slowdown, May 10, 2022.

Opening was local super-group Healer fronted by sound engineer/musician Dan Brennan (Ladyfinger), who performed seated behind an iPad and notebook, making me wonder why more bands don’t play sitting down. Their heavy set was punctuated by a sweet tribute to recently passed-away local musician John Klemmensen.

John covered a Ladyfinger song at The Sydney. He actually did fucking better than us,” Brennan said. “God bless you, John. You’re up there somewhere,” he added before the band ripped into the cover of Ladyfinger’s “Dark Horse,” that was a set standout along with the song that followed it, a ripper in many parts.

Solid crowd of (guesstimate) around 75.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Mudhoney, Violenteer; A Deer A Horse, No Thanks, Las Cruxes tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:46 pm May 5, 2022
Mudhoney at The Slowdown, May 4, 2022.

by Tim McMahan,

One of the good things about post-pandemic rock shows is that clubs seem to have adopted a weeknight, two-band, 8 p.m.-start-time policy, which translates to getting home by 10:30, a nice contrast to the old days when weeknight shows meant dragging your tired carcass home at 1 a.m. and then having to drag it to the office the following morning with four hours’ sleep.

Whether Mudhoney was rebelling against that policy or actually had technical problems last night at The Slowdown will forever be a mystery. One of the band’s grips fiddled with the stage microphones, tested guitars, tested drums, then tested the microphones again for nearly 20 minutes, so that the 9:15 set didn’t start until around 9:50. A classic rock ’n’ roll move? I have a feeling someone was getting high backstage.

In any event, the legendary Seattle four-piece ripped into a set of grunge-flavored psych rock that highlighted musicians whose skills have been honed to a microfine edge. Standouts were legendary drummer Dan Peters in fedora, who was showcased in an extended drum solo early in the set, and lead guitarist Steve Turner, whose tone and style were pure arena gold. Frontman Mark Arm, looking like a rock ’n’ roll version of Lucius Malfoy, cracked heavy his own guitar solos and was in prefect voice, no doubt just as he’s done for the past three decades.

Listening to this band was like staring at a musical moment captured in amber, their sound the epitome of ‘90s-era big-guitar alt rock. For better or worse, music has changed dramatically over the past 30 years, though the audience only slightly so. Among the gray-haired fans was sprinkled a new generation of rock fans that looked much more clean-cut than the grunge rockers I remember from the early ‘90s.

Violenteer at The Slowdown, May 4, 2022.

Opening (on time) was Omaha’s own Violenteer. Last night’s performance felt heavier and more sludgy then their set a couple weeks ago at O’Leaver’s. The band’s double-bass attack was roped in by Eric Ebers’ precise drumming, and vacillated between metal, math and prog in their mostly instrumental compositions that became trance-inducing at times, especially on the set’s closing song, that went from stoner to psych rock in a deliciously Floydian fashion.

Leader Randy Cotton mentioned from stage that the band will be entering the studio to record a new album in the near future. More to come…

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Two shows again to choose from on this Cinco de Mayo.

Over at The Sydney in Benson, Brooklyn noise rock band A Deer A Horse headlines. Joining them are Omaha punk masters No Thanks and Goofy Gooey. $10, 9 p.m. (What’d I say about weeknight shows with 2-band bills and 8 p.m. start times? Not at The Sydney).

Also tonight, Omaha punkers Las Cruxes headlines a bill at Pageturners Lounge in Dundee. Joining them are Chicago’s Kelroy and NYC’s Brook Prodemore. I’m told the first band will hit the stage at 9:30. No idea on price. BTW, this same line-up is playing tomorrow night at The Down Under.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Destroyer, Rosali; Mild High Club Sunday at Slowdown…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:13 pm April 29, 2022
Destroyer at The Waiting Room, April 28, 2022.

by Tim McMahan,

I found out late yesterday afternoon that members of the David Nance Group would be backing last night’s opener for Destroyer at The Waiting Room — a performer who goes by the name Rosali. And sure enough, on stage playing to a crowd of less than 50 was Rosali (a.k.a. Rosali Middleman of the band Long Hots) with local heroes David Nance on bass, Jim Schroeder on lead guitar and Kevin Donahue on drums. Colin Duckworth joined them later in the set on pedal steel and banjo.

Turns out that Rosali’s 2021 album, No Medium, was recorded by Schroeder sometime during the pandemic with these guys backing her in the studio (along with contributions by Daniel Knapp, Simon Joyner and Conor Oberst). I’m listening to the album as I write this via Spotify (I wanted to buy a vinyl copy last night, but no one was manning her table and the Destroyer merch person wouldn’t sell it to me, so what are you gonna do? I’m betting I can pick up a copy at Grapefruit).

Rosali at The Waiting Room, April 28, 2022.

Her singing reminded me of just about every female vocalist on my list starting with Aimee Mann, followed by Joni Mitchell, Mary Timony, Natalie Merchant and Linda Thompson. Her at-times thin but tender voice was held in the finest contrast by this band, which still managed to blaze even when holding back in the quietest moments. The set really showcased Schroeder’s guitar work — beautiful, soaring solos that hissed and moaned at every turn. Gorgeous stuff, and just as gorgeous on the album that’s bound to be on my favorites’ list (though it came out last year).

By the time Destroyer came on stage at 9:15 sharp, the room was filled but nowhere near capacity, maybe 150 like the last time the band came through in 2018. Unlike that night, when Dan Bejar looked bored and listless, last night he was in top form (though never looking as if he was having fun, but maybe he never looks that way).

Bejar fronted one of the finest collections of musicians I’ve heard perform at The Waiting Room, at every position. The standouts were (again) that trumpet player, who continuously mixed his sound with effects pedals that turned his trumpet into an echoing dream corridor. That trumpet is so central to Destroyer’s sound that I can’t imagine these songs without it.

Just as remarkable was the band’s rhythm section – rarely does a bass player grab my attention, but this guy was just fire, as was the drummer. Add to that two fantastic guitarists and a rollicking keyboard player and you’ve got an amazing collective whose dreamy sound was like listening to a midnight stroll down an empty city street.

The set opened with a couple songs off side one of the new album, Labyrinthitis, before dipping into the Destroyer’s catalog. Set highlight for me was a killer version of “Times Square” from 2015’s Poison Season, as well as set closer “Kaputt,” which is becoming something of a greatest hit for Bejar. Great night!

Destroyer’s partial set list from the April 28, 2022 show at The Waiting Room.

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I’m happy I went out on a school night for Destroyer/Rosali because there ain’t squat going on this weekend show-wise.

The only thing of interest is goofy pop act Mile High Club, a band that (to me) sounds like modern yacht rock for a new generation (and in some ways, would fit right in next to Destroyer). The band rolls into The Slowdown Sunday night supporting their latest, Going Going Gone (2021, Stones Throw). Also on the bill is quirky JW Francis (Sunday Best Recordings). Omaha rockers Garst open at 8 p.m. $25.

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 — 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 © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Simon Joyner at Grapefruit Records; Will Johnson house show Thursday…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 8:45 am April 26, 2022
Simon Joyner at Grapefruit Records, April 25, 2022.

by Tim McMahan,

I was reading the liner notes to Simon Joyner’s new yet-to-be-released album, Songs from a Stolen Guitar, and the writer, James Jackson Toth, said that Joyner recently turned 50, which was a head-spinner. I remember seeing a curly-haired Simon play at the Howard Street Tavern way back in the early ‘90s. It literally seems like yesterday. He was a young gunslinger back then with a rep for being a rising star of national proportions, at least amongst those of us who shopped at The Antiquarium.

There were two things that stood out on his first cassette, Umbilical Chords, which came out in ’92. First, he was one heck of a songwriter in the Bob Dylan vein, a real coffee-shop crooner who could bang out a song on an acoustic guitar with a punk-rock intensity. The second was that he could not give two shits if his voice was off pitch or out of tune, as long as he could convey whatever was on his mind. That Peter Brady-at-puberty singing style followed him through a lot of albums and a lot of live shows and I never knew if he was doing it on purpose or if that’s just the way he sang. And I still don’t know.

But what I do know is that seven years ago, around when he recorded Grass, Branch & Bone, his 13th studio album, that off-pitch warble faded away, and Simon began singing mostly on pitch, on key, rarely stepping in the vocal pot-holes I remembered from his early days. And maybe I’m just imagining things, but his songwriting structures became more concise. Songs that may have had five verses in the past now only had three, and were better for them (to me, anyway), almost as if he was writing pop songs instead of folk songs — tunes like “You Got Under My Skin” and “Yellow Jacket Blues” and the just-released “Tekamah” off the new album are short and sweet, with clever hooks.

And maybe I’m dreaming this, but Simon’s arrangements on his recordings also seemed more straightforward or certainly less complicated than the densely packed, layered sounds heard on 2006’s Skeleton Blues, for instance.

That’s a long-winded way of saying it’s been fun listening to Simon’s style evolve over the past 30 years. Through it all, the songwriting and the lyrics never lacked in depth, incisiveness, heart and soul. That was underscored Monday night at Grapefruit Records as Simon, accompanied only with his guitar, played a selection of songs that spanned from ’94 up to tunes from that new album.

Here’s the set list (that I was there for; I don’t know if he played an encore):

“Three Well-Amed Arrows” from Heaven’s Gate (1995)

“Carolyn’s Got a Secret” from Songs from a Stolen Guitar (2022)

“You Never Know” from Pocket Moon (2019)

“Nocturne” from Hotel Lives (2001)

“Old Days” from Grass, Branch & Bone (2015)

“Javelin” from The Cowardly Traveller Pays His Toll (1994)

“Don’t Tell Bobby I’m Through Singing These Blues” from Low Fidelities & Infidelities (2019), but also likely a new version that’ll be on the new album

“Evening Song to Sally” from Lost with the Lights On (2004)

“Parachute” from Songs for the New Year (1997)

“Yellow Jacket Blues” from Pocket Moon

“The Actor” from the new album

“My Life is Sweet” from Hotel Lives

The solo acoustic versions of these songs were so good I forgot what the recorded versions sounded like. Based on the audience reaction, a lot of folks in addition to me count “Javelin” as among their favorites. I was lucky to hear him sing it live. I think the last time I watched it performed was at the Cowardly Traveller album release show at Howard Street Tavern.

There were a lot of fellow Omaha musicians scattered among the 50 or so patrons who either sat in chairs or stood among the album racks. I said yesterday this was his first show in four years when in fact it was his first Omaha show in four years — a warm-up for a tour that begins in Europe next week. The new record comes out May 20. I’m hoping he’ll have a formal album release show at some point to give everyone there last night a chance to compare and contrast how those new songs sound played with a full band.

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Speaking of solo acoustic shows, Will Johnson of Centro-matic fame is playing a solo acoustic house show Thursday night in Omaha as part of an Undertow tour (Undertow is a website/company that helps artists book house show tours). Tim Kiefer is the host. For more information (including location) go here, where you can also purchase tickets.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Violenteer, The Sun-Less Trio; Jon Spencer and the HITmakers CANCELLED…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , — @ 12:56 pm April 18, 2022
Violenteer at O’Leaver’s, April 15, 2022.

by TIm McMahan,

Has it really been more than two years since I went to a show at O’Leaver’s?

The Club first closed due to COVID-19 in March 2020. I think the last show I saw there prior to that was Lincoln band Perfect Form, who played O’Leaver’s in February 2020.

Stepping back through the doors Friday night, it felt like nothing changed. They added booths up near the “stage” and moved the piano over to along the wall where I like to lean on stage left. Maybe that was the reason the room felt a little smaller, tighter than I remembered. Everything else was the same, though, even the smell. And there were plenty of familiar faces in the crowd who I haven’t seen at a rock show since before the plague came to town. It was good to be back.

Violenteer is a band that consists of former members of classic Omaha Golden Age band Ritual Device. Randy Cotton and his brother, Barry, are up front providing a double-bass attack while drummer Eric Ebers keeps the flow going with gusto. I expected the trio to sound like the next iteration of Rondy’s follow-up to Ritual Device, a pseudo metal-punk band called Ravine. But Violenteer surprised me by its variety of styles that ranged from punk, math and best of all, a psychedelic throb reminiscent of early Pink Floyd.

The highlight of the evening was the second song of their set, an instrumental (as most songs were) that built in intensity and gravity, recalling the heavier moments of Floyd’s Meddle. Barry and Randy created balanced counter melodies that gave the music a surprising dimension. Almost as interesting were a couple prog/mathy instrumentals, and less so the punk stuff where one or both Cottons provided some yell vocals, but hey, you have to mix it up, right?

The Sun-Less Trio at O’Leaver’s, April 15, 2022.

Opening was Mike Saklar’s The Sun-Less Trio. Mike also is a former member of Ritual Device and Ravine, though this trio’s bread and butter is psych rock with classic rock leanings, powered by Saklar’s guitar prowess, which is somewhat legendary.

Like I said, it was good to be back to O’Leaver’s. And if you missed it, there’s another show next month with Wagon Blasters. That said, I’m skeptical O’Leaver’s will ever be what it once was — the go-to place for small touring punk bands and indie acts to land between tour stops, where any night of the week you could be surprised at who you might be seeing and hearing. That these shows are free makes me think they’re merely a nod to their past, a sort of musical philanthropy that the owners realize we all need after two years of pandemic.

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Speaking of pandemics, tonight’s Jon Spencer and the HITmakers show slated for The Waiting Room has been cancelled. Last night’s show at 7th Avenue in Minneapolis also was cancelled due to someone in Spencer’s band coming down with COVID. When is this pandemic going to end?

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Sasami, Jigsaw Youth; Pillow Queens tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:38 pm April 4, 2022
Sasami at Reverb Lounge, April 3, 2022.

by Tim McMahan,

The Sasami of 2022 bare resembles the Sasami of 2019. The pre-pandemic Sasami Ashworth’s music fell into the ol’ singer/songwriter/indie category, youthful and having fun. She still was having plenty of fun last night at Reverb Lounge.

Since last time here, she got rid of her adorable band and replaced it with three hair-metal dudes who absolutely shred on their instruments, including a guitarist she introduced as “Ram” who was straight out of Wayne’s World.

Sasami 2022 sounds like a modern reinvention of grunge. Live, it’s more riff-oriented and straight-forward heavy-metal than what’s heard on Squeeze, her recent album on Domino that is more acidic, with layered sounds and an industrial hue. Sasami opened with one of the more approachable tracks off the album, “The Greatest,” which straddles the line between the two worlds reflected on that new album — metal and songwriter — but with amps all turned to 10. The best songs of the night were those open-chord rockers fueled by an overflow of fuzz guitar, kind of a Live Rust thing.

The minor-key metal, on the other hand, was post-grunge, powered by a rapid-fire double-kick rhythm section and those buzz-saw leads. I don’t know if it was because she was losing her voice (as she said, introducing the last song of the 40-minute set) or if she just doesn’t have the oomph to be heard above the rattle and hum, but her vocals often dipped just below the waves. Understandable, as it was one of the loudest shows I’ve seen at Reverb. Even the between-set music was loud. (BTW, the interim music was the 1970 Stark Reality album, Discovers Hoagy Carmicheal’s Music Shop, an improvised jazz fusion collection that irritates as much as entertains).

Jigsaw Youth at Reverb Lounge, April 3, 2022.

Opening band, New York trio Jigsaw Youth, brought back memories of Fat Jacks, where I used to go in my late teens to catch traveling hair-metal bands in the mid-1980s. Their style was pure riff rock with grunge overtones (Is grunge coming back or something?), carried by vocalist Maria Alvarez’s full-throated growls. The best song of their set was an “unreleased track” with guitarist Nastacha Beck’s killer riff (but an uninspired vocal melody). The band also tried their hand at straight-four hardcore punk on another new song (driven by drummer Alex Dmytrow) that morphed to heavy metal halfway through — they should have kept with the hardcore. They closed out with a Nirvana cover that Alvarez killed in pure Cobain fashion.

Decent crowd for a Sunday night, maybe 70, with at least two dozen up front – mostly young girls — bouncing to every Sasami song, and loving it.

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A sneaky-good show tonight at Slowdown Jr. Pillow Queens are a Dublin-based indie band whose new album, Leave a Light On, just came out last week on Royal Mountain, a label whose roster includes Alvvays, METZ and Nap Eyes, among others. Their sound is reminiscent of Oh Pep!, with delicious melodies and harmonies.

Opening is Toronto’s Deanna Petcoff, and SafeSpace, a sort of indie project by Ione who opened for Squirrel Flower a couple weeks ago as well as for Bon Jovi last weekend (but as a different persona). $18, 8 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Squirrel Flower, SafeSpace (Ione); Child of Night, Profit Prison tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 11:37 am March 20, 2022
Squirrel Flower at Reverb Lounge, March 19, 2022.

by Tim McMahan,

Turns out the “SafeSpace” that I thought was playing at Reverb last night (see here) was not the SafeSpace that played at Reverb last night. Again, a suggestion: You want people to hear your music or find out about you? Create an online presence about your band (Facebook, Bandcamp, Twitter). Apparently “Ione,” who performed last night as SafeSpace, doesn’t care about such things, though she does have an Instagram presence, which is probably the last place I’d look for show information. Like I said, maybe she wants to remain anonymous?

SafeSpace at Reverb Lounge, March 19, 2022.

OK, so I was initially disappointed that it wasn’t the Chicago SafeSpace I was hoping for. That said, this one was pretty good. Performing as a two-piece — Ione backed by a guitarist — (she said she used to have a full band but is apparently between bands), she played through about 20 minutes of singer/songwriter fare that had a similar feel as Seward’s Andrea von Kampen, though Ione’s songs were more mature (and she has a better voice). Of note was the second tune on the set list, where said guitarist played a counter-melody before and after the main verses, that really sent me. Good stuff. I’m told she’s either from Omaha (She’s played Pageturners before, as evidenced by her Instagram) or Sioux City.

Squirrel Flower came on at 9 with a full band and sounded great, playing songs off her last full length. Frontwoman Ella Williams’ creatively used one of those recorder/repeater pedals throughout the set to either augment her guitar or provide layered harmonies. It’s always a cool effect, always interesting to watch the artist build the “backing track” live.

Last night was a reasonable draw for a Reverb show. Maybe 60? I love these 8 p.m. 2-band bills. You can get your music in and still enjoy more of the evening afterward. And Reverb is quickly becoming thee go-to venue for small touring indie acts.

The Sydney could be the next best thing (both clubs are connected to 1% Productions). I’d love to hit tonight’s show at The Sydney, but it doesn’t start until 9 and is a three-band bill. Headliner Child of Night is from Brooklyn by way of Columbus. Profit Prison is from Italy and Cult Play is from right here. $10, 9 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Thick Paint; BIB tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , — @ 6:31 am March 17, 2022
Thick Paint at Reverb Lounge, March 16, 2022.

by Tim McMahan,

I’m known by some for my predictions. Here’s one for you: This time next year, Thick Paint will be in Austin performing at South By Southwest. That is, if they ever get around to recording and releasing a proper album.

Rumors have been bandied about for years about which record label this band will end up on (one hot take had Saddle Creek Records in the mix). Yet, here we are so many years into their existence and still no formal label release, though there was a digital self-release that came out in 2019 that doesn’t sound anything like they do today.

Thick Paint just released a two-song single last Friday, “Zaddy Mountain” b/w “Infographic Rain” (linked below this review), that does sound like the band I heard last night at a packed Reverb Lounge. While there were a lot of vintage references heard in their music, no modern band sounds quite like them.

These days Thick Paint has a distinctively proggy style that’s a throwback to early ’80s Robert Fripp-fueled King Crimson, complete with repetitive, asymmetric, layered guitar lines that are both percussive and trance-inducing. At the same time, there’s a weird combination of traditional ‘70s rock structures mixed with avant-garde, almost Beefheart-ian sounds. Add Graham Ulicny’s unique, high-end vocal delivery that ranges somewhere between Geddy Lee and Supertramp’s Rick Davies (and at other times, seemingly channeling Infidels-era Dylan on the more traditional stuff) and you’ve got something special.

That’s a lot to take in, but it all works. And if the music was released on an album, I’d buy it. But it isn’t, and who knows when it will ever be. One assumes those two new tracks are part of a larger session, recorded at Enamel Studios here in Omaha and mixed at world-famous Chase Park Transduction in Athens, GA, by former Reptar member Ryan Engleberger (Reptar is Ulicny’s old band, too). Some record label needs to get the horn with these folks and sign them so my prediction will come true.

By the way, the scheduled show opener, And How, was a no show, which we figured out after waiting 20 minutes for their set to start. Super disappointing. I stuck around for a couple Masonjixx songs, but had to go to work early this morning, so…

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It’s St. Patrick’s Day and what could be more traditionally Irish than to go to The Sydney in Benson tonight for hardcore punk band BIB. The band is kicking off a lengthy tour that eventually will take them to a date playing the world-famous St. Vitus Bar in Brooklyn. But you can see them here tonight for a mere $10. Glow opens at 10 p.m. No doubt green beer will be served.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Lala Lala, Minne Lussa and the return to live music (again)…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 11:19 am March 13, 2022
Lala Lala at Slowdown Jr. March 12, 2022.

by Tim McMahan,

You know that feeling when you’re sitting at your desk at your office (or wherever you work) after returning from a long vacation, when you’re staring at your computer screen and you think to yourself “It’s like I’ve never been gone.”?

That’s sort of how I felt like this past weekend at rock shows. COVID-19 body slammed us beginning in the late-spring / early summer of 2020. Within a few weeks of St. Patrick’s Day, venues had cancelled all their shows, and just a few weeks after that, the venues themselves were shuttered, as were we all, literally.

Looking back on that time it’s still hard to believe what the country went through; what we went through. Glance at this story I wrote during the beginning of the lock down about being locked down, or just scroll back through time in this blog and you can quickly relive the peril. In a lot of ways, we lost a couple years’ worth of the things we took for granted.

And now we’re back. Again. But this time it’s different. This time it feels like it’s for good.

None of this was going through my head this past weekend at Reverb and Slowdown Jr., however. Instead, I looked around at the mask-less crowd and thought to myself, “It’s like we’ve never been gone; it’s like COVID never happened.” Well, that’s not 100% true. The Slowdown was still checking vaccination cards at the door, and there were hand-sanitizer dispensers at the door of the club. And a couple people still wore masks, bless them.

Now we all wait, holding our breath, that another variant doesn’t emerge from the COVID abyss. And now with a war in Europe, we’ve got something else to worry about.

The war wasn’t mentioned on stage this weekend. Lala Lala played to (by my guestimate) about 75 people in the Slowdown small room. It was a very young, hip crowd vs. whoever was over at CHI Center that night for Tool. Backed by an incredibly talented rhythm section and a multi-instrumentalist whose gauntlet included an alto saxophone, front woman Lillie West played about an hour of oldies and newies.

This was the first stop of her tour, and she admitted to having a case of nerves. You wouldn’t have known it from her performance. Her vocals modulated from breathy-whisper-mumble to clear-voiced-spectacular. But from my limited knowledge of her catalog, she played mainly songs from her latest album, but there were some old ones thrown in and one song she said they’d never played before in front of a live audience.

West’s voice is many-layered, and can switch in tone from song to song. On top of that, she adds electronic effects to change it up even more, including layers of electronic harmonies that were gorgeous.

Elton Aura at Slowdown Jr., March 12, 2022.

I caught the last few songs from opening act Elton Aura. Figured I should take a photo because this guy is so good he’s destined to become a star, and then I can point to this photo and say I was there when he opened for Lala Lala right after the pandemic. Elton said this was his first show ever. Impressive, Mr. Aura.

Minne Lussa at Reverb Lounge, March 11, 2022.

Friday night I caught Indian Cave and Minna Lussa at Reverb. Seemed like the majority of the crowd was there for the opener. Indian Cave is a new band and it showed. The style was very much in the emo spectrum, with the frontman’s voice reminding me of Geoff Rickly from Thursday. There were even some Cursive-esque guitar breaks thrown into the usual four-chord compositions to give it a mathy/angular edge. It’ll be interesting to watch this band grow.

Minne Lussa continues to impress with their dense, dreamy sound. I’ve said before they remind me of early Galaxy 500 or Luna and I stand by that, but the addition of warm, glowing instrumentals adds an Album Leaf flair. Frontman Matt Rutledge uses an effect on his vocals to give it a tinty, far-away sound on songs that are otherworldly to begin with. The fact that he’s singing a few of them in French is of no consequence when the vocal mix makes it hard to understand the words. No matter. It’s the vibe that matters on music that’s played in the darkest of dark-blue/purple lighting, as if the whole thing is taking place underwater.

It was great to be back at rock shows, without a mask. As if we’d never been away.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: The Sunks, TFOA; 3 local indie ‘supergroups’ (Breakers, Dead Letters, BareBear) tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 2:28 pm December 27, 2021
The Sunks at Reverb Lounge, Dec. 26, 2021.

by Tim McMahan,

Last night’s album release show for The Sunks at Reverb was kind of packed. With Omicron running rampant, for the first time I actually felt a little squeamish about attending a show. At its peak there was probably around 60 folks in Reverb, with only a very few wearing a mask — I among them. I didn’t have it on when I went inside, but when I saw the mob, I slapped it on (I always carry a mask with me these days). Did it make a difference? Talk to me in a week.

I also had my earplugs, and I’m happy I did. Those Far Out Arrows don’t hold back, and neither did the guy behind the soundboard. For the uninitiated, the four-piece plays Nuggets-style psych rock in the grand tradition of bands like Them, The Yardbirds, Animals, early Stones, you get the picture, the kind of band you’d expect to see at Gonerfest. Their modern edge comes from the twin vocal attack of guitarists/brothers Ben and Evan Keelan-White, and the rock-hard rhythm section of playing-with-his-back-to-the-audience bassist Derek LeVasseur and drummer Brian Richardson. 

Those Far Out Arrows as seen from behind the soundboard at Reverb, Dec. 26, 2021.

The Arrows played a number of songs off their most recent album, Fill Yer Cup, (including personal favorite, “Snake in My Basement,” which is bound to become a world-wide smash hit once it’s discovered by some Netflix series music supervisor and used as the soundtrack for a road movie’s killing spree sequence). They also played a new one, which sounded like the old ones. They’re nothing if not consistent in their approach. 

The Sunks’ latest album, Wedding Season, came out last January during the height of COVID-19 and thus, never got the album release show it deserved. Since then, frontman Sean Paul has recorded an unreleased solo album (and I’ve clandestinely heard one of the tracks, which was among the best things I heard last year). The Sunks doesn’t sound like that solo stuff. Sean Paul (at times) reminds me of Susto’s Justin Osborne, who reminds me of Jackson Browne, though The Sunk’s music leans in more toward indie than Browne’s or Osborne’s Laurel Canyon-esque approach. 

It’s a laid-back album, whose highlights include the very Susto-esque “Cta” and anthemic “The Sunks Song.” At nearly an hour, it could have been pared down, but in this age of digital-only releases, bands put it all out there. The album is worth checking out, but I’m also excited about that aforementioned solo album.

Played live, the arrangements were more majestic, grander. Sean Paul (Why do I feel compelled to write his full name in all references?) is a solid frontman, was in fine voice and backed by a tight band. That said, I only made it through five songs. It wasn’t because I had to work the next day — the show began at 6 p.m. and The Sunks went on at around 8:15 — it was because I was so freaked out about Covid and the crowd. I guess I’ve seen too many mentions of people getting Omicron in my Facebook feed… 

That said, it probably won’t stop me from going to Breakers tonight at Reverb. The band, according to the 1% website, consists of guitarist Chris Yambor (Sing Eunuchs tapes back in the day, The Reports with Patrick Buchanan (of Mousetrap fame)), bassist Robert Little (Son Ambulance, The Stay Awake), and drummer Matt Focht (Head of Femur, The Faders, Bright Eyes). The site doesn’t mention who’s handling vocals, though I’m guessing it’s Focht (and I’m probably wrong). Joining them are Dead Letters (a trio consisting of two former members of Well-Aimed Arrows — drummer/vocalist Koly Walter and bassist Brian Byrd — along with guitarist/vocalist Mark Johnson from Places We Slept) and BareBear (who, last time I saw them in 2019, featured Rob Walters, Nik Fackler, Matt Focht, and Jacob “Cubby” Phillips). 8 p.m., $10. It’s the closest thing to a holiday show you’re going to get! Wear a mask…

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2021 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.