Catching up on the holidays — Criteria, Lodgings, Little Brazil,Stephen Sheehan…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:52 pm January 2, 2020

Criteria at The Waiting Room, Dec. 28, 2019.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

The holidays are over. Now we enter into the dark, black chasm known as January (though so far, not so bad weather-wise!).

I caught a couple shows over the break. The top getter was Criteria at The Waiting Room Dec. 28 with Little Brazil for what has become a holiday tradition (what’s it been, five years in a row?).

Stephen Pedersen and Co. never sounded better. Killing behind the kit was Mike Sweeney, though I was half-expecting Nate Van Fleet to be up there seeing as he’ll be playing with the band for the upcoming Criteria/Cursive tour the last half of January. Instead, Nate was standing behind me during the set with his jaw wide open watching Sweeney chop down trees one at a time.

Pedersen was in his usual fine voice on what has got to be the hardest songs for anyone to sing. I felt exhausted after every tune. Doing it nightly will be herculean achievement, but if anyone can pull it off, it’s Pedersen. The band used the occasion to roll out a couple songs from the new album, which they’ve been performing live for a few years, so yeah, they fit right in with the rest of the catalog.

I’m very interested to see how the Cursive fans react to Criteria on this upcoming tour. No doubt, many already are familiar with the band. But there will be some young Cursive fans who may not be, and Criteria has a completely different vibe than Cursive — it’s like a guy wearing a gold lamé jacket standing next to some dude in a black hoodie. Criteria has always shimmered brightly, coming off like a rallying cry before a battle; whereas Cursive is a darker thing altogether, Cursive is the angry negotiations that go nowhere leading up to the war.

In these dark times we live in, we could use some new Criteria. So what happens if on this tour these guys break big and a nation demands more? Can Pedersen and Co. push back from their dusty office PCs and become the rock stars they were meant to be?

Lodgings Dec. 28, 2019.

I got to the Waiting Room early to catch Lodgings, who put out one of my favorite albums of 2019 (the Steve Albini engineered Water Works). The songs sounded even better live (but don’t all good songs sound better live?). The four-piece with Bryce Hotz out front and backed by a stellar band that includes the legendary Steve Micek on guitar along with Michael Laughlin and Eric Ernst on drums have a grinding indie-rock style that stumbles forward with a throbbing heart. There is something about Hotz’s vocals that remind me of Vedder (more so the phrasing than the vox itself), whereas the music reminds me of classic Grifters (a band that no one seems to remember, and one of my all-time faves).

Little Brazil at The Waiting Room, Dec. 28, 2019.

In the middle was Little Brazil, who rolled out a number of new songs, and hopefully are headed to a recording studio in the near future. It was funny looking out over the audience and seeing three past Little Brazil drummers in the crowd — Nate Van Fleet, Matt Bowen and Oliver Morgan — watch as new drummer Austin Elsberry took the reigns, keeping up a fine tradition.

Little Brazil is an enigma to me. They’re one of the city’s most unique bands that’s always deserved as much national attention as any Saddle Creek Records band. And they’re playing some of the best music of their careers right now. Why they haven’t caught fire is a mystery to me.

Stephen Sheehan and his band Dec. 23 at The Waiting Room.

Finally, it was a treat to see Stephen Sheehan and his band play at The Waiting Room Dec. 23. Sheehan once again gathered together some of the area’s best talent to back him on a set of Digital Sex and The World songs, as well as a new original. It got me wondering if maybe he shouldn’t re-record these songs, giving us a modern take on what are considered Omaha classics.

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Lazy-i Best of 2019

Speaking of classics, relive the classics of the year gone by with the  Lazy-i Best of 2019 Comp CD!

The collection includes my favorite indie tunes I’ve come across throughout last year as part of my tireless work as a music critic for Lazy-i. Among those represented: DIIV, Hand Habits, Uh Oh, Sharon Van Etten, Orville Peck, Simon Joyner, Prettiest Eyes, Purple Mountains and lots more.

To enter, send me an email with your mailing address to tim.mcmahan@gmail.com. Hurry, contest deadline is Monday, Jan. 6, at midnight.

Or listen on Spotify. Simply click this link or search “Lazy-i” in Spotify and you’ll find the 2019 playlist along with a few from past years, too!

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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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Solid Goldberg, Digital Leather on Thanksgiving; Allah-Las tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 2:23 pm December 2, 2019

 

Solid Goldberg at O’Leaver’s, Nov. 26, 2019.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Thanksgiving night at O’Leaver’s is becoming a new holiday tradition for the drunks and disenfranchised as well as the rest of us, and why not? Most places are closed on Thanksgiving. Instead. O’Leaver’s used the holiday for a boozed-up rock show.

First up at around 10:30 was the return of Solid Goldberg. Dave Goldberg has revamped his one-man project with more eye-popping gadgets and an enormous amount of sound-creating hardware — pedals, cables and wires surrounded both in front of and behind the shower-curtain scrim used to bounce lighting effects. Fire hazard? I watched the floor for smoke.

Despite the hardware and tech, the core of Goldberg’s performance are his songs, which have never been groovier. Goldberg’s beat programming and synth-work have upped his sound to an electro-dance party that sizzles beneath his keyboard melodies and vocals. The style is punk/blues rock a la classic Jon Spencer but with Goldberg’s trademark keyboard style like listening to a kaleidoscope on acid.

And while it’s hard not to get caught up in the performance — the lights, the gadgets, Goldberg himself — there is funk to be had. Goldberg has one of the better punk rock voices I’ve heard around these parts — rife with the swagger of a rock evangelist, it’s been that way as long as I’ve known him.

I asked after the set when he’s going to record any of the songs. He said he thought they  finally turned a corner, which I hope means he’ll be in a studio soon.

Digital Leather at O’Leaver’s, Nov. 26, 2019.

Digital Leather followed after at around 11. Every DL show seems to have a line-up change and this one was no exception. While Jeff Lambelet took his throne behind the drum kit and I believe Omahan Blake Kostszewa of FiFI NoNo was on one synth, across the stage was a new face who I was told was playing her first show with DL. No idea who she was, though the person next to me said there were Sioux City roots.

It was a similar set as the one played in September at The Sydney. Once again, the highlights were “Puff” off Headache Heaven, “B12” from the Mere Mortals project, and a kick=ass closer called “Compass” that’s yet to be recorded (but needs to be).

Frontman Shawn Foree brutalized a four-string bass with heavy fuzz tone — a welcome shift in style though few people are more ingenious behind a synth keyboard. If there’s a complaint it’s that the set could have been longer. Certainly the audience, which crowded the stage, wanted more…

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Los Angeles psych-rock band Allah-Las headlines tonight at Slowdown Jr. The band has a sweet ’60s Cali-garage sound reminiscent of acts like Arthur Lee and Love. Their latest album, LAHS, was released this past October on Mexican Summer Records. They’re joined tonight by LA duo Mapache and Tim Hill. $18, 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: Disq, Goon at O’Leaver’s…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , — @ 1:44 pm November 25, 2019

Disq at O’Leaver’s, Nov. 23, 2019.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

It was one of those mid-sized crowds at O’Leaver’s Saturday night. OK, maybe it was a bit smallish. No one was standing in front of the band or crowding along the railing, but there were still 30 or so folks in the house for sets by Disq and Goon.

Disq is a band that released a 2-song single on Saddle Creek Records earlier this year that caught a bit of national attention. A five piece — all quite young — their sound is sort of a combination of influences that range from early Teenage Fanclub to The Kinks and Blue-album-era Weezer. Still, uniquely their own thing, fronted by Isaac deBroux-Slone, with a voice and style that makes him the perfect indie frontman.

I’m a big fan of this band. I saw them in June at Slowdown Jr., and dug them just as much Saturday night. “Communication,” the A-side of the single, is one of my favorite songs of 2019 (and was well represented in their set).

Saddle Creek would be well advised to consider releasing Disq’s full-length, though I’m not sure where the band fits into the Creek roster these days, what with the plethora of singer/songwriters (most of them female) that has dominated their signings over the past couple years (Young Jesus, being an exception). But with its big, fun, guitar-fueled ruckus, Disq recalls the early days of Saddle Creek, and that’s a good thing.

Goon at O’Leaver’s, Nov. 23, 2019.

Goon followed Disq sometime after midnight, playing songs off their latest, Heaven is Humming (2019, Partisan). It’s a tight band with a great rhythm section (drummer Christian Koons is outstanding) playing indie songs that ranged from throttled-back mood pieces to ripping noise rockers.

Frontman Kenny Becker has a high, thin coo of a voice that too-often got lost in the mix — there were times when I wondered why they didn’t just make the song an instrumental, it was pumping along so well on its own. Becker’s voice is more pronounced on the recordings, and kind of reminded me of early R.E.M./mumble-Stipe — another tonal instrument layered within the crisp arrangement.

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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 Lupines, Unexplained Death at O’Leaver’s; Pile, Stuck, No Thanks tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:36 pm November 12, 2019

The Lupines at O’Leaver’s Nov. 9, 2019.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

The Lupines rolled out a new direction to their sound last Saturday night at O’Leaver’s. In fact, they literally rolled it out — a giant upright piano, that is. If you’ve been there before you’ve likely leaned/sat on the behemoth, which usually sits next to the exit to the beer garden. The band grunted it across the floor to the stage area for their set, and then spent a good 10 minutes (or more?) trying to get it properly miked up. Who knew that old-fashioned upright pianos could create so much feedback?

Lupines frontman John Ziegler set down his guitar to twinkle the ivories on a new set of songs that sported a honky-tonk country flair, a bit of blues and folk and rock. The first couple tunes were eight or nine minutes long but seemed to roll on forever thanks to endlessly repeating verses. Ziegler pounded the keys like a modern-day Leon Russell, ending each line with a bluesy flourish, while guitarist Mike Friedman pulled back his usual jittery, frenetic Lupines’ style to something more relaxed and refined, a la David Lindley.

It all came together on the final two songs of the set — one short one, the other, an epic closer wherein Ziegler maneuvered from the piano bench, through the tangle of microphone stands and cords to pick up his Gibson and battle Friedman with guitar riffs.

I’d heard a few weeks ago that Ziegler was going to play piano for this set, so I prepared myself to finally hear one of my all-time favorite Lupines songs — “Hasn’t Failed Me Yet” — a tune I’d been told had never been played live because of its piano-based arrangement. Now there were no excuses. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be as the band only played brand new material. My quest to hear that epic song continues…

Unexplained Death at O’Leaver’s Nov. 9, 2019.

Matt Whipkey and his crew in the form of poli-punk band Unexplained Death didn’t make it to the O’Leaver’s “stage” until well after midnight, ripping through songs off their just-released self-titled cassette.

Always prolific, Whipkey used the occasion to debut a couple more new songs, one of them an angry, fast number built on a golden guitar riff that I’d love to hear again. If this project’s goal was to pull Whipkey away from the Americana format that he’s known for, it’s succeeding. As I’ve said before, Unexplained Death isn’t so much a punk bands as a punk-influenced rock band with a political message ripe for our time. But it won’t be deemed a true success until someone wearing a MAGA hat attacks Whipkey on stage during a performance, ending in arrests by all involved, and the headline MAGA DUDE CHARGED FOR ATTEMPTED MURDER AT UNEXPLAINED DEATH SCENE!!!

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The last time Boston indie rock act Pile played in Omaha it was aboard the River City Star in the summer of 2017. They’ll be on firmer ground when they headline Slowdown Jr. tonight, on tour in support of Green and Gray (2019, Exploding in Sound), album that scored a mighty 7.9 on the Pitchfork scale.

The touring opener is mathy Chicago rockers Stuck. While Omaha’s very own No Thanks kicks things off at 8 p.m. This is a good one, and it’s only $12.

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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: Deerhoof at Low End, Unexplained Death at The Brothers…

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

Deerhoof performs at the grand opening of Low End, Oct. 25, 2019.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Lots of well-dressed, smiling, laughing people, some with pieces of art wrapped in brown paper tucked under their arms, were leaving the Bemis Friday night as we arrived for the Deerhoof show down in the once-known-as Bemis Underground now-known-as Low End. I felt invisible in my hoodie and jeans, and probably was to all the local art/business types leaving the night’s charity auction. These are the folks who keep things like Bemis afloat. We have a lot of them in this town, thankfully, and we always need more (and they’re out there, in those West Omaha mansions, we just need to get them downtown).

Low End is actually in the space next to Visions custom frame shop. What was once a cavernous empty room has been transformed into something, well, Warholian. By that I mean the underground space has an artsy, cool vibe. The walls are scalloped and covered in floral wall paper and aglow in digital stage lighting, all synced to change color — orange, purple, green, blue, it feels like the walls are moving, sort of. In the center, a support structure has been turned into a sculpture covered in spray-gunk that drips like synthetic stalactites.

Inside the catacombs of Low End…

Despite (or because of) its subterranean essence Low End feels intimate, with built-in cushioned benches throughout its many nooks, like hiding places left in plain sight. Anyone would feel cool hanging out down there, ablaze in the digital glow.

Off along one side, not quite in a corner (though I guess it is a corner) is the Low End performance space/stage, which is a small platform (a few inches in height? Whaddya gonna do with that low ceiling?) and a wood-plank background that no doubt also acts as a sound buffer, designed by acclaimed architect Jeff Day and his FACT Team. It’s amazing looking, yet functional, like everything Day designs, like the entire room.

The PA speakers hang from the low rafters along the stage perimeter. I noticed a couple people running sound from off to the left, one using an iPad, the wiring all well hidden. Deerhoof’s amps sat on the stage and the band played essentially in a circle with front woman Satomi Matsuzaki facing the band, who were tucked in the corner. With those low ceilings I was expecting a painfully loud experience but was pleasantly surprised at the acoustics, which were clean and not overpowering, not boomy at all.

Obviously, with a crowd of any size, sight lines down there are going to be a problem. Keep in mind Low End wasn’t designed to be a rock club, but rather a space for experimental sound/music experiences — we’re talking art projects like two people scraping tin cans together or someone playing a lone cello on songs with names like “Abstract Staircase No. 1” “Abstract Staircase No. 2,” and so on. Not a rock band, and certainly not one as explosive as Deerhoof.

Deerhoof performing at Low End, Oct. 25, 2019.

Though known as an experimental band — and yes, they play proggy, angular music that can turn and twist and change key on a dime — we’re still talking electric guitar, bass and drums, and more often than not, songs you can pogo to (as many standing along the stage did, minding not to jump too high). Deerhoof was the perfect rock band to kick off Low End, though it’ll likely be the last rock band, or maybe not. Time will tell.

My hope is that, along with experimental noise/art sound collage projects that Bemis at least tries to book an artist or two that could be deemed “pop.” I mean, even Warhol had Velvet Underground for The Factory.

Anyway, Low End is a very cool space. Check it out for yourself when Laura Ortman performs there on Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. It, like all future shows, is absolutely free (and yes, they serve booze).

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Unexplained Death at The Brothers Lounge, Oct. 25, 2019.

After Deerhoof we drove uptown to The Brothers for the debut of Unexplained Death, the new punk project by Matt Whipkey and his band.

Whipkey dressed black on black tore into songs off his debut cassette, which was celebrating its release that night. No matter the style, Whipkey and his band always give an intense performance, but with the new rock material, they add an edge to angry songs about troubled times.

I wouldn’t call this punk rock as much as heavy, fast rock with a nod toward punk-ish bands like The Replacements or maybe mid-era, dirty Stones, which has always been a sweet spot for Whipkey’s music (along with Springsteen — anyone can tell Whipkey is a devotee). Call it protest rock or poli-rock, more observation than protest, actually, with Whipkey’s journalism degree taking center stage. The lyrics aren’t so much nuanced messages of rage as angry observations driven by recent headlines, and as such are more literal than punk’s usual anthem-threat-bombast. Here, listeners tend to nod in agreement rather than raise their fist in solidarity.

The live performance also is cleaner, more professional than the noise-static-low-fi feedback-drenched intentionally distorted takes heard on their tape, and as a result, sound like hard rock songs well-played by a band of rock veterans, better suited for the radio than the moshpit. As such, these protest songs are ready-made for any stage and not just punk clubs, and something tells me that’s what Whipkey had in mind.

Find out for yourself when the band plays at fabulous O’Leaver’s Saturday, Nov. 9, with the world-famous Lupines and those French-singing troubadours in Minne Lussa.

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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: Las Cruxes at The Brothers; Mike Watt and the Missing Men, Wagon Blasters tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:48 pm September 30, 2019

Las Cruxes at The Brothers Lounge, Sept. 27, 2019.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Playing as a 6-piece with two of the city’s best drummers (Nate Van Fleet and Jeff Lambelet, sitting above the band like a couple rock ‘n’ roll gargoyles) a second guitarist flown in from Chicago, a second vocalist and local hero Landon Hedges doing a unibomber impression on bass, Las Cruxes was pure punk bombast.

The set got off to a rocky start Friday night at a semi-crowded Brothers Lounge as (I’m told) that second guitarist was borrowing Hedges’ guitar, and frontman Eduardo ‘Yayo’ Trujillo could be seen prior to the set showing him some chord progressions. By the third song it didn’t matter as everyone was locked in, with the Chicago guy adding a much needed layer of vocal energy above Yayo’s high voice.

The songs sounded like a cross between The Pixies and every three-chord punk band you’ve ever heard, but propelled full-throttle by the double-barrel drum attack, it was like watching a couple synchronized swimmers in a boxing ring trying to outdo each other, while down below Hedges did his usual rock pirouettes with his back to the crowd (mostly). With everything else going on, Landon was the glue holding it all together.

When music is as powerful (and loud) as this was it doesn’t matter that you can’t understand a thing the Spanish-language singer is singing, and besides, how many punk shows have you gone to where you really understand what was being shouted? The message behind the energy was enough, with Yayo falling backward into the drums at the end of the set.

I’m told Las Cruxes is heading out on tour, down south to Mexico way, and that Hedges is coming along. The band’s albums are backed by Sony distro in Mexico, and I can only imagine what their shows will be like in places like Nueva Laredo or Juarez, where no translation is needed.

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Tonight a punk legend takes over Reverb Lounge. Mike Watt, who carved his name into the Mt. Rushmore of punk rock with his work in Minutemen and fIREHOSE (among others), and his band, The Missing Men, headline.

About the tour that brings them to Omaha, via the hootpage:

not too long ago original missingmen drummerman Raul Morales along w/Paloma brought on board new shipmate Sofie so that means no more big tours for him but of course he will be on missingmen recordings and local gigs he can do… Raul is now a pop! not too long ago, original missingmen guitarman Tom Watson lost his pop and now he’s like me (lost mine in 1991), we’re both missing our pops. it’s for that reason I named this sally forth the ‘dick watt tour 2019’ – named after my pop which is also the name of the next missingmen album, continuing the theme. me and tom have been touring for twenty years now! crimony. standing in for raul this tour is big man Nick Aguilar who we all think is up for the job. we’ve been doing prac ‘pert-near every day a month before the tour I did bass for Flipper and the three weeks since. d boon, me and georgie went to school w/his pop rudy (san pedro high, class of 1976) so in a way it’s a total connect – ain’t life a trip?!

Local legends/tractor-punk originators Wagon Blasters opens the show at 8 p.m. $15.

Here’s a sneak peek, from their set just a couple weeks ago in Santa Monica:

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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: Cursive at O’Leaversfest 2019…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , — @ 1:19 pm September 23, 2019

Cursive at O’Leaver’s, September 21, 2019.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Combine a sellout crowd with summer downpour and O’Leaver’s turns into a sauna. Saturday night — the second night of O’Leaversfest — was no exception. The room felt like a steam bath, and there was no escaping unless you wanted to get soaked.

O’Leaver’s was never designed to be a live music venue, let alone one that hosts 100+ sized sellout crowds. That said, if you were quick and clever, you could squeeze through the press of bodies to the club’s upper area near the band and get a much better view than, say, from the floor near the bar, where the only thing visible was people’s butts.

Despite the heat and the crush-mob crowd, it was a helluva show. The sound was remarkably good, and Kasher’s voice never sounded better. Credit the club’s small size, as every instrument could be heard including Megan Siebe’s cello, which in the past has gotten lost in the mix. Not Saturday night, though to be truthful, I was only 20 feet from where she sat. The only audio flaw was a few minutes of squealing feedback during the second song, which sounded like it was coming through the monitors more so the mains. The sound guy figured it out quick enough.

Those who have been to packed O’Leaver’s shows know that the line between where the band plays and where the crowd starts is essentially nonexistent. With no stage, they’re playing standing (or sitting) right in front of you.

The trouble with this started shortly after Cursive began playing. The crowd quickly lost its shit and began mosh-style shoving and pushing. Frontman Tim Kasher, who’s starting to look like a young Charlie Manson with his long hair, wasn’t having it. Between songs he warned the crowd that if someone ran into Megan, who was seated playing cello next to him, he and the rest of the band were going to kick their asses. I have absolutely no doubt this would happen. A couple songs later, Kasher got into an argument between songs with some dude standing in front of the band — I’m not sure what it was about, but the guy took off and Kasher called him back. The arguing went on for a few minutes more off microphone. It was a weird deal. Finally, guitarist Ted Stevens asked everyone to calm down and the band ripped into the next song.

The night’s song selection was played chronologically, starting with a song off with something from The Storms of Early Summer and going into Domestica, The Ugly Organ and so on up through a couple songs off Vitriola, their latest album. It was a greatest hits set list that featured probably the best version of “From the Hips” I’ve ever heard, with Kasher walking right out into the middle of the crowd and singing surrounded by the throngs who sang along throughout most of the set.

Four new songs capped the performance, including two I’ve never heard before — “I Am Goddamn” and “Stranded,” — as well the two tracks released as singles the past couple weeks — “Black Hole Town” and “Barricades.” The new material at times featured the entire band playing a handful of notes together, pounding like a stumbling monster, thick and foreboding. It would give way to a vocal hook or gorgeous keyboard line, with Siebe and keyboardist Patrick Newbery used to full effect. (The only players I’ve yet to mention are at the core — bassist Matt Maginn and drummer Pat Oakes — who were spot-on solid all night).

Cursive always has been a somewhat dark band, but this new music, some of it pointedly political, represents a shift from anxiety to fear, perhaps a reflection of our times where the monster is running amok before our very eyes and there’s nothing anyone can (or will) do about it.

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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: Digital Leather at The Sydney; Clarence Tilton on the street; Mannequin Pussy tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:48 pm September 9, 2019

Digital Leather at The Sydney, Sept. 6, 2019.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

It’s been so long since Digital Leather played locally I thought frontman Shawn Foree moved back to Arizona. The project came out with a limited edition vinyl compilation on the Stencil Trash insignia in January called Feeet, as well as a limited 8-track tape (you read that right) version of 2007’s Blow Machine (FDH Records). But still no local appearances.

Then last Friday night Foree and his current Digital Leather line-up took the stage at The Sydney for a half-hour set. DL has had numerous iterations over the years, swinging between ‘80s electronic synth-driven No Wave to full-on guitar punk, with Foree either behind a keyboard rack or slinging an electric guitar. This time he stood out front with an electric bass backed by two synth players — a pal from Arizona named Jason and Omahan Blake Kostszewa of FiFI NoNo — while veteran stickman Jeff Lambelet took his usual place behind the drum kit.

Bringing the bass out front proved to be a bold move as the band ran through a set that included standout track “Puff” off the new record (but originally released on 2018’s Headache Heaven) and a re-imagined version of “B12” (originally released as part of Foree’s Mere Mortals project and later covered (with lyrics rewritten) by The Faint as “Damage Control”).

Foree put down his bass and returned behind the synths for the set closer, singing lyrics read from a sheet of notebook paper. I figured it was maybe an obscure cover, but he said afterward it was a new song called “Compass” — red hot and the evening’s highlight. Here’s hoping the song gets a proper release, along with whatever else the prolific Mr. Foree has been working on.

Clarence Tilton at the Parkwood Lane Bluegrass Festival, Sept. 7, 2019.

Saturday night I walked around the block to the Parkwood Lane Bluegrass Festival to catch a performance by Clarence Tilton. This is actually the annual block party held on Parkwood Lane just west of Memorial Park — picture lots of neighbors standing in the street eating covered-dish gourmet while kids speed around on mini BMX bikes, big-screen TVs showing whatever game is on ESPN. And at the end of the street, a small stage under a tent where the bands played.

I keep comparing Clarence Tilton to ’90s-era indie power-pop acts and I’ve got to admit, it’s kind of a stretch, especially when you see them perform live. I mean, don’t get me wrong, they could be a fantastic power-pop act, especially with their backgrounds, but the fact is these guys are playing countrified Americana music, and the twang is unmistakable on stage, where they resemble The Statler Brothers more than The dBs, and that’s not a bad thing.

Overheard from the neighborhood crowd: “These guys are the real deal.” And they are. I don’t know why they haven’t been discovered on a national level, they’re certainly as good or better than anything I’ve heard on the country Sirius stations. The Weber Brothers are among the best axe men around, and then you’ve got three different (very good) vocalists. I guess maybe their lack of national notoriety has to do with the fact that the band members have other careers — and lives — that prevent them from touring outside our little burg. That means Clarence Tilton will likely remain Omaha’s — and Parkwood Lane’s — best kept secret.

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Tonight at Slowdown Jr. it’s Philly band Mannequin Pussy. Though they’re on Epitaph Records, they don’t sound like a run-of-the-mill Epitaph band. With their shoe-gaze shimmer, I’d more likely mistake them for someone on 4AD. Their latest, Patience, is shoe-gaze leaning on heavy metal. Opening is Sacramento band Destroy Boys (Uncool Records) and UK producer/musician Ellis. $15, 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.

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Album Reviews: Crooked Colours, Alaskalaska, Prettiest Eyes, Ada Lea…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:30 pm September 5, 2019

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I sometimes wonder if I’ve lost the ability to review recorded music. Reviewing live shows is easy, it’s like reporting a crime scene. Reviewing recordings is like studying pictures or paintings or trying to interpret poetry, which I never did very well in college. When it came my turn to explain a poem in class, I’d take the imagery too literally, describing the scene in my mind or the people or animals, and then the professor would say, “No, what the writer was doing here was expressing grief for his/her loss of innocence, not describing a hunting accident.” And so on. 

So as I was flying back from New York, I thought I’d tackle a handful of albums sent to me for review, albums I’ve been listening to for the past two or three months. No notes, no one-sheets, just nuanced opinions. Here we go. 

Crooked Colours, Langata (2019, Sweat It Out!)

Crooked Colours, Langata (Sweat It Out!) – Very clean, very crisp electronic dance music sung by a guy whose flat, atonal voice is cross between Robbie Robertson and Tricky. Immensely clean trip-hop beats, electronic handclaps lie beneath mainly talk/singing, rhyming whatever sounds best with the beat. “Just breath…” Easy to listen to; but somewhat forgettable. The kind of music you’d hear while shopping in an H&M.

Alaskalaska, The Dots (2019, Marathon Artists)

Alaskalaska, The Dots (Marathon Artists) – There was a band I used to love in the ‘90s called Hooverphonic. They played great big-beat electronic rock songs that quickly found a hook. I thought they sounded amazingly modern at the time, and wondered why they never blew up. Over the years, however, Hooverphonic songs would sneak up in commercials and soundtracks, whenever a director wanted to set a modern tone or give whatever was on screen a sense of motion.

Alaskalaska has that same quality both in sound and lyrics, a deceptively simple melody swaddled in layers of synths, beats and the occasional saxophone (When did the sax come back in vogue? or has it?). The woman on leads, Lucinda Duarte-Holman, reminiscent of Sarah Cracknell of Saint Etienne, is cynical, sassy, sometimes snotty, often too honest for her own good. Quick and quippy, she sounds like she knows more than you or me. And she probably does. 

Highlights: “Moon,” with its fantastic horn part; “Sweat,” sinister sexy, slow; and the bracing “Happyface” with its questions you don’t want to answer. 

This is my favorite of the bunch. Totally obscure. Find it. 

Prettiest Eyes, Volume 3 (2019, Castle Face)

Prettiest Eyes, Volume 3 (Castle Face) – Brad Smith at the late, great Almost Music pointed me toward these guys and their last album, Pools. I bought it on vinyl, of course. Funny thing about Brad, he’s always right. Pools was post-punk crunch; and while Volume 3 continues along that same path, it’s not as dirty. Songs like “It Costs to be Austere” are like a carnival ride gone out of control, big wonky organs and fuzz bass and drummer/vocalist Pachy García singing like a maniacal clown. By contrast, “I Don’t Know” sounds like a midnight lounge massacre and “Mr. Presidentis Gang of Four post-punk blare: “Mr. President / Say my name / It don’t matter / Where I’m from.” It’s loud, buzzing, in-yer-face synth rock that never lets up. Exhausting fun. 

Ada Lea, What We Say in Private (2019, Saddle Creek)

Ada Lea, What We Say in Private (Saddle Creek) – Of the recent Saddle Creek signings, this one seems to be flying the deepest below the radar (Well, maybe not as deep as Young Jesus), because it’s the most different of the recent bunch. Not straight-up singer/songwriter fare, Lea writes complicated, proggy art rock songs that aren’t afraid of odd time-changes or awkward key shifts. It’s the most experimental act Creek has signed since the old days. That said, Lea knows her way around a melody, and her voice is warm, breathy, velvet butter. Songs like the moonlit “The Party;” the evocative, shifting “The Dancer,” and standout “Wild Heart” often start simply, quietly before going everywhere at once, while Lea lets you in on one of her little secrets. Mesmerizing.

More reviews to come…

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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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Success Hasn’t Spoiled Maha (Yet?)- The Reader; The Appleseed Cast, Squeeze tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:55 pm September 4, 2019

The obligatory crowd shot from Saturday night at Maha 2019.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Well, I’m back from Gotham City. Among the highlights was seeing “To Kill a Mockingbird” at the Shubert Theatre. Aaron Sorkin and Jeff Daniels together again. Seeing Federer and Serena at the U.S. Open wasn’t bad, either…

Anyway, the September issue of The Reader should be on the racks around town by now (though I haven’t seen it). Because of the timeliness of this month’s column — a look at the 2019 Maha Music Festival — I’ve already posted it at The Reader website. Read the column here or pick up a hard copy at your favorite bar, coffee shop of Hy-Vee…

I have to believe the Maha mind-trust already is putting together Maha 2020. If so, I’ve got my wish list ready for ’em…

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Two shows tonight. Over at Reverb Lounge, The Appleseed Cast headlines. The band is smack dab in the middle of a tour that began July 12 in support of their latest, The Fleeting Light of Impermanence (2019, Graveface). Says Ian Cohen in Pitchfork: “On their first new album in six years, the long-running emo outfit take ownership of their sound. Even the quietest moments sit with jagged nerves and lingering tension.” With Muscle Worship and Oquoa. $15, 8 p.m.

Also tonight, ‘70s legacy act Squeeze plays at The Holland Center. The “Difford And Tilbrook Songbook 2019” tour sees the UK legends play their extensive list of hits as well as rare, lesser-known gems from their back catalog and solo careers. Tickets are still available for prices ranging from $107 to $121. 7:30 start time.

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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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