Live Review: Indigo De Souza, The Slaps at Slowdown…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , — @ 7:16 am October 4, 2021

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Indigo De Souza at The Slowdown Oct. 2, 2021.

A highlight of Indigo De Souza’s latest album, Any Shape You Take (2021, Saddle Creek) is the remarkable band who backs her, whose members are something of a mystery as they weren’t credited (online anyway). I don’t know if the folks that played with De Souza Saturday night at Slowdown were the ones on the album or not, but they sure were good.

Especially lead guitarist Dexter Webb, who played with a style reminiscent of Lindsey Buckingham, all quick-fills and amazing fingered adagios. I shot a photo of his guitar and texted it to the one of the city’s resident guitar experts and asked what kind of guitar it was. Mr. Whipkey’s response: “Vintage 12-string Ovation Breadwinner electric, maybe. That’s a rare-ass guitar if so.”

Webb, who must stand over six foot, towered over the rest of the band as he leaned into the fills and gaps (there were no solos, per se), a fluid, tonal counter-balance to De Souza’s more freeform vocals that were unashamedly honest and personal – which is a sloppy way of saying she was more concerned with emoting that staying on pitch.

The only other name I caught was drummer Avery Sullivan – I missed the bass player’s name, but he, too, was a virtuoso, his fingers flying across the frets, as De Souza crushed through a 75-minute set of songs from her last two albums in front of a decent-sized (150?) crowd of fans that filled the bowl in front of the stage.

You guys are so chill, you’re spooking me,” De Souza said halfway through the set. “It’s like playing in someone’s living room. Talk amongst yourselves.” This isn’t the first time I’ve heard Omaha crowds described this way, but you’ll have to go through the archives and find that review. I’m not sure what De Souza is used to, but she said the night before at Minneapolis’ First Avenue was “crazy.” I guess she’s never heard of “Nebraska Nice.”

The Slaps at The Slowdown, Oct. 2, 2021.

Opening act, Chicago’s The Slaps, played a tight set of indie rock that showcased their chops on songs whose style leaned close to early Vampire Weekend, though maybe not so clingy. If there’s a quibble to the night, it was that The Slaps precise mix was a ton better than De Souza’s, whose mix sounded crowded, dense, bordering on blown-out, but maybe that’s what she was going for.

A note about The Slowdown: This was my first show there since the pandemic. There are a few changes that may/may not have been in place before. The low tables have been replaced with high-tops, the booths replaced with low-tops — is a big improvement. The door guys were thorough with the vax requirement checking (show card and ID to match, which is the only way to go), and it only took a moment. Easy peasy. This should be a requirement at all clubs until we get past the Covid.

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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 © 2021 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Live Review: No Thanks, Red Kate at Brothers Lounge…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:46 pm September 20, 2021

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

No Thanks at Brothers Lounge Sept. 17, 2021.

I’m forever wondering if punk — or post-punk — or let’s face it, rock — will soon die of old age.

Most people my age already have thrown dirt over the grave, saying punk lived and died in the ‘70s, post-punk lived and died in the ‘80s, and alternative took over in the ‘90s, followed by indie, which most oldsters don’t consider rock music.

Of course none of it is true. Every time I start to get jaded listening to, say, Sirius XM and the endless list of “vibe” music on my Spotify new music list, something catches my ear and my hope is renewed. The same thing goes for live music. Friday night at Brothers Lounge I caught a set by a couple bands on the Black Site label out of KC, Red Kate and our very own No Thanks, and was, again, given hope for the future.

Red Kate at Brothers Lounge, Sept. 17, 2021.

Red Kate wasn’t doing anything new. The post-punk four piece played straight-ahead post-rock with yell vocals, solid rhythms and the prerequisite catchy riffs. Fast and hard, they were tight out of the gate. If you love this style of music, you would have loved this set.

This is the third or fourth time I’ve seen No Thanks live, and I’ve notice a common denominator to their sets — they always start off tenuous, as if frontman Brendan Leahy is unsure he really wants to go through with whatever he’s about to do, or simply isn’t in the proper headspace. Let me clarify — the rest of the band does sounds ready to go from the outset. Guitarist Mike Huber is one of the best things to come out of Omaha in years, and the rhythm section of Cam Stout and Gabe Cohen are first rate.

Musically, I was reminded of old school golden age Omaha post-punk band Ritual Device. To be clear, Leahy doesn’t in any way resemble a ‘90s-era circus-geek-loving Tim Moss. And while Moss had a guttural Nick Cage vocal swagger, Leahy has a high, kind of Jerry Lewis-style speaking voice. But when he gets warmed up, he can be equally sinister and disturbing as Moss.

But, just like those other times, it took Leahy three or four songs before he began to lose whatever inhibitions he may have had and started to let it all hang out. About four or five songs in, the shirt came off and he turned into a totally different dude — posing, crawling, preening, performing — he could give Future Islands’ Sam Herring a run for his money.

Halfway into the set I noticed the entire front of the stage was surrounded by young women dancing — or dare I say, moshing. I’m not sure exactly what it was they were doing except having a good time. It was the youngest crowd I’ve seen at a Brothers show — both young dudes and women — and it gave me hope that there is a new generation out there who still gets into this style of grinding, static, feedback-driven post-punk.

Another great night at Brothers Lounge. The club has been putting on a lot of shows lately and have more on the way. Catch them if you can.

A quick note about their vax card policy — the guy at the door was not playing around. You better have had both a vax card (or a photo of your vax card) and a second photo ID or you weren’t getting in. The process was quick and easy, and there’s no reason all the venues aren’t laying down similar policies.

If you don’t want to get vaxed, stay home and save us all a lot of grief.

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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 © 2021 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Live Review: Elvis Costello in the park …

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , — @ 6:44 am August 30, 2021

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Elvis Costello at Memorial Park, Aug. 28, 2021.

Oh, what a lovely evening Saturday night for the Elvis Costello concert at Memorial Park, apparently brought to us by Susie Buffett as the “anonymous donor” who bankrolled the whole shebang.

While I didn’t arrive until 8:45 (and after Elvis began), I heard more than enough of the concert from my back yard just four or five blocks from the park — a cover band playing “I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night,” the boom-boom-boom of Wyclef Jean’s rhythm section, fading in and out with the southeast wind.

When I walked over the rise to the park’s bowl and the glowing stage along Dodge St., I was pleasantly surprised at how un-packed it was. Those who stayed away for fear of The Delta Variant needn’t worried. The breeze was so stiff and the people so spread out there was little chance of this becoming a super spreader event (sad how that the term has become part of our vocabulary).

As had been previously announced, The Attractions’ synth/keyboard player, Steve Nieve, was unable to get in-country for whatever reason and was replaced by Charlie Sexton on guitar. This personnel change would have an obvious effect on the evening’s performance, as much of Costello’s best songs are keyboard-dense (to say the least). So what we got instead was Elvis Costello and the Layabouts, a guitar-driven combo, and it wasn’t so bad.

Few artists depend more on their voice and their lyrics to carry their songs as EC. And for me, few things stand out as much on his recordings as Elvis’ crooning. And you had plenty of that Saturday night, for better or worse.

Look, it would be easy to complain about every little element of the concert without remembering that: 1) it was free, 2) it was held in an municipal park not designed for concerts, 3) most people were there to see the fireworks and had no idea who EC is and could care less that: 1) Elvis was off pitch on about half the songs, 2) the mix was less than stellar, 3) the set list contained a too many wonky country songs.

I’ve never seen Costello live, though I’ve seen a couple of his live performances on TV and didn’t expect much. All I wanted was the hits, which we got, plus some personal favorites — he did “Uncomplicated” off Blood and Chocolate, for example, which is one of my all-timers.

I also wanted some storytelling — having seen Elvis on the chat shows, I knew he could spin quite a yarn. And we got a few of those, though they sounded a bit tread-worn and forced. But what did you expect? Heartfelt confessions while children were running around swinging plastic light sabers and endless groups of pre-teen girls trotted up and down the grass alleyways giggling? Elvis did just enough to get by.

Halfway into the set I walked down to the bottom of the bowl to see how close I could get to the stage and was surprised at the access — unlike any past Memorial Park concert I can remember. I was close enough that I could have hit Sexton with a bottle had I wanted to. The folks surrounding me down there couldn’t have been more chill and into the concert.

The show ended with an extended version of “What’s So Funny…” an appropriate finale considering everything going on in Afghanistan. And then Mayor Stothert did the countdown and we all craned our heads back for 20 minutes and watched the fireworks.

I had a good time, anyway.

Elvis Costello performing at Memorial Park, Aug. 28, 2021.

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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 © 2021 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Review: Indigo De Souza, Any Shape You Take (Saddle Creek Records)…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:33 pm August 25, 2021

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Indigo De Souza, Any Shape You Take (2021, Saddle Creek)

I gave up a long time ago trying to understand the strategy behind Saddle Creek Records’ roster decisions. Mad genius? Shot in the dark? Take your pick. Let’s look at the breakdown:

Many are those of the art/noise set who applauded the release of Spirit of the Beehive’s Entertainment.Death — a recording I equate to watching a fine arthouse film that you can admire while seated in the dark but will likely never see again, unless you’re stoned (which I’ve never been). Young Jesus, another recent addition, falls along the same category. Both acts are hugely popular with critics, but I wonder how well they sell (or get played on streaming services, which these days is the mark of success).

Then there’s the cadre of forlorn singer/songwriter projects like Tomberlin, Black Belt Eagle Scout and Hand Habits. Meg Duffy of HH is a major talent and I love her work. But, man, you have to be in the right mood for it. 

Then there’s the more accessible indie-rock staples on the roster — Hop Along, Stef Chura, Disq. These are the most predictable and the most enjoyable. Hop Along and Francis Quinland get their share of Sirius XMU plays; and Disq was my choice for a Saddle Creek breakout band. While I love Disq’s latest album, it’s hardly broken through in a way that, say, Big Thief has (and who is now long gone from Saddle Creek).

This is a long pre-amble to say that Indigo De Souza doesn’t fall into any of these categories, and yet, her new album, Any Shape You Take, is my favorite Saddle Creek release in the past few years. Ten songs, 38 minutes, not a dud in the bunch. Built on a framework of traditional modern indie pop, De Souza in some ways is old school in that she knows how to write a great hook, how to drop in a tasty power chord, where to bring in the rest of the band in a way that makes you look up from whatever you’re doing and PAY ATTENTION. 

The one-sheet that came with the record describes the daughter of musicians and her constant struggle to find her voice as she goes through painful relationships, and so on. These are songs about misplaced devotion and insecurity taken to a familiar level. You may be finding your own way, Indigo, but we’ve all been there. We’ve heard it before, but rarely as honestly or brutally straight-forward. 

Favorite tracks include “Darker than Death” “Die/Cry” and “Pretty Pictures” — pop nuggets that come in at 3 minutes or less. In fact, no song exceeds five minutes, including the closing masterpiece, “Kill Me,” that should have been the first track (instead of the auto-tune-heavy “17,” my least favorite of the bunch). Despite the heavy themes, this is a pop album and it, indeed, rocks, setting it apart from the cadre of depressing women singer/songwriters dominating indie these days like Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus. 

De Souza is backed by a great band with a great rhythm section, though the materials presented with the one-sheet don’t list the personnel and only says “While her backing band has undergone shifts between releases, her sound has stayed tethered to her vision.” So, who knows who will be backing her when she plays at Slowdown in October?

It does say Indigo produced the album herself, teaming up with executive producer Brad Cook (Bon Iver, Waxahatchee, The War on Drugs) and engineers/producers Alex Farrar and Adam McDaniel. The production is quite stellar. Rating: Yes.

Indigo De Souza, Any Shape You Take, comes out Aug. 27 on Saddle Creek Records. Pre-order the album 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 © 2021 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Live Review: Grocer at Reverb Lounge…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:27 pm August 18, 2021

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Philadelphia indie band Grocer at Reverb Lounge, Aug. 17, 2021.

I dropped in for last night’s set by Philly band Grocer at Reverb Lounge, where I also conducted a quick interview with the band about proof-of-vaccine mandates, comments from which will appear in the September issue of The Reader. Needless to say, they support them, but what reasonable band wouldn’t?

Anyway, the four-piece came on at around 8:45 to a good-sized crowd for a Tuesday night (around 40?). Many in the young audience wore masks while they bounced around to Grocer’s thick-beat post-punk. That beat was created by bassist Danielle Lovier, who shared the lead vocals with drummer Cody Nelson and guitarist Nick Ryan.

Their style very much was in the early Pixies tradition, angular and cool riding high on the bass line and backbeat drums, while guitarist Emily Daly shredded feedback-drenched leads run through a muffled effects pedal, which at times was drowned out by the rest of the band (i.e., I would have loved more of her in the mix).

I dig their new EP, Delete If Not Allowed, and we got a good helping of it last night, including a fiery version of lead track “Better Now.” Other highlights included songs from the band’s debut LP, including “The Party Song” and an acidic version of “Don’t Touch Me” (Who are you singing about, Danielle?).

Side note: Closing band Bad Self Portraits’ drummer handled the vocals last night as apparently frontwoman Ingrid Howell suffered an appendicitis prior to the gig. You know what they say: The show must go on…

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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 © 2021 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Petfest (Magū, Those Far Out Arrows) and later that night (Bad Bad Men)…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:53 pm August 16, 2021
Lawn chairs and rock ‘n’ roll at Petfest 2021.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

If there was any concern about the Delta variant, it wasn’t apparent at Petfest last Saturday. There were maybe two people in the crowd of 40 or so wearing masks. And while that may shock some, it was no concern to me. I got the feeling the people surrounding me were not of the dumb-rube-Republican-conspiracy-tin-hat-wearing-numbskull variety (Tell us, Tim, what you really think of non-vaxxers…). And we were all outside, and for the most part, “distanced” from each other.

As someone who has been to a half-dozen South by Southwest festivals, I can tell you that Saturday’s Petfest was about as close as you’re going to get to what it’s like at a SXSW “day show” without taking a trip to Austin. Two differences: 1) No one was giving out free Lone Star beers and/or breakfast burritos, and 2) the sound quality at Petfest was far superior than the usual high-school-auditorium PA sound system used at SXSW (oh what those poor musicians put up with).

Ian Aeillo, a mad-genius audio engineer with bat-like ears that can hear frontwards, backwards and sideways, had the ol’ Barley Street white-rock parking lot sounding like LA’s Walt Disney Concert Hall, pushing sound from both stages simultaneously, it was like sitting in your parents’ 1970s basement listening to a Pink Floyd quadraphonic recording, but with indie bands.

As I said last Friday, this fest brought together the finest collection of local musical talent I’ve seen assembled at one concert in Omaha since, well, last year’s Petfest. Whoever the tastemaker was that booked this gig really knows his or her stuff.

Anna McClellan at Petfest, Aug. 14, 2021.

I came in right when things kicked off at 2 p.m. with Anna McClellan and her band. McClellan is a unique artist both musically and lyrically — she’s warm and lonely and sardonic all at the same time. The slightly off-kilter wonkiness of her vocal delivery only gives her songs more authenticity (to me, anyway). Every one of her performances is memorable, and it was a great way to kick off the day.

Magū at Petfest, Aug. 14, 2021.

Following Anna in the smaller garage stage was the most surprising set of the day. I’ve written passingly about Magū before (a few years ago, regarding one of their releases), but I’ve never seen them live. What to make of a five-piece that prominently includes a tenor sax front-and-center? There’s not much info about the band online (like who’s in the band?). Stylistically they describe themselves as psych rock / shoe gaze, but I’d peg them as modern indie with touches of classic rock. I loved the sax player’s tone and style, which merely augmented the songs and didn’t get in the way.

And then there was the woman keyboard player who sang leads on one song and knocked everyone on their asses. They’re quite an ensemble, which has been sitting right under my nose for years. When are they playing next?

Lightning Stills at Petfest, Aug. 14, 2021.

Magū were followed by Omaha super group Lightning Stills and the Midtown Ramblers (the “Ramblers” part was new to me). Lightning Stills is the countrified alter ego of (former?) punker Craig Fort. He’s surrounded himself with some of the area’s finest ax men, including pedal-steel player Mike Friedman, lead guitarist Tom May, and bassist Danny Maxwell.

I’m told this was the band’s first live gig but you wouldn’t know it by how well they played on these alcohol-drenched tales of personal excess and woe. Hard liquor and twang are a recipe as old as country music itself, and even has its own local iteration in the form of Filter Kings (Hard to beat that band’s “Hundred Proof Man” for pure booze romanticism). The Ramblers do it well, especially when they get into a groove and the players are allowed stretch out on these four-chord-powered jams.

Vocally, you can tell this was Mr. Fort’s first rodeo. Unlike punk, which thrives entirely on angst and energy, you will not get a pass on the vox — ever notice even the slightest waver and/or off-kilter moment when you listen to Waylon or Merle or Jerry Jeff? That’s just part of the deal, and it’s something that Fort will nail down over time.

Mike Schlesinger at Petfest, Aug. 14, 2021.

Speaking of vocals, there are few better voices than Mike Schlesinger — around these parts or anywhere. Mike played a short set alone with his acoustic guitar that managed to hush a parking lot full of drinking revelers who leaned in on every note. Schlesinger closed with “Coolie Trade,” one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. Gotta wonder what would happen if the right “industry people” ever discovered this mega talent.

Those Far Out Arrows at Petfest, Aug. 14, 2021.

Next was the first of a two-set day for Those Far Out Arrows. I’ve written about these guys so many times you’re tired of hearing it — they are at the forefront of Omaha’s garage-rock scene, true disciples of that classic ‘60s psych-rock sound epitomized by bands like Them, The Animals and the Kinks.

Two moments summed up their set for me, both took place while playing their A-side single, “Snake in my Basement.” First, I noticed across the parking lot in an adjacent garage covered with No Trespassing signs this rough, older dude working on his car who looked like the dad from Orange County Choppers. He set down his wrench, leaned back in the shadow of the doorway, watched and listened, nodding his head. Second thing — a little boy no more than 5 years old sat cross-legged in the middle of the parking lot and sang along with chorus.

As a band, what more do you want?

I wanted to put earmuffs on the little dude and his sister when the band tore into “Hell Yeah (MF)” from their Part Time Lizards album, with the repeated chorus, “Hell yeah, mother f***er, hell yeah!

MiWi La Lupa (right) at Petfest, Aug. 14, 2021.

The last performer I caught at the fest was MiWi La Lupa accompanied by guitarist Cubby Phillips. The two played a solid set that underscored why MiWi is recognized as one of the area’s better singer/songwriters.

And that was the end of my Petfest experience, though there was a ton more left that afternoon and evening. The whole day felt like being at someone’s very cool block party. I foresee a day when Omaha hosts a SXSW-style festival in which it invites bands from all over the country to play in venues throughout Benson. And when that day comes, Petshop Gallery and BFF will host a day party, and it’ll be something like this.

I was back in Benson later that night for Bad Bad Men and Those Far Out Arrows at Reverb Lounge. I’ve only been to a couple of shows at the new, improved Reverb, and Saturday’s was the most populated. Again, only the bartenders wore masks despite the Delta variant growing in the community.

Bad Bad Men at Reverb Lounge Aug. 14, 2021.

The super-group power trio of Bad Bad Men is fronted by Omaha rock legend John Wolf, with drummer Chris Siebken and bass player Jerry Hug. When it comes to rock ‘n’ roll these dudes are indeed bad, bad men. Their music rides on Wolf’s heavy metal riffage and is powered by that dynamic rhythm section that recalls a filthy, grinding punk rock heard back in Omaha in the ’90s by acts like Ritual Device and Wolf’s own Cellophane Ceiling. It’s dark and fun, with Wolf growling out the lead vocals and stretching out on blistering guitar leads. Their best set yet.

Those Far Out Arrows at Reverb Lounge Aug. 14, 2021.

The night was closed out by another performance from Those Far Out Arrows. They only played something like four songs at Petfest (everyone at the festival played shortened sets). They added another four of so for this evening gig. My only additional note is a tip of the hat to the band’s bass player, Derek LeVasseur, who makes everything they do up there possible alongside drummer Brian Richardson. You can’t make these songs keep chugging along without those guys.

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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 © 2021 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Maha Music Festival — Japanese Breakfast, Thundercat, Khruangbin, Edem Soul Music…

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Looking out from the stage at the 2021 Maha Music Festival.

It was almost as if the gods looked down from the sky and said, “Let’s give this little festival a break,” and then turned down the thermostat in Omaha for the day and blew away all that nasty Pacific Northwest smoke (only to be replaced with a different kind of smoke later in the evening).

#Maha13 couldn’t have been more flawless from a operations point of view. Unlike the Lizzo-year oversold debacle two years ago, this one was smooth as silk, thanks to ticket limits (due to COVID), which held the number at a manageable 8,000. So well run was it this year, in fact, that I beseech the Maha organizers to continue to limit ticket sales in the future, augmenting their income with more sponsorships and a slightly higher ticket price.

In other words, don’t be greedy.

Who knows, maybe that is the plan? Maha changed it’s setup this year, adding a number of small sponsor tents that lined the north-end perimeter, replacing their “global village” with even more sponsor tents. It might be why Stinson Park never looked better-attended for its early acts, who enjoyed a sizable crowd during their sets.

While I was there for the entire day (a first), I was kinda/sorta working at the Union Pacific sponsor tent, which kept me busy, but not too busy to grab some photos and catch some sets. Some I missed altogether, though I heard them in the background…

Dirt House at the Maha Music Festival, July 31, 2021.

Dirt House was the first one that got me up to the stage. Annie Dilocker has surrounded herself with some of the best talent from ‘round these parts. Backing her was guitarist Jim Schroeder (2020’s Mesa Buoy, UUVVWWZ, David Nance Band to name a few), drummer Roger Lewis (The Good Life, Neva Dinova, Conduits, local legend), bassist Sara Bertuldo (See Through Dresses) and violinist Amy Carey. We’re talking all-stars here. At the center was Dilocker, who continues to grow as as vocalist and songwriter.

Edem Soul Music at the Maha Music Festival, July 31, 2021.

The biggest surprise of the day came from Edem Soul Music. I’ve never paid much attention to Edem, as the only time I’d seen her perform in the past was alone with ukulele, which is a tough sell for me. While I was running around doing stuff, I kept getting pulled into her set, thinking, “Holy shit, that’s a good song,” and them moments later, “OK, now that one’s even better.

I finally put down my stuff and went to the stage. Now I need to find out who the heck Edem Garro is. Incredible voice, but beyond that, just straight-up catchy R&B songs. Her online presence is a mish-mash (one song on Bandcamp?, a few singles on Spotify?). Looks like she has a new album coming out later this month…

Shovels and Rope at the Maha Music Festival, July 31, 2021.

The national bands started at 5:30 with Shovels & Rope, who I knew but hadn’t really listened to prior to this. They were fine, though none of their songs really caught my attention — sort of alt-indie in the Felice Brothers/Dawes/Langhorne Slim vein, with a surprisingly full sound for a two-piece.

It’s a good time to mention the overall festival sound. Maybe it was where I was situated across the field, but there was a lack of underbelly to the bands on the small stage, and all the drums sounded lost in the mix throughout the night. As is the case with all festivals, bands sounded better as they got deeper into their sets, thanks to the sound folks, but there’s only so much you could do with that small stage. But even the large stage had its limitations, moreso than I can remember from any past Maha show (and I’ve been to all of them). The exceptions were the two main stage headliners.

Drive-By Truckers at the Maha Music Festival, July 31, 2021.

Moving on, like Shovels and Rope, I only have a passing knowledge of Drive-By Truckers. Their style of Dixie-hotdamn-southern indie is not my thang, though there were times I was reminded of heavier John Hiatt tunes. DBT was the heaviest thing dished out this year at Maha, which in past years featured at least one (and usually more) punk-flavored indie bands. Not this year. (Did I mention The Oh Sees were the best part of the Lizzo year?).

Japanese Breakfast at the Maha Music Festival, July 31, 2021.

I’m probably not the only one who wondered why Japanese Breakfast was placed on the small stage. Maybe it was because they were the only true indie-style band on the festival ticket, and we all know indie bands are used to getting placed at the smaller table. They no doubt deserved to be on the big stage, where we likely would have gotten a better-sounding set. Regardless, the band played through all their “hits” off their last couple of albums.

JB was the one band I was most looking forward to at the festival, and to be honest, their set was sorta ho-hum. But then again, hasn’t indie sort of been headed in a ho-hum direction for the past few years? Vibe bands are taking over indie music along with female singer-songwriters, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, I’m beginning to wonder where the next PJ Harvey or Arcade Fire will come from.

Thundercat at the Maha Music Festival, July 31, 2021.

Thundercat turned in the most thoroughly enjoyable set of the festival. A.k.a. Stephen Bruner showed off his amazing bass-playing chops on a set of proggy, jazz-flavored, mostly instrumental numbers that also showcased a crushingly talented band.

It felt more like a jazz set than a R&B/rock set, though the intricate, complicated arrangements stood right up there with some of the crazy prog acts I remember from the ’70s, the kind of bands that shifted effortlessness from key and time signatures while playing at breakneck speeds. Impossible to not be impressed, however if you weren’t right up to the stage (as I was from the VIP section) you might get lost in the sound clutter, as most of the numbers didn’t have memorable central melodies.

That came with their final song, “Them Changes,” which has become his funk anthem, the one they play on Sirius XMU, the song that would get airplay if we still had a decent FM rock station.

Khruangbin at the Maha Music Festival, July 31, 2021.

That final Thundercat song was the perfect hand-off to Khruangbin, a band whose music is destined to be heard for many decades playing in the background at your local grocery store.

We all knew their low-key vibe music would be a soft-lit way to end this festival, and boy, it sure was. Along with Thundercat, their sound quality was next level, and their playing was tight as a tick, but man, weren’t much going on up there on stage other than three folks spread out playing their jams. Judging by the always-present smell of weed, I doubt the remaining crowd cared. This is stoner-vibe music at it’s best, the perfect soundtrack for the stoned or for those waiting in line at The Gap.

So how does this Maha rate with past years?

In terms of overall quality of experience, it’s right up there with the best. You will not find a better-run festival with more helpful volunteers.

The line-up? It’s not fair to judge considering we’re coming out of national pandemic. It’s amazing they were able to even pull a line-up together. Most of these bands aren’t in my wheelhouse. While I like that Maha is still booking emerging acts along with more established bands (DBT, for example), I miss the indie rock, and punk. Maybe it just wasn’t available?

Who knows what the future holds for Maha? There’s talk of the festival eventually moving downtown when the new mall is completed, and spreading out shows to multiple venues, a la SXSW. That would be awesome if they can get a transportation plan in place to shuttle everyone around. In the meantime, I have a feeling we’ll all be back to Stinson Park next year, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

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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 © 2021 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Live Review: Idaho, Slights at Reverb…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:32 pm July 9, 2021
Idaho at Reverb Lounge, July 8, 2021.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

There’s a distinctive sound to a distinctive type of indie music played in the ‘90s, a style that was part slow-core, sort of low-fi, usually involved slightly off-kilter, wonky vocals, simple arrangements and lots of feedback.

Idaho was among the bands that played that style of music, a sound stark and downturn, and while it could be bleak, often rays of sonic hope seeped through the cracks. For those of us who were there, hearing it again is like stepping right back into that decade.

Jeff Martin and the rest of the guys who made up Idaho last night at Reverb Lounge provided the time machine. Martin, looking like an indie version of Wade Garrett/Sam Elliott from Roadhouse with his long greying mid-50s hair, sounded as good as he ever did back in the day, backed by a solid band that included guitarist Robby Fronzo on soul-draining feedback-drenched leads.

To show you how little I know about the band, I wasn’t aware that a key component to their sound is that Martin (and Fronzo) played four-string electric guitars (in fact, I can’t remember seeing anyone play a four-string), which I credit at least in part to that far-away, haunted feel of the slower tunes. While tuning between numbers (which Martin did a lot), he said Fronzo had tried playing with the band using a six-string guitar, but it just didn’t sound right.

My knowledge of the Idaho songbook is limited to one album, which I acquired back in ’94 which included the song “Still” that I used in my 1994 best of Lazy-i cassette tape! That said, Martin’s set bounced between oldies and songs announced as “new ones,” that stood up to the old material. Throughout the evening the slow songs reminded me of ‘90s acts like American Music Club, Bedhead and Silkworm, though for every two slow ones there was an upbeat number.

I remembered how much I love this style of music, but wondered how it could ever catch the ear of today’s indie music lovers, who are more synthesized and upbeat and wouldn’t get the fractured sound that makes it so great.

BTW, last night was one of the only times I’ve seen a band play an encore at Reverb.

Slights at Reverb Lounge, July 8, 2021.

Opening band Slights from Kansas City (I’m told one of the members runs the Record Bar?), was an appropriate contrast. The band played a style of rock heavy on the minors and at times bordering on gothic. Frontman Matt Dunehoo has a stellar voice that can counter the heavy fuzz/buzz with a winsome tunefulness that matches his wonky (bordering on bizarre) stage antics.

The highlight of their set came three from the end when they veered from the usual minor-key buzzfest to something more pop, which felt like the sun breaking through the clouds. Throughout the evening Dunehoo commented how great it was to be back playing live and being able to play in front of a crowd. As part of that crowd, I couldn’t agree more.

. ) ) ) .

Unfortunately it’s looking like a quiet weekend show-wise. Only thing I see is the return of Doom Lagoon at The Slowdown Saturday night with 3 Son Green and Mr. E & the Stringless Kite. I have not seen any of these bands, but you can for $15. Show starts at 8 p.m.

The only other thing worth mentioning is that Saturday is Blackstone Second Saturday which means we’ll have a new artist opening at The Little Gallery, located just north of Night Owl in the The Mansion. “Because” features a collection of mixed-media prints on paper by Susan M. Heggestad. We’ll be there from 3 to 7 p.m.

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 © 2021 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Live Review: Digital Leather at The Sydney…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:51 pm June 28, 2021
Digital Leather at The Sydney, June 26, 2021.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

It felt like old times at The Sydney Saturday night when Digital Leather played a split set to a crowd of around 40 unmasked revelers.

This might be the biggest DL ensemble I’ve seen on stage — six people including frontman Shawn Foree, who for the first time in memory, fronted as a vocalist — not behind a keyboard, not with a guitar slung around his neck — just straight-up Sinatra-style crooner in front of five folks crowded behind guitars and technology.

The line-up: long-time DL drummer Jeff Lambelet, Blake Kostszewa on synths, newcomer (though old acquaintance of the band) Bobby Hussy on guitar, Erica Van Engen on synths and Bright Eyes collaborator MiWi La Lupa on bass.

Foree played a few songs off DL’s most recent album, New Wave Gold, including a unique version of stand-out track “Compass” that saw Foree pass the mic to Kostszewa to handle lead vocals while Foree took his place behind the synths for this one song. Great idea, except Kostszewa started out a bit too tentative on a song that demands voice-of-doom vox. He got his footing by the second verse.

The addition of Hussy was a welcome one. Hussy brings an aggressive guitar style to a project that in recent years shifted back to its synth-focused origins. His guitar work blazed through the artificial smoke, adding a new, brighter color to Foree’s usual dark palette.

The majority of the set was dedicated to trying out new material, much of which took the band in different directions. The performance was split as Hussy broke a guitar string halfway through the set. The band took a 30-minute break while he restrung, and then played five more songs to a crowd half the size.

As I mentioned, the audience at Sydney was maskless, one hopes because all had been vaccinated. It did, indeed, feel like a pre-COVID (or, I guess now, post-COVID) show, a reminder of how things once were and hopefully will be again. Things will heat up again Friday night at The Sydney when Little Brazil returns in honor of BFF with Living Conditions and Sean Paul. 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 © 2021 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Save Our Stages (SOS) Act included in revised HEROES Act; review: Christian Lee Hutson…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:53 pm September 29, 2020

Yesterday an updated Heroes Act was introduced in the House of Representatives. This is legislation that, among other things, will extend unemployment benefits to those impacted by COVID-19. This new revision (surprise-surprise) included the Save Our Stages — or SOS Act.

To save you time reading the massive 87-page title-by-title summary document (the actual HEROES Act is 2,150 pages long, wouldn’t you hate to be a politician?), the summary language is:

Section 619: Grants for Independent Live Venue Operators (H.R. 7806, Save our Stages Act or the SOS Act)

  1. Authorizes $10 Billion for the SBA to make grants to eligible live venue operators, producers, promoters, or talent representatives to address the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on certain live venues.
  2. The SBA may make an initial grant of up to $12 million dollars to an eligible operator, promoter, producer, or talent representative; and a supplemental grant that is equal to 50% of the initial grant.
  3. Such grants shall be used for specified expenses such as payroll costs, rent, utilities, and personal protective equipment.

This all seems well and good, but, of course, it has to pass the House and then the Senate, and there’s no guarantee this language will survive. Or that Trump would sign it.

Look, I know this shit’s boring to some of you but it’s super important. And if you don’t believe me, check out this list of venues that have closed as a result of COVID-19, published by Billboard last week. No Nebraska venue is on the list, though we can point to Lookout Lounge as one of COVID-19’s casualties.

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Random review…

Christian Lee Hutson, Beginners (2020, Anti-) — Kind of Sufjan Stevens, early Pete Yorn, no question Simon and Garfunkel and lots of Elliott Smith. I think of him in conjunction with Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst because he was a member of Better Oblivion Community Center. And while Oberst has a better way with words and Phoebe has a sweeter voice, Hutson is a stronger songwriter melody-wise than both of them. He writes in a quiet, indie-folk tradition, mostly confessional lyrics as if singing from a journal, which makes these songs maybe a bit too personal to reach a wider audience. They’re heart-breakers, played on chiming acoustic guitar, sung in a voice that’s more Paul than Art. The single “Get the Old Band Back Together” sounds like an out-take from XO until the drums come in and amps things up. It’s the star and a standout, along with “Northsiders,” in a collection of stars and standouts.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily (if there’s news) 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.

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