Live Review Laibach; Crom Fest weekend; Built to Spill, Sons of O’Leaver’s Saturday…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:05 pm May 22, 2015
Leibach during their cover of Dylan's "Ballad of a Thin Man," at Slowdown, May 22, 2015.

Laibach during their cover of Dylan’s “Ballad of a Thin Man,” at Slowdown, May 22, 2015.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Small but boisterous crowd for Laibach last night at The Slowdown. Maybe 125 (pure guestimate) was on hand to see the Slavic titans put on their unique, goth version of a post-industrial dance party.

The entire production was well-constructed. I wouldn’t call what they played last night “Industrial” as much as art-synth rock with an accent. There were elements that sounded like the band was parodying a Cold War East German synth band when in fact this was the real thing, taken to a modern world where The Wall has been torn down for decades and the only thing to rant against is capitalism, in an “Occupy” sort of way.

The band consisted of three synths, a drummer and two vocalists, chief of which was the gravel-voiced Milan Fras, who I’m told (by the fan sitting next to me last night) sounded exactly like he did in the ’80s. Countering his growl was the Enya-esque singing of Mina Špiler. My pal said the band seemed like a kinder, gentler, modern version of the Industrial band he remembered from his youth. There were times during the second of two sets (complete with intermission) that their music sounded like a Euro-synth dance party, sort of a cross between Depeche Mode and The Faint, but with more growling.

Not to say that’s a bad thing. Add the dramatic staging and you’re getting your $25 worth — digital klieg lights beamed across the Slowdown’s empty balcony like WWII search lights, while images flashed on the screen behind the band — sometimes like Mac screen savers, other times showing clips from what looked like a German science fiction film complete with flying saucers emblazoned with swastikas, a sort of Battlestar Galactica fascist nightmare vision, which was actually pretty cool if not disturbing.

The best moments were the symphonic-style movements from the first set (again, very Enya), the cover of Bob Dylan’s “Ballad of a Thin Man,” and the encore, which was sung in a foreign language. These foreign-language songs were the most powerful, maybe because they were the most mysterious and — combined with the goth-synth music — the most disturbing. We add our own meaning when the language isn’t English, inescapably haunting and filled with post-apocalyptic dread.

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Well, one assumes there will be nothing dreadful about what’s happening at The Waiting Room and Reverb this weekend. The One Percent clubs are hosting the 3rd Annual Crom Comedy Fest Friday through Sunday nights. Says comedian Mike Perry, “The festival is locally produced and was started by OK Party Comedy, a local collective created to give Omaha an option that isn’t a corporate comedy club with drink minimums and hacky jokes.” You be the judge regarding hackiness. Pricing and line-up vary from club to club. Go to cromcomedyfest.com for more info.

Needless to say, it puts a hole in the musical calendar, though there’s still plenty going on.

The Barley Street has a full slate tonight, headlined by Strange Attractors with Kerry Eddy and The Current  Situation and Scott Severin. $5, 9 p.m.

It’s another all-local showcase tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s with Charlotte Sometimes, Kait Berreckman and The Ronnys. $5, 9:30 p.m.

The weekend’s big show is Saturday night at The Slowdown — the return of Built to Spill. The band is on the road supporting Untethered Moon (Warner Bros, 2015) their first studio album since 2009. Also on the bill are Wooden Indian Burial Ground and Clarke and the Himselfs. $20, 9 p.m.

Also Saturday night, 4ontheFloor headlines a show at O’Leaver’s with Clarence Tilton and The Sons of O’Leaver’s. $5, 9:30 p.m.

And that’s what I got for this weekend. If I missed your show, put it in the comments section. Have a great Memorial Day 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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: The Rentals, Healer; Kevin Seconds tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:14 pm May 18, 2015
The Rentals at The Waiting Room, May 15, 2015.

The Rentals at The Waiting Room, May 15, 2015.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

We’ll start with The Rentals because it was one of the best shows I’ve seen this year. Frontman Matt Sharp and his band were transcendent on a number of levels despite fewer than 100 people in the Waiting Room crowd, a testament I suppose of the fact that their hey day was almost 20 years ago and how hard it is to keep your memory alive in the internet age. It certainly isn’t from lack of quality. The Rentals new record, Lost in Alphaville (Polyvinyl, 2014), is as good or better than the rest of their discography. If you were a fan of the band or of good electronic pop rock, you’d love it.

They came out in white lab coats with Sharp dressed in black Nehru chic. The outfits only lasted one song before the band dropped their guises for their usual stage clothes, though there would be more “costumes” later.

You could say the Haden sisters were an integral part of The Rentals’ original sound. They invented those unique tight-pitched cooing harmonies, as anyone familiar with their band (That Dog.) can attest. The fact that current vocalists Lizzi Ellison and Patti King (who also performed in opening band Radiation City) were able to reproduce those harmonies is impressive, let alone bring their own style to this material. The duo are less mechanical, more earthy sounding than the Haden sisters, which lent itself well to the new material along with a couple covers, including a fetching low-key version of Whitney Houston’s “I Want to Dance with Somebody” that was a heart-shaped nod to the ’80s  (but that would get eclipsed during the encore).

Sharp is a consummate performer, a theatrical presence constantly moving and reaching out to the rather small audience that surrounded the front of the stage. You’ve heard this one before, but it didn’t matter if there were 60 or 600 in the room, Sharp gave an arena-style performance, as did his band.

Ghostbuster Matt Sharp vs. the Sta-Puff Marshmallow Man at The Waiting Room, March 15, 2015.

Ghostbuster Matt Sharp vs. the Sta-Puff Marshmallow Man at The Waiting Room, March 15, 2015.

For the encore, Sharp, Ellison and King walked onto the floor with a small Casio-type synth and sang the first song surrounded by the tiny crowd before returning to the stage to play the requisite encore song “Friends of P” with the full band. Prior to the end of the tune, however, Sharp exited stage right, leaving the band to finish the song alone. Something wrong? Nope. Out came Sharp onto the floor again, this time dressed as a Ghostbuster holding a marshmallow rifle, followed by someone dressed in a Sta-Puff Marshmallow Man costume. Hilarity ensued, along with a dead-on rendition of the Ghostbusters theme. Why not? Count yourself lucky if you were there to see it.

Healer at The Slowdown, May 15, 2015.

Healer at The Slowdown, May 15, 2015.

Earlier in the evening I caught the stage debut of Healer, the new supergroup that features members of Ladyfinger, Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship and UUVVWWZ. Fronted by Dan Brennan, the band specialized in a style of indie that melds traditional rock that leans toward Mother Love Bone grunge. Unlike so many vibe bands in the scene these days, Brennan writes full-on songs with soaring vocal melodies sung over a very tight band. If there’s a quibble it was with Brennan’s uncertain vocals, which wobbled and faded at times. Chock it up to this being their first gig, performed in front of a sizable main-stage Slowdown audience.

And maybe the fact that the band was missing one players, Jim Schroeder, who is out on the road with Simon Joyner. Simon passed along some bad news yesterday via Facebook. Someone broke into the band’s van while they were in Oakland, taking off with some pedals, cymbals and computer equipment. Despite that, Simon said the show — and the tour — will go on…

* * *

Tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s, Kevin Seconds, the lead singer and principal songwriter of legendary American hardcore punk band 7Seconds, headlines a show that also features Ted Stevens (Cursive, Unknown Project) and Aaron Parker (Gordon). Come see a legend up close and personal. $8, 9 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Matt Pond PA; Outlaw Con Bandana tonight; Relax, It’s Science, Miwi La Lupa Saturday…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: — @ 1:12 pm May 8, 2015
Matt Pond PA at Reverb Lounge, May 7, 2015.

Matt Pond PA at Reverb Lounge, May 7, 2015.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Matt Pond PA has such a sublime voice. I mean, a really good voice, especially for the kind of indie-pop music he’s known for. The first time I saw him play was about 12 years ago at Sokol Underground, and his voice has only gotten better. So has his band. He had an amazing crew with him last night at Reverb Lounge, including a standout guitarist, cellist, drummer and bass player (Hey, that’s everybody!).

For this performance they played his 2005 album Several Arrows Later, which was/is a career standout moment for Pond. A collection of 12 songs, each a charmer in its own way, played as if he just released the album last week. Pond and his band ran through the entire record (I think) in order, hardly pausing between songs except to let one of his band mates share a corny joke or two.

Pond’s songs, whether upbeat or mellow, have a somber edge lyrically and sonically. They’re the kind of songs that bring emotions forward to catch in your throat like the memory of a long-ago breakup or a loved one you haven’t seen in years or may never see again. Sad songs mostly, but catchy and memorable. In that way, Pond’s music reminds me of stuff by Pete Yorn or Jeremy Messersmith, though Yorn’s stuff can be so dark and lonely I have hard time even listening to it. Not so with Pond’s music, which is catchy and fun even if it leaves you with a broken heart

* * *

It’s a sorta slow weekend for shows.

Tonight Outlaw Con Bandana headlines at fabulous O’Leaver’s. You can’t miss with Brendan and Pearl. Also on the bill are Church of Graviton and Andrew Berkley. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Saturday night Relax, It’s Science plays at Reverb in Benson with nanaHara. $5, 9 p.m.

Over at O’Leaver’s Saturday it’s singer/songwriter Miwi La Lupa, who was Kevin Coffey’s “band of the week” in the Omaha World-Herald, presumably beating out Garth Brooks (and for good reason). Joining him at the club are Calling Cody and Jazz Brown & The Afterthought. $5, 9:30 p.m.

And that does it for the weekend. If I missed your show, put it in the comments section. And if you haven’t already (or even if you have) listen to this week’s Lazy-i Podcast featuring reviews of new albums by Klemmensen, Joyner, Barnett and Waxahatchee, along with some other fun stuff. 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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: John Klemmensen and the Party, Little Brazil; Hop Along in Pitchfork (7.9 rating); Lady Lamb tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:38 pm May 4, 2015
John Klemmensen and the Party at Reverb, May 1, 2015.

John Klemmensen and the Party at Reverb, May 1, 2015.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

What is the musical future of John Klemmensen? Who knows. It’s impossible to base anything on an album release party. Case in point: How many times have you seen bands pull off well-attended album release shows only to fall back to wherever they were before, never building on the momentum they’ve gained leading up to the show? It’s laughably commonplace.

On the other hand, what are these artists supposed to do next? The simple answer is hit the road. Go on a self-booked tour that gets them to as many nearby cities and towns as possible; a tour that presumably was arranged months in advance of the album release show. But that rarely happens because, well, these artists have to survive. They have to feed themselves and their family. They have to pay their rent. Which means the following Monday it’s back to whatever day-job they suffer through to pay the bills.

Booking a tour on your own is difficult. Going out on tour — especially with a band the size of The Party — is expensive. It’s a massive money-loser for everyone involved, an expensive vacation that doesn’t include good meals and hotels. Because of these reasons, local bands talk about touring, but rarely do.

And time passes. Eventually the band plays another local show, and another. And slowly, in their spare time, they begin to write more songs and, before you know it, a Kickstarter campaign pops up and they begin gearing up for the next album release show. It’s an endless cycle. The only way to break out of it is for a miracle to happen, such as someone important (such as a record label) discovering your album who is willing to do what it takes to get you to the next level — rerelease, distribution, publicity, booking agent, financial backing necessary to hit the road. It’s like winning the lottery, and it never happens.

That doesn’t stop people from dreaming. Part of that dream has happened for Klemmensen. Someone put up the money to press 500 copies of Party All Night, his new album. What that person is able to do next to get the record heard only Klemmensen knows, but to that person I say: You have made a good bet based on how the audience responded to his music Friday night — full-on sing-alongs and fist pumps. It helps that Klemmensen has been performing this music for months, but there also is that tangible quality — memorable, yell-worthy lyrics.

I think Klemmensen could break through as a pop act. His music is suited for it. It’s certainly not indie, and when it comes to making a living playing music, that’s probably a good thing these days. But it all depends on what he does next. If he never gets a chance to go on the road, if he goes back to life-as-usual, the only thing that’ll come out of Friday night’s show is a sweet memory.

Little Brazil at Reverb Lounge, May 1, 2015.

Little Brazil at Reverb Lounge, May 1, 2015.

Opener Little Brazil put on the best show they’ve played in a long time. The set was all (or almost all) new material, and it was all somewhat awesome. I’m told they’ve recorded some demoes of these songs; can a full-length can’t be far off? Well, frontman Landon Hedges has his hands full over the coming months with the release of the new album by his other band, Desaparecidos, and the ongoing support tour.

Dan McCarthy at Brad's Corner during Benson First Friday, May 1, 2015.

Dan McCarthy at Brad’s Corner during Benson First Friday, May 1, 2015.

One other act I caught Friday — Dan McCarthy doing a solo acoustic set on Brad’s Corner. McCarthy is always entertaining. If Brad Hoshaw had been ambitious he would have dragged a full-sized upright piano out to the corner. Next time. Benson First Friday is getting crazier and crazier. This time Military Ave. was blocked off for some sort of art fair craft show thing…

* * *
When did record labels start releasing albums on Mondays? Today Saddle Creek released the new Hop Along and Twinsmith records. Isn’t Tuesday release day (which is eventually shifting to Fridays at some point)?

No matter. If you haven’t heard the new Hop Along album, titled Painted Shut, you need to. As I’ve said before, it’s the best non-Omaha-based Saddle Creek release in years. And apparently Pitchfork agrees. The indie “tastemakers” gave the album a respectable 7.9 rating in this review, where they call out Saddle Creek:

Painted Shut is being released on Saddle Creek, a label built on the kind of romantic, middle-American indie that made Hop Along possible in the first place—music more indebted to the 1970s than the 1980s, more to the earnest mythologizing of folk than the grandstanding of rock, more to the fantasias of Edward Gorey and e.e. cummings than to the flash of the city; music for rickety houses in college towns and the lonelyhearts who collect in their corners like dust and give each other stick-and-pokes. I’d say it all seems old-fashioned but it has been this way for about 25 years and seems part of a longer continuum all the time, so who knows.

Uh, 25 years?

Now, Pitchfork, where’s that Twinsmith review? Not to be outdone, punknews.org reviewed Alligator Years and gave it four stars (out of five, here), launching the review with the statement: “Omaha’s Twinsmith are the next Vampire Weekend.” Oh boy…

* * *

Just got word that the big concert announcement I mentioned online here last week is coming Wednesday morning. Huge. Watch Lazy-i or (I guess) the local media for the announcement. It’ll  be hard to miss.

* * *

Great Monday night show tonight: Lady Lamb, whose new album After was just released in March on Mom & Pop Music (Courtney Barnett’s new label) are playing at Slowdown Jr. with Rathborne and Jordan Smith. $12, 9 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

John Klemmensen & the Party album release, Little Brazil, Grant Hart, M34n Str33t tonight; Satchel Grande Saturday…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:54 pm May 1, 2015
John Klemmensen at The Waiting Room, Feb. 21, 2015.

John Klemmensen at The Waiting Room, Feb. 21, 2015.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I’ve been enjoying the tracks from John Klemmensen & The Party’s new new album, Party All Night, for more than a month. The actual record — and I’m talking vinyl record — will finally be available tonight at a special release show at Reverb Lounge. The album is a career benchmark for Klemmensen, who has been performing music for more than 20 years both solo, with The Party and in a slew of bands, the most recent being Landing on the Moon.

In fact, the tunes off Party All Night most closely resemble LotM songs, but with a more focused, more stripped down (but no less rocking) approach. Klemmesen’s one of the better singer/songwriters in town, creating rock songs with a mainstream appeal sung in a high, sweet voice that belies his stature. My favorite part of his music is how he channels his personal stories into his lyrics — there’s no question he’s singing about his life, his experiences, in a candid, matter-of-fact way that holds nothing back. Klemmensen lets it all hang out, singing with a brazen honesty rarely heard in modern pop songs. And it can be some disturbing, heart-breaking shit.

For example, take the new album’s title track, with the lines, “If I had real love / I wouldn’t drink ’til the morning comes / She would be waking up / I would want to be with her / I’d probably quit cocaine / Unless it was her thing / Then we’d do it all night / Until the sun comes up.

Or, from “Death and Destruction,” the lines “I’m feeling bored, bored with myself / Death and destruction are all that I have left / I want to f*** the world on a dirty motel bed / I don’t love her no more so I treat her like shit.

I don’t think any of us want to know what inspired those lines. Needless to say, the words are bracing and unexpected, especially if you’ve met Klemmensen — one of the nicest, quietest guys in the Omaha scene, he holds in his rage until he gets on stage, or in the studio.

For every dark ode there’s a good-time song in its shadow. Klemmensen indeed loves to party, and this record was designed to be the perfect soundtrack to every regretful decision you make at your life’s party.

Opening tonight’s show at Reverb are those everlovin’ geniuses from Little Brazil and Bonzo Madrid, featuring CJ Calhoun from Lawrence band Cowboy Indian Bear. $8, 9 p.m.

The Klemmensen show is the top attraction of a busy night of shows.

This afternoon at 5 p.m. the legendary Grant Hart of Husker Du will be at The Sydney in Benson, where his artwork will be on display all weekend. Yes, Hart is a fine artist as well as a musician. You can check it out for free (and buy a piece of art) until 8 p.m. when The Sydney hosts a screening of the documentary Every Everything: The Music, Life and Times of Grant Hart followed by a discussion with Hart and a performance. Talk about being up close and personal. Admission is $12.

BTW, Hart also is doing a special Sunday afternoon all-ages matinee performance at The Sydney at 3 p.m. Tickets: Adults and children ages 13+ are $12; children younger than 13 are free. And adults who attend tonight’s show also will be admitted free if accompanied by a child.

Also tonight, M34n Str33t is headlining at The Slowdown with Calm Fur, Timecat and INFNTLP. $8, 9 p.m.

And All Young Girls Are Machine Guns are playing at fabulous O’Leaver’s with Xion/ Mesonjixx and Lars & Mal. $5, 9:30 p.m.

And and in case you forgot, it’s Benson First Friday. Tonight’s special guests at “Brad’s Corner” (hosted by Brad Hoshaw) are the incomparable Dan McCarthy and David Mainelli.  Brad’s Corner takes place from 8 to 11 p.m. in front of the Edward Jones building right where Military Ave. meets Maple Street in downtown Benson.

Tomorrow night (Saturday) is less crowded show-wise.

Satchel Grande is hosting an album release show down at The Slowdown. Joining them is Lucas Kellson. $8, 9 p.m.

The Strange Attractors headlines at O’Leaver’s Saturday night with The Last Draft and a solo set by Attractors’ member (and local legend) Dereck Higgins. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Sunday night McCarthy Trenching is playing at Pageturners with Little Marais. 8 p.m.  And Seattle band My Goodness is playing at Reverb Lounge with Low Long Signal. $10, 9 p.m.

That’s what I got. If I missed your show, put it in the comments section. Have a great weekend.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Reviews: Super Ghost, Blue Bird, Record Store Day (Wagon Blasters), Jake Bellows, Ladyfinger, Soft Moon…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:08 pm April 20, 2015
Wagon Blasters at Almost Music on Record Store Day, April 18, 2015.

Wagon Blasters at Almost Music on Record Store Day, April 18, 2015.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Three nights of music this week. I’m definitely NOT getting too old for this shit.

Andy Norman of Hear Nebraska suggested I check out Super Ghost, who recently played a Hear Nebraska / Urban Outfitters in-store. I’d never heard of the band, but since they were attached to Friday night’s bill at The Barley Street featuring Blue Bird, I figured I might as well stick around.

It’s been maybe two years since I’ve seen Blue Bird. Back then, their sound was folksy Americana, fronted by Marta Fiedler with Carrie Mardock. Carrie’s gone, replaced with Rebecca Smith. So is the band’s original sound. They’ve shifted to poppier, synth-driven music (two keyboards), more modern and more interesting. Fiedler does a fine job with the leads, but the band as a whole lacked energy. The performers got into position and stayed there, motionless the entire set. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though it added a static quality to the proceedings. What are they supposed to do, jump around and high kick like Matt Whipkey? No, but when they stand like statues you can’t help but feel they’re just going through the motions whether they are or not, which is a pity considering the music’s colorful energy.

Super Ghost at the Barley Street Tavern April 18, 2015.

Super Ghost at the Barley Street Tavern April 18, 2015.

Then came Super Ghost, four youngsters from Omaha and Minneapolis weened on modern-day  emo bands like You Blew It! and mewithoutYou. Super Ghost is an emo throwback, not to first-wave acts like Rites of Spring and Sunny Day Real Estate, but ’90s-era second wave emo acts like California band Knapsack, which they most resemble, and Topeka legends Vitreous Humor, who they’ve never heard of (and in reality, very few people have).

Technically tight, smart compositions with insidious solos and counter melodies, Super Ghost was a pleasant surprise, a remarkable new band whose sound has a shimmering drama and musicality that at times recalled early Pavement and Dinosaur Jr. as much as those emo heroes they no doubt adore. Too bad there were only six people in the room to hear them.

Where they came from and what they’re up to next will all be revealed in this week’s podcast, which features a brief interview with frontman Jake Newbold, along with some samples from Friday night’s set.

Despite mother nature, Homer’s pulled off another big Record Store Day. When I rolled into the store at around 5 p.m., Homer’s GM Mike Fratt said he’d been pleased with the crowds, the excitement, the overall day even though he and his crack team fought through technical mine fields caused by the morning’s thunderstorm. Though late in the afternoon, there was still plenty of RSD stock in the bins, including the 25th Anniversary RSD pressing of Pills, Thrills and Bellyaches that I picked up.

Meanwhile, uptown in Benson, Almost Music’s Brad Smith said it was the first time he had line form outside his door before he opened. Almost Music’s daylong concert, originally slated for the sidewalk out front, was moved inside to the bookstore, where I watched the return of Gary Dean Davis and his band Wagon Blasters.

This was the band’s first performance in a couple years, but you wouldn’t know it by watching Gary Dean bouncing around bookcases like a hopped-up hillbilly in a racing windbreaker. His voice, those songs and this band proved once again that Wagon Blasters are Nebraska punk par excellence.

BTW, I picked up a Factory UK pressing of The Return of Durutti Column and The Grifters’ The Kingdom of Jones 10-inch (Shangri La 025), as well as the newly designed, fetching Almost Music T-shirt. Why can’t RSD be every day?

Jake Bellows at the Hear Nebraska Vol. 3 album release show at The Waiting Room, April 18, 2015.

Jake Bellows at the Hear Nebraska Vol. 3 album release show at The Waiting Room, April 18, 2015.

Saturday night was the big Hear Nebraska Vol. 3 album release show at The Waiting Room. As per usual, Jake Bellows had the crowd eating out of his hand as he ripped through a solo electric set of his greatest hits including a few Neva Dinova songs. Jake has enough charisma to be a cult leader and/or standup comic, whichever you prefer.

Ladyfinger at The Waiting Room, April 18, 2015.

Ladyfinger at The Waiting Room, April 18, 2015.

The blasting cap we call Ladyfinger closed out the evening. Over the course of a few weeks I’ve seen both musical sides of Chris Machmuller on stage — Mach the troubadour and Mach the rocker, each equally powerful in their own way.

You couldn’t help but wonder as Ladyfinger was belting out songs off their last album — 2013’s Errant Forms — what lies ahead for these guys. Their track “Junk City” off the HN Vol. 3 comp meets and/or exceeds anything they’ve done in the past. Would Saddle Creek roll the dice on another Ladyfinger full-length? And, for that matter, does the band have it in them to write and record a new album? Nebraskans — and the world — await the answers with baited breath.

Soft Moon at Reverb Lounge, April 19, 2015.

Soft Moon at Reverb Lounge, April 19, 2015.

Finally Sunday night Oakland post-punk band Soft Moon sonically dismembered the Reverb Lounge. The band, which records on the edgy Captured Tracks label, epitomizes the electronic/industrial sound of the early ’90s from such bands as Nine Inch Nails, Throbbing Gristle, Bauhaus, Suicide, you get the drift. The mastermind behind the project is Luis Vasquez, who is marketed as a one-man project, though last night there were three guys on stage pounding on stuff, including Vasquez, who shoved a metal trashcan to the front of the stage which he banged on STOMP style for a couple numbers.

Their basic recipe was guitar, bass, synths and drums and lots of programming, along with Vasquez’s undecipherable, bronzed vocals drenched in echo for that special gothy touch. It was dark dance music for an elite leather club circa 1992; the instrumentals were powerful while the songs with vocals were the most accessible and leaned closely to early Reznor territory. Fantastic stuff.

Opening was one-woman ambient guitarist Noveller providing ethereal, layered sonic compositions that sometimes involved a violin bow adding deep blue tones. A pretty contrast to Soft Moon’s industrial din.

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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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

 

Lazy-i

Modest Mouse, Alvvays, Ex-Hex, Speedy Ortiz, The Good Life among Maha 2015 lineup; Live Review: Peach Kelli Pop, BUHU…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:13 pm April 13, 2015
maha2015logo

The Maha Festival line-up was announced last night, and it’s a doozy…

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

By now you’ve heard the line-up for the 2015 Maha Music Festival, which is being held Aug. 15 in Stinson Park at Aksarben Village. If somehow you’ve missed it, here it is again:

Modest Mouse
Atmosphere
Purity Ring
Wavves
The Jayhawks
Alvvays
Ex-Hex
The Good Life
Speedy Ortiz
All Young Girls Are Machine Guns
Both
Freakabout

Their best line-up ever? Maybe, maybe… Modest Mouse was the first name I’d heard from this line-up prior to the announcement, and my reaction was, meh. I’ve seen them live and they’re less than interesting, to say the least. It’s hard to undersell the impact of their album The Lonesome Crowded West, which was groundbreaking at the time of its release in 1997. They’ve had more commercial success with later albums, but never reached the level or arcane creative madness/genius heard on that ’97 album, and likely won’t again. On stage, they pretty much stand around and play their songs.

So no, I wasn’t exactly tapping my heels with joy when I heard they were the headliner, even though I knew their booking would sell a lot of tickets. Neither did I understand why Maha booked The Jayhawks, a band that is legendary in its failure to draw a crowd in Omaha. Does anyone remember who these guys are? Obviously someone associated with Maha does.

Atmosphere has a big following in Omaha. Their style of hip-hop just ain’t my thing.

So those were the only bands I heard were booked for Maha until a couple weeks ago. Then the floodgates opened.

Unless you wanted to arrive an hour before the show or wait in line forever you weren’t going to see Alvvays at South By Southwest this year. The band was a “must see” act, thanks to their 2014 debut album, which is somewhat awesome. Alvvays is the band I’m most looking forward to seeing at this year’s Maha festival.

But coming up right behind them is Speedy Ortiz (who I did manage to see in Austin this year), Ex-Hex (featuring Mary Timony of Helium, and whose last album is a Pitchfork favorite), the electronic kaleidoscope of Purity Ring (not exactly dynamic live when I saw them a few years ago, but a departure for this festival), and Tim Kasher’s pop band The Good Life (anytime you can get Kasher on your stage, you’ve won).

I tip my hat to Wavves. They outshined Best Coast when they opened for them at The Waiting Room back in 2011. Wavves is the closest thing to garage rock you’re going to get at this year’s Maha.

As for the three locals who fill out the balance of the bill, well I haven’t seen or heard any of them, though I’m familiar with AYGAMG’s recorded stuff.

Pound-for-pound, Maha has a more attractive line-up than Des Moines’ 80/35 Festival, despite having half as many bands on the bill — which is perhaps as good an argument as any to keep Maha to one day (though I still think they should put on a concert somewhere the evening before).

Looking back at my comments, last year’s festival drew 7,000. Will they beat that number with this offering? Ironically, Death Cab for Cutie (who headlined last year’s) would probably draw better this year because they just released a new record. That said, Death Cab vs. Modest Mouse is probably a wash in terms of draw.

This year has a better undercard than last year’s Doomtree/Radkey/Local Natives/Head and the Heart combination. From a legacy-band perspective, Aimee Mann/Ted Leo is a teensy bit more well known than The Jayhawks. And it will be hard to beat last year’s local stage offering (Icky Blossoms/Domestica/Whipkey/M34n Str33t/Envy Corp (who I consider local), which was as good as it gets.

What I said after last year’s festival applies again this year:  “For every person I talked to who loved the line-up there was someone who whined about the line-up. Maha will never be all things to all people, nor should it be.

To me, Maha has remained consistent in its mission (as I understand it), which is to put together one of the best indie concerts in the region. The operative word here is “indie” — not garage, not heavy metal, not punk, not C&W, not pop. If indie was their target, they’ve scored a direct hit. Just remember, indie is a sub-genre with a limited audience. Maha may never exceed that coveted 10,000 threshold as long as they stay as a one-day festival…

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BUHU at O'Leaver's April 10, 2015.

BUHU at O’Leaver’s April 10, 2015.

Speaking of rock shows, there was a nice one at O’Leaver’s last Friday night. Austin band BUHU was a two-man crew featuring one guy on synths and the other on guitar and vocals, creating a catchy post-wave music, thanks in part to great programming and to the lead guy’s sweet vocals. Fun stuff.

Peach Kelli Pop at O'Leaver's April 10, 2015.

Peach Kelli Pop at O’Leaver’s April 10, 2015.

BUHU was followed by the all-female power-garage sound of Peach Kelli Pop. It is, no doubt, sexist to call this band an “all-female group” (why not refer to BUHU as an “all-male group”?). That said, the band epitomized the best parts of a long history of all-female punk rock bands. I loved their style, their sound, their energy. I’ll have a snippet of their music in this week’s podcast, online Wednesday.

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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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Foxygen, Oquoa; Whirr tonight; Simon Joyner release show, Swearing at Motorists, Sons of Reverb Saturday…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:49 pm April 3, 2015
Foxygen at The Waiting Room, April 3, 2015.

Foxygen at The Waiting Room, April 2, 2015.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Foxygen was hysterically entertaining last night at The Waiting Room, and by that I mean the band played as if every single member had snorted a Hefty garbage bag filled with Peruvian marching powder prior to the set.

Whirling dervishes one and all, but especially frontman Sam France, who came off like an ultra-glam cross between David Bowie and Mick Jaggar (with a smattering of Iggy Pop thrown in for good measure). Over-the-top energy. To say the band played full-on would be a vast understatement. On fire. Yes. And nothing close to what I was expecting having heard their last two (and only two) albums, which ooze slacker disdain. There was nothing slacker about last night.

Playing as an 9-piece (keys, bass, two guitars, vocals, drums, three back-up singers in spangles and spandex) the band barged through a set that epitomized ’70s glam with hints of psychedelic and Motown. The end product was like an indie version of Hedwig and the Angry Inch spot-welded to Jim Steinham / Meat Loaf by way of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Vamping was a key ingredient, along with synchronized dance steps and multiple costume changes.

The frenzy of the manic stage show was only eclipsed by the unceasing drive of the exhaustingly energetic music — a night-and-day contrast to the low-key noodling heard on …And Star Power, their latest album which can be rather…challenging to listen to. The Internet is filled with stories about how this band is either already broken up (and this is their farewell tour) or are in the process of dismantling. You wouldn’t know it by watching last night’s spectacle, which will very likely will be among my top-5 favorite shows of ’15. Here’s hoping all the break-up drama is merely that, and that Foxygen keeps it going, With a show like this, Broadway is calling.

Alex Cameron at The Waiting Room, April 2, 2015.

Alex Cameron at The Waiting Room, April 2, 2015.

Before Foxygen it was one-man Aussie sensation Alex Cameron and sax player Roy. The shtick is Cameron looking and dancing like Talking Heads’ David Byrne and singing like Bryan Ferry to pre-recorded ’80s-flavored beat tracks. Shades of Andy Kaufman, amusing and (somewhat) mesmerizing, though it wore a bit thin after 15 minutes. Cameron’s a funny dude in a Flight of the Conchords sort of way. The crowd didn’t know what to make of him, but he won them over in the end.

Oquoa at The Waiting Room, April 2, 2015.

Oquoa at The Waiting Room, April 2, 2015.

Opening the night with a strong set (though to a half-empty room) was Omaha’s own Oquoa. I hadn’t seen these guys in at least a year and was pleasantly surprised at how their sound has evolved. Frontman Max Holmquist has added more drama to his voice (and these new songs), sounding like Paul Banks fronting a shoegaze version of Interpol.

Oquoa has been compared to Lewis’ former band Conduits, a comparison that no longer fits thanks to Patrick Newbery’s spaced-out keys, which are prominent in the mix. The band’s core sound is now drums, bass, keyboards and Holmquist’s siren voice (His electric guitar was all but unheard in the mix). The product, especially on the set closer, was haunting and harrowing. The only nit I have to pick is that (as with Conduits) I couldn’t tell you what a single song was about as the words were virtually undecipherable, with all annunciation lost in the delay. When it comes to this kind of music, do the words really matter anyway?

* *

Let’s get right to the weekend lineup:

Tonight Whirr (Graveface Records) plays at fabulous O’Leaver’s. The band’s shoegaze sound has been compared to My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive. Opening is Fort Collins band Sour Boy, Bitter Girl and Those Far Out Arrows. $7, 9:30 p.m.

Also tonight, Timecat celebrates the release of their debut album Living in the Dark at The Reverb Lounge. Also on the bill are Eric in Outerspace, Lover’s Speed and Feral Hands. $5, 9 p.m.

BTW, It’s first Friday in Benson. Start looking for parking now.

One other show going on tonight worth your attention: Metal/punk band Cult Leader plays at the very cool Midtown Art Supply, 2578 Harney. Joining them are Varmint, Survive Us All and Omaha’s sludgemeisters Nightbird. $7, 8 p.m.

Saturday night is the Simon Joyner Album Release Show at Slowdown Jr. Opening for Simon and his band are Outlaw Con Bandana and L. Eugene Methe. Tix are $8 today and $10 tomorrow. If you haven’t already, listen to this sweet interview with Simon Joyner from this week’s Lazy-i Podcast. Simon talks about his voice, his music and where he finds the characters that inhabit his songs.

Also happening Saturday night, Swearing at Motorists celebrate its 20th Anniversary Tour at O’Leaver’s with Burger Records band DTCV and Peace of Shit. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Also Saturday The Sons of Reverb play at The Reverb Lounge with Left Is West. $7, 9 p.m.

And yet one more show in Benson Saturday night: Relax, It’s Science plays at The Sydney with The Clocks and Laika the Space Bitch. $5, 9 p.m.

That’s what I got. If I missed your show, put it in the comments section. Have a good 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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Matthew Sweet, So-So Sailors, Little Brazil, Juan Wauters; Delicate Steve tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:38 pm March 30, 2015
So-So Sailors at 1200 Club as part of the Hear Nebraska Fundraiser March 28, 2015.

So-So Sailors at 1200 Club as part of the Hear Nebraska Fundraiser March 28, 2015.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

A recap of a busy weekend of shows…

It was noted by a fellow audience member at The Waiting Room Friday night that Little Brazil might be the band I’ve seen play live more than any other band. They’ve been doing it since the early ’00s, and over the years their line-up has subtly changed, specifically on drums and guitar (Frontman Landon Hedges and bass player Danny Maxwell always have been the centerpiece). This current line-up, with Matt Bowen on drums and Mike Friedman on lead guitar, is the heaviest, the loudest, thanks in a big part to Bowen’s muscular, heavy-sticked drumming (Maybe we should start calling him Matt Bonham?).

Little Brazil at The Waiting Room, March 27, 2015.

Little Brazil at The Waiting Room, March 27, 2015.

I recorded the first half of their set for the upcoming podcast, and realized afterward that I recorded the wrong half. In addition to having a better mix later in the set, I missed a couple new standout songs presumably from an upcoming album. One featured a swirling two-guitar interlude that was pure Thin Lizzy, the other (the closing number) was an epic masterwork. Little Brazil is back and better than ever.

Juan Wauters at the Saddle Creek Record Shop, March 27, 2015.

Juan Wauters at the Saddle Creek Record Shop, March 27, 2015.

Saturday night started early with the Juan Wauters in-store at the Saddle Creek Record Shop in the Slowdown complex. The little store was mostly filled as Wauters took the stage behind an electric keyboard and performed a handful of sweet, loopy pop songs that were light-hearted and playful. He switched over to guitar for the last few numbers (again, I recorded the wrong half of the set). Curious to hear how Wauters did opening for Tweedy last night.

So-So Sailors' Chris Machmuller at 1200 Club March 28, 2015.

So-So Sailors’ Chris Machmuller at 1200 Club March 28, 2015.

Afterward, it was over to the 1200 Club at the Holland Performing Arts Center for the Matthew Sweet Hear Nebraska Benefit. There was some concern going in that ticket sales were light, but the club-inside-a-music-hall was well-populated. Most of the tables were filled when So-So Sailors came on at 8 p.m. for an insanely good set of witty, intelligent, urbane songs about love and life from the heart of Nebraska . Frontman Chris Machmuller is the city’s best frontman, keeping the audience mesmerized both while he sang in front of his rather large band and with his between-song patter (He’s a regular comedian, that guy).

We can speculate why the Sailors have been inactive the past few years. Life can get in the way of music, and everyone in that band is busy with jobs and family. Still, for purely selfish reasons, I covet a copy of the recording that Mach said (from stage) is basically in the can, and has been for a couple years. Maybe they’re thinking “What’s the point?” — there’s no money in releasing music anymore. Maybe they think they’ve moved past that sort of thing. Let’s hope not.

Matthew Sweet center stage at the 1200 Club March 28, 2015.

Matthew Sweet center stage at the 1200 Club March 28, 2015.

Finally, Matthew Sweet and his band (consisting of Paul Chastain and Ric Menck of Velvet Crush, and guitar-slinger Dennis Taylor) took the stage and ripped through a set very similar to what we got when they played O’Leaver’s and Vega last year. Chock full o’ the “hits.”

From my vantage point in the very center of the room the sound mix was, well, pretty bad. The bass drum was over driven, swallowing up Chastain’s bass rig — couldn’t hear a note he was playing. Sweet’s voice, however, managed to cut through the thump, as did the lead guitar’s high-flying solos. Someone afterward told me “the 1200 Club isn’t suited for this kind of heavy music,” which is like saying that any room with good acoustics shouldn’t host rock shows. Balderdash. All they needed to do was pull back on the kick drum.

Fact is 1200 Club is a pretty luscious space. Whether it’s better suited for quieter bands like So-So Sailors (which sounded exquisite) I cannot say, though I’d love to see more indie rock shows in that space, and would be willing to fork out top dollar to do so. Great room, great service, great night of music.

Look for music clips from the above performances in this week’s podcast, which will likely hit the web on Wednesday.

* * *

Tonight at The Reverb Lounge its the return of Delicate Steve (Luaka Bop, Barsuk). $10, 9 p.m. No opener listed.

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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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

SXSW recap Pt.3 (Courtney Barnett, Best Coast, The Pop Group, Will Butler); Matthew Sweet is Saturday!

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , — @ 12:29 pm March 26, 2015
The Pop Group's Mark Stewart takes on the world at SXSW.

The Pop Group’s Mark Stewart takes on the world at SXSW.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

And lo, how the rain fell on my final day at SXSW, last Friday. It wasn’t so bad, but it was rain, and wind, and that combination makes for poor outside concert viewing and even worse navigation/walking from venue to venue. I was happy I got my afternoon at Stay Gold the day before.

There were a number of artists that proved illusive this year at SXSW. Among them was Courtney Barnett. It seemed like every time I wanted to see her perform it was either at 1 a.m. or in a location already at capacity (which makes one’s SXSW badge useless — when the club is full, they don’t care about no steen-king badges!).

There was one Courtney performance left, however, and it was at the SXSW Convention Center. The mega building houses dozens of enormous auditoriums and meeting rooms where SXSW “sessions” take place on such topics as “understanding copyright law” and “how to make the best of streaming technology” and so on. Panel discussions abound — this is where Snoop Dogg did a talk about something music-related. I’ve never been to a SXSW Music informational session, and most people I know who go to SXSW haven’t, either. Who wants to get up early after being on 6th Street until 2 a.m. the night before and sit in a conference room listening to a bunch of “music pros” drone on about “levering your band’s brand presence in social media” or whatever?

Still, a couple of the mammoth auditoriums were dedicated to performances, like the one happening in Auditorium G — the Public Radio Showcase, which included among the bands Courtney Barnett. And unlike the other gigs at SXSW, there was plenty of room and access to earthly conveniences like bathrooms, wi-fi and coffee. Not a bad place to be when sheets of rain are pouring down outside, at least for the afternoon.

But before Barnett took the stage Best Coast was playing a set of their El Lay-infused jangle-pop. People love Best Coast (especially in Omaha) and for the life of me I don’t know why. Their music is somewhat featureless, and front woman Bethany Cosentino suffers from (how do the American Idol judges put it?) pitch problems.

When I tell people I spent last week at SXSW, the first question is: “So did you discover any hot new music?” Courtney Barnett is not exactly new, but she is the hottest thing going indie-music wise these days and cemented that rep at SXSW playing eight showcases, where she debuted songs off her new album, Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit, a record bound to be on a lot of “best of” lists this December (including mine).

Playing as a classic guitar/bass/drums trio, Barnett’s music, while singularly its own, owes a lot of its resonance to Kurt Cobain and Nirvana (though it’s not anywhere near as dark). The song structures are deceptively simple, the guitar riffs hook you and Barnett’s lyrics are both clever and introspective. If you’re an indie music fan who listens to XMU or an online indie radio station, you won’t be able to avoid Barnett this year. She’s the 2015 version of Liz Phair circa 1993. Watching her band on the auditorium stage was very much like watching an arena concert, with the crowd singing along to some of the older material. Great stuff. We need to get her to Omaha.

We left the convention center at around 6. By then the rain had slowed to a sprinkle. It was off to classic Austin bar The Ginger Man for a beer and some Drivin’ and Cryin’ but before D&C came on, a band of Japanese lads were on stage playing an intricate style of instrumental prog reminiscent of Eno/Fripp-era King Crimson. It was LITE, a band lauded as “one of Japan’s top instrumental acts.” They were mesmerizing. I have little doubt the folks at The Ginger Man knew who they are when they started their set, but by the end, everyone was a fan.

Then came Kevn Kinney and Drivin’ and Cryin’. The band has a new record coming out, and the songs I heard them play were solid (if not too long – Kinney likes to draw things out). He sounds exactly like he sounded a 20 years ago, same high-end squawk, ageless except for the extra poundage. Needless to say the crowd stood from their picnic benches when they the opening riff to “Fly Me Courageous” blazed through the place.

The Ginger Man is as comfortable a bar as you’d want to sit and drink at — huge cushy leather wingback chairs, fantastic beer selection. Just up the street is the Paramount Theater — a golden age movie house complete with balconies and gorgeous ceiling, a velvet-chair space like the Orpheum and the perfect venue for seeing classic ’80s avant-art group The Residents. You might remember them for their giant eyeball-with-tophat helmets that were part of their shtick for years.

Well, the eyeballs are gone, replaced with crazy old man wigs and alien makeup. Frontman Randy looked like the ol’ Crypt Keeper but in gold bikini underwear, giant shoes and body paint. Very creepy indeed, as was the staging, which involved a giant crystal-ball like projection device that hosted messages throughout the set. Strange and fun. I’ve never been a follower of The Residents, but I understand their importance in the overall history of art rock. And though these guys are in the 70s, they still sound pretty good, especially the guitarist.

Afterward it was back to 6th Street and Buffalo Billiards for The Church. The venue’s title sums it up, it’s a huge pool hall with a stage upstairs. Getting close to that stage was nearly impossible as it was a crush mob. Hearing The Church wasn’t much easier, as the booming sound in the hall was the worst of any performance I’d seen this year at SXSW. Still, the band was on point. I didn’t stick around long enough to hear “Under the Milky Way.” Wonder if they even played it…

It was back to Maggie Mae’s rooftop, which had been covered with a large tent, keeping things high and dry as the rain geared up again. The attraction was a performance by The Pop Group, a ’70s-era British punk band that’s been credited with helping define the post-punk movement. Bands like Sonic Youth and Nick Cave have credited The Pop Group as an influence on their sounds. The band was only around for a few years, but got back together last year for a new record.

Their style is extremely rhythmic and fun, but their songs are dissonant and brash in way that reminded me of The Fall. Mark Stewart, who has to be in his 60s, is still a powerful frontman, screaming into the microphone with clenched fists.

Will Butler of Arcade Fire was next on the same stage. The band wore t-shirts with their first names on them. I wondered if this was because people confuse Will with his more famous brother (and AC frontman) Win. That said, there was no confusing Will’s music with Win’s, as his solo stuff, while upbeat and interesting at times, lacks the grand panache of Arcade Fire’s epics. Will’s music is better suited for the dance floor than the concert stage, with its reliance on a thump-thump-thump disco beat. Butler is scheduled to play at The Waiting Room June 2. Bring your dancing shoes.

That was my last show of SXSW 2015. My impression of the overall experience — is written in next month’s issue of The Reader. Spoiler Alert: I’m not sure I’m returning to Austin next year, at least not for the music part of SXSW.

Check out sound clips from all the performances mentioned above in the the podcast below — it’s only about 12 minutes long, but includes snippets from all concerts except The Church’s performance.

* * *

Speaking of big concerts, that Matthew Sweet concert has snuck up on me. The concert, being held at the 1200 Club in the Holland Performing Arts Center is this Saturday. If you’re even remotely a fan of Sweet and his music, you’ve got to go to this one. Tickets are still available for $45 and $100 (VIP) right here. Get them while you can. And the concert is a benefit for Hear Nebraska!

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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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i