Live Review: The Blind Shake, White Mystery; Sweatshop winds down; Homeshake, Sheer Agony tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 11:48 am September 1, 2015
The Blind Shake at O'Leaver's, Aug. 31.2015.

The Blind Shake at O’Leaver’s, Aug. 31.2015.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Another night spent at O’Leaver’s. It’s becoming a habit, thanks to their bookings, which lately have been outshining just about everyone else in town. If you’re looking for rock music, O’Leaver’s is (once again) becoming your go-to choice.

Certainly the rock was a-rollin’ last night, and the turn-out of 30 or so was impressive for a Monday. Things started off with a film by White Mystery shown on the plasma TV that hangs behind O’Leaver’s “stage” (Just when I was about to suggest to grandmaster sound-guy Ian Aeillo that they should take down that flat panel or move it to a different wall — there’s nothing quite as tacky as having a blank plasma TV in every photo taken of bands at O’Leaver’s). The video was like a found-footage collection of road-trip video mashed with a pseudo-psycho-sexual horror film that concluded with a pick-up basketball game where-in some guy won with a granny shot. Coming to a theater near you?

DJ Dave Goldberg spun old-time wax between bands, the next up being Minneapolis power-punk trio The Blind Shake. Riveting straight-forward guitar chops and pounding rhythms backed bark vocals from the dueling guitarists of Jim and Mike Blaha. Brittle and brutal stuff in sort of Thee Oh Sees-meet-The Night Marchers vein. Great stuff.

The blurring red heads of White Mystery at O'Leaver's, Aug. 31, 2015.

The blurring red heads of White Mystery at O’Leaver’s, Aug. 31, 2015.

Then along came the brother and sister team of Miss Alex White and Francis Scott Key White a.k.a. White Mystery. The Chicago duo is becoming old-timers in Omaha. They just played here a few months ago at Reverb, and decided to pass through again after playing Riot Fest in Denver. Their stripped-down guitar-and-drums attack defines a style of garage that is uniquely their own. Now one shreds and screams quite like Miss Alex.

* * *

There was some chit-chat on the patio last night about the demise of The Sweatshop Gallery as a music venue. The art garage in the heart of Benson’s last show is Sept. 12, headlined by Speedy Ortiz-connected band Palehound. Casey Logan at the Omaha World-Herald got the scoop last week, here. I’m told the folks taking over the space aren’t interested in hosting rock shows. A pity, as Sweatshop was gaining momentum after this year’s Sweatfest, becoming recognized as an alternative venue for cutting-edge bands that are flying just under the radar, as well as a few clearly on the grid, like Ceremony, Speedy Ortiz and Parquet Courts, all of whom have played shows there.

* * *

Speaking of The Sweatshop, the ol’ garage is hosting a show tonight headlined by Canadian acts Homeshake and Sheer Agony, with Lineman’s Rodeo and Little Ripple. $7, 9 p.m.

* * *

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: Giant’s Arrow, Wagon Blasters, Domestica; VMAs; White Mystery, The Blind Shake tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:59 pm August 31, 2015
Giant's Arrow at O'Leaver's Aug. 29, 2015.

Giant’s Arrow at O’Leaver’s Aug. 29, 2015.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Fun night of music at O’Leaver’s this past Saturday.

The consensus (even voiced from stage) was that Lincoln band Giant’s Arrow carries on the tradition of mid-’90s emo bands like Boys Life and Caulfield bands like Christie Front Drive. Their style is angular indie bordering on prog, soaring, complicated rhythms, and scream/yell vocals that lack a central melody, with ferocious guitar licks that are jittery and spastic. There also were moments of melodic lucidity. I jotted down At the Drive-in and early Husker Du. At times they reminded me of local boys The Stay Awake or even Fromanhole, though without the those bands’ precision.

The performance brought on a discussion (again) of what “emo” means and how the term evolved from its original label used to describe Rites of Spring-style punk bands. Giant’s Arrow’s sound is one-generation removed, to the pleading/angular style of emo that would later evolve into the poppier punk style of Promise Ring. At least that’s my take on it.

That said, I liked them. The four piece flailed around stage so much I thought they were going to slam their guitars into each other. Lots of kicking and jumping and wagging of heads in time with the music’s energy. They don’t play songs as much as proggy rock constructions.

Wagon Blasters at O'Leaver's, Aug. 29, 2015.

Wagon Blasters at O’Leaver’s, Aug. 29, 2015.

It’s a distinction that separates Giant’s Arrow from the other bands on the bill Saturday night. Wagon Blasters and Domestica write and perform rock songs. Gary Dean Davis may not “sing,” but there’s no denying the musicality of a Wagon Blasters’ tune. Tractor punk indeed. There is not now, nor has there ever been a band that does what Gary Dean Davis bands do.

Domestica at O'Leaver's, Aug. 29, 2015.

Domestica at O’Leaver’s, Aug. 29, 2015.

The same can be said about Domestica. Heidi, Jon and Pawl create punk anthems about everyday life that feel like rooting for the home team. Taylor’s guitar work remains somehow both raw and pristine, brutal riffs hone to a razor’s edge.

The whole evening felt like it could have taken place sometime in 1995. But then again, isn’t all great rock music timeless?

BTW, O’Leaver’s improved its sound system again. Sound engineer Ian Aeillo said they upped the wattage so the sound is cleaner not so much louder. I don’t know how much more that room can take. They’ve also added a booth in the back so that Ian or whoever is running sound can now look down over you as he twiddles dem knobs… as it should be.

* * *

I watched the VMAs last night. What? What’s wrong with that? Alright, it does sound a bit creepy that a guy my age would watch a program clearly targeted toward teen-aged girls, but hey, as a music critic, you have to keep up with the trends.

There was a time — a loooong time ago — when MTV broadcast culturally cutting-edge content. That time has long passed. Last night’s VMAs showcased R&B, hip-hop and pop music. Notice I didn’t mention rock? That’s because today’s pop music has nothing to do with rock music, which is one of the distinctions about the VMAs of today and the VMAs from 25 or so years ago. Rock music used to have a place in popular music culture. That’s really no longer the case. Rock ‘n’ roll isn’t dead, just sort of hiding in plain sight…

* * *

Speaking of rock music, there’s a big rock show going on tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s.

White Mystery is playing a set as well as screening their new film That Was Awesome. Opening is The Blind Shake and a DJ set from the uber talented Dave Goldberg. $5, 9:30 p.m. What a way to kick off your week!

* * *

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

Little Brazil Hears Omaha; Download Nebraska (and its older sibling); Lincoln Calling line-up; Beach Slang, See Through Dresses tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:12 pm August 27, 2015
Little Brazil playing in the Old Market during the Hear Omaha finale for 2015.

Little Brazil playing in the Old Market today (Aug. 27) during Hear Omaha’s finale performance for 2015.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Sorry for no updates the past two days. Reader deadlines. Look for a looong feature on Desaparecidos and a review of the new Mynabirds album in the September issue of The Reader. I’ll let you know when the stories are online.

* * *

Little Brazil blew a hole in the ozone layer above the O! Chamber Courtyard in the Old Market today during the last of this season’s Hear Omaha lunchtime concerts. I’m told their performance was the loudest of the series, and can attest that Mike Friedman’s ringing guitar licks could be heard as I walked out of the Union Pacific HQ building at 14th and Dodge, about a half-mile away. Good crowd, great music, great series. Hopefully it’ll be back for 2016.

* * *

Some catch-up:

By now you’ve seen the new online partnership between Hear Nebraska and The Omaha Public Library called Download Nebraska, right? You haven’t? Well, here’s the link and the skinny: The website hosts full albums from Nebraska artists, curated by the Hear Nebraska staff. You can stream them from the website for free, or download the tracks if you have an OPL Library Card (and who doesn’t?).

Among the artists available on the website are Eli Mardock, Both, Digital Leather, Little Brazil, Matt Whipkey, Millions of Boys, Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship, Pleasure Adapter, Yuppies and on and on.

Hear Nebraska major domo Andrew Norman says more albums will become available on the site in the future, and that all bands with music at downloadnebraska.org got paid — a rarity in the streaming era.

Here’s an another “Did You Know?”: There’s been a website online for years and years called The Band Broke Up that also offers downloads of albums from Nebraska bands for free. We’re talking old-school Omaha and Lincoln acts like Rent Money Big, 13 Nightmares, Thunderstandable, Mister Baby, The Monroes, Opium Taylor, Fullblown, Marianas, The Bombardment Society, the list goes on and on. Check it out, too. These two sites should cross-link or (better yet) merge!

* * *

The 12th Annual Lincoln Calling Festival has been announced for Sept. 29-Oct. 3 to be held at nine venues in Lincoln. The bands confirmed so far:

A Ferocious Jungle Cat
All Young Girls Are Machine Guns
American Pinup
Andy Butler
AZP
Bandit Sound
Better Friend
Bloodhound
BOTH
The Bottle Tops
Bud Heavy & the High Lifes
Buffalo Rodeo
Bummer
Clementine
Communist Daughter
Cupcake
Desir Decir
DJ Relic
Dylan Bloom Band
Ebony Tusks
Elsinore
Emily Bass
FREAKABOUT
Gerardo Meza Band
Ghost Foot
Gordon
The Government
Halfwit
Head of Femur
Homegrown Film Festival Volume 8
Hyborian
The Inner Party
Jack Hotel
Josh Hoyer and Soul Colossal
Joshua Powell and the Great Train Robbery
Lazerwolfe
Little Brazil
Matt Cox Band
McCarthy Trenching
The Mezcal Brothers
The Midland Band
Mike Semrad
Motion Trap
Oquoa
The Palmer Squares
Ponyboy
Powers
Psalm One
Pure Brown
Red Elvises
The Renfields
Rock Paper Dynamite
See Through Dresses
Shark Week
Thirst Things First
Tijuana Gigolos
Twinsmith
VAMOS
Universe Contest
What the Fuss
Zoolarious

Lincoln Calling organizer Jeremy Buckley said there’s even more band announcements to come. The full schedule should be finalized in a couple weeks.

Lincoln Calling has the distinction of being the largest Nebraska music festival involving the most bands, all of which are paid for participating, which makes it somewhat amazing.

* * *

Tonight at O’Leaver’s Philly band Beach Slang headlines. The band opened 40+ shows for Cursive last year. Opening tonight’s show is the always amazing See Through Dresses and Eric in Outerspace. $5, 9:30 p.m.

* * *

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: Summer Cannibals, Straight Outta Compton; the Maha survey; the week ahead…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:46 pm August 24, 2015
Summer Cannibals at O'Leaver's, Aug. 21, 2015.

Summer Cannibals at O’Leaver’s, Aug. 21, 2015.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Light crowd for Summer Cannibals Friday night at O’Leaver’s. I guess that was to be expected, considering they’re virtually unknown here and Sting’s daughter was playing cross-town at the same time. The dozen or so of us on hand got a great show by a young band that could emerge as this generation’s Sleater-Kinney. Actually, I’m more apt to reach for SC’s latest album than S-K’s (sacrilege!) thanks to having a better handle on pop, though the band was no slouch when it came to raw, meaty guitar sound.

BTW, Miniature Horse cancelled Friday night and Low Long Signal played as a two-piece, so it should have been an early night, except that I ran into a local music scene legend and we proceeded to attempt to solve the entire music industry problem over PBRs and Rolling Rocks. Our solutions are pending.

We also talked about Straight Outta Compton, which I recommend you catch whether you have an interest in late-’80s gangsta rap or not. I was warned the two-and-a-half hour movie had too many slow moments, but I didn’t notice them. It was fun seeing not only NWA re-imagined on screen, but also other stars from the era, like Snoop Dogg and 2Pac. Who would have guessed Eazy-E could come off so lovable?

* * *

The folks behind the Maha Music Festival launched their annual post-festival survey this weekend where they ask what you liked and didn’t like about Maha and (more importantly) who you want to see at next year’s festival. Now is the time to speak up. Survey feedback was one of the factors that got Modest Mouse booked this year. Survey here.

* * *

Friday night was my only venture out to music this weekend, and this week is looking kinda thin. The highlights:

— Simon Joyner plays at O’Leaver’s Tuesday night.
— Little Brazil closes out the Hear Omaha concert series at noon Thursday outside at 13th & Howard.
— Beach Slang (Cursive tour mates) and See Through Dresses play at O’Leaver’s Thursday night.

And then it’s the weekend again already…

* * *

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: Maha Music Festival 2015 (and the after party); Midwest Dilemma, Super Ghost tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:50 pm August 17, 2015
The crowd gathered to listen to The Good Life during the 2015 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 15, 2015.

The crowd gathered to listen to The Good Life during the 2015 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 15, 2015.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

First, read this. It’s the “where do they go next” interview with Lauren Schomburg, who sits on the Maha Music Festival board of directors. It’s a tough question because it’s going to be hard to top this year’s festival, which was held Saturday at Stinson Park in Aksarben Village.

Maha has become a model of how a festival should be run. Actually, it’s been a model of efficiency since its first year in 2009. Even way back then, whether you liked the bands or not, you had to admit the organizers and their army of volunteers had their shit together. Now in the present day, when there’s a band for practically every taste, Maha remains a streamlined, seamless experience, from the overall facility layout to the food offerings to the 501(c)(3) booths to the children’s play area. Even the parking and (in my case) bike lock-up availability was first class. And if you’re a VIP ticket-holder, they even had your restroom needs covered.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, but what about the bands?

First off, this isn’t a comprehensive review of the day. I missed some bands in the middle when (like last year) I needed a break from the blazing sun, heat and humidity and escaped for a few hours of AC and a power-nap (What can I say? Getting old sucks). That, after getting to the festival late, which meant missing opening local acts Both (who I just saw a few weeks ago) and Freakabout (who I can see some other time). I’ve heard a smidgen of grumbling about the lack of a “local” stage at this year’s Maha, but only the smidge-iest of smidgens. While a festival gives local bands exposures to a new audience, it takes away slots for national bands that we’ll likely never get a chance to see in Omaha again.

Ex-Hex on the Maha Music Festival main stage, 8/15/15.

Ex-Hex on the Maha Music Festival main stage, 8/15/15.

Bands like Ex-Hex and Alvvays.  Ex-Hex, the post-punk trio headed by ex-Helium frontwoman Mary Timony, rifled through a set of fast, heavy rock songs in lean-rather-than-gritty fashion that was almost matter-of-fact in its presentation. They powered through one song after the next off Rips (Merge, 2014) playing the closest thing to psych-garage rock I heard Saturday, though their music sounded downright tidy compared to the garage bands I’m used to. Maha needs to book at least one dirty, sloppy, snarling, don’t-give-a-shit rock band per festival to get festival-goers a chance to say, “Can you believe they booked those guys/gals?”

Alvvays on the Javlin (smaller) stage at Maha.

Alvvays on the Javlin (smaller) stage at Maha.

Ex-Hex played on the “Weitz Stage” — the big/main stage — while Alvvays played on the smaller Javlin Stage right next to it, and though it didn’t look as impressive, the sound from the smaller stage was just as fierce (though not as loud). While Modest Mouse was the festival’s main draw, Alvvays was the band I was most excited to see. I chased them around SXSW this year, never able to get into the venues because they were already at capacity. Now here they were on an Omaha stage. Their candy-colored summer shimmer-rock was everything I hoped it would be, playful and fun in the mid-day heat. Alvvays played the best tunes off their 2014 debut along with a few new ones that have me looking forward to their next album.

So did the ploy of placing these two high-quality bands so shortly after noon get people to come out to Maha earlier? Only the Maha folks can say for sure, though the crowd of at least a thousand was definitely larger at 2 p.m. than in year’s past. Certainly Ex-Hex/Alvvays are more known quantities than, say, Army Navy and Appleseed Cast, bands that had the early slots back in the day and failed to draw even a few hundred people. I like the ploy, though when you book as many quality bands as Maha did this year, it’s hardly a ploy at all, it’s a necessity. If the festival is only one day long with one band performing at a time, you have to place them somewhere in the schedule or not book them at all.

The Jayhawks at the Maha Music Festival, 8/15/15.

The Jayhawks at the Maha Music Festival, 8/15/15.

Which brings us to The Jayhawks, a band that is almost legendary locally for putting on shows that bombed over the past two decades. I talked to more people Saturday who were excited to see Jayhawks than any other band. This year they filled the role of the “indie legacy” act that appeals to dudes in their 40s and 50s, many of whom were pushed against the fence of the VIP section during their set.

Somewhere in my basement is my copy of 1992’s Hollywood Town Hall (American Recordings) that contains at least a few of the songs the band played on stage Saturday, sounding exactly like they did when the band played them at Sokol years ago. Ignore the shaggy gray hair and little has changed. There had been a rumor that Matthew Sweet was going to join the band on stage, but it never happened (though photos of Sweet backstage appeared on Facebook Sunday morning).

Speedy Ortiz on the Javlin Stage at Maha Music Festival, 8/15/15.

Speedy Ortiz on the Javlin Stage at Maha Music Festival, 8/15/15.

It was during the Jayhawks’ set that I made my getaway for a few hours, missing All Young Girls Are Machine Guns, the Omaha Girls Rock band and Wavves, returning just in time for Speedy Ortiz on the small stage. What to say about the set? It was a solid walk-through of the band’s songs off their last couple albums, heavy on Foil Deer (Carpark, 2015) material. Frontwoman Sadie Dupuis has a voice that leans toward Liz Phair on songs that have Phair’s same face-kick confessional quality. Dupuis sings about her life with a knee-groin intensity that recalls ’90s post-grunge post-punk. I love it.

The crowd gets into Atmosphere at The Maha Music Festival, 8/15/15.

The crowd gets into Atmosphere at The Maha Music Festival, 8/15/15.

By 7 p.m. the crowd had ballooned to several thousand for Minneapolis indie hip-hop act Atmosphere. The duo of Slug and Ant have been coming through Omaha semi-regularly for nearly 20 years performing a straight-forward, beat-heavy style of hip-hop that takes the lead from ’80s acts and makes it wholly their own. Slug’s rhymes are clear, distinct, personal and in-your-face, which is why the crowd was yelling along with them as they held up their “scissors” (Slug’s word for a peace sign).  No other act got the crowd going at Maha like Atmosphere, a brilliant booking that cut across genres and age lines and added a bounce that the festival sorely needed.

The Good Life at Maha Music Festival, 08/15/15.

The Good Life at Maha Music Festival, 08/15/15.

Atmosphere was the perfect launching pad for the evening home stretch, led off by local heroes The Good Life. Tim Kasher and Co. lit up the small stage with a collection heavy on songs from their intense new album Everybody’s Coming Down (Saddle Creek, 2015) as well as the best Good Life material from throughout the band’s 15-year history. I’ve seen TGL play at least a dozen times over the years, but never to a larger crowd.

Purity Ring's __ on the Maha Music Festival main stage, 8/15/15.

Purity Ring’s Megan James on the Maha Music Festival main stage, 8/15/15.

It was dark by the time Purity Ring took the stage. It became keenly obvious why they were placed so late in the day. The electronic duo of frontwoman Megan James and technology performer Corin Roddick played behind a cascade of multi-colored lights that were draped from the rafters of the big stage and shimmered in iridescent tones in time with their ethereal electronic rock. Their style is dense and gorgeous, ambient and stylish and wholly unique, casting a spell over the massive Maha audience. Again, another smart, unexpected booking that added a level of sophistication to the festival, though the duo’s set went on too long. A little bit of Purity Ring goes a long way since their music is anything but varied. No amount of pretty lights could make it any more interesting.

A view from the side of the stage of Modest Mouse's Isaac Brock during the Maha Music Festival, 08/15/15.

A view from the side of the stage of Modest Mouse’s Isaac Brock during the Maha Music Festival, 08/15/15.

The crowd was at its apex for Modest Mouse. I strolled out of the VIP area and discovered the grounds had become a darkened chaos of people, but despite the sell-out size of somewhere in the 9,000 range (or so I was told, I still haven’t heard the official number) there was plenty of room to move either through the crowd or around it along the sidewalks that surround the park. Any more, however, and things could have gotten ugly.

Modest Mouse came on late (maybe because they had to tear down all of Purity Ring’s Christmas lights?), and I was told were going to play late as well. For me, they were one of the least interesting bands on the bill, having seen them do a stand-around set years earlier at Sokol. Not much has changed in their performance style, though their music certainly has changed. Somewhere in the past decade, Modest Mouse lost its weirdness, swaying north of the caustic noise that made The Lonesome Crowded West (1997, Up) a masterpiece. When they discovered thicker, more straight-forward beats and melodies, they lost their edge and (of course) become much more popular. So who can blame them? Had they kept on their initial trajectory they wouldn’t be headlining festivals.

Still, the crowd was definitely into them (at least the folks near the stage) as the band played through their catalog of recent releases. I didn’t stick around until the end, opting to get a head start to O’Leaver’s where Speedy Ortiz had announced they’d be playing an unofficial after party.

Which brings us back to how we started this tome and the question that was on everyone’s minds as they walked back to their cars (or bikes) after a long, hot day in the park: What can Maha do to top this? Just having another sell-out ain’t gonna cut it. In fact, a sell-out is the least they can do to match this year’s success.

As the article pointed out, Stinson’s already booked for 2016. The most common suggestion is expanding Maha to two days, effectively doubling your volunteer needs but gaining some cost efficiency associated with staging, etc. Could Omaha support a two-day indie music festival or would Maha have to expand the stylistic breadth of bands to include non-indie stuff? Maybe instead of two days, Maha should stay at one day and book a next-tier indie band like Arcade Fire, Beck or Wilco and either raise ticket prices or find bigger sponsors to cover the increased booking costs.

My vote would be for Maha to add a Friday night event to the all-day Saturday event (a suggestion which sounds strangely familiar).

The real question: What do the folks who run Maha want Maha to become? What’s their definition of success? What’s the ultimate end-game? How far can they push it before Maha bleeds too far away from its original vision? Lauren outlined where she wants Maha to go. What’s the vision for the rest of the Maha team?  And, by the way, there’s nothing wrong with keeping it just the way it is (no matter what Tim Kasher says).

* * *

Speedy Ortiz at the unofficial Maha afterparty at O'Leaver's, 8/15/15.

Speedy Ortiz at the unofficial Maha after party at O’Leaver’s, 8/15/15.

As I was saying, there were a couple Maha after parties. The official after party was at Reverb. The unofficial party was at O’Leaver’s where Speedy Ortiz finished off the night playing a ferocious set that was different from their Maha set list, crystallizing the difference between seeing a band at a festival and seeing a band in a club setting.

Playing to a crowd of 60 or 70 that included members of Maha bands Alvvays and The Good Life, Dupuis and her band gave a performance that was as dynamic and intimate as you would expect, wearing a flower in her hair given to her by a fan who stood right in front of her.  It was a stark reminder that no matter how much fun festivals may be, they’ll never be a replacement for seeing a band at a small music venue — one of the major advantages of loving indie music.

* * *

A couple shows tonight…

Midwest Dilemma opens for Nashville’s Great Peacock tonight at Slowdown Jr. $8, 8 p.m.

And indie/emo band Super Ghost headlines New Music Monday at The Waiting Room tonight. Also on the bill are Bill Riccetti and Like Noise But Louder. The free show starts at 8 p.m.

* * *

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

Welcome back; live review: Criteria, Ladyfinger, High Up; Screaming Females, Gordon tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:45 pm August 3, 2015
Stephen Pedersen of Criteria in full-rock mode at O'Leaver's Aug. 1, 2015.

Stephen Pedersen of Criteria in full-rock mode at O’Leaver’s Aug. 1, 2015.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

What they say about LA is true. The weather is fantastic. The traffic is horrendous. It’s definitely the land of the rich and beautiful, but even if I was a multi-millionaire I wouldn’t want to live there. Too congested; too expensive. Or maybe I just spent too much time hanging around Beverly Hills and Malibu.

Regardless, I’m back. In fact I’ve been back since last Friday, in time to catch Saturday night’s Live at O’Leaver’s concert featuring Ladyfinger and Criteria, two bands that have been kicking it for at least a decade and have never sounded better. Neither has O’Leaver’s tiny stage, which recently saw a bump in its sound system (again), making it rival soundwise any formal venue in town.

The other notable change to O’Leaver’s is the new patio hidden behind the building that was open Saturday night thanks to the city granting a one-day permit. If you go back there tonight, that door that leads to the patio is bound to be locked shut, which is a shame because that new patio is one of the best outdoor party areas in Omaha. Clocking in at around 2,000 square feet, it feels larger than The Club itself, with multiple built-in benches, an enormous pergola and another bar just ready to be open for business. As one guy told me, the patio has a big-city feel, like something you’d find in Portland.

Ladyfinger at O'Leaver's Aug. 1, 2015.

Ladyfinger at O’Leaver’s Aug. 1, 2015.

It was jammed with people Saturday night, so many that I wondered how they’d all fit back inside the club when the bands began playing. It was wall-to-wall humanity when Ladyfinger lit into their set. They played a handful of songs off their previous albums; no new material that I could tell. You have to wonder what the future holds for these guys. Like I said, they’ve never sounded better, but are they ever going to write and record another album?

Criteria came on at just after 12:30 and gave their usual high-flying performance. Stephen Pedersen can still hit those crazy high notes when he wants to, and the band was as tight as ever. Unlike Ladyfinger, Criteria rolled out a few new songs, including one that bordered on anthem/ballad territory (but aren’t they all anthems?). No doubt they have plans for a new record.

Life has a way of catching up with all of us, and that’s certainly the case with both these bands. Members have lives and commitments and families and jobs that make touring difficult if not impossible. But that doesn’t stop them from wanting to play or having something to say with their music. Why should they stop recording and performing (if only at local gigs), especially at a time when record sales no longer are a game-changer in the life of a band? We might be entering an era of “regional indie bands” that self-release their material and perform only within a few hundred miles of their homes. If you want to see them, you’re going to have to get in your car or hop on a bus to find them. If the music can’t come to you, you’ll have to go to the music. Which makes clubs like O’Leaver’s that much more important.

No doubt these two bands’ performances Saturday night will wind up online at liveatoleavers.com. If you haven’t checked out the website, it’s high time that you do. Current featured artists (among the dozens on the site whose live gigs at O’Leaver’s you can now now enjoy) include J Fernandez, Bob Log III, The Kickback, Worried Mothers, Frontier Ruckus and Manic Pixie Dream Girls. Go, listen.

High Up at Reverb Lounge July 25, 2015.

High Up at Reverb Lounge July 25, 2015.

One other show worth mentioning is High Up at Reverb July 25. I meant to post something about the show before I skipped town but never had the chance. Goddamn, Christine Fink is a major talent. I guess you’d expect nothing less coming from Orenda’s sister, but holy shit, she sings blue-eyed soul like she’s been doing it for a decade.

I tapped out on my iPhone that night at the show, “She’s an indie version of Amy Winehouse, or certainly Omaha’s version.” The attitude, the charisma, the voice, she was born for the stage. Watching her up front with only a microphone, you got a sense that High Up is her band, and what a band it is — pure pro blues/soul/rock, including a small horn section that featured sister Orenda on trumpet. The music is stylish but not too polished, an earthier version of neo-soul that strangely feels grounded in the Midwest. If you had any doubt of their origin, the band threw in a bluesy version of Bright Eyes’ “Make a Plan to Love Me” that they made their own.

So I’m watching Fink up there and wondering what would happen if she went full-on performance diva, you know, with the full costumes/dresses, a real formal approach to her performance? She already owns the stage just the way she is, but what if she kicked up the staging to sophisticated nightclub level? Would she broaden her audience well beyond the clubs she’s been playing? Would she even want that? You start messing with the presentation, you change everything. There’s a certain rebellious thing that’s up there now that I’d hate to see them lose, even if it limits the band to a smaller indie-music world…

* * *
Before I left for LA last week I wrote two stories for The Reader, which should be online this week. One is an interview with The Good Life about their new album, Everybody’s Coming Down, which drops on Saddle Creek Records Aug. 14, just in time for their Maha Music Festival appearance Aug. 15.

The other story (not coincidentally) is an interview with Lauren Schomburg about the current state of Maha and what the board that runs the show has in mind for the festival’s future. Can it get bigger? Should it get bigger?

I’ll let you know when both stories are online, though they should be on newsstands right now.

* * *

Speaking of festivals, I can’t figure out why anyone gives a shit about the fiasco known as the Grassroots Festival. Take a look at the line-up and who’s putting it on. What did you expect? I suppose if there was some sort of “indie” element to it, I’d be enraged, but I can’t imagine any band that I’d want to see being involved in such a snafu. It’s just another reason why you should never take One Percent Productions for granted.

* * *

Fantastic show tonight at Sweatshop Gallery in Bension. Screaming Females headlines with Gordon, Vacation and The Ridgways. $7, 9 p.m. Be prepared to sweat!

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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.

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Live Review: Lydia Loveless, Kait Berreckman; New Lungs, Pro-Magnum tonight; Sucettes, Dick Dale Saturday…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:53 pm July 24, 2015
Lydia Loveless at Reverb Lounge, July 23, 2015.

Lydia Loveless at Reverb Lounge, July 23, 2015.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Lydia Loveless looks like she could kick your ass. A fireplug of a woman, she stood in the digital light with her electric guitar hanging from her shoulders and belted out one song after another last night at Reverb like someone who’s been on the road for 10 years straight. She said prior to her set that last night’s show was the final night of filming for a documentary, presumably about her and/or her tour, though the only cameraman was one guy with a DSLR shooting from a corner of the stage as the the band ripped though its set.

Loveless had the C&W/alt-country tag hung on her early in her career, probably because of her slight twang that can easily slide into pseudo yodel and, in fact, does recall Loretta Lynn. And though she’s been compared to Lynn, Stevie Nicks and Patti Smith, she reminded me more of John Haitt, Tom Petty and Lucinda Williams backed by a second electric guitar, a guy who switched between pedal steel and electric 12-string, a drummer and a giant of a bass player who looked like a monster standing next to her.

Playing a number of songs off her most recent LP, Somewhere Else (Bloodshot, 2014) , this was my first real foray into Loveless. On indie label Bloodshot, there is a distinct commercial edge to her music, which I could imagine playing in the background of your favorite TV show. Listen most closely and you’ll catch elegant lyrics about love and longing that felt defiant on the upbeat rock numbers and humbling and regretful on the slower pieces. There is something about her music that makes me sad no matter how fast it’s played, sort of how I feel when I listen to Neko Case’s music. Like a soldier who’s just come home from battle, Loveless looked and sounded like a survivor telling war stories, and more often than not, it broke my heart.

I got to Reverb just in time to catch the tail end of Kait Berreckman’s solo electric/acoustic set. Her songs are sweet and sensitive and mostly upbeat despite lyrics that lay bare some of her more private moments in a heart-on-the-sleeve sort of way that reminded me of John Klemmensen (though not nearly as angsty). All the songs I heard were uptempo and played at the same speed, which made me yearn for some pace variety (I’d love to hear her play her closing song at half the speed and turn it into a durge-like anthem). Maybe the pacing was due to the solo approach — she says she’s better when she’s playing with her band (her words, spoken on stage). I’ll have to find out for myself.

* * *

Onward to the weekend.

There’s a good chance that I’ll finally check out the new Lookout Lounge at 320 So. 72nd (the old Hideout) tonight, as it’s hosting a free Maha Music Festival showcase. On the bill are Lineman’s Rodeo, New Lungs, Eric in Outespace, The Seen and Conchance. 9 p.m.

Also tonight psych-garage Shreveport band Ghost Foot headlines at fabulous O’Leaver’s with Pro-Magnum, A Great Disturbance and Those Far Out Arrows. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Tomorrow night (Saturday) Sucettes return to Reverb Lounge. Opening is Navy Gangs and High Up (featuring the Fink sisters). $5, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile over at The Waiting Room it’s the return of Dick Dale (he’s becoming a regular feature ’round here). The Sub-Vectors open. $28 today, $30 tomorrow. Starts at 9.

And finally, Hear Nebraska’s Good Living Tour wraps up tonight and tomorrow. Tonight the tour is in Nebraska City at Memorial Way with The So-So Sailors, Kill County and A Summer Better Than Yours. Starts at 8. Tomorrow evening the tour concludes in Grand Island with Icky Blossoms, Simon Joyner & The Ghosts and AZP. No idea on the venue, but the address is 111 E South Front St. This one’s listed with a 5 p.m. start. Both shows are free.

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

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

 

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Live Review: Sweatfest, Bloodcow; New Krill; Super Ghost, Tie These Hands, Good Living Valentine tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:16 pm July 20, 2015
Gordon at Sweatfest, July 18, 2015.

Gordon at Sweatfest, July 18, 2015.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Sweatfest was indeed sweaty. And messy. I didn’t get there until 6 p.m. Saturday evening where I found Gordon playing outside behind the Sweatshop Gallery in the white-rock parking lot that had been cordoned off with bright orange plastic fencing.

Sweatfest had three stages — one outside, one in the gallery and one in the performance garage — with sets scheduled to overlap. Gordon continues to be one of my favorite local bands, frontman Aaron Parker channeled Jim Morrison and/or Nick Cave on music that is brutal and beautiful and full of dread.

Bloodcow at The Barley Street Tavern, July 18, 2015.

Bloodcow at The Barley Street Tavern, July 18, 2015.

As 7 p.m. rolled around, I escaped the fest momentarily to catch the Bloodcow CD release show at Barley Street Tavern. Interestingly, the Barley doesn’t open ’til 7 p.m. on Saturdays — when the band was scheduled to be on stage. I found them a half-hour earlier standing by the back door with their gear, trying to contact someone who could let them in. By a quarter to, the Bloodcow “party bus” arrived, disembarking holiday revelers onto the sidewalk dressed in colorful Hawaiian shirts and leis.

The doors opened a little after 7 and the band loaded in, but there was no soundguy on the premises. Keep in mind, Bloodcow had a schedule to keep. After their Barley show they were headed to O’Leaver’s for an early gig and then to T’z Lounge in CB for their third show of the night. Band members huddled around the darkened soundboard with their phone flashlights ablaze looking for some way to turn on the equipment, to no avail.

It looked like the first stop of their tour would end in disaster until someone found the power switch. With one microphone working and no stage lights, the band lit into a short set at around 7:45 while their fans threw devil horns from the dance floor. As always, Bloodcow snatched triumph from defeat. Before the set ended, a soundguy showed up and turned on the stage lights, though the band sounded just as good in the dark.

By the time I got back to Sweatfest at around 9, the Sweatshop parking lot looked like a post-apocalyptic beach movie with a few hundred sweaty, stinky people wandering around in the dark as the violent power of Dumb Beach’s music blared through the open overhead garage door.

Sam Martin in the Sweatshop Gallery at Sweatfest, July 15, 2015.

Sam Martin in the Sweatshop Gallery at Sweatfest, July 15, 2015.

Round 3 of the Spaghetti Wrestling Tournament at Sweatfest, July 18, 2015.

Round 3 of the Spaghetti Wrestling Tournament at Sweatfest, July 18, 2015.

While I was gone someone showed up with the spaghetti and poured it onto a couple old mattresses set out in the parking lot as a makeshift wrestling ring. A masked female wrestler stomped on the wet noodles as if crushing grapes for wine. With an emcee calling the action, opponents (half of them women) were doused with cooking oil and set ablaze (just kidding). Once greased down, they went at it. Best two out of three falls — whoever pushed the opponent out of the “ring” was the winner. Gross, sloppy, decadent fun. By the end of the rounds, limp spaghetti hung from the overhead power lines.

By all accounts, Sweatfest was a success; I’m told bands played into the wee hours. The fest reminded me of the fun, small-venue gigs that take place on the east side of Austin during SXSW, backyard summer shows where people bring their own booze, kick back and enjoy the music. Here’s to Sweatfest 2016.

* * *

As FYI, here’s the new video by Krill. Someone needs to book these guys here.

* * *

Tonight at Pageturners its Super Ghost and Lincoln band Tie These Hands. The free show starts at 9 p.m. What a way to start off your week…

Also tonight, the Good Living Tour continues in Valentine, NE, with The Kris Lager Band, All Young Girls Are Machine Guns and Oketo at Bull Market Beer & Grill. Free and 7 p.m. and all ages.

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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: Ceremony, Tony Molina, Gramps, Mint Wad Willy; Sun-less Trio tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:45 pm July 13, 2015
Ceremony at The Sweatshop Gallery, July 11, 2015.

Ceremony at The Sweatshop Gallery, July 11, 2015.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

They don’t call it The Sweatshop Gallery for nothing. Saturday night’s show in the converted garage behind Sweatshop’s art gallery in Benson was easily the most uncomfortable concert experience in memory. If you thought it was hot outside Saturday, you should have stepped foot into that concrete stink oven Saturday night. I felt like a chicken in a rotisserie or a hippie in Southwestern sweat lodge. Within minutes after stepping inside the bunker sweat dripped off my elbows and ran down my legs in salty streams. My shirt, my shorts were drenched, stuck in a layer of warm moisture against my skin, sweat broiling off my forehead and into my eyes. Stifling, suffocating. It was awful, but it was worth it.

Ceremony is a West Coast band that made their nut playing what has been described as “power violence” music, which is a form of hardcore punk. What made them stand out may have been their guitar work or frontman Ross Farrar’s vocal approach, which was a bit more “arty” than the usual hardcore screaming. Anyway, the band started as a hardcore act in ’05. Then slowly eased off and became more post-punk-ish after their album Rohnert Park came out in 2011. Then they signed with Matador and turned their back on hardcore altogether with the release of the somewhat boring Zoo in 2012.

Now comes The L-Shaped Man, which was released earlier this year on Matador and sounds like an Interpol/Joy Division tribute album. Farrar’s vocals went completely Ian Curtis/Paul Banks on top of music that feels like it was developed in a Joy Division/New Order sound incubator. Pitchfork hated it. I love it because I love that style of music, though at times the record is so derivative it’s chuckle-inducing.

How many of the 70 or so kids jammed into Sweatshop were there to see the old hardcore Ceremony vs. the new post-punk version, I do not know, though it didn’t matter when they launched into their Joy Division-fueled set opener that got the sweat-slick crowd jumping. In the heat and darkness, Farrar was in his element saying before he started that the gig already was the best show he’d played in Omaha, and telling the crowd to step right up, which they did. The band fed off the heat and energy, and the set boiled with a goth-dance-punk intensity that Bauhaus would appreciate.

While there were plenty of Factory Records moments during the set, the band — and Farrar — did something wholly unique live, pulling in abstract elements from their past to create a new sound that melded post-punk with something much darker. The crowd loved it and the room became a pit, with youth hanging from the rafters. If Ceremony could tap into this hybrid sound/energy not heard on their album, they’d be onto something that is entirely their own.

Tony Molina at Sweatshop Gallery, July 11, 2015.

Tony Molina at Sweatshop Gallery, July 11, 2015.

It was a varied night of music at ol’ Sweatshop. North Bay punk band Creative Adult was among the openers playing a heavy, rhythmic punk that was brittle and fun. Then came Tony Molina, another Bay-area guy I’d never heard of but who was nothing less than amazing playing pure power-pop influenced by ’70s icon bands like Thin Lizzy and Cheap Trick, but with more than a nod to J Mascis and Teenage Fanclub. Molina and a second guitarist weaved intricate harmonies that were Thin Lizzy taken to an extreme backed by a solid rhythm section on songs that rarely lasted more than two minutes. As badly as I wanted to get outside for some relief I couldn’t get myself to miss any of it. Utterly exhausting and exhilarating.

Yes, this will be in my top-10 (maybe top 5?) favorite shows of ’15, despite losing at least five pounds in water weight.

Gramps at Barley Street Tavern, July 11, 2015.

Gramps at Barley Street Tavern, July 11, 2015.

Between sets I slipped into the Barley Street for Rolling Rock and AC and to catch Gramps, the new-ish band fronted by Django Greenblatt-Seay of Love Drunk Studio fame. A solid four-piece, Gramps’ style of indie sounds influenced by the local scene, specifically acts like Little Brazil and Criteria, but every song has a twist, whether it’s a unique guitar solo or an unfamiliar time sequence. Django and Co. play with a no-shit attitude that says “come along for the ride if, if you want to.”

Another local act seen for the first time this weekend was Mint Wad Willy. Here’s a band I’ve never made an effort to see because of their name. Mint Wad Willy? Sounds like a cover band or a white-guy blues band. Well I wasn’t going to miss them Saturday morning because they played at The Indie 5K/10K run, which benefitted Benson/Ames, and I must say I dug what I heard. Their style wasn’t straight-up rock as much as mainstream garage a la The Black Keys, though something about their sound also reminded me of heavier Big Star or even Silkworm with some Creedance thrown in. That sounds like a mess, but I can’t put my finger on a key influence.

By the way, the band’s name is an old-school reference to a Mary Jane cigarette (a mint-wad willy). And also BTW, I won my age bracket in the 5K (which isn’t so impressive when you realize I was the only one entered).

* * *

Sun-less Trio is a new project that features Mike Saklar (No Blood Orphan, Ritual Device), Marc Phillips (Carsinogents) and Cricket Kirk (Paper Owls). They’re playing tonight at Pageturners Lounge with A Great Disturbance. 9 p.m. and FREE. Great way to start your week…

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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: Icky Blossoms; first half 2015 album reviews (in the column)…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:46 pm July 6, 2015
Icky Blossoms at The Slowdown, July 3, 2015.

Icky Blossoms at The Slowdown, July 3, 2015.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Maybe it’s the new record or maybe it’s the time they spent on the road with Of Montreal, but Icky Blossoms is blossoming into a full-on arena-rock band.

Whereas no past performance has been less than fun, there has been a tentativeness to their stage shows, an unsureness that bordered on amateur. All that was gone Friday night on The Slowdown’s big stage in front of what looked to be 300 or so fans eager to cut loose.

Adding to their usual energy was new lighting and stage designs — three giant, gaping, bleeding “flowers” that resembled either poppies or a certain portion of the female anatomy were painted on backdrops hung from the rafters.

Icky Blossoms at The Slowdown, July 3, 2015.

Icky Blossoms at The Slowdown, July 3, 2015.

Icky’s music is beginning to fall into three categories — seething acidic rock propelled by Nik Fackler’s screeching guitar (“Silver Tongue,” “Phantasmagoria”), ethereal driftwood stoner shoe-gaze where Derek Pressnall and Sarah Bohling share the vox (“Want You So Bad,” set highlight “Away From You,” which screams to be released as a single) and pure, unadulterated dance tracks (“Living in Fiction,” “In Folds”) that get the crowd moving.

A smart set list that ebbs and flows between those three styles makes the show dynamic and keeps the band from being pigeon-holed as just another dance band. Now blend in the best songs from their debut (“Babes,” crowd-chant-exorcism-humpfest “Sex to the Devil”) and let the party begin.

In fact, Icky Blossoms could become the ultimate party band, taking the helm from The Faint, but to get to that next level they’ve got to reach even further into the crowd to turn their shows into unforgettable, sweat-soaked spectacles. They’re on their way.

One other show note: I was told to pay close attention to opening hip-hop act Both. I saw what was billed as “Both” at the Hear Nebraska Vol. 3 album release show and was less than impressed. That show featured only one member of the duo, who spent that set playing bomb-explosion samples. Well, Friday night I got the full Both treatment and was impressed with their sound, their beats and how they worked the crowd. I’ll wait until I hear their new EP and can check out their lyrics (undecipherable from stage) before I say more…

* * *

The first-half CD/album reviews round-up went online at The Reader this morning, here. I used to do these round-ups quarterly, but now that The Reader is monthly, I’ve pulled back to bi-annual, which is tough in years like this one where there’s so many good new releases. Check it out and see if your favorites made the list.

* * *

Interesting read here in that two of the five are attributed to past Lazy-i interviews: Five Noteworthy Facts You May Not Know About Conor Oberst

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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.

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