Live Review: 2017 Maha Music Festival, Stephen Sheehan, Sun-Less Trio…

The crowd during Built to Spill’s set at the 2017 Maha Music Festival.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

It was a crazy, busy week for music in Omaha, maybe the busiest week of the year (though there’s still a lot of stuff planned this summer, from Lincoln Calling to Future Islands outdoors).

Let’s start at the beginning…

Stephen Sheehan and his band at Reverb Lounge, Aug. 18, 2017.

If you’re acquainted with Stephen Sheehan than Friday night’s concert at Reverb Lounge was no surprise. Sheehan is a critical bastard and a stickler for detail and would never present his music on stage without it being meticulously honed to needle-sharp perfection.

Sheehan was the frontman to ’80s-’90s post-punk bands Digital Sex and The World, bands that made their mark on the Omaha landscape in a time before Caulfield and Saddle Creek and decades before the rise of Benson (a neighborhood Sheehan, ironically, refers to derogatively as “Beno”). Digital Sex hasn’t played together since the first half of the ’90s, and because of internal band frictions and the unavailability of other members (i.e., guitarist John Tingle) likely never will, despite constant needling from the band’s fans for a reunion. Friday night’s show was the closest they’ll get to hearing DS material, possibly ever again.

With this lone opportunity, Sheehan surrounded himself with an amazing group of musicians to bring his musical past to life. On top of the list was former Digital Sex drummer Dan Crowell, who white-knuckled the performance with panache — just tremendous stickwork from a guy who rarely takes the stage anymore. It was Crowell and bassist Randy Cotton (who had the difficult task of filling Dereck Higgins’ shoes on DS songs) that held it all together, and in Cotton’s case, even led the direction in some cases.

If Crowell and Cotton brought the deep blues, it was keyboard player Donovan Johnson and guitarist Ben Sieff who added the rest of the spectrum. Johnson, a fluent professional, steadfast and stoic throughout, was a contrast to Sieff’s orgiastic performance that was like a reincarnation of Mick Ronson. Sieff often was at the center of the arrangements, especially in the latter portion of the set.

But at the actual center was Sheehan, dressed a peacock in rose-print vest and blue eye shadow,  once again a frontman, where he belongs. He looked comfortable and at home, not a bit nervous.

The million dollar answer: Yes, Sheehan still has the pipes, though no doubt his range has changed and dropped somewhat since these songs were recorded 30-some years ago. Fans heard some of the  best of Digital Sex, including “In Her Smile,” “Roses on Wednesday,” “The Days Go” and “Red Girl.” These are the songs I remember.

I’ve never heard The World’s recordings or seen them perform, so I assume most of the unfamiliar songs were from that era as well as Sheehan solo materials. For me, (maybe because it was new to me) this was the most daring and provocative part of the set, and showcased Sieff at his revved-up best. Where does one find these World recordings?

One new song, “Less and Less,” pulled from the past and pointed to a possible future, though Sheehan has been adamant that he has no set plans to perform again. Time will tell. The full house at Reverb Friday certainly is ready for more.

The Sun-Less Trio at Reverb Aug. 18, 2017.

Opening was Sun-Less Trio, celebrating the release of their new album, though frontman Mike Saklar used the occasion to unveil even newer material. A solid core trio (with the addition of Saklar’s daughter on keys during one song) the centerpoint was Saklar and his guitar-work. Saklar’s vocals are serviceable for this material (and continue to improve), but it’s that glowing guitar that pulls it all together on psych-rock songs that recall early bluesy Zeppelin.

* * *

So… Maha.

At Maha in year’s past I could always find a window of time where I could skip out, ride my bike back home and take break from the heat (and take a nap). It was tough to do this year. My window came at the end of a rather flaccid Torres set, skipping Priests altogether and returning during New Pornographer’s set. Even then, a tough decision.

Downtown Boys at the 2017 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 19, 2017.

One of my favorite performances came early — Downtown Boys. I knew a little about the band and have heard their new album, but didn’t expect the dynamo in the shape of frontwoman Victoria Ruiz. A mesmerizing figure, Ruiz introduced every songs with a brief, thoughtful political statement that was forceful without being preachy — an incredibly difficult thing to do. And, remarkably, each comment seamlessly led into a rousing punk anthem.

I was amazed at how many songs incorporated the F-word, spit out in rage by Ruiz and her band. These are the folks who should man the ramparts at every anti-Trump-ian rally. You got a sense Ruiz meant every word she said, you could see it her eyes, in her facial expressions as she worked the crowd with her message.

High Up had the tough job of following Ruiz and Company from the smaller stage. Like every year, Maha sets up a small stage (on Stinson Park’s permanent Bradford stage) and a large stage just to the right. This year, the large stage was pulled closer to the small stage, giving more room for the VIP area, which for the first time, actually abutted the front of the big stage, making those VIP tickets even more valuable.

In fact, the entire Maha footprint felt bigger, roomier this year than year’s past. More comfortable. Maha has been doing this now for nine years, so they know how to put on a comfortable festival. Everywhere you looked you found smiling, T-shirted Maha volunteers eager to help out. Festival services were again, first-rate, though Maha needs to bring in better food vendors. There wasn’t much to choose from beyond county fair fried fare — they’d be better off making it a food truck rodeo. And though I understand Boulevard probably purchased booze rights, I’d love to see Maha incorporate more local craft beers into their beverage selection.

High Up at the 2017 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 19, 2017.

Back to the music… High Up did their usual fine performance. While I like their bluesy numbers, nothing touches the power and energy of “Two Weeks,” which simply stands on a different level than the rest of their material.  I know you need contrast, but I could use a full album of Two Weeks’ fire and fury.

High Up shared their set with two Omaha Girls Rock bands that represented the organization proudly and in rocking fashion.

Torres at the 2017 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 19, 2017.

Torres took the big stage next and played an OK set that included a number of new songs from her upcoming album. As I told a fellow music critic: I liked it better when St. Vincent did it.

New Pornographers at 2017 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 19, 2017.

As I said, I skipped Priests and came back for New Pornographers. By 5 p.m. Stinson Park  had filled in nicely. New Pornos sounded fine, though I missed seeing Dan Bejar and Neko Case, both absent. It didn’t stop them from playing some of their best material, however, like “Bleeding Heart Show,” “Whiteout Conditions” and “Champions of Red Wine.”

Built to Spill at the 2017 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 19, 2017.

Built to Spill was next from the small stage. Doug Martsch and gave us a greatest hits set that included “Time Trap,” “Carry the Zero” and “Broken Chairs” among their 10-or-so song set. I’ve seen B2S sets that were nothing but jam sessions — this wasn’t one of them. I guess they knew they’re playing a festival crowd…

Belle & Sebastian at the 2017 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 19, 2017.

Then came the second highlight of the festival (for me, anyway). Belle & Sebastian was one of my bucket-list bands, and delivered with a greatest-hits set list that included “Boy with Arab Strap” and “She’s Losing It,” as well as a special song about Nebraska that they’ve never played before and likely never will again. The song was written as part of a prize for a contest B&S held a few years ago.

Stuart Murdock is about as charming a frontman as you’ll ever find, and this band was on target, inviting members of the crowd to come on stage and dance along to Arab Strap. It was the first time I’ve seen a set at Maha that I wished would have gone on for another hour, and stands out as probably my favorite from the festival’s past nine years.

By contrast, I could have used about half of what Sleigh Bells was putting out, but then again, I’ve never been a fan of their monotonous, stuttering, electro cheerleader rock that sacrifices melody for sledgehammer rhythms. Ah, but the crowd loved it.

The Faint at the 2017 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 19, 2017.

And it certainly got them revved up for The Faint’s set on the big stage. By 9 the sun had gone down and crowd was at full force. As always, The Faint put on a good show, though for whatever reason it felt more low-key than when I’ve seen them before. The set featured a lot of their “newer” material including the extras from the CAPSULE compilation and “Evil Voices” from their last studio outing. Of course it was the hits that got the crowd moving, like “Paranoiattack,” “Desperate Guys” and set closer fave “Glass Danse” that finally got the crowd jumping.

Run the Jewels at the 2017 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 19, 2017.

If there’s one tradition at Maha that seems to be perennial it’s that I leave during the headliner’s set. The headliners are the dullest part of Maha, and this year was no exception. I know, I know, Run the Jewels is one of the biggest arena/stadium hip-hop acts on tour these days and Maha landing them was a huge coup. That doesn’t mean I like their music. In fact, I like the guys in RTJ more than I like their performance or their albums. It’s a matter of preference. I’d rather see Kendrick or Tribe Called Quest or something old school, but I’m ridiculously picky when it comes to hip-hop. I made it through two or three songs and headed toward the gates.

I’m lucky I did, because after I got home (this year, via scooter) the rain it did come, and I’m told RTJ had to cut their set short because of lightning.

So where does this year’s Maha rate in the history of Maha Festivals? For my money, it was best all-around line-up and a return to stride after last year’s ho-hum festival. Still, Saturday’s attendance of just over 8,500 didn’t exceed the crowd from two years ago, which was officially a sell out. That tells me Maha still has room to grow at Stinson Park.

And while 8,500 is a great draw, especially for a local festival that targets indie music, let’s not forget twice as many people were across town at the Lady Gaga show. What would it take for Maha to draw Gaga numbers? Probably a financial risk that they’re not willing to take, and I can’t blame them (though the speed at which Beck sold out Stir Cove tells me there’s a hunger for big-name college rock bands in this town)…

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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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Live Review: TFOAs, Ron Gallo, Buttertones; Sucettes, Jocko tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:41 pm August 9, 2017

Those Far Out Arrows at Slowdown Jr., Aug. 8, 2017.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I’m giving this show short shrift due to time limitations, etc., i.e. I’m probably not giving the bands their due. And I’m going at this chronologically rather than by how the bands were billed, i.e., I’m starting with the opener, Those Far Out Arrows (or TFOAs in lazy shorthand), because for me, they were the highlight of the evening, closely followed by the band in the middle, Ron Gallo, with the headliner, Butternotes, trotting home in third.

TFOAs has evolved over the past year or so to a tight garage band with deep psych-rock leanings influenced by bands as diverse as Them and Velvet Underground. You’ll hear just how much they’ve evolved if you listen to their early, drone-filled cassettes and contrast it to their current thick-beat guitar rock that’s as good or better than anything I’ve heard on Goner or In the Red.

You knew last night at Slowdown Jr. the band was getting to this very young crowd (who, btw, likely  never heard of TFOAs prior to this show) when the pack in front of the stage naturally erupted into a pseudo-mosh pit, pushing and shoving and jumping along with one of the band’s mid-set songs. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen that at a garage-rock show.

Right now TFOAs is looking for someone to press a new 7-inch and has plans to enter ARC studio for a full-length in the very near future. Keep an eye on them.

Ron Gallo at Slowdown Jr., Aug. 8, 2017.

I was told by a Slowdown staffer that last night’s young crowd was there for Gallo, though my source wasn’t sure why. I have no idea, either. Maybe Gallo’s stage charisma precedes him. He and his band played a lively set of garage rock that got the crowd moving (and yeah, there was more moshing. I guess moshing is a thing again?).

The Buttertones at Slowdown Jr., Aug. 8, 2017.

Finally on came The Buttertones, a big ensemble with a guy who played some tasty tenor sax (which made everything work). A tight act, it was too easy to hear their influences. Derivative? Yeah, but isn’t all rock music derivative to some extent? Their failing was in their lack of original song structure — I felt like I’d heard it all before. But what the band lacked in originality the frontman made up in swagger. Let’s see where they are in three years.

* * *

Tonight at Pageturners, hardcore act Jocko opens for the Sucettes at Pageturners Lounge. This one’s free and starts at 10.

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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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

 

 

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Live Review: The Lupines/Leafblower/Dog Party; Digital Leather, The Life and Times tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:47 pm July 31, 2017

Leafblower at O’Leaver’s, July 30, 2017.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

The O’Leaver’s Sunday Social is as good an excuse as you’ll find to get blasted, eat good food and listen to some fine music on a lazy summer afternoon. That’s exactly what happened yesterday at The Club where a trio of bands played to a hot, packed room.

Dog Party at O’Leaver’s, July 30, 2017.

First up was Dog Party, a Sacramento two-piece consisting of sisters Gwendolyn and Lucy Giles that played some groovy up-tempo pop-punk as you’d expect from a band that opened for Green Day on their 2016 North American Tour and has four albums out on Burger and Asian Man Records. I typically don’t like guitar-drums two-piece acts (White Mystery is an exception) because they tend to sound hollow and/or flat, but these sisters had a well-rounded sound. Fun!

Leafblower was a necessary contrast to all that pop-punk. A power trio that combines fuzz metal with noise punk, they’ve never sounded better, with both Danny Maxwell and Craig Fort yelling at their primal best. Great guitar and bass interplay, I was reminded of mid-’90s noise punk outfits like Cactus Nerve Thang and Culture Fire combined with Sabbath.

With a flair for the theatrical, the trio came out in matching sleeveless jumpsuits with their band logo screen-printed on back, and cranked up their fourth member — a large, old-dude mannequin/dummy maned Tim holding a leaf blower that spewed plumes of stage smoke. Yard work was never this fun.

The Lupines at O’Leaver’s, July 30, 2017.

Finally The Lupines came on at around 8 p.m. playing their usual fine set of bone-breaking punk-Americana — the kind of rock you’d hear want to hear blaring from our Plymouth Charger’s AM on a road trip across Nebraska circa 1967. Frontman John Ziegler pointed out this was not their official CD release show, nonethelesss, the band’s tasty new album, Mountain of Love, was available for purchase (So when’s the real deal, gentlemen?).

If you listen to the album, you’ll notice plenty of real piano keyboards, which, alas, were not performed live for one obvious reason — Ziegler plays keyboards and guitar on the record. The band would have to bring on another member to allow Ziegler to get behind a piano. That said, I’d love to hear these songs with the full compliment of instruments performed live — dare to dream.

Sunday Socials at O’Leaver’s are all-afternoon events. They begin at 4 with free food (this week, fine smoked pork-butt sandwiches courtesy of Smoke Buds). The music was suppose to start at 5, but didn’t get rolling until 6, giving the crowd even more time to imbibe, which I did out in the beer garden where DJ Tyrone Storm spun the good stuff. Good times indeed.

* * *

Two shows on a Monday night? Why not.

Over at Pageturners Lounge (which I keep hearing referred to as PTL) Digital Leather performs tonight as a digital-only two-piece. Not sure who’s joining Shawn Foree behind the consoles, but will tell you it’s worth it just to hear songs off the new album, Pink Thunder. Something called 2:46 Club also is on the bill. These free shows start at 9.

Also tonight. KC band The Life and Times plays at Reverb Lounge. These guys have been touring through Omaha for more than a decade. This past spring the band released their fifth LP for digital download, titled The Life and Times, on Slimstyle Records. Opening is the double-bass attack of Relax, It’s Science. $12, 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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Tobin Sprout, Elf Power; The Coathangers, Miwi La Lupa tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:59 pm July 24, 2017

Tobin Sprout at Reverb Lounge, July 21, 2017.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

The turnout for Friday night’s Tobin Sprout show at Reverb was, in a word, disappointing. As a member of Guided by Voices, which has a huge following in our fair city, I anticipated a sell out.  In the end there were maybe 50 people on hand to listen to Sprout and his band rifle through a set of well over 20 songs from his solo catalog including “The Last Well Known to Kingpin,” “A Good Flying Bird,” “Dodging Invisible Rays” and “Sadder Than You.”

I admit to not being a huge GBV fan beyond their “greatest hits,” and know very little about Tobin Sprout. What I love about his songs and GBV songs beyond the riffs and bright, energetic melodies is their brevity. Sprout songs rarely last longer than three minutes. Get in, get out, move on.

And though the crowd was small, it was lively, comprising mostly of old-time fans who weren’t afraid to pump their fist in the air or pogo or cheer when one of their favorites began. Yelled out song names were met with a smile and Sprout giving it a try. What more could a fan ask for?

Elf Power at Reverb Lounge, July 21, 2017.

Elephant Six band Elf Power opened the show with a straight-forward set of indie rock songs. As little as I know about Tobin Sprout I know even less about the Athens band or their catalog, but enjoyed what I heard.

* * *

Two shows of note tonight…

The Atlanta punk trio The Coathangers are at Milk Run tonight. What presumably started as a gag act in 2006 has now thrived for more than a decade, releasing five albums on Suicide Squeeze, including their latest, 2017’s Parasite EP. Residuels and Crease open. $10, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, Miwi La Lupa plays at Pageturners Lounge with Oquoa. 10 p.m. and absolutely free…

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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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

 

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Live Review: David Nance, Noah Sterba; Unknown Relatives, Pretty Shitty, No Thanks tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:47 pm July 17, 2017

Noah Sterba at Reverb Lounge, July 14, 2017.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

What more to day about Dave Nance and his band that I didn’t say in last week’s Sydney review other than this was a longer set, played (apparently) with inlaws among the packed crowd (it can make a difference). We got to hear most of the songs off Negative Boogie, including the cover of Merle Haggerd’s “Silver Wings” with Icky Blossoms’ Sarah Bohling providing harmony vocals. Beautiful.

So packed was it for Noah Sterba’s set that people were forced beyond the sound room’s door trying to get in (though there was space on the other side of the room if you could get through the human traffic jam). Sterba, backed by an eight-person band, performed the closer from his new album — titled “The Dark American Rodeo” — in its entirety. In this incarnation, it was a 20-minute noise collage with Sterba front-and-center earnestly reciting the lyrics/poem/manifesto.

I got at the bar right as Sterba’s drone was starting, and was told later it was the sole song he performed, which, on one hand, was good because it meant I didn’t miss anything, but on the other hand, a bummer because Sterba didn’t perform my favorite songs from the album, such as “Three Sheets to the Breeze” and “The 12-Bar Blues.” Next time, maybe…

Nance plays the Bourbon in Lincoln Wednesday night and then hits the road through the first week of August.

* * *

A couple Austin-based punk bands roll into Brothers Lounge tonight.

Unknown Relatives releases material on Austin underground label Super Secret Records. Tour-mates Pretty Shitty are worth the price of admission if only to hear “Don’t Surf.” Omaha’s own No Thanks also is on the bill. $5, 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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: David Nance, Matthew Sweet; new Whipkey, Twinsmith, See Through Dresses streams…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:51 pm July 11, 2017

David Nance at The Sydney, July 7, 2017.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

It’s been pointed out to me that David Nance didn’t just come out of nowhere. He’s been plugging away and putting out music since before 2013, including as a member of Simon Joyner’s band The Ghosts.

And while I knew this, my point was that it’s been within the last year or so that Nance’s profile has exploded. I point toward  Matador co-founder Gerard Cosloy who listed among his favorite recordings in 2016 Nance’s More Than Enough (Ba Da Bing Records). That captured some people’s attention, but Nance already had the ball rolling thanks to his live sets.

Last Friday night was another classic Nance performance, this time at The Sydney as part of Benson First Friday. Nance backed by a drummer, bass and someone making noises on a pedal, ripped through a solid set of songs, some of them off his remarkable new album Negative Boogie, which comes out this Friday on Ba Da Bing. The difference between this set and past Nance sets (for me) was the shorter songs. I’ve seen Nance play sets comprised of only two 20-minute noise ensembles. By contrast, Friday’s set was practically a pop concert.

His guitar work is already respected — ranging from big riffs to lead fills to walls of feedback — now his voice is taking center stage. The only comparison in my mind is early Jon Spencer, and Nance does have a similar stage appeal, albeit hidden behind that huge head of hair.

I managed to capture a couple songs on Facebook Live Friday night, which you can view below. The picture doesn’t come in focus ’til after the 30-second mark (wtf, Apple?!).

Yesterday Brooklyn Vegan premiered a track off Negative Boogie. BTW, if you missed the last Friday’s show, Nance will be playing a duo release show with Noah Sterba this coming Friday night at Reverb Lounge. Sean Pratt & The Sweats opens. Sterba’s new album, 13-Bar Blues, comes out Friday on Simon Joyner’s Grapefruit label.

Also on last Friday night’s bill was Oquoa, who had the center slot. This is one of the tightest collections of local all-stars Omaha has to offer. Now if I only knew what language frontman Max Holmquist was singing in. Max’s vocals make lyrics virtually indecipherable and are more of an additional instrument to the overall psychedelic/shoe-gaze sound.  It’s interesting, but I confess to be a lyrics dude who gets added enjoyment when he knows what the music’s about.

Speaking of undecipherable lyrics, opener FiFi NoNo provided a tense barrage of rhythmic noise, augmented by shriek/mumble/yell vocals. You either got it or you didn’t. I thought it was a weird trip.

* * *

Matthew Sweet at The Waiting Room, July 8, 2017.

Saturday night’s Matthew Sweet show at The Waiting Room drew a respectable crowd — respectable both in size and in manner. It was nice not being the oldest dude in the room for a change. In fact, the majority of fans looked like they were in their 50s, no doubt followers of Mr. Sweet since his ’91 breakthrough album Girlfriend.

Well, those fans got what they paid for as Sweet performed the best songs from that album, including the title track and my personal favorite, “Winona.” The happy crowd sang along to all the hits, which Sweet and his band performed as if they’d been playing them for more than 20 years. My only criticism is that Sweet and his band don’t do much on stage except stand there and play, which can become somewhat boring, but the crowd didn’t mind as long as he kept playing those oldies.

* * *

Matt Whipkey dropped a couple new tracks from his upcoming album, Driver, via his Pledge page yesterday. Matt says he likes this new pre-sale platform. Check them out.

* * *

Speaking of new music, Under the Radar yesterday began streaming the entire new Twinsmith album, Stay Cool, which comes out Friday on Saddle Creek Records. Check out the album here.

* * *

And See Through Dresses today is having their new album, Horse of the Other World (Tiny Engines) streamed in its entirety at Brooklyn Vegan, right here. Says BV about the record: “Co-fronted by the ethereal Sara Bertuldo and the whispered baritone of Mathew Carroll, See Through Dresses work bits of Cocteau Twins, The Cure, and other reverby ’80s bands into Horse of the Other World.”

Me, on the other hand, was mostly reminded of M83. This is definitely a change of direction for STDs. The band celebrates the album’s release Saturday night at The Waiting Room.

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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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Review: Matthew Sweet, Tomorrow Forever; Lincoln Calling adds more bands (Pile, El Ten Eleven, Palehound)…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:55 pm July 6, 2017

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Matthew Sweet, Tomorrow Forever (2017, Honeycomb Hideout)

What goes into writing a “hit song,” a song people will sing along to or remember or select for a play list or mix tape? It’s something I’ll have to ask Matthew Sweet if I ever get a chance, but I have an idea how he’ll answer: “I don’t know. If I knew, I’d have written more hit songs.”

“Come Correct,” the 13th track on his new double album Tomorrow Forever (2017, Honeycomb Hideout) and the last song on Side 3 has all the makings of a hit song — the crack rhythm track, chop guitar, a simple melody, sing-along lyrics. It’s a great song that stood out the first time I listened to the record. You can imagine it playing on your favorite FM channel… 20 years ago, back when there was such things as a hit record.

It’s not the only good song on the album. Tomorrow Forever is a return to form for Sweet and maybe his most accessible collection since 100% Fun or that Japanese “thank you” record, 2003’s Kimi Ga Suki. Old time fans will want to know how it compares to Sweet’s magnum opus, 1991’s Girlfriend. It holds its own, though it’s not quite as accessible or an obvious classic (only time will tell).

If you’re not familiar with Sweet’s sound, it’s sort of a power-pop amalgam of The Byrds with Big Star with Teenage Fanclub with The Posies with Sweet’s unique high-end, nasal voice. You could say there’s a ’90s flair to the music. His style hasn’t changed much since Girlfriend, but then again, why should it?

The only thing holding this album back is the lyrics, which too often are overtly obtuse or speculative — they’re too spacey and ungrounded, as if trying to be psychedelic. On the other hand, almost every song on Girlfriend was memorable thanks to lyrics that something anyone could identify with — love songs loaded with pain and/or redemption. “Come Correct” of this new one scores because the lyrics are obvious and real: “Don’t dance don’t dance / Get your head out of the sand / I don’t want to be in anybody’s band.”

The same holds true for tracks like “You Knew Me,” “Carol” and “Country Girl.”  But not so much for all those time travel/inter-dimensional songs, like opening track “Trick,” or “Entangled” and “Hello,” which have a ephemeral, hippy-ish quality wherein afterward you wonder what Sweet was trying to say (if you remember the lyrics at all).

In some of his past albums (and live performances) Sweet’s guitar noodling veered dangerously close to jam territory. Not so here, where the clear, simple arrangements keep the songs focused, as if Sweet was trying to write as many hit songs as possible. There’s more than a few on Tomorrow Forever, which is more than you’ll hear on most albums reviewed in Pitchfork. Rating: Yes

I only hope Sweet uses the same restraint when he plays The Waiting Room this weekend. The last couple times I saw him perform he and his band were more focused on rocking than trying to capture the subtleties of his best songs.

* * *

As if Lincoln Calling wasn’t big enough, this morning they announced another wave of 67 bands for the festival that runs Sept. 28-30 in Lincoln (duh), including Pile, El Ten Eleven, Mount Moriah, Umm, See Through Dresses and Digital Leather. They’re also now selling day passes that run from $29 to $34. 3-day festival passes are $59. Find out more at lincolncalling.com.

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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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Review: Public Service Broadcasting, Every Valley (2017, PIAS); Old Sport, No Getter tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:46 pm June 29, 2017

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Listening to

Public Service Broadcasting, Every Valley (2017, PIAS)

Public Service Broadcasting, Every Valley (2017, Play It Again Sam) — If you haven’t heard of Public Service Broadcasting, their shtick is creating gorgeous instrumental compositions in the typical quiet-build-climax sort of way. Within these compositions are clips of old broadcasts and interviews centered upon a topic.

Their magnum opus is 2015’s The Race for Space (Test Card Recordings) that, as the name implies, captures the Soviet vs. U.S. space race from Sputnik and beyond. The track “Go” is particularly amazing and inspiring, grabbing audio clips form Houston Space Center during one of the early Mercury Program launches.

Every Valley carries on the tradition, but in a more moribund sort of way. The topic this time is the rise and fall of the coal mining industry in South Wales. Tracks such as “The Pit” and “People Will Always Need Coal” take UK propaganda encouraging men to sign up for life in the mines and marries it to PSB’s usual driving instrumentals. But unlike The Race for Space, the effect can be harrowing.  The song cycle continues through the eventual decay of the mining industry and its impacts on the Welsh community.

It’s in these later tracks that PSB uses actual vocal lines — i.e., singing — with contributions from Tracyanne Campbell on “Progress” and James Dean Bradfield of Manic Street Preachers on “Turn No More,” which would have worked better if, say, an angry Roger Waters sang it instead of someone who sounds like Dennis DeYoung.

It’s an interesting concept for an album, and certainly apropos with today’s economies, though it’s much less enthralling than Race for Space (and certainly less uplifting). With this subject matter, PSB risks sounding too academic, too literal, and as a result, more educational than entertaining. I’d still love to see how they’d stage this album live… Rating: Yes

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Tonight at Milk Run Denver emo/post-hardcore act Old Sport headlines a bill that includes Culture War and No Getter. $5, 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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Live Review: Rusty Lord; new feature: NOmaha Alert (Broken Social Scene, !!!, Algiers)..

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , — @ 12:50 pm June 26, 2017

Rusty Lord at O’Leaver’s, June 23, 2017.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

It was a packed house Friday night at O’Leaver’s to see the debut of Rusty Lord. What can I say about Omaha’s latest garage-rock supergroup?

Their sound was close to what I expected: heavy-psych rock fueled equally by guitars and synths. Someone mentioned Ministry before the show, and you could hear the influence on the opening song, but mostly what we got was guitar metal a la Pro-Magnum with Johnny Vredenburg and Austin Ulmer screeching/yelling over layers of dense chaos.

Of course the main attraction was seeing Omaha rock legend Dave Goldberg behind a full drum kit riding his precise, hyper-kinetic rapid-fire attack. With everything else happening on stage, Goldberg carried these guys on his proverbial shoulders, keeping it all together, while the crowd went bananas.

If you missed it, Rusty Lord is scheduled to play Benson First Friday at The Sydney August 4 with Leafblower and DJ Tyrone Storm.

BTW, no sightings of the actual Rusty Lord (the WOWT weather guy). I’m told he was notified that he’d be on the list, but… no show. Next time, Rusty, next time…

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I get lots of press releases from promoters and labels. Lots and lots.

And I open almost every one. The reason I do is to see if the band being promoted is coming to Omaha on its next tour. The tour list always is at the bottom of the press release. Like the one I got last week about The Afghan Whigs’ North American Tour.

I go down the tour stops list and find:

Minneapolis
Chicago
Milwaukee

and

No Omaha

or, as it’s starting to become known: NOmaha

Unless I’m dreaming, it’s happening a lot more lately, at least when it comes to indie bands. If you’re wondering why Lazy-i isn’t updated every day, day in and day out, it’s because fewer indie shows means fewer reviews to post, fewer 10 Questions interviews, etc.

So, as a new feature here at Lazy-i, every time I get notified of a cool indie tour that is, once again, bypassing our fair city, I’ll put on a NOmaha Alert.

Today’s NOmaha alert(s):

Broken Social Scene:

The tour will follow the release of Broken Social Scene’s upcoming album Hug of Thunder, out on Arts & Crafts on July 7th, 2017.”

9/26/17 — Des Moines, IA @ Hoyt Sherman *
9/27/17 — Milwaukee, WI @ Pabst Theater *
9/28/17 — St. Paul, MN @ The Palace *
9/29/17– Chicago, IL @ Aragon Ballroom *
NOMAHA

!!! (chk chk chk) with Algiers

!!! (Chk Chk Chk) have announced additional US tour dates beginning this fall, a selection of which will be supported by Matador recording band, Algiers.” This is one I’d love to see.

June 30 | Salt Lake City, UT – Kilby Court
July 1 | Denver, CO – Globe Hall
July 7 | Katowice, Poland, – Tabron Nowa Muzyka
NOMAHA

Someone get on it! We need these shows…

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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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Rusty Lord (Dave Goldberg, et al.) debut, Miwi on a boat tonight; Adult Mom, vinyl swap Saturday…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:08 pm June 23, 2017

Adult Mom plays Saturday night at Milk Run. Photo by Richard Gin.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

On to the hotness that is this weekend…

Tonight, another mega debut, this time at fabulous O’Leaver’s. Omaha welcomes Rusty Lord. No, not the bald, nebbish WOWT meteorologist, the new rock project featuring Austin Ulmer (Dumb Beach) on guitar and vocals, Ben VanHoolandt (Digital Leather) on synth/guitar, Johnny Vredenburg (Digital Leather, Pro-Magnum) on bass/synth/vocals, and the legendary Dave Goldberg behind a FULL drum kit.

Says Vredenburg, “It’s somewhat what you’d imagine it to be. loud, abrasive dissonance with maniacal drumming driving it, yet a different sound from any of our previous bands.” I asked him to pin down a genre, and he said “probably psych/synth-punk.”

This is a four-band show, kicked off by Alcools, then Rusty Lord, followed by Effluvium and headlined by Satanic Abortion. $5, 10 p.m.

Also tonight, it’s another River City Star rock ‘n’ roll cruise down the Missouri River, this time featuring Miwi La Lupa, with AllSortsOfGood and the turntable stylings of DJ Tyrone Storm. The details:

Gates – 7 p.m.
Boat Access – 8 p.m.
Set Sail – 9 p.m. (they leave with or without you, folks)
Dock – Midnight

Cost is $20 for General Admission-only ticket, or $35 for General Admission + Miwi La Lupa’s Beginners Guide on vinyl!

And then Saturday night…

Through some happy accident a few years ago a link to Adult Mom’s Bandcamp page made it into my email, wherein I purchased a cassette copy of her 2014 release Sometimes Bad Happens, a great debut. That release must have caught the attention of Tiny Engines (the label that releases See Through Dresses’ albums), who put out Adult Mom’s 2015 full-length debut Momentary Lapse of Happily.

Now along comes Soft Spots (2017, Tiny Engines), which is her best release yet. “Her” is Adult Mom frontwoman/songwriter Stephanie Knipe, who is described by her label as “a gender-weird queer navigating through heartache, trauma and subsequent growth” and who gives the record an RIYL of The Weakerthans, The Cranberries, Girlpool, Liz Phair and Diet Cig.

In fact, Adult Mom emerged from the crowded forest of indie bands at about the same time as Diet Cig. I thought AM would be the one to break through, but it’s been Diet Cig that’s gotten all the attention, unfortunately. As a result, Diet Cig has had sweet opening tour slots and played Maha and Slowdown, while Adult Mom is relegated to playing tiny venues like Saturday night’s show at Milk Run.

Soft Spots is a gorgeous collection of bitter-sweet relationship songs that sonically remind me of K Records bands like The Softies while lyrically her music has a similar honesty heard on Elliott Smith albums. Knipe has a one-of-a-kind voice that emotes a sort of confident loneliness that fuels rocking tracks like “Steal the Lake from the Water” and “Drive Me Home.” The record is definitely worth checking out.

And so is the show — Saturday night at Milk Run. Opening for Adult Mom is Philly band Free Cake for Every Creature and our own The Morbs. $8, 9 p.m. Remember, Milk Run is now at Midtown Art Supply. Enter through the alley.

One more thing to mention this weekend… Brothers Lounge is hosting another Omaha Record Swap from 4 to 7 p.m. Almost Music, Homer’s, Vinyl Therapy and D-Tour are among those who will have stock on hand. It’s free and the drinks are extra tasty at Brothers.

And 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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i