Live Review: Future Islands, Operators; Bob Log III, Millions of Boys tonight, Saturn Moth Saturday; Digital Leather, Little Brazil Sunday…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:55 pm August 29, 2014
The many faces of Samuel T. Herring of Future Islands, The Waiting Room, Aug. 28, 2014.

The many faces of Samuel T. Herring of Future Islands, The Waiting Room, Aug. 28, 2014.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Samuel T. Herring paced the stage like a sweaty caged bear. By now, thanks to David Letterman, any fan of Future Islands is familiar with his groovy dance routine, but they probably weren’t so familiar with his other rather unique performance gestures displayed on stage last night, such as:

— Picking the imaginary berry and eating it (along with his hand)
— Pounding his chest, hard, like a gorilla
— Reaching into his chest and pulling out his heart, and eating it (along with his hand)
— Swinging his fist round-house style, hard and wide, just like Elvis
— And “Hello God, it’s me, Samuel” (softly, Waterfront Bando-style, while looking up at the moon).

These gestures and many more were woven into his usual battery of low-dips, twists, high kicks and vogue-like head turns during last night’s Future Islands’ set at The Waiting Room.

The first time I saw him — back in 2011, cold-called, never even having seen a picture of the band before — I was startled and enamored. Last night, having seen the shtick a few times since, I was merely amused and entertained. So was the sold-out audience, who jerked and dived right along with Herring throughout an hour-plus-long set that left him looking as if he’d just undergone the ice bucket challenge, his red collared dress shirt sweat-soaked and clinging to his ape-like physique.

Now you know. Herring doesn’t hold back. He leaves it allllll on stage, every performance, presumably every night. And that kind of kinetic self-brutality has to take a toll on something. Last night it was his voice.

You did not hear Samuel T. at his best. His vocals were ragged from the very start, often breaking down to choked whispers. As one guy put it, “He started his growl pretty early in the set tonight.” He sure did. At past performances, that monster growl had been tossed out sparingly, for effect. Last night his guttural Cookie Monster roar appeared early and often, most likely to compensate for a lack of high end.

The limitation was most noticeable on their most known song, “Seasons (Waiting on You),” made famous on Letterman. The song’s soaring moments were cut off, growled or strangled. Strangely, as the night wore on, Herring’s voice got better. In fact, he sang best during the three-song encore.

Not that it mattered. People who didn’t know better surely thought it was all part of the show, a show that hasn’t changed much since the last time I saw it on TWR stage; and it’s still just as entertaining.

Operators at The Waiting Room, Aug. 28, 2014.

Operators at The Waiting Room, Aug. 28, 2014.

The real surprise last night (for me, anyway) was opening band Operators. The band consists of frontman Dan Boeckner (Wolf Parade) and drummer Sam Brown (New Bomb Turks), who worked together with Britt Daniel in the one-off Devine Fits project. Rounding out the trio is fetching keyboard player Dvojka. Their sound was a fine combination of ’80s synthrock and post-wave Eno-era Talking Heads sung with indie-rock gusto by Boeckner, who resembled a young (though shirted) Iggy Pop.

Operators new EP, EP 1, captures their synth-rock-dance energy (check out “Ancient”), but doesn’t capture their live dynamic, which was more free-form and fun, a good opening match for Future Islands…

* * *

So what’s going on this long, three-day weekend? Plenty.

Tonight creepy helmeted slide-guitar freakshow Bob Log III graces the stage at fabulous O’Leaver’s. Log III has mainly performed in larger clubs around town, like The Waiting Room. I can only imagine what’ll happen in The Club’s intimate confines. Will Mach be stirring up a Boob Scotch?  Find out at tonight’s massive showbill, which also includes Dumb Beach, Sean Pratt and the Sweats and DJ Dave Goldberg. Note this is a $7 show, starts at 9.

Also tonight, Millions of Boys plays at The Sydney with Kansas-based indie rockers Schwervon! and The Love Technicians. $5, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, down at The Slowdown, Satchel Grande returns with Funk Trek. $8, 9 p.m.

Saturday night local indie rockers Saturn Moth celebrate their CD release at The Waiting Room with The Sub-Vectors, Manic Pixie Dream Girls and Lot Walks. $5, 9 p.m.

Then it’s back to O’Leaver’s on Sunday for a very special O’Leaver’s Sunday Social featuring three things none of us can live without: Digital Leather, Little Brazil and food. The music starts at 5 p.m. and it costs the usual $5. Look, we all have Monday off anyway. Might as well spend Sunday afternoon getting wasted at The House That Mello Built.

That’s what I got. If I’m missing your gig, put it in the comments section. Have a great weekend…

* * *

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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Saturday night at the OEAAs; Burkum Boys tonight; Future Islands is this Thursday…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , — @ 12:43 pm August 25, 2014
24 Hour Cardlock at Burke's Pub, OEAA Showcase, Aug. 23, 2014.

24 Hour Cardlock at Burke’s Pub, OEAA Showcase, Aug. 23, 2014.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Checked out the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards (OEAA) showcase Saturday night in Benson. This year’s selection of bands were mostly unknown to me, especially Friday night’s lineup. Saturday was more of the same, though there were a few notables on the list, including Matt Cox, The Big Deep (who played their farewell set before they go on hiatus), Brad Hoshaw, John Klemmensen, Travelling Mercies, etc.

One problem with these kinds of multi-venue showcases/festivals involves sobriety. The schedule demands you move from bar to bar to see various bands, and at every bar, one feels beholden to order a beer. By three bands you’ve had three beers (in my case, more, having had a couple at 1912 prior to the first band). I had to cut myself off or else I wouldn’t be able to ride my bike home (Needless to say, I was sobered up by the time I hit the streets).

I think it’s high time that Benson be declared its own drinking district, with its own set of rules that allows for people to carry beers from bar to bar, just like in New Orleans. Problem solved.

These kinds of festivals are a lot of fun even if you don’t know or like the bands playing. In this case, there was plenty to like. Hoshaw with sideman Matt Whipkey at The Barley Street was the usual stellar performance. Adding even more depth to the set was pianist Vern Ferguson on the bar’s old upright. Teresa kept asking why Hoshaw hasn’t blown up beyond Nebraska. It’s a riddle wrapped in an enigma whose answer also (probably) applies to hundreds of other talented artists that never get discovered outside their burgs.

The Big Deep’s last waltz was admirable. Here’s to the band members’ futures, wherever they may be.

But the big surprise of the evening was 24 Hour Cardlock. Don’t be dissuaded by the band’s lousy name (as I have been). The four-piece plays a style of “trucker” music that’s a combination Silver Jews, Charlie Daniels (sans fiddle) and Commander Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen (Hot Rod Lincoln). Their songs are road stories sung by a guy who’s seen it all. In fact, the band apparently has been around for more than 20 years, with both an American and Canadian line-up.

Among the American line-up that played at Burke’s Pub Saturday night was bassist Marc Phillips, formerly of Carsinogents (among others). The rest of the band also was in the band that played before them, The Ronny’s, wherein 24′s frontman played bass. It’s all quite confusing. That said, they’re worth checking out the next time they play at one of the usual Benson haunts.

As for that name, well, no one could tell me what 24 Hour Cardlock means, though a quick Google search unearthed connections to 24-hour filling stations frequented by truckers. The name ranks right up there with 3 Day Meat Sale. At least you won’t forget it.

A suggestion for future OEAA showcases: On the last night, past year’s winners should be featured on one of the stages. It was odd to see Matt Whipkey’s only performance was as the guitarist for Brad Hoshaw when he currently holds the “Artist of the Year” title belt. John Klemmensen and the Party did get the big-stage treatment at The Waiting Room, but I’d already left for the night by the time he hit the stage. Other than John and Matt, I don’t know who else won awards last year. Having the primary winners on stage would place a nice bow on the honor.

* * *

Pageturners have The Burkum Boys tonight with Minneapolis C&W band The Cactus Blossoms. Good way to start off your week. Starts at 9 and it’s free.

And this Thursday is that Future Islands show at The Waiting Room. The date just seems to have snuck up on me. I bought my tickets way back when they went on sale, figuring this one would sell out. Well, it hasn’t. Tix are available for $15 here. Here’s hoping more people show up this time than the last time they came through The Waiting Room.

* * *

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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Post-script Maha comments, and the live review (in the column); Dereck Higgins Indiegogo campaign, Travelling Mercies, Feel Tight tonight…

Category: Blog,Column,Reviews — Tags: , — @ 1:01 pm August 20, 2014

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

More comments and review of this year’s Maha Music Festival are in this week’s column. You can read it in the new issue of The Reader, out tomorrow, or online right here.

Some final thoughts/post scripts to Maha 2014:

Domestica's Jon Taylor at the microphone.

Domestica’s Jon Taylor at the microphone.

– Jon Taylor sung leads on at least two Domestica songs during their Maha set — a departure as Heidi Ore has handled lead vocals with Domestica and Mercy Rule for about 20 years. Jon did a stellar job. It’ll be interesting to hear how it translates on future Domestica recordings.

– As mentioned in the review, Icky Blossoms’ new material is harder and more acidic than stuff off their debut album, but that doesn’t make it any less danceable. Expect their new album on Saddle Creek probably early next year.

The intense crowd in front of the stage during Icky Blossoms' set.

The intense crowd in front of the stage during Icky Blossoms’ set.

– Speaking of Icky Blossoms, the band got a nice shout-out from The Head and the Heart during their set, gushing that Icky was their favorite band so far at the festival. Maybe the Ickys should try to get an opening slot on THATH’s next tour?

– I was skeptical about the Maha Ferris wheel until I saw it. It actually was pretty cool and when I went past it early in the evening there was quite a line of people waiting to get on.

–  Maha outdid themselves with this year’s Global Village. Lots of cool shit for kids to do while mom or pop is rocking. This is one of the central things that make Maha a festival rather than just a day-long concert.

– Ain’t none of my business but it was disturbing to see — while leaning through the crowd near the stage during Local Natives’ set — some guy carrying a baby with no hearing protection standing right next to me. Even with ear plugs I thought their set was loud from that vantage-point. Can that level of decibels be healthy for a baby?

– The Boulevard seasonal ale being served in the beer tents (something sweet blended with ginger) was indeed tasty. I’m developing a taste for sissy beers.

– It wasn’t all roses for Maha. The food selection was…lacking. I’m not sure what they can do about this. I swear I saw people walking around with cheeseburgers but I couldn’t find where they were coming from. That said, would it kill them to find a vendor that offered a pleasant, refreshing salad? Or ribs?

– For every person I talked to who loved the line-up there was someone who whined about the line-up. Maha will never be all things to all people, nor should it be. I like their basic two-stage recipe, though I think they’re going to begin struggling to find new, decent locals to fill that local stage who haven’t already played in the past two years.

– BTW, I’ve gotten plenty of shit about missing Radkey’s and Doomtree’s sets. Sorry fans. I’m quite familiar with their catalogs, and it just ain’t for me. Knowing that I was going to miss about two hours of the festival, I had to choose judiciously. I’m sure they were fan-fucking-tastic…

– The biggest disappointment was The Both’s set. The idea was good on paper, but I don’t think it translated to a festival. Aimee Mann’s music is probably better suited for a sit-down concert in, say, the Holland or the Orpheum rather than an outdoor stage. Conversely, someone needs to book Ted Leo at The Waiting Room.

– Oddest moments at Maha: The times between sets when there was no music. I mean nothing. You’d think they’d at least have some house music going over the PA. Even the annoying generic reggae beats that I’ve heard at so many other large concerts between sets would have helped fill the void. The simple answer is for Maha to hire one (or a few) of the area’s many DJs to fill in the gaps between sets. It would be a nice tip o’ the hat to the local DJ culture.

After six festivals, Maha is finally reaching its capacity. No, it hasn’t outgrown Stinson Park. Even at (what I think was) its maximum attendance level (toward the end of The Head and the Heart or at the very beginning of Death Cab’s set) it was still possible to comfortably walk through the crowd (By contrast, try navigating through the crowd during the last band at the annual Memorial Park freedom rock July 4 hog-calling concert).  The attendance number being reported is 7,000. Maha could squeeze a couple more thousand into Stinson, and maybe even reach that golden 10,000 number if they find the right headliner. Does Maha need to get bigger than that? It will have to if it’s going to attract the Beck / Wilco-level headliners.  How else can Maha grow? How about a second day-long festival — one held in the spring, the other in the late summer? Or add an amazing Friday night warm-up set in the park…

BTW, if you went to Maha, fill out the Maha survey so they can capture your thoughts and make it even better next year.

More Maha review here.

* * *

You know that Dereck Higgins release I mentioned the other day that I wondered would ever make it onto vinyl? Well it is, probably. Dereck launched an indiegogo campaign to help fund the pressing. You can contribute (and pre-order the LP) here.

* * *

Hear Nebraska’ second-to-last Live at Turner Park concert for the season is tonight. The line-up is Lincoln bluegrass outfit The Bottle Tops and roots rockers The Travelling Mercies.The show starts at 6 p.m. Bring a blanket and some booze and enjoy. More info here.

Also tonight at Slowdown Jr. it’s the debut of Feel Tight, a new project featuring members of Talking Mountain, The Seen and Weird Howl. Opening up is Huge Fucking Waves and Stephen Nichols. $5, 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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Maha Music Festival 2014 in photos; The Everymen return tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: — @ 12:58 pm August 18, 2014
The Maha Music Festival crowd late in the evening, looking from stage left.

The 2014 Maha Music Festival crowd late in the evening, looking from stage left.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

A more-detailed review of the Maha Music Festival will appear in my column in The Reader on Thursday. The micro-summary: It was a good, though rather exhausting, day thanks to humid weather and a loaded line-up that made it hard to sneak away to re-energize. I ended up skipping the Radkey and Doomtree sets to go home and change my clothes and cool off.

All the performances were good. Domestica, Whipkey and Twinsmith were as expected. It was good to see Heidi and Jon on a festival stage. The surprises were M34n Str33t, who I’d never seen before and thoroughly enjoyed, and Envy Corp, a band I’d all but written off as just not being my thing, that is until this gig. I was talking to a musician and another music journalist during their set and all three of us were like, “Who the f___ is this? These guys are pretty awesome.

The Both were good, if not a bit sleepy in their mid-tempo way. I’d rather see them in a regular venue than on an outside stage. Local Natives ramped up the crowd for the coming evening, but what really got the crowd pumped was Icky Blossoms.  The old favorites from their debut album were as good as ever, but the new stuff points toward a different, more punk-fueled sound. Edgier, despite the dresses.

Head and the Heart and Death Cab did their things, and I’ll go in a little more detail about them in the column, though it’s safe to say Maha has broken its curse of having dull headliners.

Anyway, here’s a collection of photos taken throughout the day.

Domestica

Domestica kicked off Maha to an adoring crowd.

Early crowd

Actually, the crowd for Domestica was bigger than it looked.

Matt Whipkey and his band launched the local stage.

Matt Whipkey and his band launched the local stage in style.

And then there was Snot, representing this year's class of Omaha Girls Rock!

And then there was Snot, representing this year’s class of talent from Omaha Girls Rock!

Twinsmith on the main stage.

Twinsmith looked right at home on the main stage.

M34n Str33t brought a lot of signs with them.

M34n Str33t was the only band to bring props for the crowd, which hung around at least until they got all but destroyed during Icky Blossoms’ set.

Aimee Man and Ted Leo do their thing as The Both.

Aimee Man and Ted Leo do their thing as The Both. And yes, there was even a rendition of “Voices Carry” (though it paled compared to Leo’s awesome “Bottled in Cork”).

Local Natives got the evening rolling in style.

Local Natives got the evening rolling in style.

Icky Blossoms dressed for success.

Icky Blossoms dressed for success.

The view from the side of the stage of The Head and the Heart.

The view from the side of the stage of The Head and the Heart.

Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard kicking off their headlining set.

Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard kicking off their headlining set.

A view of Death Cab from in front of the stage.

A view of Death Cab from in front of the stage.

The huge crowd on hand at the end of The Head and the Heart's set.

The huge crowd on hand at the end of The Head and the Heart’s set.

* * *

Tonight at O’Leaver’s, The Everymen return. Remember them from a few weeks ago and from this column? Check them out again tonight. The Ridgways and Sidewalkers also are on the bill. $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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Matthew Sweet, Tommy Keene; 2Q’14 reviews roundup (in the column); Brilliant Beast, Filter Kings tonight…

Category: Column,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:39 pm July 31, 2014
Matthew Sweet at fabulous O'Leaver's, July 30, 2014.

Matthew Sweet at fabulous O’Leaver’s, July 30, 2014.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

It was nothing less than a dream come true for Matthew Sweet fans. There he was, literally steps in front of them, surrounded by a top-notch band playing all of his “greatest hits” one after the other in fine voice. As Sweet said, it was like playing a gig in someone’s living room.

Earlier in the day someone apparently hauled more PA equipment to bolster O’Leaver’s modest system. Speaker stacks were balanced on either side of the the club’s staging area. I was told 100 tickets were sold for this show, but the crowd was probably two-thirds that size — I’ve seen it more crowded in there at Digital Leather shows. With the tables taken out, there was plenty of room up and around the band. Sweet seemed to like the proximity to his fans. “I’m used to looking down on you.” Not last night.

Tommy Keene at O'Leaver's, July 30, 2014.

Tommy Keene at O’Leaver’s, July 30, 2014.

Before he kicked into his set, The Lupines warmed up the crowd with a fractured set of Nebraska-style garage rock that I’m sure startled some of the oldsters there to see Sweet. A badly shorting cable marred the set’s opening song, but after some fiddling around the crew got it fixed and the good times rolled.

Next up was surprise “special guest” Tommy Keene, an East Coast-based singer songwriter who Replacecments fans may remember for having played guitar with a touring Paul Westerberg in the late ’90s. I remember him from his handful of solo albums released on Matador earlier in that same decade. Keene was always a first-rate songwriter who despite a sizable push by Cosloy and Co. never took off as everyone had hoped.

With a 12-string and later an electric guitar, Keene played a selection of tunes from his career, closing out the set backed by the band that would back Sweet. And what a band it was. Consisting of two members of Velvet Crush, bassist Paul Chastain and drummer Ric Menck, they were joined by guitar-slinger Dennis Taylor who shared grinding leads with Sweet all evening.

Sweet was all business as he rolled through an hour-plus-long set that included just about every song any fan would want to hear, drawing heavily from his classic ’90s breakthrough album, Girlfriend. We’re talking “Winona,” “Evangeline,” the title track, and on and on, spanning through songs off Altered Beast and 100% Fun and beyond.

It really was a greatest hits show for Sweet fans who will not be disappointed if they make the trek to Lincoln to see him perform again tonight. That show, at the shiny new Vega, will be a completely different and no doubt more detached experience than the reach-out-and-touch-him intimacy of last night’s O’Leaver’s show. I wonder if anyone happened to record it…?

* * *

In this week’s column, the quarterly album reviews round-up (featuring an exciting new rating system!) including thoughts on new ones by Strand of Oaks, Courtney Barnett, Alvvays, Mark Kozelek, Digital Leather, Gold-Bears, Mitch Gettman, The Both, Bob Mould, Orenda Fink and more. It’s in this week’s issue of The Reader or online right here.

* * *

Tonight, it’s back to O’Leaver’s for Minneapolis indie band Brilliant Beast with up-and-coming Omaha band Post Verse. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Also tonight, Omaha’s favorite outlaws The Filter Kings open for Jason Boland and The Stragglers at The Waiting Room. 8 p.m. $15.

Tonight also is the public opening of 1912, the new bar and roof-top deck across the street from The Waiting Room. Drop by and grab a cold one and get a whole new view of Benson.

* * *

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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Little Brazil, Ladyfinger, See Through Dresses, Nightbird; Planes Mistaken for Stars tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:43 pm July 21, 2014
Little Brazil at The Waiting Room, July 19, 2014.

Little Brazil at The Waiting Room, July 19, 2014.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

What a birthday bash for Sara Bertuldo. Something like 150 people (guess-timate) were there to celebrate Sara’s successful journey around the sun and to hear one of the strongest local line-ups in a long time.

See Through Dresses at The Waiting Room, July 19, 2014.

See Through Dresses at The Waiting Room, July 19, 2014.

Sara kicked it off with her band, See Through Dresses. All this talk about a shoegaze revival with bands like Slowdive once again touring. Forget all that and check out this band, which combines the best droning shoe-gaze elements with the tunefulness of Dinosaur Jr. and Pixies. Bertuldo has grown not only in age but in voice, sharing the vocal chores with Matt Carroll, who’s no push-over himself. Post mammoth June tour, they were razor sharp.

As reported, Little Brazil swapped out half its personnel, and the difference was indeed noticeable. Matt Bowen brings a throatier style to the kit, somehow managing to work his way through Oliver Morgan’s intricate lines while adding his own unique voice to the proceedings. Mike Friedman’s lead guitar lines were altogether different not only from what Greg Edds used to contribute to the band, but from what Friedman does as a member of The Lupines. His Lupes’ style is sheer shredding, whereas his ornate touch on LB tunes recalls Layla-era Clapton (Yeah, I said it, I compared him to God). You had to pay attention, though, as Friedman is more musician than showman — playing (at times) with his back toward the audience.

It all came together on the third song of LB’s set, a new tune unlike anything I’ve heard them try before, a hook-laden rocker that separates itself from LB’s standard indie fare thanks to a unique vocal melody and amazing harmony guitars between Landon Hedges and Friedman that recalled the best of Thin Lizzy. This one has “hit” written all over it (too bad there ain’t no such thing as a hit these days). Hedges, btw, was in top vocal form, and bassist Danny Maxwell’s bass continued to be the bedrock it’s all built upon. Where can these guys take this next?

Ladyfinger rounding out the July 19 show at The Waiting Room.

Ladyfinger rounding out the July 19 show at The Waiting Room.

Finally, Ladyfinger framed the evening with its usual bombast. It was a greatest hits set, with no new material (that I recognized, anyway). Here’s yet another band of local legends that has me scratching my head, wondering where they’re headed next.

* * *

Nightbird at The Sydney, July 18, 2014.

Nightbird at The Sydney, July 18, 2014.

Friday night I slipped into The Sydney to catch Nightbird’s debut performance, and it was pretty much as I expected — a set of sludgy, mid-tempo long-form rock songs inspired by your favorite stoner bands. Gerald Lee Meyerpeter howled over his guitar’s feedback as drummer Scott Zimmerman and bassist Jeff Harder provided the foundation. We used to call this “drug music” when I was a kid, and though I don’t do drugs, I can imagine (or maybe I can’t) what it would be like to trip out to this stuff in a smoke-filled bedroom surrounded by black-light posters and halter-tops. Nightbird is all about style rather than songs — if you’re into their kind of dirty sludge, a heavy heaven awaits. PS: Rumor has it they may be adding another guitar, someone from Omaha rock’s not-so-distant past…

* * *

Big show tonight at fabulous O’Leavers — the return of Planes Mistaken for Stars. These guys have been coming through since the late ’90s playing an angular style of post-hardcore punk. Not to be missed. Opening is New Lungs (Little Brazil’s Danny Maxwell in the lead position) and Chicago post-hardcore band All Eyes West. $5, 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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Andrew Jackson Jihad a celebration of joyful despair; Bad Suns tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , — @ 1:01 pm July 16, 2014
Andrew Jackson Jihad at The Waiting Room, July 15, 2014.

Andrew Jackson Jihad at The Waiting Room, July 15, 2014.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I was converted at the Church of Andrew Jackson Jihad last night. I came in not knowing much about the band other than what I briefly heard off the interweb. My initial comparisons were pretty straight on, though I missed the band’s biggest resemblance (or influence): The Mountain Goats.

Frontman Sean Bonnette is a desperate, anxious, scared version of John Darnielle singing not about some mythic, drunken aging couple but (presumably) about a loser/loner celebrating a loneliness that the 150+ crowd at The Waiting Room last night could identify with and revel in. It was, indeed, a party atmosphere that (based on the band’s comments from stage) almost got out of hand.

On recordings, AJJ is a lyrically driven acoustic-powered dynamo. They ramp up their sound live with plenty (too much) low end, plus electric guitar and keyboard, turning into something that more closely resembles Decemberists. Unlike Mountain Goats’ galloping 3/4 time shanties, AJJ’s ballads are straight-four rattlers that earn them their folk-punk designation. The wooden-sounding cello gave a handful of songs an earthy flair.

Frontman Bonnette is a friendly muppet confessing to every vice and ill life has thrown at him with a smile and perfect enunciation. This would just be another run-of-the-mill indie folk band if you couldn’t understand every word of his clever, joyful confessions. And it was fun watching a guy standing alone well back from the stage mouth every word to every song.

No doubt these celebrations of despair meant something wholly different to a newer generation. The young-ish crowd on hand last night (I recognized no one except the TWR staff) responded to the dark elegies with an unbridled YOLO-ish spirit. Despair, I spit in your face!  Isolated slam-dancing, crowd-surfing and synchronized crowd sway were the norm.

My reaction as someone old enough to be their father was slightly different. Pained lyrics like, “Love what you can ’til it dies / Then let it lie, let it fly away” hit a little too close to home, and I found myself more bummed and introspective than when I listen to the usual punk-rock fist-pumpers. All I could think of while I was watching the happy spectacle during songs like “Heartilation,” with lines like “Sometimes I get so lonesome I can’t breathe / Sometimes I get so scared I can’t speak,” was Go ahead and laugh, for as HST used to say, it’s later than you think.

Great show, great band.

* * *

Tonight at The Waiting Room LA band Bad Suns (Vagrant) with Colony House (Descendant Records). $10, 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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Zepparella; this just in from Nielsen: album sales down, vinyl sales up, and everyone is streaming…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 11:31 am July 9, 2014
Zepparella at The Waiting Room, July 8, 2014.

Zepparella at The Waiting Room, July 8, 2014.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

The problem with any Led Zeppelin tribute performance is that — in the mind of a hardcore fan — every riff, every nuance, every musical cue has been permanently ingrained. I’ve been listening to those Zeppelin records for nearly 30 years. And as such, there are things I’ve come to expect when listening to a band try to perform those songs, no matter how attractive the performers are.

And when the riff, the nuance, the cue is missed, mangled or glossed over, well, it does not go unnoticed. Thus it was last night at Zepparella at The Waiting Room. Four young-ish ladies playing the hits we’ve come to know and love. And while they were fun to watch, they missed the mark musically more than they hit it, whether it was singing verses in the wrong key, mangling a central riff or re-imagining a solo or vocal phrase.

On the plus side was the rhythm section. Lots of people were there to see the drummer, Clementine, who has family here in Omaha and has a personal connection to local legend Tim Moss (Ritual Device, Porn). While her drumming wasn’t as thick and throaty as Bonham’s (and whose is?) she respectfully captured the essence of his style. I’m sure she made her family proud.

Bassist Angeline Saris also was impressive in the John Paul Jones role, sticking tightly with Clementine, keeping the bottom intact during some rather loose moments. Frontwoman Noelle Doughty sounded like Nancy Wilson aping Robert Plant, while Gretchen Menn took the biggest liberties with Page’s work, inventing riffs where recognized standards belonged.

Only the most fearsome Zep nerd would make the above comments, especially considering the crowd of 100+ didn’t seem to mind the skipped notes during the slide guitar part on “In My Time of Dying” or the strange vocal take on “Immigrant Song.” They were too busy grooving, or in the case of the table of fat middle aged guys behind me in Tommy Bahama-wear, too busy yelling not-so-clever one-liners at the band like, “You can squeeze my lemon.” Har-har.

Maybe the rust and the band’s lack of energy had to do with this being only the third date on a tour that runs into August. I made it to “Moby Dick” then hit the road, listening to the remastered Zeppelin II recording in my car on the way home.

* * *

Well, the Nielsen Mid-Year 2014 sales report is out and it continues to look bleak for traditional album sales. For the first six months of the year, album sales were down 14.9 percent vs. the same period last year. Total album sales (CDs, cassettes, LPs, and digital albums) were 120.9 million, vs. 142 million last year through June.

Meanwhile, vinyl sales grew a whopping 40.4 percent to 4 million (vs. 2.9 million through June 2013). Yeah, I know 4 million ain’t squat, but at least the number is growing.

The most disheartening fact in the Nielsen report (other than the top 10) is that on-demand audio streams rose an amazing 50.1 percent in the first six months of 2014 to just over 70 billion songs . Holy Spotify.

For you vinyl fans, here’s the vinyl chart for the first six months of 2014:

— Jack White, Lazaretto, 49,100 units
— Arctic Monkeys, AM, 25,100
— Beck, Morning Phase, 21,300
— Black Keys, Turn Blue, 21,000
— Lana Del Rey, Born to Die, 16,500
— Bob Marley/Wailers, Legend, 13,000
— Beatles, Abbey Road, 12,600
— Lorde, Pure Heroine, 12,400
— Mac Demarco, Salad Days, 11,900
— St. Vincent, St. Vincent, 11,400NCENT 11400

And if you’re still bummed about the music industry’s downward spiral, just read Tayler Swift’s Op Ed in the Wall Street Journal (here). Taylor would like to point out:

“…people are still buying albums, but now they’re buying just a few of them. They are buying only the ones that hit them like an arrow through the heart or have made them feel strong or allowed them to feel like they really aren’t alone in feeling so alone. It isn’t as easy today as it was 20 years ago to have a multiplatinum-selling album, and as artists, that should challenge and motivate us.”

So there. Get challenged, rockers!

* * *

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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Live Review: The Everymen; SIRENS tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:11 pm July 7, 2014
The Everymen at O'Leaver's, July 6, 2014.

The Everymen at O’Leaver’s, July 6, 2014.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

O’Leaver’s on a hot Sunday afternoon in July is a surreal experience, like stepping onto the set of Robert Altman’s M*A*S*H. All the usual characters strolled around outside in the “beer garden” with cocktails sweating in the blazing heat while an O’Leaver manned a barbecue grill frying up large greasy kielbasa. Across the parking lot in the sand pit half-naked volleyball players slathered in sunblock slammed PBRs to the sounds of Van Halen’s “Panama.”

Meanwhile, inside the dark cool confines of The Club, The Everymen set up for the afternoon gig. The band featured none other than Catherine Herrick, the former PR wonk at Beggars Group (Matador, XL, etc.) familiar to anyone who’s had to interview, say, Cat Power or a member of Interpol over the past 10 years. I chatted with Catherine after the show, and that interview will be the basis for this week’s Over the Edge column in The Reader. You’ll have to wait for it..

In addition to Herrick, The Everymen consisted of five more members — two guitarists, bassist, drummer and saxophone player. That sax — along with the band leader’s love of all things New Jersey (and The Sopranos) — might give you some ideas what this band sounded, but you’d be wrong.

The Everymen combined elements of garage and indie with doo-wap, metal, even theater rock. Their style was all over the board. One minute you’d think you were listening to something penned by John Steinman (albeit, without keyboards), the next it sounded like an homage to The Scorpions, but with sax thrown on top of the riffs.

That sax player (who switched between bari and alto when he wasn’t adding vocals) defined (or at least shadowed) everything about The Everymen, along with Herrick, who has an intensity that reminded me of Heidi Ore of Mercy Rule/Domestica fame, and frontman/guitarist Mike V, who would have you believe this band is just a group of goombahs in town from the Jersey shore. And while they did have sonic similarities to a certain Jersey dude who also has a sax player in his band, no one would mistake this guttural rock with anything released by The Boss.

Highlight moments came toward the end of the 45+ minute set in the form of a growler I think was called “Motorbike,” and a fist-pumping anthem (again) I think was called “I Held On.” They could be campy (synchronized group arm gestures, finger-snapping), they could be heavy, but most of all they were fun. And labels like Matador or XL could use a little fun in their rosters.

* * *
Tonight at The Sydney it’s a four-artist bill headlined with New Orleans band SIRENS (Community Records). Opening is Mike Schlesinger, Anne McClellan and adamroberthauG. $5, 9 p.m. Not a bad way to kick off the 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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Criteria rocks the CWS; Hear Nebraska launches new website and HN Radio…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:51 pm June 23, 2014
Criteria at The Slowdown, June 21, 2014.

Criteria at The Slowdown, June 21, 2014.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Well, Jason Kulbel was right. I had no problem finding on-street parking when I drove downtown Saturday night to catch Criteria at Slowdown. I spent the evening closely monitoring the College World Series game on TV (which went into extra innings), worrying it might push into the Criteria set time. I didn’t want to get caught in a post-game traffic quagmire. With the last out I headed downtown, avoiding Cuming Street, taking Dodge, and eventually running into crowds and cops navigating 14th St. I found a spot about three blocks away near the UP daycare center. So much for all the whining.

If the chaos that was taking place in Slowdown’s tented parking lot is any indication, we’ll soon be seeing Mr. Kulbel and Mr. Nansel driving ’round in brand new Bentleys. It looked like spring break in Bro-land, a sea of backwards baseball caps carrying Silver Bullets looking for someone to high five. Needless to say, I didn’t spend much time outside.

Inside the climate-controlled trappings of The Slowdown it felt like any other show except for the TV screens showing highlights from the game that just ended and the Slowdown staff decked out in matching “staff” baseball shirts. CWS refugees mixed with the regular crowd, I doubt they knew what they were in for when Criteria rolled on stage launching into a set of indie-rock anthems with their usual panache. Those looking for dance beats and/or “hot action” exited through the back door.

“Sounds like there’s some fat beats going on out there,” said dashing frontman Stephen Pedersen between songs, as you could hear the dull thump through Slowdown’s cinderblock. “We’re more of a treble band.”  Those who hung around — my guestimate: 100-150 — got exactly what they came for.

I’ve been watching Criteria perform live for well over a decade. I’ve never seen a crowd respond to them the way last Saturday night’s crowd did. The floor in front of the stage became an ad hoc mosh pit with rabid fans pounding each other and/or doing some sort of improvised hoe-down dance. Fans leapt onto the stage, but finding the crowd too sparse to jump on top of instead jumped back down to the floor and were carried overhead in a weird ritual that looked more like piggyback riding than crowd-surfing. Needless to say, these fans knew the words to all the hits, which they screamed back at the stage. No doubt Criteria still has a rabid base dying for their return.

And return they shall, with a new album Pedersen said was “almost done” and ready for shopping to a label willing to back an act that hasn’t put out new material in nine years and/or doesn’t do extensive touring. Something tells me they’ll find a taker right here in Omaha (if they want it).

Criteria played at least four songs from that yet-to-be-released album, including a couple they’ve never performed live. One, played toward the very end of the set, was classic Criteria, as good as anything they’ve done in the past. The band continues to age well. Pedersen can still strike hot with his vocal contortions, glancing off the high notes as if he were still in his 20s (though he had to be grateful he doesn’t have to do it every night).

With the last song, the fans began chanting for an encore. They got two more songs for their efforts, including a transcendent version of “Prevent the World” that left them satisfied.

This show plus The Faint last week are evidence that Slowdown is proud of the music that helped put Omaha on the indie music map and wants to share it with the great unwashed masses that attend the CWS. Here’s hoping they continue the tradition at next year’s CWS.

* * *

Drumroll please….

The redesigned hearnebraska.org website finally went live this morning. Go take a look. The cleaner, easier-to-navigate design is fully responsive — that means it looks and behaves as well on your smart phone or tablet as it does on your desktop browser.

But maybe the most important new feature of hearnebraska.org is the launch of HN Radio — that’s the music player located at the top of the homepage. The goal is to provide an online channel that makes available music from local bands. The current playlist includes songs by Once a Pawn, Digital Leather, Dumb Beach and Anna McClellan.

HN Radio also ia premiering Live at O’Leaver’s. For the past few months (year?) O’Leaver’s has been recording live performances at the club, the quality of which is amazing. The current HN Radio playlist includes tracks by Deleted Scenes and Eli Mardock recorded as part of the O’Leaver’s series. My only gripe about HN radio is that the playlist is too short, but methinks this is merely V 1.0. Expect a lot more music — and content — at HN Radio in the very near future.

Congratulations to Andy Norman and the entire Hear Nebraska staff for getting the new design and HN Radio afloat. Check out the site and give them your feedback.

* * *

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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i