Live Review: Criteria, Little Brazil; Twinsmith, Bug Heaven tonight; Las Cruxes Saturday…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , , — @ 11:33 am November 25, 2022
Criteria at The Waiting Room, Nov. 23, 2022.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Very much like every other year was last Wednesday’s holiday concert at The Waiting Room, the eighth such event (according to Criteria frontman Stephen Pedersen, who celebrated this winning streak from stage). Lots of old, familiar faces were on hand to wish glad tidings as well as they could through the 100+ dB din (even between bands, it was loud).

Uh Oh at The Waiting Room, Nov. 23, 2022.

Uh Oh kicked it off with a solid set and what appeared to be the evening’s largest crowd (a crowd that slowly, slightly waned throughout the night). The more I hear Joe Champion live the more I’m reminded of Tim Quirk of Too Much Joy, thought Uh Oh’s music is played straightforward lyrically vs. TMJ’s snarky humor, and that’s OK. While the entire band is solid, lead guitarist Mari Crisler is a standout on solos that leave the histrionics for the fretboard (which is a nice way of saying the band doth not emote much on stage, but few indie bands do).

Landon Hedges, left, and Danny Maxwell of Little Brazil at The Waiting Room Nov. 23, 2022.

Little Brazil followed with their best performance in recent history driven by frontman Landon Hedges. Always solid instrumentally, for me LB shows depend on how well Landon handles those high notes. Get him on a bad night and your best best is to lean back and enjoy guitarist Shawn Cox’s amazing fretwork. Get Landon on a good night (or in this case, a great night) and you’re flying above the crowd alongside him on that vocal tight rope.

LB has been kicking it for decades but their latest album, Just Leave, is a career highlight thanks to risk taking on song structures and the guitar interplay between Cox, Hedges and the rest of the band, held down firmly by a rhythm section of LB co-originator Danny Maxwell on bass and larger-than-life drummer Austin Elsberry. That said, Hedges’ unique, high vocals make LB a standout in a city full of standouts.

There were times Wednesday night when I cringed waiting to hear if Landon was going to make that note. He almost always did, though a couple times he seemed to forget the words at the beginning of songs. No matter. He always caught up in the end.

Finally there was Criteria. What to say that I haven’t already said the last seven times I’ve seen them play this holiday show or all the other times in between? The band continues to wield the ridiculous guitar-fueled power that made them an indie-music staple in the emo-powered aughts when Omaha was a global music brand. I am here to report that frontman Pedersen can still shred the high notes as well on songs that are nothing less than endurance tests for any vocalist over the age of 30 (which he most definitely is).

The band is sheer power at every position, tight as a tick and tour ready as they’ve ever been, though they’re unlikely to play again until next November. No doubt some of the reasons for that involve the three little boys who ran around stage prior to the set — Pedersen’s personal roadies (the youngest of which wore sound-dampening headphones and ran wild in the crowd during the set). In just a few years maybe they’ll be opening for dad’s band, at a show held sometime around Thanksgiving at The Waiting Room…

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The holidays cavalcade of local shows rolls on this weekend.

Tonight at Reverb Lounge, Saddle Creek Records band Twinsmith headlines with up and comer Bug Heaven who I’m told is a must see (though I somehow keep missing them). This one starts at 9 p.m. and is $12.

Also tonight, singer/songwriters Stathi and Mitch Gettman are playing sets at The B. Bar, 4330 Leavenworth (right next to Barrett’s Barleycorn). Mitch goes on at 8, Stathi at 9 and then headliner, Sweetstreak, who describe themselves as East Omaha garage Rock, at 10. No price listed for this one, so you’re on your own.

Tomorrow night (Saturday) our old friends Las Cruxes headlines a free show at fabulous O’Leaver’s. Joining them are (kind of) new band The Rare Candies (Josh Medlock, Mitch Gettman, Ryan Menchaca and a fourth dude who’s probably pissed because he’s not listed anywhere on the band’s websites) and Kelroy. Just like the old days, this one doesn’t start until 9:30.

Also Saturday night, The Waiting Room is hosting a reunion of Omaha ska band Jimmy Skaffa. Joining them is Stick Figures and Plastic Presidents. $15, 8 p.m. Lotta people will be at this one (including on stage, if I remember this bands properly).

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 © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: God Speed You! Black Emperor, Marisa Anderson; remembering Mimi Parker…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:38 pm November 7, 2022
God Speed You! Black Emperor at The Admiral Nov. 5, 2022.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I checked out Marisa Anderson’s music prior to going to last Friday night’s God Speed You! Black Emperor show at The Admiral. Actually, I listened to her recordings most of the night before knowing I was going to write a preview for this show. Anderson plays solo guitar, mostly unaccompanied and her records, but totally alone Friday night. Prior to the show I thought it was a strange opener for what would likely be an orchestra-level wall-of-sound experience, but I was wrong.

Marisa Anderson at The Admiral, Nov. 4, 2022.

Anderson stood on stage with just an electric guitar and played gorgeous, mostly somber instrumentals, slightly over-amplified, a wee bit overblown at times, making them sound stark and haunted. No question the music would have been completely different on an acoustic guitar (but just as good). Anderson introduced each song with a story or an explanation, my favorite being one about a man who came up to her after a show and asked why all her songs were sad. Her response: It’s what I play. Making you happy is not my job. After which, she wrote the happy sing she performed next (which was more majestic than happy).

She closed with another happy number — a song about the hummingbird who rules over her back yard. It turned out Anderson was the perfect opener, because the last thing you need before experiencing bombast is more bombast.

And bombast was what we got with God Speed You! Black Emperor. The band came on at the stroke of 9 p.m. to an audience of what looked like around 400 crowded on the floor in front of the stage. The ensemble’s eight members were spread out almost in a semi-circle so each could see the others clearly.

The projectionist at work during God Speed You! Black Emperor at The Admiral, Nov. 4, 2022.

As the opening tones began to rise, I noticed next to me in the back of the room a woman standing on a riser behind four film projectors. Behind her, loops of film hung from a rod like black spaghetti. She began to feverishly look closely at pieces of the film with a red light that hung around her neck, and upon finding the right piece, threaded it through one of the projector’s top sprockets, leaving the rest to hang limp as the film spun in a loop. On the enormous screen behind the band glowed a jittering, scratched-out word – “HOPE”.

Throughout the night she created projected effects, mostly black-and-white looped films of airplane acrobatics, wheat harvesting, ‘70s New York Stock Exchange trading floor, swans, and so on. When the band performed “First of the Last Glaciers,” the film loops were of enormous glaciers floating in an ocean. The band could have created a digital version of what was being projected, but there was something warm and human knowing this woman was back there creating the visuals by hand.

The band sounded as spectacular as ever, playing mostly compositions from their 2021 album G_d’s Pee AT STATE’S END! God Speed’s compositions generally start with a rhythm or noise, quietly and slowly building to a central looped melody with enormous electric guitars and acoustic instruments (violin, stand-up bass, percussion), before crescendo-ing and fading either to nothing or straight into the next number.

Their music has always been cinematic, but rarely felt so Western or traditional, with most songs falling into a 6/8 double-waltz time, lilting and building and splashing about like the deck of a ship in the middle of an ocean during a squall, beautiful and terrible, the audience staring up mesmerized by the spectacle.

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Low in 2005, Alan and Mimi on the left.

Yesterday it was reported Mimi Parker from the band Low died after her long battle with ovarian cancer.

Low has long been one of my favorite bands, dating back to Things We Lost in the Fire in 2001, when I first interviewed the band. I would have that pleasure a number of times over the years, including interviewing Mimi in 2005 upon the release of The Great Destroyer and in support of their show at Sokol Underground. We talked mostly about her kids, Hollis and Cyrus, and the joys and challenges of touring with them and without them. They are who I’m thinking about today, along with her husband and band mate, Alan Sparhawk, and everyone whose lives were touched by Mimi and her music. She will be remembered, and missed.

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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 © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Black Midi at The Slowdown…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , — @ 12:43 pm October 10, 2022
Black Midi at The Slowdown Oct. 8, 2022.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

The warm-up music for Black Midi at The Slowdown Saturday night was lilting jazz from Wayne Shorter, falling on the ears of a mostly young audience packed into the bowl in front of Slowdown’s main stage. Not a sell-out audience, as the balcony was closed and you could easily get around, but still a healthy crowd, nodding their heads to Shorter’s “Adam’s Apple.”

No doubt the jazz playlist was the band’s idea. Though they have a rep for being a very hard art-rock band, at Black Midi’s core are elements of progressive jazz. So it came as a surprise when the lights finally came down at around 9:30 and the band entered the stage to the strains of The Verve’s “Bitter Sweet Symphony.” They took their respective places and preceded to crush it for a little over an hour.

Playing as a four-piece, most of the vocals were handled by guitarist and founder Geordie Greep, who switched between spoken-word phrasing a la Murray Head and a loungy croon that (for some reason) reminded me of Bobby Short. For a few songs, Greep handed over the lead vocals to bass player Cameron Picton (Greep himself taking up the bass for those songs), who either sang or had a shrill delivery akin to John Lydon.

None of that mattered because at the heart of the performance was Black Midi’s music that swung between a kind of lounge-prog to straight up art-noise, performed with acute precision and driven forward by Morgan Simpson’s drumming, which was nothing less than spectacular. Simpson gave a clinic on remarkable stick work, no stroke or beat wasted on a style that ranged from machine-gun bursts to glorious fills to shimmering cymbal work — here was the best drummer I’ve seen in years.

And Greep knew it, taking cues from Simpson, whose kit was set up off to the side of stage left, pounding away as the crowd moshed in a large pit out front. Between all that moshing and Greep’s beat poet/scat singing, the night had a sense of theater about it. It was Broadway crooning atop raindrop keyboards and aggressive punk married with slam poetry – a strange, wonderful combination.

Greep’s guitar work was angular and precise, reminiscent of Robert Fripp / latter-day King Crimson, while Picton’s bass was staccato fill rhythms when not carrying the weight of the chaos melodies.

The majority of the set was dedicated to the band’s latest release, Hellfire. Solid takes on “Sugar/Tzu,” “Welcome to Hell” and “27 Questions” were the standouts. Unlike the recording, no horns, but what are you gonna do? Late in the set the band performed what felt like a shortened version of “John L,” and I could see Greep look at Simpson and sort of shrug.

Though the crowd was clearly into it all night, there was no encore (as apparently there hasn’t been throughout this tour). Greep instead thanked each member of the band and the sound and support folks before leaving the stage.

The line for the merch table was long and deep. Homer’s should have set up a merch tent with used vinyl in the parking lot. Of course a band as complex and challenging as Black Midi could only attract the best music nerds, hungry for limited edition stuff and vinyl versions of the album they already own digitally, and no doubt played in their cars on the way home (as I did).

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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 © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Night Moves; Mapache tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:07 pm October 5, 2022
Night Moves at Reverb Lounge, Oct. 4, 2022.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Last night at Reverb I saw something I’ve maybe never seen at that club before — couples dancing during the performance. And for good reason.

Night Moves played a modern version of smooth FM ‘70s rock tailor-made for slow dancing. In fact, I can’t think of a better indie band to play at a high school or college homecoming if the goal is to finally make a move and ask that special someone to dance. During their set three couples did the classic arms-wrapped-around-her-shoulders slow sway. It was groovy.

The gig was the first show of their tour, no doubt in support of their just-released 4-song EP The Redaction (2022, Domino). The mid-tempo, guitar-powered rockers also featured frontman John Pelant switching over to synths on a few numbers. That Beach House vibe I picked up on the last time was long gone. Night Moves’ music has more aggressive and interesting rhythms, super-cool soaring lead guitar fills and (early in the set) full-band harmonies.

I kept thinking of music I grew up hearing on the FM, bands like Ambrosia, Gary Wright, 10cc and Jackson Browne. I don’t know if that’s cool, but I like it. Pelant has one of the best voices I’ve heard on stage in a long time, although a somewhat muddled mix made his lyrics (mostly) indecipherable. Killer track “Feel Another Day” off the EP is the perfect song for a slow skate (naturally followed by Nazareth’s “Love Hurts” or 10cc’s “I’m Not in Love”). While the band’s recordings are good, they don’t come close to their live performance.

The crowd of around 60 was surprisingly large for a Tuesday night (and a show that received zero promotion). When the band finished their set, the crowd just stood there, waiting for them to come back out, as if they didn’t know what to do to earn an encore. And sure enough after a few minutes, the lights and house music came up and the disappointed crowd slowly walked away.

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Tonight West Coast Americana band Mapache plays at Reverb Lounge. More Malibu sunset music for sure. This is being promo-ed as “An Evening with Mapache” which I guess means no opener. $15, 8 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 © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Iceage, Corporate Merger, Glow In the Dark, Las Cruxes, Porchfest…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:54 pm October 3, 2022
Iceage at The Slowdown Sept. 30, 2022.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

It dawned on me as I was sitting on the couch watching the Yankees, waiting to see if Judge gets No. 62, that maybe I got it wrong and Earth was headlining Friday night at The Slowdown instead of Iceage. I high-tailed it down to the club where Iceage had already begun their set to a crowd of around 60 in the front room.

The band, who I thought was the next Interpol after they got signed to Matador eight or so years earlier, was killing on stage. Elias Bender Rønnenfelt is one of those frontmen who really puts everything out there even if he’s playing to a half-empty club. This band has only grown over the years — a better band, better performers — but now they’re touring opening for a legacy sludge-metal band?

Rønnenfelt standing on the edge of the stage, reaching out and making eye contact through hair hanging in his face like a young Johnny Depp, singing right to the front of the crowd during set highlight “The Lord’s Favorite” off 2014’s Plowing into the Field of Love, I’m thinking he could be the next Bono if the band could just find a hit. At other times the Danish act reminds me of an ‘80s Manchester band with Rønnenfelt as a modern-day Shaun Ryder.

They leave the stage to the strains of “So Long, Farewell” from The Sound of Music, and I wonder about their career trajectory as I wait a half hour or more for experimental drone trio Earth to get their gear set up. It’s a strange combination for a touring bill, a ‘00s-era post-punk band like Iceage with this feedback-drenched instrumental act who helped define drone rock 30 years ago. I made it through two Earth songs before heading out to Benson.

The Corporate Merger/Bloodcow reunion at The Sydney Sept. 30, 2022.

When I got to The Sydney The Corporate Merger was already on stage. I don’t know the history or reasons behind Bloodcow’s breakup other than frontman Matt Owen moved to Sioux City and there was scuttle-butt about use of the band’s name, etc. Well, Corporate Merger is no Bloodcow. The style is different, much more post-punk than Bloodcow’s power metal and I like it better. Owen mentioned some future recordings, which sounds enticing. For their final song they called up former band member Navin to play an old Bloodcow number and the crowd went nuts.

I spent a some research time Saturday trying to figure out the name of the style of aggressive, industrial, high-BPM dance music Plack Blague pummeled me with while I watched Glow in the Dark set up. The closest I could come was “EMB Powernoise.” Brutal beats with infectious digital hooks that felt like runway music for a Black Mirror robot fashion show or a leather-boy dance-club scene from an old Scorsese film set in New York in the ’80s (After Hours) but with synths instead of guitars.

Glow In the Dark at The Sydney Sept. 30, 2022.

When Glow in the Dark finally made it on stage, I was still feeling the after-effects of the Plack Blague DJ set, that made GitD’s beats feel flaccid in comparison. Well, the effect quickly wore off as the set rolled on. The duo has a distinctly ’80s club vibe to their very cool dance music that combines beats and live vocals with an AV projection that takes you back to a VHS era. I can’t for the life of me find an online outlet for their music, and maybe that’s (wisely) by design.

Las Cruxes at Porchefest, Oct. 2, 2022.

Sunday I rode my motorcycle down to the Gifford Park area for some Porchfest action and caught a little bit of Matt Cox and the first half of Las Cruxes set just a block away at the park’s mobile stage. From block to block throughout the neighborhood there were people on porches playing a variety of folk music – hence the name Porchfest — while small gatherings stood along the sidewalks or sat on the ground or in lawn chairs enjoying the music and the fine fall weather. 

Las Cruxes multi-electric-guitar punk is about as far away as you can get to folk, but still somehow fit into the overall vibe. Good times.

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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 © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Reviews: Brad Hoshaw & the 7 Deadlies, Dehd; Dinosaur Jr., The Cult, Quivers Sunday; Lincoln Calling weekend…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:18 pm September 23, 2022
Brad Hoshaw at Benson Theater Sept. 22, 2022.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

One of the best songwriters to come out of Omaha, Brad Hoshaw, celebrated a homecoming and (sort of) album-release party last night at the brand-spanking new Benson Theatre. It was an appropriate stage for the occasion as Hoshaw once was one of Benson’s most visible artists, for years performing along Maple Street. These days, Hoshaw lives in a rural town in central California, but he’s still writing his classic brand of love-sick folk songs.

The first half of the set was just Hoshaw and his acoustic guitar, sitting center-stage playing a number of songs off his new album, Living on a Sliver, including personal favorites “My Dying Day” and broken-hearted lovesong “Lonesome Fool,” which he explained from stage really has a happy ending because after he wrote it, he first texted his now long-time girlfriend (Awwww.). 

The acoustic set showed off Benson Theatre’s acoustics — you could hear every fine wrinkle of Hoshaw’s vocals and guitar. What more to say about the theater except that you could see every dollar of the millions that went into its refurbishment — it’s gorgeous and surprisingly cozy for its size – which is a nice way of saying it’s smaller than I thought it would be. The room’s acoustics were so good that between songs I could clearly hear conversations at tables across the room. 

Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies at Benson Theatre, Sept. 22, 2022.

After about 45 minutes and a brief intermission, Hoshaw came back on stage with his band, The 7 Deadlies, for an hour-plus set of oldies, this time highlighted by killer versions of “It Falls Apart” (from 2014’s Funeral Guns) and show-stopper “Powdernose” from the 2009 debut, each featuring scorching guitar solos by lead guitarist Matt Whipkey. Rounding out the Deadlies were drummer Scott Gaeta and bass player Craig Balderston.

The band came out for a lengthy encore that included a solo-electric version of “Coma” and Hoshaw’s go-to cover, “Purple Rain” (No matter what I do, I can’t get him to cover “Please Come to Boston”). The crowd of around 80 gave Brad and the band a well-deserved standing ovation.

Dehd at The Slowdown, Sept. 22, 2022.

Afterward, I headed down to The Slowdown for Dehd.

Dehd opened with “Bad Love,” the hit single off the band’s most recent album, Blue Skies, and the youngish crowd of maybe 200 went nuts. Live the trio is even more minimal sounding than on record, with each player making the most out of his or her instrument. Frontwoman Emily Kempf sang and snarled her way through the set while holding down the bass line. Guitarist Jason Balla leapt and danced, warping his guitar’s sound in trademark fashion. There was a sort of underwater vibe to everything. Holding it all together was percussionist Eric McGrady standing between a couple large kettle drums and little else. As they moved through the set, songs did begin to blend into each other, creating one surfy, punky song, but what a fun song it was.  

Opener Exum was just Antone Exum singing and dancing alone with microphone over pre-recorded tracks. Initially, a bit of a let-down, especially considering the instrumentation heard on his albums. Still, he made the most of what he had, getting the crowd to dance and even sing along to his music. Exum’s music ranged from rap and R&B to industrial and punk. If he only had a band behind him.

Onto the weekend, and Lincoln Calling is the premiere event.

The full schedule is at lincolncalling.com. If I had to pick one night to attend it would be tonight. The highlights include a reunion of classic ’90s Lincoln post-punk band Sideshow; ’80s NYC post-punk legends Live Skull, as well as Together Pangea, Uh Oh, BIB, Las Cruxes and Thirst Things First. Saturday’s line-up ain’t bad, either, with David Nance, Catpiss, The Machete Archive, Domestica and The Menzingers among the highlights. There is a variety of ticket options, including venue-specific access. Study the LC website and plan your strategy.

Beyond that, back here in Omaha all the shows are bunched together on Sunday night.

Top of the order is The Cult at The Admiral Theater (formerly known as Sokol Auditorium). Expect a big, loud production from these ’80s first wave dynamos. Goth-heavy Oakland band King Woman opens at 8 p.m. Tickets are $64.50 for GA, and $125 for balcony access.

Meanwhile, over at The Waiting Room, Dinosaur Jr. returns with Chicago singer-songwriter Ryley Walker. 8 p.m. $30.

Around the corner at Reverb Lounge Agent Orange heads a punk ticket that includes local heroes R.A.F. and The Scabby Ghouls. $22, 8 p.m.

And last but not least, Melbourne band Quivers is doing an in-store at Grapefruit Records, 1125 Jackson St., in the Old Market at 6:30 p.m. Sunday. Opener TBD. I’ll be posting a Ten Questions interview with Quivers tomorrow.

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 © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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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 © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Little Brazil album release show w/ Las Cruxes, Cat Piss tonight at The Waiting Room…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:25 pm August 26, 2022
Little Brazil at The Waiting Room, Dec. 28, 2019. The band hosts its album release show tonight at The Waiting Room.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Tonight’s album release show for Little Brazil’s latest, Just Leave (2022, Max Trax Records), is a long time coming. It was originally scheduled for back in June, and now with vinyl copies available, the moment is at hand. 

I’ve listened to the album a number of times online and it’s as big and bombastic as any release in the Little Brazil catalog. The band creates grand, sonic spectacle from melodies cut from moments of uncertainty, melancholia, nostalgia and hope against all odds. In a lot of ways, that’s always been the recipe for all successful Nebraska indie bands. A sort of hang-dog optimism that could only be found in a forgotten, landlocked city in a state no one seems to remember. These are anthems for underdogs unwilling to give up when the chips are stacked against them.  Or, as they sing on stand-out track “Come Along” — “Can’t back down / Won’t back down.”

Frontman Landon Hedges is aging. He has to be because we all are. But you wouldn’t know it listening to him try those high notes as forcefully, gracefully as he did 20 or so years ago when it all began, his constant wingman, Danny Maxwell, by his side, blowing up the bass. The new guys (who really aren’t that new) Shawn Cox on lead guitar & Austin Elsberry on drums, balance out the band these days. And you could say they sound as good or better than they ever have on this record, but you’d be disparaging those who came before Shawn and Austin, and they were pretty damn good, too.

Funny thing about Little Brazil — they’re looked upon as an integral part of the history of the Nebraska indie music scene — as much as any bands that were on Saddle Creek Records. And because of that, some will consider them only in that capacity — especially a few of the younger acts on the scene who see them as dinosaurs. The amusing part is that Little Brazil can still pretty much kick all those bands’ asses as musicians, as songwriters, as a band, on any stage.  And they get another chance to prove it tonight at The Waiting Room. 

Joining them are upstarts Cat Piss, a power trio that proudly carries Omaha’s post-punk torch, and Las Cruxes, an ever-emerging, ever-changing Spanish-language-fueled punk band that is as likely to be playing in Omaha as they are in Mexico City. 

All three bands tonight at The Waiting Room, $12, starts at 9 p.m. See you there.

Not much else happening this weekend. Though I typically don’t hype tribute or cover bands, tomorrow night The Damones are playing at Stinson Park at Aksarben Village. We’re talking ‘80s and ‘90s post punk covers of songs by bands like Peter Murphy, Soft Cell, Echo and the Bunnymen, a lot of First Wave bands. This is a departure for the Stinson Concert Series, and it could be… interesting. 7 p.m. and its free. 

And that’s all I got. If I missed your show, put it in the comments sections. 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 © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Petfest (Marcey Yates, David Nance, Thirst Things First, No Thanks)…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , — @ 2:14 pm August 15, 2022
Petfest 2022 was held this past Saturday, Aug. 13, behind the Petshop Gallery

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

So by all accounts, Outlandia was a success. The festival lucked out with the weather, as Friday night and Saturday ended up being not only tolerable, but pleasant. All the photos I’ve seen from the festival showed lots of folks having a good time. I have no official word on the attendance though it looked pretty decent for a first-year festival with stellar headliners that appeal to mostly middle-aged indie music fans.

I’ve been told by folks who were that that there were no traffic snafus, no parking mishaps, and that Falconwood Park worked out well, and there already are talks about Outlandia 2 (or whatever they call it next year). Congrats to all involved.

As I mentioned, i didn’t attend Outlandia, instead opting for Petfest, which took place Saturday behind the Petshop in Benson. This year they really rolled out the red carpet… literally, as a large red outdoor carpet was placed in the center of the space between the two stages. Other changes included moving the entrance to the south side of the compound as well as moving the larger stage to the northeast corner of the lot so it faced the smaller second stage located in the garage area of Petshop.

Marcey Yates at Petfest 2022.

I arrived just as Marcey Yates’ set kicked off. It’s been a long time since I’ve caught his set and I was knocked over. I have a very narrow bandwidth for hip-hop (which can be summed up by old school ‘80s, Kendrick and Tribe Called Quest) and Yates stylistically hits it dead center. Deep beats and clever flow, very groovy. He was joined by Conny Franko for one number, who just walked right up and grabbed a microphone.

Problems at Petfest 2022.

After Yates, Problems a.k.a. Darren Keen, moved his table of electronic equipment to the large stage’s back tent and ripped into a set that included a number of thick-beat songs off his last couple releases, many of which are focused on Darren’s love of dogs (and why you, too, should love dogs). It’s kind of weird in a good way. Electronic scrunchy tone sounds atop a cracking beat was the bed of lettuce for Keen’s spoken-word life lessons, from a guy who, after years of touring has seen it all and has the respect as one of the most original performers in Nebraska.

Cat Piss at Petfest 2022.

I ducked out for an hour after Problems and came back in time for Cat Piss on the smaller Petshot stage. Shifting between the two stages meant one act could be set up while the other was performing, with only a brief sound check before each set, just enough time to grab another Zipline or whatever you were imbibing in. A lot of folks were imbibing in smoking substances, especially when the sun began to set. There was a cloud of ganga over where I stood most of the day along the north end of the compound. Pot is slowly becoming omnipresent in all outdoor festivals in Omaha, I guess I’m just going to have to get used to it.

Cat Piss is a three-piece power-punk band where drummer Nate Wolf and bass player Sam Lipsett trade vocals on songs that sound about as close to ‘90s Omaha post-punk as you’re going to find outside of a band that actually was around playing post-punk in the ‘90s (and there are a few of them still out there). Casey Plucinski ripped on guitar, but it’s that rhythm section that kept it all hopping. Great stuff.

I should point out here that I didn’t see anything less than a great set all day, which was a credit to sound engineer and show manager Ian Aeillo, who was running around like a whirling dervish all day, making sure things where plugged in and sounded great (which they did). In what was a unique set-up, music came from both PAs at once, providing a sort of quadraphonic effect. Alan Parsons, eat your heart out.

Thirst Things First at Petfest 2022.

Thirst Things First have been around at least for a decade, though I’ve never caught them before. I didn’t even know who they were except that they might be from Lincoln and that the band includes A.J. Mogis on bass — yes, that AJ Mogis, the dude who created ARC Studio with his brother, Mike, and who also plays bass in Criteria.

Wearing (mostly) matching track suits, the band tore into a set of the funnest, tightest power pop you’re going to hear this side of The Faint. Fronted by Mike Elfers of The JV Allstars and including someone I remember from Las Cruxes also on vocals, the band was powered along by Mogis and drummer Jordy Elfers, and was nothing less than remarkable. How have I missed them all these years? Who knows. Their set was a high-water mark in a festival flooded with talent. As David Letterman would say, “I’ll take all of that you got.”

Uh Oh at Petfest 2022.

If Cat Piss embodies Omaha’s ‘90s post-punk at it’s finest, Uh Oh is the embodiment of if Omaha indie jangle pop. The four piece plays big-hearted indie rock that borders on Get-Up Kids-style emo, and did a good job capturing the crowd’s attention.

David Nance Group at Petfest 2022.

They were followed on the larger stage by who, for me, was the festival headliner, David Nance Group. For this iteration, Nance was joined by Dereck Higgins on bass, Kevin Donahue on drums, guitarist Jim Schroeder, and Rosali Middleman on synths. In April, Nance’s band backed Rosali when she opened for Destroyer at The Waiting Room, and now she appeared to be returning the favor.

The band ripped into that killer version of “Credit Line” that they played a month or so ago at Reverb, a version that kicks ass thanks to a super-funky rhythm section — again, I wish they’d record this version of the song (a more rustic and non-funky version appears on Nance’s latest release, which was sort of a solo recording). Known as a garage psych-rock dude, Nance sounds like he’s shifting to a more swinging, funky style — and it’s a welcome change.

Of course that doesn’t mean he’s lost any of his sheer guitar power. Nance and Schroeder still traded guitar riffs back and forth, and ripped it up old school closing their set with a kick-ass version of “Poison” from the break-out Peaced and Slightly Pulverized.

Living Conditions at Petfest 2022.

Next up on the small stage was a metal/noise set from Living Conditions. This aggressive-noise style whose vocals consists mainly of pained yelling is not something I generally go for, but even here, they glowed for group of fans tightly gathered in front of the stage.

No Thanks at Petfest 2022.

The final Petfest performer for me was No Thanks, who announced from stage that this is their second-to-last performance, which I guess means the band is breaking up. If so, that would be a terrible loss for the music scene, as No Thanks is one of the best bands in Nebraska — as musicians, performers and songwriters. Frontman Castro Turf a.k.a. Brendan Leahy is a force of nature, who moves and vamps like a short, Midwestern version of Lux Interior, yelling and barking more than singing, a magnetic performer. But just is notable is this band, that has created a new version, authentic post-punk whose closest relative are bands like Preoccupations and Ceremony.

They hit their stride on their second song of their set — a glorious versions of “Hot Water Rising” (which just happens to be my favorite). It continued to rise from there, with Leahy pacing the front of the stage, taunting the crowd, before poring some sort of substance over his head (fake blood? motor oil? I couldn’t tell in the dark light). No Thanks was a band that had everything in front of them, and like so many other great band from Nebraska, never really got their chance.

That was it for me at Petfest. If Maha Festival showcases the newest indie acts and Outlandia celebrates past national indie icons, Petfest is the ultimate showcase of the best talent this state has to offer. From that perspective, it might be the most important festival we have, because it provides a stage and a spotlight to our local talent, who these days have fewer and fewer opportunities to shine.

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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 © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Maha Music Festival 2022 (Sudan Archives, Car Seat Headrest, Indigo De Souza, Beach House)…

Beach House at Maha Music Festival 2022.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

In the minds of a few folks involved in the Omaha music scene, there are two festivals this year going head-to-head — the Maha Music Festival, which happened last weekend, and Outlandia Music Festival in less than two weeks.

There is scuttlebutt, rumor and legend that Maha begat Outlandia. I’ve heard Outlandia described as a “revenge festival.” And when August comes to a close, it is inevitable that some will compare and contrast the two and declare a winner.

I won’t be one of those people. Because despite local music industry politics, I still see Maha and Outlandia as two very different animals, with two very different audiences. That doesn’t mean, however, that Outlandia didn’t impact Maha’s ticket sales.

I don’t have the numbers (yet), but my eyes tell me the crowds last weekend were among the smallest at any Maha including last year’s COVID-limited success. And in the music business as in life, size always seems to matter no matter what anyone says. Maha’s line-up, more than any in the past, was laser-targeted toward a very young demographic — not Gen X or Gen Y but squarely on the Z. And the audience reflected it – the youngest music-going audience I’ve seen at a Maha Festival. If that was their intent, congratulations.

But it was smaller. Friday night looked as if fewer than 3,000 paid ticket-goers were in attendance, though Stinson Park and the grounds surrounding it still had a festival feel, thanks to a set-up that boasted a great arcade-like area and a fun Community Village populated with energized non-profiters taking advantage of the unseasonably cool weather. Yeah, weather might be a decider between which festival was more fun to attend.

Maha’s biggest change this year was physically moving the main stage closer to the smaller second stage, and shifting the VIP area north of the main stage so VIP tents were actually visually obscured (though VIPers could still walk right down near the edge of stage left). I didn’t visit the VIP area this year because I wasn’t sure my Media Pass would let me in. (Edit: I’m now told they didn’t move the stage. It just seemed like they did because they moved the VIP area).

Realigning the private suites on the east end made the park feel smaller, tighter, which was fine considering the smaller crowd. That stage location meant concert goers were blinded as the sun fell behind either stage.

Which brings up one more positive addition — this year Maha finally added a big screen projection system, with the screen placed left of the main stage. These screens have been a staple at festivals around the country for years, and are a long time coming for Maha, obviously enhancing the experience for those seated along the walkways and in the suites. Maybe next year they can afford a second screen for the other side of the stage.

One last technical thing before we get to the music — Maha continues to be Omaha’s most well-run outdoor event thanks in huge part to their army of volunteers who help in every conceivable way, right down to helping you decide how to throw away your trash. Their volunteers have always been Maha’s greatest asset.

Las Cruxes at Maha Music Festival 2022.

OK, onto the show. I caught the entire Friday night line-up, which kicked off right at 5:30 with punk band Las Cruxes, now boasting a ridiculous nine members. It certainly didn’t sound like nine people on the big stage, and, having seen these folks a half dozen times in the past, they could have pulled off the same performance Friday as a five-piece (though they gotta keep those two drummers).

Las Cruxes punk feels like a psych-rock concert at a blunt-instrument crime scene in a vacant apartment located somewhere just south of the boarder, say Nueva Laredo. It’s a bit unfocused, with sweeping, almost violent melodies sung in a static haze, and of course, entirely in Spanish. I have no idea what they are singing, and I’d be lying if I said the lack of translation didn’t take away from the songs. I like lyrics. If you’re uni-lingual, you’re left with only the psych-punk vibe, which by itself was potent. Punk bands typically aren’t designed for outdoor festivals, but Las Cruxes pulled it off, and I can’t wait to see them again in a club. PS: the sound mix was impeccable, Ian.

Bad Self Portraits, another local band, was next up on the small stage, which by contrast, didn’t sound much smaller. The band played their just-released EP, Fear of Missing Out, which leans more toward singer-songwriter than indie, the lead singer at times reminding me of Aimee Mann. This was the first time I’ve seen them, and probably not the best place to be introduced. It’s tough enough to get people to listen to your new album, even tougher in front of mostly empty festival grounds.

Sweeping Promises at Maha Music Festival 2022.

Next came the first of three touring indie acts. I hadn’t heard of Cambridge band Sweeping Promises until Maha, and wasn’t terribly inspired to check them out until: 1) local legend Jeff Runnings (of For Against fame) pointed me toward their 2020 album, Hunger for a Way Out, and 2) added that the band just got signed to Sub Pop. The aforementioned album is, indeed, awesome. Some of the innovation heard on that record was lost on stage, however. A power trio, front woman/bass player Lori Mondal’s vocals were too exposed and left hanging in the very narrow arrangements. Their performance could have benefited from a dirtier mix.

Indigo De Souza at Maha Music Festival 2022.

I was still waiting for the crowd to show up by 8:15 when Indigo De Souza and her band took the stage. The Saddle Creek Records act is one of the most successful new indie bands in the past couple years on the strength of two amazing albums. A small cadre of fans pressed toward the small stage, and got what they came for — a terrific set. De Souza’s between-song comments were a bit… disturbing. She said she felt cursed whenever she comes to Omaha, adding “Good luck to you.” After singing her next song she continued on about what a strange day she’d had here, and not in a good way.

But you wouldn’t have known it by her performance, which was spot on, while the small stage crowd sang along to highlight “Kill Me.” Wish more people had been there to see it.

Car Seat Headrest at Maha Music Festival 2022.

Finally at 9:30 on came Car Seat Headrest. I was at Stinson earlier that day to help set up the Union Pacific suite and caught their soundcheck, where they ended up playing most of their set. Even at the soundcheck, frontman Will Toledo wore his now trademark gas mask-with-the-glowing eyes (and floppy ears).

But whereas he wore a T-shirt and skinny jeans during soundcheck, for the actual performance he came out in his full, weird orange costume that sort of looked like a hazmat jumpsuit. He wore the mask throughout his set, a microphone tucked away either in the mask or somehow next to it (his voice sounded fine).

I’ve heard people complain that Car Seat’s performances are boring without the costume, and I disagree, but maybe it’s because I think Teens of Denial and Twin Fantasy are two of the best albums of the late 20-teens. His songwriting and arrangements are confessional and provocative, and always interesting, so I don’t need the theatrics. That said, it was was more than appropriate for headlining a festival.

Undercutting the costume, Toledo chatted with his audience and his band between songs, seemingly disconnected from the fact that he was wearing a creepy mask. The New York Times wrote about the costume, saying it was a reflection of his deep admiration for David Bowie and how he always reinvented himself. With that in mind, it’s time for Toledo to dump the costume and take on his own Thin White Duke persona.

Of the two nights, I preferred Friday. There’s talk about pumping up Maha’s Friday night line-ups, but I would keep it indie-focused and leave the big pop-fueled bands for Saturday night.

So here’s my thoughts about the Saturday events — there’s no reason to start the festival at 1:30 if you’re only going to book local bands to perform up until 5 p.m. It’s great that these bands are getting an opportunity to play on big stages, but it’s disingenuous when you consider they’re playing mainly for Maha vendors and staff. After watching a couple minutes of DJ Short-T, I split and didn’t return to the park until Geese’s set.

Maybe the biggest winner of the local bands involved was The Real Zebos. More people told me about the band than any other local on the bill (other than Las Cruxes’ colorful backstage hi-jinx). They’ve got an album release show Sept. 23 at The Slowdown.

Geese at Maha Music Festival 2022.

When I got back to Stinson at around 5, Geese were already on the big stage, but… without a drummer. After a few texts, I found out their drummer and guitarist were both MIA (the drummer apparently had a hand injury).

Geese was considered a huge “get” when it was announced. “Low Era,” the single off their Projector album, is on heavy rotation on Sirius XMU and has a cool vibe reminiscent of early Tame Impala. Of course we got none of that Saturday as the band ended up doing a free-form set that sounded more like noodling than anything else (I was reminded of the Jazz Odyssey scene in Spinal Tap). They were apologetic throughout, and it was a good effort to make the most of a bad situation, but I was just waiting for them to wrap it up. We still haven’t seen Geese.

Things went from bad to worse, as Sudan Archives were tortured with technical problems on that small stage. I was standing just right of the stage as frontwoman Brittney Parks struggled to get her violin pick-up to work, talking back and forth with the stage sound dude. She would plug things in, unplug and replug and the stage sound guy would say “Nothing” or “I have one channel now.” This went on and on and the schedule looked to be blown.

And then, out of the blue, two other performers went on the small stage, unscheduled, and played a couple songs that I will only describe as… challenging. I was beginning to think we weren’t going to get Sudan Archives at all.

Sudan Archives at Maha Music Festival 2022.

As 6 p.m. rolled around (15 minutes late), they finally introduced Sudan Archives, who played as a duo, with a guy manning a laptop/synth/beatbox. The first song went fine, but then 30 seconds into the next song, the amps erupted in static, and the sound was cut. I thought for sure the set was over, when Parks picked up her violin, said “I’m just going to plug this in direct” and began playing a stripped down version of one of her songs, using a pedal repeater, the beat box and her vocals. It was amazing.

By the time that song finished, the tech problem was worked out, but time had run out. Maha wisely let them go on, and we got stunning versions of “NBPQ (Topless)” whose chorus is “I just want to have my titties out, titties out, titties out,” and breakout single “Selfish Soul.” What could have been a disaster ended up one of the best sets of the festival. Sudan Archives will be that act who, in a couple years when she’s playing huge audiences, we’ll say, “I remember when she played Maha.”

Things went pretty smoothly after that.

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever at Maha Festival 2022.

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever came on maybe five minutes late, so things were getting back on schedule. A huge Australian act, they could headline most any other mid-size festival, and were a great late pick-up for Maha. They played with absolute precision their hits, including the ubiquitous “Talking Straight.” I’m not a big fan of this band — the music is a bit too mainstream for me. In a few years, this will be prime Dad Rock material (Outlandia, take note), but I know a lot of people love them, and they got exactly what they came for.

Every year, Maha has one earlier-in-the-day act that ignites the crowd. A few years back, for example, it was Atmosphere. This year it was PUP.

PUP at Maha Music Festival 2022.

The emo-punk band said the festival was the last gig on their world tour, and you could tell. They’re the kind of band with rabid fans who sing along to every song. A fairly large mosh pit formed in front of the stage as kids bounced around into each other more like pogo moshing than slam dancing. PUP’s music isn’t dark, gritty or hardcore; it’s more like pop punk with emo at its center, extremely well played, and the kids loved it.

Princes Nokia at Maha Music Festival 2022.

They were a huge contrast to Princess Nokia, a red-hot New York-born Puerto Rican MC, singer and performer. She had literally just flown in for the performance (or so she said), and it took her awhile to get comfortable on stage, using her opening song as her sound check. Backed by her DJ, she ran through her a set along with a few a cappella raps and a ton of between-song messaging about social issues, equality, and not taking shit from anyone. At one point she invited the people of color to come up front. I thought her arrangements and DJ were solid; her rhyme and flow, not so much.

By the end of her set, the crowd size looked somewhat impressive, but nowhere near as big as past years’ closing nights. We’ll see what the numbers say, but I think the data will prove this to be an off year for Maha. Part is due to the headliner choice. Beach House is far from a household name unlike past Maha headliners like Weezer, Lizzo, Garbage, Run the Jewels, etc. If you think Maha should continue to cater to indie (as I do), then you’re OK with that.

Beach House is a top-drawer indie band, but they’re not a huge draw, like festival headliners that Maha may never attract because of cost or scheduling, such as The Smile (ex-Radiohead), Tame Impala, LCD Soundsystem, Arcade Fire, Lana Del Rey, IDLES, Fontaines D.C., Wet Leg, and yeah, apparently Phoebe Bridgers (but that’s another story).

Beach House at Maha Music Festival 2022.

Beach House used a solid backdrop to facilitate a huge projection system throughout their performance, effectively setting a tone that complimented their spacey, droning indie music. Like last year’s Khruangbin headliner, it made for a laid-back closing act, but as I’ve said before, I never go to Maha for the headliner and never stay til the end.

So, another successful Maha Festival in the books, certainly in terms of execution and artistry. Maha continues to have the most diverse line-up of any local festival. And their hospitality is flawless, especially with those volunteers. Still, there’s always room for improvement, like getting a second big screen and it’s high time they hire an event DJ to keep the vibe flowing between sets.

Maybe the best thing about Maha is that it’s so damn easy. I rode my motorcycle to the park and walked right into the festival — zero hassle. The location and convenience are unmatched (and that’s something that may be lost if/when Maha makes its eventual move to downtown Omaha).

And while Outlandia may have bigger names in their line-up — ultimately drawing a larger audience — the jury is out as to how they’ll funnel a ginormous audience into Falconwood Park, with its access via a two-lane road and $25 on-site parking. I’m confident they have all that figured out, right? We’ll find out in less than couple weeks…

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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 © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Bright Eyes and the new The Admiral Theater…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:46 am July 3, 2022
Bright Eyes at The Admiral Theater, July 2, 2022

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

As much as some things change, some things never change. Like finding parking around The Admiral f.k.a. Sokol Auditorium.

I didn’t get down there Saturday night for the Bright Eyes concert until well after 9 p.m. and was thrown into a time warp circa the early 2000s, driving the same back streets I did back then, looking for a parking space. I remembered my ol’ standby about three blocks southwest of the auditorium. Wasn’t there a church there before? And where did this high-rise condo/apartment building come from?

Neighbors were out on their stoops, getting ready to watch street fireworks. “You going to the show?” a young lady said while her husband chatted up a neighbor across the street, a baby in his arms.

“Sure am.” I said.

Well, have a good time!

Ah, that South Omaha charm, it never fades.

The building’s exterior hadn’t changed at all. Security was out front on the sidewalk checking IDs for drinkers, and someone asked to see my Vax card (few if any wore masks in the audience). Once inside, I emptied my pockets and lifted my seed cap to a guy holding a scanning wand, wondering how long the line must have been an hour earlier.

Once past the stairway and into the actual hall and you’re met with what feels like a new facility. The biggest updates on first glance were the fresh coat of paint (gilded gold along the balcony and the stage crown) and the gorgeous, new enormous bar in the north end of the building where the gym used to be (Note: no Rolling Rock. I settled for an $8 Stella tallboy).

Bright Eyes at The Admiral Theater, July 2, 2022

Bright Eyes already was on stage when I entered. So the big question: How did the room sound? I’m no audiophile, but it sounded more balanced and less boomy than I remembered. The PA speakers are now flown from the ceiling, and there’s an enormous new soundboard. It sounded as good as any large performance venue in Omaha, heard through my earplugs because the high volume.

The first thing I noticed missing from stage — Mike Mogis. Turns out he got COVID and missed the show — a real bummer.

Frontman Conor Oberst was his usual shambolic self, doing his new, weird solo dance during “Dance and Sing,” that looked forced and unnatural. You know what they say, dance like no one is looking. And that’s exactly what he did.

Showing high energy to the point of being jittery, Oberst’s voice was a bit frayed, especially on the more energetic numbers. He was backed by a small orchestra and a band that included MiWi La Lupa on multiple instruments, amazing drummer Jon Theodore (Queens of the Stone Age, ex-The Mars Volta), and Nate Walcott, who played the Paul Shaffer role as the pseudo bandleader giving cues from across the stage.

The 2022 version of Bright Eyes includes Oberst performing a number of songs with only microphone in hand — not behind a piano or a guitar. That freed him to do his wonky dancing and odd hand gestures, running to and fro across the stage. Oberst was at his best seated at a piano or playing guitar, more relaxed and more natural. In fact, as big and bombastic as this version of Bright Eyes is, I’d prefer to see the band stripped back down to Mike, Nate, Conor, MiWi and that drummer, just like the good ol’ days.

You can see the full set list below, which for the most part followed what he’s been playing on tour (with a couple order changes). The highlight was a modernized version of “Neely O’Hara” pushed forward by a very cool electric guitar counter melody. It was followed by a stripped-down version of “First Day of My Life” that had the crowd singing along.

I’ve been going to Bright Eyes concerts for 25 years, and this was one of the more downcast set lists I can remember — lots of slower, darker songs. On stage Oberst acknowledged his ongoing pessimism/sarcasm, and punctuated it with his usual between-song political rants, which we’ve all heard before and all agree with.

He strayed from politics only a few times. Once reminiscing about living in the apartment house on 40th and Farnam nicknamed the Jerk Store back in ’98 and ’99 (and where I first interviewed him while Joe Knapp practiced music somewhere upstairs). The other was toward the end of the set where he acknowledged the new Admiral. “I’ve played here a thousand times,” he said. “I wouldn’t call what I’m feeling ‘deja vu’ as much as ‘The Twilight Zone.’”

The band stuck to their usual three-song encore and then the lights went up and I could see the Admiral a bit better.

The Admiral Theater looking from the balcony toward the new bar area, July 2, 2022.

The floor was the same as I remembered, as was the chandelier. With everyone filing out the security guard let me see the balcony — maybe the biggest improvement of the entire remodel. It’s completely different, with a new built-out bar that runs along the building’s east wall and windows, and is amazing. It’s like a small club separated yet open to the balcony. The actual balcony wings were the same, though now you can see into the backstage area (maybe you always could?).

Gorgeous new Admiral balcony bar. Notice the windows in back, which are the building’s front windows. July 2, 2022.

Balcony tickets were $75 vs. the $45 general admission. Definitely worth the splurge for the right band. I’m not sure Bright Eyes fits the bill. That said, I’ve never been a fan of watching performances from the balcony. It’s too isolated, too separated from what’s going on down on the floor.

Which brings up one more big improvement at The Admiral. Friday’s show was crowded — probably a sell out. In years’ past, shows like that at Sokol Auditorium would have been a test to endure the heat and humidity. The Admiral’s HVAC did yeoman’s duty, keeping the place relatively cool and air well-circulated — which is even more important considering how COVID is beginning to spike again in Douglas County.

Jim Johnson and Marc Leibowitz — the masterminds behind the renovation — looked like a couple proud papas. They should be proud. They’ve created a jewel of a live performance space and saved a piece of Omaha history in the process. And they did it the old-fashioned way — as part of a team of investors who put their own money on the table along with their sweat and blood. That takes enormous courage after what this city — and this country — has been through. I have no doubt the gamble will pay off.

Check out their shiny new website. Looking at their calendar, I see more Admiral in my future. On my radar: Sunny Day Real Estate Sept. 14, Kurt Vile and the Violators Oct. 20 and Godspeed You! Black Emperor Nov. 4., which, by then, will mean trudging through snow drifts to get back to our car.

Here’s the setlist from the July 2 Bright Eyes show at The Admiral:

Dance and Sing
Lover I Don’t Have to Love
Bowl of Oranges
Mariana Trench
Old Soul Song (for the New World Order)
One and Done
Falling Out of Love at This Volume
No One Would Riot for Less
Haile Selassie
Persona non grata
Tilt-a-Whirl
Stairwell Song
Neely O’Hara
First Day of My Life
The Calendar Hung Itself
Comet Song

Encore:
Ladder Song
I Believe in Symmetry
One for You, One for Me

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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 © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i