Live Review: Gramps, Karen Meat, Sam Martin, Take Cover Five; Kayla sets her sights on Omaha…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:36 pm February 1, 2016
Karen Meat and the Computer at O'Leaver's Jan. 30, 2016.

Karen Meat and the Computer at O’Leaver’s Jan. 30, 2016.

by Tim McMahan,

It was a great weekend of live music, something I haven’t been able to say for a number of weeks. It started Friday night at O’Leaver’s with a triple bill kicked off by Django Greenblatt-Seay’s band Gramps.

Third time’s a charm for these boys, as the set was their best yet. I’ve described them in the past as a sort of slacker-rock cross between Little Brazil and Criteria, which leaves out the lyrical uniqueness that G-S brings to the table. His songs are field observations about a guy doing his own thing whilst living in the shadow of a corporate-fueled existence — which has a familiar resonance to Criteria’s anthems, though G-S’s life is quite different than Steve Pedersen’s.

I watched the set seated at a table filled with co-workers who also are G-S’s co-workers. Imagine playing your music in front of the same folks you see every day down at the office. I’d be nervous. For G-S, it was just another day at the office, albeit a much different office than the cubicles we all share downtown.

Gramps was followed by Des Moines’ Karen Meat and the Computer. With two guitarists and a bass player, they’re not your run-of-the-mill power trio. Drums came by way of prerecorded tracks, and for the most part I didn’t miss them (though the “stage” looked a bit empty).

I take that back— while the rhythm lines were predictably tight, the energy level was a tad lacking.  Front woman Karen Meat a.k.a. Arin Eaton, filled the void with her girlish growl on golden garage-rock tunes that got me singing along by the third time through the chorus. Check out the recordings. They had a cassette for sale at the show but didn’t get a chance to pick one up. Man, a lot of bands are putting out cassettes these days. I guess they provide the same nostalgia for half the price of vinyl.

Sam Martin at O'Leaver's Jan. 29, 2016.

Sam Martin at O’Leaver’s Jan. 29, 2016.

Finally, the all-new all-digital version of Sam Martin closed out the night with a set of throbbing electronic rock songs that are his catchiest tunes ever. The set-up was Sam behind a synth rack, guitar slung over his shoulders, and a pair of strobing flood lights at his feet that bounced along with the digital pulse.

Maybe it was the fact that he was singing to layers of prerecorded tracks but Martin’s voice was at its most controlled, least caterwauling. Sonically, music ranged from deep-blue house beats to acidic front-loaded rhythms, each song glowing with its own energy. I look forward to hearing Sam’s next record.

So is Martin’s one-man show the future of indie rock? Sure, there have been a lot of one-person projects over the years (Darren Keen was among the first to do it locally), but I keep seeing more and more popping up. Is it the product of technology or the reality of today’s music economics? Regardless, the trick to making it work is finding a way to make the performance lively despite the isolation. Martin pulled it off with the combination of lights, beats, guitar, voice and a giant helping of Martin charisma.

High Up at Take Cover Five at O'Leaver's Jan. 30, 2016.

High Up at Take Cover Five at O’Leaver’s Jan. 30, 2016.

Onto Saturday night and Hear Nebraska’s fifth annual Take Cover show at O’Leaver’s. As expected, it was a crushed room cast in constant motion — 12 bands, each performing one cover and one original. The cover had to be a song by a fellow Nebraska band.

I’ve been to most of the past Take Cover nights and usually left wondering what was the point, as they featured unknown bands playing covers of unknown songs by fellow unknown bands (that would have been the case had I gone to the Lincoln version of Take Cover last week). Saturday night’s show was the best Take Cover yet because it featured full bands (Take Cover used to be a solo acoustic deal) covering familiar songs, or at least I knew most of the bands and songs they were covering.

A standout was old school punk band Hand Painted Police Car covering The Faint’s “Agenda Suicide,” giving the classic electro-clash rocker a new metal life. The guitars and bass ripped into the main melodies, while guest synth player Dereck Higgins provided the familiar digital icing on the cake. Then the band flew into one of their own numbers without letting off the gas and voila, you’ve just discovered a new band that you hadn’t heard before.

And that’s the point of Take Cover — it’s an annual tribute to past conquests by the next wave of conquerors. You (hopefully) leave the club with some new bands to follow. Among the new blood that caught my ear was Marcey Yates. I’m not a hip-hop guy but I can spot the real deal when I hear it and this guy is about as legit as it gets. And he did it live.

Then there’s Vegetable Deluxe, a garage band fronted by former Brimstone Howl member Nick Waggoner, the guy who used to look like he was 14 years old and now looks exactly like Beck. Forget how he looks. The band captures that ’60s East Coast psychedelic sound circa Lou Reed / Velvet Underground about as well you’re going to find ’round these parts. Someone should have slotted them to open that Brian Jonestown Massacre show in May.

I’ve been trying to catch a set by Eric In Outerspace for a long time and now I’m kicking myself for having waited so long. They do a sort of psychedelic garage rock thing as well, though it’s marked with a ’90s post-punk Sonic Youth flair. Which made them perfect for covering Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship.

Uh Oh at Take Cover Five at O'Leaver's Jan. 30, 2016.

Uh Oh at Take Cover Five at O’Leaver’s Jan. 30, 2016.

Earlier in the evening Uh Oh, another band I’ve been trying to catch for a long while, crushed an Eric in Outspace cover before ripping into their own song.

Look at all these new bands taking over the scene.

Maybe the most compelling covers of the night were of Digital Leather songs. Mint Wad Willy did a straight up rock rendition of DL’s “Young Doctors in Love” that added heavy guitars on an already heavy song, and Omaha’s hottest new band High Up tackled DL’s perennial set closer “Studs in Love” warping the original intent. Or did it? Suddenly, I’m confused.

Well Aimed Arrows closed out Take Cover Five at O'Leaver's Jan. 30, 2016.

Well Aimed Arrows closed out Take Cover Five at O’Leaver’s Jan. 30, 2016.

The night ended with Well Aimed Arrows covering Millions of Boys to an exhausted crowd.

What should have been utter chaos — switching out a dozen bands over the course of four hours — came off swimmingly, and no doubt was another Hear Nebraska success.

Rumor has it that many of the performances were recorded for Live At O’Leaver’s… Stay tuned.

* * *

Apparently it’s going to snow tomorrow.

This blizzard, which The Weather Channel has christened Kayla, could make attending tomorrow night’s gigantic ska show at Lookout Lounge challenging. But, hey, anything good is worth the fight, right?

The lineup for that show includes The Toasters, Jimmy Skaffa celebrating 20 years, and The Bishops. Lookout posted that “As of Mon, Feb 1st at 10:58am this show is still on. The Toasters are planning on driving up from Wichita early tomorrow.”

Your best bet is to follow The Lookout Lounge’s website and/or this Facebook invitation for the latest updates on the show.

Batten down the hatches.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — 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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Gloom Balloon, Christopher the Conquered; punk rock toy drive (Cordial Spew, Bent Life, Time Cat) tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 2:42 pm December 17, 2015
Christopher the Conquered at Slowdown, Jr., Dec. 16, 2015.

Christopher the Conquered at Slowdown, Jr., Dec. 16, 2015.

by Tim McMahan,

To put this in perspective, before I drove down to The Slowdown last night I watched about five minutes of Magnolia, which HBO is now showing on demand. I caught the sequence where Julianne Moore is trying to buy high-powered drugs — liquid morphine — for her dying husband played by a really-dying-in-real-life Jason Robards in a heart-breaking performance. The young pharmacist sees her prescription and freaks out to his older pharmacist partner, who spies Moore over the counter with fear and contempt, making phone calls to her doctor’s office, not knowing what she’ll do with these dangerous pain killers. Finally, the young pharmacist returns to the counter with the prescriptions and says something like, “These are strong drugs, do you know what they could do?” and Moore explodes in a tear-filled gut-wrenching tirade of F-bombs and how-dare you’s. Because her father is dying, and she’s falling apart.

That’s what set my mood right before entering The Slowdown for Christopher the Conquered. Somehow I got the band order wrong or they changed it along the way and Christopher (Ford, his real name) was slotted second instead of the headline-third spot on a show that started at 8 p.m., which meant I only got to see the last song of his set, a heart-felt rendition of his recent digital single “I’m Giving Up on Rock & Roll.” Ford belted it out behind the keyboard, before standing up and belting it out some more. I wish I would have gotten there earlier. Next time, Christopher.

Afterward, a local music dude who goes to a shit-ton of shows — and who’s seen Christopher the Conquered numerous times — said “I think he’s the next big thing to break out from around here.” Maybe. Probably. I need to see his full set before I make up my mind, but from what I’ve seen and heard online from this Des Moines dude who has made Omaha a second home (thanks to this Wednesday-night residency at Slowdown and a handful of shows at O’Leaver’s) my music friend could very well be right.

Next up was Gloom Balloon, which one could describe as a “party band.” The duo of Christopher Ford and former Poison Control Center member Patrick Tape Fleming is a re-imagining of the rap-along-with-a-prerecorded-track performance style that The Show Is the Rainbow honed to a sharp edge years ago. There are a lot of similarities between Gloom Balloon and Darren Keen’s old act (which Keen retired long ago).

Like Keen used to do, Ford and Fleming spent the entire set in the crowd with microphones egging on a circle of fans as they punched out lyrics to their unique style of yacht-rock infused hip hop. Meanwhile (also like TSITR) a video was projected on stage that included snippets from movies (Harold & Maude, for example), old camp-reel footage and new video of Ford and Fleming doing funny, weird things. I found myself paying more attention to the video than the performance.

The party circle watches Gloom Balloon perform on the floor at Slowdown Jr., Dec. 16, 2015.

The party circle watches Gloom Balloon perform on the floor at Slowdown Jr., Dec. 16, 2015.

Punk shows have mosh pits; Gloom Balloon has a party circle — the area near the stage on the floor where the duo interacts with the willing, in torrid, in-yer-face one-on-ones (that is, when the duo isn’t rolling around the floor on their backs or on each other). Playful, yes. Lots of yelling. I don’t like crowd interaction where the performers actually touch you, so I stayed back by the merch table and soaked in the performance art from a distance. You have to be in the mood for this sort of thing; but even if I was, I’d never get near the spectacle.

I take that back. I’ve seen this sort of in-your-face performance done quite effectively on a different level. A Deleted Scenes performance comes to mind, where frontman Dan Scheuerman came into the crowd and sang directly at/in fans’ faces, even grabbing hold of one poor sot’s head. Then there’s Les Savy Fav, a post-punk band where lead singer Tim Harrington was known to bound from stage and angrily push his act directly into his audience (when he wasn’t climbing a nearby stack of speakers).

The above are “serious” examples. Gloom Balloon isn’t serious at all. Neither, really, was The Show Is the Rainbow. The intent was to entertain in a way that can only be described as mad-cap, and to fill the time between songs with funny banter, something Ford and Fleming do as well as Keen ever did (though it wasn’t uncommon for Darren to end up naked by the end of the night).

The set highlight was near the end, when the duo pulled out a real, full-sized multi-colored parachute, which the crowd-circle held like a makeshift tent over the performers who crawled around under it. Fun to watch. But that’s nothing new for Fleming. I enjoyed his somersault-fueled theatrics for years in Poison Control Center, along with that band’s music. If there’s a minus with Gloom Balloon it’s that their music gets lost or forgotten among the videos and yelling and crowd-hassling and jokes and rolling around the floor. Does it matter as long as everyone had a good time? Only if you’re selling records.

* * *

The season of giving continues tonight at Lookout Lounge with what’s being called the See Nebraska Give Toy Drive. Maybe they should have called it the Punk Rock Toy Drive because the bands playing this charity event are some of the area’s punkiest — Bent Life, Pergatory, Cordial Spew, The Ridgways, Third Eye Merchants, Kovacs and Time Cat.

Entrance to the show is either 1) a new or lightly used toy, or 2) $5 (or more, depending on how generous you feel). All proceeds go to Omaha’s Open Door Mission. Show starts early at 6 p.m. and runs ’til 11.

* * *

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


Live Review: Gramps, Millions of Boys; Serial returns (the band, not the podcast); Back When, Paria reunions…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , , — @ 1:48 pm December 14, 2015
Gramps at O'Leaver's, Dec. 11, 2015.

Gramps at O’Leaver’s, Dec. 11, 2015.

by Tim McMahan,

Great crowd at O’Leaver’s Friday night for the Gramps EP release show. Django Greenblatt-Seay and Co. belted out songs off the online-only release (along with a few others) to a festive pre-holiday crowd packed into a very hot room — so hot, in fact, I had to step outside for air halfway through the set. The atmosphere was downright mossy.

Full disclosure: I work with Django downtown at Union Pacific, but rest assured I’m showing no bias when I say Gramps’ style of jangle (not jango)-indie rock has distinctively Nebraskan flavor, sounding like a cross between Little Brazil and Criteria (one song, about four into the set, had a riff and rhythm that directly channeled En Garde).

With all the irons Django has in the fire, Gramps shows are a rarity. If you get a chance, definitely check them out.

Millions of Boys at O'Leaver's, Dec. 11, 2015.

Millions of Boys at O’Leaver’s, Dec. 11, 2015.

As much of a draw as Gramps Friday night was the return of Millions of Boys. It’s been a long time since this trio played in Omaha, and they’ve been sorely missed. Whereas Sara Bertuldo’s other band, See Through Dresses, is more of a shoe-gaze act, Millions of Boys is in-yer-face, crunchy pop-punk reminiscent of Weezer. Fun stuff we need to hear more of.

* * *

By now you may already have seen the Facebook invitation for a special reunion show Dec. 26 at Brothers Lounge. It’s the return of Serial, a band consisting of John Wolf (Cellophane Ceiling), Lee Meyerpeter (Cactus Nerve Thang) and Tim Moss (Ritual Device).

John Wolf dropped me an email last Friday announcing the show. “Moss, Lee and I did a few gigs as Serial in ’94-’96 time frame with various bass players, including Eric Melvin from NOFX,” Wolf said. “We coaxed Jerry Hug into playing this show with us!”

Whoa! Add to that a “special guest” and you’ve got a post-Christmas show for the ages.

Speaking of reunion shows, I would be remiss in not mentioning another big reunion show taking place the same night, Dec. 26 at The Waiting Room. Reuniting for one night only, after years defunct, is powerhouse noise-metal band Back When. Joining them is the equally fierce rock of Paria.

Where will you be the day after Christmas?

* * *

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


Live Review: Anna McClellan, Razors; Filter Kings, Clarence Tilton tonight; Simon Joyner, Sam Martin Saturday…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:05 pm December 4, 2015
Anna McClellan at O'Leaver's, Dec. 3, 2015.

Anna McClellan at O’Leaver’s, Dec. 3, 2015.

by Tim McMahan,

Capacity crowd at O’Leaver’s last night for Anna McClellan. The former Omahan returned to town after a 2-week tour, which I guess made the show a homecoming of sorts. The packed house looked like it included lots of proud parents and relatives mixed in with the usual woke-up-at-4 p.m. O’Leaver’s crowd. It felt like a holiday show thanks to all the love in the room.

Miniature Horse at O'Leaver's Dec. 3, 2015.

Miniature Horse at O’Leaver’s Dec. 3, 2015.

Opening the night was the enchanting Miniature Horse a.k.a. Rachel Tomlinson Dick and her trusty electric guitar. Compared to the three or four times I’ve seen her before, Dick sounded a bit reserved, maybe because her amp was overpowering her vocals, which felt meeker than I remembered. Dick’s stripped-down sound is comparable to early PJ Harvey on louder performances. Last night I was reminded more of Joni Mitchell and her delicate finger-picking guitar.

Razors at O'Leaver's, Dec. 3, 2015.

Razors at O’Leaver’s, Dec. 3, 2015. Notice what the club did to the usually obtrusive flat-panel TV?

The only person I recognized in the crowded 7-piece band Razors was Jim Schroeder of UUVVWWZ, who supplied keyboards on a set of psychedelic garage rock songs that wavered between gritty Brian Jonestown Massacre and the baroque style of ’60s acts like Left Banke. Male/female vocals pushed the band to the next level, especially when they attempted to harmonize. Schroeder’s keys also were essential. These folks are worth keeping an eye on.

Finally at around midnight Anna McClellan took the O’Leaver’s worn-carpeting-patch of a stage, this time as a trio. Fans remember McClellan from her earlier incarnation in indie rock band Howard. Her solo work is more stripped down and personal, relying on chiming acoustic piano and a unique voice that ranges from a flat, bored howl to a bluesy, Billie Holiday croon.

Her new release, Fire Flames (Majestic Litter, 2015), is a collection of pretty songs draped in a winsome loneliness, small portraits of everyday life and love sung by a woman with an intense awareness of herself, her wants and needs and the limits of the hand she’s been dealt. There’s an abstract honesty to every word of every song.

Superstar Conor Oberst sings harmonies on the title track, which also happens to be the most haunting song of the collection. No doubt Oberst was hanging out at Mike Mogis’ ARC Studio with engineer Ben Brodin the day they recorded the tune. It’s no surprise that the record has that dusty-library quality of early Saddle Creek Records releases, making it a must for anyone who follows that label.

The McClellan trio played mostly songs off Fire Flames, plus a few new numbers that continued in the same vein. McClellan in full brassy voice belted out each number like a classic torch singer but draped in flannel rather than lamé, a snapshot of Midwestern melancholy. The crowd adored her, and she soaked it in with appreciation. Few of us will ever be lucky enough enjoy such a homecoming.

* * *

A quick note of one minor but important change at O’Leaver’s — the management finally figured out a way to cover up that big, ugly flat-panel TV screen that loomed over all the performers for the past seven or eight years, marring every photo taken at every show. They created a sort of album-jacket camouflage insert that miraculously makes the TV seamlessly blend in with the rest of the crippy-crap album jackets stapled to the walls (see Razors photo, above). It’s a small thing, I know, but it makes a difference. I hope my whining about the TV helped spur the change…

* * *

Onward to the weekend. There are no touring indie-rock bands playing anywhere (What else is new?), but there’s still plenty to see and hear.

Tonight’s prime offering is something called Telecaster Disasters at The Waiting Room. In fact it’s a night of alt-country-fueled guitar rock headlined by The Filter Kings (first show in ages) with Monday Mourners, The Willards Band and one of the most talked-about newcomers of 2015, Clarence Tilton, whose debut album is destined to make it onto a lot of local “best of” lists. $8, 9 p.m.

Also tonight (Friday), Eklectica headlines at fabulous O’Leaver’s with Lineman’s Rodeo and David Nance Band. $5, 9:30 p.m.

And there’s the Omaha Zinefest Benefit Show at West Wing, 301 So. 38th Ave. (across the street from The Brothers Lounge). According the Facebook listing, “Omaha Zine Fest is coming at you on March 12th! Help us raise funds to offset the cost for local and regional zinesters to come to town and showcase their work.” Playing are Bib, The Sunks, Pro Magnum and Jocko. $5 donation, 9:30 p.m. More info here.

Tomorrow night (Saturday) Simon Joyner returns to the Reverb stage. Joining him is Sam Martin, who is celebrating a cassette release — look as I might online, I can’t find any info on what this cassette is, who’s putting it out, etc. Also on the bill is Noah Sterba Band. $7, 9 p.m.

Also Saturday is O’Leaver’s annual chili cook-off. For $5 you get to eat chili from 1 to 5 p.m. at The Club. Later that night, Kait Berreckman headlines with Tara Vaughan and Blue Bird. The music starts at 9:30 and cover is $5.

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

* * *

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


Live Review: High Up, Big Harp, Timecat and a night at Milk Run…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:34 pm December 1, 2015

HighUp112815by Tim McMahan,

Welp, things got out of hand yesterday so this didn’t get posted! Here you go (better late than never?)…

It was one of those holiday crowds you expect to see during Thanksgiving weekend. Despite the fact that The Good Life was headlining at The Slowdown Saturday night — and I love The Good Life — our plan was to catch the openers and then drive across downtown to check out Milk Run and its new art gallery, which was having its grand opening.

We got in at around 8:45 and got a table in the bar nearest the stage. High Up came on right at 9, the full ensemble kicked into one of their bluesier numbers that got the attention of the smallish crowd standing in the bowl. Frontwoman Christine Fink, a fireball of manic energy, told the crowd after the first song that everyone on stage was sick, then added that she just totaled her car. And with that, they went right into the next number.

Maybe everyone was sick but you couldn’t tell from the performance. Christine directed that golden voice of hers with the usual bombastic energy, and sang with panache the band’s brand of golden blues, emoting in a way that the late Joe Cocker would admire — all jerky moves and pained expression, with a little James Brown shake thrown in to make it ultra-groovy. Fink is one of those rare performers who you can’t take your eyes off of, belting out each number as if she’s singing right to you… or at you.

About half-way through the set it was clear she wasn’t feeling the best. She pulled out a handkerchief from her back pocket and swabbed the sweat from her face, offering to dry off bassist Josh Soto’s own dew-covered melon. He passed, but she did it later in the set anyway.

The band ended in a blaze of glory playing the single “Two Weeks” — a favorite of 2015 — and left the stage in a roar, winning over yet another crowd. High Up is closing out the year on a high note as the most talked-about band to emerge from the Omaha music scene in recent years. So who’s going to release their inevitable full-length? Saddle Creek could certainly use another show pony in its stable.


Big Harp at The Slowdown, Nov. 28, 2015

Big Harp at The Slowdown, Nov. 28, 2015

If you haven’t heard by now, the once folky Big Harp has a brand new bag. The trio, which features the Chris Senseney, his wife Stefanie Drootin-Senseney and drummer extraordinaire Daniel Ocanto, went electric with their last album — the cassette-digital release Waveless (Majestic Litter, 2015) — and haven’t looked back. I overheard their new style described as psych rock, but it’s more of a garage rock / post-punk hybrid. Songs off Waveless would have fit in nicely on Frank Black’s earlier albums — a mix of solid melodies and heavy-rhythms but not afraid to take a proggy turn.

Chris’ golden bray — the chief asset on Big Harp’s earlier albums — is just as comfortable on these brittle melodies, though it’s the frenetic, propulsive rhythm section that’s driving the band these days. These songs are jitter bombs of nervous energy. How long will the trio commit to this style of rock, or will they eventually fall back into the sleepy folk style where it all began? Here’s hoping they stay their current course (but not forget their past).

Timecat at Milk Run, Nov. 28, 2015.

Timecat at Milk Run, Nov. 28, 2015.

By the time we left Slowdown the club had filled nicely, but was far from a sell out. I’m told the number was around 350, which is a bit light for a Good Life show. Holidays, maybe? It was off to Milk Run next, but before we got there, a quick stop to pick up libations. Milk Run, located at 1907 Leavenworth (right next to Shuck’s seafood restaurant), is an all-ages venue that doesn’t sell booze but let’s you bring your own. We stopped at All Nations on 24th Street, an old-fashioned neighborhood liquor store, and picked up a couple quarts that had made a long trip from across the border — my Modelo Especial and Teresa’s Corona.

The 0709 Art Gallery, looking from back to front.

The 0709 Art Gallery.

We pulled into the parking lot behind the building and made our way into the fenced-in back area that connects the Milk Run venue with the 0709 Art Gallery — the name apparently a play on the addresses (Milk Run is 1907, the gallery is 1909). It is a huge space for an art gallery, and seemed even larger due to the limited number of pieces in the current show, “American Dizzy” by Collin Pietz of the band Fake Plants.

Part of the plan for the gallery space is to have showings consisting of art created by members of bands playing next door at Milk Run, highlighting the full creative spectrum of these talented musicians/artists. A noble mission indeed.

Next, we made our way through the revelers chilling outside and entered Milk Run. It’s amazing the difference a fresh coat of paint can make. The tiny venue was patterned in white and black vertical panels, sure to be a signature look in any photo taken at the club, just like those zig-zag stripes that hallmark any photo taken at the old Sweatshop Gallery. The original plan was to put the sound-mix equipment in a small room behind the stage that has a glass window, but apparently that didn’t work out since the small sound board was now located in the back near the entrance, taking even more space.

What can I say, Milk Run was designed to be a small venue for small shows, and it’s downright tiny. No idea on what the actual capacity is, but I’d say no more than 60 would fit in there comfortably, especially when bands take up as much space as those playing Saturday night. There is no stage, merely a hard-wood floored performance space, where was stacked two huge Marshall amps — way more power than was needed to fill that room — along with two stacks of PA equipment. It was like putting a 350 Hemi in a ’67 Volkswagen Beetle. Good thing I had my ear plugs.

Timecat, a local four-piece, was pretty amazing playing their style of heavy, aggressive indie rock (notice how I didn’t use the word “angular”?). Great stuff, but because of the over-powered amps, there was no way to hear the vocals through the much smaller PA — a shame. Chock it up to the new venue’s learning curve, one assumes they’re still feeling out the right combination of equipment, etc.

Chris Aponick, who owns/operates the place with Sam Parker, said in this interview they “wanted a room that makes a crowd of 30 to 50 people feel like an event instead of a bummer.” Mission accomplished. The whole vibe that night was right on. With only 30 or 40 people in the room, it felt exciting, like you were experiencing something special. But had the crowd been much bigger…

I have to believe Milk Run is going to be rather limited with the kinds of bands they can book for such a small room, a room that feels like it’s half the size of Sweatshop. That said, they have options. They could host larger shows in the art gallery; better yet, they could take out the wall where the “green room/sound room” is located behind the stage and simply make the entire room that much larger. Decisions, decisions. Regardless, I’m excited at the prospects for Milk Run…

Check out Milk Run’s Facebook page for a list of upcoming shows.

* * *

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


Live Review: Fuzz and Walter at TWR; sleepy week ahead for shows…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 2:09 pm November 23, 2015
Fuzz at The Waiting Room, Nov. 21, 2015.

Fuzz at The Waiting Room, Nov. 21, 2015.

by Tim McMahan,

The last time Ty Segall came through town there was maybe 50 people at the show. Last Saturday night The Waiting Room was packed for his return in the guise of his heavy metal psych-rock trio Fuzz. Not sure what happened between that first Fuzz album and his second, but things have certainly blown up.

Walter at The Waiting Room, Nov. 21, 2015.

Walter at The Waiting Room, Nov. 21, 2015.

Right before Fuzz, fellow So Cal garage rockers Walter played a set of refined psych metal. Refined in that these guys were as tight as any touring blues or jazz band. Frontman Patrick Noland was an absolute beast on his left-handed Fender electric, effortlessly playing riffs and fills like the second coming of Stevie Ray Vaughan but with his own special brand of sass.

But like any great power trio, no one piece is stronger than the next. Bassist Misha Lindes was rock solid and drummer Ross Chait put on a clinic, right down to a Whiplash-quality drum solo toward the end of their set.

I went home afterward and downloaded Get Well Soon, the trio’s latest (available from the Bandcamp link below this entry). Great record but nowhere near as precise or powerful as what was heard on stage. It’s as if these So Cal garage bands go out of their way to make their recordings sound dirty, which I guess is exactly what they do, but in this case it merely blurred the lines when they should remain laser sharp. I left a fan.

Next came Fuzz. Before I go on, let me point out how much time went into their (and Walter’s) pre-set soundcheck, much more than most touring indie acts who walk up to their instruments, play a couple notes and give a thumbs up. Segall and Co. were meticulous, spending at least 10 minutes adjusting different things in their monitors, their mics, etc. And as ironic as it seems considering this is a heavy-metal garage band, it made perfect sense. They we’re going for a specific sound that required everything be just right to sound authentic.

More Fuzz.

More Fuzz.

In the end, the Fuzz’s futzing was worth it. The Waiting Room once again proved Saturday to be the best sounding rock concert room in Omaha. Fuzz blazed right out of the starting gate, blowing out a style of rock with a simple formula centered around Chad Ubovich’s rugged, bluesy bass lines made all the more majestic by Ubovich’s bronze face paint — he looked like a golden tin man beneath a shoulder-length shag. Despite guitarist/vocalist Charlie Moothart’s solid riffs or Segall’s blazing stickwork, it was those bass lines that mattered most with these songs.

From an old-school perspective I was reminded of Sabbath, Deep Purple and Robin Trower; modern-day comparisons include John Dwyer and the dreaded Jack White, two long-time garage-rock veterans who you must acknowledge whether (certainly in White’s case) you admit  liking their music or not.

By mid-set much head-banging ensued; there was even a small mosh pit in front of the stage and a few folks tried crowd-surfing. If there’s a downside to Fuzz music it’s that it all sounds very similar, especially when songs evolve into extended heavy-metal jams. But who gives a shit when you’re lost in the moment (or in the pit)?

* * *

Thanksgiving week is always slow music-wise and this year is no different. There’s virtually nothing going on until See Through Dresses return to Reverb Lounge Wednesday night with La Guerre, and then Miwi La Lupa and Landon Hedges Thanksgiving night at fabulous O’Leaver’s. I guess it makes it that much easier to catch up with the relatives…

* * *

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


Live Review: Low; Stardeath & White Dwarfs, State Disco tonight; HN legal workshop, Christopher the Conquered Saturday; Mason Jennings Sunday…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 2:21 pm November 13, 2015

by Tim McMahan,

Walking into Reverb at just after 9:30 the show still wasn’t sold out, but it was close. Only a few tickets remained, and they likely got sold before Low took the stage at 10 p.m. So yes, it was a sold-out show (probably). And easily the most crowded show I’ve attended at Reverb.

Once through the sound-room door I was met by a dense crowd watching as opening singer/songwriter Andy Shauf was seated performing his set with an acoustic guitar. His singing style was a cross between Elliott Smith and a hearing-impaired Russian sailor. At first I thought Shauf was singing in a different language, until I listened more closely and picked out a few familiar words in English, words like “love” and “death.”

Still, I figured Shauf must be a visitor in our country, until he spoke between songs with a clear North American accent, which quickly disappeared as he began his next song, returning again to his affected, foreign, nasal croon. His songs were pretty, and I’ll be checking out Shauf’s recordings later (hopefully they’re in English).

Low came on right at 10 — Alan Sparhawk standing with guitar stage right, bassist Steve Garrington stage left seated behind a keyboard, and Mimi Parker seated behind a trap set. Sparhawk and Parker have aged only a little since the last time I saw them play, about 10 years ago at Sokol Underground. Their pitch-perfect intertwining vocals still carry the same amount of heart-break and dread as they ever did.

The set-list was identical to what they played at First Ave. the night before (where they kicked off this leg of their current tour). “Monkey” from The Great Destroyer was an early set highlight, only surpassed by a dark, ominous version of “Pissing” (also off Great Destroyer) that built from Low’s usual quiet stance to a crashing sonic nightmare that ended with Sparhawk screaming into his guitar pushed overhead against his face. Intense.

The majority of the set consisted of songs from new album Ones and Sixes (Sub Pop, 2015), including a rich take on album favorite “Lies.” The new stuff sits seamlessly with the old stuff. Over the course of two decades Low has added more noise, more guitar, even pop-fueled moments (How else to describe the uptempo rock of “Part of Me,” also off the new album?), but ultimately retained their patented “slowcore” style — stripped down, simple, stark and at times beautifully dreadful.

The only deviation from the First Ave. set was the encore. After a crashing version of “Landslide” (also from the new album), the band left the stage and came back for a two-song encore (instead of four the night prior) that included a gorgeous take on “Sunflower” (from Things We Lost in the Fire) and favorite “When I Go Deaf.”

Startling stuff, enhanced by the fact that it was performed in such a small space. Maybe too small, as I spent the evening crushed against one of Reverb’s new drink rails that are mounted along the stage-left wall, forced to shift from one foot to the other to see around a fat-headed dude standing in front me. Whattaya gonna do? Last night also was the first time that I noticed noise bleed coming from The Waiting Room, where Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers were playing — a steady thump-thump-thump that cut into the silent moments of Low’s set. Sparhawk and Co. struck back as only they could — with the full force of their instruments during the encore, leaving me wondering if the poor saps at the Clyne show were getting a taste of what we were hearing…

* * *

After a couple solid shows this week, we’re left with a pretty quiet weekend.

Tonight Stardeath and White Dwarfs headlines at The Sydney. The four-piece psych-rock band from Norman, Oklahoma, includes none other than Wayne Coyne’s nephew Dennis Coyne on lead vox. Surf-rockers Sub-Vectors open. $10, 9 p.m.

Also tonight State Disco headlines at Reverb Lounge with AZP and Rothsteen. $10, 9 p.m. BTW, Reverb now hosts all-ages shows, if you didn’t know (I didn’t until last night).

Meanwhile, at fabulous O’Leaver’s, it’s Fitness 000010, featuring Bus Gas, Big Slur and Ridgelines. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Tomorrow night (Saturday) it’s back to O’Leaver’s for Christopher the Conquered, with Bazile Mills and Tenenbaums. $7, 9:30 p.m.

Also worth mentioning for you musicians , Hear Nebraska is hosting a free workshop called Protect Yourself and Your Music: Legal Advice for Musicians, Saturday afternoon from 1 to 2:15 p.m at the TipTop Building. U of N Law students will talk and take questions about such things as copyright law, licensing, contracts, streaming services, performance rights, in other words, all the things you should know if you’re going to be a working musician. If friggin’ free, so go! More info here.

Finally, indie-folk singer/songwriter Mason Jennings headlines at The Slowdown Sunday night. S. Carey opens. $27 Adv/$30 DOS. Starts at 8 p.m

And O’Leaver’s ends the weekend with Fort Collins dream-pop band Sound of Ceres, along with The Sunks, Chalant and Little Ripple Sunday night at 9. $7.

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


Live Review: Dilly Dally; Pure Bathing Culture, BOYTOY tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 2:29 pm November 9, 2015
Dilly Dally at Reverb Lounge, Nov. 7, 2015.

Dilly Dally at Reverb Lounge, Nov. 7, 2015.

by Tim McMahan,

More proof that a high rating from Pitchfork doesn’t necessarily equate to big crowds, PF darlings Dilly Dally played to a grateful crowd of around 50 Saturday night at Reverb Lounge. The band’s latest album, Sore, scored a massive 8.0 on the Pitchfork meter which doesn’t matter if no one’s heard your music.

Dilly Dally front woman Katie Monks channeled Courtney Love’s gravel-growl throughout the 45-minute set that included a lot of songs off that new album. But maybe more than Courtney, Monks reminded me of a younger version of Thalia Zedak of bands Come and Live Skull, but playing music that isn’t nearly as stark an desolate as either of those bands. Dilly Dally’s sound is a hybrid of ’90s post-punk mixed with some modern-day touches. The song “Get To You,” for example, carried a funky-grungy bassline that was pure Breeders territory.

Monks sounded younger on stage than what we hear on the record, probably because she looked like a teenager on stage wearing a sideways ball cap covered in bedazzle-bling. After seeing the songs performed live, I love the record even more.

It dawned on me that Monks is among a galaxy of young women punk performers who are making the biggest mark on indie these days. Why haven’t we seen a modern-day punk Lilith Fair featuring Dilly Dally, Bully, Hop Along, Savages, Speedy Ortiz, Courtney Barnett, Sleater-Kinney, etc.? Or maybe it’s time we got away from organizing gender-specific festivals.

* * *

A couple big shows happening on a Monday night (more proof that we’re not the destination, we’re the drive-through on the way home).

Pure Bathing Culture sans drummer at The Waiting Room Nov. 5, 2014.

Pure Bathing Culture sans drummer at The Waiting Room Nov. 5, 2014. The band plays tonight at Reverb.

Top of the list is Portland band Pure Bathing Culture at Reverb Lounge. I’ve seen this band on three separate occasions and have been underwhelmed three times, but maybe it’s a personal thing, as people who were in the same audiences raved about the band’s performance. Opening is fellow Portlanders Wild Ones (Topshelf Records). $12, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, over at fabulous O’Leaver’s, NYC band BOYTOY hits the stage. They’re on the road supporting a new EP called Grackle. Also on the bill are Bien Fang and The Morbs. $5, 9:30 p.m.

* * *

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


Live Review: Sufjan Stevens at The Orpheum Theater; Conor Oberst hospitalized, Desa tour cancelled…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:40 pm October 29, 2015
Sufjan Stevens at The Orpheum, Oct. 28, 2015.

Sufjan Stevens at The Orpheum, Oct. 28, 2015.

by Tim McMahan,

I warned you it was going to be a first-class bummer.

If you came to last night’s Sufjan Stevens concert at a nearly sold out Orpheum Theater and expected a career retrospective performance you probably left disappointed, but really, what did you expect? The guy is out supporting his new album Carrie & Lowell (Asthmatic Kitty, 2015). Did you really think he was going to play all your faves off the Illinoise and Michigan albums?

C&L has been lauded as a career high-water mark for Stevens. It’s the third highest-rated album for 2015 in the Album of the Year composite list. Critics love it. I wanted to love it, but I’ve managed to work my way through the collection only a handful of times. It’s not so much that the theme — a survivor’s elegy to a dead mother and a prolonged meditation on the inevitability of death — is too depressing (a large share of Stevens’ catalog is mournful), it’s that the songs can be somewhat boring and lack the variety heard on earlier records.

That said, Stevens managed to liven up the songs’ arrangements on stage for a concert almost solely dedicated to a dreary album. Nearly every song started with Stevens glowing in a single overhead spotlight while he sang in his trademark twee coo, meticulously picking out an intricate guitar line on an acoustic. Behind him, massive video screens in the shape of cathedral-style cut-outs showed serene landscapes or seascapes or Super 8-style home movie footage of him or his parents in happier times.

The rest of the band, a talented four-piece on keyboards, strings, horns and percussion, slowly crept in by the second verse, eventually building each number to a full-on symphonic rage that came back to Stevens standing in that lone spotlight. Beautiful stuff, but as the person sitting next to me said, “Doesn’t he have any upbeat songs?” My whispered response: Wait until the encore.

Sufjan Stevens at The Orpheum Oct. 28, 2015.

Sufjan Stevens at The Orpheum Oct. 28, 2015.

There were a few songs that broke the mold, including a blistering version of “Vesuvius” from The Age of Adz and a throbbing reinvention of “All of Me Wants All of You” from C&L that was a show highlight along the main set-closer — a 10-minute-long noise collage at the end of “Blue Bucket of Gold” that, when combined with a startling lighting effect, felt like swimming underwater during a hurricane.

If there’s a quibble it was with the sound mix. There was too much delay in Stevens’ vocals during the first half of his set, leaving his usually clean, pristine-sounding lyrics indecipherable. They got it figured out by the end.

After a standing ovation and a brief pause, Stevens came out for an encore that included older fan favorites like “Holland” off the Michigan album, which I haven’t seen on any of his other set lists, a version of “Concerning the UFO sightings Near Highland, Illinois,”  a great take on one of my faves, “Casimir Pulaski Day,” and a stunning version of “Chicago” that left the crowd wanting more.

The show started right at 7:30 with a half-hour set by Gallant, an LA-based R&B singer whose style wasn’t my thing, though he had a fantastic backing band (especially the guitarist, who blazed throughout the set). It was a strange choice for an opener, but I’ve come to expect odd parings when I see artists at The Orpheum. I guess it’s better than no opener at all, right?

* * *

By now you’ve already heard that Desaparecidos’ tour has been cancelled. The band issued a statement yesterday saying Conor Oberst fell ill on tour while in Jacksonville, Florida, and was briefly hospitalized due to laryngitis, exhaustion and anxiety. In consultation with Oberst’s doctor the band “reluctantly agreed” to cancel all scheduled live dates. “Conor will be heading home to Omaha to recuperate.”

In addition to the O’Leaver’s gig, the cancellation includes the Dec. 2 Oberst solo gig as part of the Ground Control Touring 15th Anniversary show at Webster Hall in NYC.

Here’s hoping Mr. Oberst gets back on his feet soon. Ain’t nothing more valuable than your health.

* * *

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


Live Review: Eklectica, Brilliant Beast; Cursive, The Oh Hellos, Agronomo tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:22 pm October 19, 2015
Eklectica at O'Leaver's, Oct. 17, 2015.

Eklectica at O’Leaver’s, Oct. 17, 2015.

by Tim McMahan,

Eklectica is an Omaha four-piece that features Ryan Menchaca on lead vocals and guitar. If you never heard of them, you’re not alone. They were a complete mystery to me prior to Saturday night’s show at O’Leaver’s, where they followed touring headliner Brilliant Beast. Turns out they’ve only been a group for a couple months. You may recognize Menchaca from his support role in the live version of Icky Blossoms.

Seems like in some circles, frontmen are almost penalized for having a good voice. Menchaca has a high, sweet delivery that’s as good as it gets for a rock band. After the set, a few people were sort of criticizing him for it, saying he sounded “too commercial,” whatever that means. Other folks compared his voice to a couple popular indie acts and mainstream artists. Needless to say, clear, sweet vocals are not the norm at O’Leaver’s, where patrons are used to hearing growling screams or indecipherable mewing.

Ekletica’s music rolled with a ’60s psych vibe, sounding like something headed to Woodstock, but combined with modern touches and progressive nuance. All well played and interesting, though the songs tended to draw out, bordering dangerously close to jam band territory (And we can’t have that). Menchaca announced from stage that Ecklectica has a record coming out in the coming months. At this point in their evolution the band could go just about any direction — toward gritty psych-garage or to more refined Jack Johnson / Dave Matthews noodling. Here’s hoping for the former rather than the latter.

Brilliant Beast, Oct. 17, 2015.

Brilliant Beast at O’Leaver’s, Oct. 17, 2015.

Just before Eklectica, Brilliant Beast played a set of dreamy, underwater shoegaze that’s about as close as I’ve heard anyone at O’Leaver’s come to emulating the essence of that ’90s subgenre. They definitely had the whole Ride/My Bloody Valentine warm-tone style, complete with shimmering, slightly-off-kilter guitar effects that rocked as much as left you feeling uneasy. I honored Cassette Store Day by buying their yet-to-be-released collection on cassette, Dissolve, which is definitely worth finding on Bandcamp.

* * *

There currently are 239 people in Facebook who say they’re going to O’Leaver’s tonight for the Cursive show. That could make for a rather packed room. Maybe they should take the show out to the sand volleyball pit?  Seriously, if you haven’t seen Cursive in the intimate confines of O’Leaver’s, do yourself a favor. It’s an entirely different concert experience than seeing them at a large venue like TWR. No doubt 239 people are not going to show up tonight (Are Facebook invitations ever accurate?), but expect a heated crowd. Get there early and see Chicago band Bellum Bocca and Buffalo, New York band Miwi La Lupa (Team Love Records). $5, 9 p.m.

It’s a busy Monday.

Down at The Slowdown massive folk ensemble The Oh Hellos are headlining an entire night of folk. The San Marcos, Texas, band is a brother-sister act surrounded by about a dozen friends playing music reminiscent of Okkervile River and Sufjan Stevens, among others. Opening are equally large bands Family and Friends, and Cereus Bright. $15, 9 p.m.

And over at Reverb Lounge Caleb Hawley headlines. He’s described as an American soul singer influenced by Stevie Wonder. What caught my attention were the openers. Tara Vaughan and Agronomo, a band that features uber-talented James Cuato Ballarin, Luke Polipnick, John Evans and local legend Dereck Higgins. Their style has been described as fusion combined with some improvisation. Check it out.  $8, 9 p.m.

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