Save Our Stages (SOS) Act included in revised HEROES Act; review: Christian Lee Hutson…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:53 pm September 29, 2020

Yesterday an updated Heroes Act was introduced in the House of Representatives. This is legislation that, among other things, will extend unemployment benefits to those impacted by COVID-19. This new revision (surprise-surprise) included the Save Our Stages — or SOS Act.

To save you time reading the massive 87-page title-by-title summary document (the actual HEROES Act is 2,150 pages long, wouldn’t you hate to be a politician?), the summary language is:

Section 619: Grants for Independent Live Venue Operators (H.R. 7806, Save our Stages Act or the SOS Act)

  1. Authorizes $10 Billion for the SBA to make grants to eligible live venue operators, producers, promoters, or talent representatives to address the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on certain live venues.
  2. The SBA may make an initial grant of up to $12 million dollars to an eligible operator, promoter, producer, or talent representative; and a supplemental grant that is equal to 50% of the initial grant.
  3. Such grants shall be used for specified expenses such as payroll costs, rent, utilities, and personal protective equipment.

This all seems well and good, but, of course, it has to pass the House and then the Senate, and there’s no guarantee this language will survive. Or that Trump would sign it.

Look, I know this shit’s boring to some of you but it’s super important. And if you don’t believe me, check out this list of venues that have closed as a result of COVID-19, published by Billboard last week. No Nebraska venue is on the list, though we can point to Lookout Lounge as one of COVID-19’s casualties.

* * *

Random review…

Christian Lee Hutson, Beginners (2020, Anti-) — Kind of Sufjan Stevens, early Pete Yorn, no question Simon and Garfunkel and lots of Elliott Smith. I think of him in conjunction with Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst because he was a member of Better Oblivion Community Center. And while Oberst has a better way with words and Phoebe has a sweeter voice, Hutson is a stronger songwriter melody-wise than both of them. He writes in a quiet, indie-folk tradition, mostly confessional lyrics as if singing from a journal, which makes these songs maybe a bit too personal to reach a wider audience. They’re heart-breakers, played on chiming acoustic guitar, sung in a voice that’s more Paul than Art. The single “Get the Old Band Back Together” sounds like an out-take from XO until the drums come in and amps things up. It’s the star and a standout, along with “Northsiders,” in a collection of stars and standouts.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily (if there’s news) 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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Petfest (And How, Those Far Out Arrows)…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:12 pm August 17, 2020
And How at Petfest, Aug. 15, 2020.

Like being stranded in the desert and drinking an ice-cold ladel of water — that’s what it was like to finally see live rock music again.

The opportunity came at Petfest last Saturday — the first live music I’ve experienced since COVID-19 began kicking our collective asses this past March. I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed rock shows. Watching a live band really underscores why live-streamed performances are a poor — but necessary — substitute for the real thing.

And while I know our COVID numbers around here are pretty bad, with the right precautions in place I don’t understand why there isn’t at least a few live outdoor indie shows happening somewhere. But I’ll get to that in a minute.

Just prior to organizers pulling the online ticket sales yesterday morning, there were only four of the 50 available tickets left for purchase, so if it wasn’t a sell-out it was close to it. After I posted my Lazy-i update Friday, organizers decided to nix the inside stage and host the entire event with two outdoor stages. Genius sound engineer Ian Aeillo cleverly pulled the in-door “stage” to the edge of the Petshop overhead doors, adding to the overall safety of the festival.

Before entering the snow-fence-bordered compound behind Petshop in Benson you had to be masked and have a temperature check. Once inside, there was plenty of room to roam, with a bar set up on one side next to the ProBlac tent and a merch tent.

I arrived at around 6 p.m., just in time to see And How’s entire set. A seven-piece ensemble that includes a two-piece brass section (trumpet and trombone) along with the usual keys, guitars, drums, I’d been told by a number of music folks how great they were, and they weren’t kidding. Fronted by vocalist/guitarist Ryan Menchaca, their sound is textured and melodic, floating and soaring like a plastic bag doing a ballet in an updraft between two skyscrapers. Some might say it borders on yacht rock, but these days, that’s a compliment, especially in an indie scene that’s infatuated with it.

Menchaca’s vocals, a perfect mid-range coo, wasn’t the least bit hampered by the mask he wore — in fact, the entire band wore masks throughout the performance, except of course for the brass players who dropped their shields when jams required. If there was a flaw it was in the enunciation — I’m not sure what these songs are about, but if their floating psych-rock sound is any indication, the topics are peace, love and understanding.

Mechaca said the band has only recorded one song, which is linked below. Methinks now would be a good time for them to get into a studio (perhaps Aeillo’s studio?) and get the rest of their set recorded for a debut album.

Those Far Out Arrows at Petfest, Aug. 15, 2020.

And How was followed by Those Far Out Arrows playing in the garage stage (appropriately). The time off due to COVID has only strengthened the four-piece psych-rock outfit, who never sounded more lean and mean. While playing what you could consider traditional garage/psych rock, it feels like they’re headed toward different places these days. I would get caught up in a song’s warm vibe and hope it would go on for another five minutes instead of capping at the three-minute mark, like any good rock song — not jamming as much as a trance-like rhythm and tone.

The masked crowd was having fun hanging with friends, probably for the first time in a long time. Groups of two or three stayed distanced from others (for the most part). I never felt like the space was crowded or dangerous. I guess we’ll find out in a couple weeks should anyone get sick.

The Petshop folks did everything right as far as I could see, and the fact that they essentially sold out this small show at $30+fees per ticket tells me there’s an appetite for more small, safe, socially distanced, outdoor rock shows. I’m surprised there hasn’t been more like this one, but no doubt it takes a lot of organizing. That said, with summer winding down, the opportunities to do more of this before fall and winter comes — and we’re all stuck back indoors — is only going to become more limited. Let’s get it while we can.

* * *

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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Nebraska to reopen venues; Live Review: No Thanks; Mercy Rule / Sideshow panel tonight; Little Brazil, Noah’s Ark Saturday; RIP Kyle Tonniges…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:33 pm May 22, 2020
No Thanks streamed live from the Slowdown main stage May 21, 2020.

Well, what did I tell you yesterday? As if on cue a few hours after I posted, Ricketts announced bars and lounges can reopen June 1 with the same rules now applied to restaurants. That is: 25 people allowed in the venue, or 50 percent of the venue’s rated occupancy. Patrons have to be seated at tables that are located six feet apart with no more than six people per table. And there must be six feet between entertainers and patrons.

I got this backwards. See CLARIFICATION posted right here.

If it sounds confusing it’s because it is, but I’m sure it’ll all be spelled out before June 1. For example, does the 25-person cap include employees and bands? Do you include employee/band numbers in the 50 percent occupancy restriction? And so on…

So if I’m hearing this correctly, a venue like The Waiting Room or Slowdown could only host shows with a maximum of 25 people in the audience (if employees/bands are excluded from the overall venue count). and even though they’re much smaller, The Brothers and O’Leaver’s also could host the same body count since their capacity exceeds 100.

Any way you slice it, it’s going to be a giant pain in the ass for venue owners who will be responsible for monitoring all those numbers. Some of them might decide to just stay closed until restrictions are loosened even further, and I can’t blame them.

Would I go to a rock show at any of those venues the first week of June? Yeah, I would, but judging from what I’ve seen in social media, I’m in the minority.

For example, I would have loved to have been among the 25 allowed in to watch last night’s No Thanks / Marcey Yates show streamed live from The Slowdown.

It probably would have been like this: I’d have been seated at a table (probably by myself) and I’d would have worn a mask though I haven’t heard any stipulation saying that’s required. That said, I have no problem wearing a mask as long as I could pull down my gator to drink my Rolling Rock(s).

Last night’s show was outstanding. Technically it was next-level as far as streamed concerts are concerned — terrific sound (by Dan Brennan), and video (from Love Drunk’s Django Greenblatt-Seay and his crew) utilizing at least five cameras.

And the performances were terrific. But the one thing missing was an audience — something even more apparent during No Thanks’ set, which had silent pauses between songs where the crowd usually fills in the spaces. Toward the end of the stream, the crew threw in a few whoops and hollers, which was better than nothing.

Yates was accompanied by a DJ and keyboard player as well as a couple additional vocalists — all of them on point and smooth. You can see why he’s on top of Omaha’s hip-hop ladder.

No Thanks did their usual sweaty set, using the occasion to roll out a couple new red hot numbers from an upcoming album (which, yes, they might as well release right now instead of waiting).

Next up on the Slowdown streaming concert series (of which there are two gigs) is tomorrow night (Saturday), when Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship plays with Little Brazil. Any other time, this concert would be a sloppy, drunken good time. Can these bands deliver in an empty auditorium? Find out. Tickets are $5 (plus whatever tip you want to add). The show is scheduled to start at 8:15, though last night’s started at 8:30 (You really notice the extra time when you’re staring at a computer screen). Get your tickets here.

Also happening this weekend — tonight to be exact — is a virtual round table with members of Domestica, Mercy Rule and Sideshow. It’s called Nebraska Music History: Episode 1, presented by Nebraska Performing Arts Hall of Fame. I’m sure we’ll be hearing all about the golden age of Nebraska indie rock born in the early ‘90s from two of the bands that were there. Mercy Rule and Sideshow not only recorded and toured around the country, they often toured together. Expect to hear some gnarly war stories. The program starts at 7 p.m. and is being streamed via Facebook from here.

Finally, yesterday we lost a good one. Kyle Tonniges was a friend of mine who I met working at The Reader. He was one of the funniest, most acerbic, smartest people I ever met, and one hell of a great writer. His music criticism was always spot-on — I know he introduced a lot of readers to new sounds. He went on to write reviews for Publishers Weekly (focusing on cookbooks), where he also did a lot of interviews. He battled cancer like the hero he was, but it got him in the end, and we’re all the lesser for it. He will be missed.

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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Social Resonance Vol. 1 (Rebecca Lowry, Mike Schlesinger)…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:11 pm March 30, 2020

Rebecca Lowry performs during the Social Resonance Vol. 1 stream March 27.

by Tim McMahan,

Technically and artistically, what Ian Aiello and his team pulled off last Friday night at The Sydney will stand as the benchmark by which live streamed performances will be judged, and I don’t mean just local ones.

Multiple cameras, pristine audio and two fine performances in an empty bar in Benson, except for the crew that made it all work, last week’s Social Resonance Vol. 1 represents what can be done with the technology that will be spoon-feeding us live musical performances at least for the next two or three months while COVID does its thing.

You, of course, can see for yourself via this link, which will take you to the performance’s recording hosted in YouTube. Ian said about 250 watched live at any one time and a total of around 450 people viewed the live stream. Since its broadcast, the recording has had just under 1,200 views. Not bad.

Rebecca Lowry with an electric guitar (the last time I saw her perform she held a ukulele) belted out a number of songs a la Bonnie Raitt, while Mike Schlesinger, wearing a John Denver T-shirt, preferred to use an old acoustic guitar for his set of low-slung heart-breakers. Schlesinger is a Nebraska treasure who deserves to be discovered by this great, big COVID-infected world.

The stream defined the phrase “intimate performance.” With multiple cameras and perfect sound, there was utterly nowhere for these two to hide as every breath, every note was stream-ified. Guts. Confidence.

Despite its “Vol. 1” title, Ian said this was a one-shot — there will be no Vol. 2, which is a shame considering Vol. 1’s success. It truly was appointment viewing and gave us all somewhere to meet on a Friday night, even if it was just in front of our computers.

* * *

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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: PUP, Screaming Females at The Waiting Room…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , — @ 1:36 pm March 5, 2020

PUP at The Waiting Room, March 4, 2020.

by Tim McMahan,

My friend Paul emailed to say I needed to show up early at The Waiting Room last night for Screaming Females, which he’d seen a number of times, including a show a few years back at the Sweatshop Gallery.

If you haven’t caught them yet, they are a force — Marissa Paternoster made SPIN’s list of top 100 guitarists a few years back.  I thought she would have caught on as a gunslinger for a major touring band by now, but Sam told me she’s loyal to her bandmates.

“Sam” is Sam Parker, once of Omaha now of Nashville who booked the band here once upon a time. Well, Paul wasn’t exaggerating. Paternaster was a force of nature on the guitar, a true throwback rock virtuoso.

How to describe her? She looked like a mop-headed 15-year-old Gilda Radner, no more than 5 feet tall. She never smiled, or at least not on stage. And when she played, she looked like a person possessed — amazing rock arpeggios that Jimmy Page or Jack White would most certainly bow down to.

Screaming Females at The Waiting Room, March 4, 2020.

A New Jersey power trio, their style was reminiscent of Seattle grunge with a hint of metal (by way of that guitar). The songs were powered by Mike Abbate’s base lines that laid the groundwork for Paternaster’s fretboard gymnastics.

When she wasn’t playing (or when she was) she sang with an affected style that sounded like Grace Slick channeling Eddie Vedder on melodies that weren’t terribly memorable. It’s her guitar work that I’ll remember. Why isn’t this band headlining yet?

PUP came on right at 10 p.m. to a near sold-out crowd, about as packed as I’ve seen The Waiting Room. From the opening chords the audience erupted in a group sing-along, which I sort of expected. PUP’s anthemic music lends itself to crowd participation, and the band certainly got it all night long. But unlike say, a Dashboard Confessional concert where the crowd singing shtick is constant and annoying, last night’s audience was a nice accent to the overall power of the performance.

Frontman Stefan Babcock said because the band hadn’t been through Omaha in a number of years they were going to play songs from all their albums, and in fact reached way back to their 2014 debut with “Dark Days” and set highlight “Reservoir” (though they didn’t get to my personal fave, “Guilt Trip”). There also were a lot of songs off their last album, Morbid Stuff, including perfect set-closer “Scorpion Hill.”

Halfway through the hour-long performance Babcock remarked that the set was a disaster but it sure sounded great from where I stood, and certainly the fist-pump-fueled crowd was loving it, including the requisite crowd surfers. Babcock’s between-song repartee included calling Oklahoma City (the town they played previously) the City of Enemies. Not sure what that was all about. He also said he was having more fun last night than he expected to — take that for what it’s worth.

There was no encore, and no band has ever made such a big deal about it. Babcock not only warned the crowd they weren’t playing one “because they’re stupid” (and, he said, merely an excuse for bands to go backstage and do coke (which they don’t do)), but also encouraged the crowd to chant “No More Songs!” after the set closer, which is exactly what they did, though they had to know we would have loved a couple more…

* * *

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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: SUSTO, Molly Parden at Slowdown Jr…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 2:04 pm February 25, 2020

SUSTO at Slowdown Jr., Feb. 24, 2020.

by Tim McMahan,

All the chairs will filled last night down at Slowdown Jr., literally. The crowd of around 60 stayed seated throughout both Molly Parden and SUSTO’s set last night, leaving a wide open floor in front of the stage with only one guy (me) standing near it. I’m guessing both artists were wondering who that weirdo was.

Molly Parden kicked things off at 8. She’s a Nashville singer/songwriter who played a solo acoustic set of broken-hearted love songs that ached with every note. I had a feeling that each song had someone’s name attached to it, and Parden inasmuch said so, saying she took seven years off from writing music, and that it took a break-up to inspire her to write again.

Molly Parden at Slowdown Jr., Feb. 24, 2020.

While her songs would fit well alongside early Joni Mitchell, her voice comes from a different direction and is incomparable. Just gorgeous. She said she only recently has been able to support herself through her music thanks to one of her songs being included on a couple Spotify playlists, which has generated enough cash to live on. The song in question, “Weather,” is a rocker on Spotify, but came off as another somber heart breaker performed live. In fact, what I heard last night on stage blows away the recorded versions of the same songs, or maybe it was just the mood of the evening and the performance itself. Too bad no one recorded it.

I was sort of expecting SUSTO’s Justin Osborne to sound a little less like Jackson Browne vocalwise when he took the stage last night, and in fact he did, though there was still that classic Late for the Sky nasal lilt to his voice. Playing as a 4-piece, the band launched the set with “Far Out Feeling,” the lead-off track (and my favorite) from their 2017 album & I’m Fine Today. They went on to play a selection of the best songs off the last two albums, reaching back to “Acid Boys” from his 2014 debut.

Osborne switched between guitar and keyboards from song to song, sounding just as comfortable on either, backed by a solid band that included an amazing soloist and a snap-tight rhythm section. I love Osborne’s voice, and few people in recent years are as good at writing gorgeous melodies. In a way he reminds me of the late great Jim Croce, who had a similar simple, urban story-telling songwriting style.

Late in the set as a special treat, the band played their cover of Elton John’s “Daniel,” which sounded as if it was written for them to perform. A great way to spend a Monday night.

* * *

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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


New releases: Magū, Death Cow, Relax It’s Science; New Pornographers, Diane Coffee tonight at The Slowdown…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:31 pm February 13, 2020

New Pornographers at 2017 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 19, 2017. The band plays tonight at The Slowdown.

by Tim McMahan,

Here’s a handful of recent local Bandcamp releases that may trip your trigger.

I stumbled across Magū via Facebook, the band’s drummer / vocalist David McInnis sent a friend request and, once connected, said, “This is something you’re interested in.” Oh really?

The newish Omaha collective includes Sam Lipsett on bass, John Staples on guitars and vocals, Di Ren Chen on keyboards, Cameron Thelander on saxophone and McInnis. I haven’t seen these folks live yet so I don’t know who handles the majority of vocals.

The band dropped a new EP Renovate last Friday via Bandcamp. The 4-songs collection, recorded by McInnis at his Magroover Studios, is a refined psych-rock experience that borders on prog rock. Certainly more arty than indie. And at times, very spacey, though I wouldn’t confuse it with shoe-gaze (Thelander’s warm, echoing tenor sax takes care of that).

I can’t put my finger on any one thing they remind me of, though It’s True and Adam Hawkins’ past efforts came to mind (Whatever happened to Mr. Hawkins? Plenty I’m sure). Flaming Lips also popped up. Opening track, “Never Want” is a fave of the bunch, along with “Glad I’m Not in Love.” Or maybe I’m just a sucker for that sax? I’ll be checking them out live… eventually.

* * *

The name Death Cow reminds me so much of Bloodcow that I figured the folks at Bloodcow might be pissed about the name grab, but after corresponding with one of the BC dudes, they couldn’t be more gracious about the name similarity, tipping the hat to the next generation and all that. Plus, it’s unlikely we’ll be hearing from Bloodcow in the near future.

No doubt Death Cow glommed more from Bloodcow than just the naming configuration. The band’s new seven-song EP Pioneer, released Jan. 31, has similar — if not so abrasive — love for heavy riffs. But whereas I’d classify Bloodcow as metal, Death Cow falls more into the high-flying rock ‘n’ roll category. The songs’ harmony vocals, overlaying the riffs on almost every track, well that’s ’90s FM rock territory. It’s also what makes these guys stand out over the other locals trying their hand at straight-up rock.

* * *

Relax, It’s Science has been playing live around Omaha for at least the past four or five years. Their formula is two basses — Pat Mclivain and Craig Hoffman — and veteran drummer Jeremy Stanosheck, playing rough, loud instrumentals that border on metal. It’s as bludgeoning as you think it is.

Recorded at Archetype by Bryce Hotz and mastered by the inimitable Doug Van Sloun, this debut, titled Now It’s Your Problem, is a long time coming. Somewhat relentless, just like their live shows.

* * *

Tonight at The Slowdown it’s the return of New Pornographers. The Canucks are on the road supporting their 2019 release, In the Morse Code of Brake Lights (Concord Records). No doubt you’ll get A.C., Calder and Neko but no Dan Bejar (You’ll have to wait until he returns with Destroyer to The Waiting Room in March). The theatrical gyrations of Diane Coffee opens at 8 p.m. $30.

* * *

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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.



Live Review: Perfect Form, Colfax Speed Queen at O’Leaver’s…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:38 pm February 3, 2020

Perfect Form at O’Leaver’s, Jan. 31, 2020.

by Tim McMahan,

I had every intention of seeing InDreama Friday night at Reverb and then racing cross-town to O’Leaver’s, but the evening got the better of me and I didn’t get rolling until around 11. Figuring I’d probably already missed part of InDreama’s set, I instead headed out to the club, where the second band was still doing their pre-set soundcheck.

Colfax Speed Queen is a Denver five-piece who’ve opened for the likes of The Sonics, Thee Oh Sees, King Khan & BBQ and Prettiest Eyes, among others. Though they have that minor-key, organ-driven thing going, their style is too straight-forward and riffy to fall into the psychobilly category. Instead, they have refined garage-rock power more in common with Oh Sees or Ty Segall.

Colfax Speed Queen at O’Leaver’s, Jan. 31, 2020.

Frontman Matthew Loui on guitar and vocals, with keen serial killer looks, was a true showman, and this band was tight as a tic. Lead guitarist Jacob Bond killed on the solos and the rhythm section was right on. It was definitely another one of those classic O’Leaver’s sets that I wasn’t expecting and was a pleasant surprise. Check out their latest, 2019’s Dirty Mirror, on Bandcamp. You won’t be disappointed.

Too bad so few people were there to see them. The crowd of 20 or so consisted mostly of music people, no doubt on hand to see Perfect Form, a new incarnation of Pharmacy Spirits with the added dimension of golden-age vet Oli Blaha on bass sounding as golden as ever.

Without a doubt, Perfect Form is influenced by bands like Joy Division, Gang of Four, very early Cure, Wire, all the usual post-punk suspects. They do it very well, driven by a super-talented rhythm section of Blaha and drummer Courtney Nore, who remains one of my all-time faves behind a drum kit.

The band is rounded out by frontman singer/guitarist Jim Reilly and guitarist/vocalist Eric Maly. Reilly handles most all the vocals but Maly jumps in now and again with some added angst. The guitar work is as you’d expect from this style of band — jangly and precise, lean and simple. It’s the bass that’s driving the songs, with Blaha playing most of the set pushed into a corner with has back to the audience.

Late in the set they played a song called “Terminal Beach” that had all of the above and something I can’t quite put my finger on that reminded me of Omaha/Lincoln in the mid-’90s, something about the way Reilly and Maly were singing the chorus “If I could just fall asleep / I’d make you promise that you’d never let me wake,” that sounded like every local punk band at the time. Reckless fun.

This was their first show ever. Why they chose Omaha to play it when they’re from Lincoln is something of a mystery. I’m happy they did.

* * *

Not much happening this week show-wise until Friday night’s Little Brazil gig at The Sydney. I’ll try filling the gap by posting about stuff I’ve been listening to lately. Check back.

* * *

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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Catching up on the holidays — Criteria, Lodgings, Little Brazil,Stephen Sheehan…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:52 pm January 2, 2020

Criteria at The Waiting Room, Dec. 28, 2019.

by Tim McMahan,

The holidays are over. Now we enter into the dark, black chasm known as January (though so far, not so bad weather-wise!).

I caught a couple shows over the break. The top getter was Criteria at The Waiting Room Dec. 28 with Little Brazil for what has become a holiday tradition (what’s it been, five years in a row?).

Stephen Pedersen and Co. never sounded better. Killing behind the kit was Mike Sweeney, though I was half-expecting Nate Van Fleet to be up there seeing as he’ll be playing with the band for the upcoming Criteria/Cursive tour the last half of January. Instead, Nate was standing behind me during the set with his jaw wide open watching Sweeney chop down trees one at a time.

Pedersen was in his usual fine voice on what has got to be the hardest songs for anyone to sing. I felt exhausted after every tune. Doing it nightly will be herculean achievement, but if anyone can pull it off, it’s Pedersen. The band used the occasion to roll out a couple songs from the new album, which they’ve been performing live for a few years, so yeah, they fit right in with the rest of the catalog.

I’m very interested to see how the Cursive fans react to Criteria on this upcoming tour. No doubt, many already are familiar with the band. But there will be some young Cursive fans who may not be, and Criteria has a completely different vibe than Cursive — it’s like a guy wearing a gold lamé jacket standing next to some dude in a black hoodie. Criteria has always shimmered brightly, coming off like a rallying cry before a battle; whereas Cursive is a darker thing altogether, Cursive is the angry negotiations that go nowhere leading up to the war.

In these dark times we live in, we could use some new Criteria. So what happens if on this tour these guys break big and a nation demands more? Can Pedersen and Co. push back from their dusty office PCs and become the rock stars they were meant to be?

Lodgings Dec. 28, 2019.

I got to the Waiting Room early to catch Lodgings, who put out one of my favorite albums of 2019 (the Steve Albini engineered Water Works). The songs sounded even better live (but don’t all good songs sound better live?). The four-piece with Bryce Hotz out front and backed by a stellar band that includes the legendary Steve Micek on guitar along with Michael Laughlin and Eric Ernst on drums have a grinding indie-rock style that stumbles forward with a throbbing heart. There is something about Hotz’s vocals that remind me of Vedder (more so the phrasing than the vox itself), whereas the music reminds me of classic Grifters (a band that no one seems to remember, and one of my all-time faves).

Little Brazil at The Waiting Room, Dec. 28, 2019.

In the middle was Little Brazil, who rolled out a number of new songs, and hopefully are headed to a recording studio in the near future. It was funny looking out over the audience and seeing three past Little Brazil drummers in the crowd — Nate Van Fleet, Matt Bowen and Oliver Morgan — watch as new drummer Austin Elsberry took the reigns, keeping up a fine tradition.

Little Brazil is an enigma to me. They’re one of the city’s most unique bands that’s always deserved as much national attention as any Saddle Creek Records band. And they’re playing some of the best music of their careers right now. Why they haven’t caught fire is a mystery to me.

Stephen Sheehan and his band Dec. 23 at The Waiting Room.

Finally, it was a treat to see Stephen Sheehan and his band play at The Waiting Room Dec. 23. Sheehan once again gathered together some of the area’s best talent to back him on a set of Digital Sex and The World songs, as well as a new original. It got me wondering if maybe he shouldn’t re-record these songs, giving us a modern take on what are considered Omaha classics.

* * *

Lazy-i Best of 2019

Speaking of classics, relive the classics of the year gone by with the  Lazy-i Best of 2019 Comp CD!

The collection includes my favorite indie tunes I’ve come across throughout last year as part of my tireless work as a music critic for Lazy-i. Among those represented: DIIV, Hand Habits, Uh Oh, Sharon Van Etten, Orville Peck, Simon Joyner, Prettiest Eyes, Purple Mountains and lots more.

To enter, send me an email with your mailing address to Hurry, contest deadline is Monday, Jan. 6, at midnight.

Or listen on Spotify. Simply click this link or search “Lazy-i” in Spotify and you’ll find the 2019 playlist along with a few from past years, too!

* * *

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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Solid Goldberg, Digital Leather on Thanksgiving; Allah-Las tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 2:23 pm December 2, 2019


Solid Goldberg at O’Leaver’s, Nov. 26, 2019.

by Tim McMahan,

Thanksgiving night at O’Leaver’s is becoming a new holiday tradition for the drunks and disenfranchised as well as the rest of us, and why not? Most places are closed on Thanksgiving. Instead. O’Leaver’s used the holiday for a boozed-up rock show.

First up at around 10:30 was the return of Solid Goldberg. Dave Goldberg has revamped his one-man project with more eye-popping gadgets and an enormous amount of sound-creating hardware — pedals, cables and wires surrounded both in front of and behind the shower-curtain scrim used to bounce lighting effects. Fire hazard? I watched the floor for smoke.

Despite the hardware and tech, the core of Goldberg’s performance are his songs, which have never been groovier. Goldberg’s beat programming and synth-work have upped his sound to an electro-dance party that sizzles beneath his keyboard melodies and vocals. The style is punk/blues rock a la classic Jon Spencer but with Goldberg’s trademark keyboard style like listening to a kaleidoscope on acid.

And while it’s hard not to get caught up in the performance — the lights, the gadgets, Goldberg himself — there is funk to be had. Goldberg has one of the better punk rock voices I’ve heard around these parts — rife with the swagger of a rock evangelist, it’s been that way as long as I’ve known him.

I asked after the set when he’s going to record any of the songs. He said he thought they  finally turned a corner, which I hope means he’ll be in a studio soon.

Digital Leather at O’Leaver’s, Nov. 26, 2019.

Digital Leather followed after at around 11. Every DL show seems to have a line-up change and this one was no exception. While Jeff Lambelet took his throne behind the drum kit and I believe Omahan Blake Kostszewa of FiFI NoNo was on one synth, across the stage was a new face who I was told was playing her first show with DL. No idea who she was, though the person next to me said there were Sioux City roots.

It was a similar set as the one played in September at The Sydney. Once again, the highlights were “Puff” off Headache Heaven, “B12” from the Mere Mortals project, and a kick=ass closer called “Compass” that’s yet to be recorded (but needs to be).

Frontman Shawn Foree brutalized a four-string bass with heavy fuzz tone — a welcome shift in style though few people are more ingenious behind a synth keyboard. If there’s a complaint it’s that the set could have been longer. Certainly the audience, which crowded the stage, wanted more…

* * *

Los Angeles psych-rock band Allah-Las headlines tonight at Slowdown Jr. The band has a sweet ’60s Cali-garage sound reminiscent of acts like Arthur Lee and Love. Their latest album, LAHS, was released this past October on Mexican Summer Records. They’re joined tonight by LA duo Mapache and Tim Hill. $18, 8 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 © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.