Live Review: Maha Music Festival Day One: Courtney Barnett, Jenny Lewis, Snail Mail; late night with BareBear; Damien Jurado tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:46 pm August 19, 2019

Courtney Barnett at the Maha Music Festival, Aug. 16, 2019.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

This is part one of a recap/review of the performances at this year’s Maha Music Festival, held at Stinson Park in Aksarben Village, Omaha, Nebraska, Aug. 16 and 17, 2019. In addition, a second “review” will be published in the September issue of The Reader that talks more about the experience and other issues surrounding the festival, as well as some (I hope) amusing speculation about the 2020 MMF.

This is far from comprehensive. I watched less than half the bands this year. I paid for my VIP ticket to Friday night’s show and had a media pass for Saturday. While this was, in my opinion, the best collection of acts for a Maha Festival, it also had a lot of bands and performers who simply didn’t interest me, or who I never heard of. But isn’t that the way of all music festivals? There was a time when I would have felt obligated to watch everything placed on stage. Those days are long gone.

Snail Mail at the Maha Music Festival, Aug. 16, 2019.

Anyway, we didn’t arrive Friday night until after Snail Mail began their set on the “little stage” — the stage has a name, but let’s face it, there’s a big stage and a little stage at Maha, and if you’re relegated to the little stage, it means something. Someone made the decision to place you there rather than the big stage.

And while the little stage is by all means functional, it isn’t nearly as nice as the big stage. The lighting is poor, the sound is… different, the viewing experience is awkward, especially for fans of the band who want to get up close and personal. In that way, it’s actually better than the large stage because you can (almost) walk right up to the edge, though you better have a good center of gravity because you’ll be standing on the up-rise of a rather steep hill.

Snail Mail’s fans were balanced on that hill, up close as the band played through songs from their latest album. I like Snail Mail and think think Lush, their 2018 Matador release, is right up there with the best of the bedroom indie rock genre that’s crowded with similar singer/songwriters, mostly women.

Frontwoman Lindsey Jordan can hang with the best of them, especially when backed by her band. That said, she spent the last 15 minutes of her set doing solo electric renditions of new material that didn’t do it any favors, especially when experienced from across the field. No doubt it felt more intimate if you were standing along the edge of the little stage, but by then I’d already scooted back to the VIP confines and wondered why she had dispatched her band, not hearing that she was filling time with the new material — a festival probably isn’t the best place for that sort of thing.

That was it for the little stage Friday night. The next two bands were big stage events. Courtney Barnett should have been the top headliner Friday night. Who knows how those decisions are made. I guess she was billed as a co-headliner. The last time I saw her live was at an industry-type gig at South By Southwest, playing again as a trio but with a much more subdued (i.e., boring) approach. She was on fire Friday night.

I hardly recognized her — she looked about 20 pounds lighter, with a new hair cut, but the same amazing voice and guitar prowess. She tore through a true festival set, performing all my favorites (“Avant Gardener,” “Depreston,” “An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York)” “History Eraser”) as well as a ton of more recent songs.

Barnett’s strengths are: 1) her songwriting, 2) her guitar playing, 3) her voice, and finally 4) her live performance, but she upped the performance aspect a couple slots Friday night. There was nothing fancy staging-wise, no interesting lighting gimmicks, just her and the band crushing her songs.

Jenny Lewis at the Maha Music Festival, Aug. 16, 2019.

It was quite a contrast to Jenny Lewis’ set. Lewis entered in a spectacular gold lamé dress, sat down behind a hand-painted piano surrounded by her band, and launched into songs off her latest, rather droll new album, On the Line (2019, Warner Bros). For that first song, “Heads Gonna Roll,” there was nothing on her vocals coming off the soundboard, just her out there alone, sounding thin as if not having warmed up, especially on the creaky high notes.

Her voice got into a groove and the sound crew adjusted as the night wore on. I kept waiting for the hits, but never got them, instead we got more songs off the new album. This was a festival, so you’d expect to hear the beloved numbers, like “Rise Up with Fists” or maybe take advantage of the fact that you’re in Omaha and sing “Execution of All Things” with its classic Omaha reference. Instead, we got her typical touring set, and a flat one at that.

It felt old compared to Barnett and Snail Mail. I feel lucky having seen Lewis when she played at the downtown Scottish Rite Lodge with the Watson Twins touring Rabbit Fur Coat back in 2006. At her peak. Where Barnett is today and where Snail Mail may be in a few years. Lewis’ new music is about looking back with regret, while Barnett’s music is about living in the moment and everything that goes with it.

Jenny did throw us a bone at the end with an impromptu version of “With Arms Outstretched” accompanied by the Omaha Girls Rock crew, standing in the dark lit by the audience’s outstretched smartphones. It was a highlight that ended awkwardly when the audience realized it was actually the end of the set. Is she done? Yeah, she’s done.

Tomorrow: Oh Sees, Matt & Kim and Lizzo…

My Friday night did not end at Maha. I made what would become a tactical error as far as the weekend was concerned. I drove to O’Leaver’s to catch a set by BareBear. These days I never stay out past midnight. I would regret it the next morning.

BareBear at O’Leaver’s, Aug. 16, 2019.

BareBear came on at around 12:30 and played their entire new album front to back. The band hadn’t played live in about two years, and the only place it showed was in frontman Rob Walters’ vocals. Let’s be honest, they were… rough. But what Walters lacked in tonal control he made up for in chutzpah and some mighty fine bass playing.

And the rest of the band was absolutely on point. This was one of my favorite guitar performances by Nik Fackler, who just slayed on his rhythms and leads. Drummer Matt Focht proved again why he’s among the best stickmen to get behind a drum set in Nebraska. And then there was Jacob “Cubby” Phillips, a guy who looks young enough to be Walters’ son. The term “virtuoso” comes to mind as does “wunderkind.” Phillips, whose background I’m told is in the jazz world, made playing in Barebear look like child’s play — just amazing guitar tone with a seemingly effortless style.

So what if Walters’ vocals barely resembled what’s heard on their new album? The set was fun. And for fans of Paul Stanley-flavored glam rock, you need to check out this surprisingly good album – The Party’s Over.

I ended up getting to bed at around 2:30 — a mistake that I would pay for most of the following day.

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Tonight at Slowdown Jr…. Damien Jurado’s Rehearsals for Departure (1999, Sub Pop) is one of my all-time favorite albums from the ’90s. He’s released around 16 albums since then, including his latest, In the Shape of a Storm (2019, Mama Bird Recording Co.). Corrina Repp, who played on another favorite of mine, Viva Voce’s 2009 album Rose City (Barsuk), opens at 8 p.m. $18.

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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 © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: No Thanks at O’Leaver’s…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , — @ 12:40 pm August 5, 2019

No Thanks at O’Leaver’s, Aug. 2, 2019.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

No Thanks is a four-piece punk band with a tight rhythm section, an ingenious guitarist and a frontman who knows how to keep a crowd’s attention. Their Facebook bio lists them as Castro Turf, yelling/antics; Ruby Roux, bassist; The Lost Boy, drummist, and Kick Banán, guitarist. The only clue I have to their real identities is that someone told me Mr. Turf is actually a direct relative to former Omaha Mayor Gene Leahy.

Shirtless in tight black pants and black lipstick, Turf/Leahy’s spaz-rock preening conjured comparisons to The Cramps’ Lux Interior, nervously/feverishly pacing back and forth in front of the band for the first half of the set; spending the second half immersed in the humanity that crowded the stage. His voice, a classic post-punk bark – there’s nary a note to be sung, and only a few words were audibly legible.

If you want to know the words, well, go to their Bandcamp page where the band’s 2018 LP, The Trial, can be downloaded/listened to. It’s good, but it in no way resembles the live performance Friday night, which was gritty and hot as you’d expect from any late, well-attended O’Leaver’s show.

I dug around and found the Omaha Magazine story about the band, which came with an identity key: Guitarist Kick Banán is Mike Huber, Turf/Leahy is Brendan Leahy; Ruby Roux is Camille Stout and The Lost Boy is Gabe Cohen. While Leahy is this band’s center of attention, it’s Huber’s guitar that makes it rock with a dark, angular majesty, drilled forward by Stout’s very physical bass skills.

One patron compared their sound to Dischord bands, which I kind of get, though the bands from Dischord that immediately come to mind (Jawbox, Faraquet) have frontmen who actually sing. I was reminded more of acts like Uranium Club, Nots, Diät, Marbled Eye, acts with throbbing, eclectic post-punk sounds that are as much about rhythm as melody. And while musically the band provides the bedrock, it’s Leahy’s intense performance that is mesmerizing.

I was told these guys were pissed because they didn’t make it into my Reader Top 20 list. I find it hard to believe. I can’t imagine they’d give two shits that some old guy left them off a list that has zero relevance with anyone. The fact is, I hadn’t heard the band at the time the list was written (as I said in The Reader, those were the favorites of the bands I’d heard). They would make my list now. They stand out among the handful of new Nebraska acts making a mark on a scene that seems to be fading before our very eyes.

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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 © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Little Brazil at Benson Days…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , — @ 12:25 pm July 29, 2019

Little Brazil at Benson Days, July 27, 2019.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Benson Days is over for another year. The highlights: The Indie (I improved my time by almost two minutes!), the parade, the street fair and, of course, the beer garden where Little Brazil performed Saturday night.

The band hasn’t played live in a quite a while, and used the opportunity to roll out a few new songs — seems like they’re always working on the next record. The set started off a bit wonky sound-wise as it took the sound guy a few songs to figure out the mix (Nate Van Fleet’s overwhelming kick drum actually drowned out the guitars! or at least was the only thing you noticed, initially).

It got balanced out a few songs in, with frontman Landon Hedges’ guitars perfectly melding with exquisite leads from Shawn Cox. Danny Maxwell on bass was rock solid as ever, singing the Conor part during Send the Wolves (Max Trax Records) stand-out track “Making a Mess.”

The new tunes sound like they’re headed in the same short, sweet rock direction heard on Send the Wolves, as if the band is trying to put together a string of singles. Just like the old days.

The biggest surprise was an uptempo (i.e., rocking) cover of Kyle Harvey’s “It Falls Apart,” which the band should record immediately and release as a single. Kyle’s song has been covered before (most notably, an epic version from Omaha now ex patriot Brad Hoshaw off his 2014 album with the Seven Deadlies, Funeral Guns), but never so ironically upbeat. The original is a heart-breaker, as I suppose all Harvey songs are.

I can’t imagine a more perfect night for an outdoor concert, the early evening sunset was blazing overhead while the 50 or so on hand got their brains blown out by some epic Omaha indie rock. Only in Benson.

If you missed the gig, Little Brazil is playing again this Wednesday, opening for Murder by Death down at The Slowdown.

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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 © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: The Beths at The Slowdown…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , — @ 12:33 pm July 16, 2019

The Beths at Slowdown Jr., July 15, 2019.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Crowded it was last night at The Beths show at Slowdown Jr., not a sell-out but certainly a packed room consisting, strangely, of one of the older crowds I’ve seen at any recent indie show. I wasn’t the oldest one there, by a long shot. I’m not sure why so many older folks were drawn to the show except that The Beths have been getting a lot of airplay on Sirius XMU, and these people looked like the type who have satellite radio in their SUVs.

I pushed up to the front of the stage next to the front door and leaned on the ear-plug gumball machine (two ear plugs and a Jolly Ranchers for 50 cents) and flipped through my phone, waiting for the band to get started when up walked Elizabeth Stokes, looking slightly irritated that I was leaning on the machine. I moved aside and she bought a pair of ear plugs, which would vex her the rest of the night (taking them out, pulling them back in, finally tossing the little yellow foam bits).

The band climbed on stage right after the purchase and tore into “Great No One,” the lead track of their latest album, Future Me Hates Me. Stokes center stage with guitar and microphone has a voice that is slightly more withdrawn than what you hear on the record. The sound guy did his due diligence and brought her up in the mix. She wasn’t one to belt out the verses, her style melodically soft-spoken and just right for a set of songs charmingly self-referential and self-deprecating.

Powering through the set was lead guitarist Jonathan Pearce supplying focused solos that rocked without getting in the way. The band played like a family unit, maybe because they’re all New Zealanders stranded in this very strange land together. Stokes pointed out that Omaha may hold the record as the location they’ve played that’s furthest away from any ocean. Pearce said it was something he considered looking up after the show except that it would ruin the joke for the next town, so maybe not. Their between-song patter was like Flight of the Conchords with Pearce as Bret to bass player Benjamin Sinclair’s Jermaine, which I guess left Stokes in the role of Murray.

Anyway, the band played through most of Future Me… and also rolled out three or four new songs, which they said are destined to be on a new album they’re going to record when they return home in September. The best of the bunch was a tune with a repeated chorus of “Don’t go away,” which had a surfy Beach Boys vibe perfectly suited for a Brian Wilson-style “ew-wee-oooo”…

The band closed with Future Me raver “Uptown Girl” and encored with “Little Death” before unplugging their gear. Great night of music.

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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 © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Wagon Blasters, Minne Lussa at Farnam House back lot…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:31 pm July 8, 2019

Minne Lussa at Farnam House July 6, 2019.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

This is more of a picture report than a review. I’ve talked about both of these bands recently, and their sets were as good as ever. The event was the 5-year anniversary of Farnam House brewery this past Saturday, and was held in the restaurant’s back parking lot. The bands played in front of — and off — a loading dock right outside where the brewery casks are located, which provided for one of the more picturesque live music settings in recent years. The late afternoon sun didn’t hurt, either. Who needs stage lighting when you’re in the “Golden Hour”?

Wagon Blasters at Farnam House July 6, 2019.

Farnam House set up tents and tables and served their fantastic beer along with brats and pretzels. The vibe was extremely chill; that is until the Wagon Blasters ripped into their set with their usual bombastic vigor. Gary Dean Davis was in rare form. during and between numbers. The band hinted at a possible new 7-inch in the future, or maybe more from the Speed! Nebraska label. Keep your fingers crossed.

Minne Lussa, the new project with Matt Rutledge at the helm, continued to amaze with its shoe-gazey sound reminiscent of Galaxy 500/Luna. Considering the small PA, the audio was surprisingly balanced and haunting, especially in the fading light of day.

Here’s hoping Farnam House continues to host live music in its back lot as they enter into their next half-decade of business.

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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 © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Double Grave, The Cult of Lip…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , — @ 12:33 pm June 17, 2019

The Cult of Lip at O’Leaver’s, June 15, 2019.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Walking up to O’Leaver’s Saturday I noticed they painted the building black, and then upon walking in… new carpeting! When’d this all happen? I asked the kindly young lady taking my $5. Oh, about a month ago. What? Has it been that long since I’ve been to O’Leaver’s? I guess so… 

Double Grave at O’Leaver’s June 15, 2019.

Anyway, the place never looked better, but it’s still the same ol’ Club we all know and love. Double Grave took the stage moments after arrival / Rolling Rock’d. The Minneapolis three-piece sounded closer to ’90s slacker rock / Pavement than I remember on their latest recordings. Frontman/guitarist Jeremy Warden has a loopy vocal style but knows how to punch out cool guitar lines atop a solid rhythm section. 

Fellow Minneapolis trio The Cult of Lip was next-level good. I’d love to tell you who’s in this band but there’s no info about them anywhere (that I could find). A young dude in a Greek sailor’s cap surrounded by two panels of floor pedals absolutely destroyed on guitar, playing an array of effects, many sounding like Loveless-era My Bloody Valentine (his Loveless T-shirt was the first clue). His vocals were deep and thick with reverb, real voice-of-god stuff. He shared vocals with a bass player, whose voice was as distorted and, as a result, lyrics were undistinguishable, more tones than words. 

Two songs into the set they shifted to Sonic Youth territory, and again, blew the place away, before heading back to that distorted MBV style. The drummer also played in Double Grave — and kept it solid in both. One of the coolest bands I’ve seen this year…

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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 © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Disq, Diane Coffee, Fizzle Like a Flood, Frederick Julius; Thick Paint tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:38 pm June 3, 2019

Disq at Slowdown Jr., June 2, 2019.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Weekend recap:

Friday night Doug Kabourek, a.k.a. Fizzle Like a Flood, re-emerged from a long performance hiatus to play a six-song solo-acoustic set at B-Side in Benson opening for Frederick Julius, a.k.a., Matt Geiler, who was celebrating the release of a new album. 

Fizzle Like a Flood at Benson B-Side May May 31, 2019.

Kabourek’s six songs spanned his career, from new to old, capping it with “Believe in Being Barefooot” off his masterpiece, Golden Sand and the Grandstand. I bet Doug see from stage all the people in the audience who were singing along. 

He’s one of those people (and I know lots of them in Omaha) who doesn’t realize how talented he his. It’s almost like a sickness around here — running into musicians and artists who create works of art and then move on to something else, leaving us wondering why they’re not doing it anymore (I assume the need to pay bills has something to do with it). Kabourek’s voice sounded the same as the first time I heard him perform nearly 20 years ago. So if he just wants to play opening slots, I’m all for it, as long as he keeps playing. 

Frederick Julius at Benson B-Side May 31, 2019.

Geiler has put together a cracker-jack band that embodied the vision he’s created on his new album, Fixers and Elixers. The music is pure ’60s Beach Boys fun-in-the-sun pop, and what gave it wings was the harmony vocals provided by a couple guys (one being his brother?) who augmented Geiler’s embraceable voice with authenticity, and by that I mean they sounded like Beach Boys harmonies.

The songs ranged from those beachy numbers to more indie-fied pop melodies, many augmented by a doo-wap counter. Fun stuff and Geiler clearly was having a blast on stage — a natural performer whose quick wit was as abundant as his melodies, interspersing small bits and stories between every song. Often funny, there were times when I wish he’d just play a few songs in a row before doing the next schtick. That said, the crowd ate it up. 

This was the first rock show I’ve seen at B-side, and the sound was very bright — lots of high end bouncing around the room, powered by a light-duty PA that left out the bottom of the mix. It’s a good stage that could be even better with a little investment in the sound system. 

I felt lucky to be among the 20 or so people at Slowdown Jr. last night for the Omaha debut of Madison band Disq, one of the best live indie acts I’ve seen in a long time. The 5-piece powered by Isaac deBroux-Slone and Raina Bock released their first 7-inch as part of the Saddle Creek Document series and has since become one of indie’s “buzziest” bands, for good reason. 

With three guitars, bass and drums, and everyone but the drummer providing vocals, they sounded like a modern-day combination of all your favorites from the ’90s — from Teenage Fanclub to Weezer to Pavement to No Knife. But one glance at this motley crew, most of whom look like they’re too young to be in a bar, and you realize they likely have never heard of any of those acts. 

The highlight was a burning version of “Communication,” the A-side of that Saddle Creek single, though the B-side sounded just as good live. After looking on Spotify, I see their debut was released in 2016. They’ve come a long way in three short years. 

Disq is putting finishing touches on a new full-length. After the show I asked one of the guitarists what label is putting it out, but he wouldn’t say. Whoever it is, they better be ready for the onslaught. At a time when electronic music seems to be powering everything, Disq could be rock ‘n’ roll’s last great hope. 

Diane Coffee at Slowdown Jr. June 2, 2019.

You could see how headliner Diane Coffee got his reputation for being an over-the-top performer. He came on stage in a green bodysuit costume surrounded by a costumed band, all wearing white masks (which they quickly threw to the side), and ripped into the title track off his latest album, Internet Arms (Polyvinyl, 2019). 

That album is more synth-driven then guitar-driven, but on stage last night the guitars had the upper hand, turning it into a rock show rather than dance show (which it could never be, anyway, with most of the patrons sitting down). The person next to me said, “He sounds like Steve Perry,” and afterward I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind. Not Journey, mind you, Steve Perry solo, especially on the more straight-forward pop numbers.

There were moments when Coffee strayed into manic, quick-verse territory that matched his million-mile-an-hour between-song stage patter. I have to hand it to him, despite the small, rather dead audience, he put it all out there. And his band was absolutely killer in all positions (incredible rhythm section, soaring lead guitars, and keyboards that would make Elton proud). There was even a drum solo… and a keytar solo. 

The whole time I was thinking this guy belongs on Broadway. He’s got the glam Hedwig stance down to a science. Imagine how he’d come off in a packed room, which is what he deserves.

* * *

Tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s Thick Paint returns with Olympia band Oh, Rose and Oakland’s Painting with Statue. $5, 8 p.m.

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And thanks, everyone, for the birthday wishes!

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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 © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Cursive at Winchester Bar & Grill; awakebutstillinbed, Pity Party tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:37 pm May 29, 2019

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

O’Leaver’s has become (over the course of, what, a decade?) one of the best places to see live music in Omaha. It’s a stop for national touring indie bands and a welcome stage for the best local original live acts in Omaha. It’s “The Club,” a comfortable place to hang, a great place to drink.

But there’s a problem with O’Leaver’s when it comes to live music. On nights when the band is really packing them in, you’re probably not going to be able to see a damn thing. Because O’Leaver’s doesn’t have a real stage. Bands play on a cleared off space in the back of the room. So when there’s a crowd standing in front of the band, the only thing you’re likely to see is the back of a lot of unwashed heads of hair.

There are a few strategic places in the club that offer a glimpse of the band, if you’ve staked out your spot while they were humping in their gear between sets. If not, you better be standing right on top of the band. That’s the way it’s always been at O’Leaver’s, and because of the physical limitations of the room, that’s the way it’ll always be — there’s no way to build an elevated stage — the ceiling’s too low.

When we first walked into a sold-out and packed Winchester Bar & Grill Saturday night, the venue was reminiscent of O’Leaver’s in a number of ways. It’s a comfortable hole-in-the-wall hang-out that’s probably looked the way it does for a few decades. Like O’Leaver’s, there’s volleyball courts, this time located outside the back of the bar, which opens into an inviting patio with picnic benches and a small bar of its own, no doubt a smoker’s paradise. Unlike O’Leaver’s (for now) Winchester has a kitchen which makes a mighty fine cheeseburger.

But the thing that’s most similar to O’Leaver’s was the sight-line problems. Having been there for lunch when only a few folks were noshing sandwiches sitting in the booths, I thought Winchester had a leg up on O’Leaver’s because it has a fixed stage back in the corner. But as I quickly realized Saturday night, that stage wasn’t elevated enough. The band could be heard but, alas, could not be seen.

When Cursive was on stage I wasn’t even sure the entire band was up there. I could hear Megan Siebe’s cello but couldn’t see it. Where was drummer Pat Oakes? There were moments when frontman Tim Kasher’s head appeared between the spaces of bodies, and bassist Matt Maginn and guitarist Ted Stevens were playing so far off to the sides at times they could be seen, too. But see the whole band at once? Not Saturday night, not unless you got there early and were standing right in front of them.

It’s a problem easy to remedy — just raise the stage a foot, or two. Unlike O’Leaver’s, there’s plenty of head space. No doubt it’s not a problem on karaoke nights or when there’s a cover band playing, but if they ever have another sold-out show like Saturday hight, they’re in trouble.

The venue’s PA/sound system was serviceable. The room’s acoustics are what they are — i.e., this is no Waiting Room/Reverb set-up, but it was all they needed Saturday night. Of note — I could hear the cello throughout the set. I remember back in the old Gretta days when she might as well have been playing a cardboard cello for as much as it could be heard over the rest of the band.

Kasher sounded right at home, because he was at home — he’s an owner of Winchester as part of a consortium of partners that include Stevens and Maginn and host of Omaha rock glitterati. He looked relaxed and having fun, or maybe it was due to the fact it was the last night of a long tour.

The band opened with “Sierra” and played through a set of old favorites (“The Radiator Hums,” “Dorothy at Forty” “From the Hips” among the highlights) as well as songs off Vitriola, their latest release, including rousing versions of “It’s Gonna Hurt” and “Free to Be or Not to Be You and Me.” The crowd hooted and hollered after every song.

It was a sort of break-in performance for Winchester at least from a big show perspective, and despite the challenges of actually seeing the band, was a good time. As great as the music was, the best part for me was hanging out on the patio and catching up with old friends over beers (one drawback — no Rolling Rock. How is that even possible?).

During a recent interview with Kasher, Tim said he’d love to see Winchester evolve into another viable tour stop for original live music, just like O’Leaver’s. I’d love to see that happen, too. The club’s size (capacity has to be around 300?) makes it a great alternative to O’leaver’s when Craig D. has an opportunity to book a band with a larger following. They just need to jack up that stage a couple feet higher…

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Awakebutstillinbed (ABSIB) is singer/guitarist Shannon Taylor and her band playing indie rock that glides between emo and folk but, in the end, is emo. She can scream with the best of them. Reminds me of the ’00s. From San Jose. On Tiny Engines Records. Opening act Pity Party is Oakland emo. Living Conditions is Omaha screamo. All three play tonight at Reverb Lounge. $10, 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 © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: The Faint, Choir Boy at The Waiting Room; T.S.O.L. tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:42 pm May 28, 2019

The Faint at The Waiting Room, May 24, 2019.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

We got to The Waiting Room at around 9:15 Friday night, halfway through Choir Boy’s set. The person sitting next to me said it doesn’t sound like that voice should be coming out of the lead guy’s body. I said he sounds like Rick Astley. And their music also sounded like it came from the same decade that produced Astley — the era of Simply Red and Spandau Ballet and Simple Minds and Paul Young. MTV music. Choir Boy sounded like the soundtrack to a John Hughes film, but not necessarily one of his better ones.

I was reminded how much I heard this stuff in the early ’80s when I’d just graduated from high school and was going to places like The Depot and The Warehouse in Council Bluffs/Carter Lake, places where people listened and danced to this style of music, met people, went home with people. It was a time long, long before the internet and texting, when you actually had to walk up to someone and talk to them and ask them to dance. I wasn’t very good at that. But I had fun anyway, partially because of music like this.

I’m surprised an act like Choir Boy, a Team Love band playing ’80s-style New Romantic synth-pop, has a following among today’s youngsters. Or maybe they don’t. After all, The Faint’s biggest hits came out about 20 years ago, and Friday night’s audience reflected this — an older crowd for sure.

Todd and the boys came on just after 10 and ripped right into their set with their usual fervor.

I was reminded of another Faint concert at The Waiting Room about a decade ago in what was one of the venue’s “break in” concerts. Back then The Waiting Room was sort of two rooms — a stage room (where the stage is now) separated by pseudo walls that created a sort of separate room where the bar is located. The partial enclosures made the stage room louder, or so it seemed. That show was a sell out, and I spent it standing on a ledge that ran along the load-in ramp that lifted me above the throng. I watched the humanity down below bounce like butter on a hot skillet and felt every deep-bass throb in my bones.

And while Friday’s performance was as good as that one 10 years ago, the energy wasn’t as intense as those early Faint shows. We watched from behind the crowd along that soundboard wall that backs into the bar area. One super-tall guy, he must have been seven feet tall, stood in the center of the crowd and threw his arms in the air like an alien life form. He was the most animated of the mob that indeed bounced when they recognized a hit (“Worked Up So Sexual,” “Your Retro Career Melted,” etc.).

The set list for shows leading up to this one included maybe one song from the new album. But the band played at least three off the new one Friday night, including leading off their encore with “Child Asleep” — for my money, one of the best songs they’ve ever written. In fact, Egowerk sits right up there with The Faint’s best and the new songs blended in well with the rest of the set.

You have to ask yourself if they even need to produce new music with their rep as one of indie’s best full-tilt party bands. Egowerk isn’t what brought the crowd Friday night. And yet, how satisfying would it be for the band to just keep on playing the same songs over and over? Egowerk adds some new life into an already lively body of work. It’s not an evolution, but it continues their journey in the same dance-punk direction.

Anyway, the moment that everyone waits for always happens during the encore — “Glass Danse” — when the whole crowd erupts, and Friday night was no exception. The floor became a trampoline, just like in the good ol’ days. I have no doubt that a large portion of Friday night’s crowd came back for Saturday night’s encore.

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Because this is running long (and because I don’t haven’t finished writing it yet) I’ll publish the Cursive (and Winchester) review tomorrow.

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Tonight, Alternative Tentacles/Enigma recording artist T.S.O.L. plays at Lookout Lounge. They headline a night of punk that includes R.A.F., Hand Painted Police Car and The Scabby Ghouls. $15, 8 p.m. Wear your Docs.

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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 © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Live Review: Left Is West, The Lupines; Chris Isaak in Memorial Park…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , — @ 12:47 pm May 13, 2019

Left is West at O’Leaver’s May 10, 2019.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

A friend who listened to the new Left is West album How to Be Happy Without Even Trying described it as sounding “expensive.” I’m not sure exactly what he meant by that other than the recording quality was impeccable, which it is. So well done, in fact that it eclipsed the band’s live performance last Friday at O’Leaver’s.

It’s usually the other way around — bands rarely capture the ferocity of their live set on their recordings. For example, Omaha’s The Carsinogents were mercurial on stage, and while their recordings rocked, the albums never rocked nearly as intensely as when they were trying to burn down Sokol Underground. Left is West isn’t in the same incidiary category as Carsinogents. Instead, their album has a peaceful easy feelin’ style as if recorded in the ‘70s with one of the great producers like Bill Szymczyk at the knobs — it’s a true studio document that sounds like a perfectly balanced weapon. There was no way the band was going to replicate it in O’Leaver’s.

And they didn’t. The songs were still there, but… you couldn’t quite hear the keyboards, the vocals were at times soft and the drums hid behind the bass. Lead guitarist Matt Wellendorf, however, soared, and I was reminded again of Jackson Browne to the point where I kinda/sorta wanted them to cover “Running on Empty.” 

The Lupines at O’Leaver’s May 10, 2019.

On the other hand, The Lupines were completely uncaged and on fire Friday night. But I’ve never seen them perform any other way. They rolled out a couple new songs, which I hope means there’s a new album waiting in the wings. 

We’re in an era when there just aren’t many indie bands performing in Omaha anymore; and instead, garage / psych-rock bands are in the forefront. The Lupines stands tall as being among the best of them, alongside David Nance Group and Those Far Out Arrows. 

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The folks behind the June 28 Memorial Park Concert this morning announced that Chris Isaak is opening for Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul for their big event. Who remembers “Wicked Game”? Great video. Couldn’t tell you what Isaak’s been up to since then except for some cameo film appearances. The Firm (not the one with Jimmy Page) opens the show at 6 p.m. Fireworks at 10. 

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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