Live Review: Sebadoh and the debut of Reverb’s concert space…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:54 pm September 29, 2014
Sebadoh at Reverb Lounge, Sept. 28, 2014.

Sebadoh at Reverb Lounge, Sept. 28, 2014.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

First off, there will be a full write-up about Reverb in this week’s column, a detailed look at the place and what it means in the larger picture of the Omaha music scene. That’s out Thursday. This is a review of last night’s kick-off show, and man, it was a bumpy ride.

The problems with the vocal PA seemed obvious during See Through Dresses’ opening set. Instrumentally, the band sounded great, you just couldn’t hear the vocals, they were dead or gone from the first note. Who to blame — was it something the band was doing wrong on stage or was it the sound guy? The vocals were simply buried in the mix and stayed that way.

Then came Sebadoh. Let’s not make more out of the incident than it was. By the second song, Lou Barlow was clearly irritated. “Can you hear me?” About a dozen hands went up with thumbs pointed at the ceiling, indicating more vocals. Barlow apologized, saying it was the first show for the club, that it “sounded like shit,” and mentioned something about giving the crowd its money back.

Then he left took off his guitar and left the stage. Jason Loewenstein, sporting a bass at this point in the set, looked up and said, “What did you guys say?” A few moments later, Barlow returned to a smattering of applause before kicking into their next song, which had virtually non-existent vocals. Then they went right into “On Fire” and things got noticeably better as two sound guys poured over the digital sound board trying to figure out what was wrong.

Next, Barlow’s amp broke. “I guess this room doesn’t like guitars.” Loewenstein came to the rescue with a spare guitar pedal and the show went on, and by the next song or two, the vocals gradually got better. By the end of the first Barlow-sung portion of the set, Lou could be heard fairly clearly, but the PA never had the necessary heft to really cut through the rest of the band’s equipment.

After Loewenstein’s set, Barlow apologized again. “Sorry I was so pouty earlier. I ran off stage to drink some wine and when I got back the sound was better.

I assume the band did a sound check earlier in the afternoon. If they had, they would have noticed the problem (It wasn’t one of those deals where “the crowd muffled the mix” — Reverb is way too small for that). Did something happen between sound check and the first set? Who knows.

A look at the crowd from the edge of the stage during See Through Dresses' set.

A look at the crowd from the edge of the stage during See Through Dresses’ set.

It was an inauspicious start for a new club with lots of promise. Located through the main lounge, entering the performance room is like walking into a sound stage, albeit a tiny sound stage. I couldn’t believe how small the room looked. It is, in essence, a gray box with a stage raised about four feet off the ground built into the wall. Maybe it was the high ceilings or the lack of tables and chairs, but the room seemed downright microscopic. The performance space is definitely bigger than The Barley Street’s or Sweatshop’s, but is it bigger than O’Leaver’s? I don’t know.

With its poured concrete floors, gray paint, no windows and exposed ceiling, the room is austere. The only decoration is a series of black-and-white concert photos that line the room at eye level, further accentuating the high ceiling. Then there’s the stage itself. Small, back-curtained with LED spotlight racks mounted on the ceiling in front of and behind the band. The only outcrop in the room is the sound board in the back directly facing the stage.

With all that concrete, featureless walls and high ceiling, I expected the sound to be brash and bouncy and was pleasantly surprised at how well directed it sounded. No doubt it was loud — bands aren’t going to need much to fill the space, which will help keep the sound down in the main lounge (where, no surprise, you could clearly hear the band during the set).

I’m no audio engineer, but the flaw seems to be the vocal PA. (From what I could see) the system has two smallish overhead arrays and a couple subs built under the stage. I didn’t have a chance to check out the stage monitors. As Barlow said himself a couple times from stage, hey, this is the first show. Give it time and this is going to be a great room.

The performance itself was solid. Barlow’s getting shaggy in his old age, with a big head of hair and a massive beard. His voice was as good as ever (when I could hear it). Loewenstein also was in fine form (especial on his personal anthem, “My Drugs”), despite suffering from a tooth ache (They’ll be looking for an oral surgeon today). Ouch.

One Percent said they sold 115 tickets and purposely kept the number at that level to make for a comfortable show, and comfortable it was. Moving around the room was easy, with plenty of space against the back wall and good sight lines throughout. I guess the room is bigger than I thought.

Having a second exit along the opposite side of the soundboard makes exiting easy. I’d like to see the room “warmed up” a bit aesthetically – it’s rather sterile and barren now. That said, it is indeed an intimate experience. It definitely felt like a private show. Someone said “I’d pay $200 to see Sonic Youth in this room.” Now wouldn’t that be killer?

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: The War on Drugs; Mike Watt Vs. Ty Segall tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , — @ 12:55 pm September 25, 2014
The War on Drugs at The Waiting Room, Sept. 24, 2014.

The War on Drugs at The Waiting Room, Sept. 24, 2014.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

After catching the last couple songs by opener Califone (stunning) I wondered if I picked the wrong show. Surely Chvrches was going to be an audio/visual spectacle, a big-barn light show with plenty of compressed zings and a cooing frontwoman and lots and lots of young folks getting “into the groove.” Whereas The War on Drugs’ crowd was what I imaged it would be — a sausage party of music geeks like myself who know a good song when they hear it and want to see if the band can pull it off live.

That can mean a rather boring show — a handful of musicians on stage standing around playing their songs exactly as they sound on the record, with not much to see except hunched shoulders and contorted faces gripped in concentration, as opposed to Chvrches’ playground ride.

War on Drugs frontman Adam Granduciel.

War on Drugs frontman Adam Granduciel.

The band strolled on stage a little after 10, frontman Adam Granduciel looking like (as one social media comment put it), a young Ronnie James Dio with his shaggy, saggy long hair and denim jacket over T–shirt. Granduciel is the epitome of ’70s/’80s rock, from his appearance to his music, which despite modern flourishes really is a throwback to a time when people listened to songs for the melodies rather than the vibe.

TWOD’s appeal comes from its soaring guitar lines (reminiscent of ’80s New Wave pop), unobtrusive keyboard lines, Granduciel’s nasal Dylan-styled vocals and (most importantly) Charlie Hall’s straight-forward rock-n-roll drumming so rife with backbeat, so obvious that you can’t help but nod your head to it. Hall’s style is so crisp you could mistake it for a drum machine, keeping the most amorphous songs pumping away. In fact, half the tunes began with long, winding guitar drones or keyboards that laid flat until Hall kicked them into gear.

I tapped down a note during one particularly long high-throttle session, where the guitars were doing some back-and-forth after the melody was over: “Allman Brothers meets Dire Straits.” TWOD sounds like neither of course, instead capturing the spirit of both bands thanks to the guitar interplay and the rhythm section. At other times I was reminded of Jim James and My Morning Jacket. Then there’s the whole Dylan thing.

Throughout the set Granduciel teased that he was going to play his cover of “Tangled Up in Blue” at some point in the evening. “I’m going to try it without the lyric sheet tonight,” he grinned. But after an hour it was obvious he wasn’t going to play the Dylan chestnut until either very late in the set or during an encore. And believe it or not, some of us had to work the next morning.

So. On and on. You reach a point where you say to yourself, “I got it. These guys aren’t going to do anything different than what I’ve seen and heard for the past hour. I’ve heard my favorite songs. Why am I still here?

I waited through two more soaring numbers (including a chomping version of “Red Eyes”) before I gave up the ghost. About 15 minutes after I got home someone posted on Facebook “Tangled Up in Blue!” Well. It’s not as if that was the reason I bought a ticket to the show in the first place.

The War on Drugs is a band destined to do more than the tiny little indie-rock world can provide. They have a style and sound destined for arenas, if Granduciel can write a breakthrough record. No doubt Lost in the Dream was a breakthrough from an indie point of view, but he’ll need something bigger to get to the next level, something the crowd can sing along to. Or he could get caught in the endless indie morpheus loop, putting out record after record after record, each one well respected, forever nurturing a small-but-strong following. Or they could become this generation’s Counting Crows. I don’t know which fate is worse. Here’s hoping they become this generation’s Arcade Fire, growing to arena proportions, taking a different path every time out.

* * *

Ty Segall’s new record, Manipulator, is a slick garage rock album with the usual psychedelic sheen, great guitars and an abundance of simple songs. This is Segall’s most pop-friendly set to date. Could he be the next Jack White (Well, I certainly like Segall’s music more).

Live, Segall brings a wall-of-sound approach to his rock concerts and I have no doubt he’ll do it again tonight at The Waiting Room. In addition to mighty guitar licks, expect a selection from the new album along with some back catalog faves. In addition, Segall has been known to pull out a handful of covers during a set. At his Chicago show Tuesday night he tossed in three Bowie songs (including “Queen Bitch”), according to setlist.fm. $15, 9 p.m.

Mike Watt’s latest effort, Il Sogno Del Marinaio, is another in a series of experimental projects by the Minutemen bassist that leans closer to improvisational jazz and beat poetry than rock. Still, the man is legend. At Slowdown Jr., $13, 9 p.m.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

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

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

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

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

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

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

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

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

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

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

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

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

Some final thoughts/post scripts to Maha 2014:

Domestica's Jon Taylor at the microphone.

Domestica’s Jon Taylor at the microphone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More Maha review here.

* * *

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

* * *

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

Also tonight at Slowdown Jr. it’s the debut of Feel Tight, a new project featuring members of Talking Mountain, The Seen and Weird Howl. Opening up is Huge Fucking Waves and Stephen Nichols. $5, 9 p.m.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

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

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

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

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

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

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

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

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

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

Domestica

Domestica kicked off Maha to an adoring crowd.

Early crowd

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

Matt Whipkey and his band launched the local stage.

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

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

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

Twinsmith on the main stage.

Twinsmith looked right at home on the main stage.

M34n Str33t brought a lot of signs with them.

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

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

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

Local Natives got the evening rolling in style.

Local Natives got the evening rolling in style.

Icky Blossoms dressed for success.

Icky Blossoms dressed for success.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

Tonight at O’Leaver’s, The Everymen return. Remember them from a few weeks ago and from this column? Check them out again tonight. The Ridgways and Sidewalkers also are on the bill. $5, 9:30 p.m.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

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

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

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

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

* * *

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

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

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

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

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

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

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

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

Nightbird at The Sydney, July 18, 2014.

Nightbird at The Sydney, July 18, 2014.

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

* * *

Big show tonight at fabulous O’Leavers — the return of Planes Mistaken for Stars. These guys have been coming through since the late ’90s playing an angular style of post-hardcore punk. Not to be missed. Opening is New Lungs (Little Brazil’s Danny Maxwell in the lead position) and Chicago post-hardcore band All Eyes West. $5, 9 p.m.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

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

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

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

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great show, great band.

* * *

Tonight at The Waiting Room LA band Bad Suns (Vagrant) with Colony House (Descendant Records). $10, 9 p.m.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

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

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

Zepparella at The Waiting Room, July 8, 2014.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So there. Get challenged, rockers!

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i