Album Reviews: Crooked Colours, Alaskalaska, Prettiest Eyes, Ada Lea…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:30 pm September 5, 2019

by Tim McMahan,

I sometimes wonder if I’ve lost the ability to review recorded music. Reviewing live shows is easy, it’s like reporting a crime scene. Reviewing recordings is like studying pictures or paintings or trying to interpret poetry, which I never did very well in college. When it came my turn to explain a poem in class, I’d take the imagery too literally, describing the scene in my mind or the people or animals, and then the professor would say, “No, what the writer was doing here was expressing grief for his/her loss of innocence, not describing a hunting accident.” And so on. 

So as I was flying back from New York, I thought I’d tackle a handful of albums sent to me for review, albums I’ve been listening to for the past two or three months. No notes, no one-sheets, just nuanced opinions. Here we go. 

Crooked Colours, Langata (2019, Sweat It Out!)

Crooked Colours, Langata (Sweat It Out!) – Very clean, very crisp electronic dance music sung by a guy whose flat, atonal voice is cross between Robbie Robertson and Tricky. Immensely clean trip-hop beats, electronic handclaps lie beneath mainly talk/singing, rhyming whatever sounds best with the beat. “Just breath…” Easy to listen to; but somewhat forgettable. The kind of music you’d hear while shopping in an H&M.

Alaskalaska, The Dots (2019, Marathon Artists)

Alaskalaska, The Dots (Marathon Artists) – There was a band I used to love in the ‘90s called Hooverphonic. They played great big-beat electronic rock songs that quickly found a hook. I thought they sounded amazingly modern at the time, and wondered why they never blew up. Over the years, however, Hooverphonic songs would sneak up in commercials and soundtracks, whenever a director wanted to set a modern tone or give whatever was on screen a sense of motion.

Alaskalaska has that same quality both in sound and lyrics, a deceptively simple melody swaddled in layers of synths, beats and the occasional saxophone (When did the sax come back in vogue? or has it?). The woman on leads, Lucinda Duarte-Holman, reminiscent of Sarah Cracknell of Saint Etienne, is cynical, sassy, sometimes snotty, often too honest for her own good. Quick and quippy, she sounds like she knows more than you or me. And she probably does. 

Highlights: “Moon,” with its fantastic horn part; “Sweat,” sinister sexy, slow; and the bracing “Happyface” with its questions you don’t want to answer. 

This is my favorite of the bunch. Totally obscure. Find it. 

Prettiest Eyes, Volume 3 (2019, Castle Face)

Prettiest Eyes, Volume 3 (Castle Face) – Brad Smith at the late, great Almost Music pointed me toward these guys and their last album, Pools. I bought it on vinyl, of course. Funny thing about Brad, he’s always right. Pools was post-punk crunch; and while Volume 3 continues along that same path, it’s not as dirty. Songs like “It Costs to be Austere” are like a carnival ride gone out of control, big wonky organs and fuzz bass and drummer/vocalist Pachy García singing like a maniacal clown. By contrast, “I Don’t Know” sounds like a midnight lounge massacre and “Mr. Presidentis Gang of Four post-punk blare: “Mr. President / Say my name / It don’t matter / Where I’m from.” It’s loud, buzzing, in-yer-face synth rock that never lets up. Exhausting fun. 

Ada Lea, What We Say in Private (2019, Saddle Creek)

Ada Lea, What We Say in Private (Saddle Creek) – Of the recent Saddle Creek signings, this one seems to be flying the deepest below the radar (Well, maybe not as deep as Young Jesus), because it’s the most different of the recent bunch. Not straight-up singer/songwriter fare, Lea writes complicated, proggy art rock songs that aren’t afraid of odd time-changes or awkward key shifts. It’s the most experimental act Creek has signed since the old days. That said, Lea knows her way around a melody, and her voice is warm, breathy, velvet butter. Songs like the moonlit “The Party;” the evocative, shifting “The Dancer,” and standout “Wild Heart” often start simply, quietly before going everywhere at once, while Lea lets you in on one of her little secrets. Mesmerizing.

More reviews to come…

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


Success Hasn’t Spoiled Maha (Yet?)- The Reader; The Appleseed Cast, Squeeze tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:55 pm September 4, 2019

The obligatory crowd shot from Saturday night at Maha 2019.

by Tim McMahan,

Well, I’m back from Gotham City. Among the highlights was seeing “To Kill a Mockingbird” at the Shubert Theatre. Aaron Sorkin and Jeff Daniels together again. Seeing Federer and Serena at the U.S. Open wasn’t bad, either…

Anyway, the September issue of The Reader should be on the racks around town by now (though I haven’t seen it). Because of the timeliness of this month’s column — a look at the 2019 Maha Music Festival — I’ve already posted it at The Reader website. Read the column here or pick up a hard copy at your favorite bar, coffee shop of Hy-Vee…

I have to believe the Maha mind-trust already is putting together Maha 2020. If so, I’ve got my wish list ready for ’em…

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Two shows tonight. Over at Reverb Lounge, The Appleseed Cast headlines. The band is smack dab in the middle of a tour that began July 12 in support of their latest, The Fleeting Light of Impermanence (2019, Graveface). Says Ian Cohen in Pitchfork: “On their first new album in six years, the long-running emo outfit take ownership of their sound. Even the quietest moments sit with jagged nerves and lingering tension.” With Muscle Worship and Oquoa. $15, 8 p.m.

Also tonight, ‘70s legacy act Squeeze plays at The Holland Center. The “Difford And Tilbrook Songbook 2019” tour sees the UK legends play their extensive list of hits as well as rare, lesser-known gems from their back catalog and solo careers. Tickets are still available for prices ranging from $107 to $121. 7:30 start time.

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


Live Review: Maha Music Festival Day Two: Oh Sees, Matt and Kim, Lizzo…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:48 pm August 20, 2019

Oh Sees at the Maha Music Festival, Aug. 17, 2019.

by Tim McMahan,

I went in knowing nothing about Lizzo except for her songs on the radio and Spotify and YouTube. And I loved them with all their flame and sass and unquenchable hooks. When I went to see her on Day Two of the 2019 Maha Music Festival in Stinson Park at Aksarben Village, I assumed she’d be on stage with a full-on raging band in tow.

So when she took the stage in that neon-flash body suit surrounded by her dancers, holding a microphone… with no band, I couldn’t help but be disappointed. “Is she just going to sing along to pre-recorded tracks all night? What a drag.” She had energy and drive and proselytized between songs like the finest down-home preacher, but without a band backing her, it was just dance moves and karaoke.

Lizzo at the Maha Music Festival, Aug. 17, 2019.

It is here I should point out one very important fact: The crowd did not give two shits that Lizzo didn’t have a band. They loved every second of it, all 10,000 of them (or whatever the true number was). They were there to party to Lizzo songs, with or without a band.

I made it through three numbers, then split. But to be truthful, I never hang around for the Maha Saturday night headliner’s full set. Not for Weezer, not for Death Cab, not for the Flaming Lips. And not for Lizzo.

Maybe I was disappointed because just a few hours earlier I’d witnessed an amazing full band performance, but before I get to that…. My one regret about this year’s Maha was missing Beach Bunny, an up-and-coming indie band of the K Records variety (not unlike Snail Mail) who played at 4 p.m. After my late night at O’Leaver’s, I couldn’t get motivated to get my ass there in time, especially with Matt Maeson and Duckwrth following them, neither of which are (as Dave Sink used to say) my cup of tea.

I didn’t get to Maha until 7:30, just before Oh Sees took “the little stage.” I’ve seen Thee Oh Sees (as they used to be known) a couple times in Austin at South by Southwest and have never been less than floored. Despite their constant touring, the band always has avoided Omaha for reasons only frontman John Dwyer knows. Now here they were, standing a couple feet in front of me as I balanced precariously on the edge of the sod bank leading up to the little stage.

In cutoff shorts and T-shirt, Dwyer looked like he just crawled out from beneath a hotrod after finishing an oil job, his Maha badge tucked halfway down his back pocket while he tuned his clear plexiglass-body steel-neck electric guitar. Off to the side, two drummers pounded on snares during the pre-set soundcheck. Around the check went, to the bass and keys and then Dwyer said “We’ll be back in 15,” but instead the emcee introduced the band and he said fuck it, let’s go.

The genre has been called psych rock or garage rock. I’ve even heard it described as noise rock. It’s actually a throwback brand of melodic punk born out of the West Coast and built on a subliminal layer of surf rock that recalls Dick Dale in his finest days. Dwyer’s guitar is the engine that roars alongside Tim Hellman’s throbbing, rolling bass. Behind him, Tomas Dolas’ organ and synths glowed angrily echoing Dwyer’s own mellotron/synth noises played with one hand while the other picked out solos along the neck of that steel-and-plastic monstrosity. All the while Paul Quattrone and Dan Rincon, the side-by-side drummers, kept the psychedelic locomotive chugging along.

The capper — Dwyer’s high falsetto vocals, an ironic counter to an unholy din.

It was loud. I stood right in front of those speakers, thankful for my earplugs, wondering how those kids right next to me could stand it. I can’t tell you the set list because I don’t know most of the song names. I recognized “C” off 2018’s Smote Reverser; “Toe Cutter Thumb Buster” off 2013’s Floating Coffin, and “The Dream” off 2011’s Carrion Crawler / The Dream. There were also a few long ones, real slow burners that went on and on.

A small “pit” — if you can call it that — formed off front of stage left, maybe 30 dudes bouncing into each other more out of brotherhood than violence, while a group of girls stood to my right doing a sort of snake dance.

It was a spectacular set, closed out with “three short ones” Dwyer said from stage. I think they probably went over their allotted time. They could have gone all night if it were up to me. I know the stage arrangements are what they are, but it seemed downright disrespectful that they’d been relegated to the small stage. On the other hand, I never would have been able to get as close as I did had they been on the main stage.

With the last notes Dwyer leaned into the microphone and said, “Thanks. Enjoy your headliners.” Take it for what it’s worth.

Matt and Kim at the Maha Music Festival, Aug. 17, 2019.

It didn’t take long between sets for Matt and Kim to do their thing on the big stage. It was essentially the same shtick they did at Maha in 2013. I described that show this way: “The keyboard-and-drums duo played cute, shiney indie pop dance tunes and spent most of the time between songs yelling profanities at the audience. Every other word out of drummer Kim Schifino began with an F or MF. I guess they needed something to ‘rough up’ their cutesy veneer and all those colored balloons just wasn’t cutting it.”

The only thing different this time was the gigantic beach balls and a unicorn balloon. M&K are basically stand-up comics that perform forgettable pop songs and covers and sampled hip-hop classics. I would say “harmless fun” except Schifino hurt herself during the set, bad enough (according to the Omaha World-Herald’s Kevin Coffey) that she ended up in the hospital. Here’s hoping for a quick recovery.

After that, it was Lizzo time for 10,000, minus one. If I had to rank my favorite acts for the entire weekend I’d put Oh Sees on top, followed closely by Courtney Barnett, but it’s Lizzo that people were talking about the next day.

For more perspective on Maha, you’ll have to wait until the column comes out in a couple weeks in The Reader (at which time this will all be a faded memory). But I will give you this brief taste of my thesis: Maha is going to have to make some tough choices for year 12. Here’s hoping they make the right ones.

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


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,

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 — 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.


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,

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 — 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.


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,

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 — 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.


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,

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 — 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.


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,

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 — 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.


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,

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 — 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.


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,

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.

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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 — 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.