Live Review: Dereck Higgins Experience, Wagon Blasters, Big Al Band; Ten Questions with Dawes; Bandcamp results…

Category: Blog,Interviews,Reviews — Tags: , , , , , — @ 1:42 pm February 6, 2017

Dereck Higgins Experience at O’Leaver’s, Feb. 4, 2017.

by Tim McMahan,

Dereck Higgins, one of Omaha’s most prolific musicians, unveiled yet another new project Saturday night at fabulous O’Leaver’s. This new four-piece combo, called The Dereck Higgins Experience (or DHX, as he referred to it from stage), continued in a similar jazz fusion direction heard on Higgins’ recent solo album, Flyover Country. In fact, the combo created a live version of  at least one song from the movie soundtrack.

On bass and synths and acting the role of Emcee, Higgins was joined by James Cuato Ballarin on synths/wind instruments, Aaron Gum on synths, and stellar guitarist Jacob Cubby Phillips. All but Gum also are in progressive jazz band Chemicals, a more experimental, free-form combo than DHX, whose set felt split between smoother fusion numbers a la Spyro Gyra, and funky, digital-fueled jazz concepts. Less intricate and less challenging than Chemicals, DHX’s music likely is more accessible to a larger audience.

I’m told this offshoot of Chemicals isn’t a replacement for that band, who according to Higgins has a scheduled gig at the Harney Street Tavern Friday night, while DHX will play the following evening at The Down Under.

Next up was Wagon Blasters who were in particularly fine form, maybe because it was Guitarist William Thornton’s birthday. Gary Dean Davis yelled through a rowdy set of trademark tractor-punk rock songs, doing his darndest to break through O’Leaver’s floor and onto the birthday/karaoke party going on in the basement.

As a lark, I tried streaming Wagon Blasters’ set via Facebook Live through the faux window sills off stage left. You can still view a recording of the performance in Facebook (or below). Scroll to the 23:38 mark in the video to see Gary’s epic punk-rock stage fall!

Finally, Big Al Band closed out the night with his flying V and Holly Pop on the drum kit. Favorite moment of the set — the final song wherein Al swapped out the V for a bass for a go at song called “Jolly Roger.” Nice.

As mentioned, O’Leaver’s now has a basement party room. I snuck (sneaked?) down there Saturday night and was pleasantly surprised at the set-up, which includes a full bar and karaoke stage, all of which is available for rental at a bargain price. Let’s see, sand volleyball, live music, tiki bar, two outdoor beer gardens and now a karaoke party room? What more can O’Leaver’s squeeze into their entertainment complex?

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As you see below, I’m continuing the Ten Questions series both here and in The Reader. I recently got some push back from a publicist, asking if I would be able to do an actual interview with the band he represents rather than the survey. Fact is, I simply don’t have time to interview and write band features for every interesting act coming through town (and considering the pay for these features ($0.00), can’t afford it.). The Ten Questions format allows me to hype a touring indie band’s upcoming show in a way that’s not too time taxing. Let me know what you think of these surveys…


Dawes, photo by Matt Jacoby.

LA folk-rock band Dawes epitomizes a style of music I grew up listening to — tequila sunrise ’70s soft rock. You know what I’m talking about — those laid-back groovy bands they used to play on the FM (and AM) stations and still do if you have a classic rock channel in your town (and who doesn’t?).

But somewhere/somehow over the past few years it’s become accepted for snotty, tone-deaf hipsters and hipster wannabes to denigrate (via Facebook) music infused with a peaceful, easy feeling. And that’s a shame, because the new folk rock that they often laud — from the likes of Wilco, Ben Kweller, Jenny Lewis and even our very own Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band — owe much of their sound to those FM giants.

Certainly Dawes does. That classic ’70s El-Lay studio sound is evident on their latest album, We’re All Gonna Die (2016, HUB Records), which, at times, reminds me of One of These Nights-era Eagles (there, I said it). On songs like the title track, the slow burnin’ “Roll with the Punches,” the wah-wah funk of “When the Tequila Runs Out,” heck, just about every track, Dawes frontman Taylor Goldsmith unapologetically puts a modern spin on AOR gold, sounding like the second coming of Don Henley or Glenn Frey, complete with warm-cushion vocal harmonies. And that’s about as cool as it gets.

We caught up with Taylor Goldsmith and asked him to take our Ten Questions survey. Here’s what he had to say:

1. What is your favorite album?

Taylor Goldsmith: Always changing but I often go back to Warren Zevon self-titled.

2. What is your least favorite song?

Even though she’s one of my heroes and maybe the greatest songwriter that ever lived, there’s a song called “Not To Blame” by Joni Mitchell that I really hate.

3. What do you enjoy most about being in a band?

The shows. The songs get to change shape every night and we get to pull out old ones we haven’t played in years sometimes.

4. What do you hate about being in a band?

Being gone from home so much of the year. While I love touring, it’s hard to keep a semblance of a normal life in order by being gone over half the year sometimes.

5. What is your favorite substance (legal or illegal)?

Coffee. I always want more coffee. About to make some.

6. In what city or town do you love to perform?

We love playing at home for our friends and family and also love playing places like Nashville or NYC for the amazing venues and sold out shows, but there is also something special about coming into cities we’ve never been to or rarely play and having those more intimate experiences. It’s fun to still be building audiences in cities. It feels like we’re going into the past and future of the band from night to night depending where we are.

7. What city or town did you have your worst gig (and why)?

An LA show in 2012. I had really lost my voice. I got a steroid shot and it made it a lot worse. By the time we got onstage I could barely whisper. But we couldn’t cancel because everyone was there already and I didn’t want to let the band down. It was rough.

8. Are you able to support yourself through your music? If so, how long did it take to get there; if not, how do you pay your bills?

Yeah, music pays the bills. We quit our jobs and moved out of our homes the day before our first tour for North Hills. It meant we couldn’t afford places for a while, but we’ve never had jobs since.

9. What one profession other than music would you like to attempt; what one profession would you absolutely hate to do?

It’d be fun to be a novelist. I really idolize those guys. My brain just doesn’t work that way though. I’d hate to do just about anything that meant I couldn’t go outside during the day.

10. What are the stories you’ve heard about Omaha, Nebraska?

Well our good buddy Conor Oberst lives there so any stories we know are somehow indirectly connected to him and the community he’s introduced us to. After spending some serious time there (more time than we typically can in a city during tour) we’ve really fallen in love with Omaha and have been looking forward to this show for a while.

An Evening with Dawes is Tuesday, February 7, at The Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St. Tickets are $23 Adv./$25 DOS. Showtime is 9 p.m. For more information, go to

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Bandcamp says it sold nearly a million dollars worth of music on Friday: “With several hours remaining, we estimate that fans will have bought just over $1,000,000 worth of music today, which is 550% more than a normal Friday (already our biggest sales day of the week). All of our share of that (12%) goes directly to the ACLU. The other 88% (less transaction fees) goes directly to the labels and artists…

A lot of those labels and artists also donated their share to ACLU or other charities. If you bought something, good for you. We’re going to see a lot more of these kinds of efforts over the next four years as the current administration continues to do all it can to dismantle the nation’s arts, take away women’s rights and bar immigrants from our borders. Do what you can; it makes a difference.

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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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Take Cover VI-Omaha (Song Syndrome, Jocelyn)…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:48 pm January 30, 2017

Song Syndrome at The Waiting Room as part of Take Cover VI, Jan. 28, 2017.

by Tim McMahan,

I’ve criticized Hear Nebraska in the past for the format behind its Take Cover events, or as I jokingly used to describe them: “Bands you don’t know covering songs by bands you don’t know.”

Well, if Saturday night’s crowd is any indication, Andy Norman (HN’s executive director) and team should keep things just the way they are. By the time I left the festivities a little after 10 p.m., The Waiting Room was comfortably packed with the biggest crowd I’ve seen at one of these events.

I caught only the first 90 minutes or so of Take Cover performers. Two acts stood out:

Song Syndrome used to be a band called Anthems (thanks for the data, Mr. Manner). It’s a red-hot rock outfit with Social Distortion overtones and an in-your-face frontman who looks like someone you wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley. They bit off a little more than they could chew when the tried covering an Elliott Smith song, and inasmuch admitted it from stage. Still, their own material was head on, brutal. Why they would change their name from Anthems to Song Syndrome is a mystery, but I suggest they either change it back or come up with a better name, because unfortunately, in this age when there are a zillion new bands starting up every day, your band name actually matters.

The other standout was local phenom Jocelyn, who has been tearing up the stages like the Side Door Lounge for awhile now, developing a rather sizable following for her brand of acoustic pop. Her style and energy are undeniably infectious, and her voice could make her a finalist on The Voice. Jocelyn covered an Ally Peeler song and one other, and then did an original that got the crowd to explode.

What stood out as much as her voice and energy was her youth. Jocelyn looked like a teenager but performed like a seasoned veteran. I was reminded of one of my all-time favorites, Tracy Chapman, except for the fact that Chapman’s music (specifically her debut album) is layered with deep, painful emotions on songs about survival and redemption. Jocelyn’s songs, on the other hand, are as shiny and upbeat as you might expect from someone her age. In her defense, Chapman was 23 when she recorded her Grammy-winning debut. Jocelyn still has some living to do, but maybe she’s better off never going to those dark places…

Mr. Norman tells me this was the most successful Take Cover weekend in the organization’s history, pulling in thousands in donations from the 300 or so on hand at The Waiting Room and the nearly as many who went to the Bourbon edition Friday night in Lincoln.

For years I’ve always tried to convince Andy to focus on only one artist for the covers portion of the show; host something like “Take Cover: Elliott Smith” or “Take Cover: Tim Kasher,” wherein all the participants select one song to cover by the featured Nebraska artist. But why fiddle with an already winning formula?

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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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live (and EP) Review: Bazile Mills; Nate Krenkel, Gonzalez form NAG Management…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , , — @ 1:51 pm January 24, 2017

Bazile Mills at Reverb Lounge, Jan. 21, 2017.

by Tim McMahan,

A few days ago I received an unexpected package in the mail: Where We Are, the debut EP by Bazile Mills — a finely produced 4-song 12-inch on black vinyl. I’ve mentioned before — send me vinyl and I will listen. And thus I have, and did again when they played their EP release show Saturday night at Reverb Lounge.

Bazile Mills is a big conglomeration of people on record and on stage. The record had a couple extra people on board who weren’t there Saturday night. Missing were vocalist Laura Long and viola player Avery Thomas. Both make central contributions on the record, so I was surprised at their absence, but as the New Yorker used to say, “musicians (and night-club proprietors) live complicated lives,” and things can get in the way on the night of your EP release show. Regardless, the stage was still crowded with three guitarists, bass and drummer and the occasional special guest.

Let’s talk about the record first. Two songs were recorded at the legendary ARC Studios by producer Ben Brodin (side A) and two were recorded at the legendary Hidden Tracks Studio by producer Jeremy Garrett. You can’t tell the diff in recording locales (which is a good thing, though I’m not sure what that says about either studio).

Opening track “Personal Concierge,” the only song voiced by Long, starts with a wispy violin/mandolin intro before shifting into 10,000 Maniacs gear. Track two, “Spirals Out,” sung by leader Dave Mainelli, tries for latter-day R.E.M., while  “We Are the Misfits (Just Like You)” leans closer to Decemberists territory. The closer/title track (and personal favorite) pulls it all together along with a fine trumpet line and laid-back, easy-going vocals by Sam Vetter, who really should sing more.

In fact, Vetter was a highlight Saturday night (along with drummer Robb Clemans) as the band rolled through the new songs along with a few from an early digital release. The room was packed, and it indeed felt like a party, with Mainelli calling out a number of friends in the crowd. If I were to venture a guess I’d say Bazile Mills is a labor of love more than a career move by these musicians, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, considering the current state of the music industry, it’s becoming the only way to go.

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Some music industry news that just dropped into my email box…

Conor Oberst’s longtime managers Nate Krenkel and Gabriel Gonzalez have formed NAG Management, according to The new company will also represent Bright Eyes, Desaparacidos and the Mystic Valley Band.  Krenkel’s been involved with Oberst since that legendary Sony publishing rights deal way back in 2003.

Krenkel also runs Team Love Records with Autumn Seguin, who will be joining NAG, according to Billboard.

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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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: The Faint, Plack Blague; 2016: The Year in Music (fave releases/fave live shows); spotty reception this week…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 2:07 pm January 2, 2017
The Faint at The Slowdown, Dec. 30, 2016.

The Faint at The Slowdown, Dec. 30, 2016.

by Tim McMahan,

I think we’re going to start a new tradition for New Years — instead of celebrating on New Year’s Eve, when the drunks are out, with all the traffic and the unholy fireworks, we’re going to celebrate the new year the night (or the weekend) before NYE. I figure I’m going to be home on NYE at midnight anyway to shield the dogs from the war noises booming overhead, I might as well celebrate the new year before the fact. Kind of like we did this year. Now if only we could get The Faint to play a pre-NYE show every year.

The Slowdown was packed Friday night, but not too packed. In the old days, The Faint would have easily sold out two nights in a venue the size of The Slowdown. Now the best the band can do is comfortably fill a large venue two nights in a row. Let’s face it, the band’s heyday was 15 or so years ago with the breakthrough of Danse Macabre, and even back then, I remember seeing The Faint perform that album at Sokol Underground — a show that stands out as my all-time favorite Faint performance. It’s followed closely by an unannounced pre-grand-opening performance at The Waiting Room in 2007 — probably the loudest Faint show I can remember.

That same year, in June 2007, The Faint had sold out a two-night residency at Sokol Auditorium. All of those Sokol Aud shows from that decade (and the years that followed) were complete madness — hot sweaty bouncing dancing messes of humanity; absolute spectacles.

Last Friday night’s show didn’t quite reach the level of those Sokol shows, but it was a good time nonetheless. If there was a drag on the performance it came from the audience, because the band was clearly on point playing a set of greatest hits in support of their CAPSULE: 1999-2016 album that just came out on Saddle Creek. It’s easy to forget how many great songs these guys have recorded. It’s a good time to mention that the new material — three new songs released as part of the CAPSULE album — stand tall among their finest efforts, seamlessly blending into the set.

A haunting Clark Baechle behind The Faint’s drum kit….

A ghostly Clark Baechle behind The Faint’s drum kit….

The Faint’s light show has been an evolution over the years. I remember the days where they controlled colored floodlights with floor pedals, to haunting effect. These days the light show is a flashing, strobing choreographed wonder in perfect sync with every bone-rattling beat. I have no idea how it could get any better.

Maybe it was thos awe-inspiring lights or the enormity of the music but the audience on the floor seemed a bit dumbfounded. It took half a set to get their butts moving and not until the end until they got their arms in the air and bodies began to be carried over the crowd — a far cry from those old Sokol Aud days.

The band kicked off the four-song encore with a rehearsal of sorts for a surprise they intended to roll out the next evening, NYE — a cover of Prince’s “1999” — a sloppy, rowdy, slam-bam version wherein the band got lost somewhere after the second verse, which the crowd either didn’t notice or didn’t care. The whole place blew up for the last song of the encore — a celebratory version of “Glass Danse” that left them covered in sweat. There is no such thing as a bad Faint show.

Plack Blague at The Slowdown, Dec. 30, 2016.

Plack Blague at The Slowdown, Dec. 30, 2016.

I missed Closeness, but got to see about half of Plack Blague’s set. It’s been too long since I’ve experienced Raws on stage. The last time was at O’Leaver’s a few years ago for a set of ear-bleeding distorted noise and screaming. Last Friday night’s set was a different story — a raw, leather-clad set of electro-noise-fueled disco fronted by a bondage geek with slippery, greasy dance moves. For any other crowd, Plack Blague would be controversial if not shocking, but Faint fans have been following Raws’ path for years and expect nothing less than the most salacious performance. What a way to kick off a new year…

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It wouldn’t be a new year without looking back on the old year, and as such my 2016: The Year in Music story finally went online at The Reader‘s website.

The article includes a look back at a rather rough year, a year that will be remembered more for its deaths than its music. We lost a lot of heroes in 2016, and the wounds are still very much open for a lot of us.

The article also includes my list of favorite albums as well as my favorite live shows from 2016, along with a crapload of photos. Take a look.

Lazy-i Best of 2016 Comp CD

Lazy-i Best of 2016 Comp CD

And while you’re remember 2016, you might as ell ahead and enter the drawing for a copy of Lazy-i Best of 2016 Comp CD.

The collection includes my favorite indie tunes I’ve come across throughout last year as part of my tireless work as a music critic for Lazy-i. Among those represented: The Faint, Oh Pep!, Mitski, Quilt, Low, Big Thief, Father John Misty and lots more. The full track listing is here, or take a listen if you have Spotify.

Entering to win a CD copy is super simple: 1. Send an email with your mailing address to, or 2) Write a comment on one of my Lazy-i related posts in Facebook, or 3) Retweet a Lazy-i tweet. You also can enter by sending me a direct message in Facebook or Twitter. Hurry, contest deadline is midnight Jan. 9.

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Reception at Lazy-i central will be spotty this week as I’m off to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show (CES). I may or may not update the ol’ blog. I’m considering posting photos and info about cool music-related gadgets that I find on the show floor, or maybe I won’t. Best bet is to check back either way…

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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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: SERIAL; Icky Blossoms, Closeness, Nathan Ma & the Rosettes tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 2:12 pm December 26, 2016
SERIAL at The Brothers Lounge, Dec. 23, 2016.

SERIAL at The Brothers Lounge, Dec. 23, 2016.

by Tim McMahan,

Late Friday night at The Brothers. Someone pointed out that those overhead PA speakers were mounted on their ceiling a long time ago, evidence of how the bar has kind of transformed into an occasional music venue this year (though it’s still a punk bar at heart). The pseudo drum riser in the back corner I’d noticed before. On Friday night it held Tim Moss, who I’d forgotten was  pretty good drummer in addition to being the frontman of Omaha golden age punk band Ritual Device.

SERIAL is a sort of super group of golden age punk rockers, heroes of the ’90s who get together while in town for the holidays to play some covers. John Wolf, of Cellophane Ceiling fame, played guitars and did vocals. So did Lee Meyerpeter of Cactus Nerve Thang and modern-day act Filter Kings. And there was Jerry Hug on bass, a lawyer by profession, a rocker by reputation, at least the rep he has among folks at The Brothers.

I only watched the first set, which included covers of songs by Nugent, the Stones, Tom Petty, Cheap Trick, one of my favorites by Pavement (“Two States) and Bowie’s “Rebel, Rebel.” As Wolf said, they were SERIAL, killing one classic at a time.

Moss’s wife, Clementine, took over the drum kit, allowing the bearded wonder to growl a couple numbers himself, including a punked-up version of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab,” and a gruff cover of AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds” that featured a young lady with dreads who crushed the guitar solo. I split when the band took its first break. Great stuff on a late Friday night before Christmas…

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The holidays continue with tonight’s show at The Waiting Room. Icky Blossoms headlines a strong four-band bill that includes Closeness, Nathan Ma & the Rosettes and Cult Play. This is sort of a reunion show for Icky Blossoms, though Derek, Nik and Sarah haven’t gone anywhere. Rumor has it they’re working on new material for 2017. $10, 9 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Orenda Fink, Domestica; Kasher track part of Polyvinyl singles club; Cully joins Beach Slang…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , — @ 1:50 pm December 13, 2016
Orenda Fink at The Waiting Room, Dec. 9, 2016.

Orenda Fink at The Waiting Room, Dec. 9, 2016.

by Tim McMahan,

Nice crowd at last Friday night’s Mobilize Omaha event at The Waiting Room. Booths were set up throughout the club where local non-profit agencies told their stories and asked for volunteers. These are strange times we live in; uncertain times. No doubt non-profits will play a more important role if (or, more likely, when) the government turns its back on those in need.

Orenda Fink, who was the night’s final scheduled performer, talked about how important Planned Parenthood is not only for reproductive health services, but also as a provider of basic women’s health services. The agency is constantly under attack; and those attacks will only increase as our country turns a darker shade of red in the coming weeks. If you have the cash, by all means, give what you can to Planned Parenthood, who will likely see its funding cut-off as the new administration takes over the White House. Strange, sad times indeed.

It’s easy to forget that Orenda, who’s involved in a number of projects (High Up (who you can see Thursday night at Slowdown Jr.) and Closeness (with Todd Fink) immediately come to mind) is a one of the city’s hallmark solo performers. She proved that again Friday. Standing alone on stage with her electric guitar Orenda belted out a set of that included early solo material, Azure Ray songs, and a few covers including tunes by Harry Nilsson (“Everybody’s Talkin'”) and David Bowie (an aching version of “Lazarus”).

Domestica at The Waiting Room, Dec. 9, 2016.

Domestica at The Waiting Room, Dec. 9, 2016.

Like I said, Orenda was the last scheduled performer, to be followed by a “special guest.” Turns out that special guest was Lincoln power-punk trio Domestica. Heidi, Jon and Pawl took their places and proceeded to blow the crowd away.

Unfortunately, unaware that they would cap off an evening of mostly somber indie/folk music, my other half didn’t bring earplugs (whereas I never leave home without them). She pulled the hood of her winter coat over her head in a vain effort to block the thunderous power of Doemstica in full flight, but to avail, and we ended up leaving after their first anthem. Next time, Heidi and Co…

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These updates at Lazy-i may be a bit unpredictable for the next few weeks as I slog through a busy holiday season, which also happens to be a frantic year-end time at work. I’ll post whenever there’s a crack of light in my schedule.

A couple news bits:

Polyvinyl Records is launching another “Singles” series, wherein subscribers can receive a year’s worth of 7-inches mailed directly to their doors by the likes of Beach Slang, Japanese Breakfast, Modern Baseball, Twin Peaks, Joyce Manor, Jay Som, Diet Cig, Mothers, Owen, Ra Ra Riot, Sonny & The Sunsets and Saddle Creek Records artist Tim Kasher of Cursive and The Good Life fame.

All the singles were recorded on a 4-track Tascam cassette recorder to capture that classic, made-in-the-bedroom feeling. Subscribe here at the Polyvinyl site for a mere $120. You get some nice chochkes with your purchase.

BTW, I’ve been asking Saddle Creek to try doing one of these “singles-of-the-month” deals for years. I’d be the first in line. Come on, guys.

Speaking of Kasher and Cursive, Cully Symington, former Cursive drummer, has joined Beach Slang, according to SPIN. Cully has pulled drumming duties for a variety of bands including Afghan Whigs and Okkervil River.

Sounds like Beach Slang has been through the ringer this year, according to the SPIN article.

So who’s playing drums with Cursive when they inevitably get back together for another album? My vote is for Clint Schnase…

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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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Leafblower, Millions of Boys; Sad13, Closeness, Flowers Forever, Filter Kings, Wagon Blasters, Gogol Bordello tonight; Silversphere Saturday…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:35 pm November 25, 2016
Leafblower at O'Leaver's Nov. 23, 2016.

Leafblower at O’Leaver’s Nov. 23, 2016.

by Tim McMahan,

Leafblower is trying to bring back heavy metal as we know it, or as I knew it. The four-piece, that consists of members of Danny Maxwell’s New Lungs, is a true band project, driven as much by Craig Fort and drummer Tab Tworek as guitarist John Svatos and DMax. The crew played to a nicely packed crowd at O’Leaver’s Wednesday night, donning matching sleeveless jumpsuits with the band’s logo on the back — a screen print of their mannequin mascot, Tim, created by artist/musician Pat Oakes. That mannequin would play a central role later in the set.

While New Lungs is a heavy indie band, Leafblower is a rock band that borders on metal, with stoner overtones. Their music sounds like upbeat Black Sabbath combined with ’90s Seattle, but with better dynamics, great drops and twisted guitar solos. The closest regional comparisons (to me) are ’90s acts Cactus Nerve Thang and Ritual Device. Vocals, mostly by DMax, are of the bellow/yell variety, with Fort adding his own howl. I couldn’t tell you what they were yelling about, but they sounded like they meant it.

In addition to a knack for throbbing, head-shaking riffs, what makes these guys stand out is Svatos’ weird guitar solos and effects treatments and fast-strum riffage that counters what Dmax is doing on his ax and Fort’s own bass maneuvers that often telegraphed where the melody was headed. There were moments when all three followed the same flight plan with layered metal harmonies while Tworek pushed everything forward on his kit.

Halfway through the set, someone queued the fog machine, which consisted of smoke barreling out of mannequin Tim’s leaf blower. Before the song ended you couldn’t see anyone on stage through the smokey haze.

This was only their fourth show, and I have no idea if they’re recording any of this stuff, though I definitely would like to hear it cranked up downstairs on my Boston Acoustics. Watch for these guys.

Opening was the return of Millions of Boys, after a year or so hiatus. The trio cranked out their unique brand of ’90s-influenced post punk (bordering on pop-punk). It’s great to see Sara Bertuldo keep this one going what with everything that’s happening with her other band, See Through Dresses. For me MofBs is the funner of her two projects, with Alex Van Beaumont sharing the vocals (not sure who has the higher voice) and Ryan Haas crushing the kit.

The set was mostly new material, and word on the street is that the band is working on a followup to their debut, Competing For Your Love (2012, Golden Sound), that could be out later this year. Stay tuned.

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Tonight is the busiest night of the holiday weekend with multiple hot shows happening.

Perhaps the hottest is Sad13 at Milk Run with Mannequin Pussy and Vagabon. Sad13, as you know by now, is Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz, whose new album, Slugger (2016, Carpark) has been getting raves. You’d think this show would have been better suited at a much larger venue, considering Speedy Ortiz has played Maha in the past. But Dupuis has always played house shows (which Milk Run, with its all-ages policy, resembles) including past gigs at West Wing. With a capacity well below 100, you’d think tonight’s show would have sold out a long time ago. Tickets are $10, show starts at 9. And before you go, read my 10 Questions article with Sadie, that went online earlier this week.

Maybe the reason Sad13 isn’t sold out is because of the blowout at Reverb tonight — Flowers Forever headlines with Closeness and InDreama. Flowers recently played a return set at O’Leaver’s that was knock-out, while Closeness (Todd & Orenda Fink’s new joint) is one of the best new arrivals of 2016. InDreama — a project featuring Icky Blossoms’ guitarist Nik Fackler— only plays once or twice a year. Great line-up! 9 p.m. $8.

Also tonight, another hot ticket as The Filter Kings plays at Brothers Lounge with the unstoppable Wagon Blasters. $5, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile downtown, the crazy circus antics of Gogol Bordello returns to The Slowdown tonight. DJ Der Blaster opens. $30, 9 p.m.

And over at The Waiting Satchel Grande brings the party with All Young Girls Are Machine Guns. $8, 9 p.m.

That’s a lot of choices. On the other hand, there’s not much happening on Saturday night. In fact, the only show on my radar is Silversphere (ex-The Lepers) at O’Leaver’s with Hussies and Chalant. $5, 9 p.m.

That’s all I got for the weekend. If I missed your show, put it in the comments section.

Hopefully you’re hitting the records stores today for Black Friday vinyl specials. Seems like this year’s RSD/Black Friday sale has been low-key – I’ve heard almost nothing about it. Fewer crowds means more for you to buy!

Have a great weekend.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Daughter; Zipline joins the Slowdown complex; Milk Run under new management…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , — @ 2:17 pm November 21, 2016
Daughter at The Slowdown, Nov. 19, 2016.

Daughter at The Slowdown, Nov. 19, 2016.

by Tim McMahan,

It’s the same ol’ question: How does a show headlined by a band like Daughter sell out Slowdown’s big room?

The band releases music on respected though somewhat small indie label 4AD. Needless to say, Daughter gets zero airplay locally. In fact, before I headed down to Slowdown Saturday night I double-checked to see if the show wasn’t slated for the small room. When I arrived at 9 p.m., a line stretched all the way past Film Streams. Where did all these people come from? Granted, Daughter is a remarkable indie band, but since when does that translate to sell-out crowds?

The North London 4-piece, fronted by Hepburn-esque lead singer/guitarist Elena Tonra, plays hypnotic, chiming shoe-gaze rock that recalls a broad range of post-punk acts from My Bloody Valentine to The xx. Tonra’s clear, ringing voice can turn ferocious on a dime, sort of like a modern-day Sinead, singing dark songs drenched in loss and loneliness. Take a song like 2012’s “Smother,” that starts with, “I’m wasted, losing Time / I’m a foolish, fragile spine,” and ends with “I sometimes wish I’d stayed inside my mother / Never to come out.” How much bleaker can they get?

That lyrical bleakness is tempered by a dark power and broad dynamics — some songs start off with just Tonra and a keyboard, and quickly rise to a Mogwai-esque rock symphony. Drummer Remi Aguilella was amazing, pounded the kit with mallets, while guitarist Igor Haefeli rattled the rafters. Their performance was powered by a first-rate light show — a combination of spots and strobes and dense colors — gorgeous stuff.

While I listened I thought about all the ’90s British shoegaze acts I never saw perform live, and wondered if this was what they were like, and thought about how how fortunate I was to be able to see this band at the height of their powers.

* * *

A couple quick notes…

Last week Zipline Brewing announced that it is opening a new location in the old Saddle Creek Shop space next to The Slowdown and Film Streams. It’s not just the Creek shop, it’s also the old Saddle Creek warehouse space, so it’s actually pretty huge.

Saddle Creek used to be officed in the same space, but recently moved their offices back upstairs to a co-working space shared by Hear Nebraska and the folks from Maha Music Festival. All their warehouse stuff was moved off site to a different warehouse.

So now you’ll be able to buy booze at Slowdown, Tap Room, and Zipline. It’s like No Do is trying to compete with Benson, but with newer buildings. We’re beginning to see the vision for that part of town become reality, albeit almost 10 years after the Slowdown complex was built. Better late than never.

* * *


Milk Run

Did anyone else get a barrage of notices in their Facebook inbox this past weekend notifying them of people “rating” Milk Run? The fact that the tiny club is under new management might have something to do with it.

Milk Run made the announcement via Facebook yesterday. There are three new managers, while See Through Dresses’ Sara Bertuldo will continue to help book it along with Myer Stevens. Milk Run co-creator, Sam Parker, “will be stepping back from direct operations to pursue exciting new projects in the coming year,” according to the post. Parker also works at Hi-Fi House, which has hosted a steady slew of shows and events the past few weeks.

Hear Nebraska has a little more about the management changes here. If you haven’t been to a show at Milk Run, do yourself the favor. They’ve got a big one coming up this Friday night when Sad13 (Sadie from Speedy Ortiz) headlines with Mannequin Pussy and Vagabon. I’m actually surprised the show hasn’t sold out yet, considering the club’s limited capacity.

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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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Jeffrey Lewis/Los Bolts, David Nance; Tenement, The Living Deads, NOFX tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 8:18 am November 16, 2016
Jeffrey Lewis and Los Bolts at Reverb Lounge, Nov. 15, 2016.

Jeffrey Lewis and Los Bolts at Reverb Lounge, Nov. 15, 2016.

by Tim McMahan,

Here Jeffrey Lewis was expecting no one to be at last night’s show at Reverb Lounge and there he was greeted by a nearly full room of around 35 to see the Manhattan troubadour and his uber talented band Los Bolts. And Lewis seemed quite pleased, saying it was the biggest crowd he’d every played for… in Omaha.

With guitar in hand he launched right into a set that included a lot of songs off his recent album, Manhattan, as well as a handful of chestnuts from years past. What I found most surprising was how much the set rocked. Lewis’ albums are mainly fast-paced upbeat acoustic folk fare, while last night’s show slalomed between acoustic and electric — somehow he made that acoustic guitar scream as loud as any Fender Strat, with full-blown feedback snarls. Lewis is, indeed, as good a guitarist as he is a great songwriter.

After every few songs he went to his Macbook, which fed a small projector that he used to tell stories supported by comic-book-style illustrations. One told the history of Sitting Bull; another told how he’s gone from being a hippy (clothingwise) to a regular dude. The funniest of these stories were adaptations of Nirvana songs from the album Bleach — specifically “Big Cheeze” and “Mr. Moustache” — that proved just how inane Kurt Cobain’s lyrics could be.

Lewis’ entire set had a lift of humor behind it, including his between-song patter wherein he reminded me of a young Gilbert Gottfried, complete with a Gottfried squint. Funny stuff. I ended up buying a couple issues of Lewis’ Fuff comic book and an outtakes and rarities album I hadn’t seen before. Judging from the lines, he did very well with merch sales.


David Nance at Reverb Lounge, Nov. 15, 2016.

David Nance at Reverb Lounge, Nov. 15, 2016.

There was as big a crowd for the show opener, David Nance and his band, which included Simon Joyner on bass (a first for Joyner). Nance’s music was quite a contrast to Lewis’. They played only two songs, but each lasted at least 15 minutes, and consisted of droning, building, feedback-layered head sounds. One well-schooled music fan I talked to said the set reminded him of Dream Syndicate (?) and Velvet Underground (dead on). Or imagine drawn-out, dark, slow, psychedelic tunes without keyboards and you begin to get the picture. Nance’s music is trance-like, almost hypnotic in its powerful dissonance. A great night of music.

* * *

Let me tell you a brief record-buying story.

I recently walked into Almost Music in the Blackstone District to do some record shopping. Flipping through the stacks, I made conversation with the proprietor, a fine lad named Brad Smith. “Brad,” I said, “why don’t you pick me out an album that you think I’d like. Every good record store proprietor should be able to pick out a record that can’t miss with one of his or her patrons.”

Brad thought about this a moment, and then said something along the lines of “Everyone has his or her own specific tastes,” which is true. “But,” I said, “you still must have something I’ve never heard before that you can recommend.”

So Brad walked from behind the glass counter and began flipping through the new vinyl and said “Here” and handed me a copy of The Self-Titled Album by a group I never heard of called Tenement. I told him to put it on the stack, which included a used copy of Talking Heads 77  and Rolling Stones’ Goats Head Soup and a signed copy of James Ellroy’s Blood’s a Rover. There always lots of good stuff at Almost Music.

And I took that record home, put it on the turntable and was knocked out by it. Tenement is a trio from Appleton, Wisconsin, that has been kicking around since 2006. Their Wikipedia bio says they’re often associated with the American hardcore punk scene, though you wouldn’t know it by listening to this record. which was released this year on Deranged Records. While the first track, “Everyone to Love You,” does have a throbbing punk rock sensibility (in fact, Brad warned me about it — what’s with people thinking I don’t like punk rock no more?), the rest of the record bounced between styles as diverse as Pavement, Ted Leo/Pharmacists and ’80s-era Rolling Stones. It’s a gorgeous record and on my list of favorites for 2016, and you should definitely check it out.

Which just goes to show you that you can always trust Brad Smith to make a blind recommendation for how to spend your hard-earned dollars.

All of this is just a long-winded way of letting you know that Tenement is playing an early show tonight at Sokol Underground. I’ve been told this show originally was scheduled for a different venue, but was moved as an early show to compliment the NOFX show also taking place at Sokol Auditorium later tonight (though Tenement has nothing in common with NOFX).

Tenement, the second band for this early show, goes on at 6:15 after Meat Wave (a Chicago punk band on SideOneDummy, who starts at 5:30) and is followed by Direct Hit (Fat Wreck Chords). It’s a $10 show, but only $5 if you have a NOFX ticket.

That NOFX show at Sokol Aud includes openers PEARS and Useless ID, costs $30 and starts at 8 p.m.

Also tonight, Brothers Lounge is hosting Denver punkabilly band The Living Deads along with no-coast surf punks Huge Fucking Waves. $5, 10 p.m.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Wrong Pets; NOBUNNY tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , — @ 1:02 pm October 24, 2016
Wrong Pets at O'Leaver's Oct. 21, 2016.

Wrong Pets at O’Leaver’s Oct. 21, 2016.

by Tim McMahan,

Friday night was the debut of Wrong Pets, the new band fronted by Reagan Roeder with Landon Hedges (bass), Danny Maxwell (guitar) and Ryan Haas on drums. The band took its cues from ’90s indie with a whole lot of grunge thrown in for good measure. Heavy stuff, but what did you expect from a Maxwell/Hedges production, the same folks who brought you Little Brazil?

It’s been years since I’ve seen him on stage, but Roeder continues to hold his own with great, growling flair. For an act that hasn’t played together long, they sounded remarkably tight performing their short, six-song set. Debuts are always fun because you never know what to expect, but this was pretty much what I expected, or certainly what I hoped for. What this crew does next is anyone’s guess; keep your fingers crossed that they play again soon.

BTW, it was  big crowd, a packed crowd, especially for the early band, though Wrong Pets didn’t get rolling until around 10:30. One can only guess how crowded it got as the night edged closer to the Her Flyaway Manner 20th anniversary set, which, alas, I was unable to see.

* * *

One show of consequence on this Monday night — NOBUNNY headlines at Milk Run. Nobunny is musician Justin Champlin, who has released his brand of garage rock on such vaunted labels as Goner and Burger Records. The show has a crowded bill with Articles, Lemmons, and Relax, It’s Science opening. 9 p.m., $10.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.