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

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

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

by Tim McMahan,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


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

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

PUP at The Waiting Room, March 4, 2020.

by Tim McMahan,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: SUSTO, Molly Parden at Slowdown Jr…

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

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

by Tim McMahan,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


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

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

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

by Tim McMahan,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.



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

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

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

by Tim McMahan,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


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

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

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

by Tim McMahan,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lodgings Dec. 28, 2019.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lazy-i Best of 2019

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

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

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

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

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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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


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

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


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

by Tim McMahan,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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, Goon at O’Leaver’s…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , — @ 1:44 pm November 25, 2019

Disq at O’Leaver’s, Nov. 23, 2019.

by Tim McMahan,

It was one of those mid-sized crowds at O’Leaver’s Saturday night. OK, maybe it was a bit smallish. No one was standing in front of the band or crowding along the railing, but there were still 30 or so folks in the house for sets by Disq and Goon.

Disq is a band that released a 2-song single on Saddle Creek Records earlier this year that caught a bit of national attention. A five piece — all quite young — their sound is sort of a combination of influences that range from early Teenage Fanclub to The Kinks and Blue-album-era Weezer. Still, uniquely their own thing, fronted by Isaac deBroux-Slone, with a voice and style that makes him the perfect indie frontman.

I’m a big fan of this band. I saw them in June at Slowdown Jr., and dug them just as much Saturday night. “Communication,” the A-side of the single, is one of my favorite songs of 2019 (and was well represented in their set).

Saddle Creek would be well advised to consider releasing Disq’s full-length, though I’m not sure where the band fits into the Creek roster these days, what with the plethora of singer/songwriters (most of them female) that has dominated their signings over the past couple years (Young Jesus, being an exception). But with its big, fun, guitar-fueled ruckus, Disq recalls the early days of Saddle Creek, and that’s a good thing.

Goon at O’Leaver’s, Nov. 23, 2019.

Goon followed Disq sometime after midnight, playing songs off their latest, Heaven is Humming (2019, Partisan). It’s a tight band with a great rhythm section (drummer Christian Koons is outstanding) playing indie songs that ranged from throttled-back mood pieces to ripping noise rockers.

Frontman Kenny Becker has a high, thin coo of a voice that too-often got lost in the mix — there were times when I wondered why they didn’t just make the song an instrumental, it was pumping along so well on its own. Becker’s voice is more pronounced on the recordings, and kind of reminded me of early R.E.M./mumble-Stipe — another tonal instrument layered within the crisp arrangement.

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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 Lupines, Unexplained Death at O’Leaver’s; Pile, Stuck, No Thanks tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:36 pm November 12, 2019

The Lupines at O’Leaver’s Nov. 9, 2019.

by Tim McMahan,

The Lupines rolled out a new direction to their sound last Saturday night at O’Leaver’s. In fact, they literally rolled it out — a giant upright piano, that is. If you’ve been there before you’ve likely leaned/sat on the behemoth, which usually sits next to the exit to the beer garden. The band grunted it across the floor to the stage area for their set, and then spent a good 10 minutes (or more?) trying to get it properly miked up. Who knew that old-fashioned upright pianos could create so much feedback?

Lupines frontman John Ziegler set down his guitar to twinkle the ivories on a new set of songs that sported a honky-tonk country flair, a bit of blues and folk and rock. The first couple tunes were eight or nine minutes long but seemed to roll on forever thanks to endlessly repeating verses. Ziegler pounded the keys like a modern-day Leon Russell, ending each line with a bluesy flourish, while guitarist Mike Friedman pulled back his usual jittery, frenetic Lupines’ style to something more relaxed and refined, a la David Lindley.

It all came together on the final two songs of the set — one short one, the other, an epic closer wherein Ziegler maneuvered from the piano bench, through the tangle of microphone stands and cords to pick up his Gibson and battle Friedman with guitar riffs.

I’d heard a few weeks ago that Ziegler was going to play piano for this set, so I prepared myself to finally hear one of my all-time favorite Lupines songs — “Hasn’t Failed Me Yet” — a tune I’d been told had never been played live because of its piano-based arrangement. Now there were no excuses. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be as the band only played brand new material. My quest to hear that epic song continues…

Unexplained Death at O’Leaver’s Nov. 9, 2019.

Matt Whipkey and his crew in the form of poli-punk band Unexplained Death didn’t make it to the O’Leaver’s “stage” until well after midnight, ripping through songs off their just-released self-titled cassette.

Always prolific, Whipkey used the occasion to debut a couple more new songs, one of them an angry, fast number built on a golden guitar riff that I’d love to hear again. If this project’s goal was to pull Whipkey away from the Americana format that he’s known for, it’s succeeding. As I’ve said before, Unexplained Death isn’t so much a punk bands as a punk-influenced rock band with a political message ripe for our time. But it won’t be deemed a true success until someone wearing a MAGA hat attacks Whipkey on stage during a performance, ending in arrests by all involved, and the headline MAGA DUDE CHARGED FOR ATTEMPTED MURDER AT UNEXPLAINED DEATH SCENE!!!

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The last time Boston indie rock act Pile played in Omaha it was aboard the River City Star in the summer of 2017. They’ll be on firmer ground when they headline Slowdown Jr. tonight, on tour in support of Green and Gray (2019, Exploding in Sound), album that scored a mighty 7.9 on the Pitchfork scale.

The touring opener is mathy Chicago rockers Stuck. While Omaha’s very own No Thanks kicks things off at 8 p.m. This is a good one, and it’s only $12.

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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: Deerhoof at Low End, Unexplained Death at The Brothers…

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

Deerhoof performs at the grand opening of Low End, Oct. 25, 2019.

by Tim McMahan,

Lots of well-dressed, smiling, laughing people, some with pieces of art wrapped in brown paper tucked under their arms, were leaving the Bemis Friday night as we arrived for the Deerhoof show down in the once-known-as Bemis Underground now-known-as Low End. I felt invisible in my hoodie and jeans, and probably was to all the local art/business types leaving the night’s charity auction. These are the folks who keep things like Bemis afloat. We have a lot of them in this town, thankfully, and we always need more (and they’re out there, in those West Omaha mansions, we just need to get them downtown).

Low End is actually in the space next to Visions custom frame shop. What was once a cavernous empty room has been transformed into something, well, Warholian. By that I mean the underground space has an artsy, cool vibe. The walls are scalloped and covered in floral wall paper and aglow in digital stage lighting, all synced to change color — orange, purple, green, blue, it feels like the walls are moving, sort of. In the center, a support structure has been turned into a sculpture covered in spray-gunk that drips like synthetic stalactites.

Inside the catacombs of Low End…

Despite (or because of) its subterranean essence Low End feels intimate, with built-in cushioned benches throughout its many nooks, like hiding places left in plain sight. Anyone would feel cool hanging out down there, ablaze in the digital glow.

Off along one side, not quite in a corner (though I guess it is a corner) is the Low End performance space/stage, which is a small platform (a few inches in height? Whaddya gonna do with that low ceiling?) and a wood-plank background that no doubt also acts as a sound buffer, designed by acclaimed architect Jeff Day and his FACT Team. It’s amazing looking, yet functional, like everything Day designs, like the entire room.

The PA speakers hang from the low rafters along the stage perimeter. I noticed a couple people running sound from off to the left, one using an iPad, the wiring all well hidden. Deerhoof’s amps sat on the stage and the band played essentially in a circle with front woman Satomi Matsuzaki facing the band, who were tucked in the corner. With those low ceilings I was expecting a painfully loud experience but was pleasantly surprised at the acoustics, which were clean and not overpowering, not boomy at all.

Obviously, with a crowd of any size, sight lines down there are going to be a problem. Keep in mind Low End wasn’t designed to be a rock club, but rather a space for experimental sound/music experiences — we’re talking art projects like two people scraping tin cans together or someone playing a lone cello on songs with names like “Abstract Staircase No. 1” “Abstract Staircase No. 2,” and so on. Not a rock band, and certainly not one as explosive as Deerhoof.

Deerhoof performing at Low End, Oct. 25, 2019.

Though known as an experimental band — and yes, they play proggy, angular music that can turn and twist and change key on a dime — we’re still talking electric guitar, bass and drums, and more often than not, songs you can pogo to (as many standing along the stage did, minding not to jump too high). Deerhoof was the perfect rock band to kick off Low End, though it’ll likely be the last rock band, or maybe not. Time will tell.

My hope is that, along with experimental noise/art sound collage projects that Bemis at least tries to book an artist or two that could be deemed “pop.” I mean, even Warhol had Velvet Underground for The Factory.

Anyway, Low End is a very cool space. Check it out for yourself when Laura Ortman performs there on Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. It, like all future shows, is absolutely free (and yes, they serve booze).

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Unexplained Death at The Brothers Lounge, Oct. 25, 2019.

After Deerhoof we drove uptown to The Brothers for the debut of Unexplained Death, the new punk project by Matt Whipkey and his band.

Whipkey dressed black on black tore into songs off his debut cassette, which was celebrating its release that night. No matter the style, Whipkey and his band always give an intense performance, but with the new rock material, they add an edge to angry songs about troubled times.

I wouldn’t call this punk rock as much as heavy, fast rock with a nod toward punk-ish bands like The Replacements or maybe mid-era, dirty Stones, which has always been a sweet spot for Whipkey’s music (along with Springsteen — anyone can tell Whipkey is a devotee). Call it protest rock or poli-rock, more observation than protest, actually, with Whipkey’s journalism degree taking center stage. The lyrics aren’t so much nuanced messages of rage as angry observations driven by recent headlines, and as such are more literal than punk’s usual anthem-threat-bombast. Here, listeners tend to nod in agreement rather than raise their fist in solidarity.

The live performance also is cleaner, more professional than the noise-static-low-fi feedback-drenched intentionally distorted takes heard on their tape, and as a result, sound like hard rock songs well-played by a band of rock veterans, better suited for the radio than the moshpit. As such, these protest songs are ready-made for any stage and not just punk clubs, and something tells me that’s what Whipkey had in mind.

Find out for yourself when the band plays at fabulous O’Leaver’s Saturday, Nov. 9, with the world-famous Lupines and those French-singing troubadours in Minne Lussa.

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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.