Cursive’s ‘Vitriola’ drops tomorrow (and what people are saying about it)…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:41 pm October 4, 2018

Cursive’s next album, Vitriola, comes out tomorrow on 15 Passenger.

by Tim McMahan,

Early press for the new Cursive album, Vitriola, appears to be rather strong. The record drops tomorrow on the band’s label, 15 Passenger.

Having listened to the album a few times I can add to the choir that this record is reminiscent of early Cursive. The songs certainly sound more cohesive and structured than, say, what we got with I Am Gemini, which is a complicated way of saying they have great guitar riffs, hooks and massive, percussive rhythms that consistently head in one direction, versus Gemini‘s proggy where-is-this-going approach.

OK, let’s just get it out there — Gemini is my least favorite Cursive record. It’s difficult to get through. And I’m a sucker for big riffs and repeat choruses — i.e., straight-forward indie rock songs, like on this record. There’s a familiarity to this music that is oddly comforting.

Both Noisey and Stereogum posted interviews with Cursive leader Tim Kasher that try to dissect the record’s meaning — true navel-gazing exercises that could be valuable to a Cursive superfan.

My simplistic (and there’s no one more simplistic than I) take is that Kasher’s getting older and these songs reflect his anxiety about aging and/or the struggle and futility of life (versus say, songs about his struggles with relationships (Domestica) or religion (Happy Hollow)). There’s also a  political theme that runs through a few songs that’s hard to miss, though I wouldn’t consider this a protest album. The Noisey article makes it sound like there’s a glimmer of hope underlying the collection. Maybe, but I don’t hear it. To me, it’s a collection of true bummers connected by massive riffs. But what else is new?

All I can think of is how well these songs will sound live. For example, can Kasher get the crowd to scream along to the “Ouroboros” chorus: “I am a parasite / I am a shill / I am that lowly snake / Chasing its tail.” By god, I think he can. Which is good, because I have a feeling Tim and the crew are going to be touring this one for a long time.

If you haven’t already, pre-order it here.

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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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Gary Numan; Tragic Jack, Brad Hoshaw tonight; Lodgings, Sun-Less Trio, Wagon Blasters Saturday; House Vacations, Tom Bartolomei Sunday…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 11:57 am September 28, 2018

Gary Numan at The Slowdown, Sept. 27, 2018.

by Tim McMahan,

Recent Gary Numan recordings, specifically Savage (Songs from a Broken World) (2017, BMG), have been compared to recordings by Nine Inch Nails, a band who has cited Numan as an influence. While there’s no mistaking the similarity in the preponderance of deep beats, synths and power chords, recent NIN albums rarely have contained songs as tuneful as Numan’s recent stuff, and certainly Trent Reznor doesn’t hold a candle vocally to Numan, who, on these recordings (made when he was in his late 50s), sounds as good or better than he did in Tubeway Army.

I mention this because last night’s Gary Numan show at The Slowdown was heavy with the new stuff, which sounded like Middle Eastern-influenced NIN albeit with a greater reliance on Numan’s cold-steel synth sound.  Numan, looking more like a dude in his late 30s than a guy who just turned 60, performed really elegant modern dance throughout the set, interpreting every chord and drop beat like a ballet dancer in Desert Storm trooper boots, all a part of the band’s ragged matched costuming that made them resemble extras from Mad Max: Fury Road.

Right out of the gate Numan and his band sounded great, maybe a bit too great. When he started singing I immediately wondered if he was lip-syncing. The vocals simply sounded too rounded and perfect to be live, especially with the calisthenics Numan was performing. It didn’t even look like he was holding the microphone up to his mouth, though the vocals coming out of the stacks were spot-on perfect. And, strangely, he never spoke to the audience between songs (at least while I was listening).

I’m not a sound tech and I haven’t talked to the band so I have no idea what exactly was going on. I know all the band members wore in-ear monitors; and while everyone had microphones, it sure didn’t look like they were singing most of the time. In fact, the band sounded absolutely perfect throughout the set. I’m not sure this means they were performing with a backing track or what (though I’m sure the soundguy knows).

Regardless, the sound was pristine and magnificent and the crowd didn’t seem to care a whit whether the performance was being “sweetened” or not, they were too ensconced in the light, movement and sound.  The tale of the tape came 10 songs in when the band performed “Cars,” an arrangement that was mostly faithful to the original, and Numan here seemed to be singing, or at least he sounded different than earlier in the set. He also was a lot less animated, pacing between the microphone and the back of the stage.

He lit right back into the new stuff afterward (you can see the full setlist from last night here), and continued with his elegant balletic moves, amazing and inspiring from a guy his age. It was a fun show no matter what was going on.

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Looks like it’s going to be cold, rainy weekend, which means there’s no excuse for not going to some shows.

Tonight, Tragic Jack plays a down at Slowdown Jr. The band has a new album, Glasshouse Town, coming out Oct. 12 on Silver Street Records. It’s not so much indie as straight-forward, traditional FM rock. Marty Amsler, the former member of The Millions who plays bass in Tragic Jack, gave me a copy of the record and said “this probably isn’t your thing.” It’s not, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t any good. Hey man, despite my indie music leanings, I grew up on FM rock and can tell quality when I hear it. Copies of the record will be available at tonight’s show, which also features openers Brad Hoshaw and Soul Ghost. $7, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, The Hottman Sisters are celebrating the release of a new EP, Louder, at The Waiting Room. Ruby Force and Kethro open at 9 p.m. $12.

Lodgings is a pretty awesome band consisting of Bryce Hotz, vocals; Jim Schroeder, guitars; David Ozinga, bass; Eric Ernst, drums. Their 2016 debut, which also features cellist Megan Siebe and Trumpeter Sean Lomax, is one of my recent faves. The band headlines at fabulous O’Leaver’s Saturday night. Joining them in this stacked line-up are The Sun-Less Trio and The Wagon Blasters. 10 p.m., $5.

Finally, O’Leaver’s Sunday early-show series continues with House Vacations, CatBeret, the return of Omaha singer/songwriter Tom Bartolomei, and Lincoln’s Threesome Egos.

And that’s all I got. If I missed your show, put it in the comments section. 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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Black Belt Eagle Scout, Guerilla Toss; Gary Numan tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:53 pm September 27, 2018

Black Belt Eagle Scout at Reverb Lounge Sept. 26, 2018.

by Tim McMahan,

I’m more convinced after last night’s Black Belt Eagle Scout show at Reverb Lounge that the best way to get introduced to a new album is live on stage.

Prior to this show the only BBES tune off their new album Mother of My Children I’ve heard was “Soft Stud,” which has gotten some spins on Sirius XMU. It was the first time for the rest of it, presented in a confined space like Reverb without distraction. I walked away wanting to hear most of it again.

I say “most of” because the set started rather flat and low-tempo, highlighting the quieter moments on the album. Very pretty, reminiscent to some degree of early Azure Ray or a K Records act. It wasn’t until halfway through the gig that the trio, fronted by singer/songwriter/guitarist Katherine Paul, began to take off. Paul turned up the guitar, stabbed the pedals and roared on a number of songs that would have made Neil Young proud.

Pushing everything forward was whomever was playing bass, an amazingly deft and creative bassist who augmented Paul’s work with her own intricate counter melodies.

Great stuff, enjoyed by a smallish crowd. I figured it would be packed what with the Saddle Creek connection, but there probably was only around 35 people in the room, which made for an intimate set.

Guerilla Toss at Reverb Lounge Sept. 26, 2018.

Things didn’t get rolling ’til almost 9:30, which limited my time spent with Guerilla Toss, a six-piece ensemble that sounded like a cross between Tom Tom Club and Siouxsie and the Banshees. Very arty, very progressive, very fun bouncy rock rife with twists and turns and big moments. Frontwoman Kassie Carlson has a soaring voice that cuts through everything going on around her. The only thing missing was a dancing crowd.

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The big show tonight is Gary Numan at The Slowdown. There’s been a simmering level of excitement since this one was announced months ago, but surprisingly it’s not sold out. For those pondering whether to go, here’s the setlist from Numan’s Cleveland show Sept. 23, which indicates that he didn’t roll out mega-hit “Cars” until about halfway though the show. If you’re like me, that’s the only Numan tune you know. Still, this one could be a lot of fun. LA art rock trio Nightmare Air opens at 8 p.m. $28.

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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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Son, Ambulance, Little Brazil; Creatures of Rabbit (Stephen Sheehan & band) tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , — @ 12:36 pm September 17, 2018

Son, Ambulance at Slowdown Jr., Sept. 14, 2018.

by Tim McMahan,

Son, Ambulance gets the official #Warrior designation after their show Friday night at Slowdown Jr. Daniel Knapp was involved in a car accident a few hours before the show, which left him bandaged head-to-hand. But the show must go on, as they say on Broadway, and Daniel was behind the keyboards playing with his usual panache.

In fact, everyone played with panache, in front of about 50 people, with a set that leaned heavily on older, familiar tunes. Where did all that new material go that we heard a year or so ago? Who knows. Maybe the band will roll it (or other new stuff) out when they play at O’Leaver’s later this month.

One new one they did play, titled “Fuck Trump,” felt less like a political anthem than a reflection of our current state of affairs, punctuated toward the end with a “Fuck Trump” rallying cry. Joe Knapp’s vocals, while burning with Costello snarls, were blurred in the mix so I couldn’t make out the rest of the song’s lyrics. I’d love to see a lyric sheet — or better yet, a clean recording issued on 7-inch vinyl.

Little Brazil at O’Leaver’s, Sept. 16, 2018.

Last night was the Mike Loftus Benefit Concert at O’Leaver’s. I only had time to drop in for Little Brazil’s set. The band played most of the songs off their latest album, Send the Wolves (2018, Max Trax), with a lethal intensity that eclipsed their CD release show.

Hats off to soundguy Ben VanHoolandt, who diligently adjusted the sound throughout the set to meet the band’s peaks and valleys. A typical problem at Little Brazil shows is that Landon Hedges’ vocals sometimes get lost in the mix. That wasn’t a problem last night. It’s the first time I’ve heard Landon so clearly on stage, and it made all the difference.

The crew also pulled out a couple new ones (which I believe they also played at their CD release show); the first of which features a very cool riff by new guitarist Shawn Cox, (who slayed his solos throughout the performance). LB just released their last record in June and it sounds like they’re already ready to return to the studio. I’d love to see them tour this record before they put out the next one, but we all know how god-awfully taxing touring can be, both to the band’s wallets and families.

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Special show tonight at O’Leaver’s…

Billed as “Creatures of Rabbit,” the gig is actually a warm-up for this weekend’s Lincoln Calling Festival by Stephen Sheehan and his band, which features Dan Crowell, Randy Cotton, Donovan Johnson and Mike Saklar.

Sheehan, as we all know, was the frontman to late-’80s early-’90s post-ambient band Digital Sex. He re-emerged from a performance hiatus with this new band (but with Ben Sieff instead of Saklar on guitar) last August (you can read how and why it happened, here). Catch the set before they head to Lincoln Calling Friday night. Tonight’s show starts at 9:30 with no opener. $5.

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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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Review: The Sun-Less Trio ‘The Willow Tree,’ release show tonight; Saddle Creek’s latest ‘Document’ (featuring Hovvdy)…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:37 pm August 29, 2018

The Sun-Less Trio at Reverb Aug. 18, 2017. The band celebrates the release of a new EP tonight at Pageturners Lounge.

by Tim McMahan,

Tonight The Sun-Less Trio celebrates the release of a 5-song EP called The Willow Tree at Pageturners Lounge. S-L T is a project helmed by singer/songwriter Mike Saklar, who us old-timers remember for his guitar work in a number of bands including late-’90s post-punk projects Ritual Device and Ravine.

S-LT is geared differently than those metal-tinged efforts, leaning more toward minor-key slow-burners a la Disintegration-era Cure (but with more emphasis on guitars than keyboards). Dim-lit, tonal, emotional and ultimately atmospheric, The Willow Tree turns and sways on a dark edge. Saklar chose to open the collection with “Branches Sway,” the most somber song on the EP, desribed as “A hypnotic monotone rhythm captures the minory chords in a classic manner, only to be destroyed by an unforeseeable middle 8.”

A pity he didn’t come out of the gate with the title track, a rocker centered around a guitar riff and Marc Phillips’ pounding drums (of the dry-echo recording, Saklar does a particularly awesome job with Phillips’ booming stickwork). Drums are right in the middle of “The Station,” a slow-swing dirge that closes out the EP. “Exposure” is another echoing ghost track.

By contrast is the EP’s other highlight, “X-Y-Z,” a self-proclaimed drug song that features Saklar’s best guitar work.

This is one of those recordings that takes multiple plays to absorb. Saklar makes the most of his vocals, using them as a secondary tonal instrument that bends with the chords (lyrics, thankfully, were included in the liner notes I received).

The EP will be available as a 7-inch vinyl. The album’s Bandcamp page includes 14 additional tracks (including different mixes of the EP’s songs). Also on tonight’s bill at Pageturners are Styrofoamy (Jim Schroeder/Colin Duckworth) and Stephen Bartolomei. The free show has an 8:30 start time.

* * *

Saddle Creek Records’s 7-inch “Document Series” continues with a new release by Austin band Hovvdy.

Hovvdy (pronounced “howdy”) is the writing and recording project of a couple drummers, Charlie Martin and Will Taylor. Their debut album, Taster, originally released on Sports Day Records was reissued in 2017 by Double Double Whammy. The follow-up, Cranberry, came out this past February.

“Easy” b/w “Turns Blue” 7-inch drops Oct. 5. Pre-order here.

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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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Miwi La Lupa, Tom Bartolomei at Dario (Dundee) Days…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:53 pm August 27, 2018

MiWi La Lupa at Dundee Days at Dario’s, Aug. 25, 2018.

by Tim McMahan,

Dario Days — or Dundee Days at Dario’s, which is how it’s referred to now — was the usual good time. Dario’s set up a stage in the parking lot just west of Blue Line along with tables and benches and poured delicious beer while bands played.

MiWi La Lupa was on stage when we arrived at around 6 p.m. For whatever reason I’ve never caught his set despite the fact that he’s played around town numerous times. His is singer/songwriter style that compares to Simon/Garfunkel / Windham Folk / Harry Nilsson / Cat Stevens, upbeat and personal and in no way old sad bastard music.

I dug it, and for the rest of the weekend conducted additional research via Spotify, where I discovered his most recent album, Beginner’s Guide (2016, Tigershrimp Records), which I’ll file under “better late than never.” in terms of my discovery. Miwi has a great voice, which was showcased during this solo acoustic set that took place before Dundee Day’s main stage fired up.

Tom Bartolomei, left, accompanied by Stephen Bartolomei at Dario Days, Aug. 25, 2018.

Instead, Tom Bartolomei, joined with his cousin, Stephen Bartolomei, got the brunt of the “overblow” from Dundee’s main stage, at one time asking the Dario’s audience, “Is that Bon Jovi?” Yes, Tom, it is, but it also isn’t. Tom played a set of low-key, quiet singer/songwriter folk on his acoustic, with Steve adding some fine touches via his electric.

Many of you probably remember Stephen as one of the central players in Mal Madrigal (along with Ben Brodin, Ryan Fox, Dan McCarthy, John Kotchian and Mike Saklar). Steve moved to NYC years ago, lived in Queens, but now he’s back to Omaha for good (They all come back, don’t they?).

BTW, Stephen Bartolomei will be playing Wednesday night at Pageturners, opening for Sun-Less Trio’s record release show. More on that later.

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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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Maha Music Festival year 10: Is bigger better?; Cults, Metric tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , — @ 12:45 pm August 20, 2018

ZZ Ward performs during day 1 of the the 2018 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 17, 2018.

by Tim McMahan,

A few things before we get started.

First, the line-up. It was controversial the day it was announced if only because this was the 10-year anniversary of the Maha Music Festival. There’s only a few of us who have been to all 10, who know the dips and turns that this festival has gone through over the past decade. And every one of us has a favorite year. Mine just happens to have been last year when Maha coaxed Belle & Sebastian to their festival stage along with Downtown Boys, New Pornographers and the Faint. Run the Jewels was the usual meh headliner, but at least made a statement that Maha wasn’t going to be be mistaken for a dad rock festival.

The speculation for year 10 ranged from LCD Soundsystem to Courtney Barnett to Arcade Fire to Wilco. Three of those four names had released a relevant new album in the past year. When Weezer was announced as the headliner, an enormous group yawn came over Omaha’s tiny audience of indie music followers. Weezer was never an indie band, doesn’t play indie rock, could even be mistaken as an MTV band thanks to it’s classic “Happy Days” video for “Buddy Holly.”

What indie fans failed to realize is that if Maha is going to pay a quarter-million dollars (or whatever they paid for Weezer) the band better be able to sell a shit-ton of tickets — or at least draw a massive crowd. And Weezer did just that. I don’t know the numbers, but Stinson Park was overflowing last night when Rivers kicked off their set with the “You Wanted to See It” bite from Happy Days.

On the other hand, the crowd was less than massive the prior evening for TV on the Radio, but I’ll get to that.

The second thing to mention before digging into the performances is how well this festival operates — and has operated from day 1. No event has better trained, better prepared volunteers than Maha — all 700 of them. I was greeted with a smile every where I turned, from check-in to buying drink tickets to the eager young lady who explained which container to dump my trash/recyclables. That doesn’t just happen, believe me. Working with an army of volunteers is a difficult, thankless job that’s ignored when it’s done right.

Finally, one of the smartest/best things to happen to Maha was selecting Stinson Park at Aksarben Village as its location. No matter what happens in the future, no matter how big or small the festival becomes, Stinson should remain ground zero for this annual event. Nothing could be more convenient.

Time for a Format Change

All that said, there was one thing that became glaringly obvious after this year’s two-day festival — there’s no reason to start bands before 6 p.m.

Yes, there was only a few hundred on hand to hear Clarence Tilton kick things off at 6 p.m. Friday night, but the crowd just seemed to grow faster by the moment. Whereas Saturday festivities were lightly attended all the way up until Hop Along took the stage. As a result, few saw some of the festival’s best performances — specifically David Nance and U.S. Girls.

Organizers, ask yourselves: If you know no one’s going to be at the park at noon to see these artists, why bother booking them so early? I would have loved to see a 6 p.m. crowd eat up Nance’s set, or for that matter, if an early-evening audience would have tried to dance to U.S. Girls.

I’m sure there’s a good reason for starting at noon. I don’t know what it is.

The perfect Maha Festival would run three days — Thursday, Friday, Saturday — each day starting at 6 p.m. Six bands each on Thursday and Friday, five bands on Saturday. That’s 17 high-quality bands, each getting a decent shot at playing in front of a sizable crowd instead of the usual handful there at noon for reasons we’ll never know. This is the only option if Maha is never going to take the plunge and book one of its headliners very early in the day in an attempt to get the crowd out early.

The later start times also allow festival-goers to avoid most of August’s oppressively hot/humid weather. Why haven’t they done it this way in the past? Does it have to do with better-utilizing vendors and facilities? I would be surprised if they’re covering labor costs before 5 p.m. As for the bands that “get their break” playing the early stage, that’s been a running joke since the festival started — “We played Maha… in front of 18 people at noon.”

Yeah, you might have a smaller crowd at 6 p.m. than at 9 p.m., but it’s going to be bigger than what was there Saturday for The Dilla Kids.

Day 1

Caveat: I wasn’t even planning on attending Friday night’s festival, but when Maha offered me a press pass, I had to go if only to see Clarence Tilton on that ginormous stage. The Omaha-based alt-country five-piece belted out its usual great set of rural-tinged rock that would make Uncle Tupelo proud.

Clarence Tilton performs at the 2018 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 17, 2018.

I’ve seen these guys play the best stages in town all the way down to a neighborhood street party and they never disappoint. The big stage only magnified their talent, though as mentioned, only a hundred or so were there to hear it. No matter. They kicked it up as if the Stinson bowl was filled.

State Disco performs at the 2018 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 17, 2018.

State Disco followed from the smaller “Omne Partners Stage,” but I’ll be damned if that stage didn’t sound louder than the main “Decades Stage.” Unlike what the name implies, State Disco don’t play no disco. Their style sounds derived from 2000s-era Vegas alternative band The Killers with some Muse and Strokes thrown in for good measure.

I walked up to the stage to get the photos and turned around to see about a dozen girls standing in a line, grooving. Cute. In the words of a seasoned musician who I bumped into: these dudes are professional, and you can tell they’re dying to get heard on the radio.

Hurrah for the Riff Raff performs at the 2018 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 17, 2018.

Half of the multitude of people I spoke to Friday night were there to see Hurray for the Riff Raff, hence (I assume) the reason they were on the big stage. Front woman Alynda Segarra is hard to take your eyes off of. She certainly commands the stage, though the band’s brand of rootsy rock failed to capture my attention, and after a few songs I was off to check out the Rabble Mill mini-ramp on the other end of the park.

Benjamin Booker performs at the 2018 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 17, 2018.

I got back in time to watch New Orleans blues-rocker Benjamin Booker on the side stage. He and his band played a blue-stomp rock in the Black Keys vein but with more variety (which isn’t saying much). Booker’s stuff comes out on ATO, the same label as Alabama Shakes, Drive-By Truckers and Hurray for the Riff Raff (I assume it was a package deal). Seems like blues-rock replaced alt-country as an indie outlier genre. We can thank Black Keys for that.

As middle-of-the-road as those two ATO acts were, they were light-years ahead of blues rock act ZZ Ward. For the half-dozen of you who asked how Dusty and Billy sounded, the “ZZ” stands for Zsuzsanna, as in Zsuzsanna Eva Ward. I would have preferred Dusty and Billy.

The music kinda sorta reminded me of Shania Twain hick-country; I halfway expected Ward to rip into “Man, I Feel Like a Woman.” It was at this point that I was thinking these last three bands would have been a great fit for the ol’ Playing with Fire concert series. Maybe that’s the crowd Maha was after.

Needless to say, Ward was an odd choice to precede early-2000s indie rock icons TV on the Radio, the band the other half of the crowd was there to see. By now Stinson was crowded, though the bowl was only half filled; the power lines leading to the side stage that cuts the park in half acted as a pseudo barrier. It was crush full on the other side of that line and pretty far back. The Maha folks had to be pleased.

TV on the Radio performs at the 2018 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 17, 2018.

What can I say about TV on the Radio’s set? I’ve never been a fan, and don’t know much beyond 2008’s Dear Science, which stands as a landmark album from that era. I recognized “Golden Age” from that album, but few others. They sounded strong and tight, as if they released that album last year. I didn’t hang around for the full set, though I’m told they played “Staring at the Sun” for an encore.

Day 2

The Dilla Kids had the inauspicious honor of opening Day 2 at 12:30 to what appeared to be about 50 people. The ensemble totaled 11 on the big stage including a graffiti artist who would hang out through a good part of the afternoon.

The Dilla Kids kicked off Day 2 of the 2018 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 18, 2018.

I’ve never seen these folks before and was very impressed with the band — every aspect but especially the rhythm section. Top-notch beats that would not stop. Fronting them were MCs Marcey Yates and Xoboi, who were all about getting the party started at lunch time, rapping about “Wings and Thighs.”

Did I mention it was humid as hell? Just as miserable as you’d expect in mid-August.

David Nance Band performs at the 2018 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 18, 2018.

David Nance Band got the day going on the side stage. Playing as a four-piece with guitarist Jim Schroeder, bassist Noah Sterba and drummer Kevin Donahue, they ripped into a guitar-fueled set of songs, many I assume from the band’s upcoming Trouble in Mind debut due Oct. 5.

Among my faves was a song presumably called “Kingdom of Shit” and the roarin’ first single, “Poison.” Nance and Schroeder played off each other throughout, challenging themselves to a feedback contest. The new stuff has a Neil Young / Crazy Horse vibe, with jams you’d love to have gone on for 20 minutes or more. He ended the set with a dirge, which is a no-no for any festival (He would have killed them if he’d closed with “Negative Boogie”).

U.S. Girls perform at the 2018 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 18, 2018.

Then came U.S. Girls. I was expecting something more electronic and dance-beat fueled like on their new album, In a Poem Unlimited. Instead, the band ripped into heavy guitar rock that morphed into dance-beat fabulousness spurred on by front woman Meghan Remy’s inviting coo.

The sound was slow, heavy and erotic, Remy out front and inviting, imploring the crowd of around 300 to dance instead of just standing there staring like lumps. The lead guitarist, dressed head-to-toe in red, looked like an extra from an episode of Starsky and Hutch but was friggin’ amazing. This was not your typical Maha moment, it was something completely different, and I don’t think the audience knew what to make of it. A highlight.

Next up was Mesonjixx at 3 p.m. In all years past, there have been some holes in my coverage of the Maha Music Festival, and this year would be no exception. One looks at the schedule and picks the spots when they’re going to go home to recover from the heat, or, in my case, go home and let the dogs out. This was my chance.

As a result, I missed Mesonjixx, who I’d seen just a few weeks ago at Slowdown, as well as Hop Along (who I intended to catch at O’Leaver’s Sunday night, but failed) and Ravyn Lenae.

Tune-Yards perform at the 2018 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 18, 2018.

I returned at 6:30 for Tune-Yards and am happy I did. This was my favorite set of the festival. Tune-Yards play as a trio fronted by super-talented Merrill Garbus standing on a platform with a battery of pedals at her command used to trigger a myriad of loops and samples. With bass player Nate Brenner on one side and a drummer on the other, she crushed a large-ish crowd with thick beat, high-rhythm art-rock songs as experimental and interesting as Eno-era anybody.

The band is enjoying some notoriety thanks to scoring the break-out film Sorry to Bother You, but Tune-Yards already were well-known with the indie set, having plenty of airplay on national streaming indie stations and Sirius XMU. Her song “Gangsta” somehow gets sneaked into every cable program, and single “Water Fountain” has been used in a number of commercials.

The rhythms were pounding, and god help me, some people were actually dancing.

The Kills perform at the 2018 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 18, 2018.

It was a hard act to follow but The Kills did the best they could from the side stage. A band this big, I was surprised to see them relegated to the small side, but it didn’t tamp down their energy.

As you’d expect from a festival, the fans got a greatest hits set that included “List of Demands (Reparations),” which is the only Kills song I can pick in a line-up.

(Festival sets are kind of like listening to a band’s Greatest Hits album. Everything is out of context and placed in an unfamiliar order and as a result, looses a bit of whatever it was that made the music stick in the first place.)

Father John Misty performs at the 2018 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 18, 2018.

By the time Father John Misty started at 9 the audience had arrived. The whole park was filled and the bowl was a crush mob. The Omaha World-Herald reported the attendance was “almost 8,000” (by comparison, the 2015 Maha with Modest Mouse was officially sold out, whatever that means, so which had a bigger audience?). Let me put it this way: It was a shit-ton of people.

I expected a sleepy set from FJM a.k.a. Josh Tillman and got anything but. He came out dressed to the nines and ripped though a greatest hits set of his own backed by an incredible band. I never realized how many good songs FJM has, from “Nancy From Now On” to “Real Love Baby” to the current hit, “Mr. Tillman.”

His stage shtick is looking debonair and reserving his smooth dance moves for just the right moments. He has one of those voices that is unmistakable and bound to be a touchstone to this era, at times reminding me of Elton John.

I expected some snappy patter but he only got in one zinger from stage, paraphrasing, “I want to dedicate this song to all the sad-looking Weezer fans up front. Hang in there, guys. It’s almost over.”

From there he kicked into a wicked version of “Pure Comedy,” a song whose message I’m sure went well over their heads. He closed with “I Love You, Honeybear” — the set seemed to fly by.

Weezer performs at the 2018 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 18, 2018.

Then came Weezer. I only stuck around for the first four or five songs. Weezer sounded great. Just like Weezer. And the crowd loved it.

Which brings us back to the line-up. Look, I don’t know where Maha hopes to go from here. It’s hard to imagine them bringing in a more commercial band than Weezer and still maintain some sort of indie-rock connection. You could say they stepped away from that years ago, or were never really concerned about it (Let’s face it, Garbage is hardly a cutting-edge indie band).

Maha will never have my dream line-up because my dream line-up would probably sell a total of 300 tickets. That’s not what it’s about. Maha is about bringing community together around music. You can’t do that without having a radio-friendly legacy act at the top of the bill. And if you can slip in a U.S. Girls or Tune-Yards or David Nance along the way, well then, you’ve succeeded. And they have. Here’s to the next 10 years…

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NYC band Cults headlines tonight at The Waiting Room. In addition to Columbia, the band’s music is released on Lilly Allen’s In the Name Of label. Dreamy synth rock in the vein of early M83. The Shacks (Big Crown Records) opens at 8 p.m. %15.

Also tonight Metric opens for Smashing Pumpkins at CenturyLink Center. 7 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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Closeness, Net; Those Far Out Arrows at Petfest…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:43 pm August 13, 2018

Closeness at Slowdown Jr., Aug. 10, 2018.

by Tim McMahan,

I’ve seen Closeness a few times at O’Leaver’s and have always been moved/impressed with their music, but last Friday night’s show at Slowdown Jr. was next-level in its drive and intensity and overall sound; best set I’ve seen/heard from this duo.

Todd and Orenda Fink set up in their usual face-to-face format aglow in floor floods and LEDs, looking like a couple Amish goth hipsters in their Recapitate headgear (I need to get one of those, sans big-round brim). There’s always a deep density to their sound but Friday’s set felt, well, denser, and had a better flow, enhanced by two new songs (or at least a couple numbers that aren’t on their EP) that were dramatic and dancible, breaking up the monotony of their usual mid-tempo onslaught.

I may be imagining this, but it seems as if Todd is taking more of a lead on the vocals these days, and if there’s a quibble it’s in the overuse of vocoder/digital effects (It was funny hearing him ask for less drums in the monitors in robot voice). Todd has a damn fine voice when it’s unincumbered by techology. But maybe Orenda is supposed to be the “human” to his “robot” on these futuristic duets?

With two new songs, you have to wonder if there’s a new release on the horizon for Closesness. But at the pace in which Todd writes, it could be awhile until we get something in hand, especially if The Faint are also back at it again (They’re slated to play at Cloak & Dagger Fest in LA Nov. 10).

Net at Slowdown Jr., Aug. 10, 2018.

Opening act Oklahoma City’s NET played a strong set of post-rock songs that reminded me of early Devo without their quirk. Fast, spazzy, stacatto rock augmented with synths, they fancy themselves an electronic act, but the guitars dominated from where I was standing. Too often the synths sounded like they were filling in gaps, adding to the clutter rather than enhancing the sound. Because of that, they felt stuck between being an electronic act and a prog-punk band.

Good crowd, though disappointing in size (around 60?).

Those Far Out Arrows at Petfest, Aug. 11, 2018.

Saturday’s Petfest crowd was small but mighty as well, at least when I was there around 7 p.m. to see Those Far Out Arrows play a bad-ass set behind the Petshop in the parking lot.

Bed Rest at Petfest, Aug. 11, 2018.

This is a fun to see a small fest, with a vibe that’s a cross between a SXSW day show and 1968 minus the LSD — laid-back people hanging out with beers behind an orange cyclone fence while some guy sprayed graffiti across the way. Bands played alternating sets inside the Petshop garage, including a roaring Bed Rest, who impressed me with their post-punk bordering on emo rock.

TFOA’s set consisted almost entirely of new songs from their soon-to-be-released High Dive Records debut that is bound to make your best-of-2018 list. I can’t wait to see what happens after these guys hit the road…

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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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Cursive expands, new LP Vitriola Oct. 5 on 15 Passenger; Campdogzz In Rounds reviewed; Melvins tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:58 pm August 8, 2018

Cursive’s next album, Vitriola, comes out Oct. 5 on 15 Passenger.

by Tim McMahan,

The last line of the press release announcing Cursive’s first new album in six years reads:

Cursive is: Tim Kasher (vocals/guitar), Ted Stevens (guitar/vocals), Matt Maginn (bass), Clint Schnase (drums), and Patrick Newbery (keys), with Megan Siebe on cello.

The two surprises here are Schnase and Siebe. Schnase, as all old-time Cursive fans know, is the band’s original drummer and an absolute beast on a kit. It’s good to have him back. But apparently he’ll only be heard on the record, as Ladyfinger drummer (and exceptional print maker) Pat Oakes will be the band’s touring drummer when they hit the road for a month starting Oct. 18. That tour ends with a show at The Waiting Room Nov. 18 with label mates Campdogzz.

(I wonder if Cursive could be the “secret” of the just-announced “secret show” at O’Leaver’s Aug. 19?)

Megan Siebe is a fixture of the Omaha music scene having performed with a number of acts including Simon Joyner’s Ghosts, Anniversaire and live with Cursive (Seems to me someone suggested back in 2013 that Siebe would be a great addition on their next album…)

Enough about personnel. The new album, Vitriola, was recorded at ARC with studio wizard Mike Mogis and drops Oct. 5. According to the press release:

(The album) finds the band struggling with existentialism veering towards nihilism and despair; the ways in which society, much like a writer, creates and destroys; and an oncoming dystopia that feels eerily near at hand.

Holy shit that sounds depressing. But no Cursive (or Good Life) album is ever a joyous walk through the daisies.

Check out the first single, “Life Savings,” below and pre-order at the 15 Passenger website.

While we’re talking about 15 Passenger, some thoughts on the new Campdogzz record, In Rounds. The 15P debut dropped last Friday..

The has a creamy, twangy sound mixed with throaty-beat indie rock; it can be quiet, it can be hard, and falls in the same mood-circle as Angel Olson or Big Thief or Mitski. Let’s face it, women-fronted acts are making the most interesting music in indie rock these days, they’re dominating the genre.

Campdogzz and frontwoman Jess Price can add their names to that rather long list. Price, a Tulsa native, has a weary, prairie-worn voice that sounds like a mix between Stevie Nicks, Bonnie Raitt and a bourbon hangover. There is a desolate nature to this collection of songs that reflect a strange longing and loneliness, with arrangements that in a heartbeat can veer from bending-in-the-wind lullaby to storm-bracing rock — quiet, ferocious, quiet.

Highlights include the torrid, pumping “On My Own,” crunchy rocker “Southern,” which sounds like classic Stevie Nicks, and smoldering hammer-beat track “Souvenir” with the lines “Did you want to get me gone / Did you want to get me / Well that train is going by.” Yikes.

Price’s lyrics are simpler and somewhat more obtuse than, say, Adrianne Lenker’s lyrics (of Big Thief), which are more intimate, personal, straight forward — you always know what Lenker’s singing about, whereas Price, not so much. On the other hand Campdogzz’s music is consistently more compelling and hook-filled than Big Thief’s static confessions (Exceptions, such as “Paul” and “Shark Smile,” are the exception rather than the rule). Regardless, the bands have more similarities than differences.

The Chicago act, which started as a duo with Price and Mike Russell and is now a five-piece, has been kicking around since before 2014. The fact that 15 Passenger lucked into them says a lot about the future of a label that’s built on a bedrock of Kasher-infused quality. How could it go wrong? * * *

They’re practically The Waiting Room’s house band — The Melvins — return to the bar tonight. WE Are the Asteroid opens at 8 p.m. $20.

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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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Beer Nebraska (Conny Franko, Icky Blossoms); Portugal, The Man, Sam Vicari tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , — @ 12:48 pm August 6, 2018

Conny Franko plays the crowd as DJ Kethro looks on last Saturday at Beer Nebraska at The Slowdown.

by Tim McMahan,

Pretty durn good turnout at Beer Nebraska Saturday night at The Slowdown considering that Chvrches was going on at the same time up in Benson.

I’m not a beer connoisseur but I know what I like, and for me, Zip Line’s Sticky Blossoms and First Street Brewery’s Freakastout got the gold medals in the Lazy-i Taste Test. Drinking five samples of local microbrews made for a different kind of listening experience than my usual Rolling Rock tallboys.

But what about the music? I caught sets by Mesonjixx, Freakabout, Conny Franko and Icky Blossoms.

Franko and DJ Kethro (who was terrific, playing tracks by Thundercat, Kids See Ghosts, Mayer Hawthorne, J Cole and Sade, among others) were the evening’s highlight. That said, as much as I like The Slowdown’s sound system, I couldn’t make out a word Franko rhymed, which is problematic when you’re talking about an art form that emphasizes words as much as beats. Still, you caught the vibe, and his a cappella reading that closed his short set was impactful.

Icky Blossoms at Beer Nebraska at The Slowdown, Aug. 4, 2018.

Icky Blossoms had their usual strong performance (with a few technical glitches early in the set). They play so infrequently that every time I see them I hear something different, though I’m still waiting anxiously for their next album (if one is even in the works).

Mesonjixx rhythm section is what floored me about their set, along with some tasty guitar solos. Their drummer slayed. As did the drummer for Freakabout.

Fun night and a fun crowd there to support Rabble Mill.

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Tonight Chicago singer/songwriter Sam Vicari headlines at Reverb Lounge. Magu and Win/Win open. $7, 8 p.m.

Also tonight, former indie starts Portugal, The Man headline at Stir Concert Cove. 8 p.m. show, tix are in the $40 range…

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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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.