Live Review: Umm, Oquoa; Charlie Burton, Muscle Cousins tonight; Leafblower, David Nance, Closeness, BIB Saturday…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:49 pm April 14, 2017

Umm at Reverb Lounge, April 13, 2017.

by Tim McMahan,

So now I get the name change. Umm, the new project by Stef Drootin and Chris Sensensey, sounds nothing like their other band, Big Harp. There was nary a twang to be had when the duo rolled out a set of new material last night at Reverb Lounge.

In fact, everything was different — the rock style, the blistering pace, the guitar/bass tones, even Senseney’s voice — now cool and easy — was a big contrast to the grave-pit vocals heard on Big Harp albums.

Whenever I listen to female/male husband/wife duos, I subconsciously compare them to other duos where the vocals are shared or harmonized between a male and female. Top of list is usually Yo La Tengo, Low, Sonic Youth, White Stripes and, of course, Fleetwood Mac, Sonny & Cher… okay, maybe I’m going too far back into the archives. The act that came to mind last night was someone no one likes but me — a vintage husband-wife duo that recorded on I.R.S. called Timbuk3, a one-hit wonder whose fantastic catalog was virtually ignored because of that hit song — which should be a warning to any band dying for a break-through single. Sometimes a the hit can ruin your career.

Anyway, the Timbuk3 comparison is purely on the periphery of what Umm is doing, and based solely on how Stef and Chris harmonize. Stef said those harmonies are the result of an Everly Bros. fetish. Whatever the inspiration, the end result was gorgeous, and provided the perfect counter-point to the duo’s fast, heavy but tuneful indie rock.

Played over laptop beats, each instrument shared the leads throughout the set. Whereas Senseney is one of the best guitarists I’ve ever heard shred a solo, Drootin’s bass work was just as prominent and oftentimes more brutal, providing a fuzz tone that peeled paint off Reverb’s rafters. There was one tune in the middle of the set where the duo shared an intricately played musical phrase as if performing a high-stakes trapeze act without a net. It was laugh-out-loud holy-shit good.

Underscoring the entire performance was the songwriting. These are some of the best pop songs I’ve heard in awhile, songs you immediately want to listen to again. I’m told the duo already recorded an album’s worth of music at ARC. This was only their fifth live performance, and it was red hot. Do I like this better than Big Harp? Yes, because in general I’m tired of twangy, rootsy, indie folk music, something Big Harp did as well as anyone. And while you could listen to Big Harp and respect it for what it was, Umm’s music and songs are something I’d reach for again and again.

Oquoa at Reverb Lounge, April 13, 2017.

BareBear, the new Rob Walters project, opened the night, but I missed it. Oquoa followed with one of their better sets. Keyboardist Patrick Newbery now dominates the solos even more so than frontman Max Holmquist’s guitar. Newbery’s synthwork is multi-layered and varies throughout like nothing heard before. Holmquist’s vocals are at times nearly operatic in tone… and enunciation — i.e., I sometimes wondered in what language he was singing.

Oquoa’s style has morphed into a psychedelic, shoe-gaze sound reminiscent of drummer Roger Lewis’ old band, Conduits. The four-piece isn’t afraid to take their music to space, pulling off repeated riffs and soundscapes that are nothing less than trippy.

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It’s a moderately busy weekend of shows coming up…

Omaha/Lincoln legend Charlie Burton is playing tonight and tomorrow night at Growler USA, 16274 Evans Plaza in West O. Burton’s latest combo is called Charlie Burton and Or What! The last time I interviewed Charlie was way back in 1998 when he called his act The Texas Twelve Steppers (read the article here). I suspect old fans will be flocking to this show. It starts at 9 p.m. and is free both nights. I recommend getting there early if you want a seat. The venue draws a crowd even without music, thanks to its massive beer selection.

Also tonight Muscle Cousins headlines at Reverb Lounge. It’s a new project founded by siblings Andy, Mari and Collin Matz. The Matz kids have been playing music in Omaha for years in bands like Capgun Coup, Manic Pixie Dream Girls and Saturn Moth. Opening is the epic-ly named Boner Killerz and psych-folk-rockers Those Far Out Arrows. $7, 9 p.m.

Tomorrow night’s big gig is the Leafblower EP release show at The Brothers Lounge (which I told you about here). Check it out at Bandcamp. Opening is JAZID and folk-psych-superstar David Nance. $5, 9 p.m.

Also tomorrow night, there’s a special dance performance by the tbd. dance collective at Kaneko downtown. “As a part of KANEKO’S ‘Passion & Obsession: From the Collection’ exhibition, tbd. dance collective will create an original performance exploring the idea of movement as an intangible collection, able to be viewed, but only truly stored in the mind.” Closeness, the new project by Orenda and Todd Fink, also perform. Tickets are $10, show starts at 8 p.m.

It’s a night of hardcore at the new Milk Run, 2578 Harney St. Headlining is KC band Blindside USA. Joining them is red-hot noise rock act BIB, Jocko, Jade Lacy and Daphne Calhoun. No price listed but you know it’s got to be at least $7, right? Show starts at 9. Remember, enter through the back door.

Finally, indie band Low Long Signal is playing Saturday night at fabulous O’Leaver’s. They’re opening for headliner The Ramparts. Human Teeth Parade also is on the bill. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Whipkey at Growler USA; Dude York, Paws, Uh Oh tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:49 pm April 3, 2017

Matt Whipkey and his band at Growler USA, April 1, 2017.

by Tim McMahan,

First and foremost Growler USA (the joint I wrote about that’s introducing original local music to the great unwashed masses in way West Omaha) is more bar than restaurant than music venue.

Beyond the name, just take a look at the back wall and the enormous line of beer taps and it’s pretty obvious you’ve stepped into a place designed for drinking. Behind that wall is a kitchen, which serves run-of-the-mill bar food. Finally, tucked in the front corner of the room is triangle-shaped stage surrounded by curtains with a couple over-head PA speakers and digital lighting.

For some reason I thought the place would be bigger, with a real stage, but Growler USA is actually quite small, right in line with the 120 capacity reported last week, and designed like any other new-construction West Omaha building — single level open room with windows on one side, nuthin’ fancy.

The wall o’ taps at Growler USA.

One could argue the novelty of having 100 beers on tap would be enough to keep the place filled. In fact, when I arrived at 8:30, there was nary a table to be had. Owner Brent Malnack found us a spot about 10 minutes later while I enjoyed a delicious Millstream Peach Fuzz (no Rolling Rock for me). Burgers and sliders (and tots) were quickly ordered and served. The Matt Whipkey band took the corner stage right around 9 p.m. Matt told me they weren’t going to hold back, and the room held up well to their rock ‘n’ roll onslaught, though the PA sounded overblown toward the end of the set.

That said, I can now see why Malnack was discouraging metal acts last week. The room looks better suited for quieter acoustic combos. So did the crowd, which consisted mostly of gray-templed middle-aged couples out having a beer, many of whom were as focused on the North Carolina v. Oregon game as Whipkey and Co. in the corner.

I have no doubt that Growler USA will be a smashing success with or without live music. That Malnack wants to provide a stage for original bands when clearly he doesn’t need to is a credit to someone who’s been involved in local music since the ’80s with his band Modern Day Scenics. That said, West Omaha still needs a real music venue.

Back to Whipkey… I haven’t seen him and his band in a year or so. They’re still cranking out the Americana, but two songs played Saturday night were as heavy as anything heard ’round town. The rhythm section of Travis Sing on bass and Scott “Zip” Zimmerman on drums is first class (Travis was particularly tight, while Zip seemed restrained, especially compared to his Ocean Black onslaught). I could barely hear second guitarist Korey Anderson over Whipkey’s own guitar, which was guttural, especially on his grinding solos. Give me the heavy stuff, Matt.

* * *

Tonight Seattle band Dude York (Hardly Art Records) headlines a show at Slowdown Jr. that includes Glasgow indie band Paws (FatCat) and our very own Uh Oh. $10, 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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Conor Oberst; Closeness, High Up tonight; Sam Locke Ward, Simon Joyner, Growlers Saturday; Cold War Kids Sunday…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:50 pm March 10, 2017

Conor Oberst at The Waiting Room, March 9, 2017.

by Tim McMahan,

Conor Oberst was the main event of last night’s Waiting Room 10th Anniversary bash.

Oberst, with his wacky wild man, just-rolled-out-of-bed hairdo, took the stage at 9:30 and kicked through about 75 minutes of folk rock backed by The Felice Brothers. The set consisted mostly of songs off his new album Salutations, which to me, sounds like a soft-rock combination of Blood on the Tracks-era Dylan and Leonard Cohen. Conor’s lyrics have never been sharper, though his melodies have lost their edge, especially when laid beside older material like “Poison Oak” and “Cape Canaveral.”

That said, Salutations takes the stripped-down material from Ruminations and thoughtfully beefs it up to create his best album since his 2008 eponymous release. Last night’s set was heavily weighted with the new stuff — this definitely will not be a greatest hits tour.

From my vantage point, Oberst approached the performance with workmanlike precision, fueled by a well-oiled Felice machine. It left me wistfully dreaming about Bright Eyes shows gone by, where Oberst was a lit fuse ready to either explode or fizzle out on stage. Kevin Coffey of the Omaha World-Herald reported (second hand) that he did blow up on stage. I guess I missed it.

In fact, I was expecting (hoping for) some political diatribe between songs, but no. Maybe Conor let off on the anti-Trump rhetoric because it was the Waiting Room’s birthday, which he referenced numerous times throughout the night.

Oberst closed with a three-song encore that included a angst-fueled solo piano tune I didn’t recognize that was among the best songs of the night, and a scorching version of “Napalm” with the brothers Felice from the new album, a real Live Rust moment.

It was one of the most packed nights I can remember at The Waiting Room, a real crush mob, with more than a few lit patrons, one assumes from enjoying the pre-party over at Reverb before the show (which, sadly, I missed).

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After the past few weekends with little to do, this weekend is chock full o’ shows.

It starts off tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s where Closeness celebrates the release of their new EP, Personality Therapy, out today on Graveface. This is sort of a warm-up show as the duo of Orenda and Todd Fink get ready head to Austin for SXSW. Joining them tonight is the mighty High Up (Orenda’s pulling double duty!) and the provocatively named new act BareBear.  $10, 7 p.m.

Also tonight, dark wave leather-fetish dance sensation Plack Blague headlines at Reverb Lounge with Cult Play and Solid Goldberg. $6, 9 p.m.

Satchel Grande and Carson City Heat also take The Waiting Room stage tonight. 9 p.m., $8.

Saturday night Almost Music is hosting Sam Locke Ward with Simon Joyner and the return of L. Eugene (Methe) Group. $5, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, over at O’Leaver’s, Sean Pratt headlines with Landon Hedges (of Little Brazil, Desaparecidos, Wrong Pets and Fine, Fine Automobiles). $5, 9:30 p.m.  This show has been CANCELLED.

Also Saturday night, The Growlers return to The Waiting Room. $15, 9 p.m.

El Ten Eleven returns to The Slowdown Saturday night with Mylets and Fontenelle. $12, 8 p.m.

Then Sunday night Long Beach indie rockers Cold War Kids headline at Sokol Auditorium. Middle Kids open the 8 p.m. show. $26.

Also Sunday night, Vancouver art rock band Bad Pop headlines at Reverb Lounge. Relax, It’s Science and Low Long Signal open. $7, 8 p.m.

And that’s all I got. If I missed your show, put it on 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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Landlady, Thick Paint; Milk Run moving locations…

Category: Column,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:45 pm February 13, 2017

Landlady at O’Leaver’s, Feb. 10, 2017.

by Tim McMahan,

Friday night’s Landlady show will likely go down as my first top-5 music moment of 2017. Fronted by Adam Schatz a.k.a. Brown Sugar of the band Man Man, the five-piece played a striking set of proggy indie rock that recalled Schatz’s other band and, for me any ways, acts like Les Savy Fav and Head of Femur. Landlady’s sound is inventive without being disjointed, melodic but sonically adventurous. And there’s nothing quite like Schatz’ voice, a high, cooing nasal delivery that bounces and jumps along with the acidic, almost afrobeat-style rhythms.

Drummer Ian Chang is one of the best stickmen I’ve seen under O’Leaver’s record collection, a marvel of poly-rhythms, he kept the sound boiling as Schatz and company rifled through a set of tunes off the bands’ last couple of albums. Highlights were a raging version of standout tracks “Electric Abdomen” and “Driving in California,” both off stellar new album The World Is a Loud Place (Hometapes, 2017).

At set’s end, Schatz brought up a small horn section, who stayed for the epic closer, a 10-plus-minute performance of “Above My Ground” where-in Schatz climbed above the crowd, leading them in a chorus of “Always, always, always…” that built to a climatic release. Well, you can see and hear for yourself in the following clip recorded from my phone for Facebook Live.

I’m told this was one of first times that opening act Thick Paint has performed as a full-blown band. Joining Graham Patrick Ulicny was a second guitarist, Icky Blossoms’ Sarah Boehling on bass, and two drummers.

Thick Paint at O’Leaver’s, Feb. 10, 2017.

The product was proggy goodness reminiscent of early Talking Heads. Like Schatz, Ulicny has a unique, high-end voice like no one else around here. The only set-back was that the band only played four songs because they’re so new together. We all want more, Mr. Ulicny.

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More about the above video: I am, again, pleasantly surprised at the audio quality one can capture from a handheld iPhone 7. I figured the mics would be blown out, but this doesn’t sound bad at all.

I had someone tell me I should do these iPhone recordings at every show. I don’t for a number of reasons, the first being it’s probably illegal, at least without the band’s permission. Second is that it’s got to be rather annoying for the band to see some guy holding a camera while they’re playing. And third, I’d rather just enjoy the music. Still, if I can sneak one song onto Facebook Live by bands that I know won’t mind, I will. Follow me at

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Arbor Labor Union at Milk Run May 28, 2016.

Word went out over the weekend that Milk Run is leaving its current location at 1907 Leavenworth. In fact, this weekend’s shows were the last at that specific venue, which hosted its first show Nov. 6, 2015.

Sam Parker, one of the founders of Milk Run, confirmed the rumor, saying the all-ages performance space will move to a new location with cheaper rent.

“It’ll be before the end of of the month. Possibly as early as this week,” Parker said. “It’ll be in the midtown area.”

Tried as I might, I could not pry the new location out of Parker. He said the owners will make an announcement this week “when they’re ready.” He did say the new space will be “roughly the same size” as the old Milk Run space. He also said expect the same sort of progressive, indie-flavored bookings.

Milk Run is one of the few places in town that consistently books out-of-town indie, post-punk and progressive bands. I was hoping the new place would be a tad larger than the crackerbox space on Leavenworth. We shall see soon enough…

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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: 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?

* * *

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…

* * *

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.