Live Review: Son, Ambulance, Lodgings, Dirt House at O’Leavers…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:46 pm December 4, 2017

Son, Ambulance at O’Leaver’s, Dec. 2, 2017.

by Tim McMahan,

Oh. My. God. I finally made it to a show.

Saturday night’s show at O’Leaver’s is the first rock show I’ve gone to since Zola Jesus way back on Oct. 11 — easily the longest stretch I’ve had between shows since sometime in the ’90s probably.

I actually intended to go to two shows this past weekend. I walked down to The Waiting Room Friday night to see Whitney/NE-HI after our art show ended at The Little Gallery (and after checking out the new B-Side, which is very nice indeed) only to find that it was sold out. I was disappointed yet happy for the the sell out — people really do still love going to indie rock shows.

Saturday night was the return of Son, Ambulance to O’Leaver’s. The band seems to re-emerge on a stage somewhere every six months or so with a slightly different line-up. Backing frontman singer/songwriter Joe Knapp this time were a couple horns, pedal steel, drums, Dereck Higgins on bass and instead of a second guitar someone playing sitar.

I was stationed at my usual spot, peeking through the glassless window panes by the bathrooms, which placed me right next to the aforementioned sitar. It sounded not so much like the traditional instrument we all know from Ravi Shankar, but more like a plucked-out high-end bass line. At times, distracting, but didn’t cover up the rest of the band, which was, for the most part, pretty solid.

Son, Ambulance played three old ones (including set staple “Paper Snowflakes”) and three new ones, the best of which was set-closer “Fuck Trump,” a rocker that wasn’t so much a call-and-response anthem as much as a song about living in the here and now, punctuated by the title lyrics.

Knapp says expect to hear a lot more from Son, Ambulance in 2018. With such a huge back catalog of songs, they’re among the few local bands I’d go see once a month.

Lodgings at O’Leaver’s, Dec. 2, 2017.

Lodgings is an act I’ve somehow managed to miss over the years, which turns out to be a huge bummer because they play a style of music I love — a laid-back, slacker rock that’s part Pavement part Pixies part Grifters, essential ’90s indie, often slow, sometimes quiet but also bold and loud.

So packed was O’Leaver’s that I ended up standing behind the amps so I couldn’t hear frontman Bryce Hotz terribly well, though the rest of the band came in loud and clear, including cellist/keyboardist Megan Siebe and guitarist Jim Schroeder (bassist Michael Laughlin and drummer Eric Ernst round out the combo).

The set drove me to seek out the band’s recordings on Spotify; and as a result, I spent a good part of the balance of the weekend listening to last year’s eponymous release and their more recent 6-song EP Daisies, which, had I found it earlier, would have been included in my local faves for 2017.

Dirt House at O’Leaver’s Dec. 2, 2017.

Last up was Dirt House, the new band from Annie Dilocker, who has surrounded herself with some of the best musicians in Omaha. Joining Amy Carey on violin is a rhythm section consisting of drummer Roger Lewis and bass player Miwi La Lupa. It doesn’t get more solid than that.

Dilocker is a long-time music scene veteran who’s been involved in a number of projects including Sweet Pea, Hubble, and for a brief time, Digital Leather. Her piano-driven songs are reminiscent of Regina Spektor or Sarah Bareilles though her melodies aren’t as varied. Dilocker’s vocals at times got lost in the mix. I wanted her to really belt it out — a necessity when backed by such a strong band. Considering her piano skills and her melodies, I wonder how her songs would fare without a backing band.

No doubt Dirt House is beginning to capture a fan base (the audience for Dirt House looked different than the one for Son, Ambulance) and the band’s Facebook page says they’ll be recording by the end of the year. More to come.

* * *

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.


Happy Anniversary 1% Productions; Live Review: Lung, Crybaby; Deer Tick tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:48 pm October 25, 2017

Marc Leibowitz, left, and Jim Johnson outside Sokol Underground circa 2003.

by Tim McMahan,

First, happy anniversary to 1% Productions. Yesterday the production company headed by Marc Leibowitz and Jim Johnson acknowledged its 20th anniversary on Facebook. The date came in under the radar and surprised some folks (I believe Guided By Voices was originally going to mark the occasion, but that show got cancelled).

Want to read about the origins of 1% Productions? Here’s a rather longish cover story about Marc & Jim and the company’s origins way back in July 2003. The photo on top of today’s post came from the article. They haven’t aged a day (heh-heh).

A lot has happened at 1% in 20 years, and some of it it was covered in a story about The Waiting Room’s 10-year anniversary that ran in The Reader this past summer. You can read that one here. As I said in that article’s lede:

Working under the moniker One Percent Productions, Marc Leibowitz and Jim Johnson have booked the best indie shows in Omaha for more than 20 years. Remember that amazing Arcade Fire show in November 2004? It was a One Percent Production. Or that time when Sufjan Stevens played at Sokol Underground with his cheerleader orchestra during his Illinois Tour in September 2005? A One Percent Production. How about when Interpol played at Sokol Underground during a blizzard in January 2005? Again, a One Percent Production.

Those and thousands more shows earned Johnson and Leibowitz the reputation as the best indie rock bookers in the area, playing a pivotal role in exposing an entire generation of future Omaha musicians to the music that would influence their careers.

Happy anniversary, dudes.

* * *

Lung at O’Leaver’s Oct. 20, 2017.

Last Friday night I meandered to fabulous O’Leaver’s for a set by Lung, the cello-and-drum duo of Kate Wakefield and Daisy Caplan. I’m always amazed by how rock music sounds performed on electric cello — it has the same drama, the same intensity as electric guitar, and certainly that was the case when these two performed.

They reminded me of another cello-fueled show at O’Leaver’s about 14 years ago. The band was Matson Jones, a string combo with a couple cellos who played a similar style of indie rock, though Matson Jones’ vocals were raw and distorted, a sharp contrast to Wakefield’s bright alto that cut through the cello’s dense thrumming and Caplan’s bombast.

Crybaby at O’Leaver’s, Oct. 20, 2017.

Opening was a newcomer (to me, anyway) Crybaby, a.k.a. Amanda, the drummer from sludgecore band Bonghammer. She had a gorgeous voice singing on Liz Phair-style indie tunes played with an electric guitar connected to a repeater pedal. The compositions were simple, her lyrics were honest and matter-of-fact — sweet, broken-hearted confessions, lovely and downcast, and she knew it, jokingly apologizing throughout her short set for her sad songs.

* * *

Tonight is that Deer Tick show I wrote about on Monday (read the 10 Qs with John McCauley). Opening at 8 p.m. is musician/comedian Chris Crofton. $23.

* * *

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: Zola Jesus; Whispertown, High Up, Mudd Club, Lovely, Still tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:31 pm October 12, 2017

Zola Jesus at The Waiting Room, Oct. 11, 2017.

by Tim McMahan,

A very sparse crowd last night for Zola Jesus at The Waiting Room; which wasn’t surprising. I remember seeing her five years ago at SXSW with a friend (who also was at last night’s show). The SXSW show was packed — shoulder to shoulder. I remember my friend saying Zola Jesus would have a hard time drawing in Omaha, and he was right… five years later.

I got there just in time to see/hear the last 15 minutes of one of the openers, John Wiese. The act was basically this guy sitting in the dark on stage plugging away at a computer that made loud static noises, layered tones and other dramatic sound effects. Some folks said it sounded like the soundtrack to a horror movie. I thought it sounded like someone working on his car. I wanted to yell, “OK, try it again…

Zola Jesus came on at around 9:15. A trio, frontwoman Rosa Danilova was flanked by a guitarist and violinist. No drums, no bass. All of that was handled by programming and pre-recorded tracks, which I assumed were controlled from the sound board.

When I saw Zola Jesus five years ago, the music was entirely ethereal, ambient compositions, very drone-y. By contrast, last night could have been a dance party — dark, pop songs driven by big beats, thick bass and Danilova’s amazing voice that (to me) recalls early Sinead O’Connor. The set was broken up by gorgeous slower numbers, like album highlight “Witness,” which Danilova said was about suicide. Actually, her new album, Okovi (2017, Sacred Bones) dwells on death, though you wouldn’t know it by the beats.

Five years ago I thought Danilova could become the next Gaga. Now I’m thinking she could be a better, more human version of St. Vincent, sans guitar of course. I guess we’ll see in another five years.

* * *

Tonight there’s a slew of events, some of which don’t have a live music component.

Film Streams, for example, is showing a special memorial screening of Nik Fackler’s feature motion picture, Lovely, Still, in honor of Martin Landau, who passed away a few months ago. The program starts at 7 p.m.

Also this evening author Richard Boch, the doorman at the legendary Mudd Club in the early ’80s, is doing a Q&A with our very own Scott Severin, who was a Mudd Club kid back in the day. You’ll be hearing lots of stories about NYC debauchery in a time when kings like Bowie and Lou Reed ruled the Lower East Side. The event is being held at Hi-Fi House and is free and open to the public. Starts at 8 p.m.

And after all this, there’s a great show at fabulous O’Leaver’s tonight. Indie band Whispertown plays with High Up. $7, 9 p.m.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Tears of Silver; Leggy, Those Far Out Arrows tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:48 pm October 3, 2017

Tears of Silver at Hi-Fi House, Oct. 2, 2017.

by Tim McMahan,

Going to Hi-Fi House is like going to a music church, a place where people seem to worship music as much as enjoy it. Everyone speaks in whispers for fear of annoying someone who is listening to whatever’s being played on the “big stereo.” In the case of the music being played before last night’s Tears of Silver show, the music was a grating art jazz album that sounded like 30 minutes of noodling. But the folks at Hi-Fi want to build an appreciation for jazz among the rock ’n’ roll masses. Instead, the bonk-bleep noise likely irritated an already frayed audience that had spent the day getting updates on the Las Vegas massacre and the dead/not dead status of Tom Petty.

So we all sat and politely listened to whatever awful jazz record someone had selected, quietly seated in the house’s long couches and ’70s-era padded chairs, no one talking above a hush. Finally, at about a quarter past 8, Tears of Silver came into room, which was set up perfectly for this sort of concert. The band is a four piece — three guitars and keyboards — and no drums. I don’t know how it would have worked with a drum set considering the room’s nearly silent acoustics.

Fronted by Posies’ Ken Stringfellow and Mercury Rev’s Jonathan Donahue, the band played a set that included covers of songs by Neil Young, Flaming Lips and Al Kooper, as well as songs by the members’ respective bands: Posies, Mercury Rev and Midlake, closing the night with a Big Star cover. In fact, everything they sang sounded like a Big Star version of whatever they were covering — slow, soothing, very dreamy. Stringfellow and Donahue  continue to sport strong, gorgeous voices. Local vocalist Molly Welsh joined the band for a few songs, including two Stringfellow tunes from an “opera” he’s penned.

My personal highlight was hearing their cover of Pavement’s “Here,” which took on a mournful, melancholy air, certainly different than the slacker anthem Pavement fans are familiar with.

The room was at full capacity as in every seat was taken and a few members of the mostly older crowd sat on the floor. Hi-Fi House it’s a good venue for this kind of sit-down, focused performance; it was almost like being at a recital… or in a church.

* * *

I’m gonna miss Tom Petty. He’s one of those guys whose music felt like is always existed, and who I thought would always be around. It’ll be strange not having him in this world. Everyone’s talking about their favorite Petty album, mine is the overlooked Southern Accents album, certainly it’s the one I listened to most, having bought it on cassette the day it came out way back in 1985…

* * *

Cincinnati power trio Leggy plays tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s. They’re a self-described “feminist trio who speak openly about consent, self-worth, sexuality and female empowerment.” They also rock like Hole meets L7 meets X.  Opening is dreamy Chicago clap-snap-pop band Varsity (think upbeat early Liz Phair). Our very own No Thanks starts it off at 9 p.m. $5.

Also tonight, Those Far Out Arrows returns to The Sydney in Benson. They’re headlining a show with a couple Kansas City garage bands bands — Arc Flash (actually, they’re from Lawrence but they’re on High Dive Records) and Drugs & Attics (Creep It Real Records). $5, 9 p.m.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Farnam Fest, Sextile; BIB, Man Hands, Rusty Lord tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:33 pm September 18, 2017

Sextile at Blackstone Meatball, Sept. 18, 2017.

by Tim McMahan,

Despite the weather, Farnam Fest went on as planned, with some slight modifications. It was spitting when I arrived around 6-ish, just in time to hear Icky Blossoms play a long, scorching set that featured Graham Ulicny of The Faint, Reptar, Thick Paint on bass.

Farnam Fest was set up in the parking area behind businesses along Farnam St., specifically behind Mula, Scriptown, etc. Food vendors/trucks are parked along 40th St. It’s a good set-up, with lots of beer tents, which were useful when the rain got worse.

I left after Icky Blossoms, but was told by organizer Sam Parker that only Shannan & the Clams’ set was cut short by 10 minutes due to lightning. Headliner Tennis’ set was moved to Blackstone Meatball.

Icky Blossoms at Farnam Fest, Sept. 16, 2017.

I returned to Meatball just in time to catch the tail end of Sextile’s set — a raging electronic No Wave sound barrage, chaotic and fierce. They reminded me of the very early days of The Faint.

The band was set up along the back wall, so when I entered via the back door I almost walked right into their performance. It felt and looked like an in-store.

Meatball is by no means a formal music venue, nor was it designed to be. Still, I’d rather see a band at Meatball (or a regular music venue) than at the old Milk Run concrete basement/dungeon (or its original cracker-box location on Leavenworth). That said, what formal venue is willing to take a chance booking a band like Sextile (or recently, Adult Mom, who also played at Milk Run)? Lately, the answer has been none, which is why we still need these DIY spaces, else we’re going to miss out on a lot of emerging talent that the larger venues are unwilling to take a chance on.

* * *

The Brothers lounge is hosting another big punk show tonight, headlined by local mover/shaker BIB. Phoenix band Man Hands also is on the bill. The band lists as influences Devo, Chrome, The Intelligence, Nirvana, Jay Reatard, Lenguas Largas, Digital Leather, Wire, Gary Numan and Blondie, among others. Their “about” statement in Facebook: “We like the pole and the hole.” Take it for what it’s worth. Opening is Omaha metal dudes Rusty Lord. This also will be an anniversary of a sorts for Trey and Lallaya… $5, 9 p.m.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review Beck at Stir Cove; X, Spoon, Twin Peaks, Jay Som tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:54 pm September 11, 2017

Beck at Stir Cove, Sept. 9, 2017.

by Tim McMahan,

This is as much a review of Stir Cove as it is Saturday night’s Beck concert, though there’s plenty of Beck in this write-up. It’s actually a reaction to last week’s blog entry, wherein I asked for advice about attending my first Stir Cove concert after receiving a lot of warning about how much the venue and its “parking problem” suck.

Past horror stories about Stir were giving me anxiety about the show, and were the reason I’d never attended a Stir concert (along with the fact that Stir books mainly legacy, pop and country acts, which aren’t in my wheelhouse).

So, Saturday night came rolling around and we were off to Stir at 7 p.m., arriving at around 7:15. Prior to leaving, I’d studied a Google Earth map of Stir and the surrounding parking like a robber trying to case the joint for the quickest getaway. The two most common pieces of advice I’d been given: 1) Park on the Nebraska side of the river and walk or ride a bike over the Bob Kerrey Bridge, and 2) Park in the parking garage or use valet service.

I ignored both suggestions and instead parked in the second to last row of the surface parking. The plan: Leave during the last song, which, according to, would be “One Foot in the Grave,” which would lead into a reprise of “Where It’s At.” Beck has closed his sets with that combo all summer.

So we parked, and walked the massive half-full lot and entered the casino — the heavy door opening to reveal the smell of wet cigarettes and room deodorizer. We pushed through all the usual suspects: Big dudes in baggy cargo shorts and seed caps with their wives in colored print tops and bad hairdos, the elderly, the trailer park kids, all of them ready to Strike It Rich at the slots or tables.

In a VIP room off to the right a small, vacant-looking crowd of gamblers watched the Huskers lose —probably not the only losing they’d see that night.

We escaped out the back exit which led to the entrance to Stir Cove tucked behind the hotel. Getting in was easy, maybe because we were so early and the game was still going on. I bought a pair of $9 Blue Moons and we found a place to sit along the grassy ridge facing the stage while DJ Kethro — a.k.a. Keith Roger — spun sides to a small crowd up front. I figured since he was spinning at 7 the show probably would start at 8. Wrong.

My first impression: The Cove was much smaller than I thought it would be. In fact, it looked smaller than Stinson Park where Maha is held every year. Certainly the capacity was smaller

I liked the set up, with an area designated for lawn chairs, another astroturfed area for standing near the stage, and our grassy ridge. Off to the right was a strange VIP area, which looked like really lousy seating because of the bad angle to the stage.

One annoyance from where were were sitting was the whap! whap! whap! of the out-house doors slamming shut. Already people were lined up to use port-o-johns, and there would be a steady “stream” all night…

DJ Kethro at Stir Cove, Sept. 9, 2017.

As 8 p.m. rolled around the house turned up the sound on stage along with the lighting, which marked the beginning of Kethro’s formal set. In front of us, a girl in a hippie hat lit a hash pipe and within seconds a portly security guard in a fluorescent polo with SECURITY printed in black walked straight up to her and said, “Hope you’re having a good time.  There’s no smoking anything in here.” As he walked away, a hipster in glasses dressed like a life guard whined, “Come on, man!

Meanwhile, as the sun went down Kethro heated up, spinning “Do It” by Tuxedo, “My Girls,” by Animal Collective and closing the set with “Pardon my Freedom” by !!! (pronounced chk chk chk) one of my favorites, and a band I recently was told by one of our many local promoters that “no one listens to anymore.” Well, here were a few thousand people bouncing to it.

Actually, that wasn’t Kethro’s closing number. He ended with a classic: “Fame” by David Bowie, the spotlights and strobes from stage made the dancing crowd glow.

Beck came on at around 9:10 with “Devil’s Haircut.” By then the standing section was completely full, or so I thought. After I took a piss (the port-o-john lines had disappeared) I went to see how far I could get to the stage. It was surprisingly close. That giant crowd wasn’t densely packed, and you could easily walk through it.

Stir Cove at the height of the crowd, Sept. , 2017.

Navigation throughout that mammoth crowd was fast thanks to the security folks keeping people from standing on paved walk paths. I could walk from one end of the venue to the other in seconds.

Beck sounded great. I saw a few people on my social channels complaining about the sound. Not me. Way in the back was as good as up front, and you didn’t need earplugs, the sound was so clean.

His performance was flawless. Beck’s band is loaded with seasoned pros. The set list (read it here) followed closely what he’s been playing on tour all year. Highlights included a slower section with “Lost Cause” from Sea Change (my favorite Beck album), “Qué Onda Güero,” which turned the place into a party, and a smokin’ version of “Dreams” (soon to be rereleased on his upcoming album).

And then there was “Loser.” I remember first hearing that song way back in ’93, thinking it was a trash rap track with an infectious hook. A year or so later it ended up on MTV, but Beck still managed to retain a sort of subversive, outsider tone. Though he was 22 or 23 at the time, he looked like a 16-year-old stoner. Quite a contrast to the 47-year-old dude Saturday night playing a song that has turned into a shopping-mall anthem for the dad-rock set, coaxing the crowd to sing the verse (which they did with gusto).

Finally at around 10:15 Beck got to his encore and rolled out “Where It’s At,” which he used as an intro to a pseudo medley that highlighted each member of his band. Among the song snippet covers were Gary Numan’s “Cars,” B-52’s “Rock Lobster,” The Rolling Stones’ “Miss You” and Phil Collins “In The Air Tonight,” complete with drum solo.

And then he got out his harmonica and began playing “One Foot in the Grave,” which was my cue to skedaddle. We headed to the exit, pretty much alone, heard Beck say “Good night” and walked to our car and drove straight out of the lot. The only hitch in our getaway plan was not being allowed to get back on I-29 North, as they forced everyone to turn right. No matter, we got on at the next exit.

Later that evening I heard from a number of people who said they had no issues leaving Stir, but not everyone. One dude texted me at midnight, saying he was still trying to get out of the back parking lot, 90 minutes after the concert ended.

The bottom line for me: It was one of the most well-run outdoor events I’ve attended. Was it an anomaly? A friend told me the Darius Rucker show last month (also a sell-out) was a complete and total cluster-f***. Maybe Stir learned from that mistake. Regardless, I’ll be paying more attention to their calendar announcements in the future…

* * *

Three huge shows on the same Monday night, and surprisingly, none of them have sold out.

Top of the list is X at The Waiting Room. Skating Polly opens. $30, 8 p.m.

Meanwhile, down at Sokol Auditorium, Spoon headlines. I’ve heard a lot of people complain about their latest album, Hot Thoughts. I love it. There’s no question it’s a departure from their older sound, a stab at dance rock that hits the mark, though there’s a lot of overhang from bands that came before (For example, single “Can I Sit Next to You” sounds like the Cure’s “Fascination Street,” with synths from The Cars’ Heartbeat City, and so on). Opening is Twin Peaks, who just keep getting bigger. This one’s $35 and starts at 8:30.

Finally, indie act Jay Som plays at Reverb tonight with Stef Chura and Soccer Mommy. $14, 9 p.m

And I will miss all three.

* * *

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: 2017 Maha Music Festival, Stephen Sheehan, Sun-Less Trio…

The crowd during Built to Spill’s set at the 2017 Maha Music Festival.

by Tim McMahan,

It was a crazy, busy week for music in Omaha, maybe the busiest week of the year (though there’s still a lot of stuff planned this summer, from Lincoln Calling to Future Islands outdoors).

Let’s start at the beginning…

Stephen Sheehan and his band at Reverb Lounge, Aug. 18, 2017.

If you’re acquainted with Stephen Sheehan than Friday night’s concert at Reverb Lounge was no surprise. Sheehan is a critical bastard and a stickler for detail and would never present his music on stage without it being meticulously honed to needle-sharp perfection.

Sheehan was the frontman to ’80s-’90s post-punk bands Digital Sex and The World, bands that made their mark on the Omaha landscape in a time before Caulfield and Saddle Creek and decades before the rise of Benson (a neighborhood Sheehan, ironically, refers to derogatively as “Beno”). Digital Sex hasn’t played together since the first half of the ’90s, and because of internal band frictions and the unavailability of other members (i.e., guitarist John Tingle) likely never will, despite constant needling from the band’s fans for a reunion. Friday night’s show was the closest they’ll get to hearing DS material, possibly ever again.

With this lone opportunity, Sheehan surrounded himself with an amazing group of musicians to bring his musical past to life. On top of the list was former Digital Sex drummer Dan Crowell, who white-knuckled the performance with panache — just tremendous stickwork from a guy who rarely takes the stage anymore. It was Crowell and bassist Randy Cotton (who had the difficult task of filling Dereck Higgins’ shoes on DS songs) that held it all together, and in Cotton’s case, even led the direction in some cases.

If Crowell and Cotton brought the deep blues, it was keyboard player Donovan Johnson and guitarist Ben Sieff who added the rest of the spectrum. Johnson, a fluent professional, steadfast and stoic throughout, was a contrast to Sieff’s orgiastic performance that was like a reincarnation of Mick Ronson. Sieff often was at the center of the arrangements, especially in the latter portion of the set.

But at the actual center was Sheehan, dressed a peacock in rose-print vest and blue eye shadow,  once again a frontman, where he belongs. He looked comfortable and at home, not a bit nervous.

The million dollar answer: Yes, Sheehan still has the pipes, though no doubt his range has changed and dropped somewhat since these songs were recorded 30-some years ago. Fans heard some of the  best of Digital Sex, including “In Her Smile,” “Roses on Wednesday,” “The Days Go” and “Red Girl.” These are the songs I remember.

I’ve never heard The World’s recordings or seen them perform, so I assume most of the unfamiliar songs were from that era as well as Sheehan solo materials. For me, (maybe because it was new to me) this was the most daring and provocative part of the set, and showcased Sieff at his revved-up best. Where does one find these World recordings?

One new song, “Less and Less,” pulled from the past and pointed to a possible future, though Sheehan has been adamant that he has no set plans to perform again. Time will tell. The full house at Reverb Friday certainly is ready for more.

The Sun-Less Trio at Reverb Aug. 18, 2017.

Opening was Sun-Less Trio, celebrating the release of their new album, though frontman Mike Saklar used the occasion to unveil even newer material. A solid core trio (with the addition of Saklar’s daughter on keys during one song) the centerpoint was Saklar and his guitar-work. Saklar’s vocals are serviceable for this material (and continue to improve), but it’s that glowing guitar that pulls it all together on psych-rock songs that recall early bluesy Zeppelin.

* * *

So… Maha.

At Maha in year’s past I could always find a window of time where I could skip out, ride my bike back home and take break from the heat (and take a nap). It was tough to do this year. My window came at the end of a rather flaccid Torres set, skipping Priests altogether and returning during New Pornographer’s set. Even then, a tough decision.

Downtown Boys at the 2017 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 19, 2017.

One of my favorite performances came early — Downtown Boys. I knew a little about the band and have heard their new album, but didn’t expect the dynamo in the shape of frontwoman Victoria Ruiz. A mesmerizing figure, Ruiz introduced every songs with a brief, thoughtful political statement that was forceful without being preachy — an incredibly difficult thing to do. And, remarkably, each comment seamlessly led into a rousing punk anthem.

I was amazed at how many songs incorporated the F-word, spit out in rage by Ruiz and her band. These are the folks who should man the ramparts at every anti-Trump-ian rally. You got a sense Ruiz meant every word she said, you could see it her eyes, in her facial expressions as she worked the crowd with her message.

High Up had the tough job of following Ruiz and Company from the smaller stage. Like every year, Maha sets up a small stage (on Stinson Park’s permanent Bradford stage) and a large stage just to the right. This year, the large stage was pulled closer to the small stage, giving more room for the VIP area, which for the first time, actually abutted the front of the big stage, making those VIP tickets even more valuable.

In fact, the entire Maha footprint felt bigger, roomier this year than year’s past. More comfortable. Maha has been doing this now for nine years, so they know how to put on a comfortable festival. Everywhere you looked you found smiling, T-shirted Maha volunteers eager to help out. Festival services were again, first-rate, though Maha needs to bring in better food vendors. There wasn’t much to choose from beyond county fair fried fare — they’d be better off making it a food truck rodeo. And though I understand Boulevard probably purchased booze rights, I’d love to see Maha incorporate more local craft beers into their beverage selection.

High Up at the 2017 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 19, 2017.

Back to the music… High Up did their usual fine performance. While I like their bluesy numbers, nothing touches the power and energy of “Two Weeks,” which simply stands on a different level than the rest of their material.  I know you need contrast, but I could use a full album of Two Weeks’ fire and fury.

High Up shared their set with two Omaha Girls Rock bands that represented the organization proudly and in rocking fashion.

Torres at the 2017 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 19, 2017.

Torres took the big stage next and played an OK set that included a number of new songs from her upcoming album. As I told a fellow music critic: I liked it better when St. Vincent did it.

New Pornographers at 2017 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 19, 2017.

As I said, I skipped Priests and came back for New Pornographers. By 5 p.m. Stinson Park  had filled in nicely. New Pornos sounded fine, though I missed seeing Dan Bejar and Neko Case, both absent. It didn’t stop them from playing some of their best material, however, like “Bleeding Heart Show,” “Whiteout Conditions” and “Champions of Red Wine.”

Built to Spill at the 2017 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 19, 2017.

Built to Spill was next from the small stage. Doug Martsch and gave us a greatest hits set that included “Time Trap,” “Carry the Zero” and “Broken Chairs” among their 10-or-so song set. I’ve seen B2S sets that were nothing but jam sessions — this wasn’t one of them. I guess they knew they’re playing a festival crowd…

Belle & Sebastian at the 2017 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 19, 2017.

Then came the second highlight of the festival (for me, anyway). Belle & Sebastian was one of my bucket-list bands, and delivered with a greatest-hits set list that included “Boy with Arab Strap” and “She’s Losing It,” as well as a special song about Nebraska that they’ve never played before and likely never will again. The song was written as part of a prize for a contest B&S held a few years ago.

Stuart Murdock is about as charming a frontman as you’ll ever find, and this band was on target, inviting members of the crowd to come on stage and dance along to Arab Strap. It was the first time I’ve seen a set at Maha that I wished would have gone on for another hour, and stands out as probably my favorite from the festival’s past nine years.

By contrast, I could have used about half of what Sleigh Bells was putting out, but then again, I’ve never been a fan of their monotonous, stuttering, electro cheerleader rock that sacrifices melody for sledgehammer rhythms. Ah, but the crowd loved it.

The Faint at the 2017 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 19, 2017.

And it certainly got them revved up for The Faint’s set on the big stage. By 9 the sun had gone down and crowd was at full force. As always, The Faint put on a good show, though for whatever reason it felt more low-key than when I’ve seen them before. The set featured a lot of their “newer” material including the extras from the CAPSULE compilation and “Evil Voices” from their last studio outing. Of course it was the hits that got the crowd moving, like “Paranoiattack,” “Desperate Guys” and set closer fave “Glass Danse” that finally got the crowd jumping.

Run the Jewels at the 2017 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 19, 2017.

If there’s one tradition at Maha that seems to be perennial it’s that I leave during the headliner’s set. The headliners are the dullest part of Maha, and this year was no exception. I know, I know, Run the Jewels is one of the biggest arena/stadium hip-hop acts on tour these days and Maha landing them was a huge coup. That doesn’t mean I like their music. In fact, I like the guys in RTJ more than I like their performance or their albums. It’s a matter of preference. I’d rather see Kendrick or Tribe Called Quest or something old school, but I’m ridiculously picky when it comes to hip-hop. I made it through two or three songs and headed toward the gates.

I’m lucky I did, because after I got home (this year, via scooter) the rain it did come, and I’m told RTJ had to cut their set short because of lightning.

So where does this year’s Maha rate in the history of Maha Festivals? For my money, it was best all-around line-up and a return to stride after last year’s ho-hum festival. Still, Saturday’s attendance of just over 8,500 didn’t exceed the crowd from two years ago, which was officially a sell out. That tells me Maha still has room to grow at Stinson Park.

And while 8,500 is a great draw, especially for a local festival that targets indie music, let’s not forget twice as many people were across town at the Lady Gaga show. What would it take for Maha to draw Gaga numbers? Probably a financial risk that they’re not willing to take, and I can’t blame them (though the speed at which Beck sold out Stir Cove tells me there’s a hunger for big-name college rock bands in this town)…

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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: TFOAs, Ron Gallo, Buttertones; Sucettes, Jocko tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:41 pm August 9, 2017

Those Far Out Arrows at Slowdown Jr., Aug. 8, 2017.

by Tim McMahan,

I’m giving this show short shrift due to time limitations, etc., i.e. I’m probably not giving the bands their due. And I’m going at this chronologically rather than by how the bands were billed, i.e., I’m starting with the opener, Those Far Out Arrows (or TFOAs in lazy shorthand), because for me, they were the highlight of the evening, closely followed by the band in the middle, Ron Gallo, with the headliner, Butternotes, trotting home in third.

TFOAs has evolved over the past year or so to a tight garage band with deep psych-rock leanings influenced by bands as diverse as Them and Velvet Underground. You’ll hear just how much they’ve evolved if you listen to their early, drone-filled cassettes and contrast it to their current thick-beat guitar rock that’s as good or better than anything I’ve heard on Goner or In the Red.

You knew last night at Slowdown Jr. the band was getting to this very young crowd (who, btw, likely  never heard of TFOAs prior to this show) when the pack in front of the stage naturally erupted into a pseudo-mosh pit, pushing and shoving and jumping along with one of the band’s mid-set songs. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen that at a garage-rock show.

Right now TFOAs is looking for someone to press a new 7-inch and has plans to enter ARC studio for a full-length in the very near future. Keep an eye on them.

Ron Gallo at Slowdown Jr., Aug. 8, 2017.

I was told by a Slowdown staffer that last night’s young crowd was there for Gallo, though my source wasn’t sure why. I have no idea, either. Maybe Gallo’s stage charisma precedes him. He and his band played a lively set of garage rock that got the crowd moving (and yeah, there was more moshing. I guess moshing is a thing again?).

The Buttertones at Slowdown Jr., Aug. 8, 2017.

Finally on came The Buttertones, a big ensemble with a guy who played some tasty tenor sax (which made everything work). A tight act, it was too easy to hear their influences. Derivative? Yeah, but isn’t all rock music derivative to some extent? Their failing was in their lack of original song structure — I felt like I’d heard it all before. But what the band lacked in originality the frontman made up in swagger. Let’s see where they are in three years.

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Tonight at Pageturners, hardcore act Jocko opens for the Sucettes at Pageturners Lounge. This one’s free and starts at 10.

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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 Lupines/Leafblower/Dog Party; Digital Leather, The Life and Times tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:47 pm July 31, 2017

Leafblower at O’Leaver’s, July 30, 2017.

by Tim McMahan,

The O’Leaver’s Sunday Social is as good an excuse as you’ll find to get blasted, eat good food and listen to some fine music on a lazy summer afternoon. That’s exactly what happened yesterday at The Club where a trio of bands played to a hot, packed room.

Dog Party at O’Leaver’s, July 30, 2017.

First up was Dog Party, a Sacramento two-piece consisting of sisters Gwendolyn and Lucy Giles that played some groovy up-tempo pop-punk as you’d expect from a band that opened for Green Day on their 2016 North American Tour and has four albums out on Burger and Asian Man Records. I typically don’t like guitar-drums two-piece acts (White Mystery is an exception) because they tend to sound hollow and/or flat, but these sisters had a well-rounded sound. Fun!

Leafblower was a necessary contrast to all that pop-punk. A power trio that combines fuzz metal with noise punk, they’ve never sounded better, with both Danny Maxwell and Craig Fort yelling at their primal best. Great guitar and bass interplay, I was reminded of mid-’90s noise punk outfits like Cactus Nerve Thang and Culture Fire combined with Sabbath.

With a flair for the theatrical, the trio came out in matching sleeveless jumpsuits with their band logo screen-printed on back, and cranked up their fourth member — a large, old-dude mannequin/dummy maned Tim holding a leaf blower that spewed plumes of stage smoke. Yard work was never this fun.

The Lupines at O’Leaver’s, July 30, 2017.

Finally The Lupines came on at around 8 p.m. playing their usual fine set of bone-breaking punk-Americana — the kind of rock you’d hear want to hear blaring from our Plymouth Charger’s AM on a road trip across Nebraska circa 1967. Frontman John Ziegler pointed out this was not their official CD release show, nonethelesss, the band’s tasty new album, Mountain of Love, was available for purchase (So when’s the real deal, gentlemen?).

If you listen to the album, you’ll notice plenty of real piano keyboards, which, alas, were not performed live for one obvious reason — Ziegler plays keyboards and guitar on the record. The band would have to bring on another member to allow Ziegler to get behind a piano. That said, I’d love to hear these songs with the full compliment of instruments performed live — dare to dream.

Sunday Socials at O’Leaver’s are all-afternoon events. They begin at 4 with free food (this week, fine smoked pork-butt sandwiches courtesy of Smoke Buds). The music was suppose to start at 5, but didn’t get rolling until 6, giving the crowd even more time to imbibe, which I did out in the beer garden where DJ Tyrone Storm spun the good stuff. Good times indeed.

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Two shows on a Monday night? Why not.

Over at Pageturners Lounge (which I keep hearing referred to as PTL) Digital Leather performs tonight as a digital-only two-piece. Not sure who’s joining Shawn Foree behind the consoles, but will tell you it’s worth it just to hear songs off the new album, Pink Thunder. Something called 2:46 Club also is on the bill. These free shows start at 9.

Also tonight. KC band The Life and Times plays at Reverb Lounge. These guys have been touring through Omaha for more than a decade. This past spring the band released their fifth LP for digital download, titled The Life and Times, on Slimstyle Records. Opening is the double-bass attack of Relax, It’s Science. $12, 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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Tobin Sprout, Elf Power; The Coathangers, Miwi La Lupa tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:59 pm July 24, 2017

Tobin Sprout at Reverb Lounge, July 21, 2017.

by Tim McMahan,

The turnout for Friday night’s Tobin Sprout show at Reverb was, in a word, disappointing. As a member of Guided by Voices, which has a huge following in our fair city, I anticipated a sell out.  In the end there were maybe 50 people on hand to listen to Sprout and his band rifle through a set of well over 20 songs from his solo catalog including “The Last Well Known to Kingpin,” “A Good Flying Bird,” “Dodging Invisible Rays” and “Sadder Than You.”

I admit to not being a huge GBV fan beyond their “greatest hits,” and know very little about Tobin Sprout. What I love about his songs and GBV songs beyond the riffs and bright, energetic melodies is their brevity. Sprout songs rarely last longer than three minutes. Get in, get out, move on.

And though the crowd was small, it was lively, comprising mostly of old-time fans who weren’t afraid to pump their fist in the air or pogo or cheer when one of their favorites began. Yelled out song names were met with a smile and Sprout giving it a try. What more could a fan ask for?

Elf Power at Reverb Lounge, July 21, 2017.

Elephant Six band Elf Power opened the show with a straight-forward set of indie rock songs. As little as I know about Tobin Sprout I know even less about the Athens band or their catalog, but enjoyed what I heard.

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Two shows of note tonight…

The Atlanta punk trio The Coathangers are at Milk Run tonight. What presumably started as a gag act in 2006 has now thrived for more than a decade, releasing five albums on Suicide Squeeze, including their latest, 2017’s Parasite EP. Residuels and Crease open. $10, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, Miwi La Lupa plays at Pageturners Lounge with Oquoa. 10 p.m. and absolutely free…

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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.