The record distribution mess: Saddle Creek, 4AD and others leave ADA for Redeye Distribution…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , , — @ 1:45 pm January 7, 2020

Redeye is now the distributor for Saddle Creek Records.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

A couple weeks ago I read a rather lengthy and alarming story in Pitchfork where they talked about a company called Direct Shot and how it’s screwing up the distribution channels for record labels. It’s a long read, but it basically details how Direct Shot has dropped the ball getting vinyl and other orders to outlets.

Among the largest labels impacted by Direct Shot is Warner Music Group, who switched distributors to Direct Shot last April.

This switch also extended to the indie labels that work with Warner’s Alternative Distribution Alliance (ADA), which has Sub Pop, 4AD, Matador, Rough Trade, XL, Domino, and Saddle Creek listed as partners on its website. “ said the article.

Well, that switch really messed up a lot of labels’ ability to fulfill orders because of Direct Shot’s struggles with getting their part of the job — the distribution part — done efficiently.

I emailed Saddle Creek Records’ head honcho Robb Nansel at the time and asked if Saddle Creek was being impacted by the Direct Shot fiasco.

“It has impacted everyone, yes,” Nansel said, always a man of few words.

Welp, yesterday Saddle Creek was among a handful of indie labels that announced they have left ADA. The labels include 4AD, Matador, Rough Trade, Young Turks, Domino and XL. Their new distributor: North Carolina’s Redeye Distribution.

Over the years, I remember Redeye being a tiny player in the indie distribution game. Way back in March 2006 Mt. Fuji Records (the label operated by former Omahan Mike Jaworski and that included among its foster Little Brazil) signed a deal with Redeye, who at the time was working with the likes of  Yep Rock, Gern Blandsten, Flameshovel, Parasol and GSL.

Redeye was one of the small distro houses that made it possible for the little guys to get their records in stores across the country. So it’s kind of cool to see them playing a role in trying to fix the enormous distribution problems facing the music industry.

From the MusicBusiness Worldwide article about the deal:

Redeye feels like the right place for us to be,” said Saddle Creek’s Robb Nansel. “With a staff that is clearly made up of music fans and creators, we are excited to be a part of the independent community at Redeye and we look forward to growing together in the future.

No doubt the Direct Shot distribution headache has impacted record stores as well, including our very own Homer’s. Just ask Homer’s General Manager Mike Fratt.

“It’s been one of the biggest challenges we have faced in my 40 years at music retail,” Fratt said. “With the move of a half dozen major indies to Redeye, they become a major player going forward.”

The move to Redeye may solve Saddle Creek’s and those other indies’ distro problems, but when it comes to the industry as a whole, there’s still a whole lot of work that needs to be done…

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

January shows of note: new Digital Leather track; Las Cruxes makes NPR best of Latin list…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 1:40 pm January 6, 2020

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Looking at the calendar it’s going to be slim pickens show-wise for the month of January. Still, there are a few shows on my radar:

— Criteria has been added to that Cursive/Cloud Nothings show Jan. 15 at Winchester Bar and Grill. The only surprise here is that Criteria wasn’t on the original show line-up, as the band will be hitting the road the following day on tour with Cursive.

— Indie singer/songwriter Your Smith has a gig at The Slowdown Jan. 19. I dug her last album — very dance-y, very fun.

— Cold War Kids are coming to The Waiting Room Jan. 23 (*yawn*).

— Lawrence, Kansas, legacy indie act The Anniversary play The Waiting Room Jan. 29. Band member Adrianne Verhoeven is no stranger to Omaha, as she’s performed as as a member of bands Art in Manila and Flowers Forever.

— And InDreama closes out the month with a show at Reverb Lounge. What has Nik Fackler and Co. been up to lately? Find out.

There are more smaller shows dotted in between those, which I’ll keep you apprised of as they come near. I’m to the point now where I’m happy if there are at least two solid touring indie shows coming through town per month. Anything more than that is frosting on the cake these days.

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Remember that Digital Leather song “Compass” I mentioned was a stand-out at the last two DL live shows? Well, a recording of the song was released via Bandcamp last week as the first single off the band’s upcoming album. Dig it:

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The last single from everyone’s favorite Omaha-based Latin-language punk band, Las Cruxes, made it onto NPR program World Cafe‘s list of the Best Latin Music for 2019. Check out the track, “1303 Mente Enferma,” on their playlist included in the article.

From the article “... it was great to hear bands like Las Cruxes, Davila 666, Mueran Humanos, Choked Up, Le Butcherettes and Mi Puga Mi Pishgo rocking out with punk, Brit-influenced rock en español and even dark wave sounds.” Lsten along here.

And look for a new Las Cruxes recordings (hopefully) by the end of the month.

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Lazy-i Best of 2019

Today is the last day to enter to win a copy of the Lazy-i Best of 2019 Comp CD!

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

To enter, send me an email with your mailing address to tim.mcmahan@gmail.com. Hurry, contest deadline is TONIGHT, Jan. 6, at midnight.

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

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Solid Goldberg, Marcey Yates, BFF, Minne Lussa, Ragged Company tonight; James Mendenhall trib listening party, Jocko Saturday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 2:01 pm January 3, 2020

The Prom circa 2002 with James Mendenhall in the middle. James is the subject of a new tribute album, which will be played tonight at Hi-Fi House.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Is it the weekend already? Strange what these holidays do with your perception of time.

Tonight’s marquee show is at…. The Sydney! Where it’s a celebration of Benson First Friday (#BFF). Headlining the festivities is Midwest legend Dave Goldberg and his groovy project Solid Goldberg. Dave’s been in some of the most iconic local bands in the past 20 years, including Sucettes and The Carsinogents, just to name a couple. You’ve never seen him quite like this. Joining him tonight at The Sydney are hip-hop artist Marcey Yates and The Natural States. $5, 10 p.m.

If you’re going to be in Benson anyway, you might as well walk across the street from The Sydney to The Little Gallery, 5901 Maple St., where tonight we’re presenting a group show called “Conditions,” featuring the work of four artists with chronic medical conditions: Mary Ensz, Jeff Mack, Jennifer Novak Haar and Jennifer Shannon. The opening runs from 6 to 9 p.m. Come by, say hi!

Also tonight, that French-crooning Matt Rutledge and his band Minne Lussa open for Farewell Transmission and Soul Ghost at Slowdown Jr. 8 p.m., $10.

Finally, Omaha Americana folk band Ragged Company headlines tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s. Joining them are Satellite Junction and Jeremy Mercy. $7, 10 p.m.

Tomorrow night (Saturday) at Hi-Fi House get a first listen of I’ll Send You The Stars, a tribute album to the late, great James Mendenhall of The Prom, released today on Barsuk Records. Mendenhall and David Broecker, both former Omahans, formed the band in Seattle in the early 2000s. Prior to that, Mendenhall was in a slew of bands including Calico with Vic Padios and Clark Baechle of The Faint. (Read a brief history from a 2002 Lazy-i article). Mendenhall died from a heart condition in Portland Jan. 1, 2019. The tribute album features contributions from Tim Kasher, Little Brazil, Ben Gibbard, Calico, Telekinesis, Young Elk and more. The listening party runs from 7 to 9 p.m. Saturday night at Hi-Fi House and is free.

Finally, Midtown Art Supply, 2578 Harney St., is hosting a Fargo punk invasion Saturday night headlined by death metal act Maul, with “Fargo melodic punk” act Baltic to Boardwalk and Body By Torture. Sandwiched in between is Omaha hardcore band Jocko. $7, 8 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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Lazy-i Best of 2019

Relive the classics of the year gone by with the  Lazy-i Best of 2019 Comp CD!

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

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

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

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

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

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

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

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lodgings Dec. 28, 2019.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Lazy-i Best of 2019

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

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

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

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

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Ten Music Visions for 2020: A look forward (and backward) at the Omaha and national indie music scenes…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 8:36 am January 1, 2020

Music visions of 2020.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I’ve been making music predictions for 20 years; never have I missed the boat more than last year’s.

2019 Prediction: Next year, crazed music aficionados will take it one step further as we see the first album released on reel-to-reel tape.

Reality: While online store The Tape Project does offer a handful of reissued classics on reel-to-reel, there have been no new releases.

2019 Prediction: By submitting your facial profile to Ticketmaster, getting in at a show will be as easy as looking into a camera.

Reality: While some airlines are trying facial recognition ticketing technology (Delta in Minneapolis), there’s actually been a backlash against using facial recognition at concert venues. That whole privacy bugaboo.

2019 Prediction: A savvy concert promoter will organize a new Lilith Fair next year that brings together every hot indie female-led act for a traveling tour.

Reality: The closest thing is the upcoming Alanis Morisette/Liz Phair/Garbage tour.

2019 Prediction: Now with offices in Omaha and LA, watch Saddle Creek Records open offices in New York City and reopen offices in the U.K.

Reality: Not yet.

2019 Prediction: Speaking of Saddle Creek, with the return of The Faint to the roster, expect an even more surprising new release from another of the label’s first-generation superstars.

Reality: Cursive released a new album in 2019, and Conor Oberst teamed up with Phoebe Bridgers for Better Oblivion Community Center. But neither was released on Saddle Creek.

2019 Prediction: A national publication will discover the Hi-Fi House and bring it to the attention of a worldwide audience.

Reality: The biggest news for that music project was its creator — Kate Dussault — moving to Denver, another example of the Omaha Exodus.

2019 Prediction: Watch next year as the number of GoFundMe campaigns rises, including from some very well-known artists.

Reality: I’ve seen more GFM for musicians, but not for A-listers, yet.

2019 Prediction: At least one major, respected rock artist will come out in 2019 … as a Trump supporter.

Reality: Not so much “major,” but “former” rock star Eric Carmen, lead singer of The Raspberries (“Go All the Way”) and solo artist (“Hungry Eyes,” “All By Myself”) declared his love for Trump on Twitter.

2019 Prediction: Because of the advent of streaming services, vintage (i.e., ancient) artists will enter the Billboard Hot 100.

Reality: Still waiting on this one.

2019 Prediction: A new record store will open in 2019 either downtown or in Benson.

Reality: Drastic Plastic closed its downtown location only to open a new vinyl lounge above The Monster Club in the Old Market.

2019 Prediction: A very famous candle in the wind will be extinguished in 2019.

Reality: Elton John’s Farewell Tour continues.

2019 Prediction: Bands we’ll be talking about this time next year: Beck, Belle & Sebastian, The Faint, Algiers, Spoon, Sufjan Stevens, The Smiths, The Rolling Stones, Bob Mould, Thick Paint, Ryan Adams, Bjork, M Ward, Iron & Wine and Bright Eyes.

Reality: Beck, The Faint, Bob Mould and Thick Paint all released new albums. The Rolling Stones had a successful tour, and Ryan Adams saw his career disintegrate after a New York Times exposé revealed him to be a womanizing creep.

2019 Prediction: Finally, one of Saddle Creek Records’ new era artists will do what no other Creek artist has been able to do: Be the musical guest on Saturday Night Live.

Reality: Who’s booking SNL’s music talent because they’re doing a shit job.

So, three for 13. Ugh. Let’s take a look at what’ll happen in 2020.

Prediction: First established in 2011, Omaha Girls Rock has touched the lives of hundreds of local girls and young women. The program teaches teamwork, self esteem and leadership, but most of all, it shows students how to play instruments, write music, sing and play in a band. Now, eight years later, the program’s impact will be seen and heard on the Omaha music stages, as former students will break through in local bands. Who will it be?

Prediction: With the over-abundance of venues and more on the way, watch this year as one or two of them (including a major stage) shut down, while cooler heads will begin to second-guess the proposed $109 million Omaha Performing Arts concert venue.

Prediction: Recognizing the devastating “brain drain” of talent that’s left Omaha over the past couple years, either a new nonprofit will form — or an existing organization will step up — with the mission of financially subsidizing local musicians and their projects. The program will be among the first of its kind in the country and will succeed in attracting new talent to a city woefully in need of it.

Prediction: There will be more new releases available via cassette tape than any time since the heyday of cassettes as a format. Sub Pop, Saddle Creek, Matador all will be among the labels offering new cassette releases. But, unlike vinyl, the boom in cassette tapes will be short-lived as labels discover that the novelty just doesn’t sell. PS: CDs will continue to go the way of the dinosaur (because only dinosaur music fans will be buying them).

Prediction: Watch for a major concert to be organized in conjunction with the coming election in an effort to bring out the vote in Nebraska’s 2nd District. The Blue Dot could play an important role in keeping Trump out of office, and Conor and his pals will do whatever they can to help.

Prediction: After last year’s success, the Maha Music Festival will capture even bigger sponsorship dollars, but it still won’t be enough to capture a Lizzo-sized headliner. Instead, the money will go to more high-end bands across both festival nights and better customer service.

Prediction: The trend of booking fewer touring indie bands at Omaha venues will continue. We’ll be lucky to get one A-list indie show per month, while stale pop projects, cover/tribute bands and other entertainment (wrestling, trivia nights) will dominate local club stages. When will some young lad (or old rich person) step up and start promoting shows like in the old days? Maybe in 2020.

Prediction: We’ll all be singing “Deacon Blues” in 2020.

Prediction: Bands we’ll be talking about next year: Algiers, Bright Eyes, Criteria, Pavement, Closeness, Beach House, The xx, Slowdive, St. Vincent, Perfume Genius, The War on Drugs, King Krule, Kendrick Lamar, Talking Heads and David Nance Band.

Prediction: This is it: This is the year that Conor Oberst finally walks across the stage at Saturday Night Live. I’m counting on you, Conor.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Spend your New Year’s Eve with The Lupines…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 11:35 am December 31, 2019

The Lupines at O’Leaver’s Nov. 9, 2019. The band will be rocking the New Year’s tonight at O’Leaver’s.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I literally will be spending my New Year’s Eve with the lupines — my lupines. Ever since Omaha decided it would be a great idea to sell fireworks leading up to NYE, I’ve been stuck at home when the ball drops covering my dogs’ ears as the world explodes around us. There’s nothing like living in Hillbilly Junction Omaha!

Anyway, for those of you looking for an awesome live show to bring in the New Year, look no further than fabulous O’Leaver’s, where The Lupines will be performing along with Hussies. Other than protecting my dogs from fireworks, I can’t think of a better way to welcome 2020. $5, 10 p.m., includes complimentary champagne toast at midnight!

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On a programming note: Look for the 2020 Music Predictions column online tomorrow here and at thereader.com.

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And have a Happy New Year!

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Lazy-i Best of 2019

Relive the year gone by with the  Lazy-i Best of 2019 Comp CD!

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

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

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

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

2019 Music Year in Review: 4 big trends, favorite albums and live shows for the year gone by…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:04 pm December 30, 2019

Lazy-i 2019 Music Year in Review

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

It’s not only the end of the year; it’s the end of a decade. But I’m not going to get into a review of the last 10 years because I only have about 1,000 words to write about 2019, and what a doozy of a year it was in music, especially local music.

Before I get to that, I would be remiss not to mention the quantum shift in how people consume music over the past 10 years. In 2009, we were just beginning to grasp how the move from CDs to MP3s was going to impact the music business. Those shiny new iPods were changing everything.

Ten years later and a different shift is near completion — from MP3s as the music format of choice to streaming. At least with MP3s, artists had something to sell, sort of. With streaming, paying artists has become an enormous shell game where no matter which shell they pick, nothing is found underneath, even for some established artists. As a result, for the first time in my memory, it is not uncommon to hear established artists say, “Why should I record new music? Fans don’t buy records anymore. All they want to hear when we’re on tour is the hits, anyway.”

As I’ve said in past columns, never has there been a worse time to be a start-up band. The new music business model: Record an album, upload it to Bandcamp, post a link to social media and get plenty of compliments, but no sales. I heard that story too many times last year from too many artists. Eventually, those artists may post their recordings to Spotify or YouTube, only to earn (if they’re lucky) a few bucks in streaming revenue. Touring for them has become a nonsensical money-losing endeavor if they don’t have merch to sell.

Even established indie artists are beginning to struggle to make money on tours. That, in a nutshell, is the music industry at the end of the teens decade. Where will it go in the next 10 years?

But back to Omaha.

There are four trends that deserve some reflection as we head into the roaring ‘20s:

The Great Exodus

I can’t remember any year as devastating as the last in terms of musicians moving away from Omaha. The list includes:

— Brad Hoshaw, singer/songwriter extraordinaire and leader of Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies;

— The dynamic duo of Todd and Orenda Fink, whose artistic output in addition to their own project, Closeness, includes Todd’s band The Faint and Orenda’s solo work and output as part of Azure Ray (her Azure Ray partner, Maria Taylor, left Omaha years ago);

— DJ and drummer Roger Lewis, one of the local legends this scene was built upon, whose projects include The Good Life and Oquoa;

— Singer/songwriter Jason Steady, once of the band Talking Mountain and more recently the guy behind Wolf Dealer; and

— Sarah Bohling and Graham Patrick Ulicny of rising act Thick Paint. Sarah’s also in Icky Blossoms, while Graham’s the newest member of The Faint.

And those are just the ones I know. Lord knows how many others have high-tailed it this year. Once upon a time, around the turn of the century, Omaha was a magnet for talented indie musicians who flocked here to be a part of “the next Seattle.” Well, those days are long, long gone. Most who left last year are now Californians. A few headed to other music cities, such as Nashville and Portland. What it says about the direction of Omaha’s music scene is obvious. How we change the course, less so.

Building for the Future

Flying in the face of that mass migration is the number of music venues that dot the Omaha landscape: The Waiting Room, Reverb Lounge, Slowdown, The Jewell; arenas like CHI Health Center, Baxter and Ralston arenas; quality dive stages like O’Leaver’s, The Brothers, The Sydney, and just-opened boutique rooms like Bemis’ Low End. Have there ever been more stages for live music?

Apparently not, and more are on the way. Shovels turned dirt for the new multimillion-dollar La Vista indoor club and amphitheater being brought to you by the fine folks at One Percent Productions, announced in 2018 but only just now getting all the paperwork in order to begin construction. We’re talking a venue with a capacity of 2,000 inside and 4,500 outside, all at a cost of millions.

And speaking of millions, how about the proposed $109 million music hall that Omaha Performing Arts wants to build downtown, designed to accommodate up to 3,000 standing patrons (because there are no fixed seats)?

Add to that at least two more smaller stages getting ready to raise curtains, with more on the way. All this money to build venues while the local talent needed to perform on them either moves away or quits because they can’t make a living playing music. Maybe it’s time someone figures out a way to funnel at least a portion of the millions spent on venues to local artists making the music.

Courtney Barnett at the Maha Music Festival, Aug. 16, 2019.

Maha Mania

It wasn’t all bleakness in 2019. The Maha Music Festival enjoyed its biggest year ever, thanks in part to booking superstar act Lizzo just before she blew up nationally. The two-day festival sold out its second day (Lizzo Day) rather quickly. Now the question for 2020 is whether Maha will continue along its original mission of bringing the best indie music to Omaha, or if last year’s Saturday crowd has organizers thinking of bigger, more pop-oriented fare. My advice: Bigger is almost never better.

Omaha Girls Rock

While women continue to dominate the national indie (and pop) music charts and best-of lists (off the top of my head, Lana Del Rey, FKA Twigs, Big Thief, Angel Olsen, Solange, Billie Eilish and Sharon Van Etten), Omaha women have never been more under-represented in our own music scene. This was no more apparent than when The Reader compiled its annual Top 20 bands lists — lists dominated by male-fronted bands. Of my own contribution to that list, only a few acts even had a female member — See Through Dresses, Domestica, Wagon Blasters, Thick Paint and Cursive.

Ironically, the roster of new acts for Omaha’s flagship indie music label — Saddle Creek Records — has consisted almost entirely of women-fronted projects: Ada Lea, Black Belt Eagle Scout, Stef Chura, Hand Habits, Hop Along, Tomberlin and Adrianne Lenker (and Big Thief, a band the label lost last year to 4AD). And, as a result, Saddle Creek is earning accolades along with plenty of airtime on Sirius XMU (and, hopefully, some revenue).

Never has an organization like Omaha Girls Rock been more needed. The nonprofit’s mission is to empower youth to find their unique voice through music education, performance and creativity. It does this through a strong team of local musicians who work one-on-one with girls and young women, teaching them all kinds of things, but especially how to rock. And Lord knows, Omaha needs more of that.

In fact, my top-10 list of favorite albums has the least Omaha representation in recent memory. Here they are in no particular order:

DIIV, Deceiver (Captured Tracks)

Orville Peck, Pony (Sub Pop)

Simon Joyner, Pocket Moon (Grapefruit)

Hand Habits, Placeholder (Saddle Creek)

Lodgings, Water Works (self-release)

Sharon Van Etten, Remind Me Tomorrow (Jagjaguwar)

Purple Mountains, self-titled (Drag City)

Lloyd Cole, Guesswork (Edel)

Better Oblivion Community Center, self-titled (Dead Oceans)

Strand of Oaks, Eraserland, (Dead Oceans)

I attended fewer rock shows last year than any year previous. I blame my day job, but I can’t ignore the fact that fewer indie shows are being booked at our main clubs — The Waiting Room, Reverb, Slowdown and O’Leaver’s. It’s a sign of the times and that we need more concert promoters in Omaha, because, like I said, we’ve got more than enough venues.

Still, it was a great year in live music. Here are the best shows I attended:

Better Oblivion Community Center at The Slowdown, March 21, 2019.

Better Oblivion Community Center at Slowdown, March 21 — Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers’ side project was a main event throughout most of 2019.

Hand Habits w/ Tomberlin at Slowdown Jr., April 1 — A mini-Saddle Creek showcase, Hand Habits’ Meg Duffy showed why she’s one of the most sought-after guitarists in the indie world.

Disq at Slowdown Jr., June 2, 2019.

Sasami at Reverb Lounge, April 19 — Her soaring guitar riffs and soft, low voice reminded me of Exile-era Liz Phair powered by an amazing rhythm section.

The Faint at The Waiting Room, May 24 — It came down to that moment everyone waits for — “Glass Danse” — when the whole crowd erupts, and that night was no exception. The floor became a trampoline, just like in the good ol’ days.

Minne Lussa at Farnam House backlot, June 6, 2019.

Disq at Slowdown Jr., June 2 — They sounded like a modern-day mix of all your ‘90s favorites — from Teenage Fanclub to Weezer to Pavement to No Knife — played by youngsters too young to have heard of any of them.

Minne Lussa / Wagon Blasters at Farnam House backlot, July 6 — From rousing to haunting in a makeshift space behind a brew pub.

The Beths at Slowdown Jr., July 15 — They played like a family unit, maybe because they’re all New Zealanders stranded in this very strange land.

Little Brazil at Benson Days, July 27, 2019.

Little Brazil at Benson Days, July 27 — The new tunes pointed toward the same short, sweet rock direction heard on their last record, as if the band is trying to put together a string of singles.

No Thanks at O’Leaver’s, Aug. 5 — Shirtless in tight black pants and black lipstick, Castro Turf’s spaz-rock preening conjured comparisons to The Cramps’ Lux Interior, nervously/feverishly pacing back and forth in front of the band for the first half of the set and spending the second half immersed in the humanity that crowded the stage.

The Oh Sees at the Maha Music Festival Aug. 17, 2019.

Maha Music Festival, Stinson Park, Aug. 16-17 — Everyone was talking about Lizzo, but for me it was all about Courtney Barnett on Friday night and that killer Oh Sees set Saturday afternoon.

Digital Leather at The Sydney, Sept. 6 — Shawn Foree shifted to bass fronting on a set of recent and new songs (“Compass”) that gave me hope for the next album.

Cursive at O’Leaver’s, Sept. 23 — Always dark, Cursive’s new music was pointedly political, representing a shift from anxiety to fear — a reflection of our times when a monster is running amok before our very eyes and there’s nothing anyone can (or will) do about it.

Las Cruxes at The Brothers Lounge, Sept. 27 — A cross between The Pixies and every three-chord punk band you’ve ever heard, propelled full-throttle by a double-barrel drum attack and sung in Spanish for good measure.

Deerhoof at Low End, Oct. 25, 2019.

Deerhoof at Low End, Oct. 25 — The venue — a new Omaha stage dedicated to experimental music — was as interesting (or more so) than the headliner.

Lupines/Unexplained Death at O’Leaver’s, Nov. 9 — Lupines rolled out a new piano-driven folk-rock sound; Matt Whipkey rolled out a new poli-punk rock sound; and O’Leaver’s got everyone drunk.

Solid Goldberg at O’Leaver’s, Nov. 26 — Nothing says Thanksgiving like O’Leaver’s and an Omaha legend with a new punk/blues attack. I’ll take another drumstick, please.

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Look for the 2020 Predictions column on New Year’s Day here and on thereader.com, or pick up a copy of the January issue of  The Reader on newsstands now.

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Lazy-i Best of 2019

Relive the year gone by with the  Lazy-i Best of 2019 Comp CD!

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

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

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

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Minne Lussa, Domestica, Staffers tonight; Criteria, Little Brazil, Las Cruxes, Fox (debut) Saturday, Twinsmith, J&M Mowing (supergroup) Sunday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 1:35 pm December 27, 2019

Criteria at The Waiting Room, Dec. 30, 2017. The band returns to The Waiting Room this Saturday.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Well, 2019 is going out like a lion.

There’s a solid triple-bill tonight at Reverb Lounge headlined by Minne Lussa (Matt Rutledge and Co.), Lincoln legends Domestica (ex-Mercy Rule, maybe it’s time I quit referencing that classic ’90s act?) and Silversphere (ex-Lepers) who opens the show at 9 p.m. $8.

Also tonight, The Brothers is hosting a three-band bill with Staffers (Anna McClellan, Noah Kohll, Ryan McKeever, Ameen Wahba), Razors and Sean Pratt & the Sweats. $5, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, down at The Slowdown it’s Satchel Grande with Omaha Beat Brigade. $10, 9 p.m.

Tomorrow night (Saturday) is crowded.

Every holiday season there’s always one gig where a classic local band reunites. This year it’s Criteria at The Waiting Room. The band, with a new album about to drop on 15 Passenger Records, is warming up for a tour with Cursive next month. Huge. Opening is Little Brazil and Lodgings (whose 2019 album, Water Works, made my list of 10 favorite albums of the year). $8, 9 p.m.

Also Saturday night, Spanish-language punk band Las Cruxes is playing O’Leaver’s with a new line-up seeing as Landon Hedges and Nate Van Fleet no longer are with the band. Mere Shadows and Towering Rogue open at 10 p.m.

Over at The Barley Street Saturday night it’s the debut of Fox, a new project by Jessica Errett Renner and Marta Fiedler (ex-Blue Bird). Fox opens for Sadie Sanner and Dave Tamkin at 9 p.m. $5.

Sunday night over at Reverb Lounge, it’s one of those holiday shows where folks are in town and just want to jam, which is exactly what J&M Mowing is. The cover band consists of Mike Jaworski (SAVAK, The Cops), Kelly Maxwell and Mike Loftus (both of Sons of…, Shovelhead, 60-Watt Saloon and Hong Jyn Corp.) and Dave Mainelli of Bazile Mills, who is headlining the show. WARNING: This is a 5 p.m. show because these guys are super-old. $8.

Also Sunday night it’s the return of Saddle Creek Records act Twinsmith to Slowdown Jr. The band plays with opener Salt Creek and headliner The Real Zebos. $7, 8 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 Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Lazy-i Best of 2019 compilation CD track list; Bull Nettles, Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 2:33 pm December 26, 2019

Lazy-i Best of 2019 compilation CD.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Here it is, the annual Lazy-i Best of… comp CD. It’s become a much sought-after collector’s item by those eager to gather this annual assembly of the best of the best stuff I’ve listened to and/or written about over the past year in Lazy-i and/or The Reader. I’ve been sending out these comps since ’94, first as cassettes, then switching over to Compact Discs in ’99. They’re time capsules of the year that was in indie music, both nationally and locally.

I count only six tracks this year with local connections — the fewest local tracks I’ve gathered for any previous collection. What’s it mean? Find out in when you read the 2019 Music Year in Review article in The Reader, which hits the stands in January (but will be online at thereader.com and Lazy-i.com by the end of the year).

Anyway, here’s the 2019 Best of Lazy-i CD tracklist:

1. “Skin Game” – DIIV, from Deceiver (Captured Tracks)
2. “Summer Girl” – HAIM, single (Columbia)
3. “Seventeen” – Sharon Van Etten, from Remind Me Tomorrow (Jagjaguwar)
4. “Can’t Calm Down” – Hand Habits, from Placeholder (Saddle Creek)
5. “Communication” – Disq, single (Saddle Creek)
6. “Bad Idea!” – Girl in Red, single (AWAL)
7. “Stick N Poke” – Palehound, from Black Friday (Polyvinly)
8. “Try Not to Hang on So Hard” – Young Guv, from GUV II (Run for Cover)
9. “Weird Ways” – Strand of Oaks, from Eraserland (Dead Oceans)
10. “Turn to Hate” – Orville Peck, from Pony (Sub Pop)
11. “Moments and Whatnot” – Lloyd Cole, from Guesswork (Edel)
12. “Little Trouble” – Better Oblivion Community Center, single (Dead Oceans)
13. “Yellow Jacket Blues” – Simon Joyner, from Pocket Moon (Grapefruit)
14. “Mr. President” – Prettiest Eyes, from Volume 3 (Castle Face)
15. “In Degrees (Purple Disco Machine Remix)” – Foals, single (Warner)
16. “All My Happiness is Gone” – Purple Mountains, from self-titled debut (Drag City)
17. “Hang On” – Uh Oh, from Stay Close (Ghost Light)
18. “You Got the Coast” – Left is West, from How to Be Happy Without Even Trying (self-release)

Want a copy of the CD? Enter to win one in the annual drawing! To enter, send me an email with your mailing address to tim.mcmahan@gmail.com. Hurry, contest deadline is Monday, Jan. 6, at midnight.

If you just want to listen to the collection, the CD’s playlist is now available in Spotify. Simply click the link or search “Lazy-i” in Spotify and you’ll find it along with a few from past years, too. Thanks as always to design genius Donovan Beery (eleven19.com), who’s been putting together the CD sleeves since 2000!

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There are a couple post-X-Mas shows happening tonight…

At Reverb Lounge it’s the debut of new Omaha Americana act Bull Nettles, a band featuring Doug Kabourek (Fizzle Like a Flood), Travis Linn (Black Squirrels) and Steve Vincik (Township and Range). Joining them is The Broke Loose. $7, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship opens for Jump the Tiger at Slowdown Jr. (JtT will be playing an all-covers set). Sack of Lions opens at 8 p.m. $10.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Clarence Tilton, Stephen Sheehan, Oquoa, Mitch Gettman tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 1:42 pm December 23, 2019

Stephen Sheehan at The Waiting Room, Dec. 23, 2018. His band plays tonight at The Waiting Room.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

‘Twas the night before the night before Christmas, and all through the town, three shows to choose from, because we know you’ll be around…

…and most of you/us don’t have to get up tomorrow morning for work. So…

Over at The Waiting Room it’s the Drive for the Heart Ministry. The annual event raises money for the Heart Ministry Center, an organization that assists people with life’s basic necessities. Headlining tonight’s benefit is Omaha alt-country band extraordinaire Clarence Tilton. Joining them are Stephen Sheehan (ex-Digital Sex, The World) and his band, Andrew Bailie and Dan Olsen from Sack of Lions. Tickets are $10 or a minimum 3-item donation (stuff like toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, shampoo and deodorant). Music starts at 8 p.m.

Also tonight, Slowdown Jr. is hosting Oquoa (that’s right, Roger Lewis is back for the holidays). Joining them are Mesonjixx and Tonina. $10, 9 p.m.

Finally, Mitch Gettman is hosting something he’s calling “A Decade of Obscurity,” at Cedar, 8726 Countryside Plaza. It’s three hours of Mitch. No price listed, but it starts at 9 p.m.

And that’s going to do it until after Christmas. Most bars are going to be open Christmas Eve, but many will be closed Christmas Day. Your best bet is to call ahead (or get loaded at home).

Have a fabulous holiday…!

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i