Thanks for the memories Barley Street Tavern; The Verve Pipe Saturday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 2:33 pm October 16, 2020
Bloodcow at The Barley Street Tavern, July 18, 2015.

It was sad yesterday seeing all the photos float past my Facebook feed of people’s favorite times at The Barley Street Tavern. The hole-in-the-wall Benson bar that also acted as a live venue closed its doors yesterday, soon to be taken over by new owners with a different vision.

I didn’t realize how many shows I’d been to at BST show until I did a quick search on Lazy-i and the memories came rolling back. Here are just a few of the bands that I’ve seen at BST: Well Aimed Arrows, Fizzle Like a Flood, Solid Goldberg, Touch People, The Sky Drops, Eli Mardock, Calm Fur, The Gardenheads, Dead Wave, The Whipkey Three, The Lupines, Relax, It’s Science, Our Fox, Con Dios, Brad Hoshaw, Domestica, Wagon Blasters, Bloodcow, Cowboy Indian Bear, Super Ghost, Gramps, Kyle Harvey, Answer Team, No Blood Orphan, Blue Bird, Reagan and the Rayguns and many, many more.

The Barley Street was one of the most relaxed music venues in Omaha, about as unpretentious as it gets, though still weird enough to be part of Benson (and that’s a good thing). It will be missed…

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Not much happening this weekend (what else is new?), though I’m reminded by Kevin Coffey that The Verve Pipe is playing at The Orpheum Theater Saturday night. Kevin’s got an interview with Verve Pipe’s Brian Van Der Ark over at his new Pops and Hisses blog. Check it out here.

They’re marketing this as a “socially distant” show. Little known fact: The Verve Pipe held the first socially distant show 20 years ago in Ft. Calhoun, Nebraska. At least it was from an audience-size perspective. You can read about it right here. The Ft. Calhoun Jaycees are probably still paying off the debt from that one…

Have a great weekend.

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


Barley Street Tavern to change hands; Maha Festival partners with Knitting Factory for future festivals…

Lupines at The Barley Street Tavern, April 14, 2014. The bar announced it’s changing owners Oct. 15.

Two red hot local music news items…

First, yesterday The Barley Street Tavern posted on Facebook that the venue is changing hands and the last day of its operations under current management is Oct. 15. No idea who’s taking over the bar and/or if it’ll remain a music venue.

The Barley Street always has been a hole-in-the-wall bar more so than a go-to music venue. With a capacity of around 50 in its music space, it was a comfortable place to see up-and-coming acts as well as (former) Benson folkie stand-outs like Kyle Harvey and Brad Hoshaw. You always got your five-dolllars-worth and then some, along with plenty of peanuts and (in my case) ice cold Rolling Rocks.

Is the bar’s sale a symptom of the COVID-19 economy? I don’t know. I’ve heard rumors of the Barley Street either imminently closing or changing hands for years (including a rumor a few years ago that it was in line to become a strip club!). Even so, its sale comes as a bit of a shock. Here’s hoping whoever takes over retains some of the bar’s original soul…

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An article in Pollstar this morning announced the Maha Music Festival has named Knitting Factory Entertainment as its exclusive talent buyer.

James Irvine, KFE’s Omaha-based talent buyer, will co-lead programming with KFE’s Danny Glazier as the festival expands to five days from four in 2021,” says the Pollstar story. “The team is already starting to work on a 2021 lineup, which is expected to be unveiled early in the year.

More from the article:

Working within industries that are typically white male-dominated, Maha makes a concerted effort to book underrepresented performers—often in headlining slots—to account for the majority of our lineup. We’re looking forward to working with KFE, and continuing those diverse, inclusive booking practices,” Maha executive director Lauren Martin said. “We’ve had an opportunity to get to know James and Danny through their work with [local music venue] Slowdown over the years, are excited about the potential the partnership holds — especially as we navigate safely hosting major events post-pandemic.” 

The move leaves One Percent Productions, which has booked the festival since its second year, out in the cold. One Percent’s Marc Leibowitz confirmed Maha did not renew its contract with Omaha’s premier indie concert booker. While you can point to Maha’s well-run organization and army of volunteers for pulling off the annual festival, it’s One Percent that has been at the core of lining up the bands that drew people to Stinson Park in the first place.

Knitting Factory Entertainment took over booking The Slowdown back in 2016, and as a result, the club has veered away from its original vision of booking indie acts to booking more mainstream pop acts, though they still host a few indie shows now and then. No doubt with Knitting Factory taking over Maha, look for that festival to continue to steer away from its original vision of being an indie rock festival in an effort to attract a larger attendance.

As for One Percent, the company’s La Vista venue/amphitheater (being built in partnership with Kansas’ Mammoth Live and City Ventures) will give Leibowitz and his team plenty of opportunities to fill in any gaps left from losing the Maha contract…

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


Live Review: The psychedelic buzz and howl of Calm Fur, Slushy, the electric blue Lupines…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:49 pm December 8, 2014

Calm Fur at the Barley Street Tavern, Dec. 5, 2014.

Calm Fur at the Barley Street Tavern, Dec. 5, 2014.

by Tim McMahan,

I found the buzz and howl of Calm Fur to be rather sublime — a psychedelic cascade of noise and color and sound that blended every ’60s arena rock acid trip with the post-modern noise of, say, Sonic Youth to create a wholly new and cumbersome thing.

It didn’t come easy; it took awhile for the band to get into a groove.  Wearing a white-fur jacket (epitomizing the band’s name) frontman Jason Meyer has emerged as Omaha’s version of Wayne Coyne, a colorful, arty dude who isn’t happy with just playing shows. Instead, his gigs are audio-visual-powered “happenings.” Think back to one of those notable Talking Mountain shows (one of Meyre’s other bands) where smoke broiled out the club’s doors and audience members wore sun glasses to protect their eyes from blazing LED light rigs.

Meyer shows always involve special effects panache, even if it’s just a couple guys wearing furry Muppet-style masks. For Calm Fur, the enhanced experience involved two overhead projectors set up on either side of the Barley Street stage, along with an assortment of markers, glitter and confetti. Audience members were invited to come up during the set and let their creative spirit run wild, but no one did, at least not until about halfway through their set when a young women began scribbling with a marker which washed out over the band. Psychedelic, man.

Give credit to Meyer. Nothing is more boring than watching a bunch of guys slumped over their instrument, hardly moving. Meyer doesn’t want to fall into that sanguine trap, though no special effects were necessary to make Friday night’s set interesting… or at least different.

Like I said, it took awhile for the band to get things going. When they started out, I wondered why Meyer wanted that keyboard to fuss up the sound. By the third song I was thinking ‘That keyboard really makes this work.” I don’t know who keyboardist “Jesy” is, but her simple tones and style (and voice) were the perfect complements to Garrett Schmelzel from Snake Island’s acidic 12-string electric guitar and Meyer’s ever-droning bass. By the fourth or fifth song, the band hit its stride and even had me buzzing. They followed it with a couple shaky covers that featured the next performer, Slushy.

Slushy is former Omahan (and Talking Mountains guy) Chris Kramer doing his rendition of Nuggets-era pop songs sung alone over pre-recorded tracks, karaoke style. Kramer’s choice of music and his aerobic-styles performance made for a fun set, at least for the first 15 minutes. I’m told that Kramer has a working band he plays with in Chicago. Someone needs to get those folks out here.

Lupines at The Barley Street Tavern Dec. 5, 2014.

Lupines at The Barley Street Tavern Dec. 5, 2014.

Finally sometime after midnight The Lupines took the stage, basking in the full intensity of Barley Street’s fancy new digital lighting system, which cast them in eerie electric blue. What more to say about Lupines that I haven’t already said, other than you need to check them out if your thing is blistering garage rock. It was a great way to cap off what turned out to be a looong night.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.