Live Review: Oberst/Bridgers’ Better Oblivion Community Center; Black Moth Super Rainbow, Brazen Throats tonight; Liz Cooper Sunday…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:37 pm March 22, 2019

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

by Tim McMahan,

Last night’s Conor Oberst/Phoebe Bridgers Better Oblivion Community Center (BOCC) gig at The Slowdown was a packed affair; a crowd that in many ways resembled your typical album release show where fans mix with proud parents and family members. The difference being that BOCC is probably the most successful project Conor Oberst has launched since Bright Eyes. Whereas Desaparecidos, Monsters of Folk and Mystic Valley Band all produced some good tunes, they always felt like bro-fueled good-time side projects, creative diversions between Bright Eyes and/or Conor Oberst solo projects.

BOCC holds a bit of that essence as well. You can’t help but think Oberst and Bridgers just like hanging around each other and said, “Let’s do a band, that way we can tour together,” then set out to combine their varied styles of songwriting. Sharp-eared fans will recognize the Bridgers’ portions — all her music has a similar cascading harmonic style, like watching snow fall — and Oberst’s sing-song folk harmonies, which have become less varied musically over the past few years.

Most of the time they mesh well and take advantage of their contrasting vocal styles. Bridgers’ voice couldn’t be more light-as-air angelic; Oberst couldn’t sound more guttural and down-to-earth. It can be a brittle mixture, especially live when Bridgers is trying to harmonize with a guy whose voice sounds two octaves lower than hers. At times, its very charming; at other times, you just want one or the other to shut-up and let the other handle it.

An example is BOCC’s cover of Bright Eyes’ “Lua.” Bridgers led off the song alone, her high, thin voice added a new layer of loneliness to an already forlorn song. When Oberst came in on the second verse it felt like putting on an old pair of well-worn shoes, and I just wanted him to carry on the rest of the way (which he mainly did).

“Lua” was never written to be a duet. The songs on the BOCC album presumably were, or at least were written together.  The rough edges become less abrasive after multiple album listenings, but are still very obvious live on stage, for better or worse.

The set covered most, if not all, of the new album as well as renditions of a number of Bridgers and Oberst solo songs, and a cover of The Replacements’ “Can’t Hardly Wait,” with Oberst rippingly handling the leads and our own Patrick Newberry handling the trumpet. It was a highlight, along with a fantastic version of Bridgers’ “Would You Rather,” which is a perfect melding of their styles.

Oberst and Bridgers played guitars all night, with Christian Lee Hutson adding some tasty leads and keyboards. Missing was the soaring Nick Zinner guitar lines (Zinner of Yeah Yeah Yeahs fame, is one of the best axe-bearers in the business), but the combo still was plenty ferocious.

The between-song patter brought up only one controversy, at least for Omahans. I don’t know anything about Phoebe Bridgers except her music. And though I’ve been writing and interviewing Oberst for more than two decades, I don’t really know anything about him, either, except his music.

So when the two of them combined to make comments like “This one’s written about our home town, Los Angeles,” I don’t know if they’re speaking proudly of good ol’ El Lay or are taking a jab at 311, which Bridgers seemed to do when she sarcastically said her favorite Omaha band is 311. Nor do I care, because Oberst has lived all over the country for the past two decades, and as far as I know, still owns a mansion in Fairacreas, whether he actually sleeps there or not. Still, Nebraskans are proud of his heritage (We have so little else to point to on a national level). A few in the crowd booed the first time Oberst/Bridgers mentioned LA as their hometown. The second time, they cheered.

* * *

A few interesting shows this weekend…

Tonight Black Moth Super Rainbow headlines at The Waiting Room — trippy psych/experimental synth stuff. Opening are Stever Hauschild and High Tides. $17, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, Brazen Throats opens a show at fabulous O’Leaver’s. Consisting of guitarist/vocalist Rich Higgins (Sideshow), bassist Rob Rothe (13 County) and drummer Paul Engelhard (For Against), it’s like a ’90s-’00s Lincoln supergroup. They’re up first, followed by Minne Lussa and headliner Satellite Junction. $5, 9 p.m.

Saturday night at O’Leaver’s Fort Collins art-rock band Safekeeper headlines. Bach Mai and Death Cow open at 10 p.m. $5.

Sunday night Liz Cooper and the Stampede (Sleepyhead Records) headlines at Reverb Lounge. Sean Pratt opens at 8 p.m. $14.

And that’s all I got. If I missed your show, put it in the comments section. Have a great weekend.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


#TBT: who remembers Flatlander Fest?; Oberst/Bridgers BOCC concert is sold out… sort of, with Christian Lee Hutson, Lala Lala tonight…

The laminate for 1994’s Flatlander Festival.

by Tim McMahan,

I hold onto festival laminates. I don’t know why, especially since I don’t have many (Other than Maha and SXSW years ago, I avoid festivals). I found this one while digging through stuff recently, and it has a connection to The Reader‘s 25th anniversary, which is being celebrated this month in print.

If I remember correctly, John Heaston and The Reader (or what would become The Reader) was responsible for this festival, which was held at Sharky’s on around 77th and Cass St., a club that became the new Music Box and which has long been razed and replaced with a 24-Hour Fitness (or whatever they’re calling that monstrosity).

Sharky’s had a railroad business car attached to the west side of the building, and I believe that The Reader had its offices in that rail car for a brief period around when this festival took place. I can’t remember who played the fest, though I think Cactus Nerve Thang was on the bill. Was anyone else there?

* * *

Tonight is the big Better Oblivion Community Center a.k.a. Conor Oberst/Phoebe Bridgers show at The Slowdown.

This show sold out very quickly, within a few days. It was discovered that scalpers bought a large block of tickets, which showed up on sites like As days passed, those tickets dropped in price. I’ve heard they were as low as $8 at one point — quite a discount compared to the $25 face value.

No doubt ticket scalping has become a problem in some parts of the country where shows sell out and then tickets become available overnight in the after-market for twice or more the face value. That wasn’t the case here, and one wonders if the scalpers got soaked this time. This morning I saw a ticket for under $20 for tonight’s show.

There is no moral to this story. One could argue that in this case, everyone won — the venue sold out a show immediately and fans who understood the after-market situation could buy tickets for well under face value. Which begs the question: Are you better off buying tickets the day they become available or waiting a few days to see how prices shake out?

For example, folks who bought tickets to last year’s Jack White show at The Baxter on the first day paid way more than they needed to, as tickets became available for a fraction of face value due to poor demand. On the other hand, had the show sold out and if there was serious demand, those who waited would have had to pay a premium for seats.


If you’re going to the show tonight, get there early. Opening act Christian Lee Hutson is someone worth catching. He plays in BOCC and has written with Phoebe Bridgers in the past. His latest song, “Northsiders,” has a definite Elliott Smith vibe that leaves you wanting more. The other opener, Lala Lala, is pretty awesome as well.

Doors are 7 p.m., the show starts at 8 p.m. If you want to catch Hutson, get there early because no doubt there will be a line to get in. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the opening band from the sidewalk outside of Slowdown because of the lines (which are slow due to the whole under-age look-up scenario).

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Oberst/Bridgers, The Faint/Closeness Omaha dates, plus a big Saturday show announced…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 1:36 pm January 29, 2019

The Faint at the 2017 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 19, 2017. The band is playing at The Waiting Room May 24 and 25.

by Tim McMahan,

Here yesterday I said indie music is on the wane in Omaha (and it is) and today we have three big concerts announced.

The first is Better Oblivion Community Center — the new project featuring Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers — announced they’re playing at The Slowdown March 21 with Lala Lala and Christian Lee Hutson. Tickets, which are $25, go on sale Friday at 11 a.m. This will sell out.

Check out the new BOCC video that dropped today, directed by Japanese Breakfast:

The other big announcement is that The Faint and Closeness are playing at The Waiting Room May 24 and 25. Choirboy also is on the bill. Tickets for this one also go on sale this Friday at 10 a.m. These will sell out as well.

And maybe the biggest announcement of all…

This Saturday Almost Music and Solid Jackson in the Blackstone District are hosting a concert from 4 p.m. until whenever in honor of them closing their doors. They’re going out of business, folks. If you’re looking for bargains, better get there now. When I stepped into the shop last Saturday all vinyl was 50 percent off.

The line-up for Saturday’s going-out-of-business concert:

Bad Actors (first show): 4:15-5:00
Eric in Outerspace: 5:15-6:00
Kyle Jessen: 6:00-6:45
Putter & Co.: 6:45-7:30
Little Ripple: 7:30-8:15
Pagan Athletes: 8:15-9:00
Wagon Blasters: 9:00-9:45
Houma: 9:45-10:30
Conny Franko: 10:30-11:15
BIB: 11:15-midnight

Donations are welcomed; it’s BYOB; and Nite Owl is preparing “special punch” for the occasion. It’s free so this one won’t sell out but it’ll definitely be SRO. Come say goodbye to a local hero.

* * *

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 © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Oberst/Bridgers’ BOCC plays Colbert show, drops debut on Dead Oceans; Noname tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:15 pm January 24, 2019

Better Oblivion Community Center is Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst, plus a host of indie rock veterans.

by Tim McMahan,

In addition to rolling out Better Oblivion Community Center — the new band fronted by Conor Obert and Phoebe Bridgers — on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert last night, the band also dropped the entire debut album, released on Dead Oceans. Hey, who needs to wait ’til Friday to release an album?

Out front in the TV performance, which is embedded below, was a grizzled Oberst in Converse sneakers and the angelic Bridgers, who provided the prominent voice on song “Dylan Thomas.” Is Bridgers “Ally” to Oberst’s “Jack Maine”? We all know how that one ended. 

No, not quite; and the band also isn’t a return to the Laurel Canyon sound, as Rolling Stone seemed to imply in its 4-star review of the record. Instead, Oberst and Bridgers are building on top the current singer/songwriter movement associated with the artists like those in boygenius (Bridgers, Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus), Mitski, Big Thief, Soccer Mommy, and so on. Or maybe I’m just listening for Bridgers more than Oberst on these songs. Certainly you can’t miss Conor, who’s growly croon is an abrasive counter to Bridgers’ sweet coo. 

It’s easy to pick out who wrote what if you’ve been following along the last couple of years. The pretty, sad stuff is Bridgers; the folky slice of life stuff is Oberst. The sound isn’t so much a true duet as much as one guesting on the other’s songs. 

The only other person I recognized in the video last night was Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who’s as genius as ever on guitar.

Other BOCC participants according to the Q&A at the Secretly Store website are Carla Azar from Autolux; Wylie Gelber and Griffin Goldsmith of Dawes; songwriter Christian Lee Hutson on guitar and Anna Butterss on bass. The album was produced by Oberst and Bridgers with help from Andy LeMaster, who you might remember from Now It’s Overhead. 

Quite a splashy way to launch a project. I wonder when they’re going to drop the cheesy phone number/fake self-help program facade, which, because it wasn’t explained, came off clumsy last night on the Colbert show. My wife asked, “What’s with the graphics and the phone number on the screen?” It takes a long time to explain the joke. Hopefully they’ll leave it off when they play this weekend on CBS This Morning Saturday.

BOCC tour stops apparently will be announced next week sometime. Here’s hoping for an Omaha date. 

* * *

Noname (a.k.a. Fatimah Warner) is a Chicago indie hip-hop artist. Her self-released debut Room 25 chronicles the two years since the release of her debut mixtape Telefone, “most notably her move from Chicago to Los Angeles and an intense, short-lived relationship that resulted in the loss of her virginity at age 25,” says the Wiki. She headlines tonight at The Waiting Room. Opener Elton kicks things off at 8 p.m $25. 

* * *

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 © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Secret Oberst/Bridgers project to play Colbert show tonight; The Werks tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 2:04 pm January 23, 2019

by Tim McMahan,

Is this the album cover of the new Better Oblivion Community Center album?

That “secret” Conor Oberst/Phoebe Bridgers project — mysteriously named Better Oblivion Community Center — is the musical guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert tonight and will also appear on CBS This Morning Saturday on Jan. 26 as part of the show’s “Saturday Sessions.”

This according to Brooklyn Vegan, which added that CBS This Morning anchor Anthony Mason tweeted what appears to be the album cover last week. And a YouTube video tweeted by Oberst today indicates the new project will be announcing tour dates next week.

Tune in tonight to see who else is in the project.

* * *

Dayton self-proclaimed jam band The Werks plays tonight at The Waiting Room. The band plays a throwback style of ‘70s prog rock mixed with funk elements and (at times) reggae beats — translated: They’re a jam band, right down to encouraging taping of shows a la The Grateful Dead. Omaha jam band Slow Stoics opens at 8 p.m.; $15.

* * *

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 © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Show promoter Widmest Productions calls it quits; new Oberst/Bridgers project on the way?

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 1:50 pm January 16, 2019

What is Better Living Oblivion Center? Enquiring minds want to know…

by Tim McMahan,

Last week Tim Kiefer, the man behind Widmest Productions production company, which booked shows throughout Benson, at O’Leaver’s and at other venues, announced Widmest was ending after three years of operations.

We loved doing this, but all good things must come to an end and as professionals in our late 40s with young kids, we just couldn’t give Widmest the attention it needed – and the bands and venues we work with deserve nothing but our utmost attention,” Kiefer said.

Among the acts Widmest booked are Christopher the Conquered, Clarence Tilton, Bud Bronson & The Good Timers and Cracker.

We were able to work with one of our favorite artists for our first show, Grant Hart (in May 2015),” Kiefer said. “We had a great weekend getting to know him and the events were great. Grant was everything he was cracked up to be: generous, a bit odd, curmudgeonly, funny and genuine. It was awesome.”

Another highlight was releasing Bazile Mills’ 2015 EP Where We Are. “We’re proud of the record and being a part of the entire process was a great experience,” he said. “We didn’t really think through distribution, which was a pretty big miss, but we’re whole in the end and we have the record as proof of our efforts.

It is cliche, but the best part truly was meeting a ton of really great people,” he added. “We learned a lot about how difficult it is to make a living in this industry (We weren’t trying to make our living through Widmest, thank God!) and how hard the artists work to try and make it. Thankfully, there are so many great musicians willing to throw their hats in the ring. In the end, we remain huge fans of a wide range of artists and we look forward to going back to just enjoying the fruits of others’ labors!

Are there any local promoters left outside of One Percent Productions that book indie shows in Omaha?

* * *

One bit of mysterious music news… from Brooklyn Vegan.

Within the past month, Conor Oberst and Team Love have been connected to a viral promotion for Better Oblivion Community Center, which may or may not be the name of a new music project. Brooklyn Vegan reported that BOCC may be connected to a collaborative project involving Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers, who already have a history of working together.

I guess we’ll have to wait until next Wednesday, Jan. 23, to find out. That’s the date of BOCC’s “launch party” according to the message that plays when you call the number on the brochure…

* * *

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 © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.