Live Review: High Up, Big Harp, Timecat and a night at Milk Run…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:34 pm December 1, 2015

HighUp112815by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Welp, things got out of hand yesterday so this didn’t get posted! Here you go (better late than never?)…

It was one of those holiday crowds you expect to see during Thanksgiving weekend. Despite the fact that The Good Life was headlining at The Slowdown Saturday night — and I love The Good Life — our plan was to catch the openers and then drive across downtown to check out Milk Run and its new art gallery, which was having its grand opening.

We got in at around 8:45 and got a table in the bar nearest the stage. High Up came on right at 9, the full ensemble kicked into one of their bluesier numbers that got the attention of the smallish crowd standing in the bowl. Frontwoman Christine Fink, a fireball of manic energy, told the crowd after the first song that everyone on stage was sick, then added that she just totaled her car. And with that, they went right into the next number.

Maybe everyone was sick but you couldn’t tell from the performance. Christine directed that golden voice of hers with the usual bombastic energy, and sang with panache the band’s brand of golden blues, emoting in a way that the late Joe Cocker would admire — all jerky moves and pained expression, with a little James Brown shake thrown in to make it ultra-groovy. Fink is one of those rare performers who you can’t take your eyes off of, belting out each number as if she’s singing right to you… or at you.

About half-way through the set it was clear she wasn’t feeling the best. She pulled out a handkerchief from her back pocket and swabbed the sweat from her face, offering to dry off bassist Josh Soto’s own dew-covered melon. He passed, but she did it later in the set anyway.

The band ended in a blaze of glory playing the single “Two Weeks” — a favorite of 2015 — and left the stage in a roar, winning over yet another crowd. High Up is closing out the year on a high note as the most talked-about band to emerge from the Omaha music scene in recent years. So who’s going to release their inevitable full-length? Saddle Creek could certainly use another show pony in its stable.

 

Big Harp at The Slowdown, Nov. 28, 2015

Big Harp at The Slowdown, Nov. 28, 2015

If you haven’t heard by now, the once folky Big Harp has a brand new bag. The trio, which features the Chris Senseney, his wife Stefanie Drootin-Senseney and drummer extraordinaire Daniel Ocanto, went electric with their last album — the cassette-digital release Waveless (Majestic Litter, 2015) — and haven’t looked back. I overheard their new style described as psych rock, but it’s more of a garage rock / post-punk hybrid. Songs off Waveless would have fit in nicely on Frank Black’s earlier albums — a mix of solid melodies and heavy-rhythms but not afraid to take a proggy turn.

Chris’ golden bray — the chief asset on Big Harp’s earlier albums — is just as comfortable on these brittle melodies, though it’s the frenetic, propulsive rhythm section that’s driving the band these days. These songs are jitter bombs of nervous energy. How long will the trio commit to this style of rock, or will they eventually fall back into the sleepy folk style where it all began? Here’s hoping they stay their current course (but not forget their past).

Timecat at Milk Run, Nov. 28, 2015.

Timecat at Milk Run, Nov. 28, 2015.

By the time we left Slowdown the club had filled nicely, but was far from a sell out. I’m told the number was around 350, which is a bit light for a Good Life show. Holidays, maybe? It was off to Milk Run next, but before we got there, a quick stop to pick up libations. Milk Run, located at 1907 Leavenworth (right next to Shuck’s seafood restaurant), is an all-ages venue that doesn’t sell booze but let’s you bring your own. We stopped at All Nations on 24th Street, an old-fashioned neighborhood liquor store, and picked up a couple quarts that had made a long trip from across the border — my Modelo Especial and Teresa’s Corona.

The 0709 Art Gallery, looking from back to front.

The 0709 Art Gallery.

We pulled into the parking lot behind the building and made our way into the fenced-in back area that connects the Milk Run venue with the 0709 Art Gallery — the name apparently a play on the addresses (Milk Run is 1907, the gallery is 1909). It is a huge space for an art gallery, and seemed even larger due to the limited number of pieces in the current show, “American Dizzy” by Collin Pietz of the band Fake Plants.

Part of the plan for the gallery space is to have showings consisting of art created by members of bands playing next door at Milk Run, highlighting the full creative spectrum of these talented musicians/artists. A noble mission indeed.

Next, we made our way through the revelers chilling outside and entered Milk Run. It’s amazing the difference a fresh coat of paint can make. The tiny venue was patterned in white and black vertical panels, sure to be a signature look in any photo taken at the club, just like those zig-zag stripes that hallmark any photo taken at the old Sweatshop Gallery. The original plan was to put the sound-mix equipment in a small room behind the stage that has a glass window, but apparently that didn’t work out since the small sound board was now located in the back near the entrance, taking even more space.

What can I say, Milk Run was designed to be a small venue for small shows, and it’s downright tiny. No idea on what the actual capacity is, but I’d say no more than 60 would fit in there comfortably, especially when bands take up as much space as those playing Saturday night. There is no stage, merely a hard-wood floored performance space, where was stacked two huge Marshall amps — way more power than was needed to fill that room — along with two stacks of PA equipment. It was like putting a 350 Hemi in a ’67 Volkswagen Beetle. Good thing I had my ear plugs.

Timecat, a local four-piece, was pretty amazing playing their style of heavy, aggressive indie rock (notice how I didn’t use the word “angular”?). Great stuff, but because of the over-powered amps, there was no way to hear the vocals through the much smaller PA — a shame. Chock it up to the new venue’s learning curve, one assumes they’re still feeling out the right combination of equipment, etc.

Chris Aponick, who owns/operates the place with Sam Parker, said in this interview they “wanted a room that makes a crowd of 30 to 50 people feel like an event instead of a bummer.” Mission accomplished. The whole vibe that night was right on. With only 30 or 40 people in the room, it felt exciting, like you were experiencing something special. But had the crowd been much bigger…

I have to believe Milk Run is going to be rather limited with the kinds of bands they can book for such a small room, a room that feels like it’s half the size of Sweatshop. That said, they have options. They could host larger shows in the art gallery; better yet, they could take out the wall where the “green room/sound room” is located behind the stage and simply make the entire room that much larger. Decisions, decisions. Regardless, I’m excited at the prospects for Milk Run…

Check out Milk Run’s Facebook page for a list of upcoming shows.

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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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Big Harp drops new cassette (yes, cassette); Darren Keen in Rolling Stone; Simon Joyner, Danny Pound tonight…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:10 pm August 12, 2015
Big Harp have a new cassette out.

Big Harp have a new cassette out.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

During a recent interview with Ryan Fox and Stef Drootin-Senseney for this story on The Good Life, guitarist Fox talked about his tape-only label Majestic Litter.

“The nice thing about the label, the point of it is to make music immediate and direct,” Fox said. “There isn’t long lead times that you have with vinyl, or ad budgets or lawyers. You have the songs, you record them, you make tapes right away.”

Fox said he uses high-quality chrome cassettes, but why even bother with what is considered an outdated medium instead of just releasing digital files? “It’s something that exists in space,” Fox said. “It has artwork, and I feel like we all grew up collecting records and tapes and CDs. I’m not a format snob. They all have their merits. They’re functional but not just a ‘remember these’ sort of thing. I think they’re cool and sound good.”

Big Harp, Waveless (Majestic Litter, 2015)

Big Harp, Waveless (Majestic Litter, 2015)

Drootin-Senseney and her husband, Chris, who play in the band Big Harp, couldn’t agree more. So much, in fact, that their brand new album, Waveless, is being released on Fox’s Majestic Litter imprint.

“Chris and I write so fast,” Stef said, “by the time a release comes out we’ve already written another record. With labels, you have to wait such a long time. With this tape we just wanted to get the music out there.”

The 12-song cassette became available for pre-order from Fox’s label website yesterday. All those buying pre-orders immediately receive a download of the album. Pure Volume premiered the first track, “Golden Age,” yesterday as well (which you can listen to below). Listen and order your copy of Waveless for $7, plus postage. The release comes just in time for Big Harp’s next tour, supporting The Good Life throughout the next couple months.

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Former Nebraska resident now New Yorker Darren Keen has been burning up the media lately.

Fact Music News yesterday published an interview with the “Omaha-bred, New York-based producer” in support of Keen’s latest project, the LP He’s Not Real, out Aug. 28 on Orange Milk Records. Check out a track below.

In addition, Keen was interviewed for a Rolling Stone article about “footwork,” a style of music that Stone writer Andy Battaglia described as “marked by dizzying loops, staccato synth stabs, antic polyrhythms and blasts of repetition, repetition, repetition — seemed designed to go everywhere and nowhere at once.” See what Keen has to say about the genre in the story, online here.

Keen is conquering the Big Apple. “Brooklyn rules,” he said. “I’m always busy and I work full-time as a DJ in the East Village.”

He’ll be hitting the road touring with Giant Claw starting Sept. 8 in Cleveland, making his way back to Nebraska for gigs at the Bourbon Theater in Lincoln Sept. 10 and fabulous O’Leaver’s Sept. 13 (for a show that also features Channel Pressure — an electronic collaboration between Todd Fink of The Faint with Graham Patrick Ulicny of Reptar).

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A quick heads up that today the folks from the Maha Music Festival issued a “low ticket warning” for this year’s festival. If you want to go to the day-long fest this Saturday at Stinson Park, you better get your tickets soon.

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Pageturners’ summer concert series continues tonight with Simon Joyner and Danny Pound (ex-Vitreous Humor). The free show starts at 9 p.m.

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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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

 

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Domestica celebrates Domestica 3 in Lincoln, Bloodcow tonight; Millions of Boys, FITNESS Saturday; Big Harp Sunday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 10:46 am June 19, 2015
Domestica at The Sydney, Dec. 3, 2011.

Domestica at The Sydney, Dec. 3, 2011. The band celebrates the release of their new EP, Domestica 3, tonight at Plowshare Brewing Co. in Lincoln.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Esteemed Lincoln critic L. Kent Wolgamott weighs in on the new EP by Domestica — titled Domestica 3 — in Ground Zero, giving it a solid “A” rating and saying the EP is “a recording on which Domestica takes an impressive step forward while rocking as hard as ever.” Read the entire review here.

Little more can I add except a brief history lesson. Before Domestica there was Mercy Rule, a band I fell in love with way back in 1993 with the release of God Protects Fools by local label Caulfield Records. Relativity put out Providence in 1994 and the band was back on Caulfield for the seminal album, Flat Black Chronicles, in 1998. The story behind that record is documented at Lazy-i right here and continues to stand as a lesson for bands even in these days of digital streaming (because despite the technology, crappy record labels continue to exist).

Some might say Domestica is merely Mercy Rule with a different drummer — Pawl Tisdale (Sideshow) replacing Ron Albertson. Certainly the power and the fury are the same. But some would be wrong, because Domestica — both lyrically and musically — feels more thought-out, more mature, more realized. The songs still have a huge, anthemic quality, but the arrangements are tighter, the riffs grittier and the entire package is more compact and streamlined.

Domestica, Domestica 3 (Tremulant, 2015)

Domestica, Domestica 3 (Tremulant, 2015)

Opening track “What of Me” is the EP’s high water mark, with co-front-person Heidi Ore at her howlin’ best, breaking your heart when the song drops and she sings “What of me / said the sorrow / said the anger / and the pain” before blowing the whole goddamn thing up all over again. It’s frickin’ fantastic, but I wonder where a song like this fits into today’s music world, where weirdo psychedelia is the norm. What will the kids think of this track, of this album?

In the context of modern rock, Domestica is as relevant as any other ’90s act such as Superchunk or even Desaparecidos, which is experiencing a bit of a resurgence with their new album, which comes out next Tuesday. If ’90s indie punk is indeed coming back in style, Domestica could stand at the forefront of the revival.

The other big news with Domestica 3 (which L Kent led with) is the addition of Jon Taylor on vocals. Jon sings leads on half the songs, including the blazing “More” and the clap-powered album closer “Got It Right.” He surprises with a strong, slightly nasal voice that reminded me of John Linnell of They Might be Giants. Heidi completes the overall picture with her sharp, soaring harmonies. Massive indeed.

Released by Tremulant Records, you can find Domestica 3 at CD Baby (here) and of course on iTunes and Amazon.com (here) for a mere $5.94. You can also find it at tonight’s album release show, being held among the fermenting tanks at Ploughshare Brewing Co., 1630 P Street in Lincoln. Opening is Dirty Talker (members of Her Flyaway Manner). Show starts at 8 and is absolutely free. More info here.

Meanwhile, back here in Omaha, Bloodcow headlines a show at fabulous O’Leaver’s with American Wasted and Mint Wad Wally. No, this is not the album release show for Bloodcow’s Crystals & Lasers. That doesn’t happen until mid-July. Still, you’ll probably hear plenty from the new album tonight. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Saturday night Millions of Boys headlines a show at Sweatshop Gallery with Manic Pixie Dream Girls, Lincoln’s Once a Pawn and Big Slur. $7, 9 p.m.

Also Saturday night, FITNESS #000008 comes to The Brothers Lounge. Featured bands are Ruby Block, Forest Television, Chalant and Grottos. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Sunday it’s back to O’Leaver’s for the return of Big Harp. Opening is Ted Stevens Unknown Project (although the show listing says “maybe”).  $5, 9:30 p.m.

That’s what 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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Saddle Creek to reissue Good Life, Maria Taylor; Big Harp to Fat Possum?; Lazy-i Podcast Ep. 3; new Two Gallants; Doomtree tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:52 pm March 4, 2015
Check out the Good Life reissues...

Check out the Good Life reissues…

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Saddle Creek is dipping into its rather enormous back catalog again, this time to dish out reissues of early Good Life and Maria Taylor albums. From the press release:

We are excited to announce that The Good Life’s first three LPs and two accompanying albums of demos will be issued on vinyl April 7. Novena on a Nocturn is available for the first time ever on vinyl, Black Out is back in print for the first time in over a decade, and Album of the Year has been expanded to 2xLP in gatefold packaging. Also available is the never-before released Novena on a Nocturn demos and the never before released on vinyl Album of the Year demos, both Saddle Creek Online Store exclusives.

Then there’s the Maria Taylor stuff:

On April 18 (a.k.a. Record Store Day) Maria Taylor’s first two solo records will be available for the first time ever on vinyl — 11:11 on opaque light blue vinyl, and Lynn Teeter Flower on transparent gold vinyl.

In addition, Cursive’s The Ugly Organ (Deluxe Edition) [Remastered] vinyl is back in stock. To order any or all of the above, go to the Saddle Creek online store.

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Did Big Harp jump the Saddle Creek Records ship? This today in Spin: “After two very good albums with Omaha-based Saddle Creek, (Big Harp has) moved to Fat Possum to release their newest single ‘It’s A Shame.” Check out the track below.

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Speaking of Saddle Creek ex-patriots, Two Gallants shared a new video for the track “Incidental” from the band’s fifth studio album We Are Undone, out now on ATO Records. Two Gallants is playing at Reverb April 22.

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Episode 3 of the Lazy-i Podcast went online this morning. The weekly recap includes a brief interview with Matthew Sweet, new music by Icky Blossoms, Simon Joyner and Bloodcow, info on the No Coast Music Festival and live reviews and recordings from last weekend’s Shy Boys and J Fernandez performances at Almost Music. Plus: The best shows happening this coming weekend. Check it out here.

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Tonight at The Waiting Room Doomtree returns to Omaha for the first time since their Maha Music Festival performance last summer. The band is touring behind their latest full-length, All Hands, out now on Doomtree Records. Opening is Busdriver & Transit. $15, 9 p.m.

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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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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The calm after the storm; Big Harp, McCarthy Trenching tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: — @ 1:54 pm January 2, 2015
Big Harp plays tonight at O'Leaver's...

Big Harp plays tonight at O’Leaver’s…

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

After the last couple weeks of stellar reunion shows, I guess it’s payback time. A glance at the calendars for the next few weeks (months) shows very few national touring indie bands coming through Omaha. The winter months always are rather sparse show-wise, but somehow we make it through to the spring.

It ain’t all bad news. In fact, there’s at least one big show going on this weekend.

Big Harp is playing a set tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s. The band just opened for The Good Life last week, and now here they are again, this time on The Club’s tiny stage. Opening is the always impressive McCarthy Trenching. $5, 9:30 p.m. Expect a crush mob Looks like O’Leaver’s will be booking a lot of indie shows in the coming months. An early heads up for next Tuesday night’s show — The Good Life performing songs from their upcoming new release.

Also going on tonight, All Young Girls Are Machine Guns headlines at Reverb Lounge. Openers include the legendary Dereck Higgins, Xion and CJ Mills. $7, 9 p.m.

Barley Street tonight has Calling Cody, The Doneofits, Those Far Out Arrows, and Jazz Brown and the Afterthoughts. $5, 9 p.m.

And isn’t this supposed to be Benson First Friday? Maybe not… I don’t see any BFF info online anywhere. Maybe they’re skipping it this month.

Anyway, that’s it for shows this weekend. If I missed your show, put it in the comments section.

bestof20014cdbembedHey, while I still got your attention, a reminder that you can win a copy of the Lazy-i Best of 2014 compilation CD — it’s the special 20th Anniversary Edition. The collection includes songs by Courtney Barnett, Sun Kil Moon, Tei Shi, Protomartyr, The Faint, Stand of Oaks, The Lupines and a ton more.  The full track listing is here. Entering has never been easier: To enter either: 1. Send an email with your mailing address to tim.mcmahan@gmail.com, or 2) Write a comment on one of my Lazy-i related posts in Facebook, or 3, Retweet a Lazy-i tweet.Hurry, contest deadline is midnight Jan. 6!

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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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Strange Attractors drops debut; new Swearing at Motorists; Big Harp timewarps ’72; Steel Cranes, Luke Polipnick Trio tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:56 pm October 22, 2014

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Yesterday Matt Kucera of the band The Strange Attractors sent me a link to his band’s new album, O.NE, currently available for streaming here via SoundCloud. According to the stream notes:

“Drawing on the talents of songwriter Matt Kucera (Fornever/Lead) and producer Aaron Gum (Jimmy Hooligan/InDreama) and some Omaha’s finest songwriters and musicians such as Dereck Higgins (InDreama/Son Ambulance), Wes Graffius (Through the Stone/ Break Maiden), Brandon Voorhees (Marauder/Fornever), Scott Armstrong (Lead/Black on High) we have recorded the album O.NE, which stands for Omaha, Nebraska as well as being album number one.”

One of O.NE‘s songs apparently will be included on the soundtrack to the locally produced film Bent Over Neal. “We are doing the digital release today and will hopefully have the CD’s in for this weekend’s Bent Over Neal concerts,” Kucera wrote.

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Speaking of albums currently streaming, the new one by Swearing at Motorists, While Laughing, The Joker Tells the Truth, is being streamed in its entirety right here. It’s the first new Swearing at Motorists album since 2006.

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Big Harp has a new video for their upcoming album debuting over at Impose. The video for “Numbers,” (below) was recorded live on German television in 1972. Look how young Steph looks! And who would have thought Big Harp would ever go so electronic (or so pop)?

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Two shows happening tonight.

Over at Reverb, it’s Oakland garage rock duo Steel Cranes. Opening are local folks Stephen Nichols and Feel Tight. $5, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, jazz group The Luke Polipnick Trio plays a free show at Slowdown Jr. This one is listed with an 8 p.m. start time.

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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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Live Review: Digital Leather, Big Harp, Kill County at Holland Center’s 1200 Club…

Digital Leather at the 1200 Club, June 7, 2013.

Digital Leather at the 1200 Club, June 7, 2013.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Here’s a late review of last Friday’s Holland Center/1200 Club show. In fact, Lazy-i reception will be a bit spotty this week as I’ll be headed out of town for a few days. I’ll try to update when/if I can.

On the surface, the line-up for the inaugural Hear Nebraska Live program sponsored by Omaha Performing Arts at the Holland last Friday night was edgy, if not just plain risky. Kill County isn’t exactly a well-known commodity in Omaha. Saddle Creek’s Big Harp was the closest thing to a sure bet, while Digital Leather appeared to be an obvious miss-step — a synth-fueled punk band that you’d think was way too loud for the Holland’s delicate acoustics.

In fact, the program, which was filmed in its entirety by Nebraska Educational Television (NET) was supposed to emulate Austin City Limits, a PBS program whose staple is acoustic, alt-country balladeers that are more storytellers than rock stars. Rarely has ACL featured full on rock bands, probably because its reserved setting seems an ill fit for anarchy.

Kill County at the 1200 Club in The Holland Center, June 7, 2013.

Kill County at the 1200 Club in The Holland Center, June 7, 2013.

Needless to say, of the three bands Kill County was the best suited for the show’s relaxed environment. 1200 Club, located on the second level of the Holland, is a gorgeous sit-down space — round tables and candles on polished oak floors. You know when you walk in that it’s going to be a nice evening as a member of the crack Holland staff points you to your table where moments later one of the black-clad waiters comes and takes your drink (or food) order with a whisper. Very classy.

On Friday night, the corners of the room were filled with NET’s professional television production equipment, including a huge boom-control camera, a stationary camera and a guy walking around with a shoulder-mount camera followed behind by a cable lackey. We arrived during the second half of KC’s reserved alt-country set. Pretty stuff, crowd pleasing, well played, and exactly the kind of music that you’d expect to see on Austin City Limits, which is a nice way of saying their music isn’t anything you haven’t heard before. There is an obvious familiarity with everything they play, and people love listening to music they recognize.

Big Harp at the 1200 Club, The Holland Center, June 7, 2013.

Big Harp at the 1200 Club, The Holland Center, June 7, 2013.

Chris and Stef — i.e. Big Harp — came on stage alone for the first part of their set for a few gorgeous ballads before guest players keyboardist Dan McCarthy and drummer Dan Ocanto joined in and ratcheted up the sound. This band continues to vex me by never hovering for long over any specific genre. Their first album, White Hat, was filled with acoustic ballads while last year’s Chain Letters had a rock sound that seemed to reach for a Black Keys audience. Friday night the band was all over the map, each song carrying a different sonic reference point, a different style, with Chris Senseney’s croaking baritone and agile guitar work providing the common denominator. While rougher (and noisier) than Kill County, Big Harp’s set was still a fine fit for both the broadcast and the venue.

Then came Digital Leather, sounding exactly as I expected. If anyone involved in organizing this program was surprised at what they heard, they didn’t do their homework. In retrospect, it was probably why the band was scheduled last because the organizers knew they’d lose some of their audience in DL’s sound and fury… just like they did.

There were two surprises from DL. First was the addition of new keyboard player Ben VanHoolandt, who plays bass in Pleasure Adapter and is part of the duo known as Dirt. This was BVH’s first show with DL, joining Todd Fink, who remains on keyboards, though the speculation after the show was that BVH is being groomed as a road replacement for Fink. Only frontman Shawn Foree knows for sure. Just a year ago, Foree had turned his back on live synths; now he has two synth players.

The other surprise was hearing Digital Leather play “Modern Castles” off Warm Brother, something I never thought I’d ever hear. Needless to say, the return of keyboards opens horizons for some of Foree’s more tuneful – less punk songs. Now if they could work up a version of “Gold Hearts” I could die a happy man.

While as loud as any Digital Leather show I’ve seen, there’s no question that the band held back for either the venue or the cameras. My wife kept asking if they’d close with “Studs in Love,” the crowd-pleasing homo-anthem off Blow Machine recently returned to their live set (usually as an encore). I just shook my head. They wouldn’t dare, and of course they didn’t (though there’s always the Maha Festival…).

I think a lot of people involved in the program saw it as an experiment. The outcome was — for the most part — a success, though I’m sure they would have liked to have sold more tickets. Still, every table was filled and everyone seemed to have a good time. I can’t wait to see how it’ll translate to the boob tube. The broadcast is slated for airing on NET sometime in the fall (and may even be picked up by PBS nationally).

But the bigger question is whether Omaha Performing Arts, NET and HN will team up (along with the 1200 Club) for another show next year. Keep your fingers crossed.

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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 © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Big Harp talks about music biz struggles on NPR’s Weekend Edition; no shows ’til Friday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 1:54 pm January 14, 2013

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Big Harp, Chain Letters (Saddle Creek, 2013)

Big Harp, Chain Letters (Saddle Creek, 2013)

Clay Masters, who covers the Midwest for NPR, filed a story for Weekend Edition Sunday that features Saddle Creek band Big Harp, and uses the duo as an example of how indie bands face an uphill battle in the post-apocalyptic music industry. Listen to it here. The story also talks about the added pressure on Chris Senseney and Stef Drootin-Senseney who are trying to make a living from music while raising a family — an endeavor that means bringing the kids along on the road.

Of note in the story is the fact that Big Harp’s Saddle Creek debut, White Hat, sold fewer than 2,000 copies. In the old days (’round the turn of the century) that would have been considered a ginormous flop, but today, when no one’s buying music anymore, 2,000 ain’t half-bad, and probably better than a lot of 2012 indie releases. Still, do the math and that’s not a lot of cash. There’s tour income, but it’s not like the old days, Stef says in the report, when they could crash on someone’s floor while on the road. Not with the kids along.

Saddle Creek Grand Poobah Robb Nansel kinda/sorta acknowledges that poor sales are starting to hurt, but that Big Harp’s low numbers don’t concern him, that the label is helped by back-catalog sales and that the reason it exists primarily is to promote “art that we feel is important” and supporting friendships. Gone are the days of pressing 10,000 CDs and spending gobs on print advertising. Lower budgets mean doing more with less.

Clay implied in the piece that unless Big Harp’s new record sells better than the last one that it will be difficult for Saddle Creek to “stay with them.” But it’s hard to imagine Saddle Creek ever turning its back on any of their previous artists. Have they ever refused to release an alumnus’ record before?

Clay also implied that commercial pressures could be the reason for Big Harp’s shift to a heavier sound. Their debut is almost serene compared to Chain Letters, which comes out a week from Tuesday. To me, the new record doesn’t sound heavier as much as more cluttered than the debut. If there’s a criticism to be leveled it’s that added elements can get in the way, something that wasn’t a problem on the debut.

Or maybe I just prefer the kinder, gentler (and simpler) Big Harp. Their best features have always  been Chris’ insane guitar playing, his unique, croaking baritone, and Stef’s clean, simple accompaniment. I can’t imagine (as someone suggested to me over the weekend) that they actively changed their sound to attract a Black Keys audience. I hope they haven’t. To me it’s not so much a question of Big Harp actively reaching out to a larger audience as much as that audience finding Big Harp’s music, which by itself is irresistible.

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Ain’t no shows tonight. In fact, there ain’t no shows until Friday. At least none that I know of. We are indeed in the depths of the winter lulls show-wise, and maybe that’s a good thing considering that everyone seems to be sick these days. While I didn’t have the flu, my allergies knocked me to my knees this past weekend, which is why I stayed away from the clubs.

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Speaking of weekend shows, I said last Friday that Sun Settings’ show at House of Loom that night was their swan song (based on their Facebook page). Then yesterday I got an invitation via Facebook to a Sun Settings show Feb. 8 at O’Leaver’s. I’m told the band will change its name by then. We shall see.

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Lazy-i Best of 2012

Lazy-i Best of 2012

It’s coming down to the final days to enter enter to win a copy of the Lazy-i Best of 2012 compilation CD. The collection includes songs by The Intelligence, Simon Joyner, Ladyfinger, Twin Shadow, Ember Schrag, Tame Impala, Paul Banks, Cat Power and a ton more.  The full track listing is here (scroll to the bottom). To enter the drawing send an email with your name and mailing address to tim.mcmahan@gmail.comHurry! Deadline is tomorrow, Jan. 15.

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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 © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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The Sandbox gets busted; Live Review: Sons of O’Leaver’s; new Big Harp…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:42 pm November 19, 2012
Baby Tears at The Sandbox, Dec. 10, 2011.

Baby Tears at The Sandbox, Dec. 10, 2011.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Was it only a matter of time before The Sandbox got busted? The loft apartment at 2406 Leavenworth, formerly known as The Faint’s Orifice practice space, apparently had a visit from Johnny Law last week, effectively shutting down the space as a live music outlet for the foreseeable future. I’ve heard a variety of reports, including one that involved a full premises search and people in handcuffs. The only thing I know for certain is that The Sandbox is out of business. Black Heart Booking, who used the space for many of its shows (including the metal show that got busted), is now looking for new venues for six upcoming gigs.

What amazes me is that The Sandbox lasted as long as it did. Here’s a narrative snapshot of the venue from Dec. 2011. The fact that you could buy a beer for a “donation” was common knowledge, and could be considered selling alcohol without a liquor license. The whole legality of the “donation for booze” thing at events is rather foggy. Add the fact that it was considered an “all ages” venue where booze was available, and that the facility likely wasn’t zoned for group occupancy, and you’re asking for it.

No doubt cops have seen dozens of kids going into that building late at night, wondering what was going on. I’ve been told they were aware that The Sandbox was hosting shows (and selling beer), and didn’t care. Apparently that wasn’t the case. Or did someone tip off the cops, forcing their hand? If so, you have to wonder who else is on OPD’s radar screen, and what impact this will have on the emergence of house shows in an era when independent music continues to be headed back underground…

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The Sons of O'Leaver's at O'Leaver's, Nov. 16, 2012.

The Sons of O’Leaver’s at O’Leaver’s, Nov. 16, 2012.

The only thing stopping The Sons of… from being billed as Omaha’s version of The Replacements is that the band doesn’t play shit-stroke drunk. Their musical resemblance to The ‘mats can be uncanny, though I also hear elements of Spoon (specifically Kelly Maxwell’s vocals) and Wilco (a touch of classy twang). No doubt this group of local heroes’ sound is deeply rooted in those bands and a thousand others. Their songwriting puts them on the upper tier of local acts, playing music that feels as comfortable and familiar as a well-worn pair of motorcycle boots. No, they’re not breaking any new musical ground, nor are they trying to (nor would you want them to). I’m told they’re actually doing some recording, and that they’ve got a couple upcoming gigs scheduled at venues they’ve never played before (though is there really any better place to see the Sons of O’Leaver’s than O’Leaver’s?).

Also playing Friday night at O’Leaver’s was North of Grand, who played a number of songs off their nifty new album A Farewell to Rockets (Brolester Records), which is worth checking out.

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The first song off Big Harp’s upcoming Saddle Creek release, Chain Letters, premiered this morning right here at rollingstone.com. Down load the mp3 for “You Can’t Save ’em All” absolutely free.

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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 © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Big Harp’s Chain Letters coming in January; Paleo at The Barley Street tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:53 pm October 23, 2012

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Big Harp, Chain Letters (Saddle Creek, 2013)

Big Harp, Chain Letters (Saddle Creek, 2013)

Big Harp today announced that it will be releasing its sophomore album, Chain Letters, Jan 22 on good ol’ Saddle Creek Records. According to their publicist, Big Hassle, the album was recorded at ARC with engineer Ben Brodin and at the band’s LA home and was mixed by the incomparable Mike Mogis.

On the new album the duo of Chris Senseney and Stefanie Drootin-Senseney are joined by John Voris on drums. “The album moves away from the rustic, pastoral sound of their debut and towards a truer union of their backgrounds (Chris grew up in Valentine, NE, an isolated cow town of 2,800; Stefanie is a native Angeleno). Built on a foundation of crackling fuzz bass and angular electric guitars and keyboards, the songs on Chain Letters play like a series of character sketches centered around escape and surrender, and the blurred borders where the two become indistinguishable.”

Based on their “album trailer” on YouTube (below) the duo have indeed changed-up their sound to something that more resembles rock than folk. I’m thinking this could be good…

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Tonight at The Barley Street Tavern it’s the return of Chicago singer/songwriter Paleo, aka David Strackany with Cartright (Austin, TX), Sean Pratt and Fletch. $5, 9 p.m.

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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 © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i