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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.

Lazy-i

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…

* * *

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.

* * *

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…

* * *

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

Live Review: The Mynabirds, Big Harp…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:13 pm March 26, 2012
The Mynabirds at The Waiting Room, March 23, 2012.

The Mynabirds at The Waiting Room, March 23, 2012.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I don’t know if that’s supposed to be a fox or a coyote or a wolf plopped upon Laura Burhenn’s lovely head. For you vegans in the audience wondering, it’s not real, though the spirit of it is (However, it would have been even more effective had it been a griz head, just like ol’ Bear Claw’s in Jeremiah Johnson). Everywhere she goes these days, Burhenn is photographed with that stuffed animal on her noggin, representing, what… rebellion? or the death of it, because nothing says futility more than the head of a dead animal balanced on your head, even if it resembles a plush toy.

Still, the crowd loves it, and when Burhenn put it on again at the end of the show, they went nuts, so I guess we all better get used to seeing it. If anything, it represents Burhenn’s new music, or her departure from the old(er) stuff from her debut. Friday night at The Waiting Room was the first time I’d heard any of it, and my impression is that she’s taken a hard right turn toward drama — even stoicism — on stage. All those months backing Conor on last year’s Bright Eyes tour pumped up the “importance” of her approach, as evidenced by her announcement about three songs into her set that her new album, Generals, is a a protest album with “a lot of anger.” She seems to have volunteered to take on the role as front piece for a movement that isn’t terribly well defined, but that she’s very serious about, and you should be too, even though a lot of what I heard Friday night sounded like love songs.

According to the press release, the forthcoming album, which arrives in June, “is both a protest record and concept album. It’s fueled by a full decade of Burhenn’s political frustration and aimed at finding a revolutionary yet pacifist way in a world where, these days, it seems warring comes quick.” The record is “filled with armies of stomps and claps, sweeping full spectrum orchestrations, and moments that range from intensely personal pleas to shout-out-loud protests with teeth.” For me, the best protest music is more subtle than that. Dylan’s best moments are met through metaphor. And some of the best ’60s political commentary is outlined in humor. Even Conor’s best political statements are draped in clever irony (“When the President Talks to God,” is an obvious example). Go too far with it, and you risk sounding too self-serious or preachy. Whether Burhenn suffers that pitfall, I’ll withhold judgement until I hear the record.

That said, such earnestness was marked as much by Burhenn’s between-song patter as the songs themselves, which you couldn’t really absorb from the stage Friday night. At one point, Burhenn congratulated the crowd for their support in getting the LGBT ordinance passed by the City Council, but added that the fight isn’t over yet, and that we’ll all be hearing more about it in the future. Yes, indeed. Despite the politics, most of the evening was dedicated to music and Burhenn’s new band. Gone are all the original members that hailed from Omaha — Johnny Kotchian, Dan McCarthy, Pearl Lovejoy Boyd, Ben Brodin and Alex McManus. I don’t know the story behind their departure, but have been told it had to do with touring availability. I can’t seem to find a listing of the new band members anywhere, but will say they all had the tact and talent of veteran support folks or session players. None of them stood out, but all were competent. This galvanizes the idea that The Mynabirds is fully a Laura Burhenn project. If so, why not just go by the name “Laura Burhenn,” especially if you intend to put your politics out front?

Look, I realize I’m asking more questions than providing a review. Musically, it all sounded fine. The new stuff  seemed less orchestrated and more poppy than the songs heard on the first album (which as a result, is a record I’ve come to appreciate even more). It’s too early to say if there will be a song on the new album as gorgeous as “Right Place” or as sing-along fun as “Numbers Don’t Lie.” Burhenn seems destined to be compared to Jenny Lewis, whose own music feels less constrained and more easy-going than Burhenn’s. But then again, Lewis isn’t a self-proclaimed writer of protest songs.

Opening band Big Harp continued on the hard(er) electric path that I briefly heard unveiled in Austin at SXSW. If you liked the simple acoustic two-step of songs like “Goodbye Crazy City,” you might be disappointed with the new blues explosion approach that recalls The Black Keys more than, say, Justin Townes Earle or Willie Nelson. Luckily, frontman/guitarist Chris Senseney has more than enough guitar and vocal prowess to pull it off and give Dan Auerbach a run for his money.

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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

Simon Joyner hits Kickstarter goal (in just a few days), and what happens when Kickstarter fails; Big Harp go Daytrotter…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 1:55 pm January 31, 2012

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

A follow-up on the item posted a couple weeks ago about Simon Joyner’s Kickstarter campaign… It only took Simon a few days to reach his $6,000 goal to help fund the final recording, mixing and manufacturing expenses for his 13th full-length album. With 19 more days left in the campaign, Simon is now pushing $9,000 in pledges and there are still tons of cool awards left for those of you who haven’t pledged (and even for those of you who have). Check it out.

There’s been a lot written about Kickstarter, both positive and negative. When you see results like this, it’s hard to criticize it as a business model. That said, this is the third Kickstarter campaign that I’ve contributed to, and I have yet to see results from the first two. I pimped Digital Leather’s Kickstarter campaign on Lazy-i way back in April 2010, and put my money where my mouth was, pledging (along with 100 other people) to support the band’s campaign. If they met their goal (and they did) I was promised a free download of their next album along with a limited edition vinyl copy of the record. Two albums later and I’m still waiting to receive both. Then in August 2010 I pledged cash via Kickstarter to help finance a local production of a short film. To the best of my knowledge, shooting on that film wrapped over a year ago, and I haven’t seen a frame of it, nor have I received the promised copy of the film’s “soundtrack.”

Yeah, I guess you could say that I got screwed, but to be honest, I never expected to get anything from those two pledges other than a chance to help the artists involved. I gave because I supported the cause, and if in the end they were able to pass along the promised rewards for my generosity, that was cool. If not, well, I was only out a few bucks. That said, I know I don’t speak for the majority of people who make pledges on Kickstarter. They expect to get their booty if the campaign reaches its goal. What could be a cool thing could easily turn into a dead albatross hung around the artists’ neck along with a lot of bad PR. If my track record with Kickstarter reflects a national trend, I can’t see its popularity lasting very long.

But if my experiences have been the exception to the rule, Kickstarter could become the ultimate method for artists to allow their fans to “pre-order” their next record, effectively generating money needed to cover production before the record ever hits the store shelves.

Who knows, maybe Digital Leather and that film producer will fulfill their Kickstarter commitments… eventually. I know Simon will.

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Big Harp Daytrotter illustration

Saddle Creek band Big Harp joined the legions of acts that have recorded a Daytrotter session. Theirs went online today, right here. The duo of Chris Senseney and Stef Drootin-Senseney sing three songs from their White Hat debut, plus “Other Side of the Blinds.” It’s been awhile since I stopped in at Daytrotter. I hadn’t realized that they’d begun a “membership” model, and I can’t say I blame them. Doing what they do isn’t cheap. Becoming a Daytrotter member is a mere $2 a month, and well worth it. But you can check out Big Harp’s session for free with a trial membership.

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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

CD Review: Hear Nebraska Vol. 1 (Digital Leather, Big Harp, Thunder Power…); Replacements doc/show tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:54 pm November 30, 2011

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Hear Nebraska Vol. 1

Hear Nebraska Vol. 1

Some thoughts on Hear Nebraska Vol. 1, the first in a series of comp CDs that are being put together by the folks at hearnebraska.org (the board of which I am a member, though I had nothing to do with this album)…

The record is being celebrated with a release party Saturday night at The Syndey. This CD has a very limited run of only 150 copies. After that, it’s download-only. All cash goes to the HN coffers.

Designed to be (as HN executive Andy Norman says) “a cross-selection of Nebraska’s most exciting bands,” as a whole, it’s a pretty complete snapshot of where we are these days, though there will be those who will quibble that this band or that band was left off, there (presumably) will be room for them on Vol. 2. The breakdown:

Thunder Power, “Who Am I” — Easily the best Thunder Power song I’ve heard, and I’ve heard most of their recordings. It has an energy that I’ve always found lacking from their music, driven in part by terrific organ/keyboards, glowing guitars and an uninhibited vocal. It’s a fitting opening track and sets the bar for the rest of the comp (and for TP’s next album).

Big Harp, “Everybody Pays” — This is a different version than appears on their Saddle Creek debut. I’m not sure where it came from (perhaps from the Love Drunk video shoot?) — it pops from the speakers better than the original. I’m beginning to think live recordings are the future of the indie music industry, if only for the economy of it all.

The Betties, “Come Back to Me” — This sleepy little C&W number is my introduction to this band of western folkies whose love for Hank and Loretta are twangfully obvious.

Conduits, “Blood” — Another intrepid release from the band’s long-awaited debut (over a year now, right?), it’s one of their more upbeat numbers, a quick-step syncopation pulled together by Jenna Morrison’s languid, black-leather Euro croon that boarders on lovely drone, until the lonely siren birdsong that breaks the song in half, before the world comes crashing down again.

Dim Light, “For You” — Like a perverted stripper ballad lifted from the soundtrack of a David Lynch film, there’s something brazen and obscene in how Cooper throws down his caterwaul like a stoned Jim Morrison or Mark Lanegan. A drunken love call sang in an empty jail cell at 4 a.m.

Con Dios, “What’s Your Name?” — A new song that doesn’t appear on their officially unreleased recording, it sounds like Saddle Creek indie or Nebraska indie or whatever you want to call this style of upbeat folk music with downbeat vocals that’s so reflective of the last decade of sounds made from around here.

Domestica, “Shine” — Clocking in at less than two minutes (just like any good punk song) it’s another perfect slice of fist-pumping anthem rock that Heidi and Jon have been making for more than a decade.

The Mezcal Brothers, “Lonely Fool” — Clocking in at less than two minutes (just like any good ’50s jukebox song), this is diner rockabilly as you’ve come to expect from this band of local originals. As shiny as the bumper of a ’57 Chevy,

Digital Leather, “Sponge” — Off-kilter and off-balance, this little New Wave / No Wave synth ballad left me stumbling through early Cure (and mid-era Replacements) memories, lonely and simple and lost. Probably my favorite of the bunch.

So-So Sailors, “So Broken Hearted,” — Another song from another long-awaited release (over a year now, right?), it’ll be recognized as one of the band’s centerpiece numbers from their live set, grand and elegant in a style that’s more ’70s arena ballad than modern-day indie. Play it next time you’re headed to Jungle Land.

Kill County, “Home Blues” — Hold-me-close country ballad that sounds like John Hiatt long, long after closing time.

Wagon Blasters, “Golden Lariat” — Tractor Punk. Gary Dean Davis. Nebraska originals. Them Thornton boys. It all feels like driving too fast in a late-model El Camino on dirty county roads. Loud and reckless.

As stupid as it sounds, this comp would make the perfect Christmas gift for all those people who’ve asked you about the Nebraska music scene circa 2011. At $15, buy them in bunches. The CD release show at the Sydney Saturday features Digital Leather, The Wagon Blasters, Domestica, Dim Light and Masses and starts either at 9 or 10, depending on which listing you find. Cover is $5.

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I can tell you exactly when the screening of Color Me Obsessed: A Film About the Replacements starts tonight at Slowdown. The film rolls at 8 p.m., with director Gorman Bechard in the house.

This is not your typical rockumentary. According to IMDB.com, “Bechard bravely eschews including the band’s music, photos, and live footage, instead relying solely on the fans: their well-kept memories, hilarious anecdotes, and differing points of views about the foursome’s wildly varied discography and infamous antics.” Bechard will be conducting a Q&A after the film’s 123-minute runtime, after which five bands will be providing their interpretations of Replacements music: Anonymous American, Witness Tree, Travelling Mercies, Peace of Shit and Well Aimed Arrows (though I noticed today that Peace of Shit and Well Aimed Arrows are no longer listed on Slowdown’s website for this event — let’s hope it’s just an oversight).  $7, 8 p.m.

Also tonight, Honey & Darling are playing at O’Leaver’s with Nelsonvillians and Wind-Up Bird. $5, 9:30 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 © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Maria Taylor, Big Harp; Cold War Kids tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , — @ 12:34 pm October 31, 2011
Maria Taylor at The Slowdown, Oct. 30, 2011.

Maria Taylor at The Slowdown, Oct. 30, 2011.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Notes from last night’s Maria Taylor/Big Harp show at The Slowdown…

Big Harp at The Slowdown, 10/30/11.

Big Harp at The Slowdown, 10/30/11.

Big Harp continues to be a special project. Chris Senseney has a unique, memorable voice. When it reaches way down low it sounds like a bull frog trying to seduce a butterfly, all deep and buttery. That voice stands slouched at the center of Big Harp. It’s the band’s defining statement, more so than the songs, which are good in a neo-traditional Townes Van Zandt sort of way — nice, pleasant tunes, bluesy and fun. And more so than the instrumentation, which is better than good. Senseney always was one of the area’s best guitarists as well as a fine keyboard player (which he proved again last night). But it’s that voice that stands out; especially on stage. You can hear it in fits and starts on the record, but on stage, it’s startling, the kind of voice people discover and never forget.

On the other hand, I always get the sense that Maria Taylor is holding back oh so slightly on stage and in recordings, like a woman on the verge of a “Communication Breakdown.” Yeah, that’s a weird reference to Zep. Because despite being known for her sleepy, Sunday-morning folk ballads, Taylor can rock. Really. She did last night during “Xanax” (from 11:11) propelled by her new brother-in-law, Taylor Hollingsworth, whose band Dead Fingers opened last night’s show. For those five minutes or so during “Xanax,” Taylor unclenched the reigns on her voice, on her band, and let go. I wish she’d do that more often. The rest of the set was the usual collection of pleasant Maria tunes, laid back but restrained, as if she’s hiding something just below the surface. If she was, the smallish crowd (especially for a “big stage” show) didn’t mind at all.

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Two big shows tonight, the biggest of which is Cold War Kids at The Slowdown with Young Man. CWK is touring on Mine Is Yours, released in January by V2/Interscope, the record sounds like an obvious stab at the mainstream. $18, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, it’s a night of Americana at The Waiting Room with Joshua James, HoneyHoney and Levi Lowrey. I’m told by a certain person who works at Homer’s that “HoneyHoney is about to explode.” We’ll see. The band is playing a free in-store at Homer’s today at 6 p.m. Tonight’s gig at TWR is $10, 8 p.m.

Neither show has been promoted as a costume thing, so hand out the candy then head to the club.

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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 © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Big Harp, David Dondero tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: — @ 1:10 pm September 7, 2011
Big Harp at Slowdown Jr., July 8, 2011.

Big Harp at Slowdown Jr., July 8, 2011.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Just a quick note to remind you that Big Harp is playing tonight at Slowdown Jr., opening for ageless troubadour David Dondero (Ghostmeat Records).  Big Harp’s Saddle Creek Records debut, White Hat, is slated for release Sept 13, though you can stream the entire album right here at americansongrwriter.com. Tonight’s show is the closest thing you’re going to get to a Big Harp CD release show. Big Harp vocalist Chris Seseney talked about the origin of the band, which includes his wife, Stephanie Drootin, in this here Lazy-i interview from July 7. Check it out before you head to the show, which starts at 9, and will run you $10. Also on the bill, Thunder Power.

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Tomorrow: The Rise of Depressed Buttons (and the fall of The Faint?) — an interview with Todd Fink and Jacob Thiele in this week’s column.

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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 © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Big Harp, the OEAA Summer Showcase; The Big Deep gets final MAHA slot…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:58 pm July 11, 2011
Big Harp at Slowdown Jr., July 8, 2011.

Big Harp at Slowdown Jr., July 8, 2011.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Just as one would expect at the local debut of the label’s latest signing, it was a virtual Saddle Creek homecoming at the Big Harp show Friday night at Slowdown Jr. Chris Senseney started the set all by himself with his guitar before being joined by wife Stefanie and a drummer who I’m told used to play with him in Baby Walrus.

You wouldn’t have known that this was only the second time The Senseneys performed under the Big Harp banner. They were completely at ease with the material, as if they’d been playing these songs for years (and who knows, maybe they have, in the privacy of their El Lay living room). On stage the more upbeat story songs had an extra dimension of assertive cool, an undisputed sinister swing and bounce. Chris’ voice glowed with a throaty brio, matched in swagger only by his fret-burning guitar work (lest we all had forgotten what a fantastic musician Mr. Senseney is on a variety of instruments). It’s a golden needle of a voice that could catch on with a larger crowd if only it were discovered in the 10,000-foot-high haystack we call the music industry. We’ll have to see what kind of publicity Saddle Creek can muster upon tBig Harp’s debut release Sept. 13. Someone get Pitchfork on the phone…

Dim Light at The Sydney, part of the OEAA Summer Showcase, July 9, 2011.

Dim Light at The Sydney, part of the OEAA Summer Showcase, July 9, 2011.

Saturday night was spent at the second evening of the OEAA Summer Showcase in Benson, the highlights of which included Dim Light at The Sydney and Blue Rosa at The Waiting Room.  I’m told the crowds in general were larger on Friday night. There were only 30 or so in The Sydney and only a few more than that at TWR. Burke’s Pub, where I saw Manny Coon, was the most crowded room of the evening, but still only had 30 or 40 people total.

Finally, this morning the MAHA organizers announced that the winner of the talent contest portion of the OEAA showcase was The Big Deep. The band, whose music I’ve never heard before, received the most public votes among all the acts performing, and has earned the opening slot at this year’s MAHA Music Festival. And with that, MAHA’s lineup is finally complete.

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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 © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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