Closeness’ formation a matter of the heart; review: Posse 7-inch; STRFKR, Matt Harnish (Bunnygrunt), Wagon Blasters, Bloom tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 1:01 pm March 15, 2017

by Tim McMahan,

Today a story from Orenda Fink about the formation of Closeness, the new project she shares with her husband Todd, was published at I’m not sure this was reported before, it probably has been, but this is the first time I’ve run across it, and never so eloquently.

Orenda writes about her long-term heart ailment, something that’s plagued her since her days in Little Red Rocket, and how matters only worsened over the years, leading to Todd insisting she get it checked out. Good thing he did and she did, because the docs quickly put her under the knife. I’ll let Orenda describe what happened next, but the outcome not only is a healthy Orenda, it was impetus for her finally forming a band with her husband, something she’d thought about for years.

Read the story here, then go out and buy a copy of the the new Closeness album, Personality Therapy (2017, Graveface). And if you’re in Austin this week, check them out live.

* * *

I’m listening to the first release of Saddle Creek Records’ new “Document” series, featuring Seattle band Posse — the single “Kismet” b/w “Keep Me Awake.” The A-side is slow, dark and atmospheric, and includes a sweet Gilmour-esque guitar solo toward the end. I prefer the B-side, which has its own ripping guitar solo in the middle and which you’re going to have to pay to hear. With vocals handled by Paul Wittman-Todd and Sacha Maxim it strikes near to Painful-era Yo La Tengo territory, except that whoever’s playing that guitar blows Ira away.

The black vinyl single comes with a folded one-sheet that includes a history of Posse Seattle practice spaces that have seen the wrecking ball (or flood waters). The package is definitely worth $8. When’s the next one, Saddle Creek?

* * *

Some noteworthy shows for a Wednesday night…

Tonight trippy Portland indie pop band STRFKR (Polyvinyl, Badman) headlines at The Waiting Room with labelmates Psychic Twin. $20, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, Matt Harnish from well-known (by some of us, anyway) ’90s indie band Bunnygrunt does a solo show at Brothers Lounge. Joining him are opening acts Wagon Blasters, Noah Sterba and Googolplexia. $5, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, down at fabulous O’Leaver’s, Harrisburg post-hardcore band Bloom headlines a show with Bishops (the Bob-Mouldish garage rock band, not the ska band), Gogfermour and Medlock. $5, 9 p.m.

* * *

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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Conor Oberst; Closeness, High Up tonight; Sam Locke Ward, Simon Joyner, Growlers Saturday; Cold War Kids Sunday…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:50 pm March 10, 2017

Conor Oberst at The Waiting Room, March 9, 2017.

by Tim McMahan,

Conor Oberst was the main event of last night’s Waiting Room 10th Anniversary bash.

Oberst, with his wacky wild man, just-rolled-out-of-bed hairdo, took the stage at 9:30 and kicked through about 75 minutes of folk rock backed by The Felice Brothers. The set consisted mostly of songs off his new album Salutations, which to me, sounds like a soft-rock combination of Blood on the Tracks-era Dylan and Leonard Cohen. Conor’s lyrics have never been sharper, though his melodies have lost their edge, especially when laid beside older material like “Poison Oak” and “Cape Canaveral.”

That said, Salutations takes the stripped-down material from Ruminations and thoughtfully beefs it up to create his best album since his 2008 eponymous release. Last night’s set was heavily weighted with the new stuff — this definitely will not be a greatest hits tour.

From my vantage point, Oberst approached the performance with workmanlike precision, fueled by a well-oiled Felice machine. It left me wistfully dreaming about Bright Eyes shows gone by, where Oberst was a lit fuse ready to either explode or fizzle out on stage. Kevin Coffey of the Omaha World-Herald reported (second hand) that he did blow up on stage. I guess I missed it.

In fact, I was expecting (hoping for) some political diatribe between songs, but no. Maybe Conor let off on the anti-Trump rhetoric because it was the Waiting Room’s birthday, which he referenced numerous times throughout the night.

Oberst closed with a three-song encore that included a angst-fueled solo piano tune I didn’t recognize that was among the best songs of the night, and a scorching version of “Napalm” with the brothers Felice from the new album, a real Live Rust moment.

It was one of the most packed nights I can remember at The Waiting Room, a real crush mob, with more than a few lit patrons, one assumes from enjoying the pre-party over at Reverb before the show (which, sadly, I missed).

* * *

After the past few weekends with little to do, this weekend is chock full o’ shows.

It starts off tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s where Closeness celebrates the release of their new EP, Personality Therapy, out today on Graveface. This is sort of a warm-up show as the duo of Orenda and Todd Fink get ready head to Austin for SXSW. Joining them tonight is the mighty High Up (Orenda’s pulling double duty!) and the provocatively named new act BareBear.  $10, 7 p.m.

Also tonight, dark wave leather-fetish dance sensation Plack Blague headlines at Reverb Lounge with Cult Play and Solid Goldberg. $6, 9 p.m.

Satchel Grande and Carson City Heat also take The Waiting Room stage tonight. 9 p.m., $8.

Saturday night Almost Music is hosting Sam Locke Ward with Simon Joyner and the return of L. Eugene (Methe) Group. $5, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, over at O’Leaver’s, Sean Pratt headlines with Landon Hedges (of Little Brazil, Desaparecidos, Wrong Pets and Fine, Fine Automobiles). $5, 9:30 p.m.  This show has been CANCELLED.

Also Saturday night, The Growlers return to The Waiting Room. $15, 9 p.m.

El Ten Eleven returns to The Slowdown Saturday night with Mylets and Fontenelle. $12, 8 p.m.

Then Sunday night Long Beach indie rockers Cold War Kids headline at Sokol Auditorium. Middle Kids open the 8 p.m. show. $26.

Also Sunday night, Vancouver art rock band Bad Pop headlines at Reverb Lounge. Relax, It’s Science and Low Long Signal open. $7, 8 p.m.

And that’s all I got. If I missed your show, put it on 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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Vinyl drove Homer’s sales increases in 2016; Closeness new EP on Graveface 2/24…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 1:40 pm January 12, 2017

by Tim McMahan,

Homer’s General Manager Mike Fratt sent out his annual sales letter to the media a few days ago, and it’s good news: Homer’s business was up 4.5 percent in 2016.

“Vinyl drove the increase, though lifestyle helped,” Fratt said, referencing so-called lifestyle products — i.e., non-recorded products (i.e., trinkets).

Vinyl sales boomed by a robust 18 percent, and new vinyl sales overtook new CD sales in gross dollars. That’s because vinyl costs about $25 per unit, while CDs cost on average around $11.  In fact, CD sales slumped 2 percent last year at Homer’s partially due to retail price declines, Fratt said. Overall CD unit sales were basically flat, off by only 110 units.

“But unit sales in new CDs were were well over two times that of new vinyl,” Fratt said.

Despite that impressive 4.5 percent year-over-year business increase, Fratt says Homer’s has no plans for expansion in 2017. “Running one great store matters more than a handful of average stores,” he said.

Fratt also had some thoughts on my “vision of 2017” that said vinyl sales will plateau in 2017 nationally. He said that peak won’t be reached until 2019 or 2020.

“While the increase (in vinyl sales) is not as great as the last couple years, it’s still significant,” Fratt said. “Add the fact that boomers are now digging out their turntables and playing records again. It’s really quite stunning how wide the demographic is buying vinyl now. So lots of gas still in the tank on vinyl.”

And, Fratt added, Homer’s sold 150 8-track tapes in 2016. Somehow I can’t see that medium making a return.

Top vinyl sellers for Homer’s in 2016: Twenty One Pilots: Vessel and Blurryface; David Bowie, Blackstar; Adele, 25; Radiohead, Moon Shaped Pool; and Bon Iver, For Emma, Forever Ago.

Top CD sellers for Homer’s: Twenty One Pilots, Blurryface; Rolling Stones, Blue & Lonesome; Melanie Martinez, Cry Baby; Chris Stapleton, Traveller; Kevin Gates, Islah; and David Bowie, Blackstar.

* * *

Todd and Orenda Fink as seen in negativeland…

Closeness, the dreamy electronic duo of Orenda and Todd Fink, will release their debut EP, Personality Therapy, Feb. 24 on Graveface Records. The Savannah label counts Xiu, Xiu, Whirr, Dosh, The Appleseed Cast and Black Moth Super Rainbow among its roster.

Check out the first single below. BTW, the Finks will be performing at SXSW this year….

* * *

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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Benson First Friday Femme Fest, Gramps, American Cream tonight; Closeness, NE Hardcore Saturday; Nance, Joyner Sunday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 8:52 am September 2, 2016
The second annual Benson First Friday Femme Fest is tonight...

The second annual Benson First Friday Femme Fest is tonight…

by Tim McMahan,

Some call Labor Day weekend the last weekend of summer. But the last time I checked, summer doesn’t end officially until Sept. 21. And I plan on soaking in every last day of it. Anyway, a new tradition (at least for the last year or so) is Benson First Friday Femme Fest, or #BFFFF. I’ve never been to one before and likely won’t again since I have my own Labor Day weekend tradition that involves New York City. This year is the exception. I’m here. I’m going.

What exactly is the point of Femme Fest other than to gather bands together that include women in them to play together on one night? I’m not entirely sure. There used to be a time when rock ‘n’ roll was exclusively a boys’ club. Take a look at the pop charts (or any chart) and you’ll see that’s no longer the case. In fact, women performers, singer-songwriters and rockers dominate just about every genre, if not in sheer numbers, in overall quality (sorry guys, but times have changed).

That doesn’t mean there still aren’t problems when it comes to women in rock, or that gigs like these aren’t appropriate (or necessary). In the press releases I’ve received for this event from #BFFFF organizers, a clear mission for Femme Fest is never spelled out. The closest I’ve seen was the following written by organizer Rebecca Lowry for the pages of BFFFF sponsor Hear Nebraska:

Over my years watching the form of the music community shift and change, I am amazed at how quickly this has become a community consumed by women in music. The sheer number of us has drastically increased, and continues to do so, shaping some of the best music to come from our state.

The specifics: 56 bands at eight venues for $10. Here’s the sched. See you there:

The Waiting Room Lounge
6:30 – 7:20 :: OPENING CEREMONY :: All Young Girls Are Machine Guns/Omaha Girls Rock
7:30 – 8:05 :: KMK
8:15 – 8:50 :: Mary Ruth McLeay
9:00 – 9:35 :: The Hottman Sisters
9:45 – 10:20 :: Dani Cleveland
10:30 – 11:05 :: Lexi Robles
11:15 – 11:50 :: La Guerre (Lawrence, KS)
12:00 – 12:35 :: High Up
12:45 – 1:30 :: HEADLINER :: CJ Mills

Reverb Lounge
7:30 – 8:05 :: Blue Bird
8:15 – 8:50 :: Field Club
9:00 – 9:35 :: Edem Soul Music
9:45 – 10:20 :: Keiria Marsha’
10:30 – 11:05 :: Lady Scientist
11:15 – 11:50 :: DJ P2K
12:00 – 12:35 :: SharkWeek

The Barley Street Tavern
7:30 – 8:05 :: The Shineys
8:15 – 8:50 :: Badland Girls
9:00 – 9:35 :: Annie Dilocker
9:45 – 10:20 :: White Bee (Detroit, MI)
10:30 – 11:05 :: Tara Vaughan
11:15 – 11:50 :: Briner
12:00 – 12:35 :: Kait Berreckman Music

9:00 – 9:35 :: PYRATE
9:45 – 10:20 :: The Clocks
10:30 – 11:05 :: The Morbs
11:15 – 11:50 :: Muscle Cousins
12:00 – 12:35 :: Universe Contest

SoundCheck Rehearsal Studio
7:30 – 8:05 :: Soul Tree
8:15 – 8:50 :: The Ronnys
9:00 – 9:35 :: Calling Cody
9:45 – 10:20 :: Molly Gaughan & The Dustbunnies
10:30 – 11:05 :: Tiny Monsters
11:15 – 11:50 :: Edge Of Arbor
12:00 – 12:35 :: Pleiades & the Bear

Burke’s Pub
7:30 – 8:05 :: Ragged Company
8:15 – 8:50 :: The Toppings
9:00 – 9:35 :: The Ragabonds
9:45 – 10:20 :: 24 Hour Cardlock
10:30 – 11:05
:: Dammit Daniel
11:15 – 11:50 :: Wagon Blasters
12:00 – 12:35 :: The Electroliners

Pizza Shoppe Collective
7:30 – 8:05 :: Aly Peeler
8:15 – 8:50 :: Emily Ward
9:00 – 9:35 :: Cat Deluca
9:45 – 10:20 :: Wendy & The Lost Boys
10:30 – 11:05 :: Virginia Tanous
11:15 – 11:50 :: Belles & Whistles

The Sydney
7:30 – 8:05 :: DOOM BLADE
8:15 – 8:50 :: Shen Teh Music (La Crosse, WI)
9:00 – 9:35 :: No Thanks
9:45 – 10:20 :: Better Friend
10:30 – 11:05 :: Screaming Plastic
11:15 – 11:50 :: Domestica
12:00 – 12:35 :: The Clincher

* * *

#BFFFF isn’t the only thing going on tonight.

Over at fabulous O’Leaver’s it’s the return of Gramps (Django Greenblatt-Seay’s joint) with openers The Edge Of and the stage debut of Win/Win. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Meanwhile Milk Run is hosting American Cream (Nate from STNNNG) along with Robust Worlds (Chris from Vampire Hands) and Alcools (Mike from Almost Music). $5, 9 p.m.

Closeness at O'Leaver's April 30, 2016. The band returns Saturday, Sept. 3.

Closeness at O’Leaver’s April 30, 2016. The band returns Saturday, Sept. 3.

Tomorrow night (Saturday) it’s back to O’Leaver’s for Closeness (The Finks’ sublime new jam (review)). Joining them are Silversphere (the band formerly known as The Lepers) and Little Ripple. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Speaking of festivals, Saturday is the Nebraska Hardcore Showcase at the Lookout Lounge. Acts include Bad Blood, Bib, CBN, Circle VII, Crease, Culture War, Dilute, Downtrod, DWNR, Feral Hands, Flak, Hercules, Jocko, Lost Boys, No Thanks, Pisswalker, Relentless Approach and Sister Kisser. All for just $5. Runs from 2 to 11 p.m. Yes! BTW, Bib is listed as kicking the showcase off at 2 p.m. And Bib might be the hottest new noise/punk band in the area. See what the hype’s all about.

Finally on Sunday, Reverb Lounge is hosting a special show featuring Simon Joyner, David Nance and headliner Neil Michael Hagerty & The Howling Hex (Drag City Records). $8, 8 p.m. Hey, we all have Monday off, right? Might as well get blasted Sunday night…

That’s all I got. If I missed your show, put it in the comments section. Have a great third-to-last weekend of summer.

* * *

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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Ten Questions with Goo Goo Dolls; Bright Eyes Ludwig-mastered box set; Closeness, Navy Gangs again tonight…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:37 pm July 20, 2016
Closeness at O'Leaver's April 30, 2016.

Closeness at O’Leaver’s April 30, 2016. The duo plays tonight at Pageturners Lounge.

by Tim McMahan,

If the first three paragraphs of the below story look familiar it’s because I lifted them from my 1999 interview with Goo Goo Dolls, which you can read online here. GGD’s Robby Takac was a very good interview way back then. He laid it all out when I asked why the band switched from being basically a pop-punk band to mainstream AOR alt rockers. The answer has something to do with selling millions of albums.

I’m told that their show Friday night at Stir Cove is getting close to selling out. Here’s Ten Questions:


Goo Goo Dolls play Friday night at Stir Cove.

Ten Questions with Goo Goo Dolls

The first time I heard the Goo Goo Dolls was way back in ’92, after staying up late on a Sunday night to watch 120 Minutes on MTV. When the video for “There You Are” came on, featuring Goo Goo vocalist John Rzeznick doing his best Paul Westerberg-style crooning over a punchy, punky power chord, I was intrigued.

It was the band’s first video, and pretty much summed up their indie punk-rock sound and style — three average Joes running around an empty Buffalo, New York, baseball stadium, smiling for the camera without a care in the world.

But six years later, Goo Goo Dolls were a different band. Riding the success of their million-selling 1995 album, A Boy Named Goo, which featured the smash ballad, “Name,” Goo Goo Dolls went on to record the most played song on radio in 1998, “Iris,” the theme from the Nick Cage/Meg Ryan chick flick, City of Angels. It netted them three Grammy nominations and a first-class ticket out of the smoky punk bars and into sold-out arenas.

With the release of their latest album, Boxes (2016, Warner Bros), the Goo Goos are trying to change course once again. Rzeznik and co-founder/bassist Robby Takac hired a stable of writers in an effort to push themselves past their comfort zone. The product is a collection of king-sized alt-rock anthems that are a perfect fit for Stir’s Cove’s outdoor concert space, where the band performs Friday night.

We threw the Ten Questions gauntlet down on the Goo Goo Dolls, and Robby Tatac breached it with the following answers:

1. What is your favorite album?

Robby Takac: Todd Rundgren, A Wizard / A True Star

2. What is your least favorite song?

“The Weight,” by The Band

3. What do you enjoy most about being in a band?

The completion of the song cycle you experience at live performances.

4. What do you hate about being in a band?

Being away from my wife and daughter.

5. What is your favorite substance (legal or illegal)?

Green Tea

6. In what city or town do you love to perform?

Buffalo, NY

7. What city or town did you have your worst gig (and why)?

They’ve all been perfect …. of course.

8. How did you pay your bills back when the band was just getting started?

Worked at a flower shop, was a DJ, spent lots of time recording punk rock bands, was a barback & bartender, spent some time as a stage hand ….

9. What one profession other than music would you like to attempt; what one profession would you absolutely hate to do?

I would like to own a Pez museum. I wouldn’t want to be a cop.

10. What are the stories you’ve heard about Omaha, Nebraska?

I was there once and it was so hot cows were exploding ….. no lie.

Goo Goo Dolls play with Collective Soul Friday, July 22, at Stir Cove, 1 Harrahs Blvd., Council Bluffs. Tickets are $43, showtime is 8 p.m. For more information, go to

* * *

Saddle Creek is squeezing every last penny out of its back catalog with the release of a new six-record Bright Eyes box set. Remastered by legendary sound engineer Bob Ludwig, the box includes Fevers and Mirrors (2000), LIFTED or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground (2002), I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning (2005), Digital Ash in a Digital Urn (2005), Cassadaga (2007) and The People’s Key (2011).

That’s six albums on 10 LPs housed in tip-on jackets, including digital downloads of each album. The vinyl box set exclusives include colored vinyl, twelve 8×10 photo prints by Butch Hogan, and an essay by Nathaniel Krenkel. The vinyl box set is limited to 5,000 copies and includes all 10 LPs housed in a foil stamped linen-wrapped box. Price, a cool $150. You can pre-order now, release date is Sept. 16. Look for black vinyl individual copies of each remastered album available in November.

Saddle Creek is also offering a CD box of the same albums limited to 1,000 copies, also out Sept. 16. It costs a mere $60 a box.

Hey Saddle Creek, we’re still waiting for that exclusive Ladyfinger box set…

* * *

The new Todd and Orenda Fink ambient rock project Closeness performs tonight at Pageturners Lounge. Here’s a review of their O’Leaver’s debut.  It’s definitely worth your while to see and hear them. Ridgelines opens the evening at 10 p.m. and the ‘nice price’ is absolutely free.

Also this evening, if you missed Navy Gangs last night at Milk Run, the band plays again this evening at Almost Music in the Blackstone District. Joining them are Staffers and Sean Pratt & The Sweats. This early 7 p.m. show will cost you $5. Also, Coneflower Creamery will be on site serving their home-made ice cream. Yum!

* * *

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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Closeness, Thick Paint, BAMF, Relax It’s Science; 10 Questions with The Besnard Lakes…

Closeness at O'Leaver's April 30, 2016.

Closeness at O’Leaver’s April 30, 2016.

by Tim McMahan,

Closeness is a new project by Orenda and Todd Fink. We all know who they are, and if you don’t, how’s life been in that cave the past 20 years? A better question: Why have they waited so long before collaborating on music? Maybe they’ve always been collaborating and we just didn’t know it. Regardless, now we get to hear the product of these two musical masterminds, and it’s been worth the wait.

Their kit is an assembly of synths, keyboards and other sound robots placed on tables surrounded by lights, cables and other gizmos. Their equipment looked like an operating theater where the couple was about to perform surgery, but with Orenda donning an electric guitar over her scrubs.

They performed face-to-face, though from my vantage point, Todd mainly looked down or over or into his microphone. Orenda, her microphone echoing with delay, provided most of the vocals, with Todd adding his distorted, vocoder-like harmonies deep or high or robotic. Musically, Closeness goes way beyond what you’d expect. Sure, there were the familiar hypnotic beats, of which Todd always has been a master, but it was the melodies and the counter melodies and the layers upon layers of textured sound that set it apart.

Most songs were thick, mid-tempo grooves reminiscent of Orenda’s O+S material, but there were moments of lilting Caribbean-style tempos and traditional electro-rock you’d expect from The Faint. Their short set was only five songs long. Among my faves was a mid-set corker that featured the couple harmonizing on a slow melody that recalled Low’s Sparhawk and Parker.

No surprise that the crazy-packed crowd loved it and wanted more, but there wasn’t any. So has any of this music been recorded, and who will have the honor of releasing it? Or maybe they’ll release it themselves and then hit the road. Ah, what a life.

Thick Paint at O'Leaver's, April 30, 2016.

Thick Paint at O’Leaver’s, April 30, 2016.

Garnering just as much enthusiasm from the crush mob was Thick Paint, the one-man show featuring Reptar’s Graham Patrick Ulicny. With just a small synth, his voice and his guitar he enraptured the audience with his beautiful songs that, at times, reminded me of early Cat Stevens played to a beat box. Really gorgeous stuff.

I realize I’m going backward through my Saturday night, which actually ended at O’Leaver’s. It began at The Lookout Lounge and the Big Al Music Festival (BAMF) First, a word about The Lookout. No other club in town has managed to capture the glorious, run-down ambiance of ’90s-era Omaha rock venues quite like this place. It was like walking into the past, right down to the smell.

Wagon Blasters at Lookout Lounge April 30, 2016.

Wagon Blasters at Lookout Lounge April 30, 2016.

Like the old Knickerbockers or Capitol Bar, the venue is split in two, with a bar in one room and a decent sized music room adjacent with an impressive elevated stage. Imagine the old Sokol Underground shrunk down to half its size and you get the gist. The walls and ceiling tiles were painted black, and air vents over the stage were appropriately covered in fuzzy grime, no doubt a reminder of decades of cigarette smoke, now long gone. Lookout isn’t fancy, but the best rock clubs rarely are.

Big Al, who has been doing his free festival for nine years. kept things on schedule. I walked in at 8:45 and Wagon Blasters were just getting started — right on time. Gary Dean Davis and  crew looked right at home bouncing on the Lookout stage, belting out their usual high-quality tractor punk. Someone in the crowd of around 30 yelled out “Fishin’ Hole”! Hey, you can’t blame anyone for mistaking these folks for that classic ’90s punk band.

Mike Saklar at Lookout Lounge, April 30, 2016.

Mike Saklar at Lookout Lounge, April 30, 2016.

Mike Saklar took the stage next playing solo electric renditions of songs from his former band, Ravine. Ravine (who you can read about here) was Saklar’s post-Ritual Device band that played very heavy-bordering-on-metal rock music way back in the ’90s. Deconstructed as solo material, the songs sounded more tuneful than I remember them, though Saklar is no less a master on guitar. What are the odds that he could resurrect a few of these songs with a full band?

Relax, It's Science at Lookout Lounge, April 30, 2016.

Relax, It’s Science at Lookout Lounge, April 30, 2016.

Then came Relax, It’s Science, the latest project from drummer Jeremy Stanosheck (ex-Kite Pilot, among others). The trio consisted of Stanosheck and two bass players cranking out huge, anthemic, proggy instrumentals with intricate, powerful rhythms. Each bass took turns providing a semblance of a melody countered by the other’s pounding rhythm lines. It was appropriate that the only spot highlighted on Lookout’s stage was where Stanosheck had his drum kit, because he was center of the attention putting on a clinic with his throaty stick work. It’s time Stanosheck got the respect he deserves.

Hat’s off to Big Al for such a strong line-up. This was the first time I’ve attended one of his festivals, and I was impressed by how it was run. On a table in the back of the room was a large pile of canned and packaged foods destined for the food bank. As Gary Dean Davis said at the end of this set, “Keep feeding the world, Big Al.” Here’s to Year 10.

* * *

Tonight Canada’s Besnard Lakes returns to Omaha, this time at Reverb Lounge. You really should go to this one. Look, it’s a 9 p.m. show but with only one opener (Sub Pop and Burger Records band Jaill, which could be a headliner by themselves).

The Besnard Lakes play tonight at Reverb Lounge.

The Besnard Lakes play tonight at Reverb Lounge.

Ten Questions with The Besnark Lakes.

The Besnard Lakes’ music is so massive, so mammoth, it’s the sound you hear while teetering on the edge of a cliff with the gorge spread out in front of you, the river below a mere silver sliver among the rocks.  The Montreal-based six-piece is centered on the husband-wife core of Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas, who released their first studio album, Volume 1, in 2003 (but which was rereleased by their label, Jagjagwar, in 2007).

While the band is undoubtedly indie — Lasek’s and Goreas’ harmonies are reminiscent of Low — their gorgeously dense music has touch points in ’70s arena rock recalling bands like Yes and Boston, acts that knew how to make their anthems sound majestic. And most of Besnard Lakes’ new album, A Coliseum Complex Museum (2016, Jagjaguwar) is, indeed, majestic — a swirling miasma of beautiful multi-tracked sounds cut to the core by Robbie MacArthur’s sparkling guitar solos. It’s a sound so large one can only wonder how it’ll fit inside tiny Reverb Lounge Monday night.

We asked The Besnard Lakes to take our Ten Questions survey. Here’s what Olga had to say:

1. What is your favorite album?

The Besnard Lakes’ Olga Goreas: Side two of The Beatles’ Abbey Road.

2. What is your least favorite song?

Anything that doesn’t come from a sincere heart.

3. What do you enjoy most about being in a band?

Playing bass. I love that thing so much!

4. What do you hate about being in a band?

I really can’t complain about any aspect of being in a band. It’s pretty much the best job in the world. I don’t know, long rides in the van can get tedious I suppose.  I’ve got restless legs too, but I don’t think I can blame it on being in a band! Just gotta get up and stretch once in a while.

5. What is your favorite substance (legal or illegal)?

I do enjoy a well-made double espresso.  Caffeine is the one drug I could never give up.

6. What city or town do you love performing at?

Chicago has been a special city for us.  The audience is always super appreciative, and the city too is quite lovely.  The old architecture melds with the new really well.  I almost get a Canadian vibe from it too, more than any other American city except maybe Minneapolis. Also love playing Glasgow, London and just the UK in general.  Audiences seem to understand us best in the UK.

7. What city or town did you have your worst gig (and why)?

That honor belongs to Victoria, BC.  It had actually started quite well – we took a ferry from Tsawassen to Victoria and two of our bandmates at the time ran into the drummer from Def Leppard, who happened to be playing the same night in the big arena.  We actually went to see them and then went to play our show.  I don’t know if it was something weird in the air but it was a very strange crowd and we tried to be loud enough to be heard over the rowdies.  Jace was trying to sing a song and just got fed up and told someone in the audience who was basically yelling the whole time to shut the fuck up.  This person replies “get over yourself” to which another person in the audience gets into some altercation and the night basically ended with bar fights and the cops being called. The end!

8. How do you pay your bills?

Online baby!

9. What one profession other than music would you like to attempt; what one profession would you absolutely hate to do?

I went to university and studied Psychology.  I’d like to be a researcher or a clinical psychologist.  The mind is a fascinating creature to me.

I wouldn’t be able to work at a collection agency or anything that involves taking money from people who don’t have it.

10. What are the stories you’ve heard about Omaha, Nebraska?

We played once in Omaha many years ago. There was a college football game and nobody came to our show.  It’s totally fine, that sort of thing happens here for hockey so I get it. I also remember going to a laundromat and seeing bullet holes in the window. I started calling Omaha “Omaharsh” after that.

The Besnard Lakes plays with Jaill Monday, May 2, at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. Showtime is 9 p.m. Admission is $12. For more information, go to

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Author tonight; Closeness, BAMF (Wagon Blasters, Mike Saklar) Saturday; Iska Dhaaf Sunday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:38 pm April 29, 2016

by Tim McMahan,

Here’s what we got for the weekend…

Tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s it’s Minneapolis band Author. Radio station The Current described the trio’s latest album, 2015’s Of Brighter Days, as “the sort of album John Lennon might have made in 1994 if he’d survived to collaborate with Jon Brion.” Haughty praise. Listen to the album below and decide for yourself if that’s accurate. Also on the bill are LA band Sea Cycles and Eklectica. $7, 9:30 p.m.

And that’s all I see for tonight.

Tomorrow night (Saturday) is another story.

Easily one of the most talked about band debuts in recent memory goes down Saturday night at O’Leaver’s. CLOSENESS (all caps, not sure why) is a collaboration between Orenda Fink of Azure Ray fame and her husband, Todd Fink of The Faint and Digital Leather. They’re describing their music as “haunting and hypnotic electronic songs.” A lot of people are interested in this debut. Opening the bill is Thick Paint, a hot new project by Reptar’s Graham Patrick Ulicny, and spaced_bar. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Then there’s the annual Big Al’s Music Festival, happening all afternoon and evening Saturday at Lookout Lounge. This is the 9th year for BAMF, a free concert featuring a bunch of local bands, this year including the amazing Wagon Blasters (8:45 set), Mike Saklar playing old Ravine songs (9:30) and Relax, It’s Science (10:14), among others. In addition, Big Al Band will be closing out the show (11:45). See the full schedule here. This also is a food drive, so bring your canned stuff, all of which will go toward Food Bank for the Heartland.

Finally, Sunday it’s O’Leaver’s beer garden grand opening. It’s a shame that it’ll probably be cold and raining all day. The night’s festivities include Iska Dhaaf (which you read about here) opening for Annalibera. Also on the bill are Haunted Gauntlet and Mike Schlesinger & Sean Pratt. $5, 9 p.m.

And that is it. If I missed your show, put it in the comments section. Have a wet and wild weekend.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Decemberists, Nas headline 80/35; those busy Finks (Closeness, Cho-Cho & Dasheen)…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:49 pm April 6, 2016

by Tim McMahan,

Screen Shot 2016-04-06 at 12.41.16 PM

80 / 35 Festival

The folks behind Des Moines’ 80/35 this morning released the lineup for their July 8-9 music festival.  The Friday night headliner is hip-hop legacy artist Nas; Saturday night’s headliner is Decemberists, who played in Omaha last year.

The 2016 festival also features electronic jam band Lotus, recently reunited Canadian indie rockers Wolf Parade and Atlanta punk rockers Black Lips. Eclectic San Francisco pop group Thao & The Get Down Stay Down; Minneapolis queen of pop and hip-hop Lizzo; Jeff Austin Band, featuring the former Yonder Mountain String Band leader; and the poetic storyteller of The Hold Steady, Craig Finn, round out top of the bill.”


Read the whole list here. More names to be added in May. One assumes this bodes well for the Maha Music Festival. Hopefully Team Maha got all the good bands first. We’ll find out soon.

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The Finks — Orenda & Todd — recently announced a couple new projects which you may or may not be aware of.

Cho-Cho & Dasheen is a collaboration between The Finks, Jake Bellows, Morgan Nagler and a number of local musicians the band met while recording in Jamaica. The band’s first release is a 7” titled Cool Pool Reggae, due out on Record Store Day, April 16, limited to 500 copies. Is this a real project or a vacation project — i.e., will we ever see Cho-Cho & Dasheen perform live?

A project we’ll definitely see perform live is Closeness, described as “moody electronic songs written, performed and produced by Todd and Orenda Fink.” The duo’s first live performance is April 30 at O’Leaver’s with Thick Paint and Spaced_Bar.

Busy, busy, busy. I assume Todd also will be playing with Digital Leather tomorrow night when the band opens for Har Mar Superstar at The Waiting Room.

OK, so what’s going on with The Faint?

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One show worth mentioning: Brad Hoshaw is doing three hours of acoustic music tonight at the Harney Street Tavern. The performance starts at 9 and is free. Will Brad be rolling out a cover of “The Fightin’ Side of Me” in honor of the legend?

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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.