Live Review: Maha Music Festival Day One: Courtney Barnett, Jenny Lewis, Snail Mail; late night with BareBear; Damien Jurado tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:46 pm August 19, 2019

Courtney Barnett at the Maha Music Festival, Aug. 16, 2019.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

This is part one of a recap/review of the performances at this year’s Maha Music Festival, held at Stinson Park in Aksarben Village, Omaha, Nebraska, Aug. 16 and 17, 2019. In addition, a second “review” will be published in the September issue of The Reader that talks more about the experience and other issues surrounding the festival, as well as some (I hope) amusing speculation about the 2020 MMF.

This is far from comprehensive. I watched less than half the bands this year. I paid for my VIP ticket to Friday night’s show and had a media pass for Saturday. While this was, in my opinion, the best collection of acts for a Maha Festival, it also had a lot of bands and performers who simply didn’t interest me, or who I never heard of. But isn’t that the way of all music festivals? There was a time when I would have felt obligated to watch everything placed on stage. Those days are long gone.

Snail Mail at the Maha Music Festival, Aug. 16, 2019.

Anyway, we didn’t arrive Friday night until after Snail Mail began their set on the “little stage” — the stage has a name, but let’s face it, there’s a big stage and a little stage at Maha, and if you’re relegated to the little stage, it means something. Someone made the decision to place you there rather than the big stage.

And while the little stage is by all means functional, it isn’t nearly as nice as the big stage. The lighting is poor, the sound is… different, the viewing experience is awkward, especially for fans of the band who want to get up close and personal. In that way, it’s actually better than the large stage because you can (almost) walk right up to the edge, though you better have a good center of gravity because you’ll be standing on the up-rise of a rather steep hill.

Snail Mail’s fans were balanced on that hill, up close as the band played through songs from their latest album. I like Snail Mail and think think Lush, their 2018 Matador release, is right up there with the best of the bedroom indie rock genre that’s crowded with similar singer/songwriters, mostly women.

Frontwoman Lindsey Jordan can hang with the best of them, especially when backed by her band. That said, she spent the last 15 minutes of her set doing solo electric renditions of new material that didn’t do it any favors, especially when experienced from across the field. No doubt it felt more intimate if you were standing along the edge of the little stage, but by then I’d already scooted back to the VIP confines and wondered why she had dispatched her band, not hearing that she was filling time with the new material — a festival probably isn’t the best place for that sort of thing.

That was it for the little stage Friday night. The next two bands were big stage events. Courtney Barnett should have been the top headliner Friday night. Who knows how those decisions are made. I guess she was billed as a co-headliner. The last time I saw her live was at an industry-type gig at South By Southwest, playing again as a trio but with a much more subdued (i.e., boring) approach. She was on fire Friday night.

I hardly recognized her — she looked about 20 pounds lighter, with a new hair cut, but the same amazing voice and guitar prowess. She tore through a true festival set, performing all my favorites (“Avant Gardener,” “Depreston,” “An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York)” “History Eraser”) as well as a ton of more recent songs.

Barnett’s strengths are: 1) her songwriting, 2) her guitar playing, 3) her voice, and finally 4) her live performance, but she upped the performance aspect a couple slots Friday night. There was nothing fancy staging-wise, no interesting lighting gimmicks, just her and the band crushing her songs.

Jenny Lewis at the Maha Music Festival, Aug. 16, 2019.

It was quite a contrast to Jenny Lewis’ set. Lewis entered in a spectacular gold lamé dress, sat down behind a hand-painted piano surrounded by her band, and launched into songs off her latest, rather droll new album, On the Line (2019, Warner Bros). For that first song, “Heads Gonna Roll,” there was nothing on her vocals coming off the soundboard, just her out there alone, sounding thin as if not having warmed up, especially on the creaky high notes.

Her voice got into a groove and the sound crew adjusted as the night wore on. I kept waiting for the hits, but never got them, instead we got more songs off the new album. This was a festival, so you’d expect to hear the beloved numbers, like “Rise Up with Fists” or maybe take advantage of the fact that you’re in Omaha and sing “Execution of All Things” with its classic Omaha reference. Instead, we got her typical touring set, and a flat one at that.

It felt old compared to Barnett and Snail Mail. I feel lucky having seen Lewis when she played at the downtown Scottish Rite Lodge with the Watson Twins touring Rabbit Fur Coat back in 2006. At her peak. Where Barnett is today and where Snail Mail may be in a few years. Lewis’ new music is about looking back with regret, while Barnett’s music is about living in the moment and everything that goes with it.

Jenny did throw us a bone at the end with an impromptu version of “With Arms Outstretched” accompanied by the Omaha Girls Rock crew, standing in the dark lit by the audience’s outstretched smartphones. It was a highlight that ended awkwardly when the audience realized it was actually the end of the set. Is she done? Yeah, she’s done.

Tomorrow: Oh Sees, Matt & Kim and Lizzo…

My Friday night did not end at Maha. I made what would become a tactical error as far as the weekend was concerned. I drove to O’Leaver’s to catch a set by BareBear. These days I never stay out past midnight. I would regret it the next morning.

BareBear at O’Leaver’s, Aug. 16, 2019.

BareBear came on at around 12:30 and played their entire new album front to back. The band hadn’t played live in about two years, and the only place it showed was in frontman Rob Walters’ vocals. Let’s be honest, they were… rough. But what Walters lacked in tonal control he made up for in chutzpah and some mighty fine bass playing.

And the rest of the band was absolutely on point. This was one of my favorite guitar performances by Nik Fackler, who just slayed on his rhythms and leads. Drummer Matt Focht proved again why he’s among the best stickmen to get behind a drum set in Nebraska. And then there was Jacob “Cubby” Phillips, a guy who looks young enough to be Walters’ son. The term “virtuoso” comes to mind as does “wunderkind.” Phillips, whose background I’m told is in the jazz world, made playing in Barebear look like child’s play — just amazing guitar tone with a seemingly effortless style.

So what if Walters’ vocals barely resembled what’s heard on their new album? The set was fun. And for fans of Paul Stanley-flavored glam rock, you need to check out this surprisingly good album – The Party’s Over.

I ended up getting to bed at around 2:30 — a mistake that I would pay for most of the following day.

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Tonight at Slowdown Jr…. Damien Jurado’s Rehearsals for Departure (1999, Sub Pop) is one of my all-time favorite albums from the ’90s. He’s released around 16 albums since then, including his latest, In the Shape of a Storm (2019, Mama Bird Recording Co.). Corrina Repp, who played on another favorite of mine, Viva Voce’s 2009 album Rose City (Barsuk), opens at 8 p.m. $18.

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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 © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Bits and pieces from the in-box (Robert Plant, Protomartyr, Ty Segall, Courtney Barnett/Kurt Vile)……

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:54 pm September 26, 2017

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

No updates since last week because there ain’t a whole helluva lot happening. No indie shows last night or tonight and not much on the horizon until the weekend (which is very crowded indeed).

A few things from today’s inbox…

Robert Plant announced his U.S. tour dates. His closest pass to Omaha is Chicago Feb. 20 and Minneapolis Feb. 22. I’d definitely go see him if he played Omaha. Plant has a new album out Oct. 13 on Nonesuch called Carry Fire.

Protomartyr today shared a new track off their Relatives in Descent album, upcoming on their new label, Domino, a song called “Don’t Go to Anacita.”

Ty Segall dropped a new single today called “Alta,” recorded at Electrical Audio with Steve Albini during a break on tour this past spring.

And Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile today released a new single, “Continental Breakfast,” off their upcoming joint album Lotta Sea Lice, which drops Oct. 13 on Matador.

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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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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NOmaha Alerts (Courtney Barnett, Ted Leo, Algiers, Rural Alberta Advantage, OCS (a.k.a Oh Sees)…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 2:23 pm August 30, 2017

Courtney Barnett at the SXSW Convention Center, March 20, 2015. She’s not coming to Omaha anytime soon…

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Because you asked for it (no, demanded it: It’s time for another wave of NOmaha Alerts (*mree mree mree mreeee*).

I’ve been getting lots o’ press releases this week about new releases and tours that are bypassing our great city.

Top o’ the list is Courtney Barnett, who announced today she’s releasing an LP with Kurt Vile on Matador Oct. 13 called Lotta Sea Lice. It’s a collaboration, as is their fall North American tour, that includes three dates in Chicago and a St. Paul date, but… NOmaha.

Today Ted Leo announced he’s sending out downlinks to his Kickstarter supporters for his new double LP The Hanged Man. His tour starts Sept. 9 and runs for two months and includes Chicago Sept. 22, Minneapolis Nov. 11 and… NOmaha.

Yesterday Algiers, maybe Matador Records’ best new thing, announced a crapload of new North American tour dates, the closest being Chicago on Oct. 18. But still… NOmaha.

Also yesterday, Saddle Creek Records announced that it’s releasing the next album by Rural Alberta Advantage, The Wild, Oct. 13. A lengthy tour is planned that comes nowhere near Omaha, or… NOmaha.

On Monday The Oh Sees, who recently changed their name to simply Oh Sees, announced that they are changing their name again, this time to OCS. They’re releasing their 20th album, Memory of a Cut Off Head, Nov. 17 via Castle Face, under the OCS moniker. Of course there’s a lengthy fall tour planned, but… NOmaha dates. (Why the Nebraska boycott, OCS?).

And the list goes on, including just-announced tours by Hope Sandoval, Death from Above, Protomartyr, The National, Luna — all NOmaha tours…

But let’s not be gloomy Gusses. We do have Beck coming next month…

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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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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New Matt Whipkey, Courtney Barnett tracks…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 12:45 pm May 17, 2017

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Today’s news nugget is that Matt Whipkey has released a track from his upcoming LP Best New Music, titled “One Shot.” You can hear it below via Bandcamp. The album is slated for release next month. The Whipster actually has two albums in the works — the second is a concept album called Driver, which one assumes will also be released in the near future.

Speaking of new singles releases, yesterday Courtney Barnett released “How to Boil an Egg,” part of a split singles club from Milk! Records. Enjoy…

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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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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The Big Concert Announcement: June 3 at Reverb; Lazy-i Podcast for May 6 (Barnett, Waxahatchee, Klemmensen, Joyner)…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:27 pm May 6, 2015
The 50th Birthday Concert at Reverb, June 3, 2015. A benefit for Hear Nebraska.

The 50th Birthday Concert at Reverb, June 3, 2015. A benefit for Hear Nebraska.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

So here’s the big secret concert I mentioned last week: My 50th Birthday Concert, organized by Polecat Communications (i.e., my wife, Teresa), June 3, 2015, at Reverb Lounge. The bands: Son, Ambulance, The Wagon Blasters and The Lupines. It’s a fantastic line-up for a celebration, with proceeds going to a good cause: Hear Nebraska, an organization that I’ve served as a board member for a few years now. Please join me for an evening of fun, music and booze!

The announcement was first made during this week’s Lazy-i Podcast (linked below). This week’s episode features Chris Aponick and myself bantering back and forth Siskel & Ebert style (you can decide which of us is which) over four first quarter 2015 releases by Courtney Barnett, Waxahatchee, John Klemmensen and the Party and Simon Joyner. Also a live soundbite from Digital Leather to kick things off. Check it out below.

 

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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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SXSW recap Pt.3 (Courtney Barnett, Best Coast, The Pop Group, Will Butler); Matthew Sweet is Saturday!

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , , — @ 12:29 pm March 26, 2015
The Pop Group's Mark Stewart takes on the world at SXSW.

The Pop Group’s Mark Stewart takes on the world at SXSW.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

And lo, how the rain fell on my final day at SXSW, last Friday. It wasn’t so bad, but it was rain, and wind, and that combination makes for poor outside concert viewing and even worse navigation/walking from venue to venue. I was happy I got my afternoon at Stay Gold the day before.

There were a number of artists that proved illusive this year at SXSW. Among them was Courtney Barnett. It seemed like every time I wanted to see her perform it was either at 1 a.m. or in a location already at capacity (which makes one’s SXSW badge useless — when the club is full, they don’t care about no steen-king badges!).

There was one Courtney performance left, however, and it was at the SXSW Convention Center. The mega building houses dozens of enormous auditoriums and meeting rooms where SXSW “sessions” take place on such topics as “understanding copyright law” and “how to make the best of streaming technology” and so on. Panel discussions abound — this is where Snoop Dogg did a talk about something music-related. I’ve never been to a SXSW Music informational session, and most people I know who go to SXSW haven’t, either. Who wants to get up early after being on 6th Street until 2 a.m. the night before and sit in a conference room listening to a bunch of “music pros” drone on about “levering your band’s brand presence in social media” or whatever?

Still, a couple of the mammoth auditoriums were dedicated to performances, like the one happening in Auditorium G — the Public Radio Showcase, which included among the bands Courtney Barnett. And unlike the other gigs at SXSW, there was plenty of room and access to earthly conveniences like bathrooms, wi-fi and coffee. Not a bad place to be when sheets of rain are pouring down outside, at least for the afternoon.

But before Barnett took the stage Best Coast was playing a set of their El Lay-infused jangle-pop. People love Best Coast (especially in Omaha) and for the life of me I don’t know why. Their music is somewhat featureless, and front woman Bethany Cosentino suffers from (how do the American Idol judges put it?) pitch problems.

When I tell people I spent last week at SXSW, the first question is: “So did you discover any hot new music?” Courtney Barnett is not exactly new, but she is the hottest thing going indie-music wise these days and cemented that rep at SXSW playing eight showcases, where she debuted songs off her new album, Sometimes I Sit and Think and Sometimes I Just Sit, a record bound to be on a lot of “best of” lists this December (including mine).

Playing as a classic guitar/bass/drums trio, Barnett’s music, while singularly its own, owes a lot of its resonance to Kurt Cobain and Nirvana (though it’s not anywhere near as dark). The song structures are deceptively simple, the guitar riffs hook you and Barnett’s lyrics are both clever and introspective. If you’re an indie music fan who listens to XMU or an online indie radio station, you won’t be able to avoid Barnett this year. She’s the 2015 version of Liz Phair circa 1993. Watching her band on the auditorium stage was very much like watching an arena concert, with the crowd singing along to some of the older material. Great stuff. We need to get her to Omaha.

We left the convention center at around 6. By then the rain had slowed to a sprinkle. It was off to classic Austin bar The Ginger Man for a beer and some Drivin’ and Cryin’ but before D&C came on, a band of Japanese lads were on stage playing an intricate style of instrumental prog reminiscent of Eno/Fripp-era King Crimson. It was LITE, a band lauded as “one of Japan’s top instrumental acts.” They were mesmerizing. I have little doubt the folks at The Ginger Man knew who they are when they started their set, but by the end, everyone was a fan.

Then came Kevn Kinney and Drivin’ and Cryin’. The band has a new record coming out, and the songs I heard them play were solid (if not too long – Kinney likes to draw things out). He sounds exactly like he sounded a 20 years ago, same high-end squawk, ageless except for the extra poundage. Needless to say the crowd stood from their picnic benches when they the opening riff to “Fly Me Courageous” blazed through the place.

The Ginger Man is as comfortable a bar as you’d want to sit and drink at — huge cushy leather wingback chairs, fantastic beer selection. Just up the street is the Paramount Theater — a golden age movie house complete with balconies and gorgeous ceiling, a velvet-chair space like the Orpheum and the perfect venue for seeing classic ’80s avant-art group The Residents. You might remember them for their giant eyeball-with-tophat helmets that were part of their shtick for years.

Well, the eyeballs are gone, replaced with crazy old man wigs and alien makeup. Frontman Randy looked like the ol’ Crypt Keeper but in gold bikini underwear, giant shoes and body paint. Very creepy indeed, as was the staging, which involved a giant crystal-ball like projection device that hosted messages throughout the set. Strange and fun. I’ve never been a follower of The Residents, but I understand their importance in the overall history of art rock. And though these guys are in the 70s, they still sound pretty good, especially the guitarist.

Afterward it was back to 6th Street and Buffalo Billiards for The Church. The venue’s title sums it up, it’s a huge pool hall with a stage upstairs. Getting close to that stage was nearly impossible as it was a crush mob. Hearing The Church wasn’t much easier, as the booming sound in the hall was the worst of any performance I’d seen this year at SXSW. Still, the band was on point. I didn’t stick around long enough to hear “Under the Milky Way.” Wonder if they even played it…

It was back to Maggie Mae’s rooftop, which had been covered with a large tent, keeping things high and dry as the rain geared up again. The attraction was a performance by The Pop Group, a ’70s-era British punk band that’s been credited with helping define the post-punk movement. Bands like Sonic Youth and Nick Cave have credited The Pop Group as an influence on their sounds. The band was only around for a few years, but got back together last year for a new record.

Their style is extremely rhythmic and fun, but their songs are dissonant and brash in way that reminded me of The Fall. Mark Stewart, who has to be in his 60s, is still a powerful frontman, screaming into the microphone with clenched fists.

Will Butler of Arcade Fire was next on the same stage. The band wore t-shirts with their first names on them. I wondered if this was because people confuse Will with his more famous brother (and AC frontman) Win. That said, there was no confusing Will’s music with Win’s, as his solo stuff, while upbeat and interesting at times, lacks the grand panache of Arcade Fire’s epics. Will’s music is better suited for the dance floor than the concert stage, with its reliance on a thump-thump-thump disco beat. Butler is scheduled to play at The Waiting Room June 2. Bring your dancing shoes.

That was my last show of SXSW 2015. My impression of the overall experience — is written in next month’s issue of The Reader. Spoiler Alert: I’m not sure I’m returning to Austin next year, at least not for the music part of SXSW.

Check out sound clips from all the performances mentioned above in the the podcast below — it’s only about 12 minutes long, but includes snippets from all concerts except The Church’s performance.

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Speaking of big concerts, that Matthew Sweet concert has snuck up on me. The concert, being held at the 1200 Club in the Holland Performing Arts Center is this Saturday. If you’re even remotely a fan of Sweet and his music, you’ve got to go to this one. Tickets are still available for $45 and $100 (VIP) right here. Get them while you can. And the concert is a benefit for Hear Nebraska!

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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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Back from Austin, a recap of SXSW in podcast and photo form; Darren Keen, Calm Fur tonight…

Looking down on Sixth Street from Maggie Mays at South By Southwest 2015.

Looking down on Sixth Street from Maggie Mays at South By Southwest 2015.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

This will go down as the least impressive, least satisfying year I’ve attended South By Southwest. Sure there were a lot of bands, but not nearly as many as year’s past and even fewer legends. Still, I had fun and didn’t get beat up, and that’s always a good thing.

This year I tried to podcast from Austin. The results are below. I’ll probably never try it again, based solely on the number of hits each stream has gotten. That said, there’s probably no where else online that has snippets of this many performances. Each podcast is only about 10 minutes long and includes bits from every band I saw. Check them out:

Day 1: Performances by White Mystery, Twin Shadow, Dotan and Speedy Ortiz.

Day 2: Performances by PUJOL, Laura Burhenn (Mynabirds), Icky Blossoms, Viet Cong, Krill and Natalie Prass.

Day 3: Performances by Courtney Barnett, Best Coast, LITE, Drivin’ and Cryin’, The Pop Group and Will Butler.

And here are the photos. If you follow me in Instagram or on social media you’ve seen most of these, but here they are again, in living color.

White Mystery at Beerland Patio, March 18, 2015.

White Mystery at Beerland Patio, March 18, 2015.

Twin Shadow at Iron Castle, March 18, 2015.

Twin Shadow at Iron Castle, March 18, 2015.

Dotan at Cedar Street Courtyard, March 18, 2015.

Dotan at Cedar Street Courtyard, March 18, 2015.

Speedy Ortiz at Cedar Street Courtyard, March 18, 2015.

Speedy Ortiz at Cedar Street Courtyard, March 18, 2015.

Josh Berwenger Band at Stay Gold, March 19, 2015.

Josh Berwenger Band at Stay Gold, March 19, 2015.

PUJOL at Stay Gold March 19, 2015.

PUJOL at Stay Gold March 19, 2015.

Laura Burhenn (Mynabirds) at Stay Gold, March 19, 2015.

Laura Burhenn (Mynabirds) at Stay Gold, March 19, 2015.

Icky Blossoms at Stay Gold, March 19, 2015.

Icky Blossoms at Stay Gold, March 19, 2015.

Viet Cong at Cedar Street Courtyard, March 19, 2015.

Viet Cong at Cedar Street Courtyard, March 19, 2015.

Krill at the 720 Club, March 19, 2015.

Krill at the 720 Club, March 19, 2015.

Natalie Prass at Maggie Mae's, March 19, 2015.

Natalie Prass at Maggie Mae’s, March 19, 2015.

 

Best Coast at the SXSW Convention Center, March 20, 2015.

Best Coast at the SXSW Convention Center, March 20, 2015.

Courtney Barnett at the SXSW Convention Center, March 20, 2015.

Courtney Barnett at the SXSW Convention Center, March 20, 2015.

LITE at The Ginger Man, March 20, 2015.

LITE at The Ginger Man, March 20, 2015.

Drivin' and Cryin' at The Ginger Man, March 20, 2015.

Drivin’ and Cryin’ at The Ginger Man, March 20, 2015.

The Residents at The Paramount Theater, March 20, 2015.

The Residents at The Paramount Theater, March 20, 2015.

The Church at Buffalo Billiards, March 20, 2015.

The Church at Buffalo Billiards, March 20, 2015.

The Pop Group at Maggie Mae's Rooftop, March 20, 2015.

The Pop Group at Maggie Mae’s Rooftop, March 20, 2015.

Will Butler at Maggie Mae's Rooftop, March 20, 2015.

Will Butler at Maggie Mae’s Rooftop, March 20, 2015.

There may or may not be a formal review of each gig to come. Check back tomorrow. There will be a column in the April issue of The Reader about SXSW. Watch for it.

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Tonight at the Sweatshop Gallery Darren Keen headlines with Calm Fur and Just Jace. $5, 9 p.m. Say goodbye to Darren before he flies back to Gotham City…

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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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