Lana Del Rey headed to The Orpheum Nov. 13; Criteria to join Cursive on the road…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:37 pm October 10, 2019

Lana Del Rey is slated to play at The Orpheum Nov. 13.

by Tim McMahan,

Well, it’s just been dead news-wise the past few days, with no shows going on. It must be fall. This happens every year, right? Actually, I’m not sure that’s true. I’m also not sure Omaha isn’t becoming flyover country again like it was in the ‘80s and early ‘90s.

I say that and then yesterday the internet exploded with news that Lana Del Rey is doing a show at The Orpheum, Wednesday, Nov. 13. I’ve been listening to her new album, Norman Fucking Rockwell!, quite a bit lately, and I was a fan of her debut, Born to Die, or specifically of the song “Video Games.” A little of Lana goes a long way, especially when she pulls out her baby-doll voice — a combination of Marilyn Monroe and Betty Boop — as she did too often in those early records.

But Lana left her inner Marilyn at home when recording the new album, which is her most mature and satisfying to date. Del Rey’s music has always played like the soundtrack to ’70s So-Cal cinema, an audio version of Tarantino’s latest complete with characters drawn from a make-believe version of El Lay, one with endless sunsets and endless broken relationships played out on Venice Beach or the Hollywood Hills, circa 1975. Pretty stuff, if a tad formulaic.

I enjoy having her music in the background if only for the flat tone of her voice and the low-key arrangements that make it easy to ignore. That said, it’s perfect for a seated-audience Orpheum performance. In fact, I initially had Del Rey in mind as the obvious “get” for a Maha Festival, but her style seems better suited for a theater than the grassy knoll at Stinson Park.

Anyway, tickets don’t go on sale until tomorrow (Friday) at 10 a.m., and based on some of her past gigs, I won’t be surprised if the price point starts above $100. I couldn’t find the show listed on the Ticket Omaha website. Yet, strangely, there are a number of websites already selling tickets, such as, which has tickets ranging in price from $222 to $652. How is that possible?

You’d expect it to sell out quickly, but who knows how well it’ll do in Omaha. There are still tickets available to her theater show in San Diego Friday night. Here’s hoping that Craig Dee, with all his music-industry connections, can finagle a Lana Del Rey after show at O’Leaver’s. Now that would be something…

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This just in, Criteria will be joining Cursive on their upcoming January tour. That’s right, Criteria. Rumor has it the band has a new record already in the can, and there have been even more rumors as to who will be releasing it, but nothing “on the record.” Also on the bill is indie superstars Cloud Nothings — that’s an impressive line-up.

There’s no Omaha date on the tour, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we get a sneak peek of Criteria’s set in the form of a warm-up gig prior to them hitting the road…

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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 © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


See Through Dresses, David Nance Band, Sucettes tonight; Criteria, Little Brazil, Sean Pratt/Sweats Saturday; Jake Bellows Sunday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:15 pm December 28, 2018

Criteria at The Waiting Room, Dec. 30, 2017. The band returns to The Waiting Room this Saturday.

by Tim McMahan,

Another long weekend… of shows! All of them local acts, but great local acts. Here we go:

Tonight at Reverb Lounge it’s the return of See Through Dresses. It’s going on two years since Horse of the Other World came out on Tiny Engines. The band plans to unveil new material tonight. Come see what they’ve been up to. No Thanks opens at 9 p.m. $10.

Meanwhile across town tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s y’all get another chance to see David Nance Group. Like I said a couple days ago, no two Nance sets are the same — expect some surprises. Joining them are Sucettes (Dave Goldberg and Co.) and CMB. $5, 10 p.m.

Tomorrow night (Saturday) Criteria returns to The Waiting Room. The band has been working on new material destined for a 2019 release (the scuttlebutt is it’ll be on 15 Passenger). Joining them is Little Brazil, whose 2018 release Send the Wolves (Max Trax Records) made it onto my list of favorite 2018 releases (which you’ll see in the January issue of The Reader or online here Monday). Bokr Tov opens at 9 p.m. $8.

Meanwhile, back over at O’Leaver’s Saturday night, Sean Pratt & the Sweats plays with And How and Stathi. $5, 10 p.m.

The marquee show Sunday night is Jake Bellows at Slowdown Jr. One assumes the Californian is back in town visiting family and figured ‘why not do a show while I’m here?‘ Why not indeed. Joining him is McCarthy Trenching. $8, 8 p.m.

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

I’ll be posting the annual Music Year in Review article on New Year’s Eve, which includes the usual list of favorite releases, favorite live shows, etc. Then on New Year’s Day look for my annual Predictions story. Both of these also will be in the January issue of The Reader (but who knows when that’ll hit the racks?…).

Have a great 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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Criteria, Little Brazil rock The Waiting Room at holiday showcase…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:48 pm January 3, 2018

Criteria at The Waiting Room, Dec. 30, 2017.

by Tim McMahan,

You’d think sub-zero weather would have shooed fans away from going to The Waiting Room last Saturday night. No sir. A rather large and festive crowd showed up to see a line-up of acts that first made their mark in the mid 2000s perform with the same vigor they showed in their hey-day, and maybe give us hope in this modern age we live in.

Little Brazil at The Waiting Room Dec. 30, 2017.

Little Brazil boasted yet another new line-up. The core duo of Landon Hedges and Danny Maxwell remain intact, but now Shawn Cox, who you may remember from Landing on the Moon or Microphone Jones, is handling lead guitars while See Through Dresses’ Nate Van Fleet was behind the drum kit. The result was a different sound for LB, most notably coming from Cox, whose more controlled style is a contrast to former guitarist Mike Friedman’s edgy, frenetic sound. Cox’s solos had a melodic and (dare I say it) Clapton-esque feel (And this isn’t a jab at Friedman, who I think is one of the best guitarists to ever come out of Omaha).

LB played old favorites including “Brighton Beach” and “You and Me,” but really uncorked it on a number of new songs, including one they’d never played live before, which was my favorite of the evening. Or maybe I’m just excited to hear new stuff from LB. The band is about to put out a new album (recorded years ago) on new label Max Trax Records. Hedges says he also has a gaggle of even newer songs queued up and ready for a return to the studio. Call it a second coming for Little Brazil, and who knows what will happen if they get their show on the road…

Criteria remains ageless. Frontman/heart-throb/teen idol Stephen Pedersen — in trademark striped T-shirt — has lost none of the panache. I kept waiting for him to step into a pothole on those high notes, but he hit them all night. While the rest of the crew — drummer Mike Sweeney, bassist A.J. Mogis and guitarist Aaron Druery — played as if they just finished a month-long tour instead of performing one of their semi-annual shows.

Criteria transitioned into a weekend warrior act back in 2008 or so but never lost its edge, and continues to write and perform new material, though a rumored new record never seems to materialize. That kind of thing costs money, and if you’re not going to hit the road, does it make sense to release new stuff? I say “why not?” though I’m not the one footing the bill.

That said, while Saddle Creek might be too busy with shiny pennies like Big Thief and Hop Along, labels like 15 Passenger (Cursive’s new label) or the aforementioned Max Trax could be interesting homes for new Criteria material.

Regardless of what happens, this holiday concert, which also featured opener Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship, has become an Omaha tradition that never gets old, right along with these bands…

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Lazy-i Best of 2017

Here’s another thing that never gets old: the Lazy-i Best of 2017 Comp CD.

The collection includes my favorite indie tunes from last year, including songs from SUSTO, David Nance, Alvvays, Luna, The Lupines, LCD Soundsystem, Digital Leather, Beck, CLOSENESS, King Krule, Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile and lots more. The full track listing is here, or take a listen if you have Spotify.

Want one? Enter to my drawing to win a copy of this limited-edition, hand-crafted CD. To enter, either: 1. Send an email with your mailing address to, or 2) Write a comment on one of my Lazy-i related posts in Facebook, or 3) Retweet a Lazy-i tweet. You also can enter by sending me a direct message in Facebook or Twitter. Hurry, contest deadline is midnight Jan. 5.

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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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


SERIAL (ex-Ritual Device), See Through Dresses, Staffers tonight; Criteria, Little Brazil Saturday; Happy (frozen) NYE…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , , — @ 12:00 pm December 29, 2017

SERIAL at The Brothers Lounge, Dec. 23, 2016. They return for another go tonight at The Brothers.

by Tim McMahan,

Despite the fact that New Year’s Eve has been usurped into a night of firework-bombs that exceeds the 4th of July (driving my dogs under the couch shaking in fear) I was considering going out this year… until I saw the weather forecast that calls for ambient temperatures ranging between -15 and -20. No. NYE is always a bomb anyway; even was back when I was single. It’s definitely not a night to see original indie music. I mean, who wants to hear that at midnight?

Anyway, there’s plenty of other good stuff going on this weekend, starting tonight at The Brothers Lounge where SERIAL returns for their third annual holiday show.

SERIAL is Tim Moss (Ritual Device), John Wolf (Cellophane Ceiling, Bad Luck Charm), Lee Meyerpeter (Cactus Nerve Thang, Bad Luck Charm, Filter Kings, Ocean Black) and Jerry Hug (Ritual Device). Moss, Wolf and Hug also were the Men of Porn, but that’s another story

To give you an idea what you’re in for, here’s part of the review from last year’s show:

The first set included covers of songs by Nugent, the Stones, Tom Petty, Cheap Trick, one of my favorites by Pavement (“Two States) and Bowie’s “Rebel, Rebel.” As Wolf said, they were SERIAL, killing one classic at a time.

Moss’s wife, Clementine, took over the drum kit, allowing the bearded wonder to growl a couple numbers himself, including a punked-up version of Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab,” and a gruff cover of AC/DC’s “Dirty Deeds” that featured a young lady with dreads who crushed the guitar solo.

I only stuck around for the first set. Lord knows what happened after that. Opening the show is KC band Drop a Grand. $5, 9 p.m. (but I bet it doesn’t start til 10)…

Meanwhile tonight over at The Waiting Room it’s the triumphant return of See Through Dresses. The band has been touring all over the U.S. this year. No doubt you’ll be hearing a well-honed machine on stage. Joining them is Saddle Creek Records band Twinsmith and Oquoa. $8, 9 p.m.

But that’s not all…

The fine folks at Almost Music are hosting an in-store tonight with Staffers, Apoptosis (featuring Anna McClellan) and Sean Pratt & The Sweats. This one starts at 8 p.m. and is $5. You could probably hit up this show early than walk down the street to Brothers to catch SERIAL. Just sayin’…

Tomorrow night (Saturday) is The Waiting Room’s big holiday show featuring our old friends Criteria. Will Stephen Pedersen and the boys roll out some new Criteria material for family and friends? Find out. I do know we’ll be hearing a couple new one from opening band Little Brazil (along with the classics). Those brutes in Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship opens the night at 9 p.m. $8. In the words of everyone’s favorite holiday movie icon: Now I have a machine gun. Ho-ho-ho.

There is actually one notable show going on New Year’s Eve, and it’s at fabulous O’Leaver’s. The sinister electro-dance sounds of Cult Play headlines with post-punk rockers No Thanks and Houma. Come for the rock, stay for the NYE madness. O’Leaver’s is a crazy drunken madhouse on any given Sunday; no doubt it’ll go next-level crazy-fuck when the clock strikes 12. You’ll have to tell me about it since there’s no way I’m going out in 21-below weather.

For those of you who do, have a great New Year’s Eve and I’ll see you in 2018.

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Lazy-i Best of 2017

I almost forget to remind you about the Lazy-i Best of 2017 Comp CD?

The collection includes my favorite indie tunes I’ve come across throughout last year as part of my tireless work as a music critic for Lazy-i. Among those represented: SLuna, Closeness, Slowdive, !!!, Digital Leather, Perfume Genius, Big Thief, Wilder Maker and lots more. The full track listing is here, or take a listen if you have Spotify.

So the big news is you, too, could win a copy of the CD. To enter, either: 1. Send an email with your mailing address to, or 2) Write a comment on one of my Lazy-i related posts in Facebook, or 3) Retweet a Lazy-i tweet. You also can enter by sending me a direct message in Facebook or Twitter. Hurry, contest deadline is midnight Jan. 5.

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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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Criteria, Little Brazil, SERIAL, Bloodcow, Wolf Dealer tonight and then…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 11:32 am December 23, 2016
SERIAL (ex-Ritual Device, Cellophane Ceiling and ohters) plays tonight at The Brothers Lounge.

SERIAL (ex-Ritual Device, Cellophane Ceiling and ohters) plays tonight at The Brothers Lounge.

by Tim McMahan,

The last Friday before a Christmas weekend is the last time you’re going to get to catch live music until next week. The good news is that there’s plenty to choose from tonight. Let’s go down the list:

The show with the biggest draw is going to be at The Waiting Room tonight where Criteria performs. I’d say this is a reunion show except these guys have never stopped playing. They just did a benefit concert for Hear Nebraska in Lincoln a month or so ago. Word has it they’ve been working on new material. Is a new release imminent? Maybe you’ll find out tonight. Opening is Little Brazil, who also has been working on new material; and Eric in Outerspace. $8, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, across town at The Brothers Lounge SERIAL returns tonight for another holiday engagement. SERIAL is Tim Moss (Porn music, Ritual Device), John Wolf (Cellophane Ceiling, Bad Luck Charm, Porn music), Lee Meyerpeter (Cactus Never Thang, Bad Luck Charm, Filter Kings) and Jerry Hug (Ritual Device, Porn music). Things could get a bit dark, but don’t worry, those merry elves from Bloodcow open the show. $5, 10 p.m. This could all be one drunken blur.

Also tonight, Lookout Lounge is hosting its “19th Annual Holiday Party.” Not sure what “19th annual” means in this case since Lookout’s only been around for a few years. Regardless, expect mayhem from Wolf Dealer (Jason Steady’s latest project), The Superbytes, The Shidiots and The Mid Ways. Two warnings accompanied the show listing: “As per tradition, one band will not survive the night.” and “Wear clothes that you don’t mind getting death on.” Merry Christmas indeed. $5, 8 p.m.

On top of all that, there’s a DJ show at fabulous O’Leaver’s tonight featuring W.E.R.D., Cult Play, Sam Adam Martin and Kethro. $5, 9:30 p.m.

And that’s just about it for the weekend. In fact, you might have a hard time finding a place to drink over the next couple days. Omaha takes its Christmas seriously. Call ahead to make sure your booze-handler of choice is open Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Otherwise, I’ll see you on Monday.

Have a great holiday!

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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.


#TBT Feb. 4, 2004: Cursive, Criteria and Tilly and the Wall…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:44 pm February 4, 2016
A screen capture from  Cursive's 2004 video for "The Recluse," featuring Todd Fink back when he was going by Todd Baechle.

A screen capture from Cursive’s 2004 video for “The Recluse,” starring The Faint’s Todd Fink back when he was going by the name Todd Baechle.

by Tim McMahan,

As we do on Thursdays when there ain’t a damn thing going on, I take you by the hand and tip-toe into the Lazy-i Wayback Machine to see what was shaking back in those fun-filled days during the peak of the Omaha indie scene…

From Lazy-i, Feb. 4, 2004: Cursive in front of the camera; Criteria at SXSW; Tilly in the Times…

Saddle Creek Records confirms that Cursive will be busy this week filming a video for “The Recluse,” a song from their last album, The Ugly Organ. It’s probably being done in support of a soon-to-be-released European single of the song. The fine folks at Malone & Co. are producing/directing/shooting the video. Mike Malone goes way back in the Omaha music scene, having photographed a number of local bands from the mid-’90s golden age, including Mercy Rule, Sideshow, Digital Sex, Mousetrap, Secret Skin and Ritual Device, to name a few. The video shoot will be taking place over the next few days at The Dubliner, Joy Club and Joslyn Castle.

Stephen Pedersen of Criteria wrote to confirm that his band has been formally asked to perform at this year’s South by Southwest Festival. No word on the venue yet. Pedersen was one of four bands recommended by The Reader for the festival.

Tilly and the Wall‘s rendition of OutKast’s “Hey Ya!” caught the attention of Kelefa Sanneh, the New York Times biggest Omaha booster. In the article Sanneh says: “But the definitive indie-rock ‘Hey Ya!’ has to be the clap-along version by Tilly and the Wall, an emerging band from Omaha that has a tap-dancer instead of a drummer; it’s the only one that might make André 3000 jealous.” Just another small step in Tilly’s plan for world domination. —Lazy-i Feb. 4, 2004

Whatever happened to Kaefa? According to Wiki: “In 2008, he left The New York Times to join The New Yorker as a staff writer. Sanneh now lives in Brooklyn.”

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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.


Welcome back; live review: Criteria, Ladyfinger, High Up; Screaming Females, Gordon tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:45 pm August 3, 2015
Stephen Pedersen of Criteria in full-rock mode at O'Leaver's Aug. 1, 2015.

Stephen Pedersen of Criteria in full-rock mode at O’Leaver’s Aug. 1, 2015.

by Tim McMahan,

What they say about LA is true. The weather is fantastic. The traffic is horrendous. It’s definitely the land of the rich and beautiful, but even if I was a multi-millionaire I wouldn’t want to live there. Too congested; too expensive. Or maybe I just spent too much time hanging around Beverly Hills and Malibu.

Regardless, I’m back. In fact I’ve been back since last Friday, in time to catch Saturday night’s Live at O’Leaver’s concert featuring Ladyfinger and Criteria, two bands that have been kicking it for at least a decade and have never sounded better. Neither has O’Leaver’s tiny stage, which recently saw a bump in its sound system (again), making it rival soundwise any formal venue in town.

The other notable change to O’Leaver’s is the new patio hidden behind the building that was open Saturday night thanks to the city granting a one-day permit. If you go back there tonight, that door that leads to the patio is bound to be locked shut, which is a shame because that new patio is one of the best outdoor party areas in Omaha. Clocking in at around 2,000 square feet, it feels larger than The Club itself, with multiple built-in benches, an enormous pergola and another bar just ready to be open for business. As one guy told me, the patio has a big-city feel, like something you’d find in Portland.

Ladyfinger at O'Leaver's Aug. 1, 2015.

Ladyfinger at O’Leaver’s Aug. 1, 2015.

It was jammed with people Saturday night, so many that I wondered how they’d all fit back inside the club when the bands began playing. It was wall-to-wall humanity when Ladyfinger lit into their set. They played a handful of songs off their previous albums; no new material that I could tell. You have to wonder what the future holds for these guys. Like I said, they’ve never sounded better, but are they ever going to write and record another album?

Criteria came on at just after 12:30 and gave their usual high-flying performance. Stephen Pedersen can still hit those crazy high notes when he wants to, and the band was as tight as ever. Unlike Ladyfinger, Criteria rolled out a few new songs, including one that bordered on anthem/ballad territory (but aren’t they all anthems?). No doubt they have plans for a new record.

Life has a way of catching up with all of us, and that’s certainly the case with both these bands. Members have lives and commitments and families and jobs that make touring difficult if not impossible. But that doesn’t stop them from wanting to play or having something to say with their music. Why should they stop recording and performing (if only at local gigs), especially at a time when record sales no longer are a game-changer in the life of a band? We might be entering an era of “regional indie bands” that self-release their material and perform only within a few hundred miles of their homes. If you want to see them, you’re going to have to get in your car or hop on a bus to find them. If the music can’t come to you, you’ll have to go to the music. Which makes clubs like O’Leaver’s that much more important.

No doubt these two bands’ performances Saturday night will wind up online at If you haven’t checked out the website, it’s high time that you do. Current featured artists (among the dozens on the site whose live gigs at O’Leaver’s you can now now enjoy) include J Fernandez, Bob Log III, The Kickback, Worried Mothers, Frontier Ruckus and Manic Pixie Dream Girls. Go, listen.

High Up at Reverb Lounge July 25, 2015.

High Up at Reverb Lounge July 25, 2015.

One other show worth mentioning is High Up at Reverb July 25. I meant to post something about the show before I skipped town but never had the chance. Goddamn, Christine Fink is a major talent. I guess you’d expect nothing less coming from Orenda’s sister, but holy shit, she sings blue-eyed soul like she’s been doing it for a decade.

I tapped out on my iPhone that night at the show, “She’s an indie version of Amy Winehouse, or certainly Omaha’s version.” The attitude, the charisma, the voice, she was born for the stage. Watching her up front with only a microphone, you got a sense that High Up is her band, and what a band it is — pure pro blues/soul/rock, including a small horn section that featured sister Orenda on trumpet. The music is stylish but not too polished, an earthier version of neo-soul that strangely feels grounded in the Midwest. If you had any doubt of their origin, the band threw in a bluesy version of Bright Eyes’ “Make a Plan to Love Me” that they made their own.

So I’m watching Fink up there and wondering what would happen if she went full-on performance diva, you know, with the full costumes/dresses, a real formal approach to her performance? She already owns the stage just the way she is, but what if she kicked up the staging to sophisticated nightclub level? Would she broaden her audience well beyond the clubs she’s been playing? Would she even want that? You start messing with the presentation, you change everything. There’s a certain rebellious thing that’s up there now that I’d hate to see them lose, even if it limits the band to a smaller indie-music world…

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Before I left for LA last week I wrote two stories for The Reader, which should be online this week. One is an interview with The Good Life about their new album, Everybody’s Coming Down, which drops on Saddle Creek Records Aug. 14, just in time for their Maha Music Festival appearance Aug. 15.

The other story (not coincidentally) is an interview with Lauren Schomburg about the current state of Maha and what the board that runs the show has in mind for the festival’s future. Can it get bigger? Should it get bigger?

I’ll let you know when both stories are online, though they should be on newsstands right now.

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Speaking of festivals, I can’t figure out why anyone gives a shit about the fiasco known as the Grassroots Festival. Take a look at the line-up and who’s putting it on. What did you expect? I suppose if there was some sort of “indie” element to it, I’d be enraged, but I can’t imagine any band that I’d want to see being involved in such a snafu. It’s just another reason why you should never take One Percent Productions for granted.

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Fantastic show tonight at Sweatshop Gallery in Bension. Screaming Females headlines with Gordon, Vacation and The Ridgways. $7, 9 p.m. Be prepared to sweat!

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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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


TBT: Live Review Criteria, Tilly and the Wall, Statistics June 15, 2003; Conor Oberst (SOLD OUT), Deerpeople tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 1:02 pm June 18, 2015

by Tim McMahan,

On this Throwback Thursday, here’s another tumble into the past via a live review of three brand new bands on the scene… in 2003. BTW, is this the first documented use of the term “kill” in a live music review?

Live review: Criteria, Statistics, Tilly and the Wall — a night of pop – June 15, 2003

This was probably my favorite overall show of the year thus far, because each band complimented the other with its unique take on pop. For one night, melody reigned at the Sokol Underground with three unabashed lovers of pure rock smiling from the stage.

Tilly and the Wall at Sokol Underground June 14, 2003.

Tilly and the Wall at Sokol Underground June 14, 2003.

The show started later than normal at around 10:15, I’m told because they expected the sets to be short — these are three brand new bands here with a limited repertoire. Tilly and the Wall took the stage like a team of waiters at Grisanti’s making their way to a table to do a “happy birthday” chant — clapping and stomping their feet as they hopped into position.

Tilly is three girls (two of whom were in Magic Kiss) and two guys on guitar and keyboard. The drums were replaced with Jamie Williams’ tap shoes and plenty of hand claps, absolutely appropriate for these happy, peppy, fun-loving acoustic songs sung mainly by the women, with the guitarist adding some vocals here and there. Imagine Park Ave. mixed with an upbeat Azure Ray and you begin to get the picture. It was fun, and cute… maybe a bit too cute toward the end, but hey, everyone was having a good time.

I made this statement last night and I stand by it this morning with the fog of alcohol firmly lifted from my judgment: Tap-dancing will sweep the nation and UK as the primary form of rock percussion by this time next year. Who can deny its infectious nature and pure staging value? Williams’ feet cut through the noise crisply, thanks to what appeared to be a microphoned plywood amplification box. The downside (for Williams) is that there’s no way she’ll be able to do that on any sort of sizable tour, especially if their set ever grows beyond its current 20 minutes. She looked bushed by the end of the second song, and who can blame her?

Statistics at Sokol Underground, June 14, 2003.

Statistics at Sokol Underground, June 14, 2003.

Statistics, headed by Denver Dalley of Desaparecidos (I didn’t recognize the rest of the trio on drums and bass). The band played songs off their soon-to-be-released Jade Tree EP and they sounded pretty good, though Denver’s vocals were a wee bit off. Part of it was that his mic wasn’t turned up enough. But most of it was his uncertainty on stage. Watching from the side, Dalley seem a bit hesitant to belt out the vocals and as a result, they were thin and slightly off pitch. Chock it up to stage rust — his tour only just began a few days ago. I suspect as he gets more comfortable on stage and listens to the playback he’ll either get more confident. Musically, the compositions are as first-rate as they are on the CD, but more guitar- than electronically-driven. I liked the tone, and the girls seemed to like looking at Denver. Someone yelled “Take off your clothes!” from the audience. Denver shielded his eyes, gazing out through the crowd, and said, “Mom? Are you out there?” Funny.

Then Criteria came on and killed everyone.

Criteria at Sokol Underground, June 14, 2003.

Criteria at Sokol Underground, June 14, 2003.

With this performance, they immediately put themselves on top of the list as one of the best Omaha/Lincoln bands for pure-energy post-punk. Stephen Pedersen has surrounded himself with some amazing musicians, not the least of which is AJ Mogis on bass and backing vocals. Mogis, with his receding hairline, glasses and beard looked like a radio DJ or a ’70s-era Walter Becker standing next to the suave Pedersen all covered with sweat like a young Rock Hudson. Pedersen is a phenomenal guitarist, but second guitarist Aaron Druery is just as remarkable. Drummer Mike Sweeney topped it off with pounding precision — he would give even Clint Schnase a run for his money. The comparison is apt when you consider that Criteria’s music is clearly an off-shoot of early Cursive, right down to Pedersen’s Kasher-like vocals.

With such a prof line-up, the band is amazingly tight, and lord knows they have to be considering the intricacy of their music — time changes, syncopation and massive breaks abound. Beneath it all are some of the most hummable post-punk melodies you will hear from anyone in the business these days. Pedersen looked elated to be on stage again, and the whole band glowed with an energy akin to pride. They performed every song off their Initial Records’ debut, En garde, and what I believe was an early Cursive song — I’m bad with song titles. It was introduced by Pedersen saying, “This next one will show our age.”

The irony of Criteria is that there are no plans for them to play again in the near future. Pedersen told me during our interview that only this Sokol date had been set up — they hadn’t even lined up a Lincoln gig yet (though he acknowledged he’d like to do a show there, but didn’t know where or how). There are no plans to tour, though he’ll continue to play local shows. He said the band hopes to hit the road sometime this summer, when Pedersen can take some vacation time from his attorney gig. It’s a shame because this band is ready right now and would conquer any tour they could line up. They would be a sure crowd-pleaser on a Cursive tour — something that probably won’t be happening too soon as I’ve heard Cursive will take some time off when they finish this tour so Kasher can get to work writing the next Good Life CD. It could be a long time until out-of-towners get a glimpse of Criteria.

As for the crowd, it was a regular Who’s Who of the Omaha indie scene. Among the 300 on hand were most of the members of Bright Eyes (including Oberst), most of the members of The Faint, Azure Ray, half the Saddle Creek office staff, members of The Carsinogents, Little Brazil, Fizzle Like a Flood, The Movies, Bliss Repair, The Mariannes, Oil, and maybe most astounding of all, local legend Dave Sink, operator of The Antiquarium record store, who rarely attends shows these days. The last time was a Monroes show a month ago, before that, maybe two years since I’d seen him in a club.–June 15, 2003

Dave, we all miss you.

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Welp, good ol’ Conor Oberst returns to The Waiting Room tonight. Conor’s out supporting his most recent solo album, Upside Down Mountain (2014, Nonesuch). Alas, the show is sold out. And if you didn’t get tickets in time, you’re not alone. I also didn’t get tix in time. We snooze, we lose. Opening is The Felice Brothers. Starts at 9 p.m.

Also tonight, Oklahoma indie band Deerpeople plays at fabulous O’Leaver’s along with Lincoln’s Universe Contest and headliner Lightning Bug. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Icky Blossoms Vs. White Mystery/Digital Leather tonight; Criteria, Bloodcow Saturday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:53 pm March 13, 2015
Icky Blossoms at Lambert's BBQ, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Icky Blossoms at Lambert’s BBQ, SXSW, March 16, 2012. The band is warming up for a return to SXSW in Austin with a show tonight at Slowdown Jr.

by Tim McMahan,

We’ve got an intense list of shows happening this weekend.

It starts tonight with a death match between Icky Blossoms and White Mystery.

Icky Blossoms hosts their South By Southwest send-off show tonight at Slowdown Jr. Why is it happening in the smaller front room? The band wants to play in front of a hot, sticky crowd, which is exactly what they’ll get. I wouldn’t be surprised if this one sells out. Tonight’s show will feature at least five songs off the Ickys’ upcoming sophomore Saddle Creek release, Mask. Opening is Telepathy Problems and Rogue Moon. 9 p.m. $8.

Meanwhile across town at the Reverb Lounge in Benson it’s the Chicago drum-and-guitar duo of White Mystery. Opening the show, the always amazing Digital Leather and Jason Meyer’s grindingly dirty new project Calm Fur. $10, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, Blue Bird plays at fabulous O’Leaver’s with Lars and Mal. $5, 9:30 p.m.

And it’s a homecoming for Nebraska’s wayward son Darren Keen, who returns to House of Loom tonight with Kethro. $5, 9 p.m.

Saturday night it’s back to Reverb Lounge for Criteria. Will their enormous sound blow up Reverb’s tiny music room? Opening is The Brigadiers. $10, 9 p.m.

Also Saturday night Bloodcow and Bullet Proof Hearts open for The Killigans at The Slowdown. $7, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile over at O’Leaver’s Saturday night it’s Saturn Moth, Westerners with Fake Plants. $5, 9:30 p.m.

One more Saturday show that may be under your radar — Eric in Outerspace and Staffers play at Almost Music in Benson at 8 p.m. It’s a duel-cassette release show! Opening is Nathaniel Hoier. $5, and it’s BYOB.

Finally, Sunday night Philly psyche band Ecstatic Vision headlines at O’Leaver’s with Wet Radio and stoner-rock champions Nightbird. $5, 9:30 p.m.

That’s all I got. If I missed your show, put it in the comments section.

And if you haven’t already, check out this week’s Lazy-i Podcast which includes an exclusive interview with Icky Blossoms where the band talks about why they’re headed back to South By Southwest next week, and what they love and don’t love about the chaotic music festival. Plus Carsinogents, Universe Contest, Bloodcow and more.

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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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Criteria rocks the CWS; Hear Nebraska launches new website and HN Radio…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:51 pm June 23, 2014
Criteria at The Slowdown, June 21, 2014.

Criteria at The Slowdown, June 21, 2014.

by Tim McMahan,

Well, Jason Kulbel was right. I had no problem finding on-street parking when I drove downtown Saturday night to catch Criteria at Slowdown. I spent the evening closely monitoring the College World Series game on TV (which went into extra innings), worrying it might push into the Criteria set time. I didn’t want to get caught in a post-game traffic quagmire. With the last out I headed downtown, avoiding Cuming Street, taking Dodge, and eventually running into crowds and cops navigating 14th St. I found a spot about three blocks away near the UP daycare center. So much for all the whining.

If the chaos that was taking place in Slowdown’s tented parking lot is any indication, we’ll soon be seeing Mr. Kulbel and Mr. Nansel driving ’round in brand new Bentleys. It looked like spring break in Bro-land, a sea of backwards baseball caps carrying Silver Bullets looking for someone to high five. Needless to say, I didn’t spend much time outside.

Inside the climate-controlled trappings of The Slowdown it felt like any other show except for the TV screens showing highlights from the game that just ended and the Slowdown staff decked out in matching “staff” baseball shirts. CWS refugees mixed with the regular crowd, I doubt they knew what they were in for when Criteria rolled on stage launching into a set of indie-rock anthems with their usual panache. Those looking for dance beats and/or “hot action” exited through the back door.

“Sounds like there’s some fat beats going on out there,” said dashing frontman Stephen Pedersen between songs, as you could hear the dull thump through Slowdown’s cinderblock. “We’re more of a treble band.”  Those who hung around — my guestimate: 100-150 — got exactly what they came for.

I’ve been watching Criteria perform live for well over a decade. I’ve never seen a crowd respond to them the way last Saturday night’s crowd did. The floor in front of the stage became an ad hoc mosh pit with rabid fans pounding each other and/or doing some sort of improvised hoe-down dance. Fans leapt onto the stage, but finding the crowd too sparse to jump on top of instead jumped back down to the floor and were carried overhead in a weird ritual that looked more like piggyback riding than crowd-surfing. Needless to say, these fans knew the words to all the hits, which they screamed back at the stage. No doubt Criteria still has a rabid base dying for their return.

And return they shall, with a new album Pedersen said was “almost done” and ready for shopping to a label willing to back an act that hasn’t put out new material in nine years and/or doesn’t do extensive touring. Something tells me they’ll find a taker right here in Omaha (if they want it).

Criteria played at least four songs from that yet-to-be-released album, including a couple they’ve never performed live. One, played toward the very end of the set, was classic Criteria, as good as anything they’ve done in the past. The band continues to age well. Pedersen can still strike hot with his vocal contortions, glancing off the high notes as if he were still in his 20s (though he had to be grateful he doesn’t have to do it every night).

With the last song, the fans began chanting for an encore. They got two more songs for their efforts, including a transcendent version of “Prevent the World” that left them satisfied.

This show plus The Faint last week are evidence that Slowdown is proud of the music that helped put Omaha on the indie music map and wants to share it with the great unwashed masses that attend the CWS. Here’s hoping they continue the tradition at next year’s CWS.

* * *

Drumroll please….

The redesigned website finally went live this morning. Go take a look. The cleaner, easier-to-navigate design is fully responsive — that means it looks and behaves as well on your smart phone or tablet as it does on your desktop browser.

But maybe the most important new feature of is the launch of HN Radio — that’s the music player located at the top of the homepage. The goal is to provide an online channel that makes available music from local bands. The current playlist includes songs by Once a Pawn, Digital Leather, Dumb Beach and Anna McClellan.

HN Radio also ia premiering Live at O’Leaver’s. For the past few months (year?) O’Leaver’s has been recording live performances at the club, the quality of which is amazing. The current HN Radio playlist includes tracks by Deleted Scenes and Eli Mardock recorded as part of the O’Leaver’s series. My only gripe about HN radio is that the playlist is too short, but methinks this is merely V 1.0. Expect a lot more music — and content — at HN Radio in the very near future.

Congratulations to Andy Norman and the entire Hear Nebraska staff for getting the new design and HN Radio afloat. Check out the site and give them your feedback.

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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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.