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…

* * *
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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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.


Peter Murphy Vs. Criteria Saturday; Solid Goldberg for your Sunday afternoon…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:27 pm June 20, 2014
Peter Murphy will perform at The Waiting Room this Saturday night.

Peter Murphy will perform at The Waiting Room this Saturday night.

by Tim McMahan,

The CWS is winding down. Been to a game yet? Me neither. It’s not so much that I don’t want to go as much as I don’t have tickets, don’t have patience, don’t see a need to tolerate the heat, especially when I can watch it from the comfort of my air conditioned living room. But even then, I have a hard time rooting for schools I have no allegiance to. Heck, I don’t even root for the Huskers, being the proud UNO alum that I am. Why would I root for Cal Irvine or Ole Miss?

Anyway, the CWS winds down this weekend, culminating with championship games next Monday and Tuesday (and possibly Wednesday). In the heart of the madness Saturday night The Slowdown is hosting one of the more interesting local rock shows of the first half of the year. Criteria returns. Rumor is they’re recording a new record. Who knows when it will ever be released, but I suspect they’ll be playing a few songs off it Saturday night. Opening is Lincoln band Universe Contest. The free show starts at 9 p.m. Hopefully by then, the CWS game will have ended and the fans will have headed back to wherever they came from. As mentioned earlier this week, Slowdown proprietor Jason Kulbel insists that street parking is no problem during the CWS. I will test his theory Saturday night.

Also Saturday night, Peter Murphy plays at The Waiting Room. I saw Murphy at SXSW back in 2009, and though he looked old and tired during the performance, he still had the same grotto growl he was known for in the ’90s and as a member of Bauhaus. If you feel like a stroll down memory lane, read my “Goth to God” Murphy interview from 2002, written in support of a Ranch Bowl gig that never happened (Murph apparently took one look at the bowling alley, got back into his tour bus/van and left without performing). Opening is Austin band Ringo Deathstarr. $22 Adv. / $25 DOS. Starts at 9.

Did you noticed I skipped over Friday night?  Only show of note is The Big Deep at The Barley Street Tavern w/ Dear Rabbit and intrepid singer/songwriter Nick Carl a.k.a. Kicky Von Narl, a.k.a. Nicky Carla. $5, 9 p.m.

Now let’s really confuse things and go back to Saturday night, which is when The Filter Kings headline at The Barley Street (the Barley’s been the place to be lately). Opening is South Sioux City roots rocker Mat D and the Profane Saints. $5, 9 p.m.

Finally Sunday our ol’ pal O’Leaver’s is hosting its “Sunday Social,” this time featuring the “2014 Primitive Poodlez Tour” headlined by a couple touring Oakland garage bands — Pookie and the Poodlez (Burger Records) and Primitive Hearts (FDH Records). Kicking things off is the always cool Solid Goldberg. This is an early 5 p.m. show, and will be going on at the same time as USA v. Portugal in the World Cup. I’m told TVs will be tuned to the match. $5.

That’s what I got. If I missed anything, put it in the comments section. Have a good 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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


The CWS, Slowdown and the ‘myth’ of no parking; that goddamn Morrissey; Matthew Sweet news…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 1:00 pm June 11, 2014

by Tim McMahan,

Screen Shot 2014-06-11 at 12.58.43 PM

Since when did they start calling it ‘The College World Series of Omaha”?

Well, the College World Series kicks off Friday with an opening concert extravaganza by Young the Giant, marking the last time many of us will be stepping foot in downtown Omaha until the series wraps up June 25. The tents already are starting to dot the NoDo landscape like big white blisters atop the usually empty parking lots.

For Slowdown, this is the harvest season, the time of year when they can’t count their money fast enough. In support of the CWS, Slowdown turns into a pseudo sports bar, featuring the finest local cover bands (Secret Weapon) and this year, a special performance by Criteria right in the heart of the action.

Thinking about going to Criteria but are afraid there will be nowhere to park? Slowdown’s Jason Kulbel says that lack of street parking during CWS is a “myth” and that parking is, in fact, plentiful. We shall see.

It’s been awhile since I’ve been down to Slowdown. Checking out their calendar, they’ve got a lot of heavy shows coming up. There’s that Criteria show June 21, The Felice Brothers June 28, Ceremony July 13, Jolie Holland Aug. 8, Kopecky Family Band Sept. 5, Mike Watt’s latest project Sept. 25 and New Pornographers/Pains of Being Pure at Heart Nov. 11.

That New Pornographers show was one of slew of gigs One Percent just announced, including J Mascis Oct. 8 (TWR); Ty Segall Sept. 25 (TWR); and most controversial at all, CHVRCHES Sept. 24 at Sokol Aud. It’s controversial in that CHVRCHES is the same night as The War on Drugs at The Waiting Room. The decision as to which show you choose to attend that night will define you. I’m trying to figure out a way to see both…

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If you haven’t already heard, Morrissey cancelled the remaining dates of his current North American Tour, citing health reasons. Specifically, Morrissey said opening act Kristeen Young doused him with some sort of respiratory plague that he can’t seen to shake. Details on his unofficial website, True to You, where Moz also lists shows from the past tours he and his band consider to be “their best-ever.” For whatever reason, the Lincoln Rococo show wasn’t on the list…

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Omahan Matthew Sweet (that’s right, he lives here now) announced today that he’s working on his first studio album in three years and will be launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund the project sometime this month.

He also said among the material he’ll be playing on the tour that brings him to O’Leaver’s July 30 (sorry, already sold out) are “his 90s releases, with such hits as ‘Girlfriend,’ ‘Sick of Myself,’ ‘I’ve Been Waiting’ and ‘Devil With the Green Eyes’ through his most recent release, Modern Art.

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Tomorrow: The Faint.

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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.



Live Review: Cursive (Night 2), Criteria, Bazan; Pro-Magnum, Acid Test tonight; Omahype holiday rock shop Saturday…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:54 pm December 13, 2013

Cursive at The Waiting Room, Dec. 12, Tim McMahan,

The line to get into The Waiting Room last night stretched down the sidewalk at 9 p.m. I could hear David Bazan doing his usual sad-dog electric solo set while I waited. The lady behind me said she was worried the show would sell out, and phoned a friend further up in line to buy her ticket. She was right to be concerned. The place was packed, especially compared to last week’s show.

I’ll get to the openers in a minute. First, Cursive.

The set-up was the same as last Thursday, but the actual set was altogether different. Not entirely in song choices — there were a couple repeats, including “The Martyr” and “Sierra” (I suppose they have to play those at every show) — but in the performance. Cursive brought the heavy shit last night. The band was tuned to metal, even Kasher’s guitar was extra-gritty.

While last week’s set list was a mish-mash with a heavy dose of their more-popular tunes, last night was a deep dive into obscurata, light on melody, heavy on thunder. Or maybe it just seemed that way. Again, I didn’t recognize about a third of the songs. Among the rarities was “Sucker and Dry” off their second single (rereleased on The Difference Between Houses and Homes), “Retirement” from their first album Such Blinding Stars for Starving Eyes, and something off second album The Storms of Early Summer: Semantics of Song. Kasher ended each chestnut with a wry laugh as if saying, “Remember that one? Of course you don’t.

The band played two sets. Set One highlights included “The Night I Lost the Will to Fight,” “Rise Up! Rise Up!” and “Sierra,” along with a song or two off I Am Gemini. Then they left the stage and comedian Ian Douglas Terry, maybe the bravest man in the word, came out and did 10 minutes as people screamed at him from the floor. As Dan Rather used to say: Courage.

By the time Cursive returned, the crowd had thinned slightly. They dove back in with “Sink to Swim,” “The Worst Is Over,” “Let Me Up,” “Holiday,” and a song or two off I Am Gemini, before closing with a rearranged, gospel-tinged version of “What Have I Done?” which cements Mama, I’m Swollen as my favorite Cursive record.

It was during the second set that they rolled out “The Martyr” again. I can’t put a finger on it, but this week’s version was looser, groovier, more brazen that last week’s, and was indicative of the entire set. While there was more head-scratchers on the set list this week, the overall performance was louder, meatier, more primal — i.e., it was pretty fantastic, maybe the best Cursive show I’ve seen since that secret “sneak” show at O’Leaver’s seven or eight years ago when they rolled out Happy Hollow songs for the first time.

As everyone knows, last night was one of three shows at The Waiting Room being recorded for a (proposed) live album. I think they pretty much got what they needed. God only knows what we’re in for next week. The conventional wisdom is that now that they have the necessary tracks in the can, next Thursday’s show will be a fuck-it free-for-all where anything goes. It could be a marvel or a bloody mess, and either will make for grand theater.

Speaking of grand theater, the near sold-out crowd was just as enthusiast about Criteria as they were the headliner.

Criteria at The Waiting Room, Dec. 12, 2013.

Criteria at The Waiting Room, Dec. 12, 2013.

When I was a kid I used to read Hulk comics (who am I kidding, I still read Hulk comics). The best part about ol’ greenskin is that no matter how much they throw at him, he just gets stronger. The same thing can be said about Criteria frontman Stephen Pedersen.

When the band came out and played their first song, I texted a buddy hidden somewhere in the crowd: “Steve’s losing his voice. Those high notes, just a tad out of reach.” I don’t remember what song it was, one of those early Criteria classics.

But it didn’t take long for Pedersen to get in range. Maybe he needs to warm up more before the show? I don’t know. Frankly, I don’t know how he’s even able to sing those songs, each one is a circus-act tight-rope walk of searing high notes akin to an indie-rock yodel thrust loudly into the crowd via that thick, bulging vein in his neck. Pedersen is a marvel of art and science. As is his band, whose rhythm section sits proudly alongside Cursive’s as among the finest in the land.

By the end of the set Pedersen was unstoppable. I expected his voice to be a worn-down burned-out nub, but it only got stronger. Don’t get him angry, you won’t like him when he’s angry…

The big news was the slew of new Criteria material — all solid. Though not a new direction by any means, each song held its own (and then some) alongside the band’s stellar back catalog. Pedersen’s announcement that the band is recording a new album in January was met with whoops of approval from the crowd. Is this the beginning of a second act by a band that’s sorely missed?

As for Bazan — good ol’ Bazan — his solo set was well received, though there was a lot of chatter in the back of the room. I’d be surprised if many of the youngsters in the crowd even heard of Pedro the Lion. As per usual, he paused a couple times between songs and asked if there were any questions. Someone asked him to play an older tune, and his response was something like, “Sorry man, I’m no longer the guy who wrote and played that song.”  So it goes.

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All right, it’s Friday. The weekend’s looking… interesting.

Tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s noise-rock band Pro-Magnum headlines what they’re calling “Metal \m/ Night” featuring Old Bones (self-described hardcore band featuring ex members of Split Second, 8th Wave and Ryan McLaughlin (Rymo) of Race for Titles), Relentless Approach, and Borealis (self-described death metal). Sounds loud, doesn’t it? $5, 9:30 p.m.

Also tonight, it’s Snake Island, Worried Mothers and the incomparable Dereck Higgins at Venue 51, 1951 St. Mary’s Ave. They’re calling this show “Acid Test” and describing it as “a night of interactive light and group levitation. Projections, Psychedelia, and euphoria…” $5, 9 p.m. Fitting that it’s Friday the 13th?

Tomorrow night back at O’Leaver’s it’s The Doneofits (Michael Trenhaile), Under Water Dream Machine and The Love Technicians. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Meanwhile Saturday evening down at Slowdown it’s Omahype’s annual Holiday Rock and Shop featuring local designers and crafts-makers, as well as bands: All Young Girls Are Machine Guns, John Klemmensen & The Party, Manic Pixie Dream Girls, cellist April Faith-Slaker and Seer States. Between bands buy a hip-ass bag by Artifact, a foxy dress by Hello Holiday or a kick-ass poster by Doe-Eyed Design, among others. The fun starts at 6 and entry is $5. More info here.

Sunday there’s a “Whiskey Tasting” being held at O’Leaver’s at 4 p.m. That just seems like a bad idea to me…

Have a good 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 © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: At Age 5, Maha Is All Growed Up (in the column); Klemmensen hits goal, Vovk/Carl go Kickstarter; Beach Boys tonight…

Maha's cup overfloweth. A view at the crowd at this year's festival while the Thermals perform.

Maha’s cup overfloweth: A view of the crowd at this year’s festival while the Thermals perform.

by Tim McMahan,

In this week’s column, a recap of this year’s Maha Music Festival. You can read it in this week’s issue of The Reader or online right here. Or heck, why not just read it below?

Over the Edge: At Age 5, the Maha Music Festival Is All Growed Up

Was this year’s Maha Music Festival a success?

The concert, held last Saturday at Stinson Park in Aksarben Village, drew 5,100 people. If that number seems light — especially compared to your typical CenturyLink Arena concert — consider that you cannot hear any of the bands that performed at Maha on your local FM radio. None. They don’t call it “indie rock” for nothing.

Tre Brashear, one of the festival’s organizers, said Saturday’s 5,100 was a 20 percent increase in attendance compared to the 4,300 there last year to see Garbage and Desaparecidos in the rain.

It was a big crowd. In fact the first thing I noticed after walking through the gates was that Maha had somehow made the park shrink. There wasn’t much green space for the crowds between the massive duo stages, the food vendors on Mercy Street, The Globe performance tent and the Bellevue University Community Campus.

Despite that, Brashear said Maha has yet to outgrow Aksarben Village, at least from a music standpoint. “Stinson is large and can hold more,” he said. “Furthermore, parking still continues to be pretty easy and convenient.”

On the other hand, Maha’s vendor space on Mercy Street has become too constrained. “People want more food options, more vendors,” Brashear said, “but we don’t have any place to put them unless we can figure out a way to put more items on the far side of the park.”

But beyond vendor congestion, if Maha ever bags its dream act — Wilco — organizers will have little choice but to look elsewhere, as the band could easily attract well over the park’s 10,000 capacity.

Enough about logistics. Here’s rundown of the bands I saw after arriving midway through the concert.

Saddle Creek Records’ latest recruits, The Thermals, played the straight-forward power-punk the trio is known for, including a number of songs off their latest album, Desperate Ground. The crowd seemed to like it, though they stood like scarecrows holding their beers and nodding their heads to the unchanging straight-four beat.

While The Thermals sounded good on the massive “Weitz Stage,” local boys Criteria sounded even better on the smaller “Centris Stage.” Don’t ask me why, but that junior-sized set-up sounded fuller (and louder) than its big brother, but maybe the band had something to do with it. Criteria, also a Saddle Creek act, boasts more dynamic songwriting vs. The Thermals’ play-and-repeat, one-gear punk style.

None of that mattered when Bob Mould took the main stage and blew them both away. Grinning throughout the set, Mould rifled through a “greatest hits” selection that included favorites off his Sugar albums, new stuff off his lastest solo record, The Silver Age, and classic Hüsker Dü in the form of “I Apologize” off New Day Rising. Bassist Jason Narducy filled out the vocals when Mould couldn’t, adding tasty harmonies throughout the set.

Mould was the highlight of the day for me and for a lot of others I spoke to including Brashear, who said Maha had been trying to book him since the festival began five years ago. As for those who complained that Mould’s set was “too loud,” the term “pussy” comes to mind. It’s Bob frickin’ Mould, folks. What did you expect?

Which brings us to Digital Leather. A few years ago during a lunch meeting I tried to convince the Maha guys to book the band by playing songs off their album, Blow Machine. When the execs heard stand-out track “Studs in Love,” with lines “I like Wrangler butts / I like hairy asses / I like men” they just shook their heads and said, “Maha’s a family event; we can’t have that.”

Cut to last Saturday and there was Digital Leather on stage singing about hairy asses to a crowd that barely noticed. Why would they? Isn’t rock ‘n’ roll supposed to be controversial and/or risky? What’s risky about hairy asses?

The thought that Maha organizers would be offended by Digital Leather seemed ridiculous after Matt & Kim took the stage. The keyboard-and-drums duo that plays cute, shiney indie pop dance tunes spent most of the time between songs yelling profanities at the audience. Every other word out of drummer Kim Schifino began with an F or MF. I guess they needed something to “rough up” their cutesy veneer and all those colored balloons just wasn’t cutting it.

It took about a dozen grips a half hour to get the set ready for festival closer The Flaming Lips. T-shirted stage hands carried huge chrome-plated globes while electricians carefully draped light strings from massive overhead crossbars. A few minutes before the set, out walked frontman/messiah Wayne Coyne in his shiny electric-blue suit, his graying mane blowing in the summer breeze. Coyne climbed atop the mountain of silver embryos and stood like a hipster Jesus grasping a weird fetus doll in his left hand.

If you came for the spectacle, you got it. The Lips’ amazing light show included a huge digital back-screen that blazed with glowing imagery while pin-lights flowed from above Coyne down the chrome mountain and back to the sky like an LED volcano.

Yes, there was plenty of smoke; yes there was confetti. Too bad there weren’t many hits. Coyne and Co. spent the first 20 minutes droning through depressing tonal music indicative of the band’s most recent album, The Terror. They would close out their set with hit, “Do You Realize?” but by then I was pedaling through Elmwood Park on my way home.

So was Maha a success? Artistically, it was the strongest festival they’ve ever put on. Brashear said it was financially successful as well, thanks to strong sponsorships, heavy donations throughout the year, and best-ever ticket sales.

“We definitely made a profit,” Brashear said. “That profit is going to get rolled into making next year’s Maha ‘better.’ What does that mean? We don’t know just yet. Could mean more expensive talent and/or an additional day. It’s too early to tell.”

Over The Edge is a weekly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on culture, society, the media and the arts. Email Tim at

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John Klemmensen met his piddly Kickstarter goal of $500, actually exceeded it by a couple hundred dollars. I am among those who donated enough to get JK to do cover. I’m still mulling my choice  — should I select one of my favorite Buckingham Nicks songs or ask John to breath new life into a song by a local artist? Decisions, decisions…

Meanwhile, Bret Vovk (a.k.a. Under Water Dream Machine) and Nick Carl (a.k.a. Kicky Von Narl) just launched a Kickstarter in support of their upcoming 3-week tour of the American Southwest and West Coast. “All the proceeds gathered will go toward the happenings of a successful tour and production of a brand new split LP, available exclusively (for a time) to their Kickstarter backers,” they say. Get in on the action right here.

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Been kind of quiet show-wise since Maha. Not much happening tonight either, except for the next installment of The Record Club @ the Saddle Creek Shop (located in the Slowdown Compound), this time featuring The Beach Boy’s classic Pet Sounds album. The needle drops at 7 p.m. followed by a critical discussion of the record. As always, the event is free.

Also tonight, singer-songwriter Damon Dotson plays at Slowdown Jr. $5, 9 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 © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.