Live Review: Eklectica, Brilliant Beast; Cursive, The Oh Hellos, Agronomo tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:22 pm October 19, 2015
Eklectica at O'Leaver's, Oct. 17, 2015.

Eklectica at O’Leaver’s, Oct. 17, 2015.

by Tim McMahan,

Eklectica is an Omaha four-piece that features Ryan Menchaca on lead vocals and guitar. If you never heard of them, you’re not alone. They were a complete mystery to me prior to Saturday night’s show at O’Leaver’s, where they followed touring headliner Brilliant Beast. Turns out they’ve only been a group for a couple months. You may recognize Menchaca from his support role in the live version of Icky Blossoms.

Seems like in some circles, frontmen are almost penalized for having a good voice. Menchaca has a high, sweet delivery that’s as good as it gets for a rock band. After the set, a few people were sort of criticizing him for it, saying he sounded “too commercial,” whatever that means. Other folks compared his voice to a couple popular indie acts and mainstream artists. Needless to say, clear, sweet vocals are not the norm at O’Leaver’s, where patrons are used to hearing growling screams or indecipherable mewing.

Ekletica’s music rolled with a ’60s psych vibe, sounding like something headed to Woodstock, but combined with modern touches and progressive nuance. All well played and interesting, though the songs tended to draw out, bordering dangerously close to jam band territory (And we can’t have that). Menchaca announced from stage that Ecklectica has a record coming out in the coming months. At this point in their evolution the band could go just about any direction — toward gritty psych-garage or to more refined Jack Johnson / Dave Matthews noodling. Here’s hoping for the former rather than the latter.

Brilliant Beast, Oct. 17, 2015.

Brilliant Beast at O’Leaver’s, Oct. 17, 2015.

Just before Eklectica, Brilliant Beast played a set of dreamy, underwater shoegaze that’s about as close as I’ve heard anyone at O’Leaver’s come to emulating the essence of that ’90s subgenre. They definitely had the whole Ride/My Bloody Valentine warm-tone style, complete with shimmering, slightly-off-kilter guitar effects that rocked as much as left you feeling uneasy. I honored Cassette Store Day by buying their yet-to-be-released collection on cassette, Dissolve, which is definitely worth finding on Bandcamp.

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There currently are 239 people in Facebook who say they’re going to O’Leaver’s tonight for the Cursive show. That could make for a rather packed room. Maybe they should take the show out to the sand volleyball pit?  Seriously, if you haven’t seen Cursive in the intimate confines of O’Leaver’s, do yourself a favor. It’s an entirely different concert experience than seeing them at a large venue like TWR. No doubt 239 people are not going to show up tonight (Are Facebook invitations ever accurate?), but expect a heated crowd. Get there early and see Chicago band Bellum Bocca and Buffalo, New York band Miwi La Lupa (Team Love Records). $5, 9 p.m.

It’s a busy Monday.

Down at The Slowdown massive folk ensemble The Oh Hellos are headlining an entire night of folk. The San Marcos, Texas, band is a brother-sister act surrounded by about a dozen friends playing music reminiscent of Okkervile River and Sufjan Stevens, among others. Opening are equally large bands Family and Friends, and Cereus Bright. $15, 9 p.m.

And over at Reverb Lounge Caleb Hawley headlines. He’s described as an American soul singer influenced by Stevie Wonder. What caught my attention were the openers. Tara Vaughan and Agronomo, a band that features uber-talented James Cuato Ballarin, Luke Polipnick, John Evans and local legend Dereck Higgins. Their style has been described as fusion combined with some improvisation. Check it out.  $8, 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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Cursive streams remastered Ugly Organ; Higgins’ Murphy; The Gotobeds, New Lungs tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 2:12 pm November 18, 2014

uglyorganby Tim McMahan,

Cursive is streaming its upcoming remastered, deluxe edition of the reissue of 2003’s The Ugly Organ here at AV Club. The 2xCD or 2xLP 180-gram vinyl hits store shelves Nov. 24, just in time for that down-home family Thanksgiving Day gathering. The release includes eight additional tracks written during the Ugly Organ sessions previously released as B-sides, in comps or as part of the ’02 split with Eastern Youth 8 Teeth to Eat You. The band hits the road in February and March supporting the release, including a March 21 gig at The Waiting Room (looks like they’re avoiding SXSW).

Speaking of new releases, Dereck Higgins’s latest vinyl project, Murphy, is now in stock at Almost Music, Drastic Plastic and Hopstop. Or you can buy it directly from Dereck right here. The limited edition release is $20.  Check out some tracks below:

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There’s a fantastic show happening tonight: Pittsburgh garage-punk band The Gotobeds plays at The Down Under Lounge, 3802 Leavenworth, with the amazing New Lungs (DMax from Little Brazil) and Little Ripple. Only $5, starts at 9.

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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.


Cursive reissue, Oberst 7-inch, Whipkey Kickstarter, Rural Alberta Advantage tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:53 pm October 16, 2014

The Rural Alberta Advantage at Slowdown Jr., 4/21/11. The band returns to Slowdown tonight.

by Tim McMahan,

I go away for a couple days and look what happens. Let me run though these real quick-like…

Cursive's Art Is Hard gets the vinyl-deluxe treatment...

Cursive’s Art Is Hard gets the vinyl-deluxe treatment…

Cursive and Saddle Creek Records yesterday announced it’s giving seminal 2003 album The Ugly Organ the reissue treatment. The Ugly Organ (Deluxe Edition) [Remastered] will be available on 2xCD and 2xLP 180-gram vinyl, with eight additional tracks on the accompanying disc. These tracks – written during the same sessions as and originally intended for The Ugly Organ – were released on 8 Teeth To Eat You split with Eastern Youth, and their ‘Art Is Hard’ and ‘The Recluse’ singles, and the Saddle Creek 50 comp.

The $23 vinyl and $13 CD drops Nov. 24, just in time for Thanksgiving, though pre-orders are being taken now at the Saddle Creek online store for earlier distro. I don’t own a good copy of this record. Back when it was released, Creek sent out promo CDs with limited artwork, etc. I have a lot of those black promos lying around. I’d prefer to own a nice slab of vinyl for this classic piece of Nebraskana rock, and now I’ll have my chance.

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Speaking of new vinyl, Conor Oberst yesterday announced he’s releasing a limited edition 7-inch (What other kind is there?) for Records Store / Black Friday Nov. 28. The single is two songs not included on Upside Down Mountain: “Standing On The Outside Looking In” b/w “Sugar Street.” Better get in line now.

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In other vinyl news, Matt Whipkey Monday announced a new Kickstarter campaign for a new 10-song LP, Underwater. With the album already recorded, Whip’s trying to raise $5,250 to cover production costs.

Kickstarter has evolved into a straight-forward way for musicians to pre-sale their albums, providing both a product for their audience while cutting down on risks associated with producing and selling very expensive vinyl recordings. Once they meet their goal, they’ve essentially covered their risk, and anything beyond that is gravy, or so the plan goes.

I still meet people who have an attitude about Kickstarter, Indiegogo and the other campaign tools. I don’t get the gripe, especially when it’s merely a pre-sale mechanism. On the other hand, I get the cynicism toward Kickstarter when it comes to bands creating campaigns designed to “fund our tour.”

Anyway, check out Matt’s Kickstarter campaign here.

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Lots to do tonight…

Tonight is opening night of the Local Filmmakers Showcase at Film Streams. Among the short films are music videos for The Faint, Orenda Fink and UUVVWWZ. The showcase only has a one-week run, so make plans to check it out. More info here.

Afterward, stay downtown for The Rural Alberta Advantage at The Slowdown. The band’s new Saddle Creek Records release, Mended With Gold, is the best of their career. Opening is July Talk. $12, 9 p.m.

At The Waiting Room, Little Brazil frontman Landon Hedges does a solo set openign for touring band The Apache Relay. $10, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, over at The Barley Street, Scott Severin and CJ Mills open for Kevin Sandbloom. $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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


The Faint’s new album Doom Abuse out April 8 on SQE; Cursive plays an old oldie (but a goodie)…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 1:48 pm February 25, 2014
The Faint, circa now.

The Faint, circa now.

by Tim McMahan,

I read it early this morning on Faintbook: The Faint have a new album coming out. Titled Doom Abuse, the new record hits the streets April 8 on SQE Music, home to CSS, Johnathan Rice, Desert Noises, among others.

According to the SQE website: “In the spring of 2013, The Faint existed again. Anxious to make new music the band recorded a 4-song white label 12” they referred to as ‘Preversions.’ That music, primal and punk rock in its approach, became the unplanned blueprint for Doom Abuse.  The band booked time with longtime collaborator Mike Mogis to mix the album before even really having songs written.

The entire album took three months to make, according to SQE. “Since much of Fasciinatiion was made sitting behind computers, the musicians wanted to embrace a live sensibility and collective rawness. A lot of the record was created live in the room, with first takes and first ideas taking precedent.”

Read the whole SQE write-up here.  Fans can pre-order the record right now on iTunes for $7.99 and can immediately buy and download the first single, “Help in the Head.” Needless to say, a tour will follow.

I guess we kind of knew this was coming all the way back in 2011 when this article came out (followed by this article). Everything seemed to be in place for the band to continue on without Joel Peteresen, and thankfully it has. So can The Faint pick up where they left off six years ago? And what about Digital Leather, Todd Fink’s other band, which is scheduled to perform at SXSW in a few weeks (at at O’Leaver’s this Friday night)? And finally, is there a place in The Faint’s future for Saddle Creek Records, the band’s original label? It seems unlikely, but you never know…

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Speaking of old-time Saddle Creek acts, Cursive just released a new live performance video of Ugly Organ staple “A Gentleman Caller,” via LoveDrunk. The video was shot around the same time as the December trio of live shows at The Waiting Room. Take a look:

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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 three (with two more to go?), Ladyfinger; The Seen, Hotlines, Daft Punk tonight; Brigadiers, Envy Corp Saturday…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:24 pm December 20, 2013
Cursive, Night Three at The Waiting Room, Dec. 19, 2013.

Cursive, Night Three at The Waiting Room, Dec. 19, 2013.

by Tim McMahan,

Night Three — the final night — of Cursive at The Waiting Room was just as packed as Night Two. Well, maybe not just as packed, but impressively crowded nonetheless.

The set-up was the same as the past two shows, but the set list was firmly in “extra angst” mode. The band came on around 11 and launched into “A Gentleman Caller,” which would have its usual reprise during the encore, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

The first half of the set felt dominated by odd, angular, proggy obscurities off the early releases, mixed with Gemini songs. Here’s a little secret: Though I have the records, I’m not intimately familiar with the band’s early material. Without access to a set list, my process for figuring out song names is to tap-in a specific lyric into my iPhone notepad, figuring I could look it up on the InteWeb the next morning.

Hence, this morning I typed “I once had pride, I once had guts…” into the Google machine and out popped the lyrics to “A Little Song and Dance,” from the band’s second album, The Storms of Early Summer: Semantics of Song.

You lying naked next to me…” was from “Excerpts From Various Notes Strewn Around The Bedroom of April Connolly, Feb. 24, 1997” off 8 Teeth to Eat You.

“What are you missing…” was “Dedication to Desertion” off the band’s first album, Such Blinding Stars for Starving Eyes.

You’re a major leaguer now…” — “A Career in Transcendence” from Storms

And so on.

Crib notes weren’t needed for the hits, such as “Rise Up! Rise Up!” “Dorothy at 40” and “I Couldn’t Love You.”

The band played with the usual panache, but seemed a bit reserved through the first half. For added effect, pre-recorded noises and sound clips played between songs — something I didn’t notice the first two nights — maybe a device to help hold the set together?

While the old stuff was well received, the audience didn’t explode until the last 30 minutes of the night. The set was definitely back-loaded with gold. “The Casualty” went directly into “The Martyr,” and the crowd went nuts. The back-to-back performance was the “arena moment” I’d been waiting for, though frontman Tim Kasher’s voice began to give out on the high-octane screams.

Lovely cellist Megan Siebe (of Anniversaire) was particularly mesmerizing last night. The band needs to recruit her for the next album (if she’s willing, and who wouldn’t be?).

They closed out with “Big Bang” (Chris Machmuller again joining on sax alongside trumpeter / keyboardist / Kasher wingman Patrick Newbery) and one of my all-time faves, “From the Hip” before exiting and returning for a two-song encore of “Mothership, Mothership, Do You Read Me?” (off the Burst and Bloom EP) and perennial closer “Staying Alive” sounding more bombastic than ever.

Any one of the three nights of shows that comprised Cursive’s Waiting Room “residency” would make anyone’s “best shows of the year” list. All three taken as a whole is something of a landmark for local music, which (hopefully) will be documented for the ages with a live album next year.

And so it ends. Or does it?

Word leaked out last night that we might get two more nights of Cursive — tonight and Saturday — at O’Leaver’s, both nights also to be recorded. Scuttlebutt was that the band would announce the shows from stage last night, but they never did, which makes this a “secret show”… if it happens at all. Take your chances.

Ladyfinger at The Waiting Room, Dec. 19, 2013.

Ladyfinger at The Waiting Room, Dec. 19, 2013.

Hey, what about last night’s openers? I missed Ted Stevens Unknown Project (sorry Ted), but caught all of Ladyfinger. Someone pointed out a grievous error on my part — Ladyfinger’s last album, Errant Forms, actually came out in 2013. I forgot all about it while putting together my year-end “favorites” list. Had I remembered, I likely would have included it (“The list” comes out next week, btw).

Last night’s set drew heavily from that album. While the rest of the band couldn’t have been more on point — break-back rhythm section, screaming guitars — when it came time for frontman Chris Machmuller to sing the inspirational lines from “Galactic” he went into complete mumble mode. WTF! Just an off night for Mach? No. He followed it with a vocal performance on “Dark Horse” that would make Springsteen blush. So who knows. Needless to say, at the end of their short set I wanted more.

* * *

I would tell you that my weekend plans are skewed by rumor of “secret” Cursive shows except that I was planning on going to O’Leaver’s this weekend anyway, starting tonight for The Seen and McCallen, Texas, band Crystal Wolf. Will Cursive also perform? Find out. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Also tonight is Barley Street Tavern’s Xmaspalooza Showcase, featuring Jeremy Mercy, Darren Keen, John Klemmensen, All Young Girls Are Machine Guns and a handful more. 9 p.m., $5.

Meanwhile, down the street at The Sydney it’s Hotlines (Dereck Higgins, Amanda DeBoer Bartlett, Javid Dabistani and Luke Polipnick), with American Cream. No details, but probably $5, 9 p.m.

And for an extra-special dance treat, Darren Keen and Crew are covering Daft Punk tonight down at House of Loom. $5, 10 p.m.

Tomorrow night it’s The Brigadiers with Bear Antlers at O’Leaver’s (and maybe/probably Cursive?). $5, 9:30 p.m.

Also Saturday night, The Envy Corps headlines at The Waiting Room with Oquoa and Millions of Boys. $8, 9 p.m.

Lastly, Sunday night The Mezcal Brothers headline at The Waiting Room with Matt Cox. $7, 6 p.m.

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.


Night Three of Cursive w/Ted Stevens, Ladyfinger tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 1:44 pm December 19, 2013

by Tim McMahan,

You could look at the last two Cursive “residency” shows at The Waiting Room (the past two Thursday) as Acts I and II of a 3-act play. If so, tonight’s show would be the pay-off act, where everything comes together.

Or, you could view tonight’s show as a 90-minute Cursive finale following two marathon sets.

Me, I see tonight as a chance for the band to navigate uncharted territory. Cursive is recording all three nights for a possible live album. Night 1 (Dec. 5) was a straight reading of the source material. Night 2 (Dec. 12) had the feel of an arena concert tucked into a nightclub. Needless to say, they got enough from the first two nights — well over 40 songs recorded — to fill a handsome double album.

But now comes Night 3. With the first two shows securely “in the can” they can do whatever they want whatever way they want to. But it’s hard to imagine them rolling out anything more obscure from the Cursive catalog than what they’ve already played. So what will they do? Only one way to find out.

Opening tonight’s show is Ted Stevens Unknown Project — that means Ted’s pulling double-duty. Also on the bill: Ladyfinger (which means Chris Machmuller also is pulling double duty as he’s playing sax with Cursive). Get there early. I bet tonight will be as packed as last week’s show (which was a crush mob). If you’re worried about a sell-out, do something about it. $12, 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.


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.

* * *

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.


Third Quarter Reviews, Twitter style (in the column); goodbye Jenna; Cursive (night 2), Bazan, Criteria tonight…

Category: Blog,Column,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 2:19 pm December 12, 2013

by Tim McMahan,

In this week’s column, third quarter CD reviews (a little late). I’ll be tweeting random selections throughout the day at @tim_mcmahan — what better reason to finally get a Twitter account? The entire list is in this week’s issue of The Reader, or online right here… Here’s a taste:

Hospital Ships, Destruction In Yr Soul (Graveface) — Death Cab meets Arcade Fire, too often tries for epic, too often falls flat.

Destruction Unit, Deep Trip (Sacred Bones)  — Just plain burn-your-face-off garage rock for the damned (damned good).

Lloyd Cole, Standards (Tapete) — Don’t call it a comeback, it’s the best thing he’s released since Music in a Foreign Language, and could be a hit if he ever tours the U.S.

Twinsmith, self titled — Blessed by the Creek, a sort of Vampire Weekend / Beach House mash-up, might be too cute for its own good.

Read all 32!

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Conduits at Dundee Spring Fling, May 21, 2011.

Conduits at Dundee Spring Fling, May 21, 2011.

Somewhere in the heart of the city there’s a going-away party being held for Jenna Morrison.

Jenna is/was the golden-voiced siren who fronted Omaha’s epic shoe-gaze odyssey called Conduits. What did Conduits sound like? From an April 2011 review of their performance on Slowdown’s big stage:

Conduits closed the night with grand aplomb — just an absolute wall of sound — thick slabs of droning feedback, subtle synth tones, and throbbing, tribal rhythms a la Slowdive, MBV and all the other shoe-gaze masters that obviously influenced their style and that we all know and love.

Conduits could have been huge. The conventional wisdom at the time was that they were the next Omaha break-out act, especially after word leaked that their debut LP would come out on Team Love Records (the label that Conor Oberst started). But time took its toll on Conduits. They spent a year playing the same songs, released their record then spent another year playing the same songs. But (I’m told) none of that had anything to do with their eventual demise…

Though there’s been no official announcement, the band has been broken up for more than a year. Everyone’s gone on to other projects, the most notable being Oquoa. Everyone, that is, but Jenna Morrison. Conduits fans have sat back waiting for her next move. Well here it is:

After going on a walk-about through the Southern Tier (documented on her Facebook page), Jenna decided to move to Los Angeles in the coming days/weeks. What she’s chasing out there, I cannot tell you. I can only wish her luck, godspeed and say thanks for the memories. And watch out LA, there’s a new kid in town…

* * *

Tonight is Night 2 of Cursive’s 3-night stand at The Waiting Room where the band is recording for a possible live album. Night one was a real doozy. And of the three shows, tonight’s might draw the largest crowd thanks to stellar openers Criteria (they’re baaack!) and David Bazan (Who we all remember from Pedro the Lion).

If the first night was any indication, this trio of shows attendance should be mandatory for any Cursive fan. The band is digging deep into the back catalog. Heck, they played a song off their Lumberjack debut 7-inch last week. You will hear songs performed that you may never hear performed live by this band again…

As of this posting, tickets were still available for $12. You may want to get yours online now to avoid disappointment. See you there.

Also tonight, Hear Nebraska is hosting a listening preview of its Vol. 2 album at The Omaha Bicycle Company in Benson.

The vinyl album is a snapshot of the best bands of 2013, with tracks from Universe Contest, Pleasure Adapter, Noah’s Ark, Millions of Boys, Tim Kasher, Skypiper, McCarthy Trenching, Conchance, Lloyd McCarter and Simon Joyner. HN is less than $700 away from its $4,000 Kickstarter, which is really just a pre-sale. A $20 pledge gets you the vinyl and the mp3. Pledge more for other fun stuff. Do it.

Not sure you’ll dig the record? Then head over to Omaha Bicycle Company tonight at 5:30 and hear for yourself. More detail about tonight’s event here.

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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: Cursive; OEAA showcase, So-So Sailors tonight; Higgins/Polipnick Saturday; Midlake Sunday…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:53 pm December 6, 2013
Cursive at The Waiting Room, Dec. 5, 2013.

Cursive at The Waiting Room, Dec. 5, 2013.

by Tim McMahan,

The set list of last night’s Cursive show at The Waiting Room was pretty much what you’d expect from a band recording a live record: A large selection from their entire catalog, going all the way back to their first 7-inch single The Disruption released in ’96 on Lumberjack Records (the embryonic precursor to Saddle Creek Records).

In all, the band played around 20 songs in a set that stretched over an hour and ended with an abbreviated version of “Staying Alive” (the closer off 2003’s The Ugly Organ). The gang came back and played a three-song encore that ended (ironically?) with “Big Bang” from 2006’s Happy Hollow. Mixed in there were the usual favorites like “The Martyr,” “From the Hips,” “Art Is Hard,” “The Casualty,” “Sierra” along with a handful that I simply wasn’t familiar with or didn’t remember.

Chris Machmuller of So-So Sailors (see them tonight at O’Leaver’s) helped fill out the horn parts on saxophone next to Cursive perennial Patrick Newbery, while Megan Siebe of Anniversaire played Gretta Cohn’s parts on cello. I forgot how much I missed hearing a cello with this band.

Cursive's Ted Stevens, right, takes the lead.

Cursive’s Ted Stevens, right, takes the lead.

Throughout the evening they played with workmanlike precision, which also was the set’s only drawback. More often than not, it felt like they were trying their hardest to hit the mark rather than let themselves get lost in the moment. It was sort of like watching a band play on television — you can feel their every effort to do it “just right.” If your chief criticism is that the band played every song flawlessly, you don’t have much to complain about.

But it does beg the question: What makes a good live album? Personal favorites that come to my mind are At Folsom Prison, The Band’s Last Waltz, Frampton Comes Alive, Stop Making Sense, Under a Blood Red Sky and, of course, Cheap Trick at Budokan. Not surprising, none of those are less than 30 years old. I can’t think of one good “indie” live album (I don’t count Nirvana Unplugged because it was recorded in a studio and came out on Geffen and it just doesn’t feel like a live album to me).

What makes those classic live records classic is the sense that you’re hearing something special being captured almost by luck. There’s a unique energy that embodies the performances, a momentum that carries through to the final crowd fade, and a one-of-a-kind quality to each song as if they’re being reinvented on the spot, effortlessly, by musicians caught up in the moment playing strictly by their gut.

And, of course, the off-the-cuff introductions and asides. Cheap Trick’s Budokan wouldn’t be as special without the intro: “I want you to want me!

Well there wasn’t much “off-the-cuff” going on last night as Cursive pounded through the set list one song after the other, intently focused on the finish line. Frontman Kasher provided little if any give-and-take with the audience — a quality that makes for memorable shows. Maybe the lack of snappy patter was first-night jitters and the fact that they know they have two more Thursday nights to try to capture that perfect moment. If you’re lucky you’ll be there when it happens.

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Let’s get to the weekend, the frigid cold weekend…

Will the Arctic blast keep people away from tonight’s mammoth Omaha Entertainment & Arts Awards Nominees Showcase going on throughout Benson? We’re talking 50 bands playing at six venues. In years past it was fun to jaunt between clubs throughout the night, but will it be as fun when the windchill is five below? Let’s find out. The OEAA schedule is online right here. If I go to this tonight, it’s unlikely I’ll stray from The Waiting Room, which has the most solid line-up:

7:00-7:35 – The Electroliners
7:50-8:25 – All Young Girls Are Machine Guns
8:40-9:15 – Conchance
9:30-10:05 – Matt Cox Band
10:20-10:55 – Steve Raybine
11:10-11:45 – The Whipkey Three
12:00-12:35 – Josh Hoyer and The Shadowboxers
12:50-1:25 – John Klemmensen and the Party

As per usual $10 gets you into all six clubs. Plus, Benson First Friday also is happening tonight. Expect crowds and parking issues (don’t forget Larkin Parkin’ across the street from Jake’s).

If you want to avoid the Benson cluster, head over to fabulous O’Leaver’s for So-So Sailors with Des Moines band The River Monks and Brad Hoshaw. $5, 9:30 p.m. Check out some River Monks below:

Also tonight, Saturn Moth plays at Slowdown Jr. with Congruency, Andrew Baille and Diana Arp. Show starts at 9 and is absolutely free.

Saturday evening Almost Music Records in Benson hosts the first in its concert series, performed in the adjoining Solid Jackson Books space. Headlining is Omaha legend Dereck Higgins, with Luke Polipnick Esoteric Trio and Rake Kash (featuring Lonnie Methe). Start time is 7 p.m. and tix are $5.

And then Sunday prog rockers Midlake headlines at The Waiting Room. The Denton Texas band’s new album, Antiphon, was released on ATO Records. Opening is Sarah Jaffe. $13, 9 p.m.

Also Sunday night, The Pines play at Slowdown Jr. with Brad Hoshaw. 8 p.m., $8 Adv./$10 DOS.

Stay warm, people…

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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.


Night 1 of Cursive at The Waiting Room tonight; Bright Eyes X-mas gets the Pitchfork treatment (rating: 7.0)…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , — @ 1:59 pm December 5, 2013

by Tim McMahan,

Cursive’s three-night stand at The Waiting Room begins tonight. They’re calling it a “residency,” though it’s really just three dates booked at the club to record a possible live album. Let’s face it, there will have to be something releasable after three nights, right? I’m told Megan Siebe (Anniversiare) and Chris Machmuller (So-So Sailors, Ladyfinger) will be joining them on stage playing cello and saxophone respectively. I’m not sure exactly what we’ll hear tonight or how it will proceed, but it should be a lot of fun. Kevin Coffey has some detes here at

For those who can’t afford $30 for the three-day pass or separate cover for three shows, the prime question is which show to attend. Tonight’s ain’t a bad choice. InDreama is Nik Fackler’s (Icky Blossoms) psych rock project that includes renowned bass-slinger Dereck Higgins. Every InDreama show is a unique experience; tonight’s should be no exception, especially considering the band hasn’t played live in months.

The other opener, Lightning Bug, is a post-punk band in the Modest Mouse vein . Check a track out below.

Tickets to tonight’s show are still available for $12 (and you can still buy that 3-night pass for $30 and save!). Show start at 9. Bundle up and head out.

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Pitchfork today reviewed Bright Eyes, A Christmas Album, giving it a respectable 7.0 rating. Read the review here. The nut sentence: “(The album) often sounds like a field recording from chilly church basements or the dark, flat expanses of the Midwestern plains, barren, frozen, howling winds in the distance and the occasional flicker of light coming from Christmas decorations.” Pretty much sums it up for me, too. I got a copy of this CD when it was first released in 2002. It’s a fun novelty, but not something I’d play at a company Christmas party. There’s something slightly depressing about indie rock Christmas records, and this one is no exception…

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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.