Live Review: Shannon & the Clams on the river, Halfwit; Ten Questions with A Giant Dog (at Milk Run tonight)…

Shannon & The Clams performing aboard The River City Star, May 15, 2016.

Shannon & The Clams performing aboard The River City Star, May 15, 2016.

by Tim McMahan,

I’m growing tired of this cold weather. I imagined how much more pleasant last night’s “Sailin’ and Wailin’ Boat Cruise on the River City Star” would have been had the temps been 20 degrees warmer. Instead, it was cold and windy and I’m happy I wore my insulated hoodie.

Weather issues aside, Perpetual Nerves has a hit on its hands if it decides to do more of these River City Star concerts, because last night’s was a blast. The cruise couldn’t have gone smoother. If you weren’t on board by 6:55 you were left standing on the shore. In fact, I know one party of people, only seconds late, who had to practically fight their way to the deck (heroically saved by booker Sam Parker).

The River City Star is a small two-story river boat that launches from Freedom Park near the Gallup campus. The festive bottom deck was where the free keg and cash bar were located. Those standing in line were serenaded by the finest party music (from Prince to  Tom Tom Club) via a DJ. With drink in hand it was up to the top deck where Nathan Ma and The Rosettes were already performing as the boat drifted away from the dock. I recognized among the band mates Sarah Bohling of Icky Blossoms adding vocals. Their music was a mix of garage and indie, including a cover of The La’s “There She Goes” that got the loudest applause.

They were followed at 8 p.m. sharp by Shannon and the Clams, an Oakland-based four piece that played early ’60s-style garage rock with doo-wap and surf elements. It felt very much like a very hip sock hop played on a drifting dance floor, all the while floating past either Deliverance-style river-bottoms foliage or urban industrial decay. For every bit of picturesque wildlife (geese, flying fish) there was a reminder that you were adrift on a river of dark brown sewage.  Floating up and down the Missouri River, we were met time and time again by a large white half-submerged floating upright refrigerator. Was there someone inside it, traveling to the Gulf of Mexico? We’ll never know.

The sound, by the way, was amazing. No doubt the river people, who were either fishing or dumping garbage along the shore, could easily hear the bands, and wondered who those lucky bastards having the time of their lives?

The obvious question on everyone’s minds: Why doesn’t Perpetual Nerves book these cruises all the time, or at least once a month during the warm months? Especially considering it sold out the same day it was announced (within hours of the announcement).

Halfwit at O'Leaver's, May 13, 2016.

Halfwit at O’Leaver’s, May 13, 2016.

Friday night I caught Halfwit at O’Leaver’s. The Lincoln band fronted by Dan Jenkins of Ideal Cleaners and including bass-playing madman Saber Blazek crushed the crowd with heavy rock that bordered on proggy metal. The guitar interplay between Jenkins and guitarist Kevin Waltemath was next level amazing. Unfortunately the usually high-flying Blazek was seated for the performance, a victim of some sort of foot injury judging by the massive isolation boot he was wearing. I tried to imagine him at full thrash. Probably would have take out a wall or two. I’m told the performance was recorded for a possible future Live at O’Leaver’s set. Keep your fingers crossed.

Well Aimed Arrows at O'Leaver's May 13, 2016.

Well Aimed Arrows at O’Leaver’s May 13, 2016.

Last up was Well Aimed Arrows playing their usual brand of stripped down, minimalistic post New Wave music that combines almost atonal vocals with intricate rhythms. People who “get them” love them, and those who don’t are left scratching their heads. Their loss. If you grew up with very early REM or Wire — of if you’re old enough to remember groundbreaking ’90s Omaha band The Protoculture — seek them out immediately.

* * *

A Giant Dog plays at Milk Run tonight.

A Giant Dog plays at Milk Run tonight.

Tonight at Milk Run Austin indie band A Giant Dogs perform. Just this second, I received back a Ten Questions response from the band. Here it is:

1. What is your favorite album? 

A Giant Dog: Sparks,  Angst In My Pants. This is one of our favorite albums and we have been doing a cover of “Angst In My Pants” at our shows recently. Sparks had a big influence on us when recording the new record, PILE, and this album is on repeat while driving on tour.

2. What is your least favorite song?

It’s a never ending list. Nothing in particular comes to mind.

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

We started our band as a way to have fun, make music and hangout with other bands in Austin and around the country. We’ve also been close friends since high school and played in different bands together. So it’s great being able to play music and travel with your long time buds. Aside from that aspect, we’re generally unsettled with how repetitive, boring and predictable rock music can be. One of the best things about being in a band is considering the bleakness out there and then finding ways to make a song more creative, interesting and against the grain. I’m not sure how well we do that, but it’s something we enjoy trying to do.

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

The music biz is tough right now and that is a constant frustration we and other bands have to work around. Music has always been tough, but I think it’s okay to say there is a lot less money now than in the early 2000’s pre-Napster. There is a bad gap between good music and getting it to people who will appreciate it. I hope streaming can get its shit together, and this is a problem they need to solve. I know that journalism and film are in the same boat.

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

Mostly weed and more legal substances these days to keep our voices in tact and be able to keep up with the fast pace lifestyle we live. It’s been most interesting buying weed across the U.S. in the last two years. It’s funny buying it in Colorado and then sneaking it through Utah like you’re still at your parents house and sneaking in past curfew.

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

Minneapolis, Chicago, New York and any town with a passionate promoter who knows how to put together a cool show. The funny thing about live music is that any town can be killer for shows. You just need one guy or gal who loves putting on shows and knows what bands are good.

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

Pittsburgh. We showed up to a DIY space that was had the right elements for a good show – big empty house with a good turnout and decent bands booked. But the place was run by kids in pajamas eating ramen. There was a thunderstorm that day and they were afraid of the thunder thinking the show should be canceled. We bought them a six pack and passed on the show.

8. How do you pay your bills?

We work part time or remote jobs in addition to making music. Andrew (guitar/vocals) is a door guy, Graham (bass) makes pizza, Danny (drums is a waiter, Sabrina (singer) works at a Ramen place and has an Airbnb and Andy (guitar) is a software consultant. Multiple incomes is the main way we get by and it’s well worth the time and effort to be able to tour and keep making records.

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

Sabrina was talking about becoming an acupuncturist the other day. Eastern medicine in general is interesting and it seems that could be a rewarding job.

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

Nothing yet. Friends have said the Milk Run is cool and a good place to play. Let’s see what stories come from the show tonight.

A Giant Dog performs with Kitten Forever, No Thanks and Worried Mothers tonight at Milk Run, 1907 Leavenworth St. Tickets are $8, show starts at 9 p.m. 

* * *

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


Live Review: Skypiper, Cowboy Indian Bear; Ideal Cleaners breaks up (last November); Bloc Party, Songwriter Death Battle tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:46 pm May 28, 2013
Skypiper at The Waiting Room, May 25, 2013.

Skypiper at The Waiting Room, May 25, 2013.

by Tim McMahan,

I might have put my finger on who Skypiper reminds me of. I had to dig around in my feeble brain through most of their set at Saturday night’s EP release show at The Waiting Room, but (I think) I finally figured it out: Frontman Graham Burkum’ s voice bears a striking resemblance to David Baerwald’s.

Who is David Baerwald? Well, once upon a time in 1986 there was pop band called David and David. They had an album called Boomtown that was a huge hit. I loved that record, which today is all but forgotten despite the plethora of pop anthems it provided. David and David was a songwriter’s band; I don’t know if they even performed live. Skypiper also borders on being a songwriter’s pop band, though its songs aren’t as lyrically sophisticated (or as darkly personal) as Baerwald’s. That lack of lyrical intimacy might be what separates Skypiper from folks like Dan Wilson or Jeremy Messersmith, who have a similar embraceable pop style.

Saturday night’s show felt like a homecoming event, with the band creating its own stenciled stage backdrop complete with hand-made decorations. I didn’t realize Skypiper was simply going to give away their new EP. Sure enough, the Burkum Bros. told the crowd to take as many copies as they wanted from the back merch table. How are you ever going to become rich rock stars that way?

Opening band Cowboy Indian Bear put on their usual tight set. Their music seems to be constantly evolving, stretching to keep up with indie le style actuel, and while there’s plenty of sonic resonance to their sound, I’m beginning to lose the songs amidst their colorful noise. I walked away remembering the cacaphony, but not knowing what they were trying to say. Simpler is (almost) always better, which means you don’t need three people on stage pounding on a drum.

* * *

Satchel Grande at River's Edge Park, May 27, 2013.

Satchel Grande at River’s Edge Park, May 27, 2013.

In other weekend coverage, look for a review of River’s Edge Park in my column in this week’s issue of The Reader. Needless to say, the park is going to be a gamechanger in terms of live outdoor facilities. I only caught Satchel Grande (the usual feel-good dance stuff) and Josh Hoyer’s new band, the Shadowboxers, which sounded like the reincarnation of James Brown. Get on the good foot, Josh.

* * *

News from Lincoln: Ideal Cleaners broke up… last November. In an email that arrived in my old AOL account, Dan Jenkins announced that the Cleaners’ Nov. 24, 2012, show at The Waiting Room was the band’s finale. “We sure had a good time in that band and played together for 9 1/2 years or something like that,” he said.

On the plus side, Jenkins announced that his new band, Halfwit, will be debuting June 7 at The Sydney. Fellow band members include former members of Mother Pile, Life of a Scarecrow and Machete Archive.

* * *

Two shows of note tonight:

Down at Slowdown, it’s the Bloc Party (yes, that Bloc Party) with Vancouver band Bear Mountain (Last Gang Records). $25, 9 p.m. Tickets are still available.

Meanwhile, over at The Waiting Room tonight, it’s John Klemmensen’s “Songwriter Death Battle,” an intriguing concept wherein 30+ local songwriters take a turn playing one song on stage using Mr. K’s acoustic guitar. Among the battlers: Dane Sybrant, Greg Loftis, Jon Jerry, Kendra Senrick, Sam Houser, Edward Spencer, Koby Good, Sarah Benck Tardy, Bret Vovk, Andrew Janousek, Scott Severin, Tara Vaughan, Jessica Errett, Jeremy Mercy, Nick Carl, Vern Fergesen, Reagan Roeder, Justin Neal, Justin Lamoureux, Stephanie Krysl, Doug Kabourek, Matt Cox, Rebecca Lowry, Matt McLarney, Eliza Doo, Brad Hoshaw, Matt Whipkey, Landon Hedges, Sara Bertuldo, Michael Wunder, and John Klemmensen. That’s a lot of entertainment for $5. Show starts at 9.

* * *

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 © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.