Lazy-i Best of 2017 Comp CD (and giveaway); Jake Bellows, Whispertown tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:00 pm December 26, 2017

Lazy-i Best of 2017

by Tim McMahan,

It’s the last week of the year, and that means the onslaught of year-end articles and lists. You’ve already saw my list of favorite albums from last year (read it here). Now here are my favorite tracks from 2017, all conveniently collected in my annual Lazy-i Best of… compilation CD, now in its 23nd year.  I send this out to friends, family and music biz folks, and now you can get in on the action, too!

Enter the drawing to get your very own, limited edition copy! To enter, either: 1. Send an email with your mailing address to, or 2) Write a comment on one of my Lazy-i related posts in Facebook, or 3, Retweet a Lazy-i tweet (if you use social media and win, I’ll reach out later for your mailing address). Hurry, contest deadline is Friday, Jan. 5 at midnight.

Here’s the track listing:

  1. Far Out Feeling — SUSTO
  2. Negative Boogie — David Nance
  3. Dum Surfer — King Krule
  4. Continental Breakfast — Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile
  5. New Streets — Wilder Maker
  6. Expect the Bayonet — Sheer Mag
  7. Shark Smile — Big Thief
  8. Not My Baby — Alvvays
  9. Slip Away — Perfume Genius
  10. tonite — LCD Soundsystem
  11. One to One — Digital Leather
  12. That Clown’s Got a Gun — Uranium Club
  13. NRGQ — !!!
  14. Up All Night — Beck
  15. Sugar for the Pill — Slowdive
  16. More Romantic — CLOSENESS
  17. Hasn’t Failed Me Yet — The Lupines
  18. Most of the Time — Luna
  19. R.I.P. Santa — SUSTO

Like last year, I’ve also created a Lazy-i Best of 2017 playlist in Spotify, but (also like last year) not all the songs are included (missing are the Lupines and Digital Leather tracks). So if you want the real thing, you’ll have to enter to win. Let’s face it, these comp CDs are bound to be valuable collector’s items after I’m gone, so consider the act of entering (and winning) as a sound financial (as well as cultural) gamble…

* * *

Tonight at Slowdown Jr. it’s the miraculous return of Jake Bellows. The boy wonder behind Neva Dinova and all sorts of sonic goodness returns to his hometown for a night of music with his LA pals Whispertown. $8, 9 p.m. Come in from the cold…

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Rusty Lord, Alcools tonight; Karger Traum, Matt Whipkey Saturday; Jake Bellows/Whispertown Tuesday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:00 pm December 22, 2017

Rusty Lord at O’Leaver’s, June 23, 2017. They play tonight at O’Leaver’s.

by Tim McMahan,

Could be one of those crazy, hot, over-crowded nights at fabulous O’Leaver’s tonight. Everyone’s in town for the holidays looking for a rock show, and the only one on the radar is Rusty Lord and Alcools at The Club.

Just a reminder, “Rusty Lord” is, in fact, the weather guy at Channel 6. Unfortunately, he’s not in any way associated with this band (though he should be. Think how it would impact his Q-Rating).

Instead, Rusty Lord is a local garage rock super group with Pro-Magnum’s Johnny Vredenburg and Austin Ulmer, Ben VanHoolandt of Digital Leather and the Omaha rock ‘n’ roll madman/genius/legend Dave Goldberg behind a full drum kit. Their sound has been compared to Ministry, I think they’re more metal than that. Find out for yourself tonight at 10. Opening is Alcools (ex-Dead Flower Preservation Society). $5.

This is the one where the real Rusty Lord makes an appearance and even introduces the band. The outcome would be jubilant chaos.

Tomorrow night (Saturday) you have choices.

A very interesting show came out out nowhere: Karger Traum at Pet Shop Gallery (former Sweatshop space). We’re talking industrial rock/dance music sung in German by a couple dudes from Oklahoma City. Influences include Einstürzende Neubauten, Deutsch Amerikanische Freundschaft and Suicide.Their latest, Such a Dream, was released in October on DKA Records. This is a stacked bill, with Cultplay, Ruby Block and CBN. $5, 10 p.m.

Also tomorrow night (Saturday), Matt Whipkey and his band play at O’Leaver’s. Expect to hear songs off his forthcoming album, Driver. Raquel Telfer and The Shineys open. $7, 9:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, way out at Growler USA, Scott Severin plays with Josh Rector. Free! and 9 p.m.

And Satchel Grande returns to The Slowdown Saturday night with Andrew Bailie. $8, 9 p.m.

That’s all I see through the weekend, though…

While I’m thinking about it (and because who knows when I’ll next update this blog), ex-Omahan (But does anyone ever really leave Omaha?) Jake Bellows (from Neva Dinova fame) plays at Slowdown Jr. with Whispertown. They’ve got a new album out, I’m A Man (2017, Graveface). This one could be special $6 Adv/$8 DOS.

Mr. Bellows makes an appearance in their video for “I’m a Man.” Check it:

If I don’t get back to you before then, have a Merry Christmas/Hanukkah/Festivus.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Jake Bellows, Sun-Less Trio; Hussies, Cat Tatt, Drive By Truckers tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:16 pm June 13, 2017

Jake Bellows at The Sydney, June 9, 2017.

by Tim McMahan,

I’m still catching up on last weekend, specifically last Friday night when Jake Bellows played at The Sydney. I point to the crowd and the overall vibe of the room for what ended up being one of the best Bellows sets I’ve ever witnessed. Jake solo with electric guitar played a selection from his rather extensive oeuvre with the crowd pushed right up to the Sydney’s stage/platform. You can hear a bit of the set in the Facebook Live recording below (I always feel like a dork when I’m shooting these things, but…).

Now that he’s living in LA, every Bellows set in Omaha is like a family reunion, with lots of familiar faces in the crowd come to pay their respects to our lost hero. Jake may be a Californian these days, but he knows he always has a home in Nebraska.

Sun-Less Trio at The Sydney, June 9, 2017.

Opening for Jake Friday night was a new line-up for Sun-Less Trio. Usual drummer Marc Phillips was replaced for this gig by someone banging on a tom with mallets. Frontman Mike Saklar played a couple of my favorites from his last couple albums along with a few new ones. The set felt stripped down and bare compared to the usual larger, fuller S-LT sound.

* * *

Two shows tonight…

Over at The Brothers Lounge Hussies headline for Brooklyn’s Cat Tatt. The Natural States also are on the bill. $5, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, alt-country southern-fried rockers Drive-By Truckers headlines at The Waiting Room. Opening is BJ Barham. $30, 8 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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


The Best of The Waiting Room and The Slowdown; Jake Bellows, Sun-Less Trio, Mitch Gettman tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:33 pm June 9, 2017

Jake Bellows at the Hear Nebraska Vol. 3 album release show at The Waiting Room, April 18, 2015. Jake plays at The Sydney tonight…

by Tim McMahan,

The following also appears in the current issue of The Reader. It’s part 2 of coverage of the 10-year anniversary of The Waiting Room and The Slowdown. You can also read it online at The Reader website, here (but you won’t see the following pics)…

The Best of The Waiting Room and The Slowdown

The clubs’ owners list their favorite shows over the past 10 years.

by Tim McMahan

And now, the fun part.

What’s an article that celebrates a music venue’s 10-year anniversary without a list of the best shows performed at said venue? Considering that The Slowdown and The Waiting Room each host in the neighborhood of 150 shows per year, it’s hard to pick favorites.

In fact, when put on the spot, the clubs’ owners struggled to list their stand-outs, but with some gentle prodding, they came up with some zingers.

Jason Kulbel, who co-owns The Slowdown with Robb Nansel, pointed to the first Atmosphere concert hosted at his club. “He’s got this song, ‘Trying to Find a Balance,’ one of his bigger songs,” Kulbel recalled. “I was standing side stage during that song and have never seen the room freak out like that. Everyone in the room was moving as much as they possibly could.”

Kulbel also cited the last time Against Me! played Slowdown this past February. “It was the best Against Me! show I’ve ever seen,” he said. “I’ve probably seen 20 Against Me! shows. I love that they can kick that much ass this far into their lives.”

But maybe the biggest standout evening was a Stephen Malkmus show at Slowdown in 2008 held the same night Barack Obama won his first presidential election. “That’s definitely one of the better memories I have,” Kulbel said. “We had a plan to have the screen down so people could check the election results, and before (Malkmus) even went on it was clear that Obama had won. The band just got really drunk and everyone was having a great time. It was a very joyous night.”

Nansel also pointed to that Malkmus show as being on top of his list of favorites.

“Other milestones, of course, were opening night with Bright Eyes,” Nansel said, “and the Slowdown Virginia reunion show” from December 2010. Another classic Nebraska band, Polecat, opened that night.

Nansel listed a last-minute Broken Social Scene show hosted in Slowdown’s front room that came together when he bumped into the band on a day off from their tour and asked if they wanted to play his club. A last-minute show by The Notwist in the front room is another favorite, along with St. Vincent and The National “and of course all the Saddle Creek band shows, parking lot shows and GOO nights.”

Ah, those GOO nights, now there’s something I don’t regret missing.

When it comes to The Waiting Room, co-owner Marc Leibowitz pointed to early shows from Dr. Dog and Brother Ali as among his favorites. “Then we’ve had some legends play at The Waiting Room, like Steve Earle,” he said.

“Lee Ranaldo was just so f—-ing phenomenal the night he played The Waiting Room,” Leibowitz added. “Built to Spill was a very memorable night. Built to Spill had been playing Slowdown all the time. We got them to play The Waiting Room, and it was a big deal for us.”

Jim Johnson, co-owner of The Waiting Room, pointed to the first reunion of golden age Omaha punk band Mousetrap, who played his club in late December 2010.

“The Jonathan Richman / Vic Chesnutt show (from March 2008) was really important to me,” Johnson said. It was the last show Chesnutt would play in Omaha before his death in December 2009. Johnson also pointed to that time The Waiting Room hosted Steve Earle.

Leibowitz added that as One Percent Productions, he and Johnson are proud to put on shows anywhere “whether it’s at Slowdown, Sokol, The Holland Center or wherever, but putting on a show at The Waiting Room means more than putting shows on in someone else’s facility. It’s where our heart is.”

What were my favorite shows? At The Waiting Room, the first that jumps out is The Faint show held there just a couple days after the club opened on March 11, 2007. It was an invitation-only break-in of The Waiting Room’s sound system. The sub-woofers definitely got a workout that night.

Other Waiting Room favorites include St. Vincent, July 25, 2007 — Annie Clark on lead guitar fronting a punk band, she’s never sounded better. After finishing her set, she returned alone to do a cover of “These Days” Nico-style, sitting on the edge of the stage with an acoustic guitar, surrounded by fans bent close to hear her quiet voice.

Monotonix opening for Silver Jews Oct. 7, 2008 — The band took the show outside when drummer Ran Shimoni banged on a snare while frontman Ami Shalev climbed a traffic signal pole along Maple Street.

Future Islands at The Waiting Room, Nov. 2, 2011.

Then there’s the first Future Islands show at The Waiting Room November 2, 2011 — no one had heard of them yet, and only a handful of people were there, but frontman Sam Herring was at his flamboyant best.

Bob Nastanovich shakes a fan’s hand during his guest appearance at the Feb. 15 Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks show at The Waiting Room.

Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks Feb. 16, 2014, at The Waiting Room was like a mini Pavement reunion for an over-the-top rendition of “Unfair” off Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain that featured special guest Bob Nastanovich contributing his classic yelling.

My favorite shows at The Slowdown include Daniel Johnston and the Rayguns, Feb. 9, 2008 – You never know what you’re going to get when crazed genius Johnston comes to town. The highlight: When the crowd serenaded an absent Johnston with “Devil Town.”

Mogwai at The Slowdown May 11, 2009.

Mogwai at The Slowdown May 11, 2009.

Mogwai, May 11, 2009 — During the encore, a woman nearby cringed and covered her eyes, cowering against the STROBES and the NOISE, waiting for it all to end. First she would have to endure 10 minutes of pain created by Mogwai’s arsenal of effects pedals “played” while the band kneeled on stage, covered in a shower of lightning. Epic.

St. Vincent at The Slowdown back in May 2012.

St. Vincent at Slowdown’s front room, June 3, 2009 — Backed by violin, bass, drums and a guy on woodwinds (flute, saxophone, clarinet), St. Vincent’s Annie Clark created dreamy, theatric, rocking sounds like the second coming of Kate Bush. That show was almost matched by a second St. Vincent show, this time on the big stage, May 14, 2012.

Finally, there was that very strange Cat Power show Nov. 22, 2013, and more recently Mark Kozelek on the front room stage Oct. 3, 2016.

No doubt our lists of favorite shows will only grow over the next 10 years.

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

* * *

Expect a crowd at The Sydney in Benson tonight. Everyone’s favorite musician raconteur Jake Bellows returns for a set as only he can. Joining Jake is Sam Martin and The Yonicks, and The Sun-Less Trio (Mike Saklar’s latest and greatest). The free show starts at 9 p.m.

Mitch Gettman and AllSortsOfGood play at fabulous O’Leaver’s. $5, 10 p.m.

Also tonight, Township & Range celebrates a CD release at Reverb Lounge. Joining them are Clarence Tilton and Matt Cox. $5, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile over at The Waiting Room it’s Alejandro Escovedo Band with Nicholas Tremulis. $20, 8 p.m.

Tomorrow night (Saturday) DSM-5 plays at Brothers Lounge with Gongfermour and Tienanmen Squares. This one’s free and starts at 9 p.m.

That’s all I got. If I left out your show, put it in the comments section. Have a great weekend.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Head of Femur, Twinsmith, Jake Bellows, Christopher the Conquered, Reagan Roeder tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 1:53 pm December 23, 2015
Head of Femur at O'Leaver's, Oct. 4, 2015. The band plays tonight at The Waiting Room.

Head of Femur at O’Leaver’s, Oct. 4, 2015. The band plays tonight at The Waiting Room.

by Tim McMahan,

‘Twas the night before the night before Christmas and all through the club…

A couple shows worth catching tonight. At The Waiting Room Head of Femur does an encore reunion performance. The band played O’Leaver’s a couple months ago and was stellar. No doubt we’ll get a repeat tonight on the big stage. They’re opening for Saddle Creek Records band and local heroes Twinsmith, who had a pretty good year with a solid record and lots of touring. Good job, boys. Also on the bill are Fake Plants. $10, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, another former local hero now El Lay dude Jake Bellows returns to Slowdown Jr. Bellows first made his mark in these parts as the frontman of Neva Dinova. Tonight he’ll be doing a solo gig, and if it’s like past gigs, expect lots of between-song fun. BTW, Jake’s latest recording, Help, is available in cassette form from your friends at Majestic Litter Records. Jake’s opening for Christopher the Conquered, who continues their Wednesday-night Slowdown residency. I caught one song from last week’s Chris/Conquered set and it was pretty durn good. Hip-hop duo BOTH opens the show at 9 p.m. $7.

Also tonight, welcome Reagan Roeder back to the O’Leaver’s stage (You might remember him from Reagan and the Rayguns and The Ointments). Joining him is Jessica Errett, CJ Mills and Turtle Dove, a rocking four-piece featuring Vern Fergesen, Colin Duckworth, Jacob Duncan and John Klemmensen playing Christmas music that’s “like a cross between Mannheim Streamroller and the Melvins.” The free show starts at 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.


New Live @ O’Leaver’s (Giant Claw, Jake Bellows, Summer Cannibals); My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, Kozelek returns to Lincoln tonight…

Mark Kozelek at Central Presbyterian Church during SXSW March 15, 2014 . Kozelek plays tonight at Vega in Lincoln

Mark Kozelek at Central Presbyterian Church during SXSW March 15, 2014. Kozelek plays tonight at Vega in Lincoln

by Tim McMahan,

Another wave of live recordings just hit the Live at O’Leaver’s servers. Check out the tracks below. I’m told things really blew up after Stereogram wrote about the website last month. Wide the wave…

Check out the awesome Giant Claw tracks here.

* * *

Classic ’90s Chicago act My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult headlines tonight at The Waiting Room. They’ve been called electronic-industrial-disco-rock, which I guess is pretty much spot on. Ruby Block opens. 9 p.m., $15.

Also tonight, Mark Kozelek returns to Vega in Lincoln. I’m sure there’s a very good reason why Kozelek has passed over Omaha for Lincoln the last two times through Nebraska, preventing me from seeing him perform. As I’ve said before, his set during SXSW 2014 was a highlight, where he played most of the songs off the amazing Sun Kil Moon album Benji. Expect songs off the latest SKM album, the rather verbose Universal Themes. $20, 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.


Live Review: Neva Dinova’s last hurrah; 2014: The Year in Music (favorite albums, shows)…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 2:11 pm December 24, 2014
Neva Dinova at The Slowdown, Dec. 23, 2014.

Neva Dinova at The Slowdown, Dec. 23, 2014.

by Tim McMahan,

Is there a more beloved local indie band than Neva Dinova? I have yet to meet anyone who has met Jake Bellows who didn’t want to be his friend. Well, last night hundreds of those friends were at The Slowdown to soak in all the goodness that was — and is — Neva Dinova one last time.

It was not a sell out, but it was crowded. Neva came on at around 11 — the full band with Roger Lewis on drums. The set started a bit rough, but what do you expect from a band that hasn’t played live in six years? One of the three guitars was out of tune, or at least that’s what I thought I heard from my usual “big room” vantage point off stage left. Whatever it was fixed itself by the next song, and as the set rolled on, the band sounded tighter and tighter.

Neva Dinova always was fun to watch but I don’t remember them sounding this massive back in the old days. The band takes advantage of all those guitars, creating a mountain that Bellows can stand atop either with his vocals or his white-knuckle guitar solos. For every quiet sleeper of a song there’s also a fun shuffle and a monstrous epic.  Last night’s set list did a good job of varying the different styles and dynamics.

Conor Oberst joined the band for a handful of songs.

Conor Oberst joined the band for a handful of songs.

The addition of special guests also kept the hour-plus-long set rolling. Drummer Bo Anderson took over the drum set midway through for a couple songs, returning for two more songs during the encore. The Good Life’s Ryan Fox dropped in for one song, while cellist April Faith-Slaker added texture to a couple numbers including a rich version of “Tryptophan.”

And then out of nowhere — looking like a hitch-hiker who just stepped off the road — came Conor Oberst to relive a few tracks off the Bright Eyes / Neva Dinova split, opening with Bright Eyes song “Spring Cleaning” before joining in on a couple Neva numbers.

But the evening’s highlight didn’t come until that four-song encore. The band ended the evening with heart-rending revivals of classics “Clouds” off 2008’s You May Already Be Dreaming, and “Dances Fantastic” from their 2002 self-titled debut. You couldn’t ask for anything more, except maybe another reunion of this band next Christmas. If that doesn’t happen (and it’s unlikely that it will) there was no better way to put a bow on top of this band’s career than what we heard last night.

* * *

Now it’s time to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the holiday season and soak in my annual Year in Review article. Consider it my present to you. It also appears in today’s issue of The Reader and is also online right here. The tone starts off rather bleak, but it picks up later on. This also includes my annual “favorites” list of 2014 recordings and live shows. Enjoy.

2014: The Year in Music

The one word that comes to mind when looking back at the past year in music: Survival.

Or, more accurately, the question: How will musicians survive? It finally started to dawn on people about halfway through the year that Spotify is really fucking things up.

I don’t know how independent musicians are going to make money in the future. Income from album sales appears to be drying up, for everyone. It’s even hurting the major labels. When platinum-selling mega-nerd Taylor Swift said she wasn’t going to allow her music on Spotify, non-musicians started paying attention, and the issues surrounding music streaming services briefly became the fodder for network morning shows, painting a defiant Swift as a voice of reason in an era when artists have seemingly been forced to give away their wares.

A few fellow superstars followed Swift boycotting Spotify, but in the end, the streaming service kept bumbling along. Spotify truly is the poison apple in the Garden of Eden. We all know Spotify’s instant access to millions of albums is nothing less than a salt-block of evil. We know using Spotify probably contributes to killing off indie labels naive enough to release their artists’ music to the service. We’ve all heard stories about the bands that got a 27 cent Spotify royalty check in the mail.

And yet, we can’t help ourselves. We keep reaching for our smart phones, putting in our earbuds and taking a bite out of that shiny green apple. Who’s killing the music industry? We are. You and I and anyone who uses Spotify, Pandora, Songza and other music streaming services, but god help us, we can’t stop ourselves.

Spotify isn’t going away, so young bands can wave goodbye to substantial income from record sales. Musicians will have to survive off performance income and T-shirt sales. Merch. I’ve been told that’s the way it always was supposed to be, that the pre-internet years of records sales (where, in reality, only a handful of artists made big money and the labels took home the lion’s share) were an aberration. That the new music model revolves around musicians giving away their music to grow an audience that will come to their shows when they hit the road.

So says Foo Fighter Dave Grohl, a guy who already made his millions during better days. Grohl, as quoted in online music site Stereogum:

You want people to fucking listen to your music? Give them your music. And then go play a show. They like hearing your music? They’ll go see a show. To me it’s that simple, and I think it used to work that way. When we were young and in really noisy, crappy punk rock bands there was no career opportunity and we loved doing it and people loved fucking watching it and the delivery was completely face to face and personal. That’s what got people really excited about shit. Nowadays there’s so much focus on technology that it doesn’t really matter.

I wonder what “noisy, crappy punk rock bands” Grohl is referring to. Have you heard the new Foo Fighters record?

Anyway, for those musicians who never tour, making music is turning into a hobby — something to do on weekends, a reason to hang with your bro’s. If they’re any good, these hobbyist bands might play local shows where they’ll make enough money to pay off the evening’s bar tab — if they get paid at all. There are those who will still reach for bigger things, who contemplate getting “signed” or even touring, but fewer and fewer will ever make that leap regardless of how talented they are.

Why? It just costs too much money. Sure, recording music and putting it online is now within everyone’s reach, but touring, well, that’s expensive and time consuming. There is a handful of Nebraska bands talented enough to attract a national audience, but they never will because they’ll never tour. They’ll put their music online and wait for the phone to ring. Call them lazy, but the fact is despite their dreams they still need to feed themselves and their families. They need to survive.

Holy shit, that sounds bleak. And every year that I write these “year in review” articles it just gets bleaker, yet we’re all still here, listening to music.

Two good things to consider from 2014:

First, the number of music venues in Omaha continues to increase (supporting that idea that performance income is the only real musicians’ income). Classy Benson bar/music venue Reverb Lounge opened this past fall and joined an already crowded Omaha music venue population that includes The Waiting Room, The Slowdown, O’Leaver’s, Barley Street Tavern, The Sydney, 402 Collective, The Sweatshop, PS Collective, and good ol’ Sokol. In all my years I can’t remember there being more places for musicians to perform.

Secondly, while music sales continue ever downward, reaching out of the grave is old-fashioned vinyl records. It’s strange when more people are excited about the format of their music than what the format contains. Vinyl is everything, at least to serious music fans, but it’s still only a sliver of total music sales.

Last week the Wall Street Journal reported LP sales surged 49 percent last year and that factories are struggling to keep pace, but in the end, vinyl sales represent only 2 percent of U.S. music sales (*sad trombone*). To the great unwashed masses feverishly downloading the latest Taylor Swift teen-wank fodder, the trend toward vinyl has gone unnoticed. They don’t even know what a record player looks like, let alone how to use one.

There is a third “good thing” to consider: The music itself. Here’s the list of my favorite albums of 2014. Notice I didn’t say “best albums”? These aren’t “the best” (whatever that means), they’re the ones I enjoyed the most, which means the new records by Beck, St. Vincent and U2 didn’t make the cut because, well, I didn’t like them.

benjiSun Kil Moon, Benji (Caldo Verde) — The best My favorite Mark Kozelek record, a collection of haunting personal elegies about living and dying (but mostly dying).

jagbagStephen Malkmus and the Jicks, Wig Out at Jagbags (Matador) — Continuing the smooth melodicism that Malkmus escaped to after leaving Pavement. Sublime.

spoonsoulSpoon, They Want My Soul (Loma Vista) — Laid-back indie rock from a veteran.

angelAngel Olsen, Burn Your Fire for No Witness (Jagjaguwar) — Alt-country meets indie rock, an exquisite combination.

doomabuseThe Faint, Doom Abuse (SQE Music) — Local boys return to form. Where have you been, lads?

strandStrand of Oaks, Heal (Dead Oceans) — Raw reflections of nostalgia in the rock age.

lupinesoverThe Lupines, Over the Moon (Speed! Nebraska) — From a Nebraska garage comes the wolfen.

alvvaysAlvvays, self-titled (Polyvinyl / Transgressive) — Chiming indie pop is a salvation.

The War on Drugs, Lost in the Dream (Secretly Canadian) — There’s nothing wrong with imitating Dylan and Dire Straits when it sounds like this.

singlesFuture Islands, Singles (4AD) — More than just fancy dance moves, fancy synth moves.

protomartyunderProtomartyr, Under Color of Official Right (Hardly Art) — Proto-punk with a bitter, bitter heart.

And then there were the rock shows. It was another great year for live music. Here are my favorite rock memories of 2014:

The Front Bottoms, The Waiting Room, Jan. 12 — Their sound was reminiscent of some of my favorite humor-inflected bands of the ‘90s and ’00s — Atom and his Package, Fountains of Wayne, Too Much Joy, Mountain Goats, Dismemberment Plan, The Hold Steady, The Decemberists — bands that write smart, funny, self-referential lyrics that anyone can relate to.

Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks, The Waiting Room, Feb. 16 — It was like a mini Pavement reunion for an over-the-top rendition of “Unfair” off Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain that featured special guest Bob Nastanovich contributing his classic yelling. The rest of the show was almost as special.

Neutral Milk Hotel, Sokol Auditorium, March 29 — Fans I spoke to never expected to see this band play again, let alone play in Omaha. And here they were, playing their best songs spot-on with every nuance from the original recording.

St. Vincent, Sokol Auditorium, April 1 — It looked and felt forced and uncomfortable, purposely rigid and thoroughly counter to the loose-and-rough spontaneity of rock. Instead, it was more of an attempt at art rock, but without the limitlessness of a Laurie Anderson.

Warpaint, The Waiting Room, April 2 — Their sound was equal parts ethereal mood music and beat-driven dance fodder, with sweet vocals by all four musicians — and when all four harmonized, well, bliss.

Deleted Scenes, Slowdown Jr., May 1 — The highlight was that closing number, “You Get to Say Whatever You Want,” when Dan Scheuerman walked into the crowd and touched foreheads with a couple innocent bystanders, performing a mortifying rock ‘n’ roll mind meld.

Morrissey, Rococo Theater, May 20 — Needless to say, there were a lot of pissed-off people walking out of The Rococo after Morrissey refused an encore. While I would have liked to hear a couple more songs, the decision to play is squarely on his shoulders, and if he wasn’t feeling it, that’s the way it goes.

Conor Oberst, Sokol Auditorium, June 4 — Fueling the energy was Dawes, a masterful four-piece that gave every song heft and soul. The band sounded so much like early Jackson Browne you would have sworn that was David Lindley playing those guitar solos and Craig Doerge tapping out the glowing keyboard fills.

The Faint, Sokol Auditorium, June 12 — From the floor, it’s all about the dancing, or more accurately, hopping since no one’s really dancing. They’re bouncing or “humping” to the electro-throb. Those in the middle of the mob became part of the collective body grooving where the Sokol’s oak floor had (apparently) been replaced with a trampoline.

Matthew Sweet / Tommy Keene, O’Leaver’s, July 30 — It was nothing less than a dream come true for Matthew Sweet fans. There he was, literally steps in front of them, surrounded by a top-notch band playing all of his “greatest hits” one after the other in fine voice. As Sweet said, it was like playing a gig in someone’s living room.

Maha Music Festival, Stinson Park, Aug. 17 —  It was a good, though rather exhausting, day thanks to humid weather and a loaded line-up that made it hard to sneak away to re-energize.

Future Islands, The Waiting Room, Aug. 28 — You did not hear Samuel T. at his best. His vocals were ragged from the very start, often breaking down to choked whispers.

Sebadoh, Reverb Lounge, Sept. 28 — Barlow’s getting shaggy in his old age, with a big head of hair and a massive beard. His voice was as good as ever (when I could hear it). Loewenstein also was in fine form (especial on his personal anthem, “My Drugs”), despite suffering from a tooth ache. Ouch.

Iceage, Slowdown Jr., Oct. 27 — The performance seemed like a captured moment in time, and I felt lucky to be there. Iceage is a band burning brightly. But like all bright flames, how long will it last?

Twin Peaks, Midtown Art Supply, Nov. 25 — Twin Peaks’ music is rowdy up-beat rock that borders on garage surf, but there is a precision to it that puts it on another level.

Ritual Device / Cellophane Ceiling, The Waiting Room, Dec. 26 — Two of the most anticipated reunions ever, straight out of Nebraska’s first Golden Age of indie rock.

First published in The Reader, Dec. 23, 2014. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Have a Merry Christmas. See you Friday at The Waiting Room…

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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.


One night only: Neva Dinova tonight at The Slowdown w/Twinsmith…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 1:53 pm December 23, 2014

by Tim McMahan,

I’m simply reiterating what I posted yesterday: tonight is the Neva Dinova reunion show at The Slowdown. If you’re a fan of the band (or even if you’ve never heard of them) you should go there for this one-and-done show that may never be repeated.

It’s a big show: Opening is Twinsmith, The Both and Outlaw Con Bandana. With most of us having tomorrow off, you have no excuse for not attending. Plus, it’s only $10. Starts early, 8 p.m. And this is the last big show until after Christmas.

I’ll be back tomorrow with the annual Year in Review entry (which also appears in this week’s issue of The Reader), which includes my list of favorite albums from 2014 and favorite shows. See you then…

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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.



Jake Bellows talks about the return of Neva Dinova (Tuesday night at Slowdown); Live Review: Son, Ambulance…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:49 pm December 22, 2014
Neva Dinova circa a long time ago (but not that long). The band reunites Tuesday night at The Slowdown.

Neva Dinova circa a long time ago (but not that long). The band reunites Tuesday night at The Slowdown.

by Tim McMahan,

Somewhere in the past few years, Christmas week became thee time for local rock band reunions. I’m not sure when this began. The concert poster on the wall in my office is for a show dated Dec. 26, 1993, featuring Ritual Device, Mercy Rule, Secret Skin, Frontier Trust, Clayface and End Crowns All (holy shit, six bands), all of which were very much active and not “reuniting” in 1993.

This week, we’re all going to see and hear Ritual Device reunite on The Waiting Room stage, exactly 21 years to the day of that amazing concert at the Capitol Bar and Grill.

But before that, tomorrow night (Tuesday) we’ll all be at a reunion of Neva Dinova at The Slowdown, which isn’t really a reunion, because I’m not sure Neva Dinova ever officially broke up. They’re still listed as “active” on the Saddle Creek website. And Neva Dinova frontman Jake Bellows confirmed the band never did really call it quits.

“Our last show was in December 2008,” said Jake just before band practice last Wednesday evening. “We never issued a press release about breaking up. Everyone had other important things going on. They were trying to sort out careers that would provide enough money to raise babies. We just couldn’t afford to be in a band anymore.”

That date on that show poster — 1993 — also was the year Neva Dinova first started playing together, but the line-up that’s performing Tuesday night first came together in 1999 at a now infamous gig at Grandmother’s Restaurant on 84th and L streets. You can read about that show (which included guest drumming by Conor Oberst, and Todd and Clark Baechle) in this 2001 Lazy-i interview with the band, written shortly after their self-titled, self-released album came out.

That line-up is back: Bellows, bassist/vocalist Heath Koontz, guitarist Tim Haes and guitarist Mike Kratky. Drummer Bo Anderson (who was tending bar at Grandmothers that fateful night in 1999) also will play Tuesday night on a handful of songs, along with most recent drummer Roger Lewis (The Good Life, Oquoa). Both Anderson and Lewis are credited on the 2004 Neva Dinova/Bright Eyes split, One Jug of Wine, Two Vessels (originally released on Crank! but reissued years later by Saddle Creek).

“We’ve been looking for an excuse to play together again for a long time just for fun,” Bellows said. “Since everyone’s going to be in town, it seemed to make the most sense. We needed to make time to practice because we knew we were gonna need it.”

Bellows said Haes has the most rust of any of the band members… literally. “The strings on his guitar were literally rusty,” Bellows said. “I think he does all his playing in the rain.”

Bellows said for this gig the band has been thinking of itself as a Neva Dinova cover band. “The nature of this show is unusual,” he said. “Before, we just played what we wanted to play. In this case, the whole point is to get back together, and we felt like we should play songs people want to hear that we haven’t played or didn’t want to play before.”

That meant coming up with the quintessential Neva Dinova play list. “We’ve got 20 songs on the list, maybe 25,” Bellows said. “We’re kind of deciding what we think sounds cool.”

I threw out “Tryptophan” and “Supercomputer” as two possibilities; Bellows verbally nodded his head. I guess we’ll have to wait and see if they make the cut.

Those who might wonder if this is the beginning of something bigger, Bellows assured me the show is a one-time thing. He’s called Echo Park in central Los Angeles home for four years. “LA is fine,” he said. “I miss everyone back home and come back five or six times a year.”

As for his solo career, Bellows said he has a bunch of new songs that will either be on a Jake Bellows record or recorded under a different band name. “Naming a band after yourself is weird,” he said.

Tomorrow night’s show is rather big in scale. Playing with Neva Dinova is the latest addition to the Saddle Creek Records roster, Twinsmith, along with local faves Outlaw Con Bandana and hip-hop act The Both. This 8 p.m. show is happening on Slowdown’s big stage. Get your $10 tickets here.

Son, Ambulance at O'Leaver's Dec. 20, 2014.

Son, Ambulance at O’Leaver’s Dec. 20, 2014.

Saturday night’s Son, Ambulance gig at O’Leaver’s wasn’t a reunion, though it felt like one (maybe because Dereck Higgins was back on bass). The band had a new sway in its step, a pronounced swing that it lacked in its prior, more stoic form in year’s past. Their set included old and new, but all of it sounded new to me. I credit a more relaxed Joe Knapp, the band’s mastermind, songwriter and frontman. In the old days, Joe always looked nervous — or at the very least tense — on stage, as if he was expecting something to go wrong at any moment.

Saturday night Joe looked and sounded like a guy having a good time playing his music with a large group of friends, despite the technical glitches that hampered the first three songs (including a keyboard that refused to play).

Son, Ambulance's Joe Knapp, left, and James Cuato.

Son, Ambulance’s Joe Knapp, left, and James Cuato.

Knapp always has reminded me of Elvis Costello at his most playful, but even more so now. Maybe his confidence comes by way of a solid band built on the bedrock rhythm section of Higgins and drummer David Ozinga. A bongo player also was crammed into one corner, though you couldn’t hear him. Dylan Strimple handled electric guitar, but the most arresting moments were between James Cuato on sax and flute and cellist April Faith-Slaker. Their layered interplay added a whole new dimension to the band.

BTW, if you’re counting, that’s six people crammed onto O’Leaver’s tiny “stage” area, and I’m told that wasn’t even the entire band — a few were missing, including Joe’s brother Daniel.

Everything came together for funky set closer “Copper Lady” with a back beat that bordered on blues rock. So hot was this number that the band brought it back for a crowd-demanded pseudo encore.

Rather than a reunion, Saturday night sounded like a rebirth for Son, Ambulance. The band has a new energy. I’m told they’ve got at least six new songs recorded and ready to go (including a version of that aforementioned “Copper Lady”). When and where those tracks eventually show up is anyone’s guess. Saddle Creek, who put out past Son, Ambulance records, hasn’t mentioned the band in regards to future releases, though I believe they’d be wise to welcome them back to the active roster.

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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.


New Jake Bellows video; Vic Padios tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 12:46 pm June 19, 2014
The cosmos, brought to you by Jake Bellows.

The cosmos, brought to you by Jake Bellows.

by Tim McMahan,

A short one today.

Jake Bellows last week released the following new video for the title track of his most recent album, New Ocean (Saddle Creek, 2013), that looks like a low-fi version of Cosmos combined with hallucinogenics. Enjoy:

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Tonight at The Barley Street Vic Padios (The Brigadiers) and Low Long Signal open for Thayne Coleman (of Wichita band The Travel Guide). $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.