Another year, another Maha; the day in photos; Hockey Dad tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:59 pm August 22, 2016
The crowd with hands in the air, as directed by Vince Staples during Saturday's Maha Music Festival.

The crowd with hands in the air, as directed by Vince Staples during Saturday’s Maha Music Festival.

by Tim McMahan,

I’ve written a lengthy review of Saturday’s Maha Music Festival, but it won’t appear until the September issue of The Reader comes out in a couple weeks. Boo!

That said, here’s the CliffsNotes version: The weather was great, the park was wet, and the music for the most part was pretty good. Favorite bands of the day were (no surprise) Car Seat Headrest, Diet Cig (actually a huge surprise considering how poor their Slowdown set was a few months back) and Grimes. Diarrhea Planet also was a surprise, as I’ve never been a fan of their records.

All the locals I saw were good, but especially See Through Dresses. Matthew Sweet sounded shit-loads better than he did at 1200 Club a year or so ago (but how could he not considering how poor the sound was that night?). That said, he played too long. Someone should have told him he wasn’t the headliner.

Jay Farrar Trio was fine. Kind of boring, actually. Vince Staples did not resonate with me, but I don’t like that style of tuneless hyper-rap (but the crowd sure did). The Joy Formidable were technically on point playing forgettable songs.

Who am I missing? Oh yeah, the headliner. I made it through three Passion Pit songs before heading out. They weren’t awful, they just weren’t that interesting. But as I say in the review, I’ve never stuck around for the full set of Maha’s closing band.

Anyway, read the whole review when it comes out long after you’ve forgotten this year’s festival. It’ll be like Groundhog Day for those of you who went (Yes, I miss the days when The Reader was a weekly…). In the meantime, here are some photos taken at Saturday’s show…

Diet Cig drew a surprisingly large crowd for playing so early in the day.

Diet Cig drew a surprisingly large crowd for playing so early in the day.


See Through Dresses are always solid.

See Through Dresses are always solid.


Jay Farrar Trio were the first ones on the big Weitz Stage Saturday.

Jay Farrar Trio were the first ones on the big Weitz Stage Saturday.


Diarrhea Planet and their four guitarists. Loud. Fun.

Diarrhea Planet and their four guitarists. Loud. Fun.


Warren Buffett sings an a capella version of "Feelings" during Maha. It was... touching.

Warren Buffett sings an a capella version of “Feelings” during Maha. It was… touching. (Just kidding, don’t sue me, Warren).


Car Seat Headrest gave my favorite performance of the festival.

Car Seat Headrest gave my favorite performance of the festival.

Matthew Sweet on the Javlin Stage.

Matthew Sweet on the Javlin Stage.


Grimes and one of her crazy dancers.

Grimes and one of her crazy dancers.


Passion Pit peering through the smoky haze.

Passion Pit peering through the smoky haze.

* * *

Tonight Kanine Records act Hockey Dad headlines at Slowdown Jr. with Muuy Biien and Fun Runner. $12, 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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Maha Music Festival weekend (and Car Seat Headrest preview); Wagonblasters, Chemicals, Your Friend tonight; Diet Cig after Maha…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:29 pm August 19, 2016

by Tim McMahan,

The crowd gets into Atmosphere at The Maha Music Festival, 8/15/15. This year's festival happens tomorrow.

The crowd gets into Atmosphere at The Maha Music Festival, 8/15/15. This year’s festival happens tomorrow.

In my Reader write-up I mentioned Car Seat Headrest as the band I’m most excited to see play at this year’s Maha Music Festival, which (of course) is tomorrow at Aksarben Village. The band’s new album, Teens of Denial (2016, Matador), is far and away my favorite record so far this year. A double-album, every one of the 12 tracks is a keeper, which makes it a throw-back  to an era when albums (not just songs) mattered, and so did the words.

Considering the over-riding theme — a young man’s struggle with depression, paranoia, anger, lonesomeness, and a world filled with ennui — I guess you could call it a concept album. Car Seat Headrest (one of the worst band names anyone could dream up) is mostly singer/songwriter Will Toledo, a 24-year-old dude from Leesburg, Virginia, now residing in Seattle. Chris Lombardi at Matador Records signed him in 2015 conceivably after hearing the best bits of the 12 albums he released on Bandcamp. It’s a story that kind of reminds me of how Matador signed Liz Phair after hearing her Girly Songs demos.

Car Seat Headrest, Teens of Denial (2016, Matador)

Car Seat Headrest, Teens of Denial (2016, Matador)

The band’s debut, Teens of Style, came out in 2015; but its Teens of Denial that represents the first solid, cohesive release by Toledo. Sonically, the album is an amalgamation of 90’s-era indie, but most beholden to Pavement and Stephen Malkmus. A song like, say, “Destroyed By Hippie Powers,” sounds like a tuneful out-take from Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain sung by a doped up Ray Davies of The Kinks. If you’re a fan of any of those classic ’90s releases on Matador or Homestead or Grass you’ll be right at home here.

Thematically, Toledo paints a grey portrait of a nerdy white dude trying to fit into a hipster world filled with drugs and assholes where he doesn’t (think he) belong(s). It’s personal confessions taken from a movie John Hughes would have directed had he survived until the 2010s, with lyrical clarity matched only by Westerberg (or our very own Conor Oberst). Each song has at least one deviously clever line (and more). Some of my faves:

“Fill in the Blank” — You have no right to be depressed / You haven’t tried hard enough to like it.

“Vincent” — If I’m being honest with myself / I haven’t been honest with myself.

“Destroyed by Hippies” — It’s more than you bargained for / But it’s less than what you paid for.

“(Joe Gets Kicked Out of School for Using) Drugs with Friends (But Says This Isn’t a Problem” — Drugs are better, drugs are better with / Friends are better, friends are better with drugs.

“Not What I Needed” — I’ve been waiting all my life for some real good porn / Something with meaning, something fulfilling / I’d like to make my shame count for something.

“Drunk Drivers / Killer Whales” — We are not a proud race / It’s not a race at all / We’re just trying, I’m just trying to get home.

“1937 State Park” — I didn’t want you to hear / That shame in my voice / My pain is my own.

“Cosmic Hero” — And of course I’m alright with death / But do why you talk about it so goddamn much?

“The Ballad of the Costa Concordia” — How was I supposed to remember to grab my backpack after I set it down to play basketball?

“Connect the Dots (The Saga of Frank Sinatra)” — Little boy says I’ll touch the heart of the nation / Little boy says I’ll punch the heart of everyone.

“Joe Goes to School” — I’m a tourist attraction / Biking down Dog Street.

There’s more lines and better ones and they all sound better in context and surrounded by power chords and blister-fast drums (at least during the upbeat ones). If you listen to the album with the lyric sheet, as I did, you’ll walk away a bit befuddled, a bit depressed and sorry for young Toledo who (probably) doesn’t have anything in his life that deserves your pity. There is a semblance of hope that underlines the overall experience, a realization that this character, this kid is smart enough to figure it all out on his own.

It’s a great album with a message about depression that fits well with Maha’s overarching mental health theme this year. Who knows if it’ll translate live on the Maha stage. I’ve seen a lot of bands who know how to write great songs and record terrific albums that wind up being dead-boring live.  We’ll see tomorrow.

Those going to tomorrow’s festival, everything you’d want to know about Maha is available right here at the Hear Nebraska website. You can, of course, also go to the Maha website for details. GA tickets are $55 today. I think they go up DOS. And Maha still has VIP tickets available for $185, which is a steal if you like most of the bands.

* * *

Diet Cig at The Slowdown, May 3, 2016. The band plays the Maha afterparty at Reverb tomorrow night.

Diet Cig at The Slowdown, May 3, 2016. The band plays the Maha Festival afterparty at Reverb Lounge tomorrow night.

Maha isn’t the only thing going on this weekend.

Tonight at Reverb Lounge Relax, It’s Science headlines a show that includes Wagonblasters (Gary Dean Davis’ latest and greatest) and Pyrate. $5, 9 p.m.

Around the corner at The Waiting Room, Chemicals (amazing prog-jazz-rock band featuring some of Omaha’s best talent) opens for Funk Trek. Chemicals on this big stage could be something else. $5, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, over at fabulous O’Leaver’s, Your Friend headlines a big show also featuring Chicago’s The Dan Ryan, Briner and Sam Adam Martin. $7, 9:30 p.m.

Tomorrow night is usually dedicated to Maha after parties, but this year there’s only one, at Reverb with See Through Dresses, Bien Fang, Anna McClellan and (just announced this morning) “special guest” Diet Cig. There had been rumors or rumblings that Car Seat Headrest was the special guest, but apparently not. The free afterparty show starts at 10 p.m. Last year’s O’Leaver’s afterparty featured a set by Speedy Ortiz that eclipsed their set at Maha (and which you can hear right here).

That’s all I got. See you at Aksarben tomorrow, and 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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Protomartyr; Maha Festival ED explains how the line-up was chosen (in the column)…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 11:52 am August 15, 2016
Protomartyr at Slowdown Jr., Aug. 12, 2016.

Protomartyr at Slowdown Jr., Aug. 12, 2016.

by Tim McMahan,

Protomartyr brought the big noise with them Friday night at Slowdown, Jr.  The four-piece, fronted by nattily dressed Joe Casey, who looked like a young, slim version of John Goodman (get ready, Joe, you’re going to look just like him when you’re in your 60s), belted out at least 45 minutes of pure indie punk, gliding on Greg Ahee’s amazing guitar tone (and skill) and Casey’s barking vocal delivery.

Those vocals: Call them atonal, call them simply yelling, the closest we’ve got is Gary Dean Davis’ enthusiastic bark. Or maybe Craig Finn’s talk vocals, but that’s not quite right. Finn always sounds like a college guy snottily reading slam poetry when he fronts The Hold Steady, whereas Casey’s bark vocals seem more like someone scolding you about what’ll happen if you don’t start paying attention. And whereas Hold Steady songs play like ironic pictures of hipster America, Casey’s vision is darker, psychologically dystopian, not so much lacking in hope as providing a warning. But fun nonetheless.

Casey sold it all with his visual cues — a sort of sarcastic glare or look of indifference — as if none of it matters because you’re not listening, anyway. You’re just trying to dance. Which they did. Friday night’s crowd (of around 75?) was one of the youngest I’ve seen at an indie punk show, with mainly of young women crowding the stage. Mark Kozelek would have been envious.

* * *

You’re going to be hearing a shit-ton about the Maha Music Festival this week, seeing as it happens this coming Saturday. I’m adding to the din with this month’s Over the Edge column in The Reader wherein Maha Executive Director Lauren Schomburg explains how they came up with this year’s line-up, which features electro-dance headliner Passion Pit. Read the column here.

Apparently Ryan Adams was in the running. So were a lot of other acts, but in the end, this line-up made the most sense both fiscally and for their target audience (a younger crowd than in year’s past).

I asked Schomburg what her “dream line-up” would be. Her answer: “Probably some combination of Florence and the Machine, Arcade Fire and LCD Soundsystem.” Yes, that would be impressive. It also would cost a bazillion dollars and would have to be held somewhere much larger than Aksarben Village.

At the time of the interview, Schomburg said Maha’s ticket sales had been slower than last year’s festival. She pointed out that festivals have taken a hit this year across the board nationally. Bonnaroo 2016 was the least attended year in that festival’s history, with attendance down 45 percent since its 2011 peak. Attendance at the 80/35 Festival was down as well versus the previous year.

Schomburg said the election year could be playing into the attendance decline as well as the fact that we seem to be saturated with festivals these days. That said, Maha’s line-up appeals to a younger audience, an audience that waits longer to purchase tickets. Expect a solid run-up in sales this week and the day of event. “The community is always supportive,” she said, adding that sponsorships “have been phenomenal.”

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


Thoughts on Maha 2016 (Passion Pit, Grimes); Sam Martin tonight; High Up, Anna McClellan Saturday; Frankie Cosmos, Eskimeaux Sunday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:46 pm April 22, 2016
Passion Pit is the 2016 Maha Music Festival headliner.

Passion Pit is the 2016 Maha Music Festival headliner.

by Tim McMahan,

Before I get started, I’ve had a few people ask me what I think of this year’s Maha Music Festival line-up, which was announced last night. Maybe a half-dozen, not a lot. The bottom line: It doesn’t matter what I or anyone else thinks of the line-up as long as it sells tickets.

This isn’t an art show, it’s a rock concert, and the decisions made by the talented board of Maha, while taking into consideration the quality of the bands and their music, very likely also considered how well the bands would draw. What are the bands’ “metrics”? How well does the band do in Spotify? How many Facebook fans does it have? What is its track record at other festivals? How big is its YouTube presence? Does the band have strong “buzz” — whatever that means? And so on.

Add to all that this very important question: How much is it going to cost?

If someone were to ask me to curate a music festival, two things would happen — either virtually no one would show up, or the bands would cost well north of a million dollars. In the first instance, I’d select bands that, while respected in the indie community, are virtually unknown beyond the 300 or so who are ensconced in the local indie music scene, or I’d pick bands like Beck or Arcade Fire or LCD Soundsystem that demand a bazillion-dollar contract.

Either way, my festival would lose money.

So, no it doesn’t matter what I think of the line-up. Or what some snobby guy or gal who’s really into garage rock or ’80s ambient bands or obscure Euro-dance acts or ancient glam bands thinks, especially if that guy or gal has never bought a ticket to past Maha festivals. What matters is that the thing sells. And this line-up looks like it’ll (probably) sell quite well.

Passion Pit is the headliner. I’ve seen them before at SXSW early in their careers, back when Michael Angelakos and his band were lost in the blur of bands that sound like Vampire Weekend and Phoenix and MGMT. I didn’t keep up with them other than their song “Take a Walk,” which was turned into a Taco Bell commercial. I couldn’t tell you the name of their last album or if a local radio station plays their music.

But I assume they have very strong “metrics” or they wouldn’t be the headliner, and lo and behold, taking a look at their Spotify numbers, their 10 “popular” tracks in Spotify have a total of just under 300 million plays.

Grimes at the 9th & Trinity parking garage, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Grimes at the 9th & Trinity parking garage, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Grimes, who is sort of a co-headliner at Maha this year, has a lot fewer Spotify plays. Her top-10 add up to just under 100 million plays. I’ve also seen Grimes perform at SXSW a few years ago, right around the release of Visions, her 2012 breakthrough album. She played on the top level of a parking garage a few blocks north of 6th St., a performance that consisted of her standing behind a laptop computer with a guy playing guitar. I assume she’s picked things up a bit since then.

Passion Pit, who started out on Frenchkiss, is now a major-label (Columbia) pop act that plays a glossy style of dance music. Grimes’ last album came out on respected large-indie 4AD. I actually wouldn’t consider either of them dance bands, but that’s what they’re being marketed as, and clearly more people will be dancing to them then, say, Deathcab for Cutie.

Matthew Sweet and Jay Farrar appear to be nods toward the older Maha fan. Sweet has a rich back catalog and is from Lincoln. Farrar, a former member of Uncle Tupelo, is known for his work in Son Volt, and will be playing that band’s album, Trace, which came out more than 20 years ago (Matthew Sweet’s Girlfriend album was released 25 years ago).

I literally heard the name Vince Staples for the first time in conjunction with Maha. I’ve heard not a single note of his music, but when it comes to modern hip-hop, the only games in town for me are Kendrick and Kanye. Part of the fun of festivals is being introduced to new music. I’d never heard of Matisyahu prior to his appearance at Maha a few years ago (and, honestly, haven’t listened to him since).

Then there’s The Joy Formidable, a London-based alt rock band that records on major labels Atlantic and Warners. What can I say, I’ve only seen or heard them on TV. As an indie music fan, they’re out of my wheelhouse, but I’m looking forward to hearing them live.

Then we come to the festival’s sweet spot, for me, anyway. Car Seat Headrest, Diet Cig and See Through Dresses are young, important indie rock bands, all of whom have played in small clubs in Omaha before. CSH just played at Lookout Lounge. Diet Cig plays Slowdown the first week of May and STD is, of course, local heroes who are breaking nationally. These are the bands I’m most excited to see. Combined, they probably couldn’t sell out The Waiting Room, so hats off to Maha for taking a chance on them.

The other locals, Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal and CJ Mills, uphold Maha’s fine tradition of booking quality local acts.

Finally, I saw Diarrhea Planet a few years ago at SXSW. Back then they were sort of a power-pop-punk act. Their novelty-flavored name will raise some eyebrows among the Maha sponsors, but, let’s face it, their name is their most offensive attribute.

The buzz before yesterday’s announcement was that Maha is reaching toward a younger, more dance-loving audience. Maybe, maybe… I don’t view any of the bands on the bill to be dance-focused acts, though they certainly have a more lively beat to their music than some of the previous Maha acts. As for skewing “younger,” how is this line-up skewing any younger than last year’s bands like Alvvays, Speedy Ortiz or Purity Ring?

Will it sell out? We’ll have to wait and see, though if it does, I can’t see the demand for tickets being much higher than last year’s sell out. Maha seems to be settling in on Stinson and a sub-10,000 ticket audience. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

* * *

Onto the weekend.

Tonight Sam Martin headlines a show at fabulous O’Leaver’s. Sam has a new album coming out called Get with the Programmed, and methinks we may be hearing songs from that tonight. Also on the bill are Muscle Cousins (Andy from Capgun Coup) and Javid & the Qualified Suspects (Javid, I assume, is Javid Dabestani, because really, how many Javids can there be in Nebraska?). $5, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity is being held at The Slowdown. Featured acts include Satchel Grande, Matt Whipkey and Kethro. $15, 9 p.m. More info here.

Tomorrow night Omaha’s hottest new combo, High Up, headlines at Milk Run. The full band will take up half the space on their own. Just kidding, Milk Run. Also on the bill are Halfloves and Ridgelines. Tickets are $5 Adv./$7 DOS. Show starts at 9 p.m.

Also Saturday night, singer/songwriter Anna McClellan plays at The Sydney. Also on the bill are Emily Ward and Rogue Moon. $5, 9 p.m.

And you’ll have another chance to see Clarence Tilton at The Barley Street Saturday night. The band opens for The Bottle Tops and The Hanging Cowboys. Bring your boots and hat, pahdner. $5, 9 p.m.

Then comes Sunday and that sold out Frankie Cosmos show featuring Eskimeaux, Yowler and Anna McClellan. Sold out means sold out. Starts early at 9 p.m.

That’s all I got. If I missed 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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Goodbye, Prince… Maha Festival line-up announced tonight; Milk Run’s first sell out; 10 Questions with Frankie Cosmos…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:46 pm April 21, 2016
Far too young to die...

Far too young to die…

by Tim McMahan,

CNN just now at 12:30 confirmed that Prince has died. It’s the only news that matters today.

* * *

Tonight’s the Maha Music folks will announce the line-up for the 2016 festival, to be held Aug. 20 in Stinson Park.

Here’s the deal: I and my friends in the media already know who’s playing. We received an embargoed press release last week and were told to keep mum until after the big announcement event, which takes place tonight at Reverb Lounge from 6 to 7:30. I think it’s fair to say you’re going to be surprised at what you hear.

They’ve been sending out clues this week via their instagram page (@mahafestival),  but the best clue comes from the website.

“Maha’s got a great beat. You can totally dance to it. Even if the only part of your body moving is your eyebrows, it really doesn’t matter so long as something’s moving and music’s playing. Dust off those dancing shoes and start working on your Maha moves.” 

The implication is that Maha will be booking dance-focused acts this year. I’ll leave that up to you as to whether that description fits the line-up. More than that, I cannot say, other than to swing by the Reverb event tonight, which is free. And if you can’t, well, just watch social media. I’ll let you know what I think about the line-up tomorrow, right here.

* * *

Why am I not surprised that the April 24 Frankie Cosmos concert at Milk Run has already sold out? Forget that Cosmos’ new album, Next Thing (Bayonet, 2016), received a “Best New Music” rating from Pitchfork, and the fact that Milk Run only holds about 100 people.

Instead, consider the overall line-up for Sunday’s show. In addition to Cosmos there’s Eskimeaux, whose new album, Year of the Rabbit, just earned a 6.8 on Pitchfork; Yowler, whose new album, The Office, just gained an 8.0 Pitchfork rating (and features Maryn Jones, who just played Milk Run with All Dogs), and Omaha’s own Anna McClellan, one of the hottest new singer/songwriters on the local scene. All for $10.

Yeah, I know it’s a Sunday, but it starts at 7 and should be done by 11 if Milk Run has its act together. This show marks the first “official” sell out of Milk Run, though I’m told that their recent Bib / Lemonade show drew a larger-than-sell-out crowd. Consider yourself lucky if you got a ticket.

All that said, let’s promote this sold out show a little more…

Frankie Cosmo plays at Milk Run Sunday, April 24.

Frankie Cosmos plays at Milk Run Sunday, April 24.

Frankie Cosmos is Greta Kline, a NYC singer/songwriter/rocker who writes, sings and performs heartbeat-powered indie rock that recalls the best of K Records. That’s a shorthand way of saying her music is mostly quiet soul-searching personal love songs with a kick deftly supplied by a first-rate band that includes Aaron Maine of the band Porches.

It should be added (for the record) that Greta is the daughter of Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates, which, one might say, doesn’t matter, but let’s face it, it does. You can’t grow up in that house surrounded by those people without having some talent rub off on you. It also shouldn’t matter that Pitchfork gave her latest album, Next Thing (Bayonet, 2016) an 8.5 rating and a “Best New Music” designation, but it does, because, let’s face it, lots of people read Pitchfork. All of this is part of the reason Sunday night’s show at Milk Run is sold out (that, and the fact that Milk Run is only slightly larger than my closet).

I asked Frankie a.k.a. Greta to take our Ten Questions survey and here’s what she had to say:

1. What is your favorite album?

Frankie Cosmos: One Foot In The Grave by Beck

2. What is your least favorite song?

I don’t usually listen to music that I don’t like so I don’t really know, but we listened to “Hoes in My Room” by Ludacris in the car today and it was pretty awful.

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

Connecting with my bandmates when we play together.

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

Getting sick or feeling emotionally drained on tour sometimes.

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

Dogs or water.

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

New York (my home)

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

No such thing as a bad gig. Our weirdest ever was in Fargo ND but it was still awesome.

8. How do you pay your bills?

Touring, and selling records and stuff.

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

I’d like to attempt teaching. I would hate to be an astronaut cause it’s like touring times a zillion (in terms of being away from home and out of ur element)

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

Yo I heard that Anna McClellan is from there. That’s a pretty good story.

Frankie Cosmos plays with Eskimeaux, Yowler and Anna McClellan Sunday, April 24, at Milk Run, 1907 Leavenworth St. Showtime is 9 p.m. The show is SOLD OUT. For more information, visit

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