‘Pledge’ of Allegiance to Matt Whipkey…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 12:49 pm June 14, 2017

Cover art of Matt Whipkey’s new album, Best New Music. He launched a Pledge Music drive this morning for the album.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

This past February I mentioned a new-ish Kickstarter-type site called Pledge Music. Pledge is truly music-focused (unlike Kickstarter which is wide open to any offer), and is more of a pre-sale website with some monster users, including Willie Nelson, Weird Al and Nelly Furtado.

Well, the first local Pledge campaign (that I’m aware of) went live this morning. It’s for Matt Whipkey’s two new LPs, Best New Music and Driver. People can pre-order both albums from Whipkey’s PledgeMusic site as well as purchase other premiums, such as a private live band performance ($3,000), online music lessons ($125), even a Whipkey-exclusive Uber ride anywhere in Omaha ($125).

“I have been beyond impressed with Pledge Music’s support for artists, it has been awesome working with them,” Whipkey said. “Their client list speaks for itself, Fleetwood Mac, Hold Steady, Deer Tick, etc., so many great artists. To me, it feels like it is more about the music itself rather than the ‘@e are running out time; give us all your money’ aspect. Although, don’t get me wrong, it is about that as well 🙂 Please, we need your dough, you have no idea how expensive this shit is lol.”

Some people frown upon Kickstarter and these types of websites. I think they’re a necessary evil and a reflection of a modern music industry that is less willing to take chances on new artists. How else is an unsigned band going to release new vinyl without taking a huge financial risk?

Whipkey is hosting a listening party tomorrow night at Hi-Fi House, where you can get a sneak preview of Best New Music and Driver. And score free booze. 7 to 10 p.m. You an also check out some tracks from BNM below:

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — 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.

Lazy-i

New Matt Whipkey, Courtney Barnett tracks…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 12:45 pm May 17, 2017

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Today’s news nugget is that Matt Whipkey has released a track from his upcoming LP Best New Music, titled “One Shot.” You can hear it below via Bandcamp. The album is slated for release next month. The Whipster actually has two albums in the works — the second is a concept album called Driver, which one assumes will also be released in the near future.

Speaking of new singles releases, yesterday Courtney Barnett released “How to Boil an Egg,” part of a split singles club from Milk! Records. Enjoy…

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — 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.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Whipkey at Growler USA; Dude York, Paws, Uh Oh tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:49 pm April 3, 2017

Matt Whipkey and his band at Growler USA, April 1, 2017.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

First and foremost Growler USA (the joint I wrote about that’s introducing original local music to the great unwashed masses in way West Omaha) is more bar than restaurant than music venue.

Beyond the name, just take a look at the back wall and the enormous line of beer taps and it’s pretty obvious you’ve stepped into a place designed for drinking. Behind that wall is a kitchen, which serves run-of-the-mill bar food. Finally, tucked in the front corner of the room is triangle-shaped stage surrounded by curtains with a couple over-head PA speakers and digital lighting.

For some reason I thought the place would be bigger, with a real stage, but Growler USA is actually quite small, right in line with the 120 capacity reported last week, and designed like any other new-construction West Omaha building — single level open room with windows on one side, nuthin’ fancy.

The wall o’ taps at Growler USA.

One could argue the novelty of having 100 beers on tap would be enough to keep the place filled. In fact, when I arrived at 8:30, there was nary a table to be had. Owner Brent Malnack found us a spot about 10 minutes later while I enjoyed a delicious Millstream Peach Fuzz (no Rolling Rock for me). Burgers and sliders (and tots) were quickly ordered and served. The Matt Whipkey band took the corner stage right around 9 p.m. Matt told me they weren’t going to hold back, and the room held up well to their rock ‘n’ roll onslaught, though the PA sounded overblown toward the end of the set.

That said, I can now see why Malnack was discouraging metal acts last week. The room looks better suited for quieter acoustic combos. So did the crowd, which consisted mostly of gray-templed middle-aged couples out having a beer, many of whom were as focused on the North Carolina v. Oregon game as Whipkey and Co. in the corner.

I have no doubt that Growler USA will be a smashing success with or without live music. That Malnack wants to provide a stage for original bands when clearly he doesn’t need to is a credit to someone who’s been involved in local music since the ’80s with his band Modern Day Scenics. That said, West Omaha still needs a real music venue.

Back to Whipkey… I haven’t seen him and his band in a year or so. They’re still cranking out the Americana, but two songs played Saturday night were as heavy as anything heard ’round town. The rhythm section of Travis Sing on bass and Scott “Zip” Zimmerman on drums is first class (Travis was particularly tight, while Zip seemed restrained, especially compared to his Ocean Black onslaught). I could barely hear second guitarist Korey Anderson over Whipkey’s own guitar, which was guttural, especially on his grinding solos. Give me the heavy stuff, Matt.

* * *

Tonight Seattle band Dude York (Hardly Art Records) headlines a show at Slowdown Jr. that includes Glasgow indie band Paws (FatCat) and our very own Uh Oh. $10, 8 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — 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.

Lazy-i

New Conor Oberst album, gig March 9 at TWR; new Whipkey ACLU track; Pile goes boating…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:46 pm January 18, 2017

Conor Oberst (sunglasses on head) with The Felice Brothers and Jim Keltner during the recording of “Salutations” at Shangri-la Studios in Malibu, CA. Photo by Julia Brokaw.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Just when I said nothing was happening, along comes Conor Oberst this morning announcing that he’s releasing yet another album — a full-band studio version of the songs on last year’s Ruminations, plus seven new songs — that’s 17 songs and what I assume will be a double album called Salutations, out March 17 (St. Patrick’s Day!) on Nonesuch Records.

From the press release:

When Oberst wrote and recorded the songs on Ruminations, entirely solo – with just voice, piano, guitar and harmonica – he intended to ultimately record them with a full band. In the midst of putting together that band – upstate New York’s The Felice Brothers plus the legendary drummer Jim Keltner (Neil Young, Jackson Browne, George Harrison, Bob Dylan, John Lennon, and many more) – the passionate responses Oberst was getting to those first solo recordings, from friends and colleagues, encouraged him to release the songs as-is, in their original sparse form, as his seventh solo album.

Meanwhile, Oberst simultaneously moved ahead with his plans to record with the band, heading to the famed Shangri-la Studios in Malibu to record Salutations – co-produced with Keltner and engineered by long-time musical compadre Andy LeMaster. Guest contributions come courtesy of Jim James, Blake Mills, Maria Taylor, M Ward, Gillian Welch, Gus Seyffert, Pearl Charles, Nathaniel Walcott and Jonathan Wilson.

Oberst, with The Felice Brothers as his backing band, will tour in celebration of Salutations beginning March 9 at The Waiting Room.

Tickets for the tour’s March dates go on sale Saturday, Jan. 21, at noon EST.

* * *

Matt Whipkey has a new song out called “Fred, You’re Dead,” that was inspired by Friday’s presidential inauguration. “America is entering a period of uncertainty; our leaders, at times, appearing at great odds with the founding principles of our Constitution,” Whipkey said. “This song was born from that uncertainty.” Proceeds from the song’s purchase will be donated to the ACLU.

* * *

And one piece of nautical show news… Boston band Pile is headed on the road in support of upcoming full-length A Hairshirt of Purpose (Exploding in Sound Records), out March 31. Among the tour’s announced dates is a performance on The River City Star May 7. Having gone on the river boat for last year’s Shannon and the Clams show, I can tell you this one should be a blast. Presumably more info soon…

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — 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.

Lazy-i

#TBT: Oct. 5, 2006 — Omaha enacts first smoking ban; new Good Life track(s); Vinyl Williams, Chemicals tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:50 pm October 20, 2016
Sokol Underground used to be one of the smokiest venues in Omaha...

Sokol Underground used to be one of the smokiest venues in Omaha…

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

This being Throwback Thursday, here’s a dip into the Lazy-i Wayback Machine to 2006, a few days after Omaha’s first smoking ban went into effect. Hard to believe it’s been 10 years. There is an entire generation of music-goers who have no concept of what I’m describing in the following column from 2006, and even now it seems strange that smoking once was allowed in restaurants, and Sokol Underground (which, at the time, was the primary indie rock music venue in Omaha). The citywide smoking ban for all bars would come more than a year later.

Column 95 — The stench of rock… – Oct. 5, 2006     

Just when you thought you’d heard all you care to about Omaha’s new pseudo-smoking ban that went into effect Sunday, here’s another comment, this time from the musicians’ perspective. What wasn’t pointed out in the column below was the scorecard as to where smoking is and isn’t allowed. Smoking isn’t allowed at Sokol Underground, Sokol Auditorium and Mick’s — that’s the extent of the ban’s impact. It’s still allowed for the next five years at O’Leaver’s, The 49’r and The Saddle Creek Bar. If you don’t know the rules, here’s an abbreviated explanation: Smoking is allowed in bars that don’t serve food (O’Leaver’s, The 49’r) and isn’t allowed in multi-use facilities (Sokol) or bars that serve food unless those bars offer keno (The Saddle Creek Bar). Mick’s, which doesn’t have a kitchen, voluntarily banned smoking.

Column 95: The Smell of Rock
Is smoking part of rock ‘n’ roll?

Before we move forward, we must understand and agree on this one conceit: Smoking holds no value in a human being’s life. None. It is not essential for your continued existence. In fact, it’s unquestionably destructive. It shaves the very essence of life away from the individuals that imbibe in its behavior.

Anyone who smokes cigarettes knows this, and has known it from the first puff. Just like those who drink bottle after bottle of beer and/or wine know that their lives are in no way being enhanced by the activity. There is no argument for drinking alcohol, especially when the endeavor taken to excess results in inebriation, loss of reasonable judgment and motor skills, and a painful hangover. Anyone who drinks knows this, and has known it from their first under-age beer.

To say that second-hand smoke is more dangerous than the secondhand effects of a drunk smashing into your car is to ignore the fact that more people are killed driving than by almost any other activity, and that a huge number of those deaths are the result of drunken driving.

That said, smoking and drinking are a part of rock and roll right along with sex and drugs. Always have been. Always will be? Who knows, but probably, in some form or another, regardless of any awkwardly developed citywide ban that says it’s okay to smoke in some bars but not in others.

Part of the experience of going to rock shows for as long as I can remember has been going home afterward and stripping off my tar and nicotine-soaked clothing so as not to contaminate the sheets before passing out, then picking up my t-shirt in the morning and smelling the previous night’s stench. Now that’s rock and roll. And it’s going to become a thing of the past, eventually.

No one knows this more than the people who make a living performing in the smoke dens, but even among them, there is no agreement that the smoking ban is good or necessary.

Take Matt Whipkey, lead singer/guitarist of Anonymous American (Who, by the way, will be releasing a new album by the end of the year). Whipkey’s down with the smoking ban. “In terms of my personal dexterity, you smell better after you get done,” he said of playing gigs in smoke-free bars. “When playing out of state or at smoke-free places like The Zoo Bar (in Lincoln), I’m not absolutely disgusting afterward.”

Whipkey says the smoking ban might even bring more people to gigs, people who have avoided going to shows because they can’t stand the smoke. “Times are changing,” he said. “You can’t do it in Minneapolis, Lawrence, New York, Madison, California or Lincoln. I assume you can’t do it in most cities. It’s just how it goes.”

And then there’s Dave Goldberg, guitarist/keyboardist/drummer/vocalist of The Terminals (Who, by the way, have a new record coming out on Cleveland’s Dead Beat Records). “It’s like taking the smut out of Time’s Square,” he said of the ban. “I’m against it. Rock and roll is supposed to be bad for you. Smoking has been a part of it since its inception. And this is coming from a non-smoker.”

Forget about the sanitized confines of a smoke-free lounge. A punk from back in the day, Goldberg prefers the grime. “I’m partial to a seedy atmosphere, and smoking is definitely part of it,” he said. “I’ve gone to blues clubs for years now, and it seems to go hand-in-hand. Smoky rock clubs — it’s almost like that’s how it should be.”

Unlike Whipkey, Goldberg thinks the ban will have a negative impact on audiences. “In Lincoln, you noticed the effects immediately,” he said of the Capitol City’s ban, which has been around for almost a year. “Duffy’s, for example, has a beer garden, and a lot of times a band will be playing to a partially full or worse-sized audience on account of everyone being outside smoking.”

The one thing Whipkey and Goldberg do agree on: Playing in smoky bars has never impacted their performance quality, or so they think. “Part of my vocal style is the accumulation of secondhand smoke caked on my lungs over the years,” Whipkey said. “Maybe now I’ll sound like a choir boy.” Let’s hope not.

Goldberg, who just finished touring the country as drummer for theater-rock legend Thor, has played in both smoke and smoke-free environments. “I’ve never noticed a difference,” he said, “but I spent a lot of time in smoky bars, perhaps I’m used to it.”

So who’s right? Smoking is indefensible. Banning it in clubs like Sokol Underground will only save lives and keep my clothes and hair smelling better after a night of noise. But you know what? I’m still going to miss it. — Lazy-i, Oct. 5, 2006

* * *

Yeah, well, guess what, I don’t.

Back to the future….

Today The Good Life released via Stereogram (here) a new track recorded during the Everbody’s Coming Down sessions called “Are You Afraid of Dying?” The Good Life hits the road with Jake Bellows beginning early next month for a tour that concludes Nov. 28 at fabulous O’Leaver’s. Speaking of outtakes, here’s another one from the same sessions that dropped last month (and that somehow I missed):

* * *

Tonight at Reverb, LA’s Vinyl Williams headlines with Oquoa and Chemicals. $7, 9 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — 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.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Whipkey, Wild Powwers, Bien Fang; Basia Bulat tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:43 pm March 7, 2016
Wild Powwers at O'Leaver's, March 4, 2016.

Wild Powwers at O’Leaver’s, March 4, 2016.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

A look back at the weekend, or Friday night to be more precise.

Matt Whipkey performed in one of his most high-profile gigs in Omaha at 1200 Club Friday night. Backed by guitar, drums, bass and keyboards, Whipkey was center stage under the white-hot lights giving his all to a mostly full house. Ironically, even though there were a few hundred people collected around tables in the crowded room, it was likely one of the smaller crowds he’s played to recently, thanks to becoming one of Dwight Yoakam’s standard opening acts.

Matt Whipkey at 1200 Club, March 4, 2016.

Matt Whipkey at 1200 Club, March 4, 2016.

That road work has left Whipkey and his band water-tight as they played his double-LP Penny Park in sequence (even announcing the end of each side throughout the set). You might think it was strange he was playing an album that came out in 2013 rather than his most recent material except that Whipkey undoubtedly looked at this performance as a career high water mark and wanted to make it something special. Penny Park is probably his most thought-out release to date, something he may never duplicate. Might as well give it the staging it deserves.

I stuck around for two sides of Penny Park before heading cross town to O’Leaver’s. On stage when I arrived was Low Long Signal, a proggy, mathy four-piece instrumental rock band that ripped though a set of high-energy compositions rife with intricate rhythms. Just when you got inside one of their fast, tight grooves they’d throw a heavy riff into the mix. Very interesting and worth further investigation.

Wild Powwers were harder and faster than they sound on their most recent album — they sounded more like a punk band than a self-proclaimed grunge act. I point to the density of production on that new record for the Pacific Northwest narrative, vs. the straight-up, stripped down sound we got Friday night.

While Lara Hilgeman’s vocals and guitarwork were spot on, it was the rhythm section of while-knuckle drummer Lupe Flores and bassist Jordan (JoJo) Gomes (his bass acting more like a second guitar on most of the songs) that “powwered” the evening.

Bien Fang at O'Leaver's March 4, 2016.

Bien Fang at O’Leaver’s March 4, 2016.

Finally locals Bien Fang closed out the night. I didn’t know going in that BF is a Rachel Tomlinson Dick project (or I’d forgotten) and was pleasantly surprised to see her on stage fronting the band on heavy rock songs that bordered on punk. Two ’90s bands — Live Skull and Come — came to mind. A comrade who watched the night’s festivities said Wild Powwers had a riot grrrl flair to their set; I’d say that tag more appropriately belonged to Bien Fang.

A great night of music.

* * *

Very quickly: Tonight at The Waiting Room it’s the Omaha return of Basia Bulat. From the press release: “Her new album Good Advice is out now to rave reviews—the LA Times callis it ‘an irresistible blend of lush pop and effervescent R&B…undeniable’ while Paste says it’s ‘playful to the point of pure effusiveness, each [song] swathed with catchy choruses and brisk, bubbly refrains.'” I haven’t heard it yet. No doubt you will tonight. The Weather Station opens. $13, 9 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — 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.

Lazy-i

Matt Whipkey at 1200 Club, Wild Powwers, High Up, Bill Clinton, Bloodcow, BFF tonight; caucus Saturday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:45 pm March 4, 2016
Matt Whipkey and his band at The Waiting Room, Feb. 20, 2015.

Matt Whipkey and his band at The Waiting Room, Feb. 20, 2015. Whipkey and Co. play tonight at 1200 Club in the Holland Performing Arts Center.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

The weekend is front-loaded. Lots happening tonight, and then…

Matt Whipkey has enjoyed the best 12 months of his musical life. New record. Touring with Dwight Yoakam, and now a headlining gig at The Holland Performing Arts Center’s ritzy 1200 Club. If you’ve never been there, you owe yourself the favor — big room, bar, great stage, great sound system. Think of it as a giant, high-ceilinged lounge filled with large round tables and chairs.

It’s a perfect setting for Whipkey and his band to perform for the first time ever his 2013 double-LP Penny Park in sequence. For Whip, it’s a career highlight. Expect him at his very best. Opening is R&B singer Rothsteen. Tickets are $20. Show starts at 8 p.m.

It’s an early show, which means if Whipkey keeps his set under 90 minutes you’ll have time to hit other hot shows tonight.

Top of list is Wild Powwers at fabulous O’Leaver’s. I wrote about them Wednesday, here. Note they are NOT the headliner. Lincoln band Bien Fang has that honor. Low Long Signal opens. Show starts at 9:30, $5.

Also tonight, the city’s hottest up-and-coming band, High Up, headlines at The Waiting Room with M34N STR33T. Lineman’s Rodeo opens at 9 p.m. Hopefully by start time they’ll have cleared out all the Secret Service from Bill Clinton’s visit to TWR, which is scheduled to take place at 2:15 p.m. Please note, there is an RSVP  form you’d be wise to fill out if you intend to see the president stump for his wife.

No doubt Clinton will return to Omaha (after a visit to Lincoln) just in time to catch Bloodcow at The Barley Street Tavern tonight. Wouldn’t be surprised if Bill has his sax in tow to join the band  for a jazzed up version of “Ultra Super Sexual.” Opening is Super Moon and Montee Men. $5, 9 p.m.

And lest you forget, it’s Benson First Friday. If you’re checking out the art, drop by The Little Gallery, right across the street from The Sydney, for the opening of Jennifer Radil’s abstract cartography show. Eye popping stuff. From 6 to 9 p.m. More info here.

Tomorrow is caucus day. Get your carcass out and caucus.

That’s all I got. If I missed your show, put it in the comments section. Happy weekend, y’all…

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — 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.

Lazy-i

Matt Whipkey, Low Long Signal tonight; Dumb Beach, Ocean Black, Eric in Outerspace Saturday…

Category: Blog — Tags: — @ 1:38 pm January 8, 2016
Matt Whipkey at Hear Omaha in the Old Market, June 4, 2015.

Matt Whipkey at Hear Omaha in the Old Market, June 4, 2015. Whipkey headlines tonight at The Waiting Room.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

It’s another in a series of all-local rock-show weekends to kick off 2016. No touring indie acts scheduled anywhere. Get used to it. It’s going to be a long, cold January.

Topping off this weekend’s festivities is Matt Whipkey at The Waiting Room. Not sure the configuration for this show, but hopefully he’ll have his band supporting him. The Hottman Sisters opens. $8, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, Low Long Signal headlines at Milk Run with Anthems, Alli and I, and The Jon Jerry Experiment. $5, 9 p.m.

And fabulous O’Leaver’s has Lineman’s Rodeo, Red Pins and Idlefox tonight. $5, 9:30 p.m.

It’s back to O’Leaver’s tomorrow night for an evening of heavy indie and sludge/stoner rock. The always entertaining Dumb Beach headlines. Ocean Black has the second slot — the band formerly known as Nightbird. Hag opens at 9:30 p.m. $5.

Finally, it’s a four-band bill at Milk Run Saturday night, headlined by Eric In Outerspace with Dirty Talker (members of Her Flyaway Manner), Lodgings (members of UUVVWWZ, Noah’s Ark, Sound of Rails) and Better Friend. $5, 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 Lazy-i.com — 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.

Lazy-i

Whipkey gives it away; Triathalon, Coaxed, Eric in Outerspace tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 12:48 pm March 31, 2015

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Singer/songwriter Matt Whipkey writes to say he redesigned mattwhipkey.com, and in honor of the new look he’s giving away all the music that he’s made prior to this year’s self-release, Underwater. That’s right eight Whipkey-related albums including Penny Park, Instant Heart, and all the Anonymous American, Whipkey Three and The Movies titles can be downloaded for free from his website through tomorrow, April 1. Get in on it while you can.

What else..

Tonight Athens GA indie band Triathalon is playing at fabulous O’Leaver’s. The band has a shimmery pop sound that’s kinda cool (check it below). They’re actually opening for the Coaxed. Eric in Outspace also is on the bill. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — 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.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Matt Whipkey, John Klemmensen, Fire Retarded, Dumb Beach; Hear Nebraska Kickstarts Vol. 3…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:47 pm February 23, 2015
Fire Retarded at O'Leaver's Feb. 21, 2015.

Fire Retarded at O’Leaver’s Feb. 21, 2015.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

It was a long weekend of shows, a good weekend.

Friday night was the big Matt Whipkey album release party at The Waiting Room. Matt can be a rather polarizing figure in the Omaha music scene, but there’s one fact no one can refute — when it comes to the press, Whipkey works his ass off. This show was mentioned or featured in every print publication in town, not to mention a slew of local morning radio programs, a few of which Whipkey even performed on. Seems like everywhere you turned, whether on air, in print or online, there was Matt Whipkey hawking his new record and imploring people to come to his show.

Well, all that hard work paid off as The Waiting Room was indeed crowded last Friday night. No, it wasn’t a sell out, but it was tough to make it across the dance floor when Whipkey and his band started their set.

Whipkey’s style has been consistent over the past decade — he’s a showman, always demanding the crowd’s attention when he’s center stage with an electric guitar slung over his shoulder, maniacally flipping that Omaha-famous head of hair. In a city known for its indie rock, Whipkey remains content playing traditional American-style rock ‘n’ roll that boils down to big riffs, big hooks, plenty of guitar solos and lyrics about life in these United States.

The new album, Underwater, is a step forward for Whipkey to a more mature song craft than heard on his coming-of-age concept album Penny Park, a record that, if you ever wondered what the songs were about, all you had to do was look at the photo on the album sleeve. The new record sounds more personal and introspective but no less pop-focused. Whipkey may idolize Springsteen, but his style has more in common with John Fogerty on the album’s up-jump tracks. When he slows it down, picks up an acoustic guitar or straps a harmonica ’round his neck, he channels old school, MOR open-chord crooners that were the staple of ’70s-era FM radio. He is un-apologetically not indie, and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Matt Whipkey and his band at The Waiting Room, Feb. 20, 2015.

Matt Whipkey and his band at The Waiting Room, Feb. 20, 2015.

Neither would his crowd, who grooved to the rock and never failed to recognize another golden Whipkey guitar solo. I saw plenty of people walking around with copies of Underwater tucked beneath their arm, its back cover sporting a stoic photo of Whipkey, his hair, and his Raybans, staring stoically out into the crowd.

The obvious question after the media build-up that comes with a release show: Now what? The answer is touring, and Whipkey has said that’s exactly what he intends to do, focusing his road-work on central Nebraska. Can he become a regional success story? There’s no question he has a style that could resonate throughout the rural Heartland.

John Klemmensen closed out Whipkey's album release show at The Waiting Room, Feb. 21, 2015.

John Klemmensen closed out Whipkey’s album release show at The Waiting Room, Feb. 20, 2015.

The new trend for headliners these days is to place their set in the second slot of the evening. That was the case Friday night when John Klemmensen and the Party followed Whipkey with a set of bluesy rockers. I haven’t seen John and his band play in more than a year. While his voice and lyrics haven’t changed much (He still boasts Nebraska’s biggest broken heart) his music has. Instead of the usual laid-back mellow crooning, Klemmensen is now uncorking harder, louder arrangements that aren’t afraid to lean away from blues pop to a more indie-fied power rock, a natural reflection of Klemmensen’s love of golden age Omaha indie-punk and post-punk.

There is a theatrical element to his rock songs that reminds me of — dare I say it — Meatloaf and John Steinman, but without the keyboards. I credit the first-person honesty of his lyrics, brazenly unashamed of letting his emotional baggage hang out for everyone to see. Klemmensen has nothing to hide, and that’s what makes his music so good.

A quick note about the recent upgrades to The Waiting Room. The club now sports a shiny new tile floor, raised booths and a brand new bar. This is the third or fourth time that The Waiting Room has made enhancements to their club since it opened in 2007, which shows the owners’ ongoing commitment to being the best music venue in Omaha.

Dumb Beach at O'Leaver's, Feb. 21, 2015.

Dumb Beach at O’Leaver’s, Feb. 21, 2015.

Saturday night was a bracing change of pace as O’Leaver’s hosted a punk show with two of the better-named bands to grace their rec-room-styled stage: Madison Wisconsin’s Fire Retarded and Omaha’s own Dumb Beach.

Saturday’s gig was the last on Fire Retarded’s tour and the dudes sounded happy to end it in Omaha. Call it garage punk, I guess. Hard charging. Break-neck. Gritty. Rat-tailed and not so angry as much as just trying to have a good time. Their set started almost acidicly punk before infusing a bit of swing about halfway through, at times becoming downright tuneful.

Next was Dumb Beach. One of the things I forgot to mention last week in the podcast is that the band sports two — count them two — drummers. I’ve seen the two-drummer thing a few times in the past. With other bands, it’s an easy way to add theatrical flair to their rather drab stage presences. But that’s never been a problem with these guys, who resemble a team of buzzed-out Dr. Drew rehabbers out on a punk-rock work release program.

No, this duo-drum set up is an aggressive stab at bringing even more power to Dumb Beach’s already bludgeoning sound. Someone told me it was like watching a pair of synchronized swimmers, perfectly timed, perfectly choreographed, as they bashed the shit out of their drum kits. Do they really need two drummers? Does any band? I say screw it, why not? If you haven’t seen these guys, you need to.

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Hear Nebraska, Vol. 3

Hear Nebraska, Vol. 3

This morning Hear Nebraska launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the vinyl pressing of its third compilation, deftly titled Hear Nebraska Vol. 3.  The record features 10 songs from Nebraska bands on 12-inch, mixed-color (purple-pink-black) vinyl. Hear Nebraska calls it “a masterfully crafted, sonically stellar collectible that will serve as an integral Nebraska historical document.

Bands on this year’s HN comp are John Klemmensen and the Party, Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers, The Bottle Tops, Jake Bellows, M34N STR33T, BOTH (featuring Rothsteen), Halfwit, Ladyfinger and Cursive.

The release is limited to 500 copies and comes with a digital download. A $20 pledge gets you a copy of the vinyl, but you’ll want to check out the other premiums. Hear Nebraska is shooting to raise $4,000 over the next 28 days. They’re already more than a quarter of the way there. Check it out.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — 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.

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