Live Review Matt Whipkey, Charlie Ames; Ten Questions with Palehound (@ Slowdown Jr. 2/27)…

Category: Interviews,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:43 pm February 26, 2018

Matt Whipkey and his band at Reverb Lounge Feb. 25, 2018.

by Tim McMahan,

Matt Whipkey helmed two album-release shows this past weekend — one on Friday night and a second in the early evening yesterday for old folks like me, I guess. In fact there were a lot of older people seated at tables in the Reverb’s stage room, making the concert feel more like a matinee performance than a rock show, though Whipkey did all he could to give the room a rock show vibe.

Whipkey and his core band of Zimmerman, Sing and Anderson (a perfect name for a law firm) ripped through a set of songs off his new double-LP Driver, which currently stands as my favorite Whipkey release. Like an episode of Storytellers Matt gave background between every song while he feverishly re-tuned his guitar (We were told that the songs off Driver have a variety of “tonal colors” that required alternate tuning).  Unlike on the recording, there were no keyboards at these weekend performances, which (to me) gave the set a more rocking feel.

One of those between-song stories was Matt telling the crowd about a convo he and I had during our interview. I had told Matt that, while I like the song “Fred, You’re Dead,” that it would be perfect candidate to be revamped into a punk song, especially considering the political nature of the lyrics. Lo and behold, Matt pulled out a punk verson of the usually slow, dour song, and it, indeed, ripped. The punk “Fred…” would make a perfect 7-inch single just in time for Record Store Day. Come on, Matt!

Charlie Ames at Reverb Lounge, Feb. 25, 2018.

Opening Sunday evening was singer/songwriter Charlie Ames, who performed an acoustic set of originals. Ames had a striking voice and a nice guitar style on a set of broken-hearted pop songs of the woe-is-me variety. A very talened dude, I’d love to see him write a set of songs that stretched him more creatively.

Palehound plays at Slowdown Jr. Feb. 27, 2018.

Ten Questions with Palehound

Led by singer/songwriter Ellen Kempner, Boston’s Palehound released their sophomore album, A Place I’ll Always Go, on Polyvinyl Records last summer (which received a 7.3 rating from Pitchfork, for those who care about such things).  Since then, the indie combo also dropped a new 7-inch release — “YMCA Pool” b/w “Sea of Blood” — as part of Saddle Creek Records’ Document Series singles program.

Having recently finished a U.S. headlining tour, which included shows with Big Thief, Jay Som, Mitski, and M Ward, Palehound launched a co-headlining tour with Weaves that brings them to Slowdown Feb. 27. We asked Kempner to take our Ten Questions survey. Here’s what she had to say:

1. What is your favorite album?

Ellen Kempner: I definitely don’t have one! My favorite album of this week has been Jolene by Dolly Parton.

2. What is your least favorite song?

I hate “Blurred Lines.”

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

Getting to travel and see the country in a way I never would be able to without music.

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

Being anxious about shows/people liking our music.

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


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

Hometown Boston shows are great because our friends are there.

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

Fort Worth, Texas,  the only people we played for were the two teenagers who were in the other band that played.

8. Are you able to support yourself through your music? If so, how long did it take to get there; if not, how do you pay your bills?

(No comment.)

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

Cooking!! I love cooking and used to work as a cook in a restaurant and loved it. I wouldn’t wanna be a professional runner.

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

Honestly my answer will be really bad cuz all of them just have to do with Conor Oberst.

Palehound plays with Weaves and See Through Dresses Tuesday, Feb. 27, at The Slowdown front room, 729 No. 14th St. Tickets are $10 Adv/$12 DOS. Showtime is 8 p.m. For more information, go to

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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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Matt Whipkey tonight (and Sunday), Oquoa, Port Nocturnal tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 1:17 pm February 23, 2018

Matt Whipkey and his band at Growler USA, April 1, 2017. Whipkey & Co. play tonight and Sunday at Reverb Lounge.

by Tim McMahan,

It’s a Matt Whipkey weekend. Omaha’s favorite Uber-driving troubadour is hosting two album-release shows for his double-LP Driver, which you read about right here and in The Reader.

Matt’s first show is tonight at Reverb Lounge with Stephen Sheehan (ex-Digital Sex) opening. Tonight’s show starts at 9 p.m. and costs $10.

Matt’s also doing a second show at Reverb this Sunday evening with Charlie Ames. That one starts early at 6 p.m. and also costs $10.

What else is happening this weekend?

Well tonight, Oquoa headlines at The Sydney in Benson with Dirt House (Annie DiLocker’s joint) and Ojai. $5, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, at fabulous O’Leaver’s, it’s a long night of hard rock with the debut of The Long Awaited, Sioux City’s Port Nocturnal, Jared William Gottberg and The Ramparts. $5, 10 p.m.

And in addition to opening for Whipkey Friday night at Reverb, Stephen Sheehan is doing a DJ set at O’Leaver’s Saturday night with Tres Johnson. $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 — 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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Behind the wheel with Matt Whipkey; Diet Cig, The Spook School tonight…

Category: Interviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:42 pm February 6, 2018

Matt Whipkey behind the wheel of his Town and Country.

by Tim McMahan,

This month’s Over the Edge column in The Reader is a feature on Matt Whipkey’s new album, Driver, which Whipkey will be celebrating with a pair of shows later this month at Reverb.  You can read the story online here, or in the printed version of The Reader, which should be on newsstands now or in the very near future. Or you can just read it below…

Uber Confessions
Rocker Matt Whipkey’s new album captures life behind the wheel.

Maybe, if you’re lucky, the next time you call for an Uber or Lyft after a hard night of partying, you’ll get Matt Whipkey.

He’s the guy who drives the black 2010 Chrysler Town and Country. The guy with the perfect hair.

“OK, here’s a weird one I had last night,” Whipkey said during some off time on a drizzly Sunday afternoon at Zen Coffee. “This woman grabbed me too many times during the ride. I felt uncomfortable. She was in her 40s or 50s and told me she’d just done drugs. She didn’t tell me which ones, but by the way she was acting I can only guess. It happens. I wasn’t scared.”

But there have been plenty of times when he was scared.

“One time I picked up these guys at Oscar’s at around 8 p.m. It was three dudes. Two of them were average people, but one was huge, six-nine, a big guy, bigger than everybody. He was intoxicated and excitable. They were going to this strip club, American Dream off 72nd and F, and this guy gets excited and says ‘We’re gonna see naked chicks’ and he starts jumping up and down, shaking the whole car, then grabs my shoulders and starts shaking me, lifting me up and down. We’re on the Interstate doing 80. I said, ‘You’ve got to stop him.’ But this guy could easily have taken all three of us.”

Whipkey, one of the smoothest talkers you’ll ever meet, somehow calmed the monster and got him to put him down. “You get really good at conflict avoidance, de-escalating the situation,” Whipkey said. “I dropped them off and reported it to Uber immediately. The sad thing was that it was on his friend’s account, and that guy — not the big guy — will get banned from Uber for it.”

Whipkey’s been driving for Uber and Lyft for two years as a side hustle from his regular job teaching guitar lessons and being a rock star. As a result, he’s got a million stories about life behind the wheel hauling drunks, druggies, bigots, homophobes, horn dogs, celebrities and normal folks like you and me.

“I’ve given rides to the most down-on-their-luck people to the most desolate places in Omaha and also given rides to billionaires to their private air strips. It’s a strange equalizer. For that fraction of time, it doesn’t matter. It’s my car. I’m driving you. There’s trust there.”

Matt Whipkey, Driver (self-release, 2018)

It’s a job that inspired the songs on Whipkey’s latest album, the double LP Driver, which he and his band will showcase Feb. 23 and 25 at Reverb Lounge. The collection is 14 portraits of loneliness, desperation and inner monologues (along with a Beatles cover), all of which rock, at least most of the time.

Whipkey, known for his catchy, guitar-fueled pop songs and bombastic stage presence, stretches in new directions on this record, most notably with the album’s opening and closing tracks that bookend the collection with warm, acoustic touches and unexpected keyboards. The songs contrast nicely with riff-rock ballads that underscore Whipkey’s guitar prowess and his tight backing band consisting of Travis Sing, bass; Scott Zimmerman, drums; Korey Anderson, guitars; and keyboard player J. Scott Gaeta.

The thread that ties it together is Whipkey’s breathy, growling vocals, which do their best to coax every last drop of emotion from these lonely stories, like the longing “Amy Knows” about a woman who just transferred to Omaha and has “fourteen days to fix a lifetime” and the rocking, Nugent-esque screamer “The Driver” where Whipkey keeps a tight stranglehold on his blazing ax.

Whipkey spent a good nine months recording the album with Scott Gaeta at Gaeta’s Music Factory Productions studio, laying down tracks when he wasn’t on the road. During that same time, he also recorded his previous album, the 2017 pop collection Best New Music. All of this came shortly after opening 30 dates for music legend Dwight Yoakam on his 2015-2016 tours.

The week prior to this interview, Whipkey opened for ’70s legacy act America in Sioux City, Iowa. He hopes to get more of those kinds of large-stage gigs, though he’s just as determined to get his music heard in his home town.

“The goal was to make the best record with the resources we had,” Whipkey said. “I don’t have the national mentality of ‘This song is going to take you to the next level.’ I want this to take me to the next level as a songwriter and as an artist. If you think in that regard, it will translate into other areas where people will recognize that you’re growing and doing something that no one else is doing.”

Matt Whipkey and his band perform with Stephen Sheehan Friday, Feb. 23, at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. Showtime is 9 p.m. Whipkey will perform a second show at Reverb Sunday, Feb. 25, with Charlie Ames at 6 p.m. Both shows are $10. For more information, go to

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

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Tonight at Reverb Lounge it’s the return of Diet Cig. The band has made Omaha a regular tour stop of the past few years, even making a special appearance at 2016’s Maha Music Festival. This tour marks the first time the band is playing as a 4-piece, as the duo will be joined on stage by Anna from The Spook School (bass) and Karli from Plush (keyboards/vox). The Spook School will actually open tonight’s show, along with Great Grandpa. $15, 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 © 2018 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.


‘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,

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 — 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.


New Matt Whipkey, Courtney Barnett tracks…

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

by Tim McMahan,

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 — 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: 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,

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.

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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 — 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.


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,

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.

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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.

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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 — 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.


#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,

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

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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):

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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 — 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: 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,

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.

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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 — 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.