Live Review: Hand Habits, Tomberlin; Laura Jane Grace (Against Me!), Rob Noyes, David Nance tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:36 pm April 2, 2019

Hand Habits at Slowdown Jr., April 1, 2019.

by Tim McMahan,

Sara Beth Tomberlin — or just Tomberlin as she’s known professionally and Toblerone as I sometimes mistakenly call her — sat center-stage at Slowdown Jr. last night with an acoustic guitar balanced on her crossed legs and sang heart-breakingly sad personal-journey songs in a voice I can only describe as “angelic.” You’d expect someone who writes such painful lyrics to be church-mouse quiet between songs and mumble morose thank you’s but instead, Tomberlin was a natural crack-up, talking about the time she was on the Jimmy Kimmel show during a bomb threat and how long it takes to get to the nearest Target from her hometown (hour and a half).

Tomberlin at Slowdown Jr., April 1, 2019.

She sang songs off her Saddle Creek debut as well as a couple new ones that fell into the same solemn territory as the others.  She thanked the crowd for being so quiet — the audience of around 60 stood as if in a trance throughout, except for two younger audience members who did a modified grind dance to every sad song.

By contrast, Hand Habits was a veritable rock show. Playing as a trio with bass and drums, Meg Duffy led with an electric guitar that broke away a few too few times for soaring solos that would make Richard Thompson proud. Duffy’s guitar work was stellar and I wished they’d work more of those solos into the set.

Instead, the band played mostly by the numbers songs from their latest Saddle Creek release, Placeholder, which is an early runner for my 2019 top-albums list. On the record, Duffy’s voice sounds like it’s always in harmony with someone or some thing. Live, the drummer added gorgeous harmonies, but for the big single, “Can’t Calm Down,” Tomberlin came up to the stage for one of the night’s highlights.

I can’t quite put my finger on who Duffy reminds me of, and I suppose they’d appreciate that (I’ve yet to meet a musician who likes being compared to anyone). That said (haha) I was at times reminded of Aimee Mann, at least in terms of the way Duffy and company made the most out of simple compositions for maximum emotional impact.

Not surprisingly, both acts said they were happy to be playing home base for Saddle Creek Records, whose reps were sprinkled throughout the audience, proudly watching their latest signees knock them dead.

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Huge show tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s. Laura Jane Grace of Against Me! is playing with her band, The Devouring Mothers. Advanced tickets to this show are long gone, but there may be a few available at the door for $22.50. The door is at 6:30, so if you’re interested, you’ll want to get in line well before than. The show starts at 7:30 with opening sets by Mercy Union and Control Top.

Also tonight, guitar virtuoso Rob Noyes performs at Reverb Lounge. Joining him are Jon Collin and our very own David Nance. $10, 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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Hand Habits signs to Saddle Creek, new album March 1; Remember Sports tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 1:47 pm January 8, 2019

A screen cap from Hand Habits’ video for title track, “Placeholder.”

by Tim McMahan,

Saddle Creek Record’s LA connections locked up yet another new artist for the label’s roster.

Hand Habits is the LA-based project of singer/songwriter Meg Duffy, who is also known as the guitarist for Kevin Morby’s touring band as well as her work with Erin Birgy (Mega Bog) and The War on Drugs.

Hand Habits’ debut album, Wildly Idle (Humble Before The Void), came out on Woodsist Records in 2017.  The band is shifting to Saddle Creek for their sophomore LP, placeholder, due out March 1.

Sayeth the press release: “Instrumentally, placeholder can be situated alongside some of Meg’s folk-adjacent contemporaries like Angel Olsen or Big Thief, and the guitar work on this album proves that Meg continues to be one of the finest young musicians working today.”

BTW, if the name sounds familiar it could be because Saddle Creek release a single by Hand Habits (“yr heart” b/w “Carpenter’s Daughter”) in the fall of 2017 as part of their Document Series.

Pre-orders  for placeholder (including for a very cool limited-to-250 colored vinyl version) are being taken now at the Saddle Creek Store.

Needless to say, Hand Habits will be touring this spring, including an April 1 date at The Slowdown.

Check out the video for the title track below.

And here’s half of that Document single:

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Philly-based self-proclaimed “basement rock” band Remember Sports has been playing their style of jangle-indie rock since 2012. Their latest, Slow Buzz, came out last year on Father/Daughter Records. Check ’em out tonight at Reverb Lounge. Label-mates Nadine opens at 8 p.m. $10.

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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 © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.