The lack of live music is killing my new music mojo…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 12:51 pm July 9, 2020
Public Access T.V. at Reverb Lounge, June 25, 2018.

Bear with me while I get this off my chest:

The last live concert I saw before COVID-19 struck with all its dreadful glory was PUP at The Waiting Room way back on March 5. I didn’t know at the time it would be the last live show I’d attend for the foreseeable future. I anticipated a big spring and summer of live shows with lots of new music on the horizon.

But as we all know, by the end of March one-by-one the clubs began to close and show cancellations piled up like cord wood, and by the end of April about everything was cancelled. Now we’re in July and Slowdown and Reverb are still closed, O’Leaver’s and Brothers have reopened but aren’t scheduling live music, and while The Waiting Room is hosting shows, they’re few and far between and mostly cover bands. Almost all national touring bands aren’t on the road right now.

Despite this, new music has continued to be released, including some pretty amazing recordings by Fiona Apple, Perfume Genius, Run the Jewels, Phoebe Bridgers, HAIM, Waxahatchee, Porridge Radio, Yves Tumor, Lanterns on the Lake, Destroyer, Christian Lee Hutson, Nation of Language, Car Seat Headrest and Stephen Malkmus. While some artists are holding their releases until they can tour again, others, like Bright Eyes and Sufjan Stevens, are planning releases in the coming months without any idea of whether they’ll be able to support them on the road.

Most of the above-mentioned acts are easy to keep up with, and if you’re tuned into Sirius XMU or college radio, you’ll have a hard time missing them. It’s the smaller, new bands — the yet-to-be discovered acts — that are getting especially crushed by COVID.

The No. 1 way I discovered new music — or for that matter, checked out new music — was by researching upcoming (and attending) live shows. And with no one out touring, it’s suddenly become harder to discover the new talent. Or a better way of putting it: It’s becoming harder to get motivated to listen to unknown acts.

Like anyone who writes about music, every day I get dozens of pitch emails from labels, promoters and artists telling me about upcoming releases. In the pre-COVID days, I’d zip down to the bottom of the emails and see if the band was headed to Omaha or Lincoln, and if so, would check out their music. No question, this was how I discovered most of the cool new stuff I’ve heard in the past.

The same process held for club calendars — I’d go through calendars scanning upcoming shows and making a point to research indie bands scheduled to appear, check out their music, etc.

But now that no one is touring, I rarely even open those emails or check calendars. What’s the point? As a result, a lot of music being releases is flying under my radar. For the first time since I started writing about music, I’m starting to feel disconnected to what’s going on with regard to new music.

So yeah, I really miss going to rock shows, I miss seeing people I know at the various clubs, but most of all I miss discovering new music the way I used to. The way things are going, it may not be until this time next year before we get anywhere close to where we used to be.

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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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.