Reverb Lounge remodels before reopening; RESTART venue support legislation gets final push before August recess…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:00 pm July 22, 2020
Reverb Lounge: Under Construction

The above picture was posted on the Reverb Lounge Facebook page last week and shows that there no longer is a wall separating the venue’s music performance space from the bar. The remodel is one of the reasons why Reverb hasn’t reopened yet.

Marc Leibowitz, who runs Reverb along with business partner Jim Johnson, said the wall coming down is the biggest part of the venue’s remodel. “We are doubling the PA that covers the whole space, but not many other changes really,” he said. “Reverb will now be a full-time venue. It will only be open when there is an event.”

While Reverb’s separate performance room was unique, it was also strangely antiseptic, almost clinical in nature, as if you were entering an examination room, whereas the rest of Reverb felt like a (clean) lived-in corner bar. Making the venue one large room will be as dramatic a change as when The Waiting Room “opened up” its stage area a few years back — a huge improvement. With the wall down, Reverb’s performance-space capacity will increase, which could mean larger, more popular bands playing its stage.

Leibowitz said Reverb will reopen sometime in August. Now what about The Slowdown?

Jason Kulbel, who runs The Slowdown, said the reopening date for the downtown venue is still up in the air, as the club is in the process of moving all its scheduled August shows. “The two touring shows we had postponed late last week, so that forced the hand,” he said.

Touring appears to be dead. Just glancing at band promo materials in my in-box, there are no national tours going on this year; in fact, I’m not seeing anything for 2021, either.

And beginning late last week I finally began seeing a few impassioned pleas by artists for people to write Congress to get on board with the RESTART Act (S. 3814), legislation being pushed by the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA). I was going to write a column about it for next month’s issue of The Reader, until I found out from NIVA that would probably be too late.

“We need to have legislation passed by the August recess or we can expect hundreds of independent venues across the country to fold,” said Audrey Fix Schaefer, NIVA’s communications director. The Senate’s August recess begins Aug. 7, and the weasels aren’t scheduled to return until Sept. 8. Never mind that the country is suffering from a 100-year pandemic.

Schaefer said the list of co-sponsors “grows every day,” which is another reason for an all-out push to send a letter to our congressmen. Unfortunately, we live in Nebraska, where our red politicians could give a shit about art, culture and the future of live music.

But that shouldn’t stop you from going to the NIVA “Take Action page” and adding your name to the list of those who sent a letter urging Fischer, Sasse and Bacon to support and cosponsor S. 3814/H.R. 7481, the RESTART Act. If you’re gonna do it, do it now. It takes less than a minute to fill out the form.

You may get back the same form letter I got from Deb Fischer, which boasts about the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll.

But PPP loans are only fully forgivable if companies keep all of their employees on the payroll or rehire them within eight weeks of receiving the loan, which most venues can’t do.

Fischer, Sasse and Bacon know this, but do they care?

Every year, more and more talented people, musicians, artists and young professionals are moving out of Nebraska to places like LA, Portland, Seattle and New York, and politicians are left scratching their heads wondering why-why-why?

You have efforts like Blueprint Nebraska, whose “vision” is: “Our people, land, and location will propel Nebraska to be the most welcoming Midwest state for youth, talent, investment, and commerce and a national model for continuous growth and prosperity.

What a joke. The number one reason young people are leaving this state is its political and social environment. They’re tired of living in a red state that doesn’t care about anything but its perceived “family values,” and which views the arts as some sort of frivolous, childish novelty that has no intrinsic value. The lack of support by our representatives for the RESTART Act is proof of this. Once the young artists, musicians and professionals begin to realize that things will never change, they start looking for a better place to live, a place that values what they can offer. And who can blame them?

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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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Write your congress person!; FXTHR^ (a.k.a. Dustin Bushon) tonight…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , — @ 1:40 pm May 14, 2020

FXTHR^ live streams tonight from Low End at the Bemis.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

There hasn’t been a heckuva lot to write about music wise over the past few weeks. At some point we’re going to start to get an idea how the clubs are going to react to COVID in regards to reopening their stages, but who knows when that’s going to happen.

You saw what Slowdown is doing in the interim, and while it’ll be a fun distraction amidst this void in live entertainment, it is by no means a true replacement. BTW, someone asked where the money’s going for those Slowdown shows, and the answer is the bands and crew, according to Slowdown’s Jason Kulbel.

In the meantime, if you haven’t gone to NIVA website and sent a letter to your reps in Washington telling them to get off their asses and help save live music, you should. The link is right here. It’ll take you 30 seconds.

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Speaking of live streams, there is one tonight being brought to you by the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, specifically the folks who opened Low End late last year. Tonight they’re hosting a live stream featuring the noise/art/rock act FXTHR^ a.k.a. Dustin Bushon. Joining him is visual artist Alex Myers.

The stream begins at 8 p.m. You can watch live on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bemiscenter/ and Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/bemiscenter . More info here.

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Last but not least, due to a back-office/clerical/editorial error, my Over the Edge column wasn’t published in the May issue of The Reader, which was devoted to writers’ COVID-related experiences. The column is online, however. Read about how I’m adapting to COVID-19 and learn about a 1971 film starring Charlton Heston. Check it out. I should be back in the printed pages of The Reader next month, barring any more snafus…

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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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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One Percent says tell Congress to #SaveOurStages; new Shiner (after 19 years)…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 1:19 pm May 5, 2020

It’s time to write congress and tell them to save the live music industry.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I’ve been waiting for this NIVA thing to take off and maybe this is the week it happens.

NIVA is the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), a group of more than 1,200 independent music venues and promoters in all 50 states, which I wrote about here.

Today, One Percent Productions joined those venues and promoters nationally urging folks like us — music lovers who go to rock shows — to write Congress and ask them to protect the live music industry and everyone it touches by providing financial support necessary for it to survived and reopen after COVID ends.

When this crisis began, independent music venues were the first to close, and we will be the last to open. While completely shuttered, we have no revenue, our employees and artists are without jobs, and normal bills keep coming, regardless,” wrote One Percent Productions, which runs Reverb Lounge, The Waiting Room and brings in the best touring indie bands to perform throughout our city.

They’re asking us to go to nivassoc.org/take-action and send a message to our senators and congress people.

Yell it, scream it, clap your hands, and pound your feet like you’re calling the band back for an encore! Please help us ensure we survive by using your voice now (and tell a friend or 100 friends!). #SaveOurStages.

NIVA sent out its initial call for legislation a couple weeks ago. I haven’t heard whether it resulted in any actual legislation. But once that legislation is written or added to another bill, it’ll be even more critical for us to lobby our representatives to support it. The first step is to get off your ass and go to nivassoc.org/take-action and tell them to start legislating this sucker…

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Kansas City band Shiner has a new album coming out this Friday called Schadenfreude, their first album in 19 years. Check out the first singles, “Paul P. Pogh,” and “Life as a Mannequin.” Just like old times…

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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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Bright Eyes cancels tour through mid-June; why aren’t artists backing NIVA efforts? Old Cactus Nerve Thang, new Beauty Pill, PUP…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:58 pm April 27, 2020

D.C. band Beauty Pill has a new single from a forthcoming album.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Last Friday Bright Eyes sent out a press release saying it is cancelling or rescheduling a number of U.S. dates beginning in May through mid June.

From the release: “Regretfully, yet predictably, we have had to re-think many of our upcoming tour dates. We hope to be in a better position to gather and celebrate at a later date.

No surprise here. Hey guys, when’s the album coming out?

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What I am surprised about is why artists haven’t jumped onto the NIVA efforts to drum up legislation to help venues, promoters and artists sidelined by the COVID pandemic. NIVA is the National Independent Venue Association, which I wrote about here last week (take a look).

I assumed this week we’d see a bunch of artists voicing support for NIVA’s lobbying effort, which will no doubt impact them and their careers greatly. And yet, I haven’t seen a word on social media or elsewhere from artists lending their support. Or maybe it’s too soon for them to act? Certainly amplifying NIVA’s current efforts can’t be a bad thing.

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A couple new songs came through my email this morning.

Beauty Pill is a D.C.-based indie rock act that’s been kicking around since 2002, born out of the ashes of another band I dug called Smart Went Crazy. The band has a new album coming out May 8 on Northern Spy Records called Please Advise. “The Damndest Thing” is the second single. Check it out out.

The last concert I saw before the lock down was PUP at The Waiting Room March 4. Fun show. The band today released its first new song of 2020 called “Anaphylaxis.” Check it:

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I almost forgot…

Once upon a time there was an Omaha band called Cactus Nerve Thang. It consisted of Lee Meyerpeter, guitar/vocals; Pat Dieteman, drums/vocals and Brian Poloncic, bass/vocals. Their sound was a sloppy mix of lo-fi noise, rock, grunge and punk. Their one and only album, Sloth, was recorded in ’93 at Junior’s Hotel in Otho, Iowa, and released on Grass Records, and featured what many believe to be one of the ugliest album covers in the history of recorded music (though I don’t think it was that bad).

Over the weekend someone posted an old Cactus Nerve Thang performance on YouTube: “Rose,” performed live at Davey’s Uptown in KCMO, 2/19/1993. 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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

What is NIVA and why (and how) is it trying to save the live music industry?

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 11:45 am April 24, 2020

The National Independent Venue Association is trying to save the future of live music as we know it.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Jason Kulbel who runs The Slowdown yesterday forwarded me a copy of the letter written by NIVA that was sent to Washington outlining how the live music industry and its participants will quickly go the way of the dinosaur unless Congress does something now to help support them during and after the COVID pandemic.

NIVA is the National Independent Venue Association, a just-formed organization that currently has more than 900 charter members in 50 states, including all the legendary clubs we know and love like 9:30 Club in D.C., First Avenue, Bowery Ballroom, Mohawk in Austin and of course our very own Slowdown, The Waiting Room/Reverb/Sydney and fabulous O’Leaver’s.

The first half of the letter, which you can read in its entirety right here, explains the role music venues, promoters and artists play in our economy, our culture, the very fabric of our country. Next it outlines the problem — how venues were the first to close and likely will be the last to reopen, and how everyone involved is being impacted, and how historic, iconic institutions could be forced into permanent closure.

Finally, the letter outlines solutions, including flexible and abundant federal loan programs, tax relief, unemployment insurance, mortgage and rent forbearance, debt deferral and recovery funds.

Those recovery funds and tax credits will help venues comply with new health guidelines when they’re allowed to reopen.

Another key provision: “Establishing national guidelines for resuming and continuing large gatherings in a safe manner to ensure uniformity throughout the industry.” This is critical because without it, there’s no way artists and promoters could schedule tours without knowing which states’ venues are able to book shows; without national guidelines each state would do its own thing and that would be a mish-mash, patchwork approach.

Unfortunately, Trump doesn’t appear to support those kinds of national guidelines, leaving it up to the states to decide. Oh what a mess he’s made.

I was skeptical when I saw this letter, figuring most members of Congress don’t know a thing about the entertainment industry. But Kulbel wisely pointed out that Congressional staffers know what’s going on; they frequent venues and understand what role they play in communities. He’s optimistic.

Kulbel continues to book shows at Slowdown despite the constant wave of cancellations so the club will have something in place when allowed to reopen, hopefully sometime this summer. Keep your fingers crossed.

In the meantime, keep an eye out for legislation that includes the above provisions. No doubt some smart congressman or senator will include them in a bill or create a bill that adopts these provisions, and when he/she/they do, it’ll be your job to reach out to your representatives and lobby for their support.

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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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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