Tuning into Hi-Fi House (in the column); Tears of Silver tonight…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:42 pm October 2, 2017

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Tonight Hi-Fi House hosts Tears of Silver, an indie super group that includes members of Posies and Mercury Rev. I’m told by HFH owner Kate Dussault that seating is limited, so if you want to go, you need to RSVP at this site ASAP.

Speaking of Hi-Fi House, Dussault granted me an interview late last month for The Reader to explain what HFH is trying to do, how it works and where it’s headed. You can read it in the October issue of The Reader, online at The Reader website, right here, or… you can read it below.

There was tons of additional info that didn’t make it into the story, which I’ll share with you over the next couple days. Until then…

One of the Hi-Fi House sound systems.

Over the Edge: Tuning into Hi-Fi House
The hush-hush private music club finally goes public.

On the surface, it seems difficult to explain the concept behind Hi-Fi House, a private club that charges members anywhere from $75 to $1,000 a year for the privilege of playing its record collection on its stereo systems.

You might naturally say to yourself, “I could buy a whole bunch of records for $1,000 that I could play whenever I want to in the privacy of my own home,” but you’d be missing the point.

The club, located at 3724 Farnam St. in the Blackstone District, has been operating privately for more than a year. I first stepped foot in Hi-Fi House last year during a Record Store Day event where the public was allowed a sneak peek.  The facility is first class all the way — a huge open, carpeted space with comfortable furniture arranged in circles throughout, centered around stereo equipment set-ups, including one I was told cost $80,000.

Behind the big room is a couple smaller rooms. Inside the first is Hi-Fi House’s massive album collection — more than 10,000 vinyl records. A glance at the titles indicates the music touches all genres, with issue dates ranging from the 1940s to present. Some of albums look unplayed and are still sealed. On display are a number of interesting music-related items, like a Patti Smith edition of a Pono Music Player — something I’d never seen in real life.

On the afternoon of that sneak peek, local bands performed in the space, including an early incarnation of the progressive jazz combo Chemicals. A small crowd watched the performance while enjoying beer and wine served at a bar near the club’s front door.

For reasons I never understood, Hi-Fi House was hush-hush back then. At the time, owner/operator Kate Dussault wouldn’t give me an interview on the record, though the club had been operating for months, including offering special music programming for children.

Well, the cloak of secrecy finally was lifted from Hi-Fi House last month when the organization launched a website — www.hifi.house — and began actively soliciting memberships. Dussault, now on the record, explained why the club operated in secrecy for so long.

“One reason was that we really wanted to experiment with all the programming,” she said, seated at one of the club’s large tables alongside Hi-Fi House General Manager (a title made up on the spot) Jon Ochsner while that $80,000 stereo system quietly played some funky jazz sides.

“The other reason was to really let the music community have the space pretty much to themselves for a period of time. We were able to have a lot of conversations with local artists and people who work in the industry to find out how we could best live in this community and serve it.”

In a nutshell, Dussault said, Hi-Fi House was built “so musicians could have their own private club. We’re offering a place where they can communicate with each other.”

She said musicians often don’t have time to chat when they’re at venues performing, “but when they come over here, they can really sit down, share music and listen to music together, and a lot of them really love that experience.”

Think of it like The Omaha Press Club, but instead of focusing on journalism and public relations, Hi-Fi House focuses on music. Fees start at $75 a year for a “lab membership” that allows access to Hi-Fi House during daytime hours. In the evenings, Hi-Fi House turns into a private club whose membership fees (which cover one person and a significant other) range from $300 a year for musicians to $600 a year for members of “the industry” — a broad category that includes any career that touches music, from journalists to studio employees to club owners to people involved with music-related nonprofits.

Finally, there’s the general public membership at a cost of $1,000 per year. Dussault doesn’t sound like she expects to sell many of those, but with the venue’s capacity rated at only 125, she doesn’t want to oversell memberships, anyway. She said she’s already sold a few hundred memberships, with all the money received channeled back into covering facility costs, which include constantly buying new records for the club’s ever-growing collection.

In addition to access to that collection, members are invited to attend special night-time programming that includes exclusive album listening parties, chats with artists and industry professionals, and intimate performances, such as a private concert last year by The Replacements’ Tommy Stinson.

With its heavy music education focus, you’d assume Hi-Fi House would consider becoming a 501(c)(3) nonprofit entity, but Dussault wants to steer clear from that for now. “The truth is most nonprofits have to scrap and re-raise their operating money every year,” she said. “It’s difficult, and they are at the whims of, in some cases, the same very few people who are supporting everything else. It doesn’t give you a chance to break out and invite new people to the party.”

So sure is she of the Hi-Fi House concept, she’s already planning to expand to other cities. After spending the next three months working alongside Ochsner, Dussault will move to New York City where she’ll spend three months with lawyers and other associates to review expansion plans.

“We’ll be solidifying New York, and then I’ll be traveling to Boston and other nearby cities,” she said, adding that there’s already “movement” for clubs in Denver, Des Moines and Chicago. “We’re talking to people in San Francisco, Oakland, Sacramento, Portland and Seattle, as well as five different Los Angeles locations.”

Surely Dussault must be a wealthy woman to make all of this happen. She just laughs at the suggestion.

“This is a labor of love,” she said. “I work two full-time jobs while I do this. I have a medical house-call company in New York that I spend a good six hours on a day on and I do some work for a music supervision firm in New York. If I weren’t doing those things, we wouldn’t be alive.

“Everything doesn’t have to be a nonprofit,” she added. “Some people have to take their own money and get out there and gamble it on making changes. I’m willing to live or die based on what I can deliver these people, and whether they’re happy with the experience.”

First published in the October 2017 issue of The Reader. Copyright © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved. Over The Edge is a monthly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on culture, society, music, the media and the arts.

* * *

The doors open at Hi-Fi House at 7 p.m. for tonight’s Tears of Silver show. Showtime is 7:45 p.m. Admission is free with RSVP. And if you haven’t already, check out the Ten Questions Q&A with Tears of Silver’s Ken Stringfellow and Grasshopper right here.

Also tonight, singer/songwriter Todd Grant will be playing tonight at Barley Street Tavern with Michael Treinhail. Showtime is 10:30 p.m.

* * *

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

Umm ain’t Big Harp (but sorta is…); Leafblower’s rock ‘n’ roll prescription; the last VW (in the column)…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:42 pm April 12, 2017

Big Harp at The Slowdown, Nov. 28, 2015. Two of them are back as Umm tomorrow at Reverb Lounge.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Tomorrow night (April 13) Umm plays at Reverb lounge. Umm is the duo of Stefanie Drootin and Chris Senseney, who also are the core duo behind Big Harp. So Umm is Big Harp, right?

No, says Drootin.

“This is the first time we’ve made a record that’s truly just the two of us,” she said in an email back-and-forth earlier this week. “We’ve always had drummers and this time I played drums along with old drum machines and loops. Also, Chris and I were listening to The Everly Brother a lot and were inspired to make a record where we sing harmony vocals basically all the time, which is a change from Big Harp.

“Really we’ve been moving away from the rootsier vibe since the first record and it felt like time to formalize the break. This probably could, and maybe should, have happened on our last album.”

OK, so the duo-only project is called Umm while Big Harp is the name of the trio (or larger)?

“Not exactly. Umm doesn’t have to be a duo,” Stef said. “Partly we just wanted to start a new project and not have to worry about playing old songs or upsetting people by NOT playing old songs. To us, the music sounds different, but I guess people will have to formulate their own opinions on that.”

Ah, OK. Sort of like Cursive vs. Good Life — two projects fronted by Tim Kasher (one of which (The Good Life) Drootin also plays in)?

“Not exactly ’cause those are two bands that are 75% different members. Both of these are Chris and I. :)”

So… Umm is just a way to avoid playing older material?

“No, not really. That’s one part of it, but it’s really just a different project,” Drootin said.  “We co-sing constantly. We play with drum loops. The songs are looser and longer. It’s different music. But yes, it’s still Chris and I.”

And that’s where I left it — no more clear about the name change than I was before, other than Chris and Stef see Umm as a completely different project than Big Harp, and don’t want to play Big Harp songs Thursday night. They are, in essence, turning band branding on its ear. Imagine every time a band puts out a new record it renames itself.

If so, not a bad strategy, especially when you consider the number of bands that launch with big success only to fall flat on their second release, the fans of the debut apparently uninterested in hearing what comes next. In the old days (*he says from his rocking chair*) a band put out multiple albums trying to build up an audience and catalog of music. Sure, it was a drag when the crowd zoned out during the “new stuff,” but that’s a pain point every band went through.

Now, simply rename your band and start over with every album. How many iterations of Ty Segall are out there. Fuzz? Muggers? Ty Segall Band? Conor Oberst has Bright Eyes, Desaparecidos, Monsters of Folk, Mystic Valley Band and his solo output, though he played a “Poison Oak” (a Bright Eyes song) at his last solo show. Does it really matter what he calls himself since he writes all the songs?

Anyway… Joining Umm tomorrow night is Oquoa and BareBear. $7, 9 p.m. Hey, we all have Good Friday off the next day anyway, right?

* * *

Speaking of upcoming shows (I’m getting a head start to the weekend) Leafblower has a cassette release show Saturday night at The Brothers Lounge with David Nance and one other band. They dropped the first song off the album Monday,

“We recorded with Mike Friedman, and Mike Saklar mastered it,” saidl Leafblower’s Danny Maxwell. “The inserts were designed and screen printed by Ben Allen, and we hand-scored them and numbered them. The tapes are green and hand stamped by none other than Mr. Craig Fort.” How can you go wrong? Check out the new track, titled “RX,” below.

* * *

Random non-music item: I write about my 1966 VW Beetle, my 2017 VW Beetle and how it might be the last car I ever own (because of the advent of self-driving vehicles and Uber) in this month’s Over the Edge column in The Reader. Check it out right here.

* * *

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: The Thermals at Slowdown Jr.; the reluctant expatriates (in the column)…

Category: Blog,Column,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:50 pm May 9, 2016
The Thermals at Slowdown Jr., May 6, 2016.

The Thermals at Slowdown Jr., May 6, 2016.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

So why aren’t The Thermals more popular? They’ve been putting out solid, albeit by-the-numbers indie rock albums for 13 years on established labels Sub Pop, Kill Rock Stars and now our very own Saddle Creek, touring incessantly the entire time. Their meat-and potatoes anthems sport a sly, cynical message and are catchy and fun.

And yet here they were Friday night playing to a less-than-capacity crowd in Slowdown Jr. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t understand the music business. How do bands get to that next level? At they very least they play like these guys. Performing as a four-piece, The Thermals ran through their set list very matter-of-factly, rolling out one song after the next, giving frontman Hutch Harris just enough time to make the crowd laugh with his snappy between-song patter. Clever, funny, his comments are the embodiment of Portlandia (actually funnier).

The band rolled out a number of songs off their latest album, We Disappear (2016, Saddle Creek) that fit right in with everything else. If there’s a nit to pick it’s that their music lacks variety in pace, tone, dynamics, but maybe that’s just the nature of this style of indie rock. Or maybe that’s what’s holding them back.

* * *

The new issue of The Reader is out, which includes this month’s installment of Over the Edge. The topic: Where are you moving to once Trump wins the election? Find it on newsstands around town or read it online right here. Also in this issue, my recent blog entry concerning this year’s Maha Music Festival (which you can read right here).

* * *

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

I’m back; Lincoln heads to SXSW; yes that’s me in Encounter magazine; King Trump (in the column)…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , , , — @ 2:14 pm March 1, 2016
Captiva

Captiva

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Well I’m back from south Florida — Captiva Island, Florida, to be precise, an isolated land mass east of Fort Myers and just north of Sanibel Island. The kind of place where people ride around on bicycles and golf carts, and you’re lucky to find an open bar past 10 p.m. Music consists mostly of guitar-and-steel-drum trios playing covers of Jimmy Buffett and John Denver ballads. It was a long-weekend getaway and about as far away from a SXSW-style spring vacation as you could get. Like Nixon after a long week at San Clemente, I return tanned, rested and ready to go…

* * *

Nebraska Exposed at SXSW 2016

Nebraska Exposed at SXSW 2016

Speaking of SXSW, the folks that bring you Lincoln Calling and Lincoln Exposed have organized a Nebraska showcase at this year’s Austin festival. Consisting almost entirely of Lincoln bands, they’re calling it Nebraska Exposed.

The showcase is Wednesday, March 16, at Cheers Shot Bar, which those familiar with the layout will remember is located a block and a half west of Red River Road on 6th Street — a red-hot location. Hats off to Jeremy Buckley and his pals for pulling this off with the help of a sponsorship by Nebraska Tourism.

The day party begins at noon with Oketo, followed by BOTH, Bonehart Flannigan, AZP, Universe Contest, Freakabout, Laughing Falcon and closes at 7 p.m. with Josh Hoyer and Soul Colossal.

I’d love to see someone organize a showcase like this that featured Omaha acts. In the past, Saddle Creek Records have sponsored showcases that included one or two Omaha bands, but not this year.

My dream Nebraska SXSW showcase would feature one of Saddle Creek’s crown jewel acts along with Miniature Horse, See Through Dresses, Little Brazil, Digital Leather, Bloodcow, Brad Hoshaw/7 Deadlies, Lupines, Simon Joyner and Whipkey (for starters). Get to work on this for next year, Hear Nebraska.

* * *

From the pages of this month's Encounter Magazine.

From the pages of this month’s Encounter Magazine.

If you’ve ever wondered what I look like, you can find out in this month’s issue of Encounter Magazine. Writer James Walmsley wrote the feature, that talks about my history writing about the Nebraska indie music scene along with some opinions about the current state of the indie ’round these parts. The portrait is by the amazing Bill Sitzmann, who has quite a history of his own shooting Nebraska bands. Look for your copy ’round town and in the Old Market. It’s not online yet. When it does go online, I’ll include a link.

* * *

This being Super Tuesday, I figured it was as good a time as any to post my Over the Edge column from this month’s issue of The Reader focused (again) on Trump. The paper probably won’t hit the news stands until later this week, or maybe later. By then, the election on the Republican side (and likely the Dems, too) will be all but over. Trump is riding an unstoppable wave. Rumors of a secret New York Times recording of Trump speaking off the record support one of the points made in my column. In the end, it won’t matter, because his followers aren’t electing a politician, they’re electing a right-wing dream merchant, and nothing less than being convicted of murder is going to stop his ascension to the top of the GOP ladder, where Hillary awaits to knock him off… probably. Read the column here.

It’s good to be back.

* * *

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

Have a High Up / Digital Leather New Year’s; Over the Edge Year in Review…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , , — @ 2:08 pm December 31, 2015

HighUp112815by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Like all other holidays, New Year’s Eve is a night of DJs and cover bands. Let’s face it, if you’re still going out to the clubs on NYE you’re probably doing it to find some companionship (or to cement an existing companion, if you know what I mean).

I say this, and then there’s fabulous O’Leaver’s. If you go to O’Leaver’s for NYE you’ve grown past the hoopla, you’ve found your companion-zone years ago, you’re looking for a place to simply hang with friends and enjoy some exceptionally good live music. Tonight is no exception.

O’Leaver’s has two of Omaha’s best ringing in the New Year, along with one of the city’s best DJs. First there’s High Up. The band that made the biggest splash in 2015 takes a victory lap. I see big things in ’16 for the Fink sisters and their merry band of soul rockers. Then there’s Digital Leather, a band that’s been on the verge of something bigger since frontman Shawn Foree rolled into town back in 2009. Foree and the boys should be in rare form tonight, rare form. Holding it together is DJ Tyrone Storm a.k.a. Roger Lewis who is part of the team that made Benson Soul Society a huge hit. All of that and complimentary champagne at midnight? What more could you want for a mere $10. Music starts at 8.

As for the rest of the clubs, well, like I said, it’s mostly cover bands and DJs. Party at your own discretion. I’ll be ringing in the New Year with my wife coaxing my dogs out from beneath the couch as the world around them explodes in fireworks. Why Omaha allows fireworks in the city is anyone’s guess. City officials must have felt there was no way to enforce a law banning fireworks, so might as well let someone (i.e., campaign contributors) make some money off the holiday. Meanwhile, people are getting their hands and eyes blown to bits, my dogs are shaking in fear and I (and a lot of other dog owners) are staying home to make sure our furry friends are OK. Thanks, Omaha, for another backfired political decision.

oteyear-end2015
Speaking of backfiring politics, check out my Over the Edge Year in Review where I look in the rear-view mirror and contemplate: What’s it say about us that when asked to look back on 2015 the only things that come to mind are solemn, terrifying, critical and trivial media-driven events? You can read it in the January issue of The Reader, which hits the news stands next week, or online at thereader.com right here right now.

By the way, if you’re looking for my music predictions for 2016, they’ll be online next week.

Lazy-i Best of 2015!

Lazy-i Best of 2015!

Speaking of Years in Review, check out the track list for (and enter to win a copy of) the Lazy-i Best of 2015 comp CD. All my favorite indie tunes I’ve come across throughout last year as part of my tireless work as a music critic for lazy-i.com. Among those represented: Algiers, Sam Martin, Sufjan Stevens, Clarence Tilton, Beck, The Chemical Brothers, Freedy Johnston, The Mynabirds, and the two bands mentioned earlier — Digital Leather and High Up — plus lots more. The full track listing is here. Enter your name in a drawing to win a copy. To enter, either: 1. Send an email with your mailing address to tim.mcmahan@gmail.com, or 2) Write a comment on one of my Lazy-i related posts in Facebook, or 3) Retweet a Lazy-i tweet. You also can enter by sending me a direct message in Facebook or Twitter. Hurry, contest deadline is midnight Jan. 4!

Happy New Year, y’all…

* * *

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