New Big Thief (on Saddle Creek); Dolores Diaz returns; 80/35 (ho-hum); Beach Slang, Minus the Bear, Doyle of the Misfits tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:32 pm April 5, 2017

by Tim McMahan,

This morning Saddle Creek announced it’ll be releasing the sophomore effort by Big Thief, Capacity, on June 9. Big Thief is one the more successful recent signings by the label, both critically and otherwise. I don’t know the sales numbers for the debut album, Masterpiece, but can tell you that the single “Paul” has more than 2 million spins on Spotify.

More good news: Big Thief will be returning to Omaha for a gig July 13, opening for Conor Oberst when he performs outside The Waiting Room on Military Ave., where Jake’s block parties are usually held. The last Big Thief show was at Lookout Lounge, opening for Yuck a year ago.

Check out the first video from the upcoming Big Thief album:

* * *

Speaking of Oberst, his C&W cover band, Dolores Diaz and the Standby Club, is playing this Sunday night at The Slowdown. It’s a benefit for Justice For Our Neighbors-Nebraska and The Nebraska Cultural Endowment. Joining them is Icky Blossoms, High Up and a number of local speakers. The 7 p.m. show is $15, plus there will be a raffle for some sweet prizes. More info here.

* * *

Des Moines’ 80/35 Festival posted its line-up yesterday and for me it was a bit of a blah. Headliners are Shins and MGMT. Have these acts risen to festival headliner status? I can’t imagine either selling out Sokol Auditorium.

There are a couple interesting support acts, however — A Giant Dog, Diarrhea Planet and ’70s-era Minneapolis new wave band The Suburbs, but other than that, a lot of head scratchers.

Meanwhile, the Maha Music Festival people have posted that tickets sales are stronger than years’ past, with VIP tix in short supply.

* * *

There’s a big show tonight at The Slowdown. Omaha favorites Minus the Bear returns and they’re bringing Beach Slang with them along with Bayonne. $25, 8 p.m.

Also tonight, Doyle from The Misfits is playing at Lookout Lounge. Also on the bill are Element a440, The Beat Seekers, Before I Burn & DeadEchoes. $14, 7 p.m.

* * *

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.


Saddle Creek launches singles series w/Posse; NE-HI, Lucero tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 1:45 pm March 2, 2017

by Tim McMahan,

I’ve practically begged Saddle Creek to launch a singles series for years, and today the label announced that it’s finally going to do it.

The Document Series will comprise of an exclusive record featuring unreleased music from artists outside of Saddle Creek’s roster, along with a specially curated ‘zine highlighting the artist’s hometown / music scene, according to the label.

We see Document as a unique way to reference our past, while at the same time reaching out to bands that aren’t already part of the Saddle Creek family and allowing them to shine a light on the art and music of their own communities,” says the press release. “It’s our way to try to capture a band and their community in a specific place at a specific time, and share that with the world.”

The first installment of the Document Series is the two-song Kismet 7” from Seattle’s Posse, to be released March 10. Other artists slated for the series include Palehound, Hand Habits and Wilder Maker. You can preorder the Posse 7-inch for $7.99 today from the Saddle Creek website.

Whereas I love this idea, there’s one vital component missing — the ability to subscribe to the releases. I’d like to pay one price and have a year’s worth of the series’ releases delivered to my door. Come on, dudes, offer a subscription service. I guess I’m never satisfied…

Find out more about Posse via this episode of Band in Seattle:

* * *

Tonight at Reverb Lounge its Chicago garage band NE-HI. You read their Ten Questions interview yesterday. Opening the show is Nathan Ma & The Rosettes and Wrong Pets, the new project by Reagan Roeder. $10, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, right around the corner at The Waiting Room, Lucero headlines with Esme Patterson. $25, 8 p.m.

* * *

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: Daughter; Zipline joins the Slowdown complex; Milk Run under new management…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , — @ 2:17 pm November 21, 2016
Daughter at The Slowdown, Nov. 19, 2016.

Daughter at The Slowdown, Nov. 19, 2016.

by Tim McMahan,

It’s the same ol’ question: How does a show headlined by a band like Daughter sell out Slowdown’s big room?

The band releases music on respected though somewhat small indie label 4AD. Needless to say, Daughter gets zero airplay locally. In fact, before I headed down to Slowdown Saturday night I double-checked to see if the show wasn’t slated for the small room. When I arrived at 9 p.m., a line stretched all the way past Film Streams. Where did all these people come from? Granted, Daughter is a remarkable indie band, but since when does that translate to sell-out crowds?

The North London 4-piece, fronted by Hepburn-esque lead singer/guitarist Elena Tonra, plays hypnotic, chiming shoe-gaze rock that recalls a broad range of post-punk acts from My Bloody Valentine to The xx. Tonra’s clear, ringing voice can turn ferocious on a dime, sort of like a modern-day Sinead, singing dark songs drenched in loss and loneliness. Take a song like 2012’s “Smother,” that starts with, “I’m wasted, losing Time / I’m a foolish, fragile spine,” and ends with “I sometimes wish I’d stayed inside my mother / Never to come out.” How much bleaker can they get?

That lyrical bleakness is tempered by a dark power and broad dynamics — some songs start off with just Tonra and a keyboard, and quickly rise to a Mogwai-esque rock symphony. Drummer Remi Aguilella was amazing, pounded the kit with mallets, while guitarist Igor Haefeli rattled the rafters. Their performance was powered by a first-rate light show — a combination of spots and strobes and dense colors — gorgeous stuff.

While I listened I thought about all the ’90s British shoegaze acts I never saw perform live, and wondered if this was what they were like, and thought about how how fortunate I was to be able to see this band at the height of their powers.

* * *

A couple quick notes…

Last week Zipline Brewing announced that it is opening a new location in the old Saddle Creek Shop space next to The Slowdown and Film Streams. It’s not just the Creek shop, it’s also the old Saddle Creek warehouse space, so it’s actually pretty huge.

Saddle Creek used to be officed in the same space, but recently moved their offices back upstairs to a co-working space shared by Hear Nebraska and the folks from Maha Music Festival. All their warehouse stuff was moved off site to a different warehouse.

So now you’ll be able to buy booze at Slowdown, Tap Room, and Zipline. It’s like No Do is trying to compete with Benson, but with newer buildings. We’re beginning to see the vision for that part of town become reality, albeit almost 10 years after the Slowdown complex was built. Better late than never.

* * *


Milk Run

Did anyone else get a barrage of notices in their Facebook inbox this past weekend notifying them of people “rating” Milk Run? The fact that the tiny club is under new management might have something to do with it.

Milk Run made the announcement via Facebook yesterday. There are three new managers, while See Through Dresses’ Sara Bertuldo will continue to help book it along with Myer Stevens. Milk Run co-creator, Sam Parker, “will be stepping back from direct operations to pursue exciting new projects in the coming year,” according to the post. Parker also works at Hi-Fi House, which has hosted a steady slew of shows and events the past few weeks.

Hear Nebraska has a little more about the management changes here. If you haven’t been to a show at Milk Run, do yourself the favor. They’ve got a big one coming up this Friday night when Sad13 (Sadie from Speedy Ortiz) headlines with Mannequin Pussy and Vagabon. I’m actually surprised the show hasn’t sold out yet, considering the club’s limited capacity.

* * *

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: Feb. 16, 2005: Saddle Creek Records’ under-the-radar hidden gem…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 2:19 pm February 18, 2016
Son Ambulance circa 2005.

Son, Ambulance on a freezing midtown Omaha porch, circa 2005.

by Tim McMahan,

Crazy busy at the office this week. which is why I’ve been lax in doing updates. That, and the fact that nothing much is happening…

So this being Throwback Thursday, let’s take a stroll into the Lazy-i Wayback Machine to 11 years ago (almost to the day) to this interview with Son, Ambulance. As described in the lead paragraph, these were the sunny days of Saddle Creek Records when they could do no wrong, and lost in the hoopla was Son, Ambulance, who a year earlier had released what many consider to be their masterpiece, Key.

Son, Ambulance: Black Sheep Squadron

From Lazy-i, Feb. 16, 2005

Last year was a banner year for Saddle Creek Records. The label enjoyed its most prolific period, with major releases by The Faint, The Good Life and two chart-topping singles by Bright Eyes that would be a prelude to the band’s two full-length releases, the first-ever Saddle Creek CDs to crack Billboard‘s top 20.

Meanwhile, amidst all the excitement and national notoriety, Saddle Creek quietly released what was arguably one of the label’s best albums of ’04, Son, Ambulance’s Key, with little or no fanfare. There was no CD release show, no major U.S. tour, certainly no stories in Rolling Stone or the New York Times.

The lack of limelight was nothing new for Son, Ambulance, which has been Saddle Creek’s most under-the-radar band since their label debut, 2001’s Oh Holy Fools — a split-release with an emerging Bright Eyes.

Son, Ambulance frontman Joe Knapp was mum when asked about his black sheep status at the label. On an unseasonably warm January evening, he’s surrounded by his band — a rag-tag group of un-tucked slackers — on the porch of the Creighton-area house where they practice. Like a band of brothers, everyone speaks at once, each throwing in his two cents or finishing the other’s sentence. The discussion centered around their last tour and a drunken gig in Las Vegas on the 21st birthday of keyboard player Daniel Knapp, Joe’s brother.

“That was a wild night,” Joe says, smiling. “We drove to California to get to the ocean and watch the sun rise.”

“I just decided to get behind the wheel and drive,” said bassist Jesse McKelvey. “By the time everyone woke up, we were there.”

The birthday boy nodded in appreciation. “I had fallen asleep, obliterated. My ears popped as we drove through the mountains.” As the sun rose over the Pacific, they all fell asleep on the beach. It would be one of their last carefree moments on that tour. Days later, the broken-down ’87 Chevy conversion van that Joe had bought for $750 from an alcoholic gambler in Pacific Junction would begin to die piece by piece, beginning with the transmission in Oregon, forcing them to drive to Seattle in second gear. Afterward, the engine blew a seal and began “vomiting oil” before its last gasp somewhere along an Idaho interstate. They were saved by tour mates, Boston band Victory at Sea. At the very least, the experience made for a good story.

Rounded out by guitarist Dylan Strimple and drummer Corey Broman (who fortunately wasn’t along for the West Coast disaster) Son, Ambulance performs some of the most unrelenting and uncompromising music ever to come out of Omaha. How do they make it work? “It’s like going for a jog,” Joe says. “You just run and run and never stop.”

Key is a departure from Son, Ambulance’s restrained, folky debut full-length — 2001’s Euphemystic — thanks to the relentless urgency of its music. Knapp’s psychedelic ballads pound ever forward on Broman’s double-tap backbeats, Daniel Knapp’s ringing music-box keyboards and Joe’s breathy, pleading vocals that desperately try to convince us that everything will make sense if we just pay attention. Songs like the 7-minute “Sex in C Minor” and arch, dreamy “Chlorophyll” ruthlessly pedal forward, climbing steadily up a long hill with no peak in sight.

All that tension is balanced by laidback piano ballads like the Procol Harum-sounding “Case of You/Wrinkle, Wrinkle,” the mournful “If I Should Fall Asleep” with its Scottish highland violin intro, and the honky-tonkin’ rocker, “Taxi Cab Driver,” complete with a scorching blues guitar lick that would make Keith Richards blush.

The CD is launched by the dense, echoing opener, “Paper Snowflakes,” a track that captures all of the band’s best elements and rolls them into one tune that channels ’70s FM rock radio in all its brazen majesty. Despite the critics’ constant comparisons to Bright Eyes, Key and Son, Ambulance sound like nothing else on Saddle Creek’s varied roster.

Days after our porch discussion, Joe Knapp was more forthcoming when we talked privately via phone from his parents’ home in Ponca Hills, where he was spending time with his son, Neal, who inspired some of the music on the new album. Knapp doesn’t so much see Son, Ambulance as the label’s black sheep as much as the last remaining under-the-radar act that continues to struggle for attention while the rest of the Creek bands bask in a glow of appreciation.

“Saddle Creek is kind of like a big family, and in some ways we’re more of a distant cousin,” he said. “At least it feels that way. They appreciate our work and the music, but don’t give us a lot of help, really, other than, you know, great distribution and some help promoting the album. They’re getting used to Bright Eyes going gold. Why waste their time with us?”

But he quickly added that “that’s all business stuff.”

“That’s not what we’re in it for. We’re in it to make quality music and to express my soul to people. Our fans appreciate us, and that makes me realize that I’m touching people and being understood for what I do. In a sense, we belong on Saddle Creek because we’re a true underground kind of band.”

Maybe too underground. With a European tour slated for this spring, the band is struggling to merely acquire better equipment so that they can sound as good live as they do on disc. On top of that, Knapp says it’s time that they find a manager to take care of their day-to-day business. “Conor (Oberst) has a manager to turn down offers,” Knapp says. “In our case, we need someone to find things for us and raise interest in us.”

Should that happen, and should Key ever find a larger audience, Knapp says he could see Son, Ambulance go from being a part-time gig to a full-time job. Today he splits his time between the band, taking classes at UNO and working at Liberty Elementary School. “I could see it being a bigger part of my life,” he said. “I feel like it’s not ready to die yet, you know? I could see us doing this years from now, just quietly doing our thing.”

* * *

Well, they have been quietly doing their thing. Maybe too quietly, as the band hasn’t played live in quite a while. There was talk of a new album, but its status is unknown (to me, anyway). Son, Ambulance remains one of my favorite bands released on Saddle Creek Records, held like s secret among its fans. Here’s hoping some day a larger audience discovers the gold buried right under their noses.

* * *

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.


Jenny Lewis Rabbit Fur Tour gets tons of press; M’s Pub fundraiser, blét tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 2:08 pm February 3, 2016
Jenny Lewis with Rilo Kiley circa 2002.

Jenny Lewis with Rilo Kiley circa 2002.

by Tim McMahan,

With the 10-year anniversary of the release of Jenny Lewis’ solo debut, Rabbit Fur Coat, there has been a ton of stories written about the making of that record. Or at least a half dozen. Lewis is conducting a brief tour on which she’s playing the album in its entirety with help from M. Ward and the Watson Twins, who appeared on the original album.

All the stories mention Saddle Creek Records in the heyday. Ah yes, those indeed were the days.

This piece in today’s Village Voice is among the most comprehensive. From the story:

“Looking back, she admits that the making of the album took place during what felt like such an innocent time. (‘I think I had just gotten my cell phone,’ she half-jokes.) The idea of branching out and going solo never occurred to her until her friend (and former Saddle Creek labelmate) Conor Oberst (of Bright Eyes and Monsters of Folk fame) approached her about putting out an album on the new label he was launching, Team Love. ‘My first reaction was, “Are you crazy? I’m in a rock band!” but he persuaded me. I made it and had zero expectations.'”

Then there’s this piece in Noisey. where the interviewer says: “Omaha’s music community, at that time and even now, was so influential. Saddle Creek and everything that they were doing was pivotal for so many bands.”

Lewis responds: I’ve been really fortunate along the way to just have these guides and I’ve always been really afraid but when I get on stage I’m not afraid anymore, just getting there is terrifying. Conor, Ben Gibbard, Blake Sennett, and Ryan Adams… all of these guides, have just kind of pushed me out there, pushed me beyond what I thought I was capable of doing. Each era is defined by a guide in a way.

The LA Times piece had Lewis uttering these words: “Glenn Frey is my David Bowie.”

Then there’s the piece in New York Magazine, which includes this gem (which isn’t a quote from Lewis): “I was a junior in high school the year that Rilo Kiley was like squatting in Omaha, and so many girls would get flustered seeing her out in the wild. She was always surrounded by the hot Saddle Creek guys.”

The hot Saddle Creek guys.

My first interview with Jenny Lewis was back in 2002 when Saddle Creek was releasing Rilo Kiley’s Execution of All Things, where she recapped her first Saddle Creek connection:

“We met Tim Kasher (Cursive, The Good Life) at a show in San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall,” Lewis said. “We were headed to Iowa for a gig and he invited us to join their caravan as they traveled cross-country.”

The Saddle Creek sound wasn’t a mystery to Lewis. “We had bought a copy of Bright Eyes’ Fevers and Mirrors a year before, so we were already fans of the music,” Lewis said. “We decided to record our next CD at Presto! and work with Saddle Creek because of the creative freedom we knew they’d offer.”

Ah, those were the days. Despite her nostalgia for Omaha, the 10-year Rabbit Fur tour doesn’t include an Omaha tour stop.

* * *

The Waiting Room is hosting a benefit tonight for M’s Pub employees (the iconic Old Market restaurant burned down last month) featuring performances by Kait Berreckman, Brad Hoshaw, Michael Campbell, Matt Whipkey, The Matt Cox Band and All Young Girls Are Machine Guns. Admission is $10 and all proceeds will go to the employees from M’s Pub and The Market House. Show starts at 8 p.m.

Also tonight, O’Leaver’s is hosting blét, Iowa indie band Dagmar and Goedes. $5, 9:30 p.m.

* * *

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: Sorry About Dresden from 2003; Dark Seas, Pony Farm tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:58 pm July 9, 2015

by Tim McMahan,

What ever happened to Sorry About Dresden?

Turns out Let It Rest, which brought them to Omaha in 2003, would be the band’s swan song, though according to Wiki they released a 7-inch split with The Jaguar Drop in 2006 and contributed to a Guided by Voices tribute album in 2011. They also contributed to a 2004 Will Oldham tribute album. The last update at their official website is dated Feb. 19, 2008. And then there’s this YouTube video, also from 2008. The only member who appears to have remained active musically is James Hepler, who joined I Was Totally Destroying It. That band’s most recent EP, Blood on the Beach, came out in 2013 on Greyday Records.

Dresden’s more tuneful emo-indie style never caught on in a big way, though they’re among my favorites from the early Saddle Creek Records days. So on this Throwback Thursday, from July 9, 2003…

Sorry About Dresden takes flight circa 2003.

Sorry About Dresden takes flight circa 2003.

Sorry About Dresden: Rooting for the Home Team

July 9, 2003 –

“I don’t think you can ever really escape Omaha, and I mean that both in a good way and a bad way,” says Sorry About Dresden guitarist / vocalist Matt Oberst.

Somehow, the Omaha native has managed to escape the confines of the city itself, relocating to North Carolina seven years ago, along with former SAD bassist Matt Tomich (we’ll explain the “former” comment in a minute) to become a teacher as well as part of the then-burgeoning N.C. music scene.

Oberst says his Omaha roots influence his approach to music and the business. “People who leave Omaha still have this home-team ethic going for them, which is stronger than in any other community,” he said. “When they find out that a band has connections to Omaha, they just want to help them out.”

It was an Omaha connection that helped draw Tomich and Oberst together. The two first talked about forming Sorry About Dresden at a January 1997 Commander Venus concert (a band in which Oberst’s brother, Conor, sang lead) in Chapel Hill. Tomich introduced Oberst to drummer James Hepler and guitarist/vocalist Eric Roehrig, both North Carolina natives. Six months later, the four played their first gig at a local club.

So is Tomich’s recent decision to leave the band a shock? Not really, Oberst said. “Matt turned 30 and decided he’d rather do other things than drive around in a van and be in the same bar in a different city every night,” he said. “I’m telling people he’s pursuing a solo acting career.”

Oberst said Tomich felt that the timing was right for his departure. With the tour that brings SAD to Sokol Underground July 15, the band will have finished crossing the country supporting their most recent release, Let It Rest. “That means we’ll be taking a little time off to work on new songs,” Oberst said. “I don’t think we’ll be touring in earnest again until next spring.”

Stepping in at bass is Finn Cohen, an old friend of the band and former guitarist for The White Octave. “Hopefully he’ll want to become a full-fledged member,” Oberst said. “With his songwriting skills, he would bring a whole lot to the band.”

But can anyone ever really replace Tomich? Oberst says the band lost more than a bass player, they lost a figurehead. “He’s one of those people who knows someone in every city,” Oberst said. “We’d be in a subway in New York City and someone would walk up to him and say, ‘Matt, is that you?’ He’s the figurehead that everyone knows, and in that sense, it’s sad that he’s leaving.”

With Let It Rest, Tomich goes out on a high note. Released earlier this year as the follow-up to their Saddle Creek Records debut, the CD perfectly melds bone-jarring, over-the-top indie rock with the band’s fist-pumping anthem style. The sound is more-varied than earlier releases, constantly straddling that fine line between punk and pop.

“We do ‘abrasive’ very well, but we can’t do the Sonic Youth ‘interesting noise’ thing for very long. That’s not our strength as a band.” Oberst said. “You can sit and strum most Sorry About Dresden songs on acoustic guitar. They have that singer/songwriter structure. We take those pretty pop songs and, at times, tear them up. We destroy what we build. I like the freedom of having those sing-along anthems right along with the quiet songs.”

SAD also has the distinction of being one of the more uplifting acts on a label that has its share of stark, angry bands. Oberst says he and Roehrig approach songwriting like putting together a collection of short stories rather than the more thematic approach taken by bands such as Cursive.

“My perspective is very skewed,” he said. “The first band I was in was with Tim Kasher and Matt Maginn. I grew up with Conor and listening to Norman Bailer which became The Faint. I’ve watched as all the bands on the label have sort of grown into their voice. They are coming into their own to do what they do very well.”

He said being lumped in with such a group of high-quality song writers is a distinct advantage. “Being on Saddle Creek, you can call up a club and they will book you immediately. It’s great,” he said. “To some degree, we’ll always be the new band on Saddle Creek because we’re not part of that core Holy Trinity. In that sense, people’s opinions of us are stronger one way or another than they would be if we were on a different label. There’s a set of preconceptions people have about you due to the label and who you are. You’re constantly asked if you’ve lived up to your potential.”

But maybe the biggest advantage to being on Saddle Creek, Oberst said, is working with people you know and trust. “We have a record label we can call up and deal with as friends, not some monolithic organization,” he said. “It’s nice to be part of that family.”

–Lazy-i, July 9, 2003

* * *

A few shows happening tonight.

SLC drug/surf-rock band Dark Seas headlines at Midtown Art Supply, 2578 Harney St. Joining them are local bands Black Finger Cult (Brian Tait among them) and Calm Fur.  This is listed as a 7 p.m. show, $5.

Also tonight Brooklyn’s Pony Farm opens for White Wolf T-Shirt and Buffalo Sex Change at The Barley Street Tavern. $5, 9 p.m.

And the Under the Radar Festival continues. Tonight it’s at The Joslyn, Bancroft Street Market and House of Loom. Details and schedule here.

* * *

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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Saddle Creek to reissue Good Life, Maria Taylor; Big Harp to Fat Possum?; Lazy-i Podcast Ep. 3; new Two Gallants; Doomtree tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:52 pm March 4, 2015
Check out the Good Life reissues...

Check out the Good Life reissues…

by Tim McMahan,

Saddle Creek is dipping into its rather enormous back catalog again, this time to dish out reissues of early Good Life and Maria Taylor albums. From the press release:

We are excited to announce that The Good Life’s first three LPs and two accompanying albums of demos will be issued on vinyl April 7. Novena on a Nocturn is available for the first time ever on vinyl, Black Out is back in print for the first time in over a decade, and Album of the Year has been expanded to 2xLP in gatefold packaging. Also available is the never-before released Novena on a Nocturn demos and the never before released on vinyl Album of the Year demos, both Saddle Creek Online Store exclusives.

Then there’s the Maria Taylor stuff:

On April 18 (a.k.a. Record Store Day) Maria Taylor’s first two solo records will be available for the first time ever on vinyl — 11:11 on opaque light blue vinyl, and Lynn Teeter Flower on transparent gold vinyl.

In addition, Cursive’s The Ugly Organ (Deluxe Edition) [Remastered] vinyl is back in stock. To order any or all of the above, go to the Saddle Creek online store.

* * *

Did Big Harp jump the Saddle Creek Records ship? This today in Spin: “After two very good albums with Omaha-based Saddle Creek, (Big Harp has) moved to Fat Possum to release their newest single ‘It’s A Shame.” Check out the track below.

* * *

Speaking of Saddle Creek ex-patriots, Two Gallants shared a new video for the track “Incidental” from the band’s fifth studio album We Are Undone, out now on ATO Records. Two Gallants is playing at Reverb April 22.

* * *

Episode 3 of the Lazy-i Podcast went online this morning. The weekly recap includes a brief interview with Matthew Sweet, new music by Icky Blossoms, Simon Joyner and Bloodcow, info on the No Coast Music Festival and live reviews and recordings from last weekend’s Shy Boys and J Fernandez performances at Almost Music. Plus: The best shows happening this coming weekend. Check it out here.

* * *

Tonight at The Waiting Room Doomtree returns to Omaha for the first time since their Maha Music Festival performance last summer. The band is touring behind their latest full-length, All Hands, out now on Doomtree Records. Opening is Busdriver & Transit. $15, 9 p.m.

* * *

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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Winter screwed my weekend; is vinyl a ‘fad’ or here to stay?; Pono sound challenge…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 2:36 pm February 2, 2015

recordsby Tim McMahan,

I spent all day yesterday cooped up in my house watching bad pre-Super Bowl television and playing Trivia Crack on my phone. That’s the extent of my weekend. It wasn’t a total loss. I did score some very fine original artwork created by Brian Tait, which I spent the daylight hours hanging. Tait’s the guy that runs Midtown Art Supply. He also makes great art, including the large, giant possum painting I’m looking at over my shoulder right now.

But what does any of this have to do with music? Maybe this:

Last Friday AV Club published this bit of click-bait called “Vinyl is just a fad, record executives say.” The piece compiled quotes from RCA Records president Tom Corson and Universal Music Distribution general manager Candace Berry pooh-poohing the recent jump in vinyl sales (up 52 percent last year, while digital sales dropped 12.5 percent).

Among the executives interviewed for the story was Saddle Creek Records exec Robb Nansel. Says Nansel about vinyl in the story, “It’s always going to be a niche…Not to be negative about it, but I feel like it’s going to peak, if it hasn’t already.

Turns out the AV Club story is merely a rehash of this more detailed Rolling Stone article, and the AV Club writer left out the rest of the Nansel’s quote, which was:  “From a label perspective, it’s expensive. You’ve got to ship it. There are environmental concerns. But we love vinyl. It’s our preferred format.

Robb’s “niche” comment sounded eerily like one of my 2015 predictions, which went something like: “The vinyl craze will slow, this after a year that saw 49 percent increase in U.S. vinyl sales vs. 2013 numbers. The growth will level off as younger music fans refuse to embrace a medium they see as an interesting but inconvenient gimmick that costs twice as much (or more) than what they pay to download the same album (if they pay at all).

Both my comments and Nansel’s raised the eyebrow of Homer’s general manager Mike Fratt. Fratt said (on his Facebook timeline) that the AV Club article caused him to spit out his drink in laughter. In response to my 2015 prediction, Fratt emailed me saying. “Vinyl is still on the way up and we don’t anticipate a peak until 2017 or 2018. 16 to 24 year olds make up 22 percent of the vinyl buying public. This means they will remain invested in the format for another 10 years until they start getting married and have babies which can curtail music/purchases/discretionary items.

Fratt went on: “Right now vinyl pressing plants cannot meet demand so as more come on line this year sales will continue to increase. Also, less than 100 indie stores report sales to Soundscan, so actual sales are WAY under-represented. Soundscan reports 6 million; (the) real number is over 10 million. This holiday season we sold more turntables than the last three years combined and reports are there is no stock to replenish stores as they sold so well everywhere this holiday season. I believe three or more vinyl titles sold over 100,000 units in 2014. Pretty amazing.

Amazing indeed. Only time will tell who’s right in predicting the future of vinyl. The only thing I have on my side of the argument is personal experience. The few 20-somethings I’ve spoken to who aren’t already vinyl collectors find the idea of acquiring a turntable amusing. They love listening to music, not collecting it. And believe me, there is a distinction.

As a 40-something guy, I grew up with vinyl, switched to CDs, bought a click-wheel iPod and now subscribe to Spotify. That said, when I buy music (and not rent it), I almost exclusively buy vinyl, and then download the album via a digital key that comes in the package. I doubt I’m alone. But then again, I’ve always been a collector, as evidenced by the bookshelves filled with comic books and albums, drawers filled with CDs and the local art hanging on my walls (like those amazing Taits). For many, collecting vinyl is like a fetishist activity — just ask the dudes standing in line outside of Homer’s on Record Store Day.

Where do I listen to the vast majority of my music? On my iPhone, while I’m running, shopping, working. I rarely listen to the vinyl copies of new albums more than a few times because I’m never sitting where my turntable is located very long (unless I’m writing, in which case, I don’t have music on at all). I think that could be the case for most people, especially those who work in an office or go to school. If you want to listen to music during the day, you probably have to take it with you. It’s that necessity that will limit vinyl to a collectors’ market.

I hope I’m wrong; I hope Fratt is right. I’d like nothing more than to see vinyl sales continue to grow, and believe me Nansel would like to see that, too.

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Speaking of music portability, Yahoo! Tech shoots holes in Neil Young’s PonoPlayer High Definition music device, saying it lost in a blind taste test vs. a regular ol’ iPhone. A summary is here at 9-to-5 Mac, that says: “For the blind trial, Pogue assembled 15 people aged 17 to 55, asking them to flip between three songs on the iPhone and PonoPlayer, each song in the device’s best resolution. In separate tests using ‘standard Apple earbuds’ and Sony MDR-7506 headphones, more people preferred the iPhone to ‘Pono’ or ‘neither.’

Interesting. Reminds me of all the articles comparing vinyl to digital. In the end, can anyone but those with the most expensive audio equipment tell a difference in sound quality?

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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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Saddle Creek signs Philly band Hop Along, Twinsmith; Halloween w/ Noah’s Ark, See Through Dresses; Orenda Fink Saturday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 1:15 pm October 31, 2014
Hop Along joins the Saddle Creek Records stable...

Hop Along joins the Saddle Creek Records stable…

by Tim McMahan,

I was out of touch all day yesterday at meetings and stuff, but I did see the message from Saddle Creek that went out announcing the label signed Philly band Hop Along. I’m listening to the band now on Spotify (or at least I think I am). And I like what I’m hearing. Very indie-sounding. Almost post punk. Breathy female vocals. Kind of reminds me of Helium, Mary Timony’s old band, though it’s more upbeat. Not a hint of mandolin or pedal steel or anything that could be mistaken for alt-folk or alt-country. Like I said, me likee.

Let’s be honest, that alt-country/alt-folk label is more of a Nebraska thing than a Saddle Creek thing. Icky Blossoms, PUJOL, Twinsmith have nothing to do with alt country. Sure, Rural Alberta Advantage gets lumped in with the alt-country-folk thing but even they are far from country. (And I don’t want this to come off as me hating on alt-folk/alt-country/Americana, we just have a lot of it around here and most of it is pretty boring).

Data from Creek: “Hop Along will enter the studio this week to begin work on their Saddle Creek debut, which will be produced by John Agnello (Kurt Vile, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., etc) and released in the Spring of 2015.”

The band’s last album, 2012’s Get Disowned, was released in the U.S. on Hot Green Records (It was apparently the label’s fourth release?) and overseas via East London label Big Scary Monsters Records, who counts among their roster Cursive.

More trivia: The band’s singer, Frances Quinlan joined Weezer on stage in Philadelphia at The Trocadero last weekend to sing “Go Away” with Rivers Cuomo and company.

It’s a pretty exciting signing for Saddle Creek and the first non-Omaha band that they’ve signed in years that I’m looking forward to hearing live. Hopefully they’ll come to Omaha some day.

Also announced yesterday was probably the local scene’s worst kept secret: That Twinsmith has been signed by Saddle Creek. Everyone knew this was a done deal for awhile.

Sayeth Creek: “This fall the band hit the studio with Brandon Darner and Luke Pettipoole of The Envy Corps to record their sophomore effort and first full-length on Saddle Creek. You’ll be able to hear the results in Spring of 2015.” Will rock stardom ensue? Time will tell…

Check out some Hop Along below:

I talk to people all the time who hate St. Patrick’s Day. They call it “amateur night” and so on, and that’s fine. I love St. Patrick’s Day, but what did you expect? Just look at my name.

Well the kind of venom people spew for St. Patty’s is what I feel for the adult-version of Halloween. I get how folks like to dress up and put on make-up, but costumes just ain’t my bag, and if you have to wear one to see the show, well, I guess I’m staying home.

But you shouldn’t. Especially considering who’s playing tonight.

Reverb’s got a first-clash bash happening tonight headlined by Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship with See Through Dresses and the always entertaining Darren Keen. I’m hearing STDs are doing an all-cover set. No idea if this is a costume-optional gig (but it probably is). Who knows, I might drop in dressed as Painfully Awkward Robb Lowe. $8, 9 p.m.

Tonight’s gig at The Brothers, on the other hand, is a straight-up costume bash. On the bill is Omaha’s newest stoner rock sensations Nightbird along with Blowing Chunks and Lincoln’s Ron Wax (Ron Albertson ex-Mercy Rule, ex-Liars). $5, 9 p.m.

And of course the masquerade will be happening at fabulous O’Leaver’s tonight, hosted by Members of the Press, who go on at 11. $5.

November starts tomorrow. Celebrate with Orenda Fink as she headlines at The Slowdown. Joining her are New York band Matteah Baim And The LCs (Kobalt / Dream Drive) and our very own Anna McClellan. $8, 9 p.m.

Also Saturday night, 24 Hour Cardlock headlines at O’Leaver’s with The Pink Flamingos and Dirty River Ramblers (yee-haw!). $5, 9:30 p.m.

And Edge of Arbor (Jessica Errett’s band) is celebrating a CD release at Reverb Saturday night. Joining them are The Derby Birds and Tara Vaughan Band. $7, 9 p.m.

Have a happy Halloween…

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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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


The final SXSW recap (in The Reader); Saddle Creek consortium re-ups with ADA; Alex McManus does Hitchcock, Conchance insurance tonight…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:56 pm March 20, 2014
Conchance performs tonight at The Slowdown.

Conchance performs tonight at The Slowdown.

by Tim McMahan,

The final word on this year’s South By Southwest conference/festival in this week’s issue of The Reader. It includes summaries of my favorite performances from Coachwhips, Protomartyr, Future Islands, Twinsmith, Eros and the Eschaton, Destruction Unit, Eagulls, Mark Kozelek and more. Check it out in the printed edition, which also includes a ton o’ pics by yours truly. You can also read it online at right here.

The Reader‘s coverage also includes Chris Aponick’s take on SXSW’s sights, sounds and smells (Over the course of the week, I smelled dope smoke more often than cigarette smoke. Have they legalized it in Austin already?). Chris spent a lot of time at Beerland (as he always does), and also gives his perspective on Trust, Perfume Genius, Coachwhips, Charli XCX, Perfect Pussy, Burger Records and more. It’s online here.

Over the past few days I’ve been reading a lot of SXSW dissing, mostly by people who have never been there. Fine. I get that you don’t need to take a bite out of a shit sandwich to know it tastes bad (probably). And anyone who tells you SXSW is anything more than an industry boondoggle is feeding you some of the above. That said, if you go to SXSW simply to listen to music, you’d have to try pretty hard not to have fun.

As for performers/bands, well, my heart goes out to them. It’s expensive and it’s a hassle — there’s nothing like seeing a very tired-looking band hump gear through the 6th Street chaos. And then wonder if the cost/hassle was worth it. Most bands I’ve interviewed who have gone to SXSW told me nothing ever came of their performance. I think if you’re only playing once during the festival, you’ll be overlooked. The bands that make the biggest mark — that get noticed — play at least eight times during the week. Fans/journalists/industry gimps are bound to notice your name when it shows up over and over on the SXSW master schedule — and then wonder “Who the hell are these guys?” But if you’re in a brand new band, the chances of getting multiple showcases/sets during SXSW are slim and none.

Dan Scheuerman of Deleted Scenes posted an honest perspective at Hear Nebraska that’s worth your attention (read it here). His summary, “..only a statistically insignificant percentage of bands who play SXSW get discovered, and for the rest, it’s just a good excuse to hang out and enjoy a little bit of springtime before anyone else.” No doubt.

Now that should be the last word on SXSW 2014…

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Super-indie consortium Independent Distribution Cooperative (IDC), which consists of Saddle Creek Records, Merge, Beggers, Domino and Secretly Canadian, resigned a physical distribution deal with Alternative Distribution Alliance (ADA), according to this article.

ADA is an arm of Warner Music Group. According to the article, “As part of the deal, ADA will continue to provide physical distribution services to major brick-and-mortar chain accounts for the consortium of labels and their distributed labels too. ADA will also sell select indie accounts on a non-exclusive basis, meaning that the labels can also sell directly to indie accounts too.

The rather convoluted article also mentions that IDC has negotiated for digital distribution, but isn’t clear what that means for the labels. The take-away for me is that these indies continue to work together to keep their product stocked in your local record stores. Wonder what they could accomplish if all five labels merged into one major label?

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Film Streams’ Hitchcock 9 Silents in Concert Repertory Series continues tonight. It features the silent films of Alfred Hitchcock brought to life sonically by live musicians. Tonight it’s the 1927 film The Ring featuring live music by Alex McManus (The Bruces), Aaron Markley and Daniel Ocanto. Tickets are $12 general; $10 students and $8 for Film Streams members. The curtain rises at 7 p.m. Find out more here. If you haven’t been to one of these, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

Also tonight, Conchance and Rock Paper Dynamite perform at the Rock Enroll showcase at The Slowdown. The free event will provide information about how to get health insurance coverage as the March 31 deadline looms. Music starts at 9.

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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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.