Digital Leather, Plack Blague, Esme Patterson, Simon Joyner tonight; Big Al continues; Derby Birds Saturday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:46 pm April 24, 2015
A frightening still from Plack Blague's 2014 video for "Boyz Club." The Blague plays tonight at O'Leaver's with Digital Leather.

A frightening still from Plack Blague’s 2014 video for “Boyz Club.” The Blague plays tonight at O’Leaver’s with Digital Leather.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

They’re calling it “The Leather Invasion.” Tonight Digital Leather returns to fabulous O’Leaver’s. On the heels of this week’s album announcement (and a brief tour that brought them to Austin), you can probably expect these guys to be playing new material from the forthcoming FDH release All Faded, out June 23. DL is opening (or so it seems) for the infamous Plack Blague, who must be seen and heard to be believed. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Also Friday night Simon Joyner opens for Denver singer/songwriter Esme Patterson at the Reverb Lounge. Patterson, who also is a member of Denver band Paper Bird, is touring in support of her new album, Woman to Woman (Greater Than), of which The New York Times said: “Her voice is wiry and candid, backed by arrangements that roll along the folk-country borderline.”  Also on the bill is Sean Pratt and the Sweats. $10, 9 p.m.

And don’t forget that Big Al’s Free Music Festival continues tonight and tomorrow night at The Hideout, 320 So. 72nd St. Admission is a can of food (it’s a food drive) and it starts at 8 p.m. Details and Friday and Saturday’s schedule are here.

Saturday night it’s back to O’Leaver’s for Derby Birds with Roxi Copland. $5, 9:30 p.m.

That’s what I got. If I missed your show, put it in the comments section. Have a great weekend.

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If you haven’t already, check out this week’s Lazy-i Podcast. The 20-minute program features music by Wagon Blasters, Soft Moon, Blue Bird, Ladyfinger and music and an interview with Super Ghost, along with my picks for the best shows this weekend. Check it out below:

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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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Simon Joyner, Outlaw Con Bandana; New Desa out June 23; Dead Sara tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:53 pm April 6, 2015
Simon Joyner and The Ghosts at Slowdown Jr., April 4, 2015.

Simon Joyner and The Ghosts at Slowdown Jr., April 4, 2015.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Simon Joyner never looked more relaxed, more within his element than on the Slowdown Jr. stage Saturday night playing his new music with that band. It was Joyner at his finest singing sad songs to a big crowd of fans and friends and people who have seen and heard him play (in some cases) for more than 20 years.

This version of the Ghosts (his backing band) was as solid as they come. They sounded road-hardened even though they haven’t been touring lately. Among the standouts was guitarist Jim Schroeder, whose muscular style added tension both in his chopping accompaniment and his brazen solos, countered only by Mike Friedman on pedal steel.

Joyner played mainly songs off his new album, Grass, Branch & Bone, all of which already sound like standards to these ears. People are saying it’s the best album he’s ever made, and maybe they’re right. This is the first time I’ve felt that songs from one of his albums could be used in a movie soundtrack or would fit into rotation on a radio station — very likely not something that Joyner was shooting for when he make the album, but wouldn’t it be a kick in the head?

Outlaw Con Bandana at Slowdown Jr., April 4, 2015.

Outlaw Con Bandana at Slowdown Jr., April 4, 2015.

Opening was Outlaw Con Bandana — Brendan Hagberg and Pearl Lovejoy Boyd — playing earthy folk songs with Hagberg either on banjo or acoustic guitar. He’s a throwback performer, a throwback songwriter to a folk style of an earlier time, updated lyrically with stories from his life. It’s the kind of music where you’ll find yourself listening and remembering stories from your own past.

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Desaparecidos finally announced that their next album, Payola, comes out June 23 on Epitaph. The band released a new track, “City on the Hill,” as part of the announcement. The song, below, feature’s Cursive’s Tim Kasher. Album pre-orders can be made here.

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Tonight at The Waiting Room is the band that Omaha World-Herald music writer Kevin Coffey declared as his favorite act from this year’s South By Southwest Festival — Dead Sara. (I never caught them when I was in Austin). Opening is Wans and Freakabout. $15, 8 p.m.

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Reception will be spotty this week at Lazy-i central as I’ll be on the road. There may or may not be updates (but there probably will be). your best bet is too keep checking back, over and over again…

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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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Foxygen, Oquoa; Whirr tonight; Simon Joyner release show, Swearing at Motorists, Sons of Reverb Saturday…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:49 pm April 3, 2015
Foxygen at The Waiting Room, April 3, 2015.

Foxygen at The Waiting Room, April 2, 2015.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Foxygen was hysterically entertaining last night at The Waiting Room, and by that I mean the band played as if every single member had snorted a Hefty garbage bag filled with Peruvian marching powder prior to the set.

Whirling dervishes one and all, but especially frontman Sam France, who came off like an ultra-glam cross between David Bowie and Mick Jaggar (with a smattering of Iggy Pop thrown in for good measure). Over-the-top energy. To say the band played full-on would be a vast understatement. On fire. Yes. And nothing close to what I was expecting having heard their last two (and only two) albums, which ooze slacker disdain. There was nothing slacker about last night.

Playing as an 9-piece (keys, bass, two guitars, vocals, drums, three back-up singers in spangles and spandex) the band barged through a set that epitomized ’70s glam with hints of psychedelic and Motown. The end product was like an indie version of Hedwig and the Angry Inch spot-welded to Jim Steinham / Meat Loaf by way of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Vamping was a key ingredient, along with synchronized dance steps and multiple costume changes.

The frenzy of the manic stage show was only eclipsed by the unceasing drive of the exhaustingly energetic music — a night-and-day contrast to the low-key noodling heard on …And Star Power, their latest album which can be rather…challenging to listen to. The Internet is filled with stories about how this band is either already broken up (and this is their farewell tour) or are in the process of dismantling. You wouldn’t know it by watching last night’s spectacle, which will very likely will be among my top-5 favorite shows of ’15. Here’s hoping all the break-up drama is merely that, and that Foxygen keeps it going, With a show like this, Broadway is calling.

Alex Cameron at The Waiting Room, April 2, 2015.

Alex Cameron at The Waiting Room, April 2, 2015.

Before Foxygen it was one-man Aussie sensation Alex Cameron and sax player Roy. The shtick is Cameron looking and dancing like Talking Heads’ David Byrne and singing like Bryan Ferry to pre-recorded ’80s-flavored beat tracks. Shades of Andy Kaufman, amusing and (somewhat) mesmerizing, though it wore a bit thin after 15 minutes. Cameron’s a funny dude in a Flight of the Conchords sort of way. The crowd didn’t know what to make of him, but he won them over in the end.

Oquoa at The Waiting Room, April 2, 2015.

Oquoa at The Waiting Room, April 2, 2015.

Opening the night with a strong set (though to a half-empty room) was Omaha’s own Oquoa. I hadn’t seen these guys in at least a year and was pleasantly surprised at how their sound has evolved. Frontman Max Holmquist has added more drama to his voice (and these new songs), sounding like Paul Banks fronting a shoegaze version of Interpol.

Oquoa has been compared to Lewis’ former band Conduits, a comparison that no longer fits thanks to Patrick Newbery’s spaced-out keys, which are prominent in the mix. The band’s core sound is now drums, bass, keyboards and Holmquist’s siren voice (His electric guitar was all but unheard in the mix). The product, especially on the set closer, was haunting and harrowing. The only nit I have to pick is that (as with Conduits) I couldn’t tell you what a single song was about as the words were virtually undecipherable, with all annunciation lost in the delay. When it comes to this kind of music, do the words really matter anyway?

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Let’s get right to the weekend lineup:

Tonight Whirr (Graveface Records) plays at fabulous O’Leaver’s. The band’s shoegaze sound has been compared to My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive. Opening is Fort Collins band Sour Boy, Bitter Girl and Those Far Out Arrows. $7, 9:30 p.m.

Also tonight, Timecat celebrates the release of their debut album Living in the Dark at The Reverb Lounge. Also on the bill are Eric in Outerspace, Lover’s Speed and Feral Hands. $5, 9 p.m.

BTW, It’s first Friday in Benson. Start looking for parking now.

One other show going on tonight worth your attention: Metal/punk band Cult Leader plays at the very cool Midtown Art Supply, 2578 Harney. Joining them are Varmint, Survive Us All and Omaha’s sludgemeisters Nightbird. $7, 8 p.m.

Saturday night is the Simon Joyner Album Release Show at Slowdown Jr. Opening for Simon and his band are Outlaw Con Bandana and L. Eugene Methe. Tix are $8 today and $10 tomorrow. If you haven’t already, listen to this sweet interview with Simon Joyner from this week’s Lazy-i Podcast. Simon talks about his voice, his music and where he finds the characters that inhabit his songs.

Also happening Saturday night, Swearing at Motorists celebrate its 20th Anniversary Tour at O’Leaver’s with Burger Records band DTCV and Peace of Shit. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Also Saturday The Sons of Reverb play at The Reverb Lounge with Left Is West. $7, 9 p.m.

And yet one more show in Benson Saturday night: Relax, It’s Science plays at The Sydney with The Clocks and Laika the Space Bitch. $5, 9 p.m.

That’s what I got. If I missed your show, put it in the comments section. Have a good weekend…

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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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Lazy-i Podcast: Simon Joyner on making memories into music; Commander Venus tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:45 pm April 1, 2015

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

The weekly Lazy-i Podcast went online at thereader.com this morning. This episode features an interview with Simon Joyner about what inspired the stories he tells in the songs on his new record, Grass, Branch & Bone (Woodsist, 2015), which came out yesterday. We also talk about the nature of his voice and how he uses it, both on this recording and in the past. Simon celebrates the album release Saturday at Slowdown Jr.

Also in this week’s podcast, a recitation of the live reviews posted Monday backed by audio clips recorded at the performances (Little Brazil, Juan Wauters, Matthew Sweet and So-So Sailors). And the line-up for this weekend’s best shows. Listen below:

I’ve been fiddling with the format of these podcasts, trying to make them shorter, and turned around this week and produced the longest one yet at around 23 minutes. Couldn’t be avoided. No doubt next week’s will be lengthy as well as I’m contemplating doing the 1st Quarter 2015 CD Reviews roundup in podcast form. Yikes.

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I was going to lead with this but it already has spread via social media. Work on Conor Oberst’s so-called “secret project” has finally leaked, and what I thought would never happen happens tonight at O’Leaver’s — a reunion of Commander Venus. We all know the hold-out was never Oberst, but Saddle Creek Records exec Robb Nansel. Well, looks like Nansel’s on board (finally). Why they’re unveiling this at O’Leaver’s is a mystery, as the place will be at capacity by 6 p.m. for a show that won’t get rolling until at least 11 (let’s hope those storms don’t roll in early tonight). More info here.

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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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

New Joyner track streamed; new LPs coming from Higgins, See Through Dresses, Mountain Goats; Whipkey love…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:56 pm January 21, 2015

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Lots of release news today…

Simon Joyner, Grass, Branch & Bone (Woodsist, 2015)

Simon Joyner, Grass, Branch & Bone (Woodsist, 2015)

“You Got Under My Skin,” the first track off Simon Joyner’s upcoming album, Grass, Branch & Bone, is being streamed via Stereogum today (right here). The album comes out on Woodsist Records on St. Patrick’s Day. Pre-order your copy here. You won’t regret it.

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Dereck Higgins, Myths...Realities (DHV, 2015)

Dereck Higgins, Myths…Realities (DHV, 2015)

Dereck Higgins’ follow-up to last year’s Murphy LP is titled Myths…Realities and is being co-produced with KiNETiK Records (Greece). The collection is archival material, most of it never released. Preorder your copy of this limited-run release here.

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See Through Dresses, self-titled (This Charming Man, 2015)

See Through Dresses, self-titled (This Charming Man, 2015)

Preorders are being taken here for the European release of See Through Dresses’ self-titled LP on German label This Charming Man Records. The record drops in late March.

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In non-local music news, The Mountain Goats today announced they’ve got a new album coming out April 7 on Merge called Beat the Champ, which is about professional wrestling. “I wrote these songs to re-immerse myself in the blood and fire of the visions that spoke to me as a child, and to see what more there might be in them now that I’m grown,” said head goat John Darnielle. Check out the first track from the album, below.

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Rock NYC has written a love letter to Matt Whipkey in the form of a glowing review of his upcoming album, Underwater, calling Matt “Omaha’s best export since Conor Oberst.” Read the review here and check out Matt’s latest video, below.

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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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

A traveling we will go…; Voting is Cool (Orenda Fink, Simon Joyner, more) Wednesday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 11:01 am October 13, 2014
Voting Is Cool, featuring Orenda Fink and Simon Joyner, is Wednesday night at The Slowdown.

Voting Is Cool, featuring Orenda Fink and Simon Joyner, is Wednesday night at The Slowdown.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I’m off to Chicago for a few days of bizness, but there’s not much going on around here show-wise anyway.

I’ll be back in time for the big Voting Is Cool concert at The Slowdown Wednesday night, a free gig brought to you by ballothero.com. Performers include Orenda Fink, Simon Joyner, Sean Pratt, Anna McClellan and Edem. Show starts at 8 p.m.

This is turning out to be a very strange voting season. The more you know, the better off you’ll be before you enter the voting booth (and you will enter the voting booth, right?).

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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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

New Simon Joyner digital-only release; For Against in Pitchfork (7.8); Sleigh Bells tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:47 pm April 22, 2014

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Here’s another way to generate gas money for your next tour…

Simon Joyner and the Ghosts are releasing what they’re calling their Gas Fund Tour Exclusive Recordings to generate quick cash for their upcoming tour.

Joyner writes (via his Facebook page) that the band (as a trio) has “been recording our rehearsals to Tascam 4-track in preparation for this West Coast/Mountain West tour with Wooden Wand and we’re assembling a collection of 10 songs for those interested in supporting the tour who unfortunately cannot see any of the shows.”

The American West is vast and costs a fortune in gas to conquer, says Joyner, “so consider pitching $10 or more into our gas fund via Paypal (simon@simonjoyner.net) and receive a link via email to 10 selected songs.

Links to the tracks will go out to donors before the band leaves April 30, and also will be available (via donation) throughout the tour.

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For Against Box Set (2014, Captured Tracks)

For Against Box Set (2014, Captured Tracks)

Last week the arbiters of all things hipster at Pitchfork reviewed the For Against Box Set (2014, Captured Tracks), giving it a whopping 7.8. Impressive.

The review (read it here) concludes with: “They deserve recognition for their early-adapter approach to post-punk, as well as for sticking with it until and after everyone finally came around. Most importantly, though, these albums just sound great, as this box set represents a band hearing something from somewhere else and doing something specific and unique with it.

The box collects the band’s first two full-lengths, 1987’s Echelons, 1988’s December, and the 1990 10″ In the Marshes, originally out via Independent Project Records. The vinyl, which has been out of print for over two decades, is accompanied by a booklet and early For Against ephemera. The package is available for just $65 from the Captured Tracks website, here. I got to get me one of those…

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Sleigh Bells returns to The Slowdown tonight. The band released its latest album, Bitter Rivals, last October on Mom + Pop Records (that label is becoming a thing). The band just played Coachella last weekend so it’ll be just like being there without being there. Opening is Florida electronic/dance act Sumsun. $20, 9 p.m.

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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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Bellows out with Margot; Solid Goldberg, Polanski’s Baby, Joyner’s Ghosts at Film Streams tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 1:06 pm March 27, 2014
Solid Goldberg from May 2011. He's playing tonight at The Brother's Lounge.

Solid Goldberg from May 2011. He’s playing tonight at The Brother’s Lounge.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Former Nebraska resident now Cali-dude Jake Bellows snagged a sweet opening slot on the Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s tour, which comes to Omaha and The Slowdown May 11. Margot’s solid fan base will get more ears behind Jake’s latest album, New Ocean, released on Saddle Creek late last year.

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It was pointed out to me yesterday that The Faint’s new record already is available on vinyl. Pick up a copy at Homer’s.

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There’s a lot going on tonight…

Over at The Brothers Lounge Omaha legend Solid Goldberg a.k.a. Dave Goldberg headlines a show with KC band Burial Teens, who call their genre of music “Head-Wave.” It’s some heavy shit. Opening is the always entertaining Killer Blow. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Also tonight down the street at fabulous O’Leaver’s it’s Nashville band Roman Polanski’s Baby, which sound guy Ian says are “so f***ing good.” Don’t make me wash your mouth out with soap, Ian. Also on the bill is Manic Pixie Dream Girls and Megajoos. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Also tonight, Blue Bird headlines a show at The Barley Street Tavern with Buffalo Rodeo (Bowling Green, KY) and Township & Range. $5, 9 p.m.

And finally, 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 Lodger featuring live music by The Ghost Collective, headed by Simon Joyner.

Says Simon: “The band is made up of Mike Friedman, Megan Siebe, Kevin Donahue, myself, and my friend Michael Krassner who produced and played on all my records from Yesterday Tomorrow and In Between to Out Into the Snow. He flew in from Phoenix just for this.”

Tickets are $12 general; $10 students and $8 for Film Streams members. The curtain rises at 7 p.m. Find out more here. Should be special.

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Speaking of Film Streams, I give it a shout out in this week’s column, which talks about how television and living rooms are winning out over motion pictures and theaters. You can read it in this week’s issue of The Reader or online at thereader.com right here.

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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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Simon Joyner and the Ghosts, Universe Contest…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 2:42 pm December 30, 2013
Simon Joyner and The Ghosts at the Hear Nebraska album release show, The Waiting Room, Dec, 27, 2013.

Simon Joyner and The Ghosts at the Hear Nebraska album release show, The Waiting Room, Dec, 27, 2013.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I’m trying to remember if I’ve ever seen a better Simon Joyner performance than what we got at last Friday’s Hear Nebraska album release show at The Waiting Room. I’d have to go back and back, maybe to some of the Fallen Men shows when Skeleton Blues was released in aught six, or further and further still, to the Howard Street Tavern days when Simon was first joined by Chris and Alex and Lonnie.

Sitting on a bar stool center-stage surrounded by no fewer than six musicians (The Ghosts), Joyner played a loud, droning, wonderful set of seasick hangover blues folk ballads heavy on feedback and pure on vocals. I knew a few of the folks up there with him — brilliant pedal-steel man Mike Friedman, violinist Megan Siebe (of Anniversaire and more recently cellist with Cursive – Megan is becoming Omaha famous, before you know it she’ll be touring Japan with Bright Eyes), and (who I think was) dashing singer/songwriter Noah Sterba.

The rest I did not know, including the shaggy gentleman ripping apart an electric guitar, spraying shards of love and anger and pain throughout the crowd. I was told the next day (by the proprietor of Almost Music, Brad Smith) that it was likely David Kenneth Nance. Brad than played a track off Nance’s 2013 Grapefruit Records release Actor’s Diary, which I should have purchased on the spot (but instead ordered online the next day). On Friday night, Nance provided the Sturm to Joyner’s drang, pitching one bright sustained note after another alongside Joyner and the rest of the band, who were lost in their own howling storm.

Among the set list was a new one about a drinking buddy, and a lot of old, familiar ones including “The Only Living Boy in Omaha” and Joyner classic “Double Joe” and Ghosts highlight “Vertigo,” which closed out the set with Joyner leaning back and (almost) falling off his bar stool. As his trademark straw cowboy hat fell from his head a bevvy of photographers rushed the stage to try to capture the moment. It was a glorious spectacle indeed.

Universe Contest at the Hear Nebraska album release show, The Waiting Room, Dec, 27, 2013.

Universe Contest at the Hear Nebraska album release show, The Waiting Room, Dec, 27, 2013.

Joyner made way for the night’s headliner — Lincoln band Universe Contest who brought a lighting rig the size of which I’ve not seen with any other local indie band since, well, The Faint. The Faint’s first foray in lighting entertainment — multi-colored floor floods controlled via foot pedals operated on stage by Joel Petersen during the performance — was quaint and crude, but effective.

Universe Contest’s light rig was a series of blinding LED light panels attached to a massive metal framework — it must be a bitch to haul around and set up. A lighting guy controlled the synchronization from a controller behind the sound board. Sometimes the effects were dramatic and impressive, other times they were distracting. At their best they provided a contrast, dimming to nearly nothing during quiet moments, blazing white hot during peaks. The investment is proof these guys have their sights squarely set on getting to the next level.

Countering the hard work that went into lighting was all the flying debris. Universe Contest is apparently the band you throw shit at. I counted no less than seven empty beer cans hurled at the stage throughout their set, as well as an assortment of other trash. One beer can bounced off the guitarist’s fretboard; he reacted without a flinch. I waited for someone in the band to pick up a can and say, “The next person who throws shit at us gets this shoved right up his ass,” but it never happened. Instead, the garbage continued to rain down on them. Maybe it’s a Lincoln thing because I’ve never seen anyone throw anything at any other band on The Waiting Room’s stage. (Imagine what would happen if someone threw something at Joyner).

Anyway, it was a distraction from what everyone should have been paying attention to — the music. Early in their history, Universe Contest had a Modest Mouse thing going on that was unmistakeable. They’ve moved beyond that, though there’s still touches here and there, as well as marks of other band such as MGMT and Le Savy Fav. Their sound is more electronic than I remembered and certainly more rhythm-heavy. While I could barely hear the guitars, I could feel the bass, and the drums — a standard trap set mixed with electronics.

I counted at least three vocalists sharing leads throughout the set, most were handled by the guitarist and bass player, though the keyboard player’s vocals were the most restrained (and the most sublime). There were only a few numbers where the vocals did more than add to the rhythms, which is one way of saying there were few if any central hooks in these songs, nothing you’re going to hum to yourself as you walk back to your car.

Instead, Universe Contest’s music is openly simple, with a number of songs centered around a repeated phrase that builds momentum with every turn. When the band gets in a groove it exudes a modern tribal energy that’s both neo-psychedelic and progressive.

Add it all up — the lights, the music, the flying debris — and Universe Contest is never less than entertaining. They sound like they’re halfway between being an indie pop band and being a full-on prog band; and that indecision defines them (for now).

So.

I’m told the crowd was just under 200, and Hear Nebraska sold quite a few albums. I spied a copy and they look pretty cool. I haven’t gotten mine yet since I bought a super-special signed copy and they were still getting the sigs. Where can you buy your copy? For now, they can be purchased here at hearnebraska.org. Sweet orange vinyl. Get one while you can.

* * *

The way the holidays sit on the calendar this year has got me discombobulated. Is it Monday or is it Friday? If you’re like me, you have tomorrow and Wednesday off, which makes this a Friday. Unfortunately, the clubs didn’t get the memo and mistook this for just another Monday… Come on, people….

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TOMORROW: The blog entry you’ve all been waiting for: MUSIC PREDICTIONS FOR 2014. Be here and find out what’s going to happen to you next year…

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Lazy-i Best of 2013

Lazy-i Best of 2013

A reminder to enter to win a copy of the Lazy-i Best of 2013 compilation CD. The collection includes songs by Arcade Fire, Eli Mardock, Foxygen, Yuppies, Tim Kasher, Speedy Ortiz, Low and a ton more.  The full track listing is here. Entering has never been easier: 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. 6!

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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 © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Unread Records and the joy of cassettes (in the column); The Stone Roses tonight…

Category: Blog,Column,Interviews — Tags: , , , , , — @ 2:01 pm November 6, 2013

Unread Records logoby Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

In this week’s column, the story of Unread Records and why the label, which is celebrating its 19th birthday this Saturday with an 11-band concert at the Sweatshop Gallery, continues to release (primarily) cassettes. It’s in this week’s issue of The Reader, and online right here

And heck, since the column is music-related, online below.

Celebrating Cassettes: The Joy of Low Fidelity

by Tim McMahan

Every year right around now, I put my Mini Cooper convertible in storage and replace it with a ’96 Geo Tracker. My Cooper has virtually no ground clearance, which makes it useless in any measurable snow, while the Tracker not only stands high above the ground but also is four-wheel-drive, making it virtually unstoppable.

The downsides of my Geo: It’s beginning to rust. The driver’s side door handle is broken. The rims are the wrong size, so the tires have a habit of deflating overnight. It smells like my dogs.

The upside: It has a cassette deck. There’s something particularly awesome about digging out a mixtape from the summer of 1994 and listening to forgotten bands like Uncle Joe’s Big Ol’ Driver or Morphine or The Wedding Present or Game Theory.

But for Chris Fischer, the label executive behind Unread Records, cassette tapes are more than just a nostalgia trip. The motto on the homepage of unread-records.com: “Creating homemade tapes from empty aluminum cans since 1994.”

Fischer used to live in Omaha. The Lancaster, Pennsylvania, native, now living in Pittsburgh, was wooed to our city in the late ‘90s by none other than Conor Oberst after Fischer set up a show for him in Lancaster back in the early Bright Eyes days.

Back then, Fischer’s Unread Records was part of the underground world of cassette-tape-only record labels. Now 19 years later, it still is, even though super-cheap digital music technology should have made cassettes obsolete. Instead, Unread boasts a catalog of 148 cassette tapes by artists such as Charlie McAlister, Ramon Speed, Spirit Duplicator and Omaha’s own Simon Joyner.

Those artists will join seven more from the Unread Records roster for Junkfest #19 — a concert at the Sweatshop Gallery in Benson this Saturday at 6 p.m. Fischer said the event, which celebrates the label’s 19th birthday, will be “a great show, very bizarre, an experience.”

When I interviewed Fischer back in 2000, the central question was: Why cassettes? Not so strangely, the question remained at the forefront when I talked to him last Saturday. He admitted cassettes have inferior sound quality, degrade faster and are more expensive to mass produce than CDRs. And if you thought finding a turntable was hard, finding a cassette deck means scouring eBay, Craig’s List or your local pawn shop.

Fischer said his love of cassettes is a product of growing up idolizing tape labels of yesterday like Shrimper, Catsup Plate and Omaha’s Sing! Eunuchs. “Cassettes are more artistically attractive to me,” he said. “It’s a mechanical thing, a physical object. It feels better to hold a cassette. It jangles around a bit. It has screws. It’s not that I’m anti-technology, there’s nothing wrong with CRSs, they just don’t look as attractive, and I don’t understand how they work.”

Plus, like vinyl records, cassettes have two sides. “Everyone now just wants to purchase a song off iTunes or just buy increments of music as opposed to a whole album,” Fischer said. “There’s nothing better than listening to an album — the A side, the B side, hits or no hits, I like to hear it all for what it is.”

Over the years, Fischer has gone from a production process that involved plugging tape decks together to dub six tapes at a time to using professional dubbers. He dubs between 50 and 150 tapes per title, depending on how well he thinks they’ll sell, then gives half of them to the artists. Not a total Luddite, Fischer said if an artist provides the master on CD, he makes the tracks available for digital download. But it’s the cassettes that are the cool, collectable thing, not the downloads.

Simon Joyner, who ran Sing! Eunuchs with Chris Deden, said cassettes became an important medium in the late ‘80s into the ‘90s because everyone had a cassette player and recorder at home. “So, people who wanted to create music could do it very easily and inexpensively. They could try anything they wanted because no studios were necessary, no label was necessary. Out of this, labels formed around this DIY concept that artists were everywhere and here’s the music, cheap and accessible.”

But Bandcamp and other digital music file-sharing sites have made cassettes unnecessary. “What’s going on now is fetishistic, econo-chic,” Joyner said. “There is nostalgia around the cassette medium because so many great, important artists and bands started out that way, during that time when it was the cheapest, easiest way to get music out there. (Today) most people releasing music on cassette are feeding that population of cassette fetishists while also releasing the same music in other ways, having their tape and eating it, too.”

Joyner said when he was putting out tapes, he “longed for vinyl, and that hasn’t changed.” Fischer agreed, and Unread has released a number of vinyl records. “I would love to do a lot more,” Fischer said, “but 80 percent of my catalog is cassettes only because of cash flow. If I won the lottery, I’d do more vinyl.”

But even if he did, there would still be a fascination for cassettes. “Nowadays, cassettes are cool and retro,” Fischer said. “A friend of mine approached me to put out a cassette and didn’t have the first idea how they worked or what they were. It blew my mind.”

Joyner, who never liked the “low-fi” label placed on him early in his career, accepted tape hiss as an unavoidable product of recording limitations.

“You should only love that sound if the music in the foreground is good,” Joyner said. “Then as now, a lot of music released on tape is no good, and having it on tape doesn’t change that fact. But when it is good, there is something nice about the hum and hiss as I drive around the city in my decrepit Ford Escort just to hear it.”

Or in my Geo Tracker.

Over The Edge is a weekly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on culture, society, the media and the arts. Email Tim at tim.mcmahan@gmail.com.

First published in The Omaha Reader, Nov. 6, 2013. Copyright © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

The latest mysterious message about O'Leaver's Black Friday event...What could it mean?

The latest mysterious message about O’Leaver’s Black Friday event…What could it mean?

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Village Pointe Cinema is hosting a special screening of Made of Stone: The Stone Roses. The documentary by covers the Manchester band’s 2012 and 2013 reunion tours, which culminated with a headlining spot at the 2013 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival in California. The screening is scheduled for 7:30.

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OK, now O’Leaver’s is just playing with us. This showed up on the email right before lunch. Can you decipher its meaning?

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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 © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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