Remembering Rilo Kiley 15 years later (#TBT from the Lazy-i vault); Deerhoof tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:46 pm August 4, 2016
Jenny Lewis with Rilo Kiley circa 2002.

Jenny Lewis with Rilo Kiley circa 2002.

by Tim McMahan,

Music blog UPROXX has a remembrance of sorts of Rilo Kiley on the band’s 15th anniversary. The writer goes through their catalog and has some nice comments about the sole Saddle Creek release in 2002, The Execution of All Things, which was something of a landmark for the label, its first real, non-Nebraska success. Rilo Kiley also would become the first band to to leave the label.

The details of their defection are interesting a decade later. This from Aug. 2, 2004, Lazy-i:

Rilo in the L.A. Times — Aug. 2, 2004

The LA Times published a story about Rilo Kiley yesterday with the headline “Leaving indie life behind — L.A.’s Rilo Kiley, with a new album on its own label and support from Warner Bros., believes its time has come.” Jenny Lewis lays out the logic behind jumping from Saddle Creek, saying essentially that they felt it was time for their big break, even if it costs them their creativity.

“I think we’re excited, but we’re a little nervous as well because we’ve been completely independent up until this point,” says Lewis, 28, in the LA Time article. “Once you start considering stockholders and the way these corporations are run, it isn’t necessarily in line with experimental music and continuing to do things in a totally organic way. But at the same time I feel like, you know, it’s been eight years for us, and if we’re not gonna do it now, then when? And I think we owe it to ourselves to continue to grow.”

Later, she explains that the band couldn’t get airplay on an indie label, which is absurd. “I think after making the record we started playing songs for our friends and we realized for the first time that [radio airplay] could possibly be an option, and I think that led to our decision in trying new things,” she said in the Times article. “With the shift that’s happening in music right now, where bands like Modest Mouse and Franz Ferdinand and all these rock bands are starting to get played on the radio again, it just seemed like the appropriate time.”

That’s kind of like saying that Creek bands are damned to only get airplay in college radio. She could have led the charge to help change that. Oh well, I’m sure there’s more to the story than this…— Aug. 2, 2004

There was.

Two years later I got a chance to ask Rilo Kiley drummer Jason Boesel about why the band strayed from Saddle Creek in this interview. Here’s an excerpt from the story from Sept. 22, 2004:

“We made this record with Saddle Creek and made it for Saddle Creek and figured it would come out on Saddle Creek,” (Boesel) said from his home in Los Angeles where the band is rehearsing for the upcoming tour. “Shortly after completing the record, we had some ideas and talked about them with Saddle Creek and discovered that we differed on a couple issues. Ultimately, we created our own record label to have total freedom over the record and the music.”

That, despite the fact that the CD was already in the can. Seems the disagreements between the band and Creek stemmed not from creative issues, but from what Boesel characterized as limitations inherent to indie record labels. Saddle Creek label manager Jason Kulbel said in last month’s issue of Alternative Press that one of the main differences was in how the two parties approached commercial radio. “Even if we had it, we are just not down with throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars at commercial radio so they will play our stuff,” Kulbel said in the AP article.

But Boesel said it was more than just the cost of doing business with commercial radio. “I don’t know if we’re throwing thousands down for commercial radio. That might be an exaggeration,” he said. “We didn’t want to put a ceiling on what we did.”…

“At some point, the hope is that this record would move to Warner Bros. proper,” Boesel said. “We wanted that to be a possibility. Even if it had been released by Saddle Creek that was a possibility, but it wasn’t something they (Saddle Creek) were comfortable with. They’re definitely crusaders with high morals and ethics, trying to do this thing for the greater good. For some, that’s the right approach. For us, it wasn’t. We’re trying to do something similar, but in a different way. We’re trying to enter into that world with full knowledge of the traps. We came in with a finished record and have not compromised it in the least.”

(Saddle Creek label executive Robb) Nansel said there were a number of reasons why Saddle Creek frowned upon a deal where Warner Bros. or any other major would simply take over the record. “They wanted us to sell ‘x’ number of records and then they would take it from us,” Nansel said. “The first few weeks are the most difficult time for any release.”

Boesel added, “It would be wrong to say we’re not taking a gamble choosing to go into this world. We’re taking a risk. These companies are set up to make money, while indies like Saddle Creek started out as a way to put out good music, which is a completely different thing.”--Lazy-i, Sept. 22, 2004

It is indeed. So did the gamble pay off? One assumes (maybe incorrectly) that Rilo Kiley made more money by moving to a major. Regardless, the band officially broke up in 2014. Jenny Lewis went onto a semi-successful solo career.

Actually, I don’t know how any musician or artist measures success these days. She had a number of quality solo releases; who knows how well they did from a money standpoint.

Lewis’ new project, Nice as Fuck, is something of a step backwards compared to her solo work. The first single, “Door,” is fun and clever but as lightweight a pop song as you’ll ever hear. And then it’s regurgitated six more times to fill out the collection (the band’s “theme song” is also included on the album). A nice little distraction for Lewis until she gets around to her next solo outing…

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Tonight at The Waiting Room is that Deerhoof show I mentioned yesterday. $15, 9 p.m. You really should go. Philly dark-punk band Blank Spell opens along with local hero Thick Paint.

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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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Matthew Sweet wraps ‘Tomorrow Forever’; #TBT photo: Cursive from June 3, 2000; Atlas Genius, New Generation showcase tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:28 pm July 21, 2016

by Tim McMahan,

It’s been two years since Matthew Sweet launched a Kickstarter project to fund his next album, which generated more than $55k. Today Sweet reports that he’s finally wrapped up recording. “Last Friday morning I completed recording for the album. I now have final rough mixes done for all 38 songs I started,” he told Kickstarter backers.

Sweet said once he’s settled on a sequence, he’ll start final mixing, prioritizing by what goes on the album time-wise. “I’m guessing mixing will start in two or three weeks,” he said.

Sweet also reported that the album will be called Tomorrow Forever, but didn’t mention a release date. “I know It’s been painful to wait so long, but the wisdom of recording multiple batches in order to get the best stuff possible has paid off big time,” he said. “I really can’t see how it could have been as good as it is any other way.”

Perhaps we’ll get a taste of those 38 songs when he plays the Maha Music Festival in August.

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Some #TBT goodness on a very sweaty Thursday, this previously unpublished photo of Cursive was taken June 3, 2000 (which just happens to have been my 35th birthday). The venue is, of course, Sokol Underground. It was quite a show...

Some #TBT goodness on a very sweaty Thursday, this previously unpublished photo of Cursive was taken June 3, 2000 (which just happens to have been my 35th birthday). The venue was, of course, Sokol Underground. It was quite a show…

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Couple shows tonight…

Down at Slowdown Aussie alt band Atlas Genius headlines. The Jeffrey brothers started as an indie before signing to Warners in 2012 for their debut. Warners released their last album, Inanimate Objects, in 2015. Bear Hands and The Moth and the Flame open. $20, 8 p.m.

Also tonight, The Waiting Room hosts the New Generation Music Festival Showcase, featuring a slew of acts (Ragged Company and Low Long Signal among them) that will be playing the festival slated for Stinson Park August 5. The free show starts at 8 p.m.

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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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


TBT: June 24, 2005, Slowdown officially announced; Ten Questions with Peter Bjorn and John…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:49 pm June 23, 2016

by Tim McMahan,

On this #TBT, a brief memory from the Lazy-i blog, circa 2005…

Briefly noted, Slowdown… If you turned on your TV or picked up a Lincoln Journal Star than you know that the Saddle Creek folks held a press conference yesterday officially announcing the Slowdown project in downtown Omaha between 13th and 14th and Webster and Cuming, which means I’ll be able to watch its progress daily from the vantage point of my office at UP. No real earth-shaking news, though I figured the club would be larger than the 400-capacity space described in the Associated Press story. Time frame has the venue opening in a about a year. I know just as many people psyched about the facility’s two-screen indie/arthouse cinema as the club. I’m sure we’re gonna hear a lot more about the project as time goes by, like the club’s booking philosophy and how it could impact Sokol Underground. And what’s going on with that venture slated for the old Club Joy space? — Lazy-i, June 24, 2005

What did ever happen to that Club Joy space? Slowdown, btw, ended up opening the first week of June 2007, a year later than announced (and its capacity also is much larger than 400). Jason Kulbel and Co. should begin planning for the 10 year celebration concert right now…

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Peter Bjorn and John play The Waiting Room Sunday night.

Peter Bjorn and John play The Waiting Room Sunday night.

Ten Questions with Peter Bjorn and John

You might know Swedish indie pop musicians Peter Moren, Bjorn Yttling and John Eriksson — Peter Bjorn and John —  from their 2006 whistle-hook classic “Young Folks.” The song has more than 66 million spins in Spotify alone and was a hit in Europe and the U.S. before Spotify existed. Believe me, you’d recognize the song if you heard it. After a five-year recording hiatus, the band is back with self-released LP Breakin’ Point (2016, INGRID), a collection of bouncing pop songs that sounds like what you’d get if Belle and Sebastian cross-pollinated with ABBA.

I asked the band to take our Ten Questions survey, and here’s how the trio collectively responded, presumably in unison:

1. What is your favorite album?

Peter Bjorn and John: Tropical Moonlight. A reader’s digest vinyl compilation album with tropical easy listening highlights.

2. What is your least favorite song?

More bubbles with Peter Bjorn and John.

3. What do you enjoy most about being in a band?

Good question.

4. What do you hate about being in a band?

Loud noises.

5. What is your favorite substance (legal or illegal)?


6. In what city or town do you love to perform?

Mexico City.

7. What city or town did you have your worst gig (and why)?

In Stockholm, Sweden 2002. We were booked as the opening act on an outdoor festival and when we got there they told us we had to build the stage ourselves. When we, after two hours, played the first song it was totally out of tune since Peter had forgotten the tuning pedal in our rehearsal studio. Then it started to rain.

8. How do you pay your bills?

With a twisted smile.

9. What one profession other than music would you like to attempt; what one profession would you absolutely hate to do?

I would like to try to be the writer of a very short book.

I would not like to be a bee keeper.

10. What are the stories you’ve heard about Omaha, Nebraska?

I have heard that Bruce Springsteen was there at some point. Don’t know what he did though.

Peter Bjorn and John play with All Young Girls Are Machine Guns Sunday, June 26, at The Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St. Tickets are $20, showtime is 8 p.m. For more information, go to

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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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.



TBT May 25, 2006 — What you hear too loud CAN hurt you…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , , — @ 12:51 pm May 26, 2016
Good ol' ear plugs...

Good ol’ ear plugs…

by Tim McMahan,

For Throwback Thursday, a bit of a public service announcement —  a column I wrote 10 years ago about hearing protection at concerts and what was at the time considered an epidemic of people playing their iPods too loud, damaging their hearing.

I’m happy to say that my hearing remains intact after 10 more years of attending rock concerts, thanks to constant use of ear plugs at shows. These days people not wearing hearing protection is the exception rather than the rule, which is a good thing.

Lazy-i – May 25, 2006 – OK, consider this week’s column a public service announcement. I listen to a lot of music, both in live settings and with a variety of headphones. Within the last few months there has been a ton of press about the dangers of iPods to your hearing. In some articles, that fear bleached over to concern about wearing headphones in general. So I packed up my iPod along with my iPod earbuds, my Etymotic ER*6 earphones and my Ultrasone HFI-700 headphones and dropped in on earguy extraordinaire Dr. Britt Thedinger, who’s name I got from commercials heard every morning on NPR affiliate KIOS 91.5 FM.

We spent about five minutes talking about iPods and headphones and spent the rest of our two hours together talking about rock shows and earplugs. An area of focus that didn’t make it into the column was concerns faced specifically by musicians who are bombarded by loud music every night. He said being behind the stack protects them somewhat — it’s louder in front of the speakers. But that ultimately there are risks for rock stars. Just look at Pete Townshend, who has become a spokesperson for hearing loss.

“The point is, musicians are realizing that they’re at risk,” Thedinger said, “Old rock stars saying, ‘You young people, this will happen to you.'” Thedinger recommends making an appointment and getting fitted for “musicians earplugs” which cost around $150 but are effective in blocking out only dangerous frequencies and not all frequencies — like my trusty yellow earplugs do. It’s a small price to pay to be able to rock when your 65.

Column 78: Don’t be a Tough Guy

There are a few things that can make you feel like “an old guy” at a rock show. I won’t get into the gloomy specifics involving people looking young enough to be your children or bartenders not even looking for the fluorescent wrist-band — everyone knows you’re old enough to drink, pops.

Earplugs are another one. I’ve been wearing them to rock shows starting back in ’93 when I road-tripped with Lincoln band Mercy Rule to a show at Harry Mary’s in Des Moines. Before their set, bassist/frontwoman Heidi Ore strolled through the crowd of angry punks with a prescription vial in hand.

She wasn’t passing out drugs, she was handing out earplugs. She ambled up to one big guy with his arms crossed and made an offering. He just nodded his head. He didn’t need them. The pixie-ish, bespeckled, five-foot-nothing dynamo responded flatly, “Don’t be a tough guy, just take them.” He did. So did I. And she was right, we needed them. Few bands play as loudly as Mercy Rule did, thanks to Jon Taylor’s roaring guitar.

That was the first time I wore earplugs at a show. I’ve been wearing them ever since — little yellow pieces of foam tied together by a handy blue cord, the kind railroad workers wear in the field and in the shops. I’ve had a case of them in my cupboard all these years and always keep extra pairs in my car in case I forget to take them with me. Dr. Britt Thedinger, an otologist at Ear Specialists of Omaha, says the practice may well have saved my hearing.

I know, I know, you’ve read a gazillion stories about the dangers of loud rock music. I don’t blame you if you stop reading. And to be honest, I didn’t seek out Thedinger to do a story on earplugs. It was my iPod that motivated me, along with the dozens or recent stories about how prolonged listening to iPods could cause hearing damage. Could I have wasted all those years wearing earplugs only to be butchering my hearing with my iPod while cycling the Keystone Trail?

I dropped by Thedinger’s midtown clinic last Saturday morning. What I heard surprised me. I expected gloom and doom. In fact, things aren’t that bad.

Turns out the iPod scare is mostly hype. “I don’t think there’s a huge iPod crisis of people losing their hearing right and left,” he said. Still, too much of anything can’t be a good thing. Thedinger said a sign that you’re listening to your iPod too loudly is if the person next to you can clearly make out what you’re listening to. That’s pretty freaking loud. But what about my trusty Etymotic in-ear isolator earphones? “If they’re turned up so loud that they hurt your ears, you’re damaging your hearing,” he said.

Pretty simple advice. Okay, so while I’m here, what about those standard yellow, foam earplugs that cost about 50 cents at the Quik Pik? Are they doing the trick? Thedinger said they block about 29 dBs, more than adequate to protect me at a typical rock show, which he says can get as loud as 115 dBs. Wadded up toilet paper, by the way, blocks only 3 to 5 dBs — in other words, it doesn’t work.

But even if I didn’t wear earplugs at every show, Thedinger said I’d probably be okay. Hearing damage occurs from prolonged high-decibel noise exposure. “At that level, it has to be continuous,” Thedinger said. “The quiet few minutes between songs is usually enough to recover.”

It also depends on the room’s acoustics and where you stand, like right in front of speakers that can blow out up to 125 dBs. Even a short exposure at that level can erode your ability to hear frequencies between 2,000 to 8,000 hz — the range where human speech makes lispy syllables, like “sh,” “th,” p’s, and f’s.

Which brings us to tinnitus — the ringing in your ears that everyone’s experienced after a night at The Qwest Center. Turns out that ringing is always there. We just don’t notice it until our hearing has been damaged — then it’s all we hear.

“When I was doing my residency in a Boston emergency room, we’d have patients come in after a concert at The Garden saying, ‘My ears are ringing and it’s driving me nuts.’ The membranes had swollen in their ears resulting in decreased hearing capability, so they could hear the tinnitus. After a few days the swelling went down, their hearing improved and the tinnitus went away.”

Unless, of course, they sheered off the nerves, permanently damaging their hearing.

You might recover just fine after a few loud concerts without earplugs, but night after night of unprotected hearing will sneak up on you. “It’s an insidious process,” Thedinger said. “People don’t realize the damage they’ve done until it’s too late. And once you’ve lost it, it’s gone.”

It still amazes me every time I look around at rock shows and notice that I’m the only one wearing earplugs. The excuse that they “ruin the experience” is lame. They allow me to actually focus more on the bands and worry less about damage — even if they may make me look like an old wuss in the eyes of guys too tough to wear them.

“You can be as tough as you want,” the good doctor said, “but it’s a real pain in the ass being hearing impaired.” — Lazy-i, May 25, 2006

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A quick thank you to those who donated yesterday to Hear Nebraska during Omaha Gives!

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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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


#TBT May 11, 2000: Saddle Creek announces two major releases (Bright Eyes, Cursive)…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:48 pm May 12, 2016

by Tim McMahan,

On this Throwback Thursday we’re turning the Wayback Machine all the way back to May 11, 2000, a simpler time before 9-11, before the first iPod and before Nebraska had defined itself as an indie music Mecca. The two releases mentioned in this old Lazy-i blog entry (that also was published in the old Omaha Weekly) would impact the scene for years to come…

Lazy-i May 11, 2000: Saddle Creek Records announced two major CD releases for late spring and early June.

Bright Eyes, Fevers and Mirrors (2000, Saddle Creek Records)

Bright Eyes, Fevers and Mirrors (2000, Saddle Creek Records)

Bright Eyes’ Fevers and Mirrors, the full-length follow-up to last year’s Every Day and Every Night EP is slated to hit the streets May 29. Pre-release hype is huge and already the CD has debuted at No. 42 on the College Music Journal (CMJ) charts, says Saddle Creek’s Robb Nansel. Unlike sales charts, CMJ compiles college and non-commercial radio airplay reports, as well as other key industry indicators,

Fans of Bright Eyes singer/songwriter Conor Oberst’s moody, confessional style won’t be disappointed by what arguably is his most thought-out and well produced effort to date. Oberst has developed a rep for writing rather dreary songs that depress more than uplift. From that standpoint, Fevers and Mirrors is quite a departure, featuring some pretty heavy numbers as well as fully realized accompaniments that move things along quite nicely (look for a full review in an upcoming issue of Omaha Weekly).

Recorded over a month at Lincoln’s Dead Space Studios, the CD features a stable of Saddle Creek special guests, including Lullaby for the Working Class’s Mike and A.J. Mogis, The Faint’s Todd Baechle, and Cursive’s Matt Maginn and Clint Schnase.

Cursive, Domestica (2000, Saddle Creek Records)

Cursive, Domestica (2000, Saddle Creek Records)

Speaking of Cursive, Domestica, that band’s full-length follow-up to 1998’s The Storms of Early Summer, has been pressed and is ready to hit the store shelves June 19. Those who are expecting a quiet return to form from a band that has gone through a break-up and a reunion over the past year, guess again. This one is brutal.

We’re to believe that Cursive singer/songwriter Tim Kasher’s recent marriage and subsequent divorce had nothing to do with these stark rockers that make Trent Reznor’s darkest moments sound like the theme from The Newlywed Game. Song titles like “The Casualty,” “The Martyr” and “The Night I Lost the Will to Fight” paint a not-so-pretty picture of domestic despair.

Despite the mid-June street date, fans can pick up copies of the CD at Cursive’s CD-release party May 27 at Sokol Underground.

With their stable of releases ever growing, Saddle Creek just signed an exclusive distribution deal with Southern Records in the United States, Nansel said. Southern also has exclusive distribution deals with Dischord, DeSoto, Teen Beat, Simple Machines, Tree and Thick as Thieves records. “We think they’re much more representative of our style of music,” Nansel said. “We’ll still be able to consign material and sell CDs at venues.”

The exclusive deal with Southern means the distributor will get a bigger cut of the revenue, but Nansel said that would be offset by better promotions as well as placement in regional chains. — Lazy-i, May 11, 2000.

Pitchfork would place Fevers and Mirrors at number 170 on their list of top 200 albums of the 2000s; while Domestica is listed as No. 25 on Rolling Stone’s “40 Greatest Emo Albums of All Time.” Many point to these two releases as the start of what would become a hitting streak for Saddle Creek and its artists, though The Faint’s Blank-Wave Arcade was actually released the previous November. It would be followed by Dance Macabre in 2001. And the hits just kept on coming…

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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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


TBT: April 27, 2006: The origin of ‘Getting Omaha’d’; Cross Record, Simon Joyner tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:53 pm May 5, 2016
Cross Record plays tonight at fabulous O'Leaver's.

Cross Record plays tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s.

by Tim McMahan,

In classic Throwback Thursday fashion, here’s a little history lessen from 2006. Needless to say, it was true back then, and it’s still true today…

Column 74: Getting Omaha’d, April 27, 2006

Here’s something that was left out of my feature on Pretty Girls Makes Graves: Our protagonist, drummer Nick DeWitt, pointed out the following when asked if he’d ever been through Omaha before.

“Oh yeah, we’ve been to Omaha,” he said. “It was at our first show that we played there that we coined a term called ‘getting Omaha’d.’ We played with The Blood Brothers, who insisted on playing before us. They have a way of whipping fans into a frenzy. It’s not much fun following them, and we always made sure that didn’t happen. But that night they insisted that we play last because we were ‘the headliners.’ So the place was full. Then The Blood Brothers played. Then everyone left, and we played to an empty room.”

Translation: They got Omaha’d.

Whether the phrase is catching on (and there’s little evidence that it is), the circumstances it represents are becoming more and more common, especially ’round these parts. Playing last on an evening’s bill often means playing after the band that brought in most of the crowd, and who will likely take that crowd with them when they’re done — to The Brothers for last call.

Marc Leibowitz, half of the dynamic promoting duo known as One Percent Productions along with Jim Johnson, said “getting Omaha’d” isn’t just an Omaha thing. It happens everywhere, mostly to unknown bands that are out on their first tours, like Pretty Girls were when they first blew through town all those years ago. Getting Omaha’d is a rite of passage, a necessary evil that bands must suffer if they ever want to make it to the next level.

Leibs said it rarely happens to bands that target a younger, pre-21 audience — probably because those kids don’t have a bar to go to after their friends’ band finishes their set. Or because they haven’t become jaded scenesters who only go to shows to be seen, to drink, to make contact, to move on.

No band wants to “get Omaha’d.” In fact, bands are now getting wary of playing anywhere but the “sweet spot” of a show — the middle of a three-band bill. Opening spot? Not so good, even though most local shows don’t get rolling until well after 9 p.m. Most people are unwilling or unable to tear themselves away from whatever they had going on earlier in the evening, whether it’s dinner and a movie or their precious “stories” on the glass teat. Playing second is optimum — you get the stragglers, along with those who skate in only to see the headliner, unless of course the headliner was smart enough to take the second spot for themselves, which is becoming more common these days. A show’s band order has become so controversial that at one recent show, a local band refused to play unless they were guaranteed not to play last.

They didn’t want to get Omaha’d… like Des Moines’ The Autumn Project did last Saturday night.

The instrumental trio had the last spot on a show that included local bands Noah’s Ark was a Spaceship, and Father, a deafening, dread-fueled art-noise project that features among its players Clark Baechle and Dapose from The Faint. Sure enough, the crowd kept rolling in throughout the Noah’s Ark set, and peaked right before Father turned off all the lights, turned on a big-screen projector and let loose with 20 minutes of bludgeoning noise that made me feel slightly nauseous afterward (as I’m sure was the intent).

When the lights came up after Father’s disturbing set, everyone headed to the door. The crowd of more than 100 dwindled to around 20 — mostly the bands that played sets earlier in the evening. It was a shame, too, because The Autumn Project was pretty damn good. But what are they gonna do? They got Omaha’d.

I’m trying to figure out other ways to use the phrase in everyday life, outside of the music scene. For example, you show up late to a party, just as everyone is leaving, and have to help empty ash trays and pick up dead beer bottles.

You got Omaha’d.

Or, you arrive late to help someone move to a new house, after the rest of the crew has gone home, leaving you to lift the washer and dryer out of the basement by yourself.

You got Omaha’d.

It means more than just showing up late, it means being left holding the bag. That was also the case for Pretty Girls Make Graves. After they played to a room full of crickets, they were told by the show’s promoter (and no, it wasn’t One Percent Productions) that there was no money to pay them.

“The promoter tried to screw us,” DeWitt said. “We had to take the guy to an ATM to get our money. So for us, getting Omaha’d meant everyone leaving and getting ripped off… almost.” –, April 27, 2006

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Tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s Cross Record headlines a show that also features Those Far Out Arrows and Simon Joyner and the Ghosts (Watch out Cross Record, there’s a ton of potential here for getting Omaha’d…). Read more about Cross Records here. $6. The show starts at 9 p.m.

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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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


#TBT April 14, 2005: Selling the Ranch (Bowl); Carl Miller/Thrillers, Alexa Dexa, Lodgings are Live @ O’Leaver’s…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:41 pm April 14, 2016
The long, lost Ranch Bowl...

The long, lost Ranch Bowl…

by Tim McMahan,

This being Throwback Thursday, why not we step into the Lazy-i Wayback Machine and turn the dial to 11 years ago, to April 14, 2005? Omaha was still basking in the glow of national attention thanks to Saddle Creek Records. Adding to the ever-changing local music landscape was the advent of new clubs that would eventually dot the Omaha landscape in the coming years, presumably to ride that indie music wave.

In 2005 the only games in town for indie shows were the Sokol properties (the auditorium and “Underground”), Saddle Creek Bar, Mick’s and various hall shows that were blurring into the ether. And then there was The Ranch Bowl, a relic from an earlier time that had seen better days.

It was on this day 11 years ago that I posted the following column, which reported that the legendary Ranch Bowl, once located on south 72nd St., was finally closing its doors for good and would be torn down to make way for a Wal-Mart. The news sent mild shockwaves throughout the music scene, even though The Bowl had lost its luster years earlier…

Column 21: Selling the Ranch

Mike Brannan isn’t talking.

When news began buzzing through the music scene last Wednesday that the once legendary Ranch Bowl — the venue Brannan owns and operates with partner Dan Crowell — will be closing its doors, Brannan confirmed it, but said nothing more.

Rumors of the venue’s demise had begun circulating earlier in the week, and were met with skepticism by those of us who have followed the music scene for any amount of time. We’d been hearing those rumors for years, from before Brannan and Crowell took over in 2003, back when Matt Markel ran the place. And every time the rumors ended up being false.

Like last October, when rumors were flying that Markel was about to somehow sell the joint out from under Brannan and Crowell, that the IRS had raided the bar during a Little Feat concert, and that the duo had been bouncing checks all over town.

Brannan responded that time, saying he had been involved in a very tough negotiation with the Markels, who had attempted a last-minute renegotiation of their purchase deal. That led to lawsuits from both sides, which eventually were settled. Brannan said that it wasn’t the IRS but the Nebraska Dept. of Revenue that had made an unannounced house call to the Bowl and levied them for $800. He also said that he and Crowell had some additional property under contract, and that other projects would be coming on line that would be unveiled accordingly. “The Ranch Bowl will now receive considerably more attention from Dan and myself as we consider what to do with it,” he had said last October. “We, however, had to resolve the deal with the Markels before we could push ahead with anything else, as that handcuffed us for quite some time.”

Five months later and the rumors were back. But this time there were no denials. Brannan confirmed on SLAM Omaha — the city’s music-scene gossip Web board — that the Ranch Bowl will finally be closed and torn down. A deal had been made to redevelop the site, finalized April 4. All their original renovation plans had been scrapped because they “lacked the local goodwill required for us to make the additional investments required” and that he and Crowell “look forward to putting the first proper mid-sized music venue online in Omaha.”

The next day, The Omaha World-Herald made it official, but Brannan didn’t add any Technicolor. Instead, the paper pursued the Wal-Mart angle. Seems Brannan and real estate man John Lund have been working together to acquire the Bowl property from Markel, which they will turn around and sell along with a sizable chunk of surrounding property. Instead of dropping big bucks on renovating the Bowl, it had to make more sense for Brannan to cash in and invest in a new venue that doesn’t need as much renovation (and doesn’t have a bowling alley attached to it). A place like Club Joy on the southwest corner of The Old Market, for instance.

But that’s all speculation. When contacted Sunday, Brannan was unwilling to comment about the new venue and its location; he wasn’t even willing to say what style of music it will cater to, only saying that there would be an announcement made when the time is right.

He did say that Artery Studios, located in the Ranch Bowl complex, would stay open after the Bowl closes, and that he’s looking for somewhere to move the studio once the bulldozers arrive. Though not eager to run a studio, he said he likes the co-op nature of the recording business, and this time he’ll be bringing in some new players.

But the real questions remain unanswered. Like why Brannan thinks he’ll have better luck with a new venue when he couldn’t make it work with an established enterprise like The Ranch Bowl, a club that once boasted shows by acts like The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pavement and Bob Mould.

Or how a city the size of Omaha can support a new 500-capacity venue — as well as a second new live music venue rumored to be announced this month, also located downtown — when it can’t support the ones that are operating now.

All good questions. But Brannan ain’t talking. — Lazy-i April 14, 2005

Needless to say, The Ranch Bowl was demolished and Brannan never opened another club, but two new mid-sized clubs did pop up a couple years later, but that’s another story…

* * *

The good folks at Live @ O’Leaver’s rolled out three new sessions this week. Check them out below:

* * *

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: March 22, 2006: When The Faint flew the coop…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:41 pm March 24, 2016
The Faint circa August 2001, from left, Jacob Thiele, Joel Petersen, Todd Fink (then Baechle), Dapose and Clark Baechle.

The Faint circa August 2001, from left, Jacob Thiele, Joel Petersen, Todd Fink (then Baechle), Dapose and Clark Baechle.

by Tim McMahan,

Here’s another Throwback Thursday from the Lazy-i vault. From 10 years ago, to be exact. The first two paragraphs are the blog intro, followed by the column, which also was printed in The Reader. Seems like only yesterday. Lean back and enjoy this music history lesson…

Lazy-i: The Faint headed to American? – March 22, 2006

Let me take a moment to reiterate my policy regarding rumors — I don’t print ’em. Now, a certain promoter in town does not agree with this assessment — he calls me a “gossip columnist,” which is fine since he doesn’t know what I’m calling him behind his back (just kidding). Look, I hear more than my share of rumors on any given night at the bar, club or venue, but I don’t publish any of them unless I get some sort of official verification about their truthfulness. At which case, it ain’t a rumor no more. To a large part, I depend on people passing me information, and they do so with confidence that 1) I’m not going to reveal my sources unless they want to be revealed, and 2) I’m not going to print anything until someone is willing to verify the information “on the record.” Consider it my own, personal Woodward & Bernstein clause. So when I heard rumors about The Faint leaving Saddle Creek five or six weeks ago, I sat on the story because no one would comment “on the record.” Meanwhile, everyone short of the late Mayor Ed Zorinsky let me know all about it “on the down low.”

Why has this rumor become so pervasive? I think because there’s a tremendous amount of concern as to what it could mean to Saddle Creek and the Omaha music scene if it becomes a reality. The Faint, Cursive and Bright Eyes are the holy triumvirate that has made the label what it is today. There was a similar level of concern a few years ago when rumors began circulating that Cursive was breaking up (a deep throat fed me that tidbit weeks before it become public as well). Different bitter factions may snipe endlessly about how much they don’t like the label or its bands, but at the end of the conversation, they always punctuate it with a statement like, “regardless, I admire what they’ve accomplished, it’s been good for the Omaha music scene as a whole.” Everyone wants Saddle Creek to succeed — there’s nothing but upside to their continued prosperity. So when word of a breakup or defection gets hung on the grapevine, brows furrow and anxiety ensues that perhaps a turnaround in Omaha’s good fortune may be in the offing. If this becomes a reality and contracts are indeed signed, I see downside for some, upside for others and hope in the fact that The Faint are investing a lot of time and money in facilities right here in river city. The band is putting down roots even though they could live anywhere in the country that they wish.

Column 69 — Not for The Faint of Heart
Is one of Saddle Creek’s biggest bands flying the coop?

Omaha is a very small town. And once a rumor gets traction — any traction — there’s no slowing it down. We are a species of gossips and information whores, constantly on the look-out for hot scoop (or poop, in some cases). Information isn’t power in Omaha, information is the new smack that forces those locked in the music scene to stumble around for their next fix.

There was plenty of smack on the streets last weekend in the form of a rumor that The Faint, one of the holy triad of Saddle Creek Records’ bands, is leaving their home-town label for greener pastures. Specifically pastures fed and watered by hip-hop guru and professional turn-around artist Rick Rubin.

I could not grab a beer at any bar without someone leaning in and whispering, “I’ve got a lu-lu. But you didn’t hear it from me,” then saying that The Faint are not only sniffing around, but have already signed a deal with American Recordings and are flying Rubin to Omaha in a silver dart to begin recording sessions post haste at The Faint’s swank new rehearsal space.

It wasn’t exactly fresh news. I had heard about it five weeks ago, maybe more. A well-connected deep throat sent me an e-mail with a single sentence: “The Faint are leaving Saddle Creek.” It sounded like shit to me. The band has been solid all around with the label from day one; no one’s held up the Saddle Creek banner higher. Whenever it came press time, the Baechle brothers were always first in line with a faithful quote. “Why would we leave when we got it so good here? You think we’re stupid?”

But my source had never been wrong. Never. Every bit of info no matter how lame-brained always proved solid. Even when I thought it was pure cockamamie, asking around always came up diamonds. But this seemed too big.

I immediately asked Creek about the rumor, but got zilch back on the record. Weeks went by with nothing new from the grapevine. Deep Throat was swollen shut. Then out of the blue a week ago, I got another tip from a different source. Same story. More details. This time Rick Rubin was mentioned by name along with his record label, American Recordings, home of Johnny Cash, Neil Diamond and Slayer. By last weekend it was all over the streets; it was just a matter of time until I’d read it in the World-Herald, until it was old news.

Calls and e-mail to a member of The Faint went unreturned. No surprise there. So I tried Saddle Creek again, figuring label executives Robb Nansel and Jason Kulbel would be too busy schmoozing at South by Southwest to reply. Lo and behold, Nansel clarified the rumor. “They have not signed anything with American,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Not sure if they will. They are still talking to them, but that is all at this point.”

Nansel went on to write that Rubin has indeed expressed interest in working on the band’s new record, “but I don’t know that he ever expressed doing that in Omaha, let alone at their space.”

What’s in it for Saddle Creek? One story had it that negotiations were under way to compensate the label for its years of support, promotion, and all the other benefits. Apparently not.

“We are not negotiating any compensation with the band,” Nansel wrote. “We have briefly discussed different ways we could/could not be involved with their future records (assuming they don’t end up on Saddle Creek). (We) have not come to any agreement on whether we would be involved at all or not.”

None of this can be a complete surprise to Nansel or anyone at the label. It’s only a matter of time until one of their biggest acts leaves the nest. There are limits to the meaning of the word “loyalty” in the rock and roll business, especially when millions of dollars are at stake. The Faint have had offers before, but always turned them down. Something else must be driving this new level of interest beyond cash.

So, if it’s all true, why isn’t Nansel pissed? “The possibility of a band leaving has always been there,” he wrote. “The bands will ultimately make a well-informed decision about what is in their best interest. We will support their decision regardless of what it is, and hope that all parties are satisfied at the end of the day. Certainly (we) would not be pissed.”

But what would it mean if The Faint does leave the label? How would it financially impact Saddle Creek, especially during a time when so much of the label’s money is tied up in a new, untried venture — the Slowdown entertainment complex slated to begin construction this week just a couple blocks west of The Qwest Center? Nansel didn’t say. Maybe it’s too early to speculate. After all, Elvis hasn’t left the building… yet. — Lazy-i March 22, 2006

* * *

Well, for whatever reason, The Faint didn’t go to American Recordings or work with Rick Ruben on their next record, but they did leave Saddle Creek. Their next album, 2008’s Fasciinatiion, was released on their own blank.wav label.

Some point to the The Faint’s departure from Saddle Creek as the beginning of the record label’s decline. Fact is, no one expected The Faint, Bright Eyes or Cursive to stay on a small label like Saddle Creek forever. All signs pointed to The Big Three eventually flying to the majors. In the end, only The Faint stepped out on the label. Bright Eyes stayed with Saddle Creek (though Conor Oberst struck out on his own), while Cursive never left the nest. And all three continue living happily ever after.

As for Saddle Creek, the label had a great year in 2015, and with new records by The Thermals and new addition Big Thief on the way, things continue looking up…

* * *

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.


Digital Leather’s ‘Whack Jam’ to be released on cassette; TBT: How to go it alone (from 2006); Foxing, ADJY tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 1:46 pm March 3, 2016
Foxing plays tonight at Slowdown Jr.

Foxing plays tonight at Slowdown Jr.

by Tim McMahan,

Last year Digital Leather released a digital-only collection called Whack Jam. Now a cassette version of the album is for sale via Bobby Hussy’s Kind Turkey Records. It’s all the same great tunes direct from Shawn Foree’s attic studio but now you can enjoy it with added benefit of tape hiss!

The cassette costs $5 and is available for pre-order at the Kind Turkey bandcamp page, here, where you can also hear Whack Jam streamed in its entirety. Get yourselves one before they’re all gone!

* * *

This being Throwback Thursday, enjoy this column printed one decade ago in Lazy-i and The Reader about how to go to movies, restaurants and rock shows alone without feeling like a loser. Bonus: It includes some sweet 49’r memories…

Column 66: Being Alone Together
The art of flying solo.
Lazy-i, March 1, 2006

I was trying to put my finger on why I don’t like going to shows at The 49’r and finally figured it out last weekend.

I swung by at around 11 p.m. Saturday night to catch Past Punchy and the Present — the band I wrote about here last week — but they started early and I was too late and I only caught the last couple songs of their set (which I dug, by the way. Seek out this band whenever it pops its head out of its rabbit hole). A few minutes after they finished their set, I turned around and left. Total time at the Niner (after paying $5 cover and $5 for beer (with tip)) — 15 minutes. No, there’s nothing wrong with The Niner per se — in fact, I’m quite fond of the bar. The staff is first-rate, their PA has never sounded better, the vibe is laidback and fun. No, it’s something else, something ridiculous.

Look, I knew when I started listening to indie music 20 years ago that going to shows was going to be a problem. The genre is underground by its very nature. Friends who I grew up with listening to Zeppelin and Floyd aren’t interested in seeing bands they’ve never heard on the radio. And though my girlfriend likes indie music (almost) as much as I do, she’s physically incapable of staying awake past 11 o’clock (especially on school nights), effectively taking her out of the equation since most indie rock shows don’t start until 10. Add it all together and it meant that I had to get used to going to shows alone. It wasn’t easy.

There are three activities (not including those defined in the bible as “sins”) that just seem strange doing by yourself: Attending movies, eating at fine restaurants, and going to rock shows. Call it the “Loser Syndrome,” most people have deep-seated insecurities about being seen at social events without companionship. No one wants to be thought of as being friendless. But chances are, if you love indie music, indie films or adventurous dining, you’re gonna have to get over it or suffer a future of cheesy cover bands, knife-kill horror flicks and flavorless chain-restaurant dining.

Let’s start with the movies. You want to see “Transamerica” or “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada” or Film Streams’ indie movie of the week at The Joslyn. Your friends want to see “Date Movie” or “Saw VII” or whatever piece of shit Julia Roberts is starring in this week. It’s a dilemma; because you’re never going to talk them into seeing “your movie.” You either go alone or wait for it to come out on NetFlix. You’re better off just showing up at the theater about five minutes after the start time and taking a seat in the back. If you’ve never gone to the movies by yourself, it’s pretty weird the first time. But once the film starts, you quickly realize that it doesn’t matter if you’re with someone or not — you’re inside the film’s world now. And when the lights come up afterward, you’ll wonder why you ever cared about going alone in the first place.

Movies are easy. Dining alone, well, that’s another story. The Food Channel is creating a culture of “foodies” who want something more than the usual prefabricated pound o’ flesh served at the neighborhood Chili’s or Appleby’s or The Outback (where, for whatever reason, everything must be smothered in cheese). Good luck, however, getting your crew to eat at, say, an Indian restaurant or — god forbid — Thai. Everyone remembers the “Table for One” scene from Steve Martin’s “The Lonely Guy” where, once seated alone, the restaurant falls silent and a spotlight blares on Martin as a team of waiters clears the other three settings off the four-topper. His solution: Pretend to be a food critic on assignment. My solution: Forget about dinner and go to your restaurant-of-choice at lunchtime, when you’ll be surrounded by a sea of one-toppers. An added bonus: Entrées will cost about a third less.

OK, so what about rock shows.

Is there a comfortable way to go see a band by yourself without feeling like a dork? The task is daunting, but it can be done. Sokol Underground is so dark that once you get in and get your beer no one will see you. Most people at O’Leaver’s are so drunk that they can’t see anything at all. And just like at the movies, no one notices anything after the band starts. There’s really nothing to be afraid of.

It’s between sets that can be weird. At Sokol you can hang out in the back; at O’Leaver’s, just turn your attention to whatever game’s on the television sets. But the Niner, well, there’s simply no place to hide. Just like the guy at the party who doesn’t know anyone, no matter what you do you’re gonna feel like a freak as you stand in everyone’s way waiting for the next band to start.

That leaves you with two options: You can do what I did and just turn around and leave like a wuss, or you can just stand there and wait uncomfortably until the next band starts.

Actually, there’s a third choice. You could — god forbid — actually talk to someone — preferably someone else who looks as uncomfortable as you. Suddenly, you know someone else at the show. And then another, and another. And before you know it, you’re a full-fledged scenester!

On second thought, maybe you should just go home.

— Lazy-i and The Omaha Reader, March 1, 2006

* * *

Speaking of going to shows alone, I’ll be flying solo when Foxing plays at Slowdown Jr. tonight. The St. Louis post-emo band who records for Triple Crown Records (home of Weatherbox) dropped a new album last October called Dealer. Very earnest-sounding stuff. Opening is recent Triple Crown roster addition ADJY, who has a 4-song EP coming out called Prelude (.3333) that is anthemic to the core. This special 7:30 show also includes Lymbyc Systym and Tancred. $13.

Seems like there have been a lot of emo bands coming through towns or in the news lately. Then yesterday Rolling Stone publishes the “40 greatest emo records of all time” (Cursive’s Domestica came in at No. 25). It all begs the question: Is emo making a comeback?

* * *

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.