Lazy-i Interview: The Both (Aimee Mann & Ted Leo); Maha: The Head Vs. The Heart (in the column)…

Category: Blog,Column,Interviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:57 pm August 14, 2014
The Both = Aimee Mann + Ted Leo. They're playing at Saturday's Maha Music Festival.

The Both = Aimee Mann + Ted Leo. They’re playing at Saturday’s Maha Music Festival.

by Tim McMahan,

The Maha Music Festival pre-coverage is hitting the streets today, including the stuff I worked on for The Reader.

Every year I do one Q&A with one of the traveling Maha artist, and this year it was with Aimee Mann and Ted Leo of The Both. Among the questions asked:

  • – Is playing together everything you dreamed it would be?
  • – Are you creating something with a new fan base or building on your solo fan bases?
  • – During the songwriting phase, Aimee, did you ask Ted to throttle back / Ted, did you ask Aimee to ramp it up?
  • – Aimee, did you foresee the decline of the music industry when you created your own record label in ’99?
  • – What do you think of Kickstarter?

And the question I was most interested in asking:

  • – Aimee, I have to ask a two-part Magnolia question: 1) What did you think when PT Anderson had the characters sing the lines to “Wise Up,” and 2) What did you think the first time you saw it in the finished film?

And so on. You can read the answers to those questions and more in this week’s issue of The Reader, or online right here.

Aimee and Ted were a lot of fun to interview, especially Ted, who reminisced about past shows he’s played in Omaha and how lousy they were. Leo came through with Dismemberment Plan in 2001, as a headliner at Sokol Underground in 2003, and opened for Against Me at Slowdown in 2008. He always puts on a great show, whether he thinks he does or not.

I have not had the best shows of my life in Omaha, and that’s not inflective of Omaha per se,” he said. “There’s so many factors that come together like a perfect crap storm to make a show crappy, there are so many moving parts and every day you’re on tour, you can’t blame it on one thing. I’m happy to be back in this context with Aimee at the Maha festival.”

This is the first time Aimee Mann’s been to Omaha, and she had no preconceptions about our fair city.  “I’ve heard nothing (about Omaha), so it’s a lovely clean slate,” Mann said. “The reason any musician doesn’t or does go to a town or area has nothing to do with personal preference, it’s all about the promoter or booking agent. If there’s not a promoter that thinks that people will come to see you, you don’t show up at that town.

Go read the interview. It’s long.

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In other Maha news, my column this week focuses on the future of summer music festivals and how Maha fits into the equation. For perspective, I interviewed Tre Brashear, one of Maha’s founders, about the challenges he and his team face putting the festival together every year, and where he thinks Maha is headed. You can also read that in The Reader or online right here.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Maha sales, schedule; Nightbird debut, Man or Astro-Man tonight; Little Brazil, Ladyfinger, Derby Birds, Omaha Girls Rock! Saturday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:52 pm July 18, 2014

by Tim McMahan,

With their Aug. 16 concert less than a month away, the Maha Music Festival social channels began gearing up the hype machine yesterday. Maha Board member Tre Brashear tweeted that Maha tickets sales are running “50% ahead of last year, so a sellout is possible.”

A sell-out of $50 general admission tickets indeed would be a real coup. Maha tweeted VIP tickets sold out July 1. One assumes this year’s headliner, Death Cab for Cutie, is driving those sales. That said, last year’s headliner, Flaming Lips, wasn’t exactly a pushover (though Maha seems to have gotten the Lips during an era when they are producing their most depressing, uninspired music).

Maha also posted their official schedule yesterday. The Both at 4:30? I would have pushed that back to 8:50 (I know people who are coming only to Aimee Mann and Ted Leo together), but who knows what drives these decisions?

On the other hand, if they really wanted to be ballsy and get people in the park all day, have one of the nationals go on at 1. I know, I know, that just isn’t done, but it sure would raise the crowd level for the locals who have the early slots. It’ll be a shame if Domestica is playing to an empty field.

Here’s the schedule:


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Lots of shows going on this weekend.

Tonight at The Sydney in Benson it’s the debut of Nightbird, a new trio fronted by Filter Kings’ Gerald Lee Meyerpeter. Joining him is Scott Zimmerman on drums and Jeff Harder on bass. Lee said expect heavy, hard rock bordering on ’70s sludge with a distinct stoner vibe. Bring your earplugs. Also on the card is Old Bones (Rymo lives) and headliner Civicminded. $5, 9 p.m.

Also tonight right down the street at The Waiting Room, it’s ’90s indie-rock instrumentalists Man or Astro-Man? with Portland rockabilly act Sallie Ford. $15, 9 p.m.

The Barley Street is hosting a Bob Dylan tribute tonight with a handful of locals playing their favorite Dylan tunes. $5, 9 p.m.

And lest we forget fabulous O’Leaver’s, where tonight they’ve got Two Shakes, The Broke Loose and Naked Sunday. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Tomorrow night (Saturday) the marquee event is, of course, Sara Bertuldo’s birthday party at The Waiting Room. The celebration includes a performance by Sara’s band, See Through Dresses; the debut of the reformatted Little Brazil (read the deets on the new line-up here) and headliners Ladyfinger. Huge. $8, 9 p.m.

Also tomorrow night, The Derby Birds play at O’Leaver’s with difficult-to-pronounce bands Illium and Ojai. $5, 9 p.m.

Aaaand… Start your Saturday off early at The Slowdown, where it’s time once again for the Omaha Girls Rock! showcase. This is the fourth year for the event, with proceeds going to support the Omaha Girls Rock! project (find out more). One of the funnest shows of the year and a chance to see tomorrow’s stars today! Show starts at 5:30, $5 (but you can add more if you want).

That’s what I got. If I left anything out, put it in the comments section. Have a good weekend.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Death Cab, Aimee Mann headline Maha Music Festival; Record Store Day, Tokyo Police Club, Kweller Saturday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 11:19 am April 18, 2014

maha2014by Tim McMahan,

Ah, Maha…

The line-up for this year’s Maha Music Festival (for those of you who were out of town or away from their computers over the past 18 hours) was announced last night at O’Leaver’s. I told you there was going to be some surprises.

The headliner is Death Cab for Cutie. They’ve been touring through Omaha for more than a decade, since they were a little band on Barsuk Records playing to small crowds at Sokol Underground. Now they’re a festival act. One could argue they peaked with 2003’s Transatlanticism record. Their last album, 2011’s Codes and Keys, was nominated for a Grammy, but I’m only listening to it for the first time this morning (It’s pretty good, btw). Their last time through Omaha was in, what April 2009 for a gig at The Holland Center?

No, Death Cab would not have been my choice for a headliner. Their stand-and-play live shows are in direct contrast to last year’s Maha headliner in every way imaginable. Whereas Flaming Lips are known for their amazing stage shows (and last year’s was indeed spectacular), I’ve never cared for their music (Yes, that includes Yoshimi and Soft Bulletin, which I recently pulled out and still can’t get into). To me, Wayne Coyne has effectively compensated for boring music with eye-popping staging. On the other hand, Death Cab’s live performances can be mind-numbingly boring, but their music is sublime (to me anyway).

Summarized: I’d rather see a Lips show but listen to Death Cab music. Who knows, maybe Death Cab will come up with something interesting for Maha’s stage.

The Head and the Heart is a good genre match for Deathcab. The band sold out The Waiting Room back in October 2011. The review is here, wherein I described the performance this way: “The six-piece band was joined by a chorus of a few hundred who sang along to almost every song, sounding like a warm ocean lapping gently on the shores of the band’s acoustic folk. I haven’t heard so much singing since Dashboard Confessional circa 2003, only these songs weren’t cheesy heartbreak anthems sung by children. Instead the crowd was mostly in their mid-20s, with more women mixed in than I’m used to seeing at typical indie rock shows. Credit the nature of their music, which is more soothing than rousing, though it had its moments of exultation.”

H&tH’s latest record, 2013’s Let’s Be Still, is indeed quiet and…soothing.

Last time I saw Local Natives was at a sold out Waiting Room show in September 2010 (that review here). Like Head and the Heart, they’re a “vibe band” that plays vibe music rather than songs — perfect for a pretty summer night under the stars. Their latest, 2013’s Hummingbird, sounds a lot like the last Head and the Heart record.

Then comes what — for me — is Maha’s headliner. The Both.

The Both is Aimee Mann and Ted Leo. Mann is one of my all-time favorite artists. My love of her music began with the soundtrack to 1999’s Magnolia, a movie that had a profound effect on me as much for her music as the story on the screen. After seeing that film I ran out and bought the soundtrack (though 2000’s Bachelor No. 2 contains the best songs from that record), and Mann’s earlier albums, ’95’s I’m with Stupid and her debut, ’93’s Whatever.

It’s hard to separate Mann from the producer of those albums, the genius that is Jon Brion. She went on to release a number of consistently good records with a different producer, but only occasionally reached the heights of her earlier work (but they’re still worth seeking out).

Mann is a perfect match for Ted Leo (of Ted Leo and the Pharmacists), a performer I’ve wanted to see booked here for many years. Leo’s 2010 album The Brutalist Bricks (Matador) was one of my favorites from that year. Seems like the last time I saw Leo was back in November 2003 at Sokol Underground, though he’s been through Omaha since then (including (I think) in 2008 with Against Me?). Talk about your high-energy performers.

I haven’t heard anything from The Both except their Tiny Desktop concert. Their debut album came out Tuesday on Mann’s SuperEgo Records. Check out the first single, “Milwaukee” via this soundcloud link.

While the other three acts alone will make for a successful Maha this year, The Both is the act that will make it special, for me anyway.

The rest of the line up is a mixed bag of bands that includes a few I’d never heard of or listened to before, like indie hip-hop act Doomtree and St. Joe punk band Radkey. The Envy Corps has played in Omaha a number of times. Twinsmith is the latest signing by Saddle Creek Records and Matt Whipkey is a local legend. M34N STR33T is another up-and-coming hip-hop act that’s played around a lot, but who I haven’t caught on stage.

I’m told there could be more bands named to this year’s Maha Music Festival, but by itself this an impressive line-up. Tickets to the Aug. 16 show (once again at Stinson Park in Aksarben Village) are on sale now for $50. VIP tix are still available. More info at the Maha website.

Maha 2014 Lineup from Maha Music Festival on Vimeo.

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It was interesting watching the reaction to the Maha announcement on Social Media last night. For every three people on Facebook or Twitter that applauded the line-up, there was one that went out of his/her way to complain.

Not surprisingly, the people who bitch most about the Maha lineup have never been to a Maha Festival and will never go to a Maha Festival. Their idea of a perfect festival line-up either: 1) involves bands that no longer exist/have been dead and/or retired for decades; or 2) involves bands that would take Lollapalooza money ($500k+) to book, or 3) involves bands so small and obscure they wouldn’t sell out Slowdown Jr. let alone The Waiting Room, or 4) are “genre” bands that don’t fit into the Maha theme, such as Country acts, goth-metal-goon bands, or straight-up pop acts. These folks also seem to require that every band on the line-up be one of their favorites.

Maha’s focus has always been indie/CMJ-style rock, the kind of music Omaha and Nebraska used to be nationally known for. The people bitching the most about Maha are people who hate that kind of music. Why waste time/energy bitching when you knew this was the kind of line-up Maha has booked in the past and always will book? If you prefer goon rock, go to one of the many goon rock outdoor concert/festivals that 89.7 The River hosts every year. If you like black-leather garage rock, go to Gonerfest — the Mecca of garage rock festivals (It’s on my punch list). If you like C&W headliners, check out the CenturyLink or Pinnacle arena schedules. If you can’t get over the fact that “your music” from your era is “so much better than today’s music,” then save up your money and travel to wherever “your bands” are playing reunion shows.

One guy online, who recently moved to Los Angeles and now regularly bashes Omaha whenever he can, commented that he sees “better bands in LA on a given weeknight that you’re getting at Maha.” My response: I have no doubt that’s true. The mistake you made was not moving to LA years ago. While we’re sad that you moved away and miss you, it pains me more to know that you wasted so many years of your life in Omaha instead of being where you CLEARLY belong. And btw, we already knew you weren’t going to Maha to begin with.

I hate when people move away. But more than that, I hate hearing them continue to bitch about Omaha after they’ve left. We get it. You hate Omaha. That’s why you moved away. All you’re doing when you bitch about Nebraska from your new homes in Denver or Portland or Austin or NYC or California is making yourself look like an asshole.

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Holy shit this is a long blog post. Let’s get to the weekend.

Tonight at The Waiting Room Satchel Grande is having a CD release show. I didn’t even know they were working on a new album. Opening is Buck Bowen (with Jazz Trio). $7, 9 p.m. This will be a big show.

Down at Slowdown Jr. Barsuk Records artist Say Hi headlines with Melbourne duo Big Scary. $12, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, at fabulous O’Leaver’s, The Brigadiers headline with The Sons of O’Leaver’s and the return of New Lungs (DMax and Co., welcome back). $5, 9:30 p.m.

Tomorrow is, of course, Record Store Day. I covered it in detail Wednesday (here). The highlight will be the Almost Music Day Party, which starts at 11:30 and runs ’til 7:30. The line-up is here (and it says there will be food and drink). It’s free. Go. And don’t forget to go to Homer’s, Saddle Creek Shop and Drastic Plastic and buy plenty of vinyl.

Saturday night former Saddle Creek band Tokyo Police Club headlines at The Slowdown with Geographer and Said the Whale. $15, 9 p.m.

Finally, 2010 Maha Festival performer Ben Kweller headlines at The Waiting Room Saturday night with See Through Dresses. $15, 9 p.m.

Did I miss anything? Put it in the comments section. Have a great weekend.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.