Live Review: Matt Whipkey at The Jewell; the week ahead…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , — @ 7:56 am November 15, 2021
Matt Whipkey and his band at The Jewell, Nov. 12, 2021.

by Tim McMahan,

You could tell Matt Whipkey was proud of the band he assembled for last Friday night’s album release show at The Jewell, and he should be.

Standing beside him on the crooked stage were two of the city’s best guitarists — Korey Anderson and Corey Weber — his longtime sideman/keyboardist Scott Gaeta, percussionist/vibrophone player Scott “Zip” Zimmerman, who for decades sat behind the kit but for Friday was replaced by whizkid drummer Nate Van Fleet (who’s on a personal farewell tour before he moves to Los Angeles early next year), and flying in all the way from Denver was none other than Bobby Carrig, who also played alongside Whipkey for decades.

Whipkey never had it so good, and I think he knew it, because also supplying sonic mojo was the room itself. The Jewell has a reputation for being one of the better sounding rooms in Omaha, designed for live jazz shows. And sound good it did. This was the first time I’ve seen Whipkey live where I didn’t have to wear earplugs, the sound was so balanced and clean.

Matt brought his A game, performing all the songs off his new album, Hard (2021, Unusual) to a seated crowd who gnawed on $28 plates of rubber chicken from their candle-lit tables. Sort of like seeing a band at a Holiday Inn lounge, but with perfect acoustics. Not exactly a rock club vibe, but Whipkey knew that going in.

Highlights for me were when he let the band lean back and do their thing, like at the end of Hard standout number “Big Noise” that saw Whipkey trading solos with the KCoreys. The other golden moments came during the “greatest hits” part of the set, where he rolled out tasty versions of 2008 Whipkey Three track “Separation” and the acoustic guitar-fueled title track from his 2015 album Underwater.

This was my first time at The Jewell, and for the most part, it was a positive experience, though I recommend eating at one of the many Capital District restaurants before arriving, as the overpriced food was pretty awful. But who eats at a jazz club, anyway? The room would be a great place to host small, intimate singer/songwriter shows as well as jazz. Rock shows aren’t out of the question, though you’re pretty much confined to your table, and that ain’t very rock ‘n’ roll, is it?

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Busy week for shows.

Tomorrow night ‘80s alternative band The Fixx plays at The Waiting Room. These guys have been touring for decades on the strength of two albums from the early ‘80s whose hits still get airplay on classic rock stations. They haven’t put out an album since a 2014 live album. Joining them is ‘90s alt rockers Fastball. $35, 8 p.m.

Tuesday night, Flaccid Mojo (consisting of two members of DFA Records artist Black Dice (the two that don’t sing)) swing by Reverb Lounge for a set of experimental beat-heavy distortion synth noise. Opening is Problems a.k.a. Darren Keen. $12, 8 p.m.

Tennis return to The Slowdown Wednesday night. Molly Burch opens. This is a main room show and it’s No Vax No Entry, so bring your stuff. $20, 8 p.m.

And then along comes the 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 © 2021 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Kris Lager tonight, and some thoughts on The Jewell…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 12:46 pm December 4, 2019

Kris Lager plays solo tonight at The Jewell.

by Tim McMahan,

I’ve been told by a couple music folks (and have read on Facebook) that The Jewell is hands-down the best live music venue in Omaha. I couldn’t tell you if I agree having never stepped foot in the joint.

The Jewell originally was marketed as a live dinner/music-venue with a jazz focus, and many acts initially booked were jazz-oriented. But there have been exceptions, such as tonight’s Kris Lager solo show at 6:30 (tix are $15). Lager has generated a large local following for his style of feel-good blues rock. His Spotify bio, for example, shows he has 1,161 monthly listeners, most of them located in Omaha and the Midwest, though Lager tours his ass off.

It’s a smart booking for Jewell, along with upcoming dates by Cubby Philips Trio, Hector Anchondo Band, The Confidentials, Blues Society of Omaha gigs and various holiday shows that appear to reach for a different audience than is typically attracted to jazz fare.

That said, I’m still waiting for The Jewell to book one of Omaha’s premier indie / punk bands (and if you’re wondering who I’m talking about, you never read this blog, but here’s the list for 2019). One assumes these bands have never been considered for the Jewell stage because, well, they’re indie/punk bands. And while blues ain’t jazz, you could argue that there’s an overlap in those two genres’ perceived audiences.

That said, considering that the club is booked kind of like a dinner-theater — with ticketed calendar events where you get in, order dinner, watch the act and leave — there’s no reason why they couldn’t book any genre of music or performer — i.e., it’s not a hang-out jazz club where patrons show up expecting jazz five nights a week. You go to see the band you bought tickets to see.

If they’re willing to book Anchondo and Kris Lager, they certainly could book David Nance Band, Thick Paint, See Through Dresses or any of the Saddle Creek Records stable. I guess the question is whether those bands’ followers would show up and order dinner instead of just soak themselves in PBR. In that way The Jewell seems designed for old(er) people, the kind you see leaning over a king-cut prime rib at Anthony’s.

And you could argue that indie bands already have plenty of quality venues to play at — The Slowdown, The Waiting Room, Reverb Lounge, not to mention smaller clubs like O’Leaver’s, The Sydney and The Brothers. (But for those of you wondering whether those bands would play at The Jewell in the first place, the answer is yes they would, if the money’s right).

I guess I’ll just have to keep on waiting for the right moment to finally experience The Jewell. In the meantime, tickets to Kamasi Washington — arguably one of the most influential new jazz voices and (one would assume) a perfect fit for The Jewell — go on sale Friday at The Slowdown…

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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 © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.