Shadow Ridge Music Fest (Violent Femmes, Soul Asylum, Matthew Sweet), Digital Leather, Universe Contest, BFF tonight; Wagon Blasters Saturday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:38 pm September 6, 2019

Digital Leather at The Sydney, April 6, 2018. The band returns to The Sydney tonight.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Yet another music fest is happening tonight — the second annual Shadow Ridge Music Festival at Shadow Ridge Country Club, located way out on 189th and Pacific St. The headliner is ’80s indie fossils Violent Femmes, with Soul Asylum, Omaha’s own Matthew Sweet and Lincoln legacy act The Millions, all for just $55. Ticket proceeds will benefit Elkhorn Athletic Association’s Future Outdoor Youth Sports Complex. Free parking at Elkhorn South High School with shuttle service. The Millions kick it off at 4 p.m. More info here.

Glancing at the calendar, it’s the first Friday of the month, which means Benson First Friday. If you’re in the neighborhood tonight, drop by The Little Gallery, 5901 Maple St. (the east bay in the bottom of the Masonic Lodge Building), and check out the opening for the late Robert Klein Engler. All artist proceeds will benefit the stained glass windows at St. Mary Magdalene Church in downtown Omaha. We’re there from 6 to 9 p.m.

Afterward, head over to The Sydney in Benson for the return of Digital Leather. The project, headed by Shawn Foree, released a full-length earlier this year on Stencil Trash Records, called Feeet, which is a comp of mainly tape-only released songs written and recorded between 2008 and 2018. Great stuff (as per usual). Joining them tonight is Tucson electronic act Mute Swan. $5, 10 p.m.

Also tonight, Lincoln indie prog act Universe Contest headlines at fabulous O’Leaver’s. Fellow Lincolnites Sweats and Iowa City’s Zuul also are on the card. $5, 10 p.m.

Tomorrow night it’s back to The Sydney for a rip-roarin’ set by Wagon Blasters (Speed! Nebraska Records). Gary Dean and the band will own the center slot, Vago is the headliner and Bull Nettles kicks it off at 9 p.m. $6.

And that’s all I got. If I missed your show, put it in the comments section. Have a great 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 © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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The Millions tonight; Benson Days (Dumb Beach, Simon Joyner) tomorrow; beer and Playboy (in the column)…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:53 pm July 26, 2013
The Millions, circa 2013

The Millions, circa 2013

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I’ve been fighting a summer cold all week. It’s insidious in its intensity. A seemingly benign pestilence quietly builds and builds… I know, I know, “Who gives a sh*t about your f**king cold, man, just tell us what’s going on this weekend.” You’re heartless…

Tonight’s performance by The Millions at The Waiting Room is sort of both a CD release show and the first of three farewell shows. The band is rereleasing M Is for Millions as the second CD from the band’s “Millions Archive Series.” The two CD set includes M is for Millions as it was originally released on cassette by the band before they were signed to Smash (minus the songs “No. 6” and “The River,” which are already available on the recently released Poison Fish CD).  Disc two is called M is for Millions Sessions and contains 11 previously unreleased tracks.

In addition to tonight’s show, the Millions is headed to Lawrence tomorrow to play at The Bottleneck, and then plays the Maha Music Festival Aug. 17. After that, the future of the band is anyone’s guess. Lives have a way of getting in the way of things like rock and roll, and certainly that’s the case with The Millions, who presumably will go back to their usual day-to-day existences after Maha. Bassist Marty Amsler said the band never intended to play beyond last December’s reunion show at The Bourbon. These three shows are merely “bonus time.” That said, something tells me this won’t be the last you hear from these folks…

Opening for The Millions tonight is fellow Lincolnites UUVVWWZ. $10, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, The Sydney has a red hot show featuring See Through Dresses, Dsoedean and Well Aimed Arrows. $5, 9 p.m.

And….tonight at The Barley Street, Blue Bird plays with Communist Daughter and Field Club. $5, 9 p.m.

Benson Days is Saturday in… Benson. Of note is the “Benson Mainstage,” which apparently will be a beer garden and stage located somewhere on or near Maple Street. The line-up ain’t half bad:

12 to 2:30 — DJ Kobrayle
2:30 to 4:50 — Brad Hoshas, Matt Cox and Sarah Benck
5:10 to 5:50 — Howard
6:10 to 6:50 — Dumb Beach
7:10 to 8 — Simon Joyner
8 to -9 — DJ Dave Goldberg

Following the day activities, Benson bars will be hosting bands throughout the strip, but it’ll cost you $10 for a wrist band. The clubs’ lineups are here.

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In this week’s column, how Playboy magazine got me hooked on canned beer, and why (despite the proliferation of online porn) Hefner’s enterprise will never drop the nudie photos. You can read it in this week’s issue of The Reader, or online right here.

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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 © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Live Review: The Millions (NE)…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , — @ 2:10 pm December 3, 2012
The Millions at The Bourbon Theatre, 12/1/12.

The Millions at The Bourbon Theatre, 12/1/12.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

It felt like a reunion whether they want to call it one or not. The Millions (or The Millions NE as the lawyers would prefer) took the stage at The Bourbon Theatre Saturday night to a crowd that one person estimated exceeded 400.

The revamped movie house (formerly The State Theater) was filled to the brim with people crowded into the stadium risers and crushed in the aisles and on the floor. The audience looked the part of a crowd that came to see a band whose heyday was over a decade ago — more gray hair than hipster swoops, more pant suits and dresses than colored tights and blue jeans. You could have mistaken it for a wedding reception except the audience looked like it actually wanted to be there (unlike most receptions I’ve attended), and were downright bubbly despite the fact that their local football team was being pounded into oblivion on the flat-panels above the bar.

The band strolled on stage without fanfare at around a quarter to 10 and jumped right into their set as if they just walked off a stage in 1995, albeit older and wiser but with no less enthusiasm. If they were as good as they were back then, I cannot say as I never saw them play live “back in the day” (Who knows why, as I’m told they played in Omaha as much as they played in Lincoln). Compared to their recordings, including the just released Poison Fish, I can say they still have their chops. And needless to say, the crowd still adores them.

But there are still some nits to be picked. The sound mix was ass for the first of two sets — dreadfully muddy with too much bass and not enough guitar. Someone figured it out during the break because they sounded spot on during the second set. Also of note was the absence of drummer Greg Hill. No question that young’n Brandon McKenzie did a yeoman’s job behind the kit, but he still didn’t have the dynamism or drive that Hill brought to those recordings, and to be honest, I didn’t expect him to. The fact that he was there to help facilitate the reunion deserves plaudits on its own, and over time, I have no doubt that McKenzie would find his own groove to these rather well-worn songs if he got the chance. The question, of course, is will he get that chance.

There have been no official announcements regarding any future Millions shows, though I have to believe based on the turnout Saturday night that an Omaha promoter would be wise to book a gig either at Slowdown or The Waiting Room if the band is willing or interested.  And then there’s the rest of the region. No doubt during their heyday The Millions did their share of touring in the KC/Lawrence/Des Moines/Columbia market. With that new rarities album now available, it would behoove them to retrace their past conquests. And after that, who knows?

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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 © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

 

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Live Review: King Khan BBQ Show, Digital Leather; Lazy-i Interview: The Millions; Pine Ridge listening party tonight…

King Kahn and BBQ Show at The Slowdown, Nov. 28, 2012.

King Khan and BBQ Show at The Slowdown, Nov. 28, 2012.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I never got my free booze at last night’s King Khan and BBQ Show concert at The Slowdown, but it’s not Sailor Jerry’s fault. The booze maker, who sponsored the event, had a converted Streamliner camper parked on the curb outside the club with blinking lights and signs and such. I didn’t bother to climb inside, and found out later that’s where they were distributing drink tokens. Kind of a weird deal, but there’s probably some sort of law that prevented them from setting up a table right inside Slowdown. Or something. I didn’t want to go back outside so I skipped it. I’d already bought my Rolling Rock anyway.

The “free” element was an ongoing riff played on by the KKBBQ duo, who kept prodding the rather large crowd about the freebies. “How’s your free booze?” said a smirking Mark Sultan sitting behind his two-piece drum kit, almost accusatory. Odd. Sultan, playing drums, guitar and singing (simultaneously), and King Khan on guitar and vocals were dressed in Mardi Gras-quality royal attire, complete with capes and feathered chapeaus. Glittery and cool. So was their music, a combination of garage, punk and sock-hop doo-wap, Chubby Checker meets Elvis meets Jack White meets the cast of Treme. They prodded the crowd to dance, and got a few to do a half-assed Frug.

Digital Leather at The Slowdown, Nov. 28, 2012.

Digital Leather at The Slowdown, Nov. 28, 2012.

Digital Leather opened the show with their usual grinding garage attack. I’ve seen these guys a hundred times and they never fail to bring it, but were especially on point last night. As I was sitting there wondering how many times I’d heard this set (or a slight variation), Shawn Foree and Co. threw out a golden nugget I thought I’d never hear them play again — “Studs In Love,” the homo anthem from Blow Machine re-engineered from an electronic hump fable to a roaring, spitting metallic confession. Foree launched it with a full-on riff attack aimed directly at the rhythm section of bassist Johnny Vrendenburg and drummer Jeff Lambelet (the best bass & drum duo in Omaha) settling into a tense, unrecognizable grind before barking out the line “I’m a man’s man / I don’t need no bitch.” F*** yes! They closed out their set with another classic — “Styrofoam,” from 2008 album Sorcerer.

I accepted years ago that Foree considers Digital Leather’s garage-rock stage presentation to be a completely different animal than the band’s electronic, proto-New Wave music heard on the recordings. I get it. But I’m beginning to wonder how long it will be until he breaks down and breaks out the Korg on stage once again. Maybe never. And that’s fine as long as he keeps putting out great records. Again, if you’ve only heard Digital Leather on stage over the past couple years, check out their recordings for a whole different take on their music.

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Below, for your reading pleasure, is this week’s column, which also is printed in the current issue of The Reader. I include it here instead of merely providing a link as I usually do because of the topic. Saturday night’s Millions show definitely is worth the trip to Lincoln for any Millions fan, as there’s a good chance you’ll never hear this band play again.

The Millions, circa 2012. Photo by Ted Schlaebitz.

The Millions, circa 2012. Photo by Ted Schlaebitz.

Column: A Million Reasons Why

Marty Amsler, like some of us, lives two lives.

Most know him as the mild-mannered “creative” at Nebraska advertising agency Bailey Lauerman. He’s a Mad Man ad guy who heads a team of Mad Men ad people that do some of the best creative work in the country. I know because I’ve seen it first hand in my “other life” at Union Pacific.

(To this day, I still meet people who think I make a living writing this column for The Reader. These are the same people who watched Sex and the City and thought Carrie Bradshaw could afford her cool Manhattan apartment and countless pair of $300 Manolo Blahnik shoes on what she made writing her weekly column in some faceless newspaper…)

Aside from Bailey Lauerman, there’s Marty’s main gig — his wife, Julia, and their son, Truman.

And then there’s The Millions, the band Amsler started way back in the late ‘80s in Lincoln with guitarist Harry Dingman III that included vocalist Lori Allison and drummer Greg Hill. Over the course of about six years, The Millions lived the rock ‘n’ roll dream. They generated a large following playing local gigs, got signed by Smash Records (a subsidiary of major label Polygram), quit their day jobs and recorded and released their debut album, M Is for Millions in July 1991. They toured, and then released their second album, Raquel, in September 1995. They toured some more. And then broke up and went their separate ways, leaving behind some great music and fond memories.

And now, just like that old rock ‘n’ roll story always seems to go, they’re getting back together again, for one night only — Dec. 1, 8 p.m., at Lincoln’s Bourbon Theatre. Well, at least three of them are, anyway. Greg Hill no longer plays drums and doesn’t want to. Drummer Brandon McKenzie will be sitting behind the drum kit that night. So can you really call this a “Millions reunion”?

“Lori, Harry and I don’t look at this as a ‘reunion’ show,” Amsler said. “Just old friends getting together again to play some songs we wrote a while ago to help some other old friends release a project they’ve worked tirelessly on.”

The Millions, Poison Fish (Randy's Alternative Music, 2012(

The Millions, Poison Fish (Randy’s Alternative Music, 2012)

The project is Poison Fish, a collection of lost, unreleased Millions recordings that capture the unbridled spirit of the band before they got signed.

The collection (under the name The Millions NE, because a different band now controls “The Millions” name) is being released by Randy’s Alternative Music, a record label run by Randy LeMasters, a Pittsburgh-based music entrepreneur who said the Millions’ music “turned my world upside down.”

LeMasters has spent nearly a decade working with the band and Millions’ fan Malcom Miles piecing together tracks heard on the new release from remastered cassette tapes, as the original master tapes (apparently) no longer exist.

Despite the frustration of spending years trying to track down those original masters, LeMasters says the release’s timing couldn’t have been better. “The band might not have gotten together for the CD release show in years past due to commitments with family and careers,” he said. “The time is right.”

And the timing may be right for other reasons. There’s a resurgence of interest in the post-punk, pre-Nirvana, “first wave” bands that influenced The Millions, such as REM, Throwing Muses, Cocteau Twins, Kate Bush and The Sundays. Some of the best new music released this past year, from indie darlings like Twin Shadow, Wild Nothing and DIIV, are revising the post-punk new wave sound for a new generation of listeners who may also discover something new in The Millions.

And if you’re wondering, no, LeMasters isn’t doing it for the money. “I’ve never been in the music ‘business’ to make money,” he said. “I do it for the love of the music and for my passion to get music into the ears of other fans. Other than the love one gets from family and friends, I believe there is no greater pleasure than sharing music with willing, eager ears.”

For Amsler, playing with his pals in The Millions again fills a void he didn’t realize he had.

“I have a very fulfilling career in advertising,” he said. “I get to spend my days working with some of the most talented people in the industry. I have great clients and more creative opportunity than I know what to do with.”

And though he gets the same creative fix from working with his B-L team, “I didn’t realize how much I missed just playing a song together – being super ‘cops-show-up (which they did) loud,’ getting in the zone and drowning all else out,” he said. “It’s so powerful, perfect and precarious. I didn’t realize how much I missed that — or them.”

Motivation to strap on his bass again also came from his family. “They see how much I’m enjoying it,” he said. “I get to share a side of me that neither of them knew.”

So I had to ask Amsler, the way the music industry is these days, would he do it all over again?

“That’s something I’ve thought about during the years,” he said. “Looking back, I’d have killed for the internet, e-mail, downloads or a damn cell phone (imagine being on the road for six weeks without one). That certainly would have made our lives easier on many fronts. But there was something about the music scenes when you had to be an active participant (not optional/digital) that was pretty amazing. I also think we were the last generation to get the big ‘quit-your-day-job’ record contract. Obviously, it wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be, but for a while, recording, touring and playing WAS our day job. That was pretty cool.”

The Millions play this Saturday, Dec. 1, at The Bourbon Theatre, 1415 ‘O’ St., Lincoln. Tickets to the all-ages show are $10 adv.; $12 DOS. Show starts at 9:30 p.m., with no opening bands (so get there on time). For more information and tickets, go to bourbontheatre.com.

First published in The Reader. Copyright © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Here’s one that was flying under the radar: Tonight at The Waiting Room is the listening party for this year’s Christmas for Pine Ridge compilation.  The CD includes tracks by So-So Sailors, The Whipkey Three, Gerald Lee Jr. (Filter Kings) and a bunch more. The music starts at 8 p.m. Consider it a warm up for Saturday night’s benefit show, also at The Waiting Room.

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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 © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Closing Antiquarium marks the end of an era; Millions announce reunion, rarities album; Desa in the NYT…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:35 pm October 1, 2012

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Antiquarium Records, 417 So. 13th St.

Antiquarium Records, 417 So. 13th St.

The Antiquarium announced yesterday via its Facebook page that it’s closing its doors.

“Well this is a little out of left field but the store is closing,” said the Facebook post. “Hopefully we will be reopening at some point but our debt has got a little out of control and we just can’t go on anymore for the time being.”

These are hard times for record stores, let alone one that caters to vinyl lovers, local music and underground bands. The shop’s legacy goes back decades when it was operated by the late, great Dave Sink and is arguably one of our music scene’s most influential businesses. The legacy was underscored in the remembrances written upon Dave’s passing last January (read them here).

“Of course there is a sale as well,” the Facebook entry continues. “All CDs are a buck a piece. All dollar records are a quarter. Everything else is 50% off. Come get killer deals and say goodbye.”

How long until all the record stores are gone?

BTW, an Oct. 19 benefit concert at The Sandbox is being organized by Black Heart Booking to help the store’s proprietors pay down their debt. Bands who want to get involved should email blackheartbook@hotmail.com.

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Speaking of The Sandbox, it just announced that Titus Andronicus is scheduled to play there Nov. 21. It’s a Slowburn Production. Now let’s see if they can keep from moving the gig to another venue…

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The Millions, sometime in the '90s.

The Millions, sometime in the ’90s.

Seminal Lincoln post-punk indie band The Millions, who disappeared around 1995, announced via its Facebook page that it’s reuniting for a show Dec. 1 at The Bourbon Theater. The reunited Millions will feature original members Lori Allison, Harry Dingman III and Marty Amsler. Drummer Brandon McKenzie will take over drums from original drummer Greg Hill, who isn’t participating in the reunion.

“The band is playing this one time only show to celebrate the release of Poison Fish, a 21-song CD of rare and unreleased recordings from the earliest days of the band,” says the announcement.

I have to admit being only peripherally familiar with The Millions back in the day since it seems like they rarely played in Omaha. In fact, I ordered a used copy of their first release, M Is for Millions, last night from Amazon.com for $1.99 after watching a video of the single “Sometimes” on YouTube.

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Thumbing through my copy of the Sunday New York Times Magazine what did my wandering eyes should appear but a feature on Desaparecidos. The story, online right here, reported nothing we haven’t already read in other articles. The biggest news was the fact that the NYT Mag printed the article at all considering that Desa has no current plans for either a new album or additional touring. Seems like Desa is getting more press now than it did a decade ago. Will it be enough to coax Conor into doing more Desa shows?

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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 © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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