Digital Leather in Noisey (full album stream) and in The Reader; David Dondero, Electric Six tonight…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:01 pm June 17, 2015
Digital Leather's Shawn Foree, left and Ben VanHoolandt.

Digital Leather’s Shawn Foree, left, and Ben VanHoolandt relax in The Nifty’s beer garden.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

A rather lengthy feature/interview with Digital Leather came out a couple weeks ago in the June issue of The Reader. I’ve been sitting on it because the band’s new album, All Faded (FDH Records) won’t be released until next Tuesday, June 23. But since Noisey today began streaming the entire album I figured now is as good a time as any to point you to this rather controversial Reader article (It’s already receiving hate mail), online here.

The genesis of the story was an interview conducted in late May with Digital Leather frontman Shawn Foree, bassist Johnny Vredenburg and synth/keyboard player Ben VanHoolandt at classic midtown dive bar The Nifty. What ensued was two hours of interview, every second of it digitally recorded. The transcribed recording weighed in at just under 100 pages of single-spaced type, and reads like a twisted off-Broadway play. In fact, it dawned on me that it would be fun to recreate the interview verbatim on the Bluebarn stage, with the names changed to protect the innocent (of course).

Needless to say, I got to ask all the questions I’ve been dying to ask Foree and Co. since I began listening to Digital Leather shortly after Foree’s arrival in Omaha sometime around 2009, including why they don’t play songs off Warm Brother, the meaning behind their seminal anthem “Studs in Love,” and how Jay Reatard influenced Foree’s songwriting. The story also covers how the band first got together, the making of the new album, Foree’s pursuit of a Pitchfork review and future pursuits. It clocked in at just under 2,000 words and is a double-page spread in the current issue of The Reader. But, as I said, you can read it online here. Check it out, listen to the Noisey album stream, and buy a copy when the record hits shops next week. And get ready for DL’s performance at Dog Fest at O’Leaver’s June 27.

* * *

Speaking of fabulous O’Leaver’s, the club is in the midst of a rather busy week with shows nearly every night, including tonight when Dave Dondero headlines. I’m not sure what Dave’s been up to lately because his website hasn’t been updated since 2013, but it’s still worth a visit just to check out the sweet photo of a Union Pacific train rolling through dusty bluffs outside of Salt Lake City. Also on tonight’s bill is roots/punk rocker Al Scorch (Orange Twin Records). $5, 9:30 p.m.

Also tonight, Detroit funk/garage/novelty band Electric Six (XL, Metropolis) headlines at The Waiting Room with White Reaper. $13, 9 p.m.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Matthew Sweet talks about moving home, Kickstarter, O’Leavers & Girlfriend; Oketo tonight…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:55 pm March 12, 2015
Matt Sweet and his glasses.

Matt Sweet and his glasses.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

This week’s podcast, below. Give it a listen…

That Q&A I did with Matthew Sweet for The Reader went online this morning. Sweet talks about moving back to Nebraska, why he did a Kickstarter campaign for his upcoming album, playing at O’Leaver’s and the legacy that is Girlfriend. You can read the Q&A online right here.

Sweet is playing at the 1200 Club in the Holland Performing Arts Center March 28. It’s a cool place to see a show. Even has a bar, with drinks and everything, nice tables. Definitely a good evening out. Tickets are $45 (all general admission, just grab a table) and $100 for VIP that let’s you meet Sweet and give him a big ol’ bear hug and get a selfie with him. Get tix here.

Proceeds from the Sweet concert go to Hear Nebraska, so you’re getting a great night out while helping out a worthy cause. DO IT.

* * *

Tonight at Slowdown Jr. it’s Lincoln band Oketo. The band is closing out a spring midwest tour, so they should be honed and ready to rock. Opening the show is Chicago band The Boxers and CB’s Pancho & The Contraband. $6, 9 p.m.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Introducing The Lazy-i Weekly Wrap-Up Podcast

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 12:40 pm February 18, 2015

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Put together a weekly podcast? Sure, I’ve got nothing better to do with my time.

By popular demand, I present to you the Lazy-i Weekly Wrap-Up Podcast — a collection of local indie music news, comments and reviews from the web pages of Lazy-i.com, plus music samples from live shows and upcoming releases, as well as a look at the best shows happening in the coming weekend, and beyond, all hosted by yours truly.

Featured in Episode 1:

— New music by For Against’s Jeff Runnings, including a sample from the upcoming album.
— Reviews of Take Cover, Dumb Beach and Bass Drum of Death, including a live music sample from Sweatshop Gallery.
— News from Desaparecidos and All Young Girls Are Machine Guns
— A live review of last weekend’s Sleater-Kinney concert, with a live music clip.
— And an interview with Matt Whipkey about his new album, Underwater.

It’s 20 wasted minutes of your life you’ll never get back, but who cares, it’s free. Check it out right here at The Reader‘s website.

God help us all.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

The Reader to reveal new design this afternoon (and free tacos!!!)…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 2:08 pm December 30, 2014

readerrenewby Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I’m as curious as you are about what the “new” Reader will look like. I haven’t a clue what we’re going to see when publisher John Heaston and his team reveal the new design down at Sokol Underground at 3 p.m. this afternoon. It will no doubt be the beginning of a new era for a publication that’s survived as a weekly for the past 20 years.

Heaston also will be unleashing a new version of thereader.com. I’ve seen it and it is, indeed, an improvement over the current website, though it should be stressed that the new web design is only V 1.0, and that John says we’ll see even greater improvements in design and functionality in the near future.

Anyway, you’re all invited to the big reveal from 3 to 6 p.m. today. In addition to free copies of the new publication there will be free tacos, (some) booze and what’s been described as a “20 Year Maze” that walks people through the past 20 years of The Reader. No idea what this is, but it should be plenty weird.

If that wasn’t enough to set your curiosity ablaze, this first issue of the newly designed Reader will contain my annual Music Predictions for the Coming Year article — always a real crowd-pleaser.

See you this afternoon at Sokol Underground…

* * *

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

Lazy-i

The Reader goes monthly in January; Happy Thanksgiving (see you at the bar)…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 3:08 pm November 27, 2014

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Screen Shot 2014-11-27 at 1.58.16 PMThe Reader announced via its website yesterday that the newspaper is changing from a weekly to a monthly print schedule. The reasons for the change were outlined in editor John Heaston’s essay, which was shared via social media. I also posted a link to my Over the Edge column that talked about the publication schedule shift, which you can read here (or in the printed paper).

As I say in my column, basic content that makes up The Reader — the columns, the music and arts reporting, etc. — will continue, but on a monthly basis. The hope (or at least my hope) is that with the new format, writers will be able to do more in-depth reporting and descriptive storytelling. Back in the early days of The Reader, Heaston or whoever was your section editor insisted that band features be a minimum of 1,600 words, enough to cover two two-page spreads, along with the prerequisite band photos and pull-quotes. And if you went longer than 1,600, well the more the merrier.

As the years went by and advertising began to evaporate, the news holes began to shrink until it got to the point were band features/interviews couldn’t exceed 600 words. Begging would get you as much as 800, but no more. I insisted that no in-depth interview could be written for less than 1,200 words and found myself escaping to my own column space — 1,000 words — for enough real estate for depth and background. Of course, there was no room left for photos.

Even cover stories began to shrink over the years. Some of those early Bright Eyes and Faint cover stories in The Reader ran over 3,000 words. Today I’d be lucky to get half that space.

Now with a monthly format that (hopefully) promises at least 64 pages per issue we’ll be able to get back to real reporting and storytelling — that is, if people still want to read those kinds of detailed stories. Facebook and Twitter have eroded readers’ attention spans, especially young readers who would rather swipe through a series of photos on Instagram than read what those photos were about. Is Social Media bringing to an end the age of long-form literary journalism? Time will tell.

Anyway, the new format doesn’t launch until January, so you’ll get at least five more issues of The Reader in the weekly format — and five more Over the Edge columns — until the monthly format comes into play. As part of the change, The Reader promises to update its website daily, and many of the weekly — or more timely — items (reviews, previews, schedules) will be updated as necessary. As I mention in the column, I’m still weighing whether Over the Edge makes sense anywhere but in print (where it will appear monthly). John and I are tossing around ideas for some sort of weekly online content — maybe even video, who knows?

My primary online presence will continue to be right here, at Lazy-i.com, which I’ll continue to write until they pry this Mac keyboard from my cold, dead hands, even if I’m down to two measly readers per day. A music critic has to write…

* * *

Nothing happening show-wise tonight, but holidays have always been a good bar night. Look around and see what’s open. And have a good Thanksgiving. See you tomorrow, when Black Friday comes…

* * *

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

Lazy-i

Background on The Lazy-i Interview with Conor Oberst (in The Reader), Lincoln’s turn to give to Hear Nebraska…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:55 pm May 29, 2014
A screen capture from Conor Oberst's new video for "Zigzagging Toward the Light."

A screen capture from Conor Oberst’s new video for “Zigzagging Toward the Light.”

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Some background on the cover story / interview with Conor Oberst in this week’s issue of The Reader

It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to ask Oberst any questions. The last interview was way back in 2007 in support of Cassadaga. Oberst — or more accurately, his presss agent, Press Here — has turned down requests for interviews by small press such as The Reader ever since.

I hadn’t even bothered to ask when it came time to do media for the release of Upside Down Mountain, figuring the request would simply be rejected again. Then Marc Leibowitz of One Percent Productions emailed saying Oberst was indeed doing interviews for this release and in support of his June 4 show at Sokol Auditorium. I emailed Press Here and was told that Conor would do the interview, but because he was so busy, he could only do it via e-mail.

E-mail interviews are difficult — you never know how the artist will reply. The answers could literally be one or two words, as were the replies from Bill Callahan from Smog when I conducted an e-mail interview with him years ago. Plus, e-mail doesn’t provide an avenue for follow-up questions. You get what you get. It was a shame because whether face-to-face or over the phone, Oberst is among the best at doing one-on-one interviews.

A couple days went by and the questions were due. So I tapped out what was on my mind, figuring because of the personal nature of the questions, he may not respond.

Among those personal questions: Way back in 2010, I received a tip from a very reliable source that Oberst had run off and got married in New York City the prior weekend. Knowing the source, I knew it was true, but didn’t want to get him in trouble. Instead, I rattled off a letter to Saddle Creek Records, recapping what I’d been told. The reply: “Conor has a new album coming out ….” it was the classic non-denial denial. I guess I could have figured out a way to look up his marriage license in NYC, but I didn’t have the resources or, frankly, the interest. Without confirmation, reporting that Oberst got married would be no more than gossip. Why was it a secret?

This was just a few months after the Concert for Equality in Benson. Oberst had emerged as a celebrity leader and voice against U.S. anti-immigrant laws in the summer of 2010. Conor was doing interviews in support of the concert, but questions would be limited to politics, so I decided to pass even though there was one burning question I was dying to ask: What was really driving the protest? Was there a personal relationship behind his political passion? In the end, no one ever bothered to ask.

I got some of my questions answered in this Reader interview. In fact, Conor answered every questions I sent him. Read the full Q&A transcript in this week’s issue of The Reader, or online right here.

* * *

Speaking of Conor, here’s his new video for “Zigzagging Toward the Light.” It’s pretty trippy.

* * *

Today is Give to Lincoln Day, the sister effort to last week’s Omaha Gives! day. That means if you live in Lincoln (or even if you don’t) it’s time to donate $10 to Hear Nebraska through the Give to Lincoln website. By giving through the site, a portion of your donation will be eligible for a match via the Lincoln Community Foundation.

I outlined the reasons last week why every musician, venue, promoter and local music fan should support Hear Nebraska (right here) so I won’t tell you again (though you can always go back and reread it). Come on. Give. It’s only $10.

* * *

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

Lazy-i

The 2013 Reader and (Lazy-i) Top 20, and the next…?

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 1:53 pm December 11, 2013

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Seems like The Reader‘s “Music Issue” gets pushed back further and further every year. Something that used to come out in the fall is now becoming a year-end tradition, along with all those other year-end “best albums” lists, etc.

Anyway, here it is. The process for creating the list was the same as it ever was — The Reader‘s music writers got together and hashed out the list over beers at the Dundee Dell. Arguments for or against including a specific band involved whether a band performed, toured or released any music over the past year.

So are these the best bands? Are they the most popular bands? Are they the most successful bands? No, no and no. They’re not even our favorite bands. Throughout the back-and-forth that went into making the list, preference was given to bands that have made the biggest impact from our area.

My chores this year also involved writing a “State of the Music Scene” essay that precedes the list. The Reader‘s Top 20 for 2013 (descriptions written by the esteemed Chris Aponick) and Next 29 (!) are in this week’s issue on news stands now, and online right here. (Don’t ask me who that is in the photo at the top of the article).

Go on, click over and take a gander, then come on back. We’ll wait for you…

Okay, you back? Well then, without further ado…

The Lazy-i Top 20 for 2013

Simon Joyner
Desaparecidos
Icky Blossoms
Digital Leather
Yuppies
Eli Mardock
Universe Contest
The Faint
Tim Kasher
Conor Oberst
See Through Dresses
Pleasure Adapter
Twinsmith
Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies
Matt Whipkey
Laura Burhenn/Mynabirds
Travelling Mercies
Skypiper
Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship
McCarthy Trenching

And…

The next 10

Solid Goldberg
Dim Light
Touch People
Lupines
Killer Blow
Electric Chamber Music
Oquoa
Underwater Dream Machine
New Lungs
Gordon

Let the arguing begin…

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Column 362: Translating Column 361; SXSW bound (again); Lincoln Exposed continues…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 1:50 pm February 9, 2012

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Hey, I’ve got an idea: How ’bout we never use the phrase “They’re killing it” ever again in Twitter/Facebook/anywhere? What do you say? The only phrase more annoying is “No worries.” What are we, in the Outback? STOP IT.

Thursday always has been when I’ve posted my weekly column. I figured this was a good time to explain last week’s column to those who didn’t “get it,” and there were quite a few of you. At least a half-dozen people have asked me what exactly did I mean by “the end of my first column and the beginning of my second.”

Here’s the translation: My music column in The Reader folded last week. That was it. Kaput. Over. End of story. EOL. For those who missed it, you can read the reason for that column’s demise, here.

Next week I begin writing a new column for The Reader. I don’t know what it’ll be called, but it won’t be called Lazy-i. This new column will not be dedicated to indie music, as Lazy-i was. It’ll be a general topic column focused on arts and culture and anything that I can come up with by knocking together the two rocks rolling around in my head. That new column will launch in The Reader next week, and will be exclusive content in the paper and at thereader.com — it won’t be posted here.

This website will continue in its current direction. Nothing will change. It will have the same indie/Omaha music focus that it’s always had and will be updated each weekday over my lunch hour, as it has for the past 1,000 years.

Furthermore, I’ll continue to write feature articles and interviews with bands that will appear both in The Reader and in Lazy-i. In fact, I just did an interview with Tim Kasher last night for an article that’ll be in print in an upcoming issue of The Reader, and also will be posted on this website (along with any extra interview content that wouldn’t fit in The Reader‘s article).

Again, I’d like to thank all of you for reading the printed version of Lazy-i in The Reader over the years. A couple people seemed genuinely upset about its demise, telling me “It’s the only thing I read in The Reader,” and “I’ll never pick up that paper again.” To this I say: “Thank you. I appreciate your kind words. I’m always surprised when I hear that anyone read my column (whether in print or online). But please, keep picking up The Reader. Flip through its pages. If there’s something that you’d like them to cover, interviews you’d like them to conduct, please let them know. Email the editor, John Heaston (john@thereader.com) and tell him what’s missing and what you’d like to see in his pages (which are really your pages, because you’re the customer, and the customer is always right, right?). John will listen. He has to. The only way printed newspapers are going to survive is if the folks producing them listen to their readers and provide the content that they ask for along with the content that the editor thinks they need (Quick, someone write that down and send it to every friggin’ newspaper in the country).”

Another reason you need to continue to pick up The Reader is because MY NEW COLUMN WILL BE PRINTED IN IT! But I don’t want to sound like the egotistical prick that I am. Just saying’ (there’s another phrase that should be abolished).

As I said last week, there will be some (maybe a lot) of overlap between my new column and the old one. I’m not going to avoid music topics, but I’ll also no longer avoid non-music topics. I’ve been wanting to write about local art, music, food, theater, literature, people, dogs, cops, robbers, trees, politicians, boobs, pricks, glass houses and empty buildings for years and have held back because it didn’t fit the Lazy-i format. Now I can. And with that, I’ve just given you a sneak preview of next week’s inaugural column, which remains unnamed. If you have any ideas, pass them my way.

* * *

And speaking of my continuing music coverage in The Reader, yours truly will again be covering South By Southwest in Austin. Originally, it didn’t look like I was going, but things have changed and I’ll be reporting from Austin again this year, posting daily for thereader.com and Lazy-i.com. Let’s hope the weather is better than the last time I went two years ago, when it was cold and rainy and miserable. Please, pray to your gods.

* * *

Lincoln Exposed continues tonight. Early report from Mr. Jeremy Buckley is that crowds at yesterday’s shows were at record levels. If you’re in the Capital City tonight, you should go, because there ain’t jack shit happening in Omaha tonight. Full schedule is here (in Facebook).

* * *

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.

Lazy-i

Column 361: When the Music’s Over…; Live Review: Blind Pilot; Conor MVB releases; Cass McCombs tonight…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , — @ 1:33 pm February 2, 2012

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

This is it, the last installment of my first column for The Reader.

It began Dec. 2, 2004. I had been suggesting to editor John Heaston, literally for years, that he needed to integrate columns into The Reader, that all good newspapers included an opinionated voice willing to speak his or her mind without fear or concern of offending. The music scene needed a voice like that even more. During a time when Omaha was glowing from national praise for its burgeoning indie music scene (by then, the bloom was already off the rose), it woefully lacked a critical voice in print. Some might say it still does.

I’d already been writing music criticism on my website for years. Lazy-i.com launched in 1998 as a work-around tool. Here’s the deal: After publicists line up interviews with their bands or send out album previews, they demand “tear sheets” of what has been written – some tangible proof that they hadn’t wasted their time. Those requests would be forwarded to The Reader, where more likely than not, they’d be forgotten or ignored among the paper’s more pressing needs of the day, leaving me to handle tear sheets myself.

Instead of wasting envelopes, postage and trips to the post office, I got the idea of posting the stories and reviews online (The Reader didn’t have a website back then). I would then e-mail links to stories to the publicists. Satisfied that I was actually doing something, they would keep me (or add me) to their record label’s distro lists, resulting in dozens of manila envelopes filled with CDs landing in my mailbox every week. Because, really, it’s always been about the free CDs, right?

It didn’t take long for me to realize that I could bolster Lazy-i’s readership by adding a daily entry or web log – I guess you could call it a “blog.” My column in The Reader would simply be a natural extension of those web logs, along with original content. After much prodding, Heaston finally agreed to give it a try. Column No. 1 featured an interview with singer/songwriter Willy Mason, who had just signed as the second act to the horribly named Team Love Records – a just-launched sister label (of sorts) to Saddle Creek, owned and operated by Conor Oberst and his business partner, Nate Krenkel.

Seven years and 360 installments later, Lazy-i as a column has run its course. Heaston has suggested that Lazy-i is redundant as it appears in The Reader because most people read my music column online at Lazy-i.com. He’s wrong, of course. Regardless, given the choice of either sunsetting my website or sunsetting my column, I chose the latter.

Part of it has to do with age, I suppose. I am 46 years old, and I’m still writing about music after doing it for 25 years. I find nothing wrong with this, but there are those who have suggested that rock music (and especially new music) is only for young people, and why would a teen-ager/twenty-something give a shit what a guy in his 40s thinks about a new band or new album? Maybe they’re right, but it hasn’t stopped me from doing it, and (apparently) from people reading it.

And here’s something else – as I’ve gotten to the age where I was old enough to be the father of the bands I was interviewing, I’ve never felt awkward talking to these musicians about their music and their lives. I’ve never felt as if they were patronizing me. And while some people feel odd going to rock shows where they’re surrounded by people half their age, I’ve never felt out place. I still don’t. I don’t think I ever will.

Fact is, most people over the age of 30 have a hard time listening to new music. They’re more comfortable listening to the music they grew up listening to.  I guess I’m lucky I get as much of a thrill listening to good new music as I do listening to the hits of the ‘80s. And when I hear something I really like, I enjoy telling others about it (Because let’s be honest, writing about music is as much about ego as it is about getting free CDs).

And what’s the old saying – if you’re involved in music after you reach age 30, you’ll be involved in music your entire life. I think that’s true. Just ask Robert Christgau, who will turn 70 on April 18 and continues to write insightful, witty and relevant music reviews.

So despite the end of this column, Lazy-i.com will live on. I’ll continue to write about music every weekday, I’ll continue to review CDs and rock shows, but I’ll do it on my website. I’ll also continue to interview bands, but that writing will also appear in The Reader when space allows (because things are getting tough for the printed page, my friends. If you value printed newspapers, keep reading them. And then go to the businesses that advertise in them, and after you’ve bought something, tell the businesses you saw their ads in the paper. Do this, or else in the very near future, there won’t be any printed newspapers).

So what’s next? Like I said at the beginning of this piece, this is the last installment of my first column at The Reader. I’m going to take a week off (which I haven’t done for seven years) and then I’m going to write the first installment of my second column for The Reader.

Thanks to all of you for reading Lazy-i over the years. Thanks to John for printing it. Thanks to all the bands and labels and clubs and publicists and promoters and friends who helped make it happen. I couldn’t have done it without you.

I’ll talk to you again in a couple weeks.

* * *

That’s the big announcement I mentioned yesterday. If you read this blog regularly, not much will change. In fact, probably nothing will change, though you won’t be seeing my new column here. It’ll be exclusive to The Reader. Considering how much time I spend at shows, however, there’s bound to be some overlap whether I (or John) likes it or not. Some might say untethering myself from music in my column writing should be liberating. In fact, it’s frightening, but if you’re not taking risks, you’re not living…

* * *

Blind Pilot at The Waiting Room, Feb. 1, 2012.

Blind Pilot at The Waiting Room, Feb. 1, 2012.

Now where was I…

Blind Pilot had a triumphant return to Omaha last night. Triumphant in that it looked like they nearly sold out The Waiting Room — a huge crowd that was backed up past the sound board. I got there as they went on stage just past 10:30 (I’m loving these early weekday shows, 1%).

Their sound is a sort of watered-down version of the Avett Bros. fronted by a guy who sounds like he grew up listening to his dad’s Jackson Browne or (more likely) Gomez records. The songs were pretty enough, though none of them had a hook that stood out. At least they were short. Looking at the track listing of We Are The Tide, their latest on unknown Expunged Records, shows eight of the 10 songs are under the four-minute mark, with one coming in under three minutes — just short enough to keep you from getting tired of them. Hey, don’t knock the value of short songs, especially when you have virtually no stage presence. Strangely, as the set wore on, the songs seemed to get longer, long enough to bore, probably because there wasn’t much going on up there.

The solid six-piece is fronted by Israel Nebeker, who played acoustic guitar throughout except when he lugged out a big lap accordion for one song. The rest of the band augmented the middle-of-the-road folk rock sound with vibes, trumpet and banjo. Like I said, pretty.

Other then their appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman last month, I’m baffled as to where this massive crowd had heard these guys before. But they knew them well enough to sing the words back to Nebeker throughout the entire set. Someone told me last night that the popularity stems from Pandora, how that happens, I don’t know. Did people who set up Avett Bros or Gomez channels in Pandora get fed this as part of the mix? Ah, the mysteries of becoming a rock star in the 21st Century. While I was listening to their rather safe, unadventurous but subtly catchy music; I wondered how many more bands are out there like this, filling in the gaps for a generation who doesn’t remember the fleet of MOR bands that preceded them. Probably hundreds. Maybe thousands. And, truthfully, Blind Pilot is better than most, which is why they’re breaking through to a larger audience.

* * *

I’d be remiss in not mentioning yesterday’s announcement that Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band are releasing (via Team Love) an outtakes album along with a DVD documentary about the band directed by the band’s road manager (and Con Dios frontman) Philip Schaffart. You can get all the details here. Release date is May 15. Will this mean that MVB will get together for a brief support tour? Who knows. Rumors abound that another of Conor’s old bands may be planning a reunion tour, and in this harsh political climate, it never made more sense.

* * *

Indie folk troubadour Cass McCombs drops in tonight at The Waiting Room. Opening is folk revivalist Frank Fairfield. $10, 9 p.m.

* * *

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.

Lazy-i

Column 342: The (Online) Calendar Hung Itself — a look at local music calendars; Gomez tonight…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , — @ 1:15 pm September 21, 2011

Column 342: The (Online) Calendar Hung Itself

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Before we get started, full disclosure: I’m on the “board” of hearnebraska.org. Not that it matters — I’m not involved in the website’s day-to-day activities, and have little or no input on things like website content or fundraising events. But I don’t want you to think I’m cheerleading when I make this statement: Hearnebraska.org has emerged as the best resource for local rock show schedule information on the web. I say “among the best,” because this here newspaper’s website, thereader.com, (Full disclosure again: I write for The Reader, as you, uh, know) also has stepped up its online music schedule/calendar. Meanwhile, one website I’m completely unaffiliated with, omahype.com, continues to plug away with its comprehensive arts-focused online calendar.

SLAM Omaha logoThe “news” here is that the ol’ tried and true go-to place for all things local musicwise — slamomaha.com — has fallen on hard times, especially when it comes to its show calendar. In its heyday a few years ago, SLAM Omaha was the first click of the evening when looking for rock show data, mainly because: 1) It was the only game in town; and 2) The calendar was updated by the bands themselves, who were looking for someplace/anyplace to promote their wares. The fact that the site’s simple design has never been updated turned out to be an advantage, because SLAM Omaha still has the cleanest, easiest-to-navigate calendar of any local entertainment website. Linked off its homepage, it merely lists dates, bands, venues and times, with brief descriptions and prices. Nothing more, nothing less.

But apparently all this new competition for online music news, as well as the rise of Facebook, has distracted bands from SLAM Omaha. Look at its calendar this week and you’ll find very few events listed, despite the plethora of nightly shows.

As part of maintaining this website, Lazy-i.com, I check all the online calendars daily, so I can list the best shows happening every evening (Lazy-i ain’t comprehensive, and was never meant to be). With that research in mind, I can declare that the new go-to resource is hearnebraska.org’s calendar, thanks to its small army of underfed, overworked interns. Unfortunately, finding the site’s calendar(s) can be … confusing. The website doesn’t have a small homepage “portlet” or section that lists the evening’s hot shows. Instead, users have to “hover ” their mouse over the “SHOWS” rollover link. Skip the wonky, incomplete “Today’s Shows” listing and go straight to quicker/easier to navigate “Calendar” listing.

Before getting to the evening’s lineups users must scroll past the month’s outdated past shows, then sort through the double listings. I’m assuming most of those hungry interns live in Lincoln, because there’s a preponderance of Lincoln shows listed, and usually one or two hidden-gem Omaha shows missing. HN’s calendar would be more useful if it segregated Omaha and Lincoln shows for those who won’t be driving to Lincoln anytime soon (and vice versa). Despite design flaws, HN’s calendar is the most up-to-date and comprehensive, thanks to its unique music-only focus.

Next in line is thereader.com, which received a much-needed site redesign this year. Like HN, The Reader also lacks a homepage portlet displaying today’s hot shows. Users must click on a “Calendar” tab. From there, they have to click on an almost invisible “Music Listings” sub-tab, after which a poorly formatted events page is displayed with date headings. The good news is that it’s a (somewhat) comprehensive list (from an Omaha perspective), including shows at smaller venues like The Hole, The Sandbox and O’Leaver’s. Unfortunately, the design is surrounded with outdated news content. Stay away from the page’s confusing sub navigation (today’s events/latest events/choose by day), unless you want to get lost.

The most attractive online calendar is Omahype.com. Omahype, boasting coverage of all things arts and entertainment with a “youth-oriented” spin, is cool and clean, with spiffy fonts and big photos and graphics. But while the Omahype team does a fine job gathering information, clicking on the “Music” tab gets you a hodgepodge of content displayed in no particular order. A music review is followed by an outdated calendar listing, followed by a download link followed by a photo essay followed by a show listing for something that doesn’t happen for a couple weeks. The information you’re looking for is there … somewhere.

Let’s not forget the great, grey Omaha World-Herald. For a newspaper with a multi-million dollar payroll, Omaha.com is one of the worst designed news websites on the www. The hard-to-navigate homepage looks like the Yellow Pages blew up all over it. Stories are interspersed with Husker-related “news,” vapid reader polls and garish click-me-now advertising. Yeah, I realize they have to generate money to cover that multi-million dollar payroll, but they shouldn’t do it at the readers’ expense. Perhaps they purposely made the website ugly to force readers to buy their newspaper? Once found, Omaha.com’s calendar lists a few big events, such as Qwest Center concerts, and ignores small-room shows, making it useless for anyone trying to keep track of the bustling indie music scene.

At the end of the day, despite all the new media, finding rock show information online is still a crapshoot. With so many websites now vying for the same sets of eyes, there’s no way all of them will survive. But until someone can come up with a clean, easy, complete listing of shows like SLAM Omaha used to have, the field remains wide open.

* * *

Missing from the above discussion is Facebook, which though rather ubiquitous and a nice tool for bands and promoters to have in their toolbox, is far from the final answer. Especially if Facebook keeps fiddle-dicking around with its design. As you’re probably already aware, Facebook pushed out yet another “update” this morning that again shuffles how you view wall posts. If you’re like me, you don’t want a robot telling you which stories are “important” and which aren’t. You want Facebook to merely display wall posts in the chronology in which they were posted, and let us decide what’s important.

But I digress… Facebook event invitations are a good way to tell your “friends” that you’ve got a show coming up. On the other hand, people who aren’t your “friends” will never see your announcement. So if you’re only interested in communicating to your predefined social network, go for it. However, if you rely solely on Facebook to get the word out, anyone outside that network will be left in the dark. At this point I get so many Facebook event invitations that I ignore them. If I depended on Facebook to show me everything that’s going on musicwise, I would miss a wide swath of gigs.

If you hear about a show but aren’t sure of the specifics, the club’s website is usually the most accurate place for times and prices. Onepercentproductions.com is another go-to website for high-profile indie shows. Bookmark it now.

By the way, I loved SLAM Omaha. I miss its up-to-date calendar; I miss the conversations that used to take place on its Music Message Board. I wish-wish-wish it could return to what it was just a couple years ago…

* * *

Speaking of One Percent Productions, they’re putting on another high-profile show tonight at The Waiting Room when Gomez returns with Kopecky Family Band. Gomez is on the road supporting Whatever’s On My Mind, their latest LP released on ATO Records this past June. $20, 8 p.m.

* * *

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 © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i