Live Review: Icky Blossoms, RSD 2017; New Umm; High Up, McCarthy Trenching do 1200 Club Live…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:39 pm April 24, 2017

Icky Blossoms at Earth Day in Elmwood Park, April 22, 2017.

by Tim McMahan,

Another Record Store Day in the books. I only had time to visit one store, Almost Music in Blackstone, where I caught a few minutes of Montee Men playing in the bookstore — brutality among the children’s titles, big crowd, lots of smiling faces (RSD brings out the kid in all of us).

Montee Men at Almost Music, RSD2017, April 22, 2017.

I only picked up three things, though: The new O+S, a promo pressing of U2’s War and a T-shirt. That Spoon vinyl had already sold. Oh well. RSD is one of the smartest retail promotions — designating one day as a tribute to consumerism, collecting and music. Well, two days if you count RSD Black Friday, and I’m sure the independent record stores do.

After Almost Music I headed to Elmwood Park for Earth Day festivities. The good weather brought out every stoner, hippie and yuppie parent in Omaha. It was a day shot in Technicolor and sunshine.

Icky Blossoms had the legendary Dereck Higgins playing bass for this show (temporary or permanent member?), which was performed with its usual dance-vibe bombast but suffered from poor PA/audio. Everything sounded a but fuzzy and blown out, but what are ya gonna do? It’s an Earth Day concert. And the lousy sound didn’t stop the the gaggle of freaks from dancing in front of the stage. Gotta love it.

Last I heard Icky Blossoms was working on new material, though I didn’t hear any Saturday afternoon. Where will they go next? We’re all waiting for the next record…

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Umm, the duo of Stef Drootin and Chris Senseney (a.k.a. Big Harp), released their first new music online last week. Check out the Majestic Litter Soundcloud files below…

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Finally, the folks at the Holland Performing Arts Center announced last week another show at their 1200 Club. This time it’s High Up and McCarthy Trenching as the featured acts May 6 (tornado day). Tix are $15 Adv./$20 DOS.

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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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Umm, Oquoa; Charlie Burton, Muscle Cousins tonight; Leafblower, David Nance, Closeness, BIB Saturday…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:49 pm April 14, 2017

Umm at Reverb Lounge, April 13, 2017.

by Tim McMahan,

So now I get the name change. Umm, the new project by Stef Drootin and Chris Sensensey, sounds nothing like their other band, Big Harp. There was nary a twang to be had when the duo rolled out a set of new material last night at Reverb Lounge.

In fact, everything was different — the rock style, the blistering pace, the guitar/bass tones, even Senseney’s voice — now cool and easy — was a big contrast to the grave-pit vocals heard on Big Harp albums.

Whenever I listen to female/male husband/wife duos, I subconsciously compare them to other duos where the vocals are shared or harmonized between a male and female. Top of list is usually Yo La Tengo, Low, Sonic Youth, White Stripes and, of course, Fleetwood Mac, Sonny & Cher… okay, maybe I’m going too far back into the archives. The act that came to mind last night was someone no one likes but me — a vintage husband-wife duo that recorded on I.R.S. called Timbuk3, a one-hit wonder whose fantastic catalog was virtually ignored because of that hit song — which should be a warning to any band dying for a break-through single. Sometimes a the hit can ruin your career.

Anyway, the Timbuk3 comparison is purely on the periphery of what Umm is doing, and based solely on how Stef and Chris harmonize. Stef said those harmonies are the result of an Everly Bros. fetish. Whatever the inspiration, the end result was gorgeous, and provided the perfect counter-point to the duo’s fast, heavy but tuneful indie rock.

Played over laptop beats, each instrument shared the leads throughout the set. Whereas Senseney is one of the best guitarists I’ve ever heard shred a solo, Drootin’s bass work was just as prominent and oftentimes more brutal, providing a fuzz tone that peeled paint off Reverb’s rafters. There was one tune in the middle of the set where the duo shared an intricately played musical phrase as if performing a high-stakes trapeze act without a net. It was laugh-out-loud holy-shit good.

Underscoring the entire performance was the songwriting. These are some of the best pop songs I’ve heard in awhile, songs you immediately want to listen to again. I’m told the duo already recorded an album’s worth of music at ARC. This was only their fifth live performance, and it was red hot. Do I like this better than Big Harp? Yes, because in general I’m tired of twangy, rootsy, indie folk music, something Big Harp did as well as anyone. And while you could listen to Big Harp and respect it for what it was, Umm’s music and songs are something I’d reach for again and again.

Oquoa at Reverb Lounge, April 13, 2017.

BareBear, the new Rob Walters project, opened the night, but I missed it. Oquoa followed with one of their better sets. Keyboardist Patrick Newbery now dominates the solos even more so than frontman Max Holmquist’s guitar. Newbery’s synthwork is multi-layered and varies throughout like nothing heard before. Holmquist’s vocals are at times nearly operatic in tone… and enunciation — i.e., I sometimes wondered in what language he was singing.

Oquoa’s style has morphed into a psychedelic, shoe-gaze sound reminiscent of drummer Roger Lewis’ old band, Conduits. The four-piece isn’t afraid to take their music to space, pulling off repeated riffs and soundscapes that are nothing less than trippy.

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It’s a moderately busy weekend of shows coming up…

Omaha/Lincoln legend Charlie Burton is playing tonight and tomorrow night at Growler USA, 16274 Evans Plaza in West O. Burton’s latest combo is called Charlie Burton and Or What! The last time I interviewed Charlie was way back in 1998 when he called his act The Texas Twelve Steppers (read the article here). I suspect old fans will be flocking to this show. It starts at 9 p.m. and is free both nights. I recommend getting there early if you want a seat. The venue draws a crowd even without music, thanks to its massive beer selection.

Also tonight Muscle Cousins headlines at Reverb Lounge. It’s a new project founded by siblings Andy, Mari and Collin Matz. The Matz kids have been playing music in Omaha for years in bands like Capgun Coup, Manic Pixie Dream Girls and Saturn Moth. Opening is the epic-ly named Boner Killerz and psych-folk-rockers Those Far Out Arrows. $7, 9 p.m.

Tomorrow night’s big gig is the Leafblower EP release show at The Brothers Lounge (which I told you about here). Check it out at Bandcamp. Opening is JAZID and folk-psych-superstar David Nance. $5, 9 p.m.

Also tomorrow night, there’s a special dance performance by the tbd. dance collective at Kaneko downtown. “As a part of KANEKO’S ‘Passion & Obsession: From the Collection’ exhibition, tbd. dance collective will create an original performance exploring the idea of movement as an intangible collection, able to be viewed, but only truly stored in the mind.” Closeness, the new project by Orenda and Todd Fink, also perform. Tickets are $10, show starts at 8 p.m.

It’s a night of hardcore at the new Milk Run, 2578 Harney St. Headlining is KC band Blindside USA. Joining them is red-hot noise rock act BIB, Jocko, Jade Lacy and Daphne Calhoun. No price listed but you know it’s got to be at least $7, right? Show starts at 9. Remember, enter through the back door.

Finally, indie band Low Long Signal is playing Saturday night at fabulous O’Leaver’s. They’re opening for headliner The Ramparts. Human Teeth Parade also is on the bill. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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 — 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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Waiting Room memories (an HN special); Umm (Big Harp), Oquoa, Nashville Pussy, Bloodcow tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:31 pm April 13, 2017

Bloodcow at Reverb Lounge, March 7, 2015. The band opens for Nashville Pussy tonight at Lookout Lounge.

by Tim McMahan,

A couple weeks ago Zack Visconti at Hear Nebraska contacted me asking a series of questions about The Waiting Room for a news feature he was writing for the website. Questions like ‘What’s your favorite show there?” and “Fondest TWR memory?” and so on. The story ran March 31 at Hear Nebraska, and you can read it here.

An excerpt:

What was your favorite show there?

Very hard to say since I’ve seen so many. The first one that jumps out is The Faint show held there just a couple days after they opened, March 11, 2007. Other favorites that stood out off the top of my head include St. Vincent, July 25, 2007 — Annie Clark on lead guitar fronting a punk band, she’s never sounded better; Monotonix Oct. 7, 2008 — the band took the show outside when drummer Ran Shimoni banged on a snare while frontman Ami Shalev climbed a traffic signal pole along Maple Street; the first Future Islands show in November 2011 — no one had heard of them and only a handful of people were there, but frontman Sam Herring was at his flamboyant best; and Stephen Malmus & the Jicks Feb. 16, 2014 — where there was a special guest appearance by Bob Nastanovich, making it a mini Pavement reunion.

God, who remembers that Monotonix show? What ever happened to those guys?

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A couple big shows tonight as we begin the holiday weekend…

As mentioned yesterday, Umm headlines tonight at Reverb Lounge. The band consists of Stef Drootin and Chris Senseney of Big Harp. They describe Umm’s sound as “vintage harmonies and shards of fuzz over grounded, primitive rhythms and simple, aching pop melodies.” Nice. Opening are BareBear and Oquoa. $7, 9 p.m.

The other big show tonight is hard rock act Nashville Pussy (SPV, Amphetamine Reptile) at Lookout Lounge. Somebody dubbed their music “sleaze rock” — it’s hard, fast and just right to kick off your Easter weekend. Opening are some of Omaha’s heaviest hitters Bloodcow, Ocean Black and Gallivant. $18, 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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Umm ain’t Big Harp (but sorta is…); Leafblower’s rock ‘n’ roll prescription; the last VW (in the column)…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:42 pm April 12, 2017

Big Harp at The Slowdown, Nov. 28, 2015. Two of them are back as Umm tomorrow at Reverb Lounge.

by Tim McMahan,

Tomorrow night (April 13) Umm plays at Reverb lounge. Umm is the duo of Stefanie Drootin and Chris Senseney, who also are the core duo behind Big Harp. So Umm is Big Harp, right?

No, says Drootin.

“This is the first time we’ve made a record that’s truly just the two of us,” she said in an email back-and-forth earlier this week. “We’ve always had drummers and this time I played drums along with old drum machines and loops. Also, Chris and I were listening to The Everly Brother a lot and were inspired to make a record where we sing harmony vocals basically all the time, which is a change from Big Harp.

“Really we’ve been moving away from the rootsier vibe since the first record and it felt like time to formalize the break. This probably could, and maybe should, have happened on our last album.”

OK, so the duo-only project is called Umm while Big Harp is the name of the trio (or larger)?

“Not exactly. Umm doesn’t have to be a duo,” Stef said. “Partly we just wanted to start a new project and not have to worry about playing old songs or upsetting people by NOT playing old songs. To us, the music sounds different, but I guess people will have to formulate their own opinions on that.”

Ah, OK. Sort of like Cursive vs. Good Life — two projects fronted by Tim Kasher (one of which (The Good Life) Drootin also plays in)?

“Not exactly ’cause those are two bands that are 75% different members. Both of these are Chris and I. :)”

So… Umm is just a way to avoid playing older material?

“No, not really. That’s one part of it, but it’s really just a different project,” Drootin said.  “We co-sing constantly. We play with drum loops. The songs are looser and longer. It’s different music. But yes, it’s still Chris and I.”

And that’s where I left it — no more clear about the name change than I was before, other than Chris and Stef see Umm as a completely different project than Big Harp, and don’t want to play Big Harp songs Thursday night. They are, in essence, turning band branding on its ear. Imagine every time a band puts out a new record it renames itself.

If so, not a bad strategy, especially when you consider the number of bands that launch with big success only to fall flat on their second release, the fans of the debut apparently uninterested in hearing what comes next. In the old days (*he says from his rocking chair*) a band put out multiple albums trying to build up an audience and catalog of music. Sure, it was a drag when the crowd zoned out during the “new stuff,” but that’s a pain point every band went through.

Now, simply rename your band and start over with every album. How many iterations of Ty Segall are out there. Fuzz? Muggers? Ty Segall Band? Conor Oberst has Bright Eyes, Desaparecidos, Monsters of Folk, Mystic Valley Band and his solo output, though he played a “Poison Oak” (a Bright Eyes song) at his last solo show. Does it really matter what he calls himself since he writes all the songs?

Anyway… Joining Umm tomorrow night is Oquoa and BareBear. $7, 9 p.m. Hey, we all have Good Friday off the next day anyway, right?

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Speaking of upcoming shows (I’m getting a head start to the weekend) Leafblower has a cassette release show Saturday night at The Brothers Lounge with David Nance and one other band. They dropped the first song off the album Monday,

“We recorded with Mike Friedman, and Mike Saklar mastered it,” saidl Leafblower’s Danny Maxwell. “The inserts were designed and screen printed by Ben Allen, and we hand-scored them and numbered them. The tapes are green and hand stamped by none other than Mr. Craig Fort.” How can you go wrong? Check out the new track, titled “RX,” below.

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Random non-music item: I write about my 1966 VW Beetle, my 2017 VW Beetle and how it might be the last car I ever own (because of the advent of self-driving vehicles and Uber) in this month’s Over the Edge column in The Reader. Check it out 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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.