Live Review: The Lupines, Unexplained Death at O’Leaver’s; Pile, Stuck, No Thanks tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:36 pm November 12, 2019

The Lupines at O’Leaver’s Nov. 9, 2019.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

The Lupines rolled out a new direction to their sound last Saturday night at O’Leaver’s. In fact, they literally rolled it out — a giant upright piano, that is. If you’ve been there before you’ve likely leaned/sat on the behemoth, which usually sits next to the exit to the beer garden. The band grunted it across the floor to the stage area for their set, and then spent a good 10 minutes (or more?) trying to get it properly miked up. Who knew that old-fashioned upright pianos could create so much feedback?

Lupines frontman John Ziegler set down his guitar to twinkle the ivories on a new set of songs that sported a honky-tonk country flair, a bit of blues and folk and rock. The first couple tunes were eight or nine minutes long but seemed to roll on forever thanks to endlessly repeating verses. Ziegler pounded the keys like a modern-day Leon Russell, ending each line with a bluesy flourish, while guitarist Mike Friedman pulled back his usual jittery, frenetic Lupines’ style to something more relaxed and refined, a la David Lindley.

It all came together on the final two songs of the set — one short one, the other, an epic closer wherein Ziegler maneuvered from the piano bench, through the tangle of microphone stands and cords to pick up his Gibson and battle Friedman with guitar riffs.

I’d heard a few weeks ago that Ziegler was going to play piano for this set, so I prepared myself to finally hear one of my all-time favorite Lupines songs — “Hasn’t Failed Me Yet” — a tune I’d been told had never been played live because of its piano-based arrangement. Now there were no excuses. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be as the band only played brand new material. My quest to hear that epic song continues…

Unexplained Death at O’Leaver’s Nov. 9, 2019.

Matt Whipkey and his crew in the form of poli-punk band Unexplained Death didn’t make it to the O’Leaver’s “stage” until well after midnight, ripping through songs off their just-released self-titled cassette.

Always prolific, Whipkey used the occasion to debut a couple more new songs, one of them an angry, fast number built on a golden guitar riff that I’d love to hear again. If this project’s goal was to pull Whipkey away from the Americana format that he’s known for, it’s succeeding. As I’ve said before, Unexplained Death isn’t so much a punk bands as a punk-influenced rock band with a political message ripe for our time. But it won’t be deemed a true success until someone wearing a MAGA hat attacks Whipkey on stage during a performance, ending in arrests by all involved, and the headline MAGA DUDE CHARGED FOR ATTEMPTED MURDER AT UNEXPLAINED DEATH SCENE!!!

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The last time Boston indie rock act Pile played in Omaha it was aboard the River City Star in the summer of 2017. They’ll be on firmer ground when they headline Slowdown Jr. tonight, on tour in support of Green and Gray (2019, Exploding in Sound), album that scored a mighty 7.9 on the Pitchfork scale.

The touring opener is mathy Chicago rockers Stuck. While Omaha’s very own No Thanks kicks things off at 8 p.m. This is a good one, and it’s only $12.

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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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Live review: Deerhoof at Low End, Unexplained Death at The Brothers…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:42 pm October 28, 2019

Deerhoof performs at the grand opening of Low End, Oct. 25, 2019.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Lots of well-dressed, smiling, laughing people, some with pieces of art wrapped in brown paper tucked under their arms, were leaving the Bemis Friday night as we arrived for the Deerhoof show down in the once-known-as Bemis Underground now-known-as Low End. I felt invisible in my hoodie and jeans, and probably was to all the local art/business types leaving the night’s charity auction. These are the folks who keep things like Bemis afloat. We have a lot of them in this town, thankfully, and we always need more (and they’re out there, in those West Omaha mansions, we just need to get them downtown).

Low End is actually in the space next to Visions custom frame shop. What was once a cavernous empty room has been transformed into something, well, Warholian. By that I mean the underground space has an artsy, cool vibe. The walls are scalloped and covered in floral wall paper and aglow in digital stage lighting, all synced to change color — orange, purple, green, blue, it feels like the walls are moving, sort of. In the center, a support structure has been turned into a sculpture covered in spray-gunk that drips like synthetic stalactites.

Inside the catacombs of Low End…

Despite (or because of) its subterranean essence Low End feels intimate, with built-in cushioned benches throughout its many nooks, like hiding places left in plain sight. Anyone would feel cool hanging out down there, ablaze in the digital glow.

Off along one side, not quite in a corner (though I guess it is a corner) is the Low End performance space/stage, which is a small platform (a few inches in height? Whaddya gonna do with that low ceiling?) and a wood-plank background that no doubt also acts as a sound buffer, designed by acclaimed architect Jeff Day and his FACT Team. It’s amazing looking, yet functional, like everything Day designs, like the entire room.

The PA speakers hang from the low rafters along the stage perimeter. I noticed a couple people running sound from off to the left, one using an iPad, the wiring all well hidden. Deerhoof’s amps sat on the stage and the band played essentially in a circle with front woman Satomi Matsuzaki facing the band, who were tucked in the corner. With those low ceilings I was expecting a painfully loud experience but was pleasantly surprised at the acoustics, which were clean and not overpowering, not boomy at all.

Obviously, with a crowd of any size, sight lines down there are going to be a problem. Keep in mind Low End wasn’t designed to be a rock club, but rather a space for experimental sound/music experiences — we’re talking art projects like two people scraping tin cans together or someone playing a lone cello on songs with names like “Abstract Staircase No. 1” “Abstract Staircase No. 2,” and so on. Not a rock band, and certainly not one as explosive as Deerhoof.

Deerhoof performing at Low End, Oct. 25, 2019.

Though known as an experimental band — and yes, they play proggy, angular music that can turn and twist and change key on a dime — we’re still talking electric guitar, bass and drums, and more often than not, songs you can pogo to (as many standing along the stage did, minding not to jump too high). Deerhoof was the perfect rock band to kick off Low End, though it’ll likely be the last rock band, or maybe not. Time will tell.

My hope is that, along with experimental noise/art sound collage projects that Bemis at least tries to book an artist or two that could be deemed “pop.” I mean, even Warhol had Velvet Underground for The Factory.

Anyway, Low End is a very cool space. Check it out for yourself when Laura Ortman performs there on Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. It, like all future shows, is absolutely free (and yes, they serve booze).

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Unexplained Death at The Brothers Lounge, Oct. 25, 2019.

After Deerhoof we drove uptown to The Brothers for the debut of Unexplained Death, the new punk project by Matt Whipkey and his band.

Whipkey dressed black on black tore into songs off his debut cassette, which was celebrating its release that night. No matter the style, Whipkey and his band always give an intense performance, but with the new rock material, they add an edge to angry songs about troubled times.

I wouldn’t call this punk rock as much as heavy, fast rock with a nod toward punk-ish bands like The Replacements or maybe mid-era, dirty Stones, which has always been a sweet spot for Whipkey’s music (along with Springsteen — anyone can tell Whipkey is a devotee). Call it protest rock or poli-rock, more observation than protest, actually, with Whipkey’s journalism degree taking center stage. The lyrics aren’t so much nuanced messages of rage as angry observations driven by recent headlines, and as such are more literal than punk’s usual anthem-threat-bombast. Here, listeners tend to nod in agreement rather than raise their fist in solidarity.

The live performance also is cleaner, more professional than the noise-static-low-fi feedback-drenched intentionally distorted takes heard on their tape, and as a result, sound like hard rock songs well-played by a band of rock veterans, better suited for the radio than the moshpit. As such, these protest songs are ready-made for any stage and not just punk clubs, and something tells me that’s what Whipkey had in mind.

Find out for yourself when the band plays at fabulous O’Leaver’s Saturday, Nov. 9, with the world-famous Lupines and those French-singing troubadours in Minne Lussa.

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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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Deerhoof (sold out), Unexplained Death (debut), Those Far Out Arrows, No Thanks tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:48 pm October 25, 2019
Deerhoof at The Waiting Room, June 25, 2010.

Deerhoof at The Waiting Room, June 25, 2010. The band plays a sold out show tonight at the grand opening of Low End at the Bemis.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Tonight is the debut of Low End, the new venue that is opening in the space that used to be Bemis Underground.

And the band chosen to kick things off is none other than Deerhoof. The concert is a joint production between Bemis and the Maha organization and has been sold out for quite some time, so unless you have tickets you’ll have to wait until one of the Low End’s future free concerts to check out the new digs. The concert starts at 9:30.

Also tonight, the long-awaited debut of Unexplained Death, the poli-punk rock project by Matt Whipkey. I’ve been told that Matt will be spending the afternoon ironing his mohawk for this special occasion. Or should I say “occasions” as Matt will first be hosting a listening party for the new Unexplained Death cassette release at Hi Fi House at 5:30, with music beginning at 6:30. That one’s free.

Then later, Whipkey will be giving his band the ultimate acid test by debuting at what is arguably Omaha’s punkiest punk bar, The Brothers Lounge.  The Broke Loose opens at 10 p.m. $5.

Also tonight, Omaha garage-rock originals Those Far Out Arrows are headlining at fabulous O’Leaver’s. Joining them are Anthony Worden & the Illiterati, and Sean Pratt. $5, 10 p.m.

Meanwhile, cross town at the infamous Midtown Art Supply space at 2578 Harney St. there’s a four-band show featuring maybe the hottest Omaha punk band currently running, No Thanks, along with Jocko, Death Cow and Histrionic. $5, 8 p.m.

One other show worth mentioning happening tonight is The Travelling Mercies playing at The Down Under Lounge. Joining them are Project Constellation and Michael Trenhaile. This one’s free and starts at 9:30.

Than we get to Saturday. The Husker game is at 2:30, so there’s no excuse for the lack of shows. The only thing I’m aware of is the Big Al free music fest at O’Leaver’s starting at 9 (a canned-food contribution is recommended for entry).

Am I missing something? 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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Big Nope (Nate Van Fleet’s new joint); Who is Blondo?; new Unexplained Death; Supermoon (Jake Bellows + Whispertown) tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:41 pm October 7, 2019

Big Nope is a new project from See Through Dresses drummer Nate Van Fleet.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Work kept me from the clubs this weekend, but I hope y’all had a grand time without me. Why do I miss all the fun?

A couple new bands cropped up via social media in the past few days.

Big Nope is a new project by See Through Dresses drummer Nate Van Fleet. Nate’s taking the frontman position this time handling guitars and vocals, with Liv Baxter also on guitar, Aaron Lee on bass and Zachary Roland on drums.

The band has a two-song single on Bandcamp: “Never Going Outside” b/w “Grass is Greener,” recorded at Little Machine by Van Fleet and Matthew Carroll (also of See Through Dresses), mixed by studio wizard Ben Brodin at Hand Branch.

The tune is upbeat indie pop that kind of reminds me of Thin Lizzy, I guess because of Van Fleet’s vocal phrasing on the A-side more than anything (and the arrangement). The B-side is more traditional indie. Pretty cool! Can’t wait to see them live.

I just saw Van Fleet play drums in Las Cruxes. See Through Dresses is also gearing up, and now this. What else can he pull out of his hat? Check out the single at their bandcamp page:

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Another new one is Blondo, a project by Lincoln’s Alex Malnack. This is straight-up emo-pop a la The Get Up Kids or Saves the Day, very pop-punk. On the debut 6-song EP, Heritage, Malnack plays everything but the drums, which are handled by Salt Creek’s Nate Skinner. Malnack is currently filling out his roster to play these tracks live.

This one came to my attention via Alex’s pop, Brent Malnack, the proprietor of Mars Bar and Grill, the West Omaha brew pub / performance space formerly known as Growler USA. Brent went out on his own (Growler was a chain) because he said the Growler folks weren’t down with his continued music focus for the club.

That being the case, Malnack is eagerly looking for bands to play Mars. Hit him up at the bar’s Facebook page. Tap into that unexplored West Omaha music market.

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Unexplained Death is back, this time taking aim at Mitch McConnell. Check it below via Spotify. We’re all still waiting for Whipkey and Co. to make their stage debut…

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Tonight at The Trap Room (located just north of The Slowdown), Supermoon is playing a free show. Supermoon is Omaha ex-pat / legend Jake Bellows (Neva Dinova) and members of Whispertown. 8 p.m. and free!

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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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Unexplained Death on cassette; new Love Drunk: Bogusman…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:22 pm September 18, 2019

The Unexplained Death cassette…

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

The debut recording of Matt Whipkey’s new poli-punk project, Unexplained Death, dropped last Friday in cassette and digital formats. I’m seeing more and more artists opt for cassette releases, I assume because it’s a physical format (other than CD) that artists can create themselves. The cassette is a run of 100, each with unique, hand-made cassette sleeves comprised of altered versions of classic ’80s album art. Just look what Matt did to Robert Plant.

The songs represent a sort of new direction for Whipkey. Though he’s known mostly as an Americana folk-rock guy, Matt always punctuated his albums with a few heavier rock songs. This collection is his take on punk — fast and hard and purposely distorted/low-fi — with lyrics about the current state of local and national politics. Whipkey said it was because of the songs’ timliness that he didn’t shop the recording to labels — he wants to get his message to the masses now.

The full album is being streamed here at Bandcamp, where you can order a copy of the cassette for $10 (comes with download key). And look for the band’s stage debut sometime next month…

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Love Drunk, the live one-take video project helmed by Django Greenblatt-Seay, is back and better than ever. Django dropped video #141 last Saturday. It features Lincoln punk band Bogusman performing “Magic Hands” at the VS. Arcade Bar in Lincoln. I’d heard of neither Bogusman nor VS. prior to this video and now I want to check ’em both out. Now maybe someone can get Bogusman to play in Omaha? Check it below.

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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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New Unexplained Death track; Jake Bellows sighting; Stef Chura, French Vanilla, David Nance tonight at Reverb…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:38 pm August 7, 2019

Stef Chura at O’Leaver’s, May 30, 2018. She plays tonight at Reverb Lounge.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Matt Whipkey’s new punk-flavored project Unexplained Death is about to enter the political arena. Whipkey has crafted an album’s worth of angry  rock songs that reflect Nebraska in the age of Trump.

His latest entry is a not-so-veiled attack on Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse titled “Benny and The Sass,” which debuted a lyric video on YouTube yesterday. Who will be the first Washington intern to show it to the senator. And when will Whipkey and the rest of U-Death finally grace a stage near you?

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The Scott McCaughey tour that rolled through an Omaha living room last month rolled into LA’s Bootleg Theater this past weekend with half of R.E.M. (Peter Buck and Mike Mills) in the supporting band. Also on board was Morgan Nagler, Jake Bellows and the rest of Whispertown. Check out the coverage, which includes a shout out and a couple sweet pics of Jake and Morgan. We miss you, Jake…!

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Speaking of living room shows, there’s another one coming up Aug. 28 with Pedro the Lion’s David Bazan. Upon purchasing your limited $25 tickets here, the location of the event will be revealed. No doubt, it will once again be a living room tucked away somewhere in Dundee.

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Tonight at Reverb Lounge it’s the return of Stef Chura and her band. Chura played a sparsely attended set at O’Leaver’s last year (I was there). Her new album, Midnight (2019, Saddle Creek), produced by Car Seat Headrest’s Will Toledo, has garnered plenty of national attention, which could make tonight’s show a bit more crowded.

Toledo and Chura have something in common: Both have voices that are… challenging. Toledo’s voice swings between wobbly half-asleep tone-waddle and full-throat yell-singing. So does Chura’s, at times a scratchy granny (reminiscent of ’70s hippy yodeler Melanie (“Brand New Key”)) at others, angry nasal lady. I find it strangely precocious.

Toledo gets a ton of credit for this new record’s sound, and in a lot of ways, it’s justified. Compared to her Saddle Creek debut, 2017’s Messes, the guitars on Midnight are crunchier, the bass lines are fuzzier and more out front, and the songs are filled with clean drop-outs that wake up the tracks with karate chop precision.

Lyrically, Chura’s outsider / lost relationship musings can walk home in the dark hand-in-hand with Toledo’s lonely guy odes.

Like last night’s Outer Spaces show, this one is a four-band bill (WTF? Don’t you guys know some of us have to go to work tomorrow morning?). Joining Chura is LA art punkers French Vanilla (Danger Collective Records), New Haven rocker Stefan Christensen and our very own David Nance Group. 8 p.m., $12.

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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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RSD 2019; New releases (Unexplained Death, Leafblower); NIght Beats, DROSS, Sun-Less Trio tonight at Slowdown…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:35 pm April 15, 2019

The Sun-Less Trio at Reverb Aug. 18, 2017. The band plays tonight at Slowdown, Jr.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

What’d you get on Record Store Day? This is the first year I didn’t go shopping on RSD. It’s not as if there was nothing I wanted (Anyone score that Devo box set? It’s going for $140 today on eBay). I assumed the decline of Omaha record stores (Three closed just this past year, including icons Drastic Plastic and Almost Music) that the interest in RSD was waning, but sure enough, images began showing up on Facebook hours before Homer’s opened Saturday of huge lines outside scrolling around the block, a testament to ongoing interest in this twice-a-year promotion (Black Friday is sort of RSD Pt. 2).

I find that while I listen to more music now than ever before, I listen to vinyl less and less (mainly because I mostly listen to new music). One of my last vinyl purchases was the Red House Painters box set, an old RSD offering — I found an unopened copy on Discogs. Very likely I’ll be buying that Devo box set, too… from Discogs… eventually.

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Speaking of new music, a couple new local releases caught my attention.

First, Matt Whipkey has a new side project called Unexplained Death that’s his take on punk. The first two songs, “Four More Years” b/w “Think For Yourself” (a cover of the Beatles classic) went online a week or so ago. It’s just part of what will likely be an Unexplained Death LP that’ll be released sometime in the near future.

Of course we’re all waiting for Unexplained Death’s first stage appearance.

The other release is a two-song stoner-rock release by Leafblower — “Yes Men” b/w “Still Lazy After All These Beers.” The tunes are available on Spotify now, and will be released as a 7″ later this year by Max Trax Records. Heavy, heavy shit.

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Very cool rock show is happening tonight at Slowdown Jr. — Seattle rock psych-rock band Night Beats (Heavenly Records) headlines with DROSS (members of Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship) and Sun-Less Trio. 8 p.m. start time, $15.

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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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Unexplained Death (a.k.a. Matt Whipkey and band) takes on the Ricketts family…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 2:32 pm February 13, 2019

A screen cap from the new Unexplained Death video for “Wall Street Pete (Daddy’s Money).”

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Matt Whipkey has been working on a secret project for a number of months. He’s known for a style of music that falls somewhere in the folk rock / Americana / alt country / singer-songwriter genres. The new project, going by the name Unexplained Death, is Whipkey’s take on punk as only he can.

His first angry solvo has been hurled at Pete Ricketts and the Ricketts family in general. Called “Wall Street Pete (Daddy’s Money)” it throws the Ricketts spaghetti agaisnt the wall. See what pieces stick below.

I asked Whipkey, “Why punk, why now?”

“Look at the world; it’s a flaming shit storm. In all directions, fireballs of shit flying,” Whipkey said. “A lot of musicians are speaking out against the current state of affairs and that is great, but a lot of these songs are borderline lullabies.”

Whipkey’s abrupt change in musical style also is the result of too often being hung with the “Americana, singer/songwriter” genre tag. “I’ve carried it for a long time,” he said.

So is what he’s doing punk? Probably not in the truest sense. This song and others off the upcoming collection fall closer to Replacements-style indie rock.

“When I was learning to play guitar, these were the kind of jams I first figured out,” he said. “Fast and loud is definitely part of my nature. In no way am I claiming to be a punk purist. I still like melody too much. But the energy it carries has always been a part of my identity.”

The Unexplained Death songs were mostly recorded in Whipkey’s unfinished basement. “I did the drums for some songs at Scott Gaeta’s (studio),” Whipkey said. “I mixed all the songs and even played everything (sans drums).”

He’s looking for a record label to put it out, but, “I have little hope because the music industry is also part of that flaming shit storm.”

We’re all still waiting for the first Unexplained Death rock show; do you hear that Lookout Lounge and The Brothers?

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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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