Universe Contest, BFF tonight; The Urge, Swingin’ Utters Saturday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:50 pm November 3, 2017

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Well, not a whole lot going on this weekend. I guess I should blame the Huskers, though I can’t see how football would impact the draw at an indie rock show, especially this season. Anyway, there’s very little happening this weekend from an indie music perspective. No touring indie shows at all.

Tonight, Lincoln’s Universe Contest hosts a release show for their new one, Get Cot Livin’, at The Sydney. Hear Nebraska has a review of the album right here . Lodgings and Des Moines’ Pets With Human Names opens. This one is free (according to Facebook); show starts at 10 p.m.

 

That is really the only indie show on the radar this weekend. Since you’re going to be in Benson anyway (and so close) you might as well drip into The Little Gallery before heading to The Sydney and check out our new show, Bart Vargas’ One Year Later: The Trumplings. “Vargas cast the first Trumpling on Inauguration Day 2017 and committed to the goal of casting one Trumpling a day while Trump is in office. All with the ultimate goal, of exhibiting a future installation made up of 1460* Trumplings to memorialize everyday we had to endure this dark time in our history.” They’re pretty creepy. Check it out at The Little Gallery from 6 to 9 p.m. We’re located in the left bay of the Masonic Lodge, across the street and just east of The Sydney. See you there.

Saturday night it’s a step back into the ’90s as The Waiting Room hosts St. Louis ska-rockers The Urge with Clever and Mandown. It’ll be like a mini Ranch Bowl reunion. 8 p.m., $25.

Also Saturday night, Lookout Lounge has Swingin’ Utters with Western Settings Darius Koski and Joystick. Punk it up. $13, 8 p.m.

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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Live Review: Pleasures, Universe Contest; The Faint release retrospective on Saddle Creek…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:45 pm August 8, 2016
Pleasures at O'Leaver's, Aug. 6, 2016.

Pleasures at O’Leaver’s, Aug. 6, 2016.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I can’t think of a band as densely electronic as Sarasota’s Pleasures, who played at O’Leaver’s Saturday night. The four-piece drenched everything in technology, from the guitar, which was run though an onslaught of pedals, to the the stack of synths to Katherine Kelly’s vocals that were twisted and stretched and strangled by synths and vocoders and pedals all night. The music dripped in a haze of buzzing distortion cut through by a top-notch rhythm section that kept things grounded and rocking.

As interesting as the tech was, there were a few too many times when the vocal distortion got in the way of the music, and I wondered how the songs would have sounded had Kelly simply sung them sans electronic filters. The few moments when her voice peeped through the digital fog reminded me of a young Grace Slick, and certainly she carried the stage with a similar pomp.

Universe Contest at O'Leaver's, Aug. 6, 2016.

Universe Contest at O’Leaver’s, Aug. 6, 2016.

Pleasures were followed by Lincoln’s Universe Contest, whose pounding riffage and bellowing vocals were as musically subtle as hitting a thumb-tack with a sledge hammer — massive walls of throbbing sound and quirky (though barely recognizable) proggy melodies a la early Modest Mouse. The band had one of the better rhythm sections I’ve heard in recent memory, fantastic drumming. And hat’s off also to the violinist, who added much needed sonic nuance (and to the sound guy for somehow making sure she was heard through all the racket).

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That massive Faint / Gang of Four tour is beginning to make more sense. I had been wondering why The Faint had signed up for so many dates without a new album to push. Then last week the band announced that it’s set to release Capsule:1999-2016 on CD and digitally on Sept. 30 and 2xLP on Oct. 28 via Saddle Creek.

The retrospective collection represents a golden era for The Faint and includes 16 of their most beloved songs from five albums reaching back to Blank-Wave Arcade (What, nothing from Media?). The 2xLP is pressed on sexy silver vinyl and the first pressing will contain a bonus  7-inch featuring new songs “Skylab1979” and “ESP,” which feature the newest member of The Faint, Graham Ulicny (Reptar) on synths. Pre-orders are being taken at The Saddle Creek online store, where you can check out the track listing.

It’s a pretty solid collection, though most early Faint albums are pretty solid top to bottom. In fact you can’t go wrong with the trilogy of Blank-Wave Arcade, Danse Macabre and Wet From Birth, whose tracks dominate this new collection…

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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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Live Review: Bloodcow, Universe Contest; Hop Along track leaked, album details (Omaha date); Helmet tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:49 pm March 9, 2015
Bloodcow at Reverb Lounge, March 7, 2015.

Bloodcow at Reverb Lounge, March 7, 2015.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Unlike the last time I saw them at The Waiting Room, no one threw empty beer cans at Universe Contest during their set Saturday night at Reverb Lounge in Benson. Did the band ask the crowd to reframe from throwing shit? Did fans naturally hold their throwing hands because they didn’t want to soil the pristine confines of the newish Reverb? I do not know.

Also absent was the band’s giant light rig. Maybe they didn’t want to hassle with putting it together or hauling it up from Lincoln. Instead, they settled for Mercy Rule-style floor floods — always a trusty standby, and hard to beat for simple drama.

And Universe Contest already has plenty of drama when it comes to their music. They still sound like early Modest Mouse, driven in part by the lead guy’s spot-on Isaac Brock screech / yell and their own halting, angular, arty wallop. I don’t remember them having a violin player. Regardless, you couldn’t hear her during the set as she was drowned out by the rest of the band. Maybe it’s the Reverb’s small space, but there wasn’t much sonic separation between instruments, and as a result, it sounded like a bassy mish-mash.

Especially during Bloodcow’s set. I tried recording it for the podcast — no dice. The volume was too high (and I had my microphone set wrong) so the entire set was clipped. Bloodcow brings the low end. They also bring the rock. I would classify this as heavy metal more than metal — I divide the two based on guitar solos. I grew up on metal music where every song included a high, whining, blazingly fast guitar solo.

Bloodcow songs are more about riffage and rapid-fire lyrics about sex, booze, drugs, all the things that make up rock ‘n’ roll. There was nary a high-flying guitar solo during the first three songs, and only a few sprinkled throughout the set, usually buried in the plodding mix.  I’ve heard their upcoming release — Crystals and Lasers — and can attest to its blazing glory. The album is a better showcase than what we heard Saturday night, though the show was still plenty fun.

By the way, that new record is still at the pressing plant. The band had CDs on hand Saturday night but no vinyl, which is part of the reason why the show wasn’t their official album release show. Nor is next Saturday night’s opening slot at The Slowdown for The Killigans. We might have to wait until April for that extravaganza…

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Saddle Creek’s latest and greatest signing, Hop Along, leaked the first track off the band’s Creek label debut, Painted Shut, titled “Waitress.” The album was recorded with producer John Agnello (Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Kurt Vile). Check out the track below and pre-order the album here at the Saddle Creek online store. The album hits store shelves May 5.

And (best of all) Hop Along is now scheduled to play at Slowdown June 4.

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Tonight at The Waiting Room it’s brittle ’90s post-punk band Helmet on their Betty 20th Anniversary tour. Betty was released on June 21, 1994, and peaked at number 45 on the Billboard 200 album chart, making it Helmet’s highest ranking album. The band will perform the seminal album from start to finish tonight. There are no openers listed. $20, 9 p.m.

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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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Universe Contest, MiWi La Lupa, Mardock tonight; Video Ranger, Ron Wax Saturday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 1:53 pm January 31, 2014
Rudy, the star of Puppy Bowl X.

Rudy, the star of Puppy Bowl X.

by Tim McMahan Lazy-i.com

They’re talking about a couple inches of snow tonight. Let’s hope what happened in Atlanta doesn’t happen here; I want to get home from the bars after the show.

Speaking of shows…

Tonight at Slowdown Jr. Lincoln band Universe Contest brings their freakin’ huge lighting rig to Omaha again. Will it fit on junior’s smallish stage? UC is calling this their “3rd Annual Winter Formal with a drag theme.” Expect to see lots of bearded dudes in dresses. Hilarious! Opening the show are the equally theatric (and entertaining) Talking Mountain and Touch People. $7, 9 p.m.

Also tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s Buffalo, NY band MiWi La Lupa headlines. The band’s debut album, New Way Home, was released on Team Love Records (remember the label Conor built?). What I’ve heard from their SoundCloud page is quite pretty, acoustic fare. Opening is Lincoln’s Eli Mardock and Ojai. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Tomorrow night it’s all (only) O’Leaver’s, where Video Ranger headlines with mauling Lincoln stomp-rocker Ron Wax (Ron Albertson, formerly of Mercy Rule) and Zach La Grou. KC band Lazy was originally on this bill, but they’re not listed anymore…? $5, 9:30 p.m.

Sunday is the Super Bowl. Omaha has become a Denver Broncos town thanks to the Omaha-Omaha! campaign. Growing up, Denver was always a bad-guy team, along with Dallas and Minnesota. As far as I’m concerned, nothing has changed. If defense wins championships, than we all know who will come out on top. Seattle-Seattle!

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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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Simon Joyner and the Ghosts, Universe Contest…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 2:42 pm December 30, 2013
Simon Joyner and The Ghosts at the Hear Nebraska album release show, The Waiting Room, Dec, 27, 2013.

Simon Joyner and The Ghosts at the Hear Nebraska album release show, The Waiting Room, Dec, 27, 2013.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I’m trying to remember if I’ve ever seen a better Simon Joyner performance than what we got at last Friday’s Hear Nebraska album release show at The Waiting Room. I’d have to go back and back, maybe to some of the Fallen Men shows when Skeleton Blues was released in aught six, or further and further still, to the Howard Street Tavern days when Simon was first joined by Chris and Alex and Lonnie.

Sitting on a bar stool center-stage surrounded by no fewer than six musicians (The Ghosts), Joyner played a loud, droning, wonderful set of seasick hangover blues folk ballads heavy on feedback and pure on vocals. I knew a few of the folks up there with him — brilliant pedal-steel man Mike Friedman, violinist Megan Siebe (of Anniversaire and more recently cellist with Cursive – Megan is becoming Omaha famous, before you know it she’ll be touring Japan with Bright Eyes), and (who I think was) dashing singer/songwriter Noah Sterba.

The rest I did not know, including the shaggy gentleman ripping apart an electric guitar, spraying shards of love and anger and pain throughout the crowd. I was told the next day (by the proprietor of Almost Music, Brad Smith) that it was likely David Kenneth Nance. Brad than played a track off Nance’s 2013 Grapefruit Records release Actor’s Diary, which I should have purchased on the spot (but instead ordered online the next day). On Friday night, Nance provided the Sturm to Joyner’s drang, pitching one bright sustained note after another alongside Joyner and the rest of the band, who were lost in their own howling storm.

Among the set list was a new one about a drinking buddy, and a lot of old, familiar ones including “The Only Living Boy in Omaha” and Joyner classic “Double Joe” and Ghosts highlight “Vertigo,” which closed out the set with Joyner leaning back and (almost) falling off his bar stool. As his trademark straw cowboy hat fell from his head a bevvy of photographers rushed the stage to try to capture the moment. It was a glorious spectacle indeed.

Universe Contest at the Hear Nebraska album release show, The Waiting Room, Dec, 27, 2013.

Universe Contest at the Hear Nebraska album release show, The Waiting Room, Dec, 27, 2013.

Joyner made way for the night’s headliner — Lincoln band Universe Contest who brought a lighting rig the size of which I’ve not seen with any other local indie band since, well, The Faint. The Faint’s first foray in lighting entertainment — multi-colored floor floods controlled via foot pedals operated on stage by Joel Petersen during the performance — was quaint and crude, but effective.

Universe Contest’s light rig was a series of blinding LED light panels attached to a massive metal framework — it must be a bitch to haul around and set up. A lighting guy controlled the synchronization from a controller behind the sound board. Sometimes the effects were dramatic and impressive, other times they were distracting. At their best they provided a contrast, dimming to nearly nothing during quiet moments, blazing white hot during peaks. The investment is proof these guys have their sights squarely set on getting to the next level.

Countering the hard work that went into lighting was all the flying debris. Universe Contest is apparently the band you throw shit at. I counted no less than seven empty beer cans hurled at the stage throughout their set, as well as an assortment of other trash. One beer can bounced off the guitarist’s fretboard; he reacted without a flinch. I waited for someone in the band to pick up a can and say, “The next person who throws shit at us gets this shoved right up his ass,” but it never happened. Instead, the garbage continued to rain down on them. Maybe it’s a Lincoln thing because I’ve never seen anyone throw anything at any other band on The Waiting Room’s stage. (Imagine what would happen if someone threw something at Joyner).

Anyway, it was a distraction from what everyone should have been paying attention to — the music. Early in their history, Universe Contest had a Modest Mouse thing going on that was unmistakeable. They’ve moved beyond that, though there’s still touches here and there, as well as marks of other band such as MGMT and Le Savy Fav. Their sound is more electronic than I remembered and certainly more rhythm-heavy. While I could barely hear the guitars, I could feel the bass, and the drums — a standard trap set mixed with electronics.

I counted at least three vocalists sharing leads throughout the set, most were handled by the guitarist and bass player, though the keyboard player’s vocals were the most restrained (and the most sublime). There were only a few numbers where the vocals did more than add to the rhythms, which is one way of saying there were few if any central hooks in these songs, nothing you’re going to hum to yourself as you walk back to your car.

Instead, Universe Contest’s music is openly simple, with a number of songs centered around a repeated phrase that builds momentum with every turn. When the band gets in a groove it exudes a modern tribal energy that’s both neo-psychedelic and progressive.

Add it all up — the lights, the music, the flying debris — and Universe Contest is never less than entertaining. They sound like they’re halfway between being an indie pop band and being a full-on prog band; and that indecision defines them (for now).

So.

I’m told the crowd was just under 200, and Hear Nebraska sold quite a few albums. I spied a copy and they look pretty cool. I haven’t gotten mine yet since I bought a super-special signed copy and they were still getting the sigs. Where can you buy your copy? For now, they can be purchased here at hearnebraska.org. Sweet orange vinyl. Get one while you can.

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The way the holidays sit on the calendar this year has got me discombobulated. Is it Monday or is it Friday? If you’re like me, you have tomorrow and Wednesday off, which makes this a Friday. Unfortunately, the clubs didn’t get the memo and mistook this for just another Monday… Come on, people….

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TOMORROW: The blog entry you’ve all been waiting for: MUSIC PREDICTIONS FOR 2014. Be here and find out what’s going to happen to you next year…

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Lazy-i Best of 2013

Lazy-i Best of 2013

A reminder to enter to win a copy of the Lazy-i Best of 2013 compilation CD. The collection includes songs by Arcade Fire, Eli Mardock, Foxygen, Yuppies, Tim Kasher, Speedy Ortiz, Low and a ton more.  The full track listing is here. Entering has never been easier: To enter either: 1. Send an email with your mailing address to tim.mcmahan@gmail.com, or 2) Write a comment on one of my Lazy-i related posts in Facebook, or 3, retweet a Lazy-i tweet. You also can enter by sending me a direct message in Facebook or Twitter. Hurry, contest deadline is midnight Jan. 6!

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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.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Universe Contest, Dim Light; to scoop or not to scoop? (in the column); Koffin Kats tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , — @ 1:16 pm May 10, 2012
Universe Contest at The Waiting Room, May 9, 2012.

Universe Contest at The Waiting Room, May 9, 2012.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Maybe 40 on hand for last night’s Omaha debut of Universe Contest, which is either evidence of how hard it is to get people out on a Wednesday night or the dominance of this week’s Big Omaha event (though I doubt any of those techno-nerds would have come to this show anyway).

By 10 first opener Ideal Cleaners already had cleaned house. Second opener Dim Light came on next and blazed through a set of minor key tribal rock dirges sung in a style that got my mojo risin’ (Get it?). One of Omaha’s most magnetic (and cool) frontmen, Cooper Moon laid down his vocals with dollops of delay like a 10-foot-tall biker vampire performing an exorcism on an abandoned Stuckey’s. His guitar was bright and bluesy, but it’s the rhythm section of bassman Tom Barrett drum legend Boz Hicks that cannot/will not be ignored.

Next, Universe Contest. The Lincoln five-piece (two guitars, bass, keyboards and drums) has had comparisons to early Modest Mouse hung around their necks thanks to their recordings. The resemblance is hard to ignore, but on stage, the Modest Mouse comparisons don’t wash. UC is more calculated. More backwoods. More proggy. And, yeah, more tuneful.

The Modest Mouse thing comes from the wonky, scratchy vocals a la Isaac Brock, who (regretfully) smoothed it out on MM’s more recent records. Take away the Modest Mouse overhang and they’re harder to pin down. As the name implies, they’re spacey, but not shoegaze spacey or Bowie spacey. Spacey like a group of Midwestern hillbillies who got ahold of a stack of Popular Science magazines and figured out how to build their own spaceship from abandoned grain silos, Case tractors parts and the cockpit from a hollowed-out ’73 Maverick. I can see them now sitting on the launchpad in their overalls, their hippie hair sticking out of their gold-painted football helmets. 10.9.8.7…

Best moment of the night was the set closer with the almost whispered line “…breaks my heart.” It sounded like a weird, spacey, bluesy combination of Uriah Heep and Soundgarden, and nothing at all like Modest Mouse. They finished their short set by midnight to cries for more. If they can get past the Modest Mouse thing, watch out.

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In this world of instant media; does it really matter who says what first? Who has the scoop? Who tweets it first? Or rather, does it matter who says it better? That’s the essence of this week’s column in The Reader, which you can read online right here. I’ve been trying to find a better name for the column than “Beyond Lazy-i,” which was the publisher’s idea. So I’m trying a different name every week until something sticks. This week it’s called The Moleskin Diaries. Who knows what it’ll be called next week. I’m open to your suggestions.

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Tonight at Slowdown Jr. it’s the psychobilly sounds of Koffin Kats with The Hooten Hallers, The Blacktop Ramblers and Video Ranger. Early 8 p.m. start time. $12.

Also tonight, Skypiper plays at The Waiting Room with Betsy Wells and I Heard a Lion. $7, 9 p.m.

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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.

Lazy-i