Column 269 — Battle of the Blahs; O’Leaver’s dumps Myspace…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , , — @ 3:15 pm May 5, 2010

It would just be a shame if the best bands in Omaha never get a chance to play at the MAHA Festival simply because the Committee wasn’t willing to make the choice themselves… By the way, has anyone seen any posters around town advertising the event? Daylights a-wastin’, folks…

Column 269 — Battle of the Blahs

MAHA lets you pick the winner…

The fine folks at the MAHA Music Festival just announced two band showcases to be held this summer at Slowdown and The Waiting Room. It is through these free events that bands will be selected to play the festival’s Kum & Go local stage at the July 24 concert at Lewis & Clark Landing. The showcases are battle of the bands competitions where you — the concert goer — will choose the winner. Slowdown’s showcase is May 24, while The Waiting Room event is June 24. A third band will be chosen (again, via public vote) from those performing at an Omaha Entertainment and Arts Association summer showcase July 16-17. The fourth local band, Satchel Grande, already has been selected by the MAHA Committee.

If there’s an obvious flaw in the MAHA Festival it is this democratic approach toward selecting the local bands. Waitaminit, how could something democratic be bad? It starts with the nomination process. Only bands that are willing to play for free at the three showcases can be considered in the “election.” That immediately eliminates some of the area’s best bands, who have reached a point in their careers where they expect to get paid for their performances, and who look upon battle of the bands competitions as publicity stunts for those who haven’t paid their dues by recording, touring, doing what it takes to get their music heard.

In an effort to change my mind about their process, MAHA Organizer Tre Brashear sent me an e-mail where he argued that the showcases build community awareness, give bands a chance to promote the event (and sell tickets), and give the audience a voice in the selection process.

“We do not want MAHA to be perceived as three guys holding their own concert,” Brashear said. “Us picking all the bands would run that risk.”

Well, I hate to tell you Tre, but that boat left the dock a long time ago. The “three guys” already picked the festival’s headliners. Why not go ahead and pick the locals as well? One could argue that by surrendering the selection process to “the public” (which in the case of the OEAA showcase, is the folks who frequent Benson bars on any given weekend) you have backhandedly voiced a certain level of disdain — or your isolation from — the local music scene that you’re supposed to be supporting.

Tre goes on to say, “If we just ‘picked’ all the bands for the local stage, who’s to say that we’d pick ‘correctly’ in the eyes of the community? Some would agree with the choices, some would disagree.” That same argument obviously could be made toward their main stage selections. And in the end, it’s the concertgoers who will say if MAHA chose correctly when they decide if they’re willing to shell out $33 for a ticket.

The real problem with battle-of-the-bands situations, though, is that the best bands — the ones that truly need the exposure, the ones that are leaning out the furthest on the delicate limb of creativity — never win. What if, say, The Mynabirds were up against Paria, who do you think would get the most votes? How about Emphatic vs. It’s True? Or Digital Leather vs. any one of the area’s most popular cover bands? Who would the pubic choose? In the end, we’ll never know the answer, because none of those bands will likely be taking part in these showcases.

See, it’s not about ticket sales. No one is buying a ticket to see the Kum & Go local stage. They’re going for Spoon, Superchunk, The Faint and Old ’97s. MAHA is designed to be a sort of celebration of indie/alternative culture, not a money-grab. If it were about the money, they’d be booking Ke$ha or Justin Bieber.

Come to think of it, I wonder who would win a battle of the bands between Spoon and Justin Bieber. See my point?

* * *

O’Leaver’s is gutting its Myspace page, which was the only semi-reliable place where you could find a schedule of their upcoming shows. Instead, they’re moving their schedule to the O’Leaver’s Facebook page. Go there and click on the Events tab. Remember when Myspace was thee hot music website just a few years ago? We’ll be talking about Twitter and Facebook the same way in a few years…

Tomorrow: An interview with Matt Pond PA.

1 Comment

  • Plus, it’s kind of degrading to be asked to compete in a highschool style popularity contest to play in a festival that gives you the opportunity to boast supporting dashboard confessional. Granted there are more legit headliners this year but in the end is putting local bands in a weird position when trying to tempt them to advertise a festival by competing against fellow local bands to see how much of their crews they could drag out that night.

    Comment by 2cents — May 6, 2010 @ 2:48 am

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