The Top-20 List (theirs and mine); Hear Nebraska benefit tonight; Lash LaRue Toy Drive (Noah’s Ark) Saturday…

Category: Blog — Tags: — @ 7:33 pm December 3, 2010

by Tim McMahan,

The Reader‘s Top-20 / Next 15 list of the best local bands was not easy to derive this year.

As we do every year, the music reporting team at The Reader convened a few weeks ago at an Old Market restaurant/lounge with our lists in hand and then set about arguing back and forth over bands until a final list was agreed upon. Although there were many bones of contention that we gnawed on, there was one thing we all acknowledged: Man, the number of quality bands in Omaha has really dwindled. Adding to a general lack of new talent is the fact that a lot of bands and performers are just giving up and walking away from the music biz, which created one of the major argument points: Should we include bands that have broken up? I argued that even if a band disbanded sometime during the year it didn’t lessen its impact within that year — we are, after all, looking at the year that was, not that will be (that’s for the Next 10). But I lost the argument, and as a result, you didn’t see It’s True on The Reader‘s list even though the band made a sizeable impact during the first half of the year, including out-of-state touring and gigs at SXSW.

And, I would be willing to bet a body part that we haven’t heard the last of It’s True…

Anyway, it’s just a list. At the very least, it’s a good way to draw attention to a handful of artists who are making a mark locally and nationally. It’s just for fun (unless your band’s not on the list); and it gets people talking. I’ve been asked over the years about the selection criteria — the answer: It’s entirely subjective. Each writer approaches the selection his or her own way, and then it’s up to that writer to form a consensus among the other writers to include his or her bands on the list. At least 70 percent of a writer’s list matched the other writers’ lists — this isn’t rocket science. On the other hand, there were bands that were included on individual lists that reflect specific tastes and interests. For example, you won’t find any blues bands on mine. That doesn’t mean they don’t belong in the final draft. And so on. One oversight on my original list was Son of 76/Watchmen, who I simply forgot, but thankfully no one else did. Ain’t democracy grand? So…

Here’s the actual Reader Top-20 list:

Little Brazil
Talking Mountain
Southpaw Blues Band
Matt Cox Band
Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies
Darren Keen
Son of 76 & The Watchmen
Brent Crampton
Capgun Coup
Conor Oberst
Landing on the Moon
Satchel Grande
The Faint
Digital Leather
Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship
The Mynabirds
Simon Joyner
Matt Whipkey
Box Elders

And the actual Reader “Next 10” list:

All The Young Girls Are Machine Guns
So-So Sailors
Honey & Darling
Baby Tears
Once a Pawn
Dim Light
Platte River Rain

And as an act of full disclosure, here is my Top 20/Next 10 list submitted to The Reader as part of this process:

1. Bright Eyes/Conor Oberst
2. Cursive/Tim Kasher
3. Digital Leather
4. Box Elders
5. Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies
6. Little Brazil
7. The Mynabirds
9. Brimstone Howl
10. Mercy Rule
11. Conchance
12. Simon Joyner
13. Darren Keen
14. Talking Mountain
15. Landing on the Moon
16. Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship
17. Matt Whipkey
18. Capgun Coup
19. It’s True
20. Bloodcow

And here is my “Next 10”:

1. Conduits
2. So-So Sailors
3. Honey & Darling
4. Dim Light
5. Pharmacy Spirits
6. The Bruces
7. Yuppies
8. Baby Tears
9. Once a Pawn
10. McCarthy Trenching

I hope next year there’s a lot more arguing due to having so many more new bands to choose from. I’ll leave it at that.

* * *

It’s another quiet weekend of shows. If you’re in Lincoln, head over to the Hear Nebraska fund-raiser at The Bourbon Theater’s front room. is a nonprofit website that’s yet to launch designed to support local music. I’ve heard none of the three performers’ music before (Sean Sparks and the Wounded Animals, Bandit Sounds and Orion Walsh), but what do you want? It’s a benefit, fercrissake. $5, 9 p.m. Here’s a video commercial about the event.

Tomorrow night is another benefit, this time at The Waiting Room for Lash LaRue’s Toy Drive. Among the bands slated to perform are Reader Top-20 band Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship, along with Vago and “Next 10” band All Young Girls Are Machine Guns. Show starts at 9 and admission is either $10 or an unwrapped toy of equal value.

* * *

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 © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


  • Sooo… what do these bands get? A BCS berth? Or is there going to be a playoff system?

    Comment by Alan Mansfield — December 4, 2010 @ 12:05 pm

  • so, you lost the argument for it’s true because they broke up but the faint still ended up on the list? i thought they called it quits, too?

    Comment by really not that important — December 4, 2010 @ 4:18 pm

  • If the Faint broke up, they haven’t publicly announced it.

    Comment by tim-mcmahan — December 4, 2010 @ 4:44 pm

  • Capgun Coup would get smoked by Oregon’s fast paced offense. They might have a fighting chance against Auburn, assuming they could slow down Cam Newton.

    Comment by Ben — December 4, 2010 @ 7:42 pm

  • I’m confused on why It’s True can’t be included, but the Faint and Box Elders are, when they are both no longer? Any bands included should be ones that made the largest impact that year, no matter if they have called it quits…

    Comment by Confused — December 7, 2010 @ 2:50 pm

  • Like I said, if the Faint (or Box Elders) have broken up, they haven’t officially announced it.

    Comment by tim-mcmahan — December 7, 2010 @ 3:01 pm

  • More of the same… the mawkish infatuation with PBR-sipping folkies and hipster indie bands is reaching a point where you have to wonder why other bands even bother with the Omaha media in hopes of garnering ANY words of encouragement. Also, Do we really need to hear more about Conor, The Faint, or Cursive? Heck, if you’re going to focus on locals-gone-bigtime, why leave out 311? Michael Lee Firkins has been touring abroad for years. Why no press for him?

    You certainly don’t need to dig all that deep into the Omaha scene to understand the talent that is out there… honkey-tonk workhorses like the Filter Kings, the bright pop of Lonely Estates, the glorious brutality of Paria, the guitar-slinging almsgiver Larry Dunn/Lash LaRue, Omaha rock/pop mainstays Witness Tree, the sweet & powerful strumming of Mitch Gettman, the dusty carnival folk of Midwest Dilemma… man… we could go on, but I think you get my point.

    These lists do more harm than good. It unnecessarily places one band/artist above another who is working just as hard, if not harder. It creates a divisive element in a scene where unity and collaboration should be the emphasis.

    I am happy for these artists/bands that are getting recognized. Many deserve it. They didn’t lobby for the recognition. They went to work and busted their humps to create art. But as a local media outlet, you and others could do more to promote the scene as a whole… with all of its blemishes. Not create lists that places ones art above another.

    Of course, this is just my opinion…

    Support Local Music, Art, Film, and Food.

    Comment by SupportLocal — December 8, 2010 @ 11:51 am

  • I generally agree that lists encourage the idea of competition, which I abhor when applied to art. That said, some of the bands you named have been on the list before, others on your list just aren’t my thing. They all get plenty of press in The Reader. Whether any list does more harm than good is yet to be seen. It does get people talking, not only about those on the list, but those that aren’t, and that ain’t necessarily a bad thing.

    The bands on the list all have members who live in Nebraska — and that includes Bright Eyes, Cursive and The Faint. 311 hasn’t lived in Nebraska since the ’90s. Firkins might, but again, not my thing…

    Comment by tim-mcmahan — December 8, 2010 @ 12:18 pm

  • Firkins was used as an example… whether he is your thing or not, he is local and (moderately) successful. I am not a collector of his music.

    Clearly you get my point, though. As alluded to in a comment above, it is much like college football polls in that in fosters discussion/debate. However, as I see it, that debate usually is ‘why band #6 is better than band #2 and thus should be ranked higher’; much like college football polls.

    But, to be completely honest, it is the exclusion of some damn fine (and well known) talent that really caused me some consternation. I won’t lose any sleep over it and I will continue to read your fine articles (as well as The Reader articles).

    Like I said… I believe you get my point.


    Comment by SupportLocal — December 8, 2010 @ 2:47 pm

  • Should be noted that both The Reader’s list and mine are not in a ranked order.

    Comment by tim-mcmahan — December 8, 2010 @ 2:54 pm

  • […] – Someone on the webboard who posts as “Laserdisque” asked if I was going to make my annual picks for the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards, which are this Sunday night in Council Bluffs, Iowa, which is an ironic location considering the organization’s name. Anyway, my response was that I haven’t been following the awards since my public resignation earlier this year (which you can read here). And instead of a contest, if you’re looking for a list of the best bands and musicians in the area, it’s hard to fault The Reader‘s annual list, which you can read right here. […]

    Pingback by Lazy-i » David Bazan returns, Stickerguy facelift, OEAA predictions, Dirty Flourescents debut tonight, Wavves/Best Coast Saturday… — February 11, 2011 @ 6:24 pm

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