Live Review: McCarthy Trenching; MAHA showcase lineups announced; Big Harp signs to Saddle Creek (probably)…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 11:48 am May 30, 2011

by TIm McMahan,

I swung by The Barley Street Tavern last night for Orenda Fink/McCarthy Trenching, and it was (as expected) a packed house, which means there were more than 50 people in the bar’s “music room,” where folk stood along the wall in the back and women sat on their boyfriends’ laps. Another 20 or so people were pushed into the main bar area, content with watching the performance on the security monitor-style camera above the bar.

Yeah, it was crowded, but had you wanted to see the show, you could have. I caught the last few songs by Whispertown’s Morgan Nagler, one of which was accompanied by Fink and another two accompanied by Omaha ex-pat Jake Bellows. Nagler had an innocent, some might say childlike, flair to her simple acoustic ballads. Bellows took over right after her set and played five or six solo acoustic tunes, sounding better than ever. He remains one of Omaha’s best lonely-heart crooners, like an Elvis lost on a desert island.

Dan McCarthy came on at around 11, taking advantage of the Barley’s house piano, which he said was made in 1917 and last tuned in 1918. Despite that, the rustic keyboard sounded perfect for his style of Randy Newman-meets-Chuck Brodsky-meets Tom Waits folk balladry, which included a few Scott Joplin rags. A couple members of hot new band Gus & Call joined him in the middle of the set (playing stand-up bass and that piano) when McCarthy picked up an acoustic guitar. He eventually made his way back to the piano and was still at it when I left at midnight, too tired to wait for Orenda (unless, of course, she played before Whispertown, which I do not know). The crowd had a hipster wedding reception feel to it, consisting of members of the Saddle Creek Records family and their friends and colleagues, all out to “welcome back” Orenda and Todd Fink to Omaha.

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The folks at the MAHA Music Festival took a decidedly smart turn in how they picked the bands for their local stage this year — three of the five bands were chosen by folks involved with (including myself as an HN board member, though only one of the three bands chosen were on my list). As a requirement for accepting the local-stage gig, each band was tasked with curating one pre-festival showcase, where they would play along with two or three other bands of their choosing. Last Friday MAHA announced the line-up for these showcase events.

Strongest of the three is the showcase curated by So-So Sailors at Slowdown July 28. Playing along with SSS will be power-punk band Millions of Boys, the more traditional indie stylings of Fortnight, and one of the area’s best punk/garage/new wave rock bands, Digital Leather, who (one could argue) should have been in consideration for one of those three MAHA local stage spots.

The other Omaha showcase will be held June 22 at The Waiting Room, curated by Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship. Joining them will be New Lungs, a new trio featuring Danny Maxwell of Little Brazil on guitar and vocals, drummer Corey Broman and bassist Craig Fort. Think Polvo meets Dinosaur Jr. meets Mission of Burma meets classic ’90s Linoma punk. Also on the bill are noise rockers Ketchup and Mustard Gas.

And finally, there’s the Lincoln showcase curated by The Machete Archive to be held at Duffy’s Tavern July 1. Joining Machete will be Her Flyaway Manner, Irkutsk and Powerful Science. Brendan McGinn’s HFN has been around for years playing brutal, Fugazi-inspired punk. I can’t say as I know a thing about the other two bands.

All three showcases are all-ages events and absolutely free, so you best mark them down on your calendar.

There’s still one more MAHA local stage spot up for grabs, which will be determined by a public-vote talent competition as part of the OEA Summer Showcase July 8-9 in Benson.

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One final bit of news: Judging by their Facebook fan page, it looks like Big Harp, the husband-and-wife duo of Chris Senseney (Baby Walrus) and Stefanie Drootin-Senseney (The Good Life, Consafos) are the latest “signing” by Saddle Creek Records. They’re still not listed on the Creek site, but I’m sure that’ll come any day now. It’s good to see Creek continuing to sign new talent in this era of music industry decline…

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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 © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

1 Comment »

  • […] case you missed it, there was an update posted yesterday (which you can read here) that talked about MAHA local showcases and McCarthy Trenching and Big Harp, etc. Read it if you […]

    Pingback by Lazy-i » The Thermals, Little Brazil tonight… — May 31, 2011 @ 12:57 pm

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