Live Review: Big Harp, the OEAA Summer Showcase; The Big Deep gets final MAHA slot…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:58 pm July 11, 2011
Big Harp at Slowdown Jr., July 8, 2011.

Big Harp at Slowdown Jr., July 8, 2011.

by Tim McMahan,

Just as one would expect at the local debut of the label’s latest signing, it was a virtual Saddle Creek homecoming at the Big Harp show Friday night at Slowdown Jr. Chris Senseney started the set all by himself with his guitar before being joined by wife Stefanie and a drummer who I’m told used to play with him in Baby Walrus.

You wouldn’t have known that this was only the second time The Senseneys performed under the Big Harp banner. They were completely at ease with the material, as if they’d been playing these songs for years (and who knows, maybe they have, in the privacy of their El Lay living room). On stage the more upbeat story songs had an extra dimension of assertive cool, an undisputed sinister swing and bounce. Chris’ voice glowed with a throaty brio, matched in swagger only by his fret-burning guitar work (lest we all had forgotten what a fantastic musician Mr. Senseney is on a variety of instruments). It’s a golden needle of a voice that could catch on with a larger crowd if only it were discovered in the 10,000-foot-high haystack we call the music industry. We’ll have to see what kind of publicity Saddle Creek can muster upon tBig Harp’s debut release Sept. 13. Someone get Pitchfork on the phone…

Dim Light at The Sydney, part of the OEAA Summer Showcase, July 9, 2011.

Dim Light at The Sydney, part of the OEAA Summer Showcase, July 9, 2011.

Saturday night was spent at the second evening of the OEAA Summer Showcase in Benson, the highlights of which included Dim Light at The Sydney and Blue Rosa at The Waiting Room.  I’m told the crowds in general were larger on Friday night. There were only 30 or so in The Sydney and only a few more than that at TWR. Burke’s Pub, where I saw Manny Coon, was the most crowded room of the evening, but still only had 30 or 40 people total.

Finally, this morning the MAHA organizers announced that the winner of the talent contest portion of the OEAA showcase was The Big Deep. The band, whose music I’ve never heard before, received the most public votes among all the acts performing, and has earned the opening slot at this year’s MAHA Music Festival. And with that, MAHA’s lineup is finally complete.

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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.


  • We had over 400 paid on Friday and over 300 paid on Saturday. Saturday ended up being a later crowd. Thanks for checking it out.

    Comment by MarQ — July 11, 2011 @ 1:12 pm

  • Dim Light was amazing…. Too bad you didn’t stick around the Sydney for Witness Tree. Maybe next time… 🙂

    Comment by Alan — July 11, 2011 @ 1:44 pm

  • This proves yet again that the OEAA folks have no clue on the Omaha local scene. For one, who is the big deep? Lame west O band name for one, second they aren’t very good or original ( kinda POP alt american) and second how does this band even fit playing with J Mascis, or the Rev? by the way last year was the last year maha was a battle of the bands according to maha. Yet we all saw Valentine boxes to vote at this year for your favorite Frat boy band won. Dim Light fit the bill, indreama, or blue Rosa fit the bill. too bad they got screwed….now you get one of maha’s buddies boring bands.

    Comment by omaha music fan — July 11, 2011 @ 5:06 pm

  • The band should have been Dim Light. It’s that simple, folks.

    Comment by Collin Matz — July 11, 2011 @ 6:38 pm

  • The MAHA guys are not buddies with this band. The ones I talked with last night knew their name, but hadn’t seen them play yet. The Big Deep are a young band that worked hard to get a big crowd out to The Barely Street-and also won some people over that were just there. I didn’t see them that night, but was told by many that they had a great set.

    In Dreama was amazing, yet again. Dim Light too. I would rather see those bands in bigger and better spots next year-rather than at 12:30PM or about that early where The Big Deep is going to play. It’s a good slot for a newer band. I was rooting for Pharmacy Spirits-as they really were passionate about playing with GBV.

    I would hardly call The Big Deep frat boys (girl)-and they state they are influenced by Wilco, Ryan Adams, Johnny Cash, Bright Eyes…which I think are pretty solid influences for a roots band. Again they are a newer band and need to be given some time to gain experience. I think they will do great at MAHA-they are very motivated people.

    One could ask…where does Matisyahu fit with J.Mascis or GBV? Where did the Old 97’s fit with The Faint last year? Not everything needs to be in a neat little box. Get’s kind of boring in my opinion.

    Comment by MarQ — July 11, 2011 @ 7:53 pm

  • This is what happens when you surrender choice to the crowd. I doubt this band won anyone over — it was some of the most boring music I heard all weekend. Rather they brought all their friends to the show to vote for them, which is the problem with this program. It’s not about selecting the best band, it’s about selecting the band with the most college buddies who have time to waste at battle of the bands contests.

    Comment by Boris — July 11, 2011 @ 8:31 pm

  • It’s a way to market the event. There were sixty bands and artists out there Facebooking and talking about MAHA….and the winner gets the early set. It will benefit a young band like this.

    Comment by MarQ — July 11, 2011 @ 9:20 pm

  • Exactly. It has nothing to do with music. Why bother having the bands play at all? MAHA could have just had an online vote. Oh wait, that’s how the OEA’s chooses it’s winners.

    Comment by Boris — July 11, 2011 @ 9:27 pm

  • It’s actually not. There is an online vote and the top vote getter in each category gets nominated. The other four nominees are chosen by an academy of writers, promoters, people that work in music venues, record stores, etc. The winners are also chosen by the academy.

    The OEAA’s (including myself) do what we do to promote the scene and to try to get others beyond a bands friends into other bands, visual artists, and theater. The MAHA people just try to put on a good show, bring good music to Omaha, and are building an event that could become pretty incredible as the years go on. Both are non-profit…both have no motivation beyond exposing art here in Omaha.

    It is what it is…and what we (OEAA’s-I don’t speak for MAHA) do. It’s not done to be a cool hipster thing…just to support the entire arts, music, and theater scene in Omaha. A lot of people dig it…a handful are vocal about it and complain. We know that. Can’t make everyone happy…nor was that the plan.

    Comment by MarQ — July 11, 2011 @ 9:52 pm

  • I should also state…that I am no different. The people putting on Red Sky are also probably genuinely trying to get Omaha and the Mid-West’s attention with their festival and bring some money into Omaha. I have hated pretty much everything about the way that they have done it (and I do not think that I could do a better job on that level)…but I am vocal about it…because I am passionate about music and the way the Omaha is looked at…and I think that the way that Red Sky has been done is all sorts of wrong. I am not calling out those with opinions different than mine. I understand the passion.

    Comment by MarQ — July 11, 2011 @ 10:48 pm

  • I play in two bands that played the summer fest, and it was cool that we got asked to play. I do think It’s rude that folks are ripping on The Big Deep.. yeah I’ve never heard of them either but don’t cut em down just cuz they won. I will agree the Red Sky Event has no clue what’s going on… notice how many bands playing it lack their original singer. It’s a joke.

    Comment by tom b — July 12, 2011 @ 8:48 am

  • Never heard of Big Deep, but I’m pretty sure all bands involved understood the rules. If the most votes got the spot, then the bands that didn’t win didn’t do as good of a job at bringing out people.

    The problem I see with this kind of system is I’m less inclined to show up early to see a band I’ve never heard of than I am to check out a band that has quite a bit of buzz, like indreama. An event like this is about sponsors as much or more than it is ticket sales, and if no one is there for that early slot, then it looks worse to the sponsors. How many casual music fans are going to show up early for The Big Deep? How many would have shown up for a band that has growing buzz off of just a few shows? Maybe only a handful more, but its something. I doubt that the fans that came out to see The Big Deep are going to shell out $30 to see them at Maha, and indreama fans wouldn’t have shelled out $30 just for indreama (or whoever…just wanted a name of a band for an example), but the indreama fan is more likely to have a ticket and might show up earlier, buying more food, more beer and being seen by show sponsors…

    By the way, when is OEAA going to add comedy to their awards? Music is for squares.

    Comment by mike — July 12, 2011 @ 12:18 pm

  • Comedy was discussed at our last meeting…as there obviously has been a ton of growth with that area of entertainment in town recently. I see that getting intergrated this next year. What we really need is someone from that scene to either serve on the board or be willing to work with us and advise us. I will be reaching out to some people coming up. I also see us doing more with slam poets, spoken word, and poetry at our events going forward.

    Comment by MarQ — July 12, 2011 @ 6:56 pm

  • I know the guys in the Big Deep. I met through them through scene boosting activities like shooting video of bands and volunteering for music related fundraisers. They are in the scene and supportive of it. They are young and have a small grassroots buzz. They don’t have famous names or had previously popular projects. I have never seen them live until OEA. They played a solid set of alt-country in one of tougher places sound mix-wise to play with a full band. They messed up a couples times and didn’t always keep the rhythm. But they were enthusiastic and you could see they loved playing it. They are not the best band in Omaha, but they represent themselves well. Previous to the OEA they promoted their show on facebook a couple times the week before, nothing out of the ordinary. I was also at the InDreama show and there were more people there than at the Barley, bobbing heads and dancing along. They had just as much of a chance to win or more. My guess is that they didn’t really care if they won or not, like a lot of the bands who played those two nights. In fact, I didn’t vote, because I never saw any ballots or ballot boxes, something OEA needs to address.
    Because this is the way MAHA decided to bring in a local band, deal with it. All your complaining is disparaging a local band that doesn’t deserve it.

    Comment by Andrew Roger — July 13, 2011 @ 3:13 pm

  • There were ballot boxes and ballots at all of the venues. They were with the volounteers at the door. I put them there myself and picked them up myself. One ballot was given to each person that paid.

    Comment by MarQ — July 13, 2011 @ 4:04 pm

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