Modest Mouse, Alvvays, Ex-Hex, Speedy Ortiz, The Good Life among Maha 2015 lineup; Live Review: Peach Kelli Pop, BUHU…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:13 pm April 13, 2015

The Maha Festival line-up was announced last night, and it’s a doozy…

by Tim McMahan,

By now you’ve heard the line-up for the 2015 Maha Music Festival, which is being held Aug. 15 in Stinson Park at Aksarben Village. If somehow you’ve missed it, here it is again:

Modest Mouse
Purity Ring
The Jayhawks
The Good Life
Speedy Ortiz
All Young Girls Are Machine Guns

Their best line-up ever? Maybe, maybe… Modest Mouse was the first name I’d heard from this line-up prior to the announcement, and my reaction was, meh. I’ve seen them live and they’re less than interesting, to say the least. It’s hard to undersell the impact of their album The Lonesome Crowded West, which was groundbreaking at the time of its release in 1997. They’ve had more commercial success with later albums, but never reached the level or arcane creative madness/genius heard on that ’97 album, and likely won’t again. On stage, they pretty much stand around and play their songs.

So no, I wasn’t exactly tapping my heels with joy when I heard they were the headliner, even though I knew their booking would sell a lot of tickets. Neither did I understand why Maha booked The Jayhawks, a band that is legendary in its failure to draw a crowd in Omaha. Does anyone remember who these guys are? Obviously someone associated with Maha does.

Atmosphere has a big following in Omaha. Their style of hip-hop just ain’t my thing.

So those were the only bands I heard were booked for Maha until a couple weeks ago. Then the floodgates opened.

Unless you wanted to arrive an hour before the show or wait in line forever you weren’t going to see Alvvays at South By Southwest this year. The band was a “must see” act, thanks to their 2014 debut album, which is somewhat awesome. Alvvays is the band I’m most looking forward to seeing at this year’s Maha festival.

But coming up right behind them is Speedy Ortiz (who I did manage to see in Austin this year), Ex-Hex (featuring Mary Timony of Helium, and whose last album is a Pitchfork favorite), the electronic kaleidoscope of Purity Ring (not exactly dynamic live when I saw them a few years ago, but a departure for this festival), and Tim Kasher’s pop band The Good Life (anytime you can get Kasher on your stage, you’ve won).

I tip my hat to Wavves. They outshined Best Coast when they opened for them at The Waiting Room back in 2011. Wavves is the closest thing to garage rock you’re going to get at this year’s Maha.

As for the three locals who fill out the balance of the bill, well I haven’t seen or heard any of them, though I’m familiar with AYGAMG’s recorded stuff.

Pound-for-pound, Maha has a more attractive line-up than Des Moines’ 80/35 Festival, despite having half as many bands on the bill — which is perhaps as good an argument as any to keep Maha to one day (though I still think they should put on a concert somewhere the evening before).

Looking back at my comments, last year’s festival drew 7,000. Will they beat that number with this offering? Ironically, Death Cab for Cutie (who headlined last year’s) would probably draw better this year because they just released a new record. That said, Death Cab vs. Modest Mouse is probably a wash in terms of draw.

This year has a better undercard than last year’s Doomtree/Radkey/Local Natives/Head and the Heart combination. From a legacy-band perspective, Aimee Mann/Ted Leo is a teensy bit more well known than The Jayhawks. And it will be hard to beat last year’s local stage offering (Icky Blossoms/Domestica/Whipkey/M34n Str33t/Envy Corp (who I consider local), which was as good as it gets.

What I said after last year’s festival applies again this year:  “For every person I talked to who loved the line-up there was someone who whined about the line-up. Maha will never be all things to all people, nor should it be.

To me, Maha has remained consistent in its mission (as I understand it), which is to put together one of the best indie concerts in the region. The operative word here is “indie” — not garage, not heavy metal, not punk, not C&W, not pop. If indie was their target, they’ve scored a direct hit. Just remember, indie is a sub-genre with a limited audience. Maha may never exceed that coveted 10,000 threshold as long as they stay as a one-day festival…

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BUHU at O'Leaver's April 10, 2015.

BUHU at O’Leaver’s April 10, 2015.

Speaking of rock shows, there was a nice one at O’Leaver’s last Friday night. Austin band BUHU was a two-man crew featuring one guy on synths and the other on guitar and vocals, creating a catchy post-wave music, thanks in part to great programming and to the lead guy’s sweet vocals. Fun stuff.

Peach Kelli Pop at O'Leaver's April 10, 2015.

Peach Kelli Pop at O’Leaver’s April 10, 2015.

BUHU was followed by the all-female power-garage sound of Peach Kelli Pop. It is, no doubt, sexist to call this band an “all-female group” (why not refer to BUHU as an “all-male group”?). That said, the band epitomized the best parts of a long history of all-female punk rock bands. I loved their style, their sound, their energy. I’ll have a snippet of their music in this week’s podcast, online Wednesday.

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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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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