Live Review: Protomartyr; Maha Festival ED explains how the line-up was chosen (in the column)…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 11:52 am August 15, 2016
Protomartyr at Slowdown Jr., Aug. 12, 2016.

Protomartyr at Slowdown Jr., Aug. 12, 2016.

by Tim McMahan,

Protomartyr brought the big noise with them Friday night at Slowdown, Jr.  The four-piece, fronted by nattily dressed Joe Casey, who looked like a young, slim version of John Goodman (get ready, Joe, you’re going to look just like him when you’re in your 60s), belted out at least 45 minutes of pure indie punk, gliding on Greg Ahee’s amazing guitar tone (and skill) and Casey’s barking vocal delivery.

Those vocals: Call them atonal, call them simply yelling, the closest we’ve got is Gary Dean Davis’ enthusiastic bark. Or maybe Craig Finn’s talk vocals, but that’s not quite right. Finn always sounds like a college guy snottily reading slam poetry when he fronts The Hold Steady, whereas Casey’s bark vocals seem more like someone scolding you about what’ll happen if you don’t start paying attention. And whereas Hold Steady songs play like ironic pictures of hipster America, Casey’s vision is darker, psychologically dystopian, not so much lacking in hope as providing a warning. But fun nonetheless.

Casey sold it all with his visual cues — a sort of sarcastic glare or look of indifference — as if none of it matters because you’re not listening, anyway. You’re just trying to dance. Which they did. Friday night’s crowd (of around 75?) was one of the youngest I’ve seen at an indie punk show, with mainly of young women crowding the stage. Mark Kozelek would have been envious.

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You’re going to be hearing a shit-ton about the Maha Music Festival this week, seeing as it happens this coming Saturday. I’m adding to the din with this month’s Over the Edge column in The Reader wherein Maha Executive Director Lauren Schomburg explains how they came up with this year’s line-up, which features electro-dance headliner Passion Pit. Read the column here.

Apparently Ryan Adams was in the running. So were a lot of other acts, but in the end, this line-up made the most sense both fiscally and for their target audience (a younger crowd than in year’s past).

I asked Schomburg what her “dream line-up” would be. Her answer: “Probably some combination of Florence and the Machine, Arcade Fire and LCD Soundsystem.” Yes, that would be impressive. It also would cost a bazillion dollars and would have to be held somewhere much larger than Aksarben Village.

At the time of the interview, Schomburg said Maha’s ticket sales had been slower than last year’s festival. She pointed out that festivals have taken a hit this year across the board nationally. Bonnaroo 2016 was the least attended year in that festival’s history, with attendance down 45 percent since its 2011 peak. Attendance at the 80/35 Festival was down as well versus the previous year.

Schomburg said the election year could be playing into the attendance decline as well as the fact that we seem to be saturated with festivals these days. That said, Maha’s line-up appeals to a younger audience, an audience that waits longer to purchase tickets. Expect a solid run-up in sales this week and the day of event. “The community is always supportive,” she said, adding that sponsorships “have been phenomenal.”

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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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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