Live Review: The Lupines, Unexplained Death at O’Leaver’s; Pile, Stuck, No Thanks tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:36 pm November 12, 2019

The Lupines at O’Leaver’s Nov. 9, 2019.

by Tim McMahan,

The Lupines rolled out a new direction to their sound last Saturday night at O’Leaver’s. In fact, they literally rolled it out — a giant upright piano, that is. If you’ve been there before you’ve likely leaned/sat on the behemoth, which usually sits next to the exit to the beer garden. The band grunted it across the floor to the stage area for their set, and then spent a good 10 minutes (or more?) trying to get it properly miked up. Who knew that old-fashioned upright pianos could create so much feedback?

Lupines frontman John Ziegler set down his guitar to twinkle the ivories on a new set of songs that sported a honky-tonk country flair, a bit of blues and folk and rock. The first couple tunes were eight or nine minutes long but seemed to roll on forever thanks to endlessly repeating verses. Ziegler pounded the keys like a modern-day Leon Russell, ending each line with a bluesy flourish, while guitarist Mike Friedman pulled back his usual jittery, frenetic Lupines’ style to something more relaxed and refined, a la David Lindley.

It all came together on the final two songs of the set — one short one, the other, an epic closer wherein Ziegler maneuvered from the piano bench, through the tangle of microphone stands and cords to pick up his Gibson and battle Friedman with guitar riffs.

I’d heard a few weeks ago that Ziegler was going to play piano for this set, so I prepared myself to finally hear one of my all-time favorite Lupines songs — “Hasn’t Failed Me Yet” — a tune I’d been told had never been played live because of its piano-based arrangement. Now there were no excuses. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be as the band only played brand new material. My quest to hear that epic song continues…

Unexplained Death at O’Leaver’s Nov. 9, 2019.

Matt Whipkey and his crew in the form of poli-punk band Unexplained Death didn’t make it to the O’Leaver’s “stage” until well after midnight, ripping through songs off their just-released self-titled cassette.

Always prolific, Whipkey used the occasion to debut a couple more new songs, one of them an angry, fast number built on a golden guitar riff that I’d love to hear again. If this project’s goal was to pull Whipkey away from the Americana format that he’s known for, it’s succeeding. As I’ve said before, Unexplained Death isn’t so much a punk bands as a punk-influenced rock band with a political message ripe for our time. But it won’t be deemed a true success until someone wearing a MAGA hat attacks Whipkey on stage during a performance, ending in arrests by all involved, and the headline MAGA DUDE CHARGED FOR ATTEMPTED MURDER AT UNEXPLAINED DEATH SCENE!!!

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The last time Boston indie rock act Pile played in Omaha it was aboard the River City Star in the summer of 2017. They’ll be on firmer ground when they headline Slowdown Jr. tonight, on tour in support of Green and Gray (2019, Exploding in Sound), album that scored a mighty 7.9 on the Pitchfork scale.

The touring opener is mathy Chicago rockers Stuck. While Omaha’s very own No Thanks kicks things off at 8 p.m. This is a good one, and it’s only $12.

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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 © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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