Live Review: Wednesday, Draag; Breakers, Stephen Bartolomei tonight; Spoy, Pagan Athletes Saturday…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 9:49 am May 31, 2024
Wednesday at The Slowdown, May 30, 2024.

by Tim McMahan,

Before we get to the review of last night’s show at Slowdown, a head’s up that tonight, The Reader’s patriarch, John Heaston, is being honored by the Omaha Press Club with the 178th “Face on the Barroom Floor.” I can think of no one more deserving. I’ll be there and will try to snap some pictures or at least get a photo of the drawing. Speaking of The Reader, there’s news about the future of that publication, which I’ll pass along next week…

John Heaston, founder/publisher of The Reader, will be honored with Omaha Press Club’s “Face on the Barroom Floor” tonight.

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The band Wednesday ended its North America tour last night at The Slowdown, and as you might expect, there was a mad-cap looseness to the performance.

Frontwoman Karly Hartzman was particularly chatty throughout the set (and said so), proudly declaring it was their first time headlining in Omaha (They opened for Beach Bunny at The Waiting Room back in May 2022). With guitarist MJ “Jake” Lenderman by her side providing beautiful harmony vocals along with his snarly lead guitar licks, Hartzman and Co. played all the hits off last year’s Rat Saw God album, including a wonky, intentionally sloppy version of indie hit “Quarry.”

That song’s zany performance was driven by an introduction where-in Hartzman said folks in Denver (where they played a couple nights earlier) had told her people in Omaha don’t know how to mosh. She egged-on the crowd to form a mosh pit and the resulting “hop-and-jump” pit bounced around for the rest of the set. That’s one way to get people in Omaha to “dance.” 

I wasn’t aware Wednesday loved punk and/or metal, but it became obvious when Hartzman provided some genuinely throaty metal screams, especially during the night’s encore, which sounded like something by Destruction Unit. 

The night felt like an all-star performance with Hartzman’s versatile vocals that ranged from a soft coo to that growly scream, but the other heavy hitters were Lenderman, who carried the lead vocals on a cover of Drive By Truckers’ “Women Without Whiskey” — a highlight — and lap-steel guitarist Xandy Chelmis, who can turn any song into a twangy country ballad. In fact, the set also swung between quiet alt-country-esque ballads and gritty shoegaze noise rockers. In the end, the softer stuff won the day (for me, anyway). 

Draag at The Slowdown, May 30, 2024.

Opener Draag showed extremes – between metal/industrial and seamless, ambient shoegaze. Frontman/guitarist Adrian Acosta is a vocal chameleon shifting between Dean Wareham/Galaxie 500 crooning and all-out metal screaming. Fellow vocalist Jessica Huang was the contrast with her cool, purring voice. 

Draag opened with the hard stuff and settled into the rich shoegaze halfway through their set, hitting their obvious sweet spot. I could see these folks opening for any of the major shoegaze bands as they continue to develop their own flavor of the genre. 

Wednesday has been selling out shows on this tour, but only managed to draw around 250 last night at the Slowdown, which made for a comfortable-sized audience for the big room (with the balcony closed). That said, it underscored indie’s weak appeal in the Omaha market and continues to explain why a lot of the heavy-hitting indie acts are bypassing our little town.

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Speaking of which, onto another rather sparse weekend for indie shows….

Breakers plays tonight at Pageturners Lounge.

Tonight at Pageturners, Breakers headlines. The trio of Chris Yambor, Robert Little and Matt Focht play a jazzy form of indie, sounding like a lounge version of Pavement or GBV. Very cool. Our old friend singer/songwriter Stephen Bartolomei opens at 8 p.m. No cover, but $10 suggested donation for the artist, please.

Then Saturday night Milwaukee noise-punk band Spoy headlines at Reverb Lounge. In the old days we’d call this math-rock – fuzzy guitar speed that sounds influenced by acts like Chavez and At the Drive In whereas they site US Maple and Black Midi as influences. Opening is Ivory Daze and Pagan Athletes. $12, 8 p.m.

And that’s all I got. If I missed your show, put it in the comments section. Have a great weekend. 

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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 © 2024 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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