Live Review: Maha Music Festival — Japanese Breakfast, Thundercat, Khruangbin, Edem Soul Music…

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Looking out from the stage at the 2021 Maha Music Festival.

It was almost as if the gods looked down from the sky and said, “Let’s give this little festival a break,” and then turned down the thermostat in Omaha for the day and blew away all that nasty Pacific Northwest smoke (only to be replaced with a different kind of smoke later in the evening).

#Maha13 couldn’t have been more flawless from a operations point of view. Unlike the Lizzo-year oversold debacle two years ago, this one was smooth as silk, thanks to ticket limits (due to COVID), which held the number at a manageable 8,000. So well run was it this year, in fact, that I beseech the Maha organizers to continue to limit ticket sales in the future, augmenting their income with more sponsorships and a slightly higher ticket price.

In other words, don’t be greedy.

Who knows, maybe that is the plan? Maha changed it’s setup this year, adding a number of small sponsor tents that lined the north-end perimeter, replacing their “global village” with even more sponsor tents. It might be why Stinson Park never looked better-attended for its early acts, who enjoyed a sizable crowd during their sets.

While I was there for the entire day (a first), I was kinda/sorta working at the Union Pacific sponsor tent, which kept me busy, but not too busy to grab some photos and catch some sets. Some I missed altogether, though I heard them in the background…

Dirt House at the Maha Music Festival, July 31, 2021.

Dirt House was the first one that got me up to the stage. Annie Dilocker has surrounded herself with some of the best talent from ‘round these parts. Backing her was guitarist Jim Schroeder (2020’s Mesa Buoy, UUVVWWZ, David Nance Band to name a few), drummer Roger Lewis (The Good Life, Neva Dinova, Conduits, local legend), bassist Sara Bertuldo (See Through Dresses) and violinist Amy Carey. We’re talking all-stars here. At the center was Dilocker, who continues to grow as as vocalist and songwriter.

Edem Soul Music at the Maha Music Festival, July 31, 2021.

The biggest surprise of the day came from Edem Soul Music. I’ve never paid much attention to Edem, as the only time I’d seen her perform in the past was alone with ukulele, which is a tough sell for me. While I was running around doing stuff, I kept getting pulled into her set, thinking, “Holy shit, that’s a good song,” and them moments later, “OK, now that one’s even better.

I finally put down my stuff and went to the stage. Now I need to find out who the heck Edem Garro is. Incredible voice, but beyond that, just straight-up catchy R&B songs. Her online presence is a mish-mash (one song on Bandcamp?, a few singles on Spotify?). Looks like she has a new album coming out later this month…

Shovels and Rope at the Maha Music Festival, July 31, 2021.

The national bands started at 5:30 with Shovels & Rope, who I knew but hadn’t really listened to prior to this. They were fine, though none of their songs really caught my attention — sort of alt-indie in the Felice Brothers/Dawes/Langhorne Slim vein, with a surprisingly full sound for a two-piece.

It’s a good time to mention the overall festival sound. Maybe it was where I was situated across the field, but there was a lack of underbelly to the bands on the small stage, and all the drums sounded lost in the mix throughout the night. As is the case with all festivals, bands sounded better as they got deeper into their sets, thanks to the sound folks, but there’s only so much you could do with that small stage. But even the large stage had its limitations, moreso than I can remember from any past Maha show (and I’ve been to all of them). The exceptions were the two main stage headliners.

Drive-By Truckers at the Maha Music Festival, July 31, 2021.

Moving on, like Shovels and Rope, I only have a passing knowledge of Drive-By Truckers. Their style of Dixie-hotdamn-southern indie is not my thang, though there were times I was reminded of heavier John Hiatt tunes. DBT was the heaviest thing dished out this year at Maha, which in past years featured at least one (and usually more) punk-flavored indie bands. Not this year. (Did I mention The Oh Sees were the best part of the Lizzo year?).

Japanese Breakfast at the Maha Music Festival, July 31, 2021.

I’m probably not the only one who wondered why Japanese Breakfast was placed on the small stage. Maybe it was because they were the only true indie-style band on the festival ticket, and we all know indie bands are used to getting placed at the smaller table. They no doubt deserved to be on the big stage, where we likely would have gotten a better-sounding set. Regardless, the band played through all their “hits” off their last couple of albums.

JB was the one band I was most looking forward to at the festival, and to be honest, their set was sorta ho-hum. But then again, hasn’t indie sort of been headed in a ho-hum direction for the past few years? Vibe bands are taking over indie music along with female singer-songwriters, and while there’s nothing wrong with that, I’m beginning to wonder where the next PJ Harvey or Arcade Fire will come from.

Thundercat at the Maha Music Festival, July 31, 2021.

Thundercat turned in the most thoroughly enjoyable set of the festival. A.k.a. Stephen Bruner showed off his amazing bass-playing chops on a set of proggy, jazz-flavored, mostly instrumental numbers that also showcased a crushingly talented band.

It felt more like a jazz set than a R&B/rock set, though the intricate, complicated arrangements stood right up there with some of the crazy prog acts I remember from the ’70s, the kind of bands that shifted effortlessness from key and time signatures while playing at breakneck speeds. Impossible to not be impressed, however if you weren’t right up to the stage (as I was from the VIP section) you might get lost in the sound clutter, as most of the numbers didn’t have memorable central melodies.

That came with their final song, “Them Changes,” which has become his funk anthem, the one they play on Sirius XMU, the song that would get airplay if we still had a decent FM rock station.

Khruangbin at the Maha Music Festival, July 31, 2021.

That final Thundercat song was the perfect hand-off to Khruangbin, a band whose music is destined to be heard for many decades playing in the background at your local grocery store.

We all knew their low-key vibe music would be a soft-lit way to end this festival, and boy, it sure was. Along with Thundercat, their sound quality was next level, and their playing was tight as a tick, but man, weren’t much going on up there on stage other than three folks spread out playing their jams. Judging by the always-present smell of weed, I doubt the remaining crowd cared. This is stoner-vibe music at it’s best, the perfect soundtrack for the stoned or for those waiting in line at The Gap.

So how does this Maha rate with past years?

In terms of overall quality of experience, it’s right up there with the best. You will not find a better-run festival with more helpful volunteers.

The line-up? It’s not fair to judge considering we’re coming out of national pandemic. It’s amazing they were able to even pull a line-up together. Most of these bands aren’t in my wheelhouse. While I like that Maha is still booking emerging acts along with more established bands (DBT, for example), I miss the indie rock, and punk. Maybe it just wasn’t available?

Who knows what the future holds for Maha? There’s talk of the festival eventually moving downtown when the new mall is completed, and spreading out shows to multiple venues, a la SXSW. That would be awesome if they can get a transportation plan in place to shuttle everyone around. In the meantime, I have a feeling we’ll all be back to Stinson Park next year, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — 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 © 2021 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Idaho, Slights at Reverb…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:32 pm July 9, 2021
Idaho at Reverb Lounge, July 8, 2021.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

There’s a distinctive sound to a distinctive type of indie music played in the ‘90s, a style that was part slow-core, sort of low-fi, usually involved slightly off-kilter, wonky vocals, simple arrangements and lots of feedback.

Idaho was among the bands that played that style of music, a sound stark and downturn, and while it could be bleak, often rays of sonic hope seeped through the cracks. For those of us who were there, hearing it again is like stepping right back into that decade.

Jeff Martin and the rest of the guys who made up Idaho last night at Reverb Lounge provided the time machine. Martin, looking like an indie version of Wade Garrett/Sam Elliott from Roadhouse with his long greying mid-50s hair, sounded as good as he ever did back in the day, backed by a solid band that included guitarist Robby Fronzo on soul-draining feedback-drenched leads.

To show you how little I know about the band, I wasn’t aware that a key component to their sound is that Martin (and Fronzo) played four-string electric guitars (in fact, I can’t remember seeing anyone play a four-string), which I credit at least in part to that far-away, haunted feel of the slower tunes. While tuning between numbers (which Martin did a lot), he said Fronzo had tried playing with the band using a six-string guitar, but it just didn’t sound right.

My knowledge of the Idaho songbook is limited to one album, which I acquired back in ’94 which included the song “Still” that I used in my 1994 best of Lazy-i cassette tape! That said, Martin’s set bounced between oldies and songs announced as “new ones,” that stood up to the old material. Throughout the evening the slow songs reminded me of ‘90s acts like American Music Club, Bedhead and Silkworm, though for every two slow ones there was an upbeat number.

I remembered how much I love this style of music, but wondered how it could ever catch the ear of today’s indie music lovers, who are more synthesized and upbeat and wouldn’t get the fractured sound that makes it so great.

BTW, last night was one of the only times I’ve seen a band play an encore at Reverb.

Slights at Reverb Lounge, July 8, 2021.

Opening band Slights from Kansas City (I’m told one of the members runs the Record Bar?), was an appropriate contrast. The band played a style of rock heavy on the minors and at times bordering on gothic. Frontman Matt Dunehoo has a stellar voice that can counter the heavy fuzz/buzz with a winsome tunefulness that matches his wonky (bordering on bizarre) stage antics.

The highlight of their set came three from the end when they veered from the usual minor-key buzzfest to something more pop, which felt like the sun breaking through the clouds. Throughout the evening Dunehoo commented how great it was to be back playing live and being able to play in front of a crowd. As part of that crowd, I couldn’t agree more.

. ) ) ) .

Unfortunately it’s looking like a quiet weekend show-wise. Only thing I see is the return of Doom Lagoon at The Slowdown Saturday night with 3 Son Green and Mr. E & the Stringless Kite. I have not seen any of these bands, but you can for $15. Show starts at 8 p.m.

The only other thing worth mentioning is that Saturday is Blackstone Second Saturday which means we’ll have a new artist opening at The Little Gallery, located just north of Night Owl in the The Mansion. “Because” features a collection of mixed-media prints on paper by Susan M. Heggestad. We’ll be there from 3 to 7 p.m.

Have a great weekend!

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — 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 © 2021 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Digital Leather at The Sydney…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:51 pm June 28, 2021
Digital Leather at The Sydney, June 26, 2021.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

It felt like old times at The Sydney Saturday night when Digital Leather played a split set to a crowd of around 40 unmasked revelers.

This might be the biggest DL ensemble I’ve seen on stage — six people including frontman Shawn Foree, who for the first time in memory, fronted as a vocalist — not behind a keyboard, not with a guitar slung around his neck — just straight-up Sinatra-style crooner in front of five folks crowded behind guitars and technology.

The line-up: long-time DL drummer Jeff Lambelet, Blake Kostszewa on synths, newcomer (though old acquaintance of the band) Bobby Hussy on guitar, Erica Van Engen on synths and Bright Eyes collaborator MiWi La Lupa on bass.

Foree played a few songs off DL’s most recent album, New Wave Gold, including a unique version of stand-out track “Compass” that saw Foree pass the mic to Kostszewa to handle lead vocals while Foree took his place behind the synths for this one song. Great idea, except Kostszewa started out a bit too tentative on a song that demands voice-of-doom vox. He got his footing by the second verse.

The addition of Hussy was a welcome one. Hussy brings an aggressive guitar style to a project that in recent years shifted back to its synth-focused origins. His guitar work blazed through the artificial smoke, adding a new, brighter color to Foree’s usual dark palette.

The majority of the set was dedicated to trying out new material, much of which took the band in different directions. The performance was split as Hussy broke a guitar string halfway through the set. The band took a 30-minute break while he restrung, and then played five more songs to a crowd half the size.

As I mentioned, the audience at Sydney was maskless, one hopes because all had been vaccinated. It did, indeed, feel like a pre-COVID (or, I guess now, post-COVID) show, a reminder of how things once were and hopefully will be again. Things will heat up again Friday night at The Sydney when Little Brazil returns in honor of BFF with Living Conditions and Sean Paul. See you there.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — 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 © 2021 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Save Our Stages (SOS) Act included in revised HEROES Act; review: Christian Lee Hutson…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:53 pm September 29, 2020

Yesterday an updated Heroes Act was introduced in the House of Representatives. This is legislation that, among other things, will extend unemployment benefits to those impacted by COVID-19. This new revision (surprise-surprise) included the Save Our Stages — or SOS Act.

To save you time reading the massive 87-page title-by-title summary document (the actual HEROES Act is 2,150 pages long, wouldn’t you hate to be a politician?), the summary language is:

Section 619: Grants for Independent Live Venue Operators (H.R. 7806, Save our Stages Act or the SOS Act)

  1. Authorizes $10 Billion for the SBA to make grants to eligible live venue operators, producers, promoters, or talent representatives to address the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on certain live venues.
  2. The SBA may make an initial grant of up to $12 million dollars to an eligible operator, promoter, producer, or talent representative; and a supplemental grant that is equal to 50% of the initial grant.
  3. Such grants shall be used for specified expenses such as payroll costs, rent, utilities, and personal protective equipment.

This all seems well and good, but, of course, it has to pass the House and then the Senate, and there’s no guarantee this language will survive. Or that Trump would sign it.

Look, I know this shit’s boring to some of you but it’s super important. And if you don’t believe me, check out this list of venues that have closed as a result of COVID-19, published by Billboard last week. No Nebraska venue is on the list, though we can point to Lookout Lounge as one of COVID-19’s casualties.

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Random review…

Christian Lee Hutson, Beginners (2020, Anti-) — Kind of Sufjan Stevens, early Pete Yorn, no question Simon and Garfunkel and lots of Elliott Smith. I think of him in conjunction with Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst because he was a member of Better Oblivion Community Center. And while Oberst has a better way with words and Phoebe has a sweeter voice, Hutson is a stronger songwriter melody-wise than both of them. He writes in a quiet, indie-folk tradition, mostly confessional lyrics as if singing from a journal, which makes these songs maybe a bit too personal to reach a wider audience. They’re heart-breakers, played on chiming acoustic guitar, sung in a voice that’s more Paul than Art. The single “Get the Old Band Back Together” sounds like an out-take from XO until the drums come in and amps things up. It’s the star and a standout, along with “Northsiders,” in a collection of stars and standouts.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily (if there’s news) at Lazy-i.com — 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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Petfest (And How, Those Far Out Arrows)…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:12 pm August 17, 2020
And How at Petfest, Aug. 15, 2020.

Like being stranded in the desert and drinking an ice-cold ladel of water — that’s what it was like to finally see live rock music again.

The opportunity came at Petfest last Saturday — the first live music I’ve experienced since COVID-19 began kicking our collective asses this past March. I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed rock shows. Watching a live band really underscores why live-streamed performances are a poor — but necessary — substitute for the real thing.

And while I know our COVID numbers around here are pretty bad, with the right precautions in place I don’t understand why there isn’t at least a few live outdoor indie shows happening somewhere. But I’ll get to that in a minute.

Just prior to organizers pulling the online ticket sales yesterday morning, there were only four of the 50 available tickets left for purchase, so if it wasn’t a sell-out it was close to it. After I posted my Lazy-i update Friday, organizers decided to nix the inside stage and host the entire event with two outdoor stages. Genius sound engineer Ian Aeillo cleverly pulled the in-door “stage” to the edge of the Petshop overhead doors, adding to the overall safety of the festival.

Before entering the snow-fence-bordered compound behind Petshop in Benson you had to be masked and have a temperature check. Once inside, there was plenty of room to roam, with a bar set up on one side next to the ProBlac tent and a merch tent.

I arrived at around 6 p.m., just in time to see And How’s entire set. A seven-piece ensemble that includes a two-piece brass section (trumpet and trombone) along with the usual keys, guitars, drums, I’d been told by a number of music folks how great they were, and they weren’t kidding. Fronted by vocalist/guitarist Ryan Menchaca, their sound is textured and melodic, floating and soaring like a plastic bag doing a ballet in an updraft between two skyscrapers. Some might say it borders on yacht rock, but these days, that’s a compliment, especially in an indie scene that’s infatuated with it.

Menchaca’s vocals, a perfect mid-range coo, wasn’t the least bit hampered by the mask he wore — in fact, the entire band wore masks throughout the performance, except of course for the brass players who dropped their shields when jams required. If there was a flaw it was in the enunciation — I’m not sure what these songs are about, but if their floating psych-rock sound is any indication, the topics are peace, love and understanding.

Mechaca said the band has only recorded one song, which is linked below. Methinks now would be a good time for them to get into a studio (perhaps Aeillo’s studio?) and get the rest of their set recorded for a debut album.


Those Far Out Arrows at Petfest, Aug. 15, 2020.

And How was followed by Those Far Out Arrows playing in the garage stage (appropriately). The time off due to COVID has only strengthened the four-piece psych-rock outfit, who never sounded more lean and mean. While playing what you could consider traditional garage/psych rock, it feels like they’re headed toward different places these days. I would get caught up in a song’s warm vibe and hope it would go on for another five minutes instead of capping at the three-minute mark, like any good rock song — not jamming as much as a trance-like rhythm and tone.

The masked crowd was having fun hanging with friends, probably for the first time in a long time. Groups of two or three stayed distanced from others (for the most part). I never felt like the space was crowded or dangerous. I guess we’ll find out in a couple weeks should anyone get sick.

The Petshop folks did everything right as far as I could see, and the fact that they essentially sold out this small show at $30+fees per ticket tells me there’s an appetite for more small, safe, socially distanced, outdoor rock shows. I’m surprised there hasn’t been more like this one, but no doubt it takes a lot of organizing. That said, with summer winding down, the opportunities to do more of this before fall and winter comes — and we’re all stuck back indoors — is only going to become more limited. Let’s get it while we can.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — 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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Nebraska to reopen venues; Live Review: No Thanks; Mercy Rule / Sideshow panel tonight; Little Brazil, Noah’s Ark Saturday; RIP Kyle Tonniges…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:33 pm May 22, 2020
No Thanks streamed live from the Slowdown main stage May 21, 2020.

Well, what did I tell you yesterday? As if on cue a few hours after I posted, Ricketts announced bars and lounges can reopen June 1 with the same rules now applied to restaurants. That is: 25 people allowed in the venue, or 50 percent of the venue’s rated occupancy. Patrons have to be seated at tables that are located six feet apart with no more than six people per table. And there must be six feet between entertainers and patrons.

I got this backwards. See CLARIFICATION posted right here.

If it sounds confusing it’s because it is, but I’m sure it’ll all be spelled out before June 1. For example, does the 25-person cap include employees and bands? Do you include employee/band numbers in the 50 percent occupancy restriction? And so on…

So if I’m hearing this correctly, a venue like The Waiting Room or Slowdown could only host shows with a maximum of 25 people in the audience (if employees/bands are excluded from the overall venue count). and even though they’re much smaller, The Brothers and O’Leaver’s also could host the same body count since their capacity exceeds 100.

Any way you slice it, it’s going to be a giant pain in the ass for venue owners who will be responsible for monitoring all those numbers. Some of them might decide to just stay closed until restrictions are loosened even further, and I can’t blame them.

Would I go to a rock show at any of those venues the first week of June? Yeah, I would, but judging from what I’ve seen in social media, I’m in the minority.

For example, I would have loved to have been among the 25 allowed in to watch last night’s No Thanks / Marcey Yates show streamed live from The Slowdown.

It probably would have been like this: I’d have been seated at a table (probably by myself) and I’d would have worn a mask though I haven’t heard any stipulation saying that’s required. That said, I have no problem wearing a mask as long as I could pull down my gator to drink my Rolling Rock(s).

Last night’s show was outstanding. Technically it was next-level as far as streamed concerts are concerned — terrific sound (by Dan Brennan), and video (from Love Drunk’s Django Greenblatt-Seay and his crew) utilizing at least five cameras.

And the performances were terrific. But the one thing missing was an audience — something even more apparent during No Thanks’ set, which had silent pauses between songs where the crowd usually fills in the spaces. Toward the end of the stream, the crew threw in a few whoops and hollers, which was better than nothing.

Yates was accompanied by a DJ and keyboard player as well as a couple additional vocalists — all of them on point and smooth. You can see why he’s on top of Omaha’s hip-hop ladder.

No Thanks did their usual sweaty set, using the occasion to roll out a couple new red hot numbers from an upcoming album (which, yes, they might as well release right now instead of waiting).

Next up on the Slowdown streaming concert series (of which there are two gigs) is tomorrow night (Saturday), when Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship plays with Little Brazil. Any other time, this concert would be a sloppy, drunken good time. Can these bands deliver in an empty auditorium? Find out. Tickets are $5 (plus whatever tip you want to add). The show is scheduled to start at 8:15, though last night’s started at 8:30 (You really notice the extra time when you’re staring at a computer screen). Get your tickets here.

Also happening this weekend — tonight to be exact — is a virtual round table with members of Domestica, Mercy Rule and Sideshow. It’s called Nebraska Music History: Episode 1, presented by Nebraska Performing Arts Hall of Fame. I’m sure we’ll be hearing all about the golden age of Nebraska indie rock born in the early ‘90s from two of the bands that were there. Mercy Rule and Sideshow not only recorded and toured around the country, they often toured together. Expect to hear some gnarly war stories. The program starts at 7 p.m. and is being streamed via Facebook from here.



Finally, yesterday we lost a good one. Kyle Tonniges was a friend of mine who I met working at The Reader. He was one of the funniest, most acerbic, smartest people I ever met, and one hell of a great writer. His music criticism was always spot-on — I know he introduced a lot of readers to new sounds. He went on to write reviews for Publishers Weekly (focusing on cookbooks), where he also did a lot of interviews. He battled cancer like the hero he was, but it got him in the end, and we’re all the lesser for it. He will be missed.



Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — 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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: Social Resonance Vol. 1 (Rebecca Lowry, Mike Schlesinger)…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:11 pm March 30, 2020

Rebecca Lowry performs during the Social Resonance Vol. 1 stream March 27.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Technically and artistically, what Ian Aiello and his team pulled off last Friday night at The Sydney will stand as the benchmark by which live streamed performances will be judged, and I don’t mean just local ones.

Multiple cameras, pristine audio and two fine performances in an empty bar in Benson, except for the crew that made it all work, last week’s Social Resonance Vol. 1 represents what can be done with the technology that will be spoon-feeding us live musical performances at least for the next two or three months while COVID does its thing.

You, of course, can see for yourself via this link, which will take you to the performance’s recording hosted in YouTube. Ian said about 250 watched live at any one time and a total of around 450 people viewed the live stream. Since its broadcast, the recording has had just under 1,200 views. Not bad.

Rebecca Lowry with an electric guitar (the last time I saw her perform she held a ukulele) belted out a number of songs a la Bonnie Raitt, while Mike Schlesinger, wearing a John Denver T-shirt, preferred to use an old acoustic guitar for his set of low-slung heart-breakers. Schlesinger is a Nebraska treasure who deserves to be discovered by this great, big COVID-infected world.

The stream defined the phrase “intimate performance.” With multiple cameras and perfect sound, there was utterly nowhere for these two to hide as every breath, every note was stream-ified. Guts. Confidence.

Despite its “Vol. 1” title, Ian said this was a one-shot — there will be no Vol. 2, which is a shame considering Vol. 1’s success. It truly was appointment viewing and gave us all somewhere to meet on a Friday night, even if it was just in front of our computers.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — 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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

Live Review: PUP, Screaming Females at The Waiting Room…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , — @ 1:36 pm March 5, 2020

PUP at The Waiting Room, March 4, 2020.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

My friend Paul emailed to say I needed to show up early at The Waiting Room last night for Screaming Females, which he’d seen a number of times, including a show a few years back at the Sweatshop Gallery.

If you haven’t caught them yet, they are a force — Marissa Paternoster made SPIN’s list of top 100 guitarists a few years back.  I thought she would have caught on as a gunslinger for a major touring band by now, but Sam told me she’s loyal to her bandmates.

“Sam” is Sam Parker, once of Omaha now of Nashville who booked the band here once upon a time. Well, Paul wasn’t exaggerating. Paternaster was a force of nature on the guitar, a true throwback rock virtuoso.

How to describe her? She looked like a mop-headed 15-year-old Gilda Radner, no more than 5 feet tall. She never smiled, or at least not on stage. And when she played, she looked like a person possessed — amazing rock arpeggios that Jimmy Page or Jack White would most certainly bow down to.

Screaming Females at The Waiting Room, March 4, 2020.

A New Jersey power trio, their style was reminiscent of Seattle grunge with a hint of metal (by way of that guitar). The songs were powered by Mike Abbate’s base lines that laid the groundwork for Paternaster’s fretboard gymnastics.

When she wasn’t playing (or when she was) she sang with an affected style that sounded like Grace Slick channeling Eddie Vedder on melodies that weren’t terribly memorable. It’s her guitar work that I’ll remember. Why isn’t this band headlining yet?

PUP came on right at 10 p.m. to a near sold-out crowd, about as packed as I’ve seen The Waiting Room. From the opening chords the audience erupted in a group sing-along, which I sort of expected. PUP’s anthemic music lends itself to crowd participation, and the band certainly got it all night long. But unlike say, a Dashboard Confessional concert where the crowd singing shtick is constant and annoying, last night’s audience was a nice accent to the overall power of the performance.

Frontman Stefan Babcock said because the band hadn’t been through Omaha in a number of years they were going to play songs from all their albums, and in fact reached way back to their 2014 debut with “Dark Days” and set highlight “Reservoir” (though they didn’t get to my personal fave, “Guilt Trip”). There also were a lot of songs off their last album, Morbid Stuff, including perfect set-closer “Scorpion Hill.”

Halfway through the hour-long performance Babcock remarked that the set was a disaster but it sure sounded great from where I stood, and certainly the fist-pump-fueled crowd was loving it, including the requisite crowd surfers. Babcock’s between-song repartee included calling Oklahoma City (the town they played previously) the City of Enemies. Not sure what that was all about. He also said he was having more fun last night than he expected to — take that for what it’s worth.

There was no encore, and no band has ever made such a big deal about it. Babcock not only warned the crowd they weren’t playing one “because they’re stupid” (and, he said, merely an excuse for bands to go backstage and do coke (which they don’t do)), but also encouraged the crowd to chant “No More Songs!” after the set closer, which is exactly what they did, though they had to know we would have loved a couple more…

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — 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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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Live Review: SUSTO, Molly Parden at Slowdown Jr…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 2:04 pm February 25, 2020

SUSTO at Slowdown Jr., Feb. 24, 2020.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

All the chairs will filled last night down at Slowdown Jr., literally. The crowd of around 60 stayed seated throughout both Molly Parden and SUSTO’s set last night, leaving a wide open floor in front of the stage with only one guy (me) standing near it. I’m guessing both artists were wondering who that weirdo was.

Molly Parden kicked things off at 8. She’s a Nashville singer/songwriter who played a solo acoustic set of broken-hearted love songs that ached with every note. I had a feeling that each song had someone’s name attached to it, and Parden inasmuch said so, saying she took seven years off from writing music, and that it took a break-up to inspire her to write again.

Molly Parden at Slowdown Jr., Feb. 24, 2020.

While her songs would fit well alongside early Joni Mitchell, her voice comes from a different direction and is incomparable. Just gorgeous. She said she only recently has been able to support herself through her music thanks to one of her songs being included on a couple Spotify playlists, which has generated enough cash to live on. The song in question, “Weather,” is a rocker on Spotify, but came off as another somber heart breaker performed live. In fact, what I heard last night on stage blows away the recorded versions of the same songs, or maybe it was just the mood of the evening and the performance itself. Too bad no one recorded it.

I was sort of expecting SUSTO’s Justin Osborne to sound a little less like Jackson Browne vocalwise when he took the stage last night, and in fact he did, though there was still that classic Late for the Sky nasal lilt to his voice. Playing as a 4-piece, the band launched the set with “Far Out Feeling,” the lead-off track (and my favorite) from their 2017 album & I’m Fine Today. They went on to play a selection of the best songs off the last two albums, reaching back to “Acid Boys” from his 2014 debut.

Osborne switched between guitar and keyboards from song to song, sounding just as comfortable on either, backed by a solid band that included an amazing soloist and a snap-tight rhythm section. I love Osborne’s voice, and few people in recent years are as good at writing gorgeous melodies. In a way he reminds me of the late great Jim Croce, who had a similar simple, urban story-telling songwriting style.

Late in the set as a special treat, the band played their cover of Elton John’s “Daniel,” which sounded as if it was written for them to perform. A great way to spend a Monday night.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — 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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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New releases: Magū, Death Cow, Relax It’s Science; New Pornographers, Diane Coffee tonight at The Slowdown…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:31 pm February 13, 2020

New Pornographers at 2017 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 19, 2017. The band plays tonight at The Slowdown.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Here’s a handful of recent local Bandcamp releases that may trip your trigger.

I stumbled across Magū via Facebook, the band’s drummer / vocalist David McInnis sent a friend request and, once connected, said, “This is something you’re interested in.” Oh really?

The newish Omaha collective includes Sam Lipsett on bass, John Staples on guitars and vocals, Di Ren Chen on keyboards, Cameron Thelander on saxophone and McInnis. I haven’t seen these folks live yet so I don’t know who handles the majority of vocals.

The band dropped a new EP Renovate last Friday via Bandcamp. The 4-songs collection, recorded by McInnis at his Magroover Studios, is a refined psych-rock experience that borders on prog rock. Certainly more arty than indie. And at times, very spacey, though I wouldn’t confuse it with shoe-gaze (Thelander’s warm, echoing tenor sax takes care of that).

I can’t put my finger on any one thing they remind me of, though It’s True and Adam Hawkins’ past efforts came to mind (Whatever happened to Mr. Hawkins? Plenty I’m sure). Flaming Lips also popped up. Opening track, “Never Want” is a fave of the bunch, along with “Glad I’m Not in Love.” Or maybe I’m just a sucker for that sax? I’ll be checking them out live… eventually.

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The name Death Cow reminds me so much of Bloodcow that I figured the folks at Bloodcow might be pissed about the name grab, but after corresponding with one of the BC dudes, they couldn’t be more gracious about the name similarity, tipping the hat to the next generation and all that. Plus, it’s unlikely we’ll be hearing from Bloodcow in the near future.

No doubt Death Cow glommed more from Bloodcow than just the naming configuration. The band’s new seven-song EP Pioneer, released Jan. 31, has similar — if not so abrasive — love for heavy riffs. But whereas I’d classify Bloodcow as metal, Death Cow falls more into the high-flying rock ‘n’ roll category. The songs’ harmony vocals, overlaying the riffs on almost every track, well that’s ’90s FM rock territory. It’s also what makes these guys stand out over the other locals trying their hand at straight-up rock.

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Relax, It’s Science has been playing live around Omaha for at least the past four or five years. Their formula is two basses — Pat Mclivain and Craig Hoffman — and veteran drummer Jeremy Stanosheck, playing rough, loud instrumentals that border on metal. It’s as bludgeoning as you think it is.

Recorded at Archetype by Bryce Hotz and mastered by the inimitable Doug Van Sloun, this debut, titled Now It’s Your Problem, is a long time coming. Somewhat relentless, just like their live shows.

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Tonight at The Slowdown it’s the return of New Pornographers. The Canucks are on the road supporting their 2019 release, In the Morse Code of Brake Lights (Concord Records). No doubt you’ll get A.C., Calder and Neko but no Dan Bejar (You’ll have to wait until he returns with Destroyer to The Waiting Room in March). The theatrical gyrations of Diane Coffee opens at 8 p.m. $30.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — 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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

 

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