Allen Epley (Shiner, The Life and Times), Little Brazil tonight at Reverb…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 8:25 am March 1, 2023
Allen Epley and his band play tonight at Reverb Lounge.

by Tim McMahan,

If you grew up in Omaha and took part in the indie music scene from the early ‘90s until today, you’ve no doubt heard and seen Kansas City’s Allen Epley before. He first emerged with his band Shiner in ’92, often performing in Omaha. The band had its creative peak in 2001 with LP The Egg (DeSoto Records), and then sunsetted a year or so later.

Epley would emerge again in 2004 in The Life and Times, a band that’s recorded five LPs and two EPs, starting out strong with Suburban Hymns in 2005 (also on Desoto). Their sound was and is classic indie rock with layers of grunge poking through here and there, thick with guitars, bass and drums. 

Here are some observations from a 2008 LNT show: “What we got was a gnashing set of trippy, melodic noise-core that reminded me of My Bloody Valentine — just grinding, heavy rock that had moments of soaring beauty. Epley’s voice is unique in a Cobain sort of way (though he sounds nothing like Cobain), one of those voices that makes you nod your head and think, ‘This guy is good.’

On the bill that night at Slowdown Jr. back in 2008 was Fromanhole, who was hosting the CD release show, and Little Brazil, who often played when Epley when his bands came to town.

So it’s fitting that Little Brazil is playing tonight when Allen Epley and his new band perform at Reverb Lounge. His solo debut album, Everything, was released last month on Spartan Records, and tonight’s show supports that release. Here’s the first single from the album, in video form:

This is being billed as a “Little Brazil with Allen Epley,” which implies LB will be the headliner and Allen will be up first, but you never know how that’ll work out until showtime. Fun starts at 8 p.m., $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 © 2023 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Runnner at Slowdown; Al Olender, Ahna Ell at Pageturners tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 8:27 am February 28, 2023
Runnner plays tonight at Slowdown, Jr.

by Tim McMahan,

This is turning out to be a busy week show-wise, it’s almost like the good ol’ days. 

Tonight at Slowdown Jr., Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Noah Weinman a.k.a. Runnner headlines. His new album, Like Dying Stars, We’re Reaching Out, was released just a couple weeks ago on Run for Cover Records and already received a 7.0 rated review at Pitchfork that said the album’s “cloudy, spacious indie folk songs ruminate on the limits of human communication.” Weinman kind of reminds me of Alex G (or even Phoebe Bridgers or Sufjan) with his mid-tempo, mostly acoustic personal slice-of-life songs, downbeat and pretty. 

Two locals open the show. Singer/songwriter Jacob James Wilton calls his music “prairie pop.” His latest, Life Open Wide, was released this past December. In the middle slot is our old friends, indie rockers Bad Self Portraits, whose Fear of Missing Out CD was released last July.  $18, 8 p.m. 

Meanwhile, back in Dundee at Pageturners, Kingston, New York’s Al Olender returns for another intimate engagement. She just released a new track, “Almost Famous,” a couple weeks ago. Her last LP was Easy Crier, released last May on Big Al Records. Opening is super-intriguing singer/songwriter Ahna Ell, whose latest, 2021’s Everybody’s Gonna Let You Down, is downright infectious. This is a sneaky good show with no cover, and it starts at 8 p.m. 

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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 © 2023 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Wagon Blasters, Half Trust, Gerald Lee, Jr.; Vinyl Williams, Dendrons, Cat Piss tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , , — @ 8:24 am February 27, 2023
Wagon Blasters at Grapefruit Records, Feb. 24, 2023.

by Tim McMahan,

Prior to Friday night’s in-store CD release show by the Wagon Blasters for the release of the In Frontier We Trust singles compilation CD I asked the originator of both bands, Gary Dean Davis, why he was having the show at a record store. I attended a Simon Joyner performance at Grapefruit last year (Simon runs the place) and found it quaint, cozy and more than a little cramped.

I suppose punk rock has always been about doing things in unconventional ways and places,” Gary said. “Over the years many of my favorite shows were in unconventional places. Many of which were at record stores: Firehose at Homer’s during a blizzard in ’87, Brimstone Howl also at Homer’s, Man or Astroman at Drastic Plastic, the Almost Music shows (a long defunct record store in Benson/Blackstone), along with a multitude of basement and even apartment shows I’ve played at or seen. I supposed the best reason is that people are there to listen to music.”

And thus was the case Friday night at Grapefruit. A small PA was set up in the corner of the store and the crowd of around 40 or 50 listened either standing or sitting among the bins of vinyl records. Yes, it was cozy and cramped, but it was also a lot of fun. 

Gerald Lee, Jr., at Grapefruit Records, Feb. 24, 2023.

Gerald Lee, Jr., a.k.a. Lee Meyerpeter, the frontman of a score of bands from the ‘90s through today (including Cactus Nerve Thing, Bad Luck Charm and Filter Kings) played a solo set with electric guitar that included tunes from all these bands (yes, including Cactus). Lee drops a slight country twang into everything he sings, whether it’s a punk song or a whiskey-fueled ballad. He closed his set with Filter Kings’ classic “100 Proof Man,” a song that was always destined to be covered by The Highwaymen but never was.

Bill Thornton and Gary Dean Davis – Half Trust – at Grapefruit Records, Feb. 24, 2023.

That was followed by a short set by Gary Dean Davis and Bill Thornton on acoustic guitar – playing as “Half Trust,” – tunes from Frontier Trust. Both seated, Gary explained that the CD was made so his kids could listen to their dad’s Frontier Trust songs in their cars, which is exactly what I did after the show. Mastered by Doug Van Sloun, the songs on In Frontier We Trust never sounded better. I think I own all of the 45s in which the CD was derived and can attest that the mix is brighter and more urgent than the vinyl. Gary, I’m sure, will be disappointed to hear that as he believes vinyl is the perfect medium, and maybe he was right… 20 years ago. 

You can order a copy of the CD directly from the Wagon Blasters’ Bandcamp page for a mere $10.

Finally, the rest of the Wagon Blasters took the stage, plugged in and played a rousing set of fan favorites with Gary providing his trademark stage jumps and between-song “Thanks!” Oh, what a night. 

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The rock continues tonight as psych-pop band Vinyl Williams headlines at Slowdown Jr. The band’s last album, Cosmopolis, was released last year on Requiem Pour Un Twister.  Chicago indie band Dendrons co-headlines the bill, which also includes Omaha’s own Cat Piss and The Dirts. That’s a lot of music for $15. Show starts at 8 p.m. 

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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 © 2023 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Wagon Blasters, Domestica, Minne Lussa tonight; The Rural Alberta Advantage Sunday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 8:26 am February 24, 2023
Wagon Blasters at Lookout Lounge April 30, 2016. The band plays tonight at Grapefruit Records in the Old Market.

by Tim McMahan,

It’s a Speed! Nebraska Friday night takeover in more ways than one tonight.

First, tonight at Grapefruit Records, 1125 Jackson St., our favorite local record label, Speed! Nebraska, is celebrating the release of In Frontier We Trust, a CD compilation of all the great Frontier Trust singles (four 45s-worth). It’s a project that Frontier Trust frontman Gary Dean Davis said was fun putting together. “We actually used a 45 as the master for the Highway Miles EP,” Gary said. Mastered by genius engineer Doug Van Sloun with cover art by Chris Harding Thornton, the CD will be like a time machine that takes you back to Omaha/Lincoln circa the mid-‘90s when Frontier Trust invented tractor-punk and sat at the forefront of Nebraska’s first golden age of indie rock. 

And here’s the best part – everyone who attends tonight’s CD release show gets a free copy of the CD. How can you beat that? 

Well, Gary Dean Davis’ latest band, Wagon Blasters, is headlining the show, which means we’ll get treated to a couple Frontier Trust classics in the “Half Trust” style with Bill Thornton on guitar.  Opening the show at 8 p.m. is Filter Kings frontman  Gerald Lee, Jr. Entry is $10 at the door.

Grapefruit Records is a fun room for a show, and Gary says Simon is even building a drum riser for the occasion. 

But that’s not the only Speed! Nebraska show happening tonight. Across town in Benson at Reverb Lounge, Lincoln power-punk trio Domestica headlines a rare (these days) Omaha show. Domestica’s previous incarnation, Mercy Rule, released singles on the Speed! Nebraska label, and often were Frontier Trust show mates at rock shows in the mid-‘90s. Ah, those were the days… 

Opening for Domestica is Mike Saklar’s The Sun-less Trio; Minne Lussa owns the middle slot. 9 p.m. start time, $8. 

If you’re crafty (and reckless) there’s a chance you could double-dip and catch both shows. 

The other red-hot show this weekend is Saddle Creek Records band The Rural Alberta Advantage headlining at Slowdown Jr. Sunday night. The band is on the road supporting The Rise EP, released last spring, which marked the return of founding member, keyboardist Amy Cole. Singer/songwriter Georgia Harmer opens at 8 pm. $22.

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 © 2023 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Unsane (noise-punk originators), Violenteer, Big Water at Reverb tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 8:25 am February 23, 2023
Violenteer at The Slowdown, May 4, 2022. The band opens for Unsane tonight at Reverb.

by Tim McMahan,

Yeah, Unsane music is intensely hard, but unlike traditional hardcore or modern death-metal, the band’s music carries an undeniable thread of melody and counter-melody that glows through the depths of the ricochet-hand grenade rhythms. Start with a hard-fast guitar riff, layer on top a feedback-fueled lead guitar, and then sing-scream electro-distorted lyrics about alienation, fear and retribution while the drums/bass lay down a strangely funky groove and you’ve got the recipe for an Unsane song. It’s a recipe I heard repeated by many, many bands since Unsane kicked things off with their 1991 self-titled debut album on Matador Records — you know, the one with the decapitated dude on the cover.

Unlike mega-popular metal acts Metallica or Slayer that reveal a cheesy/campy center to their fist-pump rock, Unsane music feels and sounds dark, groovy and sinister. Their music is technically smarter and more compact than your typical goon-rock growl metal, which I can only listen to for about 10 seconds before saying “Turn that shit off.” The fact that Unsane is still touring today is somewhat amazing. 

Randy Cotton, who’s band Violenteer opens tonight’s Unsane show at Reverb Lounge, tells me Unsane recently obtained the rights to their early material, and they’ve remastered and re-released their first S/T record, as well as an album of previously unreleased material recorded before that. “This tour mainly focuses on that early material,” Randy said.

Violenteer will be unveiling a new singer/noisescape artist at tonight’s show. “His name is Steve Tulipana (Season To Risk, Roman Numerals, Slights, or Drop A Grand), and he resides in Kansas City,” Cotton said. “We are super-stoked about it. He will be entering the studio next month to record on our album as well.”

Tulipana is bringing his KC friends Big Water to open tonight’s festivities. The band includes Matt Perrin, formerly of the band Bummer.  “Bummer had really blown up nationally in the last few years,” Cotton said. “They had a sense of humor somewhat reminiscent of Killdozer, yet it was all their own. One writer described Bummer as being sort of like Nirvana on meth.” 

Any other night I’d expect this show to sell out at Reverb Lounge, but the sub-zero windchill could keep folks at home. $15, Big Water kicks things off at 8 p.m. 

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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 © 2023 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Big Thief, Turnstile headline 2023 Maha Festival, July 28-29…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 1:54 pm February 22, 2023
Big Thief will headline day 2 of the 2023 Maha Music Festival.

by Tim McMahan,

If you’re anywhere near social media you already know that the 2023 Maha Music Festival Lineup was announced at today at noon. The 15th annual festival takes place July 28 and 29 at Stinson Park in Aksarben Village, which (rumor has it) may be the last time at that location.

Big Thief is the festival’s Saturday headliner. Arguably one of the most popular and critically acclaimed bands in indie, Big Thief started their careers releasing albums on our city’s very own Saddle Creek Records before heading off to 4AD Records a few years ago. Last year’s double album, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You, was on many critics’ “best of” lists (including mine). This isn’t their first trip to Omaha. Big Thief played the late, great Lookout Lounge (opening for Yuck) way back in 2016, and returned a year later to play at O’Leaver’s.

Festival headline gigs are usually high-energy affairs. Can Big Thief bring the party? While I love their music, it’s pretty low-key folk rock, and you have to wonder how many people around these parts even know who Big Thief is. Then again, how many people had heard of Khruangbin when they headlined in 2021 or, for that matter, Beach House last year?

Vancouver indie pop band Peach Pit should provide a peaceful, easy lead-in to Big Thief Saturday. Their low-key songs tell stories about love and relationship, etc. Indie in name only, they record on Columbia Records, and played a sold-out Slowdown Jr. back in October 2018.  

Pop New Zealanders The Beths also are on the Saturday list. They played Slowdown Jr. in July 2019 and released the fetching Experts in a Dying Field last year on Carpark Records. Another familiar band, Saddle Creek Records stars Black Belt Eagle Scout, also play Saturday. They just released The Land, the Water, The Sky on The Creek a few weeks ago. BBES played Reverb back in September 2018. Then along comes a couple bands I’m not familiar with. Naples by way of Nashville hip-hop/R&B artist Terry Presume has a Saturday afternoon slot along with disco-pop trio Say She She (Karma Chief Records). And then there’s the locals. Omaha hip-hop legends M34N STR33T, local rockers Garst and singer/songwriter Ebba Rose.

If Saturday’s Maha bill sounds like a pleasant afternoon in the park, Friday night’s line-up really is the party. Headline Friday night is Turnstile. Their 2021 album Glow On (Roadrunner Records) is over-the-top power emo at its finest. Expect an overly caffeinated, energized, jumping crowd, pounding the Stinson Park turf with either pogos and/or moshing. 

Second-billed Friday night are critical darlings Alvvays, who played Maha back in 2015. Their 2022 album Blue Rev (Polyvinyl) also topped a number of critics’ best of list last year (including mine). The only thing I know about electronic dance maven Ekkstacy is his single, “I Walk This Earth All By Myself,” which has received solid airplay on Sirius XMU. Maybe the biggest surprise fo the entire Maha 2023 line-up is the return of Icky Blossoms. I think the last time I saw them play was back at Slowdown in July 2015. They’ve been on a hiatus for a few years, though their music recently showed up on a runway show in Paris! No idea what their appearance at Maha means for their future. Local hip-hop act Hakim also is on the Friday bill. Kicking things off is the incendiary, brutal hardcore rock of BIB — something tells me their set will be the one that people talk about weeks after the festival.

This is a very indie-heavy line-up and something of a surprise considering how 1% and The Slowdown have really pulled back on their indie bookings over the past year. In many ways, it’s a catch-up festival for bands that skipped Omaha over the past couple years.

Tickets go on sale this Friday at 10 a.m. CT at VIP tickets are $130 for Friday, $160 for Saturday, and $240 for two-day, and include air-conditioned restrooms, an exclusive viewing area near the main stage, complimentary food from Omaha restaurant Via Farina, and more. NOTE: If you intend to go, I suggest buying VIPs. You’ll thank me later. General Admission tickets are $50 for Friday, $60 for Saturday, and $100 for two-day; GA prices will increase once the limited quantity of Tier 1 tickets sell out — not entirely sure what that means.

Maha says they expect more than 13,000 total over the two days. That seems to assume they expect light draw for Friday, but I think Friday could draw as many or more than Saturday because Turnstile has never been here before (that I know of) and their live shows have a rep for being somewhat epic, much like concerts by The Faint. 

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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 © 2023 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Killers tix on sale today; STRFKR, Kristen Leschper (Mothers), Anna McClellan Sunday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 4:05 pm February 19, 2023
Kristen Leschper performing as Mothers at Slowdown Jr., March 20, 2018. Leschper plays at Reverb Sunday night.

by Tim McMahan,

Feb. 17, 2023 – Remember last Friday when I said, ‘Don’t worry, there’s a lot of great shows next weekend’?  Well, I meant the weekend after next weekend, because there ain’t nothing happening this weekend, until Sunday night.

Before we get to that, tickets to the inaugural concert at Steelhouse Omaha featuring Las Vegas alt rock band The Killers go on sale today at 10 a.m. The folks at Steelhouse are treating this like a contest, posting on social media tips for acquiring the $75 tickets (plus probably +$20 in fees) from Ticketmaster, and stating “Do not purchase from 3rd party vendors.” Well, with no presale code for fans, and if demand is as brisk as they seem to think, there will be plenty of 3rd party vendors selling tickets well above face value. Thus is life. 

Steelhouse yesterday also announced their next show, Fleet Foxes July 2, another band that misses the mark for me. I believe the last time they played here was outside of The Waiting Room back in September 2017. Singer/songwriter Uwade will open that show. 

Steelhouse invited the media for a sneak peek of the new facility under construction Wednesday. I was unable to make it, but the Omaha World-Herald was there. Check out the article and brief video here. One interesting reveal I wasn’t aware of – in addition to the 3,000 standing capacity (or 1,500 seated), the $104.1 million facility’s balcony will offer seating for up to 300. Judging from the video, it’ll be a race to the May 12 finish line.

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OK, back to this weekend. There’s nothing on the indie music radar tonight or Saturday night, but Sunday, two shows of note…

At The Waiting Room, Portland indie band STRFKR headlines. Originally a solo project by Josh Hodges, it’s evolved into a full-on rock band releasing albums on Polyvinyl Records. Their latest single, “Running Around,” marks a return to style after 2020’s Ambient 1 all-instrumental tonal collection. Das Kope opens at 8 p.m. $25.

Meanwhile, right around the corner at Reverb Lounge Sunday night, Kristine Leschper headlines. You might know her by her project’s former name, Mothers, which she is officially retiring with the release of The Opening, Or Closing of a Door, out March 4 on ANTI. The first single from that album is below. Opening for Leschper is Omaha singer/songwriter Anna McClellan, who is worth the price of admission by herself. Sgt Leisure also is on the bill. $15, 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 n


The Killers are Steelhouse Omaha’s grand opening act; Astro books Goo Goos; Cursive’s Domestica w/Neva Dinova May 16…

by Tim McMahan,

Feb. 13, 2023 – After weeks of speculation, Omaha Performing Arts this morning announced that The Killers will have the honor of playing Steehouse Omaha’s inaugural show May 12. It’s quite a catch for the 3,000-capacity standing-only venue. 

While it’s still too early to predict who they’ll book in the future, The Killers provides some pretty solid clues as the type of acts OPA thinks it needs to “bring young people downtown.” While still a big draw, The Killers were arguably at the height of their powers in the early- to mid-2000s, nearly 20 years ago. The band definitely hits a sweet spot for older music goers. It’ll be interesting to see how well the show sells with those under 30 (or under 20).

If you extrapolate The Killers across a music horizon, “similar” alt-rock bands that could fit in this category would include Franz Ferdinand, Kings of Leon, Kaiser Chiefs, The Libertines, Razorlight, The Bravery, Keane – all acts along with The Killers that are not my cup of tea (as the late, great Dave Sink used to say). I have no doubt Live Nation, who is booking Steelhouse, will also announce, shall we say, “more contemporary” acts in the future. 

The primary question from fans of modern indie music: Is Steelhouse/Live Nation willing to book acts that draw in the 300 (or less) range along with big draws like those mentioned above? Is there a way to comfortably host up-and-coming acts that draw smaller audiences without Steelhouse feeling like an empty blimp hangar? If not, I suspect we’ll be seeing a long list of “alt rock” bands booked at the venue. Time will tell….

I’ll be happy if they can book six quality indie shows a year that I’d buy tickets for. Anything more would be gravy. 

A couple other noteworthy shows announced today: Goo Goo Dolls and Fitz and the Tantrums have been announced to play Sept. 23 at The Astro Theater / amphitheater / venue being constructed at 8302 City Centre Drive in La Vista. Mammoth Inc. out of KC will book this new venue, which has been in the works for years. Based on this show, something tells me their booking will be in line with what Stir Cove has historically booked in the past. 

And our old friends Cursive will be performing their seminal album, Domestica, May 16 at The Waiting Room with none other than Neva Dinova opening the show. Tix on sale tomorrow! 

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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 © 2023 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


New music: Specter Poetics, Pile, M83, Shiner, Black Belt Eagle Scout, Shalom, Rural Alberta Advantage, Indigo De Souza…

by Tim McMahan,

Feb. 10, 2023 – So, another showless weekend. The good news is there’s a lot going on next weekend. Until then, here’s a batch of new music that caught my attention to enjoy and ponder.

Specter Poetics is the electronic project of Jack McLaughlin. He released a new track last Wednesday, produced by engineering mastermind Ian Aeillo. Check it in Spotify (since it’s not in Bandcamp, or at least I couldn’t find it).  

Boston-based indie darlings Pile announced their new album, All Fiction, which drops next Friday. Here’s the first single:

M83 dropped the first single from their new album, Fantasy, this week. The whole thing comes out on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17. This sounds like a return to form for the band that was so dominate a decade ago.

Shiner frontman Allen Epley has a new solo LP called Everything that dropped recently. Here’s the first single:

Saddle Creek Records’ roster of talent has been very busy lately. 

Black Belt Eagle Scout released a new track off their new album The Land, the Water The Sky, which came out today. It’s a leap forward to a denser, more complete sound:

Brooklyn singer-songwriter Shalom dropped yet another single for her upcoming album, Sublimation, which comes out March 10 on the Creek. Called “Soccer Mommy,” it’s kind of an ode to the indie band that she counts as an influence:

Rural Alberta Advantage is slated to play The Slowdown Feb. 26. They just dropped this new single last week.

And finally, maybe the most popular act on Saddle Creek’s current roster, Indigo De Souza, announced a new album, All of This Will End, is coming out April 27. The first single, “Younger and Dumber,” dropped this past week. 

And that’s all I got. 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 © 2023 Tim McMahan. All rights r


Chatting with the Alien (in the column); Lincoln Exposed begins tonight…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , — @ 3:54 pm

by Tim McMahan,

Feb. 9, 2023 – The February issue of The Reader is on newsstands (or so I’m told) and within its pages is the following column wherein I ask ChatGPT about the Omaha music scene. You can read it online at The Reader website right here, or you can read below, where its included for posterity’s sake. 

Tonight is the kick-off of the 18th anniversary of Lincoln Exposed. Check out the line-up and get ticket info here

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Chatting with Our Inevitable Replacement

The Reader, February 2023

Omaha, Nebraska, has a vibrant and diverse music scene, with a mix of local and national acts performing in venues throughout the city. The city is home to several music venues, including the Slowdown, The Waiting Room, and the Holland Performing Arts Center. These venues host a variety of music genres, including rock, indie, hip-hop, electronic, and jazz.

Thus began my chat with OpenAI’s ChatGPT. What, pray tell, is ChatGPT? It’s a computer-based “answering machine” that interacts in a conversational way, but unlike other chatbots, it not only provides answers, but it also admits its mistakes, challenges incorrect premises and rejects inappropriate requests. And it does all this by tapping into its own data in its “neural network” rather than searching the web. I guess you could say it “thinks.”

ChatGPT doesn’t just write simple phrases, it composes full essays as if written by a human being, but with much better grammar (certainly better than mine). Think of it as a HAL 9000 computer with better manners.

Since its launch in November, ChatGPT has been used to write everything from poetry to movie scripts, even to write songs in the style of Nick Cave. It’s like a deep fake for literature. In fact, the program has proven to be a headache in the academic world. Axios reports ChatGPT is being used by some dodgy college students to write term papers … and getting away with it. They call it Chat Cheating.

Algorithmic journalism — or robot journalism — is nothing new. There’s a good chance the financial report, earnings review, even the recap of last night’s Knicks game was written by a robot. Writing stats-based stories is kind of robotic by its very nature, but could ChatGPT write fluently about art and culture — or, for that matter, local music?

To find out, I pulled up on my Mac, created an account and began asking questions about the Omaha music scene. The initial responses were somewhat mundane and not much different than a Wiki search. Like anything else, I tended to skip over what it got right and zoomed in on the mistakes.

For example, it listed The Hive among the city’s “several independent music venues” alongside The Waiting Room, O’Leaver’s, the Slowdown and Reverb. The Hive has been closed for years and was never an indie music venue. It listed Hear Nebraska as a top source for indie music news, though that website hasn’t been active since 2017. When it didn’t list among the city’s indie blogs, it apologized, and later listed Tim McMahan as “a notable figure in the Omaha music scene.” Hear! Hear! Clearly this is Machine Learning at its finest.

As the discussion went on, ChatGPT began crafting its answers around what it presumed were my preferences, ignoring a broader view of Omaha music. Asked “What are some of the best bands in Omaha?” ChatGPT listed Bright Eyes, Cursive, The Faint, The Good Life, Ladyfinger (ne), The Mynabirds and O+S. Most of those bands haven’t released new music in a decade. Asked to list the best non-indie bands, it came up with 311, Saddle Creek Records, The Decatures, The Hottman Sisters, Big Harp, Digital Leather and Icky Blossoms — some of which are inactive or no longer living in Omaha.

But it got weirdly accurate when asked to list the “worst things about Omaha’s music scene.” ChatGPT’s answers ranged from “Limited exposure: Omaha is not a major music industry hub” to “Omaha has limited opportunities for local bands to perform” to “Omaha is not a main destination for touring bands.” Where was it getting this information?

Conversely, when asked how Omaha could improve its music scene, ChatGPT turned into a sage. Among its seven-point plan:

  1. By providing more funding and resources to local bands and venues, Omaha could help to support and grow the local music scene. This could include things like grants, low-interest loans, and tax incentives for music-related businesses.
  2. By working to develop an industry infrastructure, Omaha could help to connect local bands and venues with agents, managers, and other industry professionals who can help them take their careers to the next level. This could include things like music conferences, networking events, and mentorship programs.
  3. By promoting the Omaha music scene to a national and international level, the city could help to draw more attention to the local music scene and attract more visitors to the city. This could include things like hosting music festivals, creating a music-themed tourist trail, and working with local media outlets to promote the scene.

Further points included encouraging diversity, developing more affordable housing, encouraging collaboration and networking, and increasing education and mentorship opportunities. It’s hard to fault any of the robot’s suggestions, which leads me to believe at the very least that ChatGPT could replace our local politicians after it replaces our local music writers.

Over The Edge is a monthly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on culture, society, music, the media and the arts. Email Tim at

First published in The Reader, February 2023. Copyright © 2023 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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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 em