2020 Music Year in Review: A look back at the year that wasn’t (trends,favorite albums, live shows)…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 11:11 am December 31, 2020
Lazy-i 2020 Music Year in Review

Before I began writing this annual music year in review article, I glanced back at last year’s reflections on 2019. It was mostly gripes. Music sales have dried up. Touring has become an expensive, money-losing proposition. And with the constant exodus of talent moving away from Omaha, who was going to play on all these stages (with even more planned in the coming years)? I even complained about the lack of quality touring indie bands coming through town.

Oh woe is us.

After the year we’ve just been through, you have to laugh at those comments. What spoiled, entitled, jaded brats we’d become. We didn’t know how good we had it. Well, we know now.

The Year of Our Lord 2020 — the Year of COVID-19 — needs no explanation to any of you. We each have our own pandemic story. You were lucky if you weren’t struggling to stay alive or to keep someone alive or to pay your rent or feed yourself and your family.

You were lucky if being bored was on top of your list of worries. That said, life without live music — for those us who love it — can be pretty boring.

I miss it. To the point where, when I watch concert footage online or on TV and see the shots of dark, crowded clubs or jam-packed arenas filled with maskless faces, I literally am in awe, and wonder if it will ever be like that again.

It will be. Eventually.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned through all this it’s how much live music and the local music scene has become part of my personal identity — the music, the bands, the venues and, above all, the people. How strange it is to lose it, if only for a year. How much more strange it must be for those who make a living from it.

They could have sat home alone and pouted, but instead musicians and venue owners looked for ways out of the darkness, and will emerge from the pandemic stronger for it.


For the first time, live music entrepreneurs joined together — more than 2,900 independent music venues and promoters — to form the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA). Their mission: To lobby Congress to pass legislation that provides recovery funds and tax credits to help venues survive the pandemic.

Their message throughout has been that independent venues were the first to close and will be the last to fully reopen. Their dire warning is that 90 percent of independent venues will close permanently over the course of the coming months without federal funding.

In fact, so far two Omaha venues have closed permanently at least in part due to necessary COVID-19 clampdowns — The Lookout Lounge on 72nd Street and The Barley Street Tavern in Benson — and more may be on the verge of falling off the financial cliff. Club owners from The Slowdown, The Waiting Room and O’Leaver’s have been among the most vocal local members of NIVA pushing since this summer for legislation and asking their patrons to write lawmakers and prod them to sign on to Save Our Stages legislation.


Meanwhile, artists found new ways to stay engaged with their audiences. Within months of the national shut-downs and tour cancellations, bands began to take to the internet for live-streamed performances. Suddenly Zoom sessions — as quiet and distant as they felt — became the new normal.

Without income from live performances, some artists turned to Patreon, an online platform that connects musicians with fans by offering membership tiers that provide perks such as premium content and early exclusive access to new work, all for a monthly fee. Among the artists with Patreon accounts are Ben Folds, Circa Survive and ’80s indie legend Lloyd Cole, whose offerings include everything from private-streamed concerts to online guitar lessons.

Despite being sidelined from performing, 2020 still ended up being another strong year for new releases from both a national and local indie perspective. Last month, The Reader published links to more than 40 Nebraska-based artists who released new music during the pandemic, all available on the usual streaming services as well as Bandcamp, the online digital music store that has become the central marketplace for new and independent bands.

Which brings us to my list of favorite albums of 2020. Here they are, in no particular order:

Waxahatchee, Saint Cloud (Merge)

David Nance, Staunch Honey (Trouble in Mind)

Christian Lee Hutson, Beginners (Anti)

Nation of Language, Introduction, Presence (self release)

Porridge Radio, Every Bad (Secretly Canadian)

Criteria, Years (15 Passenger)

No Thanks, Submerger (Black Site)

Phoebe Bridgers, Punisher (Dead Oceans)

Sufjan Stevens, The Ascension (Asthmatic Kitty)

Disq, Collector (Saddle Creek)

HAIM, Women in Music Pt. III (Columbia)

Digital Leather, New Wave Gold (No Coast)

Those Far Out Arrows, Fill Yer Cup (self release)

Fontaines D.C., A Hero’s Death (Partisan)

Bright Eyes, Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was (Dead Oceans)

This is where I usually list my favorite live performances from the past year. It would be unfair to forget the concerts that took place before COVID-19, such as:

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

Susto at Slowdown Jr., Feb. 24 — A night of story-telling rock reminiscent of the late, great Jim Croce.

PUP and Screaming Females at The Waiting Room, March 4 — PUP’s Stefan Babcock remarked that the set was a disaster, but it sure sounded great from where I stood, and certainly the fist-pump-fueled crowd loved it.

PUP was the last live show I saw before the pandemic. I was all set to see Nap Eyes at The Waiting Room March 15, but it was cancelled along with everything else — including this year’s Maha Music Festival — as one by one venues closed down beginning in March.

Favorite livestream performances included Mike Schlesinger and Rebecca Lowry streamed from The Sydney March 27; No Thanks, Little Brazil and Noah’s Ark Was A Spaceship streamed live from The Slowdown May 21 and 23, and Glow in the Dark streamed live from Low End at the Bemis Nov. 12.

And How at Petfest, Aug. 15, 2020.

And there were a couple outdoor concerts — Petfest Aug. 15 behind Petshop in Benson, featuring killer socially distanced performances by And How and Those Far Out Arrows; and Slowdown’s 3-day outdoor festival held in the parking lot behind the club Oct. 1-3.

I even snuck into one indoor live club show when local bands Dead Letters and Las Cruxes played at the newly remodeled Reverb Lounge Sept. 19. But that was it. By the time fall came ’round, live indie rock shows evaporated as everyone hunkered down for the next wave of COVID-19.

As I write this in mid-December, a second vaccine is being approved by the FDA, and shots are being fired into arms of healthcare professionals and first responders throughout the country. They’ll eventually get to your arm, too, and masks will become a thing of the past, but now I’m getting into 2021 predictions, and you’ll have to wait until tomorrow for more of those.

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Lazy-i Best of 2020 Compilation

Relive the year gone by with the  Lazy-i Best of 2020 Comp CD!

The collection includes my favorite indie tunes I’ve come across throughout last year as part of my tireless work as a music critic for Lazy-i. Among those represented: Waxahatchee, David Nance, Bright Eyes, Digital Leather, Sufjan Stevens, Run the Jewels, Fiona Apple, Nathan Ma, Criteria, McCarthy Trenching, HAIM, Future Islands, No Thanks and lots more.

To enter, send me an email with your mailing address to tim.mcmahan@gmail.com. Hurry, contest deadline is Monday, Jan. 4, at midnight.

Or listen on Spotify. Simply click this link or search “Lazy-i Best of” in Spotify, go to the Playlists tab, and you’ll find the 2020 playlist along with a few from past years, too!

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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 Best of 2020 compilation CD track list; So-So Sailors return from sea (with a new song)…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 7:30 am December 28, 2020
Lazy-i Best of 2020 compilation CD

It’s the last week of the year and that means the beginning of the end. Let’s kick it off by announcing the annual Lazy-i Best of 2020 compilation CD track list.

Regular readers of the blog know I’ve been putting together this compilation since the website went live in ’98 (and even before that). It started as a cassette comp, and when home CD burners became affordable (or, should I say, when I could afford one), it switched to a CD (back in ’99, the first CD cover featured a live photo taken at a Dismemberment Plan concert at Sokol Underground).

The comp consists of the best tracks from artists I’ve written about in Lazy-i or The Reader throughout the year. About half the tracks are from Nebraskans. Despite the pandemic, it’s been a damn good year for new music.

Anyway, here’s the Lazy-i Best of 2020 tracklist:

  1. “Can’t Do Much” – Waxahatchee (Merge)
  2. “The Merchandise” – David Nance (Trouble in Mind)
  3. “Snake in My Basement” – Those Far Out Arrows (self release)
  4. “Mariana Trench” – Bright Eyes (Dead Ocean)
  5. “Hot Water Rising” – No Thanks (Black Site)
  6. “Compass” – Digital Leather (No Coast)
  7. “Video Game” – Sufjan Stevens (Asthmatic Kitty)
  8. “For Sure” – Future Islands (4AD)
  9. “Beautiful Machines” – Joan App (self release)
  10. “the ground below” – Run the Jewels (Jewel Runners)
  11. “Don’t Wanna” – HAIM (Columbia)
  12. “Under the Table” – Fiona Apple (Epic)
  13. “Northsiders” – Christian Lee Hutson (Anti)
  14. “Cold Light of Day” – Lewsberg (self release)
  15. “Blue Bird” – Nathan Ma (self release)
  16. “Agitate Resuscitate” – Criteria (15 Passenger)
  17. “Dying to Believe” – The Beths (Carpark)
  18. “Coolie Trade” – Mike Schlesinger (self release)
  19. “Asking for a Friend” – McCarthy Trenching (self release)
  20. “If We Make It Through December” – Phoebe Bridgers (Dead Ocean)
  21. “Christmas” – Marinelli (self release)

Want a copy of the CD? Enter to win one in the annual drawing! To enter, send me an email with your mailing address to tim.mcmahan@gmail.com. Hurry, contest deadline is Monday, Jan. 4, at midnight.

The playlist also is available in Spotify. Simply click this link or search “Lazy-i Best of” in Spotify then select Playlists, and you’ll find it along with a few from past years, too.

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What a wonderful surprise last week when the fine folks from The So-So Sailors posted a new song on Bandcamp.

From their Facebook post announcing the song: “Well, it’s been a while. And, we’ve missed you an awful lot! So, in the spirit of the season, and despite the trials of 2020, we wish you happiness, health and prosperity. And with that, please accept a little Christmas cookie in form of “My Arms,” the first single from our forthcoming 2021 LP release. Here’s to 2021!!

The band, which consists of frontman Chris Machmuller (Ladyfinger), drummer Dan Kemp, bassist/vocalist Brendan Greene-Walsh, keyboardist Dan McCarthy (McCarthy Trenching) and guitarist Alex McManus (The Bruces), released its debut EP, Young Hearts, in December 2011. Read about their illustrious origins in this 2011 Lazy-i interview.

Their new album is just one more thing to look forward to in 2021, along with the end of COVID and the return of live music. None of it can come fast enough…

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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.


Congress passes #SaveOurStages Act; new Bryce Hotz (Lodgings)…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 10:48 am December 22, 2020

Maybe Christmas and Hanukah will be a little merrier for club owners this year now that the Save Our Stages Act has passed as part of the COVID-19 relief bill.

For those of you not keeping track, club owners and promoters pulled together early in the pandemic and formed the National Independent Venue Association — or NIVA — to rally the troops to contact their lawmakers to get this legislation passed. It became attached to the bigger omnibus relief package in late summer and passed in the House but — as we all know — sat on Sen. McConnell’s desk ever since, waiting for a Senate vote.

According to NIVA: “The legislation provides critical help to shuttered businesses by providing a grant equal to 45% of gross revenue from 2019, with a cap of $10 million per entity. This grant funding will ensure recipients can stay afloat until reopening by helping with expenses like payroll and benefits, rent and mortgage, utilities, insurance, PPE, and other ordinary and necessary business expenses.”

Trump has yet to sign the bill, but he will. He better. Next up, NIVA is working with the Small Business Administration to make sure the money gets distributed as the bill intended. And while no doubt this will be a great help, something tells me that more relief funds will be needed since it’s going to take a shit-ton amount of time to get that vaccine in everyone’s arm…

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You may know Bryce Hotz as the frontman to Omaha indie powerhouse Lodgings, whose 2019 album, Water Works, was one of my favorites that year. Well, encapsulated as we all are in this COVID cocoon, Hotz has been working on new solo material and yesterday released the first track, titled “All the Rain.”

It’s a sort of stoner-esque departure from the Lodgings’ material. Hotz says it’s more in line with his 2011 solo album, Fix’r Up’r, which you also can find at his Bandcamp page.

Expect Hotz’s full-length by the close of 2021. By then hopefully he’ll be hosting a real, live album-release show.

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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.


Contemplating other 2020 year-end lists (while listening to Gordon)…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 11:05 am December 21, 2020
2020 critics’ picks…

It has been excessively quiet in Lazy-i land over the past week. I’ve spent this down time writing the annual Year in Review and 2021 Predictions articles for The Reader, which will be out in January. Seems like a long time to wait, considering every other publication already has posted/printed their year-end “best of” lists.

Pitchfork, the self-inflicted arbiter of hipster taste dipsticks, published its top-50 list last week. Pitchfork is more of an electronic/hip-hop review website these days based on these numbers, and no doubt that’s a reflection of indie’s ever-changing shift in direction. And yet, there’s still plenty of indie and pop to go around on this list — Taylor Swift at no. 29; Soccer Mommy at No. 26. And so on.

Who am I kidding. Pitchfork sneaks a few obscure albums on their list every year to appear to be hip, but in the end, it’s the same ol’ story. Topping the Pitchfork list was Fiona Apple, who is topping a lot of lists this year, followed by by Waxahatchee and gospel-tinged art rocker Moses Sumney on Jagjaguwar. Phoebe Bridgers, our pandemic It Girl, came in at No. 4.

Stereogum published its top-50 list three weeks ago. Fiona Apple, was again at the top, followed by Waxahatchee and Run the Jewels, with HAIM at No. 4 followed by Taylor Swift. Poor Phoebe was pushed all the way back to No. 28!

Consequence of Sound has become more rabid about its reviews these days. They try to be edgy, but they’re just as predictable. No. 1, Fiona Apple; No. 2 Run the Jewels; No. 3 Phoebe Bridgers. Waxahatchee drops to No. 6 on their list, right about the new Deftones album. Maybe they’re not that edgy after all. In fact, flipping through their list, it’s easily the most pop-centric of the bunch.

It’s here that we look at the aggregate site Album of the Year, which combines reviews from all the websites, assigns points for where an album falls on a list and then adds them up to come up with its rankings.

With that in mind, it should be no surprise that Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters was No. 1, with 444 points; Phoebe Bridges was a distant No. 2 with 364 points; followed by Run the Jewels RTJ4 at No. 3 with 304 points; Taylor Swift at No. 4 with 246 points and Duo Lipa at No. 5 with 223 points (I don’t get Duo Lipa having watched her on SNL and discarding her as a Katy Perry wannabe).

Missing from all these lists is the new Bright Eyes album, Down in the Weeks Where the World Once Was. It certainly got a lot of attention when it came out, but not nearly the push that Phoebe Bridgers got for her release on the same label.

According to Album to the Year, BE’s album did have some year-end lists appearances: No. 5 on The Sunday Times list, No. 9 on NBHAP, No. 10 on DIY; No. 12 on The Forty-Five; No. 21 on Double J; No. 40 on Slant Magazine and No. 45 on Uncut. Its year-end Album of the Year aggregate ranking was No. 267. Well.

BTW, the Gordon album I’m listening to is the three-song live set recorded at O’Leaver’s way back in 2014. I don’t know whatever happened to Gordon, but I can give you this holiday tip if you’re looking for something to listen to while wrapping gifts: Check out Live at O’Leaver’s. Within a few minutes of perusing the site you’ll be falling down the rabbit hole back to a simpler time when we all listened to live music surrounded by convicted felons and other assorted drunken miscreants. I miss O’Leaver’s. I might have to swing by at lunchtime and get a cheeseburger…

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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.


Mousetrap ‘Attica’ EP gets pre-release; new Lodgings video; David Nance nabs 7.7 Pitchfork…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 1:51 pm December 9, 2020
A sneak peek at the inside sleeve of the new Mousetrap Attica 12-inch.

It’s all about who you know.

I got my advanced copy of the new Mousetrap 4-song 12-inch 45 rpm EP, Attica, yesterday in all its blood-red vinyl glory. The story again — the four songs by this ’90s-era seminal Omaha indie punk band were recorded sometime in 1997 and have sat locked in a vault (or stashed in a cardboard box under bass player Craig Crawford’s bed) all these years only to be remaster by Bob Weston of Shellac in 2020 and released for this limited run of 500 copies. It is scorching, classic Mousetrap at its most angry and acidic. Check out the lead track below and pre-order the vinyl before the Dec. 16 release via the Mousetrap Bandcamp page.

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The last time we saw indie band Lodgings they were opening for Criteria at The Waiting Room last Dec. 28 for the annual holiday show. Alas, with COVID, there won’t be any holiday shows this year.

Well earlier this week, the band released the first video from its 2019 Albini-engineered LP Water Works for the song “Emu,” directed by Amélie Raoul. Check it out below and go to their Bandcamp page to buy the album!

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I’ve been meaning to mention this for awhile but it keeps slipping off my screen: Back at the end of November Pitchfork reviewed David Nance’s latest album, Staunch Honey (2020, Trouble in Mind), and gave it a very respectable 7.7 rating, saying “The Nebraska guitarist and songwriter strips his music to its raw, noisy core, revealing how his favorite records might have sounded when still being hammered out in rehearsal.”

It’s mostly a rave wherein critic Sam Sodomsky seems to revel in the idea of underproduction, pointing out numerous times the stripped down, recorded-from-scratch nature of this album. He concludes with: “While the songs on Staunch Honey feel like breakthroughs, it’s living proof that their real journey is just beginning.” Not sure what that’s supposed to mean…

At any rate, it’s great to see Pitchfork review Nance (or any Nebraska artist, for that matter). Twas a time when a Pitchfork review was a “big deal.” It’s hard to gauge a Pitchfork effect these days when no one is touring, but even when they were, the Pitchfork effect was very limited as far as its impact on the local show draw — I can’t count the number of times I went to see a band with an 8.0+ Pitchfork review at O’Leaver’s or The Waiting Room expecting an SRO crowd only to be met with 20 or so people.

That said, Pitchfork remains a go-to website for indie reviews (though there has to be something else out there)…

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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.


Soundtrack to a Pandemic (the top 40 Nebraska recordings 2020); Flight School, Lightning Stills, Simon Joyner new music…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , , , , — @ 1:02 pm December 4, 2020
Some artwork for the top Nebraska releases in 2020.

So Bandcamp Friday (today) is the day in which you can purchase downloads via Bandcamp, and all the money goes to the artists because Bandcamp is waiving their cut. With that in mind, I pushed online my column in this month’s issue of The Reader. It’s a listing of 40 Nebraska recordings released during this, the Year of Our Covid 2020. Included in the story are links to all 40 recordings on Bandcamp, wherein you can buy, download and listen to the best our state has to offer.

You know, The Reader didn’t do a “music issue” this year, and as such, didn’t publish a Reader Top 20 (and the next whatever). This list of 40 releases is as good as it gets considering no one was out performing or touring this year. These artists threw their wares to the masses anyway, knowing that they wouldn’t be able to support their album releases with live shows.

With that in mind GO TO THE STORY NOW and check out the list, click through the links and download/buy some music and support local area artists while hearing some damn fine sounds. Another way to help the artists out is by sharing The Reader story on your social media channels so others can discover what we already know.

Couple more things…

Flight School is a musical project of studio engineer/musician/genius Ian Aeillo. Ian doesn’t like it when I call him a genius, he thinks I’m funnin’ him, no matter how many times I tell him I’m not. The guy just can’t take a compliment. Fact is, Ian was involved in a number of the 40 recordings I mentioned in my Reader column.

Anyway, this morning, Flight School dropped its latest digital full-length effort, This Will Get You There. It’s 21 songs Ian wrote for his favorite vocalists, none of which sing on any of the tracks, leaving you with just Ian’s fine instrumental music. I asked him to list the “favorite vocalists” on the Bandcamp page so we could try to guess who went with which song, but he wasn’t having it. Buy/download/listen here.

Also online today, Lightning Stills (a.k.a. Craig Fort and band) released his entire debut EP Sings His Songs, which wasn’t expected to drop for awhile, but this being Bandcamp Friday, he said ‘what the heck.’ Check out the recording here, buy and download!

And for one day only (today), Simon Joyner is making available for download at Bandcamp Ten Songs (Home Demos for 2021 Album). These are demos recorded on his phone over the past few months that he’ll use as reference while working on songs, but the sound quality is hella good (certainly better than those early Sing Eunichs! recordings!). Go, buy, download here.

That’s it. If you’re going out, wear a mask (as if I had to tell you that!). Have a great weekend!

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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.


Darren Keen is back with Problems; new album on Knightwerk; live stream release tomorrow…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:54 pm December 3, 2020
Darren Keen is Problems.

First time I met Darren Keen was almost 20 years ago when he and his band at the time, Musico, dropped off a CD of their latest recordings to a house my then-girlfriend now-wife and I were renting on Izard St. Darren would go on to form The Show Is the Rainbow — a one-man psych-rock hip-hop project that was as much about Keen’s live performances as his trippy merging of rock, rap and good humor.

Since then, Darren has reimagined his sound a number of times, been involved in other bands (Beep Beep comes to mind), moved to New York City and moved back to Lincoln. And now he’s back with a new synth-powered project – Problems.

“A lessen I learned from Joel (Petersen) in the Faint. He said, ‘Your guitar stuff and bass sounds good, but you do not understand how to make a synth sound expressive.’ That quote changed my whole perspective on what a synthesizer can do.” Keen said. “Why do some synths sound so much more visceral? I’ve been trying to figure that out for 12 years.”

I think he’s cracked the code.

Those comments came after I asked why some local synth-based recordings (to me) sound like remixing of pre-packaged, canned synth sounds, while others take it to the next level. Keen’s work on his debut Problems LP, Ought Not Be Overthought, which drops tomorrow on club music label Knightwerk Records, takes it to the next level, and the proof was my wife asking from the next room, “What is this? I love it.”

Keen calls the sound on Problems recordings “subversive house” but “I know it will get lumped in with other genres,” he said. “Some people are comparing it to electro artists like Mr. Oizo, Justice and Daft Punk. It’s not techno; it’s dance music. I start with a four-on-the-floor kick drum on every track. Putting limitations on it allows me to explore creatively in a way that’s deeper than I could before.”

His process on Problems material involves spending a couple weeks setting up what he calls “good templates” — the fundamental kick drum, cymbals and synths. “It’s sort of like the gear a band would acquire and bring into the studio,” he said.

Once the templates were in place, Keen said he recorded and mastered the album tracks in three days. “When it came time to write, I started on a Monday and by Friday was putting out a record.”

He’s celebrating the release of the new album with a free live stream performance tomorrow night, Dec. 4, hosted by Lincoln’s BLACK MAGIK and DJ KevyCav. The stream will be on twitch, here: http://twitch.tv/blackmagikpresents . More info on the stream here.

Keen’s already working on more Problems, with another single and full-length slated for release on a different label next spring. “That one will have a limited physical release,” he said. “As will the one after that.”

“As some form of gigging comes back (post-COVID), it will make more sense to make stuff again,” he said. “People are still at home looking for things to do and want to buy records and cassettes to support artists. I’ve spent more money on music post-COVID than before I moved back to Nebraska.”

Pre-order the new album at the Problems Bandcamp page.

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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.


Who is Lightning Stills? New EP on the way; Stephen Malkmus says wait ’til 2022…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 6:05 pm December 2, 2020
Lightning Stills

You know him from the heavy stuff, like Leafblower, New Lungs and Peace of Shit. Well, he’s taken off the black T-shirt and strapped on a fake Nudie suit. And somewhere along the way picked up a twang. Maybe it came with the name change.

I’m talking about Craig Fort and his new project (and persona) that he revealed yesterday. It goes by the name of Lightning Stills.

Over the last couple months I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and started a new character project,” Fort explained. The product is Lightning Stills Sings His Songs, a 5-song EP that should be out shortly. The first single, “It’s All a Warsh,” dropped on Bandcamp yesterday and features guitarist Mike Friedman, maybe the best journeyman guitarist in the city. Friedman has worked with Simon Joyner, Little Brazil and Lupines, to name just three.

Also in on the project are Chris Kelly (Back When/Bovinae) on bass and Darren Broderick on drums. All the tracks were recorded remotely, then mixed and mastered by studio engineer/genius Ian Aeillo. The music is pure Outlaw C&W with a shot and a beer.

Waylon has been a hero of mine since my dad and grandpa introduced me to him at a young age,” Fort said.

Expect a full immersion into Lightning Stills on stage once this friggin’ pandemic is behind us. Fort has all the props to make any venue feel like Nashville. And he says he’s already halfway through recording his next single to be released after the EP, which will be a duet with Junkyard Dan (Danny Maxwell). Look, if you don’t already own a cowboy hat, might be time to get you one….

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Here’s a dire message to end on…

Stephen Malkmus cancelled his tour yesterday, including the April 10, 2021 show at The Waiting Room. One Percent Productions posted the following message from Malkmus’ management:

While things seem to be moving in the right direction with vaccines, etc., it appears unlikely that tours will be able to resume safely by next Spring. Unfortunately, the shows scheduled for March and April are cancelled. Refunds will be available point of purchase. Rest assured that Stephen will be back on the road in 2022, hopefully with even newer music!

Who knows for sure when other tours will be scheduled, but I was hoping some artists would be on the road toward the summer of 2021, and I’m still hopeful. God help us (and the live music industry) if we have to wait until 2022…

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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.


New STATHI EP, new Dolores Diaz and the Standby Club (Oberst and Co.), Anna McClellan LP; and it’s ‘Giving Tuesday’ y’all..

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 1:42 pm December 1, 2020
Dolores Diaz & The Standby Club at The Waiting Room, May 21, 2016.

Last week (Thanksgiving week) was pretty uneventful music-wise. This week’s starting off with a bang.

Today STATHI — a.k.a. Stathi Spiros Patseas — dropped a new EP titled Post-Truth. The 6-song digital release was produced by Miwi La Lupa and includes contributions from a plethora of Omaha talent including James Maakestad, Meg Siebe, Patrick Newbery, Tyler Chickinelli, Colin Duckworth, Drew Tvrdy, Kevin Donahue, Sean Paul, Mary Fernandez and, of course, lots of Miwi.

The music falls in the folk rock category alongside bands like Nap Eyes, Susto, and ’70s SoCal acts, with Stathi providing vocals reminiscent of Jackson Browne. The EP’s centerpiece is “Questions & Answers,” a mid-tempo 6/8-time sunset rocker that brings it all together.

It’s out now on all the usual digital platforms including good ol’ Bandcamp.

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Also announced today, Cursive’s label 15 Passenger Records is releasing the debut album by Dolores Diaz & The Standby Club, affectionately called Live at O’Leaver’s.

The project, as you all know by now, is a covers band that includes a ton of Omaha superstars including Conor Oberst, Miwi La Lupa, Corina Figueroa Escamilla (as Dolores), Roger Lewis, Matt Maginn, Dan McCarthy, Ben Brodin, Phil Schaffart and Jim Schroeder. Now that’s a crowded stage (and it certainly was those nights at fabulous O’Leaver’s).

Oberst talked about the project in here Lazy-i waaay back in May 2016.

Live at O’Leaver’s will be released digitally Dec. 11, with a vinyl version expected April 9. You can pre-order your copy right here at the 15 Passenger website. Check out a track below:

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And though I mentioned it before a few weeks ago, the new Anna McClellan LP, I Saw First Light, dropped a week ago Friday on Father / Daughter Records. This is the follow-up to her 2018 debut, Yes and No, and was produced by Anna, Ryan McKeever, Sean Pratt, Megan Siebe and Hootie Erickson. It’s on Bandcamp, and here’s my favorite song from it:

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Finally, it’s Giving Tuesday, which moving forward is replacing Give Omaha as thee primary day to open your wallets and help local non-profits. They never needed it more than they do right now.

The local list to consider sharing your sheckles with includes Rabble Mill (formerly Hear Nebraska), Omaha Girls Rock!, Maha Festival, and Film Streams, to name a few. And then there’s the National Independent Venue Association Emergency Relief Fund. Give them some money. You’ll feel good about it.

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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.


#TBT: Sunshine, The Carsinogents, Sound of Rails The Sokol Underground, Omaha Nov. 19, 2000…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 11:00 am November 19, 2020
The Carsinogents at Sokol Underground, Nov. 19, 2000.

A little bit of #TBT action, 20 years ago today the Carsinogents played Sokol Underground with Sound of Rails and Czech punk band Sunshine, who I interviewed for this tour (read it here). Interestingly, Sunshine would go on to sign with Universal and Epic, who released their last LP in 2011, according to Discogs. The band still has an Facebook page, though they haven’t posted anything since March 2018.

And what of Speed! Nebraska bands Sound of Rails and The Carsinogents? Members of Sound of Rails — guitarist John Kestner, bassist Chris Palmquist, and drummer Eric Ernst — are still kicking around town in bands like Mere Shadows, Nanahara and Lodgings. As for The Carsinogents, well, we’re all still desperately waiting for the inevitable reunion (Come on, Dave…).

Sunshine, The Carsinogents, Sound of Rails 
The Sokol Underground, Omaha
Nov. 19, 2000

With a sound that was a blend of Sonic Temple-era Cult, Flock of Seagulls, U2 and PiL, Czech band Sunshine played the loudest set my bleeding ears have endured in recent memory at the Sokol Underground Nov. 19.

Maybe it was the 30 mph Arctic-blast winds or the fact that it was a school night, but fewer than 100 were on hand to take in the night of high-energy rock ‘n’ roll.

Sound of Rails started things off with a set of tight, rhythmic, almost mathy indie-style songs that featured a surprisingly dense sound for a three-piece. The combo takes an intense but tuneful tact, with spare vocals and constantly building dynamics that emphasize the instrumental side of their music that creates a dramatic vibe.

Their stage presence consisted of the bassist and guitarist basically standing to either side of the drum kit — not much of a show, but maybe my opinion was tainted because what followed them is arguably the best live performing band in Omaha. The Carsinogents know how to make the most of any stage. Missing from their normal set-up Sunday was their film/video that features a mix of Spanish masked wrestlers, bodybuilders and ’60s-era strippers. The projector apparently got busted at a 49’r show earlier in the week, but it didn’t matter, it just made for a cleaner stage.

I’ve seen the band four times now and this was probably their best sounding set — big, chunky guitars, horror-movie keyboards and a tight-as-a-tick rhythm section playing blazing, electrified punk with a tinge of vintage surf rock underlying all of it. Intense.

No Carsinogents set is complete without pyro effects. Sunday’s show included a blazing, rotating trashcan and drummer Eldon Vampola blowing alcohol into a flaming skull (a privilege usually handled by lead vocalist Dave Electro). The Sokol’s elevated stage kept the band far removed (maybe too far) from the audience, making it safer for onlookers as Electro swung the microphone stand over his head. Electro, a.k.a. Dave Goldberg, is the first frontman from an Omaha band since Ritual Device’s Tim Moss to bring a show’s energy all the way to the brink of the stage, and then into the crowd. The band is always better when nothing separates them from the audience.

Then came Sunshine. Only about 50 people remained to see the headliner tear through an ear-splitting set of classic-tinged ’80s-style head-bobbing New Wave-meets-punk anthems. Lead singer Kay was a tall, lanky, black-maned thyroid case swinging a guitar around like an electric necklace. The sound was rife with delay and feedback, chiming guitars and either a thick rolling bass or keyboards. The guitar effects were sheer ’80s echo-chamber stuff that brought back memories of a kinder, gentler, post-big-hair time when U2 still hadn’t played Red Rocks and MTV still played rock videos. Kay’s shrill, atonal, Johnny Rotten-esque vocals, however, took away from the effect and was an acquired taste. By the end of the set, you could hardly tell he was from a former Soviet Block country.

At one point in their set, chunks of something were falling from the Underground ceiling. Before the final song, I decided take out my earplugs (a must at all Sokol shows) at the back of the room to see just how loud it was and almost passed out from the sheer volume. Tinnitus, here we come.

Published in The Omaha Weekly November 22, 2000. Copyright 2000 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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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.