Fear of COVID got the best of me; truth or consequences (in the column)…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 1:47 pm February 7, 2022

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Based on the analytics, the most-read new content on Lazy-i is live reviews (while vintage interviews from the last decade probably attracts the most readers). Live reviews give people a glimpse of what happened during a night at a club — if they were there, too, they can compare mental notes; if they weren’t there, they can catch up on what they missed. It also gives a band’s followers or those just getting familiar with a band a sort of score card. If written with enough detail, live reviews can have a gossipy feel to them — fun!

Live reviews also are the easiest content to write. All I have to do is sit down and recall the evening, glancing at whatever notes I jotted down on my iPhone or pictures taken from the floor. So it pains me to no end that I missed Friday night’s sold-out Cursive show at The Waiting Room. Joel from 1% was kind enough to place me on the list and I was all set to go.

But at around 8 p.m. I began to get cold feet. A number of people from my office have their entire families down with COVID. About half the people I know have had it, and the numbers — though finally on the decline — are still in the hazardous range, with hospitalizations at an all-time high. I sat on my couch Friday night with my uncomfortable N95 mask on and asked myself if I wanted to be in a sold-out room wearing this for three hours, struggling to drink a beer, likely packed up front of a huge crowd or standing all the way back by the bar, and it just didn’t add up.

This was the first time since COVID began that I skipped a concert I had planned to attend, and it was a bummer, but with everything going on, I can’t afford to get COVID and don’t want to.

So, thanks to Joel for the list and apologies for not going. The numbers are improving every day and there will be more shows, including more Cursive shows, to attend. But dang, I really miss seeing Vitreous Humor. That opportunity will likely never happen again in Omaha…

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Speaking of COVID, my column in this month’s issue of The Reader is focused on COVID conspiracies and other lies that are ruining our lives. Read it here.

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Speaking of shows and COVID, tonight’s Black Angels show at The Slowdown has been postponed.

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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 © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Cursive postpones first weeks of tour, Diet Cig cancels Feb. show; new Anna Schulte…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:51 pm January 5, 2022
Diet Cig at The Slowdown, May 3, 2016. The band CANCELLED a February 2 gig at Reverb.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Here we go again… though I don’t think it’s the same thing as 2020.

Bands are beginning to cancel gigs and tours as Omicron rapidly spreads through the world. Don’t matter if you’re vaxxed or boosted, you could still come down with this new strain of Covid-19, though being vaxxed/boosted seems to prevent serious cases.

Monday Cursive announced that it’s postponing the first few weeks of its January tour, and will now begin in Detroit Jan. 18. The decision is backed by co-touring act Thursday, who wrote on Facebook, “The reality is that these days decisions made concerning touring are not totally in our hands. Recommendations from our crew and the other artists on the bill (never-mind our families) have become a bigger part of the conversation as we try our best to navigate these current circumstances.”

They say they’re “trying their damndest to integrate the reschedules ASAP.” The cancellation doesn’t impact the Feb. 4 Cursive/Vitreous Humor/Criteria show at The Waiting Room.

Along those same lines, One Percent Productions announced that Diet Cig has cancelled a show for Feb. 2 at Reverb Lounge.

Genuinely so sad to announce that our winter tour dates are canceled due to covid never-endingly raging through our communities,” Diet Cig wrote on Facebook. “We’re not rescheduling these dates. To be honest, we’re so burnt out from the constant reschedule-cancel-reschedule-cancel cycle and are accepting this as a chance to take a breather, keep focusing on our new music, and prepare to put on the best show possible once it’s safe.

If you read my 2022 predictions, you know that I think this latest wave of Covid will quickly blow over and that we’re seeing the last of the worst of the pandemic. But I’m no scientist (just a soothsayer). I continue to hear stories from lunatics who believe the Covid vaccine is a government-run micro-chipping operation. Until those nuts get sick, dead or vaxxed, we’re going to be stuck with some form of Covid…

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On a more positive note…

See Through Dresses drummer Nate Van Fleet is also a producer. He just finished working on a new EP by Anna Schulte, titled Dream Car. Schulte is an Omaha native now living in France and New Orleans who you might remember from the Omaha band Pretty Healthy. Nate said she flew into town late last spring and recorded at Divine Hammer, a North Omaha recording studio that was run by him and Matt and Sara from STD. Check out the EP on Spotify:

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Lazy-i Best of 2021 Compilation

Hey, my copies of the Lazy-i Best of 2021 Comp CD should finally arrive tomorrow. That means you still have time to enter the drawing for a copy of your own.

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, including songs by Low, Brad Hoshaw, Azure Ray, Sufjan Stevens, Wet Leg, Parquet Courts, Courtney Barnett, Hand Habits, Indigo De Souza, Flyte and lots more.  The full track listing is here.

To enter, send me an email with your mailing address to tim.mcmahan@gmail.com. Hurry, contest deadline is Monday, Jan. 10, at midnight.

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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 © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


2021 Music Year in Review, or The Year of Resiliency (favorite albums, live shows, etc.)…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , — @ 1:55 pm December 7, 2021

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Ah, the annual Year in Review article. Well, The Reader now limits this to a mere 800 words, so that forced me to write tight and leave out some things that I’d normally include. You can read The Reader version of the article right here. It features a big photo of No Thanks playing one of the last shows at The Brothers Lounge (though it wasn’t “the last show”… I didn’t make it to that one). Or you can read the year in review article below:

2021 Music Year in Review

…or, The Year of Resiliency

I know, I know… it’s only December, and anything can happen before the year is actually over, but I ain’t got that luxury, deadlines being what they are. Rather than wait until January after you’ve (hopefully) long forgotten and moved on from 2021, I thought I’d do the recap now while it’s fresh in your memory (because we’re still living it).

This time last year, things looked rather bleak.

Venues were closed, tours were cancelled, we were hunkered down in our bunkers, wiping down our groceries and wondering if we’d ever see live music again. The worst of COVID-19 was still ahead of us. And if you were lucky, missing your favorite bands was all you were worried about, as the death toll continued to rise. There were whispers of a vaccine, but that was still a long way away. The only glimmer of hope was that the Commander in Boob had just been defeated, though he promised not to go quietly, and, by God, he kept his word.

By February a vaccine was in hand, but the club owners and promoters still predicted it wouldn’t be until the fall of 2021 or the following winter before bookings would look anything like “normal.” And so, the clubs stayed dark, and the closest we got to live music was streamed to our computer screens.

Finally, toward the end of May, live music slowly began to return. I attended my first live show at Dr. Jack’s Drinkery May 29, a farewell gig by indie band Bull Nettles. But it wasn’t until July that venues really started booking on a regular basis, and national touring bands began to hit the road again. The Maha Festival and Farnam Fest were announced and pulled off without becoming a “super spreader” event. Maha even sold out its limited-capacity one-day event.

Despite a readily available vaccine, people still wore masks at shows — and still do to this day. Every face at the near-capacity Nov. 6 Soccer Mommy concert at The Waiting Room was masked throughout the evening. We were back, sort of.

A few positive things stood out during this Year of Resiliency:

The music never stopped. Artists continued to record and release new albums, most of them created in isolation during the height of the pandemic and some among the best of their careers.

New venues were announced. You’d think coming out of a pandemic, investors would be gun-shy about pouring money into new music venues, but three of the largest new developments were announced or broke ground this year: refurbishment of Sokol Auditorium, renamed The Admiral, the Steelhouse Omaha standing-room live music hall by Omaha Performing Arts, and the massive Astro amphitheater project, which — when completed in January 2023 — will host 2,500 people indoors and 5,000 outdoors. Each project is a gamble that the worst is behind us.

Record stores resurged. With so much forced alone time, people continued to fall in love with their vinyl. The Old Market now has as many record stores as it had during vinyl’s heyday, with Grapefruit Records at 1125 Jackson Street joining Vinyl Cup Records and the old favorite, Homer’s.

But as COVID-19’s bloody tide recedes, it leaves behind business casualties. While large clubs like Slowdown and the 1% venues are coming back better than ever, the smaller venues haven’t been so lucky. The Barley Street Tavern in Benson was the first to close its doors for good, though the room reopened under another name and new management. O’Leaver’s, arguably the best place in Omaha to see small live rock shows, still hasn’t reopened its stage. There’s hope it could soon return.

But the biggest loss of all was the permanent closing of The Brothers Lounge at the end of October. More punk bar than music venue, The Brothers was a way station for the misfits, oddballs and troubled geniuses of Omaha who preferred their music garbed in black leather and blood. The Brothers was where everyone ended up at last call. Now it’s had its last call, and the auction hammer falls Dec. 12.

Winners and sinners, that’s what we’re left with after a pandemic. Goodbye and good riddance, 2021. At least you were better than 2020. And 2022 will see us thanking our lucky stars.

Before we go, what would a Music Year in Review be without my list of favorite albums of 2021 (in no particular order):

Flyte, This Is Really Going to Hurt (Island)

Indigo De Souza, Any Shape You Take (Saddle Creek)

The Weather Station, Ignorance (Fat Possum)

Turnstile, Glow On (Roadrunner)

Low, Hey What (Sub Pop)

Cassandra Jenkins, An Overview On Phenomenal Nature (Ba Da Bing!)

Sufjan Stevens & Angelo De Augustine, A Beginner’s Mind (Asthmatic Kitty)

Parquet Courts, Sympathy for Life (Rough Trade)

Hand Habits, Fun House (Saddle Creek)

Mdou Moctar, Afrique Victime (Matador)

Strand of Oaks, In Heaven (Galacticana)

Wet Leg, “Wet Dream” b/w “Chaise Longe” (Domino)

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 tim.mcmahan@gmail.com.

So what’s missing from the article? The list of best shows of the year. After 2020, last year was a veritable bonanza of shows, but that said, they were still few and far between. My favorites are almost all the shows I ended up attending:

Bull Nettles at Dr. Jack’s Drinkery, May 29 — This was my first show after COVID, and the last show forever for Bull Nettles, as the band’s frontman, Travis Linn a.k.a. Travis Sing, has moved out of Omaha.

A Tomato A Day at The Little Gallery in Blackstone, June 12 — The first performance by Brion Poloncic (formerly of Cactus Nerve Thang) in years, was in support of an art opening of his latest work. Is there a Cactus reunion somewhere in the future?

Digital Leather at The Sydney, June 26 — The line-up: Frontman Shawn Foree, was backed by long-time DL drummer Jeff Lambelet; Blake Kostszewa, synths; newcomer Bobby Hussy on guitar, Erica Van Engen on synths, and MiWi La Lupa on bass, playing songs off COVID-era release New Wave Gold.

Idaho at Reverb Lounge, July 8 — First touring act post-COVID for me, and my return to Reverb Lounge. And one of my favorite shows from an act who made its mark almost 30 years ago.

Maha Music Festival, Stinson Park, July 31 — Omaha’s favorite festival was back after the COVID hiatus, sold-out (though tickets were limited to 8k), with perfect weather and great sets by Japanese Breakfast and Thundercat, among others.

Petfest, behind Pet Shop, Aug. 14 — And then along came the Delta variant, but that didn’t stop folks from showing up to this small outdoor festival that featured the best collection of local bands assembled in the past couple years.

Grocer at Reverb Lounge, Aug. 17 — The Philly band’s style was in the early Pixies tradition, angular and cool riding high on the bass line and backbeat drums, while guitarist Emily Daly shredded feedback-drenched leads run through a muffled effects pedal.

Elvis Costello at Memorial Park, Aug. 28 — A surprisingly light crowd took in a greatest hits set by a legend. For once the park concert had more going for it than the fireworks.

No Thanks at Brothers Lounge Sept. 17 — Little did we know this would be one of the last shows at The Brothers Lounge, as the club closed its doors for good at the end of October.

Indigo De Souza at The Slowdown Oct. 2 — The Saddle Creek Records band played the big stage for my return to Slowdown post-pandemic. Great set, highlighted guitarist, Dexter Webb, who reminded me of Mr. Lindsey Buckingham.

Tokyo Police Club at Slowdown Jr., Oct. 28 — First Slowdown Jr. show for me since the pandemic was a corker from a former Saddle Creek act, though some I talked to thought opener And How stole the show.

Soccer Mommy at The Waiting Room, Nov. 6 — Finally, a return to The Waiting Room for a near sold-out show, evidence that indie rock was alive and well and touring through Omaha.

Matt Whipkey and his band at The Jewell, Nov. 12 — Celebrating the release of his new LP, Hard, Whipkey was backed by what arguably was one of the best bands he’s ever assembled, in an effort to blow the lid off the downtown jazz club.

Criteria at The Waiting Room, Nov. 27 — Last but not least (and likely, not last of 2021) was the annual “holiday show” by the ever-young ’00’s band, sounding as good as ever. Long live rock and roll.

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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.


Live music is returning to O’Leaver’s (finally)…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 7:49 am December 1, 2021
O'Leaver's is under new management, and they're a bunch of martyrs.
O’Leaver’s announced its first two shows since the Before Times.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I’ve always said, we’ll know we’re on the back side of this pandemic when O’Leaver’s starts hosting shows again. Well, guess what…

O’Leaver’s first show back will be Dec. 11 featuring an Omaha supergroup comprised of Jerry Hug (Ritual Device, Porn Music), Dan McCarthy (McCarthy Trenching) and three members of Ladyfinger — Chris Machmuller, Jamie Massey and Pat Oakes. For this one-off show, they’ll be playing (get this) covers of Bob Seger songs. The free show will start at 10 p.m.

The next show at O’Leaver’s will be New Year’s Eve and features Smutthole Burpers, a Butthole Surfers cover band with Dave Schildman (Natural States), Colby Jenkins (Bokr Tov), and Anna Schmidt (Boner Killerz). This one also is free, starts at 9 p.m. and also has karaoke thrown in.

Craig Dee, a part-owner who books shows at O’Leaver’s, said the reason the club waited so long to reopen was due to the August 7 flooding that submerged the venue’s basement as well as damaged the main floor. The entire basement had to be torn out and rebuilt. While it wasn’t the first time O’Leaver’s has been flooded (It’s located on flood-prone Saddle Creek) Craig said, “That was the worst we’ve seen.”

But that wasn’t the only reason they waited. “The other music venues in town rely on bands more than we do,” Craig said. “Reverb, Sydney, Slowdown, etc., need those live bands.”

The last show I saw at O’Leaver’s was Perfect Form on Jan. 31, 2020. O’Leaver’s closed due to COVID in March 2020, along with most other small live-music venues. The next time I stepped foot in the club was to get a cheeseburger from their newly opened kitchen. It’s also when I noticed they’d installed booths where the stage had been. Well, the booths have been removed and the stage is back, but the kitchen is still there and open til midnight on weekends and 11 p.m. weeknights.

Time will tell if O’Leaver’s returns to regular booking. “We most likely won’t be as band heavy as before,” Craig said. “Doesn’t seem like as many touring bands coming through.” Time will tell, but regardless, it’s great to see them hosting shows again.

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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.


NYC notes; Spoon, Nicole Atkins tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:47 pm September 9, 2021

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Looking south toward greater Manhattan from the north shore of the Jackie Onassis Reservoir, New York City.

Well I’m back from my annual trip to NYC. And, once again, I didn’t catch any music on this trip as there were only light calendars at the venues, likely due to Labor Day and Covid. There’s still plenty of shows planned for NYC, but there wasn’t when I was there.

So I’ll leave you with these three observations from a long weekend spent in Manhattan.

  1. In NYC, wearing a mask is ubiquitous. Whether in restaurants or bars or on the streets and subways, everyone wears a mask. NYC requires masks on mass transit and in most building, and wearing one is no big deal. Yes, there are a few “open-nosers” here and there. Few people wore masks in Central Park, however, and no one wore them while jogging (but why would you?). Didn’t see a single anti-mask crazy the whole weekend.

  2. NYC has implemented a proof-of-vaccination and/or proof-of-negative-Covid-test requirement to dine in restaurants and attend events, such as the U.S. Open, where I was. The requirement was no big deal — when we were asked, that is. The U.S. Open had queues where you merely flashed your card or your cell phone with a photo of your vax card — which was very lightly scrutinized. The closest look came at a weird ABBA event in Central Park, where you had to show your card and a second piece of ID. No restaurant asked for our vax cards, though we ate outside most of the time. Manhattan has transformed into a city of outdoor dining. Here’s hoping they keep those outdoor dining areas after Covid has passed.

  3. In the old days, you couldn’t go anywhere in Manhattan without smelling cigarette smoke. It was part of the city scent along with garbage and diesel fumes. These days you can’t go anywhere in Manhattan without smelling pot. It’s everywhere. A new ordinance that went into effect in March allows people to legally light up anywhere in NYC where smoking is allowed under the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act. That would seem to actually be rather limiting, but you wouldn’t know it by sniffing. It was odd watching a guy smoke a joint while trying to figure out the CitiBike kiosk across the street from where we were eating lunch. PS: I’m all for pot, though I don’t imbibe myself; I just can’t stand the smell of it. Skunkweed!

BTW, I did return from NYC with a nasty head cold. As a preventative measure, I got a rapid Covid test yesterday that came back negative. You can’t be too careful these days. Fact is, you’re more likely to get Covid in Nebraska than in New York.

> > >

Tonight it’s Spoon at The Slowdown, and as of this writing the show has yet to sell out, which is kind of a surprise. Tickets are $40, and you must have a vax card or proof of negative Covid test to get inside by decree of the band. It will be interesting to hear how that goes, though I don’t foresee any problems unless an anti-vax knucklehead shows up and wants to cause problems. Nicole Atkins opens at 8 p.m.

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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.


Digital Leather (sort of belated) album release show Saturday at The Sydney…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:01 pm June 25, 2021
Shawn Foree of Digital Leather. Photo by Ben Vanhoolandt.

It feels like the following story on Digital Leather, published in The Reader last August during the height of the pandemic, was written 10 years ago. Some of Shawn Foree’s predictions about post-COVID gigging came true — some clubs did close permanently, some bands did break up for good. But the one about new regulations post-COVID seems to be a miss. More and more, it’s beginning to feel like the pandemic never happened.

That said, we’re still not “fully back” in Omaha, and the live music calendar reflects that. Touring is only now just getting off the ground again, and a lot of local bands are still getting back in performance-shape and aren’t ready to return to the stage.

That said, it’s good to see Digital Leather is playing Saturday night at The Sydney. I have no idea who will be in Foree’s band for this gig or if he’ll be playing songs from his most recent release, New Wave Gold (No Coast, 2020). So much time has passed, Foree has likely already shelved those songs for new material, he’s such a fast (and prolific) song writer.

For those of you who missed it, here’s that Digital Leather article again, written in support of the new album, released when we were all hidden in our bunkers. DJ WAffLEZ also is on Saturday night’s bill at The Sydney. Show starts at 9 p.m., tickets are $10. It’s the only show I have on my calendar this weekend.

Digital Leather in the Days of COVID
The Omaha electro-punk act celebrates 20 years with its 24th album.

Aug. 13, 2020 — Prior to the interview for this column, the last time I spoke with Shawn Foree, the mastermind behind the musical project Digital Leather, was a couple years ago. It was late in the evening standing outside the patio door at mid-town punk club O’Leaver’s, no doubt killing time between live sets from a couple local garage bands we both knew.

Foree, who looked like an unholy cross between Jim Morrison and Deliverance-era Burt Reynolds, told me he was about to hang it up as far as Digital Leather was concerned. He’d just turned 40 and was tired of banging his head against the music industry wall, trying to get someone to notice what he was doing. And it sure didn’t look like things would ever change.

The conversation bummed me out, because Foree / Digital Leather was and is my favorite Omaha-based music project. The only person more frustrated by his music never receiving the attention it deserved was me. Digital Leather music is the perfect amalgamation of modern songwriting, instrumentation and vintage digital sounds. The product is highly addictive, darkly worded 21st Century synth-punk that can stand alongside music by acts like Gary Numan, Psychic TV and The Faint.

As it turned out, Foree was just in a bad mood that night at O’Leaver’s. “Don’t believe me when I say I’ve given up,” he said over the phone July 21. “I’ve said it before, and I’ll probably say it again.”

In fact, only a few months after that announced retirement, Digital Leather recorded and released a new album, followed by another and another.

And now comes New Wave Gold, out Sept. 15 on Madison, Wisconsin, label No Coast Records (Thee Oh Sees, Red Mass, The Hussy). The 16-track collection is the 24th full-length album (in addition to 13 EPs and singles) released by Digital Leather over the 20 years Foree has made music under that moniker.

Digital Leather fans will be happy to know New Wave Gold is the most cohesive, pop-fueled collection Foree has released since 2009’s Warm Brother (Fat Possum Records). He recorded and mixed the album in his apartment studio with contributions by drummer Jeff Lambelet and mastering by sound engineer Ian Aeillo.

The album opens with the first COVID-19 quarantine-inspired song I’ve heard, “Dark Ages,” which closes with the lines: “Don’t you go and worry about me, baby / You got better things to think about, I’m sure / Honey, don’t you know these are the Dark Ages / Disease is in the air, and it’s pure.”

Foree is the only person I’ve talked to who’s tested positive for COVID-19. “I tested positive a month and a half ago,” he said. “I was asymptomatic. It was a little freaky. I wasn’t sure if I was going to become sick, but fortunately, I was OK, maybe a little tired. I tested again a couple weeks after, and it came back negative.”

His day job doing environmental testing, which he’s kept throughout the pandemic, takes him all over the country. “I was floating around South Dakota, Missouri, all around red states, so it could have come from anywhere,” he said. “It was a positive test, but none of my friends had it, just me. So I don’t know if I really had it.”

With COVID-19 shutting down music venues and making touring impossible, it’s a strange time to release a new album. Foree, who has released more than an album a year on average, didn’t want to wait around for the world to reopen. “The record was done,” he said. “I showed it to Bobby (Hussy), who runs the record label, and we just said fuck it and put it out so I can move on to new material.”

To help market the release, Foree is working with national publicist Grandstand Media, whose massive client roster includes acts like Tame Impala, Waxahatchee, Soccer Mommy, Bright Eyes and Kim Gordon, to name a few. “It’s totally new ground for me, selling records without playing live,” Foree said. “If we can make our money back, that would be fine. Making a profit is not on my or the label’s to do list.”

Foree also is the first musician I’ve interviewed since COVID-19 began. The pandemic has had a huge impact on his music world. “All my friends want to play shows and are depressed, because it’s not only their livelihood, it’s part of their sanity. It’s part of who they are,” he said. “I have friends who were about to release records, go on tour, go to Europe, and now it’s all TBD. I think everyone is pretty fucking depressed about it.”

Even after the pandemic is under control, he said things won’t be the same. “There will be all kinds of new regulations; it’ll be weird,” Foree said. “A lot of people won’t want to go out to shows. Venues might close. How are they going to support themselves if they can’t do business? The same goes for musicians who live off their music.”
Foree isn’t one of those, not anymore. He’s managed to find a balance between making a living and making music, and has accepted the fact that, despite having toured the country and releasing albums on a dozen different record labels, he may never make it to “the next level.”

“Part of me is frustrated that I don’t have a larger audience, but I’m also kind of glad things are the way they are,” he said. “I see the silver lining. I have freedom to do what I want. You’re supposed to give it up at 30 and get a real job once you realize there’s no money in it. Well, I have a real job and can still do it, so fuck them all.”

First published in The Reader, September 2020. Copyright © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Local bands talk about returning to the stage (in the column); Slowdown announces reopening…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , — @ 8:30 am March 5, 2021
Jon Taylor of Domestica’s funky get-down space.

The Slowdown announced Tuesday that they’re reopening in April. The plan calls for shows only on the main stage to make more room for social distancing as the pandemic begins to wind down. It’ll be a fun opportunity for smaller bands who are used to playing the small room to try the big stage and its massive sound and lighting system.

Their first show is April 2 featuring Journey cover band Recaptured followed by Two Drag Club April 9.

Slowdown joins The Waiting Room and Reverb, who announced late last month that their stages are reopening.

When will the majority of our favorite local indie acts be returning to stage? That was the subject of my March column in The Reader, which is online right here. I contacted a dozen local musicians to find out when they’re coming back, and their responses underscore their caution as COVID-19 is still very much with us in this community.

The story is in the printed edition of the paper, which should be in the racks around town now or very shortly. Check it out. And heck, you can also read it below:

What Are They Waiting For?

As COVID-19 retreats, the stage has been set. It’s the artists who have cold feet.

Last month I told you where some of the more important local stages for indie music stand in regard to booking shows. A year after the pandemic began, places like The Slowdown, The Waiting Room and Reverb Lounge are reopening their stages. And while it’ll be some time before touring bands hit the road again, local acts are invited to plug in and rock on.

The only thing stopping that from happening are the bands themselves. I reached out to a dozen local musicians to find out when they’d play again on a local stage. Their answers reflected a serious respect for COVID-19.

Jon Taylor, lead guitarist for Lincoln-based seminal punk trio Domestica, is waiting for folks to get vaccinated. “Based on current vaccine shipping schedules, summer appears to be the earliest anyone should consider assembling large groups of humans for any reason,” Taylor said. He’s passed the pandemic time rocking out on his own glittering basement stage where, “I’m able to self-medicate with high volume until gigs happen.”

Domestica has been known to share a stage with Wagon Blasters, the tractor-punk powerhouse fronted by the inimitable Gary Dean Davis. Those with a sense of history will remember how these folks’ previous bands — Mercy Rule and Frontier Trust — were integral to Nebraska’s first wave of indie punk almost 30 years ago.

Davis has spent his downtime focusing on his record label — SPEED! Nebraska — which reissued Frontier Trust’s debut CD in June and released a new Mezcal Bros. album, Shakin’ Dog, in September.

“As Joe Strummer famously said, ‘The future is unwritten,’” Davis said. “Hopefully things can calm down over the summer, (and) we are able to return to playing shows. Maybe we’ll need to start off outside to keep everyone safe?”

Wagon Blasters bandmate, bassist Kate Williams, said while she would be comfortable on stage once vaccinations have reached the majority, “It will be strange to return to the small, intimate venues that I love, where the audience is right on top of the band.”

Williams hasn’t seen Davis or her other bandmates in person in a year. “Many of us are high-risk (or high-risk-adjacent) and aren’t comfortable practicing in an enclosed basement yet with each other, let alone playing in a room full of friends that we also haven’t seen in the last year,” she said. “It will happen though — I miss all of it so much!”

Caution also was the theme for legendary bassist/musician Dereck Higgins. “I’ll be 66 in July, and that is why I am being cautious and in no hurry to get out in the public gigging,” he said, pointing to fall for a possible return. In the meantime, he’s been recording new music and working on an art project with local choreographer Lauren Simpson.

Craig Fort of punk band Leafblower created an entirely new, outlaw-country-infused musical persona called Lightning Stills during the pandemic. “Obviously COVID is keeping us from booking anything, as well as neither project has been in the same room together in a year,” Fort said. “We all take this very seriously. Not being able to play shows is what’s keeping me from releasing anything physical. Without shows, I don’t have a booth to peddle my goods.”

Indie rockers See Through Dresses frontwoman Sara Bertuldo said her band is still together, “but we’re just focusing on different things at the moment. Some of us are back in school, focusing on work, and/or learning some new skills.” And she added, “We’ve also been working on our third album!”

One of my favorite songs released during the pandemic is “Snake in my Basement,” an infectious (in a good way) garage rocker by Those Far Out Arrows. Guitarist/vocalist Ben Keelan-White thinks his band will be back on stage possibly in early- to mid-summer.

“Outdoor shows seem more likely, but maybe some indoor venues might be willing to make some moves,” he said. “I feel like there is an optimism with more vaccine administration on the horizon. Nobody wants to be a part of a spreader event, but I think the type of individuals who want shows back would be absolutely willing to take the utmost precaution needed to go forward.”

“We’re all dying for shows, but nobody should die for shows,” said Aaron Gumm, half of the red hot electronic rock duo Glow in the Dark. “My parents in Iowa get their second shot next week, and my sister in Austin got her first today. Things are moving in the right direction.”

Some aren’t waiting to return to the stage. Josh Hoyer, one of the area’s best blues and soul voices, played a Sunday residency Feb. 21 at The Jewell in downtown Omaha.

“It wasn’t an easy decision, but it came down to me needing to get back to work and the venues needing to start getting people in or shutting down for good.” Hoyer said. “At this point, I am trusting people to do what is best for their health and the health of the community. So far, everything has been good, but the moment I feel that there is too much risk in any given venue, I will have to reassess my involvement with them. I think if people are intelligent about it, we can slowly get back to live entertainment.”

Darren Keen, the mastermind behind The Show Is the Rainbow and now a new electronic act, Problems, has a gig booked on St. Patrick’s Day at Boombox Social Club in Lincoln.

“As long as people are masked up and distanced, I’m OK with it at this point,” Keen said. “I’m still hesitant to book my own shows because I can’t honestly say, ‘You gotta come to this gig’ right now. I respect that people want to stay home and safe, and so if I can’t promote things 100% I’m not comfortable booking them.”

I saved the final word for Landon Hedges of one of my all-time favorite indie rock bands, Little Brazil. Hedges doesn’t know when he’ll be back on stage.

“It’s a matter of responsibility and feeling comfortable in the sort of environment that I’m used to playing a show or going to a show,” he said. “I want to do both. But this virus isn’t about me or what I want to do. I just want to try to do the right thing. It fucking sucks. You can quote me on that one.”

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 tim.mcmahan@gmail.com. First published in The Reader, March 2021.

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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.


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.


#SaveOurStages legislation gets heavy push this week (and now it’s your turn to help)…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:07 pm July 27, 2020
A screencap from the WOWT-TV report that shows how The Slowdown could be configured once it reopens.

You will begin noticing (if you haven’t already) a heavy push to write your congressmen and ask them to co-sponsor or support pending legislation designed to help save the live entertainment industry through the COVID-19 pandemic.

As I mentioned last week, the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA) along with a ton of musicians and promoters are pushing for a couple pieces of critical legislation, and need to get something passed before The Hill’s the August recess, which begins Aug. 7.

First thing’s first: Go to https://www.saveourstages.com/ and voice your support for the Save Our Stages Act (S. 4258, introduced by Sens. Cornyn and Klobuchar) and the RESTART Act ( S. 3814/H.R. 7481, introduced by Sens. Young and Bennet in the Senate and U.S. Reps. Golden and Kelly ). Adding your voice involves filling out a simple form (or writing your own heartfelt text in the space provided) that automatically goes to your respective senator/representative based on your zip code.

Gotta do it TODAY, as in RIGHT NOW, as in it will only take a minute. If you’ve already done it, do it again.

Slowdown’s Jason Kulbel talks about it in this WOWT report from last week.

And here’s a bunch of venue owners talking about being on the verge of going out of business.

As The Slowdown says in a grim Facebook post: “There is no way we want Slowdown to end. It is too soon. It is also not too late.”

People are making this sound like end-of-the-world stuff, because quite frankly, it is. You are going to be shocked at the number of venues that will shutter as a result of the pandemic, and then you’ll wish you’d have done something about it. Here’s your chance.

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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.


The lack of live music is killing my new music mojo…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 12:51 pm July 9, 2020
Public Access T.V. at Reverb Lounge, June 25, 2018.

Bear with me while I get this off my chest:

The last live concert I saw before COVID-19 struck with all its dreadful glory was PUP at The Waiting Room way back on March 5. I didn’t know at the time it would be the last live show I’d attend for the foreseeable future. I anticipated a big spring and summer of live shows with lots of new music on the horizon.

But as we all know, by the end of March one-by-one the clubs began to close and show cancellations piled up like cord wood, and by the end of April about everything was cancelled. Now we’re in July and Slowdown and Reverb are still closed, O’Leaver’s and Brothers have reopened but aren’t scheduling live music, and while The Waiting Room is hosting shows, they’re few and far between and mostly cover bands. Almost all national touring bands aren’t on the road right now.

Despite this, new music has continued to be released, including some pretty amazing recordings by Fiona Apple, Perfume Genius, Run the Jewels, Phoebe Bridgers, HAIM, Waxahatchee, Porridge Radio, Yves Tumor, Lanterns on the Lake, Destroyer, Christian Lee Hutson, Nation of Language, Car Seat Headrest and Stephen Malkmus. While some artists are holding their releases until they can tour again, others, like Bright Eyes and Sufjan Stevens, are planning releases in the coming months without any idea of whether they’ll be able to support them on the road.

Most of the above-mentioned acts are easy to keep up with, and if you’re tuned into Sirius XMU or college radio, you’ll have a hard time missing them. It’s the smaller, new bands — the yet-to-be discovered acts — that are getting especially crushed by COVID.

The No. 1 way I discovered new music — or for that matter, checked out new music — was by researching upcoming (and attending) live shows. And with no one out touring, it’s suddenly become harder to discover the new talent. Or a better way of putting it: It’s becoming harder to get motivated to listen to unknown acts.

Like anyone who writes about music, every day I get dozens of pitch emails from labels, promoters and artists telling me about upcoming releases. In the pre-COVID days, I’d zip down to the bottom of the emails and see if the band was headed to Omaha or Lincoln, and if so, would check out their music. No question, this was how I discovered most of the cool new stuff I’ve heard in the past.

The same process held for club calendars — I’d go through calendars scanning upcoming shows and making a point to research indie bands scheduled to appear, check out their music, etc.

But now that no one is touring, I rarely even open those emails or check calendars. What’s the point? As a result, a lot of music being releases is flying under my radar. For the first time since I started writing about music, I’m starting to feel disconnected to what’s going on with regard to new music.

So yeah, I really miss going to rock shows, I miss seeing people I know at the various clubs, but most of all I miss discovering new music the way I used to. The way things are going, it may not be until this time next year before we get anywhere close to where we used to be.

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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.