Universe Contest, Stigmata Sheehan tonight; Criteria, Little Brazil Saturday, Ryan Davis & the Roadhouse Blues Band Sunday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 10:09 am November 24, 2023
Universe Contest at The Waiting Room, Dec, 27, 2013. The band plays at The Sydney in Benson tonight.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Hope you survived the holidays, but they’re not over yet. The first round of “holiday shows” are this weekend (the second round will take place around Christmas). 

Tonight at The Sydney in Benson, Lincoln’s Universe Contest returns to their favorite Omaha haunt. They remind me of a midwestern version of Modest Mouse; they certainly have that vibe. This is a crowded bill that also includes the dynamic duo of Pagan Athletes and In Tongues (Robert Little, Jason Ludwick and Boz Hicks). Cupholder kicks things off at 9 p.m. $10.

Also tonight, I typically don’t hype tribute bands or cover shows, but there’s a special one going on at Reverb. Stigmata Martyr is a Bauhaus tribute band anchored by former Ritual Device members Randy Cotton and Mike Saklar with Benn Sieff of Bennie and the Gents fame. Joining them for what’s being billed as a “mini set” is Omaha legend Stephen Sheehan (Digital Sex, The World, Between the Leaves) performing the music of Joy Division. Opening the gig is Misfits tribute act 138. 8:30 start time, $10. 

Then tomorrow night (Saturday), it’s the big Criteria, Little Brazil, Healer show at The Waiting Room. I interviewed Criteria for a story that was published earlier this week (read it here). This one’s always a blast and feels like a family reunion/wedding reception with all the scene legends in the crowd. 8 p.m., $10. 

Finally, Sunday night it’s a Grapefruit Records in-store performance by Ryan Davis & the Roadhouse Blues Band. Davis is kind of a DIY legend, having operated Sophomore Lounge Records and co-founding Louisville’s annual Cropped Out music festival. But the main thing is his music. The band’s latest, Dancing on the Edge, is a collection of twangy indie-folk nuggets very reminiscent of Bill Callahan and Silver Jews. Pitchfork gave the album a massive 7.9 rating. Also playing this show are Sean Pratt and Nathan Ma Band. Grapefruit Records is located in the Old Market at 1125 Jackson St. Early 7 p.m. start, $10.

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 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 © 2023 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Lazy-i Interview: Criteria (at The Waiting Room Saturday, 11/25); Hotline TNT tonight…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , — @ 8:12 am November 22, 2023

Criteria plays this Saturday night at The Waiting Room with Little Brazil and Healer.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

This isn’t so much an interview with Criteria as a “catching up with Criteria”-style chat that took place at frontman Stephen Pedersen’s beautiful midtown home while his boys ran around the living room. 

The occasion for the discussion is Criteria’s annual holiday concert, which is this Saturday at The Waiting Room. Joining them as they do every year is Little Brazil, and opening the show is Dan Brennan’s band Healer. The Criteria holiday rock show has become an Omaha indie-rock tradition that dates back years — sometimes it happens around Christmas or New Year’s, more often lately it happens on Thanksgiving weekend. 

It’s also one of the only shows Criteria plays these days. The band only performs in public once or twice a year (They played at Outlandia festival this summer). This year marks the 20th anniversary of the band’s 2003 seminal album, En Garde, released during Saddle Creek Record’s heyday, when bands like Bright Eyes, The Faint and Cursive ruled the indie world and fans whispered that Omaha could become the “next Seattle.” We can all laugh about it now…

If you’ve heard Criteria’s music (and if you’re still reading this, you no doubt have), you know part of the attraction is Pedersen’s uncanny, acrobatic vocals. They go up-up-up, above everything else, a fragment or dagger that counters  his and guitarist Aaron Druery’s most-righteous riffage and the thunderous rhythms from drummer Mike Sweeney and bass player A.J. Mogis. His vocals are bright and effusive, going places few male vocalists would dare go. 

Twenty years ago, scaling such heights was rather matter-of-fact for Mr. Pedersen, but now that he has entered his late 40 — knocking on the door of the big 5-0 — and only playing out twice a year, how does this lion in winter keep hitting those blessed high notes?

“I go downstairs in the practice space, put in earbuds, turn on the PA, play the guitar and try to push out the same amount of air,” Pedersen said. “And I also do cardio. I run three times a week and do push ups and pull ups.” 

He nods when asked if he’s lost anything off the top end. “It’s not that it’s high and angular; it’s that when we play I sing a lot,” he said. “I’m constantly pushing air. A big part is just figuring out the breathing so you don’t get winded. And I drink a ton of water.”

As the conversation continues, members of Criteria show up one at a time and take a seat in the living room, arriving for the band’s scheduled practice, which I’m interrupting. Our topic of discussion — the new songs. Criteria will play two or three new ones Saturday night. In the band’s early days, Pedersen’s lyrics were meta playthings that focused on the band’s struggles to break through to the next level while the inevitable responsibilities of adulthood knocked on their doors. Or, as the opening lines of “Prevent the World” from 2005’s When We Break, go:

I’m stuck in a basement world, where even if I tried
To make rock my living, it wouldn’t coincide
So how will I reconcile six years of my life with 
The rational urges?

These days Pedersen’s rational urges more likely involve spending time with his lovely family and focusing on his career as a corporate lawyer. And as such, the nature of his songs’ lyrics have shifted to much more adult matters.

“A lot of the new songs are about people in our extended social circles getting divorced,” Pedersen said. “Something happened during the pandemic, and the social reverberations in the home tested a lot of marriages. These new songs are very abstract. I’m not telling anyone’s story, but (I’m singing about) the concepts surrounding communication and misunderstanding and losing the fire in the belly for someone.”

With that, Pedersen turned to the rest of the band and asked what they think about the new songs.

“They’re a little more stoner rocker,” says Druery.

“That’s just because they’re in a lower tune,” adds Mogis.

Regardless, the band plans to enter the studio soon to record the tracks. Could an EP be on the horizon? Stay tuned. In the meantime, you’ll be able to hear these new ballads of marital woe Saturday night at The Waiting Room. Healer kicks things off at 8 p.m. followed by Little Brazil. Just $10. See you there!

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Tonight grab your pre-holiday cheer at Reverb Lounge when NYC-based Hotline TNT headlines. The band is the project of Minnosota songwriter Will Anderson (a.k.a. Flip Sandy, according to Wiki), previously of the Canadian band Weed. Anderson is the sole permenant member of HTNT, joined by a rotating backing band.

Their latest, Cartwheel, was released earlier this month by Third Man Records and received the coveted “best new music” designation from Pitchfork, which gave the album a huge 8.4 rating. It is pretty good, combining the dirty early ’90s sounds of Teenage Fanclub and Dinosaur Jr., rife with overblown guitars that often overpower central melodies. It’s a dense forest of noise for sure.

This is another massive four-band bill, with The Dirts, Western Haikus and Paid to Smile. It all starts at 8 p.m. $18.

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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 © 2023 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Criteria, Little Brazil; Twinsmith, Bug Heaven tonight; Las Cruxes Saturday…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , , — @ 11:33 am November 25, 2022
Criteria at The Waiting Room, Nov. 23, 2022.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Very much like every other year was last Wednesday’s holiday concert at The Waiting Room, the eighth such event (according to Criteria frontman Stephen Pedersen, who celebrated this winning streak from stage). Lots of old, familiar faces were on hand to wish glad tidings as well as they could through the 100+ dB din (even between bands, it was loud).

Uh Oh at The Waiting Room, Nov. 23, 2022.

Uh Oh kicked it off with a solid set and what appeared to be the evening’s largest crowd (a crowd that slowly, slightly waned throughout the night). The more I hear Joe Champion live the more I’m reminded of Tim Quirk of Too Much Joy, thought Uh Oh’s music is played straightforward lyrically vs. TMJ’s snarky humor, and that’s OK. While the entire band is solid, lead guitarist Mari Crisler is a standout on solos that leave the histrionics for the fretboard (which is a nice way of saying the band doth not emote much on stage, but few indie bands do).

Landon Hedges, left, and Danny Maxwell of Little Brazil at The Waiting Room Nov. 23, 2022.

Little Brazil followed with their best performance in recent history driven by frontman Landon Hedges. Always solid instrumentally, for me LB shows depend on how well Landon handles those high notes. Get him on a bad night and your best best is to lean back and enjoy guitarist Shawn Cox’s amazing fretwork. Get Landon on a good night (or in this case, a great night) and you’re flying above the crowd alongside him on that vocal tight rope.

LB has been kicking it for decades but their latest album, Just Leave, is a career highlight thanks to risk taking on song structures and the guitar interplay between Cox, Hedges and the rest of the band, held down firmly by a rhythm section of LB co-originator Danny Maxwell on bass and larger-than-life drummer Austin Elsberry. That said, Hedges’ unique, high vocals make LB a standout in a city full of standouts.

There were times Wednesday night when I cringed waiting to hear if Landon was going to make that note. He almost always did, though a couple times he seemed to forget the words at the beginning of songs. No matter. He always caught up in the end.

Finally there was Criteria. What to say that I haven’t already said the last seven times I’ve seen them play this holiday show or all the other times in between? The band continues to wield the ridiculous guitar-fueled power that made them an indie-music staple in the emo-powered aughts when Omaha was a global music brand. I am here to report that frontman Pedersen can still shred the high notes as well on songs that are nothing less than endurance tests for any vocalist over the age of 30 (which he most definitely is).

The band is sheer power at every position, tight as a tick and tour ready as they’ve ever been, though they’re unlikely to play again until next November. No doubt some of the reasons for that involve the three little boys who ran around stage prior to the set — Pedersen’s personal roadies (the youngest of which wore sound-dampening headphones and ran wild in the crowd during the set). In just a few years maybe they’ll be opening for dad’s band, at a show held sometime around Thanksgiving at The Waiting Room…

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The holidays cavalcade of local shows rolls on this weekend.

Tonight at Reverb Lounge, Saddle Creek Records band Twinsmith headlines with up and comer Bug Heaven who I’m told is a must see (though I somehow keep missing them). This one starts at 9 p.m. and is $12.

Also tonight, singer/songwriters Stathi and Mitch Gettman are playing sets at The B. Bar, 4330 Leavenworth (right next to Barrett’s Barleycorn). Mitch goes on at 8, Stathi at 9 and then headliner, Sweetstreak, who describe themselves as East Omaha garage Rock, at 10. No price listed for this one, so you’re on your own.

Tomorrow night (Saturday) our old friends Las Cruxes headlines a free show at fabulous O’Leaver’s. Joining them are (kind of) new band The Rare Candies (Josh Medlock, Mitch Gettman, Ryan Menchaca and a fourth dude who’s probably pissed because he’s not listed anywhere on the band’s websites) and Kelroy. Just like the old days, this one doesn’t start until 9:30.

Also Saturday night, The Waiting Room is hosting a reunion of Omaha ska band Jimmy Skaffa. Joining them is Stick Figures and Plastic Presidents. $15, 8 p.m. Lotta people will be at this one (including on stage, if I remember this bands properly).

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 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.


Criteria, Little Brazil, Uh Oh tonight at The Waiting Room, because it’s the holidays…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 11:49 am November 23, 2022
Criteria at The Waiting Room, Nov. 27, 2021. They return tonight for the annual Turkey Day extravaganza.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Every year it’s the same thing — Criteria and Little Brazil at The Waiting Room. And this year is no exception.

These holiday shows are sort of Omaha music scene get-togethers. I honestly don’t know what Criteria has been up to for the past year. Will there be new music or just another evening of their greatest hits? Who knows?

On the other hand, Little Brazil started out the year releasing a new album, Just Leave, on Max Trax Records. Expect to hear songs from that one along with a few of their greatest hits.

Opening the festivities is Omaha indie band Uh Oh who’s last album was 2021’s Good Morning. It all gets rolling tonight at 8 p.m. Always one of the best shows of the year. $12. Don’t be a turkey. Take part in this festive holiday tradition…

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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.


Live Review: Criteria; Mere Shadows, Stigmata Martyr; the week ahead…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 2:29 pm November 29, 2021
Criteria at The Waiting Room, Nov. 27, 2021.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

It was a comfortable crowd at Saturday night’s Criteria “holiday” show. I was expecting a sell out crush when I arrived at 10 right in time for their set, but was surprised at the draw, which was probably around 200, maybe half-full. 

On stage, the ageless Stephen Pedersen and his crew belted through the usual set of favorites from the band’s Saddle Creek years and beyond, with the same vigor as when I saw them two years ago at the same club — or for that matter, 10 years ago at that same club. Pedersen, a consummate showman, continues to hit those epic high notes, but will only find them harder to climb as time marches on, unless he’s afflicted with the same age-defying genetics as world’s sexiest man Paul Rudd… a possibility, though I’m no scientist. 

It is these show that keep our scene alive, like a continuous thread that runs through the years. For the most part, the faces in the crowd remain the same, though they’re a bit more haggard. A few new, younger ones were also mixed in, no doubt the progeny of those who came before. I almost missed this show myself, having received a Moderna booster earlier in the day and only just beginning to feel its effects that night. I’m happy I made it.

Mere Shadows at Reverb Lounge, Nov. 24, 2021.

It was a long holiday weekend that began with seeing Mere Shadows and Stigmata Martyr at Reverb Lounge Wednesday night. Mere Shadows provided surprisingly awesome grinding punk rock played with a speed and intensity perfect for breakneck, angry late-night driving on Dodge Street. Big quick riffs and tight rhythms were the fuel. My only critique involves the lack of variety — either change it up or keep the sets short.

Stigmata Martyr was a four-piece Bauhaus tribute band anchored by Randy Cotton and Mike Saklar, former members of ’90s legendary Omaha punk bands Ravine and Ritual Device, and always a pleasure to see and hear live. In the Peter Murphy role was Benn Sieff of Bennie and the Gents fame sounding spot on — you could do no better. But in truth I was there to see the Cotton/Saklar combo, as I’ve never been a big Bauhaus fan. I stuck around for the obvious climax, which was, of course, their rendition of “Bela Lugosi’s Dead.” Very nice.

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So, if you didn’t get out this weekend to see some live stuff, you may be out of luck. A quick glance at the 1% and Slowdown calendars shows the weeks ahead are rather lacking. In fact, I don’t see anything of interest indie-wise until See Through Dresses returns to Reverb Dec. 19.

Ah, but little bird tells me December could see the return of something we’ve all been waiting for. Stay tuned…

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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.


Will the new venues (Astro, Admiral, Steelhouse) reduce NOmaha Syndrome? Criteria, Little Brazil, Big Nope tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 10:52 am November 27, 2021
Criteria at The Waiting Room, Dec. 28, 2019. The band returns tonight with Little Brazil and Big Nope.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Here’s a Saturday-morning random discussion: Will all the new live music venues — Astro, Admiral, Steelhouse — reduce NOmaha Syndrome? 

A friend brought up the question. He asked if those three larger venues currently being constructed will change Omaha’s reputation as a fly-over city for touring indie bands. We’re talking about:

— the remodeled Sokol Auditorium, renamed The Admiral, with its 1,400 capacity, slated to open in February.
— the Steelhouse Omaha project by Omaha Performing Arts, with a stand-up capacity of 1,500 to 3,000, scheduled for 2023, rumored to be booked by Live Nation.
— the Astro in La Vista, a massive new amphitheater with a capacity of 5,000 outside and 2,500 inside, slated to open in 2023.

That’s a lot of new stages. But will they make a difference to the bands that have been passing Omaha by? Depends on which bands you’re talking about.

Check out the acts that have announced tours in the past couple weeks, all of which won’t be coming through Omaha: Big Thief, Courtney Barnett, Waxahatchee, Strand of Oaks, Nation of Language, Mitski, Pavement, The War on Drugs, Perfume Genius, Hand Habits, The Oh Sees…

None on that list would sell out the smallest of those three new venues, though Barnett and War on Drugs might sell out Slowdown.

Big Thief, who haven’t come through Omaha since they played at The Lookout Lounge in April 2016, is asking $34-$39 for its closest show at the 2,500-capacity Riviera Theatre in Chicago. I doubt Big Thief could sell out 700-capacity Slowdown with a $40 ticket, but that’s what it might take to get them here again. I’m not sure there’s enough people in Omaha who know or like Big Thief. 

Hand Habits played at Slowdown Jr. before the lockdown in April 2019. That show was a $10 ticket that also included Tomberlin, and it drew around 60 people. The band’s closest approach to Omaha is the 550-capacity Fine Line in Minneapolis, with tickets priced at $30-$45.  No doubt when they were booking their tour, their finger slid right past Omaha as a possible tour stop. 

For fans of quality indie music, the problem is there just ain’t enough of us, and what few there are aren’t willing to pay what other cities are paying to see the same bands. Hard to believe in a metro of 800k, but this is what happens when you don’t have local radio or any media covering these bands. 

So who will be playing at these new venues? Time will tell, but bet on a lot of mainstream acts, metal bands, country acts, anything that will get butts in seats, and why not? You can’t blame the promoters for wanting to make back their investment in what will be three amazing venues.

And why dwell on the negative? We Just had Spoon and Mannequin Pussy, right? And in the coming months at Slowdown you have Black Angels, Sleigh Bells, Faye Webster, Lala Lala and Fuzz, while 1% is bringing in Diet Cig, Bonnie Prince Billy, Parquet Courts, Mdou Moctar, Azure Ray, Gary Numan, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Sasami, Mogwai, Destroyer, Beach Bunny, ADULT, Built to Spill, The Antlers, and Dinosaur Jr…. We’re actually doing pretty well…

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Speaking of shows… tonight at The Waiting Room it’s kinda/sorta the annual holiday show featuring Criteria. In years’ past this happened around Christmas, so we’re getting a jump on things (1% has yet to announce a big Christmas show this year….). Opening is Big Nope — Nate Van Fleet’s band (and we all know Nate’s high-tailing it to LA in the new year), and Little Brazil. Great show for just $10. Starts at 8 p.m. and this is a No Vax No Entry gig, so bring your evidence…

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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.


Criteria returns from the road (with voice in tact)…

Category: Interviews — Tags: , — @ 2:00 pm February 5, 2020

Criteria performing at Teragram Ballroom in Los Angeles Jan. 26, 2020.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

My chief concern about the two-week Criteria tour, which just wrapped up, was how frontman Stephen Pedersen’s voice would hold up to violently intense singing night after night. Judging by this video of the Jan. 26 show at The Teragram Ballroom in downtown Los Angeles, his voice held up just fine.

My other question was how well fans of headliners Cursive and Cloud Nothings would receive the band. Would anyone even remember Criteria, who haven’t toured in more than a decade?

“(There were) plenty of folks there to see Criteria in every city,” Pedersen said. “People showed up early! It was bizarrely good! By end of our set it was apparent that we made new fans each night. Super cool. I made myself available to folks after we played (by running merch) and it was shocking and humbling how many folks wanted to talk to/thank me/us for putting out a new record and going on tour.”

The new record in question is Years, released last month on Cursive’s 15 Passenger Records. Pedersen said the album debuted at No. 42 on the Billboard Alternative chart. “I have no idea what that means,” he added.

So with this tour’s success, will Pedersen step away from his lucrative day job and hit the road for a year-long tour?

“No dice,” he said. “I worked from the road fairly successfully. Long drives on the West Coast meant lots of time to get work done.”

But that doesn’t mean the band is going into hibernation, either.

“We’re processing next moves,” Pedersen said. “Maybe play a couple festivals. Maybe do some East Coast dates. We’ll see.”

It’s too late for Coachella, but there’s always South by Southwest and Lollapalooza!

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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.


Criteria’s ‘Years’ drops (last week); new Digital Leather, Dereck Higgins…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 1:40 pm January 20, 2020

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Criteria, Years (2020, 15 Passenger)

Last Friday Criteria’s new album Years dropped via 15 Passenger Records. It’s a banger. BrooklynVegan was the first outlet to sort of review the album, saying: “The more polished sound suits them well, and helps elevate their chunky post-hardcore/alt-rock to a level where Criteria sound like even more of a force than they did during their initial run. The songwriting is inspired, the songs rip, and it just feels great to have this band back.”

Indeed. Get your copy and have a listen here. Tonight Criteria opens for Cursive at Neumos in Seattle.

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Digital Leather last week shared yet another song off its forthcoming album, Because You’re a Winner, called “V.” Check it below:

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And the always prolific Dereck Higgins dropped a new track in Soundcloud called “Scoobs.” He says he’s “causally working” toward a new album. And pssst…. InDreama also is in the studio.

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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.


Cursive, Criteria, Cloud Nothings tonight at Winchester…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 1:19 pm January 15, 2020

A bronzer-infused Cursive in their official tour photo featuring tour drummer Pat Oakes (far right, Western shirt). Photo by Ariel Panowicz.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Cursive, Criteria and Cloud Nothings kick off a 2-week winter tour tonight with a massive concert at Winchester Bar and Grill, the sister club to O’Leaver’s that’s owned and operated by a team that includes Cursive’s Tim Kasher, Ted Stevens and Matt Maginn.

Despite Cursive and Criteria both playing ’round these parts in recent months (in Cursive’s case, this past September) the show should draw a sizable, raucous crowd. My first foray at attending a rock show at Winchester was a less than stellar experience thanks to surprising sight-line problems — i.e., you couldn’t see the band through the crowd. We’ll see tonight if they’ve remedied that problem by raising the stage.

The Boise Weekly has a new interview with Kasher that could act as a nice preview to tonight’s show. The funniest line of the article is the closer:

“I can assure you,” Kasher said, “that we will probably be going back into hiding for a little while after this.”

Ah, but there’s no place to hide when you own and operate a record label.

The wild card on this tour will be Criteria. Cloud Nothings has a similar if not more hyperactive style of angst-ular indie as Cursive, whose latest album, Get Fixed, is another angry downer of a collection of very densely packed, mathy indie rock songs, the highlight (for me anyway) being the chopped-riff-powered “Black Hole Town,” that begs everyone to sing along to the chorus “This town’s a black hole / This town’s an asshole!”  By contrast to those two bands, Criteria’s music is a sparkling flying rainbow unicorn of bright shiny indie rock — certainly a palette-cleanser between two rather acidic flavors, though I have a feeling Criteria will likely have the opening slot on this tour.

$20, 8 p.m. You may want to get there early and grab one of Winchester’s famous cheeseburger baskets. You’ll thank me later.

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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.


Catching up on the holidays — Criteria, Lodgings, Little Brazil,Stephen Sheehan…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:52 pm January 2, 2020

Criteria at The Waiting Room, Dec. 28, 2019.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

The holidays are over. Now we enter into the dark, black chasm known as January (though so far, not so bad weather-wise!).

I caught a couple shows over the break. The top getter was Criteria at The Waiting Room Dec. 28 with Little Brazil for what has become a holiday tradition (what’s it been, five years in a row?).

Stephen Pedersen and Co. never sounded better. Killing behind the kit was Mike Sweeney, though I was half-expecting Nate Van Fleet to be up there seeing as he’ll be playing with the band for the upcoming Criteria/Cursive tour the last half of January. Instead, Nate was standing behind me during the set with his jaw wide open watching Sweeney chop down trees one at a time.

Pedersen was in his usual fine voice on what has got to be the hardest songs for anyone to sing. I felt exhausted after every tune. Doing it nightly will be herculean achievement, but if anyone can pull it off, it’s Pedersen. The band used the occasion to roll out a couple songs from the new album, which they’ve been performing live for a few years, so yeah, they fit right in with the rest of the catalog.

I’m very interested to see how the Cursive fans react to Criteria on this upcoming tour. No doubt, many already are familiar with the band. But there will be some young Cursive fans who may not be, and Criteria has a completely different vibe than Cursive — it’s like a guy wearing a gold lamé jacket standing next to some dude in a black hoodie. Criteria has always shimmered brightly, coming off like a rallying cry before a battle; whereas Cursive is a darker thing altogether, Cursive is the angry negotiations that go nowhere leading up to the war.

In these dark times we live in, we could use some new Criteria. So what happens if on this tour these guys break big and a nation demands more? Can Pedersen and Co. push back from their dusty office PCs and become the rock stars they were meant to be?

Lodgings Dec. 28, 2019.

I got to the Waiting Room early to catch Lodgings, who put out one of my favorite albums of 2019 (the Steve Albini engineered Water Works). The songs sounded even better live (but don’t all good songs sound better live?). The four-piece with Bryce Hotz out front and backed by a stellar band that includes the legendary Steve Micek on guitar along with Michael Laughlin and Eric Ernst on drums have a grinding indie-rock style that stumbles forward with a throbbing heart. There is something about Hotz’s vocals that remind me of Vedder (more so the phrasing than the vox itself), whereas the music reminds me of classic Grifters (a band that no one seems to remember, and one of my all-time faves).

Little Brazil at The Waiting Room, Dec. 28, 2019.

In the middle was Little Brazil, who rolled out a number of new songs, and hopefully are headed to a recording studio in the near future. It was funny looking out over the audience and seeing three past Little Brazil drummers in the crowd — Nate Van Fleet, Matt Bowen and Oliver Morgan — watch as new drummer Austin Elsberry took the reigns, keeping up a fine tradition.

Little Brazil is an enigma to me. They’re one of the city’s most unique bands that’s always deserved as much national attention as any Saddle Creek Records band. And they’re playing some of the best music of their careers right now. Why they haven’t caught fire is a mystery to me.

Stephen Sheehan and his band Dec. 23 at The Waiting Room.

Finally, it was a treat to see Stephen Sheehan and his band play at The Waiting Room Dec. 23. Sheehan once again gathered together some of the area’s best talent to back him on a set of Digital Sex and The World songs, as well as a new original. It got me wondering if maybe he shouldn’t re-record these songs, giving us a modern take on what are considered Omaha classics.

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Lazy-i Best of 2019

Speaking of classics, relive the classics of the year gone by with the  Lazy-i Best of 2019 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: DIIV, Hand Habits, Uh Oh, Sharon Van Etten, Orville Peck, Simon Joyner, Prettiest Eyes, Purple Mountains and lots more.

To enter, send me an email with your mailing address to tim.mcmahan@gmail.com. Hurry, contest deadline is Monday, Jan. 6, at midnight.

Or listen on Spotify. Simply click this link or search “Lazy-i” in Spotify and you’ll find the 2019 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.