Live Review: Baths, Houses, Last Gold Tooth, Touch People; Ed Sharpe tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:53 pm June 4, 2013
Baths at The Waiting Room, June 2, 2013.

Baths at The Waiting Room, June 2, 2013.

by Tim McMahan,

It was a three-day weekend for me, thanks to my birthday (and thanks again to all you Facebook peeps who sent good wishes). Monday off meant I was free to attend Sunday night’s shows at the good ol’ Waiting Room

We grew up thinking of a future where musicians will be able to create any sound using their computers. We landed there Sunday night — three bands whose sound was mostly driven by computers and synths, which meant lots of people on stage bouncing around, looking down at their gear and furiously twisting knobs and stabbing buttons.

Opener D33j created electronic soundscapes behind his work panels. He looked like a DJ, but I didn’t see any turntables or hear any specific samples. Instead, he created his own sounds / beats / melodies adding vocals mostly as just another layer of sound. Very trance-y.

He was followed by Houses, a more “traditional” band in that they actually had a lead guitar player who can shred with the best of them. I described Houses’ record last week as sounding like a more upbeat version of The National (thanks in part to Dexter Tortoriello’s vocals). But that comparison was lost Sunday night as Houses brought a much denser dreamscape sound augmented (in a New Order sort of way) by that amazing guitar. Despite modern beats and sounds, Houses owes a lot to late-era Cure (Disintegration, for example).

Headliner Baths gets grouped with the chillwave outfits, where it doesn’t really fit. Will Wiesenfield is the mad genius creating all the sounds from two panel racks, with the help of one other guy who “played” alongside at his own rack of electronic gear, occassionaly threatening to play guitar (but he if he did, I didn’t hear it in the din). Wisenfield’s “music” is an intricate proggy blend that reminded me of early, trippy Peter Gabriel mixed with the chaos of other electronic outfits like Grimes. When he isn’t shrieking in falsetto, Wisenfield’s voice bears an eerie resemblance to Adam Goren (Who remembers Atom and His Package?).

I wasn’t a follower of Baths (as most people who I spoke to at the show beforehand were) and found Wisenfield’s sounds take some… adjustment. In addition to having the deepest, loudest low-end I’ve heard at The Waiting Room since the last Faint show, Wisenfeild’s melodies were abrasive and tricky but worked their way into my psyche. What starts as awkward and ugly becomes big and beautiful by the end.

It was surprising how entertaining a guy standing (or sitting) behind a laptop, keyboard and pedal rack could be. I could ask you if this is the future of rock and roll, but it’s already here. And while artists like Baths and Houses and D33j can recreate almost any sound you can imagine, they can’t equal the energy of a traditional rock band, nor would they want to try. There’s an intentional soullessness to it all, a weird hollow trancelike quality, which I’m guessing is so appealing to their biggest fans.

And then there was Friday night.

Last Good Tooth at O'Leaver's, May 31, 2013.

Last Good Tooth at O’Leaver’s, May 31, 2013.

Opening band Last Good Tooth might have the worst name in the music business but they’re still a darn good band. I said their lastest album was in the M. Ward vein, and that’s pretty much what the four -piece (including a tasty fiddle) brought to O’Leaver’s in one of the oddest, diverse line-ups I’ve seen at a show in a long time.

LGT was followed by Malaikat dan Singa, whose rhythmic, violent style bordered on confrontational performance art, except that the lead guy could play a mean bass clarinet.

Finally, it was the return of Touch People a.k.a. Darren Keen. Keen’s current sound mixes his own electronic creations (rhythms, noises, clicks, beats), with his electronically augmented voice (on helium). I’ve seen Touch People before and got lost in the noise due to sounds coming at me too fast, too disconnected, too dissonent. Keen’s finding his sweet spot with these new songs that not only have a more cohesive central rhythm/melody, but incorporate Keen’s abbrasively honest real-world views (which I just happen to agree with). Keen would have been right at home at TWR Sunday night.

* * *

Pseudo indie (but not really) popsters Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros headline at Stir Cove tonight. The show starts at 7:30 and will run you a cool $42 (with fees).

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: White Lung, Digital Leather; Interview: Touch People (at TWR Saturday); PUJOL tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 1:10 pm April 5, 2013
White Lung at Slowdown Jr. April 2, 2103.

White Lung at Slowdown Jr. April 2, 2103.

by Tim McMahan,

So the move is over, my interweb is running and I’m back.

Briefly catching up on a few things: I had heard nary a note of White Lung prior to Tuesday night’s show at Slowdown Jr. The band had that very day driven from Winnipeg to make the show — a questionable tour schedule to say the least — but you wouldn’t have known it by the metal-infused punk they laid down during their relatively short set. Impressive power behind lead vocalist Mish Way — huge rhythm section, intricate layered guitar that bordered on dark metal. Nice stuff indeed.

Digital Leather at Slowdown Jr., April 2, 2013.

Digital Leather at Slowdown Jr., April 2, 2013.

Opening band Digital Leather did their usual superb set, though they sounded more restrained than when they play their home field of O’Leaver’s, which is understandable. I still don’t know the future of this line-up, which includes Todd Fink of The Faint. Will Todd record with DL? Time will tell. It’s good to hear those synth parts on these songs again, and Fink fits right in with the band’s overall style.

On hand, about 100 people. Not bad.

* * *

Touch People a.k.a. Darren Keen celebrates the release of his new album, Brain Massage, at The Waiting Room Saturday night with openers m34n str33t, Killer Blow and the inimitable Solid Goldberg. Leading up to the show, I asked Darren a few questions about his new project (which you can check out here) and new direction. This is what he had to say:

I still don’t understand why you pulled the plug on TSITR. Is it because you no longer want to play that music or no longer have to react when people ask you to play that music? Now you can say ‘TSITR is dead. I’m Touch People’ and can shut them up, but you’re still Darren Keen and it’s still your music.

I pulled the plug on TSITR for a lot of reasons, but the easiest way to sum it up is…I had lost all of my momentum, and I was going to have to start all over making all new fans anyway, and I just wasn’t interested in doing that again with TSITR. A lot of TSITR’s energy was tied up in this false “I’m the best” pride, and having to once again go through the process of trying to appeal to a bunch of college kids makes me feel the exact opposite. I was faced with dragging a comedy hip-hop project back through the trenches, which would suck, where as, with Touch People, it’s a more real, honest, musical endeavor, so I don’t mind doing it.

It’s hard to explain. I guess I just didn’t feel like moving backwards with TSITR after 10 years of kicking ass.

Did you start Touch People to provide a clear line of demarcation in terms of your musical style? Why couldn’t you simply do this kind of music as TSITR?

I never make music to “provide” anything for the audience. I started Touch People because I was interested in studying minimalism, and I was really itching to start thinking more like a “composer” and less like a “rapper”.

What freedom does Touch People provide you as an artist?

As an artist, and as a human, I am free to do or say anything I want. The band doesn’t really provide me with any additional freedoms, except sometimes I get to shout into vocoders in front of large groups of people.

Explain the process of making Brain Massage. How would you describe the style of music? What does it mean?

Brain Massage was awesome to make. It was literally the only album I’ve ever made, where I thought about the sound and process before hand, and everything went just as I planned from creation to studio to mastering to live show.

I would describe it as minimalist composer influenced electronic music. I tell people that it has a lot of really fast notes, and odd time signatures. I use four guitar amps, a bass amp, and two vocoders, all controlled by an Akai Apc 40 and Ableton Live.

Brain Massage is lyrically not very diverse…most of the songs are about the human brain, and about feeding your brain with knowledge. The anti-intellectualism movement in America is disgusting to me, and when I hear someone talking about “biblical truth” or “intelligent design” I just want to puke my fucking guts out and stuff their mouth full of my pubic hair. People need to wake up, we aren’t dumb, illiterate cro mags wondering around the desert anymore. Science is not a conspiracy, teachers aren’t poisoning your children’s minds. We live in a real, scientific world, and that tribal mumbo jumbo is a dead scene.

What role did/does drugs/grass play in creating your music?

I have really cut back on my drug use, and either way, I never compose while on drugs, unless you consider weed a drug. I am always stoned. I don’t think it has anything to do with my process though. My talents and creativity are my own.

Are you satisfied or bitter about your career? Has it turned out as you expected or hoped?

I’m neither. I’m not bitter, although, when I was in TSITR I sometimes was. It has more or less turned out as I expected, but I HAD hoped that I would have gone further by now. I would love to be able to quit my jobs and just focus on my craft, but that’s just not a reality for me right now. Sometimes I see some of these bands that are packing out shows locally, and I realize that I have nothing in common with them. The things they think are “cool,” I think are lame, and visa versa. It’s not a right / wrong thing, it’s just a very deep divide in how we handle our bands and our business.

Please be careful not to take me out of context here, I do not want to be thought of as “shit talking” but for example, take Icky Blossoms or Universe Contest…both bands full of my friends. They are very good at what they do, which is making very fun, wild music that makes kids want to dance and make out. Its not “selling out” when they do it, because they are honestly into that sort of art / presence and that’s why they are so successful. If I were to do what they do, it would be terrible and I would be a poseur, because to me, music ISN’T this surface level, fun party time thing. Music is the ultimate healer, music is the way that I communicate myself the most clearly, and my whole life is wrapped up in it, thus my whole life is sort of my true art. I guess it’s another reason I quit TSITR…it just didn’t go deep enough for me. Does that make sense? Again, those bands are fine, and I don’t think of them as “selling out” (although they do sell out most of their shows), I feel like I personally WOULD be selling out by doing that, and like I said the first time when you interviewed me, I want to have my own path, where my success is my own.

What are your plans for getting Brain Massage heard? What are your hopes for this recording?

I am releasing the album March 29. I am playing that night in Lincoln at the Bourbon, and playing a release show in Omaha on April 6 at The Waiting Room. It’ll be up on Bandcamp and SoundCloud. I am just going to start touring a ton like I did with TSITR, and try to get out there at a very grassroots, local level. That’s all I know how to do. I’d love to find a label that was interested in my art, but I don’t really care or need that in my life at this point.

My hopes for this recording is that people will give it a listen, and that they will be inspired by it somehow.

* * *

So that’s one hot show for the weekend.

Another is tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s, where Saddle Creek band PUJOL will make its first-ever stage appearance in Omaha (unless one of their gigs slipped under my radar). Openers are local band The Seen. This one if just $5 and will very likely be a capacity show, so get there early. Starts at 9:30.

Benson First Friday also is happening tonight. Details here. Of note for the kinky set is this here show at Sweat Shop Gallery. Find out more.

Finally tonight is Lincoln band Kill County’s album release show at The Sydney, brought to you by Hear Nebraska. Outlaw Con Bandana opens along with Electric Chamber Music (ex-Gus & Call). $5, 9 p.m. More info here.

Tomorrow night is the aforementioned Touch People show at TWR.

Also tomorrow night (Saturday) Water Liars play at O’Leaver’s with Twinsmith and Field Club. $5, 9:30 p.m.

That’s all for now…

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Global Intergalactic World Premier: Touch People’s ‘Amazing Place’; Tim Kasher, Widowspeak, Mardock tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:57 pm March 20, 2013

by Tim McMahan,

The act of “leaking” an early track from a upcoming album release is all the rage these days. Everyone from Rolling Stone to NPR to Huffington Post has hosted a leaked track by some famous rock star. Why should be any different?

When Touch People (a.k.a. Darren Keen) gave me a sneak peek of his new album, Brain Massage, he also asked if Lazy-i would leak a track. I said “sure,” and picked the album opener, “Amazing Place.” It is, after all, a perfect snapshot of Keen’s new approach to digital soundscaping, as conceptual as it is audibly intriguing. It’s also my favorite track on the album. Check it out below.

Sayeth Keen about Touch People: “I have finally stepped up as both a composer and a producer, while carrying the trademark high energy, unpretentious (and often humorous) dance party antics of my previous projects. Touch People is often compared to Philip Glass, Battles (with whom I’ve played), and Dan Deacon. Combining elements of minimalist composition, prog rock, and dance music, with honest, humorous lyrics.”

So what inspired his new sound? That’s among the questions I have out with Keen, which hopefully he’ll answer for us in the near future. What I do know is that Touch People will be celebrating the release of Brain Massage April 6 at The Waiting Room with m34n str33t (a new project by Adam Haug and Conchance) and the currently touring Killer Blow. Mark it on your calendars.

* * *

Speaking of events, there are a couple doozies going on tonight.

It’s night one of Tim Kasher’s two-night stay at O’Leaver’s (the bar he owns with the rest of the Cursive guys and Chris Mach). Opening is Hers. Surprisingly, $10 tickets are still available. The fun begins at 9:30.

As sort of a preview, here’s another look at Kasher’s Knitting Factory gig last week, this time by Brooklyn Exposed (right here). It’s a bit less complementary than that CMJ review I posted a couple days ago. This makes the KF crowd sound rowdy. Give me a break. Those Brooklyn hipsters wouldn’t last two minutes in O’Leaver’s…

Also tonight, NYC folkies Widowspeak (Captured Tracks Records) headlines a show at Slowdown Jr. with Eli Mardock and I Am the Navigator. $8, 9 p.m.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.



Dave Sink memorial vid online, OEAAs; new Sam Martin/Sean Pratt EP; Touch People DJ sets…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:02 pm February 18, 2013

by Tim McMahan,

What’s that? You skipped the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards ceremony last night at The Hilton? Well, you’re not alone. The only regret is missing the Dave Sink tribute as part of his Lifetime Achievement honor. Well, don’t fret because the tribute video shown at the awards show is online right here at YouTube:

As for the rest of the show, here’s this year’s top music “winners”:

Album of the year: Icky Blossoms, self-titled
Artist of the Year: Icky Blossoms
New artist: Universe Contest
Rock: Snake Island
Hard rock: Bloodcow
Alternative/indie: Cursive
Singer-songwriter/folk: All Young Girls Are Machine Guns
DJ/electronic: BASStoven
Country/Americana: Matt Cox

* * *

Sam Martin & Sean Pratt, Kids, Beat Your Vegetables (self-release, 2013)

Sam Martin & Sean Pratt, Kids, Beat Your Vegetables (self-release, 2013)

Capgun Coup’s Sam Martin and Sean Pratt just put out a 5-song EP on Bandcamp called Kids, Beat Your Vegetables. It’s two Martin songs and two Pratt songs and the duo covering the ’20s standard “Tonight You Belong to Me.”  My favorite track is “Big O’le Child,” which betrays my aged taste for melody rather than dissonance. It’s a real foot-stomper. You can listen to the whole thing below, but head on over to their Bandcamp page and buy the download for a mere $5. You’ll feel better for it.

* * *

Speaking of online music, Touch People is putting DJ sets online at his Soundcloud channel. I’m currently listening to this one:

More to come…

* * *

Looks like we’re in for a blizzard this week… batten down the hatches.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


TSITR: ‘I’ve lost my edge,’ calls it quits; Foxy Shazam tonight…

Category: Interviews — Tags: , — @ 12:36 pm June 19, 2012
Darren Keen as The Show Is the Rainbow holds court in Dundee, Aug. 27, 2011.

Darren Keen as The Show Is the Rainbow holds court in Dundee, Aug. 27, 2011.

by Tim McMahan,

I’ve been writing about The Show Is the Rainbow (TSITR) and other Darren Keen projects for almost a decade. So when I received an email yesterday announcing the permanent moth-balling of TSITR, written by an obviously frustrated Keen, it was more than a bit of a downer.

In addition to being a creative force, a musical talent and a hard-working mofo, Keen is one of the most polarizing figures in the local music scene. People either enjoy his pulse-rising electronic music and over-the-top performances, or discard him as a Har Mar Superstar rip-off or a no-talent attention getter. There is no in-between.

I’m not going to recap Keen’s entire career — you can read about it yourself by doing a search on “Darren Keen” in the search box on the right of the screen (or just click here). Suffice to say, Keen’s made a lot of music, released a lot of material and played a lot of shows all over the world. He’s been grinding it out for nearly a decade, but judging by the email, he’s had enough.

Keen said he’s always wanted to be famous, but on his own terms. “At the end of the big tour I did last year supporting my new record Tickled Pink, I knew it just wasn’t going to happen,” Keen wrote. “TSITR had become the kind of band that people ‘LOVED,’ but also were kind of done supporting. They had paid the cover the past few times I had come to town, and the novelty was just gone. The records sold less and less, each year, and crowds just dwindled. I had come full circle, from House Shows to Small Bars to Big Clubs to BIG support tours, to Clubs, Bars, and finally House Shows with lots of days off.”

Keen counted the change in his pockets after his last 45-day tour and discovered that he generated a grand total of $1,500. He said he’s at a point in TSITR where “people just stopped showing up, and stopped buying my records.” Tickled Pink digital sales generated less than $70 as a pay-what-you-want record, while the vinyl version sold about 120 copies, “not even close to enough to pay off the pressing costs.

“I don’t blame people for being ‘over’ TSITR, over my bullshit rockstar attitude, over my shit talking on stage, over my disregard for the ‘touch barrier,’ over buying records that aren’t as good as the live shows, over paying to see live shows that were shocking years ago, and now just feel boring, I really don’t. I used to be able to grab a mic and say ‘I’m the best, coolest motherfucker in this room.’ I said stuff like that, because I meant it, but I just don’t feel that way anymore. I’ve lost my edge, and I don’t know how to get it back. I love you all, and I will still be making music. I never thought I’d break up TSITR, but I suppose, the hardest lesson for a musician to learn is, just because you CAN make a song, doesn’t mean you have to.”

You can read Keen’s entire letter posted at Hear Nebraska.

So the reality of the situation is this: Darren Keen isn’t going to stop making music altogether; he’s just going to stop performing as TSITR and releasing new TSITR material. He’ll continue performing as Bad Speler and Touch People. But as a one-man act, there’s nothing stopping Keen from pulling out TSITR again, right?

“I think I am going to do one more (final) TSITR show,” Keen replied. “I know nothing would stop me from bringing it back in the future, but it’s just not very likely. Touch People and Bad Speler are both finding a stride, and they also sort of have a yin-yang relationship IMO, that TSITR just doesn’t seem to fit into anymore for me…”

* * *

Tonight at The Waiting Room it’s Cincinnati glam-rock band Foxy Shazam with Stars in Stereo. $12, note early 8 p.m. start time.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Back from NYC; ‘Lounge Act’ podcast features critics (including yours truly)…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 1:15 pm September 6, 2011
Manhattan, Sept. 3, 2011.

Manhattan, Sept. 3, 2011.

by Tim McMahan,

I return from Manhattan without any keen revelations, other than to suggest you try David Burke’s Kitchen the next time you’re in SoHo (Chris Webber did); Follies on Broadway will dominate this year’s musical Tony’s, the Yankees will win the AL-East, and if you get a chance to go to the U.S. Open, by all means do it – it’s cheap, easy to get to, it’s a lot of fun (unless you’re there today – it’s rained out).

* * *

Lounge Act logoWhile I was away, Aaron Shipp, host of the Lounge Act Music Podcast, posted his latest episode, which features Omaha World-Herald‘s Kevin Coffey, man-about-town Shout! critic MarQ Manner and yours truly discussing music critical things, like why we write music reviews, the power of Pitchfork, Red Sky and other music festivals, Omaha as a tour stop, and why our opinion does or doesn’t matter. You can hear the entire podcast right here, or download it from iTunes. This is the first time MarQ, Kevin and I have been asked to take part in this sort of thing, and the conversation was fun and sometimes even lively. Thanks to Aaron for putting it together. Check it out.

* * *

From my e-mail box: Touch People, a.k.a. Darren Keen, has a new track called “Depth of Width Pt. 1” that you can download for free right here at RKRD LBL  (registration required). What is RKRD LBL? According to the site, it’s “the premier online destination for free, curated, legal, MP3 downloads from the hottest marquee and emergent artists.”  The blog features music from more than 300 artists and more than 20 independent labels, including Dim Mak, Ghostly, Downtown, Kompakt, Warp, etc. They’ve been around since ’07. Keen, btw, is currently somewhere in Denmark on tour…

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Column 320: MAHA Vs. Red Sky, local stage considerations and the end of battle of the bands? (Keen)x5 tonight…

Category: Blog,Column,Interviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:49 pm April 27, 2011
Last year's MAHA Music Festival, July 24, 2010

The scene moments after the start of last year's MAHA Music Festival, July 24, 2010

by Tim McMahan,

This week’s column was posted at yesterday morning, which is a bit out of the norm, but understandable concerning the “newsiness” of the topic. Here are a few more notes from the interview with MAHA Music Festival organizer Tre Brashear that didn’t make it into the column, which also follows below. If you haven’t read the column yet, scroll down and read it first, then come back up for the following addendum:

— The MAHA team is considering changing its process for selecting bands to play the local stage and dropping its “battle of the bands” format. “We are considering selecting all the bands to play MAHA this year and not having a battle of the bands approach,” Brashear said. “However, we haven’t decided yet on whether to make that change.” Regardless, MAHA will continue to host local showcases leading up to the Aug. 13 festival.

— In addition, festival organizers are considering moving the local stage from the embankment just west of the main stage to somewhere where the sun won’t be burning the patrons’ retinas. “We know that people have objections to how our local stage has been set up the past two years and are looking at alternatives and what those alternatives would cost,” Brashear said. “However, people should know the configuration of the Landing limits our options, especially since we need to keep the stages relatively close together so that we can use the same equipment for both.” Just moving the stage to the east side of the main stage would be a big improvement.

— The problem of having the Red Sky Festival flopping its 6-day-wide ass smack in the middle of July is not going to go away for MAHA. Red Sky will be around for years whether it sells tickets or not. Brashear said the MAHA team will address the scheduling problem after this year’s event concludes. “The Landing is a pretty popular place in the summer and there aren’t many open dates, so moving the date could require us to move the venue,” Brashear said. “However, since this is our first year on ‘this date,’ we don’t want to read too much into scheduling conflicts without getting more information.” The plan had always been for MAHA to grow into a multi-day event that includes camping options for travelers, making it a sort-of Midwestern Woodstock. With Red Sky nesting at TDAmeritrade Park, perhaps MAHA can find a home at the brand new Werner Park in Sarpy County, where there’s plenty of space for camping in adjacent fields.

And now, more Brashear comments about MAHA in this week’s column….

* * *

Column 320: Guided by Voices, Cursive, Matisyahu to Play 2011 MAHA Music Festival

by Tim McMahan

The news is in the headline, exactly as it was announced Monday night.

To reiterate: This year’s MAHA Music Festival, to be held Aug. 13 at Lewis & Clark Landing, will feature among its main stage bands Guided by Voices, Cursive and Matisyahu. Take a moment. Breathe deep. Soak it in.

When you consider what the MAHA folks are now up against, not the least of which is MECA’s 6-day, 3-stage, infinitely budgeted, exempt-from-failure, yet-to-be-announced Red Sky Festival, one can only bow one’s head and tip one’s hat that they were able to pull off such an impressive line-up.

Considered an originator of ’90s low-fi indie rock, for this tour Guided By Voices boasts a reunion of its “classic mid-’90s lineup” — Robert Pollard, Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell, Kevin Fennel and Greg Demos. Cursive is one of the original crown jewels of the Saddle Creek Records triumvirate that included The Faint (who played MAHA last year) and Bright Eyes. Finally, there is Matisyahu, an American Hasidic Jewish reggae superstar. And that’s just the beginning. There will be at least three more bands named for the main stage, as well as a second “local stage.” All for a discount price of $30, three dollars less than last year’s ticket. Let’s face it, GBV alone is worth the price of admission.

For Tre Brashear and the rest of the MAHA organizers, the announcement is a triumph that comes at the end of a long winter and spring of frustration. This year’s booking process began in mid-January, a month after Red Sky announced its monstrosity at the brand new TDAmeritrade ball park, forcing MAHA to move its date to mid August instead of the festival “sweet spot” of July.

“It has been more difficult this year,” Brashear said of booking MAHA. “The change in date has been a problem, and I’m not knocking Red Sky in saying that.  It’s just a fact.  The weekend we moved to is in direct competition with Outside Lands in SF, Way Out West in Sweden and Summer Sonic in Japan.  Combine that with the fact that lots of artists head to Europe in August because that’s when the European festival schedule starts up and it has meant that quite a few of the performers that we would like for MAHA simply weren’t available.”

Then there’s the fact that Omaha has become a virtual runway for big name national indie acts thanks to One Percent Productions (who helped book MAHA) and venues like The Waiting Room and Slowdown. “Artists like The Decemberists, Iron & Wine, New Pornographers, who would be perfect for MAHA, are already coming through this area for a routed show,” Brashear said. “Then you throw in the increased interest Stir Cove has shown in booking indie acts and you end up with lots of challenges in booking for MAHA.”

Stir Cove, which is part of the Harrah’s Casino money-printing factory in Council Bluffs, already has announced big draws The Black Keys, Flaming Lips and Mumford & Sons among its summer series lineup. Another prized act, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, has been snagged for the final Playing with Fire series July 16.

But the perceived 10 million pound gorilla has always been Red Sky, despite conventional wisdom that RS will target the same stale acts that MECA books for the white elephant currently called The Qwest Center. Indie will likely be completely off the Red Sky radar. In fact, other than the date change, Brashear wasn’t sure of any Red Sky impact. “When you are told an artist isn’t available, you’re usually not told why,” he said. “So we won’t know if those ‘not available’ responses were Red Sky related until after they announce their lineup.” An announcement that could come in days, or weeks.

If Red Sky was never interested in indie, why bother changing the MAHA date? “We never considered keeping the date we had originally,” Brashear said. “First of all, we use MECA parking lots for MAHA parking.  Second, we would have had to fight with them for publicity.  Third, we don’t think our sponsors and donors would have appreciated us engaging in a ‘battle’ with Red Sky.”

No doubt. MAHA has done an amazing job holding onto — and growing — its primary sponsors. “TD Ameritrade and Kum & Go are returning as our main and local stage sponsors, respectively,” Brashear said. “Also, McCarthy Capital, Alegent Health, Proxibid, Centris, the Owen Foundation and Stinson Morrison Hecker are returning as sponsors (as is Weitz Funds). Our new sponsors this year include Whole Foods, HDR and Walnut Private Equity.”

It’s those sponsors, along with last year’s attendance numbers, that helped drive the ticket price down to $30 this year. “Since we are a nonprofit organization run by volunteers, making as much money as possible has never been our focus or intent,” Brashear said.

If there’s a criticism to be leveled at the “so far” line-up, it’s the age of the acts themselves. GBV’s heyday was in the ’90s. Cursive’s biggest-setting album was released eight years ago and Matisyahu’s breakout album was released in 2004. The thought that MAHA could be considered an “oldies” indie festival hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“We are constantly evaluating our demographics and whether our lineup is too old, too male, all of that,” Brashear said. “We want our lineup to be a good cross-section of all things indie, so to do that well, we’ve got to feature ’emerging’ national acts.”

Which is exactly what MAHA is targeting for the final three main stage bands. Who knows when that announcement will come. Until then, MAHA can take pride in already having landed the best lineup for any local festival in 2011.

Tix go on sale this Saturday for $30 at etix.

* * *

I generally don’t hype Lincoln shows because, well, they’re in Lincoln and I’m here in Omaha. The exception is when the show is particularly exceptional, like tonight’s “World’s Hardest Working Musician (Darren Keen)” show at Duffy’s. The lineup is five different Keen projects — The Show is the Rainbow, High Art, Touch People, Darren Keen and the Fellowship of the Ring and Bad Speler — with DJ Darren Keen filling in the holes between sets — all for just $5 starting at 10:30. It’ll be Keen’s last performance as a bachelor, as he’s getting married this weekend. In fact, he’s about to kick off  a 10-month “Honeymoon Tour” that will take him around the world three times with each of his one-man bands. That tour starts May 20 with The Show Is the Rainbow’s Tickled Pink CD release show at Bourbon Theater.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: The Show Is the Rainbow; Bright Eyes for free; Dim Light tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 2:14 pm January 31, 2011
The Show Is the Rainbow at The Waiting Room, Jan. 28, 2011.

The Show Is the Rainbow at The Waiting Room, Jan. 28, 2011. Photo by John Shartrand.

by Tim McMahan,

Friday night, to an audience of fewer than 100 at The Waiting Room, Darren Keen, a.k.a. The Show Is the Rainbow, had a message he delivered just before launching into a set of all new material from an album that’s yet to be recorded. The message boiled down to this (and I’m paraphrasing here): The best work Keen’s done was when he was doing it for himself, and the worst work he’s done was when he was trying to impress all the wrong people. Well, now Keen’s through trying to impress anyone, as he hits the road for eight months on a self-booked tour with his girlfriend in tow.

Keen sounded like a man who had come to some sort of self-realization that no matter how hard he tries to control his future, his life, his career, he’s powerless in the face of a world, of an industry, that never knew and never cared. Which is a long-winded way of saying that now he’s doing it for himself. And that’s a pretty good message.

And with that, he tore into a set of abstract, art-damaged polyrhythmic “songs” that examined his view of the world around him. The themes: paying the cover, faux indie angst, learning how to think, learning how to (literally) grow, his love of dope, and his love of love. It sounded like hippie stuff, and maybe it was. As a one-man act, he sang the tunes over prerecorded keyboard tracks that were a dizzying kaleidoscope of circus arpeggios and electronic beats. Did I say sing? Most of the songs featured Keen doing a sing-song rap delivered from the floor instead of the stage while he performed an interpretive dance bare-chested, pants-sagging, sweat glistening off his fat rolls.

When TSITR first started all those years ago, Keen was criticized for being a home-grown version of Har Mar Superstar by people who had never actually listened to or heard Har Mar or Keen. The only thing those two had in common were a love of dance music, a willingness to take off their shirts and ivory white bellies. These days, thanks to his ginger beard and habit of improvising at the keyboard (and his “keen” wit), Darren could be compared to a young Zack Galafianakis, though only the most demented minds like my own would ever come up with that comparison.

The other thing that went through this demented mind Friday night was that Keen may be onto something. His set was fun and “in your face,” with just enough edge to be considered subversive. There is an aggression boiling just below the surface, a strange unnerving tension that could erupt at any moment. And though the music is less “dancy” than his earlier material (which may change after he fills it out in the studio), it’s no less engaging. Let’s face it, it’s impossible to be bored at a TSITR show, which is more than I can say for 90 percent of the indie bands that come through town. And for those folks who will stumble onto Darren by accident as he and his girlfriend criss-cross the country over the next eight months, he could be a revelation or at least one helluva conversation piece.

Opening the evening was Machete Archive, who has steadily become the most interesting instrumental-only band I’ve seen on stage since Mogwai (who they in no way resemble). Beyond the music, which is borderline metal balladry, is the headbanging performance itself. In addition to having insane dance moves, bassist Saber Blazek is a marvel on the fretboard, maybe the best bass player in Nebraska. But the only way that claim could be proven is if Hear Nebraska or Omahype or The Reader hosts another long-needed “bass off” among the state’s best four-stringers. The gauntlet has been thrown.

* * *

You can now stream Bright Eyes’ new album The People’s Key in its entirety at Here’s the link. My first impression is that the biggest by-product of the Monsters of Folk tour is that Conor now writes and records music that sounds like M. Ward tunes. You be the judge.

* * *

People are already rescheduling things in the face of what could be one of the more brawny storms to hit the city since… last year. Something tells me even if the storm gets here before 9:30, tonight’s show at O’Leaver’s will carry on as planned. The headliner is the amazing Dim Light, with Nature Boys and The Prairies. $5, bring a shovel…

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


The slow season; Alessi update; Bad Speler download…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 2:01 pm November 9, 2010

by Tim McMahan,

Not a good week for shows in the Omaha area. In fact, nothing stands out until Masses and Lightning Bug on Saturday at Slowdown, and then Tim Kasher Nov. 19. Egad is this the slow season or am I just overlooking something? It can’t last forever, can it?

* * *

It seems like only yesterday that Alessi Laurent-Marke — or just Alessi as she was known back in the day — was playing gigs at The Waiting Room and wandering around Benson with Jake Bellows. But in fact it’s been more than a couple years since I wrote this goodbye column to Alessi as she headed back over the waters to her home in England. Then out of the blue I hear about a show she’s playing in Portland, and discover she no longer is with Virgin Records, and hasn’t been since January. Alessi is now with Bella Union (Cocteau Twins’ old label, whose roster includes Beach House, Explosions in the Sky and Dirty Three), who just released her new EP Soul Proprietor. Maybe we can get her back to Omaha while she’s on tour.

* * *

As I type this, I’m listening “Bitch Boyz Like It Rough,” a track off Bad Speler’s second mix collection now available for download at “The new mix is called Bill$ Gate and his Michael Soft Umpire PRESENT : The Babble iFad,” said Bad Speler mastermind Darren Keen. “It is a lot faster, smoother, and almost has a European breakcore influence. mos def something very different for the Midwest, for better or worse. trust me, our grandchildren are gonna love this band!” I’m sure they will, Darren. The mix collection is a pay-what-you-want endeavor, so go to the site, download, and pay what you think it’s worth — now there’s one possible future business model for the music industry. But we’ll talk more about that in this week’s column, which goes online tomorrow.

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


High Art goes online; Dosh tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 12:47 pm May 13, 2010

The Show Is the Rainbow mastermind Darren Keen e-mailed me a link to a soundcloud page where he’s hosting demos recorded of his new band, High Art. The page is here. High Art is Keen on guitar/vocals, Jim Schroeder (UUVVWWZ) on drums/vocals, Saber Blazek on bass (Machete Archive — yes, that guy) and Josh Miller, keyboards, vocals (Columbia Vs. Challenger).

Keen calls the music Post Elfman Experimental Japenese Punk. It’s spazzy and outrageous; sonically challenging and kind of weird, just like Keen.  I asked him what inspired the music other than drugs. “High Art isn’t just a drug refrence,” he said. “My MAIN influence here is THE GUITAR. I really miss playing guitar and I hadn’t written much music on guitar lately (except Darren Keen stuff, which is all so nice and pretty). I just wanted to play in a guitar rock band that didn’t sound like butt rock or garage rock and was still super complex and musical. And weed! but not all of us even smoke weed so seriously, that’s not like our MAIN jam.”

Muscial influences include XTC, Danny Elfman / Oingo Boingo, Sparks, Nina Hagen, Deerhoof and NOFX. So what’s Keen & Co. going to do with these songs? “We are going to record a full length in September and release it early next year. This recording will be distributed online and via CDRs.” Check out High Art when they play at The Waiting Room June 3.

* * *

Tonight at The Waiting Room, Minneapolis multi-instrumental artist Dosh performs with White Hinterland and This Is My Condition. Dosh is a one-man outfit who uses an array of technology to create arty soundscapes. His albums are released on SF label Anticon (Anathallo, Tobacco). $10, 9 p.m.