Streaming and repeated listening (in the column); new Wolf Dealer; Landlady is Man Man offshoot; Dawes tonight…

Category: Column — Tags: , , , — @ 1:41 pm February 7, 2017

Is Spotify changing the way we listen to albums?

by Tim McMahan,

Finally, my answer to that burning Facebook question: “List 10 albums that have made a lasting impression on you as a teenager, but don’t think too long about it.”

My answer is in this month’s Over the Edge column in the current issue of The Reader, on newsstands now or online right here. Not only do I provide my list, but I talk about why few people under the age of 30 are able to make their own list, and how Spotify is changing the way I listen to records. Read it online here.

* * *

Punk rockers Wolf Dealer made a video for their latest song, “Too Old to Die Young,” featuring skateboards and pizza. It was filmed on a stupid smartphone, says frontman Jason Steady.

Wolf Dealer are playing this Saturday, Feb. 11, at Milk Run with Karen Meat from Des Moines, IA, “who are the best band in the world,” Steady says. “Bradley, their Omnichord player and co-songwriter, used to live in Omaha and was in the best line-up of Talking Mountain in the golden years when we released that vinyl album, but failed miserably.” More on that show later.

* * *

O’Leaver’s sent out their upcoming schedule, and among the shows currently flying under a lot of people’s radars is Friday night’s gig featuring the band Landlady. Turns out Landlady is a project by Adam Schatz a.k.a. Brown Sugar of the band Man Man. Now I’ve got to change my Friday plans…

* * *

Tonight is the big Dawes show at The Waiting Room, which is being promoted as “An Evening with Dawes,” which I guess is an easy way of saying there are no opening acts. If you haven’t already, read my Ten Questions with Dawes’ Taylor Goldsmith before you go to the show. Tickets are $25, starts at 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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Dereck Higgins Experience, Wagon Blasters, Big Al Band; Ten Questions with Dawes; Bandcamp results…

Category: Blog,Interviews,Reviews — Tags: , , , , , — @ 1:42 pm February 6, 2017

Dereck Higgins Experience at O’Leaver’s, Feb. 4, 2017.

by Tim McMahan,

Dereck Higgins, one of Omaha’s most prolific musicians, unveiled yet another new project Saturday night at fabulous O’Leaver’s. This new four-piece combo, called The Dereck Higgins Experience (or DHX, as he referred to it from stage), continued in a similar jazz fusion direction heard on Higgins’ recent solo album, Flyover Country. In fact, the combo created a live version of  at least one song from the movie soundtrack.

On bass and synths and acting the role of Emcee, Higgins was joined by James Cuato Ballarin on synths/wind instruments, Aaron Gum on synths, and stellar guitarist Jacob Cubby Phillips. All but Gum also are in progressive jazz band Chemicals, a more experimental, free-form combo than DHX, whose set felt split between smoother fusion numbers a la Spyro Gyra, and funky, digital-fueled jazz concepts. Less intricate and less challenging than Chemicals, DHX’s music likely is more accessible to a larger audience.

I’m told this offshoot of Chemicals isn’t a replacement for that band, who according to Higgins has a scheduled gig at the Harney Street Tavern Friday night, while DHX will play the following evening at The Down Under.

Next up was Wagon Blasters who were in particularly fine form, maybe because it was Guitarist William Thornton’s birthday. Gary Dean Davis yelled through a rowdy set of trademark tractor-punk rock songs, doing his darndest to break through O’Leaver’s floor and onto the birthday/karaoke party going on in the basement.

As a lark, I tried streaming Wagon Blasters’ set via Facebook Live through the faux window sills off stage left. You can still view a recording of the performance in Facebook (or below). Scroll to the 23:38 mark in the video to see Gary’s epic punk-rock stage fall!

Finally, Big Al Band closed out the night with his flying V and Holly Pop on the drum kit. Favorite moment of the set — the final song wherein Al swapped out the V for a bass for a go at song called “Jolly Roger.” Nice.

As mentioned, O’Leaver’s now has a basement party room. I snuck (sneaked?) down there Saturday night and was pleasantly surprised at the set-up, which includes a full bar and karaoke stage, all of which is available for rental at a bargain price. Let’s see, sand volleyball, live music, tiki bar, two outdoor beer gardens and now a karaoke party room? What more can O’Leaver’s squeeze into their entertainment complex?

* * *

As you see below, I’m continuing the Ten Questions series both here and in The Reader. I recently got some push back from a publicist, asking if I would be able to do an actual interview with the band he represents rather than the survey. Fact is, I simply don’t have time to interview and write band features for every interesting act coming through town (and considering the pay for these features ($0.00), can’t afford it.). The Ten Questions format allows me to hype a touring indie band’s upcoming show in a way that’s not too time taxing. Let me know what you think of these surveys…


Dawes, photo by Matt Jacoby.

LA folk-rock band Dawes epitomizes a style of music I grew up listening to — tequila sunrise ’70s soft rock. You know what I’m talking about — those laid-back groovy bands they used to play on the FM (and AM) stations and still do if you have a classic rock channel in your town (and who doesn’t?).

But somewhere/somehow over the past few years it’s become accepted for snotty, tone-deaf hipsters and hipster wannabes to denigrate (via Facebook) music infused with a peaceful, easy feeling. And that’s a shame, because the new folk rock that they often laud — from the likes of Wilco, Ben Kweller, Jenny Lewis and even our very own Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band — owe much of their sound to those FM giants.

Certainly Dawes does. That classic ’70s El-Lay studio sound is evident on their latest album, We’re All Gonna Die (2016, HUB Records), which, at times, reminds me of One of These Nights-era Eagles (there, I said it). On songs like the title track, the slow burnin’ “Roll with the Punches,” the wah-wah funk of “When the Tequila Runs Out,” heck, just about every track, Dawes frontman Taylor Goldsmith unapologetically puts a modern spin on AOR gold, sounding like the second coming of Don Henley or Glenn Frey, complete with warm-cushion vocal harmonies. And that’s about as cool as it gets.

We caught up with Taylor Goldsmith and asked him to take our Ten Questions survey. Here’s what he had to say:

1. What is your favorite album?

Taylor Goldsmith: Always changing but I often go back to Warren Zevon self-titled.

2. What is your least favorite song?

Even though she’s one of my heroes and maybe the greatest songwriter that ever lived, there’s a song called “Not To Blame” by Joni Mitchell that I really hate.

3. What do you enjoy most about being in a band?

The shows. The songs get to change shape every night and we get to pull out old ones we haven’t played in years sometimes.

4. What do you hate about being in a band?

Being gone from home so much of the year. While I love touring, it’s hard to keep a semblance of a normal life in order by being gone over half the year sometimes.

5. What is your favorite substance (legal or illegal)?

Coffee. I always want more coffee. About to make some.

6. In what city or town do you love to perform?

We love playing at home for our friends and family and also love playing places like Nashville or NYC for the amazing venues and sold out shows, but there is also something special about coming into cities we’ve never been to or rarely play and having those more intimate experiences. It’s fun to still be building audiences in cities. It feels like we’re going into the past and future of the band from night to night depending where we are.

7. What city or town did you have your worst gig (and why)?

An LA show in 2012. I had really lost my voice. I got a steroid shot and it made it a lot worse. By the time we got onstage I could barely whisper. But we couldn’t cancel because everyone was there already and I didn’t want to let the band down. It was rough.

8. Are you able to support yourself through your music? If so, how long did it take to get there; if not, how do you pay your bills?

Yeah, music pays the bills. We quit our jobs and moved out of our homes the day before our first tour for North Hills. It meant we couldn’t afford places for a while, but we’ve never had jobs since.

9. What one profession other than music would you like to attempt; what one profession would you absolutely hate to do?

It’d be fun to be a novelist. I really idolize those guys. My brain just doesn’t work that way though. I’d hate to do just about anything that meant I couldn’t go outside during the day.

10. What are the stories you’ve heard about Omaha, Nebraska?

Well our good buddy Conor Oberst lives there so any stories we know are somehow indirectly connected to him and the community he’s introduced us to. After spending some serious time there (more time than we typically can in a city during tour) we’ve really fallen in love with Omaha and have been looking forward to this show for a while.

An Evening with Dawes is Tuesday, February 7, at The Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St. Tickets are $23 Adv./$25 DOS. Showtime is 9 p.m. For more information, go to

* * *
Bandcamp says it sold nearly a million dollars worth of music on Friday: “With several hours remaining, we estimate that fans will have bought just over $1,000,000 worth of music today, which is 550% more than a normal Friday (already our biggest sales day of the week). All of our share of that (12%) goes directly to the ACLU. The other 88% (less transaction fees) goes directly to the labels and artists…

A lot of those labels and artists also donated their share to ACLU or other charities. If you bought something, good for you. We’re going to see a lot more of these kinds of efforts over the next four years as the current administration continues to do all it can to dismantle the nation’s arts, take away women’s rights and bar immigrants from our borders. Do what you can; it makes a difference.

* * *

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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Conor Oberst & Dawes…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , — @ 1:01 pm June 5, 2014
Conor Oberst at Sokol Auditorium, June 4, 2014.

Conor Oberst at Sokol Auditorium, June 4, 2014.

by Tim McMahan,

Last night’s performance at Sokol Auditorium was the most relaxed — and happy — version of Conor Oberst I’ve seen on stage.

In his early Bright Eyes days, Conor was a brooding mess, angrily spitting out lines as if he just had a fight with his girlfriend moments before walking out. On top of that, a steady draw of whatever it was he used to keep in the jug next to the drum riser — I assume it was wine — made him edgy and even more belligerent until by the end of the set he was stumbling around like a bitter zombie oblivious to the flock of girls (and shy guys) crying only a few feet in front of him.

The highlight of those early concerts was the inevitable explosion or weird moment — a smashed guitar, storming off stage, a regretful utterance left unexplained — that wrapped the evening with a satisfying bow, leaving the audience content that he “left it all out there.”

But as the years went on, Conor straightened up. The performances — whether as Bright Eyes or one of his other guises — became more professional and straight forward, but often no less brooding. Worse, there were times when he ignored the audience altogether. You got the hits, perfectly played, and maybe a three-song encore along with a “thanks.” It was well done, but boring except for the mid-set political rant used to introduce whatever political-ish song came next.

Rarely did Oberst look as if he was enjoying himself. Oh sure, there was the occasional smile and banter, but it was usually directed to his bandmates, with a nod that said, “We better get back to what we came here for.”

It was different last night. Oberst looked genuinely engaged with his audience. Maybe it was the fact that his backing band was Dawes rather than the usual group of best friends he collects for his tours. Instead of the distraction of amusing his pals, Oberst let the band do its thing while he focused on the crowd… often with a smile. The result was a satisfying night of music, rife with new material and a few Bright Eyes and Mystic Valley staples.

My favorite moment was an inspired version of “I Got the Reason,” a song I didn’t even remember being on the last Mystic Valley album (Outer South). What a gorgeous song that I overlooked, along with the rest of that album. Fueling the energy was Dawes, a masterful four-piece that gave every song heft and soul. The band sounded so much like early Jackson Browne you would have sworn that was David Lindley playing those guitar solos and Craig Doerge tapping out the glowing keyboard fills. The band (along with the setlist) struck a perfect balance between personal ballads and rock anthems.

While there’s little doubt that the collection of talent Oberst draws from locally is top-notch, there might be an advantage to playing with acquaintances rather than soul mates, though you can’t blame him for taking along the folks he grew up with, especially when they’re such a talented crew.

The setlist is online right here. Favorites from the Bright Eyes catalog included “Bowl of Oranges” and “Poison Oak,” one of his more personal early works. Missing among the standards were TV commercial fodder “First Day of My Life” and fan favorite “Lua,” a song that, while one of his all-time best, is beginning to sound adolescent next to his current oeuvre.

Now a happily married man enjoying the next chapter of his career, you have to wonder if Oberst has outgrown songs about late night parties at actor’s west-side lofts. He’s quick to say his songs aren’t autobiographical, but though the characters he sings about may not be him, the sentiment certainly is.

The brooding, angry young man who embodied both his songs — and his stage presence — is fading away, leaving behind a singer/songwriter much more satisfied with his music and his life.

* * *

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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Oberst scores #58 (and still no vinyl); Oberst and Dawes tonight at Sokol…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:48 pm June 4, 2014
Conor Oberst fronting Bright Eyes at Westfair Amphitheater, June 4, 2011. He plays solo backed by Dawes tonight at Sokol Auditorium.

Conor Oberst fronting Bright Eyes at Westfair Amphitheater, June 4, 2011. Three years to the day, he plays solo backed by Dawes tonight at Sokol Auditorium.

by Tim McMahan,

Last week Conor Oberst sold another 4,356 copies of his new solo album, Upside Down Mountain, enough to land him at No. 58 on the sales charts. He’s managed to do this without selling any vinyl, because vinyl copies of his record still are not available.

Seems outrageous on the surface. Isn’t having timely vinyl production part of the reason to head to a major label like Nonesuch? Mike Fratt, general manager at Homer’s Records, says Conor’s lack of vinyl is a hangover from Record Store Day, and he’s not alone.

The hangover “also affected the Zeppelin reissues that came out yesterday with only 28 percent of the orders being filled,” Fratt said. “We (Homer’s) got lucky and got all our order except for one version of Zep III, which we should have later this week.”

Fratt said Oberst’s record also should arrive later this week, which could keep him on the charts for a couple more weeks.

BTW, find out other reasons why Conor went to Nonesuch right here.

* * *

Tonight Conor Oberst and his backing band, Dawes, take the stage at Sokol Auditorium. As of this writing, $30 tickets were still available for what is bound to be a memorable show. If the set list follows what he played at First Ave. in Minneapolis a couple nights ago, expect plenty of Bright Eyes tunes (though no “Lua”) as well as some Mystic Valley songs. Show starts at 8 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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.