Live Reviews: Dead Letters, Obscurants, Water from Your Eyes, Palm…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 7:50 am December 5, 2022

by Tim McMahan,

The weekend went like this…

From all reports, I missed the best show of the weekend by about an hour. Head of Femur opened the Sydney Saturday night showcase and I wasn’t able to get there in time for their set but was told it was an absolute scorcher from four people who were there. I got to the bar just after it ended and walked into a crowd that looked like a scene from Sokol Underground circa the early 2000s. Head of Femur goes way back with a lot of the Saddle Creek crew. 

The Obscurants at The Sydney, Dec. 3, 2022.

Lincoln emo-punk band The Obsurants were up next and played a solid set of high-energy emo-punk songs performed seamlessly one after the other with no break in between. Frontman Eric Maly has the right voice for these anthemic power-punk tunes. A few times during the set when he wasn’t playing his guitar he appeared to be doing America Sign Language while he sang, which was strangely affecting. 

Dead Letters practically playing in the dark at The Sydney, Dec. 3, 2022.

Headlining band Dead Letters, who were celebrating the release of their new album, Songs from Center, were slightly Omaha’d (hey, that’s what you get when you let a legend like Femur open for you). All three members of the band yelled out their lead vocals while the other two yelled out harmonies on these endearing, short, sharp jangle-punk songs that had as much in common with Violent Femmes as they did R.E.M. And when I say short songs, the album’s 9 songs only span a total of 19 minutes — so do the math. You never have a chance to get tired of any of them. 

The best part about this band is that, unlike so many acts I’ve seen lately, it’s obvious all three members were having the time of their lives, and so was the audience.

Water From Your Eyes at Reverb Lounge, Dec. 4, 2022.

Sunday night it was off to Reverb Lounge. Less than a dozen people were in the audience when Water from Your Eyes began their set at 8 p.m. sharp. The duo of vocalist Rachel Brown and guitarist Nate Amos were joined by a third person on guitar and were backed by some thumping rhythm tracks. If you’d fallen across the duo’s past recordings, like 2019’s Somebody Else’s Song (Exploding in Sound Records) or even 2021’s artier Structure (Wharf Cat) you would have been ill-prepared for the sound barrage of last night’s set. 

At the heart of it was deep, blaring pre-recorded synths joined by Amos’ acidic, feedback-drenched guitar that interlaced with Brown’s untouched, unprocessed vocals that sounded like your little sister singing along to art-damaged post-punk. Harsh, throbbing sonic textures repeated trancelike with the second guitar providing counter riffs. 

The evening’s highlight was a brittle interpretation of “Adeleine,” a track from Somebody Else’s Song, reinterpreted with rough synths and guitar, barely recognizable compared to the original, but a better fit in what turned out to be one of my favorite sets I’ve seen this year. 

Palm at Reverb Lounge, Dec. 4, 2022.

I wasn’t sure how closely headliner Palm would follow the song structures heard on their new album, Nicks and Grazes. Would they change it up like Spirit of the Beehive did when they played at Slowdown earlier this year? The answer was no. 

The new record is rife with odd time changes, hard-to-grasp repeated musical structures, and flat, atonal vocals that are more accoutrement than melody. Call it modern indie prog for lack of a better description, well played (a fantastic rhythm section) but hard to listen to if you’re someone who enjoys melodies. It didn’t help that both vocalists were buried in the rhythm-dense mix. At its best, Palm is an intricate rhythmic puzzle box that can be fun to try to solve… for awhile, and then gets tiresome. That said, the 40 or so on hand for their set were into it. 

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Yes, it’s rare for me to go out on a “school night,” but I knew this would be among the last touring indie shows coming through town until next spring. In fact, the only upcoming One Percent Productions show on my radar is the Feb. 23 Unsane show at The Admiral. Virtually no indie shows are currently booked on the 1% calendar. 

The Dec. 15 Bartees Strange show at The Slowdown is that venue’s last touring indie show until the Feb. 25 Rural Alberta Advantage gig, and then Titus Andronicus way out on March 28. 

Yep, it’s slim pickings if you’re an indie music fan. I’ll talk more about that when I post my Year in Review column in The Reader (get a sneak peek in the printed edition, which is already on newsstands). Looks like it’s going to be a long, cold winter…

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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 © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


BFF tonight; Dead Letters, Head of Femur Saturday; Palm, Water from Your Eyes Sunday; Bandcamp Friday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 11:29 am December 2, 2022
Dead Letters celebrates the release of their new LP Saturday night at The Sydney.

by Tim McMahan,

Welcome the the weekend. It all kicks off in Benson tonight with Benson First Friday, which in the coming months will become even more special (more on that mystery later). Get to Maple Street tonight and check out the art scattered throughout the shops.

The Sydney in Benson is celebrating BFF with a heavy-ass show headlined by Lincoln’s FACE, Omaha scream-metal band Living Conditions and Jack McLaughlin’s synth-powered project, Specter Poetics. $10, 9 p.m.

Saturday night, Dead Letters, the new project by Koly Walter, Brian Byrd (both of Well Aimed Arrows) and Mark Johnson (Places We Slept), is celebrating the release of their new album, Songs from Center, at The Sydney. The album art is a photo of The Center Shopping Center, Omaha’s first shopping mall and once home to The Sky Lanes and where I went to see Santa Claus once upon a time. Walter says The Center is a block away from the band’s practice space/studio. The band released a second song from the album in Spotify (but alas, not in Bandcamp, where you can pre-order digital album, here.

Opening for Dead Letters is Head of Femur. Koly said his old band, legendary ‘90s act The Protoculture, used to play with Head of Femur frontman Matt Focht’s former band, Opium Taylor, back in the day. Kicking things off at 8 p.m. is Lincoln act The Obscurants (Eric Maly of Slow Pioneers). $10.

Sunday night, Saddle Creek Records act Palm plays at Reverb Lounge. Signed to the label this past July, Palm is a Philadelphia-based four-piece that’s been together for a decade. Their last LP was released in 2018 on boutique label Carpark Records. Their rep is for playing inventive art-rock, and they live up to it on Nicks and Grazes (2022, Saddle Creek). Lots o’ progressive / dissonant moments on this album, very similar experience to listening to label-mate Voice of the Beehive’s last album, a band who’s live set earlier this year at The Slowdown was stellar. Like VOB, will Palm bring a different approach to their live set? We’ll have to see. The Reader has a fresh Q&A with Palm (by Chris Bowling!), which you can read here.

Opening is Brooklyn duo Water from Your Eyes (Nate Amos of This is Lorelei and Rachel Brown), who’s last studio album was 2021’s Structure (Wharf Cat Records) $18, 8 p.m.

Lest I forget, today is also a Bandcamp Friday — if you buy your albums today from Bandcamp, the service will pass along its fees directly to the bands/artists (and some labels are following suit), so it’s the best time to buy new music, like that new Dead Letters album!

As for shows, that’s all I got. If I missed yours, put it in the comments section. Have a great weekend.

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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 © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: The Sunks, TFOA; 3 local indie ‘supergroups’ (Breakers, Dead Letters, BareBear) tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 2:28 pm December 27, 2021
The Sunks at Reverb Lounge, Dec. 26, 2021.

by Tim McMahan,

Last night’s album release show for The Sunks at Reverb was kind of packed. With Omicron running rampant, for the first time I actually felt a little squeamish about attending a show. At its peak there was probably around 60 folks in Reverb, with only a very few wearing a mask — I among them. I didn’t have it on when I went inside, but when I saw the mob, I slapped it on (I always carry a mask with me these days). Did it make a difference? Talk to me in a week.

I also had my earplugs, and I’m happy I did. Those Far Out Arrows don’t hold back, and neither did the guy behind the soundboard. For the uninitiated, the four-piece plays Nuggets-style psych rock in the grand tradition of bands like Them, The Yardbirds, Animals, early Stones, you get the picture, the kind of band you’d expect to see at Gonerfest. Their modern edge comes from the twin vocal attack of guitarists/brothers Ben and Evan Keelan-White, and the rock-hard rhythm section of playing-with-his-back-to-the-audience bassist Derek LeVasseur and drummer Brian Richardson. 

Those Far Out Arrows as seen from behind the soundboard at Reverb, Dec. 26, 2021.

The Arrows played a number of songs off their most recent album, Fill Yer Cup, (including personal favorite, “Snake in My Basement,” which is bound to become a world-wide smash hit once it’s discovered by some Netflix series music supervisor and used as the soundtrack for a road movie’s killing spree sequence). They also played a new one, which sounded like the old ones. They’re nothing if not consistent in their approach. 

The Sunks’ latest album, Wedding Season, came out last January during the height of COVID-19 and thus, never got the album release show it deserved. Since then, frontman Sean Paul has recorded an unreleased solo album (and I’ve clandestinely heard one of the tracks, which was among the best things I heard last year). The Sunks doesn’t sound like that solo stuff. Sean Paul (at times) reminds me of Susto’s Justin Osborne, who reminds me of Jackson Browne, though The Sunk’s music leans in more toward indie than Browne’s or Osborne’s Laurel Canyon-esque approach. 

It’s a laid-back album, whose highlights include the very Susto-esque “Cta” and anthemic “The Sunks Song.” At nearly an hour, it could have been pared down, but in this age of digital-only releases, bands put it all out there. The album is worth checking out, but I’m also excited about that aforementioned solo album.

Played live, the arrangements were more majestic, grander. Sean Paul (Why do I feel compelled to write his full name in all references?) is a solid frontman, was in fine voice and backed by a tight band. That said, I only made it through five songs. It wasn’t because I had to work the next day — the show began at 6 p.m. and The Sunks went on at around 8:15 — it was because I was so freaked out about Covid and the crowd. I guess I’ve seen too many mentions of people getting Omicron in my Facebook feed… 

That said, it probably won’t stop me from going to Breakers tonight at Reverb. The band, according to the 1% website, consists of guitarist Chris Yambor (Sing Eunuchs tapes back in the day, The Reports with Patrick Buchanan (of Mousetrap fame)), bassist Robert Little (Son Ambulance, The Stay Awake), and drummer Matt Focht (Head of Femur, The Faders, Bright Eyes). The site doesn’t mention who’s handling vocals, though I’m guessing it’s Focht (and I’m probably wrong). Joining them are Dead Letters (a trio consisting of two former members of Well-Aimed Arrows — drummer/vocalist Koly Walter and bassist Brian Byrd — along with guitarist/vocalist Mark Johnson from Places We Slept) and BareBear (who, last time I saw them in 2019, featured Rob Walters, Nik Fackler, Matt Focht, and Jacob “Cubby” Phillips). 8 p.m., $10. It’s the closest thing to a holiday show you’re going to get! Wear a mask…

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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 © 2021 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: the remodeled Reverb Lounge, Dead Letters, Las Cruxes…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 1:30 pm September 21, 2020
Dead Letters at Reverb Lounge Sept. 19, 2020.

As we all know, when the pandemic first emerged this past spring bars and music venues were forced to shut down. Many of them are still closed. Reverb Lounge in Benson took the downtime as an opportunity to remodel their club, and the changes they’ve made are pretty awesome.

The walls have been torn down that separated the performance space from the rest of the bar, turning the venue into one large open facility. Once you see it you’ll wonder why they didn’t do it in the first place. Reverb is now a single room with a bar on one end and a stage on the other. The sound and lighting (as before) are among the best in town, but now you can watch and hear while seated at the bar.

The view of the remodeled Reverb Lounge from the back of the room behind the bar near the restrooms. Sight lines are on point throughout the club.

This change would appear to broaden the options for the kind of performers One Percent books at Reverb. With the old, isolated performance room, they were limited because the capacity was only a little more than 100. Now the performance capacity is probably twice that (or more if they take out the tables), with great sight lines from anywhere in the bar. The possibilities are exciting… once we get past the pandemic.

Saturday night’s show required all patrons be seated. Three low-top tables were placed right below the stage while four high-top tables were placed further back. Were the tables six foot apart? Maybe, but the person sitting at the table behind us was definitely closer than six feet away. Everyone not on stage wore a mask when they weren’t seated. Once seated, the masks could come down, just like in restaurants. This was the first time I’ve felt a tad bit squeamish at a public space. You’d have to be pretty trusting to sit at one of those low-tops right below where the vocalist was belting out his songs without wearing a mask. The club was limited to 25 percent, so if you felt uncomfortable you could always move back to one of the booths or by the bar and see just fine.

First up was the debut of Dead Letters. The trio, consisting of two former members of Well-Aimed Arrows — drummer/vocalist Koly Walter and bassist Brian Byrd — along with guitarist/vocalist Mark Johnson (Places We Slept), is clearly influenced by the early R.E.M., if you didn’t catch that by their name. Byrd drives everything from his base, forming the backbone of the melodies while Walter and Johnson take turns on lead vocals. There’s some Well-Aimed overhang on a couple songs, but overall this is more tuneful than that band, less brittle and a lot more fun. They only played for about 20 minutes and left me wanting more. Watch for them.

Las Cruxes at Reverb Lounge, Sept. 19, 2020.

Las Cruxes was next. The last time I saw them play they crowded the stage with two drummers and two or three guitarists, but Saturday night they performed as a trio (a keyboard was set up but was left untouched all night). Having seen them in both big and small formats, my suggestion is to keep it as a trio. While frontman Ed Trujillo is the centerpoint with his great guitar work, the rhythm section keeps things rolling (no matter who’s playing drums). I may not understand a word he’s singing but punk is a universal language and Las Cruxes speaks it very well.

I was told the new business plan for Reverb is that it’ll only be open if it’s hosting live shows. That being the case, it’ll be awhile until you’re able to check it out. The next show is Oct. 3 featuring Norfolk band The Begats.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily (if there’s news) 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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Clarence Tilton, Pony Creek outdoors tonight; Mere Shadows, Las Cruxes, Dead Letters (ex-Protoculture) at Reverb Saturday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 1:00 pm September 18, 2020
Mere Shadows plays Saturday night at Reverb Lounge.

It’s been about six months since I wrote a weekend shows preview; it seems like six years. There are two actual live indie shows happening — one tonight and another tomorrow, each showcasing a venue that’s making its way through COVID-19.

Tonight is the premiere of The Slowdown’s outdoor concert series I mentioned in yesterday’s blog. It’s a joint effort with the folks from the Maha Festival and is being held in the parking lot behind the Slowdown. Indie country rock/alt-country band Clarence Tilton headlines. Pony Creek opens the hootenanny with an early start time of 6:30. $15. Don’t forget your mask. Read all the COVID rules for entry right here at the Slowdown website.

The Slowdown fall outdoor concert series continues Saturday afternoon with Rhythm Collective, Ro Hempel Band and Dereck Higgins. $15.

Tomorrow night (Saturday) I’m planning my return to Reverb Lounge for the first time since COVID to see the new, improved bar/venue. They’ve blown out the walls of the old music performance space to make Reverb one large open music venue/bar.

The remodeled club has been operating since the end of last month, but tonight is the first indie show they’ve booked since their return. Headlining is Mere Shadows, a post-punk 4-piece framed by the twin guitar attack of John Kestner and guitarist/vocalist Michael Johnson.

In the center slot tomorrow night at Reverb is Las Cruxes, the Spanish-language punk outfit that’s releasing a new full-length on cassette tape from CINTAS in Mexico and digitally from Afonico/Sony U.S. Latin in the states.

Get to Reverb early Saturday night (show starts at 9) for the stage debut of Dead Letters, a new project from Koly Walter (Well-Aimed Arrows, The Protoculture) with Brian Byrd (Well-Aimed Arrows) and Mark Johnson (Places We Slept). Koly is always entertaining and full of surprises.

You get all three bands for $7. Due to COVID, all shows at Reverb are seated and the club will only be at 25% normal capacity, which means you may want to get your ticket in advance. Of course masks are required everywhere except when seated at your table.

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 (if there’s news) 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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.