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.