A spray of show announcements (and a mystery); Death Cab for Cutie tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 8:20 am June 7, 2023
Death Cab for Cutie at Sokol Underground, May 29, 2000. The band plays The Admiral Theater tonight.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

So far it’s been a remarkably moribund year for touring indie rock shows in Omaha and it’s looking like that moribund-ity will only be continuing. There were no shows last weekend. There are no shows this weekend. If you’re an indie music fan, you’re probably starting to feel desperate. 

That said, there was a parade of show announcements yesterday that highlight Omaha’s sparkling new mega venues. Wilco will play at The Astro Oct. 23 with Nina Nastasia. In fact The Astro – the new indoor/outdoor amphitheater under construction in La Vista  – announced their “opening party” Sept. 7 will be headlined by funk band Here Come the Mummies. And, The Astro will also host the return of 311 Sept. 29. 

The Astro’s already announced shows by Dropkick Murphys (Oct. 5), American Idol performers Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken (Oct. 28), Kenny Wayne Shepherd (Sept. 24), Beth Hart (Sept. 16), Ancient Aliens Live (Sept. 21), Goo Goo Dolls (Sept. 23), Gaslight Anthem (Sept. 30) and what appears to be their inaugural show, Rick Springfield and The Hooters (Aug. 30). 

That’s a hugs spate of shows that would seem to appeal to a very broad audience – which is what a facility of this size demands.

Meanwhile, Astro’s main competition – Steelhouse Omaha – had a few announcements of their own yesterday, not the least of which was alt-rock band Queens of the Stone Age with opener Viagra Boys Sept. 19, along with two days/nights of bachelorette party bro comedian Matt Rife for seated shows Nov. 4 and 5.

There were no touring indie rock show announcements yesterday. Well, except one.

San Francisco post-punk band Pardoner saw the release of their debut album, Uncontrollable Salvation, on tiny indie label Father/Daughter Records in 2017 before being signed to classic indie label Bar / None Records, where they’ve released 2021’s Came Down Different. Their most recent release is a a three-song single, “Rosemary’s Gone,” that dropped yesterday. Their new album, Peace Loving People, drops on Bar/None June 23.

The band has been compared to acts ranging from Polvo to Dinosaur Jr. They kind of remind me of early Pavement, Pile, early Parquet Courts – you get the drift, gritty DIY-style post-punk with a heart of gold.

Anyway, yesterday I received an email from their publicist at Grandstand saying Pardoner is playing in Omaha as part of a tour that includes gigs at Empty Bottle, Replay Lounge, Hi Dive, Turf Club, the usual list of national indie rock clubs. The Omaha gig will be at American Legion July 3.

OK, there are a number of American Legion Halls, which one? I asked the publicist, who said the show has now been moved to The Blindspot, “a new all ages diy spot” located around 20th and St. Mary’s. A quick Google Maps search indicates that this is probably a house show, but the publicist wasn’t sure as he hadn’t booked the tour.

So, maybe the show’s happening. I’ve seen no other info about it, never heard of The Blind Spot, don’t know who’s actually putting it on, etc. And it got me thinking: Is this how it’s going to be from now on? This is the kind of band that a few years ago would be playing a 1% venue or Slowdown Jr. or The Brothers or O’Leaver’s or somewhere you and I recognize.

This explosion in 700+ capacity venues is great for Omaha and fans of middle-of-the-road alt rock and/or bands whose heyday was two decades ago, but for those of us who love young, up-and-coming indie acts — the kind of acts that Omaha’s music scene thrived on in the early 2000s up ’til the pandemic — things ain’t looking so good. 

I have no idea if Pardoner’s booker (who I’m trying to get in touch with) offered this show to any of the local show promoters, or if s/he even knows who those promoters are these days. But I’m starting to wonder if Omaha is becoming a blind spot (pun intended) for touring indie acts like Pardoner.  Time will tell, but a glance at the local show calendars is not terribly hopeful.

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One of those young up-and-coming bands that played Omaha countless times in the early 2000s was Death Cab for Cutie. It seems like they were gigging down at Sokol Underground a couple times a year to crowds of fewer than 200 when their first albums were being released on Barsuk Records (We Have the Facts… is still a high water mark).

Welp, Death Cab is back and they’re playing a long sold-out gig at The  Admiral tonight. If the show follows the path of last night’s gig at Riverside Theater in Milwaukee (setlist here), expect a 20-song collection of tunes that span their entire career but is heavy on songs from their most recent albums. Lomelda opens at 8 p.m. and like I said, it’s SOLD OUT.

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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.


Throwback Friday: Live Review: The Postal Service from 2003…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 10:54 am December 9, 2022
Postal Service at Sokol Underground, April 26, 2003.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Yesterday, The Postal Service and Death Cab for Cutie announced a 2023 co-headlining tour to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the release of PS’s Give Up and DC’s Transatlanticism. Ben Gibbard is in both bands.

“I know for a fact I will never have a year again like 2003,” Gibbard said in a press release. “The Postal Service record came out; Transatlanticism came out. These two records will be on my tombstone, and I’m totally fine with that. I’ve never had a more creatively inspired year.”

Exciting news, except that (of course) Omaha isn’t a stop on the tour, which plays Minneapolis Sept. 24 then veers to Denver for a two-day stint Sept. 26-27 at Mission Ballroom, leaving a wide open Sept. 25 date. Who knows why our fine city was overlooked, especially considering that Omaha was a tour staple 20 years ago for Death Cab for Cutie. I can’t count the number of times they played to a half-full (smoke-filled) Sokol Underground. And, of course, Jenny Lewis (who’s in Postal Service) practically lived in Omaha in the early 2000s when she was in Saddle Creek Records band Rilo Kiley.

Omaha, with its plethora of enormous stages, continues to be flyover country for the best indie tours.

Anyway, to celebrate another NOmaha event, let’s turn on the Wayback Machine and relive Omaha circa 2003, when The Postal Service played at Sokol Underground. I wrote a feature on Postal Service for The Reader in support of that show (which you can read here).

The openers, Fizzle Like a Flood a.k.a. Doug Kabourek is still making music. His latest release is a preview of his forthcoming LP, Black Walls and William Hall, which you can check out at his Bandcamp page. And despite an outdated Wiki entry that would imply he’s no longer around, Baltimore performer Cex continues to release music on his Bandcamp page, which, in addition to having his latest release from this past January, also includes his 2003 album Being Ridden, which he was supporting that night in 2003.

Now… let’s go back, back, back….

From Lazy-i, April 27, 2003

I was back in the country to make it to last night’s Postal Service / Cex show at Sokol Underground, but not quite in time to see Fizzle Like a Flood, who had just finished their opening set when I arrived. Sounds like I’ll get another chance to see them in a few weeks as they’re playing May 12 with Matt Whipkey’s new combo at The 49’r.

Next up was Cex. A disembodied voice said, “Don’t look up on the stage, I’m not gonna be up there anytime soon.” There he was, in the center of the floor surrounded by the audience, taunting people to come closer, “Don’t be pussies!” Cex, a.k.a Rjyan Kidwell, is a blond rap kid from Baltimore with a microphone and a laptop, who sounds like a cross between MC 9000 Ft. Jesus (who remembers that guy? I do.) and an angsty Trent Reznor. He spent the entire set in the crowd, trying to eke out audience participation with call-and-response lyrics, going as far as giving instructions before the song (“When I yell ‘I promise!’ you yell ‘We promise!'”) One guy I talked to likened him to a lite version (in every way possible) of Har Mar Superstar. I didn’t catch that at all. Sure, his electro-pulse hip-hop ditties all-too-often were sex driven, but for the most part, there was no over-the-top escapades, just Kidwell and his microphone, bouncing in the crowd, screaming into faces, trying to get a rise out of them. His 30-minute set was pleasant but not altogether very interesting. We’ve heard it all before.

Finally there was The Postal Service. The stage was adorned with a large bed sheet taped to the rafters, acting as a screen for the overhead projector mounted on the ceiling stage left. Unlike the recent Faint show, where the band’s videos were so good they totally consumed your attention, the video projected during The Postal Service’s set was little more than looped snippets that acted more like a screen saver or tonal visual backdrop — they didn’t distract, merely adding color to the sensual palette — images of clouds, people’s shoes, a microwave oven, someone drinking a pint of beer, etc. A guy was sitting just below the side of stage-left with a Powerbook, keyed up the vids for each song. Nothing really synched directly with the music, so if a song ran long, the vid could just cycle back and start over.

Enough about the visuals, the music was what the 250 were there to hear. Death Cab for Cutie fans had to be pleased. Fact is, The Postal Service sounds like Death Cab with a beat box and some female backing vocals. Gibbard consumes every arrangement he touches with his simple melodies and warm, cooing voice — one of the more distinctive voices in indie rock. As a result, it’s impossible not to make the comparison to Death Cab.

It was a long set — they played almost (if not every) song off their just released Sub Pop CD, Give Up. It felt more like a duo, with Gibbard and Jenny Lewis center and stage left playing in the dark (no stage lights to distract from the projector, hence no way to really see the band other than as silhouettes), and Jimmy Tamborello dimly glowing behind another Powerbook, its white Apple logo shining in the dark. Occasionally, Gibbard would step away from his microphone or set down his guitar and slap on a pair of headphones behind a kit and add some kicky drums, a microphone was set up next to it so he could sing along Don Henley style.

For a couple songs (the duet “Nothing Better” and the encore) Gibbard and Lewis did their best Neil Diamond / Barbara Streisand impersonations, trying to look lovingly into each other’s eyes while Gibbard did his typical, weird monkey dance thing. As they came to the last song of their set, something went awry with Tamborello’s Powerbook, who knows what. Gibbard kept apologizing about the computer losing power and saying, “That may be it, folks.” Lewis added, “That’s what you get when you use that high-tech computer shit.” No one in the audience knew what was going on — everything up to that point had sounded fine. After a few moments, they started playing again. Maybe he rebooted?

They came back for a one-song encore (“It’s all we have prepared for you”), a cover of Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds.” As you might expect, scenes from the 1984 Taylor Hackford romance were shown in the background — shots of Jeff Bridges and Rachel Ward making out on the beach and snorkeling. It started as a relatively straight-forward reading of the song, but Gibbard changed the ending, repeating “Take a look at me now” over and over into distortion — a nice moment.

Lazy-i, April 27, 2003

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No touring indie shows this weekend.

The Sydney has Lincoln instrumental band Turquoise Saturday night with Good Morning Midnight and Guilt Vacation. $8, 9 p.m.

And there’s a record show at fabulous O’Leaver’s this Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. that includes an “interactive vinyl experience.” Stop in for a drink and a cheeseburger and take home some tunes.

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.


Bloodcow launches Kickstarter (Come on, guys); Dereck Higgins’ Murphy drops; Chris Walla leaves Death Cab; HN in Turner Park (hip-hop edition); Record Club tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:47 pm August 13, 2014

Frightening screen capture from the Bloodcow Kickstarter video.

Frightening screen capture from the Bloodcow Kickstarter video.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Well, Bloodcow launched its Kickstarter campaign yesterday. They’re trying to raise $8,900 so they can release their 4th album, Crystals & Lasers, on vinyl and other formats. I know there’s some folks who are “anti-Kickstarter,” but I see it as a chance for fans to pre-order a release at a pretty decent price and get some other tchotchkes along the way.

If there’s one disappointment with Bloodcow’s Kickstarter it’s the lack of creative premiums. They’re only offering the usual war chest of goodies — vinyl, CD, T-shirt, play at your house, producer credit, etc. I was hoping for something more becoming of a Council Bluffs band of self-proclaimed Xenu followers. Come on guys, where’s the “Spend a night with Bloodcow at a classy Council Bluffs strip club” or “Have your picture taken with Bloodcow at the BLACK ANGEL OF DEATH” or “Hand-etched Bloodcow tattoo by artist Karl Nicholason” or “Guest role in Aaron Gum-produced drag queen video” or “An actual Bloodcow” (I’m not sure what that is).

Without those, I’ll probably just go in at the vinyl/t-shirt level. You should, too. Check it out.

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Dereck Higgins, Murphy (self-release, 2014)

Dereck Higgins, Murphy (self-release, 2014)

This morning Omaha songwriter/musician Dereck Higgins (InDreama, Strange Attractors)  posted a link to his latest release in Bandcamp, Murphy, the follow-up to his Flyover Country album. Higgins says he might release the all-instrumental Murphy on vinyl late this year or early next year. The record is named after a buddy Higgins knew in high school who had a party spot along the Elkhorn River. Check it out.

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Death Cab for Cutie announced on its website today that longtime member Chris Walla is leaving the band. No reason was given for his departure. This Saturday’s Maha Music Festival will be among the last times you’ll be able to see Walla on stage with the band. DCFC also announced that its new, yet-to-be-titled  album has been recorded with producer Rich Costey (Mew, Interpol, Cave In) and is slated for release in early 2015. Wonder if they’ll be playing any of the new material on Saturday?

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The second in Hear Nebraska’s Live at Turner Park concert series is tonight at 6 p.m. and features local hip-hop artists AZP and BOTH. The concert is free and a fun way to check out Turner Park’s new concert stage. Find out more here.

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Also, tonight’s Record Club at the Shop @ Saddle Creek features Death Cab for Cuties’ seminal 2003 release Transatlanticism. Record Club is a chance for folks to get together and listen to an album in its entirety, then discuss it afterward. Fun! The needle drops at 7 p.m. More info here.

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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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Death Cab, Aimee Mann headline Maha Music Festival; Record Store Day, Tokyo Police Club, Kweller Saturday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 11:19 am April 18, 2014

maha2014by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Ah, Maha…

The line-up for this year’s Maha Music Festival (for those of you who were out of town or away from their computers over the past 18 hours) was announced last night at O’Leaver’s. I told you there was going to be some surprises.

The headliner is Death Cab for Cutie. They’ve been touring through Omaha for more than a decade, since they were a little band on Barsuk Records playing to small crowds at Sokol Underground. Now they’re a festival act. One could argue they peaked with 2003’s Transatlanticism record. Their last album, 2011’s Codes and Keys, was nominated for a Grammy, but I’m only listening to it for the first time this morning (It’s pretty good, btw). Their last time through Omaha was in, what April 2009 for a gig at The Holland Center?

No, Death Cab would not have been my choice for a headliner. Their stand-and-play live shows are in direct contrast to last year’s Maha headliner in every way imaginable. Whereas Flaming Lips are known for their amazing stage shows (and last year’s was indeed spectacular), I’ve never cared for their music (Yes, that includes Yoshimi and Soft Bulletin, which I recently pulled out and still can’t get into). To me, Wayne Coyne has effectively compensated for boring music with eye-popping staging. On the other hand, Death Cab’s live performances can be mind-numbingly boring, but their music is sublime (to me anyway).

Summarized: I’d rather see a Lips show but listen to Death Cab music. Who knows, maybe Death Cab will come up with something interesting for Maha’s stage.

The Head and the Heart is a good genre match for Deathcab. The band sold out The Waiting Room back in October 2011. The review is here, wherein I described the performance this way: “The six-piece band was joined by a chorus of a few hundred who sang along to almost every song, sounding like a warm ocean lapping gently on the shores of the band’s acoustic folk. I haven’t heard so much singing since Dashboard Confessional circa 2003, only these songs weren’t cheesy heartbreak anthems sung by children. Instead the crowd was mostly in their mid-20s, with more women mixed in than I’m used to seeing at typical indie rock shows. Credit the nature of their music, which is more soothing than rousing, though it had its moments of exultation.”

H&tH’s latest record, 2013’s Let’s Be Still, is indeed quiet and…soothing.

Last time I saw Local Natives was at a sold out Waiting Room show in September 2010 (that review here). Like Head and the Heart, they’re a “vibe band” that plays vibe music rather than songs — perfect for a pretty summer night under the stars. Their latest, 2013’s Hummingbird, sounds a lot like the last Head and the Heart record.

Then comes what — for me — is Maha’s headliner. The Both.

The Both is Aimee Mann and Ted Leo. Mann is one of my all-time favorite artists. My love of her music began with the soundtrack to 1999’s Magnolia, a movie that had a profound effect on me as much for her music as the story on the screen. After seeing that film I ran out and bought the soundtrack (though 2000’s Bachelor No. 2 contains the best songs from that record), and Mann’s earlier albums, ’95’s I’m with Stupid and her debut, ’93’s Whatever.

It’s hard to separate Mann from the producer of those albums, the genius that is Jon Brion. She went on to release a number of consistently good records with a different producer, but only occasionally reached the heights of her earlier work (but they’re still worth seeking out).

Mann is a perfect match for Ted Leo (of Ted Leo and the Pharmacists), a performer I’ve wanted to see booked here for many years. Leo’s 2010 album The Brutalist Bricks (Matador) was one of my favorites from that year. Seems like the last time I saw Leo was back in November 2003 at Sokol Underground, though he’s been through Omaha since then (including (I think) in 2008 with Against Me?). Talk about your high-energy performers.

I haven’t heard anything from The Both except their Tiny Desktop concert. Their debut album came out Tuesday on Mann’s SuperEgo Records. Check out the first single, “Milwaukee” via this soundcloud link.

While the other three acts alone will make for a successful Maha this year, The Both is the act that will make it special, for me anyway.

The rest of the line up is a mixed bag of bands that includes a few I’d never heard of or listened to before, like indie hip-hop act Doomtree and St. Joe punk band Radkey. The Envy Corps has played in Omaha a number of times. Twinsmith is the latest signing by Saddle Creek Records and Matt Whipkey is a local legend. M34N STR33T is another up-and-coming hip-hop act that’s played around a lot, but who I haven’t caught on stage.

I’m told there could be more bands named to this year’s Maha Music Festival, but by itself this an impressive line-up. Tickets to the Aug. 16 show (once again at Stinson Park in Aksarben Village) are on sale now for $50. VIP tix are still available. More info at the Maha website.

Maha 2014 Lineup from Maha Music Festival on Vimeo.

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It was interesting watching the reaction to the Maha announcement on Social Media last night. For every three people on Facebook or Twitter that applauded the line-up, there was one that went out of his/her way to complain.

Not surprisingly, the people who bitch most about the Maha lineup have never been to a Maha Festival and will never go to a Maha Festival. Their idea of a perfect festival line-up either: 1) involves bands that no longer exist/have been dead and/or retired for decades; or 2) involves bands that would take Lollapalooza money ($500k+) to book, or 3) involves bands so small and obscure they wouldn’t sell out Slowdown Jr. let alone The Waiting Room, or 4) are “genre” bands that don’t fit into the Maha theme, such as Country acts, goth-metal-goon bands, or straight-up pop acts. These folks also seem to require that every band on the line-up be one of their favorites.

Maha’s focus has always been indie/CMJ-style rock, the kind of music Omaha and Nebraska used to be nationally known for. The people bitching the most about Maha are people who hate that kind of music. Why waste time/energy bitching when you knew this was the kind of line-up Maha has booked in the past and always will book? If you prefer goon rock, go to one of the many goon rock outdoor concert/festivals that 89.7 The River hosts every year. If you like black-leather garage rock, go to Gonerfest — the Mecca of garage rock festivals (It’s on my punch list). If you like C&W headliners, check out the CenturyLink or Pinnacle arena schedules. If you can’t get over the fact that “your music” from your era is “so much better than today’s music,” then save up your money and travel to wherever “your bands” are playing reunion shows.

One guy online, who recently moved to Los Angeles and now regularly bashes Omaha whenever he can, commented that he sees “better bands in LA on a given weeknight that you’re getting at Maha.” My response: I have no doubt that’s true. The mistake you made was not moving to LA years ago. While we’re sad that you moved away and miss you, it pains me more to know that you wasted so many years of your life in Omaha instead of being where you CLEARLY belong. And btw, we already knew you weren’t going to Maha to begin with.

I hate when people move away. But more than that, I hate hearing them continue to bitch about Omaha after they’ve left. We get it. You hate Omaha. That’s why you moved away. All you’re doing when you bitch about Nebraska from your new homes in Denver or Portland or Austin or NYC or California is making yourself look like an asshole.

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Holy shit this is a long blog post. Let’s get to the weekend.

Tonight at The Waiting Room Satchel Grande is having a CD release show. I didn’t even know they were working on a new album. Opening is Buck Bowen (with Jazz Trio). $7, 9 p.m. This will be a big show.

Down at Slowdown Jr. Barsuk Records artist Say Hi headlines with Melbourne duo Big Scary. $12, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, at fabulous O’Leaver’s, The Brigadiers headline with The Sons of O’Leaver’s and the return of New Lungs (DMax and Co., welcome back). $5, 9:30 p.m.

Tomorrow is, of course, Record Store Day. I covered it in detail Wednesday (here). The highlight will be the Almost Music Day Party, which starts at 11:30 and runs ’til 7:30. The line-up is here (and it says there will be food and drink). It’s free. Go. And don’t forget to go to Homer’s, Saddle Creek Shop and Drastic Plastic and buy plenty of vinyl.

Saturday night former Saddle Creek band Tokyo Police Club headlines at The Slowdown with Geographer and Said the Whale. $15, 9 p.m.

Finally, 2010 Maha Festival performer Ben Kweller headlines at The Waiting Room Saturday night with See Through Dresses. $15, 9 p.m.

Did I miss anything? 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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.