Review: Eleanor Friedberger’s Rebound…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , — @ 12:45 pm May 1, 2018

Eleanor Friedberger, Rebound (2018, FrenchKiss)

by Tim McMahan,

Q1 2018 record reviews continue. Read them all here at The Reader website.

Eleanor Friedberger, Rebound (FrenchKiss) — The former Fiery Furnaces’ frontwoman’s solo debut Last Summer was a fave of 2011, but the follow-ups have been mostly yawners. This synth-heavy collection is loaded with simple, sing-along pop ditties like the sun-shiny “Make Me a Song” and “The Letter.” The arrangements are so simple they sound like demos, with rhythms akin to beat box programs, but Friedberger’s sweet coo keeps you listening. Drops May 4.

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Friedberger’s on tour, but her closest pass is Kansas City’s Uptown Theater May 23.

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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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Gone Fishin’; congrats to Film Streams; what am I missing?; Eleanor Friedberger Saturday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 11:58 am February 24, 2016

IMG_1521by Tim McMahan,

Nothing quite like the static buzz of bad smooth jazz played over an airport terminal intercom system to excite you about travel.

It’s vacation time. Lazy-i will be dormant until next week as the staff goes on a well-deserved vacation.

In the meantime, let’s all bask in the news that broke this morning about Film Streams taking over the Dundee Theater. It’s hard to believe its been nearly four years since I broke the story about the theater’s proposed remodel in The Reader. Now we’ll have to wait a couple more long years for the remodel to be completed, but it’ll be worth it.

Anyway, back to topic at hand.

I picked the right week to leave town as there aren’t a lot of shows happening in my absence. The only ones I’m sorry I’m missing:

Eleanor Friedberger is headlining at Reverb Lounge Saturday. Her new album, New View (2016, Frenchkiss Records) is a return to form for the former Fiery Furnaces front woman. I saw her play at SXSW and it ended up on top of my list for performances that year. Brooklyn band Icewater opens. $13, 9 p.m. and well worth it.

Milk Run also has a few interesting shows this week:

A new Dereck Higgins project called Chemicals plays Milk Run tonight with Steve Nichols, Kyle Jesse, and Ben Eisenberger.

DWNR plays Milk Run Thursday night with Bourgeois Girl, Ordinary People, and No-Getter.

Then Sucettes play Milk Run Friday night.

Saturday night Clarence Tilton headlines at The Barley Street with Sam Cassidy, and 24 Hour Cardlock.

Then Sunday, Wolf Eyes plays at Reverb with Timmy’s Organism and Video. It’s a Third Man Records showcase. $10, 9 p.m.

That’s all I got as I wait for my plane in Atlanta. Have a great week and we’ll see you on the other side.

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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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


News bits: Crooked Fingers, Eleanor Friedberger, Tindersticks; iji (Team Love Record) tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 1:55 pm November 16, 2015
Crooked Fingers at Frank, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Crooked Fingers at Frank, SXSW, March 16, 2012. The band announced a forthcoming reissue of their first two albums.

by Tim McMahan,

Sleepy Monday after a sleepy weekend. I’ll use my time today to share some email/press release stuff that just hit the in-box.

— Our old friend Eric Bachmann today announced that Merge will reissue the first two full-length Crooked Fingers albums Jan. 29. We’re talking Crooked Fingers’ 2000 self-titled debut (featuring a swan on the cover) on vinyl with six bonus tracks, and 2001’s Bring on the Snakes, also on vinyl plus bonus demos of each track. Wonder if a tour will be announced?

— Today Press Here PR announced that Eleanor Friedberger has a new album coming out called New View on Frenchkiss Jan. 22 and is headed out on a tour, whose dates include a Feb. 27 gig at Reverb. She’s pretty fantastic in concert, so this will be one you’ll want to put on your calendar. Check out the first single from the new album, below:

— Kind of old news but interesting nonetheless: ’90s chamber-folk band Tindersticks has a new album coming out Jan. 22 on City Slang called The Waiting Room. I lost track of these guys a decade ago, but the memory of their ’93 debut album still haunts me. They’ve put out a record as recent as 2013, which flew completely under my radar. Based on this first track from the album,  their sound hasn’t changed much in 22 years.

— BTW, I’m currently absorbing new releases by Drakes Hotel, Anna McClellan and Flight Metaphor, among others, and will report back with reviews in the near future. With fewer shows going on these days, I’ll have more room in Lazy-i to do album reviews. Keep watching.

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Tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s it’s Team Love Records artist iji. Opening is Crypt Kid and Ebony Goddess Wanted. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


The Full Monty: Three days of SXSW coverage, all on one page…

The enormous crowd at Stubb's watching Fiona Apple during SXSW 2012.

The enormous crowd at Stubb's watching Fiona Apple during SXSW 2012.

by Tim McMahan,

Below is my full coverage of last week’s trip to Austin for the South By Southwest Music Festival. All of this content first appeared at last week, so if you’ve been clicking over to that site daily, you’ve read this already. For those who didn’t click over, here it is in its entirety. Sit back with a sandwich and enjoy all 5,000 words of it.

A 1,000-word wrap-up also will be printed in this week’s issue of The Reader, along with my weekly column that looks at an alarming new trend at rock shows. The new issue will be on news stands Thursday.

Day 1: Wednesday, March 14, 2012.

I promised myself that I wasn’t going to kill myself this year at SXSW, but the way I felt this morning, I think I’m doing a pretty good job of it.

We got into Austin early yesterday afternoon, which I figured would mean an abbreviated show schedule. But no. We still had time to see nine bands. That’s the amazing thing about this festival and why I keep coming back year after year despite the obvious toll it’s taking on my body — you can see the hottest, most talked-about bands the same day as you get to see some all-time classics, sometimes in clubs literally next door to each other.


After a lightning fast registration process (SXSW has figured out how to get you in and out of their convention center with a badge around your neck in less than 15 minutes) it was off to the first band: Nashville garage trio The Ettes at The Ginger Man, a dark, cozy out of the way club on 3rd Street that opens to a sweet hidden patio performance area in the back. People were lined up along benches facing the stage waiting for the overcast 3 o’clock sky to burn off whatever cloud cover had hung around from the morning. We wisely had “blocked up” before leaving the Hyatt Regency — overcast skies can be deceiving, and misreading them can mean a week of skin-peeling pain.

Despite having a tough(er) garage punk sound, The Ettes will never be able to shake their “cute factor” with adorable little Lindsay “Coco” Hames at the lead, with a sassy voice bordering on boopsy at times (but more Patsy at most), as well as her stage mannerisms, which are just plain endearing, even when she’s calling out someone in the crowd from Boston with “I’ll tell you about it after the set.” Countering her cuteness was the vicious cool of drummer Maria “Poni” Silver, who looked like she could take you AND your buddy in a fight, and look damn good doing it. Rounded out by red pants wearing bassist Jeremy “Jem” Cohen, they were one snarling unit, as Hames sweetly barked “I’m not not not not not going to break your heart.” What a way to kick things off.

Next on the list was Thee Oh Sees at Red Eyed Fly, one of a batch of clubs that sit about a block north of 6th Street along Red River, where arguably all the best clubs are situated. I saw the line snaking from the door into the street and asked fellow Omahan Mike Tulis (you’ll always run into a lot of local folks at SXSW) ‘what was the deal?’ He said it was the holdout line for a reunion performance from the classic ’90s band The Wedding Present.

Glancing at my watch, I knew we’d never make it inside in time for Thee Oh Sees, so we walked down the street to Austin favorite Mohawk Patio not knowing who was playing. Look, you can’t schedule every move of your SXSW experience or you’ll miss most of it. Go with the flow, baby. Have fun, that’s what this is all about.

On stage was a tall black guy standing alone torturing an electric guitar Prince-style backed by prerecorded tracks — your typical one-man band shtick. The Xeroxed band list next to the beer cabana said the band was Blood Orange — never heard of them. But a quick google later and I recognized who I was looking at. It was Dev Hynes of Lightspeed Champion, all growed up. I’d interviewed Dev for my column in The Reader way back in 2007 when he was in town recording a Lightspeed album with Mike Mogis at ARC Studio. Our interview back then concluded with a trip to Crossroads Mall, which was in the same state of decay as it is today.

Now here was Dev, easily a foot taller and looking like a college fullback despite wearing the same geeky round glasses that he wore while shopping in Target all those years ago. He apparently had turned his back on Lightspeed’s chamber pop for something more rock, soul and funk based that could turn into an astringent guitar solo at the turn of a dime. Despite his appearance, his high croon hadn’t changed. The packed crowd on the patio ate it up, grooving to his pre-recorded beats.

About halfway through the set and in the middle of a song, Hynes stopped. “I’m sorry, I know I’m just one guy on stage, but do you think you could wait until after I’m through with my set before you start loading in?” he said to either the stage grips or the band guys who had been fumbling around on stage behind him while he played. “I mean, what the f***? I’ll be done in 20 minutes.” The crowd applauded in approval, while the grips slunk off stage and Dev started back up again, finishing the song by jumping off stage and playing a solo in the middle of the crowd.

It was after his set that we got our first celebrity sighting. While sitting on a retaining wall that surrounds the patio, a small crowd formed around Dev, literally at our feet. Running up and giving him a big hug and a hello in her pseudo British accent was none other than fashion model Alexa Chung host of 24 Hour Catwalk, another in a long series of Project Runway-style reality shows. Okay, okay, maybe I should have said it was a “Lifetime TV celebrity” sighting.

We made our way back down Red River, past the still snaking line in front of Red Eyed Fly and stumbled into the darkness that is Beerland, a club that doesn’t “participate” in SXSW, instead hosting free shows all week long. On stage was the band with the festival’s possibly most offensive name, Puffy Aureoles, a HoZak Records punk band that in addition to sporting a hard garage sound also sports a saxophone. Frontman Teets took a moment between a couple rumbling songs to say something like “You’re gonna get a better show in here than in there,” referencing the Wedding Party show next door at Red Eyed Fly.

He was wrong. When we got out of Beerland we noticed that the line had shrunk to maybe a half-dozen people being let into the Wedding Present show on a one-in one-out basis. Thinking it may be the only time that I’ll get to see this amazing band, we took a chance and got in line and were rewarded with some witty-ness by the doorman, who looked like a ginger Scotsman. As we got closer and closer to finally getting inside, a guy in his 40s walked up to complain. At first I thought he was the doorman’s mate, but then he started getting in his face about how “he was from Austin, man, and I work in television and I know what you’re doing. I can see that there’s plenty of room in there. You’re on some sort of power trip. If you don’t let me in I’m going to post about this on my Facebook page.” We all busted out laughing as the doorman told the guy to f*** off and leave. The small crowd began to clap, and the doorman said “Dude, they’re clapping for me, not you.” The whiney Austin TV man scowled and eventually slunk away.

We got in seconds later, in time to catch most of The Wedding Present‘s set, and it was as if time had stood still for British frontman David Gedge. He looked and sounded as he did in the ’90s, despite being in his early 50s. I only own one Wedding Present album, 1994’s Watusi, but loved it then and love this band now. If you’re going to do a reunion, you best do it like this, without missing a single, stripped down, bass-fueled, cocksure, angular beat.  Someone bring them to Omaha, please.

Looking at the schedule, the next natural stop was Fiona Apple at Stubb’s, the huge outdoor stage just a street away from where we were. Though the set wasn’t supposed to start until 7:45, there already was a huge line for badge holders at 6, waiting to get in. But seeing as my back and feet were already killing me, it gave us a chance to sit down on the curb and recover while waiting in line. Within a half hour, the line was literally a half-mile long, stretching three blocks behind us cross a street and up and over a hill. Meanwhile, a second line almost a long stretched down the street — this one for people with wrist bands, not badges. People’s oh-shit reactions when they turned the corner and saw the huge lines were priceless.

Well, they began letting us in at 7 and we were in the door by 7:10 and so was everyone else. Stubb’s must hold more than 2,000 people, judging by the size of the crowd. At 7:45 she came on stage backed by about 5 people, including a keyboard player, and began braying through her set. I’ve never been a Fiona fan, but she plays so rarely I figured I’d be crazy not to catch her set, and besides, I really wanted to see the band that followed her.

It was the same flaccid Fiona I remember from the ’90s, a woman who I always thought got by more on her looks than her talent. Her music had more in common with wonky Broadway show tunes than rock, fueled by awkward arrangements and her own awkward stage presence, though the crowd absolutely loved her.

The second she got off stage there was a mass pilgrimage to the door, which was fine by me. I walked right down by the stage and got ready for Sharon Van Etten, who I’d really came to see. Backed by a small four-piece band and with guitar in hand, she performed a stunning set of indie folk reminiscent of Chan Marshall (Cat Power), but with better melodies. When I turned around after the first couple songs, I noticed that the place had filled back up to capacity, this time for an artist that deserved the attention.

Getting near 10 p.m. the streets were beginning to fill with the crazies. I took a quick stroll to nearby Elysium to try to beat the crowd for Zola Jesus, and got right in to see Philly drone band Amen Dunes, whose sound can best be described as Lithium-fueled underwater buzzcore rock sung by a team of tribal shamen. Actually, not bad if you’re into Nyquil rock.

But nothing compared to Zola Jesus, perhaps the most hyped indie band since, well, Lana Del Ray, though LDR has managed to leverage her hypeness into international fame. Zola Jesus is merely creating a rather massive cult of followers who view her as a second coming, and after last night’s gig, may be onto something.

Frontwoman Rosa Danilova is an indie Gaga — slight and almost fragile, wearing a ghost-white silky one-piece translucent draped dress, the tiny woman explodes into stage calisthenics the minute her band breaks into their dreamy, almost spiritual post-ambient rock that features synths, guitar and fantastic drums, while Danilova croons and prances on stage. I’ve heard her and her music compared to Cocteau Twins, and that did come to mind, though sonically there really is no similarity. Danilova, however, is amazing to see and hear on haunting songs that have a tendency to blend together, though it only makes the songs that stray from the formula shine even more.

I talked with fellow Reader music writer Chris Aponick during her set, asking how he thought she’d draw in Omaha. He thought she’d never sell out The Waiting Room, and pointed out there’s a reason why she’s only played down in Lawrence. He was right. As amazing as Zola Jesus is, the band is a hidden commodity in Omaha except for diehard indie fans, record store geeks and music writers. At least she is right now. I have no doubt that she could blow up as big as LDR if she ever got her break on SNL.

Finally at midnight, I made my way up to the 18th Floor of the Hilton Garden Inn and caught a solo acoustic set by ’90s indie rock legend Freedy Johnston. Freedy used to be one of my favorites, and his albums from the ’90s are still heard often in my car and earbuds. Despite my love for his music, I’ve never had a chance to see the former Lawrence-native play live, until last night.

There he was in the corner of the hotel’s sky lounge surrounded by rows of chairs and a crowd of 50 that was a mix of older people and a handful of young hipsters who knew a good thing when they heard it. Johnston complained of a rough throat and apologized for his voice throughout the set, but he sounded just fine to me as he played through the favorites including “Evie’s Tears” “Bad Reputation” and one of my all time faves, “Trying to Tell You I Don’t Know,” from his breakout album Can You Fly. It was a sweet way to end a sweet day in Austin. Check out the photos from Day 1.

Day 2, Thursday, March 15, 2012.

Another day of bands, but better weather at South By Southwest 2012. Let’s get right into it.

Typically, covering SXSW means a lot of walking around. There’s this falsity that all the venues are located along 6th Street aligned one right next to the other like a perfect string of pearls. In reality, SXSW venues are scattered across 100 square blocks in downtown Austin, with a few located even further away, including across Town Lake and on the east side of I-35. We’re talking miles and miles of walking.

But sometimes (if you’re lucky) you can cut down on the legwork if one, two or three bands are scheduled back to back at the same venue. Sponsors know this, which is why they schedule as many top acts as possible for their “day parties,” figuring you’ll say “fuck it, let’s just stay here,” when the band you came to see finishes their set.

For example, I kicked off yesterday afternoon by going to the Pandora day party at Antone’s, where I hoped to catch a set by Neon Trees. Since I knew that NT is currently trending, I got there early not knowing who was on the schedule. The name Incan Abraham didn’t ring a bell. The LA-based 5-piece (which appears to genuinely be unsigned) is one of the many new bands that have decided it would make good business sense to sound like Vampire Weekend. At one point during their set I wanted to yell, “Play something off Contra,” but that wouldn’t have been nice. Besides, no one was there to see them, anyway.

Half the crowd was there to see the next band, Neon Trees. This Provo-based band of Mormons (all are LDS members, according to Wiki) has the distinction of having one of the best frontmen in the business — the amazing Tyler Glenn. The second this guy takes the stage in his faux hawk and gold leather pants you know he meant business, and if you don’t, he’s going to let you know right to your face. Rarely has a frontman tried so hard to make a connection with his audience doing everything except pulling them on stage with him. He’s an in-your-face rock version of American Idol with a wicked sense of humor that will help him immensely when he reaches his final destination in Las Vegas. Pure showman.

As for the music, well, it sounded like someone grew up listening to The Cars, along with more modern pop like The Killers, a band who helped Neon Trees get signed to Mercury. You might have heard their music on Buick commercials, and something tells me they’ll be selling a lot of other stuff in the future. They’re a good time band that demands audience reaction, even if it’s 2:30 in the afternoon. Some did. Most did the ol’ standing-hump dance. Of note, Omahan Neal Duffy runs their sound. It was nice to see a friendly face behind the sound board. By the time you read this, Duffy will be headed back home, his tour of SXSW over, for now.

I said half the crowd was there to see Neon Trees. The other half was there for Glen Hansard of The Frames, The Swell Season, and the hunky leading man and Oscar winner for the music in the 2007 film Once. I didn’t know Hansard was on the slate at Antone’s, and was pleasantly surprised. He did about a half hour of fantastic personal folk, including the song “Gold” from Once, just him and his worn-to-shit acoustic guitar.

Hansard’s between-song patter is good enough for the stand-up circuit. He used it to coax Tom Meny onto stage, a YouTube musician who has covered one of Hansard’s songs online, which Hansard said was better than his version. He wanted him to sing it, but before he started, Meny whispered into Hansard’s ear that he’d forgotten the words! Instead, Meny added some tasty harmonies and told the crowd before he left the stage, “You’ve all experienced the best day of my life” — a touching moment.

Well, I couldn’t hang out at Antone’s all day, could I? Next it was off to the Mess With Texas party at the 1100 Warehouse, located on the east side of I-35 on 5th St. Getting there was an adventure involving crossing many lanes of live traffic with no stoplights (though a friendly cop helped us at one intersection). This event used to be held in a park just north of 6th St., but somehow they lost the rights to use the property. Unfortunate, because to say the airplane-hangar-sized metal-roofed warehouse had poor acoustics would be showering it with praise.

We waited about 10 minutes in the sweltering tin can for Cults to take the stage, and when they did, we held on for about three songs. Worst acoustics I’ve ever heard at SXSW; a waste of time for the bands and its fans. If that’s the best place Mess With Texas could find to host their day party, they’re better off not hosting one.

After the long hike back to 6th Street we set the bands aside and splurged on a sit-down meal at Annie’s on Congress Ave. and then went back to the hotel to watch some March Madness. Look, my non-stop days are over, folks, I’s gots to get some rest. And the way my night ended up, I’m glad I did.

I headed back out at around 9 to catch Secretly Canadian band Gardens & Villa at Mohawk Patio. The Santa Barbara band’s standout quality is a frontman that plays a variety of bamboo flutes (but not exactly in a Jethro Tull sort of way). With a regular drummer and a guy on an electronic drum kit, the band has more than a passing resemblance to Yeasayer, though not nearly as hippy-ish (even with the flutes).

From there, I figured I could sneak in a set from Grimes at the Central Presbyterian Church — yes, you read that right, it’s a big frickin’ church a block off of 6th Street that hosts shows for SXSW. Once inside, the kind-faced volunteers — obviously members of the church’s congregation — were selling coffee, scones and bottled water. They shepherded us into the main church and told us to take a pew. I wandered up to the balcony instead, and moments later (and what was 10 minutes ahead of schedule) a woman on stage asked to kill all the lights. The band that I thought was Grimes was, in fact, electronic duo Purity Ring who played a haunting set lit only by colored electric lanterns made all the more dramatic from the church’s spooky confines (which, btw, had remarkably good acoustics).

So apparently the church’s schedule was way behind, and there was no way I was going to be able to stick it out for Grimes because I had to get in line if I wanted to see The Jesus and Mary Chain at The Belmont at midnight.

I’m happy I got there when I did, at around 11, because I only had to wait in line for about five minutes. Once inside, it was a crush mob that would only become more crushing as the night went on. So packed were we that I could not raise my hand to scratch my nose without hitting the guy or woman standing next to me. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to hold this sardine pose for a full hour, not knowing that I’d have to do it for two-and-a-half hours. Good thing I took a leak at the church.

Before Jesus and Mary Chain it was a set by Titus Andronicus, who I didn’t recognize because frontman Pat Stickles had shaved off his wilderness beard, making him now look like Matt Whipkey’s long lost twin brother. I’ve seen Titus a number of times. They’re known (and proud) of their marathon-length songs, some of which are more than 10 minutes long and just seem to stretch on pointlessly forever, especially last night. No one wants to hear a 15-minute song about your eating disorder, Patrick, especially one with a repeating chorus that goes “Spit it out.” I will say this, it took cajones the size of melons to take a gig where everyone in the audience just wants you get off stage as fast as possible, and instead play these long, boring songs.

Finally, at around 12:30, Jesus and Mary Chain took the stage and played a ton of my favorite songs and a few I never heard of, one after another for over an hour. The Reid Brothers may be older, but they haven’t really lost any of their style. Jim’s voice is distinctively lower and grainier, but still has that thing that makes it unique. Meanwhile, brother William slouched off to the side with his axe and blew us all away with the shear volume of it all. As it stands, that was the highlight of my SXSW…. so far. Check out the photos from Day 2.

Day 3: Friday, March 16, 2012.

I’m writing this at 30,000 feet above some place between Austin and Omaha where dinosaurs once roamed the earth before the great Ice Age wiped it all away, long before anyone cared about weeklong music festivals in Austin, TX.

I recently had a conversation with another Omaha music critic who was giving me grief for skipping the last day of SXSW. “Why would you want to miss Saturday? I don’t get it.” Look, I said, I’ve never stayed in Austin for more than three days, ever. After three days of running around from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. listening to bands, I’ve had more than my fill, thank you very much. I see between 25 to 30 bands over those three days. If you haven’t gotten what you need from the festival by then, you’re not trying. But that’s just me.

Day 3 started with a show sponsored by The Google on top of a parking garage just north of 6th St., providing gorgeous views of the chaos down below. The wind it did blow, and the sun it did scorch as Saddle Creek band Two Gallants took the stage sounding just like they did the last time I saw them a few years ago, before the duo went on hiatus, released their respective solo albums (to crickets) only to get back together again. Nothing had changed with their old-time ship-shanty folk rock sound. As always, when you hear one of their familiar tunes, you nod and say, “Aw right,” but if it’s a new song, well, you just want to get through it, especially after the 6-minute mark. Here’s yet another band that would improve immensely if they shaved three minutes off each song.

Like yesterday, I had no clue who else was playing the Google stage, and was pleasantly surprised to discover next up was Grimes, the “band” I went to see at the Presbyterian church the day before, but missed due to scheduling issues. On stage was pixie-ish DJ/vocalist Claire Boucher, working electronic backing tracks and singing one-woman-band style. Grimes’ music is brittle electronic dance stuff cast with a gothy Japanese sheen, thick deep beats balanced by her cooing voice. Later in the set a guy/person added even more percussion, but despite the head-bouncing beat, few (if any) were dancing. By the time I left, the half empty parking lot was really beginning to fill in, ballooning for day-party headliner The Shins, who would play in a few hours. Ah, The Shins. No thanks (though I liked them the first time ’round).

Instead it was across town to the coolest bike store I’ve ever seen — Mellow Johnny’s. In addition to having a gigantic selection of bikes, Johnny’s boasts a ton of apparel, a coffee shop, and for this week, a stage, where red hot Brooklyn punk band The Men (not to be confused with androgynous dance band MEN) played an afternoon show for about 50 fans and bike enthusiasts. The band is riding a wave of rave reviews, including a Pitchfork “recommended selection.” And I would add my name to that list for those of you into chunky Bad Religion-style rock. They’re loud and fast and raw, with dueling guitar riffs and a couple solid vocalists/screamers. But like a lot of bands in this genre, it all begins to sound the same after three songs.

The first part of my last evening in Austin was dedicated to the Saddle Creek showcase, held at a 2nd St. BBQ restaurant called Lambert’s. Whenever I tell someone I’m headed to SXSW, they always say, “Man, you’ve got to check out the Omaha bands and see how well they translate to an out-of-town crowd.” That would be a good idea, except every time I’ve seen an Omaha band in Austin, the crowd consisted mostly of Omaha people who made the trip. Such was the case last night for Icky Blossoms. I looked around and felt like I was watching a show in O’Leaver’s or The Waiting Room. There even was some guy I didn’t recognize wearing a Waiting Room T-shirt. Needless to say, the audience of 50 or so was gracious with its applause, and, in fact, IB put on a sterling set, especially for playing at a rib joint.

We left a couple songs into Big Harp’s surprisingly loud and rowdy set so we could get in line to see Eleanor Friedberger at the Merge showcase just a couple blocks away at a hot dog joint called Frank. I figured we’d have a hard time getting in, especially since their showcase capper was Bob Mould performing Sugar’s Copper Blue album, so I was surprised when they waved us in with our badges — no line at all. The cool little restaurant (everything is cool in Austin) never got crush-mob crowded, which is either a testament to the current state of Merge Records or the fact that Snoop Dog was performing across the street.

After a day of ear-bleeding noise, it was a treat to hear Friedberger do an intimate solo acoustic set. She’s a modern-day Joni or Janis (or Bowie), but with a self-assured lyrical voice that’s never cloying. This night she seemed distracted and slightly annoyed, and inasmuch said so during her set, telling the crowd that she’d been complaining just a little earlier, but that she was over that now. Her songs can be sad, but are sung with a voice laced in persistence, sounding not so much an optimist but rather a survivor. And I was literally standing right next to her.

So here was the sitch — Friedberger sang at around 8:45. Mould wasn’t scheduled to perform until 12:30. I could either leave and try to get back in and also risk being stuck way behind a roomful of pumpkin heads, or I could just hang out at Frank all night and soak in the other Merge artists. Easy choice.

I missed The Love Language to go upstairs for a chili dog and basket of waffle fries, but came back down for Crooked Fingers. In addition to once releasing a solo album on Saddle Creek, frontman Eric Bachmann has the distinction of (at times) having a voice that’s a dead ringer for Neil Diamond. Another distinction is his hulking 6-foot-8 frame that makes him resemble a Viking farmer in a trucker cap. With a solid backing band and a rack filled with guitars, Bachmann and Co. ripped through a set of folk rockers that at its finest moments recalled Richard Thompson. Again, I was literally right in front of the stage, and did my best to slump down so as to not block the people behind me.

I moved back a couple rows for the next act — Imperial Teen, a band that’s been around literally forever, and by that, I mean since the ’90s. Despite that, I knew virtually nothing, which resembled a group of schoolteachers (I would later find out that one of the guys was former Faith No More keyboardist Roddy Bottum). Don’t let appearances fool you — they rocked like The Pixies but without the pretention. I will now be searching out their catalog.

Finally, it was time for Bob Mould. He was preceded on stage by a crew of grips rolling in a stacks and stacks of Marshall and Orange gear, piled along the rear of the stage. Mould strode in with his classic blue Fender and began plugging in the pedals. The last time I saw him perform he was strapping young, clean shaven rocker. These days he looks like a wizened college professor or scientist, sporting a gray beard and extra pounds around the middle. With no fanfare, he looked over at bassist Jason Narducy (Telekinesis, ex-Verbow) and drummer Jon Wurster (Superchunk) and said, “I guess let’s just go” and tore into the opening chords of “The Act We Act,” the first song on Copper Blue. The crowd, of course, exploded. Mould sounded fantastic, his guitar work as lethal as ever, his voice achingly familiar. From there it was right into “A Good Idea,” “Changes” and “Helpless,” one after another. Unreal. Every one a heartbreaking anthem. And being performed about 10 feet in front of me.

After “Hoover Dam,” he stopped to explain how the show was a last-minute thing, how he’d just signed a deal with Merge the week before, and how the only thing left to do on the new album (slated for release this fall) was to record the vocals. With that, the band played what I assume were a couple new songs from that album, which were stunning. So no, this was not a performance of Copper Blue in its entirety (merely side one). However, after the last song, Mould came back out for an encore of “I Can’t Change Your Mind” that blew the place away. Mould clearly was having the time of his life, and so was the crowd, making it the high point of my SXSW 2012 experience.

It was well past 1:30 when I left the club. When I walked out, there was no less than 50 uniformed police officers in what looked like riot formation standing in the middle of Colorado Street, cop cars with lights flashing bordering either intersection. The moment felt tenuous and chaotic. I asked a guy what was going on, but all he said was, “Man, this is typical South By.” And with that, I headed back to Congress Ave. and my hotel, keeping my head on a swivel for whatever was going to happen next. Nothing did.

So much for South By Southwest for 2012. The old guys — Jesus and Mary Chain and Mould — were the standouts this year, though performances by Sharon Van Ette, Zola Jesus, Neon Trees, Eleanor Friedberger, Grimes and our very own Icky Blossoms were also on top of my list.  And you’re goddamn right that I’m coming back next year. Check out the photos from Day 3.

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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 © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.



SXSW Day 3: Bob Mould, Grimes, Icky Blossoms, Eleanor Friedberger, The Men, Crooked Fingers, Imperial Teen, Two Gallants…

by Tim McMahan,

Just like yesterday, click here to read my recap of Day 3 at SXSW at FYI, the festival is closing out today, even though I closed it out yesterday (three days is enough). So go read, then come back and check out my photos from Day 3. I’ll be posting all three day’s worth of write-ups here at Lazy-i on Monday.

Two Gallants at the 9th & Trinity parking garage, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Two Gallants at the 9th & Trinity parking garage, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Grimes at the 9th & Trinity parking garage, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Grimes at the 9th & Trinity parking garage, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

The Men at Mellow Johnny's Bike Shop, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

The Men at Mellow Johnny's Bike Shop, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Icky Blossoms at Lambert's BBQ, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Icky Blossoms at Lambert's BBQ, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Big Harp at Lambert's BBQ, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Big Harp at Lambert's BBQ, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Eleanor Friedberger at Frank, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Eleanor Friedberger at Frank, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Crooked Fingers at Frank, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Crooked Fingers at Frank, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Imperial Teen at Frank, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Imperial Teen at Frank, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Bob Mould at Frank, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Bob Mould at Frank, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Bob Mould at Frank, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

Bob Mould at Frank, SXSW, March 16, 2012.

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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 © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Future Islands; Column 348: 3Q CD Reviews; Conduits tonight…

Category: Blog,Column,Reviews — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:44 pm November 3, 2011
Future Islands at The Waiting Room, Nov. 2, 2011.

Future Islands at The Waiting Room, Nov. 2, 2011.

by Tim McMahan,

Decisions, decisions… Of the two, Real Estate was probably the hottest ticket of the night last night (from what I’ve been told, it was the bigger draw); but to be honest, their latest album (despite the raves) left me cold, and judging from their YouTube stuff, I was afraid of getting a run-of-the-mill “stand-and-play” performance.

Which is exactly what I didn’t get from Future Islands. I don’t think any of the 30 or so people at The Waiting Room expected what they got from frontman Samuel T. Herring. Never mind that the trio’s music, half of which was pre-recorded samples (including the synth-drum-percussion), is like an homage to early Factory Records / New Order dance tracks — dramatic and fun. It was Herring that was the centerpiece, an absolutely mesmerizing frontman intent on connecting with the audience eye-to-eye from the stage.

He looks like a young Streetcar Brando combined with Deliverance Burt Reynolds and Kirkian Shatner, but with the intensity of a Rollins or Morrissey. He owned the stage like a Shakespearean actor performing a spotlight soliloquy with a voice that ranged somewhere between Richard Burton, Pee Wee Herman (in la-la-la-la mode), a monster and Billy Idol. Like a caged gorilla pacing with knuckles dragging on the floor, Herring leaned down trying to glean any sort of eye contact from anyone who would look at him, shifting from one to one to one to one. Dramatic, and the stage lighting only added to the drama — colored floor-mounted flood lights (think Mercy Rule but with colored gels).

But then between songs, Herring turned into a bro’ just chilling with his roomful of new friends, laughing and talking about the road and how much he loved being on stage (despite, he said, his recent misgivings about performing). Charming. While all this was going on, keyboardist Gerrit Welmers and bass player William Cashion were stone. They never cracked a smile or changed expression. Welmers merely stared straight-faced at his battery of synth/computer equipment, poking out melodies while Brando pounded his chest and slapped himself in the face and bounced on all fours and held his hand skyward as if singing to a Hamlet skull or to an invisible moon. You can tell this guy was once an art student — or a closet thespian.

One of the best performances I’ve seen this year.

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Column 348: Third Quarter Reviews Roundup

Just like when Christmas decorations begin popping up at your local grocery store, critics know they’re on the home stretch when record labels begin sending out reminders of releases to consider in their year-end “best of” lists. Ah, but it’s still only November. We’ve two months left for records to hit the shelves (digital or otherwise). That said, I think we’ve probably already heard the best of ’11. Below are some of the third quarter releases that have been burning up my earphones. Who knows if any of them will make the “best of” final cut. By the time we find out, the labels will be lauding the first releases of 2012, and the grocery stores will be replacing those Christmas decorations with Valentine’s Day candy

A.A. Bondy, Believers (Fat Possum) — The former Verbena frontman may be best known as an opening act for Bon Iver a few years ago. Since then, Bon Iver has ascended to indie rock sainthood, while Bondy continues to toil in the clubs, waiting for the attention he deserves. With a voice strangely resembling Jackson Browne’s, Bondy’s music is a moody midnight throb headed to 3 a.m. all alone. There’s a simplicity in the music’s loneliness — both in sound and lyrics — that his fellow loners will find both familiar and comforting. Inspirational lines like “You didn’t know there was a killer inside / Won’t get to heaven tonight” from the title track are part of the reason why I like this better than Bon Iver’s latest (Sacrilege!). Who knows, maybe someday Bon Iver will open for Bondy (though he won’t be when A.A. Bondy plays at The Waiting Room this Friday night. You should go.).

Eleanor Friedberger, Last Summer (Merge) — Has the distinction of being the first album I purchased after discovering it on Spotify (Merge doesn’t send me promos, the cheap bastards). Those who expect the wonky art rock of her main gig, Fiery Furnaces, are in for a big surprise. Friedberger has left the proggy chord/key changes behind for a collection of songs that are SONGS, complete with melodies and choruses and playful lyrics that bounce atop piano chords, hand claps and the occasional sax riff. I’m reminded (strangely) of smart, laid back Hunky Dory-era David Bowie. My wife thinks she sounds like Carly Simon. She might be right (again). Has the distinction of being one of the best records of 2011.

PUJOL, Nasty, Brutish, And Short EP (Saddle Creek) — Saddle Creek surprised all of us when it announced it signed this Nashville phenom back in August. Who was PUJOL? The only thing we knew was that Jack White liked him and that Nashville Scene called him “The Socrates of the house show circuit” (whatever that means). Creek’s first stab at releasing anything resembling garage, PUJOL embraces a ’60s psych aesthetic on this slim 7-song collection that clocks in at just under 18 minutes. Its stripped down, grinding guitar rock owes a lot to early Beatles and is oh so catchy, probably the catchiest thing the Creek has released since… well, ever.

Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks, Mirror Traffic (Matador) — With all the Pavement reunion talk earlier this year, a few of us were worried that Malkmus may be leaving his solo work behind. Silly rabbits. After a couple brilliant out-there releases (’08’s Real Emotional Trash, ’05’s Face the Truth) Malkmus returns to the more straight-forward, less adventurous and more tuneful style that marked his ’01 solo debut. In fact, Malkmus always came off (to me, anyway) as a more tuneful version of Lou Reed — deceptively simple melodies that belie some of the smartest (and this time, strangest) lyrics that cynically capture a life lived in America. Now that he’s “40 with a kid / Living on the grid,” his lyrics are more obtuse than ever. You may not understand what he’s singing about, but you’ll sing along anyway.

Matthew Sweet, Modern Art (Missing Piece) — Matthew Sweet returns after… wait a minute, Sweet didn’t go anywhere. He’s been steadily releasing music on Shout! Factory since ’06, though two of the last three releases were covers albums made with Susanna Hoffs. One would think reworking all those classic hits would put the pop back into Sweet’s step. Instead, there’s a psychedelic tang and guitar-noodling quality that recall the Altered Beast years (the meandering “My Ass is Grass” and “A Little Death,” the layered, synth-symphonic title track). Still, Sweet knows his sweet spot lies in pure, sing-along tracks like the pretty “Baltimore,” and the Byrds-ish “She Walks the Night,” which he could have used more of this time ’round.

M83, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (Mute) – Sprawling, ambitious to a fault at 74 minutes, Hurry Up takes M83’s penchant for dreamy, ghostly pop and blows it up to sonic mountains. Like any great epic, it has its perfect moments, like dance floor chestnut “Claudia Lewis,” and triumphant “Steve McQueen.” But there’s also a lot of tonal fluff designed to build cinematic Tangerine Dream-flavored drama (“Another Wave from You,” “When Will You Come Home” “Klaus I Love You”) that lie somewhere between aural interlude and filler. It’s as if M83 is trying to become a modern generation’s version of The Cure, but skipped over the Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me era and went straight for Disintegration. Or maybe they’re just reversing the order. I’m willing to wait and see.

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Tonight at House of Loom it’s Conduits with Pony Wars. I was told that Loom doesn’t really have a “stage,” so it will be interesting to see how they set up the bands. If you haven’t been down there yet (it’s in the old Goofy Foot space) this would be great time to check it out. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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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 © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.