Ten Questions with Tobin Sprout (@Reverb Friday); Unsane, Ocean Black, Blondie, Garbage tonight…

Category: Interviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:49 pm July 19, 2017

Tobin Sprout and his band plays Reverb Lounge Friday, July 21.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Most know Tobin Sprout as a former member of seminal indie band Guided by Voices. Alongside Robert Pollard, Sprout gouged a unique pattern into the surface of indie rock for more than a decade, eventually splitting with the band only to return to the GBV fold from time to time.

As a solo artist, Sprout continues to create his own, unique style of rock that combines the tunefulness of The Beatles and The Byrds with modern lo-fi garage rock. His latest album, The Universe and Me (2017, Burger) — his sixth solo album and first in seven years — is a gorgeous collection of songs that rocks with a child-like winsomeness that cloaks sober topics that range from superheroes to life after loss.

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

1. What is your favorite album? 

Tobin Sprout: I don’t have one.

2. What is your least favorite song?

“Send In The Clowns.” Makes me want to rip my skin off.

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

Playing live and recording.

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

The driving mostly, but I’ve learned to relax and enjoy the time.

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

Beer, Miller Lite but I’m starting to change to Amstel Light, but it can be skunked sometimes. Also like Leinenkugel Summer Shandy. Good beer when cutting the grass.

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

We’ve had all great shows on this tour. Brillobox in Pittsburgh comes to mind. Real small club but packed. Johnny Brenda’s in Philly. Great stage, crowd. Big Room Bar in Columbus, Asheville Mothlight. So many cool clubs. Did a daytime outdoor show in Memphis that was really fun. River Series. Love The Cactus Club in Milwaukee. Across from At Random

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

Maybe Cincinnati, first show of the tour. Low turnout but thought it was a good show.

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

At times; make my living through art, too. Between the two I do pretty good. Been self employed from about the early ’80s. So it took to my early 30’s to make a living with art and music.

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

Stand up comedy maybe, Although I think my wife Laura would be better at it than me.

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

Mutual Of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom with Marlin Perkins. Liked watching that show way back when.

Tobin Sprout plays with Elf Power Friday, July 21, at Reverb Lounge, 6212 Military Ave. Tickets are $13 Adv./$15 DOS. For more information, go to onepercentproductions.com

* * *

There’s a couple big ones going on tonight.

Nineties noise-rock superstars Unsane play at Slowdown Jr. tonight. The band is known as much (or more) for its gruesome album covers as its music. Opening is local sludge rockers Ocean Black and Fashion Week. 8 p.m., $18.

And then there’s the big Blondie / Garbage concert at Stir Cove. As much as I love Blondie, I can’t think of a more miserable time than standing around a huge crowd with a heat index of over 100 (and you’re talking to a guy who loves the heat). Show starts at 7.

* * *

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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Mousetrap, featuring Matt Bowen; Matt Pond PA, Guided By Voices tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 1:21 pm May 14, 2014
Matt Pond PA plays tonight at The Waiting Room.

Matt Pond PA plays tonight at The Waiting Room.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Well, the election results are in and it looks like Nebraska lost again.

In other news…

Mousetrap bassist Craig Crawford tells me that due to a scheduling conflict drummer Colby Starck is unable to make the trip to Omaha for the Punk Rock Reunion show Saturday night at The Waiting Room. Filling in is none other than Matt Bowen. Recognizable as one of your favorite bartenders at The Waiting Room, Bowen’s legend is long and includes stints in The Faint, Commander Venus, Lullaby for the Working Class, Race for Titles, not to mention Magic Kiss (the precursor to Tilly and the Wall (It’s a long story)) and most recently The Third Men. Bowen is rehearsing with Crawford and Mousetrap frontman Patrick Buchanan as we speak.

By the way, it’s been confirmed that Fischer no longer is on the bill for Saturday night’s show. The line-up as of now is Bullet Proof Hearts, Mousetrap, Cordial Spew, RAF, The Broke Loose and Drop a Grand. Tix are $10 adv/$12 DOS.

* * *

Good ol’ Matt Pond PA returns to Omaha, this time to The Waiting Room tonight. Joining him is The Lighthouse and The Whaler. $12, 8:30 p.m. start time.

Also, tonight’s Record Club at the Shop @ Saddle Creek features Guided By Voices’ seminal 1992 release Propeller. 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.

Also tonight, Zach Short plays at Slowdown Jr. with Blue Bird and Matt Whipkey. $7, 9 p.m.

* * *

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.


Column 337: MAHA 2011 Had Everything (Except the Crowds) — the review, the numbers, the postmortem…

Category: Blog,Column,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:45 pm August 17, 2011

The MAHA Music Festival, Aug. 13, 2011
by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

The weather was perfect. The bands were awesome. And the crowd was… well, it could have been bigger.

The final “official” head count, according to MAHA Music Festival organizer Tre Brashear, was 4,000, “slightly down from last year.”

A disappointment, and yet, by all other accounts, this year’s MAHA, held last Saturday at Stinson Park in Aksarben Village, was a success, certainly from a fan perspective. I realized this about 15 minutes into Guided By Voices’ set, standing in a crowd of T-shirts and sunscreen and Coors Lites snuggled in red Kum & Go koozies, the sun just peeking over the western horizon after a long day of warm light, slight breezes, temperatures in the upper 70s — a perfect day weather-wise. By all accounts, by everyone I spoke with, MAHA was flawless. The bands and the stages and the sound were fantastic. You could not have asked for anything more… except, of course, for more people.

The review: In addition to Guided By Voices, which flawlessly tore through a set of their finest (“14 Cheerleader Coldfront,”  “I Am a Scientist” “Hot Freaks,” “The Official Ironmen Rally Song,” you know, the classics), the other main stage standout was — strangely, unexpectedly — J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. Seated with an acoustic guitar on his lap, looking like a worried Mr. Natural in nerd glasses, long gray hair blowing in the afternoon breeze, Mascis leaned forward and played a blistering set that drew from his solo work and D. Jr. catalog, highlighting his intricate, ornate, gorgeous guitar work. His voice, a craggy, weary, heart-broken moan, sang of personal yearning while his guitar didn’t gently weep, but soared. Undeniably beautiful, but at the same time, desperate and utterly depressing. By mid-set, it was actually bringing me down.

Mascis was quite a contrast to what came right before it — So-So Sailors on the “second stage,” located to the left (south) of the main stage and sounding somewhat better, thanks to an easing of volume and the natural earth barrier behind it. You could argue that the main stage sounded slightly overblown, overdriven, just plain too loud. By the end of the evening my voice was ragged from having to scream to talk to the person standing right next to me (no matter where I stood in the Stinson compound).

So-So Sailors was the second stage’s highlight, along with Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship, which has people asking if they’re the best unsigned band in Nebraska. The other local stage highlight was Lincoln instrumental prog act Machete Archive, a band perfectly suited to cover Rush’s 2112 if only one of them knew how to sing. OEA talent show winner The Big Deep and Lincoln electronic dance/groove act Somasphere rounded out the “little acts.”

Cursive crowds the stage at MAHA.

Cursive crowds the stage at MAHA.

Des Moines’ The Envy Corps launched the “big acts” on the main stage shortly after 1 p.m. to a smallish crowd that was still 10-fold larger than the typical early afternoon crowd at last month’s multi-million dollar Red Sky Festival. The Reverend Horton Heat followed with an omnibus career-spanning set of indie rockabilly. Local superstars Cursive, featuring original drummer Clint Schnase, was the most bombastic (and loudest) of the day. To me, it was worth thirty bucks just to hear them do “The Martyr.” So-called “headliner” Matisyahu’s electronic reggae rap closed out the evening to a dwindling crowd (despite the half-priced beers).

Overall, a great day in the park for any indie music fan. Still, “from an ‘economic’ perspective, the day was just OK,” Brashear said. “We had good ticket numbers, but we found that people didn’t stay for the whole day, which hurt our food/beverage/merch sales. People came just for RHH, or just for Cursive and GBV, or just for Matisyahu.” The “coming and going” is likely a symptom of MAHA not being a true “festival” — a multi-day event where people have to commit (due to traveling and camping) to stay for the duration. For MAHA to expand to something like that next year (and yes, there will be a “next year”) the festival will need to find a “presenting sponsor,” which it lacked this year.

Maybe the day’s biggest winner was Stinson Park. “The fans LOVED it,” Brashear said, “but (we’re) not sure what Aksarben Village thinks about us.” He said more volunteers were needed for after-show clean-up. “We had too much mess left over when the Farmer’s Market started the next morning.”

Guided By Voices after sundown at MAHA 2011.

Guided By Voices after sundown at MAHA 2011.

Then there’s Aksarben Cinema, who I’d been told was livid after discovering during last month’s Playing With Fire concert, also held at Stinson, that they had some sound “leakage” problems that caused Harry Potter fans to experience Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings from their theater seats. The buzz Saturday was that the theater, which is the central village draw, was going to put its foot down for future festivals.

During Matisyahu’s set, I walked over to the theater and chatted with the kind gentleman stationed at the ticket-tearing gate and asked if they’d had any noise complaints. He said a couple patrons mentioned something, but that was about it. He suggested I find out for myself. “The auditoriums closest to the park are probably 5 and 6,” he said. “Pop in and see.”

So I did. The Smurfs movie was playing in No. 5. I stretched my eardrums as much as I could, and thought I heard something, maybe a low rumble, but I couldn’t be certain. No. 6 was seating for Harry Potter. Pre-movie commercials and music were playing. Again, I heard nothing. Matisyahu wasn’t “Cursive loud,” but they were certainly earplug loud.

Instead of fighting it, the theater needs to figure out a way to tie into MAHA, that is if it’s held in the park next year. If it were up to the fans I spoke with, it would be. They all said they preferred Stinson’s cool grass lawn to the sun-baked concrete slab of Lewis & Clark Landing. But for MAHA to grow into a real multi-day festival, it’ll need to find some place even bigger and better than both those locations.

* * *

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 © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Lazy-i Interview: Guided By Voices’ Tobin Sprout; Introducing ‘From the Vault’ (with Carsinogents); Dntel tonight…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:49 pm August 10, 2011

Guided by Voices Classic Lineup

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

When the Guided By Voices reunion tour was announced in June 2010, Matador Records deemed the band’s configuration “the Classic Lineup.” Even the GBV logo was reworked in the same colors and font as Coca-Cola, another American classic.

It was the perfect moniker for a lineup that drove GBV’s mid-’90s golden era — frontman/singer/songwriter Robert Pollard, guitarist Mitch Mitchell, drummer Kevin Fennell, bassist Greg Demos, and Pollard’s partner in crime, guitarist Tobin Sprout, who penned such GBV classics as “Awful Bliss,” “Atom Eyes” and “It’s Like Soul Man.”

For the uninitiated, a quick GBV career summary: It started when grade school teacher Pollard got together with friends from a number of local Dayton bands and jammed in his garage. From 1986 through 1993 the band put out seven recordings, none of which caught the ear of anyone outside southern Ohio.

After ’93’s Vampire on Titus was released on Scat Records, music insiders began figuring it out. Following a series of New York shows, the band began to attract an interesting group of fans, including The Breeders, Thurston Moore, Peter Buck, Peter Wolf, Ray Davies and the Beastie Boys.

Then in ’94, the year of Kurt Cobain’s death and the beginning of the end for grunge, along came Bee Thousand, GBV’s homemade opus that positioned the band as indie rock legends. Pollard and Sprout had an uncanny ability to write short, sweet pop songs with hooks that you couldn’t get out of your head. Sprout’s 4-track recordings ushered in what would come to be known as the “low-fi” craze. Suddenly, for better or worse, hiss-filled CDs that sounded like they were recorded for about $10 in someone’s basement “studio” were all the rage among indie bands. Sounding good meant sounding bad.

During this era, the classic lineup would make some of GBV’s most famous recordings, including PropellerBee ThousandAlien Lanes and Under the Bushes Under the Stars.

But all good things come to an end, right? GBV split up in ’06. Pollard went on to a solo career. So did Sprout, who was also nurturing a fine art career and a family. And that, it seemed, was the end of the GBV story.

Until this reunion, but even that has to end sometime. The band’s appearance at the MAHA Music Festival this Saturday at Stinson Park will mark the third-to-last show of this reunion tour.

We caught up with Tobin Sprout to find out what happens next:

Guided by Voices' Tobin Sprout, circa 2010.

Guided by Voices' Tobin Sprout, circa 2010.

How did the “Classic Lineup” happen? What convinced the band to get together for these shows?

Tobin Sprout: Matador asked us to reunite for their 21st Anniversary show in Vegas (2010).  After that was announced we were getting offers from all over the country to play, so we ended up doing a 21-city tour.  Then added New Year’s and other weekend shows.  We have four more shows to do ending in September, about a year from the time we started the reunion. It was sort of the plan to put it to rest after a year.

What’s it been like playing with Bob and the rest of the band again?

It’s been good; everyone is having a great time, picking up where we left off.

What have been the best and worst parts about this tour?

The best part is playing in GBV again, I never thought for any reason it would happen.  But Matador gave us an opening and we just have gone with the flow.  It has been great to be with the band and see the fans again.

Flying is the worst part. It never really used to bother me, but now it does, not really for the danger because it’s safer than driving, or even the high up in the air part, just the checking in, waiting, waiting, checking, sitting in a very small area. Maybe I’m becoming claustrophobic.

Guided by Voices, Bee Thousand (Matador, 1994)

Guided by Voices, Bee Thousand (Matador, 1994)

Have you ever talked about writing and recording new GBV material?

Yes, we have talked about it, and you never know it could happen. The reunion happened.

Within the past three or four years, there has been a revival of garage bands, and certainly a lot of these up-and-comers have been influenced by GBV. The GBV set was singled out as one of the best at the Pitchfork Music Festival. What’s it like knowing that your music is having an impact on a different generation?

Glad to hear Pitchfork said it was one of the best. It was considered by NP (defund them) R, as one of the worst shows in Seattle.  If we help carry and pass the torch, that’s great. It’s all about the songs. There are people in every generation that seem to get that.

How has being in a band changed since the early ’90s?

Cell phones, laptops, e-mail have made touring seem a lot easier — being able to stay in touch with home and not have to deal with finding a phone (that works), phone cards, etc. I can always be reached now.

What advice would you give those just starting out?

I would say if this is what you want to do, write songs, and write songs.  Then go on tour and play them, and don’t sign anything until you have your lawyer look at it.

Guided by Voices at Sokol Underground, April 8, 2000.

Guided by Voices at Sokol Underground, April 8, 2000.

What are you going to do after the tour ends? Are you working on any solo material or with another band?

I’ll be working on my art, music and painting.  Bob and I might do an art show together; right now it’s being called “The Big Hat And Toy Show.” No date has been set, and I will also need time to get more work together.  (I’m) also writing more on my book, Elliott — April and Elliott, the story continues.

Your paintings are amazing. Will you now refocus your efforts on your fine art?

Thanks, I never really lose focus.  I still manage to paint and write between shows, and I’m always making notes, and sketching ideas in my head on tour.

Will GBV ever reform again for another tour?

I don’t know.  Maybe

Finally, what should we expect from GBV when we see you at the MAHA Festival?

The Big Hat And (Amazing) Rock Show, for all the great Omaha and visiting GBV fans, and fans to come.

Guided by Voices plays with Cursive, J Mascis, Matisyahu, The Rev. Horton Heat and The Envy Corps at the MAHA Music Festival, Saturday, Aug. 13, at Stinson Park in Aksarben Village, 67th & West Center Rd. Gates open at noon. Tickets are $30; $35 DOS. For more information, go to mahamusicfestival.com.

Story originally published in The Reader Aug. 10, 2011. Copyright © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

* * *

So here’s the deal: While plugging away at a history project of my own, I got lost in the catacombs of old articles and blog entries that make up 13+ years of Lazy-i.com. Narcissistic? I suppose. It dawned on me that no matter what history is written, there will always be things that fall between the tracks that should be remembered. And that’s where “The Lazy-i Vault” comes in, a new blog feature online once a week, usually Tuesday or Wednesday, that takes readers back to something that happened in Omaha/Nebraska indie rock history, as reported in Lazy-i. It could be a news item, it could be a show review, it could be an interview. It’ll be followed by a brief “so what happened”-style update. It’ll usually be just a brief snapshot taken from the past, like this one:

From Lazy-i Vault, Aug. 10, 2000: The Carsinogents will be trotting out a new bass player when they open for the all-girl band, The Pindowns, this Saturday, Aug. 12, 2000, at The 49’r. Vocalist Dave Goldberg said Marc Phillips will be taking over for Mike Ivers, who recently left the band. The Carsinogents also will be playing a show at The Ranch Bowl Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2000, with the Young Hasselhoffs and The Cuterthans.

Goldberg said the band has completed recording a 5-song EP at Rainbow, produced by Dan Brennan of Red Menace fame. “We’re currently sending it to various labels and people with connections,” Goldberg said. “Ideally, someone will pick it up and put it out. We’re very eager to tour.” FYI, for those who are on the fence as to whether to hit that 49’r show, Goldberg said The Pindowns perform in Catholic school girl outfits and have played a party for cinematic hero Ron Jeremy.

Back to the present: I don’t know if I made it to either of those shows, but I’m sure they were ones for the ages. Carsinogents never did much touring before the band split up a few years later. Goldberg got more than his share of roadwork as a member of Box Elders. You can catch his new joint, Solid Goldberg, Friday night at O’Leaver’s.

* * *

Tonight at Slowdown Jr. it’s Dntel (James Scott “Jimmy” Tamborello of Figurine and Postal Service fame) along with One AM Radio and Geotic (Will Wiesenfeld of Baths). According to One AM’s publicist, “all three acts remixed each other, Will has played on The One AM Radio’s latest LP, and Jimmy and Hrishikesh (of The One AM Radio) go way back after meeting through the dublab community up in LA.” Expect to see more than just three guys sweating behind a bank of electronic equipment. Probably. $10, 9 p.m.

* * *

Tomorrow: The final word from MAHA before MAHA…

* * *

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 © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.



Column 320: MAHA Vs. Red Sky, local stage considerations and the end of battle of the bands? (Keen)x5 tonight…

Category: Blog,Column,Interviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:49 pm April 27, 2011
Last year's MAHA Music Festival, July 24, 2010

The scene moments after the start of last year's MAHA Music Festival, July 24, 2010

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

This week’s column was posted at thereader.com yesterday morning, which is a bit out of the norm, but understandable concerning the “newsiness” of the topic. Here are a few more notes from the interview with MAHA Music Festival organizer Tre Brashear that didn’t make it into the column, which also follows below. If you haven’t read the column yet, scroll down and read it first, then come back up for the following addendum:

— The MAHA team is considering changing its process for selecting bands to play the local stage and dropping its “battle of the bands” format. “We are considering selecting all the bands to play MAHA this year and not having a battle of the bands approach,” Brashear said. “However, we haven’t decided yet on whether to make that change.” Regardless, MAHA will continue to host local showcases leading up to the Aug. 13 festival.

— In addition, festival organizers are considering moving the local stage from the embankment just west of the main stage to somewhere where the sun won’t be burning the patrons’ retinas. “We know that people have objections to how our local stage has been set up the past two years and are looking at alternatives and what those alternatives would cost,” Brashear said. “However, people should know the configuration of the Landing limits our options, especially since we need to keep the stages relatively close together so that we can use the same equipment for both.” Just moving the stage to the east side of the main stage would be a big improvement.

— The problem of having the Red Sky Festival flopping its 6-day-wide ass smack in the middle of July is not going to go away for MAHA. Red Sky will be around for years whether it sells tickets or not. Brashear said the MAHA team will address the scheduling problem after this year’s event concludes. “The Landing is a pretty popular place in the summer and there aren’t many open dates, so moving the date could require us to move the venue,” Brashear said. “However, since this is our first year on ‘this date,’ we don’t want to read too much into scheduling conflicts without getting more information.” The plan had always been for MAHA to grow into a multi-day event that includes camping options for travelers, making it a sort-of Midwestern Woodstock. With Red Sky nesting at TDAmeritrade Park, perhaps MAHA can find a home at the brand new Werner Park in Sarpy County, where there’s plenty of space for camping in adjacent fields.

And now, more Brashear comments about MAHA in this week’s column….

* * *

Column 320: Guided by Voices, Cursive, Matisyahu to Play 2011 MAHA Music Festival

by Tim McMahan

The news is in the headline, exactly as it was announced Monday night.

To reiterate: This year’s MAHA Music Festival, to be held Aug. 13 at Lewis & Clark Landing, will feature among its main stage bands Guided by Voices, Cursive and Matisyahu. Take a moment. Breathe deep. Soak it in.

When you consider what the MAHA folks are now up against, not the least of which is MECA’s 6-day, 3-stage, infinitely budgeted, exempt-from-failure, yet-to-be-announced Red Sky Festival, one can only bow one’s head and tip one’s hat that they were able to pull off such an impressive line-up.

Considered an originator of ’90s low-fi indie rock, for this tour Guided By Voices boasts a reunion of its “classic mid-’90s lineup” — Robert Pollard, Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell, Kevin Fennel and Greg Demos. Cursive is one of the original crown jewels of the Saddle Creek Records triumvirate that included The Faint (who played MAHA last year) and Bright Eyes. Finally, there is Matisyahu, an American Hasidic Jewish reggae superstar. And that’s just the beginning. There will be at least three more bands named for the main stage, as well as a second “local stage.” All for a discount price of $30, three dollars less than last year’s ticket. Let’s face it, GBV alone is worth the price of admission.

For Tre Brashear and the rest of the MAHA organizers, the announcement is a triumph that comes at the end of a long winter and spring of frustration. This year’s booking process began in mid-January, a month after Red Sky announced its monstrosity at the brand new TDAmeritrade ball park, forcing MAHA to move its date to mid August instead of the festival “sweet spot” of July.

“It has been more difficult this year,” Brashear said of booking MAHA. “The change in date has been a problem, and I’m not knocking Red Sky in saying that.  It’s just a fact.  The weekend we moved to is in direct competition with Outside Lands in SF, Way Out West in Sweden and Summer Sonic in Japan.  Combine that with the fact that lots of artists head to Europe in August because that’s when the European festival schedule starts up and it has meant that quite a few of the performers that we would like for MAHA simply weren’t available.”

Then there’s the fact that Omaha has become a virtual runway for big name national indie acts thanks to One Percent Productions (who helped book MAHA) and venues like The Waiting Room and Slowdown. “Artists like The Decemberists, Iron & Wine, New Pornographers, who would be perfect for MAHA, are already coming through this area for a routed show,” Brashear said. “Then you throw in the increased interest Stir Cove has shown in booking indie acts and you end up with lots of challenges in booking for MAHA.”

Stir Cove, which is part of the Harrah’s Casino money-printing factory in Council Bluffs, already has announced big draws The Black Keys, Flaming Lips and Mumford & Sons among its summer series lineup. Another prized act, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, has been snagged for the final Playing with Fire series July 16.

But the perceived 10 million pound gorilla has always been Red Sky, despite conventional wisdom that RS will target the same stale acts that MECA books for the white elephant currently called The Qwest Center. Indie will likely be completely off the Red Sky radar. In fact, other than the date change, Brashear wasn’t sure of any Red Sky impact. “When you are told an artist isn’t available, you’re usually not told why,” he said. “So we won’t know if those ‘not available’ responses were Red Sky related until after they announce their lineup.” An announcement that could come in days, or weeks.

If Red Sky was never interested in indie, why bother changing the MAHA date? “We never considered keeping the date we had originally,” Brashear said. “First of all, we use MECA parking lots for MAHA parking.  Second, we would have had to fight with them for publicity.  Third, we don’t think our sponsors and donors would have appreciated us engaging in a ‘battle’ with Red Sky.”

No doubt. MAHA has done an amazing job holding onto — and growing — its primary sponsors. “TD Ameritrade and Kum & Go are returning as our main and local stage sponsors, respectively,” Brashear said. “Also, McCarthy Capital, Alegent Health, Proxibid, Centris, the Owen Foundation and Stinson Morrison Hecker are returning as sponsors (as is Weitz Funds). Our new sponsors this year include Whole Foods, HDR and Walnut Private Equity.”

It’s those sponsors, along with last year’s attendance numbers, that helped drive the ticket price down to $30 this year. “Since we are a nonprofit organization run by volunteers, making as much money as possible has never been our focus or intent,” Brashear said.

If there’s a criticism to be leveled at the “so far” line-up, it’s the age of the acts themselves. GBV’s heyday was in the ’90s. Cursive’s biggest-setting album was released eight years ago and Matisyahu’s breakout album was released in 2004. The thought that MAHA could be considered an “oldies” indie festival hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“We are constantly evaluating our demographics and whether our lineup is too old, too male, all of that,” Brashear said. “We want our lineup to be a good cross-section of all things indie, so to do that well, we’ve got to feature ’emerging’ national acts.”

Which is exactly what MAHA is targeting for the final three main stage bands. Who knows when that announcement will come. Until then, MAHA can take pride in already having landed the best lineup for any local festival in 2011.

Tix go on sale this Saturday for $30 at etix.

* * *

I generally don’t hype Lincoln shows because, well, they’re in Lincoln and I’m here in Omaha. The exception is when the show is particularly exceptional, like tonight’s “World’s Hardest Working Musician (Darren Keen)” show at Duffy’s. The lineup is five different Keen projects — The Show is the Rainbow, High Art, Touch People, Darren Keen and the Fellowship of the Ring and Bad Speler — with DJ Darren Keen filling in the holes between sets — all for just $5 starting at 10:30. It’ll be Keen’s last performance as a bachelor, as he’s getting married this weekend. In fact, he’s about to kick off  a 10-month “Honeymoon Tour” that will take him around the world three times with each of his one-man bands. That tour starts May 20 with The Show Is the Rainbow’s Tickled Pink CD release show at Bourbon Theater.

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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 © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Guided By Voices, Cursive, Matisyahu to play 2011 MAHA Music Festival

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 10:00 pm April 25, 2011

by TIm McMahan, Lazy-i.com

MAHA Music Festival organizers named the first three main stage acts for this year’s event, slated for Aug. 13 at Lewis & Clark Landing — Guided by Voices, Cursive and Matisyahu. Sayeth the MAHA press release:

Recently reunited with its “classic 1993-1996 lineup,” Guided By Voices is universally regarded as one the greatest indie bands of all time.  The band’s 1994 album Bee Thousand was ranked number one by Amazon on its list of the “100 Greatest Indie Rock Albums of All Time,” Spin magazine listed the record as one of the “Top Records of the Past 25 Years” and Paste magazine named Guided By Voices’ frontman, Robert Pollard, as one of the “100 Best Living Songwriters.”

Named the “most intriguing reggae artist in the world” by Esquire magazine, the Grammy-nominated Matisyahu will be the final performance of MAHA 2011 so that his performance will occur after sundown and comply with his devout religious beliefs. Last, but certainly not least, the inclusion of local favorite Cursive continues MAHA’s tradition of featuring artists responsible for creating the indie music scene for which Omaha is now internationally recognized.

Tix are just $30 and go on sale Saturday…

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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 © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.