Live Reviews: Super Ghost, Blue Bird, Record Store Day (Wagon Blasters), Jake Bellows, Ladyfinger, Soft Moon…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:08 pm April 20, 2015
Wagon Blasters at Almost Music on Record Store Day, April 18, 2015.

Wagon Blasters at Almost Music on Record Store Day, April 18, 2015.

by Tim McMahan,

Three nights of music this week. I’m definitely NOT getting too old for this shit.

Andy Norman of Hear Nebraska suggested I check out Super Ghost, who recently played a Hear Nebraska / Urban Outfitters in-store. I’d never heard of the band, but since they were attached to Friday night’s bill at The Barley Street featuring Blue Bird, I figured I might as well stick around.

It’s been maybe two years since I’ve seen Blue Bird. Back then, their sound was folksy Americana, fronted by Marta Fiedler with Carrie Mardock. Carrie’s gone, replaced with Rebecca Smith. So is the band’s original sound. They’ve shifted to poppier, synth-driven music (two keyboards), more modern and more interesting. Fiedler does a fine job with the leads, but the band as a whole lacked energy. The performers got into position and stayed there, motionless the entire set. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, though it added a static quality to the proceedings. What are they supposed to do, jump around and high kick like Matt Whipkey? No, but when they stand like statues you can’t help but feel they’re just going through the motions whether they are or not, which is a pity considering the music’s colorful energy.

Super Ghost at the Barley Street Tavern April 18, 2015.

Super Ghost at the Barley Street Tavern April 18, 2015.

Then came Super Ghost, four youngsters from Omaha and Minneapolis weened on modern-day  emo bands like You Blew It! and mewithoutYou. Super Ghost is an emo throwback, not to first-wave acts like Rites of Spring and Sunny Day Real Estate, but ’90s-era second wave emo acts like California band Knapsack, which they most resemble, and Topeka legends Vitreous Humor, who they’ve never heard of (and in reality, very few people have).

Technically tight, smart compositions with insidious solos and counter melodies, Super Ghost was a pleasant surprise, a remarkable new band whose sound has a shimmering drama and musicality that at times recalled early Pavement and Dinosaur Jr. as much as those emo heroes they no doubt adore. Too bad there were only six people in the room to hear them.

Where they came from and what they’re up to next will all be revealed in this week’s podcast, which features a brief interview with frontman Jake Newbold, along with some samples from Friday night’s set.

Despite mother nature, Homer’s pulled off another big Record Store Day. When I rolled into the store at around 5 p.m., Homer’s GM Mike Fratt said he’d been pleased with the crowds, the excitement, the overall day even though he and his crack team fought through technical mine fields caused by the morning’s thunderstorm. Though late in the afternoon, there was still plenty of RSD stock in the bins, including the 25th Anniversary RSD pressing of Pills, Thrills and Bellyaches that I picked up.

Meanwhile, uptown in Benson, Almost Music’s Brad Smith said it was the first time he had line form outside his door before he opened. Almost Music’s daylong concert, originally slated for the sidewalk out front, was moved inside to the bookstore, where I watched the return of Gary Dean Davis and his band Wagon Blasters.

This was the band’s first performance in a couple years, but you wouldn’t know it by watching Gary Dean bouncing around bookcases like a hopped-up hillbilly in a racing windbreaker. His voice, those songs and this band proved once again that Wagon Blasters are Nebraska punk par excellence.

BTW, I picked up a Factory UK pressing of The Return of Durutti Column and The Grifters’ The Kingdom of Jones 10-inch (Shangri La 025), as well as the newly designed, fetching Almost Music T-shirt. Why can’t RSD be every day?

Jake Bellows at the Hear Nebraska Vol. 3 album release show at The Waiting Room, April 18, 2015.

Jake Bellows at the Hear Nebraska Vol. 3 album release show at The Waiting Room, April 18, 2015.

Saturday night was the big Hear Nebraska Vol. 3 album release show at The Waiting Room. As per usual, Jake Bellows had the crowd eating out of his hand as he ripped through a solo electric set of his greatest hits including a few Neva Dinova songs. Jake has enough charisma to be a cult leader and/or standup comic, whichever you prefer.

Ladyfinger at The Waiting Room, April 18, 2015.

Ladyfinger at The Waiting Room, April 18, 2015.

The blasting cap we call Ladyfinger closed out the evening. Over the course of a few weeks I’ve seen both musical sides of Chris Machmuller on stage — Mach the troubadour and Mach the rocker, each equally powerful in their own way.

You couldn’t help but wonder as Ladyfinger was belting out songs off their last album — 2013’s Errant Forms — what lies ahead for these guys. Their track “Junk City” off the HN Vol. 3 comp meets and/or exceeds anything they’ve done in the past. Would Saddle Creek roll the dice on another Ladyfinger full-length? And, for that matter, does the band have it in them to write and record a new album? Nebraskans — and the world — await the answers with baited breath.

Soft Moon at Reverb Lounge, April 19, 2015.

Soft Moon at Reverb Lounge, April 19, 2015.

Finally Sunday night Oakland post-punk band Soft Moon sonically dismembered the Reverb Lounge. The band, which records on the edgy Captured Tracks label, epitomizes the electronic/industrial sound of the early ’90s from such bands as Nine Inch Nails, Throbbing Gristle, Bauhaus, Suicide, you get the drift. The mastermind behind the project is Luis Vasquez, who is marketed as a one-man project, though last night there were three guys on stage pounding on stuff, including Vasquez, who shoved a metal trashcan to the front of the stage which he banged on STOMP style for a couple numbers.

Their basic recipe was guitar, bass, synths and drums and lots of programming, along with Vasquez’s undecipherable, bronzed vocals drenched in echo for that special gothy touch. It was dark dance music for an elite leather club circa 1992; the instrumentals were powerful while the songs with vocals were the most accessible and leaned closely to early Reznor territory. Fantastic stuff.

Opening was one-woman ambient guitarist Noveller providing ethereal, layered sonic compositions that sometimes involved a violin bow adding deep blue tones. A pretty contrast to Soft Moon’s industrial din.

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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.



Record Store Day 2015 (Almost Music Fest, Twinsmith, rain?); Blue Bird tonight; Hear Nebraska album release show (Ladyfinger, Jake Bellows), Clarence Tilton Saturday; Soft Moon Sunday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:52 pm April 17, 2015
Record Store Day is Saturday, April 18!

Record Store Day is Saturday, April 18!

by Tim McMahan,

Saturday is a very special holiday for vinyl record lovers and all fans of recorded music. It’s Record Store Day, that annual event that brings out music fans by the droves eager to snatch up as many valuable, limited-edition sheets of plastic as they can find… or afford.

Almost Music in Benson — a veritable shrine to used vinyl — is going all out again this year. The store opens at 10 a.m. with live music beginning at noon: Here’s the schedule:

Sun-Less Trio 12:00-12:30
Kate Berreckman 12:45-1:15
Dereck Higgins 1:30-2:00
The Broke Loose 2:15-2:45
Wagon Blasters 3:00-3:30
Andy Berkley 3:30-4:00
Razors 4:00-4:30
Those Far Out Arrows 4:45-5:15
Big Slur 5:30-6:00
Matt Tillwick 6:00-6:30
Dead Flower Preservation Club Band 6:30-7:00
Well Aimed Arrows 7:15-7:45

Brad Smith, Almost Music’s proprietor, promises food and drink along with RSD exclusive releases, new T-shirt designs by Robert Cook and, of course plenty of used vinyl and new arrivals.

Now if only someone could do something about the forecast. The weatherman says it’s going to rain tomorrow. Then again, they said it was going to rain yesterday afternoon but there was nary a drop as I lounged on my patio with an ice cold Blue Moon.

Certainly the folks who will be waiting outside of Homer’s down in the Old Market tomorrow morning will be praying for dry weather. But nothing short of gale-force winds is going to stop that dedicated horde from pouncing once Homer’s General Manager Mike Fratt swings wide the door at 10 a.m.

While they stand, Fratt says line-waiters will be serenaded by Saddle Creek Records band Twinsmith (starting at 9:15), and there’s talk of donuts, breakfast burritos and coffee to keep their energy levels up.

“Of course we ordered a gargantuan amount of product this year, even more than last year,” Fratt said of RSD merchandise. Fratt rattled off a long list of special edition merch that Homer’s is offering tomorrow in this week’s Lazy-i Podcast (listen to it here or below). Among the goodies is an exclusive pressing of 311’s Hydroponic, originally a cassette-only local release. Fratt said it was pressed in small quantities for the 311 Fan Club. “They allowed us to buy some directly from them, so we’ll have 50 of those,” Fratt said. “We’ll be the only retailer in the country with that item.”

Among the items Fratt listed in the podcast is RSD releases by Metallica, Bruce Springsteen, Johnny Cash, Citizen Dick (fake band from the movie Singles), Graham Parsons, Black Keys, Freedy Johnston, Bob Dylan, Foo Fighters, White Stripes, The Replacements, Miles Davis, Elvis Presley. Fratt said there is somewhere around 450 releases, and he bought so much stock that he’s “nervous.”

What record store owner wouldn’t be when you consider that vinyl is “one way” and stores can’t return unsold stock. Fratt said Homer’s still has some RSD merch from previous years in the bins. In the podcast, he talks about the risks involved in RSD for retailers, efforts to keep product out of the marketplace before the official RSD start time, and the impact on small labels. Give it a listen.

Along with Almost Music and Homer’s, records stores Drastic Plastic and the Saddle Creek Shop also are participating in Record Store Day Saturday.

Drastic Plastic Records (DPR) is releasing fan-favorite songs by Bauhaus, Love and Rockets, and Tones on Tail with the release of Daniel Ash’s album, Stripped. “The double record pressed on 180 gram yellow vinyl, features these songs reimagined and re-worked by Ash into infectious, synth-driven, dance music and also includes one new song titled, ‘Come On,‘” said DPR in a release.

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So what’s going on this weekend?

Tonight (Friday) Super Ghost plays at The Barley Street Tavern with Blue Bird and Two Drag Club. $5, 9 p.m.

Also tonight Mat Shoare headlines at fabulous OLeaver’s with Uh Oh and Nathan Ma and the Rosettes. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Saturday is Earth Day (in Omaha anyway). The Earth Day folks are having their usual bash in Elmwood Park all day, and it includes the usual live stage.  The most notable performer on the schedule is McCarthy Trenching at 3 p.m. It’s free.

And then Saturday night is a show dear to me heart: The Hear Nebraska Vol. 3 Compilation release show at The Waiting Room, just in time for Record Store Day. Headlining the festivities is Ladyfinger, who’s joined by the beloved Jake Bellows and hip-hop act Both.

HN Compilation Vol. 3 features tracks from all three of the above bands, along with tracks by John Klemmensen and the Party, Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers, Cursive, M34n St33t, Halfwit, Outlaw Con Bandana and The Bottle Tops. You need this limited edition vinyl. Pick up a copy at the show. Cover is $7, and it starts at 9 p.m.

Also Saturday night, Clarence Tilton celebrates the release of their debut CD at the Reverb Lounge. Opening is Monday Mourners and Kelly Maxwell. $7, 9 p.m.

Finally Sunday night Captured Tracks artist The Soft Moon a.k.a. Luis Vasquez plays at the Reverb Lounge with Noveller. $12, 9 p.m.

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 — 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.


Live Review: Matt Whipkey, John Klemmensen, Fire Retarded, Dumb Beach; Hear Nebraska Kickstarts Vol. 3…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:47 pm February 23, 2015
Fire Retarded at O'Leaver's Feb. 21, 2015.

Fire Retarded at O’Leaver’s Feb. 21, 2015.

by Tim McMahan,

It was a long weekend of shows, a good weekend.

Friday night was the big Matt Whipkey album release party at The Waiting Room. Matt can be a rather polarizing figure in the Omaha music scene, but there’s one fact no one can refute — when it comes to the press, Whipkey works his ass off. This show was mentioned or featured in every print publication in town, not to mention a slew of local morning radio programs, a few of which Whipkey even performed on. Seems like everywhere you turned, whether on air, in print or online, there was Matt Whipkey hawking his new record and imploring people to come to his show.

Well, all that hard work paid off as The Waiting Room was indeed crowded last Friday night. No, it wasn’t a sell out, but it was tough to make it across the dance floor when Whipkey and his band started their set.

Whipkey’s style has been consistent over the past decade — he’s a showman, always demanding the crowd’s attention when he’s center stage with an electric guitar slung over his shoulder, maniacally flipping that Omaha-famous head of hair. In a city known for its indie rock, Whipkey remains content playing traditional American-style rock ‘n’ roll that boils down to big riffs, big hooks, plenty of guitar solos and lyrics about life in these United States.

The new album, Underwater, is a step forward for Whipkey to a more mature song craft than heard on his coming-of-age concept album Penny Park, a record that, if you ever wondered what the songs were about, all you had to do was look at the photo on the album sleeve. The new record sounds more personal and introspective but no less pop-focused. Whipkey may idolize Springsteen, but his style has more in common with John Fogerty on the album’s up-jump tracks. When he slows it down, picks up an acoustic guitar or straps a harmonica ’round his neck, he channels old school, MOR open-chord crooners that were the staple of ’70s-era FM radio. He is un-apologetically not indie, and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Matt Whipkey and his band at The Waiting Room, Feb. 20, 2015.

Matt Whipkey and his band at The Waiting Room, Feb. 20, 2015.

Neither would his crowd, who grooved to the rock and never failed to recognize another golden Whipkey guitar solo. I saw plenty of people walking around with copies of Underwater tucked beneath their arm, its back cover sporting a stoic photo of Whipkey, his hair, and his Raybans, staring stoically out into the crowd.

The obvious question after the media build-up that comes with a release show: Now what? The answer is touring, and Whipkey has said that’s exactly what he intends to do, focusing his road-work on central Nebraska. Can he become a regional success story? There’s no question he has a style that could resonate throughout the rural Heartland.

John Klemmensen closed out Whipkey's album release show at The Waiting Room, Feb. 21, 2015.

John Klemmensen closed out Whipkey’s album release show at The Waiting Room, Feb. 20, 2015.

The new trend for headliners these days is to place their set in the second slot of the evening. That was the case Friday night when John Klemmensen and the Party followed Whipkey with a set of bluesy rockers. I haven’t seen John and his band play in more than a year. While his voice and lyrics haven’t changed much (He still boasts Nebraska’s biggest broken heart) his music has. Instead of the usual laid-back mellow crooning, Klemmensen is now uncorking harder, louder arrangements that aren’t afraid to lean away from blues pop to a more indie-fied power rock, a natural reflection of Klemmensen’s love of golden age Omaha indie-punk and post-punk.

There is a theatrical element to his rock songs that reminds me of — dare I say it — Meatloaf and John Steinman, but without the keyboards. I credit the first-person honesty of his lyrics, brazenly unashamed of letting his emotional baggage hang out for everyone to see. Klemmensen has nothing to hide, and that’s what makes his music so good.

A quick note about the recent upgrades to The Waiting Room. The club now sports a shiny new tile floor, raised booths and a brand new bar. This is the third or fourth time that The Waiting Room has made enhancements to their club since it opened in 2007, which shows the owners’ ongoing commitment to being the best music venue in Omaha.

Dumb Beach at O'Leaver's, Feb. 21, 2015.

Dumb Beach at O’Leaver’s, Feb. 21, 2015.

Saturday night was a bracing change of pace as O’Leaver’s hosted a punk show with two of the better-named bands to grace their rec-room-styled stage: Madison Wisconsin’s Fire Retarded and Omaha’s own Dumb Beach.

Saturday’s gig was the last on Fire Retarded’s tour and the dudes sounded happy to end it in Omaha. Call it garage punk, I guess. Hard charging. Break-neck. Gritty. Rat-tailed and not so angry as much as just trying to have a good time. Their set started almost acidicly punk before infusing a bit of swing about halfway through, at times becoming downright tuneful.

Next was Dumb Beach. One of the things I forgot to mention last week in the podcast is that the band sports two — count them two — drummers. I’ve seen the two-drummer thing a few times in the past. With other bands, it’s an easy way to add theatrical flair to their rather drab stage presences. But that’s never been a problem with these guys, who resemble a team of buzzed-out Dr. Drew rehabbers out on a punk-rock work release program.

No, this duo-drum set up is an aggressive stab at bringing even more power to Dumb Beach’s already bludgeoning sound. Someone told me it was like watching a pair of synchronized swimmers, perfectly timed, perfectly choreographed, as they bashed the shit out of their drum kits. Do they really need two drummers? Does any band? I say screw it, why not? If you haven’t seen these guys, you need to.

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Hear Nebraska, Vol. 3

Hear Nebraska, Vol. 3

This morning Hear Nebraska launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the vinyl pressing of its third compilation, deftly titled Hear Nebraska Vol. 3.  The record features 10 songs from Nebraska bands on 12-inch, mixed-color (purple-pink-black) vinyl. Hear Nebraska calls it “a masterfully crafted, sonically stellar collectible that will serve as an integral Nebraska historical document.

Bands on this year’s HN comp are John Klemmensen and the Party, Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers, The Bottle Tops, Jake Bellows, M34N STR33T, BOTH (featuring Rothsteen), Halfwit, Ladyfinger and Cursive.

The release is limited to 500 copies and comes with a digital download. A $20 pledge gets you a copy of the vinyl, but you’ll want to check out the other premiums. Hear Nebraska is shooting to raise $4,000 over the next 28 days. They’re already more than a quarter of the way there. Check it out.

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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.