New Francis Quinlan (Hop Along); Thick Paint bon voyage, InDreama tonight at O’Leaver’s…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:36 pm October 24, 2019

Thick Paint at Slowdown Jr., March 30, 2018. The band has its bon voyage show tonight at O’Leaver’s.

by Tim McMahan,

Aaaannd…. We’re back.

I’ve been in San Diego since Sunday, and just got back. What they say about the weather is absolutely true, btw… Too bad you have to be a millionaire to live there.

You know how I like to keep up on Saddle Creek Records, the hometown label with a West Coast vibe? Well, the label announced yesterday that it’s releasing the solo debut LP by Hop Along’s Francis Quinlan on Jan. 31, called Likewise. Quinlan recorded it with bandmate Joe Reinhart. The collaboration features synthesizers, digital beats, harps, strings and a variety of keyboards, according to the press release.

Pre-orders are being taken now including limited edition signed art prints. What will they think of next? (Uh oh, looks like that’s already sold out!). The first track, “Rare Thing,” is below. Groovy!

* * *

A red hot rock show is happening tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s. Thick Paint is headlining and this is their last local gig before hitting the road for good. That’s right, Graham and Sarah are moving away. So consider it a bon voyage party. Joining them is the long-awaited return of InDreama, the art rock project fronted by Nik Fackler of Icky Blossoms/cinema fame. Rogue Moon and SGT Leisure also are on the bill. $5, 9 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 © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


It’s Maha Festival weekend: Clarence Tilton, TV on the Radio tonight; David Nance, U.S. Girls, Hop Along, Tune-Yards, Father John Misty Saturday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:00 pm August 17, 2018

U.S. Girls is among the highlights of tomorrow’s Maha Music Festival, which kicks off tonight at Stinson Park.

by Tim McMahan,

Ah, Maha. The festival gods must be looking down kindly on this one as the weather is looking perfect and from all indications, this is gonna be big event.

Everyone is asking about ticket sales. The fact that Maha hasn’t sold out of VIP tickets yet (and everywhere you look someone is giving away passes) may be an indication of sales sluggishness, but the fact is Maha and other festivals do a lot of walk-up sales, and with this weather, I have no doubt that’ll be the case.

Tonight’s first-ever Friday showcase has a ringer with TV on the Radio headlining at 10:30. I have to admit TOTR is a band that went right by me when they first hit the scene in the early 2000s. That said, there’s a ton of buzz about this set.

Tonight will mostly be a night of discovery for me. I’ve had zero (known) exposure to ZZ Ward, Benjamin Booker and Hurray for the Riff Raff. And to be honest, the band we’re most excited to see is opener Clarence Tilton at 6 p.m.

GA tickets for tonight are $45; VIP tix are $110.

Them comes the really big show tomorrow.

Like Omaha World-Herald’s Kevin Coffey, I also have five acts that I’ve deemed “must-see”:

David Nance Band at Reverb Lounge, Nov. 15, 2016.

David Nance Band — With a new album coming out in October on Chicago’s Trouble in Mind Records and on the verger of a massive Eastern U.S. Tour, Nance is one of those acts that any festival would love to have — and he’s grouped in with Maha’s “local acts.” Nance and Co. are headed to this year’s Gonerfest in Memphis next month. Their music is a rough-shod style of psych-rock direct from the garage rife with amazing guitar work and Nance’s Jon Spencer-like bark. If you haven’t seen him, here’s your chance. He comes on after The Dilla Kids at 1:15.

U.S. Girls — The Philly band fronted by Meghan Remy has had records released by Siltbreeze, FatCat and their cuurent label, 4AD. Their latest, In a Poem Unlimited, is loaded with pop songs, like the infectious “Rosebud” that Madonna would kill for. They can be dancey, they can be spacey, but it’s Remy in the middle with her sweet coo. This one starts at 2 p.m.

Hop Along at Slowdown Jr., June 4, 2015.

Hop Along — The new-era Saddle Creek Records act is no stranger to Omaha. Frances Quinlan has a guttural, scratchy, feral-cat growl of a voice on tuneful indie songs that have become Sirius XMU staples. The band’s latest album, Bark Your Head Off, Dog (2018, Saddle Creek) is a personal favorite, having just acquired a new puppy of my own that enjoys barking way too much (in fact, she’s barking as I type this, dammit).

Hop Along goes on at 4:15. BTW, rumor has it that Hop Along is the “secret show” at O’Leaver’s Sunday night. No one has confirmed or denied that rumor…

Tune-Yards — They’ve gained new notoriety for having been included in the soundtrack to 2018 break-out dark-comedy Sorry to Bother You. I know them from their 2011 4AD Records debut release Whokill, and its tasty single “Gangsta.” They used to be the duo of Merrill Garbus and Nate Brenner. I’m assuming they’ve grown since I saw them play at SXSW in 2009. Interesting, weird, arty act. On stage at 6:30.

Father John Misty — This could be a real wild-card. Misty, who’s no mystery to Omaha fans having played here before, can either put on a blow-your-head-off set filled with laff-riot between-song patter or he could be BAF, depending on his mood. Let’s hope he’s the former. I know a lot of people who bought tickets to Maha for this performance alone. 9 p.m. start time.

Then there’s Weezer, who didn’t make my list because, well, I’m not a huge Weezer fan. They lost me after Pinkerton, which came out something like 22 years ago. That said, the crowd will crest for their set.

If ticket sales are slim this year it’ll be because your typical Weezer fan not only doesn’t know the who the openers are, but doesn’t care. They’re looking at this as a $70 Weezer concert, which may be a tad steep. Actually, if they walk-up tomorrow, they’ll be paying $80. That’s lot of cash to see a band play a Toto cover.

Maha Festival headliners have never been the draw for me. My all-time favorite Maha moment came from an afternoon set by Belle & Sebastian. I typically catch the first couple songs by the headliner than head out. We’ll see what happens this year.

Here’s the full line-up w/times:

The Friday night gig:

6 p.m. – Clarence Tilton
6:30 – State Disco
7:20 – Hurray for the Riff Raff
8:15 – Benjamin Booker
9:10 – ZZ Ward
10:30 – TV on the Radio

The Saturday schedule:

12:30 p.m. – The Dilla Kids
1:15 – David Nance Band
2 – U.S. Girls
3 – Mesonjixx + Omaha Girls Rock
4:15 – Hop Along
5:30 – Ravyn Lenae
6:30 – Tune-Yards
7:45 – The Kills
9 – Father John Misty
10:30 – Weezer

More info at See you there.

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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.


Keeping up with SXSW 2018; Nebraska Exposed, Saddle Creek in Austin; new Belly video…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:45 pm March 13, 2018
The Wedding Present at Red Eyed Fly, SXSW, March 14, 2012.

The Wedding Present at Red Eyed Fly, SXSW, way back on March 14, 2012.

by Tim McMahan,

As you’ve probably already figured out, I didn’t go to the South by Southwest Festival in Austin this year. With The Reader no longer being a sponsoring publication, it’s unlikely I’ll ever get a SXSW media badge again. That doesn’t mean I’ll never return to SXSW, but it makes it a whole lot more expensive (if I want a badge, anyway).

So no, I’m not there, and neither is Kevin Coffey from the Omaha World-Herald (Why he’s not there, I don’t know, but with the recent slew of lay-offs at the paper, I can guess).

And with Hear Nebraska now rolled into Rabble Mill, there’s no one from HN reporting from SXSW, either. The latest Hear Nebraska news is that applications are being taken for the 2018 Good Living Tour. The deadline to be considered for the fourth annual event is March 26.

This begs the question: How can any of us lost Omaha souls keep up with what arguably is the most important music festival in the country?

Well, there’s still a fairly large contingent of Nebraskans attending SXSW. In fact, 11 Nebraska bands are participating in Nebraska Exposed, a free showcase being held on the rooftop of Cheers Shot Bar on E 6th St. Wednesday night.

The 11 bands: Better Friend, HAKIM, Laughing Falcon, The Dilla Kids, State Disco, Orion Walsh, SAS, Lloyd McCarter and The Honky Tonk Revival, A Different Breed and KHARI The Duo, No doubt the majority are from Lincoln, which makes sense since the showcase is presented by Lincoln public radio station KZUM and Lincoln Partnership for Economic Development.

If you happen to be Facebook friends with anyone in these bands, you might be able to glean some SXSW updates throughout the week. For me, the best reporter on the scene is Jeremy Buckley. J has been a SXSW regular for years, and he’s already streamed a number of SXSW performances on Facebook Live. If you’re lucky, Jeremy might let you be his friend, too.

In year’s past, Saddle Creek Records hosted a SXSW showcase, but not this year. In fact, the only Creek band that appears to be playing the festival is Hop Along, who’s busy promoting their upcoming release, Bark Your Head Off, Dog, slated for release April 6. You can see Hop Along’s SXSW schedule at

That said, it’s odd that the other Creek acts with releases upcoming — Stef Chura, Young Jesus, Rural Alberta Advantage — aren’t playing in Austin this week…

* * *

No shows tonight, but there are tons on the horizon. In the meantime, here’s the new video by Belly, who has self-released album coming out May 4 called Dove. And a tour, but alas, it’s a NOmaha affair…

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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.


New Digital Leather ‘Headache Heaven’ drops on Bandcamp; Hop Along announces new record…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:55 pm January 23, 2018

Digital Leather, Headache Heaven (2018, self-release)

by Tim McMahan,

The marketing plan for your typical album release these days can be drawn out over weeks, months, even sometimes a full year before the album actually comes out. We’re talking pre-release rumors followed by track leaks via online publications like Noisy or Brooklyn Vegan or NPR or via YouTube.

It’s all coordinated between the artist, the record label and the artist’s publicist (and booking agent). Media and others get pre-release tidbits attached to one-sheets and promo photos all announcing the upcoming drop date. Sometimes there’s a “trailer” video that previews the albums, like a movie trailer.

Finally, with as much hoopla as possible, the album finally drops. Sometimes the release is celebrated with the launch of an entire tour; other times it might be something as simple as an album release show. Regardless, all of these efforts are designed to create the biggest buzz possible, to attract attention to the new material to generate sales, downloads, streams.

Then there’s the way Digital Leather does it.

Yesterday via Facebook Digital Leather announced the release of a new 21-track album, available via Bandcamp, called Headache Heaven. The release was something of a surprise, to me at least.

I asked Shawn Foree via Facebook for any details about the album, like who else appears on it with him. “It’s just me,” he replied. “I’ve been working on it for quite a while (It’s 75 minutes long). Not much more to say. There will be a tape version later; just digital now.

So there you have the summation of his entire marketing campaign for Headache Heaven, which I’m listening to now. In this internet age, what more do you need?

Like Shawn said, you can buy it online from his Bandcamp page, here. A cassette version is forthcoming. Check out some preview tracks below.

* * *

Then there’s the other side of the music marketing coin.

Hop Along, Bark Your Head Off, Dog (2018, Saddle Creek)

Yesterday Saddle Creek Records (or someone) leaked a video of someone playing a floppy (at least that’s what I used to call them) of a track from the upcoming Hop Along album, Bark Your Head Off, Dog, which comes out April 6. One assumes production of that floppy postcard alone cost more than Foree spent on his entire album.

Anyway, Bark Your Head Off… is a follow-up to the wildly successful 2015 release Painted Shut. The band also announced a national tour that kicks off May 1 (It’s a NOmaha affair, unfortunately).


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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.


Live Review: Hop Along; Ernie Chambers at BFF (sort of); the OEAA showcase weekend; Calm Fur tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 11:40 am June 5, 2015
Hop Along at Slowdown Jr., June 4, 2015.

Hop Along at Slowdown Jr., June 4, 2015.

by Tim McMahan,

Hop Along is a fantastic band. Certainly one of the best bands I’ve seen this year (and I’ve seen a lot already) and definitely one of the best bands that Saddle Creek has signed in recent years. If you haven’t heard Painted Shut, their new album on Saddle Creek, do yourself a favor. There’s a link to a stream of the entire album at the bottom of yesterday’s blog entry.

I like the record; specifically I like how it sounds, I like the crunchy guitars, I like the straight-forward indie-rock rhythms, I like the chord changes, but most of all I like Frances Quinlan’s guttural, scratchy, feral-cat growl of a voice. It has become the hallmark of their sound, the one thing people point to when they talk about Hop Along’s music. The only thing I can think of comparing it to is Janis Joplin’s screechy yowl that leads up to the chorus in “Piece of My Heart.” You know, “Come on, Come on, Come on, Come on and TAKE IT…” Quinlan’s voice captures Janis’ yearning energy and somehow stretched out throughout entire songs, entire albums.

Her voice was on display last night at Slowdown Jr. in pure Janis mode throughout their entire set last night. I didn’t think it was possible; I figured no one could sing like that all night, that scratchy screech has to be turning her vocal chords to bloody ribbons. Others around me in the rather large crowd (though not a sell-out) wondered the same thing. “That’s gotta hurt,” they said. But I figure Quinlan must approach singing the same way an opera singer is able to basically scream for two hours straight (because, let’s face it, opera singing is really precisely directed yelling, is it not?). Quinlan knows what she’s doing. She’s been doing it now for years. If she didn’t, she wouldn’t have made it through her first tour.

Her voice is a thing to behold; it is indeed mesmerizing. So is the rest of Hop Along. Drummer Mark Quinlan (Frances’ brother) is hands-down one of the best drummers I’ve ever heard — huge, pounding out the backbone of every song all night, a thing to marvel at. We’re talking ’70s-era arena quality drumming, not paradiddle precision noodling; big, throaty, heavy-sticked wonder. Dare I mention the great Bonham? No, because it’s not that kind of music. But it was deep and thick and luscious.

The rest of the band was pretty good, but the highlights were the Quinlan brood; the drums, that voice, remarkable. Missing from the discussion, of course, are the songs. Hop Along is a great band to listen to live, but I couldn’t tell you what any of the songs were about. I didn’t walk away from the show with any song stuck in my head, which is odd when you consider I’ve been listening to Painted Shut for weeks.

While Quinlan puts it all out there effortlessly climbing octave after octave there rarely if ever was a central melody to hang onto and, dare I say it, sing along to. In that vein it’s kind of like scat singing, or melodies made up after the song’s chord progressions have been determined. But isn’t that a primary attribute of indie rock and what sets it apart from straight-up pop music? Probably, but the best indie rock, the stuff we remember and that resonates for years to come, has a hook. The rest of it is tonal, blues or effect, where lyrics are secondary (ferinstance, I couldn’t tell you a single My Bloody Valentine lyric).

I don’t think that’s the case with Hop Along. That band is so fucking good —she’s so fucking good — that it’s only a matter of time before they write a song that pushes past their current boundaries. That song isn’t on Painted Shut, a good album that lacks a song that strikes a universal chord with a huge audience. They will write that song, the one that gets played to death, the one that will represent a season or year in the life of its listeners, that turns into an instant time machine that will take us back to whatever was happening in our lives back when everyone was playing it. Maybe it’ll be on their next album; hopefully it’ll come out on Saddle Creek, but it hasn’t happened yet.  Until then, we’re left to marvel at the sound, if not the songs.

* * *

The rabid possum by Brian Tait that stares at me in my office.

The rabid possum by Brian Tait that stares at me in my office.

A quick non-music aside about something important to me.

Tonight is the grand opening of the Little Gallery in Benson, coinciding with Benson First Friday. The proprietor is my wife, Teresa Gleason. The gallery, located at 5917 Maple Street right across the street from The Sydney, doubles as the offices of Polecat Communications, Teresa’s PR/communications firm that specializes in supporting non-profits as well as profits. Teresa and I found the space a few months ago and began tearing it apart shortly there after, transforming it into a sublime gallery space.

The first artist to grace the gallery is none other than Brian Tait. Yes, that Brian Tait, the skateboarding rockstar graffiti-fueled sign painter who also operates Midtown Art Supply. We bought a handful of Taits recently (one of them is staring at me with its angry possum eyes as I type this) and couldn’t think of a better artist for the gallery’s debut.

Want to know more about Tait? Read the brief profile I wrote about him right here. The show’s title is “Without a Chute,” and as part of the tonight’s festivities, which begin at 6 p.m., Tait will be doing a live painting outside the building. It will be a giant portrait of State Senator Ernie Chambers. Upon its completion, the painting will be sold to the highest bidder, whether the bid is $1 or $1,000 or $10,000.

Fun starts at 6. There will be a keg on tap. And food. And maybe even leftover birthday cake from Wednesday’s Big 50 shows. Drop by and say hello.

And for those who have asked, yes, the firm’s name, Polecat, was partially inspired by the classic pre-Saddle Creek band that featured Ted Stevens, Boz Hicks and Oli Blaha. We call that a tip o’ the hat to past greatness…

* * *

One other art show going on I want to mention: Mousetrap’s Patrick Buchanan emailed to tell me that his pop, Sidney Buchanan, is hosting a show at his house at 1202 So. 62nd St., that kicks off tonight at 6 p.m. Buchanan is known for his enormous sculptures (one of which is on UNO’s campus right outside the arts building). This show features new collages and assemblages and runs tonight and Saturday and Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. Go!

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All right back to music.

Tonight and tomorrow night is  the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Award (OEAA) showcase in Benson. It’s a chance to check out a shitload of new local bands as you stumble from six venues along Maple Street. The schedule follows. Admission is $10 per night or $15 for the entire weekend.

I don’t know most of these bands, which I suppose is the point of an emerging-artist showcase. That said, there are a few that I am familiar with and can recommend which are in bold, if you’re looking for some direction.

FRIDAY, June 5

The Waiting Room – all ages
8:00-8:40 Unscene Patrol
8:55-9:35 Pleiades and the Bear
9:50-10:30 Belles & Whistles
10:45-11:25 All Young Girls Are Machine Guns  
11:40-12:20 Rothsteen
12:35-1:05 Oketo

The Sydney
8:00-8:40 24 Hour Cardlock
8:55-9:35  Bazile Mills
9:50-10:30 Michael Campbell
10:45-11:25 Loveland
11:40-12:20  GetchaSum
12:35-1:05  Like Noise But Louder

Barley Street Tavern
8:00-8:40 Polka Police
8:55-9:35  Mola-B
9:50-10:30 Aly Peeler
10:45-11:25 Hand Painted Police Car
11:40-12:20 Shivering Flowers
12:35-1:05 The Ronnys

Burke’s Pub
8:00-8:40 Jazz Brown and the Afterthought
8:55-9:35  Naked Sunday
9:50-10:30 Township & Range
10:45-11:25 Sebastian Ghostbachz
11:40-12:20 Pancho & The Contraband
12:35-1:05 Prairie Gators Band

PS Collective – all ages
8:00-8:40 Thumper & Generation One
8:55-9:35 Emily Ward
9:50-10:30 Virginia Tanous
10:45-11:25 Escape From Alcajazz

8:00-8:40 Jessica Errett
8:55-9:35 Kait Berreckman
9:50-10:30 Jus.B
10:45-11:25  Citizens Band
11:40-12:20  Marcey Yates
12:35-1:05 Latin Threat


The Waiting Room – all ages
8:00-8:40 Fallible
8:55-9:35 Coincide
9:50-10:30  A Wasted Effort
10:45-11:25 The Bishops
11:40-12:20  Low Long Signal  
12:35-1:05 Carson City Heat

The Sydney
8:00-8:40 Grumble
8:55-9:35  Exit Sanity
9:50-10:30  P-tro
10:45-11:25 Stereo Rocket
11:40-12:20 Black Velvet
12:35-1:05 The Clincher

Barley Street Tavern
8:00-8:40 Calling Cody
8:55-9:35  Battling Giants
9:50-10:30 Virgin Mary Pistol Grip
10:45-11:25  Phoenix Rising
11:40-12:20 Uh Oh
12:35-1:05  Two Shakes

Burke’s Pub
8:00-8:40 Steve Byam
8:55-9:35  The Impulsive
9:50-10:30 The Willards Band
10:45-11:25 CJ Mills
11:40-12:20  Swampboy Blues Band
12:35-1:05 ShooK on3

PS Collective – all ages
8:00-8:40 R0Y0
8:55-9:35 Clark & Company
10:45-11:25 Orion Walsh
11:40-12:20 Baker Explosion

8:00-8:40 The Midways
8:55-9:35  Mitch Gettman
9:50-10:30 Dominique Morgan
10:45-11:25  The Sub-Vectors
11:40-12:20 The Electroliners
12:35-1:05 Lucas Kellison

Schedule subject to change (and probably will).

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OEA’s isn’t the only thing going on this weekend.

Des Moines band Karen Meat and the Computer is headlining tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s. The band includes former members of Talking Mountain. Also on the bill is Calm Fur and Haunted Gauntlet (featuring members of M34N STR33T). Jason Meyer of Calm Fur forwarded me this rather disturbing promo for tonight’s show, which you should watch as risk to your fragile psyche. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Tomorrow afternoon (Saturday) is another Bar Stool Record Swap at The Brothers Lounge. Always tons of good vinyl on hand. Vendors include Almost Music, Basement Treasures, D-Tour Records, Hipstop and Homer’s. It’s a must for record collectors. 4 to 7 p.m. and free.

Saturday night at O’Leaver’s it’s Commander Kilroy with Stories of the Sun, Faded and Jake Simmons. $5, 9:30 p.m.

That’s all I got. If I missed your show, put it in the comments section (of the blog, not my Facebook post!). Have a great weekend and I’ll see you tonight at the Little Gallery.

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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.


Thanks for coming to the show!; Hop Along, Old 97’s tonight; Whipkey for lunch…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , , — @ 2:16 pm June 4, 2015
Son, Ambulance at The Reverb June 3, 2015 -- the Big 50 benefit for Hear Nebraska.

Son, Ambulance at The Reverb June 3, 2015 — the Big 50 benefit for Hear Nebraska.

by Tim McMahan,

Whoa, what a night. Thanks to everyone for coming out to the Big 50 concert at Reverb last night. It was a great way to welcome in the next half-century — great friends, great bands, great times. Now what am I going to do for 51?

The Lupines at The Reverb June 3, 2015 -- the Big 50 benefit for Hear Nebraska.

The Lupines at The Reverb June 3, 2015 — the Big 50 benefit for Hear Nebraska.

Wagon Blasters at The Reverb June 3, 2015 -- the Big 50 benefit for Hear Nebraska.

Wagon Blasters at The Reverb June 3, 2015 — the Big 50 benefit for Hear Nebraska.

And there was some news at the show. All three bands either have recorded or are recording new music. When they will release it, none could say, but based on what we heard last night, we’ll all be adding lots of new music to our record collections very soon. Thanks again to the bands for playing the gig. It was a blast!

* * *

There’s another rather huge show tonight, this time at Slowdown Jr., where Saddle Creek’s latest and greatest signing, Hop Along, makes its Omaha stage debut. The band’s just-released album, Painted Shut (Saddle Creek, 2015) sits at No. 16 on the College Music Journal Radio 200 chart and No. 18 on the KEXP Variety Music Chart. Not to mention the record is getting air time on Sirius XMU, which is becoming sort of an ad hoc national indie radio station. This could be Saddle Creek’s biggest non-Omaha signing since Rilo Kiley. Here’s your chance to see them on a small stage. Opening are fellow Philly bands Lithuania and Field Mouse. $10, 9 p.m.

Also tonight Dallas alt-country band Old 97’s play at The Waiting Room with Oil Boom. $25, 9 p.m.

* * *

And this just in over the lunch hour, Matt Whipkey and his band kicked off this season’s Hear Omaha concert series in the Old Market (right underneath the atrocious sculpture of the Husker kid in a baseball cap). The series, brought to you by Hear Nebraska and various sponsors including First National Bank, features a different local band performing over the lunch hour every Thursday.

Whipkey rocked a crowd of around 100 consisting of dudes and women in business suits, local hipsters who live in the surrounding lofts and other tourists/curiosity seekers wondering what all the good-time noise was about. Next week Orenda Fink plays the Hear Omaha stage. Check out the full schedule here.

Matt Whipkey at Hear Omaha in the Old Market, June 4, 2015.

Matt Whipkey at Hear Omaha in the Old Market, June 4, 2015.

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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.


Review: Icky Blossoms in Pitchfork (6.8 rating); harvest time for Saddle Creek Records…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , — @ 5:53 pm May 14, 2015

by Tim McMahan,

It’s been a long while since there’s been this kind of excitement surrounding Saddle Creek Records: Three releases over the course of the past two weeks: Hop Along’s Painted Shut, Twinsmith’s Alligator Years and Icky Blossoms’ Mask. Boom-boom-boom.

So far, the Hop Along release has received the lion’s share of press (but then again, it’s been out the longest). In addition to its massive Pitchfork rating (7.9), the album received a whopping 4-star review in the new issue of Rolling Stone. And the record is among the top-10 highest rated at review aggregator Album of the Year with a composite rating of 83 out of 100 (based on 10 reviews). Impressive.

Icky Blossoms, Mask (2015, Saddle Creek)

Icky Blossoms, Mask (2015, Saddle Creek)

Not to be outdone, Pitchfork just reviewed the new Icky Blossoms record, giving it a respectable 6.8 rating. The review concluded with, “…a follow-up that finds Icky Blossoms letting their guard down and embracing the values of their music scene, where there’s no higher form of fashion than wearing your heart on your sleeve.” OK then.

I listened to the record over and over last night. The album trounces around with more unbridled energy than the band’s debut, relentlessly so. Mask isn’t so much a dance record as a rock album with a beat that leans closer to acidic psychedelic more than EDM or “electro-clash” (whatever that means). For my money, Mask has more infectious electronic hooks than the debut, which makes it more interesting, and more fun.

Sarah Bohling sounds like an altogether different vocalist, with a range that goes well beyond the deep, pronounced croak heard on the debut. Pitchfork noted this as well, saying about the band’s debut, “There were moments where the band’s primary singer Sarah Bohling in particular sounded as if she longed to emote, but she restrained herself, because genre protocol dictated she remain as dispassionate as the sequenced pulses behind her. On Icky Blossoms’ sophomore album Mask, Bohling recasts herself as a real, vulnerable human being.” Hear hear!

If there’s a criticism it’s that the album is too relentless, rarely letting up on the gas pedal. There’s nothing on the new record as campy or fun as “Babes” or as slinkly/slacker as “Perfect Vision,” though for sheer debauchery, nothing on the debut matches album highlight “Away from You” and the line “Let’s get together / There’s no afterlife.” Or the emotional punch of “Want You So Bad,” which starts off sounding like a lost Azure Ray track. — maybe the oldest online review site — came in with a 3-1/2 star review for Mask, pointing out: “…the inelegant use of compression that causes even the sweeter parts of Mask to slam like a digital hurricane becomes downright distracting, especially on the final two tracks which, consequently, are the most aggressive and harshest mixes on the album. Production missteps aside, there is some great material here and Icky Blossoms’ big new sound generally agrees with them.

We’re still waiting for the Twinsmith reviews to come rolling in, though Allmusic has weighed in with a 3-star review, concluding: “…much of Alligator Years feels so familiar that it’s hard to distinguish them from the multitude of other generally pleasant bands working in this same milieu. Still, it’s a solid enough release by a talented young band who have the potential to grow into their own personality.

Exciting times. And it’ll keep on rolling next month when the new Desaparecidos new record comes out on Epitaph the same day the new Digital Leather record comes out on FDH. I haven’t heard the Desa record yet. The DL record is a breakthrough of sorts for the band.

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Tonight at The Waiting Room, The Lone Bellow (Descendent) with Cereus Bright and Clarence Tilton. $15, 9 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.


Live Review: John Klemmensen and the Party, Little Brazil; Hop Along in Pitchfork (7.9 rating); Lady Lamb tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:38 pm May 4, 2015
John Klemmensen and the Party at Reverb, May 1, 2015.

John Klemmensen and the Party at Reverb, May 1, 2015.

by Tim McMahan,

What is the musical future of John Klemmensen? Who knows. It’s impossible to base anything on an album release party. Case in point: How many times have you seen bands pull off well-attended album release shows only to fall back to wherever they were before, never building on the momentum they’ve gained leading up to the show? It’s laughably commonplace.

On the other hand, what are these artists supposed to do next? The simple answer is hit the road. Go on a self-booked tour that gets them to as many nearby cities and towns as possible; a tour that presumably was arranged months in advance of the album release show. But that rarely happens because, well, these artists have to survive. They have to feed themselves and their family. They have to pay their rent. Which means the following Monday it’s back to whatever day-job they suffer through to pay the bills.

Booking a tour on your own is difficult. Going out on tour — especially with a band the size of The Party — is expensive. It’s a massive money-loser for everyone involved, an expensive vacation that doesn’t include good meals and hotels. Because of these reasons, local bands talk about touring, but rarely do.

And time passes. Eventually the band plays another local show, and another. And slowly, in their spare time, they begin to write more songs and, before you know it, a Kickstarter campaign pops up and they begin gearing up for the next album release show. It’s an endless cycle. The only way to break out of it is for a miracle to happen, such as someone important (such as a record label) discovering your album who is willing to do what it takes to get you to the next level — rerelease, distribution, publicity, booking agent, financial backing necessary to hit the road. It’s like winning the lottery, and it never happens.

That doesn’t stop people from dreaming. Part of that dream has happened for Klemmensen. Someone put up the money to press 500 copies of Party All Night, his new album. What that person is able to do next to get the record heard only Klemmensen knows, but to that person I say: You have made a good bet based on how the audience responded to his music Friday night — full-on sing-alongs and fist pumps. It helps that Klemmensen has been performing this music for months, but there also is that tangible quality — memorable, yell-worthy lyrics.

I think Klemmensen could break through as a pop act. His music is suited for it. It’s certainly not indie, and when it comes to making a living playing music, that’s probably a good thing these days. But it all depends on what he does next. If he never gets a chance to go on the road, if he goes back to life-as-usual, the only thing that’ll come out of Friday night’s show is a sweet memory.

Little Brazil at Reverb Lounge, May 1, 2015.

Little Brazil at Reverb Lounge, May 1, 2015.

Opener Little Brazil put on the best show they’ve played in a long time. The set was all (or almost all) new material, and it was all somewhat awesome. I’m told they’ve recorded some demoes of these songs; can a full-length can’t be far off? Well, frontman Landon Hedges has his hands full over the coming months with the release of the new album by his other band, Desaparecidos, and the ongoing support tour.

Dan McCarthy at Brad's Corner during Benson First Friday, May 1, 2015.

Dan McCarthy at Brad’s Corner during Benson First Friday, May 1, 2015.

One other act I caught Friday — Dan McCarthy doing a solo acoustic set on Brad’s Corner. McCarthy is always entertaining. If Brad Hoshaw had been ambitious he would have dragged a full-sized upright piano out to the corner. Next time. Benson First Friday is getting crazier and crazier. This time Military Ave. was blocked off for some sort of art fair craft show thing…

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When did record labels start releasing albums on Mondays? Today Saddle Creek released the new Hop Along and Twinsmith records. Isn’t Tuesday release day (which is eventually shifting to Fridays at some point)?

No matter. If you haven’t heard the new Hop Along album, titled Painted Shut, you need to. As I’ve said before, it’s the best non-Omaha-based Saddle Creek release in years. And apparently Pitchfork agrees. The indie “tastemakers” gave the album a respectable 7.9 rating in this review, where they call out Saddle Creek:

Painted Shut is being released on Saddle Creek, a label built on the kind of romantic, middle-American indie that made Hop Along possible in the first place—music more indebted to the 1970s than the 1980s, more to the earnest mythologizing of folk than the grandstanding of rock, more to the fantasias of Edward Gorey and e.e. cummings than to the flash of the city; music for rickety houses in college towns and the lonelyhearts who collect in their corners like dust and give each other stick-and-pokes. I’d say it all seems old-fashioned but it has been this way for about 25 years and seems part of a longer continuum all the time, so who knows.

Uh, 25 years?

Now, Pitchfork, where’s that Twinsmith review? Not to be outdone, reviewed Alligator Years and gave it four stars (out of five, here), launching the review with the statement: “Omaha’s Twinsmith are the next Vampire Weekend.” Oh boy…

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Just got word that the big concert announcement I mentioned online here last week is coming Wednesday morning. Huge. Watch Lazy-i or (I guess) the local media for the announcement. It’ll  be hard to miss.

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Great Monday night show tonight: Lady Lamb, whose new album After was just released in March on Mom & Pop Music (Courtney Barnett’s new label) are playing at Slowdown Jr. with Rathborne and Jordan Smith. $12, 9 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.


Catching the Hop Along buzz wave…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 12:57 pm April 29, 2015

by Tim McMahan,

Crazy busy lately, which is why no update yesterday. There’s also been a deficit show-wise. That should reside this weekend (hopefully).

Coming Lazy-i events include feature stories on The Rentals (including a podcast interview with Matt Sharp)(BTW, no podcast this week) and Dereck Higgins, both written for the May issue of The Reader, which should be out next week.

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Other than that, there’s a lot of buzz about Hop Along, Saddle Creek Records’ latest signing, and for good reason. The band’s Creek debut, Painted Shut, is one of the best records I’ve heard this year and among the best things that Creek has ever released. You have to go back to the Jenny Lewis/Rilo Kiley days to find a non-Nebraska based Creek artist that has had this kind of national push going into a release.

Among the hype is this Village Voice blog item that just came out and includes an interview with front woman Frances Quinlan. Says the writer, “Painted Shut is less a vast departure from what Hop Along have created previously than a confident leap forward, in terms of musicianship, storytelling, and studio mastery…. And on the verge of Painted Shut’s release, those aren’t stars in the members of Hop Along’s eyes — though they’ve produced a knockout record. They’re not gunning to quit their day jobs. In fact, Frances says, ‘I’d just like to see what the album does over time.’

This follows a Q&A in Vice’s Noisey blog (here) “… they don’t look like they plan on hitting the wall softly, but exploding through it...” and an “A”  review at AV Club, which concluded with “Unfortunately for some, Painted Shut signals the end of Hop Along’s tenure as a little-known buzz band. For everyone else, it’s the sound of being welcomed to the party.”

I suspect more hype to come, plenty more. It’s deserved. The album drops May 4.

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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: Bloodcow, Universe Contest; Hop Along track leaked, album details (Omaha date); Helmet tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:49 pm March 9, 2015
Bloodcow at Reverb Lounge, March 7, 2015.

Bloodcow at Reverb Lounge, March 7, 2015.

by Tim McMahan,

Unlike the last time I saw them at The Waiting Room, no one threw empty beer cans at Universe Contest during their set Saturday night at Reverb Lounge in Benson. Did the band ask the crowd to reframe from throwing shit? Did fans naturally hold their throwing hands because they didn’t want to soil the pristine confines of the newish Reverb? I do not know.

Also absent was the band’s giant light rig. Maybe they didn’t want to hassle with putting it together or hauling it up from Lincoln. Instead, they settled for Mercy Rule-style floor floods — always a trusty standby, and hard to beat for simple drama.

And Universe Contest already has plenty of drama when it comes to their music. They still sound like early Modest Mouse, driven in part by the lead guy’s spot-on Isaac Brock screech / yell and their own halting, angular, arty wallop. I don’t remember them having a violin player. Regardless, you couldn’t hear her during the set as she was drowned out by the rest of the band. Maybe it’s the Reverb’s small space, but there wasn’t much sonic separation between instruments, and as a result, it sounded like a bassy mish-mash.

Especially during Bloodcow’s set. I tried recording it for the podcast — no dice. The volume was too high (and I had my microphone set wrong) so the entire set was clipped. Bloodcow brings the low end. They also bring the rock. I would classify this as heavy metal more than metal — I divide the two based on guitar solos. I grew up on metal music where every song included a high, whining, blazingly fast guitar solo.

Bloodcow songs are more about riffage and rapid-fire lyrics about sex, booze, drugs, all the things that make up rock ‘n’ roll. There was nary a high-flying guitar solo during the first three songs, and only a few sprinkled throughout the set, usually buried in the plodding mix.  I’ve heard their upcoming release — Crystals and Lasers — and can attest to its blazing glory. The album is a better showcase than what we heard Saturday night, though the show was still plenty fun.

By the way, that new record is still at the pressing plant. The band had CDs on hand Saturday night but no vinyl, which is part of the reason why the show wasn’t their official album release show. Nor is next Saturday night’s opening slot at The Slowdown for The Killigans. We might have to wait until April for that extravaganza…

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Saddle Creek’s latest and greatest signing, Hop Along, leaked the first track off the band’s Creek label debut, Painted Shut, titled “Waitress.” The album was recorded with producer John Agnello (Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Kurt Vile). Check out the track below and pre-order the album here at the Saddle Creek online store. The album hits store shelves May 5.

And (best of all) Hop Along is now scheduled to play at Slowdown June 4.

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Tonight at The Waiting Room it’s brittle ’90s post-punk band Helmet on their Betty 20th Anniversary tour. Betty was released on June 21, 1994, and peaked at number 45 on the Billboard 200 album chart, making it Helmet’s highest ranking album. The band will perform the seminal album from start to finish tonight. There are no openers listed. $20, 9 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.