Cursive Lite unplugged (via Stereogum); Jeremy Messersmith, Mynabirds tonight; Well Aimed Arrows Saturday; Shy Boys Sunday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 1:41 pm November 9, 2018

Jeremy Messersmith at Swan Dive at SXSW 2014. Messersmith plays tonight at Reverb.

by Tim McMahan,

Hey, it’s snowing out…

A new three-song “unplugged” performance by a stripped-down version of Cursive (Tim Kasher, Megan Siebe, Patrick Newberry and featuring Pat Oakes on drums) dropped at Stereogum Wednesday. It was recorded as a Facebook Live performance, which explains the 3-minute countdown clock at the beginning of the video (Just skip over it). Watch it here.

You get two songs from Vitriola — “Remorse” and “Ouroboros” — and “The Recluse” from The Ugly Organ. It’s interesting to hear these songs interpreted acoustically. FYI, Cursive plays The Waiting Room Nov. 18 with Meatwave and 15 Passenger labelmate Campdogzz

Onto the weekend…

An old favorite, Minneapolis singer/songwriter Jeremy Messersmith rolls back through town tonight at Reverb Lounge. I’ve been a fan of Messersmith since his 2008 album The Silver City (read a Lazy-i interview with Jeremy from 2010). His latest, Late Stage Capitalism, was released on Glassnote. Locals Garst opens at 9 p.m. $16.

There’s a fundraiser tonight for OutrSpaces, 1258 S 13th Street. “OutrSpaces provides shared workspace for performing artists to rehearse, perform, develop their careers, & engage surrounding communities in an accessible and inclusive environment,” according to their mission statement. The fundraiser includes performances by The Mynabirds, DJ Brent Crampton and Tbd. Dance Collective, among others. Tickets are $50 or $15, depending on your financial position. Program starts at 7 p.m. More info here.

Also tonight, Tragic Jack plays at The Harney Street Tavern. Matt Whipkey opens at 9 p.m. This one’s free.

The rest of my weekend will be spent at fabulous O’Leaver’s.

Saturday night at O’Leaver’s sees the return of Well Aimed Arrows (ex-Protoculture). Stephen Bartolomei and Stathi open at 10 p.m. $5.

I would be remiss in not mentioning The Urge show Saturday night at The Waiting Room. I’ve never been a fan, but I know they’ve got lots of them in Omaha. Local ska band The Bishops opens at 9 p.m. $25.

Then Sunday night back at O’Leaver’s it’s the return of Kansas City’s Shy Boys (High Dive Records). Ojai and Candy Boys (John Klemmensen’s latest project) open at 6 p.m. (remember, Sundays are early at O’Leaver’s). $10.

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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Jeremy Messersmith house show; Sufjan Stevens, Low headed our way; Wilco giveaway; Author, Good Living North Platte tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:43 pm July 21, 2015

by Tim McMahan,

I typically don’t write about upcoming shows, but there are a few that have just been announced that are under the radar.

First among them is a house show featuring Jeremy Messersmith Tuesday, Aug. 4, at a “midtown” location (You’ll find out where presumably when you buy your ticket). Messersmith is calling this his “Supper Club Tour.” Says Messersmith: “I want you to bring the food. But not just any food! I want to try your best, most mouthwatering dishes; the kind passed down through battered cookbooks, the kind that you’ve sworn to keep secret. I want to provide a soundtrack while you sample a feast the likes of which will never be seen again.” Mmmm. You can purchase your $20 tickets right here. I gotta believe space is limited…

Also announced today:

Sufjan Stevens is returning to Omaha, this time to the Orpheum Oct. 28. The last time he came through town with his band was way back in September 2005. From the review of that show:

Sufjan Stevens at Sokol Underground, Sept. 20, 2005.

Sufjan Stevens at Sokol Underground, Sept. 20, 2005.

Packed it was last night at Sokol Underground. It was sold out, and we’ll leave it at that. Packed from stage to the merch table, wall to wall, a mass of humanity come to see Sufjan Stevens and his 8-person band of cheerleader musicians dressed in their Big “I” T-shirts, some holding pompoms, all playing a myriad of instruments, most singing. The pompoms weren’t mere props. Stevens and crew began four or five songs with well-choreographed cheers, complete with arm signals and spirit fingers. It was that kind of set, a goodhearted rah-rah for ol’ Illinois, all in celebration of his second “state LP,” this one dedicated to The Prairie State.

Seriously, at times it was like listening to a choir led by a little guy in a Cubs hat with a voice that was a morph of Art Garfunkel and Ben Gibbard singing lullabies to Jacksonville, Decatur and Chicago. I didn’t know what to expect from the arrangements, I knew Stevens would be hard-pressed to recreate the lushness heard on the CD. But by God, he captured the majesty thanks to the glockenspiels and brass (especially his trumpet player) and keyboards and battery of percussion and those four female cheerleaders whose angel-voices made the whole thing float. Listening to Come on Feel The Illinoise as I write this after the show, I think everything was a tad funkier live, especially “Decatur,” which sported a nice bass riff and finger snaps and probably some sort of synchronized cheer-dance. After playing high school pep-rally standard “Varsity,” the band came back and did a one-song encore that nicely rounded off the hour-long set.

It was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen. Considering the overall glumness of his new record, Carrie & Lowell, I don’t expect the Orpheum show to be as light-hearted. Still, this is must-see stuff. Presale tickets available here beginning tomorrow at 10 a.m.

Another must-see show announced today, Low plays Reverb Lounge Nov. 12.

* * *

If you haven’t seen it, the Wall Street Journal chimed in on Wilco giving away digital downloads of their latest album, Star Wars. You can download the album for free from here. Says the WSJ: “The popularity of the surprise album release—and Wilco’s decision to offer theirs for free—shows how much less album releases matter to many major artists relative to touring and other revenue streams.” and “… for acts such as Wilco, whose albums sell well but aren’t massive industry blockbusters, touring is the bigger part of the equation.”

This brought up a discussion last night at a dinner, where it was suggested that bands giving away digital versions of their music would become “the norm,” and that bands would rely on a combination of performance income, publishing rights sales (i.e. TV / commercial / movie use) and vinyl sales (and other merch) for the majority of their income. This may be work for established bands like Wilco, but it would likely mean hard times for up-and-coming acts…

* * *

One show of note tonight: Minneapolis four-piece Author plays at Reverb Lounge. Their most recent release, Of Brighter Days, came out this past January (listen to it below). Kind of Washed Out meets Owl City, sort of.  Opening is KC’s The Author and The Illustrator and EKLECTICA. $8, 8 p.m.

Also, the Good Living Tour rolls into North Platte tonight for a show downtown on “The Bricks,” (whatever that is). On the bill: A Ferocious Jungle Cat, Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies and M34N STR33T. Oh my, what those railroaders are in for… The free show starts at 8 and is all ages.

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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.


SXSW Day 3 Photos: Future Islands, Eagulls, Jeremy Messersmith, Future Bathing Culture, Pi in the Sky…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 11:37 am March 14, 2014

by Tim McMahan,

Read my Day 3 SXSW recap/journal right now at!!!

Now onto yesterday’s photos…

The Eagulls landed at French Legation Park for the Pitchfork Day Party. They were snarly lads.

The Eagulls landed at French Legation Park for the Pitchfork Day Party. They were snarly lads.

* * *

Not a lot of LOL-ing going on during Jerome LOL's set.

Not a lot of LOL-ing going on during Jerome LOL’s set (that lady ain’t Jerome, btw)…

* * *

No home runs for this Mark McGuire.

No home runs for this Mark McGuire.

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Future Island's Sam Herring in full shimmy mode.

Future Island’s Sam Herring in full shimmy mode.

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Classixx had the beats that kept people dancing.

Classixx had the beats that kept people dancing.

* * *

The endless mic check at massive Butler Park Stage at Lady Bird Lake.

The endless mic check at massive Butler Park Stage at Lady Bird Lake.

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The Pi in the Sky skywriters circled all afternoon.

The Pi in the Sky planes circled all afternoon.

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Pure Bathing Culture at Hype Hotel.

Pure Bathing Culture at Hype Hotel.

* * *

Nina Nesbitt at Swan Dive.

Nina Nesbitt at Swan Dive.

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The incomparable Jeremy Messersmith and his band were messer-merizing at Swan Dive.

The incomparable Jeremy Messersmith and his band were messer-merizing at Swan Dive.

* * *

Happy Pi Day

Happy Pi Day

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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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Brad Hoshaw’s doing a Kickstarter; Jeremy Messersmith, BOY to highlight Day 2 of Lincoln Calling; Willie Nelson tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:56 pm October 16, 2013
The ironically named duo BOY headlines Lincoln Calling's Day 2 festivities at The Bourbon Theater.

The ironically named duo BOY headlines Lincoln Calling’s Day 2 festivities at The Bourbon Theater.

by Tim McMahan,

A few days ago Brad Hoshaw launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund the production of his new album with his band the Seven Deadlies. You can read the details here (including some sweet premiums). Seems like Kickstarters is for presales more than anything these days, a way to pre-pay for an album and get the money in the hands of the artists when they need it most. Kickstarter takes some of the risk out of making records. Some.

Hoshaw is an enigma to me and has been since I first saw him perform all those years ago. His band’s debut album is one of the best collections of songs to emerge from our fair city. The sad part is that it never caught the attention of anyone outside of Omaha. It should have. So who’s fault is that? Well, I guess it’s Hoshaw’s, right? Why didn’t he get this record in the ear holes of the industry people who make decisions in Nashville, New York, Los Angeles, Hollywood, etc.? It’s easier said than done, and virtually impossible without the right connections. Maybe he tried.

Making a good record has never been enough to break through to something bigger than playing well-attended Omaha shows, especially if your music is written to appeal to something broader than an indie music audience. At least there’s a path with indie. There’s a chance of getting reviews of your record in the handful of “important” indie websites, and if you’re lucky, in Paste or Pitchfork. And then on from there. There is no similar path for mainstream-targeted music, and Hoshaw’s songs certainly fall into that category.

At the very least, his music is picture-perfect for use in commercials, film or television. Who else thought “Carpenter” was the perfect song for a Sherwin-Williams commercial? But for that to happen, someone in charge first has to hear the song. I’m not sure how you do that. Hire an agent? Maybe, maybe…

Anyway, the first step is still to create the music, and this Kickstarter is where you come in. Check it out and give ol’ Brad a hand.

* * *

Speaking of songwriters who deserve to be heard by a larger audience, Jeremy Messersmith is playing Day 2 of Lincoln Calling tonight at The Bourbon Theater. Messersmith — like Hoshaw — is a mastercraft songwriter who knows his way around an infectious hook and a clever lyric.

And Messersmith is breaking through. He recently signed with Glassnote Records, whose stable of acts includes Mumford & Sons, Phoenix, Chvches and The Temper Trap. Messersmith used to just give his music away via his website. I don’t think that’ll be happening with any new material, nor should it.

Messersmith opens for German duo BOY, whose music has been compared to Feist. Check it out below.

That Bourbon show is $15 and starts at 8 p.m. The rest of the Lincoln Calling line-up is at their website, here.

Meanwhile, back here in Omaha, there is virtually nothing interesting going on except for the Record Club at the Saddle Creek Shop, which tonight features Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger. Hosting tonight’s installment is none other than Dan McCarthy of McCarthy Trenching, who will lead the discussion after the album’s play concludes. The needle drops at 7. More info here.

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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 © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Column 332: 2Q’11 CD Reviews – The Favorites; Live Review: Jeremy Messersmith; M.O.T.O., Digital Leather tonight…

Category: Blog,Column,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:53 pm July 14, 2011

Column 332: 2Q 2011 Report: Winners and Sinners

by Tim McMahan,

All that sweat and pain just so some snide motherf**ker with a set of headphones can boil it down to a few sentences. Was it all worth it? Below, a summary of notable 2Q’11 releases:

Absolutely must buy:

The Rosebuds, Loud Planes Fly Low (Merge)


The RosebudsLoud Planes Fly Low (Merge) — They used to be known as “the husband-and-wife duo of Ivan Howard and Kelly Crisp,” but rock has a way of driving people apart, and the couple split in ’09. The result is dense, trippy, atmospheric, lost and found, a reinvention, a triumph, and one of the best rock albums of the year.

Fucked Up, David Comes to Life (Matador)


Fucked UpDavid Comes to Life (Matador) — By taking a step away from hardcore toward hard rock they now have more in common with Thin Lizzy and The Hold Steady than Black Flag and Minor Threat, and we all win for it, thanks to huge, fat guitar lines and — get this — melodies. Don’t worry, ol’ Pink Eyes still sounds like he gargled with broken glass. Essential.

Tune Yards, Whokill (4AD)


tUnE yArDsw h o k i l l (4AD) — Night and day is the difference between this and the unlistenable debut Bird-Brains. Our protagonist, Merrill Garbus, has gone from experimental noodling to full-on (indie) dance rock that owes a debt to early Talking Heads and thick, hard, urban beats.

Beastie Boys, The Hot Sauce Committee Part Two


The Beastie BoysHot Sauce Committee Part Two (Capitol) — Worthy of the hype, they haven’t sounded this “fresh” since Paul’s Boutique, even though their bouncing style of hip-hop is destined to be classified as “old school” by today’s young gangstas. I’ll reach for this over Big Sean, Jay-Z and Kanye every time, but maybe that just betrays my age. The finest three opening tracks of any album so far this year.

Well Aimed Arrows


Well Aimed ArrowsAdult Entertainment (unreleased) — Intelligent punk with big-shoulder swing, dissonant male/female harmonies, jangling ringing electric guitars, sing-along choruses and a straight-four beat. Best lyrics of any band going, period. What more do you want? Too bad you can’t buy a copy, yet…

EMA, Past Life Martyred Saint (Souterrain Transmissions)


EMAPast Life Martyred Saints (Souterrain Transmissions) — With the opening line of “California,” (Fuck California, you made me boring) Erika M. Anderson positions herself as this generation’s Chan Marshall (the Moon Pix one), Liz Phair (the good one) and PJ Harvey (the one that wants to bathe in milk).

Virgin Islands, Ernie Chambers V. God (The Control Group)


Virgin IslandsErnie Chambers V. God (The Control Group) — The finest effort of former Omahan Mike Jaworski’s fabled career (The Cops), and the first one that I can and will unequivocally endorse. More rock than punk, his big guitars are tempered with big melodies and thrum-thrum drums. Come back to Omaha, lad.



SBTRKT, self-titled (Young Turks) — Dubstep electronic debut by London DJ Aaron Jerome is a midnight-beat wonderland made for dance floors or runways or headphones. He sets the stage for lush guest vocalists (Sampha, Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagona, Roses Gabor) with a sound that is dreamy and dense infused with sharp bits of bright, bright lights.

The Unthanks, Last (Rough Trade)


The UnthanksLast (Rough Trade) — Sisters Rachel and Becky Unthank blend gorgeous harmonies around gorgeous British folk and gorgeous acoustic arrangements for an album that is revelatory and triumphant as it is reflective and mournful. Music for the morning after, or the afternoon.

Memphis, Here Comes a City


MemphisHere Comes a City (Arts & Crafts) — From the people who brought you Stars (Torquil Campbell) and Metric (Chris Dumont) comes a collection of finger-snapping happy modern pop songs with lines like “I know, it’s the end of the world today, because we said so,” sung (presumably) with a smile.

Washed Out, Within and Without (Sub Pop)


Washed OutWithin and Without (Sub Pop) — A reimagining of the best parts of ’80s and ’90s indie dance routines (Depeche Mode, New Order) wrapped in a modern chillwave package that’s better than chillwave. Actually, how ’bout we deep-six that whole chillwave label once and for all?

Pretty good:

Pantha Du PrinceXI Versions of Black Noise (Rough Trade) — Interesting  takes on his Black Noise, but not as good as the original.

Art BrutBrilliant! Tragic! (Cooking Vinyl) — A little of these guys goes a long way, but worth it if only for “Bad Comedian” and “Axl Rose.”

ZombyDedication (4AD) — Throbbing dubstep masterwork whose bite-size smaller tracks are true highlights.

Cold CaveCherish The Light Years (Matador) — Explosive follow-up to the better Lover Comes Close, shattering and sometimes shrill but never boring.

Friendly FiresPala (XL) — We used to call this club music. A celebration.

Thurston MooreDemolished Thoughts (Matador) — Thurston with his blue guitar tries his hand at recreating Beck’s Sea Change, and (for the most part) succeeds.

Worth considering:

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Belong (Slumberland)

The Rural Alberta Advantage, Departing (Saddle Creek)

The Felice Brothers, Celebration Florida (Fat Possum)

The Twilight Singers, Dynamite Steps (Sub Pop)

Psychedelic Horshit, Laced (FatCat)

Colourmusic, My __ Is Pink (Memphis Industries)

Do Not Pass Go

The Bell, Great Heat (Badman Recording Co.)

Paper Cuts, Fading Parade (Sub Pop)

Elbow, Build a Rocket Boys (Polydor / Fiction)

Micachu & The Shapes, Chopped & Screwed (Rough Trade)

GIVERS, In Light (Glassnote)

* * *

Jeremy Messersmith at Slowdown Jr., July 13, 2011.

Jeremy Messersmith at Slowdown Jr., July 13, 2011.

Jeremy Messersmith, who played a set last night at Slowdown Jr. with a 3-piece backing band that included cello and keyboards, is where Matthew Sweet was around the time his third album, Earth, was released in 1989. Despite being signed to a major label, Sweet, a native if Lincoln, NE, was an unknown commodity who was writing some of the best hook-filled pop songs that were heard by virtually no one. Then came 1991’s Girlfriend, and everything changed. Not only was it a commercial breakthrough, it would end up being Sweet’s high-water mark, one of the best pop albums of the ’90s.

Both Sweet and Messersmith are masters of the pop hook. Earth was Sweet’s third album. The Reluctant Graveyard is Messersmith’s third album. There are two striking differences: 1) The Reluctant Graveyard is a better record than Earth, and 2) The music industry that launched Sweet in 1991 no longer exists. Is it even possible in this day when artists simply give away their music online for Messersmith to break through to that Girlfriend level? I guess it all depends on how good Messersmith’s next album is.

This is a meandering way of saying that Messersmith deserves that level of national attention based not only on his previous records but especially on last night’s performance. Though entertaining as a solo acoustic artist using a series of digital looping pedals (as he did last time he played at Slowdown), it doesn’t compare to what we saw and heard last night with his amazing band. His songs were “filled out” to a level even better than heard on Messersmith’s  painstakingly detailed recordings.

No one these days sings quite like him (his voice is high and sweet and clear), or writes pop songs that are so, well, perfect. Perfect little pop songs. Is there still a market for such things? If so, Messersmith is sitting on a goldmine.

* * *

Tonight at The Brother’s Lounge it’s the return of Masters of the Obvious, more frequently referred to as M.O.T.O. I’m told Mr. Caporino will be backed tonight by a certain local punk rocker whose last performance involved a mele at O’Leaver’s. Playing right before M.O.T.O., our very own Digital Leather. Also on the bill are Worried Mothers and Prairies. All for a right price of just $5. Show starts at 9 p.m.

It’s not the only show happening tonight. The Photo Atlas returns to O’Leaver’s with Little Brazil and The Noise FM. $5, 9:30.

Also tonight, Bazooka Shootout plays at The Waiting Room with Capgun Coup and Kyle Harvey. $7, 9 p.m.

Too bad we can’t be in three places at one time, eh?

* * *

Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Jeremy Messersmith (and his band) tonight at Slowdown…

Category: Blog — Tags: — @ 1:23 pm July 13, 2011
Jeremy Messersmith at Slowdown Jr. in May 2010.

Jeremy Messersmith at Slowdown Jr. in May 2010.

by Tim McMahan,

Minnesota singer/songwriter Jeremy Messersmith, who played a solo set with The Mynabirds at Slowdown Jr. last May (2010, review here), returns to Slowdown tonight, but expect something completely different.

“The show tonight will be much much different than the last time I played at The Slowdown, mainly because I’m bringing a band with me,” Messersmith said via e-mail. “It’ll be a mix of ’60s (influenced) rock with a bit of fingerpicking guitar songs, too (I have to keep my singer-songwriter credentials). Oh, and no looping pedals this time!”

Backing up Messersmith is Peter Sieve from the band Rogue Valley on guitar, Alex Young on drums, and Ben Rosenbush on cello, bass, keys.

The tour is in support of his 2010 release, The Relunctant Graveyard, which is sort of a concept album about death performed from a very sunny, pop-music perspective. You can download it on a “pay-what-you want” basis here. If you’re wondering about his business model, read my 2010 interview with Jeremy, where he talks about why he self-releases and offers his music for download.

“Also, I think we’ll be doing a cover of The Magnetic Fields tune ‘Epitaph for My Heart.’ Y’know, to stick with the whole death and dying bit o’ sunshine,” Messersmith said. “I’ll probably try out a new song or two, kinda depends on the vibe, if people are really listening.”

He asked if I had any requests, and I told him I’d love to hear “Virginia,” from his 2008 album The Silver City, which happens to be one of my favorite records. You can also download that one online, here. Make sure you throw some cash into his digital hat.

Opening for Messersmith is Ted Wulfers, In Love. $8, 9 p.m. Attendance is required.

* * *

Tomorrow: The 2Q’11 CD review round-up.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: So-So Sailors, Jeremy Messersmith, The Mynabirds…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 6:35 pm May 3, 2010

I came to see Jeremy Messersmith, the crowd came to see The Mynabirds, but it was So-So Sailors that everyone was talking about after the show Saturday night at Slowdown Jr.

The room was only about half-full when Messersmith took the stage for a solo-acoustic set. In most cases, I’d be bummed about a solo set, especially from someone like Messersmith whose records are some of my favorites and are generally played with a full band. But business is business these days, and it’s expensive to haul a band around with you on tour (especially when no one knows who you are). Messersmith made the most of it, augmenting his guitar and voice with a series of effects pedals that nicely filled out the songs — magical pedals that created the effect of two-, three-, four-part harmony, pedals that provided rhythm tracks and pedals that created loops of vocals and guitar lines, all brought together like a modern-day one-man band. Even when he didn’t use the doo-dads, I enjoyed what I heard. Messersmith is an amazing songwriter who has a gift for creating gorgeous melodies and monster sing-along hooks. He also has a huge, high voice (imagine Ben Gibbard if Ben Gibbard could really sing). In addition to playing tunes off his new album and my favorite, The Silver City (download it now at, Messersmith did two covers — a Red House Painters-style version of “Norwegian Wood,” and his take on The Replacements’ “Skyway” (which also appears on Silver City). We need to get him back here soon (see photo), but with a full band and big amps to drown out the sea of audience chit-chat.

By the time he was done, the room was near capacity. I have no idea if this show was a sell-out, but it was a crush-mob. Next was the stage debut of So-So Sailors, a local supergroup of sorts, anchored by Chris Machmuller (Ladyfinger) on vocals and piano, Dan McCarthy (McCarthy Trenching) on Wurlitzer, Alex McManus (The Bruces) on guitar, Brendan Greene-Walsh (O’Leaver’s) on bass and the former drummer for Bloodcow (whose name I don’t know (Edit: It’s Dan Kemp)).

With Mach on the front end, I guess I was expecting something harsh, uptempo and loud. Instead we got slow, quiet and pretty. Beautiful at times; edgy and proggy at others.  The faster, louder songs fell in line with the slowest moments of Ladyfinger. It was all very moody for the most part and different than anything that any of these guys have done before. Definitely not what I or probably anyone was expecting.  One thing’s for certain, with this band — and this laid-back style of music — Mach has absolutely nowhere to hide. His voice is fully exposed for all to hear. It’s a cool (if not unsteady) voice that sounds like a sleepy, Midwestern version of Roger Waters on songs that often start with Mach playing piano one-handed only to gradually build to a pounding finish. Quite a debut, and quite a buzz afterward (see really lousy photo).

Finally, there was The Mynabirds. I think I made clear in my interview and in the blog that I really like their album, but I wasn’t sure if it would translate well live. The record is a real hodge-podge of styles made popular by some very familiar indie female artists. One song (“Ways of Looking”) sounds EXACTLY like a Mazzy Star tune, complete with droopy guitar line and morning-after vocals. At other times, Laura Burhenn sounds like Jenny Lewis, other times like Chan Marshall of Cat Power, other times like Maria or Orenda, and so on. So while entertaining, I’m still not quite sure I know who Burhenn really sounds like (despite what Pitchfork says). I’m not convinced that she’s defined her own style, yet. The arrangements on the recording are very, very good, but could they pull them off on stage without horns? And how would Burhenn compare to someone like Jenny Lewis, who owns a stage from entrance to exit? Could Burhenn bring out her inner-diva, or would she just stand behind her keyboard all night.

Well, in the end, she did pull it off, though she never strayed from that tiny spot behind her keyboard stand. Playing as a five piece, the music obviously lost some of the dynamic edge heard on the CD, but what did I expect? Burhenn was in good voice, belting out the hits, and to be honest, sounding more unique and on her own than on the record. She has a different delivery on stage — it’s bluesier, looser, more relaxed and natural. It was distinctly Burhenn (even though the person next to me still compared her to Jenny Lewis). Now if we could only get her to loosen up behind the microphone.


Box Elders 7-inch; Bye-bye Lala; DL offer continues; It’s True tonight; Mynabirds, Jeremy Messersmith tomorrow…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , , , — @ 12:49 pm April 30, 2010

The Box Elder’s new 7-inch on the HOZAC label is finally in stock at the Antiquarium, according to guitarist  Jeremiah McIntyre. Get it while you can. He said the band’s new 12-inch 45 rpm EP will be coming out soon on Captured Tracks out of Brooklyn. It just keeps getting better…

* * *

My download service of choice — — announced that it’s shutting down at the end of May. Or, more accurately, Lala is being shut down by Apple, who purchased the company last December. This is likely the first step in creating a “cloud-based” iTunes that would allow you to access your digital library from any web-connected device. If it works like Lala, then you could upload your entire digital collection “to the cloud,” which would mean you would no longer need to worry about your iPhone/iPod/iPad hard-drive limitation — as long as you had a signal (3G or Wifi) you could listen to anything in your collection. Let us pause and think about the implications of this. Again: Upload entire collection once, access from any Wifi/3G-connected device. Hmmm… Details.

* * *

The Digital Leather $15 early-download + vinyl offer continues despite the fact that the band met its $600 goal in less than a day. “We’re putting a cap on the number that we send out,” DL says. “No more than 150 vinyls with special covers will be produced… any additional funds raised will go toward additional recording equipment. Shawn has his eye on a Manley ELOP limiter, which ‘makes songs sound like heroin,’ so we’ll see how close we come to that. If not that, and probably more likely, additional funds will buy our tickets to Europe this September.” You can get in on this offer here.

* * *

Well, it’s finally here — the It’s True CD release party for the band’s debut full-length. Joining the band on the Waiting Room stage are The Haunted Windchimes (Pueblo, CO) and Omaha favorite Bear Country.

According to Jesse Stanek’s piece in The Reader, the CD is being released on Kyle Harvey’s Slo-Fi Records. As much as I like Kyle’s label, I’m disappointed that someone a bit larger didn’t pick it up. Maybe they will. Look what happened to UUVVWWZ. Their debut came out on Darren Keen’s It Are Good label before Saddle Creek committed to the band and rereleased it. What more does a label like Saddle Creek need from an act besides a quality product (though I haven’t actually heard their CD yet) and willingness to tour? It’s True seemingly could provide both.

Also tonight, Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies performs as part of a four-band bill at Slowdown that also includes Satchel Grande. $10, 8 p.m. And Capgun Coup’s Sam Martin headlines an acoustic show at The Hole with Sean Pratt, Brandon Behrens and Allen Schleich of Snake Island –the show is a benefit for the performers upcoming tour of China. $6, 7 p.m.

Tomorrow night is the Mynabirds CD release show with Jeremy Messersmith and The So-So Sailors. This show is in the Slowdown Front Room, which means it could very easily sell out. Get there early (if only to also catch Messersmith’s solo set). $8, 9 p.m. Also Saturday night, Son of 76 and The Watchmen are playing at Harrah’s Stir Lounge — one of the few local bands that I think could actually carry off a three-hour set (When is Harrah’s going to figure out that most indie bands’ sets only last (and only should last) about 35 minutes?) $5, 9 p.m.


Column 268: Jeremy Messersmith’s scarce goods; Digital Leather fund-raiser; Holly Golightly tonight…

Category: Column,Interviews — Tags: , , — @ 11:39 am April 28, 2010

Some additional notes from the Jeremy Messersmith interview…

Messersmith said the hardest part of his music career has been dealing with criticism. “I’m too sensitive to bad reviews,” he said. “I remember the bad reviews the most, and they make me not want to do this anymore. At the same time, these people (critics) are justified in their opinions.” On top of that, Messersmith said he’s also started to get hate mail — that’s right, hate mail. “It’ll be a random Myspace comment or e-mail from someone I don’t know. It’s weird. Stuff like ‘You epitomize hipster assholery.’ At the same time, when people hear my music, I want them to really like it or really hate it. Anything’s better than indifference.”

Finally, Messersmith said he “loosely shopped around” his new album, The Reluctant Graveyard, but “I’ve always been more of a do-it-yourself person. I’m not sure what a label would offer other than additional money. There aren’t any labels in Minneapolis that I want to be part of, and I don’t know a whole lot of record people. As a singer/songwriter — rather than being in a band — it’s easier to connect with people using web tools. So it seemed like a good fit (releasing the album) myself.” And, he added, no label showed interest. “Most indie people thought my stuff was too direct or too poppy; and it wasn’t poppy enough for the majors. I occupy some sort of nether region of music.”

Column 268: The Reluctant Rockstar

Jeremy Messersmith’s scarce goods.

It was pure, unbridled serendipity that I ever discovered Jeremy Messersmith’s music. As you can imagine, I get quite a few CDs in the mail — most of them by anonymous-sounding bands with bad names and poor taste in art. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise: Album artwork (even on CDs) is very important. If your art is bad, bland or just plain poorly conceived and printed, it’s going to get lost in the shuffle/pile/mountain of discs that stack up (or get placed under) an editor’s desk. And if your band name is offensively stupid, it’s going to get thrown in the trash.

There was nothing particularly interesting about Jeremy Messersmith’s name or the packaging and artwork for The Silver City, his second album that came out on tiny label Princess Records a couple years ago. There was no reason that — instead of throwing the disc on “the stack” — that I took it with me and listened to it in my car on the way to wherever. But I did, and am better for it.

The story was unfortunately familiar to Messersmith. “Probably one of my biggest failures of last year was not marketing (the CD) better,” he said. “I did the best with the infrastructure I had to work with.”

Speaking from his home on the edge of The Greenway — a bike path that cuts through the southern part of Minneapolis — Messersmith sounds exactly as you expect the creator of his three albums to sound — warmly quiet, laidback, funny, NPR-intelligent, probably smiling on the other end of the line while he nods his head knowingly.

The Silver City is one of the most straight-out catchy and satisfying albums I’ve ever heard — a floating puffy white cloud in a perfectly blue sky held up lightly on the warm current of Messersmith’s friendly voice that invites listeners to sing along. It was produced by superstar fellow Minneapolitan Dan Wilson, originally famous for Trip Shakespeare and Semisonic until he teamed up with The Dixie Chicks and won a “Song of the Year” Grammy for co-writing “Not Ready to Be Nice.” Wilson’s uncanny knack for melody permeates The Silver City‘s perfectly crafted songs about falling in love in the heart of suburbia.

Now comes The Reluctant Graveyard, the final installment in Messersmith’s three-album song cycle that began with 2006’s The Alcatraz Kid, an album about “me in my basement hating life,” Messersmith said. “It feels like an adolescent-growing-up record. The Silver City is that same person after moving to the suburbs, commuting and going to his job. The Reluctant Graveyard wraps it up with songs about death. Not to sound too morose, but I’ve been thinking a lot about it lately. I’m 30 now and every day I wake up and see a new gray hair. When you’re younger you think that maybe there’s some sort of ‘out’ — a loophole or something or that maybe by the time you get old they’ll have death figured out. So it’s me thinking a lot about the fact that I’m going to die, and asking what am I doing with my life, what’s the point of it all and how do I find enjoyment.”

It sounds depressing, but the record is as fun as any of his others, with the same catchy Beatle-esque, sunny-sidewalk melodies. Messersmith produced this one with Andy Thompson, the two leaning on what they learned from Wilson, especially this golden rule: “Never underestimate the importance of a well-sung line. Make sure that it’s the best it can be, and you’re saying exactly what you want to say.”

How is Messersmith going to avoid having his new album get lost in the endless, fathomless sea of releases? He’s following the path of Radiohead and Trent Reznor by giving it away online. Well, not actually giving it away. Folks that go to have the option to “Pick your price” to download the album, an option that’s also now available for his first two records. Fans can also buy the album on vinyl, CD and (get this) cassette tape. On average, Messersmith said people pay about a buck download.

“I’d rather have it be easier for people to hear my music, and wouldn’t want money to be a limitation to that,” Messersmith said. “It costs to make the recording, but beyond that it doesn’t cost me anything to distribute or manufacture (mp3 files).”

But doesn’t giving away his music make it harder for those who want to make a living selling music? “I don’t expect everyone to be a winner; someone always has something to lose,” he said. “I don’t make the bulk of my money making music, and maybe never will. This is a sustainable way of doing it.”

Messersmith’s strategic model: Connect with fans as much as possible using the Internet and social media (, Facebook, YouTube), then give them a reason to buy your physical goods — make it something that’s cool and useful. “Touring is the ultimate ‘scarce good’ from an economic standpoint,” said Messersmith, revealing his nerd underbelly. “Scarcity is something you can charge for, and I can only be in one place at a time.

His philosophy while staring in the badly beaten face of the crumbling music industry: “I would rather have a smaller piece of the bigger pie than a larger piece of a smaller pie.”

You’ll have a chance to consume some of Messersmith’s “scarce goods” when he opens for The Mynabirds at their CD release show this Saturday, May 1, at Slowdown. Get there early.

* * *

Yesterday morning, the folks in Digital Leather launched an online effort to generate money to purchase some new equipment. From their Facebook page: “Digital Leather has a new album, which is pretty much the most amazing record ever, and we need to send it out to labels. But first we need some way to self-master and get it there. We found a sweet machine for a relatively low cost, and in exchange for helping us get this mixer/ recorder, you get things.”

The deal: Those who pledge $10 get an album download before the actual release date. And for $15, they get the download plus a vinyl release with a numbered, super-limited edition cover.

They wanted to raise $600 within 45 days. By this morning, they were at $741, and there’s no stopping it. The fact is, $15 is a steal for a download and limited-edition vinyl. Get in on the deal while the getting’s good. Here’s the link to the offer.

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Tonight at The Waiting Room, UK garage-rock queen Holly Golightly and her band, The Brokeoffs, perform in support of their new album, Medicine County (Transdreamer Records). Whipkey/Zimmerman open. $10, 9 p.m.

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Tomorrow: The Mynabirds