Live Review: Mark Kozelek; Elvis Costello, Larkin Poe tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:09 pm October 4, 2016
Mark Kozelek at Slowdown Jr., Oct. 3, 2016.

Mark Kozelek at Slowdown Jr., Oct. 3, 2016.

by Tim McMahan,

Mark Kozelek and his keyboard player, Ben, walked onto the Slowdown Jr. stage a little after 9 last night and didn’t leave for two and a half hours. In that time, they ran through a set list of Sun Kil Moon songs that included a few off Benji (“Richard Ramirez…” “Micheline” and “Dogs”), Universal Themes (“The Possum,” “This Is My First Day…”) and the just-released Jesu/Sun Kil Moon album (“Fragile,” “Exodus”) as well as a few new ones (“He’s Bad,” a song about Michael Jackson with the chorus “He’s Bad / And he’s dead / And I’m glad“), a cover of “Send in the Clowns” and a few I didn’t recognize, including a set intro and a set outro wherein Kozelek talked about never having been to Omaha before, his lunch at The Blatt (where his waiter called him “Boss” repeatedly), and seeing Conor Oberst play at The Forum when he was this tall (and who Kozelek will be opening for in a one-off show in a few weeks).

Kozelek only played guitar on a couple songs (including “Richard Ramirez…”).Most of the time he stood on the front of the stage with his microphone or sat next to Ben, directing the beat with his free hand in a solemn wave. At times, especially on new songs, he referred to lyrics written in a binder. This was the first of three shows with this new keyboard player and Kozelek warned there would be some rough edges, and there were, but they only added to the charm of the set.

I’ve read he can be nasty to his audience, but he was nothing but kind and funny last night, laughing often and mostly at himself. The laughter countered the hard-reality lyrics that dealt with death and murder and getting older and memories of loved ones gone… depressing lyrics mostly sung but sometimes spoken as keyboardist Ben tickled his Roland and controlled a thick, dark beat.

I think Benji is Kozelek’s masterpiece, and he acknowledged that the album is what most new audiences know him from, saying Red House Painters (his first band) was so long ago. The Benji songs, which came out in 2014, indeed stood out next to the newer material that at times seemed like stream-of-conscious poetry. The moments when Kozelek used that angelic voice of his and reached beyond his slow, guttural, spoken delivery were when he raised the night to the next level.

There’s not much more to say. The crowd of around 60 were seated at tables throughout the club and a few yards away from the stage. Kozelek asked people to come closer all night, and eventually they scooched their chairs forward toward the stage. It was a quiet, intimate performance that kept the audience rapt and silent.

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Another master story-teller songwriter performs tonight, this time at the Holland Performing Arts Center. It’s a solo performance by Elvis Costello. Based on the set list from Saturday’s show at Town Hall in NYC (which you can read here) this could be a greatest hits collection — played with piano and guitar — that spans to his first album. Opening is Larkin Poe, who I wrote about yesterday. Tickets for the 7 p.m. show range from $46 to $126.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Mountain Goats, Oh Pep!; Ten Questions with Larkin Poe; Mark Kozelek solo tonight…

Category: Blog,Interviews,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:34 pm October 3, 2016
Mountain Goats at The Waiting Room, Sept. 30, 2016.

Mountain Goats at The Waiting Room, Sept. 30, 2016.

by Tim McMahan,

Another crushed, table-clearing night at The Waiting Room last Friday for The Mountain Goats — especially impressive when you consider it was a $25 ticket.

John Darnielle and company have been coming through Omaha literally for decades. Darnielle pointed that out from stage, reminiscing about first hearing a young, bombastic folkie named Simon Joyner when Joyner passed through Darnielle’s town. They exchanged information and eventually would record and release music together. In fact, I’m holding a copy of the Why You All So Thief 7-inch, a split between Joyner and The Mountain Goats that came out on Sing, Eunuchs! way back in 1994 (and which is still available from Simon’s website).

Darnielle played a couple songs which were either inspired by or recorded at the time of those Joyner sessions, recorded “with Simon just around the corner from the Antiquarium.” One of those songs was “Baboon,” played during the solo acoustic interlude in the center of his set. The rest of the night, Darnielle was accompanied by his band, including a dude on a jazzy tenor saxophone, playing songs from their latest album, an ode to professional wrestling called Beat the Champ (2015, Merge). Most were preceded by a funny story explaining the lore of the world of wresting and the characters that inhabit it.

I’ve been watching and listening to Darnielle for years and other than a few recent loungy additions, his story-telling song-writing style hasn’t changed. Every song is an introduction to a new character who is trying to do his or her damnedest just to get by. Simple, honest songs that no doubt have influenced a variety of bands from The Hold Steady to Decemberists.

While the crowd was definitely into the set — a few even moved to the beat on the floor — Mountain Goats isn’t exactly a dance band, and is now reaching a level of popularity where a sit-down concert at a formal theater might make sense. Imagine them at The Orpheum…

Oh Pep! at The Waiting Room, Sept. 30, 2016.

Oh Pep! at The Waiting Room, Sept. 30, 2016.

Opening act Oh Pep! drew upon gorgeous melodies and frontwoman Olivia Hally’s remarkable voice for a memorable set of music from their debut album, Stadium Cake, which they said took seven years to make. While Hally handled the acoustic guitar parts, the “Pep” part of Oh Pep! —  Pepita Emmerichs — switched between mandolin and violin while adding gorgeous harmonies. This is a band to keep an eye on.

Oh Pep! closed out the set with help from Mountain Goats, who joined them on stage for a rousing version of the band’s first single, “Doctor Doctor.”

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Larkin Poe opens for Elvis Costello tomorrow night at The Holland.

Larkin Poe opens for Elvis Costello tomorrow night at The Holland.

Talk about your sweet opening gigs, Atlanta sister act Larkin Poe will have a hard time finding a better tour mate than the legendary Elvis Costello, who they open for Oct. 4 at the Holland Performing Arts Center.

The band, fronted by Rebecca and Megan Lovell, started out as the Lovell Sisters with their sister, Jessica, an act that ran its course in 2009. In their new iteration, the sisters have definitely gone electric, playing a southern-fried style of rock that sounds like heavy Alison Krauss meets Iris Dement.

Here’s how the sisters tackled the Ten Questions gauntlet:

What is your favorite album?

Megan: Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd.

Rebecca: Living with the Law, Chris Whitley.

What is your least favorite song?

“This Is The Song That Never Ends”

What do you enjoy most about being in a band?

Megan: Playing music for a living! The opportunity to get up onstage and share a connection with people of all shapes and sizes. It’s amazing to see so many different parts of the world.

Rebecca: Creative freedom. The art of singing and songwriting has been around since the dawn of enlightened man; to be able to carry on that tradition and walk the righteous way of rock’n’roll is an incredibly satisfying way to live.

What do you hate about being in a band?

Megan: You have to say goodbye to your home and loved ones far too often.

Rebecca: The temptation to be highly critical of yourself as an artist. All the time.

What is your favorite substance (legal or illegal)?

Megan: Cheddar flavored popcorn. It should be illegal.

Rebecca: Patchouli oil.

In what city or town do you love to perform?

We played a sold out show in London at the Borderline a few months ago – having ticket scalpers working the sidewalks out front of the club, for our show, was a rush. We appreciate the support our British fans have shown us.

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

The worst gigs we’ve ever played are the gigs that we didn’t get to play. We’ve only had to cancel a few shows due to illness, but canceling a show is the worst thing of all.

How do you pay your bills?

We’re proud to be full-time musicians. We pay our bills by being ’21st century artists’… In short: we do just about anything and everything to bring in the dough – touring, recording, writing, you name it.

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

Megan: I’d be a professional stunt double. I’d hate to work in a slaughterhouse.

Rebecca: I’d be a crystal-gazing clairvoyant. I’d hate to be a competitive eater.

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

We’ve made our own stories in Omaha with native son, Conor Oberst. We’ve spent a couple pleasant nights at his place, Pageturners Lounge, listening to friends perform or playing songs of our own!

Larkin Poe opens for Elvis Costello Tuesday, Oct. 4, at the Holland Performing Arts Center, 13th & Douglas Streets. Tickets range from $46.25 to $126.25. Showtime is 7 p.m. For more information, go to

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Tonight, Mark Kozelek makes his first appearance ever at Slowdown Jr., and if I’m not mistaken, first time ever in Omaha. He’s played the last two Sun Kil Moon shows at Vega in Lincoln. Tonight’s show is listed as “An Evening with Mark Kozelek,” with no opener. I’m curious how this will deviate from a SKM show and the set he performed Sept. 26 as Sun Kil Moon in Denmark, which you can read here. I can tell you it’ll be a heavy experience for those who attend. I saw Kozelek as SKM perform in a church at SXSW a few years ago, and it was a long, dark evening that I’ll never forget. $23, 9 p.m. 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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.