Twinsmith, Ex-Cult tonight; Benson Days Saturday; Leafblower, Lupines album releases Sunday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:55 pm July 28, 2017

Is this not the most bad-ass poster you’ve seen in a while? Lupines and Leafblower celebrate releases Sunday night at O’Leaver’s.

by Tim McMahan,

These are prolific times for local music.

Two weekends ago it was a celebration of David Nance and Noah Sterba’s album releases. This weekend we three more local bands celebrating the release of new material.

It starts tonight at The Slowdown main room where Saddle Creek Records band Twinsmith celebrates the release of their third long-player, Stay Cool. This one was something of a surprise for me. I’d pretty much written off the band as a low-octane version of Vampire Weekend, with the same light-bounce indie pop sound. Well, the pop is still there, but the sound has indeed evolved. Stay Cool is a fun listen, a synth-fueled dance-rock album ripe for pop radio that has more in common with Phoenix or Twin Shadow or current-day (dancy) M83  than their past releases. Did I say “synth-fueled?” We’re talking super-synthy. Infectious in a good way; a perfect companion for a run in the park. I Forgot to Love my Father and Thick Paint open. $10, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, Goner Records mainstay Ex-Cult rolls into fabulous O’Leaver’s. Their latest, Negative Growth, out on In the Red, is brutal, static noise-rock at its finest. This is a massive four-band bill with Wrong Pets, KC’s Kool 100s (Rainy Road Records) and NOWHERE. $7, 9:30 p.m.

Saturday is something of a blank music-wise. If you have the day free, stop by for Benson Days, which is happening in… Benson. Parade, food trucks, beer tents, face paint. What more do you want? I’ll be there manning the Little Gallery booth (buy some art). And later that night it’s Benson Soul Society at Reverb. Your day is planned.

Then comes Sunday and a duo album release bonanza at O’Leaver’s.

The Lupines just dropped the gorgeously recorded LP called Mountain of Love (Speed! Nebraska Records) that sees John Zielger and the boys crawling out of the “garage rock”cellar that, too often, is code-language for home-made and low-fi. This one sounds huge, majestic, like watching a’70s-era 70-millimeter western saga on the big screen. Recorded over two days at ARC Studios by Ben Brodin, Ziegler on vocals, guitar and piano, never sounded more ominous testifying on these 13 stompers backed by lead guitarist Mike Friedman, bassist Mike Tulis and drummer Calvin Retzlaff. Copies of the release will be available on that new-fangled Compact Disc format. Get it.

Meanwhile, the boys in Leafblower opted for the more traditional cassette tape format for the release of their new one, Live at O’Leaver’s 11-23-16. The four-piece consists of members of Danny Maxwell’s New Lungs, with Craig Fort, drummer Tab Tworek, guitarist John Svatos and DMax. It’s probably no coincidence that the song names are typed in ALL CAPS because this one is bigly loud; in fact, it’s one of those albums that sounds better the louder you play it. I guess that’s why they call it metal.

If that weren’t enough, Asian Man Records band Dog Party also is on the bill. This is part of O’Leaver’s Sunday Social program, which means the music starts at 5 p.m. AND there’s food, this time courtesy of your friends at Smoke Buds who will have pork butt and beans (and more) while it lasts. $5!

And thats all I got for this weekend. If I missed your show, put it in the comments section. Have a  good one.

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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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Umm, Oquoa; Charlie Burton, Muscle Cousins tonight; Leafblower, David Nance, Closeness, BIB Saturday…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:49 pm April 14, 2017

Umm at Reverb Lounge, April 13, 2017.

by Tim McMahan,

So now I get the name change. Umm, the new project by Stef Drootin and Chris Sensensey, sounds nothing like their other band, Big Harp. There was nary a twang to be had when the duo rolled out a set of new material last night at Reverb Lounge.

In fact, everything was different — the rock style, the blistering pace, the guitar/bass tones, even Senseney’s voice — now cool and easy — was a big contrast to the grave-pit vocals heard on Big Harp albums.

Whenever I listen to female/male husband/wife duos, I subconsciously compare them to other duos where the vocals are shared or harmonized between a male and female. Top of list is usually Yo La Tengo, Low, Sonic Youth, White Stripes and, of course, Fleetwood Mac, Sonny & Cher… okay, maybe I’m going too far back into the archives. The act that came to mind last night was someone no one likes but me — a vintage husband-wife duo that recorded on I.R.S. called Timbuk3, a one-hit wonder whose fantastic catalog was virtually ignored because of that hit song — which should be a warning to any band dying for a break-through single. Sometimes a the hit can ruin your career.

Anyway, the Timbuk3 comparison is purely on the periphery of what Umm is doing, and based solely on how Stef and Chris harmonize. Stef said those harmonies are the result of an Everly Bros. fetish. Whatever the inspiration, the end result was gorgeous, and provided the perfect counter-point to the duo’s fast, heavy but tuneful indie rock.

Played over laptop beats, each instrument shared the leads throughout the set. Whereas Senseney is one of the best guitarists I’ve ever heard shred a solo, Drootin’s bass work was just as prominent and oftentimes more brutal, providing a fuzz tone that peeled paint off Reverb’s rafters. There was one tune in the middle of the set where the duo shared an intricately played musical phrase as if performing a high-stakes trapeze act without a net. It was laugh-out-loud holy-shit good.

Underscoring the entire performance was the songwriting. These are some of the best pop songs I’ve heard in awhile, songs you immediately want to listen to again. I’m told the duo already recorded an album’s worth of music at ARC. This was only their fifth live performance, and it was red hot. Do I like this better than Big Harp? Yes, because in general I’m tired of twangy, rootsy, indie folk music, something Big Harp did as well as anyone. And while you could listen to Big Harp and respect it for what it was, Umm’s music and songs are something I’d reach for again and again.

Oquoa at Reverb Lounge, April 13, 2017.

BareBear, the new Rob Walters project, opened the night, but I missed it. Oquoa followed with one of their better sets. Keyboardist Patrick Newbery now dominates the solos even more so than frontman Max Holmquist’s guitar. Newbery’s synthwork is multi-layered and varies throughout like nothing heard before. Holmquist’s vocals are at times nearly operatic in tone… and enunciation — i.e., I sometimes wondered in what language he was singing.

Oquoa’s style has morphed into a psychedelic, shoe-gaze sound reminiscent of drummer Roger Lewis’ old band, Conduits. The four-piece isn’t afraid to take their music to space, pulling off repeated riffs and soundscapes that are nothing less than trippy.

* * *

It’s a moderately busy weekend of shows coming up…

Omaha/Lincoln legend Charlie Burton is playing tonight and tomorrow night at Growler USA, 16274 Evans Plaza in West O. Burton’s latest combo is called Charlie Burton and Or What! The last time I interviewed Charlie was way back in 1998 when he called his act The Texas Twelve Steppers (read the article here). I suspect old fans will be flocking to this show. It starts at 9 p.m. and is free both nights. I recommend getting there early if you want a seat. The venue draws a crowd even without music, thanks to its massive beer selection.

Also tonight Muscle Cousins headlines at Reverb Lounge. It’s a new project founded by siblings Andy, Mari and Collin Matz. The Matz kids have been playing music in Omaha for years in bands like Capgun Coup, Manic Pixie Dream Girls and Saturn Moth. Opening is the epic-ly named Boner Killerz and psych-folk-rockers Those Far Out Arrows. $7, 9 p.m.

Tomorrow night’s big gig is the Leafblower EP release show at The Brothers Lounge (which I told you about here). Check it out at Bandcamp. Opening is JAZID and folk-psych-superstar David Nance. $5, 9 p.m.

Also tomorrow night, there’s a special dance performance by the tbd. dance collective at Kaneko downtown. “As a part of KANEKO’S ‘Passion & Obsession: From the Collection’ exhibition, tbd. dance collective will create an original performance exploring the idea of movement as an intangible collection, able to be viewed, but only truly stored in the mind.” Closeness, the new project by Orenda and Todd Fink, also perform. Tickets are $10, show starts at 8 p.m.

It’s a night of hardcore at the new Milk Run, 2578 Harney St. Headlining is KC band Blindside USA. Joining them is red-hot noise rock act BIB, Jocko, Jade Lacy and Daphne Calhoun. No price listed but you know it’s got to be at least $7, right? Show starts at 9. Remember, enter through the back door.

Finally, indie band Low Long Signal is playing Saturday night at fabulous O’Leaver’s. They’re opening for headliner The Ramparts. Human Teeth Parade also is on the bill. $5, 9:30 p.m.

And 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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Umm ain’t Big Harp (but sorta is…); Leafblower’s rock ‘n’ roll prescription; the last VW (in the column)…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:42 pm April 12, 2017

Big Harp at The Slowdown, Nov. 28, 2015. Two of them are back as Umm tomorrow at Reverb Lounge.

by Tim McMahan,

Tomorrow night (April 13) Umm plays at Reverb lounge. Umm is the duo of Stefanie Drootin and Chris Senseney, who also are the core duo behind Big Harp. So Umm is Big Harp, right?

No, says Drootin.

“This is the first time we’ve made a record that’s truly just the two of us,” she said in an email back-and-forth earlier this week. “We’ve always had drummers and this time I played drums along with old drum machines and loops. Also, Chris and I were listening to The Everly Brother a lot and were inspired to make a record where we sing harmony vocals basically all the time, which is a change from Big Harp.

“Really we’ve been moving away from the rootsier vibe since the first record and it felt like time to formalize the break. This probably could, and maybe should, have happened on our last album.”

OK, so the duo-only project is called Umm while Big Harp is the name of the trio (or larger)?

“Not exactly. Umm doesn’t have to be a duo,” Stef said. “Partly we just wanted to start a new project and not have to worry about playing old songs or upsetting people by NOT playing old songs. To us, the music sounds different, but I guess people will have to formulate their own opinions on that.”

Ah, OK. Sort of like Cursive vs. Good Life — two projects fronted by Tim Kasher (one of which (The Good Life) Drootin also plays in)?

“Not exactly ’cause those are two bands that are 75% different members. Both of these are Chris and I. :)”

So… Umm is just a way to avoid playing older material?

“No, not really. That’s one part of it, but it’s really just a different project,” Drootin said.  “We co-sing constantly. We play with drum loops. The songs are looser and longer. It’s different music. But yes, it’s still Chris and I.”

And that’s where I left it — no more clear about the name change than I was before, other than Chris and Stef see Umm as a completely different project than Big Harp, and don’t want to play Big Harp songs Thursday night. They are, in essence, turning band branding on its ear. Imagine every time a band puts out a new record it renames itself.

If so, not a bad strategy, especially when you consider the number of bands that launch with big success only to fall flat on their second release, the fans of the debut apparently uninterested in hearing what comes next. In the old days (*he says from his rocking chair*) a band put out multiple albums trying to build up an audience and catalog of music. Sure, it was a drag when the crowd zoned out during the “new stuff,” but that’s a pain point every band went through.

Now, simply rename your band and start over with every album. How many iterations of Ty Segall are out there. Fuzz? Muggers? Ty Segall Band? Conor Oberst has Bright Eyes, Desaparecidos, Monsters of Folk, Mystic Valley Band and his solo output, though he played a “Poison Oak” (a Bright Eyes song) at his last solo show. Does it really matter what he calls himself since he writes all the songs?

Anyway… Joining Umm tomorrow night is Oquoa and BareBear. $7, 9 p.m. Hey, we all have Good Friday off the next day anyway, right?

* * *

Speaking of upcoming shows (I’m getting a head start to the weekend) Leafblower has a cassette release show Saturday night at The Brothers Lounge with David Nance and one other band. They dropped the first song off the album Monday,

“We recorded with Mike Friedman, and Mike Saklar mastered it,” saidl Leafblower’s Danny Maxwell. “The inserts were designed and screen printed by Ben Allen, and we hand-scored them and numbered them. The tapes are green and hand stamped by none other than Mr. Craig Fort.” How can you go wrong? Check out the new track, titled “RX,” below.

* * *

Random non-music item: I write about my 1966 VW Beetle, my 2017 VW Beetle and how it might be the last car I ever own (because of the advent of self-driving vehicles and Uber) in this month’s Over the Edge column in The Reader. Check it out right 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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Orenda Fink, Anna McClellan tonight; Lodgings, Leafblower, Low Long Signal Saturday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 1:51 pm December 9, 2016
Anna McClellan at O'Leaver's, Dec. 3, 2015. She plays tonight at The Waiting Room.

Anna McClellan at O’Leaver’s, Dec. 3, 2015. She plays tonight at The Waiting Room.

by Tim McMahan,

We’re entering a dead zone for shows — the weeks leading up to Christmas, bleak cold days where it takes massive effort for people to venture out into the arctic cold. Like what we’re experiencing right now. The only worst time for shows is after the holiday and before spring. But we’ll get to that, eventually.

There’s a couple big benefit shows happening this weekend.

Tonight there’s an “amplification concert” (my term) called Mobilize Omaha at The Waiting Room. A handful of nonprofits will be presenting their messages to an audience who will also see performances by Orenda Fink, Anna McClellan, Masonjixx, Kait Berreckman and a “surprise guest.” It’s organized by Planned Parenthood, but your $5 donation will be split among all participating non-profits. Starts early, at 5 p.m. and suggested donation is $5, but you can do better than that.

Tomorrow night it’s back to The Waiting Room, this time for a benefit for Youth Emergency Services featuring performances by Low Long Signal, Armful of Tiger Lilies, Slow Stoics, The Clocks, & Port Nocturnal. Tickets are $5 today, $7 DOS. Show starts at 9.

Also Saturday night, they’re calling it “Dad Rock Night at Milk Run.” The line-up ain’t exactly dad-rock-like: Lodgings (members of NAWAS*, Son Ambulance, Head Of Femur, UUVVWWZ, Sound of Rails); Leafblower (members of Little Brazil, NAWAS, New Lungs, Face For Radio), The Sleeperhits and Mike Saklar (Sun-Less Trio, Comme Reel, No Blood Orphan, Ravine). All four acts for just $5. Starts at 9 p.m. at Milk Run.
     * Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship

Also Saturday night, The Brothers Lounge is hosting a Toys for Tots concert featuring DSM5, Jump the Tiger and Mim Aparo (Anthems). $5 or a toy gets you in. It’s a great cause. Starts at 8 p.m.

That’s all I got. If I missed your show, put it in the comments section.  Have a great weekend.

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


Live Review: Leafblower, Millions of Boys; Sad13, Closeness, Flowers Forever, Filter Kings, Wagon Blasters, Gogol Bordello tonight; Silversphere Saturday…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:35 pm November 25, 2016
Leafblower at O'Leaver's Nov. 23, 2016.

Leafblower at O’Leaver’s Nov. 23, 2016.

by Tim McMahan,

Leafblower is trying to bring back heavy metal as we know it, or as I knew it. The four-piece, that consists of members of Danny Maxwell’s New Lungs, is a true band project, driven as much by Craig Fort and drummer Tab Tworek as guitarist John Svatos and DMax. The crew played to a nicely packed crowd at O’Leaver’s Wednesday night, donning matching sleeveless jumpsuits with the band’s logo on the back — a screen print of their mannequin mascot, Tim, created by artist/musician Pat Oakes. That mannequin would play a central role later in the set.

While New Lungs is a heavy indie band, Leafblower is a rock band that borders on metal, with stoner overtones. Their music sounds like upbeat Black Sabbath combined with ’90s Seattle, but with better dynamics, great drops and twisted guitar solos. The closest regional comparisons (to me) are ’90s acts Cactus Nerve Thang and Ritual Device. Vocals, mostly by DMax, are of the bellow/yell variety, with Fort adding his own howl. I couldn’t tell you what they were yelling about, but they sounded like they meant it.

In addition to a knack for throbbing, head-shaking riffs, what makes these guys stand out is Svatos’ weird guitar solos and effects treatments and fast-strum riffage that counters what Dmax is doing on his ax and Fort’s own bass maneuvers that often telegraphed where the melody was headed. There were moments when all three followed the same flight plan with layered metal harmonies while Tworek pushed everything forward on his kit.

Halfway through the set, someone queued the fog machine, which consisted of smoke barreling out of mannequin Tim’s leaf blower. Before the song ended you couldn’t see anyone on stage through the smokey haze.

This was only their fourth show, and I have no idea if they’re recording any of this stuff, though I definitely would like to hear it cranked up downstairs on my Boston Acoustics. Watch for these guys.

Opening was the return of Millions of Boys, after a year or so hiatus. The trio cranked out their unique brand of ’90s-influenced post punk (bordering on pop-punk). It’s great to see Sara Bertuldo keep this one going what with everything that’s happening with her other band, See Through Dresses. For me MofBs is the funner of her two projects, with Alex Van Beaumont sharing the vocals (not sure who has the higher voice) and Ryan Haas crushing the kit.

The set was mostly new material, and word on the street is that the band is working on a followup to their debut, Competing For Your Love (2012, Golden Sound), that could be out later this year. Stay tuned.

* * *

Tonight is the busiest night of the holiday weekend with multiple hot shows happening.

Perhaps the hottest is Sad13 at Milk Run with Mannequin Pussy and Vagabon. Sad13, as you know by now, is Sadie Dupuis of Speedy Ortiz, whose new album, Slugger (2016, Carpark) has been getting raves. You’d think this show would have been better suited at a much larger venue, considering Speedy Ortiz has played Maha in the past. But Dupuis has always played house shows (which Milk Run, with its all-ages policy, resembles) including past gigs at West Wing. With a capacity well below 100, you’d think tonight’s show would have sold out a long time ago. Tickets are $10, show starts at 9. And before you go, read my 10 Questions article with Sadie, that went online earlier this week.

Maybe the reason Sad13 isn’t sold out is because of the blowout at Reverb tonight — Flowers Forever headlines with Closeness and InDreama. Flowers recently played a return set at O’Leaver’s that was knock-out, while Closeness (Todd & Orenda Fink’s new joint) is one of the best new arrivals of 2016. InDreama — a project featuring Icky Blossoms’ guitarist Nik Fackler— only plays once or twice a year. Great line-up! 9 p.m. $8.

Also tonight, another hot ticket as The Filter Kings plays at Brothers Lounge with the unstoppable Wagon Blasters. $5, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile downtown, the crazy circus antics of Gogol Bordello returns to The Slowdown tonight. DJ Der Blaster opens. $30, 9 p.m.

And over at The Waiting Satchel Grande brings the party with All Young Girls Are Machine Guns. $8, 9 p.m.

That’s a lot of choices. On the other hand, there’s not much happening on Saturday night. In fact, the only show on my radar is Silversphere (ex-The Lepers) at O’Leaver’s with Hussies and Chalant. $5, 9 p.m.

That’s all I got for the weekend. If I missed your show, put it in the comments section.

Hopefully you’re hitting the records stores today for Black Friday vinyl specials. Seems like this year’s RSD/Black Friday sale has been low-key – I’ve heard almost nothing about it. Fewer crowds means more for you to buy!

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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Millions of Boys, Leafblower (New Lungians), Montee Men, Clarence Tilton, Brad Hoshaw tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 1:57 pm November 23, 2016

by Tim McMahan,

Wednesday night before Thanksgiving has got to be one of the biggest bar days of the year. Everyone goes out because they have the next day off to recover. Or at least most of us do.

The place to be tonight is fabulous O’Leaver’s where the stellar lineup includes the long awaited return of Millions of Boys. In the second slot is Leaflower, the new project by New Lungs’ members Craig Fort, Danny Maxwell and Tab Tworek with John Svatos of Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship. Yuge! And headliners, the mega-power trio Montee Men. $5, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, everyone’s favorite local shit-kickin’ alt-country band Clarence Tilton is playing at the Harney Street Tavern, 1215 Harney St., with mega-power troubadour Brad Hoshaw. 9 p.m. and absolutely free.

If I don’t see you out and about tonight, have a great Thanksgiving…

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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.