Live Review: Life Is Cool, The Sub-Vectors; Paul Collins Beat tonight (in Lincoln)……

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , — @ 1:32 pm January 12, 2015

Life Is Cool at The Waiting Room, Jan. 10, 2015.

by Tim McMahan,

The version of Life Is Cool that I saw at The Waiting Room Saturday night was a lot different than the version I saw play years ago somewhere in Omaha. That old version was a sort of Icky Blossoms party-band trying too hard to have fun, and it showed. This new version, featuring seven members split between Omaha, Lincoln and Chicago, is a different animal altogether. Think of them as a Midwestern version of Talking Heads combined with, say, B-52s and more than a smidgen of Arcade Fire and you’d be on the right track.

The set-up is (almost) traditional, with two guitars, bass, synths, trumpet, drummer and percussionist. The sound is eclectic bordering on artsy, with songs heavy on rhythms and light on melody. Maybe it was the mix but the dense arrangements worked best when they weren’t so crowded, when each instrument was given room to breath. When they played all at once (and loudly) the little details, which glowed so brightly individually (that cool woodblock percussion, Eric Bemberger’s chopping guitar), got lost in the din.

Frontman James Reilly seemed anxious holding it all together and occasionally shot a look like even he wasn’t sure where things were headed. Based on the number of cues from the stage during the set, monitor problems could have contributed to the sonic challenges (which is a nice way of saying it’s hard to keep a 7-piece band together when you can’t hear yourself on stage).

At their best, the band eschewed a post-punk jittery-ness that felt unsettled yet still leaned in with rhythmic funk, like the best early Talking Heads. Too often Reilly sounded restrained rather than letting it all hang out, unlike his co-vocalist (who played keys and whose name I don’t know) who willfully let herself get lost in the moment. On the other hand, there were times when they sounded like a reductive version of Arcade Fire. I prefer the direction heard on the closing number,  played after an admirable cover of Adam Ant’s “Desperate But Not Serious” that could have used a tad more swing.

No one around here is doing what Life Is Cool is trying to do, or at least no one around Omaha. For as long as I can remember, you had to head south to Lincoln for bands attempting anything this artsy, experimental and, well, cool.


The Sub-Vectors at The Waiting Room, Jan. 10, 2015.

The night’s “main event” was The Sub-Vector’s CD release show, which was a ball… literally. As in a few dozen blow-up beach balls that bounced hyper-kinetically over the crowd throughout most of the set of fun-loving surf rock. The instrumental-only trio (bass, drums, guitar, in that order) showed the proper respect to the originators of the genre while at the same time adding their own sonic touches, hard and heavy, almost casting a metal sheen. If the songs seemed too long at times it could be due to the simple, stripped down arrangements that forecast every chord change like a hammer slamming on an anvil.

Edge of Arbor closed the evening with a set of laid-back folk rock accented by crisp bongos and guitarist Matt Whipkey’s usual glowing guitar solos. Frontwoman Jessica Errett does this style of indie-folk as well as anyone on the Lilith circuit (Maybe it’s time to retire those “Lilith Fair” comparisons, the last fair was five years ago). Oddest part of their set — at least three couples were doing ballroom dancing down on the floor, complete with twirls and dips, like watching auditions for the sequel to Silver Lining Playbook...

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Reception will be spotty this week, and if I skip a few days I apologize in advance.

Show-wise, the week starts with a bang in Lincoln with the return of the Paul Collins Beat, who just played at Slowdown Jr. in October and is now taking the stage at The Zoo Bar at 7 p.m.. Go if you can.

Beyond that, nothing stands out on the rock-show radar until Friday night’s Bloodcow gig at O’Leaver’s. It could be a long week…

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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.


Strange Attractors tonight; Life is Cool Saturday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 1:39 pm January 9, 2015

by Tim McMahan,

There’s an extremely limited number of indie shows this weekend.

Tonight Strange Attractors opens for the Tom Phillips Trio at Reverb Lounge. Strange Attractors is Matt Kucera (Fornever/Lead), Aaron Gum (InDreama), Dereck Higgins, (InDreama, Son Ambulance), Wes Graffius, Brandon Voorhees and Scott Armstrong (Black on High). $7, 9 p.m.

At fabulous O’Leaver’s tonight it’s Clear the Day, The Sapwoods, Foxholes and Mitch Gettman. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Saturday night Lincoln band Life Is Cool visits The Waiting Room. The band recently added bass player Craig Crawford of Mousetrap fame. Life Is Cool is one of the openers along with Edge of Arbor and the Decatures. The headliner is The Sub-Vectors, who are celebrating the release of a new album, Music on the Bones. $8, 9 p.m.

Wow, that’s about it. If I missed your show, put it in the comments section. Have a good weekend.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Life is Cool debuts (online); Lincoln Calling, Rd. 2; Sandbox questions; Pageturner in OWH; Lightning Bolt tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:38 pm September 13, 2012

by Tim McMahan,

Going through the ol’ mailbag…

James Reilly of Pharmacy Spirits tapped my shoulder via Facebook to say that he’s got a new band called Life Is Cool. Among the members: Eric Bemberger (ex-Beep Beep), Eli Mardock (ex-Eagle Seagull), Mike Elsener, Ben Armstrong and Kendra Campbell (Cat Island). They’ll be debuting Oct. 14 at Duffy’s in Lincoln, but you can check out a track from their SoundCloud page, below.

So is this a prescription for the end of Reilly’s other band, Pharmacy Spirits? Not at all. In fact Reilly said PS is recording a new EP right now with Mark Wolberg. And look out for PS drummer Courtney Nore’s new band Tubetop, which is the best new band name I’ve heard in a long time.

Life is Cook, JDWYD

[soundcloud url=”″ iframe=”true” /]

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What else…

Lincoln Calling announced its second round of bands for this year’s festival, slated for Oct. 9-14. You can see the current list and get other pertinent info at the Lincoln Calling website. The geographic breakdown:

Acts by city (21 cities total):
73 Lincoln
14 Omaha
5 Kansas City
4 Chicago
4 Omaha/Lincoln
2 Des Moines, San Diego
1 Baltimore, Denver, Kansas City/Lincoln, Lawrence, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, New York, Paris, FR, Portland, OR, Provo, UT, Quincy, IL, Seattle, Springfield, IL, Stillwater, Twain Harte, CA

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Lots of early buzz about tomorrow night’s show at The Sandbox — Wild Nothing and Diiv. Both bands are red hot in the Pitchfork/indie world right now, and as a result of the interest, I’ve been getting questions about the venue.

The last time I was at the Sandbox was December 2011 for The STNNNG. Here’s the write-up/description of the venue. I’m told that since then they’ve added a new stage, new sound and professional lighting. But unless they’ve remodeled the entire upstairs of that building, it’s still going to have a warehouse/loft vibe, and as such, this gig could feel like a loft show. Depending on what you like, that’s either a good thing or a bad thing (from my point of view, it’s a good thing).

I’m told venue capacity is around 200, but as I’ve said, this isn’t your typical venue. Tickets are available online at As for parking, you’re on your own…

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Could the description of Pageturners Lounge in today’s OWH make the bar sound any more boring? “The sunken bar and dim lighting are reminiscent of retro Omaha neighborhood bars like the Holiday and the Interlude — places where (Phil) Schaffart and his friends have spent a lot of time over the years. And the menu is no-fuss — 10 beers on tap, another 25 in bottles and cans, four house cocktails (a fifth is coming as soon as one of the spirits comes in), and several dozen wines.” *yawn* Sounds like your run-of-the-mill hole-in-the-wall neighborhood bar, but maybe that’s what Phil and co-owner Conor Oberst were after. Mayhaps I’ll find out for myself this weekend…

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Tonight at The Waiting Room, Providence, RI noise-rock duo Lightning Bolt takes the stage. They’re one of those bands that bring the party to you,  playing directly on the floor instead of the stage. We’ll see if they follow suit tonight. Opening is Touch People (Darren Keen, ex-The Show Is the Rainbow). $10, 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 © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.