Live Review: Lala Lala, Minne Lussa and the return to live music (again)…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 11:19 am March 13, 2022
Lala Lala at Slowdown Jr. March 12, 2022.

by Tim McMahan,

You know that feeling when you’re sitting at your desk at your office (or wherever you work) after returning from a long vacation, when you’re staring at your computer screen and you think to yourself “It’s like I’ve never been gone.”?

That’s sort of how I felt like this past weekend at rock shows. COVID-19 body slammed us beginning in the late-spring / early summer of 2020. Within a few weeks of St. Patrick’s Day, venues had cancelled all their shows, and just a few weeks after that, the venues themselves were shuttered, as were we all, literally.

Looking back on that time it’s still hard to believe what the country went through; what we went through. Glance at this story I wrote during the beginning of the lock down about being locked down, or just scroll back through time in this blog and you can quickly relive the peril. In a lot of ways, we lost a couple years’ worth of the things we took for granted.

And now we’re back. Again. But this time it’s different. This time it feels like it’s for good.

None of this was going through my head this past weekend at Reverb and Slowdown Jr., however. Instead, I looked around at the mask-less crowd and thought to myself, “It’s like we’ve never been gone; it’s like COVID never happened.” Well, that’s not 100% true. The Slowdown was still checking vaccination cards at the door, and there were hand-sanitizer dispensers at the door of the club. And a couple people still wore masks, bless them.

Now we all wait, holding our breath, that another variant doesn’t emerge from the COVID abyss. And now with a war in Europe, we’ve got something else to worry about.

The war wasn’t mentioned on stage this weekend. Lala Lala played to (by my guestimate) about 75 people in the Slowdown small room. It was a very young, hip crowd vs. whoever was over at CHI Center that night for Tool. Backed by an incredibly talented rhythm section and a multi-instrumentalist whose gauntlet included an alto saxophone, front woman Lillie West played about an hour of oldies and newies.

This was the first stop of her tour, and she admitted to having a case of nerves. You wouldn’t have known it from her performance. Her vocals modulated from breathy-whisper-mumble to clear-voiced-spectacular. But from my limited knowledge of her catalog, she played mainly songs from her latest album, but there were some old ones thrown in and one song she said they’d never played before in front of a live audience.

West’s voice is many-layered, and can switch in tone from song to song. On top of that, she adds electronic effects to change it up even more, including layers of electronic harmonies that were gorgeous.

Elton Aura at Slowdown Jr., March 12, 2022.

I caught the last few songs from opening act Elton Aura. Figured I should take a photo because this guy is so good he’s destined to become a star, and then I can point to this photo and say I was there when he opened for Lala Lala right after the pandemic. Elton said this was his first show ever. Impressive, Mr. Aura.

Minne Lussa at Reverb Lounge, March 11, 2022.

Friday night I caught Indian Cave and Minna Lussa at Reverb. Seemed like the majority of the crowd was there for the opener. Indian Cave is a new band and it showed. The style was very much in the emo spectrum, with the frontman’s voice reminding me of Geoff Rickly from Thursday. There were even some Cursive-esque guitar breaks thrown into the usual four-chord compositions to give it a mathy/angular edge. It’ll be interesting to watch this band grow.

Minne Lussa continues to impress with their dense, dreamy sound. I’ve said before they remind me of early Galaxy 500 or Luna and I stand by that, but the addition of warm, glowing instrumentals adds an Album Leaf flair. Frontman Matt Rutledge uses an effect on his vocals to give it a tinty, far-away sound on songs that are otherworldly to begin with. The fact that he’s singing a few of them in French is of no consequence when the vocal mix makes it hard to understand the words. No matter. It’s the vibe that matters on music that’s played in the darkest of dark-blue/purple lighting, as if the whole thing is taking place underwater.

It was great to be back at rock shows, without a mask. As if we’d never been away.

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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 © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Ten Questions with Lala Lala (playing this Saturday at The Slowdown)…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:40 pm March 10, 2022
Lala Lala plays at Slowdown Jr. Saturday, March 12.

by Tim McMahan,

Chicago’s Lala Lala is the indie rock project by Lillie West playing at Slowdown Saturday night. You might remember when she opened for Better Oblivion Community Center back in March 2019, just months before the troubles. And she’s been through a few times before that.

Her latest, I Want the Door to Open (Hardly Art, 2021) is a sonic push forward for West, incorporating deep beats, electronic shifts and her breathy vocals that at times reminded me of a young Suzanne Vega. It’s a very modern-sounding eclectic collection of songs that can both rock and be quietly introspective.

West co-produced I Want The Door To Open with Yoni Wolf of Why? and had input from poet Kara Jackson, OHMME, Adam Schatz of Landlady, Sen Morimoto, Christian Lee Hutson and Kaina Castillo. Ben Gibbard sings a duet with West on “Plates,” a song about accepting the past regardless of whatever negative feelings accompany those memories.

We caught up with Lillie and asked her to undergo the Ten Questions survey. Here’s how it went:

  1. What is your favorite album?

Lala Lala’s Lillie West: Not sure of all time right now I’m really loving the Sudan Archives album Athena. And I always love Mudanin Kata by David Darling & The Wulu Bunun.

  1. What is your least favorite song?

I do not have one. And if I did I would not tell you.

  1. What do you enjoy most about being in a band?

Connecting with people. Traveling. Singing. Music is magic.

  1. What do you hate about being in a band?

Driving a lot.

  1. What is your favorite substance (legal or illegal)?

Ummm I dont know kombucha? Hummus? Soft fabric? Oil paint? THE SKY??

  1. In what city or town do you love to perform?

I love to perform anywhere but Chicago does always show up for me literally and spiritually. 

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

I completely lost my voice during a set once but I won’t say where because it’s not their fault.

  1. Are you able to support yourself through your music? If so, how long did it take to get there; if not, how do you pay your bills?

Yes and no. I also do focus groups, sell prints of my photos, make content for different audio companies, sell clothes online… but I quit my day job at a record store in 2018. 

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

I would love to be a farmer or a dancer. I would never under any circumstance be a cop.

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

I haven’t heard many stories but early in our DIY days we stayed at a house that had a pile of dog food and an inside out dish glove on the ground that no one who lived there could explain. 

Lala plays with Elton Aura Saturday, March 12, at Slowdown, 729 No. 14th St. Showtime is 8 p.m., tickets are $20. This is a No Vax No Entry event, so bring your vax card or proof of a negative test taken within the past 14 days. For more information, go to

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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 © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.