Big Thief, Turnstile headline 2023 Maha Festival, July 28-29…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 1:54 pm February 22, 2023
Big Thief will headline day 2 of the 2023 Maha Music Festival.

by Tim McMahan,

If you’re anywhere near social media you already know that the 2023 Maha Music Festival Lineup was announced at today at noon. The 15th annual festival takes place July 28 and 29 at Stinson Park in Aksarben Village, which (rumor has it) may be the last time at that location.

Big Thief is the festival’s Saturday headliner. Arguably one of the most popular and critically acclaimed bands in indie, Big Thief started their careers releasing albums on our city’s very own Saddle Creek Records before heading off to 4AD Records a few years ago. Last year’s double album, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You, was on many critics’ “best of” lists (including mine). This isn’t their first trip to Omaha. Big Thief played the late, great Lookout Lounge (opening for Yuck) way back in 2016, and returned a year later to play at O’Leaver’s.

Festival headline gigs are usually high-energy affairs. Can Big Thief bring the party? While I love their music, it’s pretty low-key folk rock, and you have to wonder how many people around these parts even know who Big Thief is. Then again, how many people had heard of Khruangbin when they headlined in 2021 or, for that matter, Beach House last year?

Vancouver indie pop band Peach Pit should provide a peaceful, easy lead-in to Big Thief Saturday. Their low-key songs tell stories about love and relationship, etc. Indie in name only, they record on Columbia Records, and played a sold-out Slowdown Jr. back in October 2018.  

Pop New Zealanders The Beths also are on the Saturday list. They played Slowdown Jr. in July 2019 and released the fetching Experts in a Dying Field last year on Carpark Records. Another familiar band, Saddle Creek Records stars Black Belt Eagle Scout, also play Saturday. They just released The Land, the Water, The Sky on The Creek a few weeks ago. BBES played Reverb back in September 2018. Then along comes a couple bands I’m not familiar with. Naples by way of Nashville hip-hop/R&B artist Terry Presume has a Saturday afternoon slot along with disco-pop trio Say She She (Karma Chief Records). And then there’s the locals. Omaha hip-hop legends M34N STR33T, local rockers Garst and singer/songwriter Ebba Rose.

If Saturday’s Maha bill sounds like a pleasant afternoon in the park, Friday night’s line-up really is the party. Headline Friday night is Turnstile. Their 2021 album Glow On (Roadrunner Records) is over-the-top power emo at its finest. Expect an overly caffeinated, energized, jumping crowd, pounding the Stinson Park turf with either pogos and/or moshing. 

Second-billed Friday night are critical darlings Alvvays, who played Maha back in 2015. Their 2022 album Blue Rev (Polyvinyl) also topped a number of critics’ best of list last year (including mine). The only thing I know about electronic dance maven Ekkstacy is his single, “I Walk This Earth All By Myself,” which has received solid airplay on Sirius XMU. Maybe the biggest surprise fo the entire Maha 2023 line-up is the return of Icky Blossoms. I think the last time I saw them play was back at Slowdown in July 2015. They’ve been on a hiatus for a few years, though their music recently showed up on a runway show in Paris! No idea what their appearance at Maha means for their future. Local hip-hop act Hakim also is on the Friday bill. Kicking things off is the incendiary, brutal hardcore rock of BIB — something tells me their set will be the one that people talk about weeks after the festival.

This is a very indie-heavy line-up and something of a surprise considering how 1% and The Slowdown have really pulled back on their indie bookings over the past year. In many ways, it’s a catch-up festival for bands that skipped Omaha over the past couple years.

Tickets go on sale this Friday at 10 a.m. CT at VIP tickets are $130 for Friday, $160 for Saturday, and $240 for two-day, and include air-conditioned restrooms, an exclusive viewing area near the main stage, complimentary food from Omaha restaurant Via Farina, and more. NOTE: If you intend to go, I suggest buying VIPs. You’ll thank me later. General Admission tickets are $50 for Friday, $60 for Saturday, and $100 for two-day; GA prices will increase once the limited quantity of Tier 1 tickets sell out — not entirely sure what that means.

Maha says they expect more than 13,000 total over the two days. That seems to assume they expect light draw for Friday, but I think Friday could draw as many or more than Saturday because Turnstile has never been here before (that I know of) and their live shows have a rep for being somewhat epic, much like concerts by The Faint. 

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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 © 2023 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Barley Street Tavern to change hands; Maha Festival partners with Knitting Factory for future festivals…

Lupines at The Barley Street Tavern, April 14, 2014. The bar announced it’s changing owners Oct. 15.

Two red hot local music news items…

First, yesterday The Barley Street Tavern posted on Facebook that the venue is changing hands and the last day of its operations under current management is Oct. 15. No idea who’s taking over the bar and/or if it’ll remain a music venue.

The Barley Street always has been a hole-in-the-wall bar more so than a go-to music venue. With a capacity of around 50 in its music space, it was a comfortable place to see up-and-coming acts as well as (former) Benson folkie stand-outs like Kyle Harvey and Brad Hoshaw. You always got your five-dolllars-worth and then some, along with plenty of peanuts and (in my case) ice cold Rolling Rocks.

Is the bar’s sale a symptom of the COVID-19 economy? I don’t know. I’ve heard rumors of the Barley Street either imminently closing or changing hands for years (including a rumor a few years ago that it was in line to become a strip club!). Even so, its sale comes as a bit of a shock. Here’s hoping whoever takes over retains some of the bar’s original soul…

* * *

An article in Pollstar this morning announced the Maha Music Festival has named Knitting Factory Entertainment as its exclusive talent buyer.

James Irvine, KFE’s Omaha-based talent buyer, will co-lead programming with KFE’s Danny Glazier as the festival expands to five days from four in 2021,” says the Pollstar story. “The team is already starting to work on a 2021 lineup, which is expected to be unveiled early in the year.

More from the article:

Working within industries that are typically white male-dominated, Maha makes a concerted effort to book underrepresented performers—often in headlining slots—to account for the majority of our lineup. We’re looking forward to working with KFE, and continuing those diverse, inclusive booking practices,” Maha executive director Lauren Martin said. “We’ve had an opportunity to get to know James and Danny through their work with [local music venue] Slowdown over the years, are excited about the potential the partnership holds — especially as we navigate safely hosting major events post-pandemic.” 

The move leaves One Percent Productions, which has booked the festival since its second year, out in the cold. One Percent’s Marc Leibowitz confirmed Maha did not renew its contract with Omaha’s premier indie concert booker. While you can point to Maha’s well-run organization and army of volunteers for pulling off the annual festival, it’s One Percent that has been at the core of lining up the bands that drew people to Stinson Park in the first place.

Knitting Factory Entertainment took over booking The Slowdown back in 2016, and as a result, the club has veered away from its original vision of booking indie acts to booking more mainstream pop acts, though they still host a few indie shows now and then. No doubt with Knitting Factory taking over Maha, look for that festival to continue to steer away from its original vision of being an indie rock festival in an effort to attract a larger attendance.

As for One Percent, the company’s La Vista venue/amphitheater (being built in partnership with Kansas’ Mammoth Live and City Ventures) will give Leibowitz and his team plenty of opportunities to fill in any gaps left from losing the Maha contract…

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily (if there’s news) 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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


2019 Maha Music Festival Aug. 16-17 at Stinson; new Faint track, album in March; the return of Serial (ex-Ritual Device/Cellophane Ceiling) Dec. 22…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 1:11 pm December 11, 2018

A screen cap from The Faint’s latest video, “Child Asleep,” directed by Nik Fackler.

by Tim McMahan,

Some news nuggets that have been sitting in the in-box…

Today the fine folks at the Maha Music Festival announced that the 11th annual festival will be held Aug. 16-17, again at Aksarben’s Stinson Park (Why mess with a good thing?).

No word on who will be performing, but it’s pretty early for that sort of an announcement. Last year the headliner was Weezer, which marked a shift to a more, shall we say, Stir Cove-style concert. Here’s hoping they return to their indie roots. There are plenty of big-name indie bands that could fill the park, not the least of which are Tame Impala, Courtney Barnett, Arcade Fire, Wilco and The National, to name a few off the top of my head.

In addition, Maha announced the continued support/production of Big Omaha as part of Maha week. The Big Omaha portion kicks off Aug. 14.

* * *

Last Friday The Faint not only dropped a tasty new track, “Child Asleep,” but also announced their new 11-track LP, Egowerk, will be released March 15 by Saddle Creek Records (pre-order here).

The album takes on the dark side of social media, a theme frontman Todd Fink is quite familiar with. Says Todd in the press release: “Egowerk’s focus is on the current social state of the Internet: an amazing world of free knowledge, communication, and opportunity is proving to be a toxic battleground. One where the people most sure of their opinion are quick to take a stand and destroy anyone who doesn’t agree with them.

Egowerk marks the first studio album by The Faint in four years and only one completely self-produced by the band. Omaha filmmaker Nik Fackler created the head-spinning video for “Child Asleep,” below. If the rest of the album is this good, look out world, The Faint are back…

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What’s become a diabolical holiday tradition, Omaha heritage-punk supergroup Serial announced it’s fourth annual holiday appearance at Brothers Lounge Dec. 22 with Rusty Lord opening.

Serial is Tim Moss, John Wolf, Lee Meyerpeter and Jerry Hug — four royalty from Omaha’s golden age of punk rock, having performed in such stellar ’90s acts as Ritual Device, Cellophane Ceiling, Bad Luck Charm, Cactus Nerve Thang and Men or Porn.

Expect a night of heavy rock favorites performed by four guys who helped define the Omaha indie rock/punk scene. More info here. Plan accordingly.

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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.


Maha and Big Omaha: Why the merger? Palehound, Weaves, See Through Dresses tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 1:11 pm February 27, 2018

Maha is now running Big Omaha.

by Tim McMahan,

Things have been busy around here and I’m just now getting around to the big announcement from last Thursday, which was that the Maha Music Festival is expanding to two days for their 10th Anniversary edition.

The annual concert at Aksarben Village is slated for Aug. 17 and 18, that’s a Friday and Saturday. All of you folks who work day jobs, you have plenty of time to get that request in for the day off. We still don’t know who will be playing this year, but something tells me it’ll be someone big and special along the lines of Arcade Fire or LCD Soundsystem — we’ll find out soon.

The other half of the Maha announcement was that the Big Omaha conference is now being run by Maha and is being held in the run-up to the weekend, Aug. 16 and 17. Said the press release: “Attendees will have several options to purchase passes: a dual festival-conference pass will be sold as well as festival tickets to Friday or Saturday only, or both festival days combined. Pricing, artist and speaker lineups, and ticket sale dates will be announced next month.

First question you might have: What is Big Omaha?

Well, I’ve been scratching my head for years about that question. It’s marketed as “an annual conference that brings together the nation’s most passionate members of the entrepreneurial community including founders, investors, and emerging leaders to build community, start conversation, and provide inspiration.” Big Omaha and Silicon Prairie News co-founders Jeff Slobotski and Dusty Davidson started the conference in 2009. Omaha’s AIM Institute has owned and led Big Omaha and Silicon Prairie News since 2015. Silicon Prairie News will stay with AIM as Big Omaha changes hands to Maha, according to this SPN article.

Anyway, Big Omaha is supposedly wildly successful. I have no idea because I’ve never been to one. I went to to find out more, but it’s already redirecting to Maha. However, you can read about the 2016 event here and watch the Big Omaha video. BO conference tickets cost upwards to $600, but anyone who’s ever been to a business conference knows that’s peanuts — most national conference registration charges are well over $1,000.

On first blush, the merger of Maha and Big Omaha seems odd, so I sent an email to Maha’s Lauren Martin and asked, “I’m curious as to how Big Omaha will play into all this. I’ve always thought of BO as a sort of private gig for small businesses and start-ups. How will the general public be involved in BO and what role does the Maha audience play in it?”

Lauren replied:

For Maha, the addition of Big Omaha is a first step in using our platform to unite events, or cultural aspects of Omaha that support our community’s overall effort to attract and retain young talent. If we can utilize the conference as a means to further connect individuals to networks and/or resources that will help them pursue their passions and be fulfilled here, we’re all about it. 

Recognizing that BO has potentially appealed to a particular demographic of tech start-up types in the past, we hope to broaden the appeal while still maintaining a much smaller audience than the festival, and reduce the cost of entry.

Ultimately, there may not be a ton of overlap between the conference and 2-day festival attendees, but hopefully the promotion of the two events as one experience will expand the idea of what’s possible here.”

Fair enough. I keep hearing how the addition is similar to the launch of Austin’s South by Southwest tech conference. Maybe so, but Big Omaha ain’t a tech conference. It’s really targeted toward entrepreneurs and start-ups, whether they have a tech bent or not. In fact, I once suggested a looong time ago to one of the Big Omaha folks that they should reach out to larger industries who could be possible buyers of these new start-ups’ products and services. The idea was met with crickets.

A few years ago I attended the SXSW tech conference, which leads up to the annual music conference. There was virtually no overlap between the two. The only impact might have been in the ability to find lodging. One benefit for the SXSW event is that people going to the tech conference could ask their employer to pay for their conference travel and lodging, then hang out for the music portion, saving travel costs. I can’t see that happening for Maha, but who knows…

In the end, I can’t see how this merger will impact the Maha Festival except to possibly keep a few of those Big Omaha folks in the city an extra day. Nothing wrong with that. On the other hand, I can’t imagine your typical Maha festival-goer being interested in taking part in Big Omaha (especially at last year’s price point)…

* * *

Tonight at Slowdown Jr. it’s an indie rock double-bill with Palehound (who you read about yesterday) and Weaves. Frankly, it’s the Weaves part of the headline I’m most interested in, along with the opener, our very own See Through Dresses. $12. 8 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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Maha announces it will announce line-up; Good Living Tour 2016 dates/cities; Foxtails Brigade tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:51 pm April 4, 2016

by Tim McMahan,

Tickets for this year's Maha Festival go on sale Friday.

Tickets for this year’s Maha Festival go on sale Friday.

The folks behind the Maha Music Festival announced that tickets go on sale for this year’s festival (to be held  Aug. 20 once again at Stinson Park in Aksarben Village) this Friday. Prices are $55 general admission $185 VIP — that’s mere $5 increase in GA tickets — talk about holding the line on prices, but at that price point, don’t expect a mega-band like Arcade Fire or Beck to be on this year’s  line-up.

Speaking of which, Maha will announce this year’s festival lineup April 21 at a big shindig at Reverb Lounge. The announcement party, which starts at 6 p.m., is free and open to the public. Of course if you can’t make it to the party, you’ll hear the line-up via all the usual social media channels (and I’ll make my comments about it on Lazy-i the next day).

Who do you think Maha will get this year? Wish I could give you a hint, but I’m completely out of the Maha loop these days. But if I were to venture a guess, I’d first look at who was hot in 2015: Father John Misty, Courtney Barnett, Grimes, Joanna Newsom, Kamasi Washington, Deerhunter, Alabama Shakes, Beach House, Chvches, and yeah, Wilco, are all on my “guess list,” along with at least one big name Saddle Creek or local artist, such as Conor Oberst (or one of his projects), Mynabirds, Matthew Sweet or Hop Along. God, I just hope it isn’t Black Keys…

* * *

Good Living Tour 2016

Good Living Tour 2016

Hear Nebraska today announces its 2016 Good Living Tour, which has been expanded to 12 cities throughout our great state. Each town will enjoy a free, all-ages concert featuring a diverse mix of all-original Nebraska bands. The 2016 tour stops are:

Thursday, July 21: Ord
Friday, July 22: Kearney
Saturday, July 23: Grand Island
Sunday, July 24: Red Cloud
Thursday, July 28: Hastings
Friday, July 29: Norfolk
Saturday, July 30: Lyons
Sunday, July 31: O’Neill
Thursday, Aug. 4: Grant
Friday, Aug. 5: Sidney
Saturday, Aug. 6: Imperial
Sunday, Aug. 7: McCook

That’s a grueling schedule. So which Nebraska bands are playing where? You’ll have to wait a couple weeks to find out…

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Tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s San Francisco indie band Foxtails Brigade has the center slot. The band, fronted by Laura Weinbach, includes musicians who have played with Bright Eyes, Pinback and Van Dyke Parks. Omaha-based free improvisation/noise quartet Misers is the headliner.  Chemicals opens. $5, 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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Lazy-i Podcast: Saturday is Record Store Day! Homer’s GM Mike Fratt on the promotion’s impact; risks…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:40 pm April 15, 2015

by Tim McMahan,

Check out a brand new episode of the Lazy-i Podcast (above)! In this week’s episode:

— Saturday is Record Store Day! Homer’s GM Mike Fratt talks about what his store has to offer, the promotion’s impact on smaller labels and risks involved with stores going “all in” with RSD merch.
— Live Reviews of BUHU and Peach Kelli Pop.
-– Modest Mouse headlines a strong Maha Music Festival line-up. Will this the best Maha ever?
— The list of the hottest shows happening this weekend in Omaha.
— Music from Modest Mouse, Alvvays, Wagon Blasters, BUDU, Peach Kelli Pop, Oquoa, John Klemmensen and the Party, and Clarence Tilton.

It’s 21 wasted minutes of your life you’ll never get back, but who cares, it’s free. Check it out.

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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.


Live Review: J Fernandez, Shy Boys; No Coast Music Festival announced (vs. Maha?); Retox tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:51 pm March 2, 2015

Shy Boys at Almost Music, March 1, 2015.

Shy Boys at Almost Music, March 1, 2015.

by Tim McMahan,

My only show this weekend wasn’t a show at all. It was a pre-show. Yesterday afternoon, J Fernandez and Shy Boys did an in-store at Almost Music in Benson prior to their gig last night at O’Leaver’s.

Set up in the Solid Jackson Bookstore area, each band played a half-hour set to a handful of people. I didn’t know about the in-store until yesterday morning via an IM on Facebook. Needless to say, it could have been better promoted, but it was a last-minute thing.

Both bands played low-key sets. Since I didn’t go to O’Leaver’s last night, I don’t know if these were typical, but I can say they were rather awesome. Fernandez style is a mix of garage and art rock, think early Talking Heads soaked in swirls of reverb guitar with a less-severe vocal that was warmer and more inviting than Byrne’s bark. They were jazzier more than they were arty.

Kansas City’s Shy Boys’s garage rock was sweet, sweet, sweet; with sweet, sad-eyed vocals atop great kick-back rhythms. Gorgeous stuff. Listen for snippets of both performances in this week’s podcast Wednesday (if I can get it done).

* * *

Speaking of Almost Music, the store took part in Saturday afternoon’s Bar Stool Record Swap at The Brother’s lounge along with four or five other vendors including Homer’s and Drastic Plastic. Music fans flipped through boxes of vinyl with one hand while drinking booze with the other — the perfect combination. I scored a sealed copy of Ritual Device’s Henge album on orange vinyl — something I thought I’d never see.

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The River, 89.7 FM, and One Percent Productions this morning announced the No Coast Festival, June 2 at Westfare Amphitheater. The line-up includes major-label pop bands Cage The Elephant, Bleachers, Joywave, Saint Motel, In The Valley Below along with Saddle Creek band Icky Blossoms, and more.

Though a “festival,” No Coast can’t be compared to the other big local rock “festival” — the Maha Music Festival. No Coast is a full two months before Maha (which takes place Aug. 15) and targets a younger alt-radio audience vs. Maha’s college-age-plus indie crowd.

But when talking about these two festivals, there is a a subtle irony that can’t be ignored. Indie bands by their very nature appeal to a smaller audience. That’s the way it’s always been. Major label acts like Cage the Elephant, Bleachers (both on RCA) and Saint Motel (Elektra), which enjoy more radio support, draw a much larger audience. As a result, you’d naturally assume No Coast — with its more popular bands — would have the higher ticket price, but in fact No Coast’s $10 ticket (which is what you’d typically pay for a mid-level show at The Waiting Room) will likely be about a quarter of the price of Maha Festival tickets.

Factor in that non-profit public radio station The River may be underwriting a lot of the No Coast Festival’s costs (which they can “write off” as a promotional expense) and that No Coast could draw substantially more people than Maha (high volume brings down prices), and you begin to understand the $10 ticket versus a $40+ ticket.

No doubt if No Coast draws an exponentially larger crowd than Maha there will be those who argue the reason is either better bands or a lower ticket price or both. But one can’t ignore the sheeple factor. There is only one radio station in the Omaha/Council Bluffs market that plays modern music, albeit shitty modern music. A lot of people grudgingly listen to The River because it’s the only alternative to the oldies/freedom rock stations that litter the FM dial. Those River listeners can expect to hear a constant barrage of advertising for No Coast Festival between now and June 2. Strike that. Public radio stations aren’t allowed to air advertising, right? So if they’re not ads, I guess you’d have to call them, what, “targeted announcements”?

Poor Maha. A true non-profit organization, can it afford the level of radio advertising that No Coast undoubtedly will get? Add to that the fact that most of Maha’s bands historically don’t get airplay in the Omaha market and it’s an uphill climb. This is what happens when you don’t have a radio station that plays College Music Journal (CMJ)-style indie music in a market the size of Omaha.

One Percent also announced this morning the Gentlemen of the Road Stopover, a 2-day festival in Waverly, Iowa, June 19 and 20 headlined by the dreadful Mumford and Sons but that also includes Jenny Lewis, My Morning Jacket, Flaming Lips and Jeff the Brotherhood among others. Still, Waverly is about 260 miles (more than 4 hours) from Omaha…

One other 1% show — Built to Spill returns to The Slowdown May 23. (I thought this one was going to be the big 10 a.m. announcement).

* * *

Tonight at Slowdown Jr., it’s a punk featuring San Diego hardcore act Retox (Epitaph Records). The four-piece was founded by Justin Pearson and Gabe Serbian,whose tour of duties include stints in The Locust, Head Wound City, and Holy Molar. Joining them is Atlanta noise rock band Whores and Lincoln black noise band Vickers. $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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Maha Festival adds Icky Blossoms, Domestica; Laura Burhenn returns for Omaha Gives!; NPR streams Conor; Envy Corps tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:00 pm May 12, 2014

Icky Blossoms playing a rainsoaked Maha Music Festival in 2012.

Icky Blossoms playing a rain-soaked Maha Music Festival in 2012.

by Tim McMahan,

Yesterday between tornadoes the fine folks at the Maha Music Festival announced the last two acts for their Aug. 26 concert:  Icky Blossoms and Domestica.

It’s a return engagement for Icky, who played the rain-laden Maha Music Festival in 2012. I think this will represent the first time an act has played the festival twice (Wrong. Turns out It’s True! and Mynabirds both have played Maha twice, and this will be the second year also for Envy Corp.).

Domestica is a Nebraska original, and a Nebraska legend. Two core members, Heidi Ore and Jon Taylor (wife and husband) were the duo behind one of the best bands to ever come out of Lincoln — Mercy Rule — more than two decades ago.

With yesterday’s announcement, Maha’s 2014 line-up is now complete: Death Cab for Cutie, The Head and the Heart, Local Natives, The Both (featuring Aimee Mann and Ted Leo), Doomtree, The Envy Corps, Radkey, Twinsmith, Matt Whipkey, M34n Str33t, Icky Blossoms and Domestica. That’s 12 bands for $50. Such a deal…

* * *

Speaking of Maha, the non-profit joins a handful of other non-profits including Hear Nebraska, Opera Omaha and Omaha Girls Rock! for a special fund-raising concert at The Slowdown May 21 held in conjunction with Omaha Gives! Featured acts include Saddle Creek band Twinsmith and Mynabirds’ frontwoman Laura Burhenn, in town from her new home in Los Angeles. It should be a crazy way to close out what is sure to be a crazy day… of fundrasing. Details here.

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NPR First Listen is streaming Conor Oberst’s new album, Upside Down Mountain, it its entirety. The record comes out May 19 on Nonesuch. You can listen right here.

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Maha and 850/35 Festival band Envy Corp is headlining a show tonight at The Waiting Room. The full lineup includes Moon Honey, Soft Touches, and what I’m told is the final performance of Masses. It’ll be historic. $8, 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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Photos from Maha Music Festival; Live Review: Mousetrap, Ron Wax…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , , , — @ 12:58 pm August 19, 2013

Mousetrap at The Waiting Room, Aug. 16, 2013.

Mousetrap at The Waiting Room, Aug. 16, 2013.

by Tim McMahan,

Coverage/review of Saturday’s Maha Music Festival will appear in my column in the upcoming issue of The Reader. For the record, it was a heckuva show. Check out the action photos below the Mousetrap review.

Mousetrap was a blast Friday night at The Waiting Room. As was the case last time they played here, the band sounds tighter than back in its ’90s hey-day. No doubt there are some obvious differences that come with 20-odd years of life experiences.

Their sound, while as bracing as ever, at times was cast in more subdued tones. The trio played a couple dark-throb numbers that ebbed and flowed like a tide coming in at midnight carrying a body floating face-down in the bay. Black and grisly and a bit creepy. But then again, there always has been something disturbing about frontman Patrick Buchanan. On stage he comes off like a punk version of a Brett Easton Ellis psychopath. Don’t look directly into his eyes.

Bassist Craig Crawford acts as sort of a buffer/cipher that keeps Buchanan from spinning out of control, though you know if things ever got heavy Craig would say, “Sorry, pal, you’re on your own.”

You can tell they’ve only just begun with drummer Colby Starck. A seasoned veteran, he still needs push it a couple notches to match former drummer Mike Mazolla’s ferocity. That’ll come with time.

My only gripe about Friday night was the set’s length — little more than 20 minutes with a three-song encore (that included a cover of Dead Boys’ “All This and More”). Buchanan promised more new material when Mousetrap returns, probably sometime during the holidays. There’s nothing quite like Christmas with Mousetrap…

Ron Wax was up before Mousetrap and judging by the comments made outside the venue you’d have thought it was the end world. I’ve known Ron Albertson for years both as the drummer of Mercy Rule and as a fine artist (I proudly have three Ron screenprints-on-canvas hanging on my walls). I caught the last two brutal songs of their set. It was loud, raucous, noisy, ham-fisted caterwaul rock, more than a little bit weird. Gritty and unbridled, but what did you expect? My reply to the guy who said he was going to gut-punch me if I called it genius: It ain’t genius, and it ain’t supposed to be.

* * *

Now onto some pictures from the Maha Music Festival this past Saturday…

The Thermals at the Maha Music Festival, Aug. 17, 2013.

The Thermals sort of got the crowd going. Theirs is a one-note punk style, but people love it. Those who expected moshing forgot where they were.

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Criteria at The Maha Music Festival, Aug. 17, 2013.

Criteria sounded louder (and better) on Maha’s “second stage” than the Thermals did on the main stage. Might have something to do with dynamics…?

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Bob Mould at The Maha Music Festival, Aug. 17, 2013.

Bob Mould for me and a lot of people was the cornerstone of this year’s festival. Lots of Sugar and new stuff and even “I Apologize.” What more do you want?

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Digital Leather at the Maha Music Festival, Aug. 17, 2013

For the uninitiated, Digital Leather brought a modern garage aesthetic, along with lots of cool noise. 

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Flaming Lips at The Maha Music Festival, Aug. 17, 2013.

Our lord and savior Wayne Coyne doing his thing atop a mountain of chrome embryos, fetus doll in hand. Great lights, droll music.

More on Maha Wednesday, I promise.

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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.



Where to now, Maha? (in the column) and one guy’s view of where it should go…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , — @ 12:42 pm August 16, 2012

by Tim McMahan,

The Maha Blackbird

The Maha Blackbird

In this week’s column, sizing up Maha and getting a bead on its future from Maha organizer Tre Brashear. With this year’s record crowd, does the festival have room to grow or will it be content being a one-day concert event? Read it in this week’s issue of The Reader or online right here.

Some other thoughts about Maha…

One of the most successful things about this year’s festival had nothing to do with the performances. Two years ago, no one knew what Maha looked like. This year with the help of Oxide Design, Maha became a recognizable brand that resonates with its audience. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like that blackbird emblem. You don’t get 40 people tattooing that symbol on their bodies unless they think it’s cool. It looks good on posters on T-shirts on everything and I have a feeling we’re going to see it all over town all year ’round. I don’t know what it cost the Maha folks, but it was worth every penny. Maha now has a graphic identity, and I can’t even begin to tell you how important that is.

In its fourth year, Maha took its first real step in defining itself. As successful as it was, Maha can’t be satisfied with merely repeating what it accomplished this year. If year five is just another one-afternoon/evening concert event it’ll be wasting any momentum gained last weekend. They’ve got to do something different and better in 2013.  So what would I do if I was running Maha and didn’t have to concern myself with such things as budgets and schedules and sponsors and vendors and the legacy the festival has built?

Raise the ticket price. If what they’re saying is true, Maha is henpecked by its thirty-something-dollar ticket price when it comes to being able to draw larger-name band(s). Price the festival in conjunction with what your biggest name’s tickets would sell for. Jane’s Addiction is $45-$65. Morrissey is $55+. We gladly pay for these shows that feature really only one band (We don’t even think about who’s opening). With Maha, you could pay for the headliner and get the rest of the festival for free. That’s a good deal, especially if you’ve got a couple additional kick-ass bands on the docket.

Ease into expansion. When they talk about goals, the Maha folks rarely mention attendance numbers; instead they talk about wanting to expand the festival to a full weekend. What’s the easiest way to expand Maha to two days? Start it the night before. Book the park for two (or three) days. Set up the stages on Day One and work the bugs out of the system by hosting an evening of bands the night before the main day. Maybe only use the small stage. Bring in the vendors; open the beer garden. Make it a pre-show party from 7 to 11. Get people psyched about tomorrow. You might even sell some more tickets to the big show. (And yes, get a headliner for the preview night, and charge for it. Sell a package that gets you into both.)

Decide on a theme. The Maha folks seem to have more luck booking legacy indie acts than current indie high fliers. Look at the past four years of headliners; Garbage (’90s band), GBV (’90s band), Superchunk/Spoon (’90s bands) Dashboard Confessional (dreadful ’90s band). I see a theme here, and it ain’t necessarily a bad one. To my knowledge, there’s no festival that’s declared itself as “thee” national classic indie rock festival. Maha could be that festival. We’re talking booking ’90s legends like The Pixies, Pavement, Cat Power, Sonic Youth, Dead Can Dance, Ride, Daft Punk, Pulp, Jesus Lizard, Stereolab, Weezer, Portishead, GYBE, Aphex Twin Cocteau Twins, Sugar/Bob Mould, Magnetic Fields, Built to Spill, Chavez, Jeff Mangum/NMH, The Lips, friggin’ Fugazi, heck just about anyone on Matador / Touch and Go / Sub Pop / Merge / Mute / Thrill Jockey / 4AD / Drag City from the ’90s (or before), The trick, of course, is getting more than one, and market them as if they were gods.

And no, I’m not suggesting this because I’m an old guy who likes “his music.” If given a choice between listening to a new album recommended by Chris Aponick or Jeff Runnings or that scores high on Album of the Year versus listening to a ’90s album I’ll pick the new album every time. The fact is that  Lolla, ATP, Pitchforkfest, Coachella and SXSW have cornered the market on attracting the hottest new indie acts (not to mention all the UK festivals). There’s only so many weekends per summer and you’re never going to be able to compete with those huge festivals for those weekends. But as Maha has proven, they can get the ’90s bands. And believe me, folks in their 30s and 40s will take time off work and travel if they think they’re getting something that can’t get anywhere else.

Reunited (and it feels so good). To coincide with that ’90s theme, host at least one, if not two, classic Omaha or Lincoln band reunions. Think about the possibilities: Mousetrap, Sideshow, Ritual Device, Secret Skin, Cellophane Ceiling, Digital Sex, Grasshopper Takeover/The Kind, Secret Skin, Cactus Nerve Thang, Culture Fire, Commander Venus, Fullblown. A one-time reunion of one of these bands would actually sell tickets versus Maha’s current model, which places bands that play regularly around town on the second stage. Icky Blossoms was awesome and one of my favorite performances from this year’s festival. They’re also playing Sunday night at Slowdown.

Get them there early. I know I know I know I know — no “headliner”-quality band wants to play at 2 p.m. You’ve got all this money riding on a band, you can’t afford to waste it by putting them on stage to play for crickets. I’m just saying, for one year, try it. Maybe you can get a band headed to Lawrence or KC willing to play an early afternoon show on their way to Missouri. Imagine how much your vendors would appreciate have a few thousand people in the park at 2 p.m.

What else?

I realize this was their fourth year, but in a lot of ways, this was Year 1 for Maha. It’s emerged with a new identity and is riding a wave of success. The organizers are going to face some big decisions in the coming months that will determine if Maha will become the festival that they want it to be, or will remain just another concert in the park…

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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.