Steelhouse Omaha debut, The Killers, Garst, Bad Bad Men, Noisefest tonight; Matt Whipkey Saturday…

Category: Interviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 7:53 am May 12, 2023
The Killers will christen Steelhouse Omaha tonight.

by Tim McMahan,

If you’re wondering what those searchlights are all about downtown, tonight is the big Grand Opening of Steelhouse Omaha, 1100 Dodge St., featuring alt rock band The Killers. The concert literally sold out in minutes and I’ve yet to talk to anyone who was able to buy a ticket. 

That said, I’ll be at Steelhouse tonight, courtesy of the band’s publicist (if all goes well at Will Call). No photo pass, so something tells me we’re going to see some sort of “no photography” policy tonight as the publicist said he’ll provide photos for use with the review after the fact. Still, I’ll try to capture the evening as best I can with my iPhone.

I interviewed Omaha Performing Arts President Joan Squires and Erika Hansen, who is responsible for booking Steelhouse, for an article that appears in this month’s issue of The Reader. That story, which is online here, covers booking policies, including the decision to use Live Nation and Ticketmaster as exclusive booking and ticket agents. It also addressed The Killers ticket sales situation and lots of other stuff. I’ve also posted the article at the end of this post (captured for posterity’s sake).

As a fan of modern indie music, I’m keeping my fingers crossed Steelhouse will book at least one show a month that will coax me into buying a ticket. Two shows a month would be gravy. But I’m not naive. I know that indie music is a niche genre, and while it’s wildly popular along the coasts and in large cities, I’m not so sure how popular it is in Omaha these days. Instead of Book It and They Will Come, the story’s headline should have been Book Acts that will Bring Them In.

I thought, being a non-profit, that Steelhouse and O-pa could take more risks on acts that are breaking through in other parts of the country — really introducing them to the Omaha area — and that profitability would come second to cultural enrichment. We’re talking bands that would draw 300 instead of 3,000. Squires added some clarification:

“We have to raise money every year as a nonprofit organization so I don’t take that as a given that we don’t still have to watch our bottom line just like everybody else,” she said. “We do have a responsibility to make sure we are being fiscally responsible. We want to make (Steelhouse) the right experience and the right fit. Those bands would not be a great fit for Steelhouse because you’ve got a small band and a small audience and you sit in a space that could have 3,000 people. It is not the kind of scene you want for either the artist or the audience.” 

Let’s face it, no one want to play in front of a mostly empty auditorium.

Hansen did go on to say that the venue is flexible and there are adjustments that can be made for certain acts. For example, the upcoming Elvis Costello concert will be a seated event with chairs and a capacity of 1,500 total. 

“3,000 isn’t always a success measure,” Hansen said. “It might be a band that would be a thousand and that’s great and that’s a success. So the capacity of the venue is not a measurement of success.”

Both Squires and Hansen pointed to the future. Although many of the shows currently scheduled for Steelhouse cater to an old(er) crowd, both said those shows don’t represent what will eventually be booked at Steelhouse. Hansen said, essentially, what ’til you see what they have booked for this fall. Their October already is mostly booked.

If you want to check out Steelhouse, the venue is hosting a free Open House on Sunday. It will include tours and a performance by the Central High School Jazz Band, Nebraska All-Star Rock & Roll Band, Omaha Girls Rock, Salem Baptist Church Choir and Enjoli & Timeless. For more info about this and other community events, as well as the latest concert lineup, go to

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OK, what else is going on this weekend?

Tonight over at art-space Project Project, 1818 Vinton St., it’s Noisefest, featuring 20 “local and touring noise musicians,” including from Omaha: Lonnie Methe, Dereck Higgins, Alex Jacobsen, Cole Kempke, Smith & Jensen, Bovinae, and Quiz The Machine Elf. I don’t know most of those acts, but you might. The full list of performers is here. This free show starts at 5 p.m. 

Meanwhile, downtown at The Slowdown tonight, Omaha rockers Garst is hosting its album release show with punk super-group Bad Bad Men and BB Sledge. 8 p.m., $12.

Tomorrow night (Saturday), Matt Whipkey is playing two shows at The Jewell in celebration of the release of his new album Gummi Soul: Another Rubber, his reimagining of The Beatles’ Rubber Soul album. The performance will include a reunion of Whipkey’s band The Movies and special guests including the incomparable Stephen Sheehan of Digital Sex and The World fame, and newcomer Kristen Buell. Expect a mix of the Beatles songs and Movies chestnuts. Two shows: 6:30 and 8:30; $15.

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

Now, here’s the Steelhouse article. It first appeared in the May issue of The Reader.

Book It and They Will Come

With Its Opening May 12, Steelhouse Hopes to Put Omaha Back on the Tour Map

By Tim McMahan

Everything about the new Steelhouse Omaha music venue, operated by Omaha Performing Arts (O-pa), will be state of the art — the lights, the sound, the overall experience. The 3,000-capacity downtown venue, which is designed for standing concerts (mostly, there are also balcony seats), will celebrate its opening night May 12 with a performance by alt-rock band The Killers, a show that, despite its $75-plus ticket price, sold out in minutes.

The quick sellout proves more important than state-of-the-art facilities is booking quality acts. Last January, O-pa President Joan Squires was interviewed by local media saying one of the project’s motivations was to attract young patrons, specifically between the ages 18 and 45. “The entire venue is going to be an experience that will really help this city attract people this age,” she was quoted as saying.

I was a little bummed. After all, I’m in my mid-50s, well outside that target range. I envisioned a constant stream of TikTok-style pop acts playing in front of a huge, squirming crowd of squeaky-clean youngsters, all holding up cell phones for one giant Instagram moment. 

However, after a few weeks of Steelhouse show announcements, it turns out I might be at the lower end of the target age. Among the acts announced so far: ’90s alt-rock legends Counting Crows, hair-metal bands W.A.S.P and Cinderella’s Tom Keifer, ’70s funk icons Parliament Funkadelic, 68-year-old singer/songwriter Elvis Costello, and The Flaming Lips performing an album released more than 20 years ago. In fact, all the above performers’ heydays were more than 20 years ago. 

Oh, it’s not all legacy acts. Steelhouse is also hosting “fresh” hip-hop performer $not (pronounced Snot), Japanese novelty Babymetal and indie darlings Fleet Foxes, whose breakthrough debut was released 15 years ago, but that’s it for new-ish artists. So, what exactly is the venue’s booking strategy? Squires and Erika Hansen, director of booking for Steelhouse, said these early bookings are just that: early bookings.

“We’re just starting, Tim,” Squires said. “We’re certainly going to continue to move in a younger direction. This just happens to be who’s got opportunities to come to Steelhouse right now.”

Hansen, 48, who hails from Sioux City and has been booking gigs for 20 years, agreed, saying booking summer months was a challenge, because many acts had already been booked for festivals and outdoor gigs. “Not that this lineup is anything to be down about,” she said, “but it is a different type of crowd that we’re probably looking at for the first few months, and then we’re really going to start to get into the diversity that we’ve been talking about. If I showed you everyone who’s holding dates at Steelhouse, it’s a much different look than what you’re seeing right now on sale.” 

Working with Live Nation

To power booking efforts, Steelhouse via O-pa signed an exclusive contract with Live Nation, the country’s largest concert promoter. “We felt they could work with us to ensure we get bands as they route them across the country,” Squires said, pointing out Omaha falls in the gap between Denver, Chicago, Kansas City and Minneapolis. 

Headquartered out of Beverly Hills, the publicly traded company boasts “bringing 40,000 shows and 100-plus festivals to life” per year and works with just about every successful pop artist, from Alice Cooper to the Zac Brown Band. 

Hansen said she’s in contact with Live Nation multiple times a day. “They definitely will suggest artists they know are touring that they think might be a good fit for Omaha and will work with the venue space,” she said. “It’s a two-way street, though. We definitely have suggested to them, ‘Hey, can you check out this artist or can you look for more artists that are within this genre and see who’s out there?'”

Steelhouse’s real goal isn’t putting on shows that target a specific age group. “(Steelhouse) was built with philanthropic dollars and really is open to everybody,” Squires said. “The target is to attract the bands that have been missing our city because there was no venue of this size.”

“We are absolutely looking at artists that have never played Omaha before or that maybe have played much smaller venues in the market and are now getting to the size where they could fill a venue like Steelhouse,” Hansen added. “I think the purpose is really to add to the music scene in general in Omaha. We want Omaha to be a destination for artists so that all of the agents looking at tour stops think of Omaha as a hot music scene.”

Building awareness is one of the challenges. Squires said Hansen and Live Nation have been busy telling agents and artists that there’s a new kid in town. “Part of it is just getting the word out,” she said. “And the more we book, the more we’ll book.”

What about Indie Music?

As an indie music fan, I had to ask if the venue’s 3,000 capacity will prevent booking important up-and-coming indie artists who draw fewer than 1,000. Squires said the space may not be appropriate for those shows, which would be a better fit for small O-pa-operated venues like the Holland Music Club. However, Hansen said Steelhouse is flexible and has options, including the use of retractable risers. 

“We’re playing with the space,” Hansen said. “I think we will be able to do some smaller shows in there and make it feel full and really cool for the artist and the fan.” But, “we’re not wanting to step on anyone else, either. If some other venue in Omaha has a great opportunity to book a show and it’s a better fit for their room, by all means.”

What about local acts? I suggested local bands could be great openers for larger touring acts. O-pa has done this in the past. Local singer/songwriter Matt Whipkey, for example, opened for the band America at the Holland Center last year. Hansen said artists typically decide who will open their shows, not the promoter, but “if there’s an opportunity, we’ll absolutely do that.”

Ticketmaster ‘the right choice’

I couldn’t let them go without talking about Ticketmaster, a subsidiary of Live Nation that has been embroiled in controversy concerning ticket-selling practices. Just ask Taylor Swift, who appears to be fighting a one-woman battle against the company. Squires said it was O-pa’s decision to use Ticketmaster because “we felt Ticketmaster was the right choice for the marketing, for the fans, for the experience.” 

The almost immediate sellout of The Killers concert left many fans venting their frustrations on social media. Squires said they expected a very quick sellout because The Killers play 20,000-capacity arenas. “We were sorry people were frustrated,” she said. “It was a demand question. We just hope people will stay with us to come back and try something else.”

“I think sometimes Ticketmaster takes kind of a rap for ticketing issues in general,” Hansen said. “Demand is always going to be a problem if you have an artist that has a demand that’s greater than the number of tickets available. That’s not necessarily a Ticketmaster thing.” 

Squires and Hansen were both eager to hear my list of bands I’d like to see play Steelhouse, a list that includes Lana Del Rey, Yo La Tengo, Shame, Gorillaz, Boygenius, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Alex G, M83, The Strokes, Beck, Angel Olsen, Wet Leg, Everything But the Girl, Ladytron and Nation of Language — all touring acts that as of now do not have Omaha as a stop. 

They promised to share the list with Live Nation. They’re looking for your suggestions, too. You can provide them by following Steelhouse on social media, the best place to see the latest announcements. 

“This is going to evolve,” Squires said of Steelhouse Omaha’s bookings. “We’re just getting open. We’re going to continue to reinvent and reevaluate. It’s going to keep moving.”

Over The Edge is a monthly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on culture, society, music, the media and the arts. Email Tim at

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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.


Live Review: America, Matt Whipkey at The Holland Center…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:10 pm June 19, 2022
America at The Holland Performing Arts Center, June 18, 2022.

by Tim McMahan,

What are you going to be doing at age 70? Would you be satisfied flying around he country to venues like The Holland Performing Arts Center (or Memorial Park, for that matter) playing songs you wrote 50 years ago to people who just want to hear the songs you wrote 50 years ago?

Sounds pretty good to me, though at what point do become more of a performer than an artist? The last studio album by America, who played at Holland Center Saturday night, was Lost & Found, released in 2015, and included tracks recorded as far back as 2000. And their Holland set included the album’s opening track, “Driving.”

But looking around at the audience made up mostly of fans who could have bought their ‘70s albums when they were first released, I wondered how many wanted to hear anything other than the hits.

And man, America has a lot of them. They kicked off the night with “Tin Man” from their ’74 album Holiday, which was followed by “You Can Do Magic” from their ’84 album View from the Ground (and their last big U.S. hit), and then my personal fave, “Daisy Jane,” from ’75’s Hearts.

Looking like a hip college professor, co-frontman Gerry Beckley, age 69, handled most of the vocals alongside Dewey Bunnell (the guy on the Horse with No Name, age 70), and both sounded in fine voice, backed in harmonies by three other latter-day traveling members. The third original core member of America, Dan Peek, passed away in 2011, but had left the band in ’77 never to return.

Surprisingly Beckley and Bunnell never mentioned their old compatriot, though he was seen in some of the vintage images shown on the big screen throughout the set. I guess when you play 100 shows a year for 52 years, mentioning an old band member every night would get redundant, though last night’s gig was likely the first time many in the audience have seen America perform.

The show is part of the 50 Year Anniversary Tour, no longer marking 50 years of America, but 50 years of their debut album, released in ’71. To celebrate, the band played three songs from the debut in succession, including their first hit, “I Need You.” If you’re my age, you’d recognize it immediately.

They were followed by one of their most popular hits, “Ventura Highway,” (no doubt the influence to “Theme from The Californians”). It’s FM gold, and the crowd went wild. Then came old sad sack “Lonely People,” which would be the last hit for awhile, as the band then played a number of songs I didn’t recognize. The crowd responded respectfully, waiting patiently for the next hit.

Instead, the got a cover of The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” in honor of Paul McCartney’s 80th birthday, as well as a cover of “California Dreaming.” This is how you fill a 90-minute set, but let’s be honest, the crowd would have been just as happy to only hear the hits and those covers, which alone would encompass 11 songs — just the right length for a park festival, but maybe not long enough for a theater gig like this (though I would have happy).

In the end, the fans got what they wanted, as the set closed with anti-war song “Sandman” and mega-hit “Sister Golden Hair,” that got them on their feet. The band left their biggest hit of all, “Horse with No Name,” as the encore (of course).

Matt Whipkey at The Holland Performing Arts Center, June 18, 2022.

Opening the show was singer/songwriter local hero Matt Whipkey, who made the most of his just over 30-minute set. With acoustic guitar and accompanied on keyboards by longtime sideman Scott Gaeta, Whipkey charmed an audience of strangers with songs off his recent album, Hard, as well as a few chestnuts (such us my all-time fave of his, 2008’s “Separation,” which kicked off the set at 7 p.m. sharp).

You’d expect to see some nerves showing from a guy who typically plays to crowds of 100 or so at local bars, now standing in the spotlight in front of a few thousand. But Whipkey made it look like a walk in the park, getting the crowd laughing between songs, even making fun of the giant “Matt Whipkey” sign that blared behind him throughout the set.

Paraphrasing here, Whipkey quipped, “I love playing at O’Leaver’s, it’s one of my favorite places, but this is a little bit better,” with Gaeta quickly adding, “It smells better, too.”

The highlights included “Mayday” and “Overboard” from Hard, “Underwater” from the album of the same name, super-old song “17,” and his cover of “Drive My Car,” also dedicated to McCartney (afterward, I heard some guy behind me playing the Beatles’ version on his phone). It was a great way to kick off the evening, and another in a series of career highlights for Whipkey.

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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.


Matt Whipkey, Jeremy Mercy tonight; Cable Network album release, Clarence Tilton Saturday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 9:32 am January 14, 2022
Cable Network celebrates the release of their new album, Cable Network II, Saturday night at Slowdown, Jr.

by Tim McMahan,

Well, looks like Covid is kicking our ass again. That means mask mandates all around if you’re headed to a show this weekend. Actually, I can’t imagine attending a show without a mask, anyway.

In fact, tonight’s Matt Whipkey show at Reverb Lounge is a No Vax/No Entry affair, so bring your Covid membership card along with your masks. Matt will be introducing a new line-up for this gig with Korey Anderson on guitar, Vic Padios (The Brigadiers, Calico, The Gymnastics) on bass, Scott Gaeta on keys, and Scott “Zip” Zimmerman back behind the drum kit. Opening is Jeremy Mercy and the Rapture Orphans. $10, 8 p.m.

Tomorrow night at Slowdown Jr. is the album release show for Cable Network, a band is fronted by Slowdown soundguy Charlie Ames with Braden Larson, guitar; Ben Rickers, bass; Charlie Encell, vocals; Jordan Opeary, vocals, percussion and Pat Stutzman, drums. It’s going to be a crowded stage. The album, Cable Network II, is a follow-up to their debut EP that came out in December 2020. Also on the bill is Omaha alt country band Clarence Tilton; Jack McLaughlin opens the show at 8 p.m. $8.

Also tomorrow night (Saturday), Omaha tribute band Bennie and the Gents is hosting another in a series of David Bowie tribute nights. This one also is No Vax/No Entry and starts at 9 p.m. $10.

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 © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Matt Whipkey at The Jewell; the week ahead…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , — @ 7:56 am November 15, 2021
Matt Whipkey and his band at The Jewell, Nov. 12, 2021.

by Tim McMahan,

You could tell Matt Whipkey was proud of the band he assembled for last Friday night’s album release show at The Jewell, and he should be.

Standing beside him on the crooked stage were two of the city’s best guitarists — Korey Anderson and Corey Weber — his longtime sideman/keyboardist Scott Gaeta, percussionist/vibrophone player Scott “Zip” Zimmerman, who for decades sat behind the kit but for Friday was replaced by whizkid drummer Nate Van Fleet (who’s on a personal farewell tour before he moves to Los Angeles early next year), and flying in all the way from Denver was none other than Bobby Carrig, who also played alongside Whipkey for decades.

Whipkey never had it so good, and I think he knew it, because also supplying sonic mojo was the room itself. The Jewell has a reputation for being one of the better sounding rooms in Omaha, designed for live jazz shows. And sound good it did. This was the first time I’ve seen Whipkey live where I didn’t have to wear earplugs, the sound was so balanced and clean.

Matt brought his A game, performing all the songs off his new album, Hard (2021, Unusual) to a seated crowd who gnawed on $28 plates of rubber chicken from their candle-lit tables. Sort of like seeing a band at a Holiday Inn lounge, but with perfect acoustics. Not exactly a rock club vibe, but Whipkey knew that going in.

Highlights for me were when he let the band lean back and do their thing, like at the end of Hard standout number “Big Noise” that saw Whipkey trading solos with the KCoreys. The other golden moments came during the “greatest hits” part of the set, where he rolled out tasty versions of 2008 Whipkey Three track “Separation” and the acoustic guitar-fueled title track from his 2015 album Underwater.

This was my first time at The Jewell, and for the most part, it was a positive experience, though I recommend eating at one of the many Capital District restaurants before arriving, as the overpriced food was pretty awful. But who eats at a jazz club, anyway? The room would be a great place to host small, intimate singer/songwriter shows as well as jazz. Rock shows aren’t out of the question, though you’re pretty much confined to your table, and that ain’t very rock ‘n’ roll, is it?

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Busy week for shows.

Tomorrow night ‘80s alternative band The Fixx plays at The Waiting Room. These guys have been touring for decades on the strength of two albums from the early ‘80s whose hits still get airplay on classic rock stations. They haven’t put out an album since a 2014 live album. Joining them is ‘90s alt rockers Fastball. $35, 8 p.m.

Tuesday night, Flaccid Mojo (consisting of two members of DFA Records artist Black Dice (the two that don’t sing)) swing by Reverb Lounge for a set of experimental beat-heavy distortion synth noise. Opening is Problems a.k.a. Darren Keen. $12, 8 p.m.

Tennis return to The Slowdown Wednesday night. Molly Burch opens. This is a main room show and it’s No Vax No Entry, so bring your stuff. $20, 8 p.m.

And then along comes the 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 © 2021 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Nate Van Fleet headed West; Matt Whipkey (and band) tonight; Lemonheads, See Through Dresses, Jeremy Mercy Saturday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 8:26 am November 12, 2021
See Through Dresses with Nate Van Fleet behind the kit at The Waiting Room, way back on Nov. 30, 2013. The band plays Saturday at The Waiting Room.

by Tim McMahan,

Red hot news before we get to the calendar, and it’s news of an unfortunate nature (for Omaha, anyway)…

This weekend’s shows are among the last times you’ll be able to see one of the area’s best drummers perform live. Nate Van Fleet, best known as the drummer for indie rock band See Through Dresses, is moving to Los Angeles after the first of the year. Nate confirmed the news last week: “I’m looking forward to meeting some new faces and making some new musical experiences. Hoping to be back in Omaha as often as possible, though,” he said.

Nate’s filled his calendar with a number of shows before he leaves, including two big ones this weekend with Matt Whipkey and See Through Dresses. But on top of that, Nate’s other band, Big Nope, will open for Criteria and Little Brazil at The Waiting Room Nov. 27 in what may be a tri-fecta for Van Fleet fans. Finally, Nate will be playing as part of Bug Heaven Nov. 28 at The Sydney.

Since he first emerged as a member of STD, Van Fleet has been been recognized as one of the city’s most versatile drummers, becoming the go-to guy for the area’s best rock bands. In fact, that Nov. 27 show could be very special, as Van Fleet drummed for Criteria and Little Brazil. Will he be on stage for all three sets? I don’t know for sure because I haven’t confirmed the bands’ line-ups, but I would not be surprised.

No doubt Van Fleet will become a sensation in La La Land. It’s just a matter of connections and getting seen by the right people. With all the other Omahans who have fled to the West Coast in the past few years — and his unmistakable talent — he’ll have no problems.

Congratulations Nate, and whoa to all of us back in Omaha, as the city’s Great Talent Migration continues…

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So let’s start there. Tonight at The Jewell in the Capitol District Matt Whipkey is playing two shows with a massive band that includes Van Fleet, guitarists Korey Anderson and Corey Weber, keyboardist Scott Gaeta, bassist Glen Smith and percussionist Scott “Zip” Zimmerman. The event is the release of his new album, Hard (2021, Unusual), in vinyl format (which Whipkey will have on hand for sale). You read about the album here. Tickets to both the 6:30 and 8:30 shows are still available for $15.

Tomorrow night (Saturday) The Lemonheads return to The Waiting Room with Heyrocco. See Through Dresses opens this one at 8 p.m. Is the first STD show since the lock down (I think). Tickets are $30, show starts at 8 p.m.

Also Saturday night, Jeremy Mercy and the Rapture Orphans headline at The Sydney in Benson. Mercy has new music out, and what I heard of it is very good. Joining them is The Rare Candies. No price listed for this one but it’s probably around $10. Starts at 9.

Finally, BFF is hosting an event called Magic 8 Ball After Party (I don’t get the reference). That said, live performances include Cat Piss, Blood Cow and DJ Kobrakyle. The show is free if you’re a member of BFF (join!) and $10 for everyone else. Starts at 9.

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 © 2021 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Matt Whipkey interview (in the column); Maha under new management; here comes Destroyer and COVID news…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , — @ 12:44 pm November 3, 2021
A screen cap from the Brothers tribute video from M34N STR33T, titled Monster

by Tim McMahan,

So, The Brothers is gone. I didn’t make it out to the farewell shows last weekend. I didn’t get tickets before the sell outs, and while Trey and Lallaya graciously offered to put me on the list, The Brothers was never the kind of place to have a list, which is one of the reasons I liked the place. 

My final thoughts: What’s next for the Lalleys? We’ll have to wait and see, but they’re way too young to retire. Here’s hoping it’s something music-related, but they deserve to do as much fishing as they want.

And what will happen to The Brothers’ building? No doubt it’ll go to the highest bidder (though I’m hearing GreenSlate isn’t in the mix).

Check out the video tribute by M34N STR33T, below…

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My feature column on Matt Whipkey and his new album, Hard, went up on The Reader website this morning. You can read it here. Matt talks about what did and didn’t go into his “divorce album,” and lists some of his favorite break-up records. My favorite, Beck’s Sea Change from 2005, didn’t make his cut. See what did. And go out and buy tickets to his Nov. 12 album release show at The Jewell. Matt has vinyl in hand that will be sold at the show.

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Last week the folks at the Maha Festival announced that long-time Executive Director Lauren Martin stepped down at the end of October. Lauren’s been involved in Maha since it launched in 2009 and has been the ED since 2015. She’s a big reason why Maha is one of the best-run festivals in the country.

I asked why she’s leaving, and Maha Marketing & Comms Manager Rachel Grace said, “She is seeking opportunities that allow her to prioritize her family/personal goals while serving the community.”

Grace now leads Maha along with Operations Manager Emily Cox. No word on 2022 but there will be a festival next year. When and where has yet to be announced.

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One Percent today announced Destroyer is booked at The Waiting Room April 28, 2022. Tickets at $22 go on sale Friday at 10 a.m.

One last note: I just discovered this story that appeared online at The Reader Oct. 20. In it, reporter Sam Crisler talks to a number of venues in town about COVID-19 protocols, including CHI Center and One Percent Productions.

From the article:

“We’re trying to get back to where we have bigger crowds, but at the same time, the touring bands that can draw the bigger crowds just aren’t back on the road right now,” (1%’s Marc) Leibowitz said. He estimates around half of the artists that would typically draw sizable crowds to his venues have chosen to stay home so far.

This is beginning to turn around, judging by the dozens of emails I get every day from larger bands announcing tours.

Also from the article:

Leibowitz said he thinks nationwide standards for concertgoers need to be put in place. The variability in COVID-19 requirements from venue to venue and state to state is discouraging artists from touring in the first place, he said.

“If there was an understanding with people that if you want to see music, you have to do X and Y, then they would be better off,” Leibowitz said. “I think it would make less tours cancel.”

I couldn’t agree more. Even in Omaha there is no COVID-related standard for live shows. The restrictions appear to be driven by the artists themselves — touring acts that insist on proof of vaccination are getting their wish (Destroyer, for example, is a “no vax no entry” show). The same restriction doesn’t appear to exists for local artists’ shows, however, but it probably could if locals insisted on the vax-proof restriction….

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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 © 2021 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


New Hartford/Focht, Whipkey, Lightning Junkyard, Shaun the Loud; #BSSF?…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 2:03 pm January 8, 2021
Hartford/Focht have a new record.

I’ve been waiting all week to write about these releases because I thought we were coming up on another Bandcamp Friday, but it turns out that Bandcamp is skipping January and relaunching the promo in February. Why skip January? Who knows. Regardless, I can’t wait another month to write about these new tracks and releases, so…

First up is the new one by Hartford/Focht. The core of the band is the singing duo of Matt Focht and Crystal Hartford, but as Matt said in a super-long IM in Facebook, “Our band is basically backed up by Head of Femur and Ben Armstrong’s father on piano and organ. (We) also had special guests like the Mike Mogis and the Fink sisters.” Sort of an indie folk supergroup if you ask me.

The self-titled album was recorded and mixed in Omaha this past November at The Library and ARC by Adam Roberts, and mastered by Dan Dietrich at Wall to Wall in Chicago. In addition to originals by Focht, there’s renditions of songs by Lowell George, Rick Roberts, Laura Nyro, Larry Murray, Al Kooper and Bob Dylan (“I Shall Be Released”). The whole album has an early ’70s Laurel Canyon vibe, thanks in part to Hartford’s Joni-esque vocals and the overall arrangements.

Wherein I like the covers, the originals really shine, like “Chico Hot Springs,” “Standing in the Light” and “Capitol Sunset.” Check it out here on their Bandcamp page and buy a download. It’s also at the usual streaming services.

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It’s been awhile since we heard from Matt Whipkey. There have been trials. There have been tribulations. And coming out of all that is a new album due later this year.

I wrote and recorded an entire new album throughout the course of this last year / quarantine. The tracks were completed via email with my good friends and collaborators Scott Gaeta and Ian Aeillo. When I thought it was finished it was screaming for something more.”

Here’s an early sneak peek – a track actually written back in 2016, long before the troubles. Best sounding Whipkey track I think I’ve heard. So yeah, Whipkey’s back.

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What do you get when you mix broken-bottle country with an Omaha punk superstar? You get Lightning Stills and Junkyard Dan on the new track, “Passed Out on the Bar.”

Lightning Stills is Craig Fort (actually a punk dude in in his own right), while Junkyard Dan is Dan Maxwell of Little Brazil and Leafblower fame. I think this is the first time I really heard DMax’s vocals in all their glory. Yeah, he’s sung on plenty of albums, but the mix and the contrast with Fort make his vox stand out like never before.

This one comes with a video that’s pretty weird, actually. Can’t wait to see these two on an Omaha stage.

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Finally, Shaun the Loud sent an email to me out of the blue and I’m glad he did. I hadn’t heard of him, though he released an album on the late Eric Medley’s Tremulant Records last year. Shaun the Loud is Shaun Sparks. And while 2019’s Galaxy Particles was a twangy singer/songwriter band-driven collection, Sparks has gone almost all digital on this new one, thanks, in part, to the pandemic.

The result, the self-released Cosmic Barbecue, sounds like a dance album sung by one of Glen Campbell’s sidemen. Sparks said his teenage kids along with a few contributors, including a handful of players, Christopher Steffen, who mixed the album, and Doug Van Sloun, “encouraged the electronic thing.”

The original concept of the project was to make dance music but it took a life of its own from there, mainly because Idk how to make that and I’m normally into songwriting, so that’s why there’s more emphasis on beats, synth and bass lines rather than the more songwriter-y structure in the previous release,” he said.

Call it a singer/songwriter electronic dance music, if you will, and definitely worth checking out, but not on Bandcamp. Sparks’ albums are released on Distrokid, which includes every streaming service but Bandcamp.

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It’s the second Friday of the month and you know what that means — Blackstone Second Friday or #BSSF.

Well, I don’t know if #BSSF is a thing yet, but maybe we can get the ball rolling, especially tonight when The Little Gallery Blackstone hosts an opening reception featuring the works of artist Jeanne Pittack. Titled “Heimweh,” the show features Pittack’s black-and-white photography.

It’s the first new opening at the new Little Gallery space in Blackstone, located at 144. So. 39th St., which is inside the Blackstone Mansion just east of Night Owl. The show runs from 7 to 10 p.m. and admission is free. Masks are required, as is social distancing, and there’s a 5-person limit inside The Little Gallery. See you there.

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 © 2021 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Unexplained Death on cassette; new Love Drunk: Bogusman…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:22 pm September 18, 2019

The Unexplained Death cassette…

by Tim McMahan,

The debut recording of Matt Whipkey’s new poli-punk project, Unexplained Death, dropped last Friday in cassette and digital formats. I’m seeing more and more artists opt for cassette releases, I assume because it’s a physical format (other than CD) that artists can create themselves. The cassette is a run of 100, each with unique, hand-made cassette sleeves comprised of altered versions of classic ’80s album art. Just look what Matt did to Robert Plant.

The songs represent a sort of new direction for Whipkey. Though he’s known mostly as an Americana folk-rock guy, Matt always punctuated his albums with a few heavier rock songs. This collection is his take on punk — fast and hard and purposely distorted/low-fi — with lyrics about the current state of local and national politics. Whipkey said it was because of the songs’ timliness that he didn’t shop the recording to labels — he wants to get his message to the masses now.

The full album is being streamed here at Bandcamp, where you can order a copy of the cassette for $10 (comes with download key). And look for the band’s stage debut sometime next month…

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Love Drunk, the live one-take video project helmed by Django Greenblatt-Seay, is back and better than ever. Django dropped video #141 last Saturday. It features Lincoln punk band Bogusman performing “Magic Hands” at the VS. Arcade Bar in Lincoln. I’d heard of neither Bogusman nor VS. prior to this video and now I want to check ’em both out. Now maybe someone can get Bogusman to play in Omaha? Check it below.

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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 © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.



Unexplained Death (a.k.a. Matt Whipkey and band) takes on the Ricketts family…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 2:32 pm February 13, 2019

A screen cap from the new Unexplained Death video for “Wall Street Pete (Daddy’s Money).”

by Tim McMahan,

Matt Whipkey has been working on a secret project for a number of months. He’s known for a style of music that falls somewhere in the folk rock / Americana / alt country / singer-songwriter genres. The new project, going by the name Unexplained Death, is Whipkey’s take on punk as only he can.

His first angry solvo has been hurled at Pete Ricketts and the Ricketts family in general. Called “Wall Street Pete (Daddy’s Money)” it throws the Ricketts spaghetti agaisnt the wall. See what pieces stick below.

I asked Whipkey, “Why punk, why now?”

“Look at the world; it’s a flaming shit storm. In all directions, fireballs of shit flying,” Whipkey said. “A lot of musicians are speaking out against the current state of affairs and that is great, but a lot of these songs are borderline lullabies.”

Whipkey’s abrupt change in musical style also is the result of too often being hung with the “Americana, singer/songwriter” genre tag. “I’ve carried it for a long time,” he said.

So is what he’s doing punk? Probably not in the truest sense. This song and others off the upcoming collection fall closer to Replacements-style indie rock.

“When I was learning to play guitar, these were the kind of jams I first figured out,” he said. “Fast and loud is definitely part of my nature. In no way am I claiming to be a punk purist. I still like melody too much. But the energy it carries has always been a part of my identity.”

The Unexplained Death songs were mostly recorded in Whipkey’s unfinished basement. “I did the drums for some songs at Scott Gaeta’s (studio),” Whipkey said. “I mixed all the songs and even played everything (sans drums).”

He’s looking for a record label to put it out, but, “I have little hope because the music industry is also part of that flaming shit storm.”

We’re all still waiting for the first Unexplained Death rock show; do you hear that Lookout Lounge and The Brothers?

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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 © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Weekend in Review: Almost Music (Pagan Athletes, Wagon Blasters), Matt Whipkey; No Thanks, Hussies tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 1:51 pm February 4, 2019

Matt Whipkey and his band at Reverb Lounge Feb. 2, 2019.

by Tim McMahan,

It was a shoulder-to-shoulder crowd at Almost Music Saturday night around 8 p.m., the store filled with revelers celebrating the unfortunate demise of an Omaha music store. Some of the book shelves had been moved out of the Solid Jackson side to make room for the crowds watching the bands. In back they were doling out what can only be described as “doses” of the Nite Owl “punch” that indeed packed one. It was a happy though solemn affair as we were all happy to see the bands and each other, and sad that it was the last day for Almost Music and Solid Jackson, a store that will never be equaled (Unless Brad decides to open one again some day).

So crowded was the store that we couldn’t see Pagan Athletes, who were performing on the other side of the room. The synth/drummer duo was knocking out crazy futuristic jams, hyper-kinetic instrumentals that held the crowd in a trance with its jittery swing. The fine young man standing next to me drinking the blood-colored punch from a coffee cup said the band consists of John Wolf’s sons! Wolf is nothing less than an Omaha music legend behind such great bands as Cellophane Ceiling and Bad Luck Charm (among others). No doubt talent runs in the family. Check out some Pagan Athletes demos below.


Wagon Blasters at Almost Music’s farewell show, Feb. 2, 2019.

Speaking of legends, Pagan Athletes was followed by Wagon Blasters, the next evolutionary step in the ever mutating genre of Nebraska Tractor Punk. Gary Dean Davis was in his usual fine form, as was the rest of the band, who I could barely see while standing  atop a three-foot step ladder, where I took the above photo (I never got a clear shot of Pagan Athletes).

We only hung around for a couple Blasters songs, overcome by ennui generated by the knowledge that we wouldn’t be able to stop into Almost Music again on Saturdays after lunch at Noli’s. Brad, we salute you (and by the way, you hit the nail squarely on the head with that Rat Columns album — primo!).

We headed cross town to catch Matt Whipkey’s set at Reverb Lounge. Whipkey has been performing in a variety of bands and projects for almost two decades, and while rock has always been the staple, his style has varied from Americana to heavy metal (or close to it). That variety makes for a fine selection of songs and styles, which we got a heathy sample of Saturday night.

It’s become known in some circles that Whipkey has been working on a secret project, and sure enough he rolled out one of those songs last night — a punk version of “Fred, You’re Dead” (of which there’s a slower version on his last album, Driver). When will Whipkey reveal this full punk project? Only time will tell…

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Tonight Cam Stout celebrates her birthday at The Brothers Lounge. I don’t know who Cam is, but I like her taste in music, as the bands No Thanks and Hussies are both performing in her honor. $5, 10 p.m. Happy Birthday, Cam…

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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 © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.