New Uh Oh, Sufjan Stevens, Middle Kids…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , — @ 7:36 am August 16, 2023

by Tim McMahan,

Not a whole heckuva lot going on indie-music wise since last weekend’s Outlandia Festival. I didn’t attend again this year, but from all reports, it was another smashing success. The  Omaha World-Herald filed a story that says attendance rose by 25%, and I’ve got a request out with one of the organizers for attendance numbers, which I’ll pass along when/if I get them. 

In the wake of Outlandia, things have been pretty quiet in indie music land. Two festivals down and one more to go this weekend. I’ll post a preview of Petfest tomorrow. 

Over the weekend, my penultimate (i.e., my second to last) column for the soon-to-be-sunsetted The Reader went online. It looks back at the glory days of Omaha indie music with a head-scratch at the current state – we’ve got more mega-venues than ever, none of which are booking up-and-coming indie bands, nor, I suppose, are they designed to. Thank god for Outlandia, Maha and Petfest. You can read the story in the printed version of The Reader (pick one up at Hy-Vee or La Casa) or online right here. I’ll be posting the column in this space eventually (for posterity’s sake – who knows how long The Reader servers will stay online?). One more issue to go…

A few new releases to pass along:

Local indie project Uh Oh released their second single off their upcoming August Cicada Songs LP, “Firefly” b/w “”When the River Runs Low.” They’re releasing two new songs per month for the next few months. 

Sufjan Stevens released the first song off his first solo singer/songwriter album since 2015’s Carrie & Lowell. It’s called Javelin and comes out Oct. 6 on Asthmatic Kitty Records. No doubt a tour will follow. Will Omaha be on his tour schedule? Hope so.

Australian indie band Middle Kids are currently on tour opening for Manchester Orchestra and Jimmy Eat World. For whatever reason the kids weren’t included in this year’s Outlandia festival, which featured both those bands. Sometimes that’s just how it works. Their new single, “Highlands,” dropped a couple weeks ago. Let’s hope they come through Omaha again (maybe even at The Sydney, like last time).

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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: Middle Kids at The Sydney, Protomartyr, Preoccupations at The Waiting Room…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 2:21 pm December 10, 2018

Middle Kids at The Sydney, Dec. 8, 2018.

by Tim McMahan,

Great weekend of shows. Let’s start with Middle Kids at The Sydney Saturday night and go from there…

The show was a curiosity in itself in that The Sydney isn’t your usual venue for rising, nationally touring indie rock bands. Instead, the club has a reputation for being a Benson neighborhood bar that occasionally hosts local bands (specifically on First Fridays).

But this past summer One Percent Productions, the fine folks who own and book The Waiting Room and Reverb Lounge as well as book the bands at the annual Maha Music festival, bought The Sydney. They had no initial intention of making it another One Percent venue, rather they left the booking in the able hands of Zach Schmieder, who has been booking the club for quite awhile.

However, I have to assume that when One Percent was offered Middle Kids, a band whose music is a staple on Sirius XMU and has been a regular on college music charts, they took it even though their other venues already had been booked that night for the annual Pine Ridge Toy Drive concert. Why not move Middle Kids to The Sydney, after all, the band is from Sydney Australia — makes perfect sense.

Well, within the months that One Percent purchased The Sydney and this concert, the venue has seen a number of adjustments to its sound system. Even the sound board had been replaced (at least for Saturday night) with something more high-tech and ready to handle what ended up being a sold out show.

Since The Sydney isn’t exactly a huge club, I expected the room to be crushed, but instead, the audience was simply cozy. I was told by the woman at the door that “sold out” meant 150 tickets were sold. There was plenty of room to move around, in fact you could walk pretty close to the stage. I took my position off stage left against the wall next to a massive subwoofer on the floor that acted as a perfect barrier to keep the crowd at bay.

But while the sight lines were good where I stood, the sound was bass-heavy and muffled because I was situated behind the overhead amps. Halfway through the set I moved back by the bar, where the sound was primo but the sight lines were for shit because The Sydney only has a short platform a few inches high for a stage, keeping the band essentially at crowd level (though my 6-foot-2 frame still gave me a view of most of the band). With that the sound system vastly improved, one hopes they install if not a proper stage, at least something that lifts the band a foot or more above the crowd.

One last technical note: The Sydney still uses old-fashioned — as in not digital — spotlights, which provide warm, gorgeous tones on stage. Here’s hoping they don’t swap them out for a digital lighting system, which is cold, harsh and photographs poorly (yeah, I know those digital light rigs are cheaper, so I’m not holding my breath here…).

OK, so what about the band? Middle Kids played as a four-piece with an added guitarist (“Kyle”) that gave their sound a much-needed boost. Front woman Hannah Joy was in great voice, standing on point belting out every song the band knows — literally (at the end of the encore she said they had virtually no other material to perform).

I’ve compared these folks to a number of acts, but the one they really reminded me of most was 10,000 Maniacs; Joy’s voice having a similar Natalie Merchant tone and quiver. The mostly younger crowd (lots of big X’s on the back of hands) stood close and sang to the hits, especially on “Edge of Town,” which became a room-filled sing-along.

Protomartyr at The Waiting Room, Dec. 7, 2018.

Backing up a night to Friday at The Waiting Room…

This was sort of a shared headliner affair, with Protomartyr sandwiched into the second slot. I’ve seen Joe Casey and company three or four times. There he was up front again, dressed like an insurance salesman or someone’s dad, barking out lines like a snapping turtle taking bites out of a dead body, while the rest of the band did their usual crushing performance.

I went to the show with a pal who hadn’t seen either band before and only became familiar with their music a few days prior (thanks to my prodding). Music-wise, he said he preferred Preoccupations more than Protomartry, but after the show, he changed his tune, saying he much preferred Protomartyr live if only for Casey’s brackish charisma. He couldn’t take his eyes off him.

I’d already seen his act, which is maybe why I was so enamored with the band, specifically guitarist Greg Ahee who absolutely ripped. If there’s a minus to Protomartyr it’s that their songs sound the same — Casey doesn’t so much sing as yell words into the microphone. So it’s up to the rest of the band to provide the depth, variety and dynamics to the music, which we got in spades.

Preoccupations at The Waiting Room, Dec. 7, 2018.

As good as Protomartyr was, Preoccupations was next level. Playing mostly songs off New Material (2018, Jagjaguwar) as well as a few older tracks, the band came out with guitars blazing before working in synths three songs into the set.

Compared to Casey, frontman/bassist Matt Flegel is a virtual opera singer, channeling Ceremony’s Ross Farrar on post-punk New Wave-esque songs that would fit in rotation on Sirius’ First Wave station. While Scott Munro shined on guitar, it was the duo synths working along with drummer Mike Wallace that raised the bar on New Material tracks like “Disarray” and “Espionage.” It was dance music… for people who don’t dance.

It was a great weekend of shows  and a great way to send off 2018, as I don’t see any other national touring indie bands coming through for the balance of the year…

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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.


Protomartyr, Preoccupations, #BFF tonight; Middle Kids, Pine Ridge benefit Saturday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:06 pm December 7, 2018

Protomartyr at 2014’s South by Southwest Festival. The band plays tonight at The Waiting Room.

by Tim McMahan,

After a rather dead week for shows, we got back-to-back hummers tonight and Saturday.

Tonight at The Waiting Room is a double-bill featuring Protomartyr and Preoccupations. Protomartyr has been through Omaha a few times, including a couple gigs at The Slowdown. The Detroit-based punk band is fronted by Joe Casey, a guy who looks like an insurance salesman complete with a sensible haircut and full-on business attire but who has a singing style akin to Husker-era Mould or The Fall’s Mark E. Smith. Deadpan anger, straight-faced disgust, like an upset father with anger-management issues and a back-up band that is pure Gang of Four post punk. Alone worth the price of admission.

Preoccupations — the artist formerly known as Viet Cong — is another post-punk rock act. Their latest is New Material (2018, Jagjaguwar), whose opener “Espionage,” sounds like ‘80s Gary Numan synth rock crossed with Interpol. On the other hand, “Antidote” is Eno-esque modern and dissonant while “Solace” sounds like re-imagined New Order. You’re gonna love it.

Opening act, Rattle, is a U.K. double-drum duo. The fun starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $17.

While you’re in Benson, take in some visual art because it’s Benson First Friday (#BFF), which includes (as always) a reception at The Little Gallery.  Tonight’s opening is the 4th annual “Little Show,” wherein artists show works 12″ x 12″ or smaller priced under $100. Artists include: Kitty Brougham, Rhonda Bruggerman, Amanda Caillau, Vivian Caniglia, Debbie Cunningham, Rachel Cunningham, Rachel Droppers, Emily Jordan, Linda Hatfield, Keri Hedrick, Robert Kenny, Courtney Kenny Porto, Shawnequa Linder, Debbie Martin, Christina Nelson, Sophie Newell, Ricky Powell Jr., Cindy Rae, Jean Regan, Erik Rincon, Fredy Rincon, Jill Rizzo, Torrey Smith, Jen Solberg, Susan Stevens, Trudy Swanson, Tyler Swain, Kate Swinarski, Brian Tait, Katie Temple, Melvin Usher, Holly Vander, Lynda Vik, Brian Wetjen, and Haley Whitesel.

Come on buy and have a beer on me. Reception runs from 6 to 9 p.m. The Little Gallery is at 5901 Maple Street, in the east bay of the Masonic Lodge building. See you there.

Also part of #BFF is tonight’s show at The Sydney headlined by Lincoln’s Laughing Falcon with The Natural States, and Bogusman. 10 p.m., $5.

Tomorrow night (Saturday) it’s back to The Sydney for Middle Kids. You read their Ten Questions interview right here (and if you didn’t, get to it!). Joining them is NYC duo The Shacks (Big Crown Records). 9 p.m. Tickets are $13 today, $15 DOS. This one could be a crush mob!

Also Saturday night is the annual Toy Drive for Pine Ridge concert at The Waiting Room and Reverb Lounge. The lineup is particularly good this year, with your host Lash LaRue & Hired Guns, Matt Whipkey, A Late Fall, 24 Hour Cardlock, Wagon Blasters, BandRanch Outlaws and Scott Severin. Admission is $10 per venue or a new toy ($15 for both venues or two toys). All benefit the Toy Drive for Pine Ridge’s toy delivery and heating fund for the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. 8 p.m.

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

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Ten Questions with Middle Kids (at The Sydney Dec. 8)…

Category: Interviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:00 pm December 6, 2018

Middle Kids play at The Sydney in Benson Saturday, Dec. 8.

by Tim McMahan,

Middle Kids’ debut LP, Lost Friends (Domino, 2018) is one of the funnest, hookiest, prettiest records of the year. I point to the band’s Australian roots (they’re from Sydney) for their music’s sheer golden-sun tunefulness, because in my experience, those Aussies know their way around a beautiful melody (And as Exhibits A, B and C I give you Courtney Barnett, Tame Impala and Wolfmother, all past winners of Australia’s highly coveted Triple J award for album of the year, just like Middle Kids was this year).

The trio’s origins go back to 2014 when frontwoman Hannah Joy met bassist Tim Fitz through mutual friends and began making beautiful music together, both the kind you listen to and otherwise (as in they’re married now). Drummer Harry Day filled out the combo on their self-titled EP in 2017. 

The follow-up full-length, Lost Friends, is a buoyant ride of anthemic indie rock that shuffles and shimmers in a style that fits right alongside acts like Alvvays, First Aid Kit and Oh Pep! — bands that aren’t afraid to put melody above all else. 

I caught up with Middle Kids’ Tim Fitz and gave him the Ten Questions treatment. Here’s what he had to say: 

1. What is your favorite album?

Middle Kids’ Tim Fitz: Pretzel Logic by Steely Dan

2. What is your least favorite song?

“Aja” by Steely Dan

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

The joy and community that comes with mutual experience and creation.

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

Continually trying to work with others and love them is a terribly painful blow to the ego.

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


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

Too many! Philadelphia comes to mind. Also played a great show once at Stubbs BBQ in that great Texan city known as Austin.

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

Had a terrible gig in Portland once that involved a sound guy who was definitely affected by some substances, to the point where he didn’t know how to get any sound out of the speakers. They called in another guy to help, who was also out of his mind, and together they drunk drove that sound-desk for the duration of the show.

8. 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?

We all do a few things in music, a few little fingers in a few pies. We get by with a little help from our friends. It took a while but once you get that first Porsche you never look back. You gotta diversify, hustle and follow your gut. You gotta buy low and sell high. That’s how we do it anyway.

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

We would love to open a Boulangerie in Paris. We would hate to run a Lawn Mower Shop.

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

We hear that the people are good souls. We’ve heard their skies are cold and gray but their hearts are warm and their eyes are bright.

Middle Kids plays with The Shacks Saturday, Dec. 8, at The Sydney, 5918 Maple St. Tickets are $13 Adv./$15 DOS. Showtime is 9 p.m. 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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.