Sara Bertuldo (See Through Dresses) on racism and exploitation in art; Thick Paint, Anna McClellan tonight…

by Tim McMahan,

In my November column in The Reader, I wrote an essay titled “With the Best of Intentions: Yellow face, the N-word and a divided music community.” The column discussed accusations of racism made toward members of the Omaha music community. If you haven’t already, read the column now to understand the context of the rest of this post.

As an addendum at, I also posted a Q&A with Simon Joyner about the controversy, which you can read here.

After I posted links to both the column and the Q&A in Facebook, a number of people reacted, saying I didn’t capture both sides of the issue. Someone suggested I ask See Through Dresses front woman Sara Bertuldo for her thoughts on the matter, and Bertuldo indicated she’d be willing to do an interview or answer questions.

See Through Dresses was on tour at the time, so I suggested we do it via email (as I’d done with Joyner’s Q&A), and sent Sara the following questions to be published with her responses as a post in Lazy-i.

My questions:

— What was your reaction to: Joyner’s song, Noah Sterba’s song, Harouki Zombi?

— Do you think the artists in question have done anything wrong or were trying to intentionally hurt anyone through their actions?

— Is it OK for artists and musicians to broach these sorts of topics in their work? Why or why not?

— Were you satisfied with the apologies or explanations offered by these artists about their choices?

Sara sent her responses late last week in the form of the following essay:

The first reaction is anger.

Imagine someone says something bad about you. What you did. What you said. Or maybe what you wore. How would you feel? I’d feel pretty angry. Is it really bad? Was it something to feel ashamed about? Did you make a mistake? Can you apologize for it? Should you?

Now imagine someone says something else bad about you. Only this time it’s something undeniably true, like something about your identity. Or the color of your skin or shape of your eyes. Something you can literally do nothing to change. How does it feel? I know I was angry. 

When you react with anger, people say things like “don’t take it the wrong way” or “it’s a joke” to minimize it. What it feels like when that happens is that they minimize me and my experience.


It’s a scary word to a lot of people.

My experience with racism is like a book I carry with me. That book is a heavy weight that sits on my chest. And every time I experience something like this, that book opens. It is filled with my memories of prejudice. Memories of being asked if I was Chinese or Japanese in elementary school, being told I “act white,” being fetishized, and learning my mother withheld our language from me to make me more American. She did this to help me fit in. She was treated poorly because of her accent when she immigrated to the U.S. in the 1970s. When she had children she promised herself that wouldn’t happen to them.


Racism is a normal word to me.

I believe it is embedded in all of us and the only way we can fix it is by educating ourselves.

I’m really tired of absorbing everything and keeping silent. It makes me feel sick.

There was a time that I let things slide. I kept quiet because I wanted to preserve some sort of peace. Talking about it was way too real. And people say things that make you question how you feel. To make you quiet. But all these little things that have been said just add up. Every single thing I hear or read, it just eats at me.


I had written something before detailing my experience post-Harouki Zombi stuff. I personally left out names. I didn’t want people to feel attacked. I did not want them to feel the way I felt. I was so angry when this all started, but I tried to let go of that for a moment and write my story. I felt by offering a personal account on what it feels like to be a person of color I could help them see how upset I was. I thought my way for me to change someone’s views was through compassion and not anger.

But months later, it keeps coming up so here we are again.

So to Orenda, Noah, and Simon:

With all due respect, yes, you are all artists. And you are all white. You benefit from things I do not. You absolutely have the freedom to do whatever you wish in your art. But if you are so progressive minded, if you are as compassionate as your friends say you are, please treat our culture and words with reverence. Keep making art, but please do not exploit us. I don’t believe there was intent to cause harm. But the fact of the matter is, you did. I believe it’s more meaningful to take a step back and listen now. Listen to us.

I resent this whole ordeal. I am upset it’s taken so much time from me. I spent so much time thinking about it, crying about it. I’ve cancelled band practice over it, been depressed about it at work, and now I’m out on tour writing about it when I should be enjoying where I am.

And to the people that were so outwardly angry about it, I sympathize with that anger. I really do. People called them bored, childish, social just warriors… You know why marginalized people react that way sometimes? It’s because people don’t listen to us. And it happens again and again.

Here is one marginalized person’s opinion. Because we coexist in this community, I thought you should hear it. You can take it or leave it.

I find solace in my friends and family that support me. I can only work on the people I care about or people that want to be better and if you don’t want to learn from this, that is totally fine.

I’m sorry if that sounds angry, but if anger is all you see then you’re missing the point.
— Sara Bertuldo

Thanks, Sara, for the thoughtful comments on a very difficult subject.

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Tonight at Brothers Lounge it’s the return of Thick Paint. The band has been on the road for awhile and swings back into Omaha with Anna McClellan, who just leaked the first single, “Heart of Hearts,” from her forthcoming album Yes and No, due in February on Father/Daughter. Dilute also is on tonight’s bill. $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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


With the Best of Intentions: Harouki Zombi, Noah Sterba, Simon Joyner and a divided music scene (In the column)…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , — @ 1:41 pm November 13, 2017

by Tim McMahan,

Before you read my column in this month’s issue of The Reader that briefly outlines the recent controversy surrounding Orenda Fink, Noah Sterba and Simon Joyner, this note: I was reticent about writing on this topic for fear that it would only stir the pot all over again.

In fact, I told Orenda Fink when the controversy surrounding Harouki Zombi flared up this past summer to keep a low profile and wait for it to pass. Now here I am writing about it. The reason I moved forward was because of  Joyner’s own lengthy defense of Sterba and Orenda (It’s linked within the column).

So without further ado, here’s the column, which you also can read in the November issue of The Reader, on newsstands now. More tomorrow, including comments from Joyner about his song “As Long As We’re in Danger,” the language he used, and its timing…

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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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Brad Hoshaw hits house circuit; Noah Sterba love; Nomaha Alerts: Luna, Beach Slang; Closeness tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:47 pm July 26, 2017

Closeness at O’Leaver’s April 30, 2016. The band plays at The Slowdown tonight.

by Tim McMahan,

What’s becoming a common occurrence (even with more established artists — Eric Bachmann just played a show at a house a couple blocks from me), Omaha singer/songwriter Brad Hoshaw announced he’s put together a “Summer House Tour.”

Although I’ve performed many house concerts over the years, this is my first time trying a full tour of house concerts,” Hoshaw said. “I will be performing 10 shows in living rooms and backyards across six states (NE, IA, WI, MN, SD, KS). The hosts are fans who have invited their friends and family to come enjoy a concert in their home. I’m not charging the hosts any money for the concert, but will rely on audience donations to fund my travels. My goal is to create a more authentic personal experience that will connect and strengthen the community that has formed around my music.”

Hoshaw will be selling an exclusive 4-song EP on the tour, which runs Aug. 3-20 starting in Overland Park, KS, and finishing in Lincoln, NE. The full schedule (including the Omaha date) is at

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Noisey did a nice write-up on Noah Sterba’s new album, 13-Bar Blues. You can read it here.

People are taking notice of the cadre of talent talent surrounding Sterba, consisting of David Nance, Simon Joyner, and the team of musicians who appear on their records. Someone should come up with a name for them — how ’bout the Almost Music Collective, since they all have been known to hang out there…

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I’ve been told that my NOmaha Alerts are little more than whining and are a negative especially in the face of all the other talent local promoters are bringing to town. Maybe so, but more than anything, they point out who’s passing over Omaha on their tour, and maybe one of those promoters can work a miracle and get them to add a local date, who knows?

Top of my NOmaha list is Luna, who just announced a North American tour. The closest pass to our fair city is Nov. 1-4, when they play Minneapolis, Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Louis. The tour is in support of an album of covers (including songs by The Cure, Mink DeVille and Fleetwood Mac) called A Sentimental Education, and an instrumental EP called A Place fo Greater Safety — the band’s first  output since Luna’s last studio album Rendezvous, released 13 years ago. Someone get them here.

I think I already mentioned the Afghan Whigs NOmaha alert. Today the band released a new single called “You Want One,” which is available as a free download here. Anyway, they’re still not coming here.

And Beach Slang yesterday announced their fall headlining tour. The closest pass to Omaha is KC Sept. 9, Chicago Sept. 17, Denver Nov. 7. NOmaha, though notably See Through Dresses will be joining them on five dates in mid-November.

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Back to what IS happening in Omaha… tonight Closeness, the project featuring Todd and Orenda Fink, opens for Nicolas Jaar at The Slowdown in the big room. Jaar is a Chilean music producer, mixing engineer and DJ based in NYC. Having listened to some of his stuff this morning on Spotify, dancing not only is advised, it’s recommended. $20, 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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: David Nance, Noah Sterba; Unknown Relatives, Pretty Shitty, No Thanks tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:47 pm July 17, 2017

Noah Sterba at Reverb Lounge, July 14, 2017.

by Tim McMahan,

What more to day about Dave Nance and his band that I didn’t say in last week’s Sydney review other than this was a longer set, played (apparently) with inlaws among the packed crowd (it can make a difference). We got to hear most of the songs off Negative Boogie, including the cover of Merle Haggerd’s “Silver Wings” with Icky Blossoms’ Sarah Bohling providing harmony vocals. Beautiful.

So packed was it for Noah Sterba’s set that people were forced beyond the sound room’s door trying to get in (though there was space on the other side of the room if you could get through the human traffic jam). Sterba, backed by an eight-person band, performed the closer from his new album — titled “The Dark American Rodeo” — in its entirety. In this incarnation, it was a 20-minute noise collage with Sterba front-and-center earnestly reciting the lyrics/poem/manifesto.

I got at the bar right as Sterba’s drone was starting, and was told later it was the sole song he performed, which, on one hand, was good because it meant I didn’t miss anything, but on the other hand, a bummer because Sterba didn’t perform my favorite songs from the album, such as “Three Sheets to the Breeze” and “The 12-Bar Blues.” Next time, maybe…

Nance plays the Bourbon in Lincoln Wednesday night and then hits the road through the first week of August.

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A couple Austin-based punk bands roll into Brothers Lounge tonight.

Unknown Relatives releases material on Austin underground label Super Secret Records. Tour-mates Pretty Shitty are worth the price of admission if only to hear “Don’t Surf.” Omaha’s own No Thanks also is on the bill. $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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


David Nance, Noah Sterba album releases tonight; See Through Dresses album release Saturday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:52 pm July 14, 2017

See Through Dresses at Maha Music Festival in 2016. The band had an album release show Saturday night at The Waiting Room.

by Tim McMahan,

It’s a busy weekend of shows as far as local band releases are concerned.

It kicks off tonight with a duo release show at Reverb Lounge featuring David Nance and Noah Sterba.

David Nance, Negative Boogie (BaDaBing, 2017)

Nance’s new album, Negative Boogie, out today on Ba Da Bing Records, is among my favorites so far this year — a tight, gritty collection of blues rock songs straight out of the garage (or basement), straight to a studio and straight to your heart. The closest comparison I can come to Nance’s intensity is ’90s-era Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, though Nance’s music sounds nothing like it. Nance already has attracted national attention. After this record and subsequent touring, expect him to jump to the next level.

Noah Sterba, 13-Bar Blues (2017, Grapefruit)

Then there’s the release today of Noah Sterba’s 13-Bar Blues on Simon Joyner’s Grapefruit Records label. This is a re-working of his 12-Bar Blues cassette that came out in 2015 on Unread Records, weeding out the covers and adding a few new ones.

Sterba sits in the rarified company of Joyner and Oberst when it comes to turning a golden phrase; his lyrics are central to these bluesy folk-rock tunes. Who else could imaging building a house of out porkchops and eating his way out? The album concludes with a 16-plus-minute opus that features Sterba spitting out a manifesto of sorts over jangly garage blues chords.

Both Nance and Sterba and their bands perform tonight at Reverb Lounge. Joining them is the inimitable Sean Pratt & The Sweats. $7, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, alt country-folk band Clarence Tilton headlines The Waiting Room with Excellency and Sack of Lions. $8, 9 p.m.

See Through Dresses, Horses of the Other World (2017, Tiny Engines)

Then Saturday night is the album release show for See Through Dresses latest, Horse of the Other World (Tiny Engines), at The Waiting Room. The record is something of a breakthrough for a band who in the past too often sounded like a reincarnation of ’90s college rock a la Dinosaur Jr. They come to their own with this album, creating a sound that combines post-punk shimmer with classic dream-pop drone for an end-product reminiscent of Saturdays = Youth-era M83 or early New Order. Opening is Fullbloods and Bokr Tov. $8, 9 p.m.

Also Saturday night, LA four-piece Froth (Burger, Wichita, Lollipop) plays at Milk Run. On their new album, Outside (briefly) (2017, Wichita), they reinvent their sound in solid dream-pop fashion. So much so, the band goes on tour with Ride following this show. Sam Martin opens. $10, 9 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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


The Mountain Goats, Noah Sterba, Middle Folk, David Nance tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:49 pm July 5, 2017

Mountain Goats at The Waiting Room, Sept. 30, 2016. They open for Jason Isbell tonight at Sumtur Amphitheater.

by Tim McMahan,

Three interesting shows going on tonight. Let’s start with the most expensive one…

The Mountain Goats have a great new album out on Merge Records called Goths. It’s said to have been inspired by The Cure, Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Joy Division. Maybe so, but the music still sounds like the usual Mountain Goats’ fare, with John Darnielle writing and performing in his signature talk-sing storyteller style. Still, a deeper production and solid rhythm section make this a better-than-average Mountain Goats album. In fact, the record got a staggering 8.0 from Pitchfork. 

Add to that the fact that the band always puts on a great show, you have to ask yourself are they, alone, worth $40 to see tonight at Sumtur Amphitheater? I’ll leave that up to you. The headliner is former Drive-By Truckers’ dude Jason Isbell, whose southern-fried Americana sound has never done much for me. This one starts at 7:30.

If you leave Sumtur after The Mountain Goats, you’ll be able to catch one of the following shows…

Noah Sterba, formerly of Yuppies, has been playing around for a long, long time, but for whatever reason I’ve never caught his set. The other day I fell across his 12 Bar Blues tracks (originally released on cassette on legendary Unread Records) and was duly impressed. Great stuff.

Anyway, he headlines a show tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s with the always-entertaining David Nance (the hardest working man in Omaha rock?) and Andrew Graham and Swarming Branch. Whoever posted the Facebook invitation said of Swarming Branch “You could say they aspire to become the modern Midwestern Steely Dan, even if they’ve only demonstrated a portion of the elder group’s range thus far.” What can I say, I love Steely Dan. $5, 9 p.m.

Finally, I got a cold-call email from the band Middle Folk last week about their show tonight at Reverb Lounge. I’d never heard of the band, but checked out their music, which is hook-filled folkie-Americana certainly worth the $8 cover. Check it out below. Opening is Grandpa Grew Trees, who also is a mystery to me. Show starts at 9 p.m.

That’s a lot of stuff for a Wednesday night…

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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 © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Poliça, Noah Sterba Band, Mike Schlesinger tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 1:38 pm March 9, 2016
Poliça at The Waiting Room, April 23, 2013.

Poliça at The Waiting Room, April 23, 2013. The band returns to TWR tonight.

by Tim McMahan,

The last time: “Pixie-ish Channy Leaneagh looked like a young Mia Farrow (back when Farrow was married to Sinatra, circa Rosemary’s Baby) doing a jerky genie ballet, her tiny hands casting quirky spells on the mesmerized crowd, with a voice like a Twin Cities’ version of Bjork of Sinead.

Poliça return to The Waiting Room tonight. Their latest album, United Crushers (Mom + Pop, 2016), is enjoying a 72/100 score at Album of the Year, though Pitchfork gave it a tepid 6.6 rating. LA band Clara-Nova opens. $15, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, Noah Sterba band plays a live gig at fabulous O’Leavers. Mike Schlesinger opens. The fun starts at 9.

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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.