Mynabirds CD release and Slowdown celebrates five years tonight; OEAA showcase tonight and tomorrow; Jewel Beast Saturday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 1:11 pm June 8, 2012
Robb Nansel, left, and Jason Kulbel stand in front of Slowdown waaay back in June 2007.

Robb Nansel, left, and Jason Kulbel stand in front of Slowdown waaay back in June 2007.

by Tim McMahan,

The weekend’s hottest ticket is The Mynabirds CD release show tonight at The Slowdown. Joining Laura Burhenn and Co. are Jake Bellows and Honeybee & Hers. And it’s also Slowdown’s fifth birthday. Has it really been five years since Jason and Robb opened the doors to this esteemed club? I guess it has been.

It’s fun to reread this article and see how far the bar has come since opening day. But in all honesty, not much has changed. The club is still primarily a music-themed bar (Though its Science Cafe and Pub Quiz nights have become popular). It beat the rest of Omaha to the punch as a smoke-free facility (Can you even remember what it was like to smoke in a bar?). Dan Brennan and Val Nelson are still there (Well, Dan’s there when he isn’t on the road doing sound for Cursive or another big-name national act). There are still no TVs in the bar (Except, of course, for College World Series weeks and other major sporting events, such as Husker Saturdays). And it’s still all-ages (As long as you have a note from your parents). Slowdown is recognized as one of the best live music venues in the Midwest, hosting some of the best touring indie bands in the country. We’re lucky to have it here in Omaha.

Slowdown’s birthday celebration continues tomorrow night in Slowdown Jr. (i.e., the front room) with Howard, Lightning Bug and Family Picnic. Cover is $5 both nights, and both shows have the usual 9 p.m. start time. Drop down and help the Slowdown crew blow out the candles.

The Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards (OEAA) Summer Showcase (oddly named, as summer doesn’t start for a couple more weeks) also is happening tonight and tomorrow. Showcases are being held throughout Benson at The Sydney, The Waiting Room, The Barley Street Tavern and the DP Muller Photography Studio, 6066 Maple St. (one of Saddle Creek Records’ former HQ locations). Tomorrow night PS Collective also is participating. The full band schedule is here. A one-day pass gets you into all the clubs for $10; a two-day pass is $15. As in years past, attendees will be able to vote for their favorite band, and the band with the most votes gets to open the local stage at this year’s Maha Music Festival. Always a good time.

Celebrating nothing but the ability to continue to pour alcohol down people’s throats is O’Leaver’s, who tonight is hosting Snake Island with Across Tundras and Dim Light. Snake Island has been showing off their boss new band T-shirts on Facebook. I might have to swing down there to buy one. $5, 9:30 p.m. This show has been CANCELLED.

Saturday night, Millions of Boys is playing at Studio Gallery, 50th and Dodge, with Jewel Beast, a new band comprised of members from InDreama, Human Pudding, New Lungs, Kathleen Turner Overdrive, and Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship. Also on the bill is Ian Douglas Terry. 9 p.m., $5, 21+, BYOB, more info here.

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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.


Your comments on OEAA/MAHA spur my comments on OEAA/MAHA; Blind Pilot, Hoshaw tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 5:30 pm July 12, 2011

by Tim McMahan,

You may or may not know this, but Lazy-i has a comment feature. It’s located right at the end of each day’s post. You simply click on the “Comment” link and voila, you’ve got a space to espouse your own opinions about whatever it is I’ve been talking about.

Some of you made good use of that comment feature on yesterday’s blog entry, specifically commenting on the news that local band The Big Deep won the “popular vote” at last weekend’s OEAA Summer Showcase, and as a result, was named to open the MAHA Music Festival on Aug. 13. Some were not pleased; one person, OEAA Board Member MarQ Manner, rushed to defend MAHA’s process. You can read all the comments right here.

I’ve avoided the fray on all this, except for Friday’s blog entry where I once again kicked a dead horse over the lack of signed local bands participating in the OEA showcase. Chatting this weekend with three bands that turned down offers to play the showcase, it came down to this: 1) It wasn’t a paying gig. They all said they’ve played benefits before, but didn’t consider the OEAA’s award banquet to be a “charity”; 2) A couple bands said they didn’t “fit in” with the rest of the OEAA bands — interpret that any way you want, and 3) All understood that by playing the OEAA showcase they could win a slot to play at the MAHA Music Festival (which they’d all love to do), but knew that they had absolutely no chance of winning the “contest” (and they were absolutely right). There was also considerable loathing of the idea of bands “battling” each other. Actually, I don’t know anyone who likes the battle of the bands concept, other than Manner and the bars who put on such events and probably The Big Deep and, of course, the MAHA organizers, and MECA and the Red Sky people.

OEAA organizers could solve the problem of not being able to attract “signed” local bands to their showcase. They could name one “headliner” per night per venue, and pay them. An unrealistic suggestion I suppose, but all three bands said they would have played the showcase for a few hundred bucks — a small fee to pay for credibility. So would all the other bands who agreed to play for free cry foul? Maybe. Maybe not. Without such a system, however, OEAA leaves out a huge segment of the Omaha music community, and defines itself as a purely amateur event.

As for the comments about MAHA’s selection of The Big Deep, well, you can’t hate on the band for winning. That said, the commenter named “Mike” made an excellent point. “I doubt that the fans that came out to (the OEA Showcase) to see The Big Deep are going to shell out $30 to see them at Maha, and Indreama fans wouldn’t have shelled out $30 just for Indreama (or whoever… just wanted a name of a band for an example), but the Indreama fan is more likely to have a ticket and might show up earlier, buying more food, more beer and being seen by show sponsors…” So true.

Don’t agree? Add a comment…

* * *

Tonight at The Waiting Room one of Omaha’s most beloved (and talented) singer/songwriters, Brad Hoshaw, and his band The Seven Deadlies opens for Portland folk duo Blind Pilot. $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 © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.



Live Review: Big Harp, the OEAA Summer Showcase; The Big Deep gets final MAHA slot…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:58 pm July 11, 2011
Big Harp at Slowdown Jr., July 8, 2011.

Big Harp at Slowdown Jr., July 8, 2011.

by Tim McMahan,

Just as one would expect at the local debut of the label’s latest signing, it was a virtual Saddle Creek homecoming at the Big Harp show Friday night at Slowdown Jr. Chris Senseney started the set all by himself with his guitar before being joined by wife Stefanie and a drummer who I’m told used to play with him in Baby Walrus.

You wouldn’t have known that this was only the second time The Senseneys performed under the Big Harp banner. They were completely at ease with the material, as if they’d been playing these songs for years (and who knows, maybe they have, in the privacy of their El Lay living room). On stage the more upbeat story songs had an extra dimension of assertive cool, an undisputed sinister swing and bounce. Chris’ voice glowed with a throaty brio, matched in swagger only by his fret-burning guitar work (lest we all had forgotten what a fantastic musician Mr. Senseney is on a variety of instruments). It’s a golden needle of a voice that could catch on with a larger crowd if only it were discovered in the 10,000-foot-high haystack we call the music industry. We’ll have to see what kind of publicity Saddle Creek can muster upon tBig Harp’s debut release Sept. 13. Someone get Pitchfork on the phone…

Dim Light at The Sydney, part of the OEAA Summer Showcase, July 9, 2011.

Dim Light at The Sydney, part of the OEAA Summer Showcase, July 9, 2011.

Saturday night was spent at the second evening of the OEAA Summer Showcase in Benson, the highlights of which included Dim Light at The Sydney and Blue Rosa at The Waiting Room.  I’m told the crowds in general were larger on Friday night. There were only 30 or so in The Sydney and only a few more than that at TWR. Burke’s Pub, where I saw Manny Coon, was the most crowded room of the evening, but still only had 30 or 40 people total.

Finally, this morning the MAHA organizers announced that the winner of the talent contest portion of the OEAA showcase was The Big Deep. The band, whose music I’ve never heard before, received the most public votes among all the acts performing, and has earned the opening slot at this year’s MAHA Music Festival. And with that, MAHA’s lineup is finally complete.

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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 © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: The Get-Up Kids; Big Harp tonight; OEAA Summer Showcase this weekend…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:42 pm July 8, 2011
The Get-Up Kids at The Waiting Room, July 7, 2011.

The Get-Up Kids at The Waiting Room, July 7, 2011.

by Tim McMahan,

I was a bit surprised at the turnout for last night’s Get-Up Kids show at The Waiting Room. The band’s heyday was almost a decade ago. They broke up in the mid-’00s. And even at their height, they were never on my shortlist of important indie bands, veering more closely to the “alternative rock” / AP-style power-pop emo rock bands that Vagrant loved so much back then. That style of “emo” — some might say true emo — always felt more adolescent that indie rock, perfect for 18-year-olds (as GUK’s Rob Pope said). Nothing wrong with that, except that such style of music tends not to age so well.  Anyway, I figured their fans had forgotten them or moved past their music, but lo and behold, there were around 100 people at last night’s show, a testament to just how popular GUK was back in the day.

The Globes at The Waiting Room, 7/7/11.

The Globes at The Waiting Room, 7/7/11.

I got to the club at around 9:30 when I discovered the second opening band, The Globes, were already well into their set — uh-oh, the start time was 8 p.m., not 9 p.m. as I said yesterday. Apologies to anyone who showed up late (the good news — it would be an early evening). The Globes recently signed to once-trendy Pacific Northwest label Barsuk, original home of Death Cab for Cutie and Rilo Kiley, among others, so I was curious if they carried on those bands’ tradition. They didn’t. Though a solid band with a terrific rhythm section, I’d classify them as indie prog bordering on noise-rock with tiny peeps of melody trying to escape through the cracks, despite having two pretty good vocalists that weren’t afraid to harmonize. The Globes are one of those bands where, moments after a song ends you couldn’t recall the central melody (if there even was one). That said, it’s not the kind of music you’re going to “get” in one listen (especially if that first listen is from in front of the stage). I think there’s something interesting hidden in all those time-shifts and chord changes, but I don’t know if I have the patience to find out what it is.

The Get-Up Kids came on at around 10:30, looking older and wiser and more confident than I remember them from the old days. Their music hasn’t changed much. Even their new stuff has that roaring anthemic lilt, like a Midwestern indie combination of Green Day and Weezer, but without either of those bands’ knack for hooks. Never being a big fan of the band, I couldn’t tell you which songs were oldies and which were new, though the crowd obviously knew the difference, occasionally bursting with applause to a familiar opening riff. The best moments were songs that leaned more on synth lines rather than riffage, though after a few songs everything began to blend into one long alt-rock tune that their fans obviously loved.

* * *

It’s a busy weekend for music. The highlight is the Omaha debut of Saddle Creek Records’ newest act, Big Harp, tonight at Slowdown Jr. I suspect that the crowd will be rife with familiar faces as it will be a homecoming of sorts for The Senseneys. Opening is Kansas City/Lawrence Americana band The Grisly Hand and local favorites Gus & Call (ex-Bear Country, get there early for their set). $8, 9 p.m.

The other big event of the weekend is, of course, The Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards Summer Showcase in Benson tonight and tomorrow night. The program is the same as in year’s past — bands will be playing all night in five Benson clubs — The Sydney, The Waiting Room, Burke’s Pub, The Barley Street and PS Collective — starting at 8 p.m. A $10 wristband gets you into all the clubs all night, or you can buy 2-night access for $15.  The full schedule is in Facebook, here.

As in year’s past, one band among the 55 participating will be voted via public ballot to play the “local stage” at this year’s MAHA Music Festival at Stinson Park / Aksarben Village Aug. 13.

Also as in year’s past, the bands performing are of a, shall we say, “Benson flavor.” Once again  there are no representatives from the city’s important, progressive records labels — i.e., no bands from Speed! Nebraska, Saddle Creek Records, Rainy Road, Doom Town, Grotto or Slumber Party Records — nor any of the first-tier acts who are on other labels or are looking for labels, such as So-So Sailors, Conduits, Icky Blossoms, Little Brazil, Digital Leather, etc.  This continues to be a MAJOR problem with the entire OEAA program, which is supposed to be celebrating the best bands in the area. But the organizers don’t care, nor do the clubs, who are getting their usual two-nights’ worth of free entertainment on their stages.

I know, I know…that big ugly thing lying in the middle of the road is a dead horse, and all I’m doing is kicking it again… As I told one person who was bitching about the OEAAs the other night at O’Leavers — it is what it is. No, the area’s best talent is not represented at their showcase, but it’s still a good time if only to be able to bump around Maple St. from club to club all night. The only thing that would make it better (besides, of course, involving the area’s best bands) would be closing down Maple St. altogether and turning Benson into a giant beer garden so you could take your drinks with you from club to club.

Speaking of O’Leaver’s, tomorrow night (Saturday) McCarthy Trenching plays everyone’s favorite drunk-tank, with Lincoln band Kill County. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Then Sunday night, Deleted Scenes returns to O’Leaver’s with Landing on the Moon. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Finally, it’s another blast-from-the-past Sunday night when another old Vagrant band, Alkaline Trio, headlines a show at The Slowdown with Smoking Popes. $18/$20 DOS, show starts at 8.

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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 © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Soapbox Riot (& Speed! Nebraska showcase) Saturday; OEAA showcase this weekend, It’s True video…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:15 pm July 16, 2010
Soapbox Riot 2009

Gary Dean Davis takes the plunge at last year's Soapbox Riot, July 18, 2009.

by Tim McMahan,

It’s a busy weekend for music and violence.

The highlight is Saturday’s second annual Soapbox Riot at Seymour Smith soapbox track, 72nd and Washington, brought to you by Speed! Nebraska Records and the fabulous O’Leaver’s Pub.

Like last year, a cadre of racing daredevils will risk it all in a series of suicide runs down the track riding on top of — and inside of — some of the most frightening pieces of rolling wreckage that you’ll ever see outside of a blazing downtown Baghdad street. I’m sure there’s some sort of trophy that goes to the winner, but the real prize is the right to brag that you’re the stupidest, craziest sumbitch in Nebraska. Last year, Mercy Rule’s Jon Taylor took that honor after donating a foot-long strip of his own skin directly to the burning asphalt. Who is bat-shit crazy enough to knock this idiot-king from atop of the blood-soaked soapbox mountain? Find out when racing begins sometime between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. Beer garden and grilled food will be available (of course).

Later that evening, after the survivors are released from the UNMC Emergency Room, a post-race concert by some of Nebraska’s mangled finest is happening at O’Leaver’s. On the showbill will be the scab-covered Speed! Nebraska All-Stars: Mercy Rule, Ideal Cleaners, The Wagon Blasters, Mezcal Brothers, The Third Men and Techlepathy. The rock show starts at 9 p.m. and is the usual $5. Event of the summer? You decide!

Also going on this weekend…

Tonight and Saturday is the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards (OEAA) showcase in Benson — two nights of bands and musicians showing their wares to OEAA academy members in consideration for this year’s awards, and also vying for a slot as an opening band at next Saturday’s MAHA Festival.

Wondering why no Saddle Creek, Slumber Party, Speed! Nebraska and other local touring bands aren’t on the schedule for an event that’s supposed to highlight the best and brightest talent in Omaha? In a response to a blog entry that criticized the lack of the above talent — and called the showcase a “Benson thing” — OEAA board member MarQ Manner said:

“As far at the Summer Showcase goes we only used submitted bands this year — no one from those labels submitted — there are a lot of acts from North O, Mid-Town, Benson, West Omaha, Lincoln, some from just outside of the metro small towns in Iowa-bands that rarely if ever play Benson venues-etc — I wanted bands that were excited about the event itself this year – so we didn’t do any invites.”

In other words, no one from those labels was invited because no one at all was invited. Instead, an open call went out for bands to participate (I wonder if anyone was turned down.)  And of course, none of the bands will be getting paid, presumably because the OEAA’s are doing them a favor by letting them take part in the showcase. Well, at least the bands aren’t being charged to play the showcase… yet.

Judging by a recent Facebook post that was hastily taken down after it got too much attention, there are a number of musicians who are irritated about an event that is basically a fund raiser for the Benson bar scene — see, while the bands aren’t making a penny (and in fact, Lincoln bands are out gas money and other expenses) all the bars involved will be raking in cash from booze sales thanks to the free entertainment on their stages.

Am I kicking a dead horse here? Yeah, probably. As I’ve said before, I don’t think you’re going to notice any guns sticking out of the ears of the bands that are taking part. If you’re irritated about not getting paid, then don’t play the event. And that’s exactly what’s happening — no serious label acts are participating, and only a couple notable touring musicians (mostly Benson regulars) are involved. As the overused saying goes: It is what it is. And it’s also $10 per night for a wristband that gets you into all the bars all night long — a good deal, and actually a pretty good time.

Here’s the schedule:

Friday, July 16

Louie’s Bar
10:30-11:05-Matt & Ben
11:20-11:55-Black On High

Burke’s Pub
8:50-9:25-Doug Kabourek
9:40-10:15-Western Electric
10:30-11:05-Matt Banta
11:20-12:05-Daniel Christian

The Sydney
8:10-8:45-The 9’s
9:00-9:35-Scott Severin & The Milton Burlesque
9:50-10:25-Brad Hoshaw (solo)
11:30-12:05-Civic Minded
12:20-12:55-Ground Tyrants

The Waiting Room
8:10-8:45-All Young Girls Are Machine Guns
9:00-9:35-Voodoo Method
9:50-10:25-Betsy Wells
10:40-11:15-Jes Winter Band
11:30-12:05-After The Fall

PS Collective
8:00-8:35-Rachel D.
8:50-9:25-Hello From Ghost Valley
9:40-10:15-Travelin’ Mercies
10:30-11:05- Ember Shrag
11:20-11:55-Lonely Estates
12:10-12:45-The End In Red

Barley Street Tavern
8:10-8:45-MC Gringo
9:50-10:25-Carli Alexandra
11:30-12:05-Ben Sieff & The Murder Of Crowes

Saturday, July 17

8:50-9:25-Dive Kings
9:40-10:15-The Minnahoonies
10:30-11:05- Army Of 2600
11:20-11:55-Emotional Baggage
12:10-12:45-Disposable Heroes

Burkes Pub
9:40-10:15-Sack Of Lions
10:30-11:05-Jill Marie
11:20-12:05-Broken Truth
12:20-12:55-DJ Oddible

The Sydney
9:50-10:25-High Art
10:40-11:15-Answer Team
11:30-12:05-Matt Whipkey Trio
12:20-12:55-Rock Paper Dynamite

The Waiting Room
8:10-8:45-Witness Tree
9:00-9:35-Lucas Kellison & The Assembled Soul
9:50-10:25-Mitch Gettman Band
10:40-11:15-Midwest Dilemma
11:30-12:05-Korey Anderson Band

PS Collective
8:00-8:35-24 Hour Cardlock
8:50-9:25-Matt Amandus
9:40-10:15-Shannon Marie
10:30-11:05- Citzens Band
11:20-11:55-Cass Fifty & The Family Gram
12:10-12:45-OK Hemingway

Barley Street Tavern
8:10-8:45-Gordan Shumway
9:00-9:35-Vern Fergesen
9:50-10:25-Edge Of Arbor
10:40-11:15-Chantilly Reign
11:30-12:05-Platte River Rain
12:20-12:55-Big Al Band

What else is going on?

Tonight at Slowdown Jr., Lawrence band Cowboy Indian Bear — one of the Midwest’s best indie pop acts — returns with local acts Anniversaire and Skypiper. Show starts at 9 p.m., and the price is right: FREE.

Sunday night, former Sub Pop band (now on Brushfire Records) Rogue Wave plays at The Waiting Room with Gamble House. $12, 9 p.m.

* * *

Finally, despite having broken up, and with their last-ever live appearances taking place next Saturday as part of the MAHA Festival, It’s True has just released a new video for “Take This One From Me” — one of the highlight tracks of their recently released debut full-length. I’m not sure who directed it (presumably Zac Eubank), but he did an impressive job shooting the entire video in one well-choreographed take — Robert Altman would be proud. Take a look.

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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 © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.