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

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

Maha is now running Big Omaha.

by Tim McMahan,

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

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

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

First question you might have: What is Big Omaha?

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

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

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

Lauren replied:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Live Review Matt Whipkey, Charlie Ames; Ten Questions with Palehound (@ Slowdown Jr. 2/27)…

Category: Interviews,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:43 pm February 26, 2018

Matt Whipkey and his band at Reverb Lounge Feb. 25, 2018.

by Tim McMahan,

Matt Whipkey helmed two album-release shows this past weekend — one on Friday night and a second in the early evening yesterday for old folks like me, I guess. In fact there were a lot of older people seated at tables in the Reverb’s stage room, making the concert feel more like a matinee performance than a rock show, though Whipkey did all he could to give the room a rock show vibe.

Whipkey and his core band of Zimmerman, Sing and Anderson (a perfect name for a law firm) ripped through a set of songs off his new double-LP Driver, which currently stands as my favorite Whipkey release. Like an episode of Storytellers Matt gave background between every song while he feverishly re-tuned his guitar (We were told that the songs off Driver have a variety of “tonal colors” that required alternate tuning).  Unlike on the recording, there were no keyboards at these weekend performances, which (to me) gave the set a more rocking feel.

One of those between-song stories was Matt telling the crowd about a convo he and I had during our interview. I had told Matt that, while I like the song “Fred, You’re Dead,” that it would be perfect candidate to be revamped into a punk song, especially considering the political nature of the lyrics. Lo and behold, Matt pulled out a punk verson of the usually slow, dour song, and it, indeed, ripped. The punk “Fred…” would make a perfect 7-inch single just in time for Record Store Day. Come on, Matt!

Charlie Ames at Reverb Lounge, Feb. 25, 2018.

Opening Sunday evening was singer/songwriter Charlie Ames, who performed an acoustic set of originals. Ames had a striking voice and a nice guitar style on a set of broken-hearted pop songs of the woe-is-me variety. A very talened dude, I’d love to see him write a set of songs that stretched him more creatively.

Palehound plays at Slowdown Jr. Feb. 27, 2018.

Ten Questions with Palehound

Led by singer/songwriter Ellen Kempner, Boston’s Palehound released their sophomore album, A Place I’ll Always Go, on Polyvinyl Records last summer (which received a 7.3 rating from Pitchfork, for those who care about such things).  Since then, the indie combo also dropped a new 7-inch release — “YMCA Pool” b/w “Sea of Blood” — as part of Saddle Creek Records’ Document Series singles program.

Having recently finished a U.S. headlining tour, which included shows with Big Thief, Jay Som, Mitski, and M Ward, Palehound launched a co-headlining tour with Weaves that brings them to Slowdown Feb. 27. We asked Kempner to take our Ten Questions survey. Here’s what she had to say:

1. What is your favorite album?

Ellen Kempner: I definitely don’t have one! My favorite album of this week has been Jolene by Dolly Parton.

2. What is your least favorite song?

I hate “Blurred Lines.”

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

Getting to travel and see the country in a way I never would be able to without music.

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

Being anxious about shows/people liking our music.

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


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

Hometown Boston shows are great because our friends are there.

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

Fort Worth, Texas,  the only people we played for were the two teenagers who were in the other band that played.

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?

(No comment.)

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

Cooking!! I love cooking and used to work as a cook in a restaurant and loved it. I wouldn’t wanna be a professional runner.

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

Honestly my answer will be really bad cuz all of them just have to do with Conor Oberst.

Palehound plays with Weaves and See Through Dresses Tuesday, Feb. 27, at The Slowdown front room, 729 No. 14th St. Tickets are $10 Adv/$12 DOS. Showtime is 8 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.


Young Jesus signs to Saddle Creek; Mynabirds Tiny Desk Concert; James McMurtry, Bethlehem Steel, Sean Pratt tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 1:52 pm November 15, 2017

Young Jesus is the latest to sign to Saddle Creek Records.

by Tim McMahan,

The ever-expanding Saddle Creek Records roster continues to grow with the signing of Chicago band Young Jesus. The label will release the band’s new album, S/T, Feb. 23.

From the press release: “Young Jesus, an indie rock quartet formed in Chicago and reformed in Los Angeles, looks to communicate the tensions between proximity and distance, chaos and order. On their upcoming record S/T, to be released by Saddle Creek, the band focuses on seemingly small moments in everyday life: phone calls with Mom, landscapes along the highway, crows in a tree. Yet with time these strange intimacies add up to a life. A life full of anxiety, confusion, sadness, joy, boredom, and ultimately wonder.

“Young Jesus mixes the emotional intensity of bands like Slint, Pile, and Built To Spill with the quiet contemplation of Yo La Tengo, Mogwai, and Laughing Stock-era Talk Talk. They give themselves to moments of aggression and volume, balanced alongside near-silence.

Young Jesus is something of a departure for Saddle Creek. S/T, which was originally released on Gigantic Noise this past fall, includes lengthy tracks that range from 6 minutes to more than 12 minutes long. I can’t remember a Creek band recording anything in that range.

While there are jangly slacker indie pop songs you’d expect, like lead-off track “Green,” it’s songs like the 6-plus minute “Desert” that recall long-play droner acts like The New Year/Bedhead and Red House Painters, while frontman John Rossiter’s drowsy vocals are at times reminiscent of Damian Jurado and Isaac Brock.

The 9-plus minute “Feeling” starts off as your typical acoustic indie song for the first two minutes, glides into tone layers, percussion and found sounds before exploding into raw guitar chords and guttural vocals that transition again later to cicadas, tones, etc.

The same format holds for the 12-plus minute album closer, “Storm.” This one starts as a rock song, but after two minutes shifts to quiet noises, tones, then a jangly noise collage returning to a jam at the six-minute mark and so on, ending with a bang and a whimper. Saddle Creek describes this as “experimental,” whereas I see it more as compositional gymnastics, an attempt at pulling melody from dissonance, like seeing sun break through the fog. Check out album below.

Saddle Creek this morning also announced the 4th in their Document series — Palehound, “YMCA Pool” b/w “Sea of Blood.” Pre-order the Jan. 28 release today at Creek’s online store.

In other Saddle Creek news, The Mynabirds were featured in a coveted NPR Tiny Desk Concert. Check it out below.

Two shows tonight…

Singer/songwriter James McMurtry, son of author Larry McMurtry, plays tonight at The Waiting Room. Max Gomez opens. $20, 8 p.m.

Also tonight, New York indie band Bethlehem Steel (Exploding in Sound Records) plays at fabulous O’Leaver’s with Sean Pratt. The Razors are the headliners. $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.


Live Review: Palma Violets, Public Access T.V.; The Big 50 Concert is a week away; Palehound tonight…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:19 pm May 27, 2015
Palma Violets at The Waiting Room, May 26, 2015.

Palma Violets at The Waiting Room, May 26, 2015.

by Tim McMahan,

Tuesday night concerts are a crap shoot no matter who’s playing, especially after a “holiday.” There’s a good chance no one will show up to see a band that might draw a large crowd any other night of the week or weekend. Who knows how may people would have come out to see U.K. band Palma Violets had they played on Friday or Saturday night rather than last night at The Waiting Room? But in reality, the day of the week may not have mattered much despite the fact that Palma Violets are kind of a thing these days, recording on Rough Trade and garnering a rep as a hard-charging party band in the tradition of classic acts like The Clash or even The Doors, thanks to their ballroom anthems that sound like they’d be right at home belted out on a ship’s galley.

So it was no big surprise to see fewer than 50 people in the club when I arrived at about a quarter past nine last night, just in time to see opening band Public Access T.V. do their set to a mostly empty floor. The youthful NYC 4-piece (these guys looked young) ripped right into a set that recalled ’70s-era pop rock by way of The Strokes or, more accurately, Foxygen. Every song had a clever riff and a bouncing rhythm, though I couldn’t tell you what any of the songs were about as lead singer John Eatherly was more intent on getting the dozen or so youngsters in front of the stage hopping. The only line that came through the buzz was “I don’t want to live in California,” and who can blame them?

Before Palma Violets came out, one of the band members (the drummer?) walked to the edge of the stage and recited T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” in its entirety, line by line, read from the screen of his white iPhone — a touching, if not melodramatic, way to start a rock show.

On charged the four-piece playing mostly songs off their new Rough Trade album Danger in the Club to a club crowd now ballooned to just slightly more than 50. But what a 50 it was. The audience jumped in rhythm to nearly every song, and the Violets seemed genuinely grateful for the dancing.

Guitarist/vocalist Samuel Thomas Fryer has a rough British voice tailor-made for barking out the lyrics to these pounding garage-rock songs which are the perfect soundtrack to your next drunken soccer party. Bassist/vocalist Alexander “Chilli” Jesson sojourned off stage into the crowd a number of times, trying to make a personal connection to the bouncing fans, and sometimes succeeding. Adding color was a fifth band member (of sorts) — a giant skulking roadie/stage hand who paced onto the stage to straighten microphone stands or adjust a cymbal, always quick to grab the chord when Jesson traipsed into the crowd, at one time grabbing a tambourine, another time joining in on harmonica only to leave the stage right after his part was over.

Like any great band, Palma Violets gave more than they got from such a small crowd, performing (as the ol’ cliche goes) as if they were playing in front of an SRO arena rather than a clutch of fans and empty tables. It’s not the size of the crowd that matters as much as how it reacts, and the band couldn’t ask for anything more, pulling off a rather fantastic set that closed with a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Death Is Not the End” (made just as famous by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds) before coming back to belt out three more.

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The 50th Birthday Concert at Reverb, June 3, 2015. A benefit for Hear Nebraska.

The 50th Birthday Concert at Reverb, June 3, 2015. A benefit for Hear Nebraska.

The big 50 Birthday show at Reverb Lounge is exactly one week away, Wednesday June 3. If you haven’t already now is the time to start making plans — call your sitter, gdt time off from work the next day. Check out this Facebook Event / Calendar listing and RSVP…

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Tonight at fabulous O’Leaver’s it’s Massachusetts band Palehound (Exploding In Sound Records) with Lineman’s Rodeo, Big Slur  and Mark Johnson. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.