Live Reviews: Dead Letters, Obscurants, Water from Your Eyes, Palm…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 7:50 am December 5, 2022

by Tim McMahan,

The weekend went like this…

From all reports, I missed the best show of the weekend by about an hour. Head of Femur opened the Sydney Saturday night showcase and I wasn’t able to get there in time for their set but was told it was an absolute scorcher from four people who were there. I got to the bar just after it ended and walked into a crowd that looked like a scene from Sokol Underground circa the early 2000s. Head of Femur goes way back with a lot of the Saddle Creek crew. 

The Obscurants at The Sydney, Dec. 3, 2022.

Lincoln emo-punk band The Obsurants were up next and played a solid set of high-energy emo-punk songs performed seamlessly one after the other with no break in between. Frontman Eric Maly has the right voice for these anthemic power-punk tunes. A few times during the set when he wasn’t playing his guitar he appeared to be doing America Sign Language while he sang, which was strangely affecting. 

Dead Letters practically playing in the dark at The Sydney, Dec. 3, 2022.

Headlining band Dead Letters, who were celebrating the release of their new album, Songs from Center, were slightly Omaha’d (hey, that’s what you get when you let a legend like Femur open for you). All three members of the band yelled out their lead vocals while the other two yelled out harmonies on these endearing, short, sharp jangle-punk songs that had as much in common with Violent Femmes as they did R.E.M. And when I say short songs, the album’s 9 songs only span a total of 19 minutes — so do the math. You never have a chance to get tired of any of them. 

The best part about this band is that, unlike so many acts I’ve seen lately, it’s obvious all three members were having the time of their lives, and so was the audience.

Water From Your Eyes at Reverb Lounge, Dec. 4, 2022.

Sunday night it was off to Reverb Lounge. Less than a dozen people were in the audience when Water from Your Eyes began their set at 8 p.m. sharp. The duo of vocalist Rachel Brown and guitarist Nate Amos were joined by a third person on guitar and were backed by some thumping rhythm tracks. If you’d fallen across the duo’s past recordings, like 2019’s Somebody Else’s Song (Exploding in Sound Records) or even 2021’s artier Structure (Wharf Cat) you would have been ill-prepared for the sound barrage of last night’s set. 

At the heart of it was deep, blaring pre-recorded synths joined by Amos’ acidic, feedback-drenched guitar that interlaced with Brown’s untouched, unprocessed vocals that sounded like your little sister singing along to art-damaged post-punk. Harsh, throbbing sonic textures repeated trancelike with the second guitar providing counter riffs. 

The evening’s highlight was a brittle interpretation of “Adeleine,” a track from Somebody Else’s Song, reinterpreted with rough synths and guitar, barely recognizable compared to the original, but a better fit in what turned out to be one of my favorite sets I’ve seen this year. 

Palm at Reverb Lounge, Dec. 4, 2022.

I wasn’t sure how closely headliner Palm would follow the song structures heard on their new album, Nicks and Grazes. Would they change it up like Spirit of the Beehive did when they played at Slowdown earlier this year? The answer was no. 

The new record is rife with odd time changes, hard-to-grasp repeated musical structures, and flat, atonal vocals that are more accoutrement than melody. Call it modern indie prog for lack of a better description, well played (a fantastic rhythm section) but hard to listen to if you’re someone who enjoys melodies. It didn’t help that both vocalists were buried in the rhythm-dense mix. At its best, Palm is an intricate rhythmic puzzle box that can be fun to try to solve… for awhile, and then gets tiresome. That said, the 40 or so on hand for their set were into it. 

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Yes, it’s rare for me to go out on a “school night,” but I knew this would be among the last touring indie shows coming through town until next spring. In fact, the only upcoming One Percent Productions show on my radar is the Feb. 23 Unsane show at The Admiral. Virtually no indie shows are currently booked on the 1% calendar. 

The Dec. 15 Bartees Strange show at The Slowdown is that venue’s last touring indie show until the Feb. 25 Rural Alberta Advantage gig, and then Titus Andronicus way out on March 28. 

Yep, it’s slim pickings if you’re an indie music fan. I’ll talk more about that when I post my Year in Review column in The Reader (get a sneak peek in the printed edition, which is already on newsstands). Looks like it’s going to be a long, cold winter…

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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.


BFF tonight; Dead Letters, Head of Femur Saturday; Palm, Water from Your Eyes Sunday; Bandcamp Friday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 11:29 am December 2, 2022
Dead Letters celebrates the release of their new LP Saturday night at The Sydney.

by Tim McMahan,

Welcome the the weekend. It all kicks off in Benson tonight with Benson First Friday, which in the coming months will become even more special (more on that mystery later). Get to Maple Street tonight and check out the art scattered throughout the shops.

The Sydney in Benson is celebrating BFF with a heavy-ass show headlined by Lincoln’s FACE, Omaha scream-metal band Living Conditions and Jack McLaughlin’s synth-powered project, Specter Poetics. $10, 9 p.m.

Saturday night, Dead Letters, the new project by Koly Walter, Brian Byrd (both of Well Aimed Arrows) and Mark Johnson (Places We Slept), is celebrating the release of their new album, Songs from Center, at The Sydney. The album art is a photo of The Center Shopping Center, Omaha’s first shopping mall and once home to The Sky Lanes and where I went to see Santa Claus once upon a time. Walter says The Center is a block away from the band’s practice space/studio. The band released a second song from the album in Spotify (but alas, not in Bandcamp, where you can pre-order digital album, here.

Opening for Dead Letters is Head of Femur. Koly said his old band, legendary ‘90s act The Protoculture, used to play with Head of Femur frontman Matt Focht’s former band, Opium Taylor, back in the day. Kicking things off at 8 p.m. is Lincoln act The Obscurants (Eric Maly of Slow Pioneers). $10.

Sunday night, Saddle Creek Records act Palm plays at Reverb Lounge. Signed to the label this past July, Palm is a Philadelphia-based four-piece that’s been together for a decade. Their last LP was released in 2018 on boutique label Carpark Records. Their rep is for playing inventive art-rock, and they live up to it on Nicks and Grazes (2022, Saddle Creek). Lots o’ progressive / dissonant moments on this album, very similar experience to listening to label-mate Voice of the Beehive’s last album, a band who’s live set earlier this year at The Slowdown was stellar. Like VOB, will Palm bring a different approach to their live set? We’ll have to see. The Reader has a fresh Q&A with Palm (by Chris Bowling!), which you can read here.

Opening is Brooklyn duo Water from Your Eyes (Nate Amos of This is Lorelei and Rachel Brown), who’s last studio album was 2021’s Structure (Wharf Cat Records) $18, 8 p.m.

Lest I forget, today is also a Bandcamp Friday — if you buy your albums today from Bandcamp, the service will pass along its fees directly to the bands/artists (and some labels are following suit), so it’s the best time to buy new music, like that new Dead Letters album!

As for shows, that’s all I got. If I missed yours, 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.


Zola Jesus, Palm, Thick Paint, The Menzingers tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:53 pm October 11, 2017

Zola Jesus at Elysium, SXSW, March 14, 2012.

Zola Jesus at Elysium, SXSW, March 14, 2012. The band plays at The Waiting Room tonight.

by Tim McMahan,

I listened to the new Zola Jesus album, Okovi, all morning. Its description doesn’t match its content. I was expecting a very droll, very somber experience. In fact, the record is probably the poppiest, most upbeat thing Rosa Danilova and Co. have done. She reminds me of very early Sinead O’Connor vocally, compositionally; maybe Kate Bush as well. Read her Ten Questions here.

So I was on the fence between going to that show, which has an 8 p.m. start time with two openers (and a cost of $15) and Palm, who is playing right around the corner at Reverb.

Palm’s new album, Shadow Expert, is something of a departure from their 2015 release, Trading Basics, though no less mathy, disjointed, proggy. The songs have a similar jangled urgency but with better central melodies, more focused, more pop. That Palm show also has the benefit of solid openers. Our very own Thick Paint is on the bill — always a good time — along with Brooklyn trio Real Life Buildings.

And the Palm show is a bargain at $12, but that 9 p.m. start time on a school night… See you at Zola.

Also tonight, emo-punk band The Menzingers are playing at Sokol Underground — yes, Sokol Underground. Salt Creek and Centerpiece open. 8 p.m., $20.

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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.