Live Review: Vera Devorah, Breakers; Garst, Problems tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 7:52 am December 27, 2022
Vera Devorah at Reverb Lounge, Dec. 26, 2022.

by Tim McMahan,

One reason I ventured out to Reverb Lounge in the crippling cold last night — on a school night no less! — was to see Vera Devorah, the eponymously named Lincoln trio. Because if there’s one thing missing in our music scene (and let’s face it, there are lottttts of things missing these days), it’s female-fronted indie bands.

While the rest of the indie music world has been dominated by female-led bands for the past 10 years or so, Omaha has very few. Ones that come to mind include See Through Dresses (who haven’t played out recently and haven’t released any new material in five years), Megan Siebe (who also rarely plays live, though her 2021 album Steady Swaying is gorgeous), Anna McClellan (who I’m not sure lives here anymore), and the legendary Domestica (no new music since 2015)…

Then there’s Vera Devorah, who according to her online bio, has performed as a solo violinist, but this night played as a full-on rock trio, backed by bass and drums. Her electric guitar work, strong in basic riffage, is merely functional compared to her voice, which is as pure and perfect as any national indie vocalist, singing lines written from the heart, capturing whatever life challenge, moment, revelation or sadness that has come her way.

Set highlights included one about a dumpster fire, another written while lying in the middle of a George Floyd protest staring up at the sky, and her earnest cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne” — one of her favorite songs, which she said she played on repeat throughout 6th grade. Terrific set.

I’m beginning to wonder if Lincoln’s indie music scene is on the verge of eclipsing Omaha’s (or already has). I keep discovering amazing new Lincoln bands (some who have been around for years). And as marvelous as Petfest was last year as a showcase of local talent, Lincoln Calling dwarfed it. With only 50 miles separating us, more research is necessary… when it gets warmer.

Breakers at Reverb Lounge, Dec. 26, 2022.

Ol’ Reverb was beginning to fill up nicely when Breakers got cranking. The band is a trio of scene veterans, two of whom I already knew well. I’ve been watching bassist Robert Little play in bands for decades, all the way back to The Mariannes in the early 2000s. Same with drummer Matt Focht, who I remember from Head of Femur shows at Sokol Underground (and playing drums with Bright Eyes). But frontman Chris Yambor was new to me, and I take it from stage comments (and the fact the band hasn’t any recorded music (that I could find)), that this might be a fun side project, though they just played a show in September at O’Leaver’s.

Their music was fun and upbeat, and Yambor (unapologetically wearing an Eagles T-shirt) belted out the lines like a lounge singer fronting a jazzy version of Pavement or GBV. The lounge really came out when he was seated behind a keyboard for a couple numbers. I had forgotten about Little’s virtuoso bass skills, and Focht is a trip-wire rock drummer of the highest order. Alas, with an early morning call, I left the ever-crowding Reverb before the close of their set…

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Tonight at The Slowdown local rockers Garst top a three-band bill, with Problems — a.k.a. Darren Keen — a one-man dance party who alone is worth the price of admission, and Cable Network. $15, 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 © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


2022 Music Year in Review; Filter Kings, Solid Goldberg, Problems Saturday…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , , — @ 10:40 am December 16, 2022

by Tim McMahan,

The 2022 Year in Review article is below. It’s already been published at (right here) and is in print, of course. I include it here to have my own copy (The Reader is notorious for deleting old content after a few years, and, as we all know, Lazy-i is forever). So enjoy (or enjoy again). The weekend picks follow…

2022 Music Year in Review

First published The Reader, December 2022

It’s easy to understand if you (like me) were around during Omaha’s indie music heyday throughout the aughts and into the beginning of the last decade. It was a time when the city was known nationally (even internationally) for its indie music scene, its homegrown talent and as a destination for the best touring acts in the country.

All the great indie bands came through Omaha because of Saddle Creek Records and the hustle of our local concert promoters. Heck, the worst part about that era was being forced to choose among so many amazing rock shows going on at the same time every night — no matter what choice you made, you were still missing something special.

So, maybe we’ve been spoiled. We made it through a global pandemic with (most of) our music scene still intact. The best venues stayed open, and new and bigger venues are on the way. And while the COVID-19 virus is still very much with us (and likely always will be), the memory of being shut inside for months only to emerge wearing masks and gloves (and still being terrified about catching COVID) is beginning to fade like a bad dream.

This past year was the closest we’ve been to “normal” since before 2019. Still, things have changed.

More often than not, when a top-drawing indie band’s tour is announced, Omaha isn’t on the list. “NOmaha” is becoming a familiar sight on social media, a term used to point out when a band skipped our city. Omaha, conveniently located between major tour stops of Denver, Minneapolis, Chicago and Kansas City, used to be a target market. And yes, we still get good shows, but more often these days you’re going to have to do some traveling to see your favorite indie bands.

Is the return of our “flyover country” status because bands no longer value our scene and are less sure folks will show up for their shows? Is it because local promoters no longer are willing to lay out upfront cash to book niche indie acts that sell out small rooms in larger cities? Or is it because stages once crowded with indie bands are now dedicated to more mainstream or non-music entertainment? You cannot blame promoters or venues for wanting to make an easier, safer buck. They’ve got mouths to feed and staff to pay.

Local talent is also feeling the pinch. Before COVID, it was common for local bands to open for touring acts, but more often touring acts are bringing their support bands along for the ride. The typical rock show now starts at 8 p.m. with only two bands (and sometimes just a headliner). Rock shows that once started at 9:30 and rolled on well past midnight are now over in time to drive home and catch the end of the evening news. And while my old, work-beaten bones are thankful to be home by 10:30, local bands are finding it harder to get good gigs. Just ask them.

Let’s face it, post-pandemic, things are tougher than ever in music land. Maybe we’ve been spoiled. Or, more accurately, maybe I’ve been spoiled. Times have a way of changing.

And it isn’t as if we haven’t had some great rock shows this year. Among my favorites were concerts by Black Midi, Spirit of the Beehive and Belle & Sebastian at The Slowdown, Destroyer and Rosali at The Waiting Room, Bright Eyes and Godspeed You! Black Emperor at the sparkling new Admiral Theater (the venue formerly known as Sokol Auditorium), Night Moves and David Nance Band at Reverb Lounge, Matt Whipkey at The Holland Center, Brad Hoshaw and the 7 Deadlies at the Benson Theater, Simon Joyner at Grapefruit Records and Violenteer at fabulous O’Leaver’s. And, Petfest and The Maha Festival were better than ever this year.

Still, it’s hard to ignore the fact that none of the non-Omaha bands in the following list performed in Omaha this past year. So, without further ado, and in no particular order, here are my favorite albums of 2022:

Alex G, God Save the Animals (Domino) – Personal moments captured somewhere between trauma and struggle reaching toward spiritual, our man Alexander Giannascoli breaks free for moments of beauty and clarity.

Plains, I Walked With You A Ways (Anti) – No one writes banjo-pluckin’, backbeat-fueled, county-road twangers like Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield and Jess Williamson. Pure as a southern sunset.

Alvvays, Blue Rev (Polyvinyl) – Still poppy but covered in a dense, shimmering layer of jangling, shoe-gaze goodness. Try it with the lyric sheet for optimum heartbreak.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Cool It Down (Secretly Canadian) – Karen O, Nick (Scissorhands) Zinner and Brian Chase waited nine years for this follow-up to 2013’s Mosquito. Comeback artist of the year? Definitely.

Arcade Fire, WE (Columbia) – A return to form for a band that defined the mid-2000s indie scene with its glowing anthems. With Win Butler ensconced in controversy, this could be the end. Not a bad way to go out.

Big Thief, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You (4AD) – This epic, sprawling double LP, a laboratory for Adrianne Lenker’s songwriting, is too much for one sitting. Better in portions, with each song its own journey.

Yard Act, The Overload (Island) – Of the spoken-word British acts that are all the rage, this one stands out, thanks to its clever words, cracking rhythms and righteous riffage. Quite a debut.

Wet Leg, self-titled (Domino) – They blew up 2021 with “Chaise Longue,” then blew up even further with the rest of this LP. Their laissez faire approach toward indie punk has been embraced by a multi-generational zeitgeist.

Horsegirl, Versions of Modern Performance (Matador) – A throwback to a fuzzy, grinding, guitar-fueled ‘90s by acts like Helium, Throwing Muses and Breeders, they always find a cool melody in the hazy feedback.

Little Brazil, Just Leave (Max Trax) – A band that’s been kicking it for decades, this is a career highlight thanks to risk taking on song structures, cool guitar interplay and Landon Hedges’ always unique vocals. A standout in a city full of standouts.

Simon Joyner, Songs from a Stolen Guitar (Grapefruit) — Like Conor Oberst, whose music he influenced, Joyner has become synonymous with the Omaha singer/songwriter mythos, at least by those who know. This quiet collection of acoustic ballads gives us another chapter in the musical novel of his life.

So, will this trend of fewer touring indie shows in Omaha continue in 2023? You’ll have to wait for my annual “predictions” column next month to find out…

Over The Edge is a monthly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on culture, society, music, the media and the arts. Email Tim at

The Reader, December 2022

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Back to regularly scheduled programming.

The weekend starts tonight, and musicwise, tonight is a wasteland – no indie shows going on.

Saturday you’ve got two shows to choose from.

At The Reverb Lounge, it’s the long-awaited return of country punk band Filter Kings. How long has it been? I don’t know. Years for sure. Expect a huge crowd for Lee and the boys. In fact, I would have told you to consider buying tickets in advance because it could sell out little ol’ Reverb, but this one is strictly pay at the door (just like the old days). Joining them are Left Hand Country and Edward Spencer. 8 p.m., $12.

Meanwhile, across midtown at fabulous O’Leaver’s, Problems (a.k.a. Darren Keen of The Show Is the Rainbow), returns after a recent European tour. Expect red-hot bare-chested action. Joining Problems is the multi-media funk magic of Solid Goldberg (a.k.a. Omaha legend Dave Goldberg). This must be seen and heard to be believed. All this for $10. Show starts at 9 p.m.

Tiz a shame we can’t be at both shows, right?

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 © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


New Dead Letters, PROBLEMS, Bright Eyes; Specter Poetics tonight; Belle & Sebastian, Steady Wells, The Antlers, John Klemmensen memorial Saturday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , , — @ 10:48 am May 27, 2022
Belle & Sebastian at the 2017 Maha Music Festival, Aug. 19, 2017. The band plays Saturday night at The Slowdown.

by Tim McMahan,

Before we get to the weekend, a handful of notable new releases came out today or this past week. If you’re buying, you may want to wait until next Friday for your purchase as it’ll be Bandcamp Friday (June 3)…

Dead Letters, the new project by Koly Walter, Brian Byrd (Well Aimed Arrows) and Mark Johnson, dropped the first song from their upcoming debut LP, Songs from Center, which is slated for a vinyl release Aug. 15. Check out the track below and preorder the vinyl here.

PROBLEMS, the new project from Darren Keen (The Show Is the Rainbow), has a new full-length album out today called This Is Working Out, released on the world-famous Orange Milk Records label. Darren takes the infectious style of electronic music to new levels. Mesmerizing. Buy the cassette here.

And Bright Eyes today released the first wave of their reissues series on Dead Oceans, A Collection of Songs Written and Recorded 1995-1997, Letting Off the Happiness and Fevers and Mirrors. Each comes with a “companion” recording of five reworked songs, of note is a cover of Simon Joyner’s “Double Joe,” and Lullaby for the Working Class’ “Hypnotist (Song for Daniel. H).”

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Let’s get to the weekend…

Tonight at The Sydney in Benson Specter Poetics (an electronic project by Jack McLaughlin) is playing along with a mystery band called Sack Religious (I asked Zach who they were and all he could tell me was he thinks they’re from Canada — I think he’s holding back because it’s his birthday). This is listed as starting at 11:30, and no price info, so you’re on your own.

Tomorrow night (Saturday) is the big Belle & Sebastian show at The Slowdown (originally slated for the new Admiral, but had to be moved because they’re still working on construction). The set list from last night’s show at the Riviera in Chicago indicates this will be the usual mix of old faves along with songs from their new album, A Bit of Previous (Matador). As of this writing, tickets were still available for $35. Our very own Steady Wells opens the show at 8 p.m.

Also Saturday night, Brooklyn band The Antlers is headlining at The Waiting Room. Their latest full-length is Green to Gold, released last year on Anti-. John Ross of Wild Pink opens the show at 8 p.m. $20.

And finally, over at The Reverb Lounge it’s a Songwriting Death Battle in memory of John Klemmensen, Omaha’s bigger than life troubadour who passed late last month. Each act will perform a song or two. Tickets are $8 and all proceeds with go to John’s family. Starts at 8 p.m.

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


Minne Lussa, Indian Caves, Problems tonight; Lala Lala, Elton Aura Saturday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 2:49 pm March 11, 2022
Minne Lussa at Farnam House July 6, 2019. The band plays tonight at Reverb Lounge.

by Tim McMahan,

Here comes the weekend.

Tonight it’s all happening in Benson. First on the list is Minne Lussa at Reverb Lounge. Fronted by Matt Rutledge, with guitarist Pat Reefe (ex-Tomato a Day), guitarist/vocalist Eric Bemberger (ex-Beep Beep), bassist Alan Legge and drummer Eric Ebers (ex-Ritual Device), the band has a smokey shoe-gaze quality reminiscent of Galaxy 500 or Luna. Just gorgeous stuff. Opening is local four-piece Indian Caves (Dan Krueger, Joe Ranne, Kyle Moeller and Leslie Wells). $7, 8 p.m.

Meanwhile down the street tonight at The Sydney Darren Keen’s latest project, Problems, headlines a bill that includes Benny Leather and Gore-TXT. $7, 9 p.m.

Tomorrow night is the big Lala Lala show at Slowdown Jr. which I wrote about here yesterday. Joining Lala Lala is Chicago R&B/hip-hop artist Elton Aura. $20, 8 p.m. This one is No Vax No Entry, so bring your stuff to get in.

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 © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Darren Keen is back with Problems; new album on Knightwerk; live stream release tomorrow…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:54 pm December 3, 2020
Darren Keen is Problems.

First time I met Darren Keen was almost 20 years ago when he and his band at the time, Musico, dropped off a CD of their latest recordings to a house my then-girlfriend now-wife and I were renting on Izard St. Darren would go on to form The Show Is the Rainbow — a one-man psych-rock hip-hop project that was as much about Keen’s live performances as his trippy merging of rock, rap and good humor.

Since then, Darren has reimagined his sound a number of times, been involved in other bands (Beep Beep comes to mind), moved to New York City and moved back to Lincoln. And now he’s back with a new synth-powered project – Problems.

“A lessen I learned from Joel (Petersen) in the Faint. He said, ‘Your guitar stuff and bass sounds good, but you do not understand how to make a synth sound expressive.’ That quote changed my whole perspective on what a synthesizer can do.” Keen said. “Why do some synths sound so much more visceral? I’ve been trying to figure that out for 12 years.”

I think he’s cracked the code.

Those comments came after I asked why some local synth-based recordings (to me) sound like remixing of pre-packaged, canned synth sounds, while others take it to the next level. Keen’s work on his debut Problems LP, Ought Not Be Overthought, which drops tomorrow on club music label Knightwerk Records, takes it to the next level, and the proof was my wife asking from the next room, “What is this? I love it.”

Keen calls the sound on Problems recordings “subversive house” but “I know it will get lumped in with other genres,” he said. “Some people are comparing it to electro artists like Mr. Oizo, Justice and Daft Punk. It’s not techno; it’s dance music. I start with a four-on-the-floor kick drum on every track. Putting limitations on it allows me to explore creatively in a way that’s deeper than I could before.”

His process on Problems material involves spending a couple weeks setting up what he calls “good templates” — the fundamental kick drum, cymbals and synths. “It’s sort of like the gear a band would acquire and bring into the studio,” he said.

Once the templates were in place, Keen said he recorded and mastered the album tracks in three days. “When it came time to write, I started on a Monday and by Friday was putting out a record.”

He’s celebrating the release of the new album with a free live stream performance tomorrow night, Dec. 4, hosted by Lincoln’s BLACK MAGIK and DJ KevyCav. The stream will be on twitch, here: . More info on the stream here.

Keen’s already working on more Problems, with another single and full-length slated for release on a different label next spring. “That one will have a limited physical release,” he said. “As will the one after that.”

“As some form of gigging comes back (post-COVID), it will make more sense to make stuff again,” he said. “People are still at home looking for things to do and want to buy records and cassettes to support artists. I’ve spent more money on music post-COVID than before I moved back to Nebraska.”

Pre-order the new album at the Problems Bandcamp page.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily (if there’s news) 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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


New music from Ethan Jones (ex-Ladyfinger, Dumb Beach), James Schroeder (UUVVWWZ, David Nance Band), Problems (Darren Keen)…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 1:02 pm November 18, 2020
Ethan Jones, McMcCarthy (2020, self-release)

Three new releases to tell you about…

Yesterday Ethan Jones, whose past bands have included Putrescine, Ladyfinger and Dumb Beach, released a new EP via Bandcamp called McMcCartney.

All of these songs started as home recordings/demos and very slowly morphed into real songs and were finally finished several months into the pandemic,” says the liner notes. “All instruments were performed and recorded by Ethan Jones using mostly cheap gear, a very slow, out-dated iMac, and one single microphone… a trusty Shure SM57.”

The recording was mixed by Drew Rudenbusch and mastered by Darren Keen. This one is something of a surprise and in the grand tradition of Jones’ former bands — i.e., heavy, groovy shit. Would love to hear this performed live (Damn you, COVID!) You can buy the download at a name-your-price price from Jones’ Bandcamp page.

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Seeing Darren Keen’s name reminded me of an oversight which I want fix now. Back in September James Schroeder (UUVVWWZ, David Nance Band) released a solo album called Mesa Buoy, which I somehow totally overlooked. As you can imagine, the 8-song recording is a showcase for Schroeder’s amazing guitar work.

This recorded material is one end of a stubborn vision that infected my writing process for the better part of a decade,” Schroeder says in the liner notes. “Pieces floating in one sketched form or another, hauled from basement to basement like a cinder block matryoshka doll. Toiled slowly and steadily between tours and recording with other groups.”

The project features some of Nebraska’s finest talent: Kevin Donahue on drums, Colin Duckworth on pedal steel, Patrick Newbery on Rhodes, Michael Overfield on bass and Megan Siebe on cello, with special guest appearances by Jay Kreimer and David Nance.

Ben Brodin engineered and mixed the recording at ARC; Darren Keen did the mastering. It’s quite a feast of styles and substance, underscored by Schroeder’s remarkable guitar work. Download the album for $7 at Schroeder’s Bandcamp page.

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Speaking of Darren Keen, the mastermind behind The Show Is the Rainbow has a new electronic project called Problems that will see the release of its debut, Ought Not Be Overthought, Dec. 4 on LA label Knightwerk Records. The first single, “Single,” was released a couple weeks ago. Get into it:

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily (if there’s news) 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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.