Bright Eyes cancels tour through mid-June; why aren’t artists backing NIVA efforts? Old Cactus Nerve Thang, new Beauty Pill, PUP…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:58 pm April 27, 2020

D.C. band Beauty Pill has a new single from a forthcoming album.

by Tim McMahan,

Last Friday Bright Eyes sent out a press release saying it is cancelling or rescheduling a number of U.S. dates beginning in May through mid June.

From the release: “Regretfully, yet predictably, we have had to re-think many of our upcoming tour dates. We hope to be in a better position to gather and celebrate at a later date.

No surprise here. Hey guys, when’s the album coming out?

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What I am surprised about is why artists haven’t jumped onto the NIVA efforts to drum up legislation to help venues, promoters and artists sidelined by the COVID pandemic. NIVA is the National Independent Venue Association, which I wrote about here last week (take a look).

I assumed this week we’d see a bunch of artists voicing support for NIVA’s lobbying effort, which will no doubt impact them and their careers greatly. And yet, I haven’t seen a word on social media or elsewhere from artists lending their support. Or maybe it’s too soon for them to act? Certainly amplifying NIVA’s current efforts can’t be a bad thing.

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A couple new songs came through my email this morning.

Beauty Pill is a D.C.-based indie rock act that’s been kicking around since 2002, born out of the ashes of another band I dug called Smart Went Crazy. The band has a new album coming out May 8 on Northern Spy Records called Please Advise. “The Damndest Thing” is the second single. Check it out out.

The last concert I saw before the lock down was PUP at The Waiting Room March 4. Fun show. The band today released its first new song of 2020 called “Anaphylaxis.” Check it:

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I almost forgot…

Once upon a time there was an Omaha band called Cactus Nerve Thang. It consisted of Lee Meyerpeter, guitar/vocals; Pat Dieteman, drums/vocals and Brian Poloncic, bass/vocals. Their sound was a sloppy mix of lo-fi noise, rock, grunge and punk. Their one and only album, Sloth, was recorded in ’93 at Junior’s Hotel in Otho, Iowa, and released on Grass Records, and featured what many believe to be one of the ugliest album covers in the history of recorded music (though I don’t think it was that bad).

Over the weekend someone posted an old Cactus Nerve Thang performance on YouTube: “Rose,” performed live at Davey’s Uptown in KCMO, 2/19/1993. Enjoy.

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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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: PUP, Screaming Females at The Waiting Room…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , — @ 1:36 pm March 5, 2020

PUP at The Waiting Room, March 4, 2020.

by Tim McMahan,

My friend Paul emailed to say I needed to show up early at The Waiting Room last night for Screaming Females, which he’d seen a number of times, including a show a few years back at the Sweatshop Gallery.

If you haven’t caught them yet, they are a force — Marissa Paternoster made SPIN’s list of top 100 guitarists a few years back.  I thought she would have caught on as a gunslinger for a major touring band by now, but Sam told me she’s loyal to her bandmates.

“Sam” is Sam Parker, once of Omaha now of Nashville who booked the band here once upon a time. Well, Paul wasn’t exaggerating. Paternaster was a force of nature on the guitar, a true throwback rock virtuoso.

How to describe her? She looked like a mop-headed 15-year-old Gilda Radner, no more than 5 feet tall. She never smiled, or at least not on stage. And when she played, she looked like a person possessed — amazing rock arpeggios that Jimmy Page or Jack White would most certainly bow down to.

Screaming Females at The Waiting Room, March 4, 2020.

A New Jersey power trio, their style was reminiscent of Seattle grunge with a hint of metal (by way of that guitar). The songs were powered by Mike Abbate’s base lines that laid the groundwork for Paternaster’s fretboard gymnastics.

When she wasn’t playing (or when she was) she sang with an affected style that sounded like Grace Slick channeling Eddie Vedder on melodies that weren’t terribly memorable. It’s her guitar work that I’ll remember. Why isn’t this band headlining yet?

PUP came on right at 10 p.m. to a near sold-out crowd, about as packed as I’ve seen The Waiting Room. From the opening chords the audience erupted in a group sing-along, which I sort of expected. PUP’s anthemic music lends itself to crowd participation, and the band certainly got it all night long. But unlike say, a Dashboard Confessional concert where the crowd singing shtick is constant and annoying, last night’s audience was a nice accent to the overall power of the performance.

Frontman Stefan Babcock said because the band hadn’t been through Omaha in a number of years they were going to play songs from all their albums, and in fact reached way back to their 2014 debut with “Dark Days” and set highlight “Reservoir” (though they didn’t get to my personal fave, “Guilt Trip”). There also were a lot of songs off their last album, Morbid Stuff, including perfect set-closer “Scorpion Hill.”

Halfway through the hour-long performance Babcock remarked that the set was a disaster but it sure sounded great from where I stood, and certainly the fist-pump-fueled crowd was loving it, including the requisite crowd surfers. Babcock’s between-song repartee included calling Oklahoma City (the town they played previously) the City of Enemies. Not sure what that was all about. He also said he was having more fun last night than he expected to — take that for what it’s worth.

There was no encore, and no band has ever made such a big deal about it. Babcock not only warned the crowd they weren’t playing one “because they’re stupid” (and, he said, merely an excuse for bands to go backstage and do coke (which they don’t do)), but also encouraged the crowd to chant “No More Songs!” after the set closer, which is exactly what they did, though they had to know we would have loved a couple more…

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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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Saddle Creek goes to SXSW; the Good Life hits the road; PUP, Screaming Females tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 1:50 pm March 4, 2020

Saddle Creek Records returns to South By Southwest.

by Tim McMahan,

Man, I miss going to South by Southwest in Austin. I attended the music festival for four or five years in a row back in the last decade. I haven’t been to SXSW since 2015. Look, if you can hit only one music festival, this is the one (CMJ was the other one, but that went belly up years ago).

SXSW is a great place to hear new bands, and Saddle Creek Records has always taken advantage of that fact, having seen a number of acts there over the years that would eventually join their roster. This year Saddle Creek is hosting a showcase at SXSW in partnership with Polyvinyl Records and Double Double Whammy.

Performing Saddle Creek bands are Frances Quinlan (of Hop Along fame), Tomberlin, Land of Talk (new album on the way), Disq (new album out this Friday) and Ada Lea. Joining them at Cheer Up Charlie’s for this official SXSW showcase March 18 are Yumi Zouma, Great Grandpa, Anna Burch, Long Beard, Squirrel Flower, Sean Henry and McKinley Dixon.

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The Good Life announced today that they’re launching a summer tour in honor of the 16th’s anniversary of the release of Album of the Year. The band will hit the road in June, and the tour includes a stop at The Waiting Room July 3!

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That big PUP show I told you about is tonight at The Waiting Room. Joining the band is Screaming Females and The Drew Thomson Foundation. $23, 8 p.m. Should be a corker.

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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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Ten Questions with PUP (March 4 at The Waiting Room)…

Category: Interviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:30 pm March 2, 2020

PUP plays at The Waiting Room March 4. Photo by Vanessa Heins.

by Tim McMahan,

There is a long-form version of this story at wherein I talk about the Over the Edge column and how I’m shifting its direction to become more interview-based. You can read that version right here.

Ten Questions with PUP

Toronto-based punk band PUP — the name an acronym created by frontman Stefan Babcock’s mother, who said playing in a rock band was a “Pathetic Use of Potential” — has been around since 2010, when they were called Topanga. They changed their name to PUP in 2013 with the release of their self-titled debut on Royal Mountain Records. They switched up to respected punk insignia Side One Dummy for their 2016 follow-up, The Dream Is Over. Much touring followed.

The four-piece quickly created a following for their explosive live performances and melodic (dare I say pop) punk equal parts scratchy confessional and fist-pump anthem that’s a call to arms for your typical suburban Canadian (and/or American) underdog. They’ve never been more powerful than on their latest, 2019’s Morbid Stuff (Rise Records), a collection of shout-along emo-punk nuggets.

With a gig slated for The Waiting Room March 4, I caught up with PUP guitarist Steve Sladkowski and gave him the Ten Questions treatment:

1. What is your favorite album?

Steve Sladkowski: It’s hard to pick one, but currently I’m enjoying just about anything that’s being released on the Sahel Sounds label based in Portland, Oregon, especially the album No. 1 by Etran de L’Aïr.

2. What is your least favorite song?

“Don’t Stop Believin’” by Journey

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

I’ve been able to see the world and make friends in a way that seemed completely impossible prior to my life in PUP.  To be able to do that with three of my closest and best friends on the planet still feels a bit like a surreal dream.

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

As someone who is in their early 30s, it can get a bit tiresome to answer people’s (sometimes unintentionally) condescending questions about what I have devoted my life to; but otherwise, it’s tough to be away from our partners, loved ones and friends while we’re on the road. Like any job, there are tough days, but it’s something that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.

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

Coffee first with bourbon a very, very close second.

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

It’s always fun to play at home in Toronto, but I love to explore new places, so really anywhere they’ll have us is a nice place to play.

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

Probably when I was in a jazz band in my early 20s, playing stuff like “Someday My Prince Will Come” to utterly disinterested audiences at weird suburban Southern Ontario wedding halls.

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?

We are!  It took… a long time, probably the entire course of two albums’ worth of writing, recording, rehearsing and touring ad nauseam. This is basically the case for every person I know who is able to eke out a living while playing music in a streaming world.

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

I’ve been very singularly minded toward music for basically the past 20 years, However, I’ve always found urban planning and public transportation fascinating.  We’ve been lucky to see a lot of cities and ride a lot of public transit, and it’s something I find myself reading more and more about both online and in books. I would absolutely hate to be a banker or any other profession that revels in bald-faced capitalism.

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

I heard the guitar player in PUP was suffering from the worst food poisoning of his life while onstage in Omaha in 2015.  He’s probably looking forward to having a nicer time exploring the city in 2020 when they visit!

PUP plays with Screaming Females and The Drew Thomson Foundation March 4 at The Waiting Room. Tickets are $20 Adv./$23 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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.