#TBT: Remembering SLAM Omaha (Lazy-i, May 2009)…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 12:44 pm May 16, 2019

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

A few things before I cut you loose on this Throwback Thursday Lazy-i column from a decade ago.

First, SLAM Omaha is dead. In fact, it’s long dead, so don’t go looking for it online. Social media ate its corpse a long time ago.

Second, though it’s been a decade since this was written, the typical cover for live bands at fabulous O’Leaver’s remains just $5. Inflation be damned. I figured by now the going price would have risen to, say, $7 or $8 per show, but no. Still only $5 to see some of the best local and touring indie bands going. Yes, for special shows O’Leaver’s does raise the price accordingly, but for the most part… $5.

Finally, who would have thought my comments about Facebook and social media would be relevant 10 years later. I blame Facebook for a lot of the political troubles we’re facing these days. That said, I wouldn’t want it to go away….

Lazy-i May 20, 2009: Column 222: The Art of Conversation
Online discussion boards are under siege.

Original SLAM Omaha logo.

Almost didn’t have a column this week. These are, indeed, the doldrums, my friends; the time just before summer where nothing “musically” is going on, no CDs are arriving at my door (or in my e-mail box). Everything is on hold, waiting for something to happen.

So in these times of uncertainty, when I’m clawing for an idea — any idea — for this column, I do what I normally do — I check out S.L.A.M. Omaha to see what the chatter’s all about.

S.L.A.M. Omaha (or just Slam), for those of you completely out of the loop (not by choice but by ignorance), is a website located at slamomaha.com that includes music and art events calendars, news and probably its most popular feature, message boards. For a decade at least, Slam has been a local musicians’ and music fans’ watering hole where folks shoot the breeze over last night’s show, tonight’s show, next week’s show and everything else in between. The occasional well-thought-out analysis of a specific music genre, artist or performance is mixed in with assorted dick jokes, insults and personal attacks. It’s the latter that keeps some musicians and music fans away, or chases away others who feel that the site isn’t living up to what the SLAM acronym stands for: Support Local Art and Music. My response to them: It’s a friggin’ discussion board. It’s the Internet. What did you expect? Along with unmonitored discussion comes controversy and general stupidity as well as the occasional thoughtful insight and humor.

Despite its outdated technology and general lack of interest (or contempt for) indie music and Saddle Creek artists, Slam continues to be one of the most important online resources for Omaha music information. It is the first place I go for a daily perspective on the local scene. If a musician had a breakdown on stage the night before, you’ll read about it the next morning on Slam.

But lately, sites like Slam are under siege by new-ish social media “services” — Facebook and Twitter come to mind. Now musicians and music fans can create their own online communities and share their comments only with those who have a like-minded point of view — their “friends,” their “fans,” their “followers.” It’s safe, it’s easy, it avoids uncomfortable feedback from those who might not dig what you’re doing. For musicians, it paints a perennial rosy picture that almost always is untrue. Facebook can create a dangerous tunnel vision, a guarded, unnatural point of view, and before you know it, the emperor is parading down Maple Street naked with a guitar slung over his shoulder.

* * *

An example of an interesting recent Slam thread asked whether venues’ “regulars” should be forced to pay a cover charge when there’s a live band scheduled to perform. Well, as with most popular threads on Slam, the discussion morphed from “regulars” not paying the cover charge to roadies and even free-loading music critics. Wrote Klark Kent (the K Mart of Supermen): “I’m wondering how long it’s been since (for example) MarQ (Manner, the patron saint of the Benson music scene) or Tim McMahan (has paid to get into shows — I had to finish the sentence because Klark apparently lost his chain of thought — don’t go to discussion boards for good grammar or spelling).

There was a time when I always was on “the list,” back in the Sokol Underground days, when the guys running the door just stamped my hand. Those days are gone, not because I pissed them off, but because those guys aren’t working the door anymore, and quite frankly, they don’t need to give the guy who writes Lazy-i a free pass. They know that — probably more than most people in the club — I can afford it.

Still, whenever I write a preview profile on a touring band or pimp a show in my column, I ask the record label to put me on “the list.” Why not?

The only place where I’ve never been on “the list” is O’Leaver’s. As One Percent Productions’ Marc Leibowitz used to say way back in the day when he booked shows there: “O’Leaver’s doesn’t have a list.” Nor should it. When a band rolls into town after driving in a dirty van all day, wondering if their petrol will hold out ’til they get to the club — hungry, tired, second-guessing this whole rock-star shtick — and then see the dump that they’re going to play at, they deserve every penny of that $5 cover charge from fans who showed up to rock. They need the cash to get to the next town. And while you’re at it, buy a T-shirt, too.

But should that include $5 from regulars? My answer: No, it shouldn’t. These “regulars” are the life-blood of any bar. They’re a hedge against tough times, showing up night in and night out to drop $10+ on booze. Without regulars, a venue is going to be forced to grind out shows on their stage every night, or quickly find themselves out of business (or both). Bands who feel cheated by a toll-free presence should feel lucky to even have a place to perform, because believe me, most bars or venues would rather cater to a roomful of regulars than those bands’ fans, who likely will be bolting the minute they say “Goodnight.”

* * *

So that’s my take. After it’s published, I’ll post a link to this column on Slam Omaha. Some of the website’s regulars will read it and hate it and will say so. But that’s part of the fun. On a discussion board, you’re going to catch a few turds along with any roses. But if we all lived in Facebook, where would we find our turds? — First published May 20, 2009 in The Omaha Reader.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — 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 © 2019 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


SLAM Omaha is finally dead; Lincoln Calling headliner Charles Bradley diagnosed with cancer; Jay Arner tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 1:01 pm October 5, 2016

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Original SLAM Omaha logo.

Original SLAM Omaha logo.

Twenty-odd years ago, back when the internet was just getting started, when those of us who were “online” were using AOL and Netscape browsers, there was a little ol’ website called SLAM Omaha.

SLAM stood for Support Local Art and Music. The website was among the first online resources for band gig information, with a robust show calendar that was unmatched by anyone. Over time, the website became known more for its webboards than anything else. Both the Music and Cool Talk boards were hot beds for heated discussion, sometimes insightful, often hilarious. This was a time well before Facebook or Twitter when webboards were a preferred online resource for music information. Saddle Creek Records had a very robust webboard of its own; as did punknews.com and a few others that have long since disappeared.

Well, time finally caught up with SLAM Omaha, too. For the past few years, the site has been limping along with no updates and only a handful of people still chiming in on the webboards. Last week the site quit working, and users were redirected to a SLAM Omaha Facebook page.

Mick Messina, who was among those who ran the site, confirmed that SLAM Omaha is, indeed, dead. After the site’s budget dried up a couple years ago, he and his wife, Melissa, paid the service fees out of their own pockets. They finally quick paying. “Very hard for us to let go,” Mick said. “We peeled that band-aid very slowly.”

Mick said Hear Nebraska and its website, hearnebraska.org, helped them realize it was time to close SLAM Omaha for good.

It’s hard to pin down the significance of SLAM Omaha in the history of the Omaha music scene. There’s no question that it played an important role during a time when Nebraska was just emerging nationally. SLAM Omaha was the online water cooler where fans and musicians traded rumors, compliments and outrageous insults about everyone involved in the scene. Oftentimes, those comments were posted anonymously, and part of the fun or frustration was trying to figure out who was saying what about whom. It was a free-form environment that — for better or for worse — will never exist again in the Facebook era. It will be missed.

* * *

Yesterday it was reported that bluesman Charles Bradley has been diagnosed with stomach cancer and is cancelling his upcoming shows, including this week’s Lincoln Calling festival appearance.

In a statement, Bradley said: “In the past few months, I have had to cancel a number of shows due to illness, taking me away from my beautiful fans. My doctors recently discovered a cancerous tumor in my stomach. I’m getting the best medical care and we are all extremely optimistic. I will fight through this like I’ve fought through the many other obstacles in my life. My upcoming tour dates will be postponed so I can concentrate on healing. Thank you all for understanding. Music is how I share my love with the world, and the love that my fans have given back brings me so much joy. I look forward to seeing your gorgeous faces soon, and to continue to share my love through music.”

Hear Nebraska, who is organizing Lincoln Calling, quickly filled Bradley’s LC spot with The Mynabirds. No doubt front woman Laura Burhenn will have a special tribute to Bradley during her band’s performance.

Lincoln Calling kicks off tomorrow. You best get your tickets now at lincolncalling.com.

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Canadian musician/producer Jay Arner headlines tonight at Reverb Lounge. Arner releases music on Mint Records. Opening is Routine Escorts. $7, 9 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — 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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Har Mar Superstar, Pinkerton; are SLAM Omaha’s message boards dead?

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:17 pm January 2, 2012
Har Mar Superstar at The Waiting Room, Dec. 30, 2011.

Har Mar Superstar at The Waiting Room, Dec. 30, 2011.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Oh Har Mar Superstar, how you vex me so as you jump around stage wearing nothing but thong underwear, your sweaty mane flopping on your chubby ivory shoulders like a filthy floor mop while your gigolo posse poses so demurely, so rock star, in the background.

It’s a shtick that never gets old, or does it?

This was my first time seeing Har Mar Superstar, and based on everything I’d heard, I expected a lot. There are those ’round these parts who consider a Har Mar show to be the epitome of fine rock entertainment. His O’Leaver’s performance from years ago is still whispered about with respect (and a little fear) by the elders who are slowly poisoning themselves into senility at that famous lovable shit hole.

And I admit to being a fan of HMS’s last full length, the sexy, sultry dance romp called Dark Touches. The man knows his way around a funk-o-licious beat.

So it hurts me to say that I was a bit disappointed by last Friday night’s performance at a packed (but not sold out) Waiting Room. Har Mar a.k.a. Sean Tillmann looked and sounded like the rest of us — half-gassed and exhausted after a week’s worth of holiday bullshit. He seemed tired as he bounded on stage in his full-length macramé hoody, only half singing his “hits” surrounded by a band that included two drummers, two bass players (including former local hero Denver Dalley in trademark white v-neck T-shirt and flowing blond hair), a guitarist and the one thing that was doing the yeoman’s share of the work — a laptop loaded with pre-recorded audio tracks. In fact, most songs started with a touch of a button before the band slowly started playing along. Half the fun was wondering if/when anyone was actually playing their instruments on stage (most of the time, they were).

The routine calls for Har Mar to slowly strip away his clothes at the conclusion of each song, eventually stripping to his thong by the end of the set. Those yearning to see his gleaming buttocks were not disappointed. On any other night, I’m sure we’d all be celebrating his virile portliness with ironic aplomb, but Friday night, Tillmann just looked like he wanted to get the set over with and get back home for New Year’s Eve. He sure didn’t look like he was having fun (though the rest of his band did). Maybe he was (too) loaded? Or maybe all of his shows are like this? I don’t know, but I doubt it. You don’t rise as high as Tillmann has by phoning it in every night.

Pinkerton at The Waiting Room, Dec. 30, 2011.

Pinkerton at The Waiting Room, Dec. 30, 2011.

One band that didn’t phone it in was Pinkerton, who opened for Har Mar Friday. Fronted by Criteria’s Stephen Pedersen and featuring former Cursive drummer Clint Schnase, this band of old friends gets together at least once a year to play a set of Weezer covers for fellow adoring fans. Many a fist was pumped in the air as they tore into the band’s greatest hits, including set highlight “Tired of Sex.” Running through my mind the entire set — will we ever see Criteria again?

* * *

And speaking of burning questions, are the SLAM Omaha message boards — one of the oldest bastions of local online music “discussion” — finally closing down? Maybe, temporarily. After a recent spate of hate, SLAM admin “Mick” posted that the boards will be taking a little vacation. “At some point even the simplest of things need to be evaluated and decisions need to be made about how they help our cool art and music community.” As of this morning, the boards were still live but users who tried to post a comment were met only with a Terms of Service statement.

If SLAM Omaha goes away, it’ll be an end of an era for a website that used to be a viable source of music news and discussion. Yes, there are a lot of options for music calendars and news now, but other than Lincoln’s Star City Scene music board, none of them have been able to generate online discussions. Hear Nebraska’s “forums” are a barren wasteland, mainly due to the board’s poor design and usability. Omahype.com, which launched a snappy redesign over the holiday weekend (complete with “responsive design” for portable devices) only allows feedback on individual news items (as comments). And Saddle Creek Records’ old discussion area is a long faded memory.

These days all of the “discussion” is handled in well-mannered Facebook, where users actively monitor criticism and a “dislike” button doesn’t even exist. Are we better off not having some place where an anonymous critic can tell bands that they suck? Yeah, too much bitching can get old, and there should be no tolerance for personal attacks, racial/sexual comments and threats. That said, SLAM Omaha is/was one of the last places where bands could get unfiltered feedback, even if 95 percent of it was bullshit. Learning to deal with criticism — be it warranted or not — is an important part of being an artist. How you react to negative feedback helps define who you are. Unfortunately, we live in a town where criticism of anything “local” is viewed as hate, whether its constructive or not. The rule seems to be either throw roses at their feet, or go home.

But the cold hard fact is, maybe your band really does suck.

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2011 Best of Lazy-i Sampler

Hey you — yes you!

Don’t forget to enter to win a copy of the highly coveted Lazy-i Best of 2011 Sampler CD!  Just send me an e-mail (to tim@lazy-i.com) with your name and mailing address and you’ll be dropped in the digital hat. Deadline lis Jan. 15. Enter today!

Track listing:

1. Eleanor Friedberger, “My Mistake”
2. Peace of Shit, “You Can’t Let Me In”
3. Lykke Li, “Youth Knows No Pain”
4. The Beastie Boys, “Nonstop Disco Powerpack”
5. tUnE-yArDs, “Gangsta”
6. It’s True, “I Don’t Want to Be the One”
7. The Decemberists, “Down By the Water”
8. Big Harp, “Goodbye Crazy City”
9. Kurt Vile, “Jesus Fever”
10. Low, “Try to Sleep”
11. So-So Sailors, “Young Hearts”
12. Destroyer, “Downtown”
13. St. Vincent, “Cruel”
14. Icky Blossoms, “Perfect Vision”
15. Gus & Call, “To the Other Side of Jordan”
16. Lana Del Rey, “Video Games”
17. Digital Leather, “Young Doctors in Love”

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — 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.