NYC notes; Spoon, Nicole Atkins tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:47 pm September 9, 2021

by Tim McMahan,

Looking south toward greater Manhattan from the north shore of the Jackie Onassis Reservoir, New York City.

Well I’m back from my annual trip to NYC. And, once again, I didn’t catch any music on this trip as there were only light calendars at the venues, likely due to Labor Day and Covid. There’s still plenty of shows planned for NYC, but there wasn’t when I was there.

So I’ll leave you with these three observations from a long weekend spent in Manhattan.

  1. In NYC, wearing a mask is ubiquitous. Whether in restaurants or bars or on the streets and subways, everyone wears a mask. NYC requires masks on mass transit and in most building, and wearing one is no big deal. Yes, there are a few “open-nosers” here and there. Few people wore masks in Central Park, however, and no one wore them while jogging (but why would you?). Didn’t see a single anti-mask crazy the whole weekend.

  2. NYC has implemented a proof-of-vaccination and/or proof-of-negative-Covid-test requirement to dine in restaurants and attend events, such as the U.S. Open, where I was. The requirement was no big deal — when we were asked, that is. The U.S. Open had queues where you merely flashed your card or your cell phone with a photo of your vax card — which was very lightly scrutinized. The closest look came at a weird ABBA event in Central Park, where you had to show your card and a second piece of ID. No restaurant asked for our vax cards, though we ate outside most of the time. Manhattan has transformed into a city of outdoor dining. Here’s hoping they keep those outdoor dining areas after Covid has passed.

  3. In the old days, you couldn’t go anywhere in Manhattan without smelling cigarette smoke. It was part of the city scent along with garbage and diesel fumes. These days you can’t go anywhere in Manhattan without smelling pot. It’s everywhere. A new ordinance that went into effect in March allows people to legally light up anywhere in NYC where smoking is allowed under the state’s Clean Indoor Air Act. That would seem to actually be rather limiting, but you wouldn’t know it by sniffing. It was odd watching a guy smoke a joint while trying to figure out the CitiBike kiosk across the street from where we were eating lunch. PS: I’m all for pot, though I don’t imbibe myself; I just can’t stand the smell of it. Skunkweed!

BTW, I did return from NYC with a nasty head cold. As a preventative measure, I got a rapid Covid test yesterday that came back negative. You can’t be too careful these days. Fact is, you’re more likely to get Covid in Nebraska than in New York.

> > >

Tonight it’s Spoon at The Slowdown, and as of this writing the show has yet to sell out, which is kind of a surprise. Tickets are $40, and you must have a vax card or proof of negative Covid test to get inside by decree of the band. It will be interesting to hear how that goes, though I don’t foresee any problems unless an anti-vax knucklehead shows up and wants to cause problems. Nicole Atkins opens at 8 p.m.

* * *

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 © 2021 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review Beck at Stir Cove; X, Spoon, Twin Peaks, Jay Som tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:54 pm September 11, 2017

Beck at Stir Cove, Sept. 9, 2017.

by Tim McMahan,

This is as much a review of Stir Cove as it is Saturday night’s Beck concert, though there’s plenty of Beck in this write-up. It’s actually a reaction to last week’s blog entry, wherein I asked for advice about attending my first Stir Cove concert after receiving a lot of warning about how much the venue and its “parking problem” suck.

Past horror stories about Stir were giving me anxiety about the show, and were the reason I’d never attended a Stir concert (along with the fact that Stir books mainly legacy, pop and country acts, which aren’t in my wheelhouse).

So, Saturday night came rolling around and we were off to Stir at 7 p.m., arriving at around 7:15. Prior to leaving, I’d studied a Google Earth map of Stir and the surrounding parking like a robber trying to case the joint for the quickest getaway. The two most common pieces of advice I’d been given: 1) Park on the Nebraska side of the river and walk or ride a bike over the Bob Kerrey Bridge, and 2) Park in the parking garage or use valet service.

I ignored both suggestions and instead parked in the second to last row of the surface parking. The plan: Leave during the last song, which, according to, would be “One Foot in the Grave,” which would lead into a reprise of “Where It’s At.” Beck has closed his sets with that combo all summer.

So we parked, and walked the massive half-full lot and entered the casino — the heavy door opening to reveal the smell of wet cigarettes and room deodorizer. We pushed through all the usual suspects: Big dudes in baggy cargo shorts and seed caps with their wives in colored print tops and bad hairdos, the elderly, the trailer park kids, all of them ready to Strike It Rich at the slots or tables.

In a VIP room off to the right a small, vacant-looking crowd of gamblers watched the Huskers lose —probably not the only losing they’d see that night.

We escaped out the back exit which led to the entrance to Stir Cove tucked behind the hotel. Getting in was easy, maybe because we were so early and the game was still going on. I bought a pair of $9 Blue Moons and we found a place to sit along the grassy ridge facing the stage while DJ Kethro — a.k.a. Keith Roger — spun sides to a small crowd up front. I figured since he was spinning at 7 the show probably would start at 8. Wrong.

My first impression: The Cove was much smaller than I thought it would be. In fact, it looked smaller than Stinson Park where Maha is held every year. Certainly the capacity was smaller

I liked the set up, with an area designated for lawn chairs, another astroturfed area for standing near the stage, and our grassy ridge. Off to the right was a strange VIP area, which looked like really lousy seating because of the bad angle to the stage.

One annoyance from where were were sitting was the whap! whap! whap! of the out-house doors slamming shut. Already people were lined up to use port-o-johns, and there would be a steady “stream” all night…

DJ Kethro at Stir Cove, Sept. 9, 2017.

As 8 p.m. rolled around the house turned up the sound on stage along with the lighting, which marked the beginning of Kethro’s formal set. In front of us, a girl in a hippie hat lit a hash pipe and within seconds a portly security guard in a fluorescent polo with SECURITY printed in black walked straight up to her and said, “Hope you’re having a good time.  There’s no smoking anything in here.” As he walked away, a hipster in glasses dressed like a life guard whined, “Come on, man!

Meanwhile, as the sun went down Kethro heated up, spinning “Do It” by Tuxedo, “My Girls,” by Animal Collective and closing the set with “Pardon my Freedom” by !!! (pronounced chk chk chk) one of my favorites, and a band I recently was told by one of our many local promoters that “no one listens to anymore.” Well, here were a few thousand people bouncing to it.

Actually, that wasn’t Kethro’s closing number. He ended with a classic: “Fame” by David Bowie, the spotlights and strobes from stage made the dancing crowd glow.

Beck came on at around 9:10 with “Devil’s Haircut.” By then the standing section was completely full, or so I thought. After I took a piss (the port-o-john lines had disappeared) I went to see how far I could get to the stage. It was surprisingly close. That giant crowd wasn’t densely packed, and you could easily walk through it.

Stir Cove at the height of the crowd, Sept. , 2017.

Navigation throughout that mammoth crowd was fast thanks to the security folks keeping people from standing on paved walk paths. I could walk from one end of the venue to the other in seconds.

Beck sounded great. I saw a few people on my social channels complaining about the sound. Not me. Way in the back was as good as up front, and you didn’t need earplugs, the sound was so clean.

His performance was flawless. Beck’s band is loaded with seasoned pros. The set list (read it here) followed closely what he’s been playing on tour all year. Highlights included a slower section with “Lost Cause” from Sea Change (my favorite Beck album), “Qué Onda Güero,” which turned the place into a party, and a smokin’ version of “Dreams” (soon to be rereleased on his upcoming album).

And then there was “Loser.” I remember first hearing that song way back in ’93, thinking it was a trash rap track with an infectious hook. A year or so later it ended up on MTV, but Beck still managed to retain a sort of subversive, outsider tone. Though he was 22 or 23 at the time, he looked like a 16-year-old stoner. Quite a contrast to the 47-year-old dude Saturday night playing a song that has turned into a shopping-mall anthem for the dad-rock set, coaxing the crowd to sing the verse (which they did with gusto).

Finally at around 10:15 Beck got to his encore and rolled out “Where It’s At,” which he used as an intro to a pseudo medley that highlighted each member of his band. Among the song snippet covers were Gary Numan’s “Cars,” B-52’s “Rock Lobster,” The Rolling Stones’ “Miss You” and Phil Collins “In The Air Tonight,” complete with drum solo.

And then he got out his harmonica and began playing “One Foot in the Grave,” which was my cue to skedaddle. We headed to the exit, pretty much alone, heard Beck say “Good night” and walked to our car and drove straight out of the lot. The only hitch in our getaway plan was not being allowed to get back on I-29 North, as they forced everyone to turn right. No matter, we got on at the next exit.

Later that evening I heard from a number of people who said they had no issues leaving Stir, but not everyone. One dude texted me at midnight, saying he was still trying to get out of the back parking lot, 90 minutes after the concert ended.

The bottom line for me: It was one of the most well-run outdoor events I’ve attended. Was it an anomaly? A friend told me the Darius Rucker show last month (also a sell-out) was a complete and total cluster-f***. Maybe Stir learned from that mistake. Regardless, I’ll be paying more attention to their calendar announcements in the future…

* * *

Three huge shows on the same Monday night, and surprisingly, none of them have sold out.

Top of the list is X at The Waiting Room. Skating Polly opens. $30, 8 p.m.

Meanwhile, down at Sokol Auditorium, Spoon headlines. I’ve heard a lot of people complain about their latest album, Hot Thoughts. I love it. There’s no question it’s a departure from their older sound, a stab at dance rock that hits the mark, though there’s a lot of overhang from bands that came before (For example, single “Can I Sit Next to You” sounds like the Cure’s “Fascination Street,” with synths from The Cars’ Heartbeat City, and so on). Opening is Twin Peaks, who just keep getting bigger. This one’s $35 and starts at 8:30.

Finally, indie act Jay Som plays at Reverb tonight with Stef Chura and Soccer Mommy. $14, 9 p.m

And I will miss all three.

* * *

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.


TBT: Spoon/The Good Life, April 19, 2001 – Sokol Underground, Omaha

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 1:41 pm June 11, 2015

TBT: Spoon's Britt Daniel at Sokol Underground, April 19, 2001.

TBT: Spoon’s Britt Daniel at Sokol Underground, April 19, 2001.

by Tim McMahan,

With nothing else happening today (or tonight), here’s a little Throwback Thursday action, from the Lazy-i Wayback Machine, April 19, 2001. Looking forward to seeing The Good Life folks return to stage…

Live Review: Spoon/The Good Life

April 19, 2001

Sokol Underground, Omaha

There were two notable distractions the night of Spoon/The Good Life at Sokol.

Distraction No. 1 — Someone had “remodeled” the Underground since the last show I attended (only a few weeks earlier). Gone were all the rock posters from shows over the past 10 years or so. Gone were the band stickers and the markered graffiti. Gone was the flat-black paint job. All had been covered by cheesy faux-pine paneling, washed-out brown and grooved, hardly rock. I asked the promoter about the decor change, and he said it had been like that for a long time. It hadn’t, but he’s not one to notice the details.

Distraction No. 2 — the promoter decided to try a different sound system for tonight’s show. More streamlined and not as loud, I could actually listen in comfort with my earplugs kept cozy in my pocket. The promoter thought it actually sounded louder than the usual system (but he’s not one to notice details). Of the 200 who showed up, the ones I asked either gave the PA a thumbs-up or complained because they thought the drums sounded bad. You can’t please everyone. I thought it was the best sound the venue’s ever had.

Especially on The Good Life’s set. Tim Kasher’s Robert Smith-like vocals never sounded better, or maybe he’s been working on his annunciation, because I could understand every word he sang. They played a number of songs off their current Better Looking Records release (the dreamy Novena for a Nocturn), as well as a few what I assume were new songs that pretty much fit into TGL’s regular canon of moody, poppy indie songs of love and loss. The sound was remarkably full, thanks to a couple extra accompanists including a guy on accordion and woman (from Bright Eyes?) on keyboard. Vivid memory from the set: drummer Roger Lewis, sitting off the side of the drum riser, smoking a cigarette and looking almost forlorn while the drum machine provided the tick-tock accompaniment for one of the tracks.

The house lights were still up, the between-set music still on and people still getting beers, talking and generally mulling around when Spoon began playing their set. “Is he actually starting?” the guy next to me asked. We thought they were still tuning. But no, Britt Daniel had started playing what would be a string of intense rock songs, one after the other, with only the briefest of pauses between them.

Before the set, a guy I was talking with while standing by the entrance, trying to look inconspicuous amid the youngsters (I wasn’t alone — Spoon’s Daniel had also been skulking around during TGL’s set, sitting on the soundboard stage or leaning against a wall, chatting up the girls at the merch table, etc.), had said he came to see The Good Life and only knew about Spoon from what a friend had told him: That they sounded like The Pixies. I told him that their new CD Girls Can Tell, was actually much poppier, more Beatle-esque. As the set ran on, the guy must have thought I was an idiot or didn’t know who the Pixies were, because live, even those pop ditties from the new CD sounded Pixie-ish, certainly harder, faster and, well, modder than recorded. This four-piece version of Spoon were well-oiled and road hardened, tight as a unopened pickle-jar lid. Daniel and company sweated out almost the entire new album plus about a dozen “greatest hits” before leaving the stage, only to come back and do a 3-song encore — a rarity for any band at Sokol Underground.–April 19, 2001

* * *

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.


Column 281: MAHA, the final word (for now); Concert for Equality sched released…

by Tim McMahan,

And now, the final word on the 2010 MAHA Music Festival. Even though it was only a few days ago, it already seems like it was last year, especially with the next big music event looming on the horizon.

Column 281: Review: MAHA Music Festival

Better the second time ’round.

It's True

It's True at the MAHA Music Festival, July 24, 2010.

Year two of the MAHA Music Festival already was a success by the time the first band took the main stage, even though things had gotten off to a rocky start.

A giant bitch of a storm named Bonnie had taken its toll on the airlines. Main stage artist Ben Kweller had tweeted at 2 a.m. Saturday that his flight had been canceled, causing a loud, low groan from the collective mouths of everyone involved with the festival. Cell phones lit up like hand grenades, and Kweller found himself driving by car from one airport to another, desperately trying to find a connection to Omaha. He made it, as did fellow main-stager Superchunk, who also got caught in the same shitstorm of flight cancellations.

As a result, the entire MAHA program was pushed back by more than an hour. City officials gave an OK to let the party run ’til midnight. Kweller and Old 97’s swapped stage times and everybody won.

When I arrived at around 2:30, It’s True already was on stage, playing to a smallish crowd that was downright monstrous compared to last year’s tiny gathering for Appleseed Cast’s afternoon set. It was the second to last stage appearance by It’s True, the band on the verge of a nervous breakdown only a few months after releasing its debut full-length and just as a nation was beginning to take notice. No one knows for sure why frontman Adam Hawkins, who now lives in central Iowa, wanted out, and no one had the courage to ask.

MAHA limbo contest winner Betsy Wells was up next on the festival’s pseudo “second stage,” which was nothing more than a stack of amps set up on a wall adjacent to the main stage. After last year’s debacle, there was talk of moving the second stage to somewhere more “fan friendly,” so that people could watch bands without having to stare into a burning hot sun. But that never happened. A bigger problem: The second stage sounded louder than the main stage, with the overdriven stack at the perfect height to shear the eardrums off anyone stupid enough to stand in front of it without earplugs. A couple girls in hot pants leaned over and held their ears as they shuffled away in their flip-flops.

I didn’t pay much attention to Old 97’s, who sounds like a thousand other bands that play that style of easy-to-ignore alt-country-pop. But isn’t that the way with festivals? You can’t love them all. The hippies dancing jigs to Old 97’s were going to be making phone calls during Superchunk.

Landing on the Moon, another MAHA battle-of-the-bands winner, played a solid set on the ear-splitter stage. Then things began to really heat up. MAHA organizers trotted out a grinning Mayor Jim Suttle to declare, “This is what we mean by quality of life in Omaha. Music tonight, tomorrow, forever!” The crowd reacted with a smattering of disinterested applause, only to lock in when Ben Kweller was introduced.

Ben Kweller at the MAHA Music Festival, July 24, 2010.

Ben Kweller at the MAHA Music Festival, July 24, 2010.

Wearing crazy-clown red pants and a Panama hat, a sleep-deprived Kweller looked like Flying Tomato Shaun White as he launched into a set of singer/songwriter Americana backed by drums and bass. The stage crowd — probably the same people there to see Old 97’s — dug his grinning, folky hick-rock.

By now the crowd had ballooned to a few thousand, and the Lewis and Clark Landing was beginning to look like a music festival. Cheap fold-out lawn chairs formed wall fortresses around dirty tasseled stadium blankets. A walk from the entrance to the stage meant finding your way through the maze of encampments without being scowled at for stepping on someone’s shit. By the end of the day, the little tent city near the stage would be pushed aside as the crowd took over.

The Mynabirds, who along with Satchel Grande managed to avoid humiliating themselves at a “contest” to get their second stage slot, played a confident set while the sun blazed over cute frontwoman Laura Burhenn’s shoulder.

Superchunk at The MAHA Music Festival, July 24, 2010.

Superchunk at The MAHA Music Festival, July 24, 2010.

The last of the afternoon light was spent on Superchunk. I looked at my iPhone afterward for notes but didn’t find any — I had been too enraptured by the band. For me and the rest of the crowd in their 30s and 40s standing in front of the stage, Superchunk were conquering heroes playing for their first time in Nebraska. This was our Perfect Moment, and we were soaking it in.

Then, The Faint. Despite becoming their own tribute band these days, since they no longer write new music, their set was what festival goers will remember about MAHA II. The crowd was at its peak, and dancing — it was the kind of spectacle that MAHA organizers had dreamed of.

Headliner Spoon came on at 11 p.m. and never caught hold, but by then, it didn’t matter. MAHA already had gone into the books as a success. MAHA organizer Tre Breshear said scanned ticket attendance was just over 4,000, slightly below their target but a big improvement over year one.

Spoon at The MAHA Music Festival, July 24, 2010.

Spoon at The MAHA Music Festival, July 24, 2010.

In retrospect, this year’s main stage roster was a tip o’ the hat to ’90s-’00s indie — the kind of music that the organizers grew up listening to (presumably). Old ’97s, Superchunk, Spoon, The Faint, even Ben Kweller had his best music in the earlier half of the ’00s. The festival will garner a younger audience if it tries to book more up-and-coming acts next year, such as Sleigh Bells, MIA, Wavves, The National, Foals, Band of Horses, New Pornographers, along with the usual legacy acts. If they want to extend this event to two days, they’ll need to book a couple huge bands — one to anchor each day. And I mean Pixies/REM/Wilco huge. That’s pricey. And risky. There also are those who think the line-up should be more diverse stylewise. Bottom line: They’re never going to please everyone, and they’ll only fail if they try.

* * *

The schedule for Saturday’s Concert for Equality has been announced, but first, the news…

The Associated Press reported last night (right here) that the Fremont City Council voted unanimously to suspend a voter-approved ban on hiring and renting property to illegal immigrants. “The council also unanimously decided to hire Kansas-based attorney and law professor Kris Kobach, who drafted the ordinance and offered to represent Fremont for free to fight the lawsuits. Kobach also helped write Arizona’s new controversial immigration law,” the AP story said.

The story went on to say Fremont faces lawsuits from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Mexican American Legal Defense & Educational Fund, which both expected to ask a federal judge today to temporarily block the ban from taking effect.  ACLU of Nebraska said it and the city will ask the judge to block the ordinance pending a final court resolution.

So despite the fact that the law has been suspended, the lawsuits will go on, which makes the Concert for Equality just as relevant from a fund-raising standpoint as ever. The court battle could drag on for years.

With that, here’s the schedule for Saturday’s concert, by way of One Percent Productions:

Flowers Forever – 5:00-5:30
Vago – 5:45-6:15
The Envy Corps – 6:30-7:00
Bright Eyes – 7:15-8:00
Gillian Welch – 8:15-9:00
Cursive 9:15-10:00
Desaparecidos – 10:15-11:00

Fathr^ – 5:00-5:40
Simon Joyner – 6:00-6:40
The So-So Sailors – 7:00-7:40
Conchance – 8:00-8:40
David Dondero – 9:00-9:40
Closed from 10:00 – 11:00
Lullaby for the Working Class – 11:30-12:15
Hootenanny – 12:30-2:00

If there are any “special guests,” they’ll likely be showing up during the “Hootenanny” portion of the program. Rumors are rampant as to who those special guests would be. So… where do we park? I’ll pass on more info about the show as I get it.

* * *

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 © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


In the aftermath of MAHA: What went right, what went wrong and where to go next…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:51 pm July 26, 2010

Superchunk at The MAHA Music Festival, Omaha, 7/24/10

Superchunk at The MAHA Music Festival, Omaha, 7/24/10.

by Tim McMahan,

A more comprehensive review of MAHA’s music will appear as Wednesday’s column/blog entry, (though I found that 1,000 words wasn’t enough). The lead for that column: Have the MAHA Music Festival organizers gotten the monkey that was last year’s failure off their backs? The answer, probably, is yes.

I think no matter how you look at it, the festival worked. I certainly had a good time and so did the folks I spoke with. My personal highlight was Superchunk, whereas I think The Faint was probably the big winner — they’ll be the ones that people remember most. Spoon was merely OK, but I’ve never thought Spoon was a very good live band (I think they’re a very good recording project, though their new album is limp).

MAHA organizer Tre Brashear said that scanned ticket attendance was just over 4,000 (They won’t give actual ticket sale info). I thought the crowd seemed larger than that, especially during The Faint (When Spoon started its set, people began to head home). For a crowd that size, everything ran smoothly, which is a credit to Brashear, his team and their crack staff of volunteers.

Still, as is the case with any festival, there were problems. A couple people were arrested: “One idiot punched his girlfriend.  Another idiot punched the son of the Omaha City Prosecutor,” Brashear said. And apparently MAHA was unable to provide free waterbottle refills throughout the entire day — which is a concern at any outdoor festival. Brashear said it’s “the thing we’re most disappointed in ourselves about.” I didn’t notice it and didn’t hear about it until I read a complaint on Twitter after the show.

From a profitability standpoint: “Even though our attendance was below the 4.5K we were planning on, we came out ahead because of our beverage sales,” Brashear said. “We sold out of everything.  At the end, all we had left was Bud Light.” This underscores one obvious tragic misstep by organizers: I was unable to find a Rolling Rock anywhere on the festival grounds. Along with the water problem, this is something the MAHA committee must solve in 2011.

Brashear said he and the rest of the MAHA brain trust are going to “decompress” over the next couple of weeks and then begin planning for next year’s event. The two questions that burn brightest in my mind: Where will it be held and who will they invite?

I assume that they consider this year’s event a smashing success. Still, one has to consider that concerts like River Riot (or whatever it’s called) sell three to four times as many tickets as MAHA, thanks to the shitty pop bands that they book. If MAHA is going to keep its refined indie focus, it could take a long time until they hit those kinds of numbers — such is the nature of indie music. I’d hate to see them buckle under and book an 89.7 FM-style roster of bands to boost ticket sales.

In retrospect, this year’s main stage roster was a tip o’ the hat to ’90s-’00s indie — the kind of music that the organizers grew up listening to (presumably). Old ’97s, Superchunk, Spoon, The Faint, even Ben Kweller had his best music in the earlier half of the ’00s. The festival would garner a younger audience if it tried to book more up-and-coming acts, such as Sleigh Bells, MIA, Wavves, The National, Foals, Band of Horses, New Pornographers, along with the usual legacy acts. If they want to extend this event to two days, they’re going to need to book a couple huge bands — one to anchor each day. And I mean Pixies/REM/Wilco huge. That’s pricey. And risky. There are also those who think the line-up should be more diverse stylewise. Bottom line: You’re never going to please everyone.

Interestingly, the most modern bands were on the second stage, which is another thing MAHA needs to fix in 2011. The second stage was an abomination both soundwise and viewing-wise (unless you like your retinas burned off by the setting sun). If MAHA decides to stay at Lewis & Clark Landing, they’ve got to figure out the second stage “problem.” Maybe they can merely move it to the east side of the main stage, with the Mighty Mo as a backdrop.

More likely, MAHA will move to a new location that allows camping — that’s certainly part of the organizers’ vision. So is getting more involved in “the local scene.” The No. 1 criticism with the festival is their process for selecting the small stage bands — no one likes battle-of-the-bands contests where entrants perform for free. It’s cheap and humliating. It’s time that MAHA grow a pair and start selecting the bands themselves, or work with someone involved in the local scene to help select local bands. Considering the amount they pay bands for the event, they have their pick of the best Lincoln and Omaha have to offer.

Anyway… more recap Wednesday.


Column 269 — Battle of the Blahs; O’Leaver’s dumps Myspace…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , , — @ 3:15 pm May 5, 2010

It would just be a shame if the best bands in Omaha never get a chance to play at the MAHA Festival simply because the Committee wasn’t willing to make the choice themselves… By the way, has anyone seen any posters around town advertising the event? Daylights a-wastin’, folks…

Column 269 — Battle of the Blahs

MAHA lets you pick the winner…

The fine folks at the MAHA Music Festival just announced two band showcases to be held this summer at Slowdown and The Waiting Room. It is through these free events that bands will be selected to play the festival’s Kum & Go local stage at the July 24 concert at Lewis & Clark Landing. The showcases are battle of the bands competitions where you — the concert goer — will choose the winner. Slowdown’s showcase is May 24, while The Waiting Room event is June 24. A third band will be chosen (again, via public vote) from those performing at an Omaha Entertainment and Arts Association summer showcase July 16-17. The fourth local band, Satchel Grande, already has been selected by the MAHA Committee.

If there’s an obvious flaw in the MAHA Festival it is this democratic approach toward selecting the local bands. Waitaminit, how could something democratic be bad? It starts with the nomination process. Only bands that are willing to play for free at the three showcases can be considered in the “election.” That immediately eliminates some of the area’s best bands, who have reached a point in their careers where they expect to get paid for their performances, and who look upon battle of the bands competitions as publicity stunts for those who haven’t paid their dues by recording, touring, doing what it takes to get their music heard.

In an effort to change my mind about their process, MAHA Organizer Tre Brashear sent me an e-mail where he argued that the showcases build community awareness, give bands a chance to promote the event (and sell tickets), and give the audience a voice in the selection process.

“We do not want MAHA to be perceived as three guys holding their own concert,” Brashear said. “Us picking all the bands would run that risk.”

Well, I hate to tell you Tre, but that boat left the dock a long time ago. The “three guys” already picked the festival’s headliners. Why not go ahead and pick the locals as well? One could argue that by surrendering the selection process to “the public” (which in the case of the OEAA showcase, is the folks who frequent Benson bars on any given weekend) you have backhandedly voiced a certain level of disdain — or your isolation from — the local music scene that you’re supposed to be supporting.

Tre goes on to say, “If we just ‘picked’ all the bands for the local stage, who’s to say that we’d pick ‘correctly’ in the eyes of the community? Some would agree with the choices, some would disagree.” That same argument obviously could be made toward their main stage selections. And in the end, it’s the concertgoers who will say if MAHA chose correctly when they decide if they’re willing to shell out $33 for a ticket.

The real problem with battle-of-the-bands situations, though, is that the best bands — the ones that truly need the exposure, the ones that are leaning out the furthest on the delicate limb of creativity — never win. What if, say, The Mynabirds were up against Paria, who do you think would get the most votes? How about Emphatic vs. It’s True? Or Digital Leather vs. any one of the area’s most popular cover bands? Who would the pubic choose? In the end, we’ll never know the answer, because none of those bands will likely be taking part in these showcases.

See, it’s not about ticket sales. No one is buying a ticket to see the Kum & Go local stage. They’re going for Spoon, Superchunk, The Faint and Old ’97s. MAHA is designed to be a sort of celebration of indie/alternative culture, not a money-grab. If it were about the money, they’d be booking Ke$ha or Justin Bieber.

Come to think of it, I wonder who would win a battle of the bands between Spoon and Justin Bieber. See my point?

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O’Leaver’s is gutting its Myspace page, which was the only semi-reliable place where you could find a schedule of their upcoming shows. Instead, they’re moving their schedule to the O’Leaver’s Facebook page. Go there and click on the Events tab. Remember when Myspace was thee hot music website just a few years ago? We’ll be talking about Twitter and Facebook the same way in a few years…

Tomorrow: An interview with Matt Pond PA.