#TBT photos: Slowdown in 2007, first Maha 2009; The Jewell returns…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 10:20 am April 11, 2024

By Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I’ve been digging through old photos lately (and will be doing a lot more in the future), and pulled a couple in honor of Throwback Thursday.

The top image was taken at The Slowdown Nov. 4, 2007. Stars was the band performing on stage. Shortly after The Slowdown opened that year, they installed this crazy sculpture in the rafters of the main room made out of (what I thought was) large plastic paint buckets (see top of photo). I thought it was a super-cool addition to the club, and would have loved if they kept it up there, but after a few months, it disappeared. Hey Slowdown, bring it back (and bring back Stars, who this fall will be on a 20th Anniversary Tour in the U.S. for the album Set Yourself on Fire)!

Above, Little Brazil performs at the inaugural Maha Music Festival, held downtown on Lewis & Clark Landing way back on Aug. 29, 2009. This appears to be the Brashear LLP Stage – there also was a second, larger MAHA Stage headlined by Dashboard Confessional, who coincidentally, will be playing at Steelhouse Omaha Sept. 24. Maha stayed at L&C Landing one more year (2010, with Spoon and The Faint), before moving to Stinson Park in Aksarben Village in 2011 due to massive flooding along the Missouri River. Now we continue to wait with baited breath to see if Maha will return downtown in 2025 at the new Riverfront Park…

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Yesterday, there was a new post on The Jewell’s social media channels, heralding the return of what is now being called “The Jewell on Capitol.” The original Jewell shut down operations last September. Sure enough, if you go to jewellomaha.com you’ll see a “Coming Soon” message, along with “Reviving a beloved live music lounge – now hiring servers and bartenders to craft unforgettable experiences.”

More to come…

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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 © 2024 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


#TBT: March 17, 2020 – The beginning of what came next…

Category: Blog — Tags: , — @ 8:34 am March 14, 2024

By Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

I was among those who thought “This is a passing thing, like flu season or an outbreak of the chicken pox. Give it a month, maybe two, things will get back to normal.” 

Little did we know.

But we quickly found out. And I have to admit that, at first I didn’t mind it that much. Sure, it meant the world was going to close down, but it also meant I didn’t have to go into the office every day. We still had food and the internet and our dogs. I was one of the lucky ones: No one close to me died. In fact it would take many more months before anyone I knew even caught it. That would come later.

Instead, March 2020 was like living in a science fiction short story that would become a novella that turned into a novel that stretched into a trilogy. And though we’ve mostly come back from it, the scars are still visible. Businesses, restaurants, venues closed forever. “Remote work” lingered and office buildings continue to be half-empty (and I quickly realized I don’t like working in half-empty buildings). And a few million people died. But we didn’t see that coming in March 2020. Little did we know…

Psst… this was only four years ago…

Sign o’ the times?

When the party’s over… O’Leaver’s, Sydney among those closed for COVID-19…

Originally published March 17, 2020

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

You know shit’s getting real when they close down O’Leaver’s. That’s exactly what the club announced on its Facebook page today, and what choice did they have if they’re limiting gatherings to 10 people?

Slowdown already cancelled shows through the month of March, though all indications are the venue is still open (for now). One Percent Productions’ clubs still appear to be open as well, though their next scheduled event isn’t until March 24. No doubt you’ll continue to see show cancellations as bands cancel tours.

The Brothers also appears to still to be open. Their next scheduled event is the big March 28 Bad Bad Men gig. But The Sydney has closed its doors for the time being.

And that about does it for live music, at least for awhile. How long it’ll really last, who can say? It’ll definitely be longer than the end of this month and probably well into next month and maybe the month after that.

Next up is enforced curfews. Social distancing is kind of like what happens when the power goes out. The first night it’s fun; it’s like camping out! You discover new and interesting things to do in the dark. The second night without power, it becomes somewhat annoying. By the third night you’re ready to kill someone.

It’s going to be tough to expect folks in their 20s to be good little girls and boys, especially as the weekend rolls around. If the bars are closed (or limiting occupancy), that just means someone else is going to have to host the party. And that’s when the cops get involved.

Not being able to go out on St. Patrick’s Day — my favorite holiday — definitely hurts. But I have plenty of Guinness at home and my favorite Waterboys album to keep me in the Irish spirit.

We’ve got enough doom and gloom online to go into any more other than to say this too shall pass. And the rock shows that happen on the other side are bound to be epic.

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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 © 2024 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


M34N STR33T tonight at Low End; #TBT: The Twilight Singers at Sokol Underground, 11/6/03…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 8:37 am November 16, 2023

M34N STR33T performs tonight at Low End in the Bemis.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

New first, than the old stuff…

Tonight at the cool/fun Low End performance space in the basement of The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, Omaha hip-hop duo M34N STR33T performs. M34N STR33T is Haunted Gauntlet The Producer (LEO) & Conny Franko The Rapper (TAURUS). It’s a one-hour set that starts at 8 p.m. and is absolutely free. That said, you can reserve as spot from this website.

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Now for Throwback Thursday, let’s go back to Nov. 6, 2003 – 20 years ago – when Greg Dulli and The Twilight Singers played at Sokol Underground with Lincoln band Marianas. My, it seems almost like yesterday…

First published in Lazy-i. com, Nov. 7, 2003:

It will go down as arguably the best live show of 2003, and even more precious for the true Dulli/Whigs fans in the crowd (and there were plenty among the 165 on hand, judging by the age and the patter, the constant ongoing arguments over which was his best album, Black Love or Gentlemen or ’65). 

A handful of people had been there an hour earlier to hear the soundcheck, Dulli apparently was rife with comments about buying cocaine and playing pick-up cover songs. Afterward, Dulli and his band wheeled off to Gorat’s to get a few platters of steak, prepping for a gut-wrenching night (I know those big, fat steaks took their toll when, halfway through his set, Dulli said, “I need a nap.”).

While they were gone, Marianas played their set. The Lincoln 5-piece that prides itself on meticulously arranged ambient songs seemed a strange match for a white-knuckle gutter bluesman like Dulli and Co. It ended up being an interesting contrast. Marianas’ music is multi-layered, with two keyboardists, a guitarist, drummer and bassist/trumpeter. If they sounded like Tristeza on their debut CD, they sounded even more so live, like a blend of The Album Leaf and The Mercury Program. 

There were some obvious problems with their gear that the band must not have noticed from the stage — the guitar was either out of tune or (as one person told me) had a problem with its pedal. The low-end was overpowering, either from the bass or from the keyboard/synth/drum machine, occasionally drowning out the rest of the band. While the drummer did a good job keeping in the middle of everything, I so wanted him to let go and really punish his set. Their best songs featured the bassist on trumpet, and a unique cover of The Velvet Underground’s “Sunday Morning.” I like this band, and would love to see them open for someone like Low or Her Space Holiday.

Five minutes after their set ended, Dulli and his band walked in and within minutes The Twilight Singers lifted off.

Dulli looked like a lean, sweet, young Jake LaMotta, decked out black-on-black, his gleaming jet-black hair framing a face that is pure Italy by way of Greece, like a thin, fit John Belushi standing short beneath a microphone that was too high on purpose, forcing Dulli to squeeze upward with every note, while at the same time pulling down on his electric guitar.

There’s not much to say about the set other than it was as pure an hour and forty-five minutes as you’re going to hear from any performance. Dulli was in perfect voice; as if time had stood still since the day Gentleman was released 10 years ago. He was obviously having a good time, grinning at the crowd, at his band, at his guitar-tech who stood off to the side of the stage and poured him a plastic cup of Maker’s Mark, constantly feeding him cigarettes between songs. The whole band was tight as a tic, the drummer was especially flamboyant and acted as a perfect foil to Dulli’s wide-open front-man pose.

I’ve always liked the Afghan Whigs, and own Gentleman and Black Love, but I couldn’t tell you the name of one of his songs. I recognized a few old Whigs tunes, and the tunes off the most recent Twilight Singers CD, which blended seamlessly together, along with a barrage of covers inset within the songs themselves, covering everything from Prince to Derek and the Dominos to Skip Spence (Moby Grape) to The Zombies. Regardless, I knew the purist would be disappointed without a set list, so I swiped one from the stage after the band finished its encores. Here it is, copied letter-for-letter:

Esta Noche
Teenage Wristband
Twilite Kid
That Bird Sings
Cloud Busting
Decatur Street
Annie Mae
Dixie Peach / Ying for Yang
Martin Eden
King Only
Black is the Color/Time of The Season
The Killer/Rhiannon/Layla

Throughout the set, Dulli referenced Council Bluffs at least a half-dozen times, asking the crowd to join him there for a drink after the gig. He deserved it. We all did after that set. I left thinking Dulli has one of the most distinct and awesome voices in the history of rock, the perfect instrument that can make you cower or cry or stand up straight right alongside him, wanting to testify to love both good and bad and every which way, a dark love that Dulli has seen and wants you to see with him. 

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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 © 2023 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


#TBT: June 1, 2020: Nebraska clubs (allowed) to reopen…; MSPAINT, Jeff in Leather, Peaches tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 7:39 am June 1, 2023
Peaches plays tonight at The Royal Grove in Lincoln.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

On a throw-back Thursday it’s probably a good idea to look back on some recent history. It was on this day in 2020 that our “esteemed” governor announced that bars and lounges could reopen, effectively ending the COVID-19 pandemic.

Just kidding. Ricketts’ June 1 proclamation, while making it OK for bars to reopen, meant little to music venues because of the onerous and necessary restrictions placed on venues, as outlined in this Lazy-i article from May 23, 2020. From that article:

(The Slowdown’s) Jason Kulbel says bars can open just like restaurants with a 50 percent capacity, though all must be seated at tables and can only move around when going to the restroom or ordering food/drinks.

The Slowdown would fall under the “Venues” category — that means 25 percent capacity, with 6-foot spacing between groups. “Groups” and “tables” are interchangeable terms for argument’s sake. So for a 600-capacity rock show at The Slowdown, the current capacity allowed by COVID rules is 150. Again, groups have to be separated by six feet, which will have to be defined somehow by the venue with tape on the floors or something.

Where it gets real tricky: bathroom capacity is three at a time. Expect 6-foot distancing while waiting in line for your booze. And when the show is over, there has to be staggered exiting, which will be just plain weird.

And remember, everyone is wearing masks the entire time. How is the venue going to enforce all these rules?

All of the above equals 300% of the staff with a max potential of 25% of the business, for us AND the band,” Jason said.

Of course maybe the biggest challenge is just getting people comfortable going to shows amidst all the above regulations and general fear of COVID. Like I said yesterday, I would definitely go to a show under these conditions (especially if I could sit at a table and get table service). But based on comments I’ve heard online and elsewhere, I’m the minority.

He said Slowdown isn’t planning to reopen June 1. Look for an opening later in the month of June at the earliest.

Jason would push that date back almost a year, instead hosting their first show in April 2021, whereas The Waiting Room’s first big show was Crash Test Dummies in March 2021. If you look on the sidewalk outside The Slowdown, you can still see the symbols spray-painted on the sidewalk marking where people should stand in line to remain safely separated.

It was a f___ing weird time, folks, but like that spray painted sidewalk, it’s already starting to fade from memory, which is why we have to remind ourselves every once in a while what we went through. The lucky among us were only inconvenienced; the not-so-lucky died. 

Happy Thursday!

Tonight at Reverb Lounge, Mississippi electronic noise band MSPAINT headlines. As described in Stereogum, the four-piece “developed a surging, seismic, but curiously meditative future-punk style that sounds like a glitch storm avalanche swallowing a SimCity 2000 skyline. Their instrumental tones are modeled on the warbling, gated fuzz of fax machines and the dial-up sounds of their 1990s childhoods.

Lots of yell-vocals and synth tones. Borders on hardcore. Could be a moshpit (but I doubt it). Opening is Omaha’s own synth-master, Jeff in Leather, and XID. $12, 8 p.m. 

Also tonight…. I generally don’t write about Lincoln shows, but one of my faves is playing at The Royal Grove — electro-clash-dance maven Peaches a.k.a. Merrill Nisker, whose 2009 album, I Feel Cream (XL Records) is still a regular in my running mix. Opening is Nebraska beat-master PROBLEMS a.k.a. Darren Keen, who I’m told may not be a one-man act tonight. 8 p.m., $30, definitely worth the drive.

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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 © 2023 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


#TBT: So who did play the Flatwater Music Festival in ’94 (and Sharkfest the next day)?

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 6:54 am April 6, 2023

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

A week or so ago a Facebook memory showed up on my timeline – a photo of my laminate from the Flatlander Music Festival – “3 full days of intense musical ecstasy” hosted at Sharky’s at 7777 Cass St. I reposted the image and asked if anyone remembered who played the fest – it was almost 29 years ago after all. Other than a few “likes” and comments, not a word. 

It got me digging through my stack of The Notes, the regional music monthly I wrote for back in the early ’90s published out of Lawrence, Kansas. I faintly remembered The Note was one of the fest’s sponsors and was how I got the laminate. 

Sure enough, in the July 1994 issue, Flatlander Music Festival took out a full-page back-cover advertisement (see above). The fest boasted bringing in “industry representatives” for this “regional music showcase.” 

The line-up was:

Thursday, July 7, 1994: Dashboard Mary, Honey, Ci2i, Stick Figures, Nudie Voodoo, St. Nicklehead, Flatwater Circus, Slowdown Virginia, Heroes & Villains and Sufferbus.

Friday, July 8, 1994: Brian Good, They Came in Droves, Beatkitchen, Fischer, Klass K, Such Sweet Thunder, Lavender Couch, Bartlby, Turquoise Sol and Solefish.

And finally, Saturday, July 9, 1994: Richard Schultz, Cowtown, Scott Laurent Band, Secret Skin, Jimmy Skaffa, Straw Dog, Green Machine, Town Crier, My Childhood and Squidboy. 

Notable among the acts was Slowdown Virginia, a band consisting of Tim Kasher and Matt Maginn who would become half of Cursive, Steve Pedersen who would go on to front The White Octave and Criteria and Casey Caniglia. The band’s name is the namesake for The Slowdown music venue. 

I know I was at this festival, but I don’t remember a minute of it. 

Strangely, the next day Sharky’s hosted Sharkfest ’94. Headlined by The Beat Farmers, the line-up for that one also included The Kind, Ritual Device, Beef Curtains, Mercy Rule, Fischer, Secret Skin, Digital Sex, Shovelhead and Turtle Moon. 

Sharky’s was in the the building that used to be the old Firmature’s restaurant, which if I remember correctly, had been a number of establishements before that. We used to joke that it was a cursed proprety because nothing lasted long there. The building had a rail car attached to it that was one of the first offices of weekly publication Sound & Art, which became The Reader. Local satire publication The Great Red Shark also was officed out of that building. Sharky’s didn’t last long. After it closed, the new Music Box took over that space, but it didn’t last long, either. Eventually the building was torn down to make way for a 24-Hour Fitness, which now is a Genesis Health Club. So there you have it.

Reading through these old issues of The Note is a hoot. Whoda thought a 32-page monthly magazine dedicated entirely to local music and the industries that support it could thrive for a decade?

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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 © 2023 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


#TBT: Reliving 2015 SXSW in audio form (Speedy Ortiz, Laura Burhenn, Icky Blossoms, Natalie Prass, Courtney Barnett, The Residents, The Pop Group, more…)

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , , — @ 6:59 am March 23, 2023
White Mystery at Beerland Patio, March 18, 2015.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Flipping through Lazy-i for #ThrowbackThursday I came across this entry, published eight years ago, that compiled three days of South by Southwest 2015 reporting in three podcast episodes that captured descriptions and performances by White Mystery, Twin Shadow, Speedy Ortiz, PUJOL, Laura Burhenn, Icky Blossoms, Viet Cong, Krill, Natalie Prass, Courtney Barnett, Best Coast, LITE, Drivin’ and Cryin’, The Residents, The Pop Group and Will Butler, along with photos from each performance. 

Eight years ago I was first experimenting with podcasting, having caught the bug from listening to the Serial Podcast, and if you dig around Lazy-i you’ll find podcast episodes embedded into entries that captured local and national performances on Omaha clubs along with interviews from around Omaha. The weekly podcast, which summarized my week of Lazy-i reporting and the shows I went to that week, was fun to produce, but I did the whole damn thing by myself with semi-professional audio equipment using Garageband for editing – what a grind!

Now eight years later, it’s a running joke that everyone has their own podcast. In fact, Emmy winning series Hulu’s Only Murders in the Building is a series about a podcast. As more of my free time opens up in the coming year(s), I’d like to do another podcast, but this time with some help!

The podcast never had huge listener numbers – somewhere between 200 and 300 per episode spread out across numerous hosting platforms, including iTunes, Libsyn and Soundcloud – podcast hosting was not easy back then. Considering I was using a hand-held Zoom H2 recorder and MacBook with no sound mixing or mastering, it didn’t sound half bad, especially the live recordings. Who knows how this would have sounded had an audio engineer been involved… 

Anyway, check out the post for all the photos or just listen below:

Day 1: Performances by White Mystery, Twin Shadow, Dotan and Speedy Ortiz.

Day 2: Performances by PUJOL, Laura Burhenn (Mynabirds), Icky Blossoms, Viet Cong, Krill and Natalie Prass.

Day 3: Performances by Courtney Barnett, Best Coast, LITE, Drivin’ and Cryin’, The Pop Group and Will Butler.

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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 © 2023 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


#TBT Live Review: The Jealous Sound / The Gloria Record at Sokol Underground, March 2, 2001…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 8:31 am March 2, 2023
The Jealous Sound at Sokol Underground, March 2, 2001.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Something from the Lazy-i vault today in honor of #TBT…

… but before we get to that, whatever happened to The Jealous Sound? I interviewed the band three years after the show reviewed below. That story (which you can read here) was written in support of another Sokol Underground gig May 9, 2004, with Mr. 1986 and Criteria. Jealous Sound frontman Blair Shehan went into great detail about missteps taken over the previous three years, including getting signed by a major label that got acquired by another major and then leaving the contract only to release their follow-up album on the indie label they started with – Better Looking Records.

A glance at their Wiki profile indicates that stops, starts and detours would plague the band for years to come, with Shehan quitting unexpectedly only to return two years later, recording sessions that would go on for weeks (months?), lots of soul-searching and the band’s eventual break-up after releasing their third album, A Gentle Reminder, in 2012. They officially called it quits in 2017. 

A Google search reveals Shehan’s LinkedIn page, which indicates he now makes a living as an account executive at TOCO Warranty in Los Angeles. Rock ‘n’ roll. Here’s hoping for a Knapsack reunion in the near future…

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Live Review: The Jealous Sound / The Gloria Record

March 2, 2001

Sokol Underground, Omaha

“Whoever heard of a band with seven songs headlining? Oh well, it’s all good.”

And it was last Friday night for the 170 who braved the teen-laden crowds outside the Sokol Underground where Blair Shehan and his band, The Jealous Sound, topped a bill that also included The Gloria Record and The And/Ors.

Yes, there were a lot of teens at the Underground show, but most of them were upstairs at the Sokol Auditorium where O-Town was doing their usual choreographed song and dance routine. The parking lot adjacent to the hall was crammed with (by my count) three huge, gleaming rock-and-roll tour buses suitable for the likes of The Rolling Stones or U2. Meanwhile sandwiched on the sidewalk was one of the Underground band’s badly soiled, rusty conversion vans, suitable for the likes of a homeless family or ’70s-era drug dealer.

I arrived late, just in time to see the parade of minivans and Taurus wagons bumper-to-bumper picking up the kids after the O-Town show as if the 3 o’clock bell just rang outside of your neighborhood junior high. For the uninitiated, O-Town is a television-created boy-group that’s on a national tour supporting their sassy new nationally embraced CD.

Meanwhile, in the basement of the Sokol Auditorium, a veritable feast of indie rock was in full bloom. I missed the And/Ors’ set, but was in time for The Gloria Record only to find out that the band’s drummer, Brian Malone, has been called home due to a death in the family. The rest of the band soldiered on, performing a set of what sounded like new material, most of it long-form ethereal acoustic ballads with singer Chris Simpson’s cracking voice trying to carry the day. The performance was low-key, perhaps too much so. The band ended its set with a rendition of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here,” that seemed appropriate for the overall downbeat feel of the performance.

Then came the Jealous Sound, with its blinding, pounding yet infectiously catchy rock. The four-piece, headed by ex-Knapsack frontman Shehan — bald as a cueball and twice as ghoulish looking as Billy Corgan — pulled out all the stops playing track off its recently released Better Looking Records self-titled EP.

Shehan apologized for the band’s headline status throughout the set, mainly because the band only knows a handful of songs — a tactic that pretty much telegraphed that he wasn’t interested in playing any old Knapsack favorites. The crowd — consisting of hip indie kids in their late teens and early 20s — didn’t care as they crowded around the front of the Underground stage. The band was in fine form, possibly because the Sokol date was last stop on the Holiday Matinee Tour that featured The Jealous Sound, The And/Ors and Death Cab for Cutie, who skipped the proceedings only to play the Sokol Underground Sunday, March 18.

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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 © 2023 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.