Digital Leather’s ‘Whack Jam’ to be released on cassette; TBT: How to go it alone (from 2006); Foxing, ADJY tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 1:46 pm March 3, 2016
Foxing plays tonight at Slowdown Jr.

Foxing plays tonight at Slowdown Jr.

by Tim McMahan,

Last year Digital Leather released a digital-only collection called Whack Jam. Now a cassette version of the album is for sale via Bobby Hussy’s Kind Turkey Records. It’s all the same great tunes direct from Shawn Foree’s attic studio but now you can enjoy it with added benefit of tape hiss!

The cassette costs $5 and is available for pre-order at the Kind Turkey bandcamp page, here, where you can also hear Whack Jam streamed in its entirety. Get yourselves one before they’re all gone!

* * *

This being Throwback Thursday, enjoy this column printed one decade ago in Lazy-i and The Reader about how to go to movies, restaurants and rock shows alone without feeling like a loser. Bonus: It includes some sweet 49’r memories…

Column 66: Being Alone Together
The art of flying solo.
Lazy-i, March 1, 2006

I was trying to put my finger on why I don’t like going to shows at The 49’r and finally figured it out last weekend.

I swung by at around 11 p.m. Saturday night to catch Past Punchy and the Present — the band I wrote about here last week — but they started early and I was too late and I only caught the last couple songs of their set (which I dug, by the way. Seek out this band whenever it pops its head out of its rabbit hole). A few minutes after they finished their set, I turned around and left. Total time at the Niner (after paying $5 cover and $5 for beer (with tip)) — 15 minutes. No, there’s nothing wrong with The Niner per se — in fact, I’m quite fond of the bar. The staff is first-rate, their PA has never sounded better, the vibe is laidback and fun. No, it’s something else, something ridiculous.

Look, I knew when I started listening to indie music 20 years ago that going to shows was going to be a problem. The genre is underground by its very nature. Friends who I grew up with listening to Zeppelin and Floyd aren’t interested in seeing bands they’ve never heard on the radio. And though my girlfriend likes indie music (almost) as much as I do, she’s physically incapable of staying awake past 11 o’clock (especially on school nights), effectively taking her out of the equation since most indie rock shows don’t start until 10. Add it all together and it meant that I had to get used to going to shows alone. It wasn’t easy.

There are three activities (not including those defined in the bible as “sins”) that just seem strange doing by yourself: Attending movies, eating at fine restaurants, and going to rock shows. Call it the “Loser Syndrome,” most people have deep-seated insecurities about being seen at social events without companionship. No one wants to be thought of as being friendless. But chances are, if you love indie music, indie films or adventurous dining, you’re gonna have to get over it or suffer a future of cheesy cover bands, knife-kill horror flicks and flavorless chain-restaurant dining.

Let’s start with the movies. You want to see “Transamerica” or “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada” or Film Streams’ indie movie of the week at The Joslyn. Your friends want to see “Date Movie” or “Saw VII” or whatever piece of shit Julia Roberts is starring in this week. It’s a dilemma; because you’re never going to talk them into seeing “your movie.” You either go alone or wait for it to come out on NetFlix. You’re better off just showing up at the theater about five minutes after the start time and taking a seat in the back. If you’ve never gone to the movies by yourself, it’s pretty weird the first time. But once the film starts, you quickly realize that it doesn’t matter if you’re with someone or not — you’re inside the film’s world now. And when the lights come up afterward, you’ll wonder why you ever cared about going alone in the first place.

Movies are easy. Dining alone, well, that’s another story. The Food Channel is creating a culture of “foodies” who want something more than the usual prefabricated pound o’ flesh served at the neighborhood Chili’s or Appleby’s or The Outback (where, for whatever reason, everything must be smothered in cheese). Good luck, however, getting your crew to eat at, say, an Indian restaurant or — god forbid — Thai. Everyone remembers the “Table for One” scene from Steve Martin’s “The Lonely Guy” where, once seated alone, the restaurant falls silent and a spotlight blares on Martin as a team of waiters clears the other three settings off the four-topper. His solution: Pretend to be a food critic on assignment. My solution: Forget about dinner and go to your restaurant-of-choice at lunchtime, when you’ll be surrounded by a sea of one-toppers. An added bonus: Entrées will cost about a third less.

OK, so what about rock shows.

Is there a comfortable way to go see a band by yourself without feeling like a dork? The task is daunting, but it can be done. Sokol Underground is so dark that once you get in and get your beer no one will see you. Most people at O’Leaver’s are so drunk that they can’t see anything at all. And just like at the movies, no one notices anything after the band starts. There’s really nothing to be afraid of.

It’s between sets that can be weird. At Sokol you can hang out in the back; at O’Leaver’s, just turn your attention to whatever game’s on the television sets. But the Niner, well, there’s simply no place to hide. Just like the guy at the party who doesn’t know anyone, no matter what you do you’re gonna feel like a freak as you stand in everyone’s way waiting for the next band to start.

That leaves you with two options: You can do what I did and just turn around and leave like a wuss, or you can just stand there and wait uncomfortably until the next band starts.

Actually, there’s a third choice. You could — god forbid — actually talk to someone — preferably someone else who looks as uncomfortable as you. Suddenly, you know someone else at the show. And then another, and another. And before you know it, you’re a full-fledged scenester!

On second thought, maybe you should just go home.

— Lazy-i and The Omaha Reader, March 1, 2006

* * *

Speaking of going to shows alone, I’ll be flying solo when Foxing plays at Slowdown Jr. tonight. The St. Louis post-emo band who records for Triple Crown Records (home of Weatherbox) dropped a new album last October called Dealer. Very earnest-sounding stuff. Opening is recent Triple Crown roster addition ADJY, who has a 4-song EP coming out called Prelude (.3333) that is anthemic to the core. This special 7:30 show also includes Lymbyc Systym and Tancred. $13.

Seems like there have been a lot of emo bands coming through towns or in the news lately. Then yesterday Rolling Stone publishes the “40 greatest emo records of all time” (Cursive’s Domestica came in at No. 25). It all begs the question: Is emo making a comeback?

* * *

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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


#TBT: Lazy-i Review: Owen at The 49’r, Nov. 25, 2002…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 1:56 pm November 20, 2014

by Tim McMahan,

With nothing going on newswise and nothing going on tonight, and this being Throwback Thursday, I figured might as well dig into the ol’ Lazy-i vault and pull out something from around this time in 2002. I found this interview with Owen (a.k.a. Mike Kinsella) that was posted Nov. 19, 2002, but more entertaining was the review of the Owen show the article was written to support. I remember the night as if it were yesterday…

So lean back and enjoy this disturbing stroll down memory lane. Who knows, maybe you were there that night…

Owen / Sound of Rails
Nov. 25, 2002
The 49’r

Owen at The 49'r, Nov. 25, 2002.

Owen at The 49’r, Nov. 25, 2002.

Last night’s Owen show at The 49’r has to be a new low in terms of rude Omaha crowds. I’ve heard about how loud the chatter was at the recent Cowboy Junkies show at The Music Box. That couldn’t have come anywhere close to what happened last night.

The evening’s festivities began with an ear-piercingly loud set by Omaha’s Sound of Rails, a three-piece indie-art instrumental outfit in the Pele / Euphone / Sea and Cake / Tortoise style. They were so loud that you couldn’t really talk to the person standing next to you, which is to be expected from their style of post-punk rock. Not exactly a complimentary opening act for what was about to follow.

After their set ended, Owen, a.k.a. Mike Kinsella, took a seat and began strumming his acoustic guitar. Though the sound guy did as good a job as anyone could in those conditions, Kinsella’s quiet set was blanketed under the ocean of crowd noise — not chatter, not idle talking — out and out yelling, laughing, that sort of thing.

There was Kinsella, head down, looking at his shoes, playing some amazing guitar and singing his broken-hearted songs amidst a sea of noise akin to a college football crowd (it was no coincidence that the 49’rs/Eagles game was playing on a TV over the bar). I had a feeling this might happen (note the question about handling crowd noise in my Owen interview), especially having heard how inattentive the crowd is at the Niner’s acoustic nights.

It took about six songs before Kinsella began to crack. “Would you please be quiet?” he asked. Nothing. Someone yelled “No.”

“Who’s talking?” he asked while idly strumming his guitar. Someone in the crowd yelled “Me!”

“I’ll give you a dollar if you stop talking,” he said as he noodled absentmindedly. The crowd, however, continued to rumble. “If you be quiet I’ll sing you a song about my ex-girlfriend.” No response, no acknowledgment that he even said anything. No matter. Kinsella started playing “The Ghost of What Should Have Been,” but it was hopeless.

That was probably the breaking point. Kinsella gave up and began a night of covers that eventually turned into a karaoke free for all. He asked the crowd if they liked Bon Jovi. Whoops all around, clapping. He fiddled around until he found the chords to “Wanted Dead or Alive” and everyone went nuts, eventually singing along with him during the chorus. Kinsella had raised the white flag. What choice did he have?

I don’t know if that broke the tension or not. I can vouch that he was smiling and laughing at times from the stage, though I don’t know if he was laughing with or at the crowd. Regardless, the noise didn’t dissipate at all. “You guys like Oasis?” More whoops. Kinsella asked for someone from the crowd to come up and sing, and sure enough, up came Race for Titles’ drummer Matt Bowen along with a couple other people. Kinsella took one look at Bowen and began playing “Disarm” by Smashing Pumpkins. Someone else handled the vocal chores.

For the next 20 minutes or so, Kinsella accompanied 1) Bowen and company singing Oasis’ “Wonderwall,”, 2) Bowen doing an admirable Thom Yorke impression on “Fake Plastic Trees,” 3) Matt Whipkey singing Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” (which, by the way, he dedicated to Timmymac). The medley ended with someone singing Jane’s Addiction’s “Jane Said.” And that was it, Kinsella put his guitar away.

Was it a disaster? Probably for any Owen fans who might have come to hear Kinsella play a quiet, introspective set of his own music. That wasn’t going to happen last night.

* * *

Back to the present. I don’t know if Kinsella has played in Omaha since, though he’s still very active. According to Wikipedia: “In 2013, Kinsella released two EPs with his latest project, Their / They’re / There, featuring Evan Weiss of Into it. Over it. and Matthew Frank of Loose Lips Sink Ships.” Wiki goes on to say that Mike Kinsella continues to play with Joan of Arc, though I don’t think he was playing with them when the band played at O’Leaver’s Sept. 18, 2013…

* * *

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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


#TBT: The 49’r keeps the music coming (from 2005); Zammuto, Dosh, Caravat tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 1:05 pm September 11, 2014

by Tim McMahan,

With nothing newsworthy happening — and this being “Throwback Thursday” — let’s dip back into the Lazy-i wayback machine to Sept. 1, 2005, and an interview with The 49’r’s Mark Samuelson shortly after word leaked that his bar would be cutting back on live music. Mark tells us why and gives us a brief Omaha music history listen at the same time…

The 49’r Takes Five — Sept. 1, 2005
You can’t stop the music at the midtown tavern.

The 49'r

The iconic sign for The 49’r…

Within the past few years, The 49’r has established itself as one of the city’s more important music venues, hosting a few national acts but mostly concentrating on providing a stage for up-and-coming local bands. It’s arguably the best place to see snarling, hard-ass rock and punk from bands like The Monroes, Anonymous American and Race for Titles.

So when word leaked out a few weeks ago that The Niner was cutting back on live music, it came as a disappointment both to the bands and the fans of those white-knuckle acts.

Rumor and conjecture did abound. Had The 49’r reached the end of the live music business cycle? A cycle that goes something like this: A bar suffers from a lull in business. A few bands that hang around the place ask if they can play some gigs there, and the owner figures why not, it could help drum up some business. More bands are booked and crowds grow like kudzu. Before long, folks start coming out just because they dig the bar, the staff and its jukebox, and before you know it, the live music becomes a nuisance for the regulars who just want to drink in peace. Seeing an opportunity to cut costs, the venue puts an end to the stage show.

That theory, in this case, is only partially correct, says Mark Samuelson, owner of The 49’r. During the height of his nightclub business, Samuelson ran four successful Omaha bars simultaneously: The Partners on 42nd and F, the legendary Howard St. Tavern in the Old Market, its “upstairs bar” called The White Rabbit, and the good ol’ 49’r at 49th & Dodge.

Today only The Niner remains, which Samuelson still operates along with his other businesses, Aksarben Fixture and Supply, an ATM business, and some real estate ventures. The degree in which he operates The Niner, however, has changed. Samuelson says he’s somewhat removed from the bar’s day-to-day operations.

“I listen to my help,” he said when asked about the shift in the venue’s live music policy. “I think we got over-saturated, and every band wanted to play here. The staff was hearing that we were doing a little too much music. Now we’re only choosing the best bands that really draw people.”

He pointed out that The Niner’s live music policy differs from the way the Howard St. was run. Back then, Samuelson said he started booking new music acts because blues was such a tough sell. And it didn’t take long for the club to become a national tour stop for tomorrow’s superstars.

“We had the Smashing Pumpkins come in for a $140 guarantee and two vegetarian pizzas,” he said. “It’s crazy to think about that today.”

Unlike the Howard St, The 49’r doesn’t offer guarantees. Instead, bands take home whatever cover charge they can generate. “So if you’re just playing for the door, it doesn’t make sense for the big bands to come here,” he said.

There are exceptions, however, such as when the staff wanted to bring in New York Dolls guitarist Sylvain Sylvain. “If they have a good idea, I just stay out of the way,” Samuelson said. So far, it’s worked well.

But if anything, The 49r’s biggest draw is its location in the heart of Dundee, or as their matchbooks used to say: “In the middle of everything and no place to park.”

“We’re not in the middle anymore. We’re downtown,” Samuelson said, laughing. “We’re so busy because we have so many people who live close to here. The .08 (drinking) law is really hurting a lot of clubs. No one wants to risk it.”

Better to tie one on at The Niner and safely stumble home then to get behind the wheel of a car.

So does the bar’s already-packed weekends without bands spell the end for The Niner’s live music? Hardly. In fact, Samuelson said the venue will get back into the swing of things later this fall. “It’s gonna pick back up,” he said. “I anticipate doing more than just a couple of shows a month like we’re doing now.”

And really, how could he ever stop? For it was at The 49’r back in the early ’70s that a 15-year-old Samuelson’s own band, Hat Trick, had its first gig. Ironically, the band’s second gig would be at The Howard St. Tavern. — Sept. 1, 2005.

* * *

Well, we all know what happened next. The 49’r would get sold to CVS in 2010, but the actual deal would get tied up by Ben Gray in the Omaha City Council. Then, for reasons that are still unclear, Gray would change his vote and the walls came tumbling down. Hard to believe it’s been five years. I think about The Niner every time I drive past that CVS on Dodge Street, or see Ben Gray at some public function or on TV….

* * *

OK, a couple shows worth mentioning tonight.

Over at The Waiting Room it’s Zammuto, featuring Nick Zammuto, a co-founder of classic indie band Books. Zammuto has a new album, Anchor, on Temporary Residence. Opening is Dosh (Anticon, Graveface Records). $12 9 p.m.

Also tonight, Caravat, featuring David Ozinga and Teal Gardner of UUVVWWZ, headlines a show at fabulous O’Leaver’s with Laughing Eye Weeping Eye and L. Eugene Methe. $5, 9 p.m.

* * *

In this week’s column, Pt. 2 on my Lumo Lift experiment. You can read it in this week’s issue of The Reader or online right here.

* * *

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 © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Going, going, gone… The 49’r comes down; Hoshaw tonight, Bloodcow tomorrow…

Category: Blog — Tags: — @ 12:53 pm March 18, 2011
The 49'r building is demolished, March 18, 2011.

The 49'r building is demolished, March 18, 2011.

by Tim McMahan,

The above image was the view from my car window as I was driving south on 49th street toward Dodge on my way home for lunch. We all knew it was coming. By the time you read this, the building that once housed The 49’r will be completely destroyed, making way for an unneeded CVS Pharmacy. Standing on the outside of the fences were a number of people taking photos, including some media with video cameras trying to document the end of an era. So long, 49’r…

* * *

The problem with South by Southwest, of course, is that it’s not much fun unless you’re there. Pulling in 2,000 bands for this week’s festivities has resulted in a drought of touring-band shows, which continues over the weekend. Luckily, some of our local talent decided to stick around Omaha this year rather than make the rather expensive trip to Austin. And it just so happens most of that talent will be at O’Leaver’s — Omaha’s low-rent version of Emo’s.

Tonight at O’Leaver’s Brad Hoshaw plays a solo set opening for Traveling Mercies and The River Monks. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Tomorrow night at O’Leaver’s it’s Bloodcow (a band that could single-handedly blow up SXSW), Saudi Arabia, and a band who’s name only Chuck Berry could possibly love, Toilet: The Movie. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Also tomorrow night (Saturday), Ketchup & Mustard Gas headline a show at The Barley Street Tavern with The Wheelers, Powerful Science and Down with the Ship. $5, 9 p.m.

Also going on Saturday night, Sarah Benck is opening a show at The Waiting Room with Rock Paper Dynamite, Brothers Tandem and headliner Edge of Arbor. $5, 9 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 © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Column No. 300: A look back at Year 6; Brad Hoshaw, Rah Rah tonight…

Category: Blog,Column — Tags: , , , , , , , — @ 1:54 pm December 9, 2010

Column No. 300

A look back at year 6.

by Tim McMahan,

Goddamn. Just look at that number. 3 0 0. Not all were as perfect as a bowling score, but still… that’s a lot of friggin’ words. And I haven’t run out yet.

It’s hard to believe that six years ago Column No. 1, an interview with then hot propriety Willy Mason, was published, Dec. 2, 2004. Golden-boy entrepreneur John Heaston and the work-hardened galley hands at The Reader have been kind enough to keep this page open to me all these long years, with hopefully many more to come. Don’t believe all that putrefied tripe about the “death of print.” Newspapers will be around long after that shiny iPad you’re getting for Christmas has been recycled a dozen times over by the good folks at PBR.

So, as I crank out yet another recap and update some of the “better” columns of the past year, I thank you, precious reader, for coming along for the ride, always willing to crack your window whenever the gas accidentally escapes. At the same time, I kneel before you, hat in hand, eyes turned downward, and beg you to send your column ideas via dancing electron to Your thoughts make my thoughts grow, and are the fertilizer that keeps this mighty tree sturdy as we enter year seven — just in time for Second Grade.

Column 255: The Letting Go, Jan. 20, 2010 — We said goodbye to a pure garage-punk genius named Jay Reatard, who at age 29 was way too young to die. Jay’s impact on our modern world is still being felt by all of us who value flash-brave creativity, and without a doubt, his spark always will be felt long after we let him go. We’re still letting go of The 49’r, whose bitter demise remains fresh in our minds. When this column was published, the hopeful were organizing the “Save the 49’r” Facebook page, but I think we all knew better. You can’t stop graft. The lights went out in October. The wrecking ball awaits. Fuck you, CVS, you overblown toilet-paper store. I’ll never step foot in your fluorescent nightmare. And yes, Mr. Gray, voters will remember.

Column 258: Long Live the Hole, Feb. 10, 2010 — In the dead of winter, all-ages basement punk club The Hole was forced to move out of its hole beneath the Convicted skate shop across the street to the above-ground relic that used to house jaunty Omaha gay bar The Diamond on south 16th. It looked like a new beginning for a venue that some thought could serve kids the same way the Cog Factory did in the ’90s. But the location was too good to be true, and in September The Hole was dug up once again, forced to move to another basement, this time beneath Friendly’s Family Bookstore in Benson, where it now resides. Probably. A glance at the club’s Myspace and Facebook pages shows no listings for upcoming shows, and the sign above the club’s alley entrance is gone.

Column 262 & 263: Austin Bound, March 10, 2010 — Why should local bands play at South by Southwest Music Festival in Austin? Little Brazil, It’s True, Digital Leather, The Mynabirds, Thunder Power, Eagle Seagull and UUVVWWZ all gave their best reasons, which boiled down to: 1) exposure, and 2) fish tacos. Despite playing to crowds that ranged from a few to a few hundred, none of them got their “big break,” but they did get king-sized hangovers and lots of memories. I haven’t decided if I’m going back this year…

Column 266: No Excuses, April 14, 2010 It was an opportunity to point an accusatory finger directly at you, the local indie music community, and warn you that there were no excuses this time. None. The MAHA Music Festival line-up — Spoon, The Faint, Superchunk — and an ultra-cheap $33 ticket made sure of that. If Omaha really wanted a true indie rock festival — the beginning of a Midwestern Lolla or Coachella or Bonnaroo — it had to turn up at Lewis & Clark Landing this year. And you did, thousands of you for what is now being rumored as the last Faint performance ever (though I’ll believe it only when Todd tells me so). Now comes word that an already crowded local music festival season is about to get more crowded next year. Will MAHA be able to get you to come out again in 2011? Two words: Arcade Fire. Dare to dream.

Column 267: Identity Crisis, April 21, 2010 — This bitter live review of Digital Leather’s performance at Harrah’s Casino was a chance to whine like a pussy at how the band on stage only vaguely resembled the one heard on their amazing albums (Blow MachineSorcerer, Warm Brother). In hindsight, well, I had nothing to whine about. Digital Leather live is a filthy, punk factory that bleeds anger on its own level, whether or not I can hear the friggin’ keyboards. If I want nuanced subtlety, I can always stay home and listen to the records (something we’ll all get a chance to do when Digital Leather releases its latest work of art in 2011).

Column 271: Comfort Zone, May 19, 2010 — Stephen Pedersen, Omaha’s version of Buckaroo Banzai (high-fallutin’ Kutak-Rock lawyer by day / Saddle Creek rock star by night) explained why he and the rest of the aging yuppies in Criteria are content only playing the occasional reunion show. In fact, the band hasn’t played again since that Waiting Room gig in May. Instead, the esteemed counselor has his eyes set on a different sort of reunion — this time with his old pals from seminal Nebraska indie band Slowdown Virginia, who are prepping to take the stage Dec. 23 at the club that (sort of) bears its name — 16 years after their first show. I’m sure they’ll all look and sound exactly the same.

Column 277: A Modest Proposal, June 30, 2010 David Fitzgerald from Athens, GA’s Flagpole magazine did me a solid by writing a review of the debut album from It’s True. Alas, his kind words weren’t enough to keep the band alive, as the same evening the column hit the streets, It’s True announced from stage its demise. So we said goodbye to one of Omaha’s most promising acts… didn’t we? Don’t be so sure.

* * *

There are a couple of shows worth checking out tonight at the usual hot spots.

At The Waiting Room, Brad Hoshaw and the Seven Deadlies return to the stage with a bunch of new material. Opening is relatively new Americana/Folk Rock act The Big Deep. $7, 9 p.m.

Meanwhile, down at Slowdown Jr., it’s Regina, Saskatchewan indie band Rah Rah, who was named named “Best Alternative New Artist” and “Best New Canadiana Artist” in iTunes Best of 2009 list. They’re opening for local faves Honey & Darling, along with Canby. $7, 9 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 © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


My last night at The 49’r; Dr. Dog, Here We Go Magic tonight; Wye Oak tomorrow…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: — @ 5:57 pm October 25, 2010
Some heart-felt sentiments for the new property owners, left outside on the north wall of The 49'r.

Some heart-felt sentiments for the new property owners, left outside on the north wall of The 49'r.

by Tim McMahan,

Let me tell you about the last time I saw a band at The 49’r.

“Hold on a minute,” said the guy who took my $5 at the door. “Let me stamp your hand. How am I supposed to remember who you are?

When was the last time someone stamped my hand at the door? It’s all about wristbands now, but it seemed fitting that The 49’r was still using a tried-and-true stamp. Nothing ever changed at The Niner. The place looked exactly like it looked when I went there for all those years, for Street Urchins and Black Eyed Snakes and The Carsinogents and Carmine and The Sons of The 49’r and Son, Ambulance and Mal Madrigal and Two Gallants and Race for Titles and After Dark and Little Brazil and Zyklon Bees and The Philharmonic and Kite Pilot and Bombardment Society and The Stay Awake and Ladyfinger and The Monroes and Bangs and Owen and No Blood Orphan and The Movies and Mercy Rule and Statistics and every other band including Bad Luck Charm, who’d I’d seen there all those years ago and was about to see again. Nothing had changed. It was just as crowded as it ever was — nowhere to sit, nowhere to stand without being in someone’s way. What was the saying on the matchbook cover? “In the middle of everything and nowhere to park” (in fact, I’d parked five blocks away Friday night, just like always).

I reached into my pocked for my iPhone to take some pictures and realized that I’d forgotten it at home and damned myself for it. I never go anywhere without my phone these days. Of all nights to forget it, on this historic night. And then I thought, well, it’s serendipity. I never had a cell phone before when I went to the Niner. It’s only fitting that I didn’t have one tonight. I’d have to rely on my memory for the pictures, just like I always used to. The picture I saw Friday night was of a bar that, through its ups and downs, always held a special place in the Omaha music scene, even if its glory days were years and years ago.

Outside with the smokers I’d heard a similar story. One guy told me that the passing of the Niner felt to him just like when the Cog Factory closed years ago. He’d never gone to the Cog in its waning months and years, and so when its time came, he didn’t really care. He’d quit going to the Niner years earlier, too, and so its passing wouldn’t hurt that much.

But then he began to tell me about his favorite shows, and how much he liked playing there — moreso than being a member of the crowd. I’d heard the same story from every musician that played at the Niner — they all said it was one of the best rooms they’d ever played because there wasn’t a stage so much as a space in the back where the bands stood, with the drums a step up behind every one. There was nothing separating the bands from the crowd.

The set up was the same for BLC. Lee and Wolf, the dueling guitars, were up front, a part of the crowd, while bass and drums were in back. Everyone stumbled over cords that stretched out across the linoleum among a discarded set list and empty shot glasses. It was a mess, but it was a necessary mess. And it didn’t matter when the band started playing.

Mike Tulis years ago gave me the secret of seeing shows at The Niner. Don’t bother trying to find a place to stand along the bar or over by the fireplace with the Rudolf reindeer head. Walk right up to the front, right by the band, there’s always room up there, and if someone’s pissed that you’re standing in front of them, well it’s their own fault for sitting down when the band is playing.

It was another rough crowd Friday night. Of all the venues in town, The Niner drew the roughest — lots of aging punks in vintage T-shirts — the real shirts, not ironic replicas that you can pick up at Urban Outfitters. And lots of drunks. More drunks than at O’Leaver’s (if you can believe that). The 49’r is/was a drinking man’s bar. What’s that that Nick says in It’s a Wonderful Life? “We serve hard drinks in here for men who want to get drunk fast, and we don’t need any characters around to give the joint ‘atmosphere.‘” Nick could have been talking about The Niner.

BLC sounded like they sounded the last time I saw them, probably five years ago. There’s something about their music that makes people feel tougher than they are. BLC is fighting music, a derivative of ’80s punk mixed with power-chord rock from an earlier time. But it’s authentic, it’s real and that’s why it’s so appealing. No one plays music like this anymore, and chances are no one ever will again. Except BLC, who inevitably will have another reunion show some day, but it won’t be at The Niner.

Frontman Lee Meyerpeter took off his stocking cap after the first song and rubbed his bald head, saying “I don’t need hair products anymore.” Lee’s message throughout the set between songs: “Let it go.” But he was talking about more than the bar, which we all knew would soon see its demise. He was talking about every piece of baggage and vanity and resentment and fear of getting old. Even though the music was hard and loud and angry, something felt like resolution in Lee’s voice, and I’ll be damned if I know why.

I left toward the end of the set, giving up my spot up front to the twisted crowd, as more and more people got off their feet and pushed toward the band, sort-of dancing, showing their appreciation with their bodies. As I went up those back stairs for the last time, the band played a cover of Cheap Trick’s “Surrender” and the crowd went nuts. I could hear them as I walked back to my car along 49th street, keeping my distance from a pair of stumbling bald drunks trying to find their way home.  And when I did get home I leaned over the sink with soap and water and scrubbed and scrubbed but I couldn’t get that damn ink stamp off my hand…

And that’s the last time I saw a band at The 49’r.

* * *

BTW, The 49’r posted that tomorrow night (Tuesday) is the last night that it’ll be open for business.

* * *

Tonight at The Waiting Room it’s the return of Dr. Dog. Opening the show is Luke Temple’s new band Here We Go Magic, which just released its Secretly Canadian debut, Pigeons. $16, 9 p.m.

And in case I don’t get around to an update tomorrow, here’s a reminder that Merge Records band Wye Oak is playing at Slowdown Jr. tomorrow night (Tuesday) with Honeybee. $8, 9 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 © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


OEA feedback; The 49’r’s last show ever tonight (with Bad Luck Charm); Of Montreal, STNNNG, Fourth of July also tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 1:09 pm October 22, 2010

by Tim McMahan,

Briefly, there has been plenty o’ feedback on Tuesday’s blog entry regarding OEA nominations. You can read most of it in the comments section. OEA organizer MarQ Manner posted that anonymous Artist of the Year nominee Daniel Christian was a “top public nominee,” which, apparently, automatically gets him on the ballot, just like last year. He also said that Christian has played “many times” at The Barley Street Tavern. And then five other folks commented saying that Christian is a really nice guy. I have no doubt that he is. He even wrote me a kind e-mail introducing himself and saying in addition to his pumpkin patch tour that he’s also playing a couple coffee house gigs in the near future. So I guess I was wrong. Christian indeed deserves to be recognized as the significant musician in the Omaha/Lincoln area in 2010. Right?

* * *

Word has it that not only is tonight the last show ever at The 49’r, but that the bar is closing its doors for good next Wednesday. Tonight’s gig features the return of Niner mainstay Bad Luck Charm along with power-pop superstars The Third Men. Expect a huge, boisterous crowd. I wouldn’t be surprised if some things go missing throughout the evening as people try to take home a piece of history. I’d love to see that moose head wind up at O’Leaver’s. Show starts at 9, if you can get in. Expect to pay at least $5.

* * *

While the 49’r show is the most important gig of the weekend, there is a slew of others going on tonight that makes this the busiest Friday night music-wise in recent memory.

Top of the bill is Of Montreal at Sokol Auditorium. The band is on the road supporting a new album, and has Atlantic recording artist Janelle Monáe in tow. According to Rolling Stone, expect a show that’s akin to a carnival or circus, with giant puppets and other surprises.  Read my ’04 interview with the band and then pick up your $25 tickets to tonight’s show, which starts at 8.

Also tonight, Lawrence band Fourth of July is having a CD release show at O’Leaver’s with Capgun Coup and McCarthy Trenching. $5, 9:30 p.m.

And those leather-gloved punk animals STNNNG are playing at The Brothers Lounge with Well Aimed Arrows. STNNNG has a hot new album called Smoke of My Will coming out on Tuesday, which you’ll likely be able to snag at the gig. $5, 9 p.m.

Last but not least, Sub Pop band Avi Buffalo is playing at Slowdown Jr. Saturday night with Mother Culture. $8, 9 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 © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


CVS/Niner Circus today at 2; School of Seven Bells, Hole fundraiser tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 2:17 pm September 21, 2010

by Tim McMahan,

An e-mail went out today from Voice Omaha focused on today’s Omaha City Council meeting that will decide the fate of The 49’r and (some say) the fate of Dundee as a residential neighborhood if the council approves plans to build a CVS pharmacy at 49th and Dodge. Voice Omaha is a “non-partisan group dedicated to creating a more inclusive, just, transparent, sustainable and culturally vibrant Omaha by actively supporting leaders, policies and projects that advance this vision.” The CVS pharmacy proposal apparently doesn’t fit into that vision, as the e-mail asked readers to not tolerate a “corporate-run Omaha.” The letter said:

“Not only were the New York developers unwilling to negotiate to create a structure more suitable for urban neighborhoods, they took to veiled threats and coercion to get the job done. One of the more active opponents of the development was contacted by the principal developer and told ‘we know where you work and we know where you live.’ City Council members were told CVS would pull plans for additional sites, including the location at 72nd and Maple already in process, if the 49th and Dodge location is blocked.”

Strong stuff. While I’ve heard rumor of the above-mentioned threats, I haven’t seen it stated in print, until this e-mail arrived. The Voice Omaha letter went on to ask readers to contact Ben Gray, Thomas Mulligan or Franklin Thompson and urge them to vote against CVS. I guess they gave up all hope on changing bitter ol’ Garry Gernandt’s mind (Rosenblatt is dead, Garry, let it go).  You can read the entire letter online at the Voice Omaha website.

My guess is that the two votes — one to reconsider the previous vote and the other to approve the CVS proposal — will be handled as promptly as possible just so the council members can get the issue behind them. After all, there’s no public hearing on the matter, and it’s clear that everyone has made up their minds. Still, if you want to go down there and be seen (but not heard), the circus starts at 2 p.m.

* * *

There are two shows worth your time tonight:

At good ol’ Sokol Underground it’s a benefit concert for the new Hole in downtown Benson. Money raised presumably will go toward fixing up the new location, which is in the basement of the building just east of 60th St. on Maple. Headliner is NYC punk band Star Fucking Hipsters, while the undercard includes Eastern Turkish, Youth and Tear Gas and Bombs Blast. The $10 show starts at 6 p.m. Here’s some more background on the new Hole.

Also tonight, School of Seven Bells plays at The Waiting Room with Active Child. $10, 9 p.m.

* * *

Tomorrow: Land of Talk

* * *

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.


Pine Ridge live… Cursive at the Niner, Orgone, Christmas tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 12:56 pm September 20, 2010

by Tim McMahan,

T’was a quiet weekend. The only music of which that I did partake was watching Cass Brostad record a song at The Waiting Room yesterday afternoon during the all-day recording marathon for the Lash LaRue Pine Ridge Live recording. Cass and her band (a guitarist and drummer) belted out a sweet Americana-flavored folk-rock song again and again and again. I left during the third take. I’m told that was the SOP throughout the day — each act was given a handful of takes, performed from TWR stage, which Jim Homan recorded from the soundboard, while over the bar the Bears and Chiefs games were blaring on the flat panels (with the sound off, of course). I’m looking forward to hearing what got laid down when the CD becomes available this holiday season.

* * *

There’s a good selection of shows going on for a Monday night this evening.

On top of the list is the second sold-out Cursive show at The 49’r. I didn’t go last night and won’t be going tonight, seeing as I was out of town when the tickets went on sale, and they got snapped up rather quickly. Opening tonight’s show is Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship. This could be the last chance to pull together the troops before tomorrow’s City Council Meeting, where the fate of the 49’r will be decided. It would be a good time for frontman Tim Kasher to give a fire-and-brimstone speech from the Niner stage, asking folks to show up at the meeting in a dramatic show of force. Will it make a difference? I doubt it, but at this point in the battle, there’s not much left to do. There has been talk of a potential lawsuit against the city, but that would require some cash that no one seems to have. The only other option is to let Councilman Ben Gray know that his actions will result in a sizable, organized effort to campaign against him when it comes time for his re-election. When the wrecking ball finally swings, it’ll be Gray who will be remembered and blamed for aftermath.

Also tonight, LA-based Funk/Soul/Afrobeat band Orgone is playing a show at the Studio Gallery, 4965 Dodge Street. Brought to you by the Loom crew and uber DJ Brent Crampton, it promises to be a sweaty good time. 8 p.m., $7.

And finally, downtown at Slowdown Jr., Olympia-beat hip-hop act Christmas plays with Sam Martin (Capgun Coup) and The Yuppies. $7, 9 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 © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Lazy-i Interview: Titus Andronicus; CVS protest today; Titus, Pixies tonight…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , , — @ 1:03 pm September 16, 2010
Titus Andronicus

Titus Andronicus

Our Civil War

Titus Andronicus’ music addresses the battle within ourselves.

by Tim McMahan,

A caveat before reading further: Titus Andronicus’ frontman Patrick Stickles’ comments came under the influence of having not slept in 26 hours, after he and the rest of the band drove over night from Toledo to St. Louis to play on a hot Saturday afternoon at LouFest.

“I guess ‘Lou’ is short for St. Louis,” he said, adding that the band was playing “smack in the middle of seven or eight bands. Broken Social Scene is the headliner.”

It was just two years ago that Titus Andronicus, which hails from Glen Rocks, New Jersey, began to break through the oversized, amorphous cloud that is the U.S. indie music scene with their XL Records debut The Airing of Grievances, an LP that captured their rowdy, raucous anthem-punk style.

“A lot’s happened since then,” Stickles said. “We went through a couple guitar players and made this whole other record. We’ve pretty much wildly exceeded our expectations.”

Titus Andronicus, The Monitor (XL Records)

Titus Andronicus, The Monitor (XL Records)

The “other record” is sophomore effort The Monitor, released by XL this past March. While it continued in the same rambunctious fashion as their debut, the album is sprawling — more than an hour long with half the songs over seven minutes in length, and one clocking in at a whopping 14 minutes.

“I’ve never been too good at editing myself,” Stickles said. “At the time we were theorizing these songs, I guessed all would be three or four minutes long. What we ended up recording is a byproduct of me having poor temporal reasoning skills. We always strive for a level of grandiosity, but even I couldn’t have predicted that we’d go that far.”

The recording also expanded on the band’s low-fi punk sound, adding new instruments (bagpipes, fiddle, trombone, cello) that elevated these epic, drunken, Celtic-flavored sing-along ballads to a level as grand as the album’s so-called Civil War theme, which Stickles said shouldn’t be taken too literally.

“The music is set in modern times. The Civil War is only used allegorically; I thought it would be an apt metaphor,” Stickles said. In fact, the lyrics on The Monitor (named after the Civil War-era battleship) are both self-flagellating and confrontational, with slogan-like lines “Baby we were born to die,” “You’ll always be a loser,” “I was born to die like a man,” and most central to the album’s theme: “The enemy is everywhere.” Booze provides a lyrical counterbalance to desperation and hostility.

“The point is that we’re all complacent in our various societal ills,” Stickles explained. “All this stuff about the enemy being everywhere, just as often it’s inside us, our own bodies, our earthly prisons. We as individuals have to be willing to take responsibility for our own happiness and fulfillment. There seems to be a tendency of humans trying to pass the buck for their unhappiness, and say, ‘If other than xyz, I would have the life of Riley.’ To me, it’s a defense mechanism at best. It’s quite possible to achieve peace and happiness on this crazy planet, but we have to allow that to come from within rather than look for external reasons.”

Heady stuff, but beyond their deeper meaning, all those angry lines make for some amazing sing-along moments. Stickles agreed. “They tend to make the best rock and roll songs,” he said, acknowledging how much the band loves it when the crowd shouts the lines back at them. “Their enthusiasm has a way of quickly creating enthusiasm on stage.”

Stickles said the band has never played in Omaha, but heard that the city’s punks “like to rock out in the basement.” He also said he and his high school pals grew up listening to Saddle Creek Records, which opened the door to the next line of discussion.

There are probably 100 reviews of The Monitor online and in print, and I venture to guess that at least half of them compare Stickles’ rambunctious vocal style to Omaha’s very own Conor Oberst, from the overdriven screams to that distinctive Conor bray.

Stickles said he admires Oberst’s honesty. “He doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who’s too scared to lay it on the line,” he said, “though his last two records kind of left me cold.”

As for the comparisons, “I’ll tell you because you rep the Omaha readership,” Stickles said. “I think it’s a little short-sighted.

“The constant comparisons to anyone gets old, even if it’s Jesus Christ. Doesn’t everyone want to be themselves? Don’t we all want to blaze our own trail, though I know this is rock and roll, and there’s not too much under the sun? But it seems kind of like, uh, cheapening slightly to say that if you’ve heard one guy you can pretty much guess what this guy is going to sound like. After awhile it feels like a feedback loop, a house of mirrors, like sometimes (reviewers) get these things to sound so similar that I’m reading reviews of other reviews. But maybe that’s me being a self-righteous, entitled type. Even if it were true, is it helpful? Who’s to say? It’s not in my control. As I put my art out into the world, it’s out of my hands. History will judge.”

It will indeed. Now go get some sleep.

Titus Andronicus plays with Free Energy Thursday, Sept. 16, at The Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St. Showtime is 9 p.m. Admission is $10. For more information, call 402.884.5353 or visit

* * *

An addendum to yesterday’s CVS Pharmacy item: There’s an organized protest taking place today at 4:30 p.m. on both sides of Dodge Street outside The 49’r. It’s called “The Rally to Preserve the Integrity of Dundee.” Find out more at the event’s Facebook page. Will it make a difference? Who knows… it couldn’t hurt…

* * *

So, tough choice for tonight: The Pixies or Titus Andronicus? I grew up listening to The Pixies and love all of their albums. I consider them to be among the most influential indie bands in the last 30 years. And tickets are still available in the $35 to $65 range. The show is at The Orpheum and starts at 7:30. I guess since it starts so early, there’s no reason to not go to both shows…

Opening for Titus Andronicus at The Waiting Room tonight is Free Energy, a hot hot hot new indie pop band from Philly that sounds influenced by ’70s arena acts like Cheap Trick, The Knack and yeah, Thin Lizzy, along with a healthy dose of Pavement. 9 p.m., $10.

* * *

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.