Live Reviews: Slow Pulp, Lewsberg, The Prairies; The Church, Model/Actriz, Ethel Cain tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , , — @ 7:41 am October 9, 2023

Lewsberg at Grapefruit Records, Oct. 8, 2023.

by Tim McMahan,

This weekend was a study in accessibility – three shows, three experiences, only two out of the three were successful.

Friday night’s crowd for Slow Pulp at The Slowdown was picture perfect – the floor of the main room was nicely filled but not too crowded, you could get  around easy but the place didn’t feel empty, I was able to stand at my favorite stage-left perch throughout the set. It’s the way I like it at Slowdown and probably a bummer for the club owners, who would prefer a jam-packed evening for obvious reasons. 

Slow Pulp at The Slowdown, Oct. 6, 2023.

Slow Pulp came on at around 9 and were terrific. The remarkable thing about the band is how lead singer Emily Massey’s flat, unadorned, unfussy vocals perfectly compliment the bands’ impeccable playing. On the surface, Slow Pulp is nothing new or groundbreaking — they play somewhat run-of-the-mill indie rock that would fit comfortably alongside other modern-day female-led indie projects like Alvvays or Momma. Their strength lies in creating a sound that feels comfortable and assured — a fine, even style of songwriting I could listen to all night.  

At time’s Massey’s voice was as naked and pure as a senior-year talent show, but it’s that unassuming, unadorned style that made it so appealing, powered by a super-tight band who looked relaxed and assured. Her voice only got stronger as the night wore on, peaking during a great rendition of “Broadview,” a favorite off their most recent album, Yard, where Massey pulled out a harmonica and pushed the song into Neil Young Harvest territory. 

Saturday night was Rosali at Pageturners but, alas, it was not to be. When I arrived at around 9 Sean Pratt was on stage with Megan Siebe and every table was filled. Folks were standing in the back in the aisle that leads to the parking lot and I wondered where I would be able to stand and watch the show. The answer: nowhere. It was like the old days at The 49’r, another bar where if you didn’t get there early you were screwed because the tables took up all the room right up to where the band played and there was nowhere to go where you wouldn’t be in someone’s way, especially if you’re 6-foot-2. 

So with no place to stand, I turned around and left and learned a lesson that the trick (or necessity) to seeing a show at Pageturners is to get there early, before the performances start. 

Finally Sunday night it was down to Grapefruit Records for an in-store concert by Lewsberg. The set-up was as Simon had described it – the store had wheeled the album racks into the hallway, creating a big-ish space for people to stand in front of the the small elevated stage. It was a comfortable crowd of around 50 with a few seated on the floor to the left of the stage like grade schoolers at storytime. 

The Prairies at Grapefruit Records, Oct. 8, 2023.

One of the openers, The Prairies, consisted of Dave Nance, Noah Sterba, Myke Marasco and Kevin Donahue all having the time of their lives playing old songs from an old cassette recorded years ago – a cassette I would now like to own a copy of. Each took turns rotating between instruments (“Everyone plays drums in The Prairies”) for these short, sharp, fun songs that heralded back to the good old days of Nebraska post-punk.

The best way to describe Lewsberg’s set was how my wife described it, saying she felt like she was in a cool, secret club somewhere in Europe.  To me, it felt like seeing Talking Heads during their 1977 tour at someone’s house party in the Lower East Side.

The Rotterdam four-piece played songs off their amazing new album, Out and About (2023, 12XU), as well as older favorites like “Cold Light of Day,” from 2020’s In This House. Their simple arrangements, chiming guitars and frontman Arie van Vliet’s dry, close-to-spoken-word Lou Reed-style delivery gets them compared to Velvet Underground, while their stripped down rhythms recall The Feelies, but for me there was a trance-like quality I haven’t heard since The New Year/Bedhead. That’s a lot of comparisons for a band that has created something wholly originally and difficult to pin down – quiet yet intense, the only thing more intense was guitarist Michiel Klein’s tight, skull-like stare throughout the set as he focused on the repeated rhythm parts or opened up on solos. It was good to see him smile after the set. 

II can’t wait to see another show at Grapefruit Records. If this is what it means for indie to go back underground, I’m all for it. 

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It’s another Monday night in Omaha with three marquee shows happening at the same time, maybe because these touring bands just finished playing bigger cities over the weekend. Whatever the reason, there are choices to me made.

In the case of The Church, who is playing tonight at The Waiting Room, Omaha is actually the kick-off city for the next leg of their U.S. tour. They’re out on the road supporting new album, Hypnogogue, a strong collection that recalls their mid-‘80s heyday when they released Starfish and their biggest hit, “Under the Milky Way.” This is “an evening with The Church,” which means no openers. $35, 8 p.m. 

Meanwhile, around the corner at Reverb Lounge, electronic post-punk band Model/Actriz headlines. They remind me a shit-ton of The Soft Moon – same sort of bracing bounce electronic rhythms mixed with static noise and bass, like Nine Inch Nails meets The Rapture. This could be a really cool show. Conjunto Primitivo opens at 8 p.m. $15.

Meanwhile, The Slowdown is hosting the long-sold-out Ethel Cain show. Everyone’s wondering how The Slowdown got this gig, considering Cain has sold out much larger rooms. I’m told she specifically sought out the club on this tour — a tiny room considering she has nearly 2 million monthly listeners on Spotify and one of her most popular tracks is called “A House in Nebraska” – a stark and depressing song about crippling lost love. Midwife opens at 8 p.m. 

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2023 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: InDreama, No Joy, Flowers Forever, The Prairies; a Halloween weekend…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 2:14 pm October 29, 2010

InDreama at Slowdown Jr., Oct. 28, 2010.

InDreama at Slowdown Jr., Oct. 28, 2010.

by Tim McMahan,

I have to tell you, I love going to debut performances by local bands. A few weeks ago it was Beauty in the Beast (Eli Mardock of Eagle Seagull fame’s new band). Last night it was InDreama, a new band fronted by Nik Fackler that includes an all-star cast, as described in yesterday’s blog. Fackler made it very clear before the set that this was, in fact, the first time the band had performed in front of a club audience. It showed. The set was only about 15 minutes long and focused only on four songs that shared the same psychedelic sonic palette. As you can see by the photo, Fackler was going for drama with his lighting — a projector off stage left that shot beams at a hatchet angle augmented with a couple floor strobes, all other stage lighting was turned off. Add billows of stage smoke and you’ve got a recipe for theatrics, and there were plenty.

Fackler and Co. opened with a couple acoustic songs that showed his knowledge of Bookends-era Simon and Garfunkel. Vocally, he sounded nothing like how he did in The Family Radio, instead his voice was deep and resonant and enhanced by effects and it all sounded actually very good, backed with harmonies from Sam Martin (Capgun Coup) and Dereck Higgins (Digital Sex). The lyrics were slight and simple and somewhat affected (I could imagine these songs sung in French).

The set went full-bore when Fackler switched to electric guitar and closed out the micro-set with “Exodus from Reunion, A + STORM > great = End” that turned into a psychedelic soundwash complete with dramatic deep-blue synth effects and rigid, pounding power chords that eventually pulled back with the now-ritualistic kneeling-down-and-fiddling-with-the-foot-pedals noise collage. Very dramatic, very promising, but all-in-all, very short. Missing were their poppier rock numbers that the band has on their iLike page, but then again, I’m not sure how they would have fit into the dark interlude that Fackler was trying to create. So yeah, a work in progress, a dream half-dreamed. But Fackler tells me there’s more to come when he’s back from El Lay and the InDreama CD is released in December, backed by a tour.

Next up were The Prairies, a local garage noise-band that I wasn’t in the mood for but that converted me to their punk rock sound by the end of their set. More than half of their success rides on their incredible drummer, who hits his drums harder than anyone I’ve seen on stage in a long while. Just amazing drumming that drove this hot rod right over the edge, pushed along by some tasty guitar solos.

No Joy at Slowdown Jr., Oct. 28, 2010.

No Joy at Slowdown Jr., Oct. 28, 2010.

In the third slot was Montreal band No Joy, a buzz-saw shoe-gaze band fronted by two shaggy-haired women with electric guitars and a love for righteous riffs. I was reminded of Jesus and Mary Chain, Slowdive, My Bloody Valentine, Lush, Dinosaur Jr., and a bit of Throwing Muses. Each song was a pounding fuzz factory that chugged along at a hypnotic pace that made you wish they’d go on for 20 more minutes (even though most of the songs sounded pretty much the same). As described in yesterday’s Sentimentalist write-up, they closed out their set and began packing their gear while the amps were still buzzing, without saying a word to the crowd. I don’t know if that’s cool or insolent, and I doubt they care either way.

The crowd of about 50 or stuck around for Flowers Forever, whose sound continues to evolve from its original psych-rock to something that more closely resembles Talking Heads New Wave meets The B-52s with some deep-bass synth-dance beats thrown in to liven it all up. During their pogo-party moments, frontman Derek Pressnall turned into a Midwestern version of Fred Schneider, talk-echoing with the band’s cute blonde frontwoman whose rather demure singing has a dry air of Debbie Harry. Biggest surprise (of the night) was electric guitarist Nik Fackler providing some very interesting counters and leads that made it all work.

FF has been evolving into a psych-dance band for awhile now, and it seems close to the final stage. There’s no question that Pressnall enjoys leading the crowd on dance numbers more than anything else he’s doing on stage — leading the band as it repeatedly played two party-friendly songs over and over. He knows what his crowd wants and by-damn he’s going to give it to them. Things got weird toward the end when someone (Sam Martin?) threw a gigantic bag of popcorn into the crowd, which eventually became throwing material. More hi-jinx ensued, climaxing with an abrupt confrontation over a microphone stand that had made its way into the crowd. No one got hurt (at least while I was there).

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I hate Halloween. I don’t mind giving candy to kids at the door, that’s fine, that’s what it should be. I’m not into the adult side of Halloween where everything turns into a costume party. And when Halloween’s on a Sunday, that means the costumes stretch over the entire weekend. That said, it would be kind of weird to see people dressed as pirates (or zombies) at Saturday’s Joan of Arc show at Slowdown Jr. though you can pretty much count on it. Also on the bill are Bear Country and Thunder Power. $10, 9 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: The Prairies, Well-Aimed Arrows…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , — @ 12:35 pm May 10, 2010

Well-Aimed Arrows

Well-Aimed Arrows at O'Leaver's, May 7, 2010.

Friday night at O’Leaver’s. The usual crowd.

I was told by one of my network of spies that The Prairies are part of a new clique/cult of bands whose members hang out at The Antiquarium and who all have a deep-seated love for Times New Viking. The TNV influence is very real, but not definitive, not for these guys. TNV plays blown-out post-wave punk that’s low-fi, brutally primitive and yet, strangely catchy. Prairies have a lot of those same characteristics, but sprinkle in bits and pieces of fun-loving garage rock flavor. The result is a band that sounds like a combination of early, noisy Pavement cross-bred with Box Elders. I dug it, and so did the 12 people in O’Leaver’s Friday night, thanks in part to their giggly (i.e. drunk?) stage banter that pitched back and forth whenever the line-up changed instruments — everyone played drums at some point in the set, actually everyone seemed to play everything once, and sing. Impressive, especially considering that they’d played a set just an hour earlier down at Slowdown.

Well-Aimed Arrows just keep getting better. As I said the last time I saw them, the band has the Protoculture‘s same dissonant song structures driven by punchy rhythms and frontman/drummer Koly Walter’s flat, barking voice. Michelle Petersen provides a slightly atonal counter vocal that borders on harmony (or necessary dissonance). Clayton Petersen continues with his trademark jitter-rhythm, angular guitar. Why it works so well? The rhythm section, balanced out by free-wheelin’ hat-wearin’ bass player Brian Byrd; and arrangements that call for hands-off-the-instruments repeated choruses that sound more like angry punk chants than songs. Just think how high those songs will fly once the crowd learns the words (or learns how to Pogo).