Live Review: Speed! Nebraska showcase; Make Believe to launch (local) record store…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:53 pm July 15, 2013
Domestica at O'Leaver's, July 13, 2013.

Domestica at O’Leaver’s, July 13, 2013.

by Tim McMahan,

If you’re even passibly interested in post-punk, especially bands with a ’90s Homestead-style flair, you’ve got to check out Domestica. The band’s history is legend. Born out of the ashes of classic Nebraska band Mercy Rule, Domestica is a power-punk trio whose forte is guitar-driven buzz-saw rock songs about living and loving in the great, dusty Midwest. At the trio’s core is Capital-city-based husband/wife combo of bassist/vocalist Heidi Ore and guitarist Jon Taylor — the First Family of Nebraska punk.

Domestica has been around for a while, taking a brief hiatus when Mercy Rule returned for a short time a few years ago. The band’s last recording was the digital-only Domestica 2, released last year. Based on what I heard Saturday night at O’Leaver’s, it’s time for them to get back into the studio. Now with former Sideshow drummer P. Tisdale (I don’t know if he spells it Paul or Pawl, I’ve seen it both ways) they’re playing on a whole new level.

I’ve heard Heidi sing at least a couple dozen times over the decade, and she’s never sounded better than Saturday night. Part of the reason is, believe it or not, O’Leaver’s new PA, which does a good job with separation. I usually can’t hear Heidi because she’s buried beneath Jon’s guitar. This time she gave Jon a run for his money. In fact, I would have preferred Jon turn it up a bit more. He tweaked it about halfway through the set (but I could have used even more).

The set’s final song was (I believe) a new one. The band rarely leans back on riffs, preferring to keep with a short-shock chorus/verse format. On this one they repeated the guitar/bass lines in a way I can’t quite remember hearing before. I’d love to see them take off on a riff and repeat it over and over and over. Domestica as a jam band? Not quite…

Before they left the stage, they gave out one final treat. Earlier in the set a woman ran up to Heidi and told her it was her birthday, and (I think) made a request — Mercy Rule classic “Summer.” Heidi rolled into a verse of the song by herself as the rest of the band joined and transformed it into something slutty and psychedelic. Happy Birthday indeed.

Before Domestica I caught Sons of O’Leaver’s set, which was as cock-sure as always. They’re like Omaha’s unique version of The Replacements minus the booze and drugs (well, minus the drugs anyway). Don’t get lost in the fog of rhythms — both guitarists have some of the most clever guitar licks you’ll likely hear at The Club. Pay Attention!

This was the annual Speed! Nebraska showcase featuring all S!N bands. Missing from the festivities, however, was label co-founder Gary Dean Davis, who it was announced from stage, was at UNMC recovering from surgery. More details I cannot say, other than it sounds like Gary’s going to be all right.

On the other hand, I never heard why this year’s Soapbox Derby was cancelled, though I did hear rumors of a fill-in event in the near future involving other juvenile modes of racing transportation…

* * *

What’s this, a new local-focused record store?

The news of this new venture came via Facebook yesterday, headlined “Make Believe Music Shop Grand Opening (and free 2nd St. Creamery Ice Cream)“.

“Make Believe Music Shop and 2nd St. Creamery are coming together to celebrate the latest venture from the people who brought you Make Believe Studios in Little Italy. Just as the studio serves Omaha-area bands, so too will the record store, aiming to line our shelves with primarily Nebraska artists. Opening day is set for Friday, July 19.”

The shop is asking for help getting area musicians – as many of the 1,000 local artists as possible – into the store the first few days to bring in their records to sell.

“In addition, there will be free ice cream, BBQ and cold drinks. Join us in celebrating a new addition to the Omaha music scene.”

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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 © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: The Sons of O’Leaver’s; unnamed Bellows/Fox/Brodin/Fink/Koontz band debuts Wednesday…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:43 pm June 4, 2012
The Sons of O'Leaver's, June 2, 2012.

The Sons of O'Leaver's, June 2, 2012.

by Tim McMahan,

Before we get started, thanks to everyone who imparted birthday wishes upon me over the weekend, whether in person or via Facebook. The ability to get and receive birthday greetings from legions of people you haven’t seen or talked to, sometimes in years, is an unforeseen benefit to Facebook that we never saw when we joined the online service. The cynics will say it’s just more proof of the ongoing de-personalization caused by the internet — but I say it’s just the opposite.

I got a few “happy birthdays” Saturday night when I dropped in at Omaha’s home of booze debauchery, O’Leaver’s, to catch a set by The Sons of O’Leaver’s and Ideal Cleaners. As is their style, the quartet of Tulis, Maxwell, Loftus and Rutledge (a more fearsome law firm name I cannot imagine) were dressed to the nines for this special event, which also happened to be someone else’s birthday party, judging by the cupcakes stacked on the table along the far wall.

This being their first show in about a year and a half, the band took the occasion to roll out some new material as well as a shift in style. Whatever inherent twang they used to have has been drastically diminished. Maxwell still has that slightly muted, raspy croon on music that now sounds influenced by early Spoon and Blue Sky Blue-era Wilco. Rutledge glowed on lead guitar. He can get lost in the mix in some of his other bands. Not so here, revealing some of the best lead solos from him (or anyone in town), just gorgeous stuff that accents every song. As a whole, this was one of the most satisfying sets of music I’ve seen so far this year. So what’s the future hold for the Sons of…? One hopes we’ll be seeing a Sons of The Brothers or Sons of The Slowdown gig in the near future, along with recording of that new material…?

Ideal Cleaners continues to provide the usual pummeling that only the Lincoln trio can provide. The Bad Religion/Fugazi comparisons still seem to fit but are blurred by how Dan Jenkins and the boys put their own stamp on their abrasive, muscular sound.

* * *

It’s a quiet week for shows, though there is one highlight worth mentioning. Ben Brodin from Mal Madrigal and Our Fox, wrote to say that this coming Wednesday a new Jake Bellows band will be performing at O’Leavers with Simon Joyner.

“The band doesn’t have a name yet, so we’ve been unsure about how to announce this show, but it is a special one in that it will be the first time we’ve performed these songs in public,” Brodin said. The band consists of Bellows, Todd Fink, Ryan Fox, Heath Koontz and Brodin, who said the music they’ll be playing was actually recorded last winter/spring.

“Also, since we live in different cities, this will be the only show in the foreseeable future,” Brodin said. “We’d be stoked for people to hear it while everyone is in town. Swing down if you haven’t got anything going on Wednesday.” Bellows apparently did an interview with Hear Nebraska that outlines what the band is and how it took shape, but the story isn’t online yet. Keep an eye on their website.

* * *

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 © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Column 292: Rock of Ages; Live Review: Guster…

Category: Blog,Column,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:48 pm October 13, 2010

Ra Ra Riot at The Waiting Room Oct. 8, 2010.

Ra Ra Riot at The Waiting Room Oct. 8, 2010.

Column 292: Rock of Ages

Live reviews of Ra Ra Riot, The Sons of…

by Tim McMahan,

I’ve never bought into the whole idea that age has anything to do with enjoying rock music, and I still don’t, but the question did come up this past weekend.

I waded into the crowd of suburban youth at The Waiting Room Friday night too late to see either of the opening bands, thanks to the Yankees. I considered skipping the show altogether because it was already 11, but I was on the list and I figured why not? While I’d heard of Ra Ra Riot — the headliner — they’d always slipped under my radar. I knew that they’d been in the College Music Journal top-20 shortly after their Barsuk release hit the streets. I’d read their description at, where their style was described as “chamber pop,” probably because the band employs a violinist and cello player, both young women.

Upon entering the club, there they were like a pair of gorgeous bookends standing on opposite sides of the crowded stage, divided by RRR’s shaggy frontman who leaned forward on the microphone in front of a mob scene down below. The show wasn’t a sell out, but it was handsomely attended, again by more women than men — a trend that’s becoming familiar for indie shows these days.

So I stood back by the soundboard with my Rolling Rock and tried to lock in, but couldn’t. Other than those strings, the six-piece didn’t sound much different than any of the crop of hot indie pop bands currently burning up the CMJ charts — Vampire Weekend, Tokyo Police Club, Yeasayer, even Local Natives, a band who played a sold-out show at TWR a week earlier.

Outside the venue on the sidewalk along Maple Street a fan tried to convince me that Ra Ra Riot was different than all those other bands, that there was something special in their melodies that set them apart from the herd. I listened quietly, and then told him that as much as I respected his opinion, he was wrong. I said RRR was just another kick-drum-fueled open-chord pop act trying to skirt the border between indie rock and dorm-room dance music, and while that was all perfectly fine, nothing stood out about the band’s music, no lyric or melody was memorable, and that I was getting tired of hearing the same old song that I’d been hearing by all these bands for the past two years.

And then the question came up: Was I turning into one of those “back in my day” old guys who couldn’t get with the latest sound?

In my dismay, I mentioned this to one of the 20-something regulars at O’Leaver’s the following night. “Yes, you’re getting old,” he said, “but that doesn’t mean that Ra Ra Riot doesn’t suck.” He then went on to admonish me for not having been at The 49’r the night before to hear the band I was about to hear.

O’Leaver’s is a tiny club compared to TWR, and when it’s packed, it feels even tinier. Saturday night the drunken throng pushed out the door into the concrete beer garden, there to see the reunion of The Sons of O’Leaver’s (the night before, they were The Sons of The 49’r), a local band that made its mark in the early part of the last decade. The band features some of the city’s most notable musicians: Frontman Kelly Maxwell and drummer Mike Loftus, who had been in 60-Watt Saloon, Shovelhead, and Hong Hyn Corp, which is a band that included guitarist/vocalist Matt Rutledge, who had been in Compost, Miss Lonely Hearts, Holiday and The Great Dismal, which is a band that included bass player Mike Tulis, who is known for his work in Full Blown, The Monroes and The Third Men.

In other words, The Sons of… is a veterans’ club made that much more venerable that night by the addition of Omaha expatriate Mike Jaworski (Hello from Waveland, The Cops), who was in town from Seattle.  Dressed to the nines in formal suits and ties, the band took to the area that O’Leaver’s calls a stage and ripped through an hour of gritty rock that bordered on punk. It was just what I had been thirsting for after the past few weeks of indie rock pabulum. I could have listened to it all night.

But didn’t this underscore the whole “old guy” argument? The Sons of… music clearly is a reflection of a by-gone era — a sort of homage to ’90s “college rock” (the phrase used before the term “indie” came into vogue) played by a bunch of guys in their 30s.

I stood back by the sound board with my Rolling Rock and looked over a crowd that was as locked in as I was — a crowd whose age spanned from 21 to 50+. After the smoke cleared, Little Brazil took the stage, a band as modern as any you’ll likely hear on Sirius XMU, but with a sound not that far removed from the band I just heard.

And I realized that I knew the answer. Some new stuff will never jive with me. On the other hand, I’ve been digging the new CDs by Pete Yorn, Land of Talk and Deerhunter. While Katy Perry, Justin Bieber and Ke$ha will always be greasy kids stuff. Rock music isn’t always universal; it doesn’t always span the ages, but in the end, the only person who can tell you if you’re too old to listen to it is you.

* * *

Guster at Slowdown, Oct. 12, 2010.

Guster at Slowdown, Oct. 12, 2010.

I didn’t see many familiar faces last night at Slowdown for Guster. And I didn’t expect to, either. Regardless, the show sold out, and the big room was filled with hard-core Guster fans who sang along with the band throughout the evening. Performing as a five-piece, Guster’s usual trio had a second drummer and a second guitarist in tow. Overall, they sounded very good playing a broad selection of songs from all their albums, and making note whenever they played a new one. I know frontman Ryan Miller thinks their new record is a bold, new direction, but the songs fit into the rest of the Guster canon seamlessly, and could have come off any of the older records. Miller had good between-song shtick, talking directly to a few members of the crowd, including one poor person who said they saw him at dinner. His response: “I took a really good sh** today, too.” Hopefully, the poor patron wasn’t around for that.

In the end, it was a somewhat flat set by a band with lots of catchy songs that tend to blend into each other after an hour, which was when I reached my threshold. They seemed to be doing the set “by the numbers,” walking through the songs as if they’d been on the road for six months straight instead of just a few weeks — a general lack of enthusiasm from a band that’s been playing the same style of music for nearly 20 years. The performance, specifically from Miller, looked more like a chore than a spectacle.

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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.