Is The Sydney becoming Omaha’s premiere stage for local bands? Destroyer, Rosali tonight at The Waiting Room…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:44 pm April 28, 2022
Destroyer at The Waiting Room, Feb. 3, 2018. The band returns tonight.

by Tim McMahan,

Today, the Sydney in Benson is announcing a large slate of shows over the next couple of months that primarily features local indie/punk acts. This used to be the sweet spot for O’Leaver’s pre-pandemic. Now that we’re on the other side of COVID (hopefully), O’Leaver’s rarely hosts shows (though they have a scorcher planned with Wagon Blasters May 14).

The Sydney’s calendar is dominated by new bands I’m not familiar with (and a few that I am). Consider this a changing of the guard? The one advantage O’Leaver’s had pre-pandemic was booking more touring indie shows – a pool that The Sydney is just beginning to tip their toes into. O’Leaver’s had the advantage of having the Cursive guys as a magnet for those tours, often bringing in acts that they met on the road. The Sydney, on the other hand, has connections with 1%, the biggest local show promoter hands down.

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Tonight, Dan Bejar and Destroyer return to The Waiting Room. The band is on the road supporting their latest release, Labyrinthitis (2022, Merge), which earned a whopping 8.5 and “best new music” designation from Pitchfork. I’m not sure who will be performing alongside Bejar tonight. The last time through, trumpeter JP Carter stole the show. Bejar always surrounds himself with the finest musicians, so be prepared to be impressed. Opener is Philly act Rosali. $22, 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 © 2022 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Digital Leather at The Sydney…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:51 pm June 28, 2021
Digital Leather at The Sydney, June 26, 2021.

by Tim McMahan,

It felt like old times at The Sydney Saturday night when Digital Leather played a split set to a crowd of around 40 unmasked revelers.

This might be the biggest DL ensemble I’ve seen on stage — six people including frontman Shawn Foree, who for the first time in memory, fronted as a vocalist — not behind a keyboard, not with a guitar slung around his neck — just straight-up Sinatra-style crooner in front of five folks crowded behind guitars and technology.

The line-up: long-time DL drummer Jeff Lambelet, Blake Kostszewa on synths, newcomer (though old acquaintance of the band) Bobby Hussy on guitar, Erica Van Engen on synths and Bright Eyes collaborator MiWi La Lupa on bass.

Foree played a few songs off DL’s most recent album, New Wave Gold, including a unique version of stand-out track “Compass” that saw Foree pass the mic to Kostszewa to handle lead vocals while Foree took his place behind the synths for this one song. Great idea, except Kostszewa started out a bit too tentative on a song that demands voice-of-doom vox. He got his footing by the second verse.

The addition of Hussy was a welcome one. Hussy brings an aggressive guitar style to a project that in recent years shifted back to its synth-focused origins. His guitar work blazed through the artificial smoke, adding a new, brighter color to Foree’s usual dark palette.

The majority of the set was dedicated to trying out new material, much of which took the band in different directions. The performance was split as Hussy broke a guitar string halfway through the set. The band took a 30-minute break while he restrung, and then played five more songs to a crowd half the size.

As I mentioned, the audience at Sydney was maskless, one hopes because all had been vaccinated. It did, indeed, feel like a pre-COVID (or, I guess now, post-COVID) show, a reminder of how things once were and hopefully will be again. Things will heat up again Friday night at The Sydney when Little Brazil returns in honor of BFF with Living Conditions and Sean Paul. See you there.

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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 © 2021 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


New Bright Eyes song premieres; treat your live streams like live shows…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:12 pm March 24, 2020

Bright Eyes today premiered “Persona Non Grata,” the first new song by the band in nine years.

by Tim McMahan,

Just under 2,000 people listened in live to the world premiere of the new Bright Eyes song, “Persona Non Grata,” on YouTube this morning.

To me, what sets Bright Eyes songs apart from other Oberst-related music is the dense, fog-lit production by way of master craftsman Mike Mogis — keyboards, drums, bag pipes and Oberst at his quivering-voice best singing about heartbreak of one kind or another to a waltz-time beat. And is that Phoebe Bridgers I hear adding harmonies? Maybe, maybe…

The band said in a letter via the press release that they will be releasing a new album “this year no matter what,” though they are now reassessing touring plans. COVID-19 strikes again, eh?

All in all, it was a pretty successful song premiere. But they did have a captive audience, as we’re all trapped at home with nothing better to do. Dead Oceans (or whoever was behind the premiere) did it right by pre-announcing the exact time and sending out links via social media. There’s a lesson to be learned there.

A lot of artists are now live-streaming performances via Facebook, Twitch, YouTube, etc., but in a lot of cases (for me, anyway), people trip over them after the fact. It’s not a big deal if you’re someone like Bright Eyes, who has a fan base looking for the song, but for the rest of you, well, a little head’s up would be kind of nice.

And it’s as simple as treating your live streams like any other live show performance — i.e., create a Facebook event invitation. It’s how a lot of us keep track of upcoming performances, just like we used to for live shows (Anyone remember live shows?).

For example, the fine folks at The Sydney created a Facebook event invitation for this Friday night’s live stream featuring Mike Schlesinger and Rebecca Lowry. Now the gig will show up on my Facebook events list, just like any other live event. Take a look.

While it’s nice that folks are creating lists of live performances, like this one from NPR, who remembers to go back and look at those?

Yes, I know we’re all home anyway (as someone told me who was arguing against the idea), but the fact is even at home we’re bombarded with a million things to do. Make your live stream performances “appointment watching.”

AND, if I catch wind of your live stream – and you create a Facebook Event listing for it – it’s very likely I’ll also list it in the daily Lazy-i update. Just sayin’…

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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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Middle Kids at The Sydney, Protomartyr, Preoccupations at The Waiting Room…

Category: Reviews — Tags: , , , — @ 2:21 pm December 10, 2018

Middle Kids at The Sydney, Dec. 8, 2018.

by Tim McMahan,

Great weekend of shows. Let’s start with Middle Kids at The Sydney Saturday night and go from there…

The show was a curiosity in itself in that The Sydney isn’t your usual venue for rising, nationally touring indie rock bands. Instead, the club has a reputation for being a Benson neighborhood bar that occasionally hosts local bands (specifically on First Fridays).

But this past summer One Percent Productions, the fine folks who own and book The Waiting Room and Reverb Lounge as well as book the bands at the annual Maha Music festival, bought The Sydney. They had no initial intention of making it another One Percent venue, rather they left the booking in the able hands of Zach Schmieder, who has been booking the club for quite awhile.

However, I have to assume that when One Percent was offered Middle Kids, a band whose music is a staple on Sirius XMU and has been a regular on college music charts, they took it even though their other venues already had been booked that night for the annual Pine Ridge Toy Drive concert. Why not move Middle Kids to The Sydney, after all, the band is from Sydney Australia — makes perfect sense.

Well, within the months that One Percent purchased The Sydney and this concert, the venue has seen a number of adjustments to its sound system. Even the sound board had been replaced (at least for Saturday night) with something more high-tech and ready to handle what ended up being a sold out show.

Since The Sydney isn’t exactly a huge club, I expected the room to be crushed, but instead, the audience was simply cozy. I was told by the woman at the door that “sold out” meant 150 tickets were sold. There was plenty of room to move around, in fact you could walk pretty close to the stage. I took my position off stage left against the wall next to a massive subwoofer on the floor that acted as a perfect barrier to keep the crowd at bay.

But while the sight lines were good where I stood, the sound was bass-heavy and muffled because I was situated behind the overhead amps. Halfway through the set I moved back by the bar, where the sound was primo but the sight lines were for shit because The Sydney only has a short platform a few inches high for a stage, keeping the band essentially at crowd level (though my 6-foot-2 frame still gave me a view of most of the band). With that the sound system vastly improved, one hopes they install if not a proper stage, at least something that lifts the band a foot or more above the crowd.

One last technical note: The Sydney still uses old-fashioned — as in not digital — spotlights, which provide warm, gorgeous tones on stage. Here’s hoping they don’t swap them out for a digital lighting system, which is cold, harsh and photographs poorly (yeah, I know those digital light rigs are cheaper, so I’m not holding my breath here…).

OK, so what about the band? Middle Kids played as a four-piece with an added guitarist (“Kyle”) that gave their sound a much-needed boost. Front woman Hannah Joy was in great voice, standing on point belting out every song the band knows — literally (at the end of the encore she said they had virtually no other material to perform).

I’ve compared these folks to a number of acts, but the one they really reminded me of most was 10,000 Maniacs; Joy’s voice having a similar Natalie Merchant tone and quiver. The mostly younger crowd (lots of big X’s on the back of hands) stood close and sang to the hits, especially on “Edge of Town,” which became a room-filled sing-along.

Protomartyr at The Waiting Room, Dec. 7, 2018.

Backing up a night to Friday at The Waiting Room…

This was sort of a shared headliner affair, with Protomartyr sandwiched into the second slot. I’ve seen Joe Casey and company three or four times. There he was up front again, dressed like an insurance salesman or someone’s dad, barking out lines like a snapping turtle taking bites out of a dead body, while the rest of the band did their usual crushing performance.

I went to the show with a pal who hadn’t seen either band before and only became familiar with their music a few days prior (thanks to my prodding). Music-wise, he said he preferred Preoccupations more than Protomartry, but after the show, he changed his tune, saying he much preferred Protomartyr live if only for Casey’s brackish charisma. He couldn’t take his eyes off him.

I’d already seen his act, which is maybe why I was so enamored with the band, specifically guitarist Greg Ahee who absolutely ripped. If there’s a minus to Protomartyr it’s that their songs sound the same — Casey doesn’t so much sing as yell words into the microphone. So it’s up to the rest of the band to provide the depth, variety and dynamics to the music, which we got in spades.

Preoccupations at The Waiting Room, Dec. 7, 2018.

As good as Protomartyr was, Preoccupations was next level. Playing mostly songs off New Material (2018, Jagjaguwar) as well as a few older tracks, the band came out with guitars blazing before working in synths three songs into the set.

Compared to Casey, frontman/bassist Matt Flegel is a virtual opera singer, channeling Ceremony’s Ross Farrar on post-punk New Wave-esque songs that would fit in rotation on Sirius’ First Wave station. While Scott Munro shined on guitar, it was the duo synths working along with drummer Mike Wallace that raised the bar on New Material tracks like “Disarray” and “Espionage.” It was dance music… for people who don’t dance.

It was a great weekend of shows  and a great way to send off 2018, as I don’t see any other national touring indie bands coming through for the balance of the year…

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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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


David Nance album sneak peek (via Stereogum); The Sydney rising? A Deer A Horse, Screaming Plastic tonight..

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:49 pm October 2, 2018

by Tim McMahan,

Stereogum is hosting the new David Nance album, Peaced and Slightly Pulverized (2018, Trouble in Mind). Nance continues in the direction he was headed with his last one, Negative Boogie. It is very much as Stereogum describes it — a collection of psych-rock anthems with a heavy Hendrix overbite, huge, droning rock songs grounded in Nance’s grinding guitar and echoing vocals.

The record comes out Friday, but the rock show isn’t until Oct. 12 at Reverb (with Closeness). Nance apparently just played a stadium show opening for Jack White. Something tells me he’s on his way.

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What’s up with The Sydney? They hosted a rock show last night and have another tonight. In fact, look at their schedule on Facebook and their month is filling up. Is this the One Percent effect? After all, Marc Leibowitz and Jim Johnson took over ownership of The Sydney in August.

The answer is likely no. Tonight’s show with Brooklyn indie band A Deer, A Horse, is not a One Percent Production. And The Sydney still isn’t listed as a venue on the One Percent website.

That said, One Percent is bringing Australian powerhouse indie band Middle Kids to The Sydney on Dec. 8 — that’s a marquee show. Could more be on the way?

Anyway, tonight it’s A Deer A Horse at The Sydney. Check out a track by the band below. Opening is Houma and Screaming Plastic. The 10 p.m. show is a mere $5.

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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 © 2018 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Gordon, Art Bazaar; The Funs, Dumb Beach tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:48 pm September 28, 2015

Gordon at The Sydney, Sept. 25, 2015.

Gordon at The Sydney, Sept. 25, 2015.

by Tim McMahan,

Nice turnout for the Sidney Buchanan art show at The Little Gallery Friday night. You can check out the show anytime this week before 5 p.m., just swing by the gallery. It’s located right across the street from The Sydney in Benson. Sidney’s work is amazing, and affordable. Maybe too affordable.

I spent Friday night hanging out with Sidney’s son, Patrick, who you may remember from the classic ’90s punk band Mousetrap. Patrick lives in Miami these days. We talked about music, what’s been going on in Omaha over the past few years and how Benson and the rest of the city’s changed.

As the art show came to a close at 9, I mentioned that I was headed to The Sydney later that night to see Gordon, a band I thought he’d like, and to my surprise, Patrick said he’d meet there at midnight. After I left the art show I began to feel anxious about Gordon. Did I oversell the band? Just that sort of thing has happened to me in the past — I talk too highly of a band or compare them to another band and inevitably, the person I’m talking to sees them and they either 1) suck, or 2) sound nothing like what I compared them to.

I got to The Sydney just before midnight, as A Ferocious Jungle Cat was still doing their set. Patrick had already arrived. It’s safe to say The Sydney has the worst PA I’ve heard since, well,  I saw bands play at the old Down Under last November. The Sydney’s PA is on par with what you’d find at a typical house show. Overblown, flat, noisy. Pretty awful, and much worse than I remembered the last time I saw a band play there. My anxiety grew.

Arm Wrestling during Art Bazaar at The Sydney, Sept. 25, 2015.

Arm Wrestling during Art Bazaar at The Sydney, Sept. 25, 2015.

Friday night’s event at The Sydney was a fundraiser for Benson First Friday, which recently attained a 501(c)3 non-profit status. A pair of super-tall drag queens strolled around in wigs and high heels, having performed earlier in the evening.  After Jungle Cat finished a table was set up for the Finals of the evening-long arm wrestling content. Fun. After that, the hosts announced a number of raffle ticket winners of lovely gift baskets.

And then Gordon came on. I’ve seen the four-piece a few times, most recently playing outside behind The Sweatshop Gallery as part of Sweatfest this past summer. Despite the PA, Gordon did not disappoint, though their set did start off rather tenuous, sounding different than I remembered them, with two guitars playing laid-back indie stuff.

Things really got rolling when frontman Aaron Parker put down his guitar and walked off the front of the Sydney’s small platform stage with microphone in hand and did his best Ian Curtis impression on songs that sounded clearly influenced by Joy Division. Buchanan asked me if I thought Gordon knew who they were, and I said I didn’t know, but that the music’s resemblance couldn’t have been a coincidence.  But then again, another of their songs reminded me of a Mousetrap tune, a band that likely played its first show before Parker was born.

Leaning over, yelling into the mic while patrons strolled past to and from the bathroom, Parker pushed as hard as he could, making the most out of that crappy PA, looking up and following people with a bug-eyed stare as they walked back to their tables while has band continued to shred from the stage. I glanced over at Buchanan and could tell he liked what he heard. These guys were making Nebraska proud, having no clue that they were performing in front of one of the city’s Golden Age legends.

Buchanan gave the ultimate compliment after the set: “I’d definitely see them again.” No band can ask for anything more.

Your next chance to see Gordon is this Sunday when they open for Cheap Girls at Slowdown Jr.  along with Eric in Outspace and The Lupines. Do not miss it.

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Speaking of things not to miss, there’s a no-miss show at The Brothers Lounge this very night. Chicago punk bands The Funs headline. Formed in 2009, the duo released their first LP, S/T, in 2013, and have opened West Coast dates for The Breeders. Opening is Nathan Ma & The Rosettes and Dumb Beach. $5, 10 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 © 2015 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.