The Thermals quit; Cursive rumblings; Flower Moon comp; Anna McClellan review; Erika Wennerstrom (Heartless Bastards) tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 12:42 pm April 10, 2018

The Thermals at Slowdown Jr., May 6, 2016. The band announced its break-up yesterday.

by Tim McMahan,

The Thermals yesterday announced that they’re breaking up. I first read about it here at Brooklyn Vegan though it was announced via their Facebook page. The reason given: “we feel our band has reached far beyond our initial expectations and goals, and are stepping away from it while we still cherish it.”

It got me wondering why bands make these sorts of announcements; especially if they’re not contractually obligated to do anything like record another album or tour. The Thermals are on Saddle Creek Records, which historically has worked with bands on an album-by-album basis — i.e., I’m not aware of any three-record deals with Saddle Creek (then again, I’m not privy to their contracts).

I guess with some bands there would be concern over owning the name. What if Hutch Harris decided to record a solo album and call it a Thermals album? Is that really possible, would he do such a thing? I can’t imagine it. It would be like Tim Kasher releasing a solo record and calling it a Cursive album. No way. I can see that being an issue with arena acts maybe, but not indie bands at this level.

So why announce that you’re breaking up? Just go off and do your thing, be it a solo album or some other project, and if/when the mood strikes and the timing’s right, get together with your comrades and do shows or write another record.

Bright Eyes, which is really a loose-knit collection surrounding Conor Oberst, Mike Mogis and Nate Walcott, never really announced a break-up. The Faint went for years between records. Cursive has been known to “go on hiatus” while members do other things like The Good Life or Mayday.

I’m rambling now. The Thermals are gone, but I wouldn’t count them out. Or heck, maybe they’ll never play together again…

* * *

Speaking of Cursive, the band has been named among those performing at Fest 17 in Gainesville, Florida Oct. 26-28. I’ve heard Cursive has been busy recording a new album slated for release on their new label, 15 Passenger Records. With this fest date now in the books, can a full tour announcement be far off?

* * *

High Up, Orenda Fink, Jake Bellows and Maria Taylor are among the artists on the upcoming 2-LP comp album Friends and Family Volume 1 , out May 11 on Taylor’s Flower Moon Records.

These are all musicians I greatly respect and have been fans of for years – but what makes the compilation unique is that they are also part of a collaborative community of friends and family members who have been working together and supporting one another for years. I wanted this compilation, and Flower Moon Records, to be a vehicle to continue to support, promote, and celebrate their work.” The quote is unattributed, but I assume it’s Maria Taylor saying that.

There’s a lot of other familiar names on the 16-track list, including Whispertown, Nik Freitas, Umm and Taylor Hollingsworth. Full track listing and preorder info here.

* * *

Q1 2018 CD reviews continue. Read them all here at The Reader website.

Anna McClellan, Yes and No (2018, Father/Daughter)

Anna McClellan, Yes and No (Father/Daughter) — More than any other female indie singer-songwriter doing piano-driven confessionals, my heart hurts when I hear her slightly off-kilter voice warble through a set of yearning love notes. McClellan unashamedly holds nothing back when she belts out her stories unpolished and beautiful. She’s a broken-hearted nerd who deserves to win, just like the rest of us.

* * *

Tonight The Waiting Room hosts Erika Wennerstrom of Heartless Bastards fame. her new album rocks. Jessica Errett opens at 8 p.m. $17.

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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.


New Maria Taylor Dec. 9; Thermals’ Hutch Harris quits touring; Lincoln Calling begins (Icky Blossoms, Conny Franko); Steve Gunn, Atmosphere tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:55 pm October 6, 2016
The crowd gets into Atmosphere at The Maha Music Festival, 8/15/15. Atmosphere plays tonight at Sokol Auditorium.

Atmosphere at The Maha Music Festival, 8/15/15. He plays tonight at Sokol Auditorium.

by Tim McMahan,

Maria Taylor’s press people announced this morning that the former Omahan and member of Azure Ray will be releasing a new album called In the Next Life on her own Flower Moon Records label.

Says the press release: “Maria co-produced In The Next Life alongside Nik Freitas (Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band), which features guest vocals from Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes), Joshua Radin, Macey Taylor (Bright Eyes, Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, Jenny Lewis, AA Bondy), Jake Bellows (Neva Dinova), Louis Schefano (Remy Zero, Suspicious Light), Morgan Nagler (Whispertown), and Tiffany Osborn.”

Quite a list of guest artists. No tour listed. Looks like Maria will be hosting her album release show at The Troubadour in LA. Very che’che’ …

* * *
This article written by The Thermals’ Hutch Harris has been making a lot of waves on social media. Harris outlines six reasons why he no longer will tour (which should be a bit of a downer for Saddle Creek Records, who released the last Thermals album).

If I had to sum it up, I’d say Harris is just tired of the grind of the road after 14 years.  You can’t blame him. What I find ironic is that there are so many young bands who would kill for his situation — to be able to play their music for a living. A lot of young bands who desperately need to tour struggle because they either don’t know how to book a tour, don’t know how to promote a tour (or their band), and simply can’t afford it. Fourteen years ago, record labels played a larger role getting bands over those hurdles.

Well, no ones buying records anymore, and being on a label (especially if you’re a new band) provides few of those benefits. As labels decline, we’ve got to figure out a way to help bands get their show on the road. As for Hutch Harris, we’ll miss seeing you, bro, but something tells me we haven’t seen the last of you.

* * *

Lincoln Calling 2016 kicks off this evening. Some might say it’s the start of a new era for the festival, which has been going strong for more than a decade. This year, Hear Nebraska took over the reigns and expanded the band offerings to more out-of-towners than ever before. With its multiple venues/stages and A-list indie and local talent, could this be the start of a Nebraska version of SXSW?

The schedule for tonight’s line-ups is online right here. Highlights include performances by Conny Franko (M34n Str33ts), Icky Blossoms and Halfwit. It just gets better over the next two days. Get your one-day passes or three-day wristband (the best value) at the lincolncalling website.

Meanwhile, back here in Omaha, there’s a couple outstanding shows going on.

Matador recording artist Steve Gunn headlines at Reverb Lounge. Gunn’s new album, Eyes on the Lines, (which Pitchfork gave a massive 8.0 rating) has a similar laid-back feel as the last few Kurt Vile albums, which makes sense when you consider Gunn used to play guitar in Vile’s band. They’re calling this folk rock, but its more of a throwback to carefree ’60s rock that sounds like Jackson Browne fronting Grateful Dead, especially on tracks like “Full Moon Tide.” Opening is Omaha’s own Kate Berreckman. $13, 9 p.m.

The huge show is at Sokol Auditorium where indie hip-hop goliath Atmosphere will perform along with a slew of acts including Brother Ali, deM atlas, Plain Ole Bill and Last Word.  Atmosphere wowed the Maha Festival audience a couple years ago with the most upbeat set of the festival. $25, early 7 p.m. start time.

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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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: The Thermals at Slowdown Jr.; the reluctant expatriates (in the column)…

Category: Blog,Column,Reviews — Tags: , , — @ 12:50 pm May 9, 2016
The Thermals at Slowdown Jr., May 6, 2016.

The Thermals at Slowdown Jr., May 6, 2016.

by Tim McMahan,

So why aren’t The Thermals more popular? They’ve been putting out solid, albeit by-the-numbers indie rock albums for 13 years on established labels Sub Pop, Kill Rock Stars and now our very own Saddle Creek, touring incessantly the entire time. Their meat-and potatoes anthems sport a sly, cynical message and are catchy and fun.

And yet here they were Friday night playing to a less-than-capacity crowd in Slowdown Jr. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t understand the music business. How do bands get to that next level? At they very least they play like these guys. Performing as a four-piece, The Thermals ran through their set list very matter-of-factly, rolling out one song after the next, giving frontman Hutch Harris just enough time to make the crowd laugh with his snappy between-song patter. Clever, funny, his comments are the embodiment of Portlandia (actually funnier).

The band rolled out a number of songs off their latest album, We Disappear (2016, Saddle Creek) that fit right in with everything else. If there’s a nit to pick it’s that their music lacks variety in pace, tone, dynamics, but maybe that’s just the nature of this style of indie rock. Or maybe that’s what’s holding them back.

* * *

The new issue of The Reader is out, which includes this month’s installment of Over the Edge. The topic: Where are you moving to once Trump wins the election? Find it on newsstands around town or read it online right here. Also in this issue, my recent blog entry concerning this year’s Maha Music Festival (which you can read right here).

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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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Live Review: Cross Record; The Thermals, Pro-Magnum, BFF tonight; Schwervon! Saturday…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 12:42 pm May 6, 2016
Cross Record at O'Leaver's, May 5, 2016.

Cross Record at O’Leaver’s, May 5, 2016.

by Tim McMahan,

The odd thing about O’Leaver’s new beer garden – you don’t really know how many people are at the club to see a band until they start playing. When I arrived last night right before Cross Record started, there was maybe a dozen people in the bar — meanwhile, there was a large crowd hanging out in beer garden.

Needless to say, when the music started, a good portion of that crowd came back inside. Cross Record is a two-piece act from a small town a half-hour outside of Austin whose music embodies the West Texas open prairies, but without even a hint of twang. In fact, the duo has a lot in common sonic-wise with Duluth heroes Low, with Emily Cross playing the Alan Sparhawk role on electric guitar and vocals and Dan Dyszynski as Mimi Parker seated behind a kick drum adding harmonies and additional guitar.

There’s even a “slow-core” sentiment to much of the music, which featured plodding, lonely beats and far-away vocals interrupted by feedback and noise. Haunting and beautiful. But even better were the more upbeat (but no less sinister) rockers where Cross and Dyszynski traded riffs. Good stuff. Wonder if we’ll see the show pop up at Live @ O’Leaver’s…?

* * *

A couple shows worth mentioning this weekend:

Tonight’s highlight is Saddle Creek Records act The Thermals playing at Slowdown Jr. The band is out supporting their latest release, the sublime We Disappear (2016, Saddle Creek). I’m a bit surprised that this is a small-room show, considering how many people enjoyed the band at Maha in 2013. Opening is Summer Cannibals — not the Patti Smith song, the Portland Trio on New Moss Records.  $12, 9 p.m.

Fire Retarded at O'Leaver's Feb. 21, 2015.

Fire Retarded at O’Leaver’s Feb. 21, 2015.

Also happening tonight, the mighty Pro-Magnum headlines at fabulous OLeaver’s. Joining them are the amazing-though-offensively-named Madison Wisconsin band Fire Retarded and DWNR. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Also, Mint Wad Willy is playing a late show at The Barley Street Tavern. And lest you forget, it’s Benson First Friday. If you’re out and about Maple Street, drop into the Little Gallery from 6 to 9 p.m. where we’re celebrating the opening of “Pyre: A Celebration of the Beauty in Time Passing and Time Awaiting” by artist Jamie Hardy. More here info here.

Saturday night Milk Run is hosting Schwervon!, a Shawnee, KS, two-piece indie band that’s toured with Jeffrey Lewis and Kimya Dawson. Lot Walks and Super Ghost open. $8, 9:30 p.m.

That’s it. If I missed your show, put it in the comments section. Have a great weekend.

* * *

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.


New Thermals drops; new Dolores Diaz date; Almost Music sale, show; Noah’s Ark…, Making Movies tonight; Those Far Out Arrows, Lucy Dacus Saturday…

Noah's Ark Was a Spaceship at The Waiting Room, April 20, 2013. The band celebrates the release of their new EP tonight at O'Leaver's.

Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship at The Waiting Room, April 20, 2013. The band celebrates the release of their new EP tonight at O’Leaver’s.

by Tim McMahan,

The Thermals see the release of their new album, We Disappear, today on Saddle Creek Records. The album was produced by Chris Walla (ex-Death Cab for Cutie). You can check it out on Spotify, and in the usual digital outlets. I’m listening to it for the first time now. Sounds a lot more…embraceable than their older stuff. What can I say, I didn’t like their last album. This one I’m digging. They’re starting to remind me of Ted Leo (though not nearly as quirky). Thermals are headed to Omaha May 6 at The Slowdown (of course).

* * *

Omaha super group Dolores Diaz & the Standby Club, who debuted at O’Leaver’s Jan. 3, announced another date, this time at The Waiting Room May 21. The country & western cover band includes half of Bright Eyes (Conor Oberst and Mike Mogis) along with Ben Brodin, Miwi La Lupa, Roger Lewis, Dan McCarthy Phil Schaffart, Matt Maginn, and Oberst’s wife, Corina. The best tunes from that O’Leaver’s set were placed online at Live @ O’Leaver’s (here). Will the band do the same covers or attempt new material? You’ll have to wait until May 21 to find out.

* * *

Almost Music is getting ready for its big move to the Blackstone District with a massive SALE today and tomorrow. The deals: 50% off books, 20% off used vinyl, 10% off new vinyl, and tons of stuff for 99 cents.

In addition, Almost Music is “warming up” its new space by throwing and art and variety show tonight featuring readings and performances by Megan Siebe, Jim Schroeder, Sarah Gleason, Simon Joyner and Louise Requin, Dan Crane and Dave Goldberg. The new place is at 3925 Farnam St. and the free show starts at 8 p.m.

* * *

What else is happening? Well it looks like another O’Leaver’s weekend (or as Ian would call it, “another lost weekend”).

It starts tonight with Noah’s Ark Was a Spaceship celebrating the release of their new self-released EP, Three, recorded by Ben Brodin at ARC Studios. Opening the show are Mint Wad Willy, Eric in Outerspace and DJ Joe Benson. $5, 9:30 p.m.

Also tonight, Afro-Latino rock band Making Movies from Kansas City headlines at The Lookout Lounge. Their second album, A La Deriva, was produced by Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin. Who doesn’t want to rock in Spanish? The Regulation and Anthems opens. $8, 9 p.m.

Tomorrow night (Saturday) it’s back to fabulous O’Leaver’s for Those Far Out Arrows’ album release show. If the record, From the Sun, sounds distinctly like Benson it could be because the album was recorded in brothers Ben and Evan Keelan-White’s Benson digs. The trio is rounded out by Jon Ochsner on bass. Their music has an authentic ’60s psych-garage sound influenced by VU, the Troggs and 13th Floor Elevator, as well as early Brian Jonestown Massacre. Opening the show are Dead Flower Preservation Band and Heavy Lungs. $5, 9 p.m.

Also Saturday night, rock ‘n’ rollers Big Wheel headline at The Brothers Lounge with The Electroliners. No price listed for this one. Starts at 9 p.m. (though Brothers’ shows always start late).

Over at Milk Run, Lucy Dacus headlines Saturday night. Dacus hails from beautiful Richmond, VA and plays thick-rhythm rock with massive hooks. Check out the tracks below. Infectious. Opening are Sowers, Badland Girls and Crypt Kid. Why Milk Run bills insists on four-band shows, I do not know, but it means some late nights. $5, 9 p.m.

Milk Run has another 4-band bill Sunday night, headlined by Cincinnati “lush-punk” band Leggy. Opening are The Ridgways, Bien Fang (Rachel Tomlinson Dick’s latest band), and Lawrence feedback/delay punkers Arc Flash. $5, 9 p.m.

That’s all I got. If I missed your show, put it in the comments. Have a great weekend!

* * *

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.


Matthew Sweet: New album could arrive this summer; new music from Damien Jurado, HÆLOS, The Thermals…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 1:59 pm January 12, 2016
Matthew Sweet center stage at the 1200 Club March 28, 2015. Sweet gave an update on his upcoming album.

Matthew Sweet center stage at the 1200 Club March 28, 2015. Sweet gave an update on his upcoming album.

by Tim McMahan,

Did you participate in Matthew Sweet’s Kickstarter campaign back in the summer of 2014? Wondering where the new album is that had an estimated delivery date of April 2015?

Well, Sweet chimed in with an update yesterday to campaign contributors saying that recording has been completed, mostly.

“All the songs I recorded with Ric in October are sung and essentially finished,” he wrote. “Over the next few days, I’ll be writing the very last songs of the project. That’s right, there will be a final batch!…Looks like the final tally will be around 33 songs. Everyone should know I am working, listening and scheming all the time to make this extra special.”

Sweet said later this month The Bangles’ Debbi Peterson will be coming to Omaha to record the very last batch of drums. Other guest musicians for the record have included Greg Leisz, and Val McCallum (who have worked with Lucinda Williams, Eric Clapton and Jackson Browne), Darian Sahanaja (Brian Wilson, Zombies, the Wondermints) and Al Jardine of the Beach Boys. There are a ton more.

“This last batch (of recordings) should be done by April, and detail and guest work for the first 24 songs will also continue til then,” Sweet said. “Then I will be mixing the album in earnest into May. From experience I would say it is very likely the record and rewards will be delivered sometime this summer.”

Gotta love Kickstarter.

* * *

New music is starting to take form for 2016.

Damien Jurado has a new album, Visions of Us on the Land, coming out March 18 on Secretly Canadian. Here’s the first single:

Matador announced that their recent signing, HÆLOS, will see their label debut, Full Circle, released March 18. Here’s the first single, “Oracle.” Very trippy.

And Saddle Creek act The Thermals announced their new album, We Disappear, comes out March 25. Here’s the first single, “Hey You”:

Much more to come…

* * *

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.


Live Review: At Age 5, Maha Is All Growed Up (in the column); Klemmensen hits goal, Vovk/Carl go Kickstarter; Beach Boys tonight…

Maha's cup overfloweth. A view at the crowd at this year's festival while the Thermals perform.

Maha’s cup overfloweth: A view of the crowd at this year’s festival while the Thermals perform.

by Tim McMahan,

In this week’s column, a recap of this year’s Maha Music Festival. You can read it in this week’s issue of The Reader or online right here. Or heck, why not just read it below?

Over the Edge: At Age 5, the Maha Music Festival Is All Growed Up

Was this year’s Maha Music Festival a success?

The concert, held last Saturday at Stinson Park in Aksarben Village, drew 5,100 people. If that number seems light — especially compared to your typical CenturyLink Arena concert — consider that you cannot hear any of the bands that performed at Maha on your local FM radio. None. They don’t call it “indie rock” for nothing.

Tre Brashear, one of the festival’s organizers, said Saturday’s 5,100 was a 20 percent increase in attendance compared to the 4,300 there last year to see Garbage and Desaparecidos in the rain.

It was a big crowd. In fact the first thing I noticed after walking through the gates was that Maha had somehow made the park shrink. There wasn’t much green space for the crowds between the massive duo stages, the food vendors on Mercy Street, The Globe performance tent and the Bellevue University Community Campus.

Despite that, Brashear said Maha has yet to outgrow Aksarben Village, at least from a music standpoint. “Stinson is large and can hold more,” he said. “Furthermore, parking still continues to be pretty easy and convenient.”

On the other hand, Maha’s vendor space on Mercy Street has become too constrained. “People want more food options, more vendors,” Brashear said, “but we don’t have any place to put them unless we can figure out a way to put more items on the far side of the park.”

But beyond vendor congestion, if Maha ever bags its dream act — Wilco — organizers will have little choice but to look elsewhere, as the band could easily attract well over the park’s 10,000 capacity.

Enough about logistics. Here’s rundown of the bands I saw after arriving midway through the concert.

Saddle Creek Records’ latest recruits, The Thermals, played the straight-forward power-punk the trio is known for, including a number of songs off their latest album, Desperate Ground. The crowd seemed to like it, though they stood like scarecrows holding their beers and nodding their heads to the unchanging straight-four beat.

While The Thermals sounded good on the massive “Weitz Stage,” local boys Criteria sounded even better on the smaller “Centris Stage.” Don’t ask me why, but that junior-sized set-up sounded fuller (and louder) than its big brother, but maybe the band had something to do with it. Criteria, also a Saddle Creek act, boasts more dynamic songwriting vs. The Thermals’ play-and-repeat, one-gear punk style.

None of that mattered when Bob Mould took the main stage and blew them both away. Grinning throughout the set, Mould rifled through a “greatest hits” selection that included favorites off his Sugar albums, new stuff off his lastest solo record, The Silver Age, and classic Hüsker Dü in the form of “I Apologize” off New Day Rising. Bassist Jason Narducy filled out the vocals when Mould couldn’t, adding tasty harmonies throughout the set.

Mould was the highlight of the day for me and for a lot of others I spoke to including Brashear, who said Maha had been trying to book him since the festival began five years ago. As for those who complained that Mould’s set was “too loud,” the term “pussy” comes to mind. It’s Bob frickin’ Mould, folks. What did you expect?

Which brings us to Digital Leather. A few years ago during a lunch meeting I tried to convince the Maha guys to book the band by playing songs off their album, Blow Machine. When the execs heard stand-out track “Studs in Love,” with lines “I like Wrangler butts / I like hairy asses / I like men” they just shook their heads and said, “Maha’s a family event; we can’t have that.”

Cut to last Saturday and there was Digital Leather on stage singing about hairy asses to a crowd that barely noticed. Why would they? Isn’t rock ‘n’ roll supposed to be controversial and/or risky? What’s risky about hairy asses?

The thought that Maha organizers would be offended by Digital Leather seemed ridiculous after Matt & Kim took the stage. The keyboard-and-drums duo that plays cute, shiney indie pop dance tunes spent most of the time between songs yelling profanities at the audience. Every other word out of drummer Kim Schifino began with an F or MF. I guess they needed something to “rough up” their cutesy veneer and all those colored balloons just wasn’t cutting it.

It took about a dozen grips a half hour to get the set ready for festival closer The Flaming Lips. T-shirted stage hands carried huge chrome-plated globes while electricians carefully draped light strings from massive overhead crossbars. A few minutes before the set, out walked frontman/messiah Wayne Coyne in his shiny electric-blue suit, his graying mane blowing in the summer breeze. Coyne climbed atop the mountain of silver embryos and stood like a hipster Jesus grasping a weird fetus doll in his left hand.

If you came for the spectacle, you got it. The Lips’ amazing light show included a huge digital back-screen that blazed with glowing imagery while pin-lights flowed from above Coyne down the chrome mountain and back to the sky like an LED volcano.

Yes, there was plenty of smoke; yes there was confetti. Too bad there weren’t many hits. Coyne and Co. spent the first 20 minutes droning through depressing tonal music indicative of the band’s most recent album, The Terror. They would close out their set with hit, “Do You Realize?” but by then I was pedaling through Elmwood Park on my way home.

So was Maha a success? Artistically, it was the strongest festival they’ve ever put on. Brashear said it was financially successful as well, thanks to strong sponsorships, heavy donations throughout the year, and best-ever ticket sales.

“We definitely made a profit,” Brashear said. “That profit is going to get rolled into making next year’s Maha ‘better.’ What does that mean? We don’t know just yet. Could mean more expensive talent and/or an additional day. It’s too early to tell.”

Over The Edge is a weekly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on culture, society, the media and the arts. Email Tim at

* * *

John Klemmensen met his piddly Kickstarter goal of $500, actually exceeded it by a couple hundred dollars. I am among those who donated enough to get JK to do cover. I’m still mulling my choice  — should I select one of my favorite Buckingham Nicks songs or ask John to breath new life into a song by a local artist? Decisions, decisions…

Meanwhile, Bret Vovk (a.k.a. Under Water Dream Machine) and Nick Carl (a.k.a. Kicky Von Narl) just launched a Kickstarter in support of their upcoming 3-week tour of the American Southwest and West Coast. “All the proceeds gathered will go toward the happenings of a successful tour and production of a brand new split LP, available exclusively (for a time) to their Kickstarter backers,” they say. Get in on the action right here.

* * *

Been kind of quiet show-wise since Maha. Not much happening tonight either, except for the next installment of The Record Club @ the Saddle Creek Shop (located in the Slowdown Compound), this time featuring The Beach Boy’s classic Pet Sounds album. The needle drops at 7 p.m. followed by a critical discussion of the record. As always, the event is free.

Also tonight, singer-songwriter Damon Dotson plays at Slowdown Jr. $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 © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


Lazy-i Interview: Ladyfinger on new record, new media; Love Drunk #104; Thermals sign to Saddle Creek…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , , , , — @ 1:50 pm January 31, 2013
The men of Ladyfinger, from left, are Pat Oakes, Dan Brennan, Chris Machmuller and Jamie Massey.

The men of Ladyfinger, from left, are Pat Oakes, Dan Brennan, Chris Machmuller and Jamie Massey.

by Tim McMahan,

Love and Aliens: Ladyfinger Releases Errant Forms

The evolution of Ladyfinger can be heard from the first track of the band’s new Saddle Creek Records release, Errant Forms.

“Renew” opens with brittle, electric guitar chords before the rhythm section of drummer Pat Oakes and bassist Dan Brennan slides beneath warm keyboards, Jamie Massey’s smokey, twirling guitar and frontman Chris Machmuller’s cool growl.

You could say Machmuller also sang on the band’s 2006 debut, Heavy Hands, but not like this. These days Machmuller really sings, confident on the ghostly, glowing high notes that follow the song’s prophetic line, “I will grow old.”

If it sounds “pretty” compared to the howling noise of Ladyfinger’s early years that’s because it is. Still, the music is no less bracing or powerful, just easier to grasp in its clarity.

Or as Machmuller put it, “There’s more space between the parts on this record.”

A brief history: Ladyfinger (also known by the legal restriction Ladyfinger (ne)) formed in 2004 out of three other bands: Massey from Race for Titles, Machmuller from Bleeders for Treats, and Oakes and bassist Ethan Jones from Putrescine The original foursome produced two albums, Heavy Hands and the 2009 followup, Dusk. After that, Jones left Ladyfinger to be replaced with “new guy” Brennan, formerly of rock band The ’89 Cubs.

Ladyfinger, Errant Forms (Saddle Creek, 2013)

Ladyfinger, Errant Forms (Saddle Creek, 2013)

Back to the present: Better singing means understandable lyrics. Good thing Machmuller knows how to tell a story. On Errant Forms‘ first single, “Dark Horse,” he spins a non-autobiographical yarn about a wild, irresponsible party hound who’s “looking for a road I ain’t ever gonna find” but finds it when he discovers his wife or girlfriend is carrying his baby. Coincidentally, Machmuller discovered his wife was in a “family way” shortly after writing the song.

Then there’s “Galactic” — also not auto-biographical…probably. The brutal rocker describes a guy who picks up signals in his head — numbers and images — obviously messages about an alien coup, which he explains with the line: “I’m a space invader and I think I can save this planet from galactic destroyers from space.” Rush’s 2112 has nothing on these guys.

Like their previous albums, Errant Forms was recorded by their old pal Matt Bayles, whose track record includes working with Mastodon, Minus the Bear, Pearl Jam and fellow Saddle Creekers Cursive.

Working with such an accomplished producer puts pressure on the band, Oakes said, especially when the band isn’t sure it’s ready to enter the studio.

“This record seemed like it was pieced together out of random parts more than the last ones,” Oakes said. “When we went in for Heavy Hands, we knew exactly what we wanted to do, and had played those songs a million times, but for this one, we asked ourselves, ‘Are we ready to record? What if this whole thing falls apart?’”

When it comes to working with Bayles, uncertainty could spell trouble. “Matt does not indulge you,” Machmuller said. “He refers to our sessions as ‘abridged.’ He’s used to having six to 12 weeks in the studio. We only had two weeks (at Omaha’s ARC Studio) to track 13 or 14 songs.”

“He’s very thorough, very meticulous, and that’s what makes him a good producer and engineer,” Oakes said. “If you push back, Matt will stand his ground and be a dick about it. He knows that time is of the essence, and he’s not going to negotiate with you.”

Good thing he likes these guys.

“He doesn’t do our records to make money” Massey added. “He’s been good to us when he didn’t have to be. He bends for us and we appreciate it.”

While the way they make records hasn’t changed much, the way the band and label sells them has. In the old days bands simply released records and hit the road, hoping college radio and good reviews piqued people’s interest.

These days marketing is all about online placement and social media. “The social network sphere is completely different than when Dusk came out,” Oakes said. “As a result, we’re seeing things happen with this record that have never happened before.”

Things like first single “Dark Horse” being selected as the “Daily Download” at, where readers can listen to and download the track for free. Massey credited Saddle Creek’s Jeff Tafolla, in charge of licensing and new media, for the increased exposure, including Errant Forms being available as a digital stream from taste-making music blog

But these new-fangled sales methods go beyond blogs. Tafolla suggested Ladyfinger launch a Twitter account (@ladyfingerne) as well as a Facebook page (

“All four of us have access to these accounts and can do what we want with them,” Oakes said, “but it gets complicated.”

“I’ve been signed up to six brand new things that I have to figure out,” Machmuller said. “I’m worried about keeping all the passwords straight.”

With fans now able to hear the entire album from their computers for free, some of the “specialness” that comes with buying an album has faded. That’s one reason Errant Forms is being offered on vinyl in addition to digital download. “We considered going the vinyl route with Dusk,” Machmuller said. “Vinyl has become less of a novelty and more of a collectible. We saw the trend even back then.”

Saddle Creek says Ladyfinger’s combined sales for their past two releases was somewhere north of 1,200 units, far from what’s needed to make a living. All four band members have day jobs. Brennan, 34, is a sound engineer at The Slowdown when he isn’t on the road working sound for bands like Cursive. Massey, 37, is an art director at Turnpost Creative Group and proprietor of The Sydney in Benson. Machmuller, 32, launched Workers Take Out and now runs O’Leaver’s Pub, while Oakes, 35, is a production manager at Ink Tank Merch, a custom screen printing company owned by Saddle Creek.

With families to support and a music industry in decline, why keep putting out records?

“At the end of the day, for me, it’s all about playing shows,” Oakes said. “And if we sell more albums, that could mean playing bigger shows.”

“None of us have never not been in a band,” Machmuller said. “I love hearing things in my head and hearing them become recorded music. That’s the best part.”

Ladyfinger plays with The Seen and Hussies this Friday, Feb. 1, at The Waiting Room, 6212 Maple St. Tickets are $8. Show starts at 9 p.m. For more information and tickets, go to

First published in The Reader. Copyright © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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More Ladyfinger… The fine folks at Love Drunk today released the new video for Ladyfinger’s “Away Too Long.” If you ever wondered what Saddle Creek Records’ world headquarters look like, here’s your chance to get a peek. Check it out below:

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The Thermals, Desperate Ground (Saddle Creek, 2013)

The Thermals, Desperate Ground (Saddle Creek, 2013)

Saddle Creek Records announced via Pitchfork (Who needs to issue a press release when you’ve got Pitchfork?) that the label signed (former) Sub Pop act The Thermals. The details, from the actual press release issued by the band:

“The Thermals are pleased to announce they have signed to Saddle Creek, a label the band has known and admired for many years. The Thermals and Saddle Creek have a long history of sleeping on floors together: The Thermals have toured with Cursive and Ladyfinger, and Hutch and Kathy organized the first Bright Eyes show in Portland way back in 1999.

“The band formed in 2002 and has released five records and toured 15 countries. The Thermals’ sixth LP and debut for Saddle Creek, Desperate Ground, will be released April 16 and is available now for pre-order at the Saddle Creek Online Store. The album was produced by John Agnello (Dinosaur Jr, Sonic Youth) in Hoboken, NJ. Agnello and The Thermals completed the record and evacuated the studio just hours before Hurricane Sandy ravaged New Jersey, a fate quite fitting when you consider the product. Desperate Ground is a true scrappy and scratchy return-to-form for The Thermals, with all the raw power and unhinged adolescent energy that made their early LP’s so insanely enjoyable.

“Lyrically, Desperate Ground is a brash and irresponsible ode to human violence, a black celebration of the inevitability of war and death. A dark and yet joyous affair, Desperate Ground tells the (murky) tale of a lone rogue in the night. One man, one path, one sword. An unceasing urge to destroy. A never-ending battle against the forces of nature. A destiny impossible to avoid.”

The signing could be good timing for Saddle Creek, as Sub Pop announced last week that it’s reissuing the band’s first three albums on vinyl. “On March 5, fans can own limited-edition, colored vinyl copies of 2003’s More Parts Per Million, 2004’s Fuckin’ A, and 2006’s The Body, the Blood, the Machine. The triple-reissue (which also includes the rare “No Culture Icons” 7″) comes on the 10th anniversary of the release of More Parts Per Million.”

The only Thermals album I’ve owned was More Parts… which reminded me a ton of Superchunk. I haven’t heard their last couple of albums. After 2008’s “Returning to the Fold” single, the band jumped ship from Sub Pop (or was pushed) and landed at Kill Rock Stars for two more LPs, the last of which was Personal Life in 2010.

The Thermals are no strangers to Omaha stages. They last played in Omaha at The Waiting Room in May 2011. Before that, they played Slowdown Jr. in April 2009, and before that, Sokol Underground with Thunder Power back in November 2007.

Hey Maha, here’s another band for you to consider for this year’s festival…

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The Whipkey Three opens tonight for touring Columbus, Ohio band Red Wanting Blue (Fanatic/EMI/Caroline) at The Waiting Room. $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 © 2013 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.


The Thermals, Little Brazil tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: — @ 12:57 pm May 31, 2011

by Tim McMahan,

In case you missed it, there was an update posted yesterday (which you can read here) that talked about MAHA local showcases and McCarthy Trenching and Big Harp, etc. Read it if you haven’t.

Tonight at The Waiting Room, it’s the return of The Thermals. The Portland band (was signed to Sub Pop, and now to Kill Rock Stars) has been coming ’round these parts for years. Opening band Morning Teleportation also hails from Portland and has a jangle-indie sound that borders on chamber pop. Also opening is local heroes Little Brazil, back in town smack-dab in the middle of tour. All three for $12. Show starts at 9.

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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 © 2011 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.