Live Review: Wagon Blasters, Half Trust, Gerald Lee, Jr.; Vinyl Williams, Dendrons, Cat Piss tonight…

Category: Blog,Reviews — Tags: , , , , , — @ 8:24 am February 27, 2023
Wagon Blasters at Grapefruit Records, Feb. 24, 2023.

by Tim McMahan,

Prior to Friday night’s in-store CD release show by the Wagon Blasters for the release of the In Frontier We Trust singles compilation CD I asked the originator of both bands, Gary Dean Davis, why he was having the show at a record store. I attended a Simon Joyner performance at Grapefruit last year (Simon runs the place) and found it quaint, cozy and more than a little cramped.

I suppose punk rock has always been about doing things in unconventional ways and places,” Gary said. “Over the years many of my favorite shows were in unconventional places. Many of which were at record stores: Firehose at Homer’s during a blizzard in ’87, Brimstone Howl also at Homer’s, Man or Astroman at Drastic Plastic, the Almost Music shows (a long defunct record store in Benson/Blackstone), along with a multitude of basement and even apartment shows I’ve played at or seen. I supposed the best reason is that people are there to listen to music.”

And thus was the case Friday night at Grapefruit. A small PA was set up in the corner of the store and the crowd of around 40 or 50 listened either standing or sitting among the bins of vinyl records. Yes, it was cozy and cramped, but it was also a lot of fun. 

Gerald Lee, Jr., at Grapefruit Records, Feb. 24, 2023.

Gerald Lee, Jr., a.k.a. Lee Meyerpeter, the frontman of a score of bands from the ‘90s through today (including Cactus Nerve Thing, Bad Luck Charm and Filter Kings) played a solo set with electric guitar that included tunes from all these bands (yes, including Cactus). Lee drops a slight country twang into everything he sings, whether it’s a punk song or a whiskey-fueled ballad. He closed his set with Filter Kings’ classic “100 Proof Man,” a song that was always destined to be covered by The Highwaymen but never was.

Bill Thornton and Gary Dean Davis – Half Trust – at Grapefruit Records, Feb. 24, 2023.

That was followed by a short set by Gary Dean Davis and Bill Thornton on acoustic guitar – playing as “Half Trust,” – tunes from Frontier Trust. Both seated, Gary explained that the CD was made so his kids could listen to their dad’s Frontier Trust songs in their cars, which is exactly what I did after the show. Mastered by Doug Van Sloun, the songs on In Frontier We Trust never sounded better. I think I own all of the 45s in which the CD was derived and can attest that the mix is brighter and more urgent than the vinyl. Gary, I’m sure, will be disappointed to hear that as he believes vinyl is the perfect medium, and maybe he was right… 20 years ago. 

You can order a copy of the CD directly from the Wagon Blasters’ Bandcamp page for a mere $10.

Finally, the rest of the Wagon Blasters took the stage, plugged in and played a rousing set of fan favorites with Gary providing his trademark stage jumps and between-song “Thanks!” Oh, what a night. 

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The rock continues tonight as psych-pop band Vinyl Williams headlines at Slowdown Jr. The band’s last album, Cosmopolis, was released last year on Requiem Pour Un Twister.  Chicago indie band Dendrons co-headlines the bill, which also includes Omaha’s own Cat Piss and The Dirts. That’s a lot of music for $15. Show starts 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.


#TBT: Oct. 5, 2006 — Omaha enacts first smoking ban; new Good Life track(s); Vinyl Williams, Chemicals tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , , — @ 12:50 pm October 20, 2016

Sokol Underground used to be one of the smokiest venues in Omaha...

Sokol Underground used to be one of the smokiest venues in Omaha…

by Tim McMahan,

This being Throwback Thursday, here’s a dip into the Lazy-i Wayback Machine to 2006, a few days after Omaha’s first smoking ban went into effect. Hard to believe it’s been 10 years. There is an entire generation of music-goers who have no concept of what I’m describing in the following column from 2006, and even now it seems strange that smoking once was allowed in restaurants, and Sokol Underground (which, at the time, was the primary indie rock music venue in Omaha). The citywide smoking ban for all bars would come more than a year later.

Column 95 — The stench of rock… – Oct. 5, 2006     

Just when you thought you’d heard all you care to about Omaha’s new pseudo-smoking ban that went into effect Sunday, here’s another comment, this time from the musicians’ perspective. What wasn’t pointed out in the column below was the scorecard as to where smoking is and isn’t allowed. Smoking isn’t allowed at Sokol Underground, Sokol Auditorium and Mick’s — that’s the extent of the ban’s impact. It’s still allowed for the next five years at O’Leaver’s, The 49’r and The Saddle Creek Bar. If you don’t know the rules, here’s an abbreviated explanation: Smoking is allowed in bars that don’t serve food (O’Leaver’s, The 49’r) and isn’t allowed in multi-use facilities (Sokol) or bars that serve food unless those bars offer keno (The Saddle Creek Bar). Mick’s, which doesn’t have a kitchen, voluntarily banned smoking.

Column 95: The Smell of Rock
Is smoking part of rock ‘n’ roll?

Before we move forward, we must understand and agree on this one conceit: Smoking holds no value in a human being’s life. None. It is not essential for your continued existence. In fact, it’s unquestionably destructive. It shaves the very essence of life away from the individuals that imbibe in its behavior.

Anyone who smokes cigarettes knows this, and has known it from the first puff. Just like those who drink bottle after bottle of beer and/or wine know that their lives are in no way being enhanced by the activity. There is no argument for drinking alcohol, especially when the endeavor taken to excess results in inebriation, loss of reasonable judgment and motor skills, and a painful hangover. Anyone who drinks knows this, and has known it from their first under-age beer.

To say that second-hand smoke is more dangerous than the secondhand effects of a drunk smashing into your car is to ignore the fact that more people are killed driving than by almost any other activity, and that a huge number of those deaths are the result of drunken driving.

That said, smoking and drinking are a part of rock and roll right along with sex and drugs. Always have been. Always will be? Who knows, but probably, in some form or another, regardless of any awkwardly developed citywide ban that says it’s okay to smoke in some bars but not in others.

Part of the experience of going to rock shows for as long as I can remember has been going home afterward and stripping off my tar and nicotine-soaked clothing so as not to contaminate the sheets before passing out, then picking up my t-shirt in the morning and smelling the previous night’s stench. Now that’s rock and roll. And it’s going to become a thing of the past, eventually.

No one knows this more than the people who make a living performing in the smoke dens, but even among them, there is no agreement that the smoking ban is good or necessary.

Take Matt Whipkey, lead singer/guitarist of Anonymous American (Who, by the way, will be releasing a new album by the end of the year). Whipkey’s down with the smoking ban. “In terms of my personal dexterity, you smell better after you get done,” he said of playing gigs in smoke-free bars. “When playing out of state or at smoke-free places like The Zoo Bar (in Lincoln), I’m not absolutely disgusting afterward.”

Whipkey says the smoking ban might even bring more people to gigs, people who have avoided going to shows because they can’t stand the smoke. “Times are changing,” he said. “You can’t do it in Minneapolis, Lawrence, New York, Madison, California or Lincoln. I assume you can’t do it in most cities. It’s just how it goes.”

And then there’s Dave Goldberg, guitarist/keyboardist/drummer/vocalist of The Terminals (Who, by the way, have a new record coming out on Cleveland’s Dead Beat Records). “It’s like taking the smut out of Time’s Square,” he said of the ban. “I’m against it. Rock and roll is supposed to be bad for you. Smoking has been a part of it since its inception. And this is coming from a non-smoker.”

Forget about the sanitized confines of a smoke-free lounge. A punk from back in the day, Goldberg prefers the grime. “I’m partial to a seedy atmosphere, and smoking is definitely part of it,” he said. “I’ve gone to blues clubs for years now, and it seems to go hand-in-hand. Smoky rock clubs — it’s almost like that’s how it should be.”

Unlike Whipkey, Goldberg thinks the ban will have a negative impact on audiences. “In Lincoln, you noticed the effects immediately,” he said of the Capitol City’s ban, which has been around for almost a year. “Duffy’s, for example, has a beer garden, and a lot of times a band will be playing to a partially full or worse-sized audience on account of everyone being outside smoking.”

The one thing Whipkey and Goldberg do agree on: Playing in smoky bars has never impacted their performance quality, or so they think. “Part of my vocal style is the accumulation of secondhand smoke caked on my lungs over the years,” Whipkey said. “Maybe now I’ll sound like a choir boy.” Let’s hope not.

Goldberg, who just finished touring the country as drummer for theater-rock legend Thor, has played in both smoke and smoke-free environments. “I’ve never noticed a difference,” he said, “but I spent a lot of time in smoky bars, perhaps I’m used to it.”

So who’s right? Smoking is indefensible. Banning it in clubs like Sokol Underground will only save lives and keep my clothes and hair smelling better after a night of noise. But you know what? I’m still going to miss it. — Lazy-i, Oct. 5, 2006

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Yeah, well, guess what, I don’t.

Back to the future….

Today The Good Life released via Stereogram (here) a new track recorded during the Everbody’s Coming Down sessions called “Are You Afraid of Dying?” The Good Life hits the road with Jake Bellows beginning early next month for a tour that concludes Nov. 28 at fabulous O’Leaver’s. Speaking of outtakes, here’s another one from the same sessions that dropped last month (and that somehow I missed):

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Tonight at Reverb, LA’s Vinyl Williams headlines with Oquoa and Chemicals. $7, 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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.