Friday, May 28, 2010

Weekend Roundup: Karaoke, hardcore and Good Old War

I hope all of you folks have a wonderful holiday weekend. I, for one, will be filling mine with yard work and barbecues. Hopefully the weather stays nice.

I'm also hoping to get to a few shows this weekend. Here are the highlights of the days ahead:

• Karaoke can be some drunk fun, but it's way cooler when you get to perform in front of a live band. Girl Drink Drunk provides that opportunity. They play Sunday at O'Leaver's. Check out the band's MySpace for a list of available songs.

• A bunch of area punk bands are opening up for hardcore punk group Millions of Dead Cops on Sunday at the Hole. Cordial Spew, Officially Terminated, Wooden Coat, Eastern Turkish, Youth & Tear Gas open the all-ages show.

• Highlight of the weekend for me would be Good Old War, an alt-folk outfit that a friend turned me onto recently. The band plays with Yukon Blonde and Audra Mae on Sunday. $10 tickets.

What are you hitting up this weekend? Share in the comments.

Jenny Lewis teams up with boyfriend for Jenny & Johnny

A couple places are reporting on Jenny Lewis' new project with boyfriend Johnathan Rice, which they're calling Jenny & Johnny.

As pointed out by others, few details exist about the band's music.

I do know that the duo recorded at ARC in Omaha with Mike Mogis. Mogis worked on the record with them after returning from the Monsters of Folk tour. He told me that they arrived just before one of Omaha's December blizzards, which quite literally snowed them into the studio and attached guest house.

Mogis said it fostered the creative spirit, so to speak, and Lewis and Rice loved both the studio and the snowy situation they found themselves in.

Go over to the band's official website to join the mailing list or check out their upcoming east coast tour dates.

* * *

The info I share came from a profile of Mogis, his studio and his role in Bright Eyes and as a producer that I wrote recently. Check it out.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bartolomei, Bocca Lupo and Ben Brodin (and how all these things fit together)

The last time I talked to Steve Bartolomei, it was around Christmas-time and we chatted about Mal Madrigal's latest album, "From The Fingers of Trees."

Now, Bartolomei has moved to Manhattan. And Mal Madrigal recorded another record at ARC that will be released soonish. And he started a record label.

The move to the coast was something that had been planned for awhile and was in the works when the "From The Fingers of Trees" was released in December. And the new Mal Madrigal record was recorded between the release show and the move east.

As for the label, Bocca Lupo Records, it is a home for hand-designed, limited run vinyl records ("From The Fingers of Trees" fits that description to a T... the album was sold at for a while and is now available at Saddle Creek's online store).

While you're there, you'll notice another release from Bocca Lupo: a band called Before The Toast And Tea. That band is the creation of Ben Brodin, a Mal Madrigal, Orenda Fink and Mynabirds collaborator.

Brodin's website says he's been working on the project since 2005. He recently performed as BTAT as an opener for Our Fox.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Weekend Roundup; Land of Talk's new record

Looks like this weekend is one that could be spent at the Waiting Room... Lots of shows there. Check 'em out:

• The show at the top of my list this weekend is Criteria's performance with Ladyfinger on Saturday. Two bands that we haven't heard from in awhile (Criteria especially) will perform Saturday at the Waiting Room for 8 bucks. Should be a good time.

Our Fox has a show tonight at Barley Street, which would be a cool place to see that group. I like how at that bar and at O'Leaver's you are totally on top of the band. Great venue. Anyway, it's $5 as usual.

• Tonight at the Waiting Room, Jes Winter debuts some tunes from her new EP. I'd see that, but Landing On The Moon would also be a draw for me. $7 at the door.

• Also tonight is the Goo Goo Dolls at Stir. I actually know a lot of folks gearing up for that one (yes, I'm serious). Tim Wildsmith is performing an after-show show inside Stir bar.

• Nerd rapper MC Chris takes the stage at the Waiting Room on Monday. 13 bones, 15 day of show.

• Also on Monday is the 60 Days to Maha showcase with Betsy Wells, Dim Light, Flight Metaphor and Noah's Ark Was A Spaceship. If you don't go to the show, you can't complain when you don't like the local bands performing at the Maha fest in July. Voting at Monday's will choose who of those four groups gets to play the fest's local stage.

* * *


Land of Talk will be releasing its sophomore effort, "Cloak and Cipher," through Saddle Creek Records on Aug. 24. The Montreal trio are releasing the 10-track effort as a followup to "Some Are Lakes," which got pretty good reviews.

I figured something was in the works because Saddle Creek has been talking about Land of Talk videos and an EP, "Fun and Laughter," that were released last year. I liked the debut and the EP, so I'm looking forward to this outing.

The band is on tour with Besnard Lakes this month, of course coming nowhere near Omaha.

Check out the tracklisting for "Cloak and Cipher":

1. Cloak and Cipher
2. Goaltime Exposure
3. Quarry Hymns
4. Swift Coi
5. Color Me Badd
6. The Hate I Won’t Commit
7. Hamburg
8. Blangee Blee
9. Playita
10. Better and Closer

Listen to "May You Never" from the "Fun and Laughter" EP:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Maha Music Festival main stage lineup is now complete

That's it, folks. Your Maha Music Festival main stage lineup is all full.

Who are the latest additions? Ben Kweller and the local boys in It's True.

I, for one, love Ben Kweller and his last record, "Changing Horses," is pretty great. The same quirky indie rock he's been making for years, but with a little bit of Texas twang. He also loves Omaha, which he couldn't stop talking about the last time I interviewed him. Kweller is a buddy of Conor Oberst and has performed on a few Bright Eyes records.

I think Kweller is a great addition to the lineup that already consists of headliner Spoon as well as The Faint, Superchunk and the Old 97's.

As for It's True, that's a damn interesting choice.

"We decided that It’s True was better than any other band we were looking at getting, so why not just book them?" Maha organizer Tre Brashear told me in a press release.

That's a pretty good point. I'd love to see someone such as Frightened Rabbit or the Avett Brothers or Manchester Orchestra or One For The Team. But let's be honest: around here, It's True is just as good of a draw as any of those names as well as being a good band.

They also get to play a stage with a bunch of other damn fine bands (and in front of the Merge Record execs that play in Superchunk).

Also, the fine folks at Maha announced that The Mynabirds were added to the local stage. Frankly, they'd also be a pretty good addition to the main stage, but as the side stage headliner, they'll be playing later in the afternoon/evening, which is probably better for them.

So, here's your Maha lineup:

Main stage:
• Spoon
• The Faint
• Superchunk
• The Old 97's
• Ben Kweller
• It's True

Local stage:
• The Mynabirds
• Satchel Grande
• 60 Days to Maha showcase winner (voters' choice of Betsy Wells, Dim Light, Flight Metaphor, Noah's Ark Was A Spaceship)
• 30 Days to Maha showcase winner (lineup tbd)
• OEA Awards showcase winner (lineup tbd)

Have you bought your tickets yet?

Oh, and for what it's worth, TD Ameritrade has been announced as the main stage sponsor. So expect to see some big TD Ameritrade banners.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Are the Monsters of Folk coming back?

So, the Monsters of Folk are confirmed as performers for Austin City Limits, the Oct. 5-7 festival in Austin, Texas. It's run by the same folks that run Lollapalooza and basically has the same format.

It begs the question: Will the Monsters of Folk get back together and make another album?

I say yes. In fact, let's give that one a hell yes.

In my interview with Mike Mogis (read the story that ran Sunday), he couldn't stress enough how fun the first album was to make. Also, he was excited about the chance to make a second record with his buddies Conor Oberst, Jim James and M. Ward.

I also spoke to Ward about his buddy Mogis for the purposes of the profile linked to above. And he had something curious to say.

"Mike is an international man of mystery because the moment you think you know how many talents he has, he unleashes a new one - I didn't know he played drums until we recorded the first Monsters of Folk record," Ward said.

It's a minor detail, but a telling one. Ward talked about "the first Monsters of Folk record." It implies there will be a second.

And in any interview those guys gave, they talked about how great of a time it was. Not to mention the record was well received, hitting No. 15 on Billboard's chart on its release. Oh, and it was the No. 1 on the Heatseakers chart as well as hitting top 10 on the indie, alternative, folk and digital charts. Not too shabby.

When will we see a second album? I'd guess next year. Mogis and Oberst are doing a new Bright Eyes record now and later this summer, Mogis told me, which means they're probably looking at a fall release (as previously reported) and a tour after that.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Weekend Roundup: Block party, Man Man and more

Hey there, folks. There's a good amount of shows coming up this weekend, so here's a handy guide to what you can expect. One could stay pretty busy over the next three nights...


• 8th Wave, a band that you and I have seen a ton of times at the Ranch Bowl or Sokol or wherever, is having a "reunion" performance tonight at the Waiting Room. $8 at the door.

• I wrote about them in my column yesterday, but O'Leaver's said tonight's show with Western Electric is canceled. So you won't be seeing them at O'Leaver's tonight, but you can catch Western Electric at Barley Street on Saturday instead, if you're so inclined.


• If I were you, I'd head to Jake's block party in Benson, which features some great local talent. $5 in advance and $6 at the "door" and the proceeds go to fund the Found in Benson publication. The whole deal is outside on Maple and Military Streets, so hopefully the weather isn't terrible. Here's the schedule, according to the event's FB page:
5-5:30 - Conchance
5:50-6:25 - The Awkwords
6:40-7:15 - Gooses
7:35-8:10 - The Matt Cox Band
8:30-9:10 - Brad Hoshaw & The 7 Deadlies
9:25-10:05 - UUVVWWZ
10:20-11 - Satchel Grande

• You also couldn't go wrong heading around the corner to the Waiting Room for the Liquid Courage Tattoo party at the Waiting Room with The Mercurys, Filter Kings and Cover Me Badd. Free show starting at 6 p.m. and food and beverages will be provided.

• If you're a metal guy (or gal), Mastodon will be overtaking Sokol Auditorium on Saturday night. I expect someone to give me a count of face tattoos, including that of Mastodon singer/guitarist Brent Hinds. Show is at 7 p.m. and tickets are $25 adv or $27.50 dos.

 • OK Hemingway (female-fronted, funky, classic-rock-ish) is putting out a record with a show at Slowdown. CDs will be for sale at the show for only 5 bucks. 9 p.m. at Slowdown. $5 at the door.


 • Check out experimental band Man Man along with Plants and Animals at Slowdown. Mike Mogis told me recently that he hopes to be recording Man Man's new record, so that should be pretty cool. Show at 9 p.m. 13 bucks.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Watch out Qwest, Lincoln is getting a new arena

It's been mentioned in passing for a few years, but it wasn't until a few weeks ago that the push was on for a Lincoln arena. The reason was because, during yesterday's election (yes, there was an election yesterday... yes, I'm serious), a bond issue was on the ballot in Lincoln to approve $25 million in bonds to help finance constructing the arena.

Now, the Lincoln arena's main draw is going to be Nebraska basketball, and anyone who has been to the Devaney Center can attest that the team needs a new home.

But they're also going to aim to pull in concerts. Concerts that the Qwest Center in Omaha also wants. And concerts that the Mid-America Center will also be competing for (although for some stupid reason, ye olde OWH didn't give much mention to the MAC... I didn't write the stories on this issue and I'm just as confused as you are as to why that was).

So, when a major concert tour looks for a place to play around here, they're going to have three options. That's at least one too many as far as I'm concerned.

I think the Lincoln arena is a bad idea. Having a 16,000 seater (Lincoln), a 17,000+ seater (Qwest) and 8,000 seater (MAC) within this tiny radius is ridiculous. The MAC isn't as big of a factor, but divying out another slice of that pie is going to hurt everyone.

I think the Lincoln arena's estimate of how many concerts they can pull in every year is way too high. Both because it seems they're basing their estimates off of how many the Qwest gets every year as if the number of concert tours are going to double, and because I still feel like Qwest is going to be preferred because it's familiar and it's a larger city.

So, basically I think the Lincoln arena isn't going to do as well in with concerts as its organizers think it will. But the Qwest will suffer a bit because some of the shows it would normally book will move on down I-80.

I'm not suggesting either of these places are going to fold because they won't draw as many fans for concerts. Both arenas' bread and butter is going to be college basketball. It's where they draw the most people on a regular basis. But concerts and other similar events are still a chunk of both places' business.

I have no idea what will happen to the MAC, which does have a niche with its smaller size. But its bigger brothers are still available to book smaller shows and block out upper-bowl seats, which the Qwest does often.

What do you think about the whole thing? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

* * *

Some things that people were curious about that weren't mentioned in the OWH article (again, I didn't write it, so some of the questions that I would have asked didn't end up in there).

• Would a concert ever play at the Qwest and the Lincoln arena two nights in a row?

Highly unlikely. Most bands have in their contracts that they can't play within 100 or so miles of a performance for 90 days after the performance. That's because a venue wants to be the only performance in the region, so it's a draw for nearby fans. Having a venue in the next town over means those fans wouldn't travel. So, you'll see artists play Des Moines then Omaha then KC, but you'd never see Des Moines then Omaha then Lincoln then KC. Wouldn't happen. But it would be possible that a band plays Lincoln on one leg of a tour and comes back months later to swing through Omaha. That happens already.

• People travel from Lincoln to Omaha all the time for Qwest shows. Do you think Omaha people will head to Lincoln for shows?

Well, Lincoln fans come to Omaha a lot because we're the only game in town, so to speak. But when Lincoln starts picking up shows, I doubt you'll see a big exodus from Omaha on a concert night. Hardcore fans will probably make the trip, but I don't know how many other people will. Unless it's a Husker football game, I don't know many Omahans that like to go to Lincoln for anything, especially when there will be a feeling (at least at first) that the band might eventually come to Omaha on another leg of its tour. I also foresee some bitterness at Lincoln having its own arena that gets Omaha people pissy. But I could be wrong. We'll see.

* * *

For some perspective, here are some OWH articles in case you're interested:

Lincoln arena could find niche
Arena long felt crowded by big boys
Voters give arena a green light

Monday, May 10, 2010

Headlines! Nine Inch Nails, The Mynabirds and more

How was your weekend? I spent mine going to "Iron Man 2" on Friday, which was pretty epic. Maybe not quite as good as the first one, but on the same level, in my opinion. I also enjoyed the music in the film, which featured a lot more than the AC/DC on the soundtrack you'll find in stores. I especially enjoyed the inclusion of a few Clash songs.

On Saturday, I hit up Paramore at Westfair, which I reviewed. I'm not a big fan, but songs such as "Ignorance" are pretty good rock/pop fare. And Hayley Williams isn't just a cute, red-haired 21-year-old. She can also wail with what I consider a pretty amazing voice. Anyway, it was entertaining.

Anyway, what did you folks do? See any good shows? Tell me about it in the comments.

While you think of that, feast on these headlines...

• Trent Reznor said that Nine Inch Nails isn't over forever.

• Jazz singer and actress Lena Horne died over the weekend. She was 92.

• Carlos D of Interpol left the band.

• Has anyone ripped on Lady Gaga lately? Not really. Oh wait, Joanna Newsom just did. (And I agree with her, somewhat.)

• What are your favorite albums and "rock moments" from the last 25 years? If you can't think of any, Spin dropped it's big list of 125 best albums and 25 greatest moments.

• Paste featured Saddle Creek band The Mynabirds as one of its "Best of What's Next." Check it out. Recently, Pitchfork gave the band's new disc an 8.0 rating, which is pretty unheard of for a Saddle Creek band. I foresee this disc being one of the most popular SC releases in awhile.

• Ever wonder how a band came up with its name? How about Blitzen Trapper? Eric Earley told Spin how the group got named.

Liam Gallagher wants to make a film about a certain British band from the '60s. Any guesses? OK, it's the Beatles. Anyone surprised? Me neither.

• Attention fans of Owl City: The next album from the Owl City guy (Adam Young) will be released as Sky Sailing. That is all.

• Today's "Totally Not Related To Music": If you're worried about such things, here are nine useful items for surviving the zombie apocalypse.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Weekend Roundup: Hoshaw, Paramore, Matt Pond PA

Not as busy of a weekend as usual. But the next couple weeks will be picking up a bit. Here's what's on my radar...

>> If you're not going to see Iron Man 2 tonight (I'm seeing it at the IMAX in CB) you should go check out Brad Hoshaw & the 7 Deadlies at Stir tonight. Matt Whipkey said the band has an hour of new material to debut. (Seems to be the place to do it since bands have to play 3 hours.) $5 at the door. Maybe you'll get lucky and they'll play "Tik Tok."

>> I'll be reviewing Paramore on Saturday night at Westfair. If you're into that sort of thing, get yourself there. Say "hi" if you see me. And if you're into that sort of thing, read my Q&A with fire-haired lead singer Hayley Williams. $29.50 through Ticketmaster, but it jumps to $33 day of show.

>> It's not really the weekend, but on Tuesday, head over to Slowdown to check out Matt Pond PA. You may have heard some of the band's music (covers of Oasis and Neutral Milk Hotel) on the Fox TV show "The O.C.," but it's the band's originals - mostly acoustic indie rock - that shine brightest. U.K. artist Bobby Long opens the show. Tickets are $12 at or at Slowdown's box office.

That's all I got. Have another show you think folks should check out? Let us know in the comments.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Omaha’s music man: Mogis balances performing, producing, family

Mike Mogis sits in the control room of studio A at ARC.

By Kevin Coffey
Story and photos © 2010 Omaha World-Herald

Working in his studio, Mike Mogis wears a military cap, flannel shirt and jeans. With his beard and horn-rimmed glasses, the clothes make him look like any indie-music scenester at Slowdown or the Waiting Room.

But none of those music fans is in Bright Eyes or indie supergroup Monsters of Folk. They aren’t nationally recognized producers, they haven’t appeared on the “Tonight Show” and they aren’t buddies with Jenny Lewis or Spoon’s Brit Daniel.

And they didn’t help start Saddle Creek Records.

But Mogis? Yeah, he’s done all that.

In his midtown studio, called ARC, he’s quite literally at home. It sits about 20 yards from his house and only a few feet from the small playground where his daughters play on the swings.

But he feels at home there mostly because he has been recording music since he and brother A.J. learned to play instruments as kids and recorded each other on cassette decks, before they were even teens.

Not many people recognize Mogis’ name. His work has been mostly behind the scenes. He’s never been the frontman. He wasn’t on band posters or album covers until recently with the Monsters of Folk. Still, he is as important to the formation of Saddle Creek Records and the attention given Nebraska’s indie-music scene as his friends Conor Oberst and Cursive’s Tim Kasher.

He’s a jack of all trades, able to play innumerable instruments and born with an ear for music that few possess.

“Mike is an international man of mystery because the moment you think you know how many talents he has, he unleashes a new one,” singer-songwriter M. Ward said in an interview. “I didn’t know he played drums until we recorded the first Monsters of Folk record.”

You can almost see the gears turning when you talk to Mogis. A question leads to an answer full of tangents and non sequiturs. He’ll start by talking about one of his former Lincoln studios, for example, then bounce to the Monsters of Folk and end up with a story about My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James, a friend.

The 35-year-old’s nonlinear thinking stems partly from being holed up for so long in the studio that he’s lost some social skills, he confessed with a laugh.

But it’s part of his genius, too.

The first instrument Mogis picked up was an acoustic guitar, which his father, Denny, played when Mogis was growing up in North Platte, Neb. Mogis mostly taught himself.

In their parents’ basement, Mogis and his brother recorded guitars, screeching, the drumming of coffee cans and “other weird sounds.” Eventually, they purchased a cheap RadioShack mixer. Mogis still has it.

Mogis never was formally trained to be a sound engineer and attributes most of his technical skills to brother A.J.

Mogis plays a Mellotron purchased by him and Conor Oberst.
 In high school, Mogis joined a cover band playing Metallica, Faster Pussycat and Guns N’ Roses.

He took a year off in 1993 before heading to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where he befriended those who formed Saddle Creek Records a few years later.

He met Matt Focht, now guitarist for Head of Femur, on the steps of Abel Hall. Focht’s roommate was drummer Boz Hicks. Focht and Hicks were friends with singer-guitarist Ted Stevens and his roommate Robb Nansel, now president of Saddle Creek.

Later, Mogis met Justin Oberst’s little brother, Conor, then a 14-year-old kid who liked to visit Justin at UNL and play guitar.

“It was kind of odd, you know?” Mogis said. “From those relationships that were started there at that school, we ended up culminating into good working musical relationships and a business, which turned out to be pretty good.”

Mogis and A.J. purchased a reel-to-reel eight-track recorder. With it, they recorded Mogis’ band Opium Taylor and Stevens’ band Polecat in the summer of 1995.

“Robb Nansel came down and was the quote-unquote producer of the (Polecat) record, but if I remember correctly he mostly played video games,” Mogis said, laughing.

As part of an entrepreneurship class at UNL, Mogis and Nansel created a business plan.

Their friends had released a few albums under the name Lumberjack Records, basically a vanity label. Lumberjack had no real organization, but Justin Oberst kept those tapes, 7-inch vinyl singles and one CD release at his home in Omaha.

For their UNL assignment, Nansel and Mogis transported that stock from Omaha to Lincoln and created a record label.

Its name? Saddle Creek Records.

Meanwhile, the Mogis brothers converted the basement of a Lincoln house into a recording studio.

New groups formed, including the dance-punk band the Faint, which later became one of the most popular bands on Saddle Creek and went on to tour with No Doubt and release two top 10 indie albums.

As co-owners, Mogis and Nansel recorded the bands, released the records and got the music on college radio.

But even though he graduated with a degree in business, Mogis wanted to focus on recording albums instead of marketing them. So he signed his half over to Nansel, who became sole owner of the company.

In the late 1990s, Mogis moved into a downtown Lincoln space he called Presto!, where all of the music from the Saddle Creek glory days -- the records that first brought national attention to Nebraska from Rolling Stone, Time magazine and others -- was recorded.

Those records, including Cursive’s “Domestica” and Bright Eyes’ “Fevers and Mirrors,” made Mogis feel as if he had mastered working as a producer who guided a record’s direction as opposed to an engineer who flipped switches in a control room.

In 2004 and 2005, the city of Lincoln told Mogis that Presto! would be torn down to make way for another development. Mogis’ wife, Jessica, was pregnant, and he didn’t want to raise a family in the dirty one-bedroom rental across the street from the studio.

And Jessica found his perfect property -- a house in Omaha big enough for a family and big enough for a recording studio.

The property, near 72nd and Dodge, included two buildings: the house and a 5,000-square-foot building in the backyard with an attached guest house.

To afford the $670,000 property and raise money to turn the outbuilding into a recording studio, Mogis borrowed from a bank as well as from friends including Saddle Creek and Oberst.

A year later, Oberst purchased a home behind the studio, which allows them to collaborate frequently.

The studio took the name Another Recording Company, similar to Oberst’s Another Touring Company, and the close proximity to his home allows Mogis to spend lots of time with his wife and two daughters, Riley, 1, and Stella, 5, even when he’s putting in long hours recording.

“I feel really fortunate to have playing music be a means to support my family and my life,” Mogis said.

Spending time with his family is important to Mogis. Just after Stella was born in 2004, Bright Eyes was scheduled to tour with R.E.M. and Bruce Springsteen on the Vote for Change tour. Mogis didn’t want to miss out on seeing his baby daughter, so he took his wife and daughter along for the ride. In the studio, he proudly displays a photo of himself, Springsteen and the baby.

“He’s committed to the band and committed to his family, and he’s tried to find this balance,” Nansel said. “That says a lot about his priorities and character.”

Mogis plays guitar in the A studio at ARC
 In addition to his membership in Bright Eyes and Monsters of Folk, offers come in for him to produce various other bands.

Mogis is recording a Bright Eyes record with Oberst, as well as mixing an album by indie band the Low Anthem. He’ll work with experimental rock band Man Man next. In July, he expects to resume with Bright Eyes. Mogis hopes that he eventually makes another record with Oberst, Ward and James.

While many in music take on one role or another, Mogis enjoys being a producer part of the time and a musician and band member the rest.

“I like balancing it out. I like going on tour and then I like getting off tour and coming home, taking a week off and working on a record,” he said.

Anybody who’s had Mogis as a producer will tell you he thinks of everything and pays attention to detail: where to place the microphone, what amp to use.

He sets up a mirror so the piano player can see the band. He makes suggestions: Chop out a verse. Take out the drums. Make a chorus a capella.

“Mike can hear things most humans can’t -- he is like a wild animal in that way,” Ward said. “He is perfect to have in the mixing studio because he can hear the fine details and the overall scope.”

Among musicians, Mogis has a reputation for getting things right and staying in the studio as long as it takes. It’s partly what has brought artists such as Pete Yorn and The Strokes’ Julian Casablancas to ARC.

Oberst, universally hailed for his songwriting prowess, has admitted that his songs wouldn’t be what they are without Mogis.

“I can describe things in my sort of nontechnical, nonmusical way, and he can take that and really apply it to what I’m talking about -- to actually take an idea I have and make it a reality,” Oberst said in a 2006 magazine interview. “He’s just so attentive to the song -- how best to suit the song -- and that I think is sometimes rare. It seems like some people come in with a really heavy hand, and he’s more willing to truly let the artist do their thing.”

Mogis also has made a name among musicians and fans as a multi-instrumentalist, playing more than a dozen instruments on the Monsters of Folk’s self-titled record and often appearing on the records of bands he produces.

“Mike plays so many instruments so well,” Jim James told Paste Magazine last year. “A lot of times he’d work at night; we’d all leave at midnight, and there’d be some question for what was gonna be done, and he’d be like, ‘I need some time alone to work in here and mess around with stuff.’ And we’d come back in the morning and be like, ‘(Expletive), that’s awesome!’ He would’ve laid down like 20 things.”

Mogis said music comes naturally to him.

“I have a knack for picking up anything and getting a sound out of it,” Mogis said, adding that he appears as a performer on so many of the albums that he produces “mostly because I have ideas.”

More recognizable names have begun flocking to Mogis to engineer, produce and mix their records. It’s strange to him, he said, but he’s flattered and knows that bigger and better bands help him learn more.

“Sometimes I’ll think about how there’s probably 50 engineers/producers in Omaha and times that by every city -- probably tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of engineers. I feel pretty fortunate that I get to work with the artists that I do. And that helps me make better records because I keep getting better groups.”

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Music in Ireland isn't Irish (mostly)

Last week I had an array of posts here on the blog while I was out of town.

Where was I? Ireland. The homeland, as it were. See, I'm part Irish and myself and others decided to make a trip over and check things out. We saw a lot of sights, took lots of pictures and drank more Guinness than I'd care to admit.

While I was there, we tried to see a lot of music. My brother and I, especially, are fans of traditional Irish music and have seen groups like the Turfmen play around town countless times. While we were on the Emerald Isle, we saw a good handful of traditional Irish groups, the best being the guy we saw at Oliver St. John Gogarty's in Dublin's Temple Bar district as well as Seamus Conroy, a wonderful violinist we spotted at Bunratty Castle in the town of Bunratty.

But the thing we noticed most is how ridiculously popular American popular music is over there. Everywhere we went, we heard TONS of American music. Most popular was '60s and '70s rock music, which was played in almost every pub and restaurant we went to.

Here's an example: When we were in Galway (west coast of the island), we asked a friendly, talkative bartender where we could go catch some live music. He pointed us in the direction of The Quays (pronounced like keys), which was a really cool pub. Well when we talked to the bartender, we meant traditional Irish stuff, but when we showed up, the band was playing Guns 'N Roses, Van Halen, Rolling Stones and a bunch of other rock songs.

Now, the band was pretty freaking good for a cover group, but what was astonishing to me was that by "good live music," the guy was thinking of American rock. It kinda threw me off.

One thing that was really cool to me was listening to the radio. We did a lot of driving (we drove ourselves instead of taking a bus tour or some such thing) and mostly stuck to Today FM. First, it allowed me to perfect my fake Irish accent. Second, they played a lot of indie rock.

While we drove around, we heard Temper Trap, Goldfrapp, She & Him and a ton of other indies. And this was on a very popular, mainstream station. That's freaking unheard of here in the States.

Another interesting note on radio over there: Stations don't have formats. Here, you tune to Z-92 and you know you'll hear classic/alt rock fare. No matter what time you tune in (except during Todd n Tyler), that's what you'll get. There, it depends on the show that's on at that time. It might be rock music for two hours. Then it's more indie-flavored songs. Then it's talk radio. Then more rock again. I have to admit, I liked it a whole lot better than the radio we have around here.

As for the traditional Irish music, it was pretty good though not much more spectacular than seeing the Turfmen play at the Brazen Head on any given week, to be honest. One difference I noticed was that in Ireland itself, they do more instrumentals. And they like to play the Irish national anthem, which is pretty cool because everyone in the bar stands for it.

The highlight, as mentioned before, was a guy named Seamus Conroy. He played violin at a dinner we had at Bunratty Castle, a 14th century castle that's been restored. The guy played violin like no one I had ever seen before, completely effortlessly. At one point, somebody at the dinner made an audible joke about Masterpiece Theatre. Without skipping a beat, Seamus was playing the theme to the television show.

He's one of those people that exists on a different level, musically, than you or I ever could. I bet he thinks in notes and clefs and bridges. I mean, his first language isn't English. It's playing that violin.

We found out later when we talked to him at the pub across the street from the castle (Durty Nelly's, established 1620) that Seamus was a Fullbright Scholar. Oh yeah, and he studied at Juilliard. Not a bad resume. Here's hoping he gets himself out of Bunratty Castle.

Even more Maha news

The other day, I delivered you some news about the 60 Days to Maha showcase at Slowdown being used to select one of the local  bands to play at the Maha Music Festival.

The Maha organizing committee also announced that Satchel Grande was selected to perform at the local stage (sponsored by Kum & Go).

In addition to Slowdown's 60 Days to Maha showcase described Monday, the Waiting Room and One Percent Productions will have a 30 Days to Maha showcase on June 24 to select another band.

A fourth band will be picked from among the performers at the Omaha Arts and Entertainment Awards showcase going down in Benson on July 16 and 17.

To sum up: Satchel Grande will be playing. Another local band will be selected at the 60 Days to Maha showcase on May 24. A third band will be selected at the 30 Days to Maha showcase on June 24. And a fourth will be picked at the OEAA's showcase on July 16/17.

What do you folks think of the selection process? Are you happy you have a say in the matter?

Monday, May 3, 2010

More Maha festival details (updated again)

Slowdown just announced that they'll be hosting a "60 Days to Maha" showcase on May 24.

The free show will feature four local bands. While you're there, you can vote on your favorite group. Top vote-getter of the night will play on the local stage at the festival (July 24 at Lewis & Clark Landing).

On the bill for Slowdown's showcase is Betsy Wells, Dim Light, Flight Metaphor and Noah's Ark Was A Spaceship. Once again, the show is free and each attendee gets a vote.

Not a bad deal for the winner, who will get to play at a fest with Spoon, Superchunk, et al.

Update: According to Maha's Facebook page, those that bring their purchased tickets to the show get 10 extra votes. I didn't know that before because it wasn't in the release from Slowdown. Anyway, now you know.

Update 2: Again, per its Facebook page, Maha has announced that Satchel Grande will be one of the bands performing at the fest's local stage. The band was selected by the Maha organizing committee, they said. Good choice, in my opinion.

Tickets for the festival are on sale now, if you're interested.

There will be more details about Maha's local stage announced very soon.