Friday, July 30, 2010

Conor Oberst speaks

Conor Oberst sits in Slowdown's back stage area. (Photo by Alyssa Schukar/The World-Herald)

On Wednesday afternoon, I headed over to Slowdown. After following Robb Nansel up the stairs to the green room, myself and a photographer stepped in. Conor Oberst stood up and walked over.

"Hi, I'm Conor," he said, sticking out his hand.

Before getting down to business, someone brought Oberst an iced soy latte and we talked about last weekend's show with Rage Against the Machine and the Mellotron that he and Mike Mogis bought for their studio, ARC.

It's the first time he's talked to The World-Herald since he gave an interview to us about his free Memorial Park concert way back in 2006.

So, why talk to us now? Oberst's show, the Concert For Equality, is coming Saturday and he's pretty pissed about the immigration law in Arizona and another one a little closer to home in Fremont. Maybe you've heard about it.

We sat with Oberst for awhile and talked. Here's all of what he had to say (a fully unadulterated Q&A) about immigration, Saturday's concert, the press and his bands and their futures.

Kevin Coffey: There are plenty of worthy causes in the world, why did you choose this one?

Conor Oberst: I guess there's a lot of things that brought me to it. First, spending a lot of time in Mexico and having a lot of people that mean a lot to me both in Mexico and people that have moved here from there.

Also, there's a woman from Omaha here that's good friends with my mother who - about 2 years ago. Long story short, she came here when she was 16. She lived here for 23 years. She has three daughters and because of some bad legal advice - both her three daughters and her husband got their citizenship in the 80s - she went backt o Mexcio to attempt to re-0enter the country lawfully and she's been told she can't re-enter for 10 years.

And, to me, that blows my mind. I don't see how that serves society. I don't see any justice in that. I don't see the way - I don't see what the point is of that. Her daughters are still close to my family and spend time with us and they miss their mother, you know? I guess those are things that, I guess, where my interest started, I suppose.

KC: This whole thing seems really personal to you.

CO: Yeah, it is very personal. To me, it's a human rights issue. It's about dignity.

(To the photographer) I'm sorry. Maybe not. I just get distracted.

Sorry, what were you saying?

KC: With the show on Saturday, was it hard to get people to participate or were they jumping on board?

CO: No. I went out publicly with it with just Lullaby For The Working Class, Cursive, Desaparecidos, Cursive and Bright Eyes because there was a timing issue and we had to get it announced and let people know it was going on. I wanted it to happen as soon after the ordinance was passed as possible.

It was really encouraging because I haven't gotten that many e-mails, phone calls and texts from friends who wanted to be involved, you know? A lot of them said, "I'd love to play, but I'll also volunteer to do anything to help with the day," so that made me very happy.

KC: As someone who's popular or a celebrity, do you feel like you have an obligation to speak out against stuff like this?

CO: I think it's an individual choice for everyone. I mean, it's not something I started doing. It's something that I grew into doing. It's not something I enjoy doing actually, to be honest, but occasionally I feel compelled to speak out on certain issues that are close to me, that I feel passionately about. This is one of those times.

It's such a dangerous situation, what's happening with this kind of legislation. In my view, the law is immoral, it's un-American, it's unconstitutional, it's unenforceable, it's hurtful, it's hateful, it's racist and it's going to create far more problems than it's going to solve. It's going to create racial tension in Fremont and across Nebraska. It makes anyone that has brown skin or speaks with an accent, it makes them an object of suspicion first and a person second.

To me, if we don't stand up now and say to Fremont and say to Arizona, "This is unacceptable. This is not America." To me, being an immigrant is the most American thing you can be and it's our duty to defend this vulnerable section of our society and that's what I'm doing. That's what I'm trying to say.

KC: You had the open letter to Charlie Levy and an Arizona paper called you out and asked if Nebraska passed a law similar to Arizona, would you really boycott your state? Is that something you would be willing to do?

CO: Yes, and you can quote me on that.

KC: So, why get Desaparecidos back together at this point? Just to make it a bigger draw or to bring more attention to the event?

CO: The Desaparecidos idea occurred first. We haven't played in eight years and it seemed like an appropriate time to play again. A lot of issues are what we were singing about, what the band's about. It seemed like a chance to do something good and hopefully effect some kind of good change, but also to play music again.

I called them all up and within a half hour they were on board. That was great.

Conor Oberst and the Concert For Equality

Conor Oberst (Photo by Alyssa Schukar/The World-Herald)

Sorry, it's been "all Conor Oberst all the time" over here, but that's kinda the big thing going on this week.

I wanted to let you know about the story that ran today that includes some of Oberst's quotes from my Wednesday interview.In it, he talks about immigration, some music stuff and why he's so involved in the first place.

Dig it.

* * *

I promised I'd put the interview up in full. It's coming later today as soon as I can get it transcribed.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Concert For Equality schedule

I'll have some more Concert For Equality news tonight or tomorrow, but here's what I have for now.

The show is sold out, so good luck finding tickets.Right now, there are three auctions on ebay. One has a ticket for $40, another for $30. A third has a deluxe ticket going for $121.38 and a "buy it now" price of $260. Sad, considering the money is supposed to go to the ACLU.

So, what's going to happen now that Fremont probably won't enact the law until lawsuits are resolved? Well, the ACLU is one of the groups bringing the lawsuits, so they're going to need some of that cash. Let's say 2,000 tickets at $20 and another 500 at $50. That's a cool $65,000 headed to the ACLU (minus expenses to set up the stage, security, etc.).

Also, that deluxe ticket you bought for $50 (or more if you got yours on eBay) allows access to the special show inside the Waiting Room from 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. only. Earlier in the day - from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. - the Waiting Room will be open to anyone with a ticket (up to capacity, that is). From 10 to 11 p.m., the venue will be cleared out and closed and then you folks with deluxe tickets will be able to file back in when Desparecidos is finished outside.

Who are the rumored "specials guests" that will show up during the "hootenany" portion listed below? I've heard Al Sharpton, Jesse James, Jim James, M. Ward and a few people were even kicking around Bruce Springsteen the other day. No idea other than it will probably be fun and crazy.

Here's the schedule:

5 p.m. - Fathr^
6 p.m. - Simon Joyner
7 p.m. - The So-So Sailors
8 p.m. - Conchance
9 p.m. - David Dondero
10 p.m. to 11 p.m. - inside closed
11:30 p.m. - Lullaby For The Working Class
12:30 p.m. - Hootenany

5 p.m. - Flowers Forever
5:45 p.m. - Vago
6:30 p.m. - The Envy Corps
7:15 p.m. - Bright Eyes
8:15 p.m. - Gillian Welch & David Rawlings
9:15 p.m. - Cursive
10:15 p.m. - Desaparecidos

Monday, July 26, 2010

Maha photos from the OWH

 Laura Burhenn of The Mynabirds (Photo by Chris Machian/The World-Herald)

The World-Herald's always-talented Chris Machian was on-hand at Maha for a good chunk of the day on Saturday and he snapped some pics. Check out his photos from the show.

Maha: Grading Omaha's festival (wrapping up what happened and looking at what's next, plus comments on Spoon and It's True)

Laura Ballance, left, and Mac McCaughan of Superchunk. (Photo by Chris Machian/The World-Herald)

If you were to compare the second annual Maha Music Festival to the inaugural concert, it was a smashing success. I remember in 2009 when a couple hundred (and that's a generous estimate) stuck around to watch headliner Dashboard Confessional.

On Saturday, a few thousand were packed in front of the main stage to catch The Faint and then headliners Spoon.

One Percent's Marc Leibowitz told me they had attendance of more than 4,000, though an official number is still pending. That's an astonishing improvement over last year's fest, which was said to draw a few thousand, but there never seemed to be more than a few hundred there at any given time.

I say good job to the organizers. I had a great time and so did my friends and pretty much everyone else I talked to. It was a vast improvement over 2009 both in terms of talent, organization and atmosphere. I'm looking forward to next year already. I really hope they soldier on, especially considering how stressful it must be to put on. It's not easy to put together a lineup and an event like that for only 4,000 people. But I hope they keep it indie, keep it small and let it grow on the merits of the indie-style lineup I hope they maintain going forward.

Organizers Tre Brashear and Mike App were running around like crazy, but didn't seem to have any problems after the delays early in the day.

There were hiccups. On Maha's Twitter, I saw them say something about refillable water running out. And I saw a few people arrested. But that stuff happens. The water thing should be fixed, but no one died. And it wasn't the first (and certainly not the last) time people have been arrested at a music festival. Woodstock '99 anyone?

As for the important stuff, I thought the music was excellent (my favorites being Superchunk and Ben Kweller though It's True, The Faint and Spoon were great, too) and it was a stellar lineup. I think that's what got all those people there and caused them to stick around. The Faint appeared to have the biggest crowd but even Kweller (a favorite of mine, but not hugely known) had a sizable number smashed in front of the barricades.

What's next for the lineup and headliners? I don't know. I hope they keep the same feel to the lineup (well-known indies with a decent following) but up the ante a little bit. One or two more edgier or much-buzzed-about choices (Sleigh Bells, Frightened Rabbit, Titus Andronicus, Delorean) would be cool topped by a big headliner such as Wilco, The Strokes, Arcade Fire or some such. That means more money to spend, but I imagine they'll get there soon enough. They'll have to if they want to expand.

I only had a few complaints with the music. The way the local bands were selected - by voting battle of the bands-style - is pretty sub-par, but that's been my opinion for awhile. Something tells me that's going to change since it's been a major complaint by myself and others.

The other thing was the way they were arranged. I like local stage "headliner" Satchel Grande. They're always a good time and good grooves. But sandwiching them between Superchunk and The Faint was an odd choice. Though it was a good set, it didn't fit.

I'd like to see the fest have a big headliner (or two if/when it moves to multi-day) and a smattering of other talent during the day, local and otherwise, and not limit the locals to the side stage. It's True proved that a local group can and will kick ass on the big boy stage. Mix them up and put them wherever they fit.

While I'm on the subject, the second stage was pretty awful to watch/listen to. The sun was right above/behind it the whole time and the sound was awful. For example, if someone asked me if Betsy Wells was any good, I honestly couldn't answer. It sounded like total crap over there. Plus it doesn't feel much like a stage so much as an afterthought ("Where should we put stage 2, Bob?" "How about on that concrete slab over there, Jim?" "As good a place as any, Bob."). I hope they do better next time.

I'll be honest and say that I've never liked the riverfront as a venue. It's kind of "plug and play," which is why it was chosen in the first place, but it's hard to get to, it's difficult to find parking, concrete sucks to stand on all day and the layout is just goofy (the stages were too close together and the bathrooms and merch tables felt miles away).

For a multi-day thing with a few stages, camping and several thousand people, they're going to need to move. Where? There aren't any places currently used as venues that would work well (in my opinion), but we live in a rural state and I'm sure there are more than enough flat, open pieces of land where some stages, a fence, some port-a-potties and merch/food booths could be erected without too much trouble.

So, what's in the future? I'll be talking to Brashear, App and others soon to find out. You'll be the first to know.

* * *

I omitted a few entries from Saturday's blogging, namely Spoon and It's True's final, final show (the afterparty at the Waiting Room). Why? Basically, I got home at 3 a.m. and was too tired to continue.

Excuses, excuses, right? Apologies. Here they are a couple days late...

* * *

Spoon's set was great, although the band is no Faint or Superchunk. They kinda groove and they're always pretty mellow, but I liked it a lot.

The crowd thinned out a bit from the Faint's set, which I think came because the Faint was just plain a big draw and because it was getting late and some people didn't care to see Spoon. Sad, really.

Spoon is indie rock with some thump, a little bit of groove, and sometimes a bit spastic. I liked it. I like them. Reminded me a lot of their SxSw set I saw in March.

Britt Daniel, clad in all white, seemed pretty excited to be there.

"We haven't been here in awhile," Daniel said. "The last time we were here - maybe the last four or five times we've been here - we played at Sokol. It's been too long."

(I actually think it was the Orpheum, but whatever... you get the point.)

The brought out a 6-piece horn section, most notable on a fast-tempo version of "Underdog," and Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster joined them several times for some extra percussion.

"Wurster was the first guy in indie rock to decide that Spoon was cool," Daniel said.

All in all, I thought they made for a great headliner. Big name. Good music. (Even if they were mellow.)

* * *

So, It's True performed their final show at the Maha afterparty on Saturday.

It was kind of a melancholy scene, although that wasn't quite apparent until the set was over. Adam Hawkins was joking around with the other guys before and during the set and they were all smiles. It was virtually the same set of songs they played earlier in the day, although I don't think they had a setlist. Hawkins appeared to just call out the songs to Karl Houfek or Kyle Harvey and they just started in.

"So, this is the last hurrah," Hawkins said near the end, kind of realizing that it was over.

He profusely thanked the fans (many of whom were singing along, word for word) several times. Before the show, Houfek thanked "our wives, our girlfriends, our boyfriends" and everyone else who has supported them.

After the show, they gave away CDs and everyone was hugging each other. Even Hawkins, who seems to have initiated the breakup by moving away (though I can't be sure what the official story is), was sad and was hugging everyone, including fans.

The fans were sad, too. While I was standing there, one kid told Houfek that he and his friends drove all day from Lander, Wyoming, just to see It's True's last show. You can't say they don't have fans.

It sucks to see a group that talented and with what appeared to have such a bright future kind of abruptly fade away.

Someone I saw earlier in the day snarkily called It's True "the stupidest band in Omaha." Those of us that heard him say it all kind of laughed it off, but I can't help but agree on some level. "Stupid" may be a bit harsh, but I still can't figure out what they were thinking.

As sad as the band members were, I can't help but think that they're not sure either.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Maha: The Faint never fails

Has the Faint ever put on a bad show? Maybe, but I've never seen one. They never fail to absolutely rock the place every time.

Even the older folks in the way back of the crowd got up out of their chairs and were grooving.
I ran into Dan McCarthy after the Faint's set, who told me that even though he's not the kinda guy who likes a big crowd, he was pushing his way to the front. I'm the same way.

They pulled out all the old favorites ("Paranoiattack," "Glass Danse," etc.) as well as newish stuff ("Geeks Were Right," "Forever Growing Centipedes" and others) and it all mixed together.

And even though everyone in the crowd went off during the sweaty dance party that was the Faint's set, I still maintain that no one is as excited to be at a Faint show than frontman Todd Fink.

Maha: Holy f#&$ing Superchunk

Two things:

1) I have a sunburn.

2) I would hate to be Satchel Grande right now.

Why? Because Superchunk was freaking amazing. The band ended the set with "Slack Motherfucker," and the hipsters and indie kids went wild for it. Not to mention that the band's entire set was fantastic.

Add in that Superchunk has never played Omaha before and you get a priceless performance.

"It's so good to finally play a show in goddamn Omaha," singer Mac McCaughan said.

Later on, he added, "We didn't not play in Omaha for 21 years on purpose. But we're here now. That's what counts. We're all here together."

Hopefully they make it back soon.

* * *

I'm not disparaging Satchel Grande at all. But they're not lucky to have to follow Superchunk or lead into The Faint, both freaking intense bands.

They just played "Working Title," my favorite song by the band and now they're doing more from their latest album, "Dial M For Mustache."

Andrew Kammerer, who I ran into in the crowd, said Chris Klemmensen has been recording a bunch of new Satchel songs. I'm excited to hear them.

Faint and Spoon follow... Updates later.

Maha: Ben Kweller rocks it

Wow. Ben Kweller really hit all of his marks. Playing as only a 3-piece, Kweller & Co. mostly rocked out. They stayed away from most of the country and slow stuff.

My girlfriend, for one, had never heard them before and left a big impression (I'm under orders to burn her some CDs).

The crowd also went nuts for him and sang to almost every song. He also decided to make an impromptu appearance at the merch booth, which was mobbed.

* * *

Landing On the Moon was also pretty good. Highlight of the local stage (so far).

Maha: Voodoo Method and It's True

I've never seen Voodoo Method before, but I was impressed. I don't know how much they fit with the rest of the bands, but it was good stuff. Their style is kind of rock/r&b/blues and the band's singer has a great voice.

The lead singer was one of the most energetic guys I've ever seen especially considering he was playing to about 30 or 40 gathered in front of the stage. A few hundred more were seated near the stage(s), but who knows how much they were paying attention.

Kudos goes to Voodoo Method's bassist, who was wearing a kilt. Brave choice.

* * *

It's True just played the best set I've ever seen them pull off. A shame, too, because it's the band's last show. They're one of the best (and definitely the most buzzed about) bands in town, but Adam Hawkins is moving away.

They sounded great on the big soundsystem of Maha's main stage, better than I've ever heard them play before. They got about a 45-minute set in and the crowd went wild for them.

Little does anyone in the crowd know that it's the last time It's True will be seen (aside from tonight's afterparty show at the Waiting Room). Neither Hawkins nor anyone else made any acknowledgment of the band's demise. Wonder what will happen at tonight's show.

* * *

Betsy Wells is playing on the side stage now. Chris Aponick from The Reader said they looked like an Urban Outfitters commercial. I agree.

I don't know if it's the band or the side stage, but it sounds awful, like an amp or speaker is blown. It's too loud and really muddy.

Also, the side stage is in a crappy spot, on top of a concrete wall just to the left of the main stage. It's awkward and kinda lame (the kind of stage that barely deserves to be called a stage).

I wonder how it will be for bands like the Mynabirds or Satchel Grande who are going to need a clean, good sound. We shall see.

More later...

Maha Music Festival: Flights delays=concert delays

So, the Maha Music Festival is off to a rough start today, but it's not the fault of concert organizers. There's this little hurricane/tropical storm thing going on in other parts of the country.

Ben Kweller and Superchunk are stuck in Dallas on flight delays. They're headed to town, but they're going to be late.

All in all, it's not too huge of a deal. Voodoo Method will be onstage at 1:45 and the rest of the bands will follow suit. So, adjust your schedule accordingly.

The new schedule is here.

Update: Everyone's on their way. But Kweller and Old 97's are swapping their spots in the lineup. Still going to be a good day.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Weekend Roundup: Maha (duh), Ted Stevens, Beatles and more

It's going to be a good weekend. I really want to make that Ted Stevens show tonight, but won't be able to. I will be at Maha all day long on Saturday and then probably going to the Waiting Room to catch It's True's last set ever.

Happy weekend, folks.

Ted Stevens solo
This guy's pretty good. He's in Cursive, used to be in Mayday and also in the band Lullaby for the Working Class that's having a little reunion next Saturday. Maybe you heard about it. This one could be packed, considering it's at the 1020 (formerly Trovato's), which is a pretty small space.

Yesterday and Today (Beatles tribute)
Billy McGuigan is leading a Beatles tribute tonight at the Waiting Room. McGuigan seems to be the tribute expert, leading groups devoted to the fab four, U2 and Buddy Holly (probably his most famous). Show starts at 9. $10.

Maha Music Festival
If you're reading this blog and haven't heard about the Maha Music Festival, I really don't know what to tell you. The basics are this: for $33 (or $38 day of show), you get to see a bunch of bands that charge a helluva lot more. On average, Spoon goes for $27.50, Superchunk for $22, The Faint for $20, Ben Kweller for $20, The Old 97's for $26.60 and a host of local bands you gotta pay $7 to $10 bucks for. It's a steal. If you want more info, read my Maha preview package that includes interviews with Spoon, Superchunk, The Faint and Rhett Miller of the Old 97's. See you at the show.

Orion Walsh & the Traveling Band CD release show
I don't know a ton about him, but Walsh plays indie folk and is releasing a new album, "The Hitchhiker's Son," at this show. Guests include Sarah Benck, Platte River Rain and Elvis Houdini. Good ensemble of folks. 9 p.m. Saturday at Barley St. $5 as usual.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Maha tix winner; Maha fest coverage

Congratulations to Brendan Greene-Walsh, winner of two tickets to the Maha Music Festival. And thanks to the folks at Maha for hooking him up.

* * *

As for Maha, I wrote a lot about it for today's paper. Here's the skinny:

• More from my exclusive interview with Spoon. Find the first part here.

Superchunk plays Omaha for the first time and debuts songs from "Majesty Shredding"

• The fellas in The Faint are focusing on their other projects. But the band isn't breaking up.

• Rhett Miller from The Old 97's is excited about the band's new album, which comes out in October.

• Info on what's allowed, not allowed, tips, tickets, food and the afterparties at Maha.

* * *

Maha will be the last show for It's True (or the last two shows since they're playing the fest and an afterparty at the Waiting Room).

Everyone's wondering what's going to be next. Is it really the end? What's Adam Hawkins going to do?

First, they really are broken up. Saturday's shows are it.

And I'm sure someone somewhere will keep hearing those songs from Hawkins, but probably not around Omaha very often. At the moment, Hawkins is living in his hometown of Des Moines. And he's planning on moving to Denver in a few months. So if you're an It's True fan, get your ass to Maha.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Saddle Creek Update: Tim Kasher, Land of Talk, Adam Haworth Stephens (of Two Gallants) and Azure Ray

Fall will be good to Saddle Creek Records. The label has a slew of releases coming from familiar names to the label.

Most recent news is of Tim Kasher's solo album, "The Game of Monogamy," which will be released Oct. 5 on Saddle Creek.

The Cursive and The Good Life frontman has performed around Omaha near the holidays under the name Edelweis, but it was songs from this project.

"I wrote another record and I'm going to record it in January that I was going to call it 'Tim Kasher,' but I can never feel quite content with how dull my name sounds. I'm calling it Edelweis instead," he said then. "I really like that song a lot from 'The Sound of Music.' In a kind of a jagged way, that makes sense to me."

I guess he changed his mind.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to that album. Kasher's friends Patrick Newbery (of Cursive, Lacona and Head of Femur), Erin Tate (of Minus The Bear) and Matt Maginn (of Cursive) make appearances on the record.

From the press release:

This moody orchestral pop evokes a 1950s-esque, conservative atmosphere, setting the stage for a dilemma that remains thoroughly modern.  The protagonist's arc in The Game of Monogamy spans the wide range of distinctly human emotions tangled up around relationships in a starched shirt society.  Call it the score for our collective sexual plight: expression routinely becomes repression in the name of romance.

* * *

Next on the list is Land of Talk, who released an EP and some videos last year. The band's second album, "Cloak and Cipher," will be out Aug. 24 on the Creek.

The press release calls it a "sophisticated, textured musical composition." After listening to one track ("Swift Coin"), I'd say it's layered. The vocals sound great and if the album is full of as much indie pop-rock as we get on this track, I'll be happy.

A fall tour will bring the band to Slowdown on Sept. 23.

Listen to and/or download the song "Swift Coin" below:

* * *

What else? Adam Haworth Stephens, that's what else.

The lead singer and songwriter of duo Two Gallants will release his solo debut "We Live On Cliffs" on Sept. 28

It's good alternative, acoustic folk numbers and the album was created by an all-star cast. The record was produced by Grammy-winner Joe Chiccarelli (The White Stripes, The Strokes, My Morning Jacket, The Shins, U2, Radiohead, The Cult and many, many more) and features Patrick Halahan and Bo Koster (both of My Morning Jacket), Justin Meldal-Johnsen (Beck and NIN), Joey Waronker (Beck, Ima Robot, R.EM.), Cody Votolato (The Blood Brothers, Jaguar Love) and others.

Stephens is opening up for Blitzen Trapper for a Aug. 11 show at the Bourbon Theatre in Lincoln. Might have to make the trip West for that one.

Listen to and/or download the song "The Cities That You've Burned" below:

* * *

Last, but certainly not least, is Azure Ray. The ladies are releasing "Drawing Down The Moon" on Sept. 14.

I wrote about the new album and the band's "reunion" back in June.

Anyay, the big news with Maria Taylor and Orenda Fink's duo is a two-month, cross-country tour that will bring them all over the place. The band will stop at Slowdown on Nov. 3.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Vinyl giveaway winner

About a week ago, I announced that, along with the folks at Because Sound Matters, I was giving away a copy of the Black Keys' "Brothers" on vinyl.

I collected 25 entries from folks and this afternoon, I drew a winner along with the help of one of my editors.

Winning the Black Keys vinyl: Shawn Woodman.

Congrats, Shawn! The package is in the mail.

That's not the only contest we have going on right now. We're giving away a pair of tickets to the Maha Music Festival through Thursday.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Last Maha band announced: Voodoo Method

The OEA awards showcase was Friday night and last night. I missed out on both, but caught the SPEED! Nebraska soapbox derby race and showcase yesterday. You can read the whole report on the race and the show in Tuesday's paper and online.

But Voodoo Method won the showcase vote last night. I've never ever heard of them, but the band calls itself a "rock and soul" band on its Facebook page. Seems like a pretty apt description from the YouTube videos posted there.

I hope next year they just select 5 local bands instead of having voting. I'm all about letting the people "have a voice," but part of showcasing Omaha's talent is to pick those bands and tell people that these bands are the cream of the crop, not letting fans tell you want they want to hear. That's just my opinion.

Anyway, the lineup is set for Saturday's show. Get your tickets soon. If you haven't bought them yet, please enter my Maha ticket giveaway.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Contest: Win a pair of Maha Music Festival tickets

Lucky for you folks, we have another giveaway for you.

This time, it's a pair of tickets to see the Maha Music Festival, headlined by Spoon and featuring The Faint, Superchunk, The Old 97's, Ben Kweller and It's True.

Last week, I had an exclusive interview with Spoon and bassist Rob Pope (check it out). In next week's GO, we'll have more with Spoon as well as interviews with Superchunk, The Old 97's and The Faint.

The good people at Maha provided us with two tickets to give to one of my lucky readers. So, click the link below and submit your info. Happy hunting.

[Update: Contest is closed! Winner will be announced later today (Thursday).]

Contest will be open until Thursday, July 22, at noon.  A winner will be drawn and announced then. Good luck!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Late nights at the rock clubs?

If you're out tonight (and into tomorrow morning), you'll notice that they'll wait an extra hour to make you dump out the rest of that PBR can and get your sorry self out of the club.

In case you've been living under a rock somewhere, Omaha bars are allowed to stay open until 2 a.m. starting overnight tonight.

Will it affect your concertgoing experience? Maybe.

"We're going to be open until 2 a.m.," Marc Leibowitz (of One Percent and Waiting Room fame) told me.

But most shows aren't going to change that much.

"Weekday shows are going to stay exactly the same. Our normal shows are going to be 9 o'clock shows. We're not going to be doing any 10 o'clock shows," he said.

If there's four bands on a lineup, maybe they'll add a fifth band since there's more wiggle room as far as closing time is concerned. But to break it down, shows will start at the same time and, for the most part, you won't have to stay at the club until 2 to catch the headliner's set.

The only things that are planned to go extra late are dance parties such as Goo and Gunk.

* * *

Tonight, I'll be hitting up Slowdown and the Barley Street (and maybe the Waiting Room for the comedy show) to see if anything's happening with the 2 a.m. stuff. Oh, and to check out the good music.

Of special note is the show at Barley Street, which is a fundraisier for the Benson Musician's Hostel.

What is the hostel? It's run by Brad Hoshaw and is a place to stay for the dozens of musicians and bands that play in Benson during any given week.

I think it's a great idea and tonight's your chance to help out. Music starts at 9 tonight and features Chad Wallin, All Young Girls Are Machine Guns, Hoshaw, Jake Bellows, Justin Lamoureux, Cass Brostad and Andrew Bailie. $5 gets you in and there will be a donation jar on the bar.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Contest: Win double vinyl copy of The Black Keys' "Brothers"

The fine folks at Because Sound Matters want to give my readers some vinyl. So, they were nice enough to ship me a double-LP copy of The Black Keys' latest effort, "Brothers." Lucky you, it also has a big poster and a CD copy inside.

It's a great record, and I currently can't get enough of the lead track, "Everlasting Light." It has a dirty beat and a delicious guitar track.

I'm also looking forward to the band's show at the Anchor Inn on Aug. 9. Tickets to that shindig are $25. It's sure to be a helluva show.

To be entered in the contest, fill in your information below!

[Update: Entries are closed! Thanks for registering. A winner will be announced later today.]

The contest ends Sunday, July 18. A winner will be drawn and announced on Monday, July 19.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Concert For Equality tickets

Hey folks... It appears that One Percent Productions' website is down this morning. Inconvenient, since the Concert For Equality tickets go on sale this morning.

In case you hadn't heard yet, the July 31 show in Benson will feature a reunited Desparecidos and reunited Lullaby For The Working Class, plus Bright Eyes, Cursive and others.

Recently, Gillian Welch and David Rawlings were added to the lineup. This thing is shaping up nicely and the few thousand tickets are going to be snapped up FAST. Especially since a lot of out-of-towners will be making the trek to see these reunions.

If you're having trouble getting to the site, head here. Or, you can actually get them through the Waiting Room's site here.

Happy hunting.

Update: The "deluxe" tickets, which includes entry into the Waiting Room for a special show, are all gone.

* * *

If you're interested more in the issues, Conor Oberst's thoughts, the impact and the money, check out the long article I wrote for the front page of the Omaha World-Herald last week.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Desaparecidos are back for Bright Eyes, Cursive, Lullaby show to fight Fremont immigration law

This morning, I saw a tweet from One Percent that I knew was on its way:

I guess it's official, now. Benson was buzzing about it last week when I was at the Waiting Room and Jake's, but no one would give the official word until now.

Called the Concert For Equality, this is going to be a big show on a host of levels. First, Desaparecidos are back. Seems like people have been clamoring for this ever since they got back from a tour and Conor Oberst decided not to make any more records. My question: Will it be the original lineup? Will folks like Landon Hedges and Matt Baum be back in the band? We'll see.

[Update: Landon Hedges told me that he and Matt Baum will be playing the show. Oberst is obviously in and so is Denver Dalley, according to the newly-launched Desaparecidos Facebook page. So, it will be a true reunion.]

Second, this can and will easily attract national attention. These bands are coming together for a show probably for the first time ever, if not for many years. And they're fighting an issue that Oberst has had some national press on already.

Oberst has recently been at the forefront of musicians fighting against a similar law in Arizona. He joined Sound Strike, a non-profit group that includes artists boycotting performances in Arizona.
Just last week, Oberst penned an open letter to Arizona concert promoter Charlie Levy, who has argued that bands should make other efforts and not boycott performances in the state. In the letter, Oberst mentioned his distaste for the Fremont law.

“I was outraged, saddened and embarrassed for their town and my state,” Oberst wrote. “This way of thinking and legislating is so dangerous, and such a threat to our basic ideals as Americans and humans, that we cannot stand by and do nothing.  We cannot play on as if nothing is wrong.”

The show will take place on Maple Street and Military Road in downtown Benson, which will be blocked off for the event. Marc Leibowitz from One Percent Productions estimates that the area will hold at least 1,000 people.

Tickets to the show are $20 and will go on sale Saturday at One Percent. Deluxe tickets will be available that will give you access to an additional show inside the Waiting Room after the main show has wrapped up.

All proceeds will go to the ACLU to help fight the law in Fremont.

Desaparecidos photo courtesy of Saddle Creek Records.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Son of 76 & the Watchmen; Weekend roundup

I didn't catch Son of 76 and the Watchmen's whole set last night, but I enjoyed what I saw. There was a crowd of around 100 to catch the show, and an abnormal amount of dedicated fans for a local group. People were dancing in front of the stage and one woman was singing all the words to every song. I guess you could call her a fan.

Josh Hoyer is talented and has a voice that I can only describe as interesting. It's kinda gruff, but soulful. In addition to his chops, he also has a confidence about him because he's been doing this for awhile, which is a great asset for a frontman.

My only complaint would be that the show seemed to lack variety. The songs didn't sound the same, per se, but most were played at the same tempo. Then again, I didn't catch the whole set, so I very well may be full of crap.

Check out some of their songs. You like? See the band Saturday at Stir for $5.

* * *

What else this weekend?

• You have Foreigner, Styx and Kansas tonight at Memorial Park. Plus fireworks. I'll be there with some friend, but I honestly won't be paying a ton of attention to the music.

• I would also recommend Honey & Darling's Saturday show at the Waiting Room. They're always a treat. I wish I could go, but I'm being sent to cover Justin Bieber's concert at the Qwest. So excited about that one.

• Also Saturday is the Red, White & GOO dance party. How better to celebrate our nation's independence? $5 at Slowdown.

This is a little early, but there are two great shows next Tuesday: The Hold Steady at Slowdown and Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers at the Waiting Room (with Brad Hoshaw). Wish I could go to both.

Conor Oberst explains his position on Arizona (and Fremont)

Bright Eyes and Conor Oberst fans in Arizona won't be seeing either anytime soon (unless they travel out of state).

As you probably already know, Oberst and quite a few others decided to boycott performing in Arizona due to the state's recent adoption of a new anti-immigration law. Headed by Rage Against the Machine's Zach de la Rocha, the organization is called Sound Strike.

Earlier in the week, Arizona promoter Charlie Levy urged bands to reconsider. He thinks using performances in Arizona as a way to rally against the law would be better than a boycott. I understand the guy's position since he's going to lose his ass if enough bands sign onto this boycott. He won't have any shows to promote.

Oberst penned an "open letter" to Levy basically stating that while he doesn't like the boycott, it's the best option.

Remember the op-ed Oberst was going to write for the OWH? This is more or less it. Honestly, the open letter is even better.

In it, Oberst mentions Fremont a bit.

"If this Fremont law had been passed statewide instead of in a rural town of 25,000 people, I would be the first to call for a boycott of my home state," he wrote. "This way of thinking and legislating is so dangerous, and such a threat to our basic ideals as Americans and Humans, that we cannot stand by and do nothing."

He also mentioned a concert here in town that will raise money for an ACLU challenge of the Fremont law. Expect details soon (that is, if you haven't already heard all the rumors).

Head over to Billboard to read the letter.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

It's True breaking up? It's, uh, true

I wasn't there last night, but I heard that It's True frontman Adam Hawkins proclaimed on the Slowdown stage that the band was calling it quits

Is it true? Apparently so.

I asked keyboardist Karl Houfek if they were breaking up. "That is, in fact, the truth," he told me.

Maha Music Festival, where the band is playing the main stage, will be the group's last performance. (Maha confirmed it.) The band performs tonight at the Bourbon Theatre for its next-to-last show.

It's a shame, really. They're a great band and have been a pleasure to see each time I've caught them live. They were doing the right things, such as performing at South By Southwest and taking a long jaunt down the west coast.

They received plenty of press around town, including from me. They seemed happy about the band and the album and such when I last talked to all of the.

"I don’t think we’ve arrived or anything. We need to remember that the songs are first and we are all second to the songs," Hawkins said back in April.

So, what happened? I have no idea. They never signed with a label, which appeared to be frustrating. The trip to SXSW seemed to lack any real benefits, they told me afterward. And the most recent tour? Perhaps it was a bad experience. Who knows?

Anyway, I am sad to see them go. All of the guys in that band are very talented and, I'm sure, will move on to other gigs. We'll have to wait and see where they end up.