Friday, April 30, 2010

CD Reviews: MGMT, Jakob Dylan, The Hold Steady

I don't do CD reviews very often. At least, I haven't done them in months. That's something that I plan on changing here on the blog (and, hopefully sometime soon, in the paper as well).

Here's a couple reviews of CDs that have come out recently or will be coming out soon.

MGMT, "Congratulations" (Columbia)
Uh, are these guys serious? This record was supposed to be Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden's psychedelic take on surf music. I guess that explains the goofy cat album cover, but I just can't wrap my head around the music. It's truly ridiculous stuff and especially a disappointment after the excellent success that came with "Oracular Spectacular."

Um, a 12-minute song about surfing in the Artic Circle? No thanks. One of the best songs on the album is "Brian Eno," but unfortunately it sounds like it belongs during one of the chase scenes in a Scooby Doo episode. If that's the description for the best song on the album, you've taken a truly terrible path.

"Oracular Spectacular" is still a record that gets played on my iPod all the time. But "Congratulations?" Yeah, probably not much. The only "Congratulations" in order here are for making a freaking ridiculous record. So... um... congrats, fellas.

The Hold Steady, "Heaven Is Whenever" (Vagrant)

I was a little worried when I heard that Franz Nicolay wasn't with the band anymore. The mustachioed keyboardist provided a backbone to Tad Kubler's roaring guitars and singing support to Craig Finn's almost-speaking singing voice. I thought maybe The Hold Steady would lose some of those melodies and tones that really helped round out the band. With "Heaven Is Whenever," we get a more raw version of The Hold Steady. Nicolay's absence allows those other things (the real down and dirty rock 'n roll guitar and Finn's voice) to take center stage.

"I'm just trying to tell the truth, kid," Finn sings in "Soft In The Center." It's what he excels at and he delivers by the load on this album. "I know what you're going through. I had to go through that too," he sings later on the same song. That's why we come to you, Mr. Finn.

So, what The Hold Steady did with "Heaven Is Whenever" is deliver the most well-rounded record they've done so far. And, at first listen, my favorite Hold Steady record yet.

Jakob Dylan, "Women + Country" (Columbia)

I kept trying to take this album seriously. It's Jakob Dylan, son of Bob, the godfather of all that is good. It's Jakob Dylan, the guy from the Wallflowers, who, while you shouldn't take the band that seriously, put out some good pop-rock records.

But I just couldn't get through it. I felt like this was Jakob Dylan trying to make a record like his father. Son, you're good. But you're not that good.

The first track, "Nothing But The Whole Wide World To Gain," is the standout for me. It's a simple folk-country tune with great background vocals courtesy of Neko Case and Kelly Hogan.

From there, it goes downhill. He's shooting for a folk-Americana effort, but it feels fake, like he's trying too hard. The beats feel wrong in "Yonder Come The Blues." In "Holy Rollers For Love," the guitars are intentionally quiet,  when they'd be better as the backbone of the song instead of the weird beat.

In the end, it's just that nothing feels right to me and I don't know if it's Dylan's fault or the fault of producer T. Bone Burnett. Either way, I'll pass.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Guest Blog: Tim Wildsmith's battle with country music

Since I'm gone this week, I decided to let you guys have some guest blogs. This one comes from local singer/songwriter Tim Wildsmith who, though he once lived in Nashville, never really liked country. But some things change...

I’ve never liked Country music.


I hated it actually.

At first I think I didn’t like it because as a kid it’s just not something we had around our house. My parents listened to The Beach Boys and The Beatles and Creedence Clearwater Revival. My grandmother had the best Elvis 8-track collection on earth. My sister was into new Kids On The Block.

Country was just never something we were listening to.

So imagine my surprise when now, at the age of 27 and well past my formative music discovery years, I’m finding myself drawn to and actually enjoying this genre that I’ve always despised. It’s both annoying and a little embarrassing. But I just can’t help myself.

I should have known this was coming. The signs have been there since the beginning. In fact, my very first CD purchase in middle school was “Cracked Rear View” by Hootie and The Blowfish. C’mon… you know that album has some moments of twang. Not to mention that lead singer Darius Rucker is now a full-fledged member of the Country community. He even closed the Academy Of Country Music Awards this month.

As I got older it was all about Alternative, and naturally my hatred for Country grew. When you’re into bands like Nirvana and Bush and Third Eye Blind it’s pretty obvious that Shania Twain and Faith Hill aren’t gonna do much for you. Country music to me was a bunch of rednecks singing about beer and horses... and feeding beer to your horses.

(Time Out)

This is the part of the blog where I choose whether or not I should talk about my Creed phase. On one hand, it could certainly move the Country hatred plotline forward. But on the other hand, it’s



(Time In)

Now... I really should have seen it coming when I moved to Nashville for college. I was sunk at the point.

Nashville is a tricky place, because at first your hatred of Country only grows because you’re so overwhelmed by it. It’s everywhere. And it’s annoying. But before you know it, you’ve fallen in love with this city and you realize that Country music is part of the reason you love it so much. The people singing about beer and horses are generally pretty nice. They tip well. They smile a lot. They're hard not to like.

And they have a few trump cards up their sleeves for when your deck is stacked against them.

Two words: Ryman Auditorium.

There is no better venue to watch live music.

My first Ryman experience was a Willie Nelson and Friends concert special. Yes, I’m serious. I was sitting there, right down front, taking in how incredible the whole thing was when the guy next to me stood up and walked on stage. The dude looked like hell, and he lit a cigarette. I looked to see where security was gonna come from when Willie says, “Ladies and gentlemen, Ryan Adams.”

Yep. I was sitting next to Ryan Adams. Better still, I had no idea who he was. So I bought his album called “Gold.” Now that was really the beginning of the end for me. Ryan Adams and his alt-country glory led me down the rabbit hole. It was rock and roll with a country soul.. or maybe the other way around. I loved it. I loved it the same way I love Wilco now. I can hear the country influence in them too.

I started to respect Country, but I still didn't like it. And no one could make me.

And then the dagger came... and it came from the most likely place… The King of Country.

My girlfriend, a Nashville-based country singer (yes.. still not sure how that happened), used to intern at George Straight’s record label. So she calls me one day and says, “I got you a couple of tickets to see George Straight tomorrow night.”

I said, “Why?”

She said, “C’mon! You should go! Do it for me.”

The next thing I know I’m walking into the Qwest Center and the guy at will call hands me two 5th row seats to a sold out George Straight concert. 5th row. My buddy Jake and I made our way down front, through a sea of rednecks I never knew the Midwest could produce, and took in all the Country that George and Reba could give us.

And I liked it.

I have no idea how, but I really liked it. George was a stud. And Reba was kinda hot. Both of their bands were incredible. There was absolutely no pretense. It was a big party, and we were all invited.

I like Country music.

Now, let's be clear. I'm not going to start buying every Taylor Swift album that ever comes out. I'm not buying a pair of boots or a 10-gallon hat. I'm not feeding any beer to any horses, and I'm certainly never going to be caught dead at a Kenny Chesney concert (I gotta draw the line somewhere).

But when my girlfriend calls you might hear a little twang in my ringtone.

And you won't hear me say "Anything but Country" when asked what I want to listen to on the radio.

So… I guess I like Country.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Rock Candy Mailbag: Answering your questions once again

Every day, I get asked questions about everything from where to find tickets to my opinion on Nickelback to what I want for lunch. You probably don't care to know the answer to that last one (today was a salad, in case you do), but I'm happy to share answers to your queries.

Got a question of your own? Send it to

What are your top 5 albums of all time? (From CapslockBenny)
I'm going to rank this as my top five favorite albums of all time, not which ones I think are necessarily the best ever. These ones are my favorite records (as of this moment... tomorrow, they'll probably be different) in no particular order:

• Bright Eyes, "I'm Wide Awake It's Morning" - The songwriting and music on this record is incredible. It's one of the few that I listen to all the way through on a consistent basis.
• MxPx, "At The Show" - I'm a sucker for punk and pop-punk and I've always liked MxPx.This CD has MxPx's best songs on it including everything from the super-poppy to the super-fast, nearly hardcore stuff is present. Sadly, I've only actually seen them live once.
• 311, "Music" - The first record that I ever listened to and fell in love with start to finish. It's still 311's best, in my opinion, containing their most honest work and most rocking songs they've ever done. Everything since pales in comparison. My CD copy is practically unlistenable with all of the scratches on it.
• Beta Band, "The 3 EP's" - Technically it's a collection of three separate EPs, but this record can make anyone groove. And "Dry The Rain" always reminds me of that scene in High Fidelity. Similar to the movie scene, I've never put on that record and not had someone ask, "Who is that?"
• Led Zeppelin, "Physical Graffiti" - Every song on this album isn't fantastic, but the ones that are great are out of this world. I can't get enough of "Houses of the Holy," "Boogie With Stu" (a cool rip of a Richie Valens song) and the epic "Kashmir." I never really go the "vinyl sounds better" argument until I listened to the double-LP version I got from Homer's. Now I get it. Also one of the coolest album cover designs ever.

You said in your blog to join a band, you ever been in one? (From CapslockBenny)
Nope. Never have. So yes, I'm that guy who's never been in a band that judges you and your music and distributes my thoughts to a wide audience. To paraphrase a certain quote about teaching, "Those who can't do, get journalism degrees and become critics," right?

But even though I've never been in a band, I have played guitar for more than 10 years. I'm not a great guitar player, but I do have a good understanding of how to play. I have also played with other people ("jammed," if you will), but that's never evolved into a band. I also occasionally play drums (I have a decent kit at my house), but I'm hilariously bad at it.

What's your favorite venue around town and why? (From SarpyCounty)
Let's see who gets angry at this one... I love Slowdown because it sounds fantastic. It's a great venue and we're lucky to have it. It also helps that there's not really a bad seat in the house. The re-designed Waiting Room also sounds better than average and it's just a nice place. In terms of character, though, O'Leaver's wins over any venue in town. I love the album covers stapled to the wall (even the crappy ones) and the lyrics to the "Happy Days" theme song written on the men's bathroom's ceiling. At a show, you're right on top of a band and, even though it's cramped, you get a helluva view. Love the place.

There's one thing people need to realize though: you can have a shitty show in a great venue and a fantastic show in a crap venue. It all depends on how many people are up, if they're there to have a good time and if the band hits its marks. Matt Whipkey told me the other day that you can play on a great stage, but if no one shows up, it can be a terrible show. Well put.

Who is the best unsigned Omaha band? (From NEMusicReview)
There are lots of unsigned bands in town, but the one that is without label and should be (in my opinion) is It's True. They don't have a label of any sort (as far as I know) and I'm not really sure why. Sure, the band has taken a different direction since its debut record (moving from a solo effort to a real band), but they're nothing short of fantastic. And their new record, which I know they've tried shopping around, is a great listen. I don't know what the deal is, but I'm interviewing Adam Hawkins and the guys this week and I'll find out. You'll know when I do.

If you had unlimited money and could pick one band to headline the Maha Music Festival who would it be? If you were like a wizard or some shit, and could bring back one broken up band (even if they're dead) to play Maha, who would it be? (From CapslockBenny)
Benny, I'm not going to answer these questions. Well, not exactly. I will answer a re-phrased version of them. The reason behind this is that if I had an unlimited budget, I could book any band in the world. When you start debating between U2 and the Rolling Stones as a headliner, it becomes a pretty silly question.

Here's what I will do: Similar to how one person or band picks the bands for All Tomorrow's Parties, I'll pick a two-day lineup consisting of two headliners and fifteen other bands to fill out the schedule. Basically, it would be a two-day fest of some of my favorite stuff. I tried to layer it (like real festivals do) with everything from bigger-name indies to small, lesser-known acts.

• Headliners: Wilco and Weezer
• Big-name indies: The Hold Steady, Bright Eyes, Silversun Pickups, Gaslight Anthem
• Buzz bands: Japandroids, Frightened Rabbit, Free Energy, Blitzen Trapper, The Avett Brothers, Miike Snow
• Lesser-known groups: One For The Team, Manchester Orchestra, Rural Alberta Advantage, Everybody Was In The French Resistance Now!, fun.

Wouldn't that be a fun couple days of music? Hells yes. But unfortunately in the real world, budgets and scheduling conflicts intervene and would make this specific lineup nearly impossible. But it would be fun, right?

As for the second part of your question, I'm again not going to address it specifically to Maha because it becomes a silly question when you're trying to decide between Nirvana and The Doors to headline Maha. But if I could reunite any band alive or dead and watch them live sometime, I would reunite Led Zeppelin. Maybe someday they'll pull their heads out of their butts and go on tour again with John Bonham's son behind the kit. I'd pay big money to see that.

I am part of a local band that is trying to get going. Do you have any advice for how to go about booking local shows and getting our name out there? (from Rob Kinney-Walker)

I'm going to assume that you already to go local shows. But if you're not, start doing it. Now. You'll meet people in the local scene and you'll educate yourself by hearing some new music. Also, you'll start to figure out which venues host bands that play a similar style of music to your own group. That's probably the place you want to start trying to get your band to play (i.e. you don't want to try to book your hardcore band at a place that does acoustic singer-songwriter stuff). Another good bet is to find venue websites and look at their schedules to see who's playing.

Next, contact those venues directly (via e-mail or phone) with a simple message asking what their policy is with booking local bands and what information they might need about your band. Also contact local booking companies (One Percent Productions, Black Heart Booking, Rad Kadillac, etc.) and ask the same question. Once again, I said "simple." Be simple, direct and, at first, just ask what information they need from you. Don't send a full biography, photos, music, etc. just yet. Let them tell you what they need.

At the same time, you should record at least one or two demos. Someone you know has Garage Band or a similar sound recording/editing software, so it's not like you need to hire out a recording studio and a sound engineer or something. Create a MySpace page with a picture of your band (if you don't know what to do, look at band photos you like and have a friend take one like it) and your demo tracks.

Be sure to tell your family and friends about your project. Yes, even your mom and that weird uncle. They might like your music or know someone who does.

Last, tell the local media. Here in Omaha, folks like me, Tim McMahan, Marq Manner and other music writers are pretty accessible. It's not hard to find our contact info. Even if we don't write something on your band just yet, we can at least get you listed in our live music calendars, which helps our audiences know you have a show.

Of course, during all of this, you should be pouring your heart and soul into your music. Write good material. Perfect those songs. Scrap the ones that suck. And practice, practice, practice. All of the promotion in the world won't make your band go anywhere if you suck.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

On the Road: Adventures in traveling with Kerouac and Gibbard

I'm out of town this week, so I've planned a variety of posts from myself and some guests. Here is one from Dane Stickney, former World-Herald reporter and a good friend of mine, about some of his recent travels. Enjoy.

* * * 

I took a road trip with Jack Kerouac and Ben Gibbard this winter.

They were odd companions because, honestly, they're two guys I really wanted to like but just couldn't fully do it. I've had friends and lovers who liked Jack and Ben a whole lot. But me, well, I just wasn't there yet.

Kerouac, of course, is famous for writing "On the Road" -- the ultimate road-trip book penned in 1951 and published in 1957. It's the book of the Beat generation. It's written in a distinct style and captures the vagabond attitude of Kerouac and his cronies. Oh, and it sucks. Seriously, the book is bad. It's not that well-written, most of the characters are easy to hate and it lacks that punch of a point that really good books need.

Then there's Gibbard, who's famous for fronting Death Cab for Cutie (and for marrying the indie hottie Zoey Deschanel). Death Cab could be considered by some as one of the most important band of the 2000s. Their 2008 disc "Narrow Stairs" hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts. But, again, a lot of their stuff sucks. Indie rock might be too edgy a classification for Death Cab. The band, essentially, writes pop songs. I like a few a lot, but most of their tunes leave me lukewarm.

But Kerouac and Gibbard are both brilliant -- you just need to dig deeper to find examples of their work that is actually good. Kerouac's "Dharma Bums" is far better than "On the Road." Gibbard's work with the Postal Service is far better than his Death Cab cache.

Where the two really shine, though, is where they meet -- Big Sur. And that's where I came to respect them. That's where I decided to let them into my Honda Civic and drive 8,600 miles across the American West.

When I planned my nine-month sojourn of the West, I put California's Big Sur coast at the top of my must-visit list. Not only is it beautiful, but it's been an important spot for artistic creativity. Specifically for Kerouac and Gibbard.

Kerouac's 1962 novel "Big Sur" is, in my eyes, his best. It more-or-less autobiographically chronicles his alcohol-fueled nervous breakdown, resulting from the fame fallout of "On the Road." He descended beneath the Bixby Bridge to a cabin where his life fell apart. The book is so much better than "On the Road" -- it's far better written, far more honest and boasts a far more cogent and poignant point.

Gibbard is an admitted Kerouac-phile. He followed Kerouac's steps into Bixby Canyon, looking for inspiration. He details it in the Death Cab song "Bixby Canyon Bridge." Like Kerouac, Gibbard didn't find much. But that didn't stop Gibbard from trying. He and Jay Farrar (Uncle Tupelo, Son Volt) recorded a soundtrack for a documentary about Kerouac's "Big Sur" called "One Fast Move or I'm Gone."

That Gibbard-Farrar album was the soundtrack for my journey, too. I listened to it through Montana, Idaho and eastern Washington. When I got to Seattle, I saw the two perform the songs at the vaunted venue The Showbox.

The songs are so good because they match Kerouac's writings with simple, folky sounds. The tunes are straight-forward and lack much of the over-production found on Death Cab albums. Gibbard's tracks -- both live and on the recording -- shine brightest. "All in One," "California Zephyr" and "One Fast Move or I'm Gone" are incredible -- poignant, heartfelt, bare-bones.

Gibbard's melodies and Kerouac's words carried me further south down the Pacific Coast through the San Francisco bars they frequented and eventually to Big Sur itself. There, I too descended into Bixby Canyon. But unlike Kerouac and Gibbard, I did find something there. I found the seaside where Kerouac wrote poetry, the creek where Gibbard waded and waited for Kerouac's inspiration.

And I decided something. Jack Kerouac is an iconic writer and a important tragic figure in American art history. Ben Gibbard could be one of the best songwriters of our era, and he needs to be closely watched in coming years.

But neither, in my eyes, is notable for their most famous works. Skip "On the Road." Avoid Death Cab. If you're looking for their best, look in one place.

In Big Sur.

Monday, April 26, 2010

List: 10 best indie rock frontmen

I was stuck in an airport for a few hours last weekend, so I found myself in a newstand, which is pretty typical for me.

Surprisingly, they were pretty low on music magazines, but one cover in particular caught my eye. Q Magazine (a British publication) was advertising their "100 greatest frontmen" list along with a photo of Bono. I made a purchase.

In the end, their list was pretty good, even if I think it was a bit Brit-heavy (Liam Gallagher of Oasis, Damon Albarn of Blur and Matt Bellamy of Muse made the top 10 undeservedly, in my opinion).

But the one thing they missed almost completely was indie rock. Everybody else was on the list (from Kurt Cobain to Perry Ferrell to Little Richard) but I didn't see anyone like Craig Finn from the Hold Steady or Ben Gibbard from Death Cab/The Postal Service. The absence of those names and others bugged me.

So, here it is, my list of my 10 favorite indie rock frontmen...

10. Ezra Koenig
>> He is: The leader of the poppy, preppy fellas in Vampire Weekend, Koenig exudes that cardigan-and-plaid-shorts-wearing aura that makes us all love that band. Oh, and his bright guitar style lends perfectly to the groups sound. And style.
>> Did you know: The band is named after a short film Koenig and his friends made during summer vacation.

9. Brian Fallon
>> He is: The tatted-up frontman of The Gaslight Anthem looks like he came right out of the blue-collar Jersey-life songs he sings every night. He once did one of the coolest things I've ever seen a frontman do: broke up a fight from the stage by telling them they were both morons and threatening to kick both their asses if he had to. Completely badass.
>> Did you know: Often likened to Bruce Springsteen, the band has performed with him several times. The Boss jumped onstage and helped Fallon sing "The 59 Sound" at 2009's Glastonbury festival.

8. Jim James
>> He is: The bearded one seems like a kooky guy with his high voice and weird, trippy songs. I mean, have you heard "Highly Suspicious?" Weird tune. But it's also freaking awesome, as are the rest of My Morning Jacket's weird-ass music. He was even better when rounded out by the three other guys in Monsters of Folk.
>> Did you know: As one of his biggest influences, James claims "The Muppet Show." No joke.

7. Ben Gibbard
>> He is: He made us all warm and fuzzy with Death Cab For Cutie and then he made one of the best records in the last 10 years with The Postal Service. This is one man that knows how to write a song, even if, as a frontman, he's not the most outgoing guy in the world.
>> Did you know: Gibbard and collaborator Jimmy Tamborello named their project The Postal Service because they made the record by mailing tapes back and forth through the mail.

6. Samuel Beam
>> He is: Beam writes quiet songs. He's a quiet guy. But under the name Iron & Wine, Beam is the almighty purveyor of the heartfelt tune. I mean, even the stuff on his b-sides and rarities album, "Around the Well," is freaking incredible. And that's supposed to be the not-as-good stuff. Sheesh.
>> Did you know: Beam graduated with an MFA and was a painter, then was a professor of film at a university before he released his debut on Sub Pop.

5. Brian King
>> He is: It doesn't take five or six guys with a bunch of guitars and bass and double kickdrums to be loud. Nope, Brian King and buddy David Prowse (not the guy who played Darth Vader in Star Wars... different David Prowse) do it all as just a duo. King very literally throws himself around stage, all while keeping the songs together with his guitar playing. There's no one to fill in if he screws up. But he never does. Not to mention those lyrics that make you cringe a little, but then nod in understanding.
>> Did you know: The band name came from a portmanteau (look it up) of two other names: Japanese Scream and Pleasure Droids.

4. Tim Kasher
>> He is: Anyone who has seen Cursive knows Kasher's penchant for going on extensive monologues in between sets. All the while, he keeps Cursive playing tightly. And emotive. And intensely. Kasher's presence onstage is what makes a Cursive show a Cursive show.
>> Did you know: Kasher was part of Slowdown Virginia, an early influence of a lot of the early Saddle Creek bands and namesake of SC's venue, Slowdown.

3. Henry Rollins
>> He is: Is there anyone more intense than the once-frontman of hardcore band Black Flag? Later forming Rollins Band, which wasn't quite as good, this guy performs in nothing more than his tattoos and a pair of athletic shorts. No shoes. No shirt. Just full-blown rock 'n' roll.
>> Did you know: He's coming to Omaha on one of his spoken word tours on June 26 at Sokol Auditorium.

2. Craig Finn
>> He is: The characters that populate Hold Steady songs may not live lives exactly like ours, but man we can relate to them, whether it's about drugs or sex or hanging out at a rock show. Finn writes these mini epics and speak-sings his way through them, leading the band on in their effort at being the best bar band around.
>> Did you know: The Hold Steady is headed to Omaha on July 6 at Slowdown.

1. Jeff Tweedy
>> He is: Wilco is a band, but we all know that it's Tweedy's band. By the end of nearly every song he's done, you're sitting there nodding your head and thinking, "Yeah, I know what you mean." It's a talent that few have. Also, his solo shows are a treat. They include a mix of tour stories and music and cover everything he's done from Uncle Tupelo to Wilco to Golden Smog to Loose Fur.
>> Did you know: The original name for Uncle Tupelo was The Primitives, but they had to change it because someone else was already using the name.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

I'm out the door

Hey there...

Next week, I'm taking a much-needed vacation. But while I'm out, I'm still going to keep you company with a bunch of stuff, including a couple of guest blogs.

Monday through Friday next week, you'll get a brand new blog every day at noon.

Here's what you'll find:

Monday: List: The 10 best indie rock frontmen

Tuesday: Former World-Herald staffer Dane Stickney explores traveling the U.S. with Ben Gibbard and Jack Kerouac

Wednesday: Digging into the mailbag to answer your questions

Thursday: Omaha singer-songwriter Tim Wildsmith explores his love/hate relationship with country music

Friday: CD reviews of new albums from MGMT, The Hold Steady and Jakob Dylan

* * *

In next week's GO, which comes on out Thursday, you'll find several of my stories, including my weekly column, a feature on It's True's new record, a short thing on Against Me! and a feature on Laura Burhenn and The Mynabirds, who also have new record out.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Weekend Roundup: Julian Casablancas, Omaha Invasion and tons more

Holy craziness, Batman! This is a helluva weekend for shows around here. If I were going to be in town (I'm not), this is what I would go see:

>> There's a Goo show/dance party tonight at the Waiting Room.

>> Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas plays his solo material at the Waiting Room on Thursday. He recorded much of his record in Omaha at ARC with Mike Mogis. Will he play some Strokes stuff? We shall see.

>> Minus the Bear is also on Thursday, but at Slowdown. I've heard their new record, "Omni," and I like it a lot. It's out May 4 on Dangerbird Records. (Read my interview with Minus the Bear on Thursday at

>> Omaha Invasion in Lincoln on Friday and Saturday. Nearly 30 of Omaha's best bands and DJs are heading 45 minutes southwest to show Lincolnites how it's done. It wouldn't be a bad idea to follow them down there. $6 a night gets you into all venues. If you want to hole up at one place, it's only 3 bucks. Can't beat that price.

>> Thunder Power on Saturday at Barley Street. $5, as usual.

>> Whipkey Zimmerman plays at Stir on Friday night. Tim McMahan says the place isn't ideal, but I'm not surprised. I'm looking forward to actually being in town to catch a show there.

>> Yeasayer kicks out the jams Sunday at the Waiting Room. It's sold out, so if you don't have tickets, find someone who has an extra. (Ready my interview with Yeasayer on Thursday at

>> Pray that you've saved up enough cash over the last few months because it's also big ticket-buying weekend. If I were purchasing tickets, I'd be throwing down cash on Friday for The Hold Steady show on July 6 at Slowdown . On Saturday, I'd be buying tickets for Mates of State with Free Energy on June 25 at Slowdown; Maha Music Festival on July 24 with Spoon, Superchunk, The Faint and Old 97's; and Rush at the Qwest on Aug. 25.

Other big stuff going on sale this weekend (that I'm not as big on, but I'm sure others are) is Motion City Soundtrack on June 4 at Slowdown; Snoop Dogg and comedian Mike Epps on June 5 at Stir Cove; and Adam Lambert on June 10 at Stir Cove.

 * * *

As mentioned earlier, I'm headed out of town this weekend. I'll actually be out of the office all week next week, but I'll keep the blog updated with plenty of stuff, including guest blogs, lists, a mailbag column and more. Come back tomorrow to see the schedule of what I'll be delivering while I'm gone next week.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Record Store Day recap

I was actually in Chicago over the weekend, missing a multitude of good live shows and Record Store Day in Omaha.

Mike Fratt at Homer's recommended that I head to Reckless Records in Chicago, but I unfortunately couldn't make it on Saturday (I was in town for a wedding, as it were).

Here in town, Homer's, Drastic Plastic and Antiquarium Records all had lines when they opened in the morning. Surveying the scene this morning, the three stores had barely anything left in the way of RSD exclusives.

As far as what's left that I saw: Drastic had three or so of the Monsters of Folk vinyl re-issue. Antiquarium had the Pavement record. Homer's had a bunch of 7-inches. But most of the other stuff was gone.

Fratt told me that they had 70 people at the front door who ran through their selection really fast. Antiquarium co-owner Brian Byrd said they had a line at the door and most of their exclusives were gone within an hour.

Both said the day was pretty successful. Byrd said it was only the second time he's ever had people outside his store before opening and the first time was RSD last year.

For Homer's, they did close to last year's RSD business and would have done better if not for a screwup on account of one of the distributors. Basically, one of the distributors didn't process the order from Homer's so some of the big items (including the Flaming Lips' "Dark Side Of the Moon" and Wilco's live "Kicking Television" vinyl) weren't carried at Homer's.

Because of the wedding I was at, I missed the actual day, so I didn't get my hands on the two things I really wanted: an early vinyl release of the Hold Steady's new album, "Heaven Is Whenever," OR Wilco's "Kicking Television."

At Reckless Records in Chicago on Sunday, I did find the Flaming Lips "Dark Side Of The Moon" and the Phoenix 12-inch pink vinyl with "Fences" and a remix. I also picked up 7-inches from Julian Casablancas, Telekinesis and Stephen Merritt/Peter Gabriel.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

RE: Press releases

Dear bands and your publicists,

Stop wasting your time with paper press releases.


You're probably wondering where this is coming from. Basically, I'm doing a little spring cleaning here at the office and just went through at least 1,000 press releases that were in my desk.

And, with only a couple exceptions, I threw them all out.

Well, for starters, I actually recycled them. And those 1,000+ were accumulated over the last year. But nonetheless, it stands out as an amazing waste of money and resources to produce, copy and send that stuff when all I'm going to do, at the end of the day, is chuck it into my little recycle bin.

It's my opinion that a band will catch my attention better by sending me their CD (or better yet, a digital download) and a list of tour dates. Those are really the only things I need. Mailing a piece of paper that says you made "a strong record of simple heartfelt folk tunes nestled between hard driving cuts of acoustic indie/americana" isn't going to convince me of anything.

Take that time (and that money) and apply it to making your band better. You'll make better records and therefore do a better job of catching my eye.

* * *

Busy day today... Talked to Laura B. from The Mynabirds today about her new record, which I strongly suggest you listen to. It's very good. Saddle Creek is streaming the whole thing and, if you like it, you can get it shipped from them before it comes out April 27.

Tomorrow, be on the lookout for a weekend roundup and a batch of headlines.

Side note: I'll actually be out of town the next three weekends and am missing a ton of good shows. As always, if you see something you like, drop me an e-mail ( and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Maha Music Festival is doing things right

No doubt you've seen the lineup for the Maha Music Festival, which was announced early this morning.

I have to be honest that I was a bit surprised, although very pleasantly so, when I heard about Spoon. And I was even more satisfied when I heard about the rest of the lineup: Superchunk, The Faint and Old 97's.

No offense to the Maha organizers, but last year's lineup left me disappointed. Here it was, Omaha's first real shot at a music festival and we had Dashboard Confessional headlining, a band that didn't have a real hit since "Vindicated." I had a good time at the show and saw some good music, but it didn't really represent what Omaha had to show as a music city. Not nearly.

The best bands, in my opinion, were onstage during the day when no one was there to see them. Appleseed Cast was great, Army Navy kicked ass and the local bands were really the highlight for me. Unfortunately only 50 or so people were there to see those groups and, as far as I could tell, most of us were "industry" people or sponsors that had free tickets, so no one there was being exposed to anything new.

So, what happened in 2009? Basically, a few things happened. The Maha board started trying to organize this fest way too late and they also used a talent buyer that didn't get them very good stuff. Believe me, the Maha guys don't have bad taste in music. If you met any of them, they'll talk to you about the concerts they saw last year or albums they listened to and they're right on. They just had bad timing and an unfortunate choice in who they did business with.

And then what happened in 2010? This year, they started early. It gave them more time to book groups who were looking at playing other festivals, which (along with costs) is the main reason why you'll lose out on booking some great bands. And they got smart and hired Marc Leibowitz and One Percent Productions as their talent buyer, and anyone who knows about Marc is aware that the guy knows his music as well as Omaha as a music market very, very well.

What did we end up with? Well, we got Spoon, for starters. They were on the cover of Spin recently and have been making a name for themselves slowly but surely. Good get. Great band.

Then there's The Faint, who always puts on a fantastic show. Not to mention it's nice to have a sort of salute to some of Omaha's contemporary musical roots. Superchunk is not only a great band, but it barely does shows any more, so that's a helluva snag. And, so I'm told, The Old 97's puts on a great show. (Listen to music from all four bands over at

Also consider that Maha says we're going to get a couple more national acts. While I think they're already doing well, they'll really hit a home run if they can book one or two more solid acts. (Like everyone, I have a wish list. We'll see what we see.)

All that for only $33, which is a steal in my opinion.

Really, this feels like year one for me. This is the lineup that I expected the first time around. Call it a do-over if you want.

It's also a lineup that I think people will travel to come see, which I wasn't sure would ever happen, to be honest. And that's huge. A successful festival needs to draw people from places beyond its own city. Do you think Lollapalooza's audience is only Chicagoans? Hell no.

Let's put it this way: "Book it (right) and they will come," if I may paraphrase a certain baseball film.

* * *

A side note: Before the lineup was announced, there was a lot of speculation as to who was going to be playing. Some of the names thrown around included MGMT, Weezer, Bright Eyes, Vampire Weekend, Muse and a bunch of others.

Some of the names floated by fans were pretty good/accurate picks, but others were pretty hilarious. Some of them (Bright Eyes comes to mind) probably wouldn't do it. Other bands (Violent Femmes, someone mentioned) aren't even touring.

Still others are plain ridiculous when looked at from a budgetary perspective (Weezer or Wilco). Maha doesn't have a limitless budget and it's not nearly to Lollapalooza/Coachella/Reading & Leeds territory yet. I see that as a good thing, for now.

You might say, "How is Wilco out of their price range? Capacity at Maha is 6,000 or so, right?"

Basically, bands charge two to three times as much to play at a festival. So, it works out that sometimes you can book a band at the Qwest Center for cheaper than you could at a festival. Why do bands charge that much? First, because they can. Second, because they know corporate sponsorship dollars are paying for these shows, which means there's a lot of money going around and they want their share. And because it's corporate sponsors supplying the cash, the band doesn't know and/or has no control over what banner or logo is floating above its head, so the group wants to make sure it's well-compensated for, effectively, promoting some corporation.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Headlines! Maha, Roger Waters, Alex Chilton and more

How was everyone's weekend? I have a birthday coming up, so most of it was spent doing birthday-related activities therefore missing pretty much all shows going on.

In fact, I'm going to be missing a lot of shows in the coming weeks because of some planned vacation. As always, if you hit up a show, send me an e-mail and let me know how it was. I'd love to hear it over the next couple of weeks because I won't be around.

Anyway, onto the important stuff...

Maha Music Festival already announced Spoon as its headliner. The fest is adding a few more to the lineup tonight at midnight. I'll have a story up over at at about that time.

• Speaking of Maha, they're looking for local bands to play the show. Interested parties should e-mail

• And speaking of show announcements, Roger Waters is coming to town and he'll be performing "The Wall" in its entirety. This is going to be epic. I remember in high school when my friends and I went on a Pink Floyd kick (doesn't everybody?) and we were blown away by "The Wall" concert footage.

• Next Saturday is Record Store Day and there are loads of exclusive releases coming out over the weekend. Here's what you need to know.

Jake Bellows (of Neva Dinova) is continuing with his song-a-month project over at his site. Pick up"If You Can Wait" for only $1.29.

• It's coming out now that Alex Chilton, who died a few weeks ago of a heart attack, didn't have any health insurance.

• He doesn't sign autographs anymore and Ringo says it's because of eBay.

• There are two John Prine-related releases coming out in June. One is a live collection and the other is Prine songs done by other artists, including My Morning Jacket, Conor Oberst & the Mystic Valley Band and others.

Today In Rock History: Jan Berry (of Jan & Dean) drives his Corvette into a parked truck in Beverly Hills. It was a few miles from Dead Man's Curve and the accident happened two years after Jan & Dean's song of the same name became a hit.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Mike Mogis has been busy; OEA showcase on Friday

It seems like everywhere I turn, I keep hearing about Mike Mogis.

Lately, he's been a busy guy. Last year, he recorded, produced and performed with the Monsters of Folk.

Pete Yorn's album, which dropped last year, was recorded at ARC and produced by Mogis and so was the solo album by Julian Casablancas of the Strokes, which was also out in 2009..

News today was that The Low Anthem is having their new record mixed by Mogis. Their previous effort, "Oh My God Charlie Darwin," is fantastic and they actually played at Slowdown on Sunday night. Frontman Ben Knox Miller told Paste Magazine that Bright Eyes' "I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning" absolutely blew them away.

The new Low Anthem record, their third, is due in September.

Lately, a lot of folks have been talking about how Mogis and Conor Oberst have been working on some new Bright Eyes stuff over the past few months, which would make sense. He told Spinner that BE would probably get together after Monsters of Folk concluded its tour, which happened months ago.

ARC Studios is basically at Mogis' house and was built by he and neighbor Conor for them to record Bright Eyes, even though he said last September that they had yet to do so. But Mogis said having the studio right next to their homes has its advantages.

"We text, 'Do you want to come and listen to this guitar part,' and he'll come up," Mogis told Spinner.

Wonder what else we'll see from Mogis and friends in the near future.

* * *

Anybody going to the OEA Award showcase this weekend? Yes, it's in Council Bluffs, which a lot of people are fretting about.

But I like the idea of moving it out of Benson from time to time. And it's not like Council Bluffs artists aren't eligible for the OEAs.

Anyway, a $10 wristband gets you into all five venues. Looks like we have 22 artists on tap for Friday. Happy hunting.

Here's the schedule, taken right from

8 p.m. — Clock Tease
9  — Minnaoonies
10 — Thousand Houses
11 — Fino
midnight — Dive Kings

The Venue
9 — Shine
10 — Strap On Halo
11 — Whipkey/Zimmerman
midnight —   Dielated

Fiddlin Monkey
8:40 — All Young Girls Are Machine Guns
9:40 — Kyle Harvey
10:40 — Jaymie Jones
11:40 — Platte River Rain

Glory Days
7:30 — Fork In The Road
8:20 — Chantilly Reign
9:20 — Love Technicians
10:20 — Manna
11:20 — Mr. Important

8:40 — Benn Seiff
9:40 — Scott Severin
10:40 — MC DL
11:40 — Black On High

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Headlines! Luigi, Cursive and more

Luigi Waites

• There's really no good way to get into it, so I'll just go for it. Omaha music lost a heavy hitter today as Luigi Waites died this morning. He was 82. I spoke to a lot of people today and everyone talked about how great of a person he was and his great smile and laughter. I last saw him at the Dundee Dell over lunch awhile back and he was as personable as ever, talking to old friends and making time to talk to other folks who told him what a great job he was doing. Read up on what people had to say about the man.

• In much more lighthearted news, Cursive did a cover of "We Built This City" by Starship for the Onion's A.V. Club. No surprise here, but it's way better than the original. And, as far as I'm concerned, kind of a hilarious choice. The idea behind the project was that the Onion created a list of songs and an artist gets to choose which one to cover. That song is then crossed off the list. What did Tim Kasher have to say? "I think we picked 'We Built This City' because we saw that that was far and beyond the best song selection of all the songs you sent. We snagged it before anyone else could get it," he said. Tim, I'm not sure other groups would be chomping at the bit for that one, but a good choice nonetheless. Personally, I think they should add it to the live repetoire. It's that awesome.

• The Lollapalooza lineup was revealed today! Who's going to be there? Arcade Fire, the Strokes, Lady Gaga, Green Day, a reunited Soundgarden and Phoenix, of course. Other bands I'm excited for: Black Keys, MGMT, New Pornographers, Frightened Rabbit, Blitzen Trapper, Minus The Bear, Rogue Wave and others. See the full lineup. Anyone else thinking of going? I'll probably be there again.

• Over at NPR's All Songs Considered, The Mynabirds were included in the spring music preview.

• Bob Dylan was barred from entering China. Apparently they don't like his counter-culture status. My question: Does anyone considers him counter-culture anymore?

• Oh, Jack White, you crazy kid. The Internet as a "nuisance?" Who would believe that the Web - where you can share cute cat pictures with your friends and family - could ever be considered annoying?

• One of my favorite bands from SXSW, Codeine Velvet Club, released its debut today. Go have a look-see.

• Another big story today is how bar hours could be extended in Omaha. Will shows around here start later? Or will more local openers fill out the time left open by a later closing time? The latter is what I'd like to see, but we'll have to wait to find out.

• Who wants more Kanye? Anybody? Fret not. The great interrupter will be putting out another record in June.

• Baseball season is upon us and Paste explores the best music about our nation's pastime. (Oh, and something about Rickey Henderson and Centro-matic).

World-Hearld photo