Friday, April 29, 2011

Red Sky Music Festival will start announcing bands on Monday

Yes, the headline above is true. No joke.

Red Sky Music Festival will begin to announce bands starting Monday.

At least, that's what the the fest's website says. I think they're going to do a delayed sort of announcement where you get some bands each day or each week.

Basically, that means they're trying to eke it out over time to keep people (including us media folk) talking about it.

Also of note, they're going to have a "Battle of the Local Bands" hosted by The Reader. Bands will be compensated both for the showcases and for the festival performances ("based on draw" for the showcases and either $500 or $1,000 for the actual festival).

I, for one, think these sort of things are pretty bad ideas. Bands should be chosen based on their merits. They shouldn't be chosen by popular vote. The winner usually ends up being the band that brings more family members/friends to its showcase.

If they want local bands, they should just pick local bands, but my guess is that MECA and Live Nation don't know enough about the local scene to do that. That's not an insult and I'm not trying to slight them at all. I just don't see Roger Dixon at The Waiting Room very often.

Anyway, local bands can submit through SonicBids.

Expect to see a at least few bands announced on Monday. Stay tuned here for details and my thoughts on who makes the list.

* * *

Other than that, the biggest news is ticket prices.
1-Day Pass: $15
3-Day Pass: $30
6-Day Pass: $60

Sounds cheap, right? Eh, yes and no. Those prices are for stages B & C only. That doesn't get you into the main stage at TD Ameritrade Park.

Read: You're going to have to pay more to see the headliners. So far, this isn't like Lollapalooza/Coachella where you pay a few hundred bucks and you get to see everything.

My guess is that you're going to have to buy separate passes for each of the six nights, and they'll probably all be different price ranges depending on the act.

As I've said before, this is basically like six nights of Qwest Center acts on consecutive days, just with bands playing all day beforehand.

More details on tickets (prices and on-sale dates) are coming.

* * *

Also interesting are the sponsors, Miller Lite and Pepsi. Both are pretty big sponsors of music fests. If you look around, you'll notice they're two of the largest sponsors of SXSW.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Maha Music Festival: Main stage artists announced!

By Kevin Coffey
© 2011 Omaha World-Herald

Fill in one more lineup on your list of summer music festivals.

Maha Music Festival has announced three of its main stage bands.

Reunited indie rock stalwarts Guided By Voices will be joined by Omaha rock band Cursive and rapper Matisyahu on Aug. 13.

In its third year, the nonprofit festival will again take place at the Lewis and Clark Landing on Omaha’s Riverfront and will be sponsored by TD Ameritrade and others.

Known for its lo-fi sound and lauded as one of the greatest rock bands of all time, Guided By Voices will feature its classic 1993-96 lineup. “Bee Thousand,” the band’s 1994 album, is generally considered one of the best indie rock records ever and is included on “best” lists from Spin, Pitchfork, The Village Voice and

Cursive, formed 1995 in Omaha, is one of the most successful groups on the roster of Saddle Creek Records. Recently, the band released “Mama, I’m Swollen” and celebrated the 10th anniversary of its album, “Domestica,” by performing it in its entirety at several concerts.

Matisyahu is a Hasidic Jewish rapper that mixes hip-hop, rock, reggae and other styles, often rapping about his religious beliefs. His song “King Without A Crown” became a surprise hit.

While Guided By Voices is considered one of the festival’s headliners, Matisyahu will take the stage last in order to comply with his religious beliefs, which require him to not perform until after sundown.

Three more main stage bands are yet to be announced. A second stage will include local bands, and that lineup will also be announced at a later date.

Festival organizers hope the entire lineup will excite fans from start to finish.

“We hope people are just as excited about the bands performing at two o’clock as the one at nine o’clock,” said Tre Brashear, one of the board members of YFC Inc., the festival’s organizing committee.

Ticket prices for this year’s concert will be less than last year. Including fees, tickets will be $30 in advance at and $35 day of show. Tickets go on sale Saturday at 10 a.m. at

Festival organizers hope to expand the success of the festival, which more doubled its attendance in its second year.

“We want to keep turning the wheel and put money in the bank. That allows us to be more aggressive in booking more bands or turning to a second day,” Brashear said. “We’ve gotta move carefully forward each year.”

Guided By Voices
Allow me to say, way to go Maha Music Festival.

Once again, it nabbed an indie rock great to be part of its festival.

Recently reunited, the legendary Guided By Voices will be one of the band’s main stage acts (and, I’m assuming, a headliner).

Rounding out the lineup is local favorite Cursive as well as rapper Matisyahu, who certainly has a good following around here.

Guided By Voices has included various lineups revolving around Robert Pollard, but the one playing Omaha is the supposedly “classic” lineup from 1993 to 1996.

I know that Guided By Voices will make Maha a must-see for a lot of people. The last time they played Omaha was in 2000.

Plus the lineup including Pollard, Tobin Sprout, Mitch Mitchell, Dan Toohey and Kevin Fennell will make people buy tickets.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Live Review: New Pornographers at The Waiting Room Lounge

The New Pornographers are, from left, Neko Case, Blaine Thurier, Todd
Fancey, Kathryn Calder, Carl Newman, Kurt Dahle and John Collins.
In the battle of "what Canadian indie rock band should I go see Thursday," the New Pornographers were the victor.

As mentioned yesterday, I saw The Rural Alberta Advantage twice at South By Southwest. As much as I really love to see that band live, the idea of seeing the NPs in a smaller room like the Waiting Room was one I couldn't pass up.

I'm glad I went. The Waiting Room was packed (the show sold out sometime last week) and seeing the band in a smaller environment was a treat.

The seven-member band played a great set, which included most of the band's latest album, "Together," and plenty of old stuff. Since band member Dan Bejar wasn't present (he's out touring with Destroyer), they skipped the songs he wrote or was a major part of. But that left most of their material open for performance.

Neko Case was there, and I've always thought (along with everyone else in the world, probably) that her vocals add a great layer of depth to the band's bouncy pop rock. Even better is the fact that Kathryn Calder shares most singing parts with Case. Their great voices definitely amp up the experience.

My personal favorite from "Together" is the lead track, "Moves," which they played early in the set. They also did "Valkyrie In The Roller Disco," which Carl Newman said was the first time they had ever performed it. It was slow and pretty, definitely different from their more boisterous stuff, but it was fantastic. I hope they do it more.

Other favorites (for me) were "All The Old Showstoppers," "Adventures in Solitude" and "Testament To Youth In Verse."

A few amusing moments came because of a New Pornos superfan standing in the front row, dead center stage (right between Case and Newman). He was singing every word and genuinely appeared to be having the time of his life.

So much so that Newman asked him, "If I name a random song, would you know the words? I think you would. You're singing along to every song. Know how I know? Because I can hear you."

Newman also cracked a couple jokes about the guy having red hair. His locks matched Newman and Case's, which they joked was a good thing because red hair was a prerequisite for the fan joining the band.

It was a cool fan interaction moment. What was even cooler was when the band pulled the fan backstage after the set. When the band emerged for the encore, the fan walked onstage with them, and then shared the mic with Case during "Myriad Harbor," a moment I'm sure the guy will remember forever.

Anyway, they finished the set with two of my favorite New Pornographers songs: "Challengers" and then the big finish with "Sing Me Spanish Techno."

"Thanks for coming to our show," Newman said. "It's weird that we've never been here before, but here we are."

Can't wait for them to come back.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Live Review: The Civil Wars at Slowdown (plus RAA and New Pornos tonight)

Joy Williams, left, and John Paul White are The Civil Wars.
The running gag last night went something like this:

"What did you think?"

"They were just OK." (Everyone laughs.)

It was funny because The Civil Wars were incredible. You know, that sort of "how could anyone have anything better to do than be at Slowdown right freaking now to see this?"

Yeah, like that.

I got to see the band perform at South By Southwest just a month ago, and I've been telling everyone I know to go see them.

Their songs are sort of country, folk and bluegrass. It's no surprise that The Civil Wars' John Paul White is from Alabama.

White and musical partner Joy Williams are both talented and accomplished solo artists. Together they have this telepathic sort of connection that allows them to sing simple yet beautiful harmonies.

I got shivers. No joke. Goosebumps and shivers ran down my back while listening to them do "From This Valley" and "Oh, Henry."

I was impressed not only by the band, but by the revered silence of the crowd. It's rare to see that outside of a theater performance and I've certainly never seen it at Slowdown. Usually there's a low hum of cell phones, people talking and glasses clinking.

Not on Wednesday. You could hear anything, which made it even more jarring when one guy yelled out "You rock!" and a woman repeatedly requested the duo's cover of "Billie Jean." (I think they heard you.)

It was a popular show. Saddle Creek/Slowdown's Jason Kulbel told me last night that it was originally scheduled for the front room (Slowdown Jr.), but after selling a ton of tickets in the first week, they decided to move it to the main stage. I bet they're glad they did. It wasn't a sellout (to my knowledge), but it was packed.

In the end, yes, they did do "Billie Jean" as well as covers of the classic "You Are My Sunshine," a haunting version of Smashing Pumpkins' "Disarm" and a surprising cover of Leonard Cohen's "Dance Me To The End Of Love."

They had us in the palm of their hands. I can't wait until The Civil Wars come back and do it again, though I suspect by that time it will be in a room much larger than Slowdown.

Video from Wednesday night:

OK, onto tonight. Are you going to The Rural Alberta Advantage or New Pornographers?

Too much good Canadian indie rock music to choose from.

In interviewed both groups, in case that would help you make your decision. Check out my interview with RAA's Amy Cole and my interview with New Pornos' Carl "A.C." Newman.

I, for one, will be going to see the New Pornographers. I caught RAA twice at South By Southwest and I can't miss the chance to see the NPs in a small venue like the Waiting Room.

Would have been an amazing show to get them in the same room. Maybe next year.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Rock Candy Interview: The Rural Alberta Advantage's Amy Cole

The Rural Alberta Advantage is, from left, Nils Edenloff, Amy Cole and Paul Banwatt.

By Kevin Coffey
© 2011 Omaha World-Herald

The Rural Alberta Advantage has become one of the most successful Saddle Creek Records bands, outside of their big three — Bright Eyes, Cursive and The Faint.

They’ve done it through constant touring and, of course, two solid musical efforts.

“Hometowns,” re-released by Saddle Creek in 2009, and “Departing,” out in March, both feature the band’s wistful rhythmic rock with lyrics from Nils Edenloff, backing vocals and keyboards from Amy Cole and drums from Paul Banwatt.

Just after their hailed performances at South By Southwest, we got in touch with Cole to talk about the festival, Saddle Creek Records and “Departing.”

Before we get to the questions, we want to give you something: Tickets to tomorrow's show at Slowdown. Enter your info and we'll draw a name to win a pair of tickets. Good luck! [Note: The contest is now closed. Thanks for entering!]

Q: How was South By Southwest for you guys?

A: We played 6 shows, which was less than we did last year. We might pair it down in the future. We had never done South By in the middle of a tour before.

Q: I was there at the end of your last show in the church and you played “Goodnight” without amplification. That was a really great way to hear the song.

A: We very rarely get to do that anymore. We were kind of nervous, saying, “Should we do it again?” It felt really appropriate to do it.

Q: It sounds very similar on the album.

A: When we recorded it, we played it live off the floor (with no electric amplification). We’ve only tried to perform ‘Goodnight’ amplified once before and since it’s never on mic, it would have felt weird to record it studiowise. We wanted to do it how it feels live.

Q: Between “Hometowns” and “Departing,” you guys had quite a bit of time.

A: We actually finished recording “Hometowns” in late 2007. It’s been a really long time since we recorded those songs.

We were very, very excited to put out “Departing.”

Q: The various times I’ve seen you guys, you played a lot of the “Departing” songs before it was released.

A: We have been trying to work the new songs into the set, and we wanted to try to work things out by the time we got into the studio.

Q: Is it nice to have more songs to play a headlining set?

A: Yeah, it’s a 75-minute set. That’s what’s required. So, we said, “Let’s play everything.” For our longer shows, we’re playing most of what we have and Nils might throw in a cover or two.

It’s definitely good to have two records worth of stuff.

Q: You guys have been on the road forever. You tired of it yet?

A: We toured like crazy. Everything kept growing and happening after “Hometowns.” We played in Canada for a long time, New York and SXSW. We didn’t really stop touring for a good year.

Then we took our break. We took five or six months to relax and record “Departing.” We hope to spend this year touring as much as we can. It’s a big reason why we were successful with our last album. We love playing live, and we’re really happy to be out there again.

Q: How and where did you record “Departing?”

A: We recorded with our producer Roger Leavens at Boombox Studios. It’s a new building for them, but the same studio equipment. We did it in Toronto where we live on evenings and weekends after work over a period of four or five months. We started in late summer and finished in October.

Q: With “Hometowns,” you put it out yourselves before Saddle Creek picked it up and re-released it. How did it feel this time to have a label?

A: It’s done and you’re just waiting. It was very hard. We were like, “Let’s do it now.”

“Hometowns,” we just put it out ourselves. “We’re done, let’s just sell it at shows.” We didn’t have this waiting process. This time, there’s more people waiting for it and more people expecting it and Saddle Creek was super great and accommodating. It wasn’t to do with their timing at all. We were also perfectionists and didn’t want to put it out before we were ready.

Q: So you’re happy with Saddle Creek?

A: Saddle Creek was awesome. We’re really happy. We hung out with them at South By as well.

While we were recording, we’d send them stuff we were working on. They’re not the kind of label who gives you detailed crazy notes, and they released it exactly as we recorded it. There were no changes made due to label involvement.

Q: I thought there were a lot of Alberta-specific songs on “Hometowns,” but with “Departing,” it seems like you’re holding true to the album title and leaning away from Alberta stuff.

A: That’s probably true. Nils always envisioned six separate EPs, but it turned into two full lengths. “Departing” is ending off that series.

It’s about leaving and making peace with leaving, where “Hometowns” was still very much rooted in Alberta. This is about moving on and leaving it behind instead of dwelling on it like a lot of “Hometowns” did.

Q: It still has a similar sound to it though.

A: We’ve heard that. That might be true. This is meant to be a companion to “Hometowns” and leaving behind all those ideas.

It’s not a happy record, but I wouldn’t say it’s a sad one either.

Q: I like “Coldest Days” because you all are doing what you do best. It has a lot of melody from you, Nils’ voice is great and Paul’s drumming is superb.

A: Yeah, I like “Coldest Days,” too. That’s one of the more collaborative songs we did. It was a cool one when it all came together. That’s probably one of the first ones that we started playing live, too.

“Stamp” was also really fun. Paul was saying it’s our best live song right now. We all have a lot of fun playing it live. It’s really an awesome and really energetic kind of song. We really get into it.

Q: How about the video for “Stamp?” It’s pretty hilarious.

A: We like it, too. A friend of ours, Jose, came up with the concepts. We shot it in a couple hours on almost no budget just for fun. We didn’t expect it to get so much attention from blogs and stuff. But we were really surprised and happy.

Contact the writer:

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I don't know when Red Sky is announcing, but Maha has some news

In case you're wondering, and many (so, so many) of you are, I don't know when Red Sky Music Festival is announcing its lineup.

The fest did change its dates with the launch of its new website. But that's all that's going on for now.

I've been told by the Red Sky folks several times that they'd be announcing "at the end of the month" or "next week" and then not have it happen. So, for now, I'm giving up on that game.

All I can say is that it's coming sometime soon. My best guess is that they'll first wait for the opening of TD Ameritrade Park (which I'm guessing is a cluster over at the MECA offices) to blow over before they get to Red Sky stuff.

Anyhoo, that's not stopping Maha Music Festival from getting out some news. They told me the other day, and now confirmed on Twitter, that they'll be announcing a lineup (at least partially) on April 25.

Get excited.

Maha, for the record, has not changed its date. It's still planned for Aug. 13.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Rock Candy Interview: The New Pornographers's Carl "A.C." Newman

The New Pornographers are, from left, Neko Case, Blaine Thurier, Todd Fancey, Kathryn Calder, Carl Newman, Kurt Dahle and John Collins.

By Kevin Coffey
© 2011 Omaha World-Herald

The New Pornographers are finally coming to Omaha. The Canadian band, who has never performed here, was formed in Vancouver in 1997 have produced four albums and received tons of acclaim.

But no stops here. That is, never before until next Thursday, April 21, when they'll hit the stage at The Waiting Room Lounge. (I feel like it's a small venue for them, but that's me.)

All that critical acclaim continues with their most recent release, “Together,” is a mix of power pop and rock that employs the many instrumental and vocal talents of the band’s many members.

It’s talented group to choose from, including Carl Newman, Dan Bejar, Neko Case,  Blaine Thurier, John Collins, Todd Fancey, Kurt Dahle and Kathry Calder.

All of them are associated with other acts and some members, such as Case and Bejar, have achieved praise as solo artists or leaders of their own bands.

(Watch the new, hilarious video for the band's single, "Moves" - and read Newman's comments on it - at the bottom of this interview.)

Newman — known as A.C. Newman on his acclaimed solo albums — is known as the head of the band.

Last week, I called Newman at his home in Woodstock, New York, to talk.

Omaha World-Herald: A lot of people call The New Pornographers a pop band, but you guys really range all over the place. Are you comfortable with the pop label?

Carl Newman: People will call you what they want to call you. I think the thing about the Pornographers is that our songs have run through a lot of different styles. You could make a mix tape with 12 songs by us and go, ‘Yep, they are definitely power pop.’ Then you could make another one with the weirdest 12 songs we’ve done and people would go, ‘I don’t know what the hell is wrong with those guys.’

OWH: You guys have quite the lineup of people in the band. Is it hard to make music with so many talented people?

CN: People have things to add but because everybody has their seperate outlets, nobody’s concentrating on only this band. If this was everybody’s sole music outlet, people would be arguing more. Or saying “I need my voice to be heard.”

We do argue, but it’s all very good hearted. The running gag during the mixing was Kathryn. If ever anybody said, ‘I think we need to turn down the keyboards,’ Kathryn would say ‘I quit.’

We all laughed. If you changed anything on anybody’s parts, they’d said, ‘I quit.’

OWH: It seems like you guys have everything under control.

CN: I think we have it pretty good that way. As much as we argue about things, like any band that’s been around, and there are tensions that go in waves. But things are pretty smooth with us.

I also think there’s a general sense that this is my band that I started. Not that I rule anything like a dictator, but they’ll say, ‘He started the band and he wrote this song, so if we’re having a huge fight about this, it’s his band and we’ll go his way.’

OWH: Is everyone going to be on this tour?

CN: Dan (Bejar) won’t be. He’s on tour with Destroyer. But everyone else will be.

OWH: With everyone’s different projects, I think it’s pretty cool that everyone keeps coming back to The New Pornographers.

CN: I’m always shocked. Neko can’t always play with us. And I’m always shocked by Neko’s intersest in the band. If Neko was to say, ‘I can’t do this any more,’ I would understand.

I think, for her, it’s a nice change of pace in that we’re a rock band, and we’re slightly more fun rock band. What she’s playing as Neko Case is more downbeat, not less powerful in any way, but more downbeat.
And when she’s with us, she doesn’t have to be in charge of anything. She can just be a band member.

OWH: You’ve had some solo songs and some Pornographers songs in commercials and such. How does that usually come about?

CN: “Sweet Talk” is in a Amazon commerical for the Kindle.

The part that is in half the commercial is this quiet breakdown part. That was completely all arranged the day we mixed it. There was a part in the song where I was thinking, ‘This wasn’t working. What could we do here?’ There was a little ‘50s reverb amp that I played this little guitar line through. We found it and I thought, ‘This works.’

It was this last minute thing that we did on the last day of mixing — actually the second to last day of mixing that we did. And then that’s the part that ends up being in this huge commerical. It’s the things that come in the last minute are the things that stick with people.

OWH: Does that kind of thing happen a lot?

CN: That was definitely one that changed in the mixing, I remember. That one changed so much in the mixing that I listen to my little demo I made of it and find myself wanting to release that as well. It’s such a different mix and a different feel.

OWH: Maybe you should put all those together for a release.

CN: Yeah, for the super completists.

OWH: Anyway, do those commercials and stuff make a good source of income?

CN: It’s very important to me. As the main songwriter in the band, it’s been a good income for me.
It seems like things are moving in the other direction. People would get a commercial and say, ‘This is great. This will help us sell more records.’ Now you’re hoping you’ll sell more records to get a commerical. You’ll make so much more money doing that.

OWH: It doesn’t seem to be considered ‘selling out’ any more either.

CN: So far I haven’t had any offers I’ve had a moral problem with.

I haven’t been offered a Walmart commerical. It would be difficult because I don’t like Walmart like a lot of other people.

Then again, if Walmart came to me and said we’ll give you $100,000 if you let us use this song, I would be really torn.

But Amazon? An NBC sticom? University of Phoenix? That’s easy.

Nowadays, if you accuse someone of selling out, you’d be accusing yourself of selling out, too.

OWH: You guys are releasing a 7” vinyl single of “Moves” and “Drug Deal Of The Heart.” Was “Drug Deal” from the “Together” sessions?

CN: That one almost made the record. I really liked it, and it’s still one of my favorirte songs from that time. It’s got a very odd vibe to it. I think other people when they listen to the Pornographers, they like the most upbeat stuff. But if they listen to the weird groove it has and listen to the syncopation and the weird parts, they’ll like it.

OWH: “Together” came out last year and your last solo record was out in 2009. Have you been working on anything else?

CN: Right now, I’m writing songs, but I don’t know what I’m going to do with them. I’m trying not to think of it in terms of ‘Who is this for?’ We’ll see what comes up.

I’m also trying to change things up a  little bnit. It’s too easy to stay in one place and do what I do. After years of doing something, you realize you have a style. there’s nothing wrong with that, but you have to ask yourself, ‘How do it get out of this?’

Right now, I’m just trying to figure out all the things I can do to write interesting new songs.

OWH: So what’s the difference between an A.C. Newman record and a New Pornographers record?

CN: It’s just the people I’m making the record with, basically. I take my songs in there and I’m trying to perform songs the best I can.

OWH: When you were on tour last year, you took an Omaha guy, Dan Brennan, along to run sound. What did you think of him?

CN: He’s a great guy. He only did that one leg with us, but he was great. I’d love to work with him again, of course.

OWH: Well, a lot of people are looking forward to the show in Omaha.

CN: I am, too. It’s our first time in Omaha, so that’s always exciting.

One of the best videos I've seen lately is for The New Pornographers' "Moves."

Directed by Tom Scharpling, the video features tons of celebrity cameos and is titled "Moves: The Rise and Rise of The New Pornographers."

It's like a fake behind the music and poses The NPs as if they're this top-of-the-world band doing piles of coke and selling millions.

"We hate being in our videos and we knew we weren't going to be around," Newman said. "So we said, 'How do we do this without being in the video?'"

Scharpling came up with the idea of having various actor and musician friends appear as the band members and others.

For example, Horatio Sanz plays John Collins, Julie Klausner is Neko Case and Jon Wurster of Superchunk plays Newman.

Newman's thoughts?

"Jon doesn't capture my beauty," he said laughing.

Enjoy the video.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Fake lineup for Red Sky Music Festival

A fictitious story has been circulating about Red Sky Music Festival that credits me and The World-Herald and contains an announced lineup of multiple major artists.

No lineup has been announced for Red Sky Music Festival by either MECA or Live Nation.

While the article does include material from past Omaha World-Herald stories, the lineup supposedly announced in the article is not correct.

* * *

I'm told by my MECA sources that you'll see a real, live festival lineup for Red Sky next week. Stay tuned to this blog and for the news.