Fri, 08/21/2015 - 1:35 pm

Going into my first year of Maha Music Festival, I didn't quite know what to expect.  Modest Mouse, touring for their first new album in 8 years, was on the road to Omaha, along with Atmosphere and Purity Ring, and that was enough to bring a sold-out crowd from 5 countries and more than 32 states along with them.  People were lined up and waiting early for the gates to open and everyone was ready for a full day of music.  The army of volunteers were just as ready to make sure the non-profit music festival was run perfectly, and they succeeded.  The afternoon was kicked off by local hip-hop act BOTH followed by Ex Hex, the female punk trio, and Alvvays, the indie pop band out of Toronto.  Country rock band, The Jayhawks, were a local favorite, as they have been making stops in Omaha for over 20 years.  During the set of the Omaha girls rock band All Young Girls Are Machine Guns, I took the time to walk around and see what else Maha had to offer.

I started with the row of community programs full of fun games for kids, and all the free knick-knacks you could stuff in your pockets.  There were random art installations scattered throughout, just asking to be added to.  And add to them I most certainly did.  The Ferris wheel and rock climbing wall were free, thanks to donations, and I was pleased to see lots of local food choices.  During Wavves, I went to hide from the blazing sun and cool off in the Juice Stop across the street, I couldn't help myself.  Definitely a plus side of the only festival I've ever attending inside the city.  I made it back in time to catch Speedy Ortiz, trying to duck my way through the crowd that was now filling in fast.  The indie rock band from Massachusetts rocked a set full of brutal honesty from Sadie Dupuis' life, with most songs coming from their newest album released in April.

As Atmosphere got ready to go on stage, the crowd had reached close to its sell-out number of 9,000, and it was definitely a snug fit.  Atmosphere, also sort of a local legend,  has been coming through Omaha since the late 90's and they did not disappoint.  Even up in the photo pit, I couldn't decide whether to jam or take pictures.  They had the crowd pumped up for the rest of the night, and well, I'm now an Atmosphere fan.  I snaked my way back through the crowd to meet up with some friends from Boulder that came all this way, just for Modest Mouse.  As they set the main stage up for Purity Ring, The Good Life took the side stage in front of a hometown crowd of sorts.  The Good Life, fronted by Cursive's Tim Kasher, who is an Omaha native, is also on the Omaha label Saddle Creek Records.  Purity Ring had an array of multi-colored Christmas lights draped from the rafters that changed in time with the duos electronic pop rock, and it captivated the audience.  By the end of the set, the crowd was itching for the headliner to come on stage.

Modest Mouse played an amazing set, switching up old songs and the new ones.  The crowd was showing all the love they possibly could, and MM returned the favor in every way they knew how.  Issac Brock said, "I have an 'I like you' list, and you're on it." After their late start, thanks to all the Christmas lights, organizers decided to let them play late, and leave everyone in the audience yearning for next year.  In it's 6th year, Maha was bigger and better than it had ever been.  It leaves questions hanging around like, 'Is it going to be two, or maybe even 3, days next year?'  Only time can tell.  The festival was well planned, and well executed, unlike our Grassroots Music Festival that took place a few weeks ago, and I was beyond surprised with the music, much of which I had never heard of before.  My final verdict?  There's no way I won't be attending next year, because the only way Maha is headed, is up.

Thu, 08/27/2015 - 7:34 am

On the south side of Omaha, off the beaten path, lies Sokol Park.  This "campitheater" is home to multiple local and regional festivals, and also a concert idea of which I've never encountered elsewhere.  Camping is included with purchase of a concert ticket, giving all concerts a heavy music festival atmosphere, even if it is only for one night.  The reggae-tronic dub band from Minneapolis, Jon Wayne and the Pain, is the true definition of road warriors, boasting over 20 shows a month for the past 4 years.  They journeyed to Omaha on Saturday to give us a mini-festival of our own.  With my good friends at the dub-tronic band Extra Fresh, and reggae band Cornerstone Dub as the openers on the ticket, it was bound to be a good show.  Most of the fans showed up early to set up camp and experience this unique "lot" scene before the show started.

Extra fresh kicked off the show with their funky blend of reggae dub and electronic. Playing their best set I've seen thus far, the whole crowd was grooving right along.  Cornerstone Dub was up next with their classic dub reggae style, bringing enough good vibes for everyone to share.  After a bit of a late start to the show, Jon Wayne and the Pain was itching to go on and ready to rock, and rock they did.

Starting the show off with "Festival Friends" brought everyone wandering the campsites front and center. They started high energy, and did not slow down the entire show.  Weston Schick on the saxophone and flute really pronounced the band's reggae and jam feel.  He's a perfect addition to the trio's sound, and a wonderful surprise from the last time I saw JWP play.  Through "Vibes" and "One More Trip" (which had a killer jam break in the middle) I couldn't keep still enough to take a picture that wasn't blurry.  Two of the members' daughters came on stage to dance for almost the entire set, and the audience loved it.

Up until the the last song, "Thankful Dove" the band didn't let up, and showed us all why they're so popular on the festival circuit, and all around the country.  I couldn't get enough of heavy bass dub jams they were throqing at us. They left us all begging for more.  When I thought it couldn't get any better, JWP came out for the encore with a metal-like electronic dance dub and faded it into "Ever Get Down?" Well, guys, if I've never gotten down before, I sure did to end that show off right.  My mind was blown and it was time to go enjoy some camping with my festival friends.  Jon Wayne and the Pain was easily one of the best shows I had been to all year, and I'll be yearning for the day they come back to say hello.

Wed, 09/09/2015 - 6:38 pm

On such a beautiful evening right across the river, the lineup was stacked and the anticipation was high.  All three of these bands by themselves would have drawn a huge crowd, but you throw them all together and no one wanted to miss this one.  They could all be included in the soundtrack of my adolescence, and even to this day.  I grew up breaking rules to these guys, and never skip the chance to catch a show of theirs.  The Expendables kicked off the night with their magical blend of reggae, ska, and surf rock with their heavy break downs and smooth transitions.  With a set full of songs from their newest album "Sand in the Sky" peppered with the classics everyone loves, they had the crowd grooving to the dreamy smooth reggae, and jumping around with the hard rock jam outs.  At the end of the set, they were joined by members of Slightly Stoopid to help them go out with a bang on "Bowl For Two" with a little friendly competition of which side sings louder.  Not to brag, but my side killed the other.

Up next was the Dirty Heads, and I would be lying if I said I wasn't pumped for this set.  Last time they came through Omaha, Duddy B was in the hospital all day, and it showed on stage.  They kicked off their time with "Franco Eyed" to get the audience going crazy from the start, and it worked like a million bucks.  They kept the energy high early with crowd favorites "Burn Slow" "Up All Night" and "Neighborhood" and the sellout crowd that had shown up in full force was showing them all the love they could handle.  They brought their chilled out reggae sound for the next few with "Your Love" "Stand Tall" and "Lay Me Down" with the entire venue singing along with.  The hard hitting hip-hop style of "Check the Level" and "Hip-Hop Misfits" had everyone getting down and dirty in a way you don't see at most reggae shows.  In the rest of the set, Dirty Heads played mostly songs from their newest album, with my personal favorite "Spread Too Thin" thrown in the mix.  To end their set they played a heavy dubstep remix of "My Sweet Summer" that brought the entire place screaming and begging for more, just in time for Slightly Stoopid's turn.

To start off the headlining set, they started with the instrumental dub "Dabbington" to warm the crowd back up from the intermission.  The heavy bass dub reggae style of Slightly Stoopid had the whole place shaking to its core.  My backpack even fell off the edge of the stage from the vibrations.  Through the entire show full off a mix songs old and new, they took us on a journey through the last almost 20 years of their music.  Co-founders of the band, Miles Doughty and Kyle McDonald, were showing off their true talents to the crowd by switching up on guitar and bass every few songs, and people were eating it up.  Playing classics that everyone loves such as "2 AM" "This Joint" "Up on a Plane" and "Officer" kept us all hanging onto every note, even on the songs lesser known to the crowd.  With a cover of "Champion of the Charles" by the Knockout Machines faded into my favorite "Don't Stop" I had to put my camera away and let the music take over.  To end the night, Slightly Stoopid came out for the encore with "Collie Man" acoustic of course, "No Cocaine" and an absolutely killer cover of "Express Yourself."

With a show of 3 bands I've seen multiple times separate, I figured there was no doubt going to be one hell of a show, but all 3 bands played the best show I've seen out of each of them.  For that reason, mixed with the pure nostalgia their music brings me, this will be a concert I will never forget.

Check out more photos from the show.