Photos by: Lauren Farris, Audrey Hertel and Brittany Ward
Reviews by: James Dean, Audrey Hertel, Beau Poehlman, Aaron Vlasnik and Brittany Ward
Aug. 19, 2019
Every Summer, Omaha’s Stinson Park in Aksarben becomes a meeting of excitement and music for the Maha Music Festival. This year was the 11th Maha Music Festival and the 2nd year that the Music Festival stretched over two days.
You can see photos and short reviews of all of the Maha lineup below.
FRIDAY – SNAIL MAIL
By Audrey Hertel
From the second singer songwriter Lindsay Jordan, also known as Snail Mail, strolled out on Maha’s Broadmore stage, the 20-year-old had the crowd engulfed in her dreamy indie rock tunes.
Sporting red lipstick, a black graphic t-shirt and tan cargo pants, Jordan took center stage with guitarist and keyboard player Madeline McCormack to her right, bassist Alex Bass to her left and drummer Ray Brown upstage from her.
The golden hour sunlight shone through the singers brown bob as it swayed back and forth to her chimey tone guitar picking in “Intro,” the first track from Snail Mails 2018 EP “Lush.”
Occasionally throughout the performance, Jordans soft vocals would build up to almost a wail that would merge with an instrumental breakdown or solo from the bright red Fender Jaguar in her hands. Her vocal emphasis and facial expressions highlighted Snail Mail’s personal lyrics. Her voice floated over the steady drum fills and basslines from Brown and Bass as McCormack added extra riffs or keyboard chord progressions. In between songs, the singer smiled as she looked upon the crowd of people watching her set.
Maha-goers who gathered around the Broadmore stage gazed upon Jordan as she poured her emotional lyrics onto them. The crowd swayed along to the music, some even closing their eyes as they listened to songs like “Thinning” and “Deep Sea.” Both songs, along with others from Snail Mails performance, cultivated an ethereal soundtrack perfect for a summer sunset.
FRIDAY – COURTNEY BARNETT
By Audrey Hertel
Blue lights shined onto a black and white tapestry of randomly placed, cars, roads and doodle patterns that wavered in the breeze on Maha’s main stage Friday night. The rumbling of the audience echoed through Stinson Park as the crowd waited for Austrailian rock ‘n roller Courtney Barnett to take the stage. And around 10 p.m., she did by storm. Carrying a light yellow Fender Jazzmaster, Barnett smiled at the roaring fans as she glided to center stage.
As Barnett began sang in her dead-pan style, her voice streamed from the monstrous speakers on both sides of the stage and merged with those of fans’ who screamed her witty lyrics from songs like “Avant Gardener” and “I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your B****.”
Her fingers rapidly glided up and down the fretboard of her guitar as she broke into riff after riff in almost every song. As she moved more upstage to come closer to the audience, she lifted her guitar in the air, thrashing her mullet-adorned head along with drum fills from drummer Dave Mudie sitting on a raised kit to her right. Bones Sloane added an extra groove underneath Barnett’s garage rock sounding progressions.
The Barnett ended her set with her well-known song “Pedestrian at Best” and had the audience screaming the chorus back at her.
“I think you’re a joke, but I don’t find you very funny,” the crowd echoed as Barnett powerfully strolled around on stage, ending her performance like the goddess of rock ‘n roll she is.
FRIDAY – JENNY LEWIS
By Beau Poehlman
The Maha Festival stage was hot and primed for Jenny Lewis late Friday night: Snail Mail had rocked everybody awake, Courtney Barnett had danced them out of bed, and festivalgoers were ready to receive good vibes in their hearts. Whether attendees were old-school Rilo Kiley fans or more familiar with newer albums like The Voyager or On the Line, Jenny had something for all.
Adorned with her signature sparkly garb while stepping and swaying to the music, Jenny was more than comfortable and eye-catching in front of the large crowd. Fans joined in on all kinds of new songs from 2019’s On the Line, from the cool, dreamy sunshine of “Hollywood Lawn” to the catchy and very danceable “Red Bull & Hennessey.” For added fun, large blue and pink balloons were relinquished for the climax of “Little White Dove,” bopping around over hundreds of heads for several songs on end. And then, another special moment happened: Jenny was humbled by the mention that Maha 2019 was her first opportunity to serve as a festival headliner in any capacity. The crowd cheered for her milestone.
It was clearly a special night for her, as well as for Omaha Girls Rock, a local nonprofit aiming to empower youth through music. After a humorous little skit on stage where Lewis answered a telephone from a voice dialing her via the Tommy Tutone song “867-5309/Jenny,” she exclaimed that she loved Omaha and proceeded to invite five girls from the program onstage for a sing-along rendition of the Rilo Kiley classic “With Arms Outstretched.” The audience ate it up, uniting as if in one voice with passion. This is how Jenny chose to end her set, and considering the predominantly female lineup Maha had to offer this year, it was the perfect way to send us off into the night.
SATURDAY – SHARK WEEK
By Aaron Vlasnik
Day two of the 2019 Maha Music Festival started off with Omaha’s own DJ Sharkweek. Playing cuts from current Top 40 hits as well as fun 90’s jams. The attendees who showed up early had some beats to bob their heads to under the mid-August afternoon sun.
SATURDAY – DOMESTIC BLEND
Aaron Vlasnik, cont.
The first band to perform on the main stage was the six-piece soul-pop band Domestic Blend, also from Omaha. Playing funky cuts with groovy beats along with hip-hop on top of a positive message within their lyrics, Domestic Blend had people dancing and enjoying themselves.
SATURDAY – MUSCLE COUSINS
Aaron Vlasnik, cont.
Omaha’s Muscle Cousins followed up on the Broadmoor Stage. The pop-indie-punk band powered through a collection of songs from their 2018 “Flex” EP as well as a few cover songs, including The Talking Heads and Kim Wilde.
SATURDAY – OMAHA GIRLS ROCK
Omaha Girls Rock is an organization based out of Omaha (of course). Their mission is to give girls the confidence to use their voice through music education and performance.
The girls were still riding the high from the night before, sharing the stage with the legendary Jenny Lewis. This time, the different groups were on stage to share their own original songs.
Omaha Girls Rock has become a fixture of the Maha Music Festival and continue to empower both girls and young people in the arts.
SATURDAY – BEACH BUNNY
Aaron Vlasnik, cont.
The first non-local band was indie-pop band Beach Bunny. Hailing from Chicago, IL, Beach Bunny brought their bouncy surf-pop to the main stage as the crowds started to filter in more and more. Beach Bunny definitely had some fans in the crowd and you can see multiple people singing along to some tracks from their latest EP, “Prom Queen”.
SATURDAY – MATT MAESON
Aaron Vlasnik, cont.
Virginia Beach, VA’s Matt Maeson followed on the Broadmoor Stage. His new album, “Bank On The Funeral” has been gaining momentum the past few months thanks to the recent success from his hit single “Cringe.” Maeson’s acoustic alt-rock soul music with songs that tell great stories were popular with the Maha crowd. One thing I definitely noticed was the number of people who were getting out of their lawn chairs and getting closer to the stage after just a couple songs. Matt Maeson definitely made some fans Saturday at Stinson Park.
Playing other singles such as “I Just Don’t Care The Much” and “Hallucinogenics”, the set was filled with great music and entertaining stories from Matt; Stories that included his only other trip to Omaha, which featured a snowstorm that made him fear for his life when driving in it. Maha was smart to book this guy so far in advance. Saturday’s show officially kicked off his fall “The Day You Departed” Tour, which runs across the country until late November.
SATURDAY – DUCKWRTH
By James Dean
I hadn’t really heard of DUCKWRTH prior to researching the musicians that were coming through MAHA this year. When I started pulling up youtube videos I was amazed by the innovative song structures and beats as well as his energy that came blasting out of the computer screen. DUCKWRTH’s performance at MAHA was just like that. Innovative, fun, fast and energetic.
He started off the set with “Start a Riot” which had most of the front row bouncing up and down and deftly maneuvered through other songs of varying lyrical and musical intensity such as “Tamagotchi.” Later on DUCKWRTH made everyone dance with him to the undeniably sexy song “Throwyoassout” which he melded into the electronically lush “I’M DEAD.” Though the sun was beating down on him the whole time, DUCKWRTH kept up the energy and moved around the stage as much as he could which translated into an animated audience hanging on to his every word.
SATURDAY – THEE OH SEES
By Audrey Hertel
All throughout Saturday afternoon, the Maha security guards did their best to keep people from getting too close to the Beardmore stage. They told people, including photographers, to stay back if they were inches from it. Little did they know that their job of crowd control would become so much more than a “move back, please” when the San Francisco rockers of Thee Oh Sees took the stage.
The five piece of vocalist, guitarist, keyboardist and flutist John Dwyer, bassist Tim Hellman, drummer Dan Rincon, drummer Paul Quattrone and keyboard player Tomas Dolas came to the fest one day after the release of their latest LP “Face Stabber.”
Prior to the performance, Dwyer circled the stage with sage burning in his hand. But this meditative act only highlighted the idea of “the calm before the storm.” The second the band returned to stage about five minutes later, with the Dwyer’s stroke on his see-through guitar, the rumbling crowd broke out into a mosh pit.
A shirtless crowd member with “Oh Sees” painted on his chest screamed as the band thrashed on their instruments in front of him, and although Thee Oh Sees’ audience was moshing on a sloped hill, their spirit never let down. It didn’t take long for Dwyers energy to match the crowd. With every guitar riff or chord progression, the frontman stuck out his tongue, furrowed his brows or practically ate his microphone.
To people who have never heard of the rockers, Dwyers quirks may appear to be strange, but to Oh Sees day ones, it was just another cue to scream louder at the energetic guitarist.
Drummers Rincon and Quattrone sat side by side at their drum kits, both causing sweat to flying through the air. And together, the five-piece helped transform the chill energy that radiated from Maha’s earlier sets into a true rock ‘n roll whirlwind.
SATURDAY – MATT AND KIM
By Aaron Vlasnik
Now, Lizzo may have been the headliner, and she may have closed out the Maha Festival in a way that no other performer has before, but Brooklyn’s electronic duo Matt and Kim may have put on the most talked-about performance of the entire festival. With just the two of them on stage, Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino held nothing back and had the crowd hyped from the first beat of their introductory song “It’s Alright.” From electronic, bass-heavy covers of songs like DMX’s “Party Up (Up In Here),” Duck Sauce’s “Barbra Streisand,” and Van Halen’s “Jump,” to confetti and t-shirts being thrown into the crowd, Matt and Kim made sure you kept a smile on your face and your feet were moving for the entire 60 minute set.
They brought out hundreds of balloons that the crowd blew up themselves and threw around as well as multiple inflated sex dolls with their faces on them and a giant unicorn lawn sprinkler that all bounced around the crowd for the second half of their show. Their show ended with their hit song ‘Let’s Go’ and threw out 2 giant beach balls that had to be at least 8 feet in diameter.
Matt and Kim made sure you were having a good time and constantly ran around the stage. That is, until Kim took a spill after jumping down from her drum set about four or five songs in. Falling behind the drums, it was tough to see the severity of the fall, but she climbed back up and finished the song. It wasn’t until after the song had finished that Kim announced that she felt like she tore her ACL. Refusing immediate medical attention, Kim fought through the rest of the 15-song set, not missing a beat, but clearly in pain.
The Omaha crowd showed their appreciation of her toughness and willingness to power though. At the end of the set, Matt and a stagehand carried her off the stage.
SATURDAY – LIZZO
By Brittany Ward
Let me just preface this quick recap by saying no words will do this performance justice. None. But holy wow, my expectations were vastly exceeded; then again, Lizzo is a goddess among us. The crowd was buzzing with anticipation, literally the air was electric and sweaty – it was packed! Being in the photo pit, I had a pretty amazing view of both Lizzo and the crowd. I watched not only Lizzo’s face light up from the love pouring out from the crowd but also the admiration on the crowds’ faces when she stepped out on stage.
From the moment she stepped out on stage she had all of us mesmerized. Lizzo poured messages of love between songs, love for self, the ones around you and the world. She reminded us that we are all “that bitch,” even if we aren’t where we want to be in life, or when some people make us feel less than. When we get treated like dirt just remember that dirt makes things grow, “I’m not dirty bitch, I’m a rose.”
I made my way away from the crowded front toward the back to see that even the people way in the back were dancing and singing just as loud and passionately as those in the front. (They just had more room to dance and the view was still pretty amazing.) I myself, spent the rest of her set with my friends screaming her lyrics as if she could hear me and dancing my heart out as if no one could see me. On bad days and even on the good days, we need to remember that we are amazing despite how other people may treat us because “True love ain’t something you can buy yourself. True love finally happens when you by yourself. So if you by yourself, then go and buy yourself. Another round from the bottle on the higher shelf.”