Maha Music Festival
Maha milestone: local music festival hits five years, record attendance and a solid day of rock.
Published: Thursday, August 29, 2013
Updated: Thursday, August 29, 2013 15:08
Tre Brashear and the rest of the Maha staff are certainly doing something right.
There were plenty of reasons for both event organizers and live music fans to celebrate during the fifth annual Maha Music Festival at Stinson Park in Aksarben Village on Aug. 17.
Sunny skies and perfect weather combined with manageable concert grounds and well-trained volunteers made an excellent environment for fans to enjoy on a day that was jammed with upcoming and iconic local and national acts. As the day went on in an almost seamless fashion, the Maha organizers had to be sitting back and smiling.
It hasn’t been five years of squeaking by for the popular music festival. The event organizers are truly dedicated and use each year to learn new things to help make the festival continue to grow and prosper.
This year marked a record for the largest Maha attendance numbers and for booking arguably the biggest headlining act, The Flaming Lips. Festival organizers confirmed that around 5,100 tickets were sold, which is almost a 20 percent increase in attendance from 2012. That statistic alone speaks volumes for Maha.
And, as mentioned, Maha boasted not only their biggest act to date, but also a diverse array of notable supporting groups. Alongside festival anchors, The Flaming Lips, were the rising indie pop duo Matt & Kim, Saddle Creek signees The Thermals, influential indie icon Bob Mould, Austin folk artists Sons of Fathers and the raucous Thao & The Get Down Stay Down.
The festival also flaunted a number of classic and more present area acts: Purveyors of the Conscious Sound, Millions of Boys, HERS (which featured members of Omaha Girls Rock!), Rock Paper Dynamite, The Millions, Criteria and Digital Leather.
As the Maha heads had to be enjoying what they accomplished this year, the fans showed their love with attendance and enthusiasm.
The day started at noon, and fans slowly filled the grounds as local hip-hoppers, Purveyors of the Conscious Sound, took the stage to open the festival. PCS, as the group prefers, did more than make the most of their opportunity to perform, as they stirred up the small but accumulating crowd in the afternoon sunlight with raps and sounds unlike most of the following acts. This got the festival’s blood pumping to start the day.
Plenty of stellar tunes were played over the course of the day, with plenty of memorable highlights.
Millions of Boys opened up the main stage with a set of breezy, mellow alternative rock songs that felt metaphorical to the easy-going, relaxing afternoon weather. At moments, the band’s frontwoman Sara Bertuldo delivered wah-engaged solos that were reminiscent of Stephen Malkmus’ sound.
Later in the afternoon, the audience got a taste of California’s Thao & The Get Down Stay Down. Led by frontwoman Thao Nguyen, the group is driven by good ol’ folk rhythms and Nguyen’s gritty-yet-gorgeous vocals– while the tunes exploded into spirited, poppy fits at the drop of a hat. The set was a solid midday pace-increaser.
Classic Nebraska indie rockers The Millions and Criteria made appearances and did the “veteran thing” by performing lively sets for the old fans and also drew a number of new fans to stage. Criteria, especially, knocked it out of the park. They kept the festival going as day transitioned to night.
Alternative rock veteran Bob Mould may have lost some of the youth in attendance, but as his energetic and soulful set went on, many had to wonder, “where have I heard this before?” That’s probably because Mould’s sound has influenced scores of today’s alternative rock artists as he performs as a solo artist and member of famed pioneer indie band Hüsker Dü. Maha is known to bring in legendary indie rockers, and this year’s selection was fantastic.
I will preface by saying that I have never cared for Brooklyn’s cute-as-a-button pop duo Matt & Kim; however, the two easily gave the most rousing performance of the day, with the crowds’ emotion and movement to prove it. Between constant swearing, sex talk and ’90s hip-hop breakdowns before and after songs, their set was a serious hour of power, and I’m sure those who are fans had a blast.
Last and, well, kind of least was the highly anticipated closing set by The Flaming Lips. The past couple of releases by the freak rockers have been dark, frightening and full of inharmonious noise – that is what the first twenty minutes of the set consisted of. Frontman Wayne Coyne stood delicately on a mound of shiny spheres that emitted lights through plastic tubes to the back of the stage. Coyne coddled and thrashed around a baby doll as he droned lyrics over the piercing, haunting sounds. A spectacle it was, but an energy-producing set is wasn’t. Several times throughout the show, Coyne pleaded with the audience to get pumped, but it was hard to do while watching the performance. Directionless noise aside, the band skipped over a vast amount of “the hits” and the ones they did play, for some reason, were slowed down to an agonizingly slow pace.
All in all, this year was a big one for everyone involved in planning Maha, but there are bigger, brighter opportunities on the festival’s horizon if the organizers continue to learn new things and utilize outside resources to help grow this event into something huge. Omaha is a city that has continued to grow and evolve, and a large event like Maha has made a unique name for itself within the community.