Saturday saw the biggest Maha Music Festival ever and one of its best.
In its fifth year, the festival saw a record attendance of more than 5,100 — a crowd full of musicians and music lovers assembled at Stinson Park — as well as indie rock heroes The Flaming Lips, Matt and Kim, and Bob Mould that pushed those thousands into a frenzy.
Maha began with a beautiful, breezy day and ended with a pair of wild and beautiful performances.
After the sun went down, the lights went up, and Matt and Kim turned the festival into the ultimate party.
The duo — playing only keyboards and drums — is the perfect festival band with infectiously peppy songs such as “Daylight” and “Yea Yeah.”
Combine that with the duo's beaming smiles, dance beats and amusing but profanity-filled stage banter, and the audience was all whipped up during the hourlong set.
Beach balls bounced over fans' heads and drummer Kim Schifino walked on the fans' hands during the set, which included a few segues into hip-hop classics such as “Next Episode” and “Just a Friend.”
With songs such as “Good Ol' Fashioned Nightmare” — to which fans danced and sang — it was a celebration that was the high point of the day.
Headlining band The Flaming Lips finished with enigmatic frontman Wayne Coyne standing on a mass of silver bubbles draped in glowing rope lights like a scene from “Alien.” The band played droning and noisy songs from its new, dark album “The Terror” as well as some old guitar rock tunes such as “The W.A.N.D.” while Coyne stood on the glowing mass clutching a baby doll, twirling his microphone and throwing glitter in the air.
It was a dark set at times, which reflects “The Terror,” but the band bounced back in the encore with fun rockers such as “Do You Realize.” Many in the crowd could have gone for more of the familiar hits, like “Fight Test” or “Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots,” and some in the crowd left partway through the set. (They missed the best parts, which came at the end.)
But at least it was fun to look at. With lasers, strobe lights, rainbow-colored flashes and confetti (colored black and reflecting the stage lights), the set was a trip, but that's to be expected by the Oklahoma band known for its sometimes strange experiments.
Both the Lips and Matt and Kim were a wild cap to a long and fantastic day of music. Mould, after playing fan favorite “Keep Believing,” may have summed up the festival best:
“Matt and Kim? Flaming Lips? Drunk friends? ... A great night!”
During the day, some people bobbed their heads, others hula hooped, some played hackey-sack and most waited for The Flaming Lips to take the stage. Many crowded around the busy bar tent to get themselves in a state of mind to see the band's trippy light show and weirdo rock.
Throughout the day, thousands trickled in through the gates, stopped at the Community Village area, watched comedians and slam poets or picked up drinks and snacks from vendors.
At noon, the day began with hip-hop, folk, Southern rock and a lot of people lounging on the lawn.
The festival kicked off with Omaha hip-hop troupe Purveyors of the Conscious Sound and local pop-punk group Millions of Boys. Local band HERS had an interesting set; the Omaha group was joined onstage by girls from Omaha Girls Rock music camp.
Maha began with mellow rock and fun grooves, but it finished with all kinds of frenzied noise.
When Portland punk three-piece The Thermals, signed to Omaha's Saddle Creek Records, took the stage, they injected some much-needed punk rock energy into the afternoon. Though the band churned and shredded through songs such as “Returning to the Fold” and “Born to Kill,” the audience stayed mostly unmoved. No moshing. No jumping. No reaction, really, which was surprising.
Criteria, which hasn't released an album since 2005, continued with even more volume and debuted some new material. Some fans walked the festival talking about how the set was the best thing that happened all day.
Bob Mould, formerly of early alternative rock band Husker Du, played songs from his recent solo album, “Silver Age,” as well as old tunes from Husker Du and Sugar. It was a career-spanning set, but unfortunately, it was so headache-inducing loud that it was difficult to pick out some songs.
Thank goodness I brought earplugs, but even those weren't enough. Eventually, I had to head far enough back in the park where the volume wasn't so intense.
All the bands, Mould included, praised the festival and its volunteers for putting on Maha.
Matt and Kim, especially, were happy to be a part of the event, especially because it's driven by volunteers.
“I'm so happy they asked us to be a part of this festival with bands like The Thermals and The Flaming Lips,” said Matt and Kim's Matt Johnson. “You need to support this (stuff) every year.”
The Flaming Lips' Coyne gave the most ringing endorsement: “We're from Oklahoma City — and don't say this to anybody — and there ain't anything this cool going on there.”