Wayne Coyne and the Flaming Lips were some of the best things that happened at Maha Music Festival 2013. (Photo by Alyssa Schukar/The World-Herald)
More people came to Maha Music Festival than ever before.
And bands at the festival were bigger than ever before.
By all measures, festival organizers say it was their best yet.
I agree. With its fifth edition, Maha Music Festival did its best work. Beginning with local hip-hop group Purveyors of the Conscious Sound and finishing with Oklahoma weirdo rockers The Flaming Lips, the music was fantastic.
“Everything went well,” Maha founder and board member Tre Brashear told me this week. “I think this is definitely our most successful year all the way around.”
One of the best things for organizers is that music fans made a day of Maha. They came early and stayed all day, which means they spent more money on food and beer (the moneymakers for the festival). They also experienced the community campus and comedy tent, and saw both the local and national acts.
“I loved getting people there early for the national acts and also seeing the local acts,” Brashear said. “I like the fact that people are there for Thao and they’re seeing Rock Paper Dynamite. Or there’s all sorts of Bob Mould fans and then they see Digital Leather.”
As I said before, it was the best Maha yet. So, I flipped back through my notebook, blog and photos and recalled the 10 best things about it.
10. The community campus: A series of local nonprofits had giveaways and art projects in the rear of the festival site, and they were incredibly popular. Plus, they get more people aware of and involved with those groups. And speaking of community, it was pretty cool to hear most of the bands thank the volunteers and organizers (who are also volunteers). The Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne even showed up at a local bar where volunteers were sharing an after-festival drink to thank them.
9. Thao & the Get Down Stay Down: I like some of the band’s music, but I wasn’t sure how I would like their full set. I was pleasantly surprised.
8. Bob Mould: Mould would be much, much, much higher on this list if I could have actually picked out some of the songs. I know the old adage, “If it’s too loud, you’re too old,” but there is a volume level at which music is unlistenable. Mould came pretty close to that.
7. The crowd: With more than 5,100 tickets scanned at the gate, it was the largest audience ever at Maha. The festival deserves an even bigger audience, but I imagine they won’t have too much trouble increasing attendance if organizers continue with their track record.
6. The local bands: It’s hard to call groups such as Criteria and Digital Leather “local” when they tour the country, release albums nationally and are just that dang good. There was no problem sandwiching them between Bob Mould, The Thermals and Matt and Kim. They stood up so well that I was even asked a couple of times if the above-mentioned bands were from here or this was a tour stop.
5. The Flaming Lips: I’ve gotten a few emails about the band’s dark, strange show and how it wasn’t what people expected. The hamster ball is gone, but the band’s show is just as fun to watch even if “The W.A.N.D.” and “Do You Realize?” are different songs than you remember. As frontman Coyne said, it’s a good thing when weirdos get to do their thing. And if they get to do their thing, expect some weirdness.
4. The Thermals: Fans didn’t get too into the set, but the Portland punk band brought more energy than almost anyone else who took the stage. It was a much-needed blast that came in the middle of the afternoon. If only more artists, like Thermals singer/guitarist Hutch Harris, would drop to their knees and shred apart a guitar solo.
3. Sons of Fathers: Folk rock busting apart with harmonies from singers David Beck and Paul Cauthen had me wondering when we could get these guys back in town. Someone work on that, eh? And in the meantime, I suggest you all listen to “Hill Country Girl” and “Roots & Vine.”
2. The weather: OK, yeah, I ranked the weather higher than most of the bands, but most music festivals are famous for being gnarly sweat-fests where shade is a precious commodity. Saturday saw temperatures in the 70s and a light breeze, which was absolutely perfect. Even the artists talked about it onstage.
1. Matt and Kim: The images you conjure in your head of a music festival were exactly the ones that happened when Matt and Kim played Maha. Beach balls flew everywhere, the band provided some balloons, and drummer Kim Schifino walked on the crowd. (She actually stepped out onto the audience’s outstretched hands.) And then there was the music: Not life-changing by any means, but full of hip-hop beats and infectiously peppy pop hooks. It doesn’t get better than that.-
My column, also cleverly titled Rock Candy, appears every Thursday in the GO magazine of the Omaha World-Herald and on Omaha.com/GO.