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Maha Festival 2023 Preview

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Happy Maha! 

Here is the disclaimer: I am a stage manager for the Maha Music Festival and have been since 2010. I am a huge homer for this festival. 

Yes, it’s going to be hot on Friday. That is all I heard yesterday, and I went and did a nerd thing and looked at the temps of all the other Maha festivals, and yeah, it has not been this hot. I am a wimp, though, and some years when it was 85, I probably thought the world was ending. I have access to a lot of the preparation, precautions, and safety planning that happens for Maha. They are going to take care of people, and they are prepared to do so. The main thing is to take care of yourself. Cover your dome, use sunscreen, stay hydrated, keep your wits about you, and take some breaks. There will be plenty of water. Maha allows you to come and go, so you can go grab food at Aksarben Village joints and air condition it up. You will be parked pretty close, as there is a massive amount of parking at Aksarben Village, and you can blast yourself in your car with AC all you want. Maha is a non-profit that is volunteer-based, and the main concern tomorrow is going to be making sure everyone has a great time and is safe.

Friday night is headlined by Turnstile, and this could be the most energetic set and crowd of any Maha Festival. So many people whose taste in music I respect and is similar to mine love this band, and I just haven’t been able to connect, but I am keeping my mind open and hoping the live performance turns the corner for me. I am looking forward to watching them and the crowd. For me, the main act on Friday will be Alvvays. The Canadian band has three albums out, with last year’s Blue Rev being their best. I haven’t seen them since they played Maha in 2015, and they have grown a lot as a band since then. The band’s shoegaze, dream pop sound is perfect for a festival setting and will be quite the contrast to Turnstile. 

Also from Canada is EKKSTACY, whom I am very much looking forward to seeing. I was unfamiliar with this artist when Maha was announced but have immersed myself in his music since. He has a modern take on New Wave music and is influenced by everyone from The Cure to Christian Death. There is also an influence of modern hip-hop in the music, which gives it a whole different twist. When I was at the Cruel World festival in California earlier this year, they had a lot of young New Wave bands perform, and EKKSTACY would’ve fit right in.

For local music fans, the big performance at Maha will be the reunion of Icky Blossoms. Icky Blossoms were based in Omaha, and released two albums on Saddle Creek. This will be the band’s first performance in almost a decade, and they have performed at Maha twice before. The band will get the hometown crowd dancing with songs like “Babes” and “Sex To The Devil”. Also from Omaha is Hakim, a rapper who has released quite a catalog of music since 2017. He likes to say he is from the Corn Coast. Omaha hard-core band BIB will open the day. They have actually performed with headliner Turnstyle over the years, so this will be a good way to start the day. It will also be the most chaotic start to any Maha festival, as Stereogum said of the band, “Bib sound like a fucking mess”.

The weather looks a little more tolerable for Saturday, when Maha will start at 2 p.m.Up first is Omaha artist Ebba Rose, who just released a new album titled Ebbs & Flow last month. I just did an interview with her last night, which we will run in the coming weeks. Her indie-pop band/singer-songwriter sound will be the perfect start to a day that will be full of headliners of that ilk. Omaha band Garst will finally make their Maha debut. The rock band has been an Omaha favorite for years now and has been packing venues like The Waiting Room and The Slowdown. They just released a new self-titled album in May and will have a really fun set. Every year, one of the highlights of Maha is the Omaha Girls Rock performance, where some of Omaha’s young musicians get to take to the big stage. This year the performance will happen after Garst, so make sure you are down front waiting for them.

Omaha hip-hop act M34N STR33T will perform for the second time at Maha. The duo of Conny Franko and Haunted Gauntlet are two of the most respected artists in Omaha and always have a great stage performance. The duo released the album BESOS in 2022 and just released the trippy new single “Help” a couple weeks ago. Will Say She She be the sleeper hit of the festival? All signs point to yes. The soul and disco trio puts out music on one of my favorite record labels, Colemine Records. The music is fun, retro, and made for dancing. Not something you want to miss. Saddle Creek artist Black Belt Eagle Scout has put out three critically acclaimed albums, including this year’s The Land, The Water, and The Sky, which is one of my favorites this year. It’s been awhile since I have seen them perform, and I am looking forward to hearing the new material. Having BBES on the same lineup as The Beths and Big Thief is pretty epic. Dream lineup, to be honest, but first will be Nashville hip-hop artist Terry Presume, who had success with his 2021 EP What Box? He mixes modern hip-hop and R&B with that SoundCloud vibe.

The New Zealand band The Beths will be one of the most sought-after acts on the Maha lineup. The band has had a slow and steady build over the years and has become a very popular live act. Their show at Slowdown is one that many still talk about. The indie rock band will bring a lot of energy and a lot of catchy songs to the stage on Saturday. Peach Pit will bring their “chewed-up bubblegum” pop to the Maha stage. The Canadian band (so much Canada!) will stop by Omaha on their way to play Lollapalooza. Finally, we get Big Thief on the stage at Maha to close out the festival. Big Thief is, in my opinion, the best current band out there right now. Their album last year, Dragon New Warm Mountain, I Believe In You, was the best album of 2022. They just released a new single, “Vampire Empire”, and their performance on the Late Show was just epic. I cannot wait to see them perform live, and I have sky high hopes that this will be one of, if not the, best Maha performances ever. I also feel confident that they will deliver.

Maha tickets go up in price tomorrow. Get yours now! See you there.

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