Maha Festival 2018 is in the books! Two days of indie rock, synth pop, alt country, and blues had thousands at Stinson Park moving and shaking. Maha, in it’s 10th year, merged with the Big Omaha conference to present a full symposium and music festival all under one roof. There were speakers from all across the U.S. as well as local startups and non-profit organizations.
This year, I had the opportunity to volunteer for the Big Omaha conference at the Omaha Design center. My day started early Friday morning. I arrived ready to help wherever I was needed, but I was given the delicious assignment of breakfast and lunch service.
Breakfast was catered by local food company MJER Help. When I arrived, all of the food had already been prepped for the hungry conference attendees. Chef Michelle gave me an overview of the company, how they got started, and all of the menu items. Michelle explained how she had been in the finance industry for years living in Chicago before making the move back home to Omaha to pursue food full time. As she looked at all of the food choices Omaha had to offer, she noticed a lack of vegan and organic options for families on the go. Her company MJER Help is looking to fill this gap. I was able to sample many of the menu items and they were very tasty. There were vegan quiche slices, overnight oats with locally sourced grapes and apples, and vegan empanadas, yum!
In between breakfast and lunch, I helped local water company 3rd-i, setup a table full of product. The waters were glass bottled and looked a little on the fancy side. I was a little skeptical that it would taste any different than normal water, but I was able to sample one, and it was quite refreshing! I talked to company co-owner Trent and he said it was the combination of the Himalayan crystal purification and the glass bottling that helps keep the water in its most pure form. Trent and Jeffrey told me how they got their company started and some of their plans for growth. Like MJER Help, they saw a need in the Omaha market, and are now looking to become the premier provider of purified water throughout the Midwest. They are currently available on Amazon and at Paleo on 180th and Q.
After chatting with 3rd-i it was time for lunch. Unlike breakfast, there was a lot to get done in order to feed 500 people. Dandelion pop-up had several chefs preparing boxed lunches of Thai chicken sandwiches with truffles and a side of veggies with pine nuts and oatmeal sandwich cookies. I got to help with the lunch box assembly and run lunches from the kitchen to the attendees. It was actually really fun being part of the chef team. I felt like I was in an episode of Hell’s Kitchen as the head chef called out orders and the team would say “Heard Chef!” It was a very hectic, but fun experience. It was cool to step outside of my comfort zone and do something completely different than my day-to-day job.
After helping with Big Omaha I was ready for the best part of Maha, the music!
I made my way to Stinson Park just as Country-Alt rockers Clarence Tilton were taking the stage. They had a fun mix of country and rock with solid vocals and some slick guitar solos. The crowd seemed enjoy them as I saw many dancing and bobbing along.
After Clarence Tilton, another local group State Disco, played on the side stage. These guys were awesome! Their infectious synth-pop grooves had the whole crowd on their feet. They had glimpses of The Killers and Metro Station. I’m always amazed at the level of talent the Omaha scene has. I’ll be honest, I hadn’t heard of State Disco before, so I had to give them a quick google to see if they were local or national! You could have put them in between ZZ Ward and TV On the Radio and the festival wouldn’t have skipped a beat.
Lead singer Cody was great saying
“I came to Maha three years ago and said someday I’ll play on that stage. Look at me now Mom!!”
As I said, you could’ve put them up there with any other band. I look forward to seeing them again. They have a show coming up on Friday October 12 at OutrSpaces.
Up next was Hooray for the Riff Raff. I enjoyed their set and could hear many different influences from Cuban jazz to The Pretenders. Lead singer Alyndra had a smooth soulful voice and was very outspoken wearing a “Latin and Proud” shirt. The band’s last song “Pa’lante” was dedicated “To all the Latinas out there!” “We need to keep moving forward!”
After Hooray for the Riff Raff, southern rockers Benjamin Booker treated the crowd to a raucous set of upbeat blues numbers. Benjamin’s bassist laid down the funky grooves while Benjamin belted out some amazing melodies. Overall, the band sounded really tight like they had been playing together a long time.
The second to last act ZZ Ward was met with thunderous applause as she rocked her way through almost an hour of songs, including “Ride” from the hit summer kids film “Cars 3”. I can’t say that I’m a huge blues fan, but I did enjoy ZZ’s set and can see the attraction for the Maha crowd.
After ZZ, it was time for Friday headliners TV on the Radio.
As I was waiting to capture some pictures, a girl with a heavy European accent started chatting with me about how awesome the bass player for TV was. She said she herself plays bass and so she’s really inspired by watching other great bass players, most notably, Les Claypool from Primus.
She said we should start a mosh pit, but she didn’t want to bump my camera. I told her after I got some good pics I would gladly start a pit with her. Now, I have to admit I didn’t know a lot about TV’s music so I wasn’t sure if there were going to be any heavier fast songs that would be good to mosh to.
I waited about five songs before realizing there probably wouldn’t be any moshing during TV On the Radio. Some of the songs did have a little faster, jazzy sound, but it wasn’t really heavy enough for moshing. I honestly wasn’t super familiar with TV’s catalog so I wasn’t really sure what to expect, but to me, they came across as more of a jam band. There were quite a few people who stayed until the end for TV on the Radio’s set though and it took a lot longer to get out of the pit than it did to get in. A lot of people had moved up close to rock out for TV on the Radio. I talked to my new buddy Rob the next day and he said the outdoor venue isn’t really the best setting to see TV On the Radio, he would prefer a smaller place like The Slowdown. I could see his point. Sometimes a taller stage and outdoor acoustics can change the way a band sounds.
Whew! Night One was a success. After a long night of taking photos and walking around talking to anyone who would listen about the blog, it was time to call it quits. I went back home for some photo editing and a couple hours of sleep.
Maha day two was just as busy as the first! I got up early to support the Sixth Annual Team Up for Teammates race at NorthStar Financial. I’ve been involved with Teammates for the last five years, and the local race helps support the Millard chapter of Teammates. It was a great turnout this year. A record breaking 220 runners showed up to help raise over $30,000 for the Teammates mentoring program. What a great show of community support!
After the race, I gathered up my box of custom Stories From The Crowd paper fans and earplugs, threw on my brand new Stories From The Crowd shirt, and made my way to Stinson for another night of music bliss!
Maha day two was a bit different, as I spent the majority of my time handing out free swag and talking with fans (which was awesome), but I caught a lot of the bands in bits and pieces. I was bummed that I missed Hop Along, but I did get to see The Kills, Father John Misty, and of course the legendary Weezer!
The Kills had a fun set filled with synth beats, pop rock, and clap along anthems. They were on the side stage, but the crowd packed it in up front to dance and sing along. Friday was really heavy on blues, but Saturday brought the indie rock, synth, and party vibes.
After the sun went down it was time for Father John Misty. I was at the front entrance as the folk star’s first song started and there was still a steady stream of people arriving. One group of guys was really excited, one of them screaming “I’m coming Father John!” I figured I better head to the stage and see what all the commotion was about!
I made my way to the front as the third song was starting. Father John had a large stage production with several guitarists, keyboards, and a horn section. Even though Father John is outside of my normal listening tastes, I can appreciate the entertainment he gave the crowd. He stepped out behind his guitar several times to shimmy and shake across the stage.
There was a group in front of me that was really excited for Father John. They kept screaming “Marry Me Father John!” (even the guys). One person next to me after the set said of Father John “I just had a religious experience!” To each his own I guess. I enjoyed the set, but to me, it was just one more band before Weezer. I know I’m in the minority with that opinion though, the crowd was moving from the front of the stage all the way back on the lawn.
After Father John it was time for the heavy hitters, the closers, the grand finale, Weezer!! Weezer came out with a bang opening with what could be considered their biggest hit “Buddy Holly”. Rivers Cuomo and company brought the hits right away kicking into their smash “Beverly Hills” next. They kept the hits coming all night with “Pork and Beans”, “Undone (the sweater song)”, “My Name is Jonas”, and “Girls”. They even pulled out “El Scorcho!” which was far from a hit when it was released, but after all these years I’m sure the majority of Weezer fans hold it in just as high regard as some of their radio singles.
Weezer was a great way to cap off the two day music extravaganza. I have to applaud Maha for hosting the biggest party of the summer. I didn’t see any problems or issues over the two days. Lines were short, there were plenty of places to cool down, and the sound system was great. The only flurry of activity I saw was a few people getting busted for what I assume was partaking in an illegal green substance.
Overall, it was a fun time had by all! I can’t wait for Maha 2019! Drop a comment and let me know what you thought of Maha and who you would like to see for next year!
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