Maha Music Festival 2013

People of all ages and styles came together at Stinson Park on Saturday for Omaha’s fifth annual Maha Music Festival. Perhaps this is because the various bands for the entire day’s lineup (not to mention the hype of headliner The Flaming Lips) attracted a variety of demographics, or perhaps it is because of everything that the event has to offer. Maha functions as a solution to individuals ranging from those who are music-fueled and seek a festival experience and those who simply seek a day of fun and entertainment away from the ordinary.

Although Maha is one day and it is in Nebraska, it certainly is merited as a music festival. The perhaps unique thing about a music festival in Nebraska in a setting like Stinson Park is that the festival possesses that certain Midwest charm and Nebraska’s “Good Life” mentality. On Saturday, life was good for seemingly every attendee of Maha.

On Saturday, two stages were set up: one for local acts and one for non-local acts (12 acts total). The stages were occupied one at a time and rotated back and forth all day. The great thing about the rotation of bands on the two stages was the immediacy and fluidity of it all—at the end of almost every performance on one stage, the other stage was set up and sound checks were in progress as crew members push to get the next band playing on time and without much delay. All day, people were impressed with the speediness between sets.

Many of the bands in Maha’s lineup seemed to be of the punk rock persuasion. Criteria, an Omaha band, is a good example: The band plays hard, fast, loud, punk-rock-type music. Criteria performed excellently and with an abundance of energy and talent—enough so that even a person who doesn’t find a genre like punk rock inside the scope of his or her musical tastes (such as myself) can still appreciate and “get into” the performance in the spirit of the day.

The Thermals were another particularly impressive band. The trio from Portland signed with Saddle Creek Records this year. They define their sound as post-pop-punk and they are in some ways reminiscent of the punk sound that exploded in Portland in the 90’s. The Thermals received great response from the audience on Saturday.

Bob Mould cannot go without mentioning. Bob Mould is a very experienced musician who has played with other bands since the 1979 but currently plays with his two band members—another very strong trio at Maha. It’s safe to say that Bob Mould’s set was satisfying and entertaining for anyone—from the fans singing every word to the individual unfamiliar with the band. Each song was long in an enjoyable way. Often, a song would seem to be over and it would twist and change into a new section of the song or would transition into a new song entirely. Bob Mould’s music is carefully composed, unique, and very fluid. Bob Mould is considered indie-rock, but with his background in many types of sound including punk, his music is truly unique.

This was the first year Maha was held at Stinson Park in Aksarben Village and it worked wonderfully. The event is an inviting one, as the location of the park is accessible for people beyond the Omaha area, free parking was provided by Maha, and Stinson Park provided a clean, safe, welcoming atmosphere. Maha manages to accommodate many kinds of groups like: college kids; teenagers; adults in their 20’s, 30’s, 40’s; families with young children (This is a music festival where no one would look skeptically at a mother carrying her baby.); the independent floater.

Some people only came to Maha to see The Flaming Lips perform. Matt and Kim—a well-known duo that has been playing at countless festivals this summer—played prior to The Flaming Lips and did not fail to deliver their trademark full-on-energy performance which meshed nicely with the anticipation and excitement radiating from everyone especially looking forward to The Flaming Lips. A whole new crowd came pouring in to the park during the time before Flaming Lips were to be on at 10:15. There was a shift in the entire festival because of this. There were suddenly more people, but different kinds of people, too.

The Flaming Lips are known for being master performers and for being…weird, we’ll say. More so, there music is inventive and somewhat psychedelic—it’s like a blast to the past for us old souls (no matter our age) combined with the modernity available in today’s music. There’s nothing like The Flaming Lips. The overwhelming amount of fans and people that came to see them Saturday could tell you that before the performance, and if they couldn’t beforehand, everyone at the show could tell you about it now.

The set up of the stage for The Flaming Lips was an elaborate production. The Flaming Lips know how to stretch and wear out the idea of a ‘stage’ and the idea of a ‘performance.’ The use of both in the case of The Flaming Lips is almost theatrical, or at least very artistic.

First they started with multiple round, shiny, silver domes front and center that, in the minds of many, were suggestive of something alien-like. These were at the base of the tall pedestal that Wayne Coyne stood on for the whole performance. Snaking up from the base of the pedestal to the microphone were multiple rope lights with surges of lights randomly electrifying the set. Behind Coyne was a series of such rope lights vertically hung, between Coyne and the drummer and the rest of the bandmates.

Then, the band kicked ass for a good hour and a half or so. There was lots and lots of confetti (Any Flaming Lips fan can tell you that Wayne Coyne loves confetti.) and lots and lots of ecstatic fans and totally entertained and happy audience members. The performance was entrancing–it took people away from separate realities and through them into this one. But it all came naturally: The Flaming Lips don’t know how to perform any other way than full-on and the audience doesn’t want to be anything but fully into experiencing, enjoying, and remembering the performance.

Perhaps the best thing about Maha Music Festival is the fact that every person seemed to be in a content state of peaceful happiness. Then again, that’s the beautiful thing about all music festivals: Everyone is there to enjoy the music, to have a good time, and to be totally carefree and happy, even but if only for a day.