FESTIVAL REVIEW: Maha Festival 2023 Day Two Live Review

Brooklyn, NY's indie folk band Big Thief at Maha Festival in Omaha, Nebraska on Saturday, July 29, 2023. (Photo credit: Dean Birkheimer)

BY DEAN BIRKHEIMER | Go Venue Magazine

I woke up on Saturday, July 29th super excited for day two of the Maha Festival. Even though the outside temperature dropped over 10 degrees from Friday’s day one scorcher, today’s line-up promised to keep thing burning on stage.

“Drag” is a song that has been in steady rotation on my playlist for many months now. It was amazing seeing Ebba Rose a.k.a. Erin Mitchell opening day two and playing this song live. She and her band were spectacular. Erin’s voice was sincere and enticing. She has the really cool ability to shift from a subtle sound to songs that are not so subtle.  She can go from loving to lusty in a blink of an eye and still be genuine in both regards. A new album was recently released back in June. It was great hearing some new songs off “Ebb & Flows” performed live. I wouldn’t mind if this band opened every Maha going forward.

Don’t even get me started about Garst. Too late, I’ve started.  Just like Ebba Rose, Garst is a local band with a strong and dedicated following. They are criminally ferocious and continuously move about the stage as if it’s on fire.  In a sense, it is.  Garst earns every fist pump and slam dance they get. There is no down-time during a Garst performance. As a photographer, I’m always trying to be aware of everything going on around me.  In this case, I could not take my eyes off this fierce band.

M34N STR33T (nope, my spell checker did not go crazy) is yet another one of Omaha’s talented artists.  Comprised of producer Haunted Gauntlet and emcee Conny Franco, they are a jazz influenced hip hop duo with an extremely unique style both lyrically and musically.  Their pace is different from most other rap artists. Their album “Besos” was released just last year and is full of compelling lyrics and unexpected flows and grooves. This is a duo that deserves to be heard and supported.

The female-led discodelic soul band Say She She from Brooklyn was next. With their collection of soul, bouncy rhythms and melodies, they turned Stinson Park into a massive dance floor.  The band is filled with intoxicating disco grooves and smooth vocals. Say She She boasts impeccable arrangements and thumping tones that will always leave you wanting more.

Released in February of this year, The Land, The Water, The Sky is Black Belt Eagle Scout‘s latest album. If ever an artist has poured their soul into a piece of work, this is it. Katherine Paul’s voice resonated throughout the park and drew the crowd to her, both physically and emotionally. The sounds this band produces are intense and meaningful. The music builds and builds and is layered with charismatic vocals. I know this all sounds like it was a soft and smooth show, but on the contrary, it was beefy and fuzzy.  Just the way I like it.

Terry Presume is a gifted writer who utilizes several genres to get his message across. Whether it be funk, pop, rap or hip-hop, Terry is comfortable with them all. His sound is a little off-key, but that’s what makes it his. I especially enjoyed “Act Up”. It has a musical progression of singing and rapping that is superb. Terry has an exceptional ear for all kinds of music, and he utilizes that ability in everything he performs.

The Beths came to Maha all the way from New Zealand and the quartet made up of vocalist/guitarist Elizabeth Stokes, guitarist Jonathan Pearce, bassist Benjamin Sinclair, and drummer Tristan Deck came with a plan, to play music. Combining pop, fuzz and shoegaze they put on an electric and highly entertaining show. Elizabeth has a style all her own and a voice to match.  This along with the backing harmonies makes for a very special sound. They are punchy and genuine.  It’s like watching and listening to your buddies band. The Beths are a band who radiate confidence on stage. We hope they find more Omaha area stages to showcase their talent on.

How many of us are doing what we said we’d do back when we were in high school?  For that matter, how many of us still hang out nearly every day with our high school buddies? Well, Neil Smith, Chris Vanderkooy, Peter Wilton, and Mikey Pascuzzi the members of Peach Pit did and do just that. If their on stage appearance is any indication, these guys really like each other and enjoy entertaining its fans. When they play, you feel it from your toes to your teeth.  They play and move about without restraint and eagerly entice the crowd to join in.  They are a stand-out act who absolutely left their mark on everyone who was there to witness their masterful set.

The members of Big Thief are Adrianne Lenker, Buck Meek, Max Oleartchik, James Krivchenia. When you talk about tight bands, this band is right up there as the tightest.  This is an extraordinary band whose music audibly paints a vivid picture of serenity and beauty. Their folk-rock sound may not have completely meshed with what the other bands brought to the table, but it was made quite clear to us from the start that they certainly belonged as the head-liner. Big Thief left us feeling warm inside and ready to take on the next day.

All in all, another very successful Maha Festival. Again, special thanks to the entire organization, who now must start planning for 2024 and a new location. 

Big Thief

Peach Pit

The Beths

Terry Presume

Black Belt Eagle Scout

Say She She



Ebba Rose

Festival Atmosphere

All images © Dean Birkheimer

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