2016 Maha Music Festival Recap | Photos & Review

Musically, the 2016 Maha Music Festival had it all: a serious, no-frills rising hip-hop star, a trio of heavy-hitting locals, two retrospective classics, mountains upon mountains of youthful, buzzing guitar rock and a one-two punch to finish it off.

It shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that Maha Music Festival ran as smoothly in its eighth year as ever, but the common refrain rings true. From the backstage hustle to overcome a string of hiccups to an enthusiastic crowd of 7,600-plus all the way back to Maha’s Community Village and Globe comedy/poetry tent, the festival maintained its positive, community-oriented vibe yet again.

photo by Lindsey Yoneda

photo by James Dean

photo by Bridget McQuillan

photo by James Dean

photo by James Dean

photo by Bridget McQuillan

photo by Bridget McQuillan

It’s a testament to how well-run the festival is from top to bottom — founder and executive director to security and production to all 350 volunteers — that one would have barely noticed the adjustments if they weren’t paying attention. An early technical difficulty (due to same rain from the day prior that cooled the festival) led to a lineup change and forced a few sets short. No matter: CJ Mills, Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal and See Through Dresses squeezed the most out of theirs, while Grimes dazzled late in the evening with an abbreviated but very colorful, awe-inspiring visual, vocal and technical display. The evening culminated in a joyous hour-long performance by headliner Passion Pit, who struck all the right chords while leaning heavily on its mid-aughts fame-making hits.

Read on for photo and written coverage of all 12 acts, plus scenes from the Globe tent and Omaha Girls Rock appearances.

* * *

CJ Mills

CJ Mills stepped up to the mic and everything was right in the world. The sun shone through the clouds. The cool temps were unbelievable. The park was sloshy from a night of rain, but green. The Werner Enterprise Ferris Wheel was accepting passengers. The people were bubbling with anticipation. While there were some technical difficulties on the Weitz stage that flipped hers and Soul Colossal’s order, Mills was right where she was supposed to be, right on time.

In a mere five songs, due to a shortened set, Millsarmed with easily the most impressive pipes on the day’s lineup, her Gretsch hollowbody, veteran Mitch Towne on keys, Larell Ware on drums and Max Stehr on bassplayed with poise, precision and passion. In the mere six months or so Mills has been playing with her bandmates, they’ve transformed Mills’s already brilliant soulful pop tunes into mature, jazz-tinged, soulful numbers that would play well alongside acts like Hiatus Kaiyote, Lianne La Havas, or Thundercat.

Mills and company’s set was the first marker of a day that, while not everything was going according to plan, everything was going to be okay. Everything was coming up MAHA.

— Rebecca Lowry

photos by Lindsey Yoneda

* * *

Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal

Josh Hoyer and the Soul Colossal delivered a powerful sermon in soul and funk on the Javelin Stage early Saturday afternoon. The band, one of the busiest in the state playing over 150 shows last year across the country, unexpectedly played out of original festival order on short notice with the poise of a seasoned band.  

Delayed by audio-technical issues on the Weitz stage due to the rainstorm the night before (according to an official who addressed the crowd), Josh Hoyer and his quintet were moved to the adjacent stage to play an abbreviated set following soul/blues artist CJ Mills.

Hoyer and his five band mates didn’t seemed deterred. For a band that plays as often as they do, they appeared to be used to rolling with the punches. In fact, their collective unbridled energy was immediately apparent after the first downbeat of their 30-minute set. Even the event and press photographers, usually statuesque in their execution, were struggling to resist the urge to move with the shuffling, funky beat from drummer Memphis Shepard and dynamic bass riffs from James Fleege. I saw one photographer in particular move his camera from member to member in perfect time with the bass-drum beats, literally dancing to each of his shots.

At some points across the set, it felt as if there was an open competition among the sextet as to who was having the most fun, who could play with the most emotion and who could coax the most enthusiasm from the crowd. Hoyer was not afraid to stand up from behind his dual keyboard set up and let his smoky voice and powerful, sermon-like melodies take the lead from the front of the stage. In the band’s closer, “Blood and Bone”, Hoyer implored the crowd to sing along with the rambunctious frontman in shouting “the people got soul!”  Saxophone player Mike Dee blew notey and technical jazz solos and often came together with trombone player Tommy Van Der Berg to land on compact and bluesy harmonies that punctuated the strutting rhythm section.

The set was only a handful of songs — Hoyer mentioned to the crowd that they were hoping to play a few more but that it was “all right!” — but they were powerful jams that allowed the members to improvise and play freely within the nicely anchored harmonic foundation. The musicians were tethered, however, by common threads and ideas in each song that they were eager to land on together at the end of each phrase. With funky rhythms, blue-note dissonance and fire-and-brimstone vocals, the performance was a showcase of their unique and catchy style; a novel hybrid of Earth, Wind and Fire, B.B. King and Stevie Wonder that Soul Colossal is sure to make many more disciples.

— Patrick Nolan

photos by Lauren Farris

* * *

Diet Cig

Size is something to note about Diet Cig. The New York band is only a two-piece, a pop duo with just a drum set and electric guitar. This is perhaps apparent in their lo-fi, DIY recordings, which are only an EP and two singles released on Bandcamp.

Diet Cig was originally billed to perform on the larger Weitz Investment Management Stage, but sound issues forced them to the smaller Javelin Capital Stage — not a problem, considering only two people would occupy the space. But as soon as vocalist and guitarist Alex Luciano began strumming furiously to their opener, “Cardboard,” it became obvious that Diet Cig is a band that utilizes all the space they’re given.

Sonically, the duo filled the atmosphere with their punk-inspired pop. Luciano strums simplistic chords swiftly and powerfully, her high voice often evolving into shouts dotted with expletives. Drummer Noah Bowman rides the cymbal on fast-paced percussion, providing a perfect backing track to Luciano’s angst-ridden vocals.

Physically, Luciano touted a full cardio workout throughout the whole set, jumping up and down quickly in circles from one side of the stage to the other. She often kicked one leg high, cheerleader style. She jumped onto Bowman’s drum head, bobbing her head, sticking out her tongue and balancing on one leg while still playing her instrument.

Luciano is commanding in her vocals in the live setting, something that is not immediately obvious in Diet Cig’s debut EP, Over Easy. Lyrics like “I hate everybody here” in “Cardboard” and “fuck your Ivy League sweater” in “Harvard” were shouted onstage instead of murmured in Luciano’s sweet vocals.

Though shouted through distorted guitar and fast, danceable drums, Diet Cig’s live performance proved enjoyable and noteworthy in one of the first few sets of the day.

Luciano’s honeyed but bold personality decorated the performance, as she used stage banter to request the audience to “grab your honey” before slow songs and highlight intersectional feminism. She also included her contempt for Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, calling the latter “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” — “We’re living in a Harry Potter world, do you realize that?” she asked — and talked about a “weird, capitalistic society” to introduce the song “Scene Sick.”

On a new song called “Sixteen,” Luciano sang sweetly and cheekily of a high school ex-boyfriend that slut-shamed her. In describing the incident in which he told everyone they slept together, she paused the song and very obviously rolled her eyes before continuing.

The show could be best summarized in Diet Cig’s new “Skirt.” “It’s hard to be a punk while wearing a skirt,” Luciano yelled, jumping up and kicking as the crowd bobbed their heads to the feminist anthem. Pop as the songs may be, Luciano’s energy and attitude nodded to punk roots, solidifying a performance and spirit that would be hard to follow.

— Kelly Langin

photos by JP Davis

* * *

See Through Dresses

Maybe it was the good night’s sleep or two after having just returned from a twenty-show tour or having to cut ten minutes from their set and some uncertainty in the day’s schedule, but it looked like it took Omaha indie rock darlings See Through Dresses a minute to catch up to each other. They set expectations high with guitarist/vocalist Sara Bertuldo exclaiming about their successful tour and being practiced up, but it wasn’t until halfway through the set, when guitarist/vocalist Matthew Carroll swole into a raucous, breakneck version of “Happy,” that it looked like the band finally found one another.

The precise moment of cohesion was when Bertuldo lifted her Gibson SG into the air, as if channeling The Power of Greyskull. She, Carroll, bassist Alex Kirts and drummer Nate Van Fleet found their symbiosis, matching their energy to the amount of sound pouring from the main speakers. The last half of the set was everything one would hope for from a See Through Dresses set. Heavy rock, earnest, feather-light vocals, soaring solos, and rowdy, physical play on stage, ending with Bertuldo, ascending a mountain of speakers, a Fender Jaguar in hand, to stand upon the tallest, rocking the hell out and claiming the Javlin Stage for the home team.

— Rebecca Lowry


photos by Lauren Farris

* * *

Omaha Girls Rock

photos by Bridget McQuillan

* * *

OK Party Comedy

Brenna Grabow

Kyle O’Reilly

Ian Douglas Terry

Ryan de la Garza

Mike Perry

Dante Powell

Casey Ley

Solomon Georgio

Nicole Conlan

photos by James Dean

* * *

Louder Than A Bomb Poetry


photos by James Dean

* * *

Jay Farrar Trio

Alt country punk band, Uncle Tupelo, was Jay Farrar’s ground breaking second band with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. It was also a band that broke up before much of this year’s MAHA audience was alive. Anyone born in 1995, the year Trace, the Son Volt album Farrar was set to play, is turning 21 just this year. Anyone a fan of Uncle Tupelo or Son Volt likely understands the significance of Farrar on the alt country sound that he, alongside Tweedy helped to define and perpetuate. These fans were easily sought out, as they were Farrar’s whole audience.

Jay Farrar was joined by Gary Hunt on slide and Eric Heywood on electric, and performed most of the songs off Son Volt’s critically hailed debut album before starting in on a handful of newer songs. Farrar’s unique, deeper growl of a voice would certainly have benefited from a dedicated sound person as his voice came through almost a fragile, faint remnant of the powerful voice heard on Trace. Other than signs of life during his performances of “Loose String” and “Drown,” the songs were laid back and straightforward.

It is a testament to Farrar’s influence though, that standing before him were many of Omaha’s country and alt country singer-songwriters, with thoughtful, faraway looks in their eyes and smiles on their faces.

— Rebecca Lowry

photos by JP Davis

* * *

Diarrhea Planet

Diarrhea Planet’s no-hecks-given tone was prevalent through the end of its mid-day set. By the second song, moshing — or, rather, pushing and trying to keep balance on the muddy slope — began and beach balls bounced up above headbangers. Fists pumped in the air as drummer Casey Weissbuch pounded rapidly. Stage divers did not stop taking turns jumping as the guitarists shouted into their mics.

Diarrhea Planet is a band for guitar lovers, for people whose ears search for intricate guitar parts, and for those who prefer the glory days of 70s and 80s heavy metal and rock ‘n roll.

For starters, Nashville’s Diarrhea Planet features a whopping four guitarists. A potential problem is that the amount of noise coming from the guitars can easily throw off the balance, hiding the bassline and vocals, though this happened only a few obvious times during their performance. Another point is how ridiculous four bouncing, posing guitarists looks onstage — or possibly, this image feeds exactly into the look they’re going for.

The major advantage to four guitars is the option of how to curate their sound. One is the ability to create four separate and intricate guitar parts at once. Another is to group dueling guitars of fingering and power chords to create a full, satisfying melody. Finally, they can and did build brick walls of sound, subsequently crashing those walls to send down the constant flow of people jumping off the Javelin Capital Stage into the downward slope of crowd surfing.

Diarrhea Planet’s set featured long instrumentals to begin nearly every song, a solid way to display their melodic prowess and the power of their number.

To begin, after a minutes-long instrumental, Diarrhea Planet broke into “Separations” from their 2013 album I’m Rich Beyond Your Wildest Dreams. The song is an upbeat song featuring the four guitarists teaming up on gang vocals, shouting “You can’t fuck with this!”

Many songs like “Heat Wave,” from 2014’s EP Aliens in the Outfield, featured more gimmicky, classic hair metal melodies than most modern rock bands, but the overload of screeching guitar solos gave each guitarist their own opportunity to show off their skill.

Namely, guitarist Emmett Miller showcased his ability throughout, through a quiet tapping solo at the end of “Bob Dylan’s Grandma” to a slow at the set’s close, and throughout designated heavy-metal solos in louder songs. He even played with his teeth for a couple bars during “Heat Wave.”

Diarrhea Planet weaved the feel of garage-rock chaos with structured, familiar melodies, creating infectious songs friendly to classic rock fans and moshing teens alike.

— Kelly Langin

photos by Lindsey Yoneda

* * *

The Joy Formidable

How a propos a band name, The Joy Formidable, and that it should belong to a mere three-piece who creates a sound so mind-shatteringly beyond their number that it incited the first substantial audience of the day.

Opening with “The Greatest Light is The Greatest Shade” off the 2011 release The Big Roar, the band was no-nonsense, hardcore shoegazy, gauzy and indeed formidable from the first chord to the last throes of feedback. Frontwoman Ritzy Bryan may have a whisper of a voice, but her chops on the guitar rallied the audience to respond, seamlessly moving between bullet-hard rhythm and blistering solos. The songs and between banter were sharp-tongued, righteous and indignant in equal measure.

There was some trouble with transposing keys on a borrowed keyboard, which lead the crew to take it and try to fix it backstage. This lead to them not properly hooking the keyboard back up after putting it back on the stage. When bassist and keyboard player Rhydian Dafydd tried to play the keyboard again later in the set and no sound came from it, he responded in kind by punching the microphone in front of him to the ground and abandoning the keyboard altogether.

Instead, Bryan and Dafydd rushed Matt Thomas on the drum platform, jumping from it or smacking his crash cymbal. The trio threw themselves wholeheartedly into a finale that left Bryan on her knees, ripping the strings from her Stratocaster by throwing it into the air away from her. Rising from the stage, she stood snarling, panting, her sunglasses thrown from her face in the heat of the moment.

— Rebecca Lowry

photos by Lauren Farris

* * *

Car Seat Headrest

Seemingly unfazed that Warren Buffet, the third-richest man in the world, just introduced his band, vocalist and guitarist Will Toledo began Car Seat Headrest’s set quietly with “Destroyed by Hippie Powers,” a slow but powerful song reminiscent of earlier Weezer.

In a rare moment of stage banter, Will Toledo asked the audience to time their performance for “Fill in the Blank,” for a three-and-a-half-minute slot on a TV show next week. “Click us off,” Toledo quietly requested before the guitarist stormed through with a massive alternating melody, with pounding percussion following.

The song clocked in at 3:20, and in the silence, a man soundchecking for Vince Staples on the next stage shouted into the mic. Toledo called him a “dick,” but hit his keyboard for the next song, not waiting for him to finish.

The emotional “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” was largely interrupted by the same soundcheck man, as well as jeers from the audience. Toledo continued, wearing his usual somber demeanor like a cloak as his lyrics trudged with a quiet synth beginning before launching into a swaying beat. The song built up to a loud, as Toledo wailed, “It doesn’t have to be like this!”

Toronto’s Car Seat Headrest is the prolific indie rock project of Toledo, who recorded 10 albums in the last six years. The band’s name is inspired by Toledo’s preference and comfort in recording vocals in the backseat of his car. This translated to his live presence, a man who seemed more comfortable performing when he closed his eyes than when he looked out to the sun-soaked crowd at Stinson Park.

Bassist Ethan Ives’s sound overpowered the first several songs of the set at a volume that nearly drowned out Toledo’s low, droning vocals. Toledo attempted to fix this in turning up his guitar’s volume, though it pushed the problem further. When heard, his vocals were a base of monotone, colored with wavering inflections to highlight the songs’ emotional lyrics. He would often wail high above sharp guitar melodies.

The seven-minute “Vincent” began to change the tone of set’s second half. Beginning with wah-ing effects on his guitar and progressing into bright, layered melodies, the song built up to a faster, more punk-style song. Among distorted guitars and a quick bassline, Toledo began to sing in short, punchy shouts. In an instrumental section in the middle, the song roared in flittering guitars and a danceable beat.

In this, Toledo also moved around stage for the first time, throwing his guitar and bouncing as he shouted the lyrics through the end of the song.

Following “Vincent,” Toledo’s performance grew more emotional; not just sad or despondent, but angry. He squalls, “I got so fucking romantic, I apologize,” and “My phone is freaking out. I’ll lose my shit while it re-routes” on “Cute Thing” and “Unforgiving Girl (She’s Not An),” respectively.

In the closer, “Unforgiving Girl (She’s Not An),” Toledo’s simple guitar was accompanied by a hip-shaking beat, with varying levels of fervor to differentiate each part of the song. Like the other songs that characterized the set, there were moments of brief placidity, like low guitar and vocals, before an abrupt cut to a raging section.

Toledo shut down the set with a long scream, an entire flip from the more folk-friendly tone abundant in the first half. The conclusion was a shaking climax, a solid progression from backseat vocals to driving full speed.

—Kelly Langin

Warren Buffet introduces Car Seat Headrest | photo by Bridget McQuillan

photos by Lindsey Yoneda

* * *

Vince Staples

All day, whispers and talk. References, euphemism, buzz.

“What time is it again?”

“How much longer?”

“Save me that spot near the front!”

“See you all at Vince Staples!” Diarrhea Planet member Evan Bird said just before exiting the stage at the end of the band’s set.

The crowd packed in slowly but steadily as time marched towards Staples’ Omaha debut on the Weitz stage. They seemed eager for his performance to start. Staples, a North Long Beach, California native, is one of the newest and biggest breakout stars in hip-hop. His first album, Summertime ‘06, was released last year and met with critical acclaim and commercial success.

When Staples took the stage just after 7:30 p.m. Saturday, he was met with a response congruent with a festival headliner. Hands shot up and began to pulse with the sporadic but surefooted beat when his breakout hit “Lift Me Up” started. Cheers in the thousands. Some  mouthed lyrics along with the beat, spellbound.

Across the entire set, Staples’ tenor voice shot out poignant verses with vocal deliberation and rhythmic staccato triplets. He punctuated a level of frustration and anger particularly relevant and resonant to many in a time of increasing social unrest. He performed songs from Summertime ‘06 like “Norf Norf” and “C.N.B.” that illuminate the realities of racial inequality, injustice and disappointment that Staples, and many in America, have experienced.

His trenchant, socially-conscious and distinctive style came to a head towards the end of his set when he performed “Hands Up.” Staples paced the stage as he rapped, moving like a lion trapped in a small cage, hungry for any hapless tourist lingering on the other side of the bars. The song’s verses — Staples’ own indictment of American policing — moved in a crescendo of intensity as they progressed, tempered only by the cool and calm chorus stating simply “put your hands in the air.” The crowd obliged, rocking and swaying as Staples continued to masterfully craft a poetic condemnation without mincing any words. Staples came to a halt in his pacing and yelled to the crowd of Maha fans who had been waiting all day for this. He looked up at the sky and not at the crowd; he barely seemed to notice them at all:

“I refuse the right to be silent.”

—Patrick Nolan

photos by JP Davis

* * *

Matthew Sweet

There was a close-knit group of listeners at the base of the stage, standing like concentric rings around a single epicenter: Matthew Sweet. Heads began to nod as he strummed his shimmery Fender guitar.

People steadily trickled in as the music began to play, the rings widening, as the band played through its first three songs. Like moths to a light, Maha goers seemed drawn to his oft-moving vocals and forward-driving songs. Couples who might have dated and married to his music on the radio filled in the cracks on park’s wet grassy space.

“Thanks for coming out to see me, those of you that came out to see me,” the Nebraska-native and 90s hit alt-rock star said to the crowd around him on Maha’s Javelin stage. “I realize it’s sort of a split scene tonight.”

Sweet followed hip-hop artist Vince Staples and preceded Grimes, two of the heaviest bass sets in the Maha lineup. The Lincoln native turned Athens, Georgia power-pop rocker provided a nice break with his genre-defining alt-rock repertoire.

Sweet’s prolific discography was on full display across his hour and six minute, 16-song set. Backed by a full band, he played a variety of newer works without skimping on the essentials. Many in the crowd were happy to hear some of Sweet’s recognizable tunes from Girlfriend and 100% Fun, including “Sick of Myself”, “I’ve Been Waiting” and the former’s title track, which came towards the end of his set, where the energy and intensity of the performance increased as well.

The first half of his set felt less familiar, even though it included many songs from his best-known albums like Girlfriend. Sweet and his band were more inclined to hold onto longer jams and feature improvised, bluesy solos from lead guitarist John Moremen (of The Orange Peels). The songs were driven by strong beats in the drums, but there was a distinctive country-rock feel at times coming from the band with shuffling beats and twangy, intricate guitar work from both Sweet and Moremen.

At the base of the performance, however, was still the catchy power-pop roots from Sweet’s time in Athens and the characteristics that drew many over to the Javelin stage: soaring and melodic tenor vocals, riffing guitars over uptempo sunshine alt-rock.

— Patrick Nolan

photos by JP Davis

* * *


Amid a dusty pink fog, a singular silhouetted figure emerged. She twirled and contorted her body to “laughing and not being normal,” the atmospheric opener to Grimes’s 2015 album Art Angels. This two-minute prelude indicated that this penultimate Maha set was not just about hearing the music, but about seeing a performance that weaved art and dance into its production.

A recording of Grimes’s high, operatic voice hovered over an elegant piano, with subtle white noise hissing. The dancer’s moves sharpened as the noise flourished, eventually swelling to an overwhelming buzz in Stinson Park.

As Boucher entered from stage right, she leaned into her setup of keyboards and pedals to begin “REALiTi,” starkly interrupting the prelude with forceful percussion. Two more dancers joined the other, dressed in black and strutting bold, hip-shaking moves.

Electronic-pop project Grimes is the work of Canadian producer and pop singer Claire Boucher. Boucher was unable to begin her performance until 9:45 pm, some 40 minutes behind schedule, due to lags from earlier sound technicalities and previous performer Matthew Sweet’s longer set.

Boucher took the front of the stage for much of the performance, using sharp, abbreviated dance moves to highlight her pulsing beats. During this song and throughout the set, Grimes alternated between high-energy dancing and returning to her instruments, conducting the electronic orchestra.

Despite her confidence in her dancing and operatic vocals, Boucher was anxious between songs, even nervously describing a sample she had just accidently deleted and needed to retrieve. She even mentioned that she’s “so bad” at stage banter that “she should never talk.” But a slight touch of a pedal or keyboard would catapult Boucher into another song, flying back to the front of the stage.

Boucher played a guitar during “Flesh Without Blood,” still decorating the performance with erratic body movements and playing quick, light keyboards over a deep synth track. Perhaps surprising to most is how often Boucher displayed her talent for screaming, showing off a snarling shriek to close several tracks.

The only song that was not from Art Angels was “Genesis,” a more delicate song from 2012’s Visions. While the beat remained consistent with the rest of the set, “Genesis” requested more emotional vocals and instrumentals. The sounds of a string section were manipulated live by Boucher into harsher tones, though the graceful grand piano still echoed through the end of the song.

Boucher showcased a variety of pop influences in her performance. “Go,” her collaboration with Blood Diamonds, was marked by a mainstream dubstep beat post-chorus that sent the glow-sticked crowd into a frenzy. “World Princess Part II” featured a late-80s pop beat a la Paula Abdul, and her dancers stomped around the punchy percussion.

“Oh, I guess I only have time for one more song,” Boucher announced suddenly.

Boucher launched into “Kill V. Maim,” an energetic closer with machine-gun percussion, embellished with video game-style synth. Her dancers wore black gloves that fired streams of bright green lasers from their knuckles, bouncing around Boucher as she screams, “They don’t know me!” The chorus featured shouts in quick succession, spelling out “b-e-h-a-v-e” and “I don’t behave.”

Boucher let out one last gut-wrenching howl as cicada-like noises flitted about Stinson Park, ending a short but dynamic set that remained consistent to her powerhouse entertainment.

— Kelly Langin

Editor’s note: Due to a request from Grimes’ camp, there was no professional photography allowed during her performance.

* * *

Passion Pit

Just as building a sense of community is paramount to the mission of Maha Music Festival, it felt as though the bedrock of Passion Pit’s emphatic headliner performance was creating a sense of unity.

Maha came rocketing to a close with Michael Angelakos’ indie synthpop brainchild Passion Pit performing an emphatic, energetic and infectious hour-long set on the Weitz stage.

Like an explosion on the surface of the sun, Angelakos and his touring band played a set bursting with light, with sound and with energy. Opening with his highly-singable single “Little Secrets,” its groovy synth beat and irresistibly compelling ascending melody, the band set the tone early for a festive hour at Stinson Park.

Passion Pit is best known for its innate ability to captivate its listeners with catchy melodies, grooving bass lines and Angelakos’ own impressive falsetto vocals. The music feels natural and bubbly enough to be ultra-danceable but carries enough weight in its composition and lyrical content — often touching on more difficult subjects like the financial recession and suicide — to be musically and intellectually stimulating as well. 

And all of these elements were on display for the spirited audience. Across the collection of songs — ranging from Angelakos’ earliest album Chunk of Change to his newest, most novel works like “Lifted (1985)” — Passion Pit was eager to provide the hyped Omaha audience with bouncy motifs, driving beats from Chris Hartz at the brick-and-mortar drumkit, and melodies that so clearly resonated in the heads of the crowd that they were often heard joining in at Angelakos’ encouragement.

Together, the Maha community put its hands in the cool August evening at the command of Angelakos, a sea of thousands of hands pulsing together as the indietronica outfit began its seminal hit and closing song “Take a Walk.” The band danced onstage with energy as they played the punctuated andante beat and ethereal synth melodies in provocative harmony.

At the end of the song, just before exiting the Weitz stage, Angelakos summed up the atmosphere: “You guys are f*cking amazing.”

But the crowd was not ready to be done with Passion Pit or the sense of community they brought. After a solid minute of “Sleepyhead” chants, Passion Pit returned to the stage to play their breakout hit and put a vibrant capstone on Maha Music Festival.

— Patrick Nolan

photos by Lindsey Yoneda