Live Review: McCarthy Trenching at O’Leaver’s Pub

McCarthy Trenching, Dan McCarthy and James Maakestad, perform at O'Leaver's Pub.

McCarthy Trenching was billed as the headliner, but another band was actually rumored to be playing a secret show with them last night. O’Leaver’s Pub even mentioned McCarthy Trenching would be playing with friends, but they never showed.

A large crowd was in the bar, surely some to drink, some to see Trenching and some to see the band that never came.

Is Omaha the place for a secret show? It has enough of a small town vibe – you know, how everybody knows everybody – that these things don’t have the tendency to stay secret very long.

Anyway, secret guests or no, I was very happy I got to see Trenching play a long set that included a lot of new material.

Dan McCarthy is an amazing musical and lyrical talent. I’ve said this before, but a lot of his music sounds like it could be played in the tavern scene in a western. He even took a break in the middle of the set to play two Scott Joplin ragtime pieces (cue my jaw on the floor).

“(McCarthy) is an unparalleled storyteller, a true voice of Omaha,” tweeted Laura Burhenn of the Mynabirds – of which McCarthy was a touring member for a time. I agree.

James Maakestad, who plays bass in the band and is also in Gus & Call, opened with a solo set full of his soft, soothing voice. Some sounded like Gus & Call songs, but I honestly couldn’t be sure. All of them sounded like they were written 100 years ago when a farmer went up on a hill, looked out over his land and started strumming on a guitar.

When McCarthy came back up on stage, they played a few tunes from his last album, “Fresh Blood,” and then some new ones, which mostly had him playing piano.

“Ponderosa Village” was about a mobile home park, “29″ about cribbage and Hank Williams, “Evil/Free Will” was pretty self explanatory and “The Ballad of Dorothy Lynch” was about a “fake, fake, fake, fake woman” with plenty of references to the salad dressing.

He closed with “The Barroom and I Still Miss You,” “Picking at Scabs” and “Oh Nancy,” three of my favorite songs from ”Fresh Blood.”

It was a great set with a big crowd and McCarthy emphatically said “Thanks!” to every bit of applause. They played really well, too, considering it was their first Trenching show in six months.

McCarthy really is one of the voices of Omaha. His songs weave vivid, colorful stories full of emotion. You may not have been where he was, but you feel like you’re there when you hear him sing it.

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