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Rain couldn't stop these people from having fun.
Mostly gorgeous weather Saturday was interrupted a few times by raindrops, but it didn't deter the 4,300 people who made up the biggest audience ever at Maha Music Festival. In fact, it may have egged the crowd on, especially as Garbage closed its set with “Only Happy When It Rains” near the end of the night.
The indie rock bands that performed Saturday at Stinson Park were greeted by a boisterous crowd.
Desaparecidos, the headlining band fronted by Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes, closed the concert by turning it punk rock.
The band's aggressive style played to the audience, which was amped up by previous energetic sets by Icky Blossoms and Garbage.
Desaparecidos is recently reunited after a decade-long breakup and played songs from its 2002 album as well as new tracks, such as the recently released “MariKKKopa,” a diatribe against Arizona's Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and “Backsell,” a musical indictment of the record industry. The group also played “Left Is Right,” an as-yet-unreleased song.
As fans surfed the crowd and formed a mosh pit, the band closed its set with a cover of the Clash's “Spanish Bombs” and its own “Hole in One.”
Garbage, which until recently was on a seven-year hiatus, hasn't lost a step despite taking a long break. Lead singer Shirley Manson, guitarist and Nebraska native Duke Erikson, guitarist Steve Marker and drummer Butch Vig played aggressively through older songs such as “Stupid Girl” and “I Think I'm Paranoid,” as well as new tunes such as “Blood for Poppies.”
The group is a rock band to admire. Selling millions of albums and playing countless shows has helped the band hone its craft. Their set was one of the day's best.
More than 4,300 people packed the park, the largest audience in the festival's four years. While they attended for the indie-rock-style bands, some kicked soccer balls in the grassy field, kids played on the park's swing set, and others visited the community village, which had tents from local nonprofit organizations, including Goodwill, Project Interfaith and others.
The Goodwill tent was among the most popular, as festival fans were invited to spray-paint unicorns, robots, cats and other designs onto T-shirts.
Marketing specialist Erin Burke said Goodwill wanted to offer something creative and interactive — things she thought a music festival crowd in particular would appreciate. Visitors to the tent were invited to choose a free shirt from a pile of T-shirts that hadn't sold at Goodwill stores, and volunteers helped customize the shirts via spray paint and stencils. The T-shirts were especially popular with children.
“They're not often handed a can of spray paint and told to go at it,” she said.
The big crowd started arriving early. For the first time, there was a line outside the festival's ticket booth before gates opened at noon.
Later, more than 1,000 people sat on the lawn and stood near the stage as area bands such as the Seen, Eli Mardock and Conduits performed.
Roberto Chavez and Ashley Newman drove from Columbus, Neb., and arrived at 11:30 a.m., but had to wait outside. The couple ended up sitting on a blanket about 50 feet from the stage. When asked who they were there to see, they said “Desaparecidos” in unison.
Their friend DyAnn DiCostanzo was especially eager to see Desaparecidos, Conor Oberst's punk-rocking band.
“Conor's awesome,” she said. “I love everything he does.”
Later in the day, folk-rock band Frontier Ruckus took the stage. The Michigan band, which played a lot of new material Saturday afternoon, was headed back to Michigan after the festival but planned to stick around to see other groups perform.
“The young man in me is a huge fan of '90s alternative rock, so the fact that our gear is literally touching Garbage's gear is a dream come true,” frontman Matthew Milia said.
Many fans traveled for the concert, but Mary Antipova, 27, who came from Moscow, had everyone beat. Antipova was in the Midwest and bought tickets for Maha because she's a fan of Eli Mardock, Desparecidos, Dum Dum Girls and Garbage.
“I was traveling and decided to visit rural America,” Antipova said. “This is a really great place.”
Josh Rouse, a singer-songwriter in the vein of Jack Johnson or Jason Mraz, is a Nebraska native now living in Spain. Rouse performed solo on the main stage for his first show in Nebraska. Dressed up in Wayfarers and a fedora, he played his first song from his debut album, “Dressed Up Like Nebraska,” which is probably my favorite of his tunes. He dedicated the song to his family, some of whom formed a cheering section near the stage.
His second-to-last tune was “I Will Live on Islands,” one of his best songs and definitely his most up-tempo, which got some people up and dancing.
All-female garage band Dum Dum Girls played a hip-swaying, dreamy, fuzzy style of pop rock. Dressed in black dresses and ripped pantyhose, the band has a too-cool-for-school look, but it feeds into the band's “rock chick” persona.
The Dum Dum Girls' set finally kicked Maha into rock mode with songs “Bang Bang, I'm a Burnout” and “He Gets Me High,” which have a repetitive, singalong pop quality while still sounding punk.
Omaha band Icky Blossoms practically stole the show. Playing just before Garbage and Desaparecidos, the dance band pulled a huge audience to their feet and turned the festival into a dance party.
I have a feeling that a lot of people who came to Maha for the headliners will be shouting the praises of “that dance band” well into next week. As they should.
While some stayed by the main stage to wait for Garbage, the smart people flooded the side stage, which sat on a small hill. The giant audience popped up and down as the band tore through “Deep in the Throes,” “Sex and the Devil” and especially “Babes.”
“Alright y'all,” singer Derek Presnall said. “Let's get weird.”
The band launched into its perfect lazy afternoon dance song, “Perfect Vision,” which talks about how there's “nothing to do but get high in the afternoon.”
Maha's big audience kept the high energy level going into the festival's closing one-two punch of Garbage and Desaparecidos.
As a few more raindrops fell, Oberst made kept making jokes that Desaparecidos, the last band of the fest, wasn't it.
“Thank you so much,” he said. “Garbage is up next. Stay tuned.”
Though tired after a long day, these fans probably could have handled it.
As one fan lamented as he left, “Don't make me leave. I could stay here for another day.”
World-Herald staff writer Cara Pesek contributed to this report.
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Get updated coverage of Maha at World-Herald music writer Kevin Coffey's blog, Rock Candy.