by Michael Todd
You try telling a 24-hour station it has to pare its palate down. After an April concert featured eight acts starting at 5 p.m., 90.3 KRNU keeps the lineup long at 8 p.m. this Sunday at Duffy's Tavern.
No matter the more-bands-than-usual night, what might surprise some folks the most is what also gave a smile to music director and concert booker Joe Teplitsky. Jake Bellows, formerly of Neva Dinova, had been looking to play a concert before Sept. 4, and by virtue of KRNU and Duffy's cobranded mini-festival, Bellows found somewhere to go.
Joining him will be sets from Eli Mardock, The Renfields' Nick Westra, Tenderness Wilderness, The Great American Desert, Snake Island and Betsy Wells. Hear Nebraska sat down with Teplitsky at Jake's in Omaha to ask about his Bellows fandom, the radio station's community outreach and its emphasis on local music.
Hear Nebraska: I know you're a big fan of Jake Bellows, but aside from your own excitement, what does it mean for Lincoln's music scene to have him playing a show there again?
Joe Teplitsky: It’s really cool because he was part of the local music scene for so long with Neva Dinova. He’s played a few times in Omaha, and I know a lot of my friends who play a big part in the Lincoln music scene haven’t seen him in a long time. We’re really excited about this.
HN: This concert features seven bands, and the one in April was also packed with musicians. What's the reasoning behind booking so many acts for one night?
JT: We basically want to have a full day of music. The first show I was part of we had eight different acts, and we started at five o’clock. This time, we decided to start at eight. We had six bands before adding Jake, so now we’re at seven.
It’s going to be a jam-packed few hours, and I don’t know why we did it exactly. I think it’s fun because you have so many acts playing back-to-back-to-back. That makes it fun for the audience, and it’s only five bucks. So it’s a lot of music for a cheap price.
HN: Could you run through the lineup and tell me why you booked each act?
JT: Opening the show is Nick Westra of the Renfields, whose new record is coming out soon. I love the guy’s voice, so when he said he wanted to be a part of it, we obviously wanted that. Tenderness Wilderness is next, doing an acoustic set. I didn’t know who they were until the OEAA showcase in Benson. I saw them play at the Sydney, and they were great, so I wanted them to play this show. They couldn’t do a full set since some of the members are out of town for Labor Day weekend, but they can do an acoustic set.
Then after that is The Great American Desert. Max has always been a big supporter of the station, and he wants to play every show we do. I love Max, he’s one of my favorites, so I was down for that. Fourth is Snake Island! Originally, they were supposed to close the show, but they’re doing a little mini-tour. They have to drive up from Kansas City that day, so we moved them down a little.
Eli Mardock is next, with a lot of name-recognition from the Eagle Seagull days and now with his solo material. They’re popular and just played a good show at the Bourbon that drew a lot of fans. Then Betsy Wells are another Omaha band who I really like, are really good guys, and they want to help out the station, too.
Originally, what I wanted to do is have three bands from Omaha, three from Lincoln, and alternate. I think we’re at four and two in favor of Omaha. A lot of Lincoln bands are on tour right now, and because the scene is one of the least monogamous there is, you could have one guy in six different bands. If one of his bands is on tour, that wipes out all of them.
HN: Did you plan on booking Jake Bellows?
JT: No, that was a shock. Jeremy Buckley helped out with that one. He and I are huge Bellows fans, and he put it together for me, calling it my early birthday present.
HN: When's your birthday?
JT: September 24th, so a few weeks down the road. But I was pretty excited about it.
HN: I know (the station manager) Rick (Alloway) gives you a great deal of freedom as music director. Does that carry over to booking these shows, and what other help do you get with booking and promoting?
JT: Yeah, I worked a lot with Jeremy Wardlaw at Duffy’s. I was a lot more active with this show than I was with the last show in April in terms of booking. I made the poster and am doing a lot of the promotion.
It’s something I’d like to get into down the road, so this is a bit of practice for me. It helps us promote the station as well, so it’s a two-for-one thing. I’m practicing booking and running the station. And Rick was onboard with whatever we did.
HN: Are these concerts the first sort of outreach KRNU has done recently? I know the station might be planning seminars during Lincoln Calling. How far along is that?
JT: I think it's the first. I’ve only been music director for a year and a half, and the last six to eight months, I’ve been trying to be more active in the community. We have talked about doing some type of seminars, too, but we’re not sure what direction we’d like to go with that. We want to be able to attract as many people as we can obviously. I think if it’s during Lincoln Calling, people will want to go to shows rather than a seminar. So we’re spitballing different ideas with that.
I also like to do in-studio sessions, which isn’t reaching out into the community as much as it is working with bands directly. Lost and Found is still going, but there has never been a set of simply in-studio performances with local and national acts. I have a couple major acts confirmed that I’m excited about.
But I’m trying to think of more ways to give back to the community. It’s just a matter of finding the people to help because we’re not a large staff at the station. Some things cost money and we can’t afford that. But we have ideas to move forward with.
HN: Lately, the station has put more importance on local music, in the format and now with these concerts. I’m curious what prompted the shift.
JT: First and foremost, we are a station that supports the community. A lot of people didn’t think that’s what we were about, but I’ve always been a big supporter of local music and the local scene. It helps, too, when the scene produces music that’s good. Omaha and Lincoln really do produce good music, which makes it easy to play.
To be able to support these people, a lot of whom have become friends, is fun. I like to support the scene.
HN: What do you think it means for local acts to have their music on the radio?
JT: I know a lot of them are excited, and I do encourage local musicians to reach out to me. Anytime I go to a show and there’s a local band I’ve never seen before, I always ask if they have a CD or if they can send me something digitally. I know they ultimately want to get their stuff played on the radio or played somewhere. And I want to play as much as I can: That’s the ultimate goal.
Michael Todd is Hear Nebraska's managing editor. He worked as music director at KRNU while in college and cohosted the Lost and Found show during his final semester. Reach Michael at email@example.com.