A producer from Al Jazeera English is in Omaha this week doing a story about Nebraska music. He called me and asked a few questions — where he should go, what he should see, who he should talk to, and so on. Those answers are easy. But then he asked what I would want to see covered in an international story.
I told him to avoid the cliché “hip indie-rock scene in a surprising place” narrative — by now, that's patronizing. Of course, we have awesome indie rock. But I told him I'd want people to know there's world-class music in just about every genre here — blues, hip-hop, rockabilly, jam, funk, country soul, punk, even adult-alternative. I said the action isn't just happening in the most impressive venues, that he could stop into The Barley Street, O'Leaver's or the Zoo Bar any night of the week and see high-quality, original music. I said there's actual diversity within our music, and that he should hit venues in North and South Omaha, as well as those in Midtown.
Those things are all true. But I felt like I undersold what makes this place, this scene, this community great. To me, it's the people. Venue operators who work together and promote each other's shows; bands willing to give their payout to touring bands, encouraging them to return; and musicians who talk about their art like it's their passion, not their contribution to society. People are humble here, and they work hard. It's fun to be part of it.
But let me ask you: What would you want a journalist to understand, cover and communicate to a national audience about our music scene? Post your responses in the comments below, and I'll revisit this question in next week's column.
For now, enjoy some interviews with Nebraskan and (friends of Nebraska) musicians I conducted while at SXSW in Austin recently.
(Nebraska transplant in New York, Paper Garden Records boss Bryan Vaughan talks about how his label's different, and about what he thinks about Nebraska music, outside of Paper Garden's official SXSW showcase.)
(I spoke with Midwest Dilemma frontman Justin Lamoureux after his SXSW set about playing Austin, representing Nebraska, and his dirty old SPEED! Nebraska hat.)
(Fresh off their first non-Nebraska show [unless you count Council Bluffs] — their SXSW showcase — Satchel Grande gets festive.)
(Omaha's DJ W.E.R.D., Neal Duffy was in Austin running sound for Provo, Utah, rock band Neon Trees (which has an upcoming Letterman performance). He talks about why he loves and hates SXSW.)
(A Nebraska musical export to Austin, The Derailers' Sweet Basil talks about what the good life state's music means to him, and what he tells people who don't get it.)
Andrew Norman is Hear Nebraska's editor. He's still getting his video bearings, so give him a break. Send electronic love notes and hate mail to email@example.com.