by Chance Solem-Pfeifer
Russ and Todd are star-crossed friends with a few star-crossed benefits.
And as the two leads (played by Mike Mecek and Myles Dabbs) of Jim Fields’ independent Omaha-centric film Flyover Country grapple with their feelings for each other, a soundtrack is in order that can elevate their pain, excitement, confusion and the occasional release of all those emotions. For a film in which Omaha landmarks are critical supporting cast members, Fields enlisted the help of a slew of Nebraska artists galvanizing the feeling of a local effort.
Flyover Country will premiere in two-night block at the Omaha Community Playhouse on Friday and Saturday. Tickets are available here. But first, warm up with a special live showcase featuring bands from the film at a soundtrack release party at The Waiting Room on Thursday at 8 p.m. In recognition of the more than a dozen Nebraska bands who contributed their sounds and flavors to the soundtrack as well as a pulsating score from Dereck Higgins, we take a look at five of the film’s most notable and effective musical cues.
1. “Details” by Lonely Estates
Following an opening scene on the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s campus, a live performance by Lonely Estates at The Waiting Room is the first time the audience experiences characters interacting in a quintessentially Omaha space. Up rises the rock song to let us know that a layer of mortar was laid beneath the characters and, now, it’s time to set bricks on top or maybe rip them down.
Singer Braden Rapp is at the center of the scene, dressed to the nines and dancing for a small group of passionate Waiting Room onlookers. At tables further back, Todd and his friend Jay (Garrett Palensky) discuss the possibility of Todd making a move on Russ. Meanwhile, Russ moans that he’s done with women forever after being dumped. “Details” — with its multiple emotional levels — makes for upbeat background between the humorous banter of Todd and Jay. But Rapp’s longing wail simultaneously underscores Russ’ beer-fueled lament.
Plus, the band draws praise from the characters in the scene. “They’re good!” Todd proclaims. “Really good.”
2. “Peripheral Vision” by Dereck Higgins
Following the night out at The Waiting Room, after which Russ shacks up with a stranger from the bar (Diane, played by Megan Shepherd), Higgins has his first opportunity to take his original score beyond ambiance and toward hard mood-setting. Russ wakes up to find his hands and feet shackled in novelty handcuffs to Diane’s bed. Immediately, Higgins lays a beat to communicate the real party is starting the morning after. Something about the understated club beat and the cold morning light makes for a pleasantly tense oddity. Despite the fact that during this brief comedic scene Diane never enters the room, the floating melody over a two-note alternating bass line reveals the pleasure of Diane the captor and indicates the audiences can have a laugh over Russ’ predicament.
3. “Can’t Get Off That Train” by The Mezcal Brothers
After great tension and falling out between Russ and Todd is defined by melancholy, anger and a sorrowful Mitch Gettman song, the movie resets — as it shows to be one of its strengths — with an uptempo choice. The Mezcal Brothers ring in a twilight shot of downtown Omaha with a quick lick on Benji Kushner’s rockabilly guitar. Then, for the song’s purposes, the train leaves the station. Singer Gerardo Meza’s voice instigates a confident and careless Todd for the first time. Like any hustling Mezcal song, “Can’t Get Off That Train” relies on a grand, soft-shoeing momentum after the initial burst, and it all backs Todd’s hearty makeout session with a stranger, all worries gone after dismissing a seemingly inconsolable Russ.
4. “Drinking Boots” by Rock Paper Dynamite
“Drinking Boots” is thematically ripe for kicking off a montage in which tension between a fraternal group of landscapers is eased by letting the liquor flow. Colliding pool balls crack and glasses clink. The grins before Russ and his coworker Frank down five shots and the wincing after each are carried by the song precisely about their excessive drinking after a hard day’s work in the heat. The lawn care jockeys are hellbound to Maloney’s Pub and then stroll away from it without paying their bartab. It’s worth note that a Rock Paper Dynamite song that never slips out of fifth gear when played live is more comfortable sitting under a scene when Joseph Janousek’s growling is not so dominant. Instead, his brother Andrew’s lead guitar prioritizes the song’s forward movement, shot-by-shot.
5. “Give Me Light” by Bluebird
“Give Me Light” is the ideal contemplative rock song for the perennial rom-com airport scene. Only in “Flyover Country” it happens in a car. As Todd prepares for the drive to San Diego to begin a new (and ostensibly more mature) life, Bluebird sets a tone of thoughtfulness with a song about big decisions and answers. The polite strumming of the acoustic guitar propels him forward on the westbound interstate and Marta Fiedler’s crooning may turn him around to finally settle with Omaha and his estranged friend Russ. In a well-executed pacing move, though, the song carries Todd through a year of living in San Diego, disavowing the snap decisions of romantic comedy climaxes, easing the audience into the truth that sometimes your airport scene can last you your better years.
Chance Solem-Pfeifer is Hear Nebraska’s staff writer. What Nebraska song would have to be in a movie about your life? Go. Reach chance at firstname.lastname@example.org.