Old Skool Underground, Say What?
One night while sitting in the dark shadows inside the Studio...Gallery, a zany and smile-ready man with a plastic bottle of whiskey and a neon-colored top hat reminiscent of the Cat In The Hat invited me a party. He handed me only a generic business card with the title of Old Skool Underground, his personal penmanship inscribing a date of the event and a URL address suggesting I go online to find all the info.
Turns out Old Skool Underground is a new party crew in Omaha. They put that event together in a matter of two weeks and garnered 350 in attendance, says one of the crew's founders Ryan Coe.
"That gave us the motivation and confidence to put this weekend's events together," Coe says.
Coe, who also runs a rental DJ service for weddings and school dances called 360 Entertainment, has put together a three-day Memorial Day festival this weekend. The Old Skool Underground's group "of about 15 or 20" has put together an ambitious schedule of 30 live acts and 24 DJs.
"The thought process behind the whole thing is to try to unify Omaha as much as we can," says Bob Woodworth, one of the organizers responsible for the online content. "Other than Ryan, we're all just average Joe Shmoes just doing this for fun, and we'd like to establish ourselves as a promotional force in Omaha to bring everybody together."
While I wasn't at the debut event from the crew, I could tell there's definite nostalgia for the rave era with them. The name "Old Skool Underground" gave one clue. The other was their logo: a yellow smiley face. That symbol became the emblem of the late '80s acid house era in the UK and later adapted as a symbol to represent rave culture as a whole.
There was something special about the rave era in context to what Woodworth said. Back in those days, you'd see a vast cross section of people all under one roof. I remember a particular night at the Armory (the Army Reserves gym where they had a series of raves) that in one panoramic view, I saw b-boys, candy kids, punk rockers, jocks and a drag queen with a elegant chandelier on his head.
"We used to travel around the Midwest together, going to different parties (raves) every week," Coe says. "You would see someone from KC and they would roll 50 deep, and we'd do the same in their city."
"Back in the days of the early- to late-'90s, people got together for music and just the sake of partying together," Coe says. "Today when you go out to bars, people only support their own little group."
And he's right. It's a common problem that can be described only as cultural entropy. When a music scene is burgeoning from its inception, there's little distinction between genre boundaries. As time progresses, journalists dissect and compartmentalize the music, people associate certain trends or behaviors to certain elements of the music all while becoming more attached to their particular tastes. Next thing you know, a new subculture is born and separation occurs.
For better for for worse, this process is all too natural to our cultural habits. The fact that Omaha has so many different "scenes" now is testament to our growing and evolving city. And from the scattered ashes of cultural separation inevitably arises a voice calling everyone back together.
"One night a group of us got together and just discussed the idea of doing events that would bring all different kinds of music together," Coe says. "The Omaha scene has so many amazing artists and performers, but everybody is separated."
The Old Skool Underground isn't an original idea, but it's certainly a necessary one. You can check out the scene mixer this weekend at the RiverWest Park grounds. Be prepared for a chock-full array of talent and activities. Check out the full schedule at oldskoolunderground.com.
house of loom
Speaking of scene mixers, in case you missed the news, I announced last week that loom is going to have its own permanent, 5-day-a-week venue starting this July. That means June 2 is the final loom at España. For the occasion, I put together a "yearbook" tribute to the España era that can be downloaded for free. We'll also hand out 40 hard copies at the event.
In a nutshell, two parts of house of loom will be a lounge ad nightclub concept with an emphasis on DJ-led events and occasional bands. In tandem with that, one part will be dedicated to visual and performing art, and one part will be in creating something similar to what you might call a community center, but redefining that term with an edgy and progressive format.
You can read the rest on the Hear Nebraska article here.
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DJ Diatribes & Dandies is a weekly column written by Omaha promoter and DJ Brent Crampton exploring the electronic dance music and DJ-related culture in his city. Contact him at email@example.com.