Benson First Friday Femme Fest takes Lincoln
Words by Andrew Stellmon | photos by Lauren Farris
It was just before 10 p.m. when Rebecca Lowry finally took the 1867 main room stage to address a steadily amassing Benson First Friday Femme Fest crowd. Those fans just had their hair blown back by vocalist Heidi Ore and long-time rock band Domestica.
Lowry, BFFFF’s founder, appeared to be affected not only by the trio’s sonic blast, but also, very visibly, by the atmosphere throughout the festival’s first Lincoln concert. Launched in 2015 throughout the many venues on Omaha’s Benson neighborhood, Femme Fest sought not only increased visibility for women in the Nebraska music scene, but also to bring them together.
As she explained this with trademark zeal, and as the progression toward that goal unfolded before her, Lowry was overcome.
“That is wildly exciting to me.”
Like both Benson iterations before it, Lincoln’s Femme Fest was both summit and celebration, intentionally staging — both indoor and outdoor at 1867 Bar — different genres and experience levels, giving platform to new and aspiring musicians while showcasing some of Nebraska’s best. All acts, in keeping with the event’s tradition, featured at least one woman member. While men indeed performed, the result was representation on a level more in-keeping with how shows should look. It felt not like a novelty, as some gawking ignorant male patron might suggest, but normal.
The evening also underscored a general need for more representation throughout Nebraska’s music community. Nebraska music is more than the only three guys from Omaha to whom national writers give the time of day. One shouldn’t have to dig to find talented women in the scene, promoting it or covering it. They ought be front and center.
Below, see photos of BFF Femme Fest Lincoln.
The Bottle Tops
Verse & the Vices
The Artichoke Hearts
photos by Lauren Farris
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Photo coverage: Hear Grand Island launches year two
Hear Grand Island summer concert series returned in style Friday as Tim Zach and Whiskey Bent, The Natural States and The Whiskey Drinkers Union played to a crowd nearing 2,000 at downtown Grand Island’s Railside Plaza. The free, all-ages series featuring original Nebraska music is in its second year, and runs every Friday evening through Aug 4. This week, Unforsaken Allies, Minor Movements, Baker Explosion and DJ Ol’ Moanin’ Corpse play the 7 p.m. concert; RSVP here.
See HN multimedia intern Emma Petersen’s photos below:
The Whiskey Drinkers Union
The Nautural States
Photos by Emma Petersen
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Live review: Walk By Sea’s farewell show
Words by Sam Crisler | photos by Lauren Farris
The Bay could have easily been decorated with white candles and lilies on Saturday night when fans and friends came together to commemorate Walk By Sea’s final show as two members prepare to leave Nebraska. Instead, the three acts just used their mournful music to send the band off. The Lincoln folk-pop-turned-post-rock band’s emotional live shows and intimate, sorrowful songs earned them a local following in the four years since forming, and Saturday’s farewell show enlisted two opening acts, Betafauna and blét, to complement the somber, moody atmosphere present at each Walk By Sea show.
Sunlight still shone through the side doors of The Bay as Betafauna, aka Nathanael Eaton, an electronic musician from Kansas City, soundchecked above an elementary school desk littered with dinosaur stickers and with the word “Betafauna,” spelled with pink construction paper, hanging on the front. Sheets of paper were strewn across the stage in front of Eaton’s desk, each with notes like “Thank you” or “Good luck” written in red or blue marker, which he later explained were parting messages from his fourth grade class as he ended his teaching career.
Resting on top of the desk were nearly a dozen homemade guitar pedals that Eaton fiddled with to find the right tone before asking The Bay’s sound engineer if it was okay if he left the stage to change clothes. He promised to be back shortly, and five minutes later, a masked person wearing a yellow pajama onesie, a flowing red cape and a backwards baseball cap charged from the skatepark doors as a growing crowd cheered.
Eaton removed his mask, tinkered with the guitar pedals on the school desk and muttered “Let’s go,” into the microphone.
His set showcased an eclectic approach to dreary electronic rock music, as Eaton filtered audio inputs through his desktop of guitar pedals, creating dense soundscapes of delay, drum loops and bass feedback. On top of the busy samples and beats, Eaton added pop hooks with lyrics bordering on self-deprecation like “I like to talk about myself/I don’t really like myself.” Eaton’s brief, half-hour set saw him disconnecting a blue master pedal, falling to his knees and shouting agonized lyrics over the walls of sound he had created. After Eaton’s final song, in which he had climbed up onto the desk, building the noise into a chaotic oblivion, testing the audience’s eardrums, he disconnected the cables linking his pedals, breaking the circuit, and quelling the blaring feedback as everything went silent.
blét’s mix of impassioned indie folk and downtrodden post-rock continued the gloomy mood that Betafauna’s set established. Through eight songs, the band took advantage of its three-vocalist (guitarists Cole Keeton and Joe Kozal and keyboardist Spencer McCoy) as each singer added his own expressive harmonies to the songs’ soulful melodies.
Because blét is a former three-piece without a drummer, Kozal, Keeton and McCoy each used to double as percussionists. But since the addition of drummer Alex Durrant last fall, the band has transitioned from trudging floor tom-snare beats to Durrant’s ceaseless drum builds and polyrhythmic denouements. Without the responsibility of partially focusing on percussion, Kozal, Keeton and McCoy were able to concentrate on weaving their melodies and guitar flourishes, shaping a lush landscape of guitar delay and piano chords.
Sweat rolled down Keeton’s cheeks during the set’s opener “Last Drive Home,” and he scrunched his face as he sang the song’s lyrics, as if it pained him to make the admission that he wouldn’t be returning home again. With Keeton’s and Kozal’s intricate guitar interplay, McCoy’s deep piano rhythms and Durrant’s ferocious build-ups and crashes, it seemed that the band’s performance provided each member an emotional release.
If finding catharsis was the foremost intent of blét’s set, then providing Walk By Sea with a proper sendoff was the inviolable must. Kozal thanked Walk By Sea for the times they had together sharing stages, but said what he would miss the most would just be hanging out over beer. Near the end of blét’s set, they played “Borrowed from the Breeze,” which saw Kozal reaching into his falsetto and Keeton fingerpicking while singing. But before the song, Kozal introduced it as a fitting goodbye to Walk By Sea.
“This is a song about endings and new beginnings,” Kozal said.
By the end of blét’s set of melancholy indie folk and Betafauna’s anguished avant-pop, the stage had been set for a bittersweet farewell to Walk By Sea. After all, the band promised in a Facebook post a set full of “sad songs, sweaty musicians, and lots of hugs,” in that order. And they kept their word.
When frontman Zach Visconti took the stage, he addressed the crowd and said “Thank you for supporting our art, even if it’s weird.” And then the band jumped into the dreamy “Moratorium,” the opener to Walk By Sea’s February LP I Am What Survives of Me.
The band seemed rather reserved during “Moratorium,” refraining from the intense headbanging and forceful drumming that have become expected at Walk By Sea shows. From there, they transitioned into “Awakening,” when the band seemed to decide that if this was going to be their final show, they would need to make it count. When the song crescendoed after Visconti and guitarist Jacob Ignagni shouted “Please don’t run away” in unison, they stomped on their overdrive pedals and flailed around the stage while bassist Kade Clark viciously banged his head, as if to see how far he could force his blonde hair into the air. There wasn’t a dry head in the band by the end of the song.
The band’s emotional energy persisted for the rest of the set. They invited a few friends, including Eaton of Betafauna, to the stage to join in singing “Borrowed Time.” Ignagni thanked his parents who had traveled to the show from California. And Visconti thrashed so furiously around the stage during “Drummer Boy” that he tripped on a cable and fell to the floor, but he played it off as intentional, ending the song tremolo picking while laying on his back.
Then came the final song, and the band put the nail in Walk By Sea’s coffin with “Mourning.” As Visconti and Ignagni harmonized the lyrics “Life has a way of making ghosts out of all of us,” the ending of the band felt conclusive, like they had come to terms with putting to rest the music they’d been making for the past five or so years. And then the song ended with all of the emotion they had left. But they still weren’t done yet.
After Brandon Ramos had heaved his kick drum and cymbal stands to the ground and after Clark had returned to the floor from hanging on the rafters, Visconti and Ignagni re-entered The Bay from the venue’s side door and announced they had an idea for one final song.
Ignagni asked the crowd if they could form a circle, and the band brought their acoustic guitars and only the necessary percussion to the center to play one of the first songs they ever wrote: “Fall.”
Visconti thanked the crowd one more time, emphasizing that it wouldn’t be nearly as hard to say goodbye without the support of their fans and friends. A chorus sang along to each word of “Fall,” echoing Ignagni as he crooned “All of life holds its place in time.” And after the song, a crowd surrounded the band in a conclusive group hug. The band may have called it quits, but it was clear as the sweat and last chords hung in the air that the ghost of Walk By Sea will live on.
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Photo coverage: Hakim’s album release show at Vega
HN contributor Alex Durrant went to Vega Friday to catch Lincoln rapper Hakim in concert, as he released new album EXISTintoENCE. See Durrant’s photos below:
photos by Alex Durrant
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Photo coverage: The Ambulanters, Universe Contest, Uh Oh at O’Leaver’s
HN multimedia intern Marti Vaughan stopped by O’Leaver’s Saturday to catch The Ambulanters, Universe Contest and Uh Oh. The Ambulanters played its first shows in Nebraska Friday (in Kearney) and Saturday since returning from a multi-week west coast tour.
See Vaughan’s photos below:
Photos by Marti Vaughan
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HN Radio: GLT Edition
The third-annual Good Living Tour kicks off this weekend in Hebron and Auburn and we are so psyched that we put together a playlist for HN Radio. In this week’s rotation — listenable at the top of the website and below — features tracks by Belles & Whistles, Mad Dog & the 20/20s, Lucas Kellison, FREAKABOUT and Daniel Christian (all of whom perform this weekend). We’ve also sprinkled in tracks by performers throughout the summer tour (more info here).
To submit songs for HN Radio consideration, send note with bio info and mp3 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Face to Face with Counterpunch at Lookout Lounge – Last year, Southern California punk rock institution Face to Face celebrated its 25th year as a band by returning to the record label that gave them their start, Fat Wreck Chords. Fat Wreck released Face to Face’s ninth LP, Protection, last year, and now the band is touring across the U.S. and Europe. Chicago skate punk four-piece Counterpunch opens the show. 7 p.m. $20. All ages. RSVP here.
Com Truise with Clark at Slowdown – With influences ranging from 1980s new wave and post-punk acts like New Order and Joy Division to more modern electronic producers, Seth Haley, aka Com Truise, has become a forerunner in the chillwave and synthwave movements since his debut album Galactic Melt dropped in 2011. Later this month, he’ll release his third full-length Iteration, and he’s stopping in Omaha tonight as he wraps up a month-long tour. English electronic producer Clark is along for the tour, too, after releasing his LP Death Peak in April. 8 p.m. $15. All ages. RSVP here.
Jazz in June: LaFrae Sci and Sonic Black with Lakecia Benjamin – To kick off its 26th year, Jazz in June welcomes renowned New York jazz percussionist LaFrae Sci and her band Sonic Black to Lincoln. LaFrae is a Cultural Ambassador for the U.S. State Department, performing in more than 30 countries in her career. Sonic Black itself is an educational initiative that aims to shed light on African-Americans’ contributions to international music culture. Lakecia Benjamin, a soul saxophonist who has worked with Santigold and Talib Kweli, opens the show. 7 p.m. RSVP here.