The Friday Night Experience
The promise of Friday night was ringing out from the Zoo Bar with anticipation. Domestica, forever a bigger sound than any room they play, shook the ground of 14th Street with such commotion. Heidi Ore’s rumbly bass, Pawl Tisdale’s ruckus drumming, and Jon Taylor’s finely hewn sound of a hundred screaming tornado sirens coming out of six strings hollered out into the air like a warning. Lincoln Exposed was underway, and this would be a night to be reckoned with. This night would be loud.
Walking through the Friday afternoon crowd was like walking through peaceful waters into a rogue tsunami. Ore and Taylor took turns shaking the dust from the rafters with social admonition, percussive breathing and blistering vocals. By the last note of their Zoo Bar-upending set, the front of the stage had filled with sneering, smirking, fist shaking active participants in what proved to be a riotous night of rock’n’roll.
Domestica | photo by Lauren Farris
The thing of Lincoln festivals, from the number of them I’ve experienced, is that what really seems to be going on is something akin to a family reunion, but with family you’ve made for yourself. With that in mind, I met up with Chelsea Egenberger of The Morbs and we meandered up and down O and 14th Streets, stopping to visit with friends, including members of Better Friend, I Forgot to Love My Father, Universe Contest, FREAKABOUT, Exposed organizers Spencer Munson and Cortney Kirby, Hear Nebraska staff and contributors, along with the parents of some and siblings of others. At any second during these festivals, you will find yourself brushing past or standing next to someone you know, and probably like, a whole helluva lot. That, to me, is Lincoln, exposed.
Egenberger and I walked through a number of sets and found intent in making it to others:
1867 Bar hosted a set from Commander Kilroy. The hooks and grooves of the first two numbers I heard reminded me of my hometown heroes, Satchel Grande, before the band leaned into their harder rock sound.
There was a bit of movie magic while I listened to Gunter Voelker singing sweetly with Jack Hotel as I turned to see Marina Kushner running the soundboard and felt a pang of pride. There’s a burgeoning sisterhood of sound engineers in Nebraska. It is always good to see Marina behind a board.
I was in Bodega’s bathroom when I heard the first strains of A Different Breed and balked at the vocal range of Sean Broderick. What an unbelievable voice! I’m not a big fan of metal, but with this cat at the helm, it’s possible I could be converted.
photos by Connor Lepert
Judging from our harried steps and the repeated calling out of “Their set starts at 9:20!” from Egenberger, I understood Dirty Talker to be the next purposeful destination of our night. I walked down into the smaller room of the Bourbon Theater and recognized Brendan McGinn and Adam Anderson instantly as members of Her Flyaway Manner from having interviewed them with HN Editor Andrew Stellmon earlier this year for Hear Nebraska FM. That in no way prepared me for the visceral panic of a Dirty Talker set.
Theirs is a loud set, to be sure, but a set full of twists, turns, stops, and I’ve admittedly never had to stop tapping my foot or nodding my head so much because of the sheer number of time changes. I was thrilled by McGinn’s ability to keep time and of Anderson and bassist Justin Kohmetscher to keep up. For all of it’s winding and squeezing like a snake, the band punched in like pros, never dropping, never losing, never lagging behind. Their energy was clamorous, rapturous even. I don’t remember working so hard to keep my wits so I could try to remember, just in case I never get the chance to see them again. I would see them again, and often.
Dirty Talker | photo by Lauren Farris
After their set, I have no recollection of how I found myself standing with The Bottle Tops’ Kerry Semrad on one side of me and Egenberger on the other, but I was suddenly crammed into Bodega’s with a well over capacity crowd vying for a peek at FREAKABOUT. The room was hot with bodies and lights and a blistering set from Kirby and her crew.
The last certain decision, unanimous this time, was to make sure we were early enough to get a clear spot of Thirst Things First. Egenberger admitted to never having caught their set before and I have memories of getting one good song in during 2016’s Lincoln Calling before running off to attend to business. Also, somewhere along the way, there was a promise of some shock and awe video production.
So far as I know, Thirst Things First is not a comedy act. I do not think this means they should not be discounted as one. The humor and candor in their live set is reminiscent at times of Weird Al Yankovic or They Might Be Giants, and their sound Devo cum Pet Shop Boys. If you can imagine all of those wild bands put into a paint can and shook, you can imagine the color that is Thirst Things First.
photo by Lauren Farris
The crowd rejoiced in the set. TTF was met with laughter, cheering, middle fingers raised to a fun, little caricature of our governor and dancing. However, after holding on for as long as I could, it became overwhelmingly crowded and I found myself trying to escape for air as the beginning notes of the last song sounded.
While I got one night of this festival, I think if Lincoln had to revealed itself to me through the eyes of this rowdy, ruddy punk drummer friend, that I found Lincoln to be loud, audacious, irreverent, genuine, and welcoming.
— Rebecca Lowry
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Lincoln Music Exposed to a Wider Population
Friday reinvigorated Lincoln Exposed festival-goers’ spirits with the coming of the weekend.
An extra burst of life filled the downtown air as people partook in a third consecutive night of walking bar to bar to catch as much live music as possible.
But Friday’s festival crowd was a little different than other nights. The festival’s demographic experienced a slight shift, with weekends bringing out more college students and more middle-aged individuals to the downtown area. Sure, the music scene regulars were out and about as usual, but soon enough, the bars were also filled with “accidental” showgoers who had simply been passersby before walking into one of the festival’s venues. These people were watching local bands that they might not sit and watch normally, and the response seemed generally positive.
Freakabout at Bodega’s Alley | photo by Lauren Farris
Even in a growing city with a tight-knit network of music-lovers, it’s easy for local acts to get overlooked by the community at large. The night was a bold proclamation of a major pride point of this city (its music scene) to a new portion of its residents.
Those who showed up seemed to stick around for the most part. In fact, some patrons who happened to wander into Bodega’s early in the night may have actually become trapped during Freakabout’s set. The whole room was almost shoulder to shoulder when the band starting playing, and lead vocalist Cortney Kirby even asked the audience to squeeze in more tightly so the line of people waiting outside the door could get in too. I overheard a couple behind me mentioning that they had never seen the band before, and they had good things to say to each other about the performance.
photo by Connor Lepert
Robust and powerful, Freakabout played their signature style of rock, fronted by Kirby, whose powerful voice gives the band its most distinct characteristic. The band opened with “Garden of Skulls” from its debut album, Don’t We All. Electrified by its spirited lighting and the volume of people trying to get into the bar to see them, Freakabout seemed more polished than ever before.
When it comes to sharing this music scene and its importance with the general population, few things can influence outsiders as much as an event like Lincoln Exposed, and Friday night at the festival was a testament to that. According to festival organizer Spencer Munson, Friday night saw record numbers for the Lincoln festival, which also made for brand new audiences for local acts.
— Zach Visconti
* * *
As exhilarating as it is to experience every minute of the Lincoln Exposed four-night onslaught, a reprieve is necessary to fend off exhaustion. If it comes at a midpoint, all the better.
Count on Zoo Bar’s lounge-like Friday afternoon club to deliver two seasoned, dependable acts without an opposite show, first easing us in with The Bottle Tops before Domestica punched us in the mouth.
Both acts are fixtures in Lincoln but The Bottle Tops practically lives at the Zoo. The five-piece performed as crisply and delightfully as ever, hitting a stride as it prepares to enter the studio in the next couple of weeks. Then, Domestica blew the doors off of it, as they often do and have done for years. Heidi Ore and Jon Taylor’s amps blazed as they flew through their set, taking only a few moments for witty stage banter.
It’s tempting to compare Lincoln Calling to other sensory-dominating cultural phenomenon, especially in the throes weariness. Friday felt kind of like the third day of the NCAA basketball tournament: after a conveyor belt of games and flipping through multiple channels to see them, one quality option to ease viewers back into the fray.
Credit that to scheduling, which, aside from a few competing sets, mostly cognizant of how its festival-goers might feel, where they might go and what would draw through the entire weekend.
— Andrew Stellmon
The Bottle Tops | photos by Lauren Farris
* * *
The Best of a Bad Situation
Indie pop band blét was offered a second chance to perform after having to cancel their Wednesday night set. Friday morning, it was announced that Yesh would no longer be performing at Lincoln Exposed due to sickness, opening the 8:00 time slot at Bodega’s that blét would filled almost immediately.
The band played a comfortably sobering set, opening with the poignant “Lifeguard.” The song started softly with Cole Keeton and Joe Kozol’s dual guitar parts, as well as Kozal’s vocals recounting a significant memory. Spencer McCoy played piano beneath the song. The slow build throughout suggested a tense ending to the aforementioned memory, ultimately coming to fruition with Kozal’s shouting “Now we don’t speak!”
Blét’s sound captures a handful of influences, primarily drawing from modern indie rock. The now-quartet used to scatter a full drum set across the stage to be played sparingly by each member, but with the recent addition of a drummer, Alex Durrant, the band has found itself a more hefty live sound than before, without sacrificing the more tender quality contained in their songs.
Although Kozal overcame the allergic reaction that had almost prevented blét from performing, he still held a health pack around his back from a recent surgery. The unkeen eye may not have even noticed though, since it didn’t stop Kozal from strumming quickly and emotionally throughout the set.
The band played seven songs total, closing their set with “Two Hands,” a heartwarming song led vocally by Kozal. Keeton laid a delicate top layer of guitar upon the driving chord progression. Durrant’s influence over the song carried with it a distinct power, especially in juxtaposition to the more somber songs scattered throughout the rest of the set. As Kozal sang “Don’t say it again and again,” Durrant began building with the toms and snare holding up the sound of palm muted guitars and McCoy’s chords on piano, finally leading to a euphoric release to close out the set.
— Zach Visconti
photos by Lauren Farris
photo by Connor Lepert
Jumpin’ for Jazz
Although the Zoo Bar is historically known for blues, it isn’t hard to imagine a full room sitting down, enjoying a beer and a jazz band. The room is set up in a way that lends itself to seated enjoyment of live music, perfect for bands with jazzy influence.
For some, Saturday night of Lincoln Exposed began this way with Möbius. Möbius took the Zoo Bar stage at 7:00, sharing its variety of instrumental rock, containing elements of modern jazz and post-rock. The group drew vast comparisons that ranged from Minus The Bear’s more technical side all the way to the fast-paced soundtracks of platform video games. Even with their diverse sound, the band maintained a sonic profile that felt cohesive and distinct.
Early in the set, the trio played “Juani,” a dynamic song featuring catchy hooks and a clean electric guitar. The three-member lineup and the organic guitar and bass tones made each instrument easily discernable from the others. Bassist Stephen Cantarero’s stage presence was particularly animated, rocking back and forth as he moved his hand about the neck to match the complex chord progressions. Drummer Cameron Adams played tightly, fitting each hit precisely on the beat.
photos by James Dean
Another trio that fit well into the jazz rock category was ANJ, which played at 8:40 at Duffy’s Tavern. The band, fronted by keyboardist/vocalist Andy Butler, played a series of love and breakup songs off last summer’s Girls Names EP. ANJ dipped their feet into the waters of soul/R&B as well as jazz, utilizing frequent and rhythmic organ sounds from the keyboard.
Butler’s lyricism was entertaining, sometimes blunt, but fundamentally easy to follow. The concept could be heard in “Angela” when he sang “I’ve been dying to tell you how I really feel: Your eyes are too far apart, the same as your brain and your heart.” The song featured a soft electric piano, a scaled back beat from drummer Trey Shotkoske, and a simple bass groove matching guitarist Mark Thorton’s chord progressions. Butler played solo on “It’s God’s Fault,” an earnest song floating between serious and sarcastic lyrical themes.
The stripped-down nature of ANJ’s setup and sound was refreshing. Like a group of friends playing for each other in a living room, the set was laid back but polished. Shotkoske managed to coax full sounds from a drumset which consisted of only a kick, snare, hi-hat, and ride. Butler sat at his keyboard facing bassist Mark Thornton across the stage. The triangle of musicians felt approachable, and its songs did too.
photos by Peter Barnes
Later in the night, Jens Lehman & The Time Cops played at Bodega’s, offering their poppy take on jazz rock combinations. The five-piece band included trumpet player Taylor Cobb and saxophone player John Borstelmann, solidifying a soulful thread that ran from beginning to end. Overall, the tone of their performance was light-hearted and fun, offering a pleasant set to onlookers.
Jens Lehman & Time Cops | photo by James Dean
By no means did jazz encompass the entire breadth of musical styles that were represented at Saturday’s Lincoln Exposed. At any given point, patrons could likely see rock bands, pop groups, and folk acts. The way the festival’s bills were set up allowed those watching to experience many different genres of music in one place, encouraging a diverse and vast musical experience.
— Zach Visconti
* * *
Bogusman and the Audience Exchange
Just as it began to feel like things were winding down for the final night of Lincoln Exposed, patrons crammed into Bodega’s Alley to watch Bogusman close out the weekend. What would ensue was a rambunctious display of energy from both the punk band and its boisterous audience.
Bogusman seemed to play faster than normal, perhaps exhilarated by the sheer number of people in the room. It wasn’t long before the rapid punk songs inspired a small mosh pit in front of the stage. At least two beers dropped to the ground, but nobody stopped to pick them up. Guitarist/vocalist Nate Luginbill threw melodic inclination by the wayside during “Appendectomy,” replacing the almost-spoken verses on the album with continuous and vehement yelling. And yet, this never threw the band out of balance. If anything, the vocalist’s intensity enlivened the rest of the band to keep up. At the end of the song, guitarist Lee Lohrberg called upon the audience.
“You guys are weak!” shouted Lohrberg into the microphone, challenging listeners to make more noise.
The audience responded with a clamorous uproar, exceeding Lohrberg’s challenge as Luginbill’s guitar came droning in for the intro to “Mourning Lori.” Drummer Jackson Trover electrified the audience as he pushed the song’s tempo into overdrive. Andy Pederson flailed his bass around wildly and still managed to deliver a thick low-end as crowd surfers, including Luginbill at one point, began to surf around the room.
Bogusman and its audience exchanged energy throughout the set, causing a freight train of commotion which culminated in in a thunderous ‘Fuck Pete Ricketts’ chant after the band’s intended closer “Tina,” It seemed almost random, aside from the fact that patrons were at a punk show. No one questioned it though, and everyone seemed to join in as soon as they heard it.
The chant continued for well over a minute before turning into a relentless call for an encore. Bogusman played “Cribbage Sex Society” with a final display of liveliness, riotously closing the weekend.
— Zach Visconti
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From the Notebook: Weekend Edition
My vote for Friday night surprise goes to Trash Kat, which played the middle set at Duffy’s Tavern. If you find yourself guessing pre-set at a band’s sound based on equipment — one Orange amp, one Fender Blues amp, etc — you might have been right here. Trash Kat is glorious grunge-era revival with a slight honky tonk bent, with vocalist Patrick Bradley as its Cobain stand-in, gobs of pulverizing octave chords and blistering hot guitar tones. The band seemed to feed off the energy of an inevitably enlarging crowd, making for a nice breakout set. — Stellmon
photo by Lauren Farris
Continuing with the theme of Lincoln music’s young blood, Nebraska Music Academy’s band Major Minors secured the weekend’s record for youngest performers Friday at 1867 Bar. The band consisted of 13 year olds Dalton and Aidan, and 11 year old Roman, all who have been playing together for upwards of three years. The chemistry was clear as the young musicians busted out captivating covers of “Crazy Train,” “Carry On My Wayward Son,” and an impressively dynamic cover of “Uptown Funk,” in which Roman abruptly switched to metal-esque screaming in the second verse. Hopefully we’ll see much more from this young group in the years to come. — Zach
photo by Connor Lepert
AZP closed out Friday night at Duffy’s, amongst a group of enthusiastic listeners. Between their stage presence and their cohesion, the group had no problem keeping the attention of the crowd. The soul outfit boasts a six-man lineup, fronted by Zach Watkins who plays piano and sings. Their set also included rock and roll and hip hop elements, utilizing Ishma Valenti’s rapping in most songs. The act was a worthy closer for Lincoln Exposed’s third night, ending with “Save Yourself,” a catchy, anthemic theme song about social injustice. — Zach
photos by Connor Lepert
Zoo Bar patrons discovered a hidden gem on Saturday night in Golden Studio. Led by Hasan Kalil, the music was of Kurdish origin, featuring quarter step notes and hip hop beats, as well as the occasional vocal melody sung in Arabic. Kalil stated that he mostly performed at weddings and that he owned the barber shop Golden Scissor. Kalil stood in front of a pair of keyboards as well as two other men, one in front of a microphone, one simply standing behind Kalil clapping and dancing. A young girl, Kalil’s daughter, also sat on the stage beside the keyboard. — Zach
photos by Peter Barnes
To say that Sputnik Kaputnik’s set was strange is an understatement. Their Saturday set consisted of upbeat synth-heavy songs, backed by electric drums and an oft-overdriven bass. The four-piece had two keyboards and was fronted by a man in a suit (Justin Firestone), who went by the stage named Sputnik Kaputnik. This particular set featured an electric drum kit rather than the band’s typical use of acoustic drums, but Kaputnik’s banter was much the same — comedic in intent and reflective of its songs’ absurd lyrics. At one point, Kaputnik stated to the audience, “This song’s about buttholes,” followed by the song “Buttholes,” in which Kaputnik proceeded to point at several audience members, calling them buttholes. — Zach
photos by Peter Barnes
Sweats, like many Lincoln bands, shares members with other bands. Made up of members from rock bands like Universe Contest, Her Flyaway Manner, and Dirty Talker, the rock quartet had a similarly complex sound. The four-piece played to a full room Saturday at 11:40 at 1867. Their set was full of songs that were bold and technical, often switching up time signatures and pumping through fast-paced songs. The band started their set off with a dramatic, minute long intro in which Brendan McGinn held his guitar to his amp letting it feed back. Before long, Justin Kohmetscher added a pulsating bass to the mix, soon followed by Jordan Elfers’ drums which picked up the tempo and drove the song forward. The band put on an energetic performance, the guitarists stomping back and forth with the upbeat rhythms. — Zach
photos by Connor Lepert
Photo Coverage, Night Three
Magnetic Souls at Duffy’s Tavern | photo by Lauren Farris
Tijuana Gigolos at Zoo Bar | photo by Lauren Farris
Glo Worm at Duffy’s Tavern | photo by Lauren Farris
Gabe Nelson with Pants at Zoo Bar | photos by Connor Lepert
Jazzocracy at 1867 Bar | photos by Connor Lepert
Freakabout at Bodega’s Alley | photos by Connor Lepert
Bernardus at 1867 Bar | photos by Lauren Farris
Charlie Burton and his Pals at Zoo Bar | photo by Connor Lepert
Verse & the Vices at 1867 Bar | photo by Connor Lepert
Floating Opera at Bodega’s Alley | photo by Connor Lepert
Floating Opera | photo by Alex Durrant
Gerardo Meza Band at Zoo Bar | photo by Connor Lepert
Laughing Falcon at 1867 Bar | photo by Lauren Farris
Omni Arms at Bodega’s Alley | photo by Lauren Farris
Photo Coverage, Night Four
The Flasks at Zoo Bar | photo by Connor Lepert
Within Wilds at Zoo Bar| photos by Peter Barnes
Ghost Town Radio at Bodega’s Alley | photo by Connor Lepert
Ghost Town Radio | photo by James Dean
SAS & the Final Arrangement at Duffy’s Tavern | photos by Peter Barnes
Night Push at Bodega’s Alley | photo by Connor Lepert
Night Push | photo by James Dean
The Mezcal Brothers | photo by James Dean
Tragic Jack at Zoo Bar | photos by Peter Barnes
Wendy & the Lost Boys at Bodega’s Alley | photos by Connor Lepert
Dylan Bloom Band at 1867 Bar | photo by James Dean
Green Trees at Zoo Bar | photos by Peter Barnes
Green Trees | photo by Connor Lepert
M Shah at Duffy’s Tavern | photo by Connor Lepert
The Inbetweens at Zoo Bar | photos by Peter Barnes
Halfwit at Duffy’s Tavern | photos by Peter Barnes
Dudes Gone Rude at Duffy’s Tavern | photos by Peter Barnes
The Hanyaks at 1867 Bar | photo by James Dean