words by Kekeli Dawes
Inspired by the First Friday scene in Lincoln and similar events thrown in Kansas City, Alex Jochim is organizing Benson Fourth Fridays, a special Friday event in Benson aiming to marry the rich musical scene in Nebraska with its creative art scene.
Benson Fourth Fridays serve as a fundraiser for the monthly Benson First Fridays series and will feature local artists, but will also host performances from more thirty Nebraska acts in galleries and venues all along Maple Street in Benson.
Jochim finds that one of the defining aspects of Benson Fourth Fridays is that several forms of art share the same platform.
“I think we’ve always tried to work with all capacities of art,” Jochim says. In venues hosting bands, art will be on display and spoken word poetry will be performed.
Poet Greg Harries won the Best Slam Poet award at the 2013 Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards, and works closely with the Louder Than A Bomb spoken word teams. Harries will be sharing the Petshop stage with David Ozinga (of UUVVWWZ) as Flashback Caruso, R&B crooner Dominique Morgan, acoustic duo Lars & Mal, Nuit Vah and violinist Kaitlyn Hova.
Like the Petshop art gallery, the Sweatshop Gallery will be hosting musical acts, as well. Garage rockers Those Far Out Arrows will be taking the first half of the Sweatshop set along with Anna McCellan (of Howard) and The Sweats. Lincoln’s Life Is Cool, power trio The Decatures and alt-rock band Waking The Neighbors will play the gallery to close.
Benson Fourth Fridays will be akin to the neighborhood’s regular First Friday events by featuring a series of local visual artists. Amanda Saner, Cassie Clark and Daniel Kokesh will be featured in local bars, Jerry’s, Captain’s Club and Burke’s Pub, respectively. The Petshop will still display artwork, and projections by Brittan Rosendahl will be featured there after dark.
The Pizza Shoppe Collective regularly hosts musical acts as well as art shows. During the festival, ceramic sculptor and painter Travis Thierstein’s “Thirteen Temporal Anomalies” series will be on display while the pizzeria hosts a roots-focused lineup of performers. Matt Cox and Travis Linn’s Township & Range, folk and western artists, are set to play along with punk duo The Baberham Lincolns, singer-songwriter Kait Berreckman, and with All Young Girls Are Machine Guns, who will anchor The Pizza Shoppe’s leg of the festival.
In addition to the galleries, Benson Fourth Friday has booked music venues full of Nebraska acts.
“It was a process I needed a little help on,” Jochim says. “I’m not that ingrained in the music scene.” Jochim reached out to his friends, Jake Dawson of Omaha’s Purveyors of Conscious Sound and Rebecca Lowry of All Young Girls Are Machine Guns for suggestions on Nebraska acts to book for the festival.
Council Bluff’s groove-rock outfit Artillery Funk will be linking up with four Omaha hip-hop artists, Shook on3, Shuless, Marcey Yates and Black Jonny Quest at The Sydney. Electronic acts, Linear Symmetry and Dramatron will close that billing.
Experimental classical vocalists Amanda DeBoer and Liz Pearse will open Barley Street Tavern with their collaboration, Chanting Atmosphere, followed by R&B singer-songwriter CJ Mills. After 10, the Tavern will feature four sets from Omaha rock groups, Goon Saloon, The Brigaders, Can’t Won’t and Mint Wad Willy.
Several Maple St institutions will take part in the festival: Sailor’s Grave Tattoo will be featuring their work in a group show, the Omaha Yoga & Bodywork Center will be hosting a slam poetry event, and the Omaha Bicycle Co. will be throwing a Bike Party. The Sweatshop will double as a venue and art show, but is also hosting Andrew Tatreau’s And Vintage Clothing summer long pop-up shop, which will be open during the festival.
Like any First Friday night, there’s as much activity out on the streets as there is in the packed galleries, venues and bars. 62nd Street will be home to an outdoor local artists market, singer-songwriters Brad Hoshaw, Vern Fergesen and Matt Whipkey will be jamming on the corner for most of the night, and Omaha’s Facial Hair Society will have their first annual Bearded Carwash at Marcus Motors.
Benson Fourth Fridays joins all creative forms of expression in hopes to create a larger, richer experience for its audiences. Though some linkings may seem unconventional, Jochim finds that music and visual art compliment each other.
“It’s very natural, I think, to pair them together- you get all spectrums of artistic talent.” Jochim says.