Four days after returning from the inaugural Good Living Tour, it’s the moments that stand out. Two young girls sitting calmly under an umbrella waiting for hail to stop banging on the steel roof overhead so the Ogallala concert could begin. Lloyd McCarter and Marty Steinhausen playing raunchy country songs [video here] in nearby alley that same night as the bars struggled to eject everyone. Kris Lager creating a Monday night dance party in Valentine out of sheer will and road-hardened showmanship. The most beautiful sunset turning the bluffs near Gering’s Five Rocks Amphitheater into silhouettes. Omaha rapper Conchance slow dancing on a cobble-stone street with a North Platte concertgoer while his M34N STR33T producer Haunted Gauntlet and DJ Really Real spun a slow jam. Knowing just about every face as I raced through a crowd of nearly 400 in my hometown Imperial to help our crew right our giant projection screen that the wind had fallen. Standing on a rooftop watching Icky Blossoms bring down the house in Grand Island to close the tour. Feeling extremely proud and honored to be among such talented, hard-working people as our journalists-turned-stagehands set up a stage in a Nebraska City parking lot in 100-plus-degree heat.
photos by Nickolai Hammar
The inaugural Good Living Tour was certainly the biggest project — logistically and resource-wise — Hear Nebraska has produced in its five years of existence. And though each day brought a new list of ideas on how to improve next year, I believe it succeeded in the ways that our staff and board hoped it would. It connected Nebraska — and, via hearnebraska.org, the world — with great music from the good life through multimedia journalism and live performances. It provided resources for musicians and journalists. It bridged rural and urban communities. And, importantly, it made our team stronger.
photo by Will Stott
HN’s mission is to make the state a globally recognized cultural destination. This was just a small step toward that ambition. But a step nonetheless. We’re already planning the 2016 tour, and have heard from a handful of cities eager to host a stop. That’s a great sign.
Here are some takeaways:
- A total of 28 all-original Nebraska bands and one DJ (Omaha’s Dojorok) performed over the tour’s nine days – that’s a lot of caravans. These groups represent some of Nebraska’s very top acts — many recently touring nationally and internationally. Nearly every lineup featured a band with a local connection. And though most of the bands are well known in the Omaha/Lincoln music scene, they were all largely playing for brand new crowds. We intentionally curated sonically eclectic lineups — hip-hop paired with folk, or soul paired with pop punk, for instance. We aimed to offer something to like for just about everyone, with the expectation that no one would love every band. As much as we wanted to reward people for attending, we also wanted to challenge them a bit with a music style that might be out of their particular comfort zone.Through the nine free, all-ages shows, we aimed to give Greater Nebraskans an easy opportunity to discover their new favorite Nebraska band. I’m confident that happened at every show.
photo by Chris Dinan
- We were equally focused on discovering and showcasing the cool cultural entities that already exist in these towns. A team of HN journalists visited each community in late June and, while also doing some hustle-fueled grassroots concert promotion, produced two feature stories focused on music-related subjects ranging from mom-and-pop instrument stores to decades-old barn dance halls to weeks-old record stores. These stories published on hearnebraska.org the day of each concert, and are available for free publication by any statewide media. I’m personally proud of these stories not just because they’re exceptionally written (by Chance Solem-Pfeifer, Andrew Stellmon and Jacob Zlomke) and beautifully shot (by Chris Dinan, Nickolai Hammer, Bridget McQuillan and Peter Barnes), but because they capture through words and photos 28 culturally important Nebraska music personalities and institutions that show prove our entire state boasts fascinating, vital music culture. You can read them all here. [These stories had received more than 13,000 views as of Thursday on hearnebraska.org.]
photo by Bridget McQuillan
- While visiting each town in June, our journalists also produced nine separate video stories that featured young professionals explaining in their own words why their town is a great place to live. We debuted cuts of these videos at each concert (excluding Ogallala, whose hail storm forced us to forego the viewing). We created these videos to serve as tools to help these communities better attract and retain young people (see why that’s so important in the image below), and I believe that will happen. But as I watched each of them on a big screen with their respective community members, I realized that the videos are just as valuable as internal rallying cries. Growing up in a small Nebraska town, I learned to be self-deprecating and, to some degree, insecure about where I lived. I really regret that now. I hope these videos help inspire more, confident, passionate cases for Greater Nebraska living. [We’ll release the videos publicly, soon.]
photo by Will Stott
photo by Chris Dinan
- Finally, so many kids and young people came to the shows. Some of them danced. Others came up and talked with the artists after the show. That was rewarding to witness, and entirely the point of the tour. If even one kid was inspired to pick up an instrument, host a concert or start a music-related business, I’d consider this tour a success.
Final Thank Yous
This project wouldn’t have been possible without the support of our statewide partners, Center for Rural Affairs, Pinnacle Bank, Humanities Nebraska, Nebraska Arts Council, Nebraska Cultural Endowment and Maha Music Festival, as well as all of our community partners. Others who deserve recognition include:
- Justin Kemerling for producing killer branding for the entire project, and Katie Briggs, Eric Nyffeler and Center for Rural Affairs’ Casey Francis for also contributing excellent graphic design work. Bryan Findell for producing our video animation.
- Kaneko, for loaning us an awesome video projector, and Gorges Volvo for loaning us a brand-new XC60 for both legs of the tour.
- Vessel Live for being an outstanding production partner, making sure every show looked and sounded awesome.
- Finally, our dedicated, talented staff and contributors who never says die: Angie Norman, Aaron Markley, Chance Solem Pfeifer, Andrew Stellmon, Chris Dinan, Nickolai Hammer, Jordan Hiebner, Bridget McQuillan, Jacob Zlomke, Will Stott, Sam Bennett, James Dean, Peter Barnes, Django Greenblatt-Sea. Thank you all.