It took all of one night of the Good Living Tour to realize how important all of this is for fans, bands and communities.
The Talbott Brothers took the stage just after 10 p.m., right behind the eighth tee at the country club in Imperial. T-shirts bearing the band’s scripted logo dotted the crowd of more than 300 all evening — support for the hometown boys from those who had grown up with them and those who witnessed it.
And they nailed it. Musically crisp and polished as always, they brought an intensity matched by those amassed at the front of the stage. As they finished a rousing set, calls for an encore rang out before the band was able to move for the exit.
Touring life is a hard grind. From set up to tear down, it’s grueling and labor intensive, a full-time gig in itself. Bright eyed and bushy tailed at the outset of the Good Living Tour, “oblivious” might be an accurate description for some of the HN team. Musicians who tour know all the intricacies. But for an editorial team accustomed to cushioned chairs and constant air conditioning, doubling as a production team brings a steep learning curve.
Writing from a coffee shop in North Platte, ahead of tonight’s show, the inclination to whine is strong. Describing the touring process countless times in text barely gives insight. Romanticising night after night of shows becomes difficult after fatigue and unrest and frustration set in. One can be told, but such a telling bears no preparation.
For this trip, though, each night thus far has brought at least one big moment, a consistently nourishing epiphany that all of the work is supremely rewarding.
The first night was near perfect. A suffocatingly hot Imperial afternoon mercifully gave way to a cool, breezy evening. The crowd began to thicken and settle in as The Bottle Tops kicked off the show with Mike and Kerry Semrad as charming and charismatic as ever.
photos of The Bottle Tops by Chris Dinan
Maybe the real surprise, though, was Omaha’s See Through Dresses, who almost surely grew their fan base playing in front of a completely new audience. The closed-in performance space — lined by trees on one side and a maintenance shed on the other — provided the perfect tunnel for their hazy, swirling rock.
Saturday night in Ogallala proved significantly more challenging for all involved. At 7:45 p.m., just 15 minutes before Lloyd McCarter and the Honky Tonk Revival were schedule to start, a massive storm cell blew in off of Lake McConaughey and sent patrons and musicians ducking for cover under the roof of Rendezvous Square.
Though the frustration was clear, the bands — Lincoln’s Freakabout and Omaha’s Twinsmith filled out the bill — helpless against the forces of Mother Nature, had no choice but to wait out the storm. The atmosphere turned to pre-class middle school social time until Lloyd McCarter and crew re-took the stage. Twinsmith frontman Jordan Smith, beer in hand, cruised around on a longboard yelling “Spring Break!”
McCarter’s rockabilly charisma gushed as the crowd reformed over the empty lot, growing to roughly 150 people. For high-energy numbers, McCarter struck a low, athletic stance and played off the band behind him. Guitarist Mike McCracken was on fire, his fingers rapidly dancing up and down the frets in a blur.
photo by Nickolai Hammar
The band closed with “Big Time” to a wave of applause, and relinquished the stage to Freakabout. But they weren’t finished. Later, McCarter and upright bassist Marty Steinhausen busked outside of nearby bar 1 Eleven, a smattering of bar patrons encircling them.
video by Nickolai Hammar
A major recurring theme so far is the zeal for hometown connections. Freakabout drummer and Ogallala native Zach Zoellner seemed to feed off his warm reception, deftly working his kit with fervor. Frontwoman Courtney Kirby danced about the stage, her rich alto voice filling Rendezvous Square. Their ovation might have been the biggest of the night.
Twinsmith, playing to a somewhat smaller-than-usual crowd, still brought their well-known upbeat enthusiasm. Even as the crowd dissipated, the indie pop band continued to replace momentum lost due to the storm, all the way to the finish.
photos by Nickolai Hammar
Sunday in Scottsbluff, Five Rocks Amphitheater was crystal clear and picturesque, the perfect setting for one of the most diverse billings of the tour. McCarthy Trenching provided a charming soundtrack as the setting sun cast bright pink and orange over the nearby bluffs.
photos of McCarthy Trenching by Chris Dinan
If any in the crowd expected the same tender, easy-going tone throughout, Both shattered that notion immediately. Scky Rei and INFNTLP created their own on-stage atmosphere, delivering it with gruff flow and slick technical production. That the crowd responded so well would have been the surprise of the evening if the pair hadn’t found a way to connect with smart lyrics and playful personnas.
photos of Both by Chris Dinan
Scottsbluff/Gering natives blét closed the night with spacey dream pop that drifted out under the starry sky. The beauty of Five Rocks Amphitheater cannot be overstated. The sky opens especially wide in western Nebraska, and one could often see heads tilted up and away from the stage, simply enjoying the atmosphere. All told, some 300 fans gave the earnest Lincoln trio quite the homecoming, complete with a called-for encore.
And then there was last night’s (Monday) stop in Valentine. Omaha’s Edge of Arbor — a late fill-in — eased the Bull Market patio crowd of roughly 75 into the festivities before joining All Young Girls Are Machine Girls for a soulful set. Near the front of the paved, ground-level stage, one fan expressed complete awe upon joining her friends mid-show (“This is from Nebraska?”). The band played an encore of their own after a request from one couple celebrating an anniversary — fittingly, a nostalgic slow-dance.
Kris Lager Band brought the energy to its pinnacle, as Lager ventured from behind the frontstage monitors and into the modest group of dancing fans. The roots rock quintet egged the crowd on as though it were hundreds strong, playing well past their given time frame. The noise level earned the concert a visit from police officers responding to a noise complaint.
photos of Kris Lager Band by Nickolai Hammar
photos by Nickolai Hammar
When Bull Market owner Robert Joseph addressed the crowd to explain, he boldly proclaimed that it didn’t matter. We would all be here long afterward.