To help assess the year in music, we asked more than a dozen musicians, journalists and scene figures for their favorite albums, songs, shows and events of the year. Check back each day over the next few days for more reflections and predictions.
Read on as our year-end list contributors give their favorite Nebraska music developments of 2015. The verdict? Whether it’s the proliferation of diverse local festivals, the Live at O’Leaver’s and SoFar Sounds series or the Good Living Tour, we want unique and different ways to capture and enjoy the live moments.
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Marq Manner | OEAAs Chair
I think the addition of Lookout Lounge was a good one for Omaha. They are bringing in some styles of music that might not have been coming through and kept a needed venue going. They know the music they are bringing in and are invested in it and that can really cultivate a scene and a following. I look to them to be successful for a long time.
Sean Paul | Eric In Outerspace
Live at O’Leavers and it’s not close. Ian Aiello has done such fantastic work on the whole project and it’s really great to see him and the club getting some nice national recognition.
Jeremy Wurst | Bud Heavy & the High Lifes/Giant’s Arrow
Sower Records: The idea behind this label is incredible and frankly, I view it more as a co-op than a “label” in the traditional sense. Every band on the label brings a different skillset that another band might not have, and helps push all of the other bands upward. In addition to everyone being musical it’s a collection of artists, videographers, designers, screen printers, audio engineers, and promoters. The best part about Sower is it isn’t necessarily exclusive, there are sister bands that get asked to play just as many shows as bands on the label. They’ve teamed up with beer companies, restaurants, and local venues to put on some pretty great shows.
Rebecca Lowry | All Young Girls Are Machine Guns
(tie) BFF FEMME FEST — Total surprise to me. I mean, not a shocker at all, but a little unexpected, sincerely the best night of the 2015, and a triumphant celebration of women in music in Nebraska.
Live @ O’Leaver’s — Such a badass concept and excellent execution. Hell yeah.
Manic Pixie Dream Girls at BFF Femme Fest | photo by Lindsey Yoneda
Kait Berreckman | Kait Berreckman Band
Sofar Sounds! I’m so happy John Schmidt et. al. are giving so much time and heart to putting on these consistently fun and surprising shows. Caroline Smith in a basement? A last-minute stop for Allison Weiss? Of all the FOMO I get hit with missing shows in town, Sofar leaves the biggest bruises. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhqA7Qp5FjM
Ian Aeillo | Sound Engineer, O’Leaver’s
CJ Mills. I don’t know if that counts as a music development, but every one of us should be wondering what we did to be so fucking lucky to get to watch and listen to CJ Mills as she develops into the most well-rounded and talented songwriter we’ve seen in a long time. 2016 is going to be a really good year for her, and by extension, us. https://soundcloud.com/cjmillsmusic/sets/quiet
Dan McCarthy | McCarthy Trenching
HIGH UP! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_FmT80x-Wc
Bill Sharp | Twinsmith
I think the Good Living Tour was the coolest thing that happened in Nebraska this year. I’m glad I got to be a part of it and I’m glad I got acquainted with Lloyd McCarter and the Honky Tonk Revival because that band rules. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nf5xIR-4fMk
Nathan Richardson | Lighthouses
I’m not sure if this counts but BOTH is my favorite. https://soundcloud.com/makebelieverecordings/airwaves-featuring-rothsteen
James Dean | HN Contributor
The incredible amount of festivals. Lincoln Calling, Zoo Fest, Sowerfest (new) Folk and Roots, Jake’s Block Party, Benson First Friday Femme Fest (new). Having these clusters of shows showcasing local and distant artists is important for revenue, creative collaboration, marketing, etc. AZP at Lincoln Calling 2015 | photo by Peter Barnes
Jessica Hottman | The Hottman Sisters
Sofar Sounds: Omaha was started prior to 2015, but the development of these highly anticipated and intimate shows in the past year has been exciting to watch. Sofar has not only highlighted the local talent, but has brought in diverse artists from across the nation. The video and audio quality produced during each notch and is setting the precedence here in Omaha. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HavC61Jo8A4
Dereck Higgins | InDreama/The Strange Attractors
I’m happy Benson is growing and that music is such a strong focus. The Ragabonds | photo by Nickolai Hammar
Sleep Sinatra | Emcee
The spotlight being shown on the statewide hip-hop scene. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DW8iQ9SFaeA
Eli Mardock | Owner, Vega
It’s been great to see Maha grow into something really spectacular this year. It just keeps getting better and better. Also the launch of Ian Aeillo’s very cool Live at O’Leavers series. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBdzHQD5SYE
Dominique Morgan | Singer/songwriter
R&B is here and accounted for. There was this habit of rounding up in this genre. If an artist sounded just a bit soulful and wasn’t rock or clear blues then they were categorized as R&B. We’ve had a year of great musicians coming out giving clear examples of what this genre looks like (Mesonjixx, Jus.B, Edem) and I think people are taking heed. I think it’s still a game of best known name going on but the wheels are turning. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ow9DG2_3cfQ
Dan Scheuerman | Big Slur/HN Contributor
Live at Oleavers: great performances, great sound, great energy behind this project. https://soundcloud.com/live-at-oleavers/sets/cursive-live-at-oleavers
Cortney Kirby | Freakabout
The Good Living Tour. Last year was a blast and I can only imagine this next year being better.
Lloyd McCarter & the Honky Tonk Revival at Ogallala stop of The Good Living Tour | photo by Nickolai Hammar
Christine Fink | High Up
I haven’t been to Milk Run yet, but I’m always stoked when a new venue opens, especially one that makes room for avant garde music.
American Cream at Milk Run | photo by Lindsey Yoneda