Lincoln Calling 2012 | Day Four

photo by Andrew Norman

reviews by Andrew Norman, Casey Welsch, Hilary Stohs-Krause, Jordan Minnick and Michael Todd | photos by Angie Norman, Michael Todd and Natalia Kraviec

Friday night of Lincoln Calling 2012 ended with a mosh pit that even I, Michael Todd, in my collared shirt and cardigan, felt compelled to join. While I'm told I wasn't built for moshing — as evidenced by my fallen glasses and the gouge across the lens they permanently display — this bit of personal decisionmaking shows in some small part the climax of a long night of great music.

We've once again compiled reviews, photos and Instagrams tagged with #lincolncalling to let you vicariously relive or experience anew day four of this year's festival. Stay tuned on Wednesday for more coverage:


Mildred Bonk, Talking Mountain, The Betties, Kill County, Stonebelly, Dirty Fur, Manny Coon and the Spotlight Killers, The Kickback, Vibenhai, Feeder/Gainer and Gallows Majesty at The Spigot, Lil’ Slim, Masses, Freakabout, Black Cohosh, DEERPEOPLE, Amy Schmidt, Midland Trio, Universe Contest, #lincolncalling on Instagram

Mildred Bonk

review by Michael Todd

Two-thirds or perhaps three-fourths of Mildred Bonk have speedily delivered countless cups of coffee to me at the Coffee House in Lincoln. I'm not sure they know me by name, and names are about as far as I've gotten in the employee/customer relationships I have had trouble developing into anything more than an order and a thank you.

I say two-thirds or perhaps three-fourths of Mildred Bonk because by the time I arrived halfway through their set of improvisational sonic noise rock, a third CoHo barista was sitting outside the Black Market. Only once did he swoop in to the mic many minutes into a song, only to stand for a couple seconds then head back outside while making the "shooting myself in the head" gesture with his left hand.

A good deal of my first impression of a band is determined by whether they seem true to their convictions. If not, the review might read, "They stood stiffly on stage," which a band might respond to by nodding their heads a little more at the next show. Thing is, losing oneself in the music to move a bit isn't anything that can necessarily be taught. It just happens.

Mildred Bonk turns in on itself, with its two guitarists always facing the drummer, playing for God knows how long in what look like shoddy, medieval costumes of black fake leather and chainmail. Not one but two recorders are set up at their feet and closer to the crowd. From what it looks like on a cursory level, this band cares about its music, but it doesn't care about what anyone else thinks. And that's something to commend.

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Talking Mountain

review by Michael Todd | photo by Shelby Wolfe, Daily Nebraskan

I received an email on Thursday, Oct. 11 at 7:53 p.m., after Guilty is the Bear ended their set. Jason Meyer of Talking Mountain had written in with a question about a noise/volume limit at the Black Market, where I had just opened my laptop next to a rack of clothes: "I only ask because Talking Mountain is playing there tomorrow and bringing an enormous, loud sound system," Meyer said.

A short walk to the register later, and his question was answered. No, as the store's manager and the owner of the coffee shop next door confirmed, Meyer could bring whatever he could fit into his automobile. What Meyer didn't bring on Friday, though, was the infrastructure needed to keep his multitude of lights and electronics running without killing the power not once, but twice. It's a shame, too, because the music that did make it out of his speakers led me to experience a few surges of goosebumps.

Meyer writes songs that complement his bright colors, lasers you shouldn't stare into and smoke you shouldn't breathe in. They boast bouncy vocal melodies and intricately composed instrumentals. His banter in between songs and while his crew flipped the breakers back on was wonderful, too. He said, "Danger is my maiden name," at one point, and at another, when asked if a song was about dancing on pogo sticks, he replied, "Used to be."

Like many members of the Nebraska music community, Meyer exercises his creativity because he has to, and it overflows into smile-worthy shows. Only thing: I hope next time I see Talking Mountain live it's at an actual venue.

photos by Shelby Wolfe, Daily Nebraskan

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The Betties

review by Jordan Minnick | photo by Andrew Dickinson, Daily Nebraskan

Friday night’s shows at Duffy’s began with Lincoln’s own Betties, or as frontwoman Heather Berney phrased, “We’re The Betties and we’re kicking this shit off.”  Before you knew it, the five-piece country strings had the gaping hole around the stage filled with interested toe-tappers.

Berney, along with violinist Jordan Ellis, were outfitted to the T, each with little-black-dress and heels. The girls looked ready for martinis, but played enough twang to send to send the cows home.

Songs like “Wreckless Abandon,” which we were all pleased to find had the origins of getting too drunk at Duffys, and a Johnny Cash cover of “Jambalaya” sauced up the crowd for whatever was to come. (With a peculiar dinosaur head propped up behind them on stage, it was hard to tell.)  For Berney, that was getting drunk-er for Universe Contest at the end of the night.

But forget the best shows being at the end. The Betties proved themselves the Lincoln staple they’ve become, bringing in the crowd early for their 8 p.m. show.

photo by Natalia Kraviec

photo by Andrew Dickinson, Daily Nebraskan

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Kill County

review by Jordan Minnick | photo by Angie Norman

If you didn’t grab your spot for Kill County while the band was setting up, you were probably out of luck and left to listen near the bar. For the 30-plus people doing just that, there was contentment in conversing with friends to awesome, country-folk five-piece.

Me being one of those folks, I started to notice something. For bar shows like this at Lincoln Calling, the crowd showed up for music, but stuck around for much more than that. Conversation. Community. That’s why they stayed, talked, listened and bought more drinks.

Like a campfire, the music was something for everyone to gather around. For Kill County, the overwhelming kindling of the Lincoln community was just what they needed before heading to Chicago to kick-off their week-long tour.

photo by Angie Norman

photos by Daniel Holtmeyer, Daily Nebraskan

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review and photo by Bailey Foss

As I walked into the Alley last night, I was welcomed by an inviting aroma of incense burning on the stage. Stonebelly, a rock 'n' roll guitar, bass, and drums trio did a great job at kicking things off for the evening. Their combination of rock, jazz, and blues mixed with heavy progressive drumming, and powerful vocals, was an interesting combination that I really enjoyed.

This was my first time seeing this band, even though I had heard great things from fellow music lovers about this power trio. They even had me up and dancing, which is rare for a show at the very beginning of the night. Although they played first, they had a good crowd of friends and fans there and ready for the show promptly at 9:30. Stonebelly provided an enjoyable sound for a variety of listeners and I am excited to check these guys out again sometime soon.

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Dirty Fur

photo by Michael Todd

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Manny Coon and the Spotlight Killers

review by Andrew Norman | photo by Angie Norman

I've been watching Manny Coon (Elliott Wegner) on local stages for the last three years, and I've always loved his songwriting. He pens dark, sweet folk songs filled with sharp imagery. They're emotional without being emotive. That is, the emotion they convey isn't forced — it comes from shared experience with his characters. Typically, he's accompanied by a glass of whiskey neat and a pack of cigarettes that sit on a stool beside him. It's the kind of music that's perfect for a late Sunday night by a fire. It's reflective and maybe even a little sleepy (not to be confused with tired).

But Wegner upgraded his accompaniment Friday at the Zoo Bar, adding three friends and fellow folk musicians to the stage in the form of Pat Bradley (Shipbuilding Co., Pablo's Triangle) on acoustic guitar, Terry McGinn (Bol'd Crow, The Amalgamators) on the fiddle and Jon Dell (Universe Contest, Bonehart Flannigan) on standup bass. These excellent musicians gave Wegner's songs (including a couple new ones) a new energy, and a more filled-out sound — and the trio appeared genuinely thrilled to be a part of them. 

If the strength and sharpness of Wegner's trademark "yips" — into which he whips the end of his vocal lines — were of any indication, the singer-songwriter felt a new energy himself. 

photo by Angie Norman

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The Kickback

review by Jordan Minnick | photo by Daniel Holtmeyer, Daily Nebraskan

The sing-song rock of Chicago’s The Kickback was just about what the doctor ordered after heartfelt country. Because by then, the crowd was drunk enough to be bursting to the likes of guys sounding off girlish screams for the brothers Yost-SoDak act. 

Ready to rock in loafers and collared shirts, frontman Billy Yost gave out some brotherly recognition to Danny on drums. “He’s sicker than a Goddamn dog, give it up.” While Billy said he also felt like shit for playing such recognizable songs to the friendly crowd, the band rolled out a new tune of epic proportions. Guitar riff-age climbed from a low pulsing to a head-banging soundtrack.

With the promise to be back in three weeks with a totally different set, frontbrother Yost gave a good ol’ toss to the guitar which collided with ceiling light. After a hop, skip and launch off amp came a, “I’m sorry, that was stupid.” No, it wasn't, Billy. It was rock.

photo by Angie Norman

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review and photo by Bailey Foss

Vibenhai was the third band of the evening at the Alley. This reggae rock band had the whole dance floor filled with roots-loving fans, singing along with their songs from the very first moment of their show. They provide a style of music heavily influenced by Sublime, Slightly Stoopid, Bob Marley and UB40.

Lead vocalist and guitarist, Ro Hempel, has a beautiful voice that fits this style of music perfectly. Along with a guitar, bass and drums, Vibenhai had a percussion and horn section that adds a great element to the band. Vibenhai definitely provides feel-good music to their listeners, which was almost impossible not to dance to.

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Feeder/Gainer and Gallows Majesty at The Spigot

review by Andrew Norman | photos by Angie Norman

Because it's a full block and a half away from my comfortable 14th and O home base, I hadn't been into this bar for years, since back when it was a smoke den. It makes for an excellent rock venue, with its dim-lit, front-room bar and comfortable seating making way for a large space in the back that houses a good-sized stage and a decent sound system (it even has a raised sound booth that doesn't obstruct the audience). 

I realized as much Friday night when I made the trek to catch some of the punk/hardcore Lincoln Calling showcase booked over two nights by Dustin "Duff" Hunke (who's now handling promotion for The Bourbon, by the way). Hunke put together two solid nights of shows that exposed a genre of music that's both near and dear to my heart and that was otherwise completely absent from the festival. 

The first band I saw was Feeder/Gainer, a Lincoln hardcore-metal band with a competent, punk-picking bassist, a hair-whipping guitar shredder and a ridiculously fast drummer who is as good as any I've seen in the area. To me, he was the highlight, expertly and aggressively smashing his sticks into every piece of his set as he shared intelligible guttural vocals with his cohorts.

A classic hardcore band from Lincoln, Gallows Majesty followed, engaging the crowd with speedy guitars, a little smoke and a grab bag of song choices that they left to the audience to determine. I have no idea what he was singing about, but the frontman was fun to watch as he moved across the stage shouting intensely into a mic that had been clearly smashed on its nose. At one point, he pulled out a noose, into which one of the two black men in the room, unprompted, stuck his neck. I'm not sure what sociopolitical message it was aimed to send, but it was entertaining. And after four days of light, poppy indie and roots-music bands, I needed this.

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Lil’ Slim

photo by Michael Todd

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review by Jordan Minnick | photo by Kevin Moser, Daily Nebraskan

“We’re going to play some real loud fucking shit for you,” announced bassist Jon Augustine before the Masses four-piece began their first show in four months. After standing by a speaker for the set, I can attest that he was right. 

Once drunken audience requests like, “Play the hits!” had subsided, the band started off the set with maracas and some kind of organ interlude that sounded like Animal Collective in a blender. If you didn’t know, the instrumental/experimental, hard-rock band breaks all the rules. 

With each guitarist playing their own integral parts, it’s hard to choose one musician to watch. They play their instruments like battle axes, and it felt as if they were coming at us like Jaws. Masses should soundtrack a horror film.

photo by Angie Norman

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review and photo by Bailey Foss

Energetic, four-piece rock band Freakabout the second band to take the Alley stage. Their aggressive rock riffs and enchanting female vocals kept bodies moving, as the dance floor filled during the set. Vocalist Cortney Kirby said the combination of their music, the energy in the audience, and the crazy lights on stage were going to cause her to “have a heart attack.” She was OK with that.

Kirby, along with guitarist Aaron Galvan, bassist Alex Drvol and drummer Zach Zoellner, had amazing stage presence and really kept the audience captivated.

Be on the lookout for Freakabout’s new EP within the next few weeks titled Carousels, Cassettes, and Candy Cigarettes.

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Black Cohosh

photo by Michael Todd

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review by Jordan Minnick | photo by Andrew Dickinson, Daily Nebraskan

The six musicians that make up Stillwater, Okla., band DEERPEOPLE seem as if they'd be shy, keep-to-themselves stage performers. They're not. They ceaselessly threw confetti during their Duffy's set, and were the only band I saw to actually crowd surf.

Maybe I was fooled by the female vocalist’s sweet, French-piano-maid music and flute accompaniment. I could picture these songs being played as two young lovers laugh and drive around their compact, European car. I couldn’t help but to daydream and smile.

Their groovy-fun, poppy music reflects the band's very demeanor. They transformed the floor at Duffy’s into a blithe, flower-child party. And as assured by the band, if you keep listening, they’ll keep coming back.

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Amy Schmidt

review by Hilary Stohs-Krause | photo by Michael Todd

I ducked into Yia Yia’s to watch a bit of Amy Schmidt’s set in-between Masses at Duffy’s and Black Cohosh at the Zoo. She doesn’t play very often in Lincoln anymore, so despite the overlapping set times, I made it a priority to catch at least a few songs. 

It was the first time I’d seen Yia Yia’s newly built stage, and it was a big improvement — but the fact remains that even at 11 p.m. during a music festival, it’s still a pizzeria. Schmidt’s performance was punctuated by announcements of “Gray, your pizza’s ready,” and she began her set by asking those more interested in conversation than music to take their talk away from the stage.

She started with a solo version of a song I didn’t recognize before bringing her band on stage (including a fill-in bassist who apparently learned the songs mere hours before) and launching into older tracks “Fireworks in the House” and “Prophecy.” The last song I heard before sneaking out to catch Masses was “Glass Jars” from last summer’s EP. 

In the past, I’ve preferred Schmidt’s live act solo, but this time around I was digging the full band. At the same time, it wasn’t the best location for her — she seemed a little irritated by the noise and meager crowd, as evidenced by her opening comment, and rightfully so. I don’t know what would make Yia Yia’s work better as a Lincoln Calling venue, but Schmidt’s placement and/or set time didn’t resonate with festivalgoers, which is a real shame — she’s heading out another European tour, so it’ll be a while before there’s another chance to see her live.

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Midland Trio

review and photo by Bailey Foss

The energy at the Alley continued throughout the evening, with Midland Trio taking the stage to close it out. They were missing one of their members, but guitarist Tom Adelman, bassist Scott Henggeler and drummer Butch Owens got a little funkier than usual to make up for it, and the audience seemed to love it.

This experimental, progressive-rock group kept the dance floor packed and the people grooving with an encore that lasted up until the very last minute when the clock struck 2. Accompanied by some incredible lights run by Craig Mustard, The Midland Trio was a great way to close out an evening of fun local music at the Alley.

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Universe Contest

review by Casey Welsch | photo by Andrew Dickinson, Daily Nebraskan

The universe hasn’t decided whether or not it wants to rain on Lincoln Calling. It spits and stops and seems to make up its mind to keep downtown dropless but humid. It’s not so bad, though. Sound travels faster in humid air.

I had heard plenty of wild rumors about what was going to happen at the Universe Contest show. They were circulating all week. There was supposed to be pyrotechnics, strippers, free drugs, experimental theatre, and I’m pretty sure they were supposed to literally burn Duffy’s to the ground. None of that happened.

Something far more awesome did.

The quintet of guitarists/vocalists Tim Carr and Joe Humpal, drummer Brenton Neville, bassist Jon Dell and keyboardist John Freidel donned their halloween costumes early, called all their friends and put on what I’m calling the best rock ‘n’ roll show Lincoln has hosted in five years. Yeah, I said it. Where to begin?

photo by Angie Norman

First of all, holy Moses that show was good. Second, where the hell did Universe Contest come from? Every member of that band has been in bands before: good ones like Gooses, Mucho Güt, Big Gigantic, Green Trees, Powerful Science, etc. One of them’s a goddamned folk singer for Satan’s sake, and he showed up in nothing but a cheetah thong and chaps. All of these bands and artists were good, but not this good. They weren’t this clean while still sounding dirty. They weren’t this put together while looking like a mess. They weren’t this intelligent and savvy while still acting like fools. Yet Universe Contest makes it seem so easy.

As for the music, if you haven’t heard it yet, hear it

Their show was that music, plus some incredible new songs, played with well more volume and passion than the small, dank stage at Duffy’s really merited. And that’s not a jab at Duffy’s. Universe Contest just made the small room look microscopic in comparison. They were every sound in a crowded bar. Every sight. Every smell as well — that room reeked. But the room had more than just a tinman, a caveman, Santa and a couple of interstate hookers in it. It had Lincoln in it.

I can’t recall it ever being that hard to get to the front of the stage at Duffy’s. That’s usually the most vacant spot in the house, but people were literally clawing and punching to get closer to this band. This local band. This Lincoln band. And I can’t recall ever seeing that for any band Lincoln has spawned in the last five years. And a capacity crowd came to participate in it. As many Lincolnites as could see it, saw it. And as many who saw it, loved it — blood, bruises and all.

Universe Contest is the sum total of everything the Lincoln music scene has to offer. They draw a crowd like no other band in town, and unlike some of the other big Lincoln acts, people actually participate. We sing along, we dance, we flirt and fight and fuck and smile to this music, because it’s not only catchy and anthemic and loud, but it speaks to us. And it is ours. It is Lincoln’s, and hopefully soon, it can belong to the world.

photo by Natalia Kraviec

Something special happened at Duffy’s on Friday. Universe Contest rocked, and all of Lincoln rocked with them. To all who were there, you did great, and I am honored to have been among your ranks. To all who weren’t, fret not. They’re having far too much fun to stop now. They love to play and they’re going everywhere but away. 

Oh, and would you look at that? They even made it rain.

photo by Natalia Kraviec

photo by Andrew Dickinson, Daily Nebraskan

photo by Angie Norman

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#lincolncalling on Instagram

photos from Friday through Sunday in reverse order

Michael Todd is Hear Nebraska's managing editor. Andrew Norman is HN's co-founder, director and editor. Angie Norman is HN's co-founder. Natalia Kraviec is an HN intern. Bailey Foss, Casey Welsch, Hilary Stohs-Krause and Jordan Minnick are HN contributors. Together, they make up eight-fifteenths of our Lincoln Calling coverage crew. Reach us all through Michael at