Lincoln Exposed 2014 | Night One

photo by Cameron Bruegger



reviews by Chance Solem-Pfeifer, Jacob Zlomke, Michael Todd and Sean Holohan | photos by Cameron Bruegger and Michael Todd

"The triangle," we've sometimes called the three-pointed bit of Lincoln geometry that is The Bourbon, The Zoo Bar and Duffy's Tavern if you imagine all the other buildings erased.

Take a right at the corner of 14th and O Streets to take in the madness of St. Christopher opening up The Zoo Bar. When you're coming back, turn left at the same corner to see Bogusman's three vocalists lunge forward at the standing crowd. Hop over O Street, plow-made snowbanks to see Domestica in their raw enthusiasm, undiminished as ever by the years.

On Wednesday, the inaugural night of the ninth annual Lincoln Exposed music festival, the three venues each hosted slates of all-Lincoln performers. From 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., the three downtown venues staged 16 acts. Find photos and reviews of the performances (with the reviews organized by "most emblematic song") below. And stick with Hear Nebraska all through this week and the weekend for comprehensive coverage for Lincoln Exposed.


The Allendales
Dude Won't Die
Dear Herman
Answer Me
The Jazzocracy
St. Christopher
The In-Betweens
What Is Jazz?
Orion Walsh
Thirst Things First
Producers of the Word
North of Neptune
Pat Nichols Band


The Allendales at Duffy's Tavern

review by Chance Solem-Pfeifer | photos by Cameron Bruegger

When The Allendales returned to performing this winter, nearly a year after they played a planned farewell show at Lincoln Exposed 2013, it was with a commitment for split-frontmen Shaun Sparks and Ken Morton to work and write together.

Enter “Double Wide,” a country-hinted rock ‘n’ roll song about a double-wide trailer and a man who doesn’t want his baby to grow up inside one. It’s a song that speaks well on behalf of both the happy failure themes and the beneficial salt-and-pepper relationship between Morton and Sparks, who played together in Shaun Sparks and the Wounded Animals before that group disbanded two years ago. While Morton drawled, Sparks shrieked. While Morton chorded on guitar, Sparks soloed. The dynamic works with Sparks playing something of the fly in the ointment in his own band.

If Zoo Bar-ness is a quality Lincolnites can identify in a band, The Allendales shoulder it confidently: that casserole of aged rock, blues, country and an inkling of a (commonly unfulfilled) hope that someone will come swing dance in front of the stage. Transposed into Duffy’s Tavern as the first band of Lincoln Exposed 2014, The Allendales retained their personality, but at a tough timeslot, where the crowd was mostly press. (We’re stingy with our dancing, sorry.)

If “Lincoln’s premier semi-relevant bar band” sticks around for good this time, it would seem to be because the Sparks/Morton partnership is so give-and-take.

Early in the set, Morton mumbled that it serves The Allendales well to write together.

Sparks responded: “Aww, you just like the mescaline.”

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Dude Won't Die at The Bourbon

review by Sean Holohan | photos by Michael Todd

The Bourbon kicked off its inaugural night of shows for Lincoln Exposed 2014 Wednesday with Lincoln rock ‘n’ roll band Dude Won’t Die. And if the music fans in attendance weren’t quite ready to begin rocking, singer Geoff Ramsey made sure to alert the crowd of his band’s presence matter-of-factly:

“OK, we’re gonna play now.”

Although the usual awkward “the show just started, and the bands might bite my hand off” bubble of space between the crowd and the stage existed, those sitting in chairs in front of the stage nodded heads and tapped their feet to the lighthearted, peppy beat of the band’s music.

One of the band’s tunes, “Amour Fou,” coaxed music fans and bartenders alike to bob and dance. “And if you want to, you know I’d pay for you, max out my credit cards,” Ramsey sang into his retro-looking ribbon mic. He says the song is French for “crazy love” and is about just that — love.

“The song is literally about love and all of the crazy things that people — myself included — will do for it,” he said.

With their quirky, self-effacing one-liners strewn throughout the set and faux-hardcore breakdowns with choreographed jumping during a song, the band not only provided quality music, but quality humor. Even if you don’t like the band, you’re sure to at least have a few laugh from the witty Ramsey. The band captivated and entertained all the way down to the last note.

By the end of the band’s set, more concertgoers had strolled in to check out what was going on. And what had been a few dainty claps at the beginning of the band’s set ended with a hearty roar when the band hit their last note.

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Dear Herman at Duffy's Tavern

review and photos by Michael Todd

There’s a steely, confident look to Crystal Davy when she sings the story of Gad Harvey, the “old man with a grudge” in Dear Herman’s near-living-and-breathing universe of a small community in California, circa 1962: the world that lives on the band’s newborn album, Sincerely, Dorothy. Davy strums her guitar a bit more fervidly. Sister Melissa Taylor and third vocalist Gina Seebohm — ruffling her pages of lyrics, a veritable novella, in her hands — join in the chorus: “Evangeline, Evangeline / Oh my long lost grace, Evangeline.”

The melodica from far stage right seems to represent Gad’s boat on the water, resting on the waves, rising and falling as the coward hollers inside. A cajon offers a steady bass beat, and auxiliary percussion help to create the setting of a wharf, where this, Dear Herman’s third song at Duffy’s Tavern, takes yet another form.

After coming to a full and proper life at The Haymarket Theatre in mid-January — replete with a cast — this story of a dying Dorothy Mains writing letters to her daughter-in-law has drawn a loving crowd, eager to listen attentively and spend more time with some of Nebraska music’s most genuine set of characters.

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Answer Me at The Bourbon

review and photos by Michael Todd

Songs can be born in the most unlikely of places. For Jesse Elsener, guitarist and vocalist for Answer Me, the kitchen of Lincoln’s Cornhusker hotel offered everything he needed to write “Max and Otto,” the three-piece’s final song of their set at The Bourbon.

Elsener worked as a cook at the hotel with two dishwashers, Max and Otto Meza, who he decided to venerate in song as mythical superheroes. The straight-ahead, four-chord classic rock follows the Mezas traveling the world, kicking ass and confirming that, yes, they will be “the last motherfuckers alive.”

Rounded out by bassist Jerad Holbrooklyn and drummer Ash Sharp, Elsener says he’s played the song since 2007, and with Sharp’s harmonies closely in step with his lead, “Max and Otto” could just as easily be the theme song for the next satirical comedy by Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Singing their lungs out, Answer Me encouraged two rounds of applause, for each of the song’s beat-it-to-the-ground two endings, the final one following an extended breakdown. Because why wouldn’t the two mythical superheroes deserve two fist-clenching, powerful closings?

The Jazzocracy at Duffy's Tavern

review by Chance Solem-Pfeifer | photos by Cameron Bruegger

If you’ve explored Lincoln in the last five years, odds are you’ve probably come across The Jazzocracy at least once. On Tuesday nights at The Zoo Bar. In the basement of Brewsky’s Sports Bar in the Haymarket. At a jazz jam at Meadowlark Coffee.

And in that time, you might have seen a few different versions of the band, with a lineup that changes dramatically seemingly based on good working relationships with a dozen talented Lincoln jazz players and also a steadier dose of gigs than the same 4-8 people can probably handle. Tommy Van Den Berg will be there — tall and reserved like his instrument — almost without fail, but the rest of the lineup has a large hand in swinging their sound.

Wednesday at Duffy’s Tavern with Eric Reimnitz on electric guitar, Kekeli Dawes on drums and Randy Snyder on bass, the possibilities were somewhat louder and more rhythm-section-heavy. The opening song landed more like Booker T. & the MGs than Bill Evans, with Reimnitz's guitar asking for greater volume from all the players around him and Van Den Berg blowing nearly to bursting, with cheeks a ripe scarlet under the lights.

Their second song, “Isn’t She Ugly?,” is an original composition by the guitarist Reimnitz, save the opening chord progression, which very closely resembles the 1976 Stevie Wonder hit from which the song’s name is derived. During his song, Reimnitz’s guitar was delicate and malleable enough that without sight, you might have thought there was electric piano somewhere in the band. While it ended with a horn partnership between Van Den Berg and saxophonist Brian Morrow, the song was mostly dominated by solos.

So for 90 percent of the set, while the soloists trade the limelight, it was actually the drummer Dawes who ruled the day, playing the entire time and enhancing every long slur of notes and impressive bit of fingerwork by being both present and absent at precise moments. For a second, he would disappear into just cymbal taps and then double-pump across the entire kit long enough to grab the audience, eventually renewing focus on the soloist. 

In The Jazzocracy, the musicality is so thorough, so omnipresent that the connections to other genres (rock and funk, mostly) don't rise up as nominations for genre-blending so much as they exist in the bends and curves of the instruments, in the performer’s whim. It’s the nature of the beast, the nature of the spirit. 

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Domestica at The Bourbon

review and photos by Michael Todd

I doubt Pawl Tisdale lost even one tenth of a second between the moment a drumstick flew out of his hand, spinning end over end, and the next moment when he held a replacement with which he’d twhap the living hell out of his kit. That moment helps to define Domestica, Lincoln’s most well-oiled rock machine: This is a band that wants to combust, to lose a screw and see a slab of their metal-backed armament bend on its hinges, but it’s also a band that will be at the ready with a power drill to put it all back together at the last possible instant.

Led by the husband-and-wife partnership of Jon Taylor (guitar) and Heidi Ore (bass), this evolution of longtime Nebraska mainstay Mercy Rule has found its surest footing on top of the manic, fiery hands of Tisdale. Song of the set for me was “My Bones,” which found Ore singing verses a bit more staccato, packing more emotion into smaller spaces. It gave our ears a bit of air just before anthemic choruses, and Tisdale smacked short fills in between verse lines.

With Taylor’s guitar slung low and resting on his knee, Domestica’s music seeks to fill the darkest corners of downtown Lincoln, to bounce from building to building and to send a heart’s beats-per-minute into the upper 120s. Just one request: Beat mine to a pulp again please.

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St. Christopher at The Zoo Bar

review by Chance Solem-Pfeifer | photos by Cameron Bruegger

Turns out someone whose entire onstage mystique is being a hellbound revolutionary poet isn’t afraid to act out.

Just the title of “Revolution, Motherfucker” tells you everything you need to know about the mission of St. Christopher songs and its main distribution tool. Guitarist and singer Chris Webster makes furious country-metal music about the failure of the healthcare and educational systems, about the pirating of art into a commodity and about the failure of the American people to stop it from happening. But just in case we wouldn't listen to that (which is, of course, one of the causes of those problems), he startles us into attention by dressing like a flamboyant Americana prophet (in hip length leather coat, tinted sunglasses, with twirled mustache and eyeliner) and yelling sheer, gripping profanity.

“Revolution … motherfucker.”

“Revolution …motherfucker.”

“Revolution … motherfucker.” And so on.

The audacity is funny, granted. I don’t think Webster has any problem with crowd chuckling a little at the vulgar and brash overstatements that define his stage presence: the chest pounding and the now-famous onstage spitting (though Wednesday night it was more saliva sniper fire than shotgun blasts over the crowd).

But the hellfire music, the prophetic rapping, the earnest claims that in the face of societal crumble “nights like tonight are all we have left” are ensnaring. Add guest performances by Josh Hoyer on baritone sax (who played low and long, like the creeping truck horn of a serial murdering semi driver) and bluegrass-metal fiddling by Sam Packard, and the saint made for the most thorough, spectacular performance of the young Lincoln Exposed.

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The In-Betweens at Duffy's Tavern

review by Sean Holohan | photos by Cameron Bruegger

Duffy’s fourth band of the night, The In-Betweens, seemed like they should be opening for Johnny Cash — like a band transplanted into Lincoln straight from '60s-era Nashville.

With a ukulele, accordion and lap saw joined with drums and bass, the Lincoln folk and country band took a step out of the ordinary and gave everyone in the crowd something fresh.

The band opened the set with the song “Batten Down the Hatches.” Singer and ukulele player Kristin Bailey sang over an accordion and lightly played drums, “Batten down the hatches, cause here it comes.”

She says the song is about a time when she felt like her life was being turned upside down.

“I wrote it just as my world was about to fall apart for the next six months,” she says. “Winter, anxiety and a new job. It was warning me to watch it because the ship will come down hard but you will get through it.”

Volume-wise, this was the first band of the night I could listen to without earplugs — and that was a good thing. Bailey’s voice was angelic. It was reminiscent of a June Carter or Patsy Cline and the instruments took me southward. You don’t see a lap saw at a local show every day.

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What Is Jazz? at The Bourbon

review and photos by Michael Todd

Following Domestica’s no-frills launching through a set of righteous rock, Aaron Stroessner led his band What Is Jazz? with a shape-shifting guitar and hand gestures that directed players from section to section.

The ensemble’s third piece, “Mayday,” required musicians to play inside each chord, then clean the tonal slate and play inside the next, commonly unrelated chord. It would shift half-steps up and down, and Stroessner would strike a note then slither up a fret, strike a note then slither back down. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln musical arts doctoral candidate skillfully opened and closed his volume pedal, intimating vibrato and sounding as if the hot wind were grabbing his notes and throwing them elsewhere.

Taking the first solo, trombonist Tommy Van Den Berg similarly swooped into notes, employing a handful of glissandos. To start, he traipsed toward the upper register, playing with a fits-and-starts rhythm, but would trickle down to sixth position on his instrument, right arm outstretched as Josh Hoyer’s organ swelled and fell away beneath him. Joined in the rhythm section by upright bassist Jeff Utter, percussionist Kekeli Dawes’s ride cymbal sizzled as his well-timed snaps of punctuation dynamically undergirded the group.

Stroessner took the second solo and signaled his modern-harmony song to flip to a B section that toyed with a more traditional chord structure, one with more common tones among the changes, and didn’t make a full return to the opening. And although Russell Zimmer on trumpet and Mike Dee on saxophone were more structural elements of this song, both laid out precise solos when it was their turn in other tunes. With seven players artfully pushing and pulling the wavy tendrils of the piece to a more resolved ending, “Mayday” was a microcosm for a diverse set of compositions that challenged and rewarded listeners at The Bourbon.

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Orion Walsh at The Zoo Bar

review by Jacob Zlomke | photos by Cameron Bruegger

Orion Walsh likes to play for the crowd so much so that midway through his Lincoln Exposed set at the Zoo Bar, he candidly asked the small but growing crowd: “Do you want to hear a fast one or a slow one?”

There was only one voice from the audience, among seated patrons mostly concerned with their phones, beer and friends. The one voice wanted a fast one, so that’s what Walsh gave. He swiftly dove into “Cold Shoulder Slip Off,” a blues romp off his recent album The Tale of a Broken Compass.

The chugging guitar is a familiar enough rhythm and the scorned lover-lyrics a classic enough theme that, combined with Walsh’s unwavering vocals, it wasn’t long before the attention in the room was all for him.

It’s in his favor that the song allows for some lyrical improvisation. Where on the album he sings “Asked her out to my show…she said hell no,” this time around the girl gave a lengthy and avoidant answer about how she was more interested in spending time with her smartphone than with Walsh.

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Thirst Things First at Duffy's Tavern

review by Sean Holohan | photos by Cameron Bruegger

If the band’s soundcheck was any indication, Lincoln’s Thirst Things First is an experience to say the least. Singer and guitarist Mikey Elfers, also known by his stage character Boot, stood and checked his guitar while a video of a cat eating pizza accompanied by 8-bit music looped for about a minute.

That was just the beginning.

The band opened with a song called “Down Low,” which Elfers was ambiguous in explaining:

“The song is about The Jersey Shore and keeping secrets.”

The band continued through a variety of other songs with odd backstories, such as when Elfers explained the next song was about his dead neighbor.

The band’s sound can be described best as an '80s version of an experimental pop/punk band. Their songs feature fast drums with distorted, chugging power chords over keyboards and 8-bit beeps and tones. With a video of Boot dancing and chugging milk (among other bizarre activities) playing throughout the set, Thirst Things First are off-the-wall but really, really fun.   

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Producers of the Word at The Bourbon

review by Jacob Zlomke | photos by Michael Todd

There’s something strange about the stage presence of Producers of the Word. You wonder what kind of music the foursome will produce, with drummer Eric Harris dressed in orange pants, bright paisley shirts and wide retro tie, bassist John Bewley in what looked like flannel cargo pants, keyboardist Jeramie Beahm in an unassuming T-shirt, and frontman/guitarist Chanty Stovall, tall, thin and in bell-bottomed sweatpants.

At The Bourbon on Wednesday night, the four looked nothing like they’d be in a band together. But nonetheless they offered a surprisingly united front, particularly on their second track, “Nightwing.”

While their set played among a range of influences from straight blues to pop punk, “Nightwing” found them at perhaps their most comfortable: something like a refined surf-rock, reminiscent of early Shonen Knife albums. With its the poppy melodies and harmonic “oh-ohs,” it’s the understated guitar solos and warbly synthesizer, honed at Lincoln house shows, that elevates the track to more than an homage to sunny southern California.

It’s very much Producers of the Word. And like seemingly each of the band’s songs, “Nightwing” ends less like a conclusion, and more like a rug being suddenly pulled from beneath the listener’s feet, that is to say: abruptly and unexpectedly.

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North of Neptune at The Zoo Bar

review by Chance Solem-Pfeifer | photos by Michael Todd

Opening a set with three covers goes against the grain of the "artist’s artist" feel of Lincoln Exposed. But with only a self-made EP to their name so far, the Lincoln pop/rock quartet North of Neptune, probably sought sure legs to stand on at their first February festival.

When they did make it to their originals, “Belly Ache” best synthesized the musical elements that were piecemeal in their rendition of Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” In the bouncy, rock-reggae song, singer Jason Sitzman ascended into a falsetto in the chorus and lead guitarist Jared Headrick’s spacey pedal filter contradicted and then enhanced the permanent syncopated rhythms of the tune.

North of Neptune has range, as was evidenced in their follow-up, a dark Southwestern suite called “Mexican Jumping Bean.” This genre play went down easiest when it seemed to rise up out of the earth of North of Neptune songs. At the end of “Belly Ache,” Sitzman’s falsetto turned to a scream and Headrick’s guitar came down from the Milky Way for a coda which expressed the pain of that stomach affliction.

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Bogusman at Duffy's Tavern

review by Jacob Zlomke | photos by Michael Todd

When Bogusman worked its way into their second-to-last song on Wednesday night as the final band at Duffy’s Tavern, bassist/vocalist Andy Pederson jokingly asked guitarist Nathan Luginbill to share the song’s title. He declined, apparently with a taste for expediency, and rather than spit out the mouth full “The Breckenridge Broken Wreck Cribbage Sexual Society,” just began the song.

The set that began at 12:15 had gathered a small, attentive crowd, abandoning tables in favor of nearing the stage, and “Sexual Society” is just a raucous enough tune to build on that energy.

With vocal duties shared by Pederson, Luginbill and guitarist Lee Lohrberg, the quartet is at their most powerful when the three shout/sing in unison, as on “Sexual Society,” over Black Sabbath-inspired instrumental work.

They’ve got enough taste for moderation, though, and “Sexual Society” leaves about half of the vocal work to just Luginbill. Still, it’s the trio that does the heavy-lifting. It’s exciting and powerful in a way that only shredding unison guitars playing deep chords over three guys screaming can be.

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Thundersandwich at The Bourbon

review and photos by Michael Todd

With “free drugs” (actually a smattering of four-track EPs) at their feet and the lights dimmed for effect, Thundersandwich offered a hearty meal of largely instrumental fare to close the night at The Bourbon. I counted more than 20 possible hit points for drummer Wayde Dickerson and — responding in kind to encouragement from the crowd for a solo — he proceeded to make use of every square inch of playable space.

And though the crowd itself might have numbered fewer than the pieces of that kit, those listening toward the front were devoted to giving their full attention, and a round of shots, to the band. Highlighting a skill for spinning from riff to riff, keyboard melodic line to line on a dime, the five-piece ended their set with a track called “Don’t Touch Me There,” which for anyone who walked in to catch just this last song would have encouraged a guess that everything was that sort of country music made on Mercury.

But no, the ingredients to this sandwich were a varied many, a big platter of musical styles that was a fitting end to a night that paid tribute to Lincoln's wide array of genres.

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Pat Nichols Band at The Zoo Bar

review by Chance Solem-Pfeifer | photos by Michael Todd

Patrick Nichols made sense last night.

If you’ve ever seen the Lincoln singer/songwriter perform solo with his 12-string guitar, it's both a perplexing mix of lyrical blues structure with a riff-driven 12-string and a little difficult to stay attuned. The music can be jammy and atmospheric with string harmonies and reverbs, while the lyrics repeat themselves to climax.

But in a blues-rock trio backed by Steven Callaghan (bass) and Fred Reddick (drums), the entire bag of tricks clicked into place. On electric guitar, Nichols’ fingers were just as nimble, just as mobile. In covering Dylan’s “Isis,” Nichols’ strums were clipped out front of a rhythm section with a discernable punkness to how rapidly, intensely and routinely the bass and drums crashed together. In Dylan’s lyrics, “So I cut off my hair and I rode straight away / for the wild unknown country where I could not go wrong,” you can find the free-wheeling spirit Nichols aims for in his own lyrical work, always leaving, always shattered, always about to set those emotions to razor riffs and yelps.

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Michael Todd is Hear Nebraska's managing editor, Chance Solem-Pfeifer is HN's staff writer, Cameron Bruegger is an HN multimedia intern, and Sean Holohan is HN's editorial intern. Reach them all through Michael at