Pegboards lined the walls of the Lucy’s Pub garage with hooks holding bike helmets, tools and other garage wares. Upper shelves held a small bike, several car tires and a few different types of motor oil. Carpet lay across the room covering a gray cement floor, on which several people danced, moshed and listened to bands. It was an atmosphere perhaps best fit for a sitcom dad working in his garage.
Second best? A DIY music festival.
The garage stage was one of many scenes from Lucy’s Pub during this weekend’s House Fest, a music festival that featured 30 bands from seven different states. Among these scenes Friday night and all day Saturday were a living room full of stacked amps and instruments, a back deck with conversing patrons and cigarette-breakers, an enclave of vans flowing in and out of a dirt-covered back lot and a second, low-ceiling basement stage, filled to capacity with eager showgoers for each set.
photos by Lauren Farris
Friday night began in the aforementioned garage with Omaha band Doom Lagoon. The six-piece jam outfit stood just beyond a string of colored lights which marked the front of the stage. Each song was a combination of funky jazz hooks and lively rhythms, each instrument taking turns to lead the song forward. After the band’s third song, frontman Steve Woodworth announced “I came home drunk Sunday and wrote that song!” The audience laughed immensely as the band began the next song.
Doom Lagoon | photo by Lauren Farris
If the garage had been built for a hardworking dad, then that “dad” was Lucy’s Pub resident David McInnis. Along with We’re Trying Records founder Jordan Hiebner, McInnis ran the two-day festival, doing sound for each band and playing two sets himself Saturday with Timecat and Idlefox. Both Hiebner and McInnis emphasized that the music, as opposed to any kind of wild party, was the central purpose for the festival.
“For this particular event, the all-ages [component] really defines the reason why people will be here,” said McInnis. “Whether they’re underage minors or adults, they’re going to be here for the music.”
Timecat | photo by Lauren Farris
It didn’t take a keen observer to see that the crowds were generally younger than those of a typically bar show. When asked about the all ages music scene in Nebraska, one patron expressed hopes for improvement.
“It’s a crazy bummer to go through Facebook and see an event, click on it, and find out it’s 21+,” said Josh, a 17 year old Lincoln resident who drove out to Omaha for House Fest.
A few other underage patrons said they were there to see young Ashland four-piece The Way Out perform a lively, eye-catching set. Opening with a fast-paced “The Ocean,” the band induced the weekend’s first mosh pit (several more would follow over the course of the festival). Throughout the set, the audience jumped around and sang along, right up through a dynamic rendition of “Nerves.” The song was laid back at first, soon erupting into a catchy chorus in which lead singer Mari Crisler repeated “Hey, it’s all for you. I’m all for you.”
The Way Out | photo by Lauren Farris
Omaha four-piece Uh Oh played next. The indie rock band’s set filled the room with a general peppiness, its sound warm and welcoming as it emanated about the room. Uh Oh closed out its set with an energetic “Try To Stay On My Side,” during which Crisler hopped up to the microphone for a duet with lead vocalist Joe Champion. The song was fast-paced and elicited group vocals from a small contingent of the crowd.
Uh Oh | photo by Lauren Farris
Saturday saw the opening of the basement stage to accommodate nearly twice as many bands. Set times were staggered among the two stages, leading to a handful of afternoon shows as well as another night full of music.
Wichita alternative band Kill Vargas went on early in the afternoon, playing a combination of punk, classic rock and indie with lead guitar that sounded like The Strokes. The band held nothing back as they jumped about beneath the garage stage’s fluorescent lights. Drummer Logan Bush was the band’s focal point for much of the set, gritting his teeth as he drummed furiously.
Kill Vargas | photo by Lauren Farris
After Kill Vargas’ set, the audience headed downstairs to the basement, almost as a single unit, to catch Salt Creek. It seemed like everyone’s heads were scraping the ceiling as they bobbed around in the basement. Salt Creek’s sound was wet with delay and reverb, harkening back to early emo and ‘90s alt rock. The set was almost seamless with organ-like guitar swells pulling the audience from song to song.
Salt Creek | photo by Lauren Farris
As fans walked throughout the house, there was much chatter about the different bands that were playing on Saturday. When I spoke to Hiebner mid-Saturday afternoon, he told me his label started out of a place of trying to prove himself and to give other bands a way to prove themselves.
“We wanted to shed a spotlight on those bands that we care about and that we enjoy, that just might need just a little bit of extra help,” said Hiebner “House Fest aligns with that because we’re giving bands a platform. It’s not a venue where you have to submit your music to rent out nights to throw a show.”
I Forgot to Love My Father’s set began with frontman JP Davis singing the first verse of “Country Boy’s Love Tune” from window high above the garage floor. Before long, he was running up through the crowd of people to join the rest of the band. The Lincoln party rock act had no problem proving itself in the garage as night fell. The band’s set touched on many different genres, from the emo sensibilities of “I Understand, I Can’t,” to the ironic country anthem “Country Boy’s Love Tune,” all the way to the soulful chaos of “I Could Give It A Shot” The band’s set was equally tender as it was engaging. It was almost as if Davis’ very presence would have inspired audience interaction. But if that wasn’t enough, Davis was constantly calling on the audience to dance and move with he and the rest of the band.
I Forgot To Love My Father | photo by Lauren Farris
As Saturday night came to a close, people lingered and talked throughout the house and on the deck. The first House Fest had been a memorable experience, where patrons forged new relationships and renewed old ones. In its charity mission, the festival raised $1275 for Planned Parenthood. For Hiebner, plans for the next one are on the horizon. For an event that achieved its aims and went off without a hitch, it won’t come soon enough.
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See more photos from House Fest below:
Walk By Sea
The pit during I Forgot To Love My Father