Zach Steele’s “Rosetta Starluck” wins Auburn GLT songwriting contest; REVIEW: ‘Torn Between Two Loves’ by Staffers; Video Premiere: Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal live in Brussels; BFF Femme Fest Lincoln, Hear Grand Island kicks off tonight

Zach Steele’s “Rosetta Starluck” wins Auburn GLT songwriting contest

by Andrew Stellmon

If it isn’t the bassline of Zach Steele’s “Rosetta Starluck” that jumps out at you first, it’s the song’s celestial title. It smacks of ‘80s glam and classic rock all at once, and before you know it, the Auburn High School student’s melody-matching, Geddy Lee-like inflection drives the point home. By the first imaginative bass solo, you forget he’s alone, zeroing into the heart of rhythmic repetition.

Steele’s entry won him the Auburn branch of the Good Living Tour songwriting contest. For his efforts, he’ll perform at the beginning of the southeast Nebraska town’s GLT concert on Saturday, June 10 and receive two tickets to Maha Music Festival.

The contest remains open to high school students who reside in the July and August Good Living Tour communities (Imperial, Red Cloud, McCook, Norfolk, Lyons and Hastings). Whether it’s just you and your instrument or a full band, this contest gives you a chance to show your talent. Enter by uploading a video to YouTube and filling out this survey. We’ll select each winner on the Friday two weeks before each concert. Questions? Email program manager Aaron Markley at

Watch “Rosetta Starluck” below:

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REVIEW: ‘Torn Between Two Loves’ by Staffers

By Sam Crisler

The idea of slackers making inspired music isn’t an altogether new one, but it’s not often when a slacker emerges from the bedroom studio with something more than a handful of half-finished lo-fi songs. Ryan McKeever, Washington, D.C. by way of Omaha mastermind of garage rock project Staffers, instead relays his bedroom reflection into a new full-length, Torn Between Two Loves (Unread Records/Propane Exchange), that displays McKeever’s knack for careful compositions and thoughtful songwriting without ever taking itself too seriously.  

Lyrically, with Torn Between Two Loves, McKeever takes the listener through the tumult of a break-up that leaves him searching for affection in the wrong places, struggling with his own identity and dabbling in drugs as a substitute for love. McKeever analyzes the end of the relationship from every angle, and the optimist might hope at some point he would make some sort of recovery. But Torn Between Two Loves ends up reading more like a nine-track diary entry than the script to a romantic comedy.

On closer “The Sound of You Laughing,” McKeever dives into his restlessness as he’s forced to face adult responsibilities. And at the end of the pensive “American Love Ballad,” as synth tones whine for a full minute, it’s easy to imagine McKeever at a basement show, starring at the floor in contemplation.

Where the record lacks a story arc, it’s offset by McKeever’s sharp instrumentation and song structuring, with nearly every track building from scratch to a wall of sound that collapses into a pile of feedback. Or in the case of “That’s Okay,” just a single E-note played repeatedly on an out-of-tune piano. Detuned guitars pop up throughout the record too, a tambourine is shaken inconsistently on “Gone Before Midnight” and an ear-piercing ride cymbal is berated at the end of “The Sound of You Laughing.”

But it’s clear these instrumental glitches don’t stem from a lack of attention to detail or resources. After all, the album was mixed by Ben Brodin after McKeever recorded the tracks at the Sweatshop and various basements and DIY spaces in Omaha. No, they’re simply McKeever’s apathetic stylistic choices, and as his monotone vocal delivery washes over each track with fuzzed-out guitars and ambling basslines, Torn Between Two Loves serves as the mantra of a slacker with a vision.

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Video Premiere: Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal live in Brussels

By Sam Crisler

There’s something universally accessible about Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal’s mix of funk, rock and soul, and it was obvious after the band’s recent 27-date European tour included multiple sell-out crowds. On April 1, Hoyer and company wrapped up their tour at Ancienne Belgique in Brussels, Belgium, where the live performance was recorded for video and MP3. The resulting album, Live! Ancienne Belgique, drops today, and HN is premiering the live video of “Just Call Me.”

In the video, the crowd observes as Hoyer dances from his piano seat and draws out the track to six minutes, showcasing Mike Dee’s saxophone abilities and Ben Kushner’s virtuosity on guitar.

The seven songs on “Live!” span the band’s catalogue and feature the hits “Make Time for Love” and “Parts of a Man.” The album is available on major streaming services.

Watch “Just Call Me” below.

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Photo coverage: Justin Lepard album release show at Vega

HN multimedia intern Marti Vaughan went to Vega Thursday for Lincoln musician Justin Lepard’s album release show, under the new moniker Psychedelic Cello. The Chronic Condition is that project’s debut, condensing years of experimentation and influence and combining elements of rock, classical and electronic into one 36-minute ride. The cellist performed solo last night tracks both vocal and instrumental. DJs RealEyez and JMNM opened the show. See Vaughan’s photos below:

Justin Lepard



Photos by Marti Vaughan

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Photo coverage: Janitor Scum, Beyond Peace, BB Eye, Bib at Milk Run

HN multimedia intern Lauren Farris found the basement at the new Milk Run and snapped some photos of four piece Calgary punk band Janitor Scum, Iowa City’s Beyond Peace, Kansas City’s BB Eye and locals Bib. See them below:

Janitor Scum

Beyond Peace

BB Eye


Photos by Lauren Farris

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Photo coverage: Kellison Quartet at Stransky Park

And last but not least, HN multimedia intern Emma Petersen dropped by Stransky Park Thursday for night two of KZUM’s outdoor concert series, featuring the Kellison Quartet. Her photos are below. Shameless plug: Lucas Kellison brings the Undisco Kids to Auburn, Neb one week from tomorrow during the first 2017 Good Living Tour weekend. RSVP to the free, all-ages concert here.

See Petersen’s photos below:


Photos by Emma Petersen

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Under the Radar at tonight’s BFF Femme Fest Lincoln

Guest Post by Rebecca Lowry, BFFFF founder

I personally find it wildly exciting that Wonder Woman comes out in theaters today. A superhero I have loved and watched remain voiceless in the pantheon of comic book movies gets to tell her story today on the big screen. A superhero often left at the wayside to shinier, more broad shouldered, mask wearing heroes, gets to stretch her legs and cast her own shadow. A hero often balked at for being the weakest of the DC Comics triumvirate takes on the world of men.

I personally find that satisfying because today, at 1867 Bar in Lincoln, Nebraska, I am celebrating the inaugural BFF Femme Fest Lincoln. It is our mission to celebrate the women in music in the Nebraska music community—to celebrate the raising of their voices, the casting of their shadows, and to celebrate these women taking on the world of men.

It is entirely overwhelming the amount of sentiment I feel in regards to Femme Fest—the wonderful women who have helped me organize it, the musicians who are playing it, and the community who has responded to it. I could go on and on about Femme Fest and it’s necessity and successes, it’s short history and future. It makes me wholly sentimental because it’s something I consider to be so monumental to who I am and why I continue to push forward with music.

All the things I could say about Femme Fest could fill up a house. All of this sentiment is alive and growing but this preview needs to remain short and sweet. So if you want to hear me wax romantic about this thing I do, please come and ask me. If you want to see it in action, because there’s really so much more than can be said, please come tonight.

And if you can’t make it out, we’ll do it again this September in Benson. But I don’t think you should wait that long if you don’t have to.

In true BFF Femme Fest tradition, here’s a heads up on some bands who haven’t really been covered by Hear Nebraska yet, and who should definitely get your attention this Friday night.

1867 Bar Main Stage

6 – 6:45 :: The Bottle Tops
7 – 7:45 :: The Toppings
8 – 8:45 :: Verse and the Vices
9 – 9:45 :: Domestica
10 – 10:45 :: Laura Burhenn of The Mynabirds
11 – 11:45 :: La Guerre
12 – 12:45 :: DAZZLE SHIPS
1 – 1:45 :: Mesonjixx

Verse and the Vices — Gruff-voiced crooner Emilio Meza takes the lead of this roots rock band. Sonically towing the line somewhere between Santana and Van Morrison, the quartet out of Lincoln, Nebraska will certainly get the crowd moving.

1867 Bar Beer Garden

7:15 – 8 :: Ashley Buck
8:15 – 9 :: Blowing Chunks
9:15 – 10 :: Artichoke Hearts / Frailin’ Hearts
10:15 – 11 :: Joya
11:15 – 12 :: Kait Berreckman
12:15 – 1 :: Jewel

Jewel — This North Omaha native uses various art forms — playing piano, reciting poetry, singing and rapping — to shed light on issues surrounding urbanized communities in America and around the world. She does not call herself a poet or a musician; instead, a revolutionary.

Editor’s note: pitch your own guest column to

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Concert Round-Up: Weekend Edition

As June arrives and it begins to heat up across the state, take refuge in the nearest concert venue. Here are a few picks for the weekend. Find a fuller listing on our statewide calendar here. (And remember that noplace is safe from Gemini Season™).


Whiskey Bent headlines the Hear Grand Island opener – Grand Island’s 10-week, free outdoor concert series begins tonight with Central Nebraska country band Whiskey Bent, Lincoln’s Whiskey Drinkers Union and Omaha duo The Natural States. Earlier in the week, we published a Q&A with Whiskey Bent frontman Tim Zach, in which he talks about his fateful appearance at the 2009 Colgate Country Showdown and more; read it here.

Hear Grand Island happens at the downtown Railside Plaza, 224 W 3rd St, every Friday tonight through Aug 4 and is open to all-ages. Vendors are available at 6 p.m., with music at 7 p.m. RSVP and find the full schedule here. —AS

Benson First Friday at The Sydney – The Benson venue celebrates another First Friday with Those Far Out Arrows, Thick Paint and The Sam’s Martin. The event starts at 5 p.m. with art by Cassie Sullivan. Music at 10 p.m. Free, RSVP here. —AS

Hakim releases EXISTintoENCE at Vega – Lincoln rapper Hakim celebrates the release of his latest full-length album EXISTintoENCE (pronounced “into existence”) tonight at the Railyard venue. Hakim and the Our Society crew piled into KZUM last week for an in-studio performance live on Hear Nebraska FM; hear the full session with new tracks here. Bucii and Dey Jean will open the show, while special guest Fatboy SSE hosts. 8 p.m., $10, all-ages, RSVP here. — AS

Charlie Ames Project album release at Slowdown – the Omaha pop group releases its debut, self-titled full-length tonight at Slowdown. It features the group’s blend of smooth piano pop and blues rock. It’s available now via Bandcamp. AZP opens the show. 8 p.m., $12, all-ages, buy tickets here. —AS

The Ambulanters with Closeness and Salt Creek at Gillies – Lincoln post-rock band The Ambulanters has been on a Northwest tour since May 11, and they’re back in Nebraska for a pair of shows, tonight at Gillies and tomorrow night at O’leavers. Salt Creek, fresh off releasing their debut EP Where Strangers Go last weekend, and Closeness head out to Kearney for the show, too. 9 p.m. 21+. RSVP here. —SC


Flourishing Illusions (CD Release) with Orpheus, Valley of Shadows and Rift at Dr. Jack’s Drinkery – Flourishing Illusions is set to drop their debut release Idle Wandering Saturday night at The Drinkery. The Omaha prog metal band, which features former members of Ghosts of Ruin, Tyrants of Tomorrow and Kakarot, plans to tour after the release, so catch them before they hit the road. Orpheus, Valley of Shadows and Rift open the show. 8:30 p.m. $5. 18+. RSVP here. —SC—4UFy7wkY

Walk By Sea Farewell Show with blét and Betafauna at The Bay – Walk By Sea is calling it quits before a pair of members move away from Lincoln, just three months after releasing their debut full-length I Am What Survives of Me. But the band isn’t going out without a bang. They’ll play one last show Saturday night along with local indie rockers blét and Kansas City’s Betafauna. 9 p.m. $5. All ages. RSVP here. —SC

Centerpiece with Lonely Estates & Wingman at Reverb Lounge – One of Omaha’s newest indie rock bands, Centerpiece, is dropping its eponymous debut EP on Saturday at Reverb Lounge. The band played its first show last August and is the project of former No Tide frontman Will Conner. Omaha’s Lonely Estates and Minneapolis’s Wingman open the show. 9 p.m. $7. All ages. RSVP here.  —SC