It began in November 1992. I was a few years out of college at UNO, already working full time at Union Pacific, but still writing about underground music, something that I’d begun doing as the editor of the college paper and as a freelance writer for The Metropolitan and The Note, a Lawrence, Kansas, regional music paper that had expanded its coverage to Omaha and Lincoln.
One of my first assignments for The Note was writing a piece on Dave Sink, his record store in the basement of The Antiquarium, and his record label, One-Hour Records. By the time of our interview, One-Hour already had released singles by Culture Fire (Release), Frontier Trust (Highway Miles) and Mousetrap ("Supercool" b/w "Fubar”), as well as Simon Joyner’s landmark full-length cassette, Umbilical Chords. One-Hour was a big deal both to the editors down in Lawrence and to me.
The audience for indie and punk music in Omaha was microscopic. At this point in its history, Omaha’s live music scene was dominated by top-40 cover bands that played a circuit of local meat-market bars along 72nd St. College music was heard mostly in college towns -- something that Omaha certainly wasn't. But Dave didn't care. He had no aspirations of getting rich off One-Hour.
From that article:
"It's fun empowering people," said the 43-year-old entrepreneur who used to prefer classic rock to punk. "These are good people with good ideas and lots of energy. I knew these guys as really cool people long before I knew them as musicians."
The advantage to being on One-Hour? "Possibly nothing," Sink said. "We're in an infant stage. But this is how Sub Pop got started and a lot of other quality punk labels. Any band we press is going to get 200 promotional copies of their single shipped to radio stations and 'zines across the U.S. and Europe. The bottom line is we're a medium for a band to reach a broader audience."
Sink said Omaha had never had as many good original bands as it does now, whether the city knows it or not. "Unfortunately, most of the time they're playing shows for each other. Omaha has a very talented music scene that is woefully underappreciated."
Funny how, despite the success of Saddle Creek Records, little has changed.
After that story ran, I continued to drop into Dave’s store. He would pick out an armful of albums and singles for me to buy, and that’s how I discovered a lot of the bands that I would end up writing about in The Note (and later, in The Reader). He was always willing to give me the inside scoop on something that was going on musicwise. And much to my surprise, he read a lot of my stories, and was always willing to tell me when he thought I got it right, or got it wrong. A former editor at the old Benson Sun Newspaper, Dave’s perspective on my writing went beyond his music knowledge. As a result, he was always in the back of my mind whenever I wrote anything about music (and still is). I guess I didn’t want to disappoint Dave. Actually, no one did.
Toward the latter days of his involvement in the record store, Dave became more and more disillusioned with modern music. I’d go down there ask him what was good and he’d start off by saying, “Nothing, it’s all shit,” but eventually would find a few things for me to buy. He was more into jazz by then, and (of course) baseball, which we’d talk about at great length, along with his perspective on art and literature and film.
Funny thing, it didn’t matter that Dave was 20 or 30 years older than the kids buying the records. They all respected and sought out his opinion, and Dave was always happy to give it. My favorite Dave line when he didn’t like something: “It’s not my cup of tea.” It was that simple.
As the years went on, Dave quit showing up at the store, and then eventually it changed hands and moved out of the basement. Meanwhile, Saddle Creek Records bloomed, Omaha became nationally recognized as the new indie music “ground zero,” and I slowly lost touch with Dave.
And then along came Facebook. And there was Dave again. Over the last couple years we reconnected online, but mostly about baseball. Dave, a long-time Royals rooter, hated the fact that I’m a Yankees fan, a team he said was ruining baseball. I would argue that, in a market like Omaha, being a Yankees fan was downright punk – people hated you for it, that it was a lonely existence not unlike being a punk fan in the ‘90s. He never bought that argument.
I tried and I tried to get Dave to do that all-encompassing interview about the glory days of One-Hour and The Antiquarium. I told him how much he influenced everything that Omaha’s music scene had become, that I wanted to tell his story and put him on the cover of The Reader. Of course he would have none of it. He would kindly turn down the requests, saying he didn’t do anything, that he was only a record store owner and that the focus should be on the bands, not him.
Despite that, I think he knew how important he was to everything that’s happened here. He certainly was important to me.
Lazy-i is a weekly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on the Omaha music scene. Check out Tim's daily music news updates at his website, lazy-i.com, or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.