If You Go:
What-Four Winds Music Festival
Where-Waiting Room Lounge and Reverb Lounge
When-August 4th and 5th 8PM Friday and 7PM Show on Saturday with Free Art and vendor market from 2-5pm (both rooms) on Saturday.
Tickets-Etix.com $15 per day or $25 two day pass. Tickets available here
Headline-Four Winds Festival is Nice Enough for Omaha
Justin Strawstone talks about the Omaha hip-hop scene and festival now in its third year locally.
Hip-hop music in Omaha is always a hot topic among many local music supporters and the artists themselves. Ever since the genre became a permanent part of music culture, one of those topics has been support for the genre in Omaha, or lack of support. No matter where one stood on that subject over time, long time observers could say that things have changed for the better in recent years. Omaha hip-hop artists are touring, racking up hundreds of thousands and even millions of streams, and some are headlining the main stages in Omaha. One of the people who has been part of these changes is Justin Strawstone. Strawstone is a promoter, booking agent, tour and artist manager, and an artist himself. He is a founder and partner in Nice Enough Entertainment, a company that has found quite a bit of success in its short four years of existence. Strawstone is currently promoting the Four Winds Music Festival at The Waiting Room Lounge and The Reverb Lounge on August 4th and 5th. He talked over coffee about the festival, the state of hip-hop in Omaha, and his role in the area music community.
“I got started in 2019, I started Aorta Hip-Hop under the Aorta Music Management brand”, Strawstone replied when asked how he began in promotions, “Nick Rowe (owner of Aorta Music Management) brought me in, and I was just supposed to start doing local hip-hop shows. I started going to these rock shows, and then I started working at The Lookout, and I was like, “These are well attended, people are enjoying themselves, they are spending their money, and they seem to be having a good time’, and the bar, even though it wasn’t thriving, was staying busy off of non-hip hop shows. So I was wondering if I could apply the simple ‘start on time, not have fifteen people, don’t do “pay to play,” and let people make money” to see if that same thing could work with hip-hop. Then I kind of got addicted to it.” Strawstone did Aorta Hip-Hop for seven months, was already booking mixed genre shows, and felt like he wanted to do something more. He says, “I felt like I was getting boxed in, even though Aorta Hip-Hop was really cool for me and my friends.” He then thanked Rowe for the opportunity and started Nice Enough Entertainment, stating, “I was not looking to compete with Aorta or the other promoters around, but just kind of wanted to put my own stamp on what I was doing because it was becoming everything I cared about very quickly, so I wanted it to be something that represented me.”
Omaha’s hip-hop scene, like hip-hop scenes in many places, has a degree of toxicity to it. There seems to have been a shift towards a more amicable scene recently. When asked about his role in that, Strawstone stated, “I think in order to make change, you have to have people have coming to Jesus moments as to how things are done. There were so many people in the hip-hop scene that were just so used to that toxicity that the people putting on the shows were also the headliner, and people just wanted to put themselves above other people. So I had to come in and show that it could be a community thing again and that we don’t have to be in those shitty rooms with shitty sound, we don’t have to have fifteen artists, and just because pay to play worked for you doesn’t mean it’s the right way or good for the city.” He continues, “So really, I had to be annoying for two years, three years; to this day, I am still annoying, but it was to show people that there is a different way and then also to show people that things can be more serious by doing it.”
Strawstone says that some of the ways Nice Enough Entertainment has shown that serious side by booking all local hip-hop shows at venues and working with national headliners and venue owners. Strawstone has been focused on building tours for artists such as King Iso, Otis Julius, and more. He has been on the road for much of 2023, and he feels that is another way he can benefit the Omaha music community. He says, “I think one of the reasons people care when it comes to our shows is that we can tie these other markets together. The mentality of being stuck in your hometown or being stuck playing to other bands or to other rappers is a very real thing. So partnering with someone who is also in Des Moines, Sioux Falls, Tulsa, Kearney, or Denver creates a network and gives them a reason to want to do really well in their home city. All of a sudden, they can start to network.” He continues, “I am just this weird guy who kind of got lucky in this whatever world we live in and I get to do really cool shit, and as soon as I am not that option to the masses, I am nobody, so I have a lot of people that count on me and believe in me, but literally it is a projection of them believing in themselves. I know that my existence is an everybody thing, and I caught onto that pretty early on.”
The Four Winds Music Festival is in its third year in Omaha and will feature thirty-nine artists, including 16 from out of town, over two days. It is a mixture of many genres, not just hip-hop. The festival originates in Souix Falls, where they will be holding their eighth annual festival this year. When asked how he got involved in the festival and how it came to Omaha, Strawstone said, “Corey Church is who started it and founded it; he is also the second part of Nice Enough Entertainment. He books a lot of the non-hip-hop acts. He is the quiet member of Nice Enough, but he does a lot of cool stuff; he builds tours and books festivals in multiple states”. He continues, “The way Four Winds was approached to me was to take the people that actually give a shit and give them a great day in some great rooms and let it be all about them”. He continues, “Let the people that carry the lineups all work together for once in a mixed genre kind of way. Here we have this well oiled machine, and everyone is motivated. The artists are getting more than a 50% cut on it, and it’s just really to give everyone a great look without opening for a national act and without having to feel like you are just another opener on a local show.
When asked who he thinks will stand out at this year’s festival, he immediately states Alyeska. “Alyeska has been absolutely killing it this year”, he says. “They have sold out a few venues; they work with some great bands, they always pull their weight; their music is great; their promotion is great, those are just my boys; I am just excited; when you like someone, but they actually put in the work, it makes it easy to do a lot of fun stuff with them.” He also mentions C10, Faith Freeman, and when asked for a surprise standout, he says that could be Forest. “We hope that the festival creates a whole lot of networking, and it usually does,” Strawstone concludes, “so this is going to be our biggest one in Omaha yet.”