Editor’s note: This is Sam Crisler’s final Backbeat column. We wish him the best at his full-time reporting position at the Wahoo Newspaper.
As I write this, I’m sitting in my car, across the street from the Benson Walgreens as the first snow of the year pelts my windshield. It makes me think about the cold, gloom and depressing Nebraska basketball losses that the next three months promise to bring.
In years past, what got me through this bleakest of seasons was going to local shows. It usually wasn’t even at a proper venue, but in a basement or a hole-in-the-wall DIY space that only those in the know could find. To me, that’s always been one of the best parts about the Omaha DIY scene, and local music in general: It’s something that a select few claim as theirs and make their own. That’s why they call it “underground.” If you know, you know.
But as I sit here in my car, getting ready to head to a show, I remember that the scene barely existed for a good chunk of 2021 and that I missed it when it was gone. It hasn’t made a full recovery yet, but it’s taken baby steps to get back toward full strength. I predict many music scenes around the country are still finding their footing, too. The thought of the Omaha scene making a mighty return this year will help me through the winter.
I reached out to a number of artists and scene supporters to get their thoughts on what the next year in Omaha and Nebraska music will hold and which bands to look for. Here’s what they had to say.
Roman Constantino (Garst, Velvet Velvet): Expect a lot of bar shows for the foreseeable future. DIY is in a sort of purgatory right now with various houses and venues closing. Others are considering opening but can’t secure longevity for a spot or simply don’t have the guarantee of a substantial crowd anymore. To be clear, however, people here want DIY. It’s just a matter of a handful of people willing to take on the responsibility of running a venue and having the proper space to do it.
Sam Lipsett (Cat Piss, Magū): My prediction is that slowly but surely, DIY will come back more and more, hopefully, and that we’ll see way more touring action and local shows, new records from bands and hopefully some revitalization.
Nathan Wolf (Pagan Athletes, Cat Piss): I have no idea what the scene will look like in 2022. It’s completely different now from what it was two years ago, but I hope that Omaha musicians and artists will have some sort of renaissance in the next few years. It seemed to be heading that way prior to the pandemic, but any momentum that was there was halted.
Artists To Watch:
Conny Franko: Everyone should be on the lookout for VERZE. He’s a rapper, producer and great human. Also if you don’t know who Sleep Sinatra is, please do me a favor and go to his Bandcamp and buy all of his projects. He is a workhorse and creative giant. Mesonjixx melts my heart, too. Anything she will drop will add to the hope I have for humankind’s longevity. Last but not least, my group M34N STR33T is dropping a new LP in the spring.
Aramara Quintos Tapia (Histrionic, Latino Lives): I think there’s gonna be more genre diversity this year for sure. There are a few new bands I’ve seen in Omaha pop up, like GLOW, Fire Sign and Nowhere, and they’re all going to be staples in the scene for 2022. I know that a lot of other people have been working on their own projects and I’m really excited to hear what comes next.
Zach Schmieder (concert promoter): I think a lot of brilliant albums are going to be released this year. Some of my favorite Nebraska bands are gearing up to release their albums that were written during the pandemic. The one I’m looking forward to the most is Universe Contest. I’ve heard some early mixes and trust me, it’s going to make you question reality. It’s wild.
MarQ Manner (Homer’s music store manager, culture writer): I think Garst and The Real Zebos still have the most potential as far as rock and pop bands in Omaha. King ISO is huge for Omaha hip-hop, and lots of my employees here at Homer’s are all about Pagan Athletes, and they are at the top of my list to check out.
Sam Lipsett (Cat Piss, Magū): People should be looking out for the first Nowhere EP, the next Pagan Athletes EP, the new David Nance record. I’m very excited to see what Jim (Schroeder) and Dave Nance and the gang are cooking up. Also, the comeback of this band Healer in the next year, fronted by Dan Brennan with a bunch of heavy hitters playing in that lineup. Maybe a new Those Far Out Arrows release. The founders and lords and saviors of taupe rock And How are hopefully releasing an album this year that I’ve really dug the tracks I’ve heard from it. Also, the Solid Goldberg EP. That dude is a fucking mad scientist that just turns every room he plays into an ass-shaking event. Lastly, the first Cat Piss full-length that’s being mixed and will be out this spring.
Nathan Wolf (Pagan Athletes, Cat Piss): I think Nowhere is gonna be a pretty big deal. The singles from their EP have been absolutely face-melting in the best way possible. I’d also watch out for Fission Quartet. They’re a young jazz ensemble (whatever that means now) who play mostly originals. I haven’t caught their live show yet, but all the players are killer.
Roman Constantino (Garst, Velvet Velvet): It’s never a bad idea to look out for Nathan Ma and Jon Cobb from BIB and the various projects they are involved in. I’m gonna shamelessly plug my solo stuff, too. I just released an album called The Sleep of Reason that I’m currently working on putting a live show together for. Hopefully, I can get a show going for that around March.