Backbeat Column: September 2017


A number of local festivals and concert series made big announcements in August, so we’ll start the column with a look at those.

In early August, New Generation Music Festival announced its second-annual concert event which will take over Stinson Park on Saturday, Sept. 16. While last year’s fest showed promise with Omaha hard rock band Screaming for Silence headlining a slate full of blues, hip-hop and indie rock, the new lineup reveal is indicative of a determination to sustain and grow NGM well into the future.

This year, NGM boasts another stacked lineup with two hip-hop visionaries — Rakim and Talib Kweli. And best of all, the festival is free to the public.

Rakim makes his Omaha debut as part of his 30th anniversary tour for Eric B. & Rakim’s classic album, Paid in Full. Kweli will bring a slew of new tracks to Stinson Park from his new Styles P collaboration The Seven.

With the inclusion of Kweli and Rakim, it might seem NGM is distancing itself from the community focus of last year’s event, but the festival hasn’t forgotten its roots. Nine of Nebraska’s hottest musicians fill out the rest of the lineup, with funk all stars Satchel Grande, indie pop singer-songwriter Jocelyn and conscious rapper Conny Franko all making appearances. The festival runs from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m.

Speaking of Omaha music festival startups, organizers are bringing the inaugural Porchfest OMA to Midtown’s Gifford Park, where more than a dozen musicians, comedians and spoken word artists will perform on porches throughout the neighborhood.

Porchfest began in Ithaca, N.Y., back in 2010, and the idea has since spread to more than 80 cities and counting. Lincoln hosted its first Porchfest last year with twenty bands, which drew hundreds to Goodhue Boulevard, just south of the Capitol. In our coverage of Porchfest LNK, we noted a music festival where people rode bikes from stage to stage rather than racing to a bar after a set. It’s likely that anti-music festival atmosphere will recreated at Porchfest OMA.

Near the end of August, Porchfest OMA announced an Americana and folk-dominated fifteen-act lineup slated to include performances from McCarthy Trenching, Jack Hotel, The Shineys, The Bottle Tops and more. See the full lineup at facebook.com/porchfestoma.

Lincoln’s version of Porchfest won’t be back this year but there’s still plenty to do in the city this fall. Aug. 4 marked the reboot of Hear Lincoln, a weekly concert series coordinated by Hear Nebraska and 89.3 KZUM that showcases some of the best musical talent in the Capitol City’s. Hear Lincoln launched in 2011, and after a year off in 2016, the series is back with nine weeks of music.

Each Friday evening at 5 p.m. until Sept. 29, two Lincoln bands blast through two hours of music in the downtown Tower Square Plaza on 13th and P streets. So far, the audiences have seen performances by Jack Hotel, I Forgot To Love My Father and the Lucas Kellison Duo. September’s lineup includes appearances from ska band Mad Dog and The 20/20s, post-rock quartet blét and singer-songwriter Mike Semrad. For a full lineup, visit Hear Lincoln 2017’s events page on Facebook.

As one HN-coordinated series begins, another one ends. The third annual Good Living Tour came to a close on Aug. 19 in Hastings after hosting live, original music in eight Greater Nebraska communities. The Good Living Tour featured dozens of Nebraska’s top musicians, with artists from folk rock duo The Talbott Brothers to rapper HAKIM performing over six weekends in cities like Red Cloud, Norfolk and Lyons. Read week-by-week Good Living Tour coverage at hearnebraska.org/news.

Over on the east side of the state, Aksarben Village put on the summer’s biggest party when Maha Music Festival flooded Stinson Park with thousands of music fans and some of indie music’s most prominent bands. Hip-hop duo Run The Jewels headlined the festival in Maha’s ninth year, burning through hits like “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry” and “Legend Has It,” inspiring dance moves from 8,000 strong. Scottish indie pop band Belle and Sebastian, dance rock two-piece Sleigh Bells and Omaha’s The Faint topped off Maha’s stellar lineup. Run The Jewels rapper El-P effectively summarized the festival a couple songs into his set: “Who knew Omaha was this lit?”

The night before Maha, a classic Omaha songwriter made his return to the stage after a more than 10 year break. Stephen Sheehan, former frontman of new wave trailblazers Digital Sex assembled a band of Omaha music scene vets, with members of Ritual Device and Guerrilla Theater joining Sheehan to revisit an extensive catalogue of songs from his bands Digital Sex, The World and Between The Leaves. Sheehan said the idea for the show had bubbled in his head for years, but a guest appearance in Omaha cover band Bennie and the Gents gave him the push he needed to get back on stage. And it was worth the wait for Sheehan, who called the show “off the meters.”

Back at March 2016’s Omaha Film Festival, Cursive and The Good Life frontman Tim Kasher debuted his first feature film No Resolution, which follows the story of a washed-up musician as his relationship with his pregnant wife devolves on New Year’s Eve. More than a year later, Kasher launched a run of screenings for the film in eight cities including Brooklyn, Chicago, Los Angeles and Omaha. Prior to each screening, Kasher is performing live sets with music from his new album of the same name. Q&A sessions follow each screening. The Omaha date has passed, but four showings still remain this month: San Francisco (9/11), Kansas City (9/12), Dallas (9/13) and Austin (9/14). Tickets are available at drafthouse.com.

Finally, Lincoln post-hardcore five-piece Better Friend dropped their debut full-length, Just Turn Green, at the end of August. The band has steadily built a following in Lincoln’s DIY music scene with their freeform songwriting and frontwoman Meghan Munyon’s vicious screaming on their self-titled debut EP and 2015’s Safe House. With Just Turn Green, Better Friend take the idea of an odd time signature and inject it with whatever improper fractions they could think of. The band released the record at an album release show at Lincoln’s 1867 Bar with indie rock bands Oketo and The Ambulanters.

Of course, this isn’t all of what happened in Nebraska music over the last month. Head over to hearnebraska.org for our tri-weekly news column and keep up with music scene events and news all year round.


Category: Backbeat, Music

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