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Those Far Out Arrows, seen here performing at Reverb Lounger, are among the area's indie bands that made it through the pandemic.

Long before COVID-19, as part of its annual Music Issue, The Reader used to put together a Top 20 list of the area’s best bands. The creation of said list was one of the funnest processes I underwent with the staff, a product of much back-and-forth grousing among the various music beat reporters, hosted over drinks at a bar.

To put this in perspective, there was a time when The Reader had a full-time music editor as well as five or six writers who contributed to a music section that included at least two full-length band features, concert previews, a listings calendar, two music columns and CD reviews (remember those?). I, along with a couple of other writers, covered indie music.

The Top 20 list slowly disappeared over the years, mainly because The Reader’s music staff became smaller and smaller, a reflection of a national trend that has seen print media decay before our very eyes.

Well, The Reader is on a comeback of sorts. Take a look at the paper these days and you’ll see that it’s getting thicker. The last issue was a veritable butt-slapper weighing in at 56 pages (combined with our Spanish-language sister publication, El Perico). So when it came time to put together this year’s Music Issue, which you hold in your hands (digitally or otherwise), we attempted to bring back the Top 20 list.

But at the end of the day for whatever reason, it didn’t happen. We had a writer who didn’t want to participate (it’s too divisive!) and simply not enough contributors familiar with the broad range of genres reflected in our city’s music scene.

The fact is, despite suffering through a crippling pandemic along with the rest of the country (and the world) and the continued evaporation of revenue from album sales (thanks, Spotify), Omaha’s music community is growing. We’re seeing it in the number of new venues sprouting up around town, covered in this issue. But more importantly, we’re seeing it in the talent performing on those stages.

So, instead of a Top 20 list, I’m offering a post-COVID survivors list of acts that have made it through the pandemic and continue to be active in the music scene. As I began ticking through the acts, I realized the list would have been way too long to cut down to a mere 20, and that all deserved some ink for having hung in through thick and thin. So here’s my list of the top local indie performers.

Please Note: I said “INDIE,” not country, not pop bands, not hip-hop or metal, R&B or traditional rock bands, not cover bands. These are the acts I’ve seen perform or have listened to as part of my coverage of the local and national indie music scenes for The Reader and my website, Lazy-i.com. If I left off your favorite band, it’s because I’ve never seen nor heard their music. Doesn’t mean they suck; just means there are only so many hours in the day and this is how I choose to spend those hours.

In addition to all being talented performers and songwriters, these are the survivors, the ones who made it through the other side of COVID-19. If we had had one of those booze-filled Top 20 list discussions like The Reader hosted in the “good ol’ days,” this is the list I would have brought to the beer-soaked table.

In alphabetical order, almost all are linked to their respective Bandcamp page, where you can check out some of their music and even make a purchase:

There you have it. This is also the list I’ll reference when asked by out-of-towners (as I often am) what bands are worth checking out in the area and/or adding to their gig when they come through town. They all made my Top 20 this year.

Over The Edge is a monthly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on culture, society, music, the media and the arts. Email Tim at tim.mcmahan@gmail.com.

Violenteer performed at The Slowdown May 4.

Subscribe to The Reader Newsletter

Our awesome email newsletter briefing tells you everything you need to know about what’s going on in Omaha. Delivered to your inbox every day at 11:00am.

Become a Supporting Member

Subscribe to thereader.com and become a supporting member to keep locally owned news alive. We need to pay writers, so you can read even more. We won’t waste your time, our news will focus, as it always has, on the stories other media miss and a cultural community — from arts to foods to local independent business — that defines us. Please support your locally-owned news media by becoming a member today.

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