By Chelsea Balzar, Contributor
The Maha Music festival, an all-day music showcase designed to display Omaha’s rich creative culture, took place this year on a breezy, overcast day that provided a much needed break from the heat. The crowd grew to over 4,000 and as the day progressed, it became obvious that showcasing diversity is exactly what Maha does. Some of the acts were local and some were national. There was indie rock, dance, pop and even a trio of rapping kids. Stands lined the outside of Stinson Park where information was given out about an array of organizations. People of all ages and subcultures were present, most of who didn’t seem to mind dancing in a few bouts of rain.
The afternoon started out on a lively note with local pop punk rockers, The Seen, who took the stage around noon. Indie shoe gazers, Conduits, took over from there, matching the tone of the cloudy weather. Then, singer-songwriter Eli Mardock performed a heartfelt set. Michigan folk-rock group Frontier Ruckus played with a sound that was a wonderful addition to the mix. Only four acts in and the festival felt vibrant with variety.
Universe Contest was fun, energizing guests before a lovely set by original Nebraska native, Josh Rouse. Innovative act UUVVWWZ, came from Lincoln to add a very groovy element to the lineup. Young sibling rapping trio The Daydreamers, performed their own hip-hop song, and were a very pleasant surprise. They led perfectly into a grungy, daydream set by cool rockers, The Dum Dum Girls. At this point, the whole park was filled with fans that were sitting, dancing and watching from blankets with drinks and pizza in hand. Many of the performers who had finished their set or who were waiting to go on were chatting and appreciating the musicians on stage.
The second half of the day began with The Mynabirds, who performed a captivating and emotional set, putting out a moving dedication to a recent hate-crime victim in Lincoln. Lead singer Laura Burhenn, united the cheering crowd behind the sentiment of love and acceptance of all members of the community. Many were excited to see California band Delta Spirit, who rocked hard.
The rain began as their set came to a close, but a new local favorite, Icky Blossoms followed, and few could be kept in their seats. Even those standing on the incline of the hill managed to jump and thrash with the beat. The dancing continued with 90’s icons Garbage, who gave an amazing set, surely making much of the audience and many of the other performers giddy to be in the presence of such grungy goodness. Finally, Desaparecidos closed the night on an exuberant note, reminding many fans of why they’ve been following Conor Oberst’s work for years.
This was Maha’s fourth year, and it was the perfect platform for illustrating the current state of culture in Omaha. Maha made clear that this event, and this city, appeal to an assortment of demographics. Some may think Omaha is a cow town, but it is by no means culturally homogeneous, and may be evolving into a favorite stop for many national acts. Attending the festival was a day well spent, reminding those who were there of why it’s good to live in Omaha, where a strong sense of community has deep roots, and a unique, dynamic balance is undeniably being found.