By Joe Shearer, Photo Editor
There were nods to the newer and dues paid to the older at the Slowdown on Oct. 20, where local non-profit Hear Nebraska’s “Take Cover” fundraiser concert took place. The themed show involved various Nebraskan artists covering the work of music scene peers. While some picks were further reaches than others, the sentiments were all in the right place.
The concert, which consisted of several 10-minute sets, took place in the Slowdown’s front room. It was an intimate affair and actually felt more like a homecoming of sorts – or a gathering of best friends. Drifters were few and far between during set breaks, as the barroom’s tables were packed with members of Nebraska’s musical community. Attendants cracked jokes, reminisced and genuine conversation filled the space. The image definitely expressed the state’s music scene’s interconnectedness.
A total of 17 bands and artists performed an eclectic mix of songs. With so many different performers involved, a single drum kit and a few amps stayed on stage for acts to use. Hats off to soundsmith and local artist J.J. Idt for handling the differing sounds in a professionally timely manner.
I arrived fashionably late and just in time to see Tie These Hands pay tribute to Lincoln band Mr. 1986. They performed the song “Where Motion Is Rest,” a fine post-rock instrumental, to a T. It was great, technical, rocking goodness to start the night off.
Addison Wright, Joe Champion and Mitch Gettman followed with separate acoustic sets. Gettman played the most recognizable tunes, a solid, one-man rendition of Bright Eye’s “Road to Joy,” performed with a digital looping pedal to catch extra layering audio tracks, and “Between the Bars” from Elliott Smith.
Although the late songwriter Elliott Smith didn’t spend his musical career in the state of Nebraska, he was born here, giving him reason enough to bust out the tune. I certainly didn’t hear anyone complain. Taking the audience in a 180-degree turn, Lincoln’s Life In Prism injected some soulful groove into the room as he sang a stirring take of Sad Old Lady’s “Curses.” The synth-driven, dance heavy track playing was a fitting audio backdrop to Prism’s sexy vocals and vivacious dance moves. His pastel windbreaker and wicked mustache induced a few giggles and wide smiles during the performance. He performed a second tune that didn’t ring a bell, but the delivery of it was just as memorable as the first song.
The night went on with more artist interpretations of Corn Coast bands, including a fitting version of It’s True!’s “I Think It’s Best If I Leave” to round out the end of the sets and send the audience off.
As the concluding sets were taking place, I had a chance to drift through the crowd and chat with a couple local musicians about their feelings for Nebraska and its musical culture.
Obviously a youngster, judging from the jumbo minor hand-stamp he was donning, Mitch Gettman has been grinding it out for the past three or four years, trying to find his own unique spot in Omaha’s singer/songwriter scene. He believes that Omaha is a superb fit for his type of gig.
“I think Omaha is a great place to start a music career, especially if you’re looking to do something more independent,” Gettman said. “It’s what a lot of people around here seem to want to do. We want to do our own thing, make our own stuff and put it out ourselves, too. It’s not the same for everyone though, you know, but it’s still a great place to start.”
Providing a perspective from the other side of the spectrum was Eagle Seagull frontman Eli Mardock. Mardock, who has recently been performing and recording as a solo effort in and out of the Nebraska scene, is a veteran who’s seen a lot while traveling the world. He admires the state’s tight-knit music community, which he says is why it is such a joy to be a part of.
“Nebraska’s importance to the overall music scene is growing for sure,” Mardock said. “Do some people maybe have an over-inflated sense of just how important it is? Possibly, possibly. But everyone, everyone has their hearts in the right place here, which is why it’s such a rad scene. I know so many people here that don’t care about fame and money. That’s all that really matters.”
Mardock claimed that Nebraska’s location and size can be detrimental to some but extremely lucrative for others.
“If you play music in Nebraska, you’re almost guaranteed that you won’t make any money. Every big city to play in is eight hours away,” Mardock said. “But you have easy access to each coast, so that helps. There are always going to be positives and negatives. What’s great about here, though, is if you’re good at what you do, it’s easy to rise to the top. It’s much easier to get noticed than it is in places like New York and L.A., where there are great bands and artists on every block.”
The singer/songwriter looked pleased to be there and was in high spirits as he engaged several of his peers in the scene. It was one of the reasons that made this event so special, he said.
It was wonderful to see active members of Nebraska’s music come together to share support for each other. Between the familiar faces, the fine collection of sounds and the cause, the coolest part about this event is that every performer was able to show what they enjoy most about their state’s scene by playing who they enjoy most and getting to reinterpret their songs.
These are just a few more reasons that explain why Nebraska has an interesting and vibrant contingent of artists.