Omaha and Kansas City’s thriving punk scenes

Photo by Jenna Hyneck


Jenna Hynek

Lying to parents is a teenage staple to the screwed-up youth culture.

It’s the most thrilling form of rebellion a teenager can commit with (typically) the only consequence being not angry, but just disappointed parents. Harper Newell’s fix was competing with rugged older individuals fighting for a space in front of home-made stage in the basement of dirty warehouses.

Newell has been an avid punk fan since she went to her first show as a 16-year-old girl looking for the approval of her older friends. A couple of senior girls she had met through her classes in high school took her to the Old Sweatshop Gallery in Benson. Newell was a new member to this self-made exclusive scene of people—an older generation who bonded over Pabst Blue Ribbon and cigarettes between the band’s sets.

Her mom was protective, not letting Newell stay out past 11 p.m. so she always had to miss the last song.

“My mom never let me go to shows or stay out late; she was very protective so I would lie about where I was going,” Newell said.

This has not stopped Newell from developing an eclectic viewpoint on the DIY/punk scene, however. The more Newell went to shows, the more her taste developed. Starting with alternative and indie rock, morphing into garage rock and postpunk. All the genres relate to but are separate from each other.

Newell graduated from Westside High School in 2016 and decided to continue her education at the Kansas City Art Institute. She was new to the town and new to the music scene. Through her friends she made from school, she became connected back to similar artists she found in Omaha.

It began with a few local bands and a converted house to venue called Stacy’s Place.

“The show was in the basement and the band was performing sitting on a mattress on the floor and another band burned a pillow case [in the basement],” Newell said.

The bathroom was only three-square feet and had no toilet paper.

Kansas City is only three hours away from Omaha, but the difference in their punk culture is still apparent. Both cities are relatively the same size; however, Newell said the punk scene in Kansas City was larger and more inclusive than in Omaha. The biggest difference between the two was the expression of style.

“Omaha is more soft and casual with a lot more individual styles,” Newell said. “In Kansas City, a lot of people dress similarly with chains and studs and denim and leather.”

According to Newell, there are more punk and DIY spaces in Kansas City that are accessible and inclusive. Punk and DIY venues have been notorious for being underground and exclusive despite their dirty and freakish reputation.

The Old Sweatshop Gallery has officially closed its doors as of 2015, according to their Face-book page but has also managed to pull an impressive 4.6 stars on the rating system Facebook offers.

Though one venue may have died, there are more popping up around our community every day. All differences aside, punk culture is one that works together. Artists support artists and they do so by going to each other’s shows and allowing small DIY and punk venues to remain open. Locations like these are where our major bands like Nirvana, Alice In Chains and Pearl Jam started—the basements and underground warehouses. They are important to the culture our city promotes—a welcoming environment for all walks of life.

Newell has one piece of advice for all the punks out there: “Keep punk inclusive!”