By Andrew Stellmon
April 12, 2018

Nebraska musician and Lincoln resident Shaun McCabe, beloved for both his extreme positivity and his passion for local music, passed away on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018, after his life-long battle with cystic fibrosis. Scenesters know Shaun as the lead singer and keyboard player in Bone Camaro. On Feb. 18, a group of local musicians released Shaun McCabe Forever, an album full of rarities and unreleased music, including cuts from Shaun’s own band. Check it out here.

Manny Coon, Dirty Talker, Unmanned and Low Horse play in remembrance of Shaun this Saturday, April 14 at 1867 Bar. All proceeds from the show — titled CF I Care — and 10-percent of the venue’s bar sales will be donated to the Nebraska Chapter of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and the Children’s Organ Transplant Association. (RSVP here).

Read on as friends, family and fellow music enthusiasts remember Shaun. 

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I “met” The Brothers McCabe, Shaun and Patrick, through an online local music forum back in the 2000s. (#RIPStarCityScene). We talked about local music some on the forum, but mostly, we engaged in extremely (like, extremely) fiery arguments about pointless topics like whether beans belong in chili. To this day, friendships are still in disrepair due to the chili argument. I’m only half-kidding.

At some point, the forum members began getting together for lunch, and I was able to meet these special boys in the flesh. Shaun and Patrick were refreshingly true to their Internet personas: Chatty, opinionated, smart, and a bit awkward. (Actually, that sums up all of Star City Scene pretty well).

Over the next decade, our paths crossed frequently, and we became friends. I saw them almost every Friday evening at Duffy’s for pizza and High Life, and at scads of local shows. We eventually joined the same home-brew club as well. During my last few years in Lincoln, I saw the McCabes near-weekly.

In 2015, my wife Lara and I moved to Denver. Shaun let me know that he frequently visited a hospital in Aurora for his treatments, and although the circumstances weren’t terrific, I welcomed the silver lining. Whenever he came to town, I did my best to visit his hotel room and shoot the shit for a while, or take him and his mother, Frances, out to dinner.

During one of his visits to Denver, I vented to him for several minutes about how stressful our move had been. We’d lost a lot of money on the house, and it felt like we were just barely getting by. When I finally stopped bitching and asked him how he was doing, he talked a bit about his day-to-day.

I’ll never be able to truly comprehend the way his life revolved around his illnesses. The handful of horse pills he had to take at every meal. The oxygen tank he had to lug around wherever he went. His inability to secure regular work or go on dates. His regular travel to Denver by overnight train, only to spend hours and hours at the hospital. The perpetual, expensive tests and treatments. Waiting to feel even a little better. Waiting around in a hotel room in a city he didn’t know. Waiting and waiting (and waiting) for an organ donor. Praying he would be healthy enough to receive donor organs, IF they even became available.

I listened to his, and asked him what the worst part was. Shaun simply told me that sometimes, it got a little boring. That’s the most negative thing I’d ever heard him say about his life.

Man. What a powerful lesson in perspective. That moment will remain with me for my entire life.

The truth is that I am incredibly lucky to be alive, and to have my health and relationships. I hope you are, too. I hope that, unlike Shaun, we never have to wonder if we’ll be alive tomorrow to enjoy what we have. When the seas are choppy, let us remember Shaun and his extraordinary grace, and be glad we’re steering the boat at all.

We miss you, Shaun. If heaven exists, may you spend all of eternity riding an obnoxiously sparkly unicorn, tirelessly debating with others, making everyone else listen to your favorite bands, and macking on bodacious babes.

Breathe it all in, my Dude.

With love and gratitude,

— Cory Kibler

Cory’s song on the Shaun McCabe Forever compilation is “Makeshift Lakes.” It is an original song written for Shaun after his passing. It was recorded at Cory’s house in Denver, and mixed/edited in A Sunroom in Omaha by Ian Aeillo.

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Shaun McCabe sings with Bone Camaro during a mid-00’s battle of the bands. | photo courtesy of Patrick McCabe

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I met Shaun McCabe in 2002, online, because of an old message board we posted on called Star City Scene. This was in the days of Microsoft Instant Messenger so when we chatted it was via that medium, and I think he was a teenager at the time. He told me he was running a record label of sorts out of his parent’s basement and would send me tracks that he thought I would like based on my appreciation for a Lincoln band called Marianas. Without having met, he had a pretty good grasp of what music I would be into. It was an interesting start to a friendship, I was new to independent music, but thought the idea of a DIY record label sounded pretty cool.

Over the years our conversations were casual and mostly when we happened to see each other at a show, or over a pint of good beer, but that guy was always so excited about the creative projects his friends were involved in, and was always rooting for everyone to win together. He had a huge heart and boundless energy and I always respected that about him. Seeing shout outs on social media over the past few weeks from a wide swath of people further proves how many people respect and love the guy. Thank you Shaun for bringing your optimism to so many of us who had the chance to know ya. You will be terribly missed.

— Jeremy Buckley

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Shaun (right) poses for a photo with Criteria frontman Steve Pederson after a 2006 show. | photo courtesy of Patrick McCabe

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I grew up with Shaun in Norfolk so after sifting through 18 years worth of stories, here are a couple that give a little glimpse of who he is.

Shaun would ride with my brother when they picked me up from junior high. Being the typical junior high student, I was embarrassed being seen getting into my brothers’s Ford LTD. Shaun picked up on this embarrassment and ran with it… literally. One afternoon as they were picking me up, he dressed as a hick, jumped out of the car, and made a big scene in front of the school. He of course accomplished his goal of embarrassing me in front of my friends. Looking back now, I love how he didn’t care what others thought of him. He never failed to put a smile on everyone’s face, no matter the cost.

Shaun was able to join our family Christmas gathering on December 23, 2017 (just two days before he was hospitalized). He planned a time for all of us to sing carols together and made it happen the day of. We will all cherish this memory, as Shaun was such an important person to our family, and this was our last time with him before his death. It perfectly encapsulates who he is as well, constantly thinking of others and bringing joy to them in the midst of his ongoing health issues.

— Laura Jenkins

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Shaun sings with Bone Camaro at a show at Uncle Dave’s in Wayne, Neb. His band booked and played shows there frequently while he attended Wayne State college. | photo courtesy of Patrick McCabe

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Shaun was a dedicated friend to our kids growing up and lovingly called me “Beverage,” his “2nd Mom.”  

He loved life, music and making people smile.  

Despite a life-long chronic illness that left him with the certainty his life would be much shorter than his peers, he never lost his positivity,  or his ability to spread it.

The guy was also a Super Hero in my eyes.  I got him a Super Man t-shirt and sewed a red Cape for him to honor his determination, strength and resiliency after his Organ Transplant.  (Our daughter, Laura Jenkins has included a picture of him wearing it in her message).

Shaun was cocky, but humble, as well. A perfect example was this past Christmas.  We were lucky enough to have him here with our family at the time of our celebration.  We didn’t know it but he had organized a Sing-Along for the Grandchildren ahead of time.  Enjoying that very special (and crazy loud) time with our six Grandchildren honestly made it one of my all-time favorite Christmas memories!  We found out later that Shaun had videotaped the craziness and posted it to facebook. That’s just how Shaun was….always doing nice things for other people without wanting recognition or thanks.  

We will never stop missing Shaun.

—Bev Skillstad

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The cover of compilation album Shaun McCabe Forever. | Design by Jeremy Wardlaw

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I am not the best at finding words in these situations but knew that I needed to help do something for someone that was truly special. Shaun and I didn’t get a lot of alone time, but the one-on-one time we had (both on and offline) was always entertaining, to say the least. He made a positive impact on more lives than he probably realized and filled social media feeds with humor in times when most, in his situation, wouldn’t have been able to find a reason to be happy. Shaun embraced life, took the time to enjoy things we take for granted every single day, genuinely loved and supported the music community, and was a real inspiration to me.

He is the only person in my entire life that said I was one of his favorite artists. I hope he knew how much that meant to me.

Mikey Elfers reached out to me to get my thoughts about setting up a compilation on Bandcamp in honor of Shaun. I thought that was a great idea and told him I was hoping to set up a show in the same regard. Before we knew it, there was a community of some of Shaun’s favorite musicians, along with Patrick, coming together to make both of these things happen.

I sincerely hope that everyone can find some inspiration from Shaun’s life like I have.

— Jeremy Wardlaw

* * *

I first remember seeing posts about unicorns on the Star City Scene webboard.
Shaun clearly had a love for the local music scene and was hungry for more.
Over the years we would see each other at shows and local craft beer events and our conversations would drift from what shows  were coming up to when local bands were putting out new albums and what breweries were putting out new seasonal beers and inevitably on to some topic about our brothers; either what he and his brother Patrick would be looking forward to or something about when my brother Bernie and I would start a band together and play some shows and if we could bring Fugazi back to play in Lincoln.

To any one that got to know Shaun it was clear he was a fighter. To say he was dealt a bad hand just isn’t enough but all that he was going through never stopped him from being excited and sharing his love of our overlapping music and craft beer scenes.
Over the past month or two, what has made the lasting impact was his strong sense of brotherhood and valuing what is here right now.
On Saturday just a few of Shaun’s favorite bands are playing at 1867 for a Cystic Fibrosis Benefit and Dirty Talker has dusted off a few old songs to remember Shaun.
Here’s to Patrick and brothers and local bands and most of all Shaun McCabe forever.

— Brendan McGinn
Andrew Stellmon hosts “Hear Nebraska FM” every Monday from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.