By Karynn Brown, Angel Mai and Hailey Krueger
Photos by Kyle Gibson, Hailey Krueger, and Stephanie Paul
Video by Hailey Krueger and Bassey Arikpo
Sept. 29, 2017
Thursday was the first of three packed nights of local and national performers lighting up downtown for this week’s Lincoln Calling music festival, running through Saturday.
The festival marks 14 years this year — its second in the hands of musical nonprofit Hear Nebraska. Lincoln Calling is a local music, art and innovation festival happening downtown and all over the city this week, with nightly music this Thursday through Saturday.
This festival shows true collaboration and community within the music scene as all the major venues have been working together to make this event happen. Bodega’s Alley, Duffy’s Tavern, Bourbon Theater, Zoo Bar, 1867 Bar and The Bay have come together to create nine stages across downtown Lincoln to make enough space for the festival and the big names it’s bringing. Here are highlights from the first day of the fest.
Matt Stansberry and the Romance
Oklahoma City’s Matt Stansberry and the Romance’s big band/soft pop star feel with fun, romantic lyrics was a hit at Duffy’s Backlot. Complete with colorful, dynamic lights, this band got the crowd dancing and singing with the performers. Overall, Matt Stansberry and the Romance was incredibly fun to watch and be apart of.
Post Animal helped to close out Duffy’s Backlot with another favorite performance of the night. This five-person rock group from Chicago, touring on their 2016 EP, The Garden Series. The band has a hallmark new age indie rock sound. It was hard to miss the four long-haired front men lined up across the stage, head bobbing their way through the set.
The final band outside of Duffy’s was Wand. This band left the crowd on the edge of a full blown mosh pit and yelling for an encore. The psychedelic rock group released their fourth and latest album Plum last week, on September 22nd. This band thrives off the sounds to endless, mesmerizing and lyricless rock anthems.
Cayetana, one of the festival’s second-tier headliners, performed Thursday at the Bourbon to a fairly large but not necessarily energetic crowd. The three-person post-punk all-female group from Philadelphia brought a clean, stripped-down performance. Cayetana performs with sustained strength, rich vocals and personal lyrics. The group is currently on tour with their second album, released earlier this year, entitled New Kind of Normal. The next leg of the tour will be through the southern U.S., Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.
Cayetana is one of tonight's headliners, on now at the Bourbon! pic.twitter.com/ZKk7DVTkxg
— KZUM (@KZUMradio) September 29, 2017
Navy Gangs opened up the Bay for Frankie Cosmos. The Brooklyn via Omaha band played crisp, alternative and surfer style music for an enthusiastic all ages crowd. Their latest album is a self-titled EP, released in 2016 on Spotify and bandcamp. The group will play once more in their hometown tomorrow night at Brothers in Omaha before returning to New York.
More from The Bay
Other local favorites included performances by Salt Creek, Twinsmith and Mad Dog and the 20/20’s. All groups played setlists of mostly new music, all released in the last year. Salt Creek’s latest album, Where Strangers Go was released in May. Salt Creek will also be playing at Flannel Fest at the Bay in October. For Halloween, they’ll team up with Better Friend and Mad Dog in the 20/20’s for an emo cover show at 1867.
All bands seem incredibly excited for the show, and Mad Dog played sneak preview of Fall Out Boy’s “Sugar We’re Goin’ Down Swinging” bringing fun, hard-hitting energy to Bodega’s Alley. Omaha’s Twinsmith showed up strong with their glamourous, inviting sound, playing favorites from their summer released album “Stay Cool”, and debut album “Alligator Years”.
Omaha’s McCarthy Trenching presented as personable, relatable and relaxin at The Zoo Bar. Composed of Dan McCarthy on acoustic guitar and James Maakestad on upright bass,, this performance was refreshing. One song, “Ogallala Aquifer” told the story of pioneer survival and civilization through the discovery and protection of the Ogallala Aquifer.
Mount Moriah started their well rounded Zoo Bar performance at nearly 12:45, leading into the third song of their set with a shout out, “for those that have to work in the morning- this is for you.” Mount Moriah has truly hit their stride as a Americana folk rock. Lead vocalist Heather McEntire has an impassioned and versatile voice that lends itself perfectly to the drums, guitar, and bass accompaniment. Mount Moriah released their last record, How to Dance on Merge Records, and is currently on tour with Angel Olsen, another Lincoln Calling performer.
Nothing could have prepared concertgoers for the overwhelming, indescribable experience that was the Street Sects performance. A duo from Austin, Texas, performed by first filling the 1867 Bar venue room with fog machine smoke. Impossible to see your own hand in front of you, the only lights in the room were strobe lights. This created an otherworldly atmosphere of half silhouettes of the audience and performers. The strobes would alternate with the music to create an almost gridded pattern of sound waves coming at you through the fog.
Dressed in what can only be guessed as a blonde, dreaded, wig, the vocalist performed right on the floor with the crowd, screaming and moving through people with surprising aptitude. The strobe lights and smoke gave everything an air of uncertainty, it was impossible to know who was audience, performer, or instrument. Street Sects sound was along the lines of horror-movie tension in building bass and steady, electronic feeds. Overlaid with “cathartic, nihilistic screaming” and very live chainsaw noises, sound was unique, unsettling, and experiential. Others in the bar were blown away, and many stepped in and out of the performance room to take in Street Sects in waves.
Lincoln Calling’s Night Market, a free bazaar space on the closed-down section of 14th Street between O and P, launched the three-day festival on Thursday with a performance by Lincoln rock band Trash Kat.
Led by Patrick Bradley, the band plays regularly around town and released its debut EP, Judas Chair in June. The band’s loud rock music filling the cool evening from the outdoor stage was the perfect way to energize everyone for the night.
The second performance on the Night Market stage was Bach Mai, a band named after its lead singer. This indie pop punk group from Omaha provided fun music, thanking Lincoln Calling for the opportunity to be there. This was their first festival and they enjoyed having an audience to perform for with cool, breezy weather. They released an album entitled., We’re gone…We begin in 2016, but have no planned tour or performance dates.
Bach Mai has music that leans more on the lyrical content, addressing matters of broken hearts, mistakes, love and hope. They introduced most of their songs like “Nerd” which was written for all the nerds out there who people never believe in, created to show that people do care.
While the band focuses more on lyrics, their style of music is still riveting. Despite a few technical complications starting off the night, Bach Mai performed songs that had steady beats and catchy tunes. The music was so enjoyable that audience member Woodrow Vents was able to dance along for the full set. He managed to get a couple others to join him as well.
“I like the rhythm, it’s easy to dance to,” said Vents.
To wrap up the performance, Bach Mai performed a song called “Daybreak” which reassures people that they are not alone. This song is the band’s anthem, establishing the main message for all of their music.
As Bach Mai sings in the chorus of “Daybreak,” “There is pain, dark, hate, and heartache. But there is love, light, joy, and daybreak.”
Don’t miss out: Check out the Night Market’s first band tonight, Histrionic. This local band is Lincoln’s new favorite form of punk and more than worth the trip downtown. Comprising a lead bassist, a guitarist and a drummer, this band brings endless amounts of energy, grunge and excitement to their performances. Histrionic goes on 5-5:40 p.m.
Omaha’s very own Twinsmith started off Thursday night at The Bourbon. The band released their third album, Stay Cool which is their most personal work to date. There was a large turnout mainly of college students eager to see the Nebraska\ indie sensation. They mainly played new songs which had a great balance of atmospheric and energetic sound. The set was short and sweet, as most are for a festival of this size, but the crowd was ecstatic regardless.
Several bands traveled far and wide to be part of music fest Lincoln Calling, including indie-rock band Frankie Cosmos, hailing all the way from Brooklyn, New York. The band is currently on tour promoting their new album called Next Thing, and had the pleasure of headlining at The Bay. They had an hour long set, which is long for such a large festival, and played mostly new songs, ending with a few older goodies for loyal fans. One fan in particular drove five hours just to see them perform as a birthday celebration, and front-woman Greta Kline called them out to thank them for their dedication. With their youthful lyrics and beautiful harmonies, everyone in attendance was thrilled, dancing and swaying to each song, some even singing along. It was a fantastic group to end the night at The Bay, and the audience benefited from seeing them at such an intimate and personal venue.
LA-based rock band Best Coast performed at Bourbon Theatre Thursday night, drawing in the biggest crowd of the evening. On tour promoting their new album California Nights, they included as many new songs as possible in their one hour set. Fans were not disappointed to have a chance to see their up-and-coming favorites in action, singing and dancing to each song. Lead singer Bethany Cosentino near the end stopped mid song to let the audience know she was sick and wasn’t sure she could do that particular song, but the crowd cheered her on and she did it anyways, still sounding top notch. Bourbon Theatre’s lineup ended on an energetic note, pumping up festival goers for the rest of the night.
One of the most enthusiastic crowds of the night flocked to Duffy Tavern’s beer garden Thursday night to see indie-rockers Post Animal up close. They had not one, not two, but three electric guitars as well as a bassist and drummer. Hailing from Chicago, they made their first time trip to Nebraska just to participate in music fest Lincoln Calling. Their sound is best described as spooky and atmospheric but with tons of energy. Throughout the set they were smiling and rocking out along with their audience, playing some new material for fans to hear. After their performance they hopped off stage to man their merch booth, blessing old and new followers with brand new T-shirts and goodies, saying their first time in Lincoln had been a blast.
Bodega’s Alley welcomed Chicago-based rapper R.O.E to the stage as part of music fest Lincoln Calling. His set was the epitome of chill, sporting dark sunglasses through the duration of his performance and dancing with each song. The audience was perceptive to his no-worries message and moved along with him, some even reciting his raps. Near the end of his set he shared that his stage name stands for “Rising Over Everything” and encouraged everyone listening that they can get through any situation, as he did pursuing his music.
Closing out the night at Bodega’s Alley was rapper, Stik Figa, who traveled from Topeka, Kansas for Lincoln Calling. It was a quick set, but the audience jammed out as he intermittently free styled. He was super interactive with his crowd, instructing them to accompany him on certain songs and move. As one of the last shows of the night, it was wise to end on a relaxed note, letting festival-goers unwind from a busy, music-filled night.
For more on the festival, visit lincolncalling.com.
Hailey Krueger, Bassey Arikpo, Angel Mai, Karynn Brown and Stephanie Paul are KZUM interns. Kyle Gibson is a KZUM board member.