Tag Archives: DJ

Hey, Mr. DJ

December 7, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When United States Army veteran Stephen Bils was deployed to Afghanistan, someone stole his first set of turntables, as well as all the vinyl records he’d collected over the years. The 29-year-old Clearwater, Florida, native had picked up the turntables at a flea market in North Carolina, right outside of Fort Bragg.

“They were garbage, but I loved them so much,” Bils says.

In a way, that was a pivotal moment in his life. Bils, who had relocated to Omaha in 1997 with his parents and two older sisters, returned to Nebraska to find a friend had donated a pair of (controllers) for him to use in the interim. From there, he began DJing all over Omaha—most notably at the now-defunct House of Loom.

“We played all over town,” he says. “The rest is history. It’s led me here to where I am now. It’s been nothing short of a good time.”

With each gig, the Benson High School graduate was finally able to publicly express his passion for music, something that began when he was a child. His mother, Trudi Bils, taught him how to play the guitar around 11 or 12 years old.

“I’ve always been in a musical environment,” Bils explains. “I played in bands, churches, high school concert band, jazz band, marching band, pep band—you name it. I was on drum line and played trap set in jazz band. In my free time, I played in bands with my friends.”

As a teenager, Bils started to gravitate toward electronic dance music.

“I love house music,” he says. “I can’t say that enough. Disco, funk, deep, soulful, techno—I love it all. I also enjoy trap and hip-hop, and jazz has a special spot in my heart, too.”

Bils doesn’t perform as much as he used to, but earlier this year, he became Encounter magazine’s resident DJ, which he says has been “amazing.” He also works with the Old Market-based Bar 415, where he brings in talent and occasionally plays shows.

“I’ll be doing a few friends’ weddings and some private parties this year, but with work, life, and everything going on, I can’t do it nearly as often as I used to,” he says. “Back when I was busy as a career DJ, I was holding down residencies with clubs like the Capitol, The Max, House of Loom, Sake Bombers, and Tavern. I was DJing gigs with touring bands, international DJs, producers, and working with organizations like the Open
Door Mission.”

Over the last few years, Bils has blossomed into a savvy entrepreneur. After high school, he briefly attended the University of Nebraska at Omaha where he enjoyed studying journalism, but three years into his college education, Bils left to pursue his own business—something he’s been working on ever since.

After watching his family struggle with finding quality care for his grandparents, Bils was motivated to establish BellaCare, an in-home health care agency focused on providing care to seniors and people with disabilities.

“There is such a huge demand for in-home care and a huge shortage of caregivers,” Bils says. “There are now, more than ever, a tremendous amount of people turning 65 everyday—somewhere around 15,000 people every day turn 65—and that will continue for another 15 to 20 years. And aside from being a good business opportunity, it’s a great way to do good for our community. It’s a much-needed service, and we are proud to offer it.”

While his commitment to BellaCare is one he clearly takes seriously, music will always be his first love. Anyone who has seen Bils touch a set of turntables (or CJDs) is typically moved by his form of artistic expression.

“House music is difficult to explain,” he says. “There’s a deep and soulful feeling that creates a connection or bond, like a symbiotic relationship between me and the people dancing. The rhythm and bass, topped with the voices of gospel, love or triumph, driven by wailing horns, or keyboards, or some kind of sample loop, just carries you over the dance floor like nobody’s watching. It’s a beautiful thing.”

Visit bellacare.us for more information about Bils’ business.

This article printed in the November/December 2017 edition of Encounter.

Confessions of a Wedding DJ

November 1, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann
Illustration by Derek Joy

I’m a wedding DJ.

That’s the first time I’ve publicly written this sentence.

It’s been a long journey to get to this point right. I went from a 19-year-old starry-eyed kid with a plan to change the world through music, to a 33-year-old wedding-DJ-for-hire, looking to make a quick disco daddy buck. I even advertise on theknot.com, making this about as official as it can get.

See, for DJs like me who identified with the “underground” and focused on musically whipping up emotions into an artful expression of the collective human experience, wedding DJs were the worst.

I mean, nice people. It’s just that between the potentiality of bridezillas, the necessity to play the “Cha-Cha Slide,” and the embarrassing unresponsiveness that follows your microphone announcement when rallying up people for the garter toss, I loathed wedding gigs. Yet here I am.

So how’d this happen? Simple. I became a father.

That sort of thing helps you to drop a fragile ego about what it means to be “true to the scene,” and instead apply your expensive gear and tested skills for the highest paid DJ gig an average guy can get.

As I’ve settled into this role, there’s one thing about the job that surprised me: Only a fraction of DJing a wedding is about DJing. The rest is spent making sure you understand the schedule, keeping everyone on said schedule, and not saying anything dumb on the mic.

Unfortunately, the last one gives me grief.

It could be that I’m secretly a shy-guy who ironically signs himself up for very public scenarios (such as being a DJ). It’s possible that, rooted in my experience as an adopted newborn, I have a fear of abandonment (exemplified by the time I hid in the corner and cried on the first day of kindergarten). Or—according to several of my past teachers—it’s due to my “test anxiety,” (which one time manifested on New Year’s Eve at Nomad Lounge when 250 people were looking up at me to lead the big countdown moment as I blanked out and fumbled around to hook up the microphone).

Just this past weekend, I DJed a wedding where, right after the bride and groom made their reception entrance, I was supposed to announce that the newlyweds didn’t want any “clinking of glasses” (i.e. the thing people do to get the bride and groom to kiss). But instead I mistakenly said, “The bride and groom requested that nobody do any—uh—uh—tinkling of glasses.”

I basically told people not to urinate in a cup.

As I made a “clinking” gesture with my hands to make up for the words that my brain failed to connect, you could hear a mic-feedback sound awkwardly christening the room.

And that’s how the night began.

But you know what? Somewhere along the way, I decided that, while I do have a menacing fear of microphones, these uncomfortable situations are really just an opportunity to tap into that age-old virtue called courage.

Case in point, at another wedding a few weeks ago, I basically played the role of a wedding coordinator and full-on master of ceremonies. To a crowd of a few hundred, I announced every motion of the night, gave the first toast of the evening, and vocally maneuvered in and out of emotional speeches. Apart from the use of breathing techniques, the power stance, and stress-relieving supplements like magnesium and L-theanine, I did the whole thing by myself without a hitch!

And interestingly enough, the same courage I muster up at a wedding now seems to follow me throughout the week—such as the time my wife and I were eating out at a favorite spot. I informed the server (in a cordial way) that the hummus we ordered was so mistakenly sweet that it tastes better as an ice cream topping rather than at the end of a carrot stick.

Or another time walking with my family, there was a couple sitting between two bushes with a river in the background. Their figures were creating a perfect silhouette, and the whole thing just had Instagram written all over it. To gift a keepsake, I told them how great the scene looked, and asked if I could take a photo with their phone.

Normally, I bypass those scenarios to avoid uncomfortable feelings. But by using my voice—my internal microphone—I helped an unknowing restaurant and captured a beautiful moment for two strangers.

As for that night where I told people not to piss in a cup, later in the evening, I jumped on the mic and whipped them up to form a multigenerational conga line to Harry Belafonte’s “Jump in the Line.” Then for the last song, I tapped into the heightened potential of the moment by playing K-Ci and JoJo’s “All My Life,” and prompted the remaining group to hold hands and circle around the newlyweds.

At peak moments of the chorus, I would fade out the volume, leaving nothing but the heartwarming and ridiculous sound of the group belting out the lyrics. With the freshly minted couple in the middle and smiles abounding, the experience crescendoed into a big sweaty group hug.

And that’s how the night ended.

This article printed in the November/December 2017 edition of Encounter.

To share your life perspectives—or whatever—with Brent Crampton and Encounter, email millennials@omahapublications.com.

Generational Journey Through Nightlife

August 23, 2017 by
Photography by Amy Lynn Straub

When I was 19, I could be found illegally sneaking into nightclubs. As the youngest person in the room, I was essentially walking into a raucous Generation X party.

Back then, around 2003-2004, the height of the ’90s rave era had passed and the post-rave scene was acclimating into the then-emerging ultra-lounge wave. House music and techno reigned supreme in the underground, Red Bull and vodka covered everything, and Gen Xers lived by this credo to make the most of the weekend. At the time, this apparently meant binge drinking with friends to loud music for long periods of time—every weekend.

As time went on and the millennial flavor began to form, I remember how exciting it was when all the indie kids started dancing. Parties like Goo at Slowdown and Gunk at Waiting Room spawned a new infusion of creativity into nightlife. Along with Bar 415, Loom at España, and Nomad Lounge, it looked as though millennials were headed down the same work-hard, play-hard path as Gen X. That is until the Great Recession struck.

Along with 9/11, and later the technological advancement of social media, the recession of 2008 would become a defining feature of our generation, shaping the millennial psyche and influencing collective movements.

In the face of layoffs and widespread economic downturn, here in Omaha I witnessed early 20-somethings foregoing the cover charges and high drink prices of bars and clubs. Instead they grabbed a gas station six-pack and headed to the nearest midtown house party to aptly channel their youthful angst and economic anxiety through the jaw-grinding sounds of electro. That same year, PBR sales took off and Google searches for “electro music” peaked.

But the millennial taste began to evolve, and all of those sweaty basement experiences transmuted to the rise of micro-breweries, Netflix, and Instagramming your farmer’s market foodie experience as a way to say, “Hey, I didn’t waste away my Friday night like you all did, so now I’m eating this farm-to-table cucumber at 9 a.m.”

There’s an entire industry dedicated to studying generations to predict buying behaviors, and when you study the research, millennials tend to say terrible things about nightclubs. Complaints often touch on high cover charges, rude bouncers, long waits, overcrowding, and loud music—all things that didn’t seem to
bother Gen X.

This notion—supplemented with social media, dating apps, and streaming music—meant that you didn’t really need to leave your house in order to feel connected to your friends, to what’s happening with cutting-edge music, or even to find a date. All compelling reasons to go out for generations before.

Because of these factors, I believe millennials developed a sense of economic conservatism as a response to the Great Recession. Because they didn’t have the expendable income like previous generations, they adapted by finding reasons why the commercial-party atmosphere of a club wasn’t worth it, perhaps merely as a means to justify their inability to participate. This was all, of course, reinforced by the needs technology filled in. But that doesn’t mean our generation doesn’t like a good party.

Yes, nightclubs have been closing in record numbers all across America and the United Kingdom. We are witness to this even in our own city. But festivals have been on the upswing. Think about the rise in awareness of Burning Man, Coachella expanding to two weekends, or even our own Maha festival, which sold out the last two years.

To put it another way, instead of going out every weekend—a routine Gen X had ritualized—millennials decide to save up for the big moments. And with social media and smart phones, they can capture the experience and #TBT-it over the course of many weeks and months as a way to make the moment, and their dollars, last.

All of this in mind, if someone were to ask me today if opening a nightclub was a good idea, I’d tell them, “No.” Throw a festival instead. One that offers coffee with amazing floral and acidic notes, and a fast-casual gastro pub that offers a saffron, foie gras, and grass-fed beef burger.

Now, Generation Z is beginning to pump out its first 21+ers. As they enter into the nightlife picture amidst the Trumpian era, it’ll be interesting to see how they respond to present circumstances. Will the pervasive fear, racial tension, and stagnant wages turn our youth inward, or will they tap into the collective anxiety of our times as a source of inspiration to compel the use of art, music, and dancing as a means to escape, to find solutions, and propel our society forward, like generations have done before?

I sure hope so.

To share your life perspectives—or whatever—with Brent Crampton and Encounter, email millennials@omahapublications.com.

Lunch With Buffett

August 13, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

With food-inspired songs such as “Charleston’s,” “Medium Rare,” and the album’s title track, the duo displays a penchant for sweet-sounding beats and aspirations to dine with Omaha’s most affluent resident, Warren Buffett.

They speculate that arranging lunch with the local billionaire would be easier than getting airplay on local radio stations.

“We want to be heard,” Big Tate says. “The radio DJ abides by guidelines that [forbid] touching the streets. They are afraid to challenge the norm.”

“Radio is stagnant,” Absolut-P adds. “It isn’t as influential as it once was. If we want to make an impact, we’d be better off putting together a lunch with Warren Buffett and creating a buzz from that.”

Or maybe just make up a song about having lunch with Buffett.

Big Tate

That sort of creative thinking would be the driving force behind Absolut-P (aka Stevin Taylor) and Big Tate (aka James Buckley) collaborating on the album.

The idea came from another friend’s fateful encounter with Buffett at a now-closed Omaha steakhouse known to be one of Buffett’s favorite local restaurants.

“A friend of mine happened to be eating at Piccolo Pete’s when she called to tell me that Warren Buffett and Bill Gates were sitting across from her,” Big Tate recalls. “I told her that I needed her to get a picture of them by any means. I’m always thinking of ways to promote our music with imagery and catchy choruses. I was sure that I could come up with a song for that image.”

Big Tate was familiar with Buffett’s history of auctioning off a “power lunch” for charity. In 2016, an anonymous bidder paid $3,456,789 for the experience, with the money going to benefit the Glide Foundation, a San Francisco nonprofit dedicated to helping homeless and underprivileged residents.

For months, Big Tate continued to stew over his idea. Later in 2016, he partnered with local producer Absolut-P (the P stands for “Perfection”), and they were able to create an infectious melody.

The song’s music video even featured a faux cameo by Buffett (thanks to a cut-out photograph of the billionaire’s face pasted over one of their friends).

They consider it an homage to the wealthy hometown hero.

“We’re from the north side of Omaha, and you don’t see those types of people on the north side,” Big Tate explains. “Other than Bud Crawford, it’s hard to relate to anyone on such a big stage. It’s good to look up to self-made men.”

Absolut-P

“As independent artists, Warren Buffett’s entrepreneurial spirit gives us a sense of self-pride,” Absolut-P says. “He shows us that by investing in ourselves we can reap big rewards.” 

One such investment involved professional mastering for the album by Rick Carson at Make Believe Studios. Absolut-P and Big Tate hope the song resonates with fans of hip-hop, Omaha, and Buffett alike. They released the album Dec. 31, 2016 (with a parental advisory warning for explicit content).

“The album-making process was so organic,” says Big Tate, explaining that hip-hop works best when pursued in a natural, fun way. “We just made songs about what we like; everyone likes to eat at a nice restaurant and order a good prime rib. That made us think of Charleston’s; they have some of the best steaks in Omaha. I like my steak well-done, but I’ve heard that they are very good medium-rare.”

When asked where they would like to take Buffett for lunch, both agree that Time Out Foods or The Taste’s of Soul Cafe would be a good place to accommodate them.

“I’m sure Warren Buffett is used to eating at the finest establishments,” Absolut-P says. “I’d want to give him a taste of our roots with some good food for the soul.”

Find Big Tate on Twitter at @BigTate402 and Absolut-P at @IAmAbsolutP. Both musicians frequently release new songs on social media. Their respective Soundcloud accounts are soundcloud.com/big-tate and soundcloud.com/absolut-p. Lunch with Buffett is available on iTunes, Spotify, Tidal, Spinrilla, Google Play, and YouTube. Copies are sold at Homer’s in downtown Omaha.

This article appears in the July/August 2017 edition of Omaha Magazine.

*Editor’s note: The printed edition misspelled Taylor’s first name as Steven.

Transitorily Yours

February 22, 2017 by
Photography by Amy Lynn Straub

Editor’s note: This is the first installment in a new Encounter column focusing on millennial life by Brent Crampton. To share your significant life experiences, email millennials@omahapublications.com

Today is Jan. 7, 2017, and yesterday I walked out of House of Loom one last time. It was a place that I co-owned, DJed at, and curated events for. The scene I left was only a shell. There were no swirling lights or sounds, no Victorian lounge vibes, and certainly no lively, booze-fueled conversations. Just an echo of the life that filled that place for 5 1/2 years remained (along with the bustle of a construction crew ripping a hole in the wood floor).

Loom was many things to many people, but to me it was a lovely little social experiment that blended cultures, creatives, and communities. Categorically, it was a nightclub and event venue, but to the folks frequenting its experiences, it was a place where patrons and friends could mobilize around causes, express emotions, mourn passings, and celebrate life’s contrasts.

The influx of people was so fluid that you could not distinguish it as a straight or gay bar, but simply as a people’s bar. On its best nights, it brought together folks who normally wouldn’t intersect in our city, and lifted us out of the doldrums of our daily lives.

It is rare for a business to shut down without the force of an unpaid bill. As a friend and fellow small business owner says, it is a gift to be able to close on your own terms. And that is exactly what we did. For myself and the other owners, House of Loom was never meant to be permanent. It was a successful social experiment. And it was time to move on.

I have spent the past 13 years of my life fervently dedicated to contributing to Omaha’s nightlife. With this new year, I embark on a new chapter—one where the loud and flashy peaks of club life are swapped for the quiet joy of watching my 1-year-old baby stand on her own for the first time. Now, spontaneous social gatherings are traded for intimate dinner parties (often planned months in advance). Instead of falling asleep as the sun rises, I wake up  with the sun.

It is a different life—one with its own advantages. My prior life could never hold a candle to this new world. In fact, as I write this, my baby daughter is napping away on my chest after a messy meal of liquified plums, apples, and carrots. She is tuckered out, and so am I.

This brings me to why I am writing this column. During this next chapter of my life, I will be taking some time to hibernate in the creative womb. The invitation to turn to the reflective act of writing seemed like a synchronistic opportunity. Instead of only sharing my notions of creativity and thought from behind a DJ booth, I will gladly be able to do so in this space.

Much like my life right now, I am going to ad-lib my writing. Most likely I will touch on topics ranging from the social impact of nightlife (of course), the curiosities of parenting (because I’m new at this), food (because I get giddy when I eat good food), and inclusiveness and equality (because of our new president), all through the millennial lens of a 30-something, post-nightclub-owning new papa.

Here’s to new beginnings.

Brent Crampton previously co-owned House of Loom and is co-owner of Berry & Rye, a bar in the Old Market. A multi-award-winning DJ in a former life, he now prefers evenings spent at home with his family.

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Encounter.

Très Johnson

February 4, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Très Johnson is pouring water in a slow, circular motion around a paper filter resting just inside a glass jar. Inside the filter, coffee grounds are mixing with the water, tiny bubbles forming on the surface of the gritty liquid. The glass chamber below collects the drippings of fresh, dark coffee.

At 1010 S. Main St. in Council Bluffs, (drips) coffee shop serves only pour-over coffee.

Johnson had wanted to open a coffee shop almost since he managed one back in 1995. Unfortunately, “the cost of the machinery prohibits just jumping in,” he says.

He and his girlfriend, Amber Jacobsen, took a trip to San Francisco about a year and a half ago. There, they visited Blue Bottle Coffee, which does pour-over coffee—Johnson’s first taste of it.

“It was the best cup of coffee I’d had,” Johnson says. “And I realized it took a smaller amount of equipment to be able to make it. You just had to boil water, have the filter and the stand. And I actually use glass Ball jars instead of a stand.”

Re-inspired by this method, Johnson opened (drips) on July 1, 2013.

This particular brew is Nightingale Blend, roasted by Beansmith Coffee in Omaha, and prepared in a personal pour-over, which has four drips. He also uses a Chemex frequently, with a single drip.

“I do have some French presses and an AeroPress,” Johnson says. “But I’ve found that the pour-over just tastes better. The people that insist on French press have tried the pour-over, and now they don’t insist on the French press anymore.”

A coffee shop is the perfect place to be on a day like this—cold and rainy. Amber is doing a puzzle. Two locals are enjoying their pour-overs and accusing Amber of cheating by looking at the photo on the puzzle box.

(drips) is located in a mixed-use space occupied by artists, including low-income artist housing. The coffee shop definitely has an artsy feel, probably because Johnson is both a painter and a DJ.

One half of the wall space displays Johnson’s art. The other half is space for rotating guest shows.

For Valentine’s Day, (drips) will display the work of approximately 20 local artists in a show called “Lovesong,” named for The Cure song. A Brian Tait show will open mid-February.

The Cure is already present in lyrics painted onto Johnson’s pieces. He often uses stencils to inscribe lyrics from bands like Depeche Mode and Joy Division—words that “people from the ’80s, if they know the song, they connect with.”

He describes his style as “heavily influenced by street art, and then some post-World War II art thrown in.”

“When I’m tired of painting and waiting for paint to dry, I produce music,” he says with a laugh.

He DJs a set every Sunday night for an online radio station, lowercasesounds.com. “Then that’s what I listen to generally throughout the week when I’m painting,” he says. “I listen to it over and over again, because I usually listen to newer music or music that I just picked up. I listen and paint.”

Johnson describes his sound as “deep house and ambient.” He DJs Silicon Prairie News events, like Big Omaha, and he has recently released EPs on the label Deep Site Space.

“There’s always been a combination of the music in the art,” Johson says. “They’re both something that I let myself go into. I don’t really sweat it. I just let it all flow.”

Planning Your Company Party

August 26, 2013 by

It’s that time of year again to start thinking about planning your next company party. Unsure how to make this year’s party a success? Amy Lackovic, event production director at planitomaha, gives practical, step-by-step advice.

Where to start? Lackovic says to first consider the attendee experience. “Employees want to attend an event where they can be themselves,” says Lackovic. “It is important to create an environment where they feel comfortable enough to open up to their peers and really get to know one another.”

The next thing to consider is the budget because this will determine everything from the invites to the location. If your budget is tight, Lackovic suggests these steps to saving money: go with electronic invitations instead of print; use preferred vendors with discounts; reuse décor, florals, and linens from other events; eliminate labor costs by doing it yourself; control your event timing so you do not run into overages; and limit alcohol consumption.

Once you have the budget in place, start looking for the event space. “You should lock in your event space as soon as you can,” says Lackovic. “Typically, you should lock in your space at least six months in advance.” When finalizing the space, Lackovic recommends asking about cost and deposit, number of people it can hold, catering options, AV options, location (easy for the majority of your attendees), and any limitations the venue may have.

“Employees want to attend an event where they can be themselves…where they feel comfortable enough to open up to their peers and really get to know one another.” – Amy Lakovic, event production director at planitomaha

Theresa Farrage, ballroom event specialist with Scoular Ballroom (which just underwent a complete renovation), suggests remembering two things when selecting a venue: your vision of the event and your guests. “You should definitely keep your big picture in mind but also don’t forget about the little details,” says Farrage.

Simple details that make a big difference may be included in the venue’s overall cost; just be sure to ask the key questions. “Is there a security guard on premise? Does the fee include table and chair rentals? You may think you’re getting a great deal, but once you factor in the cost of a few amenities that don’t come standard, you may be in for a big surprise,” says Farrage.

Farrage stresses booking your venue well in advance. “If you have your heart set on a venue, be flexible with your dates. Booking your event on a weeknight or during the off-season will often save you money.”

Once the venue is chosen, Lackovic breaks the event down by the remaining essentials: entertainment, decorations, personalization, menu, and gifts.

Entertainment

“Revisit the question of ‘what do I want the attendee experience to be?’ If it is a more social and lively event, I would suggest a band, as they have the ability to strongly interact with the attendees. If it’s a networking event, I would suggest going with simple background music or even a DJ.”

“If you had an area to splurge on, definitely look into spending the extra dollars on entertainment,” says Lackovic. “The entertainment can make or break an event.”

Decorations

“Adding lighting to your event can add a dramatic effect and ambiance. Adding some soft seating around the venue can also make the event feel more chic. Make sure you utilize everything the venue has to offer. Sometimes, your venue has in-house décor options included in the rental fee.”

Personalization

“An easy and cost-effective way to show this is to have a personal note of gratitude from the employer or manager. Another avenue is to offer incentives in the everyday workplace, such as a ‘Jeans Day’ or a floating PTO day the month of their birthday.”

Gifts

“It is not a necessity to provide a take-home gift, but it may leave a lasting impression on the attendee. You want to make sure that whatever item you decide to give away can actually be useful. We have seen people go toward more tech-savvy items such as branded cell phone power docks or USB drives. This way, their gift will not only remind the attendee of the event or organization, but it will also make the person more inclined to keep the useful and unique gift.”

Menu

“Within the past couple of years, the menu options have expanded quite a bit. People are much more health-conscious, so it is extremely important to plan ahead for those attendees who may be vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, etc.”

Jennifer Snow, owner/director of operations at Catering Creations, dishes on the latest ideas in food: “A current trend has been to take street foods, comfort foods, and bar foods and put an elegant and upscale twist on them…this makes the food fun and familiar for your guests and still gives them an opportunity to try new flavors.”

Some examples of comfort-food-turned-haute-cuisine are Gouda cheese-stuffed sliders or a French fry station with truffle aioli and caramelized onion ketchup. Another trend is to “bring out the kid” in your guests. “Everyone loves a classic sundae station with chocolate sauces and whipped cream—and don’t forget the sprinkles!” says Snow. “Or what about a pretzel cart traveling with assorted toppings like nacho cheese, honey mustard, or even chocolate sauce and chopped nuts?

“We are currently working on our holiday menus to include customized caramelized popcorn stations with several varieties of sweet, salty, and savory popcorn mixes such as a Cajun caramelized popcorn with nuts and chocolate,” shares Snow.

“A current trend has been to take street foods, comfort foods, and bar foods and put an elegant and upscale twist on them.” – Jennifer Snow, owner/director of Catering Creations

Not every event needs shrimp cocktail. If your company is on a tight budget and you still want to include a nice seafood item, Snow suggests crab and shrimp cakes, which are still delicious but less expensive.

“It has also become trendy to use some of the less expensive meat options and add savory flavors and tenderness by slow braising them. This saves costs versus ordering beef filet,” says Snow.

“Coffee service isn’t always needed for a hot summer event but always plan on more coffee drinkers for events during the holidays,” says Snow. “Try throwing in a fun option like a specialty coffee and hot chocolate station to add condiments such as chocolate chips, caramel sauce, whipped cream, or peppermint sticks.”

There you have it—expert advice on how to make your company party one to remember. Now get to work!

Steve Gordon

August 20, 2012 by
Photography by minorwhitestudios

Designer Steve Gordon’s urbanized sense for what’s in-vogue permeates his lifestyle and RDQLUS Creative signature work. He indulges a love for hip hop, sneakers, and bikes. He provides brand development, identity design, and creative direction services for corporate clients, big and small, near and far.

Growing up in the North Omaha projects, Gordon displayed an inquisitive mind and aptitude for art. Attending Omaha Creighton Prep exposed him to a larger world.

“I was encouraged to explore, and I think exploration is a major part of creativity and innovation,” he says. “All of that comes from the wide-open spaces of being able to reach and grasp at straws, get some things wrong. After I bought into that, so many things opened up. At Prep, I fell in love with architecture. It still drives a lot of the work I do. My work is a lot more structured than the free-form work of some other designers. Mine is very vertical and Art Deco influenced.”

His design endeavors shared time with his passions for music and competitive athletics. He “fell in love” with music as a kid and went on to success as a DJ, producer, and remixer. His skill as a triple jumper earned him scholarship offers from top colleges and universities. After two years as a Cornhusker in Lincoln, he transferred to the University of South Dakota, where he won multiple national titles. He was ranked among the world’s best.

Gordon with the shoes he designed for NIKEiD.

Gordon with the shoes he designed for NIKEiD.

His pursuit of an Olympic berth and a music career took him around the world. Back home, he worked corporate gigs before launching RDQLUS Creative in 2005.

“As an artist, you want that creative outlet to do something a bit more outside the box, something you’re passionate about,” he says of going the indie route.

The sneaker aficionado recently combined two of his passions when NIKEiD invited him to design shoes and to document the process online.

“I didn’t want to just put some pretty colors on a shoe, I wanted there to be some story, some branding. I’m very much into fashion, style, aesthetics, and athletics, and so I wanted to design a shoe that spoke to all of those things.

“Guys like myself, though we dress in denims and sneakers rather than wing-tips and a tie, we’re no less in tune with wanting to look sharp and present ourselves well.”

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He’s authored two books on freelance design for Rockport Publishers, whose Rock, Paper, Ink blog features his column, “Indie.” He also does public speaking gigs about design. He’s a big tweeter, too. “I love communicating with people.

“At times I wonder how I keep everything up in the air. All of the things I’m involved in, I really have a true belief they feed each other. Someone asked me once, ‘What is it you do for a living?’ and I said, ‘I hope my answer is always, I live for a living.’ What I do to sustain that, well, that’s a different story.”

This one-man shop embodies the independent creative class spirit of engaging community. “Design and creativity are not about art,” he says, “but communication. We’re visual problem solvers.” He says “the really fervent” way he worked to better himself as an athlete “is a lot of like how I still approach life in general,” adding, “If I could work so hard at something that was a game and that gave me fulfillment and made a lasting legacy for myself, then how can I not enjoy life that same way?”

Read more of Leo Adam Biga’s work at leoadambiga.wordpress.com.