Frank Foster was a sweet relief on a sweltering summer night.
The country musician performed in Omaha on Friday, June 15, at The Waiting Room Lounge (with Bucka Ruse opening the night).
Although Foster has been independently producing music since the release of his first album in 2011, Rowdy Reputation, the line of people waiting outside for the doors to open before the show demonstrated his rapidly growing fan base.
When Foster took the stage a little after 10 p.m., the energy in the room felt like the air before a summer thunderstorm.
Most of the roughly 70 people in the audience were on their feet in front of the stage, dancing and having a good time listening to music that Foster describes as “Redneck Rock ’N’ Roll”—also the title of the second song in his set.
He seemed to channel the look and sound of country stars Jason Aldean and Kenny Chesney, with Foster’s own Louisiana style tying it all together. Before finding national success with his music, the self-described “country boy” had a job working in an oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana. The oil fields have also inspired Foster songs such as “Rig and the Road.”
Foster’s stage presence could have filled an arena, making it a special treat to catch him up close at The Waiting Room. His constant movement and tendency to jump up and stand on the speakers pumped up the energy and gave the show a big-time feel.
Foster interspersed a few slow songs in his set of upbeat, sing-along songs, but the most exciting song had the refrain “In the South, they get loud,” from his upcoming album set to debut in September.
If audience members weren’t Frank Foster fans before, they are now.
If Curly Martin has something to say, you can best believe you will hear it if you’re within earshot.
“Man, tell me who came up with this idea for a story about the Chitlin’ Circuit, I know it had to be a white boy,” Martin says during a boisterous conversation. “First, make sure he gets it straight; it’s not chitterlings. It was called the Chitlin’ Circuit!”
While chitterlings—chitlins for short—are a soul-food staple made from the small intestines of pigs, the Chitlin’ Circuit refers to venues in the South (and into the Upper Midwest) that supported traditional rhythm and blues acts. Martin finds the term as repulsive as its namesake.
“I know they think the Chitlin’ Circuit was for the mediocre musicians, but let me tell you, the Blues and R&B Chitlin’ Circuit was different from the Jazz Chitlin’ Circuit. Jazz players ruled Omaha and always stayed sharp. We dressed like pimps and players because that was our clientele.”
There are still jazz heavyweights living on Omaha’s northside, and Martin is testament to the fact. In the music room of his modest home, nestled near Belvedere Point, he collects an assortment of recording equipment and memorabilia: a 1972 Fender Rhodes keyboard, albums worked on with smooth-jazz innovator Grover Washington, and an award for the 2017 Best Jazz Musician in Omaha from the Omaha Entertainment and Art Awards.
“They told me I would have to pay to pick it up, but somehow it wound up here,” he says of the OEAA award. 2017 was an eventful year for Martin. In addition to the local award, he was also nominated for a Grammy for Best R&B Album alongside his world-renown, West Coast producer/songwriter son, Terrace Martin.
“Grammy-nominated for Velvet Portraits and Homer’s didn’t even have the album,” Martin recalls. “I brought Terrace to Make Believe Recording Studios to record that album, but these fools in Omaha won’t acknowledge it! There’s even a song named ‘Curly Martin’ my son did with Robert Glasper. Now that’s a tough tune.”
When asked if there are remnants of the jazz scene he once knew in Omaha, Martin scoffs.
“The ‘decision-makers’ on the music scene don’t like me because I’ll tell them to their faces they can’t play,” Martin states unapologetically. “I don’t think Omaha artists have enough range, and they’ll get mad at me for telling them the truth!”
One of the few people Martin considers an ally is Kate Dussault, founder of the Hi-Fi House. After hosting a series of successful Jazz Labs with Martin, she acknowledges him as an unappreciated artist in the local music scene.
“Curly is a hoot, but he is passionate about passing his knowledge on to the younger generation,” Dussault says. “He is more akin to a mentor than an academic teacher. I can recall him saying that you can go to class all day and do your homework, but where is the inspiration?”
“They don’t even know that I sold out the Holland Center back in February, man,” Martin asserts. “I brought out some of the best guitarists in the world that still reside in North Omaha like Wali Ali and Calvin Keys or saxophonist Hank Redd. These guys have worked with The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, and Tony Bennett. Musicians around here aren’t as diverse as we were, so they can’t compare to back in the day.”
Martin goes on to describe the Jazz Circuit lifestyle: thousand-dollar diamond rings, mohair suits, and alligator shoes that had to match the belt. They would play seven days a week traveling between the Blue Note in Minneapolis, Allen’s Showcase in North Omaha, O.G.s in Kansas City, KC Lounge in Denver, and the BTW Hotel and Lounge in San Francisco.
“Man, we rotated through those clubs throughout the ’60s,” Martin reminisces. “Mr. Allen at the Showcase let a lot of us jazz players get our feet wet, but there was also Alice’s Lounge, Shirley’s, and the Black Orchid in North Omaha. Even for the white folks, if they wanted to hear the baddest of the bad they had to come to the northside and downtown!”
Morning breakfast dances from 6-10 a.m. on holidays, Sunday jam sessions, and good music playing on every corner is the North Omaha jazz mecca that Martin remembers.
“I was probably 14 when I started drumming for my first band, Daddy Long Legs and the Rocking Nighthawks. I even had a gig downtown at Mickey’s with a checkerboard band called Danny and the Roulettes because mixed-race bands were popular. We were jamming downtown when the so-called riots of ’69 went down. After that uprising, our era started to wind down.”
These days, Martin focuses on the future. With a new album in the works and another project with Dussault upcoming, he is eager to give back to his community.
“They tried to get me involved with WeBop, but I’m not trying to be a babysitter,” Martin says, referring to the early childhood education program. “I want to get kids when they’re serious about their craft, and show them that North Omaha has a rich background. I can’t let them bury our history; this generation can see me and say, ‘If Curly lived this wonderful life then I can do it, too.’”
Terrace Martin produced Velvet Portraits and is producing his father’s upcoming album. Follow @terracemartinmusic on Facebook for updates.
This article was printed in the July/August 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.
Daisies may blow with the wind, but that doesn’t mean they are fragile.
The young members of Daisy Distraction have seen a lot of dilemmas. Dilemma was, in fact, the name of the band that several of the members first played in together. Vocalist Erin Mitchell, guitarist John Staples, bassist and keyboardist Neil Osborn, and vocalist Anna Abbott were members of BluesEd, a youth development program. Staples, Osborn, and Abbott were placed in Dilemma with Mitchell, drummer Eric Shouse, and guitarist Logan Hawkins.
The most ethereal member of the group is also the biggest influence. Abbott, along with Staples and Osborn, joined BluesEd in early 2016. Sweet and shy, she performed live starting in April that year. The band was proud to be part of Omaha Entertainment & Arts Summer Showcase on June 10, and at Bridge Beats on June 24.
The show on June 24 was the quad’s final performance together. Abbott suffered an asthma attack the next day that sent her into cardiac arrest, and she died on July 2. The band’s next performance was one week later.
BluesEd gave the heartbroken singers the opportunity to sit out their performance, but the group members knew the ever-positive Abbott wouldn’t want them to miss a performance because of her.
“One time, Anna could see that I was having a bad day,” Mitchell recalls. “I was being negative, but she took the time to show me a photo of a fox because she loves foxes, and it just brightened my day. To this day, when I see a fox it reminds me of that experience and of her.”
The cover band decided to throw caution (and petals) to the wind. Abbott had wanted to perform original music to push herself as an artist, and throughout the summer Dilemma began to perform original songs at their sets, including at a benefit for Anna held at 21st Saloon on July 24, 2016, and as the opening act for the New Generation Music Festival. Dilemma ended their season (and their group) on Aug. 13 with the In the Market for Blues festival.
Aside from the loss of Anna, the group members faced other dilemmas in fall of 2016, one of which was distance. Mitchell stayed in Omaha for classes, but Osborn traveled nearly 170 miles away to college.
Then there was the dilemma of the music. With the change in their musical style, Mitchell, Osborn, and Staples needed a new identity. Mitchell thought of the name one day while driving past a field of daisies and thinking of Anna. “Man, I need a distraction,” she thought.
It may not have been pure coincidence.
“We talked about [how] she was one with the earth,” Mitchell recalls of Abbott. “She just kind of emulated that.”
The group transitioned to Daisy Distraction in late 2016. They performed as often as possible and began to think about recording an album.
The individual members (including original drummer Alex Holliger, a close friend of Staples) began to write songs and bring them to
Osborn took the role of producer and, in between gigs and engineering classes at Iowa State University, the album came together bit by bit, using each member’s basement throughout the ensuing year. Abbott remained a guiding force for the group.
“The theme of the album is her energy and her essence,” Mitchell says. “It started out with us trying to get through stuff for Anna.”
Even while recording and attending school, the group found time to perform. In April 2017 they performed at ISU’s Battle of the Bands and brought back a trophy.
Record, perform, study, repeat. By late summer, the group had finished the album, titled For Anna, and they released it during a party on Aug. 31, 2017, at Lucy’s Pub.
The favorite song off the album for many of the members is, naturally, “Sweet Anna Jane.”
“We used a sample of her singing on the last song of the track,” Osborn says. “We thought that was a nice send-off.”
The day after the release party they performed the new music at Femme Fest in Benson. In mid-September they played in Lincoln at the Do-It-Ourselves Fest.
They were nominated for an OEAA in the best alternative/indie and best new artist categories, but did not take home an award.
The next distraction came in the percussion section. Holliger left in early 2018 when he discovered the rigors of the chemical engineering degree he is obtaining from UNL was keeping him too busy to perform. The group announced the addition of drummer Mark Winkelbauer one week after the OEAAs.
“Before I joined, these guys were one of my favorite bands in Omaha,” Winkelbauer says.
Through the spring, the group performed about once a month locally. “We make it work,” Staples says. “We all practice on our own time.”
Now, the group has a new dilemma. “John is moving to Mesa, Arizona,” Mitchell wrote in an email in mid-May. “Neil is most likely taking an internship in Maryland. We hope to have some interim members soon until we figure out something more permanent. They will both be playing in Daisy at some point in the future and hopefully contributing from afar as well.”
And like the free-spirited wildflowers they are, these musicians will persevere no matter the directions in which they scatter.
As soon as Miwi La Lupa’s melodies hit ears, listeners succumb to the indie-folk dynamo. Seduced by his poignant lyrics, the roar of bar chatter fell silent during a recent Slowdown performance. There he stood: tall, brilliant, and gently strumming his guitar.
Miwi is a singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist from Buffalo, New York, now living in Omaha, by way of New York City.
His songs are powerful, weighty, and, quite frankly, heartbreaking at times. If music is essential for nourishing the soul, Miwi’s cup runneth over. His voice is simple and clear with a raw intimacy that pulls influence from traditional and contemporary folk music, classic country, and indie rock.
Annie Dilocker, a fellow musician and friend, who walked into the bar halfway through Miwi’s first song, recalls the scene: “The whole room was so quiet; listening to him.” After the second song, Miwi broke the silence with a joke: “You guys could all talk a little…You can make it all feel like a real bar’s bar.”
That odd humor and sensibility, well, that’s Miwi, Dilocker says.
He has a witty way with words, yet, when asked about his lyrics, Miwi has kept the meanings of many of his songs a mystery.
Lyrically he kind of writes for everyone, says Billy Jackson, his longtime friend and manager. “He’s not just writing a story about himself. For the most part, he’s taking a small bit of what he’s experienced and weaves a thread between him and everyone else.”
Miwi is an enigma—fascinating, complex, and full of subtleties that make you want to learn about him.
Who is this Miwi La Lupa?
The man who accompanied Conor Oberst as the indie darling performed two songs from his solo album Ruminations on Jimmy Kimmel Live two years ago. The man who blends the quirkiness of folk with the rhythms of soul and blues and a lil’ bit of country to create incredible sounds. The man who seeks depth of relationships in his albums Beginner’s Guide, Ended Up Making Love, and New Way Home.
Miwi developed an affinity for music at an early age. His mother, “a Motown girl,” filled her home with sweet melodies, while Kenny G’s Christmas records were the soundtrack to the holidays. “We were always singing along to stuff on the radio at the time,” he says. “Yeah, Mom was a Motown girl so we listened to black radio in Buffalo. Those ’60s and ’70s classics and whatever was on [the radio] in the ’80s. Obviously, your Michael Jacksons and your Janet Jacksons.”
School music lessons and his older brother had a profound and lasting impact on Miwi as well. “My brother started taking drum lessons and, being his younger brother, I wanted to be just like him.”
When Miwi was old enough for lessons he picked up drums before switching to saxophone. “I was 6 or 7 years old; I don’t exactly remember why [I changed instruments],” Miwi says. “I had a lisp and remembered it felt good to say saxophone with a lisp.”
Nowadays, Miwi teaches guitar, piano, and trombone at the Papillion House of Music. In a recent conversation with his mother, he expressed his concern for his students: “Some of these kids, they don’t practice.”
Mom, he recalls, was like: “Yeah, you didn’t practice either. You would always forget your saxophone.”
“She would always be chasing after the bus because I forgot my saxophone,” he says with a laugh.
“And, I’d just lie about how many minutes I’d practice each day. Until one day I had this teacher who said this other kid was better than me at saxophone, and that’s when I started practicing.”
In middle school, Miwi began playing low-brass instruments, mostly trombone. He later transitioned into high school band and jazz band, where he quickly made friends and started a band of his own. The summer before Miwi left for Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, to study trombone, he took his personal band to Wales for a tour.
“Which is kind of crazy to think about…with no internet,” he says. “We were like 17, traveling internationally by ourselves. We were kind of trying to be a 50-year-old-man lounge singer at a hotel bar. It just seems insane to me now.”
That cover band later became known as Thought, which was Miwi’s main writing project for roughly 15 years.
“He’s really serious about music. He’s been that way his whole life. I remember him telling me how he would be up all night playing with local musicians in Buffalo and would come home super late,” Dilocker says. “He wrote about not wanting to wake up his mother in one of his songs, ‘Buffalo Folks.’”
The lyrics go: I crept in through the back door as the birds began to sing / Tried not to wake my mama but she hears everything / She asked me how the job went as she lit a waking smoke / I said the job was good the band played on I made a buck and I’m slightly buzzed / And this is what I’m made of I’m a Buffalo Folk.
Thought bandmates later moved to Brooklyn where Miwi worked as a freelance musician and an original member of New York bands Red Baraat and Knights on Earth. After grinding in the city for 10 years, Miwi met an Omaha musician—Oberst—who shared the same musical values and offered guidance.
“Through some musical friends I met Conor at our favorite bar,” he explains. “We became friends…and I eventually started playing music with him and started going on tours.”
In 2014, Miwi released his debut album New Way Home on Team Love Records with the help of Monica Jane Frisell. “That was a real rough and rumble making of a record in a small room with a small microphone, but they pieced it together,” Jackson says. Miwi’s second album, Ended Up Making Love, was released in 2016 on Team Love Records and was recorded at ARC Studios in Omaha with Oberst and Mike Mogis as producers.
“‘Giant Sleeping’ was a great song on that album,” Jackson exclaims. And then there’s “I Yield,” of which he says, “If you don’t feel something when you listen to that song, you are a dead person walking.”
Though Miwi had only been to Omaha to visit on tour and record a handful of times, he took a leap of faith and moved to Nebraska to pursue his music career. “There was this living opportunity that came up,” he says. “Conor basically recruited me to come and live in Omaha. I thought, for what I want to do, this is becoming more and more difficult to do in big cities—making music, making records, and touring. That’s a whole process in New York. After I thought about that, it was a pretty easy decision.”
He remembers driving across the George Washington Bridge and never looking back. Within five months, he was on a plane to the U.K. to tour and relieved that he had the flexibility to go. When he returned, he had a job at his friend’s bar waiting for him.
With a willingness to play different venues in new places, Miwi admits he has performed “from the [Madison Square] Garden to the [Metropolitan] Opera House to O’Leaver’s…I’ve slept on floors and suites and all within a couple months of each other.”
In Omaha, he stays busy making music and recording. He released his third album, Beginner’s Guide, in 2016 on his new label Tigershrimp Records (just half a year after the debut of Ended Up Making Love).
He plays 10 instruments well. He’s an engineer, producer, singer, and lyricist. He’s a utility instrumentalist of sorts for Mogis. “He’ll just call me up into the studio for singing backup vocals…or playing bass guitar or trombone for whatever he’s working on,” Miwi says.
“He has such a great ear,” Dilocker says. “What I find interesting working with him is that he has all these side melodies that pop up in his head. He comes up with some creative sounds…atmospheric sounds with bass versus your typical rhythmic bass lines.”
Miwi and Dilocker are currently finishing a record for their band, Dirt House, a collective that also features violinist Amy Carey and drummer Roger L. Lewis. Miwi also curates the open mic nights at Pageturners in Midtown. “He likes to make sure new voices are being heard and various types of artists are being represented,” Dilocker says.
During his downtime at home, he and his roommates listen to vinyl and “do a lot of hanging out by the fireplace listening to records and chit-chatting through the night.”
The house record library has about 2,000 albums.
“Which is neat because a lot of music I haven’t heard before, which gets me in trouble…The cool thing about these fireside hangs is that we often listen to these records over and over,” Miwi says. “When it’s done, we just flip over the record and hear it again.”
Among the belongings Miwi brought with him when he moved to Omaha from Brooklyn was a copy of Them Old Country Songs, a 1972 classic collection that included the likes of Skeeter Davis, Porter Wagoner, and Dolly Parton.
“I didn’t grow up in a rock ’n’ roll environment,” he says. “I brought the country records…or at least wanting to listen to country records in the house, which is why we started Delores Diaz and the Standby Club.”
The country cover band consists of Miwi and Corina Figueroa, Conor Oberst, Roger L. Lewis, Mike Mogis, Phil Schaffart, Matt Maginn, Dan McCarthy, Jim Schroeder, and Ben Brodin. The band may be just for fun, but they take their music seriously.
Speaking of getting serious, Miwi performed a handful of new songs at Slowdown in March from a self-produced project that he’s working on and hopes to release in the fall. Back to his lyrics, “I often think of letting people down. I wish I was more…science fiction,” he jokes. “You know that breakup record I made, it’s all science fiction.”
Postscript: Miwi La Lupa has a lot of musical projects. In Omaha, the Miwi La Lupa band has consisted of various local musicians, including John Evans, Jacob Cubby Phillips, Annie Dilocker, Luke Polipnick, Max Stehr, Jon Ochsner, and Tyler Chickinelli.
MisterWives May 1 at the Slowdown, 729 N. 14th St. This American indie-pop band, who has opened for bands like Panic! at the Disco, American Authors and Twenty One Pilots, will now take center stage. 9 p.m. Tickets: $25 advanced, $28 day of show. 402-345-7569.
Ingested, Signs of the Swarm, and Bodysnatcher May 3 at Lookout Lounge, 320 S. 72nd St. These three heavy-metal bands will be in Omaha during the beginning leg of their “Devastation On the Nation Tour.” In addition, three other artists: Carnographer, Blessed Are the Merciless, and Xenophonic, will open for the main acts. 6:30-11:30 p.m. Tickets: $13 advanced, $15 day of show. 402-391-2554.
Jake Miller May 5 at the Waiting Room Lounge, 6212 Maple St. The 23-year-old recording artist, performer, model, and actor has over 11 million Spotify streams and counting. 8 p.m. Tickets: $20 advanced, $25 day of show, $35 early entry. 402-884-5353.
Little River Band May 5 at Ralston Arena, 7300 Q. St. The internationally recognized classic rockers are coming to Omaha to showcase their iconic vocal and musical energy. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $24-$45. 402-934-9966.
Davina and the Vagabonds May 10-11 at Holland Performing Arts Center, 1200 Douglas St. This Minneapolis band breathes new life into old-school jazz. Come see their lively performance, filled with New Orleans charm, Memphis soul, and tender gospel. 7:30 p.m. (Thursday), 8 p.m. (Friday) Tickets: $40. 402-345-0606.
Black Veil Brides May 14 at Sokol Auditorium, 2234 S. 13th St. This American rock band was formed in Ohio back in 2006. They are known for their use of black makeup, body paint, black studded clothing, and long hair. They take inspiration from KISS and Mötley Crüe. Musical guests Asking Alexandria and Blessthefall will also be performing. 6:30 p.m. Tickets: $30 plus fees. 402-346-9802.
A Perfect Circle May 15 at Baxter Arena, 2425 S. 67th St. This American alternative rock band is known as a supergroup in the rock community, meaning the band’s members have successful solo careers or are part of other well known groups. The band brings their four albums of work to Baxter Arena. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $39-$79. 402-554-6200.
Shania Twain May 18 at CenturyLink Center, 455 N. 10th St. The Canadian singer/songwriter with over 100 million records sold comes to Omaha on her “NOW” tour. 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $27-$244+. 800-745-3000.
U2: eXPERIENCE + iNNOCENCE Tour May 19 at CenturyLink Center, 455 N. 10th St. This Irish rock back comes to Omaha to showcase their renowned talent. With 14 albums and over 170 million records sold, they are considered to be on the world’s best-selling music artists. 8 p.m. Tickets: $41-$325+. 800-745-3000.
The Golden Pelicans May 23 at O’Leaver’s, 1322 S. Saddle Creek Road. This alternative/indie band will perform in Omaha with special guests, Rusty Lord and David Nance. 9 p.m. Tickets: $6. 402-556-1238.
Brent Cobb & Them May 26 at the Slowdown, 729 N. 14th St. This Georgia-grown country singer makes his way to Omaha, with guest Savannah Conley, to debut his album Shine on Rainy Day. 9 p.m. Tickets: $12 advanced, $15 day off show. 402-345-7569.
Keith Harkin May 27 at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. After leaving the popular Irish music group, Celtic Thunder, Harkin has since released four solo albums and toured around Europe, North America, and Australia. 8 p.m. Tickets: $35 advanced, $55 VIP. 402-884-5707.
Barenaked Ladies June 3 at Stir Cove, 1 Harrah’s Blvd, Council Bluffs. The Canadian rockers are bringing fun and nostalgia to their “Last Summer on Earth Tour.” With hits like “One Week,” “Brian Wilson,” “If I had $1,000,000,” and more, it’s sure to be unforgettable fun. 7 p.m. Tickets: $45-$135. 712-328-6000.
Caroline Rose June 7 at Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Ave. Rose’s new album LONER is the perfect mix of emotion, satire, and humor, all wrapped up in angsty pop songs. 8 p.m. Tickets: $10 advanced, $12 day of show. 402-884-5707.
John Butler Trio June 8 at Sumtur Amphitheater, 11691 S. 108th St. This Australian jam band is known for their acoustic, folksy tunes like “Ocean” and “Bully.” 7:30 p.m. Tickets: $30 general admission advanced, $35 general admission day of show, $45-$55 reserved. 800-745-3000.
Days N Daze June 12 at Lookout Lounge, 320 S. 72nd St. This folk-punk band from Houston independently records, produces, and promotes all their own music. See them in Omaha with band Dummy Head Torpedo. 8-11 p.m. Tickets: $10 advanced, $15 day of show. 402-391-2554.
First Aid Kit (with Jade Bird) June 13 at Sokol Auditorium, 2234 S. 13th St. The Swedish, sister duo of First Aid Kit combine their vocals with drums and a steel guitar to produce sweet folk tunes. 8 p.m. Tickets: $29. 402-346-9802.
Blame it on the Bossa Nova June 17 at First Central Congregational Church, 421 S. 36th St. This all-ages concert is a perfect way to kick off the summer. MasterSingers, an a capella group, will perform classic and modern music infused with their own unique sound. 6 p.m. Tickets: $12. 402-345-1533.
Cole Swindell June 22 at Stir Cove, 1 Harrah’s Blvd., Council Bluffs. This American country singer is also an established songwriter, having written hits for Thomas Rhett, Scotty McCreery, Luke Bryan, and more. 8 p.m. Tickets: $48-$75+. 712-328-6000.
Imagine Dragons: EVOLVE TOUR June 24 at CenturyLink Center, 455 N. 10th St. This American rock band has won three American Music Awards, five Billboard Music Awards, one Grammy Award, and one World Music Award from just three albums. 7 p.m. Tickets: $36-$101+. 800-745-3000.
Sugarland June 28 at CenturyLink Center, 455 N. 10th St. This American country music duo brings their upbeat, modern country flare to Omaha. 7 p.m. Tickets: $30-$115. 800-745-3000.
Post Animal June 29 at the Slowdown, 729 N. 14th St. This Chicago-based band of brothers is good at incorporating slick riffs, pop hooks, and psychedelic tendencies in their music. They come to Omaha in 2018, only their second year of touring ever. 9 p.m. Tickets: $10 advanced, $12 day of show. 402-345-7569.
Twista June 29 at the Waiting Room Lounge, 6212 Maple St. This American rapper is in Omaha promoting his recent album Dark Horse. The rapper is best known for once holding the title of “Fastest Rapper in the World” in 1992, according to Guinness World Records. 9 p.m. Tickets: $20 advanced, $25 day of show. 402-884-5353
Event times and details may change.Check with venue or event organizer to confirm.
Mark McGaugh describes himself as “that kid everybody always thought was going to be a doctor or a president.” Known as a young child for reading the encyclopedia and watching the History Channel, it’s no surprise that this 24-year-old’s inquiring mind was fascinated by the possibilities of music. His musical career began in the fourth grade, with a recorder class at Belvedere Elementary School.
By fifth grade, he made his first forays into hip-hop during freestyle rapping sessions in the library with friends. It wasn’t until middle school at King Science & Technology Magnet Center when he picked up the alto saxophone that McGaugh started to explore the worlds of classical and jazz music. Omaha North brought the opportunity to join drumline, but the music alone wasn’t enough to protect a teenage McGaugh from the social pressures he faced.
“Growing up here in North Omaha, in a single-parent household, it’s rough. The story goes on and on, but I went through it,” he says.
When he found himself embroiled in some trouble during his junior year, the young man had to step back and decide what he wanted his focus to be. “It was a turning point in my life,” McGaugh reflects on getting caught up with the wrong crowd as a moment when he chose to dedicate his life to music.
Although hip-hop, church choir, and the musical endeavors of family members have always been in the background, McGaugh realized that his interests in music could only go so far when limited to school band. “To be a DJ, or you know, a little black boy on the corner rapping bars, you can [only] get so far here in Nebraska.” Fortunately, his mother always strongly supported her son’s musical interests, provided he focus on his education first.
When he graduated from North High in 2011, that focus on academic achievement culminated in an opportunity to attend Florida A&M University.
“I flew the coop,” he recalls. “I went to Florida with a dream.” That dream was centered around widening his musical horizons, but the young man found his perspective changing about life as a whole. “Going to Florida A&M, which is a historically black school, just seeing the different perspective of what’s possible for me, that definitely opened my eyes to a lot of things.”
During college, McGaugh discovered a passion for broadcast journalism. As he earned his degree in the field, he hosted campus radio shows that investigated some of the most intense national news issues of the time. From an exclusive interview with the mayor of Flint in the heat of the city’s devastating water crisis, to reporting on violence against students at a Georgia Donald Trump rally, to debate over Florida’s infamous “Stand Your Ground” law, McGaugh provided valuable insight and information to his community. “That was a big eye-opener,” he says of the talk show.
While diving into broadcast journalism, McGaugh never lost sight of his dream to pursue music. In addition to his more intense Saturday morning show, he covered sports news and hosted a hip-hop show for campus radio. When he wasn’t studying, he was working for a local music promotion agency to help independent record labels distribute their sound.
“That was a good insight into seeing how the music industry works,” McGaugh says. He learned about the importance of understanding what goes into deciding whose music gets played, met artists, and made connections. He reports that “it’s really an effort over talent thing.”
While he was earning his degree and working with promoters across Florida, McGaugh didn’t forget the needs of his hometown. Upon graduation, he returned to Omaha and could clearly see voids in the artistic community—as well as the potential of the city. “There was an actual music scene that was here when I came back from Florida that wasn’t here when I left.” He refers to a number of musical players changing the Omaha scene—Reverb Lounge, Slowdown, One Percent Productions, and Make Believe Records—all giving new energy to budding artists across the city.
Inspired by these new efforts to invigorate the local music scene, McGaugh made a commitment to making a difference in the musical landscape of the city through community radio. The new Mind and Soul 101.3 station, housed inside the Malcolm X Memorial Foundation on Evans Street, was just the type of platform McGaugh wanted to help develop in his community. He began as assistant program director at the station in January 2017, and now hosts “Lunchtime Live,” formats shows, looks up stories, and keeps things running smoothly to give voice to his community.
“My ultimate goal with being at this radio station is making sure that the message of the community isn’t watered down or isn’t ignored,” McGaugh explains. As he continues to pursue his own passion for music and a newfound interest in DJing, he loves being a part of the platform that shares the messages of all types of people in his city and gives new artists a chance to have their voices heard. McGaugh believes that with the help of organizations like Mind & Soul, the future for Omaha music is bright. “Ultimately, the goal is just to help the world.”
This article appears in the March/April 2018 edition of Encounter.
Omaha musician David Nance, 29, has identified that as a personal mantra. It certainly seems to be serving him well.
His 2017 album Negative Boogie, released by Ba Da Bing Records in Brooklyn, has received rave reviews. One reviewer called it “brilliantly raucous and unhinged.” Noisey (the music channel of vice.com) named Negative Boogie in their “100 Best Albums of 2017.”
Nance says The Velvet Underground is an influence on the album, and the influence is apparent on the finished product.
“We went into this big studio, ARC [an acronym for “Another Recording Company” in Omaha], and we got money from the label to screw around with stuff there,” Nance says. “They got a bunch of fun toys and stuff like that.”
Indeed, a colorful write-up from NPR praises the album’s variety of sounds and production styles coming together to create a “spastic dance music for rock ’n’ roll deviants, a jabbing pointer finger at the soullessness of the pixelated present, blown out and blown up like a basement tape.”
In mid-December, Nance and his band just recorded a new album (which they are calling Peaced and Slightly Pulverized). The yet-to-be-released album will be his fourth in the past three years. His first full-band, full-length album was More Than Enough in 2016.
What did they decide to do for their first album post-Negative Boogie? “This one we just did in a basement,” Nance says. “It’s more about the performance and us playing off of each other, because the songs are real loose, just two chords and rough ideas.”
That search for variety and freedom has been a driving force in his music career thus far.
“Playing to what people expect of you, I don’t think there’s much fun in that,” he says. “I think it’s fun to throw curveballs constantly.”
Nance is a native of Grand Island who went on his first tour when he was 18, playing guitar for a band called Brimstone Howl. It was an eye-opening experience to go to other towns and see the varieties of groups “making music that you would have no way of hearing otherwise.”
He started writing songs around that time.
“I started doing my own thing just out of boredom, basically,” Nance says. “Writing songs or whatever, and getting a tape machine in the basement and just going for it.”
From there, he recorded his own albums and tapes. Actor’s Diary, released in 2013 on Grapefruit Records, was his first album in 2013
Over the years, he has enjoyed making cover albums of other musicians’ work (with his own signature style, of course). He says the exercise helps him to better understand the creative process without having to worry about making new material.
However, he may have gotten more than just a better understanding of the creative process in the case of an album he made with fellow Omaha singer-songwriter Simon Joyner. (Over the years, Nance has played lead guitar in Joyner’s bands.) They did a cover of the Rolling Stones’ album Goats Head Soup, thinking only a few people would hear it, but it started getting some attention online after it was released in the summer of 2017 and discovered by “some guy in Germany.”
Nance says he and Joyner thought there was a chance they could be sued. In a sense, though, that would be a positive. “[It] could be kind of cool, you know? Then the Stones’ lawyer would know about us…We made a fake cease-and-desist letter,” he says. “Hopefully one of these days we’ll get an actual cease-and-desist letter from the Stones.”
Nance enjoys making albums and treating the mixing like it’s another member of the band, but he prefers live shows. In January, he embarked on his first overseas tour. The two-month European tour was scheduled to start in Aarhus, Denmark, and conclude in Paris, France.
“When we go out and play, we really don’t have any intention of recreating what we did on the record.” The songs act more as guidelines with some chords. The goal is for everyone in the band to be ‘present.’”
“Sometimes we’ll play for an hour; sometimes we’ll play for 20 minutes or something, just try to ride the feeling and make honest music,” he says, explaining that being “present” as a musician means “having to think on the spot, now what do you come up with? As opposed to, ‘This is this rigid thing. We need to do everything exactly the same every time.’”
To Nance, working is all about experiencing. He lists an eclectic mix of influences, including Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, Funkadelic, Nina Simone, and Lou Reed. And he loves meeting people while touring. “You just feel like you’re a part of something. That’s the biggest thing for me…the not feeling alone.”
Is it ever too much? Can someone have too many influences to the point where it drowns out his or her own voice?
In his case, Nance doesn’t think so.
“I used to get worried about that,” he says. “You just listen to how other people do things, and it’s not necessarily how am I going to filter this through myself. It’s just being inspired by it.”
At the end of the day, Nance just wants to make and find truthful music.
“There’s great music in every genre,” he says. “A person who cares about what they’re doing, who’s being present, I think there’s no flaw to that.”
When you talk with Kate Dussault, it’s obvious how important music is to her.
“I can’t imagine a life without music,” Dussault says. “It’s where I learned a lot. It’s the focus of so many memories. It invades every part of every one of my senses. You can’t eat music, but if you could, I would.”
Her musical passion isn’t merely a personal preoccupation. Dussault wants to share her passion with others and help grow the Omaha music community. That passion is what led her to found the Hi-Fi House.
Dussault, who was raised in Omaha and attended the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, grew up in a music-loving family. Her father worked in radio and frequently brought records home, and she and each of her six siblings owned a turntable. She then spent a great deal of her career working in music. She worked in radio—for studios on both coasts—and for venture capitalist firms, performing due diligence whenever they sought to acquire the rights to music and evaluating marketing plans and budgets.
But the idea for the Hi-Fi House came about when Dussault, who was living in Los Angeles at the time, learned that the famous Capitol Records Building in Los Angeles was being converted into condominiums. The city landmark is a round building that resembles a stack of music records. Frank Sinatra, Paul McCartney, and the Beach Boys are among the many famous artists who have recorded music in its famous echo chambers.
“It was always to me the most iconic music building in America,” Dussault says. “And the fact that they were turning it into condos was just heartbreaking, and I thought that building should be something else.”
As Dussault sat in front of the Capitol Records Building for around four hours, she began to develop a new idea for the building, one where each floor was devoted to a specific type of music. Instead of apartments around the edges of the building, there would be “listening rooms” where people could listen to the music together.
You can see that idea at work in the Hi-Fi House, “a social listening room” located at 38th and Farnam streets in the building that used to house Joseph’s College of Barbering. From the outside, you may think it appears abandoned, but inside is what looks like a giant, carpeted living room with rings of couches and armchairs. Listeners can listen to everything from digital music to cassette tapes. Pictures of famous musicians hang on the walls, and the building hosts a massive collection of vinyl records.
“I think this place’s mission is a very unique one,” says Jon Ochsner, an employee at the Hi-Fi House who catalogues records and helps host shows and programs. “To me, it’s a dream. It’s like a dream come true that I never knew I had.”
During the day, the Hi-Fi House is a musicology lab, hosting events for children and high school students, providing services like music therapy to the elderly and other programs. Dussault says that the daytime mission of the space is also to help grow and improve Omaha’s music community.
For instance, the house hosts the “Curly Martin Jazz Lab.”
“Curly Martin came to us and said there was no place in Omaha for a guy like him to play,” Dussault says.
Martin is from Omaha and an acclaimed drummer who, along with son Terrace, was nominated for the 2017 Grammy for Best R&B Album. His jazz lab is an ongoing project designed to introduce people to multiple forms of jazz and to teach them about the prolific history of jazz in Omaha.
At night, the venue is a private club that occasionally hosts live shows and album release parties. Dussault says it has also become a popular stop for bands coming through Omaha who just want to unwind before shows.
True to her mission of being an asset to the music scene, as well as a place that is welcome to people of creative and artistic bents, Dussault says it was important to provide something new. The Hi-Fi House isn’t a library or a record store or a coffee shop precisely because Dussault wanted it to be fresh.
“I think the hardest thing in developing a new business is finding out how you can live in a community and not cannibalize what’s already there,” Dussault says. “It’s easy to do what everybody else did and do it a little better, or invest a little bit more money in it, but to me that’s not helping. We want to support the venues in town, not compete with the venues in town.”
Dussault and Ochsner both say they’d like to see Hi-Fi Houses in other cities.
“The last 20 years we had this sort of personal revolution in music,” Ochsner says. “It was my iPod with my music, my headphones, my playlist. I think the mission of bringing people a social listening experience, bringing that back to people…I just think it’s very necessary.”
Dussault says it’s a challenge to not be seen as “elitist,” or to give the impression that people who don’t know a lot about music aren’t welcome.
“We built this place so that it was comfortable for people from age 5 to 99,” she says. “We believe in sharing music with everybody.”
Editor’s note: This profile on a local Omaha entrepreneur is not an endorsement by B2B Magazine or Omaha Magazine. Disgruntled customers, employees, and/or suppliers should address any complaints directly to Gear Supply Co.
Omaha World-Herald cartoonist Jeff Koterba is the guitarist, principal songwriter, and lead vocalist—in other words, the catalyst—behind the popular local band the Prairie Cats.
He also isn’t the only musician in the family. Son Joshua Koterba started playing guitar as soon as he could pick one up, and he began playing the trumpet in third grade. He kept playing until he became a teenager.
“Son, you can’t write a love song on a trumpet,” Jeff told him.
So Joshua hung up his trumpet, picked up the guitar again, and wrote love songs. The guitar became a spiritual connection for him, a deep draw to a place of elation and completion.
“It’s magic, you know,” Koterba, now 31, explains.
Koterba took the plunge into the music retail business two years ago with his start-up, Gear Supply Co. As a musician and a freelance audio engineer, Koterba developed a set of unique skills. He knew how to make his low wages work in creative ways. He has a scrappy, lean mentality that translates perfectly into the world of entrepreneurship. It takes blood, sweat, tears, and soul.
Koterba, though, did not run full tilt into the fire. It started with Koterba’s own adventure seeking strings for his 15-year-old Fender guitar. The stores he visited didn’t have what he needed, so he bought it all online.
The purchase left him feeling disconnected. A musician’s guitar is like an artist’s brush. The tools matter and artists have emotional attachments to their instruments.
Not having customized supplies turned into a problem Koterba itched to solve. He spent months researching his client base. He knew other artists in the industry felt the same way and needed a buyer bond. Could he start a business from his garage in Florida with little income? The risk, in his eyes, seemed worth it. Koterba didn’t have a business degree, just a dream.
“It doesn’t matter how hard it gets if you know you are helping people,” Koterba says.
He used a couple thousand dollars from his tax return to buy products. Specifically, three different types of guitar strings. He knocked over the dominoes on his marketing plan: an e-mail with an opportunity to win free items if someone brought in more sign-ups. Koterba’s gamble paid off and he collected 5,000 e-mail addresses, along with 100 paying customers.
Eight months or so later, his company drew interest from an angel investor from Nebraska. The hard- working mentality of Midwesterners and the central location seemed ideal for his idea. He moved back to Omaha and was accepted to NMotion, a 90-day accelerator in Lincoln. The final project was to pitch his ideas in front of thousands of people to draw in capital investors. Eight more came on board. The money gained from the investors went towards testing and determining growth strategies, investing in customer acquisition, and employee wages.
Koterba retains more than 51 percent of the company, and Gear Supply Co. is breaking even after two years. Entrepreneurship takes a remarkable amount of hard work. Koterba clears his mind with decompressing silence on his trips to Florida to see his two children. It helps him brainstorm innovative ideas or think about new supplies.
Customer demand means Koterba has added gauges and straps to his inventory. He added guitar pedals using crowdsourcing as an additional method of gaining capital. Koterba has a hand in designing products and it allows him to make connections with like-minded artists.
Blues player and shredder Sebastian Lane buys many of these products on Gear Supply Co.’s list, including custom picks.
“They are the leading forefront when it comes to quality guitar goods,” Lane says.
Koterba still plays his instrument daily, strumming in his chair and trying out product lines while responding to e-mails. At the end of the day (even if that means 1 a.m.), nothing replaces diligence because, “no one is going to work as hard as you.”
Fresh out of Technical High School, Ed Archibald and his bandmates had dreams of becoming the next Commodores.
Then life happened. Jobs. Marriage. Kids. The dream and Archibald’s saxophone were tucked away.
It took a serious injury and more than two decades to draw Archibald back to playing music.
Archibald’s musical career has a second life now. He’s added writing, producing, and arranging into the mix.
“It gives me so much joy,” he says.
Born in 1958 in Pensacola, Florida, Archibald was 10 years old when he moved into his grandparents’ home in the small town of Monroe, Alabama.
His memories of those early years are dotted with musical references: His alcoholic father pretending to play the saxophone. His uncles taking him to juke joints to hear the popular music at that time in Pensacola, the blues. The tunes of Roy Clark and Chet Atkins playing on the radio in Alabama.
Archibald moved twice more before he wound up in Omaha in 1971 and stepped into the classroom of Al McKain. Then, everything changed.
McKain taught music at Tech High and introduced Archibald to the likes of Charlie Parker and John Coltrane.
“When I listened to their music, it was very complicated,” Archibald says. “I found myself wanting to imitate and emulate their abilities and style.”
Archibald learned the saxophone, becoming so engrossed with his new interest that he skipped math and science to practice. McKain pretended not to mind.
“My teacher was a strong jazz advocate,” Archibald recalls.
During his four years at Tech, Archibald also studied classical music, playing baritone saxophone in an all-city music festival. Archibald caught up with his required courses and graduated on time in 1975. He jumped into the live music scene in Omaha, playing in bands for about five years, including Wild & Peaceful and Brass, Rhythm & Funk. They spent more money than they made, usually.
“Those early years were nonprofit years,” Archibald says. “We didn’t make a lot of money, but we had a lot of fun.”
As everyone aged, fell in love, married, and started families, the fun faded. The music stopped. Archibald met his wife, Lisa, and the two had a daughter, Adriene. Their focus turned to parenting and working. In a blink, Archibald spent a combined 21 years working for two different building materials companies.
One day, Archibald suffered a back injury on the job. Unable to work following surgery, he was drawn back to music. He began to play again.
“During the recovery period, it was sort of therapeutic to focus on the music, ” Archibald recalls.
He discovered the music scene had changed, for the better. His style of music—smooth jazz—had become popular in the main- stream. Archibald also learned how easy it was to produce music and share it online. He started writing and began recording it at home, layering piano and saxophone. In 2006, he released Smoove Grooves on iTunes and cdbaby.com. His second album, Love, Jazz, and Soul, was released in 2015.
“You could call it homemade; I did it myself,” says Archibald thinking back to Smoove Grooves. “I didn’t know what I was doing.”
His abilities grew, and recording and producing that digital album was an important step in getting him back into the local jazz scene. He started playing with other musicians at clubs and restaurants. He began producing more recordings, and he developed Glenwood Heights Music, which has expanded from music production into promotions.
Archibald landed steady gigs at country clubs in Omaha and beyond, including a yearlong stint at Wilderness Ridge in Lincoln. He became a regular at Happy Hollow Country Club, as well.
“We have him for all our club functions as his group is extremely entertaining for all age groups,” says Kelly Smith, clubhouse manager at Happy Hollow. “The members always look forward to his group on Mother’s Day, as he plays for both our brunch and dinner buffets that day.”
Through the years, he’s shared the stage with notable jazz artists and vocalists locally and in Denver. He backed Al Green at the Mid- America Center in Council Bluffs, and had an impromptu concert with Chaka Khan in the Hilton Omaha lobby.
These days, Archibald plays at Omaha Lounge with his trio on Thursday nights.
It was at that lounge where he met Julie Baker, a vocalist and musician. Baker had recently moved to Omaha when they met, and the two became fast friends thanks to a mutual, eclec- tic taste in music. Baker says she’s amazed by his ease of switching genres while playing.
“You can’t fit him into a box,” Baker says.
What makes Archibald a standout musician isn’t just his ability at playing a variety of genres, according to Baker. It’s his passion.
“He’s a consummate musician,” Baker says. “When Ed plays, he plays from the heart. Every note when he plays, he feels it. And people feel it.”
Follow updates from Ed Archibald on Facebook at @edsmoovegroovesarchibald.
20 November 2017- Ed Archibald is photographed at Omaha Publications for Omaha Magazine.
This article was printed in the January/February 2018 edition of Omaha Magazine.