Tag Archives: pop

Her Fountain of Youth

July 11, 2017 by
Illustration by Derek Joy

Few visitors who sneak a peak at Betty Davis’ treasure trove of soda fountain collectibles can appreciate their impact on generations of Americans who grew up before the 1950s.

The ice cream molds, dippers, five-headed malt mixers, banana bowls, trays, tall glasses, tin Coca-Cola signs, and a 12-foot-long counter with a gray marble top and marble frontage—stored in Davis’ spacious Council Bluffs home and garage—recall a more innocent age: a time when a boy and girl slipped two straws into one ice cream float and sipped as they leaned toward each other, and when soda jerks, in their white jackets and bow ties, had more swagger than Tom Cruise’s character in the movie Cocktail.

“The soda jerks were what bartenders are today,” says Davis, retired executive director of the Douglas County Historical Society in Omaha. “They knew everybody, they listened, they gave everyone personal service—mixing the concoction in front of you. They were the biggest big shots in town,” she says with a laugh.

From the early 1900s through the soda fountain’s heyday in the Depression-era 1930s, most jerks were men (no kidding!), until women filled in during World War II. “They got the name when they jerked the pull handles of the carbonated water in two different directions to regulate the flow into the flavored syrups,” she explains.

An unabashed romantic about the era, Davis grew up across the river listening to stories about how her parents “courted at the soda fountain” at Oard’s Drug Store, now Oard-Ross, on 16th Avenue in Council Bluffs.
And she vividly remembers holding the hand of her “tall, Danish” grandfather as they walked to the drug store to get ice cream.

Years later, in the late 1980s, while volunteering at the old Western Heritage Museum in what is now Omaha’s Durham Museum, those memories came flooding back when a group of former “fizzicians” from the region gathered for a reunion around the museum’s established soda fountain.

“Over 500 people showed,” she marvels. “I discovered that the soda fountain was implanted in people’s memories. The public came just to look at the soda jerks and talk to them. It was magic.”

The overwhelming success of that first reunion led Davis in 1990 to found the National Association of Soda Jerks. The association grew quickly, swelling to more than 1,000 members in less than two years. “I got a personal letter postmarked Washington, D.C., from a former soda jerk. It was from [former U.S. Senator from Kansas] Bob Dole. He’s a member.”

But age has caught up with the dwindling ranks of soda jerks, as it has with Betty Davis. Now 83 and experiencing mobility difficulties, she realizes the window of opportunity to open a soda fountain museum showcasing her happy hobby has closed. “This is of no value to me locked in a garage,” she reasons quietly.

After months of searching for a “worthy” home for her collection, Davis heard about a multi-pronged, ambitious nonprofit headquartered just a few blocks north of the Historical Society, where she worked for many years.

The mission of No More Empty Pots, located on North 30th Street in the historic Florence neighborhood of north Omaha, revolves around food. The organization not only provides access to locally grown, affordable, nutritious food, it offers culinary arts training in one of two commercial-grade kitchens, located in the labyrinthine basement of the renovated turn-of-the-20th-century row of buildings.

Another component of this food hub, the Community Café at 8503 N. 30th St., slated to open to the public in the fall, caught Davis’ attention on many levels because of its parallels to the soda fountains.

“Betty told us how drug stores started selling sodas and ice cream to draw people into the store to buy things, and the fountain was never meant to be a moneymaker,” says Nancy Williams, co-founder and executive director of No More Empty Pots. “This cafe will help our employees learn how to converse with people and really serve them, and not just with food. That will translate into many different career paths.”

Believing the cafe can become “a beacon…to unite all the ethnic differences we have,” Davis signed over her soda fountain collection and the trademarked National Association of Soda Jerks to Williams and No More Empty Pots. A display case in the middle of the cafe will house Davis’ relics of the soda fountain era, her contribution to the preservation of an American tradition.

The 12-foot-long World War I-era soda bar, which Davis picked up years ago in Soldier, Iowa, will stand behind the large windows of the storefront, beckoning people to come in, enjoy a freshly made soda, and socialize.

“We’re going to make our own soda syrups and extracts from seasonal fruits and herbs and then add the carbonated seltzer water,” Williams says. “And we’ll have local seasonal ice cream.”

Confident that her goals and the mission of No More Empty Pots align, Davis sees her soda fountain breaking barriers, inspiring conversation, and making people happy for many years to come.

Visit nmepomaha.org for more information about the nonprofit receiving the soda fountain and memorabilia.

This article was printed in the July/August 2017 Edition of 60Plus.

Mr. & Mrs. Fink

June 1, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The evolution of CLOSENESS was quite literally a matter of the heart—not in a cheesy, romantic musing type of way, but the actual blood-pumping, life-sustaining muscular organ. Husband-wife duo Orenda Fink (Azure Ray) and Todd Fink (The Faint) are the masterminds behind the electro-dream-pop project. The couple say they always wanted to merge musical styles, but they could never quite find the time. Todd was touring in support of The Faint’s last album, Doom Abuse, and Orenda was involved in her solo work. As fate would have it, a frightening medical emergency involving Orenda’s heart temporarily brought everything to a screeching halt. In November 2015, she went under the knife to repair a birth defect that was
originally misdiagnosed.

“I had it my whole life, but never knew how dangerous it was,” Orenda admits. “They couldn’t believe I was still alive [laughs]. With my condition, I had a bunch of extra electrical pathways on my heart that were not supposed to be there. They had to get rid of them.”

“We realized there was no better time to do this,” Todd adds. “If we were going to do it, we had to do it now. After her surgery, everything became more urgent.”

Todd and Orenda have been a unit for more than 15 years, and it just so happens both are incredibly talented musicians in their own right. It was because of this shared love and compassion for one another that Orenda finally took her arrhythmia seriously. 

“I’ve had episodes my whole life,” she says. “A couple of weeks before I was diagnosed, my heart went into an abnormal rhythm. Normally, it would kick back in, but this time it just stayed. I was just so used to it that I was traveling, smoking cigarettes, hanging out with friends—but Todd was like, ‘Um, you need to go to the doctor immediately [laughs].’”

Orenda flew back to Omaha and went straight to the doctor. Two-and-a-half weeks later, the Georgia native was having heart surgery, which was the first time she’d ever had any kind of surgical procedure. What was supposed to be a three-hour event turned into 12 hours, but thankfully she pulled through. 

“Your heart is such an immediate thing—it has to be going,” she says with a hint of sarcasm. “It made us kind of realize how precious and fragile life is, I guess.” 

Back at home, she sunk into a depression, which can be common for heart patients. 

“When you are faced with your own mortality so intensely, you get depressed,” she says. 

Still recuperating in sweatpants and socks, CLOSENESS took its initial steps and Orenda quickly found solace in making music with her husband. 

“We started the band almost immediately,” she says. “It was cathartic. Something about that experience [surgery] made me realize now there were no more excuses not to do it.” 

On March 10, CLOSENESS unveiled its debut EP, Personality Therapy, and had its album release party later that night at Omaha’s beloved hole-in-the wall O’Leaver’s, where Todd and Orenda played to a packed house. Naturally, the Omaha music community came out in droves to support one of their own. Shortly after, the duo hit the road for Austin’s annual South by Southwest (SXSW) music festival and continued their road trip to New York City, something they’ve wanted to do for years. 

“We’re looking to tour as much as possible,” Todd explains. “It’s part of why we wanted to do a band with just the two of us—to be able to make kind of, like, a vacation out of it, where it’s just the two of us together, and we’re able to drive around in our car. It’s not like working. We don’t have to be away from each other to do what we’re doing. I am really looking forward to that aspect.” 

While traveling with other people has its merits, it also has its challenges. Oftentimes, the vastly different personalities can throw a wrench in the process, but for the Finks, it makes more sense. 

“We’ve been together for so long that our tastes have melded,” she says. “From what we like to do to where we like to eat—we just know each other. That’s one of the hardest parts about being on the road with other people—always having to compromise. This seems like a dream scenario.” 

Being a quintessential “rock-star couple,” however, didn’t always come easy. In the beginning, like all relationships, there were some hiccups, but it was nothing they couldn’t work through. 

“He got in trouble in the beginning years,” she jokes. “Not like cheating or anything, but figuring out what a married man can do—like he couldn’t go skinny-dipping with girls on tour anymore [laughs].”

“I thought the ocean was huge [laughs],” he replies. “You don’t get a manual when you get married. You don’t know exactly where the line is.” 

One big lesson they learned, however, is to not get caught up in the minutiae of everyday life. 

“Pick your battles,” Orenda says. “You have to keep the greatest good of the relationship as the highest priority. Everyone slips on that in any relationship. If you’re in a really intense working relationship together, you’re going to have friction. It’s figuring out how to deal with that friction. You want the outcome to be forgiveness and loving each other. If you slip up, remember that’s the ultimate goal.” 

“Winning an argument really isn’t worth anything,” Todd adds. “The goal isn’t to win. It’s to get back to a place of love.”

facebook.com/closenessmusic

This article was printed in the May/June 2017 edition of Encounter.

Show Of Hands

February 22, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

If you love trips to the museum and trips to the manicurist, Imagine Uhlenbrock is your one-stop shop for a day of art, style, and self-care all rolled into one stunning experience.

Uhlenbrock is the “nail genie” and artist behind Just Imagine Nails. Keratin is her canvas and her work is constantly showing on the hands of happy clients throughout Omaha.

“I started doing my own nails when I was about 4, because I was an only child and it was something I could do for myself,” Uhlenbrock says.

Her interest in nail art grew through middle school and high school, culminating in her first steady nail job at a downtown Omaha salon. It was meant to be her college job, but Uhlenbrock loved the craft so much she launched her own business doing natural, ethical nails at age 19.

For those skeptical that a manicurist can be a “real” artist, one look at Uhlenbrock’s vibrant Instagram portfolio provides ample evidence of her artistry and talent. Intricate, hand-painted designs, patterns, and messages mingle with hand-placed bling. Colors and textures pop, and unique, creative themes inspire the urge to scroll right on down the rabbit hole because no two sets are alike and your eyeballs will want to collect them all.

 

 “It’s just like commissioning any other piece of art,” Uhlenbrock says. “I always have ideas, so I have clients who just come in and let me do whatever I want every two weeks, or sometimes they come in with a theme or idea in mind. Most of the time it’s a collaborative process and we customize it based on the vision and what they’re feeling like that week.”

This process has resulted in galaxy nails, Vegas- and beach-themed vacation nails, desert sunset nails, snowflake and Christmas nails, Fourth of July “red, white, and bling” nails, Ouija board nails, Netflix and chill nails, ice cream and French fry nails, nails that are geometric, plaid, rainbow, floral, color-blocked, gradient, holographic or chrome, and nails that mimic abstract paintings, among others.

“I take inspiration from everywhere. The print of your dress, the pattern of that chair, the texture of this pillow, someone’s artwork,” Uhlenbrock says.

Then there are the pop culture nails. She’s done sets that honor artists including Eartha Kitt, Prince, Beyoncé, and Frida Kahlo, that appreciate cultural icons ranging from Carl Sagan and Neil deGrasse Tyson to Grumpy Cat, that recognize the Broadway Hamilton phenomenon, that reference literature from Harry Potter to local author Rainbow Rowell’s Eleanor & Park, and that celebrate TV shows from The Golden Girls to The Powerpuff Girls. Her popular annual Halloween special has taken inspiration from The Addams Family, Stranger Things, The X-Files, and Hocus Pocus sets, as well as one of her personal all-time favorites: Michael Jackson “Thriller” nails.

“You can see from my themes that I like weird,” Uhlenbrock says. “I’ll put anything on a nail as long as it’s not problematic.”

Uhlenbrock’s political work is also incredibly compelling. She’s done anti-pipeline nails, Black Lives Matter nails, and nails that read “Go Vote,” among others.

“One of the roles of an artist is to get people to think or to spread certain messages. Nail art is no different than any other art form in that way,” Uhlenbrock says. “That’s how art and social justice can intersect by creating visuals, sounds, or whatever the medium to raise awareness, to educate, or to relieve pain and pressure for the oppressed. So, a lot of what I do is people’s regular self-care.”

In December 2016, Uhlenbrock opened her Hand of Gold Beauty Room space in the Fair Deal Village Marketplace, near 24th and Lake streets. She currently shares the space with two subcontractors, Qween Samone and Ria Gold, who help support the service menu of natural nails, makeup, and braiding. Uhlenbrock enjoys working in the thriving area among neighboring small business owners and she’s committed to using her space to support her peers.

“We support small businesses here,” Uhlenbrock says. “Economic disenfranchisement has been a huge tool of oppression against people of color. So, it’s really important to me as I grow and have my own economic development to reach out and empower others through that as well.”

Uhlenbrock stocks body care products from Lincoln-based Miss Kitty and Her Cats, pieces from Omaha’s Amaral Jewelry, and gets all of her regular polishes from Ginger + Liz, a black woman-owned, vegan-friendly, toxin-free nail lacquer company. She also sells jewelry from her other business, The Bigger the Hoops.

Besides providing an important platform for a network of artists and makers, the petite Hand of Gold Beauty Room just feels like a place you want to be. A plush, amber-colored couch beckons from the pedicure platform that Uhlenbrock and her mother hand-built. The walls are decked with striking work by Lincoln artist Brittany Burton, featuring black-and-white depictions of “thick” women with sparse flashes of green and yellow. Soul music fills the air and large windows let ample natural light stream in.

“Everyone should probably go to a therapist, but not everyone does—some people get their nails done instead,” Uhlenbrock says. “They can come here, have a good conversation, and leave feeling like a million bucks with something good to look at for a couple weeks. It’s a lot easier to feel like you have your shit together when your nails are on point.”

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

JAGAJA

October 15, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

We’re literally like clones,” says Gabriel Burkum, describing what it is like to be in a band with his twin brother, Graham. The 29-year-old, Council Bluffs-born twins are the musical duo behind JAGAJA (pronounced jag-uhh-jaw).

Their sound breaks away from what many expect from the Omaha scene. Dense guitar riffs, played by Graham, cascade over layers of rhythm, melody, and reverb. Then comes Gabriel with the bass line. Mixed with instruments and vocals, the brothers blend modern pop with tinges of psychedelia. Gabriel described it as if early 2000s Flaming Lips were recording in New York with the Strokes. In their terms, they’re happy to be from the Omaha area, but they claim to be an “American band” and try their best to take “all our influences and make them ours.”

jagaja2They started playing together in a band called Skypiper, their first official band (from 2007 to 2015). “Skypiper was more folky, or adult contemporary,” recalls Gabriel. It began as an acoustic project, but became more elaborate once they hit the studio. When Skypiper called it quits last year, Graham and Gabriel trudged on and formed JAGAJA. They are the only official members of JAGAJA with an ever-changing lineup of drums, synthesizers, and other instruments that they add into the mix. “It has to be just me and Graham,” says Gabriel. Graham plays guitar, Gabriel plays bass, and they share vocal duties. They try to keep JAGAJA small and between the two of them because “we want to make the record we want.”

“The best part about being in a band with your twin brother is you can (want to) kill them, but like 10 minutes later you’re still twin brothers and can get back to business,” Gabriel says. Their close work relationship is assisted by time apart. The brothers write songs separately and collaborate later. “Half of the album was written by me, and the other half was written by Graham,” says Gabriel. When it comes to process, Graham says, “Maybe I’ll have a hook, and we’ll build on that…We like hooks.”

They have been steadily touring and hope to play an Omaha homecoming show in December. Graham says, “When we play a show, we want it to be an event.”

The band self-released their first, self-titled album in June, which is available on streaming services and at many record stores in Omaha.

Visit jagajamusic.com for more information.

Encounter

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The Essential 
Brad Hoshaw

March 3, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The legend of Brad Hoshaw and The Seven Deadlies began in 2008 with a one-off show that has since tumbleweeded into two acclaimed full-length albums and five Omaha Entertainment
and Arts Awards.

Hoshaw—who was raised on healthy doses of Johnny Cash and murder ballads—started releasing his virtuous blend of Americana, folk, and pop in 1998 against a chicer Omaha indie sound that would render him somewhat anonymous for most of the naughts. After joining forces with Matt Whipkey, Vern Fergesen, and J. Scott Gaeta, or The Seven Deadlies band, the 35-year-old eventually achieved name recognition as a regional songwriting powerhouse. He’s been committing songs against humanity ever since.

Gluttony: This isn’t your older brother or sister’s Brad Hoshaw. The raucous first chords of “Powdernose”—the leading track from 2009’s Brad Hoshaw and The Seven Deadlies self-titled album—assure the listener of just that, kicking in like a renegade cowboy ready to shoot up the place. Tragically, the lyrical patrons of Hoshaw’s fictitious saloon are too sick with vice to fight back.

Envy: If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Hoshaw’s cover of Kyle Harvey’s “It Falls Apart” sincerely takes the former local singer-songwriter to task. For as much as the woeful coda to 2014’s Funeral Guns espouses the same message as Harvey’s experimental effort, it’s clearly not the same song. Of course, Hoshaw’s more palpable rendition isn’t a conscious critique of the original but rather a byproduct of his master craftsmanship.

Sloth: One of the premiere tracks from Funeral Guns, “8 Ball” is the coming-of-age tale of heartbreak and a once popular fortune-telling toy. Throughout the idling experience, Hoshaw looks to a Magic 8 Ball for a clue as to why his former sweetheart of five years got hitched, thus axing their fated reunion. He’s left without an answer, forgetting to pose his inquiry in the form of a yes-or-no question.

Lust: The narrator of Hoshaw’s “Face of Man” could’ve limped off the pages of a Cormac McCarthy novel. He’s a murder ballad in the making, “Hey Joe” before the crime. But whether the brooding antihero is a lecherous madman or just a run-of-the-mill misogynist remains to be heard in The Seven Deadlies redux that first appeared on Hoshaw’s 2003 album Sketches from the Dream State. Either way, any hope that he’ll one day become a well-adjusted person is eventually shattered by a piercing Matt Whipkey guitar solo in the song’s eleventh hour.

Greed: Originally written for the local roots act The Black Squirrels, Hoshaw’s sonic act of charity, “Delta King,” later became the ninth track on Funeral Guns after the band broke up in 2011. While the cautionary folk tale betrays the album’s tough cowboy exterior, its commentary on excessive pursuit defends Hoshaw’s cynical theme: humankind is depraved.

Wrath: Judging from Hoshaw’s complete body of work, it’s tempting to think there isn’t a mean bone in it. Enter “Gone in a Minute,” the slightly spiteful track that admits, “You were wrong to think I was kind.” Ever the nice guy, Hoshaw instantly returns to his sympathetic ways, threatening to leave in a minute’s time…for two and a half minutes. If it’s any consolation, it’s still his shortest Seven Deadlies song.

Pride: Born from the deepest stirrings of Hoshaw’s ego, “Funeral Guns” came to the crooner in a dream, or so the story goes. The track, from the album with the same title, is a pseudo eulogy to Hoshaw’s deceased father, whose ascending ghost seems haunted by how he’ll be remembered by those he loved most. In the end, the proud son forgives and his song never forgets.

Visit bradhoshaw.wordpress.com to learn more.

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Judi Wendt

December 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Lady Gaga’s elaborately decorated fingernails get their own close-up barely 20 seconds into her 2011 “Yoü and I” music video. Her adorned hands are a focal point in wider shots throughout the six-plus-minute video featuring the artist as multiple characters, including a mermaid, cyborg, nymph and bride; in one cutaway, she even spits out a nail. All 10 Lady fingers were the handiwork of nail technician Judi Wendt of Rêvé Salon & Spa in Rockbrook Village, who says this video shoot was simultaneously the most challenging, exhausting, and exhilarating project in her 20-year career.

“They [called and] said, ‘You’re going to do a shoot with Lady Gaga’ and I about wrecked my car!” Wendt said.

Because the song was inspired by the singer’s relationship with Nebraskan Lüc Carl, the video was filmed near Springfield in July of 2011. Lady Gaga called in Marian Newman, described by Wendt as “the Rachel Zoe of the nail world” who then sought a local specialist to assist her, on one condition: she must have experience in a new nail technique called Minx. Wendt not only was one of the rare nail technicians in the area with Minx expertise at the time, she had actually been in the first training class ever offered by the Minx creators. Already a fan of Lady Gaga, Wendt didn’t hesitate to accept the project, even though it meant rescheduling 43 appointments.

“It was very hush-hush…I told my clients ‘It’s really cool, and you’re going to be very excited when I can tell you what it is,’” she recalls.

“They [called and] said, ‘You’re going to do a shoot with Lady Gaga’ and I about wrecked my car!”

The action on location was fast and furious with Wendt logging 42 hours in just three days, and the nail designs were developed right on set.

“I had nails in my pockets at all times, and I wore a tool belt that had been designed by Marian for things like this. You run in and out, and you’re on the floor, searching in the hay; it’s crazy,” Wendt says. “She brought cases and cases of rivets and nails and all these metal pieces, and thousands of polishes, tips and Gelites, and all this stuff.”

Although she admits to having a few “My God, that’s Lady Gaga!” moments, Wendt says working with the superstar was overwhelmingly positive.

“She was ultra-gracious and super-professional. Intense, but not in a bitchy way, just very drawn into what she was doing,” she says.

19 November 2012- Judi Wendt is photographed at her home for Omaha Magazine.

The Marian Newman connection led Wendt to a New York Fashion Week gig this fall, styling nails for six shows by various designers. Although she may return to future Fashion Weeks and has discussed European opportunities with Newman, Wendt says her husband and two sons, ages 10 and 14, and the family’s involvement with their activities will keep her anchored to Nebraska for now.

Surprisingly, Wendt’s career stemmed from a part-time job she stumbled into during her college years.

“This all developed along the way. I don’t think I ever realized that I had an artistic niche…I never wanted to do hair or nails. I have a business degree from UNO,” she says, adding that both her education and a bit of luck helped her become successful in the increasingly competitive nail industry. Wendt says she enjoys her loyal clientele, including several families now in the second and even third generations, and the creative outlet that doing nails, “an extension of fashion,” provides.

“One of the reasons I love this business,” she says, “is that it’s never the same.”

The Acoustic Gangster

August 20, 2012 by
Photography by minorwhitestudios

When musician Brian Alexander first arrived in Omaha, he decided on a big approach to introduce himself to the local music scene.

Alexander, who also goes by “the Acoustic Gangster,” plastered his image across three billboards in town, adorned with the phrase, “Having your own billboard is pretty gangster.”

“I knew I was fresh to the area,” Alexander says. “I wanted to put myself out there and blow up.”

Alexander says the gambit was pricey but ultimately worth it. And that’s not the only wild purchase Alexander has made to promote himself. He also has a life-size cardboard cutout of himself that he hauls around to gigs. Alexander says people try to buy it, steal it, drunk girls try to talk to it, and guys have even tried to pick fights with it. Everybody seems to take pictures with it, too. “That’s been one of the most interesting purchases I’ve ever made,” says Alexander, who enjoys being a bit eccentric.

But Alexander hasn’t relied solely on having his own cardboard doppleganger and putting his face on billboards to build his audience. He’s also spent time building tight relationships with local bars and clubs where he plays, especially Stiles Pub (1204 Howard St.) and Parliament Pub’s Shops of Legacy and Old Market locations.

“I’m really loyal to people that give you chances,” Alexander says.

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During Alexander’s sets, he relies on a selection of covers that point toward the sort of music that he writes. There’s plenty of ‘90s-era material from acts like The Smashing Pumpkins, Live, Blind Melon, and the Presidents of the United States. Alexander says he seeks to give his audience a little bit of adolescent nostaglia. “I do stuff that brings them back to high school,” he says.

Alexander’s music takes those influences and combines them with a modern acoustic pop feel that brings to mind contemporary acts like Jason Mraz, Eric Hutchinson, and G. Love. His latest single, “Lemonade,” brings that light-hearted pop vibe together with a simple beat and acoustic guitar.

Omaha may have become Alexander’s musical home, but it was a long journey before he arrived in town. Alexander lived in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., before attending Penn State University.

His first impulse for pursuing a music career was to pack up for Nashville, but soon an Omaha friend that Alexander had met while studying abroad in France convinced him to give Nebraska a try.

Before long, Alexander had settled down in Omaha and began playing regular gigs. Then one night at a gig, a fan called him over to the bar to buy him a drink, slung his arm around Alexander’s shoulder, and introduced him as “my man, the Acoustic Gangster, Brian Alexander.”

There was no shaking the name, Alexander says. “It kind of stuck in my head the rest of the night,” he recalls.

And it helped him with the dilemma of just how to stand out from the crowd of singer-songwriters out there. In looking up the number of Brian Alexanders on Facebook, he encountered hundreds. That number dropped dramatically for the newly minted nickname. “Sure enough, there were no ‘Acoustic Gangsters’ registered anywhere,” Alexander says.

Now, there’s one who’s eager to make fans any way he can.