November 27, 2018 by
Photography by OEAA board (contributed)

The Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards introduced a handful of 2018’s top local artists at this year’s Nominee Showcase on November 16th. The night featured over 15 performances (including bands, DJs, hip-hop artists, and comedians) at three venues located in the heart of Omaha’s Benson neighborhood: Barley Street Tavern, The B Side of Benson Theatre, and Burke’s Pub. The OEAA nominees—voted for by citizens throughout the metro—represent a variety of works that span visual arts, performing arts, and live music. Omaha Magazine has always had a taste for the best, so we hit the streets of Benson to hear some of 2018’s top talent performed live.

Win/Win at the Barley Street Tavern
2735 N. 62nd St.

Tucked just 50 yards away from the bustle of Maple Street is the unassuming Barley Street Tavern. With its triangular roof and traditional white paneling, it could easily be mistaken for a residential home if not for the illuminated, looping letters of its welcome sign and the steady stream of visitors coming and going below. Inside, a glossy countertop reflects a kaleidoscope of glass bottles and trinkets hanging behind the bar, guiding guests toward a second room, where Win/Win has taken over the stage.

The indie-pop-rock band is nominated under the category of best new artist, but the four-member group seem relaxed under the spotlight as they joke with audience members between songs reminiscent of Weezer mixed with something totally original. Win/Win’s set finishes to rollicking applause from the packed crowd and a request to play again soon (please?).

Us and Them at the B Side of Benson Theatre
6058 Maple St.

The B Side’s stage (a small platform just on the other side of the wall) gives those on the street an interesting view, the glass front letting pedestrians and drivers on Maple Street feel like a part of the crowd, if only for a fleeting moment. Performers look inward, to a room of colorfully tiled tables. Audience members face the entrance, giving passersby outside an immersive, almost one-way mirror effect as they step into the light and view the B Side from the performer’s perspective.

Us and Them, a ten-piece band nominated in the category of best blues, crowd onto that platform with keyboard, guitars, trumpet, saxophones, bass, and drum set in tow, plus microphones and two vocalists. If the size of the group didn’t already have the audience’s attention, the musicians’ ages caught it. The band is comprised of nine teenagers and an even younger guitarist. The crowd shows their appreciation for the talented troupe by cheering and dancing along to soulful originals, energetic solos, and spirited covers.

Satellite Junction at Burke’s Pub
6117 Maple St.

‘Burke’s Pub’ is printed in bold letters against a white backdrop on the building’s exterior, welcoming everyone to join in on the fun at this bar and music venue. Endless free popcorn and groups of people chatting, playing games, and ordering drinks fill the place, spilling through a doorway and behind the bar where Satellite Junction is just warming up.

Sparse seating options had viewers on their feet and up close with this rock band. Satellite Junction’s members performed original songs with high-energy, and the crowd packed tightly together as the music drew more people into the room (including members of Win/Win). Nothing says Omaha like catching a live show and then grabbing a beer with the band right down the street—while you’re both checking out another band.

The OEAA Nominee Showcase was just a sample of Omaha’s overwhelming artistic talent and the numerous benefits art and music bring to our community. Winners in each category will be announced at the 13th Annual Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards on January 27, 2019 at Slowdown. A full list of this year’s nominees and ticket information is available at oea-awards.org.