Tag Archives: High Up

Local Musician Trades California for Omaha

July 1, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Venice, California, tempts many people—with sandy beaches and year-round sunshine, it is obvious why folks from around the world flock to the destination. Josh Soto has lived there, and he moved on. He now calls Omaha home.

For the sake of Omaha’s music scene, Soto traded Southern California’s serene climate for volatile weather and bitter winters. He relocated five years ago, and he has been a fixture ever since.

Almost immediately after coming to Omaha, he started playing bass for a local band called The Scene, and he worked at Guitar Center. “I played in the Scene for about five years, and just from working there (at Guitar Center) I got to meet everyone and kind of integrate myself into the Omaha music scene,” Soto says.

JoshSoto2Soto says Omaha feels so much like home it sometimes seems funny to think he came from a completely different place.

“It’s been a slow build, and it’s kind of funny how many people think I am from here,” Soto says. “I am a total gear junkie, so it kind of helped when people would come to me for advice, or just pick my brain about different things as a Guitar Center guy.”

After more than five years working at the shop near Oak View Mall, Soto is now the general manager of Ground Floor Guitars in the Blackstone District. He says Guitar Center customers often complained about the long commute to West Omaha. Ground Floor is a solution to their problem.

“I was approached by Phil (Schaffart, Ground Floor’s owner). He wanted to do a guitar shop in Blackstone, and it just made total sense,” Soto says.

According to Soto, Ground Floor won’t be the shop that has everything, but they will have the basics.

“We are going to have the essentials, so if you need a new pack of picks, or strings, an amp, or a new guitar, it’s all going to be right here,” Soto says.

Soto has a lot of love for the Omaha music scene, and he sees this new adventure with Ground Floor as a way to give back. “I think it is going to allow me to better serve my friends in the music community right here in the neighborhood,” he says.

He recognizes how meaningful it is for a good guitar shop to have caring and attentive employees who build relationships with customers. For Soto, the notion even carries a hint of nostalgia.

“I knew a guy named Josh that worked in Guitar Center back in Hollywood, and he always took care of me, from when I was a 15-year-old idiot kid who had no money to when I actually started being in bands and playing shows,” Soto says.

Soto says he wants to be that person for other guitarists: the guy who always takes care of you, your “man on the inside.” Soto wants people to know they can count on him to take care of their needs.

“It’s sweet that the people of Omaha have trusted me and kind of adopted me,” Soto says with a laugh. “I get a lot of personal satisfaction in being able to help people. I love talking about gear, and I am very fortunate that I can do what I love for a living.”

Just like his employment at Guitar Center, Soto’s band, The Scene, was bound for change, too.

“We did a lot of really cool stuff. We toured a lot, we played Maha in 2012, and we played the opening ceremonies for the College World Series two years ago,” Soto says. “That band just recently ended.”

Soto briefly played with several local bands before joining his current group, High Up. Soto says his first rehearsal with High Up carried a very surreal realization.

“I’m playing with all stars,” Soto says. “That was one of those pinch me moments where I thought, ‘I’m playing with these guys?’” The rest of the band consists of Christine and Orenda Fink (vocals), Greg Elsasser (keyboard), and Eric Ohlsson (drums).

High Up got together just over a year ago and the band is sure to remain in the Omaha music scene for some time—much like their bassist, Josh Soto. Encounter

Visit highup1.bandcamp.com for more information.

Laura Burhenn

September 11, 2015 by
Photography by Jessica Ewald

There’s a lyrical tradition that seems to stem from popular songs titled “Omaha.” It’s a tradition that often involves the personification of the flyover city as a dependable friend or even a former lover waiting to be rediscovered for its less-exciting comforts. Waylon Jennings defects to San Francisco in his narrative but admits he “never really left it all” when crooning about Omaha. The Everly Brothers find D.C. and L.A. uninspiring compared to an Omaha that comprises “everything that [they] wanted.” And the Counting Crows are “coming home” to “roll a new love over.”

While Laura Burhenn’s “Omaha” perhaps involuntarily participates in this same ceremony on her latest Saddle Creek release Lovers Know, the Mynabirds singer-songwriter breaks one major trope: Her melancholy rendition makes no assumptions that the community she left two years ago would welcome her back if she wanted to return.

“That song was the hardest song for me to write and I almost didn’t even want to put it on the record because it’s so personal,” Burhenn, 35, says on the phone from her L.A. home. “Here I am, my heart is totally broken open and it’s like, ‘Here you go guys!'”

The D.C. native who moved to Nebraska in the late naughts says she wrote most of “Omaha” upon returning to the city after a grueling world tour with The Postal Service in 2013. At the time, Burhenn says she was having difficulty reconciling her life’s purpose of traveling as a touring musician with sustaining a relationship with her community.

“I feel like this is what the universe always does to you,” she explains, describing the budding disconnect she began to experience with Omaha. “You’re riding this wave of optimism and power and everything is amazing and perfect…and all of a sudden you just get crushed.”

Windows down, music loud, Burhenn says she took off in her car as a sort of therapeutic response to her existential pains, prompting a two-year odyssey that she would eventually package as Lovers Know.

“This record is probably my midlife crisis,” she says with a laugh. “Instead of buying a sports car, I took my dog and went camping all over the U.S.”

Burhenn’s journey, she says, reacquainted her with ’90s shoegaze and R&B, both of which stylistically pervade what she describes as her most emotionally unguarded material to date. And then there’s “Omaha,” which sonically sticks out like a logo-clad Woodmen Tower.

The minimalistic ballad, relying heavily on a tear-inducing piano lick and a sentimental ambiance, confronts the city, asking, “Will you still call me darling?” and “Will I still be your girl?” But “Omaha” is more than just an introspective look into Burhenn’s fear of letting down her former community: It’s also a love letter, a runaway note, a spiritual confession, a eulogy, an ode, and even a brochure. And ultimately, the song is a clue to unlocking its hosting album’s mysterious title:

“Lovers know that sometimes real intimacy can be beautiful and wonderful, but it can also be heartbreaking and treacherous,” says the artist who will appear at Slowdown on Sept. 17.

”But even as dark as it gets, you still have this seed of hope.”


Details for the performance:

THE MYNABIRDS with Bad Bad Hats and High Up

Thursday, Sept. 17 at 9 p.m.

Slowdown, 729 N 14th St.

Tickets $10 each, available at www.theslowdown.com