Thoughts On Big Crowds, Bandleaders, and Genre Diversity
After 61 bands, four nights, three venues, and after one awesome local music fan base turned out in droves, Lincoln Exposed ended with a bang early Sunday morning.
It seems too neatly linear, and maybe a bit cliché, to say that Lincoln Exposed ramped up as the weekend progressed. It's still true in a lot of ways. Wednesday night opened with seven bands, and even with a bone-chilling freeze outside, drew a nice turnout.
After expanding to the full complement of venues - the Zoo Bar, Duffy’s Tavern, and The Bourbon Theater - for Thursday onward, the number of bands increased, as did the attendance.
Twenty bands played on Saturday, starting with Tupelo Springfield at 6pm at the Zoo Bar. The energy of Saturday itself intensified as the regular bar crowd showed (especially at Duffy’s, where it was at capacity for part of the night). The festival hit it's last crescendo with pop punk quartet Thirst Things First at 12:40am at Duffy’s to close the weekend.
Whew. What an awesome whirlwind of a weekend.
I helped cover Thursday’s festivities for Hear Nebraska, which is part of why I wasn't able to make it to every band. Visit these links for their comprehensive coverage of Lincoln Exposed Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. There was still plenty to digest from the weekend. I’ve listed my thoughts below, based on my favorite things that I saw, sought out, and experienced randomly.
I wrote a bit last week about how diverse, genre-wise, these billings were at first glance. For my money, that is when Lincoln Exposed, Lincoln Calling, or music festival is at its best: a wide variety of acts playing one after another on the same billing or throughout the same night. It gives musician and audience member a chance to sample something completely different from their particular musical tastes.
Lincoln Exposed delivered on this in spades each night, beginning right away with Wednesday’s billing. Soul/R&B trio Xion played first at the Zoo Bar. Their three-part vocal harmonies blended expertly together with VJ Herbert’s robust piano chords. It was nice to ease into the festival in this way, gently and with music that would probably be unlike anything else over the next few nights.
The crowds would be different for Orion Walsh and the Rambling Hearts later in the evening, and around the corner at Duffy’s. Folk act Jack Hotel played with indie bands blet and Oketo. It would be redundant to list every single example of this, but there are few highlights that help drive the point home: Thursday’s entire night at the Zoo Bar, from Root Marm Chicken Farm Jug band to avant garde electronic Omni Arms to prog-punk band Universe Contest; two country bands - Dylan Bloom Band and Emmett Bower Band preceding Laughing Falcon and Bogusman, two of the loudest rock/punk bands in Lincoln; and Saturday, where Americana (Gerardo Meza) and alt-rock (the Renfields) shared the stage with trumpet-accented garage rock (the Crayons).
Lincoln Exposed offers a unique opportunity to see not only a wide array of musical acts, but ones across the spectrum of experience. This year saw a number of rising young talents play alongside veteran Nebraska musicians, some of which were also testing new material.
I kept thinking all weekend about the idea of a “bandleader,” what that can mean, and how its embodied differently by different artists. There were plenty of candidates for emerging bandleaders: Stuart McKay of funk band Melon Company, who held together a tight brass ensemble and funky rhythm section; JP Davis, who led a mini-orchestra-sized band with droning lead vocals and subtle charm; Steven DeLair of Oketo, who shifted skillfully between cooing tenor and guttural screaming.
There were plenty of accomplished frontman as well, including Meza, backed on Saturday night by the new band he unveiled at Lincoln Calling in October. Evan Bartles and the Stoney Lonesomes played the Zoo Bar Friday, Bartles himself a strong, intense bandleader. Then there’s Mikey Elfers of the aforementioned Thirst Things First, who closed down the festival with pop punk explosion. He is that band’s “leader” insofar as he its lead singer. But he also plays Boot, the overlord-subject of their sci-fi backstory, in videos that play onstage. He also assembles and customizes each show beforehand, splicing Sonic the Hedgehog-style bleeps and bloops into the track of each show.
Speaking of that band: what one must have thought upon walking in on them for the first time if they had never seen or heard of them before. Its such a bizarre gimmick, even as its one of the most fleshed out concept bands around. That awkward feeling is blown away as soon as they begin, as it did on Saturday. Their sound is too infectious, which is why they draw some of the biggest crowds of any local band.
Two other crowd pleasers (and two of my favorites) played back to back nights at the Zoo Bar. Universe Contest played Thursday night as what has become an all-star lineup behind frontmen/guitarists Tim Carr and Joe Humpel. Festival-goers packed the room as beer cans flew into and past the band. With violin and Moog synth replacing atmospheric keys, they brought a punkier vibe to both their old songs and new material. Friday night overflowed again as garage punk foursome Halfwit played what will be its last show for a brief hiatus. The two bands share bassist Saber Blazek, whose presence brings precise, rhythmic notes and one of the most noted stage personalities for a non-frontperson. Unsurprisingly, the energy was in the stratosphere for both shows.
Lincoln Exposed can seem like a huge blur of memories, with ones that stick out like cottages dotting the countryside outside of a speeding train’s window. Whatever you remember, it's likely been demonstrated that the musicians, songwriters, and bands of Lincoln possess such creativity and talent. It's nice to see such support from fans. Art is an essential component of any city with a vibrant culture; Lincoln’s music scene is important in that regard. It remains strong and diverse, and Lincoln Exposed was yet more proof of that.