Lincoln Exposed in Review

The following is a guest post by Andrew Stellmon. Andrew is a Team Member at Vinnie Krikac State Farm, and a frequent contributor to Originally from Lee's Summit, MO, a suburb of Kansas City, he has lived in Lincoln since Fall 2007, when he began attending UNL. Andrew graduated in May 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts in both History and Sociology. Andrew has contributed to since April 2014, and what began as an outlet for his passion for music turned into a position as an editorial intern for the Fall 2014 semester, covering local and national music in concert and album reviews and artist-focused interviews. Andrew also loves movies, coffee, craft-beer, tries to find time to read, and is a rabid Kansas City sports fan.

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.

O Holy Night

Christmas has come at last! 

We have finally made it.

We were all wondering if we would survive and get everything done, and while prevailing seemed unlikely at points, there is something about Christmas that makes room for the unlikely to happen.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for you are most likely being celebrated with family, friends, good food and relaxing. Finally, it seems okay to get fully in the Christmas spirit and sing Christmas carols. One song that you probably sang is 'O Holy Night.' For some reason, this song hits home with the way we feel during the Advent season.

The song was originally written by a man named Placide Cappeau, who was a wine merchant and poet in a small town in France. What is unusual about this song in particular is that Cappeau was not a Christian, and actually considered himself to be an anticlerical atheist. By the time of 1847, Cappeau was known for his writing, and was asked by a local parish to write a poem for the upcoming Christmas mass. It seems fair to infer that he was probably shocked by this, but nonetheless, he was honored to share his talents with the church.

Basing his work around the birth narrative of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel, Cappeau finished the poem which he entitled 'Cantique de Noel.' Thereafter, he found himself moved by his own work and decided that it should be put into the hands of a master musician. Thus, Cappeau turned to a good friend of his named Adolphe Charles Adams, who was a renowned classical musician at the time in the city of Paris. Though this poem was about celebrating Christmas and the person of Jesus, Adams was Jewish by heritage, so this poem was about a holiday that he did not observe, and about a man that he did not believe to be God incarnate. Nevertheless, he quickly went to work and was inspired by Cappeu’s beautiful words. The final product was then sang at the upcoming Midnight Mass that Christmas Eve in 1847.

At first, 'Cantique de Noel' was gladly accepted by the church in France. But when it was found that Cappeau was part of a socialist movement and that Adams was a Jew, the song was suddenly denounced by the church. As the church tried to bury this song, the people of France continued to sing it, and a decade later a reclusive songwriter in America would give the song to a new audience on the other side of the world.

John Sullivan Dwight, who was a supporter of the abolition of slavery at the time in North America, was able to identify with the lines that Cappeau wrote,

Truly he taught us to love one another;

His law is love and his gospel is peace.

Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother;

And in his name all oppression shall cease.

Dwight’s translation of the song quickly gained traction in North America. On Christmas Eve of 1906, the song retitled 'O Holy Night' was the first song ever sent through radio airwaves. The song is now sung in many churches of all stripes today.

This is an unlikely story of an atheist poet and a Jewish composer collaborating on a hymn for a small Catholic Mass taking place on Christmas Eve, which ended up becoming the first song to ever air on radio and is now one of the most popular Christmas songs of all time. But this is the nature of Christmas: unlikely stories finding their way into history and reality.

God being born of a woman in the first century Greco-Roman world as a Jewish Carpenter. It sounds unlikely and uncommon because it is just that. God becoming a man named Jesus, entering into the strongholds of sin to bring liberty to the captives. It sounds wild, because it is. God has always worked in ways that are not predictable, because He cannot be pinned down or put into a box.

One of the marvelous themes of Christmas is that God is continuing to work in ways that are not predictable, and all people are invited to belong to God’s reclaiming and restoring of all things that He is doing in Christ.

As Cappeau wrote:

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

To listen to an in-depth look at all four weeks of Advent, please check out the series here.

Joy to the World

Christmas is almost here, all of the expectancy and foresight is about to erupt into everything that has been building for the past month. Before we know it, Christmas will be past, and we will not know what to be looking forward to next. The toys and trinkets we get will soon be dated and due for an upgrade. The clothes we get will wear out or be out of style before long. All gift cards will be spent (or forgotten about), all the eggnog will be gone, and eventually the lights will come down. It seems like all of the joy that we were anticipating at Christmas slips away somehow. 

I want to pause and think about the joy this season ushers in. Some of it is superficial, yes, although the eggnog is pretty darn good. But what about the bigger sense of joy that always springs forth during the advent season?

One popular Christmas song that can only be heard this time of year is 'Joy to the World.' This hymn was originally written by a man named Isaac Watts in the year 1719. As of the late 20th century, this song was the most published Christian hymn in North America. Watts based this hymn after Psalm 98, speaking more particularly to Christ’s second coming, now with His first coming behind us. In the finished work of Christ, there is finality and permanence. God has dropped the sins of the world into the black hole of Jesus’ death, and He has initiated the project of making all things new in the resurrection of Jesus. Upon Christ’s return, all of new creation will be actualized, and there will be no more more bondage to corruption and sin, there will be a joy that cannot be revoked.

As Watts wrote,

No more let sins and sorrows grow

Nor thorns infest the ground

He comes to make

His blessings flow

Far as the curse is found

Upon the full ushering in of God’s kingdom, His redeeming hand will reach into every dark corner and and uproot everything that plagues the world and defaces the dignity instilled by God in all that He has made. However, this is not solely for the future. This is something that we can enjoy and rest in now as we await the second coming of Jesus.

The psalmist writes,

Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth; burst into songs and make music… Let the sea and everything in it shout; let the world and everyone in it sing.

Psalm 98:4, 7

We live in the present most effectively by knowing what the future holds. We can live with joy knowing what has already been accomplished, and awaiting with eager expectation what is also coming. It is good news for everyone, because it is something that does not change with seasons.

Listen here for a deeper look into joy in the final week of Advent.

What Child Is This?

Christmas day continues to approach as the mix of anticipation and excitement continue to build. Yet, Christmas is not always a time that is filled with excitement and happiness for everyone. For some, it is a time that revisits grief. For others, it is a season in which people have old wounds reopened, whether that is with family, friends, or past memories. In some cases, people can experience depression during the holidays, regardless of how many Christmas carols they might hear.

One song that you may be familiar with during Christmas time is “What Child is This?” It was originally written by William Chatterton Dix in 1865. He began writing many of the hymns which bear his name at age 29, when he was struck with a sudden near-fatal illness and confined to bed rest for several months, during which he went into a deep depression. Much of his best and most renowned work came from the worst season of his life.

Dix wrote these lines of inquiry,

What child is this who, laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping?

Why would God enter into the world as a fragile child? It would seem that God is not afraid of modesty and vulnerability. He is not afraid to descend to the lowest and most humble estate to meet humanity where they are. This is something that Dix encountered himself. At the depths of his depression, he found that Jesus had no reservations about drawing near to him. There is no point so low that is beyond the reach of Christ.

Dix follows with this refrain,

This, this is Christ the King,

Whom shepherds guard and angels sing

The meek and lowly child in the manger is the God of the universe, the King of cosmos, the Creator and Sustainer of all things, the One who upholds everything by the power of His word. Yet He accommodates Himself to our weakness by becoming a man. It is as if God stooped down to look us in the eye. He comes to us to communicate forgiveness of sins and the call to repentance in a way that we can fathom in our finitude.

The psalmist writes,

He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.

Psalm 40:2

In order for God to pull us out of the muck and the mire, He goes in after us. This is the incarnation, God becoming man. That is what Christmas is all about. It is the declaration that there is hope for each person, wherever they might be.

To continue diving further into “What Child Is This?” check out the sermon from this week of Advent.

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

It’s the second week of Advent and there is a definite building crescendo of anticipation for Christmas day.  It seems as though the seasonal music tends to fuel the anticipation. It is hard to escape because anticipation is part of the human experience. Everyone is looking forward to something.

Last week we focused on the familiar Christmas song, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” This week, let’s look at “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.” This hymn was written by Charles Wesley, and first published in 1744. Charles Wesley was an English leader in the Methodist movement, and the younger brother of Methodist founder John Wesley. Charles lived from 1707 to 1788.

In the hymn, Wesley wrote phrases such as “dear desire of every nation” and “joy of every longing heart.” Wesley understood that within every person, there is a deep longing to cherish something highly. At Christmas time, I think this feeling becomes recognizably stronger and it brings us to a place where we begin to think about these longings meaningfully.

The world is full of different messages. Some will tell you to indulge these longings until you are the fulfillment of the higher meaning. Some will tell you that there is no higher meaning, that the longing is absurd. Some will tell you that your search is in vain and nothing more than an illusion will be achieved. How can this be? ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’ promised that God will be with us. Emmanuel would bring Hope and satisfy our longings to be ransomed from all the “bad” in our lives, in the world. If there is no higher meaning in life, then everything that is in us saying there most certainly a lie, an illusion. Who we are at the core is nothing more than an illusion.

But what if there is a higher meaning?

We long to know that our labors, toil, and suffering are not in vain. This is the call of Wesley’s hymn.

The longings are not only to know that life is not an aimless accident, but that on a practical and experiential level, there are daily anxieties that from which we wish to be free. Jesus came to give rest to the anxious, fortify the fearful, and set the captives free from bondage to sin.

In Jesus, we find rest from trying to validate ourselves. Wesley wrote: “Hope of all the earth thou art.” There is hope for all of the world because of who Jesus is. As we look to the God who is with us, we find God stepping into history as a man to make reconciliation between humanity and Himself, and we find hope for all people.

Advent is the season where we celebrate “God with us.” This is why we can all join together in singing “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus.” For a more in-depth study on “Come Thou Long Expected Jesus,” check out the second week in our Advent sermons series here.

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

The holidays are here which means you're going to hear Christmas music everywhere you go. Some of the songs are catchy, and others...well... I'll just say they aren't as catchy.  Christmas music is something that is easily recognizable; yet much of it is undefined or taken for granted. These songs have memorable melodies, but have you ever thought about where they came from? Or what the lyrics mean? There are messages untouched by time i some of these songs that still speaks to people.

Perhaps one of the oldest songs that remains popular to this day is 'O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.' This hymn dates all the way back to the 8th century A.D. where it was chanted as a prayer in monasteries by monks as Christmas approached. It was not actually sung as a hymn until 12th century A.D. when it was rearranged by an unknown Latin poet. Finally, in 1851, it was translated from Latin to English by Dr. J.M. Neale, which is how many of us would recognize it today.

But what does this hymn actually mean? Why has it prevailed so strongly throughout time? The word “Emmanuel" provides great substance as to what this hymn is about. “Emmanuel” simply means “God with us.” The meaning of Emmanuel is important to know to better understand the meaning behind the lyrics:

O, come, O, come, Emmanuel,

And ransom captive Israel,

That mourns in lonely exile here

Until the Son of God appear.

The Jewish people of Israel were anticipating the long­awaited promise made by God. The name “Israel” in its original language is a combination of “wrestle or struggle" and “God”, thus the name of Israel can mean “To struggle with God.” Perhaps to struggle in believing the promises of God, or to struggle in submitting to God, or struggling to entrust one’s fidelity to God. Everyone struggles. Whether the struggle is in marriage, in the workplace, with family, with fighting addictions, battling depression, or just making it through the day. The cry of this song is that God would come and be with His people in the midst of the struggle and that He would ransom them, set them free from sin and its consequences.

This is why Jesus is so central to all the promises of God. Jesus is "God with us." Jesus is God stepping into the mess that we have made of the world and, rather than being distant and careless, He is a God who is willing to stoop down to our level and have compassion on us. Instead of a God who is an obscure and abstract concept, Jesus comes to us as a God who is earthy, not ignorant of suffering and the pain of loss.

This hymn was originally written with the longing that God would be with us, and that we would know what God is like. In Christ, Emmanuel, both of those longings are met. 

For a more in-depth study of the meaning behind O Come, O Come Emmanuel, check out the first week of our Advent sermon series here.

Why We Love Lincoln: Lincoln Civic Orchestra

When you go to an orchestra concert, you probably don’t expect to sing along to Disney’s Frozen, but dozens of concertgoers did just that this past Sunday.

The Lincoln Civic Orchestra performed a series of seasonally themed pieces entitled Four Seasons for its fall concert. LCO provides an opportunity for community musicians to make music together to share with the community and have a blast while doing it (icy or otherwise).

After starting off this Sunday's concert with An Outdoor Overture by American composer Aaron Copland, we took a journey through the seasons of the year beginning with spring. The concert ended with audience members singing at the encouragement of the conductor, Rob Salistean, before (and during) a medley of songs from Frozen.

For the spring season, we played Spring Song, op. 16 by Jean Sibelius, which explored the sadness of spring. Summer Dances by Brian Balmages written in 2000 provided an opportunity to experience a sizzling new composition from an American composer. Associate Director Brett Noser conducted In Autumn, op. 11 by Edvard Grieg, a stormy and romantic piece.

This was my first concert playing violin with LCO, and I will definitely be coming back for more. In addition to playing awesome music, LCO is a very fun and welcoming group. Sometimes it feels like I stumbled into a comedy club instead of orchestra rehearsal on Thursday nights!

What I love about LCO is the accessibility. The music selection is accessible, and the concerts themselves are accessible because they're free. I know that there were people who would never normally attend an orchestra concert there, and they came because their kids liked hearing Frozen and it was a free afternoon of entertainment and culture.

One of my favorite parts of LCO is the variety of people I've met. Because it is the resident orchestra at Nebraska Wesleyan University in northeast Lincoln, there are many Wesleyan students that form its ranks, but there are also students from other area schools and adults of all ages. This diversity provides a unique opportunity to meet people of Lincoln and helps unify the community.

If you are interested in joining the group, please contact If you're interested in hearing us play, join us on February 22nd, 2015 for a concert themed Solos and Dancing!

All photos from the Lincoln Civic Orchestra website.

Why We Love Lincoln: Stransky Park Concerts

One of my favorite things about summer is the variety of live music that happens outdoors, especially when it’s free.  And Lincoln has a great tradition of free music--Jazz in June, Hear Lincoln, lunch hour at the Foundation Gardens, to name just a few.  One of the favorites takes place in our backyard--the Stransky Park concert series, sponsored by the folks at KZUM.  

Every Thursday at 7 p.m., through August 14, performers will take the stage under the gazebo at Stransky Park (17th and Harrison) to entertain crowds of all ages.  The bands range in style from bluegrass to jazz to rock/ska, and the music is family-friendly.

The series has been going for about 10 years now, and KZUM has brought back some crowd favorite bands and created a faithful following in the process.  Sandy Creek Bluegrass, an established local group that brings traditional tunes to life, packs a big crowd every year.  Unfortunately their show was rained out this year, but look for them to be back in the future.  This week, Lincoln-based folk band Jack Hotel will take the stage (July 24), followed by Chicago-style blues from the local Honeyboy Turner Band next week (July 31).

There’s a great feel of close-knit community at the Stransky Park series.  Since it’s a small space enclosed by a peaceful neighborhood around, it’s off the beaten path and takes some intentionality to get there.  Once there though, the laid back feel of the place encourages you to get situated and enjoy the breeze, the sound of playing kids and happy people, and the feeling of enjoying all of this with people you probably don’t know.  Yet.  

The park isn’t huge, so the number of people that stream in the gates for the shows fill up the grassy lawn pretty quick. There is lots to keep kids occupied, and when they’re not dancing in front of the band, I’ve seen them roaming around the park, playing on the playground equipment and climbing the rock waterfall at the back.  

Parking is available in the surrounding neighborhood, so take care to not block driveways and be prepared to walk a pace or two.  Don’t forget to bring a chair or blanket to sit on!  And if you accidentally come hungry, they do have bbq sandwiches and chips for sale for $5.  

The concert series is free thanks to a group of local sponsors, but the bands play for peanuts--tips, to be exact.  You’ll see the “love the band” buckets in front of the stage, so feel free to fill them up and keep the good bands coming back!

For up-to-date information and the full summer schedule, visit their Facebook page:

Photo Credit: Christina Case, taken at the Cornerstone Dub show June 19, 2014