Local musicians say Lincoln’s resurgence since the pandemic as a “music every night” city hasn’t been done alone – it’s due in part to the robust network of musicians and organizers who help book shows, put together tours, source gear, and most importantly, mentor young bands.
“You’ve gotta pass the torch, man,” said artist/musician Gerardo Meza. Meza’s band, The Mezcal Brothers, was inducted into the Nebraska Music Hall of Fame in 2016 and has played in Lincoln for 25 years.
Meza expressed his love for Lincoln’s tightly-woven community, remembering the days of Lincoln’s since-defunct but legendary venue The Drumstick and how it inspired his love of playing local.
“I just love that camaraderie,” Meza said. “That feeling that you belong to something, you know?”
Since then, Meza has spent years watching local bands rise up, giving them stage tips, band advice, and connecting them to the scene. It’s this kind of mentorship that some bands say sets Lincoln apart, making it a great home for young artists. It’s not just the leaders that make it special, though. The fans do too.
“Lincoln is a lot less cliquey than Omaha,” said Van Foster, bassist of Ivory Daze. “People just vibe with the music more here. They start [mosh] pits, they move around. They don’t just stand there and watch.”
These fans contribute to Lincoln’s thriving DIY assortment of concerts in suburban garages and mom’s basements, which can sometimes be more rewarding than the few big-ticket festivals that happen in and around Lincoln.
“The stuff we play, festival-wise, it’s very hit or miss,” said Isahen Harms, the band’s lead guitarist. “When you’re on one of those festivals with around 100 artists, you are a centimeter of a name on a poster with paragraphs upon paragraphs.”
Ivory Daze says the close-knit nature of these more intimate DIY shows contributes to a more tightly woven community and makes a more connected experience for fans and bands alike.
“If you’re having a house show, you’re family. You’re getting a shower, you’re getting a floor to sleep on, it’s major,” said Maeve Nelson, the band’s drummer.
For house show operators like Sam Crisler and Jessy Hunt, the work they do is crucial to building a strong community and offering a place for kids to find a community.
“When I came up to Lincoln and I went to my first show at the Commons and then I started going to house shows, I was absolutely blown away and I started feeling a place of belonging,” said Hunt. “It’s really important for me to have a venue not only to share the experience of music, but also to create a space of belongingness for people who might not be musicians.”
Despite having great fans and great venue operators, Ivory Daze says they would not be anywhere near where they are now were it not for the guidance of people who have done this before.
“We’ve gotten a s*** ton of our shows with touring and bands because Turquoise connected us to them,” said Foster. “They ask us to play shows with huge a** bands that we enjoy – just casually listen to.”
For Turquoise bassist Tim Buchholtz, this kind of help is all part of the job.
“When the younger kids were starting to make their own bands, a lot of the older bands took us under their wing and were like ‘Hey, this is how it’s done, this is what you want to do, this is how you stay safe,’ and, I mean, I’d just like to pass that knowledge of what I’ve had and what I’ve experienced onto young people,” said Buchholtz. “There’s just a great group of young people. Not only can you see their creativity, but their work ethic. That’s paramount to success in the modern music industry.”
In Buchholtz’s eyes, being able to share his knowledge and networks are the same as sharing the music itself.
“At the end of the day, we’re all just a bunch of punk kids and that’s awesome.”