No matter how many times someone asks you about Omaha's nationally recognized music scene, it's possible that you still don't know enough to answer all the questions.
For starters, you should know that Omaha has spawned such notable musical acts as 311, Bright Eyes, the Faint and others, and the city is also home to much-loved independent record label Saddle Creek Records (and several of the label's bands, too).
As “Wish You Were Here,” a book that named Omaha as one of the country's 11 best music scenes, says, “... some of the country's most beloved songwriters would come from the same place that birthed Mannheim Steamroller and TV dinners. But Omaha eventually developed one of the most revered music scenes, thanks to a whole lot of bleeding heart emo troubadours.”
Here are some highlights that you should know about concerning Omaha's current music scene.
Saddle Creek Records
Founded in 1993, Saddle Creek Records was started by friends and musicians who wanted a way to release their friends' music. The label's first release was Conor Oberst's cassette tape, “Water,” made when he was only 13. Saddle Creek attained notoriety in the late '90s and early '00s with popular releases from Bright Eyes, the Faint and Cursive, among others.
Young Conor Oberst was quickly recognized as a songwriting talent by older Omaha musicians and later formed a few bands with his friends. Most were short-lived until Oberst formed Bright Eyes as a solo project that featured a rotating cast of musicians.
Bright Eyes' 2002 album, “Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground,” garnered national attention from major music publications and the band (now including permanent members Mike Mogis and Nathaniel Walcott) recently received a gold certification for 2005's “I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning.”
Omaha's local music scene is well-regarded and has placed the city on several lists of the top scenes in the country.
Looking for rock? Try Little Brazil, Cursive, the So-So Sailors or the Whipkey Three.
Punk? Go for Desaparecidos, Digital Leather or Millions of Boys.
Dance? The Faint, Icky Blossoms or Tilly and the Wall.
Singer-songwriters? Simon Joyner, Brad Hoshaw or McCarthy Trenching.
Funk? Satchel Grande or Funk Trek.
When Saddle Creek Records wanted a new home, two of the label's executives decided to build a complex that included a coffee shop, retail shops, apartments, a movie theater and their own music venue. Dubbed Slowdown, the venue hosts local and national artists year-round.
The Waiting Room Lounge
After years of hosting concerts at local venues including Sokol Underground, the purveyors of concert bookers 1% Productions decided to open the Waiting Room Lounge in the Benson neighborhood.
Since its opening in 2007, the venue has undergone a complete renovation from the stage and sound system down to the bathrooms. The venue hosts local and national acts almost every day.
If it has a stage and a PA, it probably hosts concerts. Venues are all over the Omaha area, and popular spots hosting original music include the Sydney, the Barley Street Tavern, the PS Collective, Sokol Auditorium, Sokol Underground, O'Leaver's and the Hideout.
Got the blues? Talk to the Blues Society of Omaha. They know how you're feeling and can help with concerts at local venues and hangouts with friendly local blues fans. And don't forget the Tuesday Bluesday open jam every Tuesday at the Hive, 1951 St. Mary's Ave.
Maha Music Festival
Hosted every summer in Omaha, the Maha Music Festival is a daylong showcase of national and local rock talent hosted by a local nonprofit organization. This year's festival, which takes place Aug. 17, includes the Flaming Lips, Bob Mould and Matt & Kim as well as local talent including Criteria, Millions of Boys, The Millions and Digital Leather, among others.
Though it's not a spot to go visit or see a band, you should know about ARC. Bright Eyes guitarist Mike Mogis is a renowned record producer with production and mixing credits on albums by Jenny Lewis, M. Ward, She & Him, Julian Casablancas of the Strokes, Man Man, First Aid Kit, Cursive, Monsters of Folk and many others.
Many of those releases were recorded at the state-of-the-art recording studio, ARC, that sits behind Mogis' house. Quite a few local bands also produce records there with Mogis' brother, A.J. Mogis.