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9 First Tuesdays Left before the General • Primary

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JA N UA RY 2020 | volU M E 26 | I SSUE 11



















publisher/editor........... John Heaston john@thereader.com graphic designers........... Ken Guthrie Sebastian Molina copy chief....................Robyn Murray copy@thereader.com associate publisher........ Sal S. Robles sal@pioneermedia.me




JOBS: Workplace Culture: Reflecting on Trends


THE BUZZ: Cozy Hideout Bars

25th: Summer Well-Seasoned at The Reader


DISH: 2020 Food Trend Predictions

PICKS: Cool Things to Do in January


ART: Fine Art (P)REVIEW: A-List of 2019 and the Best of What’s To Come in 2020


healing...............Michael Braunstein info@heartlandhealing.com arts/visual.................... Mike Krainak mixedmedia@thereader.com eat.................................. Sara Locke crumbs@thereader.com film.................................Ryan Syrek cuttingroom@thereader.com hoodoo................. B.J. Huchtemann bjhuchtemann@gmail.com music..................... Houston Wiltsey backbeat@thereader.com over the edge..............Tim McMahan tim.mcmahan@gmail.com theater.................... Beaufield Berry coldcream@thereader.com


......... Kati Falk kati@pioneermedia.me


....... Clay Seaman clay@thereader.com


...... Tim Stokes tim@pioneermedia.me



THEATER: Setting the Stage for 2020


HOODOO: What’s the Buzz? A Look Back at 2019 and Ahead to 2020


MUSIC: Cold War Kids Hit Reset // Indie Music Trends and Top Concerts of 2019


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FILM: The Best TV Shows of 2019 and 2020 // The Things You Shouldn’t Let Go: Frozen II


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Workplace Culture:

Reflecting on Trends by Steve Kerschke


ngaged employees fuel business success. In the past, however, there has been an enormous gap between intention and execution. As companies become more culture-conscious and effective in their efforts, employee engagement is on the rise.

A recent Gallup report suggests “The percentage of ‘engaged’ workers — those who are involved in, enthusiastic about and committed to their work and workplace — is now 34%, tying its highest level since … 2000.” The report goes on to say “The percentage who are ‘actively disengaged’


— workers who have miserable work experiences — is now at its lowest level (13%), making the current ratio of engaged to actively disengaged em-

ployees 2.6-to-1 — the highest ever.” Considering the focus on culture and human capital in the workplace, this news is encouraging.

“Employee engagement is the responsibility of the employer and leader. Period.” – Jason Lauritsen, consultant and local expert on cultural change and employee engagement JANUARY 2020

Over the course of the past year, several local experts on the topics of workplace culture and employee engagement have weighed in to The Reader on the keys to talent management and creating and maintaining a world-class culture. Through the eyes of our experts, we reflect back upon what has propelled the

evolution of employee engagement over the past year and look ahead at what may disrupt the current approach in 2020.

The top trends of 2019:

Concentration on Employee Experience Corporate culture, technology, workspace and support systems all factor into employee experience. The better the experience, the more engaged the employee. The great organizations operationalize processes around their cultures, and employee engagement as concentration in this area is an effective way of attracting and retaining talent. Employees are looking for opportunities for advancement, flexibility in their schedules and an em-



check-ins with direct reports. A culture of openness, honesty and consistency encourages engagement and vulnerability. Mission statements, company values and traditional employee feedback surveys also provide a framework supporting expectation-setting and accountability.

“It takes just one leader to make a difference even in the most dysfunctional culture. Find a leader who is willing to align with change initiatives, company values and processes, and provide him or her with the necessary support and resources.” – Dr. Janyne Peek Emsick, Your Executive Coach ployer who is genuinely interested in their success. “To keep it simple, we boil the employee experience down to seven words: culture, pride, growth, duds, decisions, conflict and fun,” said Brett Hoogeveen, a leadership consultant and trainer with Mindset LLC. “Most organizations want happy employees, lower turnover or higher productivity, but they fall short because they fail to develop a clear and detailed description of what they want their culture to look like, making it hard to recruit, hire, manage and develop incentive programs.”

Accountability and the Rise of Transparency Our experts all acknowledged the importance of one-one-one meetings and

Many companies recruit based on the notion that accountability is an internal trait and employees naturally want to be held accountable.

Othello Meadows, president and CEO of Seventy Five North, said “We have high expectations, and they are clearly communicated. Our employees are trying hard to meet deadlines and perform at a high level. Instead of being directive, a collaborative, problem-solving approach facilitates open communication and reinforces the positive aspects of accountability.”



“Job descriptions, performance appraisals and policy manuals are all based on a work-as-a-contract model, which are designed to make sure the organization is getting their money’s worth out of the employee. People show up to work with the desire to be treated like they’re in a relationship, but it is more of a contractual experience,” said Jason Lauritsen, a local expert on cultural change and employee engagement. “That obviously doesn’t work. Until we get organizations and leaders to understand and think about work as a relationship, we’re going to continue to have the same disconnect.”

Notable emerging trends in 2020:

Technology Increasingly, organizations are likely to leverage and become more dependent on technology for recruiting, hiring and retention of top talent. Many experts believe that technology, such as artificial intelligence (AI), machine

learning, data analytics and other software programs will have a tremendous effect on efficiency and decision-making related to human resources. Here are a few examples: Chatbot platforms can be used to save time and speed up the recruitment process by answering common questions from applicants. AI-powered recruitment solutions help to filter resumes in order to pre-qualify candidates based on the job description and required skills. Selection of candidates through AI could provide an unbiased screening and selection process. Using natural language processing, AI may add value by helping managers predict problem areas before they occur. Data analytics can be used to identify trends related to employee absenteeism, leave frequency, employee turnover rates and engagement level.

Work is a Relationship During the Industrial Revolution, labor unions rose to balance the power between employers and employees. They literally developed a contract. However, there is overwhelming data suggesting employees perform best when they have a relationship with their employer that makes them feel valued, cared for and trusted and they have a sense of belonging.

Continuous performance management (CPM) software has shown value in streamlining company processes by supporting feedback, coaching and development opportunities.

“Better culture equals better business.” – Brett Hoogeveen, Mindset LLC JANUARY 2020

The downside to technology is that it is expensive and, in some cases, is still in the early stages of development and application. Despite the potential, both Lauritsen and Hoogeveen were both cautiously optimistic in their interviews with The Reader. They


J encouraged organizations to consider whether or not they have the capacity to evaluate and understand the impact of technology and its benefits before making a substantial investment.

Diversity and Inclusion Diversity and inclusion will likely continue to be significant trends across the country and Omaha specifically. Hoogeveen and his team at Mindset have noticed “extreme awareness and focus on this issue,� and they have several clients with these topics as key pillars in 2020. Beyond the psychological safety benefits, which are among the top predictors of employee engagement, inclusive cultures foster a sense of


equity and belonging, making for a more comfortable and happy workplace. While still challenging to resolve, organizations continue to strive for a multi-talented, diverse workforce, which includes diversity of gender, ethnicity, age and sexual orientation. To support these efforts, organizations are discussing topics such as unconscious bias more openly at all levels, and formal training on topics such as hiring practices and equitable pay is increasingly common. “The marginal companies will still be operating on the old system and will get left behind,� said Lauritsen. “Diversity is valuable to innovation and complex problem solving, but it can only be realized when you have an inclusive culture. For example, most organi-






zations don’t reflect the diversity of their customer base. When this is absent, it’s nearly impossible to develop processes, create products and market to these customers.�

Workplace Flexibility In a recent FlexJobs survey, 69% of respondents said a flexible work schedule is one of the most important factors they consider when evaluating a job prospect. Flexible work schedules are becoming more prevalent, suggesting the days of having an entire workforce in the office from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. are a thing of the past.

“I have yet to see a man who has changed the world, changed the city, or did anything of substance who didn’t have a crazy, almost irrational self-belief. It’s a hard fight, but we should never question our ability to achieve audacious goals.� – Othello Meadows, Seventy Five North

Hoogeveen’s experience supports this trend. He said “The degree to which employers are flexible today versus two decades ago is significantly greater. As an example, there are more opportunities to work remotely and to structure the work day in a way that meets obligations outside of work. The best employers make it easy and rewarding to work for their organization, and I would expect to see more companies adopt this approach moving forward.�

Final Thoughts Whether you’re reflecting back on 2019 or looking ahead to 2020, take time to analyze what your organization already

does well and where improvements need to be made. Look for gaps in engagement strategy and determine where the next steps should be. Employee engagement requires ongoing growth and investment in your workforce. With the right tools in place, becoming a “best place to work� caliber organization is within reach. Thank you to Jason Lauritsen, Janyne Peek Emsick, Brett Hoogeveen and Othello Meadows for their ongoing pursuit of employee engagement excellence and commitment to educating aspiring leaders and organizations.

Gallup, Inc. seeks


Lead .net Application Developers in Omaha, NE. You will be responsible for leading a team of .net Application Developers in the design, development & implementation of software apps, write app code in the Microsoft .Net environment according to functional specifications defined, develop unit testing around said code, & participate in team meetings discussing the architecture of the system. Responsible for managing large development tasks, disseminating to other programmers on the team, & participating in & leading code reviews. Min. req. Master’s degree in Computer Science, MIS or related or foreign equivalent & at least 1 year experience as a software/web App Developer. 1 year experience w/ C#, ASP.NET, MVC & the .NET framework & SQL programming.


Lead Quality Assurance Developers in Omaha, NE to work w/ a Development team to convert the requirements & technical design documents into a detailed test plan & to test the development work before the functionality is released to the end user. Perform stress test & load test using JMeter for each major software release; Design & automate API’s using Rest Assured. Link all the JIRA tickets to automation results of each test case using Zephyr. Execute the authored automation & manual test cases, review, diagnose bugs & formulate solutions; build automation


scripts to validate the scalability of reporting system on AWS Cloud EC2 instances, RDS instances & Redis. Min. req. Bachelor’s degree or foreign equivalent in Comp Sci, Info Technology/Engineering or related & at least 5 years of handson experience in writing test strategy, test plans, test execution & defect management; Proven knowledge QA concepts, software development life cycle, testing life cycle, industry-standard testing & bug tracking tools. Strong background in developing & optimizing SQL queries, functions & stored procedures. Perfect alignment to agile practices & methodologies such as Test Driven Development & Scrum. Experience w/ automated test tools & scripting; Experience in any of the following: Ecommerce, Cloud-based deployment & operation, service-oriented architectures & DevOps. Demonstrate ability to develop automation framework using Selenium, JMeter, Katalon, & RestAssured, author functional automation using selenium webdriver (Java) & Katalon. Exp w/ test modules related to AWS cloud assets like simple queue system (SQS), simple notification system (SNS) & storage system S3; exp working w/ MySQL database in AWS cloud infrastructure.


Lead SQL Database Developer in Omaha, NE to work w/ a development team to develop & maintain Gallup’s data platform. Demonstrate ability to develop, enhance & maintain apps using AWS cloud technologies, along w/ using relational, NoSQL &

other specialized databases. Demonstrate concurrent programming skills as needed. Min. Req. Master’s degree in Comp Sci, MIS or a related field or the equivalent in education & experience is required; Experience in data modeling, along w/ 5 years of programming experience writing performant stored procedures/functions/SQL statements is required; Experience in Oracle & MySQL is required; Min. 5 years of working experience extracting data from flat files & XML files is required. Familiarity w/ Git; Maven or Gradle; Understanding of how HTTP works as it applies to RESTful architectures; Data warehousing experience; Experience in designing & developing ETL interfaces using a combo of SQL & 1 or more ETL tools.

LEAD JAVA DEVELOPERS IN OMAHA, NE. Lead team in dsgn’g, dvlp’g, unit testing & maintaining web-based apps w/ a focus on Java. Work w/ data warehouse or analytical processing & OLTP envrnmnts. Participate in team meetings to discuss architecture of webbased apps. Min. req. Master’s degree in Comp Sci, MIS, Eng’g or rltd or frgn equiv. Demonstrated ability in XML, SQL, JavaScript, HTML, CSS, Core Java w/ Java web technlgs, Restful API dsgn skills, continuous integration using Maven/Gradle & deployment using Jenkins. Knwldg of multithreading processing & Service Oriented Architecture & Unit Testing using Junit or Mockito frameworks. Skilled in AWS cloud services, Splunk, GitHub.

Gallup is an EEO/AAP Employer-Minorities/Women/Disabled/Veterans. Please apply online at: http://careers.gallup.com or mail resumes to: Lisa Kiichler, 1001 Gallup Drive, Omaha, NE 68102 JANUARY 2020


Summer Well-Seasoned at The Reader Summer Miller Credits her Time at The Reader for Honing her Hunger for the Bigger Picture by SARA LOCKE


efore her resume included titles such as award-winning author, senior editor for Simply Recipes and contributor for Rachael Ray Every Day, Summer Miller was a columnist at The Reader. “It was the mid-90s, and I was writing classified ad sales for The Reader,” Miller said. “Eventually, I found my way into working on some of our more serious stories. It wasn’t glamorous. Sometimes it was really gritty, even. It didn’t matter; I just wanted to be there.”

Renegades Working among some of The Reader’s first rebel writers, Miller remembers it as a time when they swore too often, worked too much and had the freedom to develop as writers and researchers. At the time, Miller said, the Omaha World-Herald had one culture page. “The Reader was able to really fill this void and have this niche spot


all to ourselves. We were there sometimes all night to get our stories to print on time, and then back at it first thing in the morning. It was really hard work, and we loved it.” “We thought swearing a lot made us these renegades and helped drive our point,” she said. “It didn’t, but we were all just so hungry and passionate about getting deep into the stories we were telling. Summer Miller is an author, editor for Simply Recipes Some of the and contributor for Rachael Ray Every Day. things we were covering were really heavy. We and she and the team beAs she and her comrades eventually learned to let the came more than co-workers. continued to develop their reality of what was going on “Some of my most treasured skills as writers, Miller found in Omaha speak for itself.” friendships were born in that the faith in her that John Working among such passionate people fueled Miller through those long nights,


time,” she said. “Working with those people was such a gift.”

Heaston, The Reader’s longtime publisher, had push her well beyond her com-

fort zone, including requesting police reports and records from city officials.

sonal foods. He went for it right away, and I started writing Seasonal Eater. Having worked for The Reader for so long, I already knew that anything we published was about getting to the heart of the story. Even a food article would be about the community and would serve to advance it.”

“He was just so matter-of-fact in what he was asking me to do,” Miller said. “He didn’t think for one moment anyone but me would think I was in over my head.” “That’s the power of John Heaston,” Miller added. “He comes to you with no ego and casually asks you to do the impossible. Finds the talent in you and finds a way to polish it into something powerful for the community.”

The Man, The Myth, The Mentor

New Prairie Kitchen is a love letter to local fare.

“I was always proud to be part of something John was excited about. If it was something that had Heaston fired up, even if we didn’t understand it or understand why right away, we were eager to learn about it and put together something strong.”

While Heaston would cringe at that headline, he has built a reputation for cultivating talent. “He makes you believe that bettering yourself and pushing yourself as a writer gives you the chance to really be part of something big. Our paper was small, but telling the stories nobody else was telling? That was big.”

Summer Starts a New Season

Miller called Heaston a grower of people and ideas and said his team does its best to work as feverish conduits for the one-man brainstorm that Heaston personifies.

Miller chased the feeling of doing work that mattered. When she stopped telling other people’s stories and started spending some time on a story of her own, she

found herself on the other side of the world. “I finally stepped away from my editor-in-chief position at The Reader in 2006 and decided to take some time to travel. I ended up in South Africa working in humanitarian aid, explored for a while, got married and started a family.” Miller’s drive to make a difference soon had her name back on bylines. “When I’d been back home for a while, I reached out to John again. I was in transition, just leaving freelancing and living in Elkhorn with my family. I told John I wanted to write something about area farmers and sea-

When her drive to enrich that community finally took over entirely, Miller put her effort into New Prairie Kitchen, her love letter to local fare. The book shares more than beautiful photos of local foods and farmers. The pages contain the stories of Midwest chefs, growers and artisans in rich detail. Miller finds the heart behind the comfort classics at local eatery favorites and underscores the community’s contribution to our country’s culinary scene. Heaston used his pages to promote her book, offering his endorsement before New Prairie Kitchen was available to the public. “That’s John,” Miller said. “When he gets behind an idea, he’s full steam ahead. It’s an incredibly powerful thing to know that your words have his approval. I’m always thankful for my time at The Reader, and to John for the lessons he gave me.” The Reader will continue its 25th anniversary series through March




2020 Food Trend Predictions by Sara Locke


indsight is always 20/20, but we’re hoping that our predictions for 2020’s food trends are at least close to accurate. Taking a look at last year’s predictions (which you can find at TheReader.com — search for “2019 food trend predictions”), I feel like we did pretty well. Filipino food has been tightly embraced, and sugar is still public enemy No. 1. The final nail may not be in Applebee’s coffin, but fewer chains are popping

up and small business is getting big. One of the projections that failed to meet our expectations was the pipe dream of ethical sourcing. While the ICE raids on local produce and meat processing plants masqueraded as attempts to move toward ethical labor practices, the acts themselves were just more swings at underserved populations. Small Omaha businesses and restaurants are willing to do

Why be boring when you can add bite? Photo credit: Pixabay.



the extra legwork to find fairtrade ingredients; yet, big businesses continue to rely on factory farms to supply them with cheap labor at any cost. As small businesses occupy more of the landscape, their voices will become louder and sourcing practices will change. Until then, support small businesses and know that every time you buy from Walmart, you are doomed to stub your toe in

the middle of the night, and you will deserve it. And now, on w i t h t h e guessing game!

CBDelicious With everyone from your favorite health guru to your family vet suggesting CBD, I expect to see restaurants, coffee shops and boutique bakeries finding unique applications for the cure-all.


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D I S H Cannabidiol is the non-psychoactive component of the cannabis plant and has been used throughout history to treat a host of ailments, from joint pain to seizures, anxiety to neuro-degeneration. Add that to the morning latte that fuels your day and many people expect to enjoy the benefits of caffeine without the jittery, anxiety-riddled morning and hard afternoon crash. Maybe CBD oil is magic, maybe the benefits so many people seem to reap from it are psychosomatic, and maybe centuries of use by countless cultures around the world had its purpose after all. I haven’t heard of any local chefs using CBD in any of their recipes yet, but the minds managing the Omaha culinary scene are sure to find innovative ways to add it to their menus.

Zero Waste The trend has begun, and I’m into it. While a few intrepid industries set out to offer sustainable options years ago, restaurants have looked to every aspect of their business to find ways to cut waste. Food waste is being separated into refuse and rescue, with the inedible portion being sent off to composting sites like Hillside Solutions, and the unused and still edible portion going to food rescues. Saving Grace delivers the uneaten surplus from Omaha restaurants to soup kitchens and small shops, such as Table Grace Café, where it is made into meals that are healthy, delicious and attainable, even for the food insecure within our community. The multiple E. coli outbreaks over the last couple of years resulted in numer-

ous recalls of bagged salad, lettuces and spinach. While it is safe to say that contaminated lettuce is better off in a landfill than in your kitchen, it comes with an incredibly high methane gas output. While some of that methane is able to be converted to energy, post-recall the landfills were overwhelmed with produce. That same produce in a composting situation doesn’t contaminate the soil with E. coli and directly reduces the methane gas released into our atmosphere. Hillside works closely with most of your favorite local restaurants to collect their compostables, and the list of participating business owners is growing every day. Hillside also allows homeowners to host drop-off locations, making composting accessible to as much of our community as possible.

In addition to reducing food waste, many restaurants are making the switch to compostable dishes, silverware and takeout containers. Every part of the food service process is moving toward sustainability. From ethical sourcing to ethical garbage, Omaha is becoming a leader in feeding the eco-friendly movement.

Kids Menu Makeover While it was once common practice for children to live on a steady diet of chicken fingers and French fries, parents are getting pickier about how they fuel their families. Fries are forgone for fruit, yogurt bowls are replacing pancakes, and toddlers are developing more refined palates for the effort. As the demand for a more grown-up kids meal steadily increases, I expect restaurants will start Kids meals are growing up. Photo credit: Pixabay.



D I S H Hillside is psyched to turn your leftovers into lunch for the soil. Photo credit: Pixabay.

to cater to their tiny clientele in increasingly creative ways. A kids menu can be healthy, and it should absolutely be fun. I have the greatest faith in local chefs to rise to the challenge beautifully.

Return of the (Big) Mac The impossible burger h ad i ts mo m e n t i n 2 0 19, and I suspect that the first half of 2020 will see its share of restaurants adopting the trend … before it dies forever and ever and we’re all better off for it. Don’t get me wrong, I am not the Grinch who stole your veggie burger, and I am all for finding sustainable ways to feed the masses. The problem with meat substitutes like the Impossible

Burger is that people who switch to a vegetarian diet for the health benefits would not eat this hyper-processed sodium biscuit on bread. The factor in the burger that causes it to “bleed” is a genetically modified protein called Heme, which is derived from lab-grown yeast. I’m also not one to panic every time I see the letters G, M and O in quick succession. However, when you make the health-conscious decision to become a vegetarian, you typically don’t jump at the chance to bite into lab-grown ground “beef.” Additionally, the reason we as humans are drawn to eat foods that “bleed” has to do with iron consumption. Tricking your body with a yeast patty when you’re promising it the blood of a once-living

thing sounds like the start of a horror movie where your own body possesses you, and I don’t want a zombie apocalypse in my city, OK? I see the impossible trend being just that, but in its wake I see the rise of better vegetarian solutions. A couple of years ago, cauliflower became pizza crust. Portobello mushrooms became burgers. I know that the right meat substitute is out there, growing in the dirt and not in a petri dish.

Texture Low-calorie, fat-free, low-sugar, gluten-free, lowcarb, vegetarian, low-sodium food. Restrictive diets may be the way to avoid dying, but let’s all agree that it’s not the most delicious way to live.

But for every problem, a solution. While food allergies, immune responses and the awareness of the effects of food on our heart health continue to increase, the food answer is becoming clearer by the minute: texture. When meals start to become mundane, adding texture is a quick fix to a flat meal. From toasted seeds to popped sorghum, chia to chickpeas — if you can’t add taste, add texture. No matter how many of our food predictions come true, one thing you can be sure of is The Reader will be here this year, bringing you the best in food reviews, booze news and what-to-dos in Omaha! Thanks for an excellent 2019! Onward.






Story & Photos by Salvador S. Robles

T Interlude Lounge is located at 7643 Pacific St. and serves strong pours. The dimly lit atmosphere adds to the cozy feel.

he Buzz is the newest addition to the The Re a der ’s columnis t community, starting in September 2019, so I couldn’t wrap up a whole year to fit with this month’s theme. Instead, I’m going to focus on getting us all through the cold and blah month of January. The holidays are over, the frigid temperatures declare with their blistering winds, “Stay home and watch Netflix or Disney Plus” (my newest obsession). And, although tempting, we aren’t meant to be trapped indoors. We are Omahans, and we must avoid cabin fever! That said, finding the perfect cozy hideout bar to visit with friends was, surprisingly, easier to do than I thought. Omaha has several of these bars, which is why I had to break this article into two parts.

Interlude Lounge —

The V.I.P. Lounge, 9001 Arbor St., is a small bar that serves heavy pours. The atmosphere can tilt more party than cozy, depending on the night.



Located at 7643 Pacific St., Interlude has been serving strong pours since 1966 and is a staple in Omaha. Interlude Lounge is dark and dimly lit, offering the perfect spot to sit back and laugh with friends while nursing

the single cocktail you ordered that the bartender poured more like a double. No complaints from me here. You can also order food and have it delivered to the bar. Interlude’s happy hour, daily from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., includes half-price or even $1 offers for drinks.

Red Lion Lounge —

On the corner of 38th and Farnam, this is a Blackstone District favorite and a must if you are trying out new bars in Omaha. Red Lion is located in the lower level of the Colonial Apartments, giving it that extra cozy hideout feel. Its specialty is serving classic cocktails and light bar snacks in a relaxing atmosphere. Red Lion can get busy on the weekends but does have speedy drink service. When the bar first opened, its drinks were pricey, but that has gotten better in the last couple of years. Plus, Red Lion has weekly specials and a happy hour from 3 to 6 p.m.

The V.I.P Lounge —

Another Omaha classic, V.I.P is very snug and cozy. This bar is smaller and more boisterous than I had expect-



Cedar, in Countryside Village, is relaxing and boasts high-end cocktails, a sophisticated feel and live music. ed; it’s probably because the bartenders are really fun and actually try to get everyone drunk in the bar. (They will try to give you free shots.) No one mentioned a happy hour, but that doesn’t surprise me because the drinks are very moderately priced with a heavy pour. I recommend going early if you have a bigger group of friends because this bar is very small. But it is fun. Check it out.

The Trap Room —

Nestled on N. 14th St. in NoDo, The Trap Room is truly a bar where you can go and hide out. Not only is it small, dimly lit and cozy, but it is a spot to relax, sit in a corner and drink a dirty martini or sip on your favorite whiskey and bask in the fact that you are an adult. (I feel grown up when I go there.) The prices for cocktails and drinks range from $6 to $12 depending on what you order. The Trap Room is usually very quiet and chill, but since it’s right

next to Slowdown, I imagine it could get busy when there is a show.

Cedar —

Located in Countryside Village, dimly lit Cedar is a relaxing, higher-end cocktail lounge with a sophisticated feel. It is cozy and offers a wide variety of fancy cocktails and a long list of wines to choose from. Fun fact: Cedar makes its own in-house fireball shots ($6), which hit the spot on a cold January night. Cedar offers few specials but sometimes features live music.

Bottoms Up: Check out

Part 2 of “Cozy Hideout Bars” at TheReader.com under The Buzz. Remember to have fun, drink responsibly and tip your bartenders. Tweet us bar suggestions and follow The Buzz at TheReader.com. Your bar suggestions could be featured in The Buzz.






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P I C K S Through the Eyes of Judith Welk. Welk, a prolific printmaker and painter, passed away last spring. Her work represents the love of family, neighborhood and landscape, primarily in Omaha and the surrounding area.

January 3

Solid Goldberg The Sydney

and crafting melodies while simultaneously operating a collage of pedals, effects and drum machines. Concert-goers dance and mosh around him to create something that feels more like a ritual bonfire than a concert. Solid Goldberg will perform with Marcey Yates and The Natural States at the Sydney during Benson First Friday. The show starts at 10 p.m. Tickets are $5.

—Houston Wiltsey

January 3 Dave Goldberg is a Nebraska treasure. Under the name Solid Goldberg, he crafts campy synth-pop with a heavy dose of distortion, his slightly off-key howl adding an endearing layer of authenticity to all of his songs. For his live performances, Goldberg almost always makes himself the literal center of attention, opting to place himself in the middle of the venue rather than on its stage. He settles himself among multiple keyboards, clunking away on chords

Backyard View

Anderson O’Brien

This month, Anderson O’Brien Gallery presents Backyard View: Omaha

A long-time resident of the Dundee neighborhood, Welk had a fondness for hometown street views, iconic historic buildings and Midwestern scenes. Her work reflects a naive innocence combined with a heartfelt appreciation, reminiscent of Americana-style folk art from the 19th and early 20th centuries. Welk worked mainly with composition, shape and color. Her evocative landscapes and cityscapes are simple, one-point perspectives, populated with trees, people and cars, all void of much detail or tonal modelling. She and husband Robert were selftaught printmakers, working mostly in silk-screen (serigraph) out of their home print shop. Anderson O’Brien Gallery is located in the Midtown commercial district at 3201 Farnam, #6109. Backyard View: Omaha Through the Eyes of Judith Welk opens with a public reception Jan. 3, from 5-8 p.m., and runs through Jan. 31. More information may be found at the gallery’s website aobfineart.com.

—Kent Behrens

January 3

Conditions The Little Gallery

The new year for Benson’s Little Gallery begins with a group exhibit, Conditions. The show features work by and about artists with chronic medical conditions. Through a variety of mediums and styles, the challenges, struggles and rewards of life with chronic illness and pain are used as subject and inspiration for each artist. For example, Jeff Mack creates from the remains of his treatment using needles, syringes and such. Through various analog and digital processes, he creates abstract cyanotype images that examine relationships between himself, the tools of his treatment and the viewer. Others, like Jennifer Shannon, create imaginary landscapes, stills and portraits,



P I C K S featuring organs and body parts, veins flowing into trees, or an exposed ribcage full of flowers. Employing thick applications of paint and found objects, many of her paintings become tactile sculptures. The Little Gallery is located at 5901 Maple St. in Benson. Conditions opens with a reception for the artists on Jan. 3, from 6 to 9 p.m., and runs through Jan. 25. See the gallery’s Facebook page at Polecat Communications for further information or email info@polecatcommunications.com.

—Kent Behrens

January 3

Two for the Show Michael Phipps Gallery

the sun against puffy clouds. Westbrook’s work intersects imagery from medieval and early Renaissance printmaking with contemporary, digitally based images to contrast how the spread of information has shifted. Alongside these contrasts, the use of body imagery and immediate environment create a narrative of self-portraiture through the presence and absence of exposed and hidden body parts and objects in her works. Rachel Cunningham and Emma Westbrook runs through Feb. 29 at the Michael Phipps Gallery at 215 S. 15th St. Gallery hours are Monday-Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. For more information, visit omahalibrary. org/michael-phipps-gallery/

—Hugo Zamorano.

January 9

Biscuit Miller & The Mix

A two-time Blues Music Award winner for instrumentalist-bass, Biscuit Miller puts down a funky show. Making a Scene says Miller is “becoming one of the most exciting acts touring today.” Miller paid his dues as a sideman before stepping center stage and fronting his own, with an emphasis on soul, blues and giving the audiences a funky good time. His latest disc is 2019’s Chicken Grease. Biscuit Miller & The Mix plug in at the BSO Presents Thursday series at Stocks ‘n’ Bonds on January 9, 6 to 9 p.m. The band also gigs at Lincoln’s historic Zoo Bar Wednesday, Jan. 8, 6 to 9 p.m.

Cunningham’s inspiration comes from the constant movement and evolution of the sky through its color, texture and filtered light. Using the combination of three or more photos, her work contrasts flat edges and rays of



—B.J. Huchtemann

January 12

Speed Dating

Emery’s Cafe 2118 N. 24th St.

—B.J. Huchtemann

January 10

Rex Granite Band featuring Sarah Benck The B. Bar

Stocks ‘n’ Bonds A two-person exhibit, Rachel Cunningham and Emma Westbrook contains work by both Cunningham and Westbrook in the form of acrylic painted clouds and mixed media creations, including prints and drawings.

disc, Electric Combo. See the Hoodoo column on page 35 for more.

The Rex Granite Band featuring Sarah Benck is making their second trip to Memphis to represent the Blues Society of Omaha in the prestigious International Blues Challenge this month. The 5:30 p.m. send-off show is also a CD release party for their new

If vetting potential mates the traditional way is a bit too awkward and pressure-packed, then why not take the edge off this ritual game? Speed dating is the streamlined, accelerated true romance finder in our hurried-up, dislocated age. Relationship expert Leontyne Evans of Omaha is the host for this fun, no-strings-attached marathon social mixer from 5 to 7 p.m. that lets you meet dozens of new people in a couple hours while vibing to music. Conversation starters are provided. Every three minutes, you switch up to engage with someone else. Your preferences are discreetly noted. If there’s a connection match, she’ll facili-

P I C K S tate it in the coming weeks. Evans has been through the relationship wringer herself. She has a bachelor’s degree in psychology/behavioral science and is pursuing a master’s in clinical counseling. “I am passionate about helping people build healthier relationships,” she said. Soul food can be purchased at this event for the heart. Tickets are $10 and available at Eventbrite. For details, call 402-830-1780 or visit ExploreTheEvansExperience. com.

—Leo Adam Biga

travel. See the Hoodoo column on page 35 more upcoming blues shows.

—B.J. Huchtemann

January 16

Omaha Neighborhood Grant Program:

Grant Writing Workshop

South Omaha Public Library

January 16

strengthen neighborhoods and broaden community. The 5:30 p.m. workshop will include an overview of the program, eligibility criteria, grant writing basics and individualized support to complete the grant application. Organizations must be registered in the Omaha Neighborhood Directory to qualify for the grant.

—Leo Adam Biga

January 17

—B.J. Huchtemann

Matt Cox Band

Harney Street Tavern

Hector Anchondo Stocks ‘n’ Bonds

Hector Anchondo is getting ready to make his third trip to the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. This month, he represents the Blues Society of Omaha in the “Solo/Duo” category after being one of the eight finalists in the “IBC Band” category in 2016. The IBC is a great opportunity for artists, but the trip and time in Memphis isn’t cheap. The BSO hosts a send-off party and fundraising show on Thursday, Jan. 16, 6 to 9 p.m. to help raise extra funds for Anchondo’s

One Omaha hosts this free, how-to workshop on applying for Omaha Neighborhood Grants Program funding. By connecting and empowering resident-led organizations and providing technical assistance and training, the program addresses local priorities, encourages the practice and growth of active citizenship and builds community to improve the quality of life in neighborhoods. Recognizing the importance of resident-led decision-making, funding is determined by a diverse committee representing neighborhoods across Omaha. The program is a collaboration between the Peter Kiewit Foundation, the Omaha Community Foundation and One Omaha, which supports and engages residents on collaborative, grassroots-driven projects that

drums and Colin Duckworth on electric and steel guitar. Cox says he’s been working on lots of new material and hopes to start tracking on a new disc this winter. The Harney Street Tavern show is one of several local band gigs before Cox hits the road for a Colorado solo tour. See MattCoxMusic.net for more shows and music links. The Harney Street show starts at 9 p.m. and there’s never a cover at the club.

January 17 to February 2

Murder on the Orient Express

Bellevue Little Theatre

Omaha musician Matt Cox is a terrific songwriter whose original material and guitar work are matched by deep, rich vocals. Whether doing solo sets or fronting a band, Cox always delivers top-shelf Americana that’s truly his own but reflects roots in influential heroes such as John Prine, Greg Brown and Neil Young. Veteran Omaha musician Craig Balderston has recently taken over the bass and backing vocal duties for Cox, joining Jarron Storm on

Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot fan favorite returns to the stage in Bellevue Little Theater’s second half of its 51st season. It’s just after midnight, the luxurious Orient Express is stopped on the tracks, and by morning it’s one passenger lighter. As an American millionaire lies dead in his room, Poirot, the eccentric detective, must quickly identify his killer before they strike again. Filled with interesting and suspicious characters and adapted by Ken Ludwig (Lend Me a Tenor), Murder on the Orient Express is a great way to kick off a fun new year. Reservations are suggested for this crowd-pleasing thriller. The show runs Fridays and Satur-



P I C K S days at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20 general, $18 for seniors and $10 for students. Call 402291-1554 or visit bellevuelittletheatre.weebly.com.

—Beaufield Berry

January 17 to February 9

A Raisin in the Sun

their fears begin to encroach, however, the family becomes torn on just how to do that. A Raisin in the Sun was instrumental in opening doors for African Americans on Broadway, both on stage and in the audience, and in showing white audiences that the black American experience, while unique, is also universal. Tickets start at $32. Visit TicketOmaha.com or call 402-553-0800.

—Beaufield Berry

Hawks Mainstage Theatre Omaha Community Playhouse

January 18

A Night in Wakanda Gala

Omaha Design Center

When Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun opened on Broadway in March 1959, it was groundbreaking. Not only was it a play with a majority black cast, but it was also written by a black woman at just 29 years of age. It took a full year for producers to raise money and convince Broadway’s inner circle that a play like this one could be a hit. Five Tony awards, one classic film and many reprisals later, I’d say it was a hit. Hansberry penned Raisin from memories of her own humble and segregated beginnings on the South Side of Chicago. There we meet the Younger family, a close-knit black family with big dreams, who receives a windfall via an insurance check. After years of living on the edge of poverty and racism, they see an opportunity to move up. As


rican-style clothing flare. Inspiration for the event came from a North High alumna and former BSLC member who carries the sickle cell trait. This blood cell-based inherited group of disorders affects all body systems and is commonly found in people of African descent. The leadership council is a catalyst for members to advance their ethnic, cultural identities and communities in an effort to build trust, economic stability, unity and self-love. The 6 to 10 p.m. gala is one of many community-based events it organizes. Tickets are $35 for adults and $25 for students and can be purchased at Eventbrite, on BSLC’s Facebook page or by calling 402-557-3400.

—Leo Adam Biga

January 18

Thalia Rodgers

The Union for Contemporary Art

Celebrate African culture and heritage while raising awareness and funds to fight sickle cell anemia and to support the Black Student Leadership Council (BSLC) at Omaha North High School. This formal attire affair will feature traditional African cuisine, music and dance. To help set the scene, attendees are encouraged to wear a traditional accent piece, such as a Kente cloth tie or head wrap, or some other Af-


Artist Thalia Rodgers has come a long way in a short time to her solo show of new mixed media paintings and drawings at the Union for Contemporary Art, opening Jan. 18. Originally a graphic arts major at UNL, Rodgers only began to explore painting in her sophomore year. Since then, she has received a Howard scholarship award, hosted solo shows at Lincoln’s Turbine Flats and Parrish Studios, participated in the Omaha Zine Fest, been included in group shows at Eisentrager·Howard, Tugboat, Maple Street Construct and Amplify Arts, to name a few, as well as been featured online at Ghost Gallery. Confident in Rodgers’ breakout talent, the Union selected her for this solo show last spring, even before she had completed her BFA degree. Rodgers has described her style as one influenced by her love of drawing and engagement with color. Her inspirations come from personal memories, transformed into the exaggerated shapes and repetitive gestures that animate the crowded surfaces of her compositions. Thalia Rodgers runs through March 14 at the Union’s Wanda D. Ewing Gallery, located at 2423 N. 24th Street with free public hours on Tuesdays from 2 to 6 p.m., Wednesdays to Fridays from noon to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Additional information may be found at www.u-ca.org.

—Janet L. Farber

P I C K S January 19

January 21



Your Smith Cirque

Orpheum Theatre

compelled Lashua to form Cirque Mechanics in 2004. Spectacle Magazine hailed it as “the greatest contribution to the American circus since Cirque du Soleil.” This “wrought from the raw materials of American ingenuity” is rooted in realism that marries Steampunk style with classic circus traditions, including a little clowning around. Get tickets for the 7 p.m. show through Ticket Omaha.

—Leo Adam Biga

January 23

Caroline Smith needed a reset. After years of touring and recording on her own as part of Caroline Smith and the Good Night Sleeps, she decided a change of scenery was in order. She promptly picked up, moved to Los Angeles and changed her band’s name to Your Smith. “I was able to embody somebody that just had a lot less fucks to give,” she told Atwood Magazine last year. Her new persona feels much more comfortable delving into neo-soul and low-key funk that she dabbled in on previous records. With the release of her Wild Wild Woman EP, Smith is moving in a more pop direction. Lead single “Man of Weakness” includes percussion-forward production and slick, overdubbed vocals. The video for the song features Smith dancing around in a carefree manner as if flaunting her new persona. She should do the same for her Omaha debut. Your Smith plays with Chelsea Jade at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10-$12.

—Houston Wiltsey

Cold War Kids The Waiting Room

With tag-lines like “the American Circus reinvented in steel, timber and ingenuity,” “ageless stories spun in mid-air” and “acrobats riding on mechanical wonders,” the imagination runs wild. Those are the come-ons for this evolution of the historic one-ring circus. It’s a theatrical, derring-do, action-packed menagerie of strongmen, acrobats and aerialists interacting with old technology and new applications within the 42foot square-circle. In the early 2000s, Boston native and “German Wheel” artist Chris Lashua fashioned an innovative aerial apparatus, which inspired the development of other machines bridging the acrobatic and mechanical worlds. This led to a collaboration with Circus Center of San Francisco. That success

Cold War Kids return to Omaha to celebrate the release of New Age Norms 1, their most recent album and the first in a trilogy of records. Norms 1 keeps the band’s soul-infused rock sound intact while also showcasing a few genre experiments — closing track “Tricky Devil” sounds like a less-complicated version of a mid-period Radiohead tune, while piano ballad “Beyond the Pale” is the album’s emotional centerpiece. For those looking for “classic” CWK, “Complainer” should satisfy. The song is the type of track that always seems to open a FIFA soundtrack (sadly, the

band has only appeared on Pro Evolution Soccer) — mid-tempo, a simple guitar line and horns. It’s perfectly harmless and exactly the type of thing die-hard fans of the band will look forward to singing along to. The show starts at 8 p.m. and opens with Overcoats. Tickets are $32.

—Houston Wiltsey

January 23

Grapes of Gratitude

for SCORE Mentors

Riverfront Place Condos 555 Riverfront Plaza

In this competitive 6 to 8:30 p.m. wine tasting event, even the losers take something home. Teams bring three identical bottles of merlot wine. One bottle is set aside as part of the prizes. The other two are blind taste-tested and rated. The team with the highest-rated bottle takes home a big share of the prize bottles and some of the runner-up wines, too. The team with the worst bottle gets to take theirs back.



P I C K S Officially, there’s no favorite, but it will be hard not to pull for the grape newbies to beat the wine snobs. Proceeds from this vino frivolity support the work of SCORE Mentors of Omaha. SCORE is a nonprofit resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration. It matches experienced business mentors with owners of startups and more established ventures. Free advice on every aspect of business is offered online or in person. SCORE also offers small business training classes and workshops and a resource library. Grapes of Gratitude tickets are $20 via Eventbrite.

—Leo Adam Biga

January 24

Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal Black Swan Theory and Funk Trek Slowdown

even international artists, with two European tours in the past two years that packed clubs hungry for this kind of contemporary American soul rooted in the music’s great traditions. After catching the attention of Eddie Roberts of U.K. funk icons The New Mastersounds, Roberts, now based in Colorado, invited Hoyer to do some collaborations that resulted in a side project, Josh Hoyer & the Macy Sounds, on Roberts’ Color Red label. Roberts produced Soul Colossal’s upcoming disc at his Colorado studio. It’s due out in April. Roberts tapped Hoyer and his band to open a series of gigs in the fall and in December with The New Mastersounds. You can also catch the band Saturday, Jan. 25, with two shows at Lincoln’s Zoo Bar, 5 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. See JoshHoyer.com. Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal’s seriously funky, bad-ass artistry is part of a triple-bill at Slowdown Friday, Jan. 24, 9 p.m., with Black Swan Theory and Funk Trek.

—B.J. Huchtemann Josh Hoyer has had another busy year, and his band is sounding better than ever. A recent Zoo Bar gig was a powerful testament of fierce musicianship and grin-inducing, dance-floor filling soul, funk and blues. This is original, heartfelt music that reaches well beyond the local scene to capture national and


January 24

Tied & True Lied Art Gallery

If unusual weave and tapestry is your thing, join textile artist Mary Zicafoose at the Lied Art Gallery opening reception of her Ikat exhibit Jan-


are Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 5 to 6 p.m., and Saturday to Sunday from 1 to 4 p.m. For more information, search for Lied Art Gallery at creighton.edu.

—Hugo Zamorano

January 25-26

Cathedral Flower Festival

St. Cecilia Cathedral

uary 24, from 4 – 7 p.m., with a gallery talk at 4:30. Zicafoose’s solo will feature the ikat technique in a display of tapestries illustrating a new series of ikat-inspired collographic mono prints as well as wearables and linens created for her new book, titled Ikat: The Essential Handbook to Weaving Resist-Dyed Cloth to be released in May. Ikat is a resist-dye process used on textiles that requires the threads used in the weaving process to be dyed before being woven together. Zicafoose uses her own adaptation of the ancient technique, which she has been experimenting with and honing for 35 years. The contemporary reinterpretation of the weaving tradition is used to engage viewers in dialogue about color, pattern and symbols. Mary Zicafoose: Ikat opens Jan. 24 from 4 to 7 p.m. and runs through March 6 at the Lied Art Gallery on 2500 California Plz. Gallery hours

An Omaha arts organization and the tradition it launched both celebrate 35 years this month. Since its 1985 start, the Cathedral Arts Project has activated one of Nebraska’s most impressive works of art and architecture, the Spanish Renaissance Revival St. Cecilia Cathedral, with concerts, exhibitions and other special events. CAP’s most popular annual attraction, the free Cathedral Flower Festival, draws thousands of visitors over two days to admire themed floral displays. This year, dozens of local florists will showcase designs around the theme of “For Everything a

P I C K S Season,” putting their spin on festive celebrations for all occasions. The displays are integrated into sacred spaces throughout the Thomas Rogers Kimball-designed cathedral, which features a splendid Spanish colonial art collection. The colorful fest’s public viewing hours are: Saturday, Jan. 25, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 to 8 p.m. and Sunday, Jan. 26, from 1 to 4 p.m.

—Leo Adam Biga

January 26

Masters and Music: 100 People

UNO Art Gallery Weber Fine Arts Building (main campus)

nity and collaboration. This Masters and Music event showcases a project he embarked on in 2017 that honors 100 local social advocates through public art murals. He created a portrait of each model to produce a 2-by-1 foot woodcut, which he then digitally enlarged and printed as 8-by-4 murals and installed around the city. He describes it as “organically building support” to “make collective impact social change.” The subjects, including artists, nonprofit leaders, scientists and donors, “gain publicity, mentorship or opportunity through their highlighted participation.” On exhibit will be woodcut blocks, handpulled prints and digitally enlarged prints along with behind-the-scenes glimpses of his process. At the 5 to 7 p.m. event singer-songwriter Jocelyn Anderson, one of White’s “100 People” subjects, will perform her original music. Tickets are $15 and available via Eventbrite. Proceeds benefit UNO art and art history students.

Omaha Community Playhouse’s Alternative Programming is back with Women Laughing Alone With Salad from award-winning writer Sheila Callaghan (Shameless). This groundbreaking, raw comedy tackles our obsession with unrealistic beauty standards and oppressive cultural and societal expectations of women. Taking on negative body image, pop culture, the male gaze and romance with cutting-edge dialogue and biting humor, Women Laughing Alone with Salad is a timely and timeless look at what women through the ages have endured. Oh, and there’s lots of salad. Tickets are free, but donations are welcome. Visit OmahaPlayhouse.com.

—Beaufield Berry

January 29

posted a letter on their website announcing they had disbanded, never getting to capitalize on the emo boom that was just on the cusp of breaking through. However, after squashing their beef in 2016, The Anniversary has been steadily touring with bands that went on to succeed in their place, including Dashboard Confessional and Taking Back Sunday. Though the group hasn’t released any new music since re-forming, they’re still worth checking out, if only to pay tribute to what could have been one of the genre’s defining acts. The Anniversary plays The Waiting Room at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 on the day.

—Houston Wiltsey

January 29

The Lisa St. Lou Anniversary Slowdown The Waiting Room

—Leo Adam Biga

January 27

Women Laughing Alone With Salad

Howard Drew Theatre Omaha Community Playhouse The work of Omaha civic practice artist Watie White is conceptually and practically embedded in commu-

Lawrence, Kansas, emo band The Anniversary never got their time in the sun. After building a following through a string of Midwest tours and a pair of buzzy albums on Vagrant Records, the band fell apart. After being dropped by their label and releasing their third album, Your Majesty, to warm reviews, the band

This emerging soul queen brandishes a nimble singing voice that registers all the colors of the deeply felt material she writes with Tor Hyams. The G rammy -nomi n a te d Hyams, a pianist and singer, joins St. Lou for this 8 p.m. performance of music from her debut album Ain’t No



P I C K S Good Man. “Whatever the IT is, she’s got it. Her voice cuts across age, genre, all of it,” said Cyril Neville, who performs on the album. KDHX (St. Louis) performing arts critic Chuck Lavazzi wrote, “She can purr and roar, cry and laugh, go intimate one moment and bigger than life the next. She’s the real deal, with enough energy to power a small city. Mr. Hyams … bangs out power chords like Dr. John on steroids. His voice blends perfectly with Ms. St. Lou’s in their many duet numbers. Together, they are an unstoppable force of nature.” The versatile St. Lou wrote a full-length original musical (Stealing Time), and she’s under commission (with Hyams) for Green Acres, the Musical. She’s a familiar face and voice in commercials and music videos. She starred in and co-wrote the Nickelodeon’s original series Mommy Needs a Timeout. For tickets, visit theslowdown.com.

—Leo Adam Biga

January 30

Squirrel Nut Zippers and The Dirty Dozen Brass Band Holland Performing Arts Center

Genre-bending has never sounded so lively as this musical twinning. The Squirrel Nuts play a blend of 1930s-era jazz, swing and Delta blues. The Dirty Dozen melds traditional brass band music into a blend of genres,


are $10. Visit RoseTheater. org or call 402-345-4849.

—Beaufield Berry

January 31

Bennie Does Bowie with Bennie and the Gents including bebop jazz, funk and R&B/soul. When they get together, as for this 7:30 p.m. performance, it’s a high-energy mash-up and house party. If the whimsical names of the groups aren’t enough to hook you, then consider their bona fides. The Squirrel Nuts have sold millions of albums, including Hot, a New Orleans-based tribute to old world jazz. The Dirty Dozen is The Big Easy’s most celebrated modern brass band. Their tours have taken the ensemble to five continents and more than 30 countries, and their 12 studio albums feature eclectic guest stars. Reserve your seats at TicketOmaha.com.

—Leo Adam Biga

January 30 to February 2

Teens ‘N’ Theater presents

Pride Players The Rose’s Hitchcock Theater


Pride Players is celebrating its 21st year of theater, activism and service in Omaha. This group has been instrumental in the education and celebration of LGBTQIA youth through improv and the performing arts and has received honors from the National Education Association, American Alliance for Theater and Education and the Rockefeller Foundation. The shows feature a wide selection of creative genre, all exploring the LGBTQIA experience through the voice and eyes of our youth. Shows run Jan. 30 at 7 p.m. (free teen night), Feb. 1 at 7 p.m. and Feb. 2 at 4:30 p.m. Tickets

The Waiting Room

Bennie and the Gents has surprisingly little to do with Elton John. Instead, the tribute band focuses on covering glam rock acts of the 1970s, including T-Rex, Queen and the Starman himself. For the fifth iteration of the Bennie Does Bowie series, the band promises a glitzy spectacle with nearly two hours chock-full of Bowie favorites to celebrate what would have been the late singer’s 73rd year on Earth. Unexplained Death is set to open. The show starts at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance, $12 on the day. —Houston Wiltsey




evil, injustice, & oppression in whatever forms

they present themselves The world is not what it should be. Join us this January as we explore our baptismal promise to seek justice and weave compassion into the world.

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Fine Art (P)REVIEW A-List of 2019 and the best of what’s to come in 2020 by Mike Krainak

LIV SCHULMAN’S THE GOBERNMENT WILL SHOW show March 19 at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts. Video still, 2019, courtesy of the artist.

(A complete version of this story in two parts: A. Review of 2019 and B. Preview of 2020 can be found at TheReader. com.)



t won’t take a crystal ball, Alexa or a Ouija Board to predict that 2020 will be an eventful year with impeachment and a pending presidential election looming heavy on the horizon.


Yet, somewhere amidst all the Sturm und Drang that awaits, each new year promises personal resolutions and the hope of better things to come at home, at work and in the world of entertain-

ment, including in this case the visual arts. But before we look ahead into 2020, we need to look back at what the local arts scene accomplished in




2019. The visual arts, too, deserve their 15 minutes of fame, so Reader turns to its annual A-list to acknowledge the most significant art events, achievements and exhibits of the previous year. Of course, the A-list is always subjective and reflects only those exhibits and events written about and/or seen during 2019 by the Reader staff of arts writers. The A-list is divided into two tiers of significance. Separating the top tier may only be a small degree of an exhibit’s unique vision and realization, unity of theme, subject and curatorial strength.

First, the second tier in no particular order: n Joslyn Art Museum relies on a variety of “packaged” art exhibits, but the Art of Seating: 200 Years of American Design may have been its most unique. Functional and sculptural creativity at its best.

Abstract Expressionism, the work of 10 Nebraska artists, will open Feb. 28 at Gallery 1516. Pictured: JK Thorsen’s “Fish Hatchery,” oil on linen.

alism by national artist Jeanette Pasin-Sloan.

Bart Vargas live up to its premise of recycling and sustainability.

even without its socially conscious theme of humanitarian crisis.

n Bemis Center has two outstanding shows currently on display. TIMESHARE by Jillian Mayer may be less ambitious, but its series of satiric 3D “Slumpies” comment successfully on society and the environment.

n True to its mission, Gallery 1516 offered Nebraska 8, which invited such influential artists as Mary Zicafoose, Christina Narwicz, Karen Kunc, Jacqueline Kluver, Gail Kendall, Sheila Hicks, Catherine Ferguson and Wanda Ewing, who lived up to their calling in this fine exhibit.

n U-CA also enjoyed another exhibit at this level, artist Angela Drakeford’s Homecoming, a virtual installation of how her homegrown interior garden provided shelter from a storm of racial trauma.

n The for-profit galleries also benefitted in 2019, none more so than Modern Arts Midtown, which offered thoughtfully curated shows of its stable, best seen in Defiant Line, a pleasing sampler of some of the region’s finest mark-makers.

n The Kaneko’s multidisciplinary Re-Purpose risks a bit less than its entry in the top tier, but its artists, especially locals Jamie Burmeister and

n Tempestuous Microcosm, by UNO art professor Jave Yoshimoto at the Union for Contemporary Art, was a stimulating exhibit of painting and sculpture

n Another nonprofit, RBR G (Roberta and Bob Rogers Gallery), the new kid on the block on Vinton St., entertained with a week of Ringo Starr’s art of the caricature, but its most effective show was Reflections, featuring photo-re-

n After reorganizing and re-emerging in Midtown, Anderson O’Brien also offered two impressive entries in this tier from established artists: first, Horizon Lines was one of the best two-person shows of 2019 as it fea-






n As a virtual swan song for both gallery and artist, Connect Gallery bid adieu with an impressive retro exhibit of the late, reputable Robert Klein Engler. n Garden of the Zodiac Gallery offered several laudable photo art exhibits, but its most visually interesting was the visionary abstraction of Light Laid Asleep/Light Awoken from Hanns Zischler. n Alternative venues also grabbed the spotlight in 2019, especially the hardworking Petshop in Benson whose provocative works by interdisci-

plinary artist Michael Elizabeth Johnson in Gay Sex Heaven lived up to their premise.

Now, for the top tier, the most significant visual art exhibits of 2019, in no particular order unless indicated: n G1516 hosted its second Nebraska Biennial while extending its scope with the inclusion of 3D work. While a tad too traditional in style and subject, the work chosen and judged was largely exemplary. n Another large group, across town with more attitude and even greater

Metro Elkhorn Gallery of Art and Design will present the work of Melissa Wilkinson beginning March 11. Pictured: “Eagle,” watercolor on paper, 2018.

tured the 2D and 3D aesthetic of Paula Wallace and John Dennison respectively in near perfect complement. n AOB also highlighted Drawings from the Mind of the Artist from the fertile imagination of gestural abstractionist Christina Narwicz.



Fact and Fiction opens at the Joslyn Art Museum Feb. 8. Pictured: James Casabere, “Sea of Ice,” pigment print, 2014, courtesy the artist and Sean Kelly, New York.




Gallery 1516’s reboot of Biennial was one of the most significant visual arts events of 2019. Pictured: James Scholz, “Alone,” photograph.

diversity, was the collaborative, Arte LatinX, OLLAS and El Museo Latino exhibit of self-identified artists, The Voice of Our Roots, which rang loud and clear. n Of the large group shows of great diversity and inclusion, there was none more significant than the timely and creative 30 Americans featured at Joslyn Art Museum. n Joslyn also enjoyed another of 2019’s best exhibits in its Riley CAP Gallery with its experimental “picotages” of Paul Anthony Smith that celebrate hybrid identities.

n The Kaneko is no stranger to large group shows of significant art, and its best example of its interdisciplinary mission in 2019 was its take on the Human Condition, featuring local artist David Helm amongst notables, including John Buck, Misha Gordin and Jim Krantz. n Bemis Center is currently exhibiting two superior shows of a very different color and scope: TIMESHARE, mentioned in Tier Two, and, quite to the contrary, Look, it’s daybreak, dear, time to sing, proving that social-prac-

tice art can, and must, be as visually interesting and significant as its issues. n Another major downtown gallery, Garden of the Zodiac, spent much of the year exhibiting interesting variations on photo art, but its most significant exhibit was also one of the year’s best solo shows in any medium, the universal sign paintings of emerging artist Jeff Sedrel. n In fact, in the top tier of the A-list, several of 2019’s most significant solo shows were created either by emerging or out-of-the-mainstream

artists, including: The Little Gallery exhibit of Remixing by Shawnequa Linder, one of the metro’s most gifted post-emerging artists; n Next, Unite Us One at Petshop Gallery by 2019’s most prolific artist, Barber, who consistently lived up to his calling in several venues; n And, in Blemished, true to Project Project’s alt calling, Lauren Scheele, an underrated star of G1516’s rebooted Biennial, created lifelike erotic, flawed and vulnerable sculptures in one of the



A year’s best exhibits of any kind. n Two additional superior solos came from more established artists, one local, the other national: The Lied Gallery at Creighton University offered the year’s biggest stretch in photo art with Michael Flecky, S.J. and his Spirited Space: Figure and Form; n And The Union for Contemporary Art welcomed the reputable Vanessa German and her exhibit, sometimes.we.cannot. be.with.our.bodies on behalf of marginalized people everywhere. n Not all the best were solo efforts. For Generator Space on Vinton, its best effort came in threes, a trio of artists who created the wonderfully odd and estimable OOOze, which examined the impact of drastic plastic by artists Barber, Angie Seykora and Adam Roberts. Looking ahead in 2020, as always, the larger institutions have some pretty sweet offerings. Joslyn Art Museum presents Fact and Fiction in Contemporary Photography, featuring imagery by 22 international artists working across a variety of photographic media. In the course of 180 years, photography has gone from being considered a soulless document of reportage to a highly fictive proposition; this show tests the slippery truth that “see-




ing is believing.” (Feb. 8 to May 10) Running concurrently in the Riley CAP Gallery is a solo show of Amy Cutler’s delicate drawings. Known for her spare, yet intricately detailed, renderings, Cutler creates visual mythologies in which female protagonists navigate familiar, yet often psychologically and physically precarious, terrain. Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts Shawnequa Linder’s work was featured in one of the continues best shows of 2019, The Little Gallery’s Remixing. Her its investigawork will be on display again, beginning March 6, at tions of hosOPL’s Michael Phipps Gallery. Pictured: “Rumination,” pitality with mixed media on canvas, 2019 an installation and epof error and dependency.” distinctive reflections of anisodic series tiquity through the aesthetic of performances conceived (March 19 to June 13) lens of the Bauhaus. by Paris-based artist Liv Schulman. The multi-chan- Concurrently, Bemis will feanel video The Gobernment is ture the Bavarian artist Clau- Gallery 1516 will also be described as a fictional his- dia Wieser. Her handpainted looking to echoes of the torical revision of the lives sculpture, gold-leaf draw- past in the present: Abstract of forgotten women artists, ings and multimedia instal- Expressionism is the stylistic while the dramatic pieces, lations reflect her engage- overlay of its next exhibition, The New Inflation, center ment with timeless, classical co-organized by Beverly on the artist’s depiction of forms and their abstract geo- Todd, which includes work “a disenchanted economy metric equivalents. Audienc- by a regional cohort of 10 founded on the principles es should expect the artist’s artists known for pursuing


A gestural abstraction in painting. (Feb. 28 to May 24) Perhaps the tastiest cluster of Omaha’s finest will be at the RBR G, which will host the OEAA Visual Arts Showcase (Feb. 7-22). The annual exhibition provides a nice reminder of the best of the Omaha arts scene from 2019. What follows is a sampler of upcoming shows on the schedules of smaller venues. Jan. 3 to Feb. 28: Modern Arts Midtown features GraceAnn Warn, Michael



James and a recent gallery addition, photographer Jason Papenfuss, as well as some new abstractions by Omaha artists.

Feb. 14 to April 9: The Fred Simon Gallery features Tim Guthrie’s return to work in traditional media of drawing and painting.

Jan. 17 to Feb. 22: The UNO Art Gallery highlights Watie White’s ongoing 100 People project.

March 6 to April 26: Michael Phipps Gallery at OPL highlights the idiosyncratic narrative expressions of Shawnequa Linder, Derek Courtney and Joe Pankowski.

Feb. 7 to March 27: Petshop presents Amplify Arts’ Work in Progress, featuring its professional education cohort Travis Apel, Liz Boutin, Anne Dovali, Holly Kranker and Tyler Swain.

March 8 to April 12: John Dennison’s expressionistic ceramic art will fill Sunderland Gallery at the Cathedral Arts Project.

April 3 to May 29: Petshop offers Pro:creation, curated by Abby Phoenix, Melynda Walsh and Alexia Madera, which explores the perspectives of artist-parents. March 11 to April 7: Metro’s Elkhorn campus Gallery of Art and Design will showcase the collage-based watercolors of Tennessee-based artist Melissa Wilkinson. __________ Janet L. Farber contributed the preview portion of this article.

The Union for Contemporary Art’s sometimes.we.cannot.be.with.our.bodies, an exhibit of Vanessa German’s mixed media installations, was one of 2019’s best shows.









Setting the Stage for 2020 by Natalie McGovern

Les Misérables opens at the Orpheum Jan. 14.


he Omaha theater scene challenged, inspired and revived classic works during the 2019 season. It saw many firsts that included original plays and classic pieces of theatre, from comical farces to profoundly moving tragedies. 2020 is set to continue to build on Omaha’s robust and growing theater scene, promising thought-provoking originals,


blockbuster Broadway productions and entertaining classics. The Omaha Community Playhouse presented a rich season. Of Mice and Men was a somber reminder of inclusivity and acceptance, while Ragtime told a poignant narrative of race relations and disparities, interwoven with lovely turn-of-the-century ballads. Bridges of Madison


County revealed the meaning of “the grass is greener on the other side” with a story of unrequited love in a complicated tryst. A hauntingly beautiful score by Jason Robert Brown lent the production a wistful charm. A first occurred during the Halloween season at the Omaha Community Playhouse, with a sold-out run of the cult classic The Rocky Horror Show.

Kaitlyn McClincy directed the enormously popular and over-the-top production, which gave a voice to the campy and zany antics of misfits and those living on the fringe of society. Annie was also a hit among family audiences with talented youth leading on the playhouse’s main stage. Sweat depicted the lives of the working class and the hardships of

T economic turmoil and explored the meaning of the human condition. Winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize, it had a glowing reception in the community. Cultural theatrical hallmarks, such as A Raisin In the Sun, Jan. 7 to Feb. 9, and The Color Purple, May 29 to June 28, will be performed on the main stage in 2020. A slightly controversial, yet iconic, piece, The Color Purple, based on the Pulitzer-winning Alice Walker novel, will tell the harrowing tale of African-American women living in the South in the 1900s and the struggle and triumph over abuse and hardship. The plays Native Gardens, Once, Bright Star, For Peter Pan on her 70th Birthday will wrap up the playhouse’s season. Native Gardens, Feb. 14 to March 15, discovers neighborly tensions and interlaces political themes with its concept of building walls, figuratively and literally. At its heart are the origins of things and metaphors for cultural differences. Bright Star, April 17 to May 10, another Tony Award winner, packs a bluegrass score with a heartfelt story full of hope. For Peter Pan on her 70th Birthday, May 1-31, regales the sentimental story of Ann who, upon her 70th birthday, looks back at her life playing the star role of Peter Pan. The Performing Arts Collective at the Union for Contemporary Art continues to churn out some of Omaha’s most riveting original content. The year began with Producing Artistic Director Denise Chapman’s More Than Neighbors, a play based on the real-life construction of I-480 through North Omaha



and the story of how it desecrated a close-knit black community. The Union continued its true history narratives with Christopher Maly’s explosive The Blues of Knowing Why, which took on the 1969 police murder of Vivian Strong, an event that sparked a race riot in Omaha and took place in the same neighborhood as the theater itself. The Union’s reading series, Plays Out Loud!, has also taken off as a place to hear both classic and contemporary work by black artists. We’re excited to see what the Union has in store for 2020. The Rose Theatre had a season full of Christmas magic with Elf: The Musical, which is becoming a holiday tradition. Buddy, the larger-than-usual Christmas elf, returned to the stage brimming with charm and earnest belief that he came from the North Pole. Earlier in the season, The Doll Maker’s Gift told the story of a Russian Jewish girl whose family flees to America during the pogroms but has to leave her behind with a family friend. Return to Niobrara highlighted the progress of Native American culture and identity through the story of Chief Standing Bear’s efforts to have Native Americans recognized as persons under the law in the 1800s and his great-greatgrandson’s fight for his rights at school 140 years later. Matilda was a successful run with plenty of larger-than-life characters, impressive stage tricks and unforgettable music. 2020 will see the world-premiere of Backstreet Boys’ Howie D’s new musical Back in the Day, featuring




A Raisin in the Sun runs Jan. 7 to Feb. 9 at the Omaha Community Playhouse.

The Sound of Music will debut at The Rose June 5.

The Bluebarn Theater’s season, “Memory,” continues with Wakey Wakey (Jan. 30 to Feb. 23), Marjorie Prime (March 19 to April 12) and A Chorus Line (May 14 to June 14). Howie himself, at The Rose, running Jan. 31 to Feb. 16. The tragic Diary of Anne Frank, about a Jewish family’s life in hiding, is slated to run Feb. 28 to March 15, and musical classic The Sound of Music will debut June 5. The Bluebarn Theatre challenged us to think in different ways with the type of theatre it brought to the mainstream in 2019. I and

You was mind-bending, philosophical and paid homage to literature’s Walt Whitman with ease, showcasing a play within a play sort of effect with a twist. Indecent was a Yiddish play based on the story of Sholem Asch’s God of Vengeance, which created an uproar for its lesbian storyline when it debuted on Broadway in 1923, leading to its cast being arrested on



T charges of indecency. The Woodsman was an experimental piece that used puppetry and breathing techniques to illustrate the story of one of the Wizard of Oz’s most overlooked characters, the Tin Man. In this show, his origins were explained, creating a hauntingly unique work with no language, just movement and sound. An original work by Beaufield Berry debuted in September with a soldout run. Titled Red Summer, it told the story of William Brown and the history of unjust lynchings that took place during the summer race riots of 1919. In the words of the play, “History is not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul.” A Very Die Hard Christmas closed out the year as an action-packed production just in time for the holidays. In 2020, Bluebarn will continue its season themed ‘Memory’ with Wakey Wakey, running Jan. 30 to Feb. 23. Written by Will Eno, the play is an esoteric celebration awakening audiences to the bigger, more profound questions of life. Get ready for life and death tropes, emotive performances and dark comedy. Marjorie Prime, March 19



to April 12, will tell of a future shaped by technology that includes holographic projections of lost loved ones and devices that help restore fading memories. The Broadway smash musical A Chorus Line, May 14 to June 14, will offer a glimpse into the life of chorus line dancers and the challenging road to stardom. Omaha Performing Arts had a momentous season with the insanely popular Hamilton, Miss Saigon, Aladdin and Jesus Christ Superstar — huge hits for local theatre goers. Come From Away also had a great reception from audiences as a retelling of the plane diversion that stranded passengers in Canada during the 9/11 attack. In 2020, OPA will usher in a few rock musicals as well as a new Broadway show. The timeless Boublil and Schönberg classic, Les Misérables, based on the Victor Hugo novel, a story of redemption and romance during the French Revolution, will take center stage in January. Anastasia, the beloved tale of the Romanov princess who was the only surviving heir to the Imperial Russian throne after the overthrow of the czar, will be performed in June.



The Lion King will make a return as it roars into Omaha in April. Brigit Saint Brigit’s season began with Bernhardt/Hamlet, a historical, imaginative recount of the famed actress Sarah Bernhardt’s decision to play the title role of Hamlet in 1899. The theater’s season continues in 2020 with the Irish comedy classic and three-act play Playboy of the Western World, penned by playwright John Millington Synge, opening Feb. 14. The play follows a man, who presumably killed his own father, on the run but romanticized by locals. God on Trial, written by Frank Cotrell Boyce, is a play about Jewish prisoners who believe God has abandoned them when the Nazis commit acts of genocide. It runs March 27 to April 19 and will be followed by The Subject Was Roses, a domestic drama slated to open in May that focuses on familial relationships and harboring marital bitterness. Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance proved to be popular at the Lofte Community Theatre in Manley, Nebraska, and film-noir Hitchcock-inspired farce The 39 Steps was one for the books.

WAKEY, WAKEY by Will Eno www.bluebarn.org

January 30th – February 23rd, 2020 34




The Lofte has a stellar lineup for 2020 with the comedy Office Hours opening in April, the classic Life with Father in May and the blockbuster musical Hello Dolly rounding out the summer. The season continues with a musical combining catechisms and parochial school life in Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up? in October before A Christmas Carol finishes the year. The Performing Artists Repertory Theatre presented The Last Five Years, a two-person cast with music by Jason Robert Brown, in October. Plaid Tidings was a holiday hit, and Mamma Mia! opens Jan. 31 to Feb. 16. Outside of the traditional theater setting, we were privileged to see new producers at work with Omaha Fringe Festival’s successful kick-off year, Tanya Barfield’s Bright Half-Life and Ellen Struve’s multilingual Epic. We hope you’ll join us for what will surely be another year of thought-provoking, entertaining and world-class theater in Omaha. Be sure to check back with The Reader for our best theater selections as 2020 unfolds.


What’s the Buzz

A look back at 2019 and a preview of shows coming our way in early 2020 Story and Photo by B.J. huChteMAnn Guitarist Rick Holmstrom and the great Mavis Staples brought the joy to Lincoln’s historic Zoo Bar’s 46th anniversary street festival July 20, 2019.


ooking back at 2019, here, in no particular order, are some shows that brought me joy. Jon Dee Graham & The Fighting Cocks played at B Side of Benson Theatre in July with Bonnie Whitmore opening and holding down the bass in the band.

Graham’s rock ‘n’ roll reflections on the happy moments and challenges of everyday life are uplifting and ring with an extraordinary truth. It’s life-changing stuff for me from an artist whose work resonates deeply and personally. Find out for yourself at JonDeeGraham. com. Graham had a heart

attack a few days after the show, while in Chicago, so don’t miss him next time he comes to town. I can’t wait to see where that experience takes his songwriting. Dave Alvin, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and The Guilty Ones brought their rich collaboration to both

Omaha and Lincoln in June, hitting The Waiting Room and Lincoln’s Zoo Bar on their way to the prestigious Chicago Blues Festival. Both Alvin and Gilmore are icons of roots, folk and Americana. Alvin started his career with The Blasters and Gilmore with The Flatlanders.



H O O D O O Together with Alvin’s longtime backing band, The Guilty Ones, they recorded a wonderful album and have been on tour, giving audiences a delightful and powerful dose of material from their individual catalog and also performing new music created for the project. Two back-toback nights of heart and joy. It’s always a special treat to see an act of this caliber in the Zoo Bar, where you can be next to the stage, soaking up the creative energy. I appreciate how Alvin keeps reaching out for new collaborations and stretching his music. Look for a new project with Alvin and other all-star musicians Victor Krummenacher (Camper Van Beethoven, Cracker, Monks of Doom), David Immergluck (Counting Crows, Monks of Doom, John Hiatt) and Michael Jerome (Richard Thompson, Better Than Ezra) called The Third Mind out in 2020 on Yep Roc Records. See DaveAlvin.net. Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal is out of Lincoln, and their Zoo Bar show in November underlined the resulting excitement generated by the work, dedication and fierce energy this band puts behind their original music. The power coming off the stage, through the music, was a physical force. Hoyer’s soulful voice is distinctive and readily recognizable amongst national purveyors of funk and R&B, and his songs are tremendous. The band continues


to tour nationally, and they have a new disc coming in 2020 produced by The New Mastersounds guitarist Eddie Roberts for his Color Red label. They’ve also been tapped to join The New Mastersounds for several national gigs in Chicago and on the West Coast. See JoshHoyer.com. Longtime Hoodoo favorite Hadden Sayers has been focused on more solo acoustic shows and house concerts, garnering a 2019 Blues Music Award nomination for “Best Acoustic Blues Artist” on the strength of his recording Acoustic Dopamine. Sayers gigged at both B Side of Benson Theatre and Jerome Brich’s FolkHouse concert series last year. The shows are engaging, and it’s fun to see old fans and newcomers to his music appreciate Sayers’ songwriting and guitar work. Longtime fans enjoy the stories Sayers has to tell about his songs. See HaddenSayers.com. Last year, ZooFest, the annual street festival hosted by Zoo Bar for its anniversary, was plagued with scorching hot weather. Thankfully, a cool front brought a bit of breeze just in time for Mavis Staples’ headlining set. Staples is another personal favorite. A lifelong musician, she obviously delights in performing. That delight is contagious, and her show is a joyous celebration featuring the top-flight musicians in her band. She’s a force of nature with a big, soulful voice, and she performs


with a fierce joy. At 80, she shows no signs of slowing down and remains relevant, with a new disc produced by Ben Harper, We Get By, which garnered late-night TV appearances when the record was released. See MavisStaples.com. Other particularly notable shows I caught last year included the supercharged soul-blues of multiple Blues Music Award-winning entertainer and vocalist Sugaray Rayford and an amazing band that included a horn section that has worked with Amy Winehouse. They played both Chrome Lounge and The Zoo Bar. Chris O’Leary Band is another standout on the touring circuit. O’Leary has great stage presence, a terrific band and a tremendous, commanding vocal style. It was a delight to see Minneapolis-based singers o n g w r i te r- b a n d l e a d e r Scottie Miller at The Jewell in November. It was my first full show at the club, and the acoustics are exquisite. It was a great environment to showcase Miller’s songwriting and keyboard work alongside his fine band. I’m sure the minute I hit send on this piece I will think of someone else I should have mentioned. Bottom line: I look to music to bring the joy, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to soak up experiences like these and, hopefully, point you toward shows that will resonate with you, too.

January Recommendations As I write this, it’s a little early to find full schedules for venues in January, but here’s what I can recommend for starting your 2020 off with live music. The Blues Society of Omaha (BSO) Thursday shows continue, star ting with guitarist Hamilton Loomis Thursday, Jan. 2, at The Jewell, 6 to 9 p.m. Biscuit Miller & The Mix bring the funk Thursday, Jan. 9, at Stocks ‘n’ Bonds, 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 23, Tas Cru & His Band of Tortured Souls is the featured act, also at Stocks ‘n’ Bonds, 6 to 9 p.m. The Blues Society’s BSO Presents Thursday show schedule as well as other show announcements can be found at OmahaBlues.com. Thursday, Jan. 16, 6 to 9 p.m. at Stocks ‘n’ Bonds, the BSO hosts Hector Anchondo in a performance that is an IBC send-off party and fundraiser. Anchondo is representing the BSO in the solo/duo category of the 2020 International Blues Challenge in Memphis Jan. 28-Feb. 1. Anchondo represented the BSO in the band category in 2015 and 2016. In 2016, the Hector Anchondo Band made it from a field of more than 250 artists to be selected as one of eight finalists performing for top honors. Representing the BSO at the IBC in the band category is Rex Granite Band featuring Sarah Benck.

HOODOO This is the band’s second year representing the BSO. They made it to the semi-finals in Memphis in 2018. Bands may represent their sponsoring blues society for two years in a row before they must sit out a year, according to IBC rules. Rex Granite Band featuring Sarah Benck made it through to the semi-finals in 2018. A send-off party and fundraiser for Granite, Benck and their band takes place at The B. Bar Friday, Jan. 20, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

E ve r y M o n d ay, t h e Ozone Big Band plays at Ozone inside Anthony’s Steakhouse 7 to 9:30 p.m.

The Blues Foundation produces the annual International Blues Challenge, now in its 36th year. A stand-out performance on this truly international stage can be a huge career boost even if an artist doesn’t make it to the finals. For more information on the IBCs visit blues.org/ international-blues-challenge.

Also at the Holland, Omaha native and acclaimed jazz drummer Curly Martin returns to the 1200 Club with a show featuring some of his talented friends and family Thursday, Feb. 6, 7:30 p.m.

Hot Notes In the things I usually don’t have space to mention category, there are some ongoing events of note. The first Tuesday of every month, 6 to 9 p.m., Absolutely Fresh Seafood and Shucks present the “Crabby Blues Band” featuring Bucky McCann, Craig Balderston, Gayland Prince, Greg Lindberg, George Bryan and friends. They perform at Shucks’ Pacific Street location at 1218 S. 119th St. Each month a charity is selected, and 13% of that day’s sales are donated. See shucksfishhouse. com.

There are a number of open jams in Omaha and Lincoln. Find a curated list on the calendar at OmahaBlues.com. Swing and New Orleans jazz take center stage when the Squirrel Nut Zippers and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band perform at the Holland Performing Arts Center Thursday, Jan. 30, 7:30 p.m.

Indigenous, featuring popular blues-rock guitarist Mato Nanji, is back at The Waiting Room Sunday, Jan. 12, 7 p.m. Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal share a triple bill with Black Swan Theory and Funk Trek Friday, Jan. 24, 9 p.m. at Slowdown. Hoyer & Soul Colossal also play two shows at Zoo Bar Saturday, Jan. 25, 5 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Don’t forget our fine local talents, such as Josh Hoyer, Hector Anchondo, Rex Granite Band featuring Sarah Benck and so many others, when you are making your plans to go experience live music. And support the local clubs that are booking and supporting the music you like. Live music matters. So does your support.

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Cold War Kids Hit Reset Nathan Willett on New Age Norms 1, Remixes and Starting a New Chapter of the Band’s Career by Houston Wiltsey


han c e s a re you won’t think of Kanye West the first time you hear New Age Norms 1, the new record from Cold War Kids. However, according to frontman Nathan Willett, it was West’s string of albums in the spring of 2018 that inspired the Long Beach, California, band to go in a slightly different direction for the release of their next record.

pleasure center. The album’s standouts, though, are the more experimental tracks that don’t quite fit the standard CWK model. For “Tricky Devil,” Willett found himself working with hip hop producer and fellow California native Jonwayne, who Willet met through Stalfors.

“We were on tour when Kids See Ghosts and Ye were being released, and it just felt so fresh,” said Willett of those GOOD Music releases over the phone. “Those records just kept coming, and they were all around eight songs, which is great because you can listen to them in one sitting.” Willett decided that he wanted to do something in that vein for the band’s next record — shorter run time,


Cold War Kids play The Waiting Room JAN. 23. Photo credit: Bruce Baker. no big rollout, more experimentation. The result was New Age Norms 1, the first record in a trilogy of albums that the band plans to finish releasing by the end of next year. “It also allows us to write in different styles,” said Willett. “The first record was primarily me writing with Lars [Stalfors, the band’s primary producer]’ while the next


record had the entire band writing in the studio.” Fans of the band’s blueeyed soul and infectious energy will feel instantly at home listening to “Fine Fine Fine,” “Dirt in my Eyes” and the slick opening single “Complainer,” which has a radio-friendly hook and digitized guitar solo that were crafted specifically to worm their way inside your brain’s

“He and I made that beat together while we were listening to Joy Division and a lot of the darker stuff that came out of Manchester,” he said. “He’s just a wizard at creating beats ... and to able to make a song that was dark and icy like that was a real representation of the ethos of this record, which was to take all of the influences that we had and push them further.” The band encouraged the same type of creative approach from the wide range

B A C K B E A T into an acid-fueled rave banger.

Cold War Kids NEW ALBUM NEW AGE NORMS 1 of collaborators they used for the Complainer (Remixes) EP. Indie songstress Samia, for instance, turns the song into a downtrodden acoustic guitar confessional, while The Horrors’ Tom Furse twists it

“I hate to say it, but we’ve versions of songs that were on the more generic end of the remix spectrum,” said Willett. “It’s nice to have artists that we love put their spin on the song in a way that felt unique to them and not just whatever was of the moment.”

Willet said there is a plan to continue creating these remixes for the subsequent albums in the trilogy. “However,” he added, “nothing’s done right now.” Instead, he is focused on finishing up the

next two albums amid another headlining tour across the U.S. “We put out our last studio album [L.A. Divine] on Capitol Records to get a taste of the major label scene, and then we put out a live album [Audience], which I’m really proud,” Willett said. “Then, because of contractual obligations, we had to put out a best-of record [This Will All Blow Over In Time], which was kind of a bummer to make, but we tried to make it great for our fans. So, for a while, everything was backward-facing. This new trilogy of albums was a reset button for us and allowed us to make something without looking at everything that we’ve done before.”

You can hear in his voice that this new direction comes as a relief for Willett — like the previous 15 years of pressure and expectation that hovered over his group has finally been lifted. “You spend a lot of years thinking that it’s all going to go away,” he said. “Looking at everything we’ve done, the turnover that’s happened in the band, and the fact we’ve had a great group of fans there to support us along the way means we definitely don’t take this for granted. Instead, we look at the past year as a bookend, and we’re excited to see what we can do now that we’re given the room to sprint again.”

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Indie Music Trends & Top Concerts of 2019 by Tim McMahan


story too many times last year from too many artists. Eventually, those artists may post their recordings to Spotify or YouTube, only to earn (if they’re lucky) a few bucks in streaming revenue. Touring for them has become a nonsensical monBefore I get to that, I would ey-losing endeavor if they don’t be remiss not to mention the have merch to sell. quantum shift in how people Even established indie artists consume music over the past are beginning to struggle to 10 years. In 2009, we were just make money on tours. That, in beginning to grasp how the a nutshell, is the music industry move from CDs to MP3s was at the end of the teens decade. going to impact the music busi- Where will it go in the next 10 ness. Those shiny new iPods years? were changing everything. But back to Omaha. Ten years later and a difThere are four trends that ferent shift is near completion deserve some reflection as we — from MP3s as the music format of choice to streaming. head into the roaring ‘20s: At least with MP3s, artists had The Great Exodus something to sell, sort of. With I can’t remember any year as streaming, paying artists has become an enormous shell devastating as the last in terms game where no matter which of musicians moving away from shell they pick, nothing is found Omaha. The list includes: underneath, even for some es— Brad Hoshaw, singer/ tablished artists. As a result, for songwriter extraordinaire and the first time in my memory, it leader of Brad Hoshaw and the is not uncommon to hear estab- Seven Deadlies; lished artists say, “Why should I — The dynamic duo of Todd record new music? Fans don’t buy records anymore. All they want to and Orenda Fink, whose artishear when we’re on tour is the hits, tic output in addition to their own project, Closeness, includes anyway.” Todd’s band The Faint and As I’ve said in past columns, Orenda’s solo work and output never has there been a worse as part of Azure Ray (her Azure time to be a start-up band. The Ray partner, Maria Taylor, left new music business model: Omaha years ago); Record an album, upload it to — DJ and drummer Roger Bandcamp, post a link to social media and get plenty of compli- Lewis, one of the local legments, but no sales. I heard that ends this scene was built upon, t’s not only the end of the year; it’s the end of a decade. But I’m not going to get into a review of the last 10 years because I only have about 1,000 words to write about 2019, and what a doozy of a year it was in music, especially local music.



whose projects include The Good Life and Oquoa;

End. Have there ever been more stages for live music?

—Singer/songwriter Jason Steady, once of the band Talking Mountain and more recently the guy behind Wolf Dealer; and

Apparently not, and more are on the way. Shovels turned dirt for the new multimillion-dollar La Vista indoor club and amphitheater being brought to you by the fine folks at One Percent Productions, announced in 2018 but only just now getting all the paperwork in order to begin construction. We’re talking a venue with a capacity of 2,000 inside and 4,500 outside, all at a cost of millions.

— Sarah Bohling and Graham Patrick Ulicny of rising act Thick Paint. Sarah’s also in Icky Blossoms, while Graham’s the newest member of The Faint. And those are just the ones I know. Lord knows how many others have high-tailed it this year. Once upon a time, around the turn of the century, Omaha was a magnet for talented indie musicians who flocked here to be a part of “the next Seattle.” Well, those days are long, long gone. Most who left last year are now Californians. A few headed to other music cities, such as Nashville and Portland. What it says about the direction of Omaha’s music scene is obvious. How we change the course, less so.

And speaking of millions, how about the proposed $109 million music hall that Omaha Performing Arts wants to build downtown, designed to accommodate up to 3,000 standing patrons (because there are no fixed seats)?

Add to that at least two more smaller stages getting ready to raise curtains, with more on the way. All this money to build venues while the local talent needed to perform on them either moves away or quits because they can’t make a living Building for the Fu- playing music. Maybe it’s time someone figures out a way to ture funnel at least a portion of the Flying in the face of that mass millions spent on venues to lomigration is the number of mu- cal artists making the music. sic venues that dot the Omaha landscape: The Waiting Room, Maha Mania Reverb Lounge, Slowdown, The It wasn’t all bleakness in Jewell; arenas like CHI Health 2019. The Maha Music Festival Center, Baxter and Ralston are- enjoyed its biggest year ever, nas; quality dive stages like thanks in part to booking suO’Leaver’s, The Brothers, The perstar act Lizzo just before she Sydney, and just-opened bou- blew up nationally. The two-day tique rooms like Bemis’ Low festival sold out its second day

M U S I C (Lizzo Day) rather quickly. Now the question for 2020 is whether Maha will continue along its original mission of bringing the best indie music to Omaha, or if last year’s Saturday crowd has organizers thinking of bigger, more pop-oriented fare. My advice: Bigger is almost never better.

Omaha Girls Rock While women continue to dominate the national indie (and pop) music charts and best-of lists (off the top of my head, Lana Del Rey, FKA Twigs, Big Thief, Angel Olsen, Solange, Billie Eilish and Sharon Van Etten), Omaha women have never been more under-represented in our own music scene. This was no more apparent than when The Reader compiled its annual Top 20 bands lists — lists dominated by male-fronted bands. Of my own contribution to that list, only a few acts even had a female member — See Through Dresses, Domestica, Wagon Blasters, Thick Paint and Cursive. Ironically, the roster of new acts for Omaha’s flagship indie music label — Saddle Creek Records — has consisted almost entirely of women-fronted projects: Ada Lea, Black Belt Eagle Scout, Stef Chura, Hand Habits, Hop Along, Tomberlin and Adrianne Lenker (and Big Thief, a band the label lost last year to 4AD). And, as a result, Saddle Creek is earning accolades along with plenty of airtime on Sirius XMU (and, hopefully, some revenue). Never has an organization like Omaha Girls Rock been more needed. The nonprofit’s mission is to empower youth to find their unique voice through music education, performance and creativity. It does this through a strong team of local musicians who work one-on-

one with girls and young women, teaching them all kinds of things, but especially how to rock. And Lord knows, Omaha needs more of that. In fact, my top-10 list of favorite albums has the least Omaha representation in recent memory. Here they are in no particular order: DIIV, Deceiver (Captured Tracks) Orville Peck, Pony (Sub Pop) Simon Joyner, Pocket Moon (Grapefruit) Hand Habits, Placeholder (Saddle Creek) Lodgings, Water Works (self-release) Sharon Van Etten, Remind Me Tomorrow (Jagjaguwar) Purple Mountains, self-titled (Drag City) Lloyd Cole, Guesswork (Edel) Better Oblivion Community Center, self-titled (Dead Oceans) Strand of Oaks, Eraserland, (Dead Oceans) I attended fewer rock shows last year than any year previous. I blame my day job, but I can’t ignore the fact that fewer indie shows are being booked at our main clubs — The Waiting Room, Reverb, Slowdown and O’Leaver’s. It’s a sign of the times and that we need more concert promoters in Omaha, because, like I said, we’ve got more than enough venues.

Hand Habits w/ Tomberlin at Slowdown Jr., April 1 — A mini-Saddle Creek showcase, Hand Habits’ Meg Duffy showed why she’s one of the most sought-after guitarists in the indie world.

in front of the band for the first half of the set and spending the second half immersed in the humanity that crowded the stage.

The Beths at Slowdown Jr., July 15 — They played like a family unit, maybe because they’re all New Zealanders stranded in this very strange land.

Deerhoof at Low End, Oct. 25 — The venue — a new Omaha stage dedicated to experimental music — was as interesting (or more so) than the headliner.

Maha Music Festival, Stinson Park, Aug. 16-17 — Everyone was talking about Lizzo, but for Sasami at Reverb Lounge, me it was all about Courtney April 19 — Her soaring gui- Barnett on Friday night and that tar riffs and soft, low voice re- killer Oh Sees set Saturday afterminded me of Exile-era Liz Phair noon. powered by an amazing rhythm Digital Leather at The Sydsection. ney, Sept. 6 — Shawn Foree The Faint at The Waiting shifted to bass fronting on a Room, May 24 — It came down set of recent and new songs to that moment everyone waits (“Compass”) that gave me for — “Glass Danse” — when the hope for the next album. whole crowd erupts, and that Cursive at O’Leaver’s, Sept. night was no exception. The 23 — Always dark, Cursive’s floor became a trampoline, just new music was pointedly polike in the good ol’ days. litical, representing a shift from Disq at Slowdown Jr., June anxiety to fear — a reflection of 2 — They sounded like a mod- our times when a monster is ern-day mix of all your ‘90s fa- running amok before our very vorites — from Teenage Fanclub eyes and there’s nothing anyto Weezer to Pavement to No one can (or will) do about it. Knife — played by youngsters Las Cruxes at The Brothers too young to have heard of any Lounge, Sept. 27 — A cross of them. between The Pixies and every Minne Lussa / Wagon Blast- three-chord punk band you’ve ers at Farnam House backlot, ever heard, propelled full-throtJuly 6 — From rousing to haunt- tle by a double-barrel drum ing in a makeshift space behind attack and sung in Spanish for a brew pub. good measure.

Little Brazil at Benson Days, July 27 — The new tunes pointed toward the same short, sweet rock direction heard on their last record, as if the band Still, it was a great year in live is trying to put together a string music. Here are the best shows of singles. I attended: No Thanks at O’Leaver’s, Better Oblivion Community Aug. 5 — Shirtless in tight black Center at Slowdown, March pants and black lipstick, Cas21 — Conor Oberst and Phoe- tro Turf’s spaz-rock preening be Bridgers’ side project was a conjured comparisons to The main event throughout most of Cramps’ Lux Interior, nervously/ 2019. feverishly pacing back and forth

Lupines/Unexplained Death at O’Leaver’s Nov. 9 — Lupines rolled out a new piano-driven folk-rock sound; Matt Whipkey rolled out a new poli-punk rock sound; and O’Leaver’s got everyone drunk. Solid Goldberg at O’Leaver’s, Nov. 26 — Nothing says Thanksgiving like O’Leaver’s and an Omaha legend with a new punk/blues attack. I’ll take another drumstick, please.







The Best TV Shows of 2019 AND 2020 by Ryan Syrek

Only a stupid idiot would not have Fleabag as the year’s best show. Am I that stupid idiot?


he Midwest is still seated at the cultural kids table. We’re “not for everyone,” apparently unlike New York and Los Angeles, so we don’t get to see a big chunk of the best movies from a given year until the start of the following year. It’s like how Canada is just now getting fidget spinners. However, while my annual top 10 films list may still be brewing, Omaha is permitted to watch the same television at the same time as others. Seeing as how film and TV are now more closely related than hookups on Game of Thrones Tinder, it seems fair game for me to share what I loved most on the “little screen” this year. Also, just to get ahead of those dastardly coastal cultural elites, I’ll tell you what the best new shows of next year will be.

Honorable Mentions After my first cut, I had almost 30 shows still on my list. That tells you that (a) I watch a potentially dangerous amount of television and (b) it was a good year for “boob tubing.” Among the last shows I cut,


in alphabetical order: Doom Patrol, Last Week Tonight, Legion, Mr. Robot, Perpetual Grace Limited, Primal, Shrill, Star Trek: Discovery, Stranger Things, What We Do in the Shadows and Years and Years. I recommend all of them, provided you love staying inside as much as I do. I also ruled out Chernobyl and When They See Us, because they were miniseries. That was done purely to make my life easier, as I am not afraid to abuse a technicality.

Top 10 TV Shows of 2019 10 – Righteous Gemstones (HBO) Following a family of for-profit pastors, this satire not only skewers “Christians who ain’t really Christians,” it features the single best comedic performance of the year from Edi Patterson. Seriously, watch her monologue at Outback Steakhouse in the finale and message me when you laugh whizz.

9 – The Mandalorian

(Disney Plus) Featuring the most adorably


baffling creature in the entire galaxy, Werner Herzog, as well as “baby Yoda,” I should mention that this show makes my list despite not having aired all its episodes by the time I had to write this. Please forgive me if the back half of the season goes all “midichlorian” or something, but thus far, this spaghetti space western is dripping in my favorite genre marinara.

8 – GLOW (Netflix) This sweet, sincere show is a sporadically hilarious, nuanced and gentle exploration of a wide array of relationships between women. That those women are not involved in any kind of true-crime-related conceit only makes it that much better. I would not have predicted a 1980s-set professional wrestling show would make me cry repeatedly, but it did, and I don’t care who knows it.

7 – PEN15 (Hulu) We live in an era of nostalgia profiteering in which most films and shows are content to just idly point at something and say “Hey, do y’all remember this?” PEN15 is smarter, weirder and funnier than that. Oh sure, it’s a double-barrel shotgun blast from the early 2000s, but it’s also uniquely clever, stridently authentic and blessed with Maya Erskine, who deserves to be infinity-times more famous.

6 – Barry (HBO) I rolled my eyes when I first heard about yet-another quirky antihero show, this one featuring a hitman who wants to be an actor. How could I have known that we’d be treated to

such delights as an entire episode about a feral child savagely gnawing on Stephen Root? Nihilistic in a way that’s not reductive or dismissive, this could have been a contender for No. 1 in most years. That’s how hard 2019 brought it, yo.

5 – The OA (Netflix) The story of a possible angel who talks with a telepathic octopus and travels between dimensions through performative dance was never going to be for everyone, but it was always going to be for some of us. Mostly me. The legitimate anguish fans had at the show’s cancellation transcends any I’ve seen before, and for good reason. We’ll never see anything quite like this again.

4 – Russian Doll (Netflix) This tight and quirky little Twilight Zone conceit made for a breezy watch, right up until its message walloped me in my heart parts. For a culture that fetishizes forgiveness, there are too few pieces of art that illustrate what actual reform and meaningful penance look like. Illustrating that instruction inside a kitschy spoonful of light sci-fi is how my medicine best goes down. 3 – The Good Place (NBC) The folks from Parks and Rec taking on the afterlife was always going to be full of witty shenanigans. Still, no one could have predicted the abundant creativity of the whimsical plot or the emotional damage of the central relationship. I am not exaggerating when I say this show may articulate more genuine insights about the in-

F herent truths of life than any religious text. Also, lots of Molotov cocktail jokes, which is a plus.

2 – Fleabag

(Amazon Prime) By now, you’ve certainly heard the praises sung by hot-priestloving choirs and seen the army of Emmys that now crowd the mantle of the genius that is Phoebe Waller-Bridge. I can’t really say anything you haven’t heard already about this. I can just tell you that, yes, it is actually that funny, that powerful and that truly perfect. Only an idiot wouldn’t have this as his year’s best.

1 – Watchmen (HBO) Damon Lindelof has made me that idiot. I was so frightened


at the prospect of this show, which I thought would either tread over the same oft-trodupon ground as the original comic or extend it in an unintentionally silly direction. Nope! This sophisticated extension of the core conceits of Alan Moore’s graphic novel tackles racism in a profoundly substantial way, which I’m gonna say is particularly important right now. From its brutally provocative black-and-white flashback episode to the shocking reveal of a major character’s identity, Watchmen has most firmly grasped the full potential of what live-action comic book material can be. And it’s technically a DC product, so people who claim I’m a hater must now legally suck it.



The Best New Shows of 2020 As an added bonus, in no particular order, here are the new shows debuting next year that I am most looking forward to seeing: • Station Eleven: One of my favorite post-apocalyptic novels heads to HBO, which is great now that Weiss and Benioff are gone! • Star Trek: Picard: We have never needed Jean-Luc’s leadership more, and both Michael Chabon and Data are on board. I’m already engaged. • Lord of the Rings: If we don’t support this show, they’re going to remake the movies, so get hyped.

• Avenue 5: A Hugh Laurie-led space comedy from the folks behind Veep? OK, HBO, you got me again. • Obi-Wan Kenobi series: Now that we know The Mandalorian doesn’t suck, we’re allowed to be excited for this. • Snowpiercer: Even if it features 100% less Tilda Swinton than I prefer, it features 100% more Daveed Diggs and Jennifer Connelly than other projects. • Marvel shows: From Ms. Marvel to Moon Knight to … other shows not starting with the letter M, we’re all going to watch the crap out of these, right?

The Things You Shouldn’t Let Go Frozen II Clarifies a Repeated Refrain by Ryan Syrek

“We should give out reparations” fits to the tune of “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” Yeah, Frozen II has a bit heavier message.


hatever anyone anticipated from Frozen II: Ice, Ice Baby,  it probably wasn’t a moral about reparations that warns children their white grandpa is probably super-duper racist. Encased beneath the expected icy layers of literal repetition from the beloved insta-classic, this wholly unneeded sequel is surprisingly thoughtful, sporadically hilarious and a shockingly important addendum. The original film’s lesson was so explicit, parents will mumble-weep lyrics from the song that bears that message until the cold embrace of death. But if Frozen scream-sang “Let It Go,” Frozen II says, “Yeah, we didn’t mean let every-

off (Jonathan Groff) is saddled with the worst subplot, as he keeps bungling a marriage proposal. His extraneous existence is somewhat redeemed by having hands-down the funniest musical number, which is entirely for parents familiar with brooding MTV music videos. Without a physical villain to overcome, the sisters do battle with the invisible sins of the past, make friends with a fire-farting lizard and touch noses while hugging a lot.

thing go. Also, here are some key things you should do after said letting go.” Elsa (Adele Dazeem) begins hearing a voice that calls her toward an enchanted forest. As children, she and Anna (Kristen Bell) were taught that location was the site of a brutal attack on their society by magical savages. Elsa can’t resist picking at that scab, which would have made a way more awesome song title than “Into the Unknown” and fits with the same cadence.

Likely knowing that duplicating the once-in-a-lifetime success of “Let It Go” is as impossible as challenging Disney on intellectual property law, the key songs here chose to be more lyrically meaningful than catchy. “Show Yourself” is a far more empowering message for audiences who can map their personal struggles with Elsa’s coming out, while “do the next right thing” is a mantra so simple and good, a life coach is already posting it on Instagram somewhere.

Elsa and Anna venture off to the secret land, with Elsa’s barely sentient snowman and Anna’s barely useful boyfriend in tow. Olaf (Josh Gad) is busy contemplating life’s true meaning, while Krist-

Although far from perfect, the narrative also encases a truth at its core that children almost never hear. Frozen II suggests that a culture built on oppression cannot progress until the systems that

facilitated that cruelty are destroyed. Sure, that’s not going to be top-of-mind for the kid in Olaf footie pajamas; however, the film’s other message will definitely resonate over time. That message says that it is important for young people to question the truth of the stories told to them by older family members who frame their understanding of the world. In this great era of misinformation and propaganda echo chambers, one of the most popular children’s franchises is kinda-imprecisely doing the work that our education system was originally supposed to do. It asks them to think critically, even with their still-developing brains, and to place the destruction of the bad ahead of the protection of personal desires. Frozen II may be full of clunky fits and starts and traffic in gross “magical” stereotypes about native cultures. However, it is also beautiful to look at, chock full of cuteness and trying to leverage its power into something meaningful. That’s one hell of a sequel.

Grade = A-







Just imagine this ant from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is Josh Gad. Now you know the mess we’re in.

CUTTING ROOM by Ryan Syrek

We complain a lot about remakes, but science says that no matter can be created or destroyed, and some religions say even you will get rebooted. I’m trying to make you feel better about Shrunk, which is an updated version of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Technically, it’s just a distant sequel, as Josh Gad will be playing an adult version of the son from the original films. I know there’s nothing most of us have wanted more than either a much bigger or much smaller version of Josh Gad, as nobody is satisfied with the current amount of Josh Gad.

What’s that? You’d like more remake/reboot/sequel news? What are you, a studio executive who has no actual vision and relies on unreliable predictions about the value of public awareness about intellectual property? Despite the fact that the last Planet of the Apes trilogy wrapped up barely half a Scaramucci ago, they’re making more. If you’re not familiar with the sequels in the original franchise, they go full freaky-deaky bongo-bananas. Here’s hoping they don’t play safe and let new director Wes Ball give us weird underground mutant people and weird ape religious stuff. Basically, just try to make it actually stranger than our current reality.



This last note is a sad one: As of now, RIP MST3K. The resurrection of Mystery Science Theater 3000, the beloved Comedy Central show, will not be returning to Netflix, as they apparently spent their last money de-aging Robert De Niro and digitally removing all women from The Irishman. It seemed like the new crew was just finding their full stride, as some of the second season’s episodes sure felt like the classics. Knowing that reruns are eminently watchable, that the show bested death once before and that Rifftrax continues to exist means we probably don’t have to weepily mourn so much as petulantly pout. If only Netflix hadn’t given the Game of Thrones chuds a quarter of a billion. But hey, maybe MST3K will be reborn in time to mock whatever nonsense those chuds produce!

Cutting Room provides breaking local and national movie news … complete with added sarcasm. Send any relevant information to  film@thereader.com. Check out Ryan on  KVNO 90.7  on Wednesdays and follow him on Twitter @thereaderfilm.



Air Apparent Indoor pollution solution by Michael Braunstein


umans in First World countries spend most their time indoors, over 90 percent of it, in fact. Sad. During winter months, it is certainly much more. And denizens of the most highly polluted cities in the world are warned to stay inside anytime during episodes of extreme air pollution, exacerbated by atmospheric conditions like temperature inversions or doldrums. That may be wise advice at critical times, but the irony is that concentrations of some pollutants in our modern homes and buildings are often two to five times higher than outdoors. We’ve managed to pollute our own nests. How does it happen that indoor air is worse? Well, we make it so. The chemicals used in modern building materials, even materials as “natural” as wood, ooze and emit vapors that no one would ordinarily choose to breathe or take into their body. Fire retardants, preservatives, colorants, general processors all contribute to indoor air quality. Even the fact that wood harvested for new homes grows in a modern, polluted atmosphere that allows trees to capture airborne pollutants that are then emitted in the home is

thought-provoking. Modern lumber harvesting usually takes trees by the age of 15 years. I have often reflected on the fact that the oak in my house, built in 1913, was likely harvested at the old-growth age of 100 years or more. That means the oak trees used for lumber in my house lived mostly pre-Industrial Revolution, were still growing when Thomas Jefferson was alive, when air was clean. Not much formaldehyde emitted from my door frames. That’s just not the case with a new

home or office building. Add the fact that more contemporary buildings have sealed windows and there is nowhere for the vapors to escape. Air is often recirculated with only technology’s version of filtration and purification replacing the vastly superior natural versions presented by open window airflow. We haven’t even touched on the emissions coming from the dozens of chemicals in bottles under your sink! Let’s be open. Allow me to share something that demon-

strates the beauty and natural intelligence of common sense. Some readers may be too young to have heard the axiom that “fresh air is good for you.” That doesn’t make it not so. And there is a peer-reviewed study that proves it beyond a doubt. Researchers chose eight hospitals in one city. Five were built in an “old-fashioned” pre-1950s design of high ceilings with large windows allowing natural ventilation. The remaining three were modern, using mechanically ventilated, negative-pres-



H E A RT L A N D H E A L I N G sure air circulation, low-ceiling rooms with no open windows. The researchers studied tuberculosis transmission using very particular methods. To summarize, chances of a healthy person contracting TB in a modern, closed-up hospital tuberculosis ward where windows don’t open is 75 percent higher than in a hospital with large windows that open and natural ventilation. Of course, an observant person would note that a high-ceiling room with large, opening windows doesn’t fit the profit picture of smaller rooms that allow for more floors to a building and higher patient density.

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Clean the scene. Without too much detail, (that may come in a future Heartland Healing column), here are suggestions on how to lower the air pollution in your living space. Some may be obvious. Some may be simplistic. There is bound to be at least one you can use. Live old school. Choosing to live in an apartment or home that is more than 80 years old will certainly help. Our use of chemicals exploded after World War II, and homes built post-‘50s are chemical land mines. Make friends with plants. Houseplants bring air filters and purifiers indoors for you. Unless you’ve forgotten everything you know about the carbon cycle, recall that plants eat up carbon dioxide and generate oxygen. We need more of one and less of the other. Plants specialize in filtering pollutants out of the air. A single philodendron can work wonders in a one-bedroom apartment and 15 houseplants

can recycle the air of a whole house in 24 hours. Here comes the sun. Make your home as sunny as possible. Sunlight helps purify and clean the air. Ultraviolet light in sunlight kills bacteria. And sunlight naturally is needed to spur photosynthesis in those air-purifying house plants, too. Dump the poison. Take a serious look at every bottle and jar under your sink, in your bathroom and your linen closet, basement or paint room. I’ll bet you’ll find nearly all of them with a warning about how they are “safe when used as directed.” Well, turn that phrase around and you get, “dangerous the rest of the time.” Most of the chemical toxins in a normal home come from the chemicals we bring in ourselves! Stop importing poison. Dryer sheets, non-stick cookware, chemical cleaners and the rest are just a bunch of toxins defiling your air. Then there are the toxic air fresheners themselves. Yikes! Think it through. Keep it clean. It should be apparent. Maybe next time we’ll offer some alternatives to the toxins. Be well. Heartland Healing is a metaphysically based polemic describing alternatives to conventional methods of healing the body, mind and planet. It is provided as information and entertainment, certainly not medical advice. Important to remember and pass on to others: For a weekly dose of Heartland Healing, visit Heartl andHealing.com.




10 Music Visions of 2020 A Look into the Future of the Omaha and National Indie Music World by Tim McMahan


’ve been making music predictions for 20 years; never have I missed the boat more than last year’s. 2019 Prediction: Next year, crazed music aficionados will take it one step further as we see the first album released on reel-to-reel tape. Reality: While online store The Tape Project does offer a handful of reissued classics on reel-to-reel, there have been no new releases. 2019 Prediction: By submitting your facial profile to Ticketmaster, getting in at a show will be as easy as looking into a camera. Reality: While some airlines are trying facial recognition ticketing technology (Delta in Minneapolis), there’s actually been a backlash against using facial recognition at concert venues. That whole privacy bugaboo.

Reality: The closest thing is the upcoming Alanis Morisette/Liz Phair/Garbage tour.

2019 Prediction: A savvy concert promoter will organize a new Lilith Fair next year that brings together every

2019 Prediction: Now with offices in Omaha and LA, watch Saddle Creek Records open offices in New

hot indie female-led act for a traveling tour.

York City and reopen offices in the U.K. Reality: Not yet. 2019 Prediction: Speaking of Saddle Creek, with the return of The Faint to the roster, expect an even more surprising new release

from another of the label’s first-generation superstars. Reality: Cursive released a new album in 2019, and Conor Oberst teamed up with Phoebe Bridgers for Better Oblivion Community Center. But neither was released on Saddle Creek.



O V E R 2019 Prediction: A national publication will discover the Hi-Fi House and bring it to the attention of a worldwide audience. Reality: The biggest news for that music project was its creator — Kate Dussault — moving to Denver, another example of the Omaha Exodus. 2019 Prediction: Watch next year as the number of GoFundMe campaigns rises, including from some very well-known artists. Reality: I’ve seen more GFM for musicians, but not for A-listers, yet. 2019 Prediction: At least one major, respected rock artist will come out in 2019 … as a Trump supporter. Reality: Not so much “major,” but “former” rock star Eric Carmen, lead singer of The Raspberries (“Go All the Way”) and solo artist (“Hungry Eyes,” “All By Myself”) declared his love for Trump on Twitter. 2019 Prediction: Because of the advent of streaming services, vintage (i.e., ancient) artists will enter the Billboard Hot 100. Reality: Still waiting on this one. 2019 Prediction: A new record store will open in 2019 either downtown or in Benson. Reality: Drastic Plastic closed its downtown location only to open a new vinyl lounge above The Monster Club in the Old Market. 2019 Prediction: A very famous candle in the wind will be extinguished in 2019.



Reality: Elton John’s Farewell Tour continues. 2019 Prediction: Bands we’ll be talking about this time next year: Beck, Belle & Sebastian, The Faint, Algiers, Spoon, Sufjan Stevens, The Smiths, The Rolling Stones, Bob Mould, Thick Paint, Ryan Adams, Bjork, M Ward, Iron & Wine and Bright Eyes. Reality: Beck, The Faint, Bob Mould and Thick Paint all released new albums. The Rolling Stones had a successful tour, and Ryan Adams saw his career disintegrate after a New York Times exposé revealed him to be a womanizing creep. 2019 Prediction: Finally, one of Saddle Creek Records’ new era artists will do what no other Creek artist has been able to do: Be the musical guest on Saturday Night Live. Reality: Who’s booking SNL’s music talent because they’re doing a shit job.

So, three for 13. Ugh. Let’s take a look at what’ll happen in 2020. Prediction: First established in 2011, Omaha Girls Rock has touched the lives of hundreds of local girls and young women. The program teaches teamwork, self esteem and leadership, but most of all, it shows students how to play instruments, write music, sing and play in a band. Now, eight years later, the program’s impact will be seen and heard on the Omaha music stages, as former students will break through in local bands. Who will it be?



Prediction: With the over-abundance of venues and more on the way, watch this year as one or two of them (including a major stage) shut down, while cooler heads will begin to second-guess the proposed $109 million Omaha Performing Arts concert venue.

Prediction: After last year’s success, the Maha Music Festival will capture even bigger sponsorship dollars, but it still won’t be enough to capture a Lizzo-sized headliner. Instead, the money will go to more high-end bands across both festival nights and better customer service.

Prediction: Recognizing the devastating “brain drain” of talent that’s left Omaha over the past couple years, either a new nonprofit will form — or an existing organization will step up — with the mission of financially subsidizing local musicians and their projects. The program will be among the first of its kind in the country and will succeed in attracting new talent to a city woefully in need of it.

Prediction: The trend of booking fewer touring indie bands at Omaha venues will continue. We’ll be lucky to get one A-list indie show per month, while stale pop projects, cover/tribute bands and other entertainment (wrestling, trivia nights) will dominate local club stages. When will some young lad (or old rich person) step up and start promoting shows like in the old days? Maybe in 2020.

Prediction: There will be more new releases available via cassette tape than any time since the heyday of cassettes as a format. Sub Pop, Saddle Creek, Matador all will be among the labels offering new cassette releases. But, unlike vinyl, the boom in cassette tapes will be shortlived as labels discover that the novelty just doesn’t sell. PS: CDs will continue to go the way of the dinosaur (because only dinosaur music fans will be buying them). Prediction: Watch for a major concert to be organized in conjunction with the coming election in an effort to bring out the vote in Nebraska’s 2nd District. The Blue Dot could play an important role in keeping Trump out of office, and Conor and his pals will do whatever they can to help.

Prediction: We’ll all be singing “Deacon Blues” in 2020. Prediction: Bands we’ll be talking about next year: Algiers, Bright Eyes, Criteria, Pavement, Closeness, Beach House, The xx, Slowdive, St. Vincent, Perfume Genius, The War on Drugs, King Krule, Kendrick Lamar, Talking Heads and David Nance Band. Prediction: This is it: This is the year that Conor Oberst finally walks across the stage at Saturday Night Live. I’m counting on you, Conor. Over The Edge is a monthly column by Reader senior contributing writer Tim McMahan focused on culture, society, music, the media and the arts. Email Tim at tim.mcmahan@ gmail.com.


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The Reader - January 2020  

The Reader - January 2020