[title size=”1 to 6″ style=”options: default, sidebar”]LINCOLN EXPOSED DAY 3[/title]


  1. Words and photos of Day 3 at The Bourbon Theatre.
    Bands covered: Jack Hotel, Life is Cool, AZP, Bloodrail.
  2. The entire night‘s review at Duffy’s Tavern by Corey Oldenhuis.
    Bands covered: Floating Opera, Mike Dowty Band, Red Cities, Gerardo Meza, Bud Heavy and the High Lifes, The Bottletops, Burning Down The Villager.
  3. A review with photos of the third day of shows at The Zoo Bar.
    Bands covered: Demos, Bonehart Flannigan, Dylan Bloom, Mezcal Brothers.

[Parrish Studios was the only other venue besides Bourbon, Zoo and Duffy’s to feature Lincoln Exposed shows. There were three shows at Parrish on Friday and Seeds did not cover them.]

[title size=”1 to 6″ style=”options: default, sidebar”]1. Lincoln Exposed Day 3: BOURBON[/title]

Story by Annie Bohling | Photos by Patrick Wright | Seeds Entertainment

From the front doors to the stage of the ‘rye room,’ The Bourbon Theatre was buzzing with Lincoln Exposed goers in good spirits. The crowd was thick all night long; it didn’t seem as though they were moving in for one specific act. Likely because each band in the line-up had a lot to offer while they each starkly contrasted from one another.

[Prior to the bands reviewed below, Blue Sky Angel Parade, Sputnik Kaputnik and Gabe Nelson with Pants started out the night of seven bands playing at The Bourbon on Friday.]

[title size=”2″ style=”options: default, sidebar”]Jack Hotel [/title]

Jack Hotel performing at The Bourbon on Friday | Photo by Patrick Wright | Seeds Entertainment

This is a Lincoln band?!

These men are whizzes with their string instruments. Jack Hotel charmed the audience with no fluff — simply the pure, acoustic, storm of sounds they were delivering. The audience gave their full attention to this strings band.

Jack Hotel’s set moved like a train: it took off slowly, quickened in pace, and maintained its steady movement and clean travel all the way through.

Jack Hotel does not use ‘bluegrass’ in their loose description of their music. They use the terms americana, folk and country blues.

[As a side note, it is worth including Jack Hotel’s hilarious summary of their sound:  Your mom would say she “likes” it, but she would walk distractedly out of the room when you were trying to show her your favorite song. You’d be all, “Mom!” And she’d be like, “What? I’m still listening!“]

Still, there were times during the set when Jack Hotel swepts souls with romantic and modern bluegrass cadence. The fiddle became a hypnotizer as it swam through and yet held together the overall sound of the other instruments which included an acoustic guitar, a mandolin, an upright bass, and some sort of lap guitar.  It was with those slow, soothing songs that audience members were swaying in a peaceful lull.

But then things picked up. The fiddle transformed into the slappier, faster instrument we often know it to be and the atmosphere of the place changed into a more lively, upbeat and fun one. Jack Hotel got people clapping, moving, toe-tapping, even foot stomping and, of course, smiling. The band also did a Ted Nugent cover that fit in nicely. Because they were not heavily steeped in  traditional bluegrass tones and instead maintained a more modern approach, a lay audience member could enjoy this set, as most of the attendees at The Bourbon seemed to have.


[title size=”2″ style=”options: default, sidebar”]Life is Cool[/title]

The drummer of Life is Cool keeping his cool during their set at The Bourbon on Friday | Photo by Patrick Wright | Seeds Entertainment

After Life is Cool took the stage on Friday night around 10:30, smoke filled the Bourbon from the stage of the rye room. The haziness over the bright, white stage lights gave a mysterious and slightly eerie atmosphere to match Life is Cool’s edgy and ‘cool’ sound.

Life is Cool is a bit like the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s with the addition of four people adding a fuller, louder sound complete with a trumpet, saxophone, keytair, drums, bass, two guitars and a female lead vocalist (who was also accompanied by one of the male band members).

The female vocalist tried to keep the energy going as she danced around the microphone and shook her hands through her hair and the air. Unfortunately, her vocals were almost inaudible through some of the show. Granted, with a packed Bourbon and a seven-person band shelling out brassyness and banging drums, it’s difficult to achieve a balanced sound accentuating the vocals.

Life is Cool entertained the audience. They were fun to watch and fun to listen to, whether a person is in front of the stage or mingling near the bar. Their set included some distinct funk songs and a lot of indie-pop numbers. The music and stage presence of Life is Cool is hard, fast, young and fun and they are a welcomed inclusion on the shelf of Lincoln’s music collection.


[title size=”2″ style=”options: default, sidebar”]AZP[/title]

Ishma Valenti of AZP keeping things lively and entertaining all through the ride that was their set | Photo by Patrick Wright | Seeds Entertainment

Where does one begin in an attempt to capture the coolness, smoothness, beauty and art that AZP produces, plays with and shares on stage?

There are those particularly highlighted bands of the whole Lincoln Exposed music festival and those extra sparkly gems of Lincoln’s music scene. AZP is one of them.

AZP teased the crowd by starting off a bit softly as Zach Watkins on pecked the keyboard and gushed milky singing. Watkins carries the jazz that is one of the many ‘genres’ to formulate AZP. The crowd knew it was coming, but no effect was lost: in a single, suspended moment, everything busted out: drums, guitar, bass, synth, lights and Ishma.

Ishma Valenti is undeniably the front man of the group. Make no mistake, AZP is very much a band–a solid unit that integrates their niche talents into a working whole like individual gears lining up and clicking together to make a machine run smoothly. But Ishma is an individual with such infectious energy and charisma; it seems only natural that he fills front stage. One audience member said of Valenti, “This guy is such an entertainer. Such a crowd pleaser.”

Valenti is worth the time aside to speak of because he helps facilitate the audience-to-stage relationship and interaction that also helps define a performance by AZP. During their first song, Valenti along with the soul, punch, rock and hip-hop of the band was able to motivate the crowd to yell “AZP” on cue. Similarly, AZP got the crowd  clapping, jumping, and even holding up peace signs with their fingers, which was the only detail of the experience that seemed a bit forced. Everything else, from all angles, came naturally.

Valenti and Watkins founded AZP. The whole band has obvious chemistry but these two are known to bounce off of each other. Watkins sings and plays the keys and Valenti raps and stays in constant movement, dancing, waving his arms, thrusting his body with the beats, and making connections with the audience individually and as a whole as he says things like “Even Steve Jobs couldn’t buy his health.” These two help deliver AZP’s strong ingredient of hip-hop through the power of their energy, vocals and lyrics. Watkins sings, “Don’t let those motherfuckers take your pride,” playing cooly and passionately on the keyboard. Watkins and Valenti could be a band together, but they know that the rest of their friends on stage help make them the powerful act that they are.

The ‘rock’ ingredient is made possible by Trey Shotkoske on the drums, Jed Smith on the bass, and James Shehan on the guitar. Alone, they sound reminiscent of a reggae group with the reverb on the guitars, the occasional synth and the fleeting, slow, volleying rhythm. But before one’s ears might even jump to that conclusion, AZP surprises you and, within an instant, switches the sound and pace entirely so as to keep you endlessly entertained and interested.

What you get from a performance by AZP is like what you get from a plate full of home cooked food balancing all the nutrients your body wants in a meal. Shotkoske, Smith and Shehan act as the backbone of AZP’s overall sound. With their rocking harmony they compliment Watkins’ jazzy art in singing and keying and in addition they achieve a moment of simultaneous silence followed by an explosive kick of sound that often spotlights Valenti’s words. The fusion and balance of differing tastes (jazz, rock, hip-hop…) that emits from each unit makes for an interesting and delectable whole ridding the digester of anything boring, bland or predictable.

The soul of AZP manifests from the hard work, enthusiasm, practice, and passion from the guys on stage as well as the reciprocated excitement between them and the audience–a core identifying element of AZP’s live performances that sets them apart from many others.

[title size=”2″ style=”options: default, sidebar”]Bloodrail[/title]

Attitude from lead man of Bloodrail, performing at The Bourbon on Friday | Photo by Patrick Wright | Seeds Entertainment

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[title size=”1″ style=”options: default, sidebar”]2. Lincoln Exposed Day 3: DUFFY’S[/title]

By Corey Oldenhuis
No photos with this story…but Corey’s writing is plenty colorful.

[title size=”3″ style=”options: default, sidebar”]Floating Opera[/title]

First to furnish Duffy’s Tavern with euphonic ambience in Lincoln Exposed’s third night of concerts was Floating Opera who, though neither levitated nor belted out bel canto, performed with copacetic quality. Climbing, triumphant chord progressions were a central principle of the band, and they opened their set with sass (adjective) and pride comparable to Queen or the contemporary Foxy Shazam.

Minor equipment issues, however, plagued the band early on; occasional deafening microphone squeals interrupted the kinetic cadence of their first two songs, and the poppy choruses of each one (synonym for unfortunately) translated out of the amps as a hodgepodge hard for the ears to fully enjoy . Luckily, the sound guy—the unsung hero and noble preserver of all bar shows —discretely came to Floating Opera’s aid, and the group was then able to march onward with heartfelt arena rock piano and spirited percussion.

One of the more striking pieces played was a motivating tune of familiar composition, which, if it were a dart, would land somewhere on the board between Led Zeppelin’s “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You,” and Chicago’s “25 or 6 to 4.” Thankfully, it still exercised enough creative liberties to feel fresh. Floating Operas, led by a singer who won’t exactly blow minds with her vocal strength, met an opener’s expectations and didn’t exceed them by too much.  Nevertheless, they rocked their early time slot as best they could and got the ball rolling.

[title size=”3″ style=”options: default, sidebar”]Mike Dowty Band[/title]

The diagnosis for Friday’s second act, The Mike Dowty Band, was a mean case of blues-bathed classic rock with frequent funk-attacks and a few symptoms of psychedelic mellowness.

The four man crew consisted of—as one might’ve gambled–a Mike Dowty, joined by other older gentlemen who despite their age have a bottomless pool of passion for the music they play. From this dedication there is drawn an inspiring onstage aura of youth.

Dowty, a veteran fretboard frolicker, implemented several settings of lead guitar including a clean tone as crisp as morning dew (for either [slow] jams or faster jazz rock), a wicked wah-wah pedal that fathered saucy solos, and of course, a standard electric (classic rock) tone around which Dowty hovered.

Seldom can one find a group of active musicians so seemingly immersed in the zeitgeist of the 60s and 70s and dually so talented. Many bands fail to capture the ageless music, but in the case of The Mike Dowty Band, one can truly taste the integrity of their time-capsule tunes. Again, because what they serve is classic rock, the progressions (save for a few funky interjections featuring the addictive rumble of jungle drums) weren’t really anything inventive and foreign, but this by no means diminished the quality of their aforesaid sound.

In fact, the band’s set began with just a handful of participating patrons and finished with a ballooned audience bursting with sincere praise. Fittingly enough, the man who looks like he could be Jerry Garcia’s younger brother had a couple of songs that reeked wonderfully of Deadhead style. Mike Dowty and his fellow rockers are, in short, a well-rounded blast from the past band laying down tracks to trip to.

[title size=”3″ style=”options: default, sidebar”]Red Cities[/title]

“The future of your hearing depends on these ear buds,” warned an animated singer, pointing to the free protective wear at the edge of the stage. It was brilliant self-hype from the fourth band, and Red Cities certainly put their money where their mouths were with loud, gritty hard rock.

Unapologetic and pulsing rhythm injected a ‘life on the edge’ sentiment that would fit as the soundtrack to racing downhill uncontrollably in a shopping cart, or gulping eight Red Bulls and fighting a pack of angry badgers.

Unlike the more reserved Mike Dowty, Red Cities’ axman had screeching solos that were muddied with distortion. The band’s raw, rough sound immediately brews comparisons to MC5’s legendary “Kick Out Jams.”

Because of the rapid riptide nature of Red Cities’ sound, the band was able to cram more songs into their allotted time than the first two acts. This was good for Red Cities, who were promoting an album, but arguably not so good for the concert-goer less concerned with balls-to-wall rock n’ roll; at around the fifth-similar sounding song, a realization was made that you are not actually fighting badgers or in a renegade shopping cart, but rather in a bar in downtown Lincoln.

Simply put, the magic of high-powered rock fades a bit when it isn’t expressed differently enough from song to song. As an appreciative crowd attested, Red Cities is great band with admirable gusto. A little diversity, however, goes a long way.

[title size=”3″ style=”options: default, sidebar”]Gerardo Meza[/title]

Something sagacious emanated from Gerardo Meza’s stage presence, and perhaps it has to do with the fact that his ballads were as seasoned and smooth as his badass handle-bar ‘stache.

The suave solo artist exhibited a rich voice that so effortlessly implants imagery of dirt roads, pick-up trucks, and drifters in highway diners contemplating unrequited love. But don’t be misled: Meza isn’t really classifiable as a plain country act, for his guitar-playing lacks that surely recognizable country vein.

Instead of stepping into any upbeat, George Strait territory, Meza wielded a lonely-sounding harmonica around his neck which, at times, chimed Dylan-esquely.

“I’m just glad there was a half hour break, because I don’t know if I could follow that,” joked the acoustic guitarist, referring to the almost humorous disparity in sound between a raging Red Cities and the cool, calm pace of his own songs.

The atmosphere did undergo a detectable transition from charged and feverish to neutral and reflective; the bar seemed to be a 50/50 split of those actively engaged in Meza’s performance, and those too busy drinking and socializing to care. A definite downside of the show as that as his set neared its end, one’s ears began to crave the addition of spice into Geraldo Meza’s recipe (i.e. a chorus of angelic background singers, a woeful violin, a keen trumpet—just something more. Meza is a man of indisputable musical aptitude who temporarily wooed all those willing to give him a listen Friday night, but for the sake of future shows, might want to invest in more group projects.

[title size=”3″ style=”options: default, sidebar”]Bud Heavy and the High Lifes[/title]

Aside from a clever name, Bud Heavy and the High Lifes own a sound that has been extracted from the backwoods of Appalachia rather than plucked from the Great Plains.

By means of a banjo busier than hummingbird wings, a guitar and mandolin strummed in madman manner, and a furious fiddle, the band offered music perfect for dancing the night away with your scarcely-toothed sister-wife and a couple barrels of semi-deadly moonshine.

All unfair stereotypes about Appalachian music aside, Bud Heavy and company silenced skeptics with sheer instrumental proficiency and eventually united most of Duffy’s in the wild fun of foot-stomping and contagious hand-clapping. Easily discernible was the fact that these guys were honestly having a great time performing. The upright bassist had a corn-cob pipe protruding from his mouth the whole time as he bounced to the beat, and the three vocalists were all smiles and yee-haws.

Old-timey bluegrass undertones pervaded by wailing vocal harmonies that would make the Soggy Bottom Boys envious is also, as it turns out, an absolute blast for drunk people to listen to.

[title size=”3″ style=”options: default, sidebar”] The Bottle Tops[/title]

About as close to feel-good honky-tonk a band can get whilst remaining grounded in energetic folk, The Bottle Tops capitalized on the homely seeds sown by the previous group and as the night’s second-to-last act, gave a genuine performance.

Vocalist Mike Semrad, his wife Kerry (also vocals), and his brother Andrew spearheaded this Nebraskan-proud band with guitar and drums as another upright bass laudably laid the foundation just like, if not better than, the one before it. The Bottle Tops’ may have traded Bud Heavy’s mountain melodies for more bobbing bluegrass flair, but much to the favor of Duffy’s pie-eyed dancers, the bullet-paced picking n’ strumming remained intact.

The success of their night can be measured by the memorable scenes at the climax of their show: an elated Kerry Semrad singing out into the crowd with one hand on the mic and the other on a PBR, Mike lifting up his guitar as high as he could without slipping off the strap and passionately picking it, and joyous concert-goers reveling in the Podunk zeal with fists up high.

The Bottle Tops are tight-knit family of Cornhusker musicians worthy of a serious listen, and their gig at Duffy’s went swimmingly.

[title size=”3″ style=”options: default, sidebar”] Burning Down the Villager[/title]

The name ‘Burning Down The Villager’ is menacing on oh so many levels, so it was only natural for the mind to explore the possibility of some long-haired Norwegian death metal band closing out day three of Lincoln Exposed at Duffy’s.

When the reassuringly normal-looking trio took to the stage for sound check, they teased a somewhat curious crowd by playing snippets from a multitude of genres. The suspense was ended though when the group’s first song jolted any drowsy spectators with “Surf’s up, bitches,” sort of energy.

Burning Down The Villager showcased a refreshing variety of song structure in their set, but did seem to be centralized around riffs that had descending chromatic scales. Grungy, howling guitar solos were a part of nearly every song, and visceral screaming made its appearances here and there (though sometimes feeling a bit forced over the comparatively lighter-sounding guitars). Verses would build into unleashed choruses, creating the effect of a bull anxiously stirring behind a gate that everyone knows will eventually be opened. Burn Down The Villager’s rock n’ roll rodeo concluded the third day of epic awesomeness for Lincoln Exposed in decibel-defying fashion.

Big wins at Duffy’s Tavern can be chalked up for moustaches, up-right basses, wah-wah pedals, and kicking out the jams.

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[title size=”1 to 6″ style=”options: default, sidebar”]3. Lincoln Exposed Day 3: ZOO BAR[/title]

Story by Madison Nichols | Photos by Allison Lee | Seeds Entertainment

The Zoo Bar was packed with not a seat in sight available this Friday night for the third day of the annual Lincoln Exposed festival and quite a variety of bands were in store.

[Prior to the bands reviewed below who performed at the Zoo on Friday, Tijuana Giglolos; Dr. John Walker; and Sandy Creek Bluegrass started the night off.]

[title size=”2″ style=”options: default, sidebar”]Demos[/title]

Demos performing at Zoo Bar on Thursday | Photo by Allison Lee | Seeds Entertainment
Demos performing at Zoo Bar on Thursday | Photo by Allison Lee | Seeds Entertainment

As Demos took the stage at the Zoo Bar, it became clear almost immediately that this band would have a much harder rock sound than the average Zoo Bar guest would be accustomed to, but the drunken audience hardly seemed to mind.  As they rattled off solid guitar riffs, harkening back to the minute-or-so long guitar solos of the 70s with a fair amount of the grunge of the 90s creating a unique sound, one wouldn’t necessarily expect from Lincoln, Nebraska.

While the energy wasn’t that of jumping up and down, some of the audience took to banging their slightly off-kilter chairs on the ground to the beat of the chorus, and it was clear the attention was focused on the music. While at times Demos’s slightly unbalanced sound would make it hard to make out the essence of their melody, it was impossible not to enjoy the phenomenal guitar and solid musicianship of this little-known local band.

[title size=”2″ style=”options: default, sidebar”]Bonehart Flannigan[/title]

Bonehart Flannigan performing at the Zoo Bar on Friday | Photo by Allison Lee | Seeds Entertainment
Bonehart Flannigan performing at the Zoo Bar on Friday | Photo by Allison Lee | Seeds Entertainment
Bonehart Flannigan performing at the Zoo Bar on Friday | Photo by Allison Lee | Seeds Entertainment
Bonehart Flannigan performing at the Zoo Bar on Friday | Photo by Allison Lee | Seeds Entertainment

Four men took their place on the stage, three of whom no one would think anything of while passing them on the street. The lead singer and guitarist looked like he stepped right out of a cabin he built for himself in the mountains. With a long beard and hair last seen pictured on a portrait of Jesus, the second realization to be made about the lead man of Bonehart Flannigan was that he was plastered. Their set began with a sound check by the lead man himself before they all took shots of what appeared to be whiskey and then set off on a rockin’ bluegrasss-infused set prefaced with an apology due to the fact that they were given “45 minutes, you dumb motherfuckers!”

Their songs ranged from upbeat bluegrass jams that really got the largest audience of the night going, to the blues one would expect at the Zoo Bar.  From the mandolin on stage to the electric guitar, this band was nothing short of unique, not only musically but in their energy.  Flannigan was loud, drunk, rude, and chock full of expletives. With a “Happy Lincoln Exposed, you sons of bitches!” and a thank you to those who put it all together, Bonehart Flannigan said goodbye to an extremely entertained audience.

[Editor’s note: Jon Dell of Bonehart Flannigan is one of the coordinators of Lincoln Exposed and has a great sense of humor.]

Bonehart Flannigan performing at the Zoo Bar on Friday | Photo by Allison Lee | Seeds Entertainment
Bonehart Flannigan performing at the Zoo Bar on Friday | Photo by Allison Lee | Seeds Entertainment

[title size=”2″ style=”options: default, sidebar”]Dylan Bloom [/title]

The Dylan Bloom band brought a country flare to the Zoo Bar with what was easily the most polished sound of the night.

One could practically smell the small town vibe this band gave off and it was great. Dylan Bloom Band seemed to be a favorite by the locals and gave a wonderful performance of down-to-earth country rock to the perfect audience one would expect out of Lincoln. For anyone who grew up in Nebraska, it’d be difficult not to relate to the lyrics Dylan Bloom sings, and while they presented a solid range of music, they still held onto a signature style, something every band trying to make it in the music industry needs.

If you’re looking for a solidly promising band out of Nebraska, Dylan Bloom Band is a great place to start.

[title size=”2″ style=”options: default, sidebar”]Mezcal Brothers[/title]

By Annie Bohling

The Mezcal Brothers are one of the few bands in Lincoln to play rockabilly fluently,

The Mezcal Brothers are natural entertainers who love playing together and performing for others.The four men bring 1950s rockabilly to life on stage and fuse it with blues and their own personal touches.

As they topped off day three of Lincoln Exposed at The Zoo Bar, Gerardo Meza led the band by singing front and center, playing mainly the acoustic guitar and acting as a commentator as lead men tend to do. But Meza is not the only lead man. Guitarist Ben Kushner showed a lot of spunk and equally got the crowd excited.

The band very obviously wrapped things up at the end of the night with a long, jammy number introducing each member and giving him a solo. The song was over, the performance was to be over, and the house music came on. Then, in a harmlessly playful manner, Kushner says, “Hold on! Turn that shit off! I’ve got another one by request.” And then the Mezcal Brothers were joined on stage by a Lincolnite dressed in ‘greaser’ fashion who sang the Mexican folk song “La Bamba;” or, rather, he sang as good as a someone  could have who loves the song, has been drinking and does not have Spanish as his first language. Just like with the rest of their set, The Mezcal Brothers played their hearts out to this unexpected number.

The Mezcal Brothers sandwiched this last song with “Twist and Shout.” They did this earlier in the night with oldie classics “I Want Candy” and “Who Do You Love.” Sandwiching songs during live shows is a sure sign of solid, veteran musicians who know their instruments and each other well enough to jam something together on the fly.

The Mezcal Brothers did another crowd pleasing cover with their rendition of Johnny Cash’s “Get Rhythm,” adding afterward, “What a great, classic American song that one is.” Other songs they performed, if not all of them, were originals.

The crowd at the Zoo Bar at the end of Friday was fully enthralled and having a great time just as the Mezcal Brothers were. The Brothers heightened and maintained the mood of the place with the power of their popular covers, catchy originals, group chemistry, enthusiasm and enjoyment in being on that stage that night, and their natural presence as entertainers.

Other highlights from The Mezcal Brothers’ performance:

  • When the player of the upright bass had both feet off the ground–one on the side of the bass inside the curve and the other on the top of the bass on top of the scroll above the neck. His legs were straight and in a wide, V shape with the instrument slightly on its side, supporting him.
  • When Gerardo dedicated a blues number to the The Zoo Bar and its owners and advocates, naming the Zoo Bar the longest-standing (in the same exact place) blues bar in the United States. The Zoo Bar was founded in 1973.