Lincoln Exposed inspires, promotes local music scene
It’s 1:30 a.m. and B.J. Nigh, lead vocalist for Beaver Damage, screams incomprehensible lyrics as he head bangs his dreadlocks.
Suddenly, three men crash into a table filled with empty beer bottles and glasses. Three turns into four as one shirtless fan is pulled into the kicking, punching, insulting group. Four turns into seven as those standing by jump in to break it up.
But the band on stage, Beaver Damage, doesn’t miss a note, because nothing – not even a bar fight – can stop Lincoln Exposed.
Lincoln Exposed is a local music festival running Feb. 5 through Feb. 8. It was started nine years ago by Zoo Bar owner Pete Watters.
“It’s hard to get people in venues in winter,” said Josh Hoyer, band leader and songwriter for local band Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers. “So he (Watters) said, ‘Let’s do a cool festival.”
Lincoln Exposed started out in the Zoo Bar and has expanded to three other downtown Lincoln venues. During the last three years, the festival has expanded to Duffy’s Tavern, the Bourbon Theatre and Parrish Studios. Lincoln-based bands are asked to play during the four-day festival each year. This year, more than 100 bands will take stage during the weekend.
A Festival for the People
Bands don’t need to have played several shows, signed record deals or gone on tours to be a part of Lincoln Exposed. The only qualification is that they are local. Venue crowds will see both old favorites and new faces this weekend.
“It’s always really great to discover a new band you know nothing about,” said Michael Todd, managing editor for Hear Nebraska. “You’d think as managing editor I’d know a lot of bands, but there’s at least five I don’t know and that impress me.”
The Lincoln music scene used to be vibrant in the 1970s and 1980s, according to Hoyer, but it dropped off in the ‘90s. Currently, the scene is seeing a resurgence, and part of that is informing people and getting them interested in local music.
That’s really what Lincoln Exposed is about: exposing Lincoln bands and musicians.
“(You) expose the blues fan to rock ‘n’ roll and the rock ‘n’ roll fan to the blues,” said John “Honeyboy” Turner, who sings and plays harmonica for the Honeyboy Turner Band.
“It’s kind of a buffet-type thing,” said Hoyer.
“In a city like this, it’s important to know what’s going on around you,” added Chance Solem-Pfeifer, assistant editor and staff reporter for Hear Nebraska. “As a civilian, I don’t know why you would want to live in a city if you weren’t part of the culture.”
Hoyer said he’s seen some new faces at this year’s festival, but when it comes down to it, it’s usually the same 400 to 500 people. And quite a few of those people are the artists themselves.
Lincoln Exposed allows Lincoln residents to explore the culture around them, and local musicians to check out what their fellow artists are doing.
“It’s kind of like a Lincoln family reunion,” Solem-Pfeifer said, “but there are always new cousins.”
Emily Bass is a singer-songwriter who plays a show almost every Monday night at the Zoo Bar. Rather than sticking to her solo act during Lincoln Exposed, though, she decided to play with an ensemble.
“I wrote a bunch of songs I wanted to hear come to life,” she said.
The Wondermonds played their first Lincoln Exposed show Thursday night after forming last summer.
“We got really lucky that they asked us to play,” said frontman Benny Kushner .
Solem-Pfeifer said music festivals like Lincoln Exposed allow musicians to show off what they’ve been working on and encourage musical development within bands and the Lincoln music scene in general.
“It’s important to see how people evolve,” he said. “You always hope people come back with something new.”
But musical development means nothing if people don’t step out of their routines and into one of the venues during Lincoln Exposed.
“I’m just really happy to see all of these people come out and support local music,” Kushner said. “It sounds silly, but they really are the essence of it all.”