Column 290: Lincoln Calling Returns!; Retribution Gospel Choir (Low’s Alan Sparhawk), Paleo tonight…

Category: Blog,Column,Interviews — Tags: , , , — @ 12:48 pm September 29, 2010

by Tim McMahan,

Column 290: Lincoln Calling, Pt. 7

Nebraska’s biggest music festival returns.

For this week’s column, I simply could have listed the bands that are playing at this year’s Lincoln Calling Festival — along with their time slots — and been done with it. What else do you need to get your asses to Lincoln this weekend?

Instead, I’m telling you to use that magic box on your desk and go to — a website that lists all the particulars in a well-organized, well-designed online experience that will do a better job than I ever could (especially with my 900-word limit).

I could have just left it there, but you know me. I had to get in touch with the festival’s Svengali mastermind, Jeremy Buckley, who’s been pulling this musical rabbit out of his hat since the first annual event in 2004.  Back then, LC was 25 bands and a handful of bars. Today it comprises 100+ acts in 11 venues over five days. It’s mammoth.

I interrupted Buckley’s usual Sunday afternoon multi-screen pro football orgy to ask a few questions about the fest. Chief among them: What’s different this year? He said it came down to three things: 1) DJs, 2) Sponsors, 3) More (and better) out-of-town bands.

Points one and two came courtesy of Spencer Munson — a.k.a. DJ Spence, who readers may know from Gunk nights at The Waiting Room. Buckley said Spence helped pull together the nearly 30 DJs who will be playing at four clubs throughout the festival.

“(DJ’s) are an additional aspect that I didn’t focus on before,” Buckley said, confessing that when it comes to clubbing, he’s one of those guys who would rather watch than do. “I don’t go to too many dance clubs, but I have a lot of friends who do and like dancing. I sometimes go with them and sit at the table, drink my High Life and watch the coats, backpacks and purses.”

Despite his lack of love for the dance floor, Buckley said he recognizes that Lincoln has a strong culture for electronic music. That’s why he enlisted Spence to find the top talent from the region.

But that’s not all Spence did. “When he and I began putting this together last spring, I told him my long-term wish was to find someone reliable enough to be our marketing guru and help find sponsors. I don’t have the personality to sell product.” Buckley said. “Spence said, ‘Let me give it a shot.'”

Spence found Scion (which is part of Toyota Corporation), who plunked down $3,700 as a primary sponsor, along with the Downtown Lincoln Association and The Young Professionals Group – Lincoln, both of which threw in $1,000. Add a handful of food and hotel sponsors, and the total came to around $6,000 in sponsorships.

“With that money we built a decent website (, and paid a film crew to shoot a video of the event that we can send to agents and bands next year to get them to sign on,” Buckley said.

The dough also helped cover guarantees for larger out-of-town bands, such as The Hood Internet, Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, The Love Language, Those Darlins and Sea Wolf. “I couldn’t have paid guarantees back when I was taking the risks all by myself,” Buckley said. “Now we can pay (those bands) what they need. The sponsors make a huge difference.”

The trade-off for all that cash is putting the sponsors’ logos on the website, posters, T-shirts and other promotional materials. “Since Scion is the main sponsor, we’ll have industry swag at each venue,” Buckley said, adding that he hasn’t had anyone call him a sell-out for taking corporate cash. “It was a step that was necessary for bringing in national talent that’s played on Sirius and MTV2.”

In addition to the larger bands, Buckley said he’s excited about the out-of-state acts that he specifically wooed to take part in the event, such as Lawrence’s Cowboy Indian Bear, Denver’s The Photo Atlas, and Deerpeople — a Stillwater, Oklahoma band that Buckley says “plays fun pop with disturbing lyrics.”

Deerpeople are playing at Duffy’s Friday night along with a reunion of classic Lincoln band Pablo’s Triangle, whose members included Matt Focht and Ben Armstrong of Head of Femur, and Jonathan Hischke, who’s been on tour with Broken Bells. “The Pablo’s Triangle reunion is a huge coup that brings together old-school Lincoln folks and kids who know about Broken Bells,” Buckley said.

That show, which also includes bands Shipbuilding Co. and Down with the Ship, is only $5. In fact, each show is individually priced for those who don’t want to wander around “O” Street all night long.

And just like in years’ past, every band that takes part in Lincoln Calling will go home with some cash in their pockets — something that makes this multi-day festival unique. Buckley said bands get their split after paying the sound guy, covering the promo costs and paying he and his partners their 15 percent cut.

This year, advertising costs topped $2,000 — it’s all part of trying to keep the festival growing. But with 100+ bands and 11 venues, does Lincoln Calling really have room to grow?

After seven years of putting it together, Buckley says he still doesn’t know. “We haven’t reached its limit, but we’ll never get 80,000 people in Lincoln over the course of a weekend, other than for football.”

Famous last words.

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Retribution Gospel Choir, who’s  performing tonight at The Waiting Room, doesn’t play gospel music and isn’t a choir. Who it is, however, may surprise you. The trio is fronted by Alan Sparhawk, who you’ll remember as the frontman of indie-rock monsters Low — yes, that Low. RGC released their latest album, 2, on Sub Pop this past January, and it roars. If you, like me, have missed seeing Low, here’s your fix. Opening is DJ M Bowen. $10, 9 p.m.

Also tonight at Slowdown Jr. it’s Paleo a.k.a. singer/songwriter David Andrew Strackany. Joining him is Zach LaGrou and Simon Joyner & The Parachutes. $7, 9 p.m.

Also tonight, Fortnight returns to Fabulous O’Leaver’s opening a show with headliners Bad Country and Nashville band Milktooth. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2010 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.