Omaha is continually gaining popularity as a music city. Our creative atmosphere and active, musical downtown paves the way for artists and bands to thrive and grow a loyal following. What’s more, Omaha has multiple concert venues throughout the city that welcome veteran groups back from nationwide and world tours. It doesn’t hurt that we have Saddle Creek Records right in the heart of town, and they’ve produced some of Omaha’s most famous bands!
We gathered a few of our favorite artists in the Omaha area. From local rock and roll groups to world famous indie musicians — there’s a bit of everything on this list! And we even put together a playlist so you can listen, too! Drum roll, please…
Photo courtesy of Conor Oberst
Conor Oberst’s first band, Bright Eyes, gained world-renowned fame through Saddle Creek Records. Then Conor, the lead singer, began a solo career that has taken off. His newest album was inspired by his hometown. After more than a decade in New York City, he moved back to Omaha and hibernated for the season. He said, “I wasn’t expecting to write a record. I honestly wasn’t expecting to do much of anything. Winter in Omaha can have a paralyzing effect on a person, but in this case, it worked in my favor. I was just staying up late every night playing piano and watching the snow pile up outside the window.”
Released just last week, Ruminations can be purchased through Itunes and Nonesuch.com. Check his website for tour dates in Omaha and at venues across the country and the globe!
The most famous band out of Omaha, all five members of 311 grew up right here in Omaha. Split between Westside High School and Bryan High School, they eventually came together and realized they had amazing musical chemistry. Since releasing their first album in 1993, they’ve been touring non-stop with frequent appearances in Omaha. They even have a 1998 EP titled “Omaha Sessions.” With two #1 hits on the Billboard Modern Rock Radio Chart and six others that broke the top ten, you’re sure to recognize a few!
Photo courtesy of Josh Hoyer and Soul Colossal | Hooten Images
Josh Hoyer and Soul Colossal combine soul, funk and R&B — creating their very own Nebraska soul music. Inspired by the sounds of Stax, Motown, New Orleans, Philly and San Francisco, the band constantly crosses musical boundaries and merges styles and eras. All they really want to do is get the crowd on their feet dancing so much they forget their troubles — and that’s exactly what they do! Don’t miss their electric live shows when they come through.
Photos courtesy of The Decaturs
As Omaha natives and high school friends, Charlie Encell, Ryan Call and Patrick Stutzman started making music and entertaining Omaha back in 2011. Ever since, they’ve been impressing audiences with their gritty, blues rock sound, playing like veterans to the genre. Pulling inspiration from Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, The Black Keys, Jack White and The Beatles, these guys are in with the right crowd.
At the beginning of this year, the band’s bassist moved to California. They played an amazing farewell show with local bands Super Moon and The Ambulanters and promised we would see them again. Until then, you can listen on Spotify and on their Facebook page.
Photos courtesy of Eli Mardock | Hear Nebraska | Carrie Mardock
Eli Mardock’s mystic music is indie and ethereal. In past solo endeavors, he has played all the instruments and done all the production, but for “Everything Happens for the First Time” (released in 2013) he welcomed other artists and voices for the first time. This expanded the album and allowed him to explore new avenues with his music — while staying true to his original style. You can hear the old and the new on Spotify!
Icky Blossoms, another Saddle Creek band, reference their unique genre as “Loosey Goosey/GrowDee BaJoeDee.” Their musical experimentation results in hazy pop, pulsing dance and everything in between. Throughout their three studio albums, you’ll hear catchy lyrics and rhythms contrasted with dark, bass-heavy backgrounds. It’s sure to be a musical experience like you’ve never felt before!
Photo courtesy of Dylan Bloom Band
Their small town origins are evinced in Dylan Bloom Band’s single “Population 1213.” Just down the river in North Bend, Nebraska, this band came together on the basis of playing gritty, small-town country music from a real-life country source. Dylan Bloom’s unique vocals and stunning songwriting capabilities combine to make an unforgettable music experience and great live shows.
Photos courtesy of Midwest Dilemma
Midwest Dilemma is a blend of Americana, Folk, Waltz and Rock. Gritty vocals, guitars, a tuba, a flute and a cello all work together to produce their unique and heartwarming sound. Frontman Justin Lamoureux’s passion for music, his lyrics, and the band show through in every song and at every show. Will Simmons at Omaha City Weekly said of Justin, “When he talks, there’s a spark behind his eyes that’ll begin to glisten when he speaks of his songs, his band and the new album.”
Photos courtesy of Son, Ambulance | Rob Walters
Over the years, Son, Ambulance has altered their sound — ranging from full band productions to their most recent album, almost a solo endeavor by frontman Joseph Knapp. While the sound was more simple, the songwriting developed dramatically into complex, dream-inspired works. The music is relaxing and meditative with an edge, reminiscent of rainy Omaha nights.
Photos courtesy of Kris Lager Band | Dustin Zuelsdorf
Frontman Kris Lager is all about happiness, dancing and using his music to make people smile. Rumored to be the feel-good band of the century, their free spirit and celebratory music is sure to leave you dancing and grinning — no matter where you listen. But if you’re lucky enough to see one of the band’s live shows, you’ll be bobbing your head for days afterward.
Photo courtesy of Tilly and the Wall
Omaha artists tend to stick together and lift each other up, and that is evident with Tilly and the Wall. They came together in 2001 when a few local bands dissolved, and even recorded their first album in Conor Oberst’s garage! Then, in 2005 Tilly and the Wall became the first “band in residence” at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts.
Since then, a few members have moved on to other musical endeavors. Yes You Are, out of Kansas City, is the product of Kianna, singer and bassist for Tilly and the Wall. The band’s original, electric punk sound can be heard on Spotify.
The Faint had a slow start on the Omaha music scene, but once they began to grow in popularity they didn’t slow down. A staple in the area since 1999, the band has created a niche in Omaha for a uniquely funky, rock genre. They’ve even been called the pioneers of our city’s electro-punk scene! Earlier this year they released a brand new single, “Skylab1979,” and announced an upcoming album, CAPSULE: 1999 – 2016, which will cover hits over their entire career.
Cursive has one of the most diverse lists of musicians who have inspired them, but somehow they merge them all — from Iron Maiden to The Smiths — to create their own sound. They are dark, but soft and melodic, but gritty. Over time, they’ve become an Omaha classic. Check out upcoming tour dates on their website!
Photos courtesy of FREAKABOUT | Dillon Gitano
FREAKABOUT Is a true modern rock band out of Lincoln. Bluesy guitar riffs, powerful female vocals and pop-punk melodies create an awesome, vintage sound that can complement any genre. They’ve played alongside both Modest Mouse and rapper G-Eazy, among others. Their music and their live shows are something you just have to experience for yourself!
Kill County’s soft country sound is reminiscent of bluegrass’ most famous acts — Trampled by Turtles and Old Crow Medicine Show, for example. They describe their genre as “folk music soaked with sweat, beer, and ambition” and it shows through in their lyrics and their rhythms. Perfectly paired with an Omaha sunset, Kill County is country music at its most heartfelt.
Photos courtesy of Rock Paper Dynamite | Trott Photography
Rock Paper Dynamite is fun at times, meditative at others, but always excellent music you’ll want to listen to over and over! They combine all the best elements of classic rock and roll, southern rock and grunge. We included two contrasting songs on our Local Omaha playlist to highlight their musical range — one will lull you, the other will make you want to dance.
Photos courtesy of Stonebelly
A funky combination of rock, blues, reggae and psychedelic music, Stonebelly puts on one of the most fun live shows in the area. Their unique blend fits in at festivals, taverns, parties and headline shows — see them live wherever you can! And listen to their full-length albums on Spotify if you need something to bob your head to and get a little funky.
Photo courtesy of Through Fire
Emphatic has had nationwide fame in recent years. With the release of their newest album earlier this year, the band announced a name change, debuting as Through Fire. The new album stays true to their hard rock roots and adds a lot more energy and more stylized vocals. See upcoming tour dates on their website!
Photos courtesy of TJ Saddler
TJ Saddler is classic R&B at its best. He grew up in Lincoln singing gospel music and developed his style in choirs and acapella groups at school and throughout the community. In 2009, he opened his own recording studio in his hometown and recorded everything from punk to country to funk before eventually recording his own single! Since the release of “Believe in Beautiful,” he has been nominated for Best R&B and Best Recording Studio at the Omaha Entertainment Awards.
Photo courtesy of Universe Contest | Heather Murphy
Chris Aponick at The Reader called Universe Contest, “a spastic indie rock band” and that’s the most accurate description of their dark, punk sound. Often compared to Modest Mouse, Universe Contest merges hypnotizing melodies with brusk vocals and some light screaming. Their live show is what puts them on the map. Theatrical and fun, it’s a must-see! Check out their Facebook page for updates.
Photos courtesy of The Mezcal Brothers
The Mezcal Brothers are country, folk and funk all in one package. Their music is another Omaha classic that will make you get up and dance and their twang is irresistible to country music lovers. Check out their full-length album on Spotify!
Who are you listening to?
Omaha has too many musicians and bands to fit into one blog post! If we missed your favorite, let us know.