other fest

Marina Kushner poses for a portrait in a concert venue on Thursday, Sept. 5, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

The 16th annual Lincoln Calling Music Festival is less than a week away, and participating venues such as Duffy’s Tavern and The 1867 Bar are gearing up for what could be the festival’s most diverse lineup of performers yet. Lincoln Calling prides itself on creating an atmosphere of acceptance, diversity and creativity. Previous festival lineups have featured international acts such as Parquet Courts and Charli XCX.

But there’s a storm brewing on the local circuit, and Lincoln is abuzz about the first-ever Other Fest. 

The origin of Other Fest begins with Marina Kushner, a local music guru who has been a multi-instrumentalist in many revered Lincoln bands such as The Ambulanters and I Forgot to Love My Father. Kushner is also a regular sound engineer at The Bourbon and The Bay, letting her influence reverberate through the Lincoln underground music scene from the inside out. 

Kushner described the event on the Other Fest Facebook page as “a direct response to the power dynamic within the local art/music community and beyond.” The response will take place on Sept. 13-14 at Chez SoDo Cafe in downtown Lincoln. The festival will feature 18 local musical acts, including Omaha up-and-comers Thick Paint, Lincoln regulars Mad Dog and the 20/20s and Histrionic (which is also performing at Lincoln Calling). One-day passes are $10 and two-day passes are $15, but the collectivist nature of the event dictates no one will be turned away for lack of funds.

Various workshops and panels will be held by members of the Lincoln community. Often focusing on perception-bending topics, these workshops will touch on ideas regarding the remedy of collapsing infrastructure or proper gun use within socialist systems. 

All proceeds from Other Fest will be donated to the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, an organization that works to abolish U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, also known as ICE. 

“This is just one topic, which is immigration, but a lot of us wish there was more that we can do, and often we’re unsure what to do,” Kushner said. “We’ve got an Abolish ICE Coalition which is starting up in Lincoln, and they’re going to come to a panel [at Other Fest]. So hopefully people will want to be involved.”

Other Fest’s mission is intentional, but its inception was prompted by one issue in particular within the Lincoln music community. 

“There has been an ongoing issue with a person involved in the booking of Lincoln Calling that created internal conflict,” Kushner said. 

On the other hand, Spencer Munson, director of Lincoln Calling, said he believes the actions of this individual don’t warrant the implementation of the recently colloquialized “cancel culture” and would like to see a fair judgment.

“We’re trying to seek restorative justice for this person. The person recognized that he made a mistake and publicly apologized, took counseling and stopped drinking,” Munson said.“I’m mainly focused on trying to mend those problems rather than completely cancel those people.”

Munson said he supports Kushner in her endeavors, however.

“I wish we could have worked it out and Marina could have come to help Lincoln Calling become better,” Munson said. “But I’m excited that she started something else and I think they’re doing great stuff.”