Fanclub, The Bourbon (main room), 7 p.m.


Leslie Crunkilton of Fanclub performs at the Bourbon Theatre during night one of Lincoln Calling on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

By Jenna Thompson

The Bourbon kicked off Lincoln Calling Thursday night with Fanclub, an indie pop trio from Austin, Texas. The opening act took the long drive to deliver a dreamy and mellow performance to Lincoln music lovers.

Fanclub is comprised of lead singer and bassist Leslie Crunkilton, guitarist Mike Lee and drummer Daniel Schmidt. Together, they created a colorful sound that felt upbeat but still maintained a soothing tone throughout their performance. The band played songs from their 2019 EP “All the Same” for the audience, who were few, but still stayed captivated the entire time.

While the soft-sounding band may have only attracted enough patrons to fill a portion of the space, Crunkilton is to be praised for her vocal talents. Her sound was easily the most gentle of all the acts at the Bourbon that night, but the variety and stylistic approach was refreshing. The other bandmates, Lee and Schmidt, made the performance engaging as well. Clearly enjoying himself, Lee bounced around stage and hopped between playing his guitar and a Midi Fighter with ease. Lee and Schmidt both brought an energy and movement to the stage that might have otherwise been absent.

The band looked as whimsical as their sound. Each were dressed in pastel colors and minimalistic clothing. The fresh group made for a visually appealing set-up. Though Fanclub might’ve been a new one for many Lincoln Calling attendees, they left the crowd with an endearingly casual performance to remember. 

Squirrel Flower, The Bourbon (main room), 8 p.m.

Squirrel Flower

Ella Williams of Squirrel Flower performs at the Bourbon Theatre during night one of Lincoln Calling on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

By Jenna Thompson

A Boston-based alternative rock artist with a chilling sound made a memorable appearance at Lincoln Calling on Thursday night. Ella Williams, who goes by the moniker Squirrel Flower, echoed vocals and reverberant guitar sounds through the Bourbon’s main room, engulfing the audience in an ethereal atmosphere. Williams and her band made a Nebraska debut in Lincoln, drawing a devoted crowd of head-bobbing fans to the floor to hear them play.

The night began with a melodic solo from Williams, instantly catching the attention of all who were in the room. The singer had incredible pitch and power without the aid of accompaniment from the other performers. 

Williams shrouded the audience with her smooth vocals. After her first ballad finished, the calming, dream-like atmosphere Williams created intensified with enthusiasm when a talented guitarist and passionate drummer joined the mix for the remainder of the time slot.

The tranquil act started off soft, but gradually crescendoed into a powerful performance of Squirrel Flower’s greatest hits. The band played multiple selections from its 2018 record “Contact Sports,” such as fan-favorite “Not Your Prey,” arguably one the most energetic songs performed by Williams that night. The song was clearly a hit with the crowd, as it solicited much applause. The night closed with a heartfelt thanks from the artist.

The capital city eagerly welcomed Squirrel Flower, as many people piled in to hear a crisp, consistent performance from Williams. The sound of the night was almost exactly like that found on the album. Squirrel Flower delivered an impeccably clean performance at Lincoln Calling that did not disappoint.

Samia, The Bourbon (main room), 9:45 p.m. 


Samia Finnerty of Samia performs at the Bourbon Theatre during night one of Lincoln Calling on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

By Jenna Thompson

Alt-rock singer-songwriter Samia leapt onto the Bourbon’s stage Thursday night for Lincoln Calling, and the performance was a powerful addition to the festival’s lineup. Samia is an Arizona native who goes by her stage alias when playing shows. She wasted no time bringing energy to the stage, as her first song began with her jumping into a head-banging routine. Her high-energy level at the start of her performance set the tone for the rest of her songs.

Samia sported a Nebraska sweatshirt to show her excitement about playing for the very first time in the state, telling the audience how she had enjoyed her experience in Husker Nation. Her upbeat attitude continued as Samia worked the stage by dancing around and interacting with her accompaniment and the audience. Within a matter of minutes, the mood changed as she began to play more vindictive songs, firing at the boys in middle school in “Lasting Friend” and exes who wronged her in “Django.” 

The audience never looked away from Samia’s exaggerated dance moves. The crowd cheered and gasped as she quickly dropped to the floor and disappeared only to spring up again and continue thrashing her head. Samia certainly brought passion into both her hair flipping and high notes she sang.

The artist played multiple singles of hers, including her most famous, “Someone Tell the Boys,” that has over 1.5 million plays on Spotify. The hit single features a rap segment that breaks up the typical flow of her music and surprises listeners. 

Samia’s voice jumped from low notes to high ones so seamlessly it may remind listeners of a yodel, scraping the bottom of her vocal range one second then reaching into falsetto the next. The singer’s style and variation provided Thursday night Lincoln Calling attendees with front-row access to a captivating performance. 

Soccer Mommy, The Bourbon (main room), 11:30 p.m.

Soccer Mommy

Sophie Allison, the lead singer and guitarist of indie rock band Soccer Mommy, performs at the Bourbon Theatre during Lincoln Calling music festival on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

By Mark Champion

The theme song to “The X-Files” denoted the beginning of Soccer Mommy’s set in the cavernous main room of The Bourbon. As spooky as the intro was, it may seem like the following performance would be something off-putting and mysterious. However, Soccer Mommy launched off the unsettling theme song into a warm, comfortable embrace of a twinkly guitar jam — one so bubbly and sweet that you could almost taste a cold glass of 7 Up.

Soccer Mommy fit in perfectly with the lineage of powerful and professional female-fronted indie rock acts that seem to have become a staple of The Bourbon’s Lincoln Calling lineup. In 2017, Angel Olsen took the stage with a tight crew of accompanists. Last year, Japanese Breakfast provided a surreal performance. All three of these bands featured a frontwoman wearing some sort of extravagant dress surrounded by a crew of well-groomed musicians all rocking matching outfits. In addition, all three of these bands parcelled out near-perfect performances.

Soccer Mommy’s cloudy haze of a set felt like a romantic dream the listener didn’t want to wake up from. Between the three luscious guitars, melodic bass runs and precisely walking-pace drum beat, the band caught the audience in a feel-good trance of indie goodness. 

The band played the first performance of its new single “lucy” after having put out the song the same Thursday it played the festival. The song floated and coalesced out of a batch of crazy synth noises that dropped the listener off onto an enigmatic guitar riff. The riff was more intriguing than scary, but still was closest to the band ever felt to “The X Files” theme song that kicked off the set.

Myles Jasnowski, Duffy’s Backlot, 7:30 p.m.

Myles Jasnowski

Keyboardist for Myles Jasnowski sings during the set at Duffy's Backlot during the first night of Lincoln Calling on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

By Hunter Arias

As the tiki torches were being lit for the evening in the Duffy’s Beer Garden, Myles Jasnowski teased the audience with a short and loose jazz-shred on his bubbly burgundy Harmony-Kay offset guitar. The local Lincoln staple has done his time in the circuit, and the time he’s put in is more than evident when watching him live.

The night really lit up when the band joined his natural funk and the crowd came bustling to the front of the stage for a daily dose of slippery, effortless jazz-rock. 

As the backing visual effects twisted and mutated like a panel of glitched-out screensavers, the band hurried around unexpected chord and tempo changes, letting each song bleed into the next. Each piece of the quintet got its chance to take the reins on a solo while the lights erupted in different colors, seemingly representing the different musical ideas each member brought to the table.

The rollicking guitar licks didn’t rear their heads again until about 30 minutes into the set, when Jasnowski took off on a two-minute space shuttle ride of a solo during the song “Where I Want to Be.” Two songs later, the band did a sappy and inspired cover of The Beatles’ “Lady Madonna” that pushed the remaining seated stragglers up to the standing zone. 

The set closed with a hi-hat-furious jam (complete with a heated medley including Earth, Wind & Fire’s classic party song “September”) that left everything on stage. The set was the perfect pick-me-up to start an already-memorable Lincoln Calling 2019.

Fat Tony, Duffy’s Backlot, 9 p.m.

Fat Tony

Fat Tony performs during his set at Duffy's Backlot during the first night of Lincoln Calling on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

By Hunter Arias

Fat Tony started his set with an exuberant call to “make some noise,” followed by an unexpected “let’s get some country s*** up in here.” The Houston native immediately demonstrated his ability to manipulate his voice, switching mid-song from a twangy drawl to a sharp and poignant bounce of a rap. 

With a mixer and a laptop serving as his tools of destruction, Fat Tony threw reverb and autotune on his rhymes to accent important phrases and lyrical choices. Fifteen minutes into his set, Tony busted into “Live Clean,” which he prefaced by noting that he hadn’t touched a piece of meat in years. It’s clear the rapper considers his music an extension of his emotional and physical wellbeing.

Before easing the set into the slow-rocking “Cool Whip” from the 2018 “Full Circle” EP, Tony gave his two cents on his profession. “Making art and consuming art is a luxury. I love rapping, I love rap music,” he exclaimed. 

Near the halfway mark, Fat Tony’s name flashed in large yellow letters behind the stage as an electric guitar blazed over the PA system. Tony’s punk rock energy began to surface as the second half of the set became almost entirely rock-centric. Seemingly out of nowhere, Devo’s “Whip It” shot through the Beer Garden and caught the crowd off guard, evolving into a pop-punk backing track that set the mood for Tony’s old-school Grandmaster Flash-style rhyme spitting. As Tony left the stage, the crowd sat back in repose, basking in the post-performance glow of one of the midwest’s most original rap artists.

Taylor McFerrin, Duffy’s Backlot, 10:30 p.m.

Taylor McFerrin

Taylor McFerrin mimics a guitar solo during his performance at Duffy's Backlot during the first night of Lincoln Calling on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

By Hunter Arias

Taylor McFerrin, hailing from Brooklyn, is the son of Bobby McFerrin, the man behind the 80s track “Don’t Worry Be Happy,” and it’s obvious he got the music gene. As a DJ and producer with that kind of musical background, it’s anyone’s guess how exactly his set would sound. 

He began his performance with several big announcements, including the fact that it was his first time in Lincoln, it is his first solo show after the release of his new album, “Love’s Last Chance,” released Aug. 16th, and he added that this is his first show on his “Love’s Last Chance Tour” promoting the release of the album. As pixelated swarms of transcendent imagery swirled and pulsed on the backdrop of the stage, McFerrin noodled around on a Rhodes-like keyboard, creating a deep, psychedelic blanket of sound that engulfed the crowd. 

The ambiance was quickly drowned out by McFerrin’s steadfast beatboxing, which proved to be beyond impressive, considering he was using a looper to create live aural percussion tracks. After the solo beatbox jam, McFerrin proved himself a clean and downright seductive vocalist on the cut “Love and Distance” from “Love’s Last Chance.” 

McFerrin spoke of his new album with such personal significance, it was crystal clear the emotional attachment he has with the record. He claimed that the album was titled “Love’s Last Chance” because he “sees so many friends going through hard times, and you might not know it’s your last chance until it’s too late.”

Each track led with a unique percussion, leading those who knew every song to erupt in cheers once the beat kicked in. Aside from the house beat typology of the set, McFerrin was keen to throw in little easter eggs for those less DJ-savvy members of the audience. In the second-to-last medley of the set, he snuck into a cover of Radiohead’s “Everything in its Right Place.” Regardless of your musical taste, it would be hard not to enjoy the variety in the set.

For the final track, McFerrin invited a couple of audience members to the stage to “jam out a bit.” It’s always a spectacle when an audience member becomes part of the performance, and this was a fitting way to end such a jammy set.

Cautious Clay, Duffy’s Backlot, 12:00 a.m.

Cautious Clay

Joshua Karpeh of Cautious Clay performs during his set at Duffy's Backlot during the first night of Lincoln Calling on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

By Hunter Arias

The evening all culminated in a performance by Cleveland singer, producer and songwriter, Cautious Clay. It’s always a privilege to see a half-rapper, half-singer get up on stage with a full band and knock one out of the park.

The most amazing element of the set was by far the production. It was hard to tell if there was some kind of backing track that the band was playing along to, but if it was performed completely live, the musicians were right in the pocket the whole time. The bass was massive, the guitar solos ripped through the audience, and Clay’s raspy falsetto reached up and touched each note as light as a feather.

The band also took some experimental liberties with the various instruments they switched back and forth from on stage. In the middle of one frenzied jam, Clay burst into a nearly flawless improvised saxophone solo which seemed so off-the-cuff that Clay might as well have surprised himself on stage by his own sax playing ability.

A perky little flute solo could also be found in the set, bearing a striking resemblance to a similar solo in Simon and Garfunkel’s “So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright.” Creative choices like the flute are abundant in Clay’s performing, and they all serve to project a melody — something catchy to take home singing. It’s not too far of a stretch to assume that everyone who experienced the performance did just that.

Strange Foliage, 1867 Bar, 9:20 p.m.

Strange Foliage

Strange Foliage's Joey Cantacessi performs at 1867 Bar during Lincoln Calling on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

By Mark Champion

Strange Foliage made the trek all the way from the Windy City of Chicago to stake its claim of the 1867 Bar’s Thursday night assortment of Lincoln Calling sets. The textbook rock ‘n’ roll line up of two guitarists, a bassist and a powerhouse drummer was executed perfectly by the band, who played energetic and powerful indie psych-punk. 

Its sound switched between a more straightforward Parquet Courts, the indie rockers who headlined last year’s Lincoln Calling, and a version of fellow Chicago psych band Post Animal but featured less hands. During the set, the 1867 Bar never reached anything less than a thundering rumble. The band’s Caesar salad of psych, punk and blues croutons tasted like a bit of every decade dating back to the 1960s.

The band made a statement with “Well Kept,” a song off its 2018 EP “Settle.” The song opened up with a bouncy, exotic sounding bassline that would’ve fit right in with a set by The Animals in 1966. The chorus of the song exploded when vocalist Joey Cantacessi screamed, “What do you know?” From there, the song was a headbanging highlight of the Strange Foliage set. The chorus was smothered in silky smooth, Cream-esque guitar leads and huge drum fills that indicated rock ‘n’ roll is alive and well.

Skating Polly, 1867 Bar, 10:30 p.m.

Skating Polly

Skating Polly's Kelli Mayo performs at 1867 Bar as part of Lincoln Calling on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

By Mark Champion

Skating Polly is the cheekier version of Nirvana the world never knew it needed. The band, hailing from Oklahoma, rocks the same bass, guitar and drummer power trio lineup that proved to be all Nirvana needed to create some of the most electrifying grunge-punk music the world had ever seen. 

Skating Polly utilizes that same Nirvana MO — basslines smothered in fuzz, huge, pounding drum beats and spooky sounding guitar riffs. While Kurt and friends rarely composed anything close to the major scale, Skating Polly seemed to tread the line between playful and angry. 

While the band’s compositions were undoubtedly vexed, every once in a while it seemed like the preferred dance move shifted from moshing to a lighter, energetic dance number. 

Rocking both the bass and guitar at different points in the set, Kelli Mayo went wild on stage. Adorned in a white, sheer robe and cowboy boots, it seemed Mayo was just as ready for a night at a luxury hotel in Los Angeles as she was for a day of breaking horses at the ranch. Either way, she clearly demonstrated she was ready to rock.

Frontwomen Mayo and Peyton Bighorse took turns with almost every job there was to do in the band. Each musician sang lead vocals, swapping on certain songs, and when it wasn’t time to belt out, the one designated backup singer was always there to color the sound with beautiful harmonies. The members switched the roles of the instruments they were playing as well. Bass would play melodies while the guitar did rhythm, or vice versa. They even traded instruments at multiple points.

By the end of the set, Mayo’s boots had been ejected from her feet, indicating this frenetic band is better suited for the stage than the ranch.

Thirst Things First, 1867 Bar, 12:30 p.m.

Thirst Things First

Mike (left) and Al (right) of Thirst Things First raise their fists as they perform at 1867 Bar as part of Lincoln Calling on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

By Mark Champion

Every once in a blue moon, a band performs a set that is pumped full of so much emotion that those lucky enough to witness it are driven to tears. 

Thirst Things First is not that band.

On second thought, I’m not sure that Thirst Things First is even a band at all. The Lincoln-local group consists of many talented musicians, but assembled together they form something much, much stranger. 

Led by a virtual cyborg called Boot, Thirst Things First (also known as Team TTF) took its listeners on an undeniably wacky, oil-themed adventure. Dressed in all black, hooded jumpsuits complete with glowing wires, the crew made copious commands that the audience “drink oil,” even throwing up a homemade sign that had the slogan written on it. Oil seemed to be a codeword for beer, and the intermittent commands to “drink oil” turned the performance into the world’s strangest drinking game.

Thirst Things First was comprised of three guitarists, a bassist, a drummer and two backup singers, one of which was Aramara Quintos Tapia of Lincoln garage punk band Histrionic. Aramara played saxophone for the band on the song “Sexaphone” after taking over lead vocals to rap over a punk song about frontman Mikey Elfers’ itchy butthole. The performance answered the age old question that has plagued so many Lincoln music fans — what would Histrionic sound like if they were an oil-themed concept band?

The band’s sound is hard to peg down. It bordered on many genres, including pop punk and metal, but the main genre of the band would have to be called something like “cartoon-metal-downstroke-oil-dance-music.” Thirst Things First is not a joke band, but something more. A fantasy band? A concept band? Perhaps what Boot told the audience is correct, and the group truly is from the year 4011.