c-mez

Casey Plusinscki (from left to right), Nate Wolf, and Sam Lipsett of Cat Piss.

Editor’s note: Senior culture editor Mark Champion is a collaborator for The Mez. He had no role in the editing or reporting of this story. Hunter Arias, Sam Crisler and Audrey Hertel are former employees of The Daily Nebraskan.

Two local music-fostering organizations are combining forces to revive the Lincoln music scene through virtual concerts.

On April 20, The Mez Collective and Hear Nebraska FM will host a Twitch stream featuring a live session experience with Omaha alternative band Cat Piss.

Lincoln newcomers may not be familiar with The Mez Collective or Hear Nebraska FM, but within the local music scene, these organizations are household names. 

The Mez Collective advertises itself as an all-ages, substance-free performance space that hosts concerts and galleries by local artists. Hear Nebraska FM is a weekly two-hour radio show spinning local and regional indie music. 

Collaborators from both organizations meet weekly at The Mez in a small, dimly lit concrete room separate from the main performance space to plan promotion for the Twitch stream. On one Thursday night, The Mez’s co-owners Hunter Arias and Levi Hagen and co-operator and social media manager Nadine Moore are present. From Hear Nebraska FM, radio host Sam Crisler and co-hosts Jessy Hunt and Audrey Hertel join them. 

They sit around a coffee table, sprawled out on used couches and folding chairs, sipping Coke and La Croix as they talk about why they decided to bring their organizations together.

“We know so many people with so many cool talents and skills, and we thought it was a natural thing to team up,” Hertel said. “It’s like, why wouldn’t we? We’re all passionate about music. We’re all passionate about trying to give the artists a platform in Nebraska.”

Hagen said he saw the collaboration as a way to use the expertise both organizations had, as well as a way to adapt The Mez’s mission statement to fit the COVID-19 era.

“Being able to provide a platform and do what we can, even if it’s virtually, and using the resources we have to do something and having all these good friends who have lots of good skills and people who just want to make it happen for this community is great,” he said, meeting a resounding chorus of agreement from the rest of the circle.

Hunt said the pandemic left her with a concert-shaped void and received a round of laughs and agreeing nods.

“All of us were at so many shows every weekend, so when COVID hit, you felt like such a big part of yourself was over with,” she said.

Moore described the Twitch stream as something for music-lovers to look forward to as they await live concerts.

“It’s a way for people to be like, ‘Finally, there’s this new thing coming out for a band that I can go see when I can finally go to shows again,’” she said.

The little-known Cat Piss may seem like an interesting choice for The Mez and Hear Nebraska FM’s first collaboration, what with their 19 monthly Spotify listeners. That novelty, along with their most recent EP, “Zeppelin Four Pt. 2,” which was released in October, caused them to be the group’s first pick.

“Sam, Audrey and I really liked their EP and we all had it on our lists for the best EP releases of 2020,” Hunt said.

Hertel remarked that it had been months since she had heard live music, and the recording session with Cat Piss gave her goosebumps.

“It had been way too long … It’s weird how you don’t realize how much those moments of experiencing live music in real time mean to you until you’re deprived of it for so long and then you jam,” she said. The other collaborators laughed along in agreement and understanding as Hertel got more and more excited about the memory. “The band started to play and I heard the amps buzzing and I was like, ‘Oh my god, this is real.’”

Hunt agreed with the sentiment, saying she’d had the same experience.

“It definitely felt like the first really nice day when winter’s over, like spring is here,” Hunt said.

Her friends gasped and awed around her, with someone commenting, “It was surreal,” through the chatter.

The six collaborators agreed that they had no expectations for their audience’s response to the Twitch stream, though Arias joked for a moment that he was out for “clout and women.” 

“We did this to fill a void and whoever, however it’s received, it’s whatever,” Hunt said. 

Moore said the experience of recording Cat Piss’ session was rewarding in itself.

“The point of it wasn’t necessarily how many views we can get as much as it was so people can look at it and feel some type of hope for what it’s going to be like when we can finally all be together again,” she said.

Hagen, who served as audio engineer and producer for the Cat Piss session, said it was satisfying to be done with the mix he had been working on since February.

“I spent an incredible amount of time on it compared to a lot of projects I had done, and it was so rewarding,” he said, “I would venture to say that everyone who was involved learned something from this project. We’re really practicing and executing. We’re people who like to grow and see what’s possible, and I think this is an opportunity for us to advance those skills and learn how to do it better together.”

Though she didn’t care much if the Twitch stream would be popular, Hunt encouraged those who enjoy it to join them all at a live show, when such an event is more common.

“Don’t be nervous,” Hunt said. “It’s a pretty welcoming community, and it’s always nice to see new faces.”

Hertel agreed, saying it was nicer to be inside the music scene than outside looking in.

“It’s a really awesome community to be a part of,” she said. “It’s not a secluded, cliquey thing. I feel like a lot of people look at art and music scenes like that, but we're Nebraska nice.”

The Cat Piss Twitch stream is the first collaboration between The Mez and Hear Nebraska FM, but the collaborators shared a resounding want for the organizations to continue forward together for the sake of Lincoln arts coverage in the media.

“There’s been a void in the Nebraska music scene of people covering Nebraska music and documenting it,” Crisler said.

After a chorus of agreement and one sympathetic, “I feel that,” Hertel voiced her grievances of Nebraska music coverage.

“I feel like when it comes to what’s being covered about the music scene right now, it’s like, ‘Oh, there is no music scene,’” she said. “But these people still exist. They’re still making stuff.”

Hagen encouraged anyone, even if they think they wouldn’t be interested in the Lincoln music scene, to go to a show at The Mez downtown or have a listen to Hear Nebraska FM at KZUM 89.3.

“I really feel like there’s something for everyone in Nebraska,” Hagen said. “You might have to look really hard for it, but I feel like I’m pretty well plugged in, but I just keep finding more and more artists in more and more genres all the time … I’m surprised every time. It humbles me.”

This article was modified at 6:17 p.m. on April 15 to change "Hear Nebraska" to "Hear Nebraska FM." This article was modified at 10:54 a.m. on April 16 to change "audiences" to "artists" in a quote from Hertel. 

culture@dailynebraskan.com