The 3rd Annual Shadowridge Music Festival was a smashing success! Thousands of fans showed up Friday night (9/10) to rock out and raise a glass to some talented legacy acts and Blue October (who let's be honest is pushing their way into legacy act, going strong since 1995!).
The festivities kicked off pretty early at 5:30 with Sponge, from Detroit. When the music started the weather was still in the high 80s so many of the fans were either still making their way to the venue or seeking shade. But like most shows, a few die-hard music lovers packed their way up to the front to be the first to have their ears filled with rock goodness.
Sponge is most notably known for their hit "Plowed" from 1994's Rotting Piñata. While the record did pretty well, eventually earning a gold certification for over 500,000 copies sold, if you bring up the song "Plowed", in the same sentence, most Gen-X and older millennials mention the movie Empire Records. Funny enough, the song doesn't actually appear on the soundtrack, but it appears at a high point in the film and the scene below just wouldn't be the same without it.
Still, the soundtrack is an absolute gem. Coincidentally, Gin Blossoms who went on right before Blue October wrote the lead single "Til I Hear It From You". For that song alone it's worth a spin on Spotify. Or just check out the Gin Blossoms here:
I digress, so where were we? Oh yes, Sponge. Being the first band on a festival in the hot sun is a tough job, but Sponge was up for the task. They played a mix of older stuff like their other hit "Molly (Sixteen Candles)" and a newer track (yes, they're still making new music) "Stitch". The weirdest part of the set was when they played a cover of the theme from the show Speed Racer. Um, ok... There were a few people (who may or may not have started drinking early) who were into it. Of course by the time Sponge played "Plowed" a lot of folks in the front were singing along and throwing the horns. Again, being the first band up is tough, but Sponge got the job done.
After Sponge, Chris Kattan from SNL came out to entertain the crowd in between teardown and setup. Honestly, house music or even silence would have been a better choice. I've been to a lot of comedy shows and what Chris was doing was not comedy. It was super offensive. I don't need to go into particular details, but it checked a lot of boxes, race, gender, Nazis... it was pretty gross.
Apparently standing around saying "You guys remember when I was on SNL?" isn't a replacement for written material. Chris came back out in between Fastball and Gin Blossoms but he didn't do a set before Blue October. I assume someone in charge saw the flaming wreckage and pulled the plug.
After getting the "wrap it up" signal, Chris introduced the band Fastball from Austin, TX. You probably remember Fastball from their hits "The Way" and "Out Of My Head" from their platinum album All The Pain Money Can Buy. Fastball rocked their way through a 45 minute set with their signature southern-tinged pop. Towards the end when they played "Out Of My Head", all around people were starting to feel the groove. The white shirts and boat shoes started to shuffle as the air cooled down just a bit. In a surprising move, Fastball played their biggest hit "The Way" second to last, choosing to close with a lesser known hit "Sooner Or Later". Funny side note, "Sooner Or Later" was featured in the Disney made for TV movie Brink!, a 90s movie through and through. It's about a kid with baggy pants who rollerblades, enough said.
As I mentioned above Chris Kattan came back for one more set between Fastball and Gin Blossoms, this time riffing on Drake and Lil Wayne. It was so bad I don't even remember if he actually introduced Gin Blossoms.
Bad comedy aside, Gin Blossoms absolutely killed it. Am I a bit biased because Gin Blossoms are one of my favorite bands of all time? Yes.
But seriously, I thought they sounded amazing. Like Sponge and Fastball, most of Gin Blossoms' hits come from albums released in the 90s, but their track record of success is unmatched. The band's major label debut New Miserable Experience went quadruple platinum! I know we're all about streams and YouTube views these days, but back when physical products mattered those were some crazy numbers. Looking at the setlist there were four singles from New Miserable Experience alone. Throw in "Cajun Song", "Competition Smile", and "Long Time Gone" and you've got quite a show.
Gin Blossoms kicked off the set with their biggest hit "Follow You Down" as hundreds of fans made their way to the front to dance and sing along. Cool side note, I was talking with lead singer Robin Wilson after their set about "Follow You Down". When Gin Blossoms were getting ready to release their second album Congratulations I'm Sorry in 1995, their record label came back only a few weeks before the release date and said "We need another hit". With only days remaining, Gin Blossoms went back into the studio, unsure of their future should they fail to come up with something. Luckily the band was able to face down the pressure and wrote "Follow You Down", which would go on to be giant smash. Robin said it was the greatest triumph for the band up to that point. The song really cemented Gin Blossoms status as one of the best power-pop bands of the 90s.
Gin Blossoms mostly played the classics but they also threw in a few songs from their 2018 release Mixed Reality including "Here Again", "Face The Dark", "Angels Fly", "Still Some Room In Heaven", and "Break". While the newer songs didn't quite have the same sing-along effect, they kept the crowd dancing and smiling.
After the last new song "Break" it was time for the hit train. The crowd was treated to "Until I Fall Away" followed by "Found Out About You", "Hey Jealousy", and my personal favorite "Til I Hear It From You". I got a little nervous since I knew the set was over at 9:15 and they started playing "Hey Jealousy" at 9:10. I wasn't sure if they would be able to squeeze one more song in. But Robin and the guys didn't let me down, finishing with an absolute classic that never gets old. I've probably heard "Til I Hear It From You" hundreds of times but it still has that time-machine capability to remind me of my youth and that's something I'll always enjoy, especially hearing and seeing it live.
Alright, enough with the Gin Blossoms tangents, what about Blue October?
So I know Blue October seems like a "newer" band than Gin Blossoms, Fastball, or Sponge, right? But, as I mentioned at the top of the article, Blue October actually started in 1995. So while they still have radio hits going today (like, a lot of radio hits), they've been around the block a few times. In fact, they have so many radio singles I was like "What???" when I saw a lot of my favorites were left off the setlist! That said, they still put on a great show. I'm a super casual radio fan of Blue October but I didn't need the familiar hits to have a good time.
As fog filled the stage lead singer Justin Furstenfeld stepped out looking like a southern-California gangster. Coming from Houston the look wasn't really what I expected. With a plaid shirt, dickies with socks pulled up, converse shoes, and a red bandana hanging... Chino, is that you?
Looks aside, Justin and crew did a bang-up job closing out the festival. They started with the banger of a single "Daylight". What a great opener! "Come party, with the river in the daylight". Any song with an invitation to party makes for a great time at a music festival.
After the song Justin told the crowd "We love you so much! You've supported us from the very beginning and we just love coming back here, Omaha! If I could rip my heart out of my chest (well that would be disgusting) but I would give you my heart, we love you so much".
I had mentioned to one of my friends that it's crazy this would be my first Blue October show seeing as how they've played Omaha at least twice a year since forever. I know the band has had a great relationship with 89.7 The River over the years and that's primarily where I've heard most of the Blue October songs I know today.
The band continued on with "Oh My My" the lead single from their latest release This Is What I Live For. Really, looking at the set list I'm not sure there were any songs that weren't singles. Blue October continued dishing out the hits including "Hate Me", "Into The Ocean", "Say It", and "I Hope You're Happy". Whew! These guys clearly know what they're doing when it comes to song-writing.
I really enjoyed the unique mix of guitars, strings, and just a touch of electronics that Blue October has formed as their sound over the years. It definitely stands out and you can instantly tell "Oh this is a Blue October song".
Well I think it's safe to say this was the best Shadowridge Music Festival yet. Even with the small Chris Kattan blip, the food was awesome, the drinks were flowing, and the bands were rockin! Even in a pandemic, thousands came out to dance the night away and re-live a bit of their youth. I can't wait to see who's on the bill for the 4th Annual Shadowridge Music Festival!
Want to re-live the magic? Check out our playlist featuring songs from the show HERE.