Story and Photos: Spencer Fleming
Legendary alternative rockers Blue October played the first of two nights at the Admiral Thursday (11/17) giving long-time fans and new-comers a show to remember!
When I saw that Blue October was playing two nights in Omaha I jumped at the chance to get photo coverage for our magazine. I had covered them last year at the Shadow Ridge Music Festival and had a wonderful time. When I reached out to Blue October's publicist to set up photo coverage I asked if our collaborator Audrey could shoot photos on Friday, the 18th. I mentioned that I was available to shoot the Thursday show but only if they could squeeze me in. Not only did they squeeze me in for photos and review, but I got to do a soundcheck party before the show!
As I arrived at The Admiral I was greeted by howling winds and a line of about 50 people shivering with anticipation. Given Blue October's long history with Omaha I wasn't surprised when I saw so many dedicated fans braving the cold. For many of the folks joining the soundcheck party it wasn't their first show and someone even travelled in from Canada!
Since the late 90s Blue October has consistently played Omaha typically making more than one stop a year on their tour routes. During the Q&A Blue October lead singer Justin Furstenfeld gave some insights behind his love for the city. Not only did he live here for three years and his daughter's family still lives here, but 89.7 The River was the first station to ever play Blue October's music on the radio! I can recall going to the Ranch Bowl in junior high/high school and seeing flyers for Blue October so much I just assumed they were a local band. I asked Justin if he had any crazy memories from the Ranch Bowl days. He didn't expound much but he joked a bit saying "Many child support checks were spent there". Ah yes, Justin's dark brand of humor never disappoints.
Following the Q&A the band played a soundcheck song from their new album Spinning The Truth Around (no spoilers!) before taking pictures with each fan. I'm not sure if it's the post-COVID climate or a time issue, but rather than getting close to the band we stood in front of the barricade and the band posed behind. I know if I got closer I probably would've badgered Justin with even more questions so let's go with time issue.
After the soundcheck party the Admiral closed until 7:00. As I was leaving I saw several people huddled with blankets hoping to be the first to enter when the doors re-opened. Again, the fan dedication was strong! So with an hour to kill and having already found the perfect parking spot I sought shelter from the unforgiving Omaha wind. My options within walking distance were fairly limited. It was either loiter in the weed shop or Burger King. Having no intention of buying any green stuff, Burger King won out. Hey it was warm and fairly clean. Plus, it gave me the perfect vantage point to see all of the Blue October fans lining up as the door time grew closer.
When I made it back to the Admiral the room was already filling up fast. The added body heat was a welcome reprieve from the bone chilling conditions outside. While waiting for the show to start I caught up with an old friend Dee and of course I had to say hi to Todd the "Concert Cop". But don't forget Omaha's most punk rock sound guy, Keith! Fun fact, Keith and Todd played in the Fonzarellies together back in the day. Man, life is wild.
The lights dimmed and it was time for the show. The opening act Beatnik Bandits took the stage to monstrous applause. Making their way from Texas the band was welcomed with open arms. Beatnik Bandits sounded like a mashup of roots rock and country with a bit of punk rock flair. They brought a ton of energy and got the crowd pumped up in a hurry. For a good half hour the Bandits melted faces and turned the Admiral into a good old fashioned hootenanny! I spoke with lead singer Christian after their set and he was hopeful they could come back to Omaha again soon. I told him I would definitely catch them should they come to the Waiting Room, or wherever really. It was a really fun set and great way to kick off the show.
After a brief changeover Nelson from 89.7 The River came out to introduce our "hometown via Texas" favorite Blue October!
Justin slinked his way out just oozing charisma in a black leather jacket, beanie, and sunglasses. The fans in the front row screamed "We love you Justin!" He smiled in-kind and picked up his guitar. Slowly sliding his fingers across the strings he jangled some distortion letting the anticipation build. Justin stepped to the microphone and slowly crooned "Oh, oh here we go", opening things up with "The Way I Used To Love You" from 2020's This Is What I Live For, followed by the title track from the same album.
The band kept the hits coming with "Oh My My" the lead single from This Is What I Live For. Shortly after that Justin addressed the crowd, "We love you Omaha! Thank you so much for coming out and continually showing your support after all these years". Justin went on to talk about The River and how they were the first to play Blue October which elicited massive cheers from the crowd.
Justin and the guys brought the juice playing nearly two hours covering a huge portion of their decades-old discography. From fan favorites like "Into The Ocean" and "Hate Me" to deeper cuts like "James" and "18th Floor Balcony" the show felt intimate and special. After 19 songs the band came back out for a four song encore! As the final notes of "I Hope You're Happy" rang out Justin sat down and sang acapella giving the crowd everything he had. The room cheered in adoration for the band that's given Omaha so much love. Towards the end of the set I noticed a table and some chairs set up to the side of the stage. I asked a security attendant if the band was doing autographs after the show and she said they were. Fans quickly lined up to get a picture or have their merch signed. How can you not love these guys?
I left the Admiral feeling lucky I was able to take in such a special show. I hope to catch Blue October every time they visit their "hometown" from now on. You can check out Blue October's newest album which is being released as a three part series, Spinning The Truth Around: Part 1 is available now wherever you stream music.
Huge thank you to Blue October PR and management for having us out. Stay tuned for Part two from 11/18 coming soon!
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