Omahype Returns

The notorious music blog takes on a new life

Sometime in March 2009, a quiet sadness swept over the Internet when Andrew Bowen and Ian Atwood grasped firmly and pulled the plug on one of Omaha's more original websites -- omahype.com. Omahype enthusiastically chronicled the local music scene through Bowen and Atwood's acerbic music news bits, live reviews and leaked mp3 files that one assumes had to be illegal. The website had a wonderfully subversive streak, and carried on an outsider's tradition, giving voice to Hotel Frank, Slumber Party Records artists and the Antiquarium record store, powered by the duo's uncanny good taste in music. Over a couple years, Bowen and Atwood managed to make a small but significant mark, providing a fresh, young perspective that this scene was -- and is -- sorely in need of. Almost two years later, omahype.com is returning, but without Bowen and Atwood at the helm. Instead, the Internet domain was acquired by two other local music insiders, Will Simons and Laura Burhenn. Simons, who sings and plays guitar in local indie band Thunder Power, has been in the music news business for years as a writer and editor for the now-defunct Omaha City Weekly. Washington, D.C., transplant Burhenn is the singer-songwriter behind Saddle Creek Records band The Mynabirds. The duo acquired omahype.com through local "youth branding agency" Secret Penguin, whose clients include skateboarders, The Faint and Jim Suttle. "(Bowen) gave those guys the domain name," Simons says. "It was Laura's idea to get the whole thing rolling. She asked me earlier in the spring if I wanted to help with it, while Secret Penguin built the site." Burhenn had considered the idea of a local arts and music website for well over a year. "I got the idea from a friend in D.C. who runs a website called brightestyoungthings.com," Burhenn says. "It's a curated events calendar where you can find anything you might want to know about what's going on in D.C." Omaha, she says, had nothing like it. Like brightestyoungthings.com, omahype.com will cover more than just local music. "It'll include everything from lectures to art shows to indie films," Burhenn says. "Any event that would be interesting to the youth culture." But what exactly is youth culture? Burhenn says it's anything that's inspiring about living where you live. "'Youth' is anybody from a teenager to who knows how old," she says. "It's not an age thing at all. It's the creative, adventurous minds in Omaha." Simons and Burhenn say they'll begin by scouring other online calendars for events to include in Omahype, along with (they hope) reader submissions. "We'll start with events and editor's picks, and it'll grow," Burhenn says. "We also want to be a blog aggregator, a jumping-off point for people to find out who's doing things around town." Their site will join an already crowded webspace for local online event calendars that includes the new, improved Reader website at thereader.com; the music-focused hearnebraska.org, which launches Jan. 24; towncommons.com, which provides a "personalized guide to events in Omaha;" the lilting underground-omaha.com; Omaha World-Herald's omaha.com; the bar-focused omahanightlife.com; local news/events website omaha.net, and, of course, good ol' slamomaha.com, which has been in the art/music events calendar business for more than a decade. And don't forget the ubiquitous role of Facebook in keeping people up to speed with what's happening around town. Simons knows they're entering a crowded room. "We don't want to compete with other websites, we want to collaborate with them," he says. "We all have the same goals in mind." It's a noble thought, but seems to ignore the fact that those other websites also have the goal of being Omaha's "one-stop shop" -- at least that's what they're telling potential advertisers and donors. Simons says somewhere down the road Omahype also will sell advertising space, but "our intention isn't to make money; it's to support the community." Burhenn says partnering with artists, musicians and "progressive thinkers" to "put a new spin on an old story" is what will differentiate Omahype from the rest of the online herd. That new spin might include an artist creating a photo essay that explores the city from a different angle. "We want to be irreverent in nature," Burhenn says. "We want people to join in the conversation and be honest with how they feel, but we want them to be positive. At the end of the day, I just want everyone to be nice." They acknowledged the legacy of the original omahype.com. "Omahype was great for what it was, a music blog," Simons says. "We're taking its spirit and expanding it to all the arts and creative communities. We're not taking a hard-nosed journalistic approach. We want to have a fresh, youthful take on things." And while they will curate the site's content, "I don't want to be the person who says 'This is what's cool and this is what's not,'" Burhenn says. "I'm interested in hearing from other people what they think is cool, and sharing it." Omahype.com's launch is being celebrated as part of the Holiday Throwdown at Slowdown Friday, Dec. 17. The free event, which starts at 9 p.m., will feature performances by members of Bear Country, Conduits, Flowers Forever, Honeybee, Talking Mountain, UUVVWWZ and, of course, The Mynabirds, who also will celebrate the release of their new 7-inch single. Local artists and designers also will have their goods for sale, just in time for Christmas.

posted at 09:17 am
on Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

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