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I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning

Author: Joe Morton
04/12/2006 | Omaha World Herald | www.omaha.com | Feature
Homegrown indie rock sensation Conor Oberst and his group Bright Eyes will perform in a free concert at Memorial Park this summer, Mayor Mike Fahey announced Tuesday.
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Conor Oberst at the Newport Folk Festival in Newport, R.I., on Aug. 7, 2005.

The city will provide support services for the June 17 concert by preparing the grounds, and police will provide security, he said.

In 2004, the band 311 played in Memorial Park for the city's 150th birthday celebration. Turnout was almost double expectations with 25,000 to 30,000 people showing up.

The success of that concert and the young audience it drew caused Fahey and others to consider making the free concert in the park an annual event. Fahey still hopes to accomplish that, although such a move will depend on finding future sponsors. U.S. Cellular is paying about $50,000 to sponsor this year's concert.

The city did not have an estimate on how many people are expected. Fahey said that would depend on factors such as the weather, and he noted that the concert would occur during the College World Series.

He said he is confident that the city will be able to provide adequate security and traffic control.

"We can handle it," he said.

Meg Mandy, a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, will be there.

She has been drawn to Bright Eyes for years because of its edgy, signature sound.

"I think it's awesome," she said. "It's great the city would hold an event like this, but it's also really cool that a band that's made it so big would want to come back and do this."

Such events reach out to young Omahans, said Mandy, an Omaha native.

"I think it sends the message that the city cares about us and wants us to have fun," she said.

Oberst was not available to comment.

Jason Kulbel of Saddle Creek Records, Oberst's record label, said band members had been working with the city for months to schedule the show between three weeks of tour dates in Canada and the prestigious three-day Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn., one of the nation's largest.

While the Omaha show won't be Oberst's biggest, it is unique, Kulbel said.

"As far as free shows for something cool to do, he hasn't done something like that, something of that size, especially in Omaha," he said.

Oberst last appeared in concert in Omaha on Nov. 11, when he was at the Orpheum Theater.

Some details have yet to be determined, such as the exact time of the concert and which other bands will perform.

Bright Eyes has performed at anti-war rallies, including last month's "Bring 'Em Home Now" in New York.

That event, with R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe and others, was tied to the third anniversary of the invasion of Iraq and featured a speech by activist Cindy Sheehan.

Fahey said that he does not think the Memorial Park concert will have an anti-war theme and that city officials will be talking to the band before the show.

"This is a welcome home concert," Fahey said. "This is a local band, and I think they know their roots very well."

Several Republican members of the City Council said they had no problem with the city sponsoring the concert but hoped that the band would not turn it into a political rally.

The show will include standard Bright Eyes' fare, Kulbel said.

Several Bright Eyes songs make strong social and political statements. To his knowledge, the city did not ask the band to avoid political songs, Kulbel said. But any Bright Eyes show would include those songs - it's part of what the band does, Kulbel said.

"I'm sure he'll play his normal show," Kulbel said.


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