The 2021 Shadow Ridge Music Festival Excels Again

Blue October performing at the Shadow Ridge Music Festival in Omaha, Nebraska on Friday, September 10, 2021. (Photo credit: Dean Birkheimer)

BY DEAN BIRKHEIMER | Go Venue Magazine

The greatness of a culture can be found in its festivals.” – Siddharth Katragadda

The temperature nearly hit 90 on Friday the 10th of September, but the music was nothing by 90s.  Sponge, Fastball, Gin Blossoms and Blue October all did their part in bringing out the best of the 90s during the Shadow Ridge Music Festival.

Getting things started was Sponge. Some people will want to try and put this band in the “one hit wonder” category, but they are far from it.  It just seems that way because “Plowed” is such a great song.  Sponge not only showed us they had more than that one song to give us but that they also have brand-new songs for us.  Sponge just released an album on August 6thh entitled Lavatorium. This is their 9th studio album, and it features 3 decades of rock experience as well as a new recording of “Plowed”.  Their set was fantastic and even included a cover of “Go Speed Racer”. As a 60-year-old, I must tell you, that I particularly enjoyed that.  When they were done, everyone was sweating, but not just from the heat. This was as good as it gets for an opening act.

Before Fastball took the stage, we were introduced to our host for the evening. None other than Chris Kattan.  He is best known for his work on SNL and for playing Doug Butabi in “A Night at the Roxbury.” My wife and I saw him a few months back at the Funny Bone here in Omaha, Nebraska. On that night, he was hilarious. All I’m going to say about him regarding his hosting duties is this.  He was not the same Chris Kattan I saw at the Funny Bone.  Nuff said.

So now here comes Fastball. I must admit to being a little ignorant when it comes to this band. When they were through, however, they had a new fan. Their set was superb featuring their brand of alt-pop. They covered all the hits; I knew they were the hits because everybody was signing along. Fastball had turned the event into a party.  Fastball is chock-full of talented individuals. They work together, communicate with each other, and simply excel musically. Next time I see them, I will be more prepared and will join the crowd and sing along with them.

The third band of the evening were the Gin Blossoms. We all know this band; they pretty much defined the 90s sound. They hit us with a 17 song setlist that was time transferring. For at least a little while, I was in my 30s again. I read somewhere that the members of Gin Blossom are genuinely good people with big hearts, and they do not take for granted their audience. They sounded great; every song was another flash back to the past. It’s amazing how this bands music still affects the listeners.  It’s hard to not sing along to the Gin Blossoms. Songs like “Follow You Down”, “Found Out About You”, “Allison Road”, and “Hey Jealousy” they crash over you with waves of familiarity that it makes it impossible to not participate. These guys could have easily head-lined this show, and nobody would have complained. Their set went by too fast, and I was wishing they could do the whole thing over again.

The headliner for this festival was Blue October.  Hailing from Houston, this alt-rock band’s music can go from jangle pop to dark and violent in a flash. They are full of power and emotion, and their stage show represents that. Dark colors, smoke and heavy backlighting makes for an atmosphere that is mesmerizing.  Now I don’t want to paint a picture that misrepresents the band, they are not all dark and menacing. They also are up-beat and don’t mind bringing out the acoustic guitar on occasion. Their 20-song set list included a 5-song encore package.  As fans, we can relate to this band as they seem vulnerable and approachable. We care for them, and I can tell you this for sure. We want them back soon.

Shadow Ridge and the promoters did a wonderful job. There was plenty of vendors, staff, and security.  The bands were all top-notch and the stage and crew were all polite and professional.  This does leave Shadow Ridge and the promoters with a problem though.  How on earth will they top this show next year?  I’m sure they’ll find a way, and I’ll be there to cover it again. 

Blue October

Gin Blossoms



Festival Atmosphere

All images © Dean Birkheimer
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