The Omaha live music scene is still going full throttle. There was a time however that the scene had much more to offer for the underage crowd. With venues such as The Ranch Bowl and The Cog Factory now defunct, teens are now relegated to using the internet for social acceptance.
As a teen in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s I was able to experience live bands and be with like minded people. It was such and amazing time. Teens had a place to gather and socialize while experiencing local and national bands. The environment unique in that everyone took something different from their experiences.
I remember the first time I went to the Ranch Bowl. I was 13 years old and there to see Static X. Walking through the door I felt nervous, not used to seeing so many people my age that were into all the same types of music as I was. Growing up in a small town meeting other kids like myself was a very rare thing. As we waited in line we could look and see the members of Static X bowling. So me and a friend walked up to them and had an opportunity to shake their hands. Seeing the bands bowling when they arrived at the venue was to become a common occurrence. There was no other place in town that offered experiences such as that. The floors were sticky and place smelled of sweat but as a teenager trying to find a place of unbridled acceptance. I had found it. The Ranch Bowl was a place I called home.
Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day once said of the Ranch Bowl.
“Where else can you play at a kick-ass rock club and work on your spare in the meantime?”
“I loved the Ranch Bowl,” Foo Fighters guitarist Chris Shiftlett told The World Herald. “You would bowl all day and then take the stage with a really sore right arm.”
Bands like Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Green Day and Stoned Temple Pilots all graced the stage of the Ranch Bowl. However as a teen I didn’t go to see a band because of their prowess over the air waves. I remember being huge fans of all the local bands as well. Bands like Juror 13, My Raging Mind and Lower case i pop into my mind. Local bands had such a fan base at that time period there was even a third stage for them during all the West Fair events. I remember being at rock-fest spending most of my time at the third stage. The bands would get done playing and just step off into the crowd. They were one of us.
I was lucky enough to play the stage at the Ranch Bowl three months before it closed. It was a Tuesday night show. The crowd that was there were all familiar faces. The faces you would know as the Ranch Bowl family. People if you wanted to see them you knew where they would be. Enjoying local music at the best place in town.
My time as a musician in a local band was sorta sad after that. I was young and so was everyone that I knew. There was very few places for them to see us play. The Sokal was the only place that remained that even came close to mimicking the feeling and experience of the Ranch Bowl. Sure nowadays venues have all ages shows once in a blue moon. I was just at one the other day in fact but the under age count was zero. The gap in time with underage shows being common place was so great that the torch was never passed. My time as a musician unfortunately was during this gap. It never felt as it should have felt, I never had the chance to step off the third stage at West Fair.
Oddly enough the crowds at the local shows hasn’t changed. The 35 year old faces I see on stage or in the crowd. Were once the 13, 14 and 15 year old faces I knew all those years ago.
Places like that inspired a whole generation. Gave us a place to fit in. Gave us a place to be ourselves. Omaha needs a place like that again. The local music scene is still incredible but writing a local bands name on the front of your junior high notebook is definitely a thing of the past.
post written by Adam Gochenour