story by Ingrid Holmquist | photos by Nickolai Hammar
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young are the first to meet me at Yia Yia’s. As they play through the overhead speakers, I approach four bearded men at the bar, the only people occupying the beer and pizza place. The group chats with the bartender over beers.
“Hey there, I’m looking for John Freidel,” I say.
The animated employee whips off his Yia Yia’s apron and safari-esque hat that complements his Sharpie-marked blue T-shirt and introduces himself. I extend my hand for a handshake as he raises his arm in the air for a high five. We exchange a rather awkward handfive.
We're meeting not only because John Freidel has a strong presence in the Lincoln music scene, with solo his project, Green Trees, and a part in the bands Powerful Science and Universe Contest. Freidel is also a concert fashion fiend, who has performed in a variety of getups, such as a construction worker, a janitor, a tin man costume or simply naked.
Freidel chooses a table in the back for us. The top of the glossy wooden table says “she is a thing of beauty.”
We start to chat about his deliberately odd concert fashion choices as he sips on a Rumble, which, according to Freidel, is a wrestling beer.
“It’s actually Hulk Hogan’s favorite beer,” he says.
“No way?” I say.
“Eh, I don’t know. I make shit up,” he says.
Freidel tells me he hopes to make his concerts appeal to all of the senses, not just hearing. He uses his fashion sense to make his shows aesthetically pleasing. He says that integrating a visual element with music is a beautiful thing.
“If someone was playing an acoustic guitar on stage in everyday clothes, that’s not that catching,” Freidel says. “But if that person was naked, you’d be, like, ‘Oh my god!’ and be drawn to look at them.”
Speaking of getting naked at shows, Freidel did just that when his solo project, Green Trees, played an Omaha house show.
“A few people also got naked and it was kinda weird,” Freidel says. “But then some people tried to beat us up. It was silly. A huge fight broke out in the basement and I was just, like, naked.”
Freidel warns me to not think too hard about that one.
He enjoys weaving in his obsession with construction workers and civil jobs into his musical performances. Look closely, and you might see members of Universe Contest doing odd jobs such as cleaning or using construction tools in the background as a theatrical element at their concerts.
“Even if it has nothing to do with the music, there’s something visual, interesting and weird about that,” Freidel says. “It’s kind of surreal and I enjoy that.”
Freidel pulls his janitor outfit out of the closet for concerts. He reminisces about a time when he dressed up in his jumpsuit at a concert at the Slowdown in Omaha and pretended he was the venue’s janitor after the show. He started to clean.
“It was funny,” Freidel says. “[The Slowdown] remembered it and they thought it was hilarious that I mopped and cleaned the windows of their venue. It was part of the show.”
Not only does he enjoy stage fashion, but also everyday fashion. As Freidel says, every day is Halloween. Freidel wore his Sharpie-marked blue T-shirt at Yia Yia’s so comfortably that I failed to notice he was sporting a Freidel original during our interview.
“See my shirt!” Freidel says. “It’s kinda faded. I call it Mr. Hairy Nipples. Check out the abs. I don’t know if you noticed my six-pack.”
Ingrid Holmquist is a Hear Nebraska intern. She dressed up like a dryer sheet for last Halloween because it came to her in a dream. Reach her at email@example.com.