How the hell did they get to Omaha?


By Kelly A. McCoy

In a corner of Village Inn, five soft-spoken members of the band Shelter Belt are competing with the droning sounds of Phil Collins. The eight-piece band from Omaha originally formed in April 1997 and named itself after a project started by President Roosevelt.

“It’s like a grove of trees,” lead singer Jesse Otto says. “Roosevelt started a program in the ’30s. He gave government money to plant these trees to prevent erosion. My dad recommended we take the name Shelter Belt. So we did and then the band broke up.”

The band re-formed in September 1998 while a few of them were attending Northeast Community College in Norfolk

“It started off as more of a studio project,” drummer Chris Leader says.

“It was just basically a bunch of friends getting together to record music,” Otto says.

There seems to be no real definitive answer for why, but somehow the band ended up relocating to Omaha.

“That’s kind of our answer to how we got to Omaha: a twist of fate,” Otto says. “We were hanging out in Norfolk one day and then we were like, ‘Wait, we’re not in Norfolk. We’re in Omaha. We’re together still. How did this happen?'”

The band has one CD out, *Nothing Makes Me Sad Ever, and is currently working on putting out another one. The as-of-yet unnamed project is slated to be released late summer or early fall.

“This one’s a little bit more group-oriented,” guitarist/keyboardist Jed Vondracek says, who goes on to explain how the band is more prepared for this recording. “We are very, very well-rehearsed.”

Being a large band with instruments ranging from your standard guitars and drums to less common horn section of a trumpet and trombone, Shelter Belt accurately describes the sound as “eclectic.”

“We rip off as many different people as we can and mix them all together,” says Otto, who lists his personal musical influences as Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Willie Nelson.

The band is getting ready to throw itself into the Omaha scene with four upcoming shows in the next two months. The band will be playing tonight with The Movies at Howard Street Pub. On April 26, the band will be seen at Sokol Hall with Neva Dinova and Pinetop Seven.

For more information on the upcoming shows, visit


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