In a smoke-hazed Nebraska living room, about 20 college-aged hipsters sit cross-legged on a grimy hardwood floor, watching Greg Elsasser play acoustic guitar. It’s well after midnight on a Thursday, and both Elsasser and his audience have been drawing liberally from a bottle of Kessler Whiskey. They drunkenly shout along as he sings, “When Hotel Frank died / It made me feel awful sad inside.” The sound is intense and warbling and a little surreal, since Hotel Frank is, in fact, the current local nickname for the very house where Elsasser is performing, a three-wing incubator of youth culture that sits on the corner of 38th and Farnam Streets in midtown Omaha.
For the better part of the past two decades, a rotating cast of musicians and creative minds have stumbled in and out of its unlocked doors, each generation giving the red-brick triplex a name and identity of its own. Elsasser's band, Capgun Coup—considered by many the heart of Omaha’s current indie-rock scene—lived here until last summer. Capgun was the last of the current leading bands to call Hotel Frank home, and the house’s new residents—some musicians, some not—haven’t yet established themselves. So when Elsasser sings about Hotel Frank dying, he’s only half joking: For all its history, the house now seems like a shell of its former self.