Street musicians might be a common site in big cities, but not so much for Denver.
That makes Nick Omes all the more unusual.
You’ll see him with his guitar out on Webbs Road, rocking his heart out for whomever may be driving by. These days, the reverberation of his electric guitar music competes with the noise of construction equipment in the rapidly developing section of Denver.
Omes, 20, has been doing his roadside performances since he was around 6 or 7.
“There’s nothing fun in Denver,” he says in explaining his favored venue.
But the performances also help him gain experience, confidence and exposure. He’s become quite well known in the community for his music and his innovative way of delivering it.
Omes has been living with his grandparents, Herman and Charlene Travis, since he was a toddler. They adopted him last year and while he legally took their last name, he continues to use “Omes” and “Omez” because that’s how people know him. He uses the stage name “Nick Omez,” putting a “z” on the end so people will pronounce it correctly.
“I love my parents but they’re just not there,” Omes said. “My dad lives in Concord and my mom lives somewhere in Stanley. I love my grandparents very much and I felt it was right to take the Travis name.”
While attending North Lincoln High School, Omes played an upright bass guitar. He played by ear and learned to read sheet music from former music director Neil Underwood.
“He was a great young man and excited to learn how to read music when he started in band,” Underwood said. “I most remember him playing guitar in the lobby at North Lincoln during breaks. The kids loved to listen. He was like a strolling minstrel.”
When Underwood left North Lincoln, Kevin Still became director of bands. Omes continued to play bass in the jazz band and the double bass in concert bands.
“Nick was always respectful and a joy to teach,” Still said. “He was also not afraid to try new things and be himself, which is always a cool thing.”
Omes still lives with his grandparents in a small home on Webbs Road not far from N.C. 16.
“This road is so busy,” he said. “We’ve got so many new developments coming and a lot of people moving here from the North. Concerts are expensive now, so I give my own. I’m not really allowed to play inside because I get too carried away.”
While most street musicians play in public places to earn money, Omes does it as a way to practice and to get more comfortable playing in front of an audience. In addition to the private concerts on Webbs Road, Omes plays in three bands as well as with his church band, which was the first he was involved in. He’s also played with a band at Denver Days and the Lincoln County Apple Festival.
“In a world dominated by hip-hop and country, rock always helps me feel nice,” Omes said as he strummed a few cords. “It’s eye-opening.”
Omes thrives on the feeling and emotion of music, but also enjoys the entertainment aspect. Not everyone is so receptive, however. Occasional neighborhood complaints prompt a visit from a sheriff’s deputy, who will ask Omes to turn down his amp.
He complies … “until they leave,” he says.
Omes plans to continue writing and playing music, which he hopes will one day take him around the world.
“I think of myself as a sign spinner – you know those people who stand outside businesses dancing and spinning a sign,” Omes said. “My message is to just keep playing until you’re heard. I’m definitely being heard now.”
With the upcoming warm weather, it’ll be easy to find Omes on Webbs Road.