Lincoln’s historic Zoo Bar has announced the lineup for its 50th anniversary celebration. ZOOFEST takes to 14th Street in front of the club Thursday, July 6, Friday, July 7, and Saturday, July 8.
Thursday, July 6, the lineup includes longtime Zoo favorites The Bel Airs and the great Charlie Musselwhite, who has deep roots with the Zoo community and is a blues icon in his own right. Also on the bill is the rockabilly band with a humorous twist, Igor and the Red Elvises.
Friday, July 7, puts the spotlight on a mix of familiar and new artists, including rising star Amythyst Kiah, who’s been featured on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” and “World Café.” Rolling Stone recently called the singer-songwriter and electric guitarist “one of Americana’s great up-and-coming secrets.” Kiah is also a member of Our Native Daughters, a band of female, Black banjo players that features Rhiannon Giddens, Leyla McCalla and Allison Russell. Their 2019 album, “Songs of Our Native Daughters,” was recognized as one of the best albums of that year by NPR, and they were nominated for duo/group of the year at the 2020 Americana Awards. Kiah received a Best American Roots Song nomination in the 62nd annual Grammy Awards for “Black Myself,” which she wrote for the group. Headlining Friday’s show is Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe. Local award-winning musician and Zoo Bar talent buyer Josh Hoyer says of Denson, “For me, Karl Denson is one of the absolute top funky-soul jam bands in the world for the last couple of decades. Great dance music for the mind, body and soul. Let alone all the accolades and being The Rolling Stones and Lenny Kravitz’s sax player.” Rounding out the Friday night lineup are the horn-driven sounds of The Jimmys early and the fantastic, danceable, Cuban-based Latin music of Andy William & The Nebraska All Stars late.
The Saturday sets include The Fabtones, The Lightning Bugs, and Chicago blues from an artist with a long history playing the Zoo, John Primer & The Real Deal Blues Band. Accomplished British roots-blues vocalist and bandleader James Hunter and his band are a highlight of the Saturday night schedule, as is a performance byfive-time Grammy nominee and Chicago blues royalty Shemekia Copeland. Copeland had established herself as a leading artist among the current generation of blues performers. She’s taken home multiple Blues Music Awards, including the prestigious award for B.B. King Entertainer of the Year in 2021.
The weekend will conclude with a late-night, all-star jam called The 50th Waltz, with local artists performing songs on associated with the Zoo Bar or its favorite artists. See zoobar.com for more details and this month’s schedule. Look up Zoo Fest 50 on ticketweb.com to buy advance tickets. A weekend pass is $120 in advance, and individual night passes are also available.
Playing With Fire Artists Announced
Meanwhile, Omaha’s free blues series, Playing With Fire, celebrates its 19th year with two big weekends of family friendly shows spotlighting international talent. The shows are at Turner Park at Midtown Crossing. Friday, July 14, features the great Sugaray Rayford Band. Rayford is a powerhouse bandleader and commanding vocalist nominated for a 2023 Blues Music Award for B. B. King Entertainer of the Year. Rising blues guitar star Eddie 9 Volt is also on the bill. Saturday, July 15, popular Dutch blues artists the Twelve Bar Blues Band are scheduled along with Ireland’s Dom Martin, who Playing with Fire founder Jeff Davis calls “the No. 1 acoustic guitar player from Europe.”
Friday, Aug. 11, you can catch Denmark’s multiple award-winners Thorbjørn Risager & the Black Tornado along with a 10-piece soul band from Toronto, Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar. Saturday, Aug. 12, features another Toronto soul band that has become popular on the Canadian and European festival circuits, Bywater Call. Also performing Aug. 12 are Joanne Shaw Taylor and Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal. Watch for details at playingwithfireomaha.net and facebook.com/playingwithfireomaha.
BSO Blues Shows
The Blues Society of Omaha’s weekly shows for April include incredible Chicago blues guitarist Joanna Connor on Thursday, April 6, 6-9 p.m., at the Waiting Room. Her 2021 studio album “4801 South Indiana Avenue” was produced by Joe Bonamassa. She has a new record coming in 2023 on Mike Zito’s label. Popular KC band Katy Guillen & The Drive play Thursday, April 13, 6-9 p.m. at Reverb Lounge. The Avey Grouws Band is up at The B. Bar, Friday, April 14, 5:30 p.m. Acclaimed keyboard virtuoso Bruce Katz has a CD release show Thursday, April 20, 6-9 p.m., at The Jewell.
Also check out soul-blues great Johnny Rawls at The Jewell on Saturday, April 8, 6:30-9:30 p.m. See the full schedule of BSO and curated blues/roots shows at omahablues.com including an early warning for the return of Curtis Salgado, Thursday, May 25, at the Waiting Room.