ZOOFEST takes the blues to Lincoln's 14th Street

Lincoln's historic Zoo Bar celebrates 50 years as a live blues and roots music venue with a three-night street festival featuring some of the genre's finest new and established artists.

The annual ZOOFEST street festival takes place Thursday through Saturday, July 6, 7 and 8, with a big stage in front of the bar on 14th Street between O and P.

Musician and Zoo talent buyer Josh Hoyer said via email: “It’s going to be a wonderful celebration of Zoo Bar past, present and future.”

And what a history there is. The late Larry Boehmer developed the bar into a destination blues venue that was recognized by the Blues Foundation in 1993 with the prestigious Keeping the Blues Alive Award for being club of the year.

The schedule for Thursday, July 6, is The Bel Airs (5 p.m.), Igor & The Red Elvises (7 p.m.) and Grammy Award and Blues Music Award-winner and friend of the Zoo Bar for decades Charlie Musselwhite (9 p.m.).

Then on Friday, July 7, catch the horn-driven blues of Wisconsin’s The Jimmys (5 p.m.) and Amythyst Kiah (7 p.m.), who Rolling Stone called “a masterful blend of lonesome folk and neo blues.” Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe (9 p.m.) puts the spotlight on funk and soul sax man Denson, who has played with The Rolling Stones and Lenny Kravitz. Andy William & The Nebraska All Stars (11 p.m.) close the night with their Afro-Cuban music.

Saturday music kicks off with local bands The Lightning Bugs and The Fabtones (3 p.m.) followed by Chicago blues from former Magic Slim sideman John Primer & The Real Deal Blues Band (5 p.m.). The James Hunter Six (7 p.m.) will lay down a mix of blues rhythms and soul sounds. Then second-generation Chicago blues star and Alligator Records artist Shemekia Copeland (9 p.m.) takes the stage. Copeland just took home her 15th Blues Music Award for Best Instrumentalist — Vocals. ZOOFEST closes with “The 50th Waltz,” which Hoyer described as featuring “39 Lincoln musicians that span all five decades of the club’s existence: Jim (Little Jimmy Valentine) Cidlik, “Baby” Jason Davis, Kris Lager, Emily Bass, Shawn Holt, Levi William and more will be playing iconic songs of The Zoo Bar.” Hoyer added, “This is not to be missed. Bring your Kleenex.”

Zoo Bar owner Pete Watters said he has been wanting to book UK artist James Hunter for a long time. “He’s not like anybody else,” Watters said. “You know, he’s really got a different sound, and it’s kind of cool. Sometimes it sounds real new and sometimes it sounds real old. It’s just hard to describe. But I think if people give the James Hunter Six a shot, I think they’re really gonna love them.”

See zoobar.com and www.facebook.com/zoobarblues for all the info, other notable shows and the full calendar for the month. Advance tickets are available at the bar or by searching for the event on ticketweb.com. Prices for advance tickets are $120 for all three nights. Individual night advance prices are $40 for Thursday, $50 for Friday and $50 for Saturday. Ticket prices will be more at the gate on show days.

BSO Presents Series
The Blues Society of Omaha’s Thursday blues series is outdoors at Rathskeller Bier Haus in the beer garden all month. Bringing your own lawn chair is encouraged. Thursday, June 1, catch the blues-rock of the Rusty Wright Band and the Laurie Morvan Band. Thursday, June 8, features Blue House with The Rent to Own Horns. Thursday, June 15, guitarist Bernard Allison is scheduled. Thursday, June 22, the Chicago blues of Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials is on tap. Thursday, June 29, Alligator Records guitarist Selwyn Birchwood is featured. All Thursday shows begin at 6 p.m.

Soaring Wings Blues Festival
Soaring Wings Vineyard’s annual blues festival is Saturday, June 3. Gates open at 3 for this is ticketed event. Advance tickets are available at etix.com. The lineup features Lauren Anderson (5:30 p.m.), plus 2023 International Blues Challenge winner the Mathias Lattin Band (7 p.m.). The group’s 20-year-old guitarist Mathias Lattin took home the best guitarist award. Songwriter, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Vanessa Collier headlines the evening, which concludes with a jam session. Soaring Wings Vineyard is south of Springfield at 17111 S. 138th St.

Hot Notes
The Bel Airs
play The Jewell on Friday, June 9, 6-9 p.m. (One show, two sets.)

Acclaimed Texas singer-songwriter James McMurtry performs at Lincoln’s Royal Grove on Thursday, June 15, 7 p.m. Charley Crockett brings his soul-tinged country to The Admiral on Thursday, June 22, 8 p.m.

Omaha Performing Arts’ new venue, The Steelhouse, booked by Live Nation, opened in May. Notable June shows include Counting Crows on Tuesday, June 13, 7:30 p.m.; The Flaming Lips on Friday, June 16, 8:30 p.m.; and Elvis Costello & The Imposters featuring Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets on Wednesday, June 21, 7:30. See steelhouseomaha.com.

If You Go

  • The Zoo Bar, Lincoln
  • July 6-8
  • $120 for three nights, $40 Thursday, $50 Friday, $50 Saturday in advance. Prices increase at the gate. Advance tickets available at the bar or on ticketweb.com.

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