Chicago vocalist, guitarist and bandleader Ivy Ford was one of the finalists in the 2019 International Blues Challenge and makes her metro debut late this month with an April 24 show at Lincoln's Zoo Bar and an April 25 show at Chrome Lounge. See
Chicago vocalist, guitarist and bandleader Ivy Ford was one of the finalists in the 2019 International Blues Challenge and makes her metro debut late this month with an April 24 show at Lincoln’s Zoo Bar and an April 25 show at Chrome Lounge. See Photo by Anthony Earl.

Summer festival season is around the corner and the buzz is already on for this year’s Zoo Bar anniversary Zoo Fest in Lincoln. Headlining the two-day street festival is Mavis Staples and her great band featuring Rick Holmstrom and members of the Staples family. Staples is a true creative force of nature and a don’t-miss artist. Staples has the 9 p.m. slot on Saturday, July 20. The two-day event July 19 and 20 features plenty of old favorites starting with the hard-driving rockabilly of SoCal icons The Paladins at 5 p.m. Friday, July 19. Austin’s guit-steel guitar master, Junior Brown, takes the stage at 7 p.m. Friday. Rounding out the Friday schedule are guitar star Mike Zito at 9 p.m. and funky Omaha party band Satchel Grande at 11 p.m. The schedule for Saturday, July 20, kicks off with youth from the Blues Society of Omaha’s BluesEd program at 1 p.m., followed by Lincoln band The Bottle Tops at 3 p.m. Keyboard wiz Bruce Katz brings the funky jazz, soul and boogie-woogie to 14th Street at 5 p.m. A Zoo Bar favorite for decades, the great James Harman returns to play Zoo Fest at 7 p.m. Saturday. Mavis Staples is up at 9 p.m. Saturday and the weekend ends with Empire Strikes Brass, a North Carolina band making music in the New Orleans tradition. For advance ticket information, see

Playing With Fire

The 16th Annual Playing With Fire free concerts organized by promoter Jeff Davis return to Midtown Crossing with two dates: Saturday, July 13, and Saturday, Aug. 24. Gates open at 3:30 p.m. and music starts at 4:30 with a BluesEd band showcasing each night. For the July 13 show, Gunwood, a Parisian folk-rock-blues trio, is the second act (see The headliners are Thorbjørn Risager & The Black Tornado from Copenhagen, Denmark. The lineup on Aug. 24 features headliners and local favorites Mato Nanji & Indigenous, with supporting acts Wille & the Bandits from the U.K. and Omaha’s own Sebastian Lane Band. Find all the details and more on the artists at or

BSO Presents at Chrome     

Omaha’s BSO Presents Thursday series at Chrome Lounge continues its great schedule with blues-rock guitarist Albert Cummings Thursday, April 4. K.C.’s Nick Schnebelen’s CD release party for his new disc Crazy All By Myself is Thursday, April 11. Earl & Them featuring Baby Jason Davis and the great Earl Cate and Terry Cagle from the Cate Brothers share this bill. Guitarist Anthony Gomes plugs in April 18. The Ivy Ford Band is featured at Chrome on April 25. All shows are 6-9 p.m. See for details and other metro show listings.

Zoo Bar Shows

All the Zoo Bar show listings can be found at A few highlights include harmonica player and vocalist Chris O’Leary with the Nick Schnebelen Band on Wednesday, April 10, 6-9 p.m. The Wondermonds on Thursday, April 11, 6-9 p.m. Earl & Them on Friday, April 12, 5 p.m., and Saturday, April 13, 6-9 p.m. The Red Elvises on Friday, April 19, 5 p.m. The Ivy Ford Band is set for Wednesday, April 24, 6-9 p.m., and The Bel Airs on Friday, April 26, 5 p.m. and Saturday, April 27, 6-9 p.m. Mato Nanji’s Indigenous plays Wednesday, May 1, 6-9 p.m.

Dave & Jimmie Return and More

While we are talking about big shows, mark your calendar for the return of the hard-rocking and sublime pairing of Dave Alvin and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. The duo played the metro last September in what were two of the finest shows of the year. Alvin and Gilmore are two of the most remarkable Americana-roots songwriters of their respective regions. Their 2018 collaboration, From Downey to Lubbock (Yep Roc), earned this praise from Rolling Stone: a “fascinating roots music excavation that merges Delta blues, Western swing and early rock & roll … a love letter to their theoretically distinct musical upbringings that ultimately celebrates just how many deep musical roots the two singers ultimately share.”

The disc covers material from a still-timely Woody Guthrie song to one by Alvin’s longtime running partner, Chris Gaffney, along with a couple of originals. With Alvin’s crack band The Guilty Ones, this duo soars with soul, grace, grit and humor. Get your tickets now for one of their June shows. See them Sunday, June 2, at Sunday Roadhouse at The Waiting Room at 5 p.m. ( or Monday, June 3, at Lincoln’s Zoo Bar, 6 p.m. (search for the show at

Hot Notes

The lineup has been announced for the 36th annual, free Chicago Blues Festival. The event June 7-9 in Millennium Park is one of the summer’s biggest and best blues festivals with performances on six stages. Headliners include Bobby Rush, Charlie Musselwhite with Billy Boy Arnold, Bettye LaVette, Ruthie Foster, Mike Welch & Friends, Larkin Poe, Latimore and the Jimmy Johnson Blues Band. See

Other Sunday Roadhouse shows of note include the return of Chuck Mead & His Grassy Knoll Boys on Thursday, April 4, 7:30 p.m., at Reverb Lounge. Among Mead’s credits is his work as co-founder of influential Americana band BR5-49 (see Another notable Americana producer, guitarist and now singer-songwriter Gurf Morlix, is featured at a Sunday Roadhouse show April 14, 5 p.m., at Reverb Lounge. Morlix has worked with artists from Lucinda Williams to Blaze Foley and Ray Wylie Hubbard but is touring in support of his 10th solo album, Impossible Blue (Rootball Records). For more information, see Solo blues from fine Austin songwriter and guitarist Ray Bonneville is up for a Sunday Roadhouse show May 5, at Reverb at 5 p.m. See for details on these shows and advance tickets.

K.C. keyboardist and vocalist Kelley Hunt performs two shows at Omaha’s Jewell nightclub May 1, 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. See

BluesEd alum Grace Giebler, seen locally with Us & Them, got a “golden ticket” to American Idol’s Hollywood week. Performing on the March 24 program, she got the attention of the judges but didn’t get the opportunity to move on with the program. You can catch this talented young lady around the metro; watch for dates at

Subscribe to The Reader Newsletter

Our awesome email newsletter briefing tells you everything you need to know about what’s going on in Omaha. Delivered to your inbox every day at 11:00am.

Become a Supporting Member

Subscribe to and become a supporting member to keep locally owned news alive. We need to pay writers, so you can read even more. We won’t waste your time, our news will focus, as it always has, on the stories other media miss and a cultural community — from arts to foods to local independent business — that defines us. Please support your locally-owned news media by becoming a member today.

Leave a comment