Local promoter Jeff Davis presents two Playing With Fire free, family friendly concerts at Turner Park at Midtown Crossing this summer. The dates are Saturday, July 13, and Saturday, Aug. 24. For the July 13 date, Davis brings two internationally acclaimed blues-roots acts to town that are making their U.S. debut in Omaha.
Thorbjørn Risager & The Black Tornado of Copenhagen, Denmark, headline the show with their soul-funk-rock sound built around Risager’s distinctive vocals. They’ve played big festivals all over Europe, Canada and even India. From Paris, Gunwood is a trio that mixes folk, blues and rock with an emphasis on vocal harmonies. Gunwood has played some of France’s largest festivals, rocking out for more than 100,000 fans at the Rock en Seine. They band has also toured extensively across Europe. Opening the show is Omaha’s own Grace Giebler Project. Find out more about all the artists, hear clips and get details on the event at playingwithfireomaha.net. Playing With Fire is celebrating its 16th year of presenting world-class blues and roots music for free. Gates open at 3:30 p.m. and Giebler’s band kicks things off at 4:30 p.m.
Lincoln’s historic Zoo Bar continues its annual ZooFest street fair, taking the music to an outdoor stage in front of the bar Friday and Saturday, July 19 and 20. This year’s biggest name in the weekend lineup is the great Mavis Staples, an undeniable musical force of nature who brings equal parts soul and joy to her stage shows. She’s never sounded better and her new album We Get By (ANTI-Records) was produced by Ben Harper. Her bandleader and guitarist for more than 10 years has been Californian Rick Holmstrom, a former solo artist in his own right.
The balance of the outdoor ZooFest lineup includes some longtime Zoo Bar audience favorites. Friday, July 19: SoCal rockabilly kings The Paladins (5 p.m.), Austin’s country guitar star Junior Brown (7 p.m.), blues-rocker Mike Zito (9 p.m.) and Satchel Grande (11 p.m.) Saturday, July 20: BluesEd bands are showcased (1 p.m.), followed by The Bottle Tops (3 p.m.), keyboard wizard Bruce Katz and his band (5 p.m.), legendary blues band leader, songwriter, vocalist and harmonica player James Harman (7 p.m.), Mavis Staples (9 p.m.). North Carolina’s funky band The Empire Strikes Brass closes the night (11 p.m.) with a sound rooted in the New Orleans brass band traditions. Advance tickets are $30 for Friday, $50 for Saturday or $65 for both days and are available at Lincoln’s Zoo Bar and etix.com.
While there are plenty of great bookings all month, the Zoo continues the long-standing tradition of booking multiple bands each night of the week leading to the outdoor festival. Boogie piano virtuoso Jason D. Williams takes the stage for a 5 p.m. show Sunday, July 14. Williams carries on the wild-man-at-the-keyboards tradition of Jerry Lee Lewis, who may or may not be Williams’ biological father. See rockinjasondwilliams.com. Tuesday, July 16, Mezcal Brothers heat things up followed by Jazzocracy and DJ Relic. Wednesday, July 17, David Basse performs as well as guitarist James Armstrong and Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal. Thursday, July 18, James Harman and Mike Zito & The Wheel are up. All weeknight music starts at 6 p.m.
See zoobar.com for more information, as well as all shows for July, including Mezcal Brothers for a special early July 4 show, 6-9 p.m. Heather Newman Band celebrates its just-released second CD, Rise From the Flames (VizzTone), with a show Friday, July 5, 9 p.m. Monday, July 8, New Orleans-based, roots-celebration band The Iguanas play 6-9 p.m.
BSO Presents at Chrome
There is no Thursday 6 p.m. early show on Thursday, July 4. The rest of the month features Selwyn Birchwood on Thursday, July 11. Bridget Kelly Band plays Thursday, July 25. Polly O’Keary & The Rhythm Method are featured Thursday, Aug. 1. See OmahaBlues.com.
Tab Benoit plugs in at Waiting Room on Sunday, July 7, 8 p.m. Eric Johanson, an artist on Benoit’s Whiskey Bayou Records label, opens. Rising Austin guitar stars The Peterson Brothers play Lincoln’s Bourbon Theater on Wednesday, July 10, 7 p.m.
The Iguanas play The Jewell on Thursday, July 11, 6:30 and 8:30 p.m.
Nashville’s Wild Ponies play the B Side of Benson Theatre Sunday, July 14, 8-10 p.m. The band is touring in support of their most recent recording, Galax, laying down a stripped-down Americana sound with roots in old-timey folk music traditions. See wildponies.net.
Sunday Roadhouse hosts Chuck Prophet & The Mission Express at Waiting Room on Sunday, July 14, 5 p.m. Blues-rock guitarist Walter Trout and his band plug in at Waiting Room on Tuesday, July 15, 8 p.m. Nick Scheneblen Band opens. The Corner Bar In Fremont celebrates its 36th anniversary Saturday, July 27, with Eva & B, 7 p.m., and Taylor Scott Band, 9 p.m.
The 2nd Annual Summer Propane Benefit and Poker Run for Pine Ridge hosted by the Toy Drive for Pine Ridge happens Sunday, July 21,at Chrome Lounge, music 4-9 p.m. See details on the Poker Run and the music performances at Facebook.com/Toydriveforpineridge.
Mark your calendars for the expanded fifth annual In the Market for Blues on Saturday, Aug. 3, in the Old Market and the Capitol District. Find out more about the multi-band, multi-venue event started by Hector Anchondo and E3 Music Management at InTheMarketForBlues.com.