WRITER’S UPDATE 3/17/2020: As everyone is aware, the impact of Covid-19 is changing hourly. The result is venues are closing, including Lincoln’s historic venue, The Zoo Bar, artists are cancelling or being forced to cancel tours, and artists, venues and those employed there (and in all our small businesses) are potentially going without their usual income, or any income at all.
Please make good choices and do what you can to support our literal “gig” economy, if your income permits, by purchasing merchandise from artists online, playing them on Spotify, buying merchandise or gift cards to venues and restaurants and looking out for one another.
Many artists are taking to live-streaming on Facebook with Venmo or PayPal “tip jars” — here are just two examples.
Can’t Stop The Blues already includes artists planning performances including Tommy Castro and Mike Zito. The group can be found at facebook.com/groups/1092176881140448. Another very active group with a variety of genres is Viral Music – Because Kindness is Contagious, which can be found at facebook.com/groups/622864291902580.
A number of artists are also doing virtual concerts on their Facebook pages or YouTube pages on the local and national level. Local artist Andrew Bailie has already been doing live-streamed concerts on his Facebook page and leading by example with offering to split his tips with anyone in need who adds a comment to his live feed, check out what Bailie is doing at facebook.com/andrewbailiemusic,
On a personal note, please help each other out, look out for each other, and practice kindness and compassion during the days ahead. Remember the healing power of music.
– B.J. Huchtemann 3/17/2020
The Blues Society of Omaha (BSO) Presents shows are on the move this month. Thursday, March 5, BSO Presents The Brian England Groove Prescription at The Jewell, 6-9 p.m. England is a local Hammond B-3 player who also plays in Blue House. The Groove Prescription features other veteran local players Craig Balderston, Ron Cooley, Joey Gulizia, Michael Pujado, Matt Wallace and Jim Schweigert. See jewellomaha.com for details. Thursday, March 12, 6-9 p.m., BSO returns to Stocks ‘n’ Bonds with Dave Weld & The Imperial Flames. Weld is a longtime veteran of the Chicago blues scene. He recently placed as one of eight finalists in the 2020 International Blues Challenge band category.
There is also a special Saturday show March 14, 7-10 p.m., featuring the great Bruce Katz. Katz is a phenomenal virtuoso piano and Hammond B-3 player. Katz has been recognized with multiple Blues Music Award (BMA) nominations. He shared the 2019 BMA for Acoustic Album with Joe Louis Walker and Giles Robson for their recording Journeys to the Heart of the Blues (Alligator). He has led his own band for 25 years and has played with artists such as Gregg Allman (2007-2013), Delbert McClinton and John Hammond.
There is no Thursday show, but Wednesday, March 18, 6-9 p.m., at Stocks ‘n’ Bonds, blues-rock guitarist Albert Cummings is in the house. Héctor Anchondo Band opens.
The BSO has added a show on Saturday, March 21, 7-10 p.m., with powerhouse Toronzo Cannon at The Jewell. Cannon has plied his blues guitar playing in Chicago for years while holding down a day job as a city bus driver. He worked first as a sideman and then led his own band. His 2016 Alligator Records debut, The Chicago Way, was his springboard to a larger audience, and he toured on weekends while holding down his bus route during the week. His fall 2019 release, The Preacher, The Politician or The Pimp (Alligator), has garnered him multiple 2020 Blues Music Award nominations. If you haven’t seen Toronzo Cannon yet, you don’t want to miss this show.
Thursday, March 26, 6-9 p.m., the guitar-and-harmonica-driven blues of Nick Moss Band featuring Dennis Gruenling takes the spotlight at Stocks ‘n’ Bonds. The band took home multiple Blues Music Awards in 2019 and is nominated again this year.
Ben Rice plays Thursday, April 2, 6-9 p.m., at Stocks ‘n’ Bonds. Rice has been a rising star on the Pacific Northwest blues scene. He made the top eight finalists in the IBC solo/duo category in 2015 and took home the St. Blues Guitars Award for best guitarist in the category. In 2019, he was nominated for three Blues Music Awards, including Emerging Artist.
BSO Presents Mississippi bluesman Johnny Rawls at The Jewell Saturday, April 4, 6-9 p.m. Rawls has been laying down his soulful vocals for more than 50 years and is still wowing audiences. In 2019, he took home the BMA for Soul Blues Album.
Héctor Anchondo Wins IBC Solo/Duo
This was the third year that Héctor Anchondo represented the Blues Society of Omaha at The Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge in Memphis. In 2016, Héctor Anchondo Band made the judges’ cuts from more than 200 artists to the final eight. This year, Anchondo represented the BSO in the solo/duo category as a solo artist. On Feb. 1, he made the final eight and took home the top prize, a huge honor and recognition of his talents. The finals judges also awarded him the Memphis Cigar Box Award for best guitarist in the solo/duo category.
Anchondo said, “When I won I felt blank. I was, like, ‘Wait, what?’ I was confused. I was thinking about how I’ve been playing and giggin’ for 24 years, and this was my first ‘big break’ ever. It took days for it to finally sink in and to start realizing how this win would help my career in a major way, and that felt great.”
The winning artists in the solo/duo and band categories also receive some high-profile bookings. Anchondo said his prizes include gigs at the Chicago Blues Festival, the Big Blues Bender in Vegas and performing on board the prestigious Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise in October. The winning band was the Horojo Trio from the Ottawa Blues Society featuring guitarist JW Jones, who has performed locally. Omaha’s band, Rex Granite Band featuring Sarah Benck, advanced as far as the Friday night semifinals. See more at blues.org.
The Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards were announced Sunday, Feb. 16, in an event at Slowdown. Reader publisher and OEAA founder John Heaston received the first-ever Cultural Stewardship Award “in recognition of his 25 years covering local arts and culture as editor/publisher of The Reader.” Current Omaha resident and third-generation bluesman Sebastian Lane took home the “Outstanding Blues” award. Lane is a phenomenally talented young musician who has been going to med school in Omaha while following in his father Jimmy D. Lane’s and his grandfather, Chicago bluesman Jimmy Rogers’, musical footsteps. Veteran Omaha musician Curly Martin took home the “Outstanding Jazz” award, and Aly Peeler was recognized with “Outstanding Americana/Folk.” Lincoln’s mesmerizing Mesonjixx took the “Outstanding Soul” honors. Though I don’t usually comment beyond music, it was great to see decades-long mainstays of Omaha’s visual arts scene, Jun and Ree Kaneko, receive the Lifetime Achievement Award. See all the winners at oea-awards.org.
Highlights of Lincoln’s Zoo Bar schedule include the great Toronzo Cannon Friday, March 20, 5-8 p.m. and rising star on sax and vocals, Vanessa Collier, Wednesday, March 18, 6-9 p.m. See the full schedule at zoobar.com.
Kris Lager Band plugs in at The Waiting Room Saturday, March 7, 9 p.m. The pop-rock-tinged, blues-based music of ZZ Ward is up on Monday, March 9, 8 p.m. Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band throws down their high-octane, old-school country blues Tuesday, March 10, 8 p.m. Both shows are at The Waiting Room.