In December, Lincoln’s Zoo Bar launched a Patreon Zoo Bar +Plus membership program. A member only needs to commit to an $8 per month minimum donation through the Patreon platform to support the club. In return, plans are in the works for exclusive live-streaming shows for members in the coming months, along with discounts for merchandise. Once it’s safe to hold shows at a reasonable capacity, the bar intends to offer special membership perks, including reduced prices for member admission to select shows. Co-owner Pete Watters also sees an opportunity to support new bands by offering members low-dough or free admissions to check out new talent. Visit patreon.com/zoobar for details or to sign up and support this historic venue.
Running a successful music venue is a challenge in the best of times, and the Zoo Bar +Plus membership program hopes to help the small Lincoln club until shows can begin again. The bar has hosted a few selected, socially distanced shows, but mostly the stage has been dark. The bar is open currently 3-11 p.m. daily and at noon on Sundays and will continue to operate according to the city of Lincoln’s COVID-19 guidelines for bar service with socially distanced measures and masks required. A large amount of merchandise is available for sale both at the club and online at shirts101.store/zoo_bar.
The late Larry Boehmer was the first to book live music at the Zoo Bar in 1973, setting the standard for decades of excellence. Boehmer ultimately became sole owner of the bar and as talent booker he was seen as a tastemaker in the Midwest blues scene. Many a band felt they’d gotten a big break on the touring scene if Boehmer liked and booked them. Boehmer and the bar were recognized as Club of the Year in 1993 with a Keeping the Blues Alive award from the Blues Foundation. And in recent years, the Zoo has been nominated for Venue of the Year in honky-tonker Dale Watson’s Ameripolitan Awards. The bar is two years older than Austin’s famous Antone’s blues nightclub. The club was also the focus of UNL History Professor Patrick Jones’ spring 2019 History Harvest class, which focuses on documenting local history. Jones and his students spent considerable time recording interviews and scanning archival posters, with the online exhibit still pending.
2021 will mark 48 years of operation for the Zoo Bar. Longtime manager Pete Watters took over the club when Boehmer retired in 2000 alongside Boehmer’s two sons, Tim and Jeff. Watters has become the main public face of the bar and has continued Boehmer’s tradition of putting the best artists onstage for local audiences. The Zoo has also continued to present an annual anniversary summer street festival, ZooFest, sidelined for the first time in decades by COVID-19 last year.
Keep up with the latest announcements at zoobar.com and facebook.com/zoobarblues. For a deep-dive into the bar’s history, visit my archived version of the Zoo Bar story compiled from interviews for previous Reader articles.
For more information see zoobar.com and facebook.com/zoobarblues.
Blues Society of Omaha Stays Live
With the large capacity of its anchor venue, Stocks ‘n’ Bonds, the Blues Society of Omaha has continued its Thursday 6-9 p.m. live shows. The events are socially distanced with masks required, following local ordinances. Thursday, Feb. 4, Indigenous, led by blues-rock guitar star Mato Nanji, takes the stage. Thursday, Feb. 11, vocalist and harmonica player Tony Holiday from Memphis is up. Writer’s Update: Shasta’zBlastaz have been announced to perform on Feb. 11 instead of Holiday. Then on Thursday, Feb. 18, the Josh Vowell Blues Band from Topeka performs. Kansas City’s Stone Cutters Union plays Thursday, Feb. 25.
Visit the BSO’s Facebook page at facebook.com/bluessocietyofomaha for updates, other late-breaking information and related blues shows.
Matt Cox CD Release
Popular local roots/Americana singer-songwriter Matt Cox is celebrating a new CD release. Find out more and preview the new music at mattcoxmusic.net. Cox wrote all the tunes, played all the instruments, recorded and mixed the new project, titled Bandits, during the pandemic. It’s available on all the usual digital platforms.
Other local venues still offering live roots music include The B. Bar, facebook.com/theb.baromaha, and jazz club The Jewell, jewellomaha.com. Check their websites and Facebook events listings for updates on performance offerings.
One Percent Productions is focusing on selected performances plus a partnership with Rave On Productions to present theatre in The Waiting Room space. Rave On’s production of the musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch will play throughout February. The Waiting Room has also been presenting comedy shows, with Jeremy Piven scheduled for two nights starting Friday, May 7. In music bookings, Brandy Clark is currently scheduled for Friday, April 16, and Southern Culture on the Skids is up Tuesday, May 18. The legendary Marty Stuart & His Fabulous Superlatives are just that — incomparable — and they return to The Waiting Room Wednesday, Oct. 20. Find details at onepercentproductions.com.
Unrelated to the pandemic, Fremont’s Corner Bar closed its doors in November. The owner, Tammy Hespen Trahan, had listed the bar space for sale in the summer of 2019, deciding to retire and focus on her grandchildren. The bar celebrated its 39th anniversary in 2020. Fremont’s LifeHouse shelter has taken over the building. Their thrift store will occupy the ground floor, and the upper floors will be redeveloped as housing for community members in need.
The Hi-Fi House in the Blackstone district has gone on hiatus due to the pandemic and will be giving up its physical space, according to founder Kate Dussault, who made the announcement on Facebook. The listening club has been closed for almost a year, according to Dussault, who added “[we] hope to re-emerge at a future date elsewhere.”
Playing With Fire founder and promoter Jeff Davis is making plans for two weekends of Playing With Fire free concerts along with some other summer live music events. Mark your calendar for Friday and Saturday, July 16 and 17, and August 13 and 14. Full details will be available soon at playingwithfireomaha.net.