Pause. Refresh.

A look back at 2017's top live shows and a peek into January.


Johnny Boyd at Reverb Lounge, Nov. 16 – Irresistible swing, jazz, American songbook, classics and originals, with Boyd surrounded by a world-class band that can do it all. The Reverb show was a perfect collision of artistry, musicianship and showmanship. Stellar!

Jon Dee Graham at Byron’s in Pomeroy, Iowa, July 16 – There is no more life-changing songwriter or searing guitarist than Jon Dee Graham. He played a remarkable show with young Austin singer songwriter Bonnie Whitmore opening and playing bass with Graham in a trio formation. Well worth seven total hours in the car. Byron’s. Look it up.

Alejandro Escovedo at Waiting Room, June 9 – Escovedo needs no introduction to serious roots music fans.The expected electric throw-down and a stripped down acoustic interlude. Soulful and stirring.

James McMurtry at Waiting Room, Nov. 15 – Fierce and enigmatic, another of Austin’s finest songwriters. A tremendous show.

Seth Walker at 21st Saloon, Jan. 19 – Walker can swing, strut a second line rhythm or jump the blues while laying down great vocals on his original tunes delivered with an easy-going charisma. Brilliant.

Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal at April 23, Rococo Theatre – Hoyer’s homecoming show at Lincoln’s Rococo Theatre, fresh from a stint on The Voice TV show and a largely sold-out 30-day European tour with his band was tremendous. A delight to hear Hoyer’s distinctive vocals and his top-flight band on a big sound system in the elegant theatre setting.

Samantha Fish at Bourbon Saloon, June 9 – Hailing from nearby K.C., it’s been a joy to watch this vocalist, guitarist and songwriter come into her own fierce identity. She’s one to watch in the years ahead.

Did you know Chris Isaak played Omaha July 30? It was a sadly under-attended show at Ralston arena where Isaak and his band still gave their all for a rapt audience of about 800. Isaak still has the wow factor to match his fine songs and boy-next-door-who-just-happens-to-be-onstage demeanor.

Here are the best of the rest. Davina & The Vagabonds with Gracie Curran opening featuring Hector Anchondo on guitar. Laura Rain & The Caesars. Nick Moss Band with Dennis Gruenling and Andrew Duncanson. Guitarists Toronzo Cannon and Davy Knowles also wowed. All Chrome shows. The legendary Cate Brothers, May 28 in a BSO show on the grounds of the River City Star. Always world-class fabulous. Lincoln’s Zoo Bar’s annual July anniversary festival this year included a great club show from guitar star Duke Robillard. The annual street fest boasted Scottie Miller performing with the radiant Ruthie Foster, longtime favorite the Hadden Sayers Band, the always incendiary Paladins, the legendary Charlie Musselwhite, groove masters The Bel Airs and Lincoln’s own Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal. Jeff Davis’ annual Playing With Fire concert played back-to-back shows at Midtown Crossing in July with an international talent roster that included guitarists Tommy Castro, Aynsly Lister and Ben Poole. Hector Anchondo’s In the Market for Blues Festival continues to grow with a record number of venues and local-regional bands participating to truly bring blues back to the Old Market. Seven Oaks’ inaugural Blues Festival brought Brazil’s guitar star Igor Prado and his band to town, featuring Houston vocalist Annika Chambers. The festival featured Tommy Castro & The Painkillers tearing it up like only they do. Steve Earle with openers The Mastersons at Slowdown were also an incredibly memorable show. And that’s the short list.

2018 Gigs

Remember the BSO Presents Thursday early shows at Chrome Lounge, 8552 Park Dr. in Ralston, continue with the send-off party for Rex Granite Band featuring Sarah Benck Thursday, Jan. 4. The Tony Meza Band featuring Billy Bacon & The Linkin’ Logs also perform. Granite and Benck are the BSO’s International Blues Challenge representatives for 2018 and will participate in the IBCs hosted by the Blues Foundation in Memphis Jan. 18-20. Members of the BSO’s BluesEd program will also perform in the Youth Showcase and present a workshop on the BluesEd program. The BSO and BluesEd are honored with a Keeping the Blues Alive Award that will be presented at a luncheon on Friday, Jan. 19. See blues.org.

The rest of the Thursday schedule includes Tas Cru & His Band of Tortured Souls Thursday, Jan. 11, Hamilton Loomis Thursday, Jan. 18 and guitarist James Armstrong Thursday, Jan. 25. All shows are 6-9 p.m. See omahablues.com.

In the Groove

New venues have opened including The B. Bar below Castle Barrett at 43rd & Leavenworth. Search for The B. Bar on Facebook. You can catch the Tony Meza Band featuring Billy Bacon & His Linkin’ Logs at The B. Bar Friday, Jan. 5, 5-7:30 p.m.

Don’t confuse The B. Bar with the newly opened B Side in Benson in the former P.S. Collective space, still under the leadership of Amy Ryan from the Benson Theatre renovation project. Expect a mix of community events, Benson Theatre events and entertainment bookings. See Facebook.com/BensonTheatreBSide.

Hot Notes

Omaha-based guitarist Sebastian Lane has been turning heads with his local projects. Now he’s fronting the Sebastian Lane Band. Hear them Friday, Jan. 12, 9 p.m., at Reverb Lounge. Lane is the grandson of the acclaimed Jimmy Rogers, Muddy Waters’ former guitarist and a Blues Hall of Famer. See Facebook.com/SebastianLaneMusic.

The Slowdown hosts JJ Grey & Mofro with The Commonheart Wednesday, Jan. 30, 8 p.m. See theslowdown.com.

Catch up with January bookings at Lincoln’s historic Zoo Bar at zoobar.com.


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