This Weekend’s Zoofest to Celebrate 44 Years of Live Music at The Zoo Bar

By Jacob Elliott
July 4, 2017

Zoofest is coming back to Lincoln to celebrate the Zoo Bar’s 44th anniversary.

The event will be held in front of the bar at 14th and O Street this Friday, with start times for bands set for every two hours between 5 and 11 p.m. Saturday follows with music starting at noon and running all day.

Tickets are $25 for a single day or $35 for a two-day passes. Ordering before the event will net a $5 discount. Passes go down to $10 at 10 p.m. each night. They are available for purchase at the bar or

Check out scenes from last year’s Zoofest, through the lens of KZUM:

Friday will include the Bel Airs, The Paladins, Ruthie Foster and Sidewalk Chalk. On Saturday, the Blues Ed program will start things off, followed by the Mezcal Brothers, Hadden Sayers, Big Sandy & His Fly-Rite Boys, Charlie Musselwhite and Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal.

The Blues Ed program is a unique nonprofit program that is sponsored by the Blues Society of Omaha. The program was created in 2001 as a way to provide opportunity for middle school and high school aged musician to play in a performance-style format. Included in the program are three groups: Mannix, Redwoods, and Us & Them.

The Paladins are a rockabilly and blues band from San Diego, Calif., founded in the 1980s by their guitarist, Dave Gonzalez, and their bass player, Thomas Yearsley. During their career, they have recorded nine studio records, and three live albums.

Sidewalk Chalk is a Chicago jazz and hip hop band well known for their originality and unique sound. They are currently working on their fourth album “An Orchid Is Born,” alongside Grammy Award winner Robert Searight.

Pete Watters, owner of the Zoo Bar, is excited to have the likes of Charlie Musselwhite and Ruthie Foster on the bill.

Foster, a blues artist from Austin who began her recording career in 1997, has been nominated for a Best Blues Album Grammy three times. Her latest album, “Joy Comes Back” was described as “pure magic” by Rolling Stone.

Charlie Musselwhite is one of the most recognizable and accomplished harmonica players in the world. He has been playing alongside musicians like Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf for over 50 years. He has a number of awards under his belt, including 33 Blues Music Awards, 11 Grammy nominations, and a 2014 Grammy win for his work with Ben Harper on “Get Up”.

According to Watters, Zoofest originally started back in 1998 as a one-time event when it celebrated the Zoo Bar’s 25th anniversary. The event was popular enough that, in 2001, they decided to run it again have been holding it annually ever since.

While the event does require a ticket and wristband to watch the bands, any customers of the local shops nearby, such as a Novel Idea, Honest Abe’s, Gomez Art Supply and others on will have free access to all the shops. They simply will need to note the location to which they are going, and they’ll be allowed in.

While the event does disrupt some of their normal business, Watters is thankful for their support of the event.

“They have been unbelievably supportive of it,” Watters said. “I never take that for granted, it’s pretty amazing. When I go around and the neighbors have to okay it, I just go around and it’s always been the easiest thing in the world. They just sign away.”

Zoofest has had to deal with a number of difficulties over the years, but they’ve taken it in stride. There are the challenges of simply running the musical acts without anything going wrong.

“Sometimes it the backline for the musicians, sometimes its sound problems, sometimes they bring the wrong amount of fence,” Watters said. “Every year you’ve got to be ready, something will happen that you’ll have to address. It’d be nice if it’d get better and better and we’d be smooth by now, but we still haven’t reached that point.”

Competition has also increased during the summer time event schedule. Several events will be going on this weekend, with First Friday, Star City Pride, and Zoofest all going on Friday. However, Watters views this as more of a good thing.

“It’s a vibrant community, things are happening,” Watters said. “You can’t avoid competition anymore. There are challenges to that, but it’s a great sign for the community.”

Jacob Elliott is one of KZUM’s summer editorial interns. Interested in interning at KZUM? Find more information and apply here.

KZUM is a proud longtime partner in Zoofest.

2017-07-04T09:42:53+00:00 July 4th, 2017|Uncategorized|