Inside The Zoo Bar

The Creation

In a downtown Lincoln, Nebraska building built in 1921 sits the ZOO BAR, a narrow nightspot that’s been a staple for live music in downtown Lincoln since 1973. Some big time acts have walked through the hallowed club’s doors including Buddy Guy, Bo Diddley, Albert Collins, Robert Cray and Otis Rush. Throughout 2020, a variety of bands will play on the same stage graced by those blues legends in honor of ZOO Bar’s 47th Anniversary.

The History

The Zoo Bar is a blues music venue and nightclub located in downtown LincolnNebraska, on 136 North 14th Street. Styled around the Chicago blues clubs, it is a long, narrow venue in a building built in 1921.

Around 1971, Jim Ludwig, Bill Kennedy, and Don Chamberlin purchased the bar. Larry Boehmer, a Master of Fine Arts student at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln at the time, promoted the bar to his fellow artists. He booked the first band in 1973 and was sole owner by 1977.

Boehmer met Chicago musician and promoter Bob Riedy and formed a connection that brought many revered Chicago artists to the Lincoln club. Because of this connection, the Zoo Bar was the first white club that Magic Slim ever played. In 1975 he had never ventured outside the clubs in Chicago’s African-American neighborhoods.

In 1977, Boehmer was the sole owner and the Zoo was established as an important stop for bands on the touring circuit. The first band Boehmer booked to play in the club was The Cotton Blues Band in the summer of 1973. The first national act to play at the bar was Luther Allison in September 1974.

Numerous live albums have been recorded in the club including the famed double album by Little Jimmy Valentine and The Heart Murmers.

Magic Slim and his band were regular performers at the bar, playing week-long stints. In the 1990s, Magic Slim moved his family from Chicago to Lincoln.

In 1993 the Zoo Bar won the Blues Foundation‘s Keeping the Blues Alive Award for Club of the Year.

James Harman wrote a song on behalf of the club called “Everybody’s Rockin’ (At The Zoo Bar)”, which can be found on Harman’s 1995 Black And White CD.

In 2000 Larry Boehmer retired and passed the bar on to his sons, Jeff and Tim Boehmer, and Pete Watters; Pete Watters now owns the club. On September 4, 2012, Larry Boehmer died after struggling with lung cancer. Many not only remember Larry as a visual artist and an incredible blues bass player, but as a community builder who stands out as one of Lincoln’s finest.

In July 2021, the bar celebrated its 48th anniversary.

The Front Door of The Zoo Bar
Pete Watters and the Boehmer Boys
Pete Watters The Zoo Bar
The Zoo Bar Posters

The Bands

Over the years, there has been a long list of absolute legends grace the stage at The Zoo Bar.

Musical acts have included: Bernard AllisonLuther AllisonDave Alvin, Billy Bacon and the Forbidden Pigs, Tab BenoitTommy CastroAlbert CollinsRobert CrayDeke DickersonBo DiddleyChris Duarte, Lil Ed and the Blues Imperials, Tinsley Ellis, Rick Estrin, Anson FunderburghBuddy Guy, the Hacienda Brothers, John Hammond, The Belairs, James Harman, Mark Hummel, Candye KaneJay McShannMatt “Guitar” MurphyCharlie MusselwhiteRod PiazzaAna PopovicOtis RushDoug SahmCurtis SalgadoGina SiciliaMagic SlimWatermelon SlimSon SealsKoko TaylorJunior WellsKim Wilson, and Link Wray. Eddie Clearwater, Mighty Joe YoungClarence Gatemouth Brown, Carey Bell, The Blind Boys of Alabama, and the list goes on.

THE ZOO BAR CALENDAR

April 12, 2024
  • Mike Semrad and the Riverhawks $10

    April 12, 2024  5:00 pm - 7:00 pm

    Come check out the new sounds of Mike Semrad & Riverhawks, sure to shake the house with their soul, R&B horn band sounds! Reminiscent of old 60's horn dance band vibes, Mike comes from a family of musicians. This band takes inspiration from the late 60's soul bands of the south, with a wide variety of originals and unique covers. Don't miss it! And, his new record is now available entitled 'Happiness', available on CD or digital download at the show.
    $10 Cover, 5pm start
    Get there early and snag a seat!

    See more details

  • Mae Simpson - $12

    April 12, 2024  9:00 pm - 11:59 pm

    Mae Simpson has been shaking up the Minneapolis music scene ever since her band formed in 2018, performing on larger and larger stages to a growing base of loyal fans across the Midwest. Led by her powerful vocals, the seven-piece band brings audiences to their feet with driving horns and drums. The Minneapolis-based singer songwriter weaves elements of funk, soul, pop, rock and country into her sound. Mae and her bandmates leave it all on the stage. Their high-energy show creates a powerful connection with the audience. Hailing originally from South Carolina, Mae has been passionate about singing and creating music for as long as she can remember. Her broad and soulful voice and deep well of creative energy are complemented by the musicianship and passion of the band. The band has released two EPs, Feel It Comin’ in 2018 and Did You Make it Back in 2020. Mae is set to release a full length album “Chandelier & Bloom” September 1st, 2023.
    “Her raspy, dynamic voice is larger than life,” said Helen Teague of Minnesota Public Radio, “but not as large as her uncontainable energy that radiates from the stage.”
    Simpson has opened for acts including Dermot Kennedy, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Robert Clay, Ike Reilly, Langhorn Slim, RubbleBucket, and Pert Near Sandstone. She has performed multiple times on the iconic First Avenue main room, The Fillmore in Minneapolis, the Basilica Block Party, Live On King Street in Madison, Wisconsin, and the Blue Ox Music Festival. If you are a fan of artists like Alabama Shakes, Lake Street Dive and Bruce Springsteen, Mae Simpson is right up your alley.

    See more details

April 13, 2024
  • Stateleigh Holmes & Scott Severin with VVilloughby $8

    April 13, 2024  5:00 pm - 8:00 pm

    See more details

  • Estrogen Projection w/ Ebba Rose - $10

    April 13, 2024  9:00 pm - 11:59 pm

    ESTROGEN PROJECTION: Estrogen Projection is an all-female surf punk group from Lincoln, NE, made up of Lanie Schlueter (vocals/rhythm guitar), Amilia Breton (drums), Lexi Storm (lead guitar) and Lyla McConnell (bass).

    Each member brings to the band a different style of playing, resulting in the gnarly mashup of sound each Estrogen Projection song becomes. Lanie's love for classic folk (Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger taking a front seat) and post punk (Sisters of Mercy, The Replacements) resulted in the gritty, fast-paced pro-union ballad "Workers' Revolution", the band's first single, and an ode to their brothers and sisters working shitty jobs for shit pay. Hannah Romell's strong, lilting voice is reminiscent of Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval when it's soft, and competes neck-in-neck with punk's best female vocalists. Romell's introspective lyrics, met by her intricate basslines, create songs that are not only catchy and replayable, but interesting and different enough to stand out from the rest. See "VHS" and "White Lighter". Emma Harner brings to the table the fabulous convergence of singer/songwriter and mind-bending math rock licks that created the singles "50%" and "Dogma". Lyla's love for Wire, Pylon and Siouxsie & the Banshees shows through her unapologetic melodic basslines. Finally, Lexi's lead riffs, echoing hours spent listening to Tom Petty and QOTSA, coupled with vocal harmonies, complete the musical soundscape of Estrogen Projection.

    EBBA ROSE: From Omaha, Nebraska, Ebba Rose is a fascinating Pop and Indie Pop performer. She has carved out her own niche in the music business with her distinctive genre fusion, entrancing audiences with her passionate and expressive style.

    Ebba Rose draws inspiration from a variety of musical genres and artists, giving her music a sense of honesty and unfiltered passion. Her lyrics, which are reflective and relatable, are complimented by pop-influenced melodies that draw listeners into her world. She skillfully captures the essence of Indie Pop and creates an enticing audio experience with her strong vocals and contagious hooks.

    Ebba Rose's music is a lovely combination of thoughtful Indie Pop feelings and infectious Pop tunes. Her compositions, which combine sincere vulnerability and uplifting anthems, hit home with her fans on a deep level. Ebba Rose's variety is evident in every song she writes, from sultry ballads to energetic and contagious pieces.

    Ebba Rose has established herself as a rising star in the Pop and Indie Pop industry thanks to her appealing artistic talent. Anyone who hears her music will be affected by it in a profound way. She talks to the depths of human emotions. Watch out for this brilliant artist as she makes waves with her distinctive voice in the future.

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April 14, 2024
  • Wine Tasting

    April 14, 2024  3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

    3pm - 5pmZoo Bar. $25 - gets you 5 samples of delicious wine and food (Plus you get $5 off a bottle of wine if you choose to purchase some!) 
    Wine from Paeter & apps from local food lovers.

    See more details

  • Cody Aaron Miears-Zootenanny Comedy

    April 14, 2024  8:30 pm - 10:00 pm

    Zootenanny celebrates a whole-ass year of yuks with headliner Cody Miears! Cody Miears is a stand-up road comic currently residing in the booming comedy scene of Austin, Texas. His journey started by performing in Chicago and Milwaukee before packing up his car, which he would end up living in for his first year in the Texas capital. He's performed all over the South and Midwest, and has been seen opening for Sam Tripoli, Louis Katz, and Eddie Bravo. He also frequently performs in the roast battle league and on Don't Tell Comedy shows.
    Featuring: Serenity Dougherty and Ben Weber.
    Hosted by those irrepressible Zoot Boy rascals: Jake and James
    Admission: $15

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April 15, 2024
  • Catalyst Sessions - No Cover

    April 15, 2024  8:00 pm - 11:00 pm

    Hosted by Riley Agena
    THE CATALYST SESSIONS
    8pm-11pm
    ZOO Bar
    Every Monday (except first Mondays)

    Providing a welcoming space for a Lincoln Performaning Arts Showcase!

    Bring yourself and your ideas to gather, connect, create and grow in Lincoln's Historic ZOO Bar.

    This is a night for you to feature your talents and ideas in :
    Instrumental Music
    Vocal Music
    Spoken Word and MC'ing
    Comedy
    Dance

    Come and grow your improvisational skills and collaborate with like-minded creators in our community.

    We hope these nights become the impetus for MANY new projects and friendships!!!

    NO COVER.

    See more details

April 16, 2024
  • The Jazzocracy

    April 16, 2024  7:00 pm

    The Jazzocracy is Lincoln's longest running weekly jazz Jam session. Open to students and jazz musicians to come jam or for anyone to come listen. Featuring a wide variety of modern and classic jazz compositions. No cover charge.

    See more details

  • Shake a Tail Feather Tuesday

    April 16, 2024  9:00 pm - 11:30 pm

    Come downtown and hear the sounds of the Bridge Gap Brothers ( DJ Funk Tonne & DJ Relic). Playing all of your favorite dance tracks on wax! There is No Cover so stick around and move the ground!

    See more details

April 17, 2024
  • Side Pocket and Live Opposums

    April 17, 2024  6:00 pm - 9:00 pm

    Lincoln-based jam band Side Pocket plays funk, R&B, and soul music.
    Short opening set with Tony Meza & the Live Opossums.
    $5 cover

    See more details

  • Vibe Check!

    April 17, 2024  9:00 pm - 11:00 pm

    soulful | groovy | moody | no cover charge
    VIBE CHECK continues its run at The Zoo Bar every Wednesday night.
    The music and vibes continue to elevate with every show.

    See more details

April 18, 2024
  • Red Elvises $15

    April 18, 2024  6:00 pm - 9:00 pm

    SIBERIAN SURF ROCK
    If Igor and Red Elvises arent in the middle of a tour, they are getting ready for the next one - this is a group that is constantly in motion and consistently evolving. Singer, songwriter, guitarist and showman extraordinaire Igor Yuzov is perpetually globetrotting and in the process he has found scores of wildly talented, entertaining musicians to bring into the fold of this increasingly international party band.
    Admission: $15, collected at the door before the show.
    The Zoo Bar opens at 3pm daily.

    TICKETS: https://www.ticketweb.com/event/igor-the-red-elvises-zoo-bar-tickets/13380474

    See more details

  • Shithook!-Live Band Karaoke

    April 18, 2024  9:30 pm - 10:55 pm

    Sing with a LIVE karaoke band! They know a TON of songs! No cover charge

    See more details

April 19, 2024
  • Kevin Lloyd Power Trio - $8

    April 19, 2024  5:00 pm - 7:30 pm

    Kevin Lloyd presents Hammond B3 Night at the ZOO Bar!!!
    Kevin is an outstanding organist and the Power Trio will feature Blues, R&B and Soul for the FAC!

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  • Nebraska Jazz Organ Trio - $8

    April 19, 2024  9:00 pm - 11:59 pm

    Kevin Lloyd presents Hammond B3 Night at the ZOO Bar!!!
    For the late show Kevin will be featuring Jazz and Funk with a stellar trio!

    See more details

April 20, 2024
  • Ro Hempel Band - $10

    April 20, 2024  9:00 pm - 11:59 pm

    RO HEMPEL BAND: Formed in 2013 and hailing from the heart of the Midwest, this Nebraska quintet will keep you moving and entertained with a solid mix of original reggae, rock, ska and funk. All players, including Ro Hempel, Jeff Johnson, Christian Bandiola, and brothers Evan and Nate Royuk come from different established local bands and musical backgrounds to make up what is now RHB. With a wide variety of influences, each member brings a different dynamic to the band and keeps the sound versatile and fun. The high energy live performances and smooth, easy listening tunes are gaining the attention of people all over the country
    $10

    See more details

April 21, 2024
  • John Michael Bond and Stephen Taylor-Zootenanny Comedy

    April 21, 2024  8:30 pm - 10:00 pm

    Admission $15

    See more details

April 22, 2024
  • Catalyst Sessions - No Cover

    April 22, 2024  8:00 pm - 11:00 pm

    Hosted by Riley Agena
    THE CATALYST SESSIONS
    8pm-11pm
    ZOO Bar
    Every Monday (except first Mondays)

    Providing a welcoming space for a Lincoln Performaning Arts Showcase!

    Bring yourself and your ideas to gather, connect, create and grow in Lincoln's Historic ZOO Bar.

    This is a night for you to feature your talents and ideas in :
    Instrumental Music
    Vocal Music
    Spoken Word and MC'ing
    Comedy
    Dance

    Come and grow your improvisational skills and collaborate with like-minded creators in our community.

    We hope these nights become the impetus for MANY new projects and friendships!!!

    NO COVER.

    See more details

April 23, 2024
  • The Jazzocracy

    April 23, 2024  7:00 pm

    The Jazzocracy is Lincoln's longest running weekly jazz Jam session. Open to students and jazz musicians to come jam or for anyone to come listen. Featuring a wide variety of modern and classic jazz compositions. No cover charge.

    See more details

  • Shake a Tail Feather Tuesday

    April 23, 2024  9:00 pm - 11:30 pm

    Come downtown and hear the sounds of the Bridge Gap Brothers ( DJ Funk Tonne & DJ Relic). Playing all of your favorite dance tracks on wax! There is No Cover so stick around and move the ground!

    See more details

April 24, 2024
  • Pert Near Sandstone w/ Daniel & The Deliverance - $15adv/$20dos

    April 24, 2024  6:00 pm - 9:00 pm

    Pert Near Sandstone w/ Daniel & The Deliverance

    Listen: https://youtu.be/YAy899LSzzg?si=pcTWgXxABPEFYtQW

    As longtime stewards of the modern stringband revival, Pert Near has a songcraft informed by the American folk tradition in a delivery of acoustic instrumentation. The songs themselves tell a different tale, lightly veiled as bluegrass while sneakily appeasing their inner desire for a more modern musical timbre. [Their studio efforts have gradually strayed from the reliquary of common stringband selections. This traditional catalog from a bygone era, while being quintessential for the development of much popular music, can often be troublesome when scrutinized by today’s standards and public ethos.] Instead, Pert Near offers another full album of original songs that meditates on this exact present, rich with context and reference.

    Admission: $15 advance / $20 day of show
    Advance tickets can be purchased in person at The Zoo or online at https://www.ticketweb.com/event/pert-near-sandstone-zoo-bar-tickets/13380494?pl=fourwinds

    See more details

  • Vibe Check!

    April 24, 2024  9:00 pm - 11:00 pm

    soulful | groovy | moody | no cover charge
    VIBE CHECK continues its run at The Zoo Bar every Wednesday night.
    The music and vibes continue to elevate with every show.

    See more details

April 25, 2024
  • Shithook!-Live Band Karaoke

    April 25, 2024  9:30 pm - 10:55 pm

    Sing with a LIVE karaoke band! They know a TON of songs! No cover charge

    See more details

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