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

December 1, 2022
  • An Evening with Katy Guillen & The Drive $12

    December 1, 2022  6:00 pm - 9:00 pm

    Katy Guillen & The Drive is founded on the energetic creative spark and longtime chemistry between Katy Guillen and Stephanie Williams. With Guillen on guitar and vocals and Williams on drums, the two sculpt a sound that recalls a blend of artists like Led Zeppelin, Patty Griffin, and Heartless Bastards.

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  • SHITHOOK-LIVE BAND KARAOKE

    December 1, 2022  9:30 pm - 10:55 pm

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

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December 2, 2022
  • Halz and Oate $8

    December 2, 2022  5:00 pm - 7:00 pm

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  • Lucas Parker Band + Jessica Paige - $10

    December 2, 2022  9:00 pm - 11:59 pm

    JH

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December 3, 2022
  • Hector Anchondo $12

    December 3, 2022  5:00 pm - 8:00 pm

    We're happy to welcome back award-winning Blues vocalist and guitarist, Hector Anchondo for an early Saturday show at The Zoo. $12 

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  • All Knowing McGill w Jeremy Mercy & The Rapture Orphans and Josh Watson- $8

    December 3, 2022  9:00 pm - 11:59 pm

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December 4, 2022
  • Jason D Williams $22adv./$27dos

    December 4, 2022  5:00 pm - 8:00 pm

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December 5, 2022
  • Emily Bass and Friends

    December 5, 2022  5:30 pm - 7:30 pm

    Join us on Mondays at The Zoo Bar for Emily Bass and friends playing up close and personal next to the bar and taking requests 5:30 to 7:30. Free snacks, good company and always the best way to start your week! No cover charge.

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December 6, 2022
  • THE JAZZOCRACY

    December 6, 2022  7:00 pm

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  • Shake a Tail Feather Tuesday

    December 6, 2022  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!

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December 7, 2022
  • CA Waller & the Pickle Blues Band $8

    December 7, 2022  6:00 pm - 9:00 pm

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  • VIBE CHECK!

    December 7, 2022  9:00 pm - 11:00 pm

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

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December 8, 2022
  • SHITHOOK-LIVE BAND KARAOKE

    December 8, 2022  9:30 pm - 10:55 pm

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

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December 9, 2022
  • Sailing in Soup $10

    December 9, 2022  5:00 pm - 8:00 pm

    2018 Omaha Entertainment Awards Cover Band of the Year, “Sailing In Soup" features Gunnar Guenette, Elwin " Elmo" Moseman and Craig Balderston. The connection between these players is magic and the song list is as vast as their years of engaging audiences. Along with their originals, covers range from Ben Harper to Delbert McClinton, John Hiatt to Buddy Guy. This Trio delivers a global tour of soul enriched musical styles all delivered by some of the finest players in the Midwest.

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  • Luke Polipnick Group - $10

    December 9, 2022  9:00 pm - 11:59 pm

    JH

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December 10, 2022
  • Big Daddy Caleb and the Chargers $10

    December 10, 2022  5:00 pm - 8:00 pm

    Big Daddy Caleb & The Chargers perform an electrifying mix of Blues, Soul, & Rock n Roll with house rockin grooves and blow-the-doors-off vocals!

    Led by vocalist “Big Daddy” Caleb Whisenhunt, and backed by dynamic guitarists Matt "Guitar" Richardson and Thai Nguyen, with the solid, hard driving rhythm section of Jeremiah Weir on piano and organ, bassist Jake Wiese and drummer Joe Fox, Big Daddy Caleb & The Chargers are sure to keep you on your feet, and on the dance floor! $10 cover charge

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  • Edem Soul Music w/ Fission - $12

    December 10, 2022  9:00 pm - 11:59 pm

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December 11, 2022
December 12, 2022
  • Emily Bass and Friends

    December 12, 2022  5:30 pm - 7:30 pm

    Join us on Mondays at The Zoo Bar for Emily Bass and friends playing up close and personal next to the bar and taking requests 5:30 to 7:30. Free snacks, good company and always the best way to start your week! No cover charge.

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  • IN THE POCKET OPEN BLUES JAM

    December 12, 2022  7:30 pm - 10:00 pm

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December 13, 2022
  • THE JAZZOCRACY

    December 13, 2022  7:00 pm

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  • Shake a Tail Feather Tuesday

    December 13, 2022  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!

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December 14, 2022
  • Mike Zito $16adv./$20dos

    December 14, 2022  6:00 pm - 9:00 pm

    Mike Zito is the insatiable creative fire at the heart of modern Blues. A scorching guitarist, impassioned singer and clever songwriter, Zito is also a committed artist. His art is Rocking, it’s energetic and brings lots of joy and fun. -BluesBlast Magazine


    Tickets are available to purchase in-person at The Zoo Bar or online at ticketweb.com.
    Tickets purchased before the day of show are $16. Entry without an advance ticket will be $20 at the door day of show.

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  • VIBE CHECK!

    December 14, 2022  9:00 pm - 11:00 pm

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

    See more details

December 15, 2022
  • SHITHOOK-LIVE BAND KARAOKE

    December 15, 2022  9:30 pm - 10:55 pm

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

    See more details

December 16, 2022
  • Scallywags $8

    December 16, 2022  5:00 pm - 7:00 pm

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  • Mike Semrad & The Riverhawks - $10

    December 16, 2022  9:00 pm - 11:59 pm

    About Mike Semrad

    “Never give up on your creative ideas. Someday they may find the right place in time to work.”, says Mike Semrad. This is a fitting quote from Semrad, as he bleeds creative energy and has been at it for nearly 35 years. Starting at the age of 4yrs old in Norfolk, Nebraska, he now releases records, runs a record label called Sower Records, makes films and videos, and writes…both music and literature. Being a musician and artist, now living in Nebraska, he also owns a creative marketing company called Red Rebel Media.  For him, Nebraska, has been a fertile ground for growth and creativity. The strong sense of community that exists in Lincoln and surrounding towns has been the driving force to create.

    In 2014, Semrad started a record label called Sower Records, in which they just released their 19th offering. The stable of musicians, along with other local artists, and area advocacy groups, including Bold Nebraska and Nebraskan native tribes, recently organized a concert to stop the Keystone XL pipeline, a nasty pipeline that was slated to ship crude oil from Canada through the US, only to risk the clean water that is vital for the common farmer’s irrigation. The concert that took place in Neligh, Nebraska in the middle of a cornfield, and was called ‘Harvest the Hope’. Willie Nelson and Neil Young were the featured performers, along with Mike’s band The Bottle Tops and other local artists. Their collective efforts, along with over 9,000 supporters helped to raise over $800,000 for the cause.

    Semrad continues to organize groups of like-minded creatives to make positive change across the nation.  The newest release entitled ‘Cloud or Mountain’, named after a poem by Bil Johnson(Wahoo, Ne.), will be released in January of 2018. This will be the first full-length record by Mike Semrad outside of previous bands. (The Bottle Tops, Haywood Yards, The Semrad Brothers)

    JH

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December 17, 2022
  • Aaron Stroessner Quartet - $8

    December 17, 2022  5:00 pm - 8:00 pm

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  • Ninja Phunk - $10

    December 17, 2022  9:00 pm - 11:59 pm

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December 18, 2022
  • ANNUAL HOLIDAY POTLUCK

    December 18, 2022  3:00 pm - 6:00 pm

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December 19, 2022
  • Emily Bass and Friends

    December 19, 2022  5:30 pm - 7:30 pm

    Join us on Mondays at The Zoo Bar for Emily Bass and friends playing up close and personal next to the bar and taking requests 5:30 to 7:30. Free snacks, good company and always the best way to start your week! No cover charge.

    See more details

December 20, 2022
  • THE JAZZOCRACY

    December 20, 2022  7:00 pm

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  • Shake a Tail Feather Tuesday

    December 20, 2022  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

December 21, 2022
  • VIBE CHECK!

    December 21, 2022  9:00 pm - 11:00 pm

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

    See more details

December 22, 2022
  • The Big Show with Gina Lee and Sweet Basil $8

    December 22, 2022  6:00 pm - 9:00 pm

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  • SHITHOOK-LIVE BAND KARAOKE

    December 22, 2022  9:30 pm - 10:55 pm

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

    See more details

December 23, 2022
  • Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal 10 Year Anniversary - $15

    December 23, 2022  9:00 pm - December 24, 2022  1:00 am
    Zoo Bar, 136 N 14th St, Lincoln, NE 68508, USA

    Join former and present members of Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal as the celebrate 10 years of music!

    JH

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December 24, 2022
  • Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal 10 Year Anniversary - $15

    December 23, 2022  9:00 pm - December 24, 2022  1:00 am
    Zoo Bar, 136 N 14th St, Lincoln, NE 68508, USA

    Join former and present members of Josh Hoyer & Soul Colossal as the celebrate 10 years of music!

    JH

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  • Seven inches of Soul on Saturday

    December 24, 2022  9:00 pm - 11:55 pm


    Soul on a Saturday!
    A Bridge To Sound
    The Bridge Gap Brothers are in the building! It's a know fact that the Bridge Gap Brothers play the best wax. If you're looking for a place to get loose and shake your caboose then look no further than the Zoo Bar. DJ FUNK TONNE & DJ RELIC are behind the Wheels of Steel to play something you can feel. don't you worry about no fee because it's always FREE!

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December 25, 2022
  • Shawn Holt (Tribute to Magic Slim) $12

    December 25, 2022  9:00 pm - 12:00 am

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December 26, 2022
  • Emily Bass and Friends

    December 26, 2022  5:30 pm - 7:30 pm

    Join us on Mondays at The Zoo Bar for Emily Bass and friends playing up close and personal next to the bar and taking requests 5:30 to 7:30. Free snacks, good company and always the best way to start your week! No cover charge.

    See more details

  • IN THE POCKET OPEN BLUES JAM

    December 26, 2022  7:30 pm - 10:00 pm

    See more details

December 27, 2022
  • THE JAZZOCRACY

    December 27, 2022  7:00 pm

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  • Shake a Tail Feather Tuesday

    December 27, 2022  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

December 28, 2022
  • Mezcal Bros. $10

    December 28, 2022  6:00 pm - 9:00 pm

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  • VIBE CHECK!

    December 28, 2022  9:00 pm - 11:00 pm

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

    See more details

December 29, 2022
  • The Hooten Hallers $12

    December 29, 2022  6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

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  • SHITHOOK-LIVE BAND KARAOKE

    December 29, 2022  9:30 pm - 10:55 pm

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

    See more details

December 30, 2022
  • Tony Meza and Chupacabra $10

    December 30, 2022  5:00 pm

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  • The Soul Review w/ J.Crum - $12

    December 30, 2022  9:00 pm - 11:59 pm

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December 31, 2022
  • Bel-Airs

    December 31, 2022  5:00 pm - 7:30 pm

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  • Kris Lager Band NYE! - $25adv/$30dos

    December 31, 2022  9:00 pm - 11:59 pm

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