Summer in the City: Music

by Cynthia S. Peterson

An extraordinary selection of live music and music festivals make Lincoln’s hot summer more entertaining, if not cool. It’s a musical summer in Lincoln, and the citizens like the good times. 

Stransky Park Concert Series

The KZUM Summer Concert Series at Stransky Park is in its 16th year. These free concerts take place Thursdays evenings in a quaint park nestled among the bungalows of the Irvingdale neighborhood at 17th and Harrison streets. Bring your own chair or blanket. Starting late May through mid-August, the concerts feature local jazz, blues, folk, country or rock musicians. In addition to KZUM radio, generous support comes from many local businesses. There is usually a food truck or two on site, and activities for the kids. Learn more at KZUM.org

Foundation Garden Summer Performance Series 

The Lincoln Community Foundation Garden at 14th and N streets 
is an oasis in downtown Lincoln. Each Wednesday from noon to 
1 pm, beginning late May through August, local musicians entertain lunch-hour crowds. Concerts are free. Bands vary from year to year, but the eclectic mix usually includes jazz, folk and adult contemporary. See artsincorporated.org for details. 

Celebrate Lincoln Music Festival

One of the capital city’s biggest events, Celebrate Lincoln, is a two-day cultural festival that combines music and dance with ethnic foods, unique merchandise, and fun activities for kids. Look for the event in June. The 2018 festival was in the Railyard entertainment district and Canopy Street, near the Pinnacle Bank Arena, featuring PurpleXperience, a Prince tribute band from Minneapolis. Tickets are reasonably priced (about $15). See celebratelincoln.net.

Art on the Plaza Summer Concert Series

Starting in early June through September/early October, different local bands—reggae, rock, tribal, blue grass, jazz, hip hop—are featured every other Friday evening at Union Plaza Park at 21st and Q streets. The series is free, though a free-will donation supports the performers. The concert series celebrates Lincoln’s talented and diverse arts community with family-friendly musical performances. See Art on the Plaza Summer Concert Service page on Facebook for information. 

Jazz in June 

Jazz lovers look forward to Tuesday evenings in June. National and international artists take the stage on the west lawn of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Sheldon Museum of Art at 12th and R streets. There’s plenty of shade overhead. This beloved event is in its 27th year. Jazz in June receives generous support from UNL and community benefactors, plus free-will donations at the event. Come early to shop the outdoor market, then spread your blanket or set up your lawn chairs among the sculptures for an evening of great music. Find out who’s playing at JazzInJune.com

Tower Jazz

Tuesday evening jazz continues with Tower Jazz in July through mid-August. The Tower Square civic plaza at 13th and P streets is the place. Some seating is available, but bring your own just in case. The free concerts feature outstanding jazz musicians from Lincoln and Omaha. Food and beverages are available nearby. It’s a great concert series, in a great venue, with great sponsors. Find out more at downtownlincoln.org/do/tower-jazz.

ZooFest

What may be one of the longest consecutively running musical festivals in the U.S.—since 1998—is The Zoo Bar’s annual ZooFest. For 46 years, most of blues music’s biggest names have walked through the doors of the well-known blues club at 136 N. 14th Street. In July, the club has a week-long anniversary celebration culminating in a two-day outdoor street festival featuring some of the best-known artists in the business. The anniversary week regularly attracts 15,000 fans. Many Lincoln businesses generously support ZooFest. See zoobar.com for details. 

Meadowlark Music Festival

Founded in 2001, Meadowlark Music Festival in July makes classical chamber music accessible to everyone. Excellent artists perform chamber music in a variety of family-friendly settings. For more, see meadowlarkmusicfestival.org

Lincoln Municipal Band Summer Pops Series 

Authorized as the city’s official band in 1907, the Lincoln Municipal Band performs at the Shildneck Memorial Bandshell in the heart of Antelope Park (Garfield Street and Memorial Drive) for a series of free Sunday evening concerts in July and August. To keep things interesting, the band has a different musical theme each week. Bring your own chair and maybe a picnic basket, too. Learn more about this series and the band at artsincorporated.org

Plainsong Folk Festival 

Held annually in August since 2002, the PlainSong Folk Festival has expanded through the years and now includes all genres of folk music. The festival’s now-permanent location is Templeton Acreage (25th St. and Saltilllo Rd.), a family homestead founded in 1881. Bring your own lawn chair. See plainsongfestival.com for more information.  

Lincoln Calling 

For three days in September, enjoy Lincoln Calling, a homegrown music festival. Five downtown venues hosted the 2018 event featuring performances by Japanese Breakfast, Joey Dosik, A Ferocious Jungle Cat, Emily Bass, Alfred Banks, The Bottle Tops, All Young Girls Are Machine Guns, and many more. The first fest in 2004 was a celebration of local music and those who support it. Lincoln Calling 2018 boasted of 50/50 representation between female and male artists at a time when women usually account for only 15 percent of the performers at national music festivals. A full-festival pass costs about $60, $100+ if you want to go as a VIP; day passes about $25. See LincolnCalling.com

Pinewood Bowl 

Located in Pioneers Park at 3201 S. Coddington Ave., Pinewood Bowl amphitheater is an outdoor venue ringed by a forest of tall evergreens. Besides the locally produced annual summer musical, since 2012 it’s hosted big name artists on tour during the summer months. In 2018, there were 12 shows with artists like Toby Keith, ZZ Top, The Steve Miller Band, Peter Frampton, Primus and Mastadon, Beck and Jason Mraz. See pinewoodbowltheater.com and our story here.

Friday Nights Live 

Since 2000, locals and visitors have enjoyed live music on summer Friday evenings in the Center Courtyard of SouthPointe Pavilions (2910 Pine Lake Road). Admission is free but donations are requested to benefit a local charity. Bring your own chair. You’ll find the schedule at southpointeshopping.com.

Pinnacle Bank Arena

Depending upon who is touring and when, there may be national acts performing at the Pinnacle Bank Arena (400 Pinnacle Arena Drive) during the summer months. See pinnaclebankarena.com.

Music happens all over the city during the summer (actually, year-round), so be sure to check out local clubs, restaurants, nearby wineries, and other venues, too. For some ideas, see kzum.org/music-calendar/, the nightlife calendar at journalstar.com or lincoln.org/play/events.  

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