The BAY is hardly a stranger to Lincoln’s activist and community-engagement circles and has filled Lincoln’s all-ages venue vacancy with growing success. Located at 20th and Y, this indoor skate park headquarters the national youth advocacy program Skate For Change and is expanding its efforts toward helping young Lincolnites pursue music and the arts. Last summer, The BAY debuted a performance stage with full audio and lighting to host hip-hop, rock and punk shows on the weekends. The BAY also has an onsite café, featuring a state-of-the-art cold-brew nitrous coffee tap.
photo by Lindsey Yoneda
The most recent addition to the downtown Lincoln music scene, 1867 has quickly become a multi-genre hotspot for local billings. Its concert room boasts a top-notch sound system and has already seen its fair share of packed houses. With a handful of weekly activities and tap space dedicated exclusively to Nebraska breweries, it aims to provide a truly unique space.
photo by Tarah Dawdy
Once a hub for Lincoln’s electronic and jam band scenes, in recent years Bodega’s Alley had become known as a college-oriented karaoke bar. But since music enthusiast Ryan Detlefsen took ownership of the O Street venue in 2015, Bodega’s new sound system and front room remodel has positioned it specifically to host live shows. Noted often during its re-debut at Lincoln Exposed 2016, it has a promising place in the O Street cluster of music venues.
photo by James Dean
The combination of its Rye Room and main stage makes The Bourbon one of Lincoln’s most versatile music venues. Across a festival like Lincoln Calling, it can take the shape of both a sizeable concert hall and a deeply personal and unassuming basement show. And with its craft beer selection and reputation for advanced cocktails, The Bourbon’s front bar is perhaps the most specialized to service a Lincoln music venue. Open since May 2009, The Bourbon has been a mainstay of O Street concerts, playing host to national acts in its main room Parliament-Funkadelic, Bassnectar, The Hold Steady, Public Enemy and many more.
photo by Lauren Farris
The stature of Duffy’s Tavern as a champion for alternative rock (and all its genre relatives) began somewhere around the time it hosted pre-fame Nirvana in 1990. In the intervening two decades, it’s routinely played host to Lincoln’s quintessential indie acts. With its brick stage alcove, dollar beer night and fishbowls, Duffy’s is one of Lincoln’s most recognizable college bars where the music community meets the university crowd. On the stage side, it’s often dark, crowded and necessarily intimate.
photo by James Dean
In recent years, Duffy’s has expanded its shows out its back door, across the patio and into its spacious backlot. Hosting daylong festivals and seasonal blowouts, the outdoor option allows for the staggering of musical acts in the close quarters of the indoor stage with the cookout atmosphere of the gravel-covered backlot. It was also home last year to some of the wildest shows of the festival.
photo by Gabriella Parsons
When it comes to legend and longevity, The Zoo Bar is unrivaled in Nebraska’s music scene. Since 1973, the Zoo has made its bones as a staple of the national blues circuit. It continues to attract hard-touring blues acts today, but has also been a breeding ground for the leaders of Lincoln’s roots music community — artists such as Josh Hoyer and The Mezcal Brothers. Its walls are plastered with decade upon decade of show posters, and the installation of its over-the-stage neon sign in 2014 only enhances its preserved Americana. On a peak Lincoln Calling night, its narrow entryway blending with the crowd affords a constant feeling of liveliness.
photo by Lauren Farris
For the first time, Lincoln Calling will close one full city block (14th St between O & P) for its Night Market, programmed by Lincoln Young Professionals Group and featuring art, vendors, makers, festival partners, live local music and more — all free, and open to the public! The same spot has hosted Zoo Bar’s blues and soul extravaganza ZooFest for decades, and for this fest, will stage a number of diverse performances throughout the weekend.
photo of ZooFest by Lauren Farris