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Hear Nebraska

Hear Nebraska covers the all-city music festival Lincoln Exposed each year, and every time there’s a moment of encouraging disbelief that quietly sets in.

It’s midnight on Saturday, and the downtown music festival has hosted nearly six dozen acts. You look around and wonder, “How is it possible all these bands — the rock ones, the folk ones, the grooving jazz, the hip-hop, the I-don’t-even-know-what-to-call-that — hail from Lincoln?”

In that moment, it’s obvious how close you are to a music scene at its convergence point. But it’s also a great reminder that the music brimming over at that moment lives in Lincoln the other 364 days a year: in farmer’s markets, in dark clubs, on big stages, in coffee shops. The Lincoln music scene truly thrives on its diversity and the acceptance and enthusiasm demonstrated by the scene any given weekend, and for the true concert warriors, any given night of the week.

That’s not to say Lincoln music is hard to find or the scene is inaccessible, just that it’s beautifully tight knit. Ten years running, the aforementioned Lincoln Exposed brings together myriad local bands every February. In October, its sister festival, Lincoln Calling, stages many of those same bands along with regional and national artists. On summer Fridays, Hear Nebraska, the Cooper Foundation and the Lincoln Chamber of Commerce bring you Hear Lincoln, a free, outdoor series that showcases the range of the Lincoln music scene. It’s the best way to spend your Friday lunch hour. Other notable events include the Stransky Park concert series, Jazz in June, ZooFest and Duffy’s Tavern backlot shows.

For a brief venue guide, let’s start with the old stalwarts. The Zoo Bar has been a haven for blues, jazz and roots music since 1973. More than 40 years on, the Zoo might still double down some nights, packing the house at 6 p.m. with a touring bluesman who’s visited 20 times in his career, and then they’ll stage a great local billing for the late show. Just around the O Street corner, Duffy’s Tavern and The Bourbon Theatre both draw a wide variety of national acts and local favorites. All three of these venues collaborate on downtown festivals such as Lincoln Exposed and Lincoln Calling. In the Railyard District, Vega has drawn some indie power punchers, like Mac DeMarco, Tim Kasher and Caroline Smith, in its short existence. And don’t forget Lincoln’s casual coffee shop scene, which is a breeding ground for the city’s youthful acoustic talent. Check out weekly open mic nights at Crescent Moon in the Haymarket and Meadowlark on 16th and South streets. Of course, Lincoln’s new Pinnacle Bank Arena plays host to the country’s biggest music performers, from Pearl Jam to Pink, Jay Z to The Eagles.

We at Hear Nebraska support and promote original music across our state, and there’s no question that Lincoln’s lively and storied scene comprises a vital chunk of our work. Lincoln is home to a thriving arts community across visual art, film and theater, but we tend to think music anchors it all. Boundary-pushing bands, collaborative venues and a community that knows what it means to support original and local art: Lincoln deserves congratulations for knowing the art it cultivates right in its own backyard.

— Hear Nebraska

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