Lincoln Exposed: Lincoln bands bare all

Artwork by Shane Wiggins | Independent artist
Story by Brenna Dittmer | Seeds Entertainment

This week, Lincoln will celebrate yet again, what is arguably the greatest thing that has happened to its local music scene. The 9th annual Lincoln Exposed music festival will start grooving on Thursday February 5th through Sunday the 8th, at The Zoo Bar, Duffy’s Tavern, and The Bourbon Theatre downtown. I was lucky enough to sit down with Zoo Bar co-owner, Pete Watters, to find out how the festival came to be the huge success it is today, and what’s in store for this year’s Lincoln Exposed.

For those who have never been, Zoo Bar is one of the oldest music venues in downtown Lincoln, with a romantic, Chicago blues club feel to it. It opened in 1973 and has been one of the biggest hubs for local music in the city since. After years of working and bartending at the Zoo, Pete Watters and Jeff Boehmer became co-owners and in 2006, came up with idea for a local music festival.

“We had, and still do have, a reputation for national and regional acts in here, but I really wanted to showcase how much talent there was in Lincoln. There’s a lot of cool bands and genres, ya know? There are a lot of cool musicians doing a lot of different things in this town.”

When it first began, Lincoln Exposed ran from Monday through Saturday night and bands just played right on top of the next at the Zoo.

“I just said, I’m gonna do a week, and it was the middle of February where most everyone’s here, not a lot of people are touring…and we were looking for something different to do at the bar. So I said I’m just gonna try this- I would have a week of just Lincoln bands.”

And the rest is history…

To Pete’s surprise, the first year was an incredible success–people absolutely loved celebrating the music of Lincoln. However, his most memorable year was the third year the festival ran, when they first teamed up with Duffy’s tavern, and Lincoln Exposed created an even bigger following. People’s comradery for the festival grew more and more with each year and with the new additions of venues, Pete described,  “You’d hope it would be twice as good…it ended up being five times as good.”

With over 70 bands lined up to play over the course of next Thursday through Saturday night, (including Josh Hoyer and the Shadowboxers, A Ferocious Jungle Cat and Dirty Talker to name a few) one wonders how this festival could be anything less than a triumph.

“The shows are staggered and that’s the best way we can do it. It’s not perfect, but when there’s a turnover here, there’s music going on at [Duffy’s and The Bourbon], so there’s never a lull. There’s always music going on.” Which Pete says is the best part about it all for him. “It’s very cool to have three options.”

Looking to the future, Pete says he hopes to try include different elements each year, such as street performers around 14th and O, and to include typical Lincoln food to add an even more local feel, i.e Runza, Valentinos, etc. Nothing is final yet, but they’re looking forward to making plans for the years to come.

“If you’re into live music, there’s going to be something of the three [venues] that you like. You just keep moving around, and it gets people out of their box. I love it when I see Zoo Bar people at Duffy’s, and when Bourbon people come into Zoo, and Duffy’s people Bourbon. To me, it’s real healthy for the music scene.”

Not only does the amount of music that’s available make this festival so special, but the amount of pride, dedication, and love that Pete and the other venue owners have for these four days of music really makes the festival what it is.

“I hope people see bands they wouldn’t normally see- that’s another thing that’s really huge for me. Ya know, you see a band’s name on a poster 15 times, and you tell you yourself you always meant to see those guys, but this is one of those times you just gotta go see them. Even if it’s just an interesting name, check it out. It’s a great opportunity.”

Set aside at least one night this week to come out to the Zoo Bar, Duffy’s, or The Bourbon if you want to show the local music scene some love.


The artwork shown, by Shane Wiggins, will be on the Lincoln Exposed t-shirts.


  • mark

    You’ve for the days wrong. It’s Wednesday the fifth through Saturday the eighth.