07.23.2009 / FREE Music All Summer Long...

Who ever said water and fire don't mix? 2009 marks the 6th annual blues concert series on the Riverfront, Playing With Fire, sponsored by First National Bank. Since 2004, Playing With Fire has showcased some of the world's best blues musicians and the 2009 concert slate is no exception. The series features five concerts held between May and September - with performances by both local and international blues bands. Each concert is held at the Lewis and Clark Landing with free parking and plenty of food and beverage vendors.

"Playing with Fire has showcased some of the world's best blues musicians."

The August show - scheduled for August 15th at 4pm - features the Edgar Winter Band, Scott McCord and The Bonafide Truth, Son of '76 and The Watchmen, and The Side Effects.

The idea for Playing With Fire came from businessman Jeff Davis. As a blues music enthusiast, Jeff first approached the City of Omaha in 2004 with the idea, found several sponsors and put the first series together. "The fans all love it, and the attendance increased at each show," Davis said. "Last year we had about 10,000 people attend our July show."

Davis spends half the year working out the details of the series, including the selection of the bands for each show. It's a fun job for a blues lover. "I listen to about 300 CDs, go to musical events such as the Maple Blues awards in Toronto, and then make recommendations to our committee," Davis said. "It's not difficult to get the bands to agree to play in the series. Omaha has a great music scene and an excellent reputation."

Davis said he hopes Playing With Fire will become one of the top 10 music series within the next five years. "We're already one of the larger free blues festival series, and we think Omaha can be the music center of the Midwest, if not the country," he said. "All of the components are here to do it, and we already get people who fly in for our show from across the country."

Davis emphasized that Playing With Fire welcomes people of all ages - he considers it the perfect family event and wants to encourage people to make it part of a family entertainment weekend. "We think our show dovetails really well with other events in the city," he said. "We'd love families to make a day of it and visit the zoo or other attraction in the morning and then attend the concert at night. It's one more component of a great entertainment scene in Omaha."

Content provided by Greater Omaha Conventions & Visitors Bureau.

Take a quick look at the band bios from the July show and mark your calendars to come join the fun in August. For more information, visit

Tommy Castro Band
In a short time, Castro went from performing at a tiny saloon to opening act on B.B. King's national tours and international acclaim. Castro won two 2008 Blues Foundation awards, the BB King Blues Entertainer of the Year and the Contemporary Blues Album of the Year for his disc Painkiller. Painkiller was also voted BluesWax 2007 Album of the Year, marking Castro's fourth BluesWax award. Blues Access describes Castro's appeal: "If you're looking for driving blues-rock with soulful vocals and a Southern accent, your search is over. This is party music, good-time music…"

Final contenders in the 2008 International Blues Challenge, France band Awek presents a playful and infectious style of blues. The best blues from Toulouse is a foursome (guitar, bass, drums and harmonica) with six CD releases and more than 10 years of performing. From their website, Serge Sciboz (BCR La Revue) writes about Awek, "it's a treat for the ear-drums and the brain-cells to see them on stage, with their sensitive blues always on target. You never emerge unscathed, when, one ebony black night, you cross the path of Awek and their tribal blues."

Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat with special guest Alan Haynes
Big, blistering Texas blues comes to town. Often included in 'Top 10 Guitarists' lists of several publications, Jim Suhler (backup guitarist for George Thorogood for more than 9 years) brings the Beat and his acoustic and electric guitar talents. The band's website claims they have been "terrorizing clubs, theaters and festivals alike with their flamethrower brand of blues/rock." Penrith Live Blues, UK calls the band’s live show, "… high-revved, rolling and tumbling Texas blues/rock at its very best." Special guest Haynes, (self-proclaimed on his website as, "a killer guitarist and a soulful singer, deeply dedicated to the Blues...and also he just happens to be a nice guy") has played with a long list of notable blues-icians; Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert Collins, Bonnie Raitt, Robert Cray to name just a few.

BluesED Band/Backer's Blues
Backer's Blues (BB) evolved from the BluesEd intern program into a performance group. BB is a blend of Omaha and Council Bluffs musicians, who's genre might be considered "Electric Blues." With strong guitar, vocals, percussion and keyboard play they have meshed into what the BluesEd program is all about.

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