The legendary Mavis Staples, one of the greatest women in post-World War II American music and one of the greatest singers of all time, will headline ZooFest 2019 in July.
A Rock and Roll Hall of Famer with her family group, The Staple Singers, Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award-winner and National Heritage Fellowship Award recipient, Staples and her band will take the featured 9 p.m. slot on July 20, the Saturday night of the annual festival outside the Zoo Bar on 14th Street.
Staples, now 79, last appeared in Lincoln three years ago when she played a short set opening for Bob Dylan at Pinewood Bowl. But she’s not played a featured show in the city, having canceled a Bourbon Theatre booking five years ago.
Most ZooFest performers have played inside the long-running roots music club. Staples, however, has not. Neither had last year’s headliner, Los Lobos, who drew the biggest crowd in the history of the festival.
“After Los Lobos, I thought what can I do now?,” Zoo Bar owner Pete Watters said of booking Staples. “I’ve always wanted to have her. I called up the agent ... and said ‘who should we do next?’ There were four that we picked out that we could do. Mavis was the biggest one on the list for me.”
Staples will be joined on the Saturday bill by James Harman, the L.A.-based bluesman who played ZooFest a couple years ago, Zoo regulars the Bruce Katz Band, the Bottle Tops and the Blues Education Program.
The Saturday night show will be closed by a Zoo newcomer -- Empire Strikes Brass, a high-energy North Carolina brass funk-rock band. “I saw one YouTube video and I wanted them,” Watters said.
Mike Zito, the 2018 Blues Music Award for Blues Rock Artist of the Year, will have the 9 p.m. featured slot on July 19, the Friday of the festival. Zito will likely be accompanied by his horn section for the show.
Junior Brown, the country "guit-steel" master who captivated the fest in 2013, will be back on Friday night as will The Paladins. Omaha funk party band Satchel Grande will close the evening.
Advance tickets for ZooFest 2019 will be $30 for Friday, $50 for Saturday and $65 for both days. Tickets will go on sale on April 1.