About Playing with Fire

about playing with fire omahaSince 2004, Playing with Fire (PwF) has brought the highest quality musical talent to Omaha and presented it as a gift to the residents of the city. As we celebrate our 14th anniversary – our fourth season at Midtown Crossing’s Pavilion at Turner Park – the mission and spirit remains true to our intentions.

PwF founder and local entrepreneur, Jeff Davis, envisions the event to continue in the spirit he created it: To continue to put Omaha on the world map as a city that recognizes and appreciates musical talent; music that is not exclusive, but accessible for all. Davis is clear in his vision:

“The event being free integrates us and builds community. Therefore, we have always made Playing with Fire ticket-less! This opens it up to everybody without exception, and it exposes people on all walks of life to share in the discovery and celebration of music of the highest quality; music they otherwise might never encounter.”

Because of PwF, the residents of Omaha have a reputation worldwide as being the first to recognize brilliant artists. Joe Bonamassa, Vintage Trouble, Bettye LaVette and Trombone Shorty are such examples among many who were virtually unknown when they played the event. Davis continues: “Every year, people remark on the amazing quality of artists that play here. This truly makes the event unique. We do not focus on selling tickets and having a profitable name on the bill. We focus solely on what artists can provide the people of Omaha with an exceptional musical experience. We have watched people of all races, ages, and socio-economic levels socializing with one another and dancing in front of the stage. This event brings people together; it helps us experience what a diverse and integrated community looks and feels like.”

PwF has put Omaha on the world map as a city that has both vision and heart. A core principle of PwF is to help Omaha give back while having fun doing it! PwF is a 501c3 non-profit organization that supports and seeks to promote other non-profits, such as, Donate Life Nebraska and the Nebraska Chapter of the American Parkinson’s Foundation has received generously from free will gate donations. Through PwF, the Heartland Food Bank has likewise received tens of thousands of dollars from the residents of Omaha.

PwF further sees it as its responsibility to expose future generations to blues music and learn about this uniquely American art form through the Blues Ed Youth Artist Development Program. Davis emphasizes: “If you want kids to appreciate this kind of music, you need to expose them to it, educate them through master clinics and then finally give them opportunities to be recognized through performing it. Therefore we have Omaha’s local young musicians open every show!” PwF also makes it possible for the youth of Omaha to get world class teachers as many of the visiting musicians give exceptional master clinics.

PwF boosts the local economy by bringing people in from near and far. Restaurants, hotels, airlines, as well as sound and lighting companies all benefit directly from the event. Estimates project that the aggregated sales from the PwF shows for produce upward to $100,000 in addition to what is generated for the non-profits. A true win-win for all!

PwF would not exist without the countless volunteers who work long hours to make the shows happen each year. The volunteers commonly mention their enjoyment of camaraderie supporting the music they love that the event offers and the opportunity to experience team work in ways that invigorate and inspire. The volunteers come back year after year, and look forward to doing some good for the community while having a great time doing it.

PwF doesn’t want to compromise the vision of providing the music for free.  PwF hopes that the citizens of the city will find reasons to support this local gem generously. Your financial gifts to PwF will help secure the continuation of this annual event, and you will become one of our special fans we acknowledge as a “FRIEND of PwF”.

Your generous donation today will help Playing with Fire remain a gift to the city of Omaha securing economic growth to businesses and pleasure and enjoyment to its residents while exposing all too unique talent, world-class musical experiences, education, and community building in action.

Thank YOU for being a fan and joining our journey in keeping the fire burning.

Quick Facts:

  • Omaha’s only FREE music festival celebrates its 14th anniversary in 2017!
  • A non-profit, all-volunteer music festival established in 2004
  • Draws 8,000 to 10,000 people to each event
  • Family-friendly entertainment

Achievements & Accolades:

  • Gained more than $41,000 and more than 6,000 lbs. of food for the Food Bank for the Heartland
  • Offered unequalled performance opportunities to the bands of BluesEd youth artist program, and coordinated multiple clinics with performing artists
  • Features top quality, nationally and internationally acclaimed musicians and homegrown local and regional talent
  • Winner of the 2007 Omaha Arts & Entertainment Award for Best Local Show in the Live Music category
  • Mayor Mike Fahey presented Davis the Key to the City of Omaha at the end of the inaugural season for, as Mayor Fahey stated, “his vision, support, and promotion of the summertime events.”

PwF/Artist Merchandise and Other Items for Sale

  • PwF and artist’s merchandise are for sale at the PwF & Artist Merch tents at all concerts.
  • Artists are very generous with their time to sign merchandise at the end of their performance.
  • PwF T-shirts, koozies and other desired merchandise are available at affordable prices; all proceeds go toward funding the free concert series.
  • In addition, PwF approved organizations, such as BluesED and Blues Society of Omaha are provided ‘free vendor fee’ merchandise tents and sell desired merchandise such as CD’s, hats, and memberships.
  • All organizations selling merchandise or consumable goods must be approved by PwF. Contact us for more information.

PwF Volunteers

PwF appreciates and honors all our volunteers who give countless hours of labor and support to help to keep the concert series alive and free.

If you have special talents that you want to offer PwF production, the Street Team, yearly promotions, day of show, etc, please let us know! Contact our PwF Volunteer Coordinator for more information.

Keeping Playing with Fire a FREE Concert

A primary part of the our mission is to keep the PwF concert series FREE to integrate us and build community. Playing with Fire receives a portion of its funding through grants such as Nebraska Arts Council, Douglas County Visitor Improvement Fund, the generous support of sponsors, donors and countless volunteer hours.

Every person can give financial support to PwF as all dollars add up to help cover the cost of keeping this a free concert series for all people to enjoy.

Your financial support means you are a special fan and supporter of PwF; to become a donor today, become a “FRIEND of PwF”. To learn more about supporting PwF as a sponsor, please email us.

Playing with Fire’s Artistic Talent

  • Since 2013, Playing with Fire artistic works is a collaboration of a vision of the PwF Team and graphics designer Tony Bilek. In 2017, we brought on our new website developer Kim Bultsma of Content a la mode.
  • The popular “Saxman” that hangs with PwF was created by graphics designer and Levi William’s former drummer Ben Johnson.
  • The ever present trademark “PwF” logo was created by Mitch Tennison, past graphics designer for Playing with Fire.
  • Inspiration for the concert series name came from the original artwork titled, “Playing with Fire” (guitar player) created by artist Jean Mason and is still incorporated into many PwF graphics.

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