Playing with Fire Past Artists

Take a trip down memory lane with our past artists!

Since 2004, Playing with Fire has been fortunate to bring our fans a talented array of brilliant musicians. Many are international artists, most are nationally-ranked award winners and some are superb local favorites. Enjoy a trip down memory lane of our past talent role:


Saturday /  July 14

Jack de Keyzer

Worldwide performing bluesman and master of smoldering guitar skills, soulful singing and rocking blues, Jack de Keyzer is, according to Blues Revue magazine, “a coveted super-hero in Canada…”

A celebrated musician, de Keyzer has been nominated for the Juno (Blues Album of the Year) 5 times and won the Juno twice in 2003 and 2010. Jack has won seven Maple Blues Awards (three of which were Guitarist of the Year,) first place in the International Songwriting Competition and won CBC’s Great Canadian Blues Award from a poll of radio listeners.

Bob Dylan claims, “If Jack de Keyzer was from Chicago, New York or LA, he’d be famous.”

Monkey Junk

Dubbed “The Sultans of Swamp R&B,” MonkeyJunk is nominated for a 2018 Juno (Canada’s equivalent of a Grammy) for Blues Album of the Year.

Constantly evolving and continually pushing boundaries and blurring genre lines, the Ottawa Ontario-based trio has added an edge to their music by incorporating soul, funk, swampy blues & rock with thoughtful and intelligent lyrics.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary in 2018, MonkeyJunk has won a collective 20 Maple Blues Awards, two Canadian Independent Music Awards, a Blues Music Award (USA), and a JUNO Award for Blues Album of the Year in 2012.

Heather Newman Band

Omaha watched Heather Newman do the blues since 2006, as she performed with the BluesED youth program at the age of ten. After learning guitar and performing solo acoustic folk music shows on her own she began to look for musicians with whom she could share her passion.  The search took her to Kansas City where she gained experience in touring, writing and recording with other well known KC musicians before forming her own band in 2017.

Heather’s powerful and striking vocals along with her bass playing have earned her impressive reviews from the blues world. Blues Blast magazine’s review of her first studio album, Burn Me Alive, said, Heather Newman has written a solid batch of tunes – and when they are fleshed out by her compelling voice, every song becomes noteworthy…her solo career is off to rousing start. Make sure you jump on the bandwagon now.”

BluesEd: The Redwoods

The Redwoods band is made up of powerful musicians from the Omaha area, aged 12-18. The band is part of the Blues Society of Omaha’s youth program, BluesEd.  Each musician has an impressive record of accomplishments including being recognized as All-State musicians, participating in MAYJO, being selected for Nebraska Young Lions and receiving awards for outstanding musicians at local competitions.

The band has performed at many venues across the Omaha Metro area.  Additionally, they traveled to Memphis in January 2018 to perform at the International Blues Challenge Youth Showcase. The Redwoods play diverse Blues-infused classic rock, funk, and traditional Blues.

Members include: Carmel Hemphill (vocals), Hanila VanKirk (Vocals), Hunter Neumayer (Guitar), Tommy Kaplan (Guitar), Henry Tomsu (Bass), Grace Calderon (sax) ​and Mike McDermott (Drums).

Saturday / August 25

Paul Reddick

Hooked on Delta blues before his teen years, Paul Reddick’s songwriting, power vocals, and harp skills over the years have catapulted him into a formidable force in blues music.

Nominated for a Juno award in the category four previous times, Paul Reddick finally scored the Blues Album of the Year in 2017! The Toronto-based singer/songwriter won for his highly-praised album, Ride The One. 2017 also marked Reddick’s 25th year as a recording artist, as his band The Sidemen’s self-titled debut came out in 1992. Their fourth and final album, 2001’s Rattlebag, won three Maple Blues Awards, including Album of the Year, and Songwriter of the Year, and earned a Juno nomination. Ride The One is his fourth solo record.

American Blues Scene calls his latest release, “one hell of a ride.”

Blackie and the Rodeo Kings

No matter what you call their music— folk-rock, blues, roots, alternative country, REAL music – this Juno award-winning Canadian band is truly in a class by itself. Blackie and the Rodeo Kings originally formed in 1996 when members Colin Linden, Stephen Fearing and Tom Wilson came together to record one tribute album to Canadian songwriter Willie P. Bennett.

Each of the members is hugely successful in his own right, with Fearing and Wilson touring and promoting their own music, and Linden, with his work as musical director on the television show Nashville.

Now 22 years, eight albums, and numerous rousing live performances later, “B.A.R.K” thrives on, much to the elation of fans who follow the band Rolling Stone magazine called “the singer-songwriter supergroup.”

Matt Cox

Midwest regional favorite and roots/blues/country songsmith, Matt Cox is a six-time Omaha Entertainment and Arts Award winner for Best Country/Americana and Best Blues.

Following his self-released debut album Folker’s Travels in 2007, he toured the western U.S. and was invited to play the SXSW festival in Austin.

Matt’s ever-growing fanbase appreciates his guitar-strumming, foot-stomping singular style of Americana, folk rock, country and blues and is eagerly awaiting his sixth album, High Places.

BluesED: Us & Them

BluesEd Youth Artist Development program band: Us and Them.

Us and Them Blues Band was selected to perform at the 2017 International Blues Challenge Youth Showcase in Memphis as a part of the Blues Society of Omaha’s BluesEd program. The 10 members of Us and Them are experienced and award winning musicians ranging in age from 11 to 17.They play an infectious show of Blues Rock emphasizing the traditional Blues values of soul, groove and improvisation.

As the largest BluesEd band, the talented members include 
Aedan Leahy (Keys), Grace Giebler (Vocal), Harry Tarr (Vocal), JJ Stiles (Guitar), Josie Jennum (Bass), Logan Hawkins (Guitar), Luke Wagner (Drums), Macy Klein (Sax), Quin Sexton (Trumpet), and Tyler Savoie (Sax).


Saturday, July 2

Sugaray Rayford

Texas bluesman, ’Big Smooth’ Sugaray Rayford started his musical career as a young 7 year old singing & playing drums in church, and his gospel influence can certainly be heard and felt in his music to this day. When Sugaray belts out a song you not only hear it, you feel it. Echoes of Muddy Waters, Otis Redding and Teddy Pendergrass can be heard with his old school vocal style. His fluid dance steps will remind you of the Legendary James Brown. As one of the lead vocalists, Sugaray has performed with internationally acclaimed Mannish Boys since 2011, the band won the 2013 Blues Music Award for Best Traditional Blues Album. Sugaray is blazing his own blues trail with six 2016 Blues Music Awards nominees, including the prestigious BB King Entertainer, Contemporary Blues Male Artist and Contemporary Blues Album for “Southside” and Song of the Year for “Southside of Town.”

Andria Simone

Andria Simone, a sweet little ‘growler’ from Toronto blew the crowds away when she performed at several Omaha venues in 2015. Her “soul-flavoured” style reflects the influence of such powerhouse singers as Janis Joplin, Tina Turner, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Etta James and Amy Winehouse. Andria and her band, ‘Those Guys’ prefer to be the explorers of what drives them than to chase any trends.Hold onto you hats when this group take the stage, they go from zero to 100 in no time!

Nick Schnebelen Band

Nick Schnebelen has blazed the blues over the past 12 years with family band Trampled Under Foot. In 2008 Nick won the International Blues Challenge, Albert King Best Guitarist of the Year award. Omaha’s own, Heather Newman stole many of hearts while growing up performing on the PwF stage as a member of BluesED. Heather continues to woo the crowds as the female vocalist for the Nick Schnebelen Band.

BluesEd Opener


Far & Wide” originally formed at the start of the 2013 BluesEd season.  The current line-up include:

  • Bryn Groenjes (keys)
  • Levi Hagen (percussion)
  • Griffin Gillen (bass)
  • Tyler Douglass (trumpet)
  • Pete Fucinaro (tenor sax)
  • Ross Grieb (guitar)
  • Evan Johnson (guitar)
  • Sophie Keplinger (vocals)
  • Chloe Moore (vocals)

Saturday, August 27

Walter Trout

Walter Trout requested Playing with Fire to produce this particular concert series to support organ donor awareness. Walter came through the ‘darkest times a human being can experience’ as he battled liver failure and a life saving transplant in Omaha at University of Nebraska Medical Center in 2014. Walter’s nominations and awards span the continent with his most recent, 2016 Blues Music Award for Rock Blues Album: Battle Scars and Song of the Year for “Gonna Live Again.” With the release of his newest album, “ALIVE in Amsterdam” PwF is honored to bring Walter back to Omaha.

Steve Hill

Montreal’s one man band extraordinaire Steve Hill is winner of the 2016 and 2015 Maple Blues Awards for Electric Act of the Year, Entertainer of the Year and Guitarist of the Year, 2015 Recording/Producer of the year and a 2015 Juno Award (Canada’s Grammy Award) winner for Blues Album of the Year. The truest definition of a one-man band; Hill performs standing up while singing and playing guitar, his feet playing bass drum, snare drum, hi-hats and with a drum stick fused to the head of his trusty guitar playing any other percussion within reach.

Levi William

Lincoln’s ‘young gun,’ Levi William is an up and coming vocalist and lead guitarist. He had his first chance to play in a bar in Lincoln, Nebraska at the age of 13.  He was able to learn from some of the best musicians around town with his countless experiences in the open stage environment. Levi’s vocal and guitar abilities are truly beyond his years, always delivered with his own special flavor. The band is made up of three equal partners with Brian Farr on bass and vocals along with Josh Topolski on drums keeps every performance fresh and lively. They bring the past, present, and future together as a tasty dish that will leave you wanting more. Brian, Josh and Levi have taken the feelings from some of the legends of the blues and wrapped them into a powerful sound that excites audiences every time they take the stage. The Levi William Band won the 2012 Nebraska Blues Challenge and represented the state in Memphis for the IBC. In 2013 Levi had the opportunity to join Shawn Holt and The Teardrops. It is not often that he has the opportunity to play with his own band so it is always magical when they take the stage. This band has grown over the past years, but always staying true to the original goal to enjoy every show and deliver Heart, Soul, and Stone Cold Blues!

BluesEd Opener

The Redwoods:

BluesEd band, The Redwoods, formed as a brand new band to BluesEd in the spring of 2016. Members include:

  • Nathan Bjoin – Drums
  • Roman Constantino – Guitar/Vocals
  • Olivia Klein – Vocals
  • Sam McDermott – Keys
  • Hunter Neumayer – Guitar/Tenor Sax
  • Madeline Reddel – Vocals
  • Henry Tomsu – Bass

2015 Playing with Fire Artists

Thursday, June 18th

  • The Campbell Brothers ~ website
  • Markey Blues ~ website
  • Blues Ed Youth Band – Voodoo Vinyl ~ website

Thursday, June 25

An Evening with Paul Deslauriers and Very Special Friends

  • The Paul Deslauriers Band  ~ website
  • Anwar Khurshid ~ website
  • Angel Forrest and Denis Coloumbe ~ website
  • Blues Ed Youth Band – Dilemma ~ website

Thursday, July 2

Sunday, July 26

Donate Life BluesFest

  • Walter Trout Band ~ website
  • Tommy Castro and The Painkillers ~ website
  • Terry Quiett Band (1x Reunion) ~ website
  • Lauren Anderson Project ~ website

Sunday, September 6

Jeff Davis Presents: Music For The City

  • Andria Simone and Those Guys ~ website
  • Freeway (Australia) ~ website
  • The OK Sisters ~ website

2014 Playing with Fire Artists

Thursday, June 26

  • Jonas & The Massive Attraction ~ website
  • The 9’s ~ website
  • Hector Anchondo ~ website
  • BluesEd: Crimson Dawn & Running with Scissors ~ website

Thursday, July 3


2013 Playing with Fire Artists

Friday / July 12

  • Headliner: Robert Randolph and The Family Band ~ website
  • Support: Ben Poole Band ~ website
  • Support: Kim Churchill ~ website

Saurday / July 13


2012 Playing with Fire Artists

Saturday / July 28

  • Headliner: Rick Vito ~ website
  • Support: Meena ~ website
  • Local: The Pounders ~ website
  • Local: Cold in Hand ~ website

2011 Playing with Fire Artists

Saturday, July 16


2010 Playing with Fire Artists

Saturday, June 19

  • Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue ~ website
  • Carolyn Wonderland ~ website
  • Hadden Sayers ~ website
  • BluesEd: Crimson Dawn & Running with Scissors ~ website

Saturday, July 17

Saturday, August 18


2009 Playing with Fire Artists

Saturday, May 16

Saturday, June 13

  • Angel Forrest ~ website
  • Trampled Under Foot ~ website
  • Mezcal Brothers ~ website
  • BlueED Band/ If All Else Fails ~ website

Saturday, July 18

  • Tommy Castro Band ~ website
  • AWEK ~ website
  • Jim Suhler & Monkey Beat with special guest Alan Haynes ~ website
  • BluesED Band/Backer’s Blues ~ website

Saturday, August 15

  • Edgar Winter Band ~ website
  • Scott McCord & The Bonafide Truth ~ website
  • Son of 76 & The Watchmen ~ website
  • BluesED Band/The Side Effects ~ website

Saturday, September 12

  • Bettye LaVette ~ website
  • Eddie Cotton, Jr. ~ website
  • Little Joe & Big Trouble ~ website
  • BluesED Band/Mojo Bag ~ website

2008 Playing with Fire Artists

May 17

  • The Maple Blues Revue ~ website
  • Garrett Mason ~ website
  • 112 North Duck ~ website
  • BluesEd Kids Band: Backer’s Blues ~ website

June 14

July 19

August 16

September 13

  • Toni Lynn Washington with special guest Junior Watson ~ website
  • Mike Goudreau Band ~ website
  • The 9’s ~ website
  • BluesEd Kids Band: All Else Fails ~ website

2007 Playing with Fire Artists

May 19

June 16

July 21

August 18

September 22


2006 Playing with Fire Artists

May 20

June 17

  • Walter Trout & The Radicals Blue House ~ website
  • Freeway ~ website
  • Blue House ~ website
  • BluesEd Band ~ website

July 15

August 11

August 12


2005 Playing with Fire Artists

Friday / May 20

Saturday / May 21

  • Sonny Landreth ~ website
  • Albert Cummings ~ website
  • Johnsen Brothers ~ website

Friday / June 3

Saturday / June 4

Friday / July 15

Saturday / July 16

Friday / August 12

  • Sarah Benck and The Robbers ~ website
  • Hadden Sayers Band ~ website

Saturday / August 13

Friday / September 9

Saturday / September 10

Sunday /September 11


2004 Playing with Fire Artists

May 22

  • Bernard Allison ~ website
  • Debbie Davies Band ~ website
  • Satellite Blues Band

June 4

July 3

August 21

  • Walter Trout and the Radicals ~ website
  • Deborah Coleman and the Thrillseekers ~ website
  • John Crews Blues ~ website

September 18

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