Lincoln Exposed: Winter festival showcases community among local music scene

Advertisement for Lincoln Exposed 2017 created by Lincoln graphic designer C Balta.
Advertisement for Lincoln Exposed 2017 created by Lincoln graphic designer C Balta.

Thirteen years ago, a small event was conceived in Lincoln after cold winter conditions consistently kept downtown streets empty in the late months of the winter. Zoo Bar owner Pete Watters came up with the idea to host a music festival to bring people out for live music to cure their winter blues. The first Lincoln Exposed event was held over 2 days at the Zoo Bar and featured about 8 bands.

13 years later, Lincoln Exposed has grown to be a regionally renowned festival because of its dedication to featuring exclusively Lincoln acts. The annual event, held the first weekend of February, now runs over four nights and 5 different venues downtown, and for the third year in a row the festival has announced a lineup of over 100 acts that all call Lincoln home.

“The winters are usually dead when it’s so freezing, people don’t want to go out in the middle of February,” said Cortney Kirby, marketing coordinator at the Bourbon who has been involved with organizing Lincoln Exposed for the past three years. “But my favorite memories of the festival are grabbing my friends, linking arms in the cold and running from venue to venue. It’s freezing outside, but it’s cozy inside watching the bands.”

Advertisement for Lincoln Exposed 2015.
Advertisement for Lincoln Exposed 2015.

The contrast between the frigid temperature and the warmth inside the venues is a unique aspect of the festival. Kirby described it as not just a physical warmth but also a camaraderie among attendees in the close space, safe from the cold. Each venue showcases four to 7 bands every night, and rather than putting bands of the same genre at the same venue, the nightly bills each feature a variety of sounds in no particular order. 

We totally switch it up and don’t like to keep all genres in one spot,” Kirby said. “This means that bands have the opportunity to play with bands that they wouldn’t normally play with. When I started out in my band (Freakabout), that gave us the opportunity to meet and network with other bands that I had never heard of.”

Kirby said these networking opportunities are what elevates the impact of Lincoln Exposed on a more regional level when bands work together to promote each other in various places through their connections.

In addition to over 100 music acts ranging in age and talent, the festival partners with local breweries and businesses each year for promotion. Local graphic designer C Balta has created distinct festival posters in the past years with wild colors and an exposed Abraham Lincoln that have defined the equally eclectic festival.

In the cold winter, Lincoln Exposed is a sure way to be simultaneously exposed to freezing Midwestern temperatures and warm, welcoming music community. Catch Lincoln’s wintertime gem this year Feb. 7-10 at various downtown music venues.



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