Column 54 — Happy Birthday One Percent

Category: Blog — @ 1:19 pm December 7, 2005

What was the best way to approach this story? Ten best shows? Too subjective. Ten favorite shows? Same problem. Ten most successful shows? Too much Bright Eyes. How about the 10 most important shows during the evolution of One Percent Productions? That sounded good to me, and to Johnson and Leibowitz. They worked on this list off and on (mostly off) for the past three or four weeks, and it does provide a nice, concise history of the company from its fledgling year when they did only 10 shows to last year’s more than 120. Leibowitz said he was surprised at how fast No. 500 came up. “It’s pretty nuts,” he said. “We’re riding a wave of momentum. We envisioned us opening our own space when we had 500. But if we can hit the 500th show without a club, it’s alright.”

As discussed in an earlier column, the business has changed since they started. For one thing, they no longer only book shows they want to see. “At first we booked stuff we wanted to see that no one was booking,” Leibowitz said. “Look at our first 50 show. There’s not one where I didn’t not like band. Now look at the last 100 shows — there’s 10 that we really wanted to see.”

“For us, to make this a full-time job, we can’t just pick and choose,” Johnson said.

“There’s politics in everything,” Leibowitz added. “If we pass on smaller shows, someone else will do them. If we need to work an extra night a week to make sure someone doesn’t pop up and become promoters, that’s what we do.”

How big they can grow their company is anyone’s guess. There’s talk that they’ll be working with Saddle Creek to book the new Slowdown venue while at the same time, keeping their hooks in Sokol and expanding the number of shows they’ll put on at larger facilities such as The Mid America Center and The Orpheum. What will this list look like when they hit 1,000?

Column 54: One Percent Turns 500
The independent promoters look back.
Thursday’s Liz Phair concert at Sokol Auditorium marks the 500th show put together by One Percent Productions since Ani Difranco graced that same stage in October ’97. While everyone touts Saddle Creek Records as the driving force behind the current state of the Omaha music scene, I also point to Marc Leibowitz and Jim Johnson – the guys behind One Percent — for bringing Omaha the music that’s influenced so many successful local bands. To commemorate the occasion, I asked the dynamic duo to list the 10 most important shows from the past 500. Without further ado:
1. Ani Difranco w/Indigenous, 10/24/97, Sokol Auditorium. It was One Percent Production’s first show as a company, and it was a sell out. “It helped that she was on the cover of SPIN the week after we booked it,” Leibowitz said. The $17-a-ticket show would give the team momentum moving forward, and they’d need it. “It paid for the first Jayhawks show, where we lost money, and a couple others as well,” Leibowitz said.
2. Built to Spill w/The Delusions and Bright Eyes, 5/7/99, Sokol Underground. Legendary if only for the amount of cigarette smoke that filled the stuffy basement venue, the show was booked without the help of Saddle Creek Records personnel, who One Percent had worked with on a number of early productions. “The agent called me and said ‘Let’s do a show,'” Leibowitz said. “We knew we must be doing something right.” Show highlight: Oberst played his entire set in the dark.
3. Guided by Voices w/Sensefield, 4/8/00, Sokol Underground. One of Leibowitz’s “top-5 favorite bands,” he first approached The Music Box to host it, but they passed having never heard of GBV. “It’s a prime example of why The Music Box isn’t around today,” Leibowitz said. Colorful sidenote: While most large bands have a guitar tech, GBV had a “beer tech,” whose only job was to fetch beer for the band.
4. Wilco w/Preston School of Industry, 7/29/02, Sokol Auditorium. Leibowitz had just moved back to Omaha from North Carolina, and the estranged Jim Johnson had rejoined the company. “It marked the beginning of Round 2 of One Percent,” Leibowitz said, “and it was a good start”… even though the show didn’t sell out.
5. Interpol w/Calla, 1/15/03, Sokol Underground. Though there was plenty of buzz about Interpol among music insiders, Leibowitz and Johnson didn’t expect the capacity crowd that showed up, especially in the heart of one of the worst winter storms to hit Omaha that year. “It snowed hard the entire time,” Johnson said. “At 12:30, you walked out of there and wondered how you were gonna get home.” Perhaps one of the best-sounding shows heard in the Underground.
6. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs w/SSION and Beep, Beep, 4/5/04, Sokol Auditorium. Originally slated as an Underground show, its quick sell-out prompted a move to the upstairs auditorium. Most remember Karen O’s skin-tight dress and Nick Zinner’s (a.k.a. Edward Sissorhand’s) buzzsaw guitar. The after-party in the Underground following the show is the stuff of legend.
7. The Arcade Fire w/Kite Pilot, 11/29/04, Sokol Underground. Booked before the band broke big in the U.S., One Percent got them for a mere $150 guarantee. “The agent laughed at me. He knew I was underestimating the show,” Leibowitz said. The band still walked away with a ton of money, thanks to a sweet back-end deal.
8. Bright Eyes and The Faint, 5/11/05, Mid America Center in Council Bluffs. One Percent’s first arena show drew 3,200 ticket buyers and stands as their largest-drawing production to date. The duo first approached The Qwest Center to host it, “but they didn’t want to work with us,” Leibowitz said. Thanks to a recommendation by 89.7 The River’s Sophia John, the MAC took the show. Look for more One Percent/MAC shows in the future
9. Bright Eyes, Spoon, Dave Dondero, Willy Mason, 11/11/05, The Orpheum. “It was monumental because of the facility, which is big and amazing,” Leibowitz said. It was also arguably the best Omaha Bright Eyes show this year.
10. Liz Phair w/The Fray and Aqualung, 12/8/05, Sokol Auditorium. In addition to being their 500th show “it’s safe to say we’ve always wanted to book a Liz Phair show,” Leibowitz said.

Honorable mention: Har Mar Superstar at O’Leaver’s 10/24/04 (Leibowitz: “He (Har Mar) made out with every girl in the room.”); Sebadoh at Sokol Underground 8/20/04 (Johnson: “One of the only times I’ve been star struck.”); Ween at Sokol Auditorium 11/29/05 (Leibowitz: “I said I could retire after booking Ween. Well, I’m not retiring”).

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