For followers of Omaha’s music scene, The Waiting Room is big news, and for good reason. The One Percent guys will finally have a place of their own. Add to that the opening of Slowdown this summer, and you’ve got yourself a very crowded playing field for live music.
Column 112: The Wait Is Over
One Percent to open music venue.
For the guys at One Percent Productions, a long-held dream is about to become a reality.
That dream is called The Waiting Room, a new venue slated for an early March launch at 6212 Maple St., the location of the now-defunct Marnie’s Place. The impending opening is bound to send shockwaves throughout the Omaha music scene, sending askew the delicate balance that exists among a handful of clubs that also host indie rock shows.
Why all the hoo-ha? Because The Waiting Room is owned and operated by Jim Johnson and Marc Leibowitz, the dynamic duo behind what is arguably the city’s most important promotion company, One Percent Productions — the folks who, along with Saddle Creek Records, helped forge this city’s reputation as a national indie music Mecca.
Anyone who’s known Johnson and Leibowitz over the past decade knows that they’ve spent almost as much time looking for a suitable location to open their own club as they have booking shows. Now they’ve found it in the heart of Benson.
Though it’s been talked about in hushed voices for weeks, Johnson officially confirmed the rumor a few days ago after negotiations with the landlord were signed, sealed and delivered. Details are still sketchy since he and Leibowitz only received the keys on Monday, but here’s what Johnson knows for sure:
The estimated 250-capacity club will book a wide range of music in a variety of genres, not just the indie fare that One Percent is known for. Johnson said in addition to local and national indie bands, look for more adult-oriented music, including rockabilly, country, folk, reggae, blues, and yes, even cover bands. Plans call for live music five days a week, with Leibowitz doing the lion’s share of booking.
Facility-wise, look for the usual bar accoutrements, including pool tables, pinball machines, a good jukebox, even those stupid bar-top videogames. The establishment will have a full liquor license, but no food will be served, which means — you guessed it — smoking will be permitted.
That’s all fine and dandy, but what about parking? Johnson said there’s plenty of street parking and also some parking to the south of the building, behind the hardware store.
He said the venue’s premium sound system will set it apart from all the other clubs in Omaha. “We’re spending a lot of money on the sound system,” Johnson said. “Jason Churchill, who does sound for us at Sokol Underground, is designing the system, and it will be among the best.”
But Johnson said The Waiting Room’s edge over the other guys comes from the duo’s decade of experience successfully booking bands in rooms all over town. One Percent Productions’ rep is renowned among national agents who handle the highest quality touring bands. “We’ve shown what we can do at the clubs we’ve worked with over the years,” Johnson said. “That’s really our advantage.”
So what about that name, The Waiting Room? Johnson said it’s derived from the opening track off Fugazi’s classic 1989 album, 13 Songs. The throbbing post-punk anthem sports the line: “I won’t make the same mistakes / Because I know how much time that wastes / Function is the key / In the waiting room.” It’s kind of like how the promotion company’s name came from a Jane’s Addiction song, “1%,” which has the inspiring lyric, “I’m tired of living the bosses’ dream.” The duo was toying with the idea of renaming the club The Liftticket Lounge since it’s the site of the fabled venue that hosted, among others, Nirvana and Soundgarden.
“The room has a legacy,” Johnson said. “It’s kind of cool.” In the end, they preferred to leave that legacy as part of Benson’s history.
The other burning question is how the club will impact One Percent’s ongoing promotion operations. Over the past decade, One Percent has booked nearly 1,000 shows primarily at Sokol Underground and Sokol Auditorium, but also at O’Leaver’s, The Saddle Creek Bar, The 49’r and nearby Mick’s.
Johnson said their promotion efforts won’t be affected at all, and in fact “it should allow us to do more shows at other places in town,” he said. “By offering another room, we’ll hopefully be able to get bigger and better shows. We still need Sokol and Slowdown and The Mid America Center and The Orpheum and The Rococo in Lincoln.”
In fact, tucked away in the back of the new venue will be the first official offices of One Percent Productions. “It’s going to be nice for Marc and I to be able to sit in an office together,” Johnson said. “Maybe it’ll give me the opportunity to be more involved with the live booking than I’ve been in the past. We already discuss every show over the phone, but now we’ll be able to do it face to face.”
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More info as the story develops, including an in-depth feature in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.
Tonight at O’Leaver’s, Omaha buzz band Dance Me Pregnant (They’re all I’ve been hearing about lately) is playing with Artsy Golfer (the supergroup consisting of Roger Lewis, Ryan Fox, Steph Drootin and Alan Tanner) and Bazooka Shootout. HUGE. 9:30 p.m., $5.
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