#TBT: The Waiting Room: Book It and They Will Come; Conor Oberst (SOLD OUT), Har Mar Superstar headline anniversary show…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , — @ 11:35 am March 9, 2017

Marc Leibowitz, left, and Jim Johnson a few days before the March 9, 2007, grand opening of The Waiting Room Lounge.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Has it really been 10 years? Guess it has, though it doesn’t seem like it.

When the venue opened March 9, 2007, there was never any doubt in my mind that The Waiting Room would still be in operation a decade later. And sure enough, here we are. The club is bigger and better than ever, and arguably was the keystone on which the Benson revitalization was built upon.

I’m not going to get all maudlin and nostalgic about the club or the people behind it (I’ll save that for The Reader article, which I’m hoping to write for the June issue). Instead, here’s the original interview with Waiting Room founders Marc Leibowitz and Jim Johnson from the March 8 2007 issue of The Reader (and entry on Lazy-i.com) where the dynamic duo explain why they built the club and their plans for the future.

Actually, before we get to that, tonight is the official 10th Anniversary show featuring Conor Oberst and The Felice Brothers. This one has been sold out for a long time. The club is having an invitation only celebration prior to that show, though everyone is invited to the 10th Anniversary After Party featuring Har Mar Superstar at Reverb Lounge. Tickets are still available for that one for $10, but I suggest you buy them before it, too, is sold out. Har Mar starts at 11 p.m.

Now let’s step into the Wayback machine to March 8, 2007…

The Waiting Room: Book It and They Will Come
from Lazy-i.com, March 8, 2007

A mere month after taking possession of the building that used to house Marnie’s Place, D Dubs and the legendary Lifticket Lounge, The Waiting Room in the heart of Benson is ready for business.

Its owners — Jim Johnson and Marc Leibowitz — are ready for business as well.

Since getting the keys from the landlord, a visibly worn but excited Johnson has spent 12 hours a day every day cleaning, painting and repairing the facility, from building a gorgeous new bar to upgrading the stage to remodeling the bathrooms, and he’s not through yet. One week prior to its grand opening more work still needed to be done. The Pepsi guy was scheduled to show up the next morning, more tables and chairs were on the way, a collection of posters from past One Percent Productions shows (what the duo is known for) had yet to be hung and the booze hadn’t arrived yet (nor had their liquor license).

But the most important element — the venue’s monster stage, sound and lighting system — was in place and ready for lift-off. Using an iPod plugged into the soundboard, Johnson and Leibowitz ran a brief test of the system, playing tracks by Red House Painters, The Replacements and Frontier Trust, finally settling on Beck’s Sea Change. Even with one of the large stage speakers still yet to be hooked up, the sound was pristine — huge and full-bodied — and very loud.

“It’ll be even louder when the bands are playing,” Leibowitz said. “It’s basically a supped-up version of Sokol Underground’s PA in a room half the size. It has the same speakers, but the amps are better. The monitors are the same, the board is a lot better and there are twice as many stage lights.”

Enormous subwoofers are mounted beneath the stage, surrounded by 5,000 pounds of sand used to dampen vibration. Running the board will be soundman Jason Churchill from the Satellite Blues Band, who has been working sound at One Percent shows for the past couple years. “We thought he had a good sound from the get-go,” Leibowitz said. “He’s used to working with large bands. We bought his PA, he sold his cube truck and now this is his home.”

It’s a first-class set-up that will quickly be recognized as one of the best performance rooms in the city. And unlike Sokol Underground, where large metal poles always block your view, all sight lines are unobstructed.

Beyond the stage and sound, the lounge itself sports a clean, comfortable, lived-in feel, from the booths along the south wall to the pinball-machine room in the back. The place even boasts two sets of restrooms — one by the pinball room, the other to the right of the stage. Johnson will get to know them intimately as he’ll be the guy cleaning them every morning after what he hopes will be plenty of use.

Although lifted from a Fugazi song, the club’s name — The Waiting Room — is appropriate for reasons beyond sheer tribute. Leibowitz and Johnson waited 11 years to open the club.

“We thought in 1996 that we’d find the right place within a year,” Johnson said. “We figured we could do shows as One Percent Productions for awhile and prove that we could make enough money to convince a bank to give us a loan. Eleven years later, and we realized it wasn’t that easy.”

Part of the reason for the delay was that they were too “picky.” Over the years they considered venues in the Old Market, along Farnam St., in South Omaha and even the building that currently houses Sullivan’s. Then this last December Johnson stepped into Marnie’s Place at 6212 Maple St. and talked with the building’s owner. Within weeks, he was handed the keys.

“One reason we chose this location was because it was affordable,” Leibowitz said. “Every other place we looked at cost too much money. And we like Benson. A lot of people that go to our shows live around here.”

Friday night’s opening will feature Art in Manila (a new band fronted by Orenda Fink, who has released albums on Saddle Creek Records), Lawrence band 4th of July and folk band Black Squirrels. The following night, punk bands Bombardment Society, Now Archimedes!, and The Stay Awake take the stage. Sunday night’s show is a special invitation-only affair that will feature one of the area’s biggest acts.

That’s three nights of indie and punk bands, and although One Percent built its rep on indie music, Johnson and Leibowitz know that they’ll have to reach beyond that genre to keep the bar open, especially with Saddle Creek Records’ mammoth Slowdown entertainment complex opening downtown in just a few months.

“We’re not indie music promoters; we’re independent promoters,” Leibowitz said. “Indie music got us where we are today, but we now book more metal and hardcore than anyone in town.”

“These days, I’m really getting into country music,” Johnson said, adding that had someone stepped into the building anytime over the past month, they would have heard plenty of pedal steel along with the hammers and saws.

“We want to book whatever people want to come see,” Leibowitz said. “Yes, the indie shows that can fit into this room will be here. But there also will be some bands that we would have booked at Mick’s — like Jolie Holland and Dave Dondero. We want to do the Americana stuff that the Sunday Roadhouse series is known for. We’ve been offered jazz and reggae shows in the past and had no room for them. Now we do. It’ll be all across the board.”

Which begs the question how One Percent will be able to book Sokol, Slowdown and their own club without an obvious conflict of interest. Leibowitz said The Waiting Room isn’t in those venues’ league.

“The competition will be between Sokol, Scottish Rite Hall and Slowdown. All really cater to the same size shows,” he said, adding that economics differentiate the three. Sokol is cheap to operate. “From what we’ve been told, Slowdown could be more expensive, and Scottish Rite is very expensive.”

Where an artist plays will depend on what the artist wants out of a show. “They may want to play a less expensive room that allows them to walk out with more cash,” Leibowitz said. “On the other hand, from a production standpoint, nothing will touch Slowdown. It’ll have the nicest stuff in town. It comes down to expenses, availability and capacity, and I can push artists only so far in one direction.”

For example, Leibowitz said he would prefer to have the upcoming Andrew Bird show at The Scottish Rite Hall. “It would have been amazing,” he said, “but the economics of Sokol Underground made more sense to them.”

As you can tell, despite the new bar Leibowitz’s focus will remain on growing One Percent Productions. Johnson will be dedicated to running The Waiting Room full-time. “You won’t see the two of us running around everywhere like before. We want hands-on control of this bar.”

The whole point of having their own club was to be able to do it their way. Every time they started booking shows at a new venue, they’ve brought a list of suggestions to improve its business. “We asked Sokol to repaint, put in some lighting in the room adjacent to the main room and add seating so people could sit down and drink. No one listened,” Leibowitz said. “We went into the Saddle Creek Bar and said ‘Make it sound right. Don’t add more speakers, make it better. ‘ At O’Leaver’s I walked out of one show (a performance by the band Bella Lea) embarrassed. I can’t put a delicate sounding band in there.”

“We never held any of our own cards at those other bars,” Johnson said. “Here, we have control of our own destiny. We can make it the way we want to make it. After doing 800 shows, we think we’ve determined what this town needs.”

With that level of control, a risky proposition like opening a bar is a chance they’re willing to take. “We’ve proven with Sokol that people will come if you book the right shows,” Leibowitz said. “O’Leaver’s has proven that, too. We know if we bring in bands people want to see, they’ll come. — Lazy-i.com, March 8, 2007

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More trivia: That was a busy night back in 2007 even if you weren’t at The Waiting Room. Kite Pilot, Razz the Kid and Or Does It Explode played at The Saddle Creek Bar. Or Does It Explode was a band that featured Robert Little and Matt Stamp from Mariannes, Tim from Latitude Longitude, and Pat D from RTO and Cactus Nerve Thang. $5, 9 p.m. The Terminals were playing the Black Shoe Bash and Dance Party at the Bemis Underground with Brimstone Howl and Denver’s The Machine Gun Blues, and The Take Action! Tour was happening down at Sokol Auditorium with The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, Emery, Scary Kids Scaring Kids, A Static Lullaby, and Kaddisfly… Ah, those were the days…

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

#TBT: Jan. 31, 2007: The Wait Is Over; Turnpike Troubadours tonight…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , , , — @ 3:02 pm January 26, 2017

In beautiful Downtown Benson..

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

This truly is a landmark year for Omaha’s music scene as two of its prominent music venues are celebrating 10-year anniversaries.

When The Waiting Room was announced a decade ago this month it was a surprise to many. We knew the dudes at One Percent Productions were looking for a place to call their own rather than to continue renting Sokol Underground; but few people knew where they were looking. There had been rumors that the Sokol facility was in their cross hairs along with the Saddle Creek Bar (can you believe at one time both The Slowdown and One Percent were looking at the Metcalf Park area for their locations?).

I wonder how The Waiting Room and The Slowdown will celebrate their anniversaries… We’ll just have to wait and see. For now, step back into the Lazy-i vaults and relieve this announcement all over again…

Column 112: The Wait Is Over
One Percent to Open Music Venue
Lazy-i, Jan. 31, 2007

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.” — Lazy-i, Jan. 31, 2007

* * *

So what’s going on at The Waiting Room tonight? So-called “dirt country” band Turnpike Troubadours plays TWR tonight with Dalton Domino. $30, 9 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2017 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

 

Lazy-i

Reverb: Omaha’s Mid-Century live music lounge (in the column); and how many bars are in Benson, anyway?

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:01 pm October 2, 2014

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

A look inside the new Reverb Lounge as well as some Q&A with one of its owners, Jim Johnson, is the subject of my column this week. Jim talks about his vision for the club and why One Percent decided to open another bar literally feet away from two other bars they own. It’s in this week’s issue of The Reader and online right here.

As I say in the column, I foresee that I’ll be spending a lot of time at Reverb. As Omaha continues to get bigger and bigger, I’m spending more and more time in a smaller geographical location — i.e., Benson. Back in the old days, going to shows would mean driving to way south to Sokol, to downtown Omaha, out to The Asylum on West Center, and so on. These days most of my time is spent on Maple Street, with the occasional trek to O’Leaver’s. I haven’t been to The Slowdown in a few months (due to a combination of factors including 1) going to fewer mid-week shows, 2) Slowdown booking more private functions on weekends, along with 3) Slowdown booking fewer indie shows).

My coverage is definitely becoming too Benson focused, both in this blog and in my column. There is a world west of 72nd Street, though these days, I rarely step foot in it. And with clubs like Reverb opening, I’m less apt to.

So what’s the current bar count in Benson? Let’s see (not counting restaurants that serve booze): Jerry’s, Full House, Beercade, Krug Park, The Waiting Room, Burke’s, 1912, The Sydney, The Musette, St. Andrews, Benson Brewery, Infusion, Jake’s, The Barley Street and now Reverb. That’s 15 (and I’m probably missing something). That’s a lot of bars in about a half-mile stretch of road.

You have to ask yourself if there’s enough people to keep them all afloat.

BTW, news to me (though probably news to no one else), Jim told me that The Waiting Room is only open when an event or show is booked. Did not know that.

Some other comments that didn’t make it into the column:

— There will be tables and chairs added to Reverb’s concert space when appropriate. Jim is even considering adding row seating for some performances.

— There are no TVs in Reverb, nor video games or pinball.

— Jim said they’ll be adding some “sound treatment” to the concert room in the near future.

Again, you really need to check it out, whether there’s a show scheduled (check out their website to see) or not. And man, they make a potent mai tai.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2014 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i

The Waiting Room turns 5 with Criteria, Little Brazil; Lincoln’s Good Speaker Fest tonight; Icky Blossoms tomorrow…

Category: Blog — Tags: , , — @ 2:58 pm March 9, 2012
Marc Leibowitz, left, and Jim Johnson stand in The Waiting Room just prior to the venue's grand opening in 2007.

Marc Leibowitz, left, and Jim Johnson stand in The Waiting Room just prior to the venue's grand opening in 2007.

by Tim McMahan, Lazy-i.com

Seems like only yesterday that Jim Johnson and Marc Leibowitz were standing in the empty, broken down building that once housed the legendary Lifticket Lounge at 6212 Maple St. and talked about how they were going to transform it into their dream music club. That was five years ago. Within its first year of operation, The Waiting Room gained a rep as one of (if not the best) place in town to see rock shows, fueled by stellar bookings from the owners’ own One Percent Productions, fantastic bar service and a killer sound system.

Said Johnson in this 2007 Lazy-i profile: “Here, we have control of our own destiny. We can make it the way we want to make it. After doing 800 shows, we think we’ve determined what this town needs.”

Little did they know that their efforts would be the driving force behind Benson’s transformation into one of the city’s most vibrant entertainment districts. Tonight the guys — along with everyone who’s enjoyed a show there — will celebrate The Waiting Room’s five-year anniversary, and five stellar performers are helping blow out the candles: Little Brazil, The Photo Atlas, Great American Desert, DJ Kobrakyle and the night’s headliner, Criteria (yes, that Criteria). Expect a crowd. $5, 9 p.m. Hopefully we’ll all be doing it again in 2017.

Also tonight (but in Lincoln) it’s the debut of the Good Speaker Fest, a night of music organized and curated by Darren Keen, a.k.a. The Show Is the Rainbow a.k.a. Bad Speler a.k.a. Touch People. We’re talking 21 bands performing at three Lincoln establishments: The Bourbon Theater, the recently opened Mix: Bar and Arcade and the legendary Yia Yia’s Pizza. It all starts at 6, and admission is only $7. L. Kent Wolgamott’s got all the deets in this Ground Zero cover story.

And then tomorrow night (Saturday) it’s Icky Blossoms in Slowdown’s big room with Midtown Marauders and Pony Wars. As mentioned in yesterday’s Icky interview, the goal is for the band to generate as much cash as possible to help get them to SXSW in Austin next week. $7, 9 p.m.

Also Saturday night down at fabulous O’Leaver’s, Saudi Arabia (formerly The Dinks) plays with The Eightysevens. $5, 9:30 p.m.

And over at Stir Lounge in CB The Whipkey Three plays with Fizzle Like a Flood. $5, 9 p.m.

And the party continues at The Waiting Room with Landing on the Moon, Moscow Mule, The Big Deep and Vago. $7, 9 p.m.

And down at The Barley Street Tavern, Midwest Dilemma opens for Les Jupes. $5, 9 p.m.

Finally, Sunday night at The Waiting Room it’s Eisley (Equal Vision Records) with Tallhart & Christie Dupree. $13, 9 p.m.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily at Lazy-i.com — an online music magazine that includes feature interviews, reviews and news. The focus is on the national indie music scene with a special emphasis on the best original bands in the Omaha area. Copyright © 2012 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

Lazy-i