Column 117: The Waiting Room opens for business; Ladyfinger tonight…

Category: Blog — @ 6:37 pm March 8, 2007

This week’s column is actually a feature about The Waiting Room, which was originally slated to be a cover story for The Reader. The editors decided it would make a better “expanded” Lazy-i column. What you’ll read in The Reader is an abbreviated version of this story, where Johnson and Leibowitz discuss their new club and the role it’ll play in the future of the ever-growing Omaha music scene.

So, go read the story here, now, and consider the following as an afterward:

History points to the challenges these guys face just keeping the place open. One of the persistent questions that keeps coming up about The Waiting Room: Will it be open on evenings when no bands are scheduled to play? Leibowitz and Johnson look perplexed when asked. Clearly they’ve never had any intention of making The Waiting Room some sort of rental hall. It’s a bar, first and foremost.

“We’ve built a nice place here,” Leibowitz said. “We’ve made it comfortable. People should come just to hang out.”

“If we had a show every night, we’d eliminate our bar crowd,” Johnson said.

“Other bar owners have tried live music because they think it’ll bring people in,” Leibowitz added. “We’ll bring people in when we have shows, but I don’t know if Omaha would support a show here seven nights a week anyway. We’re looking at three to five shows a week, which is still a pretty good goal that will require expanding into different areas from what we’ve booked in the past.”

Leibowitz said that The Waiting Room will provide the most comfortable live performance environment for a room its size. “It’s not The Music Box, which was clean and all neoned out and too adult,” he said. “Some people who haven’t gone to shows since the Music Box closed will be coming here.”

So could it be that after years of whining that there aren’t enough live music venues in Omaha, that for the first time the city actually may have too many venues?

From their perspective, the answer is a resounding ‘No.’ After all, One Percent will be booking shows at practically all of them. In fact, despite the opening of The Waiting Room and Slowdown later this year, Leibowitz said Omaha still lacks at least one important stage.

“From a One Percent Productions perspective, Omaha needs a 215-capacity club, an 800-capacity club and a 2,500-capacity club,” he said, adding that only the largest will be missing. “We really need something like the old Peony Park Ballroom for acts the size of The Pixies, Flaming Lips, The Shins, Modest Mouse and Bright Eyes.”

Leibowitz said The Waiting Room is the perfect size to not only grow new talent, but to grow One Percent Productions, which incidentally, will have its offices housed in the same building. “We needed a place to develop new bands and talent,” he said. “Not only on a local side, but on a national side, too. This will be a realistic place for a smaller touring band to have a successful show. If you bring in 100 to O’Leaver’s, it’s too packed. One hundred at Sokol looks horrible — it’s empty. Here, 100 hopefully will be a success. One Percent needs to present as many alternatives to booking agents as possible, and this should help us do that.”

Yeah, but what about parking? I assume that Friday night’s show will be a capacity crowd, and that most of them will get plenty of exercise walking to the venue as the bar doesn’t have its own parking lot. You’re looking at street parking, or a public lot a couple blocks away. “I’m a big fan of parking,” Leibowitz said. “It’s the main reason why I don’t go to the Old Market, but my favorite place in Austin was a 1,000-capacity club with no parking. This is an issue that people deal with in other cities all the time. I wish there was a better scenario.

Johnson pointed out that D Dubs used to do a helluva business, “but there would be 100 bikes lined up out front,” he said. “If everyone got a Vespa, we could do 90-degree Vespa parking and the problem would be solved.”

* * *

Speaking of big shows, O’Leaver’s has one of its own tonight — Ladyfinger and Dance Me Pregnant. I suspect there will be more than 100 people there. $5, 9:30 p.m.

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