Barley Street Tavern to change hands; Maha Festival partners with Knitting Factory for future festivals…

Lupines at The Barley Street Tavern, April 14, 2014. The bar announced it’s changing owners Oct. 15.

Two red hot local music news items…

First, yesterday The Barley Street Tavern posted on Facebook that the venue is changing hands and the last day of its operations under current management is Oct. 15. No idea who’s taking over the bar and/or if it’ll remain a music venue.

The Barley Street always has been a hole-in-the-wall bar more so than a go-to music venue. With a capacity of around 50 in its music space, it was a comfortable place to see up-and-coming acts as well as (former) Benson folkie stand-outs like Kyle Harvey and Brad Hoshaw. You always got your five-dolllars-worth and then some, along with plenty of peanuts and (in my case) ice cold Rolling Rocks.

Is the bar’s sale a symptom of the COVID-19 economy? I don’t know. I’ve heard rumors of the Barley Street either imminently closing or changing hands for years (including a rumor a few years ago that it was in line to become a strip club!). Even so, its sale comes as a bit of a shock. Here’s hoping whoever takes over retains some of the bar’s original soul…

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An article in Pollstar this morning announced the Maha Music Festival has named Knitting Factory Entertainment as its exclusive talent buyer.

James Irvine, KFE’s Omaha-based talent buyer, will co-lead programming with KFE’s Danny Glazier as the festival expands to five days from four in 2021,” says the Pollstar story. “The team is already starting to work on a 2021 lineup, which is expected to be unveiled early in the year.

More from the article:

Working within industries that are typically white male-dominated, Maha makes a concerted effort to book underrepresented performers—often in headlining slots—to account for the majority of our lineup. We’re looking forward to working with KFE, and continuing those diverse, inclusive booking practices,” Maha executive director Lauren Martin said. “We’ve had an opportunity to get to know James and Danny through their work with [local music venue] Slowdown over the years, are excited about the potential the partnership holds — especially as we navigate safely hosting major events post-pandemic.” 

The move leaves One Percent Productions, which has booked the festival since its second year, out in the cold. One Percent’s Marc Leibowitz confirmed Maha did not renew its contract with Omaha’s premier indie concert booker. While you can point to Maha’s well-run organization and army of volunteers for pulling off the annual festival, it’s One Percent that has been at the core of lining up the bands that drew people to Stinson Park in the first place.

Knitting Factory Entertainment took over booking The Slowdown back in 2016, and as a result, the club has veered away from its original vision of booking indie acts to booking more mainstream pop acts, though they still host a few indie shows now and then. No doubt with Knitting Factory taking over Maha, look for that festival to continue to steer away from its original vision of being an indie rock festival in an effort to attract a larger attendance.

As for One Percent, the company’s La Vista venue/amphitheater (being built in partnership with Kansas’ Mammoth Live and City Ventures) will give Leibowitz and his team plenty of opportunities to fill in any gaps left from losing the Maha contract…

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily (if there’s news) at — 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 © 2020 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.

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