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.


What does Knitting Factory booking Slowdown really mean? Buvette super show tonight (M’s benefit)…

Category: Blog,Interviews — Tags: , , — @ 1:34 pm January 21, 2016

The Slowdown's booking will now be partially handled by Knitting Factory Entertainment.

The Slowdown’s booking will now be handled in part by Knitting Factory Entertainment.

by Tim McMahan,

Yesterday Pollstar reported that Knitting Factory Entertainment has signed a deal to book The Slowdown. The article doesn’t say much more than that.

I asked Jason Kulbel, who runs The Slowdown, it if means KF will be routing acts through the venue, and if Jason or someone will be filling in the gaps with local promotions/shows. “You got it,” he said.

So, is he psyched or freaked out by the change?

“A little of both… I mean, it’s change right?,” he said. “In the long run I think it will be a great thing for us.” Kulbel went on to mention that former booker Joe Teplitsky no longer is employed by Slowdown, something Teplitsky announced on Facebook a couple weeks ago.

Knitting Factory appears to book eight other clubs in addition to Slowdown, judging by their website. It’s hard to say what kind of bands they book, though. If you go to the site and click the KF Presents dropdown you’ll see bookings for Bela Fleck & Abigail Washburn, Beatles cover band 1964 The Tribute, comedian Lewis Black, Joanna Newsom, piano dude Ethan Bortnick and so on.

Having glanced at the Knitting Factory NYC calendars over the years, they’ve never focused on any single genre. I suspect their bookings at Slowdown will be all over the board, from pop to blues to R&B to rock and even some indie.

“I wouldn’t really tag them with any genre or type of band,” Kulbel said. “If anything, they take more of a ‘book the bands that people want to come out to see’ (approach). We, of course, have taken more of that approach over the years as well.”

Who knows how many actual dates KF will fill on the Slowdown calendar. What will continue is the usual assortment of local bands and events that Slowdown has historically booked to fill out their calendar. And yes, 1% Productions will have access to booking Slowdown just like any other local promoter or band.

“(Slowdown is) still available for outside promoters as before,” Kulbel said. “This is really just an uptick in in-house booking.” As for who gets first dibs on the rooms: “There’s not a preference per se. First one to finalize a date with booking agents, bands, etc., gets it. Same way our calendar has always worked.”

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Tonight La Buvette is hosting a very special show — a fundraiser for former staff at M’s Pub, which burned down last week. Performing is Orenda Fink, Ted Stevens, Sean Pratt & the Sweats, and Simply Jake. Show starts at 9 and suggested donation is $10. La Buvette is located at 511 So. 11th in the heart of the Old Market.

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Read Tim McMahan’s blog daily 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 © 2016 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.