If you are at The Waiting Room Lounge or The Reverb Lounge on any given night you may see Dave Campbell bouncing between venues making sure everything is running smoothly. Sometimes you may see him behind the soundboard asking questions at trivia events, and even occasionally announcing for a wrestling event. Campbell’s main job is that of production manager for 1% Productions The Waiting Room Lounge and The Reverb Lounge, two of Omaha’s main music venues located on the same block in Benson.  His passion for many years has been running his promotions company Midwest Elite Concerts. Over the next year, I will be talking with promoters who are focused on area artists in different genres and scenes and getting their take on the current happenings around town.

Campbell and Midwest Elite Concerts are mostly known for their hard rock, tribute and heavy metal events and lineups. I met Dave for coffee in the shadow of another 1% Productions affiliated venue that will be coming later this year in LaVista, The Astro.

“From day one we had a quote out there that I always wanted to make into a t-shirt that said ‘For the fans, by the fans, fuck the politics’ , Campbell says when I ask about MEC’s mission statement,  “I love a wide variety of music and have booked a wide variety of music, and as I have gotten older it has gotten to be more about the relationships I have and what I am really into at the same time” Campbell was doing 45 to 60 shows a year before the pandemic. Currently he states that he is doing 20 to 25 shows.

 “There were more bands active to be honest”, he says, “I am not saying we don’t have an active scene, I just felt like at the time there was a lot more to choose from. He continues, “It is not that I have less interest or that I got lazy or anything, it is just that there are a lot of bands that have stopped. Not counting tribute bands, I would say I had little over two dozen clients I could put in the Waiting Room to headline. For a long time, the beauty of that was I could tell them I wanted a date, and they wouldn’t even ask who it was, and if it was available, I would just get the date. Now it is all about ‘who is it’.  At the end of the day, it is understanding from the business end to keep the doors open and the employees paid. Bar numbers mean a lot, whether we like it or not. We are selling drinks.”

Two of Campbell and Midwest Elite Concerts events that move drinks are The Great American BBQ and New Music Mondays. When I asked Campbell about some of his wins, he went right into The Great American Metal BBQ, “The first three or four years we did a wide variety of themes that no longer exist. The one that stuck was The Great American Metal BBQ. I have a lot of bands that ask me about that randomly ‘hey is that even happening this year’ or ‘do you have any openings?’ I have people on the streets and co-workers and staff that ask me about it. I don’t get those questions for anything else I do.”

When asked what made that event successful Campbell states, “It has always had a best of the best mentality in terms of the lineup. We have always kept a low cost of admission. Whether this was at Sokol Underground or the Waiting Room it always had an admission of $8-$12. You always got at least 5 bands and all the free food you could eat. It wasn’t a one plate, and you are done. I just think the experience of the event was cool because it was like we took a little miniature metal festival and combined it with Taste of Omaha or something.  We started doing radio advertisements with 89.7 The River and we started pulling a lot of people that did not know the show, but they loved the idea of what the event was. So, we would get a lot of people that would just come for that and experience the whole thing and it would become a big party.”

His other win is New Music Mondays where bands that maybe haven’t played on the stage at Waiting Room at all, or infrequently, take the stage. Campbell says, “it was Marc’s (Leibowitz) idea. He asked me if I would like to take it on and it was an instant success and it has been around for seven if not eight years now. A lot of the venues we could mention, even the ones that are just 21 and over, those were breeding grounds for us for who could play those shows. You can’t always wait for bands to approach you first and solicit you. ‘Who hasn’t played here? Whose been around for a while that has a decent following and has a good promotional work ethic?’ New Music Mondays for us was like Star Search, it was like let’s get you on the stage and maybe you only draw 50 people, but you have something special, and I want to give you an opportunity regardless.”

Some of the acts he mentions as successes from New Music Mondays over the years are Achilles Last Heel, When Towers Fall, Murder House and Break Maiden. The relationships Campbell has with bands over the years seems to be his biggest win. “I think it is working with bands that are just growing beyond the Midwest” he states, “I worked with The Impulsive for a long time, and this is a band that would open up for everyone all the time, and now they are headlining and out there touring. Lucida Dark is doing the same thing, they are out there doing festivals and touring and getting recognized by large media outlets. I think being a part of that journey is an accomplishment.”

Tribute bands have been a big part of the area scene in recent years. There seems to have been a whole new crop of bands to pay tribute to that had breathed new life into the concept. Midwest Elite Concerts played a big role with tribute bands successes in Omaha. I asked where tribute bands stand in the scene right now, “It’s dying” he says, “The niche stuff is doing great. Look at what is going on with Pet Rock (70’s soft rock tribute band from Omaha). The era’s type stuff is doing great. Had Saturn Ascends (Tool tribute band) not turned out to be a sold-out juggernaut I might not have booked as many tribute bands as I did. Those shows helped me bankroll my local shows and that kept us in business, as it is hard to make money on local shows.”

I ask him about the current trend of Emo, Taylor Swift and disco nights, “To be honest I wish I would’ve come up with it first. Financially it is insane what they are making. The bar numbers are phenomenal for those things. I will say that with the Emo night they are combining with The Reverb and four bands get to play over there and the event is sold out, but a lot of people want to stay on the Waiting Room side and sing along to their favorite pop punk song.”

When asked about the future he says, “Trying to broaden things and keep growing. I obviously love doing hard rock and metal, but I am very in tune with what is happening right now.  I have been blessed with meeting very amazing people with the touring shows and in doing so I get acquainted with genres that I would never play on my own. I really want to help be a part of cultivating more growth of the scene.  When you look at what is popular in Top 40, why don’t we have it from a live aspect? That is something I want to see grow. I don’t want to talk about it, I want to do it. The same thing with country, country is huge right now and there are a lot of acts out there. We are in a reboot phase, and we are trying to find bands that are looking to do something more than play three shows a month. Who is looking to get out there and grow? Not everyone wants to be on a record label anymore, but there are so many other interpretive ways of making it now.”

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