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Omaha Magazine

Going Native

Apr 30, 2015 11:11AM ● By Matt Whipkey
From fine dining to apartment living, craft cocktails to art openings, the cultural and economic boom of the Old Market has resounded across the region. However, this resurgence nearly went without a soundtrack. While over the last decade other areas of Omaha experienced a birth in live music, the number of music venues in downtown Omaha dangerously flirted with zero.

For Brady Bock and a property once synonymous with Omaha music, it was time to make some noise. “I wanted to create an intimate atmosphere for live music and showcase local musicians,” said Bock. “It was important to try to revive music in downtown.”

The Harney St. Tavern (1215 Harney St.) is celebrating its inaugural year in a downstairs property that once claimed to have “Made Omaha Famous.” Prior to closing its Omaha location, the Antiquarium bookstore became a midwestern institution, the record store in the basement; a legend. Although the interior of the Antiquarium is hardly recognizable, music in the basement is omnipresent.

“They had to demo the building to its four walls,” said Bock. “It was such a unique place with a lot of charm but it is an old building that definitely needed some updating.”

Since their first week open, Bock and business partner, Lucas Qualley, have remained committed to showcasing live music Wednesday through Saturday. Qualley, a California native, initially was unaware of the city’s vibrant music scene.

“I tried not to have any preconceived notions of Omaha music,” Qualley said. “Some of the most fun we had before we opened was going out and seeing people play all the time. The level of talent here is amazing.”

With The Hive’s relocation from St. Mary’s Ave. to Harney St. and Bock’s leasing of the basement space, a veritable one-two combination of music venues opened only doors apart. As The Hive features a variety of rock, reggae, and dance bands, Bock steers the tavern’s booking to a more acoustic nature with jazz combos prominently featured on the weekends. The one requirement: original music.

“We are not about cover bands. It’s okay if a band does them, but that’s not us,” said Bock. ”The idea from the beginning was to open an original music venue.”

Many of Omaha’s top-tier songwriters and jazz musicians have found a home on the Harney St. Tavern’s basement stage. Tara Vaughan to Matt Cox, Marcus Lewis to Lucas Kellison, any given month the booking schedule has become one of Bock’s primary duties.

“Each month we are finding somebody new to perform here,” Bock said. “We are now booking out months in advance, a clear sign musicians are enjoying our space.”

For years in the basement at 1215 Harney St., countless musicians studied their craft through curated stacks of vinyl. Those record store doors closed and in a sense opened to the next musical phase. Tenants change, the music never leaves.

“People are so happy to have a place that consistently does live music four nights a week,” said Bock. “We are always reinvesting to better the performance atmosphere.”