There's a new promoter in town, and he's brought a large pool of talent, connections and personal passion along with him.
His name's Rhett Holmes, and he's the brain behind the Oklahoma City-based Neptunz, Ltd., a booking and promotions company that's found great success in its three-year existence as an all-inclusive conduit for an eclectic mix of national acts to perform across the Midwest. His markets are OKC, Little Rock, Memphis, Albuquerque and Tulsa.
Holmes approaches the entertainment business as someone with a background in public relations (he holds a PR degree from OU). He's a savvy businessman who also happens to be young (26) and passionate about what he's doing. Along with co-founder Chris Loper, Holmes has efficiently utilized Neptunz as an exhibiting machine, bringing a myriad of shows to Oklahoma and beyond on a consistent basis since 2005.
His home base in town is the Marquee (222 N. Main), a new venue in the old Mooch & Burn space that's already held a slew of great summer shows and has a packed calendar for the next three months (thanks to Holmes). With Holmes' booking, the venue is filling a gap in the local music scene: it's an all-ages venue that caters to mid-level national acts that are too big for the average bar venue but too small for Cain's. Bands like mewithoutYou, Ludo and Kill Hanna have already played there, and the next several months will bring artists like Ratatat, Amos Lee, Job for a Cowboy and The Colour Revolt.
Holmes also books shows at the Otherside (6904 S. Lewis), a larger venue where he's been bringing bands as varied as Newfound Glory and Blind Melon.
His company's philosophy is pragmatic and unpretentious.
"There's a market for almost everything," Holmes explained. "A lot of people (promoters) only have their one little niche, so if they take a show that's outside of their comfort zone, they don't really know how to advertise."
Neptunz strives to be as thorough in its booking as possible. It was this original vision of a company unhampered by generic constraints that got Holmes and Loper excited about working together. They first got together when Loper (who was working for World's Fair at the time) called Holmes and asked him to have lunch. Holmes accepted.
"He launched into this big idea he had, he was like 'I always wanted to see a company in Oklahoma that takes everything, a company that does any kind of show that's coming around so we don't miss on club acts,'" Holmes recalled. "I had to think about it for a while. It was a lot to take in."
"We're totally opposite dudes," Holmes continued. "He's got a bunch of tattoos, he's all punk rock, he's got the shark fin haircut, and I look like I'm straight out of a fraternity or something. We're a pretty odd couple, but we saw everything alike, business-wise and ethics-wise, which is really important."
Holmes takes honesty and ethics very seriously in a business that doesn't always prize ethical behavior.
"Unfortunately, this is an industry where there's been a lot of shadiness, and a lot of questionable decision-making that I've seen.
If you can find somebody that's legit and honest, that's really something to value," he said.
Holmes's good reputation has resulted in valuable contact with agents throughout the country who are happy to work with him. Among other things, he served as the talent buyer for 2007's Dfest, where he was responsible for bringing the Flaming Lips, Amos Lee, Shiny Toy Guns, and the Format (among others). He helped launch Dfest as a major national festival, but hasn't focused much attention on Tulsa since.
"We were getting too many avails for OKC to hold. We'd have a night where there'd be two good shows that wanted to come through, but there was just nowhere to put them," he said.
Holmes and Loper started exploring Tulsa. They held several successful shows but had major problems finding venues that fit the right mold. They decided to open their own space, and were about to sign a lease when one of Holmes' friends mentioned the Marquee and suggested Holmes check it out.
"I had never personally been in the Mooch & Burn, but bands that had played there told me bad things," Holmes said. "We never gave it a second thought because we don't tolerate bad reports after our shows."
He reconsidered when he realized the venue was under new ownership. In June, he began booking for late summer and fall, and by the October calendar, Holmes had a lineup for the Marquee that was set to rival his voluminous OKC schedule.
"It's worked out great. We put a house sound and lights system in. We're really pleased with how it's all come together, but we haven't really had a chance to get it operating at full capacity. It's at 50 or 60 percent right now. By the end of October, we'll have good shows at least two or three times a week."
Put a Spell On You
Holmes is nothing if not prolific, and in addition to constant shows at the Marquee and the Otherside, he's hard at work prepping a seasonal haunted house that'll be open this October. The house, called the Hex House, was birthed out of his love for all things horror.
The experience will be a conceptual journey through a haunted home modeled after the infamous 1944 Hex House case that happened right here in Tulsa. The story goes that a woman was responsible for the kidnapping and enslavement (through use of the occult and hypnotism) of several young girls, whom she used to do Satan's bidding (or something to that effect). Holmes has fully utilized the creepiness of the source material to create a haunted house that's unique and frightening, without ending with any kind of religious message.
"We want you to show up, get scared and go home," he explained. "There's no message or larger point, we just want to scare you."
The House is currently selling tickets on its website, www.thehexhouse.com. They're $10 each with a specific time block, or $15 for a VIP pass, which guarantees you the front of the line.
The space is located just north of Soundpony, and will feature multiple shows all through the month, leading up to Halloween.
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