Blind-music dates vs. YouTube rabbit holes8/31/2016
“Obviously, you’re a moron.” That’s what potential investors, lenders and even friends told Anne Mathey and her business partner, Erik Brown, two years ago.
The duo planned to put a new music venue into an old refurbished bar and name it after a three-legged dog owned by Mathey.
Lefty’s Live Music seemed an impossible dream.
In the previous millennium, the Drake-area building — previously known as Hairy Mary’s and Safari Club — was a local music Mecca. But it needed too much work — or so people said — and the owners’ pockets contained too few resources. Live music in Des Moines seemed to be declining, too.
“Why would you go into something that is failing for everyone else?” That was the question Mathey and Brown faced. But they had an answer: They wanted in.
Mathey and Brown each believed in the other, they believed in Des Moines, and each possessed a passion to see the performing arts thrive. So as the local music industry was slowly crumbling around them, Mathey and Brown dialed up the amp on their resolve even more.
“We’re in the capitol of the state,” Brown said. “And we only have three music venues? That’s crazy.”
“And we just said, ‘Let’s just go for it,’ ” Mathey interrupted. “Let’s just do it.”
The 18 months of ownership haven’t been easy, but Brown and Mathey say it’s been “so far, so good,” and they’ve learned a lot.
“Our biggest competition are people’s couches,” Mathey said. “Music fans don’t have to go out to find new bands like you did 10 or 15 years ago. You can go online and go down a rabbit hole. You don’t have to go experience anything anymore, and I think you lose something with that. That’s our biggest competition.”
Brown loves seeing a kindred, adventurous music spirit who is willing to go “blind-music dating” like he himself used to — someone willing to say, “I don’t know who any of those three bands are, but I’m going to go check it out.”
“We do a lot of research,” he said. “And a lot of hefty, hefty digging to find (music) we think has potential. It’s as if we are running a record label. We’re trying to find the band that’s going to break,” Brown said. “The crux of our business plan was always about music and people, and that will never change.”■