Promoter Mike Kelley: "Numbers Is Houston's CBGB"

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Marco Torres
Wu-Tang Clan's GZA and Ghostface Killah at Numbers, December 2010
Numbers' credentials as a concert venue are undeniable - everyone from Siouxsie and the Banshees to Green Day to Type O Negative has played there. It's hard to argue, though, that the past decade hasn't been a rough one for the old girl. An aging sound system turned many shows into crapshoots, and the club began to focus more on its dance nights.

Lately, however, Numbers has been enjoying something of a renaissance. The Wu-Tang Clan reunion show was, by all accounts, kick-ass and packed. Anything Box made for a surprise near-sold out celebration of all things synthpop, and Numbers racked up its first-ever live concert DVD location thanks to the legendary Faith and the Muse.

The future looks even brighter, as the next couple of months are poised to bring Peter Murphy (rapidly approaching a sellout), Clan of Xymox, Dipset, EPMD, Three 6 Mafia and Men Without Hats. The man behind most of these shows - and Numbers towering new sound system - is Mike Kelley of Onstage Events. Kelley was behind some of Meridian's finest moments in recent years, but has now moved his home base to Numbers, and it couldn't be sweeter.

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Rocks Off: What methodology are you following for booking all these acts? Most of them, like Peter Murphy and Xymox, don't even seem to be on tour. Are you just picking names and calling them out of the blue?

Mike Kelley: Actually lots of the artists I bring in are not on tour. There really is no methodology per se; I just go after the bands/artists that I feel will be either well-suited for the club or that I have a personal interest in seeing. Some of them, like Clan of Xymox, Men Without Hats, Flock of Seagulls, Three 6 Mafia, Digable Planets, EPMD, etc. I'm actually just flying in for a one-off show, solely for the sake of creating an interesting event.

For the most part, I have working relationships with their agents and/or managers, and have done a lot of shows with them over the years. I have been in this business for 21 years this March.


RO: How do you feel Numbers has changed since you started booking for them?

MK: Well, to clarify, I don't actually "book for Numbers." While it's true that I handle all of the booking for the venue, my company, Onstage Events, is my own. I do shows at other venues in Houston when it makes sense, and other promoters occasionally do shows at Numbers.

Numbers is technically my "home" venue and the place I prefer for most shows, but I have been known to do shows at places like Rudyard's, Walter's, and other venues if the show is better suited for them.


RO: What made you want to start booking in the first place?

MK: As I mentioned, I have been in this business for 21 years now, most of that as an agent on "the other side of the fence," as they say. In my years as an agent, I had the pleasure of working with artists like Green Day, Cake, George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, NOFX, Fastball, Rickie Lee Jones, Ice-T, Kittie, and hundreds more.

Over the past six years I have owned or co-owned venues like Javajazz, The Junction and the now-defunct Meridian - an experience I can thankfully put behind me. It was a natural progression for me from agent to promoter, and I can happily say I'm glad I made it. I am toying with the idea of opening a satellite office for a certain larger boutique agency I cannot name here, but which represents some very respectable big-name artists.


RO: Do you feel the acts you've brought have better secured Numbers' continued existence? There were some worries last year it would close.

MK: Despite what you may have heard anywhere, Numbers' existence is secure, and it's not because of me. The venue is an institution, a landmark if you will. Houston would not be Houston without it, plain and simple.

The staff and management there are first-rate people, and there is almost no turnover, which says a lot about a place - unlike Meridian, which changed management and staff like a model changes clothes. People like Rudi Bunch, DJ Wes, and Robot have been there longer than most can remember and keep that place running like the well-oiled machine it is. Not to mention they are all just amazing people to work with.

As far as the music goes, I'm trying to keep it diverse as possible with a steady mix of Classic Numbers acts (Xymox, Peter Murphy, etc.) as well as hip-hop (Three 6 Mafia, Dipset, EPMD, Wu Tang Clan), metal (Cannibal Corpse, D.R.I., Nevermore, etc.), emo (Forever The Sickest Kids, The Scene Aesthetic) and even country (David Allan Coe).

Location Info

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Numbers

300 Westheimer, Houston, TX

Category: Music

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18 comments
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Josh Webster
Josh Webster

I think that comparison is brilliantly apt. Numbers might be even more disgusting than CBGB. If you have never hung out backstage at Numbers, you really are missing out on a unique experience. From the bathrooms you would be scared to do coke in, to the couch that might get your girlfriend pregnant if she's wearing a skirt, it truly is remarkable. But man, would we miss it if it were gone.

Ill Liad
Ill Liad

Mike Kelly and everyone from OnStage Event's and Number's are really great people. They are actually doing what the city need's, and that is bringing music back to one of Houston's main parts of our heart which is Number's..............2011 is the Year of Onstage Event's.............-iLL LiaD-

Thenonymous
Thenonymous

CBGB's was a victim of years of indifferent management and gentrification. The space it occupied now functions as a snotty, upscale, clothing store. Are you saying that's what we should expect for Number's?

Mike
Mike

yes, of course, thats exactly what I meant. Dont be ridiculous. The comment was simply stated to say that I think Numbers is as important to Houston music and its past, present and future as CBGB was to New York for over 3 decades. It was an off the cuff remark, reading more into it than what was meant is just plain nit-picking and goes nowhere

J. Taylor Esq.
J. Taylor Esq.

"Numbers is our own CBGB" - He couldnt have said it better. Its definitely an H-town institution and thank God Someone is taking a chance on Live Hip Hop in Houston. That Wu Tang show was insane and now he has Dipset and Three 6? Holy shit! CBGB was synonymous with NYC, as Numbers is with Houston.

Janice Thurstonson
Janice Thurstonson

Ill say this, over the last 6 months it seems like Numbers has become a lot more active, and is overall just a more well-rounded club. If this guy is responsible for that then by all means props to him. My friends and I go to the Numbers facebook everyday just to see the new concert announcements and there seem to be at least 1 a day that are all just amazing. Mike Kelley, whoever you are, thank you and keep up the great work! Numbers is BACK!

Chancefarmer101
Chancefarmer101

Thank God someone is bringing Numbers back to life. Hell, David Allan Coe at Numbers? Who woulda thought!?! - Great venue, huge stage, and the bartenders are as friendly as it gets, unlike those shithead bartenders at Meridian who were so full of themselves and treated the customers like we should be honored to give them our money..

scooterbabe
scooterbabe

"...play every show you play as if it's a full house.

Nothing turns me off more than seeing a band play to an empty house and complains nonstop about it from the stage."

Few greater truths have ever been spoken.

someone who knows
someone who knows

Actually he was gone a year before their demise. He got out when Gary Katz and Anosh Ahmed started ripping everyone off. And Camel? Are you seriious? A cigarette company responsible for a club's well being? He always treated me and all of the other staff at Meridian with the utmost of respect and as I recall some of the biggest shows that ever happened there happened under him i.e. Attack Attack (1800 people crammed into the main room). Meridian is dead, leave it be, he is turning Numbers around in a great way from what I can tell.

Whatdaphawk
Whatdaphawk

Meridian was going down, then it merged w/Javajazz, which made it sink further. When Anosh took it over it became Wired Live, of which Kelley went back as his personal Onstage Events agency, and then there was Warsaw (after which Wired Live went back to Meridian)...so, you don't know what you think you do or you just won't admit it, because...well, "you know".. As far as Camel, if it wasn't for them they would not have had Kings of Leon or Modest Mouse...and 1 sold out show, that's only one fine moment amongst many not credited to OSE.

Someone who knows
Someone who knows

Actually while I was there during the time that Mike was there at Meridian, I can think of probably 30-40 sold out or very near sold out shows that we had and the place was packed on a regular basis, much more than when his predecessors D'netta the jetsetta and John Escamilla were there, a time when we all daily felt we were gonna lose our jobs beause they couldnt book a decent show to save their lives for almost a year after Live Nation left. In a meeting we had after they were gone, we were basically told that had javajazz not come along we would have all been out of a job and to Mike's credit he fought for us all to keep our jobs. I was there through Meridian, Wired Live, Gary Katz, Anosh Ahmed and every other piece of shit that walked through those doors and Mike was the only one I ever worked with that I would gladly work for again. Hence the reason he is doing such a great job at Numbers and those other people are all gone or back to bartending. So, yeah, I am someone who knows.

Metts Ryan
Metts Ryan

Where is my fucking money for the shows you booked and that got cancelled

Mike
Mike

Haha, dude, the person you are arguing with IS D'neta. Thanks for the kind words, I know who you are, but its probably best just to say nothing and let make her petty remarks. Give me a call when you can, I actually have some shifts for you if you want some work, as early as this weekend for the D.R.I. show.

Whatdaphawk
Whatdaphawk

"Kelley was behind some of Meridian's finest moments in recent years..."...uh, WHATEVER, so not true...he was at the tail end of things and part of their demise. That credit should go to Live Nation and Camel, not Mike Kelley, that's for sure.

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