Twenty years ago, Headliners Music Hall opened its doors for Louisville music-lovers and provided a stage to thousands of local, regional and national acts. Although there was a change of ownership in 2010, the venue remains locally owned and operated.
This weekend, it celebrates its 20-year anniversary with four back-to-back shows from July 5-8.
Billy Hardison — co-founder of Production Simple and co-owner of Headliners — is partly to thank for its continued success. Hardison has worked locally as a concert promoter since 1991, when he scored his first gig booking talent for the now-defunct Tewligans.
He’s worked for Louisville Public Media and Spotlight Productions, until he decided to launch his own company — Production Simple — with partners Joe Argabrite, John Grantz and Lizi Hagan in 2005. And in 2010, Hardison and two other Production Simple partners decided to purchase Headliners from then-owners Mike Pollard and Fred Wooten.
Hardison believes venue’s success comes from its founders and the cool space it occupies.
“It is hard to create vibe. It came with the building and oozes it,” he tells Insider. “We’ve just continued to try to stay true to it. It’s also important to remember that it’s all for the fans.”
Headliners’ midlevel size is important for both up-and-coming artists and local musicians. It suits the musician or band that can fill a space bigger than a bar but not quite as big as the Louisville Palace or Brown Theatre.
“This sized room is the point where niche artists can blow up to more mainstream recognition, eventually making it to the bigger theaters in town and on up the ladder,” explains Hardison. “Or, just as important, stay at a working level where they can carve out a living touring nationally as long as they want playing rooms like Headliners for their loyal fans.
“And for local bands, although only a few can regularly fill the room, many others use the room to present new art to the community,” he continues. “When you have a new record coming out, it’s a good look to play on the big stage and have a professional presentation to your fans of these songs you’ve worked so hard on.”
The four shows taking place this weekend are a mix of local and national, and cover just about every genre.
On Thursday, July 5, it’s Electric Garden and Los Colognes with Alanna Fugate & the Boxwine Prophets; on Friday, July 6, it’s an evening with Guided By Voices; on Saturday, July 7, it’s Love Jones with Satchel’s Pawn Shop — the first band ever to play on Headliners stage — and DJ Cecil Richards; and on Sunday, July 8, it’s a Terry Harper Presents show with Incursion, Thomas Medicine, Ohlm and Vice Tricks.
Hardison and his partners knew they wanted a variety of bands and musicians for the occasion, and they also wanted to make it special by involving a few local charities, which will receive a portion of the ticket sales. So far, Rotations Per Minute, AMPED, Girls Rock Louisville and MERF will all benefit from the shows and sales of a special 20-year anniversary T-shirt designed by the local artist Ron Jasin.
Before the four-day party gets underway Thursday night, we asked Hardison some very important questions …
What’s the most surprising thing on your Bucket List?
Open a restaurant/tiny venue near a beach with (wife) Tina. Have our future grandkids work for us in the summer.
What poster was on your wall in junior high?
Can’t recall. Probably Dungeons & Dragons.
If you were mayor, to whom would you give the key to the city?
(Musician) Ray Rizzo.
What are your preferred pizza toppings?
Can’t beat a slice of pep from The Post (but have to have that house salad with the spicy blue cheese).
If you could be any age for a week, what would it be?
10 — But the week has to be the middle of summer or Christmas Break with lots of snow.
What famous person do people say you resemble the most?
Sean Penn, but Tina doesn’t see it at all.
Who would you most like to be stuck with in an elevator?