Marq Manner didn’t want to be a firefighter or a doctor growing up — he wanted to own a record store. Attending three or four shows each week throughout his adult life, he has found a constant companion in music.
Manner managed Homer’s Music in Omaha for longer than many of its patrons had been alive, surrounded by music every day.
“Working in a record store for 15 years exposed me to so many different types of music.” Manner says. “I’m 41 years old and I still love indie pop music. I went to a Miley Cyrus concert this year. I go out and see blues shows. I love old country music, R&B and great soul music. I just don’t like The Eagles or Led Zeppelin.”
Since leaving Homer’s in 2006, Manner has worked a wide array of jobs in the music industry. He’s written for alt weekly publications, like The Reader, Shout Weekly and Omaha Dispatch. He’s worked at 1% Productions and as security at The Waiting Room and hosted a monthly quiz night. He’s also managed bands, including Bennie and the Gents, The Movies (one of Matt Whipkey’s first bands) and The Great Disappearing Act.
Currently, he sits as the music chair for the Omaha Entertainment and Arts Awards. On August 22 and 23, 80 nominated bands will play a summer showcase at venues in Benson, with the actual awards taking place in the winter.
Based on this vast musical background and his passion for live performances, we asked Marq Manner a tough question: “What are your top five concert experiences of all time?”
James Brown | WinnaVegas, Sloan, Iowa | 1992
Manner found himself beneath a low-ceilinged tent in 1992 with corn replacing walls. At one end of the long, semi-crowded unconventional concert hall stood James Brown accompanied by a seven-piece band: three backup singers and three backup dancers.
Despite being nearly 60, Brown executed the splits during his set. At one point, he channeled a funk voice and steamrolled along until he just stopped. With a deep pause to take a breath, Brown jumped right back in as he burst into “It’s A Man’s World.”
“I was right in front of him and I literally felt air push me back,” Manner says. “It was that powerful of a moment. I was young when I saw James Brown. Seeing him led me down that path to really learn more about old soul and funk and even jazz music.”
Prince | Paisley Park Studios; Private Party | August 26, 1995
“Prince is my be all end all,” Manner says.
Including this show, a standout, Manner has seen Prince 13 times. Traveling six hours north to Paisley Park Studios, Manner only expected a listening party of The Gold Experience on Prince’s sound stage. Once the tour of the studio wrapped up and the experience ended, hushed rumors spread, encouraging fans to stick around. An hour later, Prince appeared with a full band to play a 90-minute set. One hundred people stood feet away, in awe of the musical legend.
“Then he played one of my favorite songs called ‘The Cross,’” Manners says. “It’s this really intense song, and even though I’m not a religious guy, there’s something about that song. When he played it that night, he was looking down and I was standing right in front of him. He wasn’t looking at me, he just looks down when he plays it, but man it felt like he was playing that song to me. Yeah, I teared up in that moment. I’ll admit that.”
Manic Street Preachers | Cabaret Metro, Chicago | September 18, 1999
Never able to latch onto the grunge boom of the early ’90s, Manner gravitated toward British pop, specifically Manic Street Preachers. Right before Manner attended their show in Chicago, Richey Edwards, the band’s main songwriter, disappeared forever.
“It was a big deal for fans of the band,” Manner says. “It was kind of like Kurt Cobain dying.”
Touring only four cities in the United States, Manic Street Preachers played a moving performance in Chicago, unaware whether their friend was OK.
“It was great to see a British pop band, because they certainly did not come to Omaha. It was a cathartic and a spiritual thing to go and experience the music that he wrote so close to his disappearance, and the rest of the band not knowing if their best friend was gone or not.”
Ryan Adams | 7th Street Entry, Minneapolis | November 10, 2000
Ryan Adams had just released Heartbreaker and was on tour, playing solo acoustic shows to small crowds. Unless you were a hardcore Whiskeytown fan, Adam’s name didn’t hold much weight at the time. With a prominent fanbase at Homer’s Music, Manner joined the managers to travel up to 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis.
“That was my favorite record of the year at that time,” Manner says. “I think Ryan Adams is one of the best songwriters of my generation, of the last 20 years.”
The venue housed a good crowd in a small room. Manner remembers Lucinda Williams was getting drunk at the bar and a few members of the Jayhawks were present. The room buzzed with anticipation waiting to see this kid called “Ryan.”
“Ryan played stunningly and he was so funny,” he says. “He had a running joke about Oasis, and I had a cramp in my stomach from laughing so hard. I didn’t know if I was seeing a great comedian or a great songwriter.”
As Adams grew in popularity and the size of the stage grew, his onstage banter subsided, making that night in Minneapolis a special one.
David Bowie | Target Center, Minneapolis | January 11, 2004
“I’d never seen Bowie and that was a huge goal of mine,” Manner says. “He’s such an icon. That ’70s glam rock scene is something I relate to.”
Bowie played the Target Center, a venue substantially larger than 7th Avenue Entry or Paisley Park. Taking the stage clad in a denim jacket, and sporting floppy hair, he looked young and fresh: a music and fashion icon.
“He opened with a new version of “Rebel Rebel,” which was a risky move,” Manner says. “Do you tamper with such a classic song and open with it? But the way he redid the song was so effective. Bennie and the Gents learned that song, but I had them learn that new version because I actually liked it better.”
It was pivotal moment to see Bowie in concert, perhaps the sunset of his touring career.
“I don’t think we’ll see him tour again,” Manner says. “I’m so glad I saw it.”