Brian Johannsen preps for Mission Creek 2022, not as an artist, but as a programmer for The Englert
(N) talent buyer: a person who book bands for venues at which they work, or for events they are hired to organize. In the music industry, talent buyers (who also are known as bookers) field inquiries from bands and bands' agents and book them for dates at the venues or events
Don't be fooled. It's a big job, especially for a theatre like the Englert that has been through two years of cancelled live shows. Iowa City's Brian Johannsen is ready for the job at the venue that got him started.
"I remember walking into my first show at the Englert. I'd never been in there before; I was in college. I remember seeing the lineup of bands that are coming through. The idea of curating a lineup or a schedule was really interesting to me. You could create this vibe and this experience for the audience and make it make sense all together," he said. "I have been working as the music director at Big Grove Brewery right up until the quarantine started, and we mutually agreed that it was time to move onto something else. As the pandemic was going on, I thought it might be time to find a new career. And eventually I had lunch with Andre Perry and he told me the job was opening. I was kind of blown away by the opportunity."
Perry has been the Englert's executive director and talent buyer for years. Johannsen says that as he takes the reigns and leads this year's Mission Creek Festival, he's taking his cues from the vibes Perry brought to the theatre.
"Andre Perry really made the Englert a force for good in the community. He's been a mentor for me," Johannsen said. "The ways I know to book shows and how to deal with agents and artists comes from Andre. I think how the booking is done will stay the same. Programming a venue is not about booking what you like. It's about what the community wants. Andre was very good at listening to the community, and I'm looking to keep listening to the community."
Outside his work at the Englert, Johannsen has his own music career as a singer/songwriter. He says he's going to work to keep a line between his talent booking work and his band.
"It can raise some questions about motives, and I'm really big on keeping them separate. I try not to book myself on something I'm booking, unless there's no money left and I don't want to ask someone else to play for free," he laughed.
As for things coming up on the calendar, he and the team at the Englert are gearing up and getting excited about Mission Creek, happening in Iowa City April 7-9.
"For most organizations and most businesses, there's been a lot of turnover and a lot of changes, and that's true for us. But we're really excited about the lineup we have, and that makes the work easier," he said. "I'm most excited about seeing Tre Burt. His new album 'You, Yeah, You' is really good."
Mission Creek used to be a sprawling, six day, dozen venues event. This year, Creek Week is condensed to just three days and three venues: The Englert, Gabe's and the new Riverside Theatre, now located in the Ped Mall.
"The new Riverside Theatre is a really cool space and will provide an awesome, intimate vibe," he said. "Also, we provide free programming on the Saturday of the festival."
There's a Big Free Show at Big Grove Brewery during the day Saturday, and then there's a whole literary side to the festival, which you can read about here. The book fair that's long been a part of the event and held at the now-closed Mill will take place at the fest and be in the entrance to the Chauncey.
Purchase passes to Mission Creek from the Englert's website. Three-day general admission tickets are $100, and single day passes range in price from $30 to $50.
Moving forward past Mission Creek, Johannsen say's he'd love to bring Gillian Welch back to Iowa City.
"She is one of my favorite songwriters of all time, and every time she's been in Iowa City, I've been out of town."