The legend goes that Scott Leslie and Matt Gerding were sitting around drinking in Los Angeles one evening when they decided to slightly veer off their career paths and open a music venue. Scott was a touring musician whose band was coming to its ‘logical’ end and Matt was an assistant at CAA.
“I was trying to think what was going to be the next chapter of my life,” Leslie told Amplify. “We hatched this idea that we should open up a concert venue and we actually did it. It’s probably one of the crazier things that we’ve ever done, but it worked out well. It was just hanging out one night, probably had a few too many drinks and it was one of those ideas most people would forget about the next morning and continue on with their lives, but we didn’t forget about it.”
The two friends wanted to create a great venue where artists and audiences felt welcomed and well-taken care of and wanted to do it all in the midwest.
“We were under contract to buy a venue in Columbus, Ohio. We were going to renovate this great old space there called The Garden Theater. It was a great location. It was a great space,” Leslie said. “Then Larry Frank from Frank Productions called up and told us the Majestic was for sale. We looked at that and decided that it fit our vision perfectly. We abandoned our plans for Columbus and went all in on Madison. Fast forward 10 years later and we’re now merging companies with Larry.”
The Majestic is the oldest theater in Madison, Wisconsin and has transitioned from silent movies in 1905 to hosting Harry Houdini and even X-rated films. Leslie and Gerding renovated and reopened the Majestic in 2007 and haven’t looked back.
Leslie is also one of two mysterious creators of the Agent vs. Promoter Tumblr. Since 2013, Leslie and Paradigm agent Joe Atamian used their anonymous identities to poke fun at “the very difficult lives of a booking agent and a concert promoter.”
“I was pretty bummed out when the whole thing went down and we were outed, but in all honesty it is still pretty fun to do,” Leslie said. “It’s really fun to see the submissions come in and see what fires other people up. We still do some of the posts ourselves and because some of them are submitted and some are our own, we still have a little bit of the illusion of anonymity.”
We caught up with the promoter half of Agent vs. Promoter to learn about five of the best shows he has seen throughout his life.
Bruce Springsteen & The E. Street Band at Bradley Center in Milwaukee
Nov. 9, 1999
I’ve seen Bruce probably about 35 times, so choosing only one for this was a fairly difficult endeavor for me. But I have to choose the first time I saw him because it reignited a love for the music and made me discover the power a live show could bring. My buddy Dave and I drove from Iowa City to Milwaukee for this show. I had become obsessed with Springsteen when I was 5 years old and “Born in the USA” was everywhere. By the time I was of concert going age, the E. Street Band was no longer together and I was left with the live three-disc set he released as my only way to hear him live. We drove back to Iowa City that night blown away by what we saw. I’ve been lucky enough to see the Boss multiple times on each tour since then and it’s always amazing. Since I own my company, I can actually say that he is the only Boss I’ll listen to.
The War on Drugs at Lincoln Theater in Raleigh
Sept. 4, 2014
I became totally infatuated with the “Lost in the Dream” record when it came out. I listened to it start to finish multiple times per day. This was during the Hopscotch Music Festival, and I was down there as part of the eTix client summit. I was hanging with a bunch of other club owners and Travis from eTix. Everyone knew how excited I was to see the band for the first time and hear these songs. I ended up seeing them another 7 times on that album cycle at various festivals and even at my own venue. But nothing will ever top the first time I heard “An Ocean In Between the Waves.”
Jim James at Majestic Theatre in Madison
Sept. 8, 2013
I am an enormous My Morning Jacket fan. They’re second only to Springsteen for bands I’ve seen the most and not by much. I had been a pretty huge fan since 2003 when I bought “It Still Moves” simply because I loved the band name. My Morning Jacket hasn’t played Madison or Columbia since we’ve been in either city so having Jim play a solo gig was something that was immensely special for me. He did not disappoint.
Fleet Foxes at the Chicago Theatre
Oct. 1, 2011
That venue with those harmonies. Enough said. Just gorgeous.
Sometimes there are settings that make the evening really special. The reaction that I had to that show was probably not all that different than one that somebody would have at Red Rocks. There are certain shows where the setting really amplifies the experience and that was one of those. The Chicago Theatre is absolutely beautiful.
My Morning Jacket & Band of Horses at BMO Harris Pavilion in Milwaukee
Aug. 11, 2012
I really love Band of Horses, I’ve seen them a bunch of times and there’s just something about their show that makes you feel whole. But add a co-bill with My Morning Jacket for an outdoor show and it’s at a whole other level. Both bands brought it that night with set lists that seemed to say, “Hey this other band is really good, we better pull out all the stops.” It was just flat out incredible.