Mojo’s to receive facelift, become Rose Music Hall

The venue’s new owners look to continue tradition by honoring Columbia musician Forrest Rose.

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Business partners Scott Leslie and MU alumnus Matt Gerding recently bought both The Blue Note and its sister venue Mojo’s from long-time owner Richard King this past summer.

“With (the purchase), we kind of wanted to give both clubs a new kind of brand, a new look, a new feel, which were doing through remodeling but also through different sorts of marketing strategies and branding strategies,” Gerding says.

One of the upcoming changes will happen on Jan. 1, when Mojo’s is renamed Rose Music Hall after Forrest Rose, a local musician. The park adjacent to the venue bears his name as well. It was named after him in 2008 to acknowledge his undeniable influence in Columbia’s local music scene.

Rose, an alumnus of MU, played in numerous bluegrass groups during his tenure in Columbia’s music scene and contributed often as a columnist at the Columbia Daily Tribune. He passed away in 2005 after playing a show in Arizona. Forest Rose Park was named after the musician in 2008.

Though Mojo’s has new management, Gerding and Leslie are eager to balance tradition while revamping the venue’s identity.

“We wanted it to have some sort of local ties as well … but at the same time (give) the venue a new identity that would help to start the new look and the new brand locally,” Gerding says. “But also just to position the venue … to attract national tours to come through town and play that venue.”

Many locals have appreciated the effort to keep in touch with the scene’s roots. In an email to Leslie and Gerding, Carol Rose, Forrest’s sister, thanked the two, saying, “Thank you for the wonderful and fitting tribute to his life in music by naming the hall after him!”

The pair also hopes that by continuing to build the venues’ national reputation, the music scene here in Columbia will grow as well. Competing with larger markets including St. Louis and Lawrence, Kansas is another aim for the coming changes.

“I think that there’s definitely a good music scene here, but there’s a ton of potential not only with being (able) to attract larger national tours through town, but also with just building up and fostering a local scene here,” Gerding says.

The business partners’ experience in building venues begins in Madison, Wisconsin at the Majestic Theatre. Madison had a similar issue as Columbia, where there was some sort of scene, but it too had room to grow.

One of the branding moves from Madison that Gerding said he’d like to employ here is “beer tastes better in the front row.” The tagline encourages the idea that you can get drinks or hang out anywhere, but those experiences are enhanced when seeing your favorite bands.

“You know that beer is going to taste a little bit better so the idea is to … excite people about the experience of live music,” Gerding says.

Gerding says he is very eager to make live music more of a priority in Columbia, citing his own experiences as a college student here.

Gerding saw bands such as My Morning Jacket and Against Me!, but one of his most memorable experiences was a jazz show.

“I remember being in college and coming here and seeing Wynton Marsalis … and I remember seeing The Blue Note in that type of setting like a jazz club with white tablecloths and candles,” Gerding says.

In the future, Gerding hopes to include numerous genres and go bigger than ever before, aiming in particular for Coachella-type artists and large indie shows.

“Ultimately, at the venue, you book what is selling tickets,” he says. “So to some degree, you’re a product of the community.”

Aside from the name change, Mojo’s will also be receiving cosmetic renovations such as different lighting and improved green rooms for artists.

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