Live music returns to Rumba Cafe, Athenaeum Theatre in June

Celebrity Etc. is booking reduced-capacity local and national shows in June and July (Electric Six, Rev. Horton Heat) and hoping for full capacity shows in the fall, including Dinosaur Jr. on Sept. 30

Joel Oliphint
Columbus Alive
Local musician Dave Buker's guitar photographed after a performance at Rumba Cafe.

In March of 2020, when Gov. Mike DeWine announced stay-at-home orders to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Celebrity Etc. Presents booking agent Timothy Eddings immediately had hundreds of emails from bands, agents and managers looking to reschedule shows at Rumba Cafe, Skully’s Music-Diner and the Athenaeum Theatre, where the talent buyer books locally. 

In those early days, Eddings and his team postponed more than 100 concerts. Since then, some of those shows have been rescheduled five times.  

Now, with declining COVID cases and vaccines opening up to all Ohioans at the end the month, Eddings is cautiously optimistic about the future of live music in Columbus for the first time in a very long year. Last week, Celebrity Etc. announced a real-deal rock show at the Athenaeum Theatre for Sept. 30: Dinosaur Jr. 

“The Dinosaur Jr. show feels good because it's brand new. This isn't a show that was postponed. It's a new show,” said Eddings, who is hoping for full-capacity shows in the fall. In the meantime, Celebrity Etc. has begun booking limited-capacity, socially distant shows in June at the Athenaeum and Rumba Café, which has remained closed throughout the pandemic. 

“We’re going to start doing local shows [at Rumba] in June,” said Eddings, noting the challenges inherent in Rumba’s small size. “With the current health department rules, we can safely do 42 people with socially distanced tables, and hopefully it’ll be safer to have larger crowds soon.” 

The first national act booked for Rumba is an Electric Six show on Monday, July 12. Tickets are on sale today.

Announcements are also forthcoming for June shows at the Athenaeum, which will feature socially distant tables on the floor and 25 percent capacity seating in the theater’s permanent chairs, plus a mask requirement when not at tables, similar to regulations employed at Natalie’s in Grandview and Worthington, as well as other recently reopened venues such as Ace of Cups. “Natalie’s has done a great job, and we’re using them as a model for how to do it in a bigger room,” Eddings said.  

Skully’s is currently open at limited capacity, and although Celebrity Etc. hasn't booked the room in a year, Eddings now has a summer show on the calendar: Reverend Horton Heat on Thursday, July 29. Tickets are on sale today. “We’re hoping and believing it’ll be safe to have larger crowds by then,” Eddings said. “And if it’s still not safe we’ve postponed this one three times already.” 

Celebrity Etc. would also like to host some outdoor concerts this summer, but finding the right place for them has been a challenge. “We have some shows in mind, we just don't have a good location. It's hard to set up a stage and a PA and tear it back down,” Eddings said. “Props to the people at Legend Valley. That's a lot of work.” 

Eddings said he and his team are exhausted by the past year, but he’s also encouraged by the way music fans in Columbus have responded. “People are holding on to their tickets. Every time we postpone, we send the email that gives you the option to get your money back. But the vast majority of people are rolling with it five times over,” he said. “That’s very encouraging, because that's not normal on show postponements.” 

All of this good news comes with a caveat, of course. New and future bookings assume the vaccines remain effective and numbers continue to trend downward in Ohio.

“Obviously we won’t be dumb if things don’t get better with COVID,” Eddings said.