Charlie Fox spent years on the road working for rock bands as a tour manager, front-of-house sound engineer, and production manager.
For much of his career, all that time away from home wasn’t a problem. He was single and could go wherever, whenever.
Fox was already used to changing his location.
“I was a military brat, so we moved around a bunch when I was a kid,” he says. His father, a native of O’Neill, Nebraska, was in the Air Force and had long worked toward getting back to his home state.
“When I was a junior in high school [in 2001], he got stationed at Offutt, ” Fox says.
Teenaged Charlie was a drummer in a couple of bands that played the Ranch Bowl and a Papillion venue called The Rock. “Nothing that ever really went anywhere outside of Omaha, or really even drew a whole lot of people to the Ranch Bowl,” he says.
Yet the experience helped spark his interest in recording and sound production.
After high school, he enrolled at the University of Nebraska-Omaha for a year before transferring to UNL.
Though neither school had a live sound program, his time in Lincoln proved beneficial. It was there that he began working at Midwest Sound & Lighting Inc., where a co-worker who owned the public-address system at Duffy’s Tavern gave him opportunities to run the sound board there.
“It was a great place to start really honing my skills,” Fox says. “That was my first live sound gig.”
The experience led him to a career working for rock bands including Cage the Elephant, Needtobreathe, Yellowcard, Mayday Parade, and The Used.
For more than a decade, from 2005-2017, he was on the road for six to nine months out of the year.
“Even though technically my residence was Omaha, I was rarely in town,” he says.
Time went on, and, on his 28th birthday (Aug. 11, 2013) he met Beth, now his wife of three years. Beth spent several weekends on the road with Fox.
“We had a rule that we didn’t go more than three weeks without seeing each other,” Fox says. “So either I would go home or she would fly out to see me.”
Bothersome though the distance may have been, Beth enjoyed the perks of being part of roadie’s life.
“She had only been in four or five states prior to meeting me,” Fox says. “She’s now doubled, or tripled, that.”
Fox also enjoyed the side benefits of being in rock ’n’ roll. The couple state one or their favorite experiences was spending a week at a resort in Hawaii, courtesy of singer/songwriter Mat Kearney, for whom Fox was then working.
“We still talk about that trip, how much fun and relaxation we had that week,” Fox says.
Another of Beth’s favorite trips was going to New York City when Fox was working for Yellowcard. She had never been to the Big Apple before, and Fox wiggled a day off into his schedule to take her sightseeing.
As time went on, being away for weeks at a time became increasingly bothersome, and by 2015, Fox knew the gig was about up.
“When I got married, we had already started talking about what was going to happen with our future,” he says. “Was I going to stay on the road? Would I eventually get off the road? Would we move out of Omaha? In the line of work that I was in with touring, I wasn’t sure that there was going to be a possibility of staying in the music industry and in Omaha.”
At the time, Fox didn’t see a lot of Omaha-area openings.
“I just kind of assumed I would have to move to Nashville, or L.A., or New York,” he says.
As it turned out, that wasn’t necessary.
In May 2017, opportunity knocked when Omaha Performing Arts had an opening for a booking manager.
“I had relationships with agents and promoters from all across the country from my touring days, but really hadn’t done a whole lot of booking,” he says.
Yet Fox wasn’t without booking experience. Earlier in his career, he had booked empty calendar spots at The Rock with local bands.
At Omaha Performing Arts, he is booking at a national level.
“I’m reaching out to agents for these national bands and trying to bring them in myself,” Fox says. “We do work with outside promoters as well on occasion, so I am still using those relationships with regional and national promoters to try and bring the highest quality of artists that we can into our venues.”
He says his focus has been to expand what Omaha Performing Arts offers.
“One of the first shows that I booked here when I came on was St. Vincent (Annie Clark), which I think probably shocked a lot of people when Annie was playing here as opposed to a traditional rock club. But that’s what the agent was looking for, and I think that as St. Vincent had grown, that was where her career was going to. She needed a larger venue.”
He says Omaha Performing Arts venues—the Holland Performing Arts Center and Orpheum Theater—occupy a particular market niche for a mid-level space. One of his goals is to maximize the use of Omaha Performing Arts venues by artists who might not otherwise play Omaha as their popularity increases.
“A lot of artists, they play the small clubs, and then they kind of disappear from Omaha for a few years for a lack of venue space,” he says. “Maybe they play in Kansas City or Des Moines or Chicago. My goal is to try and get those artists to keep coming here so people can see them and not have to wait until they’re big enough to be playing in the arenas.”
In addition to career satisfaction, Fox’s work gives him an opportunity to come home each night to his wife and Theodore, the couple’s nearly 2-year-old son. Beth, now a stay-at-home mom, is expecting the couple’s second child.
“Working with Omaha Performing Arts has been an amazing experience,” he says. “Being able to come home every day at the end of the day and see my family, to sleep in my own bed, to have dinner with my wife and son every night…that wasn’t possible in my old career.”
Visit omahaperformingarts.org for more information about Charlie and the artists he is booking for OPA.
This article was printed in the Fall 2018 edition of Family Guide.