Ethan Oxman has been planning, promoting and executing live performance events in the Tetons for over a decade. Oxman arrived in Jackson Hole back in 2011 with a stacked resume filled with music industry experience in both New York and Los Angeles. Since that arrival, he’s had a major hand in bringing big acts like TV On The Radio, Jack White, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, ODESZA and Stephen Marley to Jackson Hole.
Now booking and executing live shows at the world-famous Mangy Moose in Teton Village, Oxman is looking to finish the summer season strong with shows from hip-hop turntablist Cut Chemist, up and coming “cosmic country” act Daniel Donato and reggae legends Black Uhuru. The Cut Chemist show on August 18 and Daniel Donato show on September 9 are presented by KHOL, you can find tickets here.
Following a recent punk show featuring Agent Orange (presented by KHOL), Oxman joined us for a conversation in the KHOL studios.
The following interview transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity. This conversation was recorded on Tuesday, Aug. 9.
JACK CATLIN/KHOL: You’ve had a long and successful run of bringing some amazing talent to Jackson. How important to you is exposing different and sometimes unexpected acts to the local community?
ETHAN OXMAN: Yeah, super important. I mean, I kind of pride myself [on it] and like to consider myself an art curator of sorts. I think you know, deep down, that is really what a concert promoter is. Every different genre has its own little niche fan base, especially when you’re in a town like Jackson, that niche can get really small. And of course, there’s crossover, and there’s always going to be more crossover in a small town like this. Whereas if you’re in a big city, it’s kind of more genre specific, and it can be [like that] for obvious reasons. But I think it’s really important to speak to each separate niche and speak to that small fan base, however best I can.
I love bringing different types of stuff [to Jackson] and I also really love discovery and the opportunity to bring something that no one’s ever heard of and [something] they can discover. And there’s nothing better than stumbling into a show, maybe you know the headliner but you get there early for the opener, or maybe you don’t know anybody and just a friend’s going, so you’re tagging along, and you discover new music and then you fall in love with them. And then next thing you know, they’re in your daily life listening on a playlist or whatever it may be.
KHOL: The real sweet spot, the reward [in promoting] is showcasing someone that is about to blow up, and then people are like, ‘Wow, they were in Jackson three years ago, and now they’re on the Billboard charts.’
OXMAN: Totally, yeah. And we’ve definitely had some experiences doing that and that’s really cool. And I’d say coming up, the Daniel Donato show is that for sure. He is not super well-known yet but if you look at what’s going on with him out there, it’s the same thing. In three years we’re not going to be able to get him to come back here because we won’t have a big enough venue for him. But the goal now is to get him to like us and then he’ll come back still when he’s a big deal.
KHOL: Kind of like Band of Horses recently, where you guys had them here a long time ago and they came back.
OXMAN: Yeah. And even that one, I mean, the main guy after the fact from that show came up to me and he was like, ‘That was so special. I remembered being here and it was so exciting to come back.’ You know, you think these bands or these musicians are these mythical creatures but they are just kind of normal people and they just enjoy what they do. I mean, even last night we had a couple of kids who are big punk fans and too young to come to the show. And one of their dads was friends with somebody at the Moose and they reached out in advance, so we invited them to come to the soundcheck. And I let the Agent Orange guys know in advance that this was happening and they were like, ‘Oh, hell yeah, that’s awesome. They can totally hang out.’ And they came for soundcheck and then soundcheck was over and they’re about to walk off and Mike, the frontman was like, ‘Well, wait, wait, wait. These kids don’t get to come to the show. Why don’t we just do a couple of songs for them right now?’
And then they just start rocking out and they took a request from the kid too, and they did a little private performance for these like three 12-to-14-year-olds. And they loved it. And after they said that was one of the highlights of their night was rocking out to three little kids. So, you know, these musicians, I think they come here and they see that it’s a special place and they enjoy it. And then, yeah, we try to get them back.
KHOL: With all of your experience over the years, can you touch on how the live music scene here in Jackson has evolved since you got here and where you see it going in the future?
OXMAN: Interesting question. I think it’s grown. I think the Pink Garter, myself included, obviously. But, you know, Dom [Gagliardi] and Matt Donovan and Jeff Stein and a handful of others here that put a lot of time and effort and resources into bringing music over the years as promoters, it feels like it’s gotten better and that the community has gotten more connected over the years. And maybe just like realizing that we actually can get some pretty cool stuff here and it requires their support. And there’s this relationship there between the promoter, me, and the people coming to attend the shows. I keep telling people that, they keep thanking me at the Mangy Moose for putting on shows and I’m like, ‘Just keep coming and I’ll keep doing it. Once y’all stop, then I stop.’ And I think that relationship has gotten stronger and stronger over the years, and I guess I’ve seen it with different genres.
I feel like when I first got here there wasn’t a lot of electronic music. We have a great DJ scene. It’s kind of ebbed and flowed over the years. But as far as actual electronic producers playing original music, it was cool to watch that one develop with smaller artists and then slowly push the limits with ODESZA and Pretty Lights and Diplo and Big Gigantic and then, of course, BIVWACK–formerly Head to Head. I mean, they must have played 15 shows here over the years. And the Something Else Guys are kind of dabbling into that. Canyon, who now goes by Nightlight lives now in L.A. and produces his own music. He was a high school kid growing up here. So, it has been cool to see that genre go up over the years. I used to be really nervous to book an electronic show because I just didn’t know if people were going to show up or if people are going to be familiar with the artist. And now it’s like electronic music? Slam dunk. Like, that’s an easy one.
I think outlaw country or red dirt country is something that I feel just keeps proving itself successful to me. Like, over and over and over. I’m not saying that’s a new genre to the market but I do think that has developed over the years. I now want to develop more punk. I’m like, ‘Alright, let’s just bring it on. Like, let’s find more punk music to bring here.’ And people obviously like it. I mean, the amount of people that came out on a Monday night [for the Agent Orange show]. I think that will develop. I mean, Jeremy Walker and Ollie and Alex with Fire In The Mountains definitely created a metal market from nothing here. I remember talking to them, five, six, or seven years ago about trying to do metal shows. And it was like, ‘Maybe 100 people come if we’re lucky.’ And they just did a festival of 1,500 people and it was awesome. So, I think I’ve definitely seen that side of the market develop.
I think it’s just continuing to have a diversity of course, like bluegrass and jam bands and reggae bands are a staple in this community, as well as just mountain town communities in general, and they will always remain to be and I will continue to book all that kind of music because everybody loves it. It’s fun and at the end of the day it does sell tickets and that’s half the battle. I think it’s just continuing to bring a variety and hoping that the community just keeps paying attention and just keeps coming out and has an open mind to maybe come to a punk show. And they’ve never seen a punk show or go out to a metal festival or I really would love to try to bring more kind of like indie rock and that sort of stuff. We’ve dabbled with the bigger names in that genre, such as TV On The Radio, and they’re such a big name that that was an easy sell, but there’s a lot of really amazing smaller bands that would be fun. And also, you know, hip-hop: I’m trying everybody out there who are hip-hop fans. I will continue to try to get hip-hop music here. It’s a tough one. But I want to see that piece of the little music world grow as well.
KHOL: Yeah, there’s a great community here, open-minded. But I liked what you said about building that relationship with the community, and it’s about building trust. So, everyone that’s listening, trust Ethan. He’s always bringing great talent here.
OXMAN: Thank you. Yeah, maybe that’s something that changed. I feel like a really good music market is exactly that. I think people trust the promoter and they just go because they know, ‘Oh yeah, this guy or girl has been bringing great music. I have no idea who his band is, but OX Presents? I’m going. It’s an OX Presents show.’ So, I’m not saying you’ve got to only trust me. I’m not the only one here doing it, but I think, yeah, just trust the folks bringing music here because it’s almost always pretty awesome.
Listen above for KHOL’s full conversation with Ethan Oxman.
This coverage is funded in part with an Arts For All grant provided by the Town of Jackson and Teton County.