On Tour with Jade Nielsen
[Jade Presents, Fargo]
Story by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Micah J. Zimmerman, Amdak Productions
This month, we decided to be "groupies" and tag along with Jade Presents founder, Jade Nielsen. As he showed us around his renovated Downtown Fargo office and South Fargo family home, his 30-year passion for music and entertainment followed. On the final leg of the tour, we hit the stage to meet up with his team at Bluestem's outdoor amphitheater in Moorhead. If the pandemic has you missing the music, this story is a reminder that live entertainment will always find a way to survive.
Man Behind the Band
Although his name's been printed on nearly every concert ticket we've purchased, many have never met the man behind the band. The founder of Jade Presents, Jade Nielsen, has made a backstage living, spending the past 30 years promoting local and national acts all across the country. What started as a side hobby in 1990, has grown into a fully immersed profession. Before the pandemic, his company was handling roughly 150 events a year, helping create a cult following for events like Happy Harry’s Ribfest, The Bacon & Beer Festival, Roughrider Ink & Iron Expo, and many more.
Promoting and producing shows began at an early age for Nielsen. "It all started when I was about 18 or 19; I had friends in local bands in Fargo and I had started working in a record store. My brother, at that time, had cancer and we ended up deciding to do a benefit show. I put together the lineup with local bands that I knew, at this place called Exit 99. Eventually, that club started getting phone calls from bands that were touring around and they would just refer them to me," explained Nielsen. "Really, that kind of did it for me. I loved music, but the idea of being a promoter had never crossed my mind. I probably didn't even know what it was at that point."
These days, with live events still hindered, Nielsen spends his days a bit differently, researching solutions for socially-distanced, live entertainment, streamlining his company, and working on plans for local development projects. To get a better glimpse of a day in the life of Jade Nielsen, we decided to take a VIP tour; Jade in the office, at home and on the stage!
Tour Stop #1: Jade Presents Office
Just off the grid from the heart of downtown, the Jade Presents office is an unassuming structure, easily hiding the 3,000 square feet that's been renovated inside. Although Nielsen opted to keep the footprint as-is, nearly every inch was given a cosmetic overhaul. "It was kind of a funky office. When we bought the building, it was straight out of 1987, so we stripped it down. The only thing we didn't change was the flooring," said Nielsen.
In this part of the office, his graphic artists work to design an array of promotional material for all kinds of events. Naturally, the walls are covered in iconic tour posters and rare ticket stubs. "I used to do a ton of John Prine shows; there's Hawaii, Alaska, Winnipeg and other tickets," said Nielsen. You'll also see a lot of Willie Nelson in here. We did the Trampled by Turtles 10-year Minnesota Tour, then you'll see B.B. King, whom I used to spend a lot of time with. Unfortunately, the tickets are getting to the point that you can barely read where they were."
Walk the Line
Nielsen's personal office is an artistic vibe of modern tones and rustic wood, surrounded by concert posters and images that have inspired his career. Although he bases his music choice on mood and appreciates all genres, his office gives insight into preferences of progressive rock, folk, and legends like Johnny Cash, whom his one son is named after.
With concerts and festivals hopefully on the horizon, Nielsen's modern-day, dream line-up would look something like this; Kendrick Lamar, Tool, Tyler Childers, Brother Ali, Sturgill Simpson, Caamp, Run The Jewels and Jack White - maybe Trampled by Turtles if his mood changes. As far as what acts end up coming to Fargo-Moorhead, it's not only up to Jade; there's also a long list of people collaborating, including promoters, agents, managers, and marketing teams across the country.
Even when live events were in full swing, Nielsen has always made time for new endeavors. He's spearheaded a variety of development projects like Firefly, a shared community concept for 16 smaller cabins on Dead Lake. He's also partnered on the development of many progressive projects around the region, from new restaurants and resorts to an array of new venues - finding a passion for bringing new life to old spaces.
Conference room Crafty
Trying to avoid having to do a complete overhaul of the building's structure, Nielsen instead got creative with materials, choosing industrial lighting, and floating ceiling panels with exposed and oversized bolts. "Instead of scraping the popcorn ceiling, we masked it with this panel idea I saw while I was in Chris Hawley's conference room. I believe it's a Homasote, which is kind of a pressed board that's used for acoustical purposes now," said Nielsen.
Rebranded: Live & Local
With the entertainment industry in constant evolution, his team has been working on an identity refresh. Last year, they went through a detailed process of defining roles and updating their old tagline, Keeping Music Live, which to them, now felt outdated. In recent years, their work has extended beyond music to include comedy acts, theatre, and really any type of event within the spectrum of entertainment.
"I spent most of last year refining what we do, then after we went through this process, Adam Wiedman designed a new logo for us and we've rolled out a new tagline, Live & Local, with help from Adam and Lempe Creative " said Nielsen. The "local" element relates to their new, more concentrated focus on, Fargo-Moorhead, instead of their usual cross-country and regional shows.
Tour Stop #2: The Nielsen Home
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