Joe Diffie to headline at Ishpeming venue

Country music icon Joe Diffie, known for such hits as “3rd Rock From the Sun,” and “Home” will be performing at the Warehouse Showroom in Ishpeming on July 28. Tickets for the show, which is sponsored by Brogie's Tavern in Ishpeming and the Iron Spur in Negaunee, are $40 for general admission and $50 for patrons that would like to bring their own chair. (Joe Diffie promotional photo provided by Matt DeWitt)

ISHPEMING — Country music legend Joe Diffie is coming to the Warehouse Showroom in Ishpeming on July 28.

Diffie will be the second national act at the venue, formerly the indoor showroom for Central Pontiac car dealership on Second Street. The first was the band Saliva in June.

The country star had a string of hits throughout the 1990s with 35 songs on the Billboard Country charts and five that reached No. 1.

Fans will remember such as “Home,” “Pickup Man,” “Third Rock From the Sun,” and “Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox.”

The concert venue is the brainchild of Matt DeWitt, owner of Brogie’s Tavern; Eric Malmsten and his wife Kristy Basolo-Malmsten, owners of the Warehouse Showroom; and local musician Dan McCracken.

Having owned a DJ business for more than 20 years, DeWitt is no stranger to putting on events. In addition to the Saliva concert, he organized a Kip Winger appearance at the Vista Theatre in Negaunee and hosted Brian Vander Ark of The Verve Pipe and most recently Miljenko Matijevic of Steelhart.

DeWitt said the Diffie event will be a departure from the post-grunge alternative metal sound of Saliva, but that’s kind of the point.

“I would like to get a variety of genres into the showroom,” DeWitt said. “I was nervous about bringing Saliva in as a first act at the venue, but it turned out really well.”

Due to possible time constraints, DeWitt was recently given permission by the Ishpeming City Council to plan events through October, pending approval through internal departments.

Ishpeming Mayor Joe Juidici said it is important that the city encourage new growth and new directions for businesses in the city.

“I think this is something we have to do,” Juidici said. “If people are willing to go out on a limb to do stuff like this and draw people to this town, I think we should help them any possible way that we can.”

“I have just been really happy with working with the council, fire chief and police chief,” DeWitt said. “I just feel like they have been very accommodating with helping Ishpeming get on the map in a great way.”

Part of the reason for the council’s act of confidence is that DeWitt and the owners of the venue have taken security very seriously, with minimal problems at the Saliva event.

“We had 10 private security, the city put two officers on overtime, we also had six cadets from the police academy come in so 18 people were working security that night,” DeWitt said. “My concerns are no different than anyone else’s in the community, I just want it to be safe.”

The Diffie concert will be an all ages event, DeWitt said, so the staff will employ the same tactics as they did during the Saliva concert to ensure there is no underage drinking on the premises.

“We put green wristbands on people of age, and red wristbands on people who are underage,” DeWitt said. “We also mark both hands of people who are underage, so if your hand is marked, you aren’t drinking.

I would like to branch out into other genres of music as well.”

DeWitt said he is hoping to book a tribute band as well as an indie rock band event before Oct. 1.

Booking these events takes months of preparation and negotiations with agents as well as some up-front money, but DeWitt said he thinks the end result will be worth it.

“For the residents, I think the obvious benefits is that no one had to go anywhere to go to a show,” DeWitt said. “I remember one guy told me, ‘I got to go to a rock concert and now I can walk home.’ These people are accustomed to having to travel to Green Bay, Milwaukee or Chicago to see a live show.”

DeWitt said the Saliva concert sold out at 400, but he is prepared to sell 500 tickets to the Diffie concert.

“As the venue gets a reputation, and I hope it will, we will get more people in,” DeWitt said.

Event tickets — consisting of up to 400 standing tickets for $40 each and up to 100 tickets that allow patrons to bring their own chair for $50 each — will be available starting today online. Paper tickets will be available at Brogie’s Tavern as soon as they can be printed, DeWitt said.

Bay City native Donald Benjamin will open for Diffie.

Lisa Bowers can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242. Her email address is lbowers@miningjournal.net.