Calliope Presents is a production and entertainment company specializing in neo-vintage and steampunk flair based out of Chicago, IL. We represent and book the nations best in vaudeville, circus, burlesque, electroswing DJs, and more! We also deal in international talent booking and artist management.
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Calliope Presents is a production and entertainment company specializing in neo-vintage and steampunk flair. What sets us apart is we specialize in this retro 1920-1930’s revival thing without being too heavy in the cosplay scene. People come to our parties dressed up in vintage, but also just simply dressed up. It’s a culture of looking sharp, being polite, and sipping complex whiskeys.
We’re also the only entertainment company in Chicago specializing in vaudeville, circus, burlesque, electro-swing, etc… so we have everything packaged up and ready to go. Its basically a very large extended family all over America, and we just organized a “hub” in our town, and connect the dots.
Calliope Presents first began as Calliope Festival in 2015 when Joe Rovner pitched a multi-day neo-vintage event to a long time associate and friend Pete Augusta. Both come from a long history of nightclub entertainment work, and they wanted to take things to the next level. Joe was a seasoned stage performer and touring DJ, while Augusta was a professional marketing guru, and also a club DJ. The dream was a weekend of vaudeville, burlesque, carnival acts, live music, DJs, and more mixed with vendors and ambient themes.
After months of planning, Augusta started to become wary of their limited capitol, resources, and experience in such a large event. He realizes the two of them might be in deeper waters than they were accustomed to. Rovner eventually agreed as well, and they decided to cancel it until a time when they felt more capable to pull it off. From this, they learned that they enjoyed working together, and agreed to try some smaller ventures before attempting a full-on multi-day festival. They also decided to bring on longtime friend Bill Holland, who had been working with Rovner already on a monthly electro-swing dance party called Rouge. Bill brought his record label into the mix- D2M (Dead 2 Me), since he wanted to focus on more electro-swing bands. The trifecta was formed.
Since the festival was on hold, Augusta pitched re-branding the production side of the company to Calliope Presents and focusing on talent acquisition & event management. It stuck, and the three hacked away at forming an infrastructure that vaguely resembled a company.
The first big show was put on in the spring of 2016 at Reggie’s Rock Club (Chicago), called Carnivale Delirium. It was a mini version of the festival, and for one night they brought out 16 acts from all over the country, and the Swingrowers (electro-swing band) from Italy. It was a big hit and launched the company in a more official manner.
Throughout 2016, Calliope Presents managed to pick up leads from associates and started managing talent troupes for corporate clients including Eataly, Lucky Strike, FTW Arcade, Renaissance Hotel, and more. With these seeds in place, they finally solidified their place in the Chicago scene as the go-to for neo-vintage event flair.
D2M records was also busy with Bill Holland signing Marcela Puppini of the Puppini Sisters and heading the US release of Everything Is Beautiful. Another notable thing in 2016 was the signing of L.A. band, Marquis & The Rhythm Howlers, and the release of their new record- Post – Apocalyptic Jukebox in October. All three Calliope partners released remixes of tracks from that album the following year, getting back to a love they all share- which is writing and remixing music.
2017 kicked off with the success of Carnivale Delirium for its second year in a row with a standing ovation for a booming electro-swing band from Portland- Sepiatonic. From there Calliope was invited to be part of the Hanger Stage at Electric Forest festival- and finally got a taste for the big leagues. In addition, they helped run a multi-city destination pop up event for Bombay Sapphire. The year ended with a sold-out event working in conjunction with Chicago entertainment and advertising mainstay Do312 for repeal day at the Stan Mansion. The final event of 2017 was the grand New Years celebration at Lucky Strike Lanes & FTW Arcade, a multi-venue experience to ring in the new year that saw over 1000 people throughout the night.
(last edited 1/16/2018)
Slated for 2018 is the return of Carnivale Delirium to a new venue that specializes in burlesque and vaudeville, the Uptown Underground. Calliope will also return to Electric Forest later in the spring and will continue to grow it’s client list even further. Sepiatonic will be in the fold again with a pending release on D2M Records, and club-ready remixes are sure to follow. The festival idea that started it all has been rumored for 2019 in either Detroit of Chicago, so keep an ear out for a big announcement.
The biggest challenges have been building a company infrastructure and legal entity entirely from scratch and without professional help. We turned to the internet to learn about contracts, insurance, taxes, corporate structure, hold harmless agreements, accounting, and a lot more. No one has held our hand, and we (in the beginning) didn’t have the funding to hire any specialists. Needless to say, we tripped up quite a few times and had to start wearing a lot of hats.
Another big challenge is keeping accurate records of 100+ artists and performers. They come from around the world, usually go by alias names, and all have different ways of getting paid. At one point we had 5 accounts similar to PayPal, but have since scaled back because accounting was a nightmare.
We also had to build out a DIY on-boarding process and virtual office in our Google Drive so we could communicate on the fly. There are many times when partners are on the road, so it was a good solution for saving receipts, storing updated contracts, adjusting event dockets, and performing other “information tasks” that would typically be done in an office.
We think all of our friends and the people we book should get the most credit. They have all been super supportive and eager to watch us grow. They need a scene for their art, and we provide a stage for them to perform & have fun. We organize an event, the performers get a gig, and the fans all dress up & chip in at the door to make it viable. It’s a very symbiotic subculture.
Contact us today to find out more about what we do!