Beer City Music Hall boasts an all-woman production team, a nod to the lawless no man’s land town with a rich, if short, history filled with take-charge women.
Before Beer City occupied its spot in the rapidly developing Ironworks District — more than 100 years before, in fact — the original Beer City was a pop-up town in the area between west Kansas and the Oklahoma Panhandle. Mostly famous for being in a lawless no man’s land and existing as a waiting room of sorts for cowboys awaiting trains to take their Texas cattle east, the town only existed from 1888 to 1890, and its main features were brothels, saloons and gambling houses.
One of the key characters in this Wild West history was a brothel madam named Pussy Cat Nell, and according to cowboy yarns, she gathered a group of cowboys to kill the town’s first would-be marshal, a man named Amos Bush. Nell wasn’t keen on law and order coming to town, so she convinced some locals that if all of them shot Bush, none of them would be held accountable. According to the story, she was correct.
Venue CEO Stephen Tyler said Beer City — the original — had a history of powerful women being a “force” even if on the wrong side of the law. He talks about Pussy Cat Nell by way of a tongue-in-cheek introduction to Beer City’s — the new venue — all-female production team.
“I know it’s anecdotal, but I’m pretty sure that 98% of production booths at music events are all-male teams, and we wanted to lean into that Beer City history,” Tyler said.
When Tyler and his team were finalizing plans in 2021, they heard that ACM-UCO graduate Emily Egerton was looking to come back to Oklahoma City from Chicago, where she’d moved after graduating.
“She wanted to manage a venue after she graduated, but there was nothing available at the time, so she headed for Chicago,” Tyler said. “While there, she worked at some of the most notable venues like Lincoln Hall, Aragon Ballroom and Thalia Hall. When we heard she might be interested, we hopped on a call, talked through things and invited her back.”
Egerton grew up in Kansas, and drumming was her first love.
“I started when I was 8,” she said. “After high school, I didn’t want to teach lessons, and I didn’t want to work with a symphony, so I started looking for programs. Everything was so far away from Wichita, and mostly too expensive. I found ACM-UCO while I was looking, though.”
By then she’d had a serendipitous moment at a music show.
“I got there way too early, so I was nosing around, and the sound guy was nice enough to show me the board and tell me how stuff worked,” she said. “I was hooked.”
She completed the ACM-UCO program in three years instead of four, and she’s been working in the business (mostly) ever since. And as for Tyler’s anecdotal evidence, she agrees.
“I’ve been in the business for nine years, and I’ve worked in a ton of venues and on the road with Lucy Dacus,” she said. “In that time, I’ve only worked with one other female tech.”
Egerton moved back to OKC in December 2021, and the team had already hired Sunrise Chebahtah (lights) and Kyanne Kroeger (sound). The three are now Beer City’s house crew. There are others available if one of the women isn’t available, but Egerton and Tyler love that three uber-talented women run the show in a venue named for a city with a rich, if short, history.
“We don’t have an all-female crew as a gimmick,” Tyler said. “They are very good at what they do. I snapped a picture the other night (the picture that opens this story) because I looked back at the booth and these three badass women had a laser focus on the show, and we had a female performer, and it just felt like, ‘Yes, this is awesome.’ This shouldn’t be abnormal in the business.”
For her part, Egerton tries to encourage young women to pursue the production side of live music.
“I try to be honest with them,” she said. “It’s hard for a woman in this world. Many of the men have been horrible, and I never had anyone to warn me that it was coming or validate my feelings of the wrongness. So I tell them it’s OK to stand up for yourself, and that people will assume that women won’t be able to do the job. I tell them to make sure they love it, and if they do love it, work harder than the men and be determined, because that’s what it will take.”