Gary Pettis oozes passion for the Mankato music scene.
Faced with some new realities, he mused, “The Vikings are gone and they’re not coming back. There’s no other big circuses coming to take their place. So, what do we do? We capitalize on one of our largest assets. In Mankato it’s always been live music splashin’ in the street and getting people to go out on a Friday and Saturday night to have a good time.”
Pettis, a marketing strategist, is taking the opportunity to do his part. He stumbled on a band online that piqued his interest. “The Zero Men ran a social media campaign. They did some paid advertising on Facebook that basically said, ‘We’re looking to play in Mankato. Who will let us play in Mankato?'”
From the perspective of Johnny Iverson, guitarist, singer and songwriter for The Zero Men, it looked like this, “We set our sights on Mankato as one of the first places where we wanted to play.”
Pettis responded and it became quickly apparent that his skill set would match up well with promoting the group. “I think I’m hard-wired for this,” he said. “I’ve always done promotion of one sort or another. I’m able to put this stuff together relatively quickly. I could bring to bear my design skills, my creative skills. You look at a band named The Zero Men. How much creative opportunity does that give you?” Lots of opportunity! The title of this story, for example, is Pettis’ creativity at work.
“In Mankato it’s always been live music splashin’ in the street!”
Who Will Let Us Play?
All that was left was to find a venue. Enter Paula Olson owner of The Square Deal.
From 1969 through 1996, The Square Deal was a well known host of live music. After a
short closure, the bar was reopened as Pluto’s in 1996, later renamed Choppers and then Chopps. It was renamed back to The Square Deal in 2017.
“When I was a kid I used to bike uptown and I’d listen to some of the music. Not old enough to go in, I always liked going to The Square Deal and standing outside the door,” Pettis recalled. “They always had great live music there. One of the best memories was when a band called City Mouse used to play there. A guy named Gus Dewey played with them. Before City Mouse, Dewey was part of a band, The Gestures, who had that first national hit single. It put Mankato on the map. I think it was called ‘Run, Run, Run.’ So, he was our bonafide Mankato rock star.
“I walked into The Square Deal and met Paula,” Pettis continued. “They have a humongous stage but it’s still a relatively small venue. Paula’s looking for a way to get sources of revenue during the summertime and I thought, these guys can start here!” Olson embraced the risk of helping to introduce a new band and the two began making arrangements.
When asked what stirred him to want to help The Zero Men find a way in Mankato he offered, “It showed courage and it shows they want to get outside of their comfort zone. These guys said, ‘I want to go somewhere else and play.’ They’ve spent time working on their original music. They have a unique sound. They’re maturing as a band. They just needed a place to play!”
The Zero Men, a trio consisting of Johnny Iverson, Steve Radel and James Masters, will make their Mankato debut at The Square Deal on Saturday, July 7th starting at 9:30 pm. Additionally, they’ll be at the Henderson Roadhaus Event Center on July 14th at 8:30 pm and in St. Peter at Patrick’s on Third, July 21st from 8:30 to 12:30.