Brian “Skinny” McCabe
Concert Booker and Owner,
Hi Tone Café
Brian “Skinny” McCabe is a one-man show when it comes to running a venue. From bouncing to bartending to promoting, the work always seems to come back to Skinny.
“I started working the door at Newby’s in 2005,” he says. “Before that, I was doing odd jobs, worked at FedEx, really just doing whatever.”
More than 10 years later, McCabe has become a local music mainstay through his booking efforts as owner of the Hi Tone Café, one of Memphis’ most popular places to see live music. A humble start working security at the front door of Newby’s, a jam-band-happy college bar just off the University of Memphis campus, eventually led down a path that facilitated McCabe’s ultimate goal – bringing in new faces from both near and far to participate in the Mid-South music scene.
“I’m into a little bit of everything, music-wise,” he says. “But there’s a formula that works at certain places that I’ve come to know over the years.”
McCabe took over operations at the venerable Hi Tone Café’s new home in the up-and-coming Crosstown area of Memphis in late 2014.
“As a multi-purpose venue, you have to reach all the markets,” he says. “Hi Tone has always had a really broad mix of what they booked in the past, from rap to country to everything in between. It gives me a lot of choices, that’s for sure. It’s great to be able to fill up our calendar all year long with good acts.”
Initial apprehensions about McCabe as the new owner of one of the city’s hottest music venues was quelled early on with a steady stream of fresh, exciting acts alongside the usual Hi Tone fare.
”Over the years, I forged better relationships with other booking agents and that led me to being the first person to book a few artists for Memphis shows,” he says. Among those shows, McCabe says booking the electronic bands Pretty Lights and Bass Nectar was particularly memorable. “To see those guys take off now and sell out arenas is pretty crazy,” he says.