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The first show at the newly revitalized Royal Grove will be a big one — the return of Darude, the Finnish EDM producer known for his song “Sandstorm” who had 400 people dancing along with him at Vega a year ago.

That show will happen on Jan. 25 and a lot more than 400 people will be able to dance in the venerable venue at 340 Cornhusker Highway.

The same things should hold true for Lancaster Ghettoblaster, who regularly packed Vega and will perform on Jan. 27, the Saturday night of the three-day Royal Grove “Grand Opening” week.

The Friday night performer will be Back Forty, booked on Thursday as Vega owners Eli and Carrie Mardock and Eli’s brother, Luther, work at getting the Grove ready to come back in less than a month.

“We’ve got basically a couple weeks to get the place ready,” said Carrie Mardock. “It’s exciting.”

Plans are to have the Grove open only on weekends through February.

“We’ll be fully ready to roll by the beginning of March,” Eli Mardock said. “We want to get some shows in there now. We’ll have these sort of soft-opening parties for February as we get things honed in.”

The Mardocks operated Vega at 350 Canopy St. on the second floor of the Railyard for four years, closing the venue on New Year’s Eve. There, they booked local bands and mid-level touring artists in a room that officially holds 350 people.

The Royal Grove, which is four times bigger than Vega in square footage, will have a capacity that’s proportionately larger.

“It’ll be different,” Eli Mardock said. “We have more flexibility with cap (capacity). When you have a 350 cap, it’s a lot riskier ... This will allow us to do more established, bigger names.

He plans to book the up-and-coming artists, too.

“I loved doing those shows — LeButchettes worked in the same studio I’ve been working in in Hamburg (Germany). Those aren’t the kind of shows that bring in a ton of money. But that’s something cool to bring to Lincoln. We’ll still be able to do that.”

The relatively small capacity at Vega, he said, made bringing more expensive artists like Young Fathers, Built to Spill and Mark Kozelek a tricky proposition.

“Every show was a complete financial gamble,” Mardock said. “We did everything we could to make a venue work in that space. But because of budgetary and capacity matters there, it’s amazing we got any cool shows. We’re ready to move on. But we’re thankful for the opportunity we had there.”

While booking for the revitalized venue is just starting, the Mardocks said they plan to have events, whether touring artists or local evenings, aimed at bringing back those who frequented the Grove in the '70s and '80s.

“There are so many bands who have history there,” Mardock said. “We’d love to have bands who have played there in the past. We’re not focused on a particular demographic. It’s all about the bands you’re booking and that night. That’s the event business. We expect to have all kinds of audiences in.”

One thing that will remain at the Grove is its look. In fact, the Mardocks are planning to really ‘70s-up the place, using some of the graphic design, color schemes and even the large indoor plants that typified the decade.

That’s in keeping with their desire to make the Royal Grove what it was before.

“The Grove is such a beloved venue and name ... The biggest thing for us is to make sure it stays beloved," Eli Mardock said.

The first tasks, however, are far more down to earth.

“You’re looking at the cleaning crew,” Carrie Mardock said Wednesday morning. “We’ve got to get out there and get to work. It’s going to look good and it’s going to be clean.”

Reach the writer at 402-473-7244 or

On Twitter @LJSWolgamott.


Entertainment reporter/columnist

L. Kent Wolgamott is an entertainment reporter and columnist.

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