By Brad Lopez
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Rumors. Without them, there might be a lot of empty space in this column every week. But, as even I have to acknowledge, they're not always true.
Take the chatter surrounding City Spirit, a restaurant and nightspot at 1434 Blake Street that came to life in lower downtown twelve years ago, during a period when the neighborhood was about as trendy as the south Bronx. As soon as it became common knowledge that City Spirit co-owners Mickey Zeppelin and Susan Wicke were angling to sell the joint, musicians quickly came to the conclusion that they would never again have an opportunity to perform in its friendly confines; in fact, members of Jux County are advertising their appearance on Friday, October 24, as their last at the club. But in Zeppelin's opinion, the future of the venue is not so simply defined.
"We've been talking to some people seriously about a sale," he says. "And because of that, we didn't want to get too far into the music schedule without getting their input. That's why we haven't scheduled anything in November. But that doesn't mean the new owners aren't going to do music. If a sale goes through right away, I think we'll agree together what the music program will be and then go from there. But if the sale doesn't go forward like we think it will, we'll precede as we always have. And to us, music has always been an essential part of what City Spirit is about."
The initial idea behind the restaurant was for it "to be a community cafe--a place to meet that was accessible to all ages, all sexes, and people of all persuasions," Zeppelin points out. "We designed the menu to be accessible and cheap and the environment to be comfortable so that you could come dressed in whatever from eleven in the morning until 2 a.m." And while there's no guarantee that a new owner will take the same approach, Zeppelin is confident that there'll be a certain continuity from one regime to the next. "We've been looking hard to find someone who wants to retain a similar feel," he reveals. "It's not going to become a sports bar. And I don't think it's going to become a no-music thing, either."
In the meantime, Zeppelin emphasizes that City Spirit is still open and should remain so through October. Further, he believes that if there is a closure during a transition period, it will be a brief one. "After twelve years, the fire of doing what we've been doing day in and day out diminishes a little--and this is a business where you can't coast," he notes. "But I don't think anyone should be sad about the changes that may be coming. I'm hoping the next owner will maintain the spirit of what we have but add some freshness, which it needs."
If memory serves (and in this case, I know that it does), I've griped a time or two about the paucity of opportunities for local musicians to be heard on Denver-Boulder radio. This situation hasn't suddenly reversed itself; it's just about as bad as it's ever been. But on the odd chance that a little ink can help improve matters, here's a couple of paragraphs about exceptions to this rule.
Brian Pavlik is an engineer at Chancellor Broadcasting, one of the city's many radio conglomerates, but he's also a performer ("I played with a band in San Diego," he says) and a fan of Denver music. As such, he talked his boss into providing him and a friend, Bryan Mantelli, with two hours of airtime on KRRF-AM/1280 (Ralph) during which they could focus on Colorado sounds. The show, which can be heard on Sunday evenings from 8 to 10, debuted in early October with a program devoted in large part to the combo Red Yak. Shortly thereafter, Pavlik and Mantelli hosted an in-studio appearance by Chaos Theory--and although the October 26 episode has been pre-empted by the broadcast of a University of Denver hockey game, the Garden Weasels have agreed to drop by on Sunday, November 2. "Everyone at the station seems really pleased so far," says Pavlik, a broadcasting novice. He adds, "My main focus right now is to improve the quality so that we can maybe get some sponsorships that will help us stay around for a while. To me, bands around here don't get as much recognition as they should, but there's a lot of talent, and I think people would realize that if they got a chance to hear it."
Over at KTCL-FM/93.3, DJ Mike Makkay has been the station's most consistent local-music booster over the past couple of years; his primary vehicle in this regard is "Locals Only," a program devoted to area performers that runs Thursdays at midnight. (The Reejers and Sketch have been among his recent guests.) But the station has also started sponsoring local-band nights every Thursday at the Market Street Lounge, and Makkay, who took over KTCL's morning-drive slot from Bret Saunders, a recruit of KBCO-FM/97.3, has been pushing for this concept to be broadened. He's been beating the drum for local music to be added to the outlet's regular rotation as well. "We've been playing Opie Gone Bad, and it's doing very well as far as popularity in the market goes," he says. "That's why I'm pushing to give more spins to other local bands."