The Home of the Rave

Promoters hurry to get their acts together -- before parents, police and the courts decide the party's over.

"We could throw a party in an airplane hangar in the middle of nowhere if we wanted to," says Roulier, "but what's the point? I would rather put my energy into planning the best parties that I possibly can instead of standing in front of a city council or a committee trying to prove what a legitimate businessman I am. I could make some money, the kids might think I'm cool, but unless I jumped through all of the hoops to make it legal, I would have completely damaged my reputation with whatever legal entities were affected by the event."

"Our goal is to always be welcomed back to the place where we held our last event," says Bills. "And I don't know why, for various reasons, there are a lot of promoters out there who could care less about that. And they screw it up for everyone. Because of them, our events are put under a microscope. So we've had to blatantly say that we have nothing to hide. We want the police to come in and help us make it safe. We want them to arrest people for drugs. And part of that was moving into traditional concert venues where we don't have to worry about getting busted."

Still, even with a legitimate city contract in place, Together Productions has had problems. Last October, after learning that the Colorado Springs Police Department had voiced concerns to City Auditorium managers over their willingness to rent the space for raves, Bills and Roulier set up a meeting with the department. At the meeting, Metro Vice Narcotics Commander Robert Ownbery, Deputy Chief Luis Velez and other officers reiterated many now-familiar complaints. Their department had seen the worst of the Rampart High School debacle in March and was now wary of inviting a repeat episode.

John Johnston
Attorney Cris Campbell watches out for rave promoters.
John Johnston
Attorney Cris Campbell watches out for rave promoters.

"I would say that event single-handedly did more to damage the rave scene than any other event in Colorado," says Bills. "We are still apologizing for that one -- even though we had absolutely no involvement with it and totally agreed with everyone who was shocked by it."

Eventually, Bills and Roulier invited the officers to attend their next event -- a November 18 rave that went off without significant incident. Soon after, Together Productions signed a contract with City Auditorium for 2001.

"I do recall being somewhat surprised that these promoters actually called us and initiated a dialogue," says Deputy Chief Velez. "I have always thought that if people meet face-to-face, they can find some common ground. And I would say that did occur between our department and their company. The officers who attended their event reported that it was well-run, professional, that there were no problems that exceeded that of any other concert that comes to the Auditorium."

Chris La Soya thinks Together Productions has forged a path that other promoters would be wise to follow. "Together really pioneered a lot of the responsible rave promotion in the area," he says. "They were working so hard to build their name and show that not all promoters are trying to pull something off or hide something. They showed us that a good promoter is an adult who places safety on the same level as the music and throwing a good party."

"A year and a half ago, there were a lot of things that I was willing to take my chances on," says Ha Hau, a Denver college student whose Triad Productions has found a niche with local Asian teens. "If I didn't have a venue, I was pretty sure I could find a way to get one. I wasn't totally interested in dealing with the police. I was pretty confident I could pull it off, no matter what. But now I have to make decisions based not only on business and what I have to do just to break even, but on how I can address the pressure that's on the scene. Because of the weight of the image that we carry, it's almost impossible to change."

Gradually, more and more promoters are doing something that once would have seemed antithetical to the rave culture's nonconformist origins: They're getting organized. They've hired attorneys, incorporated their companies and filed the appropriate papers with the secretary of state. But even as they act more like businessmen, they've found that Colorado often doesn't want their business.

As the promoter behind A&E Productions, André Galaviz has been putting on Denver shows since the early '90s. And like Heath, he's recently taken a break from an atmosphere that's growing increasingly hostile. Over the past year, Galaviz says, he's made repeated attempts to meet with Denver police chief Gerry Whitman, only to be told by an aide that the chief is not interested in discussing raves -- period. Last June, Galaviz sent a letter to Mayor Wellington Webb, in which he outlined the dearth of business licenses available to promoters like himself. No one from the mayor's office responded.

"If you call any city agency, whether it's Excise and Licenses or zoning or the police -- if you say anything that sort of signals that 'rave' alarm bell, you are immediately cut off," Galaviz says. "You'll get into describing the kind of event you want to hold. They'll say, 'Is this one of these rave things?' Click."

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