By Noah Hubbell
By Leslie Simon
By Brad Lopez
By Tom Murphy
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By Inkoo Kang
By Dave Herrerra
By Josiah M. Hesse
When Quixote's True Blue officially unveiled its new location on Friday night, it appeared as if the management had made some sort of sacrifice to the Gods of Determination. The evidence? At 2 p.m. Friday, the place was a dusty mess, with an untapped bar and walls that were mostly bare. Seven hours later, as the first of Quixote's faithful began filing into the smallish bar on Broadway, it was stocked and sparkling. On one wall, a sculpted, skeletal Dr. Sam -- the bony image familiar to Grateful Deadfans from various album inlays and T-shirts -- welcomed back the brothers and sisters who've had little to choose from in the way of intimate live musical offerings for the past couple of months.
The new Quixote's picks up where owner Jay Bianchi left off in late August, when he moved out of his broom-closet-sized bar on East Colfax Avenue in Aurora. At the time, Bianchi promised that Quixote's new location would be in or near downtown -- where he and his brother, Phil, own and operate Sancho's Broken Arrow across the street from the Fillmore Auditorium. But then last week, Bianchi made the surprise announcement that he'd instead be taking over the building that had housed Seven South, a punk-leaning rock-and-roll club, for more than a dozen years. Although that doesn't put Quixote's downtown, it does take the club out of the suburban dregs and put it on one of Denver's most culturally eclectic boulevards.
"I liked it because you get more of the whole neighborhood atmosphere, plus it's a bigger room that allows you to do a little more," Bianchi says. "But every place gives you different options. You lose something, you gain something. Aesthetically, I think it looks better, but the old Quixote's had more of a homey feel. I think it's just a matter of us growing into the space and getting comfortable with it."
Many of the venue's longtime patrons may also find it difficult to get comfortable with the space's new focus. Bianchi is "booking some shows while we see what's going to happen," says Seven South owner Nancy Kennedy, who adds that a deal is pending but not finalized. Still, last weekend there was already a new sign on the place -- Quixote's True Blue at Seven South -- and when you called the old Seven South number, you got a new greeting: "Good evening, Quixote's." There have already been changes in the entertainment lineup, too: The Down-N-Outs, who were slated to play Seven South last Saturday with the Volts, were forced to move their show to a warehouse space on Walnut Street. In fact, all of the bands scheduled on the old Seven South calendar -- about thirty of them -- have had to reconfigure their plans.
Inside Quixote's, however, the tone was almost ecstatic. If there's one thing a hippie does well, it's beam that outward expression of sheer happiness, and Friday's opening was surging with enough good vibes to power a Day-Glo school bus. The evening's entertainment was -- get a load of this! -- a Dead cover band. During the first set, even a guy selling small Steal Your Face amulets looked like he wanted to hug something. According to Bianchi, the positive feelings even extend outside of the club itself.
"We've had a few people come in and look around and then turn around and walk out," he says. "Everyone is into different things. And we don't expect everyone to be thrilled that we're here. But overall, the bars have told us they are psyched that we're here. And even some of the Seven South regulars have told us they won't stop coming here. They want to see what we're going to do. Overall, we're feeling pretty welcome."
Still, on the day Bianchi raised his tie-dye flag in the club's display window, barflies in the Skylark Lounge across the street lamented the pending influx of Jerry's kids. "Well," one said, "there goes the neighborhood."
But if any part of town can handle a club like Quixote's, it's this stretch of Broadway. The blocks between First Avenue and Alameda constitute a bohemian version of Disneyland's Main Street, with a little something for everyone. It's just too bad that the arrival of a new place so often means the extinction of another -- in this case, Seven South.
Dark, unadorned, with a sign that was barely visible from the street, Seven South always had a certain understated charm. Events were likely to be publicized via word of mouth, a grassroots method that sometimes worked really well: The club's weekly trance happening, Strawberry Fields, swelled in popularity to become one of the city's more popular alternative club nights. (Bianchi says he's considering keeping the event going.) Since its calendar focused exclusively on local acts, Seven South's reputation was one of openness; lesser-known bands could get on stage even when they weren't able to promise that anyone would show up (often, no one did), and Kennedy and her staff welcomed bizarre and unusual acts that had difficulty securing stage time elsewhere.
But the venue's low-key approach to self-promotion may have been a mixed blessing, one that made a change in focus inevitable. Although Seven South was a staple of the city's burgeoning punk scene in the late '80s and early '90s, it lost a considerable portion of its audience share to upstarts like the 15th Street Tavern and the Lion's Lair; when Kennedy's interest waned, so did her club's ability to compete. And so while Bianchi's announcement was startling, it came as no real surprise that Kennedy would seize the opportunity to sell to a buyer who's proven he can operate a music venue successfully, albeit in a totally different style.