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The Beatdown

Denver music is on the Rise.

DJ Josh Ivy must feel like walking into traffic right about now. Less than a month after his insanely popular GROWednesdays was handed its walking papers by Harry's (The Beatdown, September 25), his reign at Rise ended.

When GROWednesdays went dark, Ivy was bummed but optimistic, confident that he'd find a new space for the club night. And in the meantime, his Friday-night residency at Rise's Shadow Lounge, along with regular weekly gigs at Hapa Sushi in both Boulder and Denver and monthly Unity Gain events put together by his crew, Mile High House, kept him plenty busy.

But that was then; this is now. GROWednesdays has yet to find a home, and losing both that night and his slot at Rise has cut Ivy's income by 70 percent. "It's tough, man, because music is my passion," he says. "But at the same time, I'm financially dependent on it."

According to Kevin Larson, who handles marketing and entertainment for Rise, Ivy's departure was based solely on dollars and sense.

"What we've found in Denver is if they [clubgoers] want a martini bar, they go to a martini bar. What we found with the Shadow Lounge was that people were just avoiding it," says Larson. "We love Josh Ivy, and I only have great things to say about him. I'm hoping to work with him again in the future, when there's a place to put him. Josh is a great guy to work with and an incredibly talented DJ. It was with heavy heart, so to speak, that I had to make the call to him and let him know we were changing.

"It's a numbers game," Larson adds. "We like our people, and we want to help out everybody, but if I can have 200 people in that room versus fifty people in that room...if I don't make that change and make it quick, I'm not doing my job. Just to give you an idea of why the change was made so fast, we said, "Let's try this, once'; that's all we were doing. We did double the bar sales that night in the Shadow Lounge. We had 80 percent of the crowd dancing and probably double to triple the number of people in there. It's nothing bad about Josh; it's just not what the customer was looking for. And like any business, the customer is king. If the customer doesn't like what I'm doing, I'll change."

In a club market as competitive as Denver's, you're damn right a person in Larson's position will listen to his clientele. But while Rise's change in direction is understandable, it's still a shame that good people like Ivy and the other DJs affected by the club's numerous shifts -- DJ Emily, DJ Etain, Jamie Kent and Miss Vicious from the now-defunct Femme Fetale night on Thursdays -- are the casualties.

Shadow Lounge will now focus on R&B, Latin, house, funk and hip-hop. DJ JamX was behind the decks last week, but Larson says the club will also sample some up-and-comers like Boulder-based DJ Ben before naming a new resident. And as long as the club stays pliable, it should continue to attract masses of asses to its spacious dance floor. Ivy will undoubtedly land on his feet, too. He's a marquee player with a spotless reputation, and some enterprising club is sure to snatch him up before the ink is dry on this week's issue.

It's a small world, after all: As much as I'd like to think that Denver is a sprawling metropolis with all the trappings of larger municipalities, when it comes down to it, this place really is just a one-horse town.

But it's a one-horse town with a lot of talent right now, more than I can ever recall during all my years on the scene, both as a musician and as a journalist. Off the top of my head, I can list at least two dozen groups who are worth the cancellation of any plan just to see them perform. I'm not talking about subpar acts that are good only considering the rest of what's out there. I'm talking about jaw-dropping artists who take their craft seriously.

And one of them would have to be Isaac Slade, who plays piano and sings in a relatively new band called the Fray. Slade wanted to get my input on a TV show and Web site he's developing to focus on local music, but after jabbering for the better part of an hour, we discovered that we'd gone to the same school -- albeit a decade apart -- and knew a lot of the same people. In fact, Slade's co-vocalist/guitarist in the Fray is Joe King -- formerly of Fancy's Shoebox and the younger brother of that girl, the one who stole the breath from my lungs from eighth through twelfth grades. Like I said, small world. Even smaller town.

Slade and I ended up at LoDo Recording Studios, where he shares office space, and we chewed the fat like old friends. And after lots of prodding on my part -- he was concerned that I might think he'd originally contacted me to sell me on his band, not to discuss the TV show -- he let me hear the Fray's rough, unmixed recordings from its forthcoming EP, Reasons. Frankly, I was dying to hear what King sounded like and was fully expecting to be underwhelmed. But when Slade put the disc into his laptop and pressed "play," what came out of the speakers was mind-blowing: cascading melodies, intricate arrangements, flawless falsetto and, best of all, stunningly well-written songs (think Lifehouse on a Starsailor/Coldplay kick).

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