Before it opened its doors as a concert venue in 1994 under the direction of a then-newish local promotional company called nobody in particular presents, the Bluebird Theater was empty, old and mildew-ridden. But back in the day, this space on East Colfax enjoyed an existence as a movie theater -- a porn theater, to be exact, where those who preferred to be horny en masse did so beneath the watchful eyes of the fresco-style angels adorning the walls. (The film Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead includes a scene shot in a Bluebird dressed in all its porn glory, even though the production took place after NIPP's renovation.)
As we all know, the Bluebird is now one of the area's primary venues for mid-sized regional bands on tour, as well as for more high-profile locals; it's a reliable space for both the quality of its sounds and its calendar. But now nobody in particular's national booking agent, Peter Ore, is poised to reintroduce the Bluebird to a bit of its past (no, he's not showing skin flicks). On January 25, Ore will inaugurate Cinema, Sips & Sounds, a series that marries film, live music and cheap drinks on one Thursday each month. The premiere event will feature a set from Space Team Electra followed by a screening of Terror Firmer, the latest release from the roguish Los Angeles-based production house Troma Films. Admission is $5. Future programs pair the LaDonnas with Gimme Shelter (the Stones documentary that showed why the Hell's Angels don't always make good security guards) on February 22, and the Down-N-Outs and Quadrophenia on March 15. A monthly companion event, Cinema Draught Night, will provide cheap drinks and cult films on Sunday nights (think '50s-era sci-fi -- The Day the World Ended, Bucket of Blood, that sort of thing). And while this is not the first time that film has been incorporated into the Bluebird's schedule -- Ore and company introduced a double-feature film series three years ago and hosted free movies on sporadic Sundays last year -- Ore feels confident that the new series comes with a heightened sense of purpose.
"We're calling it the real film series," he says. "The last ones didn't really have a theme; there was no grand purpose behind it or any real push for it. There was a definite lack of purpose. This series is designed to be more of an event, an experience. I kind of got sick of the Bluebird just being music. I don't know if you can say it's a cultural thing, but there's a lack of diversity. When we started it, music wasn't the only thing that the Bluebird was supposed to be about. We want to do some kooky stuff."
Ore's excitement about the project is palpable, particularly when he discusses a potential best-case scenario for the local entertainment scene. Beyond providing a social alternative for those who have seen a gazillion bands in a million clubs yet aren't quite ready to chuck club life for, say, a coffee-shop existence, he hopes the series will foster appreciation of film as an artistic and expressive medium. The selection of a Troma film for the series' debut seems in step with that goal, as it comes from one of the more enduring and boundary-pushing film companies in the United States. And while the bulk of films scheduled for Cinema, Sips and Sounds are classic, music-related titles, Ore foresees a day when experimental, international and local films will all get their shot on the Bluebird's big screen. Given that independent film is still enjoying a local renaissance, Ore's idea seems more than plausible. Wonderful as they are, the Mayan, Esquire and Chez Artiste theaters can cover only so much ground.
"I would love to build a kind of film society around this," Ore says. "Maybe host some conferences, some filmmaking workshops. People could meet local directors and producers and get inspired to make some more local Denver films. Before you can do that, though, you have to sort of get people used to watching and thinking about films."
People of Denver, let's go to the movies.
Regis Christau is one smart cookie. Over the past twenty years, he's built a veritable empire of Denver-based nightclubs and become a constant in an uncertain business. Currently, he operates the Church, the Funky Buddah, the Deadbeat and Vinyl -- clubs that are usually packed to the gills with beautiful people every Thursday through Saturday night. Part of Christau's success, it seems, lies in his ability to attract and keep good people on his staff; urban legend holds that loyal employees are sometimes bestowed with gifts ranging from cash to cars.
It makes sense, then, that Christau would seek the talents of Hardy Kalisher, the club whiz who has turned Boulder's Soma into one of the most progressive dance clubs going. In addition to snagging a Westword Best of Denver award in 2000, the space was also selected as one of the best clubs in the country by the British publication MixMag. And when praise is heaped on Soma, it usually involves some mention of Kalisher's knack for booking national and international DJs and dance artists, as well as hosting interesting residents and theme events and creating a general groove-y vibe. In March, Vinyl -- which reopened last October after a fire (and the fire department) wreaked havoc on its interior early in the year -- will adopt a similar format when it turns into Next, with Kalisher at the booking helm. Prior to the official re-launch of the club, located at 1082 Broadway (artists TBA), Next will host a few pre-grand reopening events: On February 2, Christopher Lawrence will spin as part of the Moonshine Records tour, and on February 9, Ben Watt of Everything but the Girl will appear with his DJ partner, Jay Hannan. Not a bad way to start the club's new life.
Kalisher, who will continue as Soma's director of booking, says Next will maximize Vinyl's multi-level environment by filling the two rooms with different styles and sounds. "We'll do something like have big European, progressive DJs in one room," he says, "while in the other we might have some more eclectic DJs in the Kruder & Dorfmeister realm. It'll allow us to cover a broader spectrum of the dance music scene. And it will also allow us to promote local up-and-coming DJs, who will spin downstairs each night before the national DJ comes in." Kalisher also plans to host monthly showcases from local DJ collectives, including the Humble Souls and the Casa del Soul crews, though his primary focus will be on bringing the stars of the dance world (many of whom will be co-billed at Soma) to the Mile High City.
"A lot of clubs have opened up in Denver, and they provide a dance floor and some music and a place for singles to hook up, but they don't have a real commitment to the music," Kalisher says. "The secret of the success of any club is that the people behind it have got to have a real love for the music. You can't just book a DJ from London once every six months and represent yourself as a superclub on the international scene."
A superclub? That's exactly what Christau and Kalisher are going for. We're looking forward to seeing what's next at Next.
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As everyone knows, punk rockers are dispirited, cynical beings interested only in smashing imperialism, beer bottles and the fragile skulls of little puppy dogs. But then, however shall we account for a new event that places these antisocial miscreants in the wholesome environs of a bowling alley? On Thursday, January 18, Suburban Home Records and the Cat will co-sponsor the Punk Rock Bowling Tournament at the Sonesta Bowling Lanes (8800 Grant Street, Thornton), in which teams from local bands and businesses will strut around in rented shoes. More confounding, the tourney will be followed by two hours of lane-side karaoke -- possibly the single most unpunk-rock thing imaginable (after PBS travel-show host Rick Steves).
So what's gotten into everyone? Time was when chain-smoking was the only sport these hardened anarchists would endorse. Maybe it's money lust: Participating bowlers will compete for monetary prizes ($200 for first, $125 for second, $75 for third). They'll also clamor for bragging rights the following night, when winners will be celebrated in a special awards show at the Cat (2334 Welton) and allowed to hold court over performances from Pinhead Circus, Fort Collins's Armchair Martian, Stereotyperider and the Gamits. Both the tournament and the awards show are open to anyone over eighteen; team registration is $50 and covers rentals as well as admission to the Cat on Friday.
If you fear bowling, as so many of us do, there are other ways to get into the music game this week. On Friday, January 19, the Quixote's crowd will jam to the Tony Furtado Band's jazzy, banjo-laden string thing (ask about the club's new shuttle to and from Sancho's Broken Arrow, its companion venue on Colfax; it's a nice, DUI- preventing service)...Also on Friday, January 19, Mere, Last Great Day and Hank & the Hankstirs take the stage at Herman's Hideaway; United Dope Front, the Open Air Ensemble (featuring members of the Motet and Fat Mama) and the All Mighty Senators will command the Gothic Theatre; and Willie & the Po Boys will serve up some soul at The Border restaurant, 2014 South University Boulevard. (The Boys' light show will be provided by Phil "The Fan" Hamon, subject of my November 30 "Shine On," who says he's been besieged by gig offers in recent months; when he's not busy lighting Willie and company, you can catch Phil at Herman's most weekend nights). And should you prefer to mix Slavic polka with your punk, check out DeVotchKa and Unsound at the 15th Street Tavern on Saturday, January 20. Sounds as if the weekend might shape up to be a super melodrama.