So far, 2002 has been a bummer year for clubs. In just one month, Denver has seen the abrupt -- though not totally unexpected -- combustion of three venues that regularly featured live music: The House of Rock and Alice Coopers'town have both closed, while the Flying Dog Pub has morphed into Tony's Place, a sports bar owned by a restaurateur from Colorado Springs.
Perhaps the LoDo establishments that have dumped rock and roll for DJ/dance fare are on to something. Maybe there just aren't enough fans of live local music to keep more than a handful of venues operating successfully at one time. It's also possible that each of these venues had problems of its own: House of Rock, for example, while in possession of an excellent sound system and an open-minded booking policy, had the misfortune of being located in Thornton.
Despite its affiliation with Clear Channel Entertainment, Alice Coopers'town was open for a mere seven months. As Janeane Garofalo pointed out in an appearance at the Fillmore last June -- the day after she was spotted at Coopers'town's opening-night party -- there was something about a music-themed sports bar that defied cultural logic. She felt she'd been tricked, she said, when she saw Coopers'town described as "The Place Where Rock and Jocks Meet." Garofalo's point -- that perhaps jocks and rock are best left in separate corners of the social landscape -- seems to have ultimately been shared by LoDo crowds.
The saddest development might be the changes at Flying Dog, which in the past several months had begun hosting showcases and weekly punk-rock nights, providing a nice alternative to standbys like the 15th Street Tavern and the Lion's Lair. At the time of the Flying Dog's sale, a month's worth of shows were canceled. The new management says that while the bar plans to eventually host some form of live entertainment, there will be fewer shows from fewer bands and, by extension, fewer opportunities for hopeful acts to play. That's bad news, dawg.
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There's a bright spot in all of this, however: Last month, the tiny Herb's Hideout on upper Larimer Street was bought by local saxophone player Laura Newman, adding a new entry to the short list of musician-owned venues. Under Newman's guidance, the Hideout will host music almost every night of the week. For now, the weekly schedule finds Newman's band, AOA, and other R&B acts, like the Erica Brown Band, taking the stage on Friday and Saturday; Wednesday is hip-hop night, while Sunday is dedicated to acid jazz à la Rock Island's So What? series. The Denver Jazz Orchestra crams into the cozy stage spot on Monday nights. Another welcome development: One Tuesday a month will be a "floater" night. Jet Black Joy, the Regular and Crimson Haybailer will fill the bill on Tuesday, February 5. So come out, come out, wherever you are.