Like Don Quixote, brothers Jay and Phil Bianchi are trying to create their own world. As the brains behind Quixote's True Blue, Sancho's Broken Arrow and Dulcinea's 100th Monkey, they've succeeded in making Denver a destination city for touring jam bands -- in the process threatening San Francisco's title as the Hippie Music Capital of the World.
But unlike their fictional hero, the Bianchis haven't gone mad -- just a little shopping-crazy. This week the brothers unveil their new Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom, a large space inside an old ballroom at 27th and Welton streets that most recently was home to Club Pure.
"One thing that has been frustrating in the past is that a lot of our bands have grown up and needed to expand into larger venues," Jay Bianchi says. "A lot of times we'd develop a band and then have to say goodbye; they'd go play the Gothic or the Bluebird. Now we can just bump them up to the larger space and keep them playing for us."
Cervantes' -- named for the sixteenth-century Spanish writer who penned Don Quixote -- is the second music room to open on Welton in the past six months; Climax Lounge, the new incarnation of the Raven, sprang to life last fall. And Jay Bianchi says he wouldn't be surprised to find other club aspirants following suit.
"There's a lot of really positive stuff happening in this neighborhood," he says. "If people think Colfax can have a renaissance, I think Welton can have a quicker and easier one. This stretch of Welton seems manageable, whereas Colfax is more of an enigma. It's just a huge mess -- which is part of why we like it, of course." (By now, Sancho's Broken Arrow and Dulcinea's 100th Monkey are fixtures among that mess.)
Cervantes' Masterpiece Ballroom opens with a performance from Lazy Lightning on Friday, January 17, and with Robert Walter's 20th Congress on Saturday, January 18. Get 'em up, Rocinante.
Arguably the best thing about the National Western Stock Show is the chance to see mini-donkeys paraded around wearing glittering vests and little hats. But this season of barnyard pageantry also has a notable musical implication, as it usually signals the return of Lannie Garrett's Patsy DeCline Show to the ReCliner Lounge, a theater formerly housed inside the Denver Buffalo Company, at 11th Avenue and Lincoln Street. For the past ten years, Garrett has donned a big red wig and a cowgirl outfit and entertained visiting ranchers and farmers (as well as local C&W fans) with her one-woman ode to country music and off-color comedy. Last year, the show -- a raunchy parody that strips Garrett of her usual diva sheen -- was so popular that it ran through May.
But this year, Garrett won't be setting down her boot heels in the usual location anytime soon. Cielo, an upscale Mexican restaurant that's been threatening to open in the Denver Buffalo space for months, is still under renovation, its opening date unknown. Garrett and Cielo owner Curt Sims (who also has Lime, in Larimer Square) had originally planned to launch the DeCline show on February 14; that date has since been scratched. But while Garrett says she's had offers to move Patsy to another location, she plans to keep her hat parked in the ReCliner Lounge, a room she named.
"It has become an identifiable home to me. I feel I sort of 'branded' it," she says. "And I do feel confident that when it's all done, I will be back there. We are talking about maybe doing some special nights there -- maybe a Patsy show one weekend a month."
In the meantime, cowpokes thirsty for some bawdy countrified entertainment will have to hit the road to catch her show. "Patsy is off to play in Phoenix and Santa Fe, and she just got an offer in Dallas," Garrett says, "so her boots will be getting a workout."
Most people who frequent shows along the Front Range have seen Jeff Holland's work -- they just don't know it. An artist who designs promotional posters for area concerts, he's been an aesthetic roadie for everyone from Morphine and the Melvins to 16 Horsepower and the Dave Matthews Band. But as the co-host of the remarkable Route 78 West country/honky-tonk show on Boulder's Radio 1190 (broadcast Sundays from 5 to 7 p.m.), Holland is a music lover as much as an artiste, and he finds images to match whatever band he's illustrating. That's why his poster for a 2001 appearance by Wilco features a dusty old pickup truck, and why a print for Dick Dale depicts a Pan-like devil man riding a wave with scepter in hand.
Although normally displayed on utility poles, campus kiosks and record-store bulletin boards, Holland's work currently inhabits a proper gallery setting inside Boulder's Mercury Framing, at 2862 Bluff Street. "Recentwerks" runs through February 14; many of Holland's posters will be available, and, refreshingly, they're humanely priced. Because Holland is also something of a DAT-head -- meaning he likes to rig his recording equipment to the soundboard at shows and secure his own unique live recording -- music from his collection will provide the soundtrack during the Friday, January 17, opening, providing a historical sound context for the posters on display.
It's art! It's cheap! And it's worth checking out.
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The bassman cometh back: Friends and fans of Durward "D." Minor no longer need to send correspondence to the Adams County Sheriff's Department to communicate with him. The jazz bassist and tuba player, who's been incarcerated since October on a DUI charge, was recently approved for a work-release program that allows him to continue performing while serving a reduced term. Minor now entertains the dinner crowd at Mel's Restaurant and Bar in Cherry Creek Monday through Saturday nights.
Minor's application for work release was initially rejected because the combined stage time he logged at three regular gigs -- at Mel's, El Chapultepec and Shakespeare's -- didn't add up to the thirty weekly hours the program requires ("House of Blues," December 12, 2002). In protest, Minor's supporters within the Denver Musicians Association picketed the jail in late December, accusing the sheriff's department of discriminating against musicians. But after he learned of the severity of Minor's troubles, Mel Master, owner of Mel's, created a full-time playing gig for Minor. And this time, Adams County agreed to the terms.
"It was absolutely ridiculous that they wouldn't let him out to do his work," says Master. "I think once they saw that I wasn't some sort of fly-by-night nightclub owner, that I'm actually quite a legitimate businessman and employer, they realized they couldn't say no."