"You know where a guy can find a good drink?" said the guy wearing the T-shirt with the sleeves cut off.
The lanky bartender looked at him for a moment, then said, "You don't ask a bartender that kind of thing."
"Give me a Shirley Temple," the guy said with a smirk.
The bartender returned the smile. "So, that's what you mean by a good drink," he said. "But seriously, how about a gin and tonic?"
It was between sets at the Toad Tavern (5302 South Federal Circle, Littleton), where the second annual Rockfeast was under way. Forty local bands played on two stages throughout the weekend of September 22 and 23, and while the turnout wasn't as stellar as hoped for by Brice Hancock, who bought the club in mid-August, at least lots of bands got a look at the new stage he built last month.
"As far as I can tell, every single one of those bands wants to play here now," Hancock says. "This was a tough club to book because it was a small stage, and there are a lot of clubs out there with big stages. It was a hard sell. Now the bands are sort of coming to me."
The old stage in the corner couldn't fit more than a four-piece band. But at Rockfeast, the ten-piece U.S. Pipe & the Balls Johnson Dance Machine had no problem getting deep in the funk on the new stage. Hancock also raised the Toad's ceiling about eight feet and beefed up the sound system, doubling the number of speakers and power amps. "Before, it was a cool bar with a stage," he explains. "Now it's a music venue."
It's also the only live-music venue in Littleton. "The only thing that's holding me back right now is the location," Hancock notes. "And I'm not going to look at that as a negative." Hancock, who also plays guitar in Rubber Planet, has the experience to overcome any handicaps posed by the location. Before he bought the Toad, he booked shows at Herman's Hideaway (1578 South Broadway) and Cricket on the Hill (1209 East 13th Avenue), and he plans to bring in some nationally known acts to help build the Toad into a solid music club.
"I learned how to book and draw a large crowd," he says of his time at Herman's. "How to put together bills that would bring in hundreds of people. The Toad used to be happy with a hundred people. So now I'm aiming for two hundred. That will put me over the top and make me pretty successful if I can do that. And it's good for the bands, too."
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The staffers who'd worked for previous Toad owner Bill Bivens have stayed on. In fact, Bivens — who in 2004 bought the club that had been known as the Horny Toad for over two decades — will stay involved, too, and act as the club's accountant.
Club scout: Hicc Ups III (1541 Cortez Street), which took over the old Brewski's location near Pecos and Highway 36, is having its grand opening October 5 and 6. Like the other two locations — Hicc Ups I (7980 Sheridan Boulevard, Westminster) and Hicc Ups II (10250 Ura Lane, Thornton) — this bar will have live music on the weekends.
Props go out again to DJ Bedz, who won the national Pepsi Superstar DJ Competition last month. Out of twelve finalists (from an original 84 DJs), Bedz received the highest number of votes during a month of online balloting. In addition to being the official DJ of the Denver Nuggets, Bedz spins at Theorie (1920 Market Street) on Wednesdays, Purple Martini DTC (8000 East Belleview Avenue, Greenwood Village) on Thursdays, Shag Lounge (830 15th Street) on Fridays and the Loft (821 22nd Street) on Saturdays.