Beta Nightclub crew reflects on bringing the best EDM to Denver for five years
Ferdinand Arsell Villadiego
Since first opening its doors in 2008, Beta Nightclub has been at the top of numerous "best of" lists, and it currently holds the top spot for clubs in North America. In commemoration of the club's fifth anniversary, being celebrated this week, we caught up with the folks behind Beta to get their thoughts on what it's been like watching the venue grow into the premier spot for A-list EDM DJs and producers.
Brad Roulier (right) with his Manufactured Superstar cohort Shawn Sabo.
Brad Roulier, founder
What are your thoughts on being a part of the number-one club in North America?
Beta is a great club with an amazing DJ booth, sound system, Kryo [Kryogenifex fog] system, performers and staff. The most important part of our club is the EDM audience in Denver for all genres. This is what it's about. It's the best feeling. I am so grateful to our whole team, but most grateful to the fans.
Catherine Nguyen (foreground) with husband John Le (aka DJ Dragon).
Catherine Nguyen Le, executive director of entertainment and marketing
Catherine, you've been with Beta for five years: What has it been like, watching this club grow to be the best nightclub in North America?
It's been incredible! I feel like that word doesn't even do it justice. It is such an incredible feeling to start something from scratch -- to really leave an impression on dance music. What's unique with Beta is that everyone involved has a strong passion for dance music. That's what sets us apart from other venues who have been head-hunted from other genres. At Beta, everyone involved has their own drive for dance music.
I started raving in the '90s; it's something that's all in our blood. With Brad, he started in the mid-'90s with throwing parties, so it all started with this passion that we were all excited about. We, or I, never thought this would be a career, but we all work with our friends. Ha Hau is one of our best friends -- he does our Thursday -- he started with John Le with Triad Dragons, and that's the same crew we are running with today. I feel fortunate to have been gathered with these people who share the enthusiasm for dance music, and we are still with the same group of people.
Are there any nights that really stick out to you?
There have been many nights like that, but the first one with that experience was Memorial Day weekend in 2008: It was that Sunday, and it was Danny Tenaglia. Why that sticks out is because up until that point, I was focused on getting opened, and we just opened two months previously. We called [Memorial Day] our grand opening. We had a Sunday-afternoon kickoff that day, and then Danny Tenaglia played from 9 p.m. until 2 a.m. -- a five-hour set!
Brad and I had been trying to get Danny Tenaglia in Denver for a while, and Brad was trying to get him out, but it never worked; he didn't want to travel. It was his first Colorado experience, and I remember I was so tired -- I don't even recall how tired I really was -- I was on the dance floor. I got on the sweet spot and had the best acoustic and dancing time throughout his set for a good hour, and I was like, "This is my job!?" It's amazing... just curating a lineup, and one that I really enjoy.
A couple of other times that I had the same feeling was one year later, for 2009 Memorial Day, for Armin van Buuren. We had to block off the doors because we got so much shit from our neighbors because it was so loud. They would hear it all the way down to 17th and Wazee -- the bass just bounces off the concrete. We closed off all those doors. We really exercised the thought of club culture evolving. With the challenges we had, we gracefully evolved for ourselves and our customers. Not to mention having the number-one DJ in the world at your club.
The last moment was in 2011, when we had the Kryo installed, and the first night we blew it off. We built this hype around it, or anything new we do, and then make the customers come out and experience what we want to give them. We didn't say anything about it, and Fedde Le Grand was headlining that night.
The track he dropped was Madonna's "Music," and he had the vocals a cappella -- you know, "Music...makes the people...come together..." -- and right when the bass hit, the Cryo [hit], and people went fucking nuts. It was electrifying. It is another moment that personifies our commitment to evolution within the club, whether structural or production.
Michael McCray, director of operations
How long have you been with Beta Nightclub?
I've been there since before we opened. Brad Roulier really came up with the concept. [Catherine Nguyen] and I have been running the club since it opened. It's just been a great experience to work with exceptional employees. The crowd in Denver is well educated; its been a great experience all the way around.
I don't have a specific favorite memory, but I did all the remodeling, as well, and it's nice to continually change and follow our motto, "club culture evolving," which we take literally. Having that chance has been one of the key things. The music evolves weekly, so we keep the club changing, as well. We have fine-tuned the club to the needs of the customer.
How does Beta fit in Denver so well?
We've done a lot of nice things with community work and charitable shows. Nightclubs don't really do that. Initially, when we, or I, did the sound and lighting and video -- there were some design issues with the club when it was Rise -- we didn't have the budget or time because we wanted to get open as fast as possible.
There used to be three double doors out to the patio, and the big bar was on the other side of the room. That killed the energy of the club. We shifted that bar to the front and closed up the doors toward the front, and it really made the dance floor. It made more sense. You have all the activity, and the dance floor really had better energy. That took care of the local residents and the noise for our neighbors.
That was a big one that really made a difference. The most recent was the second biggest -- again, it's changed the energy. What we did -- we had the glass wall behind the projector screen we had covered for the first five years, and part of Rise had that, and we wanted our own identity. We just opened it up last week so people can see in and out of the two rooms. We added sixteen moving lights, so it feels connected.
Is there any show you can remember that sticks out above the rest?
Danny Tenaglia was somebody I did not anticipate us being able to get. He's known to not travel much, so to come to Denver twice was a huge honor. The second time, he played for six hours or so. He's a legend! If he plays your club, it really sets it apart from everything else. It was a life goal of mine to have him play on a sound system I built, and he loved the club.
Deadmau5 playing Beta in 2010
Lance Dunlap, marketing and logistics manager, talent buyer
How long have you been with Beta, and how did you get started??
I've been with Beta since the beginning doing street team and slowly moved my way into the marketing side of things. Now I work hand in hand with Catherine doing logistics and talent buying. It's been a big progress, but it's been fun. Like I said, I started out flyering in Boulder, but I basically heard about the club opening, contacted them through MySpace and they were looking for a Boulder street team. I spearheaded that. Then I transferred schools to Denver for music marketing, got an internship at Beta -- this went into a part-time job -- and as Catherine progressed, she asked me to step in and help with the bookings.
Are there any shows that stand out above the rest, for you?
The first time we had Deadmau5 -- the super-secret artist for Global Dance Festival a few years ago -- I was up at Red Rocks, and we did that show after the show. I was standing at the DJ booth looking out, and people were going crazy. That was a key moment. Also, any of the sold-out shows are amazing, just seeing so many people with their hands up...It's awesome.
What kind of changes have you noticed over the years in both the club, and the scene?
When we first opened, we were open to any and all EDM, whether it was proper techno, trance...We've seen waves of genres. This past year was big-room sounds like Fedde Le Grande, and that might have something to do with the commercialization, thanks to Vegas, Miami and L.A. In Denver, the more proper sound is really starting to make a come back.
Trance has been making a comeback, but it hasn't been a roller coaster like other genres. Indie-electro took a hit, but it's making a comeback with the evolution of the scene. Dubstep is on a dip, but it's now a crossbreed. It's been really cool being here for five years, but we've seen a lot of evolution of the music. It's fun and it's tricky.
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