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Lipgloss moves from La Rumba to Beauty Bar

Michael Trundle (aka boyhollow), Lipgloss co-founder.
Michael Trundle (aka boyhollow), Lipgloss co-founder.
Aaron Thackeray

Westword (Josiah Hesse): La Rumba has been Lipgloss's home for so many years -- why leave? Did your relationship with the management go sour?

Michael Trundle: My relationship with La Rumba hasn't gone sour. There were two reasons: the first, obviously, being the financial one. The deal I had with them is not up to industry standards. I travel a lot, and I see what other people are making. I played in Nashville, and they're bringing in half the people that I bring in but making twice the money. And with that money they're able to produce T-shirts, mix CDs and bring in artists I'd have to turn down at La Rumba because I can't afford to lose that much money....

And then the biggest reason is eight and a half years in one venue -- it's time for a change. We've been there so long, you know, there are people who think La Rumba is called Lipgloss. And while it's good that everyone knows where you are, at the same time, everyone has been there so many times -- we've done 450 Lipglosses at La Rumba, maybe more.

Is Lipgloss not as relevant as it once was?

We were doing 700 people a night, easy [back in 2005]. There really wasn't another game in town. We still do well -- you know, 350, 400 people a night. The problem is that it's become the standby option; if there's another one-off happening, or another concert going on, or something else interesting going on, people are going to say, "Oh, let's go to that -- we've been to Lipgloss 500 times." It needs a kick in the ass to make it exciting again.

What does that look like, other than the venue change?

The venue change is a big part of it. Really, that's the main part of it. The formula in and of itself works really well.

And how would you describe that?

It's an indie-based, multi-genre night. We do everything; it's not all indie -- you can't call Michael Jackson "indie." We play whatever we feel is awesome and will make people dance.

Is that mixing of genres, in your opinion, what has made Lipgloss a success?

Yes. At least, I think so. When we first started, there was Shag over at Snakepit, and we went to it all the time. It was a Brit pop night. Very occasionally, they would play something else, but mostly it was Brit pop. So when we started Lipgloss, Tim Cook pretty much wanted to do a Brit pop night, and Tyler [Jacobson] was on board with that.

And while I wanted that, I wasn't quite the Brit pop aficionado that they were. So we decided that, while we'd be Brit pop-heavy, let's play other stuff as well. And that's what set us apart and continues to set us apart: We don't tie ourselves down to one genre. And I know others have sprung up since then, but I think we were the first in Denver to say, "Genre goes out the window; play soul, play Brit pop, play '60s, play modern music, play old-school hip-hop, whatever."

So things will mostly be staying the same at Lipgloss?

Pretty much. But we'll be able to bring in more cool artists. Now that I'm making a little bit more money, I'll be able to personally invest in artists -- and by personally invest I mean lose money. Very rarely when we bring in a special artist do we make money; we raise the cover to $7, but these DJs are asking $2,000, $3,000 a pop now. So to really make money we'd have to charge a $10 cover, which I don't want to do.

Was it easier back in 2005?

Oh, yes. We used to bring in a lot of artists. Six or seven years ago, you got a DJ for a lot less than you get them now. The DJ industry has blown up. Look at Triad Dragons -- they've become massive. DJs are headlining the Ogden. Seven years ago, there were a small handful of DJs who could do that. Now a DJ headlines the Ogden every week. I can't afford to bring in the super-well-known DJs that you would think of because they're going for $10,000 a pop.

How do you compete with that?

By staying ahead of the game, playing new stuff that isn't getting airplay yet. You know, we did the Foster the People afterparty when they were playing the Bluebird, and we'd been playing them at Lipgloss for months -- and now they're headlining Red Rocks. Same with Passion Pit. Same thing with Justice: I dropped "Waters of Nazareth" by Justice when the 12-inch came out, and it cleared the dance floor; they were like, "What the fuck is this?" And when I drop that track now people lose their minds; they love it.

It must be such a tightrope walk: trying to keep things fresh and playing what you want, and then having to please the people who've been coming to Lipgloss for so long they feel they own the music selection.

That's something we've dealt with. If someone who hasn't been to the club since 2006 comes in today, they say, "This sucks. What happened to you guys?" But I can't keep the night like it was in 2006, because the people who were 22 to 25 years old then are now 28 to 30 -- and they don't go out every night. I feel like we provide a night where almost anyone who comes to Lipgloss will hear something they like. There are the diehards, like the scooter kids, who are into what they're into -- they don't want to listen to electronica at all -- but if all you were hearing was the exact same songs from 2006, you wanna talk about stale?

 

Lipgloss moves from La Rumba to Beauty Bar
Aaron Thackeray

What was the competition like back when Lipgloss first began?

Back then our competition wasn't really club nights -- it was more concerts at the Ogden. And not really even then, because the concert would end at midnight and you'd just get a later crowd. But now, on any given Friday, there are at least three club nights that we're in competition with, like Mile High Soul Club and Neon Knights.

How has the scene changed over the decade?

Anyone who wasn't at least eighteen in 2001 has no idea how much cooler this city is now. There just wasn't anything to do back then. When I was eighteen it was 1990, and this city was just desolate: We used to drive to Boulder to go out.

So is Lipgloss somewhat responsible for the change in nightlife over the last decade?

I think so, but some people may disagree with me. I don't want to say [the change] wouldn't have existed without us; I think it would have, but I think that Lipgloss had a direct impact on the indie/hipster/whatever scene. People stopped doing one-genre nights, the goth night, the Brit pop night. Why go to a Brit pop night when you could go to Lipgloss and hear Brit pop but then also hear some really cool stuff? We were the first to do so many things. Like we were the first to bring in rock-legends; we brought Carlos D. We brought guys from the Smiths. We brought Peter Hook, Marky Ramone.

The Bravery called us up [when they were in town] and said they'd heard of the club and wanted to come deejay after their show, and they didn't want a dime; same with the Go-Go's. And this sort of thing happens all the time in New York or L.A., Denver didn't have that; [before Lipgloss] they would play a show then skip town because there wasn't anything to do. We got mentioned in Spin and NME magazine because Denver was suddenly on the map, a city where cool things happen.

Was moving to a busier section of town an impetus for the change? Was La Rumba too isolated?

You never got people just randomly going to La Rumba, but people will just stop in to Beauty Bar, they're just, "Oh, it's the weekend. Let's see what's happening at Beauty Bar." People never did that with La Rumba. It's on a side street, and there's no walk-in traffic. People know what's going on there before they get there.

But it's more than just Beauty Bar -- that whole neighborhood is a lot more welcoming now.

Oh yeah, that area was never a place people visited if they wanted to go out. If you didn't live in Capitol Hill, you didn't want to go out in Capitol Hill. It was really scary to a lot of people. I moved to 13th Avenue and Vine in 1991 and this area of town is so drastically different. It's cleaner, safer. There's so much more around here. There was nothing back then -- it wasn't a pretty part of town. We'd go downtown, to Rock Island, Paris on the Platte, Muddy's, Calvin's. Now you've got people coming down from the suburbs to come to Beauty Bar.

Is that why you decided to move to Beauty Bar?

To be honest with you, I would have moved Lipgloss a while ago if I'd had the appropriate venue. Beauty Bar is a good fit for us. I hate to leave La Rumba, but I'm forty years old. I don't have any health insurance. I'm barely getting my rent paid. I need more money. I need industry standard. There are people throwing parties in this city that bring in half the people I do -- but they're making more money.

When most people think of deejaying, they often think of technical aspects like beat matching; how does music selection play in to the craft?

I literally think [music selection] is the most important -- and the most overlooked -- aspect of deejaying. And I think that's one of the reasons I've been so successful: I'm really good at reading a crowd. I also know when to say fuck off to the crowd -- I'm gonna play what I wanna play -- and then knowing when to give them something I know they'll love.

Sometimes people will give me crap for dropping "Billie Jean," but you know what, it's a great dance song and pop song. Michael Jackson is a brilliant artist and I'm never ashamed to play him. It will fill the dance floor. And then that frees you up to play stuff that they don't know -- but they should.

There are DJs I know that are insanely good technical mixers -- they could mix me out of town -- but they'll get up there and have no ability to work the crowd at all. And then I've had people who can't mix worth a damn, but they come in and lay down a set that just makes people go bananas.

Page down to read our Q&A with Jesse Morreale, who learned of the move via an e-mail from Trundle:

 

Lipgloss moves from La Rumba to Beauty Bar
Eric Gruneisen

Westword (Jon Solomon): What were your thoughts when you first heard about Lipgloss moving?

Jesse Morreale: Surprised. I mean, it's been eight and a half years. My team and our club contributed so much to the growth of that product. To face that kind of, like, blatant disregard to us and all the people that work at La Rumba and everything. It was kind of shocking to me. The whole thing just seems very counter-intuitive. I mean, first of all, I don't even know what he said. I heard there's something called a Facebook. So what is he saying the reasoning is?

I heard one of the reasons was a monetary thing. Maybe he thought he wasn't getting paid what he deserved.

The deal has been the same with Michael since we started the night eight and a half years ago. It's rewards-based. Basically, everybody shared in the same pie at the same amount, so it doesn't make any sense. Do you know what I mean? If more people came, then it would be a bigger pie; therefore, everybody gets a bigger piece of that pie, right? That's the way that works.

I think the night, just in and of itself, is just kind of dead. I mean, it has been, despite the awards and despite the exposure and despite us all talking it up, you know? I feel that whole crowd is always looking for the next. That's always been the foundation of it. And let's be honest, Lipgloss is a little tired.

I think another reason why he decided to switch venues might be he wanted new.

I think the product itself is kind of worn-out, and that's unfortunate. A change in geography isn't going to change what the night is. After eight and half years, there are a lot of people that would just go to Lipgloss inadvertently. They'd end up there because of the geography and because they knew that people go to La Rumba on Friday nights.

So you move it, and, all a sudden, people can't find you because they weren't looking for you in the first place. Well, that could be a problem. I don't know, though. If you move it to the Beauty Bar, which is incrementally smaller -- no, it's a lot smaller -- maybe the vibe will be different. I mean, however many people in a big club and you stick that same number of people in a little club, it's going to feel busier. But at the end of day, it's not. I just don't know.

So this Friday will be the last Lipgloss there?

Believe it not, yes, sir.

Do you have any particular fond memories of Lipgloss?

Yeah, absolutely. Certainly the growth of it. I like building things. I don't do what I do because I'm some money-grubbing, twenty-first century vulture. I like building things, and I like seeing people happy. And so I think the first couple years are the fondest memory for me, with everybody working together. That was back when Michael and Tyler would actually work at promoting.

We were all working hard for a common goal of building something cool, and seeing it evolve into something as big as it was. That was probably the fondest memory...then watching it go through its decline, becoming less vital and less vibrant -- that's the worst memory, other than an e-mail on a Saturday fucking morning.



Follow Backbeat on Twitter: @westword_music


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