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The Beatdown

DJ Josh Ivy must feel like walking into traffic right about now. Less than a month after his insanely popular GROWednesdays was handed its walking papers by Harry's (The Beatdown, September 25), his reign at Rise ended.

When GROWednesdays went dark, Ivy was bummed but optimistic, confident that he'd find a new space for the club night. And in the meantime, his Friday-night residency at Rise's Shadow Lounge, along with regular weekly gigs at Hapa Sushi in both Boulder and Denver and monthly Unity Gain events put together by his crew, Mile High House, kept him plenty busy.

But that was then; this is now. GROWednesdays has yet to find a home, and losing both that night and his slot at Rise has cut Ivy's income by 70 percent. "It's tough, man, because music is my passion," he says. "But at the same time, I'm financially dependent on it."

According to Kevin Larson, who handles marketing and entertainment for Rise, Ivy's departure was based solely on dollars and sense.

"What we've found in Denver is if they [clubgoers] want a martini bar, they go to a martini bar. What we found with the Shadow Lounge was that people were just avoiding it," says Larson. "We love Josh Ivy, and I only have great things to say about him. I'm hoping to work with him again in the future, when there's a place to put him. Josh is a great guy to work with and an incredibly talented DJ. It was with heavy heart, so to speak, that I had to make the call to him and let him know we were changing.

"It's a numbers game," Larson adds. "We like our people, and we want to help out everybody, but if I can have 200 people in that room versus fifty people in that room...if I don't make that change and make it quick, I'm not doing my job. Just to give you an idea of why the change was made so fast, we said, "Let's try this, once'; that's all we were doing. We did double the bar sales that night in the Shadow Lounge. We had 80 percent of the crowd dancing and probably double to triple the number of people in there. It's nothing bad about Josh; it's just not what the customer was looking for. And like any business, the customer is king. If the customer doesn't like what I'm doing, I'll change."

In a club market as competitive as Denver's, you're damn right a person in Larson's position will listen to his clientele. But while Rise's change in direction is understandable, it's still a shame that good people like Ivy and the other DJs affected by the club's numerous shifts -- DJ Emily, DJ Etain, Jamie Kent and Miss Vicious from the now-defunct Femme Fetale night on Thursdays -- are the casualties.

Shadow Lounge will now focus on R&B, Latin, house, funk and hip-hop. DJ JamX was behind the decks last week, but Larson says the club will also sample some up-and-comers like Boulder-based DJ Ben before naming a new resident. And as long as the club stays pliable, it should continue to attract masses of asses to its spacious dance floor. Ivy will undoubtedly land on his feet, too. He's a marquee player with a spotless reputation, and some enterprising club is sure to snatch him up before the ink is dry on this week's issue.

It's a small world, after all: As much as I'd like to think that Denver is a sprawling metropolis with all the trappings of larger municipalities, when it comes down to it, this place really is just a one-horse town.

But it's a one-horse town with a lot of talent right now, more than I can ever recall during all my years on the scene, both as a musician and as a journalist. Off the top of my head, I can list at least two dozen groups who are worth the cancellation of any plan just to see them perform. I'm not talking about subpar acts that are good only considering the rest of what's out there. I'm talking about jaw-dropping artists who take their craft seriously.

And one of them would have to be Isaac Slade, who plays piano and sings in a relatively new band called the Fray. Slade wanted to get my input on a TV show and Web site he's developing to focus on local music, but after jabbering for the better part of an hour, we discovered that we'd gone to the same school -- albeit a decade apart -- and knew a lot of the same people. In fact, Slade's co-vocalist/guitarist in the Fray is Joe King -- formerly of Fancy's Shoebox and the younger brother of that girl, the one who stole the breath from my lungs from eighth through twelfth grades. Like I said, small world. Even smaller town.

 

Slade and I ended up at LoDo Recording Studios, where he shares office space, and we chewed the fat like old friends. And after lots of prodding on my part -- he was concerned that I might think he'd originally contacted me to sell me on his band, not to discuss the TV show -- he let me hear the Fray's rough, unmixed recordings from its forthcoming EP, Reasons. Frankly, I was dying to hear what King sounded like and was fully expecting to be underwhelmed. But when Slade put the disc into his laptop and pressed "play," what came out of the speakers was mind-blowing: cascading melodies, intricate arrangements, flawless falsetto and, best of all, stunningly well-written songs (think Lifehouse on a Starsailor/Coldplay kick).

Moments like that remind me why I've spent my life searching for the sounds and people that move me. Watching the tenuous expressions on Slade's face as I listened to the disc was priceless. In an industry full of jaded and arrogant people, it's refreshing to be around that kind of naiveté. He has absolutely no idea just how good his band is -- and let's hope it remains that way, because there are more than enough artists getting high on their own product. Slade was kind enough to give me a copy of the record -- which I've had on repeat for the last three days -- to hold me over until the CD-release show, slated for later this year.

But for every good new band we get, we lose another. Kallisti, formed in 2000 by ex-Skull Flux members -- singer Conrad Kehn, drummer Dave Hesker and bassist Steven Millen (later replaced by Lawrence Kung) -- with guitarist Brandon Vaccaro, Kehn's-music school compatriot at the University of Denver, has disbanded. Kehn says the band was frustrated by its inability to attract attention -- and he's willing to shoulder much of the blame.

"We weren't drawing really well, and I really felt like it was our own damn fault, because we weren't promoting hard enough," he confesses. "And I really overestimated what I thought my name and the Skull Flux name was worth, as well. Everybody was like, ŒOh, yeah, we remember you; Skull Flux was awesome.' But they never came to see the new thing.

"And everybody is getting a little older," he adds. "Nobody really likes to go out every night anymore to watch a bunch of bands they don't really like and get drunk. You know, none of us is 21 anymore. That drive to go out on Tuesday nights just really isn't there anymore."

Although Kehn is speaking generally, it's clear that he's one of those who have grown up. And after years of being in a band, writing music with other people, he's realized that he just might be happier on his own.

"I don't know," he admits. "I have this notorious history of relationships -- be it band relationships or girlfriends or whatever -- of trying my hardest to keep them together long after they're dead. And I felt like it was a real growing up on my part just to say, "Okay, let's walk, then.' When the bass player left, he was like, "Look, I just really feel like I need to be doing my own thing. You know, I write all these songs.' And it made me realize that for fifteen years now, I've been writing my own songs, putting them on CDs on a shelf and not playing them.

"You know, I don't understand what the hell I was thinking. There have been numerous times that I've busted them out and played them for people and they're like, "Why aren't you playing this?' And I started wondering why I wasn't."

Kehn won't have to ponder such matters much longer. He's going to try his hand as a solo act after the first of the year. In the meantime, he won't be far from music -- he's on the DU faculty using his two degrees in music composition and passing his gifts on to the next generation of homegrown talent.

This just in: Last week, the owners of Linden's Brewing Company in Fort Collins announced to employees that they would be closing for good after Saturday, October 11. But three days before the place was slated to go dark, the Larimer County Treasurer's Office accelerated the process. Citing over $14,000 in unpaid property taxes from 2002 and 2003, the office issued a distraint order on October 8, according to administrative manager Diane Martell, effectively shutting down Linden's immediately.

 

After delivering a flawless set at Herman's this past weekend with his band Ordinary Poets, Mark Sundermeier (last seen in the October 9 Beatdown) discovered that he's about to double his workload. As if this guy didn't have enough to keep him busy, late last week Mike Makkay -- with whom Sundermeier had been splitting booking duties at the Soiled Dove -- parted ways with the club, and now Sundermeier will book the Dove all by his lonesome. Although he says he's eager to absorb the added responsibility, even Sundermeier recognizes that it's a two-person job.

The Dove has also canceled its weekly Sunday-night local-music showcase, dubbed Locals Launch. I'll be watching closely to see what Sundermeier and the Dove -- whose collective efforts helped galvanize the scene -- put in its place.

Upbeats and beatdowns: The Bright Channel beams its signal to Lion's Lair barflies this Friday, October 17, with the Situation; Saturday at the Lair, Curious Yellow will color outside the lines, with Adios Esposito filling in the blanks. On both Friday and Saturday night, Chris Daniels & the Kings hold court at Brendan's Pub.

Finally, props to the Late Jack Reddell for putting his money where my mouth is. Over the last month, Reddell -- who plays folksy Americana like no other and is a fierce performer in his own right -- has been spotted all over town (at Herman's, the Cricket, the Dove, the Blue Mule and the Lair), supporting acts as disparate as Dr. Neptune and King Rat to Ordinary Poets, the Soul Thieves and Ion. This past Saturday, while people were standing around waiting for King Rat to take the stage, someone spotted Reddell at the bar getting a beer and commented, "I would let that guy date my daughter." Thataboy, Jack!

Scenesters can return the favor and catch Reddell this Tuesday, October 21, at the Blue Mule.


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