For some, last Tuesday was Fat Tuesday, the final day of drunken debauchery before Ash Wednesday. For music activists across the nation, it was Grey Tuesday, a day of civil disobedience. Nearly 200 websites allowed people to download copies of DJ Danger Mouse's Grey Album -- an innovative effort that mates a cappella tracks from Jay-Z's Black Album with loops taken from the Beatles' white album -- in defiance of EMI Records, which had threatened retail outlets carrying the record with litigation.
But for Scott Campbell, co-owner of the Larimer Lounge, Tuesday, February 24, was Black Tuesday.
I didn't make it down to the Lounge for the Suicide Girls burlesque tour stop that night, but apparently it was a Great White disaster waiting to happen. Campbell doesn't dispute the fact that the club, which reportedly can hold close to 200 people, was over capacity. After all, Denver's fire marshal showed up and ordered him to reduce the size of the crowd. He does allow, though, that mistakes were definitely made.
"We rarely get over fifty people at any weekday show at the Larimer Lounge," Campbell says. "We really didn't think many people were going to come to the show at all. Basically, we started too late with the [counting], and there were people in the bar early from happy hour that never left, and stuff like that. I arrived late, too. I should've probably been more in a management position than a bartender that night. We actually only had one bartender scheduled, and we weren't expecting a big crowd. But then we just got slammed."
Just how slammed is up for debate. Even though Campbell was using a counter -- as is required by the Denver Fire Department -- some estimates put the club's population at nearly double what's permitted, while others remember it being packed, but not with 400 people. "I thought about heading to the bathroom because I had to pee," one girl offered. "But it was so packed, any movement on one side of the room would have affected the other."
So why did Campbell continue to allow people through the door when it looked to be at capacity? He was selling tickets at the door; why didn't he just stop? Was it all about the Benjamins?
"It wasn't a case of greed. We did cut the door, but by then it was too late," Campbell explains. "In fact, it had been cut for like a half hour to 45 minutes before the fire marshal showed up."
Regardless, DFD spokesman Lieutenant Phil Champagne says, "It's incumbent upon the property owner -- or the venue owner -- to have a counter. They actually have to count; they have to know how many people are inside the facility. The occupancy loads are always posted, so they know."
To Campbell's credit, I've spoken with and received e-mails from several people who were at the show commending the Lounge for the way the situation was handled. Folks were issued refunds on the spot, or they could come and get them the following day.
After the place was cleared, Campbell continued the show for the hundred or so people who, for whatever reason, waited the hour and a half it took to get things settled. Initially, Campbell says he intended to just issue refunds, pay the act its guarantee and absorb the loss. But after consulting with the Suicide Girls, their management and his partner, Mark Gebhardt, he decided the show must go on. (For those who missed the show, the gals will reportedly make a return trip in May -- although that gig is scheduled to take place at a different venue.)
While the incident didn't exactly have a happy ending, a crisis was averted -- nobody died. Campbell made some bad decisions, but he accepted culpability. He's a straight shooter, so I believe him when he says it won't happen again.
"I sincerely apologize to everyone who was inconvenienced by this show," he says, "and I hope that they will give the Larimer Lounge another chance."
They should. The Lounge has put on some killer shows, and for my money, I think everyone is entitled to at least one "Oh, shit!" moment in life -- not to mention a second chance.
Tipped off: I'm not gonna lie. Like most other red-blooded Martians in Mootown, I can appreciate a nice rack every now and then. But last Tuesday, I wasn't thrilled by the idea of filing into the Lounge to ogle a bunch of scantily-clad tattooed Bettys -- or trekking through LoDo, trying to entice suburban Sheilas into showing off their breast assets for a handful of $2 Mardi Gras beads.
Besides, nothing motivates a broke-ass fool like cash. So when someone hipped me to one of LoDo's best-kept secrets -- Carmelo Anthony's Tip Drill Tuesdays at Rise, where the baller is said to toss dead presidents onto the dance floor -- I knew where I was going.
When I rolled up to Rise, I got the usual up-close-and-personal treatment from a handheld metal detector. Once inside, though, I couldn't help but notice that Loose Cannon Entertainment -- the crew that organizes and promotes Tip Drill -- had defied all the other conventions of a hip-hop night in this town. Not only were heads allowed to rock ballcaps, but a blind eye had been turned to jerseys. And my man DJ Juanito was spinnin' some of the hardest cuts, tracks like "Get Low," which have been known to incite riots in other joints. And nobody lost his mind. Hmmm. I thought people who sport athletic gear in clubs are supposed to be violent.
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Everything remained peaceful as we all waited for Nelly's "Tip Drill" -- the night's signature song and the cue for the money drop -- but I knew the place would go bananas as soon as the loot started falling from the sky. I mean, a boy will kill his mother for the love of money.
Finally, just after 12:30 a.m., Slim from Loose Cannon announced, "Y'all know what time it is," and started tossin' sawbucks into the crowd. And still, everyone was polite as Mormons -- which shocked the hell out of me, particularly since there were some hard-core gangsta-lookin' thugs in the house.
Maybe the bartenders had slipped Xanax into the drinks. Maybe since we were officially into Ash Wednesday, folks had given up beating the shit out of each other for Lent. Maybe folks had heard that Melo was putting the night together and thought that was the theme for the evening. Or maybe, just maybe, when people are treated with dignity and respect, they'll respond in kind. Whatever was responsible for this mellow night, for the sake of hip-hop in Mootown -- and my newly realized Wednesday-morning coffee-and-smokes slush fund -- I'm praying it continues.