Why the hi-dive, Marquis and Seventh Circle are among Denver musicians' favorite venues
One of the reasons Denver is such a unique place for music is the number (and quality) of live music venues here. In light of the Westword Music Showcase taking place this Saturday, June 21, we asked a number of local artists what their favorite venues are and tracked down some reasons why.
The hi-dive was a common favorite among Denver musicians. Founded in 2003 by Matt LaBarge and Allison Housley, the bar immediately became a happening place, partly because of its location at 7 South Broadway.
"Luckily, it opened right when the Denver music scene really started to explode," says hi-dive bartender-turned-owner, Matty Clark. "Baker, at the time at least, was a cheap, bohemian place to live, so there were a lot of creative types in the area that made the hi-dive their home. It was easy to get people to play there because it also was the bar they hung out at."
In Oct. 2012, when LaBarge and Housley decided to sell the hi-dive to Clark, along with his business partner, Josh Terry, they had a little help from a number of investors, including the bar's hard-working talent buyer, Ben Desoto. Together, the three associates are continuing the hi-dive's original, artist-centric mentality.
From the sound system to the person serving the drinks, "we want to be as comfortable and accommodating as possible," Clark says. And the venue is a proponent of giving new, local acts a stage to play on.
"I remember being in my first bands and trying to get noticed," Clark says. "It's exciting to watch bands go from opening shows to headlining and selling the place out -- we want to be a place to help nurture that in young bands."
The talent buyer for the Marquis Theater, Jason Chavez, agrees with Clark's sentiment.
"Everyone deserves a chance," Chavez says. "As cliche as it is, it's true that you never really know what the future holds for any of these bands, so to be a part of the process from the ground up of a band's career is a pretty incredible thing."
The Marquis Theater was another consensus among artists for one of Denver's best venues, because of it's willingness to give bands a chance. Many bands noted that it books alternative, all-ages shows.
When the promotion company Soda Jerk Presents stopped booking the downtown venue Rock Island in 2006, they began filling the Marquis' roster with renowned punk, hardcore and math-rock acts. To Chavez, diversifying Denver's music scene is an important part of the Marquis' mission because it keeps the scene eclectic and, therefore, healthy.
Equally important to the health of Denver's musical community is the Marquis' focus on hosting all-ages shows. As Chavez puts it, "To deny someone access to live music due to their age is wrong -- allowing youth access to music, art and entertainment inspires and enriches lives and communities all over the world."
The Seventh Circle Music Collective has been hosting all-ages, do-it-yourself shows out of an old house off of Federal and 7th since September 2012. Formerly known as Blast-O-Mat, the name changed when founder Aaron Saye took over the space and began booking events with a group of volunteers.
One reason DIY venues are so popular among local musicians, Saye mentions, is they offer a refreshing alternative to the typical dive bar or battle-of-the-bands events, where artists have to hustle pre-sales tickets or Facebook posts to win over booking agents.
"We're not in a position in which we have to worry about how many tickets a band is worth before we'll consider booking them," Saye says. "We provide a stress-free space for young bands to get their start, practice, record demos, play their first shows and become welcomed and immersed in the local music scene."
At the same time, Seventh Circle gives underground touring acts a place to stop when they can't attract the attention of the larger venues.
Dylan Rynhardt of local folk group, Chimney Choir, puts the merit of DIY spaces, like Seventh Circle, into perspective, noting that, "In general, small and intimate venues are the most connected and sparkly. It's more than just the show -- it's the subtlety of character in the surroundings and the people attending, that enhance the experience."
b>And here's a bunch more information about the Westword Music Showcase: -Eight reasons it's great to be a musician in Colorado, according to the bands -Build your own schedule with the Showcase app. -The 36 best songs you might hear on the main stage at this year's Westword Music Showcase -The 2014 Westword Music Awards nominees -The people of Westword Music Showcase 2013 -Ticket page for this year's Showcase