Breeality Bites

DIY Venues Inevitably Close — But Is Denver Too Pricy for New Ones to Open?

Glob turned ten this month. As the sister DIY venue to our city's flagship all-ages spot, Rhinoceropolis, Glob doesn't often get the same kind of credit for its existence. But like Rhino, Glob is an all-ages, all-welcome, donation-based music and performance venue that has been providing Denver with some of its most unique and compelling live-art experiences for over a decade. The companion warehouses manage to encompass two completely different atmospheres — both of which I appreciate — but Glob has always had a special place in my heart. 

Glob is a mutable space; it reflects the mood of the performance going on inside for those few hours that a show exists, then goes quiet again until the next experience. That next experience might not be a concert at all; it might be band practice or a movie night or the meeting place for an anarchist group. Like multipurpose community rooms, DIY venues serve as free and/or low-cost spaces for whoever, or whatever, needs to gather there. Glob is like a secret cinderblock cave of magic and dirt hidden behind a bland brick exterior that faces Brighton Boulevard. Blending into its now quickly disappearing industrial landscape, Glob presents a facade of nothing out of the ordinary to the average passersby.

After I had gone to shows at Rhino and Glob for a couple of years, I began to book my own events there — and that was when I realized just how invisible these spaces are to the average person. Trying to get my non-music and art friends to come to dance parties and shows at Glob and Rhino was nearly impossible: People didn't want to venture into the unknown territory of Brighton Boulevard. It's not like there was some "cool people club" membership required to go to events at these DIY spots or anything; they just weren't in a part of town people trusted, I guess. This is what makes the current marketing and sale of Brighton Boulevard so funny to me — the idea that comfort and safety exist when a place is suddenly considered desirable and costs money (sometimes a lot of money) to be a part of it.
Development now seems to be a steamrolling its way down the industrial block, crushing older businesses, warehouses and empty parking lots and replacing them with shiny, expensive new cubes made for living, imbibing and co-working. This shift from industrial-unlivable to industrial-chic-desirable actually began way back when Rhinoceropolis and Glob first took their places along Brighton Boulevard a decade ago (as several DIY spaces before them also had). But the recent wave of neo-Denver construction is an amped-up force to be reckoned with; even TEDx dug its progressive fingers into the dirty soil in an attempt to "reclaim" the desolate landscape. It's this very experience that so many of us who've spent a lot of time on Brighton Boulevard over the past ten years are grappling with today. Every person I run into that I know through the intricate web that is the DIY community wants to talk about what is going to happen next to these places we love so much. 

Last weekend, as I helped set up the sound system and lighting (and by that I mean I was in charge of untangling and hanging strands of Christmas lights) at Glob for a Titwrench Collective dance party I had co-organized, I tried not to think about the fate of my favorite place. My friend John Golter — who has been running and living at Glob since he created it a decade ago — and I went about our business as usual, making sure there was toilet paper in the bathroom, trash bags in the trash cans and plenty of change for the person working the door for the impending party. We didn't talk about what was going to happen to Glob when the two years on its lease are up and the space could potentially be bulldozed. It felt like there was no need to really discuss what he thought or felt about his home and venue not being around anymore: We knew it was happening, and he was still booking events and running shows as usual. 

Like many people involved in this community, John is from a smaller town in Colorado. There are plenty of us city kids and transplants involved in the DIY scene, but if you ask around, you'll find that a lot of the innovators and stakeholders have made their way from Grand Junction, Montrose, Brighton, Red Cliff, Idaho Springs, Elizabeth, Estes Park and so many other places across the state. Before Denver was a destination for the ultra-hip of a higher income-tax bracket, it was a magnet for the freaks and kooks looking for a place a little less dusty than where they came from. Denver wasn't much, but it was a definitely a city that was open-minded when it came to the weird, experimental, boundary-pushing shit. 
Denver has changed a lot over the last half-decade — but the biggest change has been in affordability. It's not about whether Denver is still an open door to the eccentric looking for a place to create, grow and showcase their art. It's about finding a place to live that is reasonably priced. When you're looking for a non-traditional living space that can also double as a venue, finding it has become increasingly difficult. The nature of DIY is transient; these spots aren't supposed to last forever. The dependable thing about the Globs and John Golters of this city has been that even when they move away or close their event space, another one has always popped up. But now the question is: Who or what will appear after Rhino and Glob are gone if there are no more affordable spaces? 

As I walked through Glob's bright-green passageway dozens of times last Friday night, I tried to soak in each square foot of this weird little world. How it feels to be there is indescribable — sure, Glob's just a warehouse filled with amplifiers, beer cans and, often, tons of hot, sweaty bodies. But it's also a place that has been stockpiling the energy of hundreds of humans for more than ten years. I guess that is something else to think about: It's not the physical space, but the people involved who make something great. DIY spaces are only as good as what or who is inside of them. 

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Bree Davies is a multimedia journalist, artist advocate and community organizer born and raised in Denver. Rooted in the world of Do-It-Yourself arts and music, Davies co-founded Titwrench experimental music festival, is host of the local music and comedy show Sounds on 29th on CPT12 Colorado Public Television and is creator and host of the civic and social issue-focused podcast, Hello? Denver? Are You Still There? Her work is centered on a passionate advocacy for all ages, accessible, inclusive, non-commercial and autonomous DIY art spaces and music venues in Denver.
Contact: Bree Davies