This past year has been tough for many people, and we're eager to kiss 2012 goodbye. In hopes that 2013 will turn out to be much luckier for many, we invited some of the town's cultural tastemakers -- entrepreneurs and entertainers we're lucky to have in Denver -- to answer a trio of questions. We excerpted quotes from these Q&A's in the New Year's Guide inserted in the December 13 issue of Westword, but we'll be featuring the complete interviews in a series of posts through the end of the year. Up next: Michael Trundle.
For more than a decade, Michael Trundle has orchestrated the indie Friday nights on the dancefloor of Denver's sweatiest music fans. More than your typical flashes of strobe lights and generic beats, Lipgloss was founded and designed as a dance night for record nerds. In May, Trundle caused a bit of controversy when he moved Lipgloss from its established location at La Rumba, over to the newly minted Beauty Bar in Capitol Hill. In our interview, Trundle talks about his decision to move to a smaller venue, all in the name of preserving what he's always treasured about Lipgloss: eclectic music, sincere energy and more gay people.
See also: Lucky '13: Keith Garcia, programming manager for the Sie FilmCenter Lucky '13: Emily Tarquin from Off-Center@The Jones Lucky '13: Matthew Brown of Fancy Tiger Lipgloss moves from La Rumba to Beauty Bar Michael Trundle reflects on ten years of Lipgloss
Westword: How have things been going since your move over to Beauty Bar? Has the night changed very much?
It's been great, fantastic. It's been really good for us, for the bar. The crowd is different now, which has changed the music a bit, but it's been a change I wanted to happen. We lost some of that LoDo crowd, and we've got back our gay crowd, our older crowd, some underground kids. You were there that night I played Neil Diamond: Back at LaRumba I used to play Neil Diamond all the time, but it got to the point in the last few years where the crowd just didn't get it. Didn't want it. When I played music like that they stopped dancing, and the floor would empty.
Was it that they wanted something more bass-heavy? Neil Diamond recordings don't have that thick foundation that today's dance tracks do.
Yeah, the LoDo crowd just wanted dubstep and hard electro, and that was taking over the night and it wasn't what I wanted it to be. I wanted it to be an indie night.
And we're putting a hundred more people a night into Beauty Bar now than we were at La Rumba. And the dance-floor is smaller, so you have that crowd-inertia. We pack that place and the energy is there: If you hear a song you don't care for, you're probably going to be standing next to three people who do, and that energy rubs off on you.
It seems that personal love of specific songs is part of the Lipgloss experience. I don't want to discount dubstep, but those songs serve a more utilitarian purpose, providing a generic instruction for the dancefloor rather than a nostalgic rush.
There is a difference to it. Most dubstep or electro either don't have lyrics, or they do and they're these LMFAO-type lyrics like 'Let's party, let's party, let's party!' There's not a lot of depth to those songs. They're made to be Top 40, made to be consumed in large quantities and then you move on to the next one. There's not going to be a lot of classics coming out of those genres. You don't need to identify with those songs.
But those tracks will fill a dance floor. I imagine an indie-music night playing The Smiths and Dexys Midnight Runners is a tough sell to a club-owner looking to get sexy young people at the bar.
It is, and it isn't. You're right in the sense that they wouldn't want it in LoDo -- I mean, they would want Lipgloss now, because it's so established. But if I went there without Lipgloss they wouldn't be interested because that's not what their crowd wants. But there are smart club owners out there. Like Deer Pile, they'll tap into something that isn't going to bring in 500 people, but their hitting a niche that isn't being touched. People will come and support you exclusively because you're the only one that's providing it.
Continue reading for more on Trundle's new year.
You always surprise me with your brave selections late at night. Jefferson Airplane, Oasis, The Stones, so many peculiar tracks for a 2012 dance club. Do you ever get nervous right before you drop these?
No, because I'm usually pretty drunk by then. And the crowd is, too. Those songs are usually for a little later in the night, when people are looser. Now that we have our underground crowd back, it helps. I trust that this crowd knows how to handle those songs. That's what we started off with; from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. that was all we played.
How has the change in neighborhood affected Lipgloss?
I think having the Cap Hill people out each night has had an affect. For them, Beauty Bar is a local bar. They tend to be college-age, indie-hipster type kids. They don't want the pre-packaged, Top 40 mix. People who lived near La Rumba didn't have much of an effect on us -- that yuppie, business crowd -- but being close to Vinyl and The Church did. And the Lipgloss crowd reflected that. People who were walking around that neighborhood were more club-type people.
When I first discovered Lipgloss in 2004, it was the perfect time for a dance night like yours, since the most popular music of the time were things like Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party, who were fusing dance beats with rock guitar. Though it feels today like that was a trend that has passed.
I think it was a fad in that it became so popular. Franz Ferdinand were one of the biggest bands on the planet for a while. It was huge for us, because when we started Lipgloss in 2001 very little of that was popular. At that time we were sticking to a lot of Britpop, where bands like Pulp had some of that beat. But we were a more rock-oriented night. So bands like Franz Ferdinand naturally creeped into our set. We started playing their stuff just before it blew up, and when it did, all of the sudden we were flooded. We were doing 600, 700 people a night, mostly because we were the only game in town playing that type of music. All the other clubs were still stuck in hip-hop and Top 40, so we really benefited from that type of music. I don't think it's really disappeared, but there's hardly anything new coming out from that scene.
Yeah, but who's paying attention to Bloc Party in 2012?
Yeah, pretty much. And if I want to play a dance-rock track today I have to play a remix; or at least with the current stuff. I could still play The Killers and The Rapture, but there aren't a lot of current bands that I could play a non-remix track and have the crowd love it. A lot of rock bands today have gone far into the electronic sound, making music like Cut Copy, who I love, but they're more an electronic band than a rock band. Franz Ferdinand were a rock band. No one would ever argue that they were an electronic band. There are exceptions, but many bands today have gone electronic.
It seems like you could get away with the dance-rock beat as a DJ playing Blondie or Gang of Four, but if you tried playing Franz Ferdinand today wouldn't people see it as yesterday's papers?
I still drop Franz Ferdinand today and people lose their shit. They love it. I drop the original album cut of "Take Me Out" around once a month. I think it does have somewhat of a dated quality, but people love it. Enough of my old crowd adores it, and the 21 and 22-year-olds that come in may not actually know that song. That song came out in 2004, when they were 14. If you play some of the gems from that era, they hold their own.
Do you think people are already nostalgic for 2004?
I was just thinking that. There are so many nights that are committed to bringing you the newest, freshest, coolest tracks, and that's great. For me, I want to do some of that, but I do like the idea of nostalgia. People don't always want something new. They want something they know and love. And that's how we started, back then we were playing so much Vietnam-era, hippie music. But the music doesn't have to be old, it doesn't have to be modern, it just has to be good dance music.
Michael Trundle DJ's under the name boyhollow. You can check out Lipgloss at 9 p.m. ever Friday night at Beauty Bar, located at 608 East 13th Avenue. The cover is $5. For more information visit www.denver3.com