"As a touring band, we used to call it the "meet ’n' creep," says Jason zumBrunnen with a half-laugh. The co-owner of local brewery Ratio Beerworks and former member of Boulder's defunct punk outfit the Fairlanes is referring to the inherent awkwardness for both bands and fans during typical meet ’n' greet photo-ops.
Using the brewery as a venue, zumBrunnen and crew created Ratio Sessions, a series of mini-concerts that showcases national acts performing lightened up, mostly acoustic versions of their songs hours before their main Denver gigs. These free, open-to-the-public events help promote a band's later performance at a Soda Jerk Presents-operated venue. Damian Burford of the Mostly Harmless podcast also interviews these groups. Fans have a chance to spend time and drink beer with their favorite bands in a relaxed, fun atmosphere that feels nothing like a "meet ’n' creep."
"We thought, why not make it just about hanging out at a brewery, drinking beers and talking to the bands like normal people?" says zumBrunnen. The hang-out shows were inspired by the A.V. Club's "A.V. Undercover" series and NPR's Tiny Desk Concerts. Similarly, Ratio Sessions are filmed and edited into five-minute or shorter segments, which include snippets from Burford's interviews.
This weekend, Ratio Beerworks will celebrate its second anniversary. Part of the partying will include a Ratio Session with returning favorite Matt Pryor of Get Up Kids and New Amsterdams fame, along with a performance by Dan Andriano of Alkaline Trio. Ratio has events going on Friday through Sunday, and these special sets take place Saturday, February 11. Unlike the usual gigs, which are abbreviated versions of bigger shows, Prior and Andriano have come to Denver for the anniversary Ratio Sessions and will each be playing full sets.
In advance of the big birthday party, Westword is premiering Matt Pryor's Ratio Session, filmed last year at the brewery's one-year anniversary. Here's Pryor's performance from 2016, a little preview of what fans will get to experience this coming weekend at Ratio:
Since launching Ratio Sessions more than a year ago, the events and companion videos have taken off, finding popularity not just with music fans, but with bands, too.
"We help to provide those unique side events on a tour that is something different for the bands — and those can become the most memorable part of a tour," says zumBrunnen. "Obviously we won't be their biggest show, but we hope it boosts attendance at [a band's] show in town. The Menzingers requested to come back in and do a second show on this upcoming tour, which is great, because getting them in the first time couldn't have been bigger for us."
ZumBrunnen also stresses that although the Ratio Sessions may be acoustic or shorter than a usual concert, the Brewery's musician-owners make sure there is no skimping on the setup or promotions.
"We took this seriously, being from the music world. We set up the shows well, and we have good sound. When we recorded it, we had Jeff Merkel at Merkel Sound Studios do all the audio and mixing and actual videography to make it look good. Because if you're a band and you're going to come play, you at least want to sound good.
The Ratio Beerworks Second Anniversary Party runs this Friday, February 10, through Sunday, February 12. On Saturday, February 11, at 8 p.m., Ratio welcomes Matt Pryor and Dan Andriano for special performances in the Ratio Brewhouse, with an after-party to follow. For more information and a full schedule of this weekend's events, see the Ratio Beerworks Facebook event page. For more Ratio Sessions episodes featuring bands like Small Brown Bike, Meat Wave, Teenage Bottlerocket and more, check out the Ratio YouTube channel.