What is soul music? To the founders of Mile High Soul Club (MHSC), it means a lot of things.
“I won’t pretend to be a music historian, so there are probably better academic answers to that question,” says co-founder Tyler Jacobson. “But for me, there are obvious hallmarks of a classic soul sound: snappy snare drums, incredible bass lines that rarely wander, and every instrument has hooks, be it guitars, the piano or the ever-present horns that are polished and understated at the same time. The sound is big and flashy while also being vulnerable and introspective. It’s a very passionate sound, as well. It doesn’t matter what the topic is — if it’s inequality or heartache, there’s very present sadness. And if it’s about love or hitting the town, the excitement exuded by a soul singer is going to be electric, and you’ll believe their excitement.”
Mile High Soul Club was conceived in 2008 by Jacobson, who also co-founded the dance party Lipgloss, and Rockabilly and Ribs founder, DJ DogBoy. Since then, MHSC has become the hotbed of Denver’s vibrant soul underground. The monthly dance party showcases resident and guest vinyl DJs and live bands that command the floor with a sultry mix of soul, funk and R&B. MHSC guests have included Boulder-born Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys, Lenny Kravitz, Charles Bradley, Nick Waterhouse, JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound and many more.
On Saturday, May 14, MHSC relocates to HQ, where it will host its rip-roaring party every second Saturday. “Since I co-founded Lipgloss in 2001 at 60 South Broadway, the room has always had a special place in my heart, and I suspect the hearts of many Denverites,” says Jacobson.
“When Michael Trundle [another founder of Lipgloss], told me Lipgloss was moving back to the room where it all started, the wheels started turning for all of us,” he continues. “Michael suggested we talk to [HQ co-owner] Peter Ore, and Peter couldn’t have been more welcoming.”
The team, which now consists of DogBoy, Jacobson and DJ Steve Cervantes, who joined in 2012, sees the move as a way to reinvigorate the night. “After fourteen years, there are few ways to rock the boat without capsizing, and moving venues offers us a way to inject a new energy while maintaining the things that have always made it a party worth leaving the house for,” says Jacobson.
MHSC is no stranger to moving around. Back in 2008, the act hosted its first show at the now-defunct Rockbar. Since then, its records have moved the floors of multiple Denver establishments, many of which don’t exist anymore, including the Shag Lounge, Paris Wine Bar and Mario’s Double Daughter’s Salotto.
The party caught its stride around 2011, when it moved to the Meadowlark. The Meadowlark was a perfect environment for a soul club because it was in a basement, Jacobson says, so when it got packed, it was hot and sweaty, like the music. Eventually, the event outgrew the space and moved to Beauty Bar in 2012, then to 554 South Broadway in 2016. At the time, that address housed Syntax Physic Opera; it became the Broadway Roxy when it was sold in 2019.
At Syntax, everything started off with a bang and skyrocketed from there. “The very first night at Syntax, I had played an after-show party with [Grammy Award-winning producer] Nick Waterhouse and asked if he’d be interested in coming back and playing with us, and he was all about it,” remembers Cervantes.
There, MHSC hosted Biafra, Eli “Paperboy” Reed and Fred Schneider from the B-52’s. However, Jacobson’s favorite memory is a random encounter with one of his idols. “This old dude walked in, and he was wearing a matching jacket, pants, and a wide-brimmed hat. He also looked like he was in his sixties, but a guy you don’t fuck with,” he reminisces. “I’m spinning records, and I see DogBoy chatting with him, and I’m intensely curious about what’s happening. When Dog comes back up to the stage, I’m like, ‘What’s up?’ And he tells me that the Delfonics were in the house.
“Well, sure enough, Will Hart from the Delfonics makes his way up to the stage and asks if I had any Delfonics back there," he continues. "I didn’t, and he stayed after the club had closed. I told him I had my 7-inch of ‘Ready or Not Here I Come’ in my hand that evening and left it at home, and he started just singing it for us! It was incredible.”
After being at 554 South Broadway for nearly half a decade, the team realized it was time to rock the boat again. “It was time [to leave],” says Cervantes. “We’ve spent roughly seven years in that building, and it felt like the night needed a change of scenery. HQ felt like the right fit since it has a huge open space in the heart of Broadway. That, plus getting to work with Peter Ore, who’s been in the Denver music scene for ages, and I really like everything he has contributed. HQ is building its club night game with Lipgloss and their Alternative night with DJ Eli and Paul Italiano, who encouraged me to deejay during my days working at FashioNation. It’s nice to be sharing the venue with both of those nights.”
Ultimately, the goal of MHSC stays the same, regardless of where it’s hosted. “We want to bring a great party that allows the endorphins to flow, brings people together, gets feet moving,” Jacobson concludes. “We want to provide a reliably great experience that will make people glad to be there. To borrow from Ron Burgundy, ‘We’ve been coming to the same party for fourteen years, and in no way is that depressing.’”
Find Mile High Soul Club at 9 p.m. every second Saturday at HQ, 60 South Broadway. Tickets are $7.