On Tuesday, January 1, when most of us are still sleeping off the last good times of 2012 or steeling ourselves to tackle resolutions for the new year, our city's live-music scene will mark a major development: This is the day that the iconic Gothic Theatre will be put in the capable hands of the folks at the regional headquarters of Anschutz Entertainment Group. According to Don Strasburg, vice president and senior talent buyer for AEG Live Rocky Mountains, the promoter has reached an agreement with Steve Schalk, longtime owner of the Gothic, to take over operations, booking and management of the esteemed venue at 3263 South Broadway in Englewood.
See also: - Winter on the Rocks after-party is going to be Mad Decent: Diplo at the Gothic - Denver's concert scene is suddenly much livelier - Don Strasburg named Talent Buyer of the Year by Pollstar - The Ogden's rehab is done, but the future's still dark for other vintage theaters
Unlike other facilities that the AEG team has taken on, including the 1STBANK Center, where there were immediate improvements to be made, the Gothic "doesn't need a lot of work in regards to decor and vibe," says Strasburg of the iconic venue, which was one of the city's original movie houses and has been a part of the local landscape since the 1920s. "The room is gorgeous. It's been maintained wonderfully."
"However," Strasburg adds of the space, which was completely renovated in the late '90s, "there may be things that the customer may not see or the artist might not recognize on first glance that we can add to the room to make it an even better experience than it is now -- whether it be in sound, whether it be in lighting, whether it be in sight lines. These are things that we're always looking for. Look, our goal -- number one, in the highest level -- is to bring all of the love we can to this room, and that comes from paying attention."
With that in mind, the plan now calls for getting a feel for the Gothic before any major decisions are made, then completing the work within the first six months of AEG management. "We feel we really bring a really high level of attention to detail to the rooms we operate," explains Strasburg. "The Gothic is already a phenomenal room, and we feel with the love and energy we'll put into it, it will only make it that much better for the community.
"We realize the quality of a venue starts with the sound, because the first and foremost thing we're involved with is music, and music is heard," he continues. "And then the second is the look and the feel. And then, obviously, the comfort of room and the patron experience -- that all goes hand in hand. It will take us a little bit of time to get comfortable and feel the Gothic in action to understand where we can enhance the experience."
"The room now just looks so incredible," says Scott Campbell, who will be handling booking duties when AEG takes over. "I'm so excited to be a part of the Gothic. I did a couple of one-offs there in the last decade, but this will be a nice, permanent integration with the Gothic, and I'm really looking forward to it. I mean, I'm a huge fan of the room. It's got the architecture, the enclaves, the entire presentation of the room is just absolutely beautiful."
While Strasburg declines to discuss the specific terms of the agreement, he notes that it's similar to the arrangement that AEG has worked out with the Bluebird Theater and the Ogden Theatre. A number of Gothic staffers will join the AEG Live Rocky Mountains team, including Danny Sax, the current talent buyer, who is slated to assist Campbell with booking duties at both the Gothic and the Bluebird.
Adding the Gothic to the stable of venues that AEG already books and operates effectively gives the promoter a rather unique opportunity to cultivate an artist's career from the nascent stages in a small club on up through larger theaters -- with a capacity of 1,100, the Gothic falls neatly between the Bluebird at 550 and the Ogden at 1,600 -- to sizable venues such as 1STBANK Center and Red Rocks.
"Generally," says Campbell, who began seeing shows at the Gothic as a fan in high school, long before he was booking acts into 15th Street Tavern and then later at his club, the Larimer Lounge, and now with AEG, "we have artists play the Bluebird and then we do the Ogden or they do Bluebird and maybe they go on a support slot at Red Rocks or something like that, but now we'll have a nice sort of well rounded option for the thousand capacity space in Denver."
"Our goal has always been to be engaged soup-to-nuts with the artists and the fans," says Strasburg. "Starting from Scott Campbell's Larimer Lounge with the relationships we have, obviously at the Fox and Boulder theaters, the Ogden and Bluebird and now the Gothic, this gives us the best framework to offer artists to enjoy their time in Colorado -- and therefore, we think it only helps develop the music community, because we can have the most flexibility in offering the customer, the fan, the exact perfect place to see the band they love.
"Inherently," he goes on, "if that's done, the artists can put out the best product...they can put on the best show possible. If the band puts on a great show, the fans have a great time. We know this is how you develop the community. This is how we create the highest level of enjoyment of live music, thereby helping everybody grow and get to the next venue, and the whole community flourishes."
Community is the key element here, says Strasburg, and that involves not only striving to create a top-notch live experience, but also continuing the Gothic's long-standing commitment to local music, which it shares with some of AEG's other rooms, such as the Bluebird and Ogden. "Local bands have a relationship with the local community," he notes. "This is where they will get their start, and if they have the ability to bring out enough people, then we should be using these great venues that we have."
While adding the Gothic Theatre has added perks (while state liquor laws still apply, obviously, the ordinances in Englewood allow the venue to stay open later, making it an ideal spot to host the occasional after party, like the upcoming Winter on the Rocks shindig) and is clearly a great business move for AEG -- which launched its local outpost here just half a dozen years ago with no properties to speak of at the time -- Strasburg prefers to focus on the music. For a company like AEG to continue to thrive and for the music scene to stay vibrant, keeping the fans' interests and experience in mind has to be at the core of any plan.
"Instead of thinking of it from a level of business," says Strasburg, "we think of it from a level of music and from experience. The business will all work -- that's fine -- if you do it the right way. I like to say, 'We're not in the music business; we're in the business of providing entertainment for our community.' If we do that job correctly -- if our job is to bring the best music and create the best musical experience for the Colorado community -- the business will work.
"The energy that we all put into creating a great experience to see a concert, to see a live performance, helps make our community appreciate it more, and I think that helps bring a more open-minded and a more focused mentality on live music as something that's part of how we enjoy ourselves in Colorado," he continues, "because the quality of the experience is really good, people enjoy it more maybe here. And because they enjoy it, more people want to go to concerts, because it's fun -- and then more people want to play music at concerts because of how much fun it is. I think it all flows from the effort that we put into the experience.
"And by the way, this isn't just AEG Live. I think all of the people who are involved in bringing concerts to Colorado do this at a really high level. And this is what separates Colorado from almost every other market in the country. The rooms that we have in Colorado," he concludes, "most major cities -- mid-level to major cities -- would be 1,000 percent better, in terms of their musical experience, if they had a quarter of the quality venues we have here. It's true. What we would consider the weakest venue in Colorado would be the absolute state palace in most other markets."
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