Live Nation, an entertainment company with a net worth north of $4 billion, held a contract with Steve Schalk, who owns the Gothic Theatre and Moe's Original BBQ in Englewood. That contract expired last year on March 1, and Schalk elected not to renew. The venue has been independently booking shows ever since. The split was amicable -- the Gothic continues to host Live Nation shows occasionally -- but Schalk, who has seen more than one era at the Gothic come and go, felt he could do it better on his own.
With that in mind, he hired Danny Sax away from Live Nation, and he and Adam Baronfeld are responsible for booking both the Gothic and Moe's. There are no hard boundaries, but Sax books, in his words, "anyone with a guitar," and Baronfeld books "anyone with a laptop."
Sax, who worked at the Boulder Theatre before Live Nation, emphasizes the value placed on developing relationships with bands at his new job. "We try to do what's in the best interest for the bands," he says. He wants nothing more than to help bands develop from playing at Moe's to playing the Gothic. He gets visibly giddy when talking about this trajectory.
Moe's hasn't had the best reputation for live music. It is also a bowling alley and a restaurant, and the stage has felt like an afterthought. Sax believes they are well on their way to changing that perception. To that end, they've installed a brand-new, $40,000 sound system. And Sax has worked hard to improve the bills. When he started, the venue averaged thirty to forty people per show. Now it's up to between 100 and 140.
California band Tera Melos played a Tuesday-night show at Moe's late last year. The tour had been hard and ill-attended. They got to Denver early and went to put fliers in record stores, only to find it had already been done. There were 160 people at the show, and the band got free food -- a courtesy extended to all touring acts. When guitar god Marnie Stern, who is coming off the release of one of 2010's best albums, tapped Tera Melos to open her spring tour, they insisted on coming back to Moe's.
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"We can't throw as much money at our shows as some of the bigger companies," says Sax, "but we'll do whatever it takes to get people excited and make everyone a part of the team. We live and die by our shows."