Nice or not, the Tavern has been so successful that Campbell is currently in a position of competing with himself: Prior to splitting with the club, he lined up shows that now directly oppose his first month's worth of entertainment at the Lounge, a retro-attractive, dimly lit sanctuary that feels like the Tavern's more sophisticated older cousin. (The Lounge's schedule includes an opening-night triple bill from Check Engine, Jet Black Joy and the Swanks on Friday, December 6; Skeleton Key, Uphollow and Black Black Ocean take the stage on Monday, December 9.) And though Campbell will be severing his ties to the Tavern, bands are not expected to do the same: The club will continue to host live music, with booking duties split among present employees.
"I read an interview with Doug Kauffman [of Nobody in Particular Presents] where he was talking about this business being all about relationships," Campbell says. "I think that's totally true. A club is really not about anything more than the promoter who's controlling it and what their relationships are with the agents who represent the bands. I'm totally confident in my relationships, and I know that those people will follow me wherever I go."
But what about fans who might not be ready to give up their trusty Tavern-side barstool, or those who might be dubious of the Lounge's new locale?
"Free parking -- that's how we'll get them," says Gebhardt, laughing. "Really, I think this area has a reputation that precedes it in a way that isn't totally positive. Once people get down here and see what it's all about, those preconceptions will kind of go away. The feeling of everyone around here is that this area is just going to continue to grow and develop. We just kind of got in on the ground floor of that."
Campbell and Gebhardt are not the first music-minded business owners to move out of the confines of downtown into its largely industrial fringes: A couple of years ago, saxophonist Laura Newman took over duties at Herb's Hideout, just a few blocks down the road from the Larimer Lounge on 21st Street, turning that place into an eclectic and happening spot that's defied those who doubted the viability of its location. Promoter (and former Tavern affiliate) Jason Cotter and partner Kurt Ottaway recently opened the Climax Lounge in the old Raven location on 21st and Welton, revitalizing an area that has a rich history of local music, both aboveboard and clandestine: Once upon a time in the underground, warehouses along streets in the upper twenties hosted illegal shows for the in-the-know sect, and the neighborhood's jazz legacy is hinted at by the grand, if barely used, theaters that line the streets of Five Points.
Today the Larimer Lounge is part of a neighborhood that is very much in flux, with a few art galleries and restaurants sprinkled among the liquor stores, scrapyards and industrial machinery of the upper Ballpark neighborhood. Down the street from the club -- formerly the Sunshine Lounge, a neighborhood watering hole that occasionally hosted live music -- hundreds of newly polished loft-style apartments sit vacant. Everyone, including Campbell and Gebhardt, are banking on the notion that a boom is just around the corner. (For the moment, however, a boarded-up pawnshop is what's really around the corner.)
"I think this place is great," says Campbell. "I'm hoping people are going to find out about it and just sort of freak out."
Last week, Justin Guarani, the big-haired singer who hammed his way into the preteen consciousness as a contestant on American Idol, was invited to participate in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade as part of a float, mugging for cameras and parade-watchers and singing a ballad about trains and mountains while Katie Couric and Matt Lauer chatted about high school baton twirlers.
This is the kind of opportunity that awaits the near-winner of a hugely successful television talent contest. (Meanwhile, Kelly Clarkson, who beat Guarani by a landslide in the final tally, currently graces the cover of Seventeen and reveals her "naughty side" within its pages. We can only imagine!) Still, such dubious rewards haven't deterred new legions of Idol aspirants from vying for the chance to be humiliated on a national network, as evidenced by the throngs who turned up to audition for the show's producers last month. Locally, MIX 100.3/FM has come up with its own variation on the theme with Colorado Idol, a two-tiered regional contest; the second round takes place at the Soiled Dove on Wednesday, December 11.