Music News

Backwash

Evan Nelson answers his phone at nine o'clock on a Tuesday morning. This act may not seem all that unusual -- until you consider his occupation. For the past seven years, Nelson has presided as host and innkeeper of Skunk Motel, a weekly fete as notorious for its longevity as for the underground house music that, until very recently, it pumped through the Snake Pit every Monday night. Like many of the devotees who turned up to dance and drink on a school night, Nelson had pretty much written off Tuesday mornings. With the exception of just a couple of times for things like music conferences and vacation -- even a DJ named Skunk needs to leave his natural habitat every now and then -- Nelson hasn't missed a night, or a beat, at the Motel since 1997.

But some of his regulars have. After Skunk Motel's seven-year anniversary in March, Nelson says he started to notice a drop in attendance. And though a decline in rave-style house events and club nights in Denver might reflect a shift in citywide tastes, Nelson is quicker to cite the realities of nine-to-five life as the culprit.

"As the crowd gets older and more responsible, the old-school people who used to support it all have jobs and families during the week," Nelson says. "We kind of got the message that it was tough for them to come out on a Monday, because so many people had responsibilities on Tuesday morning.

"It all kind of happened right after the anniversary -- like, maybe people saw it as a chance to commit to their responsibilities. I don't know if they didn't have jobs for six years, but after this one, they decided they needed to get their shit together."

Well, not entirely. With a move from Monday to Saturday night, Skunk Motel is still open for business, only now in a slot that's kinder and gentler to the working crowd. And though the event may have lost some of the rebel feel that previously flavored it -- sometimes there's a nihilistic thrill to getting your week off to a completely wrong start, isn't there? -- the Motel is as skunky as ever. After all, it's Nelson's work behind the decks that's been the biggest attraction, not the day of the week.

"I've always been surprised that it's lasted this long, but I've worked on keeping the integrity," he says. "It's had a certain relaxed feel -- I call it a humble house party. It's been my responsibility to keep the music fresh and forward-thinking, but it's up to the people to keep the vibe going."

Reservations not required.

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Laura Bond
Contact: Laura Bond