In October 2018, word began circulating through Denver’s underground music circles about a farewell show at the Bloodswamp.
The owner of the long-running house venue tucked along the I-25 corridor in Jefferson Park had given word to his renters that the building would soon be leveled for redevelopment, a proclamation he’d made regularly since 2013. This time the show announcement came with a detail that seemed to ensure that this was truly the end: It was rumored that it would also be a demolition party.
Originally erected in 1890, the tumble-down three-bedroom at 2026 Bryant Street became a home for live music when Preston Welker and two friends, Dusty Breitling and Mollie Backowski, signed a lease on the place in the summer of 2010 for a mere $1,000 a month.
“We weren’t really thinking about what we would do there at the time,” says Welker. “It was just like, ‘Oh, cool, there’s a basement.’ That was the one contingency: It had to have a basement so we could play music down there.”
At the time, the neighborhood was prime for the punk dwelling they envisioned. Parking lots for the nearby Broncos Stadium at Mile High made up much of the adjacent properties, and there were few neighbors.
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One of those neighbors was a dispensary with the misfortune of having suffered numerous break-ins. One morning, Welker returned home to find Breitling splayed out on his back in his room, baked out of his mind, with Panda Bear blasting through the house. Someone had broken into the dispensary and left behind a trail of edibles, which Breitling had stumbled upon and devoured.
The block wasn’t quite lawless, but it was close. Over the three years Welker spent in the house, through countless house parties, after-midnight jams and rooftop smoke sessions, nobody ever called the cops on them.
The Bloodswamp got its name from Sunn O))) and Boris’s collab track of the same name, after the music served as accompaniment for a mural-painting session that left a basement wall dripping in thick red and black.
The house itself was a rectangle of rooms that sat on a lot of the same shape, running perpendicular to the street, skirted by an overgrown yard on all sides. Resident and eventual lease-holder Josh Moorehead erected a stage built from a wooden fence. An old speedboat sat stranded in the far corner of the yard.
“Rainwater would flood the area in the back during the spring, and there was a boat sitting back there. It was perfect,” remembers Taylor Doyle, guitarist and singer in the band the Kinky Fingers, which played the venue’s final show.
“The best shows were when we’d have one band play inside and then the next band already set up outside to start right after,” says Moorehead.
The house boasted many DIY hallmarks: “It was pretty grungy and always had this weird musk to it,” says Doyle. “It always seemed to be a mess, and there were just weird things about it, like the toilet wouldn’t flush all the way. Just an old Denver house.”
A medley of instruments — strings, brass, woodwinds, percussion — adorned the interior; it was the perfect setup for spontaneous jams, another defining feature of 2026 Bryant Street.
In its early years, the space hosted a handful of punk and metal shows and birthed a number of bands. Eventually, the house became as much a hub for friends to congregate and exercise creative freedom as a traditional venue.
“For me, the music created there reflected all the people who took up brewing beer and wine, poetry, painting, experimental photography and urban gardening while living there,” says Welker. “Many friendships were born during my time. We never had a fight or trouble at a show.”
The Bloodswamp always kept its familial vibe, even as the cast of residents rotated. In 2013, Moorehead took over the lease and began hosting regular gigs. But even the first show he put together was done under the premise that the end was imminent.
“The owner said it was going to be two or three months,” says Moorehead. “We figured, ‘Well, we’ve got two more months here; let’s throw a couple parties.’ We threw one that month, and then once a month that summer into fall.”
Over the years, ownership of the property shifted hands, and many potential buyers came and went.
“One time, it was a group of investors who came to look at the property, so Tate [Ignelzi, a former tenant and member of the Guestlist and Heavy Diamond Ring] and I decided to mess with them,” says Moorehead, laughing. “They were standing fifteen feet away, and we were looking at them with binoculars, blasting really avant-garde jazz music and telling them all these fake stories about it being cursed. The guy who was trying to sell them on the property acted like he got a phone call, but you could tell his phone wasn’t on.”
The neighborhood changed drastically after 2010, and condominiums stretched skyward where houses once stood. Still, the Bloodswamp persisted.
“A lot of the shows were impromptu,” says Moorehead. “There was one time I showed up and Earl Snyder [of the Kinky Fingers, Keefduster and Slynger, who also painted the boombox mural on the highway barrier behind the property] and a bunch of homies were bombing the hill in front of my house, eating shit left and right and drinking beer. We just had a party that night because there were already twenty kids there.”
The Bloodswamp hosted dozens of shows between the spring of 2013 and the fall of 2018 for touring and local bands alike, including the Nude Party’s inaugural Denver appearance.
“It was more like a barbecue hangout than a regular show,” says Nude Party guitarist and singer Patton Magee of the band’s visit. “We went out and got a bunch of beer and grillables to share with everyone.”
The popular Denver band Flaural also played its first show at the space.
“Everyone was talking to everyone, from every group,” recalls Collin Johnson, the band’s bassist and singer. “You might be talking to Josh [Moorehead], who’s an engineer, and next thing you know, you’re making friends with a geologist in the kitchen.”
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One guy carried a Louisville Slugger, and others had fashioned makeshift sledgehammers from objects cherry-picked from the yard. As folks poured into the party, many had the same question: “So can we just start smashing shit?”
The destructive hype swelled, and Moorehead had to take to the mic between songs to officially dispel the myth.
“A big part of me wanted to say, ‘Yeah, fuck it,’” he says. “But we still had a few nights there; Cameron [Wyman] was still living there. That’s when we told people to take their frustrations out on the boat out back.”
A couple of months later, bulldozers took up the task, and the Bloodswamp was gone.
“For a lot of cats, it was such a safe space,” says Moorehead. “It was pretty endearing for people to say that.”