As with all things in life, there is more to a good live show than meets the eye. With a well-built music venue, an agreeable and talented performer and a well-stocked bar, people in the crowd tend to forget about the people at the sound booth who shape the sound — unless they're doing a terrible job.
With the summer concert season at our doorstep, here's a shout-out to some of the best sound engineers in Denver, who will undoubtedly be involved in some memorable shows this summer – along with the rest of 2018 and beyond.
After hanging around the bar as a regular customer and performer, Kim Baxter became friends with sound engineers at the hi-dive and was given the opportunity to learn about working the sound board. Along with being a favorite in the sound-engineering community and one of many talented engineers at the hi-dive, Baxter plays drums for Jess Parsons, Gun Street Ghost, Elin Palmer and Esmé Patterson.
John Bunting is what the sound-engineering kids call an OG of the business, getting his start back in 2001 at the now-closed Dulcinea's 100th Monkey and setting out as a freelancer by 2006. Bunting is everywhere in Denver: His freelance work includes sound and light installation and a rig setup for music festivals, and he's the house sound engineer at Stoney's Bar & Grill and Sound Town, and for all live performances at Twist & Shout Records.
Joey Cicak works as a production manager for AEG and sound engineer for the occasional show at venues including the Ogden, the Gothic, Red Rocks and the Paramount Theatre, but his origin story is as action-packed as a superhero film. He got hooked on sound engineering after he and his band built a PA system inside a DIY warehouse venue and worked weekend shows for local acts, then bounced between Los Angeles and Seattle, working for the famed Robert Lang Studios and building mics for the company Blue Microphones. He even served as an engineer for the Velvet Underground's John Cale.
AMP CHAMP Pro A.V. and Summit Music Hall
Mathematically speaking, it's possible that another sound engineer has the same story as AMP CHAMP Pro A.V. and Summit Music Hall's Dominic Esparza, but chances would be very, very slim. Between getting into sound engineering because he wanted to get a behind-the-scenes look at an Animal Collective show, working with artists ranging from Saves the Day to Thursday to DMX, and taking a photo with Big K.R.I.T.'s Cadillac DJ booth, the Denver native is quite possibly one of a kind.
Helmet Room Recordings and Ophelia's Electric Soapbox
In his twenty years in the business, Randall Frazier has been all over the Denver music scene and heavily involved with large projects. He was the head production lead at the Mercury Cafe, Globe Hall and the Walnut Room, and is currently the unusual combo of chief sound engineer and talent buyer at Ophelia's Electric Soapbox, where he designed and installed the sound system. He also somehow finds time to run the recording studio Helmet Room Recordings.
Syntax Physic Opera
Admittedly, Samuel Glover's initial draw to sound engineering stemmed from coming to the realization at age sixteen that he could make dope beats with his turntables; his love for the work runs much deeper than that now. He got his start inside the Meadowlark sound booth, learning the ropes of sound engineering and production, and eventually worked his way over to Syntax Physic Opera. As the head sound engineer for one of the more eclectic venues in town, Glover works anything from a night of opera, soul, funk, Latin or dark wave to open-mic sets for local acts.
Jefferson County School District
During his junior year of college, Ron Gordon had an opportunity to join the Little Bear's sound engineer team in Evergreen, and worked his way up to becoming head sound engineer and production manager over the course of a couple years. After opening his own recording studio in Evergreen and designing and installing the lighting and sound rig for the Walnut Room in Denver, Gordon was asked to run the audio program for Jefferson County School District, where he has happily taught up-and-coming high-schoolers the ins and outs of sound engineering for the past ten years.
The Keep Recording
Should a person end up on South Broadway at any point throughout the day, chances are high that Nick Sullivan is there, too. The busy Denver music veteran has worn several hats throughout his time in the business, including as a musician with the band American Relay, as a sound engineer at the hi-dive, and, most notably, as a record producer with his company, The Keep Recording, which partners with Consonance Publishing for music publishing services. Sullivan has worked with various artists as a producer, including Brad Corrigan of Dispatch and with the band SIR, and served as a sound engineer for the Grammy-nominated Los Lobos album Tin Can Rust.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.