New Concert Venue the Rickhouse Is Already Booking Big Shows | Westword

New Concert Venue the Rickhouse Is Already Booking Big Shows

Made by musicians, for musicians, the Rickhouse offers an authentic warehouse experience and big support for bands.
The Rickhouse, a new live-music venue in Park Hill, hosts concerts with an old-school warehouse vibe.
The Rickhouse, a new live-music venue in Park Hill, hosts concerts with an old-school warehouse vibe. Courtesy the Rickhouse
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Word-of-mouth DIY warehouse shows held in nondescript locales were a staple of the Denver alternative-music scene when longtime musicians Johny Fysh, Josh Thibeault and Steve Addison were coming of age. It wasn't long before they were starting bands and regularly playing such venues themselves.

“I was in a band in high school, and that’s pretty much all we did. We just did a lot of DIY pop-up shows at a warehouse or skating rink,” says Thibeault, who goes by the nickname "Dice."

So when Fysh, who currently plays in local metal bands Two Minutes Darker and Flood of Souls, became privy to a spot at the 57-room Francisco Studios located in the building where he's a property manager, the trio had an idea to offer a genuine warehouse experience there. Now called the Rickhouse, it's located at 6100 East 39th Avenue in Northeast Park Hill.

Fysh purchased the spot in October 2022, "and the idea was to put in a rehearsal room for national bands or others who wanted to perfect their stage performance,” he says. But Fysh had “always thought” about opening a public live-music venue, and after hosting a last-minute concert in December, the Rickhouse was officially open for business.

“People just came at me right and left about booking and wanting to do shows,” Fysh recalls. “It’s morphed into an actual public venue now.”

But the Rickhouse, whose name is inspired by Fysh's affinity for whiskey, isn't necessarily like other concert halls around the city. There are no TVs, video games or pool tables in the 450-capacity room. Seating is also limited, so the stage-front area allows for everything from “standing and enjoying the music to mosh pits,” Thibeault says. After all, the venue attracts some lively crowds: “We’ve had to move some tables out of the way to let guys do their thing,” he says.

“That all helps keep people focused on what’s really important, which is the band playing on the stage,” he continues. “That’s what I feel is very different about this place.”

The Rickhouse is “all about the music when you’re there,” agrees Addison, the venue's booking agent and house promoter.

“This is a DIY establishment built by musicians, for musicians, focused on the musicians, and not the bottom line or budget,” Thibeault adds. “Most clubs or bars are quick to cut their entertainment budgets down to make more money, but not here.”

As the man in charge of all the video and sound, Thibeault and his Shootin’ DICE Studios team spare no expense when it comes to cameras and other stage equipment that capture the action. “We have six cameras; three are fixed and three of them are pan-tilt-zoom cameras," he explains. "We operate the cameras to get the best possible shot."

Such professional production allows the Rickhouse to offer online livestreams, which include an independent sound mix overseen by stage manager Gregory Lell.

“We have a separate full mix going to the stream,” Thibeault explains. “I stream pretty much every show from here live” — though they’re not streamed locally, in an effort to encourage the hometown audience to come by and watch in person.

Shootin’ DICE Studios also records multi-track audio and offers musicians the chance to purchase their set, so Thibeault “can work with the bands post-production and give them lots of opportunities, like, ‘Hey, do you want a simple cut copy? Do you want to remaster some stuff? Do you want the raw footage and do your own edits?'"

And that really makes the Rickhouse stand out. “As far as offering services, I don’t know of any other venue in the Denver area that can offer the kind of services that we offer,” Thibeault continues. “I want to make it affordable to see this community grow. What can be better than a good promo video?”

For example, Brighton hard-rock group Daggen shot with Shootin’ DICE recently, and that footage helped the band land the opening slot for the Last in Line show at the Buffalo Rose on September 8.

It’s clear that Thibeault is proud the Rickhouse can provide such an ace atmosphere and offerings to the bands that come through. He says he even recently installed sound-deadening panels “above the stage and all the walls at specific, strategic points to deal with any reflections” to enhance the overall sound.

“The sound from January versus the sound now is night and day,” he emphasizes. “Now it actually sounds like a good venue.”

Add in Timothy Wyckoff’s lighting chops and the 32-by-20-foot stage, which includes a digital background screen (eliminating the need to hang and swap out multiple band banners during a show), and Fysh and his friends have created a warehouse venue on steroids.

“I joke around and tell people that the Rickhouse reminds me of the warehouse parties we used to have that we wish we could have had,” says Addison, who handles guitar in Denver metal band Sanity’s Edge. “Instead of renting out some big-ass warehouse and throwing some egg crates and cardboard on top of each other to make a stage, this is actually like if you really went in and built a warehouse venue.”

The most old-school aspect of the Rickhouse is the minimal, low-profile signage on the building, but word is getting out about the off-the-beaten-path venue. It’s been able to bring in some big acts so far, including nationally touring bands Faster Pussycat and the Ongoing Concept, and California rockers Adema will be there on Thursday, August 24, with Smile Empty Soul, Deep Within, Traverse the Abyss, Worth the Weight and When Darkness Falls. But the Rickhouse does more than just hard rock and heavy metal.

“We’re genre-agnostic,” Thibeault shares. “We’ve had singer-songwriters and solo acts all the way to the heaviest death-metal acts you can think of to country — you name it, we’ve had pretty much the mix.”

“We’ve had blues. We’ve had burlesque,” Addison adds. “It really is a wide variety. We’re not limiting it to just anything.”

That includes working with local bands as often as possible. “We’re definitely never going to exclude our locals. We are all about locals,” Addison says. “If we can get a national band in there and put some locals on stage with them, then that’s even better.”

Denver metalcore group Leveler helped break in the “big ass,” as Addison describes the Rickhouse stage, in June and has shot a music video there since then for new song “Winterborn.” Guitarist Kyle Augustin has nothing but good things to say about the space. “It’s going to be a pretty cool spot,” he says. “They’re doing some big things there already, so, excited to see how it goes.”

That’s been a popular sentiment, according to Thibeault. “We’re getting good commentary and testimonials from everybody who comes through the door. We just want more people to come through the door,” he says with a laugh. “And if you’re coming here, you’re coming here for the music. The biggest thing I keep hearing over and over again is once somebody comes through the door, they walk away going, ‘I didn’t know this place existed, but this is an awesome establishment and venue, and I’ll be back.’”

“Ninety-nine percent of the people are focused on the music,” Fysh adds. “If you ever went to an old-school warehouse party, that’s what you get when you come here. You can’t see it from the street, because it just looks like a warehouse building, but you come through the front door, then there’s another door and you’re in.”

Since it’s owned and run by musicians, they have “more of an understanding of what’s needed and what’s wanted,” Fysh says. And with each show, “we just keep adding more and more stuff,” including the new fenced-in parking lot. A proper food menu to go along with the drink offerings is coming, too.

But the ambience that the three partners have created still makes Thibeault a little nostalgic.

“When I walked in here, it was like, ‘This is very familiar to what I did as a teenager,’” he says. “It’s got that vibe to it.”

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