Music News

Raves for the Raven

Mike Jerk, of Denver's Soda Jerk Records, and Jason Cotter, singer for local punk outfit the Family Men (who perform this Friday night at the 15th Street Tavern), are the two-man force behind the fantastically understated punk-rock mecca that is The Raven (2217 Welton). Unapologetically ramshackle, the ornithologically monikered club resembles a gutted Mexican restaurant, right down to the plastic red candles that compete with beer bottles for space on stage-side tables. For more than a year, the club has served as a safe haven for underage lovers of loud rock and roll with its frequent all-ages shows, and those who file into the space are grateful for it, cracked wood-paneled walls and all. But after a few recent high-profile shows drew larger than usual crowds into the smallish venue (including nationally touring punk armies Blank 77, Total Chaos, the Queers and Grade), Cotter and Jerk decided to heighten the club's profile while lighting up the low, low LoDo night: They have commissioned celebrated Denver-based screen-print artist and former Frank Kozik apprentice Lindsey Kuhn ("Poster Boys," October 9, 1999) to design a new logo for the club. (Kuhn's work can be sampled at his new Web site, Perhaps even more impressive, Jerk and Cotter have purchased a large, blinking and possibly explicit lighted sign from the good people at Kitty's. Yes, that Kitty's. Jerk describes the new signage as "very, very big and bright," adding that it will eventually incorporate elements of Kuhn's logo as well as properties of the Raven's mammoth disco ball, which, according to Jerk, is "the largest in the West."

Beyond these aesthetic enhancements, Cotter and Jerk are increasing the club's frequency of shows and plan to offer local acts every Friday and Saturday night beginning January 14. According to Jerk, most of the events will feature two to three bands, as well as sets from local DJs. Friday shows will be all-ages, with Saturday reserved for the legal drinking set. The change, Jerk says, has less to do with trying to join the increasingly competitive local promotions game than with trying to enhance Denver's live menagerie. "Our desire is really to have [The Raven] as another, cool alternative for people to go to, rather than the same clubs," he says. "I think we fill a niche. The room's a good size -- it holds 325, which is bigger than the Lair and the Tavern but smaller than the Bluebird. A lot of national acts like the size of the room -- they like to play smaller places when they can.

"I think two or three years ago, there were tons of local bands, but now we're kind of in this lull," he adds. "Jason and I want to work to build up some of these newer bands -- at least do our part. We try to stay out of the politics and focus on bringing good bands. For us, it's really all about the music in the scene."

Clubgoers might have to wait a while before viewing the establishment's new lighted asset, but in the meantime, the first offerings in the local weekend series should provide plenty of reason to visit: Los Terribles, Inferno and the Facet will rock the house on Friday, January 14, and Apocalypse Hoboken and the Speedholes take over on Saturday, January 15. An easy-to-overlook club on the side of the road? Nevermore!

A little while ago we mentioned that the Denver-based Hooligan was celebrating its sixth year of life as an irreverent, potty-mouthed, bitchy and frequently hilarious publication created by editor John Reidy. Well, it seems that after six years of writing about the cultural shortcomings of the Front Range (as well as music, film and pop culture), Reidy has had enough. While most people will greet the new century by implementing minor (and temporary) life changes such as laying off the gravy and giving up menthols, Reidy is going for a complete change of scene and halting publication of the Hooligan, both in print and online. Though he's no fan of this publication (we were recently described as "whore-mongers," among other things) and hates being interviewed, he tells us he's planning an imminent -- and possibly permanent -- hop across the water. Jolly ol' Ireland has beckoned Reidy to return to the mother country -- and it seems a fitting place for the professional malcontent. There's plenty of dark beer to be drunk, and the fightin' Irish have a reputation for expressing their, um, spirited opinions, which should place young Reidy right at home. Fans of the publication can catch it online while it lasts, at, and bid farewell to the feisty micromedia mogul. He might not miss us, but we just might miss him.

It seems the mega-concert promoters of the world weren't the only ones who took some serious hits to the wallet in the great hypefest that was the millennial pseudo-bash. From Welton to Wynkoop, LoDo nightclub owners were more likely to raise a champagne glass out of misery than New Year's jubilance, as normally celebratory Denverites elected to stay away from the entropy of downtown -- and out of its clubs. So was it impending global doom, inflated cover charges and astronomical parking fees, or 6,000 paratroopers in riot gear that deterred potential clubgoers? According to Polly Esther's general manager Ron Reed, whose retro-themed establishment charged $100 a head for a package that included a buffet and call drinks, it was all of the above. "The radio, TV and city officials just scared everybody half to death," he says. "Everyone knew it was going to be a heavy police presence, and the cops outnumbered people two to one. It wasn't that the cops scared people; it was what people were told [police] were there for -- looting and rioting." Reed, who spent the evening working the club and trying to get more people inside, estimates that his establishment did about one-tenth of the business it expected to, based on the success of prior New Year's events and anticipation of increased partying to welcome the year 2000.

Clubs bearing LoDo zip codes weren't the only ones to suffer fiscal casualties last Friday night. La Rumba, a safe distance from downtown at 99 West Ninth Street, drew a crowd that, according to owner Jesse Morreale, was "exponentially smaller" than last year's event, when the venue operated as Ninth Avenue West. This year, admission to the newly refurbished, Latin-flavored room was $92; in 1998 it was $70, a fact that leads Morreale to suspect the low turnout of fewer than fifty people was due more to Y2K fear and fatigue than frugality. "I think it had a lot to do with media hype about how the world was gonna explode," he says. "People were scared to go out. They wanted to stay home and watch the coverage of the world ending." Not only did people not celebrate at clubs like his, Morreale says, but they really didn't celebrate at all. "I walked around the neighborhood at 1 a.m.," he says, "and the place was a ghost town. No one on the streets, no one driving. There just wasn't anything going on at all."

In other words, Denver was simply no damn fun on New Year's Eve. A letdown. An overly hyped non-event in which the world neither ended nor faltered, even a tiny bit. But if Morreale is right, and a collective doomsday fear of a brand-spankin'-new millennium is to blame for citywide lethargy on New Year's Eve in 1999, what will it be like in 2000, when we truly are entering a new millennium? "Party like it's 2000" may not have the same alliterative charm as Prince's famed chorus, but it's a more accurate mantra. We do, after all, still have 52 weekends left in this millennium -- revisionist math be damned -- which gives Denver plenty of time to reconsider the way it wants to welcome the next 1,000 years. With that in mind, we introduce a new item in this week's paper: "52 Weeks of Fun," which takes a look at clubs and events that defy our cowtown reputation -- cool DJs, saucy soirees, nightlife happenings both bizarre and glamorous. Look for it in the Backbeat Clubs Listings every week. It should help all of us warm up for what has no choice but to be a better party this December 31.

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Laura Bond
Contact: Laura Bond

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