The nearly 100-year-old Aztlan Theatre in the Arts District on Santa Fe has sat (mostly) empty for the past decade. That's all about to change with the promise of a local-music concert on April 16, put together by Emily Owens and Cody Noha. With the blessing of the current owner, Tim Correa, and a lot of help from local bands and friends, they're determined to bring back the Aztlan.
Correa purchased the space in 1973; he changed the name from the Santa Fe Theatre to the Aztlan Theatre and began showing films there. The venue was originally built as a movie theater in 1920 and still displays the original ornate design.
In the late '80s, Correa adapted to a changing Denver, transforming the building from a movie theater into a bar and venue. The spot hosted an impressive roster of artists, including the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Run DMC, Offspring, Slayer and more. But over the past decade, Correa has rented out the space for private parties, weddings, a few small shows in the front room, and a First Friday happy hour. These temporary events, however, were not enough to continue programming.
The do-good crew of Owens and Noha decided to reach out and take on the adventure of bringing music back into the space. "Cody Noha used to go to a lot of shows at the Aztlan," says Owens. "I grew up in Boulder, so I haven't been to a show at the Aztlan yet. We didn't know each other; we met through mutual friends, and I started idealistically throwing out the idea, 'Hey, what if we could have shows in the Aztlan again?'" For his part, Correa is thrilled to see life buzzing in the theater again. Owens and Noha seemed to get the impression that Correa was deciding whether to sell the space, but it remains to be seen whether renovations and renewed programming can keep the Aztlan running as a venue again.
"It's really exciting. It's not very much time until the show, and I understand that. There's a lot to accomplish before then," Owens says. "When I initially spoke to Tim, he wanted a show as soon as possible." She only started booking bands a few days ago, so confirmation for many of the acts is not yet final. While Owens is still waiting on headliners, local bands already committed to the April 16 show include Tyto Alba, Oko Tygra, Scary Drugs, Bleak Plaza and Rootbeer & Mermentau.
"The show will be super-DIY," Owens says. "I really want to give another living room to the Denver music scene. Since I moved here, I've been so impressed by the hi-dive, Larimer Lounge, the UMS. I want to make another place for the scene to flourish."
According to Owens, music fans can expect to hear a range of genres at the April show, including garage rock, post-punk, and some dreamy electronic and rock acts, to start. "As the venue grows, so will its diversity, with a strong commitment to both DIY culture and rock and roll, punk," she adds.
The theater currently needs a few major renovations before it's up and ready for shows, including an entire sound system and indoor lighting.
"The potential in this place is astounding. Sure, there will be some setbacks and unforeseen issues, but that's why I love getting involved with these projects. Cody and Emily have such a passion for this place," says John Baxter, friend of Noha and Owens. "Aside from the sound system, we'll be looking to install new lighting for the stage and theater, as well as typical maintenance needed for a building that was erected in the 1920s. Lots of love, a little elbow grease and vision. The ball is just beginning to roll on this project, and we truly hope that it can become the destination spot we see it to be."
While the news is still fresh to all involved and confirmation on bands will continue to roll out, we'll keep you posted with the lineup. Be sure to follow the Aztlan's progress on Facebook. Viva Aztlan, indeed.
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.