Music News

The Beatdown

Looking at John Huntington, you'd never guess that he's one of the hottest nightclub promoters in the country. Clad in a plain white T-shirt, a crisp pair of navy Dickies and motorcycle boots, his hair slicked back, he seems more like an extra from The Outsiders than an infamous entertainment don.

When Huntington and I shared a couch in the Church's VIP lounge this past Saturday night during the Denver debut of Club Rubber -- his lauded West Coast-based party franchise -- the very important peeps had no problem recognizing him. But once we left that privileged enclave to make our way through the main room, parting the unwashed masses of asses, Huntington blended right in. Despite the fact that he once starred in his own reality-based show -- Inked, which aired on A&E, followed Huntington as he opened a tattoo parlor in the Palms hotel/casino in Las Vegas with one of his best friends, motocross legend Carey Hart -- club-goers had absolutely no idea who he was. And they probably still don't. If asked, though, I'm sure each one would tell you that our boy knows how to throw down.

"I've been coming to the Church every Saturday night for a long time," I overheard one guy say to his friend. "I've never seen it like this -- this packed."

He was right. For Rubber, the Church was as crammed as it was during All-Star Weekend, if not more so. On opening night, DJs Skribble and Hurricane were absolute fire; when the Crystal Method stops by this Saturday, May 21, it should be just as bananas. And that's exactly the response that Brad Roulier, the Church's director of entertainment, was hoping for when he and Huntington finally joined forces. The pair met a little over three years ago -- when Roulier used Huntington's Pimp 'n Ho trademark illegally. "I called him and chewed his ass and told him I was going to sue him," Huntington recalls. "And he's like, 'Well, come out and do it with me.' He and I met and instantly became great friends, straight away."

The two have been trying to work together ever since, explains Roulier, but the timing wasn't right until now. "Finally, it seemed like it made a lot of sense to bring him to Denver," he says. "I think Denver's really bored right now. You know, it doesn't seem like there's anything new. The Church is a venue that most people know about. I mean, everybody's been there, and it's kind of lost its novelty: If you're from Denver, you've been there. So we're really going to try and re-energize it and take it to a whole other level. John's parties are really energetic and something different from what we're doing everywhere else."

So different that even these two aren't sure what form Rubber will take at the Church. "We're taking it away from it being just music-based and making it more people-based," Huntington explains. "I want to make more of a fun, party atmosphere. The people that tend to go to the dance events go just for that. I want people mingling. Like when you're sitting there talking to somebody, and all of a sudden somebody drops some AC/DC and you're just like, 'Aw, yeah! Cool!' The main thing I want is for Saturday night to be different from any other night at the Church. When you come to the Church, it's going to be a whole different scene. I'm going to throw anything that I can at ya. One night we might not even do Rubber. We might do my hip-hop show, my One Night Stand, and I'll bring in Green Lantern. Who knows? I'm not going to sit in a mold where I'm a house-and-trance night.

"Whatever the hell I feel like doing that week, that's what I'm going to do," Huntington adds. "There's going to be times where I'm going to have just really groovy, acid, trippy, Miami house, you know? When you get there on Saturdays, you'll know what I'm doing. There is zero mold; it's wherever we're going to take it. It could be live performers. It could be bands. I may just show Scarface. Who knows? I may take that one side room, when you walk off the main room, or that room downstairs, and make it a movie theater for the night, three or four movies. It could be anything. I can only tell you it will be great."

Huntington's record backs up his words. Nearly a decade ago, the California native and another of his best friends, pro-snowboarder Damian Sanders, created the original Club Rubber night in Costa Mesa as a weekly event geared toward members of the service industry. Today it's one of the hottest and longest-running parties in SoCal -- so hot, in fact, that it spread to Vegas and club Seven, which is now known simply as Club Rubber. But the most recognizable event created by Spiritworld Productions, the duo's company, is the Pimp 'n Ho costume ball in Vegas. That party, which started as a small shindig at Sanders's house, has exploded into the third-largest party in the world, behind Carnival "and...what's the one down in New Orleans? The big one?" Huntington asks.

Um, you mean Mardi Gras?

"Yeah, Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras and Carnival are the only two that beat us. Pimp 'n Ho was number three."

According to Ticketmaster, Denver is the fourth-largest ticket-buying market for Pimp 'n Ho -- so this city seemed a natural when Huntington decided it was time for Rubber to hit the road. "I used to live in Vail," he says. "I froze my freaking...I've never felt anything like Summit County cold. Anyhow, once I did the licensing deal with Rubber, this is the first place I was coming for."

He's also taking Rubber to San Francisco on Thursdays, Seattle on Fridays and Phoenix on Sundays. But in Denver, the night gets added energy from Roulier. "I think it has the opportunity to be really cool," Roulier says. "We don't want this to be a four-week thing or a two-month thing. We want this to be a year of continuing to evolve, of Rubber continuing to evolve."

The only thing that won't change? Huntington himself. "You can't get me out of T-shirts and Dickies," he says with a laugh. "It is what it is. I'm just a greaser at heart."

Upbeats and beatdowns: It's time to start getting hyped for the 2005 Westword Music Showcase. Now that our little shindig is a tweenager (it turns eleven this year), we've put together the biggest event in Showcase history -- with the help of nearly eighty committee members comprising past nominees, fans and various luminaries in the local scene. You can see the results of all their hard work on page 23, where you'll find the 2005 Westword Music Showcase Ballot. More than half of the acts listed on the ballot will perform at the Showcase itself, slated to take place on Saturday, June 25, in the Golden Triangle. Sixty of Mootown's best and brightest artists and DJs on ten stages -- for just five bucks! And for the first time ever, the outdoor stage will be all-ages. So cast your vote and clear your calendar: You don't want to miss this.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Dave Herrera
Contact: Dave Herrera