The Moderators play music for charity

Like any other town, Denver has its share of cover bands, and those bands often tend to get overlooked, because, well, they're playing somebody else's music. Thus, our latest feature, Cover Band of the Week (or, perhaps more accurately, every few weeks, because let's be honest: There's a finite number of bands). This week: The Moderators.

See also: Colorado Cover Band of the Week archives

The Moderators are a band made up of CEOs and other professionals who are as serious about getting down as they are about giving back, helping various charities raise money. We recently spoke with a few of the Moderators, Mike Fries, Ed Haselden and Bob Deibel, about how and why these busy business guys make time for the music.

Westword: I was looking at your website, and it looks like you guys are the cover band with a big heart. It looks like this is mostly for charity -- am I understanding how this kind of works? All the proceeds go to charity?

Ed Haselden: Well, you know, it's a band that's comprised of guys that run businesses, and we all have a passion for music, but somehow, we kind of fell into this thing of playing for charities, and it's really kind of become a platform. So, we don't charge for any of our time.

We do have a few out-of-pocket expenses that we ask the charity to pay for, but typically, the way it works is that most charities we get involved with are usually some of the larger ones, and we're trying to help them raise as much money as we can. And that's somewhat from people we know attending events, but also trying to leverage the talents of the band, as well as some of the individual members in the process to accomplish that.

What kind of charities are you guys involved in?

Mike Fries: I would like to add one more thing to what Ed said, which is, generally, we like to think we're popular because we're good, but we also are generous. And by that, I mean we don't charge a lot, and we generally end up making contributions of our own, since we're all very philanthropic.

It's a usually profitable decision for charity, and I think we support a variety of organizations in town, from education and health-related institutions to charities that help youth in Colorado. We just played with the symphony and helped them raise $900,000 for their organization, and we played for the Denver Film Society at Red Rocks. So we've done all sorts of things.

EH: That's a good point. It really doesn't make a difference as to what the size of the charity is; what we're really looking for is a charity that wants to design an event around the music, and we want charities that are passionate about what they're doing. We want a charity who's gonna have a good board that will get behind the event, and we want the charity to be actively engaged in trying to raise the money.

And we've raised as little as $30,000 or $40,000 for small charities all the way up to $900,000 for large charities, but the common link is passionate individuals within the charity who will work with us to design an event around really cool music that people can have a lot of fun at and can get passionate about supporting the event and the charity.

Bob Deibel: You know, actually, notably, that the recent largest event that we did for the Colorado Symphony Orchestra; that was their most significant, largest one-event take, so to speak, that they had ever had.


BD: It was the largest single fundraising event that they've done to date.

MF: I think we added it up at one point, but the total amount we've raised, I believe, is certainly in excess of two million may be three million.

That's crazy! So obviously you guys do it for the music, and you mentioned that you worked with the film center. So did you guys play for Film on the Rocks?

MF: Yeah, we've played Film on the Rocks a few times, but the last one in July was part of a Kickstarter campaign to fund equipment at the SIE film center. That was really more of a fundraising event.

Oh yeah! To get the projectors, right?

MF: Yeah.

And then they played the Big Lebowski!

MF: They did.

I'm kind of a Film on the Rocks whore, so I get wicked excited.

MF: Oh, well were you there that night?

Yup. Absolutely.

MF: Well then you might have heard us play.

Maybe...I like to drink at those things, so it gets a little blurry, but...

MF: That's okay.

Bryant Martin: That's sometimes when we sound our best, so we like movie whores that drink a lot.

Yay! I win. I win. So what's your favorite your favorite Colorado venue to play?

MF: It's hard to say that Red Rocks isn't one of the finest venues in America; that's certainly my favorite.

EH: I would have to say that Red Rocks eclipses anything else. And by the way, the band has been fortunate; this is the third summer the band has been able to play up there for the Film Society.

MF: But we've played the Ogden, Fillmore, Gothic and the Soiled Dove in November.

BM: I think everyone would say Red Rocks is their favorite venue whether you're asking U2 or the Moderators. For me, the local places are kind of more distinguishing, and we've always had great times at the Gothic. We've done several gigs there where we bring in a thousand people, and the staff does a great job -- we have a great time there. The same is true at the Fillmore, so we like both those venues.

BD: Red Rocks is certainly a unique thrill, but I think the event we did with the Colorado Symphony at the Fillmore auditorium is one of the most special performance experiences we had.

MF: Let me tell you how democratic we are -- we did play the Hi-Dive with the Mutants.

Well they're awesome.

BD: I forgot about that.

The entire band: That was a lot of fun.

MF: Bryant and I ended up slam dancing with the homies.

Wow. I was looking at your bios on your page, so how did all of you suits all get together? Were you at some fancy cocktail party and you all thought, "Hey! We should be in a band?"

EH: What really started this was the opportunity, we all four are members or past members of the Young Presidents' Organization [YPO]. It really started when we came together to play an make kind of a cameo appearance at chapter event, and once we played that one particular event, we had so much fun, we thought, well let's just see what we can really do with this thing. You might think the rest is just history; it's just kind of grown into what it is today.

BD: For that original YPO event we came together, recruiting musicians from YPO. We practiced for about three weeks in my basement -- much to the chagrin of my neighbors, and we performed two songs.

BM: Three songs. Three songs. "ROCK," "Taking Care of Business" other.

BD: Whatever. Anyway, from there, that's really where the Moderators responded to thinking we had some fun with that. And we wanted to start to keep it going.

Why the Moderators? Why the name?

BD: Well, that's what I was just going to tell you. In YPO, within these chapters, you have small groups of people, of eight to ten members, that operate in what's called a forum-style environment and the facilitator of the forum is known as a moderator, so that's where we came up with the name.

MF: So to YPO internationally, to the chapters all over the world, the term "moderator" denotes a position that's commonly known, that everyone in YPO has a common awareness of.

Okay, so how did you decide not to make original music; why a cover band? Was it just easier? Did you just love a certain genre of music?

BM: I think it had a lot to do with our fan base. You know, if you do original music, you can keep people entertained for a little while, but the people that really enjoy our shows like it because we look at it more as a show than just music. We really want to get on the dance floor; we really want to be out front. We really enjoy playing songs that people sing along to that people dance along with. And so it's really more to appeal to our fan base than it is to us.

MF: Generally, you're gonna know the words to every song we play. That's the goal.

Do you guys have a crazy fan base? Little groupies? Do you guys have groupies?

BM: We do have the Moderettes which are...uhhh...a traveling group of young ladies that support us, and they do a little hand sign. They take their three fingers and turn them upside down, so everything, but their thumb and their pinkie is upside down.

MF: But what they're really are is they are all friends of our daughters.

Oh. I'm so glad you clarified that because I was totally thinking slutty groupies.

MF: We have those, too.

BM: We don't mind those. We just don't have very many. There was one time that someone through a pair of Spanx at Bob.

Uhhh...what?? That's awful!

BD: I kept them.

Do you wear them?

BD: Sometimes.

When the mood is right?


All right. Do you guys do private shows? Do you do weddings? Or is it all big charity events?

BM: We've never done a wedding, but we have done a couple bar gigs, and we enjoyed those, but typically we like a venue that holds five hundred or more, just because the fan base we typically have. We are doing November 8th at the Soiled Dove, which has the capacity of like 250, but it's a fun venue, and we elected to do it because of that venue and the charity behind it.

What's the charity behind it?

EH: That's the Starlight Children's Foundation. We do also enjoy playing on the patio at Shanahan's once a summer, and that's always kind of a fun show because all of our friends show up, listen to us and hang out. I would tell you that the last time we played there, it was the largest turn out for Shanahan's dinner on any given night, so they invited us back.

I bet! "It's a slow night, bring the Moderators in." [laughing]

[crickets] do you prepare for a show? Some cover bands mimic videos; do you guys do that, or do you just play the songs and don't really care if they sound the same?

BM: We play a variety of different genres from different eras; it's all rock oriented. It's all dance oriented, and I would say the other common thing is that we try to make it music that's going to be very popular and that people are going to dance to because that's what drives our fan base. We don't traditionally do exact replicas of the original tune; a lot of times, we'll take different songs and combine them into a melody. You know from the Rolling Stones to Credence Clearwater Revival in the same tune, so we have a great music arrangement.

Do you guys stick with a certain era, or do you perform new stuff as well?

MF: We have about fifty songs spanning over five decades. We've done stuff that's three years old and we've done stuff that's 33-years old. It's more about the song than the genre. It's the song that gets people up and dancing and pumped up.

BD: What I wanna build on, going back to what Bryant said, most of our cover tunes fall into one of two categories: there's part of our set-list that we do try to play very closely and accurate to the original band version and then there's a number of our songs that we have taken a completely, different, fresh, new arrangement to bring some interest to kind of an old favorite.

On average how many shows do you do per month?

BM: We probably do seven to ten shows a year, and we could probably do fifty to a hundred if we want. And we're pretty selective, as you can imagine, with our schedules, you know: Mike works in Europe; I work in Latin America; Bob and Ed are traveling all the time. It's very difficult for us to align everyone's schedules. We try to do it about six months in advance to pick venues and charities that seem to appeal to everyone's tastes because we have a lot of opportunities, so we try to be more selective and not do the same thing over and over. So it stays fresh for us to.

Do you guys play any place other than Denver? Have you traveled outside of Colorado?

MF: I didn't tell you guys yet, but we have an opportunity in London. We may play in London for a charity event that I'm hosting, but we have to get everybody on the plane with gear.

You can do it. I have faith in all of you. It's London. Get on the plane.

MF: Write it down. Next year.

Writing it down...

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Stephanie March
Contact: Stephanie March