If you're even a casual music fan in Denver, chances are you've gone to the Ogden Theatre. You've shuffled down the ramps to get closer to the stage. You've spilled craft beer on a friend in the pit. You've mingled on the sidewalk with the post-show crowds from the Fillmore and late-night Colfax foot traffic. But maybe you didn't know that the Ogden is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and that this year the building is celebrating its hundredth anniversary.
The Ogden was built in 1917, and it was opened as a theater in 1919 by John Thompson, who also ran what is now called the Bluebird Theater. Originally home to organ recitals, lectures and vaudeville acts, including Harry Houdini, the space became a movie theater in 1937. In the early ’90s, Doug Kauffman of Nobody in Particular Presents turned the Ogden back into a music venue. In 2006, NIPP leased the venue to AEG Live, and the Ogden has continued to be one of Denver's most vibrant concert halls, with everyone leaving a mark on its stage, from just-breaking-big bands to fan-favorite nostalgia acts and singular one-offs from musical icons.
We tapped Westword music writers to recall their favorite shows/moments of this latest era. These moments may not be "historic," but they're more music-centric than hip-hop group Atmosphere's recollection of the venue, as referenced in "National Disgrace": "Last thing I remember was the Ogden Theatre in the backstage bathroom, making out with all three of ya..."
Diplo and Justice
March 22, 2008
Diplo stopped by the Ogden in 2008 just after "Paper Planes," the record he produced for M.I.A., dropped and was on its swift ascent. The already world-famous DJ wished the crowd a happy Easter before spinning Kanye's "Jesus Walks," which impressed our reviewer, though he noted, "I typically don’t enjoy shows at the Ogden, because it seems they’re often oversold or underamplified. I was pleasantly surprised to find neither problem on Saturday night." Longtime contributor Amber Taufen has a more reverent memory of the night: "I don't think I've ever seen energy like that in the Ogden before or since."
October 23, 2009
The Irish punk band played Denver for the first time in 2009, and it played the Ogden. The show, nominated by Karl Christian Krumpholz, was even more notable because frontman Shane MacGowan delivered a "damn fine performance" — and made it through the entire two-hour set without taking a drug- or booze-soaked spill.
December 30-31, 2012
The Lumineers officially broke through to the national stage in 2012, and the folk-revival band celebrated its banner year with a two-night New Year's stand at the Ogden. Joining in the festivities were Shovels & Rope (which has Colorado ties) and the Next Big Thing Out of Denver: Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats.
February 16, 2013
In 2013, British dance-rock band Foals came to the Ogden — and made the most of it. Frontman Yannis Philippakis stage-dove while still wearing his guitar, then climbed up the balcony and jumped back into the crowd. Recalls writer Adam Perry: "To see that kind of rock-and-roll mayhem at such a storied, fancy venue, reminded me what music is all about."
May 13, 2013
Prince. Played. The Ogden. PRINCE. In fact, the late icon played two shows in one night in 2013. Here's an excerpt from a review of his last performance in Denver: "Near the end of Prince's hour-and-a-half late-night set, he sat at his keyboard while laying down the opening chords to 'Purple Rain,' and he said, 'Colorado, listen to me. Strange times in America now, huh? We gotta try to get along. You've heard before, but now more than ever, that's what we need. We also need your voice. You can sing if you want to.' Then Prince ran through a few verses of the song and nearly everyone in the Ogden Theatre chimed in on the chorus. 'Does that feel good?' Prince asked. 'It's like medicine.'"
Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats
December 19-20, 2015
We spent two nights at the Ogden with the Night Sweats at the end of their big coming-out year and basked in the foot-stomping hometown love fest. "Rateliff is a charismatic and gracious performer, offering frequent heartfelt thanks – 'We fucking love you. We're just trying to make something good from here' -– to the hometown crowd. He even stumped for Bernie Sanders between slugs of whiskey."
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
February 8, 2016
Godspeed You! Black Emperor was both "terrifying and brilliant" at the Ogden, according to reviewer Adam Perry. "That was one of those bucket-list shows I would've paid $250 to see and was eternally grateful to be the hopeless dork in the middle of the crowd who got in free to scribble in a lame little notebook."
February 14, 2016
Erykah Badu played a one-off Valentine's Day show in 2016, and the entire crowd and building of the Ogden may have levitated several feet off the foundations. Ms. Badu paid tribute to the late J Dilla, rolled through all her hits with care and invention, and preached compassion and peace in her signature freaky style.
May 26, 2016
Mudcrutch, Tom Petty's boyhood band, launched its first — and possibly only — full tour in 2016, and it kicked off at Denver's own Ogden. It was a strange, memorable reunion, with Petty and most of the Heartbreakers, including Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench, playing the smallest venue they've hit in decades, and the This-Only-Happens-Once feeling permeated the celebratory crowd.
August 10, 2017
Recently, North Carolina pop duo Sylvan Esso returned to Denver to perform at the Ogden. Singer Amelia Meath, "who praised City, O’ City food and spent her off day in Denver getting so high she just curled up in a blanket, 'saying I was at the center of the earth' – has so much infectious energy on stage she’s almost a band of her own," according to reviewer Adam Perry. "Two people, one microphone and one little synthesizer setup, and a sold-out Ogden bouncing like there was no tomorrow."
May there be a tomorrow, and one hundred more years of the Ogden.
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