Music-industry success can be looked at through many lenses. How much money are artists making? How big are the parties they’re throwing? For Brennen Bryarly, aka option4, these questions hold little value. Instead, Bryarly measures the success of his collective, TheHundred Presents, by how much fun people are having.
A little over six years ago, Bryarly launched TheHundred with a group of friends who shared a vision of bringing up-and-coming artists to Denver. TheHundred held its first parties at the now-closed Beauty Bar once a month. Although the collective was only bringing in a few dozen people to start, close-knit, friends-over-everything vibes brought crowds back. The collective's mission was never to profit off these shows. All money made would go right back into TheHundred so it could have the financial freedom to book anybody members wanted. TheHundred has since evolved into a party-throwing machine, partnering up with SoCo Nightlife to operate on a larger scale.
These days, TheHundred is throwing up to three shows a week at venues like Club Vinyl, the Church and Bar Standard. Watching TheHundred continue to steadily grow, we decided it was high time to catch up with Bryarly.
Westword: Before we dive into it, can you explain what, exactly, TheHundred is and how it functions?
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Brennen Bryarly: TheHundred is just a collective of like-minded individuals who love music and dancing to it. It's a small community of tastemakers who are constantly trying to contribute to the music scene here in a positive way. There's literally 100 of us, and we just do stuff together all the time. It's fun.
Were you in charge of who was selected to be in TheHundred? Are most of the original members still a part of it? How does everyone contribute?
Yeah, I came up with the concept six years ago when we threw our first party. I mean we basically threw our first show a month after the concept was created. As far as original members...yeah, about 40 percent of TheHundred have been in since the beginning...and it's been a wild ride. Most contribute to the community with whatever they have. If they're DJs, they contribute with ideas on who we should book or bring to Denver. If they are lawyers or mechanics, for example, they genuinely offer whatever their talents are to the group in general. We've got a little bit of everything in the group, but the main thing that ties us together is the music and the vibe of the parties.
It seemed like the original goal of launching TheHundred was to bring up-and-coming artists to smaller venues, right? I think it’s fair to say that you reached and surpassed that goal a while ago. What would you say is the current standing goal or vision for TheHundred?
The goal of TheHundred was to bring underground talent on a consistent basis to Denver. Six years ago I believe it was definitely happening regularly, but not on the magnitude it is now, by any means. The crazy part about all of this stuff is that I've finally realized nothing we did was "underground." It just wasn't discovered yet by the masses. Fact is, scenes evolve and the way people consume music evolves. What I thought was underground music back in the day was mainly just from all of us digging on SoundCloud for music we could afford to bring out. A lot of that stuff is just pop music now. I mean, there was a time we were all in a room with Disclosure on a Monday night with sixty of us. That being said, the vision for TheHundred hasn't changed. We still just want to all get together and dance to good music. Genre isn't really as important anymore. It's more about providing an atmosphere where people can go to a show alone and walk out meeting a bunch of new friends. Although the frequency of events has amplified, that goal still remains at the core.
You currently host up to three parties a week with shows at Bar Standard, Club Vinyl, and occasionally the Church. Are there any core differences between these shows? Or do you just need that many venues because of the sheer volume of artists you are bringing in?
Mainly it's about the demand of the artists. Right now some of the talent we've been working with for years is just at the point where it's better to put them in a bigger room so more people can see the act. Bar Standard is small — 315 cap — so a lot of the more underground stuff starts there, then can transition into the bigger rooms depending on demand when they return. The Wednesdays are really special to me, though, because anyone can party on a weekend. Those Wednesdays have developed a beautiful vibe over the past year. The size of the room has reminded me of what we used to do when we started six years ago at Beauty Bar.
For your STEAM shows, it says, “Weekly residents with monthly national guests," but it looks like you’re already bringing in “national guests” more than just once a month. Is this weekly show growing faster than you thought?
One hundred percent. Basically the Wednesdays were just a chance to give a lot more local DJs a night to play. Without it, I'd only be booking four or five DJs a month to open for the big national acts at Vinyl or the Church. Then what happened was a lot of national/international touring DJs needed routing help, and because we were in the middle of the country, it gave them a stop to play on tour so that they could still come to Denver. So even though there are more big names coming through, the core of the night is still just to get together and listen to a bunch of friends play music. The free pizza doesn't hurt, either.
Obviously, a big part of the success is being able to bring in so many people to these shows. Besides just the music, what do you think it is about these parties that is so attractive to the Denver scene?
I think at this point, it's just consistency. I think when people see the brand, they know that it's going to be a party. It won't be seven people standing around blinking at each other — knock on wood.
It seems like TheHundred is dominating the house and techno scenes here right now. Who are your current competitors when it comes to throwing parties in Denver? Do you ever collaborate on certain shows like Global Dance or Awesome Factory?
I don't know if we're dominating anything. I don't view things as competition. I love Global, Awesome Factory, Sub.mission, Mahesh Presents, etc. I've come to realize that everything sort of trickles down. Without a strong club scene, the cool underground stuff that people are doing right now can't flourish. The more opportunities for parties/DJs, the better chance there is for other people to contribute. It just makes everything more involved. It's a healthy thing. It's all part of one big circle. There's so much talent out there to book/promote that no one is really having any trouble filling calendars. I don't remember Denver being like that when I started, so I'm pumped where things are as a music scene in general.
You’re now able to book major artists like Claude VonStroke, Stimming, Chris Lake, Green Velvet and more. Did you imagine you’d be at this point when you started?
Well, a lot of the major artists we are booking now, we have been for years. They just became bigger as the U.S. started appreciating dance music again. I love it when the big names come through and the parties are wild, but in general I still get more excited about debuts, people I haven't seen before and introducing new names to the city. About 30 to 40 percent of the shows we do are new acts that haven't been here before. Obviously that number has diminished over time, considering the first couple years of parties it was about 90 percent debut.
Is your new independent record label, Hot BOi Records, involved with TheHundred at all? Or are those two projects separate from each other?
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No. I keep everything separate. I don't use TheHundred to promote my personal career. I find it really tacky to do that. We're all friends. I just promote my option4 stuff and HotBOi stuff and hope people like it. I don't book myself — unless I forgot to book a DJ, haha — and even then I don't promote it. I focus on making music and hoping the world likes it. I let TheHundred stay true to what it is: a community of friends, not a platform to push a personal agenda.
Are there any big events that are in store for The Hundred that you’d like to share? I wouldn’t be surprised if you were able to throw an actual festival on your own at some point.
Cloak & Dagger was the closest I ever got. Three hard years and lessons learned, but...wouldn't trade it for anything. I do foresee doing something bigger in 2019, but as far as 2018 is concerned, my drive is to keep regularly attended shows interesting and book the best music I can for it.
Jimmy Edgar (Live) w/ Black/Tuesday, 9 p.m. Saturday, February 3, Club Vinyl, 1082 Broadway, $5 to $10, 303-506-8078.