When AEG Presents acquired the historic Gothic Theater for $2.07 million in November, the deal marked one of the longest and most impressive turning points for the Denver music scene.
Built in the 1920s, Denver's first "sound" movie theater is at 3263 S. It declined when it became a porn theater and finally a tech renovation in 1998 retained its Art Deco features and turned it into a multi-functional venue for the 21st century. The retail price for owners Steve Schalke and Todd Kenyon was $175,000 at the time.
Thousands of artists including Lady Gaga, the Black Keys, and the Beastie Boys have performed at the 1,100-seat venue on their way to the top, and the combination of stand-up bands, pageants, and movie screenings has made it famous. Everything is done for the kennel. Reviews from news outlets like NPR and international travel guides from publications like The Guardian generally rank it in the top ten places to visit in Colorado.
But even as Gravity improves its reputation, some Denver musicians fear the new owner will represent yet another crackdown on the city's independent venues.
"We have these big companies that started monopolizing ownership of venues and reserving seats around town or monopolizing them for a while, and they've grown exponentially," said Erin Roberts, veteran musician and director of music ecosystems in Denver. Non-profit youth organization.
Roberts, founder of the indie band Porlolo, and other musicians interviewed for this article pointed to AEG, the mega-promoter founded by Colorado billionaire Philip Anschutz, and its counterpart, Live Nation. While Live Nation dominates the national scene, AEG Presents Rocky Mountains has amassed a slew of venues that have made it the Rocky Mountain area's biggest player with concert-goers.
But AEG officials say the purchase only formalizes a long-term deal with Gothic, as AEG has booked and operated the Schalk Theater for the past decade.
said Don Strasburg, co-president and chief talent buyer at AEG Presents Rocky Mountains, who has played a key role in Pao's playing career. Bands like Phish.
He added, "We often have the opportunity to change our relationship with the property from tenant to owner, and naturally we decided that we had to be owners of the property."
AEG Presents controls many of the Front Range's largest and most popular venues, either because it owns them, such as Fiddler's Green Amphitheater and FirstBank Center (with Kroenke Sports Entertainment) and Denver's Mission Ballroom, or because it leases them to neighbors or allows them to subcontract on a full-time basis. This second group includes the Bluebird Theatre, the Ogden Theatre, and the Red Rocks Amphitheater where AEG spends much of its annual programming.
With so many national reserves, smaller local groups are missing out on opportunities to play, according to Los Mocochetes Joshua Abeyta of Denver. A native of Denver, Abeyta broke into the goth scene with past bands such as Dyslexic Dinosaurs and Mute Man's Microphone.
He and Roberts said they understand how difficult it is for concert halls to make money in a time of social distancing caused by COVID-19, especially with fierce competition and ticket prices barely breaking even. But when craft spaces run by techno groups like the Seventh Circle and D3 and small indie clubs like Hi-Dive become the last resort for underground bands, he and other musicians wonder how artists are supposed to win more fans.
Local early acts were once the norm for goth, while recently AEG has been booking its big out-of-state shows as touring packages—preloaded with support acts and at the expense of opportunities for local artists, Denver musicians say.
“AEG devours everything and I feel like most musicians go crazy with very few people picking on these plays,” Abeta said, acknowledging that some local artists like iZCALLi have been playing goth lately.
Independent clubs generally make it easier for small teams to enter without agents, says Greg Zimba, whose teams have played Robidoux and Wheelchair Sports Camp Gothic. "That's the problem with Monopoly (AEG): They have all the numbers, so it's not so much about whether the promoter likes the band, it's about sales."
This is usually the case in every city, Zimba said. He knows it makes sense for AEG Presents to hire Denver promoters and venue owners who helped create the city's current indie scene, like Scott Campbell and Danny Sacks, as well as co-owners of jam bands and hip-hop porters Cervantes and others. Page: Duncan Goodman, Diana Azab, Scott Morrell, and Adam Stroll. All of them are talented buyers of AEG offerings.
“Having AEG here has advantages for local bands, but the downside is you can now play these shows when Lost Lake, Globe Hall, or Larimer Lounge are sold out,” says Ziemba, who researched the industry as an intern. in AEG.
However, Campbell, the owner of the three clubs, said they had nothing to do with his work as a talent buyer for AEG Presents and were in no way required to play at the larger AEG venues.
“If an artist is selling tickets or doing a big show at one of these clubs, great. If they're selling or doing a big show at another club, great. We'll definitely book them.”
Site promoter and owner Chris Swank, a former executive director of Nobody Really Represents in Denver, doesn't think buying AEG Gothic should generate any huge fanfare. He has leased his Bluebird Theater to AEG Presents, who in turn book concerts at the historic venue.
"I don't think you're going to see big changes," said Swank, who also owns Stampede, La Rumba, Mezcal and Goosetown Tavern. "They've done a good job with it and it looks like it's going to continue."
AEG's Strasberg responded to the "monopoly" allegations by noting that AEG has just as much risk as everyone else and that the company "works tirelessly every hour of every day to provide our community with the best entertainment we deserve." . . "
"Our entire team is part of the Denver community," he said. And most of them worked as Colorado's first and only live music career. Part of our commitment to the community is to welcome the best and brightest local artists, and that's what we do. … (Gothic) continues to have a healthy niche in the "concert ecosystem" for an artist developing a career professional.
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