Bartender Blogs: Sonnenblume and the Denver Music Scene

Written by  //  September 9, 2009  //  Interviews, Society, The Dormitory, The Problem of Leisure  //  15 Comments


Sometimes I think Denver doesn’t deserve some of the bands that reside here. The local support is at times pitiful. Why is that when a booking agent puts together a very respectable local line-up like last Sundays Benefit for Rich People at the Larimer – which had some of the best local music – less than a hundred people show up to the event?

I think it’s because Denver’s average music fan is a four-show-a-year music idiot. This person will go to more festivals in a year than local shows – has a 60 gig iPod full of music, but only listens to two or three artists over and over.

Bands like Sonnenblume, who played last Sunday at the Larimer, should be a source of pride for Denver, but instead they get to play in front of roughly a dozen people. It’s insulting to the band and to the Denver music scene.

I have never lived in a city bigger than Denver. I don’t know if a band like Sonnenblume would draw better crowds in New York or LA. One thing is clear to me – Denver doesn’t have enough live music fans.

Denver has enough bands that a person could go see a show every single night this week and not be disappointed. As a bartender at the Larimer, I see at minimum two shows a week, but sometimes I have streaks where I see a show every night of the week. I know for a fact that Ric Baca – pop music critic for the Denver Post – will go on month-long streaks of shows every single night and he loves it.

Some people might call that excessive, but I think if you really love music, why wouldn’t you want to see shows every single night? Local show ticket prices are rarely over $10 if you’re worried about money. More importantly, you are giving life to an art form that has been tirelessly produced for your enjoyment.

Plus, it’s fun. Last Sunday, for example, we had the Donnybrook writers and staff attempting the Century Club (100 shots of beer in 100 minutes) and they all gave up at 60 – Timmy puked at less than 40. I made jalapeño infused vodka for my special “Brutal Marys.” Mike Marchant, Grant Israel and Sam Mcnitt (Rowboat) played intimate acoustic sets on the patio. A few people even dressed up.

The point is – go see more shows, you fuckers. Do it before all the good bands leave Denver.

Keep drinking and rocking,
The Bartender

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The Bartender

The Bartender is a Zorro-style warrior of peace and penman of Bartender Blogs.

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15 Comments on "Bartender Blogs: Sonnenblume and the Denver Music Scene"

  1. Col. Hector Bravado - Denver Six Shooter September 9, 2009 at 4:20 pm · Reply

    Wait…I’m feeling something…it’s…it’s…contrition.

  2. Bob September 9, 2009 at 4:50 pm · Reply

    Hear, hear. Although, this 19 year old, slightly above-average music fan was unable to attend Sunday’s and all other shows at the Larimer Lounge. Being underage also bars me from seeing some of the greats that come through the Hi-Dive and other 21+ venues.

    Perhaps, it’s time for me to jump through time….and purchase a fake ID.

  3. Action Packed Thrill Lucas September 10, 2009 at 11:12 am · Reply

    I agree with everything you’ve said here. (disclaimer: I planned on being at the show on Sunday but was sick as shit all week. honest!)

    I was having a conversation about this at the not-very-well-attended show at the Larimer Lounge last night about there not being very many music ‘fans’ in Denver. It seems most people I see at shows (ours and others) are either in bands themselves, friends of the bands, or a music writer/blogger of some form. Not that the presence of these people doesn’t count because of their involvement in the community (it does, and I appreciate the hell out of anyone coming to our shows, thank you!) but it really highlights how much our scene doesn’t extend beyond our own walls.

    I really feel that people still love going to shows, they just simply don’t know about the vibrance of this scene, so when they do go out to shows, they’re rarely all-local bills. People like what they know, and what they know isn’t local music.

    Also, Bob has a great point about not being able to get into the majority of shows in this town. Some of my favorite shows occurred between the ages of 18-21, when I lived in Nebraska, which I believe has looser rules about 18+ mingling with 21+. I’d never seen a barrier separating minors from 21+ until I moved out here. It’s a huge demographic (one that is likely the most enthusiastic about seeing new bands) that is just getting skipped over.

  4. SxPxDxCx September 10, 2009 at 11:22 am · Reply

    The Larimer show looked good but I went to see the Warlock Pnchers reunion instead.

  5. Ethereal JB September 10, 2009 at 12:23 pm · Reply

    Well said, Mr. The Bartender. As a once or twice a month concert going douche, I feel I am partly to blame for such turnouts. Yes, things like work, money, and being plain fucking tired sometimes get in the way, but I often feel guilt about not taking full advantage of all the beautiful music Denver has to offer.

    That being said, The UMS had an amazing turnout, did it not? Thursday and Sunday had no business being as crowded as they were, and Friday and Saturday were freaking insane. Seriously, a LINE at Hi-Dive?!

  6. Hydell September 10, 2009 at 1:50 pm · Reply

    I agree…I am not even a musician in this town, but I am a music lover and I frequent many local shows, some have a great turnout, more often not (a lot depends on whats “cool” at the moment). Not only do we have some great talent in this town, but most of the people are really nice, unlike New York, where people tend to be a bit, oh, pretentious. So listen up Denver, get out, see some great music, and make some new fucking friends.

  7. mike k. September 10, 2009 at 6:22 pm · Reply

    i agree wholeheartedly. sunday’s show was a lot of fun, as was the last larimer bbq we played with the knew. perhaps it’s the overabundance of opportunities to see good music that has spoiled our little town into saving their scene experiences for only the most scene events: cd releases, farewell shows, and other such bigger-deal occasions. maybe all the great music we’re putting out could do well with some more aggressive exposure to higher-profile arenas to reach music fans who are effectively excluded from the local scene (under 21, especially). or maybe our large and varied population of bands and artists could do well with some more focused organization; there are myriad cliques and collectives who do cool things, but are ultimately insular in their presence. or maybe we’re just banging our heads against a giant broncos-shaped brick wall.

  8. lenny September 11, 2009 at 10:17 am · Reply

    if larimer lounge /hi-dive headline shows would start earlier i would be able to make more. its hard to hold down a job getting up at 6am every morning when shows arent over til 1am. the only thing the corporate venues have going for them is that shows are over by 11, enabling those with ‘day jobs’ to get to them.

    any idea why larimer lounge’s shows are so late?

  9. mondogarage September 11, 2009 at 11:41 am · Reply

    All good comments…I claim lameness last weekend because I was with my wife at the hospital, but I digress….

    From where I sit, things are actually pretty fucking good here in Denver, and for the most part. If anything, we have such an overabundance of talented and interesting bands, that there’s just too much to see in a short timespan. The thing is, even at reasonable prices, only the most hardcore of the hardcore are likely to fit showgoing into their lives more than twice a week average, tops. It’s just a tough nut to crack. And midday shows in dark rock clubs, no matter how awesome the club, is just a difficult proposition, when you’re left to weigh doing something nice on a nice day and seeing shows at night.

    Compared to previous experience in the DC scene, Denver is actually far less insular, far less pretentious, and far less full of the type of competitive bullshit that gets in the way of just making and presenting really good music. But attendance at all-locals shows was pretty shitty even back there (unless you’re no more than two degrees from Mackaye). And, there are/were less decent venues to put on a show.

    I give special props to Baca, Tom Murphy, Eric Eyl, and the others who treat showgoing like it’s their job. (Oh yeah, sometimes, it actually is…but that’s splitting hairs.)

  10. THE BARTENDER September 12, 2009 at 12:29 pm · Reply

    Yeah, Tom, Eric and Ric are show going machines. One of these days I’d like to try and go for Ric’s record – something like 6 straight weeks of shows every night of the week. I’ll find out what the record is and let everybody know…

  11. THE BARTENDER September 12, 2009 at 12:39 pm · Reply

    I just texted him – 21 days straight is the record.

  12. Team Donnybrook
    godonnybrook September 14, 2009 at 12:07 pm · Reply

    Venues like the Larimer and Hi-Dive are the sorts you want to go down in history for the amazing music that plays there, but I wouldn’t be surprised if most of the clientele are the Toms, Erycs, Rics, and musicians, and not much more–because the Larimer isn’t for the mainstream. In order to attract people who aren’t amazingly devoted music fans, or already part of the scene, it would need to offer something for people who aren’t crazy devoted music fans. I think Larimer’s doing a good job of fixing up with the back patio and all the renovations they’ve made, but Mondogarage is probably right, it still isn’t good enough yet to make your everyday person who doesn’t know anyone in the bands to go there on a Sunday afternoon when they could be taking a hike or watching football or something. In order to attract those outside people, you would have to have something to offer besides the great music–that’s the unfortunate truth. But whatever. Everyone knows there’s a bit more to the music industry than just music, right?

    I do think that the under 21 group is way more open to seeing bands they don’t know, to having fun at the shows, and they’re way more devoted. But it comes down to money, I’m sure–I’m sure a venue makes much more from booze than tickets. Perhaps raising the prices for underage shows and having them more often…maybe the kids would still appreciate getting to see the bands, even if they have to pay a little extra.

    Or, we can hope by blogging and writing about all these amazing bands, that will be enough to break out of the scene and into new fans–but then again, who reads these days? ;)

  13. Tom Murphy September 15, 2009 at 12:05 am · Reply

    Cool bit of writing, Bartender. 21 shows in a row is fucking heroic. I say that even considering what I’m about to say and that is that last summer I set out t prove a point that you actually can go to a show any night of the week, and have other options, and see something at least interesting. So I went to 40 shows in 36 days and wrote a review of every single one of them for the Westword Backbeat Blog (not advertizing but just letting anyone know if they’re curious). Sure I missed a band or five or whatever during that time but we’re lucky here in Denver. It’s big enough that you have options but not so big that it’s entirely overwhelming.

    Having been on tour and having travelled to other cities to see shows, I won’t down any place because sorry New York is incredibly cool, so is Portland, so are Seattle, Chicago and Los Angeles. But I will say that people here need to get hip, dare I say, to some of the good stuff we have going on. I don’t know what needs to be done but I do know what flipped that switch for me. Sure, part of it was my lifelong interest in the weird and thus the non-mainstream. But part of it was a shift in consciousness that came about from seeing a great band no one else seemed to know or care about. And certainly not anyone the journalists of that time were writing about.

    I’m working on a couple of projects that I hope will help to help make that flipping a switch easier for people and have a couple more in the works but you just never know with this stuff. Anyway, thanks to Donnybrook for providing a forum for someone as articulate and thoughtful as this Bartender guy.

  14. Z. September 23, 2009 at 12:28 am · Reply

    We had a wonderful time playing and appreciate the invite. It was actually kind of cool to crank out a set at 2pm on a Sunday. It’s weird- you end up playing your songs differently at 2 pm. Plus we love the folks we get to play with. Thanks for having us!

  15. The Bartender October 15, 2009 at 10:31 am · Reply

    Looks like Elin Palmer is packing up her nyckleharpa and heading to Brooklyn, according to Baca’s interview with her this morning in the Denver Post. She has “maxed it out here.” Bummer. She was really amazing. Good luck, Elin. She has one more show left here at the Hi Dive on Oct. 19th – CD release too!!

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