Colorado Daily Interview: My Take On the Boulder Music Scene

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Musician Adam Perry on Boulder’s midsized venue problem
by Ashley Dean for Colorado Daily, 1/22/2014

We hear it from bands all the time: The lack of midsized venues is a major problem for Boulder.

After watching a conversation about this play out on the Facebook page of Adam Perry — a local writer, drummer (formerly of The Yawpers) and veterans’ advocate (his day job) — we called him up to talk about it. Incidentally, he’s playing with Kristina Murray this Thursday at Boulder’s closest thing to a midsized venue at the moment, the Bohemian Biergarten.

You and other musicians have been talking about problems with the Boulder music scene.

 This music scene is not a music scene. First of all, there’s nowhere to play. If you wanna play at the Laughing Goat for a bunch of people on their laptops, you can do that, and that makes sense if you’re a new artist and you’re workshopping songs. But to actually create a music scene, you have to make money, you have to play in front of a couple hundred people and develop a scene.

With The Yawpers, we played our first show at Shug’s. That was the first show for us and the first show for Shug’s and there were, I don’t know, 50 people there … and it grew from there. The last show we played there was our CD release. We were on the cover of the [Boulder] Weekly and we had probably 250 people there and it was really something. We invited opening acts to play there and helped them out, and that’s what a music scene is all about.

And now, I mean, there are places to see music. If you wanna see a weekend warrior who plays in a salsa band or classical music or something, that’s great. The thing that I’ve been interested in since I was a kid is independent rock ‘n’ roll. Shine is not a rock ‘n’ roll venue. There’s nothing wrong with it, but if you’re into punk rock or anything dirty, even just Wilco dirty, it’s hard.

Which comes first — there being no audience for it, or there being no venue?

I think that the demand is there … I don’t think that everyone who loves music here thinks that String Cheese Incident is a cutting edge band or anything like that … When Youth Lagoon was here it was packed, or The Black Angels, it seemed like for a while they were coming every six months or so. There are a lot of students and maybe some people in their 30s who know what’s going on in music, and there are musicians here that are interesting, and they’re doing interesting things, but they don’t have anywhere to play.

I played a show with Kristina in Fort Collins a month ago at Hodi’s [Half Note] and this band Strange Americans, from Denver — I like them, and I was like, ‘If you ever play Boulder, I’d like to see you,’ and they said, ‘There’s nowhere to play there.’

Do you feel like the Biergarten is headed toward being a good venue?

The Biergarten, as far as I know, they haven’t been doing live music Friday and Saturday nights, and Thursday nights are fun, but a lot of club owners around the country seem to just want a DJ, and if that happens there, that’s pretty sad.

Yeah, it just seems like there can be no self-sustaining, vibrant music scene anywhere without a midsized venue where bands can make a following and make a living, as home base … Here, right now, either you play at a cafe or you play at the Fox, and you’re probably not gonna get to the Fox without something in between, where you can show them, hey, we’re consistently bringing in 200 people.

Do you have a sense of why midsized venues don’t survive?

 I don’t know if you were here for Astroland. That place, for a while, was bringing in amazing music … I’ve been here since 2008, off and on. There was b. side, Trilogy, then Shug’s. The rent in those spaces has been in the range of $15,000 a month, and then there’s this crazy thing about you pay the rent and then triple net-expenses. I’m not sure why there’s not a pure midsized rock venue … It seems like you need somebody with money and taste to open that kind of thing.

Any last thoughts on this?

 I just think rock ‘n’ roll is possible here. I think it’s been shown before. A rock ‘n’ roll scene where people support each other — right now it seems like most of the bands that kind of stick around here, the young bands, it seems like the way that they’re able to stay here is that their moms and dads are funding their recording, and their vans, and their rent and things. And other musicians, they know that stuff, and they know its not independent DIY, and I would love to see a midsized venue support local bands and pay them decently and create a scene here. It’s possible, for sure … We need a venue that’s not afraid to let rock bands play loud.

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