- Blues guitarist John-Alex Mason at Shugas
What God and the Colorado Springs business community have put together, let no man put asunder.
A new crop of nightclubs and live music venues is a breath of fresh air in a scene that has lain fallow and stagnant since the early '80s. In the past year, so many new pleasure palaces have opened that some evenings, there's actually too much to do, too many places to hit in one night. For longtime residents, it's mind-boggling. For new transplants, it's just another sign that the Springs is catching up with its equally populated counterparts nationwide.
The most recent addition is Southside Johnny's (528 S. Tejon St., 444-8487), a new Concept Restaurants venture of former popular Ritz bartender Johnny Nolan. Housed in the old city trolley barn, the space has been converted into a sports bar and grill featuring American comfort food and, of course, Johnny behind the bar four nights a week. Every weekend the new stage and PA will host live bands, who, like the food, appear to be staying comfortably mainstream -- rock and pop, nothing too far out. Concept has a reputation for treating their bands fairly, so this new venue is a boon for local musicians.
The Pub Upstairs at Beau Jo's (2415 W. Colorado, 442-0270) also opened within recent weeks, having remodeled the old Thunder n' Button's space. The club has booked live music almost every night, including acoustic music on Wednesdays and "mountain jam" open mics on Thursday nights. The new old space is a great addition for the mostly venue-less Old Colorado City stretch, but the design of the room is ... interesting, at best. A waist-high wall surrounds the stage, leaving the crowd to wonder if the band isn't in fact just a bunch of Muppets after all.
The owners of Jr's (3535 W. Carefree Blvd., 597-9400) have taken the old Tao Tao location and revamped it into a cozy club complete with a PA and light system, a nice-sized stage and great acoustics. With plans to present the best in national, regional and local blues and rock talent, the club is now the only major live music venue in its area. Catch their first big concert Saturday night with Chicago blues guitarist Nick Moss & The Flip Tops (See Livelong Days, page 24).
Also hosting blues acts from around the state and country is Fat City Blues, one of the venues inside of the Guadagnoli Tejon Street megalopolis, Rum Bay (20 N. Tejon St., 634-3522). The club is well equipped and has boasted a steady flow of talent, from our own Johnny & The Jukes to Sonny Rhodes. But word has it that, being inside the complex, Fat City Blues may not be as laid-back as your average blues joint -- lose the baseball cap, buddy.
Opened last fall, Paradise City (2454 Montebello Square Drive, 532-0560) is a devoted rock club, sporting a high-tech stage with light-show capabilities, pool tables and maybe the only Guns N' Roses pinball game in town. The club hosts lots of Led Zep and Van Halen tribute bands in addition to local and regional rock acts. When not rocking you like a hurricane, the club assumes its day disguise of sports bar.
Several newly established businesses have also begun hosting live acts in the past year: Shuga's (702 S. Cascade, 328-1412) has begun to give up some of its real estate to performers, who range from acoustic blues guitarist John-Alex Mason to prog rockers Against Tomorrow's Sky. Cunningham's Deli (10 S. Tejon St., 444-8686) put in a stage and an expensive lighting and PA system during their expansion, but no word yet on when they'll begin to book acts. Bristol Brewery's tasting room (1647 S. Tejon St, 633-2555) has been presenting a popular Wednesday night blues jam for some time now, and lately the room has been hosting live bands on Friday nights, and the crowds are growing. The Business of Art Center's new space next door (515 Manitou Ave., 685-1861) is being regularly booked by blues promoters and the Colorado Blues Society, resulting in live blues at least once a month. The BAC is hoping to host even more concerts, and with the amazing acoustics in the old carriage house, it shouldn't be a problem.
And a few places have made changes: Benny's (517 W. Colorado Ave., 634-9309) has had sporadic music for years, but there's been a recent push to book regularly. All kinds of music have been tried, but the punk and rockabilly shows have drawn the biggest crowds. Could we actually get a rockabilly venue? Dare to dream.
Jose Muldoon's (222 N. Tejon St., 636-2311) has dropped the big rock bands in favor of smaller, mainly acoustic acts and most notably, reggae every Sunday, making them the only reliable reggae venue in town.
The Encore! Dinner Theatre (10 Old Man's Trail, 471-PLAY) in Manitou Springs has opened its stage/bar area on the north side of the building to live music every Friday and Saturday, plus big-band and ballroom dancing Thursdays and Sundays. The big room features a huge dance floor and plenty of seating.
First Draft Choice has become F.D.C. (1110 E. Fillmore, 634-ROCK), booking mainly punk, hard-core and emo bands, which runneth over in the Springs. The Underground (110 N. Nevada, 633-0590) is also in the process of changing formats, trying to stay modern by bringing in not only bands, but live DJs to spin house, goth, trance and any number of other electronica seven nights a week.
To find out who is playing where this week, check out our Playing Around listings on page 39.
-- Kristen Sherwood