Music » Concerts

The Black Sheep is back in business


Shows at this beloved venue will look different for a while, but finally The Black Sheep is back in biz. - JACKI VITETTA
  • Jacki Vitetta
  • Shows at this beloved venue will look different for a while, but finally The Black Sheep is back in biz.

UPDATE: On June 30, after the Indy's press deadline, Gov. Jared Polis once again ordered the closure of bars and nightclubs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This means the Black Sheep will not open on July 9 as planned.

Three months after America’s season of social distancing was ushered in by the 10-person restriction on public gatherings, the recent easing of those restrictions is giving us a glimpse of what the “new normal” may actually look like.

On the one hand, we’re seeing Donald Trump make up for lost time by ensuring that his rallies are as unsafe as possible. On the other, we see the reopening of Colorado restaurants and other businesses, the vast majority of them conscientiously adhering to public safety guidelines.
Now comes the next phase. On June 19, Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment issued a new set of guidelines that allows nearly all businesses to reopen at limited capacity, including music clubs.

Here in Colorado Springs, the first music venue to turn the lights back on will be The Black Sheep, which will reopen on July 9. The first month of shows will all be free admission, beginning with a three-night celebration featuring deejays and drink specials. After that, the venue will kick into a regular schedule of live bands each weekend night. Performers will include Letters from the Sun, Bullhead*ded, Jared Gibson, Wildermiss, SEG and Peacemaker.

The reopening will also find the club implementing a set of strict safety measures:
  • Show attendance will be restricted to 50 people, which is one-tenth of the venue’s pre-coronavirus capacity.
  • Staff will wear masks and gloves at all times, and log their temperature and health condition at the beginning of each shift.
  • Patrons will be required to wear masks whenever they’re interacting with club employees.
  • Sanitation stations will be located throughout the venue.
  • Door handles, pens, sinks and other surfaces that are likely to be touched during the night will be sanitized on an hourly basis.
  • A voluntary contact-tracing log will be available for customers who wish to leave their name, email address, and period of time spent inside the venue.
But the most conspicuous change will become apparent the moment a customer walks through the door. For the first time after more than a decade of standing-room-only, dimly lit, all-ages shows featuring less-than-sedate acts like Agnostic Front, Tech N9ne, Wolves in the Throne Room and Insane Clown Posse, the floor will be filled with carefully spaced tables and chairs, as well as a barricade set up to maintain a 25-foot separation between audience and stage.

“We’re not going to force anybody to sit down the whole time or anything like that, but we do want to make it very easy for people to stay away from each other,” says Black Sheep owner Geoff Brent. “We’re trying to encourage people to stay with the groups that they came with, and to limit contact with anybody else. I mean, if you see somebody else that you want to talk to, sure you can go talk to them. But if there’s somebody running around getting in people’s space — or if we have 50 people in the room who all decide that they’re gonna stand up and crowd the barricade — we’ll have to stop that.”
The tables and chairs will have the added benefit of making the venue look less empty with the current capacity limits. Brent also took the downtime as an opportunity to put in new flooring. “Before, it was three different kinds of linoleum and a little bit of carpet and a few places where you could see the subfloor. It looks so much better now, and the stuff we put down is going to help with the sound a lot too, so that’s great.”

Brent is more aware than anyone of the degree to which this transitional phase, as temporary as it may be, will take getting used to. When he’s not running The Black Sheep — or working his day job booking shows for Live Nation — he’s also a member of Cheap Perfume. While the feminist punk band isn’t on the current schedule of upcoming performers, they did play a recent livestreaming show. Because of the regulations in place until now, the venue was pretty much empty.

“Cheap Perfume is obviously not a precise technical kind of band and we kind of rely a lot on a rowdy crowd,” says Brent. “So we’re filming the livestream and there’s like five people who are working and watching us, but they don’t clap or anything after you finish a song. So we were like, “Okay, well, that sounded alright, I guess. Let’s move on to the next one.” I mean, if we had a choice, Cheap Perfume would never play anywhere other than [the all-ages venue] Flux. There’s nothing like knowing that a crowd member can come flying into you at any moment, right in the middle of your set. So this is going to be the opposite of that.”

And at this point, it’s anyone’s guess how long that will be the case.

“The governor is talking about 50 percent by next month, which I don’t think is possible,” says Brent, when asked the reasons why the club decided not to wait. “We just need to start figuring out how our processes are going to work. And so, in some ways, it’s good that we have this opportunity to do it with a very small capacity.”

Over the past two weeks, a handful of Denver clubs have also reopened, including the Larimer Lounge and Bar Standard, a concert venue known for booking dance-oriented touring artists. The Oriental Theater has also announced live shows for July, as have Lost Lake and Globe Hall.

But the consensus among music industry experts is that large-scale venues are going to take their time, and Brent won’t be surprised if that turns out to be the case.

“All the Live Nation and AEG venues are still shut down,” he says. “So yeah, for now, it looks like pretty much every indie venue is doing it, and the corporate venues are hanging tight.”

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