When 32 Bleu opens its doors on Wednesday, Oct. 2, it may well usher in a new era for the Colorado Springs music/arts scene. Indeed, both the facility itself and the venue's unique musical vision are unprecedented ventures in this town.
Despite the enormity of his goal -- "to provide the best food and live music in town" -- Jason Spears, the owner of 32 Bleu, seems unfazed by the venue's potential.
"We want to provide a high emphasis on service and maintain the absolute best atmosphere possible for a live music club -- nothing pretentious," he says.
But with its tapered balconies and lush dance floors, the enormous 16,000-square-foot converted art-hardware store betrays his modesty. In a town that all-too-often underachieves when it comes to arts and entertainment, this should be a breath of fresh air.
Located at 32 S. Tejon St., the venue will celebrate its grand opening with the first in what Spears anticipates will be a long line of big-name, national musical acts. In a debut concert that is expected to draw a packed house, San Franciscobased Michael Franti and Spearhead will bring their blend of vibrant, Rasta-fied funk to Bleu's stage on Wednesday.
In fact, the much-neglected Springs concertgoer can expect to see an abundance of popular acts at Bleu this fall, including Grammy-winner Branford Marsalis, the legendary Jello Biafra, and Jerry Cantrell, the former guitarist of the alternative bergroup, Alice in Chains. (See the Listings for details.)
"It was a bit of a challenge to get such great names booked at a club that's not even open yet," confesses Spears, "but we're convinced that this is just the beginning of even bigger things to come."
If you're starting to wonder how Spears can take such a large venture in stride, perhaps it is because he already has some experience under his belt. Several years ago, he and his wife Jamie opened the Acoustic Coffee Lounge on the west side of town, and it was that venue's unique success that spawned the idea for 32 Bleu, made real with a centralized downtown locale and an enormous new sound system.
32 Bleu is equally ambitious from an architectural perspective. The main floor dining area can seat up to 200 guests, and up to 600 music fans can party away on the dance floor and in the upstairs bar level. In addition, Spears says, the venue will feature a separate banquet room and a state-of-the-art kitchen.
While serving up hot musical acts upstairs, 32 Bleu is sure to turn some heads with its dining options as well. The concept behind the venue's eclectic menu, says Spears, is to provide "comfort food with amazing flair," and by bringing in chef Chris Adrian from La Petite Maison, 32 Bleu may earn itself some instant restaurateur street-cred.
Spears says the menu will run the full gamut from "great gourmet hamburgers to pricey, formal dinners -- with lots in between."
But it is not necessarily in the details that 32 Bleu will make an impact on Colorado Springs. Rather, it's in the vision that spawned the venue -- and Spears' tangible commitment to local music. "We want to treat the local bands really well," he says, "get them opening for the national acts, and get their names out there."
With an opening night just days away, Spears and the crew are working hard to get 32 Bleu shipshape for its induction into the merciless Colorado Springs scene -- one that has watched dozens of likeminded predecessors fold and scatter like dust in the wind. Providing live music has always been a challenge in this town, but Spears thinks he knows where the venues before him went wrong.
His concept is simple, he says: "quality."
-- Joe Kuzma