The words tacked onto the marquee above Darkside nightclub spoke volumes about the ill health of the Colorado Springs music scene last week: "WE LOVE HOOKERS, FREE ABORTIONS, GOD IS GAY."
"It cheered me up," Darkside owner Dean Dunston says of his parting middle-finger-message to the club's passersby.
Behind the vulgarity, one could sense the frustration of yet another music venue going down in flames. Dunston owned Darkside, at 2106 E. Platte Ave., for 10 months before it folded last week by court-ordered eviction, in part for alleged failure to pay rent.
Darkside's is just the latest closing of a local music venue that had attracted national acts. The Navajo Hogan, a north side bar that allowed all-ages shows, collapsed in June due to legal woes. 32 Bleu, a downtown nightclub, shuttered its operation in January; it then transformed into a honky-tonk that closed just months later.
Some expressed optimism about Darkside's closure, however, because it will make room for longtime Colorado Springs music promoter Marc Peralta to come in. Peralta plans to reopen the club next month under a new name, Black Sheep. He will host the last remaining Darkside shows this week.
"It's going to be completely different," says Peralta, who runs the Soda Jerk Presents concert series in Colorado Springs. A new stage, a professionally-run sound system, better accounting practices and a hand-picked crew of bouncers and bartenders will highlight the new venue.
Both musicians and promoters interviewed for this article expressed hope that this club will last.
With more than half a million people living in the Pikes Peak metro area, Colorado Springs' music scene defies its potential.
Poor management, criminal charges (such as allegations of drug dealing at the Navajo Hogan), thuggish bouncers and lackluster promotion repeatedly have deadened what could be a more vibrant scene.
"Hopefully [Black Sheep] will mean some stability," says Adam Leech, a local music promoter and owner of The Leechpit music and clothing store, "because recently, it's been bad."
The Platte Avenue venue has hosted a series of different clubs over 15 years, under names including Pure Energy, Sin City, Velvet Underground, Industrial Nation and, most recently, Darkside.
Leech says the common denominator linking these efforts was "people meaning well but lacking proper management skills."
"That's always been the scene's downfall -- a lack of consistency," he says. The result, he says, leads to "culture drain," when creative people leave for other cities.
"This is my home and I want to see things develop here," Peralta says. "I want to see Colorado Springs put on the map."
-- Dan Wilcock