When Bryan Ostrow first walked into the dingy basement at 3530 N. Chelton Loop, he had a vision of the future: The Flux Capacitor. It was a space away from mainstream music, fueled by a force more powerful than Doc Brown's plutonium in the film Back to the Future.
Since then, Bryan, his younger brother Sean, and other founding nerds Nick Pryor, Greg Mullenax, Caleb Butcher, Damien Bertollini and Naboth Gonzalez have effectively brought the future back to Colorado Springs. In that bare basement they've built a wall that withstands the noise of a thousand doom metal drummers. More importantly, the all-ages venue has captured the attention of the Colorado Springs community with its donation-based shows and DIY ethic.
What regulars affectionately call "The Flux" is the result of a local movement that's been building for years — since 2010, in fact, when Bryan started What's Left zine and began showcasing treasures of art, music and leftist politics in Colorado Springs.
The scene was a weird place back then," Bryan says, but it didn't deter him from continuing the zine until the scene caught up, starting a record label, and throwing the multi-genre What's Left festival. Currently, he's in the final stages of organizing the second annual 71Grind festival, a celebration of metal and grind that will present four dozen local and national acts at two all-ages venues (Flux and the Black Sheep) on June 3 and 4. One of the primary goals, he says, is to prove to everyone that "something's going on in Colorado Springs."
The festival is also the beneficiary of a $500 grant from the Pikes Peak Arts Council. As council president and Eros & The Eschaton frontwoman Kate Perdoni puts is: "Rain or shine, the Flux brings musicians from all over the world, of every genre and stripe, together.
Bryan is hilarious and positive, and disregards the notion that the scene is exclusive and only for those in the know. Bands and audiences are treated with respect, and everyone is uplifted in the process."
The Ostrows were raised in Colorado Springs and are dedicated to the parts of town that aren't covered in camouflage and evangelical Christians. Sean, like his brother, believes in rallying the community that you're in.
"Everyone always gets sick of this town, and they say, 'Fuck this place, this fucking sucks,'" he laments. "And then they leave and go to Denver just to join something that already exists. It's up to us to make our town good. If you don't like the scene, you build a scene for yourself."
Bryan and Sean currently play in the band Blighter, which they joke is "too metal for the punk kids, and too punk for the metal kids."
For Bryan, it's all about striking a balance. "In my opinion, metal nowadays — like doom metal and crust and grind — that shit's way more punk than the Fat Wreck Chords' NOFX shit, with the three chords and the Mohawk that took you four hours to spike to show you don't care what people think."
When Bryan was in middle school, he got a $69 Kramer Focus guitar and embodied the misunderstood adolescent. Sean joined a band called Rotting Demise. The brothers eventually incorporated more punk into their repertoire and drove to Denver "sometimes three times a week," says Bryan, just to experience DIY-punk at venues such as the former Blast-O-Mat, which has since become the Seventh Circle Music Collective.
To its credit, the Springs does have a history of DIY house shows, most recently the Hostel House in the 700 block of Nevada. As with most things metal, it raged briefly, died, and left a gaping hole to fill.
According to Pete Sisson of Shiii Waaa, who'll be among the local bands performing at 71Grind, the Ostrows were instrumental in making the city's scene what it is today. "They've really stepped to the plate," he says, "and taken on way more than anybody else ever has in this town."
Flux doesn't look like much from the outside, but the building itself is a powerhouse of creativity — in the main rooms, there's wall art, ephemera and paraphernalia, not to mention the 50 practice spaces for bands where the abandoned-hotel aesthetic adds to their charm. Currently, there's a waiting list to practice there.
"We try to approach it with anarcho-ethics where it's self-governed," says Bryan. "If you see something wrong, you make it right — you know, fix it, respect things. And for the most part it's gone really well." Bryan pauses. "Only a few minor scuffles. We had somebody throw an amplifier at another band once, That was kinda cool."
In shows with mosh pits, anarchy reigns. For his part, Sisson prefers a more relaxed hardcore experience. "I've been to some shows where most of the crowd is hunched together in the back because there's six giant mongoloids up front throwing elbows and spin kicks and stuff," he says.
Walk in the door to the stage, turn left, and you'll come to the What's Left record store: an extensive collection of donated comic books, zines, records, CDs and cassettes. On top of one shelf, there's a plaque designed with a bunch of red hands, layered in love and unity. The plaque reads: "Presented to Bryan Ostrow for Outstanding Promotion & Advocacy, Popular Music."
In Flux's fledgling stage, the founders expected to do a couple shows a month. Over the venue's 14 months in operation, they've had over 300 shows, hosting bands from Japan, Iceland and Romania in genres ranging from thrash metal to hip-hop to folk-punk. They could book a combination of the above every night if they wanted to — that is, if they weren't working real jobs, busting their asses to make rent, taking care of the bands, and hyping shows on the side. The Ostrows say they've lost girlfriends and jobs, and generally made sacrifices, to keep booking bands and playing music.
"That's the thing that I think a lot of people don't realize — everyone who runs this, we don't make any money off of this. All the donations go towards the bands, and we keep a small amount to help with rent," Bryan says. Some nights, the crowd is sparse for a touring band, and the team will dip into the rent fund — and sometimes their own pockets.
"We give whatever we can to the bands so that they can make it to the next town."
What happens when several rappers and a rock 'n' roll band share the same stage on the same night? They become friends and they make plans to tour together.
"People do know the Flux's name and people from all over are trying to come," says Sean. "And the craziest part is that bands from Chicago and Austin are all saying, "Man, I wish we had something like this in our town."