M attie Safer needed a day like this: a Friday spent sprawled out on a couch, bantering with friends and otherwise doing nothing at all.
He says it's the first day off in more than a month for him and his bandmates in The Rapture, who've been indie rock darlings since their 2003 debut album, Echoes, was named Pitchfork Media's album of the year.
So, sunken into a couch at a friend's house in Southern California not too far from Indio, where his post-punk dance revival outfit will play a set at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival he's content "just kind of relaxing."
At Coachella, The Rapture will share billing with such luminaries as the reunited Rage Against the Machine, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bjrk and the Arcade Fire. But as Safer speaks over his friends' laughter in the background, he doesn't seem to be giving the festival much thought.
"The plan," he says, with feigned interest, "is to play an awesome show tomorrow."
Whether or not he cares to share it, Safer has to understand the importance of that next-day performance. It's less likely, however, that he grasps the importance of another gig on his band's upcoming schedule.
When The Rapture and co-headliners Shiny Toy Guns take the stage at The Black Sheep on Friday, May 4, they'll be playing the venue's first-ever, Live Nation-booked show. Live Nation the concert promotion and production spinoff of mega-huge radio conglomerate Clear Channel Communications has been responsible for shows at the World Arena, the Pikes Peak Center and the City Auditorium, but this weekend's Black Sheep concert marks the first time the company has taken an interest in a smaller club venue in the Springs.
Kind of a big deal
"It's definitely a good thing," says Mike Barsch, who runs Soda Jerk Presents, the booking agency that owns and operates The Black Sheep. "It's a good thing for the town."
Semi-off-the-radar (and critically acclaimed) indie acts like The Rapture and Shiny Toy Guns would normally skip a city like Colorado Springs. Hailing from New York and Los Angeles, respectively, their sounds appeal more to large-city scenesters and, apparently, other musicians.
Critics often cite the Rapture's 2003 single, "House of Jealous Lovers," as the genesis for disco beats and bass lines returning to modern rock. The thinking: Without The Rapture, there never would have been a Franz Ferdinand (or any of the other hundreds of bands that now fit that retro/disco/dance rock sound). It's no wonder, then, that when it came time for The Rapture to produce last year's Pieces of the People We Love, the Gnarls Barkley duo of Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse was quick to lend backing vocals and production expertise.
Under normal circumstances, an act like The Rapture would likely play a set in Denver, forcing Springs fans to make the drive north. But a clause in a contract The Rapture had signed to open for Daft Punk in July at Morrison's Red Rocks Amphitheatre forbade the band from playing within 60 miles of Red Rocks for a designated amount of time.
Travel plans already had been set to bring The Rapture/Shiny Toy Guns tour through the region anyway, so a gig on the Front Range still made sense. Fort Collins and Colorado Springs fit the requirements. When it came time to choose between the two stops, the bands' tour managers opted to place the Springs alongside cities like Minneapolis, Cleveland, New Orleans, Houston and Dallas.
Not surprisingly, when the Live Nation people called Soda Jerk to see whether The Black Sheep would be available May 4, Barsch made sure it was.
"It's a show we probably wouldn't have had," he says.
A sign of what's to come
Part of the reasoning behind Live Nation's booking to The Black Sheep is seeded in some shakeups within Denver's concert-booking industry.
Recently, AEG Live, the country's second-largest, concert-promotion company behind Live Nation, made a push to enter Denver's market, where the company had never held much influence. In doing so, AEG Live recruited some Live Nation employees to join its team.
That move forced Live Nation to replenish its staff with other booking agents from along the Front Range, including agents like former Nobody in Particular Presents employee Peter Orr, who helped The Rapture and Shiny Toy Guns secure their Black Sheep show. Since the shakeup, Live Nation has been working more cooperatively with companies like Soda Jerk, in order to maximize its influence within this suddenly competitive market.
Long story short: Live Nation is suddenly scrambling to secure shows along the Front Range.
"It's in all of our best interests to not try to cut each other's throats out," Orr says. "I'm not looking to do a bazillion shows in Colorado Springs, but the ones we need to do, we're going to do.
"You'll see more Live Nation shows at The Black Sheep."
The Rapture and Shiny Toy Guns
The Black Sheep, 2106 E. Platte Ave.
Friday, May 4, 7 p.m.
Tickets: $15, all ages; call 866/468-7621 or visit ticketweb.com.
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