Crooked Fingers plays the Larimer Lounge, which celebrates its 10th anniversary on Tuesday with a free party.
Crooked Fingers plays the Larimer Lounge, which celebrates its 10th anniversary on Tuesday with a free party. (Courtesy Larimer Lounge/Jeffrey Webb Davis/JWD Imagery )
If you go

What: Larimer Lounge 10 Year Anniversary Party

When: 9 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Larimer Lounge, 2721 Larimer St., Denver, 303-291-1007

Cost: free

More info: larimerlounge.com

T he Larimer Lounge is turning 10, which means it's time for an anniversary bash and some reminiscing.

The venue has physically grown and changed since Scott Campbell and Mark Gebhardt took over the space in 2002, but what the Larimer Lounge does and what it's about have stayed the same. Walls have been torn down, the bathrooms were relocated, a patio was built, and the P.A. gets steadily better, but the Larimer's knack for booking what Denver wants, and sometimes the next big thing, too, has stayed the same.

That's not to say that the music has stayed the same. This is a key distinction that's made the Larimer Lounge a Denver favorite: their attitude behind the music selection. They're open to any band and any genre, as long as it's good and people will show up to see it. In the past few weeks alone the stage has seen punk, synth pop, blues rock and EDM.

But look back over the decade and you'll notice another trend. Arcade Fire played the Larimer Lounge in 2004, the same year the now Grammy-winning band released it's first album. In 2007, there was Grizzly Bear and Bat For Lashes, who have both grown into indie stardom and critical acclaim. Japandroids sold out there in 2012 and then played the Bluebird Theater a few months later, but they first played the Larimer Lounge in 2009. Sleigh Bells was there in 2010, the same year as the duo's hit debut Treats was released. Now they sell out the Boulder and Ogden theaters.


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"Scott's had this pulse on the next big thing, to use a cliche, and it's like, wow. You see them there and the very next year they're at the Pepsi Center or at Fillmore," said Black Lamb frontman Brian Hagman, who's been a friend of Larimer Lounge from the start.

Campbell remembers another big one from the first year: "The Killers. That was their last small club show, because their next show in Salt Lake was canceled and they were asked to play SNL the next week, then their single caught on."

And so for a decade, that's been a big part of the Larimer Lounge's charm. You're in a small room but might be seeing the next big thing. But even when the bands aren't the next Arcade Fire, the talent that takes that stage has been a consistently good mix of national and local artists.

"He tried to book those sub-genres as a reflection of what was going on nationally," Hagman said. "He didn't pigeonhole the place, which was great because you could see all different stuff there and be introduced to different genres and great bands you might not have heard."

Black Lamb played the Larimer Lounge in its first week, they'll headline the anniversary party, and they've been a fixture in the years in between.

"Scott and I met probably in the early '90s at another venue, and then right about the tail end of when the grunge thing was dying out, he started booking 15th Street Tavern," Hagman said. "When he went out on his own, he was looking for a venue and I kind of lived in this area, and he picked this place that used to be called Sundowner Lounge, where Larimer Lounge is now. We've basically almost played there once a month since they've opened. It's been quite a long ride."

The venue has had an effect beyond their doors, too. That part of Larimer Street has evolved into a popular strip of bars and restaurants, but that wasn't the case 10 years ago.

"We did take a little bit of a chance coming in here," Gebhardt said. "But the truth is, our demographic was kind of already here. They were living in cheap warehouses down here, but in terms of a business, we took a big chance."

Campbell and Gebhardtt first met as University of Colorado-Boulder students, and when they started talking about opening their own venue, Gedhardt's experience in business and construction was a perfect compliment to Campbell's booking background.

"I had just moved to Denver and I was looking for something to do, and he said that he had found this spot... and he had explained the concept. He was booking bands over at 15th Street at the time, so I felt like it was something that had a decent shot at being successful," Gebhardt said. "We came in and worked a deal with the owner, and the rest is history."

Of course, hitting the 10th anniversary is also cause to look forward. The plan, it seems, is to stay the course of the last decade -- physical improvements without a change of heart.

"We're planning to invest in the club in the upcoming year," Campbell said. "We want to continue to upgrade the P.A. system, upgrade the lights, do what we can to make it the place to play in Denver."

"I think one of the reasons that we're still here is because we've been open to changing with the different styles of music and genre," Gebhardt said. "We haven't been limiting ourselves to just one genre, like punk or metal. So I think we're just gonna continue to do that."

As for the free anniversary party on Tuesday, Black Lamb will be joined by Mountain & The Hound, Sputnik Slovenia and others to be announced. There will be food from Illegal Pete's, and Hagman said Black Lamb has some surprises up their sleeves.

Happy birthday, Larimer Lounge.