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Underground venue Seventh Circle Music Collective welcomes bands from all genres after its predecessor the Blast-o-Mat closes its doors.
The Seventh Circle Music Collective is both a house and one-car garage, nestled in the industrial area off 6th and Federal in the space formerly known as the Blast-o-Mat. The walls are plastered in posters, strange spray-paint artwork and obscene doodles. A small stage is surrounded by towers of speakers at the back of the garage, and the ceiling above the drum set is full of drumsticks that have been stabbed into it. Next to the garage is a house that contains a small T-shirt and record store, which supplements the income of the venue.
When the Blast-o-Mat shut down in August, Aaron Saye decided to step up and save the venue from going under and disappearing from the underground music scene.
“I started going to Blast-o-Mat in 2006 and it was just one of the coolest places I’d ever been,” Saye said. “I mean, it’s a garage where people come to have shows and enjoy music. It’s volunteer run, a collective of like-minded people that wanted to run an underground venue where touring bands that aren’t big enough to play at bigger venues like the Marquis or the Gothic could play when they come through town.”
In late 2009, Saye began volunteering at the venue, where he began booking more diverse bands. The Blast-o-Mat started out as a place where harder, more abrasive genres of music like grindcore, crust punk and black metal were played, and it became a place where bands from all styles of underground music felt like they could play.
However, while the music was becoming more diverse, the scene was becoming hostile. People who were going to the Blast-o-Mat originally didn’t like that it was starting to branch out into all scenes, making the operators of the Blast-o-Mat reluctant to book bands they didn’t like.
“By the end of the Blast-o-Mat, there were only like three volunteers left who knew how to run sound, and they got sick of running sound for every show that was here,” Saye said.
The former owner of the Blast-o-Mat finally decided that he had had enough, so he opened a new venue called Aqualung, which was cheaper and a lot easier to run. In July, he announced that the Blast-o-Mat would shut down at the end of August. Saye thought the Blast-o-Mat was too vital to the underground music scene to die, so he decided to take action.
“The rest of us were like, ‘What about all the other music that you don’t like? Where will that be played?’ and he [the owner] was just like, ‘I don’t know, it’s just going to shut down,’” Saye said. “So I asked the guy if I could take it over, and he said I could. He introduced me to the landlord and helped me out to get it going. Then I put a thing out on Facebook telling everyone what was going on, that I was starting a new space at the former Blast-o-Mat and needed volunteers to get it going. About 60 people were interested in helping.”
The Blast-o-Mat had been filthy, clogged with massive piles of empty beer cans and garbage. Saye and his volunteers began cleaning it up, getting it ready to open as a newer, cleaner, more welcoming venue. He hoped that people of all ages would be welcomed to come enjoy music from Denver’s underground D.I.Y. scene.
Seventh Circle’s grand opening show was Sept. 22, featuring eight different bands, with people from all over Denver attending the rebirth of one of the city’s most famous underground venues. The crowd included punk rockers in raggedy, patch-covered denim vests, hipsters in flannel and thick glasses, metal heads with flowing locks and heavy boots, and even more eclectic types who evade description. The bands that played that night were extremely diverse, with everything from blues to metal to hardcore punk to experimental electronic music.
“At the end of its days, the Blast-o-Mat was a tremendously pretentious venue, and the straight-edge, vegan-crust punks who ran it wouldn’t book shows that didn’t fit into their tiny slice of counterculture,” said Mason Proffit, a man in a vest covered in punk patches and pins at the opening show of the Seventh Circle Music Collective. ”That’s why it belongs to Aaron Saye, because Aaron Saye likes everything. That’s what the underground scene needs: a venue that isn’t pretentious, that just listens to music.”
Saye is cautiously optimistic about the future of the Seventh Circle. The venue will always have a suggested donation upon entry, with the money going directly to the Seventh Circle to keep it running. Touring bands that play at the venue get a cut of the profits to keep gas in their tanks. Rent and utilities are covered by donations as well as sales of records and T-shirts from the built-in store. The Seventh Circle also offers bands a place to practice and store their equipment, renting out space on a monthly or session-wise basis.
“Ideally, in the future, we’ll be able to stay open and keep booking shows, because that’s really the bread and butter of how we stay afloat,” Saye said. “The immediate future is looking good.”
You can find more info about Seventh Circle Music Collective, as well as upcoming shows and events here. To book at the Seventh Circle, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Lucas Fox at Lucas.email@example.com.