By Brian F. Johnson
Any self-respecting Star Wars fan knows that the Millennium Falcon is so fast that it made the Kessel Run in “less than twelve parsecs.” What many fans don’t know is that the ship began life as the humble YT-1300 light freighter and that it took some time and modifications before it became a ship that could “make point-five past lightspeed.”
Steve Schalk is no Harrison Ford, but he knows a thing or two about what it takes to change a room from a humble space into a room worthy of bragging rights, and as the captain of his newest club, The Falcon, he’s taking the role of Han Solo quite seriously.
Schalk came to Denver in the mid-1990s from L.A., where he was prop master (property master in the biz) on motion pictures ranging from the amazing TV movie Barbarians at the Gate to the Harvey Keitel film City of Industry.
Schalk had a home in Denver and having driven past the shell of the Gothic Theatre many times, he finally took the plunge into the music business in 1999 when he bought, renovated and re-opened the theatre. Now, just a few doors down from the Gothic, Schalk has purchased a run-down, out-of-date and seriously neglected bowling alley and is transforming that into a rock and bowl club that he hopes will become the cornerstone establishment of South Broadway — like the Mos Eisley Cantina, the fictional bar in Star Wars where we first met Han Solo. (For the record, the band that played the famous bar music in that scene was Figrin D’an and the Modal Nodes, and they do not have a gig booked at The Falcon as of yet.)
Marquee: What was the first concert you ever attended?
Schalk: The Police, when they were just about nobody.
Marquee: What was the first album you ever purchased?
Schalk: Elton John’s Captain Fantastic.
Marquee: This place is really nice. What was the impetus behind it?
Schalk: Well, it seems like the cool thing is to have a dirty, nasty place to play and I don’t think that anyone really appreciates that all that much. This place was developed not just to house smaller shows, but as a gathering place for the people who live down in this area, whether they’re coming to see a Gothic show, or they’re DU students, or they just had a long day and want to come to a comfortable environment to meet up with their friends. There are fewer and fewer places like that to get together and blow off steam.
Marquee: Let’s back up a bit. The Falcon is new, but you’ve been doing this since 1999 when you opened the Gothic. How did you get from movies to the Gothic?
Schalk: The Gothic happened from my naive standpoint of living out here and driving up to Boulder all the time to see shows at the Fox. Denver was bumpkinville at the time and pretty much had the cow-town reputation and the Ogden and the Bluebird were doing a lot harder type shows at the time. I guess I turned into a concert promoter. I didn’t even know what to expect at the start. It was more of a dream or a passion than it was a real business plan or an understanding of what it takes to be a promoter.
Marquee: Didn’t you play a role in the Ogden and Bluebird too?
Schalk: Well, the Ogden was never in my hands. I worked closely with Chris Swank and Doug Kauffman at Nobody in Particular Presents and I played a big role in renovating the Ogden from a 1,000 seat room to a a 1,600 seat room, but I was never a partner and, if anything, they’re our biggest competition right now.
Marquee: So where does The Falcon fall into the grand plan? I mean, you now have something that few independent promoters do, a place to grow a band.
Schalk: Certainly. The Gothic Theater is a fantastic room but where do you play before you play the Gothic? I think that the fun has been sucked out of the concert promotion business, and we are always seeking the fun and a lot of that comes with seeing the development of smaller bands. It makes you feel good to be able to be part of that. This room will allow us to develop those smaller acts and we have a lot. Denver kicks Seattle’s ass back when Seattle was in its heyday. We’re smoking ‘em. To have 3Oh!3 and The Flobots and Yonder Mountain, I mean you can just keep naming them.
Marquee: You’re being pretty environmentally friendly with this joint too, right?
Schalk: Yeah. We’re about 75 % L.E.D. lit now and we will be 100% as soon as we can. That means that where we once needed a 65 watt light bulb we now, in L.E.D. need 15 watts, and the 500 watt stage lights are under 50 watts. It’s pretty amazing.
Marquee: So you’ve now got a full theater, a launching stage and an eight lane bowling alley. How’s your game?
Schalk: If I bowl 150 it’s a good game. (laughs) But, yeah, I don’t think I would have just built a bar. There are plenty of bars. I was getting into this space for the food and entertainment and figured that the bowling would be a good compliment. My goal is to cater to the people with the black boots and tattoos with $5 in their pocket and to somebody with a coat and tie and loafers. I want to try to appease everybody the best we can.