In late 2002, over beers at a pizza shop on The Hill in Boulder, two music freaks introduced by the then Fox Theatre’s general manager Rob Thomas, kicked around the idea of a magazine that would showcase and organize the exploding local music scene and its many diverse and budding manifestations across the state. The Front Range had begun its rapid ascent as one of the country’s most crucial live music markets, just as Colorado’s economy grew like wildfire in a multitude of other creative and prosperous directions. It was apparent that Colorado’s live music junkies were ravenous, and would, without second thought, drive from Denver to the Poudre Canyon, or from Boulder all the way out to Telluride to see their favorite acts. But trying to navigate the often fragmented scene in those early days was completely arduous, as print and internet both struggled against one another to provide solid information. There were blogs and weeklies doing a great job at showing their snapshot of the scene, but no one single place to find out everything that was happening to provide the full picture. Inspired by the music at its core, and by the desire to see everything in the expanding scene housed under one roof, The Marquee began with its initial and somewhat verbose tagline “Your One-Stop Shop For Music On The Front Range.”
For a little perspective, back in 2003, George W. Bush was in office for his first term. Apple had just launched iTunes and the first generation of iPods were on sale. (CDs were still flourishing as a medium). The Rocky Mountain News was still being printed. Medical cannabis had become legal in 2000 in Colorado but dispensaries were still several years away. And a little-known restaurant in Lyons, Colo., named Oskar Blues, had just turned craft brewing on its head by putting its Dale’s Pale Ale in a can.
The Marquee — not by grand design, but by accident —was part of a new era of niche publications. Whereas other publications were trying to compete with the internet by having far ranging content, we doubled down on our live music-only focus. We heard “print is dead” touted as a socially accepted truth from the get-go, and the odds as an independent magazine, who never took on a financial investor were certainly stacked against us. Sixty percent of magazines fail within their first year. Eighty percent fail by their fourth year, and only one in ten make it to their tenth year. In that ocean of despair, The Marquee was blessed by an astounding and humbling amount of creative contributors who deeply shared our vision for a Front Range music resource, and time and time again, the force was with us as life preservers floated over the crests of crashing waves directly into our pages. Multiple industry booms, like the country’s two largest concert promoters duking it out in our territory, the eruption of craft brewing and distilling, and the development of medical and recreational cannabis to name a few, have all happened on our watch.
But one of the very first of those life preservers, one that still exists as a staple of The Marquee’s platform to this day, was in the form of a young writer named Tim Dwenger. Dwenger, who is Senior Contributing Writer to The Marquee, joined the team in October of our first year. There is not another individual that has so single-handedly shaped the creative scope of The Marquee as Tim. He has written more stories than anyone else — 240 to be exact, 61 of which were cover stories. That’s more stories than our editor and publisher Brian F. Johnson — who clocks in just behind Tim, with 231 stories. Thank you Tim, from the bottom of our hearts, for being one of our largest life preservers. Your unfaltering dedication, inspiration, open mind and open ears (both to the music and to BFJ’s rants), and most importantly, your friendship, have truly meant the world to us.
Looking back over the 178 issue archive preparing for this edition we found quite a few “What were we thinking?!” moments, coupled with a whole ton of “Oh my god, did we really land that interview?!” triumphs. From the very first issue, The Marquee has been completely blessed with astounding access to some of the most incredible musicians. And just like SNL’s hallowed Five-Timer’s Club, we too have the folks we’ve covered over and over again throughout the years. Yonder Mountain String Band, in fact, who were in our very first issue, have appeared in the pages of The Marquee more than any other band — seven times (three of which were cover stories, two of which were written by Dwenger). With a commitment to our creative mission and journalistic integrity as our ongoing platform, we’ve been able to interview legends the likes of Lou Reed, Robert Plant, Iggy Pop, Gregg Allman, Ralph Stanley, Jimmy Cliff and Robby Krieger just to name a few. We first conversed with Spoon when they still had day jobs, with Jason Isbell long before he was sober. We talked with My Morning Jacket when they were breaking out of Kentucky and had just relased It Still Moves. Our high school selves will always be amazed and psyched that we spoke with bands like R.E.M., Peter Frampton, The Police, Scott Weiland and all surviving members of The Grateful Dead in their various post-Garcia projects. (Bob Weir wasn’t even entirely grey the first time The Marquee spoke with him).
And while we’re absolutely humbled and amazed that we have been able to do this for a decade and a half, we keep in mind the great Bart Simpson chalkboard gag that read “I will not celebrate meaningless milestones,” which he wrote for their 100th episode. We may not be curing diseases and saving lives every day, but this month as we celebrate 15 years, we feel now more than ever, that music, and perhaps even more importantly, music community, is the most powerful natural anti-depressant there is, and that we all need to take it in very heavy doses.
Craig Finn of The Hold Steady says it at the end of every one of his shows, but for a moment we’d like to hijack his words: “There is so much joy in what we do.” And, “Thanks for listening and thanks for understanding.” So with unending gratitude and an undying commitment to our local and widespread music communities, we continue to say: See you at the shows.
Please click on the top left image below to take a journey through all of our past covers.