(Soda Jerk founder Mike Barsch declined to comment for this article.)
This summer, however, one independent promoter will go directly up against the promotional giants. When the up-to-7,500 capacity Levitt Pavilion opens in July, Nashville’s Emporium Presents, which will serve as the venue’s main promoter, will effectively enter Denver’s live music fray. While NIPP remains dormant, Kauffman concedes that an independent promoter that is “forward-leaning enough to see what’s coming” could still break through in Denver on one condition: They would need their own venue. Still, he believes Denver has enough music fans to make space for Emporium Presents.  After a spat with Kauffman, Morreale would soon leave the company, somewhat controversially. And despite being much diminished from its heyday, the company still wields a surprising power over the city’s dominant corporate promoters. It has no identity, no personality. Focusing on smaller shows for genres like punk, hardcore and indie rock, as well as the annual Riot Fest, it’s largely stayed out of the way of the major promoters, and has even collaborated on occasion with Live Nation, like for Skillet’s March 18 show at the Fillmore Auditorium. But it also exhausted its owners, both spiritually and financially. Geographically, the Mile High City is a crucial tour stop for bands between the Midwest and other major cities further west and south. (STAFF PHOTO BY CRAIG F. At the time, few businesses dared to set up along Colfax Avenue, a place that, as Swank delicately put it, “you wouldn’t want to be.”
Under NIPP, the two transformed the Ogden and the Bluebird — the latter a historic but dilapidated pornography theater when Swank bought it in 1994 for less than half of its $165,000 asking price — from bulldozer fodder into two of Denver’s most crucial mid-sized music clubs. “When that kind of stuff is happening it really is a trial in a personal relationships,” said Morreale, who owns Denver’s Thunderbird Imperial Lounge. In the ’90s, conglomerates like Clear Channel Communications had begun rolling up independent promoters to create massive promotion chains, which ruled markets by sheer power of monetary force. (John Moore, The Denver Post)
For music fans across the world, though, NIPP has a farther-reaching legacy. Before he was governor, John Hickenlooper lent NIPP money to buy a PA system for the Ogden. It’s thanks to them that Denver ranks as a top-five concert market in the country, according to promoters and music industry media. “I would have much preferred to make it myself, but with these multibillion-dollar companies, it’s impossible. Swank jetted off to Argentina for the next five years. WALKER / THE DENVER POST)
Thanks in large part to its exclusive leasing of the Ogden and Bluebird theaters (along with its exclusive operation of the FirstBank Center, Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre and the Gothic Theatre — the latter of which NIPP also owned at one point), AEG Presents has ruled Denver’s concert scene ever since, led by Morris, who worked under Fey for many years. But despite signing long-term leases to the company — ones AEG Presents renewed last year — NIPP still owns the Bluebird and the Ogden, which positions it again as a kind of gatekeeper for the music community: It’s essentially all that stands between AEG Presents and all-but-complete control of Denver’s key clubs. “(Hickenlooper) helped me at a very important time,” Kauffman said. (Photo by Joe Amon/The Denver Post)
Thirty years ago, Denver’s live music scene was, like the city itself, relatively undefined. Because it’s such a good market, there’s always been serious competition here.”
Kauffman amended that statement slightly: “They’ll face some very stiff competition.” Both men, who are now the sole employees of NIPP, are in their 50s. “We’d been blowing our hair out for the last 14 years,” he said. Independent Denver promoter Nobody In Particular Presents changed that. Once predicated on taste for talent and loyalty, concert promotion had changed significantly since Fey started promoting shows in the 1960s. They’re living comfortably. In response to Live Nation’s acquisition of Ticketmaster, AEG Presents rolled out its own nationwide ticketing platform, AXS, at the Bluebird and Ogden in 2011, one that Denver bought into as its exclusive ticket provider for city-owned venues in 2015. He came to Denver in the early ’80s after fizzling out as a working musician (he was notably turned down in auditions to bass for both Chris Isaak and the Sweethearts of the Rodeo). Swank has a family to think about, and each recently launched his own musical career: Swank as a guitarist for Códigos Postales and Kauffman as a solo singer-songwriter. “The large corporate part (of promotion) didn’t exist to the extent it does today,” Zink said. Within five shows, NIPP brought the Red Hot Chili Peppers to what is now the Buell Theatre. With venerable mid-sized venues to play, every major band coming across I-70 that was not ready to fill the 3,700-capacity Fillmore Auditorium now had prominent stages to play. Emporium Presents partner Jason Zink, who served as the general manager at the Paramount Theatre for six years, said NIPP had created a strong base for independent promoters. Within a decade, it would acquire the Ogden Theatre, which Kauffman bought in 1992, and the Bluebird Theater after partnering with the latter’s owner, Chris Swank. While Barry Fey pulled in big-name, big-money shows — Pink Floyd at Mile High Stadium, U2 at Red Rocks, three nights of Bob Dylan at the now-defunct Rainbow Music Hall — few promoters bothered to risk their money on smaller bands. “Had we not been successful things would look really different in the world of music.”
The nationally reported lawsuit positioned NIPP as a gatekeeper for all show-goers, preventing any whiff of an entertainment monopoly from taking shape, which could have lead to homogenized booking and increased ticket prices. Ultimately, the financial risk was too great. Soda Jerk Presents, the largest independent promoter in Colorado, has two in Denver: Lodo’s Marquis Theater and Summit Music Hall. If I started today, I couldn’t make it,” he said in a video interview with Colorado Public Televison’s Jon Caldara. (Officials from AEG Presents and Live Nation did not respond to repeated requests for comment.)
With that, NIPP began to fade into obscurity. His first show was an evening with the Velvet Underground’s John Cale. The promoter’s 2001 antitrust lawsuit against Clear Channel Communications, which called the corporation out for combining its radio stations and concert promotion arm (Live Nation) to discourage competition, served as a firm slap to an entertainment industry flirting to see how much it could get away with. About 300 people showed up to what Kauffman referred to as a “perpetually empty” club called The Broadway, now Club Vinyl. “We were protecting artists and fans from what we saw as the end of the road,” said Jesse Morreale, who was a minority partner in NIPP at the time. Despite having almost no knowledge of concert promotion, he started booking shows around small rooms in Denver to compete with the preponderance of punk rock and hair-metal concerts around town. Chris Swank, owner of the Bluebird Theater, poses on top of the marquee in 1993 after he purchased the building. The company has done extensive legwork as well, renovating the spaces it acquired and employing an aggressive booking strategy to ensure it gets as many of the best shows in town as it can. When AEG Presents approached them to renegotiate the leases, Swank and Kauffman considered what it might look like if they instead gave NIPP another run in Denver. DENVER, CO – MARCH 9: Doug Kauffman owns Nobody in Particular Presents, an influential independent concert promoter which turns 30 this year at his downtown Denver apartment. From Coldplay at the Pepsi Center to fledgling country singer Kacey Graves’ show at the Bluebird Theater last 4/20, the companies book hundreds of concerts each year in Denver’s major music venues. Doug Kauffman, the company’s founder, went into promotion here not from a business perspective, but from that of a music obsessive. “It was good timing. “I regret the company wasn’t able to stay relevant after I left.”
Kauffman, who doesn’t keep in contact with Morreale, was less amiable. That wasn’t always the case. “It worked from day one.”

From there, the shows — and risks — got bigger. NIPP was also now a dominant force in Denver’s concert scene, booking around 500 shows a year at its height. “He left at a time when the chips were down,” he said. Denver’s scene is dominated by Live Nation and AEG Presents (formerly AEG Live), the world’s first and second biggest concert promoters, respectively. I wish I would have stayed in and kept doing it, but AEG has really done a good job with the theaters.”
“It was going with AEG and not going against them,” Kauffman said. “I had to find a job, so this is my first and last attempt at finding a job,” Kauffman, 56, said. Nearing bankruptcy, the company agreed to lease the Bluebird Theater and the Ogden exclusively to AEG Presents in 2006, which had opened its Denver office that year and took a trio of Live Nation’s top promoters along with it: Chuck Morris, Don Strasburg and Brent Fedrizzi. (Photo courtesy of Chris Swank)

In 2011, well after his career as a promoter was behind him, late Colorado concert legend Barry Fey reflected on the changes he’d seen in the rock ‘n’ roll business: “It has no soul. It gained a reputation for savvy bills: Denver show-goers would look to the promoter’s name on advertisements as a recommendation for otherwise unknown bands. You’ve got to take the next best thing, which is financial security the rest of your life.”
JUNE 27, 2006 – DENVER, CO Security wrangles a crowd outside of a concert by Twiztid. As far as these behemoths of industry have taken the city in the last decade, the seeds of Denver’s thriving concert landscape were planted by an independent promoter who was willing to take a chance on us long before it was a sure thing. “Competition is a healthy thing. With their success came the rise of Denver as a major player in the national music scene. But, he conceded, times have changed. Both venues are now on the National Register of Historic Places. March 9, 2017, Denver, Colorado. Nobody In Particular Presents became known for its savvy booking in Denver, which contributed to the rise of its club scene. The suit was settled out of court in 2004 for an undisclosed sum, pressuring the company to divest Live Nation to avoid further federal scrutiny. “This is a brick-and-mortar legacy.”
John Doe, co-leader and bass player of X, onstage at the Ogden Theatre. “Not a legacy of thousands of shows that are forgotten in time,” he said. (In 2016, the company booked around 150 shows at tiny rooms like Goosetown Tavern and the Lion’s Lair Lounge, which Swank and Kauffman respectively own and operate.)
Kauffman hopes that if nothing else, the theaters will stand as a testament to what Nobody in Particular Presents once was.