Final show at the Barkley Ballroom in Frisco leaves owners feeling nostalgic
If you go
What: One last show at The Barkley Ballroom
When: 9 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Barkley Ballroom, 610 Main Street, Frisco
Info: WhiteWater Ramble is described as high-octane Rocky Mountain dance-grass, mixing bluegrass instrumentation, drums and a boundary-less approach to grassing-up everything from disco house grooves to roots to Americana. The show is free. For more, BarkleyBallroom.ticketfly.com/ .
People who haven’t been to Frisco in years are coming back Saturday for The Barkley Ballroom’s last and final show, featuring a band that helped make the local venue famous, before it closes forever.
At it for more than five and a half years now, the popular Main Street music venue is well-known for hosting a mix of national touring groups, local acts and live streams.
However, Saturday’s show with WhiteWater Ramble will be The Ballroom’s last shebang. As such, the show promises to be chock full of nostalgia and emotion, said co-owner Todd Altschuler, adding that he and his business partner Keegan Casey “can’t wait to just see everyone, and obviously, there are going to be some big hugs.”
WhiteWater Ramble has been playing The Ballroom since Altschuler and Casey first opened it in December 2012. They bought the establishment, Barkley’s West at the time, with a vision of resurrecting the live music scene in Frisco, they recalled.
Remembering The Ballroom’s humble beginnings, the owners also said it took time building up a following.
“Getting on the radar of national touring acts and booking agents was the toughest part,” Altschuler said in a news release. “Looking back, we had to overpay for bands to get them to come, but we treated customers and musicians like family and that earned us a positive reputation in the scene.”
That first winter was hard on the new business owners, they added, but it also produced their first-ever sellout show when Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe “took a chance” and agreed to play The Ballroom.
Throughout the years, The Barkley Ballroom slowly gained the strong following it has today, aided in large part by a Wednesday night bluegrass series, promoted by posters featuring a cat strumming a banjo.
The Ballroom also started playing host to local band nights, and those too were a big hit. Altschuler even remembers one group who called themselves “the Wednesday Wine Crew” and came every single week for years.
“There were probably 15 people in that group, and I can only think of one that still lives in Summit County,” he said, later adding that people he hasn’t heard from in years are coming back for Saturday’s finale.
The weekly series hit its peak in the winter of 2014-15, when WhiteWater Ramble had a residency that packed the house for each show.
Head for the Hills, Kitchen Dwellers and future Telluride Bluegrass Competition winners Trout Steak Revival were among the other bands that played before near-capacity crowds that winter.
Including the five-show residency and Saturday’s finale, WhiteWater Ramble will have played 14 times at The Barkley Ballroom, the most of any band, according to the owners. “It’s a fitting end to a great run,” Casey said. “WhiteWater provided us with countless incredible memories, and we couldn’t ask for a better last note.”
While closing The Barkley Ballroom will mark the end of an era for both its owners and the many local music fans who’ve come to love the establishment over the years, Casey and Altschuler are closing it as they work to open another, much larger music venue with 10 Mile Music Hall, one block down the road from The Ballroom.
Currently under construction at 710 Main St., 10 Mile Music Hall will more than double the capacity of The Barkley Ballroom when it opens, which Altschuler said will likely happen the weekend of Sept. 14-15, slightly ahead of the fall opening listed on the hall’s website, 10MileMusic.com.
Once complete, 10 Mile Music Hall will feature vaulted ceilings, a massive dance floor and a 1,000 square-foot rooftop patio deck. It has been described as a one-of-a-kind venue with a “robust” slate of music, unlike anything else in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.
The added size will help the owners book bigger bands than they ever could at The Ballroom, Altschuler said, and it will also play host to private events and weddings too, some of which have already been booked.
“I think just the sheer size and the location are going to be a big help, in the fact that bands that didn’t have a place to play in Summit County, especially in the winter, will now have a place,” Altschuler said.
In addition to the lineup of regular, live music, the owners are also planning family-friendly entertainment, such as nationally touring magicians or concerts geared toward children.
“We’re going to do a lot of stuff for kids and families, and give them an alternative to going to the movies,” Altschuler said, adding that they’ve also been working with Moe’s Original Bar B Que in Breckenridge to have regular food options at 10 Mile Music Hall.
While the two owners are excited about the future, they say their hearts still belong to The Barkley Ballroom, and they will forever cherish the memories and relationships made there.
“Saying goodbye to the venue that we poured our hearts and soul into will be tough,” Altschuler said. “I will definitely shed a few tears on Saturday.”
As for what’s to become of it, Altschuler doesn’t know. He’s seen some interest in the property but, to his knowledge, nobody’s thinking about carrying The Ballroom forward as a venue for live music the way he and Casey have for the last five-plus years.
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