New venue will change Ned’s music scene : The Caribou Room opens on Saturday
Barbara Lawlor, Nederland. Purple and peacock blue lights dance on the stage and the walls behind it, mingling with the skipping white circles that now and then catch the sweeper in the middle of the floor, as he pushes construction dust off the light show image on the platform.
Chairs are set up to follow the curve of the stage to the corners of the black room, more chairs in a fenced-off section, chairs and tables in the mezzanine area for concert goers who enjoy a more private view of the stage and the band.
It is hard to believe that one is still in Nederland.
The Caribou Room, a former storage warehouse for large excavating equipment, has been remade into an upscale concert hall, complete with a shiny new stainless steel kitchen, a sound studio, two bars and an impressive ticket office filled with bits and pieces of music history, including a juke box loaded with songs from the 60’s and 70’s.
With dazzling lights splashing around the stage area, it is easy to imagine a crowd, on their feet, arms in the air, jumping and twisting and screaming approval for the band. The room has the feel of the Fox Theater in Boulder and other metro venues that have larger than normal Ned crowd capacity, with upscale dining.
It is owner Peter Fiori’s plan to bring in the musicians and crowd from the metro area, as well as bands from all over the country, who have been coming to Denver and Boulder for years but can now make the uphill journey to Ned’s new burst on the music scene.
Nederland has been a music force since the 70’s, when big name musicians came to the famous Caribou Ranch Studios to record in a mountain setting. After a fire in 1985 destroyed the studio, the Ned music scene continued supporting and showcasing local musicians who escalated into the national spotlight, returning home for small venue concerts, and of course, NedFest’s and Frozen Dead Guy Days’ weekend long performances.
The music never died in Nederland, but it reached a cap, limited by venue size and the multi-use nature of the buildings. Fiori’s Caribou Room is a music venue that has a bar; not a bar that happens to have music now and then.
Growing up in Washington, D.C. Fiori learned to play the violin, and then, “I had a rebellion and switched to the guitar.” He became the lead singer and electric guitar player for a band in high school. In 1989, he moved to Boulder and studied music technology at the University of Colorado in Denver’s music department.
Fiori moved to Gold Hill in 1990 where he worked as a handyman at the Gold Hill Inn and was then hired to be the sound engineer for the popular concerts held at the historic restaurant. Two years later, he went on to become the go-to guy for Mossman Sound Inc.
Soon he was all over the place, jumping in to help out at local concerts, learning how to make things sound right in all kinds of conditions.
He formed Runaway Truck Ramp with some friends in 1995, and the more he worked with and for others, the more he wanted to be his own boss. In 2005, he bought a warehouse in Louisville and formed Sweetwave Audio Inc, which has been in business ever since.
Fiori moved to Nederland in 1997, looking for a better quality of life for his family and became a member of the Nederland Board of Trustees five years ago, which he came to realize was a large commitment. He also realized that there was a need for a local music venue for residents who wanted to go out and listen to a concert, but not in a bar scene.
The quest for the site was on. When Len’s excavating put their building up for sale, he knew it would be perfect. Working with the town, he was granted a dual occupancy permit for both Sweetwave Audio and The Caribou Room. Although neighbors expressed concerns, mostly about sound issues, Fiori says he has worked hard to address those concerns.
“This is my neighborhood. I live a quarter mile from the building and I have the same concerns. We have three layers of dry wall to keep the sound in and a stage full of sand so it doesn’t resonate. The building has complex sound absorption techniques.”
Fiori needed a warehouse for his business and the venue was an afterthought that now consumes him.
“I saw the need in the foothills for a cultural event center, something that logistically couldn’t be done at the Nederland Community Center. We will have shows for all ages, even a rock music camp for kids. It will be a great place for a wedding reception and it has the capacity to serve 280 4-star meals. The kitchen has four ovens and is loaded for whatever we want to do.”
Fiori says the 514 seat capacity will compete with current music venues like: The Aggie Theater in Fort Collins; the Ogden; the Bluebird Theater; the Boulder Theater; The Fox Theater. Fiori says he’s been on both sides of the microphone, saying there is a different approach for the performers, the producers and the promoters.
When large musical events hit town, The Caribou Room will be able to offer late night shows after the scheduled event bands shut down.
“We are offering more cultural possibilities.”
Parking was a big consideration but Fiori says there are already 210 parking spots in the fenced in area of the building, the second biggest parking area in Nederland. Two parking attendants will be on scene before the events start. Traffic control will direct concert goers to the highway when leaving. Fiori says he has lived in Sunnyside for 13 years and the last thing he wants to do is upset his neighbors. The previous zoning on the property was industrial; it is now general commercial.
This Saturday, Feb. 27, residents, neighbors, customers, musicians, owners and employees will get a chance to see how it will all work out. A $5 cover charge will be asked for the first Caribou Room concert which will have three Bluegrass bands. Fiori says he is now beginning to book shows, as the final inspections have taken place for the certificate of occupancy.
“This will be a show by show business. When it is the summer festival season, we won’t do as much as we will in the winter. It is my intent to bring more culture to Nederland. We have become a little set in our ways. It is a great room for dancing with a real light show and real sound. We are available for limited dining before the show.”
Well-known local chefs Lauran Knight and Kim Culver will be available for dinner and for catered events. Some of the items on the menu include Truffle Parmesan Fries, Shumai Dumplings, Veggie or Shrimp, Potato and Onion Pierogis, and White Cheese and Green Chili dip.
One of Fiori’s goals was to have a zero waste venue with no single use plastic, with low-flow toilets and fixtures, and 60 solar panels on the roof.
At any given show, there will be about 13 employees, most of them local. Advertising will be through the local newspapers and a social media blitz.
There is an independent entrance to the back stage green room so the performers don’t have to struggle through the crowd.
A control room with six camera angles will record and stream shows, says Fiori. People can see their favorite bands in their own living room. “The Couch Tour,” he says.
To make ends meet, about 400 seats have to be sold, so there will be few local bands as the headliner, but they will be opening for the national acts.
This week has been the time for polishing, fine tuning, sound checking, tasting, parking planning, and menu making, as Fiori and his crew prepare for Saturday’s introduction to the town and its residents.
“This is my dream come true,” says Fiori. “I hope the town embraces it.”