Your favorite band’s next show could be at the famed Stanley Hotel as AEG partnership cranks up concerts — The Know

The Stanley Hotel is pictured from the front on January 12, 2016 in Estes Park, Colorado. (Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post)

Scott Campbell wasn’t exactly desperate for another room to book.

“On a given day I work on everything from Red Rocks and the Ogden and the FirstBank Center to the Bluebird and Gothic,” said Campbell, the vice president of talent for Denver-based promoter AEG Presents Rocky Mountains. “Not to mention the Larimer Lounge, Globe Hall, Lost Lake and festivals like Polofest, Velorama or the Westword Music Showcase.”

But when presented with the chance to book regular shows at the Stanley Hotel — Estes Park’s 109-year-old lodge that provided the inspiration for Stephen King’s “The Shining” — he was happy to add another name to his list.

“The Stanley Hotel is an immersive experience for fans and artists that you don’t really get in any other place in Colorado,” he said. “When you stay in the hotel it’s not uncommon to see the band hanging out in the packed bar ’til 2 in the morning. It’s just a beautiful, boutique landmark of a place and everyone who goes there has a great time.”

As a popular tourist and wedding destination at the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park, the Stanley has in recent years renovated its mystique with experiments in spa culture, film festivals and performance stages. But this week’s news of AEG’s new booking partnership with the Stanley lends the latter national-quality connections, booking muscle and influence in the music and comedy arenas.

“We’re thrilled to add the Stanley to our venue portfolio. Booking the hotel that inspired ‘The Shining’ creates endless creative opportunities for artists and fans,” said Chuck Morris, CEO of AEG Presents Rocky Mountains, in a press statement. “We’re already getting a ton of interest.”

As Campbell tells it, bands big and small are constantly asking him for “boutique plays” when they travel through Colorado, whether coming off back-to-back, sold-out dates at Red Rocks or looking for shows in secondary markets such as Fort Collins and Colorado Springs. The Stanley, with its classic but understated glamour, spooky reputation and (perhaps most important) successful track record of hosting multi-night runs from performing artists, looks particularly attractive to them.

“We owe much of the Stanley Live success to the idea planted by AEG Presents,” said Stanley vice president Reed Rowley in a press statement. “It was only logical that we further combine forces and take the entertainment program at the Stanley to the next level.”

While AEG is investing as much into the Stanley as any other mid-sized venue — with a booking team that includes Campell (who founded and runs the Larimer Lounge and formerly booked the 15th Street Tavern), as well as Danny Sax, Scott Morrill and Adam Stroul — the hotel won’t see a huge increase in the number of events it holds annually. At least not at first.

Currently at about 40, Campbell expects the number of concerts and live performances to swell to 60 per year, building on the success of the first-ever multi-night performances there by the band Murder by Death, one of Campbell’s personal favorites. That experiment started casually enough five years ago, with the band, promoter and hotel staff all unaware of what a beacon it would become.

Murder By Death band members appreciate the history and cinematic mood of the Stanley Hotel, said Scott Campbell of AEG Presents.( Tall James Photography, provided by Bloodshot Records)

“Around 2012, Adam Turla, the singer, guitarist and creative force behind Murder by Death, was playing the Bluebird and I took them out to lunch,” Campbell said. “Adam pulled me aside and said to me: ‘We have this big anniversary as a band coming up and I want to do a special show at the Stanley Hotel, and I would like you to be the promoter.’ ”

After some post-lunch research, Campbell learned the Stanley had a banquet hall that typically held weddings, complete with a stage that appeared suitable for a touring band’s needs.

“You could definitely book a show there,” he thought to himself at the time. “So I basically drove up there, checked it out and booked that three-night run with (Murder by Death) over Martin Luther King Day weekend in January 2013. It sold out very quickly and that, at least, was a sign to us that this was the right band for the right situation.”

In Campbell’s mind, bands that fit the Stanley best tend to have dedicated fan bases open to flying across the country to see their heroes (as many Murder by Death fans have) and potentially buying an inclusive hotel package (as the Stanley offers). But they also have band members who appreciate the history and cinematic mood of the hotel, as with Murder by Death — “a band steeped in film culture,” Campbell said.

In other words, the Stanley is selling an experience, not simply a product.

“Even the first year, people dressed up like they were at a 1920s New Year’s Eve ball (inspired by Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 film adaptation of ‘The Shining’). It’s more than just a party for them,” Campbell said. “It’s been so deeply successful that now we’re doing five nights across two weekends with Murder by Death. And the hotel is of course thrilled because they’re usually somewhat quiet in January.”

Encouraged by the success of the shows, the Stanley began booking its own events and eventually expanded into other cultural offerings. As recently as 2016, owner John Cullen, the president of Grand Heritage Hotel Group, told The Denver Post he was investing $35 million in the hotel’s arts, entertainment and cultural amenities — despite the fact that he and his business partners paid a mere $3 million for it in foreclosure in 1995.

Granted, parts of the 47-acre complex had been on the National Register of Historic Places since 1977, so its historic value was clear. But using live music as a launchpad for expanding the complex and drawing new customers had never occurred to Cullen.

“No question the Murder by Death shows were the trigger,” Cullen told The Denver Post in 2016. “We gave them the entire hotel on one of the slowest weekends of the year and said, ‘Let’s just see what happens.’ Not only did they sell it out, everyone was really well-behaved, and we made a lot of money. So I thought, ‘What else is out there?’ ”

After years of booking on their own, the Stanley’s decision to join forces with AEG Presents takes the pressure off promoting, ticketing, marketing and other concert-business concerns, allowing hotel staff to focus on the guest experience and development of the hotel’s brand.

Adding more shows has yet to harm that mystique, Campbell said.

“Normally I would think it could (dilute) it, doing 40-some shows a year there. But it doesn’t seem to have affected it at all. It shares some aspects with Red Rocks in that way. That, and the fact that tickets sell very quickly,” he said.

As with Red Rocks, the 155-guest-room Stanley, which recently added a $10 million amphitheater, is also an increasingly attainable venue for many musicians looking to mix up their tour schedule with a legendary “mountain play,” including Los Lobos, David Crosby and Colorado’s own Big Head Todd and the Monsters (managed by AEG’s Morris).

This week, Campbell also announced an April 15, 2019 concert at the Stanley by Texas psychobilly band Reverend Horton Heat, with openers Legendary Shack Shakers and Hooten Holler.

Other projects underway at the Stanley include a revived schedule for construction of its 40,000-square-foot Stanley Film Center, which received an $11.6 million award from the state under the Regional Tourism Act. Once complete, the film center plans to offer a 1,200-person capacity auditorium, revolving exhibits and “a robust film screening and educational program,” according to a press statement.

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